* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only source for what's happening on television, unless you happen to turn on your television, in which case that would most likely be a better source. Anyway, Matthew David Brozik has the story. And while you're at it, would it kill you to click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda"? Don't pretend you can't find it. It's on the right-hand side of this page.

Greenlit

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

Viewers of television programming this season will be the most well-read yet, thanks to these new shows!

Napoleon Berkshire, Esq. is the most highly regarded porcine lawyer at the bar — feared and respected by adversaries and clients alike — and known for his thorough preparation. “All arguments are equal,” he’s fond of saying, “but some arguments are more equal than others.” With the passing on of “Major” Willingdon, Berkshire is poised to take the reins of the prominent white sow company…but there’s a hitch. The old Major’s youngest son, Snowball, has just graduated from law school, and he’s been promised a place in his father’s business, despite being an incorrigible party pig. With Napoleon and Snowball fighting hoof and horn over the future of the practice, will they have anything left for the courtroom? The new dramedy to watch is ANIMAL FIRM. (ABC, Mondays.)

[Plus: A mid-season episode will serve as a backdoor pilot for a Lou Grant-style spinoff featuring the firm’s aged janitor with a knack for carpentry who retires to travel the country restoring barns with equine equanimity in THIS OLD HORSE.]

THE NEXT GREAT GATSBY. Man of many talents — Yale graduate, military veteran, bond salesman — Nick Carraway IV spends a week each with different real-life wannabe entrepreneurs-cum-socialites, advising them on such matters as changing one’s name, purchasing a mansion, entertaining, winning the love of a shallow woman, driving, swimming, and choosing the right shirt — or shirts — for every occasion. (CBS, Wednesdays.)

Special Super-Secret Agent “Y” is deep undercover, with just a day to prevent the assassination of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Y has one day — but there’s a catch: The International Super-Secret Agent Union rules mandate two hours of downtime in every 24-hour period… so Y really has less than a full day to work with. Fortunately, he’s a master of observation and interrogation. If anyone can, he’ll put two and two together…to get 22. (FOX, Thursdays.)

The groundbreaking documentary CHIASMUS returns in a new iteration for a new generation! Board the “Ship of the Intimation” to explore a multi-verse of poetic phenomena — from allegory to zeugma. Individual episodes will focus on such topics as large-scale onomatopoeia (“big bangs”), the discovery of foreshadowing and the nature of litotes, microscopic oxymorons, and the (un)likelihood of an omnipotent deus ex machina. (PBS, Sundays.)

NATIVE AND SON promises to be the breakout litcom of the year. Twenty-year-old Bigger Thomas lives in utter poverty on Chicago’s South Side with his father, the irascible Older Thomas. Each week, Bigger tries to improve his situation, taking whatever job he can find, only to be accused of one heinous crime or another…with hilarious results! Not even Older Thomas’s never-ending parade of colorful friends and relatives can keep Bigger out of trumped-up trouble, but he’ll have to continually prove to the authorities and himself that Bigger is better. Based on the British program Wright On. (NBC, Mondays.)

Also much-anticipated is the single-camera, buddy-cop comedy chronicling the misadventures of patrolmen Rom Montague and his cousin Ben as they police the streets of Verona, New York (pop. 6,293). Verona should be an uneventful town, and it would be…if it weren’t for the criminal machinations of the mysterious man known only as “Cap,” who seems to have his finger in everything unlawful for miles around. And of course the young boys in blue don’t know that Rom’s crush, Julie, is Cap’s daughter! Ride along for laughs with CAR XLIV, WHERE ART THOU? (TBS, Tuesdays.)

And, finally, what would television be without a good old-fashioned game show recorded before a live studio audience? Introducing WHO WANTS TO BE AN HEIR? Each contestant has a limited amount of time in which to reconcile complicated, conflicting wills of a wealthy testator…but every mistake costs the estate substantial legal fees! Because of the extraordinary difficulty of the challenge, a contestant has three lifelines to use — “Call a Counselor,” “Poll the Peanut Gallery,” and “What the Dickens?” — but even these will go only so far toward improving a bleak situation. The contestant who walks away with anything more than the clothes on his or her back will have earned it!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we consider it an honor and a privilege to make you comfortable with your inevitable physical decline and decay. Let Michael Fowler be your guide to senescence. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Something Wonderful Happens When You Turn 95

By:
mmfowler@fuse.net

m4s0n501

Mom and Dad both turned 95 this month, and let me tell you, they’ve reached a peace of mind and contentment that didn’t seem possible only a year ago, when I excitedly predicted both of them would die. What I mean is, Dad at 94 was an emaciated, bleached-out skeleton with sunken pink eyes, no hair anywhere, lips that stretched tight around his face like two thick rubber bands, and a temper like a wet stick of dynamite set on permanent fizzle. A typical 94-year-old in other words, although there aren’t that many of them around, maybe one in a hundred million Americans, or so I assumed. I fully expected him to kick off any minute, because how much older and more decrepit could he get? He turned grumpy as all get-out if he missed his morning Perry Mason rerun on the Senile Network, and a puddle kept forming under his chair, neither a sign of immortality. Mom was no better at that age, physically or mentally — in fact, the two were indistinguishable. Mom complained even when I took the trouble to wheel her to a sunny spot by the window like the overgrown potted plant I thought of her as, and checked her for aphids.

I didn’t blame them for being upset, either. Since the age of 85 or so, they’d both collapsed into a funk of bad health, confusion, foul smells and even fouler moods. Welcome to retirement, we’d told each other joyously years earlier, not suspecting their life of leisure would last anywhere near this long. A combination of luck, good genes, and my dutiful ministrations have managed to keep them going no matter how much they wanted to die, or how much I wanted them to.

They hung on to 95, and that’s when the change happened.

I noticed it the day of the communal 95th birthday party I had for them at home. I got a cake colored bright red from the grocer and put the numeric candles “95” on it. Though technically Dad is a few weeks younger than Mom, I only do one party a year for the two of them. That’s trouble enough, and I doubt they know the difference anyway. Before the cake I served them their standard evening meal of pork and beans and creamed corn straight from the can, when suddenly I thought I heard Mom say something. Bending down to her shrunken level, I thought she said she felt like using a knife and fork, and might even be up to some chewing. Dad concurred, saying he wanted to try the paleo diet, meat and no grains, but plenty of Okinawan vegetables and ginkgo biloba supplements with the protein. Well, you might say I was stunned. Neither had spoken at dinner for a dozen years, unless it was to call me a fat, sadistic lummox. And before I could fry them some chops or dice the Okinawan veggies the way they wanted, Mom said she and Dad had talked it over while I was at work, and maybe they’d try watching some of those modern TV shows that night, the ones in color with actors who were still alive, instead of those archaic black-and-white programs on the Dementia Channel featuring stars dead and buried.

I studied their shining faces. Was it really they who had spoken? I saw tight grins and eyes almost gleaming. Was there still a spirit in those shrunken, desiccated husks of old skin? The facial flesh was so old and brittle, the smiles might have been only frozen grimaces. I had fallen for that once before, thinking there was life when there was only a mask. Ten or so years earlier I thought I heard Al, my dad, ask if I had any porn. He hadn’t said a word. And once after that I thought I heard Marge, my mom, ask for a double vodka with a lime twist. She hadn’t breathed a syllable. Surely the sparks in those dead, discolored eye sockets were only reflections of the birthday candles.

Then Dad said, “I will start life over again as a mover. Using secret ancient Egyptian pyramid-building techniques, I will lift heavy objects and put them down in new places, for a nice price. I will rapidly construct whole cities this way. I will connect them with railroads that I alone will build with a big spike hammer. I will then employ a method, long-forgotten until now, to host biweekly keg parties and car burnings.”

And Mom said, “I will have many babies, favoring those of men who are destined to greatness. An entire generation of magnificent humans will spring from my womb, without my once being unfaithful to your father.”

You could have knocked me down with one of their pocket-sized catheters. Now that they were 95, my parents really did believe they could do those things. And then, as I tossed some lamb chops in a frying pan and unwrapped some Japanese berries, they both apologized for their uncouthness over the last few decades. They told me that coincidentally with turning 95, an age they referred to as a magical milestone, they felt much livelier, and their anger and confusion, which they felt largely stemmed from a diet of talk radio and gluten, had vanished. Furthermore, Marge had found a website dedicated to 90-year-olds on my laptop that afternoon, and proudly announced that there was a whole group of super-oldies undergoing mental rejuvenation at that age that she and Dad jibed with. There were dozens of them out there hot to trot, she said.

I sat down beside them and we joined hands. It seemed like only yesterday we were all sitting around the table looking over nursing home literature and fearing global warming together, but no longer. My parents had decided to forgo death, and along with that made a commitment to clean air and biomass fuel. We all smiled, thinking what the future held. Mom wrote in her pad, “It’s about the planet, not about us, but we’re doing what we want,” and passed the tablet around the table. Dad signed on, and to make them happy, so did I.

Mom continued the new tone by apologizing for all the racist comments she had made in the past. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said. “I’m not a racist.”

“That goes for me too, for all those homophobic remarks I used to come out with,” said Dad. He paused a moment, chewing his paleo chop. “But just who are cisgenders, and what do they want?”

It was true. All that hate seemed behind them now. There were those smiles again, and they looked pretty genuine.

“We’re not perfect,” Mom acknowledged. “I can’t sleep at night sometimes, for fear of what dark matter may do to our world.”

“And I still cling to Jesus,” said Dad. “I can’t get with modern atheism, but give me time. I’m working on it.”

The two seem so happy that no one mentions the obvious, that there’s no turning back the clock for them even now, not physically. Marge proved that yesterday by fracturing her thumb, so disfigured with arthritis, trying to open a can of ancestral Vienna sausages, and Al by shaking so badly with hypoglycemia this morning that I could hardly force a candy bar down his throat. They have another year or two tops, I’d say, of blissful happiness inside those horrible, decayed bodies.

That thought must occur to them too, of course, but they don’t show it. Instead they want to know if I’m looking forward to 95.

“I’ll take it if I can get it,” I answer cagily, but is it worth it? Sure, there’s a rejuvenated sense of purpose and rekindled mental vigor, but then there are those little yellow claws they wave at me when I put them in their highchairs.

Who am I kidding? Damn straight I’ll take it.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where getting you out of important social obligations is all we live for. That, and reading something new by Jason Ryan.

Excerpt From “The Anti-Social Monsters Of America Handbook,” Chapter 12: Excuses

By:
jasonryanfilms@gmail.com

Here, fellow monsters, is the chapter you’ve all been waiting for. We’ve all been in a situation where a “friend” or “loved one” invites us to a social event that we have no intention of attending, and while time-honored excuses like “I’m sick” or “I can’t find a sitter” work on paper, let’s face it: by now your friends have heard them all.

Fear no more! We’ve compiled a handy list of some outside-the-box excuses guaranteed to get you out of anxiety-causing social obligations. So the next time you are confronted with a sentence that begins with the words “Would you like to attend…” and feel the flop sweat forming, remember these three steps: Stop. Drop. Roll.

Stop! Listening to them immediately, it’s a waste of time.
Drop! One of the excuses listed below, and make sure they definitely hear it.*
Roll! Away slowly while avoiding eye contact.

* I cannot stress this enough.

Without further ado, here are some great excuses, officially sanctioned by The Anti-Social Monsters of America, to use in difficult situations. Remember: you aren’t alone! Unfortunately.

1. “There was a bee/wasp at the bus stop/in my car.”

Look, we all hate bees/wasps. Who is going to fault you for avoiding one? This is a foolproof excuse. Go ahead and try it out on a fool! You’ll see.

2. “I couldn’t find my pants.”

What are you going to do? Not wear pants at an important social function?

3. “Tai chi class ran long.”

Have you ever seen those dopes in the park? They go so slow! Classes are bound to run long. If they doubt you are in tai chi class, just do a killer tai chi move* and that’ll show ‘em.

* Warning: must know tai chi.

4. Gypsy curse

This is more of an advanced excuse and it involves some rudimentary improv skills, but if you sell it just right it not only works but elicits some major sympathy points, especially if they are racist against Gypsies.

5. “The remedial reading class for adults I take at night is happening at the same time.”

This is a great one because it quickly ends the conversation and is a real NQATQ (No-Questions-Asked-Type Question). “Is he/she really in a remedial reading class for adults?” “Is it rude to ask?” “Maybe he/she is!” “I should just let this slide in case it’s true.” The other person in your conversation will think all sorts of thoughts like these.

6. “My wife!” (said in Borat voice)

Does anybody want to hang out with somebody still quoting Borat in the year 2014, much less want them to come to their party?

7. “I couldn’t make sense of your invitation. It was in Wingdings!”

This only works if you neglected to consult your Union Issued Excuse Handbook before the fact and have an angry “friend”/acquaintance on your hands. They can argue all day long but deep down nobody fully trusts computers. Maybe their invite really did show up on your computer in the Wingdings font. We may never know.

Note: Will NOT work on IT guys/tech dudes.

8. “I am getting married that day.”

This one is great because it doubles as a way of making the other person feel like garbage for not getting invited to your imaginary wedding, and may result in them not asking you to do things at all in the future.

9. “FIRE!”

Self-explanatory.

10. “I am very sorry but due to a hectic schedule and/or the fact that I am suffering from a bit of seasonal depression right now, I don’t think I will be able to attend your function. It just sounds like a bit much for me. I think the world of you and wish you all the best, and I hope you have fun and wish to retain your friendship”

Yeah, admittedly this one is pretty lame and a tad far-fetched but let’s be honest, ten is a lot of excuses. YOU try making ten of these! On my salary! You know what? Forget it. Let’s just make it a “Top Nine” list. Forget this last one even exists, much like your ability to interact with your fellow man. Now, on to the next chapter, where we’ll discuss the finer points of avoiding eye contact with small children and the elderly.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we always have an opinion about whatever Hollywood chooses to throw at us. It takes a guy like David Martin to get to the bottom of it all. When you're done checking out his latest and greatest, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

Recent Movie Reviews By A Retired Guy

By:
david.martin@bell.net
http://www.amazon.com/Screams-Whispers-pieces-rejected-Yorker/dp/1482395320/ref=sr_1_1?

12 Years a Slave
This one’s a true story based on the life of Solomon Northup, a free Negro who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for twelve years. It started out with a strong promising narrative but by the end seemed somewhat disjointed. However, that might have something to do with the fact that I forgot to take my afternoon nap that day. So about halfway in, I dozed off for thirty minutes or so and woke up to find Solomon on the verge of being freed from slavery. What I saw was very good but since I only got to watch about two-thirds of the movie, I can only give it three stars. ***

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
First off, this movie is not aimed at a mature audience, much less a senior audience. I read somewhere that it’s mainly for ankle-biters. Combine that with the fact that it’s only showing in movie theaters and it probably comes as no surprise that I have not seen it, much less reviewed it. I’m not about to drive to the mall, pay $15 for a ticket and an equal amount for popcorn and a drink for something that will be out on video in six months. Even then, I’m not likely to watch it. The last movie I saw in a theater was Lawrence of Arabia which I think tells you all you need to know about me and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No stars.

Gravity
I gotta admit: when I saw that George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were starring in a movie called Gravity, I figured it was going to be one of them nutty romantic comedies that the wife usually likes. But to my surprise, it’s really more of an action-adventure film. Well, not so much action or even really adventure since it’s mostly just the two of them floating around in outer space. But it kept my interest and I didn’t fall asleep even once, which automatically rates it more than three stars for me. ***½

All Is Lost
The wife really likes Robert Redford so I figured we’d give this one a shot. I dunno — the guy’s even older than me, so I don’t see the attraction, but she’s always saying that we need to do something together and I figured this was a relatively painless way to get her off my back. Plus I got it out of the library for free, so already it’s got two stars in my book. Unfortunately, it only managed to add another half a star to those two. If you thought watching Clooney and Bullock float around in space for an hour and a half was boring, try watching Redford on a boat by himself for even longer. Mind you, I never cared much for that book The Old Man and the Sea back in high school either, so consider that. Still, two and a half stars. Period. **½

Captain Phillips
Now here’s a movie I can recommend. It’s got Tom Hanks as the captain of a freighter kidnapped off the east coast of Africa. Lots of tension and high drama and a satisfying end as the US Navy finally wins one. There are lots of convenient spots to pause the movie so you can get a snack, go to the bathroom or call your local paper to cancel your subscription because the paperboy didn’t put your paper in one of those protective plastic bags. My son, the film studies graduate, says he prefers the Danish movie A Kidnapping on the same theme, but he forgot to tell me that it’s in Danish with subtitles. If I wanted to read a movie, I’d buy a book. Anyway, Captain Phillips is great and I give it four and a half stars. ****½

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are bound and determined to make your next screenplay a success, with the uncanny wisdom of Matt Hunter, alias Erwin Alistar.

Erwin Defeats The Elephant — Screenwriting Tips — Blog Post #1 By Erwin Alistar

By:
mrhnter@gmail.com
@matt_hunter_16

After the phenomenal success of my hit screenwriting book, Erwin Defeats the Elephant (based on my tip that your movie’s hero should face a challenge the size of an elephant), I’ve decided to start this blog to continue educating screenwriters. It has been a humbling pleasure to see that burgeoning and veteran screenwriters for every major blockbuster film have utilized the lessons in my book to successfully tell a well-structured three-act story — especially humbling after my recent divorce, not to editorialize (however, like I say, make your writing personal!).

TIPS:

• Make Your Main Character The Best He Can Be

The main character is the center, the focal point of your screenplay — our hero. For the sake of this article, we’ll name our hero after me, Erwin! (Like I say, always put yourself into your work!) Now, every emotional and plot conflict in the story revolves around the hero, Erwin. So in that case, it’s best that your hero is a cool guy, who is well liked and super awesome at playing the real guitar – not the Guitar Hero one.

• Every Movie Should Have A Leading Lady

It’s important that our Erwin have a leading lady — a total knockout to chase after. Sticking to my previously taught three-act structure, this heroine — who, let’s say is named Emma Blonski, from, I don’t know, Peoria, IL, 5’6″, with piercing blue eyes like a stoic doe — will first be noticed by your Erwin in high school, will not be attracted to him, and then will fall madly in love with Erwin when he does something awesome in Act III, like stop a terrorist plot, save the Earth from annihilation, or get unanimously voted Prom King by his peers / score the winning touchdown at the big homecoming game (if you go this route, make sure you show Erwin working out at the gym and getting ripped — it’s super important that he’s ripped).

• “Erwin Defeats The Elephant” — Addendum

As I’ve taught, Erwin must face a problem as big as an elephant. But make sure Emma is there to see him do it.

Addendum: Erwin’s antagonist, or “elephant,” is a large, negative force in his life — like a foreigner with a gun, a giant lizard monster, or an ex-wife – and must be called something like, say, Patricia. This enemy will try to get the best of your Erwin in Act II by belittling him, bringing up his absolutely platonic relationship with his mother, taking all his money and eventually divorcing him. But Erwin will prevail in Act III. He always does. And anyone who thinks differently should say it to my face!

Note: Make sure Patricia is there to see Erwin succeeding and doing just fine without her.

Things to avoid:

— Your main character shouldn’t be so self-involved with his goal that he utterly forgets about his loved ones and dog (because putting down a beloved friend of 13 years costs a lot of unnecessary screen time that he just can’t afford right now, especially after the divorce and moving into an apartment).

— If your Erwin starts to gain a “pop tart” belly, a phrase his former leading lady might coin regarding his sudden weight gain, force your character to go work out.

— Your Erwin should not mix alcohol and antidepressants. It’s a cliché sign of depression.

— If Erwin doesn’t want to wake up every day and work on his main goal, like writing a marketable screenplay, MAKE HIM. This can be done in a montage.

— Remember: Show. Don’t tell. For example, instead of a therapist telling Erwin that he needs to get over the divorce, show your Erwin going out and having a one-night stand.

There you go, everyone! Brand new tips that I guarantee will help you sell that screenplay and get your movie made by a big studio. I can’t wait to see these tips implemented into today’s silver screen blockbusters the next time I — or a certain woman of Illinois who’s in her mid-fifties, is hopefully single, and knows how to use the Internet — goes to the theater.

Unrelated note: Please leave a comment below if you went to West Peoria High School Class of ’75 for a chance to win a FREE TRIP to Hollywood, CA!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nostalgia for even the most hideous PBS productions reigns supreme. Brian Boone shows you where the honey pot is.

The Most Salacious Passages From “Berenstained: My Life As A Berenstain Bear,” By Sister Bear Berenstain

By:
baboone@gmail.com

It was always something with Mama.

“The Bear family eats too much junk food!”

“The Bear family watches too much TV!”

“The Bear family never picks up after themselves!”

No matter the fleeting problem of the hour, Mama would lay waste, armed with a trash bag and a smug sense of purpose, making some grand pronouncement about how our lives needed to change and immediately. How she’d shriek and scream about how we, as children, were deeply flawed.

Reprehensible. Shameful. Then she’d unplug the TV, or sweep up all our toys on the ground into a trash bag, or load a trash bag with all the junk food in the kitchen, which we’d only rarely eaten, as Mama had made it well known that the Beary Snacks and Bear-E-Os were “Mama’s special bad-day treats.”

Invariably, in the middle of it all, Papa would hear the yelling from down in his woodworking shop, and, taking a good hour to steel himself with liquid courage for one more showdown with the monstrous, sneering and intimidating shell of the woman he’d married, would calmly come in and offer up a solution that didn’t involve shrieking, insulting the character of his children, throwing away all of the Beary Yums or losing out on TV for a week. Something sensible, reasonable and obvious, like offering to build a shelf so our messy room could have some storage, or merely suggesting that we buy less junk food.

Then Mama would calm down and act as if everything was fine. We’d all go to our bedrooms and lie awake for hours, shaking. Papa would go back down to his shop, but really down to The Honey Pot, and Mama would quietly rustle around in the kitchen, seeing if she maybe hadn’t thrown away all of the Grizzly-Dee-Lites.

* * * * * * *

I am often asked if “Sister Bear” is my real name. The truth is that I was never given a name.
What kind of parent doesn’t name their child? It’s so necessary, even compulsory, that few even consider its importance. Mama couldn’t be bothered. I was born in the woods of Bear Country in an upstairs bedroom in a hollowed-out tree, so it wasn’t like she needed one for a birth certificate, but still. A name symbolizes so much.

She never even came up with a nickname, or some kind of term of enbearment. Just “Sister,” which is damaging to a girl’s sense of worth and identity, that her only excuse for a name is contingent on that of a man, in this case, my brother, Brother. He may have had it even worse — before I was born, our parents just called him “small bear.” After I was born, he was suddenly “Brother” and I was “Sister.” Only in retrospect can I see how disturbing it is to name your offspring “Brother” and “Sister.”

* * * * * * *

Maybe she had an OCD-related fear of something happening to the hundreds of jars of rotting honey she kept in the basement. Maybe she was embarrassed that she had to walk with a cane by the time she was 30. Maybe she was ashamed of being morbidly obearse. Whatever the reason, my mother only left the treehouse once or twice a year. I now recognize that most of these problems — the brain damage, the weight, the neuropathy — had something to do with undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabeartes.

Not only did she rarely leave the house, but when she actually got out of bed she never got dressed. She wore that same blue-with-white-polka-dots housecoat and matching floppy nightcap all day, all night, every day, every night, for decades. On the extremely rare occasions that she did leave the treehouse — to get more honey or to force the family on a walk (“The Bear family needs to get some exercise!”) — she still wouldn’t change, dressing up that stained, crusty, putrid smock by trading out her sleeping cap for a straw hat with a feather in it. As if that would fool the Bear Country gossips.

* * * * * * *

I realized that my situation was not normal around the time pubearty began, and that my only solution was to get out as soon as possible. Rapid changes to my body let me in on a shocking truth that had been hidden since my birth from everyone. Including me.

I wasn’t actually a girl.

Even then, at 11 years old, I knew instinctively that this had something to do with Mama. When I confronted Papa about it, he simply said he didn’t want to talk about it, then choked back a couple of sobs, then hightailed it out of there, right back to his shop (or The Honey Pot).

I tried to ask Mama about it, waiting until I could score her on one of her good days, which meant less of a chance that she’d accuse me of having a bad case of “the gimmes.” I grew impatient, and, expecting a grand pronouncement that “the Bear family is too impatient!” I asked her anyway.

“Mama, why did you pretend I was a girl?” I asked her, bearly above a whisper. She rocked in her chair, pretending to knit a scarf but really just wiggling the needles around in a pile of yarn.

“Mama Bear needs little girl cub. Mama needs girl cub. Girl cub. Girl,” she said distantly, over and over.
From clues ascertained from old pictures and what Brother can remember, I’ve been able to piece together a few scant details of my birth. She went into labor while she was alone. Papa was out chopping wood with Brother to make him a big-boy bed, as his old one would be needed for me. I believe that this afforded her the opportunity to deliver me, check my gender, and, when it wasn’t what she wanted, slap a pink bow on my head and name me Sister. And that was that.

The night I figured it all out, I couldn’t sleep; I was angry and confused and trying to process everything. While lying there, awake, praying Mama wouldn’t come in and proclaim that “the Bear family asks too many loaded questions!” I heard Papa clomp in. After some shouting, I heard a door slam. And then, according to Brother, he took the roadster into town to buy a pack of beargarettes. That was the last time anyone in Bear Country ever saw him.

If you’re out there, Papa, I’d love to see you again. Lizzy Bruin and I have three cubs now. They’d like to meet their grandfather and give him a great big bear hug.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are very fond of any sport in which grown men get to beat each other with sticks. Our good friend Bruce Harris has the Stanley Cup story you've been waiting for.

Reasons Why Your Name Is Not Engraved On The Stanley Cup

By:
marxman@comcast.net

You can’t skate — even if you are a goalie, you need to be a skilled skater. Let’s face it, slipping and sliding on the ice isn’t going to get you very far in hockey. On the other hand, you may be the world’s best skater with tons of awards and ribbons to prove it. That won’t help, because…

You don’t play hockey — while this will greatly reduce the chances of your name appearing on the Stanley Cup, it does not totally exclude you. There are a number of non-players (coaches, for example) whose names appear on the Cup. Did I hear you say you are a terrific skater and a fabulous hockey player? Tough luck…

You played hockey prior to 1892 — bummer. You were one of the star players of your day, your team won championships year after year, but all pre-1892. The Stanley Cup was as real then as Al’s Jiant Jewel Warehouse in the cloud. The good news is you have a job. The bad news is…

The National Hockey League does not employ you in any capacity — unless your pockets are deep and your hobby is buying and selling team franchises, if you fall into this category, you’re done. Your name will not appear on the Stanley Cup. You have no chance. Give it up. Try another sport. Take up golf. There is always the Master’s and a chance to wear the green jacket. Go for it. It doesn’t matter if…

You are female — Interestingly, this does not automatically disqualify you from having your name live on in the Hockey Hall of Fame. No sir. A number of females have that honor. However, if your name isn’t Marguerite Norris, Sonia Scurfield, Marie-Denise DeBartolo York, Marian Ilitch, Denise Ilitch, Lisa Ilitch, Carole Ilitch Trepeck or Charlotte Grahame, you’re not smiling. Smiling is good, especially since…

You have a full set of teeth — like being female, this does not automatically prevent your name from being listed on the cup, but it certainly doesn’t help your chances. Something else that will not help your chances…

You pronounce the word “about” as “a bowt” rather than “a boot” — the odds are long enough that you’ll ever see your name on the Stanley Cup. Why decrease your chances more than necessary? Speak properly and keep your hands to yourself. Be a goody two-shoes. You’ll be able to brag…

You’ve never spent time in a penalty box — no, the doghouse doesn’t count. What’s so bad? You sit and watch the action like the rest of the fans, only you get paid not to play. What’s a mere two minutes or more out of a lifetime? Especially a long life, except…

You can’t pass a physical — you have bigger problems than worrying about a name inscription on a cup. If you fall into this category, you might seek a lifestyle change, one that involves a higher calling, one where…

Father, Reverend, or Rabbi precedes your surname — religion and sports, like religion and politics, don’t make good bedfellows. Usually, but not always, a decision to pursue the clergy precludes a career on ice, especially when…

The word “puck” makes you salivate — the problem is, you associate “puck” with “Wolfgang,” and ‘Game Day’ means Mini Prime Burgers with Remoulade and Aged Cheddar Cheese. Still, that’s nothing if…

You suffer from Pagophobia — Google it. That’s a really bad inhibitor. If you suffer from this affliction, it’s likely you don’t know about back-checks, fore-checks, cross-checks, and…

You define “check” as a form of payment — really? Banking is probably more your cup of tea and you are probably from the good old USA. Baseball is your sport. What? You’ve never seen the Toronto Blue Jays play? I don’t believe it…

You’ve never heard “O Canada” — you don’t deserve to have your name on the Stanley Cup.

Okay, you are not only an expert skater, you are a highly skilled hockey player in the year 2014, you are a male gainfully employed by the National Hockey League, you are missing a number of teeth, especially front teeth, you pronounce “about” as “a boot,” you are in peak physical condition, you are not the least bit religious, you’ve spent over half your life in a penalty box, you are as comfortable on the ice as you are in your own home, “puck” has only one meaning and it has nothing to do with the digestive system, you live to check, you check to live, and you’ve known the words to “O Canada” since you slept in a crib. But, your name is still absent from the Stanley Cup. The rub is, you’ve been playing your entire NHL career with the Blues, Sabres, Canucks, Capitals, Sharks, Panthers, Coyotes, Predators, Jets, Wild or Blue Jackets. Demand a trade!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where humor goes to die, but sometimes also to be reborn. Our good friend Kent Woodyard has long written the "Non-Essential Mnemonics" column for McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Now the best of those columns have been collected into a book. And we are publishing the introduction to said book. Life is good. To order, please click the link in our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

Non-Essential Mnemonics: Just The Essentials

By:
kent.woodyard@gmail.com

(Note: Today’s feature contains excerpts from Kent Woodyard’s first book Non-Essential Mnemonics: An Unnecessary Journey Into Senseless Knowledge, out now from Prospect Park Books.)

Here’s a question for you: what did you eat for dinner on this day, three and a half weeks ago (Thursday)?

Assuming the night in question wasn’t the scene of a cataclysmic breakup, a violent spectacle of bodily fluid, or some combination thereof, and assuming you weren’t at a Presidential inauguration, Cirque du Soleil show, or some other similarly transformative event, I’m guessing you have no idea.

And it’s not just dinner three and a half Thursdays ago, is it? If I were an irresponsible gambler, I’d bet you can’t remember most dinners that occurred before, let’s say, yesterday. And I’m not picking on dinner either. If you’re anything like me (and why wouldn’t you be?) you probably can’t remember most of your life that predates the last moon cycle.

Sure, you’ve got a cracked cell phone screen, some unread e-mails, and a growing collection of scars and receipts giving evidence to the passage of time, but the lion’s share of your life experiences — the ones that didn’t occur in emergency rooms, national parks and police stations — have likely dissolved into a fog of half-imagined recollections that may or may not have happened in the way you remember, but which almost certainly involved a Taco Bell drive-thru at some point.

I once heard that people forget 80% of the things they learn in college. Most people take this to mean that 80% of college is a waste of time, which is generally correct. The broader point here, though, is that all of us will forget nearly everything we ever learn, and there’s no point in getting all weepy about it.

But what if there was a way to stop forgetting? What if there was a way to capture those fading memories and imprison them forever in the musty cellar of your brain? What if we could all acquire a Good Will Hunting-esque level of long-term recall that would amaze our friends and foil our rivals while scoring numbers from vaguely exotic coeds at college bars?

Well, scrape your brains off the ceiling — there is. They’re called mnemonic devices and they’re magical.

Mnemonic devices are insidious little tools used by educators to ensure information stays lodged in students’ brains decades after it is needed or desired. Depending on your attention span during grade school, and your tolerance for unnecessary consonants, you have likely met dozens of these devices over the course of your formal education. “Dozens” could mean “at least two.”

Mnemonic devices are the reason I can still recite the order of biological taxonomy and the colors of the rainbow fifteen years after I have had cause to do either. They are the reason I can name more Schoolhouse Rock songs than United States Senators. They are the reason I know that the Great Lakes spell “HOMES,” but have to request a new password every time I use PayPal.

Don’t ask me how they work. It’s got something to do with science, and — like all science that hasn’t been narrated by Morgan Freeman or turned into a condiment — I have little interest in it. What I’m interested in are results, and the results of mnemonic devices speak for themselves.

Think I’m exaggerating? Finish this sentence: “‘I’ before ‘E’ except…” Every third-grader knows that one. Or how about this one: “now I know my ABCs, next time…” Every first-grader knows that one. And this one: “‘More rum,’ demanded the matador…” What, you don’t recognize that one? Well let’s get started then.

“More rum,” demanded the matador. “Damn the tequila. Just rum — Jamaican and bitter.”

And there you have it: a mnemonic for the names of Matt Damon’s twelve made up brothers in Good Will Hunting. (Marky, Ricky, Danny, Terry, Mikey, Davey, Timmy, Tommy, Joey, Robby, Johnny, and Brian)

But why stop there? How about this one:

After leveling Ukraine, Genghis Khan marauded across the Urals leaving tattered “Khan Rules” banners everywhere.

This one you surely recognize as a brief (and mostly false) history of the Mongol Empire’s westward expansion. But did you know it is also a mnemonic for the countries of the former Soviet Union? I bet you didn’t. (Armenia, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Estonia)

Got time for one more? Of course you do. You’re on the Internet.

Screen Actors Guild

You know SAG as the principal labor union responsible for representing American film and television performers. But why would you ever need to know that? Why is that in your brain? Let’s repurpose it for the work it was born to do: to serve as a mnemonic for the members of Simon & Garfunkel. (Simon and Garfunkel)

Look at that! You now know the members of Simon & Garfunkel and I’ve got a good feeling that you won’t forget them again for a long time. That’s how it is with mnemonic devices. Once read, each of them will immediately and indubitably transform itself into acquired knowledge that no amount of drinking or professional football playing will be able to erase.

Whether you are a graduate student, a homeschool mom, an aspiring community college professor or merely a weekend memory enthusiast, I encourage you to begin nurturing your affection for mnemonics today. Then and only then can you be certain that, while you may never remember what you did last weekend or what you had for dinner three and a half Thursdays ago, you will always remember the names of Will Hunting’s imaginary brothers.

And isn’t that enough?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always receptive to those who wish to reinvent themselves. Especially when they have the power to torture us for all eternity.

Satan, Rebranded

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

Thank you.

Thank —

If I may have your attention…

SILENCE!

That’s better. Now, you’re probably wondering why I summoned you all to this brimstone pit. I’ll be as brief as possible — I know we’d all like to get back to torturing and being tortured, as the case may be, for all eternity.

I have news, likely the most significant news to come out of Hell in centuries. Please hold your applause until the end.

As you are no doubt aware, I am referred to by several names and epithets, some more accurate than others. Lucifer, for example. Mephistopheles. Iblis. The Prince of Lies — now, that’s just hurtful. The Dark One. Lord of the Flies…even I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

Most people call me Satan, though.

What you might not know is that Satan was my job. That is, when I was first created, I was given a position on the Divine Counsel as a prosecutor-of-a-sort. An adversary. The adversary, in fact… in Hebrew: ha-Satan. It was my responsibility to tempt humans to renounce God. Remember Job?

Job, are you here…? Ah, that’s right. Never mind.

But I wasn’t the only adversary, as it happened. There were others…and each one was a ha-Satan. So, really, I was ha-ha-Satan — Yeah, yeah. It was funny…five thousand years ago.

Anyway, there was some…unpleasantness, and I left the employ of Heaven. I landed on my cloven hooves, though, and promptly set up my own shop. Since most people knew me as just Satan, I let the moniker stick — and I leveraged my goodwill in the name to build my practice.

That was then, however. This is now. And the time has come…for rebranding.

The public relations consultants I engaged, at the recommendation of one of the law firms I do business with, have convinced me that even “Satan” is too…well, let me not sugarcoat it: too ethnic.

Evil is universal. No, it’s more than that: it’s global! So the Master of Evil needs to be accessible to all, and to do that, I must shed my old, third-world-weary name in favor of something new…and youthful.

But you’re thinking, “The Devil you know…” and all that. And I don’t disagree with you. I mean, I certainly had grown quite accustomed to my name, of course…but those consultants twisted my arm until I agreed to a compromise.

(Drumroll, please? Keith Moon, would you do the honors?)

The demon before you…

…will henceforth be known…

…as…

Stan!

I know, right? It was so…obvious! Stan!

It’s the same as before…only different. Better. Sleeker. Faster!

Stan!

Come on, join me, everyone:

Stan..! Stan..! Stan…!

Now just the murderers:

Stan..! Stan..! Stan…!

Now just the rapists:

Stan..! Stan..! Stan…!

Now the humorists:

Stan..! Stan..! Stan…!

I will now take questions.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the squared circle of wrestling meets a round peg named David Henne who doesn't quite fit in. But we think you'll love to see him get body slammed anyway, even if only metaphorically.

Address To Graduating Class At Bennington College Of Wrestling

By:
henned@gmail.com

I hope you will all be very happy as members of the professional wrestling class in America. I myself have been rejected again and again. Mostly from consciousness. By unforgiving steel chairs.

As I said at the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh not long ago, it isn’t often that a WWE referee is invited to speak in the springtime. I predicted that outside interference would plague the main event of WrestleMania, and outside interference has plagued the main event of WrestleMania.

One trouble, it seems to me, is that the majority of wrestlers who compromise the title, who wield brass knuckles and kendo sticks, are giants or degenerates. The giants want to chokeslam every authority out of existence. The degenerates want us to act as though hair tugging and closed-fist strikes are just a part of life. These are not always the best solutions — particularly in the fields of pompadour maintenance and general cognizance.

And I urge all of you to please notice when you are awake, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, then I don’t know whose sledgehammer this is.”

Recently I was a graduation speaker at a little preparatory school for wrestlers who were reliant on foreign objects. I told the students that they were much too young to brandish steel steps, boa constrictors and deviancy.

I often hear managers say to their green talent, “All right, you see so much that is wrong with the jobbers in the back — go out and swing a 2×4 at them. We’re all for you! Go out and crack them over the head with this megaphone!”

You are four years older than those prep school wrestlers but still very young. You, too, have been swindled, if a manager has persuaded you that titles can change hands as the result of disqualification.

It isn’t up to you. You weren’t raised under the tables-ladders-and-chairs desperation of the Attitude Era. You don’t have the appearance of grave maturity — even though many of you wearing masks today may be gravely mature.

Do not take the entire division on your shoulders. Do a certain amount of skylarking, as befits wrestlers of your age. “Skylarking,” incidentally, was the original term for the moonsault, which was a minor offense under the early laws of the luchador.

What a charming crime. I would love to have a dishonorable discharge from the lucha libre sanctioning body — for skylarking not just once onto a dazed opponent, but again and again and again.

Many of you will undertake physically grueling work this summer, helping the heels and the ignorant and the awfully old get over. Good. But skylark off the top rope for a decent pop of your own, too.

Before I leave, I should like to give a motto to your class, a motto to your entire generation. It comes from my favorite event, which is the 1993 King of the Ring. In the first match of the Pay-Per-View, you will remember, Papa Shango — Kama Mustafa, who would later become The Godfather — enters with Adam Bomb, who would later become Wrath. They arrive at the entrance ramp and immediately receive news that the third member of their three-man tag team has been blinded by the atomizer of The Model Rick Martel. Papa Shango says this, among other things, and this is the motto I give you: “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”

Again: “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”

We already have plenty of sound suggestions as to how we are to act if things are to become better in the squared circle. For instance: clasp a downed combatant’s wrist, raise it skyward thrice, and you’ll be amazed at the transformation you inspire.

All that is required is that we become less selfish than we are. Because after all the fanfare and pyrotechnics fade, there’s only one rule that I know of, babyfaces — Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.