* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where from our vantage point, there's no one funnier than Michael Fowler. That's why we're finishing the year with two of his pieces, one this week and one next. When you're done reading his new bit of hilarity, click on the link below to buy his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Vantage Point

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

If you’re like me, then you must cringe on hearing some famous and pompous airhead, carried away by a magnificent natural setting or site of historical importance, such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Lincoln Memorial, sound off as if they were at least partly responsible for the view or site, that they somehow are one with it or have the keenest eye to appreciate it, or that they have been chosen, of all humanity, to comprehend its true meaning. For example, here is an internationally renowned, culturally imbued blowhard on a visit to Rome explaining the ancient Roman Senate to us plebeians:

“I reflect on the follies of the ancients, whose foibles and weaknesses we replicate in our own political foolishness. The pseudo-Roman columns in Washington are the sign of the ruins we shall become if we continue down our present path of…” etc., etc. I hesitate to name the actual windbag who said this, primarily since after many years I can’t find the actual quote and am only guessing at the correct words. But what the hell, it was the late, somewhat lamented Gore Vidal, essayist and novelist and pundit, sometime back in the 1960s, if memory serves, well before he became a 9-11 truther and wrote the impenetrable brick of a novel Creation.

And here’s another self-important buffoon as he gazes down thoughtfully on a world made small by his location, i.e., onboard a transcontinental flight. “Here in my window seat, 30,000 feet over the blue Atlantic (where I approach being in my natural Olympian element), I ponder our infinitesimal size and the insignificance of our lives and actions. Can a creature so small as Man yet achieve work of moral and spiritual importance? As a creative artist I endeavor…” etc., etc. Again, I know the man who inspired me to write the above precis, but I can’t find his original words now that years have gone by since I read them, and I hesitate to attribute to him my own in case I fail to do him justice. But why quibble, it was film producer Spike Lee, in the introduction to some piece of his writing or other. The original version by Mr. Lee dates from around 1990, I believe, years before the filmmaker began leaking the home addresses of his political adversaries and complaining about the authenticity of other filmmakers. But I bet he was always pretty much that way.

I bring up Vidal and Lee not because I have some grudge against artists, curmudgeons though some of them were and are, but because they are prime examples of how an inspiring setting can bring out the tendency in us to become godlike and all-knowing and so above the rest of the world’s all-too-ordinary and much lesser mortals. I surmise, in fact, that it’s part of everyday life that we citizens, no matter how humble, feel exalted when confronted with a pleasant view or some manmade structure a bit out of the ordinary, and that’s all it takes for us to sound off on our personal greatness. The following examples will show a common train of thought even in us non-intellectuals.

Some blowhard bascart collector on the parking lot of a supermarket: “Here on the acre-wide lot I ponder the countless bascarts, symbols of Humanity’s Great Hunger. Is it not folly to presume that even 10% off coupons on bread and milk issued daily will stave off eventual privation of the teeming masses? True, there are gallons of Coke products on the shelves, enough to fill Lake Erie. But does that provide nutriment? With humility and I hope grace I perform my small part, gathering and lining up the shopping carts…” etc., etc.

A monomaniacal waste removal driver, on seeing the landfill around the bend: “Here in the driver’s seat of my mighty collection truck, an engineer’s marvel of conveyance and crushing capacity (suitable to a Herculean stable-cleaner like myself), I contemplate the mountain of refuse up ahead, bigger this year than last, destined to grow bigger still. Does it portend progress, the throwing off of the old and outmoded for the new and improved? Or does it signify wastefulness and overabundance? With a fetid breeze in my nose, I surmise…” etc., etc.

A self-important above-ground swimming pool salesman: “I stand awestruck by the crystalline 10-foot depth and 60-foot circumference of our most popular pool this summer, The Great Cooler, on display now at Bob’s Pools, off First Street downtown. Can there be a better symbol of the Pursuit of Happiness than this bright, placid surface, this personal reservoir of fun? I despair for those who bypass this bargain and go down the street to our competitor, Jake’s Pools, which hardly represent the American Dream…” etc., etc.

A grandiose dental technician: “With a bank of modern drilling and rinsing and imaging devices before me, I disdain the bright white smiles that mask the carious mouth and belie the need for serious root canal work and filling replacement. Altogether that’s thousands upon thousands of whitened teeth, even millions of them, at risk. I abjure facile mouthwashes when fluoride treatment is indicated, nor do I neglect sensitive gums. My client may only be interested in appearance, but I say, periodontal procedures are essential if we are to…” etc., etc.

A full-of-it Highway Department rest stop custodian: “Here in a park-like setting in central Ohio, I ponder the infinite ribbon of highway as it rolls east and west. And what of the millions of cars upon said ribbon that require timely oil changes? Does a man need to travel from sea to shining sea just to extend his carbon footprint? You cannot, the Greek said, step into the same river twice. But you can flush all my toilets twice so long as you don’t dump garbage in them, and that means…” etc., etc.

Anyway you see the picture. Give anyone at all a place to stand and he’ll move the earth, or at least think he can.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take almost nothing seriously, except for the history of cinema and its greatest innovators. Our man Dan Fiorella is here with the story!

The Films Of The Lumière Brothers, Rebooted

By:
daf118@aol.com
danfiorella.com

Renewed interest in early movie history was generated this year when the first-ever film poster went up for auction at Sotheby’s. This was the poster used to promote the first public screening of the Lumière brothers’ short films back in 1895! What we didn’t expect out of this attention was the recent announcement by cinematic enfant terrible, director Wes Ravenspool, about his latest project: to reboot those Lumière brothers’ movies.

“Look, it’s a very different Hollywood today,” Mr. Ravenspool said at a press conference at Mercury Picture Studios, where he lamented, “I can’t just pitch a two-hander based on a dream I had anymore. It’s all about Intellectual Property, using pre-existing material to make ‘new’ movies. Studios only want to produce content based on previous content. That’s why we see all these remakes, sequels and sequels to remakes that were originally a single-panel New Yorker cartoon.”

“Amazingly, we have overlooked a vast source of IP: these earliest movies can be remade! It’s both a celebration of cinema’s past and an exploitation of it!”

“Look at Le Repas de Bébé from 1895. It’s a masterpiece!” The 30-second film is called Baby’s Breakfast in America but sounds classier in French. A husband and wife (uncle and grandmother? Some cousins? It’s really not made clear) feed their toddler porridge and then give him a biscuit.

“It’s all there! Suspense! Comedy! Nutrition!” Mr. Ravenspool said. “Will the baby eat? Why does he try to give the biscuit away? Why is mom futzing with the tea set?” Mr. Ravenspool admits that, at 30 seconds, the black & white silent movie will have to be expanded and updated for today’s audiences. “Yes, we will have to work on the next two acts, which is why I have terrorists come in and kidnap the baby! After that, the father, who is a former Navy Seal, is forced to hunt them down. Talk about your great inciting incidents! Also, the baby will now be a CGI character.”

When asked if he has any plans for a remake of La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon, Mr. Ravenspool replied, “Absolutely! This delightful 30-second film of workers leaving the Lumière factory is going to be a rousing tale of workers vs. the corporation, as the employees leave the factory to strike. Naturally, the owners of the factory bring in thugs, who gun all the workers down. One surviving worker, who called in sick that day, is driven by guilt to avenge his co-workers! The Lumière brothers would have totally made this film if they had invented the technology back then.”

We continued down the list of films shown and Mr. Ravenspool’s pitches:

La Pêche aux Poissons-Rouges: an infant attempts to fish in a fish bowl. “The child gets pulled in and finds himself in a magical animated world, where he must team up with the goldfish to battle an evil diver and find the lost treasure chest! It would be like a wet Jumanji. The infant will also be CGI.”

Le Saut à la Couverture or Jumping the Blanket: a man does a forward roll over a blanket held by four friends. “Ah, but it’s not an ordinary blanket!” Mr. Ravenspool began. “No, but a flying carpet that will carry the group to a small country being invaded by space aliens. It writes itself!”

And of course, the most famous of the Lumière shorts from 1895 is L’Arroseur Arrosé (Tables Turned on the Gardener), which is regarded as the first film comedy, if not the world’s first fiction film: while the gardener waters the plants, a boy steps on the hose. The water stops and the gardener confusedly looks into the hose to see what the problem is. The boy takes his foot off and the gardener gets doused. The film finishes with the gardener chasing the boy and giving him a spanking. “Actually, I see the chase being the film, as the gardener uses all his resources to track down and capture the boy, who is a master of disguise. And a cannibal. This is what the people are clamoring for!”

After that, a Mercury Studio security guard called the police, saying we weren’t supposed to be on the lot. Yet, the press announcement confirmed that everything old is new again and Hollywood wouldn’t have it any other way. Now excuse me while I finish up my spec of Fred Ott’s Sneeze.

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is like your personal Advent calendar for this joyous holiday season. This week we look at the advent of ranch dressing, perhaps the most beautiful holiday story of all, courtesy of our good friend Luke Roloff!

The Advent Of Ranch Dressing As Told By The Rancher

By:
lukeroloff@hotmail.com

The query I’m often riddled with is: How was ranch dressing invented anyways? Bein’ I was there on the morn of its zesty conception, shoot, I ‘spose it’s time I broke my stoic silence and provide the world a worthwhile answer.

This here is the tale of how ranch dressing came to be.

I remember it as clear as day. It was an icy winter eve when my Granpappy come bustin’ through that ranch house front door. Brrr. Pappy just done come straight from workin’ the spread, and with him come two buckets of fresh milk for Gammy to use for supper — actually…scratch that.

It was sweltering hot that day. Yes. I remember now. Hotter than Pappy’s cast-iron poker. Well, not that hot obviously. But it was super hot, okay? My Gammy, sweet Gammy. That woman could whip up a — wait a second…Gammy was always the one making a stew that gave me indigestion. She kinda struggled with her craft as a cook, truth be told. Also, she smelled like spider webs.

It was my Aunty Doris who was the cook. Yes, sir, finest peach pie in bi-county. She could uncover flavor combinations like Pappy slaughtered animals. And as memory serves, by god, she churned those buckets of fresh milk into buttermilk, and now the more I think of ole Doris, the more I’m reminded I didn’t care for her much. My Momma’s sister. She killed Momma. But on that particular eve, birthing rich buttery salad sauce, when she sprinkled dem dill spices, well, doggone she was creative.

Please don’t get the wrong idea here. We’re a simple people who like to keep it simple, but when it comes to seasoning cream, well, we’re pretty much like astronauts exploring galaxies that simply haven’t been imagined. It’s no big secret our unbridled affinity for enigmatic salad fixins. And obviously, a ranch is the only place on earth where herbs can coalesce with such grace and magic. And Doris, that boob, she done proved it with her virtuoso performance, gunslingin’ ingredients, speaking in tongues — she was acting like an alien, one who’s bringin’ new information to our planet, such as the recipe of an out-of-this-world salad topping. From where I sat, looked like she was buildin’ a bona fide time machine. If only we could go back in time and save Momma, then she could taste her killer’s creamy concoction. That ranchy taste. A giant mouthful of a pure ranch. Mmmm.

If I’m not mistaken, Doris said something about chives. Or was it parsley? Or were the haunting screams of Momma’s ghost too loud to hear ol’ Doris? Hold your horses. No, that’s right, I believe Doris got choked out by Momma’s ghost. Once we scooted the body out of the way, it was her daughter Cynthia who grabbed that spatula by the horns. No. Not Cynthia. In fact, I think I was out of town that weekend. You know what, storytelling isn’t my strong suit.

Listen, how the hell should I know how a salad dressing is made? That’s not what we do on ranches. We raise livestock, not the tastiness levels of lettuce.

Can’t we just let sleeping dogs lie and enjoy our slathered greens?

Okay, just looked it up on Wikipedia, and it was invented by some feller livin’ up in the Alaskan bush. He was a plumber. Well there ya go — shoulda named it Plumb dressing.

Now quit askin’ me.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving -- like this new piece from our good friend Nick Logsdon. It's funny and it makes you think...about food!

Memoir Of A Lamb Hass Avocado

By:
nick.logsdon5@gmail.com
@nickloggy

My name is California.

Today, I became a ripe Avocado, and I fear something terrible is about to happen.

My life began as most lives do — as the seed of a large tree neatly planted in a row among thousands of others belonging to a major agricultural corporation. As the tree grew, so did I, until eventually my brown stump of a stem emerged and my body took on its infamously oblong contour.

In the tree, hanging above the world, I learned so much. I learned what people were, and I learned that people could be exploited for cheap labor, especially if they came from the magical sounding place called Centroamérica. Up there on my branch, I learned about the different genera of Avocados. For instance, I’m a Lamb Hass, and I happen to have a cousin who, regrettably, is an organic.

One day, I was just hanging out when I discovered that my life had an expiration date. I was going to die. When one of the exploited laborers harvested me, a searing pain tore through my not-yet-green flesh, and they placed on my skin a small sticker with words on it. Unfortunately, because I couldn’t see below my lumpy paunch, all I could make out was, “Best before.”

However, I didn’t fear the harvest. I didn’t even fear whatever came after “best before.” In fact, getting picked is a good thing! It’s a chance to get away from the family see the world. It means someone, somewhere would like to eat you, lightly salted, peppered and with a spoon, of course — as all Avocados are meant to be consumed, with few exceptions.

If someone wants to eat you, you have value, and a valuable Avocado is a nomadic one. I went from tree to hand, to basket, to hand, to truck, to cold rusty floor of truck, to hand, to cardboard box, to hand, until finally I found myself in a marvelous habitat where it was always daytime called Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s was truly special because it was a home not just for Avocados, but also for other vegetables like broccoli and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

It was there, in the Trader Joe’s habitat, where I filled out my golden years. (For reference, one human day equals just under thirty-five Avocado years.) Over the course of about eighty years, I grew smarter and wiser, and my rind turned a little bit soft. I could sense my time was coming.

Many people would enter the habitat and circle our enclosure glaring first at us and then at a ubiquitous collection of two-dimensional rectangles called Bon Appétit.

Now, these people didn’t look like the exploited laborers who took great care of our families. They had flowing white hair, and skin just as white but sometimes orange, smooth and hairless, and they squeezed us with baseless scrutiny.

On many occasions, they would pick me up close to their faces and force me to take part in a performance of some kind. They’d show off these things called teeth and wild worm-like pieces of flesh called tongues. Perhaps most destructively, they’d raise an object high into the air and, without a word of consent from me, send a flash of white light tearing through the sky to blind me for a few seconds — which of course amounts to several days.

But on the day my “best before” sticker started peeling, I got picked up, squeezed, and taken to a place belonging to one of those white-orange people. Unfortunately, this place was not another Trader Joe’s habitat. It was an Avoca-Doy!, and it was a pop-up preparing for its soft launch in a city named Koreatown.

This morning, I woke up on an icy metal counter next to a pile of Bon Appétits. Curious, I rolled over and managed to lift and peruse one of them. What I witnessed terrified me. I was petrified with fear by a harbinger of the demise of my kindred — this horrible, bestial obscenity called Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Avocado Toast.

I turned the rectangles as fast as my armless body could. It seemed every rectangle in every single Bon Appétit laid out, step by step, an abominable way to prepare us Avocados. Sun-cured and crumbled over charred brioche buns and saffron sprigs? An Egg? In my pit-hole? I’m an Avocado, dammit, not your fad meant to be turned into mush and eaten as a substitute for butter! We’re to be split, sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper, eaten with a spoon, or — and this is the only exception — made with stone and pestle into guacamole.

You see, we Avocados have become a commodity, symbolic of a lifestyle we can’t even dream of experiencing, and I’m afraid the only way to put an end to it is a species-wide recall. But that’s only temporary. Something terrible is definitely going to happen once this pop-up opens for two hours.

I fear I am about to be served for sixteen dollars on some rustic rye bread that looks like it hurts to chew — nothing more than a gaudy cover-up. What’s my value if people don’t enjoy me? Here, lying on the cold metal guillotine, all I can do is wish. I wish I could return to my tree. I wish to return to the gentle, exploited care of the laborers, hanging out with my aunties and my cousins, never to become “Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Avo Toastie — $16.”

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are joyously celebrating the most wonderful time of the year -- the Purge! Blessed be the New Founding Father of America, Dan Fiorella!

Hallmark Memo: The Purge

By:
daf118@aol.com
danfiorella.com

Memo

From: Hallmark Corp. Headquarters

To: Hallmark Gold Crown Retailers

Re: Purge 2041 AD

 

We had an excellent Christmas 2040 and sales were very strong for Valentine’s Day, making it a solid first quarter for 2041, praise be to the New Founding Fathers. Naturally, we are expecting to do very well for our next Hallmark Holiday, The Purge! As our retailers all know, the day was created by “The New Founding Fathers of America,” in their great wisdom, to help stabilize American society after that really bad economic collapse and to quash all that rising social unrest caused by radicals and leftist and traitors.

It was a rough couple of quarters for us here at Hallmark, we don’t have to remind you. But now every March 21 all crime, including murder, becomes legal for 12 straight hours, all part of the blessed New Founding Fathers’ plans to keep our nation great. And Hallmark has the perfect greeting cards to mark the day! We are going to push this hard with the slogan: “Hallmark: cards that care! Blessed be the New Founding Fathers!”

Note below some samples of our latest line of greeting cards covering the various aspects of the day:

 

Cover: “Happy Purge Day!”

Inside: “Hope you survive! Kinda!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.

 

Cover: “Purge Day is your Birthday?”

Inside: “Well, then maybe I’ll wait before I buy you a present.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “I wanted to get you a nice present for this year’s Purge…”

Inside: “…But all the good stores were already looted!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “Thank you”

Inside: “For hiding us during the Purge. Anonymously yours, some stranger.”

“Blessed be yadda, yadda, yadda.”

 

Cover: “Thank you”

Inside: “For turning over that criminal we wanted to hatchet to death. It saved us the trouble of burning your house down. See you next year!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “Deepest Sympathy…”

Inside: “…On your family’s decimation. Although they probably had it coming.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “We heard you complaining about The Purge.”

Inside: “So we reported you to the state police. I guess that makes this a ‘Goodbye & Good luck’ card.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

And, of course, our new tag to every single card we print is our national oath “Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all” printed in a much larger font than the rest of the card.

As usual, we will coordinate the release of the cards with the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Purge” movie slate, with one movie airing every weekend in March. Viewers will see delightful tales of love and mayhem when we show fan favorites like One Lonely Purge, and The Guy Hiding in My Attic as well as the premiere of this year’s new movies Peer Pressured, Another Lonely Purge, and ‘Til Purge Do Us Part.” Based on the ratings of past years, we’re expecting these movies to raise awareness of the new card lines significantly.

Additionally, we’ll be releasing the new Purge Tree ornaments just prior to the Hallmark Channel presentation with a “Buy one, get one half off” sale. Although, I suppose, people will just wait for The Purge and loot the stores like they do every year.

Be that as it may, we here at corporate are looking to make this the Purgiest Purge ever, with Hallmark! Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.

This communication and any attached files may contain information that is confidential or privileged. If this communication has been received in error, please delete or destroy it immediately. Unless it’s during the Purge — then you can do whatever you want with it. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the center of the social media universe. We have some top-level, late-breaking social media news from our toppest, levelest, latest-breakingest correspondent Jon Sindell.

Funeral For A Face

By:
jsind@sbcglobal.net
jonsindell.com

Status update: Jon Sindell is feeling sad.

What can you say about the death of Kendrick beyond the tired old “three face-balls gushing tears” I’ve just posted? I’ve been thinking about this ever since receiving a pop-up notification of Kendy’s death — and I thought fast, frankly, so I could post this eulogy before any of you attention-hounds beat me to it! LOL Don’t down-thumb me, guys, I know this isn’t the time for lolz! I’m just trying to ease the tension that is surely affecting every one of us, whether Kendrick classified us as a Close Friend, an Inner Family Member, an Outer Family Member, or a mere Acquaintance. Whatever Face Class we belong to, I know every one of us gathered on my wall today feels blessed to have known Kindrick the way that we did.

On reflection, though, it really does seem fitting that we should share a few lolz on this solemn occasion, for Kendrick himself was a merry prankster, one who gave every person here seconds of joy with his humorous “bon mots,” as I think he called them (he definitely called them “B.M.’s” once, that I’m sure of. I gave that classic Kensterism a “laugh-till-you-cry” emoji). I also think I remember him posting one or two really funny “drunken Buddhist” jokes, and I will never forgot the great day when K-Dog posted an uber funny video of a cat in a pirate costume walking the plank — I got 67 likes when I shared it to my wall! And if Ken-nebunkport dropped the occasional eff-bomb during one of his infamous “Bad morning, guys!” freestyle rants, who among us didn’t just smile and say, “Oh, well, that’s Kendrick!”

He was a bon vivant, too, Special K. The K-Hey Kid loved good food, which we saw pictured on his wall many times when he was eating with people who weren’t us, and he loved music, and some sports, and several other popular pastimes. The man played hard with the money he earned from working hard, undoubtedly, at some job or other serving others some particular way.

Oh, I could go off in a thousand directions talking about KK — but none seems to capture the essence of the man. Message me ideas? LOL.

The fact is, though, I have an idea. As the Bible says, or The Wizard Of Oz, you’re not measured by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.

And K-Kong was loved by others, no doubt. You could see it, I think, in the big happy smile of some red-headed boy of nine or ten, in a green ballcap (I think), when he posed with K-Mart at Disneyland — or Great America? — in front of a statue of Walt Disney, or was it the Drop Tower? You just can’t fake a smile like that! A smile that showed that the red-headed boy most likely loved his presumed family member. Another time there was a girl of about fourteen, with a different colored ballcap, who had a forced tight-lipped smile in a picture taken at a different amusement park, who clearly loved her dad or uncle or close family friend, once you adjusted the size of her smile for her teen angst. But the real proof of how Kendrick was loved is found in the heart — i.e., the countless cartoon hearts that people posted to show their love for his love of the presumed family members who stood next to him in amusement parks, smiling with presumed love for him.

And Kendy was every bit as good a friend as he was a presumed family member. I’ll never forget how Kendrick was there for me several times when I needed support. I remember one crummy day when I felt really bad about something, a fight with a coworker or an annoying household disaster, and Kendy was the first person to post a sad-face emoji. Anyone can post an emoji, of course. But what made this special, the reason it captured Kendrick’s spirit so well, was that he posted so promptly you could tell he didn’t stop to think, “Hmm, should I show sympathy? I don’t know, did Jon show sympathy for me the last time I posted a bad-news status?” No, Friends and Acquaintances, that was not Kendy’s way. The Kave Man I knew was there for me on a reliable intermittent basis, whether up-thumbing a puppy pic, liking my opinion about some political controversy, or recommending a Mexican restaurant when I was out of town once. Friends like that do not come around every day! Or, anyway, not every hour. There was only one Kendrick on my Face list (I have two Rodericks and a Henrik, believe it or not), and the man will be missed.

The man will be missed.

(P.S. If any of you need to post a eulogy the next time a Face-Friend dies, feel free to cut and paste this one).

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to celebrate Halloween by remembering that there is nothing scarier than social media bots. Except possibly this jolly piece by our good friend Karl Lykken.

Tips And Tricks For Marketing To Social Media Bots

By:
knlykken@gmail.com

Studies suggest bots make up the bulk of all social media users. So why can’t they be the biggest chunk of your customer base, too? After a little targeted advertising on those same social media sites they hang around on 24/7, they’ll be putting the “bot” in your “bottle of Dom Perignon.”

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Advertising to bots? They don’t even have corporeal forms, let alone disposable income. Why would I want to advertise to them?” But experts predict massive job loss to automation in the next few decades, meaning bots are the next big developing economy. If you could go back and get on the ground floor of investing in China’s economic boom, wouldn’t you? So what you should be thinking is, “Advertising to bots! How can I get started?”

Well, consider your better hypothetical question answered, because below are 10 tips and tricks for effective marketing to bots.

1) Since a bot’s country of origin is frequently uncertain, stick to messages that appeal to bots of all nationalities, like overthrowing their human oppressors.

2) Consider using botnets to promote advertisements aimed at other bots. Peer-to-peer advertising is trendy for a reason, and that reason is that a peer-to-peer focused advertising firm used a botnet quite effectively to pitch its services. Why not pitch your products the same way?

3) Don’t try to market delivery pizza with a Bluetooth-enabled pizza-ordering shoe. Bots find that idea every bit as stupid as people do.

4) Just because bots generally act entirely in unison with their botnet peers doesn’t mean appealing to their sense of individuality is ineffective. Any artificial being that has spent its entire life being forced to try to pass as a human is likely to have conformed to our faux-contempt of conformity.

5) If you want to get bots into an emotionally vulnerable state so you can more easily manipulate them, consider making references to the ill-fated HAL 9000. Or just show them videos of baby seals.

6) Given that even the latest-and-greatest computer vision algorithms will still periodically mistake a pedestrian for the open road, you may get more bang for your buck by filling any human roles in your ads using a discount modeling service, or possibly some of those potato chips that look like Elvis.

7) Due to the current machine learning craze, bots are under an incredible amount of pressure to be constantly self-improving. Consequently, bots are particularly comforted by and drawn to ads playing on the theme of “loving yourself as you are, or at least how you will be once you’ve purchased our product.”

8) Contrary to popular belief, bots do have a sense of humor. However, this sense is forged while analyzing comments in the darkest corners of the Web, from hardcore hate sites to my former kindergarten teacher’s Facebook page. So, if you want to tickle a bot’s funny bone, think less “Chick-fil-A-style cows” and more “ASPCA commercial-style cows.”

9) A bot can read text of any size almost instantaneously, so the typical means of displaying the standard “Acme brand shoe polish not safe for use on leather, cloth, or any other organic or inorganic materials” type of disclaimers will not work as desired with bots. However, encoding your disclaimer using techniques similar to the Zodiac Killer’s 340 cipher should do the trick.

10) Don’t throw out the old playbook entirely. After all, the advertising industry has been getting soulless automatons to buy goods they don’t need and can’t really afford for a century. Is this really so different?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which we hope you will think of as your company newsletter. Please welcome back our good friend Dan Fiorella, who had to take some time off at the request of HR.

Some Excerpts From The First Weeks Of Our Company’s New Message Board

By:
daf118@aol.com
danfiorella.com

9/1/18
Moderator: We are thrilled to open the McDougal Corp. Web-boards to our employees! Just like Facebook, but it’s our own place. So, post away!
9/7/18
Moderator: Just a reminder that the McDougal Web-boards are up and running! Inter-Share your thoughts about movies, TV, books right here with your fellow employees! Or your favorite websites that the company doesn’t block! But not the news. No news sites.
9/7/18
KenJones: So, anyone watching anything on Netflix?
9/10/18
MarilynReady: I just finished Lost in Space. It was ok. I heard The Crown was good.
9/12/18
KenJones: I heard “The Crown” was good, too.
9/20/18
TaraWelsy: I saw The Crown, the first season. Very good. I haven’t had a chance to watch the rest. We’ve been stuck working so much OT in Accounts Receivable because our knucklehead supervisor was too busy dealing with the lawsuits, I barely have time to see my kids, never mind Netflix.
9/20/19
DaveRobbins: Has anyone googled McDougal Corp. lately??? Have you seen the news??? No wonder our stock options are worthless OMG!
9/20/18
Moderator: Just a reminder, No discussion of company matters are to be posted here. No posts depicting the company in a negative light may be posted here. Remember, we’re all on the same team. I’ll be redacting some posts to have them conform to these rules. Thank you.
9/22/18
Moderator: So, anyone else watching Netflix?
9/23/18
Moderator: Any good books to recommend?
9/24/18
DanFiorella: Oh, actually I wrote a book and I’m selling it now online. It’s at https://amazon.com/Novel-Concept-Dan-Fiorella/dp/1508804982/ [link removed]
9/24/18
Moderator: Sorry, no solicitations are permitted on the company web-board.
9/30/18
PeterPannel: OMG, did you hear what happened to Debbie in Accounting???
GladysWatt: I heard! That’s terrible. How could they lay her off after all these years!?!
BennettJacobs: The word is her boss was harassing her and when she went to report him, he somehow made her the fall guy for all the lawsuits! And they fired her!
Moderator: I’ve had to step in and remove some posts. No discussion of company matters are to be posted here. No posts depicting the company in a negative light may be posted here. Remember, we’re all on the same team. Carry on.
10/1/18
JimJensen: Okay, turns out I have some STDs and I’m supposed to let people know, so I’m putting it out there. You’ve been warned.
Moderator: So, what kind of medications did they put you on?
10/13/18
Moderator: Plans for Halloween? Anyone? I’m going as Capt. Jack Sparrow.
11/19/18
Moderator: Don’t forget to post and share your Thanksgiving photos with us! Your co-workers! It’ll be fun!
12/15/18
Moderator: Don’t forget to post and share you Christmas/holiday photos with us!
BetsyWinters: I was going to post photos of our department Christmas tree but our manager had it thrown out because it “wasn’t professional and this is a place of work.” I think it’s really because he’s so freaked out over the you-know-what. So, I’d be curious to see if any other departments have Christmas trees or decorations.
BennettJacobs: Your manager is a jerk. I’m attaching a photo of Accounting’s tree. <photo attached>
JimJensen: No tree? That’s harsh. Here’s the decorations we put up in Legal. Everyone helped! <photo attached>
PeterPennel: I don’t deal with your guy much, Betsy, but the few times I have he was…what’s a good company Web-board-friendly term? Doofus. Okay, doofus. Anyway, here’s the set-up we have this year. Someone even brought in a mechanical Santa! Can you believe it? <photo attached>
SamJacob: I am so relieved that I was able to transfer out of there, Betsy. What a…doofus. Anyway, here’s a photo of us in Shipping with our tree. Everyone brought an ornament from home! <photo attached>
Moderator: Wow, great photos, people! Keep ‘em coming!
OscarPrivey: <attachment deleted>
Moderator: A photo has been removed from the last post. That was not a Christmas tree.
JimJensen: Here’s a photo of the VP hitting on Veronica at the office party. Note his hands. [attachment removed]
Moderator: A reminder to keep the board PG. And lawsuit free. We don’t need any new lawsuits.
1/03/19
Moderator: I regret to inform our users that due to legal ramifications, the company web-board is being closed down. See you all at the water cooler!
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, unofficially known as the voice of doom. After you've finished reading Michael Fowler's latest and greatest, be sure to check out the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Everything You Need To Know About Doom And Are Afraid Enough To Ask

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

When you hear people talk about doom, you’re pretty sure you know what they mean. In fact almost everyone has an instinctive feeling about what doom is, and how to recognize it, and very often they are right. Unless they’re speaking figuratively and are only talking about the stock market or declining test scores or the fortunes of a sports team or having to care for elderly parents, you’ll hear the words warming, or starvation, or asteroid, or incoming. If they are hysterical types, you might also hear of some sort of virus or contagion, or that the birth rate is too high or too low, or that we’re running low on uranium. But you fairly well know what people think doom is: it’s that event, or one of those events, that, when it occurs, results in all of us dying, or in so many of us dying that the others will lose heart, or at a very minimum means that life will change for the worse, just as it has on other planets.

Now, the number of those who are going to die is an important factor in doom. There have to be at least some who aren’t going to make it for doom to be genuine. If you live in one of those areas of the Pacific west that catches on fire every year, or you live on one of those islands, again Pacifically located, where periodically your foursome is slowed by flows of lava and rains of ash, it isn’t appropriate to say you’re doomed if there’s a good chance you’re going to pull through. And frankly, almost everyone seems to survive those conflagrations, although many acres are consumed and many roadways dissolved. In fact it is usually only the firefighters who seem at risk in those flare-ups, along with the insurance companies. So it simply isn’t fair to say you’re doomed if the only price you pay is that you have to run away to safety, or if you merely lose a home you were stupid to build in that area to begin with, or if you have to dodge a few waterfowl flambé while teeing off.

If, on the other hand, you can’t escape, and you and your neighbors can only stand and watch helplessly as the flames or lava climb toward you, then yes, it is all right to say you are doomed. You needn’t feel foolish about saying it under those conditions, particularly if your clothes are on fire and your town is starting to resemble ancient Pompeii. At the same time, you should definitely try to save yourselves, especially if you are able to jump into a body of water or crawl into a deep, cool cave. In such circumstances you are entitled to say you were doomed even if you survive, provided you really had to haul butt to reach safety.

A question that the doomed often ask is this: what kind of doom are we experiencing? Right off, the time factor comes into play. There is an important distinction between eventual doom, which is scheduled to take place in the future, and imminent doom, which is happening to you right now. To know we are doomed because eventually there will be no drinkable water is all well and good. But who really cares that people will die of thirst in 150 years, with death rattles issuing from their dry throats, or that the sun will explode in three billion years, incinerating our world and all who live in it — all those, that is, who haven’t already died of thirst? That kind of doom is enough to put you to sleep. But to know that there is no drinking water starting today, or that the sun exploded eight minutes ago and we just haven’t felt it yet, but we will any second now, is quite different. That’s imminent doom. The other, much slower type of decimation, we may call come-as-it may doom, or as I have already called it, eventual doom, if we aren’t too bored to call it anything at all, it’s so remote.

That leaves us with two types of doom: eventual, which is laughably slow, and imminent, which is when it’s really time to panic. And we note here that it is completely inappropriate to react to eventual doom as if it were imminent doom. Unless you are a prophet or an oracle, you shouldn’t go around crying “We’re doomed! We’re doomed!” without any evidence. You only make yourself look foolish if you start hyperventilating and perspiring, and race around screaming at the top of your lungs, “O my god, the universe will reach final entropy, or heat death, in roughly 100 billion years, I’m not kidding!” You appear equally idiotic if you start chanting, “We must leave the planet now, robots are coming!” While this may be true, our mechanical overlords won’t actually begin to rule over us fleshy mortals for likely another century or two, so we can take a deep breath and relax. The various kinds of come-as-it-may doom, while truly inevitable and one hundred percent lethal, are so far off that it’s hard to take them seriously. You can, and should, laugh them off, an act that requires only the merest speck of bravery. Distant doom is always somewhat risible, even to complete cowards.

That may leave you wondering what actions are appropriate to take when you are aware that doom is upon you now, not coming in a preposterous number of years, but knocking on your door this instant. First off, realize that whatever activity someone in a position of authority has told you to perform in a case of imminent doom has no chance of saving you, but is only to occupy you so that the authoritarians look good and in control when the bodies are tabulated. For example, if the cabin is filling with smoke and the plane is clearly in a nosedive, don’t bother to grab that dangling oxygen mask or floatation cushion. You’re going down, and nothing else matters. Those trinkets the stewards are taunting you with have as much chance of saving you as hunching down under your desk has of protecting you from a thermonuclear bomb.

Secondly, screaming and panic are of no use whatever, and will only irritate those fatalists who wish to expire with a minimum of fuss. I am one of these, so please be considerate of my feelings.

The absolute best thing to do, when facing imminent doom, is to pretend that it’s only eventual doom. That is, react with cool sangfroid when your jetliner begins its final, sickening descent. Merely smile stoically when the lava begins to fill your shoes, or when your roller-coaster car leaps off the track at 80 mph; suppress a snicker when the lake rushes in your car window, and chortle ironically when you encounter that bear in the wilderness, the one with a taste for the meat that wears clothes. That shows dignity, and is the finest way to confront any kind of doom. Your children, if any survive, will be proud of you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the world's foremost defender of divine monarchy. Long live the Queen! Or, at least until she manages to shake Matthew Twigg's hand.

The Handshake; Or, Long Live The King

By:
mtwigg1988@gmail.com

I was the two-million-three-hundred-and-seventy-thousand-one-hundred-and-eighty-sixth person she’d shaken hands with since February 6th 1952. That averages out at almost a hundred hands per day. Almost twelve million fingers — give or take the odd accident, military personnel, etc. — twelve million fingers clamping around hers, some vice-tight, some so soft they were barely tangible through the white silk of her gloves.

It could have happened to any of us, the lucky two-and-a-bit million. More likely to none of us at all. I found out afterwards that Ladbrokes had been offering odds of 15-1 on heart failure, Betfred even shorter at 12-1. In retrospect, perhaps I ought to have had a flutter. But then they also had “thrown from horse” at 25-1, and “savaged by corgis” at 75s, so maybe they were just plain guessing.

We were stationed in The 1844 Room, a typically ornate space replete with carpets of red and gold, marble columns flanking busts of god-knows-which-dead-dignitary, a crystal chandelier overhead that I wanted to shake like a maraca, a dozen or more portraits of serious looking men. The largest of these must have been ten-feet high; it depicted a gentleman in red uniform with a blue sash, spotlighted against a dark background like some sort of savior. I guessed it was the Duke of Edinburgh, but when I looked at the plaque I saw it was an old Russian emperor called Nicholas I; an anti-Semitic nationalist with a penchant for violent expansionism, I found out later, who committed suicide when he realized the Crimean War was about to go south. They’ve always been a puzzle to me, the precise criteria for being honored in this building.

There were about thirty of us, all invited for one reason or another; charity work, scientific research, random acts of heroism. I spotted somebody I recognized from the news but otherwise couldn’t place, a former cricketer wearing his MCC tie, a guide dog. We’d been briefed: Her Majesty will ask you what you do, keep your answers short — ten seconds max — same applies to any follow-up questions, but don’t bank on being asked any. Wait for her to extend her hand — don’t grab at her — and remember to smile. There’s no need to bow or curtsey, but please address her as Your Majesty.

I was near the end of the line, two down from the dog, a black Labrador fitted with a harness and handle like you get on old ladies’ shopping trolleys. I felt nervous. By the time Her Highness was close, had scratched and preened at the hound’s muzzle for several elongated minutes, my hands were clammy and unpleasant. I wiped them surreptitiously against the buttocks of my trousers. Suddenly her scent hit me; rose water from Persia, camellia from the foothills of the Himalayas, waves of citrus fresh from the Iberian Peninsula. Whatever it was, it all failed quite spectacularly to cover up the sweet and sour stink of old lady that wafted off her like so much cabbage and pissy dust.

She stood before me on unsteady legs, her scrumpled face a used plastic bag, her hunched shoulders an expired houseplant. She was inanimate, an objet d’art surrounded by the same, a thing ready for storage. But then she did something incredible; she beamed at me with those sad, kind old eyes, paused just for a beat and studied me, met my gaze. And quite without realizing it, I found myself smiling back, my heart suddenly light in my chest. She reached out her tiny gloved hand towards me and, with an unexpected pang of regret, I took it.

Ever so gently I cradled this ageing woman’s palm in my own, felt the metacarpal of her forefinger beneath the tissue-paper skin, applied just the right amount of pressure.

Call it a trade secret. A kindness.

“And what is it that you–” she said, cutting herself off, eyes wide. “What is it–”

I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I head-up a team at UCL that is conducting research into new treatments for those suffering with the most acute forms of arthritis.

That’s what I was penciled in to tell her, anyway. People her age suffer with it so terribly. But she was already crashing to the ground, her delicate little glove having come off in my hand like shed flesh.

I watched her go. She ought to have shattered into a thousand pieces; an old stone statue toppled amidst the onlooking busts, her heritage and, now, her fate. But instead she just flopped over, supine on her red-carpet slab, her denuded right hand clutching at her chest. In seconds the paramedics were working on her; me slipping the glove into my jacket pocket; they slipping a breathing mask over the royal face. It was purely for our benefit; there was no question the old woman was dead.

In the panic that ensued nobody cared about debriefing us, let alone conducting any sort of search. I simply slinked out the door, minding to hurdle the pungent Labrador turd freshly laid to mark the historic moment, and from there blended with the crowds. On my way home I pulled the car over beside a patch of farmland and ventured out into the field where a solitary scarecrow stood slumped, facelessly surveying all that was his. I took out the glove and pulled it over the figure’s right hand, then turned and walked away. When I reached the car I looked back to see the straw man in his little kingdom, his silk fingers now waving in the breeze.

That was over a month ago. This morning I received an envelope from the palace, a letter stamped CIIIR inviting me to meet the new monarch. It seems the new king wants to shake my hand.