* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always interested in whether you enjoyed your dining experience. Er, make that your diner experience.

Dan’s Diner Survey


When was the last time you dined with us?

Today: 7pm – closing

Who was your waiter/waitress?

See, that’s why I’m here. I think her name is Ashley, but her nametag was covered by a piece of flair that said “Burgers 4 Life.” Anyway, do you think you could give her my number?

How many people were in your party?

Just one. I’ve been coming here for a while, trying to work up the courage to talk to…Anna? Maybe it’s Amy. I just call her Angel Face.

How was the quality of your meal?

See, that’s another thing. I didn’t really order any food. I was just trying to sit in Angel Face’s area and work on my opening line. Tell me if this is good: “Are you on this menu? Because I love you.”

What was your total for the night?

$50. I wasn’t aware that your unlimited refill policy doesn’t apply if “you just keep ordering cokes and staring at the staff.” You should really put that on the menu somewhere, along with the “No taking pictures” rule.

How much did you tip your waiter/waitress?

$75 and a poem I wrote about her: “Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ You are a waitress/ Please love me back.”

Would you recommend our restaurant to your friends and family?

I’d bring them in to meet Angel Face. I’d want her to feel like a welcome part of the family and I’m sure my mom and her have a lot in common, seeing as they both bring me my dinner.

How was the quality of service you received?

Like…good, but not “she’s definitely into me” type of good. I mean, I’ve been coming here during her shift for weeks, so she’s must know who I am. I just can’t tell if she’s into me, or if she’s just good at her job. If you could, just casually bring me up one day, just to see what happens. Maybe tell her she’s fired, ask, and then rehire her, just to test the waters.

Was the restaurant well maintained?

The outside is a beautiful work of art, crafted by God himself, while I’m sure the inside is a soft, caring place that needs me just as much as I need them.

Please provide any additional comments to help us improve your dining experience.

Just help me out here, man. I’ve been pumping money into this place nonstop for three weeks now, you can do me this solid and we’ll call it even. This is fate. I came in looking for beef and found love. I don’t know if you guys are set on your slogan, but you can use that one if you want. See, now you definitely owe me one. You can pay me back by giving Angel Face this survey. I’ve attached my phone number, home address, and a spare key to the back. Please give everything to Angel Face, and tell her “There’s no waiting on love.”

Oh, and the chicken sandwich could be crispier.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always looking for exotic employees to match our exotic business. Let Andy Millman be your big game warden.

Phil’s Wild And Exotic Animal Park Is Now Hiring


online ppi claim

Have you ever considered working with animals? Maybe you liked playing with puppies or cuddling kitties as a child. Perhaps you’ve let a squirrel race up your pant leg or fed a gopher a marshmallow you held between your teeth. If so, this could be the job for you.

We’re looking for a real animal lover to work hand-in-hand with one of Phil’s most popular attractions, Ollie the gorilla. Maybe you’ve heard some scuttlebutt regarding Ollie’s last companion, Jacques Cameroon, and the way his career ended at Phil’s (he died). Don’t let that deter you from pursuing your dream. Monsieur Cameroon knew (or should have known) that Ollie doesn’t appreciate being disturbed between four and five in the afternoon, when he watches Family Feud. On September 8, 2014 (the day of “the incident”) Ollie was enjoying the show and his afternoon cigar when the families were asked the following question: “Name a food you might find in the jungle.”

When Larry Barnes, eldest brother of the Barnes family, pounded the buzzer and yelled, “Apples,” Ollie became understandably irate. Even most idiots know that apples do not grow in a jungle. Why Mr. Barnes did not respond with “bananas” or “coconuts,” or even “small snakes,” is anyone’s guess. If he had, however, Ollie likely would not have become agitated and put out a perfectly good cigar on Monsieur Cameroon’s forehead.

You might suggest (perhaps you went to law school) that Mr. Barnes bears some responsibility for these events. We are impressed with your thinking. We are considering filing some sort of papers against Mr. Barnes (maybe you can help us), but first we need to tend to suits from Monsieur Cameroon’s family, as well as from several patrons claiming they were “traumatized” by their afternoon at Phil’s. Ollie is hoping that Judge Judy will be assigned the case. Our lawyers (once we find some) will prove that: (A) Monsieur Cameroon should not have been in the cage during Family Feud hour, and (B) Nobody was making those “eyewitnesses” watch Ollie rip Monsieur Cameroon’s arm off his body and beat him over the head with it.

Now then, back to our current opening. The preferred candidate should be female, with hairy arms and back, and be of childbearing age. A passing resemblance to Dr. Phil is an added plus. The woman should be a pleasant conversationalist with excellent hooting skills and a large to extra-large birth canal. Ollie desires a nest-builder, especially since his last one was destroyed by the fire hose used to stop him from jumping up and down on Monsieur Cameroon. The cooking is basic, though you should be able to heat up a pizza and smash palm nuts with rocks. The other required housekeeping skills are minimal. Ollie is fairly neat and normally flings most of his feces out of the cage.

As you know, gorillas are social animals — often considered “the life of the party” — so you should be friendly and get on well with large primates. Let’s face it: even the humans didn’t care much for Monsieur Cameroon. He was probably not a “good hire.” That doesn’t mean we condoned Ollie beating his head against the bars to the rhythm of The Brady Bunch theme, but to say that we can understand it. And don’t get us started on what the other animals thought of him. If you’re really interested, stop by for a chat with Gretta the Zebra about the time Monsieur Cameroon took her to the movies. It is a most unpleasant story.

On second thought, it’s probably best for you to put Monsieur Cameroon out of your mind. Rest assured, with the right companion (a hairy hooter who looks like Dr. Phil), Ollie will be as gentle as a baby beaver. He is just a little lonely (especially now that Monsieur Cameroon is gone). Ollie wants what you and I do — someone to share our life with, someone to curl up with and watch Murder She Wrote, someone to push our tire swing and pick bugs off our back.

Could you be Ollie’s special someone? Find out by sending a letter of application directly to him. Use large print and simple one or two-syllable words. Draw some pictures. Tell him if you also enjoy Family Feud and other daytime television shows — except for Wheel of Fortune. Do not even mention Wheel of Fortune. As a matter of fact, it would be best not to apply if your name happens to be Pat or Vanna. You should enclose a picture, but nothing too provocative because Ollie gets “worked up” easily (you’ll have no worries in that department!). A simple photo of your everyday life, such as hanging off a tree limb or fishing ants out of a nest with a stick, should suffice. You may also smear some of your musk on the application packet.

All applications that Ollie doesn’t tear apart, eat or set on fire will be kept on file for six months. Don’t despair if you are not called right away. Ollie’s fingers are a little big for the buttons and he often dials incorrectly. If you are not selected for this position, you may still qualify to work with Alex the Angry Alligator. You must have quick reflexes and not smell like chicken. You can pick up an application for that position at Alex’s cage at any time, except on Wednesday nights, when he watches Top Chef.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are usually happy for reasons that are not immediately apparent. Maybe it's something we drank? When you're through reading David Martin's new piece, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

Happy Water


“…despite the studies demonstrating the benefits of relatively high natural lithium levels present in the drinking water of certain communities, few seem to be aware of its potential.” — The New York Times, September 13, 2014

Well it looks like one community is aware of lithium’s potentially beneficial effect and is planning to do something about it, if this recently leaked draft memo out of San Francisco can be believed:

TO: The Mayor

FROM: The City Water Department

After careful study and consideration, we are proposing that our city’s water supply be supplemented with microscopic amounts of lithium. Based on recent studies, it appears that even trace amounts of that mineral will make for a happier, healthier population.

However, we don’t think that the water supplementation initiative should stop there. If a little lithium is helpful then presumably more will be even better. After an initial trial period, we propose that the amount of lithium added to the water be doubled each year until we determine the optimum amount.

Some in our department have voiced the concern that too much of a good thing might be dangerous. However, on balance, we think the annual doubling metric combines the best elements of efficacy and safety with minimal risk of harm to the water-drinking public. The only risk of note would be a one-year period in which San Franciscans might possibly be a bit too laid back.

In the interests of public health and well-being, we are also proposing additional programs for your consideration. In order to realize a happier citizenry, we propose the occasional use of a benzodiazepine supplement. For example, during our winter months, if long-range weather predictions call for extended periods of rain, we could add appropriate amounts of Diazepam to the city water system in order to lift the public’s spirits. Similarly, on the off chance that there is any snow in the forecast, we could easily titrate in one or more mood elevators on a temporary basis.

Specific holiday water management programs are also under consideration. We have examined the possibility of adding reasonable amounts of ethyl alcohol to assist in annual celebrations such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. Alcohol levels would, of course, be restricted to a maximum of 4% and would be implemented only in the late evening hours to prevent inadvertent ingestion by children. Some thought was given to specific beverage additions such as Scotch, gin and Champagne but individual tastes vary and the costs would likely be prohibitive.

Some in our department have suggested additional possible seasonal adjustments. Given San Francisco’s pharmaceutical heritage, you may want to consider one-time offerings of various psychedelics when appropriate. It’s not too soon to plan for the fiftieth anniversary of our city’s Summer of Love in 1967. Consideration should be given to adding small amounts of LSD to our water supply in the summer of 2017 to mark the occasion. Individual water fountains in the Haight-Ashbury district could even be temporarily altered to dispense appropriate amounts of psilocybin, ecstasy and/or peyote for the duration of the celebrations.

As for adding fluoride to our city’s drinking water, we recommend that a decision on this matter be postponed indefinitely. It just seems a bit too risky.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always happy to tell you the time. If you ask nicely. This means you, Matthew David Brozik! Once you've read his piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page.

I Don’t Want You To Be My Alarm Clock. I Just Want You To Tell Me When It’s 6:17.


It’s really not a big deal. Or, if it’s a big deal for you, I can’t see why it is. I don’t want you to “be my alarm clock.” I just need you to do me a small favor and tell me when it’s 6:17. That’s all! Just let me know, however you see fit, when it’s 6:17. Easy.

But if you can, please let me know as early in the minute as possible. Closer to before 6:17 than to after it, I mean. Like, if you could somehow be sure to be watching the time, so that when it’s 6:16 you’re ready for it to become 6:17 and to tell me as much. That’s preferable to just periodically checking your watch or whatever tells you the time and then just happening to notice that it’s 6:17, because then you might not know that it’s actually very close to 6:18, and by the time you tell me that it’s 6:17, it won’t be anymore. Does that make sense? You might want to ask someone to let you know when it’s 6:16. A third person, I mean. Not me, obviously.

Since the whole reason I’m asking you to do this for me is that I don’t have any other way of telling the time or otherwise being made aware of what time it is, I suppose I can’t justify making any requests about what you use to stay abreast of the time, but if you did happen to be open to suggestions or recommendations, I might mention that a watch or clock that you’ve set yourself is not as good as something that receives signals from a dedicated satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Human error, you understand, but nothing personal. And a digital device is of course better than an analog one, if only because sometimes it can be hard to see just where the minute hand is. You might think it’s on the 17, for instance, but it’s really on the 18, and then the moment — the minute, actually — has literally passed. Please don’t tell me that your watch is fancy and has numbers only for the hours — without even a little line for each minute — so you pretty much have to guess at every time in between five-minute intervals.

If you wear one of those “museum watches” with nothing but a dot where the twelve should be, and you have absolutely no idea what time it is unless it’s noon or midnight, I’m not even sure we can be friends anymore. I don’t need to know if it’s noon or midnight, you understand. I need to know when it’s 6:17. I suppose, though, that if you can afford one of those watches, then you probably have other watches as well, less pretentious watches with actual numbers, and maybe you’d be willing to put one of those on? Grab one with a second hand, if possible.

But we’re coming up on 6:17, aren’t we? I can’t say for sure, but I do feel like we are. I have a sixth sense about time, as it happens, though it’s nothing I can rely on. Certainly not if I ever need to know when it’s a very specific time of day, as I do today. But I’ve taken guesses every now and then, and my talent seems to be knowing when it’s either a quarter past or a quarter to an hour, although I admit that more than once I’ve gotten the hour wrong. In any event, I’m willing to bet that it’s 6:15 now, or it just was, or it very soon will be.

Which gives me two whole minutes to say this: I am still not asking you to be my alarm clock, but come 6:17, if you can find it in your heart to let me know that it is 6:17, could you do it in a way that’s somewhat special? I don’t mean in an elaborate fashion, because there’s really insufficient time to arrange anything like that, but I’d be grateful if you could do something more than just tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, it’s 6:17.” I’m not telling you that I expect you to actually beep, or yell, “Cuckoo!” or whistle Dixie, or anything like that, but making some kind of distinctive repeating nonverbal sound would go a long way toward…Hang on! Just let me finish this thought and then you can respond. I know you’re not thrilled about what I’m asking you to —

What? It’s what time? Oh, God damn it. Thanks for nothing.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we hope to keep you up-to-date on the homicidal tendencies of the elderly. Michael Fowler is our resident expert on the subject, being extremely old and close to death himself. Once again, we urge you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Seniors Who Kill


What drives me to kill? It is the damnable lack of fresh grapefruit in this prison of a home. Pick any tray — breakfast, lunch or dinner — and there is no fresh grapefruit to be found on it. I mean, whose Achilles tendons do I have to lick to get a few segments of fresh, sweet grapefruit in this inferno? What I and everyone else get instead is stuff out of cans, and that is unacceptable. And if a lack of fresh grapefruit doesn’t strike you as grounds for murder, that can only mean you are gobbling down all the fresh grapefruit you can hold and can never understand the anger I feel. So screw you.

For my victim I have chosen Carly Wingate, not that she has anything to do with grapefruit, although her tiny, yellowish head resembles one. She’s a fellow resident. But enough about Carly, and now for my foolproof plan. I am very proud of it. I will act on Thursday. Thursday is Fleet enema day, and I am particularly energetic that day. And bright-eyed and tingly. The murder weapon will be the laundry chute in the nurses’ station on the third floor. The third floor is the floor I live on at Pine Woods Manor, Carly too, and I know it well. I also know the laundry chute well, and that’s why it’s my weapon of choice. Do you begin to see? If not, you must be dense.

The nurses’ aides are constantly throwing armfuls of hideously soiled sheets and pads and gowns down the hatch of this chute, so why shouldn’t Carly go along for the ride? That’s my can’t-miss plan. Through this enormous metal pipe Carly and the rank linen will fall three floors into a large canvas tub in the basement, and from there be wheeled to the laundry. How do I know what goes on three floors below? I haven’t been sitting around here since 1910 whittling wood, buddy. I mean 2010. And how do I know the drop will kill Carly? The smell alone will kill her, or she isn’t human.

Carly is the perfect victim for a number of reasons, but one stands out: she will present me with the opportunity. How so? Because she frequently drifts into the nurses’ station to pester the RN or the aides about this and that. I’m shocked one of them hasn’t already tossed the little bag into the tube and battened the hatch down tight, to tell you the truth, it would be so easy to do. Oh, and one more thing: her death will be unbreakably linked to the lack of fresh grapefruit. I have already composed a suicide note for Carly that I will toss it in after her. It reads:

To all staff,

I am committing suicide because of the lack of fresh grapefruit here, and you should all be ashamed. May you rot in Hell.

* * * * * *
After my enema I am focused, pulsing, feeling like a million yuan. The aides disappear to take a smoke, and Carly wanders near the open chute, pacing until they return. Hovering nearby and pretending for the last 20 minutes to be trying to get a cup of ice from the icemaker, I am on her like a bolt of lightning. Only this bolt misses his mark after slipping on an ice cube and flies headfirst down the gaping tunnel. So quickly did I react that I’m not sure Carly even saw me go by, so there are no witnesses.

No one calls down to ask how I’m doing, anyway, and so I settle in for what looks like a long afternoon and evening. If you want to know why I don’t call out or make a fuss, I just don’t. I feel comfortable and safe. The bedding and clothes in here are indisputably foul, and the air barely breathable, but then I’ve been in hotels that were just as unkempt and nasty. In fact I grow drowsy almost at once. I only have to remember to cry out in the morning before someone loads me into a washing machine. Then I should be all right. Just before I drift off I remember Carly’s suicide note, still in my hand. I can’t decide if I signed her name or mine to it, or if that matters, so I swallow it.

When I come to I’m on three, cleaned up and sitting before my breakfast tray. There is no goddamn fresh grapefruit. I feel like screaming. But the oatmeal is decent, and the strawberry jam is amazing.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Happy New Year!" like a French existentialist. Stacey Resnikoff is on the scene in a cute little black beret.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Cousin Writes A Wellness Bestseller


When your name is Jean-Luc Sartre and your first-cousin-twice-removed is French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, you’re supposed to have reverence. You’re expected to nod when your headmaster says your writing belies the heart-aching brilliance of your forebears, or your OKCupid date talks nonstop about her existential torment. But, hey, I’m a Virgo, Aries rising with moon in Pisces, so I’ve got to speak my mind: I think my cousin had a stale baguette up his derriere.

That’s why I wrote “Existenchillism: The Anti-Angst Solution.” In the 21st century, we really need to quash this whole Sartrian “man is forlorn” idea. I mean, before we had hot yoga, karaoke and gluten-free cookies, there may have been “nothing to cling to.” But today? If you can’t find a way to snap out of your existential funk nowadays, you really are responsible for your own anguish. Go on a mandala coloring retreat. Zipline the Alps. Get Netflix.

My story is the same as many celebrity relatives. I attended boarding school in Paris, where I was teased mercilessly. We’d play boules and kids would shout, “If you lose, you can blame no one but yourself!” and “When Jean-Paul Sartre said ‘there are no accidents in life,’ it was way before you were born!” Not original material to a Sartre, believe me. And, by the way: duh.

Lycée was no easier, where I was expected to chain-smoke, wear black and get As in classes like “Philosophical Turmoil and the Pain of Daily Living” and “The Great French Writers Our Students are Related To.” No one wants a Sartre to be cheery or, quite paradoxically, his own man.

Yet everything changed when I wrote my book. Finally I have my own “authentic project,” as Sartre called it — in my case, a takedown of Sartre. It’s gratifying to steer readers away from downer Sartre-isms like “I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without anything or any person being able to lighten it” and toward life’s simple pleasures, such as brewing your own orange soda or decorating Crocs with shoe charms. Just read the headlines! It’s no time for doom and gloom. We’re all in this merde together and deserve to be distracted.

Hitting the best-seller list created some super-hot opportunities for me. Celebrity Angst Management is a network reality show, where I’ll help stars like Alec Baldwin and Shia LaBeouf find their happy place. There’s my hammock-themed health club chain PowerNap. And, of course, my Existenchillax line of beverages made with kava kava, L-tryptophan-enriched rainwater, and Chillaxia(TM), a proprietary ingredient made from Colorado-grown cannabis.

I’m so grateful to my publisher Grove/Atlantic Enlightenment for recognizing the need to diversify their catalog beyond literature into literature-triggered self-help. Sure, some say Jean-Paul must be rolling in his grave over my “Sartre Say Relax” T-shirts sold everywhere, including at his grave. But, in the words of Pharrell (who will perform at the opening of Existenchilland theme park in Boulder next summer, pending our Open Toking License), “Can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high.” Clap along, Existenchillists!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only hope for sanity in a world gone mad. With winter temperatures below zero in much of the US today, we think it is high time to start talking about lingerie. Well, actually, we're going to let Samantha Rodman do the talking. We know therapists are supposed to listen for the most part, but today she's talking. So listen up!

Lingerie Shopping With Your Therapist


Well, Karen, it’s so kind of you to have invited me on this journey. I hope we can have a productive time together today, and I’m ready to work as hard as you are to make the most of our hour together. And let me say that I’m truly impressed by how vulnerable you’re making yourself here. It’s hard for me to recall a time when you were more uninhibited and present-focused! Except for the time when you went home with that stranger after the salsa club. That worried me, as it seemed to be an unconscious repetition of your mother’s unfortunate tendency to get involved with emotionally unavailable Latin men. But it was only a one night stand, thankfully.

Do you think this one is attractive? I think it’s a very flattering shade. I know you’ve historically had an issue with the color, stemming from when your father painted your room pink in his new house with Margie, passive-aggressively refusing to acknowledge that you were in a goth phase. Which was, of course, an overt statement of disillusionment with traditional femininity, as you subconsciously linked it to your abandoned and tragic mother. But, I think our work together has left you more open and flexible, and making a proactive choice to wear pink may in fact be an emotionally corrective experience for you. Yes, I like the Tanga cut. Sassy!

Hmmm, if we dig a little deeper, what might be going on underneath your decision to go with the Maxxxi push-up bra? It might be useful to explore the duality of your feelings here. On the one hand, you share week after week that you yearn to be desired primarily for your mind and heart, but on the other hand, you are considering a bra that puts your sexuality, as it were, on open display. For years, we’ve been trying to reconcile these two ideas: that a woman can be both sexual and powerful, and even powerful in her sexuality! Unlike Margie, or your mother, of course. Kudos to you and the Maxxi!

Do the rhinestones encrusting that thong speak to your past in any way? Well, I was just remembering the story you told me about Margie’s extravagant engagement ring and how you felt so distraught at the prospect of having a stepmother only ten years older than yourself. You got involved with your English teacher in retaliation. And then your poor mother went on that drinking spree. Very difficult times for a 16-year-old girl on the cusp of young womanhood. No, get it if you like it.

Boy cut shorts? As we’ve discussed, psychological androgyny is a powerful development as we age. No longer do you have to feel constricted into a two dimensional idea of what women can do, feel, or think! You’re maturing, and you don’t need to buy into society’s definitions of gender and what it supposedly entails. Forget about the old molds you learned from your macho yet desperately insecure and overcompensating father and your emotionally lost mother, who found solace in conventionality. You go, girl! I would choose the blue. In for a penny!

Well, it looks like we certainly spent a productive hour here today! I hope my guidance was helpful, and I really enjoy working with you to realize your true potential. You have the capacity to live the life you want, if you stop looking backwards and embrace your many strengths and gifts! Hey, is that robe transparent? What an apt metaphor for your increasing comfort with putting yourself out there emotionally. Brava! Now, you have a wonderful day. Same time next week?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we can think of no better way to celebrate the New Year than with a calendar. But not just any calendar! Let Garrett Socol explain it all for you.

James Franco’s Calendar


Actor James Franco has proven himself to be a jack of all artistic trades. Not only does he star in movies, but in the past decade he has written a collection of short stories, taught a class in filmmaking at NYU, created a performance art exhibit at LA’s Museum of Modern Art, taught a class in screenwriting at UCLA, starred on Broadway in Of Mice and Men, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, co-hosted the Academy Awards (with Anne Hathaway taking half the blame), performed in a band called Daddy, and appeared as the face of Gucci’s men’s fragrance line.

The actor doesn’t plan on slowing down. A quick glance at Franco’s calendar for the upcoming year confirms this:

Franco will tackle the role of Prince Siegfried in the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Swan Lake. It’s been a fond dream of Franco’s to either appear in or swim in Swan Lake.

Franco will make his Las Vegas debut when he headlines at the Golden Nugget. He will sing, dance, yodel and play a number of musical instruments, including the lute, the flute, the French horn, the piccolo, harp, oboe, trombone, tuba and triangle. After showcasing his talent for sword swallowing, Franco will try his hand at mind-reading. Then he will try his mind at hand-reading. (He has studied palmistry with a master for more than a month.)

Franco will attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a sturdy Banana Republic shopping bag. Blindfolded.

Franco will construct the world’s largest mosaic made of rice, then he will attempt to break the world record for the most spears caught from a spear gun underwater in one minute (from a six foot distance): 11.

Franco will complete and publish his updated version of Roget’s Thesaurus.

What little boy wasn’t fascinated by outer space? Yep, James Franco. He was never the least bit interested in astronomy, Star Wars or Star Trek. Nevertheless, the actor will travel to the International Space Station and bring refreshments from the International House of Pancakes.

Franco will make the journey from Lexington, Kentucky to Bangkok, Thailand via hot air balloon, solo, with nothing but Neil Diamond music as entertainment.

Franco will be the special guest artist of Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna in Madrid, Spain. Among other feats, he will dive into a giant fish bowl, walk a tightrope 40 feet above the stage with no net, and use his gymnastic skills to land in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms that have been greased with Crisco.

Franco will appear on Celebrity Jeopardy playing against Christiane Amanpour and Stephen Hawking.

Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow need to brace for competition when Franco unveils his new lifestyle website called joof.com. The site will include everything from creating a scrumptious coq au vin to choosing the perfect summer sandal to locating that precious, must-have Picasso.

The athletic performer will climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent (and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world). This way, Franco will literally tower over everybody.

By the twelfth month of the year, Franco will have completed the body of work he had been creating, so he will rest. This does not mean he’ll be tired or run-down. It merely signifies the fact that he will allow his donkey and his ox, along with his agent, manager, publicist, personal trainer, chef, yoga instructor, bodyguard, hairdresser and limo driver to enjoy a four week holiday focusing wholly on slumber and relaxation.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it's Christmas every day in our hearts. If only we could say the same for Joseph. Karl MacDermott has the whole sad holiday story. Note: The Big Jewel is taking New Year's Week off. See you in 2015!

Joseph’s Christmas Diary


In the archaeological discovery of the year, Joseph the Carpenter’s diaries have recently been unearthed. Here we examine his account of that very first Christmas and find a written testimony that at times gives us a surprising insight into this neglected biblical figure.

DECEMBER 23rd — 9:43 p.m.

Things are quite tense with M. at the moment. We got into a blazing row after our pre-natal class. She asked me had I booked the accommodation for Bethlehem. I said yes. This was a lie. I was meant to tell the shepherd Shobal, the son of Ezer, who recently begat Azariah, to tell his brother Pharaz who runs The Room At The Inn Quality Budget Lodgings in Bethlehem to set something aside for us. But I forgot. There shouldn’t be any problem though. I mean it is a one-horse town in the back of beyond. It’s just that I’d hate for M. to end up in the middle of nowhere having to give birth in some stable or something, but that’s just my worried mind working overtime again. We’ll be fine. Fingers crossed.

DECEMBER 24th — 7:56 p.m.

Arrived in Bethlehem. Finally. The roads were crazy the last hour, a donkey tailback all the way from Anathoth. To my eternal relief there was one unoccupied room at The Room At The Inn. But M. wanted to look at it first. She wasn’t impressed with it at all. Okay, there was that stale smell, and the mattress had seen better days and the towels weren’t that fresh, but it didn’t bother me that much. I guess because I’m a man and men don’t notice these things. Well that’s what M. always claims, anyway. “Let’s take it!” I said, but M. insisted — “No, we’ll get something better somewhere else.” That was three hours ago.

DECEMBER 24th — 9:52 p.m.

Have finally found the “something better somewhere else.” To be honest, it’s not perfect. In fact, my worst nightmare has come true: we have ended up in the middle of nowhere in some stable. I was going to launch into a long tirade about M. never taking my advice and that we should have stayed in The Room At The Inn but I felt it wasn’t the right moment, with her waters having just broke. What do I do now?

DECEMBER 25th — 1:06 p.m.

I am a father. I can’t remember much about the birth because I passed out during M.’s prolonged contractions. I’m gobsmacked that little old me, Joseph the Carpenter, is responsible for bringing this tiny creature into this world. Well, sort of responsible. I’m still not completely clear in my mind about the exact sequence of events all those months ago, and who exactly did what with my wife — and how — but I’m prepared to put all that to one side because this is a momentous day.

DECEMBER 28th — 9:18 p.m.

Felt a bit cooped up in the stable, so I went for a walk around Bethlehem. When I returned home I noticed some loaves and fishes in the corner. I asked M. where she got them and she swore she didn’t know. She told me she dropped off to sleep for a few minutes and when she awoke there they were. Later had a most satisfying meal. Must be something in the water ’round these parts, for it tasted just like wine.

DECEMBER 31st — 10:46 p.m.

New Year’s Eve. Can’t get to sleep with all the parties and revelers. It’s louder than feeding time on Noah’s Ark. We decide to have a quiet night in this year, having difficulty organizing a babysitter at such short notice. Anyway, M. said she didn’t have anything nice to wear. Last year she spent hours getting ready. And then on her way out she turned to me and said, “I hate myself in this crimson tunic. I look so fat!” Later we spent a rather strained evening with our friends Joachim and Jezabethum. Joachim is in the recycling business. He tells me recycled crucifixes are the future.

JANUARY 6th — 9:35 p.m.

I was in the middle of changing my first nappy this afternoon when a voice said “Hello.” I turned around and saw these three old guys just standing there with bags of stuff. From the word go, I didn’t trust them. In life you always have to go with your initial instincts.

“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested,” I said.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong.”

They then told me they were the Three Wise Men.

I called out to M. in a slightly sarcastic manner:

“Come here! I want you to meet the ‘Three Wise Men’ — not just ordinary men, mind you, but wise men.”

Then I really began to have fun with them.

“Well, we’re the ‘Two Tired Parents’! What do you want?”

Then they started going on about the baby and they took out the stuff out of the bags.

“We want to give you this.”

They removed some gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

Then they just turned around and left.

M. and myself looked at each other.

Something definitely not kosher about all this. Three old guys turn up out of the blue, and they want to give us stuff? M., being more naturally suspicious and paranoid in nature than me, came up with an angle.

“Maybe they are highway robbers,” she said. “I mean those beards look like a joke, for starters. Maybe the authorities are after them and they’re trying to dump the stuff somewhere, and later on they’ll want to come back and cut our throats and retrieve it.”

She could be onto something. Then M. wondered: what happens in the meantime if we’re found with the stuff? We’d be flogged, stoned, put away for years, and the kid would have to be taken in by social services. Where would that leave us all? And the future of Christianity? Without further discussion, we immediately disposed of the boodle in a well down the road — looked like pretty fake stuff anyway!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like a look at the rape culture elements in beloved seasonal songs. Let Christina Bebeau be your Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Or your Lena Dunham. And if you don't know who they are, you are already well on your way to having a very Merry Christmas.

Baby It’s Cold On A Slow Boat To China


There are standards out there that are about straight up MURDER, like “Mack the Knife” (multiple killings by knife in cold blood), “Miss Otis Regrets” (murder with a side of lynching!), and who can forget the Sammy Davis classic, “I Masturbated After Strangling You to Death in Your Sleep?”

But while I generally have to seek out those songs to listen to them, it is hard to escape the Christmas season without hearing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” at some point, thus sparking the annual debate in my mind: which is the more rape-y Frank Loesser standard, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “On a Slow Boat to China”?

Since many people today don’t even know “On a Slow Boat to China,” the obvious choice would be “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” right? The song is written as parts not for woman and man but “wolf” and “mouse,” and at one point the mouse literally says “the answer is no,” along with questioning whether a drink has been drugged (or, optimistically, if it just has way more booze than it should, if that particular drink is even meant to be alcoholic at all). It’s more widely known today than “On a Slow Boat to China” as it continues to be played on radio stations every Christmas, and it even won an Academy Award for Best Song.

Of course, there are plenty of things in other Christmas songs, and other songs in general, that take me out of the moment of the song. As a New Yorker, it’s hard to hear the lyric “down to the village” in “Frosty the Snowman” without the image of Frosty smoking a joint on Bleecker Street and then catching a flick at the IFC Center coming to mind. Whenever they sing “caroling out in the snow” in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” I swear they are saying “Caroline out in the snow” and always yell at my iTunes “THEN WHY DON’T YOU GO GET HER?” until I realize, for the millionth time, that they obviously said “caroling.” And although Barbra Streisand has a beautiful voice, it’s hard not to get a chuckle out of one of the most famous Jewish people in America singing about remembering Christmas as a young child or opening presents by the fire on Christmas Eve. In the future I would like to hear a song about eating Chinese food and going to the movies on this particular holiday, written and performed by a gentile.

There are Christmas songs that aren’t even Christmas songs but have been re-appropriated as such, like “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, because they fit into the ever-present spirit of commercialism. Why don’t Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé do hokey jazzy covers of “The Lonely Goatherd” on their holiday albums instead?

But no matter how distracting these elements might be, “Frosty the Snowman” or Barbra Streisand or The Sound of Music are never distracting me with, well, rape. Not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

While “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is almost exclusively a duet, “On a Slow Boat to China” is not. When done solo, it is romantic at best, and John Hinckley-esque at worst. Its lyrics are less overt:

I’d love to get you
On a slow boat to China
All to myself alone
Get you and keep you
In my arms ever more

And so interpretation relies heavily on delivery. The slower, the better. If you assume that the singer is alone when singing it, then he or she becomes a stalker plotting to be “melting your heart of stone” and thus knows full well that the person in question has no interest in them, at least not yet.

If you imagine that the singer is singing to another party present, then they’re uncomfortably forward about their intentions. The wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is persistent, sure, but at least uses the weather as an excuse, and one can assume that the mouse is free to leave when the weather clears up. The subject of “On a Slow Boat to China,” on the other hand, is not only taken against will, but will remain there for an extended period of time, essentially turning the song into, “I’d like to rape you repeatedly and hope that you eventually develop Stockholm Syndrome, and I have no problem telling you this point blank, in fact, I expect it to turn you on, so whaddya say?” (as this is my personal dating strategy, “On a Slow Boat to China” is unsurprisingly one of my favorite songs).

The Jimmy Buffett and Dean Martin arrangements are great examples, especially since Dean Martin usually appears to be drunk while singing, and so it’s that much easier to picture some inebriated fool hitting on some poor schmuck in this fashion. The Jimmy Buffett version is deliberately made to sound like it takes place in a sleazy bar; the song features the host slurring his words while introducing Buffett (and mispronouncing his name), followed by the pop of a cork, glass clinking noises, and various people calling for their waiters. You can just picture Bill Murray singing it to Sigourney Weaver or Andie McDowell or Karen Allen in some cut scene from Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day or Scrooged or, I guess, most other Bill Murray movies, too. This version is just that delightfully cringe-worthy.

The duets of the song are mostly harmless; they usually feature the singers singing the chorus together numerous times and gazing seductively at each other, so the feeling is seen as mutual.

But then there’s the Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby duet. Bette Midler and Barry Manilow follow a revised rendition of this arrangement, but it is as hokey as you would expect a Bette Midler/Barry Manilow duet to be, and thus has an entirely different tone from the original. My favorite exchange from the Clooney/Crosby follows as such:

Bing: Get you and I’ll keep you in my arms ever more…Leave all your lovers on the shore…
Rosemary: For me they’d swim to China, to China and back…
Bing: Tell ‘em to bring me an anvil.

Tell them to bring me an anvil. The best line.

There are two ways of looking at this statement, one being that Bing intends to drown Rosemary’s other suitors, adding this song to the list of other murder-y standards, though slightly more understated in its approach. However, as I mentioned earlier, the delivery is key here, compared with the more obvious lyrics in “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which are creepy no matter who is singing them (though the ridiculous Tom Jones/Cerys Matthews version is among the creepiest and most hilarious; he is the devil who has pointy white fingernails and she is literally in a cage at the beginning of the performance — he’s in the cage by the end). Bing Crosby says “Tell them to bring me an anvil” almost as an aside rather than directly to Rosemary Clooney, as if speaking to a third party. In this context, while the wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” might be drugging the mouse, the aggressor in this arrangement of “On a Slow Boat to China,” if not a murderer, knocks out the object of his affection with an anvil, rendering her unconscious so he can get her on the boat in the first place, unlike the mouse in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” who, even if drugged or blackout drunk, is already at the wolf’s house by will.

And with each listen of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” this time of year, I shake my head and wonder exactly what happened in these fictional rape-y universes penned before my parents were born. I wasn’t there. I’ll never know for sure and neither will anyone else, except for Frank Loesser, who died over 45 years ago.