* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to think we know exactly what certain famous fictional characters are really thinking. The wickedly minded Matthew David Brozik channels the even more wickedly minded heroine (or villainess) of Nathaniel Hawthorne's beloved classic. When you have finished reading the piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and those unworthy thoughts will be purged from your mind.

Hester Prynne Chooses A Typeface (Or, The Scarlet Letterform)

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

“On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A.”

 

Well, the joke’s on you, Puritan Bostonites, because while the Reverend Wilsons and Minister Dimmesdales of the world might require me to display upon my ample and enviable bosom a typographic device to brand me as an adulterer, they left a loophole — and being as accomplished at sewing as I am at sexing, I know loopholes — so Hester Prynne gets to pick the font, witches, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to consider all my options before committing to my red badge of whorage.

Helvetica is the obvious choice, of course. It’s clean and upstanding and easy on the eyes, sort of the way I’m impure and dishonorable and easy for the guys, and on second thought, before you say anything, you can all go to Helvetica.

Bodoni’s a strong contender. Classical. Elegant. Alternating thick and thin strokes. I like strokes. And serifs. I know what you hens are thinking, though: if you like feet so much, why couldn’t you stay on yours? I’d rather be on your husband’s lap, that’s why. (Also, you don’t know where my feet were, and you probably don’t want to know.)

Clarendon is extremely popular and, as it happens, particularly effective with wood type, and I am also extremely popular and particularly effective with wood…so maybe this one is too on the nose. And by “nose,” I mean your husbands’ reproductive organs, ladies of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

The geometric efficiency of Futura, rejecting as it does the grotesques of yore by incorporating near-perfect circles, triangles and squares, appeals to my longing for a future in which man has discarded his monstrous compulsion to judge, and instead each of us is cherished for our imperfections, plus it also has a certain forwardness that speaks to the brazen hussy in me.

You know what might be a fun challenge? Besides “Reverse Parishioner,” I mean. Edwardian Script. I’d have to get it just right, though, or it would be difficult to read, and menfolk would be constantly leaning in close to my chest to get a better view, and you don’t want that. And I don’t want anyone mistaking my A for, say, a Q. Hester Prynne is no Quitter.

16th-century French artisan Claude Garamond worked as an engraver of punches — the masters used to stamp matrices, the molds used to cast metal type. Garamond worked in the tradition of what is now called old-style serif letter design, which produced letters with a relatively organic structure resembling handwriting with a pen. And what’s my favorite piece of equipment? The pen is, of course.

“Bembo” hits a bit too close to home. Hester Prynne does a lot of things, but irony isn’t one of…Ah, screw it. Bembo’s fine. Somebody hand me my thread and a needle, please? But be careful — Miss Prynne doesn’t want to have her afternoon plans frustrated by a little prick.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we always put the rights of the consumer first. In this case, the consumer is our good friend David Martin, who has just been told that one of his favorite products is subject to a recall. When you're through perusing Mr. Martin's newest piece, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "King Donald" on Amazon.

1950 Male Body Recall

By:
david.martin@bell.net
https://www.amazon.com/King-Donald-look-Presidential-campaign/dp/1537150944/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471903069&sr=8-1&keywords=king+donald+i

Dear Owner:

This notice is being sent to you as the owner of a 1950 Male Body. The Creator has determined that a number of defects relating to health and safety may exist on certain model years of the Male Body and, in particular, the 1950 model year.

The purpose of this letter is to provide you with important information about this product recall and the steps you should take at this time. There are a number of design flaws that require you to bring your Male Body to one of our medical repair centers for appropriate repairs at our cost. These repairs should be carried out as soon as possible, although we wish to assure you that you are probably in no immediate danger.

Certain additional problems are simply due to ordinary wear and tear and are not covered by this recall. Any necessary repairs or replacements are at the owner’s expense.

As for design flaws, our engineers have determined that certain vision problems on your model year Male Body are due to improper corneal construction. Under this recall, subject to your insurance deductible, we will correct any nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism through the use of appropriate eyewear, including bifocals and progressive lens.

Alternatively, the Creator is offering to correct such defects by means of laser surgery. In that case, however, we will cover the costs of any parts and shop supplies but we will charge you for labor at the standard medical shop rate of $495 per hour.

It has also come to our attention that there was a design flaw regarding the prostate gland on your model year. Due to internal space limitations at the time your Male Body was made, the prostate was constructed in an annular shape surrounding the urethra. We have subsequently discovered that any age-related expansion of the prostate results in an impingement on the urethra leading to frequent nocturnal bathroom visits.

We are working on replacing the entire urogenital system on our new models with a sexual turbocharger to avoid such a problem. As for older model years like yours, we are offering effective performance-boosting prescription medication at no cost. Alternatively, you can bring your Body into one of our medical repair centers to have the prostate cored out or, if necessary, entirely removed. Again, all parts are covered but labor charges are not.

Given the age of your Body, you may also be experiencing some joint and suspension problems. Your 1950 Male Body was designed to give years of efficient and comfortable service including unlimited walking ability. However, it appears that some units did not have the usual superior wear-resistant parts installed at the time of manufacture.

If you find that the mobility of your Body has been limited by prematurely worn knees or hips, bring it in to one of our centers for a full joint replacement. Both parts and labor will be fully covered unless you have exposed your Body to undue wear as a consequence of such non-covered activities as football, squash and marathon running.

As noted, you may be experiencing certain problems not specifically covered by this product recall. For example, some owners of the affected model years have complained of excessive hair loss. This is standard on any model year after fifty years of use and any repairs or replacements are not covered by the Creator. We will, however, be glad to provide you with a free consultation regarding possible solutions such as a brush cut, a toupee or a comb over.

Similarly, some owners may have noticed undue weight gain in the rear chassis, particularly on early model years. If your Body has been properly maintained and not exposed to excessive caloric intake, it should not exceed the manufacturer’s load-bearing standards. Thus, weight reduction costs are not covered.

Please contact your Creator as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to have the necessary repairs and remedies performed. But if you find yourself going into a powerful warning light, never mind — it’s probably too late.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where some reporters may cover the globe but we cover the galaxy. It's a big universe out there, with plenty of room for aliens with multiple personality disorder, as our own Editor Kurt Luchs discovers to his consternation.

Monka Business

By:
kurtluchs@aol.com

A federal jury in Reno, Nevada, has returned a verdict of innocent in the case of a bank robbery suspect who is said to have three personalities, one of them an observer from another world. Under questioning by his attorney, Jack Paul Faulkner, 52, displayed his three personalities, Jack, Paul, and Monka. Monka told the jury: “I am the spirit who at one time was flesh who now does not reside on your planet. I am an observer only.” Faulkner maintained he “couldn’t and wouldn’t rob a bank.” — Actual newspaper clipping found in a box of my father’s things, though the name of the paper and the date of the story are now lost to time

 

I append the above news item for those with a casual interest in the doings of their neighbors from another world. Several questions in regard to this article, and not all of them legal ones, keep nagging at me.

Just for starters, I am puzzled as to how and why the jury (a federal jury, mind you) returned a verdict of innocent for Mr. Jack Paul “Monka” Faulkner. On the face of it, you’d think that a man possessing three personalities, or even four or five, would be every bit as capable of bank robbing as you or I. My three dozen personalities would never keep me from a life of crime if I thought I could arrange to have all of my trials held in Reno, Nevada.

Then there is the problem of “Monka,” as he sees fit to call himself. I don’t doubt that there is a Monka, or that he is from another world. Neither do I doubt that he was tried by a jury of his peers; by which I mean that any jury that could acquit Monka on the alibi he gives is definitely from another world, unquestionably a place where oysters run for President and banks leave their vaults unlocked for creatures with three or more personalities to rifle through the assets.

Why must we so frequently assume that our extraterrestrial neighbors are not only further advanced than us scientifically (that I can accept), but also infinitely kinder, more benevolent, harmless, and, if you’ll pardon the expression, more humane? In our naïve fantasies we picture them coming to Earth simply for the amusement provided by the human spectacle, or to bestow upon us a gadget that will end all war and tell us which horses are good in the fifth race at Aqueduct besides. Apart from those made-for-TV movies on the SyFy channel, the typical alien is, for most of us, a sort of intellectual Tony Robbins.

My guess is that any race of beings that can find its way to what Alfred Whitehead called a “second-rate planet with a second-rate star” is looking for some easy plunder, and what’s more has the means to get it. Their scientists, nothing but a pack of interstellar hoodlums, are sweating right now over the plans for a device that will pop open every safe deposit box in the world, while simultaneously immobilizing every teller and permitting unruly monsters with three nasty personalities to loot to their heart’s content — if they even have hearts. I’ll bet they have three apiece, the scum!

But that way lies delirium. Let us not presume the worst about Monka’s people, whatever we may think of him personally. Let us merely induce that Monka is a finger man for a small but vile band of galactic pirates, working hand-in-glove with his earthly cronies, those traitors to the human race Jack and Paul. He offered these two Benedict Arnolds a tempting reward — say, a date with a nice set of personalities or a seat on the federal bench in Reno, Nevada — and for such a trifle they sold out their fellow men and gave Monka houseroom in the body of Mr. Faulkner, the better to execute his cold-blooded schemes.

I won’t be taken in by that mushy double-talk of his. “An observer only” — hah! He was casing the joint, that’s all. Any two-bit private detective could tell you as much. And as for that other bit of baloney, the one that goes, “I am the spirit who at one time was flesh who now does not reside on your planet” — well, the jury who fell for that one ought to be strapped down under a strobe light and forced to read the collected works of Mary Baker Eddy. What does he mean, “who at one time was flesh”? If a 52-year-old man doesn’t have flesh on him he’s on the wrong side of the ground and they might as well hang him because he wouldn’t notice the difference. And if he doesn’t reside on our planet, how does he come to be in a court of law? He saw fit to hire an attorney, didn’t he? After all, Jack and Paul couldn’t and wouldn’t take that kind of initiative. That’s evidence enough for me.

The lone alternative to believing that the men and women of the jury are hallucinating is that they are shielding someone, namely Jack and Paul. They feel that their compatriots have been bedazzled by a visitor from the starry heavens, innocently beguiled into helping Monka pull off his heist. Jack and Paul thought it was all in good fun, or so this gullible jury would have us believe. Let me tell you, when personalities named Monka appear out of nowhere demanding a piece of the action, innocent men, even schizoids, don’t stick around to listen. They put their fingers in their ears and shriek until the ambulance comes.

The whole business has the air of a carnival sideshow. “Faulkner displayed his three personalities,” the item reads (my italics). Display is for kindergartners at show and tell. Or performance artists. Or strippers. It has no place in American jurisprudence. Faulkner sounds like a regular Alfred E. Neuman the way he lets Monka, not to mention Jack and Paul, play him for a fool. Such things may be a matter of course in Reno, but I, for one, am disquieted by the precedent seemingly set by this case. Let us pray that if vaudeville ever does return it confines itself to the stage and leaves the courtroom to sober people with only one personality.

Come to think of it, if multiple personalities are to be recognized in a court of law, why shouldn’t each of the body-sharing defendants be charged, tried and sentenced separately? Actually, that might work — and I could serve on three dozen juries at once!

 

 

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take pets pretty seriously (we also take drugs pretty seriously, and pets are part of the reason). Heed the timeless wisdom of Dan "The Professor" Fiorella. Also feel free to click on the Amazon link below, which shows you how to purchase a copy of Dan's latest humor book, "Novel Concept."

Pet Parenting 101 — Course Description

By:
daf118@aol.com
https://www.amazon.com/Novel-Concept-Dan-Fiorella/dp/1508804982/

COURSE #7EKDF-332 Pet Parenting 101

$250 plus fee

Chris Peterson, Instructor

This course is designed to get you through the puppy and kitten months and help you make your fur baby a productive member of society. From feeding and exercise, to picking out the right obedience school, we lay out the full program. As so many new mothers and fathers are aware, there are a myriad of courses to take before you have or adopt a child. But for pet parents, there are none! Until now!

Syllabus includes:

Needs by Breeds: Here we will review the various bathing techniques for each breed of animal, from shaggy dogs to hairless cats. We will teach how to properly fit collars and harnesses. There will be a study of the many diet options available these days. We will also look at proper play toys and shelters. And demonstrate that what you are spending on them isn’t enough. Spoiler alert! We’re going to spoil them!

How to Adapt for your Adoption: There will be sleepless nights, carpet staining, vomit and chewed shoes, but first we prepare our pet parents for the unending prejudice and pet-ism you will face when you bring your newborn home. People will say things like, “You’re a pet owner, not a ‘Pet Parent’,” based on the ridiculous claims of biology or DNA. I mean, sure, it’s not like he’ll be going to college, getting a job or starting a family, but neither did my brother-in-law and yet he gets to collect government checks and live in my basement! Unlike my poor beagle with Tourette’s syndrome. I say to you, if corporations can be people, your pet can be your child!

Socialization: We will teach you how to properly socialize your pet through training and play activities. It’s very important not to leave a dog alone all the time, even though you can because dogs are just that smart. Try that with your three-year-old and see how quickly a representative from Children’s Services appears. Trust me on that. Socialization is as simple as walking your dog. And I mean you walking him, not hiring some random dog walker who is in fact an out-of-work “actor” who will probably steal your dog’s kibble and get him hooked on heroin. We emphasize walking your dog to meet other dogs, but boy, wouldn’t it be easier to meet other dogs if you didn’t have to deal with the goon at the other end of the leash?

Care and Cleaning-Up: Leashes and restraints will be discussed. There will be “hands-on” interaction with various approved “pooper scoopers.” Also, why won’t the Pampers Company make a pet diaper with a tail hole so I don’t have to cut my own? They refuse to respond to my letters, e-mails, tweets and picket signs, despite me pointing out all the advantages of such a product. You know, in New York City they revoked the public urination ban. Really! But should my ferret poop in Central Park, the SWAT team gets deployed. We need to end this defecation shaming! And another thing: I’ve seen people eat out of a dumpster, but I’m the bad guy just because my dog eats out of my neighbor’s garbage or drinks out of the toilet down at the YMCA? Just because your kid doesn’t hump strangers’ legs, you get to judge me? Ha! Which reminds me, pet parents should carry around a lot of tissues.

Demanding Equal Rights for Pets: We will look into the legal ramifications of having a pet in today’s society. We will study how society discriminates against pets. For example, when some person brings their kid to the park and lets him run wild, everyone stands there and says “How cute,” but if I let my pit bull off the leash the cops are called. How is this fair? Have you seen that kid? He’s a monster. I’ve seen him pee on the jungle gym! Or what about the fact that I’m forced to neuter my dog, while that brat down the block is allowed to procreate at will? Great, right? Because the world needs another mouth-breather manning the drive-thru window at Wendy’s that still won’t serve my cats despite the fact that they HAVE COUPONS! We will study and discuss these topics at length. Such length.

Also planned: “Bring Your Pet to Class” events and field trips to my apartment so you can meet my menagerie. There will be an additional $25 fee to cover the expense of lint brushes and iodine.

Prerequisite for Pet Parenting 201

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the world's foremost authority for interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Well, after Peewee Herman, anyway. Listen to the sagacious ponderings of our good friend Bruce Harris.

Some Observations Upon The Segregation Of The Third Amendment

By:
marxman@comcast.net

I’m exercising my First Amendment right to comment on the Third Amendment. The Third Amendment, the Rodney Dangerfield of amendments, gets no respect. For example, at last count, the Second Amendment had 11,461 Facebook “likes” while the Third Amendment had a whopping 210. Stifle your yawns. The third isn’t some milquetoast amendment, despite its never having been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision (the Supreme Court is overrated).

Okay lazy people, you don’t have to reduce your screen and search the web. The Third Amendment…

Places restrictions on the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent, prohibiting it during peacetime.

The Third Amendment has caused a rift in my home. I live in a house divided. My wife is a huge supporter. Me, not so much.

I’m already quartering a know-it-all college-degreed millennial in a modest-sized home at the moment. Why wouldn’t I open my doors to a military man or woman as well? Heck, they know how to take orders a lot better than my kid, and unlike my son they are in excellent physical shape. Besides, the lawn needs mowing. The house could use a fresh coat of paint. There’s snow in winter that needs to be shoveled, and the vinyl siding could stand a good power washing. I’d be more than happy to have the help around here. When is the last time I’ve seen anyone dusting?

There is an extra bedroom. My son needs a legitimate role model, someone who wakes up prior to 11:30 a.m. and doesn’t think he (or she) should become a four-star general within two weeks of enlisting. Seems like a win-win.

What was James Madison thinking when he penned the Third Amendment? It was not about the economy, because the amendment limits a golden opportunity. I guess Madison never had a brother-in-law with a real estate license. Think of the economic boom once the ill-advised Third Amendment is repealed. Realtor listings vying to place soldiers in residential homes might look like this:

New listing: move-in condition, bedroom with large closet comfortably accommodates four pairs of combat boots (with room for expansion to house a fifth pair), good neighborhood with lots of flags, Memorial Day parade in town, public transportation to VA Hospital. Framed portrait of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (in uniform) hangs over bed. Canteens provided.

Even Airbnb hosts could get into the act:

Spacious room with camouflage wallpaper and sonar detectors on roof available for immediate occupancy to any military man or woman. Hat stand in hall holds up to six helmets. Rifle racks. Fully stocked library with comprehensive war history reference books and biographies of generals from Grant to Petraeus. Come sing and dance to The Village People’s “In the Navy” with us every Wednesday night.

And lest we forget the good old-fashioned personal ad:

Patriotic family of four (MFMF) seeks M or F soldier for multi-year-relationship. Peace or wartime. Ceasefires included. Father went through ROTC in college. Son is anti-war, but he knows so little. Daughter is…never mind. Extensive kitchen serving Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) field rations daily. Seeking all branches of the military, Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Merchant Marines inquire first.

On the other hand, the last thing my wife wants is another millennial, military or not, residing under our roof. She believes in the Third Amendment and is very supportive of our troops. She just doesn’t want or need any of them living in the same house, eating our food, making a mess and creating dirty laundry. My wife argues, “If a man or woman is mature enough to serve in the armed forces, shouldn’t he/she be mature enough to rent an apartment and live on his/her own?”

My wife also worries about the definition of “peacetime.” Must be that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” thing. She asserts that I’m perpetually at war with the cable company. Does that count? What about inner peace? Peace of mind? She claims that Madison had deliberately left things vague. My head is spinning.

As stated, I’m against restrictions on the quartering of soldiers in private homes. I freely give consent. Yet, my wife has me thinking: did Madison mean quartering (as in lodging) or quartering (as in drawing and)? And if he meant quartering (as in drawing and), were restrictions lifted if a homeowner chose to quarter (as in draw and) a soldier in a public forum as opposed to his/her private home? Would children be allowed to watch? Is an ongoing war a requisite to quarter (as in draw and) a soldier in public?

Maybe the best thing to do is to combine the aforementioned self-proclaimed winner of the Constitutional Amendment Popularity “Likes” Contest Second Amendment with that of the oft-forgotten third. I’d welcome arms-bearing soldiers quartering in my home. We’d be the safest family on the block! No one would be dumb enough to break into and rob this fortress. Yet, my wife thinks the opposite. “With so many weapons and so many people in close quarters, something bad is bound to happen,” she says. Again. Mars. Venus.

The Third Amendment is simple in its complexity. The more I think about it…if my millennial good-for-nothing son enlisted, he wouldn’t be allowed back in my home, or anyone else’s home for that matter. He’d have to earn his own keep. I’m doing a 180 on the Third Amendment. Mr. Madison, you are a genius!

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are celebrating the second half of a monumental literary event known as Michael Fowler Fortnight -- two weeks of one of our favorite humorists. This week Mr. Fowler takes on an amazing new development in senior care, or possibly a new form of elder abuse, depending on your view of England and those who love her. When you've finished perusing his latest laugh riot, be sure to check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

Visiting Anglophiles

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

You’re worried about your dad. He’s at home — your home until other arrangements can be made — and some days he seems lost and confused, often turning the stove on right before he locks himself out of the house. On top of that, when asked whether the English or the Germans have the superior music culture, your dad’s response is listless and not very pro-English. What to do?

We at Visiting Anglophiles will have a knowledgeable caregiver by your dad’s side within 48 hours to assess his health concerns, ensure his home is senior-proof, and impress upon him that, song-by-song, England’s Rolling Stones outperform Germany’s Scorpions even if Klaus Meine does rock.

Betty, age 87, can comb her hair, prepare lunch, and even bathe herself. But the native Kentuckian doesn’t always pay close attention to the doings of the British Royal Family. The fashion sense of Princess Kate is a muddle to her, and the climatological insights of Prince Charles go right over her head. This can be embarrassing when she has company over for high tea, and to make matters worse, she calls digestives “cookies.”

Our Visiting Anglophile will administer a dementia test to Betty, asking her to repeat three common words from memory, such as “loo,” “peckish” and “Brexit.” Then Betty will draw the face of a clock with the hands at 3. She receives extra points toward lucidity if she draws Big Ben, the clock tower built in London in 1859 and today a prominent symbol of the great nation of England.

Why a Visiting Anglophile?

You recognize that the English do everything best, and that a Visiting Anglophile is like a Supernanny for geriatrics. Under the tutelage of a Visiting Anglophile, your aging parent or relative will acquire the look and even sound of an English peer, while you stand in the background happy as a king. Please note that we are not that other elder care agency with a similar sounding name, Visiting Angels. We are Anglophiles, not angels. Angels may care about everybody, but we Anglophiles care about the English and enforcing a strictly English way of life — always in your elder’s best interests, of course.

Meet One of Our Anglophiles

Samantha, born in England 57 years ago and the proud possessor of an English peaches-and-cream complexion, is well up on both Medicare billing and English pub fare. Does your aged mother prefer a light breakfast? Not anymore, as Samantha will introduce her to the “fry-up,” a series of hearty meats that the English adore for their first meal of the day. Does your dear mother like a foaming glass of cold beer with dinner? She’ll soon prefer a nearly noncarbonated pint of rather warm bitter, which is Samantha’s favorite as well. Mom, in her unenlightened phase, may fear the bitter was drained from her goldfish aquarium, but will find that it tastes much better and is eventually habit-forming once she adjusts to that corrosive aftertaste.

A Word about Falling

What many elderly and their families fear most, not without reason, is a fall, after which the victim may lie helplessly in pain until discovered. Statistics show that fully half of American citizens over the age of 75 will suffer a painful fall in their lives. But if you’re concerned that something like that could happen to your elderly parent, you may be reassured to know that the wonderful BBC television series Downton Abbey, set in Edwardian England, is now shown throughout the United States on local stations. Actress Dame Maggie Smith takes a role in the show, and isn’t that a great title for a lady — Dame? It’s English, you know.

A Word about Solicitors and Scams

Here at Visiting Anglophiles we are ever on the alert to protect your elder from uninvited solicitors and phone scammers. These unscrupulous dealers may want to sell your mother or father a security system or an emergency call button that is quite unneeded. At Visiting Anglophiles, we believe in having an Anglophile on the scene before any emergency occurs, in particular an Anglophile who is licensed to offer your parent the complete box set of Downton Abbey DVDs — that’s eight full seasons — in case her local TV provider doesn’t subscribe to the broadcast. These beautifully packaged discs are ready to be shipped to America for the low price of $59.95 per season, shipping extra. Yes, we accept dollars!

A Word about Sex after 75

Visiting Anglophiles is pleased to sponsor a nine-day bus tour of England, beginning in England’s capital. From an open-top bus, your mum or dad will view all the famous sites in London, and then it’s off for golfing on the coast, a castle sleepover, a pub crawl, and those big stones at Stonehenge. Here at Visiting Anglophiles we can arrange for even the most enfeebled American tourist and her breathing apparatus to enjoy this exciting trip. The climax of the journey? Undoubtedly the night at Stratford-upon-Avon, where a naughty few will choose to see our special live production of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours, for very adults only.

A Reminder about Dementia

Nothing is more tragic than your parent forgetting the names of those nearest and dearest to him or her, or that Henry the Fifth was also called Hal, or misplacing her passport and credit card when packing for our nine-day bus tour. A Visiting Anglophile will be present every step of the way to be sure that these oversights don’t throw a spanner into Mom or Dad’s well-deserved vacation.

A Final Word about Sex after 75

We don’t know what Anne Hathaway looked like, but as the wife of William Shakespeare, the world’s greatest playwright, she must have had a tidy pair of ankles and a pert bosom, at the very least. We can say with assurance that a man like Shakespeare, with his intimate knowledge of Cleopatra and Juliet, would have settled for nothing less. The mere thought of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and its contents, especially the “second best bed” mentioned in Shakespeare’s will, is arousing to many seniors. They love to speculate about what went on in that bed when the playwright was in town, and also when he wasn’t, until Anne died in 1623, likely from the plague.

Our special DVD, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours, filmed on location right in Mrs. Shakespeare’s cottage by Visiting Anglophiles Productions, is now available for $49.95, shipping extra. Note: Be sure to specify the After Hours edition, or you may receive the scholastic version of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage that we send to libraries in Iowa. We want you to receive the titillating film we made with very adults in mind.

A Few Testimonials to our Services

“Your DVD Anne Hathaway’s Cottage: After Hours really steamed my cataracts.”

“What I liked best were the accents. And the buns on Shakespeare’s daughter.”

“We love that big Irish nurse you guys sent over who makes Mom take her pills with hardly any screaming.”

“Juanita is fluent in both English and the Spanish my dad pretends he learned in college. And he loves her bangers and mash.”

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where solving little family squabbles is sort of a sideline for us. And for Michael Fowler. Incidentally, this week marks the first half of what we like to call Michael Fowler Fortnight. Come back next week for another dose of Mr. Fowler. When you've finished reading his latest piece, do check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

Hey Brother And Sister, Mom’s Will Is Grossly Unfair To Me

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

Listen Up Sibs,

The cruel document I received in the mail that supposedly is Mom’s final will has my head in a spin, and I’m sending this note to the two of you to let you know how cheated I feel. I’d phone or come around in person, except as you know my jail time for expectorating in a government building after repeated warnings lasts another two weeks. I do thank you and your pals at probate court for keeping me in the loop Momwise, but hear me out.

I understand Mark is the executor. Mom always doted on her legitimate son much more than on me, and on Mark more than Tina, and the dad you guys shared was the one stud our old slut of a mother had a financially rewarding relationship with. Brendon had a job and a bank account, unlike my dad, who simply joined Mom for a margarita or two and then a wild night at the Green Roof Inn, Hour Rates, 59 years ago, back when she had a pulse.

Blood is thicker than margaritas, I get that, but don’t forget I’ve got as much of our mother’s DNA in my genome as either of you. And dealing me out of any appreciable inheritance is about as fair as the way Mom treated my dad Al at the end. I mean his end. You may recall she wouldn’t let him pitch his tent on her lawn when he turned up out of the blue a while back and then refused to tide him over during his extended battle with demon rum, forcing him to live under a bridge on I-75 South near Cincinnati. When they found him late in the summer, he was indistinguishable from road kill.

So now everyone wants to deny me all sustenance too? Are the sins of the father to be visited upon the son? Well, based on my impression of your dad, the aforementioned Brendon, our mother probably had more fun on the night she made me than in all the 20 years she had to put up with that insufferable stuffed shirt before his cancer made him even grimmer, and then dead. You know what he said to me once, at that grill-out I came to on their 19th anniversary or whenever the last time I saw you two together was? The one where I had to put up with those kids of Tina’s whose names I didn’t know and who obviously needed medication for behavioral issues, since they treated my Ford convertible like a latrine? Brendon-Boy handed me a beer, and then told me he’d once hired Al to paint his fence for 20 dollars, and to show his gratitude Dad stole his wristwatch. Then he got upset when I laughed and told him Dad never overlooked life’s freebies. What did he expect me to do, pay for the watch? It was one of those periods I wasn’t even working.

Well it looks like I’m paying for it now. Mark and Tina get the entire house and property and all Mom’s possessions per stirpes and in equal shares, as the will states in plain English, and if there’s any money left over after Mom’s bills and debts are satisfied, I get all of $100 cash and the lawnmower I sometimes used to mow Mom’s yard. I guess the idea is, I can go on mowing Mark’s grass while he continues to live there, as he has rent-free for the last five decades. Mark also gets my stepdad’s shotguns and cars, never mind that I don’t have a lethal weapon to my name, and my car is that same old convertible Tina’s kids threw up and peed in after eating and drinking too much crap all those years ago.

The final insult, of course, is that if and when Mark does sell the place, you two, my fine and fair-minded sibs, split the proceeds equally, and I’m left out in the cold. And I suppose you think that’s fair. True, Mark took care of Mom till the ugly end with adult diapers and awkward sponge baths and whatnot, never being man enough to move out and let the hospice care tend to the maternal relic. And Mom and I had always fought. She never forgave me the time I heaved a pound of frozen hamburger at her when she refused me a loan, and hit that precious porcelain bird she kept in her living room. Or the time I filled the house with thick smoke trying to burn that dead raccoon out of her chimney and sent her to the ER with coughing. After those fiascos, I pretty much left her alone.

But Tina ignored her as much as I did. You have to admit, Sister dear, you didn’t come within a mile of her if you could help it. You never took her shopping, never went out with her for a meal, because you were afraid she’d start fondling total strangers, the way she did in her final years, and smile too broadly at minorities. Yeah, Mark told me all. His gossip was the only payment I got for cutting the yard. And when you did show up, Sis, it was to borrow money from the old broad that you never paid back. At least she gave you a few bucks now and then, which she never did me, not without raking me over the coals first.

I know how you all felt about me, of course. If I had a dollar for every time I heard you guys repeat after Mom “Like father like son,” or for every time I blew a job interview because my breath caught on fire, I wouldn’t need the Roth IRA I don’t own. But come on. I’m still your brother, your half-brother, anyway. And I’m not asking for you to split the sale of the property with me when Mark unloads it. Likely it’ll fetch a cool hundred and fifty too, it’s a nice location, and that figure is wonderfully divisible by three. But never mind, it’s all yours.

Here’s the deal. On the day I’m discharged from the justice center, greet me with a hundred bucks each on top of my hundred from the estate, and we’ll call it square. With three hundred my heap and I can make it down to Florida, where I can fish and live in a thong. And if that plan seems sketchy for a man pushing 60, and my bleached bones wash up on the shore in about a month, you don’t need to move a muscle to identify me, the way I had to go and identify my dad’s tanned, trim and lifeless corpse. Like him, I’ll be too dead to care. One way or the other you’ll never hear from me again.

Does that seem too much to ask?

Your Prisoner Bastard of a Half-Brother,

Toddikins

 

 

 

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where not every house invasion is a home invasion, if that makes sense. If it doesn't, blame Barton Aronson, whose ability to turn a monologue into a dialogue is unmatched in our view.

Tonight’s Home Invasion

By:
bartonsaronson@gmail.com

Honey? Are you awake? Honey? Do you hear that? Do you — really? For ten minutes? Huh. That long? Huh.

It sounds like the door. It sounds like someone’s trying to jimmy the lock. I wonder why they call it that — “jimmy.” We should Google that.

There it is again. No, it’s not your brother. No, he doesn’t have a key. Yes, I know you told me to give him a key. When he returns my skimboard and promises to stop “borrowing” money out of your purse, I will give him a goddamn key. He owes us, like, two hundred dollars.

It doesn’t sound like a key. It keeps going in and out. What do they call that? Got it — burglarious tools. No, I am not making it up. It’s a thing. Burglarious tools. You can Google it. Burglarious tools. Stop what? That’s ridiculous — I’m not repeating it because I like saying “burglarious.” You’re ridiculous.

Christ, I think it’s opening. Where’s the alarm? Why isn’t the alarm going off? Oh, right – we canceled the alarm. Okay, we didn’t pay the alarm bill. Okay, okay, I didn’t pay the alarm bill. Fine! I forgot to pay the alarm bill. There. I took responsibility. Happy now?

Okay, it’s okay – Toby’s going downstairs. Good boy, Toby! Get him, boy! Kill! Get — wait, is that — kibble? Is that the dog we rescued from certain death having a snack? Oh, great. Good to know our man-eating Rottweiler can be bought for a scoop of kibble. Good to know, Toby!

We need to call 911. Where’s my phone? Where’s — oh, right. I forgot. Someone decreed we couldn’t have phones in the bedroom. Someone decided we’d communicate more and sleep better and awaken more refreshed. Great — we’ll be refreshed when we describe our stolen crap to the cops.

Jesus, was that the window? Why break the window if he’s already — never mind. I said never mind. Yes, yes, it’s the wine glasses, not the window. No, I did not load the dishwasher. I said I’d do it in the morning. Yes, I know your folks are coming for brunch. I was going to do it in the morning. I didn’t think I needed to tidy up for tonight’s home invasion.

Okay, enough of this. I’m getting the shotgun. Once this idiot hears me rack that bitch he’s gonna — oh, right. I can’t rack it, because I don’t have it, because the police still haven’t issued me my permit. What? Well, it feels like a pretty high priority right now, doesn’t it? Did I mention how happy I am we moved to Boston for a job you already hate? Cradle of the revolution, my ass.

Honey, where are you going? What’re you — honey, wait. It took me six hours to hang the T.V., you can’t just rip it off the wall! You can’t — WHOA. Okay. Settle down. Honey? Where are you going? Honey?

Jesus Christ that was loud! You had to throw it down the stairs? That thing cost eighteen hundred bucks! You couldn’t just — wave it at him? I don’t know. Wait — is that the door closing? He’s gone? Oh, my God. Thank God. Thank God. Honey, that was awesome. You sounded really scary. I mean, I couldn’t really hear you from under the pillow, but for a second there, I swear — you sounded exactly like your mom.

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our good friend Matthew David Brozik has a good new piece about what was so not-good about those television shows from the eighties that you remember a little too fondly. When you have finished reading the piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and your memories of those beloved eighties television shows will be restored to their pristine glory.

Kids Of The 80s, Let Me Ruin Your Childhood Before Someone Else Does

By:
brozik@gmail.com

Ah, youth. And specifically the years between 1981 and 1990, inclusive — when everything was better than anything that had come before or has come since, including entertainment. Especially entertainment, actually. Superb, flawless entertainment that set our expectations unreasonably high for decades after. Except that none of it made a lick of sense. Sorry!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

In 1936, archaeologist Henry “Indiana” Jones is asked by United States Army Intelligence agents to help find Jones’s old mentor, an expert on the ancient Egyptian city where “Indy” surmises the Nazis believe the Ark of the Covenant to be buried. If the Nazis obtain the Ark, they will become invincible! So Indy and friends try to discover the Ark before the Nazis do…and in the process our heroes effectively deliver the divine relic directly into the hands of the bad guys. Then, when the Nazis finally open the Ark, all of the bad guys present are killed, but Indy and his girlfriend — who at the time are tied up, literally — are spared. If Indiana Jones had never gone looking for the Ark himself, the Nazis might never have gotten it; in any event, the Ark takes care of itself. If Indy had just stayed home, in other words, everyone would have been better off. Small wonder, then, that his name was not in the movie’s title, originally.

Knight Rider, Season One (1982)

Of course you remember, and fondly, the greatest television show ever made — the one about high-tech modern crime fighter Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff!), who was assisted by his advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car, K.I.T.T.! And the single best episode, of course, was “Trust Doesn’t Rust,” the one that introduced K.A.R.R., the evil prototype of K.I.T.T., who had been mothballed in a warehouse until a pair of hobos accidentally reactivated him! Didn’t you get chills when you first saw K.A.R.R., who looked almost identical to K.I.T.T.? Two awesome black Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams! So cool! Until you realized that K.I.T.T. looked like that only because Michael had been driving a black Trans Am when he was left for dead in the desert in the pilot episode…and no other reason. Hmm? You’ve never thought about that extremely unlikely “coincidence”? Think about it now!

Gremlins (1984)

You know that you must never feed a mogwai after midnight. But midnight where? And what is “midnight,” anyway? It’s always “after midnight” somewhere, including wherever you are. Even if it’s noon on a Tuesday, it’s after midnight Monday. So, really, mogwai would never be mogwai, and this movie should have been a nonstarter, but instead it grossed more than $153 million from domestic box office sales alone.

The 1986 World Series (1986)

On Saturday, October 25, 1986, at Shea Stadium in Queens, the Boston Red Sox quickly took a 2-0 lead over the New York Mets in the sixth game of the annual Major League Baseball championship series. The Mets tied the score in the fifth inning, but then an error in the seventh gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Some other stuff happened, resulting in the game’s being tied again at 5-5 in the bottom of the tenth inning. Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, which allowed Mets infielder Ray Knight to score the winning run…and because this was so extraordinarily exciting, the Commissioner of Baseball declared the New York Mets the 1986 World Series Champions right then and there, even though the Mets’ win that afternoon only evened up the series and there should have been a Game 7, which no one seems to have noticed, even to this day.

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard was based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which was the sequel to an earlier book, The Detective, which in 1966 had been made into a movie of the same name starring none other than Frank Sinatra. 20th Century Fox was contractually obligated to offer Ol’ Blue Eyes the lead role in Die Hard — which they did — but Sinatra, then in his early seventies, turned it down. This is actually just a bit of trivia. Die Hard is a perfect film.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Time travel is tricky, so follow me closely here. At the end of Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown is in the DeLorean when it is struck by lightning, in 1955. Man and machine are transported to 1885. Marty, with help from 1955 Doc Brown, travels back to 1885 in the DeLorean that Doc had taken back to 1885 and promptly hidden in an old mine shaft, where it had then sat for 70 years. When Marty gets to 1885, he accidentally tears the fuel line of the DeLorean, making it impossible for the car to get up to 88 mph under its own power. The main plot of the movie therefore involves getting the DeLorean to go fast enough to return Marty and Doc Brown to 1985. Because they don’t have any gasoline in 1885. (If they had gasoline, the movie would be all of twenty minutes long.) But they do have gasoline. Because the DeLorean in which 1985 Doc Brown traveled from 1955 to 1885 is there. It’s in the mine shaft. With gas in its tank. “Great Scott!” indeed.

Sesame Street (1969 – present)

Officially, Bert and Ernie are not gay. In fact, they are not even technically “human.” So, I mean, is anything even real?

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our very own copy editor David Jaggard reveals, with touching modesty, that his many gifts are completely au naturale. When you're done reading this fine new piece, click on the iTunes link below, which leads to his audio humor album "Totally Unrelated," or stream it for free on Spotify. We also invite you to check out David Jaggard on Paris Update. The link is in our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

Never Took A Lesson In My Life

By:

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/album/totally-unrelated.../id1082542414?mt=1&app=music

Yeah, I’m a successful musician — in fact, hugely successful, as everyone knows — but I never had any formal training. Or informal either. Never took a lesson in my life.

Everybody in my family was musical, but they didn’t teach me squat. Whenever they played music at home, I’d go outside and plug my ears with mud to make sure I didn’t learn anything.

I’m not even self-taught. Any time I was fooling around with an instrument on my own, if I stumbled across something that sounded good I’d put it out of my mind right away and never play it again.

It goes without saying that I don’t know how to read or write music. Or even how to read or write the word “music” — I’m illiterate. I never once went anywhere near a schoolhouse! And don’t go trying to teach me anything either, because I’d forget it faster than you can say “natural-born genius.”

Which I can’t — I never learned how to pronounce most words. I also never learned how to count to ten or tell right from left or right from wrong.

Nobody ever told me what gender I am or what my name is. I can’t tie my shoes, and when we’re on tour one of the band members has to help me get dressed.

They also have to help me get to rehearsals and gigs, because I can’t tell time and never learned to tell day from night. Never needed to.

I never make an effort to memorize my band’s songs or lyrics or anything. I just get up on stage, and play or sing or whatever it is I do, I’m not sure, and then the producer hands me a check for $50,000.

Hell, I don’t even know what instrument I play. If I even play an instrument. I might be a songwriter — I just don’t know!

So don’t talk to me about “theory” or “harmony” or “humility” or any of those fancy-schmancy high-tech musical terms. I don’t know anything about that and don’t want to know. I just make music.

If what I do is, in fact, music. Maybe I’m actually a surgeon or a senator and don’t know it.