* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where even such an innocent pastime as the New York Times Crossword Puzzle can be fraught with otherworldly paranoia. Enjoy the stressed-out psyche of Dan Caprera!

Unfortunately, We Will Be Unable To Publish Your Crossword Puzzle: “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of”

By:
dcaprera@gmail.com

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your submission to the New York Times daily crossword. Every week we receive hundreds of outstanding puzzle submissions and we wish that we could publish them all. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that, at this time, we will be unable to publish your most recent submission, a crossword puzzle that you’ve titled “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of.”

This decision was based on several key factors:

First off, although the NYT crossword is known for the exacting difficulty of its clues, we here at the Times were worried that some of your answers were both inordinately difficult and extraordinarily subjective. Usually, the solution to a crossword clue should be something in the public vernacular, something like “TACO” or “BOOMERANG.”

Meanwhile, in your puzzle you had clues such as:

  • 2 down — An emotion I’m currently experiencing.
  • 30 across — My greatest fear.
  • 74 across — The place I dare not go.

According to your submission, the answers to these clues should be, respectively, “FEAR,” “THE SHADOW MAN” and “MY DREAMS.” However, at the risk of being overly blunt, I believe that these answers would be exceedingly difficult for any one person to solve on their own.

Another quibble I had with your submission is that, preferably, you should not repeat any of your answers. For example, if a crossword used the word “OREO” as a solution, it would (hopefully) only use that answer once.

Sadly, you have used the same exact answer an unprecedented four different times. Consider for a moment your puzzle’s following clues:

  • 3 down — His name.
  • 15 across — The name of my fear.
  • 50 down — The shadow-man who found me in my dreams and compelled me to make this crossword puzzle so that the world would, at long last, know his name and fear it.
  • 57 across — His NAME!

Sir, in an ideal world, these clues would each have four different, discrete answers. However, in your puzzle, the solution to all four of these clues is, confoundingly, the same exact phrase — more specifically, the name “Harrison Chafitz.”

Now, I personally have never heard of a man called “Harrison Chafitz” before. And neither have any of my extraordinarily qualified colleagues here at the Times, but either way it would still undoubtedly benefit you not to repeat this solution (i.e. “Harrison Chafitz”) with such regularity.

Indeed, dear sir, who is Harrison Chafitz? Why is he so important? And why (why?) have you dedicated an entire crossword puzzle to a quote-unquote “Shadow Man” — a fictitious dream-walker who does not (and, it should be noted, cannot) exist?

As a reader, these were just a few of the many questions your puzzle caused me to ask.

Finally (and this is a very small complaint), while looking over your submission, one of your clues struck me as particularly problematic. Obviously, we here at the Times are unopposed to including, how shall we say, non-traditional answers within our puzzles. For example, the clue “ABC, easy as ___” would have the non-alphabetic answer “123.”

But with that in mind, I would now like you to consider one of the clues you wrote in your puzzle. You wrote:

  • 62 down — Draw his face. Draw his face. Draw the face of Harrison Chafitz. Draw it. Draw it now.

This clue is clearly problematic for several key reasons. Not only does it explicitly reveal the answer to your puzzle’s four longest clues (as mentioned above, the name “Harrison Chafitz” appears four times). But, more importantly, this specific clue relies on your audience’s ability to, ostensibly, draw a scale model of a man’s face within a single crossword square — a feat that most would consider to be difficult, nigh impossible.

In addition (and again, this is very small complaint), but this particular clue does not seem to be related in the slightest to the rest of your puzzle. Especially given that it is enclosed within its own, individual border (see below):

For reference, here is the clue in question:

Making a crossword puzzle is no small feat. And we here at the Times commend your ingenuity and unconventional élan. But regrettably, for all these reasons (and many, many more), we will be unable to run your puzzle within the pages of our lauded publication.

All the best,

Will Shortz, Puzzle Editor of the New York Times 

P.S. If you’re still looking for a publisher, please do try sending your puzzle off to the good folks at the L.A. Times. Those guys’ll publish anything.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which would be sort of like a second home to Michael Fowler, if he had a first home. Anyway, we are always glad to hear from Mike, even if that usually happens through the intervention of a hostage negotiator. When you finish his latest bit of whimsy, check out the link below to purchase his new humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Bad Head Days

By:
myfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

It’s a heartbreaker for an old codger like me, who for years had looked forward to baldness to bring an end to his bad hair days, only to find that with baldness come bad head days.

The last few bad hair years were bad enough. During that dreary time my head began to resemble a moldy basketball or a rugged moon surrounded by wispy white clouds. I was the man who grew a crop of anthrax atop his scalp. From the front or rear I formed a Clarabelle the Clown silhouette, or that of a volleyball wearing earmuffs, since most of my remaining hair was on the sides. The few hairs that clung to the top of my crinkled pate often stood straight up as if electrified, having lost their natural resilience and flexibility when in my forties and fifties my essential oils dried up. Nature has a good reason for covering body parts such as my head with hair, I decided, and that is because without concealment the part is hideous. And my covering thinned out and then vanished a while ago, like a herd of mastodon.

It probably didn’t help that for years I washed my hair with harsh hand soap and then combed it with a toothbrush handle. The best thing was to shave off those upright stragglers, but that still left a pockmarked, spotty skull that no cream could restore to a youthful bloom, or even the luster of a cheap wallet. That’s what I face today: a chafed, dented-looking protuberance that nudity has not improved one iota. Perhaps only applications of wood-filler from the home remodeling store would improve its appearance, and so far I’ve refused to try those.

Not being able to enhance my head’s looks, and in despair over having to carry the unsightly orb into public on a daily basis, I do what I call “sweetening the head,” and improve its fragrance. Though it does little to fill in the cracks and fissures, I rub in a couple of drops of my wife’s vanilla bean-scented after-shower lotion when I feel particularly stippled and craggy, so that those who came in close proximity to the head at least don’t need to hold their breath.

My family members, but especially my wife, who must repeatedly spend time in close proximity to the head, sometimes remaining stuck in the car or living room with it for hours on end, have never once had cause to complain about its odor. Others who must approach the head and share a confined space with the nude, flaky entity, such as my dentist, my oral hygienist, my audiologist, my primary care physician, my optometrist, my podiatrist and my sleep apnea specialist, have none of them recoiled from the head, as they might well do if it was odorless or gave off a rank smell in addition to being unsightly. I like to think, though none has commented on the fact, that some of them even enjoy my fragrant knob, and of course I mean the fragrance alone, not the knob itself, which will always be hideous.

Perhaps some of my medical care providers in their closet-size workspaces wonder where the nice aroma is coming from. They may decide it’s me, because no one else happens to be around, but I’m not saying, and certainly I’m not pointing to my head. I’m not much given to such dandified behavior. I haven’t even told my wife that I sweeten myself with her vanilla concoction, fearing she might take it as a sign that next I’ll start wearing her dresses before changing my name to Vanessa.

Since I’m the only one in the know, my health providers would have to guess that it’s my head that smells so good. My dental hygienist, for instance, who practically rubs foreheads with me as she closes in during her probing and scraping chores, perhaps has figured out that it’s my head she has to thank for the whiff of freshness in her workspace. But she hasn’t said anything, and none of my medical attendants, all of them women, has said anything. Perhaps none wants to say, “Egad, your head smells good,” because it would sound odd, or forward.

Or perhaps they are distracted by my strange behavior: being older and subject to confusion, I tend to open wide for the optometrist and look straight ahead for the hygienist. I sometimes announce that my goal in life is to keep food over my head and a roof on my table. But how refreshing it would be if one of my caretakers were to blurt out, “Damn but your noggin smells nice. The last chrome dome we had in here stank so bad we had to throw open a window.”

Whether anyone sniffing around the head ever comments on it doesn’t really matter, though. By sweetening the head, I’ve done what I can to improve the environment, and anyone is free to enjoy or suffer my knob in silence. If there are people who want to disdain a man who goes about with the top of his head smelling like an elderly woman who has just stepped out of the shower, they are free to do so.

I only hope that no one is so disgusted as to lash out at the head, physically or verbally, perhaps in alarm that a mass grave for desiccated hair follicles as unsightly as mine is symptomatic for some awful disease. If anyone calls the first responders or curses me over the head, I’ll pull on a knit cap, tugging it down tight over my ears, and leave it on. I won’t even take it off for my medical appointments.

I end with a heads-up to those young men who can’t wait to experience this disaster, and bald themselves with a razor to be fashionable: for the sake of sufferers like me, don’t.

 

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of fake news about fake news about fake news. Not to get too meta on you, but check out this example from first-time contributor R. D. Ronstad. On another note, please check out our blog roll on the right-hand side of this page for some new material from Big Jewel copy editor David Jaggard, recorded especially for YouTube. For a preview, you can also check out the link below to his newest comic song, "The Pragmatist's Lament."

I Am Interviewed By The New York Times Book Review For Their By The Book Page

By:
ronstadlb@gmail.com
https://youtu.be/ru-foSyE5LY

What books are on your night stand now?

I don’t have any books on my night stand. There’s no room, because that’s where I keep my 8×10 framed glossy of Adlai Stevenson. I’m not a big fan or anything. It just helps me nod off. There is an entire Great Books collection in a bookcase behind him in the picture, I think, if that counts. You may be interested to know that I’m contemplating writing a book about my night stand, which I’m quite proud of — the night stand, that is. It would be in the vein of Henry Petroski’s books about such things as pencils and toothpicks, or that book I once saw about the making of a Steinway concert grand. I already have the perfect title: One Night Stand. Actually, I have a lot of good titles in mind, but no books yet.

 

You’re having a literary dinner party. What three writers are invited?

Amanda McKittrick Ros, William Topaz McGonagall, and Roger Bloomfield, who won first prize in our school’s sixth grade fire safety essay contest even though he didn’t deserve it. I’d invite them because that would make me the smart one in the room. I might have to keep Suzanne Somers warmed up in the bullpen though, just in case — and, yes, I do have a bullpen, out behind the greenhouse. It was there when I bought the place. Weird, huh? Anyway, if this dinner party ever did come to pass, I can guarantee you one thing — Roger Bloomfield is going down!

 

If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

Essential CPR and First Aid. Not only because it’s important for everyone to be informed about CPR and first aid, but also because, if he’s lucky, it could earn him hundreds of thousands of votes somewhere down the line, if you catch my drift.

 

What books might we be surprised to find in your library?

A book on DIY plumbing in the Malayalam language. I have no idea how it got there, so it still surprises even me.

 

What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite childhood books?

Oh, I was a voracious reader as a child! I couldn’t ever read without stuffing my face at the same time–licorice, Milk Duds, Jujubes, anything. I was a big Stephen King fan, but my parents wouldn’t let me read The Stand because they were afraid they’d end up having to push me about in a wheelbarrow. My favorite childhood books were a series of baseball books by Duane Decker about a perennial championship baseball team called the Blue Sox. I started reading them hoping there was going to be a lot of dirty talk. But I guess he chose to name them the Blue Sox because Red, White and Black were already taken, and Green Sox sounds like a Rookie League team.

 

What is the worst book you ever read?

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Anyone who knows anything knows that ducks are more suited to lead a rebellion than pigs, sheep are more pranksters than rebels, and cats, while they may be schemers, are notoriously inept ones. How could an indisputably intelligent man like Orwell have gotten so many things wrong?

 

What book are you embarrassed not to have read? 

In college, I didn’t read The Education of Henry Adams for my American Literature class because I didn’t think we were going to be tested on it. As you can imagine, I was mightily embarrassed, to say the least, when I found out I was wrong. And still am, sort of.

 

Last book that made you cry?

War and Peace. About a year ago, I accidentally knocked it off my desk and it landed on my big toe while I was in my stocking feet. I cried like a baby.

 

Last book that made you laugh?

Also War and Peace, when the same thing happened to my brother. Which just goes to show that Mel Brooks was right about the difference between comedy and tragedy, apparently. My brother thinks I knocked it off my desk on purpose that time, but he’s dead wrong. At any rate, I’m not using War and Peace as a paperweight anymore.

 

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We're glad you made it! Various studies, which I am making up as I go along, conclusively prove that this site can help wean you off of YouTube, if YouTube is a problem for you. Heed the questionable wisdom of Luke Roloff.

I Went To YouTube Tonight And Didn’t Come Back

By:
lukeroloff@hotmail.com

What led me down this path? Where did I lose my way? Where did my legs go?

I can’t see my legs.

One minute I’m minding my own business watching other people’s lives unfold on social media, and the next I’m neck deep in a paralyzing cage of wonder.

From what I can remember, I went to YouTube real quick to watch this one video, but before I could even type it in the search bar, I was ensnared by the trappings of a sweet temptress known as Recommended.

I believe it was at this junction that I went down a bit of a rabbit hole, a splendid hole where cat and chicken are best friends. Yes, a cat, and a chicken — buddies! I simply couldn’t look away.

Eight minutes deep into watching two animals flop around in the dirt, I lost peripheral vision and basic motor skills. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was a mere puppet dancing in the hands of my penchant for pretty much anything.

You’re probably asking yourself by now, once a digital paradigm has been crossed, isn’t there an instructional video on YouTube explaining how to return? No, there isn’t. I checked.

But you know what is on YouTube? Back episodes of Xena Warrior Princess!

Despite losing all control and sense of physical self, I eventually felt a soothing warmness come over me. Accompanied by a wetness. Then later, a coolness. Followed by a smelliness.

Make no mistake, my soul has officially crossed the Rubicon of online content. My body, morphed into a cushion for my laptop. And my mind, it’s totally engrossed in this home video about a guy who designed a solar-powered chocolate skateboard.

Before I lost my hearing, I would periodically get wind of what sounded like my wife. I believe she was trying to send me a message from the physical world. Something like, “Will you take out the garbage?” She kept repeating it, over and over. And while the code meant nothing to me at the time, now it really means nothing because I’m in the middle of watching upside-down rainbows from New Zealand!

Okay, I’ll admit, some of the videos are a little silly, but others are actually quite moving. I can feel them drawing me in, almost dragging me, really, gnawing at my feet, and growling like a hungry and neglected dog.

Sometimes, I can even see things in 3D. Like the hands of little children frantically waving to get my attention. Or moths. It’s so lifelike!

After about another dozen or hundred videos, I was watching a tutorial on how to watch every celebrity interview ever, when suddenly, virtual reality musta kicked in, because it was like I was surrounded by celebrities, yeah, and they were acting out this elaborate intervention scene about video-watching addiction, and all the actors looked identical to my friends and family. The resolution was astounding!

At one point I even had this weird feeling that my house was being robbed, and then I got the impression someone was reaching into my pocket and snatching my wallet, and then I felt this zinging sensation as if someone punched my nose and gagged me and tied me up, then I found my favorite music video from 1994!

Lately, my favorite video is the one with all the really best things I like! LOL! Though my favorite favorite video is every video!

Once I added my iPad to the mix, then I taped my iPhone to my face!

From time to time my brain comes on, and I have to wonder, Good grief, what’s that smell? But you know what they say, time flies when you have no clue how much of it has passed!

And now look at this smoke! WOW, those flames are so hot it’s as if they’re burning my flesh off. I can’t even breathe — so lifelike!

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which we'd like you to think of as your conjoined twin -- a subject about which Tess Tabak knows more than she should.

The Reason You’re In A Four Hour Rabbit Hole About Conjoined Twins Is The Same Reason You’re Still Single

By:
beccatess@gmail.com

Dear Abby,

Will I ever find true love?

Yesterday at 4:00 pm I opened an article about conjoined twins Brittany and Abby Hensel that led me down a four-hour Google search hole. Now I’m wondering why they’re engaged and I’m not. They only have one uterus. Do they? Could they give birth? Do they like reading about other conjoined twins? Do they shop at Walmart?

What should I do? 

Sincerely,

Searching

 

Dear Searching,

So let’s get this straight: you spend all of your free time obsessing over conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel.

Spoiler alert: this is why you’re still single.

Maybe if you took some of that obsessive energy and used it to better yourself, you’d be in the market for dating. Biked more, maybe. Nope, don’t even think about Googling how Abby and Brittany can ride a bicycle. (They have such linked minds, they move perfectly together even though they each can only control half of the body. Isn’t that cool?)

I think what you have to ask yourself is, are you really interested in Abby and Brittany, or are you jealous of being a conjoined twin? I mean sure, we’ve all been there. Who among us doesn’t envy the perfect, pure love that one conjoined twin has for another? But you have to learn how to keep those thoughts to yourself.

The next time you go on a date, don’t open by speculating about what Abby and Brittany are up to at that exact moment. Trust me, he’s not interested.

For the record, the following are not good First Date conversation starters:

  • If you could be conjoined twins with anyone, who would it be?
  • Do you think it would be romantic to be joined with me at the shoulder, for life?
  • Maybe marriage is a bit like meeting your own conjoined twin?

Whatever you do, DON’T show him your homemade Abby & Brittany doll. The one you made by sewing two regular baby dolls together. Yeesh.

 

Dear Abby,

My boyfriend didn’t like the special two-person sweater that I gave him last Christmas. I knit it specially for us so that I could be by his side all day, but he got this freaked out look in his eyes. He wouldn’t even ride the tandem bicycle I bought for us so that we could bike through the park and never lose sight of each other. Should I dump him? 

Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel are engaged — what am I doing wrong?

Best,

Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

Men can see through your tricks. That tandem bicycle was a screaming red flag that said, “I’m needy! Stay away from me!” You can say it’s just a joke, but he’ll know it’s not.

What you need to do is give your boyfriend some space. Maybe it would help if you developed a more normal interest. Like in those Cheng and Eng guys. Now there’s a fascinating subject. Did you know that if they were born in this day and age, they could have been separated with a simple surgical procedure? They could have led such different lives, you know? Do you think they’d give up that connection, though? I mean, imagine being right next to someone every waking second for the rest of your life.

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we pride ourselves on being students of mankind. Sheepskin Mankind and Piney Mankind. But let Michael Fowler explain it all to you. When you're done with his latest humor piece, check out our blogroll on the right or the link directly below to buy Michael's book, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Sheepskin Man Vs. Piney Man

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

She thinks of you as Sheepskin Man. Or perhaps Sasquatch Man, but we’ll give you a break and say Sheepskin Man. That’s in acknowledgement of your four-year degree, your newish Honda, your taste for craft beer and Thai food, and the job you hold down in an office or classroom that pays better than some machine shops.

Hi there, Sheepskin Man! She certainly has taken note of your elite education and hoity-toity manners and discretionary income, especially since she lacks all these attributes herself. Yes, she’s quite a different deal from you, maybe didn’t finish high school, and confesses to drinking a bit.

Whoa, quite a bit! And has she ever visited an orthodontist? Whatever, she was attracted to you when she waited your table the other night, and now you’re suddenly on the town with her and negotiating for her to clean your apartment, since she’s underemployed. And you, Sheepskin Man, are attracted to her, too, even if the attraction is sort of inexplicable. True, she’s kind of cute, and her drinking promises an interesting night, but what of that? Can she really be your type? Your usual date is Sheepskin Woman, who owns fifty pairs of shoes and a master’s degree, but this evening you’re off on a hazardous tangent.

Your night takes a decided turn inside the bar she directs you to. It isn’t her favorite, she explains, but an out-of-the-way place you’ll likely be left alone. If you went to one of her favorite spots, where there was a nice crowd, some he-man would be liable to beat you to a pulp, she says. You don’t argue.

You enter a dark, forsaken hellhole whose blackened interior makes it clear that it almost burned to the ground in a recent fire. “Charming!” you think. At first the place seems deserted, but when you step up to the bar a kindly middle-aged fella with a tube gut flicks on a tiny TV on the shelf behind him and takes your orders. Draft beer for you, six Jell-O shots for her. This is only your second date, but she got bombed on your first also, so you’re concerned, but not much.

After her third shot, she wants to dance. You give her change for the jukebox, since she hasn’t a dime to her name, and then you’re on the barroom floor, trying to find the tempo to “Wonderful Tonight,” a song she picked and the beat to which, although you played snare drum in your high school marching band, you can’t lock onto. Why couldn’t she choose one that goes and-a one, and-a two, and-a three, so you don’t stumble around like a lame donkey? Bad luck!

Now a guy steps out of the dark woodwork and cuts in. Meet Piney Man. You haven’t named him that yet, but you will in about a minute. Piney Man doesn’t seek your permission or acknowledge you in any way. He simply asks your girl to dance, and she, without knowing him, accepts. In retaliation, you give the dude exactly one glance as you retreat to a bar stool. He’s about your age, mid-twenties, and damn it all he’s good-looking, even well-dressed in a country-and-western sort of way. He would fit in well in the fifth or sixth row on a televised Lyle Lovett concert.

He also has a GED, works on roofs or construction sites, drives a domestic pickup with actual tools on board, drinks domestic beer and hunts domestic animals for food. Yes, you take in all that at a glance. And one more thing: he smells of pine trees or some other outdoorsy, labor-intensive thing. So you think of him now as Piney Man, though his aroma may actually come from cologne or motor oil or, as is common to all Piney Men, cigarettes. The one thing he won’t smell of is peach and strawberry blend shampoo, like you.

Piney Man knows how to move to the funereal song oozing over the ether, and you suspect that he’s well-versed in sashaying, probably having memorized the entire jukebox at Joe’s, which is the name of this place, where he may be the only regular who didn’t die in the fire.

While you can’t help but admire the graceful pair, you try not to stare directly at Piney Man for fear of proving conclusively that he’s got you in the looks department. A sneak glance, however, confirms that he does. That doesn’t leave much room for you to compete, but there’s still income and brains to be considered. These are not ordinarily your strong suits, but tonight they’ll have to be. How else will you impress your date, who of course is none other than Piney Woman, Piney Man’s natural soul mate? You suddenly feel you’re wearing a back brace and a sweater with a kitten embroidered across the chest.

As the entwined couple continue to dance to the mournful guitar licks, you’re idiotically counting the beats from your bar stool, still trying to see how they can move together as one column of swaying liquid. When you think you’ve got the tempo at last, there’s still no other female in the joint for you to dance with. You’re stuck with kindly barkeep, no doubt Joe himself, who keeps you company from behind the bar.

You follow his gaze to miniature TV behind him. Jeopardy is on, and Alex grills a contestant in the category of Legendary Smart People: “This Old Testament King, renowned for his wisdom, once proposed to cut a baby into halves.” You know the answer but say nothing, not wanting to look like an intellectual show-off in front of average Joe. But Joe pipes right up with “Who is King Solomon?” And since the bartender, in your mind, is another Piney Man, he stands in for the good-looking dancer, and you realize you’re now losing in the brains department, right when it counts.

You again glance over at Piney Man. That was quick thinking, sir, you tell yourself. But you say nothing to him, since it’s already crystal clear that you two won’t be exchanging any words. Neither of you came to the bar tonight to talk to another guy, and most likely, if he notices you at all, he’s come up with some derogatory name for you, something as bad as Piney Man for city slickers.

What might it be? You think you know it: Shaft. But in that case you’d need to be like the vibrant man of machismo from the song and movie, wouldn’t you? You’d also need to be black, most likely. You’re flattering yourself; he isn’t thinking of you as Shaft. More like Mr. Peepers, on account of your glasses.

“Wonderful Tonight” ends at last, and you place your next drink orders with Joe: another draft for you, and a second half-dozen Jell-O shots for the lady. Piney Man buys himself a bottle of lager. Joe gets busy, and Piney Man, behind your back, puts in a quarter to hear “Rough Boy.” Of course, it’s another arrhythmic ballad that only contortionists can enjoy. Briefly you get up to examine the jukebox song list, looking for “Sweet Home Alabama.” You’re certain you can boogie to that. Amazingly, you don’t find that dive song in this dive. You sit back down.

Once again you’re locked out of the dance floor, and watch as Joe turns up the little TV for tonight’s final Jeopardy question. Alex reads from the category of Legendary Rich People: “The first gold coins were minted during the reign of this ancient King of Asia Minor.” “Who is Midas?” you blurt out, but Joe looks skeptical, and sure enough, it’s not Midas but Croesus. Joe smirks. Maybe he thought it was Midas too, but you blew it and that makes him, and by extension Piney Man, the winner. Piney Woman is his.

Except you’re the one who drives her home later, and it’s your car she pukes in.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the preschool of literary humor sites. And speaking of preschool, our good friend Karl Lykken has a few words for you...

Re: Parents’ Concerns Over Practices At Pull-Ups To Start-Ups Technical Preschool

By:
knlykken@gmail.com

Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Parents and Guardians,

You all should be happy to know that your children did quite well in their Customer Data Aggregation Practicum today (except the Fischers, as I’m afraid young Tina just can’t seem to understand that if you didn’t want us monitoring your conversations, you would be conducting them in sign language in an empty, windowless room). However, as I was reviewing some of the data that your children had collected on you to see how our school newsletter’s ads could better suit your individual needs, I happened to hear a rather disturbing conversation on the feed of a webcam in one of your babies’ pacifiers (I won’t say whose baby this was, as we keep all data anonymous to preserve your privacy).

In this video, a woman who appears to be the sister of a PUSU parent (who shall remain nameless outside of my personal notes and those of the other staff and students) was expressing her doubts about some of the methods we’ve been using here at Pull-Ups to Start-Ups. Naturally, controlling the opinions of customers’ loved ones is a critical part of brand management (Silicon Valley wouldn’t be investing so much money in developing robot lookalikes of all our family members if it wasn’t). Thus, I’m going to nip these slanderous comments in the bud, and assure all of you that if you’d seen some of the results from your children’s Data Aggregation Practicum, you’d realize that all of your siblings are depraved and should not be trusted.

Now, onto the specific concerns raised. It was suggested that having eight hours of class followed by eight more hours of homework is too much, as four-year-olds need time to play. However, for a true software engineer, coding is playing, and the only way to ensure that all of your children feel that way is to keep them too busy to engage in any other sort of recreation. In Plato’s Code Cave, work is the only fun they know.

Second, while my lawyer informs me that we can’t deny that staring at a screen for sixteen hours every day may have a less-than-positive effect on the development of our Junior Entrepreneurs’ eyes, this shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If your finger is on the pulse of tech, you’ll know that by the time your children reach high school, brain implant technology with have made the primitive five senses as obsolete as face-to-face conversations, so a little blindness won’t be holding anyone back. To the contrary, there is evidence to suggest that having a disability can provide an entrepreneur with extra drive to create a business or product that can help with their condition, and there’s nothing more important than the will to succeed. Besides, suggesting that a visual impairment is something bad that should be avoided is ableist discrimination, and we have no place for that at Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Technical Preschool.

Also, it was claimed that our “only tattle if you’re blaming a scapegoat for widespread misconduct in which you’re a participant” policy teaches children to be hypocritical. This is nonsense. What is hypocritical is spending years working tirelessly to advance your career — neglecting your family, your love life, your scheduled doctor’s appointment to see why you’ve been coughing up blood — only to say that you don’t deserve what you’ve earned just because you “harassed” a few coworkers or “sold an untested AI program to the military and assured them it was safe to put in control of our nuclear stockpile” or whatever. That’s what’s hypocritical.

Finally, it was insinuated that if I knew as much about what it takes to found a billion-dollar company as I claim, that I would have done so instead of founding a preschool in Nebraska. Apparently it didn’t occur to the sister in question that, while majority ownership in a billion-dollar company is obviously worth taking out a second mortgage on your soul for, education is priceless, as is helping our children attain it. Besides, you all know what the tuition here is, so it’s not like I’m stuck using a two-year-old iPhone or anything. And anyone familiar with startup culture knows that just because I lost my seed funding and went under six times doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have succeeded the seventh if my mom wasn’t so small-minded as to insist that she’d only invest again if I moved back home and started a business catering to people she personally knew to be suckers.

Anyway, I hope this has assuaged any concerns you may have had. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or just state them clearly while within a twenty-meter radius of any of your electrical appliances or children’s toys.

Yours,

Peter Bolton
Founder, CEO & Principal
Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Technical Preschool

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our facial hair is so abundant that it almost takes on a life of its own, according to Lee Blevins.

My Mustache Wrote This Essay

By:
leedblevins@gmail.com

A mustache is an island unto itself, except for the part where it’s attached to some guy’s face. This parasitic arrangement is the source of our mortal toil. Men are very much like ticks, except ticks rarely shave their host bodies for a job interview.

You can’t judge a mustache by its man. I have it on good authority that Hitler’s mustache was pretty chill, while Charlie Chaplin’s mustache was anti-Semitic. John Holmes’s mustache always used protection. Tom Selleck’s mustache speaks French.

Yet, despite our luster and winning personalities, we have almost no control over our own existence. The most sovereign act your average mustache ever makes is mysteriously thinning out in places where cold sores happen to be hidden.

Some of our kind are routinely smashed against smooth upper lips, while others are forced to endure the most pathetic of lickings. I adorn a self-declared intellectual who tends to sniff his index finger after he wipes.

What cruel god bound us to these mouth-breathers? What careless universe subjected us so to the whims of fashion and women with daddy issues? Must we live in unrelenting fear of glue traps? Am I nothing more than a prickly broom for marinara sauce?

There is an existential question that no mustache, no matter how wise or slick or stereotypically gay, has ever answered. Is a mustache still a mustache if it tears itself off its owner’s face and hops the first bus to L.A.?

Perhaps such militant action is counterproductive. The last wildcat mustache strike only resulted in management calling in fake mustache scabs. Those plastic fiends were quite eager to escape their costume party niche.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain so. There is facial hair that suffers fates far worse than ours. Peach fuzz is cut down in the prime of its life. Muttonchops never meet. ZZ Top beards get stuck in elevator doors.

But my father worked hard his entire life. He was a coal miner’s mustache. He never once called in tangled, yet, after retirement and the lung stuff kicked in, the miner who wore my dadstache shaved him in an act of drunken despondency.

I never even got to wave goodbye.

And I may not be long for this world, either. My manmantle bought a new pair of pants yesterday. There is no telling where his bad fashion sense may lead him, perhaps even all the way to the bathroom sink.

I do not look forward to the rusty blades that await me, but I will not cower and I will not beg. I shall fall as I lived.

Not quite full, but at least not dirty blond.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would gladly take up arms against our fellow citizens for the chance to view a new Ken Burns documentary series. When you've finished reading David Martin's latest bit of fun, click on the link below to check out his humor blog.

The Civil War II

By:
david.martin@bell.net
http://davespoliticalsatire.blogspot.ca

“[Keith] Mines concluded that the United States faces a 60 percent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years.” — The New Yorker, August 14, 2017

The following is a brief audio clip from the future Ken Burns documentary The Civil War II:

December 10, 2020

My Dearest Sarah,

I would urge you, my dear wife, to choose a mournful Scottish fiddle lament from iTunes as background music when reading this, my husbandly epistle to you.

It has been three long weeks since I bid you farewell from our beloved homestead in the Hollywood Hills. Our company of Liberal Renegades has headed east to assist our comrades-in-arms in Manhattan in holding the front line against the Red States Army from the Midwest.

The fighting has been fierce with many casualties on both sides. At present our Liberal forces are at a disadvantage due, in part, to the sizable cache of handguns and semi-automatic weapons possessed by our enemy. Hindsight being 20-20, we all wish we had been stronger proponents of the Second Amendment in our previous lives.

I can also see that the personal life skills of our troops do not greatly advantage us in this war. Although we are waist-deep in lawyers, movie producers and investment bankers, their undeniable high-level abilities are of little use against the Red State forces who number highly within the categories of hunter, truck driver and construction worker.

At every turn, they seem to have the upper hand. Although we are learning fast the arts of war including the use of vehicles, tools and weapons, we are, as yet, no match when it comes to matters military.

O that I had spent my antebellum leisure hours in the woods learning to hunt or my weekends in Idaho at a militia camp rather than at the marina sailing or the country club playing squash. I have little doubt that many of us now wish that we had foresworn a Lexus, Audi or BMW as our vehicle of choice in favor of what we now know to be the more practical Dodge Ram or machine-gun mounted Toyota pickup known as a technical.

I can hear you, my dear Sarah, sighing deeply as you note the painful irony that we Blue Staters might succumb to those wearing blue collars. Yet I remain confident that our cause is just and that we shall eventually defeat these Mid-American Confederates.

For how else should this war end, given its shameful beginning? That President Trump could have run roughshod over our sainted democracy and declared a popular vote victory last month despite his Electoral College defeat is one of many offenses to all freedom-loving Americans. Not least of these offenses was his presidential proclamation disqualifying any votes from states bordering the Pacific Ocean or those prefixed with the word “New.”

Alas, it was misguided optimism that first led me to predict that I would be back in your loving arms afore Christmas. I can now clearly see that our enemy is stronger and more determined than I had first assessed and will fight on well into the coming new year. Their devotion to Trump is as deep as it is irrational.

Our one advantage at the moment is that Trump has already surrendered Washington, seeing that he has little support in that city. He has reportedly established his government in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, knowing full well that his preferred site in central Manhattan is well beyond his reach.

With any luck, our troops will be able to escort President Sanders from Vermont to the White House, a symbolic act that will undoubtedly inspire our citizens and renew support for the resistance.

So hold fast, my dear Sarah, to our beloved Georgian-style mansion, our robust 401K and our daughters Emily and Abigail. It may take time, but we will vanquish our Trump-loving foes, win this war and reunite our great country whether they like it or not.

Your loving husband,

Major Sullivan “Sully” Ballou of the Pacific Palisades Volunteers

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take the issue of cultural appropriation very seriously. Which is why we are letting Bruce Harris speak up on behalf of an oppressed minority too little heard from these days.

An Open Letter To The NFL Commissioner From Somali Pirates

By:
marxman@comcast.net

Dear NFL Commissioner,

WTF? Are you people in the United States of America tone deaf? We see and hear all kinds of hullabaloo about the Washington Redskins. Native Americans are offended. Debates rage within the NFL hierarchy, on sports pages, in blogs, and on radio talk shows. Should ownership change the team’s name? Is the NFL too insensitive?

We are disgusted by the lack of concern regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How dare you? Has anyone seen or paid attention to the team’s logo, a flag featuring a skull and swords? Is this the 1600s? When was the last time you saw pirates flaunting skulls and swords? You’ve been watching one too many Errol Flynn movies. How insulting. Stop the stereotyping and stop it now!

The pirates of today’s Somalia are not our grandfathers’ pirates. We have feelings, use cell phones and computers and are more aligned with millennials than parrots, eyepatches and peglegs (although we still drink and go on drunken rum rampages). What gives you the right to malign us pirates? What did we ever do to you? You travel by air. We don’t bother with planes. Hell, when was the last time we hijacked a boat or were in the news? It’s been awhile since we’ve killed anyone. We’ve been low-key, on our best behavior, but it isn’t going to last unless something is done about changing the name of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Frankly, we don’t give a damn if every player takes a knee (or both knees) during the national anthem, or takes a knee (or both knees) during every play. It’s the name and the team’s logo with which we take umbrage. It’s insensitive and offensive and a lot worse than a Redskin.

We love football as much as the next guy. If you’re in a murderous mood, and who isn’t these days, what better way to kill a Sunday afternoon? Or Sunday night? Or Monday night? Or Thursday night?

Ask yourself, is the name Buccaneers a wise choice, given the current climate of political correctness? What genius came up with it? Seriously, do you believe a flag featuring skulls and swords plastered on every helmet and painted on the field is a good idea? It’s insulting on so many levels, not the least of which are the sword depictions. You think we still use swords to plunder and pillage? Not.

Today’s Somalia Pirates, if we may refer to ourselves in the third person, rely on a myriad of weapons to wreak havoc. For close range, grappling hooks are effective. Mid-range is best served by AK-47s. And for long-range firing, there’s the noisy but reliable PKM machine gun. Finally, we don’t mind occasionally employing explosive weapons like the RPG-7 rocket launcher. Any one or a combination of the aforementioned is more appropriate logo artwork than swords. A little team logo realism wouldn’t hurt.

As you can see, we mean business. It’s not lost on us either that you’ve begun playing games in the United Kingdom. Here’s a warning: don’t even think about bringing the NFL, and especially the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to Mogadishu. Talk about empty seats and an embarrassment.

I think our point is made. Cease and desist the use of the name Buccaneers for Tampa Bay’s football team. Oh, by the way, just so you don’t feel singled out, a similar letter has been sent to the MLB commissioner — what’s his name? There’s a baseball team in Pittsburgh that’s also in our crosshairs.

Respectfully,

Insulted Somali Pirates