* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where on some days more than others, we are very glad we are not in the insurance business. Let our good friend Abby Byrd explain.

A Letter From My Insurance Company Denying Coverage Of Mental Health Services For Show Choir-Related Trauma


Dear Ms. Byrd,

We regret to inform you that upon evaluating your appeal, we stand firm in our decision to deny coverage of the services in question. While we do cover mental health services, we do not consider “show choir-related trauma” an eligible condition.

We have received the photo documentation you have provided as proof that you were forced to wear a unitard.

We have received the (slightly mildewed) turquoise jumpsuit and accompanying gold-sequined overlay.

We have also received your video documentation. It does indeed clearly show how what should have been clapping in unison during a performance of Three Dog Night’s “Shambala” degenerated into two warring factions of clappers, causing intra-choir strife and consternation in the audience.

We have reviewed the footage of your singing “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast while dancing with a giant cardboard teacup.

After viewing the incredibly awkward dance sequence during the fiddle solo in “Down at the Twist and Shout,” we understand your argument that radio stations should not be allowed to play Mary Chapin Carpenter without a trigger warning.

No, “They’re Playing Our Song” is not Marvin Hamlisch’s best work, although your assertion that it “ruined [your] life” seems to us a bit of an exaggeration.

We do not dispute that Andrew Lloyd Webber has suffered great injustices at the hands of your high school choral music program.

We acknowledge the torment that is “Jellicle songs for jellicle cats! Jellicle songs for jellicle cats!” on endless loop, and we feel the agony in your plea: “For the love of God, what the f*** is a jellicle cat?”

We also acknowledge your insatiable desire to initiate starburst formations during social gatherings.

Yes, we are aware that there is nothing sadder than getting felt up while wearing lamé.

While we appreciate the circumstances that led you to threaten us with an interpretive dance to “Memory,” know that security is tight at our headquarters, and it is unlikely you would be able to sneak in a fog machine, let alone construct the entire set from Cats.

Do not show up here wearing a leotard and a headband with cat ears taped to it.

Do not threaten us with a performance from another musical.

While we cannot assume financial responsibility for your mental health care, we wish you the very best on your healing journey.

Our jazz hands are raised in solidarity.


Kind regards,

Claims Department

LifeThrive HealthPartners



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, or as it will be known after this November, Trump World. We think it best to start preparing for the inevitable, and in that spirit we present a selection from the outstandingly funny new book by Onion founding editor Scott Dikkers, Trump's America: The Complete Loser's Guide. Read it and weep. Or read it and laugh. As always, America, the choice is yours. The book itself can be purchased from the link in our permanent blog roll on the right-hand part of this page. Do it now, while you are still more or less free!

How To Avoid Getting Sued By President Trump


Will the president sue you?

He might. And as a citizen, you need to be prepared for this eventuality. When Donald Trump is in the White House, he will use every advantage to make America great again, including, if necessary, suing you.


Know your rights

Trump has the best lawyers. They know every tool of the legal system and how to use each one with surgical precision to bring you to heel, bankrupt you, or simply drag you though the courts for years until you’re a soulless shell of your former self with no memory of the innocent bliss that was once your pitiful life.

In the likely event that you are sued by the future president, it will be important for you to remember that Donald Trump is the victim here. You are the defendant. Whatever your future offense, there’s only one person to blame: yourself.


What to do if you’re sued

Besides following the clear dictates of Trump’s legal team, articulated in your summons or cease-and-desist letter, you can also try one of the following:

  • Summon a demon more powerful than Trump.
  • Invent a time machine and go back in time before you did the thing that Trump is suing you for, unless Trump is suing you for stealing his idea for a time machine. In that case, doing this will only make things worse.


Simple Tips to Avoid Being Sued by President Trump

There’s no way to guarantee the president won’t sue you. Your most prudent course of action will be to decrease the likelihood of being sued by President Trump by employing the following helpful hints:

— When speaking of the president, be sure to use one of these acceptable adjectives:

  • Terrific
  • Amazing
  • Incredible
  • Very good
  • Very nice

— Refrain from using any of the president’s registered catch phrases:

  • “You’re fired”
  • “Make America great again”
  • “Complete disaster”
  • “Billions”
  • “Moron”
  • “China”

— Don’t disagree with Donald Trump.

— Don’t write a letter to Donald Trump.

— Chant, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

— Never initiate eye contact. And if you do, never break it.

— Don’t marry Donald Trump.

— Don’t do business with Donald Trump.

— Live on a life raft in international waters outside the known boundary of any recognized legal jurisdiction.

— Be directly related to Donald Trump.

— Have Donald Trump’s blood type and be there when he needs your blood.

— Stop spreading the lies of science.

— Get your facts straight.

— Just shut up.

— Live in the sewers and emerge only under the cover of darkness to scavenge the filth of the street to survive.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like our superheroes powerful and lightly pigmented. Say hello to Chris Partridge, appearing with us for the first time.

The Amazing White Man, Issue 1


Look! Up in the social hierarchy — He’s Caucasian! He’s cisgender! He’s…White Man!

Born in Connecticut to upper middle class professionals, White Man was gifted from birth with the powers of racial and gender privilege that aid in his noble quest to maintain hegemony and defend traditional values. But our hero must stay ever vigilant or risk losing everything to his patriarch-nemeses.

Fear not, for White Man has these astounding powers at his disposal:

Male Gaze

X-ray vision? That’s nothing! With his Male Gaze, White Man is able to objectify countless women with just a single glance. Male Gaze isn’t just about his pleasure though; it reminds his foes of their inferior status and vulnerability. And can he be blamed for ogling women on transit, at the office and in virtually every other public space? Just look at his rivals’ revealing outfits!

Superior Resources

Like Bruce Wayne, White Man’s inherited wealth and material resources help keep him one step ahead of the competition. Wonder Woman may have the invisible jet, but White Man has the Glass Ceiling in his arsenal. Those extra 23 cents on the dollar keep White Man financially safe and sound.

Stealth Attacks

White Man can lob microaggressions to disarm and disempower his enemies without being detected. And when his casual sexism and constant interruptions are noticed, White Man can artfully deflect accountability with his trademark catch phrase: “Geez, lighten up. Can’t you take a joke?”


White Man’s grandfather relied on the power of White Flight to escape The Other, but today’s White Man prefers to transform historic neighborhoods through gentrification. Loft apartments, pop-up shops and farm-to-table restaurants allow White Man to thrive in hostile territory and weather surging property values.

Super Hearing

Shhh, did you hear that? It’s the subtle, coded messages of dog whistle politics! White Man can instantly decipher racist and sexist subtext that seems perfectly innocuous on its face. That Hilary Clinton sure is shrill (wink!) and Obama wants to line the pockets of welfare queens (nudge, nudge). Plus, thanks to nationalist politicians and assimilationist laws, White Man can speak the universal language — “proper” English.


Cracker, dick, honky — slurs bounce off of White Man like bullets against Superman because they aren’t backed by the historical injustices of racism, homophobia and sexism. Sticks and stones may break his bones, but words can never hurt White Man. And White Man is almost physically indestructible too. When walking home from the bar alone at 2:00 a.m., White Man isn’t scared to take a shortcut down a dark alley. He’s not in danger; statistically speaking, White Man is danger.


Thanks to generations of privilege, White Man is capable and independent, but he doesn’t have to go it alone! White Man can count on law enforcement, academia, the courts, mainstream media, Christianity and nearly every major social institution across the country to have his back. And hey, come on, White Man has black friends. That’s why he feels comfortable stereotyping people of color and casually dropping the N-word when co-opting rap music.

So long as affirmative action doesn’t drain him of his power, White Man will continue to defend the all-American principles of truth, justice and victim-blaming. But just who is White Man? He’ll never tell! Because publicly admitting his privilege would be revealing his secret identity.

What’s that you say? No one has told that woman on the subway that she should smile more? This looks like a job for White Man! Up, up, and away!





* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of well considered jurisprudence. And also pieces like this one from James Warner. Mr. Warner last appeared here in 2005. Good to have you back, sir!

Final Scathing Dissenting Opinions From Antonin Scalia


We were saddened to hear of the passing of fiery conservative icon and originalist judge Antonin Scalia. Fortunately for those who enjoyed his cantankerous prose, it turns out the justice liked to write dissenting opinions even when on vacation. The following arguments, found in the late Justice’s game bag by a fellow hunter who prefers to remain anonymous, are full of significance for the ongoing Presidential election cycle.


“All you need is love.” — The Beatles

Far from reflecting American majority values, this is the subjective view of four foreign hippies who do not come close to presenting any legal arguments to justify their claim. All you need is a faithful interpretation of the Constitution, reasonably construed and consistently applied would be closer to the truth, and I must confess to also finding it catchier. I respectfully dissent.

“Weird is a side effect of awesome.” — T-shirt

My copy of Noah Webster’s dictionary tells me that in the time of the Founders, “awesome” meant “inspiring solemn and reverential wonder, tinged with fear of the Divine or of natural sublimity,” whereas “weird” simply meant “wayward.” So this statement is best interpreted as meaning that awe will lead us astray. Whether true or not, this maxim has no foundation in American constitutional law, leaving me no choice but to dissent.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” — The Lorax

Whether things get “better” is not my concern. What we have here is a straightforward case of the Once-ler Corporation’s liberty to respond as seen fit to the truffula tree menace. To hold otherwise is to indulge in standardless and usurpatious judicial meddling, adding unnecessarily to the unfair burden already borne by the much-beleaguered thneed industry, and eroding the foundations of our democracy. I dissent.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Bumper sticker

Such vapid and sententious gobbledygook is merely a smokescreen for the aggrandizement of judicial power, warping of our Constitution, and further advancement of the homosexual agenda. The unmeasured and misdirected arrogance of such an assumption of power, designed to subject our people to the out-of-control hegemony of activist mullah-judges, takes the breath away and boils the blood. I dissent.

“You gotta fight for your right to party.” — The Beastie Boys

This so-called right, unsupported in reason and ludicrous in application, is to be found neither in the longstanding traditions of our great Republic, nor in the text of the divinely inspired Second Amendment. At the risk of repeating myself, such wholesale invention of rights undermines the already embarrassingly enfeebled credibility of our judges, committed as these over-reaching obfuscators from second-tier colleges have become to the coarsening of our polity and imposition of minoritarian tyranny. I disrespectfully dissent.

“Rap is not pop. If you call it that, then stop.” — A Tribe Called Quest

My dictionary defines “rap” as a lay or skein containing a hundred and twenty yards of yarn, and “pop” as a brief explosive sound. Although there may be disagreement as to whether these two words are interchangeable, the only issue with any pertinence is whether the statement is supportable as an interpretation of our immutable and holy Constitution. You would have to be a jackass to think that it is, hence I angrily dissent.

“Don’t be evil.” — Google motto

I find this to be erroneous on numerous grounds, objecting among other things to the formulation of a standard so vague that it produces rather than eliminates uncertainty under most imaginable circumstances. It takes more than woo-woo aspirations of indeterminate content, pronounced with outrageous smugness and bereft of any reference to case law, to produce desirable concrete results, hence I furiously dissent.

“#TypeOneDirectionWithYourNose” — Hashtag

This is a strange jurisprudence indeed. We have traveled far from the sober and subtly cadenced arguments of Justice John Marshall and are lurching instead towards the naked imposition of homosexuality by willful, superannuated courts that sap the vitality of our traditions and insult our democratic process. I have never typed anything with my nose, and have no intention of starting now, hence I passionately dissent.

“You’ve eaten all the toothpaste again.” — Sext

If this suggestion isn’t what the kids today refer to as gammon and tilly-tally, I’ll eat my bonnet. Not only does it lack any substantive dimension, but I find it imponderable in its application to real-world events, an invitation to unprincipled experiment that flies in the face of righteousness, encouraging sandal-wearing apostates to wage a Kulturkampf against the proud traditions of our Holy Catholic Church. I devoutly dissent.

“Being gay is like glitter, it never goes away.” — Lady Gaga

My dictionary defines “gay” as “happy,” and “glitter” as those shiny mica flakes once commonly used in cave paintings. One can only wish that the state of happiness were indeed as permanent as a Paleolithic mural, but since extravagance of thought and expression are no substitute for the rigorous analysis of legally operative texts, I find this disedifying argument to be as mistaken as it is theologically unprecedented. I hereby denounce its author as a heretic and consign her to eternal hellfire.

“You only regret the things you didn’t do.” — Fridge magnet

This insinuation boils down to little more than praise of novelty as an end in itself. It is a maxim as indefensible in theory as it is unworkable in practice, and acting on it would risk a massive disruption of the social order. And yet the main reason I have decided utterly to repudiate it is that I myself have no regrets, being infallible. Although it is a little poignant to reflect that I never sang in Der Rosenkavalier, and perhaps I could also have eaten more broccoli.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where cannibalism is just another way of saying, "Howdy, neighbor! What's for dinner?" Say hello to Eric Farwell, who would prefer that you put a little barbecue sauce on him first.

I Think Our Cannibal Holocaust Should Have A Vegan Option


Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking. I know we’re gearing up to go out and slaughter thousands of people in order to cook them for our own delicious gain. I know years of planning have gone into this, and that both of you have emptied your 401ks in order to afford all the Saran wrap and Wolfgang Puck cutlery we’ll need. However, I just turned 14, which has really allowed me to wake up and see things for what they are. Mom, Dad, I’ve decided to become a vegan, and insist that there are options for me at the post-holocaust meal.

Did you know that veganism is a dietary practice believed to reduce colon cancer, heart disease, and a lack of entitlement? If not, I can show you the YouTube video that broke my mind open to the shackles of meat eating. It’ll only take two minutes and twenty seconds of your time. You’re always saying that cannibalism is what makes us special, makes us unique. I’m happy you both feel that way, but I’m pretty sure my diet is more special than yours. I mean, some restaurants are vegan only. Have you ever been to a people-only restaurant? That’s what I thought.

Think about it: after we kill all these people, we’re probably going to get arrested, like, immediately. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I think this cannibal holocaust is going to end up more like a cannibal rodeo. I mean, not everyone struggles with taking clear pictures with their phones like you guys do. Either way, what would you rather have: news coverage focusing on how horrible and evil we are, or on how brave you are to include a vegan option at your mass murder feast? If some of our future meals don’t die right away, maybe they’ll be hungry, and vegan. Offering them some roasted potatoes or broccoli stir fry could go a long way to expressing, “Hey, we’re not monsters. We just want to eat men, women, and children after we’ve tended to their dietary needs.”

Also, veganism is linked to healthy bowel movements. I don’t know about you guys, but after eating people for most of my life, defecation has become like a ghost: I believe it’s real, but I’ve no evidence to go on. I know you guys have had some medical scares in the last few years. Dad, before you ate him, our dentist said your teeth were riddled with cavities and close to falling out. Mom, you’re at risk for heart disease because you’ve been eating heavyset tourists for years. It keeps me up at night sometimes, because I want both of you to be around for a long, long time to eat many, many more innocent people. If this is too much to ask, how about a compromise? I’ll eat one small, frail adult if you’ll agree to have quinoa and tofu foie gras as your sides. At the very least, please watch that YouTube video. It’s very informative.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are sitting on the sofa, remote in hand, waiting for the new season of Game of Thrones to begin. So many cliffhangers to be resolved. What will become of Lady Sansa Stark, for example? If Karen Ritter has her way, the Lady will finally find the perfect mate.

Lady Sansa Stark Composes Her Personal Ad After Jumping Off The Ramparts


I hail from a noble, titled family but am open to almost anything. So far, I’ve had really bad luck with men. But still believe Mr. Right is out there somewhere — hopefully south of the Wall!

I’m a Winterfell girl but dig the parties (and clothes!!!) at King’s Landing. But then my stupid fiancé had to go and ruin it all by beheading my father.

He was a total hottie — my fiancé, that is. Poor Pops (R.I.P. Daddy!) had the body hair of a wooly mammoth. LOL. Thank the Old Gods, I got Mom’s silky auburn tresses, wide-set eyes, high cheekbones. And look bitchin’ in capes, gloves, leather…anything goth.

It’s true, Joffrey was cray cray but he was also King and totally crushed that sick royal robe, with the embroidered lions and shit. So you can’t really blame me. I was so young back then. (Now I’m seventeen.)

Plus, he had these yummy, to-die-for eyes. Joffs could literally slay you with those baby blues. One minute he’s gazing at you like you’re the only girl in the room. The next, lifting his crossbow, taking aim.

MOS, I whispered the first time it happened — cuz his seriously scary mom was glaring right at us.

“Joffrey Lannister Baratheon! How would it look if you shot your fiancée?” And she took away his weapon and gave him a time out.

After that, J-Ba was pretty chill and decided not to murder me after all. Just strip and beat me. Then he must have realized that would be wrong, too. So he ordered Ser Meryn Trant to strip and beat me instead.

I suppose there was some tension between us — ever since his mother killed my direwolf and pushed my little brother out the castle window, crippling him for life. Never mind all the stress of planning a big wedding. (Try drawing up a guest list when all your relatives have been, like, slaughtered! And how would I ever get Arya into a bridesmaid dress? I mean, I can’t even.)

Actually, though? It was the menu that put me over the edge. I’m thinking dragon egg caviar followed by a choice of braised basilisk or crushed Kraken but Joffrey was like, “Why don’t we serve your brother’s head on a platter, San-San?”

“Oh my God, did you really just say that? Maybe we should serve your head on a platter, Joffrey.” Then we got into this huge fight and I almost pushed him off the pier.

“My bad,” I said, later. “But I guess I’m still upset about that time you decapitated Dad. I mean, how can we move forward as a couple if you keep showing me my father’s head on a pole? That is, like, so one of my triggers.”

“A non-apology apology,” he said, lifting his crossbow.

“Go ahead, marry Margaery! See if I care!” I said, running for my life. Luckily, I have these long, supermodel legs and run mad fast. Still, I couldn’t stop crying. I mean, my bf was trying to kill me again, I was really PMS, and, for all I knew, the engagement was off!

That reminds me, I’m running from Ramsay Bolton now — my second husband. (I was briefly married to Joffrey’s uncle. Nice guy but way short and I’m like 5’9 so it didn’t work out.)

My new in-laws are a nightmare: they murdered my mom and brother at a dinner party. Which is pretty much a deal breaker, except that his family lives in the castle I grew up in and I thought it would be neat to move back in, get my room back…Not!

Turns out Ramsay has all these intimacy issues and is also a pyromaniac, but with, like, people. Being with someone who goes around burning others without ever taking their feelings into account is really difficult, besides being really gross. When I realized he was probably never going to change, I ghosted him. No good-bye, no note, just jumped off the parapet with Theon — aka Reek. (Don’t ask.)

P.S. Theon has this enormous crush on me. Awkward. The whole time we’re falling through the air, I just wanted to die. Then it occurred to me that I really was going to die. Or worse, get majorly injured, and if I landed on my face, who would marry me then? And OMG, was I even wearing clean underwear???

So I shut my eyes and prayed: Dear God of Seven, don’t let there be too much blood. You know everything (you’re God!) so you know that red, especially blood red, really sucks with my skin tones. Totally washes me out…

That’s when I noticed icky Theon was wrapping his scrawny legs around my waist…I was, like, totally creeped out when I had this ginormous epiphany: the Gods had put Theon there to cushion my fall! So I stopped punching him in the face and kicking him in the balls and hugged him back because it became super obvious to me that Theon was just a tiny cog in the wheel of a grand, cosmic plan designed to unite me some day with my real soul mate, the one I was always destined to be with, who was so not Theon, you know?

I must have blacked out then. When I opened my eyes, I was lying in about fourteen feet of awesome, fresh powder! Theon’s bones are crushed (bummer) but I’m as perfect as ever! And 100% available, by the way.

So here’s my ad: Loyal, gorgeous, modest, religious babe, into needlepoint and heavy metal, seeks tall, handsome knight in shining armor — noble and strong, tender and true, gallant and buff — to worship and love me till death do us part.

But whatevs. Will date anyone who’s not a total psychopath. Not being the product of incest also a plus. Man preferred but male-identified okay, too. (Miss you, Brienne of Tarth. Why have you stopped stalking me?)

Willing to relocate. Wildings fine but no White Walkers, please. Those rags you’re wearing? So last season.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we do occasionally weigh in on weighty matters such as the minimum wage. We freely admit our ignorance of such things, but in our defense, we are no more ignorant than anyone else pronouncing on this issue. Also, we don't get paid very much to do this. And we're tired of wearing a hairnet and saying, "Would you like fries with that?"

Unconsidered Consequences Of Doubling This City’s Minimum Wage


An overnight grocery stocker can finally afford decent weed thanks to the pay bump, but the higher pay comes with higher expectations from his bosses. As a result, he can no longer find time to smoke while on the clock, which is kind of the whole point of being an overnight grocery stocker.

For the owner of a cupcake shop, the tipping point between whimsy and catastrophe turns out to be somewhere between the old wage and the new. After rethinking his life, he shuts the business down and goes back to school to finish that computer science degree. His career in software development is long and prosperous, but he spends the rest of his life a bit miffed about the cupcake thing.

A few customers at a haunted hayride note that the assorted ghouls and chainsaw-wielding maniacs seem a little complacent this year, and wonder how convincing a werewolf you can be if not motivated by actual hunger. One guy asks for his money back and doesn’t get it. He goes to bed angry, which his marriage counselor keeps warning him not to do.

Starbucks raises the price of its Pumpkin Spice Latte by 20 cents. An enterprising pair of middle managers quit their jobs and try to capitalize on the change by marketing do-it-yourself pumpkin-latte-making kits. These prove less popular than anticipated, perhaps because they’re just cheaply made espresso machines with a complimentary can of gritty powdered pumpkin. The entrepreneurs end up having to explain the failure at job interviews and on first dates. They tend to get pretty defensive about the whole thing, and are pretty sure that it cost them job opportunities as well as sex opportunities.

A two-income household becomes a one-income household as one of a married pair of minimum wage earners is laid off while the other has his income doubled. Now spending all day looking after her child, the former earner is forced to confront the possibility that the job was less about necessary income and more about avoiding interaction with her annoying kid.

As they’d never negotiated pay higher than the new minimum wage, Meat Cutters Local 161 becomes redundant and shuts down. Its chief, unable to siphon funds from a non-existent union, has to find new ways to pay for his ever-expanding collection of Matryoshka dolls. He starts looking for work that doesn’t involve slicing head cheese, which is a shame really, because he’s awfully good at it.

As a cost-cutting move, the Subway restaurant chain replaces its employees with an elaborate system of pneumatic tubes. This is great news for Subway, as it turns out customers love having their sandwiches shot at them out of air pipes. It is, however, bad news for the gormless former employees, who soon find that few other employers will tolerate their distinctive mix of boredom, hostility and sneezing on things.

Now in less dire financial straits, a security guard at Harry Winston backs out of a planned diamond heist. His would-be partner in crime has to find a new jewelry store to rob, wasting weeks of careful planning. When they run into each other at a holiday party months later, they say hi and it’s cordial and all, but it seems like maybe the chance for a lasting friendship kind of went out the window.

A woman parking her car at the paid lot of a community playhouse thinks, “Really now, that’s too much,” after calculating that the lot attendant who took her money — attentive enough, but nose deep in a paperback when she pulled up, and perhaps a bit too cheerful for a man on the clock — could now easily afford a respectable studio apartment. The thought recurs a few times over the next few hours and mildly affects her enjoyment of the play.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the first choice of wine connoisseurs everywhere. And while you're sniffing the bouquet of this rare vintage, don't forget to raise your glass to David Bradley Isenberg, making his first appearance with us.

Wine Reviews By A Recently Decertified Sommelier


Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages (2013) — Notes of willow bark, sage, lavender. No berries. Well, I guess, in-between-berries is a better way of thinking about it.

Ruffino Chianti (2014) — Bubbly notes of cherries and rose, like Tammy’s laughter from when I infused that grappa with lavender soap from the Ladies’ room. Yet the wash was astringent and sour, over-ripened with the taste of the grappa that poisoned the only man in the tri-state area allergic to lavender.

Ouled Thaleb Médaillon Red Zenata (2012) — Meaty, like the sacrificial lamb Café Provence made of me to avoid litigation.

Vintjs North Coast Pinot Noir (2012) — Clear nose, full body. It has focused flavors, determine not to let this one hold them back from their dreams.

Chateauneuf du Pape (2012) — Lemongrass mouth feel. A bitter wash, much like a semester and a half of an online executive MBA program.

Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone (2014) — Floral. Best enjoyed to celebrate a small victory, like receiving a fourth LinkedIn endorsement for public speaking!

Chateau les Reuilles Bordeaux (2013) — Citrus wash, maple syrup mouth feel, hints of blueberries, rotten apples — a thread of sour, condescending pears. I know, the Bordeaux has so much. I did hear about the promotion. No, really it’s a great step forward for him. I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy for Dan? Dan’s great.

Jamesport Vineyards Red Blend North Fork Melange de Trois (2004) — Sweet nose. Hints of raspberries, strawberries, and maple syrup. Great to share with friends. True, loyal friends.

Marques de Riscal Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva (2004) — A breakfast wine. Dry, spicy wash with hints of tobacco, spiced oranges and meaningless sex. Weak tannins. Pairs well with weed-butter scrambled eggs, Pizzalicious Pringles and season 7 of Frasier.

Frey Vineyards Organic Zinfandel (2013) — Rustic mouth feel. Last night I dreamt that I was walking through a Loire Valley vineyard, then curled up in the soil beneath a Gamay vine and melted into its terroir like sweet, cold rain.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (2014) — Strong barnyard notes, perfume and shoes. A woman’s leather shoes. Her thin legs walking away on the wooden floor to whomever, wherever. Tammy and Dan deserve happiness.

Bricco Mondalino Malvasia di Casorzo Dolce Stil Novo (2013) — It tastes like fucking grapes, okay?


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it has been said we have a nose for news -- news of a little-discussed but worrisome workplace issue. Sniff out the fragrant thoughts of Jack Bedrosian.

Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker


Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker,

The other catalogers and I are becoming concerned that your interactions with your fellow office peers are becoming too, well, “smell-oriented.”

Much of our department’s interactions with you tend to very quickly spiral into a discussion regarding a particular smell — or smells — that we have, to a person, found to be totally (the conversations that is) unappealing, and borderline inappropriate.

Also it is my understanding that this issue has been broached with you before now, only to be met with — as one disgruntled colleague put it — “bullshit qualifications” on your end, really exacerbating our situation here. I’ve been told that a common response to these accusations is your insistence that your nostrils are much too large — perhaps freakishly so — along with a yet-to-be-supported claim that you can in fact fit a regulation size table tennis, or “ping-pong,” ball in at least one of them. This is of course compounded by the fact that you, according to yourself, sport a nose that can only be described as “mousy,” making the utter hugeness of your nostrils seem greater still, while simultaneously causing an intensification of any and all smells due to the large intake capacity of these (apparently) overwhelming blowholes you have smack dab on your face paired with the regrettably tiny and under-equipped nasal cavity that you have been so humorlessly dealt.

Now, I am aware that it is highly unorthodox and generally frowned upon to comment on an employee’s appearance, but I, on behalf of the cataloging department, feel that it is nothing short of an absolute, unquestionable, and simply undeniable necessity, to let you know that you, despite your protestations, have a PERFECTLY NORMAL-LOOKING NOSE. Admittedly, I personally have not seen your nostrils, or rather — have not observed them in any great detail, but I imagine the very fact that I have yet to notice them in any way would strongly suggest that they are indeed very ordinary nostrils. If anything, you may be dealing with a certain type of nasal dysmorphia, but honestly that isn’t a problem that we can afford to add to your list of self-imposed grievances — at least not at this time. Speaking of lists of grievances — there is one, actually.

Below, you will see the contents of the office “Suggestion Box” from just this past month and, as you can see, the majority of them are not at all comments or suggestions as much as they are complaints concerning this very issue to which you are most central. To wit:

“I don’t believe that her doctor prescribed her pescetarianism. I just don’t believe it. She should be required to provide a note.”

“Does my scent really resemble a Callery pear? Semen-ish, you say? Is this an office issue I’ve been kept in the dark about?

“Her choice in odd lunch cheeses is getting so bad that a replacement of the break room carpet is now an inevitability. I liked that carpet, it had pizzazz.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure whose face I have to sit on to get a working computer around here. By the way what’s up with Nose Lady?”

Perhaps the easiest way to begin addressing this issue would be an honest examination of your daily office vocabulary. Based on anecdotal evidence from just about all of the other catalogers your, how shall we say, “liberal” use of particularly unpleasant words such as “odor,” “stench,” and various derivations of “stink” (stank, stunk, etc.) is simply staggering. I personally find just typing these words in the same paragraph to be mildly nauseating, and can say with some certainty that I will probably be skipping lunch in order to deal with a now inevitable facial twitch I feel coming on from all the frowning and nose-scrunching that’s been required to type this (hopefully) cogent point I am trying my best to make on behalf of the office at large.

I hesitate to even send this e-mail, as I fear it may only perpetuate your obsessive behavior and further ingrain a vicious cycle that I am very much attempting to derail. I want to be clear that we are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help you through this, but it is really quite necessary that you bring this preoccupation with your nose to an end. The cataloging department is, frankly, up in arms. Please stop.

With all the sincerity that can conceivably be mustered,

A Caring Co-Worker


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we want your corpse to be coiffed as stylishly as possible, and Michael Fowler is just the man for the job. As always, we encourage you to click on the links to his book, "God Made The Animals," in our blogroll.

Hairdresser To The Stiffs


I’m a barber running my own hole-in-the wall shop. On one side of me is a deli, on the other a Laundromat. Down the street are a bar and a new funeral home. I do the old hairstyles: the Caligula, the Sal Mineo, the “Kookie” Burns. I don’t get many customers anymore. Never did, and I mainly live off a war wound. If I were smarter I’d think of a way out. But I’m not very smart. I made it to sixth grade. I have a low IQ. Turn left at the peak in the bell curve and go down a standard deviation or so, and there you’ll find me: 85 on the Wechsler scale and 83 on the Stanford-Binet. I’m the imbecile behind the waxed mustache, hoping his sartorial signature is not irremissibly louche.

When a customer comes in, he’s usually a drunk from the bar down the block. I tip him back in my worn leather chair and let him relax. If he wants to start a conversation, I let him do the talking. If I talk at all, I steer clear of the unholy duo of divisiveness: sports and weather. I prefer the safer topics: Darwinism and religion, affirmative action as it affects race relations, and the threat pluralism poses to moral universalism. When my customer is good and relaxed, I open its case and break out my billion-dollar Stradivarius. That’s what I call my old set of electric clippers. It’s a standing joke in my establishment and often draws a laugh, at least if the customer hasn’t heard it too often. Most of my customers have heard the joke too many times and now pretend to be deaf.

Sometimes a customer will ask me why I don’t update my place. They like the new hairstyling spot down the block. This establishment just opened, and would take all my business if I had any. It’s run by a family of foreigners, probably Asians or Mexicans. They may not even be legal, but they get no trouble from the town, so they maybe paid somebody off. What kills me is their son. He’s the same age as mine, 13, but he does women’s pedicures in their shop. That slays me. A 13-year-old boy in a blue smock and earrings kneeling before middle-aged women to scrape their heels and paint their toes. Does a good job too. My wife got a pedicure from him that took 20 years off her feet. I understand this may be part of their family tradition, but it’s just wrong. What will that do to the boy’s manhood? He should be giving himself tattoos with a charred needle and buzzing gang names in his scalp like my boy. My boy’s on thin ice at school, but his manhood isn’t in doubt. He’s gender-normative for a kid born with testicles. Meanwhile my wife left me. I guess she wanted a man with young feet like hers.

She’ll be sorry she left. What I mean is, my career may finally be taking off. Out of curiosity one day I dropped in at the new funeral home they built near my shop, Bottom-Rate Burials. They had an ad in their window for a mortician’s cosmetologist. I went in and applied, told two men about my hair and skin expertise. They asked how I’d feel about tidying up men who were covered with blood and powder burns after testing explosives back in the woods. I said I didn’t see a problem, I did drunks in my shop who came in bloody with knife wounds and with liquor and puke all over them all the time. By the time I was done with them, they were presentable enough to be burned or buried easy, especially if you put a shroud over them. The men laughed and clapped me on the back. They told me they’d call if they decided to detonate the explosives.

They didn’t call, so I called them. Joe, one of the guys I’d talked to before, told me the explosions were on hold, and they’d decided to go on fronting as a cost-cutting cremation and burying service. If I was interested, I could do the sprucing up of the stiffs until they hired a mortician. I said I had no experience with embalming or makeup, but Joe said if I did haircuts and shaves and maybe manicures if the nails were grimy, they’d provide cheap new suits, and that would be sufficient. Did he take me for a fool? I said look, my wife used to do nails at my joint, but she was long gone. Shaves and haircuts I could manage, but no one would mistake my manicures for the real thing. Joe disagreed and after listening to him, I saw he was right. My fear of change now looked regressive and any objection quite nugatory.

I start Thursday. If this works out, I’ll be bridging to an elite economic status and joining the vanguard of upward mobility. Eleanor, do you hear me? And one more thing, sugar: any idiot can do nails, so long as the customers grow rigid in the chair and can’t open their stupid yaps.