* Welcome to The Big Jewel, sort of the Mount Olympus of literary humor sites -- if Mount Olympus existed. Or if literary humor existed, for that matter. We believe it does. We believe in Norman Birnbach, almost as much as he believes in the Gods of ancient Greece.

The Gods Must Be Rebranded


Good morning, Gods & Goddesses of Olympus. We are honored to be here, and honored to be chosen to help you with your branding — it’s not a challenge, it’s an opportunity.

Before we get started, some housekeeping rules — don’t worry, this isn’t about actual housekeeping; it’s just ground rules for how this session should work. We want this to be informal and interactive but not too casual, Zeus Who Thunders On High. The first rule of brainstorms is that there are no bad ideas. Please keep that in mind before you feel the urge to shoot the messenger, strike us with lightning, turn us into stone or otherwise smite us — all of which go against the primal spirit of the brainstorm. Can we get agreement from everyone on that?

Also we can make changes to anything we discuss today because nothing is written in stone…Unless, of course, you prefer it that way. Sorry, that’s a joke; we know you prefer parchment. You’re not Babylonians, after all. But this might be a good time to remind you that each of you signed an NKA — No Killing Agreement.

Situation Analysis
The good news: You’re doing much better than competitors like the Egyptian and Roman gods. Few know the names of more than a couple of Egyptian gods, and the only reason people know the names of the Roman gods is because the planets were named after them. Mortals know the Romans are Lady Gaga to your Madonna (sorry, not that Madonna). Without you, they’d be nothing. We wouldn’t waste our time talking with them.

But the bad news is that, although the twelve of you have captivated humanity’s imagination for thousands of years, collectively you are facing your biggest-ever threat. Bigger than the Titans and more dangerous than Cronos. Although they are taught Greek mythology in elementary school, kids today are in awe of something they feel is more powerful, more alluring and more magical.

It’s Screen Time.

To combat this, we feel that you need to do more than insert yourselves into modern-day situations. Reality TV shows like “Last God Standing” or “Dancing with the Gods” or sitcoms like “It’s Always Sunny on Olympus” or “Two and a Half Gods” might work for a few years, but eventually even good sitcoms get canceled, and then what?

Meanwhile, getting you to embrace social media would be a major fail: Imagine — Zeus of the Thunderbolt, asking mere humans to “like” you on Facebook. You don’t want them to like you. You want them to fear you.

Instead, you need a 21st-century solution to remain relevant: you need to pivot and rebrand yourselves. But before we get to those recommendations, we want to address the Minotaur in the room.

We’ve looked into stories about you, Mighty Zeus, mostly regarding your affairs with mortal women, all of which ended badly. For them. No one really cares about that — sorry, Queen Hera, of course they matter. But I’m talking about the brand. Today’s generation is concerned about your anger issues. I mean, chaining Prometheus to a rock and having his liver eaten by an eagle for eternity — just because he gave mankind fire. It’s not like he gave us the Internet or, worse, deflated some footballs. They want an easygoing god.

Recommendations: Cultural Change
A change in day-to-day leadership can put the scandals behind you. Look, we have tremendous respect for what you’ve done, O Zeus, Lord of the Sky, as god of lightning. You’ve been an inspired choice as supreme ruler of Olympus. But after a couple of millennia, it’s time for a significant change to address a significant enemy.

Appointing a new CEO — Chief Executive Olympian — shows a willingness to engage with millennials, and demonstrates significant cultural change. Meanwhile, O Father Zeus, you get promoted to Chairman of Olympus. Out of the day-to-day grind. Freeing you to develop a comprehensive vision for what Olympus can be. You get to delegate the less-fun responsibilities to someone else.

After careful consideration, we found two candidates:

• Poseidon, ruler of the (inter)net. After all, who has more experience with web surfing?

• Narcissus, a demi-god — but having fallen in love with his own image makes him ideal for a much-needed new spot: god of social media, particularly selfies — perfect for appealing to the millennial zeitgeist.

For the rest of you, we focus-grouped some concepts to update your powers and personas to be millennial-friendly. Most of these recommendations are minor – certainly compared to having to upgrade Egyptian gods like Thoth, the half-ibis god of knowledge, or Horus, the half-falcon god of the sky; that assignment would drive us cuckoo. Your new responsibilities are summed up in this PowerPoint chart (but please note that PowerPoint has nothing to do with the actual powers; it’s just the name of the software we used):

Name Old Power Rebranded Power
Aphrodite Goddess of love, beauty and desire Goddess of online dating
Apollo God of prophecy God of TV & online pundits
Ares God of war God of Worlds of Warcraft
Artemis Goddess of the hunt Goddess of Internet search & deals-of-the-day sites
Athena Goddess of wisdom & intelligence Goddess of Wikipedia
Demeter Goddess of the harvest Goddess of online grocery shopping (Demeter prefers you use paper)
Dionysus God of wine, parties & drunkenness God of wine, parties & drunkenness
Hades King of the Underworld God of hard drive failure & smartphones older than 36 months
Hera Goddess of women and marriage Goddess of women and marriage — excluding mom jeans, minivans, and girls’ nights out
Hermes God of travel, messengers & commerce God of iMessage, eCommerce & cashless wallets
Hephaestus God of metalworking and crafts God of Etsy and eBay
The Sirens Their voices lure passing sailors to crash their ships into rocks and drown Their…um, other charms enchant men to surf for porn and crash their computers on viruses

Please note: Even in a rebranded Olympus, there is no god of privacy and no hipster god.

If this basic premise works for you, next we will work on key messages. So we’re on the same page, Jesus has “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Buddha has his Four Noble Truths. You had, basically, “honor us and get rewarded” or “dishonor us and get turned into a cow.” Together, we can develop a message that works for today’s generation.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where sometimes, when the mood strikes us, we publish things that make you go, "Hmm." Hearken to the strange voice of Ian Goldstein!



Ever since I started stealing candy, saying “Yoink” has been the best part.

Sure there’s the act itself, which is a rush (even more than the succeeding sugar rush from eating the candy), but once I found this expression I found happiness.

When I started stealing candy (you know, the mini Snickers and Milky Ways) from my barber, I loved it. I’d go in, ask for a regular haircut, snatch a lollipop, and run away with only some of the haircut complete. Those stooges never knew what hit them.

But even as I advanced in my trade and promoted myself to regular size Twix and Reese’s, something was missing, something larger than the hole in my stomach caused by the massive amounts of candy I’ve ingested.

Then one day I saw my rival, Tick Jones, take Swedish Fish (his specialty) and he yelled “Hooray” as he did it. He seemed so happy. “Hooray” was his calling card ever since his wife took the kids.

That’s when I knew. I needed a catchphrase. I started saying “Wonderful times” but it didn’t click. It just made my court cases more confusing for the judge. “You’re a troubled man,” he’d say. And I’d say “What’s it to you Pickleface!” Then me and my lawyer would high five. We hate pickles.

So then I tried “Space funk” but that was too scientific and unoriginal. I’d walk up to a cashier, do a jig and say “Space funk” in my best impression of Barry White. Nothing. No reaction. Nobody noticed. “Are you going to buy anything today sir?” they’d ask. “What’s it to you, Pickleface?!” Then me and my lawyer would high five. He goes shopping with me too.

But then, one day in Waldbaums, I saw a father pretend to take his son’s nose and he said, “Yoink, I’ve got your nose.”

That’s when I knew I had it. Though not entirely original, I would make it my own. Like Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Christian Slater, I would improve on what already existed.

I moved past the father and son and, while placing my hand on the jumbo Kit Kat, exclaimed “Yoink.”

It was beyond cathartic — a sensation I’ve never felt before. My spine tingled. After realizing that the feeling was more from the taser then the catchphrase, I knew I had found eternal bliss.

Anyway Mom, I hope you’re doing well. This time they’re counting it as a felony because I had cocaine on me and my lawyer had a ton of heroin on him. I’m thinking about a new catchphrase, something that represents me at this stage in my life, like: “I’m 42!”

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would never, no never pollute your inbox with spam of any variety. Except possibly this variety from our own Copy Editor David Jaggard. When you're done reading this wonderful new piece, click on the Amazon link below, which leads to the Kindle version of his humor collection Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011. Many of the pieces originally appeared right here. 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.

You Or Another Person


“This is not spam. You have received this message because at one time or another you or another person entered this e-mail address at one of our websites, or this e-mail address was part of a mailing list which we regularly buy from third parties.” — Actual disclaimer at the bottom of a spam e-mail that I received last month.

This is not assault and battery. You have received this punch in the nose because at one time or another you or another person moved your head into the path of my fist, or because your face appeared on a list of third parties whose looks I don’t like.

This is not a robbery. I am waving a handgun in your face and screaming “All of it! In the bag! Now!” because at some time you or another person entered banknotes into your cash register that I want and possibly need for drugs, or because your store’s address was part of a list of places that sell watches and jewelry, which I regularly sell to third parties.

I am not stalking you. I spend every waking moment outside your building, following you everywhere you go and leaving creepy notes in your mailbox because you or another person, perhaps someone you know, or someone you really should get to know, has informed me that only the enveloping warmth of my love can fill the emptiness in your life, even though you already have a fiancé, dozens of friends and two jobs, or because you are part of a list of women I have never actually met but find hot, and whose physical and imagined attributes are my sole topic of conversation with third parties, many of whom are in my head.

I am not drunk. I am slurring my speech, staggering and knocking things over because at one time and then another, like at that reception after work and then at dinner, I, or another person, or at least it seemed like another person, entered eight or nine gin and tonics into one of my digestive orifices. Maybe more. Maybe even more than one orifice. But who’s counting? Anyway, in order to maintain a regular blood alcohol level I shall now move on to a third party.

I am not having an affair. You have received credit card bills listing unexpected charges to local motels on dates that coincide with my frequent “business trips” because at one time and many others you or another person, possibly your prim-looking but surprisingly slutty cousin, have met me in those places to engage in a whole list of mind-blowing sex acts that regularly include third parties.

I am not breaking up with you. You have received this message, your last from me, because at some time you or another person resembling you in every way, wearing your clothes and addressing me by your pet name for me, did something, or more likely a series of small and individually not so significant things, that eroded my former affection for you, or because you really fucked up royally on one specific occasion that I don’t think I even have to remind you about. As a result, your e-mail address, street address, phone number and Facebook page are no longer part of any of my lists anywhere, and I shall now regularly date third parties.

This is not spam. We have sent you this message because we really want your money and have no honest way of getting it, or because we just felt like hassling you. Oh wait — come to think of it, you specifically asked to receive messages from us. Yes, you did. Keep in mind that you may have been sleepwalking at the time. To remove your address from our list, please click the link shown below, which will not take you to a dark website in Moldova (trust us!). We scrupulously honor all requests for removal. Please allow ten years for processing. During that time you may continue to receive notifications from us, but they will not be spam.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy keeping you up to date on the latest in American jurisprudence, courtesy of Danny Behar.

Satan Has Listened To “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” And We Intend To Sue: A Letter To Charlie Daniels


Mr. Daniels,

I hope this open letter finds you well. I apologize that we weren’t able to meet in person. I would’ve just erupted violently from the crust of the earth like I usually do, but I’m feeling a little under the weather today.

I’m writing this from Hell to deliver a message from the Devil himself. I am of course, Mr. Satan’s head legal counsel. Let’s get this out of the way: YES, I realize that I am a literal representation of the common parlance “Devil’s advocate.” Great. Have a little chuckle. See if I care. I’ve held this position for several centuries now and the health benefits are great.

I’m getting distracted. My point, Mr. Daniels, is that you’ve blatantly breached our terms and conditions. In your hit song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” you reveal the full details of a past settlement between my client (Satan) and a young man named Johnny. There’s a delay in the time it takes popular music to reach the depths of Hell, but let me assure you, when “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” started streaming from Satan’s Spotify account, he was not happy.

The agreement between the Devil and Johnny was supposed to be kept strictly confidential. This should have been obvious. I don’t need to explain why we want the Devil’s bidding to be private information. We have no reason to be transparent with our business. We aren’t a non-profit. I’ll even go on record and say that there is a definite profit being made from the souls we’re collecting.

I know exactly what you’re going to say. You think that we broke the terms and conditions too. That can’t be further from the truth. I quote from your lyrics:

“He pulled his bow across the strings
And it made an evil hiss.
And a band of demons joined in
And it sounded something like this…”

Yes. An entire orchestra of demons wielding their own cursed instruments joined in with Lucifer and played along with him. I know this seems unfair and may have warranted the settlement void, but I insist: nowhere in writing was “summoning a large backing band for accompaniment” forbidden! It may have seemed like a funny prank or some sort of flash-mob symphony at the time, but I repeat that it was not mentioned in the signed deal.

Further on in your song you recount the part where Johnny concluded his solo and notified Satan that his playing, with minion choir and all, was inferior. This would have been enough. The Devil knew this himself. However it is now public knowledge that Johnny said, and I quote from your lyrics again:

“Devil, just come on back
If you ever wanna try again.
I done told you once, you son of a bitch
I’m the best there’s ever been.”

Initially, I was deeply offended that Johnny chose to curse out my client. The competition had been fair and such slanderous behavior was unjustified! We recovered from this, though, and carried on with the agreement, giving Johnny the golden fiddle he had rightfully won. However, this all changed last week when we were informed that you have publicized the entire affair and besmirched the Devil’s name to the billions of people who had listened to your song worldwide. Satan is now very concerned about his reputation on earth.

Because of this, Lucifer has changed his mind. He accepts Johnny’s offer. He does wish to “come on back and try again.” He also wanted me to add that this time he’s not going to leave empty-soul-cavity’d like before. Normally we would address this proposal directly to Johnny, but you omitted his last name from the song lyrics, so we were unable to find him. The Rolodex containing his contact information was unfortunately burnt to ashes because we live in a pit of fire and everything is eternally ablaze.

In summary, we will be filing a lawsuit for the first duel and want to set up a rematch. Could you tell Johnny that we’re offering a Golden Apple Watch this time?


The Devil’s Advocate

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we encourage everybody to come out, come out wherever they are. We promise to accept them exactly as they are. Yes, even our Editor Kurt Luchs, who has been hiding something rather important.

Call Me Sparkles


It is long past time for me to come out. For far too long — my whole life, in fact — I have lived with a painful (and what I mistakenly believed was a shameful) secret: I am a unicorn living in a man’s body.

There. I’ve said it. What relief those few simple words give me!

True, I didn’t have a unicorn mother or father. Both of my parents were human, kind of, even though one was a Young Republican. I don’t have a single distinctive unicorn gene in my physiological makeup, except in the sense that the human genome has always shared a general 96 percent overlap with the unicorn genome. I do not in any obvious way resemble a unicorn. Not yet, anyway. But now I have come to understand that being a unicorn is more than a question of mere DNA, more than a matter of outward appearances. It is not something that can be verified or falsified with a laboratory test. It is at least partly a social construct. In the end, it is largely a matter of how each individual identifies.

I identify as a unicorn. I always have. When I was five years old I started signing my name Starlite (that’s Rainbow Brite’s unicorn to the uninitiated), until my parents beat me and sent me to my room without any oats. Now, at last, I am ready to accept my true nature, with both pride and humility. Pride, because frankly it takes some balls — albeit not large, furry unicorn balls — to own who you are, especially when that admission comes with so much prejudice and societal baggage. And humility because, well, unicorns! They are so awesome, so beautiful. I cry whenever I think of them. I’m crying now, gently, with soft, neighing, unicorn-like sobs.

So you see, though I was not technically born a unicorn, I sort of was, actually. There are some who claim that being a unicorn is a choice. They are wrong. Not evil, perhaps (except for that awful God-Hates-Unicorns church), simply wrong. You cannot choose who or what you are. You can only choose whether or not to accept it. Which brings me to my next point.

This news may not be welcomed or even understood by all of my family and friends. My ex-girlfriend and children naturally see me one way — my ex, as a “vile bug who somehow escaped the killing jar”; and my children, as a loving caregiver and mentor. Will they be able to see me as a unicorn, even if unicorns are so rare that nobody has ever quite managed to see one? Will they still love me? I mean of course my children, not my ex, who has already put out three hits on me, and will probably just hire a couple of unicorn hunters to take me out when she hears this.

Those hunters will not have much trouble finding me. By making this public announcement I have put a gigantic target on myself. Anyone can take a shot at me, and no doubt many will, even if only rhetorically. I will be even easier to locate when I complete the physical part of my transformation. Years ago, when I first formulated this plan, I secretly began taking unicorn hormones, which for some reason are not extracted from unicorns but rather from readers of Japanese manga. Now you know how the paparazzi got those embarrassing shots of me snorting like a racehorse, pawing the ground and occasionally leaping over rainbows.

Soon I will approach even closer to my ideal when I have thousands of specks of glitter permanently embedded in my flesh, my DNA is altered to allow me to grow soft white fur over my entire body, and I have a long, pointed white horn surgically attached to my forehead. Regardless of where my changes take me, however, the important thing is that I am ready now, finally, to be myself, the real me.

In celebration of this joyful day I say to you now, don’t call me Kurt any longer. Call me Sparkles! And while you’re here, could you fetch me that feedbag full of oats?


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to celebrate next week's historic Fourth of July with a nostalgic look back at our nation's glorious history. And if none of that holds any water, well, then, try this one from Roger Taylor.

A Brief History Of Home Milk Delivery


The first home milk deliveries occurred in 1785 in rural Vermont. Most early customers were parents who had no means of giving breast milk to their infants — widowed fathers, mothers who could not lactate for medical or motivational reasons, and packs of wolves nursing abandoned babies. Cows of this time period briefly became known as “nature’s wet nurses,” a nickname whose spread corresponded, much to the distress of ranchers, to a drop in beef sales.

The premise of delivering milk door-to-door seems obvious enough in our enlightened times, but it took several decades to perfect. For instance, it wasn’t until 1810 that Decatur-based businessman Walter T. Shibley realized that more milk could be delivered per trip if some sort of container were used. A period of trial-and-error testing followed, with the glass bottle eventually winning out over the sheep’s stomach, the whittled wooden tube and the very-tightly-woven basket. In 1812, exhausted milkmen convinced Shibley to invest in multiple bottles so that customers could dispense the milk on their own schedule, saving milkmen the need to make a trip every time someone wanted a drink.

Other innovations followed, some adopted and some discarded.

For a period in the 1840s, John O’Sullivan of Utica delighted customers with his “Fresh From The Teat” campaign, wherein milkmen would bring the cow itself to customers’ doors and extract milk on the front lawn. People loved the service, but the cows became prone to performance anxiety, complained about unfair working conditions, unionized, and eventually drove O’Sullivan out of business.

Pre-refrigeration, many attempts were made to keep milk from spoiling on hot days, often by faster delivery or the addition of coolants like ice or, more typically, ammonia. Many ideas were patented, and nearly all were instant failures. The Milk Cannon of Jersey City was simple enough in concept, but the complex ballistic trajectories required the employment of several expensive mathematicians, and rounding errors were often fatal. Dr. Goodfriend’s Rot Buffer — a novel contraption that involved surrounding bottles of fresh milk with even more bottles of rotten milk, under the pretext that the poisonous miasma would be unable to penetrate the rot wall — was discontinued one day after it was put into use when it became clear that it didn’t work even a little. Its inventor was hanged for “flagrant and flamboyant quackery.” Sergeant Stephen’s Sturgeon Stirrer did enjoy some success, as the antimicrobial peptides of the dead fish really did help keep the milk fresher, but flavor concerns and religious objections kept it a niche product.

In the 1880s, a successful marketing campaign by the firm of Howard, Farmer and McGurk briefly convinced most Americans that sophisticated palates preferred spoiled milk, and the problem — at least for the milk producers, who didn’t have to worry about the diarrhea that came from drinking the stuff — was temporarily solved.

Home milk delivery declined throughout the early twentieth century owing to the public’s increasing distaste for convenience. Though meant as a metaphor, the political slogan of Marshall Ward’s Huddled Masses Party in the 1920s neatly captured the spirit of the times: “The milk of toil never spoils.” The rival Teeming Masses Party had less success with “The milk that’s self-fetched is never retched.”

The sector continued to suffer setbacks throughout the 1950s and 60s. First came the widespread availability of refrigerated station wagons, effectively turning every suburban housewife into her own delivery service. Later, a series of lurid sex scandals had the dual consequence of disquieting older customers and attracting to the industry’s recruitment centers all manner of scoundrel, hedonist and reprobate. The death knell, of course, came with a disastrous move in the 1970s to cut costs by centralizing all milk production and distribution to one large facility in Birmingham, Alabama. The move did lead to lower warehousing costs, but the milkmen on the California route found the daily round trip to be tiring, and speeding fines accumulated quickly.

Today, home milk delivery is extinct. However, its spirit lives on in the hearts of thousands of dedicated historical reenactors. At disused parking lots across the nation, they converge fortnightly to don crisp white uniforms, drive refurbished trucks, live out their filthiest sexual fantasies, and, one suspects, drink lots of milk.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where curbing our carbon emissions ranks just ahead of breathing. As usual, Michael Fowler has the straight dope. Again, we urge you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Warming Is War


French President Francois Hollande said failure to address global warming may well lead to war. — News item

Ecoutez, members of the international press! I need hardly tell you what a terrible time this is for me, Francois Hollande, President of France, and for the planet. This global warming must be addressed! Listen to this: when I step off the plane yesterday in Brisbane, on the supposedly temperate seacoast of Australia, it is 83 degrees on the tarmac, like a rotisserie. It is all I can do not to take the loaded handgun from my carry-on bag and assassinate everyone in first class.

As I climb into a taxi and head straight to the G20 conference, with hardly a spare moment to apply perfume to my cheeks or run a comb through my oily hair, I see that the crazy driver has the windows down and the AC turned off. I feel as if the entire country of Sierra Leone is sharing the back seat with me, though I am the only passenger. I tell you, mes amis, I am so hot under the collar, and my shirt so scratchy, and my throat so parched, I want to declare war on Germany. The thought of clashing armies cools my boiling blood, but still I am aggrieved.

I call Chancellor Merkel on my cell phone and say, sacre blue, Madame Angela, why don’t you or someone else in the EU address this climate change? Do you know how close I am to launching a preemptive strike at you due to the heat and humidity? And the lady acts as if I must be insane. Can’t I at least give her time to unpack her bags at the Brisbane hotel before I declare martial law, she demands of me, all atwitter? I tell her, as I contemplate plunging my pocket corkscrew into the back of my cabbie’s neck, that if her undergarments are sticking to her as mine are to me, she’d be calling up her reserves and scrambling her jets just as I am.

In that precise Germanic way she has that soothes all tensions, Chancellor Merkel talks me out of an invasion. She suggests that if I wait and meet her later at the hotel, we can have wine coolers and then take a dip in the pool, where she plans to paddle about on a plastic inflatable koala bear and eat puff pastries as if it’s Oktoberfest. And if things still look bad after that, she says, then by all means I may attack Russia with cruise missiles, for all she cares. I tell you, that lady has the right idea, except for the wine cooler part, and after commanding my driver to stop so that I can pick up a few bottles of vintage Merlot, meanwhile rubbing my flushed temples with alcohol swabs, I order the French forces to stand down, preventing all-out war, at least for now.

You must also know this, dear reporters, that as I approach the hotel I am to share with other world leaders, I run smack into President Barack Obama of the US. It is all the poor man can do to stand motionlessly in the doorway and devour a sno-cone, a sad necessity since the pitiless thermometer still clings to the low eighties. The gentle Barack tries to put a happy face on things and calls out to me, “Don’t get between me and my sno-cone, Francois!” He then asks if it is hot enough for me. I tell him that this part of Australia ordinarily receives cool South Pacific Ocean breezes year-round, according to my idiot of a Foreign Minister, whom I will sack upon my return to France, with many humiliating slaps to his repulsive phiz.

I next inform the American President that my suit wilts on me like lettuce in a microwave, and on top of that I have sand in my collar from the infernal beach. Merde! I am ready to initiate a cyber-attack on China — they certainly deserve it — and follow with drone strikes on North Korea, just to show my seriousness. As the US President nods in understanding, I break down weeping and embrace him. I worry most, I sob in his arms, about the insensate patoots who claim that the warming evidence is hysterical and made-up.

Barack lets me know that he considers global warming to be the gravest threat to humanity, and that when he hears the rash prattle of the skeptics and deniers, it makes him want to take out his nuclear football and press all the launch codes at once. President Obama clearly accepts the hazard of global warming as the most serious matter, as I do, and I pledge to him that, in the event of the catastrophic war that now looks all but certain, French submarines will not sink American vessels. But we will boycott American cheeses and wines, since they are unpalatable.

President Barack seems gratified, and as he pushes me through the hotel door into what we both hope is supercharged air conditioning, he promises to eat grilled kangaroo and share a wine cooler with me at the G20 lunch. He also urges me not to declare war on anybody, at least not just yet. For the sake of US-French relations, I agree to bide my time, but again, what’s with the wine cooler? A big Non to that. I’d as soon lap water from the bidet like a Rottweiler.

After the above-described lunch, which I pretend to enjoy while smacking my lips loudly, the first meeting is called to order. The hall is stifling, as if we have gathered together inside an ironworks, since evidently the AC is not functioning properly. It is the last straw, and I approach Mr. Putin of Russia and Mr. Jinping of China and tell them we have probably seen our last winter Olympics, since from now on there will be no ice or snow anywhere on the planet. I add that if both their countries don’t immediately shut down coal plants that belch forth CO2 emissions, I will invade New Zealand, to ease my combativeness. I will also fly military choppers nonstop over Italy and Spain, just to stir up a bit of breeze that hopefully will spread to the rest of Europe.

Both leaders regard me as if I have taken leave of my senses. They urge me to hold off, but I tell them that if the world doesn’t reach an agreement at this meeting I’m going to explode. To prove it, I toss a wine glass onto the parquet floor, shattering it. Voila! I cry. There you have my resolve! And I threaten to roll my tanks into Lapland, which by now is probably a desert. Believe you me, Vladimir and Xi let me pass without offering to straighten my cravat, nor do they offer me an after-lunch mint.

Before dinner it starts snowing so hard that all the G20 events are canceled. Today I return home, but just wait until the global warming summit in Paris in 2015, my own back yard! Zut alors! I’ll read these world leaders the riot act for sure — that is, if the planet isn’t already plunged into Armageddon due to everybody being chafed and irritable, like moi.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our good friend Matthew David Brozik has something wonderful for you. After reading his latest piece, click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and lovely nude ladies will come and dance with you, as Peter Cook used to say.

I’m Afraid This Fourth Wall Needs To Come Down


I’m no playwright, of course — that’s your job, and I have no reason to think you’re not good at it — but I am an engineer, and although you might not be happy to hear this, after giving your latest work a thorough inspection, I’m convinced that the fourth wall needs to come down. Not necessarily right away, but at some point for sure. (I’ll leave it to you to figure out when would be best. Maybe Act Two?)

Now, before you write me off as some kind of crackpot (with professional membership in the American Society of Safety Architects): I know that the fourth wall is not a real wall. I understand that “fourth wall” is rather a term of art referring to the imaginary barrier at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theater (such as you are employing for your production) through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a hazard to life and limb if it were to topple unexpectedly. Even an imaginary wall needs to be structurally sound.

Your fourth wall, unfortunately, seems to have been the target of some significant thespian mastication, if you get my meaning. Has one of your actors been chewing the scenery (and putting everyone in danger)? I’m no theater critic, of course, but if I had to point a finger I might point it at that young actor playing the man who wakes up one morning as a huge termite, then makes numerous attempts to explain his transformation to the others by way of interpretive dances, extemporaneous haiku and very loud soliloquies. (Being that this actor is likely responsible, it might make sense for his character to be the one to break the fourth wall, but that could, on the other hand, prove too metafictional for comfort. So maybe the telephone lineman can do it — when he appears “outside” the window? He could say, “Well, this rings a bell!” — referring to the arrival of the hunchbacked milkman — then wink at the audience?)

Again, you’re the dramatist, but keep in mind that however you choose to have the fourth wall broken, it will need to be broken completely — so that when it comes back up, nothing of the old, compromised wall remains. You want a brand new wall to go up, for the well-being of all involved. When the itinerant meteorologist remarks “Looks like…hail” and then gives a Nazi salute, maybe he could high-five someone in the front row? Or when the lazy-eyed cobbler is hissing “Shoo! Shoo!” at the giant man-termite, could he actually take off one of his shoes and throw it at the audience? That would decisively break the fourth wall, don’t you think? But you might have your own ideas about how to do it.

At any rate, I’ve left my full written report in the theater manager’s office. I wanted to tell you in person, though, because I didn’t want you to think I was just making work for you without considering the consequences or offering some suggestions, such as having the cross-dressing conjuror reach into his hat and pull out the wallet of a member of the audience — in this case maybe someone not near the stage — read the name on the driver’s license, remove the cash, put the wallet back into his hat, and finally have it reappear in the audience member’s pocket. I’d pay to see that at least twice.

Oh, and one more thing: I couldn’t help also noticing during my inspection a pistol hanging on the back wall. That isn’t loaded, is it? You really shouldn’t keep a loaded pistol hanging around. Sometimes those things just go off. But now that I’m thinking about it…you could have someone use the gun to shoot out the fourth wall. I’d do that in Act Three.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our one clear goal is to end the age-old war between men and women, and our secret weapon is Samantha Rodman.

My Interpretations Of Obviously Meaningful Remarks My Husband Makes


1. I like that red shirt.

Translation: Throw out all the shirts that don’t look like that one. Although I may not often express preferences, when I do, they are subtle and only someone as attuned to me as you are truly understands what I mean. And red is the color of passion, which I associate with only you.

2. Sure, let’s just stay home.

Translation: If we cancel this sitter, we will really be sinking the last nail into our coffin as middle-aged parents who do nothing fun ever. I could obviously suck up being tired and rally, why can’t you?

3. The sitter is so great with the kids.

Translation: Did you notice her breasts? I did. Did you notice me noticing them? Are you ever going to make any effort with your appearance again? When I travel for work, women hit on me nonstop. Sometimes they give me their panties.

4. Where did your blue shirt go?

Translation: I am just making sure you got rid of that piece of detritus that I previously implied looked like a Swiffer cloth on you and highlighted that your breasts are not as appealing as the babysitter’s.

5. No, for real, where did all your other shirts go?

Translation: I appreciate that you recalled my admittedly coy remark that I liked your red shirt, which obviously indicated that I am repelled by the rest of your wardrobe. You get me, girl.

6. What the hell is this credit card bill about?

Translation: Sweetheart, I know you bought all of these clothes to look good for me, and I value your commitment to the marriage. I have stopped visualizing the babysitter’s breasts when we have intercourse.

7. I wish we didn’t end up going out last night. I’m beat.

Translation: Not as beat as I’d feel if you had taken me at my word and cancelled the well-endowed sitter who allowed us to feel, for a fleeting evening, like the couple we were before kids. I felt we had a magical connection, especially when we were discussing if Madison has more of your mom’s stubbornness or your dad’s temper, and when you asked to share dessert and then ate the whole thing yourself.

8. Why do you keep mentioning the sitter’s boobs? She’s like 17.

Translation: Just a test. We both know she’s 19 and a sophomore and having issues with figuring out her major and dealing with her pothead boyfriend. I listen when she talks to you, although I pretend to play Xbox.

9. I don’t know, what are YOU thinking about?

Translation: I’m too shy to take the reins of this conversation. Please help me by steering the topic toward my insecurity about growing apart at this critical juncture of our marriage, when we are parenting two small children and seem to have not much to say to one another. I must somehow show you that I am both in this to win it and also completely open to anything you think might improve our romantic connection. But tragically, I am unable to verbally express my own feelings without your gentle guidance, likely because my mother was unemotional and self-absorbed and unable to teach me how to truly connect with an intimate partner.

10. What the hell are you talking about?

Translation: An open ended question! Conclusive proof that, all along, I’ve been reading those relationship self-help books that you left on my night table. Let’s settle in for a long, romantic talk. I know how much you’re yearning to connect to me on an emotional, vulnerable level, and I want to meet you where you’re at. God, I love you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where inter-office disciplinary memos are our favorite kind. Please say hello to Zain Khalid, writing for us for the first time.

Kevin’s Written Warning For Taking The Company Nerf War Too Seriously


Date: 02/02/2015

Private and Confidential


Dear Mr. Drombowski,

I am writing to you about your objectionable conduct during the annual company Nerf War.

On September 14, the first day of this month-long team-building exercise, you reserved the southeast conference room to hold a curiously well-attended meeting entitled “The Battle of The Break Room: An Oral History.” This is an unacceptable use of company time and resources.

We would like to remind you that this program was intended to boost organizational morale, which makes your daily e-mails telling all of your teammates in Accounts Payable to “sack up” and “stop camping like women” especially egregious.

You missed a critical staff meeting last Wednesday because you trapped yourself inside a vending machine in a failed attempt at camouflage. This “tactic” led to hundreds of dollars in damages and an appalling number of tepid Frescas. As stated in the company handbook, you may not transport or in any way alter company equipment — this includes endeavoring to live in it, Kevin.

What you do with your salary is none of our business. However, management would like you to stop hiring amateur UFC fighters to serve as your in-office bodyguards. They pose a serious security risk and rarely contribute to our brainstorming sessions.

This organization prides itself on allowing its employees to spend up to 20 percent of their time working on personal projects. We did not expect, however, that someone would spend those hours trying to turn a Nerf N-Strike Maverick Blaster into a bolt pistol. Our staff also enjoys a very loose dress code; unfortunately, your penchant for dressing like a 16th-century samurai has offended and frightened several of your coworkers. We ask that you refrain from wearing traditional Japanese garb in the future and that you attend next Tuesday’s seminar on cultural sensitivity.

While we applaud your enthusiasm, you’re hindering our ability to bring in new accounts. We had to close the Newark office after you ruined any chance we had to secure the business of a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical conglomerate by tossing a dart grenade into our meeting with their CFO. You single-handedly cost 27 hardworking men and women their jobs. We suggest you call Rebecca Cohen’s daughter and apologize for being the reason her mother can’t afford to send her to Dartmouth.

Please note that the company Nerf War is only in session during operating business hours. Following Craig home and shooting him several times in front of his children was a disturbing offense and can never happen again. Craig did two tours in Afghanistan and he had to take a leave of absence because you exacerbated his already crippling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If you do not make significant improvements in your behavior, your employment may be terminated. To reiterate, our expectation is that you no longer engage in activities that are detrimental to the institution or its personnel, like ransoming marketing associates for extra paid vacation.


Ling Chen

Director of Human Resources

P.S. I know you’re behind me, Kevin. I see your reflection in my monitor.

P.P.S. Your kimono is open.