* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are a little more cautious than the Vatican in granting sainthood to the dearly departed. Deity, yes, but not sainthood. Please say hello to first-time Big Jewel author David Guzman.

I’m Not Quite Ready To Deify The Dead Leader Of Our Post-Apocalyptic Clan

By:
david.j.guzman@gmail.com

The world we used to know is gone. In this burnt-out landscape, nearly wiped clean of humanity due to a raging, merciless pandemic, our small group has survived a brutal winter, near starvation and attacks from other roving tribes. Even though there’s little evidence of a higher power or any larger meaning to this meager existence, I’m not about to give up. We must endure. We must carry on. We must never lose hope.

I’m on board with all that. What I’m hesitant about, though, is elevating our former leader, who died only a week ago, to the status of demigod. I think our group jumped on that a little too quickly.

There’s no doubt Reynolds united this group. He saw that each of us had a strength and a talent to contribute to the whole and pulled us together. But it’s not because he was psychic and could see events before they happened, as some here have started to surmise. When I heard that, a mere day after he died, I was like, “Whoa, we’re giving this guy magic powers all of a sudden?” If he were psychic, wouldn’t he have foreseen that our deer meat had gone rancid and would lead to his death? Some people have great managerial skills, and can bring out the best in their team. And that’s what Reynolds had. It’s in no way clairvoyant, and it won’t necessarily stop someone from eating rancid venison.

Reynolds was a fine leader, that’s for sure. We wouldn’t have made it through the mountain pass without his command. But he wasn’t infallible. There was that time he called something “gay” and he could see that we were not cool with it. When we met him he had two severed fingers that he laughed off as “the cost of once owning a pontoon boat,” and he severed a third finger while making a catapult we didn’t need. And it took him a good week to realize that we had two Kimmies in our group, and a few more days still to know which one was Kimmy Matthews and which one was Kimmy Gunderson.

But hey, that’s human. What’s not human is the ability to shapeshift, as some are now claiming Reynolds could do. Chet has insisted he’s seen it happen, but remember, Chet also used to make money participating in clinical drug trials. When Chet says he often saw Reynolds morph into a giant worm at night, he probably just saw Reynolds bundled up in a sleeping bag. Chet is great with a crossbow, but let’s not listen to Chet on this one.

Nor should we take stock in the rumor that Reynolds had a pack of wolves who obeyed his every command. And that those commands were communicated via an ancient tonal language. He did occasionally have to chase off stray dogs that were being a nuisance where we had set up camp, but it’s a real stretch to attribute that to anything miraculous or supernatural. Besides, those dogs and other animals wouldn’t have been scouring our site if we had stored our deer meat properly.

I’m just saying give this the proper time to gestate. You can’t force it so soon. It takes generations for myths and religions to develop. It’s very possible that my great-great-grandchildren will one day speak of Reynolds and his power to separate from his shadow, the regeneration of his severed fingers, his magical hacksaw, or his emergence from a cocoon — again, Chet, probably just a sleeping bag — but it’s not credible to buy into those things a mere week after his death.

I know how dire things are. We just may be the last of humanity left alive. But it’s best that we turn to one another for hope and inspiration, and not the so-called “Reynolds Bible” or “Book of Reynolds” that’s been going around. Seeing as how it’s basically a binder of men’s fitness and muscle magazines that Reynolds carried, I don’t hold it sacred. I’ve got nothing against the article about getting better biceps in three weeks, I just don’t read it as the parable of mercy and forgiveness that most of you do.

With that said, I won’t be partaking in Reynolds-based rituals. I’m afraid I can’t help you exhume his body a third time to see if his fingers have grown back. And I’m going to have to excuse myself from tonight’s recreation of the Last Supper of Reynolds — which, by the way, is taken from a well-established practice from another religion.

All right, I’ve said my piece. All I ask is that at the end of the night you please properly store all the food. If you need me, I’ll be naked in my hut, singing songs of worship to Doogan, a discarded carnival bumper car, our one and true Lord.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe if you see something, say something. Preferably you should say something even more twisted and disturbing than whatever it is you think you see. Like Walter Bowne.

Suspicious Activity

By:
the4bownes@gmail.com

Transport for London (TFL) released the following recorded messages from its database of confidential hotline tips during the week of 14 April, 2014. Names in the messages have been edited.

#1 Right, I am on the Circle Line…is this the correct number? We just pulled out of High Street Kensington Station towards Edgeware Road…A young man in a black hoodie is sitting across from me holding a bag…There is something inside the bag. What type of bag? It’s beige and canvasy. It has the words Waterstones of Gower Street…He’s…Now what is he doing…He’s…pulling something weighty from it…wait…he’s reading a book, and it’s not any book, oh my! It’s Oliver Twist! Is it a cover? The book hollow? Oh my God! He’s pulling something long and slim from the book. It has string!…A fuse? A fuse? No, no, is it a bookmark? Could it be a bookmark? The bookmark reads, “Words cannot do justice to the pleasures of a good bookshop. Ironically.” What? A young man reading a book! I’ve never seen anything like this!

#2 This is Retired Major…, 3rd East Anglian Brigade. I am seated in the third carriage of an East Coast train, bound for Newcastle, and I’ve been overhearing for an hour what I can only term “highly suspicious activity.” Two young women, of indeterminate ethnicity, have been engaged in animated conversation since York. One said she “was feeling rather drake” after that “bombacaceous night” with her most “crazsian Bombadee.” The other replied that she had a “blast” with some “trigger milf.” Are they planning a terroristic threat? Bomb! Blast! Trigger! Milf! What’s a milf? Help! Help! I’ve never heard anything like this!

#3 Yes, hello, I would like to report highly unusual behavior. A man wearing a turban is concocting something in his lap. He seems rather secretive. I’m on the 20:45 outward train to Bath Spa. Now, it may some chemicals. It smells. I mean, I have lived 65 years, and I’ve never smelled anything like it! No, it doesn’t smell like sulfur, or kerosene. No, no. It smells remotely aromatic. Perhaps even like roses. With a hint of cinnamon and perhaps even…what? Saffron? What’s saffron? He’s filling the contents in his lap in some sort of envelope. It’s yellowy. And pasty! He’s measuring very carefully now! Should I attack him? What? I said, should I throw his package out the window! Wait! Wait! He’s eating it! He’s a human bomb!!!!

#4 This may be none of my business, but I think I need to do my duty and report what is happening. I couldn’t live with myself, if I do indeed live beyond the next five minutes, if I didn’t tell the authorities that a man and a woman are seated next to me. We are on the 70 bus to Queensway/Westbourne Grove. Neither one is texting. Neither one is on a computer. There are no earbuds dangling from their ears. They are not reading books. They are seated, with eyes wide open, gazing at each other, hands entwined, as two becoming one, gazing upon the greater glory that they will both share once they make it to heaven. I have never seen such devotion — I’ve only read about the devotion of those sad, misguided individuals who give up their lives for some greater cause. I have been married now for 33 years, and I’ve never felt such blind passion for my Harold. Do you think the couple may be up to no good? I highly think so.

#5 Right? Yes. Is this the number for a suspicious transaction? A horde of young punks with tattoos and alarming studded belts and black leather boots and black jeans are engaged in what seems like some ritual. I’m standing on the platform of Wimbledon. They seem pagan, as if engaged in some ritual. I’m afraid they plan to kill someone. Like they are looking to sacrifice someone. One is saying, “We are the Knights who say Ni.” And the other responds, “We demand a sacrifice!” And then another says, “We will say Ni again to you if you do not appease us.” What? What? Monty Python! What kind of snake is that? Is it poisonous? Should I be concerned? I’ve never experienced such scary shenanigans!

#6 Please, this is an emergency! I am on the Kings Cross Platform. Number two. A woman is standing next to me with a rather large package concealed underneath a billowy blue blouse. No, I’m not trying to alliterative, you imbecile! I can’t see what she’s hiding. She looks animated. Happy, even. I’m not sure why. No, she’s more anxious, maybe nervous. I don’t know. The look scares me. Is this what fear tastes like? I’m walking away from her now. What? Yes, yes, I’m still here…I’ve been telling people to clear the area…Wait…A girl is running towards her with open arms. The woman is pulling out a package! It’s wrapped! Oh my, it’s a white teddy bear!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the graduates of today are the leaders of tomorrow...um, except where time travel is involved, because that always makes everything complicated and confusing. Just ask Nathan Thornton.

Commencement Remarks From Dr. Chronos, Time-Traveling High School Graduation Speaker

By:
nrthornton@gmail.com

Congratulations, Class of…looks like sometime in the 1990s?…No? 2014? That’s fine. There’s virtually no difference.

Thank you for that warm and generous introduction, Principal Whidmer! And let’s have a hand for Principal Whidmer, who is celebrating his eighth year of leadership, out of a total of 12, when he resigns in disgrace, under investigation for illegal cockfighting before becoming horribly maimed shortly thereafter in a Cheesecake Factory bar fight.

As your principal mentioned, I am Dr. Chronos! Whom you all know from my many journeys into the very bowels of time!

Today I’m here to tell you that no matter how crazy or unrealistic they might be, you must always follow your dreams. It wasn’t that long ago, I was sitting right where you are. That’s right, I was once a student here myself, Class of 2078! Can I hear a “Go Fighting Indians!”? In the future, we aren’t called the “Fighting Indians,” of course — we’re the “Fighting Space Indians.” You see? Some things never change all that much!

Maybe you dream of becoming a famous astronaut, ready to cower in shame at the might of the powerful Tsyll’nl Armada. Or the President of the United States, bowing in terrified reverence before Ulgrakk the Destroyer. Or of one day visiting South America (not Europe, Asia, or 80% of the land mass of Africa, obviously). All you’ve got to do is believe in yourself.

Do you think I listened to the naysayers when they told me I’d never invent time travel? No. I believed in myself. Did I give in to the doubters when Chronosphere 1 exploded on the launch pad? Never! Did I pay attention to the so-called experts who told me to line the inner shell of Chronosphere 2 with a thin film of tungsten to protect myself against Time Madness? Of course not!

I should’ve, though.

But you can’t change the past. Or the future. Especially when clots of Time Madness cloud every synapse of your brain, rendering you unable to tell one from the other.

That doesn’t mean you won’t become a famous basketball player simply because the rise of the Dunkmotrons make human players obsolete in 2029. And it doesn’t mean you’ll never defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo, or watch a dinosaur making out with a robot, or assassinate President John F. Kennedy, or invent fire, or whatever your dream may be. I’m here to tell you that anything’s possible. Except inventing time travel. That job is taken.

I look around this auditorium today and I see all your friends and loved ones, here to tell you to follow your passion, but please, I beg of you, don’t do it. The chemicals in passion cause type 12 diabetes. But dreams, my young friends! Dreams are what make time travel possible. As you may well know, Chronosphere 2 is powered by the stolen dreams of orphans and prisoners. Orphans and prisoners have some pretty big dreams, and I’ll bet many of you do, too.

So when you pass through the hallowed halls where you’ve spent the last four long years… The last four long years, I said. Those seemingly endless four years? Such a loooong period of time. Nothing on this? Okay.

When you leave this auditorium today, do so knowing that you will be walking into a future that is bright with promise. Perhaps today, you’re the senior class president. And perhaps one day you’ll be the president of a Fortune 500 company! You won’t, Emma, but you will help cook and kill the last living giraffe! And they’ll let you keep some of it after you help wash up!

And you, Cayden! Today you’re the star running back, with dreams of blasting off to the stars. And you sort of will! Parts of you, anyway. And not the parts you’d expect!

Maybe you’re our valedictorian, with dreams of a physics degree from Pepperdine University! And accomplishing that dream in just four years, even after getting your girlfriend Madeline pregnant sophomore year. And maybe you dream of raising a child who will raise his own son to share your love of science and not be the kind of dick scientist who repeatedly tells his colleagues that time travel is “for pussies.” Well, Tyler, I’m here to tell you that that least a portion of those dreams will indeed become a reality.

Because students, it is you who are our future. Wait a minute, that’s not right. If there’s anybody here who’s the future, it’d be me, right? Were any of you guys born in or after 2050? No? Just me?

Class of This Current Year, if you recall just one thing from the words I’ve just spoken or am about to speak, I hope it’s this: Nothing is impossible, except changing the past or the future. So keep following your dreams, except for most of you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where "plastic surgery disasters" is more than just the name of a Dead Kennedys album. Matthew David Brozik has the whole horrifying story.

Quackpots

By:
brozik@gmail.com
http://matthewdavidbrozik.com

Justin Jedlica…famous for undergoing approximately 140 surgical procedures to look like Ken, didn’t…have the nicest things to say about Valeria Lukyanova, who has transformed herself to look like…a real-life Barbie doll. “She’s an illusionist.” Meanwhile, Jedlica takes pride in [having] taken extensive measures to actually become Ken. “My baby is my shoulders, because nobody has anything like them…I divided these so there’s six pieces — front, middle, and back. Just like the actual anatomy….” — E!

Amateurs, the both of them. Not that I don’t respect what they’ve done…but all they’ve done is had their bodies altered — on the outside — so that they’ll look like the bodies of fashionable dolls — but humanoid dolls. So big deal. And while I agree with “Ken” when he puts down “Barbie,” I do think it’s the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pot calling the polyvinyl chloride kettle uniformly pinkish-beige, as it were. Neither demonstrates true, unreserved commitment. I, on the other hand, have taken great pains to resemble — inside as well as out — a less obvious, but no less popular, choice of plaything: a rubber duck. Plus, while those two nutjobs have been turning themselves into toys for personal satisfaction, I’ve been doing it selflessly for the children. One child anyway: my daughter. My daughter loves rubber ducks. She’s almost two.

Of course I consulted with numerous doctors about the best way to go about turning myself into a real-life rubber duck. Almost every doctor I spoke with referred me to another doctor, and in almost every instance that second doctor was a psychiatrist. Never one to be dissuaded from what I believe to be “the right thing to do,” however, I kept knocking on doors until I found the man willing to help me. As it happens, Mr. — formerly Dr. — “L” (not his full name or his real initial) had just that morning surrendered his medical license voluntarily in a deal that allowed him to avoid multistate criminal prosecution for something or other, but that didn’t change the fact that he was — is — an extraordinarily gifted surgeon, which is just what I needed to turn me from an average-looking human into a beautiful duckling.

One hundred forty (approximately) surgeries, Ken? That’s all? I’ve undergone 500 to date, and we’re not finished yet. The “Doctor” and I — although these days it’s mostly him, I confess — are always identifying something else that can be nipped, tucked, tweaked, or grafted with rubber or a rubber-like material such as vinyl plastic, depending on market prices. Not that cost is an issue — I’d be willing to spend every penny I made (when I had a job, before I decided to become a rubber duck) on this quest, but the good Doctor agreed to donate his surgical services to the cause for free. He just wanted to stay in practice, he said, and I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him, if he wasn’t going to argue with me about the wisdom or sanity of what I’d proposed. A meeting of minds is a truly wonderful thing.

I won’t go into great detail about the half-thousand major and minor procedures involved, but an overview with highlights should suffice. We started at the bottom, so to speak, by which I mean we first tucked my legs under my butt and then secured them there, forming the base of the duck I was going to become. (It was, we decided, important to get the general shape squared away first, before we tackled texture, color and other details.) Pinning my arms and hands permanently to my torso gave me the basic wing structure I was looking for. And of course we shaved off all of my body hair, because rubber ducks are more or less completely smooth. This also meant removing my ears (the external parts, anyway) and fusing my nose with my lips and moving my nostrils to the top of my new “beak.” My eyelids had to go, too, because rubber ducks don’t blink.

When we had me in the right shape, the good doctor had a brainstorm: one of the most amusing things about a rubber duck is that it floats, and this is because it is hollow. So, with my permission, my partner in this adventure took a break from reimagining my outside appearance to remove my internal organs, one by one, paying careful attention to which could go and which were absolutely essential to my survival. You’d be surprised at what fell into which column, I’m sure. The end result, though, was a decrease of approximately half my original body weight, increasing my buoyancy in bathwater by more than 300% — which any engineer will tell you is true efficiency. One of the other truly ingenious things the brains of this operation thought to do was modify my vocal chords so that anything I try to say comes out like a squeak. Pure genius (he squeaked with genuine admiration)!

To report that my wife and daughter were impressed and appreciative would be only half true. My daughter was thrilled when her “Daddy Duck” was left on the doorstep of the house where we all used to live, together, as a happy family. She was still clapping her hands and squealing with delight even as my wife — my ex-wife, I should say — dragged her upstairs and into a bedroom, locking the door and screaming the whole time. It started to drizzle, but ducks like rain, so I just sat on the welcome mat until the police arrived, with an animal control specialist. When the effects of the tranquilizer wore off, I was in a child’s wading pool in a precinct stationhouse, and Doctor L was already there to collect me. (A tattoo on my underside identifies him as my veterinarian.) On the ride back to his office, he informed me that he had spoken with my ex-wife and explained the situation, and that she had calmed down considerably. The bad news is that my daughter doesn’t love ducks quite as much as she used to. She’s been growing ever fonder of frogs recently, but I shouldn’t be disheartened because he has a new plan. And he doesn’t think it will require removing my heart.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where you can always get the 411 on your professors. This week's TA's are Jess Chace and Emma Larson, the latter making her first appearance here.

Ratemyprofessor.com Reviews Of Famous And Historical Professors

By: ,
chace.jessica@gmail.com

Class: Transcendental Philosophy
Department: Religion
Course Level: Sotapanna
Teacher: Buddha
Review:

I took Professor Buddha’s Introduction to Transcendental Philosophy with the hope that I would uncover a deeper understanding of the human experience. What I got instead was a hospital bill for when I had to get my ACL surgically reattached after sitting in the lotus position for 48 hours during our final exam.

Bodhisattva University health plan only covered 80%.

Class: Animal Behavior 101
Department: Government
Course Level: Introductory
Teacher: Merlin
Review:

I’m not a fan of the university distribution requirements. Shape-shifting may have been helpful for knights back in the Celtic era, but things have changed. Spending a day as an ant will hardly teach me how to practice courtly love. All the hard magic types seem to assume that there’s a concrete answer to these questions of self-identity, as if all I have to do to figure out who I am is pull a sword out of a stone. There should be more courses like my philosophy class, where we spend our time discussing important questions, like whether a round table has a head.

As for Professor Merlin: he’s definitely a product of a different era. He’s still rocking the facial hair, shining robes, pacifist thing. He says he’s a child of the sixties, but everyone else describes the 460s as the Dark Ages, when people only wore dark colors. Also, his tests always seem to cover the material we’re supposed to learn in the next lecture, rather than what we’ve already done.

Honestly, the best part of this class was Nimue, the hot TA. Better hope she’s still around next year, although rumor has it she and Merlin have shacked up together. Gross.

Class: Race, Class and Gender in a Post-Democratic Era
Department: Philosophy
Course Level: Tripartite
Teacher: Socrates
Review:

Froze my ass off in that class — lecture hall was a cave.

Class: Celestial Bodies Not According to the Catholic Church
Department: Astronomy
Course Level: Intermediate
Teacher: Galileo Galilei
Review:

Although Galileo warned us not to adopt his theories lest we, too, be convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church and sentenced to a life of solitary confinement, those of us who are seriously considering academia as a career don’t really see these two paths as being altogether so different.

*One small note to the future female students of Galileo’s class. I sometimes wondered whether Galileo was using that telescope for some purpose other than gazing at Jupiter’s moons — Justina’s, maybe?

Class: Governing Galactic Systems
Department: Political Science
Course Level: Graduate
Teacher: Emperor Palpatine
Review:

I know that in terms of surreptitiously reorganizing a democratic coalition into an evil-ruling dictatorship, staging a coup, and subjugating entire sovereign nations to serve the whims of one’s nefarious pursuits, everyone expects Palpatine to be a shoo-in for the imperial throne. And yes, I understand, these things tend to be political. But the guy hasn’t had any paradigm-shifting theories since, like, a long time ago, and which are likely published in an obscure literary journal, housed in some library far FAR away…

Moreover, this guy CANNOT take any criticism. Just the other day, he came into my command center wanting to workshop strategies for the expansion of Dark Side hegemony, but when I problematized some aspects of his thinking, he gave me this look that just crushed me. I don’t think I’ll ever speak up in class again.

Class: The Western Canon
Department: Humanities
Course Level: Advanced
Teacher: Harold Bloom
Review:

If you are the average, white, prep-school-educated private college student, DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS. It’s just an excuse for Professor Bloom to showcase his photographic memory. If, however, you’re a minority, don’t worry about that — you won’t get in. According to Professor Bloom, minorities have never written anything worthy of inclusion in the Western Canon. Interestingly, women are allowed in the class, which is odd, since he says they’ve never written anything worth reading either. Professor Bloom is a big fan of Henry IV, but my only takeaway from the class was a Falstaffian drinking habit — his theories of poetry gave me so much anxiety that I was under the influence all semester.

Class: 001
Department: English
Course Level: Prerequisite for major (all)
Teacher: Annie Sullivan
Review:

Water water water water water

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our pride in our automobile is exceeded only by our ability to fake humility about the same. Matt Hunter is your chauffeur.

The Humble Sports Car Owner

By:
mrhnter@gmail.com

2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Pedestrian: Nice car, buddy. The one percent must be fun.

Henry [leaning against car]: What? Oh thanks. Yeah, I won this at a casino. You see, I have a gambling problem and this car, unfortunately, is a manifested symbol of this problem. I know what you’re thinking — “Oh what a terrible problem to have. You get a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta with an eight-cylinder V12 engine and super-frame chassis out of this deal.” Well, my problem got out of hand, so my wife divorced me, took the kids, and seized our house in the settlement. Now this car is all I have, and it’s a constant reminder of my horrible addiction. Yes, I’ve gained a nice car, but I’ve lost the true prize — my family…and love [tears up].

Pedestrian: …oh.

Henry: Do you know how hard it is to sleep sitting upright in Italian leather?

1965 Aston Martin DB5

Acquaintance: Wow, Michael. Can someone say midlife crisis? Ha ha!

Michael: [looking down] Huh? Oh, this thing. I just got it from my deceased father. He passed away last week from carbon monoxide poisoning, and it’s what he left me in his will. Did I want his riches? No. Because he didn’t have any. He put all his money in this damn car. He couldn’t even afford to put me through college! I spent years competing with this thing — while my Dad dropped another five grand to fix the gearbox, I was struggling to maintain my job to pay for community college. So is a 48-year-old who still works at Home Depot allowed to have a midlife crisis?! I wouldn’t know. I can’t afford one.

2014 Bugatti Veyron

A beautiful girl pulls up to the stoplight next to Anthony. He accidentally revs his engine.

Girl: [yells out her window] What are you compensating for, asshole?!

Anthony: [Looks at her] Oh, this. This was my one wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m dying from a rare disease that I got at birth and I only have a few weeks left to live. My family’s never had a lot of money, so my wish was to drive a nice car for a week. The Bugatti Company was kind enough to loan out this car before I pass [coughs].

The light turns green. Anthony drives the speed limit.

2014 Corvette Stingray

Jack walks slowly from the parking lot to the restaurant where his co-worker waits outside.

Co-worker: [overly sarcastic] Boy, Jack, could you park any farther away? I can barely see your car from here! Ha ha! Ah, I get it — you don’t want some knucklehead parking next to ya’ and scratching that beauty.

Jack: [sighs] Actually, I park far away cause my physical therapist says I need to do as much walking as possible to get my legs rehabilitated. Ever since my battalion’s Humvee came in contact with that IED outside of Baghdad and that shrapnel ripped through my calf, I haven’t been able to walk normal.

Co-worker: Well, pretty coolio that you bought yourself such a suh-weet ride when you returned to the States.

Jack: No. It’s from the American government. Some sort of sick consolation prize, I guess, for being a wounded vet. I could have used money instead for my family, but no, the government wanted to put me in an “American-made machine” to support the country. Disgusting. America’s the real machine. A war machine.

Co-worker: …Okie doke. Well, at least this warm weather’s nice for walkin’.

Jack: The heat that rises off that arid parking lot only reminds me of the brutal temperatures I faced every day in the Iraqi desert.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are all about the Twitter and the multinational corporations. And sometimes the two together, thanks to Devin Schiff.

3 Reasons You Should Follow Corporate Twitter Accounts

By:
schiff.devin@gmail.com

Think about your favorite 140-character crafters: Entertainers? Politicians? “Gurus”?

Where are corporate Twitter accounts on your list? Our business brands are engaged in a good and just effort to cut through the meaningless clutter of our consumer culture. They encourage us to see our lives for what they really are.

But we don’t listen. We dismiss the depth of their cultural understanding by saying, “What is all this advertising on my timeline?” We frown at their wit and ignore their attempts to engage us. Why?

The products that these companies spend their hard-earned money developing, manufacturing, and putting on shelves in buildings near our houses form the fabric of our lives. Doesn’t this mean that corporate Twitter accounts understand us best of all?

It does mean that. Let’s all follow corporate Twitter accounts. Here are three reasons why:

1. They create meaning

Corporate Twitter accounts have a profound understanding of why people identify with certain things. They synthesize relevant contemporary phenomena in unique and authentic ways.

This perceptive perspective was evident in a recent tweet by the beautiful minds behind the CheezChips® Snack Crackers account. It reads: “#WordOfTheYear,” with an accompanying Instagram of the word “selfie” imprinted on delectable CheezChips, one letter per cracker.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Did you know that “selfie” was the word of the year? You do now. So that’s one thing. But what the McLuhan disciples at CheezChips accomplish in a single tweet goes much, much deeper.

The artful inscription of “s-e-l-f-i-e” on the CheezChips effectively creates a selfie of the snack crackers themselves. What an incisive commentary. This tweet demands that we consider the sociolinguistic implications of practicing this solipsistic form of self-portraiture. Also, #nofilter. In a world concerned about embedded patriarchal and heteronormative social constructs, CheezChips teaches us a lot about defining yourself on your own terms. #SayCheez!

Imagine if Jackson Pollock had to release hundreds of his little spilled masterpieces a week, and you’d have some idea of how hard it is to produce so much meaningful content on demand. But corporate Twitter accounts do it, because today’s media cyberscape is relentless and you need coverage you can count on.

2. They help you improve yourself

Have you ever been at a loss for words? Probably. Look at your Twitter. You’ll find weeks where you had nothing to say. Just like famous name you recognize Ralph Waldo Emerson, you’re suffering from a deficit of #self-reliance.

Every single day corporate Twitter accounts selflessly invite you to speak your mind. They ask thousands of stimulating questions that provoke answers. Questions such as: “Which flavor of #CheezChips is your favorite?” and “What kind of #Monday is the best #Monday for a #CheezChip?” and “In honor of the #DayOfTheDead, what else (besides #CheezChips) would you want to be buried with?” Now your open mind is spinning off to the limitless curiosities of the human spirit.

Whether you answer these questions immediately (CheezChips Tangerz™ Chipotle Mayo Burst, partly sunny, a picture of your family) or print them out and post them on the wall of your dining room as a conversation piece, it will feel good to know that you’re participating. #SayCheez!

Corporate Twitter accounts want to hear YOU. We know you want to discuss conversations. To share ideas. To challenge everything.

If you talk about us, we’ll find you. And you should hope we find you, because that’s the first step to finding yourself.

3. We’re all going to die someday

Corporate Twitter accounts understand that life is fleeting — we don’t waste your time. Instead, we try really hard to connect with all of you. People don’t understand how hard we try. When we write, “Retweet if you were going to party tonight, but then you found your hidden stash of #CheezChips,” it’s not just an idle commentary on how life plans are often altered by external forces.

It’s a cry for help. For all of us.

You think I want to confront existential issues in the face of the Sisyphean thought-generation dumpster fire that is Twitter? No, but as the guy behind the CheezChips corporate Twitter account, I have a public duty to perform.

No one’s ambition is to be the Digital Social Strategist for CheezChips. This is the best I could do. I don’t deserve any better, I know that now. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up. Actually I really wanted to be a fire engine, but I settled for fireman and I’ve been settling ever since. Now look upon me, trying to make you relate CheezChips Healthz™ Italian Wheatgrass crackers to the #FirstDayOfSpring like some kind of Pavlovian wind chime ringing desperately in an empty room. #SayCheez! I hate myself.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, retweet this, or come find me wandering the snack aisle at Target, wondering how it went so horribly wrong.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always ready to admit our mistakes. Especially when they were really made by Erik Cofer.

We’d Like To Apologize For Last Season’s Egregious Oversights

By:
erikcofer@gmail.com

As you can probably imagine, running a television series is no easy task. We try our best, but even so, sometimes we err. Many of you have brought last season’s errors and incongruities to our attention, and for that we thank you. Rest assured that the concerns you voiced have been heard loud and clear.

For instance, several fans sent us visual evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the gilded silver vase resting atop the Henderson family hearth in episode 3 appears in episodes 4-7 as a gilded bronze vase. The silver vase was dislodged and destroyed in the midst of a rehearsal for episode 4. We improvised the best we could, but alas, it clearly wasn’t good enough. Please accept our sincere apologies.

Others have stated their displeasure at the use of contemporary music to accompany a show putatively set in the 1970s. Again, that’s our bad. Ditto with the cell phones. With a show as intricate as this one, these little anachronisms will occasionally rear their ugly heads.

Perhaps the most befuddling question we repeatedly received was “What happened to Cecilia’s pregnancy?” None of us could recall Cecilia ever becoming pregnant, so we went back and reviewed the tape, and sure enough, the previous season ended with a dramatic close-up of Cecilia’s positive pregnancy test. That was a pretty embarrassing gaff on our part — admittedly punctuated by her revelation in the ensuing season premiere that radiation from the thermonuclear terrorist attack had rendered her infertile.

And we could have sworn that we had chronicled the nuclear holocaust at the end of season 3, but it turns out we decided at the last minute to end on Edward’s birthday party instead, which is of course where Cecilia took the pregnancy test. Once we realized this narrative omission, the confused faces of our actors made a lot more sense — as did your puzzled and indignant responses to the new post-apocalyptic plotline.

The copious death threats you’ve made on the lives of our writing staff solidify your status as an attentive, learned audience. You perceive every detail, and have no qualms about bluntly informing us when we’ve offended your sense of televisual authenticity. It’s really a treat for us to write, produce, and direct a series for fans as savvy as you.

We’re always seeking new ways to surprise you guys, but not every attempt to do so proves successful. We truly had only your gratification in mind with the big twist in episode 8 that Ken was actually a cyborg. Little did we know at the time, we were only fooling ourselves. As you, our viewers, have astutely pointed out over and over again, Ken was already revealed to be a cyborg five episodes earlier. Now we know why the idea seemed so familiar to us. Anyway, egg all over our faces on that one. (Of course, it sure would have been nice if a certain actor had spoken up before we proceeded to design a pseudo-cybernetic body cast for him for the second time, but hey, there’s only so much you can ask of someone being paid $25,000 per minute of screen time.)

And yes, you’re all totally right. Not only would Sarah not be twerking to the Miley Cyrus song playing on her iPhone when she’s suddenly invited to compete on Wheel of Fortune in 1973, but she also wouldn’t be live tweeting her whirlwind of emotions on the set. That’s another anachronistic blunder on our part, no doubt. Nonetheless, the persistent e-mails reminding us that Wheel of Fortune didn’t first air until 1975 kind of seem like piling on.

With the network’s renewal decision rapidly approaching, it’s understandable that so many of you have questioned the show’s future viability. We absolutely have every intention in the world of continuing the series, though we acknowledge that killing off the entire cast in the season finale seems to indicate otherwise. Don’t worry, we’re diligently devising a way to bring everyone back — yes, even Ken, whose half-human, half-machine body was ripped to shreds by that new radiation-generated hybrid species introduced in the last two episodes.

Once again, we’d like to apologize for the numerous faux pas that may have diminished your viewing experience this past season. We will not, however, apologize for the alien abduction subplot introduced in episode 7 and promptly abandoned after episode 9. Continuity issues aside, those were three rock solid episodes, and we defy anyone to attest otherwise.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we occasionally take a contrarian view on the subject of kidnapping. Special correspondent Tyler Gooch has the facts in his first piece for us.

To My Son’s Kidnapper

By:
tyler.gooch@ymail.com

Dear Kidnapper,

My name is Glenn Adams. I am Jeffrey’s father. My wife Sharon and I received your ransom note requesting $250,000 for the safe return of our son. We would like to inform you that we do intend to pay the ransom. But it will probably take us until next Friday to round up the money. So if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on Jeffrey for us until then, we would really appreciate it. A few things you should know about Jeffrey though:

Jeffrey has quite an affinity for candy (we assume that that is how you lured him away from the playground). Please do not let him have any candy containing peanuts; he has an allergy. While the peanuts will not kill him, they will cause his hands to swell up and he will begin to urinate everywhere. Do you rent? If so, you can pretty much kiss that security deposit goodbye.

While we think you are a bad guy for taking our son, we do feel like we should give you fair warning. Jeffrey will often signal to you that he has a secret he wants to whisper in your ear. Do not lean in to hear the secret. Most of time Jeffrey will just spit into your ear, though on occasion he will have an actual secret. What he whispers to you will be horrifying. My therapist is still trying to help me deal with the night my son whispered, “Dad, we don’t need to put up the flyers about Mr. Snuggles.” You see, we had recently lost our family cat, Mr. Snuggles, and printed out flyers offering a reward. I mistakenly asked why the flyers were unnecessary.

I then sat in disbelief as I learned, in vivid detail, how Mr. Snuggles was, in fact, never lost, but had instead met a grisly demise at the hands of my son. After Jeffrey finished depicting this gruesome scene in his soft, innocent whisper, he stepped back, looked me in the eye and said, “I guess there IS more than one way to skin a cat!” He then cackled maniacally as he ran down the hallway in his dinosaur pajamas. Every night since, I have lain awake in bed, unable to picture anything but a suffering Mr. Snuggles. If you forget about this and do bend down to hear a secret, pray that you only get a loogie in the ear.

Jeffrey repeats a lot of the words and phrases that he hears adults use, even curse words, so please watch your language around him.

This is going to sound a bit odd, but always protect your femoral and carotid arteries. We once let Jeffrey read an anatomy textbook that piqued his interest. This was our greatest failure as parents.

I am sure that by this point Jeffrey has begun repeatedly asking you for carrots. For your own safety, please soften the carrots in boiling water before giving them to Jeffrey. If you must serve Jeffrey raw carrots, please make sure that he does not sharpen them with his teeth and make sure there are no rubber bands nearby. He will fashion a rudimentary bow and arrow and launch the carrots everywhere. The soft carrots do less damage to the drywall and your flesh.

If you have some sort of physical deformity, it would be best not to let Jeffrey know or see. He will mock you mercilessly. Kids can be so cruel sometimes.

As you may already know, our son does not like it when you call him “Jeff.” If he asks you to call him “The Demon Prince of Darkness, Sorrow and Hellfire,” then please refer to him accordingly — he is just having one of his “episodes of lunacy.” It should pass shortly.

Do not mess up the correct uses of “good” and “well.” This upsets him. Also, try to avoid adverbs when possible. Use passive voice at your own risk.

If you happen to fall asleep without locking Jeffrey up, he will put your hand in a glass of warm water. We’ve tried to get him to stop, but boys will be boys.

All in all, we are desperate to get our little Jeffrey back, but again, it will take us until next Friday to get the money together for his ransom. If you need us between now and next Friday, please contact the Myrtle Beach Best Western. This feels weird to say to our son’s captor, but thank you.

Sincerely,

Glenn and Sharon Adams

P.S. Please don’t let this letter frighten you. Jeffrey is a good kid but a bit quirky. If this letter does frighten you, do not try to get rid of Jeffrey by abandoning him in the woods. He has certainly already picked up your scent and he will be very upset when he inevitably finds you. Trust us, abandoning him will not work.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would never rank the identity of a typeface as being of greater importance than the content it embodies. But Ronald Dario would. He's peculiar that way.

A Note About The Type

By:
ronalddario@gmail.com

The text of this book is set in Gunta Liebe, which is a type family developed in 1957 by German typeface designer Stefan Wagner. Gunta Liebe was initially designed in an attempt to streamline visibility and to impress Austrian architect Gunta Miedinger (née Muller), who worked at the Bauhaus school at the same time as Wagner. The two met for the first time at an office Christmas party and shared an enthusiastic conversation about their mutual fondness of the shape, construction and handling of the beetle. The interaction left the type designer quite smitten with the young architect. Miedinger (née Muller) later said that she “thought we were talking about the popular car at first,” but soon “realized that [Wagner] was actually referring to those really gross bugs. I told him that I had to use the toilet and left the party altogether. He was way too excited about bugs.”

Inspired, Wagner decided to change the font’s name from Abssichwalz — named after the late grandmother who raised him — to Gunta Liebe. Wagner believed that dedicating a completed typeface to his new crush would be the grandest romantic gesture possible. In a journal entry from 1958, Wagner wrote he had “told Mother and Father about sweet Gunta, but frustratingly, they only feigned interest.” Mother and Father were the names of Wagner’s two favorite cats, whose faces he would later have tattooed onto his inner thighs.

In February of 1959, Miedinger (née Muller) met and fell in love with Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger, developer of what is now known as Helvetica. When the news of their relationship reached Wagner, he reportedly felt a “betrayal that quickly escalated into madness” and “basically stopped interacting with his friends and colleagues.” Wagner’s family never heard from him again, which he would later blame on his decision to put Johnny America — his other cat — in charge of his day-to-day correspondence.

Wagner spent the next 18 years obsessively focused on the completion of Gunta Liebe, going through 402 iterations of the typeface. One colleague remembered him as “a very focused man,” recalling the sheer will that Wagner displayed as he “traveled around the city, collecting any printed material that used Helvetica,” which Wagner then “ate for sustenance and also in the hopes that it would ‘take away some of Helvetica’s evil power.’ Sometimes it was hundreds of pamphlets, or an entire shelf of books, or even the awning from a butcher’s shop! But he never complained or hesitated — he just consumed.” Wagner’s desire to perfect Gunta Liebe and win back Miedinger’s (née Muller) affection prevented him from working on or delivering any other project for the Bauhaus. Stefan Wagner was officially terminated from his position in 1966, after taking an extended medical leave caused by an almost lethal number of paper cuts in his mouth, esophagus and stomach.

For nine years, Wagner lived in a constant state of fatigue — likely due to his subpar living conditions (abandoned beef rendering plant) and poor diet (expired tins of meat seasoned with rolling tobacco). In the long effort to finish Gunta Liebe, Wagner tried many strange experimental techniques. He would lock himself in a cold cellar for weeks, depriving his body of food, clean water and sunlight in a ritual that he believed would give him the motivation to finally complete the type family. Instead it gave the designer a severe case of toxic shock syndrome, which caused a series of hallucinations that he called “visions.”

Wagner wrote about his most inspiring vision, recalling “a giant cat coming to me with Miedinger in her mouth.” The giant cat then proceeded to “throw that villain into the air, catching him and swallowing him in one gulp,” and the vision ends with the giant cat “[pulling] out Max’s skeleton whole, still connected, and presenting it to me as a gift.” In the subsequent journal entries, Wagner mostly writes about visions in which he is making “glorious” music by “playing on [Miedinger's] skeleton ribcage like a xylophone” and “creating beautiful piano pieces by pressing down on Max’s huge, crooked teeth like piano keys.”

Wagner contracted pneumonia in 1974 and lived with the condition for 11 months before finally succumbing to being hit by a small furniture truck and then immediately having his head run over by a slightly larger furniture truck. His body was cremated and — as instructed in his will — his ashes were scattered across a thick paste, mixed thoroughly, and smeared across the Bauhaus campus.

The Miedingers were married for 52 years, passing away from natural causes at the exact same time, peacefully and in each other’s arms after more than five decades of a loving and entirely conflict-free marriage. The financial success of Helvetica afforded the couple the luxury of building a guard tower and moat around their home after a series of mysterious events that resulted in Miedinger (née Muller) waking up with her toenails clipped and several inches of hair missing.

In 1988, the final iteration of Gunta Liebe was discovered inside a chest full of preserved beetles that were dressed in miniature women’s clothes and wearing crude wigs made out of human hair. The book containing the completed version of Gunta Liebe was found wrapped neatly in a parcel addressed to Miedinger (née Muller), never mailed. The other 401 iterations of Gunta Liebe and the majority of Stefan Wagner’s journals were reportedly incinerated by accident shortly after the director of the Bauhaus found a sandy paste in his coffee.

Wagner was survived by his three cats, whose inbred descendants are the sole beneficiaries of any and all proceeds made from Gunta Liebe.

The secondary type is Futura Bold.