* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the only constant is change. That, and the humorous prose stylings of Mr. Terry McMenamin in his first piece for us.

Your Change Report


You know how you keep hearing that your e-mail’s been hacked and your privacy is just about non-existent? Well guess what? We at the NSA didn’t screw up after all. Turns out we were doing you a favor.

We know some of you may still be a tad on edge about this lack of privacy thing, so we want to assure you we’re really sorry about it — especially now that it’s been made public. But here’s the thing — as a result of our so-called surveillance, every U.S. citizen can now receive a monthly report documenting the many changes that took place in each of their lives over the previous month. How great is that? We’re sure you’ll find this information invaluable as well as fascinating. God knows we did.

Yes, we know everything about you! And, because of that, we can offer you this value-added service — free of charge!!

What follows is the personalized, detailed report for you, Ms. Shirley Madigan:

The directions for updating your iPhone are incorrect on the Apple site. You’ll need to go to the Apple store (make an appointment unless you want to spend the day). Closest one for you is at Sunnydale Mall on 65th. Go to the 2nd level, it’s on the right, near Claire’s. There’s a Forever 21 across the way but DO NOT buy anything there. Not only is no one 21 forever, but you can’t even pass for temporarily 35 anymore. When you make the Apple appointment, ask for Morris — he specializes in helping females in your age and weight range.

The potato chips you can’t stop eating (no real judgment here but really, you do put those things away) now come in a bag instead of a box. They also went up in price (and calories! Again, no judging). Note that the recipe for your favorite flavor has changed — the honey barbecue is now just barbecue. We tried them — the U.S. government going the extra mile once more! Our opinion? New flavor’s gross. They’ve also been relocated to aisle eight at SaveMart; the CVS near your work no longer carries them.

Walgreen’s no longer sells the Maybelline “Mad for Magenta” lipstick you seem to think is so flattering. L’Oreal’s “Capetown Fuchsia” comes pretty close. With your coloring, however, we’d suggest a different direction. Cover Girl now has a new line geared specifically to those with your particular complexion, live in your geographical area, and who get approximately 3.5 hours of sunlight a week. It’s called “Perk up that Pallor.” Any shade in the new line would be a vast improvement.

The frozen yogurt store around the corner from your apartment went out of business. That crap is all sugar anyway. Besides, until you can stop eating all those damn chips (see above), who are you kidding — you’ve got no business there.

Your husband isn’t coming home tonight. Probably not tomorrow either, or ever. You know how you complained about his haircuts being too expensive — and how you set him up with your hairdresser, who’s cheaper? Well, the good news is, you’ve been saving money. Bad news is he likes her. Guess you’re the one who needs a new hairdresser. That may be a good thing — that last haircut she gave you isn’t doing you any favors. And don’t even get us started on those highlights — 1993 anyone? The woman who sits across from you at work — Peggy? She’s got a lawyer who’s exactly what you need right now. Her lawyer specializes in husbands who philander with service industry people — masseurs, hairdressers, plumbers and the like. (I know, everyone’s got a niche nowadays, right?) While we’re on the subject of Peggy, she has your same bone structure and hair texture; her present haircut is absolutely stunning and would totally work for you.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your report. Please do not reply to this email. If you have any questions, go to: http://www.usa.gov/ > NSA Email Reportage > Customer Service. If the customer service link doesn’t work, we already know about it and will fix it when we get a chance.

Until next month, Ms. Shirley Madigan. And, as always, God Bless America!!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are celebrating the second and final week of Zane Shetler Half-Month, or as it is now known, "Two Weeks That Didn't Quite Change The World, But Hey, We Tried!"

Thus Spake, Ran, Drank Zarathustra



When Zarathustra was thirty-some years old, he underwent a crisis and he left behind the comfort of his living room and went running forth into his neighborhood and the adjoining parks and trails. There he jogged and he did not tire of his solitude nor his running mix for many months. But at last his heart turned and he muttered to his playlist:

Great song selections, what would your happiness be if you had not these ears for your sick beats to entertain? Would you not grow weary if it weren’t for your being heard?

Behold! I am likewise weary of my wisdom. My cup overfloweth with the science of running and the nuances of trail etiquette. I am like a pair of shorts that has gathered too much sweat and mildew. I need hands outstretched to take them and wring them out.

I should like to give this knowledge away, and Zarathustra wants to be man again. Thus Zarathustra went to a pub run.


Zarathustra stood among the runners gathered in front of the brewery. They were eager to exercise as one and then enjoy a post-run beer and socializing. Just like the others, he mingled awkwardly and jockeyed for position to be nearer the graduate student females stretching on the sidewalk. They did not look at him when he spoke, but he knew he would soon have disciples among a crowd so clearly desperate with spiritual yearning:

I wish to speak to the despisers of the body, those who hide their true selves under reflective gear, specialized running caps, and wrap-around sunglasses. “I am a runner, body and soul” — so he speaks. And why should a gear-wearer not speak such?

But the enlightened man shows up gearless and says — “I need not your rigmarole — special dry fits and light-up vests, watches and GPS. I fear not that I shall get lost and perish from dehydration on tonight’s three-mile loop!”

This is the man we should yearn to be. We should aspire to be he who’s Self says to the Ego: “Feel thirsty!” as he forsakes his bandoleer of two-ounce water bottles and runs proudly into the night with little more than the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet.

Such a man is our hero. He would also rise to any challenge — every possible impending 5K!


The crowd was silent, somewhat stunned. One man asked if he had an upcoming race he was trying to announce. Zarathustra waved him off like a fly and continued:

Of course, there are important events on the horizon. But there are changes that must occur first to cause a man to seek out a pub run such as this — I dare you tell me it is not so. Indeed, he must undergo three metamorphoses that lead him to this point. I will describe them:

First, as a boy, he must wrap himself in the sweet warmth of identity that is high school athletics, despite the fact that he is a verily un-vital factor to that same team’s success.

Next, he must leave behind the world of youthful competition to be borne aloft on the wings of his first job, second job, third job, during which a once laughably easy Turkey Trot comes to pose a daunting challenge. He must rise to the task with equal parts confidence and shame.

Then the third metamorphoses. The most important! There must be a catalyst: a tremendous break-up, a psychosexual upheaval that occurs when his running career is at its all-time low, thus resulting in his rededication to running, a forgoing of Netflix, and swift action upon that hitherto unquenched desire to garner greater friendships and meet more potential love interests.

Then, and only then, does a man attend a pub run.


After speaking thus, Zarathustra began to weep. A young woman asked him if he’d been drinking already. Another asked if he was going to make an announcement or not, because they’d like to get started already. Zarathustra turned to them and yelled:

There are always those who go against us. There will be those who say, “Why must you clog our thoroughfares?” There will always be those men who ride along upon motorized wheels, who honk and flail their limbs, chastising us for daring to cross roads the way we see fit. And to these beasts, our laughter rules supreme. We giggle and we flit around the bend.

But alas, there are enemies we cannot easily escape. They are the naysayers among us. They claim to pledge allegiance to the brotherhood of the light feet, but their hearts — and feet! — are in fact heavy with despair. Flee from their sly vengeance. Flee these apostates!

Avoid he who runs far ahead, so seemingly fast and stolid in nature, to all eyes giving forth the intention of going the distance — Yet no! The pack watches in horror as he slows up, massages a cramp in his side, stumbles behind a bush and presumes to vomit.

Flee too the man that wears headphones and says unto himself, “I shall run together and apart at the same time” — for he cuts himself off from the lively flock and in doing so undermines the foundation of our sacred bond.

If you meet these apostates, look them in the eye and profess that lesser acts of treachery have felled empires. And if you, yourself, are the men I decry, run quickly away and don’t stop till you’ve run full away from yourself!


In the meanwhile, evening had come and the impatient runners were talking over him, for even curiosity and disgust grow tired, and Zarathustra realized that his teachings had fallen on deaf ears.

“They are sleeping and running, their dreams are reality to them. Yet the ears that listen to me do not heed my lovely truths.” Zarathustra said this to his heart.

“My suffering and my pity — who cares about them! This is my night, my time to shine: rise up now, rise up, great noontide!

In a last effort to save face, Zarathustra leapt onto the picnic table and clapped his hands together before announcing:

Hark! Um, guys? I guess what I’m getting at in a roundabout way is that there is a fantastic 5K Fun Run downtown next Saturday. It’s supposed to be really great weather. Just a five-dollar entry fee and all proceeds help fund my trip to Nietzsche’s tomb in partial completion of my philosophy PhD. I hope to see you there!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where grammar is always very, very personal, no matter how impersonal it may seem. We are also delighted to announce that this is week one of Zane Shetler Half-Month, possibly the most thrilling literary event of the last part of August.

Grammar 101, Tinged By Resentment


Good morning class! I hope that your weekend was enjoyable. Mine was certainly very eventful. Remember how we talked last week about the difference between internal and external conflicts? Well, I found my weekend to be full of both.

But okay. Deep breath. I feel good. I’m here, with 35 students in front of me. Let’s get going with today’s grammar lesson: we’re going to focus on common grammatical mistakes and traps.

Now, first off, let’s look at the difference between your and you’re.

Your signifies possession. For example, “This is your fault,” as in the fault belongs to you. Not me. Some other examples are as follows:

Your friends are coming to dinner with us again?”

Your lack of interest in any form of commitment is staggering.”

Or, “I don’t think your face is something that I want to see like ever again.”

Notice that in each example, the noun that directly follows your is not something that I possess or that is within my sphere of control to change. It’s on you. These are your issues. Your totally separate-from-me-now issues.

As for the other you’re, with the apostrophe and -re, it should be very easy to remember that it’s a contraction of the two words you and are, for example:

You’re a scumbag.” See, you could also say, “You are a scumbag.”

We can also flip it, go aspirational and more self-affirming with our you’re’s.

As in, “You’re not going to spend any more time fretting over this bullshit, because you’re a truly beautiful soul who is a great inspiration to all these malleable youth — our world of tomorrow.”

And, you know what, “You’re going to start going to run club where you’re going to meet somebody super hot and chill whose idea of a good time is not playing videogames with a bunch of bros till four a.m. on a weeknight, hotboxing the 400-square-foot apartment that you’re paying the entire rent for, all while he looks put out when you ask him to pay for pizza, saying, ‘I’m just trying to find a job that doesn’t compromise my values as a writer.'”

Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of these kind of homophone errors in your writing so far this semester. I’d like us to nip these mistakes in the bud before you find that your most valuable years are gone and your sweet young adulthood has turned out to be nothing more than a shamble of wasted days, a repository of bitter memories.

Okay? So let’s look at whether and weather.

Whether should be used to introduce alternatives. As in, “I’ve been trying for some time to decide whether the new TFA Biology teacher down the hall would make a better partner than you.” Note that there is no mention of sunshine or precipitation.

Another example could be, “Maybe it’s time to find out whether or not Tinder is a viable dating platform. I hear it is very easy to use.”

Or, “Some time during season three of House of Cards I realized that whether I’m totally alone or whether I find someone else, I’m still going to be a better person just so long as I’m not with you.”

As for weather without the first h, it should only be used to indicate the actual weather, as in the temperature, the wind, the clouds, etc. You know, just like, “Check out that foggy weather out there. I hope that you’ll get lost in all that fog and fall into a lake and drown while I’m cozy at home with my new lover — a caring, working class guy I haven’t met yet, but who I’ll no doubt meet at the public library when we both reach for the same copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

Lastly, I want us to take a look at peek and peak. These are interchanged all too often and I’m hoping that a quick lesson on their differences will set us all straight.

Now peek with two e’s means that you are getting a quick look at something, as in, “I got a peek at your Gmail last week.” I think it is easiest to remember that this peek is related to a glance at something because the two e’s in the word are representative of the two eyes we each have in our head. Yes, two eyes that allow us to see the truth, even when someone tries to keep it hidden, buried, stashed away in a folder ostensibly labeled “Work Stuff,” despite the fact that work is a concept as foreign to that person as the concepts of loyalty, dignity, and self-respect.

Another example could be, “I got a peek at your Facebook messages and a peek at your texts and a peek at your direct message Tweets too.”

Of course, be careful not to confuse that peek with peak with an a, which means a summit or the topmost point of something…or evidently the private parts of some gym skank, like, “Sharon, from the climbing gym, who thinks it’s appropriate to send e-mails requesting that you ‘summit her peak with your nut tool,'” whatever the hell that means.

To which I counter that I might have wasted several important years on you, but it doesn’t even matter, because, “I’m still healthy and vibrant and I’ll be damned if I’ve already hit my peak and wasted my best days on you. I mean, I got miles to go before I sleep, amiright Rob Frost!?”

Well, we’ve covered a lot of grammatical ground today! I have to say that I feel particularly relieved to have worked our way through some of these issues. Anybody have any questions? Nope? Good.

I’ll be passing out worksheets to review these concepts.

If you get stuck or have any questions, just let me know. I’ll be using this time to update my relationship status and untag six years worth of Facebook photos.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to channel James Brown every now and then, with the manly help of Michael Fowler. As always, we encourage you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

A Man’s World


Training class over, I hit the floor with the rest of the new service reps. I have one goal: to make myself stand out at Red Bone Financing like a supernova. Shouldn’t be difficult, since the others are mostly females, soft, dim and troublesome by nature, along with a few chestless guys built to stand still for 30 years. There’s even one pre-corpse toting a cane and portable breathing apparatus. I mean, what is this dead end even doing here? Are times so hard even this schlub has to work? Someone needs to drag him out in the hall and shoot him. To make things worse, the class is assigned to a female supervisor named Bippi or something that cute, with a torpedo-shaped hairdo and her face rouged up like a barn. I need to make her understand right away that I am not afraid of any woman and if it comes to a fight, I will prevail.

Score my first coup right off the bat by commandeering the best office-space in our area, the only one with a full window view. I achieve this feat by scouting out the floor before we’re supposed to and leaving a crapload of my stuff behind, my empty briefcase on the desk, and my jacket draped over the chair, to hold my spot. Some high-strung, spindly female deprived of both muscle and good sense tries to move in on me when I return, pretending she doesn’t see my things, but I defend my turf with tenacity. She leaves in tears, boo hoo boo hoo.

Bippi stops by, catching me finishing a pick-me-up candy bar, and I turn to face her, flossing. She smiles and asks how I’m settling in, but her casual act doesn’t fool me. Ron, our male trainer, has doubtless marked me with a bullet, as a rising star to be watched, and she wants to check out the phenom. But then who trusts Ron, that spermless filament? The doofus thinks he’s the Great Motivator, serving up soulless bon mots like “straight from the shoulder” and “shot in the arm” that went out with Nehru shirts. I let my floss dangle from an incisor and spell it out for Bippi. I’m giving the company six months tops to make me a manager, I tell her, or I’m out the door to greener pastures. I emphasize my right to success with some fist pumping, along with some ritualistic not to say mandatory pecker flexing. I come close to touching the actual equipment, and hear Bippi gasp, so I cover by playing air guitar at pelvis level. I make twangy sounds with my lips and tongue to make it look more real. I think she gets the message. When you hire me, babe, you hire me and my penis both.

Bippi departs, and the mousy female in the cage next door asks me some inane question about starting up her computer. I don’t remember her name after only six weeks in class with her — it wasn’t near enough time — but I think, here we go. Day one on the floor and already the also-rans are trying to drag me down to basement level with them. Maybe this pulseless chick thinks that just because she’s on her monthlies or has typhoid, or whatever her problem is, that I’m going to be her handler. Time to fix that perception. I stare into her baby browns and tell her, straight from the shoulder as Ron would say, that in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog, sink-or-swim, spoils-to-the-victor, devil-take-the-hindmost, once more unto the breach, theirs not to reason why and a throatful of other clichés that are good reasons not to be bothered with her. Her look conveys the impression that she should ask someone else. And why doesn’t she know that by now?

Meanwhile I need stats, I need to be on the board! Always be closing! I get my chance that very morning when Bippi opens the front door and a stream of actual clients walk in, most of them hideously repulsive, but still, at Red Bone the consumers are the job. I am all over them, grabbing one and sitting him or her down, and filling their ears with whatever comes to mind, then jumping up and grabbing a new one, faster than anyone else. Along with the live scum I’m handling phone calls, dozens of them from gibbering idiots, averaging less than 30 seconds a call, no doubt a company record. Still, by the time lunch rolls around an unhappy-looking Bippi is occupying my personal space. She tells me my clients are phoning the complaint department and her, saying they don’t understand a word I tell them, and sometimes I’m rude and even obscene.

That really ticks me off. A town without pity situation is going down, with this bitch standing in for the town, and I feel the hostility. My superiority is actually questioned. Instinctively I do some additional pecker flexing, not bothering to disguise it as air guitar. I tell Bippi I’m not afraid of her or any woman, that as a man I am stronger than she is, that she doesn’t intimidate me, and that the world is better off run by males. And before she accuses me of touching myself, I tell her I’m trying to pass a kidney stone. To make that sound more believable, I tell her my health benefits haven’t kicked in yet, and that’s true. I won’t have job-related coverage for 60 days.

I think I’ve won, but within 10 minutes two beefy security guards stand at my side. Smirking, they tell me to get a grip on myself. They add that I have five minutes to clean out my desk, and then they will escort me out the door. They do, too, over my loud protests, and soon I’m on the street holding my briefcase and jacket, canned.

These oh-so-sensitive women! My next job I’m working for The Man, and I mean that literally.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we're glad someone has the energy to address the energy crisis. When you've finished reading David Martin's latest piece, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

We Are The Light


There seems little doubt that we are facing an energy crisis. Despite significant developments in wind, solar and nuclear power, we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels and likely will be for years. Since that supply is finite and limited, we need to find new ways to bridge the gap.

The future looks bleak, but I think I have an answer to our current dilemma: human-generated power. If you look around, you’ll see millions, if not billions, of potential energy sources.

Visit any busy downtown street corner and you’ll find thousands of people walking here and there, to and fro, hither and yon. All that toing and froing and hithering and yonning is nothing more than wasted energy.

Sure, walking serves the useful purpose of getting from point A to point B but, in doing so, there is a measurable amount of expended (and heretofore) wasted energy. I’m not sure how many joules, ergs or kilosomethings it is but I’m assuming it’s enough to be harvested, saved and then transferred to our electrical grid to be used in powering our homes and businesses.

I’m not an engineer, but I am familiar with such words as nanobots, fuel cells and biomechanics, and I have no doubt that some combination of these technologies can allow an individual walker to generate a certain amount of usable energy. That energy, along with the energy generated by millions of other walkers, could be transmitted to a central station for distribution elsewhere.

Engineering is not my forte; something I like to call macro-imaging (or what some might call blue-sky thinking) is my true calling. So I’ll leave it to the engineers and scientists to work out the details while I explore the broader concepts.

Walkers, of course, comprise but one group of potential energy providers. There are also millions of people who not only walk but also walk their dogs. This presents the possibility of doubling the power generation capacity, particularly in high density canine environments such as parks and dog runs. Runners could boost the power output even more.

Another possibility is swimmers. From recreational swimmers to competitive racers, there is a wealth of untapped power that can be harvested, subject of course to whatever safety provisions are required to allow for electricity generation within a water environment. Again, I’ll leave those details to the engineers on the ground.

It’s common knowledge that sexual activity burns upwards of 200 calories per encounter. That’s 200 calories of previously wasted energy that presumably could be transformed into useful electricity to power small items like a toaster, a microwave or a vibrator. If people are willing to take the time to employ a condom before engaging in sex presumably they’ll have no problem also donning whatever electro-conductive apparatuses are required to truly experience the power of love.

Adventurous homeowners can explore the possibility of tapping into huge electrical energy sources during local thunderstorms. Wearing lightning rods connected to large storage batteries promises to provide a month’s worth or more of power from just one storm at minimal cost. For those having personal safety concerns, I have been assured that wearing a tinfoil hat will protect against excessive electromagnetic radiation as well as any deleterious effects of telepathy.

Speaking of tinfoil hats, it seems to me that they could easily provide a significant source of solar-generated electricity. If we all wore such headgear outside on sunny days, we could easily recharge our cell phones, laptops and tablets for next to nothing on an ongoing basis. And again, this would have the added advantage of providing serious protection against local, ill-intentioned mind readers.

If we just let our imaginations soar, I suspect that there is an almost unlimited supply of energy literally right at our fingertips. The power generated by billions of daily computer keystrokes could easily be harnessed. Likewise, mini-wind generators could be strapped to our noses while we sleep to power our household appliances. Even Queen Elizabeth could become a royal role model by agreeing to generate electricity through her public waving.

We have the answer to our energy needs in our own hands, feet and nostrils. In short, we are the light.


* 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?