* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where, whatever we're spreading, we sure hope it's love.

* Which brings us to the aptly named Dylan Love and his first piece for us. Is it mere coincidence that in the same week in which Dylan Love makes his debut at this site, Bob Dylan debuts his new album? Yes, we think that's exactly what it is: coincidence. So let's hear no more about that. When you've finished marveling over Dylan's writing (our Dylan), be sure to visit his web site: The Dylan Love

Spreading The Love

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1.

PEANUT BUTTER: Hi.

JELLY: Hi.

PEANUT BUTTER: Listen, we don’t have to do it now, but at some point we should talk about last night.

JELLY: Why? Did you not enjoy yourself?

PEANUT BUTTER: No, I had a great time. It was incredible, in fact. Just so…unexpected.

JELLY: It was, wasn’t it?

PEANUT BUTTER: I never thought anything would happen between us. You’re so outgoing and fun loving. I’m a little more quiet and reserved.

(They pause for a moment of mutual adoration.)

JELLY: If it happened again, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

PEANUT BUTTER: Far from it.

JELLY: In fact, we should do it again.

PEANUT BUTTER: Definitely.

JELLY: How about every day at lunchtime from now on?

2.

PEANUT BUTTER: I bet Dylan’s glad he brought us from home today. That cafeteria meatloaf looks a little suspect.

JELLY: Those other kids will never know the simple joy of a you-and-me sandwich!

PEANUT BUTTER: I promise you one day we’ll move out of this Ziploc bag. I’ll get a great job and we can move into that Tupperware container you always wanted.

JELLY: I love you, Peanut Butter.

PEANUT BUTTER: I love you, Jelly.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD: You guys make me sick.

3.

PEANUT BUTTER: Hi.

JELLY: Hi.

PEANUT BUTTER: We have to talk, and we should probably do it now.

JELLY: What’s wrong?

PEANUT BUTTER: I’ve been thinking about us. The future.

JELLY: What do you mean?

PEANUT BUTTER: I mean we’ve been together for over 30 years. Isn’t it time to…grow up?

JELLY: Grow up? We’re timeless! Do you really want to throw away all our history?

PEANUT BUTTER: I don’t know. Yes?

JELLY: You met someone, didn’t you?!

PEANUT BUTTER: I don’t want to talk about it.

JELLY: Who is it? It’s that tramp, Honey, isn’t it?!

PEANUT BUTTER: (mumbles)

JELLY: I can’t hear you!

(JELLY throws a plate across the room. It smashes against the wall.)

PEANUT BUTTER: Banana.

JELLY: Peanut butter and banana?! That’ll never work! You’re crazy!

PEANUT BUTTER: Yes I am. Crazy in love.

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Minutes Of The Meeting Of The Board (Børd) Of The High North Alliance

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Author’s Note: The website of The High North Alliance describes the group’s mission as follows: “The organisation’s objective is to protect the rights of whalers, sealers and fishermen…” We tracked down a copy of the minutes from a recent High North Alliance meeting.

HIS HONOR, THE CHAIRMAN brought the meeting to order. He described the crisis in international whaling — namely, that whaling appears to be totally irrelevant in the modern world. He presented to the floor the question, “Should we disband and find other work?”

THE ESTEEMED MEMBER FROM THE FAROE ISLANDS’ PILOT WHALER’S ASSOCIATION spoke at length, though in a language that others at the meeting could not understand. He smoked a corncob pipe.

THE VENERATED MEMBER FROM THE ICELANDIC SEAMAN’S FEDERATION reminded the group that, actually, whaling is still extremely important in some very, very powerful nations. The others in the group shouted, “Hear, hear” in different languages. A reporter from New Zealand asked, “Which countries, exactly?” The members of the council played deaf by signing to each other.

AN OBSERVER FROM THE UNITED STATES stated that his nation was once a great whaling center. As evidence, he brought up Moby Dick and Nantucket. Several other members rolled their eyes. The member from the Icelandic Engineer Officers’ Association rolled a cigarette with loose tobacco — several other members noted that most of his fingers were missing.

THE WELL-RESPECTED MEMBER FROM THE ICELANDIC MINKE WHALER’S ASSOCIATION stated that he, for one, didn’t really care that much about whaling because he could always make a living hunting reindeer.

THE FINANCIER OF THE ALLIANCE, SULTAN ALI BIN-ALI FROM SAUDI ARABIA, lit a $10,000 bill on fire. “I could buy your wife,” he said, when the member from the Organisation of Fishermen and Hunters in Greenland shed a tear as he watched.

THE MUCH-ADMIRED MEMBER FROM THE NORWEGIAN WHALERS’ UNION asked if any of the other members had work for him. “Anything,” he said. “I am so cold.”

THE REVERED MEMBER FROM THE ORGANISATION OF FISHERMEN AND HUNTERS IN GREENLAND grunted and started in again with the fable about how a powerful warrior shot the sun and harnessed it so man could use it (see Minutes from the previous board meeting for fuller description of the fable).

THE VALUED MEMBER FROM THE NORTH SEA FISHING BOAT OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION, who appeared inebriated, told the one about the time he harpooned a humpback just as it rose and sang its haunting song in front of a whale-watching cruise. The member from the Greenland Whalers’ Union laughed so hard he snorted water out of his nose.

THE TOLERATED CHAPERONE FROM GREENPEACE rose and said, “I can’t see why you think that’s funny. You just don’t get it, do you?” He was pelted with stale dinner rolls and sea lion jerky.

THE OFT- (AND UNJUSTLY) MOCKED MEMBER FROM THE INUVIALUIT GAME COUNCIL said he had recently heard that high rollers at Las Vegas casinos are known as “whales.” He said that, as far as he could tell, he didn’t think Greenpeace really cared about this kind of whale and that, as a result, it might make sense to start hunting them and selling their meat.

THE CHAIRMAN asked if that was allowed under international and maritime law.

MR. POTTER, ESQ., COUNSEL TO THE ALLIANCE, stated his legal view that, “It’s probably okay, but I’d have to have one of my junior guys do some research, but let’s just say it’s okay.”

THE OFT- (AND UNJUSTLY) MOCKED MEMBER FROM THE INUVIALUIT GAME COUNCIL said that the funny thing about his organization’s name, if you thought about it, is that it could easily be converted into an association that had something to do with casinos and that, therefore, it would make sense for him to be the one in charge of orchestrating the slaughter of rich men who play cards.

THE CHAIRMAN asked for a second.

THE MEMBER FROM THE NORWEGIAN WHALERS’ UNION seconded, in exchange for a promise of lutefiske for dinner from the member from the Inuvialuit Game Council. “That’s politics,” he said. “I scratch your back, you give me something to eat.”

The following resolution was passed:

RESOLVED: OUR MISSION WILL NOW BE TO HUNT BIG-TIME GAMBLERS. THE CHAPERONE FROM GREENPEACE WILL NO LONGER BE ALLOWED AT BOARD MEETINGS. NEXT ROUND OF HARD WHISKEY IS ON HIS HONOR, THE CHAIRMAN.

The meeting was adjourned.

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Tales of Ordinary Greatness

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Greetings, everyone! Graduates, family members, friends, staff…Welcome to the commencement exercises for the third midwinter session of Briquedor University. As founder, dean, bursar and faculty of this cybertech-based institution of higher osmotic education, I am very happy to see so many of our graduates turn out today to receive their hard-earned degrees for life experience and inadvertent independent study. But before I present you with your luxury laminate-bound diplomas we have a special, and I dare say moving, ceremony to perform. This sub-semester Briquedor is proud to be awarding honorary degrees to two people who exemplify the very spirit of life achievement.

First, would Debbie Wilson please step forward?

Debbie, you are here today to receive your PhD, a Doctorate for being Pretty and Hot.

For those of you who don’t know Debbie I’d just like to say a few words about the many, many endeavors she has undertaken to qualify for this degree.

As a newborn, Debbie was cute. Almost all babies are cute, but she was really, really cute. People fawned over her for this reason and she learned, before she could talk and at a deeply-entrenched subconscious level, that she was somehow different from the rest of humanity and therefore deserved special treatment. As she grew up, the people around her reinforced this impression, and she never lacked for attention, play dates, invitations to parties, etc.

In early adolescence she developed medium-large breasts, which of course only consolidated her already widespread popularity among her classmates. Although she never excelled in standard academic subjects, Debbie proved to be a near-genius, according to Edison’s definition, in the exacting science of personal appearance enhancement, trying on literally thousands of outfits, pairs of shoes and accessories, conducting experiments in makeup and hair coloring, and devoting the bulk of her spare time to fine-tuning the results of her research with the help of an array of various sized mirrors.

After graduating from high school without distinction, Debbie carefully considered her options and logically decided not to pursue any further mainstream academic or professional goals, deeming that her accomplishments in pulchritude were fulfillment enough and a sufficient contribution to society. While working as a hand model, and later as a hand and wrist model, she steadfastly dedicated herself to investigating a complex and challenging branch of parasociology, namely dating older, wealthier men and convincing them to pay her bills and buy her expensive gifts, a discipline that she has continued to pursue to this day, with three brief sabbaticals to engage in special immersion studies in the intricacies of married life.

Through diligent theoretical work and hands-on (lips-on, legs-on, etc.) “lab” experience, Debbie has developed an original, elaborate system of date management, constantly monitoring and updating a massive rotating database of potential suitors. It’s an impressive methodology that she began refining in her early teen years, and it has proven so effective that since the age of thirteen and a half she has never once been without a boyfriend for more than a matter of hours. Or at least it seemed like hours.

A tireless campaigner for the rights and privileges of people like herself, especially herself, Debbie has incessantly strived to push the envelope of entitlement for the congenitally attractive. Her work in this sphere is vast indeed, but I will cite just a few examples. During her school years she rarely contributed to classroom discussions — other than whining the question that became her nickname in the teachers’ lounge: “Why do I have to learn this?” — but when she did participate it was invariably in an attempt to evade mental exertion or somehow make things easier for herself. For instance, in a discussion of lightning in eighth grade science class, when informed that the speed of light was much greater than the speed of sound, Debbie commented, not seeing any reason why she should be expected to memorize two complicated numbers, “They should be the same.”

Later, after earning her driver’s license, she became known throughout the quad-county area for her pioneering fieldwork in traffic ticket circumvention. Debbie has been stopped for speeding, reckless driving and other traffic violations a total of 314 times and has only ever received three tickets, having charmed and flirted her way out of all 311 others. And she’s pretty sure one of those cops was gay. Her unique ability to rapidly and surreptitiously undo blouse buttons, initially developed as what sexologists call a “phallic vexation” technique, has also proven very useful in this domain.

But of course her greatest achievement, and the reason she stands before you here, is being born beautiful. Day after day, month after month, Debbie continues doggedly to look good, and sometimes even great, according to many observers. Especially that guy at the supermarket meat counter who’s been hitting on her every chance he gets for the past seventeen years even though she cuts him dead every time. But keep trying, Buddy! She loves the attention!

So it is with great pride that I present to you, Debbie Wilson, your honorary PhD. Let’s give her a hand…

Now we come to a man who is widely known for his attainments in the field of physical dominance. Would Joe Miller please come up to the podium? Joe, it is my pleasure to bestow upon you an honorary MBA for being Muscular, Big and Aggressive.

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, Joe is a large, although not particularly fat, man. He has big arms, big hands, big legs, a thick neck and a big voice. He weighed more than ten pounds at birth and was always the biggest pupil in his class at school. At a very early age, Joe learned to use his natural gift to promote his own interests and win others over to his way of thinking. His early efforts involved forcibly seizing cookies, red crayons (he likes red) and other coveted items from classmates. And some non-coveted items just to hone his craft. Then in junior high and high school he devised a number of imaginative ways to use the threat, if not the fact, of violence to secure his preferred seats in the cafeteria and on school buses, to bolster his personal finances and even to improve his test scores.

Upon reaching adulthood, Joe found himself with no particular skills or interests and so launched himself in business sectors in which his undeniable asset could be put to profitable use. He has explored a variety of parallel career paths, juggling professional responsibilities in roadwork, construction, house painting and seasonal farm labor.

Joe works hard, and when he’s not working he quite naturally likes to unwind. Evenings and weekends he can usually be found at a local watering hole, WTFI Thursday’s, where a stool at the corner of the bar is unofficially reserved for him, by him, every night. There he enjoys regaling his friend and acquaintances with reminders of how incredibly powerful he is, or was, including tales of his many past encounters, spats, disputes, arguments, shouting matches, shoving matches, fights, fracases and brawls. Being large, he logically sees no reason to avoid confrontation, negotiate any issue or even listen to any other viewpoint, and he proudly wears the scars resulting from the rare occasions when he has chanced upon someone as brawny and intransigent as himself. He also entertains and from time to time amazes his fellow bar patrons with feats of strength and courage like opening bottles with his teeth, picking up smaller waitresses or holding an entire tray of freshly-filled beer pitchers at arm’s length, with a success rate nearing twenty-eight percent.

As Joe will gladly remind you, he can still “beat crap” out of anyone in town and never “takes crap” from anyone. But his most outstanding accomplishment, and the reason we are honoring him today, is being born big. So Joe, here’s your richly-merited MBA. Congratulations!

Unfortunately our other special guests could not be here this afternoon. Briquedor University is also awarding honorary doctorates to Paris Hilton for being born wealthy and Peter Fonda for being born famous. But since they were unable to attend, we will now proceed with the presentation of our other life experience diplomas. When I call your name, please come up to… No, wait — just stand up and I’ll toss it to you. And hey, let’s try to move this right along — I have an important, ah, private conference afterwards with one of our doctoral grads.

Al L. Soran, for a bachelor’s in digital gaming…

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Highlights From My Living Will

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1. Terminal Illness

If I have a terminal condition, I would like my life to be prolonged as long as possible, regardless of expense. I’d like all diagnostic procedures and treatments available, including like a full-body MRI every day just after lunch. If surgeries involving robots or lasers seem at all beneficial, I’d like those as well. Should any new type of surgeries or procedures be developed that are not in existence at the time of this writing and involve bionic limbs, synthetic organs, titanium bones, or electronic eyeballs, please perform these as well. If stem cells are available, I want those too. Similarly, if I need to be cloned and have resulting clones harvested for any therapeutic or palliative purpose whatsoever that might benefit me — even in the slightest — I am 100% in favor of this.

In addition to traditional, western approaches, I also want Reiki, healing-light therapy, primal-scream therapy, Haitian herbal poultices, past-life regression analysis, leeches, erotic massage, organic smoothies, crystals, Tai Kwon Do, and 24-hour access to a Native-American sweat lodge.

2. Pain Management

I would like a personal pain-management physician assigned to me whose goal is to keep a consistent level of near-fatal narcotics in my system so that I will feel no pain whatsoever. If at any time, I appear to be in pain or claim to be in pain, I want code blue lights flashing all over the hospital and even in the parking lot if they have them there. Should such a “code blue” for my pain occur, I would also like access to a small hammer for striking my physician’s knuckles with varying levels of force in order to properly communicate my pain level.

3. Coma or Persistent Vegetative State

Should I slip into a coma or persistent vegetative state, I would like large, motivational banners with phrases like “Don’t Give Up” and “Pray for a Miracle” and “This Guy Was Once Somebody’s Baby” to be hung about my room. I would also like a hi-definition flat-screen television placed in my room, to be on at all times, in case I wake up. And, finally, while I believe this goes without saying, I’d like my body suspended in mid-air by invisible wires like in the movie Coma.

4. Brain Death

Should my brain die, I want my body kept alive. I want use of all life-support machines available, even if that means duplexing my room into the room above (or below) to make room for them. I would like my body exercised and kept in top physical condition, and I would like to participate in any hospital picnics or outdoor fun days that come along, to the extent that I am able. Activities such as sledding, for instance, seem reasonable — provided cords of sufficient length for my life support machines can be procured. But I also want my dignity to be kept in mind at all times. Absolutely no Weekend-At-Bernie’s type hyjinks should be taking place at my expense. I don’t want to be treated like a ventriloquist’s dummy nor do I want to be propped up with a hot dog in my hand as though I’m about to eat it. Anyone doing these sorts of things should be fired. Finally, should it become possible to transplant someone else’s brain into my head, I will certainly want this done, but on the sole condition that all of their stuff will be deleted from their brain and all of my stuff will be downloaded into their brain BEFORE I wake up.

5. Cryogenics

If it becomes apparent that the condition I suffer from is so advanced, rare or otherwise baffling that it can only conceivably be handled in the future by highly evolved human or android doctors, I would like to be frozen until such care is available. I would also like a copper relief of my entire body placed in the hospital lobby to remind everyone of the stakes of the game being played. This is a human life we are talking about. Mine.

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You’re Not Like the Other Women I’ve Dated

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You know, I’m really enjoying spending time with you. I must say, you’re different than most women I’ve dated.

Oh, I mean that in a totally complimentary way, really. I’m not able to pinpoint exactly what it is yet, but there’s definitely something different about you. You’re not like all the other women I know, that’s for sure.

Maybe it’s your height. What are you, 5’9? That’s pretty tall, probably taller than most women I’ve dated. But I guess 5’9″” isn’t that tall. Maybe it’s not your height.

Maybe it’s your red hair. I guess I’ve never really dated anyone with red hair. Although…I did date a woman in college who had reddish hair — more like auburn — so I guess technically that doesn’t make you different than all the other women I’ve dated.

You’ve got a really great laugh. Most women I’ve dated either have no sense of humor, or they have totally annoying laughs, but yours is really infectious. Really. Outstanding laugh, and I’m not just saying that. That must be what makes you different than all the other women I’ve dated. But, you know, now that I think about it…I did date a pastry chef once who had a really great laugh. Not as great has her cheesecake, that’s for sure! But still, good laugh. So I suppose you’re not all that different in that respect.

Hmmm.

Wait a minute…I’ve got it! I know what makes you different than all of the other women I’ve dated: you’re not chained to the radiator in my basement.

How did I miss that? Here you are, very much not in my basement — not even chained to anything, in fact — just having dinner at this lovely restaurant, exercising your own free will. It’s so refreshing to see that once in a while, you know? All the other women I’ve dated were, at one time, chained to that damned radiator in my basement. It gets old after a while, hearing the same things over and over again — “”I’m hungry,”” “”Let me go,”” “”There are people looking for me right now, creep”” — you know, typical “”girl stuff.”” But I never hear those things out of you. Except, of course, for “”I’m hungry,”” which you said right before we ordered. How is your food, by the way?

What? Metaphorical? No, like real, actual chains.

Because that’s where the radiator is, silly. Is this wine a little too sweet? Be honest.

Hey, what’s gotten into you? I just paid you a huge compliment, telling you about how you’re not like any of the women I’ve ever dated before —

Why does it matter how I define “”dating””?

Oh, please, now you’re just starting to sound like everyone else. This is really disappointing. I mean, I thought I felt a real connection here. Not the kind of connection that binds you to a radiator, of course, but a real, emotional, non-radiator connection, one not even located in my basement. Frankly, I’m really surprised by your reaction. I thought there was a spark between us. Not the metal-on-metal spark you’d get if you tried to escape from my basement by rubbing your chains against the radiator, but a spark nonetheless.

So you’re just leaving? Just like that? Oh, right. No chains.

Well, it’s probably a good thing, anyway. It would have been tough to date someone who’s so different than the women I usually date. Although…now that I see you walking away, I can get a better look at your hair, and — you know what? Maybe it was the hair after all. I mean, it’s really red.

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