* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We are committed to providing a decent job for every American -- so long as that job consists of reading the material on our site every week and sending us money via PayPal. Just wanted to be clear on that. And now, this word from new contributor Jeff Dutre...

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

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Looking for a job? Looking for a career? The Department of Labor wants to help. Our “Dictionary of Occupational Titles” describes every job in the world, so you know just what you’re getting into before you apply. Here’s a few samples:

525.687-078 POULTRY HANGER
Shackles and suspends live or slaughtered poultry from conveyor for killing, scalding, removal of feathers or cleaning. Removes live poultry from shipping crates, or picks up slaughtered birds from platforms and chilling vats and hangs them by feet, neck, or wings on shackles of conveyor. Has frequent, shrieking nightmares that startle other residents of small apartment complex. Keeps to himself. Changes the subject if conversation turns to job, animal cruelty, or chickens. Eats only beef and fish. Unsuccessfully answers craigslist “women seeking men” listings in search of activity partner and/or life mate.

920.687-098 HANDKERCHIEF FOLDER (garment)
Folds handkerchiefs prior to packaging. May fold fancy handkerchiefs, such as men’s dress handkerchiefs, into specified shapes and place handkerchiefs in cellophane envelopes. Rents old movies from the ’30s and ’40s, taking special interest in those scenes where men remove their handkerchiefs with a flourish from their suit pockets to wipe the perspiration from their foreheads, and where women use their handkerchiefs to wave goodbye from departing trains. Laments the fact that no one really uses handkerchiefs anymore. Notices that many of his coworkers in the folding department have opted for early retirement. Hears rumors of layoffs. Wonders if it would be prudent to switch careers; to something perhaps involving suspenders and/or bowties.

920.387-194 VACUUM TESTER, CANS
Taps lids of cans or jars with stick as they pass on conveyor to determine if container is vacuum-sealed. Removes defective containers for reprocessing. Angrily tells his friends that no, it is NOT true that “anyone with half a brain” could do his job. Reminds them that not everyone can tell if a container is vacuum-sealed by means of a simple tap. Challenges them to try it themselves. Makes the dubious claim that this is a specialized skill, no, an art, dating back to the ancient Romans. Keeps a hand-tooled mahogany rack to hold a variety of sticks of varying lengths and thicknesses, for the purpose of tapping. Writes a regular column for the trade publication Vacuum Tester Monthly.

553.382-022 VARNISH MAKER
Controls equipment to melt, cook and mix ingredients, such as gums, oils, turpentine, and naptha, for use in manufacture of varnishes. Complains to wife every evening about frequent, debilitating headaches; tries a variety of pain relievers, starting with aspirin, then moving on to greater strengths of tylenol, motrin, and other over-the-counter medicines before begging his physician for a prescription, any prescription, to make the skull-splitting agony go away.

589.686-034 PACKAGE CRIMPER (textile)
Feeds machine that rounds edges of thread packages so that dye will penetrate thread uniformly. Complains endlessly about bass player in his band; how bass player is consistently late for practice, or doesn’t show up at all. Moans about long hours of package crimping job that interfere with the business of songwriting, song recording, and sending demos to talent agents and music industry representatives. Disparages other, more successful musicians. Experiments with a variety of hairstyles: short on top, long in back, or long on top and short in back. Calls in sick every other Monday.

049.364-010 FEED RESEARCH AIDE (agriculture)
Feeds rations of experimental feeds to animals such as dogs, mice and cows, and compiles data on growth, productivity, and health of animals. Tells no one about horse-sized mouse she has smuggled home with the help of a sympathetic, kind-hearted janitor. She knows her boss will kill and dissect the mouse, and this she finds unacceptable. Instead, she has set up a comfortable straw bed in her garage, and brings the mouse stolen bags of experimental feed. She brushes its fur and lets it listen to classical music while she is at work.

920.687-105 LABEL APPLIER (beverage)
Applies labels to whiskey bottles. Does the best he can, but his hands shake, and so he sometimes damages labels. Licks his lips and thinks about the last time he had a drink: four months, two weeks, three days, six hours and fifteen minutes ago. Feels nothing but contempt for inebriated co-workers. They are weak, and he is strong.

920.687-106 LABEL REMOVER (beverage)
Removes damaged labels from whiskey bottles. Places bottles on conveyor for relabeling. Receives stern warning from boss about being intoxicated on the job. Is accused by LABEL APPLIER (920.687-105) of purposely damaging labels. Raises himself to full height, shakes his fist and denies this vehemently before falling over onto conveyor and opening a nasty gash on nose.

649.686-014 CARD DECORATOR (print & pub.)
Tends machine that automatically glues decorative sparkle dust to greeting cards. Feeds greeting cards into machine. Refills hoppers of machine with glue and sparkle dust. Shakes sparkle dust out of hair and clothes onto bedroom floor, to the annoyance of his spouse. Showers frequently, leaving a ring of sparkle dust on shower floor. Awakens frequently during the night because of itching. Coughs up clouds of sparkle dust. Chest x-ray reveals heavy coating of sparkle dust on lungs. Ignores doctor’s advice to find a different occupation. Says, “My father was a card decorator. My grandfather was a card decorator. It’s in my blood,” “Yes it is,” his doctor replies. “Literally.”

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel. Won't you please donate to our fictional charity? If not, please consider reading the following piece by Pete Reynolds in lieu of a donation.

I Wish You Weren’t Pro-Breast Cancer

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To: DC OFFICE — ALL
From: Grider, Michael
Subject: MOSEY FOR BREAST CANCER 2010!!!

Greetings, co-workers. As many of you may have noticed from my previous emails, the posters in the break room, and/or the friendly reminders that I glued to your computer screens, I’ll be participating in the very charitable, very real, Mosey for Breast Cancer 2010. The Mosey supports breast cancer research in the DC area, is a great way to get involved in the community, and is in no way made up. I’m really looking forward to presenting my pledge sheet to the organizers, who are also real and distinct from me, so they can see how hard I worked (and how much I spent on glue) on behalf of this worthy cause.

There is, however, one small problem: you are not supporting my efforts. It’s been a week, and the only entries on my pledge sheet are a currency-free “Not a real charity!” from Mary in Accounts Receivable, a valueless “This is a scam” from Ted in the mail room, and an equally bankrupt pledge “to help Michael be less of a doushebag [sic]” from one “Ash Holman,” which I can only assume is fraudulent (and not particularly funny). Also, someone tacked up a copy of the company’s employee conduct policy on charitable solicitations (like that’s going to help cure cancer!). Given your poor performance in support of the Mosey, the realness of which cannot be questioned, I have no choice but to conclude that each of you is, in fact, pro-breast cancer.

An unfair critique, you say? I’m not so sure. After all, I couldn’t help but notice that Jeff from Sales isn’t having any trouble raising money for his drive (“Beat Multiple Sclerosis!”). Even if we were to assume that Jeff’s drive was authentic and not a front for the pro-breast cancer lobby, since when is there a limit on charity? You know what they say: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Or maybe you don’t know what they say. Maybe when they said it you were off injecting people with particularly virulent strains of breast cancer. Or maybe, just maybe, you were too busy being a bunch of selfish jerks who wouldn’t know a real charity if it jumped up and glued its very official-looking flier to your computer screen.

I suppose you’d all be chomping at the proverbial bit if I told you that some very famous celebrities also support the Mosey. Hey, maybe if you stopped worshipping celebrities for two seconds, you’d know that the Mosey does, in fact, profess to count several super-famous and super-non-fake human beings among its backers. I can’t name their very genuine names, of course, but I can promise you that your failure to donate isn’t making it any less likely that those same very important celebrities will die — not of breast cancer, but of broken hearts — upon bearing witness to your complete philanthropic neglect of the Mosey.

So let’s just call a spade a cancer-endorsing spade and admit that you love breast cancer so much that, if given the choice, you would marry it. If breast cancer were on Facebook, you would become Facebook friends with it. If breast cancer were a professional sports team, you would root for it. You would buy season tickets, a replica jersey that says “Breast Cancers” in cursive on the front, and a giant, novelty foam finger, which you would then use to heartlessly point out people with breast cancer. This is not my opinion. It’s what you would do.

If I had a wish for you, it would be that you’d get off your high horse and back down onto a normal-sized horse and stop loving breast cancer so much, horse-face.

Right now, as I write this, you are thumbing your breast cancer-free noses at my efforts, which are not in any way ignoble, and funneling your donations to Jeff’s sham MS operation, or, perhaps, a terrorist organization (these are not mutually exclusive, by the way). If you can justify your actions with your god, then so be it.

I hate you all,

Michael Grider

P.S. Because of your collective failure so far, the organizers have graciously suspended the deadline for pledges indefinitely. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the second most awesome site in the universe. The first most awesome site is 1000 Awesome Things, by Big Jewel co-founder Neil Pasricha. How awesome is his site? Well, it won won two Webby Awards in 2009: Best Blog - Culture / Personal, as well as Best Blog - People's Voice Award. It has garnered more than 11 million hits. Now it has also become a book, The Book of Awesome, published this week by Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam. This week we are proud to present an excerpt from the blog and the book. When you are done perusing it, we strongly recommend you check out the links on the right-hand side of the this page. The one called 1000 Awesome Things will take you to the blog; the one called The Book of Awesome will take you to the Amazon page about the book. Celebrate the awesomeness of 1000 Awesome Things!

Awesome Thing #997: Locking People Out Of The Car And Pretending To Drive Away

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There are so many different levels to this classic gag.

There’s Version 1.0 which involves a car full of people, a gas station bathroom break, the locked door, and the slow rolling drive away while the victim knocks on the window and pretends not to care. This version is Locking People Out Of The Car And Pretending To Drive Away Lite, a tame version of the gag intended to induce a few giggles without any tense moments. Just some G-rated comic relief for the long drive home. Version 1.0 is the most commonly practiced version out there and is the officially sponsored and recommended version by 1000 Awesome Things.

Next up is a version that’s a bit more advanced than Version 1.0 but not quite at the level of Version 2.0. We’ll call it Version 1.5, also known as The Big Tease. The Big Tease works as long as the victim leaves their car door open. That open door is critical to pull it off. To execute, the driver simply waits until the victim is approaching the car and then drives away slowly with the door hanging wide open like a big tease. The Big Tease works fine on small or large cars, but is especially effective in vans with sliding doors. You’ve got that big van door just sitting there wide open and the victim may figure it’s worth running and jumping for it. There’s really no telling what could happen in this situation. Just remember to be safe out there.

Next comes Version 2.0 which involves a car full of people, a gas station bathroom break, the locked door, and a complete drive away, lap of the gas station, and return after a minute or two. Big difference here is that Version 2.0 dials up the fear notch a little, instills a tiny bit of boot-shake in our helpless victim. When the car comes back some name-calling goes down, but nothing too serious. Still — this one’s not recommended for children twelve and under. Let’s call it Rated T for Teen.

And then finally there’s the granddaddy of them all, the one and only Version 3.0. A real cooker, Version 3.0 involves a car full of people, a gas station bathroom break, the locked door, and a full-out drive away into the sunset, without any eventual return. The victim is left curbside, casually spooning up a McFlurry as they walk around for a couple minutes, expecting the car to come sweeping around the corner any second. But no…the car never comes back. Unless practiced in walking distance of the victim’s house, Version 3.0 can be devastating. And it’s rarely executed and not recommended for obvious reasons: its potential to destroy relationships…to destroy relationships…forever.

AWESOME!

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always topical and up-to-the-minute. Except when we run an Oscars-related piece a month after the ceremony. Then we are being deep and reflective. This week's opus is the first we have published by Burke Hilsabeck, as well as our first Donald Barthelme parody. Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Donald Barthelme Accepts An Oscar In The Style Of “The Glass Mountain”

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1. Wow.

2. I am very happy — and surprised — to be at this podium.

3. In my right hand, I hold aloft my golden statue for the world to see.

4. When you grow up in Texas and become an important American literary figure, it is difficult to imagine being here with all of the beautiful people on ABC.

5. Still, it happened to Larry McMurtry.

6. And now it is happening to me.

7. Although I am not as agile as Cuba Gooding, Jr., or even Philip Seymour Hoffman, please believe me when I say that, in my heart, I am doing crazy and exuberant things on this stage.

8. This podium stands at the front of an auditorium full of interesting and engaging faces.

9. These faces are congratulating me for the wonderful work I have done.

10. Standing here, thinking about this, I finally understand just how interesting and engaging my own face truly is.

11. My wife understands my face.

12. The rest of the world now joins her in this understanding.

13. “In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photograph thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” (Barthes)

14. For this reason, I share this golden statue with my wife.

15. I did not do much to prepare for this.

16. Frankly, I thought the award would go to Forrest Whittaker.

17. I share this golden statue with you, Forrest Whittaker.

18. And you, Jeff Bridges.

19. Because my arm is growing tired, I transfer the golden statue to my left hand.

20. There, that’s better.

21. They don’t tell you just how heavy are these golden statues.

22. Their heaviness befits their overall cultural importance.

23. “It is not a new cryptography that we need, especially when it consists of replacing one cipher by another less intelligible, but a new diagnostics, a science that can determine the meaning of things for the life that surrounds them.” (Geertz)

24. I ask myself, do the strongest actors still need confirmation of their abilities expressed in the form of a humanoid totem?

25. Does the public still need to see projected images of things it cannot bear to hold in its own experience?

26. Yes, I say, yes, my answers to these questions are yes.

27. Anyways, what a long road!

28. Things did not look promising when we began filming The Balloon.

29. For instance, it was very difficult to find a big enough balloon.

30. Even the most courageous prop men grew withered of heart.

31. Also, the people of New York were not happy about us blocking what little sun they already had.

32. But the people at Lionsgate believed in us.

33. The other actors believed in us.

34. And I think I speak honestly when I say that the vast majority of midtown Manhattan really got into it.

35. In my left hand, I use my golden statue to gesture toward heaven.

36. Our particular balloon carried the weight of so many metaphors.

37. You might say that it carried the weight of all metaphors.

38. That our balloon carried the weight of all metaphors is paradoxical because, pretty much by definition, balloons are lighter than air.

39. If a balloon is not lighter than air, it loses its capacity to carry metaphors.

40. It “dies.”

41. Still, certain balloons have carried both people and metaphors before, and tonight they have carried me and my metaphor here to accept this award.

42. “The baffling fecundity of dead metaphor is even less awesome when one takes true measure of its contribution to the formation of concepts.” (Ricoeur)

43. My face will never lose its capacity for metaphor.

44. The same goes for all the beautiful faces in this bright auditorium.

45. “It was no Crash.”

46. “For me, personally, it was a four hour nap.”

47. I love your faces.

48. I love the movies.

49. I love love.

50. Please, do not mind the orchestra.

51. There are so many people to thank, people like Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby.

52. I have always loved City Slickers.

53. Not a lot of people know that about me.

54. There are a lot of things that people do not know about me and about the human condition more generally.

55. I also want to thank–

56. Can you hear me?

57. Because it is becoming difficult to hear myself over the violins.

58. Where was I oh yes the human condition more generally.

59. Believe me everyone when I say that I am brimming with humility, the kind of humility no orchestra can stop.

60. I mean that.

61. I would be amiss if I did not–

62. Really, it’s getting pretty loud up here.

63. I hear you maestro.

64. Thanks to the Academy for putting me here, thanks to my–

65. Seriously, can I get a minute?

66. Thanks to every one of the balloon wranglers because without you–

67. The loud and forcible removal of a body is a wish for a deeper silence.

68. A deeper silence is a sign of the implausible.

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