* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our national security is of the upmost importance. Of course home security is important too. And in that regard the best defense is a good offense. Just ask the Macomber siblings, Laura and Trevor.

My Wife Isn’t Crazy About Our New Home Security System

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Honey, I understand you’ve been nervous ever since the break-in at the McDuffersons. But you can finally relax now that I’ve personally installed our new home security system.

I know you wanted to hire a reputable company like ADT to set up the alarm equipment and provide 24/7 monitoring service, but once you hear how much money I saved by designing everything myself, I think you’ll come around.

Well, I don’t recall the exact figure, but remember that dress you fell in love with at Filene’s Basement? No, not that one — the one on clearance. Well, let’s just say that you can go ahead and put it on layaway, babe.

Let me show you how to navigate the security protocols. The first line of defense in my multi-tiered approach is a brand new screen door. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any wood screws handy to mount it to the actual door frame — nor do I know what wood screws look like — so I’ve sorta just leaned it against the front door for now. You’ve gotta figure that the confusion factor alone will give us a few extra seconds if anyone does manage to break in.

Now come around back with me. Since we can safely assume that few would-be intruders will be able to make it past the “screening process” — no, go ahead and chuckle, it’s a clever name! — they’ll obviously seek an alternate point of entry. Right: the basement. I figure that a padlock on the bulkhead door isn’t going to cut it, since any attempt to pick it or saw it off will only create a lot of ruckus and disturb the neighbors, so I’ve gone ahead and removed the hinges entirely. But get a load of those mousetraps! There are 223 altogether, which amounts to one mousetrap for every 11 square inches of step — a number I arrived at after aggregating the horizontal surface area of each stair in relation to the exponentially increasing likelihood for trap triggering as a function of the number of footsteps taken during descent (factoring in a mobile uncertainty constant to account for decreasing illumination and gratuitous leg movement), divided by the hypothetical X- and Y-axis coverage as derived from the relative snap-and-scatter plot of each mousetrap compared to the average size of a human foot…sorry, I know you’re not a numbers kind of gal, which is why I spent the afternoon making calculations and not you. Point is, no bad guy stands a chance against these babies! Plus, even if one manages to endure the multiple lacerations to his feet and ankles — depending on the quality of his footwear, of course — there’s no way in hell he’ll survive the overwhelming stench of rotting Gouda.

Here — use this empty planter.

Okay, on to the final and perhaps most important feature of our own personal Rikers. I thought I saw you eyeing the wood peelings in the driveway a few minutes ago, so let me show you what that’s all about. If you’ll just follow me through the woods a little ways…mind the prickers! Ah, here we are. The yurt. Welcome to your new sleeping chambers, sweetie! It’s brilliant, really. See, I’ve moved our bedroom out here so that we are entirely removed from danger should anyone penetrate the previous lines of defense. And I’ve brought all our valuables out here, too, so your mother’s Fabergé egg collection and your grandmother’s antique Russian nesting dolls and those tanzanite studs you spent far too much money on that time we went to the Poconos are all safe and sound in the yurt! Or, should I say, under the yurt. Don’t give me that look — you hardly wear those things. And while we’re being honest with each other, I might mention that if you’d been willing to pawn them like I’d suggested, then maybe we could have afforded a real home security system in the first place…although I suppose it would have been superfluous at that point, because really, beyond the eggs and the dolls, and maybe the flat-screen (which you can see I’ve also moved out to the yurt!), what else would a burglar have taken?

That? That’s the moat.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take warning labels seriously, just as we take drugs seriously. We try to read the warning labels before we take the drugs, but it doesn't always work out that way, as first-time contributor John Merriman knows all too well.

Warning Labels, With Attitude

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Medication

Warning: these pills may cause drowsiness, so don’t take them before driving or operating heavy machinery. But do guzzle them like Skittles.

Just kidding! These pills will kill you if you do that. So take them exactly as your doctor recommended. But they do taste like Skittles. That part is true.

Cell Phone

Talking too much on this cell phone will give you an enormous, life-threatening tumor! Wait, has that been proven yet? And more importantly, does it matter? Because the horrified look on your face when you read that was absolutely priceless.

Condom

Warning! Do not use if torn. Of course, there’s still going to be some risk of STDs and stuff like that, but you probably have ten of those already, so what do you care? Go nuts.

Carbonated Beverage

Hey! Watch where you point this thing! Don’t you know what “contents under pressure” means?

On second thought, it would be pretty cool to see the bottle cap fly off and hit you right in the face. Film it and post it on YouTube. Make sure you put in a shot of me, though. Showing the label beforehand will give the clip proper context. Of course, that’s assuming you know what “proper context” means.

MP3 player

I seriously doubt that the risk of hearing damage from using this device is something you’d fully appreciate. But you should still know that if you continue listening to that unbearable Top 40 garbage you think is music, your brain will either melt or explode. Really.

Hot Beverage

Did you know that, if you spill boiling hot coffee on yourself, you’ll get burned? No? Well, did you also know that you’re a complete tool? Not that either? Well, now you know.

Rubber Cement

Oh, please. Don’t sniff this. And I’m not saying that out of some misplaced concern for your safety. If you really want to get high, at least smoke pot or something. But inhaling rubber cement fumes? That’s just pathetic, even for clueless losers like you. What’s next, guzzling liquid detergent?

Detergent

Wow, you’re even dumber than I thought. You really need everything explained to you. Do you seriously want to drink this stuff? Or is it just for the experience of drinking from a large, heavy plastic container? That sounds like something idiotic enough to fascinate you.

Drain Cleaner

Geez, you again? What are you doing, going through your house and reading all the warning labels on everything you own? Don’t you have something better to do? Wait, you know what? Don’t answer that. Just drink the drain cleaner. I can’t even pretend to care anymore.

Pencil

Are you kidding me? What are you, an infant? Pencils aren’t even supposed to have warning labels. What do you want me to say? “Under no circumstances should you use this pencil to slowly bore a hole in your eye”? Does that do something for you, you sick freak?

Dishtowel

Okay, seriously. Stop. Just stop. There is absolutely nothing about this product that can harm you. In fact, I dare you to try injuring yourself with this. I want to see it happen so that from now on, every dishtowel in America will have a label that reads, “Do not roll up, stick down your throat, and try to suffocate yourself. You may die.” I really want to see that happen. You better do it. I’m warning you.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we don't deign to notice stories of global importance until they are more or less over. Topicality is not the only virtue, people! Let's not forget procrastination. Hence, first-time Big Jewel contributor Jamie Brew and his take on the nastiest environmental problem this country has ever faced.

We Are Dealing With The Olive Oil Spill

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I understand that many of you are angry. As frustrating as the situation is for you, imagine how frustrating it is for all of us here at Sorrento Olive Oil, as we find that our flagship olive oil bottle’s record six-month accident-free streak, as well as the celebratory dinner we were holding in its honor, have both been tragically interrupted.

We can discuss who knocked over which container of olive oil while pretending to drink directly from it using a straw later, but for now let us focus on the task at hand: we must act together to stem the flow of olive oil that is still pouring forth onto the tablecloth and floor of Lino’s Traditional Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria. The chief obstacle to this endeavor is that unfortunately, the little spout on the top of the bottle that regulates how much olive oil comes out fell off in the spill and has not been retrieved. Because of this we have so far been unable to prevent further spillage, but I guarantee you a new solution is in the works.

Yes, I know that I have said that before. To be fair, a solution was in the works at the time but, as you all know, the Fight Olive Oil With More Olive Oil strategy was unfortunately even less effective than the preceding vinegar-based method. Some would even say it exacerbated the problem. The same critics would say that there are now three olive oil bottles pouring onto the table instead of just one. I remind those people that playing the blame game will get us nowhere, and that there are bound to be challenges when the field of technology and innovation is called on to solve the problems of our changing world. At the very least, we have improved on our water-based strategy, which was admittedly more of a solution to our original fire-based approach than it was a remedy for the oil spill.

Let’s try to move on, and focus on the present. Our most recent attempt was entitled Operation Smash-Kill; it entailed smashing one of the bottles with a shoe. We saw results almost immediately, as the number of leaking bottles decreased from three to two. However, what we did not plan for — indeed, what no one could have foreseen — was the rapid release of nearly all of the olive oil previously contained in the third bottle, the one we smashed. It appears that the table is even more drenched in olive oil than it was before, and a new glass problem has presented itself.

Yes, that is correct. Now there is olive oil all over the shoe. But let’s not get distracted.

Our scientists are currently at work assessing the feasibility of addressing the problem using bread. However, we must remember that our supply of bread is limited. This is not Bottomless Basket Night at Lino’s, and even if it were, we have reason to believe the restaurant staff would be hesitant to continue producing food that is only being used to mop up other food.

Rest assured that we are devoting our full attention to the proper handling of this disaster. Several napkin-reconnaissance teams have been dispatched, and we cannot make a fully informed decision until we receive their report. In the meantime I ask you to keep things in perspective. The restaurant is a very big place — thousands of square feet! — and the olive oil spill, at least for now, has spread only ten or so feet in each direction. And let us thank good luck that there have been precious few casualties.

Please, go back to your meals. We have this under control.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where life imitates art, and art imitates a really sad life, which will nonetheless make you laugh. At least, if it's written by Becky Cardwell.

Leaving The Nest: The Metaphorical Gallery Of A Food Preparation Utensils Sculptor

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ARTIST STATEMENT

I am a contemporary artist who specializes in the art of sculpture. My parents were artists as well, which is undoubtedly how I developed such a true appreciation for the craft. My father was a car mechanic who built creative-yet functional sculptures under the hoods of various Chevrolet models, and my mother was a secretary/aspiring rug-hooker, with a unique gift for turning otherwise mundane pieces of yarn into realistic and visually-stimulating farmhouse motifs.

Each one of my sculptures tells a personal story, and together they tell an even longer, more personal story. And while I’m confident they speak for themselves, I have taken the liberty of titling them, just in case they don’t.

The following masterpieces comprise my “Leaving the Nest” Gallery. I hope they will be as cathartic to you, as they are to me.

“LEAVING THE NEST”

“Step Off My George Foreman Grill!” — 1997

The vision for this Spartan yet thought-provoking piece came to me during an extremely turbulent period in my life. After graduating from College — give or take a few dozen credits — I decided it was time to find my true calling. However, because I was directionally-challenged and suffered from a mild case of vertigo at the time, I opted instead to sit on the couch and watch television all day, in the hopes that my true calling would eventually find me.

Sadly, my Mother was not of the same opinion. Ever since the doctors severed the umbilical cord that had at one time connected us, it was as though we no longer shared the same mindset. She would continually try coercing me into doing illogical things, like contributing financially to the household, or performing chore-like duties in such a way as to belittle my skills (I had majored in Liberal Arts and therefore had a varied and extensive education).

“Would you please go and clean your room?” she would ask, in a tone that wasn’t always pleasant.

It was a horrible experience, one that I pray no other twenty-five year-old will ever be forced to endure.

The Hand That Rocks The Ladle — 1997

To the artistically-challenged eye this may look like just a regular serving spoon leaning against a silicone oven mitt, but to everyone else it is a tour de force, a minimalistic representation of life as seen by a brilliantly-creative yet unfairly tormented hostage.

As it turned out, this woman — who, only a quarter of a century earlier, allowed me to stay rent-free in her womb for nine months — was suffering from a debilitating mental illness. She began making bizarre comments, asking nonsensical questions, such as “When are you going to start pulling your own weight?” and “As long as you live under this roof, you will NOT be bringing random guys home from the bar at three a.m. — DO YOU HEAR ME???”

It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear her — she’d been standing less than three feet away at the time — it was that her words were completely absurd. It was obvious she needed professional help, and since I wasn’t a Psychiatrist, nor did I have good enough grades to get into a school for aspiring Psychiatrists, I knew I had to leave. I also knew this because she kicked me out.

She wrote me a check for four-hundred-dollars, which I used to secure a small, sculpture-friendly basement suite found on Craigslist. And while the bathroom wasn’t finished and it reeked of cat urine, I knew deep down it was better than the alternative.

* Sidenote — The alternative was becoming a squatter, and back then I didn’t have the thigh muscles required to remain in awkward positions for an extended period of time.

“Tongs For Nothing!” — 1997

This stunning success, comprised solely of strategically placed Ron Popeil “Flip-Its”, came to fruition shortly after discovering that cable would cost extra.

I was devastated. Television had been part of my life since I was six-months old, and to be without it felt like losing a family member. Only worse.

Desperate, I did the only thing I could do. I quickly sculpted this magnum opus and then reached for the phone to call my progenitor. After discovering that it, too, was not in service, I knew I had no other choice to go to see her in person.

(Public transport is yet another thing I pray no other twenty-five year-old will ever be forced to endure.)

One can only imagine the creativity-triggering angst I felt, when after embarking on such a long and arduous journey, the woman denied me, her firstborn child, the gift of life in monetary form. She said I had to learn to survive on my own, and her decision to deprive me of my livelihood hurt her more than it hurt me.

I found it hard to believe, seeing as I was hurting something fierce and I knew her threshold for pain wasn’t all that high.

Eye Of The Grinder-1997

This pupil-adorned Cuisinart could very well be my most majestic creation of all. The idea came to me while sitting on the floor of my unfurnished basement suite, brainstorming ways to earn money without having to sacrifice my free time. “What would Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III do?” I asked myself.

Unfortunately, because I’d never actually seen the movie, I really had no idea.

Just then, my former caregiver showed up. After spending the last twenty-four hours in an intensive self-rehabilitation program, she had finally come to her senses, and was begging me to return to the previously lively but now bleak and barren house we once shared.

I made her sweat it out, but in the end I knew that because she was family, I had no other choice but to forgive and forget.

So, after hugging it out and drying my tear-stained but still extremely talented eyes, I packed my satchel — made entirely out of reusable Gladware containers — and we headed back home.

Now, whenever I look at this magnificent Grind & Brew™ sculpture, whether it be sitting on my mantle or finely milling the roasted coffee beans hand-picked by Arabian artists, I am reminded of a famous quote I once heard:

“Risin’ up, back on the street, did my time, took my chances. Went the distance now I’m back on my feet, just a man and his will to survive…”

— Anonymous

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