* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are so excited about Election Day that we had to post an extra piece this week by our good friend Daniel Friedman. Don't forget to vote for the vicious homicidal reptile of your choice.

Sick Of Politics As Usual? Vote For This Alligator!

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Nobody thought we could do this, my friends. Nobody would have believed, even six weeks ago, that we’d be celebrating here tonight. But we did it. You did it. I want to give you all my sincere thanks, from the bottom of my cold, reptilian heart.

Y’all know I come from humble beginnings. No reason to mince words; I grew up in a swamp. My mother did the best she could, scooping dirt over her eggs, and keeping scavengers away from the nest. But my childhood wasn’t exactly nurturing. The day I was born, I dug my way out of the soft, warm peat and into a harsh and unforgiving world. And I made my own way in life through the exercise of determination, stick-to-itiveness, and good old-fashioned American entrepreneurial spirit. To pay for college, I had to work part-time in a freak show on the side of the highway, wrestling a man who wore overalls and no shirt. And my opponent just wants to talk about whether I sent my tuition on time.

And those core, fundamental values are our way out of this mess that the establishment in Washington done got our country mixed up in. Folks up there think they can fix things with more government. Down here, we know what to do with government. We wait, motionless, for hours, until government comes down to the water’s edge to drink, and then we leap out, catch it by the throat or by one of its forelimbs, drag it down and hold that gosh-darn government underwater until it drowns or dies of massive blood loss. We will snap our jaws closed on taxes and spin repeatedly in a violent death roll until they are torn into pieces small enough to easily swallow.

That’s the message we’re sending up there, and that’s the message some folks’ll do anything to stop. I know about the nasty e-mails circulating that falsely portray me as a merciless predator. It was very embarrassing for my family when the Gawker posted years-old photos of me rubbing up against a submerged log. I’ll tell you again, my actions were in no way inconsistent with my positions on social issues. I was just molting, okay? I’ve endured painful and offensive insults, as my opponents have revealed their prejudices. I don’t like hearing people say that I’d make a better suitcase than a senator, but I can endure it because our mission is just.

Some people are even claiming that I am not an American alligator at all, but that I am, rather, an Egyptian Nile Crocodile, and therefore, probably a Muslim. Folks, you’ve seen my passport. You’ve seen the church where I pray. I’ve done everything I can to put this misinformation to bed, and the haters on the internet are still debating about the shape of my snout. It’s undignified and disrespectful. But this is what happens when you scare the people in charge. Every lie and every attack shows we’re getting to them. And we will prevail. We’ve waited long enough, my friends. Now is the time to lunge.

We need to put the divisiveness of the primary season behind us, and I hope the party can unite behind me against our common enemy. Because what we’re up against in November is a political culture of waste. People down here are losing their jobs and their health care and their wetlands. Things have gotten so bad that nobody even comes to hit golf balls at me when I sun myself on the eighth-hole fairway at the local country club. But meanwhile, those folks in Washington are enjoying the wasteful luxury of their mammalian metabolism. Down here, we’ve had enough of that. I’m one of you, my friends. My rage is white-hot, but my body is room-temperature, and nothing is ever going to change that.

The days are numbered for the Washington insiders, my friends. Our legs may be stubby, but we are surprisingly quick over short distances, and we’ve got their scent. There’s no way they can escape. Unless they confuse us by running in zig-zags.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe in the right of the average American to own his own home, almost as much as we believe in his right to tell his neighbors what they can do with their homes. What a pleasure to find that Tim Cushing agrees with us. Or does he?

A Brief Introduction To Settling Homeowner Disputes

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While it is the American dream to own your own home and burn it later for the hefty insurance payout, home ownership can be a perilous journey down a path filled with faulty city water lines, inept, expensive contractors and litigious neighbors.

The most common annoyance will be the “homeowners’ dispute.” Usually the result of familiarity breeding contempt or contemptuously breeding (this includes cats), what could have been solved with a simple apology or fruit basket has now become a matter for the Homeowners’ Association, whose power far exceeds the limits of the judicial system.

These disputes can happen at any time for nearly any reason: erecting a privacy fence, harvesting from the “communal” garden or following your weeklong bender during which you mistook the neighbor’s living room for your garage.

Most of these expensive disputes can be defused or avoided completely through a combination of “worst case scenario” preparation and lying. Let’s take a look at some common homeowner disputes.

Property Lines
This dispute will normally rear its ugly head once your fence construction is nearing completion or when a tree falls onto your neighbor’s addition. As these situations become more and more common, some clear delineation of your property lines is needed, meaning phrases like “a little past the mailbox,” “as the crow flies…” or “just before the leaking water lines…” are no longer acceptable.

As a property line dispute is the most common homeowner issue, multiple solutions to this problem have surfaced over the years. Rather than battling it out in court or dragging those assholes from the Homeowner’s Association into this, consider these options for dispute resolution:

— Slap fight
— Race around the world
— Pistols at dawn
— Jarts
— Flamewar
— Thunderdome
— Trivial Pursuit: ’80s Edition
— Facebook Friend-Off
— Agreeing to disagree
— Compromise

(Note: These last two are not recommended.)

Grass Color/Length
To those of us who reside nowhere near gated communities or golf courses, this would seem to be a non-issue. We would let nature take its course color-wise and mow the lawn down to an eighth of an inch every three months or so.

However, this matter is taken quite seriously by the Homeowners’ Association, whose keen eyesight and finely tuned calipers will be all over your property the moment the grass does indeed become greener on the other side of the fence.

Your neighbors, whom you previously trusted and shared mid-priced domestic bottled beer with, may turn on you if they feel your pear-colored lawn is somehow bringing their property values down. In a very short time, you will be apprised of the situation, usually through a variety of passive-aggressive letters and conversations.

There is really only one way out of this dispute: spend every weekend and evening hour in a highly visible place gazing over your lawn while comparing fertilizers, herbicides and minor lawn deities. This means that you will have to have a variety of lawn additives on hand at all times and be ready to quote Gaian prayers at the drop of a hat. Failure to do so will most likely result in a costly arbitration and passive-aggressive bomb threats.

Resolution Role-Play
There’s no better way to prepare for some hot homeowner-on-homeowner action than to “put the shoe on the other foot,” so to speak. With some healthy role-playing, you should be able to talk yourself out of any situation, including uncomfortable discussions about your inability to dress yourself properly.

Here are a variety of common disputes. Please choose the best resolution.

1. The city calls to inform you that you will be held responsible for the power lines chewed up by your tiller. Your response?

— “Well, send someone down to help me transplant the bodies.”
— “No habla engles.”
— “Tell your crew to stop vandalizing my yard. There’s frickin’ orange spray paint everywhere.”
— “I really think the responsibility lies with the Troy-Bilt Corporation’s incredibly powerful and smooth handling rototiller.”
— “Hold on a second, I have a call from the water company on line 2.”

2. The Homeowners’ Association has informed you that your choice of mailbox is not acceptable. Your response?

— “Have I shown you my extensive handgun collection?”
— “No habla engles.”
— “Why? Because the flag is shaped like a penis?”
— “I need someplace to test out my pipe bombs.”
— Sucker punch the representative and ask for a pro-rated refund of your dues.

3. During a fierce storm, a branch from your tree knocks out your neighbor’s windshield. Your response?

— “Well, that answers the whole “If a tree falls in Parkview Terrace, who starts whining immediately?” question.
— “Here’s a number for my insurance agent. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak English.”
— “I would imagine this falls under ‘act of God.’ Like your slashed tires. Or your daughter’s pregnancy.”
— “Could I ask you to hold this pipe-ish, bomb-ish looking thingy for a minute while I run and get my checkbook? I’ll be back in 7-10 minutes.”
— Sucker punch him and ask for his insurance information.

4. An electrical fire discolors the outside of your neighbor’s newly painted house. He wants you to pay for repainting. Your response?

— “No, but I’m OK, thanks for asking.”
— “Are you familiar with the phrase ‘water, water everywhere/not doing a damned thing'”?
— “Perhaps my powerful urine will clean it off…although it really didn’t do much to the fire…”
— “Can you break a ten dollar bill?”
— “Remember that time when you asked if I’d seen anyone ‘strange’ lurking outside your daughter’s window? And I said I hadn’t seen anyone ‘unfamiliar’…”
— “Have I introduced you to my insurance agent? He’s not too good with the English but he throws a hell of a sucker punch.”

(Note: Role-playing is also a great way to keep your marriage fresh. Consider taking the role of “Disgruntled Neighbor #2” while your partner (or partners) acts out the part of “Inept Landscaper.” Sparks will fly!)

Arbitration
If these alternate resolutions fail, be prepared to end up in court. Unfortunately, the glamorous courtrooms you’ve often viewed on TV will remain a fantasy. Instead, you’ll be forced to lay your case out in front of a bored and biased arbitration “judge” whose bitterness towards his or her inability to secure a real judgeship (sans quotes) will be taken out on you.

As recent studies have shown, the defendant has only a 1-3% chance of leaving this hearing with a victory. However, there are a few steps you can take to “level the playing field:”

— Pray fervently.
— Skip town and continue life under an assumed name.
— Ask to be placed in protective custody.
— Sport an infectious and highly visible body rash.
— Shout “Objection!” every third word or so (even during your own testimony).

(Note: In these same studies, respondents referred to these suggestions as ranging from “completely useless” to “wholly ineffective.” Other comments included “It’s better than doing nothing, I guess,” and “Does anyone have some Cortaid?” Several respondents originally stated these suggestions “couldn’t hurt,” later amending their answer to “I was wrong. So very, very wrong.”)

If you arm yourself with information and approach this with strong resolve, you’ll be out in no time, reconsidering the pros and cons of renting.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where yo mama and our mama are both the butt of "yo mama" jokes. This week, however, the mama in the spotlight is Becky Cardwell's.

An Evolution Of Yo Mama Jokes, As Told By My Mother

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Yo Mama so fat she looks nine months pregnant, which thankfully she is.

Yo Mama still so fat, but to be fair she did just have a baby six months ago.

Yo Mama so cruel because somehow she always ends up being the disciplinarian while her husband gets to sit back and play the good guy.

Yo Mama so boring her children would rather hang out at their Aunt Kathy’s house and play with her two dogs in the enormous swimming pool.

Yo Mama so fat thank goodness it’s (mostly) just stubborn baby weight.

Yo Mama so homely but that’s just because she spends all her free time at home. By the phone. Waiting for her daughter to call and let her know where she is.

Yo Mama such a pushover her nickname is “Pushover.”

Yo Mama so old-school she needs to stop buying her daughter new clothes when they just end up sitting in a crumpled heap in the back of the closet anyway.

Yo Mama so naive she can’t relate to being a college freshman who’s too busy partying to stay home on a Saturday night and play Yahtzee with her mama.

Yo Mama so narcissistic she just assumed that after her flesh and blood moved out she’d at least get a phone call every once in a while.

Yo Mama so gullible she wakes up every morning thinking that maybe, just maybe, this will be the day her twenty-five-year-old will finally settle down and start having babies of her own. But not before the wedding, of course.

Yo Mama so fat even her sweat pants don’t fit but it’s not a big deal since nobody ever invites her out anyway.

Yo Mama so awful that her shy and timid little girl has suddenly become an ambitious career woman, who is too busy doing “career woman-like activities” to get married and give her lonely (and let’s not forget awful) mama a grandchild.

Yo Mama so old she should probably just withdraw her 401K early and move into a seniors’ home, seeing as her children (in not so many words) have made it perfectly clear that there’s no room at their place for an old lady and a friendly, mostly well-behaved cat.

Yo Mama so fat, but really it’s not her fault. You see, ever since her cat ran away and her oldest kid just accepted a job offer out-of-state, she has no other choice but to seek companionship from the bottom of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your all-in-one source for computer games based on members of the eighteenth century feminist intelligentsia. This week say hello to Eric Hague, who is new to our site.

A Dismissal Of The Educational Value Of “World Of Wollstonecraft”

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My fellow teachers:

I am penning this letter to voice my vehement opposition to the adoption of the video game “World of Wollstonecraft” by the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District. This product, developed by Norton Critical Editions Interactive, purports to be an “educational aid,” one that “makes reading eighteenth-century proto-feminist treatises fun again.” But having spent several days (and nights) playing it, I can report, unequivocally, that it is none of these things.

“World of Wollstonecraft” posits players in a vividly rendered, albeit deeply anachronistic version of eighteenth-century Europe. Equipped with a wide array of tools such as books, quills, composing sticks, and, improbably, enchanted one- and two-handed axes, students must battle their way toward various scholarly and/or occult objectives.

When customizing their avatars, players can choose from among any number of eighteenth-century classes and professions — rural peasant, laborer, urchin, pauper, serf, and Grand Master Alchemist to name only a few — along with a variety of races, which, again, tend to defy historical authenticity as least as far as the presence of Night Elves goes.

The gameplay itself is strangely violent. Players frequently find themselves engaged in gory, soul-rending PvP combat. Granted, the epoch in question saw the fighting of several bloody continental wars, to say nothing of the French Revolution, but the Army of the Back Dragon? The unholy conquests of Archimonde the Defiler? None of that shows up in any reputable military history of the period.

And more to the point, what does any of this have to do with Mary Wollstonecraft? As near as I can tell, the author of Thoughts on the Education of Daughters appears only once in the entire game, and commanding the Shadowtooth Dark Trolls during the Battle for Mount Hyjal at that. The subsequent cinematic in which she issues a “Vindication of the Rights of Orcs” has no literary merit whatsoever.

Another issue: regarding the team quest “The Infernal Dungeon of Paine,” I have it on good authority that Thomas Paine had neither an infernal dungeon, nor the ability to cast a “Common Sense/Mind Flay” spell.

And while I’m back on the subject of historicity, I might add that minarchist philosopher William Godwin would not be that hard to beat in real life. It took me like five times.

Some of my fellow educators have tried to convince me that the use of Wollstonecraft-like games in schools is becoming increasingly common. Fran Levy, who teaches English at Strath Haven High School, told me she’s been using the game “Virginia Woolfenstein 3D” for years to help illustrate both the interwar flowering Modernist literature as well as the shootability of Nazis. Whatever happened to a little thing called teaching?

One cannot deny that “World of Wollstonecraft” is engrossing in its own way. (Though after one spends ten straight hours organizing a raid on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein fortress, one’s wife may try to make such an argument.) However, its entertainment value is undeniably spawned, as it were, by its lack of educational substance.

In the end, it may be the case that today’s teenagers simply do not care about Enlightenment-era literature the way that our generation did. They seem to feel that the works of luminaries such as Voltaire and Hume don’t feature gratuitous amounts of grisly, sorcery-fueled violence. Maybe they’re right. But as long as I’m an English teacher — as long as I have the power to foist my own personal sense of the canon of English literature on the lives of apathetic young people — I will continue to fight these so-called educational video games with everything I have.

At least until “Grand Theft Ottoman Empire” comes out. That looks pretty sweet.

Sincerely,

Eric Hague

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where for the first time ever we are updating the site more than once a week. Don't get used to it, folks! We're lazy. But in the meantime, prepare to see the glory with this topical madness from our own Associate Editor Justin Warner.

An Early Draft Of Christine O’Donnell’s Campaign Ad

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I’m not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you. None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with the things we see all around us: Politicians who think spending, trading favors, and backroom deals are the way to stay in office.

Seriously, though, I’m not a witch. To even say that I “dabbled” in witchcraft is an overstatement. I got about three chapters into the Book of Shadows and had barely immolated my first wax poppet when I found Christ. It wasn’t like I got kicked out of the coven because I messed up my Latin conjugation in the Black Mass and gave the high priestess herpes, or something like that.

Let’s look at the hard evidence. If I’m a witch, how is it possible that Chris Coons still has the head of a man, and not that of a boar? You’d think at a minimum there’d be a blight on his koi pond, or that he’d be seduced by the occasional succubus. But no, he keeps on preaching the same old Washington politics without once projectile-vomiting his entire intestinal viscera into Rachel Maddow’s face. What self-respecting, patriotic witch wouldn’t make that happen?

Also, if I were a witch, I wouldn’t have to run for the Senate to take our country back. I’d cut out the middleman and curb government spending by sealing off the Treasury with a moat of boiling blood. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have gone on MTV to warn about the dangers of lustful fantasies; I’d just make bats fly out of your hoo-ha every time you touched yourself down there. And more likely than not, I’d have magically inserted myself into the first Harry Potter book, gotten on the Hogwarts school board, instituted a creation science-based curriculum, and fired Dumbledore for promoting his alternative lifestyle.

Of course, I would mostly use my powers to benefit the people of Delaware –- the real Delaware, not Wilmington. Like, I would make our state a lot bigger. As far as I can tell, it could fill up half the Atlantic Ocean, and there would still be plenty of room for fish and stuff. And once we had all that extra land, I would make our famous Delaware chickens really huge, so we could keep enjoying their meat but kill fewer chickens. Every chicken would be eight or nine feet tall and feed, like, 300 people. I don’t see a downside.

So, you can go to the polls in November and pull the lever for me, knowing full well that I won’t put a hex on Harry Reid that makes flesh melt from his bones every time he closes a corporate tax loophole. That is, unless you really want me to. I’m sure there are charms that can cure the priestess’s herpes, and I’m willing to study hard. In fact, if it comes to it, I’ll do everything in my power to open the bowels of the Earth and swallow the entire Democratic caucus into the fires of Gehenna.

Isn’t that what you’d do?

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we yield to no one in our admiration for Hamlet, and in our determination to never see it staged again, unless it's by Alex Bernstein...

Polonius Is Dead

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Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4. Queen Gertrude’s bedchamber. Hamlet, distressed, speaks with the Queen. Polonius, her elderly advisor, hides behind the curtains.

POLONIUS: Oh…damn. Well, I didn’t think he’d just walk in like that. Still, standing back here, surely, I might ascertain the cause — nay, the implement — of young Hamlet’s madness.

What’s he saying? What’s he saying? What was that? I can hardly hear a thing. What? What was that? Was that my name? What’s he saying? What?

Well, I wouldn’t’ve stood back here if I’d known I couldn’t hear him. Maybe I’ll just peek. Lousy curtains. He’d run me through if he saw me! It’s just like him. That’s all we need in Denmark — emotional children. Walk backwards like a crab! Indeed! I’ve got your bare bodkin! Bare bodkin this! And how did he know I was a fishmonger? I made quite a nice living fish mongering. Hello, ladies! What are we mongering today? Fish? Fish jerky? Little squib? What’s he saying?

You know…I think I can just make out Gertrude’s backside from here! There’s an ass to kill for! Hmm…now, where’ve I heard that before?

I know. I’ll just step out. Hello! Well hello, Hamlet! Hamlet, right? You’re up late! Terrific sword. What am I doing back here? Praying. No. I live here. It’s a Westinghouse, right? Well, I’m westing! Ba-dump-cha! That’s great for toasts. It’s yours if you — oh, what am I really doing here? Mm. I’m lost. I was in aisle six and — you? Love these curtains. They’re Danish, I think. It would make sense, right? I could’ve sworn there was a window back here. You know what, Hamlet? You need a hobby. Seriously. Knitting? It’s a time killer! Yes. I — talk to myself? Do I? Why, I suppose I do!

Hamlet! Haaaamlet! Ophelia likes you! Yes, she does — I think so — I — Hiding!? Eavesdropping!? Sir! You malign me! You offend me! You piss me off — you —

God! The stench back here! Does no one ever clean?! Eeuch! Gertrude, I love you, but you’re a pig. Smells like juice of vile hebenon! Death for my sinuses. And get some in your ear!? Brrr!

Uhm…Hammy? Excuse me. I’m so sorry. I really must get back. One of my courtesans fell. Yes. On her orisons. Right. And I’m bringing her some ointment. Cortisone, yes. Cortisone for my courtesan’s orisons. I know. I know. It’s complicated. Maybe I should fix him up with that Capulet girl. Mmm. Yes, she’s moody, too.

I know! I’ll play on his madness! Hamlet! It is I — the Ghost of Your Father! Boo! Mark me! Mark — me! You — Hamlet! Mark me! Use permanent markers! Big ones! Hamlet! Avenge me! Avenge me! Kill the King! Jump up and down! Take two steps backwards! Say “hibby hibby nobby nobby tibby tibby ding!”

Oh, poor, poor, mixed-up Danish prince. Dangerous, sure. Too much zest. ADD? Perhaps. What he needs is a good role model. Someone living. Yes, that’s it. Flesh and blood.

Oh — oh — Hamlet — by the by — If you see him again — the King your father — could you ask where he left my sandals? He said he was only wearing them into the garden and now — yes, the leather ones with the gold straps. God, I had them for years! Greek! Specially made. A month’s salary! No, it’s fine, fine. I guess I didn’t really expect them back. Still. If he apparates again — yes, that’d be terrific!

Say — say — what — what was his name again, anyway? We always just called him “King.” Oh, oh, I know! Hamlet! King Hamlet! Say! That makes you a Junior! Hello, Junior! How are you, Junior? Ahp — Junior’s killed someone in a duel! See. That’s much cheerier, yes?

Well, everything’s perspective, isn’t it? You say it’s tragedy! He says it’s comedy! She says it’s a travel monologue! The Murder of Gonzago? Funny! I don’t care what the critics said. I couldn’t stop laughing. A tragedy is — I don’t know — anything by Marlowe! Kidding. A tragedy is some prolonged sword fight with poisoned tips and drinks and everyone dies and all that nonsense. God, it’s so depressing —

Take Claudius. Please! No, really — he’s a pussycat once you get to know him! And what good luck that after your father’s freakish death he was able to step in as new sovereign and husband to Gertrude! Ho! It certainly added continuity to the kingdom! Wasn’t so easy for your mother, either, hopping into the sack toot sweet with your father’s brother! But she knew her obligations to the crown! Now, that’s a queen!

I know — I know — you’re stressed. Seems like everybody’s talking about you, staring at you. Hamlet, that’s not treachery! It’s hormones. Yes. Now — I mean this — I want you to think of me as an uncle. Just like Claudius — no — wait — what? Look — what say you and me — two strapping Great Danes –- head to the commissary — grab a couple flagons of ale –- Super Gulps, sure -– and then, you can tell me anything! About your dad, Ophelia, whatever! Won’t that be swell?! Thatta boy! Come —

He steps forward, absent–mindedly.

POLONIUS: Give your old Uncle Polonius a big —

He is stabbed through the curtains.

POLONIUS: O — I am slain!

BLACKOUT

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