* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our favorite visualization is the one in which our good friend Jeff Dutre brings us another fresh bit of fun.

Ineffective Guided Visualizations

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WARM WATER

Sit comfortably in your chair. Close your eyes. Take two or three deep breaths. Relax your body. Start with your feet. Imagine they are floating in a warm pool of water. Feel the water rise to your knees. Nervous tension disappears as the warmth rises. Relaxation continues up your legs to your waist. Take more deep breaths. Let the soothing water rise to your chest. You might notice your body becoming heavier, as the warmth spreads up your arms to your shoulders. Your neck and jaw muscles loosen as the water covers your chin. Take deep, slow, cleansing breaths until you are completely submerged. Now thrash your arms wildly and scream for a lifeguard.

THE FOREST

You’re deep in the forest. See the patterns of shadow and light on the forest floor as the sun shines through the treetops.

(Wait, what’s that noise? Is that Bobby? How did Bobby get in here? How did he get past the baby gate?? Honey, will you get Bobby out of here? How the hell am I supposed to do my guided visualizations with a toddler staggering around in here? Phew! What a stink! Will someone please put a fresh diaper on this kid? I’d like to know who had the bright idea to switch him from applesauce to Vienna sausage snacks, because it sure as hell wasn’t me.)

Okay, where were we? Oh yes, the forest. Take a deep breath. Smell the earth, the leaves, the fresh pine. All the worries and cares of civilization are far behind you. Gentle birdsong floats through the air, filling you with reverence for all God’s creatures. Except for that rabid fisher over there. It walks towards you, its gait unsteady, its red eyes unfocused, white foam dripping from its teeth. How far is it back to the car?

SUNLIGHT MEDITATION

Close your eyes. Now picture yourself in a safe, beautiful place outdoors. Feel the heat of the sun as it warms your skin. It soothes every muscle, tendon and nerve…

(BANG! What the hell was that? Did Bobby knock something over? Will someone please put that kid in his playpen before he wrecks the house? Lisa, put your little brother in his playpen, will you please? And take that army man away from him before he chokes to death! Who the hell gave him army men to play with?)

Okay, deep breath. Sunlight. Profound relaxation replaces all the tension in your body. Soak up the sun like a sponge – a tan sponge that grows more tanned with each passing moment as cosmic radiation awakens your skin cells, allowing them to shed their inhibitions and multiply uncontrollably. Now visualize the phone number of a good dermatologist.

TRAFFIC

Relax and imagine you are seated comfortably behind the wheel of your car. Traffic has slowed to almost a standstill. You are late for work again. You tap the gas pedal with your right foot, then apply the brakes, then tap the gas pedal, then apply the brakes. Inhale deeply and smell the fumes of the car in front of you. Its driver apparently possesses neither the funds nor the inclination to perform necessary repairs to its exhaust system. Now notice the colors around you: the deep blue of the morning sky, the rich black of the highway, the bright orange of the traffic cones blocking your way, the soft yellow of a blinking sign: “Single Lane Ahead — Expect Delays.” Let your muscles relax. Now listen. Don’t turn around. Do you hear something from the back seat? The wet, sickening sound of a diseased animal licking its foaming chops? Check your rear view mirror. It’s the rabid fisher.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always quick to offer an apology. Not as quick as new contributor Mel Stefaniuk, though. NOTE: We'd like to take this opportunity to recommend you check out the weekly ruminations about the joys of living abroad by our copy editor David Jaggard, in his column "David Jaggard on Paris Update." Just click on the link with that name under our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

An Apology For My Concussion-Induced Behavior

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I know I’m not usually quick to admit a mistake but I really feel as if I owe you all an apology for my behavior at last week’s pitch meeting. U-571 2: U-572 was not a good idea, I realize that now, and the belligerent and violent way I continued to defend it was inappropriate. I had been in an accident the previous night — the “B” from a Barnes & Noble sign fell on my head when I was leaving the store — and as we all realize now, I was clearly suffering from a severe concussion.

Mark, you were the first one I turned on. You started snickering when I explained the new U-571 would be about a “hot-ass speedboat that dishes out its own brand of nautical justice” and I was out of line when I started slapping the top of your head as if it were a drum in retaliation. As musically sound as the rhythm I got from your head may have been, and I’ve been told by others in the room that the beat was reminiscent of Face Value-era Phil Collins, there’s just no excuse I can give that could ever justify my actions. You were right: not only is making a sequel to an obscure submarine movie an awful idea, inexplicably changing the water vessel in question from a sub to a speedboat is mindbogglingly stupid.

Judy…oh Judy, to you I’m not sure what I can do to make up for what I said. Let me simply address every one of those ridiculous remarks I made directly:

1. Your brake lines haven’t been cut.
2. I’m not really going to give you a cake with dynamite candles for your birthday.
3. It wouldn’t be physically possible for me to actually drop a volcano onto your house.
4. There’s no such demon as Hazmalak, and even if there was, I wouldn’t know how to summon him.
5. You don’t smell like Rowdy Roddy Piper after a wrestling match.

Rick: all I can say is that those clothes are never going to be clean again so burn them. IMMEDIATELY. Then you must seal those ashes in a metal canister and bury them as deep into sanctified ground as humanly possible. After that, all we can do is pray that they’re never discovered.

And Walter, you’re the one I owe the biggest apology to. You were the only one who listened patiently as I ranted and raved about a speedboat becoming sentient and opening a detective agency and yet I still hoisted you up from your chair and flung you through the window of that 17th floor office. It wasn’t so wrong that it was right like I later stated to the police when arrested, it was just plain wrong. If and when you wake up from your coma I hope we can look back at this incident and laugh, unless the sense of humor part of your brain really has been permanently damaged like the neurologist has implied it was.

So that’s it, all my cards are on the table and now I can only sit here and let time heal all the wounds that I have opened. I’m a changed man from this experience — I am far humbler and I no longer walk under excessively large store signs — and I hope you all can accept the new me and we can work together once again. I’ve recently started kicking around the idea for a little movie called Dockin’ It!: Amistad 2 and who knows, maybe someday you’ll allow me back onto your hollowed grounds to pitch it.

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R.I.P.

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What can you say about Uncle Jed that hasn’t been said before?

Okay, yes, that probably hasn’t been said before, Phil, but I was speaking rhetorically. What I was trying to get at is that Jed was a lot of things to a lot of people. Devoted father, dutiful husband, admired brother, faithful friend, consummate Rubik’s Cube enthusiast — he was all these things, and yet none of these things. Not even the Rubik’s Cube enthusiast. But that didn’t stop us from loving him. There was just something about Jed that put a smile on your face, whether it was his seemingly infinite collection of used celebrity Kleenex, or the casual way he flipped you the bird every time you asked him to pass the salt.

Yeah, ol’ Jed certainly had a rare sense of humor, but beneath that jocular exterior also lay a kind of genius. As many of you know, Jed was the sort of guy who could fix almost anything, from your car, to your computer, to your flamboyant nephew. Granted, it was usually Jed who broke these things in the first place (nephew included), but his inspired solutions were often nothing short of brilliant — and even legal, much of the time. You all remember cousin Gerald’s toupee? Ha ha, say it with me now: “AHHHHHH! OH MY GOD!! IT BURNS, IT BURNS!!!!!!!”

But there was more to Jed than just jokes and gin, and I would be remiss if I didn’t touch upon his warm heart, his compassionate nature, and his gently racist worldview. A peaceful man when he was sober, it could truly be said that Jed would never hurt a fly — unless that fly was slightly different from him in some superficial way beyond its control. But then, that’s Jed for you.

Of course, you’ve all heard the tales of heroism from his days fighting the Vietcong, how he once carried a wounded comrade through two miles of heavy sniper fire, only to discover that they had walked in exactly the wrong direction and had to travel four miles the other way to exit enemy territory. Private Benson may not have survived the return trip, but you can bet that Jed did his best to make his last few moments nearly tolerable.

Beyond Jed’s willingness to risk his life for his fellow soldier was his willingness to lay it down outright, as in the time he threw himself onto a live grenade to save an entire squadron from certain decimation. This act would ultimately earn Jed the Medal of Valor, even though the grenade in question turned out to be nothing more than an avocado that had rolled off a table in the mess hall. “Guess that’s why the uniform’s green!” Jed always joked after relating that particular chestnut.

Yes, Jed was something all right — something you couldn’t quite put a finger on and probably wouldn’t care to. But he’s gone now, and the world seems a little less interesting for it. A little less bright. A little more predictable. Yes, a world without Uncle Jed doesn’t quite seem possible.

…So, who’s up for Steak ‘n Shake? My treat!

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we celebrate the New Year by resolving to publish a new piece by Dan Fiorella. There, wasn't that easy?

Our Easy-To-Keep New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s New Year’s and you know what that means: making random resolutions to improve yourself while at some late night celebration when you’re inebriated that will inevitably fail. So why subject yourself to all that guilt over life-changing alterations gone unheeded? You want to make a resolution this New Year’s but not a hard one? Something that will be easy to stick to? Something that will allow you to feel superior to those failures and back-sliders you know? Then try one of our patented Easy-to-Keep New Year’s Resolutions:

No unnecessary space trips.

Place a ceiling on adopting third world babies. Or maybe even second world babies.

Resolve not to post government secrets online.

Cut back on bacon-flavor sodas.

Turn down any offers to be the subject of a reality TV show.

Cease spamming people unless using real Spam®.

Avoid midget tossing for sport. Remember, it’s a business, dammit!

Cut down on suicide bombing missions.

Reduce your eggnog consumption for a couple of months.

Try to put on a few pounds.

Resolve to use more contractions in your speech and writing.

Limit resolution making to once a year.

That guy living in the box in the alley? Just let him be.

Stop saying “Season’s Greetings” when what you really want to say is “Happy Holidays.”

Curb your stalking, especially at that place with all the security cameras.

Avoid producing Broadway musicals based on comic book superheroes.

Vow to remove any trees from your indoor living space.

Blink.

You’re welcome! So, enjoy your New Year’s to the fullest, but try not to be a jerk about it.

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