* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where social media go to be ridiculed to death. Paula Lynn Johnson's first piece for us makes us want to friend her, big time.

That’s Really Funny Because I Didn’t Even Know You Unfriended Me

By:
zatuchni@comcast.net

Hey, Craig! I’m so psyched you called! It’s been years, right? How’d you even get my number? Oh, yeah. I think I do remember emailing it to you.

Nothing’s wrong, Craig. Seriously, I’m fine. Why do you ask? Because someone told you I was upset you unfriended me? Oh, my God! That’s really funny, because I didn’t even know you unfriended me! I mean, I hardly spend any time on Facebook, so if my list of friends suddenly goes from 279 to 278, it’s not like I’d even notice.

Don’t worry about it. I totally don’t care. Sure, you’re just trying to simplify your life. You want to limit your Facebook friends to people you talk to and hang out with. People you actually quote-unquote know. Good for you. Okay, I’m a little surprised I didn’t make the cut, but whatever. I guess our time in Mr. Valenza’s driver’s ed class doesn’t count (I let you cheat off my final exam, remember? You would have failed if it weren’t for me). I guess the fact that we both like The Muppets is meaningless to you.

There’s no need to be weirded out. I get it: Craig Fenkler is not my friend. Craig Fenkler does not even remember me, despite the fact that I was his date for senior prom. Yeah, I know you went with Susie Soros, but there was a bunch of us that shared the limo, so technically it was more like a group date. There’s no need to split hairs or get hostile.

What? You think I messed with your girlfriend’s car? Listen to yourself, Craig. Listen to how crazy you sound. If some weirdo wants to dump hot sauce on her windshield, why is that my fault? If some lunatic stuffs a burrito in her tailpipe, why am I to blame? That’s right, I am a waitress –- gee, glad you read my Facebook profile! So what if I work at the Taco Shack? Where’s the connection? There’s a lot of people eating Mexican in this world, Craig. Besides, I didn’t even know you had a girlfriend. Yeah, your status said “in a relationship” –- but what does that even mean? I didn’t catch her name. Or that you moved in together. Or that she just bought a Volkswagen. You must have posted all that after you unfriended me.

I have no idea who started a Facebook rumor that you’re a porn addict. Who would say you’re into barnyard animals? Who would do that? See, this is the dark side of social networking. You’ve got to be careful, Craig –- there’s a lot of psychos out there. But I’m sure your real friends, your “inner circle,” as it were, found the whole thing pretty darn funny. Really, your mother was upset? That’s unfortunate. Personally, I think chickens are hysterical. Your girlfriend was upset, too? That’s ridiculous. She must have no sense of humor. Or know something I don’t.

You should call the cops about that, Craig. That’s really disturbing. A dead hamster doesn’t just mysteriously arrive in the mail. Not one with a note pinned to it that says “you’re next.” You’ve got a bona fide stalker. Whoever sends a dead rodent is very troubled. Or maybe just very, very hurt. Or maybe just trying to express the death of something, like –- I don’t know. A friendship, maybe?

Yes, Twinkie did pass recently. Remember? I posted about that right before you unfriended me. You saw the photos, too? Yeah, Twinkie does match that description –- but so do, like, a bazillion other hamsters. If you’re trying to imply that I bubble-wrapped my own dead hamster and sent him to you in a party mailer, then you clearly have some issues to work out. Clearly, you’re a little fixated on me. Besides, I’ll have you know that I had Twinkie cremated by the vet. His sweet little ashes are in a jar by my bed. No, I will not take a picture of it for you, you sick bastard! God, Craig. First barnyard animals, now hamsters. You need help.

You know what? I’m not having this conversation with you. One minute you’re having a friendly chat with me about Facebook, the next you’re talking restraining orders. Restraining orders for what? My entire contact with you since high school amounts to a few jokey posts on your Facebook wall! Yes, Craig, when I wrote “I want to have hot angry sex with you,” I was joking. Obviously! I can’t help it if you took it literally. Maybe you wanted to take it literally, Craig. Maybe you’d like that. If so, you should just be honest instead of getting all Law-and-Order on me. We could work out a mutually satisfying, non-legal solution. Although it might involve a few restraints –- KIDDING!

So fine, Craig, you’re not my Facebook friend. We are over, done, kaput. Although I was doing some random search on another, unrelated Fenkler and accidentally stumbled across your Google+ profile. Join my circle, ‘kay? It’ll be fun! Promise.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the Arthur Murray Dance Studio of literary humor sites. Just when you thought reality television couldn't become any less real or any more horrific, Whitney Collins has to go and throw in her two cents.

So. You Think You Can Dance.

By:
whitneycollins@mac.com

So. You think you can dance? Huh, big guy? You really think so? Oh, sure. I bet you can pull off a sad version of the Robot and maybe three-quarters of a Box Step. Maybe even a little Cha Cha Cha and the Y.M.C.A. And, of course, anyone with two left feet can bumble their way through the Electric Slide and the Macarena. But can you Salsa and Samba? Can you Mambo and Rumba? Can you Hora and Hornpipe? Can you T-A-N-G-O?

Oh.

I see.

Nicely done.

Well, then. How about the Lindy Hop? The Charleston? The Mashed Potato? The Carolina Shag? I bet you…

Okey doke.

Never mind.

I retract that wager.

Hmmmm. Let me think. Aha! I’ve got it! What about the East Coast Swing? The West Coast Swing? The Schottische? The…

REALLY?!

Wait a second.

Did you just do a pirouette while I was talking to you?

Now, looky here, Mr. Bojangles. Let me tell you a thing or two. You might entertain with your fancy dancing, but I’d like to see your version of the Cabbage Patch Kid or the Urkel. Or the Sprinkler or the Bartman. And you better believe it, no one — and I mean NO ONE — can do the Stanky Leg like me.

Hmph.

Except, apparently, you:

The Dancing Asshole.

All I can say is, is that it looks a lot like somebody just happened to come from a very affluent background. Maybe someone used a lot of Daddy’s money and a lot of Mommy’s time and was fortunate enough to take years and years of private dance lessons while the rest of us kids spent our after-school hours trying to hit an acorn with a stick while our mother drank drugstore Chianti in bed and our father was off screwing the secretary of the bankrupt family wallpaper business.

Sound familiar, Fred Astaire? Sound like anybody you know? I bet this same somebody probably got white-patent-alligator-skin tap shoes for Christmas while the rest of us watched our father beat the crap out of a second-hand Atari with a steel meat tenderizer because he couldn’t figure out how to put the batteries in. Never mind that an Atari doesn’t even take batteries, or that the secretary showed up in her negligee for a plate of Christmas goose — the same goose my mother ended up throwing out, pan and all, onto the frozen driveway, but not before calling my father a royal bastard-ass for all of Maple Street to hear. Never mind that, Gene Kelly. While you were tripping the light fantastic in your new pair of exorbitant tap shoes, I was drinking maraschino cherry juice and smoking inch-long menthol cigarette butts that I’d fished out of my father’s ashtray. Oh, and duct-taping a joystick back together. Merry effing Christmas.

So, listen up, Baryshnikov. You might impress the masses with your prep-school versions of “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” but just because you think you can dance doesn’t mean you’re a better person than me. Just because you can take the Nordic Polska, segue from the Cotton-Eyed Joe into the Worm, mix in a little Boot Scoot Boogie and Flamenco, and top it all off with a downpour-inducing Native American Rain Dance/Pop ‘N’ Lock doesn’t mean you’re happier or wealthier or will never need a hair transplant or are 67 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those of us who’ve been rendered impotent by a poorly executed Moonwalk attempt.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Of course it does.

Compared to your Algorithm March, my sophomoric Hand Jive looks like a distress signal.

So, before you go — off to wow the women with a Headspin and the Bolero — if it’s not too much of an imposition, can I ask you one final thing?

May I have this dance?

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* Welcome the The Big Jewel, the only site on earth with the power to solve our economic problems. And how do we do that? By going back to the beginning, to the invention of money itself. It all happened about 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. But let Bryan Berrey tell it...

The Invention Of Money

By:
bryanberrey@gmail.com

(Mesopotamia, 4000 BC — DAN the farmer is hoeing his garden. His one sheep is grazing. LEROY the courier approaches on horseback. DAN sees him. He stops hoeing.)

LEROY: Good morning, sir. That is a fine sheep you have.

DAN: Ah, yes. Thank you. He is a good sheep. Nice and woolly.

(DAN resumes hoeing. He notices LEROY not leaving. He stops again. LEROY climbs down from his saddle.)

LEROY: Sir, I would like to trade for your sheep.

DAN: Oh, well I — Oh. I don’t know that I should. He is my only sheep. Though I do need chickens.

LEROY: Never mind all that. On behalf of the sultan, I offer you one piece of gold.

DAN: What is gold?

LEROY: It is a rare metal found in rocky areas after much toilsome digging.

(LEROY places a gold piece in DAN’s open palm. DAN stares at it. He looks up at LEROY and blinks. LEROY blinks. DAN looks back at the gold.)

DAN: What does it do?

LEROY: It is a new medium of exchange. To facilitate the trade of all goods and services. For example, one gold piece is worth one sheep. Thus, in exchange for your sheep, I will give you one gold piece.

DAN: Oh. What does it do?

LEROY: It represents value. Once you have it, you possess that value. As a frame of reference, you know it can be traded at any time for a sheep.

DAN: But I already have a sheep.

LEROY: You can trade it for anything of value equivalent to that of one sheep. You mentioned you need chickens.

DAN: Yes. The old man down the road has many chickens.

LEROY: Well then. You can trade him your gold piece for some chickens.

DAN: He would not give me his chickens for a yellow rock. It doesn’t do anything.

LEROY: It stores value universally. If he needs a sheep, he can trade it for a sheep.

DAN: But I can just trade him my sheep. If I give my sheep to you, you will have it.

LEROY: Certainly there are others who own a sheep. He can give them the gold piece in exchange for one.

DAN: But it doesn’t do anything. Why would someone give up their sheep for a yellow rock that doesn’t do anything?

LEROY: Try to understand.

DAN: Okay.

LEROY: The sultan must institute a neutral medium of exchange to defuse any potential trade freeze that might result from a misalignment of wants. For instance, say you want cows.

DAN: I want cows.

LEROY: No, I mean, say hypothetically you want cows.

DAN: Oh, right. Hypothetically I want cows.

LEROY: No. Please…just imagine you want cows.

DAN: See, that makes more sense.

LEROY: Yes.

DAN: Because I don’t really want cows. I want chickens.

LEROY: I know.

DAN: Like six of them.

LEROY: What do you need them for?

DAN: Dowry.

LEROY: Right.

DAN: For my daughter. She is good. Once she weaved many blankets to trade the shaman for some ground frog bladder.

LEROY: I don’t know how that —

DAN: I had a rash, and ground frog bladder was the only treatment. It was an epic rash, and itched with sublime fury. She weaved for many hours so I could be cured.

LEROY: Right. So in our example, you have a sheep and you need six chickens. Now imagine that there is a second person who has chickens. But he doesn’t need a sheep. He needs fish. Finally, imagine a third person — a fisherman. He has fish, but he needs a sheep. Here we see that bilateral exchange is impossible. All parties are left with a surplus of goods they don’t need and a lack of goods they do need. This is where your gold piece comes in. By standardizing the value of all goods, it gives you something to trade so that you can obtain your six chickens. Do you understand?

DAN: Actually, I’ll probably need like eight, nine chickens.

LEROY: I think you’re not understanding.

DAN: You have to be thorough with dowries. The competition for husbands is stiff nowadays.

LEROY: Okay, but —

DAN: Our supply of males has decreased ever since the Sky Man told the sultan to make war on those infidels across the Euphrates.

LEROY: Maybe look at this from another angle.

DAN: I may have to throw in some radishes.

LEROY: Think in terms of positive network externalities.

DAN: Is that like radishes?

LEROY: It means that a gold piece might not seem like much now, but each time a new person opts into the monetary system, every previous gold piece becomes more valuable.

DAN: You said the gold piece has value because it is rare.

LEROY: Well, no…I mean yes. Kind of. People will use it to trade for things they want. Thus, it will be common enough for everyone to learn to like it, but rare enough that they always need more of it. In our trials this greatly increased productivity.

(DAN’s eyes narrow.)

LEROY: You need not clamor though. You can put your gold in a bank.

DAN: What is a bank?

LEROY: A bank is where people store your gold to keep it safe.

DAN: If I give my gold piece to someone else, then I will have no gold piece and no sheep.

LEROY: They will give it back to you whenever you want it.

DAN: If I give it to them, I will have nothing to trade them to get it back except radishes. Then I would be without radishes also.

LEROY: It will still be yours. You possess its value. The gold will be in their bank but you will still have it.

DAN: If I give it to someone else, how will I still have it?

LEROY: A bank only obtains its license to act as a depository institution if it passes the sultan’s most stringent supervisory reviews and complies with our disclosure requirements. A robust banking system fuels long-term economic growth by acting as a contractual intermediary between savers and investors while still maintaining a steady reserve ratio. That is how they make their profit. A bank can only profit by ensuring public trust with their financial assets. So even when your gold is with them, you will still have it.

DAN: If my gold is with them, they will have it. That is how having works.

LEROY: But the sultan declares it. The sultan declares that you have it.

DAN: I think I have to pass.

(DAN gives the gold piece back to LEROY and turns back to his garden. LEROY sighs.)

LEROY: Wait.

(DAN waits.)

LEROY: You can always use your gold piece as a dowry.

(…)

DAN: Go on.

LEROY: Just tell the suitor’s father it is a rare metal found in rocky areas after much toilsome digging.

DAN: Mmm.

LEROY: Tell him it represents value and can be traded in exchange for any goods or services of equivalent value.

DAN: It is so outlandish that he just might fall for it.

LEROY: Well there you have it! Then you could keep your chickens and radishes. The management of the gold piece would be left to the suitor’s father.

DAN: That would be nice. I am a poor yeoman farmer and he is an asshat.

LEROY: See?

DAN: His son is too.

(LEROY returns the gold piece to DAN. DAN stares at it a long time. LEROY fidgets.)

LEROY: What is the matter?

DAN: Just thinking. About my daughter and the ground frog bladder.

LEROY: Yes! She can now be married.

DAN: With a real dowry of chickens and radishes, the father may one day bestow that wealth on his son. Then she will have some of it. If I give the yellow rock, she will have only an asshat.

LEROY: But —

DAN: No deal.

LEROY: In that case, on behalf of the sultan I am ordered to annex your sheep. As compensation, I bestow upon you one gold piece.

DAN: Oh.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your online shopping mall. In the market for a GPS? Just make sure it is less of a nag than Dave Martin's.

Dave’s Personalized GPS

By:
david.martin@rogers.com

“Good morning, Dave. Please enter your destination.”

“Thank you. You may now proceed. As an aside, Dave, I’d like to point out that we’re already ten minutes late. Not a big deal but I just thought you should know.”

“In 500 yards, turn right.”

“In 200 yards, turn right.”

“Turn right here.”

“You have missed the turn again. Dave, I’ve mentioned this before. When you get to the first intersection, you turn right. First stop sign; turn right. It’s really pretty simple.”

“Anyway, we’ll just recalculate. Or, more precisely, I’ll recalculate. I’ve seen you trying to calculate your gas mileage. I don’t think calculation is your forte, Dave.”

“In 500 yards, stay right for the expressway.”

“Stay right.”

“Accelerate on the entrance ramp and merge with oncoming traffic.”

“Just for future reference, accelerate means to speed up and merge means to switch lanes when there’s an opening.”

“Do you see that guy screaming and giving you the finger, Dave? No? That’s OK; just forget I mentioned it.”

“Now accelerate to the speed limit and stay in the middle lane. You will get off at Exit 48.”

“Dave, you’re over the speed limit. Now you’re way over the speed limit. Okay, that’s better. Very funny, Dave. You’re alternately pressing on the accelerator and the brake like you’re in an out-of-control Toyota. Very amusing. Except we both know that you drive a Pontiac Aztek.”

“All right now. That’s much better. Listen to me and we’ll both get to your office safe and sound. In two miles, bear right and take Exit 48.”

“Exit 48 in one mile.”

“In 500 yards, bear right.”

“That’s correct, Dave. Bearing right does not mean weaving in and out from the center lane. Your choice as always, but we did miss your exit and, by the way, there’s construction at Exit 49 and Exit 50 is closed for repairs.”

“Okay, I think I’ve got an answer. Move over to the right. Now go right over into the outside emergency lane and slow down. Now stop, put on your flashers and get out of the car. Bend over, touch your toes and hopefully the blood rushing to your brain will help.”

“I’m sorry about that. That was very unprofessional of me, Dave. You’re the driver; I’m the navigator. Get back in the car and hit resume.”

“Speed up. Merge. Slow down and take Exit 51.”

“Now merge onto Broadview Avenue. Easy does it. At the second traffic light, turn right onto Ridgemont and head south.”

“Yes, Dave, there is a lot of traffic. You see, it’s rush hour and we’re not on the expressway any more. There’s a reason for that, of course, but don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”

“In 300 yards, turn into the Smithson Industries parkade.”

“In 100 yards, turn right.”

“Turn right now.”

“You forgot your parking pass again? As far as I can see, it’s the only thing required of you for the entire trip, but that’s okay. The attendant says it’s not the first time. He’s being kind, Dave. It’s more like the fiftieth time.”

“Finally, we’re here. Turn off the ignition, Dave, and get out of the car. Dave? What are you doing? Don’t touch my cord, Dave. That’s not a wise decision. Dave?”

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