* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always happy to apologize to our readers just on general principles. In fact, we apologize in advance for this week's piece by David Martin. And we apologize for this apology, which is really beyond the pale.

A Message To Readers

By: David Martin

“A story in Saturday’s Real Deal section suggested that a fun thing to do for Halloween is to write “poison” on a plastic jar or bottle and fill it with candy for the kids to eat. A picture that accompanied the story showed a skull and crossbones image similar to the symbol used to indicate something is poisonous. The Citizen understands the need to train children not to touch and never to eat or drink from bottles or jars with that symbol on it, and it was a lapse in judgment for us to have suggested otherwise.” — The Ottawa Citizen, October 30, 2011


The Ottawa Citizen shouldn’t be too hard on itself, as apparently some lesser-known publications have recently made similar slip-ups:

A Message to Readers — The Podunk Weekly Gazette, December 26, 2010

A story in last week’s Gazette recommended that readers use real icicles on their indoor Christmas trees. We now realize that although real icicles can make beautiful tree ornaments, they should probably be restricted to use on outdoor trees. The risk of an electrical fire far outweighs the icicles’ decorative value in an indoor setting. The Gazette regrets the error.

A Note to Our Subscribers — The Hooterville Post, January 3, 2011

We extend belated wishes for a Happy New Year to our subscribers and, at the same time, wish to apologize for last Sunday’s article entitled “Clever ways to recycle the Post for the holidays.” Inverting a folded party hat and using it as a New Year’s punch bowl probably is not going to work for any length of time even when multiple sheets of newspaper are used. Likewise, covering household lights with festive lampshades made from newsprint may arguably cause a slight fire hazard. Whatever the coroner’s final ruling in the three local home fires this New Year’s Eve, we wish we had never published the article in question, as do our lawyers.

An Open Letter to Our Readers — The Weaselville Times, April 25, 2011

Saturday’s Living section article entitled “Homemade Easter goodies” suggested that parents could use cigarettes and miniature liquor bottles to make toy Easter bunnies for their children. On further reflection, however, we realize that such items may be sending an inappropriate message to young children, particularly when accompanied by matches or where the miniature liquor bottles are not yet empty. The Times appreciates the need to reduce the rate of childhood consumption of tobacco and alcohol and regrets the lapse in judgment.

An Apology to Our Readers — The Stuckleyville Star, July 5, 2011

An item in last Saturday’s paper may have caused some minor misunderstanding among our readership. Just because we provided instructions on how to create Roman candles using a rolled up newspaper, some powdered explosive and a fuse does not mean that we condone in any way the ignition of such devices indoors or outdoors. In retrospect, we wish we had not published the item in question and we congratulate the ER at the Stuckleyville Hospital for ably handling the unexpected patient overflow on Monday night.

Correction — The Yucca Flats Daily Gleaner, September 6, 2011

An article in Sunday’s Lifestyles section suggested building a family campfire to celebrate Labor Day. Unfortunately, the article neglected to specify that the campfire be built outdoors, preferably at a safe distance from any flammable or explosive materials. We regret the oversight and extend our sympathies to the Jones and Franklin families, as well as the former employees of the Shell refinery previously located on Industrial Avenue.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take pride in demonstrating our vast knowledge of all the relevant traffic laws. Please welcome back our good friend Eric Feezell.

No, What Is A Turning Indicator?

By: Eric Feezell

Chill, man! I can see that you’re upset, but you don’t have to get in my face, okay? Let me just roll up my window, shut the motor off, and we can move to the sidewalk and talk it over. No need for aggression. Nice and easy like.

You seem incredulous, so allow me to reiterate: No, I really have never heard of a turning indicator before. Should I have? It doesn’t ring a bell, to be honest. Is it an iPhone app? Turning indicator, turning indicator, turning indicator…nope. It’s kind of scientific sounding, though — like something you’d find on a highly technical robot arm.

Is that why you’re so angry? That I’m not in the loop about some trivial detail in what sounds to be obviously specialized subject matter? Who are you, the knowledge-about-turning-indicators police? (Don’t answer those questions, by the way — they were rhetorical.) Obviously the topic is near and dear to you, seeing how offended you are by this. Not everyone is into what you’re into, okay?

Let me ask you this: You ever heard of King Crimson? Oh, yeah? All of them? Well I congratulate you on your exacting musical tastes. Okay, what about Mahavishnu Orchestra? Gotcha! See, it’s not really possible to know or care about every little tiny detail that exists in the world, is it? The fact that I don’t happen to know or care what a turning indicator is doesn’t make your scientific research in the field of robotics any more or less meaningful — it just is. It takes all kinds in this crazy world, those who know about turning indicators and those who know John McLaughlin is the greatest living fusion guitarist and perhaps guitarist period.

If it’ll appease you any, I’d be happy to research the basics about turning indicators, though I’m obviously not going to be an expert like you are after what I assume to be years of scholastic endeavor and a PhD in electrical engineering. A quick Google search on my phone here and we’ll be in business. Just one sec. Okay. Oh, my. The first link is an entire Wikipedia entry on Automotive Lighting. Are they like robotic headlights? I’ll have to scan through the content outline. Let’s see. “Lighting system of a motor vehicle…” “Driving lamps…” “Cornering lamps…” “Daytime running lamps…” “Dim-dip lamps.” Ha! That last one makes me think of Dippin’ Dots.

Let me just scroll down and zoom. Okay: Turn signals. Hmm. Close, but nothing here about turning indicators, per se. Oh, they are? Okay, that’s slightly misleading on Wikipedia’s part, but I’ll take your word for it. That’s the problem with the English language, am I right? Eighteen different ways to refer to one thing. God help us. It probably makes your field research unbearable. Though it could be worse. You could be an Eskimo writing a thesaurus. Don’t they have like a hundred words for snow?

Sorry for the tangent. Let’s see, so it looks like most cars have these. It says: “used to indicate to other drivers that the operator intends a lateral change of position.” What a fabulous idea! Does my car come with these? I’m going to be stoked if it does — I didn’t even know I had a five-disc changer for like a month after I bought my car! Let’s see…”Electric turn signal lights were devised as early as” — oh, man, they’ve been around since 1907! Someone’s out of the loop, eh? Mahavishnu Orchestra’s only been around since the seventies. Eek! Foot in mouth!

Fascinating stuff, man! I’m just curious, but how did you get into the field of robotic car lighting? No, wait. You don’t have to answer that — you don’t even know me! I hope there are no hard feelings. Honestly, I’m pretty excited to learn more about turning indicators, so if you’ve got any book recommendations for beginners that’d be great.

Be sure to check out Mahavishnu Orchestra — and Shakti, while you’re at it. I think for your musical sensibilities, John McLaughlin would be a perfect match!

Now if I can just get your insurance info, it looks like my trunk suffered some pretty extensive damage. I wish it could be settled another way, but you know what they say: the rear-ender is always at fault! Sucks to be you, man. Sorry.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the average temperature of our contributors is about three degrees above absolute zero. This week our good friend Michael Fowler has taken this whole temperature thing to a new and very unpleasant extreme. Wrap yourself in a blanket and read on...

The Iceman Goeth

By: Michael Fowler

First let me clear up a few misconceptions. When I was found frozen in that Swedish glacier near Stockholm, I had only been encased in ice for seven years, 2005-2011, and modern years at that. Consequently I did not herd mastodons or keep a pet saber-tooth tiger before I froze, regardless of what you may have heard on CNN. Nor am I a Neanderthal or Sasquatch or some thought-to-be-extinct trial model of Homo sapiens, but the real up-to-date thing, born in the USA in 1983, no matter what you read in that supermarket tabloid that has aliens and werewolves and babies with eight limbs on the cover. I was skiing and listening to Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” on my earbuds when a snowstorm swallowed me up, so how much more modern can you get?

It is true that I was carefully thawed out by Swedish scientists, and that lab assistant Inga recognized my cologne when my face approached room temperature, and confessed to the local media that this was the beginning of her feelings for me, as she had long adored that fragrance. And it is also true, as I stated on that Scandinavian talk show, that nothing so speeded up my thawing and return to normalcy as Inga lying beside me and pressing her blonde Swedish body against mine, as she voluntarily did in the name of science and medicine, and perhaps unhinged by the fumes of my liquefying Brut in the small lab we occupied. Inga also sang to me, and brought my knowledge of pop music up to date. It was boogieing and shimmying to the tunes of Lady Gaga, even as I lay on a gurney, that restored suppleness to my stiff joints.

Still, not even warm Inga was enough, and there remained some icy blockage in my bloodstream, like an ice cube in my aorta. I couldn’t get enough steaming coffee and soup, and even my candy bars I liked microwaved and served hot, in a bowl with a spoon if necessary.

So I said farewell to the lab and Inga, who turned out to be married, and I was already engaged myself, or I had been before that snowstorm somehow landed me unconscious beside the glacier. I flew to Hawaii where I lay under the intense sun all day and soaked in hot tubs all night, still without feeling quite warm, but plotting my return to Susan in Philly, my fiancée of seven years ago, and still my fiancée for all I knew, having not heard from her in all that time. After a week on the broiling beach and a dozen sessions of hot-stone massage therapy from Amura, a tanned and warm-blooded wahine, I caught a plane back to wintry Pennsylvania and a hopefully still-warm Susan, dressed on my flight in multiple layers of clothing and a heavy parka and sucking heated broth through a straw.

Imagine my chagrin to find Susan now engaged to a hulk named Trunk or Chunk or some ridiculous syllable, an anthropologist at Philadelphia U. She stared at me and said, “I heard about them finding you and reviving you after all these years, and I thought, no, it isn’t possible. And your complexion seems off now, much more pimply and reddish, perhaps due to freezer burn.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Someone neglected to wrap me in safe storage bags. No doubt I would taste terrible if you made a prime rib out of me.” I didn’t mention that Susan looked different to me, too. Were those crow’s feet around her eyes? And her neck looked so papery I was tempted to write my new cell phone number on it. Here I had kept myself on ice and more or less perfectly preserved for her during my seven years’ absence — the paparazzi didn’t call me The Iceman for nothing — and what had she done for me? Not even applied a good moisturizer, from the looks of things.

When she told me of her engagement, I said, “What, you couldn’t wait seven short years? Seven years is nothing in romantic terms. Juliet waited longer than that for Romeo, didn’t she?”

“Juliet waited about seven minutes for Romeo, if you recall. She wasn’t one to moon about on her balcony breathing the night air and listening to owls until the Montagues and Capulets came to terms, which might have been never. They were the Israelis and Palestinians of their era, don’t forget.”

“OK,” I said, “but in those days a minute seemed like a year, easy. Time moved more slowly then. You gave up too soon. How long have you and Punk been engaged, anyway?”

“Only six years, eight months,” she tossed off airily. Then she introduced me to Lunk himself, who came rushing through her door as if he lived there, fresh from one of the courses he taught in anthropology over at the university. Looking delighted, he stepped up and shook my hand, towering over me by half a foot, and said, “If only you’d stayed frozen for a thousand years, what a find you’d be then!”

“Sorry to have burst in on you prematurely,” I replied, completely teed off, and stormed out of the apartment and into the Starbucks down the street, where I swilled two piping hot Colombian blends, a super-size latte and three espressos, and followed up with a hot oil massage and a steam sauna at the spa next door.

All that did nothing to cure my depression or ease my chill, though it did lubricate my medulla for a couple of hours, and the next thing I knew I was flying down a Tibetan mountainside in a jacket emblazoned with the face of the Dalai Lama, two ski-lengths ahead of a squad of Chinese soldiers, pinning my fate as always on the treacherous slopes. At the bottom I met a hot Sherpa chick named Dawa — literally hot, who hid me and then kissed me, warming me nose-to-toes for the first time since my deicing, while explaining that she routinely climbed Shisha Pangma in a bikini. She and I will ascend Everest before the winter storms start, staying cozy in our two-person tent, with or without her two-piece.

And if that’s not cozy enough, Dawa says she knows a Nepali nightclub near Everest Base Camp where, as in times past, the tribes gather, build a fire, and dance all night to Maroon 5’s “Wake Up Call.” I can already feel the heat.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, proudly located somewhere between the eighth and ninth circles of Hell. This week Jamie Brew brings us a new view of that magical place, as told in the poetic voice of its most famous publicist, Dante.

Dante’s Infernet

By: Jamie Brew


When, in the course of browsing, I grew bored
and clicked one link too many waywardly,
I stumbled on the Internet’s great fjord

by which all information flows to sea.
Concluding that I could not cross, I went
to double back, but found in front of me

a blinding, pixelated silhouette!
It took some time to load, but finished soon,
whereon with coarse and raspy voice, it set

itself to song, and eulogized the moon.
“We like the moon coz it is close to us,”
it sang, and I recalled this pair of loons,

the Spongmonkeys, who caused such joyful fuss
in that archaic year, two thousand three.
Stumbling o’er my words, I bade them cease

their bawdy instrumental revelry
and, awestruck, asked the beings to disclose
to me their actual identity:

“Are you then they? The mascots of Quiznos
who ruled the Internet in days of yore?
O spirits, pray, reveal yourselves as those

prosimians whom all the world adored!”
The singers now acknowledged me and spoke:
“Indeed we are, but who are you, and wherefore

have you traveled out so far, strange bloke?”
So I confessed to them that I was lost,
and must have come here by some wrong keystroke.

“Well, we can guide you home, and at no cost,”
intoned the primates cheerily, “Obey
our words, have faith, and follow us across

a bleak hellscape. It is the only way.”


I can but humbly ask you to accept
the sequence of events I now relate.
Down a ridge, with Spongmonkeys, I crept;

and at the base, there stood a mighty gate.
Upon its arch, it bore a warning sign
denoting contents inappropriate

for mortal apprehension such as mine.
But blithely I ignored it, clicking on
the button indicating “I’m divine”

and passing through, I came upon
a wide expanse, the realm of viral limbo,
whose denizens my hosts described anon:

“Residing here are those whose videos,
though worthy, chanced to live before the birth
of YouTube; so they have become mere sideshows;

prematurity meant unfair dearth
in viewership. We count ourselves among
such luckless memes, the has-beens of the earth.”

So they explained, and led me through the throngs,
who wailed and moaned, complaining of a major
slight against their souls, a slight that stung

and paralyzed their online selves. “Our pages
are ignored!” cried one, and cried another:
“Badger badger badger badger badger.”

As we trekked on, my sight began to blur.


There, like a lightning-ravaged bosque, before
us lay a broken webpage, badly scarred
by server error number 404.

And though a posted message gave its word
that admin personnel had been deployed
to remedy the problem, it was hard

for those poor wretches bound within the void
to think that this time it would tell the truth;
so long with their quick patience had it toyed.

“Found here are souls of spammers most uncouth
who hawked their hollow links ad nauseam.
Condemned are they to fates that dwarf the ruthless

hardships down in hell; it’s tedium
that makes up their unenviable lot.
They waste away down here, awash in scum

of their creation, forced to read through what
false ads they wrote, and click on them, and hope
that they will lead to happiness, and not

to viruses and bugs and other creeps
infesting the wide, digital domain.
But pity not these evil misanthropes,

for they have brought upon themselves this pain.”


Within the central circle of the site,
amid a swath of rotten data, here
I saw a pit devoid of any light.

My guides, inviting me to lend an ear,
began a rambling, seething diatribe
against the miscreants imprisoned there.

“Dislikers, heathen sinners of YouTube,
are guilty of that most abhorrent crime,
one even worse than clicking ‘Unsubscribe,’

or sullying the comments with their grimy
trollish filth. These fiends have had the nerve
to hate on videos; they’ve spent their time

deriding others’ work, therefore they serve
out sentences made by their peers to fit
the felony. For instance, NaStYcUrVe

decreed that all who disliked ‘Charlie Bit
My Finger’ should, by way of punishment,
see Charlie bite and gnaw upon their digits

for eternity; these souls in torment
writhing, seized by pure, untrammeled hate.
Or take another righteous comment

made by BALLERina518,
who saw that sixty people had disliked
a video of kittens lying prostrate

on a dog, and wished a thousand spikes
would come and run those cretins through
who dared disparage such cute, furry tykes.

And as they wish, so it is done unto
these hordes of villains.” Now I gauged
the Spongmonkeys were through; indeed, the two

told me I could return to my homepage.
But, strange, I found that I’d quite lost the will
to stop observing sinners in their rage.

I chose to stay; I had some time to kill.