* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we continually demonstrate an uncanny ability to prognosticate events that have already happened. As witness Jason Guder's now nostalgic look back at the loser of the most recent presidential election.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Mitt Romney

By: Jason Guder

You are born Willard Mitt Romney, rich. REALLY rich. You go to some great schools where you earn the reputation of zany prankster. (Note: The gay kids don’t think you’re so zany.) After graduating, you prove yourself genetically engineered for business. You help with the Winter Olympics and briefly govern Massachusetts. You have a TON of money.

In 2007, you make a bid for the US presidency, but ultimately you lose your party’s nomination to a grizzled ex-POW with roughly 2,000 years of public service.

Do you:

— Lick your wounds, realize your life is already fantastic enough and spend the rest of your days giving friends free rides in your soon-to-be-completed car elevator (Page 33).

— Say, “Screw that. I WILL be the most powerful man in the free world! I’m running again in 2012!” (Page 61).

Page 61

Heck yeah, you’re running again! Your 2008 loss is attributed to a perception that you are detached from common Americans. You spend the next several years jet skiing about Lake Winnipesaukee, a pursuit advisors insist is well-loved by the filthy red-bloods. Even still, you have extra time.

Do you:

— Take low-profile trips around the US in an effort to understand Americans better, their lives, their struggles (Page 33).

— Write what you think is a pretty damn insightful OpEd for the New York Times about how the auto bailout is a terrible idea (Page 89).

Page 89

OpEd it is! You’re a modern-day Samuel Clemens! A less obscene Jonathan Swift! When published, those that agree with your editorial pretty much agreed before you wrote it. Those that don’t — including every living person in the swing state of Michigan — well…feel differently. This decision could haunt you.

Eh, bygones.

In June 2011, you once more declare your interest in the Republican nomination. Your competition is insane. One competitor will only speak of China. Another believes vaccinations cause mental retardation. There’s a lunar-colony enthusiast, a reality show host whose catch phrase (during a DOWN economy) is about laying people off, and a guy who makes cheap pizza. One woman may or may not consider herself a witch. And STILL your party’s enthusiasm for you is tepid.

Do you:

— Bow out, recognizing your party simply isn’t that into you (Page 78).

— Push on, knowing in your heart of hearts that you will be the best overlord — er, President this country has ever seen (Page 12).

Page 12

You push on. And have good luck! You don’t so much beat your competitors as, one at a time, they prove themselves unelectable. Congratulations on your nomination!

It’s time for the convention! Naturally, you choose a handsome, Ayn-Rand-loving fitness fanatic as your running mate. Let’s pump up that base!

Do you:

— Put yourself and your ideology center stage at the convention and hammer the incumbent with consistent messaging about his term’s failings (Page 81).

— Hand the primetime slot over to an aging Hollywood legend who prefers to work off-script; hope for the best (Page 192).

Page 192

Um…okay…you go the Hollywood route. Said legend spends his time onstage talking to an empty chair. Moving on…

There’s a little downtime between your party’s nomination and the actual election. Time to address one of your campaign’s shortcomings: non-American time (a.k.a. foreign policy experience). Off to England!

Do you:

— Smile and nod your way through a series of simple photo ops (Hint: Do this) (Page 15).

— Question your host country’s preparedness for the Olympics (because, after all, who wouldn’t want to hear your opinion on everything?) and speak publicly about your meeting with a secret intelligence service that prefers to remain secret (Page 199).

Page 199

You make some gaffes. It happens. We’ll turn this thing around back on friendly U.S. soil, right?

Once home, things do not improve. People have grown impatient with your double-dog-swear that yes, you do have an economic plan, but you’d prefer not to reveal it. General suspicion builds around your steadfast refusal to share more tax returns than is absolutely required. And if only you hadn’t authored a healthcare plan back in your governor days that’s brutally similar to the incumbent’s. But these are just misunderstandings, right?

Do you:

— Craft a speech that addresses each of these concerns head-on without double-talk, proving once and for all that you are the people’s candidate (Page 35).

— Hold a private fundraising dinner and insult nearly half the electorate as lazy incompetents whom you have no interest in serving (Hint: Don’t do this!) (Page 116).

Page 116

Ahem. You insult half the electorate. Surprise of all surprises, not everyone in the room is your friend. Someone leaks a tape. Um…

The first debate! Maybe THIS is your time to shine. Isn’t debate supposed to be your strength? Besides, now that you know betting an opponent $10,000 while onstage is ill-advised, this thing is yours to lose!

Do you:

— Follow the agreed-upon rules, respectfully rebuff your opponent’s viewpoints and lay out your own policies clearly (Page 5).

— Say to hell with rules, beat up on the moderator like the Public Broadcasting ninny he is, and be as disrespectful as possible, knowing the media — driven by its need to make coverage seem relevant — will support this performance as impassioned rather than rude, presidential rather than bullying (Page 53).

Page 53

Right you are! You’re back in the hunt!

Your performance — helped in large part by your opponent not taking the event seriously — is lauded as a huge success. Whereas before literally no one gave you a chance in hell of winning, now everyone with a microphone believes the race too close to call. Could you pull this off? Unfortunately…(Page 211).

Page 211

Your fall comes quickly. Not intimidated by your son’s expressed interest in punching him in the face, the incumbent President does show up for the next two debates. He pantses you. Despite having binders full of woman, few seem likely to vote for you. Your vendetta against a seven-foot-tall yellow bird gets relentless press.

The worst part…while at first it seemed as if God Himself was throwing you a Hail Mary in the form of a catastrophic storm, said storm does not devastate voter turnout in the blue Northeast. Further, the incumbent’s swift storm response has members of your own party embracing him on camera. When election night comes, you do your best to deny defeat — only quitters write concession speeches! — but defeat will not be denied.

In the end, concede you do. On the drive from campaign headquarters, if there’s a consolation, it’s that your party always takes care of its fallen warriors. Your efforts and personal sacrifice will NOT be forgotten. Er, wait —

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we try not to eat anything with a face. No, really, not even those potato chips with the face of Jesus. If following this life path seems too stringent to you, let Nathan Thornton explain how easy it can be.

Becoming Flexitarian: A Beginner’s Guide to Semi-Vegetarianism

By: Nathan Thornton

Trying not to eat that much meat: it’s not for everybody. After all, people have been eating meat since Fred Flintstone times (the brontosaurus burger, when that rack of ribs flipped over his car) through old-timey king times (huge crazy turkey legs, an ox) right up until today (those buffalo wings Dana’s boyfriend always brings, other kinds of meat).

But with all of today’s top “health trends” and “bumper stickers that say things like ‘If You Love Animals, Don’t Eat Them'” it might be the right time to consider flexitarianism. It’s a very personal choice, and not a decision to be made lightly. Flexitarianism is a life-changing lifestyle that has the potential to change your life. So before embarking on this bold and exciting journey, consult with your family, your family physician, your secret family in another part of the country and whatever doctor you see there. Then kiss your old life (and your former meat-intake level) au revoir! (this is a common French expression many flexitarians use that means “See you next time, amount of meat I used to eat!”).

What does it mean to be a flexitarian, you ask? We’ve used that word a bunch of times already, so it’s a little annoying that you’re just now asking. But it’s when you only eat meat sometimes and it’s the perfect way to combine the smug, self-satisfied feeling you get from not eating meat with the smug, self-satisfied feeling you get from eating meat and it’s so simple we can’t believe you’re not already doing it.

Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet:

It’s good for your heart. People who don’t eat meat very often sometimes have an enhanced capacity to feel love.

It’s good for animals. Many animals will feel more relaxed around you when they don’t think you’re going to freak out and start eating them.

It’s good for the environment. Look around you. What do you see? Massive piles of meat bones everywhere, right? As a flexitarian, you’ll have way less of those. Plus, it seems good for the environment.

It builds stronger friendships. You know how when you’re hanging out with your friends, you never have anything interesting to say? Imagine the excited looks of interestedness you’ll see when you tell them you’re trying to become a flexitarian!

It can give you the ability to pass through solid objects.
We got an email from a reader who told us just that. His name was papaboner6969, and we’re still in the process of verifying it, but it’s an incredible testament to the power of flexitarianism!

Common Questions about Identifying Meat and Trying not to Eat that Much of It:

Is this meat? One of the first things you need to consider is whether something is meat or not. So, does it taste like meat? Oh no, you just ate meat! You should have figured out whether it smelled like meat first. It’s a common rookie flexitarian mistake. Okay, today’s a wash. You’ll be more flexitarian tomorrow, probably.

Seriously though, is this meat? Great follow-up question. Sometimes something can seem like meat and not even be meat. See how much you’ve already learned and grown as you’re following your flexitarian path? It’s true, this can be a confusing conundrum for new flexitarians. Here’s a tip: a lot of times, meat is brown. This is called red meat, and it’s one of the kinds of meat that flexitarians will want to be pretty careful about. A quick word of warning: Potatoes are also brown. However, they are not meat – they are a completely different kind of food. Although it seems like you should already know what a potato looks like. Why are you making this so hard for us?

How much meat should I eat? Hoo boy. We were afraid of this one. Think of it this way: Do you ever watch that thing on the Fourth of July where that guy eats like 100 hot dogs in a minute? Seems like way too much, doesn’t it? Or think about a Buddhist monk who eats one grain of rice a week. You shouldn’t have to be that severe, should you? “Flexitarian” doesn’t have to mean “flexible.” Or actually, that’s probably exactly where the word comes from, if you think about it. Huh.

When should I not eat meat? This is the best question. We’ve all been waiting for you to ask it because that’s the easiest part — there’s never a wrong time to not eat meat. Or to eat it! Think about this: You already sleep at least 12 hours a night, right? And you hardly ever eat any meat during that time, do you? So you’re already halfway there! Now you only have to find a few more times during the day to not eat meat. Popular times include: while showering, tooth-brushing, eating ice cream or corn, dinner with the Patels, doctor’s office visit, and while singing along with your favorite song on the radio. And if we didn’t already mention showering, then showering. If you’re looking for even more opportunities to avoid eating meat, just take longer showers. After that, you can eat meat whenever you want! Congratulations. See how different the world looks through flexitarian eyes.

What should I eat instead of meat? Doesn’t matter.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where as a weekly publication we don't often get the chance to be very topical. Now, however, Matt Doyle brings us a piece that was written weeks ago, but which -- thanks to our tragicomically dithering chief executive -- still reads like it was ripped from today's headlines.

Official Response To Protestors Of The Regime

By: Matt Doyle

Keep calm, and keep calmly protesting, protestors. It’s inspiring to see the spirit of the 1938 revolution that installed us living on in our youth. Whether you’re a decrepit elderly grocer tired of exploitation by warlords, a young fey student sick of the militia occupying your campus, or a handsome third generation President fed up with being kept awake nights by lively chants for your head, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty of a country that allows such movements to exist.

In the interest of peace, the government has suggestions for bringing your scrappy band of pitchfork-wielding villagers into the 21st century. First, take a cue from the Arab Spring and use social media. Those protestors stepped through the door of self-governance Twitters-first. Don’t just take our word for it. Read about it online. We hereby declare the Internet “Open for business” and ready for all your downloads and uploads. (And other loads, too: check out YouPorn, you guys, and let some of that oppressed steam off.)

The Springtime countries used Twitter to organize protests. Let’s show the world how cutting-edge we are by protesting on Twitter. To quote HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming” and nobody — protestors or members of the heavily armed riot police — want to be shivering in Freedom Plaza. Tomorrow, on Protest The President Day, there’s no need to leave your warm home or communal cage-space and not watch four Game of Thrones eps in a row. Simply declare your attendance at the Revolution by hashtagging your Game of Thrones tweets #WeAreOneVoice. For example: “WTF Daenyrys. Didn’t see that coming #WeAreOneVoice.” You don’t have HBO?

We hereby declare HBO free for all citizens. (For one month. Then call to cancel.) Watch all the free HBO you desire and still take part in the political process. If the #WeAreOneVoice hashtag trends, free HBO for one more month. The regime recommends Girls. See the Big Apple through the quirky eyes of young writer Hannah played by fabulous Lena Dunham. She’s brave just like you.

We’re not stopping at Twitter though. We’re also allowing Facebook, and creating an Official Presidential Palace page. Now, from the comfort of your home, throw rocks at our home. Tomorrow our glorious leader will post a status update saying, “I am looking out the palace window at the very large protest below. Do I see a rock?” All you do is click “Like” and that counts as a rock. Let’s blow the roof off of FB with all those Likes, citizens! No longer do you need to drop what you’re doing to trudge all the way down to some huddled mass of grimy protestors! You can multitask while you revolt against your oppressor. Scroll through photos of that Zooey Deschanel-looking girl from your poli sci class in one window, while in another you write on your friend’s Wall about how you want to get really mega plastered tonight (We hereby declare alcohol legal for all ages), and in a final window you’re breaking windows on the presidential palace.

Your grandmother’s revolution used Molotov cocktails, but those antiques are not for millennials like you. And the cost isn’t feasible during this global economic downturn. The bottle, perhaps Coca Cola brand, costs $2. The rag, maybe $1.50, and the kerosene, let’s say $15, plus a Bic lighter for $1. Why pay almost $20 for an analog revolutionary tool when a dynamic and simple Like is free? The money you save can be used to purchase multiple virtual Molotov cocktails on our brand new Second Life country, completely mimicking our geography. Virtual Molotov cocktails cost $6 — a savings of $13.50. The regal and historic real-life presidential palace remains in all its glory here, while the virtual one, thanks to you young webvolutionaries, burns brightly. Sic-semper-tyrannis.gov {Easter Egg: If you find the president’s lifeless body in the digital presidential palace, you get three free months of HBO, where you can watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with hilarious Jew Larry David.}

Perhaps you’d prefer to take your protest on-the-go? Download the official regime protest app from the app store for only 99 American cents. And this isn’t your grandfather’s app, no, no. The regime makes protest lots of LOLs. Modeled after the popular Tindr (also now legal), scroll through photos of every regime bureaucrat and military leader with a simple finger swipe. If you choose to oust them, swipe left; if you think they’re dreamy, swipe right. Upload a picture of yourself to help the dreamy ones locate you in a crowd; to perhaps ask you on a date? You get to speak truth to power while still speaking flirts to girls and boys on that web.

But that’s not all. We’re also allowing FourSquare, which lets you Check-In at your location, whether it’s at the cinema watching the latest awe-inspiring sci-fi movie our glorious leader directed, wrote and starred in, or at a secret basement meeting of the Black Bloc at a TBD location.

And don’t let a security checkpoint line-up dissuade you from protesting against us. Keep your mind occupied on our new tablet and mobile game: CandyCrushtheRegime. Line up a series of three similarly-dressed Protestor icons and watch with joy as they’re sprayed off your screen by a powerful burst of water from a firehose. Clear all the Protestors on your screen and win a chance to wield a real-life waterhose in Freedom Plaza. Trust us, it’s actually quite a lot of fun.

If you’re still one of those old-school IRL-protest-types, we’re also selling Guy Fawkes masks for $50. They’re pre-loved from our friends in a neighboring land, but if you don’t mind water spots, burn-marks and bits of shrapnel embedded here and there, they’ll work fine. Put them on, then use the newly legal Instagram to take some snaps of yourself wearing it. Wear it proudly; don’t be #sorrynotsorry. There’ll be plenty of time for regrets later.

Finally, we are pleased to announce that, thanks to most check-ins at the Presidential Palace, the President has been re-elected President. Congratulations to our once and future leader. To protest this election, please hashtag HBO-related tweets #RecountRegime. If over 750,000 citizens tweet, you get a fourth free month of HBO, where you can stream Recount, a damning portrayal of the broken American political process. But to ensure that you are citizen within our borders, using your mobile device, turn on the GPS function so we may receive your exact coordinates.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it seems we are always welcoming a new crop of substitute teachers. No one is more suited to this task than our good friend Andy Millman.

Welcome To The Substitute Teaching Staff At Henry Flanger Elementary

By: Andy Millman

Congratulations on being selected as one of Henry Flanger Elementary School’s substitute teachers. Only eleven out of every twelve applicants were hired, so a hearty “Well done!” to you.

There are some interesting tidbits regarding our school that we thought you might like to know. Did you know that there was a real Henry Flanger? Some people see the drawing on the side of our building and believe he’s the product of a public relations company, like Tony the Tiger or Geronimo. No, Henry was real and he taught here. And his eyebrows were that bushy and his glasses were that thick! (Tragically, they both contributed to his untimely death when he mistook the Bunsen burner for a reading lamp and his forehead was set ablaze like a pile of kindling.) We named the school in his honor, and as part of the lawsuit settlement, and proudly wear “The Flaming Flangers” across all our school jerseys.

Despite what you might hear, Henry Flanger Elementary is not haunted. Some of the children will tell you that they hear screaming and that it’s the ghost of Henry Flanger “trapped in the flame of hell’s Bunsen burner.” Young imaginations are precious. The screaming they hear is likely coming from the teachers’ lounge, so don’t be concerned. But don’t come in if you hear it too.

You may also hear that our school was once a penitentiary. This is not true either. Many of our former students have served time from time to time, but only two have been charged with murder, and one of those was found not guilty by reason of insanity. That’s Mr. Bibcock, our art teacher. He’s not insane anymore, but please don’t bring up his late mother or any of the 460 and counting sculptures he’s carved in her memory. You can see some of them, along with a miniature igloo he made out of her teeth, in our display case by the receptionist’s desk.

As part of your benefits package, you’re entitled to free lunches in our cafeteria. We’re sure you’ll enjoy Mrs. Claussen’s home cooking. Try one of her famous corndogs, but go easy – people have choked. To be fair to Mrs. Claussen, three of those people were unaware that the stick is inedible.

You also receive health benefits. The school nurse, Ms. Jenkins, is available if you’re under the weather or have been assaulted. Please do not ask her to check your prostate, even if it’s under the weather or has been assaulted. If you are a woman, please do not ask her to check whatever your version of the prostate is.

You may notice our drinking water has an amber shade and a varnish-like aroma. Don’t be alarmed. Our former science teacher, the late Mr. Solowitz, determined it was “nutrient-rich” and drank eight glasses of it every day before having to swap out his entire digestive tract. If your immune system is weak, inefficient or just plain lazy, you may want to be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms: Howling Bowels, Shotgun Belching or Chattering Anus, which is similar to but slightly different from Stuttering Sphincter.

You will be issued a key to the substitute teacher bathroom, located in the basement, past the furnace, boiler, and our custodian Mr. Canhaus (please don’t wake him between 10:00 and 2:00). There you will find past issues of Highlights magazine to make your time more pleasant, along with a red marker and tests that need grading.

Because children are sensitive and parents like to complain, we no longer issue numeric scores on tests. Instead, please provide feedback by drawing one of the following figures: a happy face, a really happy face, a stoic face or a really stoic face. Please don’t draw any of these figures: a head filled with rocks, a head made of solid bone, a head with a sleeping elf where the brain should be or a head with no ears (one of our students has no ears).

Because of student allergies, never serve any snacks except for plain rice cakes. If rice cakes are unavailable, plain Styrofoam is acceptable (no cinnamon or apple flavored, please).

You may be asked to assist in gym class. Coach Saunders recently had both hips replaced and the children have figured out how to dislocate them. We advise wearing an athletic supporter and/or reinforced cup, even if you’re a woman. Many of the children have bad aim. And some have very good aim, which is why you should wear the supporter.

Because of sore losers, we don’t keep score of anything. Any child who keeps score during a game should be issued five demerits. If they keep score of their demerits, give them five more.

Outdoor recess is held in the field behind the school, right next to the junkyard. The children are allowed to play with the junk, but anything they take they have to pay for, including hubcaps.

You can pick up your substitute teaching uniform at the garage. Ask for Skeeter. Give him your size but don’t let him take your measurements. Despite what he’ll tell you, he is not “the school tailor.” He is an exterminator.

Your uniform may or may not have an unpleasant odor. If foul smells bother you (think three-quarter digested corn dogs), wash the uniform (especially the pants) in a solution of bleach mixed with more bleach. We also recommend setting your dryer to one click short of combustion. This will help with the ticks.

The bus will pick you up at 8:00 am. If you smell alcohol on our driver’s breath, please take the wheel. If he doesn’t smell of booze, don’t criticize his driving. He has anger control issues (that’s why he drinks).

Lastly, please sign the release of liability form. We like to handle complaints in-house and not spend our time making lawyers rich. If you are a complainer, you can contact your representative, Mr. Canhaus, at any time (except between 10:00 and 2:00).