* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it's Christmas every day in our hearts. If only we could say the same for Joseph. Karl MacDermott has the whole sad holiday story. Note: The Big Jewel is taking New Year's Week off. See you in 2015!

Joseph’s Christmas Diary

By:
karlmacdermott@gmail.com

In the archaeological discovery of the year, Joseph the Carpenter’s diaries have recently been unearthed. Here we examine his account of that very first Christmas and find a written testimony that at times gives us a surprising insight into this neglected biblical figure.

DECEMBER 23rd — 9:43 p.m.

Things are quite tense with M. at the moment. We got into a blazing row after our pre-natal class. She asked me had I booked the accommodation for Bethlehem. I said yes. This was a lie. I was meant to tell the shepherd Shobal, the son of Ezer, who recently begat Azariah, to tell his brother Pharaz who runs The Room At The Inn Quality Budget Lodgings in Bethlehem to set something aside for us. But I forgot. There shouldn’t be any problem though. I mean it is a one-horse town in the back of beyond. It’s just that I’d hate for M. to end up in the middle of nowhere having to give birth in some stable or something, but that’s just my worried mind working overtime again. We’ll be fine. Fingers crossed.

DECEMBER 24th — 7:56 p.m.

Arrived in Bethlehem. Finally. The roads were crazy the last hour, a donkey tailback all the way from Anathoth. To my eternal relief there was one unoccupied room at The Room At The Inn. But M. wanted to look at it first. She wasn’t impressed with it at all. Okay, there was that stale smell, and the mattress had seen better days and the towels weren’t that fresh, but it didn’t bother me that much. I guess because I’m a man and men don’t notice these things. Well that’s what M. always claims, anyway. “Let’s take it!” I said, but M. insisted — “No, we’ll get something better somewhere else.” That was three hours ago.

DECEMBER 24th — 9:52 p.m.

Have finally found the “something better somewhere else.” To be honest, it’s not perfect. In fact, my worst nightmare has come true: we have ended up in the middle of nowhere in some stable. I was going to launch into a long tirade about M. never taking my advice and that we should have stayed in The Room At The Inn but I felt it wasn’t the right moment, with her waters having just broke. What do I do now?

DECEMBER 25th — 1:06 p.m.

I am a father. I can’t remember much about the birth because I passed out during M.’s prolonged contractions. I’m gobsmacked that little old me, Joseph the Carpenter, is responsible for bringing this tiny creature into this world. Well, sort of responsible. I’m still not completely clear in my mind about the exact sequence of events all those months ago, and who exactly did what with my wife — and how — but I’m prepared to put all that to one side because this is a momentous day.

DECEMBER 28th — 9:18 p.m.

Felt a bit cooped up in the stable, so I went for a walk around Bethlehem. When I returned home I noticed some loaves and fishes in the corner. I asked M. where she got them and she swore she didn’t know. She told me she dropped off to sleep for a few minutes and when she awoke there they were. Later had a most satisfying meal. Must be something in the water ’round these parts, for it tasted just like wine.

DECEMBER 31st — 10:46 p.m.

New Year’s Eve. Can’t get to sleep with all the parties and revelers. It’s louder than feeding time on Noah’s Ark. We decide to have a quiet night in this year, having difficulty organizing a babysitter at such short notice. Anyway, M. said she didn’t have anything nice to wear. Last year she spent hours getting ready. And then on her way out she turned to me and said, “I hate myself in this crimson tunic. I look so fat!” Later we spent a rather strained evening with our friends Joachim and Jezabethum. Joachim is in the recycling business. He tells me recycled crucifixes are the future.

JANUARY 6th — 9:35 p.m.

I was in the middle of changing my first nappy this afternoon when a voice said “Hello.” I turned around and saw these three old guys just standing there with bags of stuff. From the word go, I didn’t trust them. In life you always have to go with your initial instincts.

“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested,” I said.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong.”

They then told me they were the Three Wise Men.

I called out to M. in a slightly sarcastic manner:

“Come here! I want you to meet the ‘Three Wise Men’ — not just ordinary men, mind you, but wise men.”

Then I really began to have fun with them.

“Well, we’re the ‘Two Tired Parents’! What do you want?”

Then they started going on about the baby and they took out the stuff out of the bags.

“We want to give you this.”

They removed some gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

Then they just turned around and left.

M. and myself looked at each other.

Something definitely not kosher about all this. Three old guys turn up out of the blue, and they want to give us stuff? M., being more naturally suspicious and paranoid in nature than me, came up with an angle.

“Maybe they are highway robbers,” she said. “I mean those beards look like a joke, for starters. Maybe the authorities are after them and they’re trying to dump the stuff somewhere, and later on they’ll want to come back and cut our throats and retrieve it.”

She could be onto something. Then M. wondered: what happens in the meantime if we’re found with the stuff? We’d be flogged, stoned, put away for years, and the kid would have to be taken in by social services. Where would that leave us all? And the future of Christianity? Without further discussion, we immediately disposed of the boodle in a well down the road — looked like pretty fake stuff anyway!

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like a look at the rape culture elements in beloved seasonal songs. Let Tallulah Marzipan be your Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Or your Lena Dunham. And if you don't know who they are, you are already well on your way to having a very Merry Christmas.

Baby It’s Cold On A Slow Boat To China

By:

There are standards out there that are about straight up MURDER, like “Mack the Knife” (multiple killings by knife in cold blood), “Miss Otis Regrets” (murder with a side of lynching!), and who can forget the Sammy Davis classic, “I Masturbated After Strangling You to Death in Your Sleep?”

But while I generally have to seek out those songs to listen to them, it is hard to escape the Christmas season without hearing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” at some point, thus sparking the annual debate in my mind: which is the more rape-y Frank Loesser standard, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “On a Slow Boat to China”?

Since many people today don’t even know “On a Slow Boat to China,” the obvious choice would be “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” right? The song is written as parts not for woman and man but “wolf” and “mouse,” and at one point the mouse literally says “the answer is no,” along with questioning whether a drink has been drugged (or, optimistically, if it just has way more booze than it should, if that particular drink is even meant to be alcoholic at all). It’s more widely known today than “On a Slow Boat to China” as it continues to be played on radio stations every Christmas, and it even won an Academy Award for Best Song.

Of course, there are plenty of things in other Christmas songs, and other songs in general, that take me out of the moment of the song. As a New Yorker, it’s hard to hear the lyric “down to the village” in “Frosty the Snowman” without the image of Frosty smoking a joint on Bleecker Street and then catching a flick at the IFC Center coming to mind. Whenever they sing “caroling out in the snow” in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” I swear they are saying “Caroline out in the snow” and always yell at my iTunes “THEN WHY DON’T YOU GO GET HER?” until I realize, for the millionth time, that they obviously said “caroling.” And although Barbra Streisand has a beautiful voice, it’s hard not to get a chuckle out of one of the most famous Jewish people in America singing about remembering Christmas as a young child or opening presents by the fire on Christmas Eve. In the future I would like to hear a song about eating Chinese food and going to the movies on this particular holiday, written and performed by a gentile.

There are Christmas songs that aren’t even Christmas songs but have been re-appropriated as such, like “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, because they fit into the ever-present spirit of commercialism. Why don’t Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé do hokey jazzy covers of “The Lonely Goatherd” on their holiday albums instead?

But no matter how distracting these elements might be, “Frosty the Snowman” or Barbra Streisand or The Sound of Music are never distracting me with, well, rape. Not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

While “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is almost exclusively a duet, “On a Slow Boat to China” is not. When done solo, it is romantic at best, and John Hinckley-esque at worst. Its lyrics are less overt:

I’d love to get you
On a slow boat to China
All to myself alone
Get you and keep you
In my arms ever more

And so interpretation relies heavily on delivery. The slower, the better. If you assume that the singer is alone when singing it, then he or she becomes a stalker plotting to be “melting your heart of stone” and thus knows full well that the person in question has no interest in them, at least not yet.

If you imagine that the singer is singing to another party present, then they’re uncomfortably forward about their intentions. The wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is persistent, sure, but at least uses the weather as an excuse, and one can assume that the mouse is free to leave when the weather clears up. The subject of “On a Slow Boat to China,” on the other hand, is not only taken against will, but will remain there for an extended period of time, essentially turning the song into, “I’d like to rape you repeatedly and hope that you eventually develop Stockholm Syndrome, and I have no problem telling you this point blank, in fact, I expect it to turn you on, so whaddya say?” (as this is my personal dating strategy, “On a Slow Boat to China” is unsurprisingly one of my favorite songs).

The Jimmy Buffett and Dean Martin arrangements are great examples, especially since Dean Martin usually appears to be drunk while singing, and so it’s that much easier to picture some inebriated fool hitting on some poor schmuck in this fashion. The Jimmy Buffett version is deliberately made to sound like it takes place in a sleazy bar; the song features the host slurring his words while introducing Buffett (and mispronouncing his name), followed by the pop of a cork, glass clinking noises, and various people calling for their waiters. You can just picture Bill Murray singing it to Sigourney Weaver or Andie McDowell or Karen Allen in some cut scene from Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day or Scrooged or, I guess, most other Bill Murray movies, too. This version is just that delightfully cringe-worthy.

The duets of the song are mostly harmless; they usually feature the singers singing the chorus together numerous times and gazing seductively at each other, so the feeling is seen as mutual.

But then there’s the Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby duet. Bette Midler and Barry Manilow follow a revised rendition of this arrangement, but it is as hokey as you would expect a Bette Midler/Barry Manilow duet to be, and thus has an entirely different tone from the original. My favorite exchange from the Clooney/Crosby follows as such:

Bing: Get you and I’ll keep you in my arms ever more…Leave all your lovers on the shore…
Rosemary: For me they’d swim to China, to China and back…
Bing: Tell ’em to bring me an anvil.

Tell them to bring me an anvil. The best line.

There are two ways of looking at this statement, one being that Bing intends to drown Rosemary’s other suitors, adding this song to the list of other murder-y standards, though slightly more understated in its approach. However, as I mentioned earlier, the delivery is key here, compared with the more obvious lyrics in “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which are creepy no matter who is singing them (though the ridiculous Tom Jones/Cerys Matthews version is among the creepiest and most hilarious; he is the devil who has pointy white fingernails and she is literally in a cage at the beginning of the performance — he’s in the cage by the end). Bing Crosby says “Tell them to bring me an anvil” almost as an aside rather than directly to Rosemary Clooney, as if speaking to a third party. In this context, while the wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” might be drugging the mouse, the aggressor in this arrangement of “On a Slow Boat to China,” if not a murderer, knocks out the object of his affection with an anvil, rendering her unconscious so he can get her on the boat in the first place, unlike the mouse in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” who, even if drugged or blackout drunk, is already at the wolf’s house by will.

And with each listen of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” this time of year, I shake my head and wonder exactly what happened in these fictional rape-y universes penned before my parents were born. I wasn’t there. I’ll never know for sure and neither will anyone else, except for Frank Loesser, who died over 45 years ago.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where helping keep you alive with pertinent health advice is right near the top of our bucket list. Hearken to our good friend Candy Schulman.

Stand — Or Die

By:
candy@candyschulman.com
candyschulman.com

Sitting is associated with more than a 25% increased risk of colon, endometrial and lung cancers. — The National Cancer Institute

DAY 1:
Digest the startling news that sitting can be fatal. Stand up to the specter of death — even if it gives me flat feet. Avoid that toxic, carcinogenic chair as if every inch of upholstery is infused with ebola.

Swig a bottle of red Two Buck Chuck, allegedly lowering cholesterol. Rant to Dr. Oz: “Wasn’t it enough of a lifestyle imposition when they made us raise our heart rate 30 minutes five times a week? Now I’ve got to take a goddamn stroll every half hour and intensively treadmill walk every 20 minutes? No wonder they call you health nuts.”

Day 2:
Arrive at work with a hangover and a resolution: live long enough to be cast off into assisted living by the children I don’t have yet because I can’t find a guy to marry let alone date who’ll stand by me in sickness and health.

Forget about treadmill desks. They’d never squeeze into office cubicle, a microscopic prison cell with no natural light — an entirely different health hazard. Just jog in place while doing mind-numbing work. Contemplate unwritten screenplay.

“Why are your memos so shaky?” Boss reprimands.

Demonstrate liberal arts education by quoting Hemingway: “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.” Papa had the foresight of how detrimental resting on one’s butt can be….

Day 3:
Jealous how guys pee standing up, rather than risk their life urinating from a toilet seat. But can’t indulge in analyzing my penis envy. Dropped out of therapy, when shrink accused me of resistance when I embarked on a power walk twice during my fifty-minute session. So what if I never unravel my traumas, which began when my mother strapped me into a stroller for hours on end, rather than letting me run free?

Shrinkless, whine incessantly to friends during our nightly race walks around the park. “I’m sick of your complaints,” these alleged fitness buddies claim. “Find new walking partners.”

Day 4:
Escape to the movies. Standing — in spite of belligerent audience members cursing my upright torso. Warn then: “You’re all going to die of cancer! Before the 10th sequel to Planet of the Apes!” Remain unfazed as they bombard my back with popcorn kernels to get me to sink into lethal stadium seating. Ascend and soar, warding off disease. No tall bald head will block my view of subtitles again.

Day 5:
Delay boss’s request to talk about annual review. Inform him unflinchingly that I’ll be available after my two minute intensive workout. Which I’m doing to counteract all the disease-invoking sitting that pays my paltry salary.

Meet with boss, heart rate up, dabbing sweat from brow. Can’t resist pointing out he’s morbidly obese. Curiously ask if he ever suffered angina climbing that rickety corporate ladder. Disdainfully watch him slurp his illegal supersize soda while he flip-flops from firing me because of economic downsizing, quoting another health hazard:

“Your colleagues are complaining about your B.O. from your hourly exercise sprints.”

He doesn’t smell so great himself. Reeks of cheap aftershave.

Pack up desk. Wipe away tears. Co-workers think it’s because I’m going to miss them. Break the news it’s because it’s too late to sign up for Obamacare.

Day 6:
Stand on line at the unemployment office — the greatest biped exercise of all! Recall how I mastered loveless, unprotected sex standing up, long before it was a healthy option. In showers, behind trees in Central Park.

“What are your skill sets?” the clerk asks.

Reply: “Dining standing up.” Just sold kitchen table to offset salary plunge. Soon won’t be able to afford NYC rent, which could never afford anyway. Feast on ramen for dinner — standing at a counter in Whole Foods. Trotting down the road to malnourishment, refuse to get depressed. Even though have no money, no friends, no therapist, no hope. Vow to sleep on the street before moving back home into childhood bedroom with all those soccer medals everyone got just for showing up. But just in case: apologize to Mom for being ungrateful that she put homemade granola in lunchbox instead of Cheetos.

Day 7:
Feel self-righteous being a vertical, upstanding member of society, albeit jobless, strolling aimlessly down the street with headphones, belting out harmonies to Stand By Me. Bipeds must not sit still in the advance of science.

Consider advantages:

Don’t descend into Neanderthal mob-like behavior, shoving old ladies out of the way on the subway to vie for the last seat.

Standing room seats at the theater cost a fraction of the price.

Reduce risk of dying tragically from painful, debilitating diseases — until those scientific sadists endorse new preventive guidelines that totally contradict the old ones.

Day 8:
Refuse to be one of those lazy panhandlers. No languishing on ass behind a tear-inducing sign listing an array of illnesses from sitting on the sidewalk. Practice begging completely upright.

A man in an Armani suit drops a dollar in my cup. “Sorry you’re down on your luck,” he says.

Confess your days are numbered. Ask for cigarette. Light up together in bliss.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we celebrate the season with something meaningful about how social media have brought us all closer together. Maybe a little too close, says Juliana Gray. Be sure to check out the link to her web site, where you can see what she does when she's not writing humor.

Facebook Group Message: Bridesmaids Dinner!

By:
gray@alfred.edu
http://julianagray.net/

Brittany: Hey ladies! I can’t believe it’s only three weeks before Chad and I tie the knot! OMG I’m so excited! And I can’t wait to see you all! And I’m so happy to have you all as my bridesmaids! I hope you like pink LOL.

Brittany: Anyway, I think all you bitches (LOL JK) know each other from our old Alpha Nu days (yay Alpha Nu! we’re better than you!) except for Cousin Imogen. Say hi to Imogen, ladies!

Tori: OMG Hi Immo LOL!

Kristen: Hey Imgen! What sorority were you in?

Kyrstyn: Imogen that’s a weird name do you go by Immy? LOL

Imogen: Hello, nice to meet you all. No, just Imogen. It’s a family name.

Brittany: Yep she’s family all right — in fact, she’s like a third cousin or something on Chad’s side, too! Isn’t that amazing?

Tori: OMG LMAO SMH

Kyrstyn: Small world! #doublecousin

Brittany: Anyways, I’m organizing a bridesmaids dinner for us at a sushi place called Blue Pearl. How does that sound to everybody LOL?

Tori: OMG I LOVE SMOOSHIE LOL!

Kristen: Put scoochie in my mouth! ROTFLMAO JK

Kyrstyn: South Beach Diet Snooshi FTW!

Imogen: Sushi sounds delicious! Do you know if the restaurant has a good sake menu?

Kristen: Sake ewww gross LOL SMH JK ROTFL

Kyrstyn: Ew hot wine I’m going to have a cosmo LOL

Brittany: Cosmo for me!

Tori: COSMOS AND SPLOOSHIE LOL

Imogen: OK, I guess I’ll just get sake for myself. Brittany, do you happen to know if the restaurant follows sustainable practices? Like emphasizing seasonal items?

Kristen: OMG Britt your cousins a treehugger

Tori: Hippy ROTFLMAO IMHO LOL

Imogen: Ha, yeah, but I do think it’s important to try to be a responsible steward to the environment.

Kristen: WTF SMH

Kyrstyn: LOL hippy go save a rain forest or something JK

Imogen: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Gandhi

Tori: LOL #getajob

Imogen: I’m a certified yoga instructor and a freelance writer for several social justice web sites.

Kristen: What

Tori: #liberal #hippy #dontblamemeivotedforromney

Imogen: Maybe I’ll just research the restaurant myself. In the meantime, you should all check out sustainablesushi.net. It’s really eye-opening.

Kyrstyn: …

Kristen: #idonteven

Tori: JK LOL J

Brittany: Immy don’t pout we’re just joking LOL.

Imogen: No problem. Brittany, let me know when you have a date and time. I look forward to meeting the rest of you.

Imogen Branford has left the conversation.

Brittany: I await the judgment of the council.

Tori: The offering is acceptable.

Kyrstyn: The sacrifice is determined. As both bloodlines flow in Imogen’s veins, so shall her bloodletting consecrate their union in Brittany and Chad.

Kristen: I will prepare the chamber. We can use my craft room.

Brittany: I thank you, Circle of the Sisterhood. We will convene on the night of the new moon.

Tori: AFTER SPOOCHIE LOL!

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