* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our good friend Matthew David Brozik has a good new piece about what was so not-good about those television shows from the eighties that you remember a little too fondly. When you have finished reading the piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and your memories of those beloved eighties television shows will be restored to their pristine glory.

Kids Of The 80s, Let Me Ruin Your Childhood Before Someone Else Does

By:
brozik@gmail.com

Ah, youth. And specifically the years between 1981 and 1990, inclusive — when everything was better than anything that had come before or has come since, including entertainment. Especially entertainment, actually. Superb, flawless entertainment that set our expectations unreasonably high for decades after. Except that none of it made a lick of sense. Sorry!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

In 1936, archaeologist Henry “Indiana” Jones is asked by United States Army Intelligence agents to help find Jones’s old mentor, an expert on the ancient Egyptian city where “Indy” surmises the Nazis believe the Ark of the Covenant to be buried. If the Nazis obtain the Ark, they will become invincible! So Indy and friends try to discover the Ark before the Nazis do…and in the process our heroes effectively deliver the divine relic directly into the hands of the bad guys. Then, when the Nazis finally open the Ark, all of the bad guys present are killed, but Indy and his girlfriend — who at the time are tied up, literally — are spared. If Indiana Jones had never gone looking for the Ark himself, the Nazis might never have gotten it; in any event, the Ark takes care of itself. If Indy had just stayed home, in other words, everyone would have been better off. Small wonder, then, that his name was not in the movie’s title, originally.

Knight Rider, Season One (1982)

Of course you remember, and fondly, the greatest television show ever made — the one about high-tech modern crime fighter Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff!), who was assisted by his advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car, K.I.T.T.! And the single best episode, of course, was “Trust Doesn’t Rust,” the one that introduced K.A.R.R., the evil prototype of K.I.T.T., who had been mothballed in a warehouse until a pair of hobos accidentally reactivated him! Didn’t you get chills when you first saw K.A.R.R., who looked almost identical to K.I.T.T.? Two awesome black Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams! So cool! Until you realized that K.I.T.T. looked like that only because Michael had been driving a black Trans Am when he was left for dead in the desert in the pilot episode…and no other reason. Hmm? You’ve never thought about that extremely unlikely “coincidence”? Think about it now!

Gremlins (1984)

You know that you must never feed a mogwai after midnight. But midnight where? And what is “midnight,” anyway? It’s always “after midnight” somewhere, including wherever you are. Even if it’s noon on a Tuesday, it’s after midnight Monday. So, really, mogwai would never be mogwai, and this movie should have been a nonstarter, but instead it grossed more than $153 million from domestic box office sales alone.

The 1986 World Series (1986)

On Saturday, October 25, 1986, at Shea Stadium in Queens, the Boston Red Sox quickly took a 2-0 lead over the New York Mets in the sixth game of the annual Major League Baseball championship series. The Mets tied the score in the fifth inning, but then an error in the seventh gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Some other stuff happened, resulting in the game’s being tied again at 5-5 in the bottom of the tenth inning. Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, which allowed Mets infielder Ray Knight to score the winning run…and because this was so extraordinarily exciting, the Commissioner of Baseball declared the New York Mets the 1986 World Series Champions right then and there, even though the Mets’ win that afternoon only evened up the series and there should have been a Game 7, which no one seems to have noticed, even to this day.

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard was based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which was the sequel to an earlier book, The Detective, which in 1966 had been made into a movie of the same name starring none other than Frank Sinatra. 20th Century Fox was contractually obligated to offer Ol’ Blue Eyes the lead role in Die Hard — which they did — but Sinatra, then in his early seventies, turned it down. This is actually just a bit of trivia. Die Hard is a perfect film.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Time travel is tricky, so follow me closely here. At the end of Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown is in the DeLorean when it is struck by lightning, in 1955. Man and machine are transported to 1885. Marty, with help from 1955 Doc Brown, travels back to 1885 in the DeLorean that Doc had taken back to 1885 and promptly hidden in an old mine shaft, where it had then sat for 70 years. When Marty gets to 1885, he accidentally tears the fuel line of the DeLorean, making it impossible for the car to get up to 88 mph under its own power. The main plot of the movie therefore involves getting the DeLorean to go fast enough to return Marty and Doc Brown to 1985. Because they don’t have any gasoline in 1885. (If they had gasoline, the movie would be all of twenty minutes long.) But they do have gasoline. Because the DeLorean in which 1985 Doc Brown traveled from 1955 to 1885 is there. It’s in the mine shaft. With gas in its tank. “Great Scott!” indeed.

Sesame Street (1969 – present)

Officially, Bert and Ernie are not gay. In fact, they are not even technically “human.” So, I mean, is anything even real?

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our very own copy editor David Jaggard reveals, with touching modesty, that his many gifts are completely au naturale. When you're done reading this fine new piece, click on the iTunes link below, which leads to his audio humor album "Totally Unrelated," or stream it for free on Spotify. We also invite you to check out David Jaggard on Paris Update. The link is in our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

Never Took A Lesson In My Life

By:

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/album/totally-unrelated.../id1082542414?mt=1&app=music

Yeah, I’m a successful musician — in fact, hugely successful, as everyone knows — but I never had any formal training. Or informal either. Never took a lesson in my life.

Everybody in my family was musical, but they didn’t teach me squat. Whenever they played music at home, I’d go outside and plug my ears with mud to make sure I didn’t learn anything.

I’m not even self-taught. Any time I was fooling around with an instrument on my own, if I stumbled across something that sounded good I’d put it out of my mind right away and never play it again.

It goes without saying that I don’t know how to read or write music. Or even how to read or write the word “music” — I’m illiterate. I never once went anywhere near a schoolhouse! And don’t go trying to teach me anything either, because I’d forget it faster than you can say “natural-born genius.”

Which I can’t — I never learned how to pronounce most words. I also never learned how to count to ten or tell right from left or right from wrong.

Nobody ever told me what gender I am or what my name is. I can’t tie my shoes, and when we’re on tour one of the band members has to help me get dressed.

They also have to help me get to rehearsals and gigs, because I can’t tell time and never learned to tell day from night. Never needed to.

I never make an effort to memorize my band’s songs or lyrics or anything. I just get up on stage, and play or sing or whatever it is I do, I’m not sure, and then the producer hands me a check for $50,000.

Hell, I don’t even know what instrument I play. If I even play an instrument. I might be a songwriter — I just don’t know!

So don’t talk to me about “theory” or “harmony” or “humility” or any of those fancy-schmancy high-tech musical terms. I don’t know anything about that and don’t want to know. I just make music.

If what I do is, in fact, music. Maybe I’m actually a surgeon or a senator and don’t know it.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are so open-minded we like to think that even a demon-possessed pig has a voice. Unfortunately, the voice is at the funeral of Emily Schleiger's mother.

Open Letter To The Priest Who Read About The Death Of Possessed Pigs At My Mother’s Funeral

By:
emily.schleiger@gmail.com

Dear Father,

I’m left with questions about the unconventional readings at my mother’s funeral.

In our hasty church shopping to grant our mother’s last wish of a funeral mass, my brother and I considered your parish. We had some distant family history there.

But we finalized our decision based on the endorsement from the funeral home. In the midst of our mental and physical exhaustion, we were reassured that you, the pastor, were “laid-back” and “like us.” The funeral home professional described you as casual, often going by your first name when you enjoyed craft beers at the neighborhood bar.

In the brief planning phone call, you told me you “just liked to make things simple for the families,” and only asked that we recruit a reader for the Old Testament passage. I sighed with relief as we concluded our conversation. I liked “simple” in a time of high stress and emotions. I liked the idea of relinquishing some responsibility.

When I met you before the service, you asked questions about my mother, then told me, “We just go with the readings of the day, to keep things simple.” I nodded in a similar chill style. “Simple,” again.

I get it. Why micromanage the message?” I thought, trustfully.

Then you said, without apology or hesitation: “Just so you know, today’s Gospel reading is Mark 5:1-20. When Jesus heals the possessed man by driving out demons via pigs.”

I should have just politely asked, “Aren’t there some nice verses about God being a shepherd?” But I didn’t. Grief’s dominant stages of shock and denial don’t steer people toward sensible reactions. Instead, I tried to prepare family members. “Well, I guess Mom’s dark humor strikes again! Ha ha! Well, you can’t control life, can’t control funeral readings!” When their eyes grew bigger, I walked away. “Trust the priest,” I whispered to myself. “Don’t get worked up. Be cool. He likes craft beer.”

As the service began, I realized you hadn’t even warned me about the first reading. My poor aunt had consented to be our volunteer reader. She cringed as she recited Old Testament verses about murderous and wicked men, followed by a reference to lopping off a dead dog’s head. Thoughtful words in memory of my mother who was a dog lover.

And then, as you’d warned, you read the Gospel according to Mark. The bit about the possessed man in shackles and chains, bruising himself with stones, and the evil spirits coming out, saying, “We are Legion, that’s our name because there are many of us,” followed indeed by Jesus forcing Legion into a herd of pigs and sending them over a cliff to drown in the ocean? Well, I started to sweat just a little. I mean, even you, Father, have to admit that’s a bit intense. My mom, a loyal supporter of organizations like the Humane Society, wasn’t really into stories about the deaths of a thousand formerly innocent, then suddenly possessed pigs. I’m sure my face flushed as I thought about the handful of Mom’s high school classmates present, probably questioning these reading selections. “Susan must have had a rocky relationship with her kids,” I imagined they’d whisper later.

Now, I do have to give you credit for appropriating the two horror readings into a eulogy. Yes, my mom is free now from the shackles of a stressful life. And she will never again be metaphorically stoned by cancer. And while you didn’t throw this in there, it was also pretty easy to imagine Legion as the many personalities of her ex-husband, my dad, from whom she is now truly free forever.

Still, I have to wonder if there wasn’t a less demonic Bible verse to add to the mix, for balance. Like, maybe something from Corinthians about love being patient and kind. That would have worked. It’s not like we can request a re-do service; there’s nothing more final than a funeral.

Have you used these readings at other funerals? Did you question at all your policy of “just using the readings of the day?” Are there no “back-up” readings, anything slightly more vanilla?

Or, did you know something we didn’t? Was my mom some form of the Antichrist? She did have a very protective black dog, as did Damien in The Omen. And that dog never loved any of us like it loved Mom.

Or, given our distant family history with the church, maybe my grandparents somehow slighted a previous pastor at their matrimony. Perhaps a forgotten tip at my mother’s christening. Maybe my Dad, Legion, attempted a curse on the building at my own baptism. He often loved stealing the stage like a macho Maleficent.

Or maybe you sensed there were many among the crowd who had left Catholicism, and the readings served as a warning. I noticed you pierced my atheist brother with your eyes, then insisted that he accept the crucifix at the burial. Maybe despite your easygoing nature, you remain a determined crusader? In our defense, though, Father, no one burst into flames upon entering your church, nor did the sky turn black, so any such worries about our collective salvation are probably baseless, if not a tad dramatic.

While I await your response, I’ll do my best to explain to others why I tear up at exorcism movies. “You do realize, this character’s demonic possession is just a metaphor for the all-too-common struggles of life, right?” I’ll sniff. “That verse about the pigs…always takes me back. Be free, Mom.”

In Simple Confusion,

Emily Schleiger

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we watch in horrified fascination, but still giggling, at this bizarre real-life farm tale from Ricardo Angulo.

After That Rogue Square Baler Transformed Me Into A Living Hay Bale, I Chose To Use My Powers For Good

By:
air@mail.usf.edu

I’ve always been a loner. Neglected, dismissed. From the cornfields of southern Indiana to the cattle farms of central Oklahoma, I was God’s forgotten farm hand. And then came that fateful day… when that rogue square baler took a tragic turn, swallowed me whole, and malformed me into a living, breathing, heroic bale of hay.

Sometimes I lay stiff at night wondering, why me? Why not some selfless do-gooder with a hard-on for serving his community? Clearly, I was chosen by that heavy-duty baler for a higher purpose. I shed my human form and became this impervious brick of raw hay, but at what cost? What good is my complete mastery of summoning free-range livestock whenever they feel the need to eat, when it’s at the expense of my own humanity?

By day, I am just the overlooked company bale working as a seat on a hayride. Joan would never suspect that the mild-mannered square she carts around on a wagon every Saturday in November for children’s birthday parties is actually the notorious all-powerful hunk of feed with a soft spot for vigilante justice. She can never know my secret. The night she and I slept together, filthy rainy tears poured out of my inner spongy reservoir as she laid her body’s weight on my head. But I sucked it up, and stayed silent behind my aloof stoic façade.

It’s too late for me. She has a bright future studying biophysics at the state university. If I opened up and unmasked my identity, someone might hurt her to get to the real prize. And god only knows what instruments of torture some egg-headed scientists could design for the U.S. military once they perform their classified experiments on my super mutant exoskeleton of nutrient-rich animal fodder.

And what would Joan think of me once the national news broadcast my multi-million dollar citywide escape?

Would I still be her beloved cube? Or would she envision me as a six-sided monster with the heart-stopping potential to cause catastrophic rifts in this region’s ecological food web? What then? Blot out their Tiger tanks and field artillery with my telepathic army of seasonal straw mites until every last infantry soldier is obliterated under an awesome wave of skin itching? Demolish squadron after squadron of highly explosive F-35 stealth fighters with the help of a bale throwing attachment on the back of a tractor?

Destroy half the town while battling the bigger, blockier, more biodegradable version of myself released by their task force for this very occasion?

That’s a risk I can’t take. I was endowed with this god-like well-insulated box, and I intend to use it for good. To persevere outside the law and exact my own brand of justice on this rural township. This is the path I chose. I am not the villain.

I am the Haymaker.

This is my gift.

My curse.

 

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