* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We're glad you made it! Various studies, which I am making up as I go along, conclusively prove that this site can help wean you off of YouTube, if YouTube is a problem for you. Heed the questionable wisdom of Luke Roloff.

I Went To YouTube Tonight And Didn’t Come Back

By:
lukeroloff@hotmail.com

What led me down this path? Where did I lose my way? Where did my legs go?

I can’t see my legs.

One minute I’m minding my own business watching other people’s lives unfold on social media, and the next I’m neck deep in a paralyzing cage of wonder.

From what I can remember, I went to YouTube real quick to watch this one video, but before I could even type it in the search bar, I was ensnared by the trappings of a sweet temptress known as Recommended.

I believe it was at this junction that I went down a bit of a rabbit hole, a splendid hole where cat and chicken are best friends. Yes, a cat, and a chicken — buddies! I simply couldn’t look away.

Eight minutes deep into watching two animals flop around in the dirt, I lost peripheral vision and basic motor skills. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was a mere puppet dancing in the hands of my penchant for pretty much anything.

You’re probably asking yourself by now, once a digital paradigm has been crossed, isn’t there an instructional video on YouTube explaining how to return? No, there isn’t. I checked.

But you know what is on YouTube? Back episodes of Xena Warrior Princess!

Despite losing all control and sense of physical self, I eventually felt a soothing warmness come over me. Accompanied by a wetness. Then later, a coolness. Followed by a smelliness.

Make no mistake, my soul has officially crossed the Rubicon of online content. My body, morphed into a cushion for my laptop. And my mind, it’s totally engrossed in this home video about a guy who designed a solar-powered chocolate skateboard.

Before I lost my hearing, I would periodically get wind of what sounded like my wife. I believe she was trying to send me a message from the physical world. Something like, “Will you take out the garbage?” She kept repeating it, over and over. And while the code meant nothing to me at the time, now it really means nothing because I’m in the middle of watching upside-down rainbows from New Zealand!

Okay, I’ll admit, some of the videos are a little silly, but others are actually quite moving. I can feel them drawing me in, almost dragging me, really, gnawing at my feet, and growling like a hungry and neglected dog.

Sometimes, I can even see things in 3D. Like the hands of little children frantically waving to get my attention. Or moths. It’s so lifelike!

After about another dozen or hundred videos, I was watching a tutorial on how to watch every celebrity interview ever, when suddenly, virtual reality musta kicked in, because it was like I was surrounded by celebrities, yeah, and they were acting out this elaborate intervention scene about video-watching addiction, and all the actors looked identical to my friends and family. The resolution was astounding!

At one point I even had this weird feeling that my house was being robbed, and then I got the impression someone was reaching into my pocket and snatching my wallet, and then I felt this zinging sensation as if someone punched my nose and gagged me and tied me up, then I found my favorite music video from 1994!

Lately, my favorite video is the one with all the really best things I like! LOL! Though my favorite favorite video is every video!

Once I added my iPad to the mix, then I taped my iPhone to my face!

From time to time my brain comes on, and I have to wonder, Good grief, what’s that smell? But you know what they say, time flies when you have no clue how much of it has passed!

And now look at this smoke! WOW, those flames are so hot it’s as if they’re burning my flesh off. I can’t even breathe — so lifelike!

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which we'd like you to think of as your conjoined twin -- a subject about which Tess Tabak knows more than she should.

The Reason You’re In A Four Hour Rabbit Hole About Conjoined Twins Is The Same Reason You’re Still Single

By:
beccatess@gmail.com

Dear Abby,

Will I ever find true love?

Yesterday at 4:00 pm I opened an article about conjoined twins Brittany and Abby Hensel that led me down a four-hour Google search hole. Now I’m wondering why they’re engaged and I’m not. They only have one uterus. Do they? Could they give birth? Do they like reading about other conjoined twins? Do they shop at Walmart?

What should I do? 

Sincerely,

Searching

 

Dear Searching,

So let’s get this straight: you spend all of your free time obsessing over conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel.

Spoiler alert: this is why you’re still single.

Maybe if you took some of that obsessive energy and used it to better yourself, you’d be in the market for dating. Biked more, maybe. Nope, don’t even think about Googling how Abby and Brittany can ride a bicycle. (They have such linked minds, they move perfectly together even though they each can only control half of the body. Isn’t that cool?)

I think what you have to ask yourself is, are you really interested in Abby and Brittany, or are you jealous of being a conjoined twin? I mean sure, we’ve all been there. Who among us doesn’t envy the perfect, pure love that one conjoined twin has for another? But you have to learn how to keep those thoughts to yourself.

The next time you go on a date, don’t open by speculating about what Abby and Brittany are up to at that exact moment. Trust me, he’s not interested.

For the record, the following are not good First Date conversation starters:

  • If you could be conjoined twins with anyone, who would it be?
  • Do you think it would be romantic to be joined with me at the shoulder, for life?
  • Maybe marriage is a bit like meeting your own conjoined twin?

Whatever you do, DON’T show him your homemade Abby & Brittany doll. The one you made by sewing two regular baby dolls together. Yeesh.

 

Dear Abby,

My boyfriend didn’t like the special two-person sweater that I gave him last Christmas. I knit it specially for us so that I could be by his side all day, but he got this freaked out look in his eyes. He wouldn’t even ride the tandem bicycle I bought for us so that we could bike through the park and never lose sight of each other. Should I dump him? 

Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel are engaged — what am I doing wrong?

Best,

Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

Men can see through your tricks. That tandem bicycle was a screaming red flag that said, “I’m needy! Stay away from me!” You can say it’s just a joke, but he’ll know it’s not.

What you need to do is give your boyfriend some space. Maybe it would help if you developed a more normal interest. Like in those Cheng and Eng guys. Now there’s a fascinating subject. Did you know that if they were born in this day and age, they could have been separated with a simple surgical procedure? They could have led such different lives, you know? Do you think they’d give up that connection, though? I mean, imagine being right next to someone every waking second for the rest of your life.

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we pride ourselves on being students of mankind. Sheepskin Mankind and Piney Mankind. But let Michael Fowler explain it all to you. When you're done with his latest humor piece, check out our blogroll on the right or the link directly below to buy Michael's book, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Sheepskin Man Vs. Piney Man

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

She thinks of you as Sheepskin Man. Or perhaps Sasquatch Man, but we’ll give you a break and say Sheepskin Man. That’s in acknowledgement of your four-year degree, your newish Honda, your taste for craft beer and Thai food, and the job you hold down in an office or classroom that pays better than some machine shops.

Hi there, Sheepskin Man! She certainly has taken note of your elite education and hoity-toity manners and discretionary income, especially since she lacks all these attributes herself. Yes, she’s quite a different deal from you, maybe didn’t finish high school, and confesses to drinking a bit.

Whoa, quite a bit! And has she ever visited an orthodontist? Whatever, she was attracted to you when she waited your table the other night, and now you’re suddenly on the town with her and negotiating for her to clean your apartment, since she’s underemployed. And you, Sheepskin Man, are attracted to her, too, even if the attraction is sort of inexplicable. True, she’s kind of cute, and her drinking promises an interesting night, but what of that? Can she really be your type? Your usual date is Sheepskin Woman, who owns fifty pairs of shoes and a master’s degree, but this evening you’re off on a hazardous tangent.

Your night takes a decided turn inside the bar she directs you to. It isn’t her favorite, she explains, but an out-of-the-way place you’ll likely be left alone. If you went to one of her favorite spots, where there was a nice crowd, some he-man would be liable to beat you to a pulp, she says. You don’t argue.

You enter a dark, forsaken hellhole whose blackened interior makes it clear that it almost burned to the ground in a recent fire. “Charming!” you think. At first the place seems deserted, but when you step up to the bar a kindly middle-aged fella with a tube gut flicks on a tiny TV on the shelf behind him and takes your orders. Draft beer for you, six Jell-O shots for her. This is only your second date, but she got bombed on your first also, so you’re concerned, but not much.

After her third shot, she wants to dance. You give her change for the jukebox, since she hasn’t a dime to her name, and then you’re on the barroom floor, trying to find the tempo to “Wonderful Tonight,” a song she picked and the beat to which, although you played snare drum in your high school marching band, you can’t lock onto. Why couldn’t she choose one that goes and-a one, and-a two, and-a three, so you don’t stumble around like a lame donkey? Bad luck!

Now a guy steps out of the dark woodwork and cuts in. Meet Piney Man. You haven’t named him that yet, but you will in about a minute. Piney Man doesn’t seek your permission or acknowledge you in any way. He simply asks your girl to dance, and she, without knowing him, accepts. In retaliation, you give the dude exactly one glance as you retreat to a bar stool. He’s about your age, mid-twenties, and damn it all he’s good-looking, even well-dressed in a country-and-western sort of way. He would fit in well in the fifth or sixth row on a televised Lyle Lovett concert.

He also has a GED, works on roofs or construction sites, drives a domestic pickup with actual tools on board, drinks domestic beer and hunts domestic animals for food. Yes, you take in all that at a glance. And one more thing: he smells of pine trees or some other outdoorsy, labor-intensive thing. So you think of him now as Piney Man, though his aroma may actually come from cologne or motor oil or, as is common to all Piney Men, cigarettes. The one thing he won’t smell of is peach and strawberry blend shampoo, like you.

Piney Man knows how to move to the funereal song oozing over the ether, and you suspect that he’s well-versed in sashaying, probably having memorized the entire jukebox at Joe’s, which is the name of this place, where he may be the only regular who didn’t die in the fire.

While you can’t help but admire the graceful pair, you try not to stare directly at Piney Man for fear of proving conclusively that he’s got you in the looks department. A sneak glance, however, confirms that he does. That doesn’t leave much room for you to compete, but there’s still income and brains to be considered. These are not ordinarily your strong suits, but tonight they’ll have to be. How else will you impress your date, who of course is none other than Piney Woman, Piney Man’s natural soul mate? You suddenly feel you’re wearing a back brace and a sweater with a kitten embroidered across the chest.

As the entwined couple continue to dance to the mournful guitar licks, you’re idiotically counting the beats from your bar stool, still trying to see how they can move together as one column of swaying liquid. When you think you’ve got the tempo at last, there’s still no other female in the joint for you to dance with. You’re stuck with kindly barkeep, no doubt Joe himself, who keeps you company from behind the bar.

You follow his gaze to miniature TV behind him. Jeopardy is on, and Alex grills a contestant in the category of Legendary Smart People: “This Old Testament King, renowned for his wisdom, once proposed to cut a baby into halves.” You know the answer but say nothing, not wanting to look like an intellectual show-off in front of average Joe. But Joe pipes right up with “Who is King Solomon?” And since the bartender, in your mind, is another Piney Man, he stands in for the good-looking dancer, and you realize you’re now losing in the brains department, right when it counts.

You again glance over at Piney Man. That was quick thinking, sir, you tell yourself. But you say nothing to him, since it’s already crystal clear that you two won’t be exchanging any words. Neither of you came to the bar tonight to talk to another guy, and most likely, if he notices you at all, he’s come up with some derogatory name for you, something as bad as Piney Man for city slickers.

What might it be? You think you know it: Shaft. But in that case you’d need to be like the vibrant man of machismo from the song and movie, wouldn’t you? You’d also need to be black, most likely. You’re flattering yourself; he isn’t thinking of you as Shaft. More like Mr. Peepers, on account of your glasses.

“Wonderful Tonight” ends at last, and you place your next drink orders with Joe: another draft for you, and a second half-dozen Jell-O shots for the lady. Piney Man buys himself a bottle of lager. Joe gets busy, and Piney Man, behind your back, puts in a quarter to hear “Rough Boy.” Of course, it’s another arrhythmic ballad that only contortionists can enjoy. Briefly you get up to examine the jukebox song list, looking for “Sweet Home Alabama.” You’re certain you can boogie to that. Amazingly, you don’t find that dive song in this dive. You sit back down.

Once again you’re locked out of the dance floor, and watch as Joe turns up the little TV for tonight’s final Jeopardy question. Alex reads from the category of Legendary Rich People: “The first gold coins were minted during the reign of this ancient King of Asia Minor.” “Who is Midas?” you blurt out, but Joe looks skeptical, and sure enough, it’s not Midas but Croesus. Joe smirks. Maybe he thought it was Midas too, but you blew it and that makes him, and by extension Piney Man, the winner. Piney Woman is his.

Except you’re the one who drives her home later, and it’s your car she pukes in.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the preschool of literary humor sites. And speaking of preschool, our good friend Karl Lykken has a few words for you...

Re: Parents’ Concerns Over Practices At Pull-Ups To Start-Ups Technical Preschool

By:
knlykken@gmail.com

Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Parents and Guardians,

You all should be happy to know that your children did quite well in their Customer Data Aggregation Practicum today (except the Fischers, as I’m afraid young Tina just can’t seem to understand that if you didn’t want us monitoring your conversations, you would be conducting them in sign language in an empty, windowless room). However, as I was reviewing some of the data that your children had collected on you to see how our school newsletter’s ads could better suit your individual needs, I happened to hear a rather disturbing conversation on the feed of a webcam in one of your babies’ pacifiers (I won’t say whose baby this was, as we keep all data anonymous to preserve your privacy).

In this video, a woman who appears to be the sister of a PUSU parent (who shall remain nameless outside of my personal notes and those of the other staff and students) was expressing her doubts about some of the methods we’ve been using here at Pull-Ups to Start-Ups. Naturally, controlling the opinions of customers’ loved ones is a critical part of brand management (Silicon Valley wouldn’t be investing so much money in developing robot lookalikes of all our family members if it wasn’t). Thus, I’m going to nip these slanderous comments in the bud, and assure all of you that if you’d seen some of the results from your children’s Data Aggregation Practicum, you’d realize that all of your siblings are depraved and should not be trusted.

Now, onto the specific concerns raised. It was suggested that having eight hours of class followed by eight more hours of homework is too much, as four-year-olds need time to play. However, for a true software engineer, coding is playing, and the only way to ensure that all of your children feel that way is to keep them too busy to engage in any other sort of recreation. In Plato’s Code Cave, work is the only fun they know.

Second, while my lawyer informs me that we can’t deny that staring at a screen for sixteen hours every day may have a less-than-positive effect on the development of our Junior Entrepreneurs’ eyes, this shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If your finger is on the pulse of tech, you’ll know that by the time your children reach high school, brain implant technology with have made the primitive five senses as obsolete as face-to-face conversations, so a little blindness won’t be holding anyone back. To the contrary, there is evidence to suggest that having a disability can provide an entrepreneur with extra drive to create a business or product that can help with their condition, and there’s nothing more important than the will to succeed. Besides, suggesting that a visual impairment is something bad that should be avoided is ableist discrimination, and we have no place for that at Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Technical Preschool.

Also, it was claimed that our “only tattle if you’re blaming a scapegoat for widespread misconduct in which you’re a participant” policy teaches children to be hypocritical. This is nonsense. What is hypocritical is spending years working tirelessly to advance your career — neglecting your family, your love life, your scheduled doctor’s appointment to see why you’ve been coughing up blood — only to say that you don’t deserve what you’ve earned just because you “harassed” a few coworkers or “sold an untested AI program to the military and assured them it was safe to put in control of our nuclear stockpile” or whatever. That’s what’s hypocritical.

Finally, it was insinuated that if I knew as much about what it takes to found a billion-dollar company as I claim, that I would have done so instead of founding a preschool in Nebraska. Apparently it didn’t occur to the sister in question that, while majority ownership in a billion-dollar company is obviously worth taking out a second mortgage on your soul for, education is priceless, as is helping our children attain it. Besides, you all know what the tuition here is, so it’s not like I’m stuck using a two-year-old iPhone or anything. And anyone familiar with startup culture knows that just because I lost my seed funding and went under six times doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have succeeded the seventh if my mom wasn’t so small-minded as to insist that she’d only invest again if I moved back home and started a business catering to people she personally knew to be suckers.

Anyway, I hope this has assuaged any concerns you may have had. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or just state them clearly while within a twenty-meter radius of any of your electrical appliances or children’s toys.

Yours,

Peter Bolton
Founder, CEO & Principal
Pull-Ups to Start-Ups Technical Preschool

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