* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are only too happy to escape from the grubbiness of politics. Except that, as Jon Sindell has found, there is no escape.

The Gardening Hiring Committee I Faced Were All Retired Senate Judiciary Committee Members

By:
jsind@sbcglobal.net
jonsindell.com

I’d lost the bid to install the Chelsea Center Elementary School butterfly garden, so with sunhat in hand I faced the Gardening Hiring Committee of the Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa for the associate gardener job.

The meeting was chaired by old Senator Gaseous. He raised his gavel, dropped it, and called a five-minute recess to retrieve it. He called the meeting to order, but was immediately interrupted by Senator Jaundiste.

“I object to the Chairperson’s patriarchal assertion of authority,” she wheezed.

“You are out of order,” the Chair wheezed back, peering mole-like down the conference table with an educated guess as to who had spoken. Senator Gaseous had already promised the Senatorial Gardens Federalist Tea Time Book Club that he would vote for me, and read aloud from a prepared statement. “Mr. Raichu, you are a gardener of unimpeachable reputation. We have before us website testimonials from dozens of satisfied customers who have lauded you for your green thumb, your artistic eye, and your professionalism. To quote from three: ‘The passion flowers are so pretty!’…’He finished on time.’…’He brought donuts once!’ These testimonials speak volumes, Mr. Raichu.”

“Thank you, Senator.”

“It is I who should thank you. Senatorial Gardens would be honored to employ a gardener of your outstanding qualifications — qualifications which should be obvious to any non-senile member of this committee. In that regard, I yield the floor to Senator DeMagog.”

“Mr. Raichu,” said the acerbic ex-senator, knitting his brow like my high school principal when I was caught taking geranium cuttings from the botany lab, “allow me to read a statement attributed to you in the Best Buds Garden Center customer newsletter of July 15, 2018, and I quote: ‘Invasive plants are a real problem in this neighborhood.'” The senator removed his glasses with the triumphant air of a prosecutor poised to destroy a witness. “Is it fair to say that you consider native plants more desirable than the hardy species that you so derisively dismiss as ‘invasive?'”

I turned to my partner, Gina, for a whispered conference.

“I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of my views, Senator. I was talking about the harm invasive plants cause to — ”

“I’ve heard enough!” gasped the senator, his nurse immediately cupping an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. “I’m voting no on this monster!”

“Hardly a surprise,” interposed Senator Longtuthe with a bitter laugh, “considering that the Senatorial Gardens newsletter quoted you just yesterday as saying ‘Appointing an avowed social conservative to this post would endanger the values our community holds dear.'”

“Senator,” I interjected, “that’s ‘soil conservationist,’ not ‘social conservative.'” With a smile I thought winning, I added, “I live for good soil.”

“The witness is out of order!” screamed Senator Selfreiteous.

I checked my phone. A load of fairy-tale lavender had arrived at Home Depot. Sweet.

“The Chair recognizes Senator Bloviateur.”

Senator Bloviateur plumped a 400-page tome in front of me. “Be so kind, Mr. Raichu, as to open the Bylaws Of The Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa to page 214 and read into the record Section 87(A)(2)(c)(iv).”

“‘In selecting landscape designs,'” I read, “‘careful consideration shall be given to the ability of new landscape elements to harmonize with existing physical structures.'”

The senator removed his glasses — they all had that riff — and leaned forward as if to kill a newly trapped gopher. “And what is your interpretation of the word ‘harmonize,’ Mr. Raichu? Do you give it a strict construction, or are you a good person?”

I’d been warned this was coming. “I suppose it refers to the idea that plants should look good with the buildings. The colors and shapes and sizes and so on.”

The senator harrumphed with self-satisfaction. “I see. And if residents were to propose a planting scheme that you, in your wisdom, considered inharmonious in terms of ‘the colors and shapes and sizes’ of the plants, would you be willing to install such a scheme?”

I looked helplessly at Gina. “I’d rather not comment on hypothetical planting schemes, Senator.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t,” the senator sneered. “But the people of this villa have a right to know how marginalized plants would fare if you were appointed associate gardener.”

“Senator, I’m really trying to understand, but by ‘marginalized plants,’ do you mean border gardens?”

“Enough! You are making a mockery of these proceedings! And I cannot, in good conscience, risk appointing a man like you as assistant gardener. My vote is no. A thousand times, no!”

I peeked at my phone. Tomato starts were on sale at Lowe’s.

Senator Gaseous tapped the gavel with all the strength of Montgomery Burns. “It’s obvious that there’s nothing more to do here,” he wheezed. “We all announced our decisions before the hearing anyway, so let’s just vote, and maybe we can make last call for dinner at four.”

I passed by one vote. But when Senator Gaseous offered congratulations, I replied, “Thank you all for the honor, but I’ve just received a text offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the head of leafblowing operations for We Blow, Inc. So as we gardeners say, I’m just gonna make like a tree and leaf.”

“A joke that corny shows contempt for this body!” shrieked Senator Selfreiteous.

And with both of her points, I had to agree.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take great pride in being able to tell big emergencies from little emergencies. We learned from the best: Time Barrow (and no, he does not have a brother named Wheel).

It’s Time We Prioritize Your Emergencies

By:
time@timewrites.com

Dear Ashwood Tenants,

Due to the unusually high number of recent maintenance requests and unexpected events, we’ve been unable to address them all in a timely manner. We apologize.

Remember, we’re still short a technician, since Wesley is hospitalized (and healing well) following the fiasco trying to retrieve Mr. Martin’s Professional Phantom III drone off Ms. Pritchard’s third-floor bedroom window overhang. (Know that we’re currently updating our policy on the use of video-enabled R/C devices near the building.)

While every situation and tenant is important to us, it’s time we prioritize your emergencies based on urgency and impact. Moving forward, we’ll address issues in the following order:

  1. Floods and time-sensitive emergencies
    Now that marijuana is legal here in Washington, if you hear an unexpected knock on the door, there’s no need to flush your stash. More to the point, our toilets cannot handle plastic bags, particularly those filled with large amounts of organic material. Young Jimmy Brophy in 1703, and the McEwan family in 1603, can attest to the resulting water damage.
  2. Anything of a fecal nature
    Many of you were witness to, or casualties of, Mrs. Esterhouse’s exploding colostomy bag in elevator #2 last week. The elevator has since been cleaned/sterilized and the hall carpets replaced on level 3. We’ve also removed the Jackson Pollock reproduction from that area, as it was a visual reminder.
    Remember: If you use similar devices, please change them, frequently.
  3. Electrical sparks, smoke, and gas leaks
    Rest assured that the simultaneous calls we received regarding these issues last Tuesday were unrelated and purely coincidental.

    1. Thanks to Mr. Steinberg on 7, we’ll remind you that your lease stipulates you not conduct auto bodywork (even just power-sanding a Ducati gas tank) on your terrace, as the sparks do shower down on those below.
    2. The smoke and resulting alarm were due to young Jimmy Brophy and friends under the conference room table (remember, you must reserve that space).
    3. The clubhouse gas odor was no leak at all, but rather just Mr. Vitanza’s IBS acting up in an unprecedented manner.
  4. Locked out situations
    We’ll address these requests based on situation:

    1. Is there a child or dog locked inside? We’ll be right there.
    2. No endangered child/dog:
      1. Clear-headed? The first time’s free (it happens). After that, it’s a $35 charge for each occurrence.
      2. Inebriated? There’s a $127 charge to let you in; $373 if we find the key is actually in your possession.
    3. Locked out of your car? Call AAA, your insurance company, or a locksmith. We’ll no longer assist in opening car doors with a slim jim, given the recent events (and impending lawsuit) after we assisted young Jimmy Brophy in entering and starting what we now know to be Mr. Scott’s classic Porsche.
  5. Legally dubious issues
    During the service call to fix Mr. Manz’s ice maker last month, our technicians were quite surprised to find numerous bags that look suspiciously like severed body parts. We’re cooperating fully in the investigation, and Apartment 1521 will likely soon be vacant.
  6. Bugs, rodents and critters (in order of likelihood)
    1. Bugs. We bring in exterminators upon new move-ins and as needed. If you contact us about cockroaches, as Ms. Brewner on 11 did, it can take a few days to schedule the exterminator. Assuredly, baking a “pecan pie” for the maintenance team is unnecessary and does not speed up the exterminator’s visit.
    2. Rodents. For years we’ve placed traps around the building without issue. This month was the first time we found one occupied. To the Goethe girls on 9, sorry Lauren & Olivia, we found Hail and Sleet, but you’ll need to secure that cage if you get any replacement pets.
    3. Critters. Occasional skunk/raccoon sightings have occurred. They’re occasional!
  7. Fires
    While this should seemingly rank higher on the list, fires aren’t really our thing. We’re maintenance technicians, for chrissake. If you have a fire and go to call us, hang up and dial 911. On that note, here are some tips to allay the need for the fire department:

    1. You should have learned, at a very young age, NOT to throw water on a grease fire. Ms. Hwang on 14 did not know this. Apparently, we also need to share that you should not spit on a grease fire, throw beer cans at it, or try to flash-fry sandwich meat over it.
    2. Your lease bans the use of barbeque grills on personal terraces. Accordingly, we maintain two grills in the common pool area. Your desire to BBQ nude at home, to respectfully avoid exposing your fellow tenants to such activity in the common area, is not justification (though somehow appreciated). As Mr. Kim on 9 recently learned:
      1. Grilling nude can be quite painful
      2. Balcony plants catch fire quickly
      3. Our security cameras broadcast a public 24/7 live stream
      4. One cannot remove such recorded streams from YouTube or LiveLeaks
    3. Thanks again to young Jimmy Brophy, we must mention that setting alight a quarter ounce of any substance in a bathtub–particularly with seven other people packed in the closed bathroom–is very much a fire hazard and can ignite the shower curtain.
    4. God forbid, if you’re experiencing a fire and booting up your laptop to alert us via email, just hang up and dial 911. (Just dial 911 from the get-go, Mrs. Parkin.)
  8. Broken appliances, doors and utilities
    Yep, we fix this stuff. In fact, it’d be our #1 concern, if not for this list’s other scenarios. Just put in a request and we’ll come… unless we’re tending to more pressing issues.

We appreciate your understanding and adherence to this updated policy on maintenance request prioritization.

Thank you,

The Ashwood Management and Maintenance Team

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, and to 2019! We hope this will be a most rewarding year for you. And if you heed the wisdom of Graham Techler, it just might be!

Patreon Rewards For Being My Friend

By:
graham.techler@gmail.com
www.grahamtechler.com

Hello! Thanks to Patreons like you, I am well on my way to the robust social life I feel I have been promised. For those who have yet to join me on Patreon, I am excited to offer you exclusive rewards for buying into our friendship on a monthly basis. Here are some of our tiered sponsorship options.

Text Me on My Birthday

Unlocks me texting you on your half-birthday, and also texting you on your ex-girlfriend’s birthday to make sure you’re doing okay.

Come to a Concert with Me if I Buy the Ticket

Unlocks me sending you the band’s top sixteen songs, which we can put into a seeded bracket before the show to gamify the experience and make this fun for you. Also unlocks an “Is this fun for you??” shouted over the music every three songs.

Need an Even Number for Water Bumper Cars, Only Have Five People, Consider Adding Me as the Sixth

Unlocks ponchos for this whole dream team you’re assembling, just in case I make the cut, but if I don’t: keep the ponchos, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Give Me Your Thoughts on Marvel Movies

Unlocks my thoughts on Marvel movies and so much more. Some contrarian, some gushing, all largely unsolicited.

Post Up for High Five

Unlocks bonus fist bump.

Return Fist Bump

Unlocks bonus hug.

Pick Me Up from the Airport

Unlocks me offering to buy you a beer sometime to say thanks, you telling me it’s really no big deal, and me vehemently insisting that I thank you by making you hang out with me more.

Get In Argument with Guy Outside Bar during Thank-You-Airport Drinks

Unlocks me staying out of it, but filming it in case you end up looking cool as shit, but also deleting the video in case you don’t end up looking cool as shit. Either way I’ll give you space to do your thing.

Borrow a Book

Unlocks me leaving a lot of post-it notes in that book like little treasures for you to find that will remind you I exist. “This part’s great!” “Did you cry here? I did!” You will still be surprised when, years later, you learn that I left you all my books in my will.

Plant Shopping! 

Unlocks me also leaving you the plants in my will.

Stick Up for Me after I Post Something Misguided about a Hot-Button Issue, Risking the Ire of Our Peers in the Process

Unlocks my unwarranted assumption that you will agree with me on all further misguided opinions on hot-button issues, my confidence in posting said views more often in the future, and almost certainly the ire of our peers.

Co-Host New Year’s Eve Party with Me

Unlocks the fact that if you do that, I will literally hold back the waves of time to keep that party going and to keep you young. To keep you as young as you desire.

Slight Me in Some Unknowably Small Way

Unlocks me holding it against you for a long, long time, and yet massively overcompensating around you due to the guilt I feel from holding a grudge that I wish I could erase but is out of my control.

Meet My Parents when They’re in Town

Unlocks me telling thinly veiled stories that hint at rambunctious adventures amongst my friend group, suggesting to you that I am a confident, transparent straight-shooter with my parents, suggesting to my parents that I am a real adult with a slight edge to me, but in reality probably just making everyone a little uncomfortable, plus all previous rewards.

Are My Parents

Sorry. Super busy day at work. Will call later!

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your holiday safe space. This is the second week of our end-of-the-year Michael Fowler two-for-one sale. And if you buy that, you might as well buy his book too. Click on the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend." The Big Jewel will return with a new piece to begin the New Year on Wednesday, January 2.

Caution: Holiday Meats

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

As a man of a certain age, I’ve made an observation or two about holiday meats. I’ve noticed how they’ve changed a lot during my already long lifespan, always remaining scarcely edible. Never in my childhood or youth would I have believed that people would line up outdoors for an hour, even in foul or freezing weather, to buy an outrageously expensive precooked ham coated in candy. How did this happen? In my day, by which I mean the Age of Aquarius, give or take a decade, there was no such thing as a ham covered in sweet sticky syrup as though it were a pancake or a lollipop. Who would want a hog lollipop? Or a pig pancake? The very idea is nauseating, and yet today no one wants anything else. The only people who have other tastes are those who would be cast into hellfire if they ate pork.

Am I alone in remembering the way my mother and her mother prepared the holiday ham, those cooks from the Great Generation and before? When my mom made a ham, she baked it herself, for half a day in her tiny, smoking oven, and the only sweet thing that touched it were rings of pineapple, about half a dozen of them, out of a can. The ham itself sometimes came out of a can too, an import from some Scandinavian country that is now socialist. The pineapple rings she nailed onto the ham’s hide-like exterior with tiny spikes of clove, pressing them into place with her steely fingers. She would then bake the fruited thing until the rings turned brown and the cloves were scorched, and that was dinner. You can’t come by that kind of festive eats anymore, not even at a lunch counter.

Holiday turkeys are also different now. I remember my dad, who was in charge of roasting our turkey back in the 50s and 60s, saying that sometimes you got a bad turkey from the store. He said that once every two or three years, perhaps as an excuse for his subpar cooking. There was nothing you could do about it, he implied, but make the best of it. These were the days when frozen turkeys began to be all the rage, but they weren’t all of uniform quality, according to my dad. So on off years we ended up with what he called a rubber turkey, one that would not become tender no matter how long it was cooked. It was rubber at any temperature. And these rubber birds never got completely done, but retained some pinkish hue all through the meat. Also, the skin of the bird would refuse to turn golden brown or any other shade of brown, but remain a gray or even bluish color, no matter how often you basted it. But all you could do was celebrate the holiday as best you could with it, because that’s how turkeys were: some of them were rubber.

Back then there was another difference in your turkey too: there really was dark meat on the bird. A modern turkey is all white meat, though here and there it might appear grayish-white to the discerning eye. You can’t tell a thigh from a breast without a microscope, if you’re looking at a slice. But when I was a boy, dark thigh meat was really dark, and gamey and greasy too, or so I remember. Everyone served himself a little of it to be polite, but you felt like you were eating a squirrel or a cat or something. Maybe the leftover dark meat was used to make mincemeat pie, whatever that awful stuff was. I don’t know, because I never tasted it as a child. It looked like a quart of used motor oil in a crust, and I never laid a taste bud anywhere near it. And now nobody serves the muck except at nursing homes.

Rubber turkeys and birds with dark meat have all but vanished from the holiday platter, due to new standards in avian uniformity, but have been replaced by the SBBED, or self-basting buttery explosive device. My struggles with this hazardous firebird began in the 80s, when I had my own household to run and my own turkey to buy and roast. Injected with enough butter to make Paula Dean blush, these 25- to 30-pound pustules of grease would sizzle in the oven at 325 and, when you tried to collect the buttery rivulets that ran over the sides to make gravy or baste the thing despite its not needing it, the unstoppable fat would drip down onto the hot oven coils. An arc of flame would then shoot out the oven door like a solar flare and singe off all or part of your mustache and sideburns, if you had any, and your arm hair too, if you had neglected to put on an oven mitt. I had as much hair and side-hair as anyone back in the 80s, with the sole exception of David Lee Roth, and usually emerged from a turkey-basting session as closely shorn as John Candy in Stripes. There was no way to avoid this, because after all, basting was part of the tradition.

The family has since switched to leaner birds that have not been inoculated. Voila, no more grease rivers and explosions! But my daughter insists our turkey be roasted in a bonnet of cheesecloth drenched in liquid butter and white wine. That this headdress doesn’t burst into flame almost at once confounds me. But it doesn’t, though I can’t help but check on it every fifteen minutes, to make sure. You throw the cheesecloth out after it turns brown and crispy, and by then the bird has a golden sheen and something like a taste.

Of course if you prefer, you can get a candy-coated turkey at the same place you get those hams. It saves you a lot of trouble.

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where from our vantage point, there's no one funnier than Michael Fowler. That's why we're finishing the year with two of his pieces, one this week and one next. When you're done reading his new bit of hilarity, click on the link below to buy his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Vantage Point

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

If you’re like me, then you must cringe on hearing some famous and pompous airhead, carried away by a magnificent natural setting or site of historical importance, such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Lincoln Memorial, sound off as if they were at least partly responsible for the view or site, that they somehow are one with it or have the keenest eye to appreciate it, or that they have been chosen, of all humanity, to comprehend its true meaning. For example, here is an internationally renowned, culturally imbued blowhard on a visit to Rome explaining the ancient Roman Senate to us plebeians:

“I reflect on the follies of the ancients, whose foibles and weaknesses we replicate in our own political foolishness. The pseudo-Roman columns in Washington are the sign of the ruins we shall become if we continue down our present path of…” etc., etc. I hesitate to name the actual windbag who said this, primarily since after many years I can’t find the actual quote and am only guessing at the correct words. But what the hell, it was the late, somewhat lamented Gore Vidal, essayist and novelist and pundit, sometime back in the 1960s, if memory serves, well before he became a 9-11 truther and wrote the impenetrable brick of a novel Creation.

And here’s another self-important buffoon as he gazes down thoughtfully on a world made small by his location, i.e., onboard a transcontinental flight. “Here in my window seat, 30,000 feet over the blue Atlantic (where I approach being in my natural Olympian element), I ponder our infinitesimal size and the insignificance of our lives and actions. Can a creature so small as Man yet achieve work of moral and spiritual importance? As a creative artist I endeavor…” etc., etc. Again, I know the man who inspired me to write the above precis, but I can’t find his original words now that years have gone by since I read them, and I hesitate to attribute to him my own in case I fail to do him justice. But why quibble, it was film producer Spike Lee, in the introduction to some piece of his writing or other. The original version by Mr. Lee dates from around 1990, I believe, years before the filmmaker began leaking the home addresses of his political adversaries and complaining about the authenticity of other filmmakers. But I bet he was always pretty much that way.

I bring up Vidal and Lee not because I have some grudge against artists, curmudgeons though some of them were and are, but because they are prime examples of how an inspiring setting can bring out the tendency in us to become godlike and all-knowing and so above the rest of the world’s all-too-ordinary and much lesser mortals. I surmise, in fact, that it’s part of everyday life that we citizens, no matter how humble, feel exalted when confronted with a pleasant view or some manmade structure a bit out of the ordinary, and that’s all it takes for us to sound off on our personal greatness. The following examples will show a common train of thought even in us non-intellectuals.

Some blowhard bascart collector on the parking lot of a supermarket: “Here on the acre-wide lot I ponder the countless bascarts, symbols of Humanity’s Great Hunger. Is it not folly to presume that even 10% off coupons on bread and milk issued daily will stave off eventual privation of the teeming masses? True, there are gallons of Coke products on the shelves, enough to fill Lake Erie. But does that provide nutriment? With humility and I hope grace I perform my small part, gathering and lining up the shopping carts…” etc., etc.

A monomaniacal waste removal driver, on seeing the landfill around the bend: “Here in the driver’s seat of my mighty collection truck, an engineer’s marvel of conveyance and crushing capacity (suitable to a Herculean stable-cleaner like myself), I contemplate the mountain of refuse up ahead, bigger this year than last, destined to grow bigger still. Does it portend progress, the throwing off of the old and outmoded for the new and improved? Or does it signify wastefulness and overabundance? With a fetid breeze in my nose, I surmise…” etc., etc.

A self-important above-ground swimming pool salesman: “I stand awestruck by the crystalline 10-foot depth and 60-foot circumference of our most popular pool this summer, The Great Cooler, on display now at Bob’s Pools, off First Street downtown. Can there be a better symbol of the Pursuit of Happiness than this bright, placid surface, this personal reservoir of fun? I despair for those who bypass this bargain and go down the street to our competitor, Jake’s Pools, which hardly represent the American Dream…” etc., etc.

A grandiose dental technician: “With a bank of modern drilling and rinsing and imaging devices before me, I disdain the bright white smiles that mask the carious mouth and belie the need for serious root canal work and filling replacement. Altogether that’s thousands upon thousands of whitened teeth, even millions of them, at risk. I abjure facile mouthwashes when fluoride treatment is indicated, nor do I neglect sensitive gums. My client may only be interested in appearance, but I say, periodontal procedures are essential if we are to…” etc., etc.

A full-of-it Highway Department rest stop custodian: “Here in a park-like setting in central Ohio, I ponder the infinite ribbon of highway as it rolls east and west. And what of the millions of cars upon said ribbon that require timely oil changes? Does a man need to travel from sea to shining sea just to extend his carbon footprint? You cannot, the Greek said, step into the same river twice. But you can flush all my toilets twice so long as you don’t dump garbage in them, and that means…” etc., etc.

Anyway you see the picture. Give anyone at all a place to stand and he’ll move the earth, or at least think he can.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take almost nothing seriously, except for the history of cinema and its greatest innovators. Our man Dan Fiorella is here with the story!

The Films Of The Lumière Brothers, Rebooted

By:
daf118@aol.com
danfiorella.com

Renewed interest in early movie history was generated this year when the first-ever film poster went up for auction at Sotheby’s. This was the poster used to promote the first public screening of the Lumière brothers’ short films back in 1895! What we didn’t expect out of this attention was the recent announcement by cinematic enfant terrible, director Wes Ravenspool, about his latest project: to reboot those Lumière brothers’ movies.

“Look, it’s a very different Hollywood today,” Mr. Ravenspool said at a press conference at Mercury Picture Studios, where he lamented, “I can’t just pitch a two-hander based on a dream I had anymore. It’s all about Intellectual Property, using pre-existing material to make ‘new’ movies. Studios only want to produce content based on previous content. That’s why we see all these remakes, sequels and sequels to remakes that were originally a single-panel New Yorker cartoon.”

“Amazingly, we have overlooked a vast source of IP: these earliest movies can be remade! It’s both a celebration of cinema’s past and an exploitation of it!”

“Look at Le Repas de Bébé from 1895. It’s a masterpiece!” The 30-second film is called Baby’s Breakfast in America but sounds classier in French. A husband and wife (uncle and grandmother? Some cousins? It’s really not made clear) feed their toddler porridge and then give him a biscuit.

“It’s all there! Suspense! Comedy! Nutrition!” Mr. Ravenspool said. “Will the baby eat? Why does he try to give the biscuit away? Why is mom futzing with the tea set?” Mr. Ravenspool admits that, at 30 seconds, the black & white silent movie will have to be expanded and updated for today’s audiences. “Yes, we will have to work on the next two acts, which is why I have terrorists come in and kidnap the baby! After that, the father, who is a former Navy Seal, is forced to hunt them down. Talk about your great inciting incidents! Also, the baby will now be a CGI character.”

When asked if he has any plans for a remake of La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon, Mr. Ravenspool replied, “Absolutely! This delightful 30-second film of workers leaving the Lumière factory is going to be a rousing tale of workers vs. the corporation, as the employees leave the factory to strike. Naturally, the owners of the factory bring in thugs, who gun all the workers down. One surviving worker, who called in sick that day, is driven by guilt to avenge his co-workers! The Lumière brothers would have totally made this film if they had invented the technology back then.”

We continued down the list of films shown and Mr. Ravenspool’s pitches:

La Pêche aux Poissons-Rouges: an infant attempts to fish in a fish bowl. “The child gets pulled in and finds himself in a magical animated world, where he must team up with the goldfish to battle an evil diver and find the lost treasure chest! It would be like a wet Jumanji. The infant will also be CGI.”

Le Saut à la Couverture or Jumping the Blanket: a man does a forward roll over a blanket held by four friends. “Ah, but it’s not an ordinary blanket!” Mr. Ravenspool began. “No, but a flying carpet that will carry the group to a small country being invaded by space aliens. It writes itself!”

And of course, the most famous of the Lumière shorts from 1895 is L’Arroseur Arrosé (Tables Turned on the Gardener), which is regarded as the first film comedy, if not the world’s first fiction film: while the gardener waters the plants, a boy steps on the hose. The water stops and the gardener confusedly looks into the hose to see what the problem is. The boy takes his foot off and the gardener gets doused. The film finishes with the gardener chasing the boy and giving him a spanking. “Actually, I see the chase being the film, as the gardener uses all his resources to track down and capture the boy, who is a master of disguise. And a cannibal. This is what the people are clamoring for!”

After that, a Mercury Studio security guard called the police, saying we weren’t supposed to be on the lot. Yet, the press announcement confirmed that everything old is new again and Hollywood wouldn’t have it any other way. Now excuse me while I finish up my spec of Fred Ott’s Sneeze.

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is like your personal Advent calendar for this joyous holiday season. This week we look at the advent of ranch dressing, perhaps the most beautiful holiday story of all, courtesy of our good friend Luke Roloff!

The Advent Of Ranch Dressing As Told By The Rancher

By:
lukeroloff@hotmail.com

The query I’m often riddled with is: How was ranch dressing invented anyways? Bein’ I was there on the morn of its zesty conception, shoot, I ‘spose it’s time I broke my stoic silence and provide the world a worthwhile answer.

This here is the tale of how ranch dressing came to be.

I remember it as clear as day. It was an icy winter eve when my Granpappy come bustin’ through that ranch house front door. Brrr. Pappy just done come straight from workin’ the spread, and with him come two buckets of fresh milk for Gammy to use for supper — actually…scratch that.

It was sweltering hot that day. Yes. I remember now. Hotter than Pappy’s cast-iron poker. Well, not that hot obviously. But it was super hot, okay? My Gammy, sweet Gammy. That woman could whip up a — wait a second…Gammy was always the one making a stew that gave me indigestion. She kinda struggled with her craft as a cook, truth be told. Also, she smelled like spider webs.

It was my Aunty Doris who was the cook. Yes, sir, finest peach pie in bi-county. She could uncover flavor combinations like Pappy slaughtered animals. And as memory serves, by god, she churned those buckets of fresh milk into buttermilk, and now the more I think of ole Doris, the more I’m reminded I didn’t care for her much. My Momma’s sister. She killed Momma. But on that particular eve, birthing rich buttery salad sauce, when she sprinkled dem dill spices, well, doggone she was creative.

Please don’t get the wrong idea here. We’re a simple people who like to keep it simple, but when it comes to seasoning cream, well, we’re pretty much like astronauts exploring galaxies that simply haven’t been imagined. It’s no big secret our unbridled affinity for enigmatic salad fixins. And obviously, a ranch is the only place on earth where herbs can coalesce with such grace and magic. And Doris, that boob, she done proved it with her virtuoso performance, gunslingin’ ingredients, speaking in tongues — she was acting like an alien, one who’s bringin’ new information to our planet, such as the recipe of an out-of-this-world salad topping. From where I sat, looked like she was buildin’ a bona fide time machine. If only we could go back in time and save Momma, then she could taste her killer’s creamy concoction. That ranchy taste. A giant mouthful of a pure ranch. Mmmm.

If I’m not mistaken, Doris said something about chives. Or was it parsley? Or were the haunting screams of Momma’s ghost too loud to hear ol’ Doris? Hold your horses. No, that’s right, I believe Doris got choked out by Momma’s ghost. Once we scooted the body out of the way, it was her daughter Cynthia who grabbed that spatula by the horns. No. Not Cynthia. In fact, I think I was out of town that weekend. You know what, storytelling isn’t my strong suit.

Listen, how the hell should I know how a salad dressing is made? That’s not what we do on ranches. We raise livestock, not the tastiness levels of lettuce.

Can’t we just let sleeping dogs lie and enjoy our slathered greens?

Okay, just looked it up on Wikipedia, and it was invented by some feller livin’ up in the Alaskan bush. He was a plumber. Well there ya go — shoulda named it Plumb dressing.

Now quit askin’ me.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving -- like this new piece from our good friend Nick Logsdon. It's funny and it makes you think...about food!

Memoir Of A Lamb Hass Avocado

By:
nick.logsdon5@gmail.com
@nickloggy

My name is California.

Today, I became a ripe Avocado, and I fear something terrible is about to happen.

My life began as most lives do — as the seed of a large tree neatly planted in a row among thousands of others belonging to a major agricultural corporation. As the tree grew, so did I, until eventually my brown stump of a stem emerged and my body took on its infamously oblong contour.

In the tree, hanging above the world, I learned so much. I learned what people were, and I learned that people could be exploited for cheap labor, especially if they came from the magical sounding place called Centroamérica. Up there on my branch, I learned about the different genera of Avocados. For instance, I’m a Lamb Hass, and I happen to have a cousin who, regrettably, is an organic.

One day, I was just hanging out when I discovered that my life had an expiration date. I was going to die. When one of the exploited laborers harvested me, a searing pain tore through my not-yet-green flesh, and they placed on my skin a small sticker with words on it. Unfortunately, because I couldn’t see below my lumpy paunch, all I could make out was, “Best before.”

However, I didn’t fear the harvest. I didn’t even fear whatever came after “best before.” In fact, getting picked is a good thing! It’s a chance to get away from the family see the world. It means someone, somewhere would like to eat you, lightly salted, peppered and with a spoon, of course — as all Avocados are meant to be consumed, with few exceptions.

If someone wants to eat you, you have value, and a valuable Avocado is a nomadic one. I went from tree to hand, to basket, to hand, to truck, to cold rusty floor of truck, to hand, to cardboard box, to hand, until finally I found myself in a marvelous habitat where it was always daytime called Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s was truly special because it was a home not just for Avocados, but also for other vegetables like broccoli and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

It was there, in the Trader Joe’s habitat, where I filled out my golden years. (For reference, one human day equals just under thirty-five Avocado years.) Over the course of about eighty years, I grew smarter and wiser, and my rind turned a little bit soft. I could sense my time was coming.

Many people would enter the habitat and circle our enclosure glaring first at us and then at a ubiquitous collection of two-dimensional rectangles called Bon Appétit.

Now, these people didn’t look like the exploited laborers who took great care of our families. They had flowing white hair, and skin just as white but sometimes orange, smooth and hairless, and they squeezed us with baseless scrutiny.

On many occasions, they would pick me up close to their faces and force me to take part in a performance of some kind. They’d show off these things called teeth and wild worm-like pieces of flesh called tongues. Perhaps most destructively, they’d raise an object high into the air and, without a word of consent from me, send a flash of white light tearing through the sky to blind me for a few seconds — which of course amounts to several days.

But on the day my “best before” sticker started peeling, I got picked up, squeezed, and taken to a place belonging to one of those white-orange people. Unfortunately, this place was not another Trader Joe’s habitat. It was an Avoca-Doy!, and it was a pop-up preparing for its soft launch in a city named Koreatown.

This morning, I woke up on an icy metal counter next to a pile of Bon Appétits. Curious, I rolled over and managed to lift and peruse one of them. What I witnessed terrified me. I was petrified with fear by a harbinger of the demise of my kindred — this horrible, bestial obscenity called Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Avocado Toast.

I turned the rectangles as fast as my armless body could. It seemed every rectangle in every single Bon Appétit laid out, step by step, an abominable way to prepare us Avocados. Sun-cured and crumbled over charred brioche buns and saffron sprigs? An Egg? In my pit-hole? I’m an Avocado, dammit, not your fad meant to be turned into mush and eaten as a substitute for butter! We’re to be split, sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper, eaten with a spoon, or — and this is the only exception — made with stone and pestle into guacamole.

You see, we Avocados have become a commodity, symbolic of a lifestyle we can’t even dream of experiencing, and I’m afraid the only way to put an end to it is a species-wide recall. But that’s only temporary. Something terrible is definitely going to happen once this pop-up opens for two hours.

I fear I am about to be served for sixteen dollars on some rustic rye bread that looks like it hurts to chew — nothing more than a gaudy cover-up. What’s my value if people don’t enjoy me? Here, lying on the cold metal guillotine, all I can do is wish. I wish I could return to my tree. I wish to return to the gentle, exploited care of the laborers, hanging out with my aunties and my cousins, never to become “Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Avo Toastie — $16.”

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are joyously celebrating the most wonderful time of the year -- the Purge! Blessed be the New Founding Father of America, Dan Fiorella!

Hallmark Memo: The Purge

By:
daf118@aol.com
danfiorella.com

Memo

From: Hallmark Corp. Headquarters

To: Hallmark Gold Crown Retailers

Re: Purge 2041 AD

 

We had an excellent Christmas 2040 and sales were very strong for Valentine’s Day, making it a solid first quarter for 2041, praise be to the New Founding Fathers. Naturally, we are expecting to do very well for our next Hallmark Holiday, The Purge! As our retailers all know, the day was created by “The New Founding Fathers of America,” in their great wisdom, to help stabilize American society after that really bad economic collapse and to quash all that rising social unrest caused by radicals and leftist and traitors.

It was a rough couple of quarters for us here at Hallmark, we don’t have to remind you. But now every March 21 all crime, including murder, becomes legal for 12 straight hours, all part of the blessed New Founding Fathers’ plans to keep our nation great. And Hallmark has the perfect greeting cards to mark the day! We are going to push this hard with the slogan: “Hallmark: cards that care! Blessed be the New Founding Fathers!”

Note below some samples of our latest line of greeting cards covering the various aspects of the day:

 

Cover: “Happy Purge Day!”

Inside: “Hope you survive! Kinda!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.

 

Cover: “Purge Day is your Birthday?”

Inside: “Well, then maybe I’ll wait before I buy you a present.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “I wanted to get you a nice present for this year’s Purge…”

Inside: “…But all the good stores were already looted!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “Thank you”

Inside: “For hiding us during the Purge. Anonymously yours, some stranger.”

“Blessed be yadda, yadda, yadda.”

 

Cover: “Thank you”

Inside: “For turning over that criminal we wanted to hatchet to death. It saved us the trouble of burning your house down. See you next year!”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “Deepest Sympathy…”

Inside: “…On your family’s decimation. Although they probably had it coming.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

Cover: “We heard you complaining about The Purge.”

Inside: “So we reported you to the state police. I guess that makes this a ‘Goodbye & Good luck’ card.”

“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.”

 

And, of course, our new tag to every single card we print is our national oath “Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all” printed in a much larger font than the rest of the card.

As usual, we will coordinate the release of the cards with the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Purge” movie slate, with one movie airing every weekend in March. Viewers will see delightful tales of love and mayhem when we show fan favorites like One Lonely Purge, and The Guy Hiding in My Attic as well as the premiere of this year’s new movies Peer Pressured, Another Lonely Purge, and ‘Til Purge Do Us Part.” Based on the ratings of past years, we’re expecting these movies to raise awareness of the new card lines significantly.

Additionally, we’ll be releasing the new Purge Tree ornaments just prior to the Hallmark Channel presentation with a “Buy one, get one half off” sale. Although, I suppose, people will just wait for The Purge and loot the stores like they do every year.

Be that as it may, we here at corporate are looking to make this the Purgiest Purge ever, with Hallmark! Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn and may God be with you all.

This communication and any attached files may contain information that is confidential or privileged. If this communication has been received in error, please delete or destroy it immediately. Unless it’s during the Purge — then you can do whatever you want with it. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the center of the social media universe. We have some top-level, late-breaking social media news from our toppest, levelest, latest-breakingest correspondent Jon Sindell.

Funeral For A Face

By:
jsind@sbcglobal.net
jonsindell.com

Status update: Jon Sindell is feeling sad.

What can you say about the death of Kendrick beyond the tired old “three face-balls gushing tears” I’ve just posted? I’ve been thinking about this ever since receiving a pop-up notification of Kendy’s death — and I thought fast, frankly, so I could post this eulogy before any of you attention-hounds beat me to it! LOL Don’t down-thumb me, guys, I know this isn’t the time for lolz! I’m just trying to ease the tension that is surely affecting every one of us, whether Kendrick classified us as a Close Friend, an Inner Family Member, an Outer Family Member, or a mere Acquaintance. Whatever Face Class we belong to, I know every one of us gathered on my wall today feels blessed to have known Kindrick the way that we did.

On reflection, though, it really does seem fitting that we should share a few lolz on this solemn occasion, for Kendrick himself was a merry prankster, one who gave every person here seconds of joy with his humorous “bon mots,” as I think he called them (he definitely called them “B.M.’s” once, that I’m sure of. I gave that classic Kensterism a “laugh-till-you-cry” emoji). I also think I remember him posting one or two really funny “drunken Buddhist” jokes, and I will never forgot the great day when K-Dog posted an uber funny video of a cat in a pirate costume walking the plank — I got 67 likes when I shared it to my wall! And if Ken-nebunkport dropped the occasional eff-bomb during one of his infamous “Bad morning, guys!” freestyle rants, who among us didn’t just smile and say, “Oh, well, that’s Kendrick!”

He was a bon vivant, too, Special K. The K-Hey Kid loved good food, which we saw pictured on his wall many times when he was eating with people who weren’t us, and he loved music, and some sports, and several other popular pastimes. The man played hard with the money he earned from working hard, undoubtedly, at some job or other serving others some particular way.

Oh, I could go off in a thousand directions talking about KK — but none seems to capture the essence of the man. Message me ideas? LOL.

The fact is, though, I have an idea. As the Bible says, or The Wizard Of Oz, you’re not measured by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.

And K-Kong was loved by others, no doubt. You could see it, I think, in the big happy smile of some red-headed boy of nine or ten, in a green ballcap (I think), when he posed with K-Mart at Disneyland — or Great America? — in front of a statue of Walt Disney, or was it the Drop Tower? You just can’t fake a smile like that! A smile that showed that the red-headed boy most likely loved his presumed family member. Another time there was a girl of about fourteen, with a different colored ballcap, who had a forced tight-lipped smile in a picture taken at a different amusement park, who clearly loved her dad or uncle or close family friend, once you adjusted the size of her smile for her teen angst. But the real proof of how Kendrick was loved is found in the heart — i.e., the countless cartoon hearts that people posted to show their love for his love of the presumed family members who stood next to him in amusement parks, smiling with presumed love for him.

And Kendy was every bit as good a friend as he was a presumed family member. I’ll never forget how Kendrick was there for me several times when I needed support. I remember one crummy day when I felt really bad about something, a fight with a coworker or an annoying household disaster, and Kendy was the first person to post a sad-face emoji. Anyone can post an emoji, of course. But what made this special, the reason it captured Kendrick’s spirit so well, was that he posted so promptly you could tell he didn’t stop to think, “Hmm, should I show sympathy? I don’t know, did Jon show sympathy for me the last time I posted a bad-news status?” No, Friends and Acquaintances, that was not Kendy’s way. The Kave Man I knew was there for me on a reliable intermittent basis, whether up-thumbing a puppy pic, liking my opinion about some political controversy, or recommending a Mexican restaurant when I was out of town once. Friends like that do not come around every day! Or, anyway, not every hour. There was only one Kendrick on my Face list (I have two Rodericks and a Henrik, believe it or not), and the man will be missed.

The man will be missed.

(P.S. If any of you need to post a eulogy the next time a Face-Friend dies, feel free to cut and paste this one).

 

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