* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like our inner peace accompanied by outer laughter. Follow the soothing voice of Emily Schleiger into a place of terror and darkness.

Guided Imagery: Freedom From Your Smartphone


A warm welcome, all of you, to the Balanced Dreams Wellness Center, and to this Guided Meditation class: Freedom From Your Smartphone. My name is Harmony. Congratulations on taking your first step toward release from addiction. Together in this supportive space, we will envision the course of a day without the psychic burden of your tech device.

Let’s focus by closing our eyes. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly…practice gently lifting your chin upward…not down as if you were reading text from your palm.

As we visualize our day without our smartphones, remember: if panic overcomes you at any point, imagine yourself on a tranquil beach listening to waves.

Yes? No, Mike, you’re not worried about sand getting in your phone, because, of course, your phone isn’t there. No, there’s no chance the babysitter from Sandals’ Kids Club might call. This is your happy place. You control it.

I’m sorry, you have your hand up, Andrea? No, you can’t listen to seagulls instead of waves on your white noise app. The sound is a gift from your imagination. If your imagination chooses seagulls, hear seagulls.

Pause a second, everyone, to feel the infinite energy of your soul, the power that needs no cord, no outlet…

Derek — yes? I don’t know how you got to the beach without your Southwest Airlines or Uber apps. Perhaps your soul lives just a short walk from this beach. Yes, that close. No need for Google Maps.

Let’s try to hold questions until the end, okay?

Being present now, we’re heading back to the visualization. Imagine beginning your day with the sun streaming in. Take a moment to stretch, connecting with your spirit. It is a relaxed Sunday. Now, picture yourself cooking a delicious breakfast. Invite yourself to bacon, toast, poached eggs…

Janet, yes. Well, you’re making the eggs by memory. Without a Pinterest recipe.

So! After breakfast, envision taking in the senses of the running water in your shower. Clothe yourself and remain present. Meditate on loving kindness…

Janet again. No, it’s a beautiful day and there is no need to check your weather app for a hail forecast. It’s just a visualization. Yes, you’re safe to put the top down on the Sebring convertible later.

Mike, you appear to be breaking out in a heavy sweat. Can you verbalize your feelings? No, you don’t need to check in anywhere on Facebook. How will your wife know where you were? Um…

Oh, wow! Time flies! That sound means our time is up! What? That’s your Tinder chime, Janet? You have a Tinder account? I mean, you look a little…outside the age demographic for Tinder, but…good for you. Wait — you should not have a ph– that’s your “back-up” phone? Place it by the incense now. Right now.

Look how long you’ve made it without your smartphone! You might celebrate this later! Make room in your heart for newfound feelings of freedom!

Now you will visualize walking your dog. No, Karen, no need for My Fitness Pal app. Assume you burn a few calories.

And it’s a quiet walk, so, no, Madison. No Spotify.

And no, no selfies on Instagram! This is a selfie-free visualization!! No one meditates about selfies! Got it?!

What’s that, Janet? What kind of bird is that you hear on the walk? I don’t know!! You get to invent it. No, no! You do not need your Audubon Bird Guide app to figure that out! Who has that?! Who has both an Audubon app AND a Tinder app?! Why, why, why?!

Ok, now, focus on your dog, after your walk. Does your dog feel distressed not having a smartphone? The answer is no. It’s no, dammit! Don’t even talk. You people are hopeless.


It’s time for our visualized lunch. Now, this is the real test….can you meet a friend for lunch and avoid looking at a phone? I don’t believe you can, but you need to believe.

Madison…you’ve already planned to meet this friend for lunch. It’s a restaurant you like. You don’t need Yelp, you don’t need to text your friend to ask if she’s arrived, and you don’t need to tweet your excitement. Just go eat the damn food. Is that…are you wearing an Apple Watch?! Place it near the incense. No, you will not die without it! Listen up people. Today is my last day teaching this class. Please just try to engage, ‘k?

Mike, your wife approves of your meeting this friend for lunch. She does not suspect you are having an affair. You’ll just talk to, who, Suri? Oh you mean… Siri. No, you won’t, Mike. Siri is part of your phone and she won’t be at lunch. She is a tiny, conscience-less, voice-activated robot, Mike. You shouldn’t have included Siri in your lunch reservation, because she can’t engage in actual conversation. Mike, how about you ask your wife to join you for lunch? No, still out of town with her male boss named Sebastian. For five weeks. Okay. Um…Mike, maybe you want to sign up for our Healthy Boundaries in Relationships Guided Meditation? Mike, no — I don’t think you should wear a wire so your wife will trust you. You poor man.

Oh my God. Did Madison just…spontaneously combust…when she took off her Apple Watch? What-the-

Oh, that gong means our time is up. We weren’t able to finish the guided imagery, so you’ll have to visualize surviving the rest of the day independently. Good luck with that.

Open your eyes, inhale, exhale, bring your hands to heart center. Just an announcement: after today classes will no longer be held at the Wellness Center. As you may have noticed, the lobby was turned into a Pokemon GO Gym, which makes conducting these classes even more difficult. If you need more practice, today’s exercise will be available as a podcast on our website.

Peace on your journeys.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where, as the fate of our republic and indeed the whole world hangs in the balance, we focus unerringly on the most important issues of the day. Like, um, the game of peek-a-boo. Put your hands over your eyes and say hello to Katie Clad.

I’m Blowing Your Kid’s Mind With My Version Of Peek-a-boo


You know how it goes, this game for babies. You find a receptive tot and you mug a little to get their attention. Then you take a blanket or your hand, whatever, and you cover your face. You wait a beat, drop the thingamajig and — surprise — it’s your face. The baby smiles, maybe even laughs, game over. Yawn. See, when it comes to infant cognitive development, I like to “think different.”

Janet, they said, why mess with a classic? Play peek-a-boo the way it’s always been played. Right now, it’s simple; no props needed and the little one learns something about object permanence and differentiation of self. Make things easy for yourself!

Sorry, but I’m not about just going with the flow. Where would we as a society be if everyone did things the way they’ve always been done? We’d be naked and sitting in the dirt, trying to eat the bugs that fly past our mouths. Each of us has a responsibility to push the human race forward. At least, that’s what I believe.

So when I play peek-a-boo with some cutie pie, I leave the blankie up in front of my face. Peek-a-boo! I shout, then wait a beat and shout peek-a-boo! again. I can’t see much, but I’m pretty certain the kid is all: who’s yelling that? Where’d they go? Pow! Suddenly they’re questioning everything they’ve learned about the world.

Or, I’ll wave at some little angel, put my hands over my face then jump onto a nearby tricycle and pedal furiously away. They’ll totally forget that youngish and still-attractive lady they met in the park. That is, until two or three hours later, when they’re headed home. That’s when I jump out in front of their stroller from behind a trashcan. PEEK-A-BOO!

I briefly considered earning a degree in early childhood education. Alas, I soon realized that my approach was deemed too radical by the powers that be. They took issue with my stated goal of industry disruption, sniffing that the only thing I was “disrupting” was a healthy attachment process. Well, I found their coddling approach to be a disservice to this country’s future tastemakers, in the long, long run.

Sure, you could call me an innovator. Innovators make waves. They aren’t afraid of making people — of any age — a bit uncomfortable. It’s been proven that we humans learn best when pushed out of our comfort zone. So when I’m in a playground and I spy a chubby li’l cherub, I’ll position myself right in their line of vision. Then I’ll hold my hands flat in front of my face and wait a few beats before lowering them slowly to reveal cold, dead eyes and a horrifying maniacal grin, frozen in silence. Marinate on that, you adorable rug rat! Where’s your rapprochement now?

Rarely, there’s a tiny rascal who looks ready to create some neural pathways in a next level way. When I’m sure mommy isn’t looking, I’ll get that sweet moppet’s attention and pull the flap of my jacket in front of my face. I pop into my mouth a generous handful of these blood capsules I keep on me especially for these occasions. When I pull my arm back I’m making this awful gurgling noise while crimson ooze flows out of my mouth and drips into the sandbox. Admittedly, this is a tougher one to land. It’s very difficult to shout peek-a-boo over a screaming kiddo when your mouth is full of thick colored syrup.

Sure, I’ve been chased out of playgrounds by a few touchy mothers. I don’t let it get to me; the status quo will always have its defenders. For real change, you need to impact the next generation directly. I can tell that this precious darling is lucky to have a forward-thinking parent such as yourself who undoubtedly agrees that — okay, stop pushing! I’ll leave.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it's always your lucky day! Oh, the luck you're about to have. You have no idea! And neither do the makers of Lucky Charms. Heed the blarney of Luke Roloff.

Some Lucky Ideas For Making Lucky Charms Luckier


To the Lucky Charms R&D Team:

Hello! My family and I love your product — especially the luck it brings me. Odds are, I bet you get this type of letter all the time, so I’ll just cut to the chase. While I have long relied on your hardened mallows for a serotonin boost at the breakfast table as much as a rush of dopamine at the roulette table, I see a few missed opportunities I hope I can tip you off on.

Lord knows your horseshoes, rainbows and shooting stars are proven ironclad luck makers, though I’d like to share with you a few additional charms bound to help me settle my scores around town. Starting with an obvious one — the Pot O’ Gold. Maybe I’m missing something here, but it’s pictured on the front of your box – why isn’t it floating in my bowl?

Every morning after spending some time and serious money playing online poker with the kids, I finger through a box of Lucky Charms probing for a Pot O’ Gold sugar nugget lucky enough to keep the bookies from breaking both kneecaps. I comb and I comb, but no matter how many deformed bits of brown I dig through, there’s no gilded pot to be found. All I can do is look down at the faces of my children and say, what are you looking at?

I make it a priority to teach my children that life isn’t a big game of trying hard and doing your best. I pray they’ll come to understand that it’s better to be lucky than good, and even better than that to be good at luck. Because as we both know, luck doesn’t just come along by chance. It’s not some hocus-pocus fluke. No. Good luck is the product of a good luck ethic.

After getting the kids off to the park to pick 4-leaf clovers for the day, I swing by the local cockfight and then head to the horse track. The key to me not losing borrowed money is my lucky underwear. Classic white briefs, if you must know. This is another missed opportunity I don’t quite comprehend. Lucky underwear is a common thread in achieving luck. Please add the white briefs marshmallow. And, I’m embarrassed for you to even have to bring this up, but the lack of a little horsey/jockey marshmallow in your lineup is as sorely missed as my left pinky.

The lies I told myself to justify losing my kids college tuition in scratch tickets alone – ha! There’s nothing you can do but shake your head and laugh as you blindly lay down another wild bet and constantly look for ways to acquire more luck. It’s a game of attrition. The more you look for luck, the less time you have for unlucky things.

This may come as a surprise, but I have a love for gambling. When I’m not on a bender in Vegas, I spend most nights bunkered inside a seedy underground card room while my kids are safe in the adjacent room playing craps. But not without my lucky jackknife I don’t. I’ve fought off dozens of cold streaks and angry thugs with it. And I feel the addition of a steel shank to the Lucky Charms family is long overdue.

What is luck, really? Some days you have it, most days you don’t. And on those days, you need even more of it. It ebbs and flows like the tide of the sea. You dip your toe in for the cool rush, and before you know it, a tsunami crushes the skull of your financial well-being and possibly your head if you don’t pay the piper. That’s when you begin to wonder, are my Lucky Charms magically delicious? Or are they just delicious? Deep down you know they’re infused with lucky magic, but sometimes you lose sight of the truth when you lose your house and family and kidney due to illegal sports betting.

Robbing banks isn’t for everyone. It’s for people experiencing a small string of crummy luck. Now just spit-balling here, but I wonder if a machinegun marshmallow doesn’t make a lot of sense? And a little security guard man could be fun, too. Listen, with all due respect, I don’t want to tell you how to run your business, but I will if you don’t meet my demands.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter in light of it being postmarked from San Quentin State Prison. I hope you find it lucky and not rude. Please consider making the aforementioned additions and greatly improving my odds of winning back my family from the bruisers who are holding them hostage.






* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where there is nothing more magical than the magic of democracy -- except the magic of Harry Potter. Thanks goodness J.K. Rowling is back to writing about him again...and again...and again. Listen to your literary correspondent Alex Bernstein.

Harry Potter Grows Up


Discovering that she is thoroughly unable to stop writing about her beloved creation, J. K. Rowling has announced a new spate of Harry Potter books chronicling his further adventures into adulthood.  Some upcoming titles include:

Harry Potter and…

The Nagging Quidditch Knee Injury

The Cursed Child’s Bi-Monthly Orthodontic Schedule

The Greatly Delayed Loan Payments for Three Damn Kids at Hogwarts

The Curious Explanation of Why Albus Does Not Need a New Broomstick When a Used One Will Do Just Fine, Thank You

The Long-Delayed Switch from Owls to Skype

The Juice Cleanse from Azkaban

The Inappropriate Trade of Snapchat Pix with Luna Lovegood

The Great Difficulty in Finding Platform 9 3/4s as well as Bathroom 7 8/10s

The Sad Realization that the More Butterbeer He Drinks, the Better Ginny Looks

The Awkward Confession that He Actually Misses Voldemort

The Embarrassing Arrest for Yelling “I’m Harry Potter, Dammit!” 100 Times at the Leaky Cauldron

The Awful Mistake in Telling Hagrid to Hit Him as Hard as He Can, Because Hey! He Can Take It!

The Annual Uncontrolled Sobbing at the Grave of Sirius Black

The Earnest Admission that Deep Down He Always Felt Muggle

The Visit to the Wonderful New Apple Store in Diagon Alley

The Oddly Arousing House Elf

The Powerful Spell of Ineeda Viagra!

The Acknowledgement that He Really Couldn’t Remember His Parent’s Names Even Before the Dementia Set In

The Quiet Realization that He Should Probably Put All that Magical Bullshit Behind Him

The Long Overdue Laser Surgery to Remove that Stupid Scar

The Bizarre Thrill of New Aluminum Siding

His Discovery of the True Magic of Yoga


And also:
Granger-Weasley Family Intervention

Where’s My Damn Sorting Hat?!

Magical Pests and How to Remove Them from Your Basement



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are preparing to celebrate the fun and the folly of this little thing called democracy. Meanwhile, our good friend Michael Fowler is preparing for the worst -- which comes to pretty much the same thing. When you've finished reading his latest bit of hilarity, be sure to check our blogroll on the right for a link to his book, God Made the Animals.

If Trump Wins, I’m Moving To The Sticks


If Trump is elected this year, I’m moving to the sticks. Goodbye big city, hello boondocks. I’ll be looking for a town so tiny and moribund that not even the Donald can degrade it more.

I’m thinking something I can afford, say a river town with shanties, probably in the Midwest where I’m from. There are plenty of tiny burgs along the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers, for example, with populations of no more than 1500 where I can hole up and ride out the heinous Trump administration. I’ll sit on my wooden front porch, rotten and warped as it may be, and watch the river roll by, holding my head in my hands. “It’s not our country anymore,” I’ll say to my dog Colin, as he lies motionlessly, almost breathlessly, at my feet. “I don’t know who it belongs to now.”

Of course I’d prefer fancier surroundings. The city apartment I have now isn’t bad at all, near my work and lots of nightlife. But I don’t have the funds to follow Whoopi and Babs to Spain or Portugal or whatever beautiful European coastal regions stars like that’ll be going to, to avoid Trump’s wrath. I wish I could go with them, but I can barely afford the airfare. They won’t miss me, of course, and I’ll do my best not to miss them, though it will be hard. They’re my kind of folks.

The town I choose, whatever it’s called, will likely be dying former ironworkers or coal miners and their tubercular wives, abandoned by the global economy and by their grown children. Or dirt-poor farmers too proud to accept ethanol subsidies. Not much affluence, not much hope, lots of drugs. I’m 31 and in good health, and Colin and I have many long days left to plant ourselves on that porch on Main Street, the ramshackle one I envision, hopefully down by the river, about three blocks from the shuttered mill or rusted foundry where everyone used to work. I’ll wave a somber hello to those who, like me, have escaped Trump’s mania, and we’ll exchange hushed greetings at the Dollar Store. We’ll all smile timidly into our plates at the Sunday spaghetti supper. There’s no question of the town becoming great again; it can’t. Its greatest claim to fame is being home to the first concrete street in America, built in 1935, or a cannonball factory that bolted its doors in 1865, or some such historical glitz. It will never reach that height again, with or without our mad new president.

I’ve never lived in a small town, and it surprises even me that I’m planning to transfer to one now. But it’ll bring back memories nonetheless. My parents used to take the family to a dump like the one I’m thinking of back when my sister and I were kids; that’s probably what makes me think of living in the boonies now. The town we visited was never what you’d call great, either, and I forget the name of it: just some hamlet off Interstate 75 in northern Ohio. We visited the dime store and a burger joint — Sookies’s, I think; great burgers — where we went for lunch when we couldn’t stand another meal in our kitchen. But what were we doing there in the first place? Why the hell would my family travel to such a benighted backwater? Oh, now I remember! We were visiting a lake a few miles away and were taking a break from our waterfront cottage with its cramped quarters and spiders and no TV. We were driven to the town by pure boredom.

Not that there was nothing going on at the lake. There was an amusement park alongside a marina and — I’ll never forget — a shop where you could buy donuts at all hours except at night. The donuts were made out of special ingredients but I forget what. There was also an area on the lakefront where you could jump on a trampoline and a pizza place with a pinball machine. Man, the memories. One thing I remember clearly, and ha! — it’s a funny story too. When my sister and I visited the lake years ago, we used to get so bored sitting in our cottage that she would threaten to shave her head if our parents didn’t take us home immediately. And I’d stick gum in my hair just to pull it out. Yet the entire family looked forward to going back to this horrible lake every year.

I have no intention of going back to the lake during Trump’s reign of terror, though. I’ve heard it’s completely changed now after 20 years anyway, and not for the better, with the amusement park closed and biker gangs trolling all the restaurants. Even the cottages have folded for good. The lake will never be great again. So there’s no question of my living there, and I’m just going to have to rent an apartment or lease a shanty in a small river town, as I said, and also get a new job, thanks to Trump. The job part is kind of frightening, since I don’t think anyone in the kind of town I’m looking at has worked in decades. Still, I’m reasonably optimistic. Something always turns up in my field of abstract art sales.

If I want nightlife or excitement I can hop in my car and the drive fifty or so miles to the city. But I’m thinking I’ll be selling the car and pretty much staying indoors around the calendar. Just me and Colin and the damp walls. How does the song go? “Hello, wall. It’s me again.” Maybe a line about a porch, too.

At night I’ll turn on a little blue light in my front window to let folks know I still have hope. Folks on the river will see it and understand. It may not be the life Jon and Cher and the in-crowd will lead in France or Italy when Trump wins, but I’ll get by.

Then after Trump serves out his final term or is impeached, I’ll fly to Paris for the international celebration.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, known far and wide -- and also near and narrow -- as the single most reliable source of historical truth. Listen in as our very own Editor zeroes in on some key events from America's past that have puzzled the experts for ages.

Mysteries Of American History


One bright summer morning in 1756, in Virginia, a farmer named Emmanuel Boggs rose and stepped — staggered, I should say — over to the window. If he had opened his eyes, he would have seen several hundred acres of prime Virginia tobacco shrouded in dew and stretching like a fine brown mist to the turquoise horizon. But Farmer Boggs was nobody’s fool. He kept his eyes good and shut. The last thing a man wants to look at in the morning is miles and miles of tobacco. And in the distance the mad, immortal sea, the cry of the seagull, and the endless lapping of waves on the shore….Farmer Boggs felt a sudden spasm of nausea. Instinctively he put his fist through the glass. He stood gaping at his hand for a while as though it might apologize, and then he went back to bed. He never woke up again, but we mustn’t hold that against him. He had taken all that a man could take. The South. Tobacco. A brutal, inhuman system doomed to decline and eventual extinction. Corn whisky. Gallons of it. And Scarlett, beautiful Scarlett whom he had never met, who would not be born until his son was an old man.

There are other incidents in American history just as puzzling as this one.

In 1833, on a foggy March Thursday, Emil Boggs (no relation) went squirrel hunting in the woods around Natchez, Tennessee. Fifteen minutes later he came back, after realizing he had forgotten his hunting rifle and that he couldn’t kill any squirrels by pointing a finger at them, cocking his thumb and yelling “Bang!” This time he took both his squirrel gun and his dog, whom he called Commander Henry Celsius for reasons that are lost to us, and probably to him, also. Certainly they were lost to the dog, who answered to nothing but “Hey, you!”

At any rate, out went Emil, and soon he had shot his quota of squirrels. Before long he had shot double his quota, and then triple. He had also shot his wife, his brother, a man who looked like his brother, a man who looked like his wife, and a man who looked like Teddy Roosevelt, although Roosevelt would not be born for another 25 years. He just didn’t know how to quit. The local constables grilled him for hours, but when asked why he had shot all those people he would only reply, “Because they had big, bushy tails and scampered from tree to tree.” It was an airtight alibi. Reluctantly, they let him go.

Two years later to the day, he was found floating face down in the reservoir, and such was the esteem the townspeople had for him that no one bothered to pull him out, although they did put up a “No Swimming” sign. Commander Henry Celsius changed his name to Emiliano Zapata (no relation) and moved to Mexico, where he was to write his memoirs and cause no end of confusion.

In October, 1928, Emily Boggs (again, no relation), who worked as a silkworm in a New York textile plant, passed out of human ken for three days. For 72 hours no one knew where she was, and what’s more, no one cared. When she finally returned to work she was wearing a false mustache, and her breath left something to be desired. She waved a loaded revolver in the air, or vice versa, and declared in a rotten Spanish accent: “I am Emiliano Zapata. Put your hands up and don’t lower them until I say ‘Simon Says.'” Nobody noticed, as it was a Sunday and the plant was closed.

After several minutes of indecision she fell north-by-northwest into a bucket of boiling tar, muttering some words that were either poor English or very poor Spanish. Five days later she was arrested in Salt Pork, Oregon, for writing out checks in Roman numerals and making some grave errors in arithmetic. She was taken in with a tall, bearded man who called himself Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had been killed 63 years previously. The Birth of the Blues would not come for another four years.

On a hot Sunday night not long ago, the author of this article (no relation, but I know him pretty well and he’s a really sweet guy) glanced up from his work to find that it was 10:15 p.m., more than two hours past his bedtime. He was tired, so very tired. The Birth of a Nation was already more than 200 years in the past. There was no point in sending a greeting card now. He tiptoed off to bed so as not to awaken the guard dog.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies. But Carla Sarett does.

Everything You Need To Know About Babies


Congratulations on becoming a new mother! Of course you’re nervous, but remember that thousands, maybe even millions of women, have had babies before you. Let’s tackle some of the most vexing questions that new moms have.

Where do babies come from? While the invention of children may predate writing or even reading, their origin remains a mystery. It used to be thought that pregnancy had something to do with men, which makes about as much sense as that strange theory that we were all once monkeys! Today, scientists agree that rubbing your stomach and imagining a baby is the most likely path to pregnancy. More recent research out of China suggests that only the rubbing part is critical. So don’t rub too often, or you may end up with triplets!

Is my baby a boy or a girl? All babies look the same, which is why we call them babies. You won’t be the first mom to wonder! Incidentally, in case you are not aware, both boy and girl babies are very common, so it’s extremely likely that your baby will be either a boy or a girl. How to tell? There is no need to worry. The hospital nurse is an expert and can tell you: “You have had a baby girl.” Or if it’s a boy, she will say: “You have had a boy.” Be alert and listen.

What should I call my baby? Some mothers decide to give their baby a title such as Brooklyn or Earth or, in extremely rare cases, a name like Bob or Ann. But scientists agree that babies do not benefit psychologically from such identifiers, and are satisfied with simple labels like boy, girl, or even baby or babe. If you watch Hollywood movies, many highly attractive people are called Babe, so obviously that is an effective naming strategy.

Do I have to feed my baby? You may think that because your new baby is so tiny, it doesn’t need any food. Wrong! Babies, like kittens or puppies, need to be fed every single day — believe it or not, sometimes even more than that! It makes no difference what you feed your baby, though, since their sense of taste is limited. Coca-Cola is highly digestible, so that is an excellent and nutritious choice. Also consider leftover chicken, since everyone likes chicken. (Tip: some babies are born without teeth. Check to see if your baby has them.)

What if I want to exchange my baby for another? Maybe you fear that your baby won’t be as cuddly as other babies. Unfortunately, studies suggest that your first impressions may be correct, and lasting. You won’t the first mom to look at other, cuter babies with envy. But if you deliver your baby in a hospital, you are in luck! Go to the room where they store all of the new babies, pick the one you like, and switch the tags. But remember: after you leave the hospital, no future exchange is possible.

When will my baby grow up?  The maturation of babies is highly variable.  In older cultures, male babies walked at one week old and left the household at age two — far sooner than their moms wanted! In the fourteenth century, babies adopted their current mode of sleeping, eating, and crying, with intervals of babbling. Today, you can prolong this adorable state for years, maybe even decades.  It’s all up to you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which, to be scientifically accurate, is really just one of an infinite number of nearly identical web sites in an infinite number of parallel universes. We're pretty sure this piece by Richard Light is equally funny in all of them.

If The Multiverse Theory Is True, Then I Still Have A Girlfriend


I would like to share with you an exciting scientific theory that has completely changed my understanding of the universe, the nature of reality and, most importantly, my current relationship status. It is called the Multiverse Theory and it posits that if our universe is of an infinite size, it would have to include an infinite number of universes.

This would mean that our galaxy, our planet and even our selves would be replicated countless times over, in countless different variations. It may be impossible to fully comprehend, but if this is true it has profound implications. For example, it would mean that somewhere on the edges of the cosmos there exists a man who is just like me in almost every conceivable way, except for one crucial difference: he still has a girlfriend.

I know what you are thinking and no, this is not science fiction.

Respected astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have pushed this controversial cosmological theory into the mainstream. A theory that practically dictates that in a parallel universe, at this very moment, there is a version of me sitting at my computer, tapping out these exact same words, in the exact same order, with the only difference being that he can get to the end of this sentence without breaking down in uncontrollable sobs. Because, unlike me, he wasn’t recently dumped by his girlfriend Janet for not having his “shit together.” Whatever that means.

This, my friends, is the mind-boggling reality of the multiverse. It is an endless expanse of cascading sub-universes, each with their own unique timeline and future. Some of these would seem almost exactly like our own in almost every detail, right down to the flowery smell of Janet’s perfume that still lingers on my clothes a month after our breakup. Other universes would be so radically different that they are almost impossible to imagine. Universes with different physical laws or where there is no earth, no life, no Janet. Even alternate Earths where the unthinkable has happened: the Nazis won the Second World War, we live under a fascist dictatorship and I am back out there seeing a couple of different women, but none seriously enough to call my “girlfriend.”

Many of you are probably wondering, “How can any of this be possible?” Personally I think that’s a bit rude. I mean, me dating a couple of different women isn’t that absurd, is it? Sure, it hasn’t happened before, but we’re literally talking about an infinite number of universes here. Maybe even one where Janet’s mom didn’t try to undermine me at every goddamn turn. But then that really would be science fiction, right? Ha-ha! Seriously, I was never good enough for that family. And don’t even get me started on Janet’s sister Carly, who actually had the gall to lecture me about relationships. This is the same Carly who has been divorced twice. The whole thing is just completely unbelievable.

Yes, it seems that even for me the concept of the multiverse can still push the very envelope of belief. Of course, there is still much we do not know and many questions that scientists still cannot answer. Questions like where are these other universes located? Can we travel to them? Is Janet seeing someone? Is it that Kevin guy from her work? Please, just tell me she’s not dating Kevin. Sure, he’s classically handsome and doesn’t live with his parents, but I bet he doesn’t even know the first thing about astrophysics. Can you imagine that idiot trying to wrap his head around a very complicated scientific theory like the multiverse? Not going to happen. God, I just wish Janet could understand that.

Unfortunately, it could be some time before any of us are able to fully understand what it means to live within the multiverse. For now we must accept the reality of our single universe filled with black holes, failed galaxies and a depressing online dating scene. The only solace we have is to look up into the stars dancing in the night sky and dream that maybe out there in the depths of the cosmos, in a world not so different from our own, Janet is returning my texts.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is sort of like the comedic CliffsNotes for great literature. And this week's offering is sort of familiar, because it sort of seems we may have heard lines somewhat like these before somewhere. Turns out author Jon Sindell has the right fake quote for any occasion.

Literary Outtakes



One morning Gregor Samsa awoke from a bad sleep to discover that he was a pimply, scrawny kid in a cube, so he put on a bug suit to freak out his folks. ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Two plus two equals four. ~ George Orwell, 1984

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, unless ’twere called privy or something — eeew, gross! ~ Juliet, Romeo And Juliet

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Chew on that and blow your mind. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Gatsby gulped down the incomparable milk of wonderful cows raised on wholesome Kentucky bluegrass. ~ Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

And so we beat on, like boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into seasickness. ~ Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Atticus always said that you never really know a man until you walk around a while in his shoes. Just standing on Boo Radley’s porch was enough to make me check my shoes for roaches and my head for chiggers. ~ Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird

Call me, Ishmael! I miss you big time! ~ Moby Dick

Isn’t it pretty to think that generations of English teachers will demand that their tormented students find profundity in the last line of this book, knowing they can find none themselves? ~ Lady Brett Ashley, The Sun Also Rises

I don’t feel like going into all that David Copperfield crap about what a lousy childhood I had and all, unless your definition of childhood includes ages thirteen through sixteen — in which case I am really gonna unload. ~ Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

I saw the best minds of my generation, he said. And the drug–addled egotists swallowed it whole! ~ Allen Ginsburg

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again — and realized they’d been goosed with a cattle prod. ~ Animal Farm

Great! One ring to rule them all — and in the darkness, I can’t find it! ~ The Lord of the Rings




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your number one guide to Heaven, Hell, and yes, Purgatory. Did you know they have cheese there? Neither did we. But Ben Weger knows. Please give him your attention -- it may count toward your final grade in the afterlife!

Have You Tried The Cheese In Purgatory?


As you pass those poor excommunicated souls in ante-purgatory at the gate, you may be quite famished. Just remember that during your stay at Mount Purgatory, you are not forsaken — simply set aside. Before you may bask in the glory of God’s grace, this harrowing multi-terraced mountain may be your last chance to binge before you purge. So while you’re here, try the cheese.


Lake’s Edge

Blue Ledge Farm — Salisbury, VT


What? Where am I? What is this place? Oh, God, what is this cheese? Lush, cakey, with a citrus zip and a fruity sweetness reminiscent of blackberries, its ash-veined paste will lift you to the gates of heaven. You’re in Purgatorio, but this is one last sin you can’t miss out on.



Nettle Meadow Farm — Warrensburg, NY

Pasteurized/Cow & Goat

Jim Carrey once said, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…of finally feeling God’s love.” Well, with 25% cow and 75% goat’s milk, there’s no chance you won’t love Kunik. This cheese, like this prison, isn’t a destination, but a state of being. Enjoy its tangy robustness over crackers or dried fruits (God loves figs, too).


Mt. Tam

Cowgirl Creamery — Point Reyes Station, CA


Is the pain I feel the eternal flames of hell? No, but it’s close. Is this cheese a triple cream? Fuck yeah it is. Didn’t think Jesus was your lord and savior? Then worship this other little golden hunk of organic, buttery goodness instead (don’t actually, though).


Bayley Hazen Blue

Jasper Hill Farm — Greensboro, VT


Named for a revolutionary war road commissioned by George Washington (whom you can visit on the pride terrace and also ’cause the slaves, if you’re wondering), this stilton-style cheese smells of tobacco and tastes of roasted nuts and dark chocolate (again, just like G-dub).


L’Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda

L’Amuse — Brabant, Holland


Looking for a snack that says “I’m sorry for masturbating”? Then lust over this young Saanen goat’s milk from the Brabant region of southern Holland. Tangy and creamy with a touch of sweetness, it melts in your sexy little mouth. This wax-wrapped treat hits all the right caramel and brown butter spots. So good-a!


Good Thunder

Alemar Cheese Co. — Mankato, MN


This fudgy, funky, dense washed rind is given baths of oatmeal brown ale and may cleanse more than just your gluttonous soul. Purge yourself on up to God’s sweet embrace on a gaseous cloud of good thunder (that ain’t Mount Purgatory trembling).


Caña de Cabra

Mitica — Murcia, Spain


A Spanish take on a French recipe, this cheese is in some sort of weird limbo. Delicate, citrusy, with a slight saltiness in its taste; this cheese ages over 21 days and ripens from the outside in (similar to the burning sensation enveloping your body), so try eating the rind to bring out the most in its flavors.



Vermont Creamery — Websterville, VT


You’d have to be clinically insane not to love the cheese known as the “little brain” — and if you are, welcome to purgatory! Light, bright, and blessed with an unctuous goaty flavor, this cheese has versatility for any broad classification or treatment option.


Humboldt Fog

Cypress Grove — Arcata, CA


Feeling a little confused about your debt to God? Don’t be confused by the dark blue vein that bisects this wheel — that’s a thin layer of vegetable ash that cuts the tanginess of the goat’s milk and lends a slightly earthy and subtly smoky flavor to this not-quite-heavenly funk. Shouting “Oh my God” can’t be another sin with this cheese.


Epoisses — AOC

Berthaut — Burgundy, France


With origins dating back to the 16th century and having such fans as Napoleon and the epicure Brillat Savarin (prodigal and avaricious, respectively), this rich custardy paste sleeps beneath its famously pungent ochre rind. Be more generous than they were with this appellation d’origine contrôlée (controlled designation of origin) delicacy.


Fiore Sardo

Caseificio Sias — Sardinia, Italy


Want a cheese that makes skipping church that Sunday nine years ago so worth it? (That is, until you understand the feeling of God’s absence.) This Bronze Age cheese (before God — shh!) is smoked on top of fireplaces in huts over burning cork tree bark and has an addictingly dry and savory flavor. Be sure to share with the un-baptized plague infants (yes, they’re here too).


Now, Dante, you may pass above to the kingdom of heaven. Just promise that you’ll write about all of the dank-ass cheeses you tried down here.