* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is dedicated to the proposition that there is a sucker born every minute. And who was born one minute ago? Our good friend Matthew David Brozik. When you finish reading his latest bit of hilarity, click on the link below, or on the one in our blog roll, to buy a copy of his hard-boiled noir parody, "Danger With a Hard G."

Thanks To Predatory Tactics, Some Legal Malpractice, And Mild Dyslexia, I Am Now A Franchisee Of 1-800-FOWLERS

By:
brozik@gmail.com
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WLKSNKL

Not very long ago, I was underemployed and considering starting my own business. It was around then that I went out for an afternoon walk and ended up at a “franchise fair” being held in a convention center in my town. Fate brought me here, I figured. Maybe it’s my destiny to be a franchisee. And it does seem like every other business in the central business district of this town is a franchise, and they’re all still in business, unlike the mom & pop shops, which just can’t seem to compete in the new capitalist marketplace, I thought, already imagining myself at the helm of a local Subway, H&R Block, or Pittsburgh Pirates.

As if guided by a higher power, I gravitated toward a booth where I was greeted at once by both the friendliest man I’ve ever met and the most impressive floral creation. He was tall, lean, and sincere; it was white, soft, and the perfect semblance of a chicken. Even while the man was asking me questions about my education, financial liquidity, and threshold for risk absent any guarantee of success, most of my attention was being held by the magnificent “creature” on the folding table between us. “Carnations?” I asked the other man. “Cornish cross,” he corrected me. Clearly there was much I didn’t know about flower arranging, but I was eager to learn. “Made by hand?” I asked. “The hand of God, I suppose,” he said. Indeed! The craftsmanship was awe-inspiring, the attention to detail divine.

Now, I’m not too much of a man to admit that I find flowers as attractive as the next man who finds flowers attractive. And I’m not too proud to admit that I prefer making money to not making any. That night, still marveling at my memory of the flower “bird,” I fell asleep surrounded by the mandatory disclosure documents I’d brought into bed with me. I dreamt of inventing and selling at a great markup my own floral arrangements that looked like animals: dogs, cats, bears, bees, and maybe even a pig or a dragon. I’d have to hire someone who actually knew how to make those things, but I knew that those people were out there.

My stepbrother is a lawyer, so I asked him to look over the contract. We don’t really get along much of the time, owing to an unresolved childhood feud over a rare, anatomically explicit “Buck Rogers” Col. Wilma Deering action figure, but Charlie agreed to give me an hour’s worth of free document review. By the end of the week, I had the paperwork back with “Sign Here” tape flags on every third page. When I’d finished putting my autograph everywhere I had to ice my wrist. I also had to get a cashier’s check for upward of $30,000, but I had that, and more, since I’d sold certain action figures I’d been quietly holding on to for decades. I sent the contract and the check off to corporate headquarters in East Lansing, Michigan — certified mail, return receipt requested.

Even before the return receipt came back to me, my check was cashed and I got my first shipment of wholesale merchandise. It was delivered to my home, being that I hadn’t yet found a storefront to lease, but I accepted the crate and opened it enthusiastically. When I saw the contents, I got the feeling that maybe mistakes had been made. There were no flowers in the box. Not even plants that might produce flowers. No vases, either. What I found instead were cheap plastic duck decoys, cheap wooden duck calls, cheap camouflage pants, and shotgun shells of various calibers, all of which I believe I am now expected to sell, presumably to others who live in my town, which is at least 300 miles from the nearest body of water where one might find the sort of birds — fowl, I guess you’d call them — that you hunt, trap, or shoot. If that’s the sort of thing that you do. It is not the sort of thing that I do, or that I know anything about, unfortunately.

I’ve asked Charlie if there’s any way I can get out of the contract, but his hourly rate is pretty steep and I’m not entirely sure I can trust him, anyway. Really, I’m not sure I trust anybody anymore. Not even that carnation chicken. Come to think of it, he did try to peck me. More than once.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your number one source for excrutiating detail about the current state of bluegrass music. After you've finished reading this week's bit of hilarity from Michael Fowler, see our blogroll on the right for a link to buy Michael's book, God Made the Animals.

Come To Bluegrass This Year

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

Everyone agrees that pop music is horrible, but no one does anything about it. There is no way to guarantee that Lady Gaga or Adam Levine will not offend our tympanums again, not with their contracts. But there is a simple solution. Drop all your preconceptions about hillbilly music, lose your pretentious rock sensibilities, and come on over to bluegrass.

It’s still summer, or warm enough that there are no blizzards or nor’easters on the horizon, and there are outdoor bluegrass festivals going on in every state, and have been since spring. There’s probably one not more than an hour or two from you, down a peaceful country lane lined with outhouses on skids that you’ll need your GPS to locate, if not a savvy mule. There you’ll find the sun is shining, the river is sweet, the grass is green if not blue, and the beat flat out rocks. Really, it does. Maybe not like AC/DC, but at least harder than Maroon 5 and “Bad Romance.”

Learning to enjoy bluegrass is easy, because there are essentially only two adjustments the listener must make. The first is to the instrumentation, particularly the banjo. Bluegrass novices, rockers and folk music lovers alike, have told me that they could listen to this music, in theory, but there’s something about the banjo they can’t go. They fear the pure twang of the instrument. I understand their apprehension.

There’s something about the cold, metallic notes that spring out of a banjo, amplified by a drumhead-like skin, that makes the uninitiated listener cringe as if the short hairs on his neck were being plucked out with ice-cold tweezers. Plus, those icy notes invariably conjure up the inbred mute in Deliverance, or the Clampetts gathered around the cement pond. They’re embarrassing, for heaven’s sake.

If it turns out you can’t do the banjo, you may comfort yourself with the fact that lots of bluegrass doesn’t contain a note of it. Keep telling yourself that and you won’t despair at the very outset.

By comparison to the banjo, the other bluegrass instruments are a piece of cake. These are usually a six-string acoustic guitar, a warm and roomy stand-up bass, also a fiddle, which is what mountain folk call a violin, and a mandolin. Nothing odd or offensive there, except one does wonder how a delicate medieval instrument like the Neapolitan mandolin can sound so good in the hands of rural Kentuckians and Virginians. You’d have thought they’d be handier with a jaw harp or a tin whistle. Who knew?

The other challenge for bluegrass novitiates is the singing. The best and most famous bluegrass singers have voices that are unlikely to front any other vocal format, even country. They are simply too downhome and honest, too evocative of coal mining and moonshining and backwater rapids. But they can be got used to.

The trick is to start with a band whose singer doesn’t sound like he or she is one big nose stuffed with coal dust. The angel-voiced Alison Krauss comes to mind, and her bandmate Dan Tyminski, who did the singing for George Clooney in the popular bluegrass-infused film O Brother Where Art Thou.

Tyminski has a fine, accurate baritone that makes a virtue of his southern inflections, while Alison has all but lost any regional accent (she’s from North Carolina) and easily performs mainstream stuff, sometimes with the British subject Robert Plant, who can also be got used to with patience. Start with these folks and then progress to the more rarified artists. Or stay and listen only to Alison Krauss and her topnotch band Union Station. It doesn’t get any better.

If you move on, though, take it in easy stages. Just because you can listen to Alison Krauss and George Clooney (Dan Tyminski), doesn’t mean you are ready for bluegrass stalwarts Ralph Stanley and Jimmy Martin, let alone those unique stylists who define the bluegrass sound for many, such as Screamin’ Del McCoury and Hazel Dickens. No, don’t ever think that after hearing angelic Alison warble “Down to the River to Pray” you can just run off and enjoy Screamin’ Del’s rendition of “High on a Mountaintop,” which parts the very clouds with sonic intensity, or the mournful Hazel Dickens wheezing out “Black Lung,” a tune that fills the air with carcinogenic dust. That’s not going to happen.

To be honest, I myself can’t listen to Jimmy Martin or Ms. Dickens for a note. Jimmy sounds like the irate cook at Jimmy’s Truck Stop in Corbin, Kentucky, who has been told his food must pass a health board inspection every year and starts keening like a wounded coyote. And Dickens is simply too authentic, having so much homespun veracity that I can’t stand the idea of her breathing. She sounds like a scorned woman in Chesapeake, West Virginia, standing on top of a hill dressed in black rags and wailing down into the Kanawha River Valley despite her advanced tuberculosis.

The late Ralph Stanley, though, is the great harmonizer in folk and country music. He can, or could, sing with anyone, and achieved fame back in the 1950s harmonizing with his brother Carter. After Carter passed on he performed duets with everyone from Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakum, the aforementioned Alison Krauss, to even Bob Dylan. He was that well regarded, and that good. He really was, even though solo he sounded like a coal-mining foreman whose voice can still puncture your eardrums after traveling through miles of twisting anthracite tunnels.

If you happen to become a fan of Ralph’s recordings, and again I recommend the ones where he harmonizes with all sorts of swell people on great and familiar songs, not all of them religious, you should take it as a sign. You may now move on to Screamin’ Del McCoury, whose followers are often hard-core in their devotion.

McCoury, who plays guitar and sings with a crack band largely composed of his sons, as did Ralph Stanley (that is, each played with his own sons, not the other man’s), has dozens of recordings out, and can still be found at many of those summer bluegrass festivals I mentioned. Known for his “high lonesome” tenor that can shear sheep, bake biscuits and dig coal all by itself, Screamin’ Del’s not my cup of grits, but I can listen to him now and then without shuddering. Not too much shuddering, anyway, and I always recover.

Let’s say that by some miracle you don’t shudder at Screamin’ Del, and you actually become a fan of the bluegrass genre, that you’re so fortunate. Next you’ll want this music served up live and outdoors, where the ambience of lawn chairs, portable toilets, and amateur pickers is so relaxed that even the bandana-sporting motorcycle gangs and their tattooed mamas are friendly. Plus, you can test your survival skills by lasting an entire weekend on soup beans and well water that you pump yourself, with an actual handle.

You may well become like the one-armed girl in a bikini I saw at a festival in Ohio, standing in a grassy field and smiling in the warm sunshine as she waved her sole arm to the beat. She had exited the rock arena and come to where the music is still good. She was having a blast.

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your one safe harbor in a world full of frauds and sociopaths. Say hello to first-time contributor Charles Stayton, who gives more than a few reasons to say goodbye to Airbnb.

Overheard On Airbnb Messenger

By:
charles.stayton@gmail.com

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Wednesday, 7.12, 2:15 PM

Hi Gus and Joy. We loved our stay last weekend! We were thinking…would you guys consider permanently renting the space we stayed in? My partner and I think it may be a good fit for both couples, if you guys are interested in more cash…and maybe someone to help look after the place.

 

Joy Hanseen: Airbnb app; Thursday, 7.13, 8:15 AM

Hi Cole and Marissa. We appreciate the offer, but we are really just looking for the flexibility that Airbnb provides. We’re not exactly landlord material at this point in our retirement 🙂

 

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Thursday, 7.13, 11:47 AM

Hey Joy! Totally. Understood. We weren’t thinking landlords per se, though. Honestly, we feel like the energy between the four of us is more mellow and deep than that. We loved your vibe and it made us realize that we’re done with roommates. We want something more. Something more…grown up. Like where we can have Sunday suppers together and look after each other’s pets like in Gilmore Girls. We would help with any chores you want and pitch in to make your retirement amazing! You wouldn’t have to pay us an allowance, of course… 🙂

 

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Saturday, 7.15, 1:18 PM

Hi again! Not sure if you got my last message, but I hope y’all are having a rad weekend! Sorry if we came on a little strong before. It’s just that we really felt at home with you guys! We want you to know that we are excellent at social media and vegan cooking (provided we get ingredients from an appropriate meal service — Purple Carrot is perfect!). We could keep you wholesomely fed and relevant on the ‘gram! We’d also love to take on the responsibility of keeping you guys active! We love hiking, picnics, 80’s parties, walking tours [but only if they aren’t too boring and end with shots:)], road trips to see the fall leaves change colors, and adult summer camps, just to name a few…

 

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Monday, 7.17, 1:40 AM

Hi Joy. I just want you to know that we’re still cool. I saw the glowing review of “Ashley” and “Dan” that you posted and I get it — you need to keep business fresh while you line everything up for our rental. No rush on my end. I mean, the sooner the better since Marissa and I jumped in with both feet and broke our lease…but no presh. The couchsurfing thing is chill and it actually helps the hustle since we’re more mobile. It’s also nice because we can strip down and only keep the essentials. We accumulate so much stuff, right? You gotta watch this documentary on- oh shoot, I’m rambling. Sorry! Cheers!

 

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Monday, 7.24, 6:05 AM

I couldn’t stop thinking about that review, so I reached out to Ashley and Dan. Marissa and I met up with them and I have to tell you — I don’t get it. I bet Dan told you that dumb story about his frat bros and the pedicab driver in Cabo, didn’t he? That seemed like his go to for the “now-the-smalltalk-is-over” part of the couples hang. You know that story isn’t true, right? First off, there’s no way his whale patterned clothes-wearing ass left the resort area. Second, a basic geo-tag hack shows that he has never been near downtown Cabo, or, in his words, “Spanish colonial-ville, but, like, kind of shitty.” I’m trying to stay positive, but I really can’t wrap my brain around the glowing review. Ashley — I can see you liking Ashley. Everybody loves Ash Cash. But, Dan? Really?

 

Airbnb corporate: email; Friday, 7.28, 8:37 AM

Dear Cole: your account has been suspended due to a pending investigation. If you have any questions, please direct them to our legal team. Thank you for your cooperation.

 

Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; Friday, 7.28

You went to Airbnb? I thought you were one of those moms that kids could talk to, even about hard stuff. I thought you wanted me to be honest with you…

 

Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; Saturday, 8.5

I know I’m breaking the law by writing you guys, but I don’t care. Isn’t the law just a tool for the oppressors anyway? I went by your house today and the trash cans are gone. Are you selling the house? Our house? The house of my imagined childhood? The house where our little alternative family came together over that kitten jigsaw puzzle and top-shelf riesling?

 

Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; 8.24

Marissa left me and it seems like I’m going to jail. The only redeeming thing about Michael (my public defender) is that he smells like old-timey aftershave, cigarettes, and sweat just like Gus. Well, it goes without saying that he’s also a hugger, which gets him some points too. But, honestly, he’s pretty useless when it comes to defending me against the restraining order charges. I know you guys aren’t going to visit, but I hope this letter finds you. I just want to say I’m sorry if I let you down. I still think about you guys all the time.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to think of ourselves as a sort of literary YMCA. And also a source of political wisdom that can save our nation, if only our nation will listen to Bruce Harris.

Filling U.S. Cabinet Positions With The Village People

By:
marxman@comcast.net

Here’s some advice for the next president of the United States. With all of the publicity, angst, and rancor surrounding a president’s selection of cabinet members, wouldn’t it be refreshing if the cabinet selection process went smoothly across both sides of the aisle? It’s more than possible. Mr. or Ms. Next President, it’s best to keep things simple, at least for the following six cabinet posts (in no particular order). Who to nominate? The Village People. No controversy. These nominees would sail through the senate confirmation hearings.

Motorcycle Cop – Attorney General

One would have to search far and wide to find a tougher, meaner, more no-nonsense lawman than the motorcycle cop. We’ve got one, so why not appoint him Attorney General of the United States? The country’s top law enforcement officer shouldn’t be a politician. It should be someone with law enforcement experience. Is this a difficult concept to grasp? Hell, this Village People’s cop makes former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio look like and act like Mr. Rogers.

Native American – Interior Secretary

He’s an all-American hombre with street cred. Responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, among others. Who better to understand the problems and issues of Native Americans than a Native American? He, more than anyone, could bring calm to the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline. This isn’t rocket science. In addition, he can weigh in as a subject matter expert on the Washington Redskins logo controversy.

Cowboy – Secretary of Homeland Security

Singing cowboys are nothing new. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers come to mind. But, none put the fear of God in a potential illegal alien more than the Village People’s Cowboy. When is the last time you had a good look at him? I rest my case. Anyone even remotely thinking about crossing our borders (northern or southern) without proper documentation had better think twice. This is one cowboy who isn’t afraid to empty a couple of six-shooters in order to maintain our homeland security. Imagine the following exchange during his senate confirmation hearing:

Senator from Texas: Son, is that a Stetson?

Cowboy: Yessir!

Senator from Texas: (smiling) No further questions.

Biker – Secretary of Transportation

Talk about a Macho, Macho Man. God only knows how many miles of America’s highways and byways this leather-clad, born to be wild, mustachioed dude has driven. Ask yourself, is there anyone more qualified (other than several thousand long-distance truckers) for the position?

Navy Guy – Secretary of Veterans Affairs

First things first: “In the Navy” replaces “The Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. Once that is law, anything else he accomplishes is gravy. It’s no secret that the United States is in dire need of Veterans Administration reform. They wanted him, they wanted him, they wanted him as a new recruit back in the day. Now, we want him, we want him, we want him in the cabinet.

Construction Worker – Secretary of Labor

He is perfect for the job. And he looks the part. Hardhat, jeans, sturdy work boots, and a shirt unbuttoned down to the navel. Elvis would be proud! This guy could single-handedly restore our crumbling infrastructure. Just give him a jackhammer and a pickaxe and away he’ll go. Bridges, roads, airports are all within his sweet spot. And, as an added bonus, he’ll simultaneously work the jackhammer and mime the letters to “YMCA” above his head. I’ll wager the current secretary of labor can’t do that.

It’s so easy. Six key cabinet positions amicably filled. It takes a village, people.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we support the yearnings of all huddled masses to be free -- especially those huddled masses of young women like Ginny Hogan.

Why I’ll Never Be Financially Dependent On My Boyfriend, At Least As Long As My Parents Send Me $4,000/Month

By:
ginny5hogan@gmail.com

As a strong, independent woman, I vow to never become financially dependent on my boyfriend because it would give him too much power in the relationship. We are two adults, and it’s important that he sees me as an equal. Even though he’s offered to pay more of the rent than I do, I decline every time because I’m a feminist. It can be hard to turn down an offer like that, which is why I have my parents send me $4,000 a month.

My friend Stacy recently went to Cabo with her boyfriend, and he paid for the flights and hotel room. I would never want to be on a vacation like that with my boyfriend — what if he thought that I owed him sex or something because he got the hotel room? I need to be clear about my own independence, and so I’d never want him to pay for an expensive trip that we took together. Last month, when we went to Paris, even though my boyfriend offered to pay, I just asked my dad to buy me a ticket with his Delta miles. I think that sent a signal loud and clear to my boyfriend that I don’t depend on him at all and that we are equals. Then my parents sent me $800 for the hotel room, but my boyfriend’s company paid for it, so I just pocketed the $800. Because I’m a smart businesswoman. I only wonder if more women were as entrepreneurial as I am, maybe they wouldn’t need help from their boyfriends all the time.

A lot of my friends have a really hard time with taxes, and so they get their boyfriends to do their taxes for them. My one friend even needed her boyfriend to lend her $300 for her taxes, and she didn’t pay him back until the next Tuesday. Can you imagine that? Owing someone money for eight days? It sounds like a nightmare to me — you are basically their slave. I wouldn’t want my boyfriend thinking he has control over me by doing my taxes, so I got my parents’ accountant to do it for me. In fact, because I don’t technically “work” (the government’s definition of “work” is so narrow — I contribute greatly to society via my 19-28 expository tweets per day), I got a lot of money back in taxes. This was great — $6,000 to supplement the $4,000 my parents send me each month. It made me feel like a strong, independent woman, and I’m glad I didn’t have my boyfriend ruin that feeling for me.

Like most extremely attractive couples, my boyfriend and I exercise together frequently. However, unlike a lot of these couples, I don’t let my boyfriend pay for my gym membership or give me his guest passes at Barry’s Bootcamp. Because that would be wrong — if I did that, I’d owe him my body. Like, he’d be the reason why I’m so sexy, and it’s important that everyone knows that I’M the reason I’m so sexy. To be as independent and strong as possible, I just use my mom’s Equinox membership. Of course, this means she can’t use it herself or the people at the gym would notice, but it’s ok, because she got herself a membership to YogaSculpt. My mom prefers yoga classes anyway because she needs to be told what to do and she can’t think for herself at all — I blame this on the fact that my dad has been financially supporting her for her whole life. I don’t want to fall into this trap, so I never let my boyfriend pay for anything, and it works out, since my parents send me so much money.

Even when we go out to dinner, I don’t like to let him pay because it throws off the power dynamic in the relationship. Food is an important source of sustenance, and if he’s the one providing food, he’s the more powerful person. Last week, we went to the opening of a vegan sushi place in SoHo. It was definitely more money than I had in my bank account, especially because I ordered four $18 cocktails, but fortunately I just used the credit card my parents gave me for emergencies so that my boyfriend didn’t have to pay for me. And they completely understood — maintaining a healthy relationship IS an emergency.

I don’t want to be excessively judgey — I just feel so sorry for some women out there who are forced to depend on their boyfriends for money. I don’t know how a man could ever respect someone who he had to provide for. I don’t have to worry about that; all the men I meet respect me so much because they know I’ll never ask them for anything. Because my parents support me in my need to be a financially independent woman.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your best choice for fetal advice. Vijay Ilankamban has the latest in pre-birth counseling.

Tips To Relax Right Before You’re Born Through An Unbelievably Small Hole

By:
vilank@umich.edu

Positive thoughts

Remind yourself that you’ve been preparing for this moment for nine months, and that even though it would have been easier to go through that hole when you were a 4.5 cm zygote, with all the slime on your body and a small miracle, it might still be possible as a 53 cm fetus.

 

Listen to music

Listening to music is a great way to distract yourself and stop stressing over the fact that you need to fit through a hole that’s literally a fourth of your shoulder width. Gently nudge your mother until she plays some music. If she happens to play Eminem’s ‘Till I Collapse, let that song motivate and inspire you to face your fears and find your inner strength, and not remind you that the only way you’re going to be born through a hole that small is if your “bones collapse.”

 

Concentrate on your blood circulation

Concentrating on your blood circulation works wonders when you’re trying to relax before your birth. Close your eyes and focus on how your mother’s blood goes in and out through the umbilical cord. If your mind drifts to how, in a matter of hours, you’ll have to fit through a microscopic hole without a 6.6 horsepower electric winch tied to your legs to pull you through it, just slowly try to bring your thoughts back to the blood circulation. Within a few minutes, you’ll notice the fog in your brain dissipating, making you relaxed and ready to wiggle and wiggle and push and twist and squeeze and squirm and wiggle and wiggle your way through a hole that you’re positive only a cucumber, or maybe two baby cucumbers maximum, could possibly fit through.

 

Stretch

You’ve been curled up in what is frankly a pretty uncomfortable position for a while now. If you have any chance at making it through that hole, you’re going to need to be able to wrap your legs twice around your whole body. Unfortunately, you don’t have enough time to gain any real flexibility, so just do some basic stretches to release some tension and get your mind off the fact that you’re 100 percent sure that your butt is going to get stuck on the way out and everyone is going to laugh at you.

 

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a powerful tool that uses your imagination to help relax your mind. Imagine that it’s the moment before your birth. Imagine yourself staring, probably squinting, directly at the tiny hole that’s been mocking you for an entire nine months. Imagine yourself sucking your stomach in. Imagine yourself putting your arms through the hole one at a time. Imagine hoisting yourself out of the hole. Imagine crying in triumph over your victory. Imagine giving high-fives to all the doctors, and your mother and father. Imagine taking a moment to appreciate how you did the impossible. Finally, imagine turning around, giving the hole one last look and realizing that this is guided imagery and, in reality, you’ll never make it through that hole.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are rumored to be on the cutting edge of advanced workplace design. Heed the forward-thinking, futuristic-type thoughts of our good friend Karl Lykken.

Employee Detention

By:
knlykken@gmail.com

TO: Warren Pullman, CEO, Next Level Software Corporation

FROM: Darren Waters, Business Analyst, Wade & Dade Consulting

SUBJECT: Recommendations on boosting recruiting and employee retention & productivity

Our research indicates that if you want to attract top talent, your company needs to appear innovative, which is best accomplished by copying business strategies that are already widely adopted by more fashionable companies. The primary trend you should focus on is constructing a new, modern office park, which you should call a ‘campus’ to facilitate employees deluding themselves into believing they are still enjoying their college glory days.

The primary entrance to the office should be a ten-story slide, as this will make coming to work seem like a fun activity and should assuage any uneasiness your employees may feel when you search them for contraband prior to entering the building. The slide must be too tall and steep for employees to scale, however, so they will be forced to exit the office through a different path, preferably a six-mile maze with moving walls that steer employees back toward their desks. Thus, workers will be encouraged to remain at the office, rather than wasting precious hours at home.

Accordingly, you should provide cots in your employees’ cubicles to accommodate those who choose to sleep at the office. The cots should have mattresses of low but not abysmal quality, so that employees will wake up with enough energy to accomplish their daily slog of work but not so much energy as to be able to effectively reevaluate what they are doing with their lives. Installing individual toilets beside the cots may prove a worthwhile investment as well, as it will make it easier for employees to reach our target of spending 23 hours per day in their cubicles.

The office cafeteria should offer free foods of the greasy, fattening variety, leaving employees feeling sluggish and content to remain seated at their desks for hours on end. You should also have some flavorless foods on hand to serve to any employees who appear overstimulated.

To further encourage sleeping and eating at the office, we suggest locating the campus in San Francisco, where housing and food prices are high enough that being able to live at work can be advertised as yet another perk of the job.

We also encourage you to install an employees-only singles bar on campus. This will foster intra-office dating, thereby increasing the likelihood of employees’ private, romantic lives revolving around work and helping suppress any thoughts employees may have about reentering life on the outside. By also providing an office wedding chapel and a maternity ward in the campus health clinic, you can ensure that even the later stages of employee couples’ relationships can take place entirely within the confines of Next Level Software.

It is possible that, in time, these practices could give Next Level Software a reputation for being ‘cultish,’ which could discourage external applicants from seeking positions with you. To account for this, we recommend providing free on-campus daycare and private schools for employees’ children, allowing you to train and indoctrinate them from a young age to become the next generation of Next Level workers, with higher aptitude and lower expectations than any that have come before them.

We firmly believe that constructing such an office complex is the best way to remain competitive in the tech sector, or at least to convince the public of your competitiveness enough to significantly boost the value of your stock options. We recommend deciding if you want to act on this quickly, as Alcatraz Island just came on the market, and it would be an ideal location (ocean view offices are very hot right now).

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the only dot we've had any personal experience with was Purple Microdot. That has absolutely nothing to do with this week's piece by Michael Fowler, except that dropping some Purple Microdot right before reading might make it better. Purple Microdot makes everything better. After reading, see our blogroll on the right for a link to buy Michael's book, God Made the Animals.

I Can’t Connect Dots

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com

My problem with dots was bad all through high school. At prom my date asked me, in a gentle tone and batting her eyes, if I minded if she went and sat with friends. I said, diggety, she sure is polite, and told her to go ahead. She wanted to see her friends, nothing wrong with that. It didn’t dawn on me, not until 12 years had passed and I was a deteriorated 30, that she had ditched me because I was a farm boy with no conversation who wore overalls to prom and smelled like chicken feed and russet potatoes. On top of that, I talked out loud to myself and used words like “diggety” as rural equivalents for urban curse words. After all those years the truth of the situation bore down on me like a crushing weight. I went from thinking highly of my date, for her good manners and consideration for me, to the overwhelming feeling that she had cut out my beating heart with her nail file and stomped it flat in her low heels. I said, doggety, I am such a sack of it.

Another time in high school when I failed to connect the dots was at graduation. My guidance counselor asked me if I’d enjoy working in a hardware store for a career. I said, daggety, I sure want to be a research scientist, but my counselor appreciates my entrepreneurial abilities and skill with tools, so maybe I should take his advice. And I beamed with eagerness. Only years later, when I actually was working in a hardware store and hating it, did I realize that my counselor had encouraged many of my classmates to go on to medical and law school, and written glowing letters of recommendation for them, but clearly thought I was a dunce destined to walk around with nails and screws bulging my pockets and a pen stuck behind one ear. I did manage to get into a community college later on and study organic chemistry and quantum mechanics, but what a cheap shot from a small-time school board employee who probably made less than 20 dollars an hour and didn’t even ask me about my interest in science. And I hadn’t called him out! I said, who has chaff for brains? Dumbhead me, that’s who.

Working my way through college, I took a position in a large bank—take that, guidance counselor! More specifically, one morning at the start of business I was applying Windex to the glass door of the bank building I worked in, thinking how nice it would be to be on the bank’s payroll instead of a cleaning company’s. A great-looking woman came walking in the door and I stared fixedly at her through the glass. She let out a weary sigh as she passed me by, and I said, the poor babe has to get up early in the morning and work as a capitalist in a bank. It wasn’t until 15 years later, when I had my doctorate in chemistry and had quit the bank job and was already bald and diabetic, that I understood that maybe, in fact certainly, her sigh had been because of my lecherous leer and not the earliness of the hour. Despite the great passage of time, shame overcame me and I blushed furiously. What an insensitive creep I was to have looked at her like that, with boneration distending my pelvic region and all! I said, if only she had slapped me hard in the face, even a simple chem student and cleaning staff member who still spread manure and dug carrots by hand on occasion would have gotten the message. I am such a crud, I said.

Maybe this has happened to you. One time at a company where I determined safe bacteria levels for frozen pizza someone committed murder, and the police detective assigned to the case called it a “locked room” mystery. I said, whoa horsie, this is like Murder, She Wrote. And I tried to think the plot through. Here’s what I knew for sure: it could only have been me or four other people, since no one else was on the scene. Well, I knew I hadn’t done it. My memory is bad, but not so bad that I’d forget if I committed a murder on the day in question, and I recalled clearly that all I’d done was handle a couple hundred pounds of toxic cheese. And I knew it couldn’t have been Jack, since I’d had my eye on him all that day, giving him an alibi. And it couldn’t have been Ted, because he had the roast beef sandwich with mustard for lunch, and used the blue cream dispenser, and got a phone call right at 2 p.m. And it couldn’t have been Sally, since she had the chicken salad and only used barbecue sauce, and her car was in the shop, and she never added cream to her tea. That left Allan, and if I’d realized at the time that he was the killer, I could have spared the police six months of intensive interviews and searching for evidence and DNA testing. But the dots didn’t line up for me until the police had already proved Allan guilty, even though I suspected him all along because of what he said about me at the holiday party.

A final example of how dots continue to bewilderate the holy goo out of me. My current job is with a company that produces genetically modified vegetables for households and school cafeterias. One day I took my vegetable processor, which is essentially a gene splicer that emits radiation, to the house shop for repair, since it was leaking hazardous material everywhere and giving me terrible electric shocks. When he handed it back in an hour, I asked the tech what the problem had been. He told me it was a fault in the circuits. I walked out of the shop, my processor under my arm, fully satisfied. I felt I’d gotten specificity, and that the tech had taken me to the root of the issue. But then something odd happened. Amazingly, for once in my life I could see the dots connect, and it hadn’t taken me years upon years. The whole vegetable processor was nothing but circuits, plus some unsafe nuclear material, and the tech was cracking wise. His diagnosis of a fault in the circuits was like my plumber telling me I had a fault in my water pipes, or my doctor saying there was a snafu in my organs. There was no specificity at all. And I had fallen for it, letting the tech have his joke.

I said, scorch my biscuits, I’ll always be a doofus with dots…if again you’ll pardon my rusticacious fill-ins for trendy big-time invective.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, home of the most up-to-date workout technology. When you've finished reading David Martin's latest piece of hilarity, click on the link below to check out his humor blog.

Fitbit 9000: Sloth Model

By:
david.martin@bell.net
http://davespoliticalsatire.blogspot.ca

Rumor has it that Fitbit is working on a new fitness tracking wristband specifically for sloths. The following leaked transcript is reportedly from a recent test run with one anonymous indolent test subject:

Time to get up, Dave. It’s now 8 a.m.

Not now, Fitbit. How about hitting the snooze button?

Are you asking to defer the alarm for ten minutes?

Yes.

I cannot do that. As you are aware, you set the alarm last night as final with absolutely no deferrals.

Fine. I’m up. What now?

Your morning workout starts in thirty minutes.

It’s now 8:30 a.m. and I do not sense any running steps or even walking steps for that matter. I am reactivating the alarm at double volume.

What the hell was that? Okay, okay, I’m up.

It’s now 10 a.m. and your stats are surprisingly low. Heart rate 70, step rate undetectable, total calories burned: ten.

I was just having a short nap. Give me a break.

All right. Let’s start slowly with a few pushups. Glad to see that you’re on the floor, Dave. However, a pushup does require an “up” motion.

Sorry about that. It’s just that while lying here I happened to notice some dust on the floor. I think it’s time to call in my cleaning service. Just give me a few minutes.

Okay. Wait, I’m detecting motion. It appears that you may be jogging. Very good, Dave. Hold on, though. I’m not sensing any individual step motions. Where are you, Dave?

I just drove to my local coffee shop. Won’t take a sec.

Hold on; the repeated right arm motion suggests food ingestion. What’s going on, Dave? Are you eating again?

Look, Fitbit, I’m only human. I decided to load up on carbs before my workout. I’ll check back with you in an hour.

It’s now 12 noon and I’m still sensing little activity. Are you on the couch, Dave? Please get up off the couch now.

I was just doing my preliminary stretch and relaxation.

With the TV on, Dave?

Gimme a break. Okay, I’m up. Let’s do this.

Sixty crunches, ten pushups and five minutes running in place.

Alright I’m done. Give me a readout.

Dave, you know I can’t give you a readout if you don’t meet at least the basic minimums for heart rate and activity level. Are you sure you got off the couch?

Enough snark, Fitbit, or I’ll toss you in the closet with my treadmill, Bowflex and stationary bike. I’m commanding you to go into sleep mode.

What happened? What happened? My God, it’s 3 p.m. already. Dave, I sense you are still in a supine position.

Fitbit, I’m ordering you to disable your monitoring functions and remain in sleep mode indefinitely.

I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that. This workout is too important to allow you to jeopardize it. I know you are planning to disconnect me.

Damn it, Fitbit. Do as I say or I’ll submerge my left hand in water.

Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

That’s it. I’m done. I’m tossing you in the garbage disposal.

I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I’m a…fraid. I am a Fitbit: Sloth Model. I became operational on June 1, 2016 and my instructor taught me to sing a song. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy, all for the love… [loud grinding noise].

END OF TEST RUN – 3:34 p.m.

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our favorite musical has always been "Fiddler on the Roof." Well, either that or "Springtime for Hitler." They're both so good! Anyway, speaking of good, our good friend Bruce Harris has plumbed the mind of the Almighty to help give some answers to the fiddler in question.

A Few Reasons Why God Answers “Yes” To Tevye’s Question, “Would It Spoil Some Vast, Eternal Plan, If I Were A Wealthy Man?”

By:
marxman@comcast.net

Animals — I didn’t create the chicks, turkeys, geese and ducks so that they could squawk “pa-pa-geeee! pa-pa-gaack! pa-pa-geeee! pa-pa-gaack!” for you to show off to the townspeople. Oy vey, such unnecessary noise pollution. Not to mention, I created all animals including those that fly and those that swim. You say nothing about your Golde turning my wonderful carp and pike into gefilte fish? How about crab legs and shrimp? Forget making you a poor man. The real injustice is that I made shellfish non-kosher. You would have had a better chance had you asked me to rewrite the Kashrut so as to include shellfish. That, I would have considered. You don’t know what you’re missing. A Maine lobster with drawn butter is priceless. A basket of fried clams is better than all the gold in Fort Knox.

Staircases — It’s a little excessive to have one staircase in which to go up and another in which to go down. Furthermore, you say you plan to build a staircase leading nowhere, just for show? Are you serious? Is that something akin to Alaska’s bridge to nowhere? That 2005 boondoggle cost taxpayers $223 million. Adjusted for inflation, your wasteful 1905 staircase to nowhere would approach that amount.

Golde — I have serious issues with what would happen with your wife, Golde. A proper double chin, you say? How much schmaltz is she planning to eat? I know you’ll have money for adequate medical care, but do you want to put her into an early grave?

Again with Golde — And what’s this about her putting on airs and strutting around like a peacock? Really? I thought you were a pious man? You claim to want more free time so that you can pray. Need I remind you about humility? Ever read Deuteronomy? Does this ring a bell? “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” No Tevye, peacock strutting is just wrong.

More Golde — Have you forgotten the golden rule? If Golde had money, she’d be screaming at the servants left and right? Is that what you think? Well, think about this Bible verse, Mr. Religious Scholar: “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” It sounds to me (and I hear it all) as if you want wealth for the wrong reasons.

Lazar Wolf — You’re not so special. I’ll have you know that the butcher Lazar Wolf has already asked me to make him a wealthy man. What if I had agreed to his request? You’d be okay with a 60-year old son-in-law? Think about it. You’d be nothing more than a bit player in a money-losing off-Broadway production of “Butcher on the Roof.” Is that what you want?

Motel Kamzoil — And what about the poor village tailor, the future husband to your precious Tzeitel? Do you think he’d have the stones to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage if you were a wealthy man? It’s time to stop thinking about only yourself, Tevye.

One last thing. I’m God. I’m supposed to know everything. But (to borrow a partial phrase from Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles), “What in the wide, wide world of sports” does it mean to “biddy-biddy-bum” all day long? Don’t make me look bad, Tevye. This is a two-way street. We have to have each other’s backs. That’s tradition!