* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy beginning the New Year with yet more sordid details about a revolting topic, thanks to our sordid, revolting friend Michael Fowler. When you're done with his latest bit of hilarity, see our blogroll on the right for a link to buy Michael's book, God Made the Animals.

Am I The Next TV News Person To Be Sidelined For Sexual Misconduct?


I won’t identify myself, since I don’t want to start speculation, but I’m an attractive, not to say amazingly attractive, thirtyish male who just got hired to co-anchor at WNOX, News of the Tristate Coming to You from Wapakoneta, Ohio, and already I feel that my days are numbered. My first 15 minutes on the job, and who do I meet down the hall from my office but the weather lady Cassandra Mintloe? There she was, inches from me, the local and thoroughly professional celebrity. I stammered out a “Hello, Ms. Mintloe,” and her friendly “Hi there” warmed my Midwestern heart. As soon as I turned on my work computer, I composed a “Let’s get to know each other” note to her, complete with descriptions of my prowess in bed, my athletic trophies, and an attached GIF of my genitals. I was about to send it off when I thought, “Steady on, Jose,” (not my real name). “You might end up in hot water.” It was Cassandra, after all, who forced the anchor I was hired to replace into early retirement when she complained about his unwanted advances. How could I have forgotten that critical point, when it was all the scuttlebutt when I came here to interview? In my excitement at beholding Cassandra’s modest form, it jumped clean out of my head. So I saved myself a headache and didn’t contact her, and still haven’t. Instead I clenched my fists, pressed my manly thighs together, and determined to hang tough.

But I was hardly out of trouble. There’s something about the prospect of appearing on live TV that gets me all tingly. When I stepped out for lunch, I ran smack into co-anchor Cathleen Cartwright at the soda machine. She, well-groomed and presentable as always, is the undisputed star of the morning soybean and corn forecasts, and her well-bred professionalism is a hallmark. She’s as wholesome as barley, and my first thought on seeing her was, “Can we take alternate swigs on your bottle of water, and then let our tongues really cut loose at my apartment in Bellefontaine?” Back at my desk I composed a memo to her, under my new alias Jose the Impulsive, but with my real email address, informing her of how I take a shower and which Victoria’s Secret garments I favor, along with an attached GIF of my member bearing a ring of red lipstick. She couldn’t resist that, I figured, any more than I could resist her prim demeanor. I was about to hit the send button when it struck me: “Hey, Jose, are you trying to be one of those lusty boys at FOX News who’s had to ‘go on sabbatical’ over sexual harassment charges?” That kind of FOX-y behavior, I should have recalled, had emasculated the network, to the point where it seemed to be approaching an all-female lineup, not counting a smattering of asexual esthetes and a handful of eunuchs. That realization brought me quickly to my senses, and again I didn’t send what might have proved to be a fateful email.

“Whew,” I thought. “Saved once more.” But for how long? That very evening, and bear in mind I’m still talking about my first day at WNOX, I encountered Judge Jenny, our senior news correspondent and roving reporter, in the garage. After I greeted the dignified judge with a star-struck hello, and she responded with a gracious smile, I thought, “What a cougar. I mean, do they come any more provocative than this hottie?” The previous evening I had watched a taped segment on WNOX of the regal, sexagenarian judge on horseback at the local county fair, and let me tell you, I could hardly stand how reserved she looked in her proper equestrienne outfit. I was inflamed to the hilt. After greeting her in the garage, my next idea was to take her on a thrill ride in my new sports convertible parked nearby, that I had bought the very day WNOX hired me. We’d see whose bedroom or what discreet hotel I could drive to in twenty minutes flat. Sure, I was thirty years younger than the judge, but I was as fired up as she was matronly and mature.

As I was about to issue the invitation, along with many a wink and leer to put my point across, a car pulled up beside us and its horn blasted. The driver was, I don’t know who, maybe the guy who produces the show. I don’t know who everyone is around the station yet, so I can’t say. Anyway I was once again saved from the inclinations of Jose the Impulsive, which I suddenly saw could only land me butt-first in the grinder, if the judge took things too personally. That’s right: a minute’s research online proved she wasn’t called Judge Jenny for nothing. She was a former trial judge and a dominatrix for women’s rights. Thanks to that car horn, I clammed up just in time.

Still, Jose is always on the alert, always looking for — dare I say it? — danger. Can he last a single year, or even one more day at WNOX News, surrounded by dozens of females who, no matter how demure, all strike him as irresistible, down to the clerical and custodial help? I’m beginning to doubt it.






* Wecome to The Big Jewel, where we like to take our New Year's Eve cocktails with an extra shot of navel-gazing, courtesy of Paul D. Mooney.

Metaphysical Mixology — A Cocktail Menu


The Known Universe

Purveyor of Specialty Cocktails & Fine Spirits

Hours: Open from the start of the Planck Epoch until Midnight on The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock

Measurable Time — Four shots of vodka (one for each dimension) poured into an hourglass. Sprinkle liberally with cesium-133. Drink in its entirety in the time it takes for the cesium to undergo 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation transitioning between two hyperfine levels of its ground state.

Fleeting Contentment — Half a shot of Johnny Walker Blue poured into a pint glass, the rest of which is filled with tap water.

The Visible Spectrum (or The ROYGBV) — Equal parts Fireball whiskey, Cointreau, oro tequila, absinthe verte, blue Curaçao, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Stirred with a flashlight and served in a pair of laboratory goggles.

The Metabolism — Coffee liqueur and club soda mixed in a sourdough bread bowl.

Tactile Perceptions — Leather glove filled two-thirds with spiced rum and crushed ice. Topped with grain alcohol and lit on fire (bar is not liable for failure to extinguish prior to consumption).

Emotions — Our most expensive Barolo mixed with two shots of our cheapest bourbon in a child’s sippy cup. Served while the bartender kisses you passionately on the mouth, then quietly whispers how much happier all your exes are without you.

Existential Suffering — Your all-time favorite mixed drink served in a gag dribble glass.

Thirst for Knowledge — A blended margarita with a twist: lots and lots of salt. Like, a shitload of salt. Too much salt, frankly. It’s basically a bucket of salt with some crushed ice and tequila drizzled on. Garnished with a slice of fresh lime.

Entropy — An ice-cold beer is poured into a heated glass and served only once both elements have reached room temperature.

Historical Record — Pick another patron. Fight him or her. Whoever wins gets to create/decide the cocktails both participants will drink for the rest of the evening. Or until the next such fight.

Evolution — Pick whichever alcoholic beverage will most likely enhance your ability to reproduce. Probably a light beer or a Prosecco, if we had to guess.

The Fallibility of Memory — Whatever you order, the bartender brings you something slightly different. Or…do they?

Fear of the Unknown — Customer is blindfolded and must choose one (or more) of five shots placed in front of him or her. Four are filled with Goldschläger, one with Habu Sake (strong Okinawan rice liquor with a dead pit viper soaking in it that tastes and smells even worse than you think it does).

Cognitive Dissonance — Everclear grain alcohol and yellow Gatorade in a red Solo cup.

The Meaning of Life — 16-year-old Lagavulin scotch poured over ice made from crystal pure mountain spring water, served eight fingers at a time. Repeat until sleepy, horny, and/or furious.

20% gratuity added to all forgotten credit cards and parties of eight or more who actively participate in the suppression of scientific study.

No refunds.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where men are men and women are women. Unless they're girls.

Stop Calling Adult Women “Girls,” Except For Me Because I’m Still Very Young And Cute


Enough is enough — we cannot keep letting men call adult women “girls.” It’s degrading and wrong — women aren’t children and they should not be referred to as such. I demand that men worldwide stop using the term “girls” for anyone over the age of 18. Except for me. Please continue to call me a girl because I’m still very young, youthful, and, most importantly, cute.

I can’t count on one hand how many times I’ve had to tell a coworker not to call the women at our office “girls.” In fact, I can’t even count it with the number of years I’ve been alive because I’m very, very young. As a young 26-year-old, I definitely am still a girl. That’s not to say I don’t have the intelligence and emotional maturity of a full adult woman, but I have the glowing eyes and innocence of a girl. That’s more important, so you should continue to call me a girl. If you are my coworker and also an attractive man who sometimes flirts with me, then definitely not refer to me as a “woman.” That’s probably how you describe your mother.

From now on, I’m taking a stand: to ridicule men who call women “girls,” I’m going to refer to men in their twenties as “boys.” However, I will only call you a boy if I’m interested in having sex with you, and I will assume if you call me a “girl,” you also want to bang me. Therefore, everyone should be calling me a girl because I’m very sexually appealing. I think it’s extremely important that we use the word for “female children” to describe women who are sexually attractive. Save me in your phone as “cute girl” and buy me several drinks. I don’t even get hangovers yet because I’m so young, and also because I don’t have a job so I sleep until 1:00 p.m. every day. I am youthful, precious, and full of wonder at this big beautiful world that loves me.

Adult women contribute to society even more than adult men do, and they are insulted by being referred to as “girls.” I don’t contribute to society at all really, so please don’t say I’m a woman or ever, ever, ever call me “ma’am” because I am so adorable and barely out of college. In fact, I’m so young that I neither drive nor vote even though I’m technically old enough to do both. Someone who’s still on their parents’ healthcare shouldn’t really qualify as a woman. You probably think I’m about to be kicked off their healthcare because I’m 26, but joke’s on you! New York State has a loophole that lets kids stay on their parents’ healthcare until they’re 29. So I will be a girl until at least then, at which point I will find another excuse for why I’m still a girl, because I will still be very cute and young in three years. I’m not a girl, not yet a woman, but I am still a girl because I’m adorable.

Men need to stop calling women “girls.” This is something I feel very passionately about. Almost as passionately as I feel about looking at myself in the mirror because I’m a young, cute, desirable female, otherwise known as a “girl.”


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we specialize in bringing the lovelorn together. No matter what's wrong with them and what kind of hat they're wearing. Thank you, Rhys Morgan!

Dating, Disability And Sombreros


For people afflicted with disability, dating can often be a daunting process. Whilst the afflicted person has, much like anyone else, an insistent longing to enter into a loving and fruitful relationship, they are inevitably anxious of the thought that, upon first encounter, their prospective significant other will be too closed-minded to look past their disability to observe the kind, sexual soul that inhabits them.

This is most certainly true in David’s case. David has been single now for what is approaching ten years, ever since developing a rare psycho-associative condition which causes him to compulsively wear a simply enormous novelty sombrero. The sombrero in question measures, in total, thirty-five inches in diameter, making it difficult for him to even walk through your average doorway, let alone consummate a newfound relationship. In fact, just attempting to figure out the mere logistics of sexual intercourse is, for David, a consistent source of anxiety. It is, to his mind, a strategic nightmare not worth thinking about, much like a game of chess, or sex-chess, if such a thing even exists. It probably doesn’t. Luckily for him, this is a bridge yet to be crossed.

But to his credit, David remains largely resolute in his search for love, even in the face of consistent and sometimes even severe rejection. Let us take his most recent first date with Helen as a case in point. Helen of course knew about David’s disability beforehand, but throughout the course of their date she became increasingly less and less tolerant of the manner in which it manifested itself. For David this was rather unfortunate, as upon entering the restaurant and seeing Helen for the first time in the flesh, he was mesmerised by her beauty and subtle mannerisms. To him, she appeared almost as a young Angela Bettis. However, before he could mentally deduce whether or not Angela Bettis was a real celebrity or merely somebody he’d just made up, the date was already well underway.

Right from the get-go, it was clear to David that Helen was yet another sexual prospect who was simply unwilling to look past his disability, or for that matter the jaunty tassels affixed to the rim of his novelty sombrero, which seemed to permanently conceal parts of his face during conversation. In fact, the ways in which these tassels swayed with the nervous shifts in David’s neck muscles made Helen feel physically sick, and far from jaunty. Due to Helen’s remarkably forthright character, she communicated this feeling almost immediately. Unperturbed, David explained that the tassels were as much a part of him as they were the sombrero, by means of a heart-warming oration which bordered on the poetic. Yet Helen simply didn’t buy this, expressing her harsh opinion on the matter by belching the word “bullshit” in between canapés.

Feeling Helen’s phone number quickly slipping from his grasp digit by precious digit, David decided to go all-out, thinking that an effort at self-deprecation would perhaps win her over. What’s more charming, he thought, than a disabled person, such as he was, who could laugh at himself, and be unsullied by his own illness as a result? He began to tell Helen about the predicament he found himself in a few days ago, in which he met his new next-door neighbor for the first time. He introduced himself, he explained, by way of a jovial hand-wave whilst mowing his front lawn.

However, seeing the giant sombrero perched exuberantly upon David’s head, and being a Mexican immigrant himself, the new neighbor took this friendly gesture as a racially motivated hate crime, and proceeded to deliver a long tirade in defense of his nation, which included many references to the Battle of the Alamo. At this point, Helen had had enough. She swiftly raised herself from her chair, before cruelly requesting that David not contact her again in the future, and left the restaurant altogether. His date with Helen was, on the whole, a veritable disaster.

And so, David’s quest for a meaningful and long-term relationship goes on, and we salute him, for he is a true underdog, or at the very least he is a fully-grown man who looks completely fucking ridiculous, almost like a cartoon character, and we all love those. It is therefore with the warmest of sincerity that we wish David luck in his search for womanly companionship. And who knows, he may even find something more, by which I mean: sexual intercourse.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where something very, very important is happening right now. Wait -- could it be? Really? Yes! It's Mitch Russell in his first piece for us!

I Am Going To Be Very Important


Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to buy a pontoon boat, and float it into the Atlantic, tossing my phone, my license, and my Social Security card into the ocean as the shoreline recedes in the distance. This will begin a long and transformative journey. Days will pass, then weeks. I will run through my provisions. My beard will grow long. In desperation I will attempt to catch fish in my teeth. The sun will crack my skin and warp my mind. I will forget my old life.

I will float about under the open sky, carried by the whims of the current, carrion birds circling my small craft until one morning it abruptly comes ashore an island not listed on any map. Starving and broken, I will claw my way up the beach towards a village of islanders who have never come into contact with a man such as me before. Upon reaching them I will collapse face-first in the sand. They will nurse me back to health with strange fruits and coconut milk. As I grow stronger they will gather around my straw mat, enamored and terrified with my tales of the civilized world.

When I am strong enough I will waste no time in challenging the chief in hand-to-hand combat for control of the island. He will accept, though because I am as ambitious as I am craven, I will sneak into his hut late at night and conk him on the head with a rock instead. Then I’ll drag his body to the pontoon boat and set him out to sea. In the morning I will explain that I saw him cravenly escaping in the dead of night, and because these are an isolated people unfamiliar with trickery or schemes, they will take me at my word, which is really too bad for them, because those are two things I am just brimming with.

As their new leader, I will command that we move from this old system of “peaceful fishing society” to a more piracy-based system. I will advise my followers to simply regard cargo ships full of electronic goods, ivory or high-value hostages the same way they would regard a big haul of tilapia — insofar as they should deliver them to my feet or face horrible and disproportionate consequences.

With the riches stolen from Caribbean cargo ships I will quickly build up my forces from a ragged crew of bandits to a uniformed militia of armed-to-the-teeth minions. I will burn down the hut and build a mansion. I will dynamite the holy caves and a build secret weapons lab. I will dig up sacred burial sites and construct missile silos. I will come to rule over my island peasant subjects with the gusto of a calculating warlord, and far from the view of Western eyes I will fashion a society that, while crude, is reflective of my every whim. The history of my ascent to power will be speckled with bloody coups, subterfuge, femmes fatales, missing journalists. Exotic jungle cats will be involved.

I will call my kingdom Isle Paradiso, for reasons that have mainly to do with years of poorly remembered high school Spanish. On Paradiso I will rule over a cult of personality. I will be highly decorated in medals I myself commissioned, honoring great feats of valor which are as courageous as they are unverifiable. I will parade through sparsely paved streets wearing tiger striped fatigues, as will my all-female cadre of highly trained bodyguards/assassins. They will call me “El Tigre Pequeno” and my every utterance will spark both fear and admiration in the hearts of the island’s commoners. Mostly fear though.

Executions will be carried out atop the volcano jutting up from the thick jungle growth that otherwise covers the island. At the crack of dawn, a conch horn will sound and the announcement will be made through a series of speakers strung up throughout the villages. State media will be gathered and the accused brought, hands bound, to the rim of the volcano, where my jackboot thugs will have installed some sort of ramshackle diving board. Meanwhile, I’ll preside over the assembly in a tiger-striped judge’s robe and an askew powdered wig. Also a crown for good measure. As the hot lava bubbles and spits from within the volcano’s mouth, I will be fanned with the plumage of the island’s most beautiful birds.

“CITIZEN OF PARADISO,” I’ll announce into a big stupid megaphone, “YOU STAND HERE TODAY ACCUSED OF DISSENT, DISRUPTION, DELINQUENCY, DESTRUCTION, GENERAL DEPLORABILITY, AND A LITANY OF OTHER CHARGES RIDICULOUS AND FARCICAL. HOW DO YOU PLEAD???” (It doesn’t really matter how they plead.) Under my rule punishment will come swiftly and often, frequently in the form of a volcano high-dive, but other times by laser beam, sometimes shark tank, and sometimes dissidents will be tied to one of the many Soviet-era missiles in our highly illegal weapons program and just fired off into the ocean.

But it won’t be enough.

What no one on the island seems to understand is the sheer immensity of my vision. Peasants will be peasants, but I am a man born of greatness! Do they think I am writing all these self-serving polemics because it is fun for me? Do they think my captive scientist have been developing a giant death-ray in the secret lab for my own benefit? Do they suppose I am staging countless military exercises for any purpose other than the exaltation of our glorious Motherland? Of course I am! And who’s to say I shouldn’t enjoy a little light revenge on civilization? Certainly no one who has not yet been thrown into the volcano! Also I am completely drunk on power at this point.

So as any terrifying despot would, I’ll mobilize the fleet, launch the stolen missiles into orbit, start shooting the giant laser beam at random, just go absolutely bananas. And when I tune into the Western media, I’ll see maps, graphs, charts of missile trajectories. CNN will be super upset. And it’s funny because they will have all sorts of “experts” come in and say that this is all because of “increased tensions with so-and-so” or “destabilization of the whatever-region,” but not one of those idiots will be able to guess that all of this is because of a terrible, unshakable feeling of smallness.

And yes, my reign will come to a messy end. And no, I don’t think that that comes as a surprise to anyone, least of all the deep-cover CIA operative embedded in muggy jungle hideouts. It’s amazing what a couple hundred disgruntled peasants and a few Spec Ops teams can accomplish when they put their wits and also assault rifles together. The capital will be stormed, the mansion looted, my tiger-skin rug all scuffed up by covert hit squads, and I — unceremoniously shot in the face or something. That’s fine. Everyone’s free and there’s no danger now so, you know…yippee.

But as decades pass, and the sovereign nation transforms from a kingdom of brutal civil conflict to yet another tropical façade for cruise ships to float past, will history remember it for its diverse foliage? Its tropical birds? Its beaches lined with expensive cafés serving bland approximations of the feasts that once adorned the tables of my dining halls? No. Not a chance. I will have left an indelible scar upon history’s face, and when the island’s name is spoken my name will never be more than a whispered breath away, my legacy secured as the Tiger King of the Island! Scourge of humanity! The Tyrant Lord who brought Western civilization to its knees in the blink of an eye!

Anyway, that is my plan. I mean that or grad school.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where what you eat and how you cook it says a lot about your disturbed state of mind. Just ask Travis Rave.

Messy Sandwich #4 (aka Cooking In Your Twenties And Maybe Your Thirties If You Had Your Heart Torn Out On Tuesday)


Ingredients: bread, mozzarella cheese, sadness, tomato, olive oil, pan, brick, kitchen with stove, penchant for danger and neglect.

  1. Get bread.

Preferably good wide, thick bread, but this is only essential if you’re particularly picky about burns.

  1. Thoroughly oil a wide pan and set the burner to medium heat.

Use a paper towel to spread olive oil evenly. If you are out of paper towels, just dump some in and swirl it about. I like to put in a little more than is necessary, so that if you spill a little water in there, it will spit out a dangerous amount of hot oil. This keeps things exciting and your mind from wandering too far down into “The Hole of Deepening Despair,” a Lifetime movie that seems to be on repeat this week.

  1. Sit down to watch something (not “The Hole of Deepening Despair”) that will undoubtedly make you forget that you’re cooking and alone.
  2. Panic as the smoke alarm goes off. Run to the oven and turn on the oven fan to clear any gathering smoke. Turn burner off to cool pan and then add more oil. At this point, screw the paper towel; just dump that shit in there.
  3. Return to your show, but set a timer because you’ve learned something. As you watch, slice the cheese.

Serrated knife or not, the cheese should cut. If the slices are uneven, that’s okay — it’s only cheese; don’t be bullied.

  1. Place cheese between two pieces of bread and put it into the pan.

Veteran cooks may want to risk a Frisbee-style toss, but this is not recommended due to the excessive amount of oil you put in the pan and your tendency to cause eruptions of flame.

  1. Swirl the sandwich around in the pan to soak up a bunch of the oil. Beware the heat. As it starts to sizzle, put the brick on top.

Quickly remove the brick because you forgot to wrap it in aluminum foil, which means you just put a dirty brick on your sandwich. Consider throwing out the sandwich, but then shrug and quickly wrap the brick and replace it on top of the sandwich.

  1. (Optional) Push down on the brick if you like the sound of sizzling and the invigorating sting of seeing your girlfriend writhing gleefully beneath someone with a hairy back. I mean of hot oil; the sting of hot oil.
  2. After a few minutes, remove the brick and flip the sandwich.

A spatula works well for this. If you don’t have one because you left your old one in the sink after Messy Sandwich #1 and it grew friends, then use a fork. If your forks, too, have begun to socialize, then just use your fucking fingers, okay?

  1. Put the brick back on top and press on it lightly because sizzling and burning now help you to focus on the pain of the present. Ignore that some of the cheese oozes out and will cause you to not want to wash the pan because burned-on cheese is hard to remove and pans are lonely.
  2. After a few minutes (probably one longer than is ideal because you’ve ill-advisedly returned to the couch to nurse your scorched hand), turn off the burner, remove the brick, and slide the oozing mess onto a plate.
  3. Consider eating it, but then curse because you realize you’ve forgotten about the tomato. Quickly slice the tomato, nicking your finger because of the hurry and then curse again (recommendation: “Fuck you, Gina!”). Shake your hand vigorously, but then return to cutting because your stupid sandwich is getting cold. The acidic tomato juice will likely sting when it enters your now numerous wounds.
  4. Cut the sandwich in half, carefully pull the pieces of bread apart, and place two slices of tomato on each side.
  5. Return to the couch and eat with gusto.
  6. Realize you’re still hungry. Curse [Gina] again.
  7. Do your best to wake up tomorrow.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where your unborn child is almost our entire focus! Heed the clarion call of R.T. Sehgal.

Let Our Prenatal Analysts Reveal All About Your Future Baby!


In today’s fast-paced Internet-driven age, it seems like we have instant access to all the information important to making life’s big decisions. Unfortunately, as expectant parents, you’re still almost entirely in the dark about the little Joey or Joanna you’ll be taking home to raise for eighteen (or more!) years. Besides the baby’s gender, what do you really know? Will he be an artist or an athlete? Will she like sushi or burritos? We know that these are the questions that keep you up at night. But science has failed you…

Until now! Here at Ultrasoundz Plus, our goal is to get future parents the nitty-gritty details of their future Michael or Michaela. With our customizable Process-guided Reveal Plans, you can choose how much you want to know about your upcoming bundle. To help you figure out if our services are right for you, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ):

Q: What information can you reveal about our baby?

A: We can currently evaluate your baby in over five hundred domains, including:

—       Political affiliation

—       Likely college major

—       Favorite sports team

—       Spotify playlist preference

—       Estimated lifetime number of tattoos and piercings

—       Estimated lifetime number of sexual partners

—       Eye color

Q: A lot of these seem oddly specific. How do you do it?

A: We’re able to estimate the likelihood of particular traits through a combination of advanced ultrasound imaging, blood sample testing and pseudoscience.

Q: Wait…pseudoscience?

A: Did we say pseudoscience? Must have been a typo. We meant real, hardcore, actual “science.” With beakers and lab coats. The whole nine yards. And don’t let the fact that we put “science” in quotes make you question our “scientific” integrity. Just one of those weird regulatory quirks that the Trump administration will hopefully be doing away with.

Q: Well, how accurate are your findings?

A: It varies, of course, depending on which trait we’re analyzing.  For biological sex, we hit the nail on the head a solid 55% of the time. Everything else is a bit more hit-or-miss. But that’s “science” for you!

Q: So, what do you mean by “advanced ultrasound imaging”?

A: Well, while your neighborhood fly-by-night ultrasound clinic just looks at the basics like fetal size and penis presence, our Processors go the extra mile by examining fetal response to stimuli ranging from various musical genres to TED talks to excerpts of Russian literature.

Q: That sounds in-depth. How long does this exam take?

A: Roughly sixteen hours.

Q: What?

A: It flies by! We offer a wide variety of second-tier Hollywood titles and quasi-religious Process infomercials for the mom-to-be to watch while we subject her little hombre (or hombrette!) to a variety of noxious stimuli.

Q: Wow. So, how does this actually work?

A: We’ll give you an example. Like most expectant parents, you’ve probably wondered, “Which side will my little angel take in the ongoing feud between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?” This is exactly the kind of question our Process is set up to answer. Through headphones placed strategically over the pregnant belly, we’ll play selections from the catalog of each pop princess and monitor fetal movements. We’ll also examine fetal blood cells cultivated from a maternal blood sample. Did you know there’s a gene associated with the phenotype of preferring Taylor Swift to Katy Perry?

Q: Really?

A: Are you a geneticist, a family member of a geneticist or otherwise a member of the “scientific” community?

Q: No.

A: Then, really!

Q: You keep mentioning the “Process.” What is that?

A: Oh, the details aren’t important. Suffice it to say that Processors are the reincarnated soldiers of the Western Song dynasty, now training under the guidance of Master Tyler in preparation for the Third Intergalactic War.

Q: So…you’re a cult?

A: Wow! Slow down there with your trigger words! You sound just like the IRS. Are you from the IRS?

Q: Umm…no.

A: Great! We should leave the details of what’s a “cult” vs. what’s a legitimate ultrasound business to the results of several ongoing lawsuits. The only two things that you need to know are:

  1. We would like access to your human baby’s blood, and
  2. We would like to play that baby some messages in utero while you watch a series of increasingly brain-cleansing videos.

And, in return, you’ll get a seventy-five-page personality profile! Ready to sign up???

Q: [  ]

A: Think it over, but don’t take too long! Our current Groupon is only available through the end of the week. And once the Third Intergalactic War begins, our staffing will be pretty bare-bones.




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where sometimes reality overtakes us but we run and run and do try to keep up as best we can. Words fail us, but fortunately they do not fail our good friend Dan Fiorella.

What A Dump


We know that President Trump isn’t shy with his opinions, no matter how misinformed, so it should come as no surprise that a recent article in Sports Illustrated (that well-known political publication of record) reports that the President told some fellow golfers he prefers his own housing because “that White House is a real dump.” So in the spirit of full transparency, we’ve obtained the President’s reviews of other American historical sites:


The U.S. Mint

“Is that the only flavor?”


Fort McHenry

“You call that a fort? I’ve built better forts with my pillows.”


Dinosaur National Monument

“It’s no Jurassic Park, believe me.”


Mount Rushmore

“Are they going to finish it or what?”


Governors Island, NY

“Well, I was never governor, so I don’t know about that one.”


Washington Monument

“Mine’s bigger.”


The Gateway Arch in St. Louis

“I looked all over, I couldn’t find that McDonalds! What a gyp!”


The Library of Congress

“Meh. Are my books in there?”


Independence Hall

“This was the place in American Treasure, right? I love that movie. Very historical.”


The Brooklyn Bridge

“I think I owned that for a while.”


Ellis Island

“How is there not a wall around this???”


The Statue of Liberty

“Maybe a four. Five, tops.”


The Liberty Bell

“Seriously? They can’t get that fixed?”


Grand Canyon

“What a waste of space! Do you know how many golf courses this thing could hold?”


National Mall, Washington D.C.

“How are there no stores here? It’s the worse mall I’ve ever been to! I would never let that happen. Whose fault is this, Obama’s?”


Sequoia, the former Presidential yacht.

“This is a yacht? I have tub toys bigger than this!”


The Supreme Court Building

“So plain. Where’s the gold plating?”


USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor

“I like memorials that weren’t sneak-attacked.”


The Capitol Building

“Can you imagine the casino this thing would make?”


Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

“What a bunch of crybabies!”


The Lincoln Memorial

“Have you seen this? It’s so out of proportion! I know Lincoln was tall, but this is ridiculous!”


The Alamo



The Jefferson Memorial

“Thomas Jefferson is amazing. He’s living a very interesting life, if you know what I mean. I think you do.”


The 9/11 Memorial

“9/11 is a very important date for me, so I totally get this place. You know, after 9/11, my buildings became some of the tallest buildings in New York City!”


Ford’s Theatre

“And this is why I only watch home video!”


Arlington National Cemetery

“Not bad. I could be buried there if I wanted to be, but I have this much better place picked out on my golf course in New Jersey.”


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

“Well, he couldn’t have been that good if nobody knew him.”


Yellowstone National Park

“I love this place…wait, ‘Yellowstone?’ I thought you said ‘Orangestone.’ This place sucks.”


The Constitution

“So outdated!”


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we often celebrate Mother's Day in November. This time it really is a special occasion, as our co-founder and editor Kurt Luchs is celebrating the release of his first humor collection, "It's Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It's Really Funny)," from Sagging Meniscus Press. This harrowing autobiographical piece is only one of 50 stories, bits and parodies contained in the book. Copies of the paperback and Kindle ebook editions can be ordered at Amazon using the link below or the one to the right in our blogroll. May we humbly suggest this would make an ideal Christmas gift for the readers in your life? Well, we just did suggest it. Now it is up to you to act. America is counting on you!

The Imperturbable Mrs. Luchs


Do not judge my mother.

You don’t get to do that unless you go and have seven children, one right after the other, in just ten years. Pretty much everything strange and mystifying about her mothering could be ascribed to a never-ending case of postpartum depression. And that’s before you take a closer look at those children. If you want to know what kind of feral society we siblings formed in the absence of real adult supervision, reread The Lord of the Flies.

Even if you do happen to have popped out seven unruly mini-monsters in one decade, you still don’t get to judge her because you were not married to my father, a maxi-monster if ever there was one — and there was. Dad was an ex-Marine, which is like being an ex-Catholic: i.e., there is no such thing, because once they have you, they have you for life, run where you will. He taught us the words to “The Halls of Montezuma” (aka “The Marine Corps Hymn”) before any other song, even Christmas carols, though for reasons best known to himself he often made us sing it while goose-stepping and delivering the Nazi salute. Come to think of it, he had us sing Christmas carols the same way. Under his command, we didn’t merely clean the yard, we policed the yard. Yes, yard maintenance was a police action like the Korean War, in which he had served as a sharpshooter, and about which he never uttered one syllable to me or, to my knowledge, to any of my siblings. He made the Great Santini look like Gomer Pyle.

But I am getting away from the subject, which is supposed to be my mother. Perhaps partly in reaction to my father’s short fuse, hot temper and lethal military training, she cultivated a persona resembling that of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She lived in a world of her own. It was a world more like Rivendell than planet Earth, populated by fairies and elves and myths and mythters, not by Stanley Kowalski’s understudy and seven hell-spawn. Inhabiting this mystic mental fog may have been what preserved any sanity she had left. She could retreat into it at will, and did so constantly. It made her unflappable and imperturbable, and as we shall see at certain crucial moments, utterly unreachable.

She read poetry. Worse, she wrote it. Some of my earliest and most persistent childhood memories are of her drifting through the house iambically reciting Yeats, Frost, Eliot and Dylan Thomas aloud. That kind of thing gets into a boy’s head. It would be many years before I understood that other mothers, normal mothers, did not carry on so. She also knew by heart many songs by the Irish folk sensations The Clancy Brothers, such as “The Wild Colonial Boy,” “Whiskey You’re the Devil,” and “The Men of the West.” Her renditions were seldom on key, but gained in power when our two dogs and half dozen cats caught the spirit of it and added their own howls to the choruses.

Speaking of animals, her big heart for them was the reason our house and yard on the outskirts of pristine, suburban Wheaton, Illinois, looked more like a Dust Bowl farm. In addition to the dogs and an unending supply of cats and kittens, we had four chickens and four geese, along with an occasional hamster or mouse and any number of woodland creatures that we rescued (usually from our own cats) and kept temporarily until we could turn them over to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. These included everything from bats and raccoons to pheasants and opossums. We had a pet crow named Edgar Allan Crow, whom we taught to say, among other things, “Nevermore” and “Brookwillow” (his charmingly dyslexic attempt at “Willowbrook”). Imitating our mother with cruel accuracy, he could also scream, “Shut the door!” and do a very moving impersonation of a baby crying, one of the few ways to get her attention.

For some reason it was the men of the family who brought home the amphibians and reptiles. I kept a newt and a small tortoise, and usually an aquarium stocked with painted turtles and crayfish. One winter I housed twenty-seven baby snapping turtles in an aluminum tub under the kitchen sink. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I was taken with their hypnotic little six-pointed starry eyes and the fact that at that tender age, their vicious bites couldn’t even break the skin. It is a testament of sorts to my mother’s culinary skills that the smell of those turtles and whatever she was cooking could not easily be distinguished. It is a testament to her imperturbability that she allowed them to remain in the kitchen all winter with the windows shut tight against the Northern Illinois cold.

My father topped us all when he and a Marine Corps buddy returned from a fossil hunting trip in the western part of the state with a live timber rattlesnake. Not many women would have retained their composure under the circumstances. My mother was delighted, almost giddy. She promptly named the snake Gertrude and put her in a Plexiglas cage in the crawlspace. Gertrude proved very useful while we had her. When we caught some of the neighbor kids trying to steal our bicycles, we showed them Gertrude. We urged them to make sudden movements in front of her cage, causing her to strike at the Plexiglas. The venom from her fangs dripped down the inside of her cage quite convincingly. We never had to lock up our bikes again. Eventually we donated Gertrude to the Brookfield Zoo. Six months later she was killed by a falling rock under suspicious circumstances, and I believe the Chicago Police Department may still have a cold case file on her. My mother wore a black armband for a year.

I’ve told you about the good times, the times when mom’s imperturbability was an asset to a household full of wild creatures, human and otherwise. But there were other times, too. Times when her ability to retreat into those golden mental mists almost amounted to neglect. Again, I ask you not to judge. You weren’t there. You can’t know what it was like. You probably think I’m exaggerating or inventing for comic effect, but you have no idea how wrong you are, or how much I’m actually leaving out because you would never believe it.

Take the time when I nearly bled out on the living room couch while she sat there reading the paper. The evening had started normally enough. I always had a copious supply of fireworks around, which I needed for my ongoing scientific and philanthropic work. That night I was working with bottle rockets. I had become jaded with the pedestrian experience of setting them off one at a time. Inspired by the twin ideas of a Roman candle and a Gatling gun, I used corrugated cardboard to construct a multiple bottle rocket launcher. It was fiendishly simple. Roll the cardboard into a tube, and stick a bottle rocket into each of the many holes at the end. Then twist all of the fuses together, light them simultaneously, aim the tube at your target, and voila! Instant hellfire.

In this case my target was a Wheaton Police cruiser. There was an intersection nearby with a small hill overlooking it. Perched behind the crest of that hill, I waited until the cruiser stopped at the empty intersection and then set off my launcher. Seconds later, dozens of bottle rockets zipped and whistled and exploded over the cruiser’s windshield. I’m sure the two patrolmen, who had probably never handled anything more menacing than a kitten in a tree, thought they had somehow found themselves in the middle of a gang war in sedate, lily-white Wheaton. Within moments, though, they figured it out. Their siren and cherries went on, and they began flashing their searchlight around the car, looking for a criminal mastermind.

I ducked and quickly rolled back down the hill. On the way down, my right calf encountered one of those beer cans from the days before pop tops, the type you had to open with a can opener, leaving a protruding jagged metallic triangle that could do real damage. It ripped through my jeans and opened a gash several inches long in my leg, which began bleeding profusely. A sizable, grisly-looking piece of flesh dangled by a thread. Not having the time or the means to apply a field dressing, I hightailed it home through empty lots overgrown with weeds, keeping as close to the ground as possible.

I burst through the front door out of breath, and haltingly told Mom that I had been injured and would require medical attention. I also mentioned that we needed to turn off the lights and draw the curtains, and if the police came to the door, we should pretend not to be home. “Oh no you don’t,” she said, without even looking up from her newspaper. “I’m not going to fall for that again.”

Perhaps I should explain here that only the previous day I had conducted a different experiment, wherein I combined ashes, candle wax and ketchup into a fair imitation of a horrific burn wound on my left arm. That had got her to take notice, however briefly. But actions have consequences.

Not knowing what else to do, I sat down and let my cut bleed onto the floor. I began to get dizzy, whether from shock and adrenaline or loss of blood, I don’t know. The cop car slowly pulled down our cul-de-sac and back out again without stopping, gumballs still on but siren off. A few minutes later my mom finally put down the paper, looked up, saw the growing pool of blood at my feet, and smiled. “Well, are you going to clean that up, or what?” she asked. I managed to whisper that I needed to see a doctor, the sooner the better. Then I fainted.

When at last she understood that I was indeed hurt, she calmly and coolly snapped into action. She had the neighbors drive me to the emergency room. Dad was not home, you see, and she would not learn to drive until many years later. In fact, most pedestrians and light poles unlucky enough to find themselves in her path would say she never did. But that’s another story.

The wound took thirty-three stitches to close. The scar is still visible today. As usual, though, there were compensations. The respect of my peers, for one thing. Drugs, for another. That was back when they handed out opiates like Veteran’s Day poppies, even to children. It would be several more years before I would test mom’s patience to the limit by starting a hydroponic marijuana farm in the basement and using my augmented chemistry set to synthesize mescaline in honor of Aldous Huxley, another author to whom she introduced me. For now, I was satisfied to have gotten a rise out of two imperturbable entities, the Wheaton Police and mom, with mom being by far the tougher nut to crack.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our main goal is to distract you enough so that you can forget your past boy- or girlfriends. But for some reason all Michael Fowler wants to do is to remember his. When you're done perusing this piece, see our blogroll on the right for a link to buy Michael's book, God Made the Animals.

My Past Girlfriends Looked Like Rock Stars


I was never part of the music scene, but the women I got into relationships with starting back in the 60s shared a certain trait: they resembled well-known rock stars. Perhaps unfortunately, it was male rock stars they looked like, and not the prettiest ones either. I never dated a girl as drop-dead gorgeous as Jim Morrison, or as cuddly-cute as Beatle Paul, as gorgeously tressed as David Coverdale, as perfectly lipped and eye-lidded as the King, or as glitzy as David Lee Roth. Instead my girlfriends resembled some of the plainer, even grotesque male rock stars. But I’m not complaining. This detracted not a bit from their femininity, and never compromised my gender identity. These young ladies may have looked like plain-to-ugly male rockers to a startling degree, but each and every one overcame that with cherry lips, Bambi eyes, a tidy rack, sometimes a Marilyn mole, and other wow features.

My first girlfriend, a desperate score I made in time for senior prom in 1965, having gone dateless up to that time, looked like Sam the Sham, right after he and the Pharaohs scored big with “Wooly Bully.” Carla didn’t have a beard, not yet anyway, but she did have the Sham’s thick mat of curly, dark hair, jutting jaw and monstrous overbite, and an identical reluctance to pay a dentist to rein in those buck teeth, despite the hit single royalties that must have been accruing in his, if not her, pocket. As for her more womanly attributes, Carla added to Sam’s overt maleness some seriously cute female dimples and a sassy, womanly pout. Carla and I experimented with pot and a bunch of new dance steps together. The jerk comes to mind. But the highlight of our relationship was attending a costume party the summer of our graduation. She went as the Sham, no surprise there, wearing a false beard and a paper pharaoh hat. Lacking a costume, and wanting Carla to take center stage, I came in a flannel shirt and blue jeans as the pharaoh’s food-taster, and I still remember how great those finger sandwiches were. Carla and I lasted a few months of doing wild coming-of-age things together, but somehow we managed to go off in different directions to college.

In 1966 I met Sherry in my freshman psych class. She resembled bandleader Paul of Paul Revere and the Raiders, right down to his short blonde hair, his come-on smirk, and the roguish twinkle in his eye. Sherry could prance to “Kicks” the way Paul and the band did, too, flaunting her solid tush and round thighs in skin-tight pants just the way that stocky Paul shook his own generous bum in snug cavalry britches and riding boots. Sherry and Paul were two prancing fools. The difference was, Sherry shook her bouncy little rack and added a hip roll as she worked her go-go boots, and this turned my head much more than Revere’s manlier motions. And talk about a kisser: I still remember her breath warmed by 3.2 beer and tongue skilled from licking cigarette papers. She was such a good smoocher that I could hardly take my eyes off those cherry lips crinkled in a smile. And in case you’re wondering what it was like to kiss Paul Revere, or his copy, it was great, and it never occurred to me that I was kissing a guy, because I wasn’t.

In 1967, when student radicals moved in on campus and began to plot against the administration, I shacked up with Sandra, who was an exact lookalike for Smokey Robinson, only with pillowy lips, Bambi eyes, a rack so tidy as to be pointy, a magnificent collection of earrings, a Marilyn mole, and her process beginning to explode into naturalness. We only lasted a month or two before conflicting views on the role of police in society sundered our relationship, but meanwhile we stoked each other in the bedroom with talk of justice and equality between heated sheets. I like to think that in some way we liberated each other’s souls, and man, could she nibble an ear.

Right after I dropped out of the higher education racket in 1969, I met Barb at a laser show in an art museum. This foxy lady looked so much like Question Mark of Question Mark and the Mysterians, a band I often saw on TV, that I was floored. In case you don’t remember what Question Mark looked like, he resembled a worm with shoulder-length dark hair, always wore dark glasses, and had very bad skin, as if he had been badly burned in an accident. That was Barb all over, and her little sister Babs too. Barb and Babs both had that wormlike quality with really bad, my-house-burned-down-with-me-in-it skin. Barb and I loved to frug to “96 Tears,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” and my then favorite, “Draft Resister.”  For a while I was eyeing Barb and Babs at the same time, getting off on their fantastic Question Mark looks. But eventually Barb’s cherry lips, sparkling Bambi eyes, and roly-poly hips put her over the top in my little red address book. She told me I could use her VW Beetle if I needed to hightail to Canada until peace broke out, and maybe she’d come with me. We never tried to sneak over the border, though, since I drew a winningly huge number in the draft lottery.

After graduation in the early ’70s from a junior college with lax admission policies, I went with the spitting image of Ginger Baker, drummer from Cream. Cherie wasn’t as tall as the over-six-foot Baker, but still towered over me by a couple of inches, and sported Baker’s gangly build, red hair, enormous feet, and unfortunately those not-great British teeth, though her fangs were American. But she also had flashing blue eyes like Ginger’s, legs that went to heaven, and a rack that, though small, was definitely not minor league. Like the drummer, she had great energy and endurance. She could play hacky sack and ride bikes with me all morning, and had strength left over to chase a Frisbee and rip my clothes off in the afternoon. Aware of her resemblance to the great musician, Cherie didn’t mind in the least that my nickname for her was Ginger, and she flashed a gray-toothed smile, and opened up those baby blues, when I teasingly said such things as, “Hey, Ginger, come over here, and bring your tidy rack.”

The great blonde in my life circa the ’80s was Julie, who was the duplicate of that blowzy blond singer, What’s-his-name, in Flock of Seagulls. In a blur of acid after a rock concert, we went back to my place, where her hair twisted and curved all over the pillows like a sculpture of fine wires. Our first night together, I dreamt her hair took flight and soared out my apartment window like a bird. Then I awoke and, after ascertaining she didn’t need a shave or have an erection, made love to her. She explained afterward that her hair was the result of many less than successful dye jobs and home permanents, these having caused lasting damage. I loved Julie hair damage and all, but we disagreed about Bill Clinton’s talent on the saxophone, I insisting it was an impeachable offense, and we soon split up.

Neanderthal-thick and sporting a sloping forehead that looked atavistic back to the chimp level, my future wife Claire was a dead ringer for Meat Loaf. In 1990, tired of frequenting fleshpots and panicked to find myself still a bachelor, I noticed that my librarian’s pelvis was every inch as wide as Meat Loaf’s sprawling pant-load. This presaged easy childbirth if we went the family route, and why wouldn’t we, after I checked out a few books and made advances? I also found bewitching Claire’s cute-as-a-button Marilyn mole, and her sparkling Bambi eyes beneath an adorable jutting brow. And oh those sweet cherry lips, though compared to Meat Loaf she probably wore too much makeup. On our first date, she told me I was a dead ringer for Rudyard Kipling. I said, Whoa, but figured I shouldn’t argue with obsession. I only wondered if Kipling was handsome or at least a five. I later saw from his picture that he was about a three, and that I did look like him.

My son, I’m proud to say, takes after the old man. Over the holidays he brought home the body double of Adam Levine of Maroon 5. She had Levine’s tattoos all up and down her arms, his cherry lips and short brown hair, his slim hips and flashing eyes, even his tidy rack, but still she was all female. “Can she sing?” I asked my son. I don’t know why I asked him that, since none of my old girlfriends despite their rocker looks had shown one bit of musical talent.

“What do you mean, can she sing?” my son shot back. “She’s in medical school. What are you thinking?”

Yeah, what the hell was I thinking?