* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where hard-boiled detectives crack cases and readers crack smiles. Or anyway they do if they're reading the latest by our good friend Matthew David Brozik. This piece is but an excerpt from the novella of the same name, which is now available in paperback and on Kindle. Just click on the link below, or the one at the right-hand side of this page, and you can buy the book at Amazon. Mr. Brozik says that for every Kindle copy sold at $2.99, he will donate at least $1 to the ACLU.

Danger…With A Hard G

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

ONE 

“You won’t mind if I ask to see some identification, I’m sure. It’s precinct policy.”

The cheerfulness of the property clerk behind the window told me her shift had only recently started. And she was new to the squad on top of that. I could only see her head and upper torso, but that told me she was a short woman, and stout. Black curls peeked out from under her uniform cap. I didn’t recognize her, and she apparently wasn’t familiar with me. So I produced my license and braced myself.

“Private investigator,” she remarked, skimming my card. But I just waited for her to give my credentials more than a cursory glance.

“Harrison Danger Bennett? Your middle name is literally ‘Danger’?”

“It’s Danger,” I said. “With a hard g. It’s a family name.”

Soon enough came the other question I was used to getting when I reclaimed my revolver at a police station.

“No bullets?”

“Never use ’em,” I confessed.

“You pack cold heat?”

“I don’t really want to shoot anyone. This way, I probably won’t.”

“Sure,” the clerk agreed, “but what’s that people say? Better to need ’em and… no, wait. Better to have ’em and not need ’em than to need ’em and not have ’em?”

“That’s what people say,” I confirmed. “But what can I say? I prefer to live dangerously.” I pronounced it with a hard g. The lady looked askance at me. “Have a good night,” I said, slid my gun into its holster under my arm, and walked out of the station house onto a chilly midtown street.

The misty face of my watch told me it was just shy of 3 a.m. Time for a hot cup of coffee, a congratulatory slice of pie, and some sleep. I’d get the food at a diner, but I’d wait until I was home to grab the shut-eye. In the morning — or the afternoon, if I was still celebrating — I’d tackle the paperwork for this most recent job well done.

* * * * * * *

I dropped onto a stool at the counter like a sandbag onto a pier. Despite the unholy hour I wasn’t alone in the diner. There were three other nighthawks, two men and a woman, but I made a point of noticing only that much about them. If a person’s haunting an eatery at that time, they’re not looking for company or attention. Besides, no one was paying me to pry into anyone else’s personal life just then, so I minded my own business and only that.

“Did ya get the number, Harry?”

The cook was making conversation as he poured me a cup of joe. Doxie was wizened, which is a fancy word for weather-beaten, which also described him pretty well. His creased skin was the color of a cup of coffee with three-quarters of a tablespoon of whole-fat cream and no sugar; it had taken me twenty-five minutes of quiet experimentation one afternoon at the diner counter to determine this. If Doxie’s apron had ever been clean, that was before I knew him. Sometimes, I liked to guess what a particular spot or splash of color might be — egg yolk? cranberry sauce? eye of newt? — but most of the time I was just happy to eat whatever came out of Doxie’s ancient cauldron in the kitchen.

“The number, Doxie?”

“Of the truck that fell on ya, Harry. You look like hell.”

“Just wrapped up a case. What’s your excuse?”

“I’m old,” Doxie said. “Pie?”

“Please,” I said. “Apple. Neat.”

“And how.”

While I ate, I jotted some notes on a napkin with a biro I found on the counter. By the time I’d swallowed my last bite of pie, the notes read: newspapers, barber, airplane, concussion, amnesia, identical twin, assassination attempt, uniforms, ducks, radio.

Finishing my coffee and looking over my list, I realized that those were plot points from Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator. I crumpled the napkin and left it with the crumbs on my plate.

“I’ll be seeing you, Doxie,” I called to the cook, who had disappeared again into the kitchen. I fished a couple of bucks out of my wallet… then realized I couldn’t go home just yet, damage it all.

* * * * * * *

“Nice to see you again, Harrison Danger Bennett,” said the property clerk. “I’ve been expecting you.” Still plenty cheerful.

On the ledge between us at her window was my identification. My private investigator credentials. The card I’d handed her an hour earlier and forgotten to take back when she’d given me my gun. I pocketed it.

“So why carry a heater at all?” she asked. Evidently, we weren’t done with this conversation. I was exhausted, but there didn’t seem to be any percentage in being rude. I mustered some strength and explained.

“The other guys, the guys who aren’t the nice guys, they expect a private eye to be packing heat,” I said. “If you’re not, they figure something’s up and they give you a harder time because of it. They frisk you a little longer. And a little rougher. So I carry a gun to save everybody some trouble. Now, if you’re wearing a gun, the assumption is it’s loaded. I’ve been relieved of my piece once or twice. The other guys didn’t look in the cylinder. They just stashed my gun out of my reach.”

“But,” the clerk started to ask me, then started again. “But those other guys will be carrying guns. And bullets.”

“I count on it,” I said.

“And?”

“Well,” I told her, “as it happens I’ve got a disarming smile.”

I’d have shown her if I hadn’t been so thoroughly tired. I was already working pretty hard to stifle some insistent yawns.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, Sergeant,” I said, “I’m going to get forty winks. And maybe a couple more for good luck.”

* * * * * * *

“Honey, I’m home,” I called to no one when I got in. If someone had answered, I’d have been more than a little surprised and none too pleased.

I dropped my gun onto a small table near the front door of my apartment, next to some mail I’d eventually open and read or else sweep into the trash. I hung my holster on a hook in my hall closet. I placed my watch and cufflinks into a felt-lined lockbox I keep out of sight, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t mention where. And the next thing I knew I was painting a picket fence with a pair of Ziegfeld Girls, so I must have fallen asleep. A couple of hours later, I finally crawled into bed.

What a Christmas.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to think we know how to make a movie from almost anything. So does our good friend Matthew David Brozik. When you're done reading his fine new piece, click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and your sins will be forgiven.

Paying Two Million Dollars To Option “Blank Book” Might Have Been A Mistake

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

Gentlemen, we aren’t going to deny that we might have committed a serious blunder. Paying a substantial sum to lock up the opportunity to turn “Blank Book” into a feature film might not have been in the best interest of the studio. If indeed this presents a problem without a viable solution, then we will, with regret, tender our immediate resignations. Before you make that determination, however, we would be grateful for a chance to explain our thinking and to offer some suggestions for salvaging the studio’s investment.

As you are no doubt keenly aware, in recent years first-run motion pictures have been capturing an ever-decreasing share of the entertainment market. The age of social media and video streaming is blighted by a steady decline in the number of moviegoers. Moreover, three of every four movies shown in theaters is a sequel, prequel, or remake. Charged with identifying and securing the rights to something utterly original, but which would also appeal to so-called “Digitals,” we sent our 24-year-old intern to the nearest bookstore to scan the shelves for a property that could be turned into the next bona fide blockbuster. She asked if she could stay at her desk and visit amazon.com instead, and we agreed that this would be a more efficient approach. So far, so good. Indeed, Kaylee offered to stay awake and online for as long as it would take her to pick a winner.

Unfortunately — and we want to be clear that we’re not blaming Kaylee, whose internship with the studio has already ended — when she brought us a printout of the screenshot of the listing for the item, being pressed for time, as we all always are, we focused primarily on the size of the book — 256 pages in hardcover, which gave us the impression that there would be more than enough material for a 90-minute film — rather than the description, which would have informed us that there is no text on any of the pages. (As a side note, this episode has taught us that there are numerous amateur creatives who prefer to generate material “from scratch,” as it were.) More unfortunately still, we had reached out to the publisher with a generous option offer before we realized that “Blank Book” was a blank book. Our offer was accepted within the hour, without the need for any negotiation. In retrospect, this also should have been a sign that something was amiss. Alas, by that time we had entered the studio into a legally binding agreement.

While simply letting the option expire in six months and putting the whole thing behind us as a learning experience is a legitimate course of action, it feels a bit irresponsible, financially. Better, perhaps, would be to move the project forward, turning the property over to one of the screenwriters under contract and seeing what they can do with it. We’ve made some preliminary inquiries, and we’re pleased to be able to report that Jeremy Renner is “intrigued” by the possibility of playing supersecret superagent “Frank ‘Blank’ Booke” in a three-movie franchise, if the character is sufficiently likeable. Alternatively, we could explore producing a very high-concept film through our specialty “art house” division. Perhaps each page of an actual copy of the book could be filmed and…well, let’s leave that to the director.

But that’s where things stand, for better or worse. Knowing what we know now, if we had it to do over, we likely would have made some decisions differently. We probably would not have spent two million of the studio’s dollars to acquire the rights to a large, but admittedly empty, work in print. What happens next is up to you… and whatever you decide, we will abide by your decision. In the meantime, we will be in our office, sitting very still and certainly not buying anything else. Not even lunch. Skipping lunch today is the very least we can do to start making this disappointing situation right.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to think we know exactly what certain famous fictional characters are really thinking. The wickedly minded Matthew David Brozik channels the even more wickedly minded heroine (or villainess) of Nathaniel Hawthorne's beloved classic. When you have finished reading the piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and those unworthy thoughts will be purged from your mind.

Hester Prynne Chooses A Typeface (Or, The Scarlet Letterform)

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

“On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A.”

 

Well, the joke’s on you, Puritan Bostonites, because while the Reverend Wilsons and Minister Dimmesdales of the world might require me to display upon my ample and enviable bosom a typographic device to brand me as an adulterer, they left a loophole — and being as accomplished at sewing as I am at sexing, I know loopholes — so Hester Prynne gets to pick the font, witches, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to consider all my options before committing to my red badge of whorage.

Helvetica is the obvious choice, of course. It’s clean and upstanding and easy on the eyes, sort of the way I’m impure and dishonorable and easy for the guys, and on second thought, before you say anything, you can all go to Helvetica.

Bodoni’s a strong contender. Classical. Elegant. Alternating thick and thin strokes. I like strokes. And serifs. I know what you hens are thinking, though: if you like feet so much, why couldn’t you stay on yours? I’d rather be on your husband’s lap, that’s why. (Also, you don’t know where my feet were, and you probably don’t want to know.)

Clarendon is extremely popular and, as it happens, particularly effective with wood type, and I am also extremely popular and particularly effective with wood…so maybe this one is too on the nose. And by “nose,” I mean your husbands’ reproductive organs, ladies of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

The geometric efficiency of Futura, rejecting as it does the grotesques of yore by incorporating near-perfect circles, triangles and squares, appeals to my longing for a future in which man has discarded his monstrous compulsion to judge, and instead each of us is cherished for our imperfections, plus it also has a certain forwardness that speaks to the brazen hussy in me.

You know what might be a fun challenge? Besides “Reverse Parishioner,” I mean. Edwardian Script. I’d have to get it just right, though, or it would be difficult to read, and menfolk would be constantly leaning in close to my chest to get a better view, and you don’t want that. And I don’t want anyone mistaking my A for, say, a Q. Hester Prynne is no Quitter.

16th-century French artisan Claude Garamond worked as an engraver of punches — the masters used to stamp matrices, the molds used to cast metal type. Garamond worked in the tradition of what is now called old-style serif letter design, which produced letters with a relatively organic structure resembling handwriting with a pen. And what’s my favorite piece of equipment? The pen is, of course.

“Bembo” hits a bit too close to home. Hester Prynne does a lot of things, but irony isn’t one of…Ah, screw it. Bembo’s fine. Somebody hand me my thread and a needle, please? But be careful — Miss Prynne doesn’t want to have her afternoon plans frustrated by a little prick.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our good friend Matthew David Brozik has a good new piece about what was so not-good about those television shows from the eighties that you remember a little too fondly. When you have finished reading the piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and your memories of those beloved eighties television shows will be restored to their pristine glory.

Kids Of The 80s, Let Me Ruin Your Childhood Before Someone Else Does

By:
brozik@gmail.com

Ah, youth. And specifically the years between 1981 and 1990, inclusive — when everything was better than anything that had come before or has come since, including entertainment. Especially entertainment, actually. Superb, flawless entertainment that set our expectations unreasonably high for decades after. Except that none of it made a lick of sense. Sorry!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

In 1936, archaeologist Henry “Indiana” Jones is asked by United States Army Intelligence agents to help find Jones’s old mentor, an expert on the ancient Egyptian city where “Indy” surmises the Nazis believe the Ark of the Covenant to be buried. If the Nazis obtain the Ark, they will become invincible! So Indy and friends try to discover the Ark before the Nazis do…and in the process our heroes effectively deliver the divine relic directly into the hands of the bad guys. Then, when the Nazis finally open the Ark, all of the bad guys present are killed, but Indy and his girlfriend — who at the time are tied up, literally — are spared. If Indiana Jones had never gone looking for the Ark himself, the Nazis might never have gotten it; in any event, the Ark takes care of itself. If Indy had just stayed home, in other words, everyone would have been better off. Small wonder, then, that his name was not in the movie’s title, originally.

Knight Rider, Season One (1982)

Of course you remember, and fondly, the greatest television show ever made — the one about high-tech modern crime fighter Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff!), who was assisted by his advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car, K.I.T.T.! And the single best episode, of course, was “Trust Doesn’t Rust,” the one that introduced K.A.R.R., the evil prototype of K.I.T.T., who had been mothballed in a warehouse until a pair of hobos accidentally reactivated him! Didn’t you get chills when you first saw K.A.R.R., who looked almost identical to K.I.T.T.? Two awesome black Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams! So cool! Until you realized that K.I.T.T. looked like that only because Michael had been driving a black Trans Am when he was left for dead in the desert in the pilot episode…and no other reason. Hmm? You’ve never thought about that extremely unlikely “coincidence”? Think about it now!

Gremlins (1984)

You know that you must never feed a mogwai after midnight. But midnight where? And what is “midnight,” anyway? It’s always “after midnight” somewhere, including wherever you are. Even if it’s noon on a Tuesday, it’s after midnight Monday. So, really, mogwai would never be mogwai, and this movie should have been a nonstarter, but instead it grossed more than $153 million from domestic box office sales alone.

The 1986 World Series (1986)

On Saturday, October 25, 1986, at Shea Stadium in Queens, the Boston Red Sox quickly took a 2-0 lead over the New York Mets in the sixth game of the annual Major League Baseball championship series. The Mets tied the score in the fifth inning, but then an error in the seventh gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Some other stuff happened, resulting in the game’s being tied again at 5-5 in the bottom of the tenth inning. Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, which allowed Mets infielder Ray Knight to score the winning run…and because this was so extraordinarily exciting, the Commissioner of Baseball declared the New York Mets the 1986 World Series Champions right then and there, even though the Mets’ win that afternoon only evened up the series and there should have been a Game 7, which no one seems to have noticed, even to this day.

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard was based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which was the sequel to an earlier book, The Detective, which in 1966 had been made into a movie of the same name starring none other than Frank Sinatra. 20th Century Fox was contractually obligated to offer Ol’ Blue Eyes the lead role in Die Hard — which they did — but Sinatra, then in his early seventies, turned it down. This is actually just a bit of trivia. Die Hard is a perfect film.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Time travel is tricky, so follow me closely here. At the end of Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown is in the DeLorean when it is struck by lightning, in 1955. Man and machine are transported to 1885. Marty, with help from 1955 Doc Brown, travels back to 1885 in the DeLorean that Doc had taken back to 1885 and promptly hidden in an old mine shaft, where it had then sat for 70 years. When Marty gets to 1885, he accidentally tears the fuel line of the DeLorean, making it impossible for the car to get up to 88 mph under its own power. The main plot of the movie therefore involves getting the DeLorean to go fast enough to return Marty and Doc Brown to 1985. Because they don’t have any gasoline in 1885. (If they had gasoline, the movie would be all of twenty minutes long.) But they do have gasoline. Because the DeLorean in which 1985 Doc Brown traveled from 1955 to 1885 is there. It’s in the mine shaft. With gas in its tank. “Great Scott!” indeed.

Sesame Street (1969 – present)

Officially, Bert and Ernie are not gay. In fact, they are not even technically “human.” So, I mean, is anything even real?

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the only site with the power to make you read and laugh against your will. Remember: with great power comes great irresponsibility! When you have finished reading Matthew David Brozik's new piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and you will receive a free superpower courtesy of this publication.

The Best Superpower Is No Superpower

By:
brozik@gmail.com

People, it’s whatever year it is and yet the debates still rage — as they have for hundreds of years — over which would be the best single superpower to have. Flight over invisibility? Superspeed versus accelerated healing? Mind control or weather control?

Stop arguing. We have the answer, finally: There is no superpower — not one — that you’d actually want to have, if it were the only superpower you had. Any such so-called superpower would be more bane than boon.

Flight. So, you — like almost everyone else — think you’d like to be able to fly? You really wouldn’t. Certainly not if you simply woke up one morning (or in the afternoon, after a particularly refreshing nap) and discovered that you could launch yourself upward and propel yourself through the ether at will. Not if that were the extent of the superhuman abilities you’d inexplicably gained…because there are a lot of things in that ether that are bigger and stronger than you are, and you’re bound to hurl yourself into one sooner rather than later. And when you do collide with a 787 Dreamliner, you’re going to suffer the sort of concussion that will send you plummeting back down to Earth in a hurry, where you will be reminded, painfully, why humans don’t fly. And even if you do manage to flit around for a while without getting caught in a tree or a jet engine, do you know how cold it is at, say, 10,000 feet above sea level (the altitude at which a bald eagle flies — at 65 mph, no less)? It’s 20 degrees Celsius colder than it is on the ground, which is a big difference. When you imagined yourself being able to fly, did you picture yourself wearing a parka?

Invisibility. How totally cool would it be to be invisible? You could sneak into almost anywhere undetected and undeterred. You wouldn’t even have to sneak! You could just stroll into places — bank vaults, locker rooms, meetings you’re late for — unseen. You would have so much fun being invisible to others! For about two hours. Because that’s probably the longest you could go without being run over by a truck whose driver couldn’t see you, or beaned in the head by a baseball thrown by someone who couldn’t see you, or pushed out of an open window by another guest at a dinner party who couldn’t see you. Invisibility is just plain dangerous. You see?

Superspeed. Being able to propel your body forward — and even backward for that matter — at extreme velocities would be even more dangerous than being able to fly, if you weren’t protected by some sort of force field, which you wouldn’t be, because you get to pick only one superpower, and you picked superspeed. There are an inconceivably great number of things of all sizes all over the place that you do not want to run into while moving very fast. You know why a “high-speed collision” is more dangerous than a regular-speed collision? It’s because of the high speed. And as your speed increases, your time to react to and avoid dangers decreases to zero. Which means you’ll probably run into serious, probably lethal, trouble pretty darn quickly.

Accelerated healing. Unlike almost every other single superpower, the ability to heal completely from any and all wounds won’t kill you, by definition. But you’ll have the exact opposite problem: You’ll live forever. You will be unable to die! You’ll still be here when the entire not-superhuman race is gone. You’ll be all alone, though. And cutting off your own limbs just to watch them grow back will have long since stopped being entertaining.

Weather control. Being master of the elements would be a novelty for exactly as long as you could keep your superpower secret from anyone who feels comfortable asking you for a favor. Because once it gets out that you can make it rain, every friend who doesn’t want to go to his kid’s soccer game will be asking you to help him out. But then anyone who had beach plans will be asking you for a sunny, cloudless day, with just a hint of a cool breeze. And so on. All the time. You will never not be controlling the weather, and if you have a parent who can make you feel even the slightest bit guilty, then you’re likely to find yourself micro-manipulating her personal climate to keep her constantly comfortable, lest she remind you that she used to change your diapers and wipe your nose whenever you were under the weather.

Mind control. On the other hand, being able to play with other people like so many fully articulated action figures would be pretty awesome, and there really is no downside. So maybe mind control is the superpower to have, after all. Your mom might be onto something.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always happy to hear from our good friend Matthew David Brozik even if it's not visiting day. When you have perused his latest piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and the nice judge will give you time off for good behavior.

Corrections For The Previous Issue Of “Corrections,” The Magazine Of The Department Of Corrections

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

COVER STORY

Due to a continuing proofreading error, each instance of “inmate” was printed as “intimate.” In only one place was “intimate” the correct word.

SPORTS

An article about the Angola Red Hats’ 3-2 victory over the Blues Singers gave the wrong reason for the incarceration of the inmate-athlete who intercepted and returned quarterback 10237-597’s pass 54 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Defensive back 73362-953 is serving five consecutive life sentences after a 1998 conviction on one count of espionage and four counts of high treason, not two counts of human trafficking and three counts of aggravated arson. We regret the error/libel.

STYLE

An article about the comeback of black-and-white striped prison uniforms described the stripes incorrectly. They are horizontal, not vertical.

OP/ED

The letter to the editors expressing the view that the assignment of numbers to inmates has the effect of dehumanizing imprisoned men and women referred to the writer’s relative incorrectly as 90303-799; he is 90303-979. In the same item, the name of the penal facility in Kentucky where inmate 90303-979 is being held should have been given as the United States Penitentiary, McCreary, not MacCreary.

PERSONAL ADVERTISEMENTS

The pilot column entitled “Missed Corrections” was in its entirety a mistake and will not be included in future issues.

FUN & GAMES

An incorrect answer to the final Jumble, That Scrambled Word Game clue was given. The correct answer is FOLLOW THE RULES.

OBITUARIES

We regret that in the death notice for inmate 42581-105, recently executed by the State of Colorado, we wrote that her DNA was “99.99% a match” with blood found at the scene of a double homicide. The sentence should have read “99.99% not a match.”

ARTS & LEISURE

Because of an editing error, an article about the prison library system misidentified the most popular book among inmates nationwide as Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. The most popular book is in fact Mr. Franzen’s Freedom.

Corrections Magazine welcomes comments, suggestions, and complaints, but reports of persons behaving in contravention of the law should be made directly to local authorities.

 

 

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I’m Afraid This Fourth Wall Needs To Come Down

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

I’m no playwright, of course — that’s your job, and I have no reason to think you’re not good at it — but I am an engineer, and although you might not be happy to hear this, after giving your latest work a thorough inspection, I’m convinced that the fourth wall needs to come down. Not necessarily right away, but at some point for sure. (I’ll leave it to you to figure out when would be best. Maybe Act Two?)

Now, before you write me off as some kind of crackpot (with professional membership in the American Society of Safety Architects): I know that the fourth wall is not a real wall. I understand that “fourth wall” is rather a term of art referring to the imaginary barrier at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theater (such as you are employing for your production) through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a hazard to life and limb if it were to topple unexpectedly. Even an imaginary wall needs to be structurally sound.

Your fourth wall, unfortunately, seems to have been the target of some significant thespian mastication, if you get my meaning. Has one of your actors been chewing the scenery (and putting everyone in danger)? I’m no theater critic, of course, but if I had to point a finger I might point it at that young actor playing the man who wakes up one morning as a huge termite, then makes numerous attempts to explain his transformation to the others by way of interpretive dances, extemporaneous haiku and very loud soliloquies. (Being that this actor is likely responsible, it might make sense for his character to be the one to break the fourth wall, but that could, on the other hand, prove too metafictional for comfort. So maybe the telephone lineman can do it — when he appears “outside” the window? He could say, “Well, this rings a bell!” — referring to the arrival of the hunchbacked milkman — then wink at the audience?)

Again, you’re the dramatist, but keep in mind that however you choose to have the fourth wall broken, it will need to be broken completely — so that when it comes back up, nothing of the old, compromised wall remains. You want a brand new wall to go up, for the well-being of all involved. When the itinerant meteorologist remarks “Looks like…hail” and then gives a Nazi salute, maybe he could high-five someone in the front row? Or when the lazy-eyed cobbler is hissing “Shoo! Shoo!” at the giant man-termite, could he actually take off one of his shoes and throw it at the audience? That would decisively break the fourth wall, don’t you think? But you might have your own ideas about how to do it.

At any rate, I’ve left my full written report in the theater manager’s office. I wanted to tell you in person, though, because I didn’t want you to think I was just making work for you without considering the consequences or offering some suggestions, such as having the cross-dressing conjuror reach into his hat and pull out the wallet of a member of the audience — in this case maybe someone not near the stage — read the name on the driver’s license, remove the cash, put the wallet back into his hat, and finally have it reappear in the audience member’s pocket. I’d pay to see that at least twice.

Oh, and one more thing: I couldn’t help also noticing during my inspection a pistol hanging on the back wall. That isn’t loaded, is it? You really shouldn’t keep a loaded pistol hanging around. Sometimes those things just go off. But now that I’m thinking about it…you could have someone use the gun to shoot out the fourth wall. I’d do that in Act Three.

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Play The Hand You’re Dealt…At Birth!

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

It’s no coincidence that there is the same number of whole weeks in a Gregorian calendar year as in a standard deck of playing cards. Each week corresponds to a card, and knowing the card for the week in which you were born can reveal a great deal, so to speak, about your fate. Consider the following examples…if you dare:

January 1-7: Ace of Spades
If you were born in the first seven days of the year, you’re likely to be a natural with a shovel and destined to be a gravedigger — at the very least, a ditch digger. Gravedigger is, of course, a time-honored profession (to say nothing of it as a pastime). Indeed, a gravedigger features prominently in one of the most famous scenes of one of the most famous tragic English plays of the past 450 years! (In the same vein, there’s a scene in one of the most beloved comic American films of the 20th century in which a wise old man says, “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”)

April 9-15: Two of Hearts
While no single human is born with a pair of hearts, it is your destiny to have two tickers, and this inescapable eventuality is likely to come about in one or the other of two ways. In cases of extreme cardiomyopathy, rather than receiving a new heart in place of the one you started with and ruined, you might undergo a medical procedure in which a second heart is grafted onto the first, to share the work. That’s one way. The other way is that you might wake up one morning and discover that overnight you were transformed, Gregor Samsa-like, into an octopus. Octopi have multiple hearts.

May 21-27: Eight of Hearts
You will be a cannibal, with a particular penchant for internal organs, if you aren’t already.

September 17-23: Queen of Clubs
When you get to high school, you’re going to be a busy, busy girl. (And after high school, you’re never going to run out of stories to tell about high school!) You’ll be the first to arrive and the last to go home each day. You’ll be in the marching band and on the cheerleading squad. You’ll be a mathlete and a non-mathlete. You’ll be on the chess team, the debate team, the chess debate team, the student council, and the yearbook committee. You’ll be exhausted by the time you graduate and you’ll probably need to take a year off to “find yourself” before starting college.

September 24-30: King of Clubs
Same as the previous week, except you’re a dude.

Trumptober $-$$$$$$$: The Donald
You were born into privilege, and in privilege you will remain, growing ever more politically connected as you win ever more friends and influence ever more people…until ultimately you attain a position of such global power that you are able to change two of humanity’s most established institutions — the Christian calendar and the standard playing card deck of the Western world — to include references to yourself.

December 10-16: Jack of Diamonds
If you’re born between December 10th and December 16, odds are that you will legally change your name, if necessary, to “John O’Diamond,” but people will call you “Jack.”

December 31: Joker
Born on the last day of the year, were you? Think that’s funny? Ruining New Year’s Eve for your parents and everyone else who had to be there at your delivery? Well, that’s why you don’t get a regular card: you don’t deserve one. You and the weirdos born on February 29. You’re all outcasts, rarely useful, cast aside and forgotten by civilized society — discarded, if you will — as you should be.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always happy to tell you the time. If you ask nicely. This means you, Matthew David Brozik! Once you've read his piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page.

I Don’t Want You To Be My Alarm Clock. I Just Want You To Tell Me When It’s 6:17.

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

It’s really not a big deal. Or, if it’s a big deal for you, I can’t see why it is. I don’t want you to “be my alarm clock.” I just need you to do me a small favor and tell me when it’s 6:17. That’s all! Just let me know, however you see fit, when it’s 6:17. Easy.

But if you can, please let me know as early in the minute as possible. Closer to before 6:17 than to after it, I mean. Like, if you could somehow be sure to be watching the time, so that when it’s 6:16 you’re ready for it to become 6:17 and to tell me as much. That’s preferable to just periodically checking your watch or whatever tells you the time and then just happening to notice that it’s 6:17, because then you might not know that it’s actually very close to 6:18, and by the time you tell me that it’s 6:17, it won’t be anymore. Does that make sense? You might want to ask someone to let you know when it’s 6:16. A third person, I mean. Not me, obviously.

Since the whole reason I’m asking you to do this for me is that I don’t have any other way of telling the time or otherwise being made aware of what time it is, I suppose I can’t justify making any requests about what you use to stay abreast of the time, but if you did happen to be open to suggestions or recommendations, I might mention that a watch or clock that you’ve set yourself is not as good as something that receives signals from a dedicated satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Human error, you understand, but nothing personal. And a digital device is of course better than an analog one, if only because sometimes it can be hard to see just where the minute hand is. You might think it’s on the 17, for instance, but it’s really on the 18, and then the moment — the minute, actually — has literally passed. Please don’t tell me that your watch is fancy and has numbers only for the hours — without even a little line for each minute — so you pretty much have to guess at every time in between five-minute intervals.

If you wear one of those “museum watches” with nothing but a dot where the twelve should be, and you have absolutely no idea what time it is unless it’s noon or midnight, I’m not even sure we can be friends anymore. I don’t need to know if it’s noon or midnight, you understand. I need to know when it’s 6:17. I suppose, though, that if you can afford one of those watches, then you probably have other watches as well, less pretentious watches with actual numbers, and maybe you’d be willing to put one of those on? Grab one with a second hand, if possible.

But we’re coming up on 6:17, aren’t we? I can’t say for sure, but I do feel like we are. I have a sixth sense about time, as it happens, though it’s nothing I can rely on. Certainly not if I ever need to know when it’s a very specific time of day, as I do today. But I’ve taken guesses every now and then, and my talent seems to be knowing when it’s either a quarter past or a quarter to an hour, although I admit that more than once I’ve gotten the hour wrong. In any event, I’m willing to bet that it’s 6:15 now, or it just was, or it very soon will be.

Which gives me two whole minutes to say this: I am still not asking you to be my alarm clock, but come 6:17, if you can find it in your heart to let me know that it is 6:17, could you do it in a way that’s somewhat special? I don’t mean in an elaborate fashion, because there’s really insufficient time to arrange anything like that, but I’d be grateful if you could do something more than just tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, it’s 6:17.” I’m not telling you that I expect you to actually beep, or yell, “Cuckoo!” or whistle Dixie, or anything like that, but making some kind of distinctive repeating nonverbal sound would go a long way toward…Hang on! Just let me finish this thought and then you can respond. I know you’re not thrilled about what I’m asking you to —

What? It’s what time? Oh, God damn it. Thanks for nothing.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only source for what's happening on television, unless you happen to turn on your television, in which case that would most likely be a better source. Anyway, Matthew David Brozik has the story. And while you're at it, would it kill you to click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda"? Don't pretend you can't find it. It's on the right-hand side of this page.

Greenlit

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

Viewers of television programming this season will be the most well-read yet, thanks to these new shows!

Napoleon Berkshire, Esq. is the most highly regarded porcine lawyer at the bar — feared and respected by adversaries and clients alike — and known for his thorough preparation. “All arguments are equal,” he’s fond of saying, “but some arguments are more equal than others.” With the passing on of “Major” Willingdon, Berkshire is poised to take the reins of the prominent white sow company…but there’s a hitch. The old Major’s youngest son, Snowball, has just graduated from law school, and he’s been promised a place in his father’s business, despite being an incorrigible party pig. With Napoleon and Snowball fighting hoof and horn over the future of the practice, will they have anything left for the courtroom? The new dramedy to watch is ANIMAL FIRM. (ABC, Mondays.)

[Plus: A mid-season episode will serve as a backdoor pilot for a Lou Grant-style spinoff featuring the firm’s aged janitor with a knack for carpentry who retires to travel the country restoring barns with equine equanimity in THIS OLD HORSE.]

THE NEXT GREAT GATSBY. Man of many talents — Yale graduate, military veteran, bond salesman — Nick Carraway IV spends a week each with different real-life wannabe entrepreneurs-cum-socialites, advising them on such matters as changing one’s name, purchasing a mansion, entertaining, winning the love of a shallow woman, driving, swimming, and choosing the right shirt — or shirts — for every occasion. (CBS, Wednesdays.)

Special Super-Secret Agent “Y” is deep undercover, with just a day to prevent the assassination of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Y has one day — but there’s a catch: The International Super-Secret Agent Union rules mandate two hours of downtime in every 24-hour period… so Y really has less than a full day to work with. Fortunately, he’s a master of observation and interrogation. If anyone can, he’ll put two and two together…to get 22. (FOX, Thursdays.)

The groundbreaking documentary CHIASMUS returns in a new iteration for a new generation! Board the “Ship of the Intimation” to explore a multi-verse of poetic phenomena — from allegory to zeugma. Individual episodes will focus on such topics as large-scale onomatopoeia (“big bangs”), the discovery of foreshadowing and the nature of litotes, microscopic oxymorons, and the (un)likelihood of an omnipotent deus ex machina. (PBS, Sundays.)

NATIVE AND SON promises to be the breakout litcom of the year. Twenty-year-old Bigger Thomas lives in utter poverty on Chicago’s South Side with his father, the irascible Older Thomas. Each week, Bigger tries to improve his situation, taking whatever job he can find, only to be accused of one heinous crime or another…with hilarious results! Not even Older Thomas’s never-ending parade of colorful friends and relatives can keep Bigger out of trumped-up trouble, but he’ll have to continually prove to the authorities and himself that Bigger is better. Based on the British program Wright On. (NBC, Mondays.)

Also much-anticipated is the single-camera, buddy-cop comedy chronicling the misadventures of patrolmen Rom Montague and his cousin Ben as they police the streets of Verona, New York (pop. 6,293). Verona should be an uneventful town, and it would be…if it weren’t for the criminal machinations of the mysterious man known only as “Cap,” who seems to have his finger in everything unlawful for miles around. And of course the young boys in blue don’t know that Rom’s crush, Julie, is Cap’s daughter! Ride along for laughs with CAR XLIV, WHERE ART THOU? (TBS, Tuesdays.)

And, finally, what would television be without a good old-fashioned game show recorded before a live studio audience? Introducing WHO WANTS TO BE AN HEIR? Each contestant has a limited amount of time in which to reconcile complicated, conflicting wills of a wealthy testator…but every mistake costs the estate substantial legal fees! Because of the extraordinary difficulty of the challenge, a contestant has three lifelines to use — “Call a Counselor,” “Poll the Peanut Gallery,” and “What the Dickens?” — but even these will go only so far toward improving a bleak situation. The contestant who walks away with anything more than the clothes on his or her back will have earned it!

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