* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always happy to swap places with actors or actresses who have been typecast. However sad their lot, it must be better than ours. Or so says Jon Millstein.

An Actress Who Starred In Body Swapping Films Will No Longer Be Typecast

By: Jon Millstein

Call Howard back and tell him I won’t do it. I don’t give a rat’s ass how much he’s offering. My body swapping days are over — it’s time for me to demonstrate my versatility as an actress. Audiences know I can play the uptight mom, and the unruly daughter who refuses to toe the line, but they’ve been conditioned to believe that I need both parts to occur within the same movie. That’s simply not true. Given the opportunity, I could easily carry a film while portraying one of these characters the entire time.

Transforming into my co-star is but one of the countless acting techniques I have at my disposal. I am a master of drama, accents, physical comedy — the list goes on. When the film calls for it, I can combine the first technique with any of the others — performing physical comedy as the slobby husband in his wife’s athletic body, for example, or adopting a dockworker’s accent to communicate that my New England trust-funder’s appearance now belies a dockworker — but the point is I am not limited to that. In college, I was cast as a plain lady dockworker.

Please, don’t bring up my talent for body swapping. That isn’t the issue here. Yes, I have many fans — people who go wild each time I hold my hands in front of my face, flip them over to convince myself that they are not my own, then catch my reflection in the mirror and scream. But this was only supposed to be one stage of my career, and it’s become clear that Hollywood will never run out of polar opposites for me to play. Like the characters in my films, I have learned my lesson. I am ready to break this spell and turn back into a conventional comic actress.

It’s been nearly seven years since I became trapped in the body swapping genre. So once I get out, will I occasionally slip and adopt my scene partner’s mannerisms? Maybe at first. Will I accidentally repeat my scene partner’s lines verbatim, mimic their intonation, and even shove them out of the way to stand in their position on camera? Probably I will do this too, as it is a common warmup among body swappers. Bad habits like these will slow me down, but they won’t stop me. I’ll practice until I feel just as comfortable playing one role as I do playing two of them.

Then I will have to face the moviegoers. They don’t expect me to play against type, and when I do they might not accept it. They’ll probably just assume that they missed the swap, or that it occurred sometime before the movie started. Even if I say in interviews that I am no longer accepting those roles, they’ll jump whenever a Chinese man’s gift shop or an old stone wishing well appears onscreen, telling themselves, “This is it.” They’ll move on soon enough, though. Let’s be honest. Body swapping movies are not the kind to have a lasting impact.

It’s like everyone says: once you’ve seen one body swapping comedy, you’ve seen them all. Part of the reason why that’s true is that I starred in most of those movies. But I think the more damning cliché is the clumsy attempt to say something uplifting. We get it: we should be happy with who we are. Isn’t there a subtler device you could use to communicate that? If you gave a six-year-old fifty million dollars and a video camera and asked him to restate the most important thing he had learned in kindergarten, he would give you a body swapping movie. I’m no six-year-old — though I pretended to switch bodies with one once — so I’m saying goodbye to this stupid genre. I swear that I will never look back.

Oops, that’s my phone. Oh, for God’s sake. It’s Howard.

No Howard, I refuse. Don’t bother telling me what the combination is — I’ve done them all before. A wealthy Southerner and her sassy black housemaid? Come on. In Day Traders I played a hardened Wall Street banker and her smart-alecky assistant, and that’s practically the same thing. Sorry Howard, but this time you’ll have to find somebody else. All this is simply beneath–

–What’s that? A double swap? You mean your protagonists swap bodies, swap back, and then swap all over again? Well, yes, I suppose that is new territory for me. Everyone will expect the first swap, but the second…

Goddammit Howard, you’re a genius.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we still believe (along with Lord Acton) that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even when it's all just about a bake sale. Please welcome Daniel Moraff and his vision for a very unpleasant tomorrow.

Very Important Bake Sale

By: Daniel Moraff


From: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

Date: 7/28/2012, 8:07pm

Subj: Bake Sale (Sign-Up Sheet Attached)

Hey, all! Syd here. Now as we all know, our kids have been talking about those poor downtrodden Congolese in Social Studies. My Todd and some of his pals want to do a bake sale to help them out, and I think it’s just wonderful! I know it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race, but it’s super important that we take the time to think of others and chip in a few hours and a few marshmallow squares. After all, we have to support our kids!

Happy baking!!

— Syd

P.S. Your kids will bug you until you sign up!!

P.P.S. No nuts please!!



From: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

Date: 8/2/2012, 3:41pm

Subj: Bake Sale Follow-Up

Wow! Thanks to your hard work today, we raised over fifty dollars! Great work, all. Sadly, Todd tells me that the Congolese are still hungry and downtrodden and so on, so we’re going to need to try a little harder next week! It’ll mean a few more hours and a few more marshmallow squares; sign-up sheet is attached! Your children are under orders not to let up until every parent has done their share! Nobody likes a slacker! I hate slackers.

— Syd

P.S. We couldn’t do any of this without the parents. You all are the real heroes.

P.P.S. I think I pretty clearly said no nuts! When I find out who was responsible, there will be consequences!!


To: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

From: Frank Pendleton <fpendleton@gmail.com>

Date: 8/9/2012, 2:13pm

Subj: Bake Sale Follow-Up

Sydney, you sure do know how to run a bake sale! Your little volunteers literally would not let me leave until I bought some marshmallow squares! For a minute there I was almost frightened for my safety. Great job!!

— Frank



From: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

Date: 9/2/2012, 3:41pm

Subj: Fun idea!!

Me again! I know we’re all so proud of our kids for hosting nine bake sales in the past four days, but with all the prime-time advertisements and special sales-boosting tasers, we’ve been running a wee budget deficit. Fortunately, my Todd had just the thought on how to patch this up: another bake sale!!  We’ll probably have to move beyond the parking lot and maybe start selling hot meals and electronics and so on in addition to baked goods, in order to better support our kids. We’re going to need some seed money to make this all happen. Fortunately, I know some Congolese who owe me a favor!

— Syd

P.S. It’s probably best not to mention that Congolese bit to the authorities just yet.

P.P.S. No nuts please!!


To: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

From: Mayor Kevin Mackle <mayor@lexingtonma.gov>

Date: 9/4/2012, 2:13pm

Subj: Our Concerns

Ms. Callahan,

As the mayor of Lexington, I applaud the initiative of you and these children. However, my lawyers are nearly certain that bake sale operators do not have the power of eminent domain, and you cannot under any circumstances order small business owners to vacate their real estate holdings. Nor do we believe that private citizens should be trafficking in low-grade military technologies at this time. I sincerely hope it will not be necessary to involve the police.

— Mayor Mackle



From: Congolese State Police <police@congo.cd>

Date: 9/10/2012

Subj: Emergency Alert Bulletin

Congolese citizens are advised that only official government representatives are authorized to collect tax payments. Roving bands of second-graders in groups of three or more should be reported immediately to the authorities.



From: Sydney Callahan <sydneycal24@hotmail.com>

Date: 9/20/2012, 3:41pm

Subj: Tragedy In Our Midst

I know we were all terribly saddened to hear of Mayor Mackle’s hospitalization. I just can’t imagine how he could have been so careless as to trigger his severe nut allergies. In any case, I’m certain the mayor will in the future be far more understanding of what we’re all about. Todd thinks we should raise funds to send him some nice flowers. What with all this space we’ve claimed from surrounding states, I think this could be our best bake sale yet!!

— Syd

P.S. I’ve been hearing some grumbling about the requirement that you all roll back your other employment- and family-based commitments to focus on producing marshmallow squares and patrolling your Responsibility Grids, and I’d just thought I’d remind you that thanks to the proceeds of the last bake sale, your kids have been equipped with truncheons. Bake away!



From: Wall Street Journal Marketwatch Rundown <marketwatch@wsj.com>

Date: 9/22/2012, 6:38am

Subj: Your Daily Marketwatch Rundown

Kraft (NYSE: KFT) dropped another three points as unexplained fires continue to ravage the nation’s nut farms. In other market news, the Dow Index fell to record lows as the United States struggles with its shift to an entirely bake-sale-based economy.



From: Sydney Callahan <scallahan@bakesale.gov>

Date: 12/11/2014, 3:41pm


Hey, all! High Eminence Callahan here. I’m seeing reports that production is up 60% for military aircraft and 73% for scones, so super job there! We couldn’t do any of this without you subservient citizen-laborers, and you all are the real heroes.

Now, I’ve been hearing some rumors that some of you are “burned out” or “attempting to flee to some small corner where Sydney Callahan and her band of thugs may not hold sway.” Now, I know that all of us want to support our children and help the Congolese and keep our major limbs intact, so I’m sure these are just rumors!! Todd thinks we should still engage in another crackdown on those who flout the bans on non-bake-sale-related economic activity, though, and we have to support our kids! So long as they don’t undermine the bake sales, of course.

Anyway, just thought I’d remind you that supporting any government or militia that may stand against us is technically high treason, and that marshmallow squares come out just right at 375 degrees. Keep up the great work, and remember: the bake sale is all that matters.

— Sydney Callahan, Bake Sale Coordinator and Chief of Enforcement

P.S. No nuts please!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your source for the pure science of weather data, as well as personality-driven sunniness and hype. But don't let us steal any thunder from this week's piece by Jeremy Blachman, his first for us.

Weather Or Not

By: Jeremy Blachman

“The announcement [last month] that the Weather Channel Companies, owners of television’s Weather Channel and weather.com, would buy one of its rivals, Weather Underground, set off howls of displeasure on social media platforms and around water coolers across the nation…In the eyes of Weather Underground’s ardent fans, the Weather Channel appears to represent the wrong kind of weather information: personality-driven sunniness and hype, they say, rather than the pure science of data.” — The New York Times

“…and welcome back to Weather In The Morning, with Storm and Sunny. Can you believe these clouds, Storm?”

“No, I cannot believe them, Sunny. I told those guys in the room with the map that I would not let them once again ruin our morning show with cloudy talk. And yet here they are, pushing their bad weather agenda on us.”

“You know there are people out there just waiting for clouds like these. People waiting to tell you that clouds mean rain — and lots of it. But we are not going to be sucked into the vortex of wind and precipitation that some quote-unquote meteorologist is warning us about. Clouds don’t mean anything — not on this show! In America, we don’t let a few clouds cause rain.”

“No, we don’t, Sunny. The America I grew up in didn’t let the fear of storm systems coming up the coast change their weekend plans. My America doesn’t get dragged along by the fear of what seems to be some sort of large circular formation in the corner of our radar screen — not that I’m trained to read the radar screen. That thing is a radar screen, right?”

“No, I think it’s just the window. And that circular formation is in fact right outside.”

“In any case — I’m trained to read people, not radar. And the people are telling me it’s a beautiful day.”

“It is a beautiful day, Storm, although we are getting word from the control room that there does seem to be some kind of severe weather event that’s been coming up from the Gulf and heading straight toward us.”

“The Gulf of Mexico?”

“Yep, I believe that may very well be the one.”

“Of course — there we go again, Sunny! Yesterday it was weather from Canada, today it’s Mexico, tomorrow it’ll be who knows where. Probably China. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to keep on saying it until somebody listens: we need to keep this foreign weather out. I don’t care what kind of fence we have to build or how tall it has to be to get around those clouds but it has to be a priority.”

“And yet we’re the only ones talking about it…”

“One day everyone’s going to open their eyes and realize it’s too late. I’m not afraid to say it. The weather from the rest of the world is taking over. We need American weather, creating American jobs and American floods and whatever else it is weather creates. I don’t want to hear the arguments from those fancy-titled meteorologists…”

“Storm, those meteorologists do seem to be telling me that we have a severe weather advisory in this very…”

“No — stop — I don’t want to hear it! We have to stand tall against this stuff. Those think-they’re-so-special meteorologists…”

“You know, it crosses my mind, Storm: we say that word a lot here. Meteorologist. Let’s get it up on the screen. No? It’s not there. Okay, we’ll get it up later. We say it all the time, and yet I don’t think either of us has any idea what it means. I know I don’t.”

“Me neither, Sunny. And — wait — I am hearing in my earpiece that we need to take a look over toward the control room. They seem to be screaming something about a tornado, or a — what’s that sign they’re holding up — mandatory evacu–. I don’t have my glasses. Oh, whatever! What were we talking about? Meteorology nonsense, right? And how that word has absolutely no meaning for either of us.”

“Right, right. And looking into the control room now — it does not appear that we still have a control room, Storm. The building appears to have sheared right in half by…uh…I’m not really sure. Perhaps a cloud.”

“That’s a good one, Sunny. In all seriousness, we should probably save the meteorology discussion for another time, because after the break we’re going to show you how weather can turn your brand new windows into beautiful sculptures made from broken glass.”

“Ooh, exciting. That, and recipes you can make when the power goes out, all coming up in the next hour.”

“Plus tips on getting the most out of living in a house that no longer has a roof. Stay tuned…as we broadcast from outside. A very special day here on Weather In The Morning! We’ll be right back.”

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are still a little unclear about what happened last night. Or was it last week, at the New Year's Eve party? Anyway, please close the curtains and stop making so much noise. Our head hurts. Honestly, we feel as if we'd rather die. Perhaps this is the right time to bring in our old friend Michael Fowler to tell us how. Happy New Year!

How To Die

By: Michael Fowler

Most of us, not giving it much thought, would prefer to die with our boots on. That means dying with a sense of purpose and actively engaged in life — impossible for the millions of us who are fated to die by choking on a chicken fajita or contracting Ebola at summer camp. But if you decide to die with your boots on, it’s best to be embarked on a noble or at least not a laughable endeavor when your moment comes. For example, if you are a gardener, you may wish to pass on while lovingly pruning your rose bushes. But if this is your choice, make sure that irritable bees don’t align on your face in the shape of a beard, so that a passing state trooper mistakes you for an escaped convict and shoots you dead on the spot, or that you don’t do a home lobotomy trying to reshape your eyebrows with a hedge-trimmer. Dignity counts, and your relatives want to be able to hold their heads up at your funeral, especially if they’re paying to have it catered. Remember: if you can’t die with your boots on, then die with them off, since that completely removes dignity from the equation. No one expects your barefoot cadaver to show dignity, and to underscore casualness, arrange to have the toenails painted green.

Given the ever-worsening prospects of earning enough to retire on, many of us will opt to die at work. While this is a worthy goal, be sure your occupation warrants this choice. Bus drivers and jet pilots and brain surgeons who opt to die while on duty may risk the safety and even lives of others by doing so, and should have backups standing by to fill in. Waitresses and car mechanics and bank tellers may also seriously inconvenience others by an on-the-job demise. But if you’re a pollster or a tax collector or an artist, go on and break out your rigor mortis.

Most people, after thinking the matter through, decide they want a gradual death rather than a sudden one. Better, they think, to sign off as the result of a long illness than to abruptly cash in their chips while speeding through a red light or sunbathing in the path of a hurricane. This reflects two widely held beliefs: that a long life beats a short one, and that even intense pain is preferable to no sensation at all. People would rather lie around for years in a soiled hospital gown talking to their spouse’s family and receiving hourly injections than have the Reaper sneak up on them and surprise their pants off.

The fact is that most of us want all the life we can get, up to a point. Where that point occurs varies from person to person. For some, no longer being able to play five sets of tennis or climb K2 without oxygen support may bring on a death wish, unlikely as that may sound to the more sedentary among us. For others, life continues to hold meaning even when they must be tied down to a chair to keep them from boarding a bus wearing only pajama tops and they can’t remember to eat unless someone shouts “food!” in their ear and hands them a fork.

What’s key here is setting a “decent interval” for your life. None of us wants to hang onto a meaningless, unfulfilling life. To do so is deemed “indecent” by society, whoever they are. But what makes for a decent interval will naturally vary among individuals. If you invented Facebook and became a billionaire in your mid-twenties, you are unlikely to think that 25 years was a decent enough interval in which to be you, but it’s time to push off and not be you beginning year 26. We can probably all agree that a decent interval has ended when your shrunken spine curves like a question mark and you walk around helplessly staring at your feet. The cost of medical treatment is also a clue. When it turns out you need the equivalent of the Kennedy Space Center to monitor your breathing and your insurance premiums rise to 25 percent of GDP, it may be indecent to draw another breath. That your insurer refuses to cover your third donated heart is another sign that the miracle of life has lasted long enough.

When you have determined that your decent interval is over, naturally you are faced with the problem of dying. Few of us are so fortunate as to be carried off at the last decent second, and so you may need to facilitate the process. Since Dr. Kevorkian is no longer listed in the Yellow Pages, here’s a tip: have a glass or two of soothing wine. My preference would be Merlot, but I’m a red fancier. Any wine will do. Then take your medications, all of them, equal to a six months’ dose. Wait 15 minutes, then crawl into a warm tub and shave with a straight razor.

Alternatively, if you want to go out on a high note, plug in a Marshall amplifier and play “Purple Haze” on an electric guitar while soaking.

If you’re still alive after that, you really are indecent.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the best place in the world from which to observe the end of the world. This week, Dan Fiorella sticks it to the Mayans for sticking it to us. Also check out our blogroll at the right-hand side of this page for a link to his comedy Christmas mystery e-book, Lost Claus.

Other Things The Mayan Calendar Got Wrong

By: Dan Fiorella

Okay, we made it through 2012 and we’re all still here. At least I am, I can’t speak for everyone else out there. But I’m guessing most of us are. Looks like the Mayans got us all worked up about nothing. So let’s see what else the Mayan Calendar got wrong:

Groundhog’s Day was in April, like who can’t figure out when winter is over by then?

Friday was Hump Day.

February had 29 ¾ days, then traded places with June every fourth year.

Value Days was an actual thing in September.

Miss July? Transgendered.

Three-day weekends didn’t include Sunday.

Boss’s Day was an authentic holiday with a postage stamp and everything.

Until the 12th of Never? Not that very long a time.

Most popular Mayan family restaurant was TGIMonday’s.

Didn’t strain spaghetti very well. (Ed. note: that’s Mayan colanders)

Boxing Day was a World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view event.

Rainy days and Mondays didn’t get the Mayans down.

Saturday night was a terrible night for fighting.

Friday the 13th movies were considered “art house” films.

People ate ice cream thursdaes.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fell on the same day, which just annoyed everyone. And no days were “Children’s Day.”

Ruby Tuesday was a dude.

To get out of paying people, Mayans postdated all their checks to 12/12/2012, and that’s why their civilization collapsed.

(Okay, here’s that column mocking the end of the world for you to run, unless the world actually ends, then please run the column about the cat videos instead. — DF)