* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe that no life-or-death situation is so dire that resorting to cannibalism cannot help. Apparently John Merriman agrees.

A Candy Store Owner Addresses A Lifeboat

By: John Merriman

Folks, we’ve been stranded on this lifeboat with no food and little water for a good week now, and it’s come to my attention that some of you doubt my qualifications as self-appointed leader. Okay, all of you do. Well, let me just say that considering I own and manage a store that sells candy, I refuse to accept your vote of no confidence.

You see, the candy business is extremely cutthroat. It’s a take-no-prisoners, eat-or-be-eaten industry that hardens you into a sturdy block of street-smart chocolate, so to speak, and fully prepares you for any situation, no matter how delicious.

Excuse me, I meant to say vicious. As vicious as the hungry school of sharks I capably led us away from yesterday, even though we had to sacrifice Susan’s left arm, right leg, and most of her head to do so. I still maintain she was basically dead, despite her protests to the contrary. But rest assured, your well-being has been and will be my first priority, second only to eating you.

What? No, I said “greeting” you! As in getting to know you! Yes, I know that doesn’t make much sense, but we’re stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. People in this situation will start saying crazy things.

In fact, Robert said something pretty nonsensical yesterday. When he suddenly turned into a giant purple M&M, I realized I was hallucinating because they don’t make M&Ms in that color. But I’m sure that giant, correctly colored M&Ms do exist, because that would be so amazingly good to eat right now. Robert disagrees with me, but I think he’s been drinking too much seawater. Come on, Robert! Get real.

Anyway, back to my leadership ability. I once had to decide whether to primarily restock my store with bunny Peeps or just regular Peeps, and in so doing — okay, Robert, before I continue, I have to ask, are you sure you’re not a giant M&M? Because I’m looking at your thin candy shell right now and — fine, fine, forget it! As much as I love M&Ms, they’re not my favorite candy anyway. That would be Snickers, a giant bar of which has suddenly appeared and replaced Liz.

Oh, that is you, Liz. I apologize. Yes, you’re right — how could you be a giant talking Snickers bar? I don’t remember any on the cruise ship, so I don’t see how one could have gotten on this lifeboat. See, I can reason! Despite the severe malnutrition ravaging my body, my cognitive functions are still working perfectly. Let me at least press hard onto your scrumptious milk chocolate surface. If no gooey caramel comes out, then I’ll know you’re telling the truth.

Paul, since when did your arms become giant Twizzlers? Please, stop tempting me by wrapping them around my hands! I won’t hurt Liz, I promise. But I will lick your juicy Twizzler-arms. And Mike, if you could stop trying to pin me down and punch me in the face, that’d be great. I guarantee you’ll be the world’s worst-tasting Milk Dud if you have my blood all over you.

All right, look — think whatever you want about my ability to lead. But can I help it if you’ve all turned into enormous pieces of mouthwatering candy? And also that we’re stranded in a vast ocean of high fructose corn syrup? Don’t you see? Everything is candy now. The whole world has become my store to run, beginning with this lifeboat! And you sweets will now do what I say! Michelle, I command you to get rid of that silly plastic wrapping and expose your Jolly Rancher body for me to suck on indefinitely! Do it or I’ll use this signal mirror to redirect the sun’s rays and melt all of you! Do you hear me?! MELT YOU ALL!!!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we agree with Robert Benchley when he said, "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't." Obviously Jon Millstein falls into the former category.

Please Allow Me To Enumerate The Types Of People

By: Jon Millstein

Meet my new puppy, Charlie. He’s a border collie. Do you like him? Oh, well. It’s like I always say. There are two types of people in this world: people who like dogs, and people who don’t. Looks like you fall into the latter camp.

Although now that you mention it, there is another type of person. Some people are more or less indifferent towards dogs. If a dog is around, they’ll pet it, but they don’t seek dogs out. So if we’re going to be rigorous about this, we had better recognize three types of people: people who like dogs, people who don’t, and people who could take dogs or leave ’em. It’s like I always say. Three types.

But let’s be honest with ourselves: what about competitive water skiers? This might seem like something of a departure from the types we’ve already discussed. Just bear with me. Picture a competitive water skier standing alongside a dog lover who’s never once strapped on water skis. Are they the same type of person? Of course not! One spends his days ripping turns across the wake, while the other would prefer to toss around the Frisbee with a pup like Charlie. So now we’re up to four types. And can I tell you something? I’m not even halfway done listing types.

After competitive water skiers, there’s the type of person that attended a private coeducational middle school. That’s type five. Type six describes the students currently enrolled at such a school. Seven through nine? Sedan drivers — of Civics, Passats and Priuses, respectively — and the tenth type of person makes a living leasing sedans to the three preceding types. I didn’t want to overwhelm you with all this earlier. But it’s like the saying goes: there are types of people in this world — lots of ’em.

If we’re going to tackle each one individually, I better pick up the pace.

Type 11: big ears. Type 12: easily spooked. Type 13: holds a graduate degree in Media Studies. Type 14: radiator salesman. Type 15: can’t pronounce the Spanish R. Type 16: subscribes to The Economist. Type 17: reads The Economist. Type 18: afflicted by allergies that preclude dog ownership — remember the first few types?

Type 19s are folks who’ve heard what they say on CNN and admit that the last few winters have been warmer than usual, but are hesitant to attribute the increase in temperature to anything other than — what?

You’ve got to run to a meeting? All of a sudden? And there’s no way you can arrive late? See, I’m a through-and-through type 158: I finish what I start. I’m also a type 2,412: I use passive aggression to detain my friends. That, plus a third subtype — type 2,349,201, Newark-born son of Clarke and Ellen Lesinski — makes me the 8,467,234,694th type of person. But I’ll show you how type combination works in a minute.

My point is I’m not the type of guy to stop enumerating the human race halfway through. That’s type 57,003 and it’s just about my least favorite. Because if you don’t know the diversity of mankind, what do you know? And if you can’t describe that diversity using numbered categories, listed in their entirety at typewiki.org/types, a website that I created and continue to moderate, what can you do? Nothing, that’s what. Absolutely nothing at all.

Not interested in diversity, eh?

Fine. Just remember what I told you. There are billions upon trillions of types of people in this world: people who like dogs, people who don’t, and so on and so forth through people who graduated from Harvard University in the early 1970s, who rose to prominence writing for Saturday Night Live seasons 1-5 and 11-20, and who currently serve as US Senators from the state of Minnesota. Al Franken. He is the final type of person.

Now get out of here. Me and my dog Charlie are going to discuss the dog types. Of which there are none — dogs don’t need any types. Most dogs are basically the same.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always doing our part to help the authorities track down the criminals in our midst. Even if the authorities are Canadian. This is where our good friend David Martin proves that the tooth of crime is often a sweet tooth. When you're done reading, click on the link below to see how you can purchase his latest humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

The Great Maple Syrup Heist

By: David Martin

“Police in Québec have announced the arrest of three men in the theft of six million pounds of maple syrup from a provincial warehouse…” — The Globe and Mail, December 19, 2012

From the food crime files of the Sûreté du Québec

At first it was just another food flavoring heist, much like the strawberry jam container caper of 1997 or the individual ketchup packet robbery of 2003. But it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary theft. This was the big time — six million pounds of liquid gold.

Sure, my partner Bill and I had been involved with maple syrup cases before. More than once we’d done a stakeout at a local IHOP. But those were instances of someone passing off corn syrup as the real McCoy, petty crimes at best.

This, however, was organized condiment crime on a scale heretofore unimagined. As part of the Sûreté du Québec’s Spreads, Jams and Syrups Division, we’d heard stories from veteran officers about jam running in the 1980s when the Canadian dollar was down to 70 cents and no one could afford to legitimately import Smucker’s from the US. But even with the widespread black market and jam and jelly speedboats plying the St. Lawrence River smuggling routes, things never got as bad as they had today with the Great Maple Syrup Heist.

When it all started, we literally didn’t have a clue. After all, there were no maple syrup shortages and no one was complaining about questionable syrup quality. The sap was still flowing and cans of syrup were still on the shelves. The only saps were us, sitting there unaware of the giant illegal operation being carried on right under our tongues.

About three months ago, we got the word from our boss, Chief Inspector D’Erable. He’d gotten a tip from one of our regular snitches, a maple syrup junkie named Sticky Eddie, that he’d seen something funny outside a small diner in East End Montreal.

According to Eddie, some guys unloaded two barrels of high-grade syrup at the back entrance of the restaurant without so much as an invoice or a bill of lading. Eddie said something to the driver who told him to keep his mouth shut and tossed him a couple of cans of Laurentian syrup to keep him quiet.

But like any junkie, Sticky Eddie went through those two cans in a weekend binge of pancakes, waffles and crepes. After the sugar high wore off, Eddie needed more and he came looking for us, hoping to trade information for some more maple nectar.

And then we got our next big break. A local community organization was holding a big fundraising pancake breakfast and someone phoned in an anonymous tip.

It seemed that the organizers weren’t buying their maple syrup by the can. Someone had offered them an entire barrel at an unbelievably low price. So we decided to be there when the barrel was delivered and check out the guys delivering it.

It all went down without a hitch, without a shot being fired and without even a drop of liquid gold being spilled. The three delivery guys confessed on the spot that they had been pilfering barrels from the producers and selling them to retailers and wholesalers at a discount.

And that was the end of the Great Maple Syrup Heist. Thanks to the work of our crack corps of pancake toppings police, Canadian consumers were never even aware of how close the country came to a nationwide breakfast crisis of unimaginable proportions. But thankfully, at least for now, the maple syrup continues to flow freely from sea to sea to sea, and wherever pancake breakfasts are held.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel's second and final week of Two Much Of Michael Fowler, a double dose of one of our favorite contributors. This time he shares his detailed knowledge of the afterlife. Just never ask us how he acquired it. Again, we urge you to check out links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Advice For The Dead

By: Michael Fowler

Dear Gabriel,

I died two years ago and I’m still inside my damned coffin. The only thing I have to make death bearable, aside from the silk lining and plush interior of my container (okay, it’s a nice coffin) is The Beyond Times, which appears daily beside my satin pillow as if by magic. I particularly enjoy your advice column and the fashion news from the “other side,” i.e., the land of the living. Other than that, all I have is a small hand-held mirror, and that brings me to my question. To my horror, my skin looks more cracked and decomposed every day. Do you know of any skin care products I can have delivered to me along with my paper? Maybe my “breakout” moment will never arrive and I’ll be stuck inside this box forever, but it will help me to pass eternity if I can eliminate any signs of decay, especially facial ones.

Rotten in Denmark

Dear Rotten,

I can’t be certain, since our computer system is down for retooling and I’d be hard pressed to put my finger on your Permanent Record in our hopelessly out-of-date card catalog, but it sounds to me like you’re being punished. Were you a bit of a narcissist when alive? If so, that might explain the nature of your penance. I know what you’re thinking: since when is looking one’s best a sin? But the rulebook lists personal vanity as a form of pride, and as such, definitely a transgression. So I hope you’ll understand when I tell you that skincare products are out of the question for you right now. But don’t despair: your situation will likely be reviewed in the next several millennia, and then everything could change. You might even get that “breakout” moment you desire and ascend from your tomb to the Isle of the Hot. Meanwhile keep your chin up, chafed and unattractive though it may be.

Dear Gabriel,

What can I do about noisy neighbors? I know the Beyond includes the damned and the saved alike, all jumbled together. I get that. But I just found out the hard way that the people in the apartment next to mine are damned. They dress up in black and blast death metal music all night, stuff like Styx and Megadeath. I’m blessed and have to get up at six each morning for work, and nothing I say to these souls makes any difference. I’ve spoken to the landlord, but he says the rental agreement I signed prohibits me from complaining about noise. Don’t the good have any rights here?

Sleepless Down Under

Dear Sleepless,

Sorry, but none of your rights override the sacred contract between landlord and tenant. But why not drop a hint your tormented neighbors will notice? Next time they’re asleep, crank up Heavenly Harp Hits, a truly mystical and soul-satisfying CD. That’ll grab their attention, and good things may result. Who knows, they may bring you some homemade cookies and place a memorial wreath on your mailbox, and even start meditating.

Dear Gabriel,

I’m traveling dead with my mother, who was ninety-three when she passed away, and we’re supposed to take a ferry next week from our house, where I left the oven on with my head in it, to some otherworldly destination. What I’d like to know is, is this like a cruise? Can we get special non-smoking accommodations, and how much will I need to tip?

Not-So-Accidental Tourist

Dear Not-So-Accidental,

It is just like a cruise, except that you and Mama may be asked to row a few miles and be whipped a little. That’s a joke, but seriously, there are cruise lines almost that bad. I recall one I took off the Ivory Coast in 550 BC that was attacked by pirates and there wasn’t even a masseuse on board. That said, if you and your mother are redeemed, you get to sit in lounge chairs the entire time and can visit the buffet and bar as often as you like. You can gamble, too. Do remember that the sprites and imps waiting on you count on your tips to support their families.

Dear Gabe,

I just got here after my car crash on prom night, in which I died while my date Jennie was miraculously spared. Yeah, I know, almost like in that driver’s ed flick. Anyway, I was wondering, where can I go to meet cool dead chicks? I need to get things moving up here.

Fast Lane Eddie

Dear Fast Lane,

There are regular mixers for deceased teens in the innermost circle of most major cities. Consult the high-speed rail schedule in your town if you don’t have wheels. Be aware that the music, disco from the 1970s, shuts off at midnight, since the city managers have determined that it’s just too nerve-wracking to the damned and blessed alike to have it blaring all night. And please, dude, it’s Gabriel, not Gabe.

Dear Gabriel,

I’d like to register a complaint about your paper, The Beyond Times. Every morning for the first ten years after my death, I would stroll out my front door, waft over the sparkling, gently rolling silvery plain where I have come to reside, walk past the smiling, two-headed dogs and luminous cats to my mailbox, and there find my Daily Heaven. Now I find The Beyond Times instead, and I prefer the Heaven. Somehow Heaven seemed written just for me and my angelic friends, whereas the Times could have been written for anyone, even devils. Is there any chance my favorite paper will return? I know you’ll put this down to the lunatic ravings of a corpse, but I want my Heaven back.

Goodie Two Shoes

Dear Goodie,

As I hope everyone knows by now, The Daily Heaven, and its sister publication Hell’s Beat, were recently merged into one newspaper, The Beyond Times. This change, made after much soul-searching, enables us to conserve much-needed resources and best utilize our reporting staff. It also allows us to avoid using terms like Heaven and Hell, which many find insensitive and objectionable, and simply refer to the Beyond, which indicates either or both of those afterworld alternatives. I know it can be confusing, but in general the Arts and Entertainment and Society sections of the Times continue to feature your favorite writers and photographers from the late Heaven, and for our less blessed readers who enjoyed Hell’s Beat, the Business and Politics and Sports sections retain the talented crew from that publication. With that as your guide, I know you’ll come to love the Times as much as you formerly did the Daily Heaven, which, alas, will not return until the start of our Apocalyptic Promotional Days.

Dear Gabriel,

Man, I’m having the time of my life here, or I guess I mean the time of my afterlife. I never thought the Beyond was a real place, but now I’m a believer since there are fireworks every night and the discount stores are open 24/7. My only complaint is, where are all the neat people I thought I’d find here? Where’re Christ and Gandhi and Einstein and Socrates and people like that? Most everyone I meet is someone I used to work with on the electrical grid in Chicago.

Missing Persons

Dear Missing,

All those great people are here, and having the time of their immortalities. The thing is, they’re super-busy on special projects, and so you’re not liable to run into them. But, for our faithful readers of The Beyond Times, this column will showcase a new format beginning next week. I, Gabriel, formerly your humble advice columnist, will be going one-on-one with some of Heaven’s most desirable citizens, asking them the question: are you in the right place? Their answers will astound you! First up: Whitney Houston! The following week: Andy Griffith!!

And for you residents of the place formerly known as Hell, don’t worry, I won’t neglect you. On alternate weeks I’ll be asking some of the best-known denizens of the lower realm the same question: are you in the right place? You won’t believe their responses! First up: Colonel Gaddafi! And the following week: Uday and Qusay Hussein in an exclusive double interview!!

Till next time,