* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we hope to keep you up-to-date on the homicidal tendencies of the elderly. Michael Fowler is our resident expert on the subject, being extremely old and close to death himself. Once again, we urge you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Seniors Who Kill

By: Michael Fowler

What drives me to kill? It is the damnable lack of fresh grapefruit in this prison of a home. Pick any tray — breakfast, lunch or dinner — and there is no fresh grapefruit to be found on it. I mean, whose Achilles tendons do I have to lick to get a few segments of fresh, sweet grapefruit in this inferno? What I and everyone else get instead is stuff out of cans, and that is unacceptable. And if a lack of fresh grapefruit doesn’t strike you as grounds for murder, that can only mean you are gobbling down all the fresh grapefruit you can hold and can never understand the anger I feel. So screw you.

For my victim I have chosen Carly Wingate, not that she has anything to do with grapefruit, although her tiny, yellowish head resembles one. She’s a fellow resident. But enough about Carly, and now for my foolproof plan. I am very proud of it. I will act on Thursday. Thursday is Fleet enema day, and I am particularly energetic that day. And bright-eyed and tingly. The murder weapon will be the laundry chute in the nurses’ station on the third floor. The third floor is the floor I live on at Pine Woods Manor, Carly too, and I know it well. I also know the laundry chute well, and that’s why it’s my weapon of choice. Do you begin to see? If not, you must be dense.

The nurses’ aides are constantly throwing armfuls of hideously soiled sheets and pads and gowns down the hatch of this chute, so why shouldn’t Carly go along for the ride? That’s my can’t-miss plan. Through this enormous metal pipe Carly and the rank linen will fall three floors into a large canvas tub in the basement, and from there be wheeled to the laundry. How do I know what goes on three floors below? I haven’t been sitting around here since 1910 whittling wood, buddy. I mean 2010. And how do I know the drop will kill Carly? The smell alone will kill her, or she isn’t human.

Carly is the perfect victim for a number of reasons, but one stands out: she will present me with the opportunity. How so? Because she frequently drifts into the nurses’ station to pester the RN or the aides about this and that. I’m shocked one of them hasn’t already tossed the little bag into the tube and battened the hatch down tight, to tell you the truth, it would be so easy to do. Oh, and one more thing: her death will be unbreakably linked to the lack of fresh grapefruit. I have already composed a suicide note for Carly that I will toss it in after her. It reads:

To all staff,

I am committing suicide because of the lack of fresh grapefruit here, and you should all be ashamed. May you rot in Hell.

* * * * * *
After my enema I am focused, pulsing, feeling like a million yuan. The aides disappear to take a smoke, and Carly wanders near the open chute, pacing until they return. Hovering nearby and pretending for the last 20 minutes to be trying to get a cup of ice from the icemaker, I am on her like a bolt of lightning. Only this bolt misses his mark after slipping on an ice cube and flies headfirst down the gaping tunnel. So quickly did I react that I’m not sure Carly even saw me go by, so there are no witnesses.

No one calls down to ask how I’m doing, anyway, and so I settle in for what looks like a long afternoon and evening. If you want to know why I don’t call out or make a fuss, I just don’t. I feel comfortable and safe. The bedding and clothes in here are indisputably foul, and the air barely breathable, but then I’ve been in hotels that were just as unkempt and nasty. In fact I grow drowsy almost at once. I only have to remember to cry out in the morning before someone loads me into a washing machine. Then I should be all right. Just before I drift off I remember Carly’s suicide note, still in my hand. I can’t decide if I signed her name or mine to it, or if that matters, so I swallow it.

When I come to I’m on three, cleaned up and sitting before my breakfast tray. There is no goddamn fresh grapefruit. I feel like screaming. But the oatmeal is decent, and the strawberry jam is amazing.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Happy New Year!" like a French existentialist. Stacey Resnikoff is on the scene in a cute little black beret.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Cousin Writes A Wellness Bestseller

By: Stacey Resnikoff

When your name is Jean-Luc Sartre and your first-cousin-twice-removed is French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, you’re supposed to have reverence. You’re expected to nod when your headmaster says your writing belies the heart-aching brilliance of your forebears, or your OKCupid date talks nonstop about her existential torment. But, hey, I’m a Virgo, Aries rising with moon in Pisces, so I’ve got to speak my mind: I think my cousin had a stale baguette up his derriere.

That’s why I wrote “Existenchillism: The Anti-Angst Solution.” In the 21st century, we really need to quash this whole Sartrian “man is forlorn” idea. I mean, before we had hot yoga, karaoke and gluten-free cookies, there may have been “nothing to cling to.” But today? If you can’t find a way to snap out of your existential funk nowadays, you really are responsible for your own anguish. Go on a mandala coloring retreat. Zipline the Alps. Get Netflix.

My story is the same as many celebrity relatives. I attended boarding school in Paris, where I was teased mercilessly. We’d play boules and kids would shout, “If you lose, you can blame no one but yourself!” and “When Jean-Paul Sartre said ‘there are no accidents in life,’ it was way before you were born!” Not original material to a Sartre, believe me. And, by the way: duh.

Lycée was no easier, where I was expected to chain-smoke, wear black and get As in classes like “Philosophical Turmoil and the Pain of Daily Living” and “The Great French Writers Our Students are Related To.” No one wants a Sartre to be cheery or, quite paradoxically, his own man.

Yet everything changed when I wrote my book. Finally I have my own “authentic project,” as Sartre called it — in my case, a takedown of Sartre. It’s gratifying to steer readers away from downer Sartre-isms like “I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without anything or any person being able to lighten it” and toward life’s simple pleasures, such as brewing your own orange soda or decorating Crocs with shoe charms. Just read the headlines! It’s no time for doom and gloom. We’re all in this merde together and deserve to be distracted.

Hitting the best-seller list created some super-hot opportunities for me. Celebrity Angst Management is a network reality show, where I’ll help stars like Alec Baldwin and Shia LaBeouf find their happy place. There’s my hammock-themed health club chain PowerNap. And, of course, my Existenchillax line of beverages made with kava kava, L-tryptophan-enriched rainwater, and Chillaxia(TM), a proprietary ingredient made from Colorado-grown cannabis.

I’m so grateful to my publisher Grove/Atlantic Enlightenment for recognizing the need to diversify their catalog beyond literature into literature-triggered self-help. Sure, some say Jean-Paul must be rolling in his grave over my “Sartre Say Relax” T-shirts sold everywhere, including at his grave. But, in the words of Pharrell (who will perform at the opening of Existenchilland theme park in Boulder next summer, pending our Open Toking License), “Can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high.” Clap along, Existenchillists!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only hope for sanity in a world gone mad. With winter temperatures below zero in much of the US today, we think it is high time to start talking about lingerie. Well, actually, we're going to let Samantha Rodman do the talking. We know therapists are supposed to listen for the most part, but today she's talking. So listen up!

Lingerie Shopping With Your Therapist

By: Samantha Rodman

Well, Karen, it’s so kind of you to have invited me on this journey. I hope we can have a productive time together today, and I’m ready to work as hard as you are to make the most of our hour together. And let me say that I’m truly impressed by how vulnerable you’re making yourself here. It’s hard for me to recall a time when you were more uninhibited and present-focused! Except for the time when you went home with that stranger after the salsa club. That worried me, as it seemed to be an unconscious repetition of your mother’s unfortunate tendency to get involved with emotionally unavailable Latin men. But it was only a one night stand, thankfully.

Do you think this one is attractive? I think it’s a very flattering shade. I know you’ve historically had an issue with the color, stemming from when your father painted your room pink in his new house with Margie, passive-aggressively refusing to acknowledge that you were in a goth phase. Which was, of course, an overt statement of disillusionment with traditional femininity, as you subconsciously linked it to your abandoned and tragic mother. But, I think our work together has left you more open and flexible, and making a proactive choice to wear pink may in fact be an emotionally corrective experience for you. Yes, I like the Tanga cut. Sassy!

Hmmm, if we dig a little deeper, what might be going on underneath your decision to go with the Maxxxi push-up bra? It might be useful to explore the duality of your feelings here. On the one hand, you share week after week that you yearn to be desired primarily for your mind and heart, but on the other hand, you are considering a bra that puts your sexuality, as it were, on open display. For years, we’ve been trying to reconcile these two ideas: that a woman can be both sexual and powerful, and even powerful in her sexuality! Unlike Margie, or your mother, of course. Kudos to you and the Maxxi!

Do the rhinestones encrusting that thong speak to your past in any way? Well, I was just remembering the story you told me about Margie’s extravagant engagement ring and how you felt so distraught at the prospect of having a stepmother only ten years older than yourself. You got involved with your English teacher in retaliation. And then your poor mother went on that drinking spree. Very difficult times for a 16-year-old girl on the cusp of young womanhood. No, get it if you like it.

Boy cut shorts? As we’ve discussed, psychological androgyny is a powerful development as we age. No longer do you have to feel constricted into a two dimensional idea of what women can do, feel, or think! You’re maturing, and you don’t need to buy into society’s definitions of gender and what it supposedly entails. Forget about the old molds you learned from your macho yet desperately insecure and overcompensating father and your emotionally lost mother, who found solace in conventionality. You go, girl! I would choose the blue. In for a penny!

Well, it looks like we certainly spent a productive hour here today! I hope my guidance was helpful, and I really enjoy working with you to realize your true potential. You have the capacity to live the life you want, if you stop looking backwards and embrace your many strengths and gifts! Hey, is that robe transparent? What an apt metaphor for your increasing comfort with putting yourself out there emotionally. Brava! Now, you have a wonderful day. Same time next week?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we can think of no better way to celebrate the New Year than with a calendar. But not just any calendar! Let Garrett Socol explain it all for you.

James Franco’s Calendar

By: Garrett Socol

Actor James Franco has proven himself to be a jack of all artistic trades. Not only does he star in movies, but in the past decade he has written a collection of short stories, taught a class in filmmaking at NYU, created a performance art exhibit at LA’s Museum of Modern Art, taught a class in screenwriting at UCLA, starred on Broadway in Of Mice and Men, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, co-hosted the Academy Awards (with Anne Hathaway taking half the blame), performed in a band called Daddy, and appeared as the face of Gucci’s men’s fragrance line.

The actor doesn’t plan on slowing down. A quick glance at Franco’s calendar for the upcoming year confirms this:

Franco will tackle the role of Prince Siegfried in the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Swan Lake. It’s been a fond dream of Franco’s to either appear in or swim in Swan Lake.

Franco will make his Las Vegas debut when he headlines at the Golden Nugget. He will sing, dance, yodel and play a number of musical instruments, including the lute, the flute, the French horn, the piccolo, harp, oboe, trombone, tuba and triangle. After showcasing his talent for sword swallowing, Franco will try his hand at mind-reading. Then he will try his mind at hand-reading. (He has studied palmistry with a master for more than a month.)

Franco will attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a sturdy Banana Republic shopping bag. Blindfolded.

Franco will construct the world’s largest mosaic made of rice, then he will attempt to break the world record for the most spears caught from a spear gun underwater in one minute (from a six foot distance): 11.

Franco will complete and publish his updated version of Roget’s Thesaurus.

What little boy wasn’t fascinated by outer space? Yep, James Franco. He was never the least bit interested in astronomy, Star Wars or Star Trek. Nevertheless, the actor will travel to the International Space Station and bring refreshments from the International House of Pancakes.

Franco will make the journey from Lexington, Kentucky to Bangkok, Thailand via hot air balloon, solo, with nothing but Neil Diamond music as entertainment.

Franco will be the special guest artist of Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna in Madrid, Spain. Among other feats, he will dive into a giant fish bowl, walk a tightrope 40 feet above the stage with no net, and use his gymnastic skills to land in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms that have been greased with Crisco.

Franco will appear on Celebrity Jeopardy playing against Christiane Amanpour and Stephen Hawking.

Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow need to brace for competition when Franco unveils his new lifestyle website called joof.com. The site will include everything from creating a scrumptious coq au vin to choosing the perfect summer sandal to locating that precious, must-have Picasso.

The athletic performer will climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent (and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world). This way, Franco will literally tower over everybody.

By the twelfth month of the year, Franco will have completed the body of work he had been creating, so he will rest. This does not mean he’ll be tired or run-down. It merely signifies the fact that he will allow his donkey and his ox, along with his agent, manager, publicist, personal trainer, chef, yoga instructor, bodyguard, hairdresser and limo driver to enjoy a four week holiday focusing wholly on slumber and relaxation.