* Welcome to The Big Jewel, sort of the Mount Olympus of literary humor sites -- if Mount Olympus existed. Or if literary humor existed, for that matter. We believe it does. We believe in Norman Birnbach, almost as much as he believes in the Gods of ancient Greece.

The Gods Must Be Rebranded

By: Norman Birnbach

Good morning, Gods & Goddesses of Olympus. We are honored to be here, and honored to be chosen to help you with your branding — it’s not a challenge, it’s an opportunity.

Before we get started, some housekeeping rules — don’t worry, this isn’t about actual housekeeping; it’s just ground rules for how this session should work. We want this to be informal and interactive but not too casual, Zeus Who Thunders On High. The first rule of brainstorms is that there are no bad ideas. Please keep that in mind before you feel the urge to shoot the messenger, strike us with lightning, turn us into stone or otherwise smite us — all of which go against the primal spirit of the brainstorm. Can we get agreement from everyone on that?

Also we can make changes to anything we discuss today because nothing is written in stone…Unless, of course, you prefer it that way. Sorry, that’s a joke; we know you prefer parchment. You’re not Babylonians, after all. But this might be a good time to remind you that each of you signed an NKA — No Killing Agreement.

Situation Analysis
The good news: You’re doing much better than competitors like the Egyptian and Roman gods. Few know the names of more than a couple of Egyptian gods, and the only reason people know the names of the Roman gods is because the planets were named after them. Mortals know the Romans are Lady Gaga to your Madonna (sorry, not that Madonna). Without you, they’d be nothing. We wouldn’t waste our time talking with them.

But the bad news is that, although the twelve of you have captivated humanity’s imagination for thousands of years, collectively you are facing your biggest-ever threat. Bigger than the Titans and more dangerous than Cronos. Although they are taught Greek mythology in elementary school, kids today are in awe of something they feel is more powerful, more alluring and more magical.

It’s Screen Time.

To combat this, we feel that you need to do more than insert yourselves into modern-day situations. Reality TV shows like “Last God Standing” or “Dancing with the Gods” or sitcoms like “It’s Always Sunny on Olympus” or “Two and a Half Gods” might work for a few years, but eventually even good sitcoms get canceled, and then what?

Meanwhile, getting you to embrace social media would be a major fail: Imagine — Zeus of the Thunderbolt, asking mere humans to “like” you on Facebook. You don’t want them to like you. You want them to fear you.

Instead, you need a 21st-century solution to remain relevant: you need to pivot and rebrand yourselves. But before we get to those recommendations, we want to address the Minotaur in the room.

We’ve looked into stories about you, Mighty Zeus, mostly regarding your affairs with mortal women, all of which ended badly. For them. No one really cares about that — sorry, Queen Hera, of course they matter. But I’m talking about the brand. Today’s generation is concerned about your anger issues. I mean, chaining Prometheus to a rock and having his liver eaten by an eagle for eternity — just because he gave mankind fire. It’s not like he gave us the Internet or, worse, deflated some footballs. They want an easygoing god.

Recommendations: Cultural Change
A change in day-to-day leadership can put the scandals behind you. Look, we have tremendous respect for what you’ve done, O Zeus, Lord of the Sky, as god of lightning. You’ve been an inspired choice as supreme ruler of Olympus. But after a couple of millennia, it’s time for a significant change to address a significant enemy.

Appointing a new CEO — Chief Executive Olympian — shows a willingness to engage with millennials, and demonstrates significant cultural change. Meanwhile, O Father Zeus, you get promoted to Chairman of Olympus. Out of the day-to-day grind. Freeing you to develop a comprehensive vision for what Olympus can be. You get to delegate the less-fun responsibilities to someone else.

After careful consideration, we found two candidates:

• Poseidon, ruler of the (inter)net. After all, who has more experience with web surfing?

• Narcissus, a demi-god — but having fallen in love with his own image makes him ideal for a much-needed new spot: god of social media, particularly selfies — perfect for appealing to the millennial zeitgeist.

For the rest of you, we focus-grouped some concepts to update your powers and personas to be millennial-friendly. Most of these recommendations are minor – certainly compared to having to upgrade Egyptian gods like Thoth, the half-ibis god of knowledge, or Horus, the half-falcon god of the sky; that assignment would drive us cuckoo. Your new responsibilities are summed up in this PowerPoint chart (but please note that PowerPoint has nothing to do with the actual powers; it’s just the name of the software we used):

Name Old Power Rebranded Power
Aphrodite Goddess of love, beauty and desire Goddess of online dating
Apollo God of prophecy God of TV & online pundits
Ares God of war God of Worlds of Warcraft
Artemis Goddess of the hunt Goddess of Internet search & deals-of-the-day sites
Athena Goddess of wisdom & intelligence Goddess of Wikipedia
Demeter Goddess of the harvest Goddess of online grocery shopping (Demeter prefers you use paper)
Dionysus God of wine, parties & drunkenness God of wine, parties & drunkenness
Hades King of the Underworld God of hard drive failure & smartphones older than 36 months
Hera Goddess of women and marriage Goddess of women and marriage — excluding mom jeans, minivans, and girls’ nights out
Hermes God of travel, messengers & commerce God of iMessage, eCommerce & cashless wallets
Hephaestus God of metalworking and crafts God of Etsy and eBay
The Sirens Their voices lure passing sailors to crash their ships into rocks and drown Their…um, other charms enchant men to surf for porn and crash their computers on viruses

Please note: Even in a rebranded Olympus, there is no god of privacy and no hipster god.

If this basic premise works for you, next we will work on key messages. So we’re on the same page, Jesus has “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Buddha has his Four Noble Truths. You had, basically, “honor us and get rewarded” or “dishonor us and get turned into a cow.” Together, we can develop a message that works for today’s generation.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where sometimes, when the mood strikes us, we publish things that make you go, "Hmm." Hearken to the strange voice of Ian Goldstein!


By: Ian Goldstein

Ever since I started stealing candy, saying “Yoink” has been the best part.

Sure there’s the act itself, which is a rush (even more than the succeeding sugar rush from eating the candy), but once I found this expression I found happiness.

When I started stealing candy (you know, the mini Snickers and Milky Ways) from my barber, I loved it. I’d go in, ask for a regular haircut, snatch a lollipop, and run away with only some of the haircut complete. Those stooges never knew what hit them.

But even as I advanced in my trade and promoted myself to regular size Twix and Reese’s, something was missing, something larger than the hole in my stomach caused by the massive amounts of candy I’ve ingested.

Then one day I saw my rival, Tick Jones, take Swedish Fish (his specialty) and he yelled “Hooray” as he did it. He seemed so happy. “Hooray” was his calling card ever since his wife took the kids.

That’s when I knew. I needed a catchphrase. I started saying “Wonderful times” but it didn’t click. It just made my court cases more confusing for the judge. “You’re a troubled man,” he’d say. And I’d say “What’s it to you Pickleface!” Then me and my lawyer would high five. We hate pickles.

So then I tried “Space funk” but that was too scientific and unoriginal. I’d walk up to a cashier, do a jig and say “Space funk” in my best impression of Barry White. Nothing. No reaction. Nobody noticed. “Are you going to buy anything today sir?” they’d ask. “What’s it to you, Pickleface?!” Then me and my lawyer would high five. He goes shopping with me too.

But then, one day in Waldbaums, I saw a father pretend to take his son’s nose and he said, “Yoink, I’ve got your nose.”

That’s when I knew I had it. Though not entirely original, I would make it my own. Like Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Christian Slater, I would improve on what already existed.

I moved past the father and son and, while placing my hand on the jumbo Kit Kat, exclaimed “Yoink.”

It was beyond cathartic — a sensation I’ve never felt before. My spine tingled. After realizing that the feeling was more from the taser then the catchphrase, I knew I had found eternal bliss.

Anyway Mom, I hope you’re doing well. This time they’re counting it as a felony because I had cocaine on me and my lawyer had a ton of heroin on him. I’m thinking about a new catchphrase, something that represents me at this stage in my life, like: “I’m 42!”

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would never, no never pollute your inbox with spam of any variety. Except possibly this variety from our own Copy Editor David Jaggard. When you're done reading this wonderful new piece, click on the Amazon link below, which leads to the Kindle version of his humor collection Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011. Many of the pieces originally appeared right here. We also invite you to check out David Jaggard on Paris Update. The link is in our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

You Or Another Person

By: David Jaggard

“This is not spam. You have received this message because at one time or another you or another person entered this e-mail address at one of our websites, or this e-mail address was part of a mailing list which we regularly buy from third parties.” — Actual disclaimer at the bottom of a spam e-mail that I received last month.

This is not assault and battery. You have received this punch in the nose because at one time or another you or another person moved your head into the path of my fist, or because your face appeared on a list of third parties whose looks I don’t like.

This is not a robbery. I am waving a handgun in your face and screaming “All of it! In the bag! Now!” because at some time you or another person entered banknotes into your cash register that I want and possibly need for drugs, or because your store’s address was part of a list of places that sell watches and jewelry, which I regularly sell to third parties.

I am not stalking you. I spend every waking moment outside your building, following you everywhere you go and leaving creepy notes in your mailbox because you or another person, perhaps someone you know, or someone you really should get to know, has informed me that only the enveloping warmth of my love can fill the emptiness in your life, even though you already have a fiancé, dozens of friends and two jobs, or because you are part of a list of women I have never actually met but find hot, and whose physical and imagined attributes are my sole topic of conversation with third parties, many of whom are in my head.

I am not drunk. I am slurring my speech, staggering and knocking things over because at one time and then another, like at that reception after work and then at dinner, I, or another person, or at least it seemed like another person, entered eight or nine gin and tonics into one of my digestive orifices. Maybe more. Maybe even more than one orifice. But who’s counting? Anyway, in order to maintain a regular blood alcohol level I shall now move on to a third party.

I am not having an affair. You have received credit card bills listing unexpected charges to local motels on dates that coincide with my frequent “business trips” because at one time and many others you or another person, possibly your prim-looking but surprisingly slutty cousin, have met me in those places to engage in a whole list of mind-blowing sex acts that regularly include third parties.

I am not breaking up with you. You have received this message, your last from me, because at some time you or another person resembling you in every way, wearing your clothes and addressing me by your pet name for me, did something, or more likely a series of small and individually not so significant things, that eroded my former affection for you, or because you really fucked up royally on one specific occasion that I don’t think I even have to remind you about. As a result, your e-mail address, street address, phone number and Facebook page are no longer part of any of my lists anywhere, and I shall now regularly date third parties.

This is not spam. We have sent you this message because we really want your money and have no honest way of getting it, or because we just felt like hassling you. Oh wait — come to think of it, you specifically asked to receive messages from us. Yes, you did. Keep in mind that you may have been sleepwalking at the time. To remove your address from our list, please click the link shown below, which will not take you to a dark website in Moldova (trust us!). We scrupulously honor all requests for removal. Please allow ten years for processing. During that time you may continue to receive notifications from us, but they will not be spam.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy keeping you up to date on the latest in American jurisprudence, courtesy of Danny Behar.

Satan Has Listened To “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” And We Intend To Sue: A Letter To Charlie Daniels

By: Danny Behar

Mr. Daniels,

I hope this open letter finds you well. I apologize that we weren’t able to meet in person. I would’ve just erupted violently from the crust of the earth like I usually do, but I’m feeling a little under the weather today.

I’m writing this from Hell to deliver a message from the Devil himself. I am of course, Mr. Satan’s head legal counsel. Let’s get this out of the way: YES, I realize that I am a literal representation of the common parlance “Devil’s advocate.” Great. Have a little chuckle. See if I care. I’ve held this position for several centuries now and the health benefits are great.

I’m getting distracted. My point, Mr. Daniels, is that you’ve blatantly breached our terms and conditions. In your hit song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” you reveal the full details of a past settlement between my client (Satan) and a young man named Johnny. There’s a delay in the time it takes popular music to reach the depths of Hell, but let me assure you, when “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” started streaming from Satan’s Spotify account, he was not happy.

The agreement between the Devil and Johnny was supposed to be kept strictly confidential. This should have been obvious. I don’t need to explain why we want the Devil’s bidding to be private information. We have no reason to be transparent with our business. We aren’t a non-profit. I’ll even go on record and say that there is a definite profit being made from the souls we’re collecting.

I know exactly what you’re going to say. You think that we broke the terms and conditions too. That can’t be further from the truth. I quote from your lyrics:

“He pulled his bow across the strings
And it made an evil hiss.
And a band of demons joined in
And it sounded something like this…”

Yes. An entire orchestra of demons wielding their own cursed instruments joined in with Lucifer and played along with him. I know this seems unfair and may have warranted the settlement void, but I insist: nowhere in writing was “summoning a large backing band for accompaniment” forbidden! It may have seemed like a funny prank or some sort of flash-mob symphony at the time, but I repeat that it was not mentioned in the signed deal.

Further on in your song you recount the part where Johnny concluded his solo and notified Satan that his playing, with minion choir and all, was inferior. This would have been enough. The Devil knew this himself. However it is now public knowledge that Johnny said, and I quote from your lyrics again:

“Devil, just come on back
If you ever wanna try again.
I done told you once, you son of a bitch
I’m the best there’s ever been.”

Initially, I was deeply offended that Johnny chose to curse out my client. The competition had been fair and such slanderous behavior was unjustified! We recovered from this, though, and carried on with the agreement, giving Johnny the golden fiddle he had rightfully won. However, this all changed last week when we were informed that you have publicized the entire affair and besmirched the Devil’s name to the billions of people who had listened to your song worldwide. Satan is now very concerned about his reputation on earth.

Because of this, Lucifer has changed his mind. He accepts Johnny’s offer. He does wish to “come on back and try again.” He also wanted me to add that this time he’s not going to leave empty-soul-cavity’d like before. Normally we would address this proposal directly to Johnny, but you omitted his last name from the song lyrics, so we were unable to find him. The Rolodex containing his contact information was unfortunately burnt to ashes because we live in a pit of fire and everything is eternally ablaze.

In summary, we will be filing a lawsuit for the first duel and want to set up a rematch. Could you tell Johnny that we’re offering a Golden Apple Watch this time?


The Devil’s Advocate

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we encourage everybody to come out, come out wherever they are. We promise to accept them exactly as they are. Yes, even our Editor Kurt Luchs, who has been hiding something rather important.

Call Me Sparkles (With No Apologies To Rachel Dolezal)

By: Kurt Luchs

It is long past time for me to come out. For far too long — my whole life, in fact — I have lived with a painful (and what I mistakenly believed was a shameful) secret: I am a unicorn living in a man’s body.

There. I’ve said it. What relief those few simple words give me!

True, I didn’t have a unicorn mother or father. Both of my parents were human, kind of, even though one was a Young Republican. I don’t have a single distinctive unicorn gene in my physiological makeup, except in the sense that the human genome has always shared a general 96 percent overlap with the unicorn genome. I do not in any obvious way resemble a unicorn. Not yet, anyway. But now I have come to understand that being a unicorn is more than a question of mere DNA, more than a matter of outward appearances. It is not something that can be verified or falsified with a laboratory test. It is at least partly a social construct. In the end, it is largely a matter of how each individual identifies.

I identify as a unicorn. I always have. When I was five years old I started signing my name Starlite (that’s Rainbow Brite’s unicorn to the uninitiated), until my parents beat me and sent me to my room without any oats. Now, at last, I am ready to accept my true nature, with both pride and humility. Pride, because frankly it takes some balls — albeit not large, furry unicorn balls — to own who you are, especially when that admission comes with so much prejudice and societal baggage. And humility because, well, unicorns! They are so awesome, so beautiful. I cry whenever I think of them. I’m crying now, gently, with soft, neighing, unicorn-like sobs.

So you see, though I was not technically born a unicorn, I sort of was, actually. There are some who claim that being a unicorn is a choice. They are wrong. Not evil, perhaps (except for that awful God-Hates-Unicorns church), simply wrong. You cannot choose who or what you are. You can only choose whether or not to accept it. Which brings me to my next point.

This news may not be welcomed or even understood by all of my family and friends. My ex-girlfriend and children naturally see me one way — my ex, as a “vile bug who somehow escaped the killing jar”; and my children, as a loving caregiver and mentor. Will they be able to see me as a unicorn, even if unicorns are so rare that nobody has ever quite managed to see one? Will they still love me? I mean of course my children, not my ex, who has already put out three hits on me, and will probably just hire a couple of unicorn hunters to take me out when she hears this.

Those hunters will not have much trouble finding me. By making this public announcement I have put a gigantic target on myself. Anyone can take a shot at me, and no doubt many will, even if only rhetorically. I will be even easier to locate when I complete the physical part of my transformation. Years ago, when I first formulated this plan, I secretly began taking unicorn hormones, which for some reason are not extracted from unicorns but rather from readers of Japanese manga. Now you know how the paparazzi got those embarrassing shots of me snorting like a racehorse, pawing the ground and occasionally leaping over rainbows.

Soon I will approach even closer to my ideal when I have thousands of specks of glitter permanently embedded in my flesh, my DNA is altered to allow me to grow soft white fur over my entire body, and I have a long, pointed white horn surgically attached to my forehead. Regardless of where my changes take me, however, the important thing is that I am ready now, finally, to be myself, the real me.

In celebration of this joyful day I say to you now, don’t call me Kurt any longer. Call me Sparkles! And while you’re here, could you fetch me that feedbag full of oats?