* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are celebrating the second and final week of Zane Shetler Half-Month, or as it is now known, "Two Weeks That Didn't Quite Change The World, But Hey, We Tried!"

Thus Spake, Ran, Drank Zarathustra

By: Zane Shetler


When Zarathustra was thirty-some years old, he underwent a crisis and he left behind the comfort of his living room and went running forth into his neighborhood and the adjoining parks and trails. There he jogged and he did not tire of his solitude nor his running mix for many months. But at last his heart turned and he muttered to his playlist:

Great song selections, what would your happiness be if you had not these ears for your sick beats to entertain? Would you not grow weary if it weren’t for your being heard?

Behold! I am likewise weary of my wisdom. My cup overfloweth with the science of running and the nuances of trail etiquette. I am like a pair of shorts that has gathered too much sweat and mildew. I need hands outstretched to take them and wring them out.

I should like to give this knowledge away, and Zarathustra wants to be man again. Thus Zarathustra went to a pub run.


Zarathustra stood among the runners gathered in front of the brewery. They were eager to exercise as one and then enjoy a post-run beer and socializing. Just like the others, he mingled awkwardly and jockeyed for position to be nearer the graduate student females stretching on the sidewalk. They did not look at him when he spoke, but he knew he would soon have disciples among a crowd so clearly desperate with spiritual yearning:

I wish to speak to the despisers of the body, those who hide their true selves under reflective gear, specialized running caps, and wrap-around sunglasses. “I am a runner, body and soul” — so he speaks. And why should a gear-wearer not speak such?

But the enlightened man shows up gearless and says — “I need not your rigmarole — special dry fits and light-up vests, watches and GPS. I fear not that I shall get lost and perish from dehydration on tonight’s three-mile loop!”

This is the man we should yearn to be. We should aspire to be he who’s Self says to the Ego: “Feel thirsty!” as he forsakes his bandoleer of two-ounce water bottles and runs proudly into the night with little more than the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet.

Such a man is our hero. He would also rise to any challenge — every possible impending 5K!


The crowd was silent, somewhat stunned. One man asked if he had an upcoming race he was trying to announce. Zarathustra waved him off like a fly and continued:

Of course, there are important events on the horizon. But there are changes that must occur first to cause a man to seek out a pub run such as this — I dare you tell me it is not so. Indeed, he must undergo three metamorphoses that lead him to this point. I will describe them:

First, as a boy, he must wrap himself in the sweet warmth of identity that is high school athletics, despite the fact that he is a verily un-vital factor to that same team’s success.

Next, he must leave behind the world of youthful competition to be borne aloft on the wings of his first job, second job, third job, during which a once laughably easy Turkey Trot comes to pose a daunting challenge. He must rise to the task with equal parts confidence and shame.

Then the third metamorphoses. The most important! There must be a catalyst: a tremendous break-up, a psychosexual upheaval that occurs when his running career is at its all-time low, thus resulting in his rededication to running, a forgoing of Netflix, and swift action upon that hitherto unquenched desire to garner greater friendships and meet more potential love interests.

Then, and only then, does a man attend a pub run.


After speaking thus, Zarathustra began to weep. A young woman asked him if he’d been drinking already. Another asked if he was going to make an announcement or not, because they’d like to get started already. Zarathustra turned to them and yelled:

There are always those who go against us. There will be those who say, “Why must you clog our thoroughfares?” There will always be those men who ride along upon motorized wheels, who honk and flail their limbs, chastising us for daring to cross roads the way we see fit. And to these beasts, our laughter rules supreme. We giggle and we flit around the bend.

But alas, there are enemies we cannot easily escape. They are the naysayers among us. They claim to pledge allegiance to the brotherhood of the light feet, but their hearts — and feet! — are in fact heavy with despair. Flee from their sly vengeance. Flee these apostates!

Avoid he who runs far ahead, so seemingly fast and stolid in nature, to all eyes giving forth the intention of going the distance — Yet no! The pack watches in horror as he slows up, massages a cramp in his side, stumbles behind a bush and presumes to vomit.

Flee too the man that wears headphones and says unto himself, “I shall run together and apart at the same time” — for he cuts himself off from the lively flock and in doing so undermines the foundation of our sacred bond.

If you meet these apostates, look them in the eye and profess that lesser acts of treachery have felled empires. And if you, yourself, are the men I decry, run quickly away and don’t stop till you’ve run full away from yourself!


In the meanwhile, evening had come and the impatient runners were talking over him, for even curiosity and disgust grow tired, and Zarathustra realized that his teachings had fallen on deaf ears.

“They are sleeping and running, their dreams are reality to them. Yet the ears that listen to me do not heed my lovely truths.” Zarathustra said this to his heart.

“My suffering and my pity — who cares about them! This is my night, my time to shine: rise up now, rise up, great noontide!

In a last effort to save face, Zarathustra leapt onto the picnic table and clapped his hands together before announcing:

Hark! Um, guys? I guess what I’m getting at in a roundabout way is that there is a fantastic 5K Fun Run downtown next Saturday. It’s supposed to be really great weather. Just a five-dollar entry fee and all proceeds help fund my trip to Nietzsche’s tomb in partial completion of my philosophy PhD. I hope to see you there!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where grammar is always very, very personal, no matter how impersonal it may seem. We are also delighted to announce that this is week one of Zane Shetler Half-Month, possibly the most thrilling literary event of the last part of August.

Grammar 101, Tinged By Resentment

By: Zane Shetler

Good morning class! I hope that your weekend was enjoyable. Mine was certainly very eventful. Remember how we talked last week about the difference between internal and external conflicts? Well, I found my weekend to be full of both.

But okay. Deep breath. I feel good. I’m here, with 35 students in front of me. Let’s get going with today’s grammar lesson: we’re going to focus on common grammatical mistakes and traps.

Now, first off, let’s look at the difference between your and you’re.

Your signifies possession. For example, “This is your fault,” as in the fault belongs to you. Not me. Some other examples are as follows:

Your friends are coming to dinner with us again?”

Your lack of interest in any form of commitment is staggering.”

Or, “I don’t think your face is something that I want to see like ever again.”

Notice that in each example, the noun that directly follows your is not something that I possess or that is within my sphere of control to change. It’s on you. These are your issues. Your totally separate-from-me-now issues.

As for the other you’re, with the apostrophe and -re, it should be very easy to remember that it’s a contraction of the two words you and are, for example:

You’re a scumbag.” See, you could also say, “You are a scumbag.”

We can also flip it, go aspirational and more self-affirming with our you’re’s.

As in, “You’re not going to spend any more time fretting over this bullshit, because you’re a truly beautiful soul who is a great inspiration to all these malleable youth — our world of tomorrow.”

And, you know what, “You’re going to start going to run club where you’re going to meet somebody super hot and chill whose idea of a good time is not playing videogames with a bunch of bros till four a.m. on a weeknight, hotboxing the 400-square-foot apartment that you’re paying the entire rent for, all while he looks put out when you ask him to pay for pizza, saying, ‘I’m just trying to find a job that doesn’t compromise my values as a writer.'”

Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of these kind of homophone errors in your writing so far this semester. I’d like us to nip these mistakes in the bud before you find that your most valuable years are gone and your sweet young adulthood has turned out to be nothing more than a shamble of wasted days, a repository of bitter memories.

Okay? So let’s look at whether and weather.

Whether should be used to introduce alternatives. As in, “I’ve been trying for some time to decide whether the new TFA Biology teacher down the hall would make a better partner than you.” Note that there is no mention of sunshine or precipitation.

Another example could be, “Maybe it’s time to find out whether or not Tinder is a viable dating platform. I hear it is very easy to use.”

Or, “Some time during season three of House of Cards I realized that whether I’m totally alone or whether I find someone else, I’m still going to be a better person just so long as I’m not with you.”

As for weather without the first h, it should only be used to indicate the actual weather, as in the temperature, the wind, the clouds, etc. You know, just like, “Check out that foggy weather out there. I hope that you’ll get lost in all that fog and fall into a lake and drown while I’m cozy at home with my new lover — a caring, working class guy I haven’t met yet, but who I’ll no doubt meet at the public library when we both reach for the same copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

Lastly, I want us to take a look at peek and peak. These are interchanged all too often and I’m hoping that a quick lesson on their differences will set us all straight.

Now peek with two e’s means that you are getting a quick look at something, as in, “I got a peek at your Gmail last week.” I think it is easiest to remember that this peek is related to a glance at something because the two e’s in the word are representative of the two eyes we each have in our head. Yes, two eyes that allow us to see the truth, even when someone tries to keep it hidden, buried, stashed away in a folder ostensibly labeled “Work Stuff,” despite the fact that work is a concept as foreign to that person as the concepts of loyalty, dignity, and self-respect.

Another example could be, “I got a peek at your Facebook messages and a peek at your texts and a peek at your direct message Tweets too.”

Of course, be careful not to confuse that peek with peak with an a, which means a summit or the topmost point of something…or evidently the private parts of some gym skank, like, “Sharon, from the climbing gym, who thinks it’s appropriate to send e-mails requesting that you ‘summit her peak with your nut tool,'” whatever the hell that means.

To which I counter that I might have wasted several important years on you, but it doesn’t even matter, because, “I’m still healthy and vibrant and I’ll be damned if I’ve already hit my peak and wasted my best days on you. I mean, I got miles to go before I sleep, amiright Rob Frost!?”

Well, we’ve covered a lot of grammatical ground today! I have to say that I feel particularly relieved to have worked our way through some of these issues. Anybody have any questions? Nope? Good.

I’ll be passing out worksheets to review these concepts.

If you get stuck or have any questions, just let me know. I’ll be using this time to update my relationship status and untag six years worth of Facebook photos.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to channel James Brown every now and then, with the manly help of Michael Fowler. As always, we encourage you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

A Man’s World

By: Michael Fowler

Training class over, I hit the floor with the rest of the new service reps. I have one goal: to make myself stand out at Red Bone Financing like a supernova. Shouldn’t be difficult, since the others are mostly females, soft, dim and troublesome by nature, along with a few chestless guys built to stand still for 30 years. There’s even one pre-corpse toting a cane and portable breathing apparatus. I mean, what is this dead end even doing here? Are times so hard even this schlub has to work? Someone needs to drag him out in the hall and shoot him. To make things worse, the class is assigned to a female supervisor named Bippi or something that cute, with a torpedo-shaped hairdo and her face rouged up like a barn. I need to make her understand right away that I am not afraid of any woman and if it comes to a fight, I will prevail.

Score my first coup right off the bat by commandeering the best office-space in our area, the only one with a full window view. I achieve this feat by scouting out the floor before we’re supposed to and leaving a crapload of my stuff behind, my empty briefcase on the desk, and my jacket draped over the chair, to hold my spot. Some high-strung, spindly female deprived of both muscle and good sense tries to move in on me when I return, pretending she doesn’t see my things, but I defend my turf with tenacity. She leaves in tears, boo hoo boo hoo.

Bippi stops by, catching me finishing a pick-me-up candy bar, and I turn to face her, flossing. She smiles and asks how I’m settling in, but her casual act doesn’t fool me. Ron, our male trainer, has doubtless marked me with a bullet, as a rising star to be watched, and she wants to check out the phenom. But then who trusts Ron, that spermless filament? The doofus thinks he’s the Great Motivator, serving up soulless bon mots like “straight from the shoulder” and “shot in the arm” that went out with Nehru shirts. I let my floss dangle from an incisor and spell it out for Bippi. I’m giving the company six months tops to make me a manager, I tell her, or I’m out the door to greener pastures. I emphasize my right to success with some fist pumping, along with some ritualistic not to say mandatory pecker flexing. I come close to touching the actual equipment, and hear Bippi gasp, so I cover by playing air guitar at pelvis level. I make twangy sounds with my lips and tongue to make it look more real. I think she gets the message. When you hire me, babe, you hire me and my penis both.

Bippi departs, and the mousy female in the cage next door asks me some inane question about starting up her computer. I don’t remember her name after only six weeks in class with her — it wasn’t near enough time — but I think, here we go. Day one on the floor and already the also-rans are trying to drag me down to basement level with them. Maybe this pulseless chick thinks that just because she’s on her monthlies or has typhoid, or whatever her problem is, that I’m going to be her handler. Time to fix that perception. I stare into her baby browns and tell her, straight from the shoulder as Ron would say, that in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog, sink-or-swim, spoils-to-the-victor, devil-take-the-hindmost, once more unto the breach, theirs not to reason why and a throatful of other clichés that are good reasons not to be bothered with her. Her look conveys the impression that she should ask someone else. And why doesn’t she know that by now?

Meanwhile I need stats, I need to be on the board! Always be closing! I get my chance that very morning when Bippi opens the front door and a stream of actual clients walk in, most of them hideously repulsive, but still, at Red Bone the consumers are the job. I am all over them, grabbing one and sitting him or her down, and filling their ears with whatever comes to mind, then jumping up and grabbing a new one, faster than anyone else. Along with the live scum I’m handling phone calls, dozens of them from gibbering idiots, averaging less than 30 seconds a call, no doubt a company record. Still, by the time lunch rolls around an unhappy-looking Bippi is occupying my personal space. She tells me my clients are phoning the complaint department and her, saying they don’t understand a word I tell them, and sometimes I’m rude and even obscene.

That really ticks me off. A town without pity situation is going down, with this bitch standing in for the town, and I feel the hostility. My superiority is actually questioned. Instinctively I do some additional pecker flexing, not bothering to disguise it as air guitar. I tell Bippi I’m not afraid of her or any woman, that as a man I am stronger than she is, that she doesn’t intimidate me, and that the world is better off run by males. And before she accuses me of touching myself, I tell her I’m trying to pass a kidney stone. To make that sound more believable, I tell her my health benefits haven’t kicked in yet, and that’s true. I won’t have job-related coverage for 60 days.

I think I’ve won, but within 10 minutes two beefy security guards stand at my side. Smirking, they tell me to get a grip on myself. They add that I have five minutes to clean out my desk, and then they will escort me out the door. They do, too, over my loud protests, and soon I’m on the street holding my briefcase and jacket, canned.

These oh-so-sensitive women! My next job I’m working for The Man, and I mean that literally.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we're glad someone has the energy to address the energy crisis. When you've finished reading David Martin's latest piece, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

We Are The Light

By: David Martin

There seems little doubt that we are facing an energy crisis. Despite significant developments in wind, solar and nuclear power, we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels and likely will be for years. Since that supply is finite and limited, we need to find new ways to bridge the gap.

The future looks bleak, but I think I have an answer to our current dilemma: human-generated power. If you look around, you’ll see millions, if not billions, of potential energy sources.

Visit any busy downtown street corner and you’ll find thousands of people walking here and there, to and fro, hither and yon. All that toing and froing and hithering and yonning is nothing more than wasted energy.

Sure, walking serves the useful purpose of getting from point A to point B but, in doing so, there is a measurable amount of expended (and heretofore) wasted energy. I’m not sure how many joules, ergs or kilosomethings it is but I’m assuming it’s enough to be harvested, saved and then transferred to our electrical grid to be used in powering our homes and businesses.

I’m not an engineer, but I am familiar with such words as nanobots, fuel cells and biomechanics, and I have no doubt that some combination of these technologies can allow an individual walker to generate a certain amount of usable energy. That energy, along with the energy generated by millions of other walkers, could be transmitted to a central station for distribution elsewhere.

Engineering is not my forte; something I like to call macro-imaging (or what some might call blue-sky thinking) is my true calling. So I’ll leave it to the engineers and scientists to work out the details while I explore the broader concepts.

Walkers, of course, comprise but one group of potential energy providers. There are also millions of people who not only walk but also walk their dogs. This presents the possibility of doubling the power generation capacity, particularly in high density canine environments such as parks and dog runs. Runners could boost the power output even more.

Another possibility is swimmers. From recreational swimmers to competitive racers, there is a wealth of untapped power that can be harvested, subject of course to whatever safety provisions are required to allow for electricity generation within a water environment. Again, I’ll leave those details to the engineers on the ground.

It’s common knowledge that sexual activity burns upwards of 200 calories per encounter. That’s 200 calories of previously wasted energy that presumably could be transformed into useful electricity to power small items like a toaster, a microwave or a vibrator. If people are willing to take the time to employ a condom before engaging in sex presumably they’ll have no problem also donning whatever electro-conductive apparatuses are required to truly experience the power of love.

Adventurous homeowners can explore the possibility of tapping into huge electrical energy sources during local thunderstorms. Wearing lightning rods connected to large storage batteries promises to provide a month’s worth or more of power from just one storm at minimal cost. For those having personal safety concerns, I have been assured that wearing a tinfoil hat will protect against excessive electromagnetic radiation as well as any deleterious effects of telepathy.

Speaking of tinfoil hats, it seems to me that they could easily provide a significant source of solar-generated electricity. If we all wore such headgear outside on sunny days, we could easily recharge our cell phones, laptops and tablets for next to nothing on an ongoing basis. And again, this would have the added advantage of providing serious protection against local, ill-intentioned mind readers.

If we just let our imaginations soar, I suspect that there is an almost unlimited supply of energy literally right at our fingertips. The power generated by billions of daily computer keystrokes could easily be harnessed. Likewise, mini-wind generators could be strapped to our noses while we sleep to power our household appliances. Even Queen Elizabeth could become a royal role model by agreeing to generate electricity through her public waving.

We have the answer to our energy needs in our own hands, feet and nostrils. In short, we are the light.