* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it has been said we have a nose for news -- news of a little-discussed but worrisome workplace issue. Sniff out the fragrant thoughts of Jack Bedrosian.

Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker

By: Jack Bedrosian

Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker,

The other catalogers and I are becoming concerned that your interactions with your fellow office peers are becoming too, well, “smell-oriented.”

Much of our department’s interactions with you tend to very quickly spiral into a discussion regarding a particular smell — or smells — that we have, to a person, found to be totally (the conversations that is) unappealing, and borderline inappropriate.

Also it is my understanding that this issue has been broached with you before now, only to be met with — as one disgruntled colleague put it — “bullshit qualifications” on your end, really exacerbating our situation here. I’ve been told that a common response to these accusations is your insistence that your nostrils are much too large — perhaps freakishly so — along with a yet-to-be-supported claim that you can in fact fit a regulation size table tennis, or “ping-pong,” ball in at least one of them. This is of course compounded by the fact that you, according to yourself, sport a nose that can only be described as “mousy,” making the utter hugeness of your nostrils seem greater still, while simultaneously causing an intensification of any and all smells due to the large intake capacity of these (apparently) overwhelming blowholes you have smack dab on your face paired with the regrettably tiny and under-equipped nasal cavity that you have been so humorlessly dealt.

Now, I am aware that it is highly unorthodox and generally frowned upon to comment on an employee’s appearance, but I, on behalf of the cataloging department, feel that it is nothing short of an absolute, unquestionable, and simply undeniable necessity, to let you know that you, despite your protestations, have a PERFECTLY NORMAL-LOOKING NOSE. Admittedly, I personally have not seen your nostrils, or rather — have not observed them in any great detail, but I imagine the very fact that I have yet to notice them in any way would strongly suggest that they are indeed very ordinary nostrils. If anything, you may be dealing with a certain type of nasal dysmorphia, but honestly that isn’t a problem that we can afford to add to your list of self-imposed grievances — at least not at this time. Speaking of lists of grievances — there is one, actually.

Below, you will see the contents of the office “Suggestion Box” from just this past month and, as you can see, the majority of them are not at all comments or suggestions as much as they are complaints concerning this very issue to which you are most central. To wit:

“I don’t believe that her doctor prescribed her pescetarianism. I just don’t believe it. She should be required to provide a note.”

“Does my scent really resemble a Callery pear? Semen-ish, you say? Is this an office issue I’ve been kept in the dark about?

“Her choice in odd lunch cheeses is getting so bad that a replacement of the break room carpet is now an inevitability. I liked that carpet, it had pizzazz.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure whose face I have to sit on to get a working computer around here. By the way what’s up with Nose Lady?”

Perhaps the easiest way to begin addressing this issue would be an honest examination of your daily office vocabulary. Based on anecdotal evidence from just about all of the other catalogers your, how shall we say, “liberal” use of particularly unpleasant words such as “odor,” “stench,” and various derivations of “stink” (stank, stunk, etc.) is simply staggering. I personally find just typing these words in the same paragraph to be mildly nauseating, and can say with some certainty that I will probably be skipping lunch in order to deal with a now inevitable facial twitch I feel coming on from all the frowning and nose-scrunching that’s been required to type this (hopefully) cogent point I am trying my best to make on behalf of the office at large.

I hesitate to even send this e-mail, as I fear it may only perpetuate your obsessive behavior and further ingrain a vicious cycle that I am very much attempting to derail. I want to be clear that we are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help you through this, but it is really quite necessary that you bring this preoccupation with your nose to an end. The cataloging department is, frankly, up in arms. Please stop.

With all the sincerity that can conceivably be mustered,

A Caring Co-Worker


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we want your corpse to be coiffed as stylishly as possible, and Michael Fowler is just the man for the job. As always, we encourage you to click on the links to his book, "God Made The Animals," in our blogroll.

Hairdresser To The Stiffs

By: Michael Fowler

I’m a barber running my own hole-in-the wall shop. On one side of me is a deli, on the other a Laundromat. Down the street are a bar and a new funeral home. I do the old hairstyles: the Caligula, the Sal Mineo, the “Kookie” Burns. I don’t get many customers anymore. Never did, and I mainly live off a war wound. If I were smarter I’d think of a way out. But I’m not very smart. I made it to sixth grade. I have a low IQ. Turn left at the peak in the bell curve and go down a standard deviation or so, and there you’ll find me: 85 on the Wechsler scale and 83 on the Stanford-Binet. I’m the imbecile behind the waxed mustache, hoping his sartorial signature is not irremissibly louche.

When a customer comes in, he’s usually a drunk from the bar down the block. I tip him back in my worn leather chair and let him relax. If he wants to start a conversation, I let him do the talking. If I talk at all, I steer clear of the unholy duo of divisiveness: sports and weather. I prefer the safer topics: Darwinism and religion, affirmative action as it affects race relations, and the threat pluralism poses to moral universalism. When my customer is good and relaxed, I open its case and break out my billion-dollar Stradivarius. That’s what I call my old set of electric clippers. It’s a standing joke in my establishment and often draws a laugh, at least if the customer hasn’t heard it too often. Most of my customers have heard the joke too many times and now pretend to be deaf.

Sometimes a customer will ask me why I don’t update my place. They like the new hairstyling spot down the block. This establishment just opened, and would take all my business if I had any. It’s run by a family of foreigners, probably Asians or Mexicans. They may not even be legal, but they get no trouble from the town, so they maybe paid somebody off. What kills me is their son. He’s the same age as mine, 13, but he does women’s pedicures in their shop. That slays me. A 13-year-old boy in a blue smock and earrings kneeling before middle-aged women to scrape their heels and paint their toes. Does a good job too. My wife got a pedicure from him that took 20 years off her feet. I understand this may be part of their family tradition, but it’s just wrong. What will that do to the boy’s manhood? He should be giving himself tattoos with a charred needle and buzzing gang names in his scalp like my boy. My boy’s on thin ice at school, but his manhood isn’t in doubt. He’s gender-normative for a kid born with testicles. Meanwhile my wife left me. I guess she wanted a man with young feet like hers.

She’ll be sorry she left. What I mean is, my career may finally be taking off. Out of curiosity one day I dropped in at the new funeral home they built near my shop, Bottom-Rate Burials. They had an ad in their window for a mortician’s cosmetologist. I went in and applied, told two men about my hair and skin expertise. They asked how I’d feel about tidying up men who were covered with blood and powder burns after testing explosives back in the woods. I said I didn’t see a problem, I did drunks in my shop who came in bloody with knife wounds and with liquor and puke all over them all the time. By the time I was done with them, they were presentable enough to be burned or buried easy, especially if you put a shroud over them. The men laughed and clapped me on the back. They told me they’d call if they decided to detonate the explosives.

They didn’t call, so I called them. Joe, one of the guys I’d talked to before, told me the explosions were on hold, and they’d decided to go on fronting as a cost-cutting cremation and burying service. If I was interested, I could do the sprucing up of the stiffs until they hired a mortician. I said I had no experience with embalming or makeup, but Joe said if I did haircuts and shaves and maybe manicures if the nails were grimy, they’d provide cheap new suits, and that would be sufficient. Did he take me for a fool? I said look, my wife used to do nails at my joint, but she was long gone. Shaves and haircuts I could manage, but no one would mistake my manicures for the real thing. Joe disagreed and after listening to him, I saw he was right. My fear of change now looked regressive and any objection quite nugatory.

I start Thursday. If this works out, I’ll be bridging to an elite economic status and joining the vanguard of upward mobility. Eleanor, do you hear me? And one more thing, sugar: any idiot can do nails, so long as the customers grow rigid in the chair and can’t open their stupid yaps.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we specialize in guided meditations. Say hello to your guide, in her first piece for us, Liza Behles.

Follow The Breath

By: Liza Behles

Okay everyone, let’s turn off our phones and find a comfortable seated position. You in the Ed Hardy tank — sir, you’ll need to remove your Jawbone. Also, I’m afraid your Chihuahua will have to wait outside. Ahem — ma’am — yes, you with the gold leaf temporary tattoo — this is a silent meditation, so let’s save the Ohmming for later. Okay. I think we’re ready. Let’s all close our eyes and inhale. Mmmmmmmmm.

Now exhale. Ahhhhhhhh. The breath will be your guide tonight, so stay focused on it. Watch what it does. Listen to what it wants. Don’t try to control it. Just follow it. Innnn. Ouuuut. Innnn. Ouuuuut. Good. Follow it in through your nose and down into your lungs. Follow it out through your nostrils and into the room. Follow it through the beaded curtains and into the lot. Out past the ambiguous signs and the meter maid who is right now, probably writing you a ticket, especially if you’re the S-Class owner who consistently parks like an asshole. Stay with the breath. Follow it down the street past the clubby fro-yo place and then past the Ben & Jerry’s that’s like 500 times better than the fro-yo place but you wouldn’t know that because goddammit you’re a fighter. Follow it past the liquor store where you’ll probably stop on the way home because choosing fro-yo over ice cream was hard, and you deserve a reward. It’s not drinking alone if it’s with your cat. Innnnnhale. Exxxxxhale.

Stay with the breath. Follow it past the Whole Foods and — oh — okay actually follow it inside because even the breath can’t resist those not-so-little baggies of chocolate macaroons that pair so well with half a bottle of rosé. Good thing they’re gluten-free! Follow the breath down the street past the Equinox where you willingly exchange $254 every month for three crowded Pilates classes taught by someone who was born without joints or body fat. Do not follow it up the stairs and into the locker room because even the breath — which is really just a cloud of air — will feel like a hideous troll compared to the tan, chiseled Blake Livelies who are right at this very moment straightening their ombred hair extensions topless in front of the mirrors with the glassy-eyed look of entitlement common among those who will never know what it feels like to spend their own money on $98 yoga pants. Keep breathing. Innnhale. Exxxhale.

You’re doing great. Stay with the breath. Follow it through the park where you could just exercise for free but don’t because your d-bag ex and his 21-year-old dancer-slash-model-slash-humanitarian girlfriend take the morning bootcamp class every day and OMG have you seen her ass-slash-boobs-slash-everything? Keep going. Follow the breath through your neighborhood all the way to your apartment. Sure, it’s a walk-up, but don’t worry, one day you’ll have a doorman. Maybe. But probably not if you stay at your current job — because let’s be honest, Chad is probably gonna get that promotion, which will be pretty embarrassing because he’s only been there for five weeks and has no skills but is just so goddamn nice. Ugh, you could just rip that stupid little breast cancer awareness bracelet right off his stupid little wrist. Fucking Chad. So what if he has 10,000 Instagram followers — you have a master’s degree AND THE LOANS TO PROVE IT. Wouldn’t it feel good to just pull a Jerry McGuire and peace the fuck out of that beige hellhole? Then you’d have the time you need to do something big. Like invent an app. Or a startup. Or an app startup like that chick from high school who created that dating site that matches people with similar STDs. It is actually insane how crazy rich she is right now. Have you seen the pics of her house on Facebook? She has what appears to be an entire brownstone in Carroll Gardens and is also somehow smoking hot even though she’s had like five kids…

KIDS. Now there’s a fading shore. Sure, you could technically meet someone in the next six months and you could technically do some medical stuff that costs a lot of money — which might become a non-factor once you sell your app-startup — but you don’t even have a business plan! You should’ve listened to your d-bag ex and gone to business school. Then you’d at least be Chad’s boss and wouldn’t have to spend all your energy stressing over the promotion which would give you more time to work out and meditate and resist ice cream and concept your app and also you’d have a bunch of well-connected friends who could put you in touch with angel investors or VCs or whoever it is that pays college dropouts millions of dollars for STD dating apps. Maybe you should Linked-In the chick from high school. No. That’s creepy. You need to get your shit together. What are you even doing right now? You’re wasting precious app-concepting time in some basement with a bunch of new-age weirdos in Ed Hardy tank tops when you could be out there succeeding. Or at the very least maximizing your Equinox membership. So on the next inhale I want you all to open your eyes, stand up, go check your car for tickets, and reflect on the mind-blowing pile of failure that is your life. Now exhale it all out. Ahhhhhhhhh. Namaste.





* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where, when it comes to poetry-related stuff with the word "thirteen" in it, we have something that's almost as good as "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." And Big Jewel first-timer David Ebenbach has a tremendous advantage over Wallace Stevens in that he is not dead.

Thirteen Awesome Pro-Tips For Promoting Your Book Of Poetry!

By: David Ebenbach


  1. Promotion starts with choosing your book’s title. Choose carefully. Pick something that captures the spirit of the book, stands out, and sticks in the memory. Poems by James Franco, maybe.
  1. Incidentally, by “book of poetry,” is there any chance you mean “paranormal romance novel”? No? Are you sure? Because the kids still seem to love those. I thought they had stopped loving them a few years ago, but no. Apparently they still do.
  1. Consider making promotional postcards, using your book cover as the image for the postcard. It’s a great way to see what your book would look like if it were significantly smaller. So cute! Then send them out to everyone you know, and even some people you don’t know. People like getting postcards of cute-sized books! They’re like fun-sized candy bars. On the back, write “Wish you were here, buying my book. Or anywhere, really, buying my book. The main thing is buying my book.”
  1. Promotional posters, on the other hand, make your book look bigger. It’s like when a cat puffs its fur up to seem scary. People may be intimidated into buying a copy.
  1. As you formulate a marketing plan, remember that the Internet is your ally; if you scratch the Internet’s back, it will scratch yours. Unfortunately, however, the Internet doesn’t have a back. And if you scratch its front, it will, like an ocelot, claw you to death.
  1. Speaking of computery stuff, how about creating a video book trailer? It’s like a movie trailer, but for a book! Of poetry! Are you feeling the natural chemistry there?
  1. Technology is great, but of course you shouldn’t discount the importance of in-person events. Giving poetry readings is a sure-fire way to find out who your real friends are. Maybe even your real parents. Take careful note of who shows up and cut everyone else out of your life forever.
  1. Reviews really help put the book out in front of people, at least if the review is from the New York Times. So, you know, if the New York Times offers to review the book, I say go for it.
  1. These days, the hot term in book promotion is “blog tour.” It’s like a regular tour of public readings, except that you do it online, getting interviewed by blogs like ihavefivereaders.com and paranormalromancenovel.com and actuallytobehonestijusthaveonereader.com. The main challenge here is that you can’t tell who among your friends and family takes the time to read your interview, and who doesn’t even bother. To be safe, cut everyone out of your life forever.
  1. Checking your Amazon ranking may cause your Amazon ranking to go up or it may not, but you’ll never know for sure unless you check it. A lot.
  1. Have you considered radio interviews? Do you know someone who does radio interviews? Because if so, seriously, e-mail me.
  1. Maybe you could include just one vampire — like, a cameo in a minor stanza? Paranormal romance poetry is a growing market. Or should be.
  1. Try, whenever possible, to be related to Michiko Kakutani.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the only site with the power to make you read and laugh against your will. Remember: with great power comes great irresponsibility! When you have finished reading Matthew David Brozik's new piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and you will receive a free superpower courtesy of this publication.

The Best Superpower Is No Superpower

By: Matthew David Brozik

People, it’s whatever year it is and yet the debates still rage — as they have for hundreds of years — over which would be the best single superpower to have. Flight over invisibility? Superspeed versus accelerated healing? Mind control or weather control?

Stop arguing. We have the answer, finally: There is no superpower — not one — that you’d actually want to have, if it were the only superpower you had. Any such so-called superpower would be more bane than boon.

Flight. So, you — like almost everyone else — think you’d like to be able to fly? You really wouldn’t. Certainly not if you simply woke up one morning (or in the afternoon, after a particularly refreshing nap) and discovered that you could launch yourself upward and propel yourself through the ether at will. Not if that were the extent of the superhuman abilities you’d inexplicably gained…because there are a lot of things in that ether that are bigger and stronger than you are, and you’re bound to hurl yourself into one sooner rather than later. And when you do collide with a 787 Dreamliner, you’re going to suffer the sort of concussion that will send you plummeting back down to Earth in a hurry, where you will be reminded, painfully, why humans don’t fly. And even if you do manage to flit around for a while without getting caught in a tree or a jet engine, do you know how cold it is at, say, 10,000 feet above sea level (the altitude at which a bald eagle flies — at 65 mph, no less)? It’s 20 degrees Celsius colder than it is on the ground, which is a big difference. When you imagined yourself being able to fly, did you picture yourself wearing a parka?

Invisibility. How totally cool would it be to be invisible? You could sneak into almost anywhere undetected and undeterred. You wouldn’t even have to sneak! You could just stroll into places — bank vaults, locker rooms, meetings you’re late for — unseen. You would have so much fun being invisible to others! For about two hours. Because that’s probably the longest you could go without being run over by a truck whose driver couldn’t see you, or beaned in the head by a baseball thrown by someone who couldn’t see you, or pushed out of an open window by another guest at a dinner party who couldn’t see you. Invisibility is just plain dangerous. You see?

Superspeed. Being able to propel your body forward — and even backward for that matter — at extreme velocities would be even more dangerous than being able to fly, if you weren’t protected by some sort of force field, which you wouldn’t be, because you get to pick only one superpower, and you picked superspeed. There are an inconceivably great number of things of all sizes all over the place that you do not want to run into while moving very fast. You know why a “high-speed collision” is more dangerous than a regular-speed collision? It’s because of the high speed. And as your speed increases, your time to react to and avoid dangers decreases to zero. Which means you’ll probably run into serious, probably lethal, trouble pretty darn quickly.

Accelerated healing. Unlike almost every other single superpower, the ability to heal completely from any and all wounds won’t kill you, by definition. But you’ll have the exact opposite problem: You’ll live forever. You will be unable to die! You’ll still be here when the entire not-superhuman race is gone. You’ll be all alone, though. And cutting off your own limbs just to watch them grow back will have long since stopped being entertaining.

Weather control. Being master of the elements would be a novelty for exactly as long as you could keep your superpower secret from anyone who feels comfortable asking you for a favor. Because once it gets out that you can make it rain, every friend who doesn’t want to go to his kid’s soccer game will be asking you to help him out. But then anyone who had beach plans will be asking you for a sunny, cloudless day, with just a hint of a cool breeze. And so on. All the time. You will never not be controlling the weather, and if you have a parent who can make you feel even the slightest bit guilty, then you’re likely to find yourself micro-manipulating her personal climate to keep her constantly comfortable, lest she remind you that she used to change your diapers and wipe your nose whenever you were under the weather.

Mind control. On the other hand, being able to play with other people like so many fully articulated action figures would be pretty awesome, and there really is no downside. So maybe mind control is the superpower to have, after all. Your mom might be onto something.