* Welcome to The Big Jewel, known far and wide -- and also near and narrow -- as the single most reliable source of historical truth. Listen in as our very own Editor zeroes in on some key events from America's past that have puzzled the experts for ages.

Mysteries Of American History

By: Kurt Luchs

One bright summer morning in 1756, in Virginia, a farmer named Emmanuel Boggs rose and stepped — staggered, I should say — over to the window. If he had opened his eyes, he would have seen several hundred acres of prime Virginia tobacco shrouded in dew and stretching like a fine brown mist to the turquoise horizon. But Farmer Boggs was nobody’s fool. He kept his eyes good and shut. The last thing a man wants to look at in the morning is miles and miles of tobacco. And in the distance the mad, immortal sea, the cry of the seagull, and the endless lapping of waves on the shore….Farmer Boggs felt a sudden spasm of nausea. Instinctively he put his fist through the glass. He stood gaping at his hand for a while as though it might apologize, and then he went back to bed. He never woke up again, but we mustn’t hold that against him. He had taken all that a man could take. The South. Tobacco. A brutal, inhuman system doomed to decline and eventual extinction. Corn whisky. Gallons of it. And Scarlett, beautiful Scarlett whom he had never met, who would not be born until his son was an old man.

There are other incidents in American history just as puzzling as this one.

In 1833, on a foggy March Thursday, Emil Boggs (no relation) went squirrel hunting in the woods around Natchez, Tennessee. Fifteen minutes later he came back, after realizing he had forgotten his hunting rifle and that he couldn’t kill any squirrels by pointing a finger at them, cocking his thumb and yelling “Bang!” This time he took both his squirrel gun and his dog, whom he called Commander Henry Celsius for reasons that are lost to us, and probably to him, also. Certainly they were lost to the dog, who answered to nothing but “Hey, you!”

At any rate, out went Emil, and soon he had shot his quota of squirrels. Before long he had shot double his quota, and then triple. He had also shot his wife, his brother, a man who looked like his brother, a man who looked like his wife, and a man who looked like Teddy Roosevelt, although Roosevelt would not be born for another 25 years. He just didn’t know how to quit. The local constables grilled him for hours, but when asked why he had shot all those people he would only reply, “Because they had big, bushy tails and scampered from tree to tree.” It was an airtight alibi. Reluctantly, they let him go.

Two years later to the day, he was found floating face down in the reservoir, and such was the esteem the townspeople had for him that no one bothered to pull him out, although they did put up a “No Swimming” sign. Commander Henry Celsius changed his name to Emiliano Zapata (no relation) and moved to Mexico, where he was to write his memoirs and cause no end of confusion.

In October, 1928, Emily Boggs (again, no relation), who worked as a silkworm in a New York textile plant, passed out of human ken for three days. For 72 hours no one knew where she was, and what’s more, no one cared. When she finally returned to work she was wearing a false mustache, and her breath left something to be desired. She waved a loaded revolver in the air, or vice versa, and declared in a rotten Spanish accent: “I am Emiliano Zapata. Put your hands up and don’t lower them until I say ‘Simon Says.'” Nobody noticed, as it was a Sunday and the plant was closed.

After several minutes of indecision she fell north-by-northwest into a bucket of boiling tar, muttering some words that were either poor English or very poor Spanish. Five days later she was arrested in Salt Pork, Oregon, for writing out checks in Roman numerals and making some grave errors in arithmetic. She was taken in with a tall, bearded man who called himself Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had been killed 63 years previously. The Birth of the Blues would not come for another four years.

On a hot Sunday night not long ago, the author of this article (no relation, but I know him pretty well and he’s a really sweet guy) glanced up from his work to find that it was 10:15 p.m., more than two hours past his bedtime. He was tired, so very tired. The Birth of a Nation was already more than 200 years in the past. There was no point in sending a greeting card now. He tiptoed off to bed so as not to awaken the guard dog.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies. But Carla Sarett does.

Everything You Need To Know About Babies

By: Carla Sarett

Congratulations on becoming a new mother! Of course you’re nervous, but remember that thousands, maybe even millions of women, have had babies before you. Let’s tackle some of the most vexing questions that new moms have.

Where do babies come from? While the invention of children may predate writing or even reading, their origin remains a mystery. It used to be thought that pregnancy had something to do with men, which makes about as much sense as that strange theory that we were all once monkeys! Today, scientists agree that rubbing your stomach and imagining a baby is the most likely path to pregnancy. More recent research out of China suggests that only the rubbing part is critical. So don’t rub too often, or you may end up with triplets!

Is my baby a boy or a girl? All babies look the same, which is why we call them babies. You won’t be the first mom to wonder! Incidentally, in case you are not aware, both boy and girl babies are very common, so it’s extremely likely that your baby will be either a boy or a girl. How to tell? There is no need to worry. The hospital nurse is an expert and can tell you: “You have had a baby girl.” Or if it’s a boy, she will say: “You have had a boy.” Be alert and listen.

What should I call my baby? Some mothers decide to give their baby a title such as Brooklyn or Earth or, in extremely rare cases, a name like Bob or Ann. But scientists agree that babies do not benefit psychologically from such identifiers, and are satisfied with simple labels like boy, girl, or even baby or babe. If you watch Hollywood movies, many highly attractive people are called Babe, so obviously that is an effective naming strategy.

Do I have to feed my baby? You may think that because your new baby is so tiny, it doesn’t need any food. Wrong! Babies, like kittens or puppies, need to be fed every single day — believe it or not, sometimes even more than that! It makes no difference what you feed your baby, though, since their sense of taste is limited. Coca-Cola is highly digestible, so that is an excellent and nutritious choice. Also consider leftover chicken, since everyone likes chicken. (Tip: some babies are born without teeth. Check to see if your baby has them.)

What if I want to exchange my baby for another? Maybe you fear that your baby won’t be as cuddly as other babies. Unfortunately, studies suggest that your first impressions may be correct, and lasting. You won’t the first mom to look at other, cuter babies with envy. But if you deliver your baby in a hospital, you are in luck! Go to the room where they store all of the new babies, pick the one you like, and switch the tags. But remember: after you leave the hospital, no future exchange is possible.

When will my baby grow up?  The maturation of babies is highly variable.  In older cultures, male babies walked at one week old and left the household at age two — far sooner than their moms wanted! In the fourteenth century, babies adopted their current mode of sleeping, eating, and crying, with intervals of babbling. Today, you can prolong this adorable state for years, maybe even decades.  It’s all up to you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which, to be scientifically accurate, is really just one of an infinite number of nearly identical web sites in an infinite number of parallel universes. We're pretty sure this piece by Richard Light is equally funny in all of them.

If The Multiverse Theory Is True, Then I Still Have A Girlfriend

By: Richard Light

I would like to share with you an exciting scientific theory that has completely changed my understanding of the universe, the nature of reality and, most importantly, my current relationship status. It is called the Multiverse Theory and it posits that if our universe is of an infinite size, it would have to include an infinite number of universes.

This would mean that our galaxy, our planet and even our selves would be replicated countless times over, in countless different variations. It may be impossible to fully comprehend, but if this is true it has profound implications. For example, it would mean that somewhere on the edges of the cosmos there exists a man who is just like me in almost every conceivable way, except for one crucial difference: he still has a girlfriend.

I know what you are thinking and no, this is not science fiction.

Respected astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have pushed this controversial cosmological theory into the mainstream. A theory that practically dictates that in a parallel universe, at this very moment, there is a version of me sitting at my computer, tapping out these exact same words, in the exact same order, with the only difference being that he can get to the end of this sentence without breaking down in uncontrollable sobs. Because, unlike me, he wasn’t recently dumped by his girlfriend Janet for not having his “shit together.” Whatever that means.

This, my friends, is the mind-boggling reality of the multiverse. It is an endless expanse of cascading sub-universes, each with their own unique timeline and future. Some of these would seem almost exactly like our own in almost every detail, right down to the flowery smell of Janet’s perfume that still lingers on my clothes a month after our breakup. Other universes would be so radically different that they are almost impossible to imagine. Universes with different physical laws or where there is no earth, no life, no Janet. Even alternate Earths where the unthinkable has happened: the Nazis won the Second World War, we live under a fascist dictatorship and I am back out there seeing a couple of different women, but none seriously enough to call my “girlfriend.”

Many of you are probably wondering, “How can any of this be possible?” Personally I think that’s a bit rude. I mean, me dating a couple of different women isn’t that absurd, is it? Sure, it hasn’t happened before, but we’re literally talking about an infinite number of universes here. Maybe even one where Janet’s mom didn’t try to undermine me at every goddamn turn. But then that really would be science fiction, right? Ha-ha! Seriously, I was never good enough for that family. And don’t even get me started on Janet’s sister Carly, who actually had the gall to lecture me about relationships. This is the same Carly who has been divorced twice. The whole thing is just completely unbelievable.

Yes, it seems that even for me the concept of the multiverse can still push the very envelope of belief. Of course, there is still much we do not know and many questions that scientists still cannot answer. Questions like where are these other universes located? Can we travel to them? Is Janet seeing someone? Is it that Kevin guy from her work? Please, just tell me she’s not dating Kevin. Sure, he’s classically handsome and doesn’t live with his parents, but I bet he doesn’t even know the first thing about astrophysics. Can you imagine that idiot trying to wrap his head around a very complicated scientific theory like the multiverse? Not going to happen. God, I just wish Janet could understand that.

Unfortunately, it could be some time before any of us are able to fully understand what it means to live within the multiverse. For now we must accept the reality of our single universe filled with black holes, failed galaxies and a depressing online dating scene. The only solace we have is to look up into the stars dancing in the night sky and dream that maybe out there in the depths of the cosmos, in a world not so different from our own, Janet is returning my texts.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is sort of like the comedic CliffsNotes for great literature. And this week's offering is sort of familiar, because it sort of seems we may have heard lines somewhat like these before somewhere. Turns out author Jon Sindell has the right fake quote for any occasion.

Literary Outtakes

By: Jon Sindell

One morning Gregor Samsa awoke from a bad sleep to discover that he was a pimply, scrawny kid in a cube, so he put on a bug suit to freak out his folks. ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Two plus two equals four. ~ George Orwell, 1984

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, unless ’twere called privy or something — eeew, gross! ~ Juliet, Romeo And Juliet

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Chew on that and blow your mind. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Gatsby gulped down the incomparable milk of wonderful cows raised on wholesome Kentucky bluegrass. ~ Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

And so we beat on, like boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into seasickness. ~ Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Atticus always said that you never really know a man until you walk around a while in his shoes. Just standing on Boo Radley’s porch was enough to make me check my shoes for roaches and my head for chiggers. ~ Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird

Call me, Ishmael! I miss you big time! ~ Moby Dick

Isn’t it pretty to think that generations of English teachers will demand that their tormented students find profundity in the last line of this book, knowing they can find none themselves? ~ Lady Brett Ashley, The Sun Also Rises

I don’t feel like going into all that David Copperfield crap about what a lousy childhood I had and all, unless your definition of childhood includes ages thirteen through sixteen — in which case I am really gonna unload. ~ Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

I saw the best minds of my generation, he said. And the drug–addled egotists swallowed it whole! ~ Allen Ginsburg

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again — and realized they’d been goosed with a cattle prod. ~ Animal Farm

Great! One ring to rule them all — and in the darkness, I can’t find it! ~ The Lord of the Rings