Hmm Weekly for February 18, 2020

Now is the Tuesday of our discontent

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

GOOD MORNING! This is the latest communicable transmission of HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, distributed via SUBSTACK, a newsletter delivery and reading platform. We are currently posting items FREE TO ALL, in gratitude to those of you who previously financially supported HMM DAILY or those of you who merely expressed interest in it.

At the end of this month, we will begin offering paid subscriptions for full access to future HMM WEEKLY posts, with intermittent postings available free. Former financial supporters of HMM DAILY, whose billing was disconnected, may reconnect to resume their financial support then.

We appreciate your interest in HMM WEEKLY. Please send your questions, comments, gossip, or whatever else you may want to express to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com. We will keep sending you these emails; please write back. Maybe we’ll end up with a Letters Column!

If someone has passed along this message, it’s easy to sign up for yourself.

We urge you to spread the word about HMM WEEKLY, and we thank you for reading.


CHARISMATIC MEGAFAUNA DEP’T.

I’M CONCERNED ABOUT Pablo Escobar's hippos. The hippos surface into the news coverage now and then, an ever-renewable story about the strangeness of this world: how the drug lord put them in a pond in his homemade zoo and then, after his downfall, nobody wanted to deal with them, and they made a break for it and got loose into the waterways of Colombia and began to thrive. It's not hard to see the hippos as a jolly revisitation of the story of Escobar himself—something objectively violent and dangerous, treated (with various degrees of success) as folklore and folk property, with the contradictions between the factual and the mythic viewpoints probably most easily reconciled through the recognition that we live in a world that creates opportunities for bad things. Escobar blew up a whole plane full of people; hippopotamuses kill more humans each year than any other large land mammal does. Escobar's estate is a tourist attraction, and the public is roused to protest against efforts to cull the hippos. 

The hippos are probably—but not certainly—bad for the environment in the near term. They tear things up and defecate everywhere, feeding algae blooms and most likely causing fish kills. I want to root for them anyway. I'm irresistibly attracted to the idea of rewilding our poor depleted planet, even if it's a foolish fantasy, even if the primeval landscape was long gone everywhere before anyone even thought about trying to reinvent it. Did you know that the soil in thousands of square miles of the Amazon rainforest is apparently technological, filled with charcoal and pottery fragments by agriculturalists? Had you considered the possibility that the sky-obliterating flocks of passenger pigeons and herds of bison stretching to the horizon, before they were slaughtered to extinction or the brink of it, may not have been the natural bounty of the North American continent but an accidental ecological eruption, filling the empty space left when millions of human beings were killed off all at once by imported disease? (I rely here on Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.)

Further back, still, there's the fact that something or someone did a number on the Western Hemisphere's entire selection of Late Pleistocene megafauna, taking out the mammoths and glyptodonts and ground sloths, leaving only the puny little moose and bison and grizzly bears—along with the avocado, waiting forlornly for something with a gullet big enough to swallow its pit. Why not back off a little and reboot the system? Let some elephants roam the southern Great Plains. It's getting warmer all the time, right? Give a few Siberian tigers a shot at the Rockies before Canada's feral hogs get settled in there. 

From this point of view, the hippos should be a hopeful sign. They are flourishing and multiplying. Nobody's sure how many there are, but it's well into the dozens, and they're reportedly breeding faster than usual, possibly inspired by the lack of a dry season. What if the new version of the Americas has hippos in it? What if they unlock some potential that's been missing ever since the last big animals went away? 

Long-term optimism about the hippos, however, runs into the unfortunate fact that Escobar had only four of them—three cows and a single bull. The waters in their new home may be abundant, but the gene pool is alarmingly shallow. If members of the first Colombian-born hippo generation wanted to mate with each other, they had to pair with half-siblings at best; there's only one Y chromosome to be found in the whole population. 

All the breeding, then, is inbreeding. The Escobar hippos will live without competitors or predators, but they'll be steadily weakening from within. They'll end up with hips like German shepherds, or the world's largest Habsburg jaws. Giants will stride the riverbanks once more. But in the future we've created, they'll be sickly giants.


VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

A visit to the Progressive Baltimore Boat Show

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OVERHEARD DEP’T.

VALENTINE’S DAY MORNING. Wind is blowing and ice is forming on the puddles. Two homeless men in heavy coats sit by a wall at the corner of 72nd Street and Amsterdam. At the stoplight is a glistening gray Ferrari, low and wasp-waisted, with yellow brake calipers. The light changes and the Ferrari pulls out with a lurch and a series of booming revving noises. One of the homeless men yells after it: "You gotta TURN OFF TRACTION CONTROL! IDIOT!!"


HERE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SKY DEP’T.

Spam Filter Letters to the Awl

WHILE WE MULL over what to serialize next, here's yet another installment of Spam Filter Letters to the Awl, from the 80,000-word collection of dummy-text cover letters I wrote to make sure that when I emailed that site a photograph of the sky, the filters would allow it to go through.

12/11/14
Subject: Where did the day go 
To: Awl notes
The day, where has it gone? It was just here a minute ago, before it was time to enroll in the benefits, to re-enroll, correctively, after discovering that Chris Christie had effectively squeezed New Jersey benefits to such an extent that, in concert with Nick Denton's increasing generosity, trend lines that had seemed uncrossable had in fact crossed. It is now better to be a web logger than to be a state employee. America! We are doomed. Here is a photograph of the sky and the review is in the system. 

12/12/14
Subject: covert ops Inbox
To: Awl notes
When did Secret Santa take over the world? Why is there now Secret Santa in preschool? Why do I have to go out this evening and buy a toy suitable for surprising some three-to-four-year-old I've never met? There is enough work already in celebrating Overt Christmas. This is infuriating nonsense. 

Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 

12/15/14
Subject: The season
To: Awl notes
There is always this terrible compression that happens, between when it's too early for any reasonable person to start getting ready for the holidays and when only an asshole would not be ready for the holidays. The window for doing it right is as brief as the daylight, and as easily lost. And then one realizes that one has chosen not to mail out cards this year, simply by virtue of not having thought of it in time.

Here is a photograph of the sky and a review is in the system. 


12/16/14
Subject: holiday music
To: Awl notes
Huh it looks like the Holiday Choral Concert is tomorrow, not to be confused with the Second Grade Concert, which was earlier in the month, nor to be confused with the class dance performance, which is some other day yet to happen, none of which should be confused with the preschool Christmas party, which may or may not feature music, and which is something like Friday. Friday? Friday. Look, I have enough trouble just not dropping the children on the pavement. 

Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


12/17/14
Subject: And the tree!
To: Awl notes
Here at least I come from a tradition that says you don't put the tree up till like the 23rd, because you also don't take it down till Epiphany, because that is when Christmas is; it's not a Just Finished Thanksgiving Tree or an Advent Tree. But that ideology is also grounded on being able to drive up the road to the tree farm and walk through the muddy rows and cut down a tree and bring it home in the car, a nice stable reliable set of logistics every year. Sometimes there would be a bird's nest in the tree, and the nest would end up holding the old long-tailed velour "partridges" or "calling birds" or whatever the shiny creatures were supposed to be, and would then be put away with the decorations when things were over. Waiting till the last minute to negotiate with a couple of sketchy Quebecois on the sidewalk outside the CVS seems less prudent. Although also for what it's worth the tree farm up the road had been sold off and planted with a housing development last time I drove that way, and only a few feral pines around the edges showed where it had been.

Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 

12/19/14
Subject: Running late
To: Awl notes
Buying piano. Getting back to computer from Steinway Hall in the next 30 minutes.

 
12/19/14
Subject: illumination
To: Awl notes
There is no brightness in the night in the city to rival the brightness of the canopy of One57. It's utterly disorienting: one moment you're walking down 57th Street in the normal illumination of Manhattan, the next moment your mind believes you must be indoors. The light comes glaring out of the canopy, commandeering the sidewalk, sharpening the edge of the lapels of the waiting doormen—and for whom are they waiting? The plutocrats don't even live there. What's being blast-illuminated isn't the way into the building; it's the idea of a way into the building. 

Here is a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system. 

12/22/14
Subject: the season
To: Awl notes
Is ever more heavily upon us, yet somehow the tree eludes me still. It seems so simple and is not at all. The thing about staging Christmas with children is: where does the time away from the children come from, without which the staging is impossible? Already the preschool has shut down for the break. 

Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


RECIPES DEP’T.

IT SEEMS AS if we will never cease presenting a selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

LADY FINGER SANDWICH
Chop figs fine and rub to a smooth paste; add a dash of orange juice and spread on lady fingers; press two fingers together and garnish with a spray of smilax.

FIG AND ROLL
Split twelve figs, scrape out the soft portion and rub this to a paste; butter thin slices of fresh white or brown bread, remove the crust, spread on the fig paste and roll the bread carefully; press for a moment, then roll it in a piece of tissue paper, pressing the ends as you would an old-fashioned motto, or it may be tied with baby ribbon of any color.

DATE AND FIG SANDWICH
To two cups of dates with stones removed, add one cup of washed figs, also one cup of seeded raisins; chop very fine and add enough water to make a paste to spread easily. Let this boil one minute, and when cool spread between thin slices of buttered white bread, cover with another slice and garnish top with a sugared date.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com


HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacGlyptodont, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
Thanks for reading, and any time you want, you can email us at hmmweekly@substack.com.

Hmm Weekly for February 11, 2020

Tuesday? More like Threesday.

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

GOOD MORNING! This is the latest communicable transmission of HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, distributed via SUBSTACK, a newsletter delivery and reading platform. We are currently posting items FREE TO ALL, in gratitude to those of you who previously financially supported HMM DAILY or those of you who merely expressed interest in it.

At the end of this month, we will begin offering paid subscriptions for full access to future HMM WEEKLY posts, with intermittent postings available free. Former financial supporters of HMM DAILY, whose billing was disconnected, may reconnect to resume their financial support then.

We appreciate your interest in HMM WEEKLY. Please send your questions, comments, gossip, or whatever else you may want to express to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com. We will keep sending you these emails; please write back. Maybe we’ll end up with a Letters Column!

If someone has passed along this message, it’s easy to sign up for yourself.

We urge you to spread the word about HMM WEEKLY, and we thank you for reading.


MOURNING DEP’T.

When somebody dies, it’s not a bad idea to bring food

MY SISTER DIED last week. She was my sister-in-law, but she always called me her brother, so I will keep the love going. My wife and I were left with the business of clearing out her apartment while we were stunned and sad.

A friend stopped by our house unannounced, with a nice loaf of bread, and some other stuff from an Italian deli; olives, bottled tomato sauce, a couple of trays of frozen lasagna and ziti, some fruit, and an 18-pack of beer. Another friend brought chili and a crazy delicious kielbasa-and-bread baked thing, and family came down from Connecticut with steaks and vegetables and we stood around in the kitchen and hung out while I grilled the steaks out back on the Weber in the unusual February warm.

We had a fridge full of food, but we ate all the stuff our friends brought, it was easier, our brains weren’t working, and those things were right there. We realized at some point that we were not exactly starving ourselves out of grief like we thought we might, we both had hearty appetites from the physical exertion and mental anguish. The first night we came home exhausted from schlepping stuff out of the apartment, we sliced up some bread, dished up the olives, popped one of the frozen things in the toaster oven and cracked a beer. We didn’t have to think.


CHRONOLOGY DEP’T.

Calendars still available from the Bright Day Calendar Co.

JANUARY TOOK FOREVER, or 31 days if you’re counting, and it’s almost the halfway point in this Leap Year’s 29 days of February, but I never scored a complimentary 2020 calendar from my usual diner or auto parts sources, and I feel deprived.

I enjoy wall calendars, it is soothing for me to look upon the days of a month laid out with an interesting image accompanying, at an analog IRL eye-relaxing distance from my desk, and not via electronic eye-draining Google calendar on my handheld computing device.

The whole idea of buying a calendar seems weird, (unless it’s for a good cause) and I’ve walked by kiosks in the mall, flowering for that retail-fertile month or two with a hundred different puppies/kitties/bikini babes/shirtless men/race cars-themed calendars on display. But the Bright Day Calendar Company of Bowie, Maryland is offering three-day shipping and 16-month calendars so I won’t feel like I wasted two months!

Certain types of dogs, cats, and idyllic images of the Caribbean are sold out, but there’s Canada, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and carbs! CARBS!

Pasta, bread bowls, breadsticks, garlic rolls… pizza! Mmmmm. How can something that tastes so good not be good for you? We’d like to eat these delicious foods everyday, but for our own sake, we probably shouldn’t. There’s no reason we can’t have pictures of them hanging on our wall though!

OK, so having pictures of carbs is so you can resist carbs, for a year, sitting at your desk looking at CARBS, for a year. This calendar has not sold out, nor have certain calendars the Bright Day Calendar Company of Bowie, Maryland has categorized as INSPIRATIONAL. Such as Waves, Wild Animals, and Yoga Pants.

Somehow the Yoga Pants one seems like it’s on a continuüm with Carbs, like, the opposite of Carbs, somehow, or Carbs-adjacent. It’s confusing, you get the Yoga Pants calendar because you want to look at Yoga Pants for 16 months—or right now it’d be 14 months and change—but you get Carbs because you don’t want to eat bread. I have not resolved why these calendars seem somehow harmonic to me, but maybe it’s because I eat pasta, bread bowls, breadsticks, garlic rolls… pizza!

The Bright Day Calendar Company of Bowie, Maryland is having a Buy 2 Get 1 promotion, so you could get Carbs, Yoga Pants, and a Chicken calendar!

Aieee! No! OUT OF STOCK, along with Cows. These are part of the Bright Day Calendar Company of Bowie, Maryland’s Calendars For A Cause™ thing, where they say they kick back 10-15% to Causes.

OK, no Chickens, how about Donkeys?

WHAT, how can Donkeys be sold out and not Dolphins?!? No offense to any Donkey enthusiasts. Also, no offense to Lions, but how can Tigers not be sold out? Tigers are way cooler than Lions!

Well, it seems like it’s been a year looking at these calendars, I can’t figure out how they come up with their topics, like is it an Artificially Intelligent computer algorithm or something, or do they just sit around and spitball ideas, and that’s how they got Carbs?

I can’t make up my mind which one to get, but I wish you a 2020 full of Bloodhounds and Booty! Not sold out yet! Plus four bonus months! Two of which are almost gone! Hurry! It’s alright to have a little Carbs, don’t torture yourself with pictures, OK?


DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS DEP’T.

Correction submitted independently by Dave Scocca and Mack Scocca-Ho


VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

A visit to the Motor Trend International Auto Show

YOU CAN FOLLOW hmmweeklygram on Instagram.


RECIPES DEP’T.

WE INSIST ON presenting a selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

SARATOGA SANDWICH
On a lightly buttered square slice of white bread, place a lettuce leaf that has been dipped in mayonnaise dressing; on that lay four large fried oysters with a little horse-radish on top of the oysters, and cover with a lightly buttered slice of rye bread, and butter upper side of this slice. On this lay a slice of breast of cooked chicken; dust with salt and pepper and lay on that crisp slices of fried bacon; cover this with a slice of white bread. Garnish top with radishes, cut fancy, serve with slice of lemon on the side.

CHICAGO CLUB SANDWICH
Toast lightly two slices of white bread and one of rye; lightly butter and on the slices of white bread, place slices of cold cooked chicken and a couple of slices of bacon well crisped; cover with the slice of rye bread and on that place a lettuce leaf that has been dipped in a little mayonnaise dressing; sprinkle with a little chopped green pepper, then cover with the other slice of white bread.

BOSTON CLUB SANDWICH
Cut brown bread into rounds with a cake cutter and lightly butter. Chop one-half pound of cold boiled mutton fine; add a dash of salt and pepper, two tablespoonfuls of olive oil, or melted butter. On the lower round of buttered bread place a small crisp lettuce heart that has been dipped in mayonnaise dressing. On top of that place a slice of tomato, then another slice of buttered bread, then the mutton mixture. Place on top another round of buttered bread and press two together.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com


HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacLeod, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
Thanks for reading, and any time you want, you can email us at hmmweekly@substack.com.

Hmm Weekly for February 4, 2020

It is always Tuesday somewhere

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

GOOD MORNING! This is the latest communicable transmission of HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, distributed via SUBSTACK, a newsletter delivery and reading platform. We are currently posting items FREE TO ALL, in gratitude to those of you who previously financially supported HMM DAILY or those of you who merely expressed interest in it.

Later this month, we will begin offering paid subscriptions for full access to future HMM WEEKLY posts, with intermittent postings available free. Former financial supporters of HMM DAILY, whose billing was disconnected this month, may reconnect to resume their financial support then.

We appreciate your interest in HMM WEEKLY. Please send your questions, comments, gossip, or whatever else you may want to express to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com. We will keep sending you these emails; please write back. Maybe we’ll end up with a Letters Column!

If someone has passed along this message, it’s easy to sign up for yourself.

We urge you to spread the word about HMM WEEKLY, and we thank you for reading.


THOUGHT DEP’T.

—Dominic Scocca-Ho

Do you think you have a thought? Write us at hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com


HEALTH DEP’T.

Everybody Should Take a Sick Day, for a Week

WHEN’S THE LAST time everybody around you was healthy, or at least free from infectious disease? It's wearying when people try to counteract the coronavirus news by pointing out that the flu is worse and the flu is here already; every year they try to tell the public how bad the flu is, and by now the public surely has heard it and filed it away, but it doesn't register as a true thing. It's like car-crash deaths or global warming—too big to admit it's in the foreground, which would mean rearranging everyone's lives around the truth of it, so people act like it's just in the background.

Some background! How many members of your household or your "team" at work were out sick last week? It's not only the flu, or if it is, it's highly variable. Word from some homes or workplaces is they're doing the thing where everybody takes turns puking; from others, everybody's taking turns coughing and being feverish. We've been lucky in our family unit (to this point), with only a single case of cough-and-fever last week. My workplace last week was just a virtual roll call of the sick on Slack, which was fine, since I was doing my job from home to keep a eye, and an occasional cold washcloth, on the sick kid.

We sent the one who'd been sick back to school Monday, and he did fine but we got a class announcement email that began by noting "a surprising number of absences today." The other kid had a substitute teacher for humanities class. My own health had become a mystery to me, after all the hours indoors with the sick child and the droning livestream of the impeachment trial. Normally, when I'm home, I walk over to Columbus Avenue for a cup of late morning or midday coffee, but something sour and tired was lurking in my system and the idea of coffee felt insalubrious. I drank tea and stayed inside, and around sundown every day, as the impeachment jabbered on, I felt like maybe I might be simmering a fever of my own. Our temple thermometer is basically a random-number generator, and sometimes when I wasn't using it on the child, I pointed at my own head a couple of times and got a 99. Not long ago the news was that everybody's normal temperature has dropped, and old 98.6 (which was always just a fake-precise gloss on 37 Celsius) was too warm.

Monday, I did walk out. The weather, for sure, was running too many degrees above normal, but the sunshine was the closest thing to wholesome I'd encountered in a while. I went on past the coffee place and six more blocks to the bakery, where I threw in a cafe au lait with the order. The shadow of discomfort faded for a while, but it didn't leave.

I wasn't sick; I was run down. Who isn't, right now? I'd be fine if I slept one long night's sleep, and maybe took another nap the next day, if I were trying to solve the problem in isolation, but it's not an isolated problem. There's more to herd immunity than the flu shot, though you should get the flu shot. Disease walks among us and everyone is making themselves sick, or making everyone else sick; it's all the same thing, at this point. Shut it down, take a day, take five days, make it nine days with a weekend at each end. Essential personnel only, like when the government runs itself out of money. Let the senators go home. Not to New Hampshire or Nevada—home. The future can be dealt with later, around Valentine's Day, when everybody's on their feet again. Meanwhile, wash your hands.


VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

Items from the estate of my dear departed sister-in-law, Karma Ward

YOU CAN FOLLOW hmmweeklygram on Instagram.


RECIPES DEP’T.

WE INSIST ON presenting a selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

PRESSED CHICKEN SANDWICH
Boil fowl until tender; remove bones and skin; chop fine; season with salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Mix teaspoonful of mustard with a tablespoonful of vinegar, heat and pour over chicken, with some of the broth, and press in earthen dish. When cold and ready for use, slice and place between thin, lightly buttered bread with a crisp lettuce leaf between.

JELLIED CHICKEN SANDWICH
Chop the white meat of cold boiled chicken fine, rub to a paste. Put a scant tablespoonful of gelatine in a half-cup of cold water, place it over the fire until it has dissolved; then add the chicken paste, a dash of salt and pepper, and a half-teaspoonful of grated horseradish. Stir this mixture until it begins to thicken, then stir in one cup of cream that has been whipped to a stiff froth, place it in the ice box until very cold; when ready for use, cut thin and place between lightly buttered slices of crustless white bread. Garnish with parsley and an olive.

CHICKEN AND EGG SANDWICH
One cupful of cold chicken chopped fine; the yolks of two hard-boiled eggs chopped fine; one teaspoonful of melted butter, one teaspoonful of lemon juice, one teaspoonful of rich stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix to a paste and spread on thin slices of lightly buttered white bread. Garnish with an olive.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com


HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacLeod, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
Thanks for reading, and any time you want, you can email us at hmmweekly@substack.com.

Hmm Weekly for January 28, 2020

Tuesday was named after Tiw, the Nordic god of single combat

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

GOOD MORNING! This is the latest transmission of HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, distributed via SUBSTACK, a newsletter delivery and reading platform. We are currently posting items FREE TO ALL, in gratitude to those of you who previously financially supported HMM DAILY or those of you who merely expressed interest in it.

In February, we will begin offering paid subscriptions for full access to future HMM WEEKLY posts, with intermittent postings available for free. Former financial supporters of HMM DAILY, whose billing was disconnected this month, may reconnect to resume their financial support then.

We appreciate your interest in HMM WEEKLY. Please send your questions, comments, gossip, or whatever else you may want to express to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com. We will keep sending you these emails; please write back. Maybe we’ll end up with a Letters Column!

If someone has passed along this message, it’s easy to sign up for yourself.

We urge you to spread the word about HMM WEEKLY, and we thank you for reading.


THOUGHT DEP’T.

Do you have a thought? Write us at hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com


YOUTH SPORTS DEP'T. 

Some Rules of Dodgeball

THE FOLKLORE OF moral panics about moral panics says that the game of dodgeball has been driven to extinction, because it has been deemed too invidious and violent for the well-protected children of today. And yet the children play dodgeball. Here, Hmm Weekly’s third-grade correspondent Dominic Scocca-Ho tells about three versions he recently played: 

Army Dodgeball: “Each team has a general, a medic, and a spy, and everyone else is just throwing balls that are set up on the middle line for the first round. The general is basically the guy who you're trying to protect. He can throw balls, but if he gets out, you lose the game. The medic, if you are hit by a ball, he will come over to you and "heal" you so that you can come back. And you can take out the medic, so that means you basically can't get people back. [Ed. note: This is a violation of Article 24 of the 1949 Geneva Convention.] Then the spy, he can like blend in with the other team—cross the line, blend in with the other team, and start throwing balls at them. And can cross the line whatever time he wants. The game usually ends when either the general is hit by a ball or the time limit you're playing it goes off.”

[Ed. note: In the 1970s and 1980s, "Army Dodgeball" meant that if you were hit on a limb, you had to stop using that limb, but you weren't out until you got hit in the torso or head. There were no generals, no spies, and certainly no medics.]

Fortnite Dodgeball: “So Fortnite dodgeball, instead of a starting line, it's called the Battle Bus line. The first round the balls are set up in the middle. So people can obviously run up and get them. But instead of you being hit and being out, what you do if you get hit is you go to the floor and maybe crawl on the floor, and a teammate can revive you if they touch you for five seconds. But if they get hit before five seconds is up, then they have to get down on the floor too. Eventually at a time limit if it's getting near the end of the game, if you get hit, you will be permanently out until the next round or until the game ends.” 

Dungeon Dodgeball: “It's kind of like Kingpin. There's a line, you can't cross it. You're throwing balls at each other. If you get hit, you walk over the line to a box surrounded by cones—to signal where the box is, usually in a corner. Then one of your teammates has to throw a ball to you, you drop it and run out. If there are multiple people in the box and you catch the ball, or somebody else catches the ball, only the person who caught the ball gets out of the box. And you cannot take the ball with you.”


Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam in The Gentlemen

Review Dep’t.

The Gentlemen, directed by Guy Ritchie

THIS MOVIE IS director Guy Ritchie going back to his early, funny pictures, stuff like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which featured motley assortments of underworld crooks and characters all tied up in a labyrinthine plot, with snappy banter and brutal (and sometimes comical) violence, and it’s all super U.K., super British, except for the odd American, in this case Matthew McConaughey, who is pretty much playing the guy Matthew McConaughey plays in the Lincoln automobile commercials, talking to himself a lot, except he’s a drug kingpin and he wants to get out of the business.

Michelle Dockery and Matthew McConaughey in The Gentlemen

If this movie had been made back in 1998 or the year 2000, the racial slurs coming out of the mouths of street toughs might have seemed understandable, or gritty, but 20 years later in Mr. Ritchie’s career, after the success of the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, the stylish failure of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (and the regular failure of a few other movies), having the undereducated—but of course entertainingly philosophical and streetwise/moronic—assortment of goons, crooks, and yobs utter racist remarks may be defensible as movie-logic, but the movie-logic reminds you it’s only a movie, and the material doesn’t play for a laugh anymore.

Colin Farrell in The Gentlemen

Having a white character unpack/rationalize the phrase “black bastard” to a subordinate black character, having characters refer to an Asian (Henry Golding as “Dry Eye”) as a “Chinaman” and execute the classic Ls-for-Rs comic Asian accent, and in what seemed like a super-unnecessary reach, having a Jewish character (Jeremy Strong from HBO’s Succession) threatened with losing a pound of flesh (that last bit was astoundingly jarring), ripped me right out of the movie and made me wonder why it all seemed like a good idea to the writers.

Hugh Grant in The Gentlemen

On the bright side, the conceit of the tale’s presentation is clever, there’s lots of fun fashion for men, the music cues are tight, Hugh Grant channels a compelling permutation of Ricky Gervais’ dim, yet somehow cunning, David Brent from The Office, and Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey gets a couple of solid scenes, although one of them involves the now-cliche splattering of blood across the face. Again, a thing that would have startled back at the turn of the century, but now it’s just a shopworn gag, as compared to an appearance of the MIRAMAX logo, which, at the screening I attended, got a good laugh.


VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

Another trip to the craft store

YOU CAN FOLLOW hmmweeklygram on Instagram.


HERE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SKY DEP’T.

Spam Filter Letters to the Awl

WHILE WE MULL over what to serialize next, here's yet another installment of Spam Filter Letters to the Awl, from the 80,000-word collection of dummy-text cover letters I wrote to make sure that when I emailed that site a photograph of the sky, the filters would allow it to go through.

12/2/14
Subject: An OFFICE. Desks, chairs. Computers.
To: Awl notes

A: Well.
B: So.
A: Let's have a cigarette.
B: Yes. We should have a cigarette.
[They cross through doorway onto FIRE ESCAPE]
B: So. 
A: Well—
Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


12/3/14
Subject: FIRE ESCAPE. Neither A nor B is smoking.
To: Awl notes

B: So that's how it happened. 
A: They do make it a surprise. 
B: Even when it's not. 
A: The manner. The manner will always be a surprise.
[C steps out on to FIRE ESCAPE, holding a silver VAPORIZER]
C: Oh.
A: Hey. [Nods.]
B: We're havin' a smoke. 
[A and B continue not to smoke. C looks at them, hesitates, then takes a puff on VAPORIZER]
Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system.


12/4/14
Subject: dramas
To: Awl notes

C: So, yeah. Wow.
A: How's that working out for you?
C: I'm getting used to it?
B: Decided against the light-up one?
C: Yeah, I wasn't really into the light.
A: The blue light is the future. 
B: And nobody wants that. 
Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


12/5/14
Subject: so scandal
To: Awl notes

Much journalism
Very anger
Malpractical
Wow
Such concerning
Distract
Here is a photograph of the sky and the review is in the system


12/8/14
Subject: technical challenges 
To: Awl notes

The usual challenge of remembering to take a photograph of the sky is supplemented by the challenge of making sure that the photograph of the sky has survived the three-year-old's various explorations of the functions of the phone. Is it still there? No, there, beyond the half-dozen identical and blurry photos of the shoe rack. Why are only half of those photos of the shoe rack appearing in Google Plus? Is it his fault (my fault) or Google's? 
It is Google's.
Here is photograph of the sky, not of a shoe rack, and the weather review is in the system. 


RECIPES DEP’T.

WE PRESENT A selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

HAM AND EGG CLUB SANDWICH
Chop cold boiled ham very fine and rub smooth in a mortar; pass the yolks of four hard-boiled eggs through a sieve and add a little mayonnaise dressing. Cut white bread very thin and lightly butter; on one slice spread the ham, then cover with another slice, and on that spread the egg mixture with a crisp lettuce leaf between, topped by a third slice of lightly buttered bread. Garnish with a pickle.

HAM AND NUT SANDWICH
Mince finely some cold boiled ham and add to it about half the quantity of finely chopped peanuts. For every cupful of ham add a teaspoonful of chopped pickles and a little chopped celery. Mix to a paste with salad dressing and spread on this slices of lightly buttered white bread and serve on a lettuce leaf.

SALTED ENGLISH WALNUT SANDWICH
Spread thin slices of Boston brown bread with butter; then chop English walnuts fine, sprinkle with salt, and put a layer of the nuts between two slices of bread.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com


THAT'S WHEN I CLICKED "UNSUBSCRIBE" DEP'T.


HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacAreyoufuckingkiddingme, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
Thanks for reading, and any time you want, you can email us at hmmweekly@substack.com.

Hmm Weekly for January 21, 2020

Only one more Tuesday until Groundhog Day!

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

GOOD MORNING! This is the latest transmission of HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, distributed via SUBSTACK, a newsletter delivery and reading platform. We are currently posting items FREE TO ALL, in gratitude to those of you who previously financially supported HMM DAILY or those of you who merely expressed interest in it.

Next month, we will begin offering paid subscriptions for full access to future HMM WEEKLY posts, with intermittent postings available for free. Former financial supporters of HMM DAILY, whose billing was disconnected this month, may reconnect to resume their financial support then.

We appreciate your interest in HMM WEEKLY. Please send your questions, comments, gossip, or whatever else you may want to express to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com. We will keep sending you these emails; please write back. Maybe we’ll end up with a Letters Column!

If someone has passed along this message, it’s easy to sign up for yourself.

We urge you to spread the word about HMM WEEKLY, and we thank you for reading.


THOUGHT DEP’T.


From left: Komondor, Kuvasz. Wikipedia images from Nikki68 and Kuvaszprince, respectively

Personality Difficulties of Hungarian Dog Breeds

THERE ARE NO bad kinds of dogs, of course; there are only mismatches between the perfect and correct character of a dog and the inadequate circumstances or people it may encounter. The text that explains these things is one of my favorite literary microgenres. For instance, I grew up with Rottweilers, which the American Kennel Club's breed standard describes as "a calm, confident and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships." Me, too, really, and the Rottweilers and I got along great, but the message is pretty clear between the lines. 

Now we were talking about Siberian huskies and their exercise demands; there are drawbacks to having a dog that really doesn't' feel like it's gotten a good day's work unless it's been pulling a sled over distance. And then I got curious about other narrowly specialized dog breeds, till I was reading Wikipedia about Hungarian dogs

Hungary has produced two markedly different kinds of big white sheepdogs: the komondor, a shapeless mass of corded locks; and the Kuvasz, a Platonically ideal handsome dog form, like a brawnier and silkier golden retriever. Does either one of these have, in addition to its striking appearance, the personality to be an agreeable pet? 

As a sheep-guarding dog, Wikipedia explains, the komondor "was bred to think and act independently and make decisions on its own." It is "affectionate with its family, and gentle with the children and friends of the family." Note the delicacy with which this construction fences off those people with whom the komondor is not necessarily going to be affectionate of gentle. As for the non-family and non-friends: "Although wary of strangers, they can accept them when it is clear that no harm is imminent, being instinctively very protective of its family, home, and possessions."

The komondor is also "intolerant to trespassing animals," and "is vigilant and will rest in the daytime, keeping an eye on its surroundings, but at night is constantly moving, patrolling the place, moving up and down around its whole territory.”

The AKC website notes that the komondor is an "independent thinker," and the breed standard warns that "[t]hough very sensitive to the desires of his master, heavy-handed training will produce a stubborn, unhappy Komondor." Wikipedia elaborates that a "Komondor can become obstinate when bored, so it is imperative that training sessions be upbeat and happy."

Maybe a Kuvasz would be better adjusted? Wikipedia says that Kuvaszok "are intensely loyal and patient pets who appreciate attention." If someone told you a person "appreciated attention," you'd be wary. And rightly so: the sentence goes on to say the dogs "may also be somewhat aloof or independent, as well as thoroughly cunning, particularly with strangers."

The Kuvasz shares the komondor's history of being a self-sufficient guard dog for flocks, but Wikipedia is even less euphemistic about what this means: "That independence can make training a difficult task, wearing on the patience of even experienced owners. Kuvasz quickly understand what is being asked of them, but they have to respect a person as a trusted leader before they'll obey commands." 

The AKC breed standard describes the Kuvasz as "[p]rimarily a one family dog" and "[p]olite to accepted strangers, but rather suspicious and discriminating in making new friends." It also says they are "[v]ery sensitive to praise and blame." Aloof, yet sensitive. Wikipedia says they are "not usually interested in meaningless activity, such as doing entertaining tricks." Maybe just take them to the dog park? Not so fast: 

Interactions with other dogs, especially first meetings, should be managed carefully. One of the tasks of a livestock guardian is to kill wolves, coyotes, and other predators, and this instinct remains intact in the modern dog. Handlers should be alert to signs of tension, and intervene before a dangerous situation develops. However, a well socialized, well trained Kuvasz will usually ignore, play with, or go exploring with other dogs once a successful introduction has been made.

Take that last sentence and count the qualifiers and conditions: a well socialized (one!), well trained (two!) Kuvasz will usually (three!)  ignore, play with, or go exploring with other dogs once (four!) a successful (five!) introduction has been made. Lest anyone miss the point, the AKC website and Wikipedia go ahead and explicitly specify that Kuvaszok (or the natural qualities of Kuvaszok) "challenge the novice dog owner" (AKC) and are "for experienced handlers only" (Wikipedia).

Can you live up to the needs of the dog? It will also likely bark, at "potential threats, both real and imagined," Wikipedia says. And if people are acting too "rowdy," the Kuvasz may try to herd them: "The owner has the responsibility for setting clear, consistent limits on this behavior. That connection can easily be lost if the dog is humiliated, confused by contradictory commands, or otherwise abused."

Maybe it would be easier to give up on the specialized, strong-willed herding dogs and move down the Hungarian breed list to get a vizsla? The AKC has thoughts

They are highly intelligent, curious, and sometimes manipulative, so owners need to establish solid communication and teach good behavior. Untrained Vizslas are hard to live with. They can find many creative ways [to] get into trouble if they don’t have a “job” Fortunately, they typically love training and thrive on the attention they receive. This is a sensitive breed, so early and ongoing socialization is important to make sure the dog has the confidence to enjoy various activities. With good socialization and consistent training, there are countless ways to have fun with these versatile dogs.

Does that sound like a lot of responsibility to live up to? Do you yourself stay out of trouble if you don't have a job? With focused handling of yourself, and proper socialization, you might someday be experienced enough for these dogs to be able to live with you. 


Department of Correction Dep’t.

Submitted by Chase Hoffberger via Twitter


Kristen Stewart stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater

Review Dep’t.

Underwater, directed by William Eubank


I WILL EXPLAIN the plot to this B-movie Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart from the Twilight vampire movies and Personal Shopper, by copying a nice science fiction-y image and caption from the press kit:

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and trapped in a rapidly flooding structure, a crew of six stationed on an underwater research facility realize their only shot at survival lies in walking across the ocean floor to a distant abandoned rig. In addition to the physical challenges of the journey they quickly discover they’re being hunted by mythic, monstrous sea predators hellbent on killing them.

All right! Now I am going to get directly to why this movie fails: It’s the “mythic, monstrous sea predators hellbent on killing them,” They never should have shown the monsters! This movie was working fine when it was a lot of submarine-movie claustrophobia as engineer Nora (Stewart) takes charge and rallies survivors to escape the submerged wreckage, it really was working, everybody was desperate and scared and when they were inside a wrecked structure you were really wondering how the heck they would get anywhere. When you’re at the bottom of the ocean, you are food, and it’s dark down there and stuff, that’s scary!

Jessica Henwick and Kristen Stewart star in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater

When the trapped deep sea energy-plant workers started making survival moves in the briny depths (OK, I GIVE UP ALREADY, UNDERWATER) it was intense, the water is murky on the ocean floor, and there’s junk floating around, and it’s terrifying all by itself, as the characters, entombed in ungainly dive suits with limited mobility and visibility start trudging around to escape their deadly aquatic trap.

L to R: Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Kristen Stewart, and Mamoudou Athie star in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALIEN, just kidding, it’s Underwater

T.J. Miller (Deadpool, HBO’s Silicon Valley, until he got kicked out), as a wiseass earthquake survivor, didn’t hurt the production, he was somewhat restrained, and the movie looking like Alien doesn’t hurt because it’s like, an official subgenre now, the grubby corporate-controlled future, and dirty, beat-up spacesuits, which in this instance, are diving suits, because we are underbeneath the water.

John Gallagher Jr. in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater


Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises, Ocean’s Twelve [ugh], and Ocean’s Thirteen) brings the salty depressive gravitas as the Captain, and the expected attrition of characters is accomplished in a commendable 90 minutes, but there’s moments when the dang monsters really just look like somebody in a rubber suit, and it’s too bad. If it’s still playing anywhere, don’t go. Also, somebody needs to direct Kristen Stewart and get her to say words better, she’s a movie star and stuff, no doubt about it, but she mumbles and fast-talks and it’s annoying.


VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

Salt boxes of Baltimore

YOU CAN FOLLOW hmmweeklygram on Instagram.


HERE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SKY DEP’T.

Spam Filter Letters to the Awl


WHILE WE MULL
over what to serialize next, here's yet another installment of Spam Filter Letters to the Awl, from the 80,000-word collection of dummy-text cover letters I wrote to make sure that when I emailed that site a photograph of the sky, the filters would allow it to go through.


10/27/14
Subject: scooter accident
To: Awl notes
Of course I'm not stupid enough to try riding a scooter. All I did was lug the new, bigger-but-folding scooter around on the playground. And before I had a chance to ditch it on a bench, Dominic wanted me to chase him around the climber. So to execute the bare minimum of chasing duty, I went to step up and intercept him as he went by. The scooter caught on something, my sneaker slipped on the slick plastic planking, and blammo. Spectacular contusions down the shin. 
It doesn't matter at all, but it's top of mind, and that should be enough words. The review is in, and the photo is attached. 


10/29/14
Subject: It seems like this could be subcontracted 
To: Awl notes
The way the captchas are used to get human eyes to solve broken or confused bits of text for computers, it ought to be feasible to get all the people who are so busy saying nothing online to say nothing here, to fill this space, where their contributions are "wanted," to the extent the filters can be said to want, which is as I think we have previously discussed quite a limited extent. Think of all the people even now adding their two cents to blog posts written five years ago, by people no longer even employed at the blog companies. Those opinions would fit perfectly in this space. Here's a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


10/30/14
Subject: pointless activity 
To: Awl notes
Whatever the depressing aspects to this drill may be, it's certainly preferable to be writing useless words to fool machines than to be sitting around not writing anything while a crazed billionaire forces you to attend meetings. Assuming the landlord will accept a check drawn off my self-esteem, while we wait for New Jersey to stop messing around with our tax refund. Here is a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


10/31/14
Subject: In other news about accommodating one's constraints
To: Awl notes
I was startled to learn that the concept of high-rise trick-or-treating is alien even to people who live in the city, if they have not themselves lived in high-rises. I shouldn't have been startled, since I had never thought about it either until I moved into one, three high-rises and five Halloweens ago. Now it's the idea of wandering around laterally in the dark, rather than working methodically down the elevators and stairwells, that seems insane. Plus you get to peek into how everyone else occupies their iteration of the living space. Here is a picture of the sky, and the review is in the system. 

[For November 2014, the email filler text was the draft version of what would become 17 Folktales]


12/1/14
Subject: Another month 
To: Awl notes
And so we turn over the calendar page from inane ambition to mere survival, the original format. There is no moral to be had, and there never was any. The creatures of fable in their enchantment tread the same meaningless paths in the same loops as we do in our lives. Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system. 


RECIPES DEP’T.

WE PRESENT A selection of recipes for ancient but reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS is made from the liver of geese, ducks, and turkeys. Put one-half cup goose grease in a fryer on stove; when hot lay in livers and baste with a spoon until tender; remove the livers from the pan and chop very fine. Add a small onion chopped and boiled brown, season with salt and pepper and mix in some of the grease in which livers were fried. Their mixture must resemble paste. Pâté de foie gras can be purchased in small cans. 

PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS SANDWICH 
On thin slices of toasted bread shorn of crusts, spread pâté de foie gras; add a dash of salt and cayenne; cover with another slice of toast and serve with a pickle. 

PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS SANDWICH NO. 2 
Three slices of white or brown bread lightly buttered; on the lower slice spread pâté de foie gras, then put another slice of bread on top of that. Cover with delicate shreds of tomato, tiny lettuce hearts with a dash of mayonnaise dressing, topped by a third slice of bread. Garnish with an olive. 

PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS SANDWICH NO. 3 
One-half cup of pâté de foie gras, remove the fat and mash to a smooth paste; season with a little salt and a dash of cayenne pepper and drop of onion juice; press the whole through a sieve. Spread on thin slices of buttered white bread and cover with another slice of buttered bread. Garnish top with slices of hard-boiled egg and an olive. 

IMITATION PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS SANDWICH 
Saute half a chopped onion in butter until brown; add one-half dozen chicken livers, cover with seasoned chicken stock, and let simmer until tender; mash the livers fine and press through a sieve, season with salt, paprika, mustard, and a dash of curry powder. Put this paste in a cup, pour melted butter over top; when cold, remove the butter and cut in thin slices; place between thin slices of white bread. Garnish with a pickle.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com


HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacSalty, creative director. 
If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
Thanks for reading, and any time you want, you can email us at hmmweekly@substack.com.

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