Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly
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PANDEMIC SIDE EFFECTS DEP'T.
I WAS CHEWING on a pretzel the other day when I was startled to taste, amid savoriness of the salt and dissolving starch, a burst of mint flavor. Somehow a scrap of chewing gum had gotten stuck in my molars, to be dislodged by the crunchy snack food.
This had never happened before that I could recall, but when I thought about it, the improbable thing seemed to be the fact that it hadn't—like the moment when, after years and years of my letting my hair grow to various degrees of shagginess, a stray lock for the first time curled around and scraped against my eardrum. Unexpected and horrible, yet seemingly inevitable.
The gum-scrap, though, was something else. A few days later, there was another unwelcome mint-burst, this one while I was eating a Dorito. It was worse than the pretzel. Then it happened while I was eating dinner.
What had gone wrong in the relationship between my teeth and my chewing gum? I was taking my now near-daily constitutional one afternoon when suddenly I put it all together. I had put a piece of gum in my mouth before going out, as I habitually do. Then I had put a mask over my face, as I do for the sake of the present emergency. And then—I had started chewing the gum like usual, and I'd felt the mask start sliding around. It doesn't take much chin movement for the mask to work its way up and out of position. So, without consciously focusing on it, I'd tamped down the chewing motion and settled for just kind of gently rolling the gum around my back teeth. Where, presumably, it was getting stuck.
Three-quarters of the reason I chew gum on my way out the door anyway is for breath freshening. Now I'm not talking to anyone from less than six feet away.
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A SERIOUS PROPOSAL DEP'T.
EVERYTHING IS BROKEN now, so we might as well figure out some more useful ways to put the pieces back together. The cruise ship industry, for instance, handled its affairs so outrageously that it got cut out of the bailout package. Not even the appeals to saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in the swing state of Florida, could win sympathy for a business that was built on transnational tax-and-regulation dodging and which operated its vessels as notorious disease incubators even in the pre-coronavirus times.
Meanwhile the nation's nursing homes have traded their old reputation as bleak, unwelcoming places to wait for death for a new reality as outright slaughterhouses, where patients and staff alike are locked in to die, beyond all help or sympathy or even acknowledgement. Their preexisting levels of neglect and understaffing, strained by the virus, have degenerated into negligence and abandonment; the buildings with their stacks of body bags stand as monuments to a nation that simply doesn't care about old people's lives.
What should become of these two discredited institutions? Only one of them truly meets a societal need. Nobody's life depends on being able to take a recreational cruise. But old people do need a place to live—a place to be fed and entertained and cleaned up after. So sink the cruise industry, and give all the newly unemployed people jobs working at fully staffed, full-service eldercare facilities. Don't recycle the boats; the boats are death traps. Just reassign the people. The largest generation in American history will be heading over the River Styx over the next two or three decades. Why not let them go in comparative luxury, or at least something like dignity?
MOUSE MINUS DEP’T.
A journey through the Disney+ channel, Part 4: Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
THERE IS A Space Mountain of content inside the new “Disney+” channel, which I am watching “free” for a year because I use Verizon for my phone service, and I aim to consume as much Disney as I can stand, featuring animals such as a squirrel, and wacky premises such as a cat from outer space, or a darned darn cat.
This week’s motion picture is Swiss Family Robinson, from 1960. It has a bunch of animals in it, but also people. I have a personal connection to this film from my childhood. Once, a million years ago when I was in second grade in Catholic School (that year it was St. John the Baptist—I bounced around until I got bounced into Public School), we had a half day, and since I was a latchkey-type child, my mom gave me some money and, to kill the after-school afternoon, told me to get lunch someplace, then go see a movie, and walk or grab a bus home. It was a different time.
The nuns let us out at 11:30 a.m. I don’t have any memory of lunch, because I think maybe I spent my money at the movie theater on snack bar crap. The movie was at Proctor’s Theater in downtown Schenectady, a huge old vaudeville house with a wide and deep balcony, box seat on the sides, and smoking lounges for ladies and gents. It was moldering, but they were still running CONTINUOUS SHOWS AT POPULAR PRICES, which meant when it was open you could buy a ticket and walk in at any time. If you got to the show late, you just sat there until it looped around to when you came in. It also meant you could just hang around and watch the movie more than once, especially during daylight hours.
Not that it mattered to me, but the movie running that day was Swiss Family Robinson, plus a Tom & Jerry cartoon, where they were in a canning factory. I remember it as being angular and sort of unpleasant, but still, it was a cartoon, on a giant screen, so it was great.
With the exception of a few action scenes, I remembered very little about this movie. There’s a whole bunch of boring stuff with Mr. and Missus Family Robinson sitting around talking to each other about being shipwrecked on a tropical island. I’m sure those were moments when I was wandering around the theater sitting in different spots. The place was almost empty, and it was fun to see what the movie looked like from right up front and way up in the balcony, and from the loges.
The thing that really stayed with me about this movie was that the Family Robinson built themselves a fantastic multilevel treehouse, which made such an impression on me that when I was 10 and my mom took us to Walt Disney World, the attraction I wanted to go see first was the replica they had set up.
I didn’t care about the water ride or the haunted mansion, I wanted to see that treehouse. Big disappointment. The idea of living in a treehouse on an uninhabited tropical island is way better than walking around a fake treehouse built in a giant parking lot in Florida after you got stuck in the monorail for a half hour with no air conditioning. Seriously, the Hall of Presidents was more entertaining than that stupid treehouse. Also, back in the movie, there was a big battle scene with pirates, and the Robinson paterfamilias engineered some gravity-fed hazards that knocked the central casting bad guys ass over teakettle. A lot of G-rated death and destruction that paired well with the Tom & Jerry cartoon.
That’s it, that’s all I recalled from the movie, and that says a lot about my memory, because that day, starting at 11:30 in the a.m., I watched the movie and the cartoon over and over, moving around the theater all the while, until at one point, when I was sitting all the way in the back row on the main floor of the theater, a hand clamped down on my shoulder. It was my big brother. “What the hell are you doing? Do you know what time it is? It’s almost midnight!” My mom and my brother had walked down from our apartment to the theater. My mother had called the theater asking about a child, but I moved around so much they didn’t figure out it was me. On the walk home my mom told me she’d also called the cops and the hospitals. It was a different time. My brother laughed his ass off the whole way back and he’s never let me forget about my “favorite movie.”
So there’s all this stuff I didn’t retain from my original viewing experience. This being a Disney flick, there are loads of animals, many of them enslaved by the littlest Robinson, whose acting chops foretell the performance of that kid who played l’il Darth Vader in one of the crappier Star Wars pictures. The kid in this Robinson flick knew his lines, that’s about it.
Also, the sexual politics of a film released in 1960 would not have even made a dent in my tiny second-grade brain, so I don’t know if it’s fair to say I forgot a bunch of stuff that cruised right over my head. There’s a romantic triangle with a creepy scene in the treehouse with the father Robinson dancing with a fellow castaway/pirate captive girl the elder brothers Robinson thought was a boy for awhile. Then the mother Robinson hooked her up with a fancy dress and things got weird in the treehouse as the brothers started jockeying for position.
Furthermore, looking at this movie now, there’s a lot of mini-beefcake in it, I guess? Vealcake? There is zero visual exploitation of the young lady, but the brothers Robinson are frequently shirtless, torsos glistening in their tropical paradise. It was a different time.
I cannot recommend the 1960 version of Swiss Family Robinson. There are a bunch of other Disney and non-Disney versions you can check out, but you’re on your own, I’m kinda sick of this family.
VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
Spring, Part 7
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WE DRAW EVER closer to the time when we will cease presenting our 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, found in the public domain for the delectation of all. What will we do for Public Domain Content when we have exhausted the supply of sandwich recipes?
CHICKEN AND ENGLISH WALNUT SANDWICH
Spread thin slices of buttered white bread with English walnut or almond meats chopped fine. Spread the corresponding pieces with cold boiled chicken chopped fine; add a little mayonnaise dressing and press pieces together. Garnish with an olive.
BROILED STEAK SANDWICH
Between slices of lightly buttered white bread, place a thin piece of hot broiled steak, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a thin slice of Bermuda onion.
TOMATO AND ONION SANDWICH
Mix in a bowl some tomato catsup, season with pepper and salt and a pinch of sugar, add a little finely chopped onion, mix and place between thin slices of buttered white bread, with a crisp lettuce leaf between.
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