Hmm Weekly for November 5, 2019
From the Deadline-Busters of Hmm Daily
Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly
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THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY DEP'T.
A Serial Travelogue, Part Nine
NOT FAR FROM our Hampton Inn, along the network of driveways and access roads beside I-90, there was a Target. Traveling is such a break from the normal rhythms of behavior, it's hard sometimes to recognize that the ordinary is still right there. How were we, uprooted and constantly on the move, supposed to replace the hoodies that mother and child had lost two states and more than 700 miles ago, in the Wisconsin backseat vomit eruption? By pointing our vehicle not toward a monumental-mythical mountaintop carving or a primal landscape of ancient stone but toward a normal big-box parking lot. It felt like a sudden deceleration to be in the aisles, from hurtling toward particular somewheres to the inertia of being anywhere. The seven-year-old picked out not one but two jackets, one lightweight and water-resistant in a lustrous orange, and another warmer, slightly stretchy black one with neon green accents. My wife found a plain black hoodie able to stand in for her ruined plain black one. We bought berries, apples, Tic Tacs, shampoo. We were supplied.
It was late, and we had not had a fully balanced, proper meal since—Sioux Falls, maybe? I'd been intermittently Googling the restaurants of Rapid City since we got there, trying to find any reason to choose one over another. There were plenty of opportunities to dine off the Standard Semi-Upscale American Restaurant Menu, with its ingredients held out as ingredients, the way you might whatever city you looked, maybe better or maybe worse.
Mostly to break the indecision, we decided to do a search for Indian food, and were rewarded with a small batch of Himalayan restaurants. If there were multiple Himalayan restaurants in Rapid City, South Dakota, it seemed likely that there must be a customer base that not only wanted Himalayan food but had expectations for what it should be like, and that the people running the restaurants must be in the habit of meeting those expectations. Though South Dakota does not have much of an immigrant population at all, I learned much later, more foreign-born South Dakotans come from Nepal than from anywhere else but Mexico. We picked one of the restaurants—Himalayan Kitchen—and put it into Google Maps.
Downtown Rapid City has life-size bronze statues of the presidents on the corners of the sidewalks, one president to a corner, and there were relatively few normal fleshly pedestrians to accompany them. The emptiness of the sidewalks must have had something to do with the heatwave still smothering the city, but some of it must have been pure urban anti-design. At one stoplight I looked off to the left and saw a terrible, not quite believable expanse of pure contiguous pavement, broken only by a few sparsely planted saplings: roadway, sidewalk, parking lot, parking lot—uninterrupted impermeable flat surface as far as the eye could track the details of it.
The Himalayan restaurant had previously been a Chinese restaurant, and not all of the old decor had been taken away. Someone else's child was running riot, crawling into the darkness under their table and doing menacing things with silverware, but everything was otherwise tranquil and easy-paced. Most of the menu was normal Indian-restaurant dishes but we included as many of the items marked "Himalayan" or "traditional Nepalese style"—goat curry, the house thali—as we could, till the waiter warned us that one chicken dish we had our eye on was too spicy for the children and we replaced it with tikka masala. The late dusk had settled in by the time we left, carrying slightly more food inside us than was ideal but too relieved by the nourishment to feel it as regret.
On the way out of South Dakota in the morning, in the last stretch before Wyoming, we hit a construction zone and came to a full stop. We had skirted the Black Hills and then passed through the bottom end of them into flat land beyond, on a two-lane highway, U.S. Route 18, black running through more yellow fields of clover. Up ahead, some truck-length beams or culverts or something were laid out in preparation for building or rebuilding something. The road was down to a single lane, and a new truck was bringing in a new giant piece of whatever-it-was from the opposite direction, so a flag crew had shut our side of things down.
Another flag crew, in the middle distance, let the traffic coming the other way go by. The older boy had been studying a book of history facts he'd gotten at Wall Drug in the back seat, despite our warnings against reading on the road, and he was beginning to feel queasy from it. We sat there for some stretch of time, losing count—10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20—as the once-empty road filled up behind us. All our calculations about when we might need a restroom break or how far we could go were thrown off. The plan was to get from Rapid City to Denver, not quite 400 miles, and six hours if everything went right, which was already not how everything was going.
We got free and put another half-hour or so under the wheels, crossing into Wyoming, till we reached the place where the roadway, having made it across the state line, gave up and came to an end, meeting a north-south highway in a T. There was no exit-ramp interchange; the road was finished with its westbound business. Officially, it was still U.S. Route 18, joining U.S. 85 to continue south, but it needed a stop sign and a left turn to do it.
Just beside the T—Mule Creek Junction, a name without a town—we pulled into a rest stop, where we tried to get the still reading-nauseated older boy to see if his stomach might settle down or flip up, to resolve itself one way or another. The restrooms had signs announcing they used waterless recycling toilets, meaning big round holes that went straight down. I took the older boy's glasses to be sure they wouldn't end up down in the darkness if he did need to throw up. We waited a long, indecisive time, then we went out to walk around and I gave him his glasses back. Underfoot was some sort of shredded rubber; off in the weeds was something dead and rotting. The younger boy was on a little playground, chatting with some other child from some other car, in a Stephen Curry jersey. The stomach was still uncertain, so we went back inside and I took the glasses back and waited around some more. He couldn't feel better or worse. Eventually, over his reluctance, we loaded back into the car and, making sure he had a big Ziploc bag at the ready, made the turn south, to get through Wyoming.
Taika Waititi (Hitler), Sam Rockwell, and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit
Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi
I ENJOYED THIS movie, and I recommend this movie, but this movie made me sad, not just because it’s about the Holocaust in Germany, but because I get nervous for movies I like, and when I got out of the preview, a person from the movie-publicity company who asks people what they thought about the movie asked me what I thought about the movie, and I said I thought it’s great, that it is a successful attempt at mixing genres, which is a risky thing, so it took guts to make it, and there are solid moments of comedy along with profound pathos, but I was worried that this movie won’t do well at the box office, because how do you convince people to see a satire about the Holocaust? People go to the movies to be removed from their troubles, not to be reminded that the Nazis rounded people up into extermination camps and some people had to live for years in hiding while their family was being wiped out.
Roman Griffin Davis is a perfect little boy in this story as Jojo, a little boy who wants to join the Hitler Youth, and who has a fully-resolved imaginary friend in the form of Adolf Hitler, enthusiastically manifested by the film’s director Taika Waititi. Jojo’s mother—played perfectly fine by Scarlett Johansson—worries about him, but she has other stuff going on. The resolution of WWII in Germany ensues.
Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, and Roman Griffin Davis
This film also made me think about Life is Beautiful, which did really well at the box office and won some Academy Awards for Roberto Benigni. It also made me wonder for the hundredth time about the Jerry Lewis film The Day The Clown Cried, which never opened, but apparently, according to Mr. Lewis’s wishes, will be allowed a public screening in June 2024.
Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas
REVIEW DEP’T., CONT’D.
Last Christmas, directed by Paul Feig
THIS IS A fucking Christmas movie, already, but it is a singular achievement in the form, presented by director Paul Feig, who gave us the Ghostbusters reboot and Bridesmaids, not to mention television’s Freaks and Geeks.
Emma Thompson and Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas
Tied together with all kinds of Christmas music, plus some Venn diagram overlap with the music of George Michael (at least 15 of his songs, popular favorites to deep tracks) this movie stars the winsome Emilia Clarke (moving away from being dragon mom on Game of Thrones) and the square-jawed and charming Henry Golding from Crazy Rich Asians, along with Michelle Yeoh and co-writer Emma Thompson.
Henry Golding in Last Christmas
Mr. Feig has managed a maniacal multiple-dovetailing of micro-subplots involving a romantic comedy within a romantic comedy set in an idyllic Anglophiliac’s movie-magic London West End England, along with a medical drama, a coming-out-to-your-family story, Brexit, xenophobia, the homeless crisis, the “making amends” part of a 12-step program, and a coupla other way more spoiler-y topics for a movie that carries you along to a point where you might be able to figure out what’s gonna happen.
Michelle Yeoh in Last Christmas
This is resoundingly a corny-ass Christmas movie though, and by the end you get The Spirit, no humbug.
GIG ECONOMY DEP’T.
Vending Machine Food, Reviewed: BIG AZ BUBBA TWINS CHILI CHEESE DOGS
I do not have a Day Job, so I have started working “Temp Jobs.” One thing about the Temp Job is you generally don’t have an assigned space of your own, plus, you’re not always sure if you’re coming back the next day, so you can’t leave a little stash of stuff to eat, and if you forget to bring your lunch or some snacks, you are frequently at the mercy of the Break Room, quite possibly patronizing a VENDING MACHINE.
I REALLY THOUGHT this one would be a slam-dunk. Hot dogs! How can you fuck up a hot dog? Well, first of all, you make it a chicken and pork hot dog. There’s always something weird on my teeth when I tuck into a chicken and pork tubesteak, I can’t explain it beyond that. The chicken is described in the Ingredients as “mechanically separated chicken,” which Today I Learned on Wikipedia is Also Known As: “White Slime,” as opposed to “Pink Slime,” for mechanically separated beef.
The big takeaway on mechanically separated chicken is:
The process entails pureeing or grinding the carcass left after the manual removal of meat from the bones and then forcing the slurry through a sieve under pressure. This puree includes bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels, and the scraps of meat remaining on the bones.
So maybe all those pieces-parts that are not the Meat part of a chicken that get mixed in with a teensy amount of chicken meat is why chicken dogs always feel so odd on my teeth, I dunno, but I’m veering, let’s get back to this awful Vending Machine Food Experience, which I am going to take half the blame for, on the “fool me twice” tip.
The microwave instructions tell the consumer to open the end of the wrapper and nuke away, but as I have discussed in previous installments of this series, I don’t feel good about microwaving something inside a flimsy plastic bag, and to make it worse, this time there was a thin plastic tray holding the dogs, and I went ahead and shoved the whole mess into my household Chernobyl (which I found out when watching Chernobyl on the Home Box the other night is actually called the Vladimir I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station) and here’s what happened to the tray, look at the whitened area at the ends, the dang dog tray done gone and had a meltdown! How is that not going to fuck up the flavor of my microwaved wieners?
Like I said, I’m gonna take the fall for half of this catastrophe, but AdvancePierre Foods, Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, is on the hook for the rest of this misdaventure.
Another thing I had advised to anyone attempting to enjoy a hot microwaved sandwich is to pull the bread part off before you cook it and do the bread in a toaster, if available in your break room, because you are not eating this garbage at home, and if you are, that’s really depressing and you need to re-examine your life and get away from whatever forces are causing this behavior.
If you nuke the bread, you end up with bread that is too soft and skwushy and hot to have any sort of meaningful claim to be part of a sandwich, in terms of getting in between your hands and the messier parts of your meal. But I was in a hurry and the hot dogs looked too messy, so against my own advice I microwaved the whole shootin’ match, and the goddamn bread was so hot I couldn’t touch it without my Civil Defense safety tongs to get it out of the stupid plastic tray that I cooked along with the stupid hot dogs.
These hot dogs were terrible, they had a horrible lack of texture and there was almost zero taste beyond me thinking about the plastic that I cooked them in. The chili part, though, was tasty! It’s made out of cooked beef, and textured vegetable protein, and monosodium glutamate and they shoulda made the whole hot dog out of that. The hot dogs at the fucking 7-Eleven are a hundred times better than these. Do not under any circumstances purchase this hot dog meal.
VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
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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 Green Fuller; 1909; McClurg and co, Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.
POTATO AND HAM SANDWICH
Into a pint of well seasoned mashed potatoes, stir two eggs without beating; spread two tablespoonfuls of this potato out smoothly, and lay on it a slice of neatly trimmed boiled ham. Cover this with the potato, pinch the edges together. Fry in butter until a delicate brown.
Chop cold boiled pork and a celery stalk fine; season with salt, add a dash of Worcestershire, slightly diluted with water; mix and place between thin slices of buttered white bread.
GREEN PEPPER AND EGG SANDWICH
Between thinly cut slices of lightly buttered white bread, place seedless green peppers that have been chopped fine and mixed with a little mayonnaise dressing. On top of that place slices of hard-boiled egg. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and a small pickle.
If you decide to make any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BRAIN ITCH DEP’T.
Photo: Gregory H. Revera via Wikipedia
Photo: Sailingtheearth via Wikipedia
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