Hmm Weekly for October 29, 2019
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THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY DEP'T.
A Serial Travelogue, Part Eight
SOME PEOPLE HAD recommended we should see Crazy Horse—the counter-Rushmore, less finished and bigger and further into the Black Hills. We were almost there, after all, more or less, by the local standards of distance. But even though we hadn't fully dived into the vexed politics of representation around the project, we had read enough about Tasunke Witko, variously translated His Horse Is Crazy or His Horse Is Wild, to know that he was spiritually and ideologically opposed to self-glorification, and that there were not even authenticated photographs to show what he looked like. Whoever the big carving was, it didn't seem like it could really be him.
Regardless, my wife and I share a fairly low limit on how many things or events or engagements we can fit into a day before they all dissolve into meaninglessness and we end up feeling as if we'd done nothing at all, only tireder. The sculpture known as Crazy Horse was to the west; to the east were the Badlands. We went east, reversing the last hour of our drive the day before, with a few raindrops hitting the windshield along with the latest layer of spattered bugs.
We had driven right by the Badlands without seeing them, the day before. There were intimations: now or then an interruption of the otherwise endless flattish green by a passage of gnarled and bare stone, a flicker of awe in the middle of the numbness of the highway driving—but always so brief, and so unlike everything before and after, that it didn't properly connect with my understanding of the landscape.
The full thing, the completeness of the Badlands, was just far enough away to the south to overlook. Google Maps showed a loop road, South Dakota Highway 240, running down through the northeastern lobe of Badlands National Park and up again to rejoin the interstate.
We took the exit at Wall and drove south, in a dead straight line. There were more rumpled fields and much more yellow clover, looking taller and more intense than before. And then, right outside the park gate, there were bison. In more than 900 miles of driving from Chicago to the West we had seen nothing but ordinary livestock, and here now were the dark shaggy images of the prairie's original wildness, a few dozen yards off the roadway.
They may have been livestock, deep down—despite the protestations of the Bison Association, scientists believe the majority of existing bison carry cattle genes, the result of the species having been ranched back from the brink of extinction. They did not look like cows. They were front-weighted and bearded and horned, and one had a bit of a bucking motion as it moved around, stirring up dust. The phone camera couldn't get at them properly. At that range it was fine to get out of the car and look, and try to zoom the picture, but I didn't wish they were any closer.
We left the bison to their grazing, got back in the Kia, paid the entry fee, and drove on through the gate. The road bent to the left and the Badlands opened up on the right, abruptly and without transition, as if the green land had been torn away. In geologic time, it had been; rivers and streams carved it out in a brief half-million years, carrying off layers of rock built up through 75 million years.
Thick horizontal bands of pink ran through the exposed rock, but most of it was the color of ash or bone. The word "lunar" comes first to mind for stretches of barren landscape, from pictures of the moon more familiar than the extremity of our own planet, but this was terrestrial. Tufts of clover held on here and there among the dead blankness, and down in the gullies were evergreens thickly clustered.
We walked out onto it a ways. The soles of our shoes did their part of the work of eons; the rock was crumbly underfoot like kitty litter. According to the National Park Service, it's going away at the rate of an inch a year. Where the vegetation gave out, the land plunged away. It had assumed immense spiked or knifelike shapes below, where I could make myself stand close enough to the slumping edge to look downward. The younger boy headed off through a field of grass and clover, reaching up to the hem of his basketball shorts. The sky darkened and the wind whipped and gusted, tossing the seedheads and blossoms and sweeping back the older boy's hair. A herd of antelope or bighorn sheep, pale-rumped, grazed in the distance. Down a slope and up the next, on a narrow grass-topped ridge, a bighorn ewe stood alone, her horns sweeping back and up rather than spiraling all the way around.
We drove and stopped and drove and stopped again. The sky kept growing darker. At one overlook, one vehicle in the row of parked cars had, along with the universal coating of smashed bugs, the whole mangled body of a bird wedged in its grill. A wing twisted in some wrong direction. Something in my mind, with unjustified but primal certainty, said Western meadowlark.
I opened the back hatch of the Kia for a moment to get something and the wind pushed past me, ripped a plastic shopping bag away from its tipped-out contents, and sent it rocketing away on a low straight line out of the parking lot and on into the undespoiled vastness. By the time I hurried to where I'd last tracked it, it was entirely out of sight. I had done my piece to ruin the world. It might still be there after everything else I ever do with my life is gone.
The darkness kept intensifying. We had gone too far to want to reverse direction on the loop, but we wouldn't get out ahead of the storm either way. We stopped again and clambered up a rise, conscious that we were tempting or challenging the skies. Off above a rim of the pale hills lightning flared in still-darker clouds—far away, but with nothing but empty space between it and us.
We tested fate and tested it again and then, at last, the rain was on top of us and all around, drenching the car, rushing through the waiting gullies and channels, the wind and water that had shaped the dry landscape returning to assume their places and advance the job some little more. The downpour raised new colors from the rock—deepening yellows, even some greens. We drove past things that looked like walls and towers and cities. By the time we made it out of the loop, the storm had subsided and moved away.
Billboards in Times Square for Apple-logo TV Plus-sign and Apple-logo TV Plus-sign content
I Went To The Paley Center and Watched TV In The Same Building as Jennifer Aniston
I AM A card-carrying member of the Paley Center, which is pretty much a Church of Television, with temples located in Los Angeles and New York City. You can go to the Paley Center and watch zillions of hours of archived Television. I joined a while back to learn about the failed 70s sitcom Space Force, because of all the Space Force talk in the news.
The other night I went to the Paley Center because I had paid $10 to be in the audience for a panel discussion preceded by a screening of the first episode of The Morning Show, one of the new shows that will be exclusively available on the new Apple TV+ thing, which is significant because Apple is trying to make Content, as opposed to being in the business of making devices that deliver, blah blah etc., Zzz-ZZZ-zzz . . .
I mean yeah, it was a panel discussion with a panel that included Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, but still, it’s a panel discussion, not a World Premiere, no big deal. Especially no big deal because I wasn’t even gonna be sitting in the same room as the panel, I was going to be in another room with a screen, the Mark Goodson Theater, which is upstairs from where the screening and panel discussion was happening.
They had one of those things in the lobby with a buncha logos on it where famous and/or important people stand to have their picture taken at an event, a roped-off Red Carpet area.
I thought, “Ohhh, right, this is also a Publicity event,” because of Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and Apple TV+, which begins existence Nov. 1, and which I have been irritated about because I own an Apple TV, which is a little box to stream stuff from the Internet onto your TV set, and they now have their own TV channel, which they are calling Apple TV+, which is confusing, you know? I thought the people who make Apple are super smart, but they named their TV channel the name of their TV-watching machine and put a plus sign? That’s not good Branding, I think. If you buy a new iPhone from Apple they’ll throw in a year of the TV-plus, which you can watch on most of the gizmos that you can use to get streamed, so that means you don’t need an Apple TV to watch Apple TV+, OK? Maybe they thought they could trick people into buying Apple TV to get Apple TV+?
Anyway, I was standing in the lobby and looking at the red carpet area, and I asked one of the Authority Figures wearing a blazer if this was going to be a Famous People photo opportunity for the screening. The Authority Figure replied affirmatively and then asked me what kind of ticket I had, and I told them I was in the Cheap Seats, and then they told me that I couldn’t stand where I was standing and I needed to not be there, to which I replied by not moving my feet and very slowly and deliberately pulling out my phone and taking a picture of the red carpet area. Then I went upstairs to go watch TV.
I would like to give a note on stagecraft to the person who is the boss of the Paley Center, who made a few introductory words at the beginning of the event, if you are going to applaud, step away from the mic. Don’t clap into the mic. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just saying, stagecraft.
They ran the show promptly at 7 p.m. The Morning Show is about a big network television morning news and talk show, and bad things happen. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrel are TV news people, and you can probably figure out the bad stuff. I don’t want to spoiler it, but if you are somebody who watches morning TV news shows and is interested in Bad Stuff, it’s worth a look.
After we watched The Morning Show, somebody on the panel made a joke about Apple products being featured in the scenes, and I was wondering about that, because there are scenes where people are looking at cell phones, I guess they were all Apple products because of the noises they made, but it didn’t seem any of them were displaying super-obvious APPLE logos on their screens or anything like that. They didn’t want us to take pictures of the TV show while we were watching it, so I didn’t, not even with my Apple phone.
The panel discussion was like one of those movie press junkets where people in the production talk about how great it was to work with the people in the show, and the challenges they faced doing the thing they are pleased and proud to present.
The guy who wrote the book Top of The Morning (bad stuff about morning TV shows), was the Moderator, and a producer of the TV show, so this event was an appreciation of a show inspired by his book (plus current events), and not a place where you could ask a critical question, or any question. The panel discussion was unremarkable except for the fact that Jennifer Aniston’s face is highly reactive and constantly in motion.
Personally, I thought the episode we watched, the first one—I don’t know technically if it was a Pilot Episode or if it was just the first one, or if that makes any difference here—played sort of like The West Wing (they did a classic “walk and talk” like they used to in The West Wing, maybe it was homage, I dunno) or The Newsroom, but it was uneven in tone as far as seriousness versus comedic aspects. Reese Witherspoon is very shouty and Jennifer Aniston has some signature performance/personality gimmicks that are funny, but I’m not sure if they work in this show for her TV morning show–veteran character. But since this is a first episode maybe that stuff will settle down.
Billy Crudup is creepy as the TV executive, kinda like he’s channeling Mitt Romney through Matthew McConaughey. I want to see what happens to the characters as far as their stories and the actors getting their performances dialed in, and I know pilots and first episodes of TV shows aren’t always the best part of a series, so I’ll give this a shot, especially since my wife is a big Jennifer Aniston fan and is gonna pony up the $4.99 a month.
After the panel adjourned, I was walking down the stairs to quickly head out of the building (because I didn’t want to get in trouble for hanging out in the fucking lobby) and I found myself two feet away from Jennifer Aniston, who was maybe greeting people, or just on the way to her ride, and I had enough time to decide if I was going to hold my phone up and capture a photo or just relate with her as a human being. I decided to be low-key, and so I looked her in the eye and said “Thanks,” and moved along. She had distinctive skin coloration and was very well-groomed, you know, plus all that stuff people say when they see somebody who they have only seen on screens.
The Celebrities and other panelists arrived in giant SUVs, but there was a cool car parked outside. When Reese Witherspoon came out and got in her giant SUV, some people got up next to the window of the car and were yelling and pleading with her to roll down the window for a picture, but when Jennifer Aniston came out to get into her SUV, the knot of civilians and photographers outside lost their fucking shit, it was frightening.
GIG ECONOMY DEP’T.
Vending Machine Food, Reviewed: PIERRE SIGNATURES SOUTHERN STYLE CHICKEN CHICKEN BREAST WITH CHEESE HANDMADE SANDWICH
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.
THIS IS THE weirdest-tasting thing I have eaten out of a vending machine so far. It’s not just the cheese, I mean, I object to cheese on a fried chicken sandwich, especially American cheese, blergh, but I ate my way around that obstacle.
This is a “Southern Style Chicken Breast,” but with many frozen chickenmeat products, I notice the presence of RIB MEAT. I wonder why? Maybe that’s the way to get some chicken flavor into it? Assuming of course RIB MEAT is from a chicken rib. I mean, there are pork ribs and beef ribs, but it’s not like people cook chicken ribs, right? Today’s Zen Koan: How much meat is on the rib of a chicken?
There was this sort of odd cinnamon taste, I dunno, there is no cinnamon in the Ingredients. Maybe it was the paprika? Anyway, it was unsettling. I had the same issue with the bun as detailed in previous installments of this series; when you microwave the whole sandwich, you get a gloopy, wet bun that is one million degrees hot. If you are in a situation where you are forced to eat any sort of microwave sandwich, try and find a way to toast the bread separately. I do not recommend this product.
MAKE DRINKING WATER FUN FOR YOUR KIDS DEP'T.
Make drinking water fun for your kids!
MAKE DRINKING WATER fun for your kids!
VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
Halloween at the supermarket
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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.
One cup of celery, one orange cut fine, one-half cup of raisins seeded and halved; add one-half cup of grated apple to one-half cup of mayonnaise and mix with this; place between thin slices of lightly buttered white or whole wheat bread. Garnish with a spray of smilax.
Melt a teaspoonful of butter in a saucepan, stir into it all the unsweetened chocolate (bitter) it will take up. Grate the chocolate directly into the butter. Stir until butter and chocolate are thoroughly mixed. Take from the fire and let it get cold before spreading on thin slices of graham bread, lightly buttered. Cover with another slice and cut in strips.
LOG CABIN SANDWICH
Boil one cupful of maple syrup, one-half cupful chopped dates, one-half cupful chopped almonds, one-half cupful pineapple together, let cook for five minutes, take from fire, and add teaspoonful of lemon juice. Cut the bread in long thin strips and remove the crust. Spread with the mixture. Put slices together and wrap in oiled paper; let stand a few hours, when the paper can be removed and they will keep the shape desired.
On thin slices of lightly buttered graham bread, sprinkle finely chopped Canton ginger; press slices together.
CHESTNUT AND PRUNE SANDWICH
Boil chestnuts twenty minutes; peel and chop fine, add an equal amount of cooked prunes chopped; moisten with a little cream and place between thin slices of lightly buttered whole wheat bread. Garnish top with a maraschino cherry.
If you decide to make any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacLeod, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, 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 email@example.com.