The Twenty-Fourth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twenty-Fourth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twenty-Fourth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend: THE HMM WEEKLY NEWS-LETTER


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Are SUVs Going to Turn Back Into Cars?

The SUVs have been getting taller and taller, and they're killing more and more people, and the whole thing has for quite a while now been obviously a sort of out-of-control adaptive spiral, where nobody (or almost nobody) ever declared that they wanted to be driving an absurdly jacked-up truck optimized for murdering pedestrians, they just all wanted to be able to see over other passenger vehicles, which made them want to be driving something a little bit taller than average, which meant the average just kept on getting taller, to stay ahead of itself.

But what's going on with these Land Rovers, or Range Rovers?

The seven-year-old was the first to point it out to me: these are cars. The Range Rover Evoque, at 65 inches, is closer in height to a Volkswagen Golf, at 57 inches, than it is to a Cadillac Escalade or a Chevy Tahoe or other 74-inch-plus bloatmobiles. It's a hatchback.

Is Range Rover, of all nameplates, backing down from the arms race? One of my recurring intermittent fixations—drawing as it does on my twin interests of observing the destabilization of pop-culture contexts and of hating SUVs—is the path the Range Rover has taken, as signifier, since its star turn in Robert Altman's The Player, in 1992. Probably I've already written about this before. Not being much of an Altman person, I've retained absolutely nothing else about the movie, just the one indelible visual gag of Tim Robbins, as a power-mad Hollywood asshole, tooling around in what was then a ridiculously excessive monstrosity of a vehicle, a hulking black mega-jeep that stood nearly six feet tall.

Over the course of the following quarter-century, I watched that gag—like the cutting-edge jellybean cars used as decrepit squad cars in RoboCop, before the real-life cops all started driving jellybeans—lose its meaning. SUVs swelled up toward the size of Brinks trucks; normal station wagons got jacked up and thickened into "crossover" vehicles. Even Lamborghini came up with an SUV. By contemporary standards, the beastmobile from The Player ended up looking trim and compact, like a little Jeep Wrangler. What was monstrous became normal.

But now the monsters might be taking their first creeping step back toward the old normality. The Porsche Macan, called an SUV, stands just under 64 inches tall. The Jeep Compass is about half an inch taller than that. The little Range Rover Evoque still has a big block of a pedestrian-slaying front end, it weighs a half-ton more than a Golf, and it's still terrible in most meaningful ways. Even so, it has crossed over some perceptual threshold. And it's shorter than a Subaru Outback.



The Saves Game

Noncompetitive play is great. I have nothing against noncompetitive play. Parachute games were a real highlight of gym class. But sometimes noncompetitive play gets boring. For instance: sort-of soccer. Sometimes a couple of kids have a soccer ball, but they don't have real room to run, or other kids, or the other things that go into playing soccer. So they pick out a section of chain-link fence or some other rectangular-ish target, and one of them sets up as a goalie while the other one kicks the ball at them.

It is usually a pretty desultory game. One-on-one soccer lacks the straightforward changes of possession you get in one-on-one basketball. One child sets up one place, the other child sets up in the other, and when they change jobs, they have to formally switch spots.

Also, unless the chosen goal is tiny, it's usually much easier to score than it is not to score. My kids were playing it outside the apartment building, using the brick walkway between low-walled planting beds a the space. One would kick it past the other, and then the other would kick it past the one, and the score would go on forever at n to n-1, and then n to n, and then n to n-1 again, if anyone even bothered counting.

Again: that's fine, if that's what everyone wants to do. It's like playing catch, only you're trying to make the other person miss.

But if the players are getting bored with the back and forth, we discovered a simple fix: keep score not of the goals, but of the saves. Each player takes a turn kicking at the goal till the ball gets through, then they swap sides. The first one to 10 saves, or 20, or whatever, is the winner.

You could just stage a penalty-kick shootout, instead, but saves are the hard part, so it's more entertaining to count them.



ONION SANDWICH: Onion in salted water

We present here for your continued amusement, delectation, and possible degustation a selection of recipes for antique but entirely possible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, published in 1909 and now in the public domain for all to enjoy. Enjoy, and if you have made any of these sandwiches, please send a picture to

ONION SANDWICH: "Well buttered" brown bread and onion/mayonnaise mix

Slice a mild sweet onion and lay in salted ice water for a half-hour. Mix with a good mayonnaise dressing, and place slices of onion between well buttered slices of Boston brown bread cut thin. [Sandwich-testing note: it works better if the onion is chopped, rather than sliced.]

ONION SANDWICH: Here's one with a "slice" of onion, but c'mon

ONION SANDWICH: This is an incredibly delicious sandwich, you must make one, and yes it's not good for your breath

Lightly butter slices of white bread; cover half of them with thin slices of the white meat of roasted chicken; put over this a thin layer of dill pickles; cover with another slice of buttered bread, trim off the crusts, cut in triangles, and serve on a lettuce leaf.

Chop cold boiled spinach and the yolks of hard-boiled eggs fine, add a dash of salt and vinegar. Spread between thin slices of buttered white bread. Garnish with a pickle.


Here Is a Photograph of the Sky

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

Subject: A tool should be a thing that can be used the same way
To: Awl notes over and over again, without incident. That is why it's a tool! But we have moved beyond that. Today's unit: simple machines. The inclined plane is used to convert lateral motion into vertical motion. Only sometimes instead it simply dumps the object you are trying to move into some invisible nonspace. What would the pyramids look like?
Here is a photograph of the sky, to go with the review that is in the system.

Subject: Ideally, of course,
To: Awl notes
the day will come when the machines are just frankly scamming the other machines, and the whole idea of defending against a machine impersonating a human will be obsolete. And then we can freely send terse emails to one another once more, beneath our former protectors' notice. Happy, happy day, when we are no longer even relevant enough to harass. Till then, here is your daily dose of filler to notify you that the review has been filed, and attached is a sky photograph.

Subject: When we are all officially Clickhole
To: Awl notes
none of this will matter. No one will need to express intention, and the content will flow freely from sharing node to sharing node without anyone even looking at it. One person's algorithm will pick up another person's algorithmically generated content, and it will be transmitted to a third, and nothing anyone else does will matter. Here is a picture of the sky to go with a review of the weather, all wrapped I hope in enough text to defeat the filters that want to stop it.

Subject: Very human, I am.
To: Awl notes
I can tell because my bipedal ankles are freezing in the air-conditioner drafts, and because the third cup of iced coffee is tightening up my underslung jaw muscles and because I am stringing together symbols, at length, to attempt to convince a computer of my humanity, so that I may deliver to you this photograph of the sky and the news that a draft is in the publishing system. But am I human ENOUGH? We will learn soon, I guess.

Subject: Once more against the filters
To: Awl notes
, quixotically insisting on being heard, through the expedient of saying things that don't matter, for the sake of producing a facsimile of a "message." All in the name of satisfying an actually illiterate algorithm. Communication, communication. A very important message, consisting of no message at all, but words in a shape that might successfully impersonate a message, simply to convey that the draft is in place and the sky photo is attached.

Subject: The Metamucil gets stirred into the glass,
To: Awl notes
the cloudy drink gets swallowed, the filler that is not food makes its way through the system, stimulating the digestive tract to compensate for the inadequacies of the actual food, pulling water out of the gut, pushing the whole process along, artificially facilitating the most basic of animal activities. Somewhere a factory made and packaged and sealed this supplement. It was delivered on a truck. All to accomplish the personal and private final transit. Here is a photograph of the sky, and notification that the review has been filed.

Hmm Daily is a website in the Civil Network, offering commentary and news and other things. This email newsletter is written by Tom Scocca, the editor of Hmm Daily, and Joe MacLeod, the creative director.

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