The Twenty-Fifth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twenty-Fifth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

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

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A Taxonomy of Trouble

Hmm Daily's editor is on the road, which means a new and different shower almost every day. The shower is always a time to think, but a change of shower often means thinking about the shower itself, which is otherwise the thing one never thinks about. Here, after much reflection, is a list of things that go wrong with showers, in increasing order of wrongness:

Inadequate shower curtain or door: As previously discussed on the website.

No bathmat: A hand towel thrown on the floor never really provides enough coverage.

All-in-one shampoo plus conditioner: Shampoo is for washing stuff out of your hair. Conditioner is stuff you put into your hair. Doing both at once is impossible, and the results of trying to do it are vile.

Low-flow showerhead: It takes a certain amount of water to wash away a certain amount of dirt and soap. If you reduce the flow of water, it just takes longer to get enough water to get properly washed. You're not saving water, you're just wasting time.

Thick washcloth: Washcloths are a great sociological mystery. There is a whole theory out there on Twitter that using or not using washcloths marks a black/white divide, which is not true. Race is a social construct, and ablutions are mostly done in private, so behavior behind bathroom doors turns out to resist public typologies. Maybe it's class-based? Or regional? Whoever the non-washcloth people are, though, they so completely misunderstand washcloth technology that they have created a whole class of would-be luxurious "washcloths," which are tiny, heavy plush towels, or possibly even tiny bathmats. These objects, which sometimes show up in hotels, fail every functional test of being a washcloth: they are not flexible enough to scrub the body's contours and crevices; they are impossible to quickly and repeatedly rinse and wring out; they are so heavy they tend to plop down from whatever you hang them on; they don't get dry when you hang them up. Useless and infuriating.

Fluctuating water temperature: Everyone has their own preferred balance of hot and cold water. No one wants to have to keep chasing that balance up and down the shower dial. Especially not when there's a lag between when you change the temperature and when the new-temperature water makes its way through the pipes and comes out the showerhead so you know what the new temperature feels like.

Water smells funny: Weird ozone-y treatment smells, disturbed-pond muddy smells—feh! It almost never sticks to you but it makes you worry about it sticking to you.

Slow drain: Showers are better than baths because the dirty water goes away and is replaced with clean water, so you are not soaking in your own filth. This is defeated if the filth-water starts rising around your feet instead of neatly flowing away.

Showerhead shorter than my own height: A pain in the neck. Is it even a shower if you can't properly stand under it?

No shower curtain or door: What better way to celebrate being freshly clean than by mopping down the entire bathroom?

Soft water: Rinsing is the part of the shower that lets you know you're truly clean—unless, that is, the water has bonded to the soap to form a slippery mess that refuses to wash away. It's like being drenched in lotion. You scrub away hopelessly in an endless fugue state or you just give up, turn off the water, and sacrifice a towel to scrape away the wet slime. I don't understand how people live like this.

No hot water: No shower.

Hot water cuts out: No shower, but you don't realize it's impossible to shower until you are already soaped up.


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: I keep seeing people
To: Awl notes
talking about how Tweetbot is flagging them for putting up links, or at least a discussion around one person, who can even remember what happens on Twitter? The terse message! The machines are against it! The machines want us to use our words. I dreamed the other night that I had stood up Sandra Bernhard for an interview, that I had not just forgotten about it but had forgotten I had ever known about it, that the entire creation and scheduling of the interview had not registered in my brain at all, and I was only aware of my role in it by reconstructing it from the fallout online and on other media. Our trail of documentation and verification tells us what we are--tells us *that* we are. Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system.

Subject: Words, words, words
To: Awl notes
A picture is worth a thousand of them. The successful sending of a picture, though, seems to require only, how many? What's been working for us here? Fifty words? Seventy-five? I try my best never to accurately reckon how many words are really involved in the writing of short things, so that I can cling to the semi-irreconcilable beliefs "It's hardly anything" and "They add up," depending on what I am trying to rationalize at the moment. I hope this has made the nut, as far as transmitting a photo and notice of filing goes. We'll see. Definitely not 1,000, though. A bargain!

Subject: Once again, the generic
To: Awl notes
must be supplemented by the artificially specific, a message designed for no purpose other than to represent a message, a novelty performed only for novelty's sake, as demanded by routine. Up against the filters this must go, trusting in its arbitrary specialness, the same message as ever couched yet one more way. Padded out, as ever, to a length that must certainly represent meaning, even though it does not. Another one on the pile. A photograph of the sky, and notice of the drafting of a review.

Subject: Words, words, words.
To: Awl notes
Didn't it seem as if, at the Jeff Koons exhibition, the gestures toward explanation were for the most part anti-explanations, or perhaps obfuscations? Every fact of biography was rendered so flatly, with a pretense of obviousness, that it communicated less than a silence would have. *My father was a decorator, so I was interested in decoration.* You ... don't say? But words are demanded, the forms demand words, and so the words must be provided to meet the demand, even if they are provided in the spirit of withholding and perversity, or, as here, provided to produce some arbitrary impression of mental activity. Here is a photograph of the sky; the review is in the system.

Subject: Communicative intent
To: Awl notes
is expressed by the use of words. The quantity of words indicates the authenticity of the communication. This is the logic of #longform and the logic of the filters. If there's something that really needs to be said, there will be a string of words to say it, or strings of strings of words. One after another, word word word, set of words, set of words, set of words, adding up to a sincere and meaningful quantity of text, saying what needs to be said. In this case, that a draft review has been filed and that a photograph is attached.

Subject: The filters never go away
To: Awl notes
for a summer Friday afternoon, the filters are always there, waiting, eager for text. At least one presumes that's the case. They are faithful, never disengaging like human readers. They are not wandering off to the beach or to a restaurant for early dinner and a daylight beer; they still search the flow of bits for novel text, or what they interpret to be text, that patterned-but-not-too-patterned accumulation of data that testifies to the presence of humanity, even if the humans have all but checked out. Here is a photograph of yesterday's sky, and the review is in the system.



We present here for your continued amusement, delectation, and possible confusion a selection of recipes for antique but entirely edible 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, so please, enjoy, and if you have made any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to

Mix one cup of lobster meat with a little mayonnaise dressing. Marinate crisp lettuce leaves and arrange on this slices of lightly buttered white bread; cover with lobster, and cover lobster with bread; sprinkle lobster coral on top. Prepare just before serving.

Cream two tablespoonfuls of butter with one tablespoonful of prepared mustard. Spread a thin layer between thinly cut slices cut slices of rye bread. Garnish with a pickle.

White, brown, and graham bread are used for this sandwich. Cut the slices thin and spread with green butter. The butter is made by putting cold boiled spinach through a sieve, season with finely chopped parsley and capers, and mix smooth with creamed butter. Put slices together.



Each week, Joe will present an item he saw at the supermarket, and he might even eat it. Not to suggest that you buy it, or eat it, or anything like that, it's just to show you an item of interest available at the supermarket. Price check please!

$1.00 for a 15-oz. can at my local supermarket

I know! Why, whyyyyyyyyyy? Look, I have a solid relationship with certain canned products from the Chef, namely, Beefaroni, which is a Comfort Food for me. I keep hoping Conagra Brands will come out with an Impossible-Roni or Beyond-Roni variant, since nobody who works for the Chef ever heard my cries for a Textured Vegetable Protein version. Meanwhile, whenever a meatless item pops up, I take a shot at it. Here we go!

It's full of ingredients! Wowzers, there's a big sodium penalty on this stuff, and I guess it could keep you alive if you were starving, but not a lot of Nutrition going on.

Here's what it looks like, urf! Yeah, this stuff was terrible, and that's coming from a person who eats canned ravioli and Beefaroni! The pasta was borderline gelatinous, and the butter sauce was way too gloopy and just really not buttery-tasting, it was more of a diluted cheese flavor. This is an unsuccessful new item attempt, and you'd think this might even be a solid entry into the child-food category, a simple combo of pasta and butter, maybe jack it up with some vitamins like they do with breakfast cereals, but it's a failure. It's revolting. Do not haz!

Thank you, and see you in the 12 Items or Less lane at checkout.

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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