Hmm Weekly for January 21, 2020

Only one more Tuesday until Groundhog Day!

Hmm Weekly for January 21, 2020

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

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From left: Komondor, Kuvasz. Wikipedia images from Nikki68 and Kuvaszprince, respectively

Personality Difficulties of Hungarian Dog Breeds

THERE ARE NO bad kinds of dogs, of course; there are only mismatches between the perfect and correct character of a dog and the inadequate circumstances or people it may encounter. The text that explains these things is one of my favorite literary microgenres. For instance, I grew up with Rottweilers, which the American Kennel Club's breed standard describes as "a calm, confident and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships." Me, too, really, and the Rottweilers and I got along great, but the message is pretty clear between the lines.

Now we were talking about Siberian huskies and their exercise demands; there are drawbacks to having a dog that really doesn't' feel like it's gotten a good day's work unless it's been pulling a sled over distance. And then I got curious about other narrowly specialized dog breeds, till I was reading Wikipedia about Hungarian dogs.

Hungary has produced two markedly different kinds of big white sheepdogs: the komondor, a shapeless mass of corded locks; and the Kuvasz, a Platonically ideal handsome dog form, like a brawnier and silkier golden retriever. Does either one of these have, in addition to its striking appearance, the personality to be an agreeable pet?

As a sheep-guarding dog, Wikipedia explains, the komondor "was bred to think and act independently and make decisions on its own." It is "affectionate with its family, and gentle with the children and friends of the family." Note the delicacy with which this construction fences off those people with whom the komondor is not necessarily going to be affectionate of gentle. As for the non-family and non-friends: "Although wary of strangers, they can accept them when it is clear that no harm is imminent, being instinctively very protective of its family, home, and possessions."

The komondor is also "intolerant to trespassing animals," and "is vigilant and will rest in the daytime, keeping an eye on its surroundings, but at night is constantly moving, patrolling the place, moving up and down around its whole territory.”

The AKC website notes that the komondor is an "independent thinker," and the breed standard warns that "[t]hough very sensitive to the desires of his master, heavy-handed training will produce a stubborn, unhappy Komondor." Wikipedia elaborates that a "Komondor can become obstinate when bored, so it is imperative that training sessions be upbeat and happy."

Maybe a Kuvasz would be better adjusted? Wikipedia says that Kuvaszok "are intensely loyal and patient pets who appreciate attention." If someone told you a person "appreciated attention," you'd be wary. And rightly so: the sentence goes on to say the dogs "may also be somewhat aloof or independent, as well as thoroughly cunning, particularly with strangers."

The Kuvasz shares the komondor's history of being a self-sufficient guard dog for flocks, but Wikipedia is even less euphemistic about what this means: "That independence can make training a difficult task, wearing on the patience of even experienced owners. Kuvasz quickly understand what is being asked of them, but they have to respect a person as a trusted leader before they'll obey commands."

The AKC breed standard describes the Kuvasz as "[p]rimarily a one family dog" and "[p]olite to accepted strangers, but rather suspicious and discriminating in making new friends." It also says they are "[v]ery sensitive to praise and blame." Aloof, yet sensitive. Wikipedia says they are "not usually interested in meaningless activity, such as doing entertaining tricks." Maybe just take them to the dog park? Not so fast:

Interactions with other dogs, especially first meetings, should be managed carefully. One of the tasks of a livestock guardian is to kill wolves, coyotes, and other predators, and this instinct remains intact in the modern dog. Handlers should be alert to signs of tension, and intervene before a dangerous situation develops. However, a well socialized, well trained Kuvasz will usually ignore, play with, or go exploring with other dogs once a successful introduction has been made.

Take that last sentence and count the qualifiers and conditions: a well socialized (one!), well trained (two!) Kuvasz will usually (three!)  ignore, play with, or go exploring with other dogs once (four!) a successful (five!) introduction has been made. Lest anyone miss the point, the AKC website and Wikipedia go ahead and explicitly specify that Kuvaszok (or the natural qualities of Kuvaszok) "challenge the novice dog owner" (AKC) and are "for experienced handlers only" (Wikipedia).

Can you live up to the needs of the dog? It will also likely bark, at "potential threats, both real and imagined," Wikipedia says. And if people are acting too "rowdy," the Kuvasz may try to herd them: "The owner has the responsibility for setting clear, consistent limits on this behavior. That connection can easily be lost if the dog is humiliated, confused by contradictory commands, or otherwise abused."

Maybe it would be easier to give up on the specialized, strong-willed herding dogs and move down the Hungarian breed list to get a vizsla? The AKC has thoughts:

They are highly intelligent, curious, and sometimes manipulative, so owners need to establish solid communication and teach good behavior. Untrained Vizslas are hard to live with. They can find many creative ways [to] get into trouble if they don’t have a “job” Fortunately, they typically love training and thrive on the attention they receive. This is a sensitive breed, so early and ongoing socialization is important to make sure the dog has the confidence to enjoy various activities. With good socialization and consistent training, there are countless ways to have fun with these versatile dogs.

Does that sound like a lot of responsibility to live up to? Do you yourself stay out of trouble if you don't have a job? With focused handling of yourself, and proper socialization, you might someday be experienced enough for these dogs to be able to live with you.

Department of Correction Dep’t.

Submitted by Chase Hoffberger via Twitter

Kristen Stewart stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater

Review Dep’t.

Underwater, directed by William Eubank

I WILL EXPLAIN the plot to this B-movie Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart from the Twilight vampire movies and Personal Shopper, by copying a nice science fiction-y image and caption from the press kit:

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and trapped in a rapidly flooding structure, a crew of six stationed on an underwater research facility realize their only shot at survival lies in walking across the ocean floor to a distant abandoned rig. In addition to the physical challenges of the journey they quickly discover they’re being hunted by mythic, monstrous sea predators hellbent on killing them.

All right! Now I am going to get directly to why this movie fails: It’s the “mythic, monstrous sea predators hellbent on killing them,” They never should have shown the monsters! This movie was working fine when it was a lot of submarine-movie claustrophobia as engineer Nora (Stewart) takes charge and rallies survivors to escape the submerged wreckage, it really was working, everybody was desperate and scared and when they were inside a wrecked structure you were really wondering how the heck they would get anywhere. When you’re at the bottom of the ocean, you are food, and it’s dark down there and stuff, that’s scary!

Jessica Henwick and Kristen Stewart star in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater

When the trapped deep sea energy-plant workers started making survival moves in the briny depths (OK, I GIVE UP ALREADY, UNDERWATER) it was intense, the water is murky on the ocean floor, and there’s junk floating around, and it’s terrifying all by itself, as the characters, entombed in ungainly dive suits with limited mobility and visibility start trudging around to escape their deadly aquatic trap.

L to R: Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Kristen Stewart, and Mamoudou Athie star in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALIEN, just kidding, it’s Underwater

T.J. Miller (Deadpool, HBO’s Silicon Valley, until he got kicked out), as a wiseass earthquake survivor, didn’t hurt the production, he was somewhat restrained, and the movie looking like Alien doesn’t hurt because it’s like, an official subgenre now, the grubby corporate-controlled future, and dirty, beat-up spacesuits, which in this instance, are diving suits, because we are underbeneath the water.

John Gallagher Jr. in Twentieth Century Fox’s Underwater

Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises, Ocean’s Twelve [ugh], and Ocean’s Thirteen) brings the salty depressive gravitas as the Captain, and the expected attrition of characters is accomplished in a commendable 90 minutes, but there’s moments when the dang monsters really just look like somebody in a rubber suit, and it’s too bad. If it’s still playing anywhere, don’t go. Also, somebody needs to direct Kristen Stewart and get her to say words better, she’s a movie star and stuff, no doubt about it, but she mumbles and fast-talks and it’s annoying.


Salt boxes of Baltimore

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Spam Filter Letters to the Awl

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: scooter accident
To: Awl notes
Of course I'm not stupid enough to try riding a scooter. All I did was lug the new, bigger-but-folding scooter around on the playground. And before I had a chance to ditch it on a bench, Dominic wanted me to chase him around the climber. So to execute the bare minimum of chasing duty, I went to step up and intercept him as he went by. The scooter caught on something, my sneaker slipped on the slick plastic planking, and blammo. Spectacular contusions down the shin.
It doesn't matter at all, but it's top of mind, and that should be enough words. The review is in, and the photo is attached.

Subject: It seems like this could be subcontracted
To: Awl notes
The way the captchas are used to get human eyes to solve broken or confused bits of text for computers, it ought to be feasible to get all the people who are so busy saying nothing online to say nothing here, to fill this space, where their contributions are "wanted," to the extent the filters can be said to want, which is as I think we have previously discussed quite a limited extent. Think of all the people even now adding their two cents to blog posts written five years ago, by people no longer even employed at the blog companies. Those opinions would fit perfectly in this space. Here's a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system.

Subject: pointless activity
To: Awl notes
Whatever the depressing aspects to this drill may be, it's certainly preferable to be writing useless words to fool machines than to be sitting around not writing anything while a crazed billionaire forces you to attend meetings. Assuming the landlord will accept a check drawn off my self-esteem, while we wait for New Jersey to stop messing around with our tax refund. Here is a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system.

Subject: In other news about accommodating one's constraints
To: Awl notes
I was startled to learn that the concept of high-rise trick-or-treating is alien even to people who live in the city, if they have not themselves lived in high-rises. I shouldn't have been startled, since I had never thought about it either until I moved into one, three high-rises and five Halloweens ago. Now it's the idea of wandering around laterally in the dark, rather than working methodically down the elevators and stairwells, that seems insane. Plus you get to peek into how everyone else occupies their iteration of the living space. Here is a picture of the sky, and the review is in the system.

[For November 2014, the email filler text was the draft version of what would become 17 Folktales]

Subject: Another month
To: Awl notes
And so we turn over the calendar page from inane ambition to mere survival, the original format. There is no moral to be had, and there never was any. The creatures of fable in their enchantment tread the same meaningless paths in the same loops as we do in our lives. Here is a photograph of the sky, and the review is in the system.


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 Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, now in the public domain for the delectation of all.

PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS is made from the liver of geese, ducks, and turkeys. Put one-half cup goose grease in a fryer on stove; when hot lay in livers and baste with a spoon until tender; remove the livers from the pan and chop very fine. Add a small onion chopped and boiled brown, season with salt and pepper and mix in some of the grease in which livers were fried. Their mixture must resemble paste. Pâté de foie gras can be purchased in small cans.

On thin slices of toasted bread shorn of crusts, spread pâté de foie gras; add a dash of salt and cayenne; cover with another slice of toast and serve with a pickle.

Three slices of white or brown bread lightly buttered; on the lower slice spread pâté de foie gras, then put another slice of bread on top of that. Cover with delicate shreds of tomato, tiny lettuce hearts with a dash of mayonnaise dressing, topped by a third slice of bread. Garnish with an olive.

One-half cup of pâté de foie gras, remove the fat and mash to a smooth paste; season with a little salt and a dash of cayenne pepper and drop of onion juice; press the whole through a sieve. Spread on thin slices of buttered white bread and cover with another slice of buttered bread. Garnish top with slices of hard-boiled egg and an olive.

Saute half a chopped onion in butter until brown; add one-half dozen chicken livers, cover with seasoned chicken stock, and let simmer until tender; mash the livers fine and press through a sieve, season with salt, paprika, mustard, and a dash of curry powder. Put this paste in a cup, pour melted butter over top; when cold, remove the butter and cut in thin slices; place between thin slices of white bread. Garnish with a pickle.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to

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