Hmm Weekly for January 7, 2020

The first in a long year of Tuesdays

Hmm Weekly for January 7, 2020

Another Hmm Weekly

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Probably better than CATS, though

A journey through the Disney+ channel, Part 3: The Cat from Outer Space

THERE IS A heap of content in the new “Disney+” channel, which I am watching “free” for a year because I use Verizon for my phone service, and I aim to consume as much Disney as I can Diz, featuring animals such as a squirrel, and wacky premises such as a cat from outer space, or a darn cat.

This motion picture is from 1978, The Cat from Outer Space, just completely looks like a Disney flick of that era, the way movies on the Hallmark Channel currently look of a piece. In an opening sequence that is a trope at this point, a farmer and his wife are wondering what the heck just crashed out in yonder woods, and the farmer grabs his shotgun.

Turns out it’s an alien being, in the form of a cat, and its spacecraft is broken, repairs must be made. The Unites States Army is on the scene, right away, and they scoop up the spaceship for further study. This movie is really good in the beginning, getting things moving along—all this stuff gets taken care of 90 seconds into the movie, including the credits!

I always kinda wish movies would go back to running the credits at the beginning of the movie, but that’s because I sit in a movie theater until all the credits are done, and I guess I just want the end of the film to be THE END.

Ken Berry and the cat

So the Army wants the spaceship tech, and “Jake,” the titular feline, wants access to the spaceship, to fix it and get back to the mothership, and there’s a mini-romance between scientists, played by stars Ken Berry and Sandy Duncan, and it’s all pretty straightforward until the cat, who speaks English with its mind, and is talking to Ken Berry 20 minutes into the film, says it needs a bar of gold—priced for 1978 at $120,000—because that element is vital to repairing the space-engines.

Tell me they didn’t dope up the cat for this scene

The cat does not get a credit, and there’s a moment when it is unconscious, and you can’t help but wonder how they accomplished that in 1978, especially since there’s no special endorsement from the ASPCA about how “no animals were harmed,” you know?

Harry Morgan as Gen. Stilton

There are fun bits of dialogue in the film, and Harry Morgan (from television’s Dragnet and later M.A.S.H.), as General Stilton, when regarding the possible alien threat, declares “Some slimy green-headed twelve-legged creep could be crawlin’ into the White House,” and scientist Ken Berry talks about power from “The Primal Mainstream”: “The universe makes its own energy. Oil and coal’s not gonna do it, you know where it’s really at, Jake? Electromagnetism, and we’re loaded with it!”

Sandy Duncan hustling pool

This film was written by Ted Key, who created the comic strip Hazel, which spawned a successful TV situation comedy, and I wonder about Mr. Key’s hobbies, since the film depends heavily on the world of sports wagering, because that’s how the money is going to be raised to purchase the bar of gold, on account of the cat has a special space-necklace it uses for purposes of telekinesis, which allows it to control the outcome of horse races and football games and eventually to help cheat at billiards.

The lair of Mr. Olympus (William Prince), malevolent evildoer

This would have been enough, but there’s also a sub-plot with a malevolent evildoer, who spices the flick up but there’s a 10-minute aerial stunt sequence that’s just sort of tiresome. I think when Disney shot expensive stunt sequences, they wanted all that footage up on the screen to justify the cost.

Also, this scene really reminded me of Silence of the Lambs

The spaceship design is pretty cool, there’s a scene where the cat levitates a motorcycle while Ken Berry is riding it (three years before the bicycle scene in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial), and the evildoer has a neat HQ, but there isn’t enough of any one thing to make for a compelling movie. An hour and 45 minutes of this is too much. It shoulda been under 90 minutes. I mostly do not recommend this movie.



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: the regular
To: Awl notes
The usual, the routine, the everyday, the standard. The email doing nothing but existing as an email, while pretending to do something more, so that it can be a functional email without interference. The meaningless words added into sentences. The steady approach toward sufficient length and variety in the ersatz communication. The sincere but substantively unnecessary notification: the draft is in the system, and a sky photo is attached.

Subject: busman's holiday
To: Awl notes
Goodness, gracious it is nice outside, right now. Up on the roof it is wonderful. I am sure that an architect-designed flexi-space atrium in the Flatiron will also be wonderful, in its way. In its way. I'm sure it will have its appeal. The appeal of a space indoors with no prospect of access to the open sky and fresh air. But flexible, so very flexible. Here is a photo of the sky and notification that the draft is in the system.

Subject: more meaninglessness
To: Awl notes
Here's another email in the usual vein, doing nothing but being an email, doing its little vamping dance to satisfy the invisible automated inspectors. Here, I exist, it says. Thought has been put into me. This is not true. But it's the performance that counts. Here's a photo of the sky and notification that the review is in the system.

Subject: regarding: regarding
To: Awl notes
The subject seems sufficient. Here is the accompanying text, another helping of word salad, plated just with just enough artfulness to satisfice. A drizzle of expensive vinegar. One split yellow tomato. All this creation of an appearance, when ultimately it is fiber to ease the passage of the real meal along on its way. The review is in the system and the sky photo is attached.

Subject: inoffensive subject
To: Awl notes
Followed by some inoffensive text. Some anodyne and basically meaningless words, arranged into sentences. Nothing to outrage anyone here, nothing even really for anyone to project their fears or anxieties onto. HOW DARE I SUGGEST THEY HAVE ANY ANXIETIES. MY ADVERTISERS WILL HEAR FROM THEM.

Here's a picture of the sky and notification that the review is in the system.

Subject: for appearance's sake, a subject
To: Awl notes
It's not really a subject, it's just something to put in the subject line to obey the dictates of the form. Now come the sentences that don't mean anything, but are also necessary parts of the performance. There's no information in them, just some words I squeezed out of my head to say the same non-thing I say every day, according to the unvarying script that constrains me.

This I guess is what it must feel like to be Andrew Sullivan.

Here's a photo of the sky, and the review is in the system.


A visit to New Orleans, Louisiana

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

Soften Neufchatel cheese with a little cream; spread on thin slices of white bread and cover with finely minced candied orange peel and preserved ginger; cover with another slice of bread and garnish with a spray of maidenhair fern.

Two tablespoonfuls of pâté de foie gras and a cup of finely chopped cold boiled chicken; season with pepper and salt; spread on a crisp lettuce leaf that has been dipped in French dressing, and place between thin slices of white bread.

Mince finely some cold boiled ham and add to it about half the quantity of finely chopped peanuts. For every cupful of ham add a tablespoonful of chopped pickles and a little chopped celery. Mix to a paste with salad dressing and spread on thin slices of lightly buttered white bread and serve on a lettuce leaf.

Soak one box (two ounces) of gelatine in one cup of chicken liquor until softened; add three cupfuls of chicken stock seasoned with a little parsley, celery, three cloves, a blade of mace, and a dash of salt and pepper. Strain into a dish and add a little shredded breast of chicken; set in a cold place to harden; when cold, slice in fancy shapes and place on slightly buttered whole wheat bread. Garnish with a stick of celery.

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

HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacLeod, creative director.
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