Hmm Weekly for March 17, 2020

This Tuesday washes through

Hmm Weekly for March 17, 2020

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

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EVERYONE’S LIFE IS in a new and unusual situation, which means everyone feels like they should write about it, but most people's new situations are more or less the same. Everyone is talking about how Shakespeare wrote a lot during the plague, but I read a piece that specified that he barely wrote about the plague, possibly because it was too terrible to discuss but maybe also because it didn't feel like there was anything to say. Someone made small talk with me in the elevator about toilet paper. She was pushing a stroller or honestly something big enough you could go back to calling it a "baby carriage," and she had a case or two of toilet paper among the various goods tucked into or hanging off of its various cargo spaces, and I was carrying one plastic shopping bag of it, so it was the obvious topic. Where did I get mine?

I told her where I'd found a mom-and-pop pharmacy that keeps it in stock, so that I've been picking up some more every few days, one overpriced six-pack at a time. It's six of the "mega" rolls; even in the before times, when the toilet paper might have sometimes been out of stock for normal inventory-fluctuation reasons, it was nearly impossible to compare prices and offerings, with the different combinations of roll sizes and pack numbers across different retailers, as if someone at Charmin had dedicated their whole career to thwarting toilet-paper arbitrage.

It's the food inventory that's been the problem, domestically. There are plenty of beans in the pantry now, enough to provide probably a week of nourishment through a real catastrophe, but I'm the only person in the household who even likes beans, and I don't like beans all that much. The pantry is for if things get worse. The true project, day after day, is regular meals of regular food. Lunch especially.

Normally, in those very recent old days, I was on the hook for one, one and a half lunches, maybe two. Nearly every day I had to make sure the older kid had enough leftovers to bring to school, and one or two days the younger kid would need some leftovers too, or a salami sandwich. Mostly he would eat the school lunch, except Fridays, which were pizza days. It's weird to write about the school lunch in the past tense in March, but it's gone. He has always hated the school pizza, which was the only school lunch item I could stand when I was his age. The point, though, is whatever happened with lunch, it was dealt with right after breakfast, before they left for the day. I would eat something or not eat something for myself in late morning or early afternoon—a baked good, maybe, with a cup of coffee. Possibly a fancy ham sandwich from somewhere.

Now lunch is a real meal, for four, every day. Leftovers can't possibly cut it unless we've cooked enough dinner for eight the night before. Who knows where there'd even be a sandwich out there at this point, if we wanted to give up and get a sandwich? Monday, I had to break into the pantry and get some of the sardines. The missing ingredient for survival, so far, is school.

Betty Gilpin in The Hunt


The Hunt, directed by Craig Zobel

THIS MOVIE IS about people extremely not getting along because they have differing political affiliations. There’s a bunch of lefty liberals who abduct mouthy right-wingers and then use firearms and grenades and stuff to hunt them down and murder them. I guess this is supposed to be satire, with the crazy twist in political perspective that it’s thoughtful liberals checking each other’s privilege and stuff while they work out how to shoot rednecks and teach them a lesson.

Right-wingers might possibly chuckle at the dull lampooning of the left, but it’s all  shopworn material about selfish elites and dietary choices, on the way to the heaps of violence, which is all over the place in terms of tone. One minute it’s sort of unreal and reaching for an absurd comic level of brutality, and then it becomes humorless/serious, but it’s all artificial Hollywood bullshit John Wick–type stuff where it’s really just a lineup of gags ending in a variety of physical damage.

The latest advertising campaign for The Hunt (not the original campaign), leans on the fact that this movie was held from release after two mass shootings, and lots of folks criticized the film, including President Trump. Who knew?

The performance from Betty Gilpin, who plays wrassler Liberty Belle in Showtime’s GLOW, is solid. Her character is one of the abducted, and the most interesting, and pretty much the only person you want to see survive the conflict, so it’s a tribute to her acting that she got us to buy into this turkey. Ms. Gilpin could end up with a franchise of less intellectually grasping, more straightforward flicks where she kicks people’s asses, it wouldn’t be the worst thing! Academy Award winner Hillary Swank shows up as a villain, and she’s okay, but she doesn’t have much dimension or anything compelling to do outside of movie combat.

This story was co-written by Damon Lindelof, who is responsible for the excellent Watchmen on Home Box, but who made his career with television’s Lost, which disappointed a lot of people, endingwise, and Mr. Lindelhof’s rep for an inclination toward piling up a bunch of implausible situations and then tying a bow on it with a weak and/or pointless resolution is still deserved.

There are a couple of discussion-worthy idea fragments in the movie (which, maybe should have been thought out as a series to realistically develop the premise as opposed to larding the movie with gunshots) about how, uh, good people on both sides can get locked into easy, destructive dogma, and how things that often are claimed to be a joke become real and cause damage, but the unspooling is jokey and the twists tiresome and it resolves/degenerates into a plodding action flick in a surprisingly brief 89 minute running time. At least they didn’t belabor whatever point they’re trying to make.

Ultimately the most disturbing thing about this movie turns out to be that because of all the Coronavirus closings of movie theaters, this thing is going to be offered as an “early streaming purchase,” and twenty bucks is way too much to spend. An outrage, even, but don’t quote me on the next poster.


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IT SEEMS AS if we will never cease presenting 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.

Run three good sized boiled potatoes through the potato ricer, season with salt and pepper, add the yolks of four hard-boiled eggs that have been rubbed to a paste, and one tablespoonful of melted butter. Mix thoroughly and place between thin slices of lightly buttered brown bread. Garnish with a pickle.

Into a pint of well seasoned mashed potatoes, stir two eggs without beating; spread two tablespoonfuls of this potato out smoothly, and lay on it a slice of neatly trimmed boiled ham. Cover this with potato, pinch the edges together. Fry in butter until a delicate brown.

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


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