Hmm Weekly for November 12, 2019

From the Part of Hmm Daily that Refuses to Go Away

Hmm Weekly for November 12, 2019

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

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A Serial Travelogue, Part 10


WYOMING! HERE WAS a name with the real romance of elsewhere, the West for sure, a spacious and evocative name. And we were, bodily needs aside, going to drive right down it without pausing or exploring. Minnesota at least I could say I'd been to before, but Wyoming was unseen territory. For most of the way, till it veered west to go through Cheyenne, our drive ran barely more than 10 miles inside the eastern boundary.

I had essentially no concept of Wyoming to distinguish it from other states, except the memory of having read in Sports Illustrated, during the Fennis Dembo era at the University of Wyoming, that the basketball arena held a measurable fraction of the state's population on game nights (specifically, it "becomes Wyoming's sixth largest city," Curry Kirkpatrick wrote in 1987; nowadays, the Cowboys still play in the same 15,000-seat arena, but with population growth, it would now have slipped behind Sheridan, Wyoming, into seventh place). The map showed Devil's Tower not far from our route, in Wyoming terms, but Wyoming terms meant it would have been a round trip of a little more than 200 miles.

We followed Google Maps: Wyoming. Sagebrush grew bluish in patches on the fields or the slopes beyond. Occasionally, not far from the roadside, we would spot a real live antelope, at home on the range. Now and then the land crumpled into interesting hills and ridges; on top of one of them, a miniature Devil's Tower thrust up straight-sided.
We went past a sign declaring our elevation to be something like 5,000 feet; we'd ascended more than eight-tenths of a mile since Chicago and hadn't felt it. I'd known about the long, slow uptilt of the Plains as an abstract fact, but that didn't make it less startling to experience.

Running through the scenery, again and again, were tall, wide, heavy-slatted stretches of fence. Often they were near herds of cattle, but they were never long enough or complete enough to plausibly keep the cattle from going anywhere. We couldn't guess what other reason there could be for them. Only afterward did I look them up and learn they were snow fences, built to break up the winter wind and slow it down so the blowing snow would be forced to fall out and collect in the lee, before it could reach and cover the road.


It was all incomprehensibly empty of people. I'd gone looking up the names of dots on the highway in the computer, looking for a town to try for lunch—a local restaurant, a little scene—but search after search turned up towns with populations that would fit inside a single high school, or towns that would fit in a couple Greyhound buses. There were long odds against serendipity.

I gave up and searched for an Arby's. The younger boy had felt left out by being too sick to eat the food at the Arby's before. There was one almost exactly halfway, in Torrington, directly by the road and not far from the railroad tracks. The buildings were low-slung and sun-blasted, and the Arby's lot felt vaguely cramped to park in. The roast beef was indistinguishable from what the younger one had missed in Wisconsin, as it was supposed to be.

A Cowboy

Once and only once beside the road we saw a cowboy. He was riding his horse toward some livestock in a little stretch of landscape of utilitarian sheds and fences. He wore a work jacket on horseback, the same outfit anyone would wear to go do a day's labor in a pickup truck.


Going on, with the road doing nothing in particular, we suddenly found ourselves closing in on a tall, spindly complex of orange barricades. The road—the only highway going south to tell of—was closed, the signs said. We rolled slowly up to them, checking the reality out the windshield against Google Maps, which knew nothing of it. Inside the phone, on the plane of reality of the all-enfolding information complex, there was no barrier; the road went on. The instructions said go on. Out the glass, in the hot sunshine, the signs said DETOUR. We turned left, where the arrows said to go. Google Maps recalculated a route, some meaningless and unacceptable number of miles and hours out of the way. We shut it up and drove. There was nothing else we could do.

For a good while, we saw no more signs, then one told us to turn right, and then, for what felt like even longer, there were no more signs again. Doubt crept in. I'd been conditioned by constant informational feedback, the reassurance and reinforcement at all moments that the route was the right route. Now here was the old analog driving. You did the one thing, and then, in due time, when the right place presented itself, you did the next.

I used to live like this, point to point. After all these years, though, it felt like hovering over an abyss of powerless ignorance. The fields we were driving past were familiar enough—the narrow road, the lines on the poles—to recall the countryside I'd grown up around, but the scale was wrong, the distances too stretched out, for me to be at ease.

Still, I knew what we had to be doing: a left and a right meant, logically, another right and another left, three sides of a big box to get back to the line we'd left. But why were there no intermediate signs saying so? Not till the next turn did we get confirmation the next turn was there, and just when it felt like too much time had gone by again, there was the highway. Google Maps picked up as if it had never missed a thing. As if there were no things it could miss.

Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger


Vending Machine Food, Reviewed: Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger

I do not have a Day Job, so I have started working “Temp Jobs.” One thing about the Temp Job is you generally don’t have an assigned space of your own, plus, you’re not always sure if you’re coming back the next day, so you can’t leave a little stash of stuff to eat, and if you forget to bring your lunch or some snacks, you are frequently at the mercy of the Break Room, quite possibly patronizing a VENDING MACHINE.

Close the pod bay door, Hal

MY TEMP GIG has ended at the place with the vending machine chow, so this will the final installment of this series until I find another job that has vending machine food, oh boy.

Anyway and however, it is nice to go out on an up note! After minor editing, I found this Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger microwave burger to be a solid selection for anybody who thinks a double hamburger or Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonald’s is an OK choice to stave off crippling hunger. I can’t stand the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, but those thin regular burger patties McDonald’s uses for the Big Mac and their regular small burgers work for me.

I also can’t stand the Big Mac, because when I was a kid I used to sell newspaper subscriptions door-to-door. We’d get picked up by a guy who worked for the paper—don’t ask me how I checked his credentials, because I didn’t—and he’d drive us out to areas they wanted to infiltrate with their daily and Sunday paper—don’t ask me where they were, but it was in areas of overlap between Schenectady, Albany, and Troy, New York, aka Metroland, and the paper we were hawking was an Albany paper, but we’d be sure to let people know our paper had a whole section for Schenectady or Troy if we were met with that objection—and we’d get dropped off on a corner with instructions to meet back at that corner to get collected, and we’d wander around the neighborhood knocking on doors trying to get people to sign up for six free weeks of the paper, and then after that they could cancel any time they wanted, and if I could just get a few more people to sign up tonight I’d be able to win a trip to Disney World, which was half true, there was a contest and whoever got the most signups would win the trip, but based on the amount of orders I got I wasn’t anywhere close to being in the running for the trip. I was cool with the buck-an-order I got in cash every night, but I didn’t have any ambition to hustle for the big prize. The Disney World thing was a sales tool, our way, as children, to get sympathy from our targets and get them to sign up.

At the end of a few hours we’d get rounded up (nothing bad ever happened) and the newspaper guy would take us to a McDonald’s and hand us cards for free Big Macs. I got so fucking sick of eating a Big Mac three nights a week, ugh. I think it was the Special Sauce, but back then if you tried to get your McDonald’s sandwich done to order it was a huge thing and took forever, so I’d get the Big Mac and scrape off the goop.

Nutrition facts

Sorry about the flashback, this Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger was totally OK. I think the reason I found it to be so satisfying is that it is almost completely made out of fat. This sucker is 78 percent of a daily serving of fat, and it is 115 percent of your suggested total saturated fat intake for a day, oof.

All the ingredients

I nuked it in the bag, according to instructions, and I had my microwave food epiphany: They want you to microwave it in the bag so that if anything blurps out during cooking it’ll stay in the bag, and not splatter all over the inside of the microwave. I want to address the Workers of The World who might have to eat this stuff: Take this shit out of the bag when you cook it. If you want to be conscientious about keeping The Man’s microwave tidy, cover your meal with a paper towel or just be sure to wipe out the magnetic radiation chamber when you’re done. Don’t cook stuff in plastic.

Disk of revolting so-called bacon

The edits I made to the Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger are that I dressed it with ketchup and mustard and removed the piece of so-called bacon, which was revolting and difficult to chew.

I hit it with the condiments before I realized the piece of so-called bacon was inedible, so I ended up with a mid-meal mess after I prepared my burger and cut it in half and bit into it and couldn’t finish the bite because of the tough piece of so-called bacon I could not cleave with my perfectly good and strong teeth.

The Big Az BaconAddict Cheeseburger was substantial and close to maybe a burger from Roy Rogers or Hardees, and it cost three bucks at the vending machine near me. Your price may vary. You could do a lot worse if you are at a job with no alternatives.

Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Merrick Morton


Ford v Ferrari, directed by James Mangold

A LONG TIME ago in the 1960s, Henry Ford II, aka “The Deuce,” Chairman and CEO of the Ford Motor Company, wanted global respect or something, so he did what every other rich fuck would do, he tried to buy it, in the form of the luxury car maker Ferrari, but the deal didn’t go through.

Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Merrick Morton

Enzo “Il Commendatore” Ferrari told Mr. Ford what he thought of him, and Mr. Ford got mad, and did what every other rich fuck who gets their feelings hurt did, he bankrolled a campaign to destroy his enemy, but not Ferrari’s car business, because the two enterprises don’t match up, the leviathan company whose founder invented the assembly line for the masses, versus the company that built luxury cars by hand.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Merrick Morton

Ford launched his offensive on the race track, and that’s our movie, Ford v Ferrari. Christian Bale is very thin and working-class English as the race-car driver Ken Miles, and Matt Damon is the sturdily Texan Carroll Shelby, car designer, the guy Ford hired to make a car for the big race, the 24 Hours of LeMans. Aside from the jarringly American-era-appropriate surfeit of white guys and an ethic slur or two, this is an entertaining film, and the race scenes are visceral and gripping.

Caitriona Balfe and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Merrick Morton

Of course car nuts will want to see it, but beyond the action and Zen of driving screenwriting, there’s enough business power struggles and relationships and family in the plot to compel interest in the human story, or at least to make a case for bringing somebody to this flick who doesn’t give a shit about cars that go fast. Tracy Letts, the guy who plays The Deuce, should get an Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Asshole.

Tracy Letts in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Merrick Morton

It’s all about the car scenes, though. Try and find a theater with really good sound or maybe even go nuts and get one of those D-Box seats that moves and vibrates, seriously, it would be an appropriate seat purchase for this film.


Doctor Sleep, directed by Mike Flanagan

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep

THIS CRAPPY MOVIE is a sequel to The Shining, and already things get confusing and nobody's happy, because which The Shining are we talking about? Brand-name horror writer Stephen King wrote The Shining, the novel, and then brand-name cinematic auteur Stanley Kubrick made a The Shining movie that got more popular mind-share than Stephen King's The Shining, and Stephen King, he cashes the checks but he didn't like that movie, so then Stephen King wrote a sequel to his own The Shining, but now the Movies have made that novel, Doctor Sleep, into a continuity-faithful sequel to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, including re-creating the specific visuals and terrifying gimmicks of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, minus the cinematic mastery of Stanley Kubrick.

Roger Dale Floyd in Doctor Sleep

There's all these twice-told tales about how Kubrick got a couple certain-type cameras away from Warner Bros., and maybe that poisoned my mind against the look and feel of the homage-scenes, but they just come off as dull references. They ape the sequence of the kid on the Big Wheel, but they don't even bother building it with the deadly Kubrick pacing, they just have him do a coupla bumps over the rug, and then you-know-what, dot-dot-dot. Same for the music. There are a coupla chunks of the original immersive and chilling Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind theme from the soundtrack, but the rest of it is blah movie music.

It doesn’t stick to the book, and it waters down the Kubrick flick! Also, this thing is way too long, 152 minutes, apparently longer than Stanley Kubrick’s 144-minute edit, which is just the filmmakers trying to one-up Stan Kubrick, c’mon. The director seemed really in love with the image of the rotting nude ghost woman coming out of a bathtub, ugh, once is enough, but we’re talking like at least three times! They shoulda done a 90-minute movie. Maybe somebody on the internet can do a fan-edit and cut out all the Kubrick?


Supermarket Dopplegängers: Cereal

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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.

Mash ripe bananas; add a dash of lemon juice; sweeten to taste. Place between thin slices of buttered white bread cut oblong.

On thin slices of lightly buttered white bread spread mayonnaise dressing then add thin slices of bananas; cover with another slice of bread. Serve on a lettuce leaf.

Mash three bananas fine, add one-half cup of chopped maraschino cherries, a tablespoonful of powdered sugar, moisten with a little thick cream, mix, and place between thin slices of lightly buttered white bread. Garnish with a cherry.

Between thin slices of lightly buttered graham bread, place three slices of banana; toast quickly to a light brown. Serve hot.

Between thin slices of buttered brown bread from which the crusts have been removed, place slices of banana, press together and place in the oven and leave until bread is toasted. Serve hot. Very good for invalids.

Mash four bananas; add one-half cup of maraschino cherries, two tablespoonfuls of honey, and two tablespoonfuls of sweet thick cream. Mix and spread on thin slices of lightly buttered white bread, cover with another slice, and garnish top with a cherry.


From T. MacColl, via email, in response to last week’s BRAIN ITCH DEP’T.:


From C. Switzer, via email, in response to last week’s ninth installment of our Travelogue:

[W]e have a disproportionate number of Nepalese people and restaurants here in Montrose, Colorado too. Mostly because there is a local couple who made a specialty of bringing dissidents here. That has forever changed our culinary landscape for the better, and the mountains here make our Nepalese refugees feel more at home. The best place in town for lunch is called Guru's.

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