HMM WEEKLY for October 15, 2019

From the Makers of HMM DAILY

HMM WEEKLY for October 15, 2019

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

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A Serial Travelogue, Part Seven

Mount Rushmore

MOUNT RUSHMORE COULDN’T possibly be the right size. The proper size of Mount Rushmore is the full height and width of your mind, when your mind is filled by the concept of "Mount Rushmore." It's not like the Eiffel Tower (not that I've seen the Eiffel Tower) or the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building, where the famous immense thing exists in the mind in relation to the whole city around it, one feature of a place. Beyond a vague notion of the Black Hills, I had never formed any such mental map of what Mount Rushmore would mean in space.

That the first glimpse of it—the whitish faces appearing out the car window—seemed off scale made sense. We weren't there yet. We were approaching it in the most orthodox fashion, as the purpose of our morning, with the children fed on Hampton Inn breakfast and the Kia Soul pointed duly southwestward from Rapid City. For a moment, as the road narrowed toward our destination, we fell into a line of cars, and I feared we were going to be stuck in a tourist traffic jam, as one might resign oneself to if one had chosen to go to a major tourist attraction at the height of the summer tourism season.

But it was only a stoplight, and we got moving again. We passed through a little tunnel—an archway, really, through a short ridge of rock—and through a little downtown of Olde Time-y decor and on to the National Memorial proper. The parking garage had message signs saying how many spaces were available on each level. These signs, and the automated pay stations, were apparently recent innovations, installed to get rid of what had, in fact, been chronic seasonal traffic jams. We rolled right to an open parking space with less fuss than going to Ikea.

Going up the stairs from the garage and out to the entrance produced another moment of mixed recognition and misrecognition. There the four presidents were, pale and definite, but the heads were still smaller than I'd known them to be. Or—the proportions were different: in pictures and cartoons, the faces take up half the height of the mountain. But that's because the lower slopes, with their pine trees clinging to their trailing mounds of abandoned 80-year-old sculpture rubble, aren't relevant.

In person, they are, though. Mount Rushmore is not a sculpture so much as it is an installation, organized around the making and viewing of itself. Everything on the way in is there to bracket or frame the mountain: after the columns of the entrance, a long, broad walkway passes between the low flanking forms of the restrooms and the information center, then goes on between the bulkier flanking forms of the gift shop and the cafe, beyond which it becomes the Avenue of Flags, with rows of square pillars on either side, flying state or territorial flags from all four sides of each one, in alphabetical order.

After the flags it widens into a terrace, where the visitors make the transition from merely seeing the carved mountaintop to officially viewing it. We had arrived at the arbitrary goal, if not the endpoint, of our entire westward expedition. Now Teddy Roosevelt's pince-nez, undetectable on the approach, had become noticeable if we tried to see them. Also noticeable was the truth that Teddy was shoved awkwardly into a crevice behind the others, while the bland face of Jefferson kept threatening to tilt up and away. The composition of the whole thing was, studied freely in three-dimensional space, more than a little defective.

But Mount Rushmore is set up to guide and control how you see it. To get closer, you leave the viewing terrace and work your way around a trail, over a series of elevated boardwalks and platforms, placed to for you to take in the presidents one by one, or in subsets captured at specific angles. George Washington, outhrust ahead of the others, seemed to command the most advantageous positions, including one place where we could enter a shadowy little cave or rock niche and peer up at him through a bright cleft in the stone. Lincoln, coming forward to meet him from the opposite end of the row, made a reasonable showing. Somewhere between them was a vantage point where the other two more or less fell into a proper line with the endpoints. I imagined Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who'd decided to do this to the mountain, coming back to the spot over and over, whenever he wanted to convince himself he'd laid it all out OK.

Pine trees had wedged themselves into the folds and crevices of the rock around the trail, fighting in slow motion to stay upright. Near the presidential heads, or on the surrounding peaks, were upthrust other, somber forms, wrought by wind and rain and geological time into shapes that seemed, in the cloudy light, as if they might become heads of their own, or things yet more unexpected, if you paused and let your mind become receptive to the possibilities. Before the site was the four presidents or named Mount Rushmore, it was the Six Grandfathers. The black-and-white archival "before" photograph shows the mountaintop infolded and shaded into half-legible contours, somewhere out past the bounds of archaeology and phrenology. It was tempting to imagine gazing upon its natural form in communion, like a scholar contemplating the Chinese landscape as green leaves rose and fell in their teacup, but of course without the vandalism we would never have driven to that end of South Dakota to look at it at all.

Meanwhile this, our bold American rock-hacking, was not exactly what it had been meant to be. After the end of the walkways came the sculptor's studio, now a gallery, with one of Borglum's models for the project on display. Here the presidents rose out of the rock to their chests or hips; Lincoln had an arm, raised to clutch at his collar, and Washington wore a ruffled shirt and had two rows of buttons down the front of his greatcoat. A ranger told the story of how the part of the construction crew had once cheated death in a runaway tram car as it plunged back toward the ground from the worksite. The twelve-year-old volunteered his own head for the ranger to dangle a plumb bob off of, to show the crowd the process by which the measurements were transferred from the face of the model to the face of the mountain.

Eventually they called the job done. Washington's lapels are there, spread out on the granite, with the rest of the greatcoat reduced to a sketch. I got some tacos and we ate at them at an outside table. All around us, people were eating ice cream in enormous portions. I'd been seeing the ice cream since we first came in. It looked thick and delicious at first and second glance, but the size of it—the mountains of glossy milkfat being carved away at the top by strangers' mouths—turned it unappetizing. Nowhere did I see a single scoop of it as small as I was hungry for. The children's stomachs were tired and uncertain, so buying something big and splitting it up seemed like a bad idea. All I wanted, in the moment, was not to have too much.


Vending Machine Food, Reviewed

I DO NOT have a Day Job, so I have started working “Temp Jobs.” One thing about the Temp Job as compared to a Day Job is you have to sort of assume it’s like Life and every day will be your last, so you can’t do any laying-in of supplies for your workaday world such as leaving a sweater on your chair in case the office is overzealously air-conditioned or underzealously heated, or having a separate set of headphones or earbuds available at your desk so you can zone out and listen to something while you are working, and most importantly, you can’t leave a little stash of stuff to eat or tea bags or whatever you like when you are on the job; you have to carry all that stuff with you, and if you forget to bring your lunch or some snacks, you are frequently at the mercy of the Break Room where you are Temping, and frequently that means patronizing a Vending Machine.

So far at this one place I work the only thing I have desperation-purchased from the vending machines is a bag of cheese puffs to go with the sandwich I packed because I needed some crunchies, you know? I also bought a Coke once, but out of Scientific Curiosity, I decided to purchase meal-type items and sample them.

“Hot ’n’ Ready” Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup. How the heck did they get 500 calories in here?

The first item I purchased was this Meatloaf Sandwich made by a company called AdvancePierre Foods, which makes all sorts of foods in the Food Service, Retail, and Convenience product streams. They are the makers of Breaded Beef!

It seems like AdvancePierre is a Business-to-Business growth-oriented company right now, not really Outward-Facing in terms of End Users, because when they describe products it’s from the perspective of Sales, like this line introducing their Big Az® line:

Open wide! These sandwiches are a mouthful and feature bold package designs.

And the blurb on the Big Az® products page:

These sandwiches live up to their promise to satisfy even the heartiest appetites ... for any meal! Bold, colorful packaging demands attention and merchandises well in the hot or cold case. Hand-wrapped varieties can be heated and held in a sandwich warmer for up to four hours (local codes vary) and printed-film-wrapped BIG AZ sandwiches are perfect for vending and refrigerated sales.

Also, that name, BIG AZ®, get it? Hey, that’s a BIG AZ® sandwich you got there from the vending machine, co-worker!

Anyway, I thought it would be double-dipping to be working my Temp Job and doing Vending Machine Food evaluations on work hours, so I bought a refrigerated meatloaf sandwich ($3.00) on my way out the door one evening, and to give it a fair test, I brought it home in a cooler bag and put it in the fridge for a time when I was really hungry, which is not infrequently. The Vending Machine haz Apple Pay, but I used fiat currency.

Nutrition Facts, so many Ingredients, and Heating Instructions for “Hot ’n’ Ready” Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup

Un-heated “Hot ’n’ Ready” Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup, which is fully cooked, so you could just probably leave it in a sunny place in your office, if your office has any windows.

There were directions for Conventional and Microwave, so I cut the sandwich in half and prepared what I like to call  “‘Hot ’n’ Ready’ Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup, Two Ways.” Here is the Microwaved version fresh out of the radiation chamber:

And below is the Toaster Oven version, which I recommend, because the bun comes out better and you get some caramelization of ’loaf. If you find yourself having to eat one of these, I hope there’s a Toaster Oven in your break room.

My wife made an interesting comment about this Toaster Oven–ed version. She said the bun’s monochrome finish made it look like toy food, which I think is a solid Observation.

So look, this “Hot ’n’ Ready” Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup is a bad sandwich, and I’m also starting a band called BAD SANDWICH, but all appetites aside, if you’re in that spot where you have to eat something, I think this is a worse idea than just OD’ing on Doritos and a bag of Peanut M&M’s and maybe a bottle of that healthy green juice or something which you should be able to find in the same Vending Machine. The “Hot ’n’ Ready” Meatloaf Sandwich with Ketchup tastes like it is made out of bad meatloaf, which is the Tribute Band I just started, BAD MEATLOAF, based on the performing artist Meatloaf, and we’d play everything as if the band Bad Company was covering Meatloaf songs, and then for an encore we’d do a Color Me Badd version of the monster Soft Rock classic “Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.” I’m sorry, I’m mad at this sandwich and I’m taking it out on you and Meatloaf (the artist) and Bad Company, and to a lesser extent, Color Me Badd.

Really though, if you Microwave the thing, the bread gets weirdly wet and dense, so maybe remove the bun and cook that in a Toaster if your break room at least has one of those, since they’re too cheap to give you the use of a Toaster Oven, and then nuke the meatloaf patty, which, it’s not even good meatloaf, it would be completely inedible without the ketchup flavor-coating, and it’s got little gribbly pieces of unchewable gristle-y stuff that you have to remove from your mouth and set aside, and it pretty much tastes like the most stretched, filler-full Meatloaf you ever ate when you were a kid and your family was broke, except it’s worse and you don’t even have the dignity of knowing you were Broke, not Poor, and you’d never have to eat shit like this again.

This review is the first of a series unless I don’t have a Temp Job anymore with available Vending Machine Food to sample. Thank you.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker


Joker, directed by Todd Phillips

THIS NEW JOKER movie, which lots of folks are mad at and is but isn’t but is about the famous Batman comic book and comic book movie villian The Joker, stars Joaquin Phoenix, an actor who has labored mightily to make audiences dislike him on screen. He played the vile, cowardly, and attention-starved emperor Commodus in Gladiator. He played the moronically violent and profoundly obnoxious Toby N. Tucker in U-Turn. He played himself in I’m Still Here.

Joaquin Phoenix really digs playing people who are unloved and have no business being redeemed. That’s his actorly challenge, to get you to take an interest in these awful human beings in spite of yourself.

People are saying the titular character, in a process of becoming something, is bullied and then rises up to settle things against bullies, in a manner disturbingly similar to real life people who snap and carry out mass assaults, but that is a misapprehension. In this new movie, Mr. Phoenix successfully channels creepy and unnerving chords struck by Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy and Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, in an effort to push the viewer to revulsion watching the lonely, mentally ill, and physically disturbing professional clown Arthur Fleck live his miserable life, struggling in the world with little help.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Mr. Phoenix is disturbingly emaciated for the role and frequently shirtless in the film, which brings to mind the tortured, painful-to-look-at character Christian Bale played in The Machinist. Mr. Phoenix’s Mr. Fleck does not have a firm grip on reality, and he gets caught in the switches of the Social Welfare system. Complications ensue, and they are a novel way to fill in the backstory for this comic book character, because comic books always rework and re-invent characters, and movies don’t always stick to texts, so the Joker never had a completely satisfying origin story. Heath Ledger, in the Batman comic book movie The Dark Knight, by Christopher Nolan, leveraged all the embedded imprinting entertainment consumers have of the psychotic Joker criminal from the Batman movies and fashioned a brilliant turn, goofing on his own motivations because, in that movie, they didn’t matter. In this movie, the motivations are the whole story.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Joker smushes the look of The Dark Knight trilogy’s Gotham City together with Martin Scorsese’s gritty New York City movies of the ’70s. Martin Scorsese helped a comic book movie not be a comic book movie! Everything is influenced by everything else. A way to shorten the movie by at least 20 minutes—which would be good—would be to eliminate the stuff that ties the Joker character to Batman, even though it’s done in an alternative fashion, but this film does what Mr. Phoenix does with his character and shows you unpleasant things to challenge and provoke you.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

This movie also solves my biggest problem with the third Christoper Nolan Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises—besides me feeling like an idiot, a sucker, a rube, watching what felt like the ninth or tenth hour of the movie when The Bat-Man and his wheezy and malevolent enemy Bane slug it out in front of Gotham City Hall in their goofy comic-book character getups, two big clumsy puffed up cosplayers bonking each other on the head in broad daylight, so embarrassing—was a remark Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, made in conversation with Billionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne, aka The Bat-Man, when they met cute at a fancy party where Selina was stealing shit:

Selina: I take what I need to from those who have more than enough. I don’t stand on the shoulders of people with less.
Bruce Wayne: Robin Hood?
Selina: I think I do more to help someone than most of the people in this room. Than you.
Bruce Wayne: I think maybe you’re assuming a little too much.
Selina: Maybe you’re being unrealistic about what’s really in your pants other than your wallet.
Bruce Wayne: Ouch.
Selina: You think all this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, cause when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.
Bruce Wayne: You sound like you’re looking forward to it.

Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises

C’mon! “You’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us,” how Class Warfare is that? Bruce Wayne is a billionaire! What’s he doing to help anything? I was so disappointed with what happened with Catwoman and the movie because Catwoman never went anywhere with any sort of Class Warfare agenda, and scary Bane, the character with all the muscle and a really good plan, didn’t give a shit, he was a nihilist or an anarchist or a Buddhist or something and just wanted to blow everything up. That movie coulda been about something, you know?

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

So SPOILER ALERT this Joker movie pushes the Class War agenda and picks up where Selina Kyle left off. Meanwhile, the Joker is psychotic in the comic books and the comic book movies, so why not show the path from a person’s struggle with ordinary boring everyday poorly-treated mental illness to the moment they become a bullshit comic book movie super-villain? Before that, in this movie, Arthur Fleck is hard to look at, he could be one of the countless mentally ill people pushed onto the streets by the Presidential administration of Ronald Wilson Reagan, someone your eyes would easily slide off if you encountered them on the street. They made a movie about a person who becomes a thing.


Selections From The DR. LEONARD’S Catalog

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

Mince finely two parts of cooked chicken or game to one part of cooked tongue, and one part of minced cooked mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice; mix and place between thin slices of buttered white bread. Garnish with small pickle

Run enough chicken through the meat chopper to make two cupfuls; cut out the stem ends and remove the seeds from three large sweet peppers; run them through the meat chopper; mix the chicken and pepper together; season with half a teaspoonful of salt, and two tablespoonfuls of sweet cream. Place between thin slices of lightly buttered white bread. Cut in triangles. Serve on lettuce leaf.

Run lean ham through the meat chopper, season with salt and pepper, and moisten with a little salad dressing. Place the ham between slices of thinly cut and lightly buttered bread. Cut in shape of lady fingers and garnish with a sprig of watercress.

Chop ripe olives fine, mix with a little mayonnaise, and place between thin slices of lightly buttered white bread.

If you decide to make any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to


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