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WesRecs

Vol. #36 - July 10, 2020

Hey hey hey. I hope you're settling into summer and that it's been good for you so far. It was a productive week for me in the sense of putting in work on some long term projects and knocking out some past-due tasks that I should have taken care of weeks ago, but my insomnia was also kicking a lot harder than usual (which is saying a lot) and overall i just felt a bit...off. I think I've rounded the corner there though and I'm looking forward to crushing this upcoming week and staying busy, and doing more of the reading/watching/curating that goes into this particular weekly project that you're spending time with right now.

One thing I did manage to do was to finally finish Breaking Bad. Back in 2015 I'd voraciously torn through every episode of the series except for the final 4.5 episodes. I don't know why but I just stopped there, mid-ep, back when Obama was still in the White House and didn't look at it for YEARS after that. It hadn't lagged or gotten any less enthralling for me than it always had been but I just...got distracted...for several years. Anyway I ran through those last 4.5 episodes the other end and well: it was great. I'm very many years late and I have no hot takes to provide but I was very satisfied with how things wrapped up and Walter White is one of the most complex characters I've ever run across. And to think, none of that would've happened if he'd lived in Canada and had access to socialized medicine. It's of zero importance in the grand scheme of things but it just feels like I closed a (very minor) chapter in life that had been open for a weirdly long time.

Anyway, shorter than usual collection this week, like I said my head was weird, but I have a feeling I'll be back with more than you know what to do with next week and I've already got some ideas. As always: be kind to each other, I love you all.


WesRecs is the weekly newsletter where I (comedian/storyteller/TV Host) Wes Hazard recommend a bunch of cool content (recs) to YOU (the person reading this). There's no particular reason for this other than the fact that I love curating stuff and I'm always excited to share items that I personally have found worthwhile, exciting, or necessary. If you like what you see please be sure to subscribe to get each week's edition delivered straight to your inbox and if you know someone else who might be into it definitely share with them. You can check out all past issues HERE.
COVID Corner
THIS IS THE COUNTRY THAT WE LIVE IN.
Fighting Over Masks in Public Is the New American Pastime - NYT

The fact that the wearing of masks in public during this health crisis, especially while indoors, is somehow controversial or a "political" issue stretches the limits of my comprehension. There are a lot of obvious and not so obvious factors that have made this the debacle that it is including: horrendous federal leadership and the setting of horrible examples at that level, a flawed sense of what American "individualism" means (hint: it does NOT mean "I'll do what I want a screw everyone else", poor understanding of basic science, & a wariness of institutions & experts. But most of all I blame the Internet (and social media specifically). It's been said for years now but this may be the most stark wake-up call: a shared "reality" just doesn't really exist anymore in this country. There's the famous quote by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” But when millions of people take health advice from FaceBook groups, and a teenager can spin up a respectable looking "news" website in an afternoon and stock it with whatever nonsense they want, and inscrutable algorithms feed you social media content that is calculated to appeal to your specific view of the world, the wisdom of those words becomes kind of moot. Sure the "fact" might be that the wearing of a simple cloth mask significantly reduces your chance of spreading COVID (thus benefiting everyone). But if enough people (millions) do not believe in that fact or believe that "so what? Ima do me" then the FACT of the matter is that you simply cannot effectively manage a public health crisis of this type and scale. It's hard to believe but this is going to get so much worse.

P.S. The irony of these kinds of "crazy person flips out in public after refusing to wear a mask" popping up daily on my social media feeds, followed by me ranting about it, is not lost on me. The algorithms know this kind of content will enrage me, and thus draw my eye, and thus get me to share and comment on it. I am no better than anyone here.
 
"On any given day, somewhere in the United States, someone is going to wake up, leave the house and get in a huge argument with a stranger about wearing masks.

Grocery store managers are training staff on how to handle screaming customers. Fistfights are breaking out at convenience stores. Some restaurants even say they’d rather close than face the wrath of various Americans who believe that masks, which help prevent the spread of coronavirus, impinge on their freedom."

...

"Even offering masks to customers did not work, she said: “They’ll outright decline or they’ll show you a fraudulent card that says, ‘You can’t ask me to do this.’

The fighting between customers creates a tension that does not dissipate once the altercation has ended, she said. She no longer feels comfortable walking to her car alone after the store closes, concerned that an aggravated customer may be waiting for her there.

“Now we go two to three employees at a time,” she said."
 

NYC Rat Complaints Are Down, But Experts Expect That To Change As City Reopens - Gothamist

Rats are a part of life in any major city but in NYC it's on another level. If you live here, you know. But this article was still wild. Remember: it's not only humans that have been suffering in the pandemic.
 
“You wouldn't believe what’s going on outside my condominium, it’s kind of crazy I hear screaming rats down in the street,” Corrigan recounted.  He described one phone call saying: “I’m watching rats, I never seen them play in the park before, they’re wrestling, they’re playing it looks like they’re happy.’ I said, trust me, they’re not playing, somebody is going to be killed shortly and eaten!”
Things Read
Deceptively Bright, in an Up & Coming Area [A Review of "Bunker: Building for the End Times"] - The Literary Review

I have never been a Boy Scout but their credo "always be prepared" is a bit of a personal mantra. It mainly comes from a heightened aversion to being inconvenienced, embarrassed, or uncomfortable alongside a tendency for extreme self-reproach in the face of failure, and a desire for control. Example: one day in college I got caught out in the rain without an umbrella and was soaked to the bone through a class and all through my way back to my dorm. Solution? I have carried an umbrella or a raincoat on me every single day since (even with a forecast of 90 degrees and all-sun). My reasoning: it sucked to be soaked. I don't want that to happen again. And, to me, the minor inconvenience of carrying this gear everywhere (and always being question about "why are you carrying so much stuff in that backpack???")outweighs the major inconvenience of being soaked and shivering with my underwear wedged up my crack. No brainer.

All this is to say that I have a certain affinity for the type of people being described in this review of a book about people who are invested in bunker/prepper culture. Hell if I had the money I might very well be loading an underground compound with canned goods and firearms right now. Being a standup comic and out-of-work actor I instead make-do with a closet full of tuna, gatorade powder and some 5 gallon jugs of water. But my day will come... That said, unlike many of them, I have decidedly NOT given up on society. I carry the umbrella but I never *want* to have to use it and no matter how dark the horizon gets I'm always hoping to see some sun.
 
"Garrett calls these people the ‘dread merchants’. Dread differs from fear in that it has no object: it is fear that has not yet found a focus. And if dread is your business, business has never been better, with the sustaining structures of modern life seeming ever more fragile and challenged. The dark charisma of the bunker is probably what will attract readers to this book, but the energetic and gregarious Garrett keeps the story focused on people rather than buildings. Much of the emphasis is on his native USA, where ‘prepping’ – disaster and Armageddon preparedness – has become a significant subculture, though there are also excursions to Australia, where ecological precarity is fuelling the bunker biz, and New Zealand and Thailand, favoured global ‘bug-out’ locations of the elite."

...

"Buried, seemingly secure, as much a target for robbers as protection against them, the bunker shares many characteristics with the tomb. Both structures mediate with a kind of afterlife: the tomb ferries the dead to the hereafter, while the bunker is designed to deliver the still-living through a period of calamity to a safer future. Hope and survival are, in theory, uplifting themes, but Bunker is, in some ways, rather depressing. The people who want bunkers have, in one form or another, given up on society, taking a dim view of its prospects and seeing it as a thin veneer of order laid over Hobbesian chaos. The salespeople naturally promote this view: ‘dread merchants’ is the right phrase for them, since dread is really the product they’re selling."


Systemic racism has very real health impact - Commonwealth Magazine


Americans collectively hold quite a few national delusions but one of the most persistent and harmful is the idea that if no one's wearing a Klan robe or burning a cross or dropping the n-bomb then there's no racism at play in a given situation. This is so tiresome. People are not marching in the streets because you've never had Black people over to your house or because a Black cartoon character is voiced by a white actor or because your uncle goes on a racist rant every Thanksgiving (unless your uncle is a judge or a hiring manger...) They're marching in order to highlight entrenched and opaque racist SYSTEMS that lead to disproportionate Black suffering and death regularly, and automatically, without the need for any consciously racist individual to make a move to harm someone. The sooner everyone understands this the sooner we can ALL get more free because while this systems hurt Black people the *most* they hurt EVERYONE in the end.

P.S. I swear I'm including this because it's a great piece and not just because its author is my cousin-in-law (but go ahead and preach fam!)
 
"These inequities have created a disparity so great that the life expectancy of a black man in Roxbury is 30 years less than that of a white man just a few miles away."

...

“This has significant economic impacts as well. Due to a lack of access to preventive care and a reliance on emergency care, low income adults spend 10 times more of their annual family income on dental services than high income families.

Fortunately, there are tangible things we can do. Increasing access by keeping or adding an adult dental benefit for Medicaid patients should be a no-brainer. This will not only help our most vulnerable patients but also decrease the burdens on emergency rooms by reducing the number of people relying on them for dental care. We need a revolution in patient care – integrating medical, dental, and behavioral health. And we must better leverage technology, like telemedicine, as not just a crisis tool but a long-term solution to increase access and reduce costs.“



The Pain of the KKK Joke - The Paris Review

No one would ever complain about "cancel" or "PC" culture if they knew how many times we'd held our tongues.
 
The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” — Toni Morrison


"There is no one KKK joke. There is, however, a wide catalogue of unabashed racism to choose from in creating one. There is always a certain kind of person who feels like it is important to make jokes about the KKK, whether or not Black people are present. This is often the same kind of person who thinks Blackface and pretend AAVE—or jokes about raping women or killing transgender individuals—are important as well. It is part of a consciousness—often white, often male—that does not see us as human beings but as objects to be violated because of our Blackness. And, if it cannot be physical or legal violence, then it will be the violence of language and ideas, disguised as humor. This is what I call the KKK joke."

...

"There are always three violences. The first is the violence itself.

The second is the violence of not righting the original violence. This is, for example, the violence that lets Breonna Taylor’s killers still roam free; this is the violence that let the killers of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery roam free until public outcry led to their arrests; this is the violence that left Michael Brown’s murdered black body baking in the hundred-degree Midwestern summer heat for hours—something no American would let be done to a stray dog.

The third is erasure of the violence."


The MLK Speech We Need Today Is Not the One We Remember Most - Time

I am, for the 2nd week in a row, including a piece from Time by the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen. Dude can write and his perspective on race in America is nuanced, and deep, and valuable.
 
"Most Americans remember Martin Luther King Jr. for his dream of what this country could be, a nation where his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” While those words from 1963 are necessary, his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” from 1967, is actually the more insightful one.

It is also a much more dangerous and disturbing speech, which is why far fewer Americans have heard of it. And yet it is the speech that we needed to hear then–and need to hear today."

...

"In his speech, which he delivered exactly one year to the day before he was assassinated, King foresaw how the war implied something larger about the nation. It was, he said, “but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality … we will find ourselves organizing ‘clergy and laymen concerned’ committees for the next generation … unless there is a significant and profound change in American life.”"

...

"Americans prefer to see our wars as exercises in protecting and expanding freedom and democracy. To suggest that we might be fighting for capitalism is too disturbing for many Americans. But King said “that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we … must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” Those words, and their threat to the powerful, still apply today. For the powerful, the only thing more frightening than one revolution is when multiple revolutions find common cause."


What the police really believe - Vox

Certain types of individuals gravitate toward police work. Some for reasons they believe are "good", others with decidedly bad intentions. They all get the same training are thrown into the same culture and that culture is paranoid, power-obsessed, entrenched, & systematically racist. It doesn't matter how many basketball youth leagues you couch in, or how nice of a guy you are, or how much you want to do the right thing, or if you're Black: the culture will corrupt you, because it has to, because it's meant to. People who mean well, and who recognize that a lot of bad things and evil actions come out of the existence of police and the carceral state often argue that it's just "a few bad apples" that do the bad stuff and tarnish the name...but they always seem to forget the second part of that adage, where those bad apples *spoil the bunch*.
 
"It’s true that policing is a relatively dangerous job. But contrary to the impression the Dinkheller video might give trainees, murders of police are not the omnipresent threat they are made out to be. The number of police killings across the country has been falling for decades; there’s been a 90 percent drop in ambush killings of officers since 1970. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 13 per 100,000 police officers died on the job in 2017. Compare that to farmers (24 deaths per 100,000), truck drivers (26.9 per 100,000), and trash collectors (34.9 per 100,000). But police academies and field training officers hammer home the risk of violent death to officers again and again."

...

"Michael Sierra-Arévalo, a professor at UT-Austin, calls the police obsession with violent death “the danger imperative.” After conducting 1,000 hours of fieldwork and interviews with 94 police officers, he found that the risk of violent death occupies an extraordinary amount of mental space for many officers — far more so than it should, given the objective risks."
...

"This outsized attention to violence doesn’t just make officers a threat to themselves. It’s also part of what makes them a threat to citizens."
...
"According to Goff, it’s hard to overstate how much more likely people are to be racist under these circumstances. When you put people under stress, they tend to make snap judgments rooted in their basic instincts. For police officers, raised in a racist society and socialized in a violent work atmosphere, that makes racist behavior inevitable."

 
 
Things Seen
This is the most American thing ever (or at least the most American thing not involving extreme violence...but maybe this dude's bowels disagree on that point). Whatever the case, in this fascinating (frightening?) video world-renowned competitive eater Joey Chesntut (of Nathan's annual hot dog contest eating fame) takes on 32 Big Macs. He's the best at what he does and they went ahead and made this video so I'm not ruining anything by telling you that he accomplishes it. He's being timed but there's no time limit and it's not a race so you get to see this dude take 64 all-beef patties to the face at his leisure and it is... a sight to see. Damn. I hadn't thought the "meat sweats" were actually a thing but they are very real indeed. Once his body starts metabolizing the protein a few minutes in he gets beet red and starts sweating like he's in a sauna. It is as uncomfortable as it's engrossing. The final stats: "32 Big Macs in 38 minutes, 15 seconds. The meal is equivalent to 15.36 pounds and 18,016 calories." God Bless America.
If you're a fan of the UFC you know what it is. If not: this fight is all action all the time and these dudes are standing up for all of it with not one single takedown attempt. An amazing fight and kudos to both men for their heart. Also this ref has the best hair and command of the wring and the ringside staff that I've ever seen (no disrespect to Big John McCarthy).
 
Things Made
Word of the Week
Ooftish, n.
[ EWWF - tesh]

Meaning: [slang. Now archaic.] Money, cash.

Origin: 1Apparently an alteration of Yiddish afn tish (perhaps with regional pronunciation of- or ōf- ) in gelt afn tish money on the table < gelt gelt n.2 + af on, on to ( < Middle High German uf , ouf : see up prep.1) + -n , oblique form of definite article + tish table ( < Middle High German tisch : see dish n.), after German (nonstandard) auf Tisch on the table, i.e. (money) laid on the table, (money) down, although the occurrence of a high rounded back vowel is unexplained. Compare German auftischen to set on the table, serve up.
Somebody Said This
"Who among us in our right minds hasn't several times in the course of life yearned for the comforts of absence and non-being. But there is a subtle and important difference between those of us who'd rather not be alive tomorrow -- incomplete homework, biopsy results, romantic reversals, pregnancy tests -- and those of us who want to be dead, tomorrow and the day after and forever. The latter is the exception, the former, the rule."

-Thomas Lynch The Undertaking (one of the best books I've ever read).
Fun Facts
Sometimes you run across a piece of content that so fully exemplifies your interests and the way your brain works that you wonder "does this render my mind obsolete?" this is one of those things for me. The facts, the flow, the volume - everything. This is just sublime and I love everything about. I've long been a fan of Wendover Productions. His content (heavily focusing on geopolitics and transportation) are so well made and so well researched and I didn't think it could get any better than what I've shared in previous newsletters but here we are.

All that is to say that every single one of this week's fun facts was culled from this marvelous video.
  • The state of California has a higher population than the country of Canada.
  • Nevada has the point in the United States where you are farthest from a McDonald's at 116 miles. However North Dakota is the state with the fewest McDonald's (29).
  • Maine is the only state in the continental US to border only 1 other state (New Hampshire). It is also the closest state to Africa.
  • The historic first flight of the Wright Brothers (1903) lasted 12 seconds and extended for 120 feet. That is shorter than the wingspan of a Boeing 747.
  • All of Vatican City could fit inside of the Indy 500 speedway.
  • The westernmost part of Virginia extends further west than any part of West Virginia.
     
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Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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