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WesRecs

Vol. #39 - July 31, 2020

This week I read an article from April titled Pulitzer winner Chris Hedges: These "are the good times — compared to what's coming next. I had thought I'd include it in this week's WesRecs but I ultimately didn't. Not because I necessarily disagreed with the premise but because it offered exactly zero counteractive steps against that potential truth...let alone "solutions". I dunno, the world very well might be ending, it really might be...but if you have no potential ways to avoid it (or even steps to ameliorate the suffering) why even bother telling anyone? In that case just let people have their illusions. (Corollary: if you've got any suggestions for salvation shout that ish from the rooftops).

Not too much to report over here. Overall it was a solid week for me. I worked for several hours outside 3 days of it. That's crazy unusual for me and I think the fresh air did me good (even if the mosquitoes feasted on me). I got my blue oyster spawn package in the mail so I will soon begin to cultivate my very own mushroom substrate (just need to pick up a bucket and some wood chips...videos to come). And I have absolutely devoured "The OA" on Netflix. I first heard about it when I read and LOVED this NYT piece about how strong female leads, such as we get them at all in Hollywood, are often written as conventional "badass" dudes...who just happen to have hetero-normative sex appeal. It made a brilliant argument for new ways of depicting women protagonists and mentioned that the show was written in that spirit. I started watching it a few days ago aaaaaannnnnnd....I've been up until 4am every night since cramming episodes. It is singular and incredible and definitely not for everyone but damn am I in love with it and deeply saddened to learn that of fully-planned 5 seasons only 2 have been or will be made. Like, that is a punch in the gut. As of right now I have 3 more eps to finish and I can already feel the hole of not having the rest of the story. Like, maybe they can release it as a book or a graphic novel??? Hell I'd pay good money just to read the scripts...anything. Like I said, I don't think it's for everyone and I was honestly thrown off by a serious dearth of Black representation in the first season (in a way that I've never cared about in basic/popcorn mass media but which got nicely corrected in S2) and I can't know what would have come from additional seasons but I can dream and it was...beautiful). Anyway please please please try to enjoy your life as much as your circumstances allow, and try to shrug off any circumstances that don't allow for that ( I know I know, commitments, responsibilities, dependents etc etc) and be kind to each other. I love you all. Until next week....

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
#LongCOVID - @ahandvanish (Twitter Thread)

COVID spreads very easily, which is bad. However in a rather large proportion of cases the people who are infected develop no symptoms at all, or very mild symptoms which is good...mostly. The flip side of that of course is that a huge chunk of people who get it (and are contagious) walk around living their lives with no inkling of the illness they're spreading which, again, is very easy to spread. And then a lot of other people see how (relatively) few people who do get it end up dead or seriously ill and that leads them to throw all caution to the wind which of course leads to even more infections and deaths. What's being ever more recognized though is just how many people who don't die, or even end up on a ventilator, are finding themselves with seriously debilitating COVID effects *months* after the initial infection. Entire internet communities of people struggling with #LongCOVID have popped up and they're sharing some very scary stories about just how bad this illness can be even if it doesn't put you in the morgue. All this is to say DO NOT LET UP, DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE. Keeping washing those hands, wearing those masks, wiping down surfaces, staying socially distanced, etc.

Brain fog, fatigue, breathlessness. Rehab centers set up across Europe to treat long-term effects of coronavirus - CNN Health
 

Tyler Perry Talks "Camp Quarantine" and Challenges of Filming Amid a Pandemic - Hollywood Reporter

I have watched almost none of his work so I really can't offer a valid opinion about Tyler Perry's art. I have seen just as many people praise his output as uplifting and empowering as I've seen others denounce him as a pandering hack. I will say that the dude is objectively one of the hardest working people in the entertainment industry and I am definitely impressed by his decades long cultivation of a massive (and deeply loyal) fan base such that he is now completely insulated from criticism (at least on the commercial front). He could drop a movie consisting of a single shot of him reading the phone book and Netflix would be only too happy to carry it and it'd get 20 million streams the first weekend. It'd be critically panned, but I really don't think he cares about that. He'd be getting his check and his fans would be getting content from a man who's delivered for them for years and years. Back in January he put out a movie that he shot in 5 days. Just this past month he shot 22 episodes of an entire series in 11 days. If you haven't had the chance to spend a whole lot of time on the set of a film/TV production it is hard to express just how ABSOLUTELY INSANE that is. Like. WHUT?!

What fascinates me most about all of this is that he did this at the height of the COVID crisis...in Georgia...when cases in that state were spiking and it looks like he managed to do it safely with an ultra-strict set of protocols that his production company developed on their own (in conjunction with health experts). That is to say that Tyler Effin' Perry (AKA Medea) managed to do on a micro-level on his privately owned movie studio property what the U.S. Federal government has miserably failed to do.

Is a 22 episode television season filmed in 11 days going to be "good" by any conventional standard? Probably not, but it's impressive that you did that. But doing so with a cast and crew of hundreds, while keeping them all locked down, comfortable, medically safe, and tested daily is even more impressive. This feat is staggering and provides a window into what is probably going to be the only effective approach to people working together indoors for some time to come.

Did anyone ever test positive or feel sick during the shoot? And how did you handle it if they did?

We had a couple of concerns. We had four positives. Here's how it went: We had 160 people check in the first day, go to their rooms, get tested and wait for their results. Nobody was able to leave their rooms. We had two positives in that. So we had them escorted out and got the help that they needed. Then 200 people checked in [soon after] and we had two positive inside of the 200. We had them escorted out and got them the help that they needed. So we had four before anybody left their rooms, before anybody started work. Those rooms were kept closed and off limits to anybody until after we finished shooting.”

...

You provided private air travel for cast coming from outside Georgia. Were any of the individuals who tested positive on those flights and therefore a concern that they could have infected someone else?

No, in order to get on the plane, you had to be tested before you got on the plane. These are local people here in Atlanta. The cast has been tested for probably six weeks in a row before they even got to the plane test. So you had to be tested before you got on the plane, and then when you landed, you were tested again. So they had all these extreme tests before they were able to take their mask off and start working with each other on set. I was really comfortable with the cast. It was the crew that I was concerned with, and of the four people who tested positive, two were extras and two were crew.

...

Do you think your safety protocols could work on a set that wasn’t quarantined? Or is the key to filming during this time sequestering cast and crew for the duration of the shoot?

Listen, I don't know how anybody in Hollywood is going to be able to shoot without daily testing or quarantine bubbles. I just don't know how you do that — having people and actors without masks in each other's spaces and faces without daily testing or a bubble. I just don't know.


How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air” - Vanity Fair

Books will be written, case studies will be assembled, & classes will be taught about this Administration's incompetence, neglect, dereliction, & malice when it came to the handling of the current public health crisis.

"Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert."
 
Look, life is precious & hate is ugly. There is exactly one person in this entire world who's death I might potentially take "joy" in (give you 3 guesses). But this type of thing right here?? It needs to be highlighted. I am truly sorry for Herman Cain's family and the people that loved him but the fact that his organization was spewing anti-science conspiracy lies about the dangers of COVID as he was LITERALLY DYING IN THE ICU BECAUSE OF IT just goes to show the vile degree to which vulnerable populations have been mislead and lied to about COVID in the interests of businesses and politicians that do not give one iota of an F about them. Wear a mask, socially distance, do not let anyone tell you that this is a hoax or a conspiracy. I had zero love for Herman Cain's politics but it is pretty damned telling that among all of 45's professional sycophants and media mouthpieces it is a Black man who was one of the very few to bear the burden of the crisis they've wasted so much time denying.
Gimme Some Money
This one is for all my people who've ever stood for 6-10 hours on a store floor while wearing a polo shirt and a name tag contemplating  the pros and cons of a global extinction event while an irate/entitled/misinformed customer yells at you about an "overcharge" of ninety-three cents. I'm new to Thought Slime's videos but this one really resonated as he relentlessy breaks down every absurd policy and penny=pinching instance of labor exploitation he experienced over several years as a worker at a Canadian discount clothing outlet.

We get one single precious life on this earth. Why should any of us be forced to spend it doing a job like this (or shopping at a place like this, or shopping at all really...)?
In a just world no one would have this kind of material wealth. Still, I found this context helpful.
  • I don't necessarily agree with all of these but I do find something significant in the fact that someone could assemble an even halfway convincing table of "Hidden Rules Among the Classes"
Things Read
Life During Wartime - The New Inquiry

Best piece I personally have ever read in The New Inquiry FWIW.

It's unsurprising, given that its "tagline" is The Forgotten War, but most Americans have precious little knowledge about the causes, history and outcomes of the Korean War (1950 - 1953). It came so soon after the WWII (more or less the event of century), it would be eclipsed in the American consciousness in a generation by The Vietnam War, and its status as a struggle by Koreans to shake off decades of foreign domination + a proxy conflict in the US vs. USSR Cold War + the first major flex of extra-national muscle by Communist China + a war that has never official ended has meant that there are no easy and straightforward story lines to sum up the conflict which began 70 years ago. (If you're interested here's a pretty solid 15 minute overview...which was made in 2011, so pre-Kim Jong Un). This piece really did a lot to bring home the extent of the violence and division and the extension of its effects into the present day and is beautifully written.

"The 70th year of the war arrives as the days lose their meaning. In a city of more than 20,000 deaths, I am waiting alongside millions in a year of waiting: for a vaccine, for the layoffs to reach us, for unemployment to expire, for the second wave, the eviction notice, the arraignment. The minutes and hours, the rent days and due dates, all the brutal illusions of capitalist time orchestrated to index productivity and profit, patience and progress disintegrate before the absurdity and abhorrence of These Troubling Times. In spite of everything, the bosses and landlords, the cops of every denomination and tendency insist on their scheduled rituals of exploitation and expropriation — after all, submission to their temporal order is requisite to order itself. Each day passes just like the next. What’s another day but another sun, another street seized with revolt, another thousand deaths, or 50,000 infections. Another day of waiting for the war to end, like so many have spent their whole lives doing."

...

"Signing a peace treaty is a necessary step towards decolonization and demilitarization as legal and logistical processes, but peace, like war, is a state of relation produced by practice, not a temporality that arrives through inevitable progress. The work of peacemaking therefore exceeds peace advocacy and matters of governance to encompass matters of being — the basic questions of supplanting conquest as a modality of relation and interrupting the passage of death, not only in Korea but across the oceanic and atmospheric connections that bond Korea to the world, for Korea is everywhere. The task ahead is tremendous and mundane; nothing more and nothing less than living as a practice of lifemaking amidst and against systemic slaughter."

How Afrofuturism Can Help the World Mend - Wired

In a not-too-distant WesRecs I'd like to include a huge section focusing on Afrofuturism. It's a movement/philosophy/aesthetic/vibe that I've been interested in for some time but which continually surprises me and reveals new artifacts & new paths of study so I'm always adding more items to the list of things I'd wish to share about it. This summer is also the first time I've really sunk my teeth into Octavia Butler's work so I've got a lot of catching up to do with regard to one of the foremost lights in the field. I'll just share this excellent piece with you now and it's as good an introduction as any if the term happens to be new to you. I'll note that this article starts off by referencing the same W.E.B. DuBois work that Saidiya Hartman recently wrapped a wonderful essay around (which I included in WesRecs 31), enjoy!


"Why do we care about what the Afrofuturist has to say? And why would we suspect that their answers would differ from that of an average futurist? It is because the Black experience is defined by a historical struggle for existence, the right to live, to be considered a person, to be afforded basic rights, in pursuit of (political, social, economic) equality. Because of this, the Afrofuturist can see the parts of the present and future that reside in the status quo’s blind spots.

Futurists ask what tomorrow’s hoverboards and flying cars are made of. Afrofuturists ask who will build them? And does their commercial use fall out of their utility in military or law enforcement?

Futurists labor over questions about the nature of Android consciousness and empathy. Afrofuturists ask how race might be wired into Android consciousness, whether the android world might be as divided as ours is."

...

"With regards to our efforts to rethink criminal justice and policing, the Afrofuturist says that we should rewire technological devices of control (literally and figuratively) to work in our favor. After all, Black Lives Matter and related hashtag activist movements are strikingly Afrofuturist: They utilize existing technology to amplify their signal and build coalitions. Even more, the use of cameras on mobile phones to record acts of violence is also Afrofuturist. Even though the cameras weren’t designed to fuel civil disobedience, we wouldn’t be having discussions about how to dismantle corrupt systems in law enforcement without them."


Black Women Are Leaders in the Climate Movement - NYT

One of the most confounding stereotypes in America today is that Black people don't care about the environment or that we're not invested in the outdoors or a "green" future. Like, how TF are you going to kidnap millions of people from an agrarian, earth-revering society and force them to use their specialized crop-growing skills to line your nation's pockets for generations then turn around and say they have a disconnect from nature, like wut?! Anyway it's nice to see this kind of coverage because Black people (and Black women specifically) are out here doing the work of saving our asses every day.


"Despite stereotypes of a lack of interest in environmental issues among African-Americans, black women, particularly Southern black women, are no strangers to environmental activism. Many of us live in communities with polluted air and water, work in industries from housekeeping to hairdressing where we are surrounded by toxic chemicals and have limited food options that are often impacted by pesticides.

Environmentalism, in other words, is a black issue."

...

"Despite hearing the Republican rhetoric of “climate change ain’t real,” people knew that something more than a rising river was changing and amiss. Deer and duck seasons weren’t the same as in years past. Cotton and soybean crop yields were different; increased heat, droughts and floods meant more pests and decreased yields. The river waters were coming faster and stronger from the increased snow from the Northeast. It felt like no one was listening to the voices of the poor, of rural folks, of Southerners. We knew then just as we do now: Climate change is a threat to black life."

Your Local Jail May Be A House of Horrors - The Marshall Project

Abolish all prisons & jails.

"Over the last six months, 50 former detainees and four former employees told their stories to The Marshall Project. Those now in Missouri state prisons said their hometown jail is known as a “breeding ground for tough-ass white boys,” and the second worst jail in the state (behind the “St. Louis Workhouse,” which city leaders voted to close this month.) “I was once a kid with a drug problem,” said one former inmate who declined to be named. “Now I am a violent gang member [and] career crook taking up bedspace in an overcrowded prison system … If it was not for my time in the [St. Francois County Jail], I would not be the esteemed member of prison society I am today.”"

...

"...Natalie DePriest, a local activist who had gained national attention after she and her brother were sentenced to 15 years in prison for growing marijuana plants in their home. DePriest told Karraker that when they first went to the jail, in 2011, she demanded a lawyer and said to a jailer, “I have constitutional rights, you’re not my king,” and then he wrapped his arm around her neck and struck her as he dragged her toward a cell, where a second officer pepper-sprayed her. Her brother, David DePriest, saw all of this while waiting in the booking area. “For hours, I had to sit and listen to my sister scream, asking for a nurse, for clothes, since hers were soaked in mace,” he told me. In a use of force report, officers wrote that DePriest “stepped in an aggressive manner” and moved her hands towards one of their faces, but was “contained with no injury to staff or inmate.” DePriest had photos of bruises, taken several days later."

...

"In her email inbox, Karraker received pictures of a young man’s stomach and hip, covered in a massive infection. He had told his family it came from a spider bite in the jail. At one point, hearing a vivid description of a sexual assault inside the jail, Karraker said she vomited. “If I slow down to think of the sheer magnitude of the evil that resides here I cower at home under the covers, exhausted and weepy and thoroughly overwhelmed,” she wrote to me in an email. “That's happened a few times, and [my husband] has dragged me back into the light.”"
Things Seen
I feel lucky to have stumbled onto this great YouTube channel about city and community planning. This particular video offered some fascinating insights on the history/intentions/results of various stages of Soviet city planning. I swear this is way more interesting than that description probably makes it sounds. You get to see how economics, politics, resource management, & psychology come together (or not) as shown in the very dwellings that people inhabit. Very much looking forward to watching more from this source.
If you're from Boston you will feel this in your bones. If not, you'll still laugh. Had me dead.
Uighurs in China - Last Week Tonight

With a move to forced sterilization the appalling mass surveillance, mass incarceration, and mass cultural erasure of the Uighur people of Western China has veered sharply into genocide territory. If you have not seen any prior reporting on this crisis now is the time. It is awful and indispensable and what's worse I really can't see an end to it soon, if ever. China, as the world's manufacturer and with complete state control of internal reporting, has all of the leverage here. No one is going to put boots on the ground to free them, no mass movement inside the country is going to form to advocate for them, and no major trading partners are likely to put any economic pressure on China to force their hand. More than a million Uighurs are in camps right now, the rest are surveilled and harassed as if they were in prison and unless the rest of the world thinks of something new it's going to stay like that for a long time.

I included this excellent piece on the miserable situation in Xinjiang two years ago in my other newsletter and now things there seem to be somehow worse which is mind-bending: What It's Like To Live In a Surveillance State  - NYT (2018).
I've really come to like Tom Nicholas' videos on major topics in the humanities. He has an informed, thoughtful, and easygoing style, he tackles timely topics, and he never makes things seem more complicated than they really are. Here he presents on the personality traits that people with fascist tendencies often have. Mind you, these aren't card carrying SS members or anything, but rather the types of everyday people living everyday lives who IF fascists should suddenly come to power or become prominent are going to be the ones most inclined to support their cause...or at least not challenge it. This whole video is more or less a book report on The Authoritarian Personality which Theodore Adorno and several colleagues authored in 1950 as they sought to analyze what exactly allowed for the lowering of Europe into barbarism during the recent World War. It posits that a tendency toward fascist sympathies can be determined without even having to get into the specifics of a person's politics but instead can be predicted based on their personality. Things like an submission to moral authorities and those who project power, an aversion to subjective or emotive ways of thinking/expression, thinking in rigid categories, a vilification of humans in general as savage and animalistic, etc. All of these things, and others are generally found in people whose politics are ethnocentric, racist, anti-Semitic, and authoritarian.

The conclusion is daunting but necessary: in order to fight fascism you can't wait until it emerges, you must instead work to great a society that values inclusivity, solidarity, free-thinking, non-violence, etc. In short: it's a bit late for America but I'm glad i watched this.
Word of the Week
Coffin Dodger, n.
[KAW - fin DOJ - er ]

Meaning: colloquial (humorous and usually derogatory) a person considered to have narrowly and consistently avoided death; (in later use) esp. (chiefly British) an elderly person, considered dismissively as close to death or enduring against the odds.
 
Somebody Said This
Fun Facts
  • In Demolition Man (1993) it’s revealed that in the future Taco Bell would be the lone restaurant chain after “the franchise wars”. Taco Bell had limited brand recognition outside of the United States this was changed to “Pizza Hut” for international release.
  • A 9-volt battery is just six 1.5 volt batteries connected by welded tabs.
  • A horse at full sprint generates about 14.9 horsepower. A human at peak production produces about 5.
  • The Peace symbol is derived from the superimposition of the semaphore signs for the letters “N” & “D”, standing for “nuclear disarmament”.
  • In 1941 3 million cars were produced in The US. After Pearl Harbor and the country’s entry into WWII that number plummeted to just 139 vehicles for the remainder of the war as the automotive industry shifted to wartime production.
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Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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