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WesRecs

Vol. #38 - July 24, 2020

In NYC it was over 90 degrees and rainy most of the week. I thus spent most of it inside. My sleep was bad but my head was clear and I felt productive, and busy (these are 2 different things). My tomato plant is now huge but still bears no fruit. I fear it never will now (I kept it inside when I first got it, when it should have been getting pollinated outside...rookie mistake). But my Blue Oyster mushroom box produced a second flush of over a pound of fresh meaty mushroom caps. I cooked them in white wine instead of bacon this time and they actually tasted like mushrooms instead of pork so that's a win. I continue to be enamored with this radical (and beautifully designed) book about work and capitalism and the state and it's giving me second thoughts about some core political tenets I've never questioned before. I finished the second season of "You" and find the lead character similar to Walter White in many ways. I watched a movie with a great premise that was amazing at establishing a creepy mood but which squandered it all by having its characters act in ways that literally no thinking person would act, I still plan to watch its quasi-sequel. A Cambridge, MA venue that is a national slam poetry institution and a place that I had the privilege of performing at many times (and which was sort of instrumental for a certain aspect of my artistic/performance development) is closing...one of many such personally (and communally) resonant spots that has not survived the pandemic. It's sad, very, but if a decade and a half of comedy has taught me one thing it's that EVERY venue closes...eventually. This does not make the closings any happier but ever onward. Sometimes I send these out and I wish I could have done so much more for you, the person I am very grateful to have reading it. This one feels more or less like I want it to. It's hard to articulate, but here it is. I'm cool with it. I hope you like it. Share it with a friend if you think they will too.

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.
I mentioned it in last week's issue of WesRecs but I didn't have this sweet graphic that the Risk! podcast made to accompany the most recent episode that I'm in so here we are again. You can head over to the Risk! website (or go wherever it is that you get your podcasts) and hear me on last week's show, titled Earthquakes, telling a story about a college summer and one of the most formative weekends of my entire life. I did standup in a club for the first time, I was in police custody for the first time, I woke up on a lawn for the first (and so far only) time...and not just anyone's lawn. Check it out and the other amazing stories on this ep and if you like true personal storytelling by all means subscribe to Risk! and check it out on the regular.

P.S. If you didn't catch it last fall you can also give a listen to the episode I appeared on in 2019 where I talked about my experience appearing on Jeopardy!
Republican senators be like "It was just the wind!"
COVID Corner
The New Stability - The New England Journal of Medicine

Well here's an unimaginably bleak account of life on the COVID front lines from a doctor who has seen too much ignorance, desperation, despair and death as of much. Not only are we short on beds and PPE but it's important to remember that physical and mental stamina of our healthcare professionals are not infinite resources.
 
"This is the day you start to turn. What we suck up from your lungs turns frothy pink and then the frank red of blood. We don’t know if your heart is finally failing or if the virus has destroyed so much tissue that this is necrosis, hemorrhaged in your lungs. There are tests, but no one willing to run them — you are too sick, and you have never cleared the virus. No one would ever want to be what you are now: a hazard, a threat, a frightening object on the edge of death. We try not to touch you. We construct our plans for saving you around staying as far away from you as possible."

...

"You are crashing, they tell me in sign-out on your last morning, on three pressors now, rates all maxed. Maybe sepsis from some new infection, maybe you lost the last legs of your heart. We won’t find out, and I can’t see now how it matters."
 
Race & Policing
Saw this on Instagram and am DYING. This artist, Chris Herod, is doing some really sharp and hilarious and ultra-timely work. I def want to see some more followers for this account. And check out the online store here.
We Want More Justice For Breonna Taylor Than The System That Killed Her Can Deliver - Essence

There were words from Mariam Kaba in last week's edition of WesRecs, I have no hesitation about including more here. I want to quote every word from this but instead I'll just strongly suggest you read the full piece yourself and while directing your attention here:
 
"Beyond strategic assessments of what is most likely to bring justice, ultimately, we must choose to support collective responses that align with our values. Demands for arrests and prosecutions of killer cops are inconsistent with demands to #DefundPolice because they have proven to be sources of violence not safety. We can’t claim the system must be dismantled because it is a danger to Black lives and at the same time legitimize it by turning to it for justice. As Angela Y. Davis points out, “we have to be consistent” in our analysis, and not respond to violence in a way that compounds it. We need to use our radical imaginations to come up with new structures of accountability beyond the system we are working to dismantle.

This is neither a popular nor easy position to take. It’s really, really hard. People who have been or who see their loved ones arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and killed for the slightest infraction – or none at all – want the system to act fairly by arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating those who harm and kill us. People who have consistently been denied protection under the law desperately want the law to live up to its promises. There are ways to support families calling for arrests without legitimizing the system, including by meeting material needs, providing safety for families and communities, and working to disempower police.

Turning away from systems of policing and punishment doesn’t mean turning away from accountability. It just means we stop setting the value of a life by how much time another person does in a cage for violating or taking it – particularly when the criminal punishment system has consistently made clear whose lives it will value, and whose lives it will cage."
 

Officer Who Pressed His Knee on George Floyd’s Neck Drew Scrutiny Long Before - NYT

I wish I could say that I was even *remotely* surprised that Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, had a long background of social maladaption and a staggeringly high number of conduct complaints lodged against him during his policing career (even in relation to other officers on the force). We have seen this movie before. Complaint after complaint either ignored or covered up, or responded to with a slap on the wrist. What dis stand out to me was the degree into which this piece delved into his early life and his adult relationships (both with his co-workers and wife and neighbors). The man was a cypher. I mean yes, he was notable (even among fellow officers) for his gung-ho adherence to the "kick in the door guns blazing and ask questions later" style of policing but aside from that the most consistent thing that people say about him was the extent to which almost didn't have a personality. He hung in the back, spoke little, couldn't make small talk or joke around, and his awkwardness made other cops uncomfortable. A high school classmate remarks that he wasn't an outcast but rather was just...there. But what really stuck with me, especially in relation to his early life, is how much he likely would have personally benefited from the type of social programs that people calling for the slashing of police budgets want funded instead. I don't like hypothesizing about the childhoods of people I've never met, and I certainly don't want to use conjectured childhood trauma to absolve him for his crimes as an adult but it sounds like his family went through some financial trials after his parents split and that sort of thing is never going to make your character rosier. What Chauvin did was sadistic and despicable, full stop. But the fact of the matter is that hurt people hurt people, and racism, and plutocracy, and turning our backs on those most in need, and fascist policing end up hurting ALL of us in the end.

ALSO: Though there's no word on whether or not the two ever personally interacted there both Floyd & Chauvin worked security at the same club during the same period. WHAT THE ACTUAL F?!?!

"Mr. Chauvin, his lawyer and family members have declined to talk to The Times. Yet dozens of interviews with acquaintances depict a police officer who seemed to operate at an emotional distance from those around him. Mr. Chauvin was a quiet and rigid workaholic with poor people skills and a tendency to overreact — with intoxicated people, especially — when a less aggressive stance might have led to a better outcome, interviews show."
Franchesca Ramsey is BACK with decoded spitting some real real for you about why there's not such thing as a "good" cop. Are there relatively kind, more-or-less decent, people with families and kids who coach youth basketball and call their moms each week and give out the full-size candy bars on Halloween every year who also happen to suit up in a police uniform on the day-to-day??? Yes, of course. BUT the job itself is designed from the ground up (and from the top-down) to brutally regulate the lives and movements of all those most feared and despised by the capitalist class (aka black, brown, & poor people). And the fact that many cops are black and brown themselves DOES NOT MATTER. You can still be an agent of white supremacy even if you're not white. And even if this argument means nothing to you all we have to do is look at the many examples of "good" cops who tried to change the system from the inside by reporting corruption and brutality and bigotry in the ranks. They are ALWAYS the first to be fired and vilified by their colleagues. The fact of the matter is "good" cops don't stay cops very long.
Things Read
There's always this kind of dude. And there's always this kind of dude no matter what the time and place and setting is....
Review: Notebooks: 1936-47 by Victor Serge, translated by Mitchell Abidor and Richard Greeman - London Review of Books

I have never read anything by Russian revolutionary Victor Serge. I will be remedying that soon I hope. It takes a lot of courage to be a revolutionary in the face of entrenched and violent state power. It takes even more to remain true to the cause's principles when your movement topples the old order and begins to turn on its own ideals.You can't be all "down with the Tsar!" and then ride for Stalin. Serge knew this, and acted on it, at great cost.
 
"Revolutionary movements depend on hope. When they’re successful, their supporters can see the path to liberation and happiness, a glimpse of the imagined future. But the transition to that future, always difficult and far removed from these ideals, poses serious problems for many revolutionaries. Some of them despair and sink into political apathy, moral indifference, navel-gazing. A minority continue to insist that if the means bear little or no relationship to the ends, the means will become the ends. They write or say this in public and are silenced or punished for it. Serge belonged to this group."
 

Tourist Detraction - The Baffler

The American travel industry is in shambles right now.  Due to COVID and our every-wrong-move-possible national response to it airlines, hotels, cruise ships, and attractions are facing historic financial challenges. In addition, because of the ever-growing prevalence of the virus among our population Americans are flat out banned from from something like 33 countries (primarily in Europe & the Caribbean). Nevermind the fact that mass unemployment & economic uncertainty means that precious few people are willing and able to cough up discretionary income for a pleasure trip. Essentially if "#wanderlust" used to be one of your most heavily used social media hashtags you probably aren't having a great time. As such, perhaps now would be a good moment to reflect on how you travel, why you travel, where you go, what your traveling does to the people who live there, and the economic/social conditions of the people who make your voyages possible. The situation might actually be kind of toxic. I'm 100% for learning about the world you inhabit, educating yourself about how people live (and are oppressed) in places that aren't your own, being multilingual, and coming to the (sadly non-ubiquitous) realization that the U.S. is not the center of the universe. But there are ways of doing that which don't involve blithely exploiting a local population, permanently crippling a developing economy, contributing to imminent climate catastrophe, and viewing everywhere that black and brown people live as your vacation playground.
 
"Tourism, fueled as it was by cheap air travel, package tours crammed with “sights,” sweaty Americans loudly occupying sidewalks in their marches through Amsterdam or Dubrovnik (beleaguered since it was discovered as one of the shooting locations of Game of Thrones) or anywhere, should never come back. A better system, one that actually delivers the assistance to local economies that has been touted for so long, is going to be a more expensive system. Sustainable tourism requires a different and non-tourist-centric analysis of whether local people are able to earn a living wage, the extent to which natural resources are being depleted, the impact on historical monuments and other famous sites, and other similar considerations."

...

"The pause delivered by the pandemic can and should induce a moral reckoning with why tourism has existed, and the desperation imposed on poor but popular countries that must rely on obnoxious strangers in search of experiences that can be visibly and publicly disseminated through social media platforms. Indeed, if pre-Covid Instagram is any indication, the amount of “learning” travelers do—the degree of local or global understanding that is the product of their cavorting—doesn’t seem to be particularly significant. In general, tourists, however far they may have traveled, are there for short moments in which they remain by and large in the same psychological space they inhabited back home. Then there is the added inauthenticity of performing enjoyment for the production of content. Everyone who had money was gorging on it."
 

A Brief History of Medical Cannabis in the United States - ACScompassion.com

Wild stuff. This one is helpfully read in conjunction with the video about the whackness of US drug policy below. When it comes to they "why" of the harshness and dearth of logic in American drug policy I've always been aware of the racism, less so the capitalism. I should've known, after all it's the USA, it's always a package deal.
 
"The first recorded use of “marijuana cigarettes” in the United States, was in 1874, used by Mexican soldiers and immigrants. The use of “marijuana” by Mexican American immigrants concerned William Randolph Hearst – a prejudiced newspaper owner of the Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division. Hearst stood to lose billions as industrial hemp engineering advanced. Hemp is sustainable crop derived from specific cannabis cultivars used for fiber, paper, fuel, and food – more bioavailable than traditional timber and cotton. Over the next several decades, Hearst amplified subjective articles demonizing cannabis."

...

"The malicious propaganda worsened. In 1930, Harry Anslinger, a government official, became the head of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics and in 1936, “Reefer Madness” was released as an anti-marijuana move to vilify the Black jazz culture as using the devil’s lettuce. In 1937, Anslinger testified before congress saying, “marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” stating “there are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing, results from marijuana use causing white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.”"
Near and Present Anarchy - The Baffler

Two pieces from The Baffler this week, I make no apologies. Anyone who thinks the 2020 US presidential election won't be utterly chaotic and widely disputed is delusional. If Trump loses he is going to do everything in his power to challenge it, cast it as fraudulent, maneuver around it, etc. If his stated refusal to commit to accepting the results JUST THIS WEEK aren't enough to convince you I'll invite you remember the run-up to 2016. For months, with no evidence of any kind, he proclaimed things would be rigged. Then he won, and he STILL would not shut up about baseless allegations of 3-4 million people fraudulently voting. Like in his literal first appearance after the inauguration that was on his mind. I have seen no high level Democrats or members of the judiciary lay out a plan for opposing the guy who openly says he won't accept the results if he loses, but they need to be working on that...yesterday.

Should he however win, it will also be widely disputed because aside from the GOPs perennial election day voter suppression tactics (witness Louisville, KY's one single polling place during their recent senate primary, witness FL doing everything they can to impose a poll-tax-in-everything-but-name on felons who have recently regained their voting rights, etc) he and his party are also doing everything in the world to malign voting by mail during a pandemic crisis (of their own exacerbation) that will likely make physically showing up at the polls a lethal health hazard for millions of Americans.

Whatever happens there will 100% NOT be a national consensus on who the next president is on the Wednesday morning after this election. And if it does eventually go to Trump (whether through the supreme court or a blatant dictatorial power move) America will well and truly be over. If it goes to Biden (and Trump somehow doesn't try and stage a coup) we are still going to be a broken, broke, sick, paranoid, heavily armed nation. The sun will rise tomorrow. And no matter how bleak things get I think it's a moral imperative to never totally abandon hope but maaaaaannnn....Things are going to be SO MUCH worse than any mainstream source is admitting right now.
 
"For forty years, since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan brought neoliberal capitalism to the world, both Britain and the United States, along with their satellite countries, have diminished the state’s ability to provide the basic sense of security required for national unity. It’s hardly surprising that our paper-thin national identity is torn and faded while the word tribalism has taken on new currency."
...

"As the years went on after my return from Sierra Leone, mass shootings became so frequent that a week without an attack became newsworthy. Were all of these people mentally ill? What did it mean when the guy who ran the pro desk at Lowe’s told me he had an automatic weapon and was ready to use it if Hillary Clinton won the election? I found out later that he had lost his contracting business in 2008."

...

"State failure feels like a train hitting a barrier on the tracks. The train is on the prairie, far from towns and cities. Cars pile up. People are screaming. No one hears. That is the feeling many Americans have as the national government sends the message: you’re on your own."
Things Seen
What a fantastic video, and so helpful!

Look, I was raised by a single mom. And while my dad showed me many things about the world as a child, the proper use of tools of any kind was not one of them. I can't hang a photo or a shelf, I can't change my car's oil or tires, I have never mowed a lawn. I can put together (most) IKEA furniture, grill proficiently with charcoal, and get a campfire going. That's about the end of the line for me with the traditionally "manly" arts. But we're in a pandemic now and dangerously close to societal collapse so I've decided it's time for me to get my act together to learn some basics because when the apocalypse comes I don't want to be ass out getting rained on  and stalked by wolves because I can't construct a basic lean-to in the Appalachian backwoods.

Additionally, my newfound mycological hobby has brought me to the point where I need drill some holes in a bucket and while I feel I could probably just wing it I'm the kind of person who's willing to watch a video and read an article in order to prevent the possibility of putting a hole in my hand. So just like younger me googling "how to tie a tie" and "how to shave" I looked for "how to use a drill" and found this clear, concise, patient, and very friendly video on the basics of a modern cordless drill. This vid is literally made for wives sneaking into their husband's workshops to sneak his drill to make him something (like that's actually the intro) but there ain't no shame in my game. I watched a few similar tutorials afterwards and this was by far the best. I was just really impressed with how well it both imparted the desired knowledge and didn't make you feel like a total idiot for not knowing something which is, after all, pretty damned rudimentary. Great stuff.
 
“We can’t make policy based on ‘I think it’s bad for you to have unearned pleasure'. We have to make policy based on does this hurt you? Does this hurt other people?”

Despite having a vague but noticeable libertarian bent and receiving at least some of their funding from Peter Thiel & the Charles Koch Foundation (ew) I do find some of the Big Think's videos to be worthwhile, this is definitely one of them. If you've thought about it for 5 mins you realize that America's "War on Drugs" is an ineffective, harmful, racist, money pit. It's only taken a nearly 2 decade tidal wave of meth & opioid addictions among white populations across the country to get more and more people (and policy makers) to accept this truth. Never forget: when crack ravaged Black communities in the 80s and 90s drugs were firmly a criminal matter to be treated with harsh prison sentences...but I digress. I really like how this incorporated addict perspectives and the comments of Ethan Nadlemann of the Drug Policy Alliance (a natural born raconteur) were particularly great. Drug laws have always been a form of racist/classist social control. In the 1930s Marijuana was made illegal (and consistently referred to as Marijuana vs the more scientific "cannabis") because Blacks and Mexicans used it and it gave cops a reason to arrest them (see the WesRec about the history of medical cannabis above for some choice quotes). Opiates had been happily used by white women for decades for all sorts of aches/pains/nerves/etc but they were made illegal toward the end of the 19th century because Chinese immigrants used them. Crack is just cocaine with baking soda but because it was perceived as being used more by Blacks in the 80s penalties for it where astronomically higher than powder cocaine. You might know all of this already, hopefully you do, but there's no longer any excuse to have a clear eyed appreciation of why drug laws exist and how far away that purpose is from the comforting myths we tell ourselves about public health and crime reduction. The War on Drugs has caused far more harm, in the U.S. and abroad, than it ever prevented (and wasted SO MUCH MONEY that could have been used for schools, healthcare, infrastructure, etc etc).
Once again only too happy to shout out the talented/timely work of illustrator Courtney White and not just because I have the privilege of calling her a former co-worker. Her art is fresh, original, distinctive, and most importantly it has purpose. Check out her IG or her website you will not be sorry.
This is an exceedingly random webcomic that I stumbled upon and that I'm happy to share with you. That is all.
Lots of Instagram content this week. I have been spending perhaps too much time there. But at least some of it is rewarding. Such as this infographic series showing the absurdity and audacity of colonialism.
Word of the Week
Demonocracy, n.
[ DEE - muh - nok -ruh -see]

Meaning: Government or rule by demons; a ruling body of demons. Now chiefly in extended use (with punning contrast with democracy) referring to cruel or wicked political regimes

Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: demono- comb. form, -cracy comb. form. Seen: 1713  Coles's Eng. Dict. (new ed.) Demonocracy, the Government of Devils.
Somebody Said This
There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.

-Joe DiMaggio
Fun Facts
  • While the probability of an American who stands between 6'6" - 6'8" being in the NBA is only .07% that probability jumps to an astounding 17% if they are at least 7' tall.
  • Several decades after Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel Alexander Hamilton Jr. (the former Treasury Secretary's 2nd son) represented Burr's 2nd wife in her divorce proceedings from Burr.
  • The 2011 Japanese Tsunami was so powerful that it carried living Japanese wildlife (such as crustaceans, mollusks, & fish) to the shores of the U.S. & Canada.
  • As of this writing a 1L bottle of Goldschlager contains roughly $0.79 worth of gold. (13mg of gold per bottle. 13 mg =  0.00041796 troy oz. Current spot price of gold = $1,889.00 per troy oz.).
  • In Cockney rhyming slang a fart can be referred to as a "raspberry tart". This is where we get the phrase "blowing a raspberry" when making a fart-like noise with our lips & tongue.
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Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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