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Vol. #63 - January 22, 2021


Happy Friday, it's me coming at ya with the latest edition of WesRecs and man has it has been a busy week indeed. Last time you opened one of these we had a different president and I had never been on prime time network TV before. (I'd been on a major network and I'd appeared during prime time...just never at all once, so that's a box checked I guess. It was fun.)

This is a really really packed issue of the newsletter and there's a lot to recap so I'll just get into it. I think we've got some WesRecs first-timers joining us for Vol. 63, WELCOME! As I've noted in the past:

If you're newer to WesRecs thanks for being here. As I've often said: this is a compendium of the stuff I've come across (or remembered) in the last week that I think you might dig. It's long. I recommend perusing here and there, spending time with what interests you at a given point and maybe saving or coming back to what you might be interested in down the road. Some of it’s really serious, some of it’s fun & dumb. Go with what you feel, subscribe if it's something you like, and thanks again. I love you all. 

In this week's intro I'm going to talk a lot about the game show I was just on. A packed issue of recs follows. Apologies in advance for what I'm sure are a bunch of typos, the following is very stream of consciousness. Let's get into it!
Hopefully you got a chance to watch it on Thursday, but just in case I had the wonderful opportunity to appear on one of ABC's newest game shows, The Chase. Where I and my two teammates made an attempt to take down Jeopardy! GOAT Brad Rutter (who was a 5-time champion back when you could only win 5 times before being retired, and who beat Ken Jennings in two separate Jeopardy! tournaments, and who is 2nd place all-time, after only Jennings, in career game show prize money).

I've known the outcome for two months, and the episode has already been nationally televised so forgive me if this is a spoiler but...we were unsuccessful and we took home no prize money. That said, I was happy with my performance, I can say that in 1-on-1 play I gave the 3rd best Jeopardy! player of all time a run for his money, and I rocked a dope jacket in millions of living rooms across the country. Not bad for a Thursday.

I have some thoughts about the whole thing and I'll drop a few here but I'll say it really helps if you know the basic format of the game so if you haven't had a chance to ever watch one I'd say go watch my ep...or any ep of the show (the British version is largely the same and most eps of it are free to stream). Additionally I provided some light Twitter commentary during the broadcast so that's helpful background as well. Here's the episode info:
Episode info above if ya need it.
  • I love The Chase's format. During my prep for my appearance (which I only had 5 weeks to conduct vs like 5 months for Jeopardy!, I watched every episode of the British version (and the prior American version that ran on Game Show Network) that I could. It is very well designed for excitement. The trivia isn't as well written or thematically unified as on Jeopardy but the drama and the tension are way more pronounced.
  • Based on the stat tracking that I did  during prep (discussed in my tweet thread) I would rate myself as an exceptionally good player of those versions of the game. Adjusting for all of the cricket/soccer/British pop culture stuff on the UK version I found that I was more or less a lock for 6 correct answers in the solo 1 minute cash builder with a goal of 8 and stretch (but attainable) goal of 10.
  • In the UK version correct answers here get you 1K each, in the old US version 5k each. This is the very first season of the new ABC version so none of the contestants knew how much we'd actually be playing for. I new that with major network money and being on prime time and after the chasers having just been on a $1M Jeopardy! GOAT tournament it would be a lot more than $5k. $10k seemed too small for this kind of a stage and I thought they might want to keep it round so I was thinking maaaaybe $20k per.
  • When they said $25K before the game began I was seeing dollar signs...straight up. In my head I was like, OK, I'm good for 8, times $25, pooled with my teammates who will do similarly well, i'm gonna have at least $200k, maybe even like $350K in a couple of hours, I'll hit up Zillow after that, grab a condo, throw some in the IRA, etc etc etc.
  • AAAAAANNNND.... LOL THINK AGAIN. What I failed to account for with such a drastic upgrade on prize money was an equally drastic upgrade in question whoa.
  • They gave us some practice time on the buzzer before our taping began (if you're playing with teammates in the finale, as is usual, you each have to buzz in to answer and only the team member who buzzes can answer. Since I played the finale solo there was no need, which is why you don't see a buzzer in my had at the end.) The buzzer practice questions were of the same difficulty level that I was used to from practice so and i was breezing through them so I felt extra confident.
  • And then my first teammate Sarah went up TOTAL BUSHWACK. I could not believe how bonkers difficult the Qs were. Sarah got 1 correct (which kudos to her for the amazing pressure she had going up first on a version of the show none of us had ever seen before). Playing in my head alongside her I knew only 4 answers, which mind you, was 2 below my self-imposed-minimum-for-retaining-self-respect quota of 6 and half of my actual goal of 8. AND that was 4 that I knew in my head while not actually playing, it's a whole different ballgame to answer when you're actually in the hot seat.
  • After Sarah's chase Ilana and just looked at each other and whispered "these are really hard". It felt like being in a Bruce Lee movie where he walks into the dojo and knocks out the top student in the class and then the yellow belts are just staring at each other like I'm supposed to swing on this dude????
  • Then Sarah got up for her individual chase vs brad and it was even more intimidating. In practice on the older versions of the show I made it through this section with ease like 85% of the time. Once again these questions were just lights out, and while you could deduce some of them to get to educated guesses, many of them were super obscure "you know it or you don't" type stuff.
  • Brad caught up to Sarah in her solo chase which already meant that, at best, there would be just 2 of us to face Brad in the end. I went up to play, went for the safe middle money option (again notes about the statistics and mom advice leading to my choice in my twitter thread). And I somehow eked by. The question difficulty and randomness actually helped here because Brad got a lot of these wrong too, often the same ones as me. They actually edited out some of our questions because we dueled for so long. It felt like a baseball at-bat when the guy's already sitting on 2 strikes so he can just foul off at will). Question after question we'd both get it wrong which did nothing to affect our relative standing so they could trim it without affecting game play. I was so happy just to still be involved and focused on rooting for Ilana.
  • Ilana did the best of us in her solo cash builder with 4 correct answers to my 3 but she got some just INSANE Qs in her solo chase. (I honestly think I would've known 1 of the clues she was given) and she was also retired by Brad.
  • So now I'm playing one of the only people on earth to ever beat Ken Jennings in a Jeopardy! game 1 on 1. His lifetime quiz earnings to that point were about $5.1M, mine were...$53,186. BUT, I believed I could win. That was the only thought going through my head before I faced him "I believe I can Win" and I fully believed I could. Didn't work out that way but I believed I could.
  • At a macro level my issue was speed. By that I mean that my strategy for the rapid fire cash builder and final chase rounds was to go through questions as quickly as possible, giving myself approximately 3 seconds after every Q was read to either spit out the correct answer or my best guess (strategically you should never simply say "pass" because you might get lucky. Seriously even if you can't think of a solid guess randomly saying "pants" is better than passing. This is extremely sound strategy on the UK and earlier American versions because it never behooves you to spend 8 seconds mulling through your brain for the correct answer, even if you end up landing it, when you could have heard 2 additional questions that you might have known immediately in that time. This is what I practiced for.
  • HOWEVER, that strategy relies on hearing a certain amount of questions in that 1 minute or 2 minute period. My non-scientific analysis for Bradley Walsh, the British host told me that he was generally going to spit out 9-10 questions per minute if the contestant was playing well. Brooke Burke, the host of the GSN version was even faster, usually delivering 12 questions per minute. Sara Haines, the host of the current ABC version is another story entirely and a failure on my part to adjust for this is what got me.
  • Sara (with a very small sample size) does about 8 questions a minute, and that's critical. When you're only going to see that many questions in that time it definitely behooves you to TAKE MORE TIME to digest each of them and come up with your best answer. I did not do this. In my cash builder I certainly would've gotten Quran correct if I thought about and also the "Mickey" question (I've seen Wayne's World, where that song is featured, like 20 times).
  • I can forgive myself for the miscalculation during my cash builder, but by the time I went back up for the final chase I had heard Sara read at her speed 3x. I should have calibrated based on that. Doing so would have gotten me *at least* 2 more Qs correct "may" and "comedians in cars getting coffee". I will be shamed forever by "May".
  • Sigh. I swear to God I know that May is the month with the shortest name. I ACTUALLY KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE MONTH OF MAY!!!!
  • Also on the accordion putback question I had no idea who that musician was but evey fiber in my being was for some reason simply SCREAMING accordion! accordion! accordion! and I overrode my gut and said guitar and I will never ever not listen to my gut in a situation like that again.
  • In the end I did not win but I was happy with myself in the solo final. Based on my earlier performance in the episode when I got 3 rapid fire questions correct in a one minute you would extrapolate that I'd get 6 correct in 2 minutes. Instead I got 12 (+ a one pt bonus that every individual player in the final gets), doubling my earlier rate and I made it a game, and it was fun, and I got a shoutout from Brad on a game well played (he's a good dude), and I knew what a cuttlefish was when Mr. Ken Jennings himself dismissed the idea of me knowing it because it was "hard" so I was happy and now I have another story to tell. The end.
Now lets get into this week's recs!
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.


As this newsletter's title would indicate, I recommend everything you'll find below. It's all stuff which I've personally found rewarding this week and I think you will too! But for the benefit of all you skimmers out there here are links to a few items that I'm happy to briefly highlight for you. You can find more detailed commentary/context below:

The Three Kinds of Sitcoms
A useful paradigm for analysing down TV comedies that you encounter

Winning Back The Internet By Building Our Own
Why community internets and NOT "The Internet" are the tech future we should pursue.

A 1932 Nightclub Map of Harlem
If you were trying to have a good time uptown in the last days of prohibition this was what you needed.

WES Around the WEB

F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K
F O L L O W on T W I T T E R F O L L O W on T W I T T E R
F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M


What Are We Doing Here?

On the day we officially and collectively honor the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. I took some time to look through some primary sources and found so much that speaks to as urgently today as it did during his life. Here are some images and quotes from a piece he wrote for The Socialist Call in 1956 (Vol. XXIV, 6 June 1956). I imagine that a lot of people who've rendered his searing words down to toothless & comfortable platitudes about "unity" and "peace" to be regurgitated onto social media every 3rd Monday in January would be scandalized about him submitting work to a loudly socialist publication, but that's what he was about. Radical love, radical socialism, radical change. It got him killed, yet he speaks to us still.
The ‘New Negro’ of the South: Behind the Montgomery Story - The Socialist Call (1956)

PDF of original publication

Transcript (with notes) from Stanford University
It seems to be a fact of life that human nature cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some rationalization which will help to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.


Truly it was an obnoxious negative peace, for true peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—confusion, tension, war—but the presence of some positive force—justice, good will, brotherhood.


The story of Montgomery is the story of 50,000 Negroes who are tired of injustices and oppression, and who are willing to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk and walk until the walls of injustice are crushed by the battering rams of historical necessity. This is the new Negro. We have come a long way since 1619.


But history has proven that social systems have a great last-minute breathing power. And the guardians of the status-quo are always on hand with their oxygen tents to preserve the dying order.


Let’s not fool ourselves. We are far from the promised land, both North and South. In the South we still confront segregation in its glaring and conspicuous forms. In the North we confront it in its hidden and subtle forms. Segregation is still a fact. It is true that segregation is on its death bed. But history has proven that social systems have a great last-minute breathing power. And the guardians of the status-quo are always on hand with their oxygen tents to preserve the dying order.
Here's a solid WTF litany of just a fraction of the absurd, quizzical, toddler-ish, embarrassing things that 45 did while in office over the past few years. Mind you, this isn't the traitorous/murderous/impeachable stuff that he will go down in history for. No these are just some of the highlights of the everyday/pathetic/did he just do that??? behavior that many of us managed to simply forget amidst the endless the crapstorm of norm-breaking villainy. Any 3 of these things would've absolutely defined the presidency of any of his predecessors but this type of behavior became so commonplace that we all just re-wired our brains to expect it, note it for maybe a day, and then get primed for the next inevitable thing and kind of how fascist regimes win. They grind you and break you down and serve you outrage after outrage until each new crossing of the line elicits a weaker and more weary response, until line-crossing is "just what's done now". What a petulant, ignorant, waste of air.

Nothing in America is "fixed". We are not "done". There is so very much work to do and both in the short term and on a fundamental level. Furthermore this blowbag and the the forces he represents are still very much with us and actively working on the same agenda they've always had. But I'm thrilled that he doesn't have his old job anymore and that, at least for now, he's lost his favorite megaphone.
Trump Destroyed The Most Important Virtue In America - The Atlantic

I'm quoting this one at length because I think it is one of the best diagnoses I've seen of a specific & central element of our current mess. We are burdened by unchecked inhumane capitalism, and an enduring legacy of white supremacy, no doubt. But those are core parts of what America is. The un-seriousness detailed here is a core part of how America is. A sense that our actions have real consequences that aren't just personal and immediate, an acknowledgment of the contextuality and inter-connectedness of everything, a conviction that we can't just sit back and let our world be made for us, that we have to participate in it, and not just on behalf of ourselves but for people we don't know and may not like, and for people who aren't born yet, all of this has been greatly degraded in America. Trump didn't cause all of that but he is the supreme manifestation of it and a huge part of the work ahead is obliterating this abdication of responsibility and investment.

While this piece is a bit too fawning re: the "Founding Fathers" and way too dismissive of the legitimate rage and specific goals of the protests of last summer the analysis of this part of our shared problem is on point and I can't recommend it enough.
We are expecting far too much of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris if we think they can fix all of the damage Donald Trump did to the republic. Presidents and vice presidents are not wizards. They cannot rewind history. They cannot single-handedly make us better people.

However, I do believe that Biden can inspire the American people to regain one of the most important virtues Trump destroyed: seriousness, our understanding that ideas, actions, and words matter.

The collapse of seriousness is the greatest loss we have sustained under Trump, one of the least serious human beings ever to occupy a position of great power in America. What do I mean by seriousness? It is the burden of knowing that we own our decisions, that our actions have consequences. It is the sense of responsibility that helps us to act without being ordered to act, the instinct that tells us, even when we are alone, that we owe a duty to others and that our behavior affects them as much as it does ourselves.


Authoritarian regimes are less serious than democracies. It may seem strange to say that, because the day-to-day existence in such places is so grim. But authoritarianism relies on fatalism, which is one of the most pernicious forms of unseriousness. When nothing is in our control, nothing really matters. The experience of life dwindles down to taking care of one’s family and trying not to get sideways with those in charge.


It should not, of course, have been a shock that America under Trump became a collection of overgrown adolescents who were incapable of facing adversity. When the time came for genuine seriousness—literally, a matter of life and death—America was a nation of spoiled children, sullen when corrected, explosive with rage when forced to do anything they found unpleasant, ready to lecture others on why the Constitution gave them the right to wear a surgical mask on their chin.

If you'd asked me at age 17 what my favorite movie was I would have probably said Fight Club. I thought it was fun, well-made, movie with great acting and some memorable dialogue, and a great sense of dark humor. I would have also said that I "identified" with Tyler Durden and his rejection of empty modern mass culture. I went out and bought the book as soon as I could after watching the movie. And I definitely had quotes from it as my AIM away message for years (forgive me).

About 20 years later I still think that Fight Club is an entertaining, darkly comic movie with great acting and dialogue but I also recognize that its characters have a deeply fascist worldview (ex. a feeling of persecution despite being not being persecuted, a glorification of violence as the only way to earn one's place in society, an equation of anything "feminine" with "weakness", the belief that a formerly great and powerful group [all men in this case] need to take back their glory from a degenerate society that's robbed & weakened them, etc). And now, after having lived outside my mom's house, experiencing meaningful relationships with women, and reading books other than Catcher In The Rye and...Fight Club, I see that Tyler Durden is kind of pathetic.

I mean, I share his belief in the emptiness and soul death of modern global capitalism, I just don't think that the pathway out of that is.... entering a cult-like secret society + punching dudes in a damp basement + domestic terrorism.

All of which brings me to this excellent analysis of the recent Qanon cosplay storming of the Capitol and a central motivating current for the movement behind it. This was not a published article but rather a Facebook post from friend and fellow Story Studio storytelling instructor Brad Lawrence. Brad's a great performer and as of late has been dropping some true gems about our political moment on social media. I read the following commentary by him and knew I wanted to share it here so I reached out and asked for his permission to share it here and I'm so glad he said yes. You check out Brad and his work HERE and HERE. As soon as I read his words I thought of the above speech from Tyler Durden (words by Chuck Palahniuk) and I think this is a solid pairing and food for thought.
There is a small part of all of this that is just people not being able to believe that this is it, this is life. Having a job, paying a mortgage, raising kids, taking your car to the shop.

You are not going to be an action hero, there is no plot, there are no big bad guys that are doing something clearly evil (like molesting kids in the basement of a pizza parlor) and it is not up to you to take up arms to stop them.

This is it. Health insurance, kids' college bills, figuring out how to take care of your parents' senior years.

And I can tell you where this comes from.

I was raised evangelical Christian in the 80s at exactly the moment that faith was starting to grow. This was when the language of dark forces and secret cabals started to creep into it. You were a warrior for Jesus in a secular world that was trying to oppress you because of your faith. Cable and MTV were trying to seduce your kids to try drugs, barcode symbols on commercial products all translated to the Number of the Beast, and your neighbors were running satanic cults in the basement of their daycares. It was exciting, it was the end times, and everything was couched in language that said you were in a war against secret evil.

All that might have stayed on its reservation if not for the fact that the evangelical movement grew fast and, at the same time, became the heart of the Republican party. That idea of seeing yourself as an oppressed people who needed to arm yourself for a war - in spite of your two car garage and peaceful streets and abundant food - that language is the same language as conspiracy theorists and militias and white supremacist groups and the NRA. It blurred the lines between the language of morality and the language of paranoia.

All of those groups are now the base of the Trump movement.

People wonder why seemingly normal people with pensions are showing up on the Capitol touting the paranoid slogans of White Nationalist conspiracy groups on behalf of a man who has affairs with porn stars and holds a bible upside down. It is because evangelical ministers like the one that taught my youth group, Kingsley Walker, employed the language of oppression and threat and secret wars to keep butts in seats. It was like an inoculation to ideas that, without that priming, they might have found abhorrent.

But instead, the racists and the Lizard people nut jobs just sounded familiar. There was that same sense of urgency and danger and unseen actors.

And they didn't sound like someone trying to explain your mom's medicare paperwork to you. Which is the sound of meaninglessness and drudgery. Who wouldn't want life to be more than that? Who wouldn't be tempted to lie to themselves to have life be more than that?
Haddonfield’s Teens Just Want to “Cancel” Michael Myers - McSweeney’s

LOL. McSweeny's is once again on point with this satire re: the sudden calls for leniency and forgiveness for the Capitol insurrectionists who intended to murder congress members and who actually murdered a cop...especially when it's coming from people who wanted to put BLM protestors in a cage for 10 years for [checks notes] blocking traffic. Look our carceral state is still rotten to the core and I don't want to see it enhanced or bolstered in any way but this is about calling out some BS when you see some BS and it is brilliant.
This PC mob of high schoolers sees a savvy, successful guy with a mild case of vengeful and misogynistic bloodlust, and they become hellbent on tearing him down at any cost. They’ve been after him his entire career. First, they broke into hysterics when he murdered his sister at age six and had him locked up in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. And now, they want him punished for the gruesome killing spree he performed in Haddonfield on Halloween night? When he’s sure to be skipping town in a few days anyway? Give me a break.


This is not what our community needs right now. Locking up Michael Myers does not bring Haddonfield together. It only cements the growing divide between teenage babysitters and the slashers who hunt and kill them. And without unity, how can we as a town properly heal from the string of murders he committed?
Random: this ought to trouble your mind for a few mins. This arrangement on (on a verbal and numerical level) goes against all that is right in the universe.

COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

I tested the dumbest PPE of all time - the Rich Guy COVID Helmet - SF Gate

COVID has brought us pretty much no "good news" over the past year so It was just nice to just sit back and enjoy this product review/ humor piece dunking on a $300 virus helmet.
Because why wear a mask that fits in your pocket when you can buy something 50 times more cumbersome? The good(?) folks at Microclimate introduced this douche-ified face shield in August, when the dreaded second spike — which we are now smack dab in the middle of — was on the horizon. So I did what any enterprising journalist would have done at the time: I bought one. Actually, I contacted Microclimate’s PR department to ask for a free one first, and then I heard nothing, and THEN I bought one and expensed it to my editor.

Sticker price at the time was $199. As of this writing, the helmet now costs $299, because, according to an email I got from Microclimate, “the addition of HEPA 11 air filters in the current design has increased the cost of producing.” Well I DO love HEPA 11 filters; they’re my second favorite HEPA after hepatitis. But I love a good bargain even more.


I felt safer indoors with the helmet on than a mask, although this safety would have been compromised the second I needed a sip of water. Microclimate’s site says that “the fabric portion may be lifted for eating and drinking,” which sounds like a fantastic benefit until you ponder why you’re wearing the f—king thing to begin with. I can see a place for this helmet among people who have to stay inside for long stretches, particularly anyone working in retail or at a restaurant. I can see employers GIVING these to their essential workers to keep them extra safe as they toil away. But that’s not who or what this thing was designed for. It’s sold as bonus comfort for the already comfortable, and the price of that will never go down.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

The Austerity Politics of White Supremacy - Dissent

The idea that only white people are "real" Americans, and that only disaffected working class red staters in rural diners are worth listening to when talking about the woes of America is part and parcel of the white supremacist DNA baked into America. These positions, whether directly stated or implied, are to be found throughout our public discourse (witness the recent calls by various GOP figures to issue blanket dismissals of the vote counts of entire cities in the presidential elections...provided those cities had significant Black populations).

But another, more politically acceptable, way white supremacists advance their agendas is by appealing to the interests of "the taxpayer". In this line of attack social programs that ultimately benefit everyone like government assistance, Medicare For All, and low-income housing (in modern times) or public schooling and universal male suffrage (in the Reconstruction era) are cast as treasury drainers that do nothing but benefit a "lazy" and undeserving them (i.e. Black people) while harming the upright and by-the-bootstraps (white) taxpayer. The people making these arguments are always elite whites who know that they can keep ALL of the have-nots down if they can convince the white have-nots to hate the Black ones. You know the Lyndon Johnson quote, there's a reason it's because it's true AF.

Anyway this article gets into the historical weeds on this tactic, specifically as it relates to the closing days of Reconstruction when wealthy former slave owners in the south got spooked by the growing alliance between ex-slaves and poor whites and jumped in to squash it under the nose of Federal troops by taking about taxes instead of races. It was a despicable, but effective move and it had ramifications we feel even today.
Long before Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, the dog-whistle rhetoric of austerity provided a socially acceptable veneer for racism. And long before the Trumpist GOP, the agenda of the American right was undermining democracy and passing tax cuts for the rich. When the former Confederate elite mobilized to successfully overthrow the multiracial Reconstruction-era governments in the South 150 years ago, it was under the banner of fiscal conservatism.


They settled on another solution: bring poorer whites to their side, intimidate black voters, and reclaim power in the state by any means necessary—all without provoking the ire of Northerners, whose commitment to federal troops in the South was an essential protection for black voters. Taking up the mantle of the taxpayer aided the convention in all three endeavors.


The Vicksburg Massacre was no anomaly. Economist Trevon Logan finds that public finance was directly related to the strength of the violent reaction to Reconstruction. The chances of a local black politician being attacked increased three percentage points “for each additional dollar of per capita tax revenue collected in 1870.” Where taxes had increased more, the violence against black politicians was higher.


Remarkably, Gary’s original draft of his “Plan of the Campaign 1876,” which was edited and sent to Democratic county leaders across South Carolina, has been preserved. “Democratic Military Clubs are to be armed with rifles and pistols,” he wrote. “Every Democrat must feel honor bound to control the vote of at least one Negro, by intimidation, purchase, keeping him away or as each individual may determine, how he may best accomplish it.” Gary’s original plan told Democrats to “Never threaten a man individually if he deserves to be threatened, the necessities of the times require that he should die.” This campaign was part of a wave of violence and intimidation that swept white supremacists back to power; it would be nearly a century before black men in South Carolina would again be able to exercise their right to vote.
‘We are sending more foster kids to prison than college’ - Kansas City Star (2019)

What a brutal and infuriating read. We rightly call out and condemn the school to prison pipeline which, by introducing cops into schools and turning "offenses" that used to result in detention into "crimes" that can land students in juvenile hall, gets an increasing number of children looped into the criminal punishment system every year. But I was totally blind to the foster care to prison pipeline which is at least as infuriating, if not more so. Kids are removed from their families (mostly for neglect, not abuse) and instead of giving their biological families the support they need to end that neglect (financial assistance, substance abuse treatment, mental health assistance, proper housing, etc) they pay thousands of dollars per year to strangers (often well-meaning but sometimes definitely not) to care for them, even if it means separating siblings, even if it means kids being passed around to dozens of foster arrangements and new schools over a few years, even if it means the kids are then left totally alone, jobless, homeless, and traumatized the minute they hit 18. These numbers are and the stories recounted her are just outrageous.

Most states spend a fraction of their budget dollars on family preservation efforts, even though more kids are removed for neglect than abuse. Most of the $30 billion spent on child welfare annually is funneled into foster care or adoption services, despite a 40-year-old federal mandate that prioritizes family preservation. More dollars are spent on investigating families than trying to keep them together.

Emerging science that suggests multiple foster care placements can actually harm a child’s brain. Some kids are moved dozens of times — a few as many as 100 times — over several years. Foster children are diagnosed with PTSD at a rate greater than Iraq war veterans.


Jess McDonald took over Illinois’ child welfare system in the mid-1990s and was credited with turning around the troubled agency in his nine-year tenure.

The state, however, has since returned to high-level dysfunction, including a recent case in which foster kids were being transported in handcuffs and leg shackles — a practice that has now been prohibited by the agency.


Williamson, meanwhile, continued to move from home to home. Three families, he said, wanted to — or did — adopt him. But none ultimately worked out.

He has a constant reminder of that final failed adoption.

“I still have the last name of someone who gave me back,” Williamson said. “It doesn’t feel very good. It makes me feel like I’m not wanted anymore.”


🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

Winning back the Internet by building our own - Roar

Damn this is good. And more than good it's...inspiring. I am absolutely committing myself to learning more about basic home and local networking this year. It's not that hard and all the resources you need for it are free online and it is as vital a skill set for those interested in building strong local communities that can survive the abuses and neglect of a hostile political power structure as community farming and mutual aid networks. When we say "The Internet" in everyday usage the "I" is rightly capitalized because it is referring to a specific (corporate) network filled with Facebooks and Twitters and Googles. Communities need to work to build their own individual internets, specific to their needs for the purposes of organizing, educating, archiving, sharing, and developing a shared sense of local place/community. We spend so much of our lives online these days, and while we could all probably do with less time there, a realistic view of the benefits of technology and connectivity means that a Luddite return to a pastoral age is doomed and stupid. The answer is to step back from the hyper-capitalist global Matrix and step into a hyper-local web of family, friends, neighbors, experts and comrades. This is so exciting.
This is how the modern Internet as we know it today was shaped. For years, we have seen the Internet used to surveil, divide and control people. Would-be dictators like Trump and others across the globe use the Internet to bend both people and institutions to their will using misinformation and fear. Today, for most of us the Internet is little more than a heavily surveilled, over-policed Electronic Strip Mall in which we are carefully herded from one company’s property to another. But this, too, is not an inevitable outcome of the digital internetworking technologies we have at our disposal.


For a very long time, no one paid for Internet access because Internet access was not something that was sold. It was like a public beachfront at the ocean. If you were near it, you could jump in, no credit card required. The nature of the technology itself meant that if you had a computer running an operating system with a TCP/IP software stack installed, like any modern Windows, macOS, or GNU/Linux distribution, you could extend the Internet. All you had to do is connect your computer to another computer already pre-attached to it. As with BitTorrent, there was no other special software or hardware required, and everyone who wanted to download files could, by definition, also upload files. And, more importantly, this is still true about internetworking software today.


To make the Internet fulfill the promise of its earlier incarnations and beat back the forces of industrialization suffocating the promise of freedom online, we must first build new, local internets. The Internet collapses our experience of distance because every location in cyberspace feels no further than any other location. But we must resist the temptation to abandon the physical realm, and thereby the Earth, by focusing instead on interconnecting our local networks with the local networks of those around us. This enables local coordination on local infrastructure, rather than on Facebook’s, which is a key step towards a community-owned and surveillance-resistant network.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

The Three Kinds of Sitcoms - Fresh Takes, Real Talk

This is a light read but a welcome one and a really helpful framework for analyzing sitcoms that I'm happy to have in my brain. it makes the argument that with very rare exception all sitcoms can be typed as either:
  • House: A family dealing with family stuff, located mainly in the family home. People you did not "choose" to be with but whom you love deeply. (ex. Family Matters, Roseanne)
  • Workplace: You guessed it, people at work doing work stuff. You did not choose the people and you mostly don't want to be in the place but jointly coping with that experience bonds you. Sitcoms set in schools are basically workplace sitcoms for kids and teens. (Ex. The Office, Saved By The Bell)
  • Apartment: Young adults who don't have homes yet coping with dating, jobs, getting older, and (often) living in the big city. People you choose. (Living Single, Friends)
Apartments: But not everyone is a House person! This is a type that relates to one demographic (youngish people in cool cities) and appeals to the daydreams of all the others (ah, to be youngish in a cool city). The characters here have found a third way to relate to people: neither coworkers nor family members, the main people in your adventures are just friends. The minor people are assorted weirdos. I think of this as a slightly less common model, but when it catches on, it really catches on (Seinfeld, Friends, Sex and the City). Lifestyle porn is a key component here; people usually live in apartments no one in their age group or state of employment could afford. If they’re not as fortunate, that’s a key plot point (Broad City). To a certain extent, you could get away with calling this model “New York”, but Happy Endings, one of the best of these, is set in Chicago, so we’ll stick with Apartments. Incidentally, some early family-ish sitcoms were set in apartments instead of houses (The Honeymooners); that’s one reason why my classification system is better than Wikipedia’s. How do you account for Ethel and Fred if “family” is your criterion for I Love Lucy? But they definitely live in apartments, and having couples friends around easily fits that.


Community. Part of me wants to say workplace; schools are the workplace for kids’ sitcoms, and initially the study group acts like coworkers, people who only hang out because they’re the most tolerable among the strangers they’re forced to be around all day. But eventually they become actual friends, hanging out outside the workplace all the time, and even returning to the school when they could leave. Not coincidentally, we start to see more and more of their apartments as this happens. Eventually, Troy, Abed and Annie even live together. This is an innovative and weird show in all kinds of ways; one is that it’s the rare show about friends that starts before they’re friends. Verdict: Apartment Sitcom.


Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

What an awesome piece of history that I stumbled upon while stumbling upon the MLK editorial included above. This is an intricate and informative (and funny) map of Harlem nightlife drawn up by noted Black illustrator E. Simms Cambell in 1932.
  • This map (showing the location of various notable nightclubs with pictures of liquor being served), talking about a "gin shorty" as the "national drink" of Harlem, and referencing the over 500 speakeasies that were to be found in Harlem at the time was published originally in Manhattan Magazine in 1932 before being reprinted in Esquire in 1933. Since Prohibition was on the books through December 5, 1933 I'm not sure how that was legal, but I'm glad it happened.
  • Cambell worked at Esquire for decades and was the first Black illustrator to be published in the most prominent glossy magazines. He actually invented the "Esky" character for Esquire. I had never even heard of that before but it was interesting to find out that Esquire had an off-brand version of what Eustace Tilly is for The New Yorker.
Here's a National Geographic article from a few years ago about the map that I found and below is a picture of Campbell.
Earl "Snake Hips" Tucker, one of the entertainers mentioned on the map doing the dance movements he innovated and from which he earned his nickname. You don't need to have seen too much vintage James Brown and Michael Jackson and breaking and popping and locking to recognize his influence.
What Were They Thinking?? - Lobster From 1755

I'm both a good New England boy and a student of history so I love lobster and know that prior to the 20th century it was hardly considered luxury cuisine like it is today. In fact it was somewhat reviled and considered a "trash fish" (lobster being a bottom feeder and all) and prisoners in Massachusetts complained about the indignity of being fed so much of it.

As such, this vintage 1755 lobster recipe goes to some decent lengths to mask the flavor of what you're eating by deep frying it and then smothering it with a claret/butter sauce. I've watched a fair amount of this guy's colonial/vintage recipe videos and while I always find them fascinating from a historical perspective I rarely get excited about the prospect of ever replicating any of them myself because [newsflash] colonial American cooks didn't really know jack squat about SEASONING. Seriously you got like salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, butter, and various types of booze to enhance your cooking and that was mostly it.

However, this preparation of lobster (and the sauce that goes with it) actually looks kind of dope so I'll go ahead and say that I'll give it a whirl between now and summer. I'll document it here when I do.
Personally, I was a woman whose significant other proposed to me on a Jumbo-tron in front of a packed stadium I think I'd shoot my S.O.

That said, it is fascinating to see this breakdown of how much each major league ballpark charges for assisting in these bananas PDAs (and the parks that straight up don't offer it). Dodger Stadium in LA is a cool grand more expensive than the next priciest team on the list. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pittsburgh needs to show some self worth and stop selling themselves sort for thirty-nine dollars?!?! I hate the practice, but if you're going to help mortify someone in front of 40,000 people you should charge more than what 2 beers and a sausage sandwich costs at Fenway Park (shoutout to the BoSox).

El Vestido: Un drama del barbie, en español

OK, so on Inauguration Day I spent 13 hours on the set of a random TV show doing background acting. At least 5 hours of that was total do-nothing downtime. I was on my phone for a lot of it and went down a few hope-scrolling rabbit holes (hope scrolling is the exact same thing as doom scrolling but instead of content about plague, fascism, & police brutality it's about Bernie Sanders memes, reuniting migrant families, and COVID relief legislation). After hours of this I somehow landed on this barbie doll re-enactment of a telenovela scene. And I just had so many questions.

I know enough 10th grade Spanish to have gotten the basic gist of it, but I was left wondering what was this from? Why did someone make this?? Why is it so elaborate??? How true is it to the original scene???? Inquiring minds had to know.

Now, I ran into this on an Instagram post with no attribution to the original content so I literally had to google lines of Spanish dialogue in order to get a bead on it. Copious Wikipedia trudging then followed.
The scene being reenacted is from a 2010 telenovela with some strong Madame Bovary vibes called Teresa, which itself was a remake of a 1989 series of the same name which starred Salma Hayek.

Here's a kind of chopped up version of the original scene (if you want to view it in full just google "teresa aida vestido" and watch the videos that are on Facebook.
Random Viewing

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

pons asinorum, n
[ PAWNZ - ASS - ih - nor -umm]

Meaning: An obstacle or problem which will defeat an unskilled or foolish person.

Origin:  post-classical Latin pons asinorum, literally ‘bridge of asses’. It has been suggested that asses were unwilling to go onto hump-backed bridges because they could not see beyond the summit as they began to cross.

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • There are more living things on and inside your body than there are people on Earth.
  • Per a calculation of Forbes Magazine Scrooge McDuck's net worth is $44.1B
  • Australia (diameter 4000 km) is wider than the moon (diameter 3400 km), though the moon has far more surface area.
  • A shrimp's heart is in its head. Also they have open circulatory systems, meaning they have no arteries and their organs float directly in blood.
  • Google Image Search was created in 2000 as a direct result of so many people searching for pictures of Jennifer Lopez's bold dress at the Grammys that year.
Copyright © 2021 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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