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WesRecs

Vol. #50 - October 16, 2020

Hello! And welcome to the quinquagesimal edition of WesRecs! On the one hand that is a totally arbitrary number, not particularly deserving of any special recognition. On the other hand, holy crap! I can't beleive we've done this half a hundred times. Special shoutout to the 14 of you who read this every week, I truly can't tell you how much it means to me. I have definite ideas about what this newsletter is and what I want it to be but in between all that it is just very fun to compile this every week. It hhelps me organize my thoughts, gives my life a bit of structure (especially important in the last 7 months!), and gives me an opportunity to share cool stuff with people I like and strangers who I'm sure I'd like. Thanks once again.

So let's see what's been up with me this week.

I'm continuing to get back into doing background/extra work on NYC film and TV productions now that the public health situation is allowing for that (we'll see how long that lasts...). It's been an interesting process with, understandably, quite a few hoops to jump through on the safety front. Every job requires an off-site COVID test a few days before taping and that's what brought me to this insanity.

Look, *Of course* there’d be a pop-up COVID shop in Manhattan that offers portable air filters, pulse oximeters, uv lights, designer masks, & rapid testing all with a sleek Apple store aesthetic (while playing downbeat EDM) but when you see it for the first time...it's a lot. I did get to take my own temperature using a thermal camera when I walked in and it did leave a giant infrared image of my confused (non-feverish) face on the hanging plasma screen TV until the next person came in a few minutes later, so there's that.
Moving on, I'm delighted (and astounded) to say that the Tomato plant I've been tending to since like...June FINALLY fruited. Dear reader I had given hope so very long ago. I'd been helping out at a local community garden by transferring a bunch of plants from a nursery into raised beds. I asked if I could take one of them home and was given a decent sized pot and a great soil/compost/perlite mix. What I lacked was the botanical knowledge to know that a tomato plant needs to be grown outside so that it can be properly pollinated and actually spout fruit. After 3 weeks of it sitting inside on my bookcase it had gotten considerably larger but wasn't flowering or fruiting. I checked in with my garden contact, discovered my idiocy, and brought it outside. There it sat in my backyard for *months* getting bigger and bigger but growing nothing. I had some hope 2 months ago when it flowered but those died and I figured that was it, better luck next time. But then THIS HAPPENED. So, I'm basically a farmer now.
On the viewing front: The Art Of Self Defense was a tense, singular, weird af comedy that I definitely enjoyed but which I'm also not entirely UN-troubled by. Back in the day I used to get Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera mixed up in my head (what with the run of fragile, awkward, stork-like roles in each of their respective filmographies). In the last few years it's seemed to me that Eisenberg has displayed a range that Cera just can't match (not due to any lack of talent, MC can act, but just because of presence and look). But Eisenberg is doing his best Cera here and it is alternatively sad, creepy, & cool. It's a dark comedy, but toward the back end it starts to shed some of the laughs and just get dangerous as it explores fear & masculinity...but without ever breaking its adherence to the ethos of a suburban karate dojo with kids classes on Saturdays. This movie could've gone the wrong way if it had been been winking to the camera or was only a wry commentary on the 80s/90s karate movie craze. Instead every single character takes the world very seriously and that makes the back end so much more brutal. Loved it. Feel weird.
OK, so here's WesRecs 50 and here's to 50 more. I boldly stated last week that was going to make this one the best ever.Truth be told, while I'm very fond of this one for a lot of reasons I'm not sure it's my personal fav. If you like the newsletter generally you'll like this one, but for all that I'd hoped to stuff into this week's volume I ended up getting rather sidetracked for a very cool reason. That opportunity that I talked about back in Vol. 47, after being mentally left for dead, seems to have actually come to fruition. I am thrilled. It has taken a lot of my attention this week. I'm not trying to be coy or anything but I won't say anything else about it (partly because with the public health situation and the upcoming election being what they are literally anything could happen before it goes down. And partly because I can't talk about it). I'll let you know when/if I can but I have no regrets in giving it the time that it needed this week.

On the cooking front, unlike beef, pan seared scallops really should be well done.

Anyway, here's to the fiftieth. 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.

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COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

As Twitter was quick to remind us this week: While The White House hosted a COVID superspreader event last month the NBA was able to host 22 teams and staff for nearly 3 months and 172 games with not a single case. The former was...sadly to be expected, the latter? Incredible. The logistics involved in this just...wow...I can't even imagine how many books and doctoral theses are going to be written on this from the perspective of epidemiology, sports, economics, communications, management, facilities management, psychology, etc etc. It's amazing what can be done in our society when billions of dollars and prime advertising opportunities are involved. No shade - what was done was remarkable. Why it was done was obvious.

An entire ecosystem of people had to be fed on a daily basis to make this project a success and this profile of the only independent (not hired by a specific team) chef in the bubble was a great watch. It's a person who's passionate about their work (and kind of a self-confessed control freak about it) working in conditions that are unlike anything they've ever been in before, and delivering day after day after day. Cool to watch a master and cool to get a glimpse of the protocols involved in this endeavor.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

California kept prison factories open. Inmates worked for pennies an hour as COVID-19 spread - LA Times

Slavery never died, it just got turned into prison. What was/is being asked of, and inflicted upon, these people is despicable.
 
"California’s prison system has taken drastic measures to combat the coronavirus, halting rehab programs, religious services and educational classes. But correctional authorities kept one type of operation running through much of the last six months: prison factories.

Hall was one of thousands of incarcerated workers who stayed on the job in high-risk positions during the pandemic, making wages that ranged from 8 cents to $1 an hour. They cooked the food. They walked from cell to cell delivering meals. They cleaned everything from communal showers to COVID-19 units in prison hospitals. And they labored in prison factories making products, such as masks, hand sanitizer and furniture, that were sold to state agencies for millions of dollars."

...

"Factory staff, they said, warned that workers would lose their jobs — their only source of income — if they missed a day. Some said they were threatened with discipline that could jeopardize their chances for release from prison if they refused to work because of COVID-19 fears.

At the Chino prison, workers said, supervisors kept raising the daily quotas, from 2,000 to 3,000 to 3,500 masks. Seven days a week, the women cranked out masks until their bodies ached, and all they could do at night was collapse asleep in their cells.

It was “like a slave factory,” Hall said. “The more you give them, the more they want.”"

...

"“I am just trying to make it out alive,” said Sheri Hughes, a worker in the Chino prison kitchen, where inmates come from different housing units and several have become infected with the coronavirus. “I was not sentenced to death in prison.”"
The Bleak Resonance of ‘Native Son’ - NYRB

Really cool approach in this piece. It yokes together Richard Wright's classic novel (while forcefully rebutting James Baldwin's classic critique of it) and the back-to-back anti-black violence this spring of the Cooper v. Cooper Central Park showdown and the murder of George Floyd and it does it well and it makes some points that need to be made and raises some questions that maybe we can't answer. These incidents were mere months ago and it feels like an avalanche of hurt, disbelief, anger, hope, dashed hope, fear, and WTF have happened since then. Anyway, I liked this piece a lot.
 
"And yet, to understand the nature of American racism it is important to understand these two independent incidents not separately, but together. The brutal and the banal; the lethal and the liberal; the violence that is inflicted and the violence that is implied. For they operate not separately, but in concert. Amy’s threat makes no sense without the promise of Chauvin’s violence; his violence would not be possible without the tacit endorsement of those like her. Both knew they were being filmed. One must assume that they would not have acted in that way if they could have foreseen the ramifications. As such, each, in their own way, betrays the reflexes, impulses, and instincts of people who believe such behavior will elicit no consequences beyond bending the world, and the racial subordinates whom they encounter within it, to their will."

...

"With Tyshon, as with Bigger, it is, of course, vital to talk about personal responsibility. Both young men made choices; they made bad ones. The decisions they made affected others in devastating ways. Had I picked another day to cover gun deaths, I could well have been profiling one of Tyshon’s victims. Not only are both the products of racism, they inflict considerable pain on the people, most often the black people, around them. All of this matters.

And yet, none of it counts for much unless one is also prepared to talk about the collective responsibility for a society that creates the culture, and the odds, in which individuals must operate. Good choices, by themselves, are not enough. One study, by sociologist David Pager, revealed how employment chances differ according to race and criminal status. With black and white individuals presenting almost identical credentials including a high school diploma, a white man with a criminal record was slightly more likely to be considered for a job than a black man without one. A paper presented to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference in October 2014 revealed that, by the time they get to forty, high school dropouts born to rich families are as likely to be earning high salaries as college graduates from poor families. Or as The Washington Post put it: “Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong.”"
Racism Is a Reboot: Binging Battlestar Galactica at the End of a World - The Rumpus

I shouted out Franny Choi's invaluable advice for reading poems out loud way back in WesRecs 29 and I'm happy to include here again, this time with a distinctive piece about race, eternal return, & Battlestar Galactica. I loved that show and I loved the way that its used here as a blastoff point into some essential exploration. 
 
"Inevitably, an us-versus-them story that grapples with what it means to be human will also be driven by the question of race. It bears mentioning that Boomer and the other Eights are the only East Asians—and among very few characters of color—on BSG. Watching the show, it was easy to see how Boomer became the figure that launched a thousand scholarly articles. Bearing both the full weight of representing East Asian women on the show and the most in-depth case study in the “problem” of Cylon identity, she is the point at which those two concepts converge. That is, Boomer reflects back many of the racist associations that have historically linked East Asians to robots: inscrutable, unfeeling, identical, dangerously communal, and out to destroy us (“us” being relative). Juliana Hu Pegues calls her “the epitome of yellow peril,” the oldest and most enduring framework for anti-Asian sentiment in the United States. Watching Cylon raiders scatter across space like insects from a hive, I couldn’t help but think of the political cartoon I’d seen just a few weeks before, the one from 1878, depicting Chinese immigrants as a plague of locusts. Like I said: all this has happened before, and all this will happen again."

...

"There’s no comfort in the cyclical nature of things when the thing being repeated is the absolute raw deal of white supremacy. Of course, naming the repetitions of history is necessary work, especially for those whom privilege has soothed into ignorance. But for those who already know, re-diagnosing the persistence of white supremacy is such a short-lived antidote, ultimately, to the problem of “now, more than ever.” To say, “racism then is racism now” makes a neat little square, a tight argument, and then—what? It’s 2020, and I watch my friends ride along the same tracks of outrage, mourning, over-grind, burnout. Again, my friends are grieving thirty things at once: it’s the anniversary of the Pulse shooting; it’s the anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. The new news is old news, but being well-versed in one’s danger is not the same thing as being safe."

...

"Instead, I’ll end by talking about where Cylons go when they die. Like I mentioned, when a Cylon’s body is killed, her consciousness is transferred to a new body on board what they call the “resurrection ship.” They wake up floating in a tank of primordial goo, screaming and shaking from the memory of death, which, the show insists, is horrible whether or not you wake up on the other side. For the humans, the phenomenon of Cylon regeneration makes fighting them a Sisyphean task. (“They’ll just download into a new body. What’s the point?” grumbles one resistance fighter as he rigs an explosive.) But for Cylons, it means death becomes, as Athena puts it, “a learning experience,” one so profound that, at one point, one Cylon model even embarks on a series of research trips via suicide. In that gap between dying and reawakening, mysteries swirl; faces emerge from the shadows. Things change. So: what’s the difference between one cycle and the next? Everything that happens in the process, including the pain, the shock, the strange images that rush past in the dark, and then, the stiffness as you learn to move, speak, and fight again."

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

Watch Out! - Lapham’s Quarterly

Bob Marley, de-colonization, Zimbabwe, revolutionary music, & the bastard Cecil Rhodes, this article had it all. This needs a Buena Vista Social Club documentary made about it ASAP before it's too late.

 
"The day before the concert Marley had traveled to the mountainous agricultural hub of Mutoko to visit tobacco farmers and sample some of the region's indigenous produce. During his visit to Zimbabwe, the musician spent time with the locals, choosing to stay at the Skyline Hotel, located on the outskirts of Harare and known as a haunt frequented mostly by the Black working class looking for a good time. His one-day concert was extended to two; the second show brought in about a hundred thousand people. This time there was no tear gas. Marley’s song “Zimbabwe” became a way to mark that moment and an unofficial national anthem, one filled with diasporic legacy and national pride."

...

"Music played such a central role in African communities that many colonizers banned the use of musical instruments, fearful that messages of revolt could be transmitted alongside melodies. These prohibitions followed the Africans who were forcibly taken elsewhere. In 1740 South Carolina enacted the Negro Code, forbidding the enslaved from “using or keeping drums, horns, or other loud instruments, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.” The British arrival in Southern Africa and the subsequent displacement of indigenous groups almost destroyed centuries-old civilizations through the mass killing of “dissenters” and religious and economic disenfranchisement. Yet music remained an integral part of how the people of Zimbabwe, now made up largely of Shona and Ndebele groups, initiated covert and overt acts of revolt against white minority rule."

...

"So often people speak of the boundless reach of music, its ability to bridge racial gaps and transcend inequity, yet when it comes to Black resistance so many of the most beloved genres exist because of restrictions. The sweeping emotional force of American gospel emerged because hymns were not simply about longing to be good so the next life would be bountiful but expressed a desire for freedom both now and in the future. The blues were the sounds of broken hearts made audible; Brazilian axé music was a reconnection to interrupted African ancestry. Reggae was powered by prohibited melodies turned into movement; Zimbabwe township music and chimurenga offered a nationalism that was both local and pan-African, the inevitable result of limited mobility and a freedom unavailable to those whose skin was black."
Thomas Mapfumo - Hokoyo

This was one of the central artists referenced in the piece above about revolutionary and post-colonial music in Zimbabwe (and in the south of Africa generally). Def not the type of thing I usually listen to but I was feeling this. Might have to expand my repertoire.

I remember when Cheeto dust got elected and there was this narrative on the apathetic left that went: "at least we're going to get some great protest art out of this!" and I immediately felt that was BS because while pain/strife can push some artists to greatness, it is altogether very difficult to make art effectively if you are economically-induced medical distress, or in a detention center. Yes, as well-illustrated in the revolutionary music article, the restraints of an oppressive regime do in fact often lead to innovation and adaptation and new and interesting sounds but I'm not sure that applies so much in the U.S. where even those of us who are most oppressed rarely face state-imposed artistic controls. In the U.S. you can be thrown in jail, shot by jackbooted state-sanctioned thugs, and find yourself sick & homeless in the blink of an eye, but the cops are generally not going to show up at your door for painting a picture or dropping a verse (...yet. We are so much closer to that than most Americans are able to see). Now maybe this is just my middle aged, out of touch ignorance but I wonder if this is why we haven't seen a flood of popular protest music in the US in recent years. I *know* there are all kinds of artists in all kinds of genres doing that kind of work but I mean popular in the general sense, stuff that has mainstream awareness, that you might hear outside of a basement show or folk festival (when congregating was safe...). I'm sure it exists, and if it doesn't the events of the next few months just might kick it into high gear. More than anything it's probably just me, I explore way less new music than I used to and I need to commit to hunting down stuff that wouldn't just pop onto my speakers via a Spotify playlist. When I used to DJ college radio we'd get stuff in this vein all the time, though it rarely broke into anything resembling mainstream consciousness. But I suppose that's the point, the "mainstream" is comfortable with what they're hearing.

Hawai'i

A Quick Dive Into A Fascinating Place

I was thinking of things that might be cool to include in this, the 50th volume of WesRecs, and so, me being me, I literally looked up the number "50" on Wikipedia to see what might catch my eye. It is the atomic number of Tin...so there's that, but beyond that it wasn't as interesting an exploration as I might have hoped. HOWEVER it did make me realize a *very* obvious fact which had been in front of my face forever but which had never really clicked for me.

I had known that the slang term "five 0"/5-0 for the police came from the old cop show from the 60s/70s set in Honolulu, Hawaii Five-O. And I'm pretty sure that the show's iconic themes song was one of the first 25 mp3s I ever illegally downloaded off of Napster back in the 10th grade. But it wasn't until this week that it clicked for me that the show (which I've never seen an episode of) was called Hawaii FIVE-0 because Hawaii was the 50th state.

I feel dumb.

In any case this was enough to lead me down into a bit of a Hawaii rabbit hole this week and I'll say: it was rewarding. I'd vaguely known the general history of the islands: Polynesian arrival & habitation in only the last 1,000 years, imperialist maneuverings from the UK and the USA, insanely lucrative sugar/pineapple plantations, a native Hawaiian monarchy, which got deposed by American plantation owners, annexation by the U.S. in 1898, Pearl Harbor, statehood, modern times. That is obviously an insanely reductive and America-focused overview of this remote group of islands but it's what I had. I was very happy to spend a chunk of the last week digging deeper and it has only continued to fascinate me. here are some things I found.
First here's a refresher on that iconic intro. If you, like me, have never watched a single minute of the original TV show (they did a remake in 2010 that lasted until April of THIS YEAR?!) I'm fairly certain that you have still heard this tune (it's an all-time TV theme classic) and that you're at least vaguely familiar with the "Book Em Danno" catchphrase.
Here is digestible recap of Hawaiian history...delivered by one of the palest men I've ever seen...who's rocking a Tennessee accent...so take from it what you will. Based on what I've read this week it's all factually accurate but obviously approaches the history from a White/American perspective. There were some videos I saw that had a more native Hawaiian bent but I'm always super cautious about YouTube documentaries. There is SO MUCH disingenuous, poorly researched, guy-in-a-basement-armchair-historian, conspiracy theory, QAnon CRAP out there that I always try to stick to reputable outlets, or noted historians or channels with millions to subscribers in order to shield myself from straight up disinformation (seriously try finding an independently produced documentary on the Holocaust or The Vietnam War on YouTube without losing your mind...you will fail).

I'm sure such a thing exists on the topic and now that I'm interested in Hawaii (a place I have never been) I will try to seek it out but there was nothing of that ilk that I saw that I could have total confidence in.

In short: U.S. businessmen, aided by the U.S. government, straight up stole these islands from the original inhabitants, and exploited them for sugar/pineapple profits and a mid-Pacific base for U.S. military forces. That said it is now the most diverse state in the union with a strong sense of its cultural roots and unique contributions.
This is Ku, the Hawaiian god of War. He has the teeth of a Mako shark and these are just 2 of the images of him that have stuck in my head this week.
What can I say? Racists gonna racist.

Prior to this week one of the last times that Hawaii was really on my mind was when then-Attorney General / Keebler Elf Jeff Sessions responded to Prez Cheeto's racist travel ban being slapped down by a Hawaiian judge by implying that the state's distance from the U.S. mainland and (cough...its lack of a White majority...cough) somehow meant that legal decisions made there shouldn't carry any weight in U.S. politics.

Like what???? How are you going to use racist imperialism to wrestle a whole-ass country away from its people and then, once you've annexed it and made it a state because that suits your economic and military aims, deny the validity of the very statehood that you and your people imposed. Ain't that some BS????
So some Hawai'i basics that I learned (bear with me, these are really really basic, but I never sat with this info before this week):
  • There are 130+ volcanic islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago
  • 8 of those are considered the "main" islands. Of those 8, there are 4 that are the most economically/politically important: Kaua'i "The Garden Isle", Maui "The Valley Isle", Hawai'i "The Big Island", & O'ahu "The Gathering Place".
  • While Hawai'i is the largest island and the namesake of the archipelago the capital, Honolulu, is on Oahu, which is about an 8th of its size. Oahu is by far the most populated of the islands.
  • Lana'i, "The Pineapple Isle" is the 6th smallest of the main islands and only has a population of about 3,000 and 97% of is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison
...Hold up. Record scratch. WHUT???

That's right the founder of Oracle owns the vast majority of a small but very decent-sized chunk of an entire state of the union. He bought it in 2012 from a corporate remnant of Dole, the juice and fruit company. That was pretty astounding to learn so I looked into it and found this article and just...wow.

Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What? - NYT (2014)
 
"There is only one town, Lanai City, where virtually all of the island’s 3,200 residents live. Ellison now owned a third of all their houses and apartments; the island’s two Four Seasons-run hotels; the central commons at the heart of Lanai City, called Dole Park, and all the buildings around it; the town swimming pool; the community center; the theater; a grocery store; two golf courses; a wastewater treatment plant; the water company; and a cemetery. In a single sweeping real estate deal, reported to cost $300 million, he had acquired 87,000 of the island’s 90,000 acres. And he would subsequently buy an airline that connects Lanai to Honolulu as well. On all of Lanai, I heard of only a handful of businesses — the gas station, the rental-car company, two banks, a credit union and a cafe called Coffee Works — that are neither owned by Ellison nor pay him rent."

...

"Ninety seven percent of Lanai may be a lot of Lanai, but it’s a tiny part of Ellison’s overall empire. Ellison, who stepped down as C.E.O. of Oracle on Sept. 18, is estimated to be worth $46 billion. He made an estimated $78.4 million last year, or about $38,000 an hour. He owns a tremendous amount of stuff — cars, boats, real estate, Japanese antiquities, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, an America’s Cup sailing team, one of Bono’s guitars — and has a reputation for intensity and excess. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that when Ellison has played basketball on the courts on his yachts, he has positioned “someone in a powerboat following the yacht to retrieve balls that go overboard.” One biographer called him “a modern-day Genghis Khan.”"

...
"Like a lot of omnipotent forces, Ellison has remained mostly invisible. He has visited Lanai many times — locals told me they can tell he’s on the island when they see his yacht hitched in the harbor — but he seems determined to keep a formal distance from the community, shielding himself behind the executive team of Pulama Lanai, the management company he set up to oversee the island’s transformation. Although Pulama holds frequent public meetings on Lanai, Ellison has declined to attend any or to address residents directly. Several residents told me that they’d resorted to reading biographies of Ellison to learn more about the man — books that have somewhat disquieting titles like “Everyone Else Must Fail” and “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison,” the punch line being: “God doesn’t think he’s Larry Ellison.”"

Capitalism is wild ya'll. Like, I hate the agony and deprivations that it produces. AT THE SAME TIME part of me is quietly jazzed that at least one human in history has had the experience of paying for a boat and crew to retrieve lost balls from the ocean that have gone overboard while they played full court basketball on a goddamned yacht. Wow. (Though, that makes you seem like you have less money, no? I mean if you can play luxury boat basketball then surely you can afford infinite basketballs, right?) Whatever, I'm not condoning this act at all (how many people's life or death struggle in life could've been tipped toward the good if he'd spent a few bucks on some extra Spaldings???) but somebody out there does this, and I do marvel at it.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled - NPR

So I've realized for a while that recycling is, if nothing else, a business and that given that the process costs money, the firms that actually do the recycling will only do it when they're going to make a profit. I've also known that China closing it's doors to foreign recycled materials a few years ago (it had been, by far, the largest buyer of collected American recyclables) had made it particularly difficult for the US to do anything with the materials it collects. What I has not known was that the vast majority of recycled plastic ends up in landfills because it's always cheaper to just make new stuff AND that recycling has never ever been economically viable AND that the entire 90s push toward recycling was literally conceived of by the oil/plastics industry in order to lull increasingly environmentally-aware consumers into feeling better about using disposable plastics. All of it, the blue bins, the rinsing yogurt cups, the checking the specific number with the seal on a given item, the trying to convert your parents into not throwing away milk jugs, the buying of the clear bags, etc, all of it has been a giant marketing campaign to make us feel like we were somehow "helping" or, at least mitigating our bad habits. Nope.

Has *some* of what you put in those bins been converted into other useful items?. Yes. But most of it ended up in a landfill and anything that was recycled probably only got one more use before it ended up in a landfill...or the ocean.
 
""I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage," she says, "and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You're lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It's gold. This is valuable."

But it's not valuable, and it never has been. And what's more, the makers of plastic — the nation's largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite."

...

"Here's the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can't be reused more than once or twice.

On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It's made from oil and gas, and it's almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh.

All of these problems have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties."

...

"He says what he saw was an industry that didn't want recycling to work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic is competition.

"You know, they were not interested in putting any real money or effort into recycling because they wanted to sell virgin material," Thomas says. "Nobody that is producing a virgin product wants something to come along that is going to replace it. Produce more virgin material — that's their business.""
The economics of vending machines - The Hustle

The year is 2002. My 18 year old self finds this article, dropped by a time traveler. I read it and instead of ever taking out a student loan I use my summer job money to buy and stock my first vending machine. I steadily grow my empire, become a vending machine guru for others interested in the trade, and in 2020 I retire to the tropics with a fortune made from quarters and m&ms profits.
 
"It is estimated that roughly ⅓ of the world’s ~15m vending machines are located in the US.

Of these 5m US-based vending machines, ~2m are currently in operation, collectively bringing in $7.4B in annual revenue for those who own them. This means that the average American adult spends ~$35 per year on vending machine items.

What makes the vending industry truly unique is its stratification: The landscape is composed of thousands of small-time independent operators — and no single entity owns >5% of the market."

...

"“I have one machine that does $25 every 2 weeks, and another that does $600,” says Everett Brown, a 32-year-old Lyft driver from Minneapolis who vends part-time. “Every location is different; some places suck, and others are gold mines.”

Jaime Ibanez got into vending in 2018. Fresh out of high school, he dropped $2.5k — about half his savings — on a refurbished snack machine and found a home for it at a local barbershop in Dallas.

Today, he owns 35 machines that gross $10k in revenue every month. His best location, a hotel, earns him $2.8k; his worst sometimes only sees $200."

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

I am honestly never sure how much I actually like The History Guy's videos. He does his research and goes deep, but it also often feels like he's just reading a series of 60 bullet point rapid fire trivia tidbits without thinking of the video as a whole, but I'm fantasizing about being a vending machine mogul this week so I'll add this.
Look, I'm glad they're both working.

But ew.
RANDOM VIEWING
Shampooed and blow-dried cows kind of had a moment last year after Buzzfeed did a listicle about them. I get it, they look drastically different than the cows you normally see which are constantly exposed to rain, mud, and dirty with exactly zero thoughts given to their cosmetic presentation (why *would* you care about such a thing?). But I just wanted to say that this cow in particular takes the cake. Thought it was a painting or something at first.

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Mithridatism, n
[ mith - rih - DAY - tism ]

Meaning: Tolerance to the effects of a poison or toxin, spec. that (actually or supposedly) acquired by the administration of gradually increasing doses; the acquisition of such tolerance.

Origin: French Mithridatisme (1846 in the passage translated in quot. 1851) < the name of Mithridates (see mithridate n.) + -isme -ism suffix. Compare Hellenistic Greek Μιθραδατισμός act of siding with Mithridates.

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • In 2015 Mylar balloons accounted for one third of all power losses in the city of Los Angeles.
  • Hawaii has the highest life expectancy among U.S. States at 82.3 years. California is in 2nd place with 81.6.
  • Mount Everest, at 29,035 ft, is the tallest mountain in the world…but only if we measure it’s height above sea level. Mauna Kea in Hawai’i stands “only” 13,796 ft above sea level, but there’s an additional 19,700 ft of it below the surface of the water to the floor of the ocean meaning that in total it is nearly a mile taller than Everest.
  • “Stressed was I ere I saw desserts” is now your favorite palindrome.
  • There are about 191 Calories in one pound of onion but there are nearly 2000 calories in an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion.

     
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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