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WesRecs

Vol. #82 - June 06 , 2021

HEYYYYYYYY!

Welcome to another edition of WesRecs! It sure is Friday huh???

OK, so if you're a regular reader you won't fail to notice that WR 82 is arriving a bit later than is standard. When I first started the newsletter the aim was a a Friday evening release, that morphed into Friday late-nite, to the wee hours of Saturday, to more recently, Saturday morning. Through it all it's been interesting to see what release times have proven most popular in terms of open rates and reader feedback. Apologies for the lack of warning last week (it was kind of unplanned), but this week I just wanted to experiment with a Sunday morning drop to see how that might work. It seems doubtful that I'd go with this long term since it means my Saturday then becomes consumed with composing it but you never know. I appreciate all 9-16 of my core readers more than I can tell you and it warmed my heart to get a few concerned welfare checks when WR didn't drop by yesterday, thank you for the concern and for your eyeballs on these weekly missives. I'm constantly thinking about ideas for WesRecs and how it can grow and improve so stay tuned for exciting developments over the next few months. I hope you're enjoying some summer, and not working too hard, and that you're feeling loved and appreciated and hopeful in a world that often doesn't signal a lot of hope. Thanks for being here. I love you all.
Above: I continued my exploration of seafood on the grill with a veritable feast of red snapper, kingfish (mackerel) steak, and scallops. I've made scallops a bunch before, but always by searing/sauteing in a pan, they took well to the grill even if they're not the most convenient shape/size of food to gook on grates. This was my second red snapper, I did a better job of cooking it here and was actually able to get some nice grill marks vs what i did a few weeks ago. The kingfish was a revelation. I have never had it before (I think the only mackerel I've ever had has been canned?) but it is super flavorful and juicy and worked really well here. I will def be revisiting that again. The smoke was a small chunk of cherry wood and some apple wood chips. This stuff cooks so quickly (relative to smoking ribs or brisket) that it doesn't take on too much smoke (which is good since you want to preserve the briny ocean taste) but you can detect it and it's a lot more robust than what you get in the oven or in a pan.

Below: So I drove up to Albany and stayed in a hotel for a few days to do some background work on The Gilded Age (the forthcoming HBO show that will basically be American Downton Abbey). It was was an interesting trip. I have never traveled so far or stayed overnight or been put up in a hotel for background work before, and this was by far the most elaborate and biggest scene I've since West Side Story in 2019. There were 120+ extras, all in heavily detailed period costumes, on a set made to look like the 1870s by commandeering an entire town square in Troy, NY. They're filming the scene over several weeks so what I saw was just a very small part of it but I get a headache just thinking about the logistics and moving parts involved. I drove upstate, checked into the hotel, and just worked on some stuff there until the next afternoon. Call time was 3:15p, and it took several hours to get everyone COVID tested, and through wardrobe/ hair/ makeup, and fed so we didn't hit the set until 9p and we didn't wrap until 2:30a. It had rained a lot so there was a half inch of mud on every bit of ground and I can't imagine how much it sucked to be the wardrobe department the next day after they had to clean the grime and dirt off of 120 pairs of vintage shoes and from the hemline of like 80 hand-wash-only period dresses. It won't come out until 2022 but I should definitely be seen in this as I by chance ended up standing right in front of the principal actors while they were being featured in a shot, we'll see. I regret not getting a full pic of my outfit with the topcoat and bowler hat and pocket watch but there was a lot going on. I'll have to settle for this snap of a very tired extra in a solid vest/tie combo. My verdict on 1870s upper-class fashion is this: it looked kinda nice but what an enormous and uncomfortable pain in the ass it would have been. However long it takes you get dressed it took 4x longer and the clothes were just...painful. I was professionally fit for this and after 4 hours the coat turned into a vice that made you feel like being broken on the rack in the shoulders and the shoes might as well have been iron plates. I had it good though from what I saw corsets were simply torture devices. Glad for the experience, so happy that sweatpants were invented.
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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America

What Are We Doing Here???

Opinion: A frantic warning from 100 leading experts: Our democracy is in grave danger - Washington Post

Um, the GOP is straight up openly plotting a fascist takeover of this country. That is not hyperbole. I repeat, that is NOT hyperbole. It's happening right in front of our eyes and almost no one wants to acknowledge it. 1/6 was just a taste and look what's being done with that: damned near nothing. Sure a few people who were dumb enough to gloat about committing federal crimes on Facebook have been charged with trespassing and destruction of government property, but none of the ringleaders are being held responsible, and now we don't even get a senate investigation into how it happened and how there could be an almost non-existent federal response for HOURS as congress was stormed. We were *this* close to seeing members of congress executed on TV (if you think that's an exaggeration you're kidding yourself) and now that same congress isn't even going to look into it in a bipartisan way??? I'm telling you, the same thing can happen in GOP led statehouses across the country, except there won't even be any late-to-the party national guard response to finally arrive. The GOP is attacking voting rights in every state they control and is still auditing the 2020 election in some states, former general Michael Flynn is openly calling for an armed overthrow, 45 is telling people he expects to be reinstated (just like he told people to "be there. Will be wild!" prior to 1/6), congress is pretending like 1/6 never happened, the majority of GOP members won't even outright acknowledge that Biden legitimately won the 2020 election  (in fact they booted their #3 House leader for not going with the madness), and congressional democrats have shown no ability to meet the moment at hand. It's very bad now and will be getting worse.

I don't know exactly what their big play is going to look like but I'd challenge you to think of any meaningful resistance or preparation, or recognition of the seriousness of the situation that you have seen from the national Democratic leadership. As I've said before: no one is coming to save us.

 
“Our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write in the statement, which I obtained before its release. “History will judge what we do at this moment.”

And these scholars underscore the crucial point: Our democracy’s long-term viability might depend on whether Democrats reform or kill the filibuster to pass sweeping voting rights protections.

“We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary — including suspending the filibuster — in order to pass national voting and election administration standards,” the scholars write, in a reference to the voting rights protections enshrined in the For the People Act, which passed the House and is before the Senate.

...

“We wanted to create a strong statement from a wide range of scholars, including many who have studied democratic backsliding, to make it clear that democracy in America is genuinely under threat,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at New America and a leading organizer of the letter, told me.

“The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” Drutman continued.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

Exposing the “Thread-Bare Lie”: How Ida B. Wells Used Investigative Journalism to Uncover the Truth About Lynching - WTTW.com (Chicago PBS)

Ida B. Wells should be honored and her work studied at every opportunity. She was a force and gift. It's just a bit depressing that so much of her analysis of the tactics and purpose of racial terrorism is so relevant today.
 
“The white press, the newspapers of the day,…ignored Black people unless they were committing crimes or being lynched,” Otis Sandford, Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis, told Chicago Stories producer Stacy Robinson. “So the Black press was vitally important.”

...

As lynching increased in the 1880s and 1890s, white newspapers and law enforcement were often openly involved. Newspapers would advertise the dates and times of a lynching, and white families would bring their children to watch.

“Lynching was not simply tying a rope around someone’s neck and hanging them, though that is brutal and inhumane enough. Lynching was designed directly to send a message to the larger Black population,” said Hannah-Jones in the documentary. “In the South, in many places, Black people were in the majority. So how does a white minority that has lost power and wants to gain that power back do that when they are in the minority? It was through terrorism.”

...

“What she shows is that lynching is really just an effort to suppress Black people, to contain them, and to make sure that they're not competitive in the new industrial economy,” Giddings said.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

I found this to be very beautiful and wonderfully expressed. It's a theological (specifically Christian) reasoning for accepting and finding the glory in the the personal expression of those who identify as non-binary. Hopefully you don't need a religious impetus to do that and if you have no truck with the idea of an all-powerful god then I would still think that you can find something worthwhile in this. Really happy to have come across this.
An Interview With a Former Anti-Vaxxer - Gen

This was a worthwhile interview with a former diehard anti-vaxxer (or a member of the “vaccine risk awareness movement” as they prefer to refer to themselves as). It seems so long ago but I vaguely remember when i first became aware of the anti-vaxx movement. I was incredulous (still am), I just couldn't believe that there was a whole community of people with these beliefs, it seemed right up there with flat Earthers. I thought it'd stay super-duper fringe and vanish into a distant cultural memory.

That obviously has not happened. There are more anti-vaxxers than ever. The movement only seems to grow in power and influence every year. You can get elected to congress if you identify with it. And I really don't see it going anywhere. Such are the times we live in. Given all that it's helpful to get some insight into how and why people come to this belief.

Now, I get being suspicious of big-pharma. And I totally agree that a million different things that are basic and accepted elements of modern living are actually wildly harmful to us (processed sugar, sitting down for the majority of our day, factory farming, etc). But to look at old photos of people's entire bodies scabbed over with smallpox blisters and then see that smallpox doesn't really exist anymore, and to then look at the branch of science that made that possible and say "nah, it's a scam and they're trying to control you" that's just a leap I can't imagine, especially when your refusal to participate puts you and those around you in actual danger. You don't want to put something in your body? Sure, you get that right. In no way would I ever advocate for forced vaccination. But if you want to make that decision you have to accept some real restrictions when it comes to public schools or international travel, or employment in a hospital or daycare. And if you're a social media grifter trying to hawk and monetize quack cures and pseudoscience on social media then you need to accept being called out time and again by people interested in protecting the public health.


But as being a human on this planet for a while will make clear: people don't generally warm to being told their beliefs are wrong, and harmful, and unfounded (even if they are), and they especially don't respond well to being called an idiot in their Facebook comments (even if they're saying some idiotic stuff). As I've seen in other pieces exploring anti-vaxxers and q-anon and similar modern cults this piece stresses the importance of approaching loved ones who've fallen into these movements with love and respect and not calling their beliefs stupid, and simply presenting them with some potentially helpful info, and then leaving it at that. Which, seems more likely to work than insults and scorn but which is...exhausting, because of how annoying it is to even have to humor the idiocy by not calling it as such. Like, if my cousin believes that the Pfizer COVID vaccine is going to implant a 5G mind-control nano-chip into your blood, I'm supposed to just sit there and go "Hmm, Interesting point. I hadn't considered that. It seems unlikely to me, due to this peer-reviewed CDC report I've read which I'll forward to you. I encourage you to check it out if you get the chance."??? The anecdotal evidence would say at the very least that it's better than saying "dumbass!" and walking away, but 9 times out of 10 I'm going to go with option B on that one.

I dunno, this is kinda rambly so I'll just say that: the anti-vaxx thing is here to stay, there are a lot of "smart" and "good" people who are loved by their families and friends who adhere to it, them being smart and good does not make the belief correct, them being wrong in this belief is almost certainly not going to be reversed by scorn and derision, it takes a never-ending reserve of patience to be a human living amongst other humans.
 
We can tell ourselves that anti-vaxxers are brainwashed dunces hopelessly incapable of rational thinking, or we can take an interest in the psychological and cultural factors that motivate smart, capable people like Karina to take a zealous anti-vaxx stance. Hopefully, by understanding the cause of this irresponsible, dangerous thinking, we can more productively devise a cure.

...

Tell me a bit about your background. Where do you think your resistance to vaccines originally came from?

When I first had my first daughter, I was really anti-vaccination, which is crazy to me now. That was eight years ago. Looking back at it, I was very determined to find ways to not do it. I think, to start, because I’m from the Soviet Union, there was a lot of skepticism already built into my worldview, and a lot of distrust of authority, government, and anything that’s quote-unquote “mandated.” But I think my decision not to do certain things, including avoiding certain medicines, was also rooted in not wanting to be like everybody else. Subconsciously, I wanted to have this special knowledge. But really, I just followed certain ideas based on an emotional, internal response rather than actual data. I just didn’t have the right information. I think a lot of people in general are like that — just really misinformed about healthcare.

...

I started following some of those people because I was in a low place in my personal life. I think that’s true of a lot of these followers. They’re empathic people who’ve been in toxic relationships, or they’re people in recovery, like me. These are all groups of people that are incredibly susceptible to fringe movements, because they’re already part of the fringe in some shape or form.

...

What advice would you give for folks who have anti-vaxxers in their lives and want to be able to get through to them?

Well, pushing the issue and calling them stupid doesn’t work. They just dig their heels in. That’s what I did, when people would criticize me. I’d be like, “No, you’re the sheep,” or something like that. It’s about having someone that you can have a nonjudgmental conversation with, who just brings you the information without trying to seem domineering or over-powering. Just bring them the information and don’t say, “You’re an idiot for believing this way.” You know, just say, “Hey, here’s some information, and I’m open to talking about it with you.”

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

This "furniture"/art piece/sculpture/nightmare vision both disturbs and intrigues me. You can check out the artist HERE.
Paul Simon Deconstructs 'Mrs. Robinson' | The Dick Cavett Show

From what relatively little I've seen in archival clips, I tend to really like Dick Cavett as a late-night host. He's quick, self-deprecating (but not too much), he asks somewhat more substantial questions than a lot of people in the genre, and he can get his nervous or less than camera-polished guests to be themselves. My appreciation for him also comes in part from this long-form discussion he recorded about comedy with his fellow Yale alum Lewis Lapham for Lapham's Quarterly (if you're an OG WesRecs reader you'll recall that I consider that publication to be touchstone and in inspiration for this newsletter).

However, in this amazing late night appearance by Paul Simon back in 1970, Cavett seems to be kind of star struck/intimidated. He sounds nervous, hesitating and mushing words, and his line of questioning has absolutely no conversational flow here. Like, he'll ask a Q, get a novel/interesting response, and then give no time to addressing what was actually just said, instead moving on to some other seemingly unconnected bullet point. It's clear that Simon is inclined to give considered non-shallow answers here (kind of remarkable for a world famous artist who's been on screen a bunch and who is most definitely "bigger" than the late night show he's appearing on), but Cavett cuts him off a few times while on the run to the next question. Ultimately, I think it's important to remember just how big Simon & Garfunkel were at this point and how large they loomed in the imagination of a certain giant swathe of baby boomers. Talk show hosts meet famous people every single day, but very often they either have no personal connection to the work of the guest or they themselves are the bigger and longer-established star. Not so here. You can watch this for 2 seconds and intuit that Cavett had some personal life memories shaped by Mrs. Robinson and The Sound of Silence, etc (it'd be almost impossible for that not to be the case given his age and demographic and the bonkers influence of S&G and The Graduate on popular culture).

The clip though is still very cool because Simon (while being ever-so-slightly spaced out in that Jeff Goldblum "I'm a sensitive artist" kind of way) is feeling talkative, and dropping some funny anecdotes, and totally willing to bust out some of those melodies that everyone came to see. Watch Cavett's face at around 4:00 when Simon is thrilling the fans with a taste of Mrs. Robinson. he is at first an awed fanboy who can't believe he gets to see this from 2 feet away and then he very quickly flashes a look of "oh hell yeah, this is happening on MY show, ratings are gonna be the shit!" it's great.

Also, boom mic operator: get your head in the game bro! That thing is like a 3rd guest on stage here, it's almost as bad as American Gangster.
What is DEFI? Decentralized Finance Explained (Ethereum, MakerDAO, Compound, Uniswap, Kyber)

Years ago an audience member I'd chatted with for a few minutes after a show friended me on Facebook. No big deal, happens all the time. Like 6 months later, after having had no additional contact he started blowing up my inbox with links and messages about this thing called bitcoin and why the market was hot, and growth was amazing, and how I should totally get into it. I'd heard of it and had an extremely basic understanding that it was digital money and you could use it on the "dark web" and that was pretty much it. I kind of rolled my eyes and thought "whatever man". I think Bitcoin was around $600 then (so not even crazy early in it's meteoric rise over the last decade).

Welp, Bitcon is currently at about $36K, after hitting record highs of $62K earlier this year. I am not currently a millionaire, so the moral of the story here is that *sometimes* you should at least sit down and read a few articles and watch a few videos if an almost-stranger on the internet is giving you a hot financial tip. 95% of the time it will be total garbage, but, I'm just saying: watch a video maybe.

In the years since I've dabbled in crypto in a very very minor way. I've put a modest amount of money in 2 or three things and I've seen some small gains and some totally acceptable losses. But for me it was always purely a matter of riding the hype and speculation train. I have thought of Bitcoin et al. pretty much exclusively as potential way to make a few bucks without every really considering the technological/social innovations that it might represent. In what little free time I've had in the last week I've started taking a closer look and it is very very very exciting.

Nothing is guaranteed, none of this may ever come to pass in a truly meaningful way, but the underlying technical foundations seem inevitable (even if they only end up being co-opted by major corporations and thus end up simply replicating most of the structures we have in place now). I dunno, I'm neither an economist or a programmer but I will definitely be adding to my modest Ethereum holdings and that hardly seems like a foolish idea. Take a look for yourself, watch a video.
HOOF RESTORATION - VERY SATISFYING - FARRIER

In a review of a movie that I've long forgotten Roger Ebert once wrote something to the effect of: few film scenes are more interesting than simply showing a character working. This video very much supports that. Here we have an expert farrier (a specialist in horse foot care and shoeing) simply going about his business with no dialogue or explanation. I know less than nothing about horses, horse riding, horse care, or horse shoes and it just doesn't matter. I was utterly fascinated by this and will def be learning more. At first glance:
  • This seems hella dangerous. Like, this person is obviously extremely well-practiced at this, and if you're a farrier working at specific stables over and over again I imagine you build relationships with the various horses so that they trust and are used to you. But this animal could end your life with one well placed kick and you've just got one of its legs braced between your family jewels as you hammer, file, clip, clean, pound, and burn what's basically its toenail. Damn.
  • There are so many skills required for this: comfort with horses and the ability to put them at ease, blacksmithing, aesthetic judgement with regard to shaping and grooming, veterinary knowledge as it relates to equine foot/skin/bone health, etc.
  • It's interesting to see how calm the horse is for all of this. I mean, it's basically getting a medical pedicure and it could not be less bothered. And all of this is just for one hoof.
  • I had no idea that the nails used to keep the shoe in are actually so long that they protrude through the top of the hoof when first driven in. They then get shaved/clipped down on the other side.
  • This video has 9.2 MILLION views. I had no idea I was so late on the horse-shoeing bandwagon.
The Life and Times of Gin and Tonic

I like gin and tonics, I like trivia, I thus like this video. Take a quick trip through the history of both gin, tonic water, and their beautiful union. Watching this has made me wonder if I'm a fraud in that while I love a good g&t I've only ever made it with grocery store tonic water (which is basically just clear sweetened-but-unflavored soda pop with some quinine thrown in at the last minute). I like sugar so that works for me. And I suspect that if I made a gin and tonic using "authentic"/artisanal tonic water as suggested here I might not actually enjoy it. Next time I'm at one of those hyper-expensive craft cocktail bars with the brass bar rail accents and the exposed hanging light bulbs and a bartender with a Thor beard and tattoo sleeves and a necktie that's tucked into his shirt mid-chest I will try the "real deal", until then Foodtown-brand tonic water (or Canada Dry if I'm balling) is what I'm rocking.
Random Viewing

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

pythoness, n.
[ PIE - thuh - nis ]

Meaning: A woman believed to be possessed by a spirit and to be able to forsee the future; a female soothsayer; a witch.

Origin: Middle French phitonisse (1274 in Old French as phitonise , pitonise ; French pythonisse ) and its etymon post-classical Latin phitonissa, pythonissa Pythonissa n [post-classical Latin python-, pytho familiar or possessing spirit with powers of divination, person possessed by such a spirit (Vulgate) and its etymon Hellenistic Greek πύθων familiar spirit, demon possessing a soothsayer (New Testament), ventriloquist, person believed to have a soothsaying spirit in their abdomen (Plutarch, in plural πύθωνες ), transferred use of ancient Greek Πύθων python n. ( Greek Mythology. With capital initial. The serpent or monster killed by Apollo near Delphi; (hence poetic) any monstrous antagonist.)]

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • Humpty Dumpty is not explicitly described as an egg in the nursery rhyme. The earliest illustrations displayed him a young boy.
  • The opossum, with 50, has more teeth than any other land animal.
  • Halley's Comment appeared on both the day Mark Twain was born and the day he died.
  • Switzerland last went to war with another country in 1515.
  • "OK" is the world's most spoken word.
Copyright © 2021 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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