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WesRecs

Vol. #53 - November 05, 2020

Hello from the back end of the longest week of the longest year of our lives.

It has been and it continues to be a ride and frankly I'm feeling very tired and very discombobulated but mostly "OK".

There's so much to say and to hope and to fear and to appreciate and...it's just a lot. Like so many of you my brain is a bit fried after this week. In addition to the news and the politics I've been swamped on the professional side of things as well so this will be perhaps a lighter than usual edition of WR. I think you can understand. [Apologies for any and all typos!]

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I'll talk more substantively about the political moment below but for now some top of mind thoughts are:
  • I am unspeakably relieved and guardedly thrilled about what, at this time, appears to be the outcome of the presidential election. I couldn't fathom this at the beginning of the year and only allowed myself to even begin to hope in the last 2 months.
  • That said the last 5 years have been filled with so much defeat, disappointment, outrage, disbelief, and insanity in the political realm that I am finding it difficult to even remember how to be positive about a political outcome such as this week's. Additionally, I have seen breakdown after breakdown after breakdown in our political norms and processes combined with a total lack of consequences for the most villainous occupant the Oval Office has ever had for so long that I find it impossible to let my guard down and enjoy so much as a celebratory drink on the occasion of his defeat. (Don't get me wrong, I'm drinking, just not due to celebration).
  • Nothing is over. The country is incredibly divided. The last 4 years have only illustrated a conflict & a malignancy that will remain for the foreseeable future and we've got a long dark winter between right now and January 20th. That said, even the thought of a reprieve from the nonstop daily onslaught of despair/anger/exasperation is something to be welcomed. So many tireless and dedicated and unsung people worked to make this happen and we owe them so much.
As I said, I'll get more into the national events of the week below but as usual I'll use this space to outline what's been personally up with me this week:

After 2 years I finally took the plunge and turned in my MA license for a NY state one.
  • I've lived in Brooklyn for 2 years now, I like it here, I plan on being here for a while but it was tough to make my departure from The Bay State official official. I love Massachusetts for all of its weirdness and I'll always rep it, but it was time.
  • This required going to the Brooklyn DMV which...in the time of COVID managed to somehow not be a stress nightmare. Everything is by appointment now, no walk-ins. I made mine almost a month ago for the first available date they had (which was 2 days after the election). Everything was socially distanced. All employees and visitors were masked up. It was pretty uneventful truth be told, which is kind of what you want at the DMV, so that's a win I guess.
  • The most notable part of this trip was due to the fact that the Brooklyn DMV sits above and adjacent to a pretty massive shopping complex which is itself across the street from Barclay's Arena, so it's bustling. When I was done my exit path led me directly to the door of a Marshall's. Now, since the pandemic began I have not performed live comedy, eaten at a restaurant, gone to a movie, or sat at a bar. Until I started doing background acting work again 6 weeks ago I'd worn hiking boots, jeans, sweatpants, and wicking t-shirts almost exclusively. I have not dressed up at all since March and I certainly haven't bought any new clothes, except for masks (are masks clothes??). But I was right there, and I had a KN95 mask on, and I actually have a thing coming up later in the month that will require me to dress spiffier than I have in more than half a year so I rolled the dice and walked into a clothing store like it was 2019 or something. It was a jolt. The only stores I've been in since all this started have been the supermarket, the pharmacy, the liquor store, the dollar store, and that one trip to the CBD shop. Being in a giant retail store with the sales associates, and the stacks of jeans, and the Muzak, and sale announcements, etc... it felt like being in some half forgotten world. It was like that moment when you go back home for Thanksgiving after being away for college and you're in a very familiar environment but everything is more vivid because you haven't seen it in so long. I looked around for about 90 seconds, realized this location did not have what I was looking for at all (blazers), and then got reflexively freaked out by being in an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers for an utterly frivolous reason and I peaced out. Everyone I saw was masked and save for that detail it looked like any other day at the mall and I was just struck by the degree to which that whole experience would not be novel at all to huge swathes of the country. NY had an (understandably) pretty stringent lockdown but some states (South Dakota) never shut down at all and a huge number of states have had no restrictions of any kind for months upon months. The people working in that store certainly weren't seeing anything new and there were as many customers there as you'd expect to see a bit after lunchtime on any given weekday. It's definitely made me reflect on the degree to which I bubbled myself over the past 8 months. I've been privileged enough to be able to do so, and have lived in a state where I often had no choice anyway, but this visit did more than anything else to bring home just how not-universal that approach has been for Americans everywhere. The world keeps turning.
On the cooking front: I grilled a bigass ribeye steak which was delicious. I cannot ethically justify the consumption of meat and it does not square with my political views in the least bit. I am really working to cut beef out completely as a first step to one day being at least a pescatarian. But it's been a hell of year and grilling has been one of the few balms in it for me and it wasn't too cold last weekend so here we are. More notable than the entree is the fact that I made mashed potatoes for the first time in my life. (Garlic red potatoes with the skin on to be specific). They were a very good first attempt and I was happy with the effort but next time I will roast the garlic beforehand and use half-and-half instead of milk and use more of it.

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OK then. It's been a wild week that isn't over yet so I'm just going to jump into it. I hope to get some sleep this week and come back at you with stacked edition of WesRecs next week. Thank you as always for reading. If you like what you see and are not subscribed please consider it.

I just wanted to note: that last week was Vol. 52 and I have put one of these out every single week for a year (yay!) with the lone exception of Thanksgiving week last year. I plan on once again taking Turkey week off, so I will not be putting out a WesRecs Friday the 27th. It's a ways away but I just wanted to note it. Maybe I'll actually read a full book that week, who knows??

Stay strong. Stay Safe. Stay Sane. Love each other.
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.

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
VISIT my WEBSITE VISIT my WEBSITE

America

What Happened. What Now.

A few more general thoughts about this week:
  • I have been heartened by the lack of intense and widespread violence that I was expecting in the wake of this election and by the conservative media's overall adherence to basic truth and resistance to the most baseless of 45's conspiracy claims.
  • I fully realize that this man is in power for 2.5 more months and that he has the ego and reasoning of a spoiled toddler and I have no doubt of his intention to break and ruin his toy for everyone else if he doesn't get to play with it. Nothing is over, there are no breaks to be had, and complacency is not an option.
  • Additionally nearly 70M Americans voted for a guy with innumerable scandals, a complete inability to tell the truth, no humanity, and whose two platform planks were 1. COVID is nothing to worry about and 2. White Supremacy...Also the GOP may very well control the Senate which would mean Biden might have difficulty doing anything so much as getting his cabinet picks approved.
  • Defeat aside this clown will still have his platform and his base and his insatiable desire to be the center of attention so we won't be free of him...BUT MY GOD EVEN THE *PROSPECT* OF NOT HAVING TO EXPEND DAILY FRONT PAGE BRAIN SPACE TO HIS PATHETIC VILLAINY IS TO BE RICHLY SAVORED.
Dishonesty Has Defined the Trump Presidency. The Consequences Could Be Lasting. - NYT


Even if he loses and it's upheld in recounts and he doesn't activate his hardcore supporters into mass violence and he leaves office without too much of a hassle before intentionally torpedoing the country more than he has there will still be years upon years of lasting harm done. He is not the cause of all the woe and strife we've seen, hardly. He's just the terrifying and very public embodiment. Yes, him being gone is a victory to be appreciated (until the version of him that's actually intelligent and capable of hiding his most reptilian instincts shows up anyway...) but he has wrecked and tainted and damaged so much and we need to keep that in mind.
 
“You can mitigate the damage, but you can’t bring it back to 100 percent the way it was before,” said Lee McIntyre, the author of “Post-Truth” and a philosopher at Boston University. “And I think that’s going to be Trump’s legacy. I think there’s going to be lingering damage to the processes by which we vet truths for decades. People are going to be saying, ‘Oh, that’s fake news.’ The confusion between skepticism and denialism, the idea that if you don’t want to believe something, you don’t have to believe it, that’s really damaging and that’s going to last.”

...

“[Trump] proved the advantages of truth-bending politics and helped build up an information infrastructure where reality is like an à la carte menu from which Americans can pick their favorite variant.”

...

Trust, once lost, is hard to restore. “We know a lot about the delegitimation of democratic institutions over the last two centuries,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “But we know nothing about how you relegitimate institutions that have lost their main value and authority for an awful lot of people. That’s the real question.”
(Why) There Was no Biden Landslide - Umair Haque Eand.co (Medium)

Gonna quote this one at length so I'll just say that I am really really trying to appreciate this particular election result. And to be sure this outcome, while not the landslide that many hoped for and expected, is so much better than so many other possibilities. But 70 MILLION people wanted what 45 was selling and there are some very under-acknowledged reasons for that and they are not going away and we ignore them at our peril and this country is facing so many challenges beyond its electoral politics that we are woefully unprepared for. There's a lot to be grateful for in this week. And I have hope, always hope. And nihilism gets us nowhere but my god we are in trouble.
 
Sorry, let me be (extra) annoying for a moment. We minorities have to demand a little credit, because, well, who’s going to give it to us otherwise? So, let me remind you that, by the way, here, we repeatedly warned you. The chances of a Biden landslide were slim to nonexistent. It very, very probably wasn’t going to happen. It was a kind of wishful thinking, a form of denial in engaging with the seriousness of American collapse into authoritarianism — the kind that the Democratic machine is notorious The question needs to be asked. Why were we so right here — one brown guy and and his kid sis, aka the editor in chief — versus the entire establishment and intelligentsia? What the? Don’t you see something badly wrong with that picture? That’s not a victory lap — that’s about you finally wising up.

The reason that there was no Biden landslide is simple. It’s exactly what we warned of here again and again. The secret hate vote. What’s the “secret hate vote”? The phenomenon of what American pundits call “the shy Trump voter.” People who tell pollsters one thing, and then turn right around and do another. They surfaced en masse in 2016, rendering polls badly wrong. But this time around, Americans were reassured that there were no shy Trump voters. That there was going to be no secret hate vote.

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To really understand how the secret hate vote, the shy Trump vote, undermined the polls to the point of uselessness, you have to zoom out — to the really big picture. These are not normal times. They are times of extreme instability and social collapse. America is now a collapsing society, plunging headline into upheaval and crisis of every kind.

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That is why those of us with experience studying and surviving authoritarian fascism warned both you and the Democratic establishment that the polls were going to be dead wrong. The polls are almost never right in a collapsing society. They are rarely right in times of profound crisis. People’s behaviour diverges sharply from their stated intentions. They say the right thing, and then turn right around and, when no one is looking, do the wrong one. All that is because in collapsing societies, ridden by crisis, self-preservation takes over. All thought of collective endeavour or action ceases amongst whole sections of entire social groups. Their focus narrows, as it does in times of trauma, to the immediate question of survival.
How Stacey Abrams Is Turning the Tide in Georgia - Vogue

Stacey Abrams is a FORCE. Stacey Abrams is an inspiration. Stacey Abrams is a hero.

She's *been doing the work* of voter education, voter registration, and voter organizing for years. She was doing it when she was in the Georgia state congress, she did it when she ran for governor in 2018, and she's been doing it since she had her elevation to that office blocked largely due to a rank and obvious case of voter suppression.

I'm not sure if there's a single person who did more to shore up Biden's (apparent) victory or to make the GA senate races as competitive as they are and will be.

This woman deserves so much respect and so much power and influence within the Democratic establishment.
 
The Yale Law School graduate, tax attorney, and former Georgia state representative became a rising star when she ran for governor of her home state in 2018, but she also lost that election to Brian Kemp under a cloud of what appeared to be racially motivated voter suppression. According to an Associated Press investigation on the eve of the election, Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state, mass-canceled more than a million voter registrations between 2012 and 2018, and in the run-up to the tight gubernatorial race, froze an estimated 53,000 registrations, a majority of them belonging to African American voters.

When Abrams lost by just shy of 55,000 votes, she told Vogue: “I sat shiva for 10 days. Then I started plotting.”

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That work continued, to triumphant effect, into 2020. Building on the efforts of New Georgia Project and others, Abrams and Fair Fight registered a staggering estimated 800,000 new voters since 2018 and helped squash suppressive policies like “exact match,” which had required registrations to precisely match voters’ licenses down to the hyphen, or else risk being tossed out. Abrams told NPR on November 2: “45% of those new voters are under the age of 30. 49% are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November ’18, which means these are voters who weren’t eligible to vote for me but are eligible to participate in this upcoming election.”

 
The Electoral College allows a minority of Americans to control us all - NJ.com

As undemocratic as the Senate is I do "get it" if we are to live in a federal system. I kind of like the federal system (if we're going to be governed by a state at all), especially in a country as large and as ethnically/religiously diverse as the U.S.

But the Electoral College?????? That shit GOT to go. At the very least we need to get everyone on the Maine/Nebraska electoral vote distribution model as a stopgap until we do away with the whole thing because this is just ridiculous. I honestly cannot imagine what a good faith justification for this system is in 2020.

The winner-take-all approach leads candidates to chase votes in swing states because they want their electoral votes. In 2012, campaign events were held in only 12 states, two-thirds of those events were held in only four states. Similarly, in 2016, 94% of all campaign events were held in 12 states. Two-thirds of those events were held in only six states, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. In sum, 12 states are choosing the president for all 50 states.

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One of the most consequential decisions a president can make is nominating a Supreme Court Justice. Justices serve lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court and make decisions on cases that affect every aspect of life, from health care and abortion to civil rights. President Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, yet Amy Coney Barrett is the third justice he has nominated to the Supreme Court. Judge Barrett will join four other justices nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote (President George W. Bush appointed two justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito). These justices will serve for decades. Barrett is only 48 and could conceivably serve for 40 or more years.

In order for a Supreme Court decision to make law, only five votes from the nine-member panel are necessary. With Barrett’s appointment to the court, all five of those votes could now come from justices appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. Trump was not elected by the will of the people. Yet his Supreme Court nominees will determine the rights of the people for decades.
Americans talk about race all the time but we are, as a whole, very very bad at it. So many people have no understanding of what systemic racism is and only the most superficial knowledge of American history. This allows huge swathes of the country to genuinely believe that racism either does not exist or isn't a major problem or that it is a problem...but that white Americans suffer the most from it. (like whut?!)

One of the biggest parts of this is that people can't perceive, much less articulate, the difference between white supremacy (and the systemic racism that enforces it) and baseline personal prejudice. So we just saw nearly 70M citizens check a box for a guy who's entire platform was "I'm going to do literally nothing about the most severe global pandemic in a century" and "white power!" and most of them will vigorously deny their investment in white supremacy (with a fair amount of them actually believing that) because they would never dream of going to a Klan rally, or using the n-word, and they have a black friend at work or a mixed race niece or whatever.

White Supremacy is a working class black voter having to stand in line for 7 hours to make sure their vote gets counted. White Supremacy is Obama being the first president to have to produce his birth certificate when Trump was the first president in over 50 years to withhold his tax returns. White Supremacy is a presidential vote in rural Wyoming being 3x as impactful as one cast in Cleveland. White supremacy is the police body slamming and teargassing Black people on their way to vote while calmly and non-violently getting screamed at by fully armed militia men storming a statehouse.

I am so very happy about what looks to be the all-but-certain outcome of this election. And, as ever, I think racism is just one facet of the root U.S./global problem of capitalism. But the implication of about half the country AGAIN going all-in for the most nakedly white supremacist (AND personally prejudiced) candidate in generations leaves me with but a brief moment to rejoice. I really don't know how we begin to have these conversations in a real way. Maybe it will never happen. In the meantime, now that Black people have "saved" American democracy (or at least brought a stay of execution) we really need to keep that Georgia energy going and continue building communities and institutions that can keep us safe when the next Trump pops up (hint: it will not be long).
Election Levity

I think we all need some stress relief after this week/month/year/half-decade. Here are some election specific items that made me laugh.
I have never gut-felt a Cast Away (2000) take harder in my life.

COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

Damn this hit hard.
Masks Work. Really. We’ll Show You How - NYT

Much like the American electorate by the time November rolled around nobody is "undecided" about mask use at this point. You either know they work and care about your safety and that of others when out in public. Or you don't and you don't. All the same I really liked this article? Interactive infographic? PowerPoint on 3D steroids?? That the Times put together to helpfully illustrate how and why 2 different kinds of masks work.
 
The public health debate on masks is settled, said Joseph G. Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard. When you wear a mask, “you protect yourself, you protect others, you prevent yourself from touching your face,” he said. And you signal that wearing a mask is the right thing to do.

...

“It’s become clear that cloth masks, even though they’re not as effective as the N95s, are still effective at reducing transmission,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. “Even if you’re not achieving that 95 percent reduction, something is better than nothing.”

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

Collision -  fiftytwo.in

I don't know if sensitive & ponderous #longread investigative journalism into major commercial air disasters is a genre unto itself but if it is this is one of the more compelling examples that I've seen. I had not heard of this tragedy from the 90s before reading this but I won't soon forget it.

 
Mistaking it for an earthquake, residents streamed out of their homes, only to find over 500 tonnes of material pouring out from the sky—what an India Today story vividly described as “the equivalent of 600 Maruti cars”. The planes plunged into the mustard and cotton fields, miraculously hitting no one on the ground. There were rumours of a few survivors found in the wreckage, but none were ever brought to a hospital.

...

One theory of accidents is what experts call the Swiss Cheese model. A slab of Swiss cheese has several holes, randomly and unevenly distributed over its surface. If several slabs are stacked together, it would be impossible for something to slip through unless all the holes happen to line up.

If even one slab doesn’t align, the impending catastrophe will meet a layer of resistance, and the worst is averted.

Aviation professionals will tell you that plane crashes never happen for a single reason. There may be an identifiable  primary factor, but it’s usually a chain of events, an array of circumstances neatly piling up. What happened on 12 November 1996 was precipitated by one major factor—communication—but buttressed by stealthier causes. Unfortunately, all the holes lined up that evening.

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The end, when it came, was swift. But in those final moments, both cockpits realised what was happening.[17] The Kazakhs were frantically trying to salvage the situation. In the Boeing, the Islamic prayer before death was chanted: “Astaghfir Allah, Asyhadu Unlaelaha Illallah.” God grant forgiveness, I witness no other God.

...

“If your report is spattered with blood, implementation becomes easy,” said AK Chopra, formerly of the DGCA. “We had been fighting for a secondary radar and separate corridors at the Delhi airport for months. We got them immediately after the accident.”

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

They're iconic, they're everywhere, and they're nearly recession proof so it was interesting to peep behind the McDonald's financial curtain and get a better sense of how the Sausage Egg McMuffin is made (as it were). I'll save you the suspense re: the title of this video: it's Real Estate. Like a lot of fast food chains the vast majority of McDonald's stores are run by franchisees who pretty much license the name and menu from the corporation in exchange for an upfront fee and cut of all sales. Unlike most chains McDonald's owns all of the land on which its stores sit and people who own franchises need to pay McDonald's rent on top of that sales cut. With 38K+ stores worldwide this makes the golden arches one of the biggest property owners in the world. This was a nifty breakdown of how it all works.
I found this to be informative and brilliantly designed. Such a great concept for presenting this info! (Another great find from the Cool Guides subreddit).
Random Viewing
 
  • I would die if I saw this. Screams, running, cowering... the whole bit. But watching other people freak out in response to this dog in a spider costume??? Pure beauty.
  • Actor Jessie Cannizzaro was the model on the packaging of a mass produced Wizard of Oz Dorothy costume as a child. That's a great story to tell at parties and an awesome #tbt pic to share on social media every Halloween season. In this funny sad video she takes holding onto that claim to fame to fame to the comedic extreme.

Things Made

By My Own Hand

I made this in November 2016. That is several lifetimes (and a whole lot of hair) ago. The sentiment remains. As does the acknowledgement that you can do both (even if it's a pain in the a$$). I also know that nothing is over. This week was a victory but nothing is "defeated". Maybe it never is. But keep hope alive and keep punching, if for no other reason than: what the hell else you gonna do????

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

acrisy, n
[ AK- rih - see ]

Obsolte. rare.

Meaning:
1. A state of disease such that the likelihood of the patient's recovery can neither be affirmed nor denied.

2. The fact of no decision being made on a question.

Origin:  post-classical Latin acrisia (1545 or earlier in sense 1) or its etymon ancient Greek ἀκρισία want of judgement, undecided character of a disease

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • If you could remove all of the salt from the world’s oceans and layer it evenly over the earth it would pile 500 ft high.
  • Under the pen name “Selena Montgomery” former GA state representative and political activist Stacey Abrams has written several romantic suspense novels.
  • San Diego is right near the Mexican border but if you hop in a car there and drive east along a line of latitude you will end up in the mid-Atlantic state of South Carolina.
  • In the 1872 presidential election Republican Ulysses S. Grant defeated a dead man. Horace Greely, of the Liberal Republican Party, died in the period between the popular vote being held and the electoral vote being cast. (The electors originally pledged to him went to a variety of other candidates).
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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