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Vol. #65 - February 05, 2021

Hello once again from the back end of another wild week in America. I hope you are all staying as safe and as sane as things allow. I have no major personal complaints on my end over here and I got a chance to look at a lot of cool stuff over the course of the week so I'll just jump right into it. I'm getting very excited about some projects I'm working on for the year and I'll definitely be sharing them in due time. Until then, be kind and keep your head up and thanks so much for checking out WesRecs.

As Ever:

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. 
It's been a minute since I've including any cooking updates here and that's mainly been due to 2 reasons:

1. It's the dead of winter and my favorite kind of cooking is grilling and even though I was firing up the coals deep into December it just got to the point where you have to respect the season and hang up the tongs for a lil while. Like I love the taste of charcoal on a tender cut of beef but I'm only willing to freeze so much for it. We had an absolutely massive snowstorm in NYC this week with over a foot of accumulation and I can't even see my grill from my window at the moment and I'm not about to put snowshoes on to correct that so yeah, a huge part of my culinary arsenal is on ice for the time being. I am of course adapting by doing more indoors stuff (with a hope to specifically investigate on Korean, Mexican, & Caribbean cuisine over the next months) but yeah the weather has been a factor.

2. I just completed a Dry January of total sobriety for the first month of the year. It was an interesting little experiment and I'm glad I stuck out the personal challenge that I set for myself. I have nothing really major to report in terms of gains or insights other than a small, but definite, increase in mental clarity each morning and a not-insignificant financial benefit from savings on beer spending. Something I did realize though is how much I enjoy drinking while cooking. The 2 activities had kind of just gone hand-in-hand over the last year when I cooked and grilled more than I ever have, and I hadn't really thought about it much. But yeah, I'll admit that some part of the joy of smoking ribs or doing a crab boil is getting a solid buzz on while doing so and without that element I just found myself doing it less frequently. It wasn't a conscious choice but toward the end of a month where I cooked less than I have in 10 months an "oh yeah..." light bulb went off in my head.

In the few days since I've been drinking again I cooked a massive pot of very-good-but-not-great chili and I have eaten chili con carne for breakfast, lunch, and dinner since Monday. Things are going well.

The batch (not pictured here because I find it personally impossible to take a photo of chili that looks truly appetizing) was made with plenty of spice and a ton of time to simmer, and it came out solidly, but I just wasn't able to get the full bodied flavor I was hoping for. In the week since I made it I've watchhed a different chili recipe video each time I've sat down to scarf another bowl of it and I know what I'm going to do different once the weather turns, mainly:
  • Use ground brisket instead of standard ground beef
  • *Smoke* the chili over charcoal instead of cooking on the stove
  • Cook my own beans instead of using canned ones.
You'll get the full update once this happens later in the year.
While thinking about how I might expand the usage of the giant pot of chili I had made I looked into Mexican breakfast options (I know, chili is not Mexican but I had a bunch of peppers leftover and some tortillas from a disappointing attempt at fajitas, so I was perusing). I found this video and it changed my life in 2 ways.

1. 1:53 when she says she's going to "toast" the tortillas and put a "little" oil in the pan and instead throws at least a centimeter of oil in there and straight up *deep fries* At first I couldn't believe how different it was from what I was expecting. I mean, when I've "toasted" tortillas in the past I've placed a small pat of butter in the pan and heated them just so they were warm and slightly less chewy than out of the pack. This was something else entirely and while I was a bit thrown at first I have since prepared them like this 3x and I have no idea what I was doing before. This is amazing.

2. Frying eggs in a solid layer of oil is better in literally every way than I've been doing them over my whole life until now. They cook more quickly, you get a wonderful crisp on the edges, there's no need to flip (and potentially break yolks), and you have a much better sense of the done-ness at all times during the cook. I am never going back.

See the above pic for my own breakfast attempt featuring "toasted" tortilla, oil-fried eggs, homemade chili, doctored-up refried beans, adobo peppers, cheese, and leftover steak from the misbegotten fajitas. It was a glorious breakfast and I needed to nap for like 2 hours after eating maybe more of a weekend thing...
I talked about crosswords in last week's WesRecs and I talk about them again below. How fun it was then to score my all-time best time on this Monday's NYT crossword. I've been gunning for a sub-5 minute since forever and I finally made it happen. It was on a Monday, the easiest crossword of the week, so grain of salt...but it was still a solid milestone. More to come hopefully.
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:

All the 80s vibes you'll need this week
Selena covering "Janet Jackson's Brother"

Oreos and the Art of Crossword Puzzle Construction
If that title doesn't intrigue you what will?

I Don't Want To Be A Connoisseur of Death Footage
Seeing something different in yet another police shooting

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
Happy Black History Month.

I'm working on some related content to include in WR later on this Feb (and later in the year) but in order to commemorate the arrival of February I wanted to shoutout this brilliant moment in Black History.

I’m thinking we can get at least a feature film, if not a 4 part docu-series about this specific incident - I like Dennis Haysbert & Meryl Streep for the leads.
Also, real quick, while I'm on February and before I get into the bulk of the newsletter I have to ask:
I didn't move to NYC in time to ever vote for or against him, and it took me a while to begin to get my bearings in local politics but one thing I can say for certain about mayoral sentiment in the city is that *everyone* seems to hate Bill de Blasio. Left, right, Black, white, cops, teachers, doctors, rich, poor, it doesn't matter. The man is reviled and not perceived as evil or incompetent so much as spineless and useless. His embarrassing bid for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination did not help. This video of him dropping (and potentially killing) the NYC version of Punxsutawney Phil at a Groundhog Day ceremony back in 2014 definitely did not help with that perception. I love the local Staten Island color commentary.

Here's some background, this is one of the wildest news article openings I've ever seen:

Staten Island Groundhog Died One Week After Being Dropped By Mayor De Blasio
By Nicholas Rizzi

WEST BRIGHTON — Staten Island’s forecaster didn’t foresee how grim a run-in with the mayor would be.

A week after Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped Staten Island Chuck on Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, the furry spring predictor died of internal injuries, the New York Post reported.

But, according to the paper, Staten Island Zoo officials took great care to keep the groundhog’s death a secret — as well as the fact that the rodent was not really the Staten Island celebrity critter, but a stand-in named Charlotte.

Sources told the paper that Charlotte was found dead on Feb. 9 in her cage. An autopsy found that she died from “acute internal injuries,” which are consistent with a fall.

OK couple things:
  • To reiterate: the mayor dropped the ceremonial groundhog. That groundhog died within the week.
  • They did an autopsy on the groundhog. (When it's animals it's called a "necropsy" but autopsy is funnier here so I'm sticking with it.)
  • It was secretly not even the "famous"/traditional Staten Island groundhog (Staten Island Chuck) but an impostor from the zoo named Charlotte as it seems that the real Chuck bit previous Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, back in 2009.
  • The zoo tried to keep the groundhog's death (which happened a full week after the drop) hush hush to cover up the fact it wasn't Chuck and, I would presume, to prevent the Mayor from getting a rep as a groundhog murderer.
  • Per Snopes, it seems unlikely that the de Blasio drop is actually responsible for the death. Charlotte did multiple events in the week after and had been examined after her mayoral encounter and deemed fine.

Whew. This is very randomly and very marginally fascinating.

Also here is a video of former mayor Bloomberg referring to a groundhog a "son of a bitch":


What Are We Doing Here???

This woman is dangerous and it is good and necessary that she has been politically neutralized in the House, but with that done we need to redirect our attention and MOVE ON. Have we learned nothing since 45 came down that escalator in 2015? If you have no shame and no desire to do anything but make the conversation about yourself you can definitely do that in national politics. We are so very clearly making the same mistake we did with Trump by breathlessly reporting on every new outrage this person reveals. She is vile. She will always say or do something more vile or ridiculous than last week, that is her aim. We should not indulge. Keep an eye on her, no doubt because she is really and truly dangerous, but let her become our conversation.
Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency -

Part of me is inclined to feel a certain glee/schadenfreude at the clownish and epic dysfunction evident in this account of a strategy meeting in the dying days of the Trump White House. Ineptitude, childishness, pathological lying, cronyism, undeserved ego, it's all here. It's laughable.

But it's also terrifying and utterly *infuriating* that these cretinous children were ever given access to this kind of power and that tens of millions of Americans want nothing more than for them to have it again. This is a wild read. Nothing in it is capable of "shocking" me after seeing 5 years of this (not even the former CEO of strolling into the Oval Office, talking like a toddler gangster, and gorging himself on pigs in a blanket & Swedish meatballs...not even that) but it is kind of entertaining in the worst way possible.
Flynn was ranting, seemingly infuriated about anyone challenging Powell, who had represented him in his recent legal battles.

Finally Herschmann had enough. "Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?" he shot back at Flynn. "If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down." Flynn sat back down.


Lyons pointed out to Powell that their incompetence went beyond their lawsuits being thrown out for standing. "You somehow managed to misspell the word 'District' three different ways in your suits," he said pointedly.

In a Georgia case, the Powell team had misidentified the court on the first page of their filing as "THE UNITED STATES DISTRICCT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRCOICT OF GEORGIA." And they had identified the Michigan court as the "EASTERN DISTRCT OF MICHIGAN."


Byrne, wearing jeans, a hoodie and a neck gaiter, piped up with his own conspiracy: "I know how this works. I bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation."

Herschmann stared at the eccentric millionaire. "What the hell are you talking about? Why would you say something like that?" Byrne brought up the bizarre Clinton bribery claim several more times during the meeting to the astonishment of White House lawyers.


The arguments became so heated that even Giuliani — still on the phone — at one point told everyone to calm down. One participant later recalled: "When Rudy's the voice of reason, you know the meeting's not going well."
The Capitol Invaders Enjoyed The Privilege of Not Being Taken Seriously - The Atlantic

Love Masha Gessen. They, an ex-pat Russian knows what they're talking about when it comes rising tides of fascism and effectively working around autocrats. An excellent read, as always.
I have thought about lack of fear a lot. When I still lived in Moscow, journalists who had access to the Kremlin often chided me for taking Putin and his goons too seriously. They didn’t exactly deny that he could have people killed and probably did, or that he was building a dictatorship. They just thought I was making too much of it. It took me a long time to understand that this wasn’t because these men knew more than I did, or even thought they knew more. It was precisely because they shared a world with Putin and his men and saw them as normal, as part of their community. We do not fear those whom we see as being like us; we fear the other.


Black Lives Matter protesters are other to the Capitol Police. So are survivors of sexual assault or women who protest for the right to choose. But an armed mob storming the Capitol, and their Instigator-in-Chief, are, apparently, familiar enough to be dismissed as clowns. (Some of them, in their face paint and strange headgear, even seemed to embrace their identification as clowns.) The invaders may be full of contempt for a system that they think doesn’t represent them, but on Wednesday they managed to prove that it does. The system, which shrugged off their violence like it had been a toddler’s tantrum, represents them. It’s the rest of us it’s failing to protect.
The Senate Has Become a Dadaist Nightmare - NYT

We are somehow much further away from an actually functioning government than I'd thought and this article did a lot to help me realize that. Ezra Klein lucidly breaks down what not only what was already apparent (that the filibuster prevents meaningful legislation from being passed and needs to be thrown out) but also something that that is generally less understood (that the practice used to circumvent the filibuster, budget reconciliation, is somehow kind of worse).

For a long time I was against eliminating the filibuster because it's a 2-way street. Just imagine what kind of dystopian nightmare the GOP can legislate us into the next time they have both houses and no senate restraints. But having lived through the last 4 years and seeing them go full fascist on us all I'd rather take the chance with the 2 year window we have and get some semblance of good done than wait to see what tricks McConnell can pull next.

No matter where you stand you can't believe that the Senate, as currently run, is actually capable of doing anything substantive for anybody. They have proceduralized themselves into obsolescence.
Budget reconciliation reveals the truth of how the Senate legislates now. To counter the minority’s abuse of the filibuster rule, the majority abuses another rule, ending in a process that makes legislation systematically and undeniably worse. The world’s greatest deliberative body has become one of its most absurd, but that absurdity is obscured by baroque parliamentary tricks that few understand.

“Budget reconciliation.” It sounds sober, important and official. But it’s farcical — or it would be, if the consequences weren’t so grievous.


The distortions don’t end there. Budget reconciliation warps policy design by pushing away from regulation and toward direct spending and taxation. An example: If you were designing a health care bill in budget reconciliation, you couldn’t pass a rule saying private insurers had to cover pre-existing conditions. But you could add a trillion dollars to Medicaid funding so it could cover anyone with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t get private insurance. Or to use an example that is actually in the reconciliation package Democrats are designing now: You can pass $1,400 checks through budget reconciliation, but you can’t pass emergency paid leave. When Congress writes laws through budget reconciliation, it writes them with one arm tied behind its back.


In 2012, Steven Teles, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, published a paper arguing that American public policy had become defined by kludges. “The term comes out of the world of computer programming, where a kludge is an inelegant patch put in place to be backward compatible with the rest of a system,” he wrote. “When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program, one that is hard to understand and subject to crashes. In other words, Windows.”

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

Report Shows $12 Billion Gap Between New York Spending on Jails and Policing Versus Public Health and Community Programs - Gotham Gazette

A lot of people pearl clutch and guffaw when they hear "defund the police" as if the notion would mean a serial killer moving into their building. You can tell this is either a wildly ignorant or disingenuous reaction based on the fact that it's not really an ambiguous or confusing proposal in any way. Defunding the police means...defunding the police. It means choosing to live in a world where we spend more money on education, and housing assistance, and nutrition and mental health services and all of the other things that actually contribute to a safe and happy society than we spend on putting people in cages and posting a paramilitary occupying force in their neighborhoods. It's really that simple.
New York’s state government, its counties, and municipalities altogether spent $18.2 billion in 2019 on police, jails, prisons, prosecutors, parole, and probation while only spending about $6.2 billion on mental health services, public health, youth programs and services, recreation, and elder services, according to a new report.


The CCA report found that local governments spent $7.49 billion in total on the carceral system, counties spent $6.47 billion, and the state spent $4.25 billion. Policing accounted for most of the expenditures, altogether about $10.35 billion, or 57%. That number also comes with a major caveat. It does not include the cost of fringe benefits and other spending that can inflate total spending. For instance, the NYPD’s operating budget may be pegged at nearly $6 billion, but actual spending each year is closer to $11 billion with fringe benefits, miscellaneous, and capital spending. “This is definitely an undercount,” Schaffer said.


Kevin Mays, an activist who was formerly incarcerated, said the report is a “scathing” indictment of the state’s leadership. “They’re quick to take and criminalize, quick to take and put people in prison,” he said in a phone interview. “But they don't take and throw money at support programs or diversionary programs that would certainly prevent individuals from having to be subjected to compounded trauma.”
City releases body camera video showing shooting of Andre' Hill by Columbus police officer Adam Coy

It is a testament to both the general national chaos of America in the last few months and the tragically routine nature of state violence against Black Americans that I only just heard of the police murder of Andre Hill in Columbus, OH.

It occurred just this past December, a few days before Christmas, and unlike so many instances where the police manage to dodge and evade for months or years the awful bodycam footage (which shows outright that this was indeed a thoroughly unjustified *murder* of an innocent man) was released within a day.

At this point in my life I've seen so many videos of police killings that it's like a kind of dismal "genre" in my head and I can pick out variations & tropes & idiosyncrasies in each example without having to think about it. If you can handle it I'd encourage to watch it because it stands out in a lot of ways. Of course don't watch it if you don't think you're up to it. It's not particularly graphic as far as these go but it is sad and infuriating in the way they all are. What separates this is how much of the aftermath you get from the officer's perspective which is really notable here.
  • This is maybe the hardest-to-watch black man being killed by the police video I’ve seen after that of George Floyd. The moaning. This man's death rattles. How he did nothing wrong and never even had the chance to even really comprehend what was happening to him.
  • The inhumanity of both of the 2 cops who made initial contact with him offering zero medical attention. They show up, he is shot, and within 15 seconds it's clear that he has no weapon, poses no threat, and is in grave condition. I mean, the cop who fires doesn’t even really search for a gun because he almost immediately perceives that there is none. It is so evident that he very quickly realizes how wrong he's been and how indefensible this will be. And they just stand around waiting for backup, not looking at the gurgling man on the ground whose life they've stolen.
  • The total silence in the aftermath with both of the 2 cops saying hardly a word. His partner definitely knows he’s fucked but doesn’t want to incriminate either of them on the bodycam that's still rolling.
  • Around 4:50 the officer who fired develops a hacking “I know I just fucked up and murdered a totally innocent man and it’s on camera and I can’t make this look clean and my life is over” cough/wretch. It lasts for a while and is such a weird visceral reaction to observe secondhand. Like, we see and hear everything the officer does over these 13 minutes but we can't see him, just the perspective of a camera strapped to his chest.
  • Again, it is SO APPARENT that he knows he’s fucked. None of his colleagues are really talking to him (they know his cam is still recording) and he’s not trying to explain clinically his version of the events like cops so often do on these tapes, right over the body of the victim. I mean he’s basically puking. I guess that's part of what made this such compelling viewing. Given that I've, tragically, seen so much of this exact kind of footage, to the point where it's almost its own dismal "genre", this one is so different because the cop knows he did something that can't be righted or justified. (though his defense attorney will for damned sure try).
  • His colleague at 8:30 basically counseling silence (again, everyone is aware his cam is till rolling). And officer Coy saying “I’m trying to figure out what I missed”.
  • 10:10 and 13:05 his buddy displaying that it’s a priority that the camera be turned off. Neither Coy or anyone around him can behave naturally until they know the cameras are off, it lends this weird atmosphere to the whole thing that is simultaneously authentic and disingenuous. What a sad and fascinating watch.
As wild is that the footage was released so soon it is equally unusual to see that this officer was speedily fired and, just this week, actually charged with murder. It really just shows the degree to which this was unjustifiable. With even a hint of doubt he'd be on paid leave right now with his police "union" rep giving conferences about "the difficulty of the job" or how "we need to let the facts come out".  While he has been charged his attorney is still trying his best on that front.

Two quotes from this piece stood out to me:

Former Columbus Police Officer Is Charged With Murder - NYT
“Police officers have to make these split-second decisions, and they can be mistaken,” said Mr. Collins, who said Mr. Hill was actually holding a keychain. “If they are mistaken, as long as there’s an honest belief and that mistake is reasonable, the action is justified.”

[Ummmmm. How is this "justification" not just a recipe for consequence-free police murder whenever a cop feels like it??? As a basic rule of epistemology it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to ever know with certainty what anyone else is thinking or feeling at any given moment. As such it is not possible to conclusively refute an assertion that someone "feared for their life" or thought someone else "represented a threat"... in other words to claim that they did not have an "honest belief" about the appropriateness of a given action.

That is to say: If a cop killing an unarmed man who posed no threat is justified as long as the cop really believed that he was threat, and I can never prove that the cop didn't really believe that, then killing an unarmed black man who posed no threat is always justified. I mean, I didn't go to law school or anything but I can explain the plot of Interstellar so I'm pretty confident this is all just reprehensible bullshit....]

The body camera footage of the shooting shows Mr. Coy and one other officer responding to a call about a suspicious S.U.V. parked in a residential area. As they approach a garage and shine a flashlight inside, Mr. Hill walks slowly toward them with what appears to be a cellphone. Within seconds, Mr. Coy opens fire and Mr. Hill falls to the ground.

[I'd really love to know which white neighbor's unexamined knee-jerk fear of Black people indirectly led to this man's death. In case you haven't lived and watched the news in America for long enough: a suburban neighborhood's report of a "suspicious SUV" just means there was a black man in a big vehicle. That's literally it. I mean, ask yourself: HOW can an SUV even be "suspicious"??? What does that mean? I get that there are a lot of tight-knit communities out there where a resident would be likely to notice a car they'd never seen before. But unless you hear screaming in the vicinity, or there are bullet holes in hood, or there's an "I AM A MURDERER" bumper sticker on the rear fender what actual detail could possess a person to think "wow, that Rav 4 is kinda suspect!". I mean what would your nosy, prying, trifling, soon-to-be-an-accessory-to-murder ass even say to the cops when you make that call? How do you keep a straight face? "Hi, 9-1-1?! There's a Ford Explorer out here, but not like a regular one, it's a *suspicious* one, and I think it really means business, please hurry!!!!"

And why would the cops even come to check it out??? [I mean I know it's because the police literally exist to control Black movement and behavior and uphold white supremacy and white comfort via state sanctioned violence and surveillance] but what is like the on-paper reason you give for investigating this report? Like, someone's scared of a car they haven't seen before and we should go and confirm that yes, it's just a car and not like Ted Bundy's personal chauffeur or something?". Nah, this was a classic case of "there's a Black guy in this neighborhood and I don't like it one bit, please Mr. Policeman, make it stop."]
Traffic stop leads to deportation of El Paso Walmart shooting victim -

Who is helped by this? What does this accomplish? How is America strengthened in any by this pointless and farcical cruelty? Both of these people have families and full lives in the U.S. Neither of them has any life whatsoever in the places they've been deported to. This is just cruelty for cruelty's sake.
She was booked into the El Paso County Jail Annex and transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which deported Rosa to Cuidad Juarez on Friday morning, where she remains.

Rosa and her sister were cooperating with investigators on the Walmart shooting case because she said they saw the shooter attack the first victim outside before he went into the store on Aug. 3.


“Rosa is a survivor of one of the most horrific events to ever take place in El Paso. She came forward and presented herself to both El Paso police and FBI officials to give a statement of what she saw on that fateful day,” said Anna Hey, Deputy Director/Attorney at Law, of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, and Supervisor of the Survivors of Crime Unit. “The information she has was sufficient for the District Attorney’s office to issue a certification that she has been helpful in the investigation.”

The traffic stop happened on Wednesday, as Rosa was driving home. She was stopped because of a non-working break light.


Rosa, who said she grew up in El Paso and graduated from Jefferson High School, said she does not know a life in Mexico.

A Rockland County resident who had been saved Jan. 18 from illegal deportation to Haiti, where he has never been, was unexpectedly deported there overnight Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, who had intervened last month to prevent Rockland County resident Paul Pierrilus from being deported to Haiti, where his parents were born but where he is not a citizen, said he learned about the overnight move in a 3 a.m. phone call.

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

If anyone tells you we aren't living in a capitalist hellscape they are not your friend.
People Have Nothing Left — Literally $0 — Because Of The Pandemic - Buzzfeed News (October 2020)

Remind me again, why are we still holding our hats in our hands practically begging for a $1400 check from our government to arrive in a month or more while Jeff Bezos steals $62M from his delivery drivers and tries to crush the formation of an Amazon union in a year where he got $70B richer?

Poverty is not a moral failing, it is not the result of laziness or stupidity. In no way whatsoever does "working hard" ensure that you will be "successful" in life. In fact a lifetime of hard work does not even ensure that you will be able to keep a roof over your head and feed your children. It is a crime that 400 Americans control more wealth than the bottom 60% of the entire population of the country. It is a crime that people go hungry or can't access medical care or sleep on the street in the "richest country in the world" (whatever that's supposed to mean). The whole system is rotten and cruel.
They face the unsettling reality that no matter how hard they try, their ability to make it out of this is mostly out of their hands. There’s a belief that people can achieve financial security if they just work hard enough, that being poor is a kind of moral failing. But the crisis has shown that this is a myth. People are realizing now what those in precarious situations have long known: that so much of it is out of your control.


BuzzFeed News spoke to people around the country who saved several months of their typical living expenses and watched their balances draw down to nothing. For many, life got messier than they had accounted for. On top of unemployment, several had unexpected medical, auto, or other emergency expenses that consumed most of the cushion they were counting on to weather a period of unemployment. Several were among the millions of people around the country waiting on delayed unemployment benefits as they looked for new work. A few are now relying on their credit cards. A number are selling belongings for cash.


But things didn’t go as planned. Working for Postmates, which was never an easy way to earn a living, was no longer viable in a pandemic. The weeks her partner did try to work, it disqualified him from collecting his weekly unemployment benefit of $131. Then the car broke down: $1,200. The stove went out: $800. The air conditioner broke. “It’s just been one thing after another,” she said. In October, when most of their money had already been spent, their fridge stopped working. They replaced it with a used fridge for $150, the very last dollars they had, bringing their account balance on Oct. 9 to $0.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

The Radical Lives of Abolitionists - Boston Review

The past is prologue. I really really want to read this book now.
The United States sought to reaffirm its sovereignty through routine celebrations of its independence from Britain. But a militaristic society always celebrating its freedom from tyranny is a powder keg: it constantly threatened to tip over into rebellion against a standing government that many deemed illegitimate. In this way, when African Americans in Boston dressed up and walked in parades celebrating the abolition of the slave trade, they weren’t participating in a quaint ritual that reaffirmed the U.S. social order: they were reminding the nation of its recent betrayal of its black citizens, who took up arms and joined the fight against the British in the name of freedom but still remained in chains. Their presence in the streets must have registered to onlookers as a haunting, insurgent body, in formation and ready to revolt, to start the nation anew or to jettison it for a completely new form of governance.


Jackson’s account of the raid on Harpers Ferry as a highly orchestrated but also deeply collective action, involving many networks of black abolitionists, allows her to subsequently reconceptualize the beginning of the Civil War as one of Confederate insurgency. In the aftermath of the state’s violent suppression of the rebellion, Confederate insurgents captured the arsenal at Harpers Ferry for themselves. This is a helpful reminder that well before the Civil War was officially declared, violent, extralegal battles were being waged directly between abolitionists and white supremacists. In other words, by the time the Civil War was declared, it had already been underway for years.


When Jackson offers vivid descriptions of roundups and executions in the wake of racial rebellion; of draconian ID laws meant to hobble African Americans; of the raiding of queer salons and Free Love boarding houses; of national gaslighting campaigns and the emboldening of white supremacists from a white supremacist White House, it’s hard not to see connections to the suppression of U.S. protest—and social life—in the twenty-first century. As it turns out, since its founding the nation has trafficked in a language of plurality and diversity while policing and criminalizing actual acts of sexual, gendered, and racial freedom because of their insurgent potential.
CW: Sexual Assault & Torture

'Their goal is to destroy everyone': Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape -

I debated whether I should include this piece or not. It is one of the most depressing/demoralizing/infuriating things that I've read in long long while. I've previously included items in WesRecs about China's ongoing total/barbarous campaign against its Uighur ethnic minority. It is a well documented human rights disaster and an evil with global awareness. China is conducting an ethnocide via the mass surveillance, imprisonment, "re-education", sterilization, and erasure of an entire group of people. They may not be, at this time, trying to actually kill all of the millions of Uighur people but they are bringing the full power of the state to bear on an effort to fully erase Uighur culture/language/identity and to brainwash and coerce and kidnap an entire ethnic group into compliant members of an officially sanctioned Chinese society. It is utterly evil and morally repugnant and it stains us all every day that it goes on. That's what I knew before I read this. And now it is somehow worse.

It wouldn't be accurate to say that I'm "surprised" about this report of the mass rape and sexual torture of Uighur woman in the vast network of detention/re-education centers that China has established for them. Whenever one group has total and unchecked power over another group and has built a culture that regards that group as less than human you end up with routine and institutionalized sexual violence (see: Slavery in the U.S., the Holocaust, Japanese WWII occupation of Korea & Manchuria, etc.). Still, reading these accounts is gut-wrenching, not only because of the brutality, but because I really cannot fathom any end to it.

China is plenty powerful but it has not even begun to see the heights of the global power and influence that it will one day attain. At present no foreign nation or outside group can begin to challenge them in any meaningful way on what they're doing within their own borders, and that's if they want to. But China's immense markets and manufacturing clout combined with its fearsome military mean that no one is going to even try and change a thing on the behalf of a minority group that is being driven closer to annihilation every day. Internally things are no better. While there are millions of Chinese citizens who detest the total control and surveillance of the regime they are heavily shackled in terms of providing effective resistance. We saw it in Hong Kong last year. The government apparatus is heavily invested in maintaining control for decades to come and they are willing to go to lengths that other regimes might never have the resolve for. If hiring millions of agents to monitor every single social media post is what it takes, they'll do it. If they have to put a facial recognition camera on every building and light post they'll do it. If they have to arrest and imprison every single protestor and every rally they will do it. The very nature of revolutions and paradigm shifts mean that they were previously tremendously unlikely or outright inconceivable so...who knows. I don't want to just throw my hands up and say  "nothing can be done!" But at this time I cannot conceive of a scenario where the current assault on the Uighurs does not continue until it's more or less complete – and that is a tragedy I don't have words for.
The women had their jewellery confiscated. Ziawudun's earrings were yanked out, she said, causing her ears to bleed, and she was herded into a room with a group of women.


"My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they cannot move," said Gulzira Auelkhan, crossing her wrists behind her head to demonstrate. "Then I would leave the women in the room and a man would enter - some Chinese man from outside or policeman. I sat silently next to the door, and when the man left the room I took the woman for a shower."

The Chinese men "would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates", she said.


About an hour later, her cellmate was brought back.

"The girl became completely different after that, she wouldn't speak to anyone, she sat quietly staring as if in a trance," Ziawudun said. "There were many people in those cells who lost their minds."


Many had turned to alcohol, Ziawudun said. Several times, she saw her former cellmate collapsed on the street, the young woman who was removed from the cell with her that first night, who she heard screaming in an adjacent room. The woman had been consumed by addiction, Ziawudun said - she was "like someone who simply existed, otherwise she was dead, completely finished by the rapes".

"They say people are released, but in my opinion everyone who leaves the camps is finished."

Additional reading:

China's Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone - The Atlantic (Feb 2018)
What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State - NYT (Feb 2018)
What Biden’s Agenda Can Mean for Oppressed Uighurs - The Nation [perhaps a few rays of hope but I fail to see how China is going to be swayed by some moderately "tough" talk on the issue. Especially, as this piece necessarily points out, since the U.S. itself incarcerates millions and has a chain of ICE detention facilities on our southern border.

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

Oreos and the Art of Crossword Puzzle Construction - The Pudding

In last week's WesRecs I included an awesome look at the troubling staidness of the NYT crossword and the hyper-creative resistance to it being created to it by an incredibly diverse group of young crossword creators at outlets like USA Today and The New Yorker. I'm coming back at you with more cruciverbal content this week courtesy of an extremely well done visual deep dive into one of the most common 4 letter clues over the past few decades: OREO.

If you solve crosswords regularly you have seen OREO as an answer a million times. There are many reasons for that (such as Americans are almost universally familiar with it, and it includes 3 of the 5 most used letters in crosswords) but there is so much fascinating history and insight to gain from really analyzing its use and that's what's been done here in another brilliant data visualization from The Pudding. If you've never checked out their work before I highly encourage you to do so, they present facts and trends and culture in such an engrossing way and if you don't love this you'll absolutely find something there that you do.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Dir. Paul Schrader, 1985)

Every once in a while I'll be watching a movie and around the 20 minute mark I'll think to myself "this one's special". I've only seen a relatively small sliver of the whole thing but already just the beginnings of the visuals and the acting and the soundtrack and the writing have come together to kick my ass into total attention – and hope – hope that the steam won't run out like it does all too often when a brilliant start unravels into disappointment and what could have been. The Fountain rewarded my hope, Solaris did, Dope did. And this past weekend Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters did. It is one of the best biopics I've ever seen about one of the most fascinating subjects with a style so striking that I'd gladly hang a framed still of at least 5 of its scenes in my home one day.

It's co-written and directed by Paul Schrader who's most known for writing Taxi Driver and who's weird directorial effort Cat People (an 80s erotic horror remake of a 40s arty B movie) I enjoyed a long long time ago. I also enjoyed his Hardcore starring George C. Scott when I saw it last summer, but more for its way of showing a very specific scene at a very specific time in LA than for it being an overall great film. From all the films that I've seen which Schrader has written/co-written/directed like it's obvious that he's obsessed with obsessed & damaged men wracked by guilt and with an inability to express themselves in constructive ways. That's very much on display here, except Japanese author Yukio Mishima definitely found some constructive ways to express himself (on top  of some deeply destructive ones).

I've never ready any of Mishima's novels or stories (will def be correcting that soon!) but I was familiar with him because of the spectacular manner of his death which involved committing ritual suicide after taking a general officer hostage at a Japanese military base in 1970 and giving a speech about the need to restore Japan to an absolute imperial monarchy. Ostensibly it was an attempt at a coup/imperial revolution but most people seem to agree that Mishimia never thought it was going to succeed and he just wanted to set the stage for a dramatic death that he saw as the perfect union and ultimate fulfillment of his life and his art. That's the kind of thing that can completely overshadow one's actual literary output but the movie makes us appreciate the writer as well as the spectacle by blending both a conventional biopic with heavily stylized scenes from 3 of his books and stories. Finding out just how all of that mixes together is one of the many pleasures of this movie and while I don't think this will be everyone's type of thing by a long shot I can say that if you like it you will REALLY like it and be left thinking about it for a long time after watching.

And the music, by Philip Glass, just...damn. Glass is one of my favorite composers and a go-to artist for me to put on when I'm writing or reading so I'd heard a lot of the score before outside the context of the movie. ADDITIONALLY, as you may or may not know I'm a Truman Show fanatic (truly find that to be an endlessly rewarding/revealing film text) and the opening theme from Mishima is recycled on the Truman soundtrack so it was like 3 levels of weird overlapping appreciation.

Loved it without reservation, will def watch again in a few years, and probably every few years.

Here's Roger Ebert's insightful review from 1985 if you're interested.
As unorthodox as Schrader's approach to Mishima's life may be, I cannot imagine a better one. Like Hemingway and Mailer, Mishima conceived his life and his work as intimately related through his libido. In Mishima's case this process was made more complex by his bisexuality and masochism, and his "private army" combined ritual with buried sexuality; his soldiers were young, handsome and willing to die for him, and they wore uniforms as fetishistic as the Nazis.


Mishima is his ultimate man in a room. There is the young boy, separated from his mother and held almost captive by a possessive grandmother, who won't let him go out to play but wants him always at her side. There is the writer, returning to his desk every day at midnight to write his books and plays in monkish isolation. There is the public man, uniformed, advocating the Bushido Code, acting the role of military commander of his own army. On the last day of his life, he is ceremoniously dressed by a follower and adheres to a rigid timetable that leads to his meticulously planned and rehearsed suicide, or seppuku. Considering that he is a man fully committed to plunging a sword into his own guts, he seems remarkably serene; his life, his work, his obsession have finally become synchronous.


[On Mishima in the film] He is insane, yes, but not confused. He thinks with the perfect clarity of the true believer, and in this case his belief is in himself and his statement.

UV light shows the unseen splashes created by standing urination

Sometimes you forget just how weird and wild and unexpected...and rewarding...the Internet can be.

And then you stumble across something that you never even came close to thinking would exist, but it does, and now you know that, and you can't unknow it, and you know that other people need to know about it to. So here we are.

This video seeks to scientifically investigate the splashback patterns and volume caused by peeing while standing. I am so happy that scientists are finally out here tackling the REAL questions on all of our minds. This is long overdue and Nobel worthy.

Couple things:
  • I checked, these are pee simulations. Not footage of an unseen and very well-hydrated man urinating off camera into a test bowl.
  • I was shocked to find out, first thing in this vid that 69% of men report standing when they pee vs sitting. Which means that...31% sit down??? I find that figure absolutely shocking, I would've thought it was *maybe* 7%.
  • My surprise is likely due to this fact which I found on the study's website: "Roughly 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women think it’s ‘unmanly’ if a man usually sits to pee". So maybe I'm just having a retrograde gut reaction based on sexist and meaningless stereotypes. Doesn't mean I didn't have that reaction, just that it might be stupid.
  • I cannot adequately express how cinematically dramatic this video is. The music is more appropriate to the buildup to a battle scene in a classic Hollywood sword and sandals epic and I kind of love it for that.
  • Fellas, counter to all common sense (which dictates that you should aim at the back wall of the bowl to minimize splashback onto the toilet rim and floor that would be generated by hitting the water itself) this actually shows that aiming for the water is the more sanitary option. Doing so might generate larger and more visible splashback drops but aiming for the back uniformly causes more splashing of smaller drops that are invisible to the naked eye. I'm not sure you can teach an old dog new tricks BUT..the more you know.
Random Viewing

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Labrish, n
[ LAB - rishh ]


Meaning: Gossip; rumour; idle talk.

Origin: Perhaps < lab v. + -er suffix5 (compare blabber v., and also regional (Caribbean) blabbermouth talkative, laba to chatter, laba-laba talkative, (as noun) talkative person (all mid 20th cent.)) + -ish suffix1, after e.g. English n. 2a

Somebody Said This

Words To Admire

"As I drive, I think of what a hopeless, bitter place this is. Cyprus is like some boat sunk under a great weight of stones, and while the rest of the world talks of finding some way to refloat it, none of the stones is ever removed. Instead, the Greeks and Turks busy themselves finding more stones to drop onto the wreck: the Dherinia killings, the struggle over European Union membership, the Ocalan affair. Tomorrow, no doubt, they'll find another.

So how do you fix it? Both sides in this conflict wield history as a weapon and invoke it as the basis for their own plaintive cry for justice. But if the history of Cyprus – indeed the history of most of the world – reveals anything, it is that there is no such thing as justice: You live in your house until the day someone comes along and throws you out, and then he lives there until someone else comes along to throw him out. Just where do you pinpoint the moment in this island's history and say, "Here, we will write this wrong," and let all the previous ones go by the wayside? Obviously, you cannot afford to go very far back, because in Cyprus, as everywhere else, there is always a prior victim."

-Scott Anderson, "Dispatches From a Dead War" (1999) from Fire Sebastian Junger

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • The word "Dakota" means "friend" in the Dakota language and it is what the Dakota people called themselves. The language also includes the word "minisota" meaning "water that reflects the sky" which was used as the name of the neighboring state.
  • The holes on a Bic pen cap are there to prevent complete obstruction of the airway should it be accidentally inhaled.
  • 12 minutes is the average amount of time that the ball is in play during a Super Bowl.
  • [More of an "Infuriating Fact" but...] There are more Americans living in poverty than there are people living in all of Canada and if everyone in poverty lived in a single state it would be the second largest by population after California.
  • Ikea is the world's largest consumer of wood
Copyright © 2021 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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