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WesRecs

Vol. #77 - April 30, 2021

Hello! And thank you once again for spending some time with WesRecs after what I hope was a not-too-stressful week in America for you. It has been a jam packed one for me with meetings, projects, and some travel. I'm coming at you from beautiful Boston where I trekked to tape another episode of Stories From The Stage at WGBH (btw we're up for another Webby if you'd like to support us with a vote). We've been very happy to have been able to keep up production throughout the pandemic, even when that meant filming episodes remotely over Zoom, and I think we're making some excellent episodes which you'll be seeing in the fall so stay tuned. I've also started work on fun/offbeat freelance project that involves a lot of research and some storytelling and I'll be sure to share some details down the line when we're a bit further along but for now that's required a lot of attention. And I'm also doing some storytelling coaching for The Story Studio, so things have been...busy. As such we've got a considerably more streamlined edition of WesRecs than usual this week. Apologies for that but this week has been a lot of GO and very little sleep. I just need a long nap (or several) and we'll back in the saddle for next week, but I truly think you'll dig this batch of cool stuff I've come across and I wish you the best until next time around.

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. 
My birthday is in April. My mom got this for me and it just arrived this week. It is the most "mom" bday gift of all time and while I need you to understand that I would *never* buy a personalized cutting board for myself I also need you to understand that....I kind of love it? And I've already gotten some solid use out of it. See below.
Two personal (and minor...but delightful) food firsts for me here:

1: That half rack of pork spareribs is the first thing ever on that cutting board and boy was it a perfect way to christen it. It's only the second time I've ever smoked this particular meat and only the second time I used my new smoker. Not bad if I don't say so myself. The ribs could have been ever so *slightly* more tender (still getting the hang of heat management on the Weber Smokey Mountain) but the seasoning was on point and I really don't think the bark on the exterior there could have been improved.

2. I had a sit down restaurant meal for the first time in 14 months or so this past week. It was kind of  by accident. I'd been interested in trying the straightforwardly-named Parm in the Lower East Side for several months now based on nothing more than a craving and a google search for "best chicken Parmesan sandwich NYC". I was committed to enjoying some sunshine and getting out of the house this week so I decided to finally close the loop on this. I had intended to just grab a sub and hit up a park bench or something but when I got there I saw they were actually kind of a sit-down vs an over-the-counter spot and my fully vaxxed self just rolled with it. Truth be told: it was just a well-made, better than average, but ultimately unremarkable go at chicken parm but it was all totally worth it just to sit in the sun enjoying a brew and people watching. It felt like a truly novel and unfamiliar experience after over a year.
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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Things Read

Worthwhile Words

The Unlikely Success of Fish Sticks - Hakai Magazine

I was fed fish sticks for school lunches as a kid and I enjoyed them greatly. When made properly they're crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and they act as an excellent vehicle for the delivery of ketchup. What's not to love?

But as a grown man I haven't had fish sticks in about 25 years and I really can't say why. They certainly haven't become any less popular (as this article clearly shows), I can't imagine liking them any less, and there are more flavors and varieties then ever before. In fact I'm kind of surprised that the marketers and product developers seeking to grab as many dollars from us children of the Reagan era haven't found a way to glamorize/hipsterize/update fish sticks so that they have a moment like grilled cheese or tater tots in the last decade with trendy food trucks and pop ups putting a new spin on a comfort food we used to get tired of seeing in the school cafeteria. Maybe it's yet to come, one can only hope.
 
But the most peculiar thing about fish sticks may be their mere existence. They debuted on October 2, 1953, when General Foods released them under the Birds Eye label. The breaded curiosities were part of a lineup of newly introduced rectangular foods, which included chicken sticks, ham sticks, veal sticks, eggplant sticks, and dried lima bean sticks. Only the fish stick survived. More than that, it thrived. In a world in which many people are wary of seafood, the fish stick spread even behind the Iron Curtain of the Cold War.

...

Instead, the fish stick solved a problem that had been created by technology: too much fish. Stronger diesel engines, bigger boats, and new materials increased catches after the Second World War. Fishers began scooping up more fish than ever before, says Josephson. To keep them from spoiling, fish were skinned, gutted, deboned, and frozen on board.

...

Surprisingly, fish sticks are fairly sustainable. Today, most contain Alaska pollock, which is largely sourced from well-managed fisheries, says Jack Clarke, a sustainable seafood advocate at the United Kingdom–based Marine Conservation Society. The climate impact of fish sticks is small, too. “I was surprised at how low it was,” says Brandi McKuin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who recently studied Alaska pollock products. Each kilogram of fish sticks produces about 1.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which “rivals the climate impact of tofu,” she says. Beef, by comparison, produces over 100 times that amount of carbon dioxide per kilogram.

But not everyone seems confident about what exactly they’re eating when they consume the breaded fish. In the United Kingdom, where fish sticks are known as fish fingers, a survey revealed that one in five young adults believes they are actually the fingers of fish.

They still eat them happily.
How It's Made Frozen Fish Products

If the above article has whet your appetite/curiosity for fish sticks then watch this and get a taste. If you're a WesRecs regular you know I can never resist a good How It's Made YouTube rabbit hole. This time I got a kind of puzzling/kind of delightful Easter egg in my viewing, in that I found 2 versions of the above video. There's the one I've linked to up top which is in their standard video quality with the narrator I've grown very familiar with after watching countless videos from this outfit, and I also found this other once, recorded years earlier, with much lower (360p) video quality and a different narrator but with the same script and lot of the same footage??? I mean I guess they just updated the release but I have not encountered another instance of this and I have watched a lot of these.
I was the first attendee on a conference call this week and about 25 seconds into the standard pleasant/forgettable hold music that is piped over the line in such situations I became aware that what I was listening to, while pleasant, was definitely not forgettable. It was an acoustic country-style song of a guy singing about...being on hold. How meta. How unusual. I was intrigued and I know I'm not the only one because I'm On Hold by Alex Cornell was written in 2014 and has been used as the hold tune for UberConferene since then (Cornell was the Creative Director of the company at the time and I for damned sure hope he secured himself some kind of royalties).

Anyway, looking into the song made me curious about hold music in general so here we have this article:
The Many Requirements Of Hold Music, A Genre For No One - NPR (2019)
 
It's a panoptic experience, being on hold while listening to someone singing about being on hold. Depending how long it takes for someone else to join the call, you could be listening for awhile. The music builds as time goes on, culminating in a spoken verse that begins: "Well, let me tell you all a story / about a man who was on hold all day..." This unusually self-aware song is the default music for a conference call service called UberConference, where "I'm On Hold" plays on a loop for anyone who calls in early, on almost every call that doesn't start exactly when it's scheduled to (or doesn't ever start at all). It's selected by nine out of ten call organizers, and plays over a million times per month, says Craig Walker, CEO of Dialpad, owner of UberConference.

...

If it is a genre, hold music, it's fair to say, is a troubled one with few hits. It's not really meant to be loved or even listened to — it's meant to communicate something specific: Don't hang up. (Cornell makes this plea specifically at the end of his song.) Silence is believed to be a death knell for phone calls — people will simply think the line is dead and hang up. This is true even on non-hold calls; it's why phone companies transmit something called a "comfort tone" over phone lines, a barely audible synthetic noise that signals a connection is still there.
...


I want you take a moment, wrap your mind around this passage, and think about the world we live in. Simply extraordinary:
 
David Green is the board chair of the Experience Marketing Association, and has been focused on hold music for more than two decades. (Formerly called the On Hold Messaging Association, the group gives out awards each year for the best on-hold experiences.)
I absolutely LOVE that someone made a 10 hour loop of the classic Cisco hold music. If you've ever had to call a multinational corporation you have heard this. You have been soothed by it. You have been (almost) sad when a rep finally picked up and you were no longer able to listen to it.

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

The REAL Reason McDonalds Ice Cream Machines Are Always Broken - Johnny Harris

Well that was interesting and unexpected and infuriating and I am very happy to have watched it. This is a fantastically well put together piece of long form video journalism that digs DEEP into an esoteric but widely interesting topic.

If a big name consumer product was put out on the market and it had a 10-20% malfunction rate over its entire lifetime it would be quickly recalled and would become a legend in business textbooks about what NOT to do. Yet, it's almost a comedic trope now that, chances are, the ice cream machine at your McDonald's is broken. There's even an online tool to track this specific phenomenon. There might be a tendency to chalk this up to under-trained or "lazy" workers at the golden arches (after all, Wendy's and BK and other chains can keep their machines going more or less seamlessly, so what gives?) but as this piece explores the root cause seems to be the same root cause of so much of both our daily convenience and our daily misery: capitalism.

I won't go on with any additional context here because this video does a great job of explaining it all but one lesson that I was happy to see it return to again and again is that when it comes to the suffering we experience under, and because of, capitalism - whether it's exceedingly minor like not being able to get a McFlurry when you want one, or the horrifically major like still not being able to get clean water in Flint, MI - the root cause is pretty much never a dark cabal of evil overlords sitting in a darkened smoky room coming up with a nefarious plan to hurt as many people as possible. No, it's most often a group of middle managers in nice ties or fleece vests sitting around a table or on a conference call strategizing about how they can squeeze out an additional 3% of profit next quarter which... is kind of more terrifying.

 
I'm super late on this. Black Thought of The Roots dropped this freestyle on the Breakfast Club back in 2017. It has 13M views and articles have been written about. I just heard it this week, I feel bad about that. 10 full minutes of ridiculous talent. Enjoy.
In case you needed a quick refresher this is one of the best explainers re: what our perception of 4th dimensional objects would be if we were to encounter them and a horrifying/intriguing reminder that a being that was able to move within that realm could do some crazy things to you if they chose.
Random Viewing
  • This is so funny. A quick comedy video responding to the prompt "You've been kidnapped. 2 hours later your kidnappers return you because you don't stop talking about what?". God is good, I guess.
  • Comedian Sarah Silverman has been running a weekly discussion podcast since early on in the pandemic. If you're not hooked into thee comedy world it's hard to understand just how many comics have weekly discussion podcasts. The endless ocean of these is by now itself a stock topic/punchline in standup comedy itself. However, Sarah Silverman's weekly discussion podcast is actually quite good and worthwhile. She's been in the business for a long time and has a finely tuned BS detector and and a basic humanity/care for others that you don't see in a lot of A-list comics. Here is a quick clip of a caller talking about her brother who was a cop, who should have never been a cop, and who suffered greatly (and caused others to suffer greatly) because he was not allowed to be who he truly was. Loved the quote paraphrase from Father Gregory Boyle at the end: "If you don't make peace with your wounds you will be tempted to despise the wounded."

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Elinguid, adj.
[ ee - LING - wid ]

now rare.
Meaning: Mute, speechless.

Origin: classical Latin ēlinguis having no tongue, tongueless, speechless ( < ē- e- prefix2 + lingua tongue: see lingua n.) + -id suffix

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • As of this writing approximately 18.1% of all McDonald's machines in the Chicago, IL are broken.
  • In 2020 LPs outsold CDs for the first time since 1986.
  • When the Birds Eye label of General foods introduced the fish stick in October 1953 it was not alone. It was part of an entire new product line of rectangular foods including chicken sticks, eggplant sticks, veal sticks, ham sticks, and...for real...dried lima bean sticks. Only fish sticks made it to this day.
  • The Iconic Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, for which The Bee Gee's created several original hit songs, wasn't even recorded until well after all of the footage had been shot. In reality John Travolta and his co-stars were dancing to Stevie  Wonder and Box Skaggs and a variety of other artists.
Copyright © 2021 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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