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Vol. #24 - April 17, 2020

Since the last one of these newsletters I've completed my 36th orbit around the Sun on this rock. All things considered it was a happy and fulling birthday. I have, professionally, accomplished nowhere near what I thought I would have when I was say, 24. BUT I have a much greater appreciation for the things that are closer to the ground and the relationships that I've built and the things that I've learned in the meantime. Additionally, in way thought would have been inconceivable to me 10 years ago, I'm really excited about what the next 10-15 years of my life might bring. I'm thinking every day about what I can do now in order to be the person I want to be when I'm 46 and 56 and beyond... That's pretty impressive for someone who fifteen years ago thought his chances of being dead by now were decent. As we are finding out these days: life goes on.

I hope you are all staying as safe and as healthy (and as sane) as possible given the circumstances. After this immediate crisis has passed we will find ourselves at a juncture where we need to figure out what and how we want to be (as individuals, as communities, as a nation, as a world). There is not, and there can't be, a perfect path but hopefully we'll find a way to step wisely. I love you all.
As per usual in the last several weeks of this newsletter the first part of this week's WesRecs is COVID Corner, devoted to pandemic related news, info, humor, etc. If that's quite for you right now please feel free to skip past it down to your regularly scheduled programming, take care!

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.
COVID Corner
General News/Info

COVID and Community - LA Review of Books

I love love loved this article. It approaches the COVID pandemic from so many different angles, it exquisitely anticipates a number of questions that we'll have to answer as a society, and it does an amazing job of outlining so much of what has been lost without becoming nihilistic about what might be built in its place.
“But contagious diseases have always been with us, and one thing that COVID has in common with the contagions of the historical past is that all of them are at once diseases of the physical body and the social body. [1] Consider the etymology: contagion means together plus touch. That’s why social distancing, and still more self–isolating, are no small things. They put us out of touch. John Donne, suffering from fever, said that no man is an island, and we may be on our way to finding out what that really means.”
“And what about the homeless and prisoners? The chickens of decades of social indifference and austerity are now coming home to roost — for, even if hearts are hardened, their misery is a risk to the better-off. In the chaotic American health-care system, fear of the consequences of the virus also, and understandably, maps onto income and race: 83 percent of Hispanics now worry that they or someone in their family will get sick compared to 56 percent of whites; the same 56 percent of those with an annual income of more than $90,000 a year express worry about personal or family affliction compared to 68 percent of those with an income of less than $40,000 a year — though one can expect these figures to change as the crisis evolves. [5] When you’ve got no buffer-stock of capital and no space to store hoarded toilet paper, COVID represents something more than a health crisis.“
“So the biggest questions that the COVID crisis puts to us are whether we can recognize genuine expertise and act on it, whether we can repair some of the damage done by austerity and widening inequality, whether we actually do care for each other, whether we can manage our way through the crisis without inviting the extension of authoritarianism, and whether we can invent, rather than nostalgically restore, a society where we are in touch without touching. If we are to be in the same boat, then it’s a boat we may, together, have to build.”
I’m an E.R. Doctor in New York. None of Us Will Ever Be the Same. - The New York Times

Kind of a harrowing read here. This is one NYC ER doctor's week by week account of her growing awareness of the pandemic when it was just beginning to ravage northern Italy, through New York City's first week of cases, and into the fire of overflowing emergency rooms in the Big Apple, to last week. I've read a fair amount of firsthand accounts from soldiers in various conflicts and this reads like a combat memoir in the way that the initial deaths and horrors that are experienced seem singular and incomprehensible until they ultimately (and relatively quickly) become routine and a certain numbness that is both helpful and soul-crushing replaces the shock. If you know a doctor, nurse, or hospital support staff member dealing with this: give them a hug.

"Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital [Bergamo, Italy], which provides advanced, state-of-the-art medical care, is one of the biggest hospitals in the region, housing more than 900 beds. It probably has the highest number of Covid infections in the country. Andrea Duca, an E.R. doctor there, has been treating these patients for a couple of weeks now, since the first case was detected. They had only sore throats and mild coughs to start, but after a few days, patients were showing up with more severe symptoms. They had significant lung infections and low oxygen levels, even when they didn’t look that ill. Some of them had diarrhea instead of respiratory complaints, which made diagnosis confusing. The clinical picture was different from what Duca and his colleagues expected. “The virus is as free as the wind,” Pietro Brambillasca, an anesthesiologist who works with Duca, tells me over the phone. “It does whatever it wants.”"


"Still, mental-health professionals, especially those who treat combat veterans, worry that doctors will sustain moral injury from having to allocate medical equipment and care."


"What I think will actually cause moral injury is seeing people die after getting the most advanced care available. People who come in talking, with stories to share. They get care — the best that modern medicine has to offer — with life-prolonging machines and IV drips of all sorts of critical-care drugs. We put our full minds and whole hearts into trying to save them. Then I see their bodies shut down anyway. They are alone. I’ll see that over and over again, and it will reach a point when it is numbing. What will affect me the most is not remembering them as individual people, no particular detail that separates a person from the one before and the one after, because they all come in sick with the same symptoms, the same history, until they morph together, become breathless bodies. That I am the last person they see before they die — not their families — and that I won’t remember them at all because there will be hundreds more just like them. That it will become routine."

The America We Need - The New York Times

This article, the first of a new series from the Times, is both inspirational for its vision of how US society could be made more equitable and open and invigorated in the wake of this health/economic shambles -  and depressing because of the near certainty that it won't due to our mistrust, factionalism, corporate entrenchment, and our condition of being saddled with the absolute worst conceivable national leadership at the worst possible time. I hope still, but it seems like just a hope.
“Advocates of a minimalist conception of government claim they too are defenders of liberty. But theirs is a narrow and negative definition of freedom: the freedom from civic duty, from mutual obligation, from taxation. This impoverished view of freedom has in practice protected wealth and privilege. It has perpetuated the nation’s defining racial inequalities and kept the poor trapped in poverty, and their children, and their children’s children.”

“The results are clear enough: Executive pay has skyrocketed, and shareholders have enjoyed rising stock prices, at least until recently, while most workers are falling behind. If individual income had kept pace with overall economic growth since 1970, Americans in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be making an extra $12,000 per year, on average. In effect, the extreme increase in inequality means every worker in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution is sending an annual check for $12,000 to a worker in the top 10 percent.”

"To give Americans a fair chance in the race of life, the government must begin from birth. The United States must reclaim the core truth of the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education: So long as Americans are segregated, their opportunities can never be equal. One of the most important steps the United States can take to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive is to bulldoze enduring patterns of racial and economic segregation. Zoning laws that limit residential development in the very areas where good jobs are most abundant are one of the most important structural obstacles to a more integrated nation."

Coronavirus Is Hurting the Restaurant Industry. Here’s How It Could Change the Future of Food - Time Magazine

The recovery of the restaurant industry from all of this (just like the travel and live entertainment industries) is going to be long and rocky. I appreciated the frank acknowledgement of that seen here from one of the most famous chefs in America.
How long is the food world going to feel the fallout?
“Right now it’s like you’re on the shoreline and you’re seeing a tsunami coming. There’s so much else to be fretting over. There’s emergency happening all around us. But the impacts of this, from an agricultural and ecological point of view, are a disaster that we will be talking about and writing about for our lifetime … [By this summer] restaurants may come back but they’re not coming back at 100%. We will not be returning to normal even when we’re allowed to. The idea that people are going to be spending money in restaurants is preposterous. We’re headed for an enormous recession.”

Recently, local food—or food from smaller, independent farms and restaurants—had been gaining in popularity. How could this crisis change that?
“The world of processed Big Food was about to fall apart. There was a new era that was much less centralized and much more regional. Now everyone is staying home. There’s a return to efficient food, food that you can eat without thinking about it. Big Food is saying, “We’re back, and we’re not going to lose it this time.” That, to me, is a disaster.”

COVID Comedy


If you have the means and are interested in helping either of 2 groups who are being especially impacted by the COVID crisis I'd like to direct your attention to both BAJI & The New York Nail Salon Worker Resilience Fund.

BAJI (the Black Alliance For Just Immigration) is conducting a COVID bailout to help the extraordinarily vulnerable people currently held in lockdown at Rikers Island for no other reason than an inability to pay bail (which is often just a few hundred dollars). If you don't know conditions at Rikers (and jails/prisons throughout the country) are horrific right now with many mass COVID infections and frequently no access to basic healthcare or sanitation. In Baji's own words:

COVID Bail Out NYC is a commitment to do a part in stopping this pandemic by bailing people out of Rikers. Please join us by contributing funds for housing and supportive care to individuals who have experienced the pandemic of being caged and COVID19. We need living spaces for people to quarantine, rest and start healing.  After they are released, we must make sure we have enough resources to secure safe shelter to quarantine for 14 days and food.

I'd also like to turn your attention to the New York Nail Salon Worker Resilience Fund. They're working to support vulnerable workers in one of the hardest hit industries by providing direct cash payments in this time of need. They also provide resources for labor organization and worker advocacy. In their words: 

Nail salon workers have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In an industry already marked by widespread wage theft, a lack of health protections and job security – where workers live not only paycheck to paycheck but day to day – the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the injustices they have long experienced. Salons are now officially closed, meaning workers are cut off from any income. Many do not have access to adequate health care, paid sick leave, or the social safety net due to immigration status.

Thanks for anything you can give, donation buttons linking directly to each org's donation platform are below.
Donate to BAJI
Donate to the Nail Tech Resilience Fund
Things Read
Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot - Nautilus

Food for thought from 2018 focusing on how most of even our most daring and perceptive visions of the future are ultimately rooted more in the present than we ever realize. We tend to concentrate on what "new" technologies we'll have but rarely on how our societal and cultural evolution might render them pointless or radically alter their application. Definitely a worth read as we face a global crisis that will, and must, lead us to some radical changes in how we live and work and treat each other.
"As the theorist Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in Antifragile, “we notice what varies and changes more than what plays a larger role but doesn’t change. We rely more on water than on cell phones, but because water does not change and cell phones do, we are prone to thinking that cell phones play a larger role than they do.”


"One futurist noted that a 1960s film of the “office of the future” made on-par technological predictions (fax machines and the like), but had a glaring omission: The office had no women.9 Self-driving car images of the 1950s showed families playing board games as their tail-finned cars whisked down the highways. Now, 70 years later, we suspect the automated car will simply allow for the expansion of productive time, and hence working hours. The self-driving car has, in a sense, always been a given. But modern culture hasn’t."

Digital hoarders: “Our terabytes are put to use for the betterment of mankind” - Ars Technica

I really should not have read this article because now I....have ideas. I've been a packrat of the physical world for as long as I can remember. I attach way to much sentimental value to random junk, and many of my personal hobbies (collage, curation, etc) require having a lot of "useless" crap at your disposal. I have at various times collected napkins, magazines, lost hubcaps, postcards, ticket stubs, masks, and the red paper flaps that you used to tear off of the envelopes that Netflix DVDs came in before you sent them back in the mail.

But ever since I first went online in 7th grade this tendency has also been replicated in the digital realm. It's a lot easier to manage space-wise for obvious reasons but back during Napster days I accumulated something like 20,000 hand picked songs one by one by one, and since then at various times I've had PDF collections of old magazines, screenshots of typos on various news websites, and posters of comedy shows that failed to include any women on the lineup. These have been desultory and occasional collections that I haven't really stayed with but after reading this article about lone & noble digital preservationists and their solitary quests to preserve various singular parts of the Internet I am inspired to grab a few hard drives and jump into the fight to save the Web's detritus. The world needs me.

BTW I talked about in last week's issue of WesRecs but this article could not align with this documentary more so once again I am wholeheartedly encouraging you watch the INCREDIBLE documentary "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project" as soon as you have the opportunity.
“Any hardware is welcome. While many users boast huge storage racks of expensive equipment, even humble Raspberry Pis are routinely kitted out with oversized drives and employed as real-time reddit-scrapers. That embarrassing 3am post about how you really need to get back with your ex? You may have deleted it within seconds of posting, but it's almost guaranteed that there are multiple copies in private archives—available to your ex on request.

1990’s-era mass storage devices such as the Iomega Zip Drive occasionally float to the surface of the sub, as their owners rediscover them from a cupboard under the stairs, prompting discussion on drivers, recovery methods, file formats, and readability.”


"A shower thought just hit me today," posted u/mamborambo on the lesser-used r/datahoarders subreddit. "With all the active archiving projects being launched recently to save historical content from Yahoo Groups, Youtube, dying mailing lists, evidence of human rights abuses, etc. etc., the datahoarders' role has been elevated from a nerd with compulsive hoarding tendencies into a champion of free speech and preservationist of history. We now boldly go where the corporate interest fails. Our terabytes are finally put to use for the betterment of mankind. Hopefully none of our home rigs fail, we remember to do our 3-2-1 backup correctly, and most importantly to make our loot accessible, because data is useless if not shared.

Why Michael Jordan's scoring prowess still can't be touched - ESPN

For everyone in NBA withdrawal during the pandemic here's a great exploration of the singular insanity of Michael Jordan's jumpshot prowess. Few people argue against his reputation as the greatest basketball player of all time but most remember him, stylistically, for the rim-shattering dunks of his early career. This article shines a light on the way in which his late-career focus on his mid-range jumper (shots taken between the paint and the 3-point line, 8-23ft from the rim) changed the course of not only the guard position but scoring in the NBA as a whole. Fascinating stuff with great graphs and explanations to make this understandable for even the most causal basketball fan.

"Jordan didn't dance around the margins of the scoring era. He infiltrated the teeth of opposing defenses and destroyed them up close and personal. He said it to their faces. Other players will win scoring titles and NBA championships, but nobody will ever do it like Jordan did."


"In the spring of 1997, Steve Smith, one of the most gifted wing defenders of his era, described defending Jordan in detail to Sports Illustrated. The challenge was as much mental as it was physical.

"Somebody like Reggie Miller will run you back and forth across the floor through a million picks on every possession," Smith said. "But Michael doesn't waste much motion, he doesn't play with you ... When he gets the ball, he lets you get set, then he does what he's going to do."

The 1990s Bulls weren't hunting mismatches every trip down the floor. Jordan was the mismatch. There was a cruel intimacy to his domination. Defenders had no excuses."

Things Seen
Inside a Google data center.
You're relying on a data center just like (or similar to) this one in order to read these very words. They are the physical manifestation of "The Internet", they're found all over the world, they use more energy and produce more heat than you can possibly imagine. The modern world would fall apart without them, and a very small percentage of people have ever actually been to one. Here you get to take a tour and I think you'll find it interesting. If you need additional reasons to be fascinated by these things I'll suggest the absolutely Fort Knox level of security needed to actually gain access to one of the data centers run by Google. Yeah there's a lot of sensitive data stored on these so I'd expect decent security but what they describe here is just BANANAS. Like Mission Impossible s#!t. Here's Joe Kava, VP of Google's Data Center Operations:

"We use various layers of higher level security the closer into the center of the campus you get. So just to enter this campus my badge had to be on a pre-authorized access list. Then to come into the building, that was another level of security. To get into the secure corridor which leads to the data center, that's a higher level of security. And the data center and the networking rooms are the highest level of security. And the technologies we use are different. For instance, in our highest level areas we even use under-floor intrusion detection via laser beams...Going into the secure corridor...I use a bio-metric iris scanner to verify that it truly is me."

All of that is said over a montage of guard booths, CCTV cams, "Alligators Present" warning signs posted around the waterways used to cool the servers, etc. Damn.
A very thorough tour of the International Space Station.
This is the perfect video for quarantine. When I had a life outside of my apartment it'd be hard to justify 50 mins watching something like this that didn't directly contribute to my productivity/efficiency/some project i was working on, etc. But now? I got time. If you ever wondered how astronauts pee in space or what their bedrooms look like, well, here are your answers.

This is both informative and kind of funny. The astronaut leading this tour, Steven Swanson is (like all astronauts) a wildly accomplished individual. He has a bachelor's degree in Engineering Physics, a Master's in Computer Systems, and a PhD in computer Science. The man knows his business. But he also sounds like the the biggest jock of all time and I love him for it. With experiments on the ISS they're mostly designed and monitored by scientists on Earth, but you still need people who can fly and command spaceships to bring them into orbit and set them up. That's a lot of what Swanson does and the amount of times that he says the earth based teams are doing "good science" is downright lovable. Also, the ISS is a lot bigger than I had imagined.
Things Made
I haven’t been on stage in like 6 weeks. And after this event tomorrow I still will not have been "on stage" for the longest stretch in my performing life, but I’m excited to be doing this and just plain curious to see what happens. If you don't have any plans on Sat 4/18 (and I know you don't) stop by.
You like trivia?
You like science??
You like Zoom meetings???

OK, no one truly "likes" Zoom meetings but if you can put that aside for one evening then you'll get to enjoy the first 2 things in that list with ME on Thurs 4/23 as I make my digital return Boston's Museum of Science for The Virtual Big Quiz Thing at 7:30pm for the cost of TOTALLY FREE!!!

Info and registration HERE.
Word of the Week
Claustrophilia, n.
[ klaw-struh-fil-ee-uh]

Meaning: A morbid desire to be enclosed within a confined space.

Origin: : modern Latin, < Latin claustrum confined space, cloister n. + Greek ϕιλία affection.
Somebody Said This
"He pondered that a little while and then he asked, do Black people have to pay for their doctors, too? Because that's what TV programs had said. I smiled a little at this told him it's not only Black people who have to pay for doctors and medical care; all people in America have to. Ah, he said. And suppose you don't have the money to pay? Well, I said, if you don't have the money to pay, sometimes you died. And there was no mistaking my gesture, even though he had to wait for the translator to translate it. We left him looking absolutely nonplussed, standing in the middle of the square with his mouth open and his hand under his chin staring after me, as in utter amazement that human beings could die from lack of medical care. It's things like that that keep me dreaming about Russia long after I've returned."

-Audre Lorde "Notes From a Trip to Russia" Sister Outsider (1984) [Based on journal entries edited from a 1976 visit to the USSR]
Fun Facts
  • It is estimated that the human brain can store about 2.5 PB (Petabytes) of memory data. (Over 3.4 years of 24/7 Full HD video recording would be around 1 PB in size.)
  • Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) have an unusual mode of reproduction. The female shark has two uteri that will each hold several fertilized embryos (generally 2-9). The first embryos in each of the uteri to reach a certain size (the “hatchlings”) consume all of their smaller siblings during gestation resulting in 2 shark pups from each litter that are born big enough to face few threats from predators. This process is called “embryonic cannibalism’ or EC (also "embryophagy" or "adelphophagy" — literally "eating one's brother”).
  • Dragonflies spend the vast majority of their lives (two months to five years, depending on species) as flightless aquatic larvae (“nymphs”). They only become the colorful four winged specimens we’re most familiar with upon reaching an adulthood that lasts only a few days to a few months.
  • A “second” is called a second because it’s the 2nd division of the hour by sixty. The 1st division is the minute.
  • Everybody’s favorite dwarf planet Pluto takes 248 years to complete one full orbit around the Sun which means that it has completed less than 1/3 of a full orbit since its discovery in 1930.
Check me out on social media with the links below. And if you like what you've just read please be sure to subscribe and share it with a friend you think will dig it too, thanks!
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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