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WesRecs

Vol. #54 - November 13, 2020

Hello Hello Hello once again. I hope you're all surviving, and hopefully even thriving (as difficult as that is these days) after another week of the national circus. In many ways things are looking so much brighter than they were even a few months ago and in just as many ways we seem to be staring down the barrel of a very very difficult winter. What's there to do but work for the best and prepare for the worst huh?

In the week since I sent the last of these there was dancing in the streets over an emphatic (if temporary) check on autocracy. A legend who meant a lot to many of us (personally and symbolically) passed away. We worried if a coup was happening. We realized the would be usurpers are *probably* too inept for that. And we've been given day after day of wake-up calls about the plague that is upon us and the darkness of the coming winter.

Also: Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Which I hope will one day make my grandchildren laugh.

That's a welcome light note in a worrying week.

I don't have too much to add here in the preamble this week. In addition to the general/national/epidemiological craziness we're all witnessing I have been intensely preparing for a personal/professional test/opportunity which I'll soon be facing. I face it eagerly and, relative to similar situations in the past, I'd say I'm feeling pretty zen about it. But it's been taking up a lot of headspace so I'll just get into this week's newsletter.

I will quickly add that on the viewing front The Queen's Gambit on Netflix was dope. As a kid who was utterly obsessed with Searching For Bobby Fischer back in the day (I've probably seen it 20x and own it on DVD) it was deeply gratifying to see ultra-competitive-obsessive chess made cinematic as an adult...with all of the demons and complexities that adds. It excavated the cost of being (and needing to be) "the best" as well as The Last Dance, the burden of genius like Good Will Hunting, and high-functioning addiction like Flight.
On the cooking front: I bought a camp stove in fear/preparation for a civil war that would take out the grid. Thankfully that seems to have been averted for the time being but now I have a means to do deep-frying and crab boils outside without all the splatter and kitchen odor. This, for me, has been a year of cooking outside and I'm happy to keep the streak going in new ways. I took her out for a spin with my first attempt at fried chicken in 10 years and my second attempt ever. Results were promising but I need to re-work my seasoning for more kick and I'm going to ditch the buttermilk soak I attempted. It's just not necessary. The purpose of a buttermilk bath is to maximize tenderness but grilling this summer already taught me that's better and more cheaply achieved by simply salting your chicken or pork for a few hours before cooking. Also, buttermilk is a deeply unsettling substance to work with and I never want to see it again. I'll be making a go of twice fried Korean chicken wings this weekend and shall report back in WR 55.

OK then, let's get into it. As a quick reminder, I will be taking the Friday of Thanksgiving week off so there will be no WesRecs on Nov. 27th (only the second off week the newsletter will have had since it first started!).


Stay safe, make smart decisions, find indoor hobbies, look out for your people, and be kind to each other. I love you all.
WesRecs is the weekly newsletter where I (comedian/storyteller/TV Host) Wes Hazard recommend a bunch of cool content (recs) to YOU (the person reading this). There's no particular reason for this other than the fact that I love curating stuff and I'm always excited to share items that I personally have found worthwhile, exciting, or necessary. If you like what you see please be sure to subscribe to get each week's edition delivered straight to your inbox and if you know someone else who might be into it definitely share with them. You can check out all past issues HERE.

WES Around the WEB

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COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

Super-spreading wedding party demonstrates COVID-19 risk posed by holiday gathering - LA Times

In August a couple in California headed to Maine with 5 of their family members to have their wedding. Upon arrival all 7 of them tested negative for COVID. A total of 55 people attended their reception in small town Maine. The venue staff was masked, but most of the guests ignored distancing and masking guidelines and there were more people at the indoor function than was allowed by the state at the time. Within days a guest and a musician playing the event had symptoms and they transmitted the virus to others people from there. Soon after, even more guests became ill. In the end 176 cases were traced to the reception. 7 of those people died. None of the people who died had actually attended the event.

Wear a mask.

Keep your distance.

Do not gather indoors frivolously (and yes flying to your aunt's house 3 states over to share a Thanksgiving meal with your whole family because "that's what we do every year!" is frivolous in this context).

AND DEFINITELY DO NOT GO TO WORK...OR TO ANYWHERE EXCEPT A MEDICAL FACILITY...IF YOU ARE EXHIBITING COVID SYMPTOMS.

It sucks. It's annoying and stressful for everybody. But it's not about you. It's about US. Don't kill someone you'll never meet because you want to hang with your friends and you think masks are uncomfortable.
 
Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died.

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

...

A worker at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center, a long-term-care facility 100 miles from Millinocket in Madison, Maine, came down with a “fever, chills, cough, myalgia, runny nose, and headache” — all symptoms consistent with COVID-19. This worker’s child had attended the wedding reception, and the two had been in close contact in the days right afterward.

Despite having obvious signs of illness, the Maplecrest employee went to work that day, and the next.

...

Over the course of a week, 24 people in Penobscot County who had attended the wedding reception tested positive for the coronavirus. In response, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or MeCDC, launched its investigation of the event.

One of the wedding guests came down with a cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and a loss of his sense of taste. This person worked more than 200 miles away at the York County Jail.

...

The York County Jail employee showed up for an eight-hour shift despite having COVID-19 symptoms. It was the first of five consecutive days of work for the employee, who spent time at two separate “correctional facility housing units.”
This is a wild and depressing Twitter thread about the dismal COVID situation in Texas correctional facilities.

Here is the full 25 page report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. It is damning.

Our criminal punishment system is an evil beyond measure, but on top of all the misery it already brings no one as vulnerable as a prisoner should die of COVID because of a lack of safety measures or concern on the part of the administration. No one. Still it's especially galling to see how many have perished like this without ever having been convicted of a crime.

America: What Are We Doing?

Our Ongoing Electoral Saga

Half of the US population lives in the yellow counties. The other half lives in the gray.

The moral of the story: Abolish the Electoral College.

From my new favorite subreddit, Cool Guides.
America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent - The Atlantic

Joe Biden is the President-Elect and with each day I allow myself to fear a violent Trump coup slightly less. I won't say we're out of those woods until I see Biden sworn in January 20th, BUT...for the moment, it looks like my worst fears about Trump's authoritarian drive might not come true. He still has the full power of the U.S. presidency at his disposal for quite some time, and at the very least we can count on him to do absolutely nothing to stem the spread of COVID or blunt its devastating economic effects for Americans. And it's totally possible that he'll get mixed up in a foreign conflict, or sell state secrets, or issue whack pardons, or wreck the country in any way he can to assuage his toddler ego and appear "strong" after a sound electoral defeat. But in the end it does seem that enough people in power recognize the utter bogus-ness and ridiculousness of his election fraud claims and care enough about at least the appearance of democracy to thwart any actual attempt to hold on to power. That is a thing to be appreciated. It's sad it's even something we have to consider, but it is a good thing.

But as I've said: nothing is over. 70M Americans voted for him to get another term, they aren't going anywhere and neither is the sentiment that brought him to power in the first place. We were all lucky that Trump is so crass, inept, incapable of learning, and unable to convey even a shred of basic humanity. If he'd taken COVID seriously, done the bare minimum to check its spread, avoided the infections of him and nearly his whole team, and read a vapid ghostwritten message of "healing and unity" off of a teleprompter he would almost certainly have won. The next person who can move a crowd and decides to pick up the GOP's standard of xenophobia, oligarchy, white supremacy, and fundamentalist Christian evangelism will not be dunce who can't look human for 5 minutes. That person will be dangerous and we need to be ready for them.
 
And they have at their disposal certain features that can be mobilized: The Electoral College and especially the Senate are anti-majoritarian institutions, and they can be combined with other efforts to subvert majority rule. Leaders and parties can engage in voter suppression and break norms with some degree of bipartisan cooperation across the government. In combination, these features allow for players to engage in a hardball kind of minority rule: Remember that no Republican president has won the popular vote since 2004, and that the Senate is structurally prone to domination by a minority. Yet Republicans have tremendous power. This dynamic occurs at the local level, too, where gerrymandering allows Republicans to inflate their representation in state legislatures.

The situation is a perfect setup, in other words, for a talented politician to run on Trumpism in 2024. A person without the eager Twitter fingers and greedy hotel chains, someone with a penchant for governing rather than golf. An individual who does not irritate everyone who doesn’t already like him, and someone whose wife looks at him adoringly instead of slapping his hand away too many times in public. Someone who isn’t on tape boasting about assaulting women, and who says the right things about military veterans. Someone who can send appropriate condolences about senators who die, instead of angering their state’s voters, as Trump did, perhaps to his detriment, in Arizona. A norm-subverting strongman who can create a durable majority and keep his coalition together to win more elections.

...

At the moment, the Democratic Party risks celebrating Trump’s loss and moving on—an acute danger, especially because many of its constituencies, the ones that drove Trump’s loss, are understandably tired. A political nap for a few years probably looks appealing to many who opposed Trump, but the real message of this election is not that Trump lost and Democrats triumphed. It’s that a weak and untalented politician lost, while the rest of his party has completely entrenched its power over every other branch of government: the perfect setup for a talented right-wing populist to sweep into office in 2024. And make no mistake: They’re all thinking about it.
Has voter fraud ever happened in America? Sure. We're human and there ain't nothing new under the sun. But has rampant voter fraud ever been a significant problem that has had a real impact on election results??? ABSOLUTELY NOT in no way shape or form. "Voter Fraud" is more or less a GOP bogeyman that gets uttered every 2-4 years in an effort to introduce restrictions on voting (like strict ID laws) that ultimately serve to disenfranchise Black and low income voters.

I'll admit, the surface level "logic" can be persuasive. "Why not make everyone present government issued ID in order to vote? I have my license on me at all times, seems simple...". That is until you fully come to grips with the sheer cost and administrative hoops that are often prerequisites to obtaining state-issued ID.

Have you ever tried to get a passport??? It is a morass of fees, and photos, and forms, and post office visits that are damned neear impossible if you work full time, or live hours away from an appropriate government facility, or you're less than literate, or you have no one in your life who has gone through the process and can show you what to do. If you live in a city with good public transportation and you will never be able to afford a car why would you have a license? If your school ID, or your work ID, or your EBT card are not sufficent proof of your identity and eligibility and getting a "proper" state ID is just not a requirment for your daily life, or you can't afford it, or if getting one requires a 6 hour round trip and a fay off of work it is perfectly understandable why you wouldn't be able to produce one on election day. And if the kind of "voter fraud" that would make such a requirement make sense is more rare than reported alien abductions (literaly) then you must conclude that the purpose of such a requirement is not to ensure election safety but to slyly disenfranchise a whole bloc of voters.

This voter fraud panic has been disproven time and time again. Cut the bullshit.

This (source heavy) thread makes the point better than I ever could.

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

Podcast: What now with Cornel West

11/6/20: "Daniel Denvir interviews Cornel West on how to think about and act upon the world that this week presented to us."

When I was a liberal I was wary and dismissive of Cornel West. I took his furor and showmanship as grandstanding and his socialism as his declared socialism as laughable and decorative. What can I say??? I was young and stupid. Now that the basic state of the world, and a deeper understanding of history and economics, have pushed me me considerably more leftward I appreciate (and cherish) both that showmanship and his relentless commitment to the liberation of the oppressed.

This conversation with him as he analyzes the aftermath of the 2020 election is utterly worth your time as he analyzes the both the malignancies of Trumpism and the utter failures of neo-liberalism (plus eternal American racism & classism) that opened the door for it.

With West there are no trivial "sides", no resort to mere comforting labels. There is only freedom, opportunity, solidarity, and love....and then the things that stand in opposition to all of that, like inequality, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, capitalism, and delusion.

A great convo and well worth the listen.

Alex Trebek

In Memoriam

It definitely blunted the weekend's electoral relief to learn that a personal hero of mine (and millions of other people) passed away. Rest in Peace Alex Trebek. It was a privilege and a dream to meet you and i consider myself very lucky.

Not a few people reached out to me when the news broke and that's been an interesting experience on its own. I think I'll probably have more to say about it at a later time but generally I've been feeling that we've been prepared for this and that given his diagnosis he got a lot of time. And I've been heartened by the reports that he passed surrounded by loved ones and spent most of his last day in a swing with dearly beloved wife.

Alex was totally irreplaceable. Jeopardy! just might be on forever, but it will never ever be the same. I got to meet him, and he was everything you'd hope that he'd be, but I did not "know" him. I feel his passing deeply, but not in the way of a lost friend so much as in the way of looking up at the skyline and seeing that a building that you loved is no longer there.
A Wake for Alex Trebek - Vulture

Here's a lengthy and touching compendium of reminisces of the one and only Alex by some of Jeopardy's most renowned champions. I quote here at length because they say so much of what I would say better and more clearly than I could. We lost someone irreplaceable who, by his longevity and his rock steady excellence and the nature of his job, became more of an icon, a fixture, a cultural constant than a "person" to most of us. Of course he very much was a person with private passions and interests and a seemingly devoted family life, but to me and to most of us he was the beacon of calm and sophistication that came on at 7:30p every weeknight and I'm so happy to have met him and to have been a very very small part of it all.
 
For me — for every contestant — being on Jeopardy! was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For Alex, my tape day was another workday, midway through his 30th season hosting Jeopardy! Can you imagine having the same job for 36 years? There must have been days when Alex wasn’t feeling well or just not feeling it, but you’d never know it from the way he interacted with us contestants. In retrospect, it was an act of generosity to each of us to make sure that we got a chance to bask in this very special experience. I have the sense that he felt a real responsibility to us as contestants to make sure we didn’t feel like we were part of just another day at the office. When you got your photo taken with Alex, he had a few signature phrases that he’d use to put you at ease. My favorite was “together again, for the very first time.” When we’d all chat at the end of a taping, he’d draw us all into the conversation, and share his thoughts on some part of the game. On one memorable occasion, he shared a story about how he was interviewing Muhammad Ali at Louis Farrakhan’s house of Islam the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated when he was starting out in media.

...

That’s the first time contestants meet Alex, when he walks out from backstage. And yes, I was nervous — but there was something about how Alex took the stage, how he smiled, greeted the contestants and the audience, got the game rolling, that made it all seem comfortable. I mean, why shouldn’t it? I’d been seeing and hearing Alex in my living room since I was in grade school. As a contestant, one of the most reassuring things was realizing that, no matter how you were doing, Alex was on your side. He wanted you to do well, have fun, and enjoy your Jeopardy! moment. If he teased you, you knew he thought you were doing well. When you got something wrong, he was sorry. When you had a big win, he was happy. He was the star of the show, but he made you feel like the star. Even when he chatted with the audience and answered the same question probably ten times a week, he sounded like he was glad that person today had asked. When he came over to chat at the end of the show, no more note cards, he remembered what you’d talked about before and had follow-up questions, or he might want to talk about an answer you’d given. He wasn’t just following notes. He paid attention. He remembered. He cared.

...

Alex has been the host of Jeopardy! literally for as long as I’ve been alive. I was born in 1984, the same year that the syndicated version premiered, and I’ve been seeing his face on TV at 7 or 7:30 p.m. since literally as far back as I can remember. I have memories of seeing Jeopardy! on television before I even spoke English. The fact that, for a short period of time, I was right there on TV with him does change my feelings about the show, but not as much as you’d think. I have, after all, spent far more years watching the show than the 11 days I was on it. The most surprising thing to me about my memories of the show is how little it matters that I’m in the episodes — even rewatching them now, with my memory of the tapings faded, it’s surprisingly easy to just enjoy the episode as though it were any other episode of the show

...

In a world where “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is the terrible drumbeat we all march to every second of our lives, it was immensely liberating to get a peek at a world where it actually was what you know, run by a gruff but kindly old man who kept everyone at a polite arm’s length and was happy to hand a big check to anyone who answered his questions correctly. A guy who wasn’t your friend, because he was fundamentally too decent to make friends, because making friends would be playing favorites. Someone it was impossible to imagine wrangling special treatment out of by sucking up to him, someone who could let the aggressively quirky personalities of some of the nerdiest people in America bounce right off of him and never, ever let his feelings affect his job.
A formerly incarcerated man shares what Alex Trebek meant to him. A perfect tribute.

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

Abdominal organs (plastic anatomy)

I’ve had a human body for three and a half decades. I could not have pointed to where my spleen is until this morning, so for that alone I’m thankful for this video. I can now also locate my liver and I have an appreciation for how large it is (the largest internal organ and second largest organ overall after the skin). I did not know that my left kidney sits slightly higher than my right kidney (the right one being pushed down by the behemoth of the liver). And I did not know how absolutely jam packed all of the internal organs are with the kidneys being posterior to the pancreas which is itself posterior to the stomach, which itself is way closer to the heart than I had thought.

I’ll admit without hesitation that I’m not the sharpest when it comes to science in general and anatomy specifically but I’m pretty sure most people cannot point to their spleen. If that includes you I’d highly recommend spending a fascinating 20 mins getting oriented with the sack of meat you carry around everywhere and almost never think about.
So random. So Unexpected. So...beautiful. I present you with: The Sound of a Golf Ball on a Frozen Lake.
Here are some facts I learned with this vid:

1. Sometimes fissures spewing streams of methane open on the ocean floor.

2. The sensory perception of a crab is, apparently, mainly oriented toward detecting movement.

3. Sometimes a crab will think that a bubbling methane stream is a tasty morsel and try to eat it.

4. The methane gas will freeze to methane ice upon contact with the crab, causing its mouth to freeze shut.

5. The crab will be annoyed.
Amidst all of the "is he trying to make a coup happen ?!?!" punditry of the last 10 days I was just really struck by this image because I cannot in my entire life remember seeing a photo of the White House taken from the side. Just a small thing I noticed and wanted to share.
I have no idea who these guys are or what they're training for and frankly: I don't like it. HOWEVER if you ever need to shoot a door off its hinges with a shotgun I think it might be helpful to remember a few of these points. Fascinating.
Random Viewing

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Rachitic, adj
[ rah - KIH - tik ]

figurative.
Meaning: Feeble; liable to collapse. CF. rickety.

Origin:  ancient Greek ῥαχις rachis n. + classical Latin -itis -itis suffix, and thus properly meaning ‘inflammation of the spine’, but adopted by Glisson as a learned form of ‘rickets’

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • The Italian Company Ferrero SpA (aka The Ferrero Group, aka the makers of Nutella) is the world’s largest consumer of hazelnuts, purchasing 25% of global production in 2014.
  • Spam is cooked inside the can at Hormel processing facilities.
  • 2015 saw more people die from accidents while taking selfies than by shark attack.
  • Maybe the most randomly specific fact I’ve ever heard: the likelihood of being born a quadruplet is roughly equivalent to the likelihood of being born a left-handed female Leap Day.
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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