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Vol. #34 - June 26, 2020

OK Whew! I won't spend too much time on a preamble as this issue of WesRecs is jam packed with content. By way of personal update I'll just say that since last week's acquisition of an oyster mushroom growing kit I am now also tending to a tomato plant. It's weird, I'm monitoring the humidity in my room on a regular basis and I might be at war with aphids, I dunno. For a guy who had blackout trash bags taped to all of his bedroom windows windows for like 4 years until relatively recently this is all new and I do NOT know what I'm doing but I'm into it.

A thought:
  • Facebook is undoubtedly evil but if you are still on it I heartily recommend joining your local "Buy Nothing" group where people make posts for items in good 9or relatively good) condition so that other people can come and take the stuff off their hands, free of charge. The poster gets junk out of their house, the respondent gets free stuff they need, Jeff Bezos is deprived of the barest fraction of his hourly income, and fewer things end up in landfills. I needed to rid myself of a chair that just wasn't working for me and within 3 hours I was helping a kind stranger load it into the back of an Uber. Everybody won.

In recent issues of WesRecs I've acknowledged that this newsletter is design. I love absolutely packing it each week with content that I adore and I envision its readers spending some time with each issue, diving into what they find intriguing, glossing over that which might not be their cup of tea. BUT I realize that the length might be intimidating to some and that many (most?) people who open this will never actually see the bottom of it. With that in mind I am now trying to pick each week a few items that I'm especially fond of to quickly link to right here at the top with the barest of descriptions. Most of these are more fully detailed and introduced below but in the spirit of making this as user friendly as possible, here we go:
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.
Happy (official) summer! This is a quick 1-minute story I recorded for a virtual edition of The Gems Storytelling show. Thought I'd share it here. You can indeed find love in a hopeless place. Please don't forget that I'm talking as you marvel at the wonderful flora of my backyard (which I did nothing to cultivate and where I pay rent on a room in a house for 7 people). Bless!
COVID Corner
A warning from South Korea: the ‘fantasy’ of returning to normal life - Financial Times

Reading this story about the extraordinary steps that South Korea has taken to stem the spread and lower the harm of COVID-19 is absolutely infuriating when you compare all of that to slapdash, shortsighted, bumbling, or worse - totally absent, response we've seen from the US Federal government as well as so many states. As flag wavers will regularly tell you: the US is "the richest country in the world!"  yet we've been unable (or unwilling) to muster a response that is even remotely comparable to this. That should make you angry. What should make you worried is that despite all of this South Korea is _still_ experiencing outbreaks and is having to reverse many of the re-opening measures that they enacted. COVID is not going to be done with America for a long long time.
“Coronavirus is constantly attacking society’s vulnerable classes and spaces,” says Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul. “We must shake off the fantasy that we can go back to the past we were accustomed to.”


“Conceding that there have been setbacks, Seoul’s mayor believes the city is demonstrating to the world that economic reopening can only be achieved alongside stringent prevention and containment measures, as well as the humility to pivot, backtrack and admit mistakes.

“People can’t live alone at home forever . . . If we abide by strict disinfection and quarantine rules, check temperatures and wear masks, these [flare ups] are not likely to lead to massive outbreaks,” says Mr Park.“

“Son Young-rae, a health ministry spokesperson, says it has become clear that the “only viable option” to enable economic activity to return while the virus persists is to “harmonise our daily lives with containment efforts”.

“People’s co-operation is essential for successful containment,” he says. “It is very important that citizens, businesses and institutions follow the rules.””

How — and When — Can the Coronavirus Vaccine Become a Reality? - ProPublica

"Normal" is gone forever (and that can ultimately be a good thing if we make the right moves and operate for our collective rather than our personal self interest). But even a rough approximation of normal is some time away. It's staggering to me when I hear people talk about "next month" or "by the fall" with regard to when we'll have some semblance of pre-COVID life. Remember when this all started and schools and offices and venues were giving targets like mid-April or early June? That kind of talk sounds as absurd now as it did then. Yes, life goes on. No one is saying we should be in bunkers, but damn people, this will be with us for a WHILE.
"Let me tell you this up front: If you’re imagining there’ll be one golden day when a vaccine is approved and the pandemic will be over — Finally! We can all crowd into one another’s living rooms and resume choir practice again — I’m afraid it won’t be quite like that. But it will be the beginning of the end.

There’s much to be hopeful about, and enormous challenges lie ahead. Let’s dig in."


"To give you a sense of what a blistering pace we are attempting to move at, consider that under normal circumstances, it typically takes 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine. Creating the HPV vaccine was a 15-year journey from key research findings in 1991 until the vaccine was approved, initially for the prevention of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers, in 2006. Merck’s Ebola vaccine, one of the fastest ever to be approved in the company’s history, still took about five years from start to finish in human trials, according to Merck."


"Manufacturing at a massive scale is no simple task. “If we’re going to immunize 300 million people in the U.S. — we don’t even do that with the flu vaccine every year — we need a lot of glass vials, we have to make sure we have printing supplies and paper to make the labels and package inserts, we need stoppers for the vials, and they all need to be made to a very high standard. All this in addition to the raw materials to the vaccine itself,” Schaffner said."
🎵Bad Boys Whatcha Gonna Do???🎵
Paraphrase - n+1

I LOVE this essay and the straightforward but eviscerating style it uses to cut through months of NY state gubernatorial BS and double talk by simply juxtaposing Andrew Cuomo's public statements on New York's pandemic response (stressing care, compassion, preparedness, caution, etc) with communications received during that time from scared and suffering incarcerated people who were provided with next to zero COVID prep and kept utterly in the dark by institutional administrators. It also details the heroic efforts of advocates on the outside to coordinate assistance for one of the most vulnerable and forgotten populations during the height of the crisis.

During the darkest days of late March and April I judged Cuomo's pandemic response largely in relation to Trump's utter buffoonery and lack of response. At least Cuomo was projecting an image of a competent leader, that took the crisis seriously, had a plan, communicated that plan, and vocally recognized the hardships/sacrifices that ordinary citizens and essential workers were enduring. It looked like someone was driving the bus and that they cared about the passengers. That's not nothing, even if it is the absolute baseline for a public executive. Versus what 45 was offering (deflection, conspiracy theories, indifference to suffering, ego stroking, incompetence, and an utter unwillingness or inability to do...anything) it was indeed welcome. But the more I learn about Cuomo's inaction, hubris, and lack of regard for the most vulnerable people in the state the more I have to call his response what it is: a failure. This piece highlights one specific and grim aspect of that and it does it very well.

You can donate to the Parole Preparation Project (PPP) HERE
You can donate to Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) HERE

“This is the most powerless and lonely I felt in my whole bid,” a person incarcerated in New York State says. I am listening to a conversation that an advocate has recorded and posted online. “It’s scary, man. You’ve never heard me cry before. I don’t want to cry on the phone in front of people right now. But I don’t want to die in jail by myself. I’ve only got three years left. . . . I’m trying so hard to make it. . . . I just want to go home.”


"Official numbers released by DOCCS claim that in New York State, two incarcerated people and one staff person have died so far. They also claim that 201 staff have tested positive for Covid-19. They also claim that thirty-six incarcerated people have tested positive. Logically, this makes little sense. There are approximately three times as many incarcerated people in New York State as there are correctional officers. Yet, as DOCCS would have it, five times as many correctional officers have contracted the virus. By all accounts from people inside, only those ill enough to require hospitalization are being tested.

An incarcerated person reports, A hand-drawn poster taped up near the dorm entry says that all masks will be confiscated and that the wearer will be written up."


"An advocate reports hearing that a facility is manufacturing masks to send out to hospitals. The masks have three layers, two made of cloth, and one that’s a filter, the advocate writes. They are sending out between ten and twenty thousand a week. They are not allowed to wear the masks they are making."

NPR's Throughline: American Police

In conversation with historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

This was one hell of a worthy listen. Here we have a look at the history and origins of American policing (from slave patrols in the South to political gangs in the North) it traces how they evolved from armed mobs working for the protection of private property, how their brutality (against citizens of every color) has been well documented from the beginning, how they've always operated as instruments of class control, and how utterly ineffective reforms and commissions and training are in curbing their most horrifying excesses. I will most certainly be reading Muhammad's book this summer.
And the thing about police that just is so blatant is that they are the most visible representation of the state in most people's lives, especially for black people. So, for example, in 1935, one of the leading sociologists, black sociologists of the period, a man named Kelly Miller, publishes in 1935 a really poignant statement about what police officers represent to the black community. He says too often the policeman's club is the only instrument of the law with which the Negro comes into contact. This engenders in him a distrust and resentful attitude toward all public authorities and law officers.


So Kenneth Clark was a social psychologist whose famous doll studies contributed directly, the research, to showing that segregation had contributed to a sense of inferiority by African American children who prefer white dolls to dolls that look like themselves. And so this research, which was conducted in the 1940s, contributed directly to the evidence presented in the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which in 1954 ultimately overturned legal segregation.

Because Kenneth Clark was such a well-respected social scientist, when he was called before the Kerner Commission, which looked at a series of uprisings that occurred over the course of the mid-1960s - so when Kenneth Clark was called to testify, this is what he said. He said:
I read the report of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee of the Harlem riot of 1935, the report of the investigating committee of the Harlem riot of 1943, the report of the McCone Commission of the Watts riot of 1965. I must again in candor say to you members of the commission, it is a kind of "Alice In Wonderland" with the same moving picture reshown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations and the same inaction. (so painfully familiar...)

Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm - NYT

Boston just recently banned it (which is incredible and necessary and just a first step) so it looks like the country *might* have a hope before doing a running dive into the hell of universal facial recognition implementation. But we'll have to wait and see. If you want some insight into just why you should be afraid of it and why people of color need to be especially vigilant then look no further than this horrifying story.
"An hour later, when he pulled into his driveway in a quiet subdivision in Farmington Hills, Mich., a police car pulled up behind, blocking him in. Two officers got out and handcuffed Mr. Williams on his front lawn, in front of his wife and two young daughters, who were distraught. The police wouldn’t say why he was being arrested, only showing him a piece of paper with his photo and the words “felony warrant” and “larceny.”

His wife, Melissa, asked where he was being taken. “Google it,” she recalls an officer replying."


"Facial recognition systems have been used by police forces for more than two decades. Recent studies by M.I.T. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, have found that while the technology works relatively well on white men, the results are less accurate for other demographics, in part because of a lack of diversity in the images used to develop the underlying databases."


"Mr. Williams was kept in custody until that evening, 30 hours after being arrested, and released on a $1,000 personal bond. He waited outside in the rain for 30 minutes until his wife could pick him up. When he got home at 10 p.m., his five-year-old daughter was still awake. She said she was waiting for him because he had said, while being arrested, that he’d be right back.

She has since taken to playing “cops and robbers” and accuses her father of stealing things, insisting on “locking him up” in the living room."

My Dad Went to Prison When I Was 5. Now I Write About Families Like Mine - The Marshall Project

Victims of crime suffer. Perpetrators of crime who are imprisoned suffer. The families of both groups suffer. In this country we tend to operate as if when you're imprisoned you cross some sort of threshold and become something wholly "other". Not fully a citizen, not fully a person, not someone we have to think about or care for. But about 0.7% of the US population (millions of people) are currently locked up in federal prisons, state prisons, and local jails. Almost every single one of these people has someone on the outside who loves them because they're not a "them" they're US, you and me. It is so shockingly easy to end up incarcerated in this country especially if you are poor or black or brown. And all of those people are sons or daughters or parents or grandparents or uncles or godmothers and when they go away all the people that cherish them and need them and value them and care for them suffer too. Here's an account from a Sylvia A. Harvey who lost her dad behind bars for over 20 years.
My personal experience means that I can cut past the stereotypes and begin with better questions. Once, during an interview about mass incarceration, a radio host asked me if I or my siblings had been locked up. When I confirmed that one of my brothers had served time, she said she had been willing to bet that was the case. Many, the interviewer continued, would argue that my brother visiting my father in prison paved the way for his own incarceration. But my brother and I would have been worse off if we didn’t get to visit my father. Sharing a chocolate bar with my dad in a prison visiting room amounted to the joy of three Christmases, and my brother felt protected sitting on my dad’s lap. This host thought of intergenerational incarceration as something you catch like a common cold, not something orchestrated and sustained by structural inequality, biased legislation and racial disparities in sentencing.
After the Cops: New Agencies That Serve and Protect - The Nib

As I mentioned in last week's WesRecs I completely understand the shock and disbelief and fear written across the face of most Americans when you call for the prison abolition or defunding the police. It's because they're not hearing "let's get rid of a gargantuan & insidious system that swallows millions of Americans whole, engenders unspeakable brutality, rips families apart, sucks away resources for housing/education/healthcare/infrastructure like a vampire, and quite obviously does not do the thing that  we tell ourselves it does (which is prevent crime & violence) -- all of which will of course entail the disempowerment of the foot soldiers of that system who are ultimately here to preserve inequality and social control so that the masses are never able to shake the chains of the corporate overlords that profit from their division and social straightjacketing."

No. Instead they simply hear "let's open all the prison gates, and have violent anarchy across the country such that the streets will run with the blood of innocents who will no longer enjoy the protection of those sworn to serve us!". And yeah, if you pitch it like that (which we implicitly do with every cop show, and sensationalistic local crime story, and the ritualistic dehumanization/othering of every prisoner & ex-con) it's easy to understand the resistance to these ideas. I was very much there myself for a long time.

But what we need to realize is that everyone, EVERYONE (Black/White, Rich/Poor, Urban/Rural) wants to be safe, and wants to have their basic needs met, and wants to live in peace, and wants to be part of a community that values and nourishes them. It's just that for the majority of people (and especially Black people and brown people and poor people) the police and the carceral state DO NOT PROVIDE ANY OF THAT AND IN FACT ACTIVELY INHIBIT THE POSSIBILITY OF IT EVER BEING ATTAINED.

Take for example the homeless: a massive chunk of calls to the police are for the purpose of rousting homeless people and panhandlers from businesses and public places. How in the world is a guy with a gun and 12 weeks of police academy training the best person to deal with that? Why aren't we working to ensure that the person send the cops to oust has a home? That they get the mental health services they might need? That they're provided with regular meals and rehab services so they aren't put in the position of begging for money to eat or get high? A paramilitary service that has almost no responsibility to answer to the law (since they are "The Law") is almost the worst possible response in this scenario.

And look, before you get into "but what about serial killers and mass shooters and rapists?" (which is an inevitable point of objection when discussing abolition) let me say that yes, there are some true monsters out there. There is Evil in this world and people who revel in it, people who love to hurt others, people who are born that way. These people exist. But they are very clearly an extremely small minority relative to all of humanity and why on earth would you structure a major component of your society around the solution to a problem that, on balance, is so relatively rare? A solution that itself produces so much more documented/verifiable everyday misery. To paraphrase a doctor who was incredulous that Michael Jackson was regularly being injected with the high-grade anesthetic Propofol just so he could go to sleep at night: maintaining America's sprawling prison-industrial complex in order to contain serial killers is like undergoing elective chemotherapy because you think your hair is getting too long.

OK, let's take a breath. All of that was my way of introducing a short series of illustrations and musings by Sci-Fi cartoonist Ezra Claytan Daniels about some hypothetical agencies (such as "The Los Angeles Department of Food Security") that could potentially step in and take over a huge portion of the social services duties that we currently assign to the police. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Now, lest my zeal about all of this lead you to believe that I myself am not conflicted about certain aspects of all of this: I wanted to highlight this very powerful and very astute point made by poet & essayist Eve Ewing. If you say "I'm an abolitionist" to what extent do you really mean it??? For the past 2 years or so I've identified as such, but at the same time it *infuriates me* that the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor are not sitting in jail cells right now. I've included work that calls for their arrest in this very newsletter. By holding these sentiments can I, in the strictest sense, actually call myself an abolitionist??? If we're being literal I...have to admit that the answer is NO. Which, no lie, causes all kind of mental tailspins for me. I can only speak for myself here, but it feels like grappling with these questions is THE WORK to be done here (the personal work at least. The collective work is marching, donating, caring, educating, voting, volunteering, learning, etc). I think about this every day and all I can say is that there are certain core principles which I hold and have always held and will always hold and certain higher level sentiments which are definitely mutable for me. I am a different person than I was 3 years ago and in 3 years I will be a different person than I am now. Mass Incarceration is evil. Wanton remorseless murder is evil. Wanton remorseless murderers should be brought to justice. Mass incarceration does not enact "Justice". There is no black, there is no white, always all is gray.
Things Read
Octavia Butler
If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors - The Mary Sue

I was damned near criminally negligent in not having read any work by the late sci-fi/speculative fiction icon Octavia Butler prior to this year. I'd been well aware of her reputation and the fact that she's kind of been having a moment over the last few years with a heightened attention to her work and legacy but I just hadn't taken the plunge. But a few weeks ago I cracked open Bloodchild one of her few short story collections (she was primarily a novelist) and ummm...I WAS NOT READY. And I'm not just talking about the stunning quality of her writing, which is was apparent on the first page of the introduction. No I mean the titular story WENT THERE in a manner that was so unexpected and unsettling that I've thought about it every day since. I am not OK and I mean that in the best way possible. I'm almost done with the collection and I cannot wait to continue working my way through Butler's ouvre. All of this primed me to especially appreciate the sentiment expressed in this piece. I heartily agree and only to eager to heed the call.
“Next thing you know, all of these lists centered around anti-racist texts started popping up everywhere. How to be Anti-Racist, So You Want to Talk About Race, Women Race and Class, White Fragility, and on and on and on. These lists were so dense, so academic, so heavy that I wondered if there was actually some type of certificate program people were participating in—if upon completion of the list, they would be dubbed “Woke White Official Anti-Racist Ally.”

Nonfiction, while important, still affords you the comfort of looking at the problem from the outside. You get to intellectualize the grief instead of sit in it. You can passively observe the percentages and statistics instead of giving the numbers names and mourning families. Instead of being one of the names or mourning family members. You get to step away.

In order for us to make any true strides in this fight, though, we can’t afford for anyone to do that. It has to hurt you like it hurt Emmitt Till’s mama, and Trayvon Martin’s, and Ahmaud’s. It has to be all our babies, fathers, sisters, and mothers. That is the only way that we can push towards the true utopia that feels impossible. We can only know how right it can be after we have all recognized how wrong it is. Nonfiction can’t do that. But science fiction can.”


“...we were never assigned science fiction, always given a white man’s criticism of the society he’s meant to flourish in and never a BIPOC’s dream of what society could be. We have to shift. Almost all of the work that has to be done around the racial dynamics in our country is internal. Everyone needs more courage. Informational text is important, but emotional text is crucial. While we fight for the world of our dreams, we should read pieces from the people who have already created it.”

How Slavery Sowed the Seeds of American Collapse - Umair Haque (Medium)

The economic system of the U.S. was designed to eat the labor and the bodies of Black people from its outset, since before the United States was "The United States". It churned along unimpeded in this for a long long time, through slavery and into the Jim Crow era. Eventually the worst elements of this either were softened in the foreground (The Civil Rights Act) or shunted off into the background (the prison-industrial complex). But the machine that had chewed up and extracted wealth from Black people for hundreds of years was still the only national economic engine that we had, and it still needed to be fueled, same as ever. So it adapted and changed up the formula and started throwing middle class White people in there too, and now here we are. Chickens always come home to roost. Wage endless war abroad? Get militarized police that treat Main Street like a war zone. Deny the poor and the working class healthcare while you rest easy with your employer-funded plan? Get in line with the rest of the uninsured when a public health crisis evaporates your job. America has a choice to make, stay on the same path we've been on...forever, or make a go of a truly equitable society. The first option means certain ruin the second gives us a chance.
"Slavery made America rich. By about 1850 or so. And then it made it poor. By about 2010 or so.

Americans have faced over fifty years of economic stagnation. That’s more than the Soviet Union. It’s left them poor. Yes, really, poor. The average American now dies in debt. To an economist like me, there’s no more alarming figure. That means the average person will never effectively own, save, or earn anything. Not a penny. Americans are paupers now, even white ones. What happened? Why didn’t all those centuries of slavery and decades of segregation make them rich?


You see, the grand idea America had once had — once you go beyond the comfortable sentiments of the “land of the free” — went like this. They’ll do all the work, and we’ll take all the gains. The labour was to be done by black people, especially the hardest and most risky, and the winnings were to be taken by whites, whether in the North or South. That was America’s social contract, for generation upon generation. The central idea was: we will exploit each other, to get rich.

So what was to happen once segregation finally ended — but the central idea of exploitation leading to riches hadn’t changed? Then white America was about to learn the hard way, too, what it meant to be exploited. And it did — as all those things white America’s grandparents took for granted, like pensions, incomes, rising incomes, careers, simply disappeared for most of the middle class.


That is the legacy of slavery and segregation, too: it corrodes the mind. It produced the American Idiot — the kind of person who denies themselves and their own kids healthcare and education, right to this day. The world wonders: what the? What kinds of fools want worse lives for themselves and their own? What on earth is wrong with Americans?

The answer is this. White Americans made a choice. An especially foolish and stupid and childish one. They decided it would be better to still be on top of a ruined society, than equals in a free, just, and prospering one. Hence, “I won’t pay for those dirty, filthy people’s healthcare — even if it means denying my kids their own!!”'

Human nature – Uneven Earth

This is the first of a new series of glossary definitions of core humanities concepts by the radical ecological publication Uneven Earth, an online mag which I am grateful to have just become acquainted with in the last few weeks. Here they tackle "Human Nature" which is a slippery (and illusory) concept that can be bent in all sorts of ways (almost all of them bad).
“Below the surface, statements about what is “natural” are really expressions about what we see as morally permissible. We invoke “human nature” as if to say, “These things will never change so don’t even try”

We invoke “human nature” as if to say, “These things will never change so don’t even try”.

The debate about “human nature” is really a veiled way of talking about good and evil. To question the good of humankind is to question whether it is ethical to respect others. If we decide humans are bad, then we don’t feel bad treating them badly.“

Thankfully, serious observation of human behavior points to precisely the opposite conclusion. Things are always changing, so you might as well try!”

Tourist, Death - Radical History Review

You'd have to be pretty effin' STOOPID to be thinking about booking a trip on a cruise right now given the global pandemic that shows no signs of quitting. But when, one day, COVID is behind us perhaps you should pause even further and really think about whether you want to go through with that Royal Princess or Sandals Resort package.
"Cruise ships require ecological, ethical, and antiblack disaster to operate. Their proprietors and tourist-tenants remain unphased by the discourses of global warming and, now, of a global pandemic because these capitalist enterprises begin with the slave trade."


"The military base is the spatial and ideological progenitor of the 20th and 21st century tourist resort, the cruise ship port, and the [imported] beach. U.S. imperialism’s protestant attitudes about using land have long been behind making the invasions and chemicals that clear, and keep cleared, the beaches that splay in the resort romance of the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary’s tourist proxy. Some of you are only on the (imported) beach because it—an imperial military—already has been."


“The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being…

In the context of neo-liberal, walled-in resort tourism, the traveling citizen-subject that deploys a discourse of consumption as rights is not a poisonous agent, but is the invasive species. The astringent chemicals, herbicides, and insecticides marshalled in resort and cruise ship tourism’s upkeep, the hierarchical transactional conditions, the active amnesia of extorted lands, all constitute an invasive toxin: Man.[3] The chemical conditions required to mollify that genre of visitor, who rehearses his disdain for others through his tacky performance of the ‘free movement of Man,’ are far morepoisonous for Dominicans who work at and around resorts.

Dangerous is the tourist’s perception of what is wrong with the picture. The tourist’s ethical and imaginative incapacity points directly to the menace of locking the self into one homogeneousperceptual position (i.e., whiteness). It only occurs to the citizen-tourist to think of the Other when he needs to blame someone for the assaultive inexplicability of his own self-disgust."

Sarah Cooper's 10,000 Hours  -

What writer & comedian Sarah Cooper is doing on Twitter & Tik Tok right now is innovative, timely, an effective political tool, and SO SO FUNNY. If you've missed her thus far she's long been building buzz as the author of humor books such as "100 Tricks To Appear Smart in Meetings" & "How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings", but her profile has been kicked into the stratosphere by her short lip-syncing videos targeting Trump since lockdown began. They are brilliant in their simplicity. She takes audio clips of Trump speaking at public events and simply mouths whatever it is he's saying. That's it. The gold lies in the fact that she's a talented actor who is able to expertly hone in on what specifically is absurd about what he happens to be blathering and express that with a bottomless chest of squints, eyebrow arches, hand gestures, and mimed reactions of whatever reporter has the misfortune of interviewing him. Any one operating in good faith who's finished the 10th grade can tell that when 45 talks it's just Neanderthal, meandering, 6-year old, lie-filled sewage being spewed from start to finish - but his face always has the smug "aren't I great?!" look of an idiot narcissist. Cooper's gift here is to, in a way, actually humanize Trump by wrapping his words in a non-verbal package that an actual human being might have.

I really enjoyed this write up of Cooper and her work both because it shows a profound appreciation for all of the time and effort she put into being ready for this pandemic moment and it's very insightful regarding that process. Great stuff.

Here are some of my favs among her recent videos:

Michael Colyar - The Mercedes Benz Elephant Joke

Ran across this clip on Lil Duval's IG a while back and just remembered it this week. This is a performer working at the top of his craft, total ownership of the crowd. As Lil Duval notes, the joke itself is not too much (basically a mildly NSFW dad joke) but MAN is he working that audience, it's like watching someone play the cello. I've been handling lockdown and the longest time I've ever been away from the stage pretty well I'd have to say, but this made me want to be in front off crowd again like for real, for real.

This webcomic is also basically dad humor in its way, but with kind of a dark edge and it made me laugh and I can put whatever I want in this newsletter so here it is.
Things Made
Very happy to announce that I've been awarded a grant by Critical Minded as part of their COVID-19 Relief Fund for Cultural Critics from Underrepresented Communities. This only motivates me to keep creating and commenting on the world around me, and is a huge help as a performer navigating a landscape where live performance is still light years away from any semblance of "normal". You can find the pieces I submitted to the committee via the link HERE, one of which was an edition of this very newsletter (Vol. 30 to be exact). If you're reading this all and liking it please do consider subscribing which you can do on this very page. Much love. Keep making, we need both action AND art now more than ever!
I have done Zoom comedy. I have done Zoom storytelling. I have done Zoom interview. And now I can say I've broken the seal on Zoom acting. It was a blast to record an episode of Anthony Scibelli's "Stay at Home Show along with the very talented Chloe Cunha and Brett Johnson. I can't count how many stages I shared with this crew over the years when we were all back in Boston so it was a reunion of sorts. I've been involved in one of Anthony's video projects before but now I'm happy to say that officially a small part of the Dino-Warriors mythos - and that will mean something to you one day.
Word of the Week
[ MON -di - green .n ]

Meaning: A misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing, esp. of the lyrics to a song.

Origin: 1 the name Lady Mondegreen, a misinterpretation of the phrase laid him on the green in the ballad ‘The Bonny Earl of Murray’; coined by S. Wright (see quot. 1954), who introduces the misinterpreted phrase as follows:  

S. Wright in Harper's Mag. Nov. 48/1   When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember: Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, Oh, where hae ye been? They hae slain the Earl Amurray, And Lady Mondegreen.
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