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WesRecs

Vol. #56 - December 04, 2020

Welcome Back!

Yes indeed, after taking only the second week off from producing WesRecs that I've had since I began the newsletter last year (once again in observance of Thanksgiving week) I am here refreshed and recharged for another share of things that I've recently liked and found interesting and which I think you will too.

If you happen to be joining us for the first time this little intro section is just where I talk about what's been up in my week personally, things I've watched, food I've cooked, projects I've been working on, etc.

The last two weeks have been both a chance for me to rest and recuperate after the grueling (but rewarding) prep and travel out to LA for that project I'd been getting ready for over the last few months (I talked about in the last issue). I still can't talk about it but it should be dropping in the early part of 2021 and you'll definitely be hearing about it.

I vegged out a bit, I cooked a lot, and I've been particularly productive as I've made moves to boost my artistic output and get into some life habits that will help me  do what I need to do (i.e. less booze, more sleep, more physical activity, and a commitment to writing every day).
On the cooking front: I've been a storm in the kitchen since I've returned from the west coast. This was mostly due to Thanksgiving and the free time and emphasis on food that it brings but I'm hoping to keep a halfway decent pace moving forward. I've spent more time in the kitchen (or at the grill) this year then ever before in my life and I'm not mad about it. It's been one of the few silver linings of this plague year for me. Clockwise from the top left:
  1. I tried my hand at a basic meatballs and marina recipe based on a cool video I found online. I'd made spaghetti with meat sauce a few times before but I'd never given actual meatballs a shot. Verdict: the meatballs themselves were dope. I did half pork, half beef, used panko breadcrumbs, seasoned em perfect, let them firm up in the fridge before cooking, etc. Really nice. BUT THE MARINARA SAUCE was...trash. I don't know why I never took a moment to question the video on its preparation. I've known from my own spaghetti preps and from watching my mom make hers all my life (one of my fav things that she cooks) that you need to give the sauce TIME. It needs to simmer for *hours* to let all those flavors get happy together. This recipe basically said to pour a can of crushed tomatoes over your meatballs, season it basically not at all, and then you're done...in ten minutes. I went with it and...felt stupid later. Oh well, next time.
  2. As I said, the meatballs were dope and I mixed up a pretty bangin' salad with my own vinaigrette. I forgot to put the garlic on my garlic bread but that was the best basil and olive oil bread you have ever tasted...sigh.
  3. Tried a Thai shrimp soup based on this recipe. I will first note that you can procure 15 head-on shrimp in Brooklyn for *stupid cheap*, like I thought the dude rang me out wrong at first but nope, it's just that affordable. This came out tasting great, like the flavors really hit. The only drawback is that it's kid of a thin soup so I ate a giant bowl and my body was like "ummm...we're still hungry dude...". Solution?? Next day I poured a serving over rice, worked like a charm.
  4. I made yet another go at frying chicken which is becoming my culinary holy grail. The texture of this batch was indeed improved over last time (see the last issue of the newsletter) and the flavor was dope (went for American classic instead of Korean style, though I did twice-fry these). They could *still* be more crisp but I was happy. On the left I did a basic salt/pepper/seasoned salt spice. On the right I tried to go for classic buffalo wings (everything you do on the left but then you throw them in a mix of equal parts butter and equal parts Frank's red hot). Those were good but I think I put too much butter in vs hot sauce and also it's critical here that you use unsalted butter. I went with salted Irish butter and it was just too salty overall.
  5. This was the revelation of my thanksgiving cooking. I did *smoked* macaroni and cheese over a charcoal fire with pecan and hickory wood for smoke (based on this recipe). MAAAAAAAAAAAAN this was one of the best things I have ever made in my life. A pound of cheddar, a half pound of Montery Jack, panko and crushed bacon topping, and you could literally smell the smoke off the plate. Knocked it out of the park if I do say so myself.
  6. Made some beef ribs. 6.5 hour smoke. Totally worth it. The flavor was amazing. Truth be told they were a tad bit more dry than I would have liked but having reflected on it I really do think this was because I didn't have a cooler on hand in which to insulate the meat as they rested for the requisite hour after removing them from the grill. That wait is to allow moisture to re-enter the meat but in the open air that process is mitigated. Live and learn on that one but it was still a dope Thanksgiving entree.

On the watch front I saw The Founder with Michael Keaton, about Ray Kroc's development of the McDonald's empire. I did not love the character, but I was fascinated by him and I def recommend the movie. It's about a guy who was always sure that he was destined for greatness, and who hadn't evidenced it by the time he was in late middle age, and who somehow *somehow* pulled off something big with pretty much no one believing in him (for good reason). It was weirdly inspiring and terrifying and Michael Keaton (who I've loved since Batman when I was 5) is a genius.

I have also been getting lost in Raised By Wolves, the new sci-fi/theology series on HBO Max. I swear, in 30 years cults are going to be inspired by this. It is so far very complex in its ideas, supremely layered in its plots, and very very good at subverting our knee-jerk reactions to modern day atheist and hyper-religious stances. It's like if Battlestar Galactica had a way bigger budget and didn't have to please fanboys. I have watched A LOT of sci-fi this year and while this doesn't fill my heart the way that The OA did this summer it is making me think as much.

 
OK, that's enough of an intro, let's get into it! Thanks for joining if you're new and for returning if you've been here before. We're almost done with an endless year, and wherever you are I hope you are safe and cared for. 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.

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COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

The Most Magical Place on Earth: Inside the great NBA bubble experiment. - GQ

This up close and personal look from Taylor Rooks at the struggles and (and surprising joys) of life inside the NBA bubble for players and coaches is among the best sports writing of the year. It's fascinating in that it gives you a fly-on-the-wall look at one of the most massive and public social/logistical/epidemiological experiments that's ever been conducted and it's packed with a incredible amount of emotion and vulnerability from superstar players who were trapped inside a Disneyland clean-room/prison for weeks on end, leading them to let their guard down more than they may ever have done otherwise...all while the only 2 things on TV were them and the political unrest rocking the country. It's a portrait of an utterly singular time and place and mood by someone who was there and it's so worth your time. (Image: Kagan Macleod)

When people ask me what the bubble was like, I tell them it felt like summer camp, except most of the campers were multimillionaires and a considerable percentage of them were seven feet tall. There were times I'd be heading to the Maya Grill for lunch (my go-to was the chicken nuggets, vegetable pasta, and a strawberry-lemonade Popsicle) and I'd see the Lakers' LeBron James and Anthony Davis casually ride past me on their bikes. Or I'd spy Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, walking alone across the same bridge every morning to go grab breakfast. In a surreal way, the campus granted athletes the rare freedom to move through the world unbothered. No security details, no fans stopping them for photos. It's something I imagine a lot of them haven't been able to experience since they were teenagers.
...

At some point, money became a point of contention. The fact of the matter was there were guys in the bubble in different financial situations, and not everyone could afford to forgo the season. A few of them were max players, with multiyear contracts in the hundreds of millions, while other guys were just trying to carve out a career for themselves. “It definitely felt that a lot of what was talked about was the social injustice part,” says Hill. “And then there was a handful that would talk about the financial loss. A lot of us were saying, ‘What does money mean if you have no humanity?’ And a lot of [other people] were saying, ‘We want the money.’ So sometimes money trumps humanity, I guess. But that's what it was, and I don't fault anybody. Everyone has a different life, and everyone has different values.” Carmelo Anthony put it another way: “We want change around the world, but then you start talking about money? Money is the root of all evil.”

...

... In hindsight, Ujiri says he doesn't regret returning to the bubble: “Honestly, Taylor, sports brings us all together. We have the ability to address these issues head-on and galvanize and hope for change and try to create that change. We have to be in that space, and the bubble was that space at that time.”

I left the bubble for good right before the Conference Finals to attend my uncle's funeral. As I passed the cartoon signs on the ride to the airport, the sense that I was there for a moment in history finally hit me. Here were these players fighting for equality, fighting with each other for a championship while fighting for each other. These were men who were constantly checking on each other, who showed us all that while being great is impressive, being good can be just as meaningful.


The article also includes the quote below from Kemba Walker, which is one of the funniest things I've seen all year.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

Queens Man's Con­viction Over­turned After Spending 25 Years in Jail for Crime He Did Not Commit - NY1.com

Read below about the "evidence" that stole 25 YEARS of Jaythan Kendrick's life from him: no physical evidence, and picked as the "second choice" of a ten year old in a lineup. That's it. That was enough to throw a man in a cage and subject him to inconceivable brutality and deprivation for a quarter of a century - destroying his family and forever separating him from his mother who died in the decades that it took for his innocence to be proven by DNA.

This isn't a one in a million story. People who've broken no law, or people who at least haven't done the most serious of what they've been charged with are routinely chewed up by the criminal punishment system for lack of money, lack of knowledge, lack of social standing, or any of the million other things that protect the privileged from these sorts of abuses. And 25 years in a box isn't suddenly "OK" even if you've done what you've been charged with.

The prison industrial complex does not exist to "stop crime" or "protect society", it exists to warehouse and extract value from those that are deemed no longer useful to outside capitalist society, to enforce white supremacy and class hierarchy, and to suppress enemies of the state. Are there people in there who have done utterly horrific and violent things who, at present, are threats to others in society? Yes. Does protecting others from them and working to heal them and re-integrate them with the world justify a $81B industry that keeps 2.2 million people in this country under daily lock and key, creating an entire swathe of humans that is deemed by society to be less worthy of being treated with basic humanity? Absolutely not.
 
Kendrick’s release came with the help of the Innocence Project — a nonprofit dedicated to exonerating people who claim to be wrongfully convicted of a crime.

No physical evidence linked Kendrick to the murder. He was identified in a lineup by a 10-year-old witness who picked Kendrick as his “second choice.”

The release came after DNA evidence and new witnesses supported his claims of innocence. No one else has been charged with the killing.

...

Kendrick’s mom and sister died while he was in prison. He takes comfort in knowing his mom always believed he was innocent.

“On my mother’s deathbed, she said, 'I dreamt that God let you go, and never let go of his hand.' She said that twice, dropped the phone and I never heard from her again. She died after that,” he said.

Kendrick acknowledged he was getting ready to enter a world that was unfamiliar, especially during the pandemic, which he said was raging behind bars. But for now, he’s mostly looking forward to an actual feast on Thanksgiving for the first time in more than two decades.
Logo for The American Prison Writing Archive (The american flag reflected in a cell door)
The American Prison Writing Archive at Hamilton College

Wow, what an amazing/ engrossing/ devastating resource this is. Compiling several thousand letters, essays, and articles from the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and prison staff in an an easy to use format that allows you to search by subject, title, author, geographic area, and specific prisons I've found myself returning to it again and again for the insights it provides about the worst thing this country does to its people.

To describe the project in its own words:

The American Prison Writing Archive is a place where imprisoned people and prison staff can write about and document their experience. It is a site where all who live or work inside can bear witness to what is working and what is not inside American prisons, thus grounding public debate about the American prison crisis in lived experience.

The APWA is open to contributions by current and formerly incarcerated people, correctional officers, staff, administrators and volunteers. It is a virtual meeting place where we can learn from of all who live and work inside. The APWA is an open-source archive accessible to a global readership. It spreads the voices of unheard populations, thus increasing awareness and improving the ease with which we can all better educate ourselves about one of America's most powerful and most problematic institutions.


Definitely take a look at this resource, I doubt you won't end up spending some time with it. Most of the pieces are written by hand by those inside and you can see high quality scanned copies but most also have a link to a typed transcription.

Just a few of the pieces I've come across:
  • "I Broke The Law" A short peace speaking to some of the core outrages of the system. An inmate acknowledges that they've committed a crime but then in simple terms explains the "constant physical, verbal, and mental abuse" of incarceration both from other prisoners and guards, the racism, and their mental and substance abuse issues that are left totally untreated for years on end. They've written for years to get in a treatment program to no avail, but acknowledge it will only take them 10 minutes to land in solitary confinement.
  • "15 Minutes" A man inside recounts waiting for the results of an HIV test following a (cw) sexual assault.
  • "The Lesser of Two Hells" Two New York State prisons, Clinton Correctional Facility & Sing Sing Correctional Facility are compared. Both are miserable, guards are vindictive and petty and abusive at both, and you never want to find yourself in either one but, as told here Sing Sing is less racist and has more educational/developmental programming...so that's something. This is the kind of perspective that we can only get from hearing from those who've been there.
  • "I'm a 32-year-old California prisoner serving a 137-years-to-life sentence" 10 pages relentlessly breaking down the cruelty and misery of prison in the U.S. quoted below:

It took me a long time to admit and accept, reluctantly, the Bipolar Disorder these prison “doctors” had diagnosed me with. It is a frequent torture, a real and tangible and horrible pain within. A curse. Sometimes I’ll go days without leaving the cell, without eating or showering, just paralyzed over the mattress and staring at the walls and having bad dreams. Or I’ll go days unable to sleep, tackling ten projects at once, punching the obscene walls, talking to myself and having hallucinations and wrecked with anxiety. In desperate lapses I’ll hang from a sheet around my neck for a moment, or cut a vein open. The prison mental health system is a sham, and a majority of inmates are resentful toward them because of their hypocrisy, their collusion with prison officials, their bureaucratic sinecure. Yes, there are saints working here, but they are a very small minority who the system neutralizes with its cancerous might.
The cruelty of parole in New York - NY Daily News

Uhhh, it's not generally my style to read, support, and share an op-ed from 3 of NYC's District Attorneys (especially one from the NY Daily News...) but hey, even a busted watch is right twice a day and while I loathe the system they represent they're making some worthwhile points about cutting back the number of people living under probation and parole and incarcerated for violation of the terms of their programs. Abolition is the way, not reform, but when the gatekeepers are talking serious reform at this very minute, well, I'll listen.
 
Rather than being a rehabilitative alternative to incarceration (in the case of probation) or a release mechanism from prison for good behavior (in the case of parole), community corrections too often serves as a tripwire back into incarceration. Nationally, one out of every four people entering America’s prisons in 2017 was incarcerated not for a new crime, but for a technical violation. These violations can be as minor as accidentally missing an appointment, missing curfew, or missing a fee payment. They can also be as absurd as being violated for “associating” with someone with a criminal record for marrying someone with an old felony conviction, as happened to a man from Buffalo.

Those violations quickly add up when you have 4.4 million people currently under supervision in the U.S. — twice as many people as are incarcerated in our nation’s jails and prisons.

Society is paying a hefty price to keep all of those people on probation and parole. It costs taxpayers nationally $2.8 billion that year — money that could go to drug treatment, job training and housing for people in the criminal justice system.

...

As counterproductive as it was to imprison people for technical violations before the pandemic, it is doubly so since. Indeed, the first two people to die from COVID-19 at Rikers Island – Raymond Rivera and Michael Tyson – were incarcerated for non-criminal, technical parole violations.

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

Student loan forgiveness is much in the news. As it should be. Towering national student debt was a ticking time bomb prior to the pandemic but now, with so many of those who owe out of work or with drastically reduced income it is a national emergency. It's easy to dismiss the struggles of student borrowers because because being able to attend college at all, even if taking on debt to do so, is a privilege and hey "nobody made you get that degree right?!". But putting aside all of the students who take on debt and never graduate, and those who were preyed upon by soulless for-profit institutions selling dreams of a financial future that they can never provide, the numbers have already been crunched: canceling this debt would represent a society-wide financial boon. It would 100% boost the economy by spurring employment, entrepreneurship, home buying, and debt payment in other sectors. Most importantly it would remove the sword hanging over the heads of almost 50 million Americans, allowing thhem to tlive more free and less fear-laden lives. And to anyone saying "but what about all of the people who didn't get to go to college?!" : Let's cancel all medical debt too. (I'm down for credit cards as well but I don't want you to get too riled just yet...).
Is This Where We Are, America? - NYT

Roxane Gay Speaking TRUTH (as usual). SO MUCH of the resistance to student loan debt cancellation comes from people who paid off their own student loan debt and can't stand the idea of somebody else getting to avoid a struggle that they endured or else those who never took on such debt and are enraged by the idea of society assisting someone in a predicament that they never stumbled into themselves.

I'll just say that if I paid my loans for the next 25 years and the day after I made my final sacrifice to Nelnet they decided to cancel everyone else debt I would still say hell yeah in response to the debt jubilee. (Yes, I would also call Nelnet and see if there was any way I could be retroactively covered and reimbursed under the plan but I'd still be thrilled for others when the inevitable "no" was delivered).
 
Every month, I pay $1,000 to the federal government. My balance has hovered around $140,000 for the past 10 years because most of each payment goes toward the interest. This is a common story, but this is not a sad story because I can afford to pay my loans. In another 15 years, whatever remains on the balance will be discharged, though I will have to pay income tax on the discharged amount. And still, my loans are always looming on the periphery of my life, influencing every fiscal decision I make.

...

Student loans are the kind of debt from which there is often no escape. They generally cannot be discharged by claiming bankruptcy. Deferment and forbearance periods are finite. If you default, the stain of it will follow you for quite a long time. The consequences can be devastating — wage garnishments, no tax refunds, whatever the government needs to do to get their money back — and your credit score can be destroyed.

...

But the debate about the issue is contentious. It’s either a great idea or a terrible one. It’s a way of evening the playing field or it’s unfair to people who have paid off their student loans or who never borrowed or attended college. A great many Americans are only concerned with fairness when they think someone else might get something they won’t get. And they are seething with resentment as they imagine a country in which we help one another. It’s appalling, that this is where we are … that this is who we are.

...

Conventional wisdom seems to be that we must not trigger people by discussing radical ideas like universal health care, civil rights for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, reckoning with police violence and the carceral system, protecting women’s bodily autonomy, and of course, student debt forgiveness. Somehow, compromise has come to mean not doing anything to upset anyone who is completely fine with ignoring the most urgent problems of our day.

Here’s the thing about anger. We only seem to prioritize one kind — anger in reaction to progress. And we never seem to acknowledge the anger rising out of oppression, marginalization, and under representation. The end of slavery and desegregation angered lots and lots of people, and so did taxation, suffrage, marriage equality. Progress angers people, but change is not the problem. The rage and resentment are.
Excellent thread making the case for not only the wisdom of student debt cancellation, but also the massive popular support it shares (especially for those making under $50k, whether they attended college or not).
We Expect Too Much From Our Romantic Partners - The Atlantic (2017)

This article itself provides some food for thought but on the whole I found it pretty unremarkable. HOWEVER, it does have one really great passage about the degree to which poverty (or just basic lower income struggle) saturates and constricts every aspect of your life.

Finkel: People with college degrees are marrying more, their marriages are more satisfying, and they’re less likely to divorce. The debate surrounds [the question]: Why is it that people who have relatively little education and don’t earn very much money have marriages that, on average, are struggling more than those of us who have more education and more money?

There basically is no meaningful difference between the poorest members of our society and the wealthier members of our society in the instincts for what makes for a good marriage.

[However, lower-income people] have more stress in their lives, and so the things that they likely have to deal with, when they’re together, are stressful things and the extent to which the time they get together is free to focus on the relationship, to focus on interesting conversation, to focus on high-level goals is limited. It’s tainted by a sense of fatigue, by a sense of limited bandwidth because of dealing with everyday life.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

Against Heaven
Poem By Kemi Alabi
Appearing in The Atlantic

I don't read nearly enough poetry for someone who went $60K into debt getting an MFA degree in it, but I'm trying to correct that as of late and I'm so glad to have seen this wonderful piece from Kemi Alabi. I have the pleasure of knowing and having worked with Kemi on numerous occasions so it's extra dope to see someone so deserving getting such a prominent publication. Kemi will always figure prominently in my memories of the artist community of Boston as they were gracious enough to accept my invitation to be a part of my 30th birthday variety show at The Gas in Allston, MA. (RIP to that venue, blast from the past poster below).

As noted on the webpage of The Atlantic where it appears, this poem is in the form of a "Golden Shovel" which is a very loose, allusive, and recently invented form where the poet takes a line (or lines, or a whole stanza) from another poem that they admire, and then places each word from that borrowed line or stanza as the end word of each of the new poem's lines, keeping their original order. So for this poem the borrowed line is what if heaven's right here?. Actually as noted by Kemi, this poem is a double golden shovel, I would *assume* that means that the beginning words on each line are also borrowed, which would be There's heaven all around me.

That notion, that the Kingdom of Heaven is right here, right now, happening all round us, and rooted in love for everybody by everybody, and that all of our misery comes from not being able to see that and wasting our lives striving to attain some post-death illusion is one that I think about often. It's a sentiment that can be found across cultures, but I've seen it expressed in a Christian context most effectively...and weirdly... in the movie The Man From Earth which is more or less a low budget quasi sci-fi movie with a bunch of actors who played secondary and bit roles in Star Trek over the years. It doesn't sound like much but I most definitely recommend giving it a watch if you ever have a rainy afternoon.
Before Kemi was getting published in The Atlantic they were dropping dope poetry on a birthday show in a dive bar for $25 and beer tickets. I love to see talented people shine!
Red Pill, Blue Pill: James Meek on the conspiracist mind - London Review Of Books

I've talked about very many times in past issues of WesRecs but the steady erasure of a broadly agreed upon reality is right up there with global capitalism and climate change as one of the biggest problems the modern world faces. If half of the population looks at the well-documented (and frequently self-confessed) crimes, misjudgments, blunders, and cruelties of an elected official and judges him, correctly, as a charlatan and a villain and the other half sees the same thing and thinks that it's all an evil fabrication against a great man carrying the torch in a fight against a satanic blood-drinking pedophile cabal... well...then you can't have a functioning country. You just can't.

All of the past stories that I've included about Trumper-denialism, Qanon, deep fakes, social media propaganda campaigns, conspiracy thinking, etc all point in the same direction: the utter abandonment of even the semblance of shared truth. If I believe that vaccines are a scheme to infect us with nano-chip government trackers, and 90% of social interaction is with people in my 10,000 strong FaceBook group, where articles and videos by "experts" on the subject are routinely shared, and I can go to a professionally run conference at a ballroom in the Cleveland Hyatt where people with fancy degrees tell me all about the hidden conspiracy, and I can vote for a candidate on a major party ticket that agrees, and they win, and my belief in this sludge never has any personal or or professional consequences for me in any way (except maybe getting dis-invited from my cousin's Thanksgiving then, for me, that belief system is a "true" as it ever has to be and I'm going to regard anyone trying to use "science" to disprove it as an enabler of cult pedophilia who deserves whatever agony and violence comes to them. This is not the grounds for a civil society and conflicts like this don't get settled in debates....
 
Earlier this year the young German journalist Alexander Eydlin wrote an article for Die Zeit about how he became a conspiracy theorist, and how he stopped being one. The latest survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation suggests that in Germany, as in Britain, as in the US, about half the population tends to the view that malign secret organisations are directing events. Eydlin, who describes himself as ‘a politically left-leaning secular Jew from the upper middle class with educated parents and a healthy social network’, said he had been looking for something to believe in, and was enchanted by the explicatory beauty and alternative value system outlined by his conspiracist friends. ‘Before the Enlightenment, evil was clearly located,’ he writes. ‘In the form of the devil, the satanic, it took on an understandable form and could be fought. Now we suspect that we cannot know what evil is or whether it even exists. Not everyone can bear the idea of a life that cannot be defined as unilaterally good or even just.’


Eydlin counsels against treating conspiracy theorists as political extremists: that will only make them see the concept of extremism itself as another of the lies told by the evil conspirators. Nor is there any point in trying to tear down their ideas with factual arguments, because the belief system being attacked is also an identity. ‘In the end,’ Eydlin writes, ‘I wasn’t convinced by the stubborn arguments of people who wanted to prove to me that I was wrong. Instead it was the lasting friendships with people who didn’t share my strange ideas and yet saw me as something more than just a nutcase. They argued with me, but only after they had taken the time to understand my crude ideas.’

...

I walked away. It was the kind of futile encounter between the self-appointed rationalist and the self-declared bearer of esoteric truths that happens online all the time, and it was no more satisfactory in the flesh. As soon as I opened my mouth I realised it was pointless to pick out this untruth or that misunderstanding in his leaflet. To treat it as amenable to critique was a category error, like scolding Ayn Rand for bad dialogue or calling out Trump for being unpresidential. I was reminded of one of the reasons it’s so difficult to argue with conspiracy theorists: you’re faced with a choice between challenging limitless errors one by one, or denouncing an entire edifice of belief, which usually means calling the conspiracy theorist mad or stupid, at which point conspiracy theory has won. It’s like a forest fire that can only be put out one square inch at a time, or all at once, and so can never be put out.

...

Conspiracists describe epiphanies where they start to see the big picture, the universal meta-conspiracy that explains and links everything. But the picture isn’t big. It’s small. It’s the result of an effort to shrink the answer to every mystery until it can fit whatever doll’s house furniture version of that answer the conspiracist is capable of holding in their head.

...

This isn’t a conspiracy theory about the origin of conspiracy theories. It’s an observation that the interests of conspiracy theorists and the interests of the selfish end of the plutocracy have a way of aligning. Both are cynical and mistrustful of institutions of authority, the courts, the media, the government, legislatures: the conspiracists because they think such bodies are malign agents of a secret elite, the plutocrats because they place limits on their wealth and power.

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

Dave Chappelle -  Unforgiven

Once again Dave Chappelle has dropped a video of a performance that is under 30 mins, focused on a specific topic, and laden with as many sober reflections and long digressions as it is with laughs. When he did it earlier this year with 8:46 (which powerfully analyzed the brutal public execution of George Floyd) I heard it referred to as "stand-up tragedy", which I still think is apt. There were laughs for sure, but it was dead serious and not really a comedy special so much as an exploration of pain and race. It was like an an arena rocker dropping an experimental lo-fi EP recorded in a touring van. It was wonderful and needed.

Here, the subject matter is decidedly less grim and more personal for Chappelle, but the approach is the same. Shorter, more discursive, more like storytelling than a Netflix special, but clearly on a meaningful topic to the artist at hand. Namely: having co-created and starred in one of the most popular and influential and enduring TV sketch series of all time and having been paid a (relative) pittance for it, while it continues to generate millions of dollars for the network it aired on nearly 20 years ago without him receiving a dime of any of the ongoing revenue and having no input on how and where it's used.

Dave, in what appears to be an excerpt from a longer performance, talks about lessons learned very early on in his comedy career about power, respect, deceit, and making a living, and how as a broke, relatively unknown, father-to-be he signed a deal that would put money in his pocket because, well, what else was he going to do??? He talks about his show, leaving it, having integrity in a cutthroat business and knowing your worth.

I'm a Dave Chappelle stan since I was listening to a bootleg hour-long mp3 of his first HBO special that I got off Napster in my senior year of high school (a bit ironic as I am now promoting a performance devoted entirely to the idea that artists need to own and profit from their hard work....but I digress). I had no idea that I would one day do standup comedy myself but I laughed my ass off to that alone in my room and had memorized every routine by graduation. It's been so fascinating to continue seeing him evolve over the years and I look forward to seeing what he continues to do in this phase of his career and beyond.

The thumbnail video here is more or less for a short "trailer" the full performance was released on Chappelle's Instagram.
I loved watching the kids game show Legends of the Hidden Temple on Nickelodeon back in the day. I learned more about its background, development, taping, ratings, and legacy in the 17 minutes it took to watch this than I could have ever predicted (i.e. they filmed several episodes a day in a staggered manner such that each episode's kids would complete each obstacle back-to-back before the next round was set up and then several episodes worth of kids would do that one. Also, while the Red Jaguars team statistically reached the final temple run stage more than any other team they rarely won it, with the Silver Snakes & Green Monkeys tying for first. Also: the Purple Parrots were consistently ass.)

If this show ever meant anything to you as a kid this very enjoyable and a nice trip down memory lane.
Random Viewing

Things Made

Over at Stories From The Stage we've had to adapt to filming during the pandemic but we certainly haven't been slowed down by it. We've hit the ground running in season 4 with a batch of home-brewed eps that continue to bring you everything you love about the show. Check out our very latest which just debuted on TV this past Monday. You can catch it broadcast over on WORLD Channel or else stream it right HERE. Our theme was Growing Up Black and given everything America has been through this past year I can't think of a more appropriate thing to examine. Take a look and get ready for some additional amazing eps this season.
Handren Seavey is a hilarious, and thoughtful comedian who I had the chance to work with and get to know back when we were in Boston together. He does one of the best Matthew McConaughey impressions I've ever seen, he's one of the few guys I know who can rock a wide-brimmed had without looking like a douche, and he knows more about the Arab-Israeli conflict than any comic I've ever met who is not themselves Israeli or Palestinian. About a year before I left Boston he and his wife converted a mini-school bus into a mobile home and toured the country with it, pretty rad. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he also rides a bike a lot, and now he's got a podcast about that just that. I was happy to be his most recent guest where we talked about by childhood bike experiences, one of my mom's greatest parenting achievements, the impact of social media on the middle/high school experience, the great state of Maine, and fail videos...among other things. It was an easy and interesting convo with someone I was very happy to catch up with. You can give it a listen HERE or wherever you get your podcasts. Give it a listen, subscribe to it, review it and enjoy yourselves, it's a great show!

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

perlage, n
[ PER - lahj ]

Meaning: The aggregation of tiny bubbles which forms on the surface of a glass of sparkling wine, champagne, etc.

Origin: French perlage (1927 or earlier in this sense; earlier in the senses ‘action of adorning with pearls’ (1874), ‘adornment consisting of pearls’ (1926))

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • V is the only letter in the English language that is never silent
  • The letter S is the most frequently used letter to start words in Scrabble since it combines with every other letter except B, Z, and X.
  • W is the only letter in the English language with 3 syllables. All other letters have 1.
  • Invented in 1524 by Italian Renaissance grammarian Gian Giorgio, Trissinio the letter J was the last letter to be added to the English alphabet.
All fun facts this week from Tidbits of Coachella Valley Vol XVI, Issue No. 47 - a recent issue of a "publication" which I stumbled on randomly and am in love with for the weirdest reasons and which I will be exploring in-depth in a future WesRecs.
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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