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Vol. #59 - December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas! (...or whatever it is you do or do not celebrate. Frankly I just hope that you are safe, loved, and that you have the day off of work).

It's the second-to-last WesRecs of the year and I'll be keeping it pretty light this week. For one, I think that relatively few of you are even going to lay eyes on this given family time, food comas, rounds of spiked egg nog, and general vacation/EOY hibernation. In addition, I just finished out a most unexpectedly busy December on my end and I have an overdue appointment with some gin & tonics, season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery, and a stupidly large order of Chinese food. That said we've got some great stuff in this issue for you and make sure to check in next week for some year end rundowns and hints of 2021 projects.

Thanks so much for being part of the WesRecs fam and peace to you and yours!
If you need some holiday ambiance def checkout A Very WesRecs Christmas, the Spotify playlist that I put together last year. Nothing too revolutionary (and definitely nothing "new") in here, but maybe you'll dig some of my handpicked favs.
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

F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K
F O L L O W on T W I T T E R F O L L O W on T W I T T E R
F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M
The most 2020-appropriate holiday image I have seen. From the uglydesign IG account. Merry Merry Merry!

COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

Why Americans are numb to the staggering coronavirus death toll -

330K and counting. The death toll of the COVID pandemic in America is hard to comprehend both in the sense of "how could this happen in the richest and supposedly most developed nation on Earth?" and in the sense's just hard for humans to conceive of death on that scale, especially when most of the victims are strangers who die alone, off camera, from a cause that can only be photographed microscopically.
Death is now everywhere and yet nowhere in America. We track its progress in daily bar graphs. We note its latest victims among celebrities and acquaintances. Yet, in many parts of America, we carry on — debating holiday plans, the necessity of mask mandates, how seriously to take the virus, whether it’s all a hoax.

In the face of one of the biggest mass casualty events in American history, we are growing increasingly numb to death, experts say — numb to the crisis and tragedy it represents and to the action it requires in response.


With the coronavirus in particular, experts say, the deaths have been hidden from sight even from friends and family – the human cost sequestered in hospitals and nursing homes.

“Sometimes I think, if only others could see what we see every day,” said Joan Schaum, a hospice nurse who has spent the past year caring for the dying in Lancaster, Pa.

“Other times,” she said, “I think, no one should have to see the amount of death and suffering going on right now. It changes you. It stays with you.”


“Statistics are human beings with tears dried off,” Slovic said. “And that’s dangerous because we need tears to motivate us.”


“The hardest thing about it is how alone they are in the end,” said Schaum, a nurse with Hospice & Community Care in Lancaster, Pa.

Schaum props up the feet of dying patients to take the pressure off their heels. She uses a gel to moisten their mouths, which grow uncomfortably dry once they stop eating or drinking.
Black Doctor in Indian dies of COVID-19 after publicly complaining of racist treatment at the hospital - CBS News

Medical racism is very real and Black women suffer the most from it and it does not matter if you're rich and famous (like Serena Williams) or even a literal medical doctor like Dr. Susan Moore. In the moments when you are most vulnerable and most in need of understanding and objectivity and compassion you just might be faced with racist individuals working in a racist system who insist on making assumptions about your needs and your intellect instead of simply listening to you about the thing that you know more about that anyone in the universe: your body and how it's feeling. Shameful.
Moore tested positive for the coronavirus on November 29 and said her symptoms included a high respiratory rate, high heart rate, high fever and coughing up blood. She described the uphill battle she faced in getting treatment from White doctors and nurses in the hospital, including begging for the antiviral drug Remdesivir, waiting hours for pain medication, and demanding a CT scan of her chest to prove her pain was real.


"All I know is that I am in intense pain," Moore said in the heartbreaking video, adding that the doctor downplayed her pain. "[The doctor] made me feel like I was a drug addict, and he knew I was a physician."


Moore's story has become all too common for Black Americans, as COVID-19 disproportionately ravages Black communities across the country. Black Americans are 4.7 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than White Americans, and three times more likely to die from the virus.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

Love No Limit: We Should Think about Prison Abolition as a Love Story - Bitch Media

I *loved* this. I've included many pieces here in WesRecs where someone either details their own personal conversion into a prison abolitionist or else point-by-irrrefutable-point lays out why abolition makes sense (morally, economically, & practically) for a general audience that is, understandably, full of skeptics. This piece is in that vein but takes a nakedly emotional tack that I believe is very effective. If you're not swayed by the argument then you at least get an article that chock full of supremely helpful links to other resources and explainers. Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex. End the madness.
When I first began talking to my longtime friend Garrett about being on the road to becoming a prison-industrial complex (PIC) abolitionist, he asked me, “How will we deal with crime and safety if there are no police departments?” Garrett and I debate often about social-justice issues including race, class, and gender because that’s our thing. He considers me an oddball radical—a dreamer who wants things, socially and politically, that “the United States isn’t ready for.” But his question about PIC abolition isn’t anomalous. Even my friends who are more left-leaning give me a side-eye when I talk about abolishing the prison-industrial complex in its entirety. My answer to this common question about abolition, police, and safety is always this: U.S. police departments aren’t fighting crime in the ways most people believe they are. In an August 2020 article for The Conversation, Shima Baughman, a criminal law professor at the University of Utah, noted that an estimated 11 percent of serious crimes end in an arrest—and only 2 percent end in a conviction.


My younger self needed to know that I deserved community safety, that communities exist where police do not occupy a constant militarized presence, that cops don’t belong in schools, that those struggling with drug addiction deserve compassion and treatment rather than prison sentences, that one’s race or class should not determine whether a person goes to prison or not, and that another world is possible where we—as a society—invest more in care than in cops. My decision to work toward prison abolition is a love story—one in which I seek to better love my community and the world and to create safer communities that can better love the younger version of myself. Love stories like mine center imagination and possibility and focus on “presence, not absence,” as the great abolitionist thinker and strategist Ruth Wilson Gilmore is often quoted as saying.


...“We’re not only working to abolish the prison-industrial complex (of which police systems are a part). We’re also working to build communities of care. We’re working to see that folks’ needs are met. We’re working to reduce violence and other harm. All of that comes from a place of love for the people.”


One of many questions that brown asks in We Will Not Cancel Us is whether we can be abolitionists with one another. We can’t hope to create life-affirming systems after abolishing harmful, decaying systems if we have yet to address how those systems live within us. We must embrace the idea that all human beings are valuable and that we all deserve to live in safe spaces. We must fully understand that we can’t hope to stop harm and abuse by enacting harm and abuse. We must abandon our shortsighted, binary thinking around what is good and what is bad.
About That Wave of Anti-Racist Bestsellers Over the Summer… - LitHub

If you blacked out your Instagram account in "support" of the #BlackLivesMatter movement this summer you may have also taken an artfully composed pic of your recently acquired books on racism in America and how to work against it. Now, I'm all for educating oneself (it may be long overdue but it's never too late). But just step back and interrogate yourself about the efficacy of (and reasoning behind) the actions that you take. Re-tweeting an anti-racism meme takes 2 seconds. Actually coming to grips with the depths of White Supremacy in America and the ways in which you are complicit in it and benefit from it takes...years.

This is a look at some unexpected outcomes of the explosion of interest in anti-racist book titles in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and some of the truly appalling behavior of people who, maybe for the first time in their life, patronized Black owned businesses to learn more about the Black experience in America and who ended up reflecting exactly that which they were supposedly trying to exorcise.
I had multiple customers ask me why their particular order of White Fragility was now backordered, even though it had been in stock when they originally added it to their cart. “Oh, it’s because white people saw a Black man die at the hands of police, and even though Black people have been talking about police brutality for years, it took seeing him take his last breath as that officer kneeled on his neck before many white people felt as though it was time to finally have that talk,” I wrote as a reply. Then I took a deep breath, erased that message, and simply responded, “It’s a popular book right now.”


Many of these books had been out for a year, maybe even more. Now some of them were on the New York Times bestseller list for the first time. Where was that energy when Trayvon Martin died? When Eric Garner was placed in an illegal chokehold by people whose job it was to protect him? When Mike Brown’s uncovered body was left lying in the street after he was also killed by police? Why did it take another Black man’s death for a good portion of the country to begin to take to the streets for weeks at a time? Even though I’d like to believe that many of these people were acting with good intentions, my general sense was that most of these cases could be summed up as performative allyship.


When I asked Mullen what’s the worst thing she had to deal with during this summer, she told me how some customers made racist comments about the frustrating state of backorders by saying, “This is exactly why I don’t support Black businesses,” or “I went out of my way to patronize your Black business and you can’t even get a simple thing right.”
The Reconstruction of America - Foreign Affairs

The Civil War is the most important historical event in America. It is widely studied (though often very poorly). The Reconstruction period that immediately followed it is probably the second most important period in the country and most Americans would struggle to list more than one or 2 facts about it. It is criminally understudied even though it continues to teach us so much about the period that we're in right now. Here's an excellent piece by one of the most important historians of the period, essential reading.
Today, Americans are polarized in a cold civil war. Many core questions of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era remain unresolved: Who is an American? What is equality, and how should it be established and protected? What is the proper relationship between states and the federal government? What is the role of government in shaping society? Is federalism a strength or a weakness?


By 1868, a new system of tenant farming and sharecropping had emerged. In a cash-poor economy with few sources of credit, millions of former slaves, as well as some poor whites, became mired in dependency, working “on halves”—giving half of their crop to a landlord and using the other half to try to feed their families and acquire goods from “furnishing merchants,” whose extortive practices usually forced farmers into a dead end of debt. By the 1890s, roughly 20 percent of former slaves and their descendants owned some land or other property, but the vast majority possessed no real hope of material independence, as their political liberty was slowly crushed.


Indeed, that is the legacy of Reconstruction’s “Second Constitution”: a series of never-ending fights over race and federalism.


But the events of recent years, especially during the Trump era, serve as a reminder that no change is necessarily permanent and no law can itself protect Americans from their own worst impulses: racism, nativism, authoritarianism, greed. The past few years have revealed the potency of sheer grievance, whether born of genuine economic travail or ludicrous conspiracy theories. It should be clear to all now that history does not end and is not necessarily going to any particular place or bending in an inevitable arc toward justice or anything else.
Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree - ProPublica

Shameful and disgraceful and petty and cruel and murderous. Period.
Officials gave public explanations for their choice of which prisoners should die that misstated key facts from the cases. They moved ahead with executions in the middle of the night. They left one prisoner strapped to the gurney while lawyers worked to remove a court order. They executed a second prisoner while an appeal was still pending, leaving the court to then dismiss the appeal as “moot” because the man was already dead. They bought drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test. They hired private executioners and paid them in cash.


The Trump administration has executed more federal prisoners than any presidency since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s. Roosevelt was president for 12 years, and his total includes six saboteurs who were tried by a military commission.


“Doctors are experts in unkilling, we are not experts in killing,” said Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist at Emory University who has testified that lethal injection of pentobarbital simulates death by drowning. “This is why lethal injection is so problematic. It impersonates a medical act, but it’s not about medicine at all. Killing is not a treatment. An execution chamber is not an operating room.”

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

We Can’t Survive on $600. The New Relief Bill Is Not a Victory. - Jacobin

The NERVE of congress taking 8 months to decide to give us a penny-ante $600 slice of our own money (not enough for one rent payment for most people), then calling that a victory, then holding it all up during Christmas week because $2000 is "too much" when they've all been making $130k a year throughout all of this. Have they heard of The French Revolution and the Bastille because I swear to God they are playing with fire.
Here’s the truth: Democrats had a rare opportunity to win on a wildly popular proposal for much bigger survival checks, but they chose to lose. Here’s some more truth: onetime means-tested checks of $600 is not a big victory, and not even the bare minimum that should be considered acceptable during an economic meltdown that has been punctuated by mass starvation and intensifying poverty.


“Democrats should not take a victory lap on this bill,” tweeted Adam Jentleson, who was an adviser to former Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “It provides less than a third of the aid economists say is necessary and McConnell is getting all the credit — after blocking aid for months. Instead we should explain why this bill is inadequate and how Dems will deliver more.”


Taken together, when you account for the comparatively small but good things in this bill, on net it is not a victory for ordinary people — it is a victory for an austerity ideology that somehow still reigns supreme in Washington, even among Democratic leaders, and even amid an economic emergency.

If this ideology is not confronted and defeated soon, there will be even more financial pain and suffering — and no amount of Biden platitudes appealing to the soul of the nation will stop the political and economic nightmare that will follow.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

The Big Thaw: How Russia Could Dominate a Warming World - ProPublica

This is an aspect of climate change that I had not thought of before: some countries are going to win BIG as the world continues to burn. Russia is, by far, the largest country on Earth. However much of its land is currently iced over and totally unsuitable for farming. But over the next 20-60 years much of that land is going to become PRIME farmland due to warming and Russia is very aware of this and America is largely sleeping on this.

Basically: if you're thinking of moving to Florida or Southern California....don't. And maybe learn Swedish.
A great transformation is underway in the eastern half of Russia. For centuries the vast majority of the land has been impossible to farm; only the southernmost stretches along the Chinese and Mongolian borders, including around Dimitrovo, have been temperate enough to offer workable soil. But as the climate has begun to warm, the land — and the prospect for cultivating it — has begun to improve. Twenty years ago, Dima says, the spring thaw came in May, but now the ground is bare by April; rainstorms now come stronger and wetter. Across Eastern Russia, wild forests, swamps and grasslands are slowly being transformed into orderly grids of soybeans, corn and wheat. It’s a process that is likely to accelerate: Russia hopes to seize on the warming temperatures and longer growing seasons brought by climate change to refashion itself as one of the planet’s largest producers of food.


Draw a line around the planet at the latitude of the northern borders of the United States and China, and just about every place south, across five continents, stands to lose out. Productivity, Burke found, peaks at about 55 degrees average temperature and then drops as the climate warms. He projects that by 2100, the national per capita income in the United States might be a third less than it would be in a nonwarming world; India’s would be nearly 92% less; and China’s future growth would be cut short by nearly half. The mirror image, meanwhile, tells a different story: Incredible growth could await those places soon to enter their prime. Canada, Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia each could see as much as fivefold bursts in their per capita gross domestic products by the end of the century so long as they have enough people to power their economies at that level.


As Vladimir Putin himself once glibly put it, a couple of degrees of warming might not be so bad: “We could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up.”


ULTIMATELY, IT IS the clumsy maneuvering of the United States that might prove most responsible for making Putin’s eastern development agenda a success. American tariffs, imposed as part of the Trump administration’s trade war with China, led to China’s own retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, creating the largest catalyst for Chinese buyers to look north for new markets. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, China’s total food and agricultural imports from Russia increased 61% in 2017 and 2018, yet another example of the U.S. failure to see the chessboard when it comes to the intricate geopolitical implications of climate change.

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

Listening to the Joy in James Baldwin’s Record Collection - HyperAllergic

This is really more of a Things Heard, but who's keeping track?? Using photographs from James Baldwin's estate in the south of France, curator Ikechúkwú Onyewuenyi has created a public Spotify playlist made of records found in Baldwin's personal music collection. What a fantastic project to build around the periphery of an endlessly essential thinker.
For the eminent American novelist and essayist, music was generative, unearthing inspiration that may otherwise remain concealed. Ikechúkwú Onyewuenyi, a curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, hopes to rouse a new generation of writers with “Chez Baldwin,” a 478-track, 32-hour-long Spotify playlist based on Baldwin’s vinyl record collection.

“The playlist is a balm of sorts when one is writing,” Onyewuenyi told Hyperallergic. “Baldwin referred to his office as a ‘torture chamber.’ We’ve all encountered those moments of writers’ block, where the process of putting pen to paper feels like bloodletting. That process of torture for Baldwin was negotiated with these records.”


“Looking over pictures of Baldwin’s house in Provence, I latched onto his records, their sonic ambiance, as a way to fill the space but still allow room for this emptiness, for differences. In addition to reading the books and essays, he produced while living in Provence, listening to the records was something that could transport me there,” Onyewuenyi said.

“I guess I wanted to feel amongst those boisterous and tender convos when guests like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder (both featured in the playlist), Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, amongst others, broke bread and debated with a loving hold and care that isn’t always common when one is in the throes of trying to find themselves as Baldwin was during this ‘late style’ writing period,” he added.
If you've reading WesRecs for a while you know that "How It's Made" is one of my absolute favorite YouTube channels. I mean, what's not to love??? Lucid, fascinating, to-the-point step by step breakdowns of a mind-boggling array of everyday products and substances. What a gift. Something about this look at clay & aluminum charcoal barbecues in Thailand really spoke to me. It's insane how much artisanal manual labor is still required in making a mass-produced product like this. As an avid charcoal griller I really got a kick out of seeing this process laid out. I considered ordering one for myself, but given that I already have a perfectly good Weber of similar size I can't really justify it. Still if you're ever looking for a low-cost ultra-portable option for like, camping or a small patio, then mayb

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

[This week it's personal!]

wesley-bob, n.
[ WES - lee -bob ]

English regional (Yorkshire).

Meaning: A Christmas decoration. Originally referring to a specific type of decoration made from boughs of evergreens, sometimes decorated with fruit, and containing figures representing the Nativity scene. In recent use used more generally of any kind of Christmas decoration or bauble.

Origin: Variant or alteration of wassail bob n. at wassail n. 

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • House fires from dried out Christmas trees cause an average of 10 deaths in America each year.
  • Use of the term “Xmas” dates back as far as the year 1100 and originally had nothing to do with disassociating the day from Jesus. Chi (written as “X”) is the first letter of “Christ” in Greek and it has been used to stand in directly for JC for some time.
  • The cardboard sleeve around disposable coffee cups is called a “zarf”. It comes from an Arabic word meaning “container”.
  • Excess wait you gain from emotional eating is called “Kummerspeck”. In German it literally means “grief bacon”.
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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