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WesRecs

Vol. #35 - July 03, 2020

July 4th weekend. If you have a job I hope you get some extra time off over the next few days. If you don't have a job I hope it's because you choose not to or you don't need one. If you don't have a job and wish you did hang in there. If your housing is shaky hang in there. If your health or the health of a loved one is shaky hang in there. If you've lost people in all of this I'm sorry and hang in there. Get drunk this weekend if that's your thing (but don't drive). Blow up some fireworks this weekend if that's your thing (but keep all your fingers and cut it out by 11:30pm, people are trying to sleep). Don't be inside with crowds. Wherever you go wear a mask. Remember why they tell us to celebrate the holiday and remember why a lot of that is laughable, but if you need to cut loose and celebrate do your thing, it's been a year, have some fun, we all could use a little. But wear a mask.

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.
Follow me as I grow my first ever Mushroom Grow Kit (Blue Oyster variety) and harvest the delicious results! (P.S. I never knew I chewed this loudly). #Mycology
I Didn't Get You Anything For Your Birthday...
This is like when you forgot your friend's birthday so you whip together a slideshow of pics of the both of you together using the photos app on your phone and soundtrack it with that song you both kind of like and have built a tenuous memory around while you're in the bathroom at the bar they told you to come hang at for no particular reason. Enjoy some Fourth of July ephemera I've found in my online travels.
Almost got me. America’s been showing its true face more than usual this year so I’m tapped out on any flag waving sentiment but this was a pretty great locker room speech about what we *could* be. Then the LYNCHburg sign-off nipped that in the bud.
Today I Learned: Fried chicken outside of summer months wasn’t really a thing (and mostly before the 4th). Also FDR’s government was out her stanning hard for it. As anyone who eats meat and has a pulse should.
Black To The Land
"The bottom line is we can’t actually talk about farming and food without race. Farmers, as in landowning farm managers, are the Whitest profession in the United States, and being a farmworker is the Brownest profession in the United States. We’re in the most racially skewed sector in terms of power, and I think we all have a responsibility to engage in solutions." - Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm


I try not to lose sight of the remarkable privilege I've experienced as evidenced by the simple fact that I have never worried about going hungry. My family is hardly rich but as a kid there was never a day where food wasn't on the table. I've never had to skip a meal in order to afford some other necessity. Like most Americans I've never wondered if there was going to actually be food in stock when I've gone to a grocery store. And like many Americans it's only in the past few years that I've begun to seriously think about *how* the varied and abundant food that's constantly available to me actually gets to the stores and restaurants that I patronize. If there's one realization that I've come to in that time it's that all of this is SO FRAGILE. All it would take for me to start having to wonder whether milk or bread or fresh vegetables are available on a given day (or week or month) is a Teamster's strike, or a major hurricane, or a crop blight, or a strict citywide quarantine, or a war on US soil...

I live in Brooklyn, NY which is on an island, connected to the mainland by *another* island, and which produces precious little food relative to the millions of people that inhabit it. It doesn't take that much imagination to come up with a scenario where (very) suddenly there's just not enough food here to feed everywhere. And even if you step back from doomsday scenarios of civil war or natural disasters there's the everyday problem of having regular access to affordable, healthy, & nourishing food that whose arrival on your plate didn't drench the air with greenhouse gases. For me all of this has gone from something I never thought about to something which is on my mind everyday. And while I don't see the collapse of supermarkets and the supply chains that keep them stocked coming any time soon I definitely think that we should all be concerned with buying locally and cultivating our own food to the extent that it's possible. Absolutely none of this sentiment is revelatory, but as a Black American I feel this is even more important. As has been the case since 1619: Black people are under threat, just by virtue of existing. And when you're under threat you take precautions for your safety. And healthy and affordable food that you have a hand in cultivating and distributing is one of the most important precautions you can take.

Here are some items that have caught my eye on this front as of late:
How Does your City Grow? Lockdown Illuminates Urban Farming and Gardening’s Potential - Resilience.org
 
"In the most densely populated city in the United States, New York, a study by Columbia University found an astonishing 5,000 acres of land suitable for urban farming. A further 1,000 acres were identified in housing projects and on under-used land."

...

"Urban farming has the potential to help address food security worldwide. The first global estimate found that, if fully implemented in cities around the world, urban farms could produce as much as much as 180 million tonnes of food a year – perhaps 10 percent of the global output of legumes, roots and tubers, and vegetable crops. It is forecast that by 2050 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, and the speed of this shift demands rapid solutions to providing for these urban populations. The challenges go beyond food production, including job creation, community building and waste processing. Urban farming can make a positive impact in all of these areas, thereby also contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 01, 02, 12 and 15."

...

"Urban farming has been criticised for providing niche foods to an urban elite, but has also been shown to be a tool for aiding neighbourhood regeneration in local economies hit by industrial decline, and for addressing food distribution inequality. The US city of Austin’s Sustainable Food Centre implemented a programme that doubles the dollar amount of food vouchers, enabling less affluent families to get more fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets. Community gardens help build social cohesion where the natural setting helps break down social boundaries and unite communities under a common goal. Increasing accessible green space in cities further provides recreational and educational opportunities."
 

For Black People, Plant Parenthood Is Deeper Than Instagram - Zora (Medium)
 
"Plant parenthood for myself and other Black people is deeper than beautifying our spaces or having a prop for Instagram posts. Engaging with the natural world through houseplants, gardening, or growing food for ourselves is a radical act of self-sufficiency. Connecting with our ancestors by returning to African agrarian practices and bringing plants native to our ancestral homelands into our environment is healing for Black people in a world that often denies us access to greenery, frivolity, healthy food options, and full access to our history."

...

"D’Real Graham, the man behind the popular Instagram account Blackwithplants, is on a mission to change that. Graham is an Afro-ecologist who advocates that diasporic Africans return to our indigenous ways of communing and engaging with plants, the land, and food so as to form or return to a relationship with the natural world outside of white agriculture. Started in March 2020 in response to Covid-19 to combat food insecurity, Graham and friend Tyler Weston use African agrarian practices — polyculture, composting, lunar cycle monitoring, and vertical growing methods — to create an infrastructure that allows access to free food and household essentials."
 

Food apartheid: the root of the problem with America's groceries - The Guardian / Guernica Mag (2018)
 
"Washington is opposed to using the expression “food desert,” which she calls “an outsider term” that calls desolate places, rather than places with enormous potential, to mind. She prefers “food apartheid”, which “brings us to the more important question: what are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?”"

...

"I eventually realized that I couldn’t concentrate on food alone because there were so many things that were intersecting. I saw that the people who were in [that first community ] garden were mostly low-income and had no health insurance. The garden wasn’t just being used for food, but also for wellbeing and medicine. The healthcare industry is part of this conversation. As a physical therapist, I used to see billions more spent on treatment than prevention. Look at the pharmaceutical companies. In my neighborhood, there is a fast-food restaurant on every block, from Wendy’s to Kentucky Fried Chicken to Popeye’s to Little Caesar’s Pizza. Now drugstores are popping up on every corner, too. So you have the fast-food restaurants that of course cause the diet-related diseases, and you have the pharmaceutical companies there to fix it. They go hand in hand. The fact is, if you do prevention, someone is going to lose money. If you give people access to really good food and a living-wage job, someone is going to lose money. As long as people are poor and as long as people are sick, there are jobs to be made. Follow the money."

...


"I wake up dreaming that my neighborhood has been given capital, has been given opportunity, has been given finance, that we can own our stores and businesses. Why is it that outsiders always have to come into our neighborhood to open a business? Why don’t people with capital come into my neighborhood and think about investing in the people who already live here? Give them the capital, give them the means of financial literacy, teach them how to invest, teach them how to own homes, teach them how to own businesses. Give them that chance, instead of coming in and changing the dynamics and the complexion of our neighborhood."

 

 
We Can’t Talk About Farming Without Talking About Race - Zora (Medium)
 
"Leah Penniman: Part of healing my own relationship to land as a Black person has been understanding that it goes beyond slavery, sharecropping, and land-based oppression.

I do this by diving into the legacies of people like George Washington Carver, who was one of the founders of regenerative agriculture, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a major force in the co-op movement. I think about the role of Nigerian farmers in giving us what we now call permaculture in terms of intercropping, and Ghanian women, who have some of the best compost in the world, and the ways we’ve learned from that. There are countless examples of how Black agrarians have revolutionized the way we connect to the earth and to each other. It’s been a great joy to research that history and try to implement it and try to teach it at Soul Fire."

...

"The bottom line is we can’t actually talk about farming and food without race. Farmers, as in landowning farm managers, are the Whitest profession in the United States, and being a farmworker is the Brownest profession in the United States. We’re in the most racially skewed sector in terms of power, and I think we all have a responsibility to engage in solutions."

 


New York’s Rising Tides: Climate Inequality and Sandy’s Legacy - New York Review of Books
 
"Planners also have a penchant for putting critical infrastructure in coastal areas, both for aesthetic and practical reasons, as Orrin and Keith Pilkey note in their 2019 book Sea Level Rise. Nearly half of New York City’s electricity comes from aging facilities along the coast in flood-prone Long Island City and Astoria. Wastewater treatment plants, too, are built by design in low-lying coastal areas, and poured 1.6 billion gallons of raw and partly treated sewage into New York City’s waterways during Sandy. Half of the city’s meat and fish and 60 percent of its produce passes through The Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, a wholesale market in the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the nation. Hunt’s Point is a peninsula, and for that reason alone, the city predicts that storm surge will be a “major risk” to food supply by 2050. It was merely a happy accident of the tides, which are different in the Long Island Sound from those in New York Harbor, that the market wasn’t damaged in Sandy. Covid-19 has brought renewed attention to Hunts Point’s importance—essential workers keep the market running, though the Bronx has the highest rate of infection of any borough. Without the food distribution center, one salesman and buyer quoted in the New Yorker noted, “the New York City and greater New York metropolitan-area food supply would be paralyzed.”"
Things Read
If, at this point (or ever), you're refusing to wear a mask out in public due to some ghoulish & warped stance about your rights or because your great aunt's friend heard on FaceBook that they actually increase your chances of getting COVID or whatever then this will do absolutely nothing for you. But I thought this was a brilliant and hilarious piece of satire skewering the anti-mask set.

The real cost of Amazon - Recode

I am as guilty as anyone re: having given A LOT of money to Mr. Jeff Bezos during this lockdown but I know how much I need to end that and I plan to do so. I've already switched all of my online book buying to bookshop.org and am cultivating new online resources for other stuff, as well as trying to buy more locally (the Brooklyn dollar store economy is dizzying in its variety), and most importantly I'm trying to buy LESS, period. It can be done. It must be done.
 
“It affects your nerves, your mental state, your way of thinking — because you have to be cautious in everything you do now,” Rosie said. “It’s like I’m risking my life for a dollar. It’s twisted.

Last month, Rosie was shocked to hear that a colleague who she heard was in his 20s — practically “a kid,” she said — had died of Covid-19. Management never informed Rosie, and she suspects many others didn’t know either. Instead, she said, she learned the news from a coworker’s Facebook post."

...

“When we talk about Amazon, we’re really talking about the future of work,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents workers at major retailers such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and H&M, told Recode. “Other employers feel that if they want to survive, they have to find a way to change their working conditions to replicate Amazon. And that’s exactly what we don’t want — we don’t want Amazon to be the model for what working is going to be like, of what the future of work is going to look like.”

...

“The American psyche is so selfish that it doesn’t matter what goes on in there,” said one longtime Amazon warehouse worker in Lexington, Kentucky, who’s been internally vocal about what he feels is a lack of sanitation at his facility. “It’s, ‘Just get my package to me. Just get my package to me.’ The company is feeding off of that because on the walls and inside the facility it specifically states, ‘We are customer-obsessed.’”


The Future will be Ecosocialist – Because without Ecosocialism there will be no Future - London green left
 
Kovel laments this is not generally understood though, with dominant opinion largely addressing the problem with ‘environmentalism’ which separates humanity from nature, seeing it as something around us, rather something we are part of. Environmental problems therefore, are dealt with by pressure for legislation for individual ecological issues, seeking technological fixes, encouraging personal lifestyle changes and buying ‘green’ products.

He says that there is nothing wrong with environmentalism except that it completely ignores the root of the ecological crisis by focusing on the external symptoms rather than the underlying disease. He likens this to treating cancer with aspirin for the pain and baths for the discomfort. This failure to understand the crisis on the deepest level, and so make the necessary changes to our relationship with nature is doomed to fail.

This deeper level, Kovel suggests, is capitalism’s prioritisation of economic expansion, or put another way, growth. This growth is converted into monetary units, also known as accumulation. This occurs by creating commodities, to be sold on the market and the profits are then converted into capital. He quotes Marx writing in Capital – “Accumulate! Accumulate! This is the Moses and the Prophets” of the system.
...

The test of a post-capitalist society is whether it can move from the generalized production of commodities to the production of flourishing, integral ecosystems. In doing so, socialism will become ecosocialism.

...

Kovel believed that ‘freely associated people’ free from the ideology of consumerism, can break loose from the ‘rat-race’ of trying to fill inner emptiness with commodities.


“Injury to All” at Rutgers University - Dissent

You thought 2008 was bad? This pandemic is going to turn the US (and Global) economy inside out in ways we cannot begin to imagine. That first wave of evictions is already starting to hit, there are millions of jobs that are never ever coming back, and with present leadership we have absolutely no ability to judge when things will even start to feel like they're "Under Control". Don't get me wrong, it's going to seem normal on the surface for as long as the powers that be can stretch it, but the economic pain we've already seen is just a drop in the bucket. Some businesses and institutions are doing their best to do the right thing by the most vulnerable sections of the population and other institutions/employers are Rutgers University.

"The workers being cut are the “most vulnerable” workers at Rutgers, and yet their layoffs will save very little. “The total savings for Rutgers from these mass layoffs is about $4 million,” wrote AAUP-AFT president Todd Wolfson in an op-ed. “This is maximum pain for minimum gain, and it is a downright insult considering that Rutgers will pay its head football coach that very amount in the first year of his eight-year, $32 million contract.”

They’ve laid off dining hall workers, said O’Connell, who tend to be paid very little. Yet those workers, most of the time, are considered “essential.” “Any time that there’s a weather emergency, if the rest of the university shuts down, they are still required to come. Somehow, during this pandemic, they are no longer essential.” Many of these workers are married to other Rutgers workers, she noted, meaning that they both might lose their jobs at the same time, and some have children who are taking advantage of tuition remission given to employees. “Those students, I believe, will be taking a hiatus from college. How many institutions at this time are going to provide loans to a family that’s unemployed? They’re really devastating families.”"


Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All - Time

This was an amazing read. Powerful powerful stuff here. I remember all of the insane buzz for Viet Thanh Nguyen's novel The Sympathizer when it came out a few years ago but I never picked it up. Having read this I definitely feel compelled to now.
 
"It is easier to blame a foreign country or a minority, or even politicians who negotiate trade agreements, than to identify the real power: corporations and economic elites who shift jobs, maximize profit at the expense of workers and care nothing for working Americans. To acknowledge this reality is far too disturbing for many Americans, who resort to blaming Asians as a simpler answer. Asian Americans have not forgotten this anti-Asian history, and yet many have hoped that it was behind them. The slur of the “Chinese virus” has revealed how fragile our acceptance and inclusion was."

...

"Asian Americans are caught between the perception that we are inevitably foreign and the temptation that we can be allied with white people in a country built on white supremacy. As a result, anti-Black (and anti-brown and anti-Native) racism runs deep in Asian-American communities. Immigrants and refugees, including Asian ones, know that we usually have to start low on the ladder of American success. But no matter how low down we are, we know that America allows us to stand on the shoulders of Black, brown and Native people. Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants and their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Black people and white people to choose sides in the Black-white racial divide, and we have far too often chosen the white side. Asian Americans, while actively critical of anti-Asian racism, have not always stood up against anti-Black racism. Frequently, we have gone along with the status quo and affiliated with white people."

...

"This is what it means to be a model minority: to be invisible in most circumstances because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, like my parents, until we become hypervisible because we are doing what we do too well, like the Korean shopkeepers. Then the model minority becomes the Asian invasion, and the Asian-American model minority, which had served to prove the success of capitalism, bears the blame when capitalism fails."

...

"For many if not all Black, brown and Indigenous people, the American Dream is a farce as much as a tragedy. Multiculturalism may make us feel good, but it will not save the American Dream; reparations, economic redistribution, and defunding or abolishing the police might."


Where Did My Ambition Go? - gen (medium)

This pandemic is hitting all of us in very different ways. If you're an over-educated, city dwelling, non-STEM, thirty-something who's still trying to "make it" in your chosen field it might have hit you just like this. I might need to lie down and listen to Joy Division in the dark now.
 
"Where does ambition go when jobs disappear and the things you’ve been striving for barely even exist anymore? And what if the things for which you’ve been striving no longer feel important because they’re the spoils of a rotten system that needs a complete overhaul?

I still want to create and get paid for it — a necessary evil as long as we’re living in capitalism — but our opportunities seem to be narrowing, the world becoming a little smaller each time. The scope of our ambitions must be downsized, over and over again."

...

"At the same time, my ambition for my community and the wider world has gotten bigger and broader. I don’t know exactly where I fit in it, but I do know that I want all workers to be treated with dignity and respect — a small, humble ask that requires an unending amount of work. And I want all people who are unable to work or unable to find work to also be treated with dignity and respect. I want to become more active in organizing, I want to be a resource for those looking for guidance in their careers — at least while we’re living under capitalism — and I want to make enough money to be able to throw some of that money at the world’s problems. My medium-size dreams for myself may be getting smaller, but my ambitions for the greater wide world have to be enormous. It’s the only way to get through."


Thoughts of Liberation - Canadian Art

I don’t include nearly enough poetry in WesRecs, I’ll try to correct that moving forward with at least one piece per week, this is as good as anything to start with. I’ll admit to not really having any familiarity with Dionne Brand’s work prior to this but I now plan on correcting that as well.
Things Seen
I'm hardly an expert, or even a particularly knowledgeable casual fan when it comes to machine learning but the topic does interest me very much and whether you're into it or not it's going to have a significant impact on your future. To that end I recommend this video which is so well made and very entertaining. It explains a lot of the fundamentals in the field and is pretty funny too. I would have never thought to try preparing a batch of macaroni & cheese with a cup of cognac but if the computer says it it must be good.
 
Your favorite Marxist geographer David Harvey takes a visit to NYC's glittering/garish/weirdly impressive Hudson Yards development and walks us through the ways in which it embodies "feeding the downtown monster". We see projects like this and we accept them, maybe even welcome them, as a matter of course in a modern metropolis. They're shiny, and they boost tourism, and they get people to spend money and make cool Instagram selfie locations BUT...they really don't have anything to do with helping people to live better. And since cities are, supposedly, where lots and lots of people live that is...an odd situation. No developments like this exist for one thing and one thing ONLY: to make money for their developers and we hardly question that notion at all, strange.
Word of the Week
Vizard
[ VIZ - erd n ]

Meaning: 1.) Archaic. a mask or visor. 2.) A face or countenance suggestive of a mask

Origin: 1545 - 1555; Altered form of vysar, viser, vizar visor n.
Somebody Said This
This is the only anthem I'm standing for.
Fun Facts
  • Three presidents have died on the Fourth of July (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Monroe). One was born on the Fourth of July (Calvin Coolidge). President Zachary Taylor died not long after eating spoiled fruit at a July 4th celebration.
  • The tune of the National Anthem was originally used by an English drinking song called “to Anacreon in Heaven.”
  • Flag themed clothing is technically a violation of the U.S. Flag Code
  • July 4th was not made a federal holiday until 1870
  • This ain't got nothing to do with America's birthday but I read an article about The Golden Girls this week and can't get it out of my head so now you deal with it: Refinery29 once calculated all the men the women slept with over the seven seasons of the show, concluding that, finally, Rose slept with 30, Dorothy with 43, Blanche with 165, and Sophia with 25.
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Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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