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Vol. #42 - August 21, 2020

How do?? Thanks for checking out yet another week of WesRecs, much appreciated as always. I've got some stuff I think you'll really enjoy this week such as new innovations in seagull trapping, an indictment of Greece's new immigration policy, a look at a very bad day on Mt. Everest (including why you don't ever want to have "mountain climber feet"), and much more. If you're new to the newsletter or haven't been with me in a while I'd say definitely check out last week's Vol. 41, it features the first edition of the aesthetic facelift you're continuing to see here and it was the closest I've gotten to the vision I have for what I want this to be on a weekly basis. I am of course a fan of this week's edition as well but truth be told I had to fulfill a number of professional commitments (the storytelling show I co-host on WGBH/WORLD Channel is slated to come back for a fourth season, yay!) and I have been sleeping like absolute garbage so please excuse me for things being slightly less content-rich this week. I just managed to kind of reset my schedule today so I think we're in business moving forward and I'm damned excited about a forthcoming packed features on professional wrestling & Liberia (among other topics) that I think you'll enjoy...seriously.

A quick update:
To the uninitiated this may just look like a bucket with a hole in it warning you about the dangers of very small people drowning in buckets (presumably without holes in them). And that's exactly what it is. But it is ALSO the repository of my blue oyster mushroom spawn that has been colonizing this bucket full of wood chips for just over 2 weeks and it most certainly looks like a pin (mushroom blossom) is what's starting to peek out of that hole and if that's true things should be getting lively around here within a few days. I will keep you updated.

OK, here's WR 42. Thanks again. I apologize in advance for any typos this week, I can barely keep my eyes open. Catch you next time. As always, 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.


As this newsletter's title would indicate, I recommend everything you'll find below. It's all stuff which I've personally found rewarding this week and I think you will too! But for the benefit of all you skimmers out there here are links to a few items that I'm happy to briefly highlight for you. You can find more detailed commentary/context below:

A most excellent horror/psychological thriller film

The greatest cinematic indictment/satire of capitalism's brutality that I can remember seeing

BBQ Porn with a kitchen mop used as a meat brush


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

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

'This Guy’s Been Watching the Wrong Type of News Channel or Something' - Sports Illustrated

If Facebook and every cable news network disappeared tomorrow I'd be down. This story is just so wild. A Black college football player in Colorado working a summer job came *this* close to being the next dude we'd have to march and make a hashtag for because some gun-crazy, paranoid, Facebook conspiracy theorist ex-cop got a roofing-repair sales visit.
"He talked about his new summer job as a door-to-door roofing salesman, and about an otherwise quiet afternoon of work in a nearby suburb. About the stranger in tactical gear who broke the silence by charging at Wesley and a colleague, screaming about “antifa” and terrorists, ordering the salesmen onto the ground. About the gun barrel the man jammed into the back of Wesley’s head, and the knee he pressed into the back of Wesley’s neck. About the seven or so minutes Wesley was pinned on the ground—hardly less time than a white Minneapolis police officer had spent atop another Black man, George Floyd, in a similar position, until Floyd died, just three weeks earlier."


"Fearing that Gudmundsen would pull the trigger at the slightest movement, Wesley tightened his fingers until his arms throbbed with pain. He bawled and begged:

“Please don’t kill me. … Please don’t kill me.”

Gudmundsen’s reply still haunts him.

“You’re lucky,” Wesley remembers hearing from above. “I’m not going to kill you. The police are going to do that for me.”"


"Over the years, Stan says, his father developed a fascination with internet conspiracy theories, which grew increasingly “fanatical” in the months leading up to June 11. That fanaticism covered “a broad range of subjects,” says Stan, 36, from the antifa bogeyman that President Donald Trump invoked this summer to rally far-right supporters as racial justice protests raged around the country, to the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was fake. At one point, Stan grew alarmed enough that he suggested his father see a doctor, but he says Scott “just laughed it off.” (After his arrest, Scott Gudmundsen spent more than a month at a mental health and substance abuse center, where he was prescribed medication for mental illness, according to court statements from his public defender.)"
Climate Apartheid Is the Coming Police Violence Crisis — Dissent

Police are here to protect property and the interests of the capitalist class. Should they happen to solve or prevent crime that's just gravy. As that property is ever more threatened by climate change the violence needed to protect it and the measures that are acceptable in so doing will only expand. It's bad now. It will get so much worse.
"In the 1980s, police departments around the country tried a new approach to the war on drugs, focusing on street-level offenses. In one operation spearheaded by the NYPD, “Operation Pressure Point,” police blanketed an open-air drug market with hundreds of plain clothes officers, arresting sixty-five people per day for six weeks. The drug trade didn’t stop as a result—it just moved away from the places where the busts were happening. But, from the point of view of real estate developers, landlords, and others with a financial or political stake in housing markets or store-front commercial ventures, that was good enough. Even if police departments couldn’t stop the crime, they could shape where and to whom it happened. This kind of selective logic is what we can expect under climate apartheid: policing will not be aimed at preventing climate crises from harming everyone, but instead police will be tasked with protecting elites from its downsides."


"In short, crises of political economy are often managed with prisons and policing. Whether responding to the crises of slave rebellion, worker unrest, cuts to social services, or income inequality, politicians look at prisons and police as one of their top go-to tools when things get out of hand. In the current activities of police and law enforcement, we can see the seeds of the response to climate crises."


"Meanwhile at the border, we are at the beginning of a Great Climate Migration, which will vastly reshuffle the distribution of the world’s population. The concentration camps on the southern border already detain climate refugees: many of those housed in detention facilities have moved from places where the crops no longer grow and water is harder and harder to come by. Rather than taking any steps to mitigate the devastation of climate change, the consistent response from the U.S. government has been to build walls and increase funding for its border guards."

A History of Violence: Why I Loved Cop Shows, and Why They Must Change - Rolling Stone

Look, I loved New York Undercover and The Wire too, but I can't deny how much several decades of cop shows warped my understanding of the purpose and effects of policing. No one is saying these shows aren't entertaining, but it's 2020 and we need to get serious about what we're being fed, what it does, and what we're willing to accept. And yeah, Carl Winslow and Night Court I'm looking at you too.

"From Marshal Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) to Marshal Raylan Givens (Justified), Sgt. Joe Friday (Dragnet) to Detective Vic Mackey (The Shield), television’s endless flood of cops has accomplished two things. Early on, it presented police officers as infallible heroes who are professionally and temperamentally equipped to handle any delicate situation. Then eventually, it began depicting less admirable cop behavior, but in ways that tended to explain it — and, after a while, to normalize it. These fictional stories have rewired many of us to assume cops are always acting in good faith, and to ignore or wave away those moments when they’re clearly not."


"It wasn’t just that Dragnet and its imitators were training viewers to accept the judgment of police and prosecutors(*) in almost any situation, but that, as the narrator of Law & Order intoned at the start of each episode, “These are their stories.” We see the vast majority of these cases through the eyes of the men and women trying to provide justice. Victims and the falsely accused are usually afterthoughts, if dramatized at all, whereas we get unlimited time to spend with the cops, whom we grow to understand, like, and respect. Their goals, their personal problems, their families are the ones we are asked to care about, while everyone else is an abstraction."

Lines on a Map

Borders Are Imaginary

Taking Hard Line, Greece Turns Back Migrants by Abandoning Them at Sea - NYT

This needed to be front page news the world over. In Greece masked border agents rounded up detainees at an immigration camp, put them on a bus, lied to them about their destination, ferried them out to sea, forced them onto life rafts and left them for dead. That is a violation of international law, basic human decency and it is as good as murder.  In so many ways it is like SS forces rounding Jews up from ghettos, and placing them on sealed cattle cars to be “relocated in the East”. The Greek authorities here of course didn’t murder the refugees outright, but they dropped them in the middle of the open sea on unpowered un-navigated inflatable rafts without adequate food or water or any guarantee that they would be rescued at all. How long do you think it really takes to move from abandoning people at sea to shooting them in the back of the head and bulldozing them into unmarked pits because it's cheaper? Again: if you put 60 people on a leaky inflatable raft designed for 30 people and them leave them in the middle of the sea you blatantly do not care if they live or die, and if they do die it's murder.

Also, I hate that I even notice this, but I do: the individual accounts of the refugees fleeing the bombing and poverty of the Syrian War that appear here are all from people that would be considered "respectable" professionals in any Western nation. A teacher, a law student, an X-ray technician, etc. In our capitalist hellscape, where so much of a person's value is determined by how much they make or what they contribute to the economy, it's very easy for people to hear "refugee" and automatically picture a field laborer or a waste picker, or some other category of people that our system deems "expendable" or of "lower worth". Of course no one is expendable, OF COURSE they're not, but it's insane not to acknowledge that this is how our public discussion so readily frames people in this situation. So when we hear about people with advanced degrees who would normally be economic "producers" being treated like trash and left for dead hopefully we spare a moment to think how easily this could be us, and how unacceptable it is for this to happen to anyone. This is less elegantly stated than I'd like  but you get the idea.

"“It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

“I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she told The Times."


"Instead, masked Greek officials transferred them to two vessels that ferried them out to sea before dropping them on rafts at the Turkish maritime border, she and other survivors said.

Amid choppy waves, the group, which included two babies, was forced to drain the raft using their hands as water slopped over the side, they said."


"Migrants have also been left to drift in the boats they arrived on, after Greek officials disabled their engines, survivors and researchers say. And on at least two occasions, migrants have been abandoned on Ciplak, an uninhabited island within Turkish waters, instead of being placed on life rafts."
"I'm fine with immigration as long as they do it LEGALLY". We've all heard this, we may have even said it ourselves. It certainly sounds reasonable, I'll give you that. But as this video so expertly (and entertainingly) shows the legal route for people coming to live in the states is basically a crap shoot with chances as good as your state lotto for actually making it here.

A few very basic thoughts:
  • As anyone who has ever flown over any part of America more than 100 miles from the coasts can tell you: America is NOT "full".
  • And as blowhards of every political stripe will ceaselessly tell you "We're the richest country in the world!" so that has to mean that we can indeed bring ourselves to pay out even a fraction of the public assistance that most other developed nations already provide.
  • No one is illegal. Borders are literally just lines on a map. If you will literally die (whether that means starving, being murdered by gangs, getting rounded up by an oppressive government, having a bomb dropped on you, or whatever) by staying where you are then you simply must go elsewhere and if that means heading to another country then so be it and who is anyone to tell you that it's wrong?
  • Wild to think that there was literally no border patrol until the late 1800s. Want to come to America?? Just get here, you're in.
Where Will Everyone Go? - ProPublica

This is a very long read and a very worthwhile one. As I'm sure you're aware we are killing the planet. This is not a debate, it's a fact. It's happening everywhere but it's hitting certain places hardest. Most frequently the people in those places have done the least to cause the problem while also having the fewest resources to deal with it.

When you're faced with a crisis that means staying in your home, in the only place you've ever known, will lead to your death you will move. Simple as that. Maybe you'll buy a plane ticket, maybe you'll pack a car, maybe you'll fleet to a Red Cross facility, and maybe you'll pay a professional human smuggler to take you someplace where you have a chance of earning enough money to one day have a place of your own again. Whatever you do, leaving won't be a choice but a necessity, and anyone who would scream for you to be locked up in jail and sent back to the place that will bring your death will change their tune once it's their home that is no longer livable. And unless we all do something all of our times will come soon enough.
"The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third."


"A 2017 study in Science Advances found that by 2100, temperatures could rise to the point that just going outside for a few hours in some places, including parts of India and Eastern China, “will result in death even for the fittest of humans.”"


"I followed the decisions of people in rural Guatemala and their routes to the region’s biggest cities, then north through Mexico to Texas. I found an astonishing need for food and witnessed the ways competition and poverty among the displaced broke down cultural and moral boundaries."


"For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold. Food has to be imported — stretching reliance on already-struggling farms and increasing its cost. People will congregate in slums, with little water or electricity, where they are more vulnerable to flooding or other disasters. The slums fuel extremism and chaos."

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

The streets aren't paved with gold, it's definitely not every kid that can grow up to be president, and as a nation we have yet to fully grapple with our racist and genocidal past. Still, being born in the U.S. can for sure be taken as a win in the security/prosperity/opportunity global lottery when considered against a lot of the other options.

While acknowledging this much it is also very clear that vs. other industrialized nations Americans work more for less pay and fewer benefits than almost anyone. Why? Why do we accept this? Why do we often actually embrace it as some sort of proof of a virtuous "rise and grind" hustle culture? Working yourself to death for 5 sick days and a week and a half of vacation per year with unaffordable health care, no pension, no job security, and a federal minimum wage that isn't enough to cover a McDonalds #1 Combo meal in Biloxi Mississippi is not something you should feel compelled to shoutout in an Instagram hashtag. We have the idea of the American Dream (work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get a good job, a family, a house, retire in comfort, and watch your kids do better than you) pounded into us directly and indirectly from childhood when in reality millions of people who work hard every day of their lives will still be swallowed whole by the system without so much as the ability to see a doctor when they get too old to "hustle" anymore. Fun Fact: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is physically impossible and was originally coined to mean a fool's errand or ridiculous task.
From neoliberalism to necrocapitalism in 20 years - Al Jazeera

COVID sucks all the way around but it has has managed to strip away at least a decade of surface-level capitalist niceties to more immediately show us who matters to those in charge, who doesn't, and the lengths the powers that be will go to to keep it that way. This is grim, but ultimately hopeful.
"But the focus on the neoliberal present is literally misplaced, for the current system is merely the latest iteration of a 500-year-old matrix of forces that continues to shape the modern world today. Like an invasive plant, this system must be dealt with at the roots, not the newest leaves. And the roots of the present crisis lie deep in the unfolding of capitalism, in the morphology of the nation-state, and in the generative order of colonialism that has fertilised them both."


"The more wealth and power are concentrated in a society, the more racial and other exclusivist discourses will be deployed and the more criminal its government system, and ultimately the society, will become."


"In this regard, it is hard to imagine a virus being more fortuitously designed to support hyper-racialised necrocapitalism than the novel coronavirus. With racial and economic disparities seemingly written into its genetic code, the global pandemic is not only leading to a restructuring of the world economy along more nationalist lines, but it is also accelerating trends towards automation that could displace and render permanently superfluous upwards of one third of US workers within a decade. While a disproportionate share of the 21st-century lumpenproletariat will be Black and brown, millions of white Americans will suffer as well."


"But today it is not just African Americans and other permanently marginalised groups who no longer have faith in the system; white America has lost faith as well. For a while, it seemed that President Trump could maintain the false consciousness of a system working for them by harshly demonising, excluding and repressing everyone else. But the perfect storm of a pandemic, economic and racial crisis has shown that neither the emperor nor capitalism have many, if any, clothes left."
The Pointless Cruelty of Trump’s New Syria Sanctions - Foreign Affairs

Don't mind us, we're just here for the oil...and to keep your country as bombed out and as starving as possible for very poorly defined geo-political purposes.

"In the real world, “quagmire” is simply a misleading term for a failed state. And failed states leave their populations exposed to hunger, disease, poverty, and predatory warlords. The Trump administration skirts this grim reality by insisting that sanctions work. Yet there is little evidence that economic sanctions ever achieve their objectives. Even the best-designed sanctions can be self-defeating, strengthening the regimes they were designed to hurt and punishing the societies they were supposed to protect. The destruction of Iraq’s middle class in the 1990s is a case in point: U.S. sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Their effect was gendered, disproportionately punishing women and children. The notion that sanctions work is a pitiless illusion. The fact is those with guns eat first, and competing with Assad over who can hurt Syrian peasants more is a losing game for Washington."


"The United States once led an international liberal order premised on the conviction that free trade and a vital middle class would produce democratic governance and societal well-being. Today, the Trump administration is trying to convince the world of the opposite—that impoverishment and the restriction of trade will bring freedom and advancement. The sooner the United States reconsiders its punitive policy toward Syria, the sooner it will be able to make a positive contribution to regional development."
The Capitalist’s Kibbutz - Jewish Currents

The guy who founded WeWork had an OK idea, got if off the ground with family money, connections, and a golden tongue. Took it to heights no one could have dreamed of, and then crashed it into the ground with over-confidence, over-promising, brashness, bad management, and over-extension. He failed horribly, and publicly, and hurt and alienated a lot of people and he STILL got $450M out of it. America baby. The hubris was almost admirable in its scope, I'll say that.

"Now that the capitalist world system is buckling under the weight of a pandemic, young people are turning again to collective modes of mutual aid—necessitated by the absence of a sufficient social safety net—and demanding ever more radical solutions to protect each other and the most vulnerable members of our society. WeWork offered up the opportunity to consume communitarian values as a brand. But it appears members of the “We generation” would rather live them."


"Everywhere, the powerful are dispensing with the sophistry and tender fictions they once used to solicit our consent. And still, a global order with fewer believable myths may not be meaningfully better than the one we inhabit now. As their authorizing narratives fray, states like the US and Israel will lean more heavily on brute force to maintain order and achieve their ends. But the failure of governments and corporations to fully colonize our imaginations, corrupt our symbols, and shape our desires is a cause for hope. As we hurtle toward economic collapse and a lethal contagion upends all certainty, words hollowed out and abandoned by the ruling class—peace, justice, community—are ours to reclaim. To repair the world, we must reinvest them with meaning."


Things Read

Worthwhile Words

QAnon Was a Theory on a Message Board. Now It’s Headed to Congress. - NYT

Back in WesRecs 28 I include this in-depth explainer piece about QAnon the cult-y, web based, conspiracy ideaology that has an ever-growing online presence and millions of American devotees. The "belief system" (centering on the machinations of a cabal of Democratic pedophile Devil worshipers who secretly run everything) is patently absurd on its face BUT it needs to be taken very very seriously because it is only gaining ground and its true believers are a dangerous bunch.

Frankly, it's really easy to lapse into hopelessness when looking at all of this. It's the kind of thing that is especially hard to fight for so many reasons and it's mere existence and popularity themselves say so much about where this country is right now. Non-comprehensively and in no particular order:
  • The fact that so many people legitimately believe this shows a staggering lack of media illiteracy, critical thinking skills, and common sense. These are all things that take years to develop and which require constant application. Basic stuff like "OK who made this video or wrote this article? Are they reputable, what are their qualifications? Their evidence? What's their track record?" and "If this is true, then what else must be true, and any of that plausible or even possible?" and "Who would stand to gain from this? Are they actually benefiting from it in any visible way? Are more mundane explanations possible?"
  • The people who actually believe in it believe in it with religious fervor and it is basically impossible to convince them with any line of logic or "proof" or debunking. In fact, given the shadowy illuminati-esque nature of QAnon any rebuttals or counter-evidence very easily get converted into "evidence" that is IS true "Ha! That's exactly with the billionaire satantists WANT you to think, they CONTROL the media and the scientists and the writers, etc. They would trot out fake facts just like this."
  • Savvy operators who don't believe in any of this BS at all can easily manipultae the rage and hopelessness and fervor of those that do believe for their own gain without giving a second thought to the consequences. If a QAnon devotee can vote...or owns a gun...why not rile em up if they'll check your name or point that thing where you want it pointed?
  • If millions of people come to belive this or at least agree generally with it, then where does that leave us as a country? There is no way to co-exist with this. It's not like you beleive in a flat tax and I believe in a progressive tax or you think STEM education should be prioritized whereas I favor more funding for the liberal arts. People with these positions can live in the same polity, abide by the same laws (mostly) and arrive at consensus (if not agreeement) about a wide variety of issues. But if you believe that everyone opposed to you is kidnapping children in order to make burnt offerings to the Dark Lord, well, we can't play nice and sit next to each other at the Cheesecake Factory.
I don't have an answer for any of this, and frankly, not much hope.
"The recent news also feels like a clear example of the real-world consequences of our broken information ecosystem. QAnon’s rise is the direct result of a world in which media and politics are distorted by the dizzying scale of social networks, by their lack of adequate content moderation, and by the gaming of algorithms and hashtags. While the social media platforms didn’t create QAnon, they created the conditions for it to thrive. One can draw a straight line from these companies’ decisions — or, more accurately, their inaction — to where we are today."


"Facebook’s recommendations systems, designed to prioritize the growth of groups, most likely supercharged the QAnon community — exposing scores of people to the conspiracy theory and then forging bonds among like-minded believers who could communicate, organize and spread their message further. As NBC News’s Ben Collins notes, this spread has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic as QAnon has become a hub for public health misinformation on Facebook. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the average membership in 10 large public QAnon Facebook groups swelled by nearly 600 percent from March through July, to about 40,000 from about 6,000.”"


"This online ecosystem has been attractive to some political candidates. “Politicians see the infrastructure QAnon has built on these platforms. They recognize it as increasing in power and see it as having a political benefit,” said Alex Kaplan, a researcher for the media watchdog group Media Matters for America who has been tracking the increase in QAnon supporters running for Congress. “There are true believers, yes, but many also see pandering to QAnon as a way to cultivate political support. They say, ‘why not use this infrastructure to get some benefit?’ — be it followers or money or votes.” Mr. Kaplan has reported that there are at least 20 candidates on the ballot in November who support or have spoken favorably of QAnon."

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

The Platform was incredible and everyone needs to watch it so that we can have a real conversation about the trap of capitalism with a devastatingly straightforward and gripping set of shared reference points with which to peg our arguments on regardless of our backgrounds, ideologies, or levels of education.

Best movie I've seen this year, no doubt. Among the best political allegories/satires I've ever seen (not sure if I can fully call this "satire" as that usually means humor and while this has some painful laughs in it it's not really a chock full of chuckles. I had to stop watching like every 15 minutes just to collect myself and shout "this fucking movie!" to my empty room. It is SO ON POINT with regard to its writing, casting, acting, originality, humanity, and eye for nuance. I took almost an hour of audio notes while watching it and I hope to write something more in depth about it at a later date (I definitely need to watch again) but for now I'll just say that THIS IS US. This is the world we live in. And as fantastical as it all is when watching it I just felt a deep sense of recognition for the everyday state of things we're all stuck in. The "solution" (if you can call it that) that it offers seems so remote and and small and difficult I'm freaked about that too but watch this movie.
The Perfection was an INSANE and unimaginably intense horror/psychological thriller film. I honestly can't believe I haven't heard more people talking about it. I won't give anything away but the scene on the bus was one of the most anxiety inducing things I've watched in a minute, so real, so well directed. I don't know how the movie managed to be gut-wrenching, and timely, and political, like it did but it did. Also, having watched this and Get Out I'll just say that if you're a person of color and you start to feel uncomfortable like things are sliding into bizarro territory and Allison Williams shows up being super friendly and helpful just RUN AWAY.
"If you fall to your left you fall 8,000 feet into Nepal. If you fall to your right you fall 12,000 feet into Tibet. So it's probably better to fall into Tibet because you'll live a little longer...but either way you fall for the rest of your life." - Dr. Kenneth Kamler speaking about the approach climb to the summit of Mt. Everest.

I forget how I started on the path but this week, for a hot minute, I got really interested in the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, a tragic event where a storm over the mount led to the deaths of 8 climbers near the summit on one day. The event was written about in the bestselling book Into Thin Air and a 2015 Hollywood dramatization was also produced. I have not read the book or seen the movie but I ripped through a few videos and Wikipedia articles and damn...what a story.

In brief: Everest is crowded. For the past several decades you can generally find multiple groups of people attempting to make the final summit attempt on a given day during climbing season (27,000 -28,000+ ft at this stage). On May 10 1996 two of these groups included an American team of climbing guides, and their paying clients + Nepali sherpas and a separate New Zealand team of guides, clients and sherpas. (No one who makes an Everest attempt has zero serious experience, but non-professional & hobbyist climbers often pay professional climbers steep fees [$65K back in '96] to lead and assist them on expeditions. These climbing firms then hire local sherpas for additional assistance). There's no guarantee that if you make it all the way up to the last staging camp before your summit attempt that you'll actually be able to reach the peak since bad weather can roll in at any time. There was some bad weather, then it cleared and looked fine, the teams proceeded, and then as some people were coming back down and some people were still heading up the weather turned and quickly got brutal. High winds, low visibility, etc. 8 people ended up dying, and many of those that survived suffered from severe frostbite, hypothermia, snow blindness and other ailments.  I am now really tempted to read Into Thin Air because in addition to a wild environment and a tragedy resulting multiple deaths there were all kinds of allegations of incompetence, improper planning, heroism, a guide who refused to leave a client resulting in his own death and a guide who allegedly left a client for dead necessitating the client to walk down to camp on frozen toes after being exposed in the elements for 36 hours. To this day many of the people who were there dispute what happened, who did what, whose fault it was, etc. Wild Stuff.
This is what a career in sub-zero mountain climbing can do to your foot. Yowza! This is Michael Groom, one of the guides on the Australian tour. In thhe video below he discusses some of the many difficulties facing climbers so high up and defends himself against allegations that negligence and self-presevartion on his part led to the deaths and injuries of some of the climbers under his care. I did not know this but the summit of Everest provides an area only about the size of a bathtub on which to stand. We also hear from Beck Weathers, the climber who was left for dead and somehow managed to survive.
If you've been keeping up with the newsletter recently you know that I've rediscovered my love for charcoal grilling as of late. I got myself a mini Weber kettle and I've been trying to grill out as much as possible (basically any night that it's not raining and I'm not swamped with work). While I am continuing to grapple with the ethics of meat eating in a capitalist system I'm also loving the time outside, the development of my grillmaster skills, finding new recipes, exploring local butcher shops, and learning about the history of barbecue in the U.S. and the *many* various regional styles. I'm also getting my ass tore up by mosquitoes on a daily basis but it's a price I gladly pay. Highlights from this past week include some prosciutto wrapped shrimp skewers, seared romaine (first time I bought romaine in years after I switched to spinach for my salads), and the roasting of some blue oyster mushrooms that I grew myself.

Anyway here's 2 cool related videos.

The first a look at Rodney Scott's BBQ operation in South Carolina. It is so damned interesting to hear him talk about the process and the business. I remember the first time I ever asked my mom for a snack and instead of making it herself she made me boil my own egg. On the scale of recipe toughness boiling water is about a negative 5, but at 10 years old I remember being very intimidated by using the stove myself for the first time. This dude was ordered to cook an entire hog over a wood fire by his dad at age 11....MUCH RESPECT. I cannot imagine how much work goes into keeping this business afloat on a weekly basis. Each individual hog takes about 14 hours to prepare, he only uses whole hogs, he makes his own sauce, he literally cuts the wood they use to cook with his own chainsaw and hauls it with his own truck, and he only uses wood. I have yet to even smoke a pork shoulder on my own and I've watched like 10 videos and read 5 blogs in prep. Even if the thought of eating meat causes you great distress I would say this video is an interesting insight into devotion, perfectionism, a generational family business, and craft (though you might want to avoid the shot of a split hog being literally body slammed onto a cooking rack at 4:38. Also, I just love the fact that this dude uses a literal kitchen mop to sauce his hogs.

The second video is a trivia filled look at the history of BBQ in America which is fascinating on its own weaving European, Native American, and Slave traditions into a something that is as much a style of cooking as it is a social/political event. As both a trivia nerd and a veteran of countless on-stage power point presentations I really enjoyed this host's style and delivery and will have to watch more of his stuff.
Random Finds:

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Grice, n

Obsolete exc. Scottish and archaic.
Meaning: A pig, esp. a young pig, a sucking pig; †occasionally and spec. in Heraldry, a wild boar.

Origin: Old Norse gríss (Swedish, Danish gris) young pig, pig.

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • The northern most part of Brazil is closer to Canada than the southernmost part of Brazil is
  • The Mortal Kombat soundtrack (1995) was the first EDM (electronic dance music) album in history to go platinum.
  • The Kingsford Company has an 80% market share of charcoal briquets sold in the U.S. It originally grew out of a division of Ford Motors that Henry Ford established in order to find a use for all of the wood waste generated by the production of automobile dashboards and steering wheels.
  • Pigeons have been trained to distinguish between the paintings of Monet, Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Cézanne, and Renoir
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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