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Vol. #67 - February 19, 2021

Hey everybody. As always thanks for checking out the newsletter this week. It's a longer one, packed with some items I think you'll really love so I won't spend too much time on an intro. (I also just don't have very much to report on the personal/cooking front this week). But things have been busy and happy to be working on some things I'm excited about and I'll share them when I can. in the meantime, please enjoy this week's recs, take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

As ever:
If you're newer to WesRecs thanks for being here. As I've often said: this is a compendium of the stuff I've come across (or remembered) in the last week that I think you might dig. It's long. I recommend perusing here and there, spending time with what interests you at a given point and maybe saving or coming back to what you might be interested in down the road. Some of it’s really serious, some of it’s fun & dumb. Go with what you feel, subscribe if it's something you like, and thanks again. I love you all. 
Here is a show for a good cause I'm doing this weekend.
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:

Blank VHS Covers Were Kinda Beautiful
Reflections on a technological past and an underappreciated art form.

Lolita Podcast
An astounding deep dive into the legacy and impact of one of the most misunderstood books ever.

Meet Your Second Wife
It's funny and hurts at the same time.

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


What Are We Doing Here?

Texas largely relies on natural gas for power. It wasn’t ready for the extreme cold. - Texas Tribune

Texas is going THROUGH IT this past week due to extreme weather, power outages, lack of water and government mismanagement. In the news and on social media I have seen suffering and hardship on the level of Hurricane Katrina and that's on top of a yearlong pandemic that was already straining the state's medical capacity. It is a nightmare and people are desperate.

The thing to do first of course is to assist those who are suffering and to re-establish utilities and basic services (here's just one of many initiatives that you can give to if you're able).

After the the immediate human needs are addressed there needs to be a full reckoning with the power structures in the state to ensure that this or something like this does not happen again. Texas experienced a similar, but less severe, cold weather hit in 2011. Experts at that time advised on the preventative steps that should be taken to avoid a similar or worse outcome in the future. But those steps represented a cost to power companies and they weren't legally mandated and don't have to guess to know what happens (or doesn't happen) when corporations are gently advised to do things that cost money but bring no immediate profit bump because they're, you know, the right thing to do). Imagine living in a world where the needs and safety of everyday people were prioritized over the further enrichment of a handful of millionaires and billionaires.
Texas does not have as much storage capacity as other states, experts said, because the resource-laden state can easily pull it from the ground when it's needed — usually.


It is possible to “winterize” natural gas power plants, natural gas production and wind turbines, experts said, which prevent such major interruptions in other states with more regular extreme winter weather. But even after upgrades were made following the 2011 winter storm, many Texas power generators have still not made all the investments necessary to prevent the sort of disruptions happening to the equipment, experts said.


“We used to not worry too much about such extreme cold weather in places like Texas, but we probably need to get ready for more in the future,” Xie said. With climate change, he said, “We’re going to have more extreme weather conditions throughout the country.”
An amazing thread here that calls out the situation in Texas for what it is: the cumulative effect of greed, carelessness, and the subversion of government responsibility to corporate interests. It digs into one of the most basic (and thus overlooked) functions of capitalism: the conflation of the profitable with the good. Excellent and devastating read.
The Texas grid got crushed because its operators didn’t see the need to prepare for cold weather - Washington Post

Remember back in 2014 when the Obama administration established a standing pandemic response team and playbook for potential future infectious disease outbreaks in response to incidences of Ebola & H1N1, and then Trump dismantled it all soon after taking office because he deemed it superfluous and too costly, and then when we were hit with another pandemic not long after that the Federal Government was caught flat-footed and acted like "no one could have possibly foreseen this!".

Yeah, that's kind of like what happened in Texas between 2011 and this week. It needs to stop. The government is the only entity with the resources and authority and mandate to prepare for and respond to these kinds of emergencies. It is not a company and it should never be run as such.
What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.
It’s a “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” said Matt Breidert, a portfolio manager at a firm called Ecofin.


The widespread failure in Texas and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma and Louisiana in the face of a winter cold snap shines a light on what some see as the derelict state of America’s power infrastructure, a mirror reflection of the chaos that struck California last summer.
Ted Cruz Is Worse Than a Hypocrite - The Atlantic

Look, I think Ted Cruz is spineless, craven, self-serving, sycophantic, amoral, and slimy. He has no motivation at all in public life beyond acquiring, holding onto, and increasing his political power and he never operates out of any any conviction or sense of right, but only based on what will score him political points. I hate the man. That said, I would have never called him stupid...until now. I had thought he was savvy and intelligent, even if he never used those qualities in the service of anything worthwhile. But after making the biggest and most grotesque and most ill-timed unforced error imaginable this week by flying to a luxury resort in Cancun while his constituents froze in their flooded homes (during a pandemic) I have to wonder if in fact idiocy belongs on his rap sheet. Just wow dude. You didn't have a friend or an employee or, I dunno, a conscience or something that could tell you that this would 1.) get out to the public and 2.) be one of the biggest and most memorable political self-owns of the decade? Damn. What a heaping pile of useless garbage.

It is tempting to turn the “hypocrite” label on Cruz, but his sin is worse. Every politician is a hypocrite at some point. Cruz’s error is not that he was shirking a duty he knew he should have been performing. It’s that he couldn’t think of any way he could use his power as a U.S. senator to help Texans in need. That’s a failure of imagination and of political ideology.


Cruz’s defenders say that criticism aimed at him is nothing but point-scoring, and that there’s nothing for him to do: Any response that Cruz offered would be performative, rather than actually useful. Cruz calls himself a constitutional conservative, and it is true that nothing in the Constitution lays out a local disaster-response role for a senator.

But this dismissiveness is a double failure of imagination. First, it overlooks the importance of leaders bucking up the morale of a struggling population. Giving heart to citizens is good politics. (This lesson was not lost on Reagan, but Cruz has never had much of a way with soft persuasion.) Second, it ignores the power that Cruz holds. A U.S. senator has immense unwritten power. He can use his connections, and the doors that a Senate role opens, to call on businesses and leading citizens to get things done. He can also use his political network to organize relief effort.


If Cruz’s problem were mere hypocrisy, that might be manageable. Politicians (even Ted Cruz) are deeply susceptible to shaming, and voters’ memories are short. But Cruz’s problem is deeper. He didn’t go to Cancún despite knowing he should be hard at work; it just didn’t occur to him that he could help. That, too, is a kind of power failure.

COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

How Many Funerals Will Come Out Of This One? - NYT

A very interesting look at ultra-orthodox communities in Israel during the COVID crisis and the conflicts experienced between those communities the state, the rest of the country, and among themselves. These groups are not monolithic as the article makes clear, but on the whole they have much more resistant to masking, and social distancing than the rest of the country (which, all things considered, is doing an admirable job with managing the crisis).

I have never been to Israel but I have gone through the Hasidic communities of Brooklyn a few times in the pandemic and can say that, broadly, mask use and social distancing are not being practiced at all. I've thought about that, my feelings about that, and the reasoning behind it a lot and this article was very helpful in outlining the ultra-orthodox position. Again, it's not monolithic but it basically comes down to a situation where the supposed pursuance of god’s will is just elevated to a level that is beyond my personal experience. The degree to which Hasidic Jews attempt to live their lives toward this goal is hard to comprehend and I'm not sure I understood the depth of it before seeing this.

If your *entire* life is oriented toward pursuing knowledge of God’s will and you truly and fully believe that his will is for you to go to a crowded yeshiva, or a packed funeral, or to succumb to sickness or death whenever God deems it fit — and I have no doubt that these adherents truly/fully believe that— then yeah you buck state health restrictions and meet in groups and pursue God's will. I don’t agree. I think it’s wrong/stupid/irresponsible and I will think that forever but it does make it easier to understand…for whatever that’s worth.

This summer I fully supported (and very minorly participated in) the George Floyd protests because the cause was just that important and just as dangerous as COVID. Why stay in lockdown to avoid getting covid and dying from choking out in a hospital bed when the cops can choke someone who looks like me out on camera for the world to see and not even be arrested immediately? It was just that important (…and the events were near universally masked). And I still feel these actions were necessary    and justified.

None of this is easy, for anyone, and as with anything important there's a lot more gray than black or white. I guess I still don't know quite what I feel here but I was happy to have encountered this.
For these deeply devout Jews, attendance was a religious and personal duty. To briefly grip the rabbi’s bier, and symbolically assist his passage from this world, was a sign of profound respect for the dead.

But for secular Israeli society, and even for some within the ultra-Orthodox world, this kind of mass gathering suggested a disrespect for the living.

“What is more important?” wondered Esti Shushan, an ultra-Orthodox women’s rights activist, after seeing pictures of the gathering. “To go to funerals and study Torah? Or to stay alive?”


Science is of value, but for the Haredim it takes a back seat to faith, which governs every aspect of life in their community.


But for every ultra-Orthodox person attending a crowded funeral, or posting a subversive sign, there is another diligently staying at home. The Haredim have many leaders and sects, and are divided between Hasidic, Lithuanian and Sephardic traditions, each with its different subgroups. Many are frustrated by those who endanger others by breaking the lockdown rules.


They also feel their critics do not understand just how important religious study, rabbinical leadership and the mourning of the dead are to their way of life. Nor how much of an existential disruption it is to close the religious schools where many ultra-Orthodox spend most of their waking hours in search of divine truth.

“Without learning, we cannot live,” said Chaim Wertheimer, Ms. Wertheimer’s eldest son. “This is our life.”

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

We Were the Last of the Nice Negro Girls - The Atlantic

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Ana Deavere Smith. She is one of my favorite performers and a vital artistic presence a warm and generous spirit. If you haven't seen her work then her Notes From The Field project on HBO is a great place to start. Here she writes a reflection on being one of the first 7 Black students to attend her college alma mater and what has changed (and remained the same) since then.
August 1967: The Smith family left Baltimore for Beaver College at the crack of dawn. Because what would that be like—colored and late? My father sat behind the wheel, and two brothers, my two baby sisters, my paternal grandfather, and my mother piled into the car. My aunts Esther and Mildred, concerned about the shabby state of my luggage, had pooled their resources to buy me a brand-new set. My spanking-new luggage, my spanking-new clothes, my plastic record player (with my five LPs), and the weight of my family caused the car to emit a scraping sound as it made its way along the turnpike.


I’d had white friends in high school, but I had not lived with them. I’d gone to only one slumber party at a white home, a sweet-16 sleepover, from which my father took me home at 10 p.m., because to him there was nothing sweet about me spending the night with a group of white girls. He and my mother didn’t allow me to hang out with anyone whose parents they didn’t know—and in Baltimore at that time, Negro parents didn’t know a lot of white parents.


Were we ever really “nice”? Gracious, perhaps. Kind, perhaps. We definitely had manners. But those manners had to do with how we treated one another inside the walls of segregation. Anyone over 30 was addressed as Miss or Mr. But the “nice” that Beaver recruiters sought was a performance left over from slavery and Jim Crow, when to not be nice was a potential death sentence.
Blue Lives Matter Is Over - NYT

"Blue Lives Matter" was always stupid and always a lie. First of all there is no such thing as a "blue life". A police officer's uniform is just that...a uniform. You freely choose to wear it and you can take it off at any time whether that means at the end of a shift or the end of a career. It is not intrinsic to anyone's personhood. Meanwhile I was born Black, I've been Black my whole life, and I will die Black (hopefully not at the whim of a "blue life").

Secondly, the whole Blue Lives movement has forever and always been nothing more than a way to divert from, distract from, mis-characterize, and vilify those seeking to highlight police brutality and affirm the basic humanity of Black people. If your response to the message of "Black people are people and they have been wantonly harmed and murdered by the police since...forever. It needs to stop." is "Police are the victims here!" it is possible that you have completely misunderstood the entire history of race, class, & state power in America. However it is more likely that you fully understand it down to your bones and you have decided to jump in on the side of white supremacy and oppression and state violence.

That is at least until the state itself poses some kind of threat or resistance (however minimal) to white supremacy. In such an instance, as we saw on 1/6/21, any and all supposed affinity for "Blue Lives" gets dumped with a quickness.
In September, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina introduced the Protect and Serve Act, which would make it “a federal crime to knowingly cause, or attempt to cause, serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer. Offenders are subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years.”

As Tillis posted on his website: “We cannot sit idly by and allow for the streets to be filled with dangerous, violent criminals who face no consequences.” And yet, Tillis voted to acquit the man responsible for filling D.C.’s streets with dangerous, violent criminals who attacked police officers...


In the Senate’s acquittal — or more accurately, abetting — of Donald Trump, they stripped away the facade of the opposition to Black Lives Matter and the elevation of Blue Lives Matter.

It was never about preventing the desecration of American symbols. Members of the insurrection mob smeared feces throughout the Capitol after they broke into it.

This was never really about the protection of officers, generally speaking, but about allowing officers to treat with more impunity the people who protested the maltreatment of Black people.

Blue Lives Matter was in large part an attempt to silence the people asserting that Black lives mattered, as if Black people and police officers were equal and opposite sides of a scale, which is such a vicious and aberrant comparison.

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

Young People Coping With Mounting Debt Say No One Has Their Backs. The Pandemic Has Left Them On The Brink Of Ruin. - Buzzfeed News

America is struggling. The people in America are suffering. And it's all working more or less as designed in a system that chews up the poor and the vulnerable. There are people living on the street in a country with millions of empty homes and apartments. People are going hungry in a country with an incredibly robust agricultural system and millions of pounds of wasted food every year. People are sick in a country that supposedly has the most advanced medical system in the world. There is clearly so much work to be done in improving and advancing America but so many people don't have jobs.

Just think about how many people in the U.S. would have their entire lives turned around by $10K. How many cars that would fix, how many apartments that would get people into, how much job training and dental work and baby formula would buy. And how insignificant of an amount that is to the top 0.0001% and corporations who hoard literal billions.

This can only go on for so long.
It wasn’t long before he began putting his rent, groceries, and gas on his credit card. First hundreds of dollars, then thousands, not even counting the interest. His old employer called him in for occasional mechanic work but too infrequently for him to depend on those wages for a living. Winter arrived. No unemployment check ever came. Some days, thinking about money and debt keeps James in bed well past the morning — his “safe place.”


Debt drives the American economy: Household debt was about 75% of GDP before the pandemic and close to 100% during the Great Recession. Millions of people risk huge amounts in pursuit of a middle-class standard of living. They borrowed to survive or to get ahead, they saved what little they could, and if they couldn’t pay, they were dealt harsh consequences in the form of interest fees, repossessions, and foreclosures. Households with loans have about $145,000 in debt on average, and the average monthly debt payment was $1,233 in early 2020. Yet upward mobility comes with risks, and accumulating debt for that goal puts people in a precarious financial position. What little margin for error they may have had in the best of circumstances was eliminated by the pandemic. The crisis lays bare the reality that many people are unable to withstand an unforeseen setback.
Portland police guard dumpster, face off with residents trying to get discarded food from Fred Meyer - Oregon Live

There is a world in which this is the plot to an absurdist comedy that is too absurd to actually be effective.

However we live in the world where this is the actual news.

A Portland area grocery store lost power and thus had to chuck thousands of pounds of refrigerated food items into the dumpster. Hungry people in the area came around to rescue some of that otherwise-wasted food from the dumpster. Then the police came around and threatened to arrest people as they guarded...the dumpster. What. The. Fuck.

As someone aptly said on Twitter, if this story doesn't radicalize you I don't know what will.
Images on social media showed mountains of packaged meat, cheese and juice, as well as whole turkeys and racks of ribs that had been tossed into two large dumpsters near the store.

A few people gathered about 2:30 p.m. at the store, 3030 N.E. Weidler St., in hopes of salvaging the food.

But within a few hours, people seeking food from the dumpsters began to report police officers showing up to guard the dumpsters and prevent people from taking the items.


I live in this neighborhood. This neighborhood doesn’t have power,” Mckniff said. “And Fred Meyer is telling people in this immediate community who shop here that they can’t have these things they’re throwing away. Cheese, pickles, yogurt — things that are intentionally cultured and cured.”

Simonis said it’s hard to rationalize of the actions by police and the store.

“None of this makes sense to me except through the lens of severely ingrained policing and a culture of disrespect for human dignity,” they said.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

George Saunders - Commencement Address to the Syracuse University Class of 2013

The Golden Rule. You can't take it with you. Prioritize people and experiences over things. Let go of grudges & regrets. Be kind to each other. Love is the answer.

These are all these are principles/maxims/adages that all of us, on some level, know to be true. We know this because every major faith tradition for thousands of years has counseled versions of these. We know this because we constantly remind ourselves of it in children's books, and motivational posters, and Hallmark Channel movies. Your grandmother told you this, that inspirational meme on Facebook tells you this, the commencement speaker at your high school or college probably mixed in some version of at least one of these sentiments. It's all true and we all fail at it constantly and we for the most part keep trying, and failing, and trying again to live like this. So yeah the basic message is eternal, and obvious, and universal, and really really hard to abide by.

Which is why this commencement speech from author George Saunders, delivered to the Syracuse University class of 2013 is resonant. It offers you a truth we all more or less know on some level, it acknowledges how hard it can be to live accordingly, it reminds you of the powerful experience of being strengthened by someone who is living by it in the moments that you most need it, and it encourages you to do your best to live by it today, no matter how small or imperceptible that effort may be. It matters. It all matters.

This is one of the best renditions I can think of for something I've heard a million times.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.


Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.


Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.
The Comedy Industry Has a Big Alt-Right Problem - TNR

Because so much of the best and most classic comedy has been edgy and transgressive a lot of less-than-thoughtful comics have to believe that material that is edgy and transgressive (or downright hateful) is automatically funny. This is of course not the case, but especially with the rise of podcasts and social media in the last 15 years, all you need to do, no matter how hack or harmful your act is, is find the 200 people in each city who agree with your deranged bullying and boom, you've got a fan base and a platform and a few years down the line there might be other "artists" copycatting you. I have done so many shows and open mics with these kinds of douche bags and they're never funny but there's always one or 2 guys (it's mostly guys) getting a kick out of it and if all of those guys in a given area create a podcast network and start a club well..things just kind of keeping going from there.
The Gavin McInnes Show was more than the white power hour, however. In the years before and during his show on Compound Media, McInnes tried his hand at live comedy, performing in New York City venues like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and The Creek and The Cave. He recorded a podcast, “Free Speech,” at the club Stand Up NY; in 2016, McInnes said he was banned from a club called The Stand after he exposed himself onstage.


T.J. Miller, the comedian who has been thoroughly disgraced by allegations of sexual assault and transphobia but is somehow still at it, recently made an apt observation about how power works in mass culture. “Standups understand this: If you empower your audience, they’re much more likely to pay you again to support you,” he told comedian Bobby Lee. “The audience wants to be empowered.” He was critiquing Hollywood’s reliance on stale film franchises he believes audiences don’t like, but the analysis applies to comedy, too. You empower an audience by giving them what they want. The power they give you in return is their trust, their loyalty, their willingness to fight for you. The relationship between an entertainer and his audience isn’t all that different from the one between a political leader and his movement.


It’s easy to lose sight of a simple truth: Things are the way they are because people made them so. The far right did not come into being by chance. People shaped it. They went where they thought they could win people over, and they won people over. They offered permission to revel in racism and sexism, in homophobia and transphobia, and they earned devoted followings in return. They couldn’t do this alone, though. They had to be let in.


The far right has splintered into factions with varying ideologies and goals, each preparing for a new era of post-Trump violence. The people who gave this movement a constituency in comedy—who masked it in the language of free speech, who hid it behind the shield of more respectable artists—are all still in charge of their little fiefdoms. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
How Octavia Butler's Sci-Fi Dystopia Became A Constant In A Man's Evolution - NPR

Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future. Octavia Butler was a vital force and a prophet. Read Parable of the Sower, it is our future.

The worlds Butler imagined drew from her reading of history and her upbringing. Raised in a strict Baptist household, she was always fascinated by the impact of religion on the human mind. She had a complicated relationship with the traditions she grew up in as a Black woman from a religious family. Lauren's character embodied this tension. She, like Butler, is raised a Baptist. But as a young woman, she develops a religious philosophy called Earthseed based on the idea that "God is Change." It is a philosophy dedicated to the idea that all living things are evolving and the only way to survive is to embrace the central paradox of existence — that we are all evolving, yet we will all die.


What Butler saw in our future matters more today than ever. She saw a world headed toward collapse. She saw a Black, female prophet who understood that nothing was inevitable, that we have the power to change things and change course. On some level, as a 13-year-old, I understood that Butler's work was not just a warning but also an invitation. It invites us to let go of the conventions that can lock us into a destructive future and to embrace our greatest power, to change. She introduces us to a humanist vision for the future that makes space for metaphysical spirituality without the need for a traditional, omnipotent God-figure.
Trump Hotel Employees Reveal What It Was Really Like Catering to the Right Wing Elite - Washingtonian

Evil. Spiteful. Inept. Classless. Ignorant. Self-aggrandizing.

Yes, he was, and remains all of things. But please let us never forget just how friggin WEIRD this dude is.

Interesting read.
And when the star appeared, you had to stick to the script. A “Standard Operating Procedure” document, recently obtained by Washingtonian, outlined step by step exactly what to do and what to say anytime Trump dined at BLT Prime, the hotel restaurant.

As soon as Trump was seated, the server had to “discreetly present” a mini bottle of Purell hand sanitizer. (This applied long before Covid, mind you.) Next, cue dialogue: “Good (time of day) Mr. President. Would you like your Diet Coke with or without ice?” the server was instructed to recite. A polished tray with chilled bottles and highball glasses was already prepared for either response. Directions for pouring the soda were detailed in a process no fewer than seven steps long—and illustrated with four photo exhibits. The beverage had to be opened in front of the germophobe commander in chief, “never beforehand.” The server was to hold a longneck-bottle opener by the lower third of the handle in one hand and the Diet Coke, also by the lower third, in the other. Once poured, the drink had to be placed at the President’s right-hand side. “Repeat until POTUS departs.”


Garnishes were a no-no. Melania Trump once sent back a Dover sole because it was dressed with parsley and chives, says former executive chef Bill Williamson, who worked at the restaurant until the start of the pandemic. Trump himself never returned a plate, but if he was disappointed, you can bet the complaint would travel down the ranks. Like the time the President questioned why his dining companion had a bigger steak. The restaurant already special-ordered super-sized shrimp just for him and no one else. Next time, they’d better beef up the beef.


Election week was bleak. “The guests, you could tell, were all very sad,” the employee says. “Behind closed doors, we were all celebrating that Biden’s going to win. But also, oh, God, we’re all going to probably have to find other jobs.”

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

Lolita Podcast

(OK more of a Thing Heard BUT...)

Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita is the story of a conniving, narcissistic, middle-aged child rapist & murderer (Humbert Humbert) and his efforts to convince the book's readers that his abduction and sexual/emotional violence against a 12 year old girl (Dolores Haze) over the course of a year is one of the greatest & purest love stories ever told.

Jamie Loftus'  Lolita Podcast is an epic & compelling deep dive into how and why Humbert's mission to elevate his perversion into the very model of passion has been resoundingly successful in the global pop cultural imagination over the past 65 years.

The 10-part podcast series is staggering in scope, intensively researched, eye-opening, infuriating, and a must-listen. I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that this is one of the most ambitious and successful podcast projects ever launched.

From Nabokov's life and work, to the sexual atmosphere of the era, to the book's reception, the endless run of misguided/troubled adaptations across various media, the tribulations of the various women playing Dolores in those adaptions, the movies' effect on fashion and the cultural understanding of teen sexuality, and our country's abject and continuing failure of sexual abuse victims the series is relentless in its quest to investigate and understand how the book and its central character have been understood, misunderstood, and re-invented over the past several decades.

Chock-full of interviews, excerpts, analysis, and commentary this is an undeniable expression of its creator's talent and vision, a work of art (and entertainment) that is as vital as it is engaging.

I am very happy to have known Jamie during her time on on the comedy scene in Boston and if you're a WesRecs OG you'll remember that I included her previous awesome podcast My Year in Mensa way back in WesRecs 12 and her hilarious (and justified) efforts to have a Zamboni (aka "Ice Resurfacer") enshrined in the emoji Pantheon in WesRecs 45. She has a singular voice, a bottomless talent, and she brings an undeniable commitment and passion to all of her projects and her latest one is not something you should miss.
blank vhs covers were kinda beautiful

I watched a lot of TV as a child. We had cable with nearly all of the channels, beginning in the 5th grade I was allowed to go without a babysitter after school and during the summers, and I had no siblings in the house with me. As such, I spent countless hours floating through an endless sea of cartoons, 70s sitcoms, game shows, reruns, b movies, blockbusters, nature documentaries, music videos, wrestling, and infinity of commercials. It's hard to overstate how much all of that viewing shaped me, my idea of the world, my vocabulary/speech pattern, my references, my curiosity, everything.

Unlike today, there wasn't a whole lot of control with regard to your viewing. For the most part stuff came on when it came on and if you missed it during the broadcast you had to just sit and hope for a re-run. I remember grabbing the free 3rd rate "TV Guide" knockoff supplement from the newspaper every Sunday and mapping out what I really wanted to watch in the coming week or else going to the dedicated "guide" channel as it slowly scrolled through all of the programming for whatever 90 minute block I happened to in with a speed about half as slow as the school closings & delays listings on snow days. I have visceral memories from then of fantasizing about some mythical futuristic technology that would one day let you cue up any movie or TV show that you could think of and play it instantly. You want to watch Beverly Hills Cop II?? Boom. It's on. The debut episode of Stefan Urquelle on Family Matters?? Got it. No lie, I conceived of and hungered for this technology like someone else might want a teleportation pod or cold fusion. I thought it'd be the ultimate contentment.

Now, coming at you live from a time when some version of "On Demand" viewing is just how most of us normally watch movies & TV I can say that it's definitely convenient...but decidedly not a harbinger of paradise. Still, it's crazy how far we've come since back in the day when the closest thing we even had was....blank VHS tapes.

They seem semi-archaic now but as someone who doesn't remember a time when they weren't around it's important for me to keep in perspective how wild VHS technology must have been to my parents who grew up with a black and white TV with 3 channels...that shut off at like midnight. Instead of waiting for a theatrical re-release or being lucky enough to catch a network airing you could just buy or rent a movie you loved and watch it...whenever. (Or realistically, you could just wait until it came on TV and then tape it and have a slightly lower quality copy...with vintage commercials embedded into it...and your kid's 5th grade school play tacked onto the back 40 mins). It wasn't TIVO or Netflix but it was what we had and we appreciated it. I taped so much stuff and watched so many tapes and there was always static, and the sound was whack, and labels rarely matched, and I still have no idea what the "tracking" knob did but I adjusted it constantly and I'm so glad to have had the experience so that I can actually appreciate HBO Max.

And one constant that, in retrospect, absolutely did not have to be as elaborate or pleasant as it was was the art on the boxes of blank tapes. They were 95% totally unglamorous. We brought them like we buy soap or razors, that is to say in packs of 3 or 6 and often at Walgreen's. I'm sure some people had brand loyalty but we invariably went with what was on sale. They advertised space for 2, 4, or 6 (and later, 8) hrs of programming but that assumed that you actually knew how to work the features of the VCR that actually required reading the manual so it was usually 2. They came with stickers (labels) for the spine and the top of the cassette, in thin cardboard sleeve with a small indent taken out for your thumb and forefinger to grasp and they were, without exception, black. Pretty standard stuff.

Except for that box art though.

Using the one thing they had to distinguish their black plastic brick with white spools from all of the other iterations from all of the other brands that looked exactly the same the tape companies swung for the fences when it came to designing their packaging. Bold colors and funky geometric patterns were the standard of the day. (I'm not sure I ever saw an actual photograph or even true-to-life representational art on any of these...which was probably an attempt to invoke a futuristic cutting-edge vibe on what, at the time, was indeed cutting edge). Those boxes POPPED and it is so awesome to see that so many people appreciated these art/design efforts and that the images resonate just as much for them as they still do for me. This was like the most random and appreciated memory tour. I distinctly recall more than 90% of all of these and I probably watched media recorded on every single one of these brands. Enjoy the video above and this really cool appreciation thread on twitter where I first heard of it.

Blast from the past.
UFC Welterweight Champion Kumaru Usman is a bad man in the ring. He's one of my current favorite fighters for his dedication to the craft, his creativity and fearlessness in the ring, and because he seems like a really grounded and sincere dude in a fight world where loud mouths and big talk (backed up by talent or not) tends to get the most attention. Here's a video of him being a cool dad and training with his daughter.
Meet Your Second Wife - SNL

I cannot believe I'd never seen this sketch before. Just wow. The most apt way to describe this is brutally funny. It is hilarious, multi-layered, on-point and also serves up a hefty kick in the gut re: relationships between older men and much, much, younger women.

Look, I'm generally of the opinion that consenting adults can do whatever they want to between themselves, but other people do get to have an opinion and to question things like power dynamics, motivations, manipulation, maturity/immaturity etc. There are a lot of things that are legal but perhaps not quite "right" and at the same time there are a lot of instances when people might have a judgement/opinion about some aspect of someone else's life that lacks any awareness of what works or what's best for that person. I'm not here to tell you what to think about anyone you know personally, I'm just here to tell you that this sketch is genius and so biting and so fearless and it takes risks that in lesser hands might have failed horribly but which in this case make for the best kind of comedy.
Random Viewing

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

Spreezzatura, n
[ SPRETZ - ah - toor -ah ]


Meaning: Ease of manner, studied carelessness; the appearance of acting or being done without effort; spec. of literary style or performance.

Origin: Italian. The Book of the Courtier Baldassare Castiglione (1528).

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • Frederick Douglas was the most photographed American of the 19th century.
  • At their "free trial" promo peak in the mid 1990s AOL was producing 50% of the world's CDs.
  • "Huh", the utterance we use frequently to request/initiate a clarification of some kind is a nearly universal word. Almost every language and culture uses it.
  • The expiration dates on bottles of water are for the bottle, not the water. If left long enough the plastic will start leaching into the liquid.
  • Since a successful marketing campaign in 1974 eating KFC on Christmas has become a widespread tradition in Japan. It's so popular that making the colonel part of your Christmas meal requires ordering weeks in advance or standing in line for hours.
  • If you sneeze while driving at 60mph your eyes are closed for approximately 50 feet.
Copyright © 2021 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.

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