For Bella Lipson Tillis, my daughter at 2-1/2 years old…
David Foster Wallace, “This is Water” (2005)
“Have you ever come across a homeless individual and felt totally uncomfortable?You see them and you know they are in need, but you are not sure what to do. You know that handing them money is not the best thing. But, you also see that they clearly have some needs. Their lips are chapped. They are hungry. They are thirsty. They are asking for help.How can you help?Here is a simple idea - blessing bags.
This was such an easy project. We are now going to keep a few “Blessing Bags” in our car so that when we do happen to see someone on the streets who is homeless, we can hand them a Blessing Bag. I first learned of these bags from my friend, Julie. I am using the picture of her bags (see above) because the ones we took were taken in horrible lighting and turned out really grainy and hard to see what is inside of them.If you’d like to make your own Blessing Bags, this is what you would need:Gallon size Ziplock bagsitems to go in the bags, such as:chap stickpackages of tissuestoothbrush and toothpastecombsoaptrail mixgranola barscrackerspack of gumband aidsmouthwashcoins (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)hand wipesyou could also put in a warm pair of socks, and maybe a Starbucks gift cardAssemble all the items in the bags, and maybe throw in a note of encouragement. Seal the bags and stow in your car for a moment of providence.This would be a great activity to do with some other families. Each family could bring one of the items going into the bags (ex: toothbrushes). Set up all the items around a table and walk around it with the ziplocks and fill the bags.”
Hey, words from an actual former homeless person here.
Those people you see who make you uncomfortable? Those aren’t homeless people, they’re beggars. Well, some of them are also homeless. Some of them are not. NOT ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE BEGGARS. (Also, they’re not all addicts, though some are. You literally know nothing about a beggar’s life except that they are beggars.)
Beggars have a uniform like any other kind of worker. They have to look as bedraggled and dirty and pathetic as possible. If you gave a beggar a chance to shower and wash their clothes, you would be damaging their earning potential. They make their money by manipulating the feelings of people who don’t know much about poverty. That means they have to play to stereotypes, some of which are like a hundred years out of date.
When I was homeless, I did not beg. (I stole, dealt with charities, sometimes even worked. Yes, you can be homeless with a full-time job. I’ve worked 60 hours a week and been homeless. And I mean sleeping in a car or a tent homeless, not on somebody’s couch homeless, though that’s an under-counted form of homelessness. I asked for food once or twice, but I didn’t look like a beggar.) I kept myself clean. I looked like anyone else. That person you pass in the store, on the bus, someone who looks just like anyone else, they could be homeless. The sales clerk who helps you for minimum wage. They could have lost their apartment because you can’t pay rent on that salary.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with begging. And it’s true that some people do actually just look like that because due to mental illness or addiction they sincerely can’t take care of themselves. Some of them are honestly nothing more than scam artists who have no real need, though, playing off people’s sympathy for those who genuinely do need help. But let’s assume that you were giving these to an actual homeless person.
- soap is not that difficult to come by if you are so inclined to have/use it. Many public bathrooms have it. Homeless shelters will give you a bar of it. If you have $10 or so for a truck stop shower, soap is provided. Running water is a lot more difficult.
- believe it or not, they may already have a toothbrush and toothpaste, and if they don’t, it’s unlikely they have any interest in using them. Homeless people commonly cache useful items wrapped in plastic in a bunch of hidden places. If you want to help the homeless, next time you find one of those caches, don’t throw them away. I mean, think about it. If you had to start living on the street, would you stop brushing your teeth? I didn’t either. Plus, if everyone gave homeless people one of these packs, they’d have more toothbrushes than they did teeth. Same with the deodorant—one stick lasts a long time, and they give them to you in shelters. This kind of mismanagement and waste is incredibly frustrating. People are willing to flush money down the toilet to avoid helping you TOO much.
- food is nice! But keep in mind that not everyone can eat stuff you give them. Dietary restrictions like diabetes and Crohn’s unfortunately don’t go away when you become homeless. Maybe this is why they were hoping for cash? Also, some (though not all) homeless people have access to food already through food stamps, soup kitchens, charities, etc. A granola bar is nice, but they likely have other problems. If they need food, they will usually have a sign asking for food, or ask for it verbally! Otherwise food might not be a problem for them.
- I’ve given medicine to beggars when it was asked for. Medicine can be super useful if you have a need of it. But when you don’t have a place to put your shit, you realize what a luxury it is to be able to store shit you don’t need at the moment. At best, it could go into one of those caches, if that individual uses caches, or into a shopping cart if they haul one of those around. Or in a car if they have one.
You know what’s useful, lightweight, and portable? MONEY.
You know what money can be used for?
- the nightly fee of some pay-shelters to keep you out of the elements.
- minutes for a pay-as-you-go phone, which can be used for emergencies, scheduling appointments with therapists, doctors, and addiction counselors, even searching for jobs or housing. There is a TON of bureaucracy involved in getting help when you have nothing, and that shit burns through your minutes. Payphones? What is this, 1980? I still have and use a phone I bought while living in my car. It was $10.
- gas for a car, if they have one. (Commoner in rural areas.)
- a hot shower at a truck stop.
- medicine, including prescription medication.
- items that protect against the elements, in their size!
- transportation. News flash, no bus will let you on for pocket change.
- items you might not even think of, like pet food (some homeless people have pets!) sanitary napkins (even if they don’t look female—remember how the homeless rates go up if you’re queer? Yeah.) condoms (possibly for sex work? Not something you want to assume though!) diapers (adult or otherwise! seriously! You don’t know their lives!) or pretty much anything else THAT IS BOUGHT AND SOLD WITH MONEY.
Does that include cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol? You bet it does. But you know what, if that’s what they need, you’re in no position to judge. I’ve never been through withdrawal, but I’ve seen people go through it, and it’s complete shit. If that were you, yeah, you wouldn’t want to get drug sick, are you fucking kidding me? Offset it with a contribution to a rehab center, whatever helps you sleep at night.
And all this is assuming the person giving you a case of the guilts is actually homeless. When they may not be. And other people you don’t notice around you almost surely are.
That uncomfortable feeling you get, though? That has a name. It’s called INEQUALITY. It means that you know you have shit other people don’t have access to. You probably have resources so that even if you were in trouble, there’d be safety nets. You have the kind of money that you can buy a bunch of care packages to assuage this horrible guilt you feel every time you’re in bed in the rain and you know someone else out there isn’t. Those feelings are right. The world shouldn’t be this unequal. We shouldn’t have houses standing empty while people live on the street. We shouldn’t have food sitting in warehouses till it spoils while people starve. We shouldn’t be punishing people for trying to medicate away the pain we gave them.
If you want to REALLY help the poor, go buy a pen and paper and write to your representatives. Stop blaming “generational welfare users” for being “leeches on the system.” Tell them you want to see real aid going to people in your community. Tell them to fund the mental health system, which is inadequate for the demand and constantly getting slashed. Tell them you don’t want to see food stamps cut for bad grades! Tell them a stitch in time saves nine, and if they helped people who were losing their homes, maybe there wouldn’t be so many homeless. Tell them to decriminalize drug use and prostitution. Tell them to support programs like Insite. Support universal healthcare, because you’d be surprised how many people end up homeless due to illness, either in themselves or a family member. If you’re ever in a position of power, such as a landlord or employer, don’t discriminate against people who don’t have a current address. Also don’t discriminate against marginalized groups by race, gender, orientation, ability, etc. These people are more likely to end up homeless because of this BS. Check out charities in your area doing actual outreach with the poor, many of whom are not beggars and not visible. And if you’re going to give a beggar something, either ask them what they need or just give them fucking money.
You can’t make that uncomfortable feeling go away with the wave of a magic wand. You can’t buy exemption from the fact that you HAVE and others DON’T with some soap and granola.
And if you’re going to give a beggar something, either ask them what they need or just give them fucking money.
Finally someone tore that shit post apart.
I was too inarticulate with rage as a someone who’s been homeless to hit it.
I— I don’t understand! Yeah, I know ya went into quite a lot of detail, but are you entirely dissing this person’s wonderful idea? So s/he didn’t know all that stuff you ranted about. Who would, besides and actual homeless person? Is it too much to say, “While this IS a good, and thoughtful idea, it’s not as helpful as you’d imagine. Here, let me give you a few tips on what could be of use to a homeless person.”
No. I don’t think it is. You’ve completely over-looked the part about THE PERSON TRYING TO BE NICE!
I’m sorry, but I think maybe you could use some manners.
I— I don’t understand! Yeah, I know you went into very little detail, but are you entirely dismissing this person’s wonderful information?
I mean, you hit the nail on the head here: “Who would [know this stuff], besides an actual homeless person?” So, why is it necessary to say anything more than, “Thank you for sharing the insights of your experience with us. This is very helpful.”
I’m sorry, but I think maybe you could use some manners. And some perspective. And a sense of proportion. The original post was insulting. Homeless people make you uncomfortable? Yeah, I get that they were ~*trying*~ to be nice, but their attempt was condescending and rude and borderline(?) dehumanizing, and based on faulty preconceptions about the existence of the homeless.
And the response they got? It was friendly. It was informative. The tone was conversational and matter-of-fact. They weren’t scolded. They weren’t called on the carpet. They weren’t even lectured, except in the sense that an astronomy class is a lecture: a lot of information. There was no moralizing or rebuking in the follow-up, just a straightforward debunking of flawed ideas.
The original post wasn’t a Playdoh flowerpot that some kindergartener made for their mother or a crayon picture someone hung up on the fridge with pride, it was a call to action,aimed at propagating an idea for how people can assuage their guilt over the poor and homeless without feeling like they’re contributing to the Eeeeevils of Society like drugs and alcohol, but which actually has less impact and less value and is less helpful than simply giving the equivalent amount of money (or just asking someone what they need, or listening when they tell you). It’s not only something that doesn’t deserve to go unchallenged, it’s something that needed to be challenged.
And the response?
It was polite.
Look at it, and you will find that it is in fact actually quite well-mannered. You feel crestfallen on the OP’s behalf because you feel empathy for them all swollen with pride at their Great Idea and then having that pride deflated, but that doesn’t make it bad manners. Politeness doesn’t demand that we treat terrible, harmful ideas as super neat because their originators are proud of them. That’s… egotism? A culture of mediocrity? I don’t know what you’d call it, but it’s not good manners.
But take all that empathy you’re feeling for the poor, aggrieved original poster and try applying it to, say, homeless people. Someone who’s just been given a doggy bag full of toiletries and a prayer card from some smarmy, smiling church group and who now has to choose between trying to look grateful for it or risking losing any further future charitable feelings, or even just looking like an asshole. (Because, hey, I have to imagine nobody likes to look like an asshole… and the less power you have relative to the people you’re interacting with, the more dangerous it can become.)
I mean, anybody who’s been poor is going to know exactly how much basic staples cost, so they’re probably literally thinking about what they could have done with the money that went into the bag, but instead of that, they’ve got soap and apple sauce.
Do they need soap and applesauce? They have it.
Where’s your sympathy for them?
There are two people in the thread above you who identify themselves as having been homeless. Does your big bleeding heart beat for them? At all? Even a little bit? The only thing you say on the subject is to tell them that they can’t expect normal people to know or care about their plight, so they should be suitably deferential when they talk about it.
Well, I guess a whole subset of manners is managing how people speak to their “betters”, isn’t it?
“Blessing bags”—how patronizing can you get?
If you insist on giving homeless people soap, deodorant, toothpaste, food, medicines, etc—give it directly to a shelter who can distribute these things based on need. Beggars don’t need them. They need money. I mean, FFS, they may just be trying to save up enough for bus fare back to a relative who can help them get back onto their feet, or maybe they are short the cash needed to secure a deposit on a room. Or maybe it’s none of your business why they need the damn money. But they don’t need you handing out goodie bags like you’re the best savior ever. And you aren’t even close.
Reblogging again for more fantastic commentary.
Friendly Reminder that it’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
and I haven’t seen one media outlet acknowledge it.
What else is new? Didn’t you know what a success Asian people are? We’re not a real minority.
the above should be read in a voice dripping with sarcasm
the struggle to fit my hair into the shot was so real
This is the only time I think it’s appropriate to use this .gif.
I’m really tryna process (all this)her. Dam, man.
I wanna play in it.
She’s just wow.
black people can’t have pale ski-
black people can’t have green ey-
black people can’t have freck-
black people can’t be gin-
Suck on ur ignorance she’s stunning.
there are not words enough in my philosophy to contain this level of superultra
Twenty Years Ago Today the World Wide Web Went Public
Twenty years ago today, something happened that changed the digital world forever: CERN published a statement that made the technology behind the World Wide Web available to use, by anybody, on a royalty free basis.
That decision, pushed forward by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, transformed the internet, making it a place where we can all freely share anything and everything—from social media updates, through streamed music, to YouTube videos of cats. It has fundamentally shaped the way we communicate.
To celebrate the momentous occasion of 20 years ago, CERN—the same guys behind all those experiments at the Large Hadron Collider—has republished its very first website at its original URL. It’s not much to look at—but it’s a fine reminder of just how much the web has changed in the past twenty years.
In fact, the republishing of that site is part of a broader project to excavate and preserve a whole host of digital gems that remain from the inception of the web. You can go read a lot more about the project over on CERN’s site.
It is super weird to me that I am older than the internet.
I am also older than the internet.
I… I’m not sure what to do with this information.
You’re older than the World Wide Web. The Internet, however, is older, and I don’t have enough information to know whether you’re actually older than that. Parts of the key technology date back to 1969, while the “multiple networks interconnected by TCP/IP protocol” architecture went live in 1983. Thus, the lowest reasonable age to assign to the Internet is 30 years this year.
Well then! Thanks for the clarification. This puts me in the middle. I was unaware there were two different things involved with the internet. Appreciate it. :)
I am older than the ARPANET. :P
the infinite root of two
Here is my preliminary design for a modern interpretation of an Anglo-Saxon lyre. Drawing is 1/2 scale, but appears at 50%, so 1/4 scale. Overall length = 37”, nominal scale length = 28”, body width = 12”, headstock width = 9”, waist width = 7”, body depth = 1.5”, string spacing = 3/4” at nut, 5/16” at bridge, hand hold allows reach to 19th “fret” harmonic.
First picture shows inlaid top, second picture without top, so you can see the framing and bracing. The main part of the frame will be about 1” wide by 1.5” deep. I think this will provide sufficient strength without being too heavy. I intend to use modern tuning machines at the head with a zero fret. Steam-bending or lamination of the framing would be best, but I think that even sawn frames might be strong enough. For the prototype, I’ll simply see if I can find some pieces of wood with grain that curves.
Inspired by early medieval Anglo-Saxon lyres, such as those found at Sutton Hoo and Trossingen, but slightly larger. The historical lyres had a scale length of about 20” and an overall length of about 30”. Mine is about cello or baritone guitar scale length. A cello is tuned in fifths, from C2-G2-D3-A3. A baritone guitar is usually tuned B1-E2-A2-D3-F#3-B3. A regular guitar is usually tuned E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4.
From what I understand the historical lyres are usually tuned diatonically, from G3, the fourth string of a guitar, and ending at E4, the sixth string of a guitar. Given the scale length of my lyre, I think I will tune it C3-D3-E3-F3-G3-A3, and see how it goes, but I’m sure I will be playing around with different tunings.
Also, an arched bridge could be used with a bow…
Corwen Broch, “Trossingen Lyre (6th Century Germanic lyre)” (2010)
Eivør — Trøllabundin (2010)
Work is Not a Virtue in Itself
— Gemma Seymour-Amper, 27 April 2013
"The environmentalists’ chief foe is productivism, the obsessive pursuit of economic growth. And one of the most powerful justifications for fast growth, in particular among the working class and its organizations, is the fight against unemployment. Universal Basic Income…is a coherent strategy for tackling unemployment without relying on faster growth. The availability of such a strategy undermines the broad productivist coalition and thereby improves the prospects for realizing environmentalist objectives in a world in which pollution (even in the widest sense) is not the only thing most people care about."
Philippe Van Parijs, “A Basic Income for All”, Boston Review