Wikipedia:Unusual articles

This page has been making the rounds of the blogosphere. I like the made-up Simpsons words and many of the other links.

But one of my favorite entries not listed here is on Florence Foster Jenkins, which features a sound sample of the woman “who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability.” If you have the Rhapsody music service, you can hear the entire album of this very painful warbling. (Like rain slurping down a rusty gutter, as I remembering reading somewhere.)

But one of the fun things about traversing Wikipedia and the web is finding that Jenkins’ page links to a bigger page on Outsider Music, which links to this fabulous collection of 365 MP3 files of “outsider music.”

Best Desktop Pictures Ever

In my humble opinion, of course. These are from Zeldman’s old site, courtesy the Wayback Machine.

His new ones are great, too, and are certainly more uniform in size and polished in quality. But that demonic clown and the electric blue trapeze artists just send me.

Addendum
The Beauteous Liz reminded me of another set of desktop pictures that appeals to my sensibilities: the Daze of Our Lives archives of Victorian etchings wallpaper. Note that there are archives for different years and there are varied sizes. My personal favorites are the Fornasetti Girl (2002), the Snowy Trees (2002), the Cowboy Band (2001), and Hand Kisser (2001),

What do you know now?

This is a page I ran across years ago when Mistress Krista’s site was in an earlier stage of development. At the time, I was into lifting weights and trying to find the “right” way to do it. Krista’s advice is pragmatic, funny, and no nonsense; she’s a great teacher.

Here’s how she describes the page of pithy quotes and hard-won experience:

“Recently, the folks on misc.fitness.weights were asked the following question: What do you know now that you wished you’d known five or ten years ago? Here are their responses and ruminations about training and life in general.”

I always hated the term “knowledgebase.” Semantically, it meant nothing to me. When you have a “wisdombase,” I’d say, then come and talk to me. Until then, pages like this (much like The Commonplace Book of earlier centuries) will be the places that capture our personal wisdom and experience for others both to benefit from and laugh at.

Betty Jo's Valentines

Susie Bright has a lovely blog entry on finding a scrapbook of valentines her mother, Betty Jo, received as a child in the late 1920s-early 1930s. It’s a poignant story.

Susie has slaved over a hot scanner to create a gallery of these wonderful paper ephemera that hail from a slower, different time, where even the paper goods had quality and charm and sparkle.

Trackback

Oooh, that hurts

From NY Times’ William Grimes review of the book Beyond Coincidence:

The award for the most painful coincidence in recorded history must go to the poet Simon Armitage, who chanced upon a used copy of a book of his poems in a trash bin outside a thrift store. On the title page was the following inscription, in his own handwriting: “To Mum and Dad.”


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Panhandling

Walking along Ninth Street in Durham, or Queen Street in Toronto, or anywhere, we’ve been approached by vagrants, panhandlers, the lot. They’ve even knocked on my door and asked for money to help them pay their rent.

I’m conflicted. I know I’m a soft touch, and my heart goes out to people who, through bad luck or bad choices, ended up in a place they never expected. There but for the grace of God, etc. Yet, I know I’ve been taken advantage of more than once by people exploiting my generosity and it galls me.

Searching the web yields a few approaches. At Christmastime, Jeanette Winterson puts a few fivers in her pocket and has them at the ready:

I also have the £5 principle in the month of December. If anyone on the street asks me for money - they get one of the endless fivers stuffed about my person. We are told not to give to beggars - stupid advice - we should always give if someone asks us. Street donations don’t solve the problem - we need to support homeless charities - but I think it is wrong to walk past a person who has nothing. We could all be that person.

So give what you can, according to your means, however small.


A typically strong Winterson opinion, unequivocal. I like it.

On Ninth Street, the merchants advise not to give money to individuals and instead to make a donation to the Durham Rescue Mission or other similar organization. The Regulator Bookshop, in its online email newsletter, recently offered a write-in contest for “true stories of especially considerate or especially rude behavior that they had encountered, sparked by the publication of Lynne Truss’s new book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter, Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door.”

The runner-up was this piece, by Bobbie Collins-Perry (and the prompt for this blog posting):

After dark. A man approaches me in a parking lot. He asks me for a dollar for the city bus. Normally, I don’t give money to strangers, remembering the counsel I’ve been given that panhandlers will just spend the money on drugs or alcohol and the cautions about opening myself up to crime. I call out, “I’m not sure I have any change.” “You’re going to see if you have the change?” He approaches closer. I’ve got myself in it now, and I’m feeling uncomfortable and pressured. I begin to run through scenarios and questions. Is he homeless? Or is he just having a bad day? Well, he doesn’t look like a typical street person, and I’m close enough to the side door of the restaurant to feel more secure. I fish for my wallet and come up with a dollar bill-this will at least get me out of the situation. I hand it to him. He thanks me and says I’m very kind. I hurry my hands to get the wallet back in my purse and turn towards the entrance.

“Wow, pretty too. You married?” An affront has transformed into an intrusion, and I have allowed this rudeness by not being indifferent to him. “Very,” I replied and beat a hasty retreat. I berate myself–he was just a freeloader. And he thinks I’m willing to give him much more than money. I know better, and vow to never let a vagrant take advantage of me again. Yet, I’m still conflicted-feeling disrespected, but still wondering how I can help.

Okay, give to a homeless shelter. I’ve done this before, but it’s in the past; it doesn’t help alleviate the feelings of immediacy each time I’m approached on the street. Ruminating while I drive, knowing full well I have a dollar to spare and a vehicle to transport me home, I come up with a solution: “I’ll start a jar-each time I am panhandled, I’ll politely say “no,” and put money in it.” I’ll feel good about not supporting substance abuse, not being violated, and being able to respond right away. I should be able to make a healthy contribution and help people who want to be helped on my terms in the light of day.


Another good, sensible tack.

What are the economics of begging? Robert Klein has a funny routine on one of his albums about a panhandler whose heart-rending screams of PLEEEEASE!!! in downtown Manhattan bring in contributions. Klein follows the beggar at the end of the day to a side street, where the beggar puts his stuff into the trunk of a shiny Cadillac. Klein said he yelled to the guy, “Hey, PLEASE!” And there’s a Sherlock Holmes story, “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” about a middle-class man who finds begging more lucrative than being a reporter (I can verify that fact).

Marginal Revolution, a libertarian economics blog that more than occasionally drives me up the wall and across the ceiling, usually provides intellectual cud for me to chew on or spit out. In this post, Tyler Cowen directly confronts the economic situation of all the beggars he sees in Calcutta. Using his typically cool-blooded economic reasoning, he concludes that giving to beggars who ask for money encourages more beggars to enter the market, thus increasing the number of beggars and more aggressive behavior from the beggars because their actions are rewarded with money. Better, he says, to give money to the poor person who is not begging and so is expecting it least.

In the comments to Cowen’s posting was this reference to a Tom Stoppard quote from his play “Indian Ink.” Stoppard blends economics with self-satisfaction:
Dilip: You have to understand that begging is a profession. Like dentistry. Like shining shoes. It’s a service. Every so often, you need to get a tooth filled, or your shoes shined, or to give alms. So when a beggar presents himself to you, you have to ask yourself– do I need a beggar today? If you do, give him alms. If you don’t, don’t.”


So, where does this leave me? I already make regular donations to the Durham Rescue Mission. If, on a particular day, I’m feeling generous, I’ll make sure I have some singles folded up in my pocket. How much harm can a person do with $1? But I won’t give anything to the beggar who gets in my face.

Yet a further reason to join the ACLU

This has convinced me it’s time to join the ACLU. The security paranoia has to stop.

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Update 2005-01-06

Some good news, according to the papersplease.org site:
Not only will Deborah Davis not be prosecuted on charges related to her refusal to show ID on a public bus, but she is now able to travel on the route 100 RTD bus without showing her ‘papers.’

Deb’s lawyer, ACLU volunteer attorney Gail Johnson, was informed shortly before noon on December 7th by the office of the US attorney in Denver of their decision not to prosecute.


Score one for the good guys and against the security state.