Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

Dickens December: If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population

December 22, 2010


“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”


“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? ‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population’.”


Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man — ” said the Ghost, ” — if man you be in heart, not adamant — forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.”


“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that, in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh, God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

(Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol.)

I believe that last quote to be one of the finest things Dickens ever wrote.

All photographs by William Gedney, taken in Kentucky in 1964. Special thanks to the fantastic Selvedge Yard, right here on the wordpress, for making me aware of this set’s existence.

E.E. Cummings Month: “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.”

August 12, 2010

— Sorry for the sparseness and lateness of posts today, dudes, but my grandmother is having a really Bad Day. The human brain can be such a bastard. —


“kitty”. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.

ducking always the touch of must and shall,
whose slippery body is Death’s littlest pal,

skilled in quick softness. Unspontaneous. cute.

the signal perfume of whose unrepute
focusses in the sweet slow animal
bottomless eyes importantly banal,


Kitty. a whore. Sixteen
                                                   you corking brute
amused from time to time by clever drolls
fearsomely who do keep their sunday flower.
The babybreasted broad “kitty” twice eight

— beer nothing,the lady’ll have a whiskey-sour —
whose least amazing smile is the most great
common divisor of unequal souls.

(E.E. Cummings, “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.” 1923.)

“Whose slippery body is death’s littlest pal.” God.

The poem is designed to shock and it is shocking — not so much her age of 16, which was consenting in most states at that time, and there is no harm in a consenting human exploring their own sexuality, but the idea that Kitty is such an old and careful but hopeless hand at the sex trade that it is her sole living and she has abandoned her childhood likely earlier than she would have liked, implying her experiences began at a far more tender age — as well as containing a moral without being overly pedantic about it: my interpretation is that Mr. Cummings finds the youth of this prostitute, Kitty, sad and abhorrent, and is taking to task the entire trade, together with its purveyors, its proponents, and its “banal” and wicked pervasiveness, which can crush the spirit of a child and that can drive the spark and spontaneity out of the eyes of a “cute,” young girl. He is disgusted that a young woman’s agency has been foreclosed to a system that allows her no real freedom. That is my take and I stand by it staunchly. If you take the poem to mean that Mr. Cummings is fine with teen prostitutes, I’m interested to hear your argument.


Girl sold by her family in Thailand. Please only follow this link if you are not the weepy kind. (I am.)

In a lot of Eastern European and developing Asian countries, this problem is so nauseatingly endemic that its only solution is harsh, swift, Actually ENFORCED sanctions from other countries.

For those in more “developed” nations (raise your pinky, okay, cause we are sooo evolved with our computers and cell phones), I think the greatest way to prevent a sad poem like this from becoming the reality for that sullen girl-woman you see with her arms folded in front of the cosmetics display at the grocery while her mother fills the cart with gin and baby formula is to start coaching early and hard in strategies for self-esteem and success the likely victims of the child prostitution trade. I take no such high road as Mr. Cummings about obliquely non-pedantic “you should stop this,” methods: he is far more subtle and poetic than I, obviously. With protection of those vulnerable targets in mind, here is a short and very hastily-assembled list of groups that I think do that. If you have any to add, please, please do.


Organizations for child advocacy


— In the U.S. (all of these non-profits have been rated A or higher by charitywatch.org; do not leave home without it … wish they would start tackling and rating more international non-profits) —

  • National Alliance to End Homelessness. Common factors in teen prostitution: runaways; homelessness. Donate time or money.
  • Save the Children. Mainly focused on the United States, but also offers opportunities to better the lives of children in other countries
  • — In the U.K./Europe —

  • STOP (Trafficking UK). In support of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and the sanctions established against the trafficking of humans, espeically women and children, by the U.N. in Palermo in 2000, STOP (Trafficking UK) is an advocacy group for helping those who have come to the U.K. via the channels of the illegal sex trade — women and children — to find jobs, parents as need be, literacy coaches, counseling, and any other support they need. A new but excellent group.
  • UN.GIFT (the United Nations Global Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking). “UN.GIFT works with all stakeholders – governments, business, academia, civil society and the media – to support each other’s work, create new partnerships and develop effective tools to fight human trafficking.” UN.GIFT is a great jumping-off point for finding ways to help in your specific country.
  • — Other efforts abroad to advocate for disadvantaged youth and stem child prostitution —

  • Pearl S. Buck International: founded by the author of The Good Earth. Through PSBI you can arrange an inter-racial adoption via Welcome House or you may choose to sponsor a child. Special program for children in Asia, where many countries’ lax laws governing prostitution make it a viable and thriving trade, via Opportunity House.
  • The Global Fund for Children. Well-rated, takes your money and spreads it around well-researched country-based special needs groups.
  • And of course, UNICEF, the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but it’s what Audrey would want.


  • Photo credits, top to bottom: Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensman, Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976); Brooke Shields as Violet in Pretty Baby (Lois Malle, 1978); Iris and Travis Bickle dine out in Taxi Driver — Jodie again with Robert De Niro; I credited the center one below the picture itself and I again find it flabbergasting and horrifying; Brooke on the cover of People in May 1978; Jodie again from TD, heartbreakingly young in the green sunglasses — to me this has become an iconic outfit, summing up totally her character and Iris’s backstory and motivations; Brooke again out of costume on set for Pretty Baby, a surprising addition to the so-called “Raider Nation.” I assume the Raiders were still in their brief stationing at Los Angeles at this point.

    Giving the people what they want, 3rd edition — and a special shout-out to a lonely heart

    July 6, 2010

    Giving the people what they want: in which I glance over my blog stats, spot the trends in what brings you party people of the internet sliding on down to my place, and accordingly and with mutual thanks throw you some bone(r?)s.


    Farewell and adieu to you fair Irish ladies.

    First, a shocker. With mixed emotions I must report that the rack of Miss Megan Mullally is no longer the sheriff of Googlesearchy Town.* The first two editions (1, 2) of “Giving the people what they want” were dominated by amused-but-puzzled nods to the bafflingly large number of searches for the diminuitive Will and Grace star’s cleavage which lead droves of folks to my door. Megan held her own, beating out for many months running distant contenders such as “Drew Barrymore naked,” and “lesbian kiss,” which I would have thought any such phrases would easily eclipse “Megan Mullally’s breasts,” her “boobs,” her “topless” and variations therein and they never did. Until now.


    *(By Googlesearchy Town I mean the searches that people enter in google to land on this journal — wordpress keeps track and ranks the most popular for me)

    Top searching honors now rest in the tiny but mighty vintage hands of busty, bespectacled aspiring astrologer, the lovely and talented Fran GerardPlayboy’s Miss March 1967, the self-help loving little looker whose cups runneth over.


    The lovely and etc Ms. Gerard. For Science.

    With 5,909 searches since her relatively recent appearance on the journal in March, Ms. Gerard beats out Megan at 2,503 since her inaugural boob-airing last September. Well-played, Ms. Gerard!


    Sweet, lovely and talented heiress to generations of hot Italian culinary genius, Amber Campisi.

    Rising Star Awards must go to three special up and comers. First, the talented family gal Amber Campisi (Miss February 2005); next, beautiful and tragic playmate and poet Marlene Morrow, aka Persephone (Miss April 1974) — whose gripping story has justly been getting attention from a number of outside sites linking in, enough so that her sister Landi was able to find this blog and send us an optimistic update on Marlene’s present condition about which I’m thrilled, check that post’s comments to get the latest — annnnnnnnd Yvonne Craig, BATGIRL!; all of whom are beginning to trend up the stats list with great and deserved speed. I look forward to what the next edition of “Giving the people what they want” will bring!


    The very special Marlene Morrow/Marlene Pinckard/Persephone. Please, please read the account of how Paul Zollo found her with notebooks of poetry and an envelope holding her centerfold photo, living on the streets in L.A., and consider following the non-profit links which follow the write-up?

    Finally: Quick note to the person who has found this blog by searching google three times in the space of the last two weeks — with “only assholes” in quotes so’s as to make maximal use of boolean exceptors — for the exact phrase “‘only assholes’ fall for me“: In case you ever come back a third time, I’d like to hope you hit this entry.


    Vintage hottie Yvonne Craig has suited up!

    First, you probably keep landing here because I frequently tag what I consider to be interesting graffiti with the words “only assholes write on walls” a la cult classic Rocky Horror. So I am sorry for the “only assholes” mix-up. But, more importantly, I am genuinely really sorry that you feel like only assholes fall for you and I wish I could make it better. I’m sorry that you’ve felt that way strongly enough to search the phrase three different times recently. I hope the next person you date is not an asshole. I hope that he or she is really nice to you — no, not just nice, because that is mealy-mouthed and hollow. That is a bullshit expression of my actual sentiment and is weak tea compared to the depth of my empathy, here. Okay:

    I hope that that next person you date is genuinely amazing to you, like I pray that their very existence makes you believe in a loving God and you see the echo of your love for them in all the shapes of nature, and you don’t just love him or her but admire and value them, and that you curl your toes when you think of him or her even while driving and that they fill you with so much passion and love that you would kill tigers for them without a blink and you stay together until you die in each other’s arms after fantastic geriatric sex.


    Scroll to bottom for caption.*

    I hope that the grace of his or her presence in your life is like a lightning strike that inspires you forever after always to strive to be a better person, to laugh with surprise at an unexpected joke they make when you are having an argument, to give new ideas a thorough-think-through and peek behind closed doors; I hope in short that he or she deserves every drop of the deep well of love you were created to share and renews your faith in all the anonymous fellow upper primates all over our world with whom we must trek in our stewardship of this nutty mudhole in order to improve our karma and with every go ’round perfect our souls.


    ByTim Weber and Sue Noble via environmental graffiti.

    Good luck to you.

    *Long caption to second to last shot: The dish ran away with the spoon but what can you do? They have opened a comic book store in the City and on rare nights off they like to order dim sum and watch TVLand; the comic shop is honestly not doing so well, their apartment is super-tiny, the bride’s mom won’t take their calls, their used car’s a/c is on the fritz, and they have never been happier.

    Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Qui è dove dormo

    June 10, 2010


    Florence, Italy.

    You can see that the homeless person who wrote this had written on this spot in the past, and the building’s owners have painted over several times. The most recent repaint is just beneath this message, and instead of saying it is where he or she sleeps, it says “Qui è dove vivo.” What happened to make his or her “living”-place identity more fluid, so that he or she only associates this clearly well-liked spot with sleep now? I suspect it came as a result of being driven away during the day by whomever keeps painting over the writer’s small and painfully human attempt at address-establishment, some workaday person concerned with appearances and light, complaining to friends at a dinner at a restaurant about how he feels badly for the homeless people outside his building, but they drive away customers or reduce the value of the property so what can you do? and everyone clucks sympathetically; some mouthpiece of empty it-sounds-good-to-say-so pandering about the importance of charity who gives to collection at church and feels kind of good about it but is still secretly freaked out by the different and eager to shunt everything “ugly” off into the night where they don’t have to look at it and contemplate such ugly things’ place in their own life and God’s plan; some brainwashed apologetic dick who buys in to the system and has completely fucking forgotten that the whole world is half night.

    That got away from me. Sorry. Carità è veleno. Except when it’s not, because I know that’s not true, and not everyone is false or a liar or hypocrite, they’re just struggling with problems so big that even Eleanor Roosevelt’s small group of thoughtful, committed citizens cannot change this thing. It has to come from the top, who would never choose it for themselves, so must be rushed by barbarians at the gate, as has always happened throughout history to the elite (who get conquered by the rough who then form over time their own elite whose own rough rise against them in turn and on and on, so what’s the point of any of it?). Now I sound like an anarchist. Which I’m not. Mainly. Blargh.