Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tim Hobson Sings The Unholy Blues.

Some friends over at Emerson College just finished a project on homeless artists, and our very own Tim Hobson was among those profiled!

Head over to Beyond Bread, the project's website and read Tim's story and listen to his song. This man is a musical genius and we're proud that he's a part of our family.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Opie & Anthony Churn Under Homeless Limelight

Opie & Anthony, New Jersey's shocking jocks.

Yesterday we received a press release about Opie & Anthony, the network shock jocks who inherited Stern's airtime, and their upcoming and apparently annual Homeless Shopping Spree. We'll let you read it so you can see what the hullabaloo is about:

For Immediate Release Contact: Matt Noyes

December 14, 2006
mnoyes @ ahc.org

Dehumanization Has No Place On Boston Radio

This coming weekend, WBCN Boston is planning to broadcast an event that degrades and humiliates homeless individuals for the perverse amusement of the listening audience. The AIDS Housing Corporation is calling on concerned persons to contact WBCN to urge them not to broadcast this disgusting spectacle.

On Saturday, December 16, radio disc jockeys Opie (Gregg Hughes) and Anthony (Anthony Cumia) will broadcast their annual “Homeless Shopping Spree” at the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, New Jersey. The “Opie and Anthony Radio Show” is a nationally syndicated show, broadcast locally on WBCN Boston (104.1 FM) and nationally via satellite on XM Satellite Radio.

The so-called Homeless Shopping Spree, which has been held on a number of previous occasions, takes several homeless individuals from New York City and transports them via bus to a shopping mall in a local affluent community. During the trip, Hughes, Cumia and their cohorts provide alcohol to the homeless persons, give them degrading nicknames such as “Tippy Tom,” “Sperm,” and “Buttered Roll,” and generally ridicule them on the air.

Hughes and Cumia’s listeners are encouraged by the radio hosts to give the homeless men money in order to get them to shop at the high-end retail stores in the mall. The men are recorded both with audio and video equipment in the mall and are given a constant supply of liquor.

According to the December 14 broadcast of the Opie and Anthony Radio Show, well over 2,000 persons are expected at the Short Hills Mall to witness the degradation of these men.

A very disturbing online account of a past Homeless Shopping Spree is at http://tinyurl.com/ydjt9h.

There are many disturbing parallels to be made between the Homeless Shopping Spree and the so-called “Bum Fights” video series. In both cases, homeless individuals are portrayed as existing only for the amusement of others and are subjected to extreme humiliation.

Currently, WBCN Boston is planning to broadcast the Homeless Shopping Spree live on Saturday December 16 at 2:30 pm in addition to a scheduled re-broadcast on Monday, December 18 from 6-9 am.

Please contact WBCN at 617-746-1400 and ask them not broadcast this disgusting and disturbing event on their airways.

# # # #

Matt Noyes
Community Advocacy Coordinator
United Disability Housing Partnership /
AIDS Housing Corporation
29 Stanhope Street; Boston, MA 02116
617-927-0088 x26

We forwarded the release to a friend of SCN who is also an Opie & Anthony fan. Here's what he had to say about the event:

In theory I am all for the Homeless Shopping Spree. In execution, I don't know.

Opie and Anthony have a history of this sort of thing; homeless people have appeared on their show before, some frequently. I am not going to say they are always treated with respect, but what needs to be borne in mind is that the listener does not have all the facts, despite the presented illusion to the contrary.

For example - a man named Homeless Andrew was featured on their show recently; he had purchased a coffee cake, and hadn't eaten any yet. He offered some cake to Opie and Anthony; Opie then put the cake on the ground and jumped on it. This, I think, was a lot more dehumanizing than the shopping spree, but at the same time, the listener isn't privy to everything. In other words, there's every chance it was a work - but who knows? In a venue like radio, the illusion is the reality, pretty much. A lot of their stuff makes me laugh - I'd even say most of it does - but I just couldn't find that funny. Apparently Andrew was initially upset but then held no grudge - so it becomes an issue of if he doesn't care, should someone else? And I don't have an answer to that.

Just some background, I suppose. Anyway, onto the spree.

I think Noyes is missing the point of the spree, and the joke behind it; the spree is a joke not at the expense of the homeless people shopping, but at the expense of the rich people who typically patronize the place. I personally think that, on its face anyway, it's brilliant. When it was done in 1999, the mall closed several of the more upscale stores and eventually kicked the homeless people out, which leads one to wonder what exactly they were doing wrong besides "not being our kind of people."

On its face it reminds me of when Joey Skaggs organized bus tours for hippies through the suburbs of Queens. It delineates class borders in ways we don't think of - that there are folks who consider some sections of society to be, essentially, Untouchables, in the caste-system sense. We're comfortable enough just pretending homeless people aren't there as we walk by, but when they invade our territory (as we perceive it), the cops get called, even though they have every legal right to be there. Legally, there should be no difference between us and them, and yet there it is.

I think it would be much more interesting, though, to do this in advance, without huge crowds, and broadcast the results after the fact, so that there would in fact be nothing the police could really do. As is, something like two thousand people show up, I believe.

Now - does that mean the homeless people won't be made fun of by Opie and Anthony? Not at all. But I think it's worth noting that, either way, the homeless in the equation will be treated with more respect than the rich shopping-mall patrons.

All told, I think it's going to be a fascinating bit of social commentary that will bounce off the heads of most people who hear it - maybe even the hosts as well - but judging by Mr. Noyes' press release, it's already bounced off some other heads too.

What do you think, dear readers? Well-intentioned spoof or dismal mockery?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The tale of Kenneth O'Brien

Reprinted from our September 28 edition, the story of homeless bookseller Kenneth O'Brien, and his battles with a city over the right to make a living.

Bookselling Homeless Man Beats the Odds
By Paul Rice
Spare Change News

CAMBRIDGE – After enduring multiple arrests and vaulting numerous (and potentially unconstitutional) legal barriers, a native Cantabrigian who is homeless, finally won the right to sell used books in Harvard Square.

“All of the obstacles melted,” said newly permitted bookseller Kenneth O’Brien. “They knew they were wrong.”

O’Brien was arrested twice over a two month period for selling books without a permit on the sidewalk at 1324 Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square. The first case against him was dismissed, but was arrested again when he set up shop the next day. At his second arraignment, O’Brien was assigned a defense attorney named Daniel Beck, an unusual move considering the charges O’Brien faced didn’t carry a jail term.

“My guess is the judge thought it was an interesting enough case, and Mr. O’Brien needed a lawyer,” Beck told Spare Change News.

O’Brien and his associate Gary Kibler, who was alsos arrested in June for selling books without a permit, provided Beck with numerous court cases they felt proved they should be allowed to sell books without an expensive permit from the city.

The city continued to arrest them for not having the proper permit. However, O’Brien believed the permit the city instructed him to acquire did not apply to his circumstances. It required a $5,000 surety bond as well as $1 million in liability insurance to be approved by the city, fiscal requirements that didn’t bode well for a man who lives on the street with his family.

A glimmer of hope for O’Brien came in the form of an old Cambridge ordinance, entitled “Peddlers”. The ordinance reads: “No person shall place or keep any table, stall, booth or other erection, in any street, public place or any sidewalk, for the sale of any merchandise, without permission from the Superintendent of Streets. The fee for the permit set out in this chapter shall be fifty cents.”

This was the perfect permit for O’Brien’s business. There was only one problem: no one in the city’s bureaucracy knew about this ordinance, or how to apply for the peddler’s permit. Even Superintendent of Streets Bill Dwyer had no clue what the permit was, even though according to the ordinance, he was in charge of giving them out.

Gnomon Copy in Harvard Square helped O’Brien print out hundreds of pages of case files he eventually submitted to his attorney. Beck then filed a motion of weighty determination with the judge:

“The defendant hereby moves this Court to dismiss this case. In support he states that he was engaged in constitutionally protected activity, and that therefore there was no probable cause for the arrest.”

The judge ruled in favor of the dismissal about three weeks later, leaving O’Brien feeling vindicated and hopeful.

“The fact that they had no probable cause to arrest me was in black and white,” he said, smiling.

But whether or not Cambridge police would arrest him again if he tried to set up his stand remained to be seen.

O’Brien went to the Cambridge police station in Central Square and inquired at the front desk whether he would be arrested since he now had a dismissal that clearly showed they had no right to take him into custody in the first place.

The police sent him over to the City Solicitor’s office in Cambridge City Hall, who could not help him because the lead solicitor was unavailable. He went to Mayor Reeve’s office with the dismissal and inquired as to what his best course of action would be. Staff in the mayor’s office explained that the mayor of Cambridge has little to no political power and that he should try the City Manager’s office. Making his way to that office, he started to feel a bit loopy.

A staff member in the City Manager’s office looked at his dismissal and listened to O’Brien’s story; the books, the arrests and the enigmatic permit. She made a call to the City Solicitor’s office and discovered that in fact the lead solicitor was available, and would see O’Brien. He returned to the office he started in and immediately received an audience, and, to his surprise, a peddler’s permit.

The permit he sought for more than 85 days suddenly fell into his lap. The next morning it was signed and approved by Bill Dwyer. A homeless man won a victory over an entire city’s bureaucracy, earning the right to sell books on the Harvard Square sidewalk.

O’Brien’s business, which he officially named “Almost Banned in Harvard Square Booksellers”, has now been in operation for four weeks. At the outset, Cambridge police would routinely stop at his stand and ask whether he had a permit to be there. He willingly shared his laminated copy with anybody who asked. Police interest has since died down, and his stand quickly became recognized by Square denizens as a legitimate business.

“Everybody in the community who’s known about this has been walking up to shake my hand,” O’Brien said. Now that his business has an official name, O’Brien is looking for more ways to link arms with the local business community, namely the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA).

“The objective of the HSBA is to promote commerce and commerce comes in a lot of forms,” says Denise Gillson, the organization’s executive director. “I think the board would be generally supportive of this kind of enterprise.”

As of press time, O’Brien had received an application for membership from the HSBA and hoped to be a full member within a month.

As for other booksellers in Harvard Square, O’Brien initially expected to meet resistance. As it turned out, he found himself and his business welcomed.

“We welcome competition,” says Alan Powell, corporate general manager for the Harvard Coop. “If anything, we need more bookseller competition. That’s what Harvard Square is traditionally known for.”

Harvard Book Store, O’Brien’s closest bookselling neighbor, agrees.

“We do acknowledge that the bookstand in question is competition,” wrote Frank Kramer, owner of Harvard Book Store, in an email to SCN. “Harvard Book Store deals with competition every day – we compete with the Harvard Coop/Barnes & Noble, with Raven Books, among others. Competition keeps us on our toes, and encourages us to be the best bookstore we can be.”

O’Brien believes he can be stalwart competition, but he’s not looking to put anyone out of business. In fact, he’s hoping to put some people in business as he looks for ways his bookstand can give back to the community he grew up in. He set up importing networks among local homeless people, and even brought in some of his friends, homeless and not, to help him run the table for a share in the day’s profits.

“I especially want to work with the longer-term homeless, not the kids,” he told SCN. “Being older and homeless is two strikes against you right there.”

He sees the potential for a new street economy to arise centered around his activities, an economy that may benefit all those living on the streets of Harvard Square.

“What better than to give back to the streets, where I’ve come from myself,” he said.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Seriously dude, what are you thinking?!

A convicted murderer of a homeless man in Florida is appealing his sentence, because he says jail is just too hard.

Sympathy rating = 0.00

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

12.7.2006 Edition of Spare Change News

We're really sorry that Governor Romney made the cover two weeks in a row. At least he's below the fold, right? You'll forgive us. It's also a funny picture of Romney. Since he's so rarely in town, we can never get a shot of him in action, so we're left to use this, his official public domain mugshot of joy.

Due to a busy holiday schedule, your usual updates on new issues may come slowly and haltingly. Our editorial staff wants to go home for the holidays (home happens to be on the other side of the country so it's a long walk), so you may notice a blogging deficiency. Apologies in advance. Not that we ever blog in here anyways. But you know, just in case.


The Road to Recovery: How "Jesus Land" author Julia Scheeres overcame fundamentalism

Julia Scheeres, acclaimed author of "Jesus Land", talks about her experiences growing up in a southern family as a blonde girl with two adopted Black brothers, as detailed in her memoir.

Dark Humor Brightens Life in New Orleans

Stand up comedy is alive and well in and around the flood-battered city. People are learning how to laugh at a situation that seems to defy humor.

There's more. Buy it. We've had a long day and this week is only going to continue. Hopefully you're doing ok.



Friday, December 01, 2006

Spare Change Vendors Photography on Display!

This Saturday, December 2, please note that photography by several of our vendors’ (Jude Norman, Ramram Abdellah, Charles Gatewood, Charles Stallings, Phil Taylor) will be displayed in the Fourth Annual “Faces of Cambridge” Photo Gallery, held by the Cambridge Student Partnership. The event will benefit the CSP and their clients, the low-income residents of Cambridge.

“Faces of Cambridge”
December 2, 2006
Harvard-Epsworth Church
1555 Massachusetts Avenue
1-7 p.m.
Free admission!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gift-It-Up this weekend!

Spare Change will be participating in the annual Alternative Gift Fair, put on by Conscious Consuming. It's pretty neat-o if you think about it: a chance to buy something that actually does some good for those in need, as opposed to the usual crap that dominates the gift-giving season (Christmas Tree Shoppe anyone?). Below is the press release about the fair. Check out their website here.

Alternative Gift Fair to be at Arlington Street Church this Saturday

BOSTON -- What I want this December -- a better world for my kids, peace in
my community, food and shelter for those in need -- can't be bought in a

This holiday season visit www.giftitup.org, home of Conscious Consuming’s
Alternative Gift Fair, or attend our event in Boston on Saturday, December
2, 2006. We gather 14 non-profits at the Arlington Street Church, 351
Boylston Street, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees can meet with a
representative from each of the non-profits and make a donation in a loved
one's name. Honor friends and relatives with donations to causes that fit
their values, and receive a lovely gift card to present that explains your
gift. Spare Change News, along with other local non-profit organizations,
will be present at the fair.

Gift It Up! is an opportunity to give back to the larger community and honor
your loved ones at the same time. You can eliminate holiday stress, avoid
the mall, and give a gift that can change the world! Please visit us at
Gift It Up! on December 2, or visit us on-line at www.giftitup.org.

Since Conscious Consuming is run by volunteers, we rely on word of mouth to
publicize Gift it Up! Please forward this important message to those you
know who are interested in spreading peace this holiday season.

Monday, November 20, 2006

11.23.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Happy Thanksgiving!

Come this Friday, your biweekly fix of the good stuff (we have learned to say this with a straight face) will be on sale via your favorite SCN vendor.

We have a lot to talk about this week, and most of it concerns outgoing (but not fast enough, apparently) governor Mitt Romney and his so-called 9C cuts. Until you can get your hands on our paper, which is filled to the brim with info on how these cuts eaffect homeless people in the Bay state, you should read Globe columnist Brian McGrory's scatching attack on Romney's "heartless cuts" (as Mayor Menino called them).

Here's a bite:

How Will Fare Increase Afffect Your Wallet?

SCN details (in a neat little graph put together by our new Assistant Director) just how the price of the T will change what it takes to get you there. The jump on the cover is wrong, however. We left out the one. It should read PAGE 12. Don't be too hard on us, some of us went to school for theater.

REUTERS: Treating Friend and Foe in Baghdad Hospitals

Insurgents and foreign soldiers are treated side by side in Baghdad Hospitals. Step into one of them for first-person coverage of what is fast becoming a full-blown warzone, in a Reuters story exclusive to SCN.

Plus why Deval should take the reigns from Romney now, full coverage of the potential for pain due to Romney's cuts, arts coverage, Su Doku and the rabid flying penguins who meet their friends for drinks at People's Republic!

Or something. Just buy it because otherwise you'll lose that loose dollar sitting in your pocket.



Thursday, November 16, 2006


Christopher Loh has an article in the Cambridge Chronicle about a homeless man, Brian Joyce, who was assed-out of his homemade shelter. It is nothing short of awesome. Sad, and awesome. Grab a Chronicle and read it, or check out the paper's audiovisual slideshow:

In the slideshow, one of the workers instructed to tear down Joyce's beautiful shelter sums up his feelings about the job: "We're going to hell for this."

SCN wants to thank Mr. Loh and the Chronicle for their thoughtful work. We hope Brian Joyce starts work on a new house. We hear there's plenty of room in Newton.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

11.9.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Finally we're back on schedule, with the new issue coming out on the day it's supposed to: Today!

By the look of this edition, you'd think we're taking a more somber tone in honor of Veteran's Day, and you'd be right. But almost everyone is all smile's in the office after current events this week.

There is a logic you'll hear expressed by people who've made their living on the street for years: during times of conservative rule, folks hustling for a buck will likely earn significant returns from said hustle, since the government isn't necessarily vocally taking care of the poor and disenfranchised. On the contrary, during more liberal periods of rule, the same folks will be seeing a lot less returns from their customers, due to a larger collective consciousness about the poor people; the illusion that when the liberals are in charge, the poor are much better taken care of.

Whether or not this logic stands, we hope that you'll still help out the people you encounter on the streets, not because you feel guilty, but because you feel it's the right thing to do.

In this issue:


Reservists are fighting the same war as everyone else, but many are losing out on the benefits awarded to soldiers who put their lives on the line. Find out why, and what's being done to correct this major SNAFU.

Modern Day Martin Luther?

Terrence Rothman nailed 95 Theses to the University Lutheran Church on Halloween. Find out why he's trying to bring back the spirit of Martin Luther, and what the church thinks about his historically-charged protest.

Tim Hobson Talks Chuck

SCN's own Tim Hobson recently got to pick the brain of City Councilor Chuck Turner, uncovering some meaty thoughts on the black experience fighting a political wildfire.

Plus SU DOKU and Crosswords, Arts and Infotainment. See you in two weeks!




Yesterday Mayor Menino went out to the Northeast Mayors Against Illegal Guns Regional Conference.

Later that day he stopped by the Association of Police Officers In Favor Of Law Enforcement, followed by an intense and very hushed discussion over at the National Coalition For People Who Enjoy Breathing.

On an unrelated note, does the phrase "eating humble pie" ever make you the tiniest bit queasy?



Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Illegal Interaction!

Bored at work? Waiting for the polls to close so you can go drink and scream at the television? Want to be involved in a political process right now?

You're in luck. For the rest of the day, instead of working you can sit in front of a webcam in Texas, trying to catch illegal immigrants as they cross in from Mexico.

It's like an interactive Minuteman stakeout. Now you can be a bigot who poses as someone who cares about economy, from your very own computer, with no need for expensive plane flights down south, or extensive shopping trips at army surplus stores.

While doing your civic duty, check out this lovely song about inverse immigration by Johnny Tex and the Texicans:

"So Long Texas, Hello Mexico!" (MP3)


Monday, November 06, 2006

Haggard: Meth in Mouth Disease

SCN's favorite video over the weekend (with at least 15 viewings), was Ted Haggard's awkward confession to buying meth, but not using it because, "it's wrong."

How did he get the meth? From the gay former prostitute he has heretofore denied getting it from. How did he meet the man? "A referral," from, "the hotel." Which hotel? Well, he stays at "lots of hotels in the area," when he's "writing."

Oh Lord, please give us more!

For those who haven't seen it, here's the best 2 minutes of your week:

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Johny Williams, a homeless LA gentleman being wheeled into a service center near Skid Row. Believe it or not, this photo was taken by the LAPD, who have been trying to bring charges against city orgs for illegal "dumping." You can read more about the charges here.

In the 1980s, massive cuts to health and human services and reductions in affordable housing stock nationwide, not to mention the advent of the retail era, caused this country's homeless population to grow exponentially, reaching levels previously unimagined in this country. Somethings never change. Some things only get worse.

LA is a disaster waiting to happen. Ask anyone who's been to Skid Row – they will tell you stories of homeless camps that stretch from block to block, housing (maybe hundreds of) thousands of human beings. It's nothing that can be effectively written about. It must be seen.

LA is a monolith symbolizing the terrifying trends being set in North American poverty. One would do well to pay attention to this growing cancer. It is alive, it can be spoken to, and it puts a face to something that's too easy to ignore.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

10.26.06 Edition of Spare Change News

The new edition of Spare Change News went on sale four days early once again! We keep selling out, perhaps because of the continued relevance of our reporting. Or maybe it's the pretty colors, who knows? Whatever it is, we're happy you like to buy our paper and in that spirit, we want to give you a paper worth buying, as will be evident in the latest issue:

EXCLUSIVE: Deval Patrick Shoots on Homelessness and Poverty in Massachusetts

Get the details of Patrick's plan for helping downtrodden human beings in the state, in a Spare Change-only interview with the democratic candidate.

Columnist James Shearer Has Words For Berklee "Groove"

Shearer tackles anti-homeless sentiment in Berklee College of Music's student-run newspaper.

Shocked out of Childhood

SCN's own Amanda Morley writes about her experience with electroshock therapy, the memories of childhood she lost, and the moments of light through the darkness of her multi-year experience.

Everyone, let's be safe out there. It's a dangerous world and we want you all to come home to your loved ones and sit by the fire, reading the paper, even if it isn't Spare Change. We want you to be happy, more than anything, we want you to love living your life, because you're the only one who can do it right.



Who's the strongest candidate on important issues?

The John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies has a website devoted to the gubernatorial candidate's views on homelessness and poverty. We have our interviews posted along with relevant Globe and Herald articles about each one's stances. Check it out!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

SCN in today's Globe

Scams hurt newspaper's mission

By April Simpson, Globe Staff | October 12, 2006

Ever since homeless and poor people started hawking the Spare Change News, impostors have tried to interlope on the action.

But in the alternative newspaper's 14th year, the scams have reached such a level, cutting profits and tainting the paper's image, that its staff is trying new ways to distinguish the real vendors from the fake.

"It amazes me when people try to rip off an organization like us," said Lee Mandell , vice president of the newspaper's board. "All we're trying to do is help people who are homeless and have economic difficulties. A scam off of us is just really mean."

Click here to jump to the rest.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

10.12.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Wow, we are out super early this week! Due to excessive sales, we sold out of our Sept. 28 edition early last weekend, so the new edition went on sale today, a whopping two days early. Oh, and a big thank you goes out to the Weekly Dig, for milking some "bumor" out of our recent press release. Way to go guys. Regardless, expect to find some fascinating content in this issue, hopefully enough to tide you over until the next installment.


Skin Peel: A former skinhead burns away the demons under his flesh

Growing up, Jason Mitchell got every possible tattoo he could, covering his flesh with spiderwebs, anarchy symbols, swastikas and white power phrases. Now he's a changed man, and is going under the laser to remove the legacy of tattoos that cover his body. We are reprinting this intense story, courtesy of the lovely Joanne Zuhl, editor of street roots in Portland, Oregon.

New Trash Bins Leave Low-Income Canners Feeling Dumped

New solar-powered trash receptacles are raising concerns from individuals who make a living on the recycling of cans and the reclamation of trash downtown.

All this plus your favorite columns, SU DOKU & crosswords, a scintillating editorial on sex in the news, as well as the chance to interact with one of our lovely vendors. DIG IT!



Thursday, September 28, 2006

9.28.06 Edition of Spare Change News

The new Spare Change News hit the streets early this week. We sold out of our 9.14 edition on Wednesday and began dropping the hot-off-the-press new issue. It's jam packed with exclusive content that might give you a slight tingly sensation if ingested properly. That is, if you don't throw it in the trash the minute after you buy it..

Allow us to tease you:

Bookselling homeless man beats the odds

Harvard Square bookvendor Kenneth O'Brien has won the right to open his used book store on the streets of Harvard Square. Read about the arrests, the court battles, and the victory over City Hall that eventually led to the advent of a new business in the Square, only at Spare Change News.

An exclusive interview with gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos

Continuing our election coverage through the poverty lens, SCN talks to Christy Mihos about homelessness in Massachusetts, in an exclusive interview.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow: Rethinking Solar Power

Think solar power is an old joke from the 70s? Think again, says Travis Bradford, a former market guru who has turned his focus to renewable energy. He believes that the sun is the future of energy, simply because the market will make it so. And you lucky online readers can read it for free!

With the purchase of SCN, you get all of this plus everything you've come to expect from our modest publication, be it games, arts, and that great butter taste.

Keep the feedback coming – we need to know what you think about the issues we're covering, whether we're doing a good job, whether you hate us or love us, just tell us so we can sleep at night!

Yours always,


Prepare for Solar Domination

"Solar Revolution" Author Travis Bradford and his solar bag

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow: Rethinking Solar Power
By Paul Rice

Al Gore was the talk of early summer but not for any apparent political reasons. A documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” in which he had a starring role, became the third highest grossing documentary in the U.S. to date.

Dealing with climate change (the politically correct term for global warming), the film featured Al Gore giving a PowerPoint presentation on the ways that current energy collection and use are shortening the lifespan of planet Earth.

Released to rave reviews (Roger Ebert told his readers that if they didn’t see the movie, they would be failing their future grandchildren) as well as the expected conservative condemnation, the film reignited environmental issues under a moral banner, urging citizens to take action or suffer the consequences of an overheated and uninhabitable planet.

Author Travis Bradford, like Al Gore, believes we need to take steps to change our global energy usage. However, his approach is miles away from the former vice president’s.

“There’s a massive amount of equity and debt financing looking for the next ‘dot com,’” Bradford says, sitting in his sun struck Harvard Square office. “From an investment standpoint there’s major institutional money that’s looking for these opportunities.”

He’s talking about the profitability of clean energy.

“Venture capitalists are looking for that next generation technology that can take large market share,” he continues.

Large market share? Venture capitalists? Is this guy still talking about the green energy movement? Why isn’t he pointing out the moral consequences of relying on fossil fuels, or harping on the Middle East conflicts? Why doesn’t he examine the ethics of our current energy policies?

“Most of the people who are advocating renewable energies are doing so from an environmental standpoint, and that’s not what motivates people in the capital markets,” Bradford responds.

You quickly realize he’s making an argument for clean, renewable energy, but unlike Mr. Gore’s mass email-inducing ode to his own political relevance, Bradford’s argument is in the language of commerce instead of the language of environmental morality and doomsday theorizing.

“It was a social interest, with a real-world business solution,” Bradford says. “Those two schools of thought historically have not communicated well with each other.”

And which technology does this former market guru see as the most investment-worthy?

No less than much maligned, seemingly forgotten solar power.

Yes, the same solar power that, back in the 1970s, was predicted to power all of our cars, houses and most everything else; at least until the Carter administration fell to the Reaganites in the 80s, who quickly removed the demonstration solar water heater from the roof of the White House. Investors who had plugged extreme amounts of capital into solar research saw their financial commitments abandoned by the government, pushing solar beneath the radar of important science.

But just because it’s been forgotten by the public at large doesn’t mean developments in solar power weren’t growing steadily in the meantime. And according to Bradford, it is fast approaching its zenith and will soon be set to usher in a new era for clean, renewable energy.

“The belief that a renewable-energy economy will not happen without greater government support – as environmentalists too often argue – is wrong,” Bradford writes in his recently published book, “Solar Revolution” (MIT Press, 2006). “The shift will happen in years rather than decades and will occur because of fundamental economics.”

The argument Bradford uses is composed from years of experience working with volatile markets and speaking the language of business.

“When I talk to [the business world] I talk in a language they understand,” Bradford says. “I say, ‘Over the next twenty or thirty years, this is one of the biggest opportunities that the world will enjoy.’ And when they hear the word opportunities they think returns, which is right.”

Throughout the book Bradford predicts a future of solar millionaires and billionaires, a world where the former redheaded stepchild of clean energy steps forward to become the piano prodigy.

Bradford details the current energy climate and the negative effects it has on the planet, effects that will cause energy markets to cease being as profitable as they once were. Although he debunks the myth that we will someday run out of fossil fuel, he does bring attention to the possibility of waning reserves. He also points out the polluting effects from more than a century’s worth of coal burning. But for the most part, he avoids playing up the predicted energy crises.

“It’s one of those things I like to talk about but have to be careful around when I’m pitching the business economic inevitability [of solar energy], because it gets into some fuzzier issues that capital markets don’t usually like to think about,” he tells me.

The “economic inevitability” of solar power is where Bradford spends most of his time in the book. Simply stated, he believes that energy prices will continue to rise to a point where it is more cost-effective for both businesses and homeowners to spend an extra amount of money on sun gathering equipment and enjoy cheaper energy from an astronomical resource that is not scheduled to burn out for another five billion years.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, if solar panels covered nine percent of Nevada, they would be capable of generating enough electricity to power the entire country, for a year.

The question that usually surfaces when faced with this information is one that always makes Bradford chuckle.

“My girlfriend is from Finland, and she’s always asking me, ‘What about the paper mills in Finland?’”

Finland, like many other countries in the upper northern hemisphere, experiences a phenomenon known as polar night, meaning the sun doesn’t come up during certain seasons, often for periods lasting longer than 24 hours.

Not all locations would be prime for solar energy gathering, but that’s no burr in the solar saddle, according to Bradford. He sees the sunnier portions of the globe, such as the Sahara desert, as solutions to the dilemma of solar availability.

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) has developed a plan to place large solar collectors in the Sahara, and then funnel enormous amounts of energy across the Mediterranean Sea. This will create the potential to power nearly the entire European Union, plus the Middle East and parts of North Africa. The amount of desert space required? Less than 0.3 percent, according to TREC.

“It was Buckminster Fuller who said ‘Tie all the grids together,’” remembers Bradford. This connectivity is a major banking point for him in arguing the economical goodness of solar.

The book is very freshly out, and the energy community has yet to really take note of his theories. Currently, promoting his book and the “inevitability” of solar energy is a full-time job for Bradford.

“We’re certainly finding a tremendous of support and appreciation but we haven’t yet translated that into cash,” he says with a grin.

Randall Ellis, professor of economics at Boston University, was unfamiliar with Bradford’s book, but has his doubts about the future prevalence of solar power.

“Whether it will be a dominant force in the future of energy remains to be seen,” Ellis says. “Nuclear power is still a contender,” he adds.

Gary Schmitz, spokesperson for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), had similar apprehension.

“I don’t think anybody [at NREL] is predicting it’s going to be the cheapest form of energy,” Schmitz says. “However, we do believe it will be cost competitive.”

It remains to be seen whether or not the energy community at large will embrace Bradford’s predictions.

“You may buy the thesis or you may not but if you get involved and you’re right, the opportunities are vast. If you don’t believe it and you’re wrong, you will have missed the opportunity of a generation.”

Confident words from Bradford, a former market player, now fully invested in renewable energy. And as he shows me his solar bag, capable of charging his phone and laptop, it is impossible not to imagine a future where a majority of our energy is derived from the oldest fire in our star system.

Friday, September 22, 2006

400 Billionaires and manufactured hope

According to Forbes Magazine, the rich, in fact, are only getting richer. The preeminent business rag's annual listing of the 400 richest Americans, for the first time in its history, is a billionaires-only club.

This shouldn't come as too surprising, given the rising income gap in this country.

In the top ten is, of course, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft's mean machines, the perennial Warren Buffett, plus the man who makes most of the machines for Microsoft's wares, Michael Dell, and rounded out by no less than four members of the Wal(Mart)ton family.

What is most interesting to note is the gentleman in third place, named Sheldon Adelson:

He's a gambling czar, headquarted in Nevada, who's net worth is approximately $20.5 billion. Adelson grew up poor in Dorchester, the son of a cab driver. He went to City College in NYC but dropped out. Now he owns one of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas (the Venetian) and is renowned for being the 14th richest man in the world.

What's interesting about this? Well, here at Spare Change, nearly everyone plays the lottery. Gambling on that (practically non-existent) chance to make a billion like the folks on this list. People here and all over the country plug their money into slots, exchange crisp bills for plastic chips, rub their nails raw on scratch tickets, all banking on that well-advertised glimmer of hope. It makes sense then that a gambling man would be up there with Bill and Warren. We're p(r)aying the hope gods to free us from fiscal hell, in the quickest and easiest way possible, and people like Adelson get fat on our dreams.

There's nothing wrong with that. He worked his way from $200 into #3 on the Forbes 400. His is an overwhelming success story, but yet a story built on shattered hopes and dreams. The world is funny that way, no?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Spare Change Changing!

Wednesday, September 20

New board president, editor, assistant director and ad sales representative
aim to transition SCN to a weekly publication

CAMBRIDGE – The Homeless Empowerment Project has named a new board president
and editor of Spare Change News, along with a new assistant director and
advertising sales representative. HEP is aiming to expand its operations and
become Boston’s newest alt-weekly newspaper.

HEP board member and SCN columnist James Shearer, a formerly homeless man
who was one of the publication’s original co-founders in 1992, was elected
president of HEP’s board of trustees at its meeting yesterday. He had
returned to HEP in 2004.

"I'm excited about our future," said Shearer, 46, a resident of Cambridge.
"Spare Change News is now moving in a positive direction that will
eventually see us become a weekly, alternative newspaper, as well as a more
active and fundamental institution in the community at large."

SCN managing editor Paul Rice will become editor on October 20. He will
oversee the day-to-day operation and production of the newspaper. Sam Scott,
currently SCN editor and HEP executive director, will remain as executive
director and publisher of SCN.

"Spare Change News is an ever-growing journalistic institution, and I hope
to bring an intelligent vibrancy to that growth with a continued focus on
stories that often fly under the radars of traditional news outlets," said
Rice, 23, a resident of Allston.

Rice, a 2005 graduate of Emerson College, joined SCN as an intern that year
and was later named managing editor following his aggressive and exclusive
reporting on local alternative news.

One story disproved murder allegations that were insinuated against a
homeless man by the Boston Herald, while another exposed a tragic transfer
of housing resources for homeless people in Massachusetts to evacuated
Hurricane Katrina survivors. More recently, Rice has covered subjects
ranging from welfare reform to professional wrestling.

Scott joined SCN as editor in 2004, and he also became HEP executive
director in 2005. He is a 2002 graduate of the Boston University, where he
majored in journalism. Scott is currently enrolled in the Executive MBA
program at Suffolk University. Prior to joining SCN, he worked as a staff
reporter for The Boston Courant, as well as an editorial assistant and
freelancer for newspapers including The Boston Globe, The Patriot Ledger and
TNT magazine in London.

Over his two years as editor, Scott revamped SCN’s editorial content and
operations into that of a professional, alternative newspaper. He will now
focus on fundraising, management and marketing as executive director.

"Thanks to the hard work of our staff, volunteers and vendors, SCN has
become Boston's premiere alternative newspaper with a conscience," said
Scott, 25, a resident of Brookline. "Paul will continue to move this
newspaper forward while we on the business side focus on becoming a
self-sufficient non-profit organization that will continue to expand."

Emily Johnson, a 2005 graduate of Boston University’s College of
Communication, became HEP assistant director on September 11. She will
direct SCN's circulation and distribution, as well as assist Scott with
HEP's daily administration.

"I'm excited to work with so many different people for this cause and to
help our vendors," said Johnson, 23, a resident of Cambridge.

Samuel Weems, who formerly worked for HEP as assistant to the director and
distribution assistant, became SCN’s advertising sales representative on
September 11.

"Advertising in SCN is a way for local businesses to increase their sales
and associate their products with a good cause," said Weems, a resident of
Arlington. "Our readers are affluent, educated people who care about helping
others in need."

SCN, founded in 1992, is Boston's alternative newspaper with a conscience.
The publication's vendors, who are homeless, unemployed or have low-incomes,
purchase copies of SCN for 25 cents each and then sell them on the street
for $1. SCN is published by the Homeless Empowerment Project, a Cambridge
non-profit organization.


James Shearer
617-497-1595 x16

Paul Rice
617-497-1595 x16

Sam Scott
617-497-1595 x10


Samuel Weems
617-497-1595 x14

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spare Change is News.

An interview with SCN's own Paul Rice will aired on Beat the Press this Friday, WGBH Channel 2. In it, Paul will discuss the editorial from the August 31st edition of the paper.

Tune in to channel 2 at 7:00pm EST, and then drop us a line to tell us what you thought.

9.14.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Spare Change has been big in the news lately! After our coverage in the Boston Herald's Inside Track (wherein the Track Gals were much kinder to us than we would've imagined), SCN managing editor Paul Rice found his way on to WRKO's John DePetro show, where he spent a good two hours listening to DePetro argue his theories about homelessness. If you missed it, you'll have to wait for the audio file to get an aural glimpse of said theories, as SCN does not wish to repeat them here. Further media coverage is pending (and may involve your boob tube and a certain local channel with national renown) and will be linked to on this blog as it is made available.

What does all this mean for you, our noble reader? It means now is the best time to tell all your friends about the waves Spare Change News is making and continue to seek out your favorite vendors to purchase your favorite local rag, so you can tell the world you were there when this newspaper of humble origins turned into the next great street paper behemoth!

Ok, we're getting ahead of ourselves. We are humble enough to know that attention comes and goes, that the fickle attitudes of local media are just that. But we're content to have at least 15 hours of minimal fame, if it helps our vendors sell more papers. You can help them on that front as well. Go now and buy. Buy, buy more! And thank you being loyal supporters and for paying attention.

Here's a taste of the new issue:

Reuters comes to Spare Change News

Starting with this issue, Spare Change News is publishing exclusive content from Reuters, thanks to the work of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP). New Orleans is the topic of discussion this week, as reporter Peter Henderson finds the city twisted into two opposite faces, one of hope, the other of despair.

An exclusive interview with gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross

SCN begins its four-part election series, sitting down with Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross and talking about homelessness, housing and the widening income gap in Massachusetts.

Qualifying the Needy: Looking Back at 10 Years of Welfare Reform

Welfare reform as a popular issue for politicians is all but gone but did it really have the effects it's been lauded for? SCN investigates ten years of the new "welfare to work" program, and finds that all may not be as golden as it seems.

All this plus Kate Ledogar playing skeeball with creepy dolls, James Shearer putting the boots to Survivor's new race-themed programming, "Twenty-Seven Rules to Sustain Life and Thrive on This Planet," poetry, SU DOKU, crosswords, love, tetherball and whatever else you happen to desire! And it only costs a dollar!

Stay tuned for our September 28th issue, containing an interview with candidate Christy Mihos, a look at the "inevitable" arrival of solar power, and the story of a homeless man who fought a city and won.

Yours always and forever,


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spare some class, Fox 25!

This editorial ran in the August 31st edition of Spare Change News. It has since garnered various media attention, which will be detailed in a forthcoming post.


John, the "Spare Change Guy" on Fox 25 Morning News

Thanks to our favorite media column, the Weekly Dig’s Media Farm, we found out about a local homeless man who gained a degree of stardom a few weeks ago on Fox 25 News. (We’re sorry that we missed it, but no one who wants to learn anything, after all, watches news on any channel owned by Rupert Murdoch.)

The man in question is famous for shouting “Spare Change!” in a raspy voice at passersby as he sits or stands in a number of locations throughout Boston. Apparently, Fox 25’s morning news show thought it would be great to use him for some color commentary on staying cool in the summer heat (his advice, according to the Dig, included smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee).

We’d like to congratulate Fox 25 on bringing perspectives from homeless people into its morning newscast, and we encourage the station to continue championing the unique insight people like “Spare Change Guy” can provide to the commuting public. Certainly there is no better comedic relief than a man with severe mental health issues, no roof over his head and no family to claim him, and thus it is excellent news acumen to have “Spare Change Guy” offering his much-needed commentaries to the local viewing public.

In the future, if Fox 25’s morning show is looking for other characters to fill its remaining superficial air time, we have a couple of suggestions. The woman who stands by the Harvard Book Store with an oxygen tank asking for money to help her seven children (but sometimes five) who are all homeless would probably make for some good color. Or how about Allston’s own Kung Fu Man, who does karate chops and gives out sips of vodka in exchange for cigarettes and money?

Just give us a call, Fox. We’re here to serve. After all, there are plenty of downtrodden people here who can help your callous producers give your viewers hours of entertainment masquerading as news.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

We love fake flaks!

Spare Change News doesn't endorse crazy activists unless we employ them, and we aren't going to start either.

BUT, being journalists we have a soft spot in our hearts for The Yes Men.

These plucky tricksters impersonate company and government flaks, saying at press conferences and on television exactly what that particular agency or company would never ever ever never say!

For instance, they once gave a speech in front of European industrialists posing as representatives of the WTO, proclaiming the United States Civil War a waste of money, considering the influx of slave labor from third-world countries. They also revealed a gold suit that was allegedly designed to allow managers to manage from the comfort of their costume. It included a pop-up monitor screen that resembled a very particular element of male anatomy. They were taken seriously by the conference, and it wasn't until days later that the WTO found out about the dupe.

Earlier this week, The Yes Men struck again, this time in New Orleans, impersonating a flak for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and telling the gathered summit for "Gulf Coast Reconstruction and Hurricane Preparedness," that HUD wasn't going to tear down any public housing, and that they had reached an agreement with Wal-Mart to withdraw from low-income neighborhoods, in deference to local businesses, among other things.

HUD wasn't too happy with this. "We are destroying those homes for good reason," HUD spokesperson Donna White said. "It is terribly sad that some people can't understand that. That lack of understanding speaks for the low level of government education in this country."

Readers, what do you think? Cruel hoax or appropriate satire?

Spare Change News reserves its opinion, but admits to a certain thrill when hearing The Yes Men's impersonation of public relations flunkies. We wish all flaks would be as forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

8.31.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Calm down, adoring throngs! We have your new copy of Spare Change News bubbling hot and ready for your sweet little hands to acquire. Just take deep, soothing breaths until tomorrow morning and then when you wake up scramble to your favorite vendor before he sells out, and enjoy the rest of your day, reading up on things other publications might have missed, while basking in the warm glow of righteousness.

Here's a teaser of the grand buffet:

  • Local arts columnist Kate Ledogar brings her wit and insight to SCN

    If you've missed her axed column in the Dig, you'll be glad to hear she's found a new home. Starting with this issue, SCN's Arts section will feature Kate Ledogar's excellent reporting on the local gallery scene as well as other unique events, in every issue.

  • Slavery in Brazil: 25,000 forced to work for no pay in the Southern hemisphere

    A report on the thriving forced labor situation in Brazil, its victims and societal implications. Read about the complex struggles of aid organizations to fight back against slavers, and glean insight into a unique social crisis.

  • Homeless veterans find comraderie, services in 2 day event

    A profile of Stand Down, an annual Boston event that brings services and compassion to homeless veterans. Find out the history of the event, meet the people involved in making it happen, as well as the veterans that utilize the services.

  • Out of the Wilderness: The Price of War, and its Cost at Home

    SCN co-founder and columnist Tim Hobson examines the bling bling price of the war on terror; for instance, at the cost of one cluster bomb, two kids could be enrolled in college! Could disproportionate spending on war instead of on human services have the potential to cause war at home? Hobson is considering all the possibilties.

    Oh man, that barely covers the full smorgasbord of thoughts, insights and news contained in this deceivingly thin newspaper. There's also info on the homeless hate crime bill (dead in the water), a peek into the confidentiality practices of drug counselors, insanely difficult crossword puzzles and SU DOKU plus a professional wrestling review and a solemn memorial to fallen SCN vendors. Enjoy in moderation!


  • Monday, August 28, 2006

    Focus on the Family fleeced by anti-fundie webizens

    The head of Christian fundamentalist think tank Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, famous for disparaging homosexuals and spanking children, may see some revenues from his web shop go up in smoke.

    A LiveJournal user named Porphyre recently discovered a loophole in the store's coding that allows any internet user of the site to receive any merchandise over $100 for FREE:

    What with the Washington State Supreme Court handing down its anti-gay-marriage decision several weeks ago and the ever-hearing more about attacks on reproductive rights down south, I'm feeling that the States is tripping a bit too merrily down the Handmaid's path.

    This week, I found a way to strike back.

    Focus on the Family, the horrid anti-gay evangelical church based in Colorado Springs that wields too much power for anyone's good, has a store on their website that will give you books, CDs, and DVDs absolutely free of charge. Usually people pay for their items by donation, raising millions of dollars to help Focus on the Family produce more hate-propaganda featuring "experts" on homosexuality who claim it's a curable "sickness". (They're practically defined by their book A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Course, there's no mention of having less kids, which is the only proven method. No, no, you shouldn't use birth control, that would be wrong. They need more worshippers, how dare you prevent god's will.)

    It's a little bit time-consuming, but not enough to deter me. (Nor should it you). The chance to take money out of their pockets is too useful, not to mention satisfying.

    Here's how to do it in 10 steps:

    The rest of the post is here. Will Focus act quickly to correct this seemingly legal exploit? (After all, they're asking for a suggested donation, so is a donation of $0.00 still a donation? When a tree falls in the... you get the idea)

    Who knows. Spare Change News hereby washes its hands of the link and of this hullaballoo. Oh and if anyone needs a copy of the Narnia film, we have about thirty to offload. Got to make a living somehow, you know.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Bad Day L.A. - The Redux

    American McGee = Kathie Lee Gifford?

    Nearly one year ago, Spare Change News wrote a story on a game being developed by American McGee, called Bad Day L.A.

    In the game, you play as a homeless man named Anthony Williams, who happens to be a former Hollywood producer that, becoming disenfrancished with life as it was, takes to the streets.

    One day, as he is crossing the freeway with his cart, a plane crashes overhead, releasing a zombie gas that begins affecting people around him, turning them into maniacal fiends. It becomes Anthony's mission to move throughout the city, putting out fires, killing terrorists and any other number of tasks that help preserve calm (there is a chaos meter in the game nearly identical to Homeland Security's; as the terror level is elevated, all the characters in the game act more insane).

    See the reprint of the article for more information.

    A year later the game has "gone gold," meaning it is nearing release, and a demo was made available to the public last week, to mostly negative reactions. When the fact came out that McGee produced the entirety of the game's art using the cheaper labor of China, even more negative sentiment emerged. American has been defending both the quality of the game and the use of Chinese labor in his blog:

    If you are uncomfortable with the concept of cheap, off-shore labor being used to produce the games you play, then I suggest you start making your own. We’re heading towards a world where %40 (or more) of a typical game budget is being spent on outsourcing. This money goes to places like China and India. That’s the reality of the world we live in. (Same goes for the majority of cartoons you watch, products you buy, etc.)

    It's a fascinating discussion, if you're so inclined. Slightly similar to (albeit a much fairer concept than) online game farming,a concept whereby young Asian twenty-somethings spend 20 hours a day playing online games (earning 1 dollar an hour if they're lucky), acquiring gold and armor and the like, which they then sell to fat white teenagers in the states who just happen to have daddy's credit card lying around and want to get the +3 Diaper of Might, without having to spend all day working for it.

    But that's an aside. Check out American's blog, and our reprint of the SCN story, which included an in-depth interview with the man himself.

    Activists vs. Game Designer... Fight!

    Reprinted from the August 18, 2005 edition of Spare Change News

    Video Game Divides Activists
    By Paul Rice
    Spare Change News

    A forthcoming video game has some anti-homelessness activists up in arms over its portrayal of a homeless black man caught in an apocalyptic day in Los Angeles.

    “Bad Day L.A.,” currently in development, puts the player in the well-worn shoes of Anthony Williams, a former Hollywood agent who voluntarily rejects the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown to live on the streets and ignore a society he despises.

    During the story, the worst possible disasters that could happen to a megalopolis like Los Angeles all occur in a 12-hour period: the release of a bio-weapon that turns people into zombies, meteor showers raining down on skyscrapers, plane crashes and a tsunami, as well as numerous riots induced by such events.

    Through all this tribulation, Williams inadvertently finds himself fighting for the lives of people about whom he could care less – people who would normally avoid him at every turn.

    Homelessness in the game, however, seems to be more than just a character trait. The first video game to feature a homeless main character, “Bad Day L.A.” is drawing a lot of interest from a variety of communities.

    “Do we really want our children to see homeless people as gun-toting, African-American ‘wackos’ and ‘bums,’ despite the failed attempt at some veiled redeeming moral theme?” asks Bob Erlenbusch, head of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness in a letter to city and state officials. The letter calls for Enlight Software, the game’s distributor, to cease production immediately.

    Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., agrees.

    “This is really bad,” he said. “It’s a bad product probably thought up by some people who have stereotypical attitudes and beliefs about low-income and homeless people. We will do all we can to fight it.”

    American McGee, the game’s designer, responds by saying that “being homeless is what gives [Anthony] his strength – it is his superpower.”

    There are advocates for the homeless who would agree, like Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change News in Seattle. “Alienated homeless guy saves city and reluctantly defends people who normally wouldn't give him the time of day,” he said. “What's not to like?”

    James Shearer, a formerly homeless person who is a co-founder of and columnist for Spare Change News, shared Harris’ sentiments.

    “I’m an activist, but I’m also a realist,” he said. “And there are times when I wish these agencies would just shut up. [These] are the same types of homeless activists who didn’t want to see Spare Change News survive.”

    “I believe that the reason why people have such a hard time with this video game is because [homeless people are] a segment of society that has basically been ignored, and now society has to rely on them for survival,” Shearer continued. “And I think people are uncomfortable with that.”

    American McGee is a legendary figure in the gaming community, known for creating unusual, narrative-based gaming. His largest success to date is a game called “Alice,” which let players take on the role of Lewis Carroll’s famous fledgling as she fights her way through a twisted looking glass.

    In an interview with SCN, McGee explained his decision to create a homeless main character.

    “The choice came out of my initial thoughts about what sort of person would really be able to survive, alone, on the most apocalyptic day this side of Armageddon,” he said. “And when you think about it, the homeless are the closest thing you've got to urban survivalists.”

    Questioned further on Anthony Williams’ choice to embrace homelessness rather than a rich lifestyle, McGee said: “The concept of ‘homeless by choice’ is something that is alien to Americans who aren't familiar with homelessness beyond throwing a quarter into a cup from time to time.”

    “This game is saying, ‘if you aren't happy, you have other options. Even options that sound as insane as giving up on everything you've ever been told is right. Go and find your own solution.’”

    Finding solutions is the only way to progress through a video game. Although “Bad Day L.A.” won’t offer a solution to homelessness, perhaps it will “start a conversation,” as McGee put it. And for some homeless advocates, that’s more than they could ask for.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    WikiNotes, Part the First

    I could have written at least 5000 words on the WikiMania experience, but for some reason the bossman didn't want to do a whole issue on the "Free Encyclopedia." I tried to explain that nerds are people too, and we need our time in the sun, to rant and rave about the future of everything, because who else will predict the future but the nerds? He told me to go make a fluffernutter and shut up. Can't say I blame him.

    This week we're going to pontificate on some of the Wiki-flavored ideas and projects that we didn't have space for in the latest issue. This is the first in a series:

    Brewster Kahle wants your petabytes.


    One of the keynote speakers at Wikimania this year was Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, an ambitious project to "backup" the human race and the sum of its knowledge.

    Seriously. Kahle wants to make a copy of, well, everything. Every book, every song, every film, every piece of software, everything! And he wants that, the sum of human knowledge, in the hands of people, not governments. As he notes during his speech, governments have a tendency to burn libraries.

    In pursuing this goal, he's buying up acres of bandwith and creating an impetus for hardware designers to make bigger and bigger hard drives. Currently the Archive is storing around 2 petabytes of data (one petabyte is worth 1 million gigabytes), and is growing exponentially as the months go by.

    One of the more interesting things Kahle discussed is the Internet Archive's book projects. During his speech, he handed around paperback books that looked like this:

    Looks like a normal book, right? But this book is special. It was printed and bound in about 15 minutes from a printing press that fits into a minivan, and looks something like this:

    How much did it cost? A buck a book for your very own Alice in Wonderland, or any other number of books in the public domain. You may have even been involved in the binding process, or at the very least least watched the high quality printer churn out the leaves that you would soon be flipping.

    There are currently Bookmobiles touring the United States, and ones have also been set up in a couple different countries, not a few in the Middle East and so-called developing nations, according to Kahle. More information on the project can be found here.

    The selection right now is kind of limited. No books currently under copyright can be printed for the project. Kahle is currently fighting a court battle to prevent copyright extensions on older works by dead authors. Because of that, Kahle wants to scan one of the largest collections of public domain books in the world, namely the Library of Congress, and he thinks the Archive can do that for "less than 10 percent of the Federal library system's budget," or half a billion dollars. He's currently lobbying to have it done.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. In his own words, Brewster is "trying to give every human being universal access to all knowledge."

    "We have all the tools to make this a reality; there's some stumbling blocks, but I feel we have the infrastructure to do it."

    An audio copy of the last 30 minutes of Kahle's speech is available here, and a video of the entire presentation is available here.

    -Paul Rice

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    8.17.06 Edition of Spare Change News

    The newest Spare Change News comes out tomorrow, to the dismay of self-absorbed commuters and the joy of compassionate life-livers. Run (don't walk, you need the exercise) to your nearest licensed vendor and demand a copy of the only newspaper in town with sex appeal and moral righteousness!

    Here's a taste:

  • The "Free-Rent Trick": Local landlords want you to tell you how not to pay rent in Massachusetts.

    Spare Change News examines the process of rent-withholding (AKA not paying rent until your apartment is brought up to certain standards) and how it is used and potentially abused in the state.

  • WikiFuture: Someday, everything will be "Wiki."

    A reporter's notebook from WikiMania 2006, held at Harvard University in early August. Wikipedia has become one of the most popular information databases on the web. At the WikiMania conference, some of the computer world's greatest minds discussed the future of free information sharing services like Wikipedia, and SCN was there. SCN exclusive coverage of WikiMania is here.

  • Nomadic Notes from Afghanistan

    Gary Moorehead writes for Spare Change News from Afghanistan, where is he currently rebuilding the schools, medical clinics and other services, in war-torn Afghani towns and villages. In "Nomadic Notes", he discusses the living cycles of Kuchi nomads and the positive effects such mobility can have on economy and culture. This is the first part in an occasional series.

  • Tales From The Curb: "What's in a Slur?

    SCN co-founder and longtime columnist James Shearer defends Mitt Romney's use of the word "tar baby"... sort of. Read it online.

    All this and more for ONE LOUSY DOLLAR and a second or two of your day that you weren't plugged into your iPod video, watching YouTube virals, or that new Brooke Hogan music video.
  • Tales From The Curb, 8.17.06

    What's in a Slur?
    By James Shearer

    A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney opened his mouth and firmly stuck his foot in it while giving a speech in front of Iowa Republicans. The subject of the Big Dig came up, and our governor told the his audience, "the best thing for me to do politically is stay away from the Big Dig. Just get as far away from that tar baby as I possibly can.”

    What is even more stunning is that he had no clue that the term "tar baby" was even an offensive remark to blacks. But what do we expect? Mitt was a pampered pup who went to private schools, never hung out with the fellas and thinks “projects” means “school projects.” He doesn't have a clue how the real world is; he's the type of guy that if he lost all his money, got thrown bare-assed into the street with a cup and was told to fend for himself, he wouldn't last ten minutes. There is a reason why I call him “Governor Irrelevant” – because he is.

    What bothers me more than that remark was the reaction – or overreaction – to it. Sure, Mitt could have come up with a better choice of words, but he was talking about the Big Dig. There was no mention of black people at all. When it comes to race – our race, every race – we all seem a little too sensitive. When we here a word that offends us – even when it has nothing to do with us – we rush to judgment: “they're racist” or “anti-Semitic” or “male pigs.” And you know what we give them? Even more power than they really have.

    Take Mel Gibson. Now, who among us hasn't gone a little too over-the-top after a few drinks? Is it right what he said? No. But the coverage this has gotten is even more over-the-top than he is, and all this is doing is giving him even more publicity until his next movie. And as far as folks saying they'll never see another Gibson movie: folks, the man is already swimming in green. He's not gonna care. The other thing you can be sure of is that if he ever makes another “Lethal Weapon” movie, for every ten of you who boycott it, another 25 will go see it.

    Am I saying it's okay to be racist? No way. I Just try not to spend a lot of time thinking about it, or thinking about people who are. When we overreact to what people like Mitt Romney, Tony Snow and the Klan say, we give them more power than they’re worth. We have lots of other things to work on rather than giving these bozos the time of day.

    If black leaders really want to get upset about something, they should ride a city bus and listen to black kids call each other "nigger" – like it's a badge of honor. Heck, even white kids do it to each other. We need to teach kids that that word is wrong. We need to tell them where words like that – and all the other ones – come from. We need to stop calling people anti-Semitic just because they don't agree with Jewish views and look at Mel Gibson for what he is: an overrated and washed-up actor.

    If we want people to stop it with racial slurs, then we must educate them to what the words are. Someone needs to send Mitt a list of words that offends people. What would be even nicer is if he got a list of words he could use (like the Weak Dig). I'm sure he would be glad he did. Then again, maybe it wouldn't do any good. After all, he'd still be irrelevant anyway.

    James Shearer, a Spare Change News columnist, is a co-founder, board member and former editor of the newspaper.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Happy Leary Firefighters Foundation Day!

    For some reason the City of Boston considers us a legitimate media outlet and sends us their favorite flack-flavored fotos.

    After yesterday's Bill Hicks blogging, we figured there was serendipity in Denis Leary's smug appearance in our morning inbox, as if we were being chastised for our appraisal of Rescue Me.

    So in order to stave off any bad karma that might possibly accrue from writing anything potentially negative about the hero of Boston's firefighters in a blog that no one reads, we are sorry Mr. Leary.

    Sorry you had to steal jokes from the best stand up comedian in history.

    A minor caveat: We really really loved you in Demolition Man.


    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Vegas feeding ban, meet eugenical sterilization!

    Las Vegas is still citing people for feeding homeless people in a Vegas park. The penalty for such unruly behavior?

    Up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    SCN sincerely hopes that states take a fine look at the example Vegas is setting: you see, homeless people are more likely to die if they aren't provided with services in the very places people tend to congregate, so if you're worried about a rising spike in your "indigent" populations, simply make it a crime to feed them, and sooner than later, the problem solves itself.

    Reminds one of another era in the United States, when it was thought that compulsory sterilization would get rid of all the retards plaguing our soon to be ubermensch-country. Unfortunately, the eugenics program died when people realized how "immoral" it was. Let's not let the bleeding hearts win this time, friends.

    Yours always and forever,


    "A virus with shoes"

    Spare Change News just finished reading the biography of one of its favorite comedians, a William Melvin Hicks, and was reminded of a favorite routine that Mr. Hicks used fairly consistently, throughout his far too brief, 15-year career:

    I love being in New York, I love running the bum gauntlet down every street. God I hate those guys, man. The very idea they want me to give them the hard-earned money my folks send to me every week. Leech, get a job. My dad works eight hours a day for this quarter. I mean, the nerve.

    Not that you hear many in this state talking about Mr. Hicks. His humor is of a forgotten relevance, and SCN encourages its readers to seek out the works of this latter-day prophet. Start with this DVD.

    P.S.: If you think Denis Leary is funny, you'll want to know it is widely believed Leary stole a bunch of material from Hicks. And really, who can blame him? Rescue Me sucks.

    Yours forever,


    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Layout Day Glamour

    Editorial assistant Amanda Morley proofs telepathically.

    SCN designer Brendan Bernard, right, gives love, as legendary curmudgeon James "No Prisoners" Shearer disapproves.

    Managing editor Paul Rice doesn't want you to know his secrets.

    Tired of words. Home go soon. Buy read paper do. Love much we for you. Caring thanks for.

    Yours forever,



    Tired of vacationing in the Florida Keys? (SCN goes every year, and boy are we tired of the Keys)

    How about checking in to a space hotel?

    Just float around in zero g all day, and when you need to eat (or perform some other mundane human task), there are velcro patches on the walls of your room that you can stick to.

    Perhaps it would be exciting for a day or two. Any longer though and we would miss our televisions and internets.

    Also, how does room service work? Also, can we order dirty movies? Also, fresh towels?

    Yeah, maybe these space hotels aren't such a great idea. After all, where would we be without our nice things? Just staring off into space and thinking about Nietzsche. How productive is that?



    Source, via we make money not art.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    The Internet: 1, Work: 0

    It's deadline day here at Spare Change, so of course we're watching internet videos:

    A tornado rips through a Japanese soccer game:

    During a televised debate, a Florida strip-club owner is assaulted, first verbally, and then with a chair, by a local radio host:

    The unparalleled Nina Simone, singing "If You Knew":

    Spare Change may just have to fire itself and give up this business, because writing a newspaper is no match for YouTube.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Our first accolade!

    We have our first fan!

    A user of the Dig's website named "Douchey Douche" (a name certainly not indicative of the Dig's readership) has brought up several interesting points of discussion about Spare Change's newly-christened blog:

    Does anyone find it ironic that the newly anointed alt-bi-weekly dedicated to all things alt, bi and homeless, is embracing a technology that neither it’s imbibed constituents, nor its feeble minded staff, actually know how to use?! I mean, even if you could pull it off, it’s got to be a bitch blogging from the ‘99’, and God knows how worse from the bottom of a bottle of Popov. Here’s an idea, how about a “flog”? You know, that time honored tradition of standing on a corner but instead of begging for “spare change”, you litter passersby with your musings and spittle! It’s a perfect accoutrement to highway blogging, other wise known as “gay.”

    Here at Spare Change News, we believe that if Furries can have a Wiki, then we can have a blog.

    See what we did there? It's like some sort of clever syllogism! Could an inebriated feeble-mind come up with that? We think not.

    Now, if you don't mind D.D., let us get back to saving the world! We promise to save the Popov for after work and, from this day forward, we will only allow our musty effluvia to fly towards those who deserve it.

    Yours always and forever,


    Let the punishment fit the crime.

    From today's Globe:

    Former housing authority head, wife to change pleas

    SPRINGFIELD --The former head of the Springfield Housing Authority and his wife are scheduled to change their pleas from not guilty in the city's largest public corruption case next week, according to a published report...

    Raymond Asselin, 69, is facing racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, theft, fraud, extortion and money laundering and other charges stemming from his 33-year tenure as director of the housing authority.

    Janet Asselin, 70, is charged with bribery, fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and filing a false tax return.

    -AP and Springfield Republican

    Should these two be found guilty, they should not go to prison. Considering their septuagenarian status, we has selected an appropriate alternative sentence for the Judge to administer:

    An extended stay at a Springfield homeless shelter, where the Asselins must give talks every night about how they swindled money out of the hands of those very shelter residents, who could perhaps be staying in stable housing if it weren't for their deceit. After the talk, they can strip down and receive the customary de-lousing, perhaps play a game of Scrabble with the other residents, then move into their sleeping bunks for lights out.

    Rinse wash and repeat until homelessness is eradicated.

    Then they can go to prison.



    Weekly Dig celebrates Spare Change's Blogging Achievements

    Spare Change News is the talk of the town these days:

    Thanks again, Joe! You know we're your favorites!

    Always and forever,


    Dog Day Sunrise

    SHANGHAI, China -- A county in southwestern China has killed as many as 50,000 dogs in a government campaign ordered after three people died from rabies, official media reported Tuesday, August 1.

    The five-day massacre in Yunnan province's Mouding county spared only military guard dogs and police canine units, the Shanghai Daily reported, citing local media.

    Dogs being walked were taken from their owners and beaten on the spot, the newspaper said. Other killing teams entered villages at night, creating noise to get dogs barking, then honing in and beating them to death.


    Here's hoping this is anti-China propaganda, perhaps spread by that mischevious Falun Gong.

    In case it's not, Spare Change News salutes those 50,000 (cruelly) euthanized canines, who probably never wanted rabies in the first place. Perhaps we can reanimate Louis Pasteur and get him into Yunnan province, STAT.



    Monday, August 07, 2006

    8.03.06 Edition of Spare Change News.. Does Romney Care About Homelessness?

    The newest edition of Spare Change News went on sale last Thursday for one dollar per copy, available as near as your nearest licensed vendor (and they are everywhere, if you haven't noticed; you just have to look up from the sidewalk you're walking down. Try it, it's fun!)

    Highlights from this edition:

  • Romney's latest vetoes of homelessness prevention funding fail, again.

    A look at Romney's double standards on homelessness funding issues; what the Governor used to say, and what he doesn't say now. And, we wondered, what do the Mormons think of all this?

  • A well-mannered discourse on the war in Lebanon from SCN's Top Brass

    SCN executive director/editor Sam Scott and SCN founding member Tim Hobson go toe-to-toe in their very own civil (as in well-mannered) war on the current crisis.

  • A former Lebanese citizen's first-person perspective on Lebanon, Israel and the United States

    Zackaria Hantar was born in Lebanon, and has since lived in the UK, Canada and finally the United States. A philosopher in training, in this piece he comes to grips with thinking he understands all sides in the conflict, but realizing he understands none.

  • Are hospitals preventing drug addicts from kicking their habits?

    Hospitals treating patients who also happen to have drug problems may be inadvertently causing those same patients to relapse, Jennifer Hayes reports.

    All of this is included, plus increasingly difficult crossword puzzles, Sudoku, our never-imitated "Helping Hands" page, not to mention that good feeling you get when you know you've done the right thing.

    See you next week, with WikiMania 2006 coverage exclusive to this blog (find out about the growing rift between the internet and major corporations, and who the government would support if it ever really came to blows; also, a Wiki-fied look at the future of books, schools, and commerce) , as well as something you probably didn't know about paying rent in Massachusetts.

    Yours forever,

  • Welcome to Spare Change Online!

    Welcome to Spare Change News Online, a 14-year old Boston/Cambridge institution, now on the World Wide Web.

    On this site you will see:

  • Issue summaries and links to stories

  • Commentary and news you won't read in the print edition

  • Homeless wit and super-nerd savoir!

  • A "slew of inane, half-baked thoughts" that you won't get anywhere else. Except perhaps on every other local paper's website. But oh well.

    Without further ado, let us begin.