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Pop Culture

From comedies to kickass concerts, these two creatives are here to make social impact fun

Aaron Brown and Lenny Barszap raised millions for the unhoused community in a movement they've named "Trojan-horse social impact."

socia impact, kevin smith, musci festivals
Lenny Barszap (Left) Aaron Brown (right)/ (The Pharcyde, Brownout, Adrian Quesada, Lenny Barszap, Chris Rogers (muralist), Chris Baker (TOOF), Aaron Brown) - photo credit IIsmael Quintanilla III

Have fun doing good.

There is often a distinct line between social impact—that is, something meant to provoke thought, connect us to our humanity, inspire positive change, etc.—and entertainment, which provides us a fun escape.

But sometimes that line can become blurred in innovative ways, allowing entertainment itself to be the change agent.

This is the concept behind creative partners Aaron Brown (Onion Creek Productions) and Lenny Barszap (Entertaining Entertainment)’s Been There music festivals, which are specifically intended to be social movements in disguise.


But first, let’s go back to 1997 when Brown and Barszap were in college. They met an unhoused former professor living in the park at the end of their block - a chance encounter that would change their lives forever.

Not wanting the man to suffer Texas’ infamous storms, Brown and Barszap offered the man a chance to crash on their porch—and later their couch as boundaries began to soften—which began a nearly yearlong chapter of bonding with him and others from his community.

Their relationship, along with the antics that ensued, would later become the basis for “Home Free,” a coming-of-age college comedy that Barszap calls “‘Dazed & Confused’ meets ‘Superbad,’” which premiered at Hollywood's iconic Chinese Theatre in July 2023 and earned rave reviews, including one from Kevin Smith saying it is “the most important comedy you’ll see this year.”

And while “Home Free” succeeds in providing laugh out loud moments, Brown and Barszap hoped it could be the first of many “Trojan horse-style social impact films,” using humor as the spoonful of sugar to raise awareness on the serious issue of homelessness.

That’s why the duo partnered with The Other Ones Foundation (TOOF), an organization that offers people in Austin, TX facing homelessness shelter, opportunities and support. Through this partnership, six percent of all donations raised for Brown and Barszap’s film went directly to the foundation. In addition, 10% of the film's profits were earmarked for TOOF and other nonprofits fighting to end homelessness.

Which brings us back to Been There, which got its title as a way of suggesting “we can get beyond homelessness and someday look back from a new perspective with empathy.”

Here’s how it started: In 2021, TOOF had recently begun supporting a tent encampment of around 200 people experiencing homelessness in East Austin, later renamed The Esperanza Community. Brown and Barszap began making relationships with Esperanza’s residents during production of “Home Free” (especially when filming was slowed to a halt during COVID).

Before/After images of The Esperanza Community

That year, Austin had been hit by some severe ice storms, causing power outages and devastating the tent community. And while replenishing supplies would have been enough to help the neighborhood recover, Barszap and Brown thought “why not go beyond necessities and replenish people’s spirits as well?”

And so, the pair called upon their musician friends, who just so happened to be Grammy award-winning heavy hitters in the industry, to put on a kickass private music festival.

The Esperanza community got to enjoy the talents of Adrian Quesada, best known for his work with The Black Pumas, as well as local legends like the latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma and indie darlings Wild Child, just to name a few. And even better, though no one intended to make the event a fundraiser, a couple of inspired attendees donated a collective $600,000 to TOOF on the spot.

Because their first event was such a success, another Been There festival was held in 2023, this time intended as a fundraiser, composed of musical heroes from the 90s and local Austin heavyweights. Headlining the act was legendary hip hop group The Pharcyde, who also contributed two new songs to the original soundtrack for “Home Free,” produced by Adrian Quesada. The Pharcyde were accompanied for the first time ever by a live band, Austin’s Latin-funk heroes Brownout who have backed the likes of Prince, GZA and many more.

Barszap told Upworthy the second festival was an even bigger hit. Not just because of the money it raised, but because it brought people together who might normally be separated by social barriers. And it all took place in Esperanza, which has now become a flourishing transitional tiny home community.

“It was incredible…so many showed up to the event and were surprised they were having an amazing night with people who were transitioning out of homelessness and getting back on their feet. Everyone was so moved that we raised over $1million that day, enough to build over 100 new tiny homes for The Esperanza Community,” he said.

(The Pharcyde, Brownout, Adrian Quesada, Lenny Barszap, Chris Rogers (muralist), Chris Baker (TOOF), Aaron Brown) - photo credit IIsmael Quintanilla III

The first two Been There music Fests were hosted at The Esperanza Community in Austin but Barszap and Brown envision a series of Been There's in cities across the country. "When you see the power of artists coming together to help our neighbors and spotlight the organizations doing the most innovative work, it's undeniable. We've seen first-hand how music and art can change lives," says Brown.

As more non-profit music festivals similar to Been There continue popping up across the country, both to reinvigorate those who are disenchanted with how capitalism has affected the industry, it’s becoming clear that this is more than a novel concept—it’s a style of entertainment that people actually want to participate in.

As for what the future holds: today, Been There is more than a music festival. It has transformed into a non-profit in its own right, bringing even more “Trojan horse-style social impact entertainment that kick-starts a movement” including festivals, films, art, music and proving that making a difference doesn’t have to be a chore or byproduct of guilt.

Lenny Barszap (Left) Aaron Brown (right)

Maybe it’s not so impossible to, as Barszap puts it, “have fun doing good.”

If you’d like to support more of Been There’s impactful entertainment, donate here.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

A woman realizes that she has some pretty big regrets in life.

After the age of 30, people begin to judge the decisions they’ve made in the past based on their newfound perspective on life. This is a time when many of us pause and take stock of where we are versus where we imagined we'd be. As careers, relationships and personal aspirations begin to unfold, so do the realizations of things we may have done wrong. But it's also time for a type of self-reflection that can empower us to make more informed decisions in the future.

There probably isn’t one person alive over the age of 30 who doesn’t have at least one major regret. The key is to use that regret to your advantage by learning from it and not making the same mistake twice.

Regrets can also be helpful to others as a warning of some of the pitfalls in life to avoid.


A Redditor who goes by noThefakedevesh recently posed a question to the AskReddit subforum: “People above 30, what's your biggest regret in life?” The question was a great excuse for people to share their regrets and how they overcame the mistakes they made in the past. The list of regrets is also a wonderful way for younger people to avoid things that will give them regrets later in life.

One of the most powerful themes repeated in the post was people’s regret for caring too much about other people’s opinions and trying to be people-pleasers. Many people also regretted not taking more risks in life, especially when they were younger.

Here are 13 of the most powerful regrets people 30 and over shared on Reddit.

1. Not being healthy

"Not taking my own health seriously." — Outlasndishness3310

"I always think of the line from 'Peggy Sue Got Married' where she asks her grandfather if he could go back and do things differently, what would he change and he says, 'I'd have taken better care of my teeth.'" — TrustAvidity

2. Fear of judgement

"The amount of time I spent anxious about being judged." — BastardWing

"When I learned to let go, it was amazing. You can't control other people's opinions. You only get to control yourself and your own attitude. What other people think of me really doesn't have much effect on my life and it's easy enough to not interact with folks who judge me." — tmp_advent_of_code

"'Never take criticism from people you wouldn't go to for advice' has helped me with this many times." — RemainingEye

3. Fear of failure

"Not putting myself out there due to fear of failure. Failing should be celebrated and encouraged as a tool to learn and grow and improve." — TheWinderousWizard

4. Not exercising

"My biggest regret is not getting into exercise earlier. I thought people only exercised to lose weight and I was convinced I was just meant to be overweight. In my 30s I discovered running and volleyball and now I’m fitter in my 40s than I was in my 20s. I wish I’d realised how much fun I could be having." — NeitherGur5003

"One of the most useful tools for me recently has been reframing exercise as movement. The word 'exercise' has a punishing connotation to me - it's a tool used to cudgel 'lazy' people. 'Movement,' however, is joyful and free-flowing. Movement can be running, lifting weights, dancing, yoga, stretching, scrubbing your bathroom, walking your dog, goofing off with your nieces and nephews, parkour, bike riding - whatever. Celebrating movement gets me to appreciate the power of my body and the pleasure of mobility. It helps me to focus on a healthier relationship with my body that emphasizes the long-term ability to inhabit and utilize this great, useful, electrified meat sack that requires nourishment and ongoing maintenance. Anyway, hope that helps you too." — BarnacledSeaWitch

5. Being a people pleaser

"This 10000000%. Can't help others if you don't take care of yourself first. Hugely with kids and parents. Parents are ineffective if they ignore their spouses and put all their energy into everything else and nothing into themselves and each other." — Slickpoison

6. Should have invested earlier

"Yes to investing. I'm close to retiring and don't have anywhere close to the amount that I'd like. I used to make fun of my brother for his frugality but it turns out I was the foolish one." — Scurtrberau

"Rule of 72- at 8% growth you’d see your money double in 9 years. Waiting a decade means you miss out on doubling that money. What’s worse is that you have a certain set number of doubling periods before retirement- 22-31, 31-40, 40-49, 49-58, 58-67 - 5 doubling periods. $1 put in at 22 is worth 25 = $32 at retirement." — Burnbabyburn11

7. Paid too much attention to parents

"I listened to my parents too much when I was younger." — Distressed_Finish

"My mother was never going to understand me or love me unconditionally, or see me as anything other than something to possess and control, and I wish I could have realized it and freed myself from her sooner." — FloraFly

8. Waiting too long to get sober

"I'm in my 40s now and pretty much drank my way through my 20s and early 30s. I got into the lifestyle of drinking with friends every day after work, then a big session Friday night and it was the norm for me, I pitied people who just went straight home from work. Now thinking of all the money I spent, the health implications, the general setting my life back by 15 years, I think I was the one that was pitiable." — Dave80

"Same. I was a casual/social drinker my entire 20s and early 30s, and I wish I was not. Life without alcohol is so much better." — Barhanita

9. Put more effort into friendships

"I wish I didn't let friendships die so easily. I'm 36 and you'd be surprised how fast you can go a decade without talking to someone you once saw every day." — NutellaBanabaBread

10. Missed opportunities with women

"Took me far too long to realise if I had just taken my shot, I most likely would have succeeded with a few of my crushes. But I am happy were I am now, but man some of those missed opportunities..." — Zeebie_

11. Smoking

"Wish I never would have touched a cigarette." — BlueStarSpecial

"This for sure, I smoked for 25 years, maybe 15 a day. At today's prices in the UK that amounts to around £82k or just over $100k." — Dave80

12. Self-loathing

"I regret the amount of time I spent hating my body. The self-loathing I had with my appearance consumed me, and now when I look back at photos of me in my twenties I just wish I could have seen how skinny I was." — Wetsummer486

13. Being a loyal employee

"Being loyal to a company and expecting to be rewarded later." — Pinkpujita

"Been job hopping every 2-3 years. New projects, more motivation, learning new stuff, most of the time with increased salary." — fr6nco

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.


Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?


If all of earth's land ice melted, it would be nothing short of disastrous.

And that's putting it lightly.

This video by Business Insider Science (seen below) depicts exactly what our coastlines would look like if all the land ice melted. And spoiler alert: It isn't great.

Lots of European cities like, Brussels and Venice, would be basically underwater.

In Africa and the Middle East? Dakar, Accra, Jeddah — gone.

Millions of people in Asia, in cities like Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo, would be uprooted and have to move inland.

South America would say goodbye to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

And in the U.S., we'd watch places like Houston, San Francisco, and New York City — not to mention the entire state of Florida — slowly disappear into the sea.

All GIFs via Business Insider Science/YouTube.

Business Insider based these visuals off National Geographic's estimation that sea levels will rise 216 feet (!) if all of earth's land ice melted into our oceans.

There's even a tool where you can take a detailed look at how your community could be affected by rising seas, for better or worse.

Although ... looking at these maps, it's hard to imagine "for better" is a likely outcome for many of us.

Much of America's most populated regions would be severely affected by rising sea levels, as you'll notice exploring the map, created by Alex Tingle using data provided by NASA.

Take, for instance, the West Coast. (Goodbye, San Fran!)

Or the East Coast. (See ya, Philly!)

And the Gulf Coast. (RIP, Bourbon Street!)

I bring up the topic not just for funsies, of course, but because the maps above are real possibilities.

How? Climate change.

As we continue to burn fossil fuels for energy and emit carbon into our atmosphere, the planet gets warmer and warmer. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means melted ice.

A study published this past September by researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Germany found that if we don't change our ways, there's definitely enough fossil fuel resources available for us to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet.

Basically, the self-inflicted disaster you see above is certainly within the realm of possibility.

"This would not happen overnight, but the mind-boggling point is that our actions today are changing the face of planet Earth as we know it and will continue to do so for tens of thousands of years to come," said lead author of the study Ricarda Winkelmann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

If we want to stop this from happening," she says, "we need to keep coal, gas, and oil in the ground."

The good news? Most of our coastlines are still intact! And they can stay that way, too — if we act now.

World leaders are finallystarting to treat climate change like the global crisis that it is — and you can help get the point across to them, too.

Check out Business Insider's video below:

This article originally appeared on 12.08.15