Category Archives: Civil Rights

Awesome NIMBY this week…Dennis K. Smith

picture-6Who’s Dennis K. Smith?
You might know already, but I didn’t have a clue.

Dennis is a painter, teacher, and quite simply…one of the most fantastic people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Not In My Backyard required another interview this week. February being Black History Month finds the city alive with events and shows highlighting the local black community and their history. With these events prevalent and in the greater-public eye, I stumbled across this event called Threads Through Time, presented by The Artists of Colour.
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It takes place at Mackenzie Hall and The Common Ground Galler (same building) from February 6th until the 17th. Friday the 6th is the date of the opening party. I am, without a doubt, going to this, and I’m bringing my father, his wife Eileen, and possibly some other family member.

This exhibit will be hosting WORLD-CLASS artifacts from the underground railroad. To be more specific, they are quilts that were used to signal to the holder of the quilt details about the underground railroad…ensuring safe passage to Canada.

Apart from these quilts, there will be several works of art from Dennis K. Smith, his daughter Nicole Talbot, and several other professional and amateur artists of colour. And having been into Dennis K. Smith’s studio, I can tell you the quality of work he is producing is phenomenal.

Trained in fine art, Smith’s painting are all about stories. His affinity for history, personal and otherwise, is infectious and unavoidable when experiencing his work. A certain piece that he’s done, which was unfinished at the time of our interview is a mural of famous local and Canadian people of colour. The first black doctor, lawyer, The Real McCoy, and his own father are all featured prominently in this piece. It’s gorgeous. A who’s who of pioneering black Windsorites and Canadians is a patchwork of pride unmatched in any other painting I’ve seen.

Sitting with Dennis in his studio (gorgeous teaching space, by the way), drinking a fresh cup of coffee that he brewed up for us, we made an instant connection and spoke about the black community, the Artists of Colour community, and the importance of these showcases.

Here’s a HUGE video of the conversation I had with Smith, in his studio. TO see some of his unfinished works, and studio space, skip to the last two minutes of the video.

In the meantime, have a listen to our show from yesterday by CLICKING THIS LINK.
Our show is, as usual, 30 minutes long.
Did I mention that Adam’s interview was stellar as well?
Enjoy.

Musicians Scoring Famous Talks and Speeches (MSFTS)

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Holy geez.
This night was more than special.
Tuesday, January 20th Phog Lounge held a group of musicians willing to put themselves on the line.
They knew they’d be playing to some famous speeches, but they didn’t know which ones.

I thought I knew what I was doing.
I had twelve speeches ready, loaded, prepared to go.
I wish I had done more research into the length of the speeches. I was telling the musicians that the speeches were 8 minutes long, unless they were longer, like, 18 minutes.
Well, the first speech was 25 minutes or longer, and the second was almost 40 minutes long!
The bands were expecting one thing, and then being forced to persevere and give it all they had to last the length of an entire set on one song!

The musicians were:
Martin Schiller and Kyle Marchand of What Seas, What Shores.
Adam Rideout of Yellow Wood
Stephen Hargreaves of Not_Digital
Stefan C. formerly of Oh Vanya
Chad Howson of Another Saturday Knight

The speeches aren’t perfectly represented here…recorded from the bar, there are some interruptions…technical and otherwise, but minor at worst. These speeches are MORE than worth listening to, and I am extremely grateful for the musicians who volunteered themselves to come out an perform in this way…exposed…brutally exposed.

Speaking with some of the people in attendance, it was the icing on the cake for their day, as it was held on the same day as Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States. Others said that, at first listen, Obama’s speech was ordinary and uninspiring. But on the second listen, with a military drum beat and an emotional synthesized landscape of transitions, the speech came to life and was worthy of the praise being given it on the news.

It will happen again. It must.
I just hope the talented musicians (veterans now) come and participate in the next one.

Here’s the first speech of the night:
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Ronald Reagan- Tear Down This Wall – June 12, 1987 in West Berlin, Germany
performed by Stephen Hargreaves, Chad Howson, and Stefan C.

VIDEO FROM SAMANTHA COOPER!!! JUST ADDED! Thanks Samantha! Jump to 3:00 to get past my mumbo-jumbo…

Phog Speech – Ronald Reagan in Berlin from samantha maryann on Vimeo.

Second speech:
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Richard Nixon – Resignation Speech – August 8, 1974 in Washington, DC
performed by Martin Schiller and Kyle Marchand

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Save File: nixons__resignation_speech.m4a

Third speech:
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This one has a little gap, where my batteries died, without warning. I stitched it together as best I could.
Martin Luther King Jr. – I’ve Been To The Mountaintop – April 3, 1968 (the day before his assassination) in Memphis, Tennessee
performed by Adam Rideout and Stefan (electronic)

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Save File: ive_been_to_the_mountaintop.m4a

Fourth and final speech:

2009 Inaugural Celebration. Washington D.C. National Mall thanks to Geoeye.com

2009 Inaugural Celebration. Washington D.C. National Mall thanks to Geoeye.com


Again, there was an issue with this speech that the performers played through. The streaming video of the speech was slow, and choppy.
So, there was some overlapping, and I again, did my best to stitch it together.
Barack Obama – Presidential Inauguration Speech – January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC
performed by Stephen Hargreaves and Stefan C.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Save File: obamas_inaugural_presidential_speech.m4a

Me-dia, and why Gus Morin fascinates me.

photo-12photo-13The images above are crude computer-camera photos of a postcard.

But they’re so much more than just a postcard. With a nod to the printer, Jen Kimmerly of Standard Printing, these postcards are so sharp looking, it reminds me of the scene in American Psycho when the executives (including the psycho – Christian Bale) get together and start comparing business cards. They notice the variations of white (ha!) and the ribbing of the paper…the tooth of the fibre. And the psycho can’t stand to see a card other than his looking so exquisite.

When I see something that Jen is printing for Gus Morin, I get like that. I want to run away instead of seeing something so good that I am not engaging in myself.

This postcard is Gus’ way of saying, “Broken City.”

The problem I face when trying to explain something Gus has done is misrepresentation because he is usually thinking on so many levels, and so many steps ahead of me (and everyone else) that it is often better to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

You see, Gus was in Phog the other night, and we were discussing the media, and how unreliable it can be due to advertisers wishes and influence. I always make clear that my piddly existence supplying the Windsor Star with freelance stuff has been very nonrestrictive, yet I see an inexcusable amount of omissions of REAL news from various papers, magazines, and TV news every day.

Gus, ahead of the curve, calls bullshit when he sees it. He actually screams it ,whether in person or on paper. His postcard says a lot more than you might think at first. He’s clearly saying that the old is out. The car companies have had their run. Tires = zero. Windsor is sick, and the money we bathed in because of the auto industry is drying up, going away, and so will we if we don’t sharpen up.

These postcards are Gus’ blog. He sits and pens them out to media outlets, people of “importance” and “circumstance” at a rate of one-per-twenty-minutes. This connection with the paper, the pen, his thoughts, is a special ritual. He loves it. He knows that in the digital age, he is connecting with “media releases” (postcards) that NO ONE ELSE is taking the time to write, let alone design. Gus is also a visual poet, and a collage-maniac. The design on these postcards, I can assure, took a lot of thought and time to make.

So he writes, and he writes, and he mails, and he mails. He knows the Canadian mail system back to front, and he’s a big fan of the US Postal system because of the money saved by sending his postcards FROM the US to the US, saving many, many dollars (including border tolls) by refraining from sending them in Canada. His messages are important, and eloquent, and when it comes to budgeting for your passion, I am full force in favour of him taking his dollar to the US if it makes the difference between Gus getting the message out or not getting it out.

So he decided to read a sample of the postcard he had written to the media. It was brilliant, as usual, and I practically needed a thesaurus to understand what he was saying, but in it’s essence, he was crying out for help, for reform, for a paradigm shift in the media to wake up and cover the death of a city.

The failure of the Big 3 is a sore spot with Gus, but not for the reasons many would think. So, he makes it very clear in his postcards.

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It is his own media. Me-dia. It is his editorialized news story (no different from any packaged news story, with a slant, and a clear viewpoint. He has reclaimed the mail in the name of justice in the way a radio-hopeful, desperate to express themselves, uses a pirate signal to project.

Gus, no stranger to oppression and struggle, is an artist and writer. His voice is a beacon of reason, and often times an outrageous anarchistic breath of fresh air. What I mean by that is…at least he cares enough to say something outrageous (to my senses) in order to convey his disdain for the way things are being mismanaged. He is every bit a Broken City Lab of his own. He just does it all offline, which in a way is awesome and very Gus-like…but I wonder what he could illicit in people being online in a big way. Who am I kidding? If he’s given this thought, he knows the best avenue for his his mind and talents. As a quick sidebar…Gus once set out to send 1000 postcards to many people, from his huge list, as an art project, an outreach, a correspondence, and who knows what else? Like I said, I fear I will misrepresent this unique genius. He got about 800 of them sent, which is UNREAL!!! 800 postcards in one year!? Ha! I couldn’t do 800 blog posts in a year if I was being paid!

Back to his note. His postcards. They’re all different. Even when he has a common campaign like this, asking the media to shed light on something that needs to change, his individual letters are composed like a new letter each and every time! And he doesn’t send five of these things…he sends 50, or 60, or 100! I don’t know if I could do that for my convictions. I can’t say that I’d find the time to write that much for a cause, if I had to HAND WRITE IT EVERY TIME!

Let this be an instigator to bubble something up inside of you…to bring an idea to the fore, to see light of day, because it means too¬† much to you to squander…no matter how much work it takes to manifest.

In finishing, I just wanted to show you what passion looks like. It looks like a postcard with red ink, a nice tooth, and focused (democracy-defining) writings and pleadings…and a stamp.

Urban Gardening

picture-5I recently interview Barry Furlonger of The Downtown Mission.

The interview will show up on Tuesday, on this site, after the shorter (by half) interview airs on Not In My Backyard on CJAM 91.5FM at noon.

I tried to stay away from questions of donation amounts and holiday hardship. I think it’s pretty well-known that charities get a lot of help during the holidays. People are in the giving mood, or at least they get into the giving mood after watching It’s a Wonderful Life or Secret Millionaire. The charities get a heap of help in one or two months, and then run a deficit for the remainder of the year. They struggle month after month, hoping people will run food drives and collect goods they are in need of for the other 10 months they provide food and shelter.

I asked Furlonger about the usefulness of a garden. An urban garden, downtown, on dead Windsor land (of which there’s a ton) could keep a steady supply of fresh vegetables to supply the kitchen to feed those in dire need. I have been reading/listening to Michael Pollan talk on google videos, ted.com, NPR’s Fresh Air, etc., etc. and he is all about food education. Teaching kids where food comes from, and having them keep a garden at school, understanding how valuable real food is. When they see how much work it is, they understand that it is not something to be thrown away or wasted.

I guess I was channeling this line of thought when talking to Furlonger. I brought it up because he said the Mission is unable to accommodate for more than 100 volunteers. This surprised me greatly, because I thought, “The more the merrier.” Not so. You can only fit so many people in the kitchen. You can only have some many jobs for them to do. I began thinking that a garden, located downtown, donated temporarily by a land owner or the city, could be operated, maintained, and serviced by volunteers. More than the 100 could get their hands dirty. In fact, it’s possible that the people being taken care of could be taught how a successful vegetable garden is run, yielding healthy food.

Furlonger seemed interested in this, but with his hands as full as they are, it is likely a project that someone else would have to take on in order to A) find the land, B) find a land owner/city willing to donate the space C) get the administration of the Downtown Mission informed and educated on how to take “possession” of the land and how to cultivate it properly. It would be a big project, and maybe something that Fed Up Windsor could make a great deal of impact with along with the other foodies in this city. There is no shortage of organic food experts and locavores in this city, and there is no dirth of HUGE garden-keepers who could share their ideas also…like Steve Green and Scotty Hughes…Mark Buckner…tons of others…

Anyone got any thoughts on what roadblocks one could encounter, and overcome?

Anyone know of any realistic ways this could take place?

I just think it is important for The Downtown Mission to have a project that HELPS them become more self-sufficient rather than “hoping” for steady, weekly support from people who are just trying to make ends meet during the year. Only good things could come from something like this. Heck! They could even sell the surplus to local restaurants or locavores (local food conscious eaters wanting to know where their food is grown).

I know that there is something like this on Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) near Howard Avenue, just east of Dayus Roofing and Windows, east of Angilari Lumber. There’s a huge clinic complex there…and two sets of railroad tracks. My father lives on Louis Avenue, between Ypres and Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) and Louis ends on the north side at this LARGE garden. The garden is closest to the (directly south of, and almost touching) the trackson the North side of Lens or Vimy. I believe it is run by a native co-op, but I’m not sure WHO runs it. Likely one of my readers does. Help us out.

Gets my brain ticking.

Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics

I’ve been anticipating these games, as I do every two years, because of the choreographed national pride it beckons from everyone. It’s great to see people rooting for the athletes who’ve been training to represent their country of origin, although these lines are steadily being blurred more and more.

Funny enough, the blurring of these lines makes these games more of a test of human ability than a national display of physical hierarchy. I like that development. I like seeing those paradigms shifted.

“What the – was that Chinese-lookin’ person representing Canada?” is the kind of thing I can see the generation or two before me saying as they watch the 2008 games, and it makes me laugh a little, assuming that there are people (shut-ins) who are unaware of the fabric of Canada, and just how incredibly diverse it is.

The thing that got me writing this, the reason, the main thrust was about the hubbub being tossed around about the possibility of athletes wearing their political heart on their sleeve at the games. Joey Cheek (Olympic speed skating gold medallist) was refused entry into China because of his potential to make a political statement at the games in favour of his work with the group Team Darfur.

I think of the simple image, the powerful, indelible image of the US track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos who made the gesture of the fist in the air. I think of how simple-yet-magnanimous this symbol was, and how it was “deemed a domestic political statement unfit for the apolitical, international forum the Olympic Games”.

The repercussions were harsh. The athletes themselves were targets of hate and anger after they returned home.

And I simply shake my head when I think of this. The Olympics are an apolitical event?! What? For who? These games have been used as olive branches, or roadblocks in political maneuverings from the beginning. And to think that the people in charge, the fatcats making big dough off of these games (IOC, Coke, McDonalds, Adidas, Nike, etc.), can say what is and what isn’t “couth” at a worldwide-staged event like this makes me audibly do a spit-take. “Ppppppffftt!”

Who are they kidding?

I have it from a good source, who I will not name, that was in the meeting room in Detroit with an unnamed mayor of Detroit and an unnamed mayor of Windsor over 10 years ago now…that the process was shown to be the corrupt money-grab that it is. At some point a long while ago, Windsor and Detroit wanted to make a bid for the Olympics to be held (for the first time) internationally, across borders, in Windsor, ON (Canada) and Detroit, MI (US). A great idea…before 9/11. When the big meeting began, the delegates sat at a big table and waited to see how this meeting would unfold. As I am told (which you can take with a huge grain of salt if you like) was that the Olympic representative simply stated to the group that if they were not prepared to pay outright, hundreds of millions of dollars to the “people that make decisions”, JUST TO BE CONSIDERED IN THE RUNNING for the games to be held in WIndsor/Detroit, that they might as well adjourn the meeting.

And that’s just what happened. Dumbfounded delegates collected their handsome breifcases, along with their jaws, and went their merry way back to business as usual.

As I was told, this was the story of the Olympic bid that never was…never existed…never happened.

This kind of story that can almost qualify as conspiracy theory to some of you readers does not surprise me in the least. I would not put it past this organzation to operate under these corrupt policies (secret that they may be). To paraphrase the historian and moralist Lord Acton, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Anyone in a position to weild the outcome of flow of that much money, the coin involved in hosting and earning from an Olympic Games in their country/city, is bound to be a bastard in the end. You know it. I know it.

So for those of you who are poo-pooing the idea of someone taking the podium, and from out of nowhere donning a flag representing Tibet in order to shine a brighter light on the subject of human right abuses, reconsider the event as a whole. This whole thing is a business. A giant, athletic show masquerading as a nationality-pride-bi-annual-glee-holiday. And folks, business IS politics. It oozes with it. And with politics comes statements, and disobedience, and displays, and demonstrations. And I expect nothing less than this from our athletes and more, if they feel so inclined, taking the opportunity to spotlight issues that the media has done such a piss-poor job of doing. Maybe if someone, a Canadian, makes a shocking display on the podium, the right questions will start being asked of our Olympic host, China.

The news. I like.

I am dumbfounded. I’ll tell you why in a paragraph or two.

Listen, I will not pretend to know what is going on in Canadian politics. It is one of the priorities on my list.

Why? You may ask that for good reason. Well, I just like to know when someone is lying to me. I like being able to call “bullshit” when someone in the political spectrum , or someone speaking for one of those boobs, says something completely outrageous. I don’t like hearing things, and gobbling them up like a nice little consumer. I like to know the details.

For starters, our robotic, yet intelligent, Prime Minister of horse-puckey has made a move that I am FINALLY impressed with. He stated today that under the current definitions and rules around saying food in Canada is “Made in Canada” there are problems… As of right now, if 51% of the work being done to prepare food, and make it consumer-ready is done in Canada, companies are legally allowed to say Made in Canada. Which is a stretch, to say the least…I think we’ll all agree.

“Hey gringo, these bananas were grown in Canada…well, that’s not entirely true. You see, we grew them in South America and then they were juggled and handled and banged around vociferously in some shit-hole cannery plant in Ontario, so technically, they’re Canadian…right?”

No. I want to know where my food is grown, prepared, and “managed”.

Stephen Harper has made a promise, of sorts, to adjust this rule, so the definition is less clandestine and malleable to make sense to only those who work in the industry. Food must be grown and prepared fully in Canada to have the label Made in Canada. If it isn’t, it must say where the other “components” (a fruit salad mix, I guess?) are from.

I just love how Harper said something along the lines of, “It’s what Canadians want, so we have to provide it,” as if this dude gives one ounce of care what “Canadians want”. I digress. I must tip my cap to the man who I know to be intelligent and otherwise incompetent. He made good with me on this story.

And in other “news” The Globe and Mail has FINALLY decided to write about The North Pacific Garbage Patch! Holy geez! Someone at Phog told me that I would be happy that it was finally being covered. While reading the piece, I was floored, yet not surprised (we have a Conservative government) to read this admission from Diane Lake, a spokeswoman with the Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. She “said that while the ministry is aware of the North Pacific Gyre, it is conducting no real research on the extent or effects of the plastic pollution.” Perfect. Nice work Diane. Nice to see you give a shit. You know, Canada has a border that kinda touches the Pacific Ocean. Hey wait! That’s one of the words in the North Pacific Garbage Patch! Come to think of it, we’re North too…but, we don’t really need to be studying this. You know, it’ll all go away, like climate change, and racism, and mental illness, and corporatocracy raping us from dusk till dawn…yeah, someone else is taking care of it, I’m sure.

Here’s a shortlist, from The Globe and Mail, of what Captain Moore has been finding: A trail of Taco Bell wrappers, Dolls and action figures, Umbrellas, Tarps, Bottles, Tofu containers(for those of you who think you’re saving the earth with tofu. Maybe we need to be writing letters to tofu companies asking them to consider new packaging?), Lego, Grocery bags, Foam coffee cups, Checkers, Furniture, Toothbrushes, Cigarette lighters, Syringes, Rubber ducks, Basketball shoes

See, this is exactly the kind of thing that should make backbones stiffen. It should make you, reading this, totally annoyed with the laissez faire attitude of people who are paid by us to work for us. These are the issues that will be affecting your family’s family’s family. But what can we do besides thinking globally and acting locally? I’m actually shocked that the fishing industry in the west hasn’t pulled a page from the Argentinian farmers’ handbook.

Get angry at this lack of interest in your job, your industry, and your culturally significant knowledge. Stop fishing until the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decides to look into stemming this abuse in the oceans, and possibly even going so far as to suggesting that maybe we are drowning in our own plastic…and that we should step back from it…sloooowly…with biiiiig steps.

I must also place this in here…as I was listening to Q on CBC with Jian Ghomeshi, I heard the guest talking about food, and mentioning our good friend Michael Pollan. It was “Montreal writer Taras Grescoe on the search for ethical seafood” talking about his new book, Bottomfeeder. I kind of want to read this now. The “Q on CBC” in the first sentence of this paragraph is a direct link to the podcast of this show. It was a GREAT interview, worth listening to…

I bit off more than I could chew. Now I want to get into the whole argument we had at Phog last night…about bananas, how we won’t be eating yellow ones in 5 years, and about the plague/waste of sandwich (Ziploc) bags.

Another time.

Sideways Glance Books

I’m reading a book.

It’s good.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. My brother Todd heard I was reading Democracy Matters by Cornel West, and said with a smirk, “Read this.”

I wonder sometimes, when people hand me knowledge with sideways glances, that they might be working with the divine, as they usually end up being the best books. The sideways-glance books.

It’s not like I need more of a reason to question the voracity of elected officials and corporations for raping the world for all it’s worth, an doing so in the name of nation building and democracy-furthering, but this book lays it out.

Simply put, there are people who go to countries who have little in the way of infrastructure, who want to be more advanced than they are currently. These assholes known as Economic Hitmen, on the payroll of engineering and consulting firms(not the CIA or NSA), go into these countries with orders. Their orders are to overstate the benefits of corporations (U.S.) moving into the area to build power plants and roads, etc. They then convince the World Monetary Fund or The World Bank to lend these countries billions in aid to further these countries, based on the outlandish econometric outcomes forecast by the HITMEN.

The countries almost always end up paying all the loan to US engineering firms (example: Halliburton) and then going bankrupt. This is done by design. It is in the country’s takeover-mentality’s interest to make these developing countries fail. Elite corporate owners and politicians have been in bed with each other since time immemorial. Politicians are bought and paid for in FULL. If it isn’t engineering firms, it’s pharmaceuticals or lobbyists, or any number of people with money to throw at those who hold office. When the countries go bankrupt, they are in debt to the United States…because of their ties with the IMF and World Bank. Then, the U.S. simply demands that they are given the capability to place military outposts in these regions, thus furthering the reign of capitalism and Christianity.

Why would this happen? People have asked me this when they read the book jacket. Well, why do we put it past the sociopaths running today’s corporations that they might actually be more interested in their dollar-worth than a million lives in a third world country?

Is it THAT hard to believe? Really? I mean, if you were a megalomaniac, trying to make as much money as possible to further your genetic seed until the end of the world, do you really give a shit who you snuff out? It’s pretty plain to see that these allegations by John Perkins (ex-Hitman and reformed Hitman) are plausible simply by considering the history of nation-builders. All of the empires of the world have done this kind of “weakening from the inside” tactic, and the U.S. has been masterful at pin-pointing the weakest, in their greatest time of need, and then ballooning their grip on the political and religious landscape by pressuring indebted countries into doing as they wish.

This is, as many will defend, business as usual. Granted. But the faceless, nameless dead and suffering, too depressing to get TV time (unlike Paris Hilton) are a line that never ends. It reminds me of the ants in my garden. I don’t know where they come from, but they JUST KEEP COMING. The countless lives of people who were the victorious at one point. The miraculous connection of sperm and egg to make this unique gift, who then procreate themselves, are meaningless outside of themselves. Their plight is on mute. We are busy reading US Weekly and watching Access Hollywood. While Billy Bush is bullshitting about outfits that Beyonce is wearing to the Grammys, his uncle George is fumbling through the winter of his rule, and continuing to do nothing about the millions of suffering worldwide.

Sadly, I know that everyone cannot be fed. Everyone cannot be living lives we live in North America. But this sense of humanity halts me. I am unable to simply brush aside the cobwebs of turmoil that are being undertaken on behalf of multi-national corporations to the detriment and soul-soiling treatment of those unfortunate enough to be born 6000 miles east or 3000 miles southwest of Grace Hospital, Windsor, Ontario, where I was born.

I tremble for these victims. Victims of greed beyond the usual bling culture I’ve been unfortunate enough to come up within. So much excess. It’s numbing.

If you want a grasp of SOME of the factors involved in the manufacturing of suffering around the world in the last 80 years, pick this book up, as it has more to offer than this bleak reality I’ve unfurled in front of you here. Something to think about though…