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…

Phil Donahue on Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley had Phil Donahue on his show tonight.

Phil Donahue has made a new documentary about the real people being hurt surrounding the war in Iraq. It’s called Body of War. It is centralized around a paralyzed soldier named Thomas, who wasn’t even out of the truck while in Iraq before he was shot in the shoulder, and spine (T-4).

Donahue has been outspoken about the war in Iraq, calling it a blunder that will be felt for the rest of this century.

One of his points was indelible. I was very pleased to hear it. He pointed out that according to right-wing media pundits, anyone opposed to the war, in the beginning or even recently, was un-American. If you were against the war, you were “with them”. The blind nationalism spouting from the mouths of people who speak of democracy and condemn others for thinking about the reality of the “campaign” in Iraq are laughably hypocrites.

Why are they hypocrites?

Because 50% of them don’t VOTE! If they are so pro-democracy, why don’t they vote? Do they think that having a yellow ribbon-magnet on their bumper is a substitute for voting!? They must! And I’m not foolish enough to be told that anyone outspoken about the war is a definite voter. Half is half. It means that half of the people denouncing the war are also not voting the way they should be. And I love Donahue for pointing this hypocrisy out for us. For people who care about their country, and their soldiers, and democracy, and their freedom of speech (and other Amendments), but not about the grand money-grab happening in Iraq, be equally vocal about your feelings about this war, but for goodness sake, vote. Show your utmost respect for the brave soldiers past, present, and future, by voting and taking advantage of your right to do so.

This also reminded me about the civil rights struggle. If I were someone involved in the civil rights movement, especially in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, I would make it a pointed issue that the people I fought for did everything humanly possible to stay informed about the political process and to cast their vote.

It can become a sticky subject, because I am a white guy talking about what black people “should do” when it comes to voting…or prodding people to vote. The truth is, anyone who’s anyone should be voting, especially those who feel that their interests have been marginalized by the people currently in government.
Really, I’m just echoing the voices of many black pundits who know what was fought for in the civil rights struggle, and who realize the importance of the turnout of citizens who have been and continue to be misunderstood.

I have way too many thoughts on this subject, ranging from voting rights to running for office yourself. Perhaps some other time.

Starting to ride

What has happened is simply this: The oil companies have found my limit.

I cannot rightly spend $75 to $80 to travel to work. I cannot simply get into the car to go somewhere anymore. There’s a funny thing about the reason for riding a bike. The best reason is “because cars are dirty and bad for the planet”. But the thing that made me change my mind is the cost of gas. In case you were sleeping, or you don’t drive a car, the price of gas being raised almost as if there were a monopoly on the industry…oh!…wait…I forgot…there is!

So in short, these bastards are selling gas to us at wildly increasing levels, and from what I read in the New York Times on Sunday, the thirst is growing. The best part, is that the infrastructure has been put in place to DEPEND on gasoline. The mindset of people traveling (to work, to the corner store, to Montreal to visit relatives, anywhere) has a major paradigm…it involves cars. The way our cities arteries are made, we cater to, build for, adjust for, and bow down to the almighty car. I die a little when I read a quote like this in the New York Times,

“The pursuit of oil will be just part of the energy challenge. The world’s total energy demand — including oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear power, as well as renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydro power — is set to rise by 65 percent over the next two decades, according to the I.E.A.

But petroleum, the dominant fuel of the 20th century, will remain the top energy source. It accounts for more than a third of the world’s total energy needs, ahead of coal and natural gas. Refined into gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel, oil has no viable substitute as a transportation fuel, and that is not likely to change much in the next 30 years.

The problem is that no one can say for sure where all this oil is going to come from.

That might not sound like such a bad thing for those concerned about carbon emissions and climate change. High prices might end up forcing people to conserve and encourage the development of alternatives. But the energy crunch might also result in a global scramble for resources, energy wars, and much higher energy prices.”

It’s something worth frowning at, but also something that makes me wonder how we’re going to think around it. Will humans be proactive? According to this article, we’re basically fucked. Which is the thing I’ve had burning me for a good long while now…where are these new technologies? The worry I have is that I have given too much credit to human beings and their ability to bring ideas to fruition in any realistic time-frame. I have been waiting for solar energy to be available for eons, it seems. And bubkiss. Nothing. I cannot even hope to have my municipality subsidize the cost of solar panels, even though Peterborough has figured out a way to do it…and it was years ago! They have a program called Green Up Peterborough, and they were able to offer solar panels for a short time, at a much smaller cost.

I want to tell you about a conversation I had at Phog recently.

There was a mish-mash of topics being tossed around, but most of all it was about gas. I had divulged that I was willing to traverse one of the most bike-unfriendly cities in Canada, (Windsor, Ontario) almost from one end to the other because of the cost of gas. I was hoping that I could be of some inspiration and example to others who have pondered the possibility.

What came up was in-depth ideas about how humans will just think of other ways around this problem. But having heard this discussion, and read The Times, I see that there is little hope of us adopting anything new. This was my argument at the time. We are such moronic creatures when it comes to proactive thought. We are going to suck the blackest teets of Mother Nature until we get all we can from her because of nothing more than money. Let’s dig somewhere else, somewhere that the environment won’t be harmed. Hey good news! We found a HUGE SEAM of new oil in (fill in the blank)! This is not good news. This is paradigm thinking. This is being stuck in old thought. Let’s do it without oil. Is that SO crazy a thing to think?

We don’t sit idly by because we like it the smell of gas when it spills on our shoes, and we won’t do it because we love shitty air quality, and we won’t do it because we love it when those stupid water fowl get caked in crude after an oil spill…no…but WE do it, us, WE DO IT because we are too lazy. We are too complacent to take our lives into our own hands and make a stand for something. We are scared to say,

“This oil thing is bull. You stuffed shirts, who are grandsons of the brilliant entrepreneurs who fooled everyone back when energy options were being weighed and people were trying to amass fortunes, yeah, you inheritors who have been lolling about on your huge chemical-laden lawns and palatial abodes doing NOTHING in the way of thinking outside of the box (or your wallets) have had enough. You’ve had enough of my lung tissue, and of my hard-earned money. You don’t get to tell me how to travel anymore. You don’t get to effect the way I survive. Now go away with your money. Go! Shoo! Go to an island where people who might be able to forgive you and your ancestors live too. Rub each other’s backs and chortle about all the life you sucked out of humanity and the planet. I mean, it’s a whole goddamn planet! It’s the only one we know, and with your helping hand, we are killing it. Nice. Ride off into the sunset on your shit-horse and never come back.”

A friend (acquaintance) of mine named Michael Louis Johnson, lives in Toronto, and LOVES bikes. He is not afraid. He is outspoken, and wonderful. The fearlessness of his beliefs manifests itself in his music (the band The New Kings), his lifestyle, and his actions. He is true. What I know of him is true. He lives his life truly based on his morals and ideas of how things should be. He’s not like me, spouting off on a blog. He spouts off by living the way he knows we all can if we want to. He was a part of this uber-cool attempt to get attention on the importance of bikes, and re-planning cities for bikes. *Funny note: In writing “replanning” I was informed by Spellcheck that it is not a recognized word. Which just goes to show you that our language needs to reflect our possibilities. Otherwise the possibility just doesn’t exist.* Check Michael’s event out HERE!

Unlike Michael, people just want to sit back and have a chance to buy cheap milk and bread, and everything else is hunky dory if we can keep reading about talentless fools who bob up and down on our TV sets and sing through our awful Top-40-station-supplied-radios. The soma is so evident to me the more that days carry on, and there are few others who are hip to the zombification of our poor world through entertainment fake-news shows like E-Talk Daily and Entertainment Tonight and Extra etc. We worry about brand-names, and mostly ourselves. We are number one. I am number one. I count. What you think of me counts, so I want the best stuff so you think I am great, greater, the greatest…

When I heard that woman at the TED Talks discuss her left-brain being shut down, I didn’t realize that it was more than just connecting to the oneness of the universe. Her description of the walls falling on her labeling, judging, measuring, worrying, thinking brain made me think of her experience to be more like reaching Nirvana than having a stroke. And during my discussion at Phog with my contemporaries, I realized that the way to prevent the oncoming world food shortages, furthering starvation and hunger, the oncoming water shortages we have to look forward to because of ignorant government policy in Canada and the U.S. (exampled in the story in this link), the energy crisis linked directly to the climate change epidemic (ecodemic), is to have that compassion that Jill Bolte Taylor had when she had that stroke.

Maybe if we feel that connection to other will we realize there is something worth saving. Maybe we will realize that people are magnificent, not because of who they are, what they buy, where they live, where they work, but because they are. That’s it. They are. If we gave a shit about this whatsoever, we might be on the right track toward making the proper decisions to save our skies, oceans, starving, sick, and our own souls.

To begin with, I’m riding my bike to work.

Indian or Native?

Indian.

I was listening to someone on the radio the other day, and I caught the story in mid-
flight. They were talking about an “Indian community” where a tragedy occurred. I immediately thought about a potential fire, earthquake or flood in India…you know, where Indians live?

But when the discussion continued, I realized they were talking about the shooting on the central Alberta reserve, where the 23-month-old toddler, Asia Saddleback, was shot in a drive-by incident by a 15 and 18 year old boys.

The incident spurred me to do more than shake my head, as my wife was present, and I spouted, “Can we not get names right yet?” I’m sure she was a little caught off-guard. I continued, “Scientists downgraded Pluto from being a planet to a ‘dwarf planet’ and no one makes the mistake anymore. Who doesn’t know that Pluto isn’t a planet? But we still use the term Indian! How long ago did we realize we didn’t live in India? How long did it take Columbus and Co. to realize that they weren’t in India? I just don’t get how we still use that term.”

I’m not someone who is oversensitive about this kind of thing. I just believe that terms have power. They have domain over our perceptions of people and groups of people. And when our First Nations who are “Natives” as they are native to Canada (so far as anyone in anthropology can postulate: i.e. they may have traveled to what is now The Americas when there was still a Bering land-bridge between both east and west hemispheres of the globe) are being called Indians, because explorers were ass-backwards and thinking they were in India, I think it is a foolish piece of our lexicon.

I doubt anyone can question the validity of Natives not being from India, nor living in India, yet we accept the label of Indian. Why? We let go of “planet” for Pluto, but we can’t seem to let go of Prince (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince), because the name change was stupid, contrived, and egotistically artsy. We saw the name-change as silly, and we kept the original. For the record, I love Prince, and his Superbowl halftime show clobbers every halftime show, since of before, so badly it’s embarrassing. I digress.

We also weren’t fooled by the Freedom Fries, 10-year-old-behavior charade, and we all just stuck with french fries. But these two instances were lame to begin with. They were clearly media events, designed to get attention. Calling Natives by the name Indians is a lack of sensitivity to a people who had more than their identity taken from them at the arrival of white explorers. Indian IS NOT akin to Freedom Fries. It is more important. It is not some publicity stunt to rally nationalism.

Very few people know that I went to El Salvador when I was 18. I remember very clearly the reaction to the term “American” whenever is slipped out of someone’s mouth. People in South or Central America are not particularly pleased with residents of The United States of America calling themselves “Americans” as if they’re the only people living in “America”. People in Central America, El Salvador for sure, see this is pompous, as they know that they are also Americans, except their name has the prefix “South” attached to it.

If people can be this sensitive to the naming of their national identity, or global identity, I don’t understand how the word Indian has not been actively discouraged in favour of the term Native.

We can respect the name changes of people like Mohammed Ali from Cassius Clay, Malcolm X from Malcolm Little, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar from Lew Alcindor, Pope John Paul II from Karol Wojtyla, because it seems that name changes pertaining to religious identity, or freedom from someone else’s name are legit. So how can Indian not be considered anything less than a non-identifier of First Nations Peoples or Natives?

Any clarifications on this subject would be appreciated. I ask these questions and rant like this to better understand. To understand how a nation, how a hemisphere fails to adopt a respectful, mindful, geographically accurate name for an unfairly marginalized group of original inhabitants of what we call Canada and the United States.