Big Joe [CENSORED]

redblacks-mascot-namingIt’s been tough being a football fan in Ottawa. The professional teams have been rather disappointing since… well, since about 20 minutes in the 1970s. The Rough Riders spent the last years/decades as perennial bottom feeders before folding. A few years later, we were teased with a new team only to be let down when it turned out to be a ploy to re-negotiate the collective bargaining agreement.

Then came the Renegades, followed shortly by owners who ran the Riders into the ground a decade earlier (as well as a subsequent team in Shreveport). As you might imagine, with such a track record, they ran the Renegades into the ground.

redblacksSo now we have the RedBlacks. Beyond some minor complaining about the name–which was rather overblown–things have been going well. Granted, there is some bad blood between the team and (supposed) presumptive starting Quarterback Kevin Glenn (well, presumptive until the signing of now face-of-the-franchise Quarterback Henry Burris), but these things happen.

Then there was the unveiling of the mascot, a big, slightly goofy lumberjack. Again despite some light ridicule, it was well done (enough). Logging has a big history in Ottawa and the team even uses a saw blade in the logo. On Friday, we were to learn the name of the mascot.

Surprisingly (considering our history), the team nailed it, anointing our brawny friend “Big Joe Mufferaw”.

For those who don’t know, Big Joe Mufferaw is, essentially, the Ottawa Valley’s Paul Bunyan–a larger-than-life hero from the lumbering days of Bytowne. Big Joe Mufferaw (orMufferaw Joe, as Stompin’ Tom Connors dubbed him) was inspired by real-life lumber tough guy Joseph Montferrand.

Montferrand was born in Montreal, but eventually made his way to our lovely city, and served as a bit of a protector of the francophone community. (You see, it wasn’t really a “lovely” city so much as a municipal bar fight with some logging thrown in by day).

So there we go. New team. New Quarterback. New mascot. Then this happened:

Ottawa Redblacks change name of ‘Big Joe Mufferaw’ mascot

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Atheists Don’t Exist? Seriously? [Updated]

The other day, local writer and community activist Charles Akben-Marchand tweeted a photo of the message board outside of Know Presbyterian Church*. It read:

God does not believe in atheists – therefore they do not exist

Here’s a close up:

(If the image doesn’t appear, click here.)

As you can see, this was tweeted by Sarah Clancy, local poet and atheist who will be performing at a VERSeFest event at Knox tomorrow. How very very sad it is that just as Knox is inviting the community into their building, they are pushing them away.

Thankfully, Ms. Clancy seems to be taking it all with good humour.

I hesitate to claim it an especially hateful message. It seems like a ridiculously poor attempt at wit and rhetoric, but intention aside, it is a theologically-unsound and exclusionary message. I don’t know how I’d feel about if I were an atheist (I’d probably laugh it off as the rantings of ignorant religionists sucking up to their imaginary sky-friend). As a Christian, I find it deeply offensive.

The sign leaves me in shock. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. Knox has a history of good works in the community. Let’s hope this bit of antagonism is just a blip.

Note: I have contact Knox Church asking the intention behind the sign, but I have not yet received a response. I will provide an update should I receive one.

Update: I have received a response form Knox Church. This was the initial response I received, but I traded further emails with Knox’s representative. His subsequent commentary was his own, not that of Knox, so I will not post it. Here was the initial response:

Your query was sent to me, as my committee is responsible for the sign.

I’m glad to see that you read it, and wondered – the intention  was in fact to stimulate readers to think about belief and existence.  Since it triggered a question, it seems to have succeeded in its purpose for you, if not others.

Thanks for your interest.

*Full disclosure: I am a member of a different Presbyterian church in Ottawa.

Taxis, Supply Management and Speculation

In response to my recent post, Taxis and Picket Lines, commenter Peter notes:

The same thing can be said for any government quota system. Ottawa Taxis and Ontario milk come to mind. While not really defending the quota system, it does afford some reliability in supply. It also gives workers a chance to find jobs with some chance of a retirement plan at the end. There have been many suggestions about how to change the system, particularly in Ottawa, there is some jurisprudence in this regard dating back to the 1980s, I believe. I am not really offering much here. The taking away of long established government rights seems to be always met with arguments of financial hardship should those rights be revoked. Buying back the licenses or quota from every taxi driver or milk farmer maybe one way to do it but how much are we willing to pay as a city or province to do this.

Peter is correct that the taxi quota system is similar to other supply management programs, and he is correct that the intent of Ottawa’s taxi service is to provide some reliability in supply. The current system reliably limits the supply of taxis. Were it not for the plate system, we would see more cabs on the roads, and customers would have less difficulty hailing a cab. The plate system is a giant give-away to the entrenched interests of the taxi industry, and the extract rents from customers and new entrants to the market. It is a rather sick operation that a relative few people can hold the market hostage until their ransom is paid. Continue reading

Lessons from a Blank Wall

IMG_1514The photo to the left depicts the mural on the side of Glebe Meat Market. It was painted last fall and livens up an otherwise blank wall. It’s a small thing , but it’s the sort of initiative that helps to make our streetscapes more pleasing. Kudos to them.

The picture also shows a bit of Glebe’s graffiti problem. Taggers left their mark on the Bell Canada thingama-box, but nothing on the mural. Half a block up Bank Street, there’s more graffiti. In a little alley north of Regent Street beside a now-empty storefront, vandals have left the following greeting:

IMG_1513It’s well-known but nonetheless noteworthy that graffiti artists tend towards blank canvases, often leaving murals in peace. This brings two thoughts.

First, it just reinforces that drab concrete monoliths are not only blights in their own right, but are invitations for defacing. It’s like visual white noise dotted with occasional screams. No one wants that.

Second, these vandals are not the indiscriminate menace to society that 1980s-based stereotypes would have us believe. These people are attacking businesses rather than residences. They will deface the wall of a commercial building in an alley, but not homes down the street… or even the white luxury car parked in the alley. There is a definite message in this, and one we shouldn’t ignore.

None of this is new, of course. It’s just that we rarely see these points made through such proximate juxtaposition.

Taxis and Picket Lines

Carleton University staff are on strike. Classes continue, but picket lines are set up. Unfortunately, by the first day, there had been an incident. A couple of picketers were hit by cars. The picketers are okay, thankfully, and I won’t judge whether it was malice or negligence (or a mixture of the two).

Of note to people heading to Carleton, OC Transpo buses are not going on to campus. The O-train and Para-Transpo will, but regular buses will not. I wondered what the reason was behind this decision, as the website gave no explanation. So I tweeted OC Transpo. Quickly, I received this response:

This is a reasonable explanation. It could be convenient cover so that OC Transpo can escape controversy. News reports also stated that some taxis would not cross the picket line, as some drivers are unionized.

Which is also reasonable…almost. Continue reading

Crosswalk Rant Update

After posting my recent rant about the pedestrian lights on Bank Street, I was informed of a rumour that the problem would soon be fixed and that the pedestrian lights would be fully synced with the traffic lights. So I contacted councillor David Churnushenko’s office and (almost immediately) got a response:

I am pleased to let you know that Staff have just advised our office that the signal changes are now in place and will be active from 7am-9pm Mon-Fri and between 9am-6pm on weekends.  This will be monitored and the times may be altered if needed.

I can confirm that this change happened the day after I wrote that post. I’m not saying that post had anything to do with the change, but the post didn’t have anything to do with the change.

We’ll see if this change is sufficient (or if the change needs to be made for all days and times), but it’s nice to see the city address this. And it’s nice to get such a quick response from a councillor’s office.

Get Trucks off Rideau Street

Two weeks ago, a transport truck was turning at the corner of Rideau Street and Waller Street. It was 6 am on Friday, February 21, and a pedestrian was about to die. The truck, presumably not seeing the person crossing the street, ran the woman over and continued on its way. It was a hit and run, but according to police it was more likely attributed to negligence rather than malice. The driver probably didn’t even know what he or she had done.

A while ago, I wrote about the failure of the Kettle Island Bridge project. All levels of government had agreed to it, and it would have been a boon to lowertown and the Rideau St. area. Sadly, Ontario cancelled. Yes, there is talk of a tunnel under downtown, but nothing is confirmed. Large transport trucks still rumble down Rideau Street, cutting through sections of downtown and lowertown.

It’s a problem of which most are aware. The trucks do not fit on the roads. Rideau and Waller are not designed for trucks. King Edward Avenue has been turned into a massive scar, destroying neighbourhoods in order to fit these trucks. But there’s really no reason for the trucks to even be there. Continue reading