Sunday, September 16, 2007

In a coffeeshop, on a corner

A few nights ago, I was sitting inside a coffeeshop downtown.

Outside, in front of the garbage bin, was a panhandler, trying desperately to get a bit of rest while he sat unassumingly with a cup between his legs.

He knew that people would snub him as they walk past, ignoring his sign that asked for spare change for this "unemployable" man.

I sat in the coffeeshop, reading the papers and sipping on my tea, catching up on some paperwork, all the while keeping an eye out for him.

For most of the hour and a half I sat there, only one person put any change in his cup. A few people stopped or cocked their necks as they passed. Most people walked by without even noticing him, as though he were somebody else's problem.

A man in a sweater came by and left a paper bag in the resting man's lap. The bag likely held a sandwich or a bagel.

The panhandler looked up and thanked the man. The man waved back and smiled, then each returned to what they had been doing.

I walked up to the man in the sweater. I thanked him, too.

- RG>

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why We Fight - And why we must SMAP

There is a very good documentary called "Why We Fight". You can watch it in four parts on YouTube at This Link. I've also embedded part one into this post, below.

Among the other storylines, including President Eisenhower's worryingly accurate warning about the power of the Military-Industrial complex, is one of a retired New York Police Department sergeant, whose son worked in the World Trade Center and died on 9/11.

This officer's story shows how important messages like "Saddam Hussein wasn't behind 9/11" can be hidden behind carefully crafted campaigns and slogans. This is important in the "Support Our Troops" ribbon debate, because the message "You don't have to support the war to support the troops" is another one that isn't obvious when you see the ribbons.

On Wednesday morning, when I go out there with a couple of buddies with "Support Motherhood and Apple Pie" paraphernalia, I will be proving a similar point. I expect many people to get angry at us. And their anger will not be because we are supporting Motherhood and Apple Pie. Their anger will be at the unwritten message of our ribbons.

Of course, the message behind my campaign is that "Support Our Troops" ribbons should not be on police cars. While I disagree with them, I don't have any problem with the right of individuals to put these ribbons on their own--private--vehicles.

If people come away from my demonstration thinking that my ribbons mean anything other than "Support Our Troops Ribbons Shouldn't Be On Police Cars," then I will have proven my point: that the ribbons say more than just what they say.

And therefore, they don't belong on our cruisers.

Here is part 1 of the documentary Why We Fight:

I encourage you to support the filmmakers by purchasing a DVD of the documentary. (I am unaffiliated with them or the documentary)

- RG>

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Support Motherhood and Apple Pie this Wednesday!

At this Wednesday's City Council meeting (agenda), the following item is listed:

11. Notices of Motion (For Consideration at Subsequent Meeting)


Moved by Councillor G. Brooks

Seconded by Councillor R. Jellett

WHEREAS Canadian troops and emergency services workers selflessly perform their duties for Canadians everyday;

AND WHEREAS Canadian troops and emergency services workers sometimes suffer injury or sacrifice their lives for other Canadians;

AND WHEREAS the Council of the City of Ottawa appreciates the service and sacrifice of Canadian troops and emergency services workers, wherever they may be serving at home or around the world;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Ottawa authorizes the use of ‘Support Our Troops’ decals on city vehicles;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Ottawa supports the decision of the Chief of the Ottawa Police Service to authorize the use of ‘Support Our Troops’ decals on police vehicles.

Don't be fooled. Even though it says "for consideration at subsequent meeting", it is entirely likely that they will vote to waive the rules of procedure, and consider it at Wednesday's meeting. They tried the same thing two weeks ago, but failed to get the three-fourths support needed to consider it then and there. If they do push it through, the decision would be final. Wednesday may be our only chance to fight it.

That's why on Wednesday, I'll be at City Hall with my red "Support Motherhood and Apple Pie" t-shirt, and my posters, stickers, and cards with the same logo.

I welcome you to download and print your own as well. Click on the image below for a high-resolution .png graphic:

While the ribbons are amusing, the issue is very serious. Just as with the Flying Spaghetti Monster movement. If you don't show your support for motherhood and apple pie, then this is what will happen to the debate on Afghanistan:

E-mail me ( if you want pdf versions of the ribbon graphics, including 3-up and 6-up versions. These are vector-based graphics, so they don't get fuzzy as you increase their size.

- RG>

Monday, September 03, 2007

Emergency parade!

I'm used to hearing loud, eclectic music from the neighbours across the street, but this time it something was different. Here's what I wrote on IRC:

12:39 Dixieland!
12:39 Across the street!
12:39 Live, I think!
12:39 Must investigate!
12:39 Yay! Labour Day Parade!

Indeed, it was true! A parade going by the house.

So I grabbed my hammer, smashed the front off the box in my kitchen that says "IN CASE OF PARADE, BREAK GLASS", grabbed my parade bike and went out to join in the fun!

In under ten minutes, I was in amidst the action, bringing joy and tears to children and adults alike!

I passed the Amalgamated Transit Union guys, busted past the Will Murray/NDP folks, and chatted with one of the ladies of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Before the turn onto Bronson, there was a bit of a holdup, so I did a few circles and tricks on my bike and posted for some photos.

Around the corner, there was another holdup, and the Sgt. Crozier made a bunch of terrible puns about my bowling pin helmet. I had heard the "on strike" one before, but admittedly, never in a Labour Day parade.

I chatted with Councillor Clive Doucet (I also chatted with Coun. Doug Thompson, who I believe had no clue who I was) as well as with the Dixieland players. They said they get together once a year for this parade. I proved my knowledge of the Ottawa Dixieland scene by mentioning pointing out that the RCMP Dixieland band plays across from Parliament Hill on Friday and Saturday mornings.

I got into the park, and someone offered to take my photo. How could I not oblige!

Happy Labor Dabor.

- RG>

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Support our troops", preview

On the night of August 24, as I was about to go to sleep at 2 am, I decided to check out the Ottawa Citizen's news feed to occupy me for a couple more minutes before going to sleep.

I didn't get to sleep until 8:30 am on Saturday.

It was this article that did it. Police Chief Vernon White has installed 180 yellow "support-our-troops" ribbons onto the back of municipal police cars.

It was not just that that pissed me off, but Mayor Larry O'Brien's ignorant stance expressed in the CBC article on the topic (this is the second night in a row that his ignorance lost me sleep, as I felt compelled to write an anti-O'Brien letter to the editor on Thursday morning at 2 am, which went into Friday's paper).

It seemed inherent to me that the "Support Our Troops" slogan implies support for the mission in Afghanistan, despite O'Brien's claim that they were semantically distinct. I wrote out a whole essay-length blog post about it, until I realized at 6am that I didn't have to prove that the two were the same to argue logically that the "Support Our Troops" slogan stifles dissent.

Support for Cullen is very weak, especially among councillors. Council narrowly avoided discussing it at last Council meeting, not getting the required number of votes to put it on the day's agenda without notice. The media have since reported that it will be up for discussion at the September 12 meeting of Council.

In today's Ottawa Citizen, Janice Kennedy has an editorial titled Why I don't wear red, which goes over some of the reasons why the ribbons are political. That will serve as some food for thought until I prepare and post my essay.

In the meantime, please check out this clever and poignant video video.

Until I get the second draft of the essay up, please consider this "1000-word" version:

- RG>