Archive for August, 2005

Ayn Rand and the ALLDERBLOB: we’re both selfish

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Anyone heard of Ayn Rand?

She’s the author of a few books out there, notable among them one called The Fountainhead, which suggests that architecture is the last noble profession, the sole remaining testament (emphasis on testament) to man’s claim to godliness. She was a lover of Frank Wright [er, shouldn’t that be Frank Lloyd Wright? –ed.] She also purportedly wrote a collection of essays called The Virtue of Selfishness which states, according to my sources [wake up, people, he’s trusting Google again! –ed.] “self-interest, properly understood, is the standard of morality and selflessness is the deepest immorality. ”

Thing is, what is it to be selfish?

Is it selfish to ride a bike everywhere, taking advantage of one’s freedom to roll to cruise through green lights and places where you have the right-of-way as carefully as you do through red lights and stopsigns?


Is it selfish to use public transit when you feel like it, when the weather’s bad or when you need to travel with friends who don’t have a bike?


Is it selfish to rent a car when you want one, taking advantage of the proximity of rental agencies and the ridiculous subsidies given to car infrastructure in North America?


It’s getting to us, this “guilty” feeling, even knowing Ayn (may we call you Aynie?) backs us up with her formidable google me, baby charms [you mean intellect, right? –ed.]

Shouldn’t we do our part and buy a car? After all, the major automobile industries are taking such a hit. Word is Wagoner of GM (that genetically modified car company) may not get as big a bonus this year as he’s used to, thanks in part to the chronic “junk bond” status of the company he runs. Shouldn’t we who have the means all run out and “buy” a car? Of course by “buy” we mean a no-money-down four-year loan from the finance company run by the automobile manufacturer (the only part of many of them actually to operate in the black). By conservative standards, we who don’t own a car save $8,000 to 12,000 per year by our act of parsimony. Isn’t it pretty selfish of us to keep our money in our pocket?

Luckily, like that second-greatest American architect Frank Wright, we have Aynie on side.

News report: Cigarette companies allowed to advertise. What’s next? Car companies? This is a sick world, people.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

The news is depressing.

First, there’s the information that cigarette companies, which are responsible for the creation and marketing of a product that addicts and afflicts millions, will be allowed to promote themselves through jazz festivals and the like.

This does not bode well for the call to ban car advertising.

Second, there’s the information that each liter of gas that’s burned creates carbon dioxide enough to keep three trees busy, according to the Hinterland Who’s Who website:

Every time 1 litre of gasoline is burned, about 1.4 kilograms of oxygen are sucked from the air and are spewed out as over 2.25 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global ozone depletion. On average, it takes 3 trees to absorb and lock away those 2.25 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

And finally, from a website called the Shitegeist, we have the following observation about cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, which will not please either our car-lovin’ or our walking friends but which strikes us as a delightful summary of the state of affairs.

December 20, 2004
The Anthropology of Roads
Posted by barry

My anthropological study of roads emerged from my observation that motorists and pedestrians seem to ignore the existence of cyclists, as if they are not really present with them on the route ways they traverse.

Of course, this led me to suspect that much is going on at the subconscious level, where cyclists are being “filtered out”. It was also quite telling that when motorists and pedestrians do seem to notice cyclists, it is to engage in violent altercations with them.

The invention of the bicycle in 1861 represents the beginning of the modern era. Those who remained pedestrians after this watershed moment represent a backwards-looking and resentful tendency that has greeted modernity. Fear of technology, and a belief that everything was better in the past, has given rise to the pedestrian of today. It is notable that even though the noun “pedestrian” is neutral in meaning, the adjective “pedestrian” is exclusively pejorative. However, the pedestrians have been, in some sense, right to fear technology. Motorists, in the ascendant since the invention of the automobile in 1885, represent an extreme of modernity, that anti-human and antisocial tendency that threatens society.

In the motorist, we observe major psychological dysfunctions emerging from the ego.

Motorists are egotistical. Hence, the ego manifestation boxes (“cars”) in which they propel themselves about the planetary landscape. A car is always physically larger than the motorist’s own (human) body, as it is the physical manifestation of the ego that has inflated beyond the physical space the body occupies. Motorists will not always be aware of their ego problem, subconsciously inventing the “need” for a car, such as the placement of their habitat (“home”) far away from the place where they must forage (“work”).

Motorists are antisocial. Their immersion in their own egos results in a loss of interest in society. They are happy for people to be kept at a distance from one another, as they see interaction as mere ego-clash. Their own egos are so inflated that they see all egos as equally in need of ostentatious physical manifestation. Motorism promotes the redesign of towns, cities, countryside, and the planet in general to meet the needs of the car. In essence, the motorist wishes to replace the presence of interactive human society on the streets and greens with the constant traffic of machines. The car is thus more than an ego manifestation box – it also has an antisocial function, separating people from one another.

Motorists are subconsciously homicidal. If you are egotistical and antisocial, the next logical step is obviously going to be the desire to kill other human beings. The reason the car is so fast, and so heavily armoured, is to satisfy this subconscious urge to kill. The homicidal impulse is indulged with car ownership, which is the attainment of the power to kill. This feeling of power can be enough to keep the homicidal impulse tamed, but motorists find it difficult not to desire “accidents”, in which their urge to kill is finally sated. Motorists will always claim that cycling is “dangerous”, because they want to be able to murder cyclists with impunity, by making it look like the cyclist’s “fault”. But cycling is not inherently dangerous. Cyclists are only in danger from those people who profess it to be dangerous, i.e. those who deliberately wish to make it so.

The pedestrian leads generally a more positive existence than that of the motorist. The pedestrian is, after all, out in society interacting with other human beings, without the distancing effect of metal armour. But pedestrians are seriously psychologically dysfunctional, and these dysfunctions stem from their self-loathing. Unlike the rampantly egotistical motorist, the pedestrian suffers from a lack of ego. Pedestrians hate themselves, and that is why they don’t cycle. This is the explanation for their rejection of the bicycle’s invention in 1861: their self-hatred disallowed their participation in the elevation of quality of life that the bicycle represented. Pedestrians know cycling would be good for their health, yet they don’t cycle, taking perverse pleasure instead in their psycho-physical deterioration. They know too that cycling will save them the money they would otherwise waste on public transport, yet they don’t cycle – in fact, they will often choose a habitat at an awkward location in relation to their “work”, which guarantees them the necessity to use the most unpleasant form of public transport, as they enjoy being miserable, packed in like sardines with other miserablists. For many of these ego-depleted self-loathing individuals, ego-compensation can only be achieved through escape into the sickness of car purchase, which is, of course, over-compensation and leads to egotism and the other psychological dysfunctions of the motorist.

As I noted above, the pedestrian is not antisocial in the way that motorists are. But the pedestrian is antisocial in relation to the cyclist. The cyclist represents to pedestrians the symbol of everything a pedestrian could be: healthy, sane, thrifty etc. and this causes deep resentment. The pedestrian wishes to physically attack a cyclist, so will subconsciously filter out all visual and aural information relating to cyclists, only “noticing” the cyclist in an “accident”, or near-“accident” situation. The more desperately aggressive pedestrians will “notice” cyclists at traffic lights, zebra crossings or in parks, and will hope for some kind of altercation. Unlike the motorist, however, the pedestrian is not homicidal. Rather, the pedestrian prefers to enact beatings and maimings, and does not require the need for the certainty of killing power (unless, of course, the pedestrian goes on to become a motorist). The archetype of the pedestrian is the street thug. Pedestrians, if they are not already in a street gang, are sad, frustrated people itching to join one.

It seems to me that cyclists represents the “norm” in terms of healthy human psychology, and they exist in a dysfunctional society, sandwiched in between two frighteningly dysfunctional groups, motorists and pedestrians.

It’s a song. No, a poem. A song. A poem. It’s a PONG.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

Sometimes it isn’t enough to be all nice and friendly. Sometimes you have to name names and point fingers. Even if someone’s feelings get hurt.

Fact is, as David Engwicht put it so clearly, people have split personalities about cars. He theorizes that it’s an evolutionary trait, bred in by our conflicting ancestry as nomadic vs. farming peoples. The Nomad in us wants to roam the land, hunting and gathering (and pillaging and spoiling). The Farmer in us wants to protect and nurture where we live. The Nomad crosses the Farmer and there’s trouble.

It makes for a bad pong indeed.

The ALLDERBLOB presents its first in a series of PONGs. What is a Pong? Some know it as an early video game. Others cite its early meaning of “stink” or “very bad smell.” Here we mean it in a new way: a “poem/song” of unconstructive criticism: for delivery, think John Lydon, vintage P.i.L. Oh, and watch out for the tricky change-up in the third part:


You say you drive a car
You don’t know who you are

But from my bicycle
I say your name in full

You’re an asshole,
You drive a Volvo.
You make me scream,
You drive a GM.

You think you have it made
But you just make me sad

If you don’t change your ways
It’s not just you who pays

You are a fraud!
You drive a Ford!
You really suck!
You drive a truck

[here’s the tricky part–ed.]:

I don’t know how you live with yourself
If I were like you I would change
You have to see what I say is the truth
We can’t keep on with this binge

You are a fraud!
You drive a Ford!
You really suck!
You drive a truck

You’re an asshole,
You drive a Volvo.
You make me scream,
You drive a GM.

[repeat and fade out]


Monday, August 15th, 2005

In our once-a-month gag reflex check of the Nazional Past, we find on page FP6 (Saturday, August13, 2005) the news that GM, that genetically modified automobile company, has improved its media reputation considerably. Apparently, the Red Flag event analysis in the ALLDERBLOB was not weighted in the judge’s consideration.

The judge? A public relations hack outfit [sorry, that’s “media consultancy firm” to you –ed.] named Delahaye. According to them (and you could read it here, if only the dotcom had their connections up to snuff), GM’s reputation, sullied by their addiction to junk (bonds), has been buffed by the positive light thrown by media coverage of their inventory clearance sale–we mean their kind offer to let people buy devalued merchandise at (ahem) the same price their lucky employees pay (never mind how, last time we looked, the employee parking lot in Oshawa was filled with Toy Otas).

We say it doesn’t matter. You really cannot buff a turd until it’s fully fossilized. Give GM a few more years for that.

U.S. job cuts (lead by auto sector) on track to pass a million in 2005: (Toronto Globe and Mail) But bicycle sales are doing it without their mammy

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Three stories of note fell from the business pages of “Canada’s paper of record” the other day. They seemed to speak to each other, although it’s taken the ALLDERBLOB some time and labour to piece together the veil of connection.

1) According to the Globe and Mail‘s Tavia Grant, “If job cuts continue at their current pace, the year-end total [in the U.S.] will surpass last year’s 1,039,935 level and mark the fifth consecutive year that one million job cuts were announced.”

Is this bad news? Or are these figures, reported on August 4 2005 simply, “as some economists say” (Grant quotes exactly two) masking “robust job creation?” The fact is, every year the U.S. loses jobs, and it creates jobs. Somehow, “unemployment numbers” are actually “falling” down there.

From folks losing heart and giving up the job search entirely? From folks finding new McCrappy jobs in the service sector?

Actually, Tavia has a theory.

According to her story, job creation has averaged 180,ooo per month in the past year, as opposed to a monthly loss of some 200,ooo. And while (contrary to what one might expect) it’s in “health care and construction” where jobs are being created, it’s the automobile industry that is really feeling the pinch. “Since the start of the year… the auto industry [has announced] 72,598 job cuts.” The Ford Motor Co. is typical of the basket cases that comprise America’s biggest employer. It’s just announced plans to “make deeper cuts to its North American salaried work force than it had previously disclosed.”

In a perfect world, the auto industry would continue to slump, shedding jobs and political influence like those limbs of ancient saguaro hit by David Grundman, the original (Darwin award-winning) cactus plugging cowboy. Just hope they don’t fall on you.

2) Elsewhere in the same newspaper we see sorry news from Canada: “Big Three’s Canadian auto sales surge,” according to the Glob’s Greg Keenan, “auto industry reporter” [talk about yer reasons to shoot yourself –ed.] The story is, in response to the so-called “red flag” event (discussed here some weeks back) of Ford, GM and Chrysler, vehicle sales by the “Big Three” were up an average of 25% in July, compared with the year previous.

So the advertised deep price cuts paid off?

Well, maybe. But maybe not.

Turns out vehicle sales at BMW were up 43%, while at Mercedes Benz it was 57%. No one saw either of those companies advertising “employee prices” (although no doubt they did something just as condescending).

Nonetheless, according to Keenan, “[a] key question is what will happen to the Big Three sales when they drop their employee discount programs… .” He turns to a carhead spokesmodel [that’s “consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates” to you –ed.] for the last word: “It will take a month or two of heavy marketing [our emphasis] to convince buyers that they’re still getting good deals” (after the red flag is pulled down).

More heavy marketing. Well, ain’t that peachy. And quelle surprise. The position of the Allderblob is well known: there ought to be a law against heavy marketing in public places. At least for the automobile.

3) Meanwhile, almost lost in the shuffle, the same issue of the Glum and Bale(ful) reports in a Reuters story, “Armstrong’s success filters down to U.S. bicycle industry,” that

“The struggling U.S. automobile industry may do well to take some lessons from its non-motorized brethren because bicycles are selling like hotcakes.

“Americans purchased more bicycles than new cars and trucks combined in the past year — and all without employee discounts or zero-per-cent financing.”

Lance Armstrong? Or Peak Oil?

Fact is, the 19 million bicycles sold inthe U.S. last year is just one point shy of the 20 million sold yearly “during the oil embargo of the early 1970s,” according to Tim Blumenthal of “Bikes Belong,” a “national [bicycle] industry association” (J.D. Power, sit down!).

Ah, the oil embargo of the early 1970s. The glory days. The Allderblob’s formative years, when Scientific American could proudly tell us of the marvelous efficiency (unrivalled in nature) of the bicycle (March, 1973). When Ivan Illich could write in a national newspaper (Yeah, I know, it was a French one) of the “social necessity” of the bicycle: “High speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive. A true choice among practical policies and of desirable social relations is possible only where speed is restrained. Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.”

Are we coming back to our senses? Or does the crisis of crisis have to deepen?

To Australia’s Tony Fry, author of Defuturing, we turn for the last word (we will let you make sense of it): “Consider this: unsustainability has a psychology. Two examples: on the one hand unsustainability is manifested in the technocentric and instrumentalised lives of many millions of people who have ever diminishing agency over their workplace circumstances, but are compensated by ‘the freedom to consume’ (one could again cite Henry Ford’s 1913 policy of high wages for dumb work as one of the key designing moments of this trajectory). On the other hand, and more crassly, unsustainability is evident in the continued abandonment to abject poverty of ever more of the world’s population as numbers grow, as humanism fails and in, for instance, many parts of Africa the structure of the State and the social fabric of society completely breaks down. Here is the psychology of the abandoned in an inoperative community of total dysfunction, but equally here is the psychology of lack of concern, of oversight, of assumed unconnectedness that is one confirmation of the inoperative community at large. ”

ALLDERBLOB loses marbles: critics jeer as hasty clean-up ensues in summer heat. “Lookit those pasty legs” a common cry

Monday, August 1st, 2005

It’s old news apparently, but since we don’t (as society) have a category of nightly entertainment called “olds,” old news is still “news–” at least to them as haven’t heard it before.

No, we’re not talking about Michael Jackson [who? –ed.] ‘s acquittal earlier this year, although sadly the ALLDERBLOB missed comment on that one.

We’re not talking about Dean Kamen’s Segway, that upright wheelchair with the self-righting mode (at least until its batteries run low or some Yeah, that's really George W. Bush, the Commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful armed forces, falling off a Segway. doofus gets aboard) that was announced with such fanfare back in 2001. It’s true, the ALLDERBLOB has yet to write about the Segway either.

And no, we’re not even talking about TAPT, that sugar substitute folks all over England are cooking up in their bathtubs, the “Ruckus in a Rucksack” available to anyone for the price of a decent meal for two (not including vino or gratuity)–although that’s another bit of old news that those funny Britons are making new again.

It’s something else that surfaced in 2001 or so, at least as shown by our relentless research [shurely you mean your Google on the topic? –ed].

We mean that most elusive of inventions, the car that would lead us to question our stand that all cars are evil; that no car be advertised, anywhere, ever. The car that would make us think twice about our rage against the machine. The car, in short, that would shut the ALLDERBLOB’s yap for good: the car we could see ourselves buying.

Back in 2001, you see, some European car-head named Guy Negre invented a method of using compressed air to fire a piston, and developed it, filing a few patents along the way, to the end of building a “zero-pollution car.”

Negre’s CAT (compressed air technology)-car, or “Aircar,” seems this year to be close to production. Weighing some 720 kg, it’s just six inches longer than a Daimler-Chrysler “Smart Car,” but able to seat three and providing greater trunk space. Its power-source is a tank of compressed air.

Air, like any gas, cools when compressed. The release of the compressed gas, at -15 Celsius, moves a piston by a heat transfer process akin, in this reader’s imagination, to the power created by the mysterious Stirling engine. As a side benefit, this cold air emission may be circulated within the cabin, if needed, to provide “air conditioning” for the driver and occupants. It’s just air after all. You can breathe it.

The Aircar as designed would have a range of 120 miles per tank of air, and a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. Or is that 120 km at 60 km per hour. Seems no one is in agreement on that [get it together you people! –ed].

In any case, if it worked, and if the inventor’s proposed filling stations were available, a three-minute fill-up (costing 1.5 euros, or approximately $CDN 3.00, according to the fantasy) would suffice for the needs of most citydwellers for an average day’s driving.

So is the ALLDERBLOB ready to sign up?

Not so fast.

Consider the airtank, for starters. This tank would need to be filled at a specialized station, not yet in existence, according to the inventor. Well that’s fine–it’s just compressed air after all, not like you have to split the atom to get that…or do you? The alternative to the special station, as described by the inventor, is a home air compressor run on standard electricity–a process that would take four hours continuous electricity use, we’re told. Okay, that’s glitch number one: electricity requires coal, or nukes, or enviro-destructing hydro power, at least in Canada. Hmm. Can we look beyond that, to a future world, where wind and solar power provides all our electrical needs? [you’ve lost me –ed].

But then there is the Stirling engine-like performance the cooled compressed air theoretically provides, this so-called “heat transfer:” would it work when ambient air temperature is -20 C? That is to say, during a typical January night in Toronto? This is not a question addressed on the developer’s website, but nevermind [please. –ed].

The critical question, however, is that of urban design. The problem with the “aircar,” as with any car, is the space it takes up. The space it takes up ferrying its (typically) lone occupant to Starbucks. The space it takes up downtown in a parking lot, The space it takes up home in the driveway. The spake it takes up enroute. It wouldn’t be so bad if it could just use that space when needed. That is, if the space the car takes up could somehow roll up on itself and return to nature, to flowers or forest when the car isn’t present. But actually, that doesn’t happen. The space a car takes up is three-fold: the empty place it leaves behind, the empty place it’s going to, and the place it fills at each point along the way. It’s even worse than that, because our society’s functioning is predicated on their being an empty parking space available wherever you go. If not, someone’s wasting your tax dollars.

Compressed air power or no, the point is still this: what a stupid waste of space.

Now, if that magical tank of air could power a bicycle, we might have something to talk about [wait a minute–isn’t that what lungs are for? –ed].