Archive for October, 2005

Pong of a Smart Car

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

We like those little boxes people are driving around, the ones with the modified peace signs on the grill. Like, Peas, man. But when we pass them on our bicycle where they’re caught in gridlock just like their bigger cousins, we shake our heads with rue.

The simple fact is, there are too many cars. And that’s not smart.

Pong of a Smart Car

You drive a Smart Car
But you won’t get far
Cause cars are everywhere

Life’s not a highway
It’s a parkway
Where the cars are stuck in tar.

Gospel of the Car Ad: “Got Kids? Need Car.”

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Today’s Toronto Star presented a lovingly written first person account, by one Gideon Forman, of his experience bringing up children in Toronto. Here’s the kicker: The guy doesn’t even own a car.

I don’t have a car. I don’t even know how to drive. Nearly every day, I thank God for this situation.

Is this messed up or what?

Actually, it’s not so unusual. Fact is, over half of the households in the core of Toronto are “without access to a car” (in the parlance of the statistical types who compile this sort of info). This proportion is even higher in cities like New York, where density and public transit is that much greater. And the proportion of carfree households grows by leaps and bounds when you leave North America.

Households with cars are an aberation.

Contrary to the Gospel of the Car Ad, The car is not necessary to having a family.

Forman’s story is pretty compelling. On the one hand, he writes about his two children, ages 11 and 8, and his journeys with them, on foot and by public transit, to points near and far across Toronto. On these trips he is able to hold conversations and hands with them, touching their lives in a way someone driving a car is never able to.

When we go walking, we hold hands. I enjoy the warmth and pressure of their fingers pressing my knuckles.

On the other hand, Forman writes with wry sadness about his own upbringing, in New York City, where his father would drive him and his sister everywhere:

When I was a child in father’s car, the search for parking was an activity in itself, a ritual, a category. I remember times we drove downtown intending to visit the Museum of Modern Art. We circled the block repeatedly seeking a spot. We drove a few blocks afield east. We drove a few west. And then we turned around and headed home. There was no place to put the station wagon.

Forman is doing his kids a huge favour in walking them to their varied destinations, and in a way he hasn’t written about here.

According to the philosopher and educator Rudolph Steiner, children absorb knowledge from their surroundings in a specific pattern, one that contributes to the development of their will.

Steiner encouraged parents to model behaviour that shows how one’s actions in the world produce results: sweeping the floor clean is such an action, while plugging in a vacuum cleaner is not. Singing or telling a story is such an action, while turning on the television or the radio is not.

Similarly, we hold that walking or bicycling with one’s child is such an action, while pushing the accelerator pedal is not.

Forman’s article, with its simultaneous air of wistfulness and pleasure, mirrors our own experience. Where he regrets his father using the car as an excuse to not connect, we remember with pleasure our own father bumping us over sidewalk curbs as we sat in the childseat on his bicycle while he rode us to school.

We hope Forman has good memories of his childhood to balance the wistful ones, and we congratulate him on making choices to ensure his own kids’ memories will include much that shows love and commitment.

Cops Job Action in Toronto? This calls for a Pong!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Ah, the lonely Pong. How long has it been since we cast ourselves adrift on your stinking shores.

Rhetoric aside, we note that the Toronto Polite Force [that’s not polite–ed] has taken to wearing ball caps in protest against the city’s negotiating stance that’s asking them to, what, only accept 3% a month salary increase? Not idle their cars in the bikelane? Leave Critical Mass alone? Start taking the crime of advertising cars seriously?

Whatever it is, they don’t like it, and they’re wearing ball caps. Gable, the Toronto Gob and Male cartoonist whose work we find at once austere and bold, held that next they’ll be wearing tutus as the protest deepens.

In fact it’s not been anything like that–they say they’ll be no longer policing “pro-actively” [ticker-tape update: Tim Hortons stock falls–ed.] but only responding to 9/11 calls [shurely you mean “911”–ed.].

What this means in the scary new world of Toronto remains to be seen. The cops have been so effective against teenager gang members killing each other with guns and otherwise these past few months (not) that their absence in a “proactive” way must be putting the fear of dog into the good burgers of Toronto. All over the city law-abiding folks must be defecating in their pants and running for cover.

However rest assured people, the cops are still on the scene.

Why just today, as we struggled with two partial sheets of nail-ridden old plywood, balancing them on our bicycle from where we found them by a demolition project at Gerrard and Dundas and walking them, with much effort, up the lonely hill to chez Allderblob for our a sad and lonely shed on the shores of chez allderblob shed project, a bored cop trolled past in his patrol car not once but twice, looking, as they say, for trouble.

1st Cop: There’s a guy with a couple sheets of wrecky old plywood, struggling up the hill with his bicycle. Better keep an eye on him in case he’s packing.

2nd Cop: (munch munch gulp swallow) He’s prolly packing all right. He’s prolly moving. He’s prolly got a box or sommat.

1st Cop: No, you dolt, I mean packing, as in, carrying.

2nd Cop: Garsh! He’s sure carrying all right. Lookit them sheets o’ plywood. They got nails and everything!

1st Cop: Let’s drive by real slow and see if he does anything.

2nd Cop: Oh, he’s doing something all right, he’s walking his bike. Lookit, he’s halfway up the hill already.

1st Cop: Jeesus Cheech, you’re really as dumb as they say you are, aren’t you?

2nd Cop: (munch munch).

In honour of the Toronto Police force, who so well “Serve and Protect” (themselves at least), we deliver the following:

Pong of a Cop

You drive a cop car
You want to stop crimes
You gotta start by stopping cars

Cause every car you
Let them sell you
Pass a crime against our time.

Thank you . Thank you. We owe everything to Kelly Joe Phelps and Danielle Miraglia, each of whom in their own way caused swooning as they performed last night at Hugh’s Room on Dundas West. Without them we’d be nothing.

Selling a car? Send in the Clowns!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

An ever-watchful member of the International Bicycle Conspiracy apprised us of the following exchange (found here):

Seems an advertising company in the UK thought they could hire the folks at CIRCA (the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army) to film a TV commercial where the clowns, dressed as chauffer and car owner, fight for the driver’s seat of a new Citroen [rhymes with “pitted groin,” from the PONG of the same name–ed.].

Standard stuff of clowns, would be very funny, etc. Can you see it?

But wait a minute. Who or what is CIRCA? What is the “Clown Army”?

We saw them on the front page of the newspaper not long ago battling for attention at the G-8 summit in Edinburgh. They’re not the hired clowns you’re looking for, Lucy. In fact, we rather think you’ve missed the point.

The Clown Army response (from one “Kolonel Klepto” [shurely not the Klepto of Suharto regime fame–no, that’s Colonel with a “C”–ed.]) to the ad agency’s request is so stunningly beautiful we reproduce it below in full.

dear lucy

thank you for your wonderful offer to get us to help promote the motor car —

we at circa are so excited–you see clowns love cars–especially little ones which we can all squeeze into and then fall out of–again and again–normally our cars are made of badly painted cardboard that falls apart in the rain…..

But you seem to be wanting us to help sell beautiful shiny metal cars ooohhh ahhhhh big hard ones that drive very fast and need special tarmac roads ( rather than circus rings).

So exciting–so glamorous these beautiful stylish cars that run children over splitting their skulls, or breaking their spines in two!

Are we really going to help sell Big BIG important sexy cars that hit other cars and bicycles and cause huge bloody accidents with guts and brains splattered in very un-clownlike ways across the tarmac?

We are always surprised at CIRCA that despite the fact that cars kill over a million people every year, they are not seen as terrorising our communities like those horrible people that you see on the TV all the time with planes and rucksacks as weapons!

We are also always perturbed at the fact that cars are still promoted by lovely “arty” advertisers as desirable and fashionable objects –despite the fact that they are major contributors to global warming which (as we are seeing with the hurricanes, heat waves and floods) is going to kill and destroy more and more things every year–even our lovely government has claimed (and never acted on) that global warming is “a greater global threat than terrorism.”

But maybe you like droughts and deserts and watching the flood waters rise and maybe you think these are beautiful things, dramatic and powerful images of modernity— just like the cars you work so so so hard to sell to people who are mostly in debt and can’t even afford them.

Maybe it’s the fact that cars need so much oil that you like–that glistening shiny black stuff, all slippery and sexy and sensual, that gushes out of the ground like a huge explosive orgasmic torrent… to us clowns it reminds us of those wonderful cream pie fights all dripping and gooieeeee — it’s just such a shame that with oil comes more pollution, indigenous people getting cancer, jungles turned to toxic waste, lots of lakes dying and river and sea life disappearing and of course oil’s favourite partner in crime WAR !!

It’s such a shame that those lovely American soldiers killed 140,000 people in Iraq and still can’t get the oil (they went for in the first place) flowing faster than the blood.

OH dear what are we going to put in our nice shiny cars with less and less oil around….

Maybe its just that you hate local shops and want more and more malls and out of town supermarkets to ravage our countryside all especially designed for the great car economy (we clowns despite our big shoes spend most of our time walking and on bicycles, which are so energy efficient and a lot more sexy than those silly death machines that will one day be laughed at by history for being the most ridiculous way to go from a to b and the most destructive bits of metal every invented ( apart from missiles and bullets of course which do tend to be friendly with cars as they more often than not are involved in oil wars !) ).

Maybe, lucy, this is all a joke and you really do care about the future of the planet and our (or maybe even your) children ( I hope they don’t have asthma–another lovely gift that cars bring them).

Once upon a time there was the slave trade; many people refused to work for companies that supported it. They believed that human rights were more important than profit and they realised that to work for what is wrong is wrong and to support violence is not a nice thing at all..

Please think about all this. Please go home tonight and do some research into the effect of cars and oil on our lives and please look in the mirror in the morning–look deep into your eyes (eye contact is key for clowning) and try to say to yourself: “I’m doing the right thing…”

Dear lucy–thanks for the offer but we would never help promote such a stupid thing–we love to be stupid but our stupidity is based on dignity and love and a deep respect for human beings and the planet; unfortunately being part of the advertising industry does not seem to match up to our desires.

yours, kolonel Klepto

The Advertising of Automobiles should be Illegal

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

If it isn’t clear to our readers by now, The ALLDERBLOB has taken a stand in the shifting sands of time, and, ever wary of the dust that blows over our shoes, we have to keep moving.

Our title blob has therefore changed to a more gritty stance: no more pussy-footing around, not the question but the statement! Because it’s past time to ban automobile advertising.

We offer the following reminder of our position, for your delectation:

It’s Past Time

Let’s consider the products a person might consume legally that could do them harm. Smoking and drinking come to mind. The misuse of prescription drugs or firearms are two other ways people get hurt all the time.

Society acknowledges these potentially harmful activities; it governs what age one can smoke or drink, who can own or fire a gun, and how medication is distributed. It is careful about where and under what circumstances these products may be used: you can’t buy booze before 11 a.m. in Toronto bars, for example, and smoking indoors has been all but outlawed in many North American communities. Want to fire a gun? You will need a hunting license, or at least a designated firing range. Medication, of course, is only available by prescription, carefully regulated by professionals.

“Standards and guidelines” also apply to the advertising and promotion of these potentially harmful products. Advertising is mostly self-regulated, but by law Canadian television ads cannot show alcohol actually being consumed, while Big Tobacco, to the consternation of numerous arts organizations and others, has been severely curtailed in the way it can promote its products. Pharmaceutical companies dance around regulations about how they can market their products, while an ad that “glamorises or normalises guns and gun culture, or makes it appear that guns are fun or cool” would be outlawed according to U.K. guidelines. In fact it’s rare to see guns advertised in Canada at all, except in single-interest magazines, usually originating in the U.S. If you don’t like the way a product is advertised, you can complain to Advertising Standards Canada, and they will investigate your complaint.

But What About the Car?

It’s in the context of this climate of regulation that we come with some surprise to the subject of the automobile. Here is an industry that truly bears investigation. Like alcohol, tobacco and firearms, cars hurt people and their use is regulated, licensed and limited. Despite this, car use is linked to an “epidemic of obesity” in North America, as well as heart and lung disease. If you or a loved one are not among the 16,000-plus victims per year the Canadian Medical Association claims die prematurely from smog in Canada, your lungs are nonetheless compromised everywhere at street level by the car. The list of car-related emissions doesn’t stop at the exhaust pipe though; even “non-polluting” electric cars create a pall of rubber particles from their wheels, along with the fine metalic and mineral dust from brake pads. We all breathe this stuff in, and eat it on our fruits and vegetables. The spreading of salt on winter roads is another source of toxins to consider, an offshoot of car-drivers’ need to hide from the seasons. And of course, any list of “car victims” must include the 42,000 people, give or take a few thousand, who are killed in car crashes each year in North America–a jetplane load every day (where is the “war on terror” when you need it most?)!

Emissions from the production and use of automobiles are a prime factor in climate change. Significantly, those scientists who doubt the impact of human activity on the global climate are likely to have had their research paid for (according to a study published in Mother Jones magazine this year) by petroleum companies–another reason to be concerned about the car industry, needless to say.

Finally, there’s the whole question of urban sprawl, with its requisite desecration of farmland and wilderness, and its accompanying visual blight. None of this would be possible or “desirable” without the car.

Everyone Hates Cars.

In short, the automobile creates conditions and situations every bit as detrimental to society as any other “controlled” substance. Everyone recognizes the destructive patterns of “car culture:” anywhere you see one-way traffic calming mazes, speed humps, and cul-de-sacs, you see acknowledgement of the need to control the spread of the car. Even the most die-hard car fanatic would not want one running in the living room. Our city councillors, in their wisdom, have passed a law preventing drive-thru facilities near residential neighbourhoods. The language of Toronto’s Official Plan, and others, speaks of car “dependency,” a word that resonates with the notion of addiction (and cure).

Indeed, we have alcoholism and tobacco addiction, both considered medical conditions requiring treatment. Isn’t it time we looked at car dependency with the same lens? Why do we allow the automobile industry such wide latitude in its advertising? It is past time for government to take on the monster of car dependency in a serious way: it’s time to ban the advertisement and promotion of the automobile outright.

A Necessary Evil?

Now, some say this could never happen. They point to the thousands of jobs the auto industry provides. The auto may be “evil,” they say, but it’s a “necessary” evil.

But these observations beg the question about advertising. The debate is really about the big picture, the long view: what kind of society do we want to inhabit? To allow the advertisement of automobiles sends a message that overrides any bumf in any “Official Plan” of Toronto or anywhere. To allow promotions like the Molson Indy (unofficial slogan: “Drink Beer, Drive Fast”) overrides any message about healthy living (not to mention drinking and driving) promoted elsewhere by our government. Consider:

Children who grow up exposed to cigarette ads will think cigarettes are fine.

Ads showing people drinking and having fun undermine the message society wants to send about alcoholism.

The same holds for ads promoting cars. No matter what the day’s news tells kids about the ills of auto dependency, the accompanying 30-second fantasy or full-page newspaper ad showing the car as a “necessary fact of nature” delivers impressionable minds with a knockout punch that overrides reality.

So What?

And what will happen if car advertising is banned? Consider the following three questions: Will society as we know it cease to function? Will automobile companies go backrupt (any sooner?) Will ad agencies, TV, newspaper and other media need to find other source of commercial revenue?

We don’t have answers. We only know in the long run, if society is truly to live up to its war of words on car culture, those three questions deserve a “yes.” It will be a painful transition for some. The only question is truly, “when do we start?”

The Time to Start was Yesterday.

It’s time for government at the highest levels to introduce a ban on automobile advertisements.