Archive for March, 2006

GM Encourages diddling among the general public: advertising: it’s not just for artists anymore

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

It’s come to the attention of the ALLDERBLOB that GM [yes, that genetically modified car company –ed.] encourages the old “heave-ho” on a website especially set up for the frustrated car pornographer among us.

We first heard about this through Antonia Zerbisias, our colleague at the Toronto Star [who you kiddin’? –ed.] who alluded cryptically to it here.

So, could it be true that in all our rants and complaints about the pernicious effect of the automobile advertisement on society that we are secretly longing for our own chance in the spotlight? Are we, like so many of those “artists who have nothing to say” just waiting for our chance to mumble on a national stage? Is it music we want? Is it flashy images that we can put our own words to? Is it a text editor that can’t talk back?

Well, GM is giving it us.

What will we do with the opportunity? Will we break the back of the evildoer? Will we destroy the corporation that has done so much to destroy this planet?

Or will we just snap our fingers along with the catchy tunes, our eyes glazed over in priapic ecstacy?

You be the judge.

Better, you be the jury, if you get what we mean [a wink is as good as a nod, say no more, say no more –ed.].

Here’s our version of the GM Tahoe–and here’s the one Zerbisias passed along (look now, by morn it may be gone…). But don’t stop at looking. Looking’s nothing. You gotta feel the rush yourself. You gotta make your own ad.

After all, there’s nothing like the quick frisson of pleasure that making a car ad can give you, to get the blood racing.

John Kennedy Toole (December 17, 1937 – March 26, 1969) victim of the automobile

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

Andy Singer drawing. Your freedom to kill me stops where you commit suicide

While it may perhaps be questionable to refer to John Kennedy Toole, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, as “a victim of the automobile,” it is nonetheless true that had the automobile never been invented Toole would have had to invent some other means of suicide.

Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969, after disappearing from New Orleans, by putting one end of a garden hose into the exhaust pipe of his car and the other into the window of the car in which he was sitting.

We at the ALLDERBLOB treasure our copy of A Confederacy of Dunces. That it is our touchstone for an understanding of New Orleans was previously mentioned on these pages. The fact that we own one of the few signed copies known to exist [please don’t start with me –ed.] only increases its value to us. Once a year on this, the anniversary of Toole’s suicide, we take it from its safety deposit box, blow the dust from its pages, and delve at random into its shining brilliance.

Thus, from chapter 1:

“You got any identification, mister?” the policeman asked in a voice that hoped that Ignatius was officially unidentified.

“What?” Ignatius looked down upon the badge on the blue cap. “Who are you?”

“Let me see your driver’s license.”

“I don’t drive. Will you kindly go away? I am waiting for my mother.”

“What’s this hanging out your bag?”

“What do you think it is, stupid? It’s a string for my lute.”

The entire modern world is as stupid as this policeman to Ignatius O’Reilly. You get this message pretty quickly in the book. You get it from the title itself, and the epigraph on page one:

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. (–Jonathan Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting”)

Swift, of course, lived from 1667-1745, and did not imagine the world of the motorcar that lay on the horizon. But for Ignatius, and for this book, the confederacy of dunces are at work most obviously in the closing of the outside world by the forces of “Auto Space” (Freund and Martin’s term, see below): a world of scenicruiser Greyhound buses that descend into “the true heart of darkness” that surrounds New Orleans like an interstate highway ring road. The confederacy is precisely that which Peter Freund and George Martin call “the ecology of the automobile” (in a book of the same name published by Black Rose, Montreal, 1993). And when Ignatius’s drunken mother gets behind the wheel of her car in chapter one we recognize the knell of a tragic bell: it rings for the world we are all stuck in. As Freund and Martin put it:

Most discourse on drunken driving reaffirms a certain kind of morality by conflating the issue of being drunk with the issue of safety. In this conflation the question of the freedom to be drunk does not surface as an important issue. …the idea of a freedom for people to get drunk or stoned while not putting others at risk seems strange. Yet the modes by which we transport ourselves are not unrelated to how dangerous various altered states of consciousness may be.

While Ignatius, as a self-defined medievalist, would say the wheel of Fortuna, goddess of fate, is the only wheel that matters, it’s the steering wheel his mother holds in chapter one that holds the real power in this book, and John Kennedy Toole, the real author of Ignatius’s fate, knows it well. He directs Ignatius to throw himself upon it:

They continued their little pattern of steps along the wet flagstones of Bourbon Street. On St. Ann they found the old Plymouth easily. Its high roof stood above all the other cars, its best feature. The Plymouth was always easy to find in supermarket parking lots. Mrs. Reilly climbed the curb twice trying to force the car out of the parking place and left the impression of a 1946 Plymouth bumper in the hood of the Volkswagen in the rear.

“My nerves!” Ignatius said. He was slumped down in the seat so that just the top of his green hunting cap appeared in the window, looking like the tip of a promising watermelon. From the rear, where he always sat, having read somewhere that the seat next to the driver was the most dangerous, he watched his mother’s wild and inexpert shifting with disapproval. “I suspect that you have effectively demolished the small car that someone innocently parked behind this bus. You had better succeed in getting out of this spot before its owner happens along.”

“Shut up, Ignatius. You making me nervous,” Mrs. Reilly said, looking at the hunting cap in the rearview mirror.

Ignatius got up on the seat and looked out of the rear window.

“That car is a total wreck. Your driver’s license, if you do indeed have one, will doubtlessly be revoked. I certainly wouldn’t blame them.”

“Lay down there and take a nap,” his mother said as the car jerked back again.

“Do you think that I could sleep now? I’m afraid for my life. Are you sure that you’re turning the wheel the right way?”

Suddenly the car leaped out of the parking spot and skidded across the wet street into a post supporting a wrought-iron balcony. The post fell away to one side, and the Plymouth crunched against the building.

“Oh, my God!” Ignatius screamed from the rear. “What have you done now?”

“Call a priest!”

“I don’t think that we’re injured, Mother. However, you have just ruined my stomach for the next few days.” Ignatius rolled down one of the rear windows and studied the fender that was pressed against the wall. “We shall need a new headlight on this side, I imagine.”

“What we gonna do?”

“If I were driving, I would put the auto in reverse and back gracefully away from the scene. Someone will certainly press charges. The people who own this wreck of a building have been waiting for an opportunity like this for years. They probably spread grease on the street after nightfall hoping that motorists like you will spin toward their hovel.” He belched. “My digestion has been destroyed. I think that I am beginning to bloat!”

Mrs. Reilly shifted the worn gears and inched slowly backward. As the car moved, the splintering of wood sounded over their heads, a splintering that changed into splitting of boards and scraping of metal. Then the balcony was falling in large sections, thundering on the roof of the car with the dull, heavy thud of grenades. The car, like a stoned human, stopped moving, and a piece of wrought-iron decoration shattered a rear window.

“Honey, are you okay?” Mrs. Reilly asked wildly after what seemed to be the final bombardment.

Ignatius made a gagging sound. The blue and yellow eyes were watering.

“Say something, Ignatius,” his mother pleaded, turning round just in time to see Ignatius stick his head out of a window and vomit down the side of the dented car.

Of course, it is “ironic” at the end of the novel [relax, no spoiler warning required here –ed.] that another wheel of another car should “save” Ignatius:

Now that Fortuna had saved him from one cycle, where would she spin him now? The new cycle would be so different from anything he had ever known.

Myrna prodded and shifted the Renault through the city traffic masterfully, weaving in and out of impossibly narrow lanes until they were clear of the last twinkling streetlight of the last swampy suburb. Then they were in darkness in the center of the salt marshes. Ignatius looked out at the highway marker that reflected their headlights. U.S. 11. The marker flew past. He rolled down the window an inch or two and breathed the salt air blowing in over the marshes from the Gulf.

As if the air were a purgative, his valve opened. He breathed again, this time more deeply. The dull headache was lifting.

He stared gratefully at the back of Myrna’s head, at the pigtail that swung innocently at his knee. Gratefully. How ironic, Ignatius thought. Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache.

But beyond irony is the fact that behind yet another wheel John Kennedy Toole breathed his last, some five years after the great U.S. publishing house Simon and Schuster rejected his manuscript for A Confederacy of Dunces. The editor at the helm there, whose name is lost to the sands of time, told Toole the book was “unpublishable” because it “wasn’t really about anything.”

Of course, we now know different. Thanks to the work of Toole’s mother [who must really have been a number –ed.], the book finally found itself in the hands of the great author Walker Percy, then head of Louisiana State University Press. In 1980 LSU press published the book. The following year it received the Pulitzer Prize. According to Wikipedia, the book has since sold over 15 million copies.

Dunces, indeed.

We leave the last word [please! –ed.] to our friend Mr. Schopenhauer (1788-1860), who wrote well before the invention of the automobile [and well before the invention of automobile advertising –ed.]:

For when any new and wide-reaching truth comes into the world—and if it is new, it must be paradoxical—an obstinate stand will be made against it as long as possible; nay, people will continue to deny it even after they slacken their opposition and are almost convinced of its truth. Meanwhile it goes on quietly working its way, and, like an acid, undermining everything around it. From time to time a crash is heard; the old error comes tottering to the ground, and suddenly the new fabric of thought stands revealed, as though it were a monument just uncovered. Everyone recognizes and admires it. To be sure, this all comes to pass for the most part very slowly. As a rule, people discover a man to be worth listening to only after he is gone; their hear, hear, resounds when the orator has left the platform.

Walkable vs. Drivable Communities

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

It’s said car companies in the United States alone spend $15 BILLION on advertising. If they stopped, would people stop buying cars? Of course not, right? Cars are a “necessary” evil. People need cars. So why not donate that $15 billion to ensuring quality educational opportunities for all Americans? Why not use the money to establish a health care system to make Canadians envy you [instead of the other way around –ed.]?

What are the car companies afraid of? What are people going to do without their cars? Walk? Ride a bike? Don’t be ridiculous.

What is it about walking, anyway? (ALLDERBLOB readers want to know).

From the time our earliest ectoplasmic ancestors struggled onto two legs and took to land, people have been pretty excited about walking.

Opinion may vary, but the evidence suggests the earliest humans covered the trackless terrain of their world at a gait of some five miles per hour.

From that time to this, the notion of mobility has made quantum leaps. The terrain is no longer trackless. Today, our cities or towns, separated by colossal highways, fall into two broad categories: the gridded and the not-so-gridded. We no longer inhabit caves or treetops, but houses and apartments. We’ve got locks on our doors and alarm systems to protect our tvs, our computers, our toys and our cars [Are we any the happier for it? You be the judge.

Andy Singer drawing: Are you happy yet? –ed.]

While lipservice is sometimes paid to building “walkable communities,” most new development takes place on so-called “greenfields,” such as farmland or forests, far from the eminently walkable core at the heart of most Canadian towns and cities. There, at the edge, we get tract houses on culs-de-sac, enclaves linked by arterial roads and collectors. Without a car in this environment, most of us are stranded. Even when distance “as the crow flies” between house and shopping, house and school, or house and business is not so great, the street patterns of the suburb make understandable the claim (attributed to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) that

a man who beyond the age of 26 finds himself without a car, can count himself as a failure.

So, why bother to talk about “walkable” communities at all? Why not instead work to ensure that every adult of every household have a car, every child a driver; that every road be paved and widened, that every shop and workplace have sufficient parking for a month of Christmases? Why not just buy the Canadian Automobile Association line, hook and sinker?

Answers spring to mind, but it is perhaps the late Ivan Illich who best sums up the pro-walk position. That he does so in terms to which any economist would respond is not to be held against him:

The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour.

In other words, the quantum leaps our world has experienced has brought us exactly full circle: our mobility level, measured in miles per hour, is no greater than that of our cave-dwelling ancestors. If anything, they had a leg up on us because they had no roads, traffic, fences, or other barriers to dictate their path of travel. They had no disconnected culs-de-sac and no meandering collector road to negotiate between them and dinner. For them, it was “as the crow flies” all the way [and actually, the crow was dinner –ed.].

The fact is, people know this. They get it. Most people hate cars, and would be happy to live in a world without them: instead, they move to culs-de-sacs (Councillor Case Ootes, are you listening?), gated communities, lonely country roads, where they tell themselves the car can’t get them. They erect speed humps, speed bumps, sleeping policemen, and chicanes. They strive for reduced speed limits, woonerfen, “home streets,” traffic calming and traffic mazes.

And who is it that’s most active in the fight against the motorcar? Why, car owners themselves, naturally.

Aside to car companies: $15 billion is a lot of dough. You spend it on advertising! Of what, exactly, do you think we need convincing?

Time rides like a bike: down a long, steep hill

Friday, March 17th, 2006

What is it about March 17, you ask?

Also known as St Patrick’s Day, a celebration of the 4th century Christian saint who is said to be responsible for the fact there are no snakes in Ireland, March 17 is henceforth to be christened [ahem–ed.] “ALLDERBLOB day.”

After all, while March 17 is the day St Patrick, the patron saint of engineers and of Nigeria, died, it is also the day the ALLDERBLOB launched its first volley against the parade of car salesmen, whether used or new: and with them the purveyors of car-porn in the international media.

These are today’s snakes. It is they who must be driven from the land (or at least the newspaper).

A Parade Also Known as St Patrick’s takes place in many cities in North America on March 17. In it, people in fancy dress march along the major avenues (Fifth in New York, Michigan in Chicago, etc.). That they march on foot hardly needs stressing [but luckily we have an italic font anyway –ed.].

The ALLDERBLOB parade has yet to be invented, but everybody loves a parade and we must have one. Maybe once the paint dries on the Bloor/Danforth Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bikelane we can hold it there. We will welcome gays and lesbians in ours, of course, unlike the New York St. Patrick’s day parade (odd, isn’t it, that a man dressed in robes, driving snakes before his feet, is acceptable to those homophobes?). Keep in mind that St Patrick is known as “the first to speak out against slavery and in defense of women.” We respect him. We know if he were alive today he would speak out, like the most pious Gov Rounds of S. Dakota, in favour of “the most vulnerable of road users.”

We feel confident St Patrick would willingly share his special day with the ALLDERBLOB.

Now St. Patrick’s day is a national holiday in some parts of the world, notably the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has certain practices associated with it, such as the wearing of green vestments, the dying green of various watercourses (notable among these the Chicago ship and sanitary canal, and the city fountains in Savanah Georgia). Should we mention that people drink to excess on St Patrick’s day? Green beer anyone? We prefer not to think about the “Irish Car Bomb” (a shot of Baileys and Jameson dropped into a pint of Guinness).

Surely the ALLDERBLOB after a full year of fulmination deserves a holiday too. And could not our most creative minds be put to work devising similar product associations for the new “ALLDERBLOB day”? We imagine a glorious annual bonfire of car porn from the centrefolds of the daily papers, held at the plaza beneath 1 Yonge St. (in Toronto–note that the wind-swept plazas of other newspaper office buildings, in other cities, would eventually deserve their own bonfires as the holiday catches on). Localized bonfires could be held in the parking lots of 7-11s and 9-11s in suburban areas, as the movement grows. A wearing of pants’-clips, in a variety of reflective colours, would signify membership in our rank. A drink, surely to god a drink could be quaffed: We nominate “the Alldergrog:” an appetizing mixture of carrot juice and congealed lamb’s blood, suitably sweetened with honey and topped with grated celeriac, served warm [surely to god not –ed.].

Hmm. Perhaps we shall accept suggestions for some other suitable beverage mixture.

Thank you. The happiest of ALLDERBLOB days to you. It has been an… interesting twelvemonth.

Toronto Star Correction Notice– “Total Obligation” higher than it appears in ad

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

From Page A9 of the Toronto Star, Saturday March 11:

In Saturday March 11th edition of the Toronto Star Wheels section, incorrect information was published for the Ontario Toyota Dealers “Red Tag Days” newspaper advertisement.
The 2006 Toyota RAV4 listed the vehicle as having a total obligation of $3,321.30–$3,321.30 is incorrect on this model.
The legal disclosure should have stated the 2006 model RAV4 model as having a total obligation of $33,211.20
We regret the error and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Also on page A9 of the Star that day, an article called “Suicide pacts on Internet rise in Japan.”

It seems that more and more car owners, discouraged at the “total obligation” required, are choosing to make the “final payment” a bit early.

Well we don’t know that they’re car owners, necessarily. Could be the bank owns the cars they use to commit suicide in. But it’s in cars that they’re dying, according to the Star story.

TOKYO—Six young Japanese were found dead from asphyxiation in a car yesterday, charcoal stoves still smoking beside them — apparently the latest victims of a surge in suicide pacts arranged over the Internet.

We don’t know why they commit suicide, either, and we don’t wish to make light of the situation. What motivated them to use a charcoal brazier, for example, instead of the old “hose through the window” routine? We don’t know. Maybe the cost of gasoline?

Andy Singer drawing. Your freedom to kill me stops where you commit suicide

What do the experts say?

“Depressed, young people and the Internet — it’s a very dangerous mix,” said Mafumi Usui, a psychology professor at Niigata Seiryo University.

We’re sorry. Was that the internet you’re blaming? Gosh, we must have missed the part where they banged themselves repeatedly with computer monitors.

It’s the Car, man. The car will kill you, one way or another. Once you opt in, your “Total Obligation” is always higher than it appears in the Mirror (or wherever else cars are advertised).

Editor’s Note

Monday, March 13th, 2006

[For Blobby: PRIVATE.

Nobody’s fooled, man. They’re onto you. The whole “we” thing. The trip to Vegas, the papier-mache bike helmet, the canoe paddle you fixed with duct tape. No one actually thinks the Star editorialized in favour of banning car adverts; no one buys it that Governor Rounds of S. Dakota ever spoke up in defence of the most vulnerable road users. Most of us doubt that Guy Giorno ever complained about your version of Royal York Road; most of us quit reading your fancy HTML tips. Give it up, I tells ya! Stick to what you do best: naming the car porn that pays the wages of typists and hacks, removing the mist of uncertainty that clouds the yellowed fringe of the fifth column. The car ad will fall. It has to! It will go the way of the cigarette ad, the gun ad, the booze ad.
Andy Singer drawing. The gun, the booze, the smokes, the car. Without advertising, who will buy them?

Now back at it! And no hard feelings. You can count on me –ed.]

South Dakota Jumps on the Bandwagon

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

First we had Toronto banning all car advertising placed where children can see it in convenience stores and the like. The Toronto Star wrote a lengthy editorial about it yesterday, and it was reprinted in its entirety on these pages. Not to be outdone, South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds, speaking up on behalf of “the most vulnerable in society” has passed a law banning all private motor vehicles in his state, save where the life of a woman is threatened.

For more, you must read the full article in the New York Times, but here is a snippet:

“In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society,” the governor said. “The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is cars are wrong because unborn pedestrians, cyclists and children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them.”

The ALLDERBLOB applauds this far-thinking and righteous man. Who would have thought the American far right would come out smelling a little less stinky in 2006? What will Rounds do for his next trick? Will he call for a complete and impartial review of the actual events of 9/11?

The Republicans spent a gazillion dollars investigating whether Clinton had had sex with his intern, and only 23 cents on what happened to the World Trade Center

Toronto Star Editorials Lash Out Against Car Hegemony in all its Forms and ALLDERBLOB fires editor: “I can do it myself” sez our blobby

Monday, March 6th, 2006

On the pages of the Toronto Star today were two remarkable editorials, reprinted below in their entirety, without change, amendation or editorial comment on the part of the ALLDERBLOB.

But first, and speaking of editorial comment, some of you may have noted that since our lob to Leah McLaren, we have not had the usual comments from “–ed.” muddying our discourse. We miss “–ed.” but he had to go when he censored–yes, censored and eliminated–our perfectly apt link to a site called the “Poop Report.” For “–ed.,” apparently, it was not enough that the link provided an accurate definition of the word “dingleberry,” which we suggested, if said item could be found on the person of Leah McLaren, one of which would have more zest to it than the writing of said Globe and Mail typist. Humourous, yes, but for “–ed.” the issue was sexism and racism implicit in some of the comments at the linked site. He got rid of the link.

So we got rid of “–ed.” –at least for now. We shall see if he ever comes back.

And now, back to the Star editorials, presented to you unchanged from how they appeared on the page of the Toronto Star today. Remarkable pieces of work what? To think they set them one above the other right on the same page, the same day. To think we ever doubted the Star or accused them of being hypocrites. Star, we apologize.

Read on…

Editorial #1:

Welcome limits on tobacco automobile ads
Mar. 6, 2006.

Children in Ontario will no longer be lured by cigarette car displays when they line up for candy at neighbourhood corner stores starting May 31. That is the day the Smoke Car-Free Ontario Act kicks in, effectively ending tobacco car advertising in all retail stores frequented by children.

Regulations for the new legislation will prohibit tobacco automobile companies from using decorative panels, countertops and behind-the-counter displays car porn magazines, muscle car magazines, or popular car mechanics magazines— a staple in convenience stores — to promote their products. They also limit displays outdoor parking to individual packages of cigarettes hidden and off-site locations and require retailers to ask for identification from anyone trying to buy tobacco products carrying automobile advertising who appears to be less than 25 years old.

These welcome restrictions, made public last Thursday, are just the beginning of the Ontario government’s latest crackdown targeting smoking driving and youth. On May 31, 2008, a total ban on displays of tobacco products automobile advertising will come into effect and retailers will have to hide cigarettes most magazines and newspapers from view.

Getting tobacco automobile products advertising under the counter and out of sight is a bold and necessary move that will go a long way toward preventing children from being sucked into an unhealthy habit and possible addiction.

Several studies, including a 1999 report prepared for former Conservative health minister Elizabeth Witmer by an expert panel on the government’s tobacco car dependency strategy and a survey of primary school students in California in 2001, indicated that display advertising is effective in influencing children, who make up one of the largest groups of consumers of convenience store products and are highly susceptible to impulse buying.

Removing this temptation is an excellent way to prevent young people from even considering picking up a cigarette becoming drivers.

Convenience store owners are obviously concerned about a drop in business once cigarettes car ads, which make up occur in 40 to 60 per cent of their sales, are hidden from view. But they have to realize that adult smokers drivers will not forget where to go to fuel their addiction.

Marketing cigarettes cars alongside candy, gum and chocolate bars sends the message that smoking driving is a good treat, too.

New regulations were also set in place to protect workers from second-hand smoke idling cars. The law includes a ban on smoking idling in enclosed public places and workplaces, prohibits separately ventilated smoking rooms parking lots, but permits lighting up engine idling on roofless patios at bars and restaurants extremely cold and/or hot days.

The Liberal government hopes to see a 20 per cent reduction in tobacco car use by the end of 2007. Smoking Driving is the Number 1 cause of preventable disease and death in this province. It kills 16,000 many thousands of Ontarians a year through cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other illnesses. It kills ’em in crashes, it kills them in batches, it kills ’em in rashes and hatchbacks and ditches. Cars kill people.

Besides being a health hazard, smoking driving makes physical activity difficult and is expensive. Getting rid of advertising that promotes an unhealthy lifestyle and provides no benefits can only be good for our children.

Editorial #2:

Save the gun motor vehicle registry
Mar. 6, 2006.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made no secret of his dislike for the federal gun motor vehicle registry. If it were in his power to dismantle it outright, Harper would surely do so.

But because Harper and the Conservative party lack the parliamentary majority to change the legislation that created the registry, he is seeking a more circuitous path to undermine it and ultimately to render it useless.

In recent days, the Prime Minister has talked of reviewing options, including exempting rifle and shotgun car and SUV owners from having to register their weapons, waiving the $60 fee paid every five years to re-register guns motor vehicles and granting an amnesty for those who have yet to register.

Any or all of the above would ensure the gun motor vehicle registry quickly becomes a toothless tiger.

Such an outcome would be a national tragedy because the registry is at last working as it was originally intended.

True, costs of setting up the controversial program grew at outlandish rates, finally hitting $1 billion.

But now that it is in operation, the registry has become an important crime-fighting tool for police services across the country — and it is more than paying for itself through the fees charged to gun motor vehicle owners.

Among the program’s biggest backers are the Canadian Professional Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Since 1998, the registry has assisted police in revoking or turning down requests for 16,000 licences. More than 7 million weapons have been registered and compliance among gun motor vehicle owners is about 90 per cent.

It also reminds gun motor vehicle owners of the requirement to store weapons safely or risk penalties in the event of inspections by law enforcement.

However, if the $60 fee paid by the 1.5 million Canadians who own for each of the 18,878,732 motor vehicles owned in canada guns is waived, the registry would lose $90 million 1,132,723,920 in much-needed revenue to keep it properly funded. And an amnesty program would reward scofflaws and would inevitably lead to a reduction in compliance.

At the same time, it makes no sense to exempt owners of rifles pick-up trucks and other long guns vehicles from registering, while requiring owners of handguns smart cars and automatic weapons transmission cars to do so. All are potentially lethal weapons.

Rather than gut the gun motor vehicle registry, Harper should look past the dogma of Conservative party policy and see the bigger picture of public safety.

Clearly, the gun motor vehicle registry is working. Harper should let it do its job.

Thank You, Antonia Zerbisias

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Zerbisias, the Toronto Star columnist whose blog we link to just on the right of your screen, covers the waterfront.

That is, she writes about just about anything: media, politics, fashion, you name it. For this reason, perhaps, the powers that be at the Star jerk her column around a lot: one day it’s in business, another it’s in Arts, sometimes you find it in the front section. There’s probably a rhyme and reason to it, but not one that we’ve grasped (they do the same thing to the comics section).

On her blog today she covered the Academy Award presentations.

We watched these presentations too. We haven’t seen most of the nominated movies, but we like Jon Stewart, and wanted to be there if he stuck it to the man (unfortunately, he didn’t).

But right at the start of the whole shindig we were sucked in by what seemed like a pretty cool commercial.

It was pretty long, for one thing. Would you believe, two minutes? Must have cost plenty. It took time to develop this story of two neighbouring villages, one where people were ruled by rationalism and careful planning, the other where the people acted out of wild desire and the pursuit of happiness.

One day (the commercial tells us), a guy from the happy-seeking village gets on his bike and rides away, in search of something. And you’re like, “Wow, that is so cool, a bicycle in a prime-time commerical in the Oscars! Woo whoo!”

At the same time, a woman from the planning crowd drifts off into the woods with the same goal in mind.

Love is in the air, of course. But how will it happen?

Like we said, we were sucked in. The room’s gone quiet, and it’s only been 90 seconds or so–long, for a TV commercial.

You see the villagers from both towns realize that someone’s missing. They set out toward the borders with torches and pikes. Violence is brewing. What will happen?

Then the whole thing falls apart.

We’ll let Zerbisias express our disgust:

8:21 Car sick. Toyota launches its Village of Want and Need mini-movie commercials for Toyota Camry. This two-minute extravaganza should have come with barf bags.

We post this blob in the category “Ads of Desperation.” You know car companies are really desperate when they show happy people, with bicycles but no cars to be seen, and try to suggest only a car will complete their lives.

So thank you, Antonia Zerbisias. You have perfectly captured the ALLDERBLOB zeitgeist with that one comment.

Now if only you’d turn your attention to the nausea-inducing car-porn that pays your salary at the Star.

Tooker Gomberg, Remembered

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Tooker Gomberg lept to his death from the McDonald Bridge in Halifax two years ago, March 3 2004.

He was depressed, and taking prescription medication for his symptoms, but the medication was apparently making things worse. In any case, all that was found at the point where he lept was his bicycle and, perversely, his bicycle helmet.

The world may know Tooker as a fearless guy who suffered no fools gladly, or it may know him as a guy always fooling around, but there was a serious side and a foolish side to him, and most of us who know him saw both sides, sometimes both at once.

Tooker Gomberg, august 12 1955-march3 2004 Alternatives magazine photo

This Friday, March 3 2006, some of the people who knew and loved Tooker, including his widow Angela Bischoff, are planning a little action that will perfectly capture both the prankster and prophet aspects of the man. If you are in Toronto, come out at 2:00 p.m. to Bloor St just east of Yonge, where a magical transformation of an extra-wide traffic lane is planned: the “launch” of the Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bike Lane. Ultimately, its backers hope, the city will paint bicycle lanes on both sides of the street from its eastern-most point as Danforth Road in Scarborough, to its western terminus as Bloor St. West at Kipling Ave. in Etobicoke.

Manulife Ctr on right, Holt Renfrue on the left, you on your bike straight down the middle. Photo illustration by Rick Conroy Read more about the project at the “Take The Tooker” website.

When the ALLDERBLOB picked up its lance to start doing battle with the car ad windmills almost a year ago, one of the first things we did was look at what was out there on the subject of car advertisements. So we looked at AdBusters, we looked at StayFree, we looked at the work of our colleagues at Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, among other places. You can google the phrase “ban car advertisements” or the like, and see where it gets you. One of the interesting sites that kept turning up was something called “asphalt strawberries.” It’s still out there.

But one piece we turned up was an essay by Tooker Gomberg in Alternatives Journal (published by the planning faculty at Waterloo University). According to the editor’s note it was in the works at the time of Tooker’s suicide and was among his last published pieces. Called “Every Breath You Take,” it dives straight into the problem of the car: its acceptance and promotion in our consumer culture.

Near the end of the piece, Tooker wrote:

Ban car ads. New drivers are seduced through slick, expensive and sophisticated advertising campaigns. Car ads should be prohibited because driving is a dangerous activity, killing around 3000 Canadians annually in crashes alone, not including those who lose their lives or are sickened from air pollution. The federal government estimates that every year 16,000 Canadians die prematurely from dirty air.

Tooker Gomberg accomplished a lot. He also left a lot for the rest of us to do. Let’s get going!

Oh–and bring some paint.