Archive for June, 2006

Q: When is a subway train like a horse?

Monday, June 26th, 2006

[UPDATE: Snell Report link (see below) expanded –ed.]

Everyone loves a riddle [don’t start with me –ed.].

We just got off the subway, where the ads were shouting at us about buying a car. This riddle came to us.

But first, we have to tell you about the ads. They’re “funny.” Perhaps you’ve seen them: thumbs down for the guy at the lion safari park with the beast beside him in the front seat, thumbs up for the same jerk managing to keep the animal confined to the roof rack. Thumbs down for the guy entering his car through the side window; thumbs up for the same guy opening the door. Oh, and speaking of doors, our fave: thumbs down for the guy popping open his door in front of a passing cyclist; thumbs up for the same dopy schlemiel lucking out by not crunching the cyclist.

Funny? Sorry, did we say funny? We meant asinine. The routine acceptance of cultural norms: safari parks, entering through doors, not “seeing” cyclists, remind us that the sponsor of the ads, GM [that genetically modified automobile company –ed.], has a stench to it when it comes to public transit. We all know the Snell Report of course, with its investigation into and conclusion that GM destroyed, through surreptitious means and a true confederacy of dunces, the best public transit system in the United States [the report also points to their collaboration with the Nazis during the second world war –ed.] While the Snell report is today considered the ramblings of a delusional paranoiac quite possibly in the employ of GM itself, the germ of his analysis is known fact [see Al Mankoff, “Revisiting the Great American Streetcar Scandal” and “How General Motors Derailed Public Transportation to Sell More Cars” –ed.] And we all know about GM’s sickening slur on public transit in ads published more recently.

There’s a perverse logic in car companies targeting transit riders. After all, conventional wisdom [the “thumbs up/thumbs down” part of our brain –ed.] tells us people on public transit have made a sacrifice in personal comfort, expenditure of time, exposure to germs, etc. to ride the subway. Not all of them, surely, have done so out of altruism. Never mind that the subway or streetcar gives you a chance to read or have a conversation during your commute. Never mind the fact that everytime there’s a “commuter challenge” along a well-functioning transit line, the transit rider beats the driver hands down. Never mind that folks in cars are exposed to toxins of a much higher magnitude than folks on transit, without the benefit of even the slightest workout that walking to the bus or subway provides. Never mind all that. The fact is, driving a car is so durned convenient, so clean, and now, with cars that burn gas more efficiently, it’s better for the environment than ever before! Transit riders, conventional wisdom tells us, are sitting ducks for car advertising–and that’s assuming they even get a seat.

So the theory would have it that running ads for cars in the subway would be a surefire way of messing with the transit rider’s experience: turn them into car-heads. And then? Well, then the rest of the gospel of the car ad comes into play: you know, “stop road congestion by building more roads.” Join CAA [warning: offensive content –ed.] and fight for the redirection of transportation monies to automobile infrastructure in your neighbourhood. And so on.

So, here’s our riddle:

Q: When is a subway train like a horse?

A: When it’s a Trojan horse!

On a possibly unrelated note, we liked what “cantankerous Kunstler” had to say today:

If I was a kid now, I’d find a lot more to rebel against than what we faced in the 1960s: the draft and the insipid program of Levittown. I’d rebel against a generation of adults selling the future for obscene pay packages. I’d rebel against everything from the mendacious nonsense of Rem Koolhaas to the profligate stupidity of Nascar. I’d want to eat Donald Trump for lunch (and set free the wolverine that lives on his head.) I’d utterly reject the false commoditized reality and set out to discover the world. I’d get busy building a society with a plausible future (and be real excited about it).

Gospel of the car ad: fight congestion by building roads

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Hearts were a-twitter last week as the Ontaro government released exciting new plans. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail

The Ontario government said yesterday it would spend $3.4-billion over five years to build or repair nearly 1,730 kilometres of highway and 264 bridges to ease growing traffic congestion in southern Ontario.

The story, “Ontario plans major highway upgrades” by Karen Howlett, also described how the gov’t plans to paste new High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes alongside some of the existing highways.

Noteworthy for its absence from this list was highway 401.

Who or what is highway 401? Well, you may know it as the MacDonald-Cartier freeway, linking Windsor Ontario with Quebec City. To Toronto taxidrivers, it’s the “flyover.” According to our friends at Wikipedia,

The 401 is widely considered to be North America’s busiest highway, with an estimated Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) of over 425,000 in 2004, between the Weston Road and Highway 400 interchanges in Toronto. This surpasses the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles, and several Interstate freeways in Houston, Texas. Due to its triple use as the main trade, commuting and recreational corridor in Ontario, 24-hour traffic volumes can exceed the 500,000 level on some days. The just-in-time inventory systems of the highly integrated auto industry in Michigan and Ontario have made the highway the busiest truck route in North America. Highway 401 also includes the continent’s busiest multi-structure bridge at Hogg’s Hollow in Toronto (four structures for the highway’s four roadway beds).

According to the Globe story, the 401 isn’t wide enough for HOV lanes. Not wide enough? Look again at the Wikipedia description:

Today the stretch of Highway 401 that passes through the Greater Toronto Area ranges from 6 to 18 lanes, and the stretch between Highway 403 and Brock Road in Pickering is thought to be the world’s longest continuous stretch of highway having 10 or more lanes.

(Hat tip to Martino).

As our fellow ARCista Rick put it: “What are they smoking?” (He says he was channeling Kunstler with that one).

Okay, Ontario’s on the bandwagon for building highways. Yawn. Guess what? We’re in North America. What are we supposed to build? Bikelanes? Car-free communities? Get real. Maybe it would be more appropriate to ask, what is Rick smoking?

Now we love cars as much as the next jacob. So we’re confused by the story that accompanied the exciting news of Ontario’s highway construction.

Same paper, same day, same author, same page: this story, which enthused: “Ontario releases plan to contain urban sprawl, save farmland.”

According to it,

The Ontario government’s vision for taming urban sprawl in the greater Golden Horseshoe is made up of “complete communities” where people could live, work and shop without ever having to get in their car.

Huh? Howzzat?

To protect farmland, 40 per cent of all new growth must be contained within existing built-up areas by 2015, and regions must transform themselves into “compact communities” where residents can walk or ride bicycles to work. These communities would be served by public transit

Garsh, we don’t know about you, but we’re confused. What’s on the table, Ontario? On the one hand you got roads and more roads, on the other hand you got a magnificent plan to curb what the roads doth bring: sprawl.

The viper-like pen of our resident urban designer, Jacob Allderdice, was fortunately at the ready. A “Letter to the Editor” sprang forth, with the usual fangs.

And was accepted for publication, much to our surprise. Complete with a photo (of a car-clogged highway, not us, silly).

An op-ed in the New York Times it aint, but it’s still a letter to the editor in “Canada’s newspaper of record” and for that we’re proud:

Roads and land


Toronto — Re Ontario Plans Major Highway Upgrades (June 17) and Ontario Releases Plan To Contain Urban Sprawl, Save Farmland (June 17): According to these stories, Ontario badly needs a psychiatrist.

On one hand, we have a government building or expanding highways, a proven recipe for increased automobile use and creating more urban sprawl. On the other hand, the government claims to be acting to contain urban sprawl and save farmland. Which one is it? Because it can’t be both.

A government that wanted to contain sprawl would be decreasing, not increasing, the amount of paved land. Money for transportation infrastructure would be directed to improved passenger rail service and getting more freight into trains. Road-building plans that try to reduce car dependency by adding high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes to proposed new construction suffer a fundamental flaw in logic: the new road construction itself.

And when the authorities say that no HOV lanes can be added to the 401 because it’s not wide enough, how do they keep from blushing? Isn’t the idea of HOV lanes to reduce the number of automobiles and thereby the number of lanes required? You’d think an elementary calculation would tell you that the narrower the roadway, the more suited it is to HOV lanes.

Putting HOV lanes on the 401 would decrease congestion there as well as wherever its off ramps lead. Jane Jacobs was right about traffic engineers: Theirs is a pseudo-science. Their roads lead to darkness.

A second, even more brilliant letter on the subject of roads and sprawl followed ours that day, and we paste it below, for the record. Its subject is one dear to our hearts, the property tax theories of Henry George.

Take it away, Dave Wetzel:

Roads and land


vice-chair, Transport for London

England — If the Ontario government really wants to contain urban sprawl “by encouraging new growth within existing built-up areas” (Ontario Releases Plan To Contain Urban Sprawl, Save Farmland) then it should examine the example of Harrisburg, Pa., where an annual land-value tax, called the Two-Tier Tax, has been adopted.

The consequence has been an 85-per-cent reduction of empty sites and buildings, with whole areas of Harrisburg that were previously blighted now revitalized with the building and refurbishment of affordable business premises and homes.

The resultant inward investment has increased the number of firms paying taxes to the city from 1,900 to 9,000 and led to a dramatic drop in unemployment and crime.

The lesson is obvious. To contain urban sprawl and create prosperous communities, tax location value, which is created by all of us, and do not tax buildings, wages, trade and enterprise.

ALLDERBLOB sells out: accepts car ad Don’t look at me like that! How’m I supposed to pay for groceries?

Monday, June 19th, 2006

We like this ad for Honda [caution: offensive content –ed.] that we found in the local paper. It’s clever.

Too clever. Isn’t subliminal advertising a bit declasse?

But judge for yourself:

Dum de dum. Just another car ad.

Did we say it’s big? Here’s a close-up:

Garsh! What sort of trick is up their sleeve?

Okay, so we hold it up to the light:

Hey, presto!

Hey, Presto!

Wait a minute! Let’s see that again!

An advertiser never reveals her secrets.

Okay, Honda, when do we get paid?

Success! Eye magazine questions its policy regarding car ads

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Toronto’s Eye Magazine, despite its ownership pattern (noted a couple lobs back) is not actually thoroughly insipid. We like many of the writers on it. We love the work of the cartoonist Lind. We enjoy Gord Perks, although we wish he were perfect like us. Many of the Eye writers and editors were involved in the uTOpia book which published our much-vaunted [by us anyway –ed.] Toronto Island Airport redesign proposal.

Yesterday Eye published a variety of rants and screeds in response to the Churchillian editorial of last week calling for action against greenhouse gases. One of them was ours.

Eye – June 15, 2006
Air Huggers Unite!
I loved the argument in your editorial this past Thursday (“Our finest hour,” June 8 ). I mean, it was stirring, it was bold, it made sense. Sacrifice? Of course! Rebuild our infrastructure? Let’s start already! Examine every detail of our lives to battle the scourge of global warming?

Um, could you rephrase that question? On the facing page (which contains a full-page car ad) your argument unravels. If we really want to get serious about global warming, we have to examine our dance with the automobile. Here’s how I see it: from the automobile, we get sprawl; from sprawl, we get the need for automobiles; from the automobile, we get global warming. Cha-cha-cha.

Eye Weekly: for the love of humanity, get a backbone. Show your readers what it means to accept threatened prosperity as we “sever our dependence on oil,” because by saying no to car ads, you’re going to take a hit. Someone’s got to do it, though. C’mon, you can be heroes! Let your readers see how making a sacrifice is done. Let them know you have it in you to examine every detail of your own lives. JACOB ALLDERDICE

What to make of this? Is Eye’s editorial cabal converging as we speak, firing their ad sales manager, laying out a bold new strategy to recover the dime an issue (or whatever it is) that car ads were paying them? Will we see a bold new Eye, one whose bottom line is in line with their front line rhetoric?

A snowball’s chance in Hull [um… –ed.] seems brighter than two days ago.

Do you feel lucky? (2)

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

[Editor’s note: Some of the links contained herein, which once provided delightful insight into the inner structure of the ALLDERBLOB, have lost touch as the so-called “giggle-mirror” cottoned on to our little scheme. Instead of linking to the interesting nuggets of wisdom found deep in our blob, a couple links have quickly come to point only to this page. How dull is that? We have attempted to circumvent this problem by hiding additional keywords in our searches, but our methods are as primitive as our motives suspect. –ed.]

We are so in love with ourselves.

Here is the latest from our collection of self-portraits, drawn from the giggle-mirror.

“people and parks belong together”

“steam gives way to sail”

palimpsest, schmalimpsest

bikelanes on wellesley street

“alcohol” equals freedom, “car” equals defeat.

Now don’t go ‘way mad. ALLDERBLOB’s regular (de-)programming will be back. We’re working on a big lob as we speak, in fact. For now, suffice to say that we’ve been reading a book called How to Read Marx, by Peter Osborne, where on page 41 we learn “To be human, for Marx, is to create new needs.” Puzzlement! Does that mean the advertisers we so pity envy would be Marx’s ideal of the species? Is the advertising profession therefore pre-eminently Marxist? Hmmm.

Stay tuned, as they say. We will get to the bottom of this.

The War on Warming: Eye weekly’s cynical lipservice

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Eye Magazine, a wholly-owned arm of Metroland Printing Publishing and Distributing, a TorStar Inc. company (the latter a frame for the Toronto Star a.k.a. [to the Allderblob at any rate –ed.] the best source of car porn in Toronto), slurped back some MDMA and got all lovey about saving the earth this week.

This will require sacrifice. Some will see their prosperity threatened as we move dramatically to sever our dependence on oil. There is no honour without sacrifice: those who have grown rich in the service of our enemy must now join in our defence against it. We can tolerate no treasonous disloyalty in the name of greed. We say to all captains of industry: you are either with us or you are against us.

Problem is, they’re “holier than thou,” but don’t practice what they preach.

Not even close.


Okay, we know, their hearts are in the right place. They write forcibly about the need to take action against “global warming,” aka climate change. Their rhetoric, flavoured as it is with more than a hint of 1940s “fight the huns” spirit:

The kitch gets in your eye
even the illustration picks up on U.S. patriotic art from the period

has real conviction.

Well, maybe not so real.

And we will need to marshal the resources of our brightest minds in the service of our mission. For a time, attention must be diverted from other necessary projects as we embark on an entire rebuilding of our infrastructure. Massive investment will be required, and also massive effort.

Can you say: “And also massive fraud?”

Maybe the kitch of 1940s patriotism hides some cynicism.

And “cynicism is the height of cowardice,” in our books [actually, the book is by Erica Jong –ed.].

We’re talking about the facing page, of course.

Do we bother to go there? Is it worth mentioning what we find?

Look again at the editorial:

Even the common householder — even the smallest child — has a role to play. A vital role. We must examine every detail of our lives in battling this emerging evil. No action is so small that it does not help, no level of neglect so small that it does not contribute to our defeat.

Okay, Eye. You’ve said a mouthful.

So let’s do: let’s go there. Let’s “examine every detail of our lives.”

Facing page? You know it:





And so on. It’s a car ad, of course [warning: offensive content –ed.]. It’s the reason these magazines are free, they tell us.

To us, it’s the price of hot air.

Eye magazine, try harder. You talk about the need for sacrifice.

Just say “no” to blood money.

Just say “no” to car advertising!

“Together, we can do it.”

Mercedes Benz: nothing special, in fact.

Friday, June 9th, 2006

It’s been a while since we gratuitously insulted a large swath of the consuming public based solely on the sort of car they drive. But the need has been building within us, the seething resentment, the hurt and anger.

In the key of G then:


You drive a Mercedes Benz
Because you haven’t any friends
Who can tell you what you are
Based on your make and type of car

To see your Mercedes Benz
You need a special kind of lens
That tells you what you are to be
And helps you see what others see

With all the money that you spend
Here is the message that you send:

I don’t care about the world
It doesn’t matter what I kill
It doesn’t matter if I steal
Or that my kids can’t walk to school

It’s your car that does you wrong
From your car you get this pong

Some say Mercedes rhymes with money
Some say my plaint is kind of funny
In point of fact they’re all dead wrong
Every car gives off the pong

Mercedes, Ford and GM too
Hyundai, Honda, Subaru
In point of fact you buy a car
And with it too the pong of fear:

Cause every car is much the same
All the cars deserve the blame:

I don’t care about the world
It doesn’t matter what I kill
It doesn’t matter if I steal
Or that my kids can’t walk to school

It’s your car that does you wrong
From your car you get this pong

So in your Merdre-cedes Benz
Your need for space is so intense
Your need for speed a blinding lie
Your ears immune to pongs I cry

But what I’m trying here to say
Is that your car like others may
Fit a mould society
Has formed for you
without pity

Cause every car is much the same
All the cars deserve the blame
It’s your car that does you wrong
From your car you get this pong

Terror Attacks planned for Toronto? Get Real. breaking news dept.

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006


Wellesley street in Toronto runs from the University of Toronto at the west, passes Queen’s Park behind the Provincial Parliament, and continues east, crossing Bay Street with its cluster of Ontario government office buildings, the busy commercial Yonge Street, Church Street (home of the “steps,” nexus of Toronto’s Gay village), Sherbourne (with its new Police headquarters/community centre), and on to Parliament Ave. Between Sherbourne and Parliament it passes St Jamestown, a forest of highrise residential buildings that erupted from the plain back in the heyday of heroic modernism. St Jamestown is said to be one of the densest residential developments in Canada.

At Parliament the road withers as it enters the pretty residential neighbourhood of Cabbagetown, but it does continue. It only ends about two blocks farther on, at the entrance to a park on the edge of the Don Valley.

If you’re on a bicycle though, Wellesley street doesn’t stop. It becomes a little sidewalk fronting some houses: a real model for carfree living in the city. You can ride through the park and take a gravel trail that descends to the valley floor. This extension of Wellesley street was historically a main crossing point of the Don Valley; from here you would ford the river and carry on to the other side. Historically, Wellesley Street became “Don Mills Road” at the centre of the river.

Nowadays, of course, on your bike you would hit the Rosedale Valley road and the Bayview extension, two heavily traveled car routes, and would not be invited to cross the river: not by fording, canoeing, wading, or otherwise. [Best to stay out of the Don River in any case, unless you relish the thought of a third arm sprouting from your midsection (genetic mutations, you know) –ed.].

But Wellesley Street is under attack.

What is the target? The university? Queen’s Park? The goverment buildings at Bay? The “Steps” on Church? The new Police station? St Jamestown?

Nah. It’s the road itself. It’s four lanes wide, and is slated for bikelanes each way.

And who is the perpetrator? Religious fundamentalists? Right wing zealots? “Homegrown” terrorists?

Wrong on all counts. The folks who are moving on Wellesley are cyclists, angry about the delay in implementing Toronto’s bike plan.

happy bikelane riders, waving their cheerful little arms

So what are the weapons? Bombs? Chemical fertilizer? Three tons of amonium Nitrate? Grenades?

Actually, none of the above. It’s petitions.

Seems the city councillors responsible for Wellesley Street, Kyle Rae and Pam McConnell, have not been paying attention. The street was repaved from Yonge to Sherbourne last year, and the stretch restriped without bikelanes. Now it’s about to be repaved again, this time between Yonge and Bay.

But the street is under attack, by cyclists wielding petitions, determined to get bikelanes included this time. It’s on the bikeplan already. What’s the controversy?

There isn’t anything to argue about. Paint the bikelanes.

Unless you drive a car there. Car drivers on Wellesley are having the usual terror attacks over this one. But they’ll be happier with the smoother flow of traffic that a bikelane always brings with it. In the immortal words of Jane Jacobs, you can have “erosion of cities by automobiles or attrition of cars by cities.” The choice for bikelanes is a choice for overcoming car dependency in Toronto.

A group of us rode the length and breadth of Wellesley yesterday, in an official “Toronto BikeWeek event.” We rang our little chimes, most of us in full religious headgear [bike helmets that is –ed.], and were greeted with cheers from all. We even chalked some slogans and icons: “Bikelane” we wrote, and made drawings of diamonds, bikes, and chalked lines about five feet from the curb. We waved the petition at startled passers-by, and got honks of support from many passing cars.

It really is a no-brainer.

Contact arezosk at, to sign the petition or show your support. Contact Kyle Rae councillor_rae at and Pam McConnell councillor_mcconnel at, to tell them you’re a cyclist and you ride Wellesley.