Archive for February, 2007

Fretting and Strutting on the Toronto stage

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Here at the ALLDERBLOB, we are always so thrilled when we receive attention. It really is a kind of illness, this need to be noticed. A psycholojism would no doubt have a field day with the ALLDERBLOB. We think we know what they would say, however, so we save our money.

All this is by way of mentioning we got a response to our last post. Our good friend over at Bricoleurbanism [a word you won’t find in your thesaurus by the way–ed.] wrote an impassioned and logical rejection of our modest proposal to limit the number of handicap driving permits to a number equal to that number of spaces made available on the Toronto Island Residential community.

Our response to his response is to demand of our mentor in all matters of urban design, Jacob Allderdice, to reformat his call for a limited number of handicap parking permits. Now stand back and watch him work!

As a non-driver, I have been watching with some amusement the frettings and struttings about the stage by the big actors in the little drama called Toronto’s “disabled parking abuse crisis.”

I mean no disrespect to folks with disabilities, but I actually think there’s a continuum of disabled-ness. I myself have no disabilities, unless you include chronic psoriasis.

Hmm. To tell the truth, psoriasis can be pretty damn disabling. disabling psoriasis Just ask Dennis Potter or John Updike. Just ask Nicholson Baker: “I’m really sad that I can’t ride a bicycle with my kids.”

I may yet be in a wheelchair over it. I may yet merit a goddamned disabled permit. I can spell epicharikaky. Can I spell “irony?”

So this is when it hit me: since it’s so easy to define yourself as “disabled” give anyone with a car an automatic disabled permit.

Fact is, the car is the ultimate “assisted mobility device,” and folks who’ve become dependent on the car should be treated like any other addict: as someone with a disability. It’s not their fault they can’t do anything without their motorized furnaces–cars are a necessary evil, as the saying goes.

I’d love to see what our streets would look like if each driver only looked out for number one.

Wait a minute, that’s how we got into this muddle.

So I had another take on the subject. I got to thinking about the limited spaces available for carfree living in this city. A majority of people don’t drive. How come no one’s talking about designing places where cars are kept out?

Which is when it hit me: let’s divide cities into “disabled” and “non-driving” areas. Half the households in the downtown don’t own or use cars, after all. Why should the petty problems of car drivers have to infect our lives too?

Just consider: “non-driving sectors” with sidewalk cafes where you can hear the birds sing, versus “disabled sectors” where stepping off the curb may be a death sentence; “non-driving sectors” with windows you can throw open to fresh breezes and sweet smells, versus “disabled sectors” where the roar and clank of cars, and the belching of exhaust keeps your windows shut tight; “non-driving sectors” with children playing and wheelchairs wheeling, versus “disabled sectors” with sidewalks empty and teeth gritted?

Which will you choose?

Disabled drivers–define your terms

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Ignored by the ALLDERBLOB for too long, our readers agree, is the hoopla about so-called “disabled” permits being abused by car-owners.

Fact is, it’s always vaguely satisfying, from a non-driver’s perspective, to see the division in the driver’s world. Schadenfreude is overused these days, but the English word “epicharikaky” means the same thing and deserves reviving: happiness derived from the futile flailings, if not the outright suffering, of others (epicharikaky is also spelled with the suffix -cacy, but we prefer the -kaky suffix, for obvious reasons [see the comments at this link –ed.]).

Here’s the story, in case you’re a spammer from somewhere outside the GTA and haven’t heard the latest news: folks with “disabled” permits on their car dashboard are permitted to park closer to the entrances of the malls and beer stores, to park for free on city streets, to park closer to the door to the parking garage at the airport.

You get the picture. park wherever you like with one of these

Thing is, there are lots of fake permits floating around. David Bruser at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser reported the other day that while Census Canada knows of about 1,700 Ontarians over the age of 100, the provincial transportation ministry has issued 4,400 permits to centenarian drivers.

The discrepancy underscores yet another problem with the permit program that the Star found is abused by able-bodied drivers: The ministry does not know if all of the nearly 470,000 permits in circulation are being properly used by people with qualifying disabilities.

This damning report followed a lavishly photographed story in the Saturday Star and Car Advertiser in which a photographer stationed himself along a street in Yorkville (a place with lots of expensive boutiques and galleries) and snapped photos of seemingly healthy non-disabled folks
does \"blonde\" constitute a legal disability? (Steve Russell photo)
jumping in and out of their “disabled permit” cars.


Fact is, all drivers deserve disabled parking permits
, in the ALLDERBLOB world. Why make special dispensation for some, like the guy with the “back problem” that “flares up from time to time,” or the lady with arthritis that makes walking “nearly impossible” on certain days (depending on the weather).

Give them all disabled permits, we say. They deserve the very best their money can buy. Why discriminate. For many of them, the need for an “assisted mobility device” is all in their head. And as Margaret Wente has made clear, Morbidly obese people deserve our help, not our scorn“Just because I’m obese doesn’t mean I’m not disabled, too.”

Anyone who drives a car is by definition “disabled.” Why discriminate among them?

Would this create a lawless mayhem on the roads? Here’s another idea.

Create a disabled permit lottery.
Instead of 470,000 permits issued at a whim, issue, let’s say, 362 permits, and set up a waiting list, which people would pay to register for on a yearly basis. Cap the waiting list at 500 names itself, and hold a yearly lottery for the places that come available on the list if people die or drop off of their own accord. You wouldn’t have to charge too much money to be on the waiting list–maybe $100 for the first year, and $30 a year thenceforth. This would generate enough to pay for the bureaucracy required to administer the thing.

What? Can’t be done? Wouldn’t be fair?

Well it’s the exact same approach that’s been taken to get a place on the car-free Toronto Islands residential community.

Question: why are drivers pandered to, regardless of their infirmity, while non-drivers are treated like shite, regardless of their state of good health?

Schadenfreude? Epicharikaky? Who’s laughing now?

GM Suicide Watch

Friday, February 9th, 2007

What’s up with GM, that genetically-modified car company, these days?

ALLDERBLOB readers want to know.

Sadly, it continues its decline. Described recently in the major news media and car advertisers as being “close to bankruptcy” and “about to be overtaken by Toyota” as the world’s largest assisted mobility machine maker (a.k.a. the automobile), GM just gave astute watchers of the industry a warning sign: it’s contemplating suicide.

Suicide prevention group cries foul over GM Super Bowl ad


A Super Bowl ad showing a quality-obsessed General Motors Corp. robot jumping off a bridge in a dream sequence after screwing up on the job is drawing criticism from a suicide prevention group.

But the world’s largest auto maker is defending the ad and says it has no plans to change the spot, which is making the rounds online and is featured on GM’s website after making its broadcast debut during Sunday’s big game.

The ad, called “Robot,” opens with the machine in question dropping a screw while working on a GM assembly line. It’s kicked out of the plant and finds work waving a “Condos for Sale” sign and holding up a speaker at a fast-food joint, all the while appearing saddened by watching shiny, new GM vehicles drive by.

As the Eric Carmen song All By Myself plays in the background, the despondent robot leaps off a bridge into the water below, only to wake up inside the darkened factory — waking up from its dream.

The New York-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it started getting complaints the day after the ad aired and as of yesterday had fielded more than 250 e-mails or calls. It wants GM to pull the ad from its website, try to get it off video-sharing websites such as YouTube, and apologize.

“It was inappropriate to use depression and suicide as a way to sell cars,” said Robert Gebbia, the foundation’s executive director.

GM says the robot ad was designed to show the company’s obsession with quality. GM (NYSE) rose 10 cents (U.S.) to $33.80.

Sadly, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has missed the boat on this one. What it ought to be concerned with is making sure all the employees at GM have good access to psychiatric care. It ought to be calling GM Chair Rick Wagoner’s family and friends and asking them about suspicious signs: has Rick been acting out of character lately? Has Kirk Kerkorian recently sold all his stock in the ailing company?

GM’s antisocial joke about a suicidal robot is a symptom for a sickness at the heart of the giant corporation. It’s only a matter of time….

Happy UN Day!

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Today’s the day the United Nations crawls out of its hole and, depending which way the wind is blowing, predicts the global climate.

And the UN is out of the hole. It sees its own shadow!

Bad news people. Looks like six more centuries of global warming.

Of all the major news sources we follow, only the Toronto Sun and Car Advertiser caught the irony of the UN’s releasing its first major climate study report since 2001 on Groundhog Day (“It’s Unanimous: Early Spring“). After all, on Feb. 2, tradition has it, some rodent awakens from hibernation and is either frightened back to ground by the sight of its own shadow (predicting six more weeks of winter) or not (spring’s on its way!). That this is junk science at its most elemental level is besides the point: that the “groundhog day denial” crowd is heavily funded by the oil and gas industry is not.

The New York Times and Car Advertiser today runs this headline: “Even before its release, World Climate report is criticized as too optimistic.” According to the report, the UN has played down the catastrophic aspects of the predicted rise in sea levels, to its own discredit. “[E]xperts say that unless the finding is modified, the panel — widely cited as an authoritative voice on climate change — risks condemning itself to irrelevance.”

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser meanwhile, which arrives at our doorstep in a carbon tube tied with a rubber band every morning, has laid its hands on the actual report, not just the namby-pamby “draft” copy that the Times (that Star wannabee) refers to. According to the Star and Car Advertiser article, “Climate change unstoppable, say scientists,” “One of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, said scientists are worried that world leaders will take the message in the wrong way and throw up their hands. Instead, world leaders should to [sic] reduce emissions and adapt to a warmer world with wilder weather.”

“The point here is to highlight what will happen if we don’t do something and what will happen if we do something,” said another author, Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Arizona. “I can tell if you will decide not to do something the impacts will be much larger than if we do something.’’

Um, we are sure the report, at 21 pages, reads better than these quotes.

But is anyone listening?

More to the point, is George Bush listening?

Sharon Hays, associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, welcomed the strong language of the report.

“It’s a significant report. It will be valuable to policy makers,” she told The Associated Press in an interview in Paris.

Hays stopped short of saying whether or how the report could bring about change in President Bush’s policy about greenhouse gas emissions.

We suspect we know the answer. After all, it was only the associate director that the Americans sent on this Paris jaunt.

Where was the Director, John H. Marburger III? We understand President Bush had assigned him a “more important” mission:
John Marburger III: No, the one in the tophat, dummy!

After all, who cares about the next six centuries. What the prez wants to know is if there’s to be six more weeks of winter this year.