Archive for September, 2008

Stevie Harper has left the building; Chris Carlsson shows up

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Word has it Canada is to elect a new government. The writ, as they say, was dropped a couple days ago when the Prime Minister, Stephen “Steve” Harper, formally requested Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament.

To do this, he left his own house early last Sunday morning in a four-car motorcade and drove to Parliament, where Jean had been told to expect him.

At 20 minutes after 8 a.m., Harper drove in a four-car prime ministerial motorcade across the street from his 24 Sussex Drive residence to Rideau Hall and told Governor-General Michaelle Jean he needed a new mandate.

Four cars. To drive literally across the street.

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And Steve wants us to believe he cares about the environment?

Thanks to Vic for the tip.

Our colleague Chris Carlsson, meanwhile, stopped by Toronto during the weekend past to promote his new book Nowtopia and get to know the city.

Chris, the man, is not the same person as Chris, the legend. The legend invented Critical Mass bike rides, a global phenomenon celebrated each month in some 300 cities. The man acknowledges he contributed to the discussion, and coined the name (the movement started out in San Francisco, Carlsson’s home town, under the name “Commuter Clot,” but Carlsson, who had visited China and seen the way cyclists there could literally stop the movement of motorized traffic when they built up in sufficient numbers or resolve, conceived of the name critical mass to describe the phenomenon). For “inventing” Critical Mass in 1992, Carlsson was awarded the Golden Wheel Award by the San Francisco Bike Coalition. His book Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration would be on any cycling advocate’s wish list.

Chris Carlsson, the legend, founded Processed World in 1981, a magazine (now a website) devoted to chronicling the emerging class of workers whose skills as typists eclipsed any creative abilities or gifts they might have had, when it came to finding employment.

The magazine’s creators found themselves using their only marketable skill after years of university education: “handling information.” In spite of being employed in offices as “temps,” few really thought of themselves as “office workers.” More common was the hopeful assertion that they were photographers, writers, artists, dancers, historians or philosophers.

Chris’s new book, Nowtopia, is a starchly written analysis of labour relations in the post-modern era, and as such ties in nicely with the Prime Minister of Canada deciding to quit his day job during Carlsson’s Canadian visit.

As Carlsson describes it,

Nowtopia is a book about a new politics of work. It profiles tinkerers, inventors, and improvisational spirits who bring an artistic approach to important tasks that are ignored or undervalued by market society. Rooted in practices that have been emerging over the past few decades, Nowtopia’s exploration of work locates an important thread of self-emancipatory class politics beyond the traditional arena of wage-labor.

When we have the Prime Minister of Canada acknowledging he is at best a “temp,” in other words, we are close to living the “Nowtopia” Carlsson describes. In this emerging world, we are not defined by our jobs but by what we do in our spare time. Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper the boss? Or is he just a hopeless drone, pushing paper in a windowless cubical while he itches to make some xerox art while the real boss goes to lunch?

For Carlsson, “Steve” Harper would be only a tool in the spectacle of power, no more or less than some of the tools he’s had to fire in the past week as his reelection campaign veered into weird territory.

The foam-flecked chin of David Frum shines from the pages of Francis Wilkinson’s Week Daily

Friday, September 5th, 2008

In a sickening turn of events, David Frum, who can best be described as “Sarah Palin without lipstick,”

Down, I tells ya

Down, I tells ya

has found a new home at the Daily Week.

Frum is well known as the fellow who wrote The Song that Made the Young Men Die, but he will be better known by readers of the ALLDERBLOB as the man whose recent bicycle repair here in Southern Ontario included an unexpected “Homeland Security fee” of $1,000.

And The Week, as our readers will know, is an upstart British publication with a focus on U.S. news and events, set to challenge the hegemony of car advertisers Time, Newsweek and Scholastic Upfront all at once. It publishes both a weekly print edition and a daily online edition, and strives for a balanced mix of opinion from the far right and (at least what passes for it in the U.S.) the far left. We like reading the Week. For the past month or so, a link to it has appeared on our pages under the heading “Research Dept” (for the time being it gives the lie to the notion that car advertising is necessary to keep an online magazine afloat).

But citing the far right is one thing. Allowing further air-time for that would-be American patriot (he’s Canajun, eh?) David Frum is truly a sickening turn of events.

Why? Perhaps a digression is in order.

The executive editor of the Week is our colleague [a-heem! –ed.] Francis Wilkinson, a writer whose career we have followed with interest since his days as a busboy at the Golden Inn in Avalon, N.J. His internship in the 1980s with Alexander Cockburn at the Nation was an inevitable next step. Wilkinson resurfaced (for us) in the early 1990s when we started seeing his name on the masthead at Rolling Stone magazine, where he was National Affairs Editor. He subsequently worked as a consultant for Democratic political candidates at the firm Doak, Carrier, O’Donnell, Wilkinson (famous for its lost battle to preserve California Governor Gray Davis against the Arnold Schwarzenegger juggarnaut in 2003, and its winning fight to elect Antonio Villaraigosa mayor of Los Angeles in 2005). Then, even as ALLDERBLOB day was proclaimed here in Toronto, Wilkinson parlayed his strengths and experiences into a new position. He was proclaimed “blob editur” [please fix spelling before publication –ed.] at that little-known ALLDERBLOB competitor, the Huffington Post. In short order he was writing opinion pieces at the Guardian Online as well as chronicling the U.S. presidential race on the pages of the New York Times and Car Advertiser. Around July 2008 however all this opinion writing came to a jarring halt.

Silence from the charmed pen of F. Wilkinson.

What next, the world asked.

The answer was not long in coming: as announced at the Wall Street Journal and Car Advertiser in August, Wilkinson had the new job as executive editor at the Week.

Here at the ALLDERBLOB, we have in the past made sporadic and obscure reference to Mr. Wilkinson and his work. Most recently, we pointedly compared David Frum and Mr. Wilkinson on the fame-o-meter, and found Wilkinson wanting.

But now, likely in direct response to our provocative comparison, Wilkinson has hitched his wagon to Frum’s star. Suddenly the words DAVID FRUM (and no, sadly, the capitals are not our invention) have appeared on the Week’s online content. We can only warn Mr. Wilkinson of his folly. We cannot take responsibility for the imminent fall from grace the appointment of Sr. Frum portends for our old pal Frank.

Frank, drop Frum. Drop him now; drop him without hesitation. Frum’s rancid ink will not only soil your pages. It will darken your soul. Stay with Frum and you will one day soon be writing alone, in the darkness of your living room, with your loved ones quiet and asleep and unaware. Stay with Frum and at best a future blobbing will be your fate.