Archive for March, 2007

Lancet medical journal: cars worse than heroin?

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Breaking news dept:

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser today reported on a new study out of Great Britain. Originally published in the Lancet medical journal (free registration required), the study analyzes a variety of drugs (legal and illegal) and suggests:

…a new system for assessing the potential harms of individual drugs on the basis of fact and scientific knowledge. This system is able to respond to evolving evidence about the potential harm of current drugs and to rank the threat presented by any new street drug.

There are three main factors that together determine the harm associated with any drug of potential abuse: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society.

Based on these three factors, the study suggests a reassessment of commonly-held beliefs about the dangers posed by different drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, heroin, ecstacy and LSD. In particular, whereas the latter three drugs are usually lumped together at the top of any list of “most dangerous substances” by enforcement officials, this study says when all is considered, yes, heroin is the most damaging. But given “the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society,” booze is far more dangerous than LSD, and tobacco far more dangerous than marijuana. Ecstasy barely makes the cut, coming in just ahead of the drug khat.

Immediately, a critical question arises. No, not about peyote, although it’s not on the list. And no, not magic mushrooms, which are legal in many parts of the world. Coffee? Please don’t talk to us about coffee.

No, dear reader, there is one substance that should be analyzed with this new lens, a substance so common in “polite society” it often goes unnoticed and unconsidered. A substance upon which a significant minority of “upstanding citizens” of most industrial countries are completely dependent and which kills and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands around the world every year. A substance which has torn apart countless families and destroyed communities throughout both the developed and the developing world (in the name of the “Modern Project“): a substance, moreover, which is allowed free play in our media through advertising (much of it aimed at children) to earn money for its manufacturers and “pushers.”

The question is, where does the automobile fit in? Where does the automobile fall on the chart of dangerous substances?

We know where we would place it. In reality, it forms the fabric upon which all the other dangerous substances play their hand. The chart itself is “auto-space.” Heroin, sit down.

The Lancet chart: we take it the “white area” represents the danger presented by the automobile?

click image for full view

Sleep-driving again? This explains a lot.

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Here at the ALLDERBLOB we keep an eye out for news of the impending autocalypse Down, Fido! Down! at all times. It is perhaps no coincidence that our lobsight is constantly muddied by the crap spun up from the wheels in front of us. Especially lately, with spring in Toronto and a lot of melting on the roads, we have been inundated with spam messages offering access to a cornucopia of delights. Tramadol? Get it here. Tranny doll? Get it here. Etcetera.

Not surprisingly, we have recently upgraded our spam filter (Hello, Akismet!). We will miss those uninvited offers of cheap Ambien. Not.

But Ambien will not miss us, we are sure. After all, it’s this little sleeping pill, along with 12 other “prescription sedative-hypnotic medications approved to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders” that has been in the news lately. Apparently they are to blame for a rash of incidents where folks go to bed after taking the medication, only to find themselves behind the wheel of their car, jolted awake after some terrible crash. How many of them don’t wake up? And how many of them manage a “round trip,” after who knows what dastardly “hit and run” event?

Fact is, we can’t escape the tyranny of “Auto-space” [no, not that auto-space. This auto-space. --ed.]. To exist in the world is to struggle with the car at every turn.

In our very first post here at the ALLDERBLOB, we reported on the significance of the 20% of drivers who “admit” falling asleep at the wheel. Now it seems we need to worry about drivers who fall asleep in bed, too.

What’s the solution? Outlaw sleeping? We don’t think so. Outlaw driving? You’re getting warmer. Sue the bastids? Hot indeed.

We at the ALLDERBLOB say only that it’s past time to expand the car-free zones of the city.
We have appeased the non-smokers. What about the non-drivers? Andy Singer CARtoon

And of course, it’s past time to ban car advertising in all its forms.

We were alerted to the issue by our own local paper, the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, which issued this dry little note on the business pages shortly before ALLDERBOB day this year. We leave you with the full text of the article, to ponder at your leisure:

U.S. sounds alarm on sleeping pills

Mar 15, 2007
Susan Heavey
REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

WASHINGTON–Popular sleep drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta can cause odd and potentially dangerous behaviours such as driving while asleep as well as severe allergic reactions that warrant stronger warnings, U.S. health officials said yesterday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for the new cautions on 13 prescription sedative-hypnotic medications approved to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, but said its concerns were not serious enough to withdraw the drugs.

Many of the drugs can be used safely, said Dr. Steven Galson, head of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, but data collected since their approval raised concerns.

“After reviewing the available post-marketing adverse event information for these products, FDA concluded that labelling changes are necessary to inform health-care providers and consumers about risks,” he said.

Those risks include doing various activities such as driving while asleep – so-called “sleep driving” – without any recollection afterward, the FDA said. Patients taking the drugs were also found to make phone calls, have sex, eat and cook while asleep.

Severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis and severe facial swelling called angioedema can also occur, even with the first dose.

The warnings target Sepracor Inc.’s Lunesta and Sanofi-Aventis’s Ambien as well as drugs made by Abbott Laboratories, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. and Tyco International Ltd.’s Tyco Healthcare, the agency said.

Both Lunesta and Ambien are available in Canada.

Health Canada’s website has only posted one advisory or warning for a sleep drug in the past two years. That advisory, posted Feb. 23, was for Sleepees, a herbal sleeping pill, which Health Canada warned can be habit-forming and cause confusion and memory loss. Sleepees isn’t legally sold in Canada.

Dr. Russell Katz, of FDA’s neurology division, told reporters he could not say how many cases of sleep-driving and other side effects had been reported but said they were rare. He added it was likely such incidents were underreported by consumers and doctors.

Researchers say they have noted dozens of dangerous cases of sleepwalking and other behaviour in patients taking such drugs.

Most manufacturers have agreed to place the stronger warnings on their product labels except for one, which Katz declined to identify. The FDA also recommended manufacturers of sleep drugs conduct trials to see how often the risks affect patients taking their particular product.

With files from Josh Wingrove

ALLDERBLOB Day passes like the wind

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

It’s March 17.

On this, the day formerly known as St. Patrick’s Day, folks all over the world gather together to celebrate and plan for a world without automobile advertising.

Many of them remain sober.

Yes, it’s ALLDERBLOB Day again.

While a lot has happened in the history of the world, apparently among the events proclaimed today (our research dept. cites some 1.2 million items) the invention of ALLDERBLOB Day last year tops the chart. Or as the St Patrick’s day poseurs put it: “top o’ the chart” to ye.

Meet the man who defeated the entire U.S. Military-Industrial Complex

Friday, March 16th, 2007

It was in 1961 that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower told Americans the net spending of the U.S. military was more than the combined income of all U.S. corporations combined, and warned against the crushing and overwhelming forces of the “military-industrial complex.”

Against that backdrop, we have the events of September, 2001. The entire American military-industrial complex was overturned on that day. What mastermind carried out the attack? What stupendous resources did they have at their disposal? How did they disable NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and the combined resources of General Motors, Ford Motors, and Chrysler, etc?

Thanks to the U.S. Government, which released the sworn confession of one of its prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, we now have the answer to these questions. As reported in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser (etc.), the “mastermind” was one Khalid Sheikh Muhammed.

They say looks can be deceiving...(ap photo)

Sheikh Mohammed: “I was responsible for 9/11 from A to Z.”

Although we have not seen the “signed confession,” we assume Sheikh Muhammed is also responsible for the fact that at the BBC, on September 11 2001, a reporter on live TV announced the collapse of the 47-storey WTC-7 approximately 26 minutes before the event.

What a smooth operator.

ALLDERBLOB scooped: or, “What’s that on my shoe?”

Friday, March 9th, 2007

In what is beginning to feel like some of our unhappiest childhood memories, we are sad to report that our once-stalwart urban designist, Jacob Allderdice, has again lent his talents to the competition. Who needs the ol’ blob, apparently is his thinking. He apparently has bigger fish to fry. We’d like to say to hell with him, and “let it go,” as the euphemism has it ["Allderdice, you're fired!" is what we'd mean--ed.] but without him, um, we’re nothing.

And we’re not just whistlin’ dixie here.

So we soldier on…(sigh).

Allderdice’s latest screed has him shouting at Paula Fletcher, councillor for Toronto Ward 30, regarding her misguided attempts to “help” bicyclists by putting a bike lane on a busy arterial road where cyclists have no desire to be. She’s taken Eastern Avenue, a scary four-lane road that takes rush hour car commuters (1,685 of them per hour, peak period) and throws them into downtown Toronto. Out of Eastern, she’s chopped an eleven-block section (from Leslie St. to Logan) where she proposes an experiment: namely, if you build it, will they come?

Eastern Avenue Toronto looking downtown

See, at present no one rides a bike on Eastern Ave.
Why? Because there are other, more pleasant and more useful roads to take on a bicycle. You can ride on the gold-plated Lakeshore bikepath. You can ride on Queen, with its streetcar-becalmed traffic, its shops, restaurants and apartments. You can take the bikelanes on Dundas East if you’re in a hurry to get downtown on your bike–it’s about a two minute bikeride north of Eastern.

gold-plated lakeshore bikepath, toronto
gold-plated lakeshore bikepath, toronto

These other east-west biking options differ from Eastern (and from Fletcher’s proposal on Eastern) in that they actually take you where you want to go. Dundas gets you to River, River to Shuter, and hey-presto! You’re downtown. Lakeshore takes you to a new bridge over the Don River, built just for bicycles, and from there hooks you up to the Martin Goodman–you can practically ride all the way to the offices of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser (at 1 Yonge St.) on segregated bikepaths. Queen has workplaces, residences, and–did we mention? Places to eat dessert.

Eastern Avenue has none of this. Instead, it concludes its westward, downtown-veering stretch with a lane-weaving pretzel of an intersection with the car-jacked Don Valley “Parkway.” Does Eastern have cafes, restaurants or pleasant vistas that cyclists would be drawn to? No. Does it have a Hell’s Angel’s Motorcycle club, a lot of warehouses and empty lots, and a failing film industry? Yes. Do people who live on Eastern ride bikes? Yes, to get away from Eastern. Is Eastern on Toronto’s bikelane masterplan? No.

You get the picture.

Why is Fletcher looking at Eastern? We don’t know, but we have our suspicions. First of all, what she says is that about two years ago, residents in streets off Eastern came to her with concerns about the fast traffic. Can you blame them? If you lived near an airport, wouldn’t you be pissed off about the roar of the jets? If you had kids and Eastern in your back yard, wouldn’t you be thinking about moving? Why should you have to move? It’s cars from Scarborough and the Beaches making your life dangerous. It’s trucks and taxis avoiding congestion on Queen and Lakeshore boulevard. It’s motorcyclists from all over the city who’ve found a place to make their own personal hell.

Secondly, there’s Walmart. What’s up with that? First Pro development corp. has bought control of the land formerly known as Toronto Film Studio on Eastern Avenue. Whozat? First Pro? Just the development company behind every Walmart store in Canada.

Fletcher puts up a brave front, saying Walmart is not going to be allowed to come to Ward 30 under her watch, but we think her hands are tied. See, there’s the little matter of something called “zoning.” The land south of Eastern is zoned “employment lands.” This means Toronto Film Studio was not allowed by the city to build the “mixed use” residential/commercial project they proposed last year, one that included numerous new small streets linking south from Eastern to Lakeshore. Then there’s the big-box Loblaw grocery store at Leslie and Eastern, and the big-box Pricechopper grocery store at Leslie and Lakeshore, and the big-box Canadian Tire department store ready for a grand opening this spring at the same intersection. When (and that’s the operative word) Firstpro takes its Walmart proposal to the OMB what will happen? What’s one more big box in a field of big box stores–and, arguably, Walmart means “employment” (even if Fletcher’s husband John Cartwright, head of Toronto and York Region Labour Council, might be more inclined to see it as wage slavery).

No, Walmart is a given on Eastern. The best Fletcher can hope for is to remake the street into a “friendly, slow, residential neighbourhoood” that tells Walmart: “Unload your trucks and your mega parking lot from some other direction.” This, we suspect, is at least part of Fletcher’s desire for bikelanes here. And who knows? It might just deflect Firstpro completely.

It’s nothing but traffic calming. It’s not a concern for cyclists’ needs. There’s been no consultation with the cycling community that indicated cyclists would like bikelanes here, as opposed to somewhere else, in fact at the two public meetings Fletcher called prior to announcing this proposal (neither meeting at which she herself appeared), cyclists were adamant that the problem is Leslie St., not Eastern. Fletcher sent lackies [shurely you mean "administrative assistants" --ed.] to both these meetings, and from both meetings the lackies went away with clear instructions to Fletcher: forget Eastern. It’s Leslie that needs work.

So what is it about Leslie Street?

Let’s put this in perspective.

leslie street spit with surrounding parklands and neighbourhoods of toronto
First of all, there’s the spit. Leslie Street spit that is. A glorious carfree paradise that’s centrepiece to the new Lake Ontario Park that was just announced a few weeks ago, designed by celebrated New York architects Field Operations (FO) [Same to you--ed.].

field operations: lake ontario park
The new park has two major axes. One is east-west, from the Port to the Beaches. The other is north-south, tying the Leslie Street Spit back to the city.

The critical node in the FO plan for Lake Ontario Park is thus where Leslie Street hits Lakeshore boulevard. The fact that this critical gateway has no infrastructure for the intended users of the park: cyclists and pedestrians–to enter safely from residential areas to the North is a sign of outright failure on the part of the designers and the organization planning the park.

Then there’s the stretch of Leslie between the new park and the residential neighbourhoods to the north. This stretch is dangerous. For one thing, it is four lanes wide but its peak loads (760 cars per hour a.m. peak, 615 cars per hour p.m. peak) are just two-lanes-worth of cars. That means drivers will perceive the road as emptier, and rush to fill “gaps.” For another thing, it has driveways to the parking lots that think they’re roads: The city has even put traffic lights to control traffic entering and leaving the parking lots. So even though the sidewalk marches across the driveway, you’ve got to have these little reminder signs shrieking “Pedestrians, obey your signals!” (and woe betide you if you think it’s unnecessary). This stretch of Leslie is so unpleasant that a whole row of about 20 1970′s-era townhouses “backlots” against the street on the west side. Whoa! Is this the suburbs or what?

The street is a mess. It’s also where Isaac Morkel was killed, December 20 2005, riding his bike to Loblaws for some groceries. An experienced cyclist, he was hit by an 18-wheeler whose driver was allegedly “lost.” Morkel had a green light.

Children and elderly, walk this street at your peril. Experienced cyclists, maybe you should consider dismounting.

Yet it’s these folks: children and elderly, experienced cyclists and not, that might be expected to make use of the new park. It’s these folks who could conceiveably walk or bike to the big-box grocery stores for food or work.

It’s Leslie that has to be fixed.
Eastern is another matter.

But by putting a bikelane on Eastern, a street that carries a peak load of 1,685 cars per hour, we have to remove a lane of traffic. Now one lane is being asked to carry roughly double what any single lane can be expected to carry. There are 800 cars an hour now that are going to be looking for somewhere to turn off.

They will take Leslie. Leslie, as we have demonstrated, has capacity for all those additional 800 cars per hour.

And pity the damn fools who don’t know better than to drive their bike-laden trucks to the new Lake Ontario Park for their recreational pastimes. As another Toronto Councillor, Rob Ford put it so eloquently in city hall yesterday, “I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”

Toronto Star and Car Advertiser pays lipservice to Ontario obesity crisis

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Breaking News Dept:

Ontario has a diabetes problem. A recent study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal of some note, pointed out that even taking into account the province’s population growth, incidences of diabetes have increased by 70% in ten years.

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser is outraged. It put out a strongly-worded editorial calling for a jihad against diabetes–and against its co-conspirator, obesity. “Much the way it attacked smoking, Ontario needs to focus public attention on the danger posed by obesity.”

We agree strongly with the Star‘s position, and are glad to hear they will be starting the fight right in their own newspaper–by banning all car ads. After all, it’s cars that cause car dependency, and it’s car dependency that leads to inactivity, drive-thru junk-food stands, obesity and diabetes.

Gardiner closed to traffic: falling ice hazard

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Ice falling from the CNN tower in Toronto has led to the closure of the elevated Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. This highway, It’s said, carries some 200,000 cars per day.

In times like these one has to wonder: is Mother Nature trying to tell us something?

Manhattan’s elevated West Side highway fell down in 1973.
80,000 cars disappeared!

It carried 80,000 cars per day. The city studied where those cars went and found the city absorbed the loss of infrastructure without significant changes to the rest of the grid. In other words, 80,000 trips a day disappeared (the link is to an interview with “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, who undertook the studies on behalf of the New York Department of Transportation. Our colleagues over at “Stayfree” e-magazine have transcribed an interview that New York’s Streetsblob put up on its website).

Hope someone’s paying attention to the situation at the gardiner.

Schwartz: One of my first assignments was racing out to the West Side Highway [formerly Miller Highway] when it collapsed; this was an elevated platform that fell to the ground. We were hired to measure the impact on traffic. I put traffic counters all across the avenues and traced the diversion; it went to the FDR Drive and to the West Side avenues. But over time, we didn’t see any increase in traffic: the other avenues absorbed it and we weren’t able to trace it.

Q: So a big highway disappears and the traffic increase on other streets was barely measurable?

Schwartz: Yes, a highway carrying 80,000 vehicles a day collapsed and… nothing. We couldn’t even measure a change in speeds!

Tooker Taken Today in 2004

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

The ALLDERBLOB has learned that our resident Urban Designer, Jacob Allderdice, has been working for the competition. Just when you thought you knew someone…

Following is an unpublished letter to the editor of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, in response to a slew of lipservice-paying screeds voicing “concern” over the climate-change crisis.

to the Editor:

Much ink has been spilled at your newspaper regarding the climate crisis.

Just around the corner, March 3, marks the third anniversary of the tragic death of Tooker Gomberg: a prophet of global climate change and a man who worked hard to make things better for the planet.

In what is known as “Tooker’s last column,” a piece he wrote for the University of Waterloo’s “Alternatives” planning journal, Gomberg made this radical proposal:

“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. “

What would Gomberg have said about your recent blandishments on climate change, coming as it did on newsprint sullied by advertisements and celebrations of car culture at every turn?

Hypocrites will try to hide behind pretty words, but their actions always betray them. Will the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser ever acknowledge its role in the ongoing disaster humankind is making of its only home? Will it ever take steps to tell car advertisers to “back off?”

Despite their poaching of our talent, we are willing to put a plug in for the Tooker Memorial Bikelane project: Today, Saturday March 3, you can join the gang in a variety of activities including a group howl at the moon
lunareclipse2004
(which is expected to shroud itself in gloom tonight in sympathy with Tooker’s celebrants). At 10 pm you can ride the route starting at St.George and Bloor, “en masse.”

Gord Perks: We have to redesign the city

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

This post started out as a lob at the absurd “Driven to Quit” challenge being waved about over at the Canadian Cancer Society. You’ve seen the billboards, newspaper ads and the pamphlets: they’re offering a new car as incentive to cigarette smokers to abstain for the month of March.

You can spot the irony. In a city with a huge smog problem, a province with a huge sprawl problem, and a country with a huge climate change problem, which dependency is worse: that on tobacco or that on cars?

For more, we give you our urban design correspondent, Jacob Allderdice:

cc Toronto Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser

E-mail: driventoquit@ontario.cancer.ca
Fax: 1 800 706-0112 (toll-free)
Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
1639 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON
M4T 2W6

Hi Canadian Cancer Society–

I was planning to make a big donation to your organization this year but am waiting to hear from you. What is your rationalization for this absurd campaign to encourage more people to drive cars?

I am referring to your “Driven to Quit” promotion, which offers a new car as incentive to get smokers to quit.

Fact is, I’m not a smoker, but I’d rather have the entire population addicted to cigarettes than have everyone “dependent” (as the euphemism has it) on the automobile: at least smokers don’t necessarily despoil the landscape with urban sprawl; they don’t kill wildlife and people by their need to get places quickly, and they don’t cause wars over the raw material of their addiction. Tobacco smokers don’t require the spreading of roadsalt and other toxic substances everywhere, or contribute substantially to global warming. And then there’s the smoke/smog comparison: think the contents of tobacco smoke is noxious? Try sucking the tailpipe of an automobile.

No matter how your PR flacks spin this “promotion” (I suspect you’re going to tell me that “everyone wants a car, so it’s a good motivator”) fact is you’ve made a giant mistake. How much do the full page ads and TTC billboards cost, anyway? What percent of my donation actually pays for cancer research?

Until I get satisfaction with these questions, you sure won’t be getting any money from me, and everyone I know is going to know why I feel this way.

“Driven to Quit:” absurd, no? Yet this thing is mainstream: it has backing from the City of Toronto and is cosponsored by Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson? You know them–they probably made that crap you smeared on your body this morning–whatever it was. You know them. They own Pfizer Pharmaceutical, and a wink is as good as a nod with those people. You know Johnson & Johnson. They own the company that makes Dean Kamen’s “ibot.” And for god’s sake, you know Kamen. You know the Segway he invented, coming to a sidewalk (god forbid) near you.

As for us, we’d be interested in a Driven to Quit campaign that awards quitters with a new Segway. We just have to make sure they stay on the road where they belong, though.

Oh–Johnson & Johnson also own companies that make nicotine patches, sprays and gum. So when you take the “Driven to Quit” challenge, you know you’ve got a friend ™.

Some of our colleagues in the International Bicycle Conspiracy and at BACON (Ban Advertising Cars Over Night) have had their antennae up over the “Driven to Quit” campaign for a long time. But it’s Streets Are For People, the ingenious tag team of auto-wranglers who’ve brought us such delicacies as Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market and the “Parked Car” project, who hit this one out of the parking lot.
quitten to drive--photo by Darren Stehr

Learn about the results of their effort in this week’s NOW magazine and at Martino’s Bikelane Diary.

We first read the coverage in this week’s NOW magazine (after we finished drooling over the “letters to the editor” page), but following the link from Martino got us to the online version of the story, including this fascinating snippet from Toronto City Councillor Gord Perks: “If you live where you can walk to a grocery store or take a streetcar to work, giving up driving is quite easy, as I have.”

Now it’s true we’ve had our differences with Sr. Perks in the past. We’re pleased to hear he’s given up driving, but we wonder how far that takes him so long as his wife is still a member of that rabid pack of road-huggers, the Canadian Automobile Association.

“If you live in an area where you can’t get a loaf of bread unless you get in your car, then it’s a whole different challenge. So we have to both give people incentives to get out of their car but also redesign parts of the city so that’s easy to do.”

Bravo, Sr. Perks! Where shall we start? How about replacing the Toronto Island Airport with a new carfree community of shops, apartments, and houses? How about taking a bulldozer to the Don Valley Parkway? Oh, we at the ALLDERBLOB have lots of suggestions for this one. We’ll put our resident Urban Designer right on it. Just call us.

NOW magazine completes its coverage of the Quittin’ to Drive campaign with its own modest suggestion: “What about bike lanes, a better transit system and walkable neighbourhoods to encourage drivers to kick their filthy habit?”

Toronto Entertainment Weeklies Drink the Car-ad-hater’s Kool-aid

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

In a previous post, we described the local “indie entertainment weeklies” (one owned by mega-car advertiser Torstar, the other by millionaires Michael Hollet and Alice Klein). Both weekly papers are free, published every Thursday and placed in boxes around the city in time for folks to get their weekend entertainment options figured out. Both take a strong (not to say “holier than thou”) attitude toward issues of global warming, smog, car dependency, and the environment. Despite this lip-service paid by both weeklies to environmental causes, both have traditionally been littered with car porn, advertising those rolling furnaces our culture primes hip, young bohemian wanna-be’s to think are “necessary evils.

But something is shifting, some unspoken lines are being drawn. Last week NOW published an entire issue without a single car ad. Then today, whoops, there they go again! No car porn! Not one single ad.

Last week EYE had only one car ad. This week? Same thing. Just one ad.

What’s going on?

We put our intrepid urban designer, Jacob Allderdice, to the task of voicing (guarded) praise. Letters were written to both weeklies, and (strangely enough) both found print.

Published today in NOW magazine:

Toronto

Make it policy: ban car ads

Wow, NOW. what can a dedicated car-hater say? You proved it can be done. You put out an entire issue, 120 pages plus a 16-page insert, without a single car advertisement (NOW, February 22-28). Keep up the good work!

Rather than speculate on the reasons (is it that the Auto Show’s in town and the car corps have blown their ad wads on thick car porn inserts in the daily papers?), I’ll just say congratulations. It was truly a refreshing change.

Hey. Here’s an idea. Why not make it NOW policy to ban car ads all the time? I sense a green PR coup.

And today in EYE Weekly:

PEDESTRIAN AD SALES

What a strange sensation I had reading Eye Weekly on Feb. 22: an undefinable sense of the uncanny pulled me in, something refreshing and different surged on almost every page. Of course! You managed to flesh out a 56-page paper with news, comment, reviews and ads – and only one car ad in the whole mix. What a change from the usual! OK, it may be just that the monster corporations blew their ad wads on thick inserts in the daily papers, and had nothing to do with any moral stand at Eye Weekly regarding car porn. But whatever the reason, thanks.

We at the ALLDERBLOB fear it’s just a glitch, a simple case of the advertising staff at both weeklies falling down on the job. After all, no one pretends those papers are in business for the sake of the planet. They’re there for their wallets [ooh, don't you love homophones? --ed.]. Nonetheless, we felt in necessary, as we hope you will, dear reader, to “incite, encourage, and glorify” the act of rejecting car culture in all its manifestations.

We incite, encourage and glorify the writing of your own letters to NOW and EYE telling them to make it their policy to reject car advertising. The ball is rolling. Give it a gentle push.