Archive for the ‘lobs’ Category

Toronto Star and Car Advertiser “Wheels” section: it’s not just for “motors” anymore

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

If there’s one thing that can be said to bother us here at the ALLDERBLOB, it’s the underlying assumptions that permeate society and the media.

Take the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser [please. –ed.]. Each week, in addition to the plethora of full-page ads for global-warming machinery spread throughout the paper, it wraps its Saturday issue in a forty-page celebration of all that’s wrong and ugly in the world: the so-called “Wheels” section.

“So-called?” Of course–because while a lot of things have wheels in this world, you’ll never read about one in this section unless it also has a motor.

Why not call it “Motors?” Guess we’ll never know, now.

Because this past Saturday someone slipped a fast one past the editor. They published a Washington Post and Car Advertiser story about a bicycle rental program in the French cities of Paris and Lyon that included such nuggets as:

A recent study analyzed different trips in the city “with a car, bike, taxi and walking, and the bikes were always the fastest.”

Our friends in the International Bicycle Conspiracy say more than wheels are going to be rolling at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser in the wake of this scandalous slip-up. Perhaps Jacob Richler, formerly of Toronto’s National Post and Car Advertiser, could find himself a cushy new job once current “Wheels” editor Mark Richardson is “dealt with.”

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:


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:


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.

breaking news dept.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Here at the ALLDERBLOB we try to keep up with the news on a daily, if not hourly basis.

News of the city, nay, the very planet itself, spirals though the seive known as the ALLDERBLOB, and what remains we offer up for the tasseography of our astute readers.

Needless to say, we are proud of what we have accomplished in 2006: the near-total eradication of car advertising in the major papers of the land.

Um, not.

Actually, it’s a little discouraging.

What’s discouraging is the disappearance of interest among our friends. Do they even care? Did they notice our sad, quiet, lack of postings this past month? Did they notice that we haven’t put anything new up since December 3, 2006?


Enough. What about Case Ootes, you’re asking. What happened in Ward 29.

The news came back in the local car advertiser, the Riverdale/East York Mirror, that the ward whose poll reported late, the one that gave Ootes his pathetic “margin of victory” [perhaps of it had been “our” margin of victory it would not have been pathetic but triumphant. Never mind. –ed.] of 20 votes, was the so-called “Governor’s Bridge” section of Toronto. It’s this section, with its plywood mansions overlooking the Don Valley from the edge of Rosedale, a section that is no more a part of the Danforth Peninsula than Case Ootes’s own home in Ward 31 [on a car-free ravine-lot cul-de-sac north of the Taylor Creek Ravine –ed.], that has thrown Mayor David Miller his familiar scapegoat for another four years.

Governor’s Bridge, we understand your frustration. We “get it” that no one in Rosedale accepts you for what you are, people with money that’s just as good as theirs (god damn it). We understand your frustration, having to vote in Ward 29 when really, you should be part of Ward 27, with your true peers in Rosedale, or even ward 26, where the heroic and yellow-hatted efforts of “Jane Pitfield for Mayor” gave David Miller his sole loss among Toronto’s 44 wards.

Governor’s Bridge, we hail thee. You have demonstrated how totally out-of-touch the Danforth Peninsula is with the forces that matter in this city. Ward 29 has what it deserves, thanks to you. It has a councillor who understands the role of East York relative to Toronto proper: a place that’s necessary to drive through in order to get somewhere that matters. And the screw was turned by folks who wouldn’t know Pape Avenue from Donlands Ave, or Cosburn from O’Connor. It’s the folks of Governor’s Bridge, in their “fewer than 200 homes,” for whom the city of Toronto has to thank for another four years of the Odious spectacle.

Governor’s Bridge, as you drive in your Merdredes Benzes through the storied streets of Rosedale on your way home these next four years, know that the laughter you hear from the real stone houses that line your way is not at you, but with you.


As for 2007, big deal. Bring it on. As we reach our 10,000th reader, and a google search of the phrase “no salesman will call” places the ALLDERBLOB at number three in 1.5 million hits, we feel ready for anything.

Forget Mayor David Miller, it’s the challenge to Councillor Case Ootes that Toronto will be talking about.

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Reading between the lines of the stories in the major Toronto “news and car advertisers” this past week it becomes evident that Toronto Councillor Case Ootes [phonetic spelling: “Odious” –ed.] has some friends in low places.

We refer in particular to this front page story from Wednesday’s Global Male and Car Advertiser, in which intrepid reporters Jeff Gray and Jennifer Lewington dig into the muck to find: “Under election rules, the city does an automatic recount with a tie vote. In other cases, a challenger must ask the city clerk for a recount. [City spokesman Brad] Ross said clerk Ulli Watkiss has ruled out granting any such requests this year.”

Which is to say, while Diane Alexopoulos may be “considering” asking for a recount, her potential request has already been denied by this clerk person, Ulli Wadkiss [sorry–could you check that spelling please? –ed.].

Any chance Watkiss and Odious are drinking buddies? We wonder. Regardless, it’s true that Odious, as Toronto deputy mayor in 2001, conferred upon Ms Wadkiss her chainmail of orifice. Quoth Odious: [She’s a] “practical, big-picture, problem solver and strategic thinker”

Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the twenty vote margin translates to a 46.3 to 46.1 percent victory for M. Odious, a victory so shlim that any reashonable pershon [hic! –ed.] would call it a tie and automatically “recount.”

But maybe we are missing the “big picture.”

Maybe we aren’t “problem solvers.”

Maybe we’re not “strategic thinkers.”

But we don’t think it’s us, we think it’s Wadkiss. We think she knows which side of the bread her butter is on. We rather suspect she’s just being “practical.”

The other major story on the Odious embarrassment was in the Toronto Rats and Car Advertiser: its reporters, Donovan Vincent and John Spears, parked themselves in M. Odious’s out-of-ward ravine-lot cul-de-sac driveway [metaphorically of course –ed.] for this tidbit:

Ootes said both NDP federal leader Jack Layton and NDP MPP Peter Tabuns canvassed for Alexopoulos in an all-out blitz aimed at toppling one of the few conservative-minded politicians in the area.

“They apparently had a demon dialler encourage people to vote for her,’’ Ootes said.

“I am still here … and they don’t like it,” he added.

Now, we at the Allderblob know gloating when we hear it, and we sure hear it in that Odious comment. We asked our resident scribe and Urban Designer, Jacob Allderdice, to examine the transcript and report back. His comment, as is his wont, took the form of a letter to the Rats and Car Advertiser “ad-itor.”

Unfortunately, the letter was not selected for publication (note: the paper endorsed M. Odious for re-election) [Note: we fixed the link –ed.].

Fortunately, we retained a copy.

To the Editor:

re: `It’s not over’ in Ward 29

Case Ootes told your reporter how Jack Layton and Peter Tabuns stumped for his Diane Alexopoulos, his main opponent and runner-up for Ward 29 councillor. It was to no avail: Ootes won anyway.

“I am still here … and they don’t like it,” he is quoted as saying.

Someone should tell him it’s ugly to gloat.

Someone should remind him that out of 12,512 votes cast in ward 29, for six candidates, he defeated Alexopoulos by just 20 votes, a margin of just 0.2 percent.

Someone should point out that as the 9-year incumbent, this is an embarrassing margin of victory. It’s not just Tabuns, Layton and Alexopoulos who don’t like it. There’s a 932-person majority in his ward who voted ABC—Anyone But Case. You can bet they don’t like it either.

Someone should make a new rule. If an incumbent wins by 0.2 percent of the vote, over his closest competitor, in a race with five opponents, the incumbent should have to spend the following term wearing a chicken suit to all council meetings.

Or someone should counsel the councillor to concede defeat.

Yours truly, (etc.)

And therein lies the rub: the Challenge to Case Ootes. We will accept your slim “victory” as a mandate to govern ward 29, if you will consent to wear a chicken suit during your four-year [choke! –ed.] term of office.

We await your response.

The dark secret of Toronto Mayor David Miller

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Readers of this blob (Hi, mom!) will know that we do not take fright easily. Not even the Harris era pitbull Guy Giorno [where are they now dept. –ed.] was able to sway us from our unappointed rounds.

But recent events have us contemplating barring our windows and bolting our doors, if not our lunch.

We refer, of course, to Monday Night at Shaw Street, where we overheard a conversation between Spacing Wire’s election blogger John Lorinc, Eye magazine’s Dale Duncan, Eye’s Ed Keenen, and the two front-runners in the mayoral election, Jane “inane” Pitfield and David “thriller” Miller.

Yes, Misha Glouberman was there too, but really, not part of the conversation at all. We envied him. We coveted his wireless microphone, if not his necktie.

In fact, Keenen’s and Glouberman’s neckties were carrying on their own side-chatter (but who are we to criticize fashion trends?).

The occasion was a sort of mayoral debate, but without the distraction of the contenders appearing on stage together. The hall was stacked along one side with hard liquor bottles, and along the other with Jane Pitfield supporters in yellowing ballcaps and severe suits, wearing scowls.

Moments of entertainment were to be had: surely a highlight was Jane Pitfield, who confused a bicycle bell with the recording of a subway chime that was used to signal the end of her alotted speaking time. We imagine neither sound is especially familiar to her, but we are willing to cut her slack for nervousness. The fact is, cyclists were in the room in some number, and a campaign had been spawned by partisans of the Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bikelane project to encourage the ringing of bicycle bells whenever a “green” or pro-cycling position was aluded to.

The bells were therefore relatively passive during Pitfield’s portion of the event although we heard a ringing in our ears during her discourse on “negative-option tree-plantings” on front yards in Leaside.

They were especially quiet during her discourse on the safety of waste incineration, although someone quite near us was heard to yell “incinerate yer ballots!

Not a position we at the ALLDERBLOB are prepared to support.

We were interested, however, when Pitfield spoke of the “144 distinct neighbourhoods” in the city of Toronto, and the importance of preserving their distinct identities and characteristics. Perhaps this explains why the Wal-Mart Power Centre that recently opened in her ward is decorated in pastel hues of mauve and fuscha stucco, with a de Chirico-inspired arcade and a parking lot for a thousand cars. In response to a heckler at this point Pitfield did indeed confirm that for her, “more cars in the suburbs” is a way of preserving that part of Toronto’s “distinctness.”

Eventually David Miller appeared, his beard glistening with sweat
under the hot lights, his jowls looking particularly heavy. We note that for him Pecan Pie is a “guilty pleasure,” and we suggest he try cycling or other active transportation, whether for exercise or as a way to commune with the family. Perhaps when he has more time, after the 13th November.

Miller was not let off easily by the feisty Spacing/Eye team. While it is true that the crowd was in Miller’s clammy little hand, the panel demonstrated nothing but professional distance, nothing but objective nonpartisan frankness. No stone was left unturned [you’re turning my stomach though. get to the point, please. –ed.].

It was Ed Keenen who delivered the knockout punch to Mayor Miller
(as reported in the Toronto Rats and Car Advertiser today):

[Keenen] said Miller told [eye] magazine three years ago cycling would be a high priority. Yet only 26 kilometres of bike paths have been built since he was elected three years ago; woefully short of the planned 1,000 kilometres.

“That’s half as much as under (former Mayor) Mel Lastman,” Miller was told.

“I’ve been campaigning since May and nobody had compared anything I’ve done to my predecessor,” the mayor replied.

Miller said the city has added about $1 million a year for biking. But he said it didn’t work, partly because some councillors fight to keep bike lanes off streets in their ward despite the fact they increase safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

Miller said the city has tried a piecemeal plan but that it’s “time to be more aggressive” and that cyclists have to push harder in neighbourhoods that resist bike lanes.

Not reported in the newspaper was the follow-up question: who are the councillors who are to blame for holding up the bikeplan?

Miller was frank, and he was specific. No mincing words here. “Case Ootes,” he replied.

A hush fell. No bicycle bells sounded. It is likely some of the older women and possibly the gentlemen too, near the bar, fainted dead away. At any rate we were aware of two or three thudding noises from that side of the room. But otherwise, a hush: only the breathless murmer: “A-B-C” could be heard, we like to think. But perhaps it was just the rustle of of a dry, balding scalp as the Jane Pitfield supporter standing near us twisted his yellow ball cap on his head.

No, we are sure we heard it: “A-B-C,” a whisper that ran like a shiver up the spine of the crowd.

If Miller heard it too, he did not let on its meaning: “Anyone But Case,” the ward 29 rallying cry of late. Miller did not say out loud the thoughts in the hearts of right-thinking ward 29 denizens: “D-VO,” or “Don’t Vote Ootes.”

No, Miller went right on talking, right up to the sound of the subway chime.

He is one politician who knows the sound of a subway chime.

But we wondered, as the evening wore on, what is up with Miller and Ootes?
We listened hard for the mayor’s take on other councillors who have similarly disappointed or confused him, but we heard nothing. In fact, in over an hour of talk, the mayor mentioned just one councillor. That was the esteemed Odious. He didn’t even mention by name his opponent, the councillor from Leaside.

Miller must really have a thing for “the embarrassment from ward 29.”

So it was with interest that we approached the mayor at the event’s end. He had stepped from the stage and was surrounded by eager reporters and bloggers with cameras and notepads held afore them. Close by the mayor were his handlers, Don Wanagas and Chris Phibbs. We hovered at the edge of this adoring clutch. It became apparent that we would not be able to get anywhere near his Warship on this occasion, and we put the question the best available alternative, Ms. Phibbs.

As an aside [please! –ed.] we must speak of our previous encounters with Chris Phibbs. In fact, we know her as the also-ran contender in the ward 30 councillor race of 2003. In that race, which our current councillor, Paula Fletcher finaly won (as a strong supporter of David Miller’s), Chris Phibbs fought a ruthless, nay, a dirty fight. The darkest moment, surely, was when, on the eve of the election she distributed flyers throughout the ward that quoted the Global Male and Car Advertiser’s columniast John Barber. Barber had inexplicably cast his hooded gaze eastward, past the Don River, onto the Danforth Peninsula, and espied the ward 30 battle. His contribution, five days before the election, was to note that Paula Fletcher had a sordid past: she was at one time the leader of the Manitoba Communist Party. From this fact, like any true-blooded amerikan would, Barber foretold dark days ahead for ward 30, and advocated a vote for Phibbs. Needless to say, the strategy backfired. If anything, support for Fletcher surged: most of ward 30 residents, after all, are fellow-travellers.

But Phibbs landed on her feet, and here she is, in the thick of the Miller war room.

On this night we asked Phibbs if, since Miller was so concerned about Case Ootes, he would be “pulling out the stops” (yes it’s true, we used this very phrase) in support of Ootes’s main opposition, Diane Alexopoulos.

And here is the beginning of the scary part.

For here is the grist of Mayor Miller’s dirty little secret.

Ms Phibbs looked us in the eye. She is a rather tall woman, with close-cropped hair and a swimmer’s build. You can see how John Barber would have fallen for her.

“Jake,” she said, “the answer is no. It’s not worth it.”

Our mouth fell open. Our eyes bugged out. It wasn’t just that Phibbs knew us by name, which is indeed a mystery.

But to say it’s “Not worth it” to campaign against the only councillor who gets under Miller’s skin enough to merit mention in the debate? We reached past Phibbs and tugged the tweed-covered shoulder of Don Wanagas. “Say it ain’t so, Don,” we pleaded. “Say Miller’s going to get out to ward 29 and do battle together with Alexopoulos.”

Wanagas is gruff. His coat is rough. His stance was tough. He huffed: “In fact, Miller was out there today, canvassing.”

But the damage was done. We went home and ordered window bars. And we pondered the meaning of this lack of enthusiasm on Miller’s part.

Because it’s not just Phibbs, and by extension Miller, who says the battle in ward 29 is a foregone conclusion. The most recent issue of Toronto Life magazine [note to our international readers: Toronto Life is like The New Yorker, except it’s about Toronto, and has fewer Canadian writers. –ed.] presented the case in similar language, in an article about Adam Vaughan’s campaign for councillor in ward 20. That’s the ward vacated by NDP powerhouse, Member of Parliament and wife of NDP leader Jack Layton, Olivia Chow. There, Vaughan has incurred the NDP’s wrath because he’s insisted on running against Chow’s chosen successor, the uninspiring Helen Kennedy. If only Helen Kennedy could boast a dark past as leader of some distant province’s communist party: but alas, she doesn’t. So in the Toronto Life story we read how Layton tried to convince Vaughan to take on Ootes instead, in which case the NDP would back him with all its might. The quote in question is:

His candidacy has been a thorn in the side of both Mayor David Miller and the local NDP machine. In their eyes, Trinity-Spadina is reserved for Olivia Chow’s former assistant, Helen Kennedy. Last winter, federal NDP leader Jack Layton offered him the party’s support and his personal endorsement—provided Vaughan ran in East York against nine-year incumbent Case Ootes. If he refused, Vaughan claims, Layton said the NDP would “bury” him. (Layton doesn’t recall using the word “bury.”)

Lose with me as your enemy, or lose with me as your friend. It was an offer he had to refuse.

Miller’s secret is out, and it’s a scary one. The man slings blame like the Allderblob vitriol. He’d rather have Case Ootes on hand, we think, in order to have someone to blame when the city’s bicycle infrastructure projects fall short the years to come.

Bar your windows, folks.

General Motors: Toronto Sun’s biggest customer?

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

Pride goeth before a fall.

According to Grant Robertson, media reporter for the Glob and Blame, Toronto’s National Newspaper of Record, the Toronto Stun (that little newspaper that coulda, shoulda) is fading. Fading fast:

In 1995, the Toronto Sun had an average weekday circulation of roughly 250,000 copies. By 2000, that number had fallen to around 200,000. And this year, it sits at around 182,000. Held up to the rest of the industry, that 27 per cent decline in the span of a decade is staggering. Toronto’s four daily papers are all worried about competition from the rise of the Internet and free commuter newspapers, but the Sun’s dramatic losses have caused management to unleash a torrent of changes — including a recent round of layoffs — that have left staff worried about the future of the paper.

Actually, we like the Sun. We know people who work there and we know people who have worked there in the past. We hear for the writers and editors it is less of a snakepit than most of the Toronto dailies.

But now the paper is stumbling. Is is the “Nearly Naked Newsgirl” formerly found on page two? Is it the communist-leaning commentary of the editors and columnists?

Or–gasp–is it the car advertising found everywhere throughout, starting on the front page?

DID CAR AD KILL (Toronto Sun cover, Jan 26 06)

You know what we think it is. The Sun has been corrupted from within: automobilious corruption has set in, and until it is purged, the paper is a goner.

Two paragraphs near the end of the Global Male story told us everything we need to know about where, why, how, who, and what is happening to the Toronto Sun:

The union representing Sun employees is now launching a Save our Sun campaign that will ask members of the newspaper’s core readership to write to Mr. Lee and protest the consolidation and cutbacks.

On the list are fire halls, restaurants and the General Motors plant in Oshawa, the Sun’s largest single customer, buying a few thousand papers a day.

The Toronto Sun, famous for bikini-clad enchiladas, now faces a crisis: its biggest customer is a dinosaur and facing extinction.

Councillor Case Ootes, fiend or friend foe?

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

It’s come to our attention that some in the cycling community are taking a long second look at the political spectrum of Toronto. In particular, they are asking: who is a friend to the city’s efforts to make a more bicycle-friendly, pedestrian-friendly city? We touched on this a couple entries ago (note corrected webpage link), and we know of others who are curious enough to speak of a “questionaire” directed at our politicians.

In this lob we dive into the heart of the matter.

With a municipal election on the horizon (we vote for councillors, school board representatives and mayor November 13), an election where a pitifully low percentage of eligible voters bother to turn out and one where incumbents are overwhelmingly likely to retake their council seats (complete with an 8% salary increase) for four more years (news flash: in their last council session councillors voted themselves an additional year each to “work their magic,” giving new meaning to the phrase “life councillor”), one question takes on great importance: which among the many politicians who delegate how our tax dollars should be spent really work to initiate and move forward changes that must be made if our city is to become more friendly to people who walk and ride bicycles? Which among our councillors “gets it” that non-driving areas are the life-blood of the city: places where motorists are restricted or eliminated, in favour of people who would choose to “live” instead?

We have appeased the non-smokers. What about the non-drivers? Andy Singer CARtoon

In particular, looking at the four city councillors who represent Toronto’s “Danforth Peninsula,” wards 29, 30, 31 and 32, which among councillors Paula Fletcher, Case Ootes, Janet Davis and Sandra Bussin is really working in the area of transportation choice to reduce greenhouse gases and ameliorate climate change? Which is making the bold moves that will be required to increase the non-driving areas of the city through better sidewalk and cycling infrastructure?

We were encouraged to examine the situation after receiving the following weird message, delivered on the back of a Rogers’ cable envelope, pasted in the cut-out letters stereotypicaly found in B-movie ransom notes:

Lenin, Marx, Trotsky, Mao,
We need Odious, Odious now!

Who or what is “Odious?” What is the significance of the link to those four bloodthirsty revolutionaries, Lenin, Marx, Trotsky and Mao?

Is Sandra Bussin “Odious?”

She’s a deputy mayor, and represents the Beaches area of the city, which includes important cycling infrastructure. She votes in favour of most of the bikeplan road improvements that have come her way, it’s true, but what has she done to initiate improvements for non-motorized road users? What benefit has the man, woman and child in the street, whether on foot or bike, gained from her tenure at city hall? Has Bussin worked to bring a bikelane to Leslie street south of Queen, where one Isaac Morkel was killed while riding his bicycle last winter? No. But she did initiate changes to that street to make a “right turn lane” from Leslie to Queen East, making car and truck traffic smoother while leaving cyclists, including children who might be returning to the city from an outing on the carfree Leslie street spit, in a more dangerous spot than ever. And what about the eastern terminus of the Dundas St E. bikelane, where activists have been calling for a realignment of the road to normalize the intersection with Kingston Road? A new condominium development is under construction there as we speak. Was the development approval process undertaken with an eye to improving the intersection? Did Bussin work for those improvements? Not to our knowledge. Has she initiated the changes necessary to allow a contraflow bikelane east of Kingston Rd, to allow cyclists to (legally) cycle through the one-block residential one-way street to ride their bikes on into the Beaches?

Um, no.

In fact, Sandra Bussin has initiated nothing herself to improve the lot of cyclists. She famously polled every resident along Jones Ave. when that bikelane was proposed, but did she poll every resident along Leslie street when the right turn lane was proposed? We don’t think so. Has she scolded the cops who routinely squat their squad cars in the bikelane that passes the 55 Division fortress at Dundas and Coxwell? Not that we’ve heard about.

Despite her lipservice to bicycle and pedestrian issues, Scratch Sandra Bussin from your list of friends. As far as we’re concerned, this deputy mayor is only as useful to cyclists and to the goal of a more liveable city as her boss, mayor Miller, tells her to be.

Who’s next on the list? Let’s look at Paula Fletcher.

Fletcher, councillor for ward 30, guards the interest of Toronto residents living south of Danforth, west of Bussin’s ward and east to the Don Valley. As former chair of the communist party of Manitoba (yes, it’s really true!) maybe she is the one who would be the mysterious “Odious,” successor to Lenin, Marx, Trotsky and Mao.

More specifically, as current point woman between folks we know who worked on the famous Dundas East bikelanes (notably Paul Young, Bill Brown and our own Jacob Allderdice among them) and the city, and local councillor for the Portlands development site, she is as powerful a force as any “deputy mayor” on council.

Did she come out to Isaac Morkel’s memorial last winter, when he died on his bike and the prow of an 18-wheeler at the intersection of Leslie and Eastern? No she did not. Did she work to follow through on the call for bike lanes up Leslie, linking the carfree weekend cycling destinations of the Leslie street Spit and Tommy Thompson Park with the residential communities in her ward to the north? No she did not.

It’s true she called for a meeting with community representatives concerned about skateboarders on the painted median of Pape south of Queen, and it’s true she asked Toronto’s bicycle transportation planner Daniel Egan to look into a bikelane on Eastern Avenue, but on meeting night she neglected to show up! And while she is aware of the concerns some of us have for the state of cycling and pedestrian safety in her ward, has she worked toward extending bicycle lanes across the Don River on Dundas St? No she has not. Has she worked on “greening” Dundas street with boulevard plantings and elimination of the speedup lanes that would start to make the bikelanes there feel more permanent? No she has not.

Is Paula Fletcher the cyclist’s friend? Is she a galvanizing force in the struggle to make Toronto less dependent on automobiles and less of a contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming? Uh, probably no more or less than any of the would-be politicians who are vying for her post at city hall this November. Is she calling for significant carfree areas in the new Portlands development, “non-driving” residential areas that could be modeled on the delightful communities on Toronto Island? We sure haven’t heard her doing so.

Then there’s Janet Davis, councillor for ward 31. This ward is north of the Danforth, east of Coxwell.

Is Davis the infamous “Odious,” the cyclists’ friend? Is it she who would inherit the mantle of “Lenin, Marx, Trotsky, Mao?”

Davis worked hard to see that a new bikelane was implemented in her ward in her first term on council. This bikelane is the controversial Cosburn Ave, which stretches from Oak Park ave in the east all the way to Broadview in the West. Its eastern terminus is the location of a cyclist death some years ago, when an elderly man was struck by a car being chased at high speeds by the police. The battle for Cosburn was a significant one, not least because of its length. Largely residential in nature, with larger apartment buildings on the portion in ward 29 and many schools along it, the street is ideal for a bikelane and in fact since the road improvements the number of cyclists using it regularely have more than doubled.

Along the way it crosses Coxwell and Donlands, two north-south streets that are both on the map for the creation of new bikelanes. Coxwell divides Davis’s ward from ward 29, while Donlands is fully in ward 29. It would be hard slogging to see Davis work toward bikelanes on those two streets without the cooperation of her neighbouring councillor, but has she made the effort? Not to our knowledge. Not even on Coxwell, where in theory she could bring pressure to bear, has there been any movement toward the improvement of cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. Coxwell would be ideal for bikelanes: it sweeps north past a hospital, past the East York Civic Centre (former city hall and headquarters of the city’s bicycle transportation department); while there are commerical districts at its northern terminus and near Gerrard st. to the south, it is mostly residential in nature. South of Danforth is the aforementioned Bussin’s territory: in theory, she and Davis could work together to create cycle lanes from the lakefront clear to the top of the Danforth Peninsula. In theory, the bikelanes could sweep across on a magnificent new carfree bridge that would link Coxwell with Don Mills Road, creating a new, much-needed link for non-drivers off the Danforth Peninsula.

Nothing, however, has been done in this department. Why not?

We can only surmise it is not important to councillor Davis. Is she a cyclists’ friend? Yes, we say, for her work on Cosburn. But she is not, in our books, “Odious.”

Who is left?

Or rather, who is Right?

Councillor Case Ootes [rhymes with “odious”–coincidence? –ed.] governs ward 29. It is he who kicked up a stink over Cosburn Ave’s bikelanes, delaying their implementation. In the end bikelanes were approved in an unusual vote of city councillors that went against the wish of the sitting councillor. Why did this happen? It could be a case of “payback time” for Ootes’s work to “rip out” the bikelanes on Dundas East, bikelanes which (we gather) disturbed his daily commute to city hall (and past the Mercedes dealership at Dundas and River Street).

[Legal disclaimer: we cannot say if Councillor Ootes receives any re-election donations from this or any other Mercedes dealership. What we can say is the last time we looked, Councillor Ootes was at the wheel of a gold-coloured Mercedes Benz with vanity plate saying “Case.” –ed.]

We are reminded of a recent pong. You will remember it, we know:

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

Is Ootes “Odious?”

Allow us to rephrase the question: Do bears shit in the woods?

It’s Case Ootes, with his Wile E. persistence, and persistent failure, who deserves the mantle of “Lenin, Marx, Trotsky, Mao.” It’s Case Ootes, with his resume including stints as Imperial Oil of Canada accounts executive; his out-of-ward-29 home on a quiet cul-de-sac backing onto the car-free Taylor Creek Ravine, from where he drives each day to and from city hall; his loony fringe calls for the ripping out of bicycle infrastructure all over the city; his work to push for a better deal for his son, the motorcycle driver who once got a parking ticket at one of those “pay and display” meters (the boy claimed the receipt was removed from the windscreen of his motorbike; the result is that moroncyclists all across this fair city no longer need pay for parking); his near-death experience running city hall as deputy to former joke mayor Mel Lastman.

Yes, in Case Ootes we have uncovered our “Odious.”

The sick irony is in Case Ootes we have also uncovered this city’s best hope for the completion of necessary cyclist infrastructure.
It is he, not cycling committee chair Adam Giambrone who has galvanized folks all across the region to work toward the expansion of non-driving areas, places in the city where pedestrians and cyclists can feel safer on the streets, and where regular folks can start to breathe free of the yoke of smog that besmirches this fair city.

So the question comes up: is this to say that we would advocate a vote for Councillor Ootes in November?

Um, no. Not at all. A lump of shit would make a better city councillor.

But we will miss his toothsome smirk nonetheless. We will miss that faint shadow of a mustache on his upper lip.

letter to the \"ad\" itor?

We will miss him when we no longer have him to kick around. And we will welcome Diane Alexopolous [that’s Alexopoulos, by the way –ed.] boring as that may seem, in his place.

Letter to the “Ad”-itor: IT’S THE CLIMATE, STUPID!

Friday, August 4th, 2006

We have to say we were excited earlier this week to return to our offices to find a telephone message from Bernie O’Neill.

O’Neill is an editor at the Mirror newspaper chain, and we had responded to a story in the East York/Riverdale version that quoted our esteemed Toronto councillor Case Ootes (ward 29) ad nauseum.

Ootes, it seems, does not like the bikelane that runs through his heart [shurely you mean “the heart of his ward?” –ed.] on Cosburn Ave.

The article, by fellow cyclist [donchu mean “typist?” –ed.] Dave Nickle, bent over backwards in its efforts at fairness to his nuttiness, councillor Case Ootes [rhymes with “odious” –ed.].

For example, Nickle tells us,

The travel time along the route during peak periods has increased, by about 10 per cent in the afternoon – 25 seconds – and by 20 per cent in the morning – 58 seconds.

Well that sounds like a pretty tough break for Case Carhead out there. Twenty-five seconds? What a slog. What a damn hard row Case has to hoe. Of course, when you put it as “10 percent,” that puts a different light on it. We take back all our sarcasm.

You can see how Nickle is trying to make Case Ootes look less like a lunatic with this “percent” analysis.

He’s trying to be fair, just in case someone finds out he rides a bicycle.

But a little later in the piece, he tells about the effect the bikelanes have had in increasing bicycle use:

Prior to the bike lanes being in place, 42 cyclists were counted. With the bike lanes, the number of cyclists increased to 94.

Hey! Nickle! Hey! Aren’t you leaving something out? Like, “That’s an increase of over 100 percent?”

Naturally, we set the rapier of our resident urban designer to the task of crafting a publishable response, to wit:

To the Editor,

re: Bid to rid Cosburn of bike lanes put on hold (East York Mirror, July 28, 2006)

Case Ootes states he will re-open the debate on Cosburn’s bikelanes in the new term of city council. Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, it’s exactly what he planned before the last election, when he let known his intention to reach into the neighbouring ward and rip out bikelanes on Dundas St. E.

Of course, he failed in that quixotic quest, and it’s safe to say he will fail again, but it’s an odd re-election strategy in the meantime.

Is this what constitutes leadership for Ootes? I have news for him. He is out of touch with Ward 29. Is this because he doesn’t actually live in the ward, but knows it mostly as a place he must drive through on his way to city hall? His focus on whether there’s a 28-second delay on Cosburn because of bikelanes does not cut it with the people of Riverdale. In fact, like people all over Toronto, they want to know what steps the city is taking to reduce its contribution to greenhouse gases. They want to know what they can do, personally, to deal with the climate crisis that is upon us, before it is too late. Riding a bike is one simple step that anyone can take toward reducing the
threat of global warming, and bikelanes make riding bikes safer for everyone.

If Ootes doesn’t get it now, maybe he will when protest signs start showing up at his meetings: “It’s the Climate, Stupid.”

The people of Ward 29 don’t really mind a slower street, one where it’s safer for the smallest and most vulnerable to participate as an equal vehicle in the road, on a bikelane. Is a 28-second “delay” really so bad for people like Case Ootes, and other residents to the east and north, as they rush through Ward 29 in their cars on their way to “somewhere else?” Maybe it’s time for them to try cycling: they may find out why bikelanes make life better.

The fact that over a few months the installation of bikelanes on Cosburn has nearly doubled the number of cyclists using it should speak louder than any survey Ootes can wave around. It’s a reminder that people all over Toronto have expressed a desire for safer transport by bikes for work and play, and that the best thing to do is not delay in implementing the rest of the city’s fully-approved bikelane masterplan.

It’s past time, in fact, for a bikelane up Donlands to link with the bikelanes on the Overlea bridge and the part of East York north of the Don Valley, and south to the bikelanes on Jones Ave and the lakefront. If Ootes wants to demonstrate leadership, instead of reactionary backsliding, let him push for bikelanes on Donlands at the next meeting of council.

Jacob Allderdice

So this explains our excitement at getting a call from Bernie O’Neill, the Mirror editor. We were happily anticipating the thought of Case Ootes reading the letter and defecating in his trousers in horror.

Instead, it was we who had to make an extra trip to the lavatory. For imagine our sadness when we turned to the letters page to see not our letter, but the snaggle-tooth grin of our sordid twin, his odiousness himself, in a paid advertisement:

letter to the \"ad\" itor?

Sick as it may seem, it is also true that just below the snap of Ootes’ leering jowls was a car advertisement.

Is there a hint of bright in the day’s sickening news?

Well, yes.

And we don’t just mean the recall notice sent to 800,000 Ford car owners.

The Mirror columnist Joe Cooper, our hero, managed a fairly credible response to the piece, however without once mentioning his foulness’s name.

We give you Joe Cooper, East York’s “Watchdog:”

On the issue of the Cosburn Avenue, I use that road on a daily basis (either car or bike) and every time that I do so I see one or more people on bicycles using the bike lane.

More importantly, I see people using the bike lanes in the rain, in the middle of winter, at night and all through the day.

However, what is very disturbing to me is the absolutely appalling behaviour of some people I have seen using motorized vehicles on that street.

I have seen excessive speeding, people passing on the solid line, people passing in parking lanes, and far too many people deliberately driving or parking in the bike lane.

Say no more.

Margaret Wente: not so provocative, after all.

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

It’s true that Margaret Wente, who writes a column in the Blog and Lame, Canada’s National Paper of Record, receives her share of opprobrium from the chattering classes. No one likes her except crackpots and fascists, for whom she seems to be giving voice. Even her niece, also named Margaret, was advised to change her name in order to travel safely in Newfoundland (after Wente the elder smeared the province in a column last year).

Wente likes salaciousness and inuendo, she loves to shock; she’s nurtured a reputation as the Globe’s bad girl: she does everything wrong, she’s–gasp–politically incorrect.

We feel sorry for her: her tottering high heels and her miniskirt, her puckered thighs. If she were a man we’d be more accepting, come to think of it. She’d make an acceptable aging transvestite.

But what we feel is not important.

It’s the facts that will out, with Margaret Wente.

Wente wrote a column in the paper last week that started out in a predictable manner: she’s driving her car to her exercise class on a smog alert, while rationalizing her behaviour because public transit is inconvenient.

For Wente, this about sums up her evidence that “The war against the car will never succeed” but she goes on. And on.

Big whup. What’s worth writing about here? After all, Wente loves her car, loves traffic, loves the “freedom” the ads tell her is hers (because she bought it: it came with her keyless ignition). She’s written about all this before.

For Wente, the story turns this time on the claim that it’s faster to get places by car than transit, despite the secondary claim that “Transit subsidies are hugely greater than any subsidies to the automobile” (a quote Wente attributes to one Peter Gordon, “a California professor of planning and economics”).

Margaret Wente extrapolates her claim to describe her own personal utopia: cars everywhere, 24 hours a day.

Well, we said she was “politically incorrect.”

But is she provocative?

Not really. Well, it’s true we did respond with a letter to her paper. In a technical sense, we were provoked.

But what got to us was not Wente’s thoughts or opinion: she’s welcome to her loony fringe views.

What got to us was our friends, who asked us how we could let such bitterness and gall go unchallenged. And then, as we examined Wente’s spurious claims in greater detail, what got to us was her lazy journalism, sloppy research, and absent ethics.

Sigh. Okay, we were a little provoked.

In our response we suggested readers might want to look a little more deeply into Wente’s scholarship. We pointed out that the Peter Gordon quote is not even original reporting on Wente’s part, but is taken verbatim from the website of “Reason” magazine, in an interview with Gordon in 1998. That this fact is not disclosed by Wente borders on plagiarism. Without question it is sloppy, for it suggests she conducted the interview herself, and it hides the fact that the statement is so last century.

Has anything changed in eight years?

Apparently not, for Wente.

In our letter, we suggested the Globe’s readers might want to look at the Peter Gordon interview themselves, and we provided the link.

What we suggested was that they look a little further along in the interview though, where the following exchange occurs:

Reason: How are you perceived in the planning community? Are you on the fringe?
Gordon: I’m at the edge of the fringe.

As we put it to the Globe editor: “Hmm. Very nice. Thank you, Margaret Wente. You have given those of us who live by the adage “I’d rather bike to a restaurant than drive to the gym!” reason to relax. Clearly, our struggle is almost over.”

Now, it’s true our letter was not published, but several others were: all of them examples of wit and intelligence, clear writing and factual relevance: words you almost never hear in the context of a post about Margaret Wente.

So maybe god put her on this earth for a purpose after all.

A Convenient Lie Car Advertisement

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Who among you has not yet seen the movie “An Inconvenient Truth“?

It’s time to go see it. It’s the scariest place at the cineplex.

[UPDATE: The editor wishes to apologize to our 17 readers (Hi Mom!) for the slip-up above. Honestly, he thought he was being clever with the title. Unfortunately, “A Convenient Lie” has been taken. About 23,000 times already. If he could, he would turn back the hands of time and come up with something better. How about “A Convenient Car Advertisement?” –ed.]

Some years ago a book called “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth” was published. No, the most dangerous place on earth is not somewhere in the middle east. Not Iraq. Not Israel. Not Lebanon. Not even Iran, where, we suggest, the bombs will soon be a-fallin’.

It’s in the eye of a hurricane. Or, to be more precise, to the immediate east of the eye, because that’s where the fastest winds will be hitting.

Damned if we can find the book today though.

Oh, we looked. We searched Amazon for books with the word “Hurricane” in the title or the subject. Amazon throws back some 63,000 hits. Ouch. Not even Mohammed Ali took that many hits. Not George Chuvalo either. Certainly not R. Crumb, although in his case we’re not positive [Hey: “Keep on Truckin’!” –ed.].

Problem is, we read the book a couple years before Hurricane Katrina hit, not to mention the three or four other hurricanes that made 2005 the most deadly year on record for hurricanes. So among the 63,000 hits on Amazon are a lot of titles to do with that disaster. You know what they say in the publishing biz: “Reap the whirlwind.”

But back in 1997 or so, we borrowed this book on hurricanes from the library and read it, fascinated by the idea that–get this–the weather has and will continue to change human history.

And the fact we most remember about hurricanes is that the water temperature needed to spawn them is only a couple degrees above the normal ocean temperature. And that global warming is expected to increase worldwide ocean temperatures by about two degrees, on average–meaning in the zones where hurricanes are spawned, near the equator, there will be more of the conditions ideal for hurricane formation.

So we were not surprised that 2005 was so deadly with hurricanes.

In the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” the issue of global warming is also touched on. In between takes of Al Gore climbing out of his car and walking to his airplane, it’s touched on quite a bit.

See, it’s no coincidence we are having “strange weather.” Core ice samples from the antarctic show that after years of consistent highs and lows in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, we are suddenly (within a single lifetime) seeing double anything that scientists have observed for 650,000 years.
carbon dioxide levels from wikipedia

Now, what you have to understand is that the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperatures is a direct one. When one rises, the other rises too. Is it causal? Who cares. Fact is, when carbon dioxide is low, temperatures fall. When it’s high, temperatures rise.

So over a 650,000 year period, we know that the “low” represents an ice age with a thousand feet of ice over New York City. We know that the “high” represents our “typical” climate, i.e. that of the last thousand or so years.

Thing is, what does this new, never-before-seen-by-anyone “high” mean? It is two to three times higher than ever seen in 650,000 years. What will it mean if we keep burning carbon at our current rate for another 30 years? And if we decide it’s finally necessary to change this pattern, how do we even begin?

Do we begin, as Al Gore’s movie would have it, with a giant full-screen car commercial (in our case, the ad was for Lexus. Tagline: “The pursuit of Deception Perfection”)?

Um, no, thank you. We’ll take the pursuit of the slow. It suits us, and, we think, it suits this brave new world of ours.

See, Car ads are just “convenient lies” we tell ourselves [the lie that without them, the economy would fail, for example –ed.].

It’s a point worth considering that it’s cars that are driving our world, and everything it contains (including the economy) to failure.

Do you begin to see why The ALLDERBLOB might think it’s past time to ban car advertisements?

The Gospel of the Car Ad is the opiate of the masses, dulling our appreciation of the dangerous place we’ve driven ourselves.

Banning car ads is not just a responsible option, it’s the least we can do.