Archive for the ‘lobs’ Category

Molson Indy: renamed, but still stinky

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Calling it the Molson “Grand Prix” won’t change its subliminal offer: “Drink Beer, Drive Fast (hat tip to Tim Gleason).

It’s not just that we object to folks driving drunk. We object to folks driving at all.

And there are plenty who agree with us. Take Michael Smith, for example:

Drunk driving, vs. driving-drunk

by Michael Smith

A keen judge of human nature once observed that the Puritans disliked bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. A similar phenomenon is at work in the moralists’ campaign against drunk driving. If the moralists cared about the bear — in this case, people killed or injured by cars — they’d be more worried about driving tout court, rather than just the drunk variety.

Indeed, the incoherence of the moralists’ position is obvious to the most casual inspection. One hears, over and over, statistics of the following form: “In X% of traffic fatalities, alcohol is involved.” So what about the other 100 minus X? What are they, chopped liver? — Well, close enough, in many cases. Sorry about that. But you see the point. Because they were catapulted into the next world by a sober driver, that’s OK with the moralists.

There’s a more subtle lapse of logic here, too: That X% comes from analyzing the breath — or the tissue — of drivers involved in crashes. In X% of cases, there’s found to be some threshold amount of alcohol present (choose your own threshold value; one’s as arbitrary as another). So the assumption is made that because the booze is there, it must have caused the accident — or, more slyly, “contributed” to it (sorry, I already contributed at the office, as they say down at the Department of Transportation).

Now how can the causality be known? Well, the only statistical way you could even begin to establish a case for it would be to compare the alcohol in the blood of drivers who are involved in accidents, with the alcohol in the blood of drivers who reach their destinations without being involved in accidents. In other words, you’d have to know the background before you could tell anything at all from that X% you get from your Breathalyzer or your pathologist.

But nobody, as far as I can see, ever points this fact out; nor has anybody ever tried to measure the background number. So what we know about the importance of alcohol as a factor in car crashes is… precisely zero.

Then what’s with all the hysteria? The explanation has to be sought in the realm of psychology.

On some level, I think, we all know what a damned incubus the car has become. Movies tell the tale: cars get crushed, impaled, filleted, incinerated and drowned only less often than attractive young women. At the same time, of course, this realization cannot be permitted into the light of consciousness. The car remains a supremely potent fetish object, and the repository of a huge quantity of alienated libido — including that most volatile and high-octane form of libido, narcissistic libido. (An old girlfriend of mine, years ago, had a recurring dream in which her car turned into a bathing suit. A slinky, red bathing suit.)

In a situation like this, a common mechanism of resolution is the splitting of the loved and hated object into two objects, a good one and a bad one. (Think of Melanie Klein and the idea of the “good breast” and the “bad breast.” — Okay, don’t if you’d rather not.) The bad driver is the drunk driver, the good driver is the sober driver. Everything would be hunky-dory if it weren’t for the bad drivers — except, of course, for those 100 minus X% of the corpses; but presumably we just chalk them up to the will of God, or the laws of Nature, or the inexorable but ultimately beneficent Invisible Hand of the Magical Market.

I have a different paradigm. I think that instead of worrying about people who are driving drunk, we should worry about all the people who are driving-drunk; the people who are running around thought-impaired by the toxic influence of driving. This intoxication has a number of pathological effects on the nervous system. It makes drivers feel more important and more powerful than non-drivers, who can be bullied off the road, not just with impunity, but as of right. It shuts down the perceptual apparatus: all a driver can see of another driver is a metal shell. It impairs the capacity for projection and empathy; all the driver can imagine of another’s motives is a primitive tropism to get ahead of the rest of the traffic. It distorts the driver’s sense of space and time, and deludes him into believing that he ought to be able to get across town in ten minutes. It narrows his vision and shuts down his cognitive faculties, so that he’ll accelerate to reach a red light fifty feet ahead of him.

Compared to the drunkenness of driving itself, the additional impact of a convivial evening might well turn out to be trivial — if anybody ever studied the matter seriously, instead of just assuming that we know what’s going on. But either way, the best scenario of all would be if the driver just stayed home and mixed himself a pitcher of Martinis. The hell with the car, and the hell with the Puritans.

In our last post, which you by now have had plenty of time to memorize, we introduced the concept of “Canada’s National Sport,” namely the “batting around of the question: Who or What is Canada and how does it Differ from the U.S.A.?

It was a long post. You will be forgiven for never having reached the punchline, which was that Canada has the opportunity to redefine itself in the 21st century. No longer a thin East-west line hugging tight to the U.S. border. No longer a fun-house mirror, simultaneously more noble and more pathetic than our southern neighbour. No longer a “pasty simulacra” of the so-called fast-paced North American lifestyle. As we put it some time ago,

if people were honest with themselves, they’d admit that no one finds the so-called “speed of cars” fun for very long. In contrast to the thrill of skiing down a hill (especially one we’ve just trudged up), or bicycling (especially with a strong wind at our backs), or hurtling from a high rock into deep, cool water (we should all be so lucky), everyone knows the “speed” that cars give you is a pasty simulacra.

But the Allderblob is not just another dim critic, barking from the sideline. No, we are more: much more. We offer alternatives. We offer hope.

So in our last post, we held out an olive branch to society:

Canada in 2020 could be a place where folks take it easy, eh? We get where we’re going when we get there. We live by the words of the great philosopher Ivan Illich, who wrote in 1973 : “High speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive. A true choice among practical policies and of desirable social relations is possible only where speed is restrained. Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.”

What is our alternative? The Toronto Star’s Cameron Smith makes it clear we are headed for an age so dire, an age of massive storms, of floods, of fire, that our national game of self-analysis, and our concerns about whether George Bush is the real terrorist, will seem as nothing.

We are headed for a dark age.

Actually, if you follow Illich’s argument, we are already there:

The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials [emphasis ours –ed.] or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour.

In other words, the quantum leaps our world has experienced has brought us exactly full circle: our mobility level, measured in miles per hour, is no greater than that of our cave-dwelling ancestors. If anything, they had a leg up on us because they had no roads, traffic, fences, or other barriers to dictate their path of travel. They had no disconnected culs-de-sac and no meandering collector road to negotiate between them and dinner. For them, it was “as the crow flies” all the way [and actually, the crow was dinner –ed.].

But what could make that transition to “slow culture” possible, on a large scale? How could it happen in a country as large and yes, as thinly stretched to the U.S. border as Canada?

This is the question you, dear reader, must be asking yourself.

But one thing is clear: as we slide down the back of Hubbert’s Peak (the peak in world-wide oil production is said to have happened in November, 2005) it’s too late, as Kevin Deffeyes puts it, to “put on the brakes.”

What’s not too late is a change of vehicle.

Join the ranks of cyclists (drunk or sober), and enjoy the ride!

Q: When is a subway train like a horse?

Monday, June 26th, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here’s our riddle:

Q: When is a subway train like a horse?

A: When it’s a Trojan horse!

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

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

The War on Warming: Eye weekly’s cynical lipservice

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

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

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

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

Not even close.

Sigh.

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

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

has real conviction.

Well, maybe not so real.

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

Can you say: “And also massive fraud?”

Maybe the kitch of 1940s patriotism hides some cynicism.

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

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

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

Look again at the editorial:

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

Okay, Eye. You’ve said a mouthful.

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

Facing page? You know it:

Try “ENJOY THE RIDE. HECK, ENJOY THE PRICE.”

Try “FEEL PLAYFUL/FEEL SPONTANEOUS.”

Try “CHECK OUT HOW PONTIAC STACKS UP.”

Try “REWARD YOURSELF BY GIVING UP YOUR OLD CAR.”

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

To us, it’s the price of hot air.

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

Just say “no” to blood money.

Just say “no” to car advertising!

“Together, we can do it.”

Automobilious corruption versus Bicyclicious devotion

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Ads are not all created equal.

Car ads, which would convince us to buy something that will:

a. cause obesity
b. cause respiratory illness to people outside cars and to people who make cars
c. cause death by crashes and by petroleum development
d. cause rape of nature
e. cause destruction of productive farmland
f. cause erosion of cities
g. cause cancer to people inside
h. cause cancer to people outside
i. cause destruction of public transit and automobile addiction

are by nature automobilious. They lead directly to that sickness induced by the presence of automobiles.

But bicycle ads don’t do any of this stuff.

They promote consumption, it’s true, but the product they promote is by nature “bicyclicious,” which describes the “full flavour of a bicycle experience.”

A bicyclicious experience this weekend might be to ride around and visit some of Toronto’s “Doors Open” architectural open houses. Head to the Toronto Islands by ferry and cycle slowly through the “largest carfree urban community in North America.” Stop by the market gallery over the St. Lawrence market and take a gander at the remarkable exhibit of photos and memorabilia curated and with commentary by Steve Brearton, that comprises “from scorchers to alley-cat scrambles: the amazing history of the bicycle in Toronto.”

Bicyclicious or automobilious? The choice is yours. Here at the ALLDERBLOB, we always prefer health over sickness, full flavour over the pasty simulacra.

Your First Car

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

The geniuses at the Toronto Star are at it again. Just five days after Earth Day, when the editorialists hollered about preserving and protecting the planet, and a scant week after a particularly brutal day for bicycle riders in the city (two dead in Toronto), we receive word that on April 27 the Star is to present a special advertising section: “Your First Car.”

Also rejected: "Your First Weapon of Mass Destruction"

Watch for it.

Our moles at the Toronto Star, “Giles Gherson” and “Michael Goldbloom” (not their real names) revealed a little of the “behind the scenes” process that went into the section’s development.

Apparently, there was much discussion of the section’s title.

Rejected as names for the special section include:

“Your First Murder Weapon” (seen as too vague);
“Your First Sprawl-Maker” (seen as too boastful);
“Your First Homicide Machine” (too many syllables);
“Your First Massive Truck” (too exclusive);
“Your First Global Warmer” (too technical).

“Your First Car” was finally settled on in part, Giles Gherson tells us, out of respect for tradition, and in part “because it encompasses in just three words all that’s exciting about life in the 21st century: murder, sprawl, global warming, everything!”

Adds Michael Goldbloom: “Be sure to tell your readers about our upcoming special sections, tentatively titled “Your First Smoke” (timed to coincide with the annual Ride for Heart and Stroke), “Your First Gun,” (aimed at the “back to school” set) and “Your First Drink,” (to be endorsed by both A.A. and M.A.D.D., and timed for the December holidays).”

Jacob Too-too and the leaded paint

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

Jacob Richler, that would-be writer who types recipes [don’t you mean “reviews restaurants”? –ed.] at the Nazional Past (one of those free newspapers that you see around the subway entrances) [please–that’s the National Post, an esteemed publication fourth only (within Toronto) to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and the Sun –ed.], has a hate-on for cyclists [run-on sentence. please fix before publication –ed.].

We hadn’t heard much of Jacob since the Past um, fired him a few months ago, but recently according to our colleague [good grief! –ed.] Antonia Zerbisias he’s back at the helm, logging long hours at restaurant tables all over the city. Unfortunately, the right-wing zealots at the Nazional Past have an occasional lapse of judgement and permit their dutiful scribe to stray from his appointed rounds: they let him write “opinion” pieces.

Now it’s true that Jacob Richler hates cars, but he is loath to admit it. He hates how they make him stuck in traffic, he hates how they make him vulnerable to thumps from the fists of passing cyclists who he has offended in some way, he hates how they smell, sound, feel, and how they are making his family prone to asthma and obesity. Jacob Richler has disguised his hatred of cars by turning the attack outward, striking out at the very symbol of his imprisonment: the bicycle. So when he has the chance to write an “opinion” piece, it is the bicycle that he attacks.

One such piece, written about a week ago, has been making the rounds of some of our blob-like associates: the bikerefugee and the Cycling Cob, for example. The original screed is to be found online here (at the Naz. Past itself).

Now in the past, we have called Jacob Richler a “Daddy’s coattail-riding hack,” which some have suggested is an unfair characterization.

In our efforts to document the facts as we see them, we have turned up the following dialogue, presented verbatim, from an early phase of Jacob Richler’s career. We have had to admit that this piece tells us our reference to Mordecai Richler’s coattails is indeed unfair: to Richler pere. Out of public interest, we present the following transcript in an effort to clear the air.

SETTING: The RICHLER CHILDREN are sitting around the sunny breakfast room on a relaxed weekend morning at home: there’s NOAH, putting together a balsa wood model airplane, EMMA, her finger wicking text from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and little JACOB, sitting in a puddle of drool, a variety of wet toys and other items in a circle around him on the floor. All is calm.

The patriarch of the clan, MORDECAI, comes into the room. He has a glass of scotch whisky in his hand.

MORDECAI: All my chirren. Gather round, gather round.

EMMA: Dada! Look what I’m reading.

NOAH: (sighs, says nothing)

JACOB: Glub! Burble!

MORDECAI: Little Jacob, sometimes I wonder what will become of you when you grow up.

JACOB: Me go be write, jus lik you, dada!

MORDECAI: Heh, heh.

JACOB: Me go be besh write in whole wurl!

MORDECAI: Now, son…

JACOB: Write! Write! Write!

EMMA: It’s not fair, dada, I’m to be the writer.

MORDECAI (drinks): Oh, Jesus.

JACOB: Write! Write!

EMMA: Shut up! Make him shut up!

MORDECAI: Now, kids…

EMMA: I’m the writer! You said!

JACOB: Me go write! Me go write! Me write books pretty one day!

MORDECAI: Jacob, that’s enough.

EMMA: Waah! It’s not even original!

MORDECAI: Jacob, Emma, and you too, Noah: I’m going to tell you a little secret about writing.

JACOB: Write! Write!

EMMA: Waah!

MORDECAI: This is a secret known only to writers. Once I tell you, you will know it too. And you know what that will make you?

JACOB: Burble

EMMA: Ew, dada, he’s chewing lead paint chips again. Make him stop!

MORDECAI: It will make you writers. Automatically.

JACOB: Auto-Magic?

EMMA: What is it, Dada, what’s the secret?

MORDECAI: If I tell you, you have to promise me something.

EMMA: Anything, dada! Tell us!

JACOB: Auto magic, auto magic.

MORDECAI: I need all three of you to promise. You, too, Noah.

NOAH: Fuck right off.

EMMA: I promise!

JACOB: Auto. Magic.

MORDECAI: Say you promise, Jacob. You have to promise to keep the secret.

EMMA: He promises, Dada, just tell us.

MORDECAI: Okay, here goes: it’s hard work, writing. That’s the secret. Hard work.

EMMA: Wow. Thanks, Dada.

NOAH: That’s it? That’s the big secret? What about the “auto magic?”

JACOB: Burble

MORDECAI: Don’t chew on those, son.

EMMA: Hard work. Wow. Who knew?

NOAH: Fuck that shit. (Exit stage left)

EMMA: But what if you don’t work hard? What will happen then? What will happen to Noah and Jacob, Dada? Will they always be unhappy?

MORDECAI: Don’t worry about them, honeybunch. I can get them both jobs at the Nazional Past. There’s always the job of restaurant critic, if worse comes to worst—Jacob, take that OUT of your mouth! It’s not writing, exactly, but then it’s not hard work either.

EMMA: Thank you, Dada. Thank you!

JACOB: Auto, magic!

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Making a mockery of GM

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

“First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win”Mahatma Ghandi.

This famous quote, so often used by activists and the counterculture to justify their continued struggle against what often seems like insurmountable odds, could today be giving solace to an unlikely subject: General Motors, the world’s largest corporation.

GM executive to advertising dept.: \"You\'re Fired!\"

Wonder what we’re talking about? Turn on your computer’s sound system and take a look here. Like that? Have a look at this one. Pick yourself up, man, this is unseemly behaviour! Now look at this.

These are all “car commercials” done on a website GM [yes, that genetically modified car company –ed.] has set up for the express purpose of inviting folks to participate in an on-line “apprenticeship competition” (a la “La Donald”) for the chance to make an ad for their latest SUV release.

Guess what folks will be hearing soon at the executive board rooms in Detroit?

We think it will be something like this:

YOU’RE FIRED!

(Thanks and a tip of the hat to our pals over at Bricoleurbanism, that mildly abrasive soap substitute that wants nothing to do with “a bicycle expressway stretching from east to west across Toronto on Bloor-Danforth”). Bricoleurbanism sent us a couple others (this one, this one and this one) that we didn’t think were as laugh-out-loud funny, but you may enjoy seeing them anyway.

In addition, take a look at the links we posted on the weekend, found here, including one “commercial” made by none other than Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star.

Think this is fun? Always wondered what it would be like in the upper echelons of car culture? Well, wonder no longer: it’s time to roll your own! And feel free to send a link of your creation to the ALLDERBLOB in our comment forum.

Toronto Star Correction Notice– “Total Obligation” higher than it appears in ad

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

From Page A9 of the Toronto Star, Saturday March 11:

CORRECTION NOTICE
In Saturday March 11th edition of the Toronto Star Wheels section, incorrect information was published for the Ontario Toyota Dealers “Red Tag Days” newspaper advertisement.
The 2006 Toyota RAV4 listed the vehicle as having a total obligation of $3,321.30–$3,321.30 is incorrect on this model.
The legal disclosure should have stated the 2006 model RAV4 model as having a total obligation of $33,211.20
We regret the error and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Also on page A9 of the Star that day, an article called “Suicide pacts on Internet rise in Japan.”

It seems that more and more car owners, discouraged at the “total obligation” required, are choosing to make the “final payment” a bit early.

Well we don’t know that they’re car owners, necessarily. Could be the bank owns the cars they use to commit suicide in. But it’s in cars that they’re dying, according to the Star story.

TOKYO—Six young Japanese were found dead from asphyxiation in a car yesterday, charcoal stoves still smoking beside them — apparently the latest victims of a surge in suicide pacts arranged over the Internet.

We don’t know why they commit suicide, either, and we don’t wish to make light of the situation. What motivated them to use a charcoal brazier, for example, instead of the old “hose through the window” routine? We don’t know. Maybe the cost of gasoline?

Andy Singer drawing. Your freedom to kill me stops where you commit suicide

What do the experts say?

“Depressed, young people and the Internet — it’s a very dangerous mix,” said Mafumi Usui, a psychology professor at Niigata Seiryo University.

We’re sorry. Was that the internet you’re blaming? Gosh, we must have missed the part where they banged themselves repeatedly with computer monitors.

It’s the Car, man. The car will kill you, one way or another. Once you opt in, your “Total Obligation” is always higher than it appears in the Mirror (or wherever else cars are advertised).

Momma’s Coattail-Riding Hack or, Teachers and Blobbers fight back: you have nothing to lose but your dignity

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

, the Globe and Mail’s “Generation Why” columnist, wrote about the “blogosphere” Saturday.

Now, the ALLDERBLOB knows better than to write about things it knows not of. We are always careful to keep our mouths shut. Discretion is our watchword. But you can’t say that of McLaren.

The blogosphere indeed.

In Saturday’s column, McLaren came up with this zinger: “Much like teachers who teach because they can’t do, the blogger blogs because he can’t publish.”

Ouch!

Teachers and bloggers must stand united against this slur. We must demand a retraction.

It is difficult to know who should be more insulted, of course: bloggers for being likened to teachers, or vice-versa.

Maybe some of McLaren’s former teachers, the ones at McGill and Trent Universities, would have their own opinions on this.

Not that McLaren cares.

But maybe some of those teachers could tell McLaren where the real insult lies.

The real insult is the cliche McLaren utilized. What does it say about her education? Where was her editor? [Dull copy is never an excuse for sleeping on the job –ed.] The fact is, we expect better from Canada’s Car Advertiser of Record. We are sure McLaren has dingleberries with more zest than that sad excuse for a coinage.

Is it a cliche to say teachers are “those who can’t do?” Well, duh. The phrase gets 70,000 google hits. Of course, just cuz it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true, or at least partly. But it’s not exactly an original insult. Not like saying someone’s a “momma’s coattail-riding hack” (zero hits, last we checked)–even though it, too, is at least partly true.

We aren’t bitter, although in fact we are teachers. See, what teachers “do” is teach (three hits on google). Teaching is really a kind of thing itself, with its own thingness. The thingness of teaching is probably closest to that of the performer. What do performers do? They don’t do anything, really. They present–that is, they “make present” something from somewhere else. In other words, they slow down time, and bring a new present into the midst of the current one. Sometimes this is as boring as hell, other times it’s scary, or exciting, or freaky, or merely entertaining. Occasionally it’s educational. But it’s always a performance.

There are people out there who “do” that which the teacher presents, and often they are called upon to teach as well. We’ve all had teachers like that. David Mamet once pretended to teach a university class in playwrighting that we found ourselves in. We learned he couldn’t teach–which isn’t to say he’s not a reasonably good playwright. But we suspect one of his actors could have taught his material with a great deal more success.

But enough about teachers. Consider bloggers instead. McLaren throws around the word “blogosphere” like she really knows what it means. She even quotes some bloggers on the subject.

Wikipedia (that deliciously rich, yet fact-free news source) [shurely you mean fat-free? –ed.] tells us the word blobosphere [please –ed.] was coined in 1999. That makes it so, I don’t know, last century.

Sigh. Another cliche falls from those plodding fingers.

McLaren, are you listening? You can do better.

Actually, according to typist McLaren herself, she’s not listening. “I’m swearing off the blogosphere for good,” she wrote yesterday. This means, alas, the next time she googles herself on technorati she won’t.

But if she did, she’d wonder about why it is that someone whose mom never was an editor at the Globe and Mail (where as if by coincidence McLaren got her “first real job”) could come up with such great sentences as that last one [you know who deserves the credit, of course –ed.].

You may be wondering what this has to do with car advertising. Here it is: Leah McLaren, writing in the Globe and Mail (a.k.a. the nation’s car advertiser of record) may once have been a good writer. She has a good education: we respect the teachers at Trent and McGill, even if she doesn’t. She interned at This magazine, one of Canada’s finest publications.

But Leah McLaren has been corrupted. Corrupted automobiliously (just one hit, but it’s a damn fine one).

Another Cartoon Scandal in the Making?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

No one can say we at the ALLDERBLOB don’t read the newspapers.

In fact, every Saturday we unfurl the weekly WHEELS [shurely you mean the Saturday Star –ed.] and search through the car pornography to find the colour comics.

We like the strip “Get Fuzzy,” with Rob, the nebbish pet owner and his neo-conservative siamese cat and pot-bellied Canadian-born hound dog. We’re intrigued by the fact that Rob works for an ad agency. We wonder if he ever thinks about Jonathan Dee’s claim (from “But Is It Advertising,” in Harper’s Magazine, January 1999) that advertisers are just “artists with nothing to say.”

Despite ourselves, we also read Dilbert. Strangely enough, he’s another pet-owning loser with a cat and a dog.

The similarity ends there however.

You know about Dilbert. You giggle at the pointy-haired boss/devil and the colleagues who can do nothing right but manage never to get fired. You get it when the intern is loaded with the most unpleasant tasks and you get it when folks are promoted beyond the level of their competence.

Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams, comes across as the enemy of corporate culture, and we can see how you might think he’s got an anarchist streak. Or is that libertarian?

No matter: both are wrong.

If anything, Adams (and the philosophy behind his strip) is corporate culture’s greatest defender.

Adams milks corporate culture the way agribusiness milks cows. He’s got a machine or something. Adams needs corporate culture [the way the ALLDERBLOB needs car advertisements? –ed.]: for the raw material of his daily maw.

A 1997 book out there called The Trouble with Dilbert focuses on just this sort of contradiction.

The book’s author, Norman Solomon writes:

Parallel to the fictional content of Dilbert is the real-life conduct of its creator. Like Michael Jordan endorsing Nike footwear and insisting that the workers making the shoes in sweatshops overseas are irrelevant to him, Scott Adams hasn’t hesitated to align himself with immense corporations if they’re willing to move large sums of money in his direction.

The most immense corporations out there are the ones making automobiles.

So the strip we mulled over this past weekend holds no surprises. In it, Dilbert is speaking to his pet dog, explaining why he refuses to buy a gas-guzzling car. You’d go along with Dilbert, perhaps. He seems to be making sense. He says that by supporting petroleum industries he is sending his money to countries that support terrorism. By conserving gasoline, he suggests he can reduce the income of the terrorist-supporting countries.

His dog, meanwhile, is delivering Scott Adams’s real thoughts on the matter. His dog tells Dilbert that if Dilbert doesn’t buy the gas, someone else will. The terrorist-support network will survive. He even denies that a choice to consume less gasoline has any meaning at all, insofar as gasoline is a fungible commodity: “The capitalist system virtually guarantees that you’ll end up buying the lowest cost oil from sources unknown to you.” A decision to buy a small, non-gas-guzzling car only sends the message, according to Scott Adams, that “you don’t know what fungible means.”

Scott Adams’s argument is a little like the one that says “it doesn’t matter that the World Trade Centre was brought down by force; it would eventually have decayed and fallen down anyway. And the people would have died eventually too.”

We wonder if to Scott Adams, people and buildings are also fungible commodities.

Solomon writes:

All we ever have is daily life. When so much of it is taken up with doing things we don’t particularly want to do, going through motions of being who we don’t particularly want to be, our lives are slipping away. As one uneasy hectic day follows another, many workers yearn for a substantive remedy. Dilbert is a cynical placebo.