Archive for the ‘unlikely versions of reality’ Category

Writer’s strike ends: ALLDERBLOB resumes production

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Some of our regular readers will have noticed the paucity of entries here at the ol’ blob. In fact it’s been a dry spell of some weeks. But now, as the slogan has it, you may “Ask me about my vow of silence.”ask me about my vow of silence

Is the ALLDERBLOB in fact a loser, as has been asserted around these parts since December 8 of this year? Or is there another explanation? Have our writers perchance been on strike?

As usual, it’s a little of one and a little of the other.

Yes, we’re losers. But we’re also rubber, and you’re glue, so what you say, etc and so on.

the writer’s strike according to “get fuzzy”

Fact is, we at the ALLDERBLOB have been sitting on our laurels a bit much this December. True, we have many successes this year: to us goes credit for the impending downfall of Jack Lakey at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, who will soon be deleted from the typist roster at that august car advertiser. Doubt us? Remember what happened to Giles Gherson? Remember Michael Goldbloom?

Jack Lakey, be afraid. Be very afraid. You know what happened to Case Ootes. You know what happened to Jacob Richler. You know what happened to Margaret Wente.

The latest clue to his impending downfall is the self-congratulatory article from the so-called “fixer” himself in today’s paper, where he takes credit for “hammering flat” 81% of the nails he’s seen sticking up around this city in 2007. Pride, as we can well attest, goeth before a fall. When the Fixer, a.k.a. the Smasher, gets all boastful about how he’s gonna get to the bottom of the “burnt toast smell” to be found around Jarvis and Front (earth to Fixer: it’s not burnt toast, it’s a sign of epilepsy on the part of your correspondent), we imagine Jack Lakey will soon be writing about the crumbs in the Star’s lunchroom–and editorial offices (closer to Yonge and Front, but you get the picture).

Lakey could redeem himself if he started to address something that matters: the life-or-death issues that face cyclists and pedestrians everyday in this city, rather than the cosmetics. Lakey could keep his “fixer” moniker if he’d actually address, for example, why it is that the speed limit on the Dundas East bridge, where the road narrows against cyclists and traffic gets more congested with the addition of streetcars and Don Valley Parkway-turning cars, why it is that the speed limit actually increases from 40 to 50 km/hr? Even if Lakey wanted to stick to the problems of car drivers, as is his usual pattern, he might still redeem himself: he could address the fact that the biggest cause of death among teenagers is car crashes, by advocating for more zones free of the car to be built throughout the city. For that matter he could start by calling for the removal of the automobile from the Dundas bridge–after all, for most of the past year the city got by fine without being able to drive there. And now, with the streetcar back in place, there’s even more room on the other bridges that cars use.

But we’re not holding our breath for Lakey. He’s got greener pastures, anyway. Any day now we expect to hear about his move to San Diego to join Jacob Richler and Case Ootes in a Winnebago. Ootes, Richler and Lakey–but which one is which?

But while we’re taking credit for Lakey’s imminent conversion or downfall, whichever happens, we must also round out our summary of the year 2007 by noting a couple other feathers in our cap. Christopher Hume, another writer at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, has been doing a remarkable job of late, and we think it’s because of the ol’ blob. Why do we think this?

Because we take credit for everything good that happens, that’s why.

Hume hates cars (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and in practically every article he’s written in the past couple months has put the knife in and turned it a bit: “Whatever the appeal of the car may be, mobility has little to do with it.” or: “This is a city that invites you to hop into the family vehicle and drive on downtown for a workout.” Etcetera.

Unfortunately, Hume’s strong writing talents and sharp insights are unlikely to protect him from the wrath of Canada’s largest newspaper and car advertiser for long, and we expect the hammer to come down on Hume in one form or another before the new year is out. Unless Lakey moves to San Diego first, that is.

We said a couple other feathers, and so far we’ve just mentioned Hume. Dare we mention the heroic creation of the “Danforth Model” for the city’s redesign? After all, it’s on these pages you first read about the Danforth Peninsula; it is here you first heard of “thickening” as a strategy to celebrate the fact that cars like traveling in bunches, just like pedestrians, and the best way to tame the one while providing safety for the other is to crush them together in an over-programmed jumble where the speed of a bicycle beats everything going.

Will the Danforth Model prevail–not just on the rest of the Danforth, east of Pape, but throughout Toronto wherever there are four-lane streets needing better facilities for pedestrians, cyclists shoppers and parkers? Will we see the Danforth Model on Bloor, on Jarvis, on Front, on Eglinton? The new year may hold some surprises for Torontonians.

But as for Jack Lakey, we offer our last word of advice: “Go, man go! There are plenny car problems to fix in San Diego, and you can reach them by the freeway. The Winnebago beckons!

States of Emergency: notes from around the world, and Toronto too

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Occasionally here at the ALLDERBLOB we like to wax philosophical.

We like to turn our sights outward, as it were, on the wide world outside our parochial “anti-car ad” blinders.. With our colleague Michael Dudley at citystates, we wonder about the effects of depleted uranium currently being used in everyday warfare wherever the U.S. fires a gun. With our colleague James Kunstler at the Clusterfuck Chronicle we wonder at how an entire people can ignore the little freight train of horrors that’s rushing at it from just down the track, and still refuse to get out of harm’s way.

Far away, Tbilisi, Islamabad, and Nochiya are stumbling along in their own railbeds. Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, a former state in the USSR, has imposed a state of emergency after a reported coup attempt. Islamabad, similarly, has suspended the constitution, placed its ex-president under house arrest, and has the military clubbing people in the streets.

And what about Nochiya? Well Nochiya is another matter. With Nochiya the emergency comes home. With Nochiya we have would-be cyclists stabbing at motorists with a hex wrench in the streets of Toronto.

Wikipedia [Motto: if it ain’t true what’s it doing in print? –ed.] tells us: “The Nochiya Region lies in 3 different countries: western Iran, northeastern Iraq and southeast Turkey.”
Valley of the PKK
Wikipedia tells us the Nochiya region is considered home to the earliest recognized tribe in the world, “the Nairi Tribal Confederation that was defeated by the Assyrian King Tiglathpileser I in 1,100 BC.” It continues: “Today, the area has declined in importance and is probably best known for the Kurdish PKK resistance movement and its fine tobacco plants.”

The PKK? The plot thickens. The PKK of course is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a group fighting for independence from Iraq and the group that today puts Iran under threat of invasion from Turkey. And to go a few years back, it was reports of a certain Iraqi President for Life gassing the Kurds of his own country that provided the heartbeat of moral outrage that lent credence to the U.S. push for war against Irag in 2003. Today the wind blows the other way and the U.S. describes the PKK as a “terrorist organization.”

But the Nochiya people, or Nochiyaye, are not necessarily Kurds. They are Assyrians. The Nochiyaye consist of a relatively few families. A little like the clans of Scotland, perhaps, certain names resonate through the ages. One of these is the family name Younan, or Yonan. Another is the family name Inwia, or Inwiya.

For some of you this is beginning to sound familiar. Yonan Inwia, of course, is the name of the man who the Torontoist recently described thusly: “Yonan Inwia fell roughly to the ground, his hands reaching out in a Christ-like fashion to break the heavy fall. Little did Yonan know, today he would be the messiah of cyclist rage, wielding the cuspidated tool of justice.”

The Nochiyaye, meanwhile, have on their flag a tool of justice much cuspidated: a lumpen cross.
cuspidated tool at centre

Christlike? This isn’t how the Toronto Police described Inwia. To them, he is the alleged attacker of a motorist on College Street near La Plante Ave, 34 years old (although originally described as “in his 20s” by witnesses [more sad evidence of the anti-aging effects of bicycle riding–or something more sinister?–ed.]). A colleague in the International Bicycle Conspiracy pointed out that there is no “LaPlante Ave” in Toronto according to Google maps–and while this is true (check for yourself) it does not mean the suspect is a police “plant(e)” necessarily. Check again with “La Plante” spelled correctly.

As to the episode itself, the hexing of the motorist: If Inwia is indeed found to be the culprit, we have evidence of something much stranger than just a possible police plant(e). For in Inwia we are witness to an acronym little known except among the more rabid followers of a certain alleged messiah: It’s Not Words, It’s Actions.

James 1:22—”Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words – It’s Not Words. It’s
Actions! (INWIA)

Here’s another one: “My philosophy of ministry to children is very simple. Children need to learn about Jesus and have fun. INWIA – It’s Not Words, It’s Actions.

Meanwhile, back in Nochiya, we hear (see the PKK “terrorist organization” link above) “Turks demand action, not words” against the PKK.

Cuspidated? You tell me.

ALLDERBLOB to Allderdice: “You’re Fired!” “He’s just too boring” –Blobby

Saturday, April 28th, 2007


In a post entitled “Danforth Peninsula–Fact or Fabulation,” the ALLDERBLOB’s urban design “expert” Jacob Allderdice let loose with a winding, breathy and ultimately (we think–we never reached the end) pointless screed. Pointless? Well, maybe not. Frankly, we suspect he’s just trying to impress someone. Who? We don’t know. Surely not his loyal readers. Is he trying to find work at Queen’s University’s History dept.? Is he trying to land a job at U. Winnipeg’s Institute for Urban Studies? Or is he vying for head of Urban Design at Pratt Institute?

Whatever. Wake us when he gets there.

Fact is, the ALLDERBLOB is not a “launching pad” for anyone’s career, and will not be used as such. We have no room and no time for folks trying to prove their “seriousness” as urban designers, or as anything else.

We reject seriousness. For that matter, we reject rejecting seriousness. There’s just no winning with us. We like it like that.

Wait–can we take that back? Winning at the ALLDERBLOB means writing well, with original ideas and clear expression.

Our other writers here, namely Blobb, Blobby, Blobbish and Blog (always one person who thinks they’re special) were unanimous in decrying Allderdice’s latest piece: “He’s boring,” to be precise.

“It happens every time he tries to write about urban design.”

“Make him go away!”

Sadly, we are in agreement. Much as it pains us to do so, we are showing Sr. Allderdice the door.

No shame, really. Legion is the number not seen as fit to writhe on our pages. To Allderdice, we bid adieu and bon chance. Maybe try one of the car advertisers?

Oh–and if someone else out there wants to risk the rough treatment writing for us on “questions of urban design,” contact us at the usual location.


So this crazybikerchick walks in on a sausage party…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007


Ever since we heard the one about the late, great ‘zine, “Chicks United for Non-noxious Transportation” in which the father of one of the writers, a father who happened, as we understood it, to have a very Christian bearing and outlook on life, espied the magazine where it lay in a pile in the writer’s living room, we have cringed a little less at hearing the word “chick” applied to a woman. The story goes that the father’s only remark at seeing the acronym splayed [um–please rephrase –ed.] across the magazine cover was “I thought the word ‘chick’ was derogatory.”

Well, so did we. But for Crazybikerchick, a.k.a. Tanya Quinn, it’s a self-chosen moniker. And some would argue the words “crazy” or “biker” are just as loaded as “chick,” if not more so.

In person, Tanya doesn’t seem like a confrontational sort. She seems the soul of diplomacy and tact. She seems really nice, if you want to know the truth. She knits, for chrissakes. We tried to introduce her to the blobber who calls himself “crazyguyonabike” (but it turned out he’s hitched, alas).

But there she was the other day, pinioned on a barstool on the stage at the NOW lounge, surrounded by six leering men.

Okay, the guys were pinioned too, and maybe it was the klieglamps that made them look as if they were leering. One thing the lights definitely did was highlight [ahem! –ed.] the shiny pates of the male panelists.

The occasion, of course, was NOW magazine and Car Advertiser‘s inaugural “Town Hall Meeting” to discuss the question: “Where is Toronto on the Road to Total Bikeability?” The venue was the NOW Lounge, where about a hundred people crowded the stage or the bar as was their wont.

Our man Blobby was there and sends this report.

At the far right [there you go, name-calling again –ed.] was a balding and/or crewcut Adamn Giambrone, Toronto city councillor and former head of the Toronto City Cycling Committee (TCC). Today he is head of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). If he is to be believed however, his true calling is to lead the Tooker Gomberg bikelane project (TTT). Where will this migration of T’s and C’s lead? Read on.

Just to the left of Giambrone, the svelte form of Danm Egan [typo? please check spelling of “svelte” before publication. –ed.], his balding pate gleaming, balanced his own stool in a stiff vertical.

Next over was Wayne Scott, with as shiny a dome as anyone could hope for, sticking out of a black leather biker (there’s that word again) jacket. Wayne’s a former member of Toronto’s Pedestrian Committee and the founder of the organization THC-3, or “Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalition.” He’s famous for a persistent and ultimately fruitful battle with Canada Revenue agency, which won the rights for human-powered couriers, on foot or bicycle, to claim a part of their daily food expense as “fuel costs.”

Au Centre was the panel moderator, NOW magazine and Walmart advertiser‘s Mike Smith. Poor guy. Hair on his head was thick and lustrous, although short. But we won’t dally with Mike. Suffice to say he was no Misha Glouberman, although he had a nice line about Tanya being the only female at a “sausage party.” We don’t understand it, but we think we’ll use that…

Tanya was beside Mike. Bald? Hardly. Woolly? That’s more like it.

Next over was Darren Stehr, well known as a NOW magazine and Walmart Advertiser photographer, who tonight was speaking as a member of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists. We liked what he had to say, but out of fairness we must mention that his head was even shinier than that of Wayne Scott. If we could find one we’d post an image of him but he’s careful which end of a camera he finds himself. One of these will have to do.

Finally, and lucky for him closest to the microphone, was the man who would be king (of ward 29 anyway), pun meister extraordinaire, TCC member, TTC rider and driver of the TTT (Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bikelane) project, Hamish Wilson. Also balding. Did we mention that?

Mike Smith started out by telling the assembled masses that Adamn Giambrone would be leaving early (due to a cross-commitment, not a lack of commitment, Mike was certain). Coming on the heels of the TTC’s public meeting a couple weeks back, where Giambrone, titular head of the TTC, “left early” without hearing the questions and concerns of the TTC riders he’d invited, this news was met with nary a grumble. After all, if the guy can’t be bothered to stick around to hear folks commentiing on stuff he’s actually responsible for, why should we expect him to stick around when he’s already crawled off the sinking ship? That is to say, he’s no longer the head of the shambled cycling committee. As you read here last week, it’s AA Heaps [no, not that AA, this AA –ed.] who’s to be TCC head. Where was Heaps on the august occasion of NOW magazine’s “first town hall” on cycling in Toronto? We don’t know. Perhaps he was “waiting for his appointment to be finalized” Perhaps he was stuck in traffic.

So unfortunately, as Adamn Giambrone spoke, there was a decided chill in the air among the assembled cyclists. At the table in front of us, Angela Bischoff took calls on her cell phone, while beside us, Marty Collier muttered to his neighbour. Was there a hush in the room? Nah. the odd chuckle, certainly.

Ears did perk up momentarily when Giambrone said he would be happy to repaint the stretch of Bloor Street West that crosses his ward with bikelanes, as the first installment of the TakeTheTooker bikelane project. But soon he was droning on with an excuse about why he could not, in fact, “just do it.”

It may have been a result of the lack of interest in what Councillor Giambrone had to say that his speaking style adopted the clipped, “take no prisoners” rhetorical style made famous by the beleagered U.S. politician and former war czar, Donald Rumsfeld. Or it may be that’s what Giambrone really sounds like. We don’t know. In any case, it bored us.

We were relieved when he came to the end of his spiel and said “Have you heard enough from the optimist on the panel? You have. Will you be hearing from the pessimists now? Yes, you will.”

Or words to that effect. What a pain in the patootie.

Danmiel Egan spoke second. It bears mentioning that both Danm and Adamn were fully suited in jacket and tie, but except for that and their shiny domes and the strange resonance in their names, the similarity ends.

Because Danm is a manm who gets things donm [Hey! You drop a jelly blob onm the keyboard or what? –ed.]. He rides a bike, he doesn’t just talk the talk.

He’s also refreshingly frank, on occasion. This was one of those occasions. He told us the bike plan is a 15-round fight, not a 5-round fight–which is lucky, because “we’ve lost the first five rounds.” The good news is, the bike and ped. sections of the transportation dept. have just hired four new full-time staff members.

It may be that in the ten rounds to come we will see more cycling infrastructure built in Toronto.

Wayne Scott took the floor. His main argument was that while the city views cycling as a summertime recreational activity, cyclists are on the roads 365 days a year. But cyclists, according to Wayne, are not a voting block. Advocating for cyclists is not a vote-getter.

Somewhere in the room, Dave Meslin smiled to himself. Things will change…

Tanya had the floor. It’s worth mentioning that Tanya’s famous for one screed in particular at her blog, her “open letter to motorists,” which according to NOW magazine and Car Advertiser has been “translated into several languages and distributed around the world.”

Tanya’s argument is that Toronto is a great city for cycling despite itself, and there are “ever-increasing numbers of cyclists” on the streets despite the pitiful infrastructure. “Everyone knows the car is the worst way to travel in the downtown core” (a message held up again most recently in NOW’s “commuter challenge” published last week). Tanya said it’s the suburbs that need help. This is a view many hold, of course, not least those who actually have cause to ride a bike out there. Finally, Tanya repeated the oft-said truth that in order to improve conditions for cyclists, things must change for car drivers. “Toronto’s streets need a radical redesign, to favour transit over the private automobile.”

Darren Stehr spoke fifth. He alone read from a prepared statement, subsequently republished at Martino’s Bikelane Diary. Unfortunately, nothing we remember him saying is on the published transcript, which raises doubts about anything else we report here. What were we drinking? Steam Whistle. “It’s an Accsheptable Brew(tm) .”

What we remember Darren saying is that if anything is making things better for cyclists in Toronto, it’s not the city leading the way. Mostly, when it happens, it’s the city getting out of the way: of advocacy groups like ARC, Streets for People, the Bike Pirates, and the mythical BEAST (Bike EAST (Everyday Access to Saner Travel)) (formerly Dundas EAST).

To Darren also goes the honour of the most telling comment of the night: he asked “Where is our champion? Cyclists need a champion on city council. Since the death of Dan Leckie, and departure of Jack Layton to the federal stage, there has been a vacuum in local government regarding the needs of cyclists. Where is our champion?”

Shortly after this Adam Giambrone excused himself and departed for his other engagement. A busy man. Close the door on your way out, would ya?

Finally, Hamish grabbed the mike. It remained in his hands for the rest of the evening. “Amanglemated Motoropolis,” “Carrupt” politicians, “tilting at windshields,” and numerous other bon mots fell from Hamish’s practiced lips, encouraged by titters of laughter from the depths of the room. He did not go on about the Gardiner Expressway extension at great length, perhaps because he’d had the satisfaction of a letter in print at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser on the subject that very day. According to his letter, the interest alone on the money now set aside for the so-called Front Street Extension” could pay for the entire length of the Tooker Gomberg Memorial bikelane (aka “Take the Tooker). At one point he referred to “traffic corridors,” and our notes tell us he missed the opportunity to pun with “CAR-ridders” or the like. He will be hearing from our readers, we are sure.

The floor opened to questions, and we dutifully put up our hand. Unfortunately, Mike Smith recognized ours as the voice who had challenged Adam Giambrone earlier, calling out from the crowd “how about trying narrower streetcars” when the councillor had said there would be no room on Eglinton for bikelanes if there is also to be a dedicated streetcar R.O.W. According to Giambrone, there are no narrower streetcars to be found in all of the modern world, a claim that we loudly doubted. We were also shunned by Mike Smith, perhaps, for our having pointed out that for Adamn, “bicycle” and “transportation” cannot truly be formed into a rational sentence.

Instead, Smith called on Angela Bischoff, who was channeling her pal Jean in Montreal by cellphone. Pretty important stuff: he wanted very badly to tell everyone to go to the Toronto Pubic Space meeting the next day. Some other important questions came up. Many of them could most usefully have been answered by Adam Giambrone, but sadly, he was well and truly gone.

After the meeting, we mingled in the crush at the bar, where we found ourselves in the realm of advice from Dan Egan.

“Don’t alienate Adam Giambrone,” he hinted darkly. “He’s a powerful man. He’s single-handedly turned around the TTC.”

We laughed. “He also single-handedly did nothing with the bikeplan.”

Giambrone, powerful? Sorry, Dan, it’s we who are powerful. We have blobs, after all. What’s Adamn going to do, cut off our computer or

Toronto Bicycle Gabfests Report

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Gabfests are always fun, if you have the time for them.

We like it when we see the same people again and again. We call that “making friends” and suspect they think of it the same way [it’s your tact and diplomacy that’s winning you new friends everyday –ed.].

Last week’s gabfest called for cycloid input into the planned Lake Ontario Park (LOP). We heard about it through a personally-directed email, but it was also announced to the publick at Martin Koob’s Biketoronto blob. Our new friend Tovi Heilbronn, a bicycle-faced road racer who is accustomed to riding time trials on a loop where the new park is to be located, organized it. Then there was the cheerful Tammy Thorne, who was informed that she is not, in fact, a “roadie.” What Tammy is, of course, is a utilitarian cyclist, as well as a cycling advocate who happens to post regular blob notes at Spacing Wire (roadies are bicycle racers who ride “road bikes,” which differentiates them from time trialists, and track bike riders, among others. Who knew?). Two others rounded out the gabfest: a couple ladies from George Brown College who held up last week’s NOW magazine and car advertiser with an announcement of the “bike chain,” a U. of Toronto bike repair clinic that was supposed to be taking place. They left when the conversation got, shall we say, technical.

What we mean is, they left when the gossip turned to people they hadn’t heard of.

Because we really didn’t talk about Lake Ontario Park, did we Tammy and Tovi. Seems Tovi was actually okay with the park as designed. It looks like it’s still going to let him ride in circles. He really didn’t get the fuss about linking LOP to the city at Leslie Street, which was our big concern. Tammy, at least, understood the need to tie the city’s on-street bike network to the carfree park, but as a west-ender needed to be reminded that in fact the “Leslie Street Spit” gets its name from an actual “Leslie Street” that links residential neighbourhoods to the north across Lakeshore Boulevard.

Otherwise, LOP will be lopped.

Nah. This gabfest turned to gossip: like, did you know the head of the Toronto City Cycling Committee (TCCCCC) is to be new Toronto councillor A.A. (Adrian) Heaps? Well, it’s so, and you heard it here first. Seems he responded to the email inviting him to the LOP discussion with the statement he doesn’t want to do anything until his “position” is made official.

We wonder if he gives adamn about bikes–or is he just another Adamn, moving on to more important things.

Gossip. What everyone knows is that Mez is working on a launch of a new group, a “Toronto Cyclist Union” [note: job opportunity –ed.], complete with a membership fee and a magazine, and an agenda to do for cyclists what the dreaded Canadian Automobile Association does for motorists.

While the CAA stands for all that’s evil and banal in the world, TCU will be its opposite. You know: “Replace Capitalism with something nice.” Launch date is sometime in 2008, which will nevertheless give it two years to destroy the power structure of Toronto City Hall as we know it, before the 2010 elections. Tammy is working on the magazine. Others, including Martino and Herb, are to have advisory status.

You read it here first.

Tovi wanted to be involved too, and regaled us with tales of the old Mez he used to know, the Mez who was camp counsellor to Tovi back in the day. Seems Mez’s youthful enterprise as a t-shirt decorator had as its first client Tovi’s summer camp [Now that would be a collector’s item! –ed.].

Could Tovi’s knowledge of Mez’s dark past have anything to do with the fact that Mez won’t return Tovi’s emails?

Allderblob readers want to know.

On our return home the night of the LOP gabfest we heard the news reported here that Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher has pulled back from the brink with her Eastern Avenue Bikelane proposal. It seems, strangely enough, she has realized working with her neighbouring councillor, Sandra Bussin (ward 32), would make sense. We are hopeful that if and when the Eastern Avenue Bikelanes get painted, the paint will extend east across Leslie, over to the north-south link proposed for Knox Ave. Knox leads to the “gold-plated” bikelanes on Lakeshore, and would loop back to connect to the Leslie Street Spit in reasonable order.

Of course, we still hold out hope that Leslie itself will be tamed, and one day the family and friends of Isaac Morkel will be able to remember his life on a safer bike ride to grocery stores and to the Leslie Street Spit.

Who’s still with us. Tammy, you there? Tovi? Mom?

For our loyal readers, the main event in the bicycle Gabfests report would have to be Wednesday night at the NOW lounge, where the inaugural “Town Hall” offered for Toronto’s delectation the question: “Where is Toronto on the road to total bikeability?”

If you want the facts of this gabfest you’d be wise to look here or here. But if you want gossip and innuendo, you’ve come to the right place.

‘Cause Allderblob readers want to know.

But you’ll have to wait. Tovi and Tammy, Mez and Adamn. Hang on a while. All this blobbing has tired us out. We’ll get back to you. Promise.

Feeling Lucky (4)

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Some of you may have heard of the illustrious Lancet Medical Journal. Google has. It records 4.6 million hits for those three words.

Now, about three weeks ago we wrote about the Lancet’s ground-breaking study of drugs, licit and otherwise, with the suggestion that “the car” could be examined with the same lens they apply to, for example, tobacco (and heroin). Did it strike a nerve somewhere? Today we’re at 14 on the list of 4.6 million.

Are we proud? Yes we’re proud. Fact is, we’re just this side of falling (in love with ourselves).

But there’s a bigger consideration to be made.

Over a year ago we read of the work of a U.S. police organization, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) whose sole mandate was to legalize illicit drugs. We read of their work in the Seattle Times and Car Advertiser, in an opinion piece by a 34-year veteran (retired) cop Norm Stamper. Stamper spent his last six years on the force as Seattle’s chief of police. Some time later, Toronto’s NOW Magazine and Car Advertiser picked up the story, in a piece by Gwynne Dyer. [Dyer missed the point about 9/11, and he missed the point about LEAP too, in our opinion–ed.] A google search will find it has not died in the interim.

The critical thing we remember from the Seattle Times and Car Advertiser story was the specific limit put on the freedoms the policing organization proposed: legalize, don’t advertise.

How would “regulated legalization” work? It would:

• Permit private companies to compete for licenses to cultivate, harvest, manufacture, package and peddle drugs.

• Create a new federal regulatory agency (with no apologies to libertarians or paleo-conservatives).

• Set and enforce standards of sanitation, potency and purity.

• Ban advertising.

• Impose (with congressional approval) taxes, fees and fines to be used for drug-abuse prevention and treatment and to cover the costs of administering the new regulatory agency.

• Police the industry much as alcoholic-beverage-control agencies keep a watch on bars and liquor stores at the state level. Such reforms would in no way excuse drug users who commit crimes: driving while impaired, providing drugs to minors, stealing an iPod, assaulting one’s spouse, abusing one’s child. The message is simple. Get loaded, commit a crime, do the time.

Sorry, could someone check that again: we seem to have a bone caught in our paragraph.

What in the world could the banning of advertisements have to do with the control of a legalized commodity?

Calling the Seattle Times and Car Advertiser! As shown by the Lancet Medical Journal, the car is the baddest of the bad drugs out there. Isn’t it really time to ban car ads?

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.

Happy UN Day!

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is anyone listening?

More to the point, is George Bush listening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey! You’re not in China anymore!

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Fact is, we were in Hong Kong.

The news of our whereabouts was brought to our attention with some force by our friend at the tail end of a severe, accute respiratory um, episode (shall we say) which resulted in a blob (shall we say) of phlegm that sat, like a raw quail egg on a piece of expensive sushi, curled on our tongue. The fact is, we didn’t like the taste (somewhat metalic, and not in the least like the proverbial chicken), and chose not to swallow. Instead, with all the discretion we could muster, we let slip the blob onto the base of a small bush on the terrace of the housing “estate”

where we had come as an invited guest.

“Hey! You’re not in China anymore, buddy!” we were told. “There’s a $5000 fine for spitting you know.”

It’s true, we have to say, that China had proven itself a nation of spitters.

And we were down with that, if you want to know. We did not begrudge the old soldier’s yellow phlegm that splat against the concrete floor of the train station in Beijing, milimeters from our wheeled suitcase as we stood to purchase tickets at the “Foreigner” window. We get the connection between the yellow coal smoke and the yellow blobs of China; indeed we have our own tradition and expertise in spitting related to the yellow air over Toronto.

Grudge? Hardly. We admired the old man’s precision.

After all, it is our studied practice to let fly from the saddle into the passing stream [you’ve lost us –ed.] of traffic as we piddle [hey! –ed.]our bicycle about the smoggy streets of our hometown. In our own way we have perfected an act just as precise as the old Chinese soldier’s. We rationalize our expectoration, when in traffic, as a “lesser of two evils–” after all, we are not spewing that noxious mixture of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and the rest of it that sprays from the arse of the gridlocked automobiles we pass.

But now we were in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, no one spits. This is not a joke. No one eats on the subway, or smokes in restaurants and bars. Is Hong Kong part of China? Arguably. The border with China, which we last experienced some 25 years ago as a militarized zone, a long tunnel of armed soldiers (perhapst the old man in Shanghai remembered us from that day?) and barbed-wire-topped walls, is now a “boundary,” not a “border.” The barbed wire is more discrete now. As Canadians we needed visas for China, but not for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a “Special Administrative Region,” or SAR, within China.

“SAR?” Just a coincidence, we are sure.

We’re no longer in China–or Hong Kong, for that matter. We’re home, back on the grimy streets of Toronto. We have a few things to think about in relation to our trip. The simplicity and ease of carfree connections throughout the city and region. The cleanliness of the streets and strange paucity of bicycles. The close quarters and tight living conditions. The drabness of the housing estates, coupled with the quirkiness of some of the pencil-thin towers. The fresh and delicious food.

We will have something to say about our old [you sure that’s the right word? –ed.] teacher, Essy Baniassad, Essy Baniassad, from the Linear City website who now heads the architecture school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and directs a project on “linear cities” related to train and rapid transit lines in China and Hong Kong.

We will have something to say about the generous hospitality of all we met.

And we will have something to say about the car and the car advertisers we encountered throughout China (including Hong Kong).

Spitting carries a fine of $HK 5,000, or about $700 CDN. No one spits in Hong Kong.

What fine should car exhaust carry?

They say recovery of jet-lag takes a day for each hour you’re behind. By this count, our two week trip has set us back thirteen days. Was it worth it?

Oh yeah.

New Year’s prognosis: Murky

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Here in Beijing, somewhat insulated from our usual daily car advertisers like the Blob and Lame or the Toronto Rats, we have to turn to other means of scanning as the old year ends and the new one, um, begins.

Actually we understand there is more of a continuity than is implied by that, a flow of time, an inexorable movement, not unlike the molecule-by-molecule change of state from solid to liquid that takes place in the high arctic as giant ice shelves slowly dissociate themselves from their historic state and move into a different sort of plane.

But nonetheless it is true that at some point the link to 2006 “breaks” and the year snaps free from its mooring, and we have 2007 on our hands.

Ugly, aint it [the answer is yes, if you’re talking about your prose. get on with it. –ed.].

So, divorced from our own normal moorings, we cast about for a check on what may be coming down for us in this brave new year.

And we see coal smoke.

We don’t actually see coal smoke, what we see is a blurry haze over everything. What it is is we smell coal smoke. That peculiar sulferous tang that turns everything, um, yellow [Hold on, thar…jest what are you implying? –ed.].

No, it’s not that. We saw it years ago, in our Prague Autumn. We saw it in a stove in our family homestead, back in New-Found-Land.

Coal is cheap, and plentiful, even by Kunstler standards. Coal is the broken ice shelf we’re standing on, looking bleakly into the future for a bearing.

We hiked the Great Wall yesterday, at a location about one hour north of Beijing called Badaling. Out of the city, slipping and pulling ourselves by the steel pole railing that is (happily) provided for the thousands of tourists who were out there that day, we noticed in our lungs a particular gritty residue from the previous two days in the city begin to loose itself. The ice on the steep steps leading away from the tacky souvenir stands was not just from the previous day’s snows.

The theory is, climbing the Great Wall on new year’s eve is a propitious undertaking, bringing luck and prosperity to those who undertake it.

We weren’t looking for luck or prosperity, but for perspective. We wished to get “above it all” and establish our bearings for the new year.

We climbed for about an hour, reaching the seventh tower.

As for establishing our bearings or gaining perspective, the fact is we were in a snowy fog the whole way. As we climbed, we gradually lost sight of what was below, while what was ahead shifted in and out of view but never revealed itself fully.

At about the fifth tower, after a vertical rise of about 600 meters, we noticed something: we could breathe better. When we stopped climbing at tower seven (or was it the public washrooms just below number seven?) it was not because we were winded, per se (although it was strenuous, and cold and colder). It was to return to the tourbus.

But up there, we could breathe again, and it was good. It made us reflect on the urban reality of a city of 16 (or 19, if you count the “floating people”) million. Coal smoke gets in your eyes, and your lungs. Getting away from the smoke may be as simple as climbing a mountain, but what then?

Back in the city, cracking off into 2007 (and our colleague jan Lundberg notwithstanding), we see coal smoke everywhere for the new year, and the years to follow. It ain’t pretty.