Archive for the ‘unlikely versions of reality’ Category

Do you feel lucky? (3)

Friday, July 21st, 2006

God created navels for us to gaze with.

July 3, 2006

animal safari ontaro (note typo!)

st jamestown toronto (out of a million hits, ours is number 15)

circlear logic (in an abtuse reference to the way our erstwhile southern neighbours pronounce “nuclear,” the Allderblob sought to poke a little fun. Strangely, there are two other hits google gives us for this term. And they’re in earnest).

July 14, 2006
“The blob we know as Canada”: Definitely “Lucky.”

Think there’d be lots of folks writing about “moralists” and Jane Jacobs? We figured the same. Doesn’t everyone want to kick sand on her memory? So to find ourselves in the top 10 must mean we’re on to something, right?

Think “Everyone hates cars”? Well, so do we. Funny though, hardly anyone else writes about the fact.

And in a personal fave, the ALLDERBLOB asks: “Where is the ‘war on terror’ when need it most?” Strangely, we’re not the only ones asking.

July 20 2006:

You’ll not be surprised to hear the phrase “advertising versions of reality” returns some 26 million hits on google. After all, what else is there to advertise (arguably, what else is there besides “versions” of reality)? So it is with some measure of humility [ha! –ed.] that we note our place in the list at number one.

We never actually wrote about pseudoscience in car ads but googling the phrase will net some hits–159,000 or so. Strangely, the ALLDERBLOB is hit no. 1. What we’re beginning to wonder about is if a random search for anything negative coupled with “car ads” will find our page. What we’re beginning to wonder about is if the ALLDERBLOB is just a big negative-land, a festival of negativity. We wonder if you, dear reader, will be corrupted and depressed by our daily brush with dross. We hope your mental health coverage is up to date.

And finally: ARCista. What can we say. It’s not as if we made the word up. Not like “automobilious,” which reminds us of the acid-reflux symptoms everyone feels in the presence of cars. Not like “bicyclicious,” referring to the “full flavour of a bicycle experience.” ARCista is no more than a friendly howdy-do to our pals at ARC, Toronto’s Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists. But it’s not a word in wide use. Oh, it gets a few hundred hits. But the first fifty are in furrin langwidges. It’s not until 51 that you get English. Which is we.

Who (was) Killed (by) the Electric Car?

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

All we really need to know about this movie that’s just come out is the following: on September 13, 1899, a man named George Henry Bliss, who had just stepped out of the way to allow a woman passenger off a New York City streetcar, was struck from behind by a passing motorist. He was the first North American pedestrian to be killed by a car. That it was an electric car bears emphasizing, given the hype about this stupid movie.

Each year in the United States, approximately 6,000 pedestrians are killed by automobiles, and 110,000 are injured.

Pedestrians in the US are 1.6 times more likely to be killed by a car, than by a stranger with a gun.

Pedestrians represent 14% of traffic fatalities nationwide.

See, what this movie wants you to think is if only GM and big oil hadn’t “killed” their EV-1 prototype, the future would be all rosy.

It was among the fastest, most efficient production car ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry.

Listen, all North America needs is some fast, silent (electric motors “hum;” if they roar you’ve got symptoms of a problem) car, being driven by some idiot who thinks she’s making an “environmentally friendly” choice, whizzing up behind you as you cross the street. Ask George Bliss about this one.

The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?

Oh, by the way, we’re quoting from the official bumf. “Who Killed the Electric Car?” asks the movie. Then on the movie poster they tell you the answer. Isn’t that a “spoiler?” [We were rooting for Colonel Mustard –ed.]

No doubt it will come as a big surprise to our 17 known readers to hear the ALLDERBLOB will not be taking in this movie. Fact is, we’re not taken in by it.

Oh, we like documentaries all right. In fact, a touchstone for us (and, we suspect, the makers of this electric car hagiography (based on the resonance in the title)) is 1992’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” We love the latter movie for its child-friendly introduction to the Snell Report, and its classic depiction of the bullying ways of GM and big oil. We also happen to think quite highly of Jessica Rabbit. We really feel for her, and all the things she went through in the making of this documentary.

Jessica Rabbit, in a scene deleted from general release of \"Who Framed Roger Rabbit\"

In fact we like most documentaries. For example you could pick anything from the oeuvre of the great Japanese film-maker Myazaki. We especially like “My Neighbour Totoro.”

Tonari no Totoro

Huh? What’s that you say? “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” isn’t a documentary? “My Neighbour Totoro” isn’t a documentary? Get out!

Eh? They’re animated kid’s movies?

Come on. Next you’ll be telling us this summer’s Disney flop “Cars” was fictional too.

A lot you know about the documentary movement, my friend. In fact, facts being facts, it’s a known fact that there’s more truth in your so-called “animation” than in the dull fare you may know as the “documentary.”

Here’s how it works: the documentary filmmaker is approached by the ad agency only after thorough market research. They figure out product placement details and the target audience. They figure out who to get for the voiceovers, they write the documentary “script,” they hire the cartoonists, and bob’s your uncle. The documentary’s nearly finished.

Remember “Joe Camel?” The Disney corp sure remembers him. Fact is, Joe Camel was featured in a “documentary” ad campaign by JR Reynolds tobacco corp [you may know them as the makers of Kraft mayonaise –ed.]. From Wikipedia:

In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that more children 5 and 6 years old could recognize Joe Camel than could recognize Mickey Mouse… and alleged that the “Joe Camel” campaign was supposedly targeting children—despite R.J. Reynold’s contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands.

What’s clear is Disney, working with the automobile corporations and ad agencies, took a page from the Joe Camel phenomenon.

They took a deadly addiction and tried to make it seem cute and harmless.

The movie flopped of course. See, cars are not cute. They aren’t harmless. The difference between cars and mice, or cars and camels, or cars and totoros or rabbits, for that matter, is clear. Cars are not fuzzy.

So with the latest attempt, too, we have guaranteed failure. Who Killed the Electric Car? Who cares.

Fuzzy, my friends. Remember that for your next documentary.

On Be(com)ing Canadian

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday, Canada Day, we celebrated the official signing over of the running of our country from England.

We celebrate because in what “seems like yesterday,” as we old-timers like to put it, back in 1867, the Fathers of Confederation [not to be confused with the Mothers of Invention, in 1967 –ed.] hung out for a weekend with their English counterparts, and created the first blob: that sticky mess we know as Canada.

The Blob we know as Canada

The Fathers of Confederation met in a farmhouse kitchen in Prince Edward Island and, after a few beers, got down to the business of the day: the signing of the British North America Act.

White men in suits, the Fathers of Confederation

The stench of empire still rises up about us: we have a House of Parliament convened each sitting by the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General, with a Prime Minister who leads the government by dint of a majority of elected Members of Parliament and is called to account by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Like in England we have two main parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, and you don’t vote for the leader yourself (unless she happens to be the local representative of your voting district), you vote for a person who happens to be a member of a party; the party with the most members elected puts its leader in the Prime Minister’s chair.

Okay, that’s today’s lesson in Canadian politics.

Is there anything else about Canada that’s worth talking about?

Or are we pretty much a “fifty-first state” of the U.S., a larger, slightly more liberal version of Vermont?

Take our national sport: in it, players bat around the question: “Who or What is Canada, and What makes us Different than the U.S.A?” The game is never won, but the round ends when the audience leaves, or falls on the floor in boredom (or for any other reason).

But a day or a year later, the game resumes, and a new round is ordered [Perhaps this relates to the drinking habits of the Fathers of Confederation, the original Canadian Hosers, eh? –ed.].

A true Canadian icon: the hoser

Take for example the headlines of Toronto’s (and therefore Canada’s) four major papers yesterday, Canada Day:

Toronto Sun: A grateful nation “What does being Canadian mean to you? In celebration of Canada Day, five citizens, and one soon-to-be Canadian, responded to that Toronto Sun question with their own take on what makes our country great.”

National Post: Canada’s Top 10 (being a list of ten things invented in Canada: 1) Paint Roller; 2) Telephone; 3) The Game Show; 4) Bloody Caesar; 5) V-chip; 6) Fielder’s Glove; 7) Speed of Sound; 8 ) Light Bulb; 9) Heart Pacemaker; 10) Square-head Screw [To be precise, they’re ten things that Americans usually claim to have invented or discovered: but we did, see? That makes us special –ed.]).

Toronto Star: What is essentially Canadian? “It took our 36 panellists months of often heated debate to whittle our long lists of nominees down to just 91 works that we hope represent the very best of Canadian arts and culture.”

Toronto Globe and Mail: A Canada of the North TAGLINE:‘Sir John A. Macdonald… opened the West. He saw Canada from east to west. I see a new Canada–A CANADA OF THE NORTH.’ —John Diefenbaker, Winnipeg, Feb. 12, 1958″ [Think this story breaks the rules of the game? Not at all: fact is, Canada as most Canadians know it is strictly a line running East-West, tight to the U.S. Border. in a game called “who or what is Canada?” The Blog and Lame has played a trump card, telling Canadians “What you think you know about your country is all wrong.” –ed.]

Of all these newspapers, it’s the Toronto Rats that we at the Allderblob follow with regularity. Frankly, we feel sickened at the thought of all those trees felled for the weekly 80-page “Wheels” report, but if no one hears us whimper, do we make a noise?

In yesterday’s Canada Day Star was the lead National Report section story “A virtual country,” by Carlton University professor Andrew Cohen, author of While Canada Slept: How we Lost our Place in the World. Cohen’s piece is a perfect example of Canada’s national game at its finest: it projects 14 years into the future, to imagine a country in 2020 that not one of us would recognize. In 2020, Cohen writes,

this isn’t your father’s Canada. Nor is it the Canada of Sir John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie King, John Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson, Pierre Berton, Margaret Atwood, Michael Bliss, Douglas Coupland or Avril Lavigne.

Cohen’s right, of course. We wonder, however, if the names he’d picked were a little less “European” he’d get the same resonance. The Great White North didn’t earn its nickname from its winter colours alone, after all. Question is, will Canada in 2020 be the country people by name of Srikanthanan, Omidi, Chung or N’Kele recognize?

Cohen writes:

This is the new complexion of Canada: black, tan and yellow. Canadians are proud to call themselves the most moderate of people. Tolerance has become their vocation, a kind of raison d’être, and that seems to be the breadth of their ambition. In a fragmenting world spawning new countries as casually as Arctic glaciers crack and calve, they are happy to have survived as a nation for a century and a half — even if they’re not sure what that means any more.

“Arctic glaciers crack and calve?” what’s Cohen getting at there? Unfortunately, Cohen leaves the simile for what it is, and moves on.

Cohen’s thesis is simple and direct: he writes of two forces that are rivening the country: “the great migration” and “the quiet devolution.” The former is the incredible number of new immigrants this country will have accepted over the next 14 years, effectively increasing its population by a third.

The “great migration” was a byword for the greatest influx of immigrants Canada had ever known. By 2010, the country’s political parties were treating immigration as an auction, bidding against each other for ethnic voters in urban Canada to raise the quotas of immigrants from 250,000 to 500,000 a year. There was a sound economic reason (a shortage of unskilled labour) and a moral reason (boatloads of refugees washing up on our shores, just as they were in Spain, Malta and Sicily). As global warming began to wreak havoc around 2012, a suddenly popular Green party formed the government in Ottawa. The United Nations began to pressure empty, enormous Canada to ease the refugee crisis. By opening the country’s borders, politicians could feel that they’d helped the world, as well as themselves.

Of course, immigration has benefited Canada. Even with a low birth rate, the population grew from 33 million in 2007 to 38 million in 2012 and to 45 million in 2018. Within two years, Statistics Canada predicts there will be 50 million Canadians. Fifty million! Finally, in size, Canada is the nation that Sir Wilfrid Laurier imagined a century ago.

We want to pause for a moment and call your attention to a key phrase in the above clip: “global warming.” Note that this is the only mention Cohen gives to the phenomenon of climate change in the entire 2000-word essay. We happen to think global warming will be playing a significantly more important role in this country’s immediate future. We’ll get to that.

The second force of change discussed by Cohen is “the quiet devolution.” This is a play on the phrase “quiet revolution,” of course, which in the 1960s saw the province of Quebec shift gears and gain power within Canada. For Cohen, the quiet devolution is the culmination of the long-standing transfer of powers from the federal government to the provinces:

[in 2020] The federal government is an antique notion in the era of sub-governments and supra-governments. Canada’s provinces have turned into princely states like those of British India, governed by pashas who have the powers of minor monarchs. Within these kingdoms are city-states. “National,” an anachronistic term, now competes with “provincial” and “municipal” at home and “international” abroad.

And so it goes. Cohen spins wheels over the loss of a Canadian identity in a sea of tolerance: Canada in 202o is no more than “an area code and an email address.”

[Actually, it’s fair to say that in 2020 folks will be saying “email? Now what was that again?” –ed.]

Cohen concludes:

Now, in 2020, we look around in despair. In the voiceless country, there is no one left to recall its past, no one left to celebrate its principles, and no one left to speak its name.

And you know what this is, don’t you? It’s the world’s tiniest record player playing “my heart bleeds for you” [“record player? Now what was that again?” –ed].

Thing is, Cohen has seen a few clues, but has taken an incredible wrong turn in his analysis. Yes, Canada is changing. Immigration and transfer of political power makes Canada a river that even Heraclitus wouldn’t try to step in twice.

Ironically, if you turn the page on Cohen (literally, to page F4 in the Star), you hit another middle-aged man with a European name, but this one with a more pressing message (in our opinion). “We are running out of time,” by Cameron Smith, is closer to the mark in naming the forces that will change Canada by 2020.

Smith is talking about climate change, of course, a.k.a. “global warming:”

The world is at its tipping point — on the brink of runaway global warming that will have devastating consequences. But the worst can be avoided, and the world can remain prosperous and habitable, provided massive cuts in carbon dioxide (CO{-2}) and methane emissions are started immediately.

We have only 10 years to get it right, and it’s going to take a tremendous and concentrated global effort.

How do Smith’s ten years hence differ from Cohen’s? Immeasurably.

Make no mistake, however — a global capping [of climate change emissions] by 2016 will be an enormous undertaking. But the consequences of failure are so severe, it should surpass everything else on international agendas.

Smith’s not navel-gazing about whether Canada’s “changing.” He’s not fretting about whether a white European will recognize this country in the year 2020. He’s asking the true, critical questions about our larger identity: will the human species still be around?

It’s a jolly good read. We never laffed so hard.

What all this has to do with automobile advertising, we leave for you, our 17 readers, to discern. Here’s a hint though: Canada could be the country that actually says “To hell with your notions of progress.” Canada could be the place that makes its mark not by building more freeways and extracting more petroleum, but by embracing “slow:” slow cities, slow food, slow culture.

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? 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.].

And now back to our regular programming.

Success! Eye magazine questions its policy regarding car ads

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Toronto’s Eye Magazine, despite its ownership pattern (noted a couple lobs back) is not actually thoroughly insipid. We like many of the writers on it. We love the work of the cartoonist Lind. We enjoy Gord Perks, although we wish he were perfect like us. Many of the Eye writers and editors were involved in the uTOpia book which published our much-vaunted [by us anyway –ed.] Toronto Island Airport redesign proposal.

Yesterday Eye published a variety of rants and screeds in response to the Churchillian editorial of last week calling for action against greenhouse gases. One of them was ours.

Eye – June 15, 2006
Air Huggers Unite!
I loved the argument in your editorial this past Thursday (“Our finest hour,” June 8 ). I mean, it was stirring, it was bold, it made sense. Sacrifice? Of course! Rebuild our infrastructure? Let’s start already! Examine every detail of our lives to battle the scourge of global warming?

Um, could you rephrase that question? On the facing page (which contains a full-page car ad) your argument unravels. If we really want to get serious about global warming, we have to examine our dance with the automobile. Here’s how I see it: from the automobile, we get sprawl; from sprawl, we get the need for automobiles; from the automobile, we get global warming. Cha-cha-cha.

Eye Weekly: for the love of humanity, get a backbone. Show your readers what it means to accept threatened prosperity as we “sever our dependence on oil,” because by saying no to car ads, you’re going to take a hit. Someone’s got to do it, though. C’mon, you can be heroes! Let your readers see how making a sacrifice is done. Let them know you have it in you to examine every detail of your own lives. JACOB ALLDERDICE

What to make of this? Is Eye’s editorial cabal converging as we speak, firing their ad sales manager, laying out a bold new strategy to recover the dime an issue (or whatever it is) that car ads were paying them? Will we see a bold new Eye, one whose bottom line is in line with their front line rhetoric?

A snowball’s chance in Hull [um… –ed.] seems brighter than two days ago.

Do you feel lucky? (2)

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

[Editor’s note: Some of the links contained herein, which once provided delightful insight into the inner structure of the ALLDERBLOB, have lost touch as the so-called “giggle-mirror” cottoned on to our little scheme. Instead of linking to the interesting nuggets of wisdom found deep in our blob, a couple links have quickly come to point only to this page. How dull is that? We have attempted to circumvent this problem by hiding additional keywords in our searches, but our methods are as primitive as our motives suspect. –ed.]

We are so in love with ourselves.

Here is the latest from our collection of self-portraits, drawn from the giggle-mirror.

“people and parks belong together”

“steam gives way to sail”

palimpsest, schmalimpsest

bikelanes on wellesley street

“alcohol” equals freedom, “car” equals defeat.

Now don’t go ‘way mad. ALLDERBLOB’s regular (de-)programming will be back. We’re working on a big lob as we speak, in fact. For now, suffice to say that we’ve been reading a book called How to Read Marx, by Peter Osborne, where on page 41 we learn “To be human, for Marx, is to create new needs.” Puzzlement! Does that mean the advertisers we so pity envy would be Marx’s ideal of the species? Is the advertising profession therefore pre-eminently Marxist? Hmmm.

Stay tuned, as they say. We will get to the bottom of this.

PS Kensington: more than an afterthought?

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

In our last post we threw in the comment that a bicyclicious thing to do on a sunny spring Sunday would be to ride down and participate in the car-free celebration in Kensington Market.

Although it’s called “P.S.” Kensington, it stands for “Pedestrian Sunday” not “post-script,” as many of our readers were led to believe. For this little misunderstanding the ALLDERBLOB apologizes.

After all, a “P.S.” at the end of a letter or note implies an afterthought, something not germaine, something extraneous to the important business of the letter or note foregoing.

But what of the “P.S.” that was Kensington Market on Sunday? Was it also not merely an appendix to the bloated stomach that is Toronto? If it were lopped off, would anyone miss it?

We went down to investigate this question.

We took up a station at the corner of Oxford and Augusta, at an outside table with a big umbrella to block the sun. Behind us was a bakery, “Alchemy” by name, and before us a mug of coffee and a cinnamon almond shortbread cookie or two. Luxury!

And just beyond that, the ballet of the sidewalk, writ large. Writ across the whole street, in fact. The ballet of the streets, sans cars.

Our desk, it turned out, was well chosen in one regard. For the restaurant across the street, “La Palette,” held a great big banner proclaiming “volunteer headquarters,” and from this restaurant came and went a steady trickle of City Idol candidates: Shamez Amlani, and Kelsey Carriere, and Michael Louis Johnson, and others. Out front were parked two bicycle rickshaws, a steaming mountain of lesser bicycles, and a woman-powered phaeton cabriolet which periodically saw service towing smallish children up or down the crowded street.

[Crowded? Tell us more about the crowds. –ed]

We got to counting at one point, but ennui overtook us as the seconds crept past. What hell it is to count! Still, in sixty seconds we counted 65 people walking north or south. Twelve of them wheeled bikes along (two astride). They filled the streets from curb to curb at most points. They tended to stay off the sidewalks, except where they paused to look at some vendor’s display or to manoeuvre around some slower-moving person or group.

Strange to say, except for the expected at La Palette across the street, we saw no familiars: that is, no one we recognized, or thought we recognized, or had ever seen before. And we sat with our coffee and cookies for a long while. Many multiples of the aforementioned sixty seconds. We could do some multiplication, in fact, and turn up a number: say two hours’ worth of sixty second periods times 65 people. Um… What’s that, like a zillion? And each one stranger than the last.

We watched a little girl, maybe 4 years old, for a long time. She was waiting while her dad talked on his cell phone, sitting there on the curb, but she wasn’t bored. She amused herself with a variety of little movements, swinging her arms, posing as a swan, pirouetting, and then, for variety, throwing in a couple little karete punches. Most of this was accomplished within a four-foot range of her dad, who seemingly paid her no attention at all.

We watched an old lady pushing an even older lady along in a wheelchair, swooping along right on the centreline. People got out of their way in a hurry.

We overheard another little girl, this one boasting “watch me, mommy” as she crossed the street by herself: normally, perhaps, a forbidden activity.

We saw a guy with an infant strapped on his chest, and another one, and at least two more. Moms and infants too, but lots of dads.

Which is to say what? Is P.S. Kensington drawing in a different crowd than we might have expected? Where were the Reclaim the Street activists? The political junkies who frequent St Lawrence Fora? The renegade C-Mers? The run-of-the-mill ARCistas?

P.S. Kensington was crowded all right. But it was filled with normal people. People with kids. People with bikes. People holding hands and back cars. The “Real People,” as a Toronto city councillor named Shiner once called them [City Idols, take note! –ed.]. They own houses and hold day jobs and run errands and pay real estate taxes. Most of them own cars, we might assume. Most of them were there for a day out of the ordinary, away from the hated, the dreaded, automobilious everyday.

P.S. The cost of a day in Kensington filled with pedestrians, Kelsey Carriere told us, is about $2000–this covers liability insurance, overtime salary for cops, and the rental of the gates and signs to indicate streets now “open–” for pedestrians that is. We call that a bargain. Pass the hat and do it more than just once a month!

May, Uneventful

Friday, May 26th, 2006

We wonder where the time goes.

Another May has passed, and nothing happened.

Nothing? Well, yes, the ALLDERBLOB entered a new introspective phase, with its post entitled “Do You Feel Lucky?” And we wrote some letters to the Toronto Star about their car fixation that didn’t get published. But that’s not what we mean.

We mean the sort of thing you could write a book about.

“The events of May,” or “Five days in May:” these are the books we’re talking about.

Instead, it’s “May, I hardly knew ye,” and “May…be, or maybe not.”

Did GM [that genetically modified car company –ed.] continue its downward slide into ignominy and shame? Yes, that’s a given. Did Honda make plans for a new plant in Ontario, with “no government subsidies” (only $5 million in road construction for “plant access”). Well, yeah.

But “events?” there were none.

Perhaps it’s a case of the quiet before the storm (literally–with hurricane season starting next week). Perhaps “events” are meant to unfold in June this time around. Perhaps then we’ll have public hectoring at the street corners, from bards of the old school.

One can only hope so.

Cause May without Events is like Paris without the the spring.

[redundant “the.” Please fix –ed.]

“I Feel Lucky,” part I

Friday, May 12th, 2006

As we warm up for a final jerk on the chain that you’ve all grown to love and admire over the past two weeks, we offer a diversion. Here is a list of words and phrases google users have found “lucky” recently, according to our inner sanctum (for even more fun, vote for your favourite by selecting the link that brings you full circle!).

Really lucky:

1. “Ban car advertisements”

2. Car ads should be illegal

3. Jacob too too

Pretty lucky:

1. Carfree Lifestyle

2. “Urbane Designer”

3. Jacob Richler

Bizarre, but getting warmer!

1. “your first car” “toronto star”

2. toronto island airport design charrette

3. “automobile industry” global advertising plan

City Idol not City Idle, City Idyl, City I Dull or City Eye Doll

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

From the general hubbub at Toronto’s Music Hall last night, where the first round of “City Idol” was played out, one short speech resonated above all. Surprisingly, it did not come from the stage, where 82 would-be city councillors had displayed their wares for a precisely measured 60 seconds at a time, but from an audience member, near the event’s end.

“Dave Meslin for Mayor!”

Even Mez himself seemed momentarily taken aback. He had been about to explain the method of counting ballots. Instead, he gazed into the darkened crowd in front of him to the source of the call, and grinned for a moment. “That’s not on the table right now,” is what he finally said.

Right now. David Miller, take heed.

Dave Meslin is a guy we’ve known a long time: a planner and an organizer, a schemer and a strategist. We still remember his presence at an early “Dundas EAST” meeting, when we were first talking about what to do about the problem of speeding traffic on Dundas Street East in this end of Toronto. The main problem with the street was that while it had four lanes of traffic, only two were ever busy at a time, and even that for only about one hour a day. The other 23 hours Dundas was an empty speedway. People who were used to the status quo could all see the problem, but no one had any convincing solutions. About the most radical gesture that anyone came up with was to change the centre lane to a counter-flow with a red light to regulate which direction traffic could go in. Think Jarvis Street. Not very nice.

Mez was asleep for most of the meeting, a result of his stretching himself so thin in those days. We had in fact just rode over from an ARC meeting together. But he roused himself suddenly and threw out a suggestion:

“Ban all car traffic.”


“Just ban all cars from Dundas. They only need it for an hour a day at best. Let them all go somewhere else.”

This was a great counterpoint to the Canadian Auto Association types who had been proposing all the houses bordering the road be torn out to make the roadbed wider. It had the result of moving us into a fruitful discussion where the elimination of two lanes of car traffic could be painted as a reasonable compromise.

Today Dundas East is a remarkable success story, where cyclists and motorists, residents and pedestrians, dog-walkers and school kids all seem to be getting along just fine.

Good ol’ Mez.

Mez eventually found a pressure point to which to apply his creative forces: the Toronto Public Space Committee, which he invented and inspired for several years. The TPSC’s main agenda is the elimination of the glut of corporate advertising that fills public spaces throughout the city. “David’s” TPSC has taken on “Goliath” in many contexts. They’ve even won some battles against city hall. The group puts out a great magazine, “Spacing,” and seems to be a magnet for creative and inspirational projects about city living. Several of the writers in the uTOpia book had TPSC affiliation.

We last talked to Mez about a year ago at the corner of Spadina and Adelaide, and he mentioned he was burning out on the TPSC and wanted to do something else. He had been working with Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevic (he drafted, as we understand it, Mihevic’s proposed resolution to require sideguards on trucks in Toronto–the bill passed, but sideguards are still wanting [apparently it’s not enough that cyclists’ lives would be saved; it’s going to take the crushing of a Smart car or an Austin Mini before the province acts on the city’s resolution –ed.]).

Shortly after that we heard about Mez quitting the TPSC and starting a new group, called “Who Runs This Town?”

From this emerged the City Idol proposal: to reinvigorate city politics with new enthusiasm (only 38% of those eligible voted in the last municipal election), a talent show modeled on the TV reality programs would be launched. But instead of searching out pretty faces or good lungs, the search would be for strong ideas and new energy. The plan, part one of which played out last night in the Music Hall, is to let folks vote for the strongest candidates in a series of preliminary heats, with the eventual four winners receiving support and strategic counsel from the City Idol “machine,” in an actual run for council seats in the four districts that make up Toronto City Council.

“Tell us more about the City Idol machine, grampa!”

Ah yes. You have your machine politics, and then you have your politics machine.

Mez, it would seem, is an inventor as well as a showman.

Up on the stage last night, he told us to stick around. The speeches were over: some of them remarkable for cleverness, for clarity, for sense of style, or for moxy. All of them short.

The voting was over. We had marked our ballots with the numbers of the five contestants we most liked (no easy feat) and passed them to ushers in the aisles with collection baskets.

The “contestants” were in the lobby out front, Mez told us. We could talk to them as we pleased while the ballots were counted. The process would take about an hour, he figured.

The hall was cold and most of us were ready to leave.

“I give you the counting machine!” Mez said, and gestured to the white curtain behind him. It jerked upwards.

On stage was a fantastic spectacle of some thirty or so people dressed like old-time bookies or accountants, complete with white smocks and green visors, bouncing to a staccato keyboard performance from Bob Wiseman (of Blue Rodeo fame). We watched them tearing the ballots into sections, dropping them into basins and transfering them into dishes and thence into bags, from large to small to smallest, the whole process a remarkable metaphor of a truly transparent democratic process.

The rhythm and melody was kind of mesmerizing. We forgot our fatigue and the chill in the air. We got up and congratulated a few people we knew who had made a bid for the “Idol” title. We had a two-dollar chocolate bar. We talked with friends in the hall. And occasionally we watched the machine, tearing passing, dropping, and processing. As it processed the ballots it folded up on itself from stage left to right, until only one last table stood there, Mez and a few others gathered around it.

The rest of the cogs of the machine linked arms and did a conga dance to the beat of the music.

And Mez announced the cut: half would move on to the next level, half were eliminated. He was nice enough about it. He encouraged everyone to stay in the real municipal race, in fact, for the fall elections.

Mez wasn’t among the contestants, not for “City Idol,” nor for councillor. Not for Mayor, either.

But he won’t be eliminated. We figure he’s got the stage as long as he wants it.

ALLDERBLOB: We lied about not lying (More Lies About GM and Ford)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Friends: what is up with the giant genetically modified motor company, G.M? And what of its evil twin, Fourd [Hitler’s fave, you mean? –ed.]?

We refer to news reports:

General Motors Corp. has struggled recently to deal with unwieldy labour costs and other expenses, but the huge auto maker increased ad spending in 2005 by 7 per cent to $138.2 million and was the country’s second-biggest advertiser. But rival Ford Motor Co. cut ad spending 20 per cent to $85.5 million, according to Nielsen.

According to the ALLDERBLOB, it was Ford that was to greatly increase ad spending, remember?

With oil prices “surging” to $75 per barrel [How’s this for “union labour:” it now costs you 1/3 of one cent for one “man-hour equivalent” of labour that oil provides–go here or here and do the math yourself–ed.], it’s no surprise that car companies are feeling the pinch.

But whereas GM responds by laying on the big bucks for advertising, Ford [or “Fourd”, as the Canadians spell it –ed.] has backed right off.

What’s wrong with you, Fourd? Cat gotcher tongue?

Why not turn to that splendid ad agency, the Campbell-Ewald boys, of Warren Michigan, who helped make such a mockery of GM with that recent “roll-yer-own” campaign that we wrote about here. A little research [the term is “googling” –ed.] turned up this gem about Campbell-Ewald: it turns out they were a prime recipient (to the tune of $154 million U.S.) in P.R. funds provided by the Bush administration to prop up its lackluster image following “Operation Iraqi Liberation” [in White House spokesman Ari Fleischer’s immortal words: it spells “OIL” to me –ed.].

They’ve made ads for G.M. since 1914, and it’s only now that the corporation’s star is fading. In contrast, it’s taken them just a couple years to put U.S. President Bush’s name on toilet paper the world over.

Well, Fourd, they might be looking for work [can you say: You’re Fired!? I knew you could–ed.].