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  October 11, 2007 | Idling Cars Do Devil's Work « Previous | Current | Next » Comments (0) | Archives | About Email lind at

The status quo won last night at the referendum. If the pro-MMP forces had started educating a lot earlier, the result might have been different. Still, 63 percent for the system-as-it-stands is a bruising defeat. Much misinformation was spread by the media. The Star's editorials, for example, lumped Germany and New Zealand, which have MMP, in with Italy and Belgian, which have proportional representation but not MMP, as examples of chaos and instability. In fact, Germany has had fewer elections than Canada in the same time period. Coalition governments are the norm. The Greens have made the country one of the most environmentally progressive.

But in Ontario, it's business as usual. A massive Liberal majority (gained with only 42 percent of the vote) is our antiquated, non-representative democracy. The significant silver lining is that the Greens over doubled their popular vote to 8 percent (in Guelph, my riding, they gathered nearly 20 percent). If they keep gaining votes and not getting seats, perhaps there will be more calls to make the system more democratic.

The latest SUV news:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found some late-model SUVs performed worse than cars, a result that challenges a belief among consumers that sport utility occupants are safer in some crashes because they are heavier than cars and occupants are seated higher.

Not to mention the fact that they increase the hazards associated with breathing (see below).

The question readers most often ask me is how much of Weltschmerz is autobiographical. I usually answer, "not much." Sure, a snippet of dialogue here and there stems from conversations had or overheard. But I am certainly not 100 percent Horst. Maybe 25 percent?

That said, this week's cartoon closely mirrors an argument I actually had -- more so than other cartoons I've done. It happened a few years ago, in front of my studio, where a Hummer was parked. I transcribed the conversation at the time.

You can see what details I changed to work better in a cartoon. A lot of the real-life dialogue fell flat in comics format, or depended on having more space to let it play out. Also, the Hummer turned out not to be actually idling; rather, I mistook the sound of a lawn mower nearby for the engine. But that nuance would have taken too much space to convey, though it does add humour, deflating my greener-than-thou stance.

Lind: If you're going to drive one of those, can you please not idle it?

Blonde woman in Hummer (one boy in back): I'm not idling it.

L: Oh, sorry, I thought you were.

(I start to walk away, then think -- I've already engaged the enemy. I may as well try to win hearts and minds while I'm at it.)

L: Why do you drive it anyway?

Hummer: Pardon?

L: Why do you drive one of those? They pollute like crazy.

H: No they don't. It's been certified. It pollutes less than any of those cars
there. (Pointing to a sub-compact.) It's safety checked for everything.

(This was her four-wheel denial working.)

L: No it doesn't. It's one of the highest polluters! You're polluting the air!

H: No I'm not.

L: Yes you are.

(There may have been a few more of these.)

H: You're just jealous.

L: No I'm not! I ride a bike!

H: Than get on your bike and ride out of here.

(I go inside my studio, thinking -- what a golden opportunity! Check on the web for Hummer pollution stats. Print them out and run outside. She's still there, not idling, another teenager in the back seat.)

L: Look! I've just downloaded the specs! It's in the worst car class...

(I try to give her the sheet; she rolls up the window.)

H: Get out of here or I'll call the police!

L: But just look at this!

H: No! Get out! I'm calling the police!

(I try to put the sheet of paper on her windshield but can't reach. The Hummer is too big. I walk away. I've done all I can. Preaching to the unconverted is tough.)

Since then, I've tried to confront people who are idling their cars with more restraint -- and a pleasant smile. Also, I always check to see if anyone's mowing their lawn nearby.



You can see a more extensive portfolio of my work at the blog, including This Bright Future, a distilled and partial continuation of Weltschmerz, Turtle Creek, a daily comic about a turtle and a computer, and Footprint in Mouth, a quarterly cartoon I draw for Alternatives.

Weltschmerz in Print

Weltschmerz ran in Toronto's Eye Weekly from 1997 to 2007. It ran in weekly papers in southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Edmonton between 1995 and 2008.

Notes on Writing a Comic Strip

I wrote this 17-page, 4 MB PDF document for my workshop at the 2006 Eden Mills Writers' Festival. It details the creation of one strip and gives tips on writing comics.

Politics and Environment

Monbiot | Guardian columnist and Heat author George Monbiot's blog. Not only about global warming, but expect plenty of refutations of the flat-earthers. His writing is witty, incisive and bang-on.

Desmog Blog | An indispensible (and Canadian) resource that "clears the PR pollution that clouds climate science."


Weltschmerz playlist at CBC Radio 3 | Some of the music I listen to while drawing this comic -- independent and Canadian.

This American Life | Radio documentaries that hit the heart, brain and funny bone.

CBC Podcasts | I don't listen to much live radio. Now, podcasts allow me to catch a lot of what I miss. I listen to The Current, Ideas, Spark and Search Engine while inking.


Diesel Sweeties by R Stevens | Witty repartee between guys, girls and robots drawn in a pixelated yet surprisingly versatile style.

Scott Pilgrim Manga-style indie-rock romance by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley | The most fun I've had in a comic book in recent memory. Highly recommended.

Dykes to Watch Out For | Alison Bechdel's brilliant weekly strip has been ghettoized because of its gay themes but deserves a wider readership.

Doonesbury | Garry Trudeau is still great after all these years.

Kevin Heuzenga | Enviable drawing style and dry wit. Start with Time Travelling.

Graeme MacKay | The editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator has a distinctive, addictive drawing style. And he makes me chortle.

Friends and Neighbours

Blog Guelph | Hometown photos and events.

The Narrative | Riveting photoblog. Matt O'Sullivan is at the right place at the right shutter speed.

Breast of Canada | A calendar promoting women's health.

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