Tuesday, November 18, 2014



I hold a battered pair of giant scissors. I suspect that when they were bought seven decades or so ago, they were called paper shears. Etched by acid on one blade, and almost obliterated by wear, is the name "Bob Webber."
I know nothing about Webber except that years before I joined the vanished and beloved Telegram he wrote a column there under the byline Thomas Richard Henry. a formal version of Tom, Dick and Harry.'
That's an expression first used, apparently, in 1657, by writers when they wanted  to talk about a group of ordinary people, if you want to put it cruelly, nobodies.
Politicians now rely on polls to tell them what people think. Ad agencies once said - there's probably a new saying - let's run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes. But back in Webber's day, ordinary souls you wanted to talk about were grouped under Tom, Dick and Harry. And if some budding feminist wanted to turn Harry into Harriet, most wouldn't know why.
I don't know how I came to possess the shears at the old Tely building at Bay and Melinda. But I brought them to the new building near Front and Spadina now misused by the Globe, and then to the weird first quarters of the Sun, and then to City Hall and various Sun offices, and now I try to cut out clippings of interesting stories with them at home. They haven't been sharp for years.
I often have visualized  Webber reading the locals, weeklies, exchanges and various magazines armed with the scissors and cutting out grist for his paper mill which would appear in fat paragraphs separated by three dots. He gave credit, of course, since plagiarism is just for the lazy, or for the idiots who want to pretend they're the fount of all interesting observations.
The item or three dot columnists have a higher readership according to newspaper surveys than columns on one topic, something Doug Creighton used to remind me of on a regular basis.
A great, amiable, tough publisher! But when I was tasked with writing a daily column, and a extra one when the brass had one of their brainstorms about special sections, any time I could stretch a paragraph into a full column I did. Even though I knew that Doug, bless 'em, was right. In a busy world, tidbit columns look more appealing than an essay or a full rant.
Often a columnist is just taking one more kick at a familiar can, returning to the prey for just one more comment on something they've harangued readers about for years.
So here, in honour of J. Douglas Creighton, and the Bob Webber who was just a memory when we both arrived at the old Tely, is a three dot column.

                                                     .        .         .

    We al seek relief from bad news. So all the papers reported with glee that the Yukon has miniature drunk tanks to help birds, generally Bohemian waxwings, sober up after gorging so much on fermented berries, they can't fly straight, or crooked either. The Post added that drunkeness is not unusual in the animal world. In Sweden, moose eat fermented apples and charge into towns. A herd of elephants in India drank a village's store of rice wine and killed three and destroyed 60 homes in a rampage. I can vouch for what happens when animals get high on spoiled fruit. I endure deafening belligerent crows at my cottage after they eat the rotting apples under my old tree and clusters of very gamy wild grapes. on a fence. As a boy I fed preserves that had gone bad to our chickens which staggered blindly around while my Baptist grandparents worried about avian disease.

                                       .                    .                 .

        What didn't get enough publicity is the latest report on the hundreds of millions being made in Ontario thanks to us being overcharged on Hydro. It's been going on for decades thanks to Hydro being the gang that couldn't shoot straight when it came to facts, fuses and schemes. The provincially-owned Ontario Power Generation had a net profit of $119 million for the three months ending Sept. 30. Hydro One, which owns the electricity transmission system and delivers power, sort of, to most of rural Ontario, said it grossed $1.556 billion for that period, up from the $1.542 billion it made a year ago. Net profit was "only" $173 million, down from $218 million. Actually the Star said $218 billion, but the reporter there can be excused because with Hydro it's hard to tell millions from billions with a billing system so wrong that it cost more than $40 million to fix. Or maybe it really  was $40 billion. And maybe it's not fixed.

                                                   .                .                   .

   Pedestrian deaths are up, so now TV has noticed all the distracted walkers, particularly teenagers, who wander through intersections and Stop signs with music blasting in their ears while texting or transfixed on a smart phone telling them what their best friend is wearing.  Let's not just blame the young. In my comfortable area of Etobicoke, a young mother or nanny pushing a giant stroller through turning cars at an intersection while dragging a dog and talking on the phone is a common sight.  Driving the side streets around Bloor and Royal York, and I would imagine similar areas in Toronto and other cities, especially at night, has become a gauntlet of danger due to all the people dressed in dark clothes wandering along listening to their music.and aggressively competing with cars for space. Maybe they should select organ music for their funeral at the same time.  One night I came across an unconscious teenager in the middle of the road near my house and called 911 but it turned out she was just drunk and had fallen on her head from her bike and wasn't wearing a helmet. Oh that's all right, I thought, I was worried she was hit by a car or a cyclist because no one obeys the Stop sign there which is only a block from a junior school. Sounds bizarre, I know, but I think a law covering extreme examples of distracted walking is needed as much as the current one against driving while holding a cell phone. Not just to protect the pedestrians, to protect also the rest of us from all the hassles if we run them down.



No comments: