Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Weather Network

Americans might not be aware of this, but Canadians are weather fiends. We obsess about weather. There was an article in the Citizen long ago describing this obsession in hilarious detail. There were the car journeys through town in the winter, where every lighted information board providing the time and the temperature was discussed, and explanations sought for the discrepancies between them. "Well, THAT board is right over top the jewellery store sign, so those extra lightbulbs probably provide some heat, which is why it says -18 instead of -20." Naturally, only the COLDEST temperature can be the correct one.

We also like to boast about our weather to foreigners, especially Americans. When we recite our daily low temperatures ("It was minus 30 this morning when we got up! What do you think of that?") nothing makes us happier than when the American (hopefully from California) shakes his head and says, "I don't know how you can live there!"

So it should be no surprise that The Weather Network is popular. We first got into it when Emma was a baby. It was soothing, quiet, and repetitious; since we were exhausted and always being interrupted, this was a godsend. I knew that no matter how often I was distracted and interrupted, I could wander back and the Weather Network would still be there, still the same. I hadn't missed anything. Only baseball came close to that soothing, slow-paced security.

After a few years with the Weather Network almost continuously on, we noticed other benefits. It's odd, but autistic children quite like the Weather Network. My kids loved the blue pages with white lettering - they're still very fond of watching the credits for any movie. Just something about it appeals to them. Also, I think the calm music and the repetition appeals to them; no confusing emotions or facial expressions to have to read. The Weather Network has been our "default" TV channel for almost 17 years, so I think I'm qualified to notice when it changed its focus. It's not the same anymore.

For one thing, it's turned into a full-time global warming NAG. Almost every feature now bores on about environmentalism and global warming, and it's always with an alarmist message that the world is falling apart. It's starting to sound like the 'Beyond the Fringe' sketch about BBC reporting during WWII - "This is Alvar Lidell, bringing you news of fresh disasters." We have David Suzuki commercials (I still have only seen the beer one) and now even the Premier is popping up on the channel!

I don't want to see the Premier on the Weather Network. He belongs on the news, and I don't particularly want to see much of him there, either.

The Weather Network has decided to become up-to-date and cutting edge, and they've forgotten the fact that weather is not hip. It's weather, for crying out loud. It's supposed to be dull. When we want to avoid controversy, we talk about the weather. There's enough anxiety to be found watching big red blotches creeping across the country on radar screens, and seeing footage of the Mississippi flooding yet again. We don't need to be scared by imagined horrors that MIGHT happen some day. It's like reading a gardening book and finding the subject keeps getting onto plate tectonics. It's just not what we need to know.

It can have its comical aspects, though. Yesterday, I was watching The Weather Network, and the two bright and bubbly anchor ladies were talking about upcoming weekend weather in Ontario. One of them remarked "And Sunday they're having the Gay Pride parade in Toronto, and the weather should be just beautiful!" (I'm probably imagining that her voice was ever so slightly too smooth, as if she KNEW that this was kind of an unusual subject to bring up in a weather broadcast, but she was too cool to be concerned about it herself. But it did just seem like it.) The other lady bubbled even more enthusiastically, "Oh, yes! And that front that moved in today really reduced the humidity, which is great, 'cause you don't want it all hot and sticky... (suddenly looking self-conscious)... But we'll go into that later."


Blogger Nicholodeon said...

Very well done!

We watch the weather network, too, and if you want to be really erudite you get to moan and groan about the dewpoint!!! And what is the average dewpoint for today since 1916?

Oh yes.

8:30 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Ohhh, the dewpoint! The dewpoint! I've still never figured that out! "How can you have a dewpoint when it's below zero?" I'm always asking Dean. "There's no dew - if there were, it would freeze!" I just don't have a scientific mind.

10:22 pm  
Blogger muerk said...

I was about to say that when weather becomes politicized you just know the End Times are approaching. But then it occurred to me... this is just some kind of weird sociological return to where the king determines the weather/seasons/crop. Of course, if you want better weather, then the king must be sacrificed to the gods.

Weather started out as uber-political and thus has it returned.

5:38 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

muerk - I never thought of it that way, but you're right. And that would mean that we're experiencing a weird combination of science and superstition. The point of those ancient rituals was the attempt to, or the illusion of, controlling weather, and by extension, life, since survival was dependent upon favourable weather. Our current hysteria about "climate change" and the obsession with doing something to somehow make the climate go the way we want it to, is rather similar to performing sacrifices and rituals to placate the gods.

10:02 am  
Anonymous Robert the Llama Butcher said...

Ha! You've got your Arctic cold, but we can wipe the mat with you over the Heat Index!

As a matter of fact, almost exactly the same thing has happened with the Weather Channel, the U.S. counterpart to the Weather Network. I used to leave it on for hours just to check out the doppler radar updates, to listen to the smooth jazz and to revel in the jerky, computer-programmed local forecast "on the 8's" as they say.

Alas, TWC also recently decided to get in on global warming hysteria. Now one can't go half an hour without hearing dire predictions of the eeeeeend of the wuuuuuuurld (courtesy of George Bush, of course). And it, too, decided that the forecasts needed to be jazzed up, so we now have regular "human interest" stories, usually involving somebody caught in either a) a twister, b) a flash flood, or c) a blizzard. The actual, you know, FORECAST part gets squished into every decreasing time slots.

Pity, really.

4:19 pm  
Blogger John J. O'Sullivan™ said...

I couldn't agree more. I don't want my weather to be sexy. Nor do I want it to be alarmist. I want to be able to tune in, listen to the Pat Metheny Group, and hear the computerised voice say "winds light and variable" in the fun clipped way it does. I don't want weather tarts having talk shows about carbon footprints. And if anyone asks me about "going green" again, I'm going to smack the unfortunate soul with a trout.

Another unrelated irritant: I don't know if they do this with the Weather Network, but with the Weather Channel, they tend to say "here" too often. As in, "And here in Fort Lauderdale, we'll be experiencing highs in the 80s." And then, all the sudden, they're broadcasting from New York. Then, Mount Pocono. And so on.

And they always try to throw in cute little things about each if we're supposed to believe that they're from everywhere and every time. It's as if we're supposed to believe that they're broadcasting from the Tardis.

Agh. Anyhow, my "thoughts." I love your site...especially considering my parish is within the haunts of -Spong (no fruit for him) and my office is within spitting distance of 815 2nd Ave.


5:39 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I have heard that this is just as bad in the U.S., too. It seems everyone wants to get in on the "global warming" act. We have dumb features too - one is a puff piece about a little electric car, that goes a maximum of 40 mph, designed and built here in Canada. It doesn't produce fumes; of course, it has to be charged up every 50 miles or so, and electricity doesn't just radiate out of the ground, you have to burn coal or dam rivers or build a nuclear plant to get it, but nobody carries the logic THAT far.

Anyway, the kicker in the story is that the car is not approved for sale or use in Canada! They're all exported to the U.S., and then the Premier pops up on screen to lament that this just shows how behind-the-times our regulations are. Well, think about it. Canada is BIG. You have to drive on highways to make the distances, and you have to go faster than 40mph. And if I drive 50 miles out of Ottawa and then have to recharge, I'm likely to find myself in a big, lonely wood. These little cars aren't practical for this country. They'd be good in old European cities with narrow windy roads, where you can't go fast anyway, and distances are close. But nobody every offers the OTHER side of any of these environmental stories; they just act as if it doesn't exist.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

John - I haven't noticed the "here" business, but they do a really annoying thing on the Weather Network. Whenever they're doing the "big" map of a region - Ontario and Quebec are big enough to each count as a region, but then they'll do the 3 prairie provinces as a group, or the Maritimes - they will throw in a reading or two from some utter flyspeck on the map. "And it'll be in the low 20s in Mistatim, Saskatchewan..." The place isn't even identified by a spot on the map! Is it north, south - who knows? They don't even point to show us where this place is. It just comes across as showing off - they're rattling off the names of these obscure towns, and we're sitting there mystified.

10:03 pm  

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