The importance of names

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Published: Feb 27 2015, 01:01:am

Friday, February 27, 2015.
     In simpler times, they named hurricanes after their girlfriends. "They" were the fun guys at the U.S. government's Hurricane Warning Office (HWO) the mid-1950s predecessor to today's National Hurricane Center.

    A generation later, after some consciousness-raising classes, male names were added to the lists drawn up for the forecasters' use. Today, the body that gets to name major stormy weather events is the World Meteorological Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

    In simpler times, people accepted the fact that hurricanes happened. Coastal communities boarded up their windows and repaired to their basements to wait out the worst of it.

    Today, people have noticed that the annual storms are bigger, nastier and more frequent. Scientists — the real ones — are unanimous in their belief that this is the result of climate changes brought about by global warming. Front and centre among the culprits are greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel extraction and use.

    There are those who would deny such assertions. Most of them are corporate spokespersons, bought and paid for by the very interests that profit handsomely from planetary pollution. Among them are some sincere, if misguided ideologues. To a man, they are wrong.

    Wrong or not, they have been effective in postponing the actions needed to limit the poisonous emissions responsible for the dramatic increase in extreme weather events. It really is only fair, then, that their accomplishments be recognized in some meaningful way.

    It is time for the WMO to retire its old list of boy and girl names in favour of one that gives credit where it's due: to the men who have made our superstorms what they are today.

    Had such a protocol been in effect in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina might have been called Hurricane Kochs, in recognition of petroleum potentates David and Charles Koch. Together, the egregiously wealthy brothers have funded an army of climate-change denying "scientists" and politicians.

    Similarly, a far better name for October 2012's Superstorm Sandy would have been Superstorm Syncrude, acknowledging the importance of corporate "persons" in bringing about climatic disasters. Syncrude, of course, is the single largest consortium currently involved in extracting synthetic crude oil from Alberta's tar sands, the source of an estimated 40 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

    If the WMO needs help in revising the names list, its research staff should get in touch with Canadian activist Naomi Klein, author of the 2014 study This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (Knopf Canada). Her book is readable and important, and its writer knows the importance of calling things by their right names.

    Having offered up my modest proposal to the weatherpersons of the the world, I'll return to Reeling Back's own modest mission, the construction of a period reviews archive. The ten most recent movie names added were:

TALES FROM THE CRYPT — Made in 1972, director Freddie Francis's feature was a British-made tribute to the golden age of American comics. It was inspired by five stories from a crime-and-horror title actually banned in Canada by a 1949 law passed after a Parliamentary debate eerily similar to today's Bill C-51 discussions. (Posted February 26)    

JOURNEY — Lost to distributor indifference, director Paul Almond's imaginatively crafted 1972 final-moments fantasy offered award-worthy performances from its co-stars John Vernon and Genevieve Bujold. (Posted February 24)    

PAPER MOON — Following in the entrepreneurial footsteps of Johannes Gutenberg, con artist Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal) and his daughter Addie (Tatum O'Neal) hustle Bibles in the American South in director Peter Bogdanovich's 1972 tale of Depression-era survival. (Posted February 23)

ROCK-A-DOODLE — Just before computer animation took over the cartoon business, traditional craftsman Don Bluth offered up this 1992 feature, a pleasantly old-fashioned entertainment inspired by French playwright Edmond Rostand's tale of Chantecler. (Posted February 20)

NORTH CHINA COMMUNE — An example of the National Film Board of Canada documentarists at their best, this 1980 feature looked at life in the Peoples Republic at a time when memories of the 1949 revolution were coming into quiet conflict with hopes for something more. (Posted February 19).

DIAL M FOR MURDER — In the dying days of the first 3D-movie boom, director Alfred Hitchcock made this suspense thriller, the 1954 feature that proved that it was possible to produce cinematic art in a stereoscopic screen process. (Posted February 18)

THE DAY OF THE LOCUST — British-born director John Schlesinger won an Oscar for his first American movie, 1969's Midnight Cowboy, a look at the mean streets of New York. He was less successful with this 1975 examination of Hollywood's boulevards of broken dreams. (Posted February 16)

THE SECOND ANIMATION CELEBRATION — Collecting 24 cartoon shorts from the programs of the Second and Third Animation Celebrations held in Los Angeles, producer Terry Thoren's 1989 anthology feature captured a moment in the medium's history that included five original The Simpsons segments. (Posted February 15)

THE LEGEND OF KOOTENAI BROWN — Vancouver's performing community turned out in full force to make this 1991 Western an occasion to party. Played for fun, it offers a take on B.C. Interior history that's puckish rather than precise. (Posted February 14)

CHAINDANCE — Finding a project he believed in, Michael Ironside pulled out all the stops. He co-wrote the screenplay, produced and provided a superb starring performance for this challenging 1991 tale of prisoner rehabilitation through social service. (Posted February 12)