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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns arrow Fatigued by ongoing heat, and online idiocy

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Fatigued by ongoing heat, and online idiocy


The heat barged in, the genuine article, and in the manner of a boorish house guest who was not invited, the heat has stayed on.

This summer has seemed to me especially oppressive because it arrived with all the subtlety of a John Bonham drum solo.

June was cool, but pleasantly so, with most afternoons ideal for pulling weeds or taking a nap in a lawn chair. 

The temperature topped 80 on just two days that month. June concluded with a week of highs in the 60s and 70s.

July, by contrast, betrayed its nature immediately.

July 1 was the hottest day of the year — 89 degrees — but it retained the title about as long as Clubber Lang did in “Rocky III."

On July 2 the high was 95. 

The month rarely relaxed its fevered grasp on us during the rest of its days.

The only interval that could fairly be described as relief happened late on the afternoon of the 23rd, when a cold front pushed inland from the Pacific, shaving 20 degrees in less than two hours.

The 24th felt autumnal, with a high of 72.

But three days later it was back to 96 and the heat had lost none of its potency during its brief absence.

July didn’t set any records, although its thermal prowess was noteworthy.

The average high was 89.8 degrees — 5 degrees above average, and the sixth-highest for July since World War II. (The holder of this dubious record, by the way, is July 1985, with an average high of 92.)

The temperature got to at least 90 degrees on 17 of the 31 days — seven more days than average.

What distinguished July, though, it seems to me, is the consistency of its heat.

Even the “cool” days, except that anomaly of the 24th, weren’t truly cool except by purely mathematical comparison.

For the 14 days when the temperature didn’t get to 90, the average high was 86. The high on eight of those 14 days was either 88 or 89.

Only a thermometer can appreciate the difference between 89 and 93.

A brief heat wave, say three or four days’ duration, intrigues rather than offends me. These flirtations with the extreme ensure the weather never devolves into boredom.

But persistent, unvarying heat, like constant chill, becomes wearisome.

A week straight in the 90s saps my energy, leaves me languid and ineffectual. The daily routine seems more banal than usual, the same sullen dawn when the air feels somehow swollen with the day’s pending heat, the identical midday sweat that skims the skin on the neck between the driveway and the back door, the unfulfilled promise of a refreshing evening zephyr that feels like a dog’s breath rather than an ocean breeze.

Indoors the air conditioners and the fans run most of the day, a low but unrelenting rumble that is auditory torture, akin to being handcuffed to a chair and forced to listen to Phil Collins’ cover songs for 12 hours.

Yet the alternative — sweating in relative silence — is too awful to contemplate.

—————

Imagine if you could simultaneously siphon the random, unfiltered and potentially drunken thoughts from a few hundred people you’ve never met, and examine these opinions at your leisure.

Actually you don’t have to imagine this.

You can just snoop around an online message board.

I’m not revealing any great secret, of course, in noting that these digital forums ooze with ludicrous theories, ad hominem attacks and generally the brand of bilge that commenters wouldn’t dare spout if they lacked the anonymity of cyberspace.

I’m revolted yet helpless to constantly avert my gaze.

I don’t as a rule invest, as it were, more than a handful of minutes sifting through the masses of material for the occasional treasure of idiocy.

But I was waylaid recently by the thousands of comments posted on Oregon Live, The Oregonian’s website, related to the disappearance of a woman from Dundee, a suburb southwest of Portland.

Jennifer Huston, 37, a married mother of two, drove away from her home the evening of July 24.

Her body was found Aug. 5 in the woods where she completed suicide.

By itself this was a tantalizing mystery.

But the case also involved detailed information from police — after leaving her home Huston withdrew less than $100 from an ATM, then she bought Gatorade, an over-the-counter sleep aid and trail mix from a convenience store.

Yet of course the public knows nothing of the woman’s life other than what her husband and relatives have revealed.

This combination of specifics and the utter absence of knowledge makes a potent fuel for the sort of unbridled speculation which, along with a juvenile grasp of satire, is the defining characteristic of message boards.

The aspect that annoys me, though, about the Huston case is the notion, promoted by a fair number of commenters, that both the media and the police have devoted extra attention to the woman’s disappearance not because the circumstances are unusual but because Huston is white and, apparently, relatively affluent.

I understand the attraction of this conceit.

It defies irrefutable rebuttal because the Huston case isn’t identical to any other case.

Of course women of other races, and men of all races, go missing without any obvious explanation.

 And not every such instance generates the same volume of publicity as the Huston mystery. But it seems to me that these differences reflect the unique traits of each case, not the missing person’s race.

In Huston’s situation the media fixation has much to do with her husband being readily available to reporters, and his seemingly genuine shock at his wife’s disappearance.

Publicity, of course, is an ephemeral thing. Newspapers and TV stations wouldn’t have gone all in on the Huston case had another compelling story competed for ink and broadcast time.

Conversely, if Huston were not white but every other aspect of her story was identical, I have no doubt that any difference in the level of media interest would have been statistically meaningless. 

As for the allegation that the police relax their standards when dealing with minorities who disappear unexpectedly, I think that’s baseless and insulting.

Typical message board fodder, in other words.

Jayson Jacoby is editor 
of the Baker City Herald.

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