Get A Grip: El Nino, everyday TV are the bad news

It's back!

The evil menace and universal scapegoat has returned.

Scientists Thursday announced the official return of El Nino.

El Nino (for anyone who was under a rock in 1998) is a weather trend caused by warming of the Pacific Ocean.

The warm water causes wet air to rise and affect the winds that impact weather globally.

When these conditions occur, the Southern U.S.

can be hit with heavier- than-normal winter rainfall and warmer temperatures.

During the last El Nino, 1997-1998, the weather became a media obsession and El Nino was assigned mythic powers.

Everything from economic fluctuations to television show flops were somehow traced back to the influence of the mighty El Nino.

The scientists who announced the beast's return also reassure us that this time around El Nino won't be so powerful.

That remains to be seen.

Whatever its power, I'm happy to welcome El Nino back into my life.

I had trouble starting my car Thursday morning.

Now I know the mechanical malfunction was the work of El Nino.

I can just see him leaning over my car in the dark of the night, a swirl of air and water, super-villain cape flapping in the wind, black mask in place.

When I can't find my socks next week, I'll have the blame ready to assign.

"That darn El Nino is at it again," I'll fume.

Science is on my side.

And for those of you who were under at rock in 1998, it was surely El Nino who put you there.

* * *

On the subject of pop culture, I made a decision this week that may put my family in the shade of a rock.

A book I'm reading influenced my action.

In the wake of the Sept.

11 terrorist attacks, author Barbara Kingsolver began putting together a book of essays.

Like all her work, "Small Wonder" contains passionate and thoughtful writing.

In one essay she writes that she believes people shouldn't get shot or murdered in her house.

That seemed like a rather obvious stand to me until I read further.

Her belief that her home should be a safe place for her children extends to a choice not to have television service.

She writes that she has a television and VCR and uses these machines to watch videos.

But that is the extent of the use of TV in her home.

I started thinking about my television.

It's on far too long, and far too often what we see involves violence.

I'm not just talking about cop shows, but also about the news and cartoons and all the stuff we see when we surf through the channels.

So I decided that I too have had enough violence in my home and I called and cancelled our cable service.

It's not that I hate television.

I don't.

There are several shows I will miss.

I will miss EGG on PBS.

I will miss The Simpsons' brilliant social commentary.

Most of all I will miss Lonely Planet on the Travel Channel and Trading Spaces on the Discovery Channel.

An avid armchair traveler and redecorator, I can easily lose myself in these two shows.

But the trade off isn't worth it.

To prove it to myself, I channel surfed before making my call.

In the space of less than two minutes I saw snippets of four inane news programs and three meaningless and obscure sporting events.

There were also three cooking shows where I could watch chefs concoct meals that I'll never attempt to duplicate and two makeover shows telling women that their lives will be better if they just dress better and wear more makeup.

Added to the mix was another message to women – a show about the wonders of elective plastic surgery because we're just not good enough as we are – dontcha know.

Then there were the requisite cop shows (3) and cartoons (2) pitting good against evil in action-packed and deadly sequences.

Mixed in were a variety of commercials telling us that our lives will be better, that we will be better and happier and more beautiful, if we spend money we don't have on products we don't need.

There was also an interesting show on Egyptian history and a program on scenic Arizona.

Two good shows vs.

countless negative and damaging or just plain stupid offerings.

As a bonus, I will miss the deluge of coverage that El Nino is sure to inspire.

If I want to know about it, I'll read about it in the newspaper.

Abbie Gripman is the Miner's news editor.