Science does not exclude a creator, even though the agnostic nature of science not necessarily dictates one.
- Vidar Theisen
The Norwegian state meteorologist that became a sort-of legend.
Vidar Leif Theisen was born in Oslo 5th May 1933. At the age of 16 he had already decided upon a career as a meteorologist and started working for the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (Det Norske Meteorologiske Institutt, DNMI) in 1956 while still a student at the University of Oslo. He graduated in 1958 as a cand. real. and took up a position as a state meteorologist at DNMI.
DNMI is responsible for Norway's official weather forecasts along the 22,000 kms long coastline, all of Norway's 100-ish airports, across the mainland and assorted islands and territories. The weather is of great importance to the people inhabiting this country stretching from roughly 61°N to 78° N (including Spitsbergen). The reason for this is naturally the unstable climate and the rapid weather changes. When weather conditions is almost the same throughout the year, nobody talks about it much. Because of the sometimes extreme weather changes in the outdoor nation of Norway, people discuss it non stop. On top of this you have the farmers, fishermen, pilots, drivers, firemen, military guys and family fathers with a barbeque, all wondering whether their sundry activities will be affected by sun, rain or storms.
Since the weather is so important, the meteorologists become important too.
From 1960 to 1992, the only weather forecasts you could see on Norway's sole TV channel was the ones carried out by serious suit clad men from DNMI. Two times every night, every day. On the single state operated radio channel from 1925 onwards, the hourly weather bulletins with the occasional storm and gale alerts were anxiously awaited by thousands. These bulletins were read by the same handful of men responsible for the TV weather forecasts. Deep in your guts, where truth and rubbish are sorted, your subconscious placed gale alerts from these guys firmly in the truth slot. It was almost like you had no choice.
In 1980, Vidar Theisen became one of these reluctant celebrities handing over gloomy weather forecasts.
A moderate christian since his teens, Theisen maintains an interest in the relation between science and faith. He has in several interviews pointed out that quite a few things in the Bible are nonsensical in light of current scientific knowledge, but the science still leave room for a divine creator.
From 1956 to 1972, he served DNMI at their Bodø office while working as a sexton in the local parish. He moved with his family to Oslo where he became a member of his local parish council. From 1973 to 1979 he was a state meteorologist at Fornebu, then Oslo's international airport. In 1980 he started working at DNMI's headquarters at Blindern in Oslo. The Blindern meteorologists take turns preparing forecasts to be presented on NRK, the state TV channel, and Theisen was immediately included in this round robin duty.
As noted above, weather in Norway is no laughing matter. The state meteorologists made sure it stayed that way. Since good weather never bothered anyone, they spent a fair amount of their allotted five minutes every night making sure we got intimate knowledge of the upcoming days' bad weather. Bad weather is more important than good weather. If you don't agree, you must be from California.
As on most other TV channels around the world, presenting the weather involves maps and symbols and talking. Theisen's method of doing this was completely devoid of any showmanship, and his monotonous voice and lack of mimic probably made more people fall asleep than Jon Blund - Norway's variant of Sandman.
So, how can a man like this become a TV legend?
You see, Norwegians love underdogs and people who apparently are losers but turns out to have the biggest balls of them all. Vidar Theisen is such a person. Shy, confident, hard working, stoic, religious and kind. He is the very model of a traditional Norwegian.
During the eighties, Theisen's anti-charm and stiff appearances on nationwide TV made him a household name. Comedy trio KLM released several hilarious parodies on him, performed by rubberface Trond Kirkvaag. Norwegian tabloids did portrait interviews in which he put forward his thoughts on science and religion, giving depth to his public persona. In 1998, a rap-metal tune by a band called Vidar Theisen & The Retrievers entered the charts. The vocals in it was performed by Vidar Theisen, although via soundclips and samples shamelessly stolen from interviews and TV shows. The song was called Heavy Metal and had Theisen repeating the phrase "I like Heavy Metal" inbetween stuttered phrases from various sources.
His name almost became synonymus with awkwardness, while Theisen himself - shy as always - rarely did comment his status. He got his own fanclub, is a honorary citizen of Longyearbyen and keep receiving letters with requests for an autograph.
In September 1992, a commercial nationwide TV channel started broadcasting across Norway. As expected, TV2 had their own weather forecast, only with one major difference. Their weather presenters were exclusively good looking blonde girls, in line with commercial channels around the globe. The contrast to NRK with their middle aged meteorologists in gray suits and boring ties was incredible, but DNMI refused to jump on the bandwagon citing the importance of the message they were trying to send out. Vidar Theisen never budged. He was as boring as ever.
In an interview done on August 24, 2001 - the day he retired several months overdue - he stated that no person should become a celebrity unless he or she could handle the attention. Vidar Leif Theisen could. He never strayed from the path of science, religion and family.
He currently spends his retirement in Stovner, a suburb outside Oslo. He has a wife, two children and a grandchild.
- Aftenposten A-Tekst <http://tekst.aftenposten.no>
- Tom Vidar Horvei's "Digital Roteskuff" <http://www.horvei.com>
- Watching TV