When The TV Set Goes Dark, One Soundtrack Replaces Another

When commentator Andrei Codrescu finally gives up TV, he starts to hear what he first thinks is silence — but soon, nature and quiet sounds penetrate his life.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Like many people these days, commentator Andrei Codrescu decided that he can live without television, but TV had cast a spell over him. And after he cut the cable, he experienced severe withdrawal.

ANDREI CODRESCU: That panicky noise that used to run in the background is gone. It's like everything I did had a soundtrack. I would come in from a walk in the woods, but instead of thinking about the fresh bear prints I saw in the mud, Wolf Blitzer would alarm me with some new disease from a sick chicken in China. One day, I turned off Blitzer and called a neighbor to talk about the bear. In the background of his phone I could hear O'Reilly pooh-poohing global warming. So I asked him to turn O'Reilly down. He lowered him a few notches, but just as I was about to approach the bear, he said, O'Reilly said there is no global warming. It was hot out as hell outside. I never got around to the bear. I hung up and went to take another look. Yep, bear prints. Next to them I noticed two brown mushrooms. They looked like Transylvanian peasant hat. I photographed them with my phone and walked back to the house to look them up in the mushroom book. There they were - slimy Gomphidius. I was so pleased, I almost turned on the TV. Then I remembered, there was no Rachel Maddow to distract me from the bear and the mushrooms. All I had was the phone and the book, and what if I was shipwrecked on a deserted island without TV, book or phone? It wasn't easy to keep myself thinking about the bear, the mushrooms and the deserted island. I panicked. Could I lead my life without being distracted from it? I reached for the cell phone. Then I put it down. I was going through withdrawal. I had the cable sweats. For the next few days I had encounters with what I thought was silence. Then I heard birds, wind in the leaves and the rustling of a squirrel. I turned a page in the book I was holding without reading, and I heard that too. A woodpecker - the squirrel again - a small plane buzzing far up in these funny clouds with the window of blue in them - no branches cracking under heavy bear paws. How long had this bear been around? Not as long as Blitzer and O'Reilly. This is probably a new bear that just got started. Blitzer and O'Reilly were already alarming me in his bear-father and bear-grandfather's time. I could remember almost nothing Blitzer and O'Reilly had alarmed or pacified me with, though I remember watching a National Geographic show about bears and global warming. A film crew could be outside my cabin right now. Remember then, whenever you're watching TV, there is a TV crew filming bears outside your house. A sick chicken in China is heading your way, and there is no global warming. The AC is on full blast, and that's why there will never be a revolution in America.

SIEGEL: Andrei Codrescu lives in the Ozarks.

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