When The TV Set Goes Dark, One Soundtrack Replaces Another

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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.


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


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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