When I moved to Minneapolis almost six months ago, I didn’t have a television. The 43″ set that had sat on the coffee table in the condo in Seattle for the previous three years always felt too large to me (before that, the spot had been occupied by a Sony Trinitron, a model so old that spellcheck doesn’t even recognize the word), so I sold it on NextDoor for $60 when I was packing up to leave. A month or two after getting here, I ordered a 40″ version of the same set. It is familiar but not so overwhelming.

What I didn’t get was cable. Basic cable came with the condo dues so I wasn’t used to paying for it (sleight of hand, I know) and, given that I managed perfectly fine with no TV at all, it didn’t make sense to me to shell out money every month for something I didn’t use very often. I still support the PBS station in Seattle (one of the last vestiges) so I’m able to stream Masterpiece and Call the Midwife on my own schedule. Mixed as my feelings are about Amazon, I am a Prime subscriber, which means I occasionally watch something there. In fact, the only film that’s in any kind of Oscar contention this year that I’ve seen is Being the Ricardos.

What I don’t have is CNN. Or MSNBC. I listen to them, and to NPR and the BBC World Service, via SiriusXM. This allows me to hear from the reporters who have gone to Ukraine to cover the war. The other day, Anderson Cooper told us that the piece of footage he was about to play had no sound but that the images needed to be shared. For a long minute or two, there was silence coming out of my phone, while I imagined what I wasn’t seeing. It was chilling. The mind can do a lot with a couple of minutes of silence.

Yesterday morning, either on the BBC or MSNBC, a correspondent was describing the scene at the border, how heartbreaking it was to witness the women and children – the women carrying a suitcase containing what was left of their worldly goods; the children, a single stuffed animal. You could see, the reporter said, that these young children had been told they could take just one toy with them. They were holding on to them for dear life.

I didn’t see it but the image hasn’t left my mind.


  1. That Teddy Bear image – the one thing the child could take with him, as he left his home for who knows where – is immensely moving. The comfort of a Teddy Bear in frightening times is pretty near universal!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your TV tales, dear Ruth. It was most interesting to me to know that you could listen to CNN and MSNBC for no charge, though you would not be seeing any images or videos from them. And I loved the lasting image of that teddy bear looking back at me!

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  3. A picture is worth 1000 words. But sometimes the words get in the way. On the other hand, the price of admission to the theater of the mind is free but the cost of keeping those images in your head can mount up. It bothers me that those in conventional media aren’t permitted to say the expletives we all use every day on the air and yet the images they show, especially in war are far more pornographic and shocking than any bleeped or asterisk-written words might express otherwise. We’ve gone from an era of mass media to one of mess media. Our world is less immediate and more mediated by opinionated pundits, decorated and venerated experts and attention getting loudmouths who as we get older we realize don’t know anything more than we do and probably even less. They just have better tools and bigger pipe lines to cover the bandwidth. So, to wrap it up, beware of images and be wary of imagination. Between wide screen and wide screams there’s life.


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