Jan 28, 2011

California Town Considers Broadcasting Bird Sounds on Public Streets to Add Ambiance

I love Two-Fisted Birdwatcher. This particular post brings to mind standup comic Brian Regan's bit about the irate birder who called up NBC Sports when he heard, in the background of a golf tournament, the call of a bird that distinctly was not indigenous to where the tournament was being played. 


While Regan apparently thought this guy was whack job, or at least a total nature nerd, I totally get the birder's point. I can be enjoying an otherwise well-written TV show when a bogus comment or storyline about nature suddenly brings a halt to my willing suspension of disbelief. I mean, how hard is it to Google the local conservation (or game, wildlife, or natural-resources) department of any state and find out what wildlife actually live in the location where the story is set? 


Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
Photo by Petra Karstedt  
TV producers seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on police procedure, getting at least some of it accurate, but nature invariably takes an accuracy hit in most TV shows and many movies. Regan didn't bother to do any research either, coming up with totally bogus bird names and calls for his bit, but that's easier to forgive with a comic. Of course, the bit would have rung more true—especially for those of us who are not nature impaired—if he'd used the name of a real species.


Back to the town in California considering adding bird noises to its streets' ambiance: Citizens could soon think they're surrounded by Northern Cardinals, a species whose range has yet to reach that far west. Or they could be regaled with the song of the nightingale, a species not found in North America. Speaking of nature impaired.... Does it matter that they would be barraged by misinformation at a time when nature deficit disorder is one of the reasons we're heading for ecosystem collapse? Guess not, considering how misinformed most of our citizenry are about nature.

Still, the parallel to 1984, or at least an elevator or dentist's office, is scary enough. Personally, I prefer actual sounds, no matter what they are, in the background when I walk down a street, not some Orwellian idea of what should make me happy. What really makes me happy is not living anywhere near this town. What makes me really happy is living in Rappahannock County, where I only have to open a window to hear all the bird sounds I want.
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