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The ubiquitous telescreen in Orwell's 1984 was an object of fear and boredom, spewing out pig-iron production statistics while spying on its citizens. Orwell was only half right. Telescreens are indeed everwhere, but objects of irritation rather than intimidation. Salthnam Sanghera, whose name I wish I could spell without having to check, writes in The Times:
A couple of months ago I interviewed Gelong Thubten, a Buddhist monk, who had just emerged from a four-year retreat, and asked him if he had noticed any changes about the world. His quick reply: “Screens. Suddenly, there are screens everywhere.”
He’s right. There’s absolutely no getting away from the damned things: they’re on office walls, in buses, constantly in our hands in the form of iPods and smartphones. And if there is one thing that represents our age, it is surely the unnecessary, blinking flatscreen TV, beaming out a bland image.
I say “unnecessary” because since my chat with Thubten I’ve noticed that many telly screens, especially in public, don’t serve a function.
I recently visited a publishing company in which the reception area was adorned with no less than three flatscreen tellies, all showing a still of the corporate logo. Why not put up the actual logo instead?
But even this wasn’t as ridiculous as the carpet shop in St James’s, which has a plasma screen in its window, beaming a still picture of . . . a carpet. Why not just have the actual carpet there?
If you come across similarly daft examples, do send them my way. Maybe we can have some kind of (onscreen) exhibition of the most moronic examples.
The still of the corporate logo is not uncommon, as is the picture of unreasonably ecstatic customers. These customers are, like the Benetton ad, uniformly diverse of colour and white of teeth. It is with some satisfaction that I note that an otherwise dreary perfection is often distorted into all too human chubbiness by the stretching of a picture designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio into a wide screen.