In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Art Linkage | Main | Japanese Tourism Follow-Up »

March 28, 2009

Travel Screens

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The number of screens one is exposed to these days, eh? They're everywhere. My least favorite place to be overwhelmed by them is in gyms:


Please, can I just exercise?

As abundant as they are in day-to-day life, they show up in downright blizzard numbers when one travels. They're in your face as you cab to the airport:


They're by your side as you move through the airport:


Hordes of them await you at the gate:


And on board the plane itself, they often outnumber the passengers.


Like cars and minimalls, TV/computer screens have become part of the natural environment. Any day now, real life will be morphing into an online adventure game.



posted by Michael at March 28, 2009


It would be a worthy art project if one could take the image of The Scream put it on every sceen in the world for a minute or two while accompanied by a soundtrack of the best movie screams of all time.

I think there is a demon that needs to be acknowledged and/or exorcised in these screens.


Posted by: sN on March 29, 2009 12:22 AM

We can't get away from people yapping on their cell phones, and now we can't get away from the TV, either. Unless we leave civilization, and leave our toys behind...

Posted by: Will S. on March 29, 2009 2:03 AM

We were in Denver's airport recently and when we arrived at our gate there was an immense flat-screen TV that was not only flashing huge images of fluffbrained CNN anchors at us, but blaring their annoying contentless voices at 80+ dB. We had to wait on the other side of the terminal to retain our peace of mind.

...then we got on the plane, and my little seatback LCD screen couldn't be turned off. I ended up hanging a napkin over it for the duration of the flight.

Posted by: David Fleck on March 29, 2009 8:32 AM

It's also known as enstupidation.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on March 29, 2009 8:54 AM

sN -- That's a funny art-project idea. I hope someone gets around to realizing it.

Will S. -- No kidding. And sometimes you get the cellphones and screens together ...

Charlton -- Enstupidation is pervasive these days.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 29, 2009 9:28 AM

I'm a sports fan, so I kinda like them at the gym. I can follow my team while I exercise. And, if I want to ignore people, putting on the headphones and watching the game is a great strategy.

My least favorite TV screens are the ones at the supermarket. They've got them at the deli and at the checkout counter... just so you can watch a couple of commercials while you shop.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 29, 2009 9:44 AM

Does anyone keep tally of the number of photo-sensitive epilepsy seizures they trigger?

Posted by: dearieme on March 29, 2009 10:06 AM

The one I really, really, really hate is at the gas station. You know the one that is ALL COMMERCIALS at high volume?

Posted by: JP on March 29, 2009 10:13 AM

What troubles me is what David Fleck identified: even when the screen is aimed at an individual, said individual CANNOT turn the screen off.

This is advertising invading our minds like kudzu.

When the kudzu gets your fields, baby
You sleep like the dead

So says the old blues number. Not this kudzu, though. The last thing in the world you can do with this stuff is sleep through it. Especially since they've made sure the "annoying contentless" sound is cranked way up too.

The logical endpoint of all this is nanobot-enabled advertising that gets into your brain and starts firing your synapses. Imagine, advertising you won't even be able to stop thinking about.

Ah, the future...

Posted by: PatrickH on March 29, 2009 10:53 AM

Charlton Griffin: It's also known as enstupidation.

Ayup. Winston Smith's inescapable telescreen. Or, more accurately, Harrison Bergeron's handicapping earphones done one better - you take a visual as well as an aural beating with every heretical attempt to be left in peace with a train of thought, or a sociable, focussed encounter with another human being.

I'd like the individual screens at the gym if they had DVD players - the odds are very, very slim that there is anything worth watching on cable at any given gym-hour. Would be a great place for Teaching Company viewing, or my personal preferences in mindless garbage, if they could turn off the screeching shit-pop that rudely obtrudes into privately-chosen listening. But they wouldn't, because that would leave people free to shuck the DVDs and ipods and choose quiet, and we just can't have that.

I know I've ranted about this at length before, but a lot of public places really are becoming unbearable in this way - restaurants, shops, business offices, even grocery stores, as ST points out. On a recent visit to Portland we found that Powell's, mercifully, still allows one to browse unmolested, but I will no longer practice that pleasant habit in any bookstores here (even if they possess a tolerably interesting inventory), because the unpleasantness of being subjected to the SS-P (screeching shit-pop) makes the whole experience utterly not worth my while.

I guess the marketing geniuses decided it wasn't profitable to cater to the serious-reader/people-with-remnants-of-musical-taste demographic. Smooth move, suits! The one thing you can reliably get this frugal consumer to plunk down good money on - books - and you've done everything in your power to make me avoid your stores like the plague!

dearieme: Does anyone keep tally of the number of photo-sensitive epilepsy seizures they trigger?

How 'bout the psychotic homicidal rampage tally? Jus' wonderin'. I'd hate to become a statistic.

Posted by: Moira Breen on March 29, 2009 10:56 AM

I find the TV monitors at the gym to be a good way of making the time go by faster. One slight drawback in that when using the elliptical or stationary cycle, my speed will sometimes drop too low if I'm really interested in what's on TV. That's not an issue when running on the treadmill, for there the machine speed controls your speed rather than vice-versa

Posted by: Peter on March 29, 2009 11:51 AM

Moira, I'm with you on the shit-pop. It is ubiquitous and awful and truly makes being in public places unpleasant.

The wife and I go to Burning Man every year and probably the most profound thing out there is the total lack of advertising and commerce. You can experience that camping, but the unique thing about Burning Man is that it is a bustling city of 50,000 people, so you're in constant interaction with people for a week, only with none of the soul-killing buzz of advertising and/or people hawking products in the background. It's really something. It's restorative.

Posted by: JV on March 29, 2009 2:43 PM

This must be a coastal thing -- none of it out here in the Mountain Time Zone. Certainly not TV screens, and hardly any music either.

I agree that seeing screens at the gym must be the worst -- reinforces the dread of physical activity. Just stretch at home for 15 minutes, head out to '80s night to be surrounded by a bunch of half-naked tight-bodied college girls, and there's 3 hours of enjoyable exercise for you.

Compare the energy boost of dancing to "Living on Video," "Blue Monday" or "Go!", with the sedative of staring at a screen...

What do people have against loosening up and having fun? Goddamn.

Posted by: agnostic on March 29, 2009 5:48 PM

The worst, for me, are the ones on the already cacophonous LA Metro Rapid buses. These are the geniuses responsible:

Posted by: David C on March 29, 2009 6:17 PM

I have a small device that discreetly turns off any public television that uses infrared remote control. Unfortunately, most of the next wave of stupefaction distraction devices are not affected by it.

While not as prevalent as in America, the public screens here in Japan make up for it in surprise factor. They're motion activated. Nothing like going to get a coffee in the middle of the night when the vending machine screen lights up and shrieks at you in the helium pitched voice of a Japanese female attempting to be cute. I really ought to video tape it and load it on the net.

For those of you like me who hate the effects of cutting edge technology combined with stupidity and lack of consideration, there exists a whole world of technology that combats it's intrusive presence. Of course some of it is of dubious legality (I remain mum on the ethics of possession and use of a portable cell phone jammer).

Really, though, isn't it ironic that as public smoking is banned, another form of pollution even more annoying and disgusting than my own bad habit not only replaces it, but is actively encouraged.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on March 29, 2009 10:20 PM

Spike: is it that TV BE GONE things that you have? I so want one of those; but we can't get them in Canada, AFAIK, yet, unfortunately...

Posted by: Will S. on March 30, 2009 12:34 AM

What's real life?

Posted by: Sister Wolf on March 30, 2009 2:46 AM

I hate it, too. One of the most redeeming things about living in the middle of nowhere is that all the screen time we get is at least under our own control.

(Though we all still have, in my opinion, too much of it.)

How do people in these cities ever get a minute to think?

I found Tokyo particularly overwhelming on that front, and it would've been WORSE if I'd been fluent or literate-- the one benefit of illiteracy is that it makes advertising easier to ignore.

Posted by: omw on March 30, 2009 10:01 AM

Will S:

Yup. Are they banned in Canada? Ironic since cell phone scanners are legal there.

Suffice to say, there's a guy selling them out of the back of 2600 Magazine who's probably more discreet than mainstream websites if contacted directly (if I recall correctly he's the inventor of the device).

The schematics are also floating around on the net, and it's not too expensive to assemble, especially compared to jammers and the like. Still, you'd probably need to get a electronics engineer friend to do the chip burning for you. It's tricky and requires special equipment.

It's amazing how much stuff can be tinkered with. Just a few years ago it was found out that with a bit of easy patching, an infrared keyboard could reprogram those LED signs you see everywhere.

Kinda makes me wish I stuck with computers sometimes, but I never had the math brains to make a good go of it.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on March 30, 2009 11:50 AM

Has anyone read "Anathem"? Stephenson really nails this. Cell phones, too.

Posted by: Bald Cypress on March 30, 2009 2:09 PM

I once worked in a lobby where the boss insisted on having the CNN on all day for the customers. I absolutely hated the same celebrity gossip every news cycle.

Posted by: hello on March 30, 2009 8:23 PM

I think it's a generational thing. Older generations are more comfortable with having the drone of TV always on in the background. Younger generations are generally not.

My dad who is very sick watches/listens to CNN 9 hours a day. Taking care of him, I have to endure the endless commercials. It drives me crazy.

My old job used to have CNN in the lunchroom and the audio in the restrooms. I really don't mind screens as much as I mind the assault on your ears. IF you have to hear this garbage, you are no longer able to think.

Many cafes and snack bars think that it's normal to have the TV on for customers. I often wonder: why should GM/Apple/Bank of America benefit from the extra eyeballs?

Posted by: Robert Nagle on March 31, 2009 10:51 AM

Hey, that's a good point, Mr. Nagle. Why are the old folks so much more at ease with background TV than we are?

Seems like it'd be the other way 'round. Are they just better at tuning it out?

Posted by: omw on March 31, 2009 3:37 PM

No, omw. They're going deaf. That's why the things are always turned up so fracking loud!

Posted by: PatrickH on March 31, 2009 4:16 PM


Posted by: omw on March 31, 2009 4:57 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?