Through the looking-glass: How the brave new world will chase you even into the bathroom

HDTV embedded in your vanity mirror. What will they think of next, d’y’ suppose?

There is the moving image of a tiny no-nonsense Asian lady embedded in the LCD portion of my bathroom mirror, and she is sternly telling me what to think.

Perhaps you’ve read about this phenomenon of HDTV being crammed into the former privacy of your privy, which is described in a news item here. I had not, and the sudden sighting of the tiny Asian lady just about caused me to drop my Sonicare toothbrush in shock.

She appears before me, as if to prove that it is well into the 21st Century. I am in downtown Vancouver, staying high atop the new Fairmont hotel, where each morning as I fulfill my ritual hygienic jurisprudence, the lady in the bathroom mirror greets me perfunctorily, and delivers the news.

It’s raining, she tells me. Better not lose your umbrella.

The lady in the mirror continues to issue up-to-the-minute news advisories, starting with the facts that Newsweek magazine is dead, and Senator McGovern is dying, meaning that it’s finally safe to declare the 1970s officially over. Hotel chains can now put away the last of their coin-operated Magic Fingers units, and begin to shatter all remaining residue of earlier inn-keeping technology. (Just don’t shatter the talking mirror, though. That’s probably worth $40,000 a pane, not to mention the seven years of bad luck to follow.)

Hi-tech hotel accoutrement, circa 1970
McG and Newsweek: Came in together; left together

In the ’70s, Senator McGovern campaigned for the U.S. presidency, using the slogan “Come Home America.” He lost in a landslide to Nixon, but it soon turned out there was electoral skulduggery at hand: the Watergate scandal. Newsweek and its parent organization, the Washington Post, led the diligent reporting that uncovered wrongdoing, and led to Nixon’s resignation and continuing disgrace. Now there is another presidential election, and new campaign high-jinks, but the digital newsreader within my shaving mirror prefers to talk about other matters, such as what Lindsay Lohan posted to her Twitter account last evening, and some new flavor of corn-chip that promises to cause quite a stir at Taco Bell world headquarters.

Everywhere, and not just in my mirror reflection, the decade of the seventies is being assailed and exorcised. Protesters in London are picketing The Sun newspaper, claiming its familiar semi-clad female model, the famed “Page Three Bird,” is anachronistic and degrading, a throwback to the “oversexualised seventies.” (That’s the protesters’ term, surely not mine; I spent most of the decade as a lad in chaste old Canada, for god’s sake, playing Pong, and watching the Expos lose.)

The Page Three Bird has become entwined in the British public consciousness recently with the alleged misdeeds of Sir Jimmy Savile, the longtime BBC television presenter who stands accused of diddling hundreds of underage girls. Some say the ongoing publication of suggestive photos of adult women in a mainstream national media outlet provided a gateway to society’s casual objectification of females, permitting a public figure such as Sir Jimmy to defile children with impunity. That seems a stretch, but I still want images of that vile perv Jimmy Savile kept well clear of my bathroom mirror, thank you very much indeed.

As for The Sun? The protesters might relax. The paper seems doomed, one way or another, just like Newsweek and various other boring forms of printed media. Don’t worry about the Page Three Bird, however. Humankind has always fund ways to create and celebrate nude images, from cave wall etchings right through to to the emerging digital horizon. In fact, the Fairmont hotel chain is undoubtedly placing its order right now for flexible shower curtains that multitask as life-sized digital video displays: all the better for the representative of some major news-gathering organization to join you for a zesty morning cleansing, and inform you through the shower-mist of all the vital goings-on for your day ahead. The thought of standing under the nozzle with a full-sized video version of CNN’s Candy Crowley, or Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, may make you laugh, or it may make you cringe. But one thing should be obvious. We’re racing to a future where the line between reality and fantasy — not to add, viewer and voyeur — is thin enough to be imperceptible†.

Come home, America? A sweet idea, but as your shaving mirror will be saddened to inform you, the old hometown has been redeveloped into a condo, casino, and high-rise hotel mega-complex. And George McGovern doesn’t live there anymore.


† Apropos of which, perhaps, we note that this is the 100th post, here at Readers are invited to celebrate in any matter they deem appropriate.


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