In the mid ’50s, before CinemaScope lenses were perfected, everything and everyone looked horizontally distorted. The joke was that actors had the “CinemaScope mumps.” But on widescreen TVs today — in bars, people’s living rooms, electronic media showrooms — the distortion is easily double what the CinemaScope mumps syndrome delivered, and nobody blinks an eye. Across- the-board high-def widescreen TV is being promised by Direct TV and Comcast, etc., but the vast majority of broadcast images are still standard-sized (aspect ratio of 4 x 3, meant to fit your mom and pop’s TV)…and yet!…the idiots who own widescreen TVs are showing everything at the 16 x 9 ratio because they want to get their money’s worth — i.e., I bought a widescreen TV, I want to see widescreen TV! Filling up your 16 x 9 TV screen (like what…a gas tank?) is the single most cretinous visual vogue afoot in today’s digital-entertainment universe, and there are hundreds of millions of widescreen TVs that are beaming this idiocy right now…horizontally bloated newscasters on ESPN, vaguely egg-shaped basketballs…the proportion of every last object pulled sideways like Turkish taffy. I’m saying this not because it’s new, but because widescreen TV bloat has become the dominant visual mode by which tens of millions absorb TV images, and I resent this moronic aesthetic being so ubiquitous in our culture.