Smile please. YOU'RE ON candid
camera. This is not a joke. The likelihood is that there are now
more cameras than human beings in your community, assuming that
your community is my apartment. I used to be irritated when my
children wandered into the toilet when I was using it. Now I worry
about them wandering in with camera-phones. The last time it
happened, I threw toilet rolls and shouted: "I hope you're not
filming this for YouTube." They replied: "Of course not, that's SO
last month. It's going out as a hi-def live streaming video feed."
When I finished in the toilet I had a look at YouTube and
discovered that Shaky Blurred Pictures of Family Members Doing
Dumb Stuff is now the single biggest category of video clips.
Thank goodness cameraphones had not been invented when I "fixed"
the bookshelf so well that it collapsed, destroying a glass-top
table and tossing my valuable silver-like 3rd runner-up school
trophies out of a 9th floor window.
Escaping to the haven of the bar that evening, I gave a long rant
to anyone who would listen about the sins of this camera-obsessed
generation. To my dismay, many listeners were FANS of the plague
of cameras sweeping the world.
One showed me a press report in which sellers of surveillance
equipment said there had been double-digit growth in 2012 sales in
India. Another showed me an announcement from the city of Panaji,
which on Tuesday (Dec 25, 2012) revealed that it was putting
cameras up at key locations across town.
A Londoner said a woman had thrown a cat in a garbage can. After
the surveillance video went public, she received so many death
threats she needed police protection. In England you can murder as
many people as you like without unduly upsetting anyone, but if
you cause the slightest discomfort to an animal, the entire
population, including the Royal family, forms into vigilante
groups to beat you to death with their bowler hats, or crowns if
the Queen and Prince Charles get you first. (Being wacked with a
crown must really hurt, as I bet the Queen's husband knows only
A similar argument came from a guy fresh in from New York. A truck
bashed into a pole and knocked it down, he said. A 23-year-old
woman lay on the ground, apparently crushed. A surveillance camera
revealed she had thrown herself down to scam the driver for
damages. "You gotta admit, the camera was the hero in that story,"
the New Yorker said. I suppose he was right. O where o where were
the surveillance cameras when I was being beaten to a pulp at
There were downsides to being constantly monitored, the Londoner
added, explaining that the UK now had an estimated four million
surveillance cameras on the streets. "I can no longer scratch
myself in London because there are three high-definition cameras
looking at me, one doing a wide-angle, one doing a medium close-up
of my hand and the other roaming my trousers," he said.
But before anyone thinks of adding still more cameras to streets
in Asia, it may be a colossal waste of cash. A study by the UK's
Liberal Democrats concluded: "Police are no more likely to catch
offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with
Yet my attitude really changed after my mentor/ bartender shared a
brilliant idea: "If family members are really making videos of
you, why not apply for an Equity Card?" If I had a large body of
filmed work, I could get an Equity Card and register as an actor.
I phoned a thespian and asked: "How much do unionized actors get
paid?" He said: "The Screen Actors Guild guarantees all film or
video actors with speaking parts a minimum rate of US$782 per day
Woohoo. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and do some "stupid
dad tricks" at home. I may even try to put up another set of
bookshelves. (Look out below.)
Last week I was asked whether I believed in animal testing. I
said: no way, they can't hold the pens properly and they crap on
the floor of the examination hall.
The government of Uganda reckons homosexuality is a disease.
Interesting. Must try it next time I get the urge to call in sick.
"Sorry, boss, I can't come into work today, as I am feeling a bit
The hottest new gadget for 2012 was the voice-controlled TV, the
tech websites claim. (Pressing the button on a remote control is
apparently too much like hard work for modern people). Now you
just open your mouth and tell the TV to switch channels and it
reacts instantly. Downside: if you accidentally say a rude word in
front of the sound-operated TV, such as "O poop", does it switch
to a really bad show, such as The Bachelorette?
Snoop Dogg (full name Snoop Doggy Dogg) once got into trouble
after a drug-sniffing dog smelled marijuana on his tour bus in the
US, a reader told me. How appropriate: a snooping dog catches
Snoop Dogg. Will the rap star change his name? Kick Dogg? Eat Dogg?
How about Shoot Doggy Dogg?
Wise thought I had yesterday: "Passing your days in dissolute,
self-indulgent behaviour causes two things. 1.) Memory loss. 2.)
Er, something else."
Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send comments
and ideas via www.mrjam.org