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Yes, you are being filmed, even if you are in India

Sunday December 30, 2012 09:36:40 AM, Nury Vittachi, IANS

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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 too well.)

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 school?

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 hardly any."

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 per project."

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 gay."

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



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Picture of the Day

Artists performing dance drama based on the ‘Geetgovindam’, by Shri Jayadev, at the inauguration of the 60th Annual Arts Festival, at Kalakshetra, Chennai on December 21, 2012.


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