Something for the Weekend, Sir? My wife is parading naked in front of a webcam again. Here's the funny thing, though: she doesn't even know that the webcam is on. In fact, it's not even her computer – it's mine – and she's not doing it deliberately. Come to think of it, I wasn't even aware that my webcam was on until just now when the green LED illuminated all by itself when she walked into the room. It's as if the mere sight of Half Life half-dressed turned it on.
Maybe I'll explain a little more about this later.
Before I was so curiously distracted, I was going to write a column asking, rhetorically of course, whether I am the only person to be suddenly in receipt of a veritable tidal wave of unsolicited press releases and promotional material from CCTV systems businesses. Daily, they scream out from my inbox with Crimewatch-esque catchlines designed to scare the wits out of the most hardened pensioner – such as "Low-quality forecourt security exposed by vandalism", "Council cameras capture fly-tipping footage" and "Calls for superstore to install CCTV near scene of sex-attack / mugging / drug-dealing / spontaneous combustion / UFO sighting / jihad / other [*delete as applicable]".
This reminds me of the occasion when the Daily Mail's ex-production editor tried to explain to me the underlying theme behind the popular British newspaper's unrelentingly frenzied quotidian obsession with house prices, illegal immigrants and things that supposedly give you cancer. "Every story is calculated to get across the same fundamental principle," he said, "and that's 'Be afraid… be very afraid'."
I'm not quite sure how his theory applies to this story about sperm facials but there you go. If you want a good laugh, check out the reader comments as well. Quality stuff.
Many people hold an understandably contradictory opinion of CCTV. When it's used to capture a perp or futsie, everyone agrees it's a wonderful thing and demands that more cameras are installed on every street corner, gatepost and bird-bath. When it's used to spy on ordinary people, however, public opinion swings the other way, and everyone complains that it's crushing communities and shocking us into a dystopian future … which as a consequence is going to turn us all futsie anyway.
One of the most devious properties of CCTV footage is that it is as strangely compelling as it is life-suckingly dull – not unlike the Great British Bake Off, I suppose. Stand at the counter at any local cafe or small retail unit in your high street and your attention is immediately drawn to the eight-camera monitor that they bought at discount from Maplins. You get to see the cafe/shop from every angle, and even though nothing is happening in any of the feeds, you're irresistibly drawn in. A woman is sliding coat hangers in one; a man with a badly combed-over bald patch sips his coffee in another; you view yourself from above and instinctively pull your tummy in.
In what seems like seconds to you, several hours pass in the real world as you stare at the compelling lack of action in each mini-screen. You are only awoken from your CCTV-induced trance by the sales assistant slapping you around the face a few times while a small child in the queue behind you strains at his mum's hand and kicks you repeatedly in the nuts.
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