Monday, October 12, 2009

My Life on Camera

This week we installed six, yes six, video cameras outside our Tel Aviv home. The cameras aren’t to scare away terrorists, Arab or otherwise, but more to scare away local homegrown thieves. We’ve had a few break-ins in the neighborhood over the past six months, one in which the housekeeper was tied up and gagged for eight hours. This kind of thing had been rare—there is a policeman in the neighborhood and lots of stay-at-home moms and nannies. Perhaps the downturn in the economy is the culprit, perhaps the word got out that it was actually a fairly relaxed spot for thievery. I mean most of the nannies are part time and most of the stay-at-home moms aren’t home.

The local security polled the neighborhood and asked those of us that could to install cameras. The cameras not only record the entire perimeter of our house for our viewing pleasure, but feed into the local police department. Many agreed to participate and, for some reason, so did we. I hate them. Keep in mind we already had a centrally monitored alarm system. So we are now pretty much locked down. Every time I pass in or out of the house, play with the dog in the grass, sit outside in the evening with a glass of wine, I realize that my every movement is being recorded. I am absolutely sure that no one is interested or cares what goes on around my house, but still, the idea is unnerving.

My husband says I’ll get used to them. I’m not so sure. And anyway, a part of me hopes not. The idea that I’d suddenly find 24/7 monitoring the new normal is perhaps even more disconcerting.

In honor of my new life on camera, here’s a newly posted poem by the fabulous Heather McHugh from Narrative Magazine.

Webcam the World

GET ALL OF IT. Set up the shots
at every angle; run them online
24-7. Get beautiful stuff (like
scenery and greenery and style)
and get the ugliness (like cruelty
and quackery and rue).
There’s nothing
unastonishing—but get that, too. We have

to save it all, now that we can, and while.
Do close-ups with electron microscopes
and vaster pans with planetcams.
It may be getting close
to our last chance—
how many

millipedes or elephants are left?
How many minutes for mind-blinded men?
Use every lens you can—get Dubliners
in fisticuffs, the last Beijinger with
an abacus, the boy in Addis Ababa who feeds
the starving dog. And don’t forget the cows

in neck-irons, when barns begin
to burn. The rollickers at clubs,
the frolickers at forage—take it all,
the space you need: it’s curved. Let
mileage be footage, let years be light. Get
goggles for the hermitage, and shades for whorage.
Don’t be boggled by totality: we’re here to save the world

without exception. It will serve

as its own storage.

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