Lifes more than a video-recording

DIGITAL video camcorders are among the hottest gadgets in town and hawked by every major electronics manufacturer. Being digital, the camcorder doesn't need a videotape, just lots of gigabytes and an editing software. The latest models are almost as small as your palm and can even shoot in high-definition resolution.

Affluent parents are using these DV camcorders to record every moment of their kids growing up – riding a toy train, playing in the garden and making a nuisance of themselves at Disneyland. These electronic memories are then cut, re-positioned and superimposed with music, so that a 30-minute struggle to get the uncooperative brat up on the train becomes a 7-minute entertaining scene of the adorable little tot having the ride of his life.

Instead of being involved with their children, the parents are more interested in stepping back and recording it all on the camcorder, in order to show off to themselves and to others those moments of life where "I ought to be in it, but I was too busy holding a camera recording everything".

After the kids grow up, they will be horrified when they stumble upon these videos in Youtube and other social Web sites, in which they were the unsuspecting actors. Nobody likes to be in candid camera even if it is for a chuckle. And to think that indulgent, unthinking parents have systematically captured such moments of the children growing up and then uploading them onto Youtube, will amuse none of their kids.

Let’s face it, only a masochist wants to look at someone else’s baby photo album or video. If you're guilty of this, you ought to be ashamed of yourself inflicting such torments on friends and relatives.

A saner practice would be to capture life’s significant moments in writing, supplemented with a few judiciously taken photos, rather than to film or shoot anything or everything in sight.

You feel depressed, so you go for a midnight walk in the park and a marmalade full moon hits you on the face. You meet intimate friends for long coffee and even longer, stimulating conversation. You get down on the floor and guide your child in assembling a Lego set. You fly to Phuket island during an extended weekend public holiday, and hermit yourself reading in a cabana next to a surf-tossed beach.

Much later, in the quiet of an evening sitting by your kitchen table, you enrich that past event by recollecting your thoughts and writing them down – on your PDA or laptop PC, a spiral-ring jotter book, the back of an envelope, whatever. Unlike a video take, the written vignette is not a blow-by-blow account of what took place, but edited and filtered by your perception and sentiment, so that only what you felt were significant, insightful and important, are recorded.

It is not easy, of course, to present a well-crafted written record, but heck, after one has read Virginia Woolf assiduously (Mrs Dalloway, The Second Common Reader, and all that), one gains enough confidence to discard the camera and try writing. Hopefully, years later, other people pulling out one's journal, can immerse their attention in those captured moments too.

No amount of video can equal the mind-engaging power of a well-written passage, whether it’s Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness narrative or your own. If you want to be creative, supplement your written passage with one or two (just one or two, please) pictures and lay out the entire material in a magazine-style presentation, complete with a headline and appropriate captions for the pictures.

The finished page or pages, done in, say Microsoft Word or Adobe PageMaker page design program, can then be converted to an Acrobat PDF file. When you have accumulated enough PDF files of your life, burn them onto a CD. Keep the disc free of dust and fungus, and you have an everlasting archive of your earthy existence to present to Lord Yama, the iron-faced Judge of the Underworld when you stand before him awaiting his decision for your next rebirth.

Heaven forbids that when his infernal majesty plays back your life’s CD, it crashes his computer and he hurls your consciousness to be reborn in the lowest possible life-form: as a Microsoft minion condemned to write spaghetti code for yet another version of Windows!

Francis Chin, updated October 2009
(after reading about Microsoft foisting yet another Windows program on the public)

Bystander Front Page | Write thoughts, not words

Night, the nurse of thought, says Edward Young; picture taken outside Ren Ci Hospital, by Francis Chin, 2009
Night, the nurse of thought (Edward Young)