Sunday, July 12, 2009


In 1899, Charles Pathé set up one of those new-fangled motion picture cameras on a busy London street and filmed passers-by. The resulting featurette lasted only 15 minutes (the camera was hand-cranked, so Pathé’s arm would have fallen off had it lasted much longer). Yet, despite its brevity, minimalist plot, and lack of big-name stars, Victorian audiences apparently queued round the block.

In 1972, Andy Warhole tried much the same thing when he filmed the Empire State Building. Unfortunately, popcorn sales for this one didn’t reach expectations. Probably because the whole thing lasted over 24 hours. Twenty-four hours of just the Empire State Building, without even a guest-appearance by King Kong, is perhaps overdoing it, even by “Children in Need” standards.

Which brings me to webcams. Not the ones people use to broadcast themselves shagging over the Internet, but those giving 24-hour coverage of town centres and other nondescript sights. Given that Warhole couldn’t turn the most famous New York landmark into a blockbuster, what, then, is the point of live coverage of, say, the centre of Bootle?

Nothing against Bootle you understand (apart from the fact that it's a shithole and its population mainly retards), it’s just that these things simply strike me as being another example of Internet silliness, of which we already have an abundance. Pathé had the excuse that, back then, motion pictures were truly innovative. And, besides, during those 15 minutes, there was at least the off-chance of seeing a suffragette chaining herself to something or a young Winston Churchill giving you the finger. But live pictures of Bootle, taken from a camera mounted half a mile away? You may as well be looking at a postcard (assuming they actually do postcards of Bootle).

The only webcams that strike me of being any use whatsoever, if only because they’re mounted sufficiently close to the “action” to make out people and features, are found at, and show Soho street scenes. Here, once you’ve located a suitable camera (I suggest the one opposite the Café Nero), you can successfully moon it. Then again, given the slow refresh rate of 60 seconds between pictures, this does entail standing around for at least a minute with your backside exposed. Which, given the proximity of all those gay bars on Old Compton Street, is perhaps not the best idea in the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Or in Hatfield showing chavs dealing in drugs? It is Warhol by the way, changed from Warhola when his parents let Slovakia. Warhole? He was chatting to Brecht in 1958.