Don’t do anything suspicious

I am astounded at how easily people will throw away their privacy. Once again, Vancouver police are asking for more surveillance cameras to monitor the streets, and once again, Vancouverites are more than willing to help the local Big Brother watch their every move — all the name of security.

In a web poll that’s currently in progress on Canada.com (yes, I go to that site too much), over 70% of respondants so far think it’s a good idea to add more cameras. Are they on crack?

Hold on. No, they just want to keep any eye on those who are on crack. (Ooh, I’m off on a grade-A rant now.)

I think the real problem is that, in general, people don’t think it will affect them personally. “The police only watch criminals,” they might say. Or: “I’m not hiding anything… why should I worry?”

We should worry because, when police begin to collect information about your comings and goings, you should consider what the police think that your hiding.

Let me give you an example. You may have a daily routine: leave in the morning on a certain route; stop at the drug store; go to the corner store on the way back; and by your regular route, arrive back home. Perfectly innocent.

Then, one time, on impulse, you vary your route. You walk down a different street, and maybe stop at the other corner store instead. The police have this on record, and if it suited them, they might ask themselves why the different route? Maybe they were looking for a person who held up the corner store that day, and sure enough, here’s someone who inexplicably varied their usual routine. You have just become a suspect.

Certainly, this might be an unusual scenario (I hope), but the consequence of surveillance is that innocent people will become aware that they are being watched and their actions recorded. Any time you leave the privacy of your home, you may be conscious of the camera and you may modify your behaviour accordingly. When the camera misses nothing, you may feel the need to suppress an urge to do something as simple as varying your route. Or saying hello to a neighbor. Or wearing something too colourful. Or spontaneously varying your route or visiting the park.

The scenario in which you become a suspect is hopefully rare, but the rest, I feel, is a certainty. Under those conditions, we will no longer be living in a free society; we will have given up too much.

I’m not big on dead-guy quotes, but here’s one that I’d like to leave you with. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Once we lose essential liberty, it may be impossible to get it back.

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O what a rogue and peasant slave am I…

Last night, my inner thespian got loose and terrorized a room full of people. For the first time in five years, I stood up in front of people — albeit five people — and performed a monologue.

And I enjoyed it.

too much sake at a karaoke clubI’m almost ashamed to admit that, at the end of long years of theatrical training and studies at the University of British Columbia, I have done nothing — absolutely nothing — in front of an audience. That is, unless you count that incident where I drank too much sake at a karaoke club and tried to demonstrate my abilities as a lounge singer. I really hope that doesn’t count.

Not only have I not been on stage, but I also haven’t hung a light, raised a flat, or built a riser. I haven’t been backstage or on a catwalk, and the closest thing to a fly gallery I’ve seen was at a sushi stand in the West End.

I have been extremely negligent. While I’ve never claimed (or demonstrated) any strong acting abilities, it used to be the focus of my life, second only to beer.

So there I was, doing a monologue for the first time since graduation. The audience was a group called Ready or Not that meets weekly to be all artsy and stuff. You know — actors, musicians, writers, et cetera — all being wacky and trying out new material on real, live people. It’s a wonderful idea. I think everyone should try it.

Call up a few friends. Find a song. Pick up that guitar. Choose a monologue. Scratch out some words on paper. Have fun and share some of that repressed creativity.

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Our hard-workin’ boys in blue

Reading an article on the Canada.com website, I discover that Vancouver police are working hard improving their undercover tactics. Their mission this time: to infiltrate local pubs and bars and count how many drinks you order.

I may be blowing their cover here, but you can recognize them as the ones taking notes on coasters and ordering round after round of Evian shots with their soft drinks.

Happy hour at the cube farm

Fridays at the office. At every company I’ve worked for, Fridays are always marked by some kind of social event, including one or more of: beer, movies, games, snacks, or on particularly wacky Fridays, a company meeting. I appreciate their effort in organizing these events, of course. And the intent is to make their employees happy, because a happy employee is a productive employee. Great! Please keep it up! But not on Friday!

For crying out loud! At the end of a long work week, I for one want to leave at 5:00 sharp and return to my real life. Oh, I like my co-workers — they’re great people. But I see them every single freakin’ day, all day.

I’ve got my own ideas about how to make Fridays a little better. What if they passed around Irish coffees in the morning? That would help things along until noon, at least. Then free lunch at the pub (the one without the rats), which would take at least three hours. Then, around 3:00, the final hours would slip by with the help of the recreational drugs.

Well maybe not that last one. But you get the idea. Make Friday something to look forward to, and employees would give their all from Monday to Thursday. It’s called building loyalty.

I suppose, however, that we should just be content that we still have a job, and that we didn’t arrive on Friday to find that our security card no longer lets us into the building. Rumour has it that in corporate culture, generally Friday is the preferred day to give someone their walking papers. They’re less likely to go postal, I suppose.

So. It’s Friday, I’m still employed, and it’s happy hour in the employee lounge. At 5:00, I shall have to say thank you, but I’m off to catch the bus.

The end is nigh

According to an article on the BBC website, we may all get splattered by a really big asteroid on February 1, 2019. Don’t panic just yet — the calculations are “uncertain” and the asteroid may miss us by “several tens of millions of kilometres”. All the same, I might take a little trip over to the next planet that day.