America’s ... home videos

For 45 minutes, the camera never moved. I sat behind Video Mom in the community college field house as she held it on her child for the entire Christmas concert. The camera was tightly focused on Junior, it never once strayed to anyone else in the chorus, it never showed the orchestra, it never showed the choirmaster or the conductor. One kid in the midst of 100, singing for 45 minutes. There’s some must-see TV. Did I mention this was a college chorus, not some adorable 4-year-old kid mugging for the camera?

When I think of how many times I’ve been tempted to walk out of a 100-million-dollar blockbuster, loaded with eye-popping computer-generated special effects bolstered with Oscar-winning actors and directed by Oscar-winning directors -- I have to wonder how many seconds of “Average College Kid Singing Christmas Songs” doting relatives could sit through.

“Look, look here, he’s about to sing the bass part again. Most of the time he just stands there but if you watch closely, you can see him open his mouth. There! There it is! Want to see it again!?!”

Not that Martin Scorsese or Clint Eastwood or Steven Spielberg could have made this an interesting film. It was a Christmas concert, not “Jaws” or the Howard Hughes story. No dolly shots, no slick editing, no digital manipulation was going to save this thing. Cutting about 44 minutes and 45 seconds out of it is about the only thing that would make viewing sense.

But what annoyed me most about Video Mom was that she wasn’t watching the concert, she was filming it. She was missing the whole show. She might as well not have been there at all. She didn’t applaud between numbers, she didn’t acknowledge anyone else in the audience, she didn’t film anyone else in the chorus or orchestra, just her child.

I hate to break it to her, but her child was just one of 100 that were singing as part of group. A wonderful and praiseworthy group it was. I’m glad your son was part of it. But if Junior had stayed home with laryngitis that day, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. What lesson are you passing along to Junior? That he’s the only one that counts? That he is the only one worthwhile?

Years ago, when video cameras were just starting to become common, some relatives with children stopped by the house. While their children played in our yard their daddy taped them. He didn’t play ball with them, he didn’t run with them, he didn’t even speak to them, he just filmed them. After a half hour of this, he called the kids inside, hooked up this new fangled contraption to our TV set and for the next half hour we watched the kids doing on tape what we had just watched them do in real life. If we only had a second video camera to film them watching a film of themselves -- what a treasured memory that would be.

I was scared that those kids might grow up with a distorted sense that things were only worth doing if they were filmed. Of course, I was wrong. Those children are grown now and never speak to their parents, which, as we all know, is completely normal.

If the Video Mom has taped every moment in the boys life as much as the concert, there is no doubt that few people will ever see it. Her relatives have already learned to avoid her and her videos of death.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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