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Pat Lawson-Black Headshot

Hey! Don't Steal That Obama Sign, The World Is Watching

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It's become a mini-sensation. After two Obama/Biden '08 signs were stolen from a front yard in Portland, Oregon, scores of armchair detectives all over the world got on the case.

When the second sign disappeared, the homeowner, whose proud user-name is "Poverty Kids' Teacher," fashioned a new one by hand and enlisted her 16-year-old son to set up a camera inside the house to monitor any activity, lest it too should be stolen.

Clever son, now known as SignKid, did better. Having set up the camera, he streamed the vision through a window and out to the world via Ustream.tv and then bingo -- before the family could adjust to their new celebrity status, the view from their living area was being monitored by amateur sleuths in Florida, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Boston, Sacramento, and even further afield in Belgium, Sri Lanka, Greece, Canada and way downunder in Australia.


"Lawn-Cam" is addictive. Despite being set up in a quiet, pleasant neighborhood (one commenter asked "Where's Mr. Rogers?") the camera's beam is directed on to a somewhat bland scene -- a simple little garden frontage with nothing much else visible, other than a three-car garage on the other side of the street.

Viewers have been enthusiastic in their guarding of the DIY sign, many staying online for several hours and calling on their fellow cyber-cops when forced by the call of nature, or ravenous hunger, to temporarily abandon their posts. A robust camaraderie was evident in this thread... "I need to go to the bathroom. Call me if anything happens." ... The response? "One word for you: Depends!")

At one stage, Obama Sign CCTV1 was the 6th most viewed stream on the site. "What are the other 5?" someone asked. "Live executions" came the instant reply.

Of course, politics is never far from mind. This is an Obama sign, after all. When a poster sent off a clumsy typo, a fellow sign-watcher's comment was pure gold: "Boy, you Palin'd the crap out of that sentence..."

Overnight, Portland time, things got a bit slow. Each time a car passed, viewers posted alerts: "Car. Carrrrrr" and when a garbage truck stopped within view in the early hours, the site went wild. But even when there's nothing much happening, the chat is compelling. There's a sense of "We're all in this together..." And "We're all quite mad." Indeed, the phrase "We need to get a life" seems to pop up on the hour.

The home owners, or 'hosts' as they have been dubbed, made an elegant appearance in the early evening of Day 1, bowing to their audience. And one viewer wanted to clone the teenage son: "I have electronics here I can't control."

As AKM said on Mudflats...

"We've seen squirrels, neighbors, passing cars, suspicious kids on bikes. The wind has blown, the rain has come. The sign has been covered in Saran Wrap before our very eyes to shield it from the elements. We've seen the family cat. We've chatted and laughed. And occasionally we've been inundated by trolls. All in all, a very entertaining evening....staring at a sign."

Who needs television?

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