The Perfect Plan for Procrastination

Slate's Culture Blog
July 13 2009 9:43 AM

The Perfect Plan for Procrastination

Rating the live Webcam's value as a tool of procrastination is a tricky proposition. Once the initial thrill of

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 


thousands of miles away fades, it's hard not to notice that traffic looks pretty much the same in

, and

. Still, if you're trying to


distractions, boredom is generally a good thing. A few seconds staring at Lun Lun, Yang Yang, and Co. Co. on Zoo Atlanta's

is enough to drive even the most determined time-waster back to work. But a thwarted distraction is no distraction at all. If

fail to entertain, the blocked writer will soon turn to

or culture blogs, and nothing productive will be achieved.

Friend, I have the answer. From July 6 to Oct. 14, London's Trafalgar Square is providing 2,400 people with 60 minutes of fame. Rather than erecting one of his sculptures on the square's

, artist

instead decided to "create a living monument." He invited U.K. residents older than 16 to apply to spend one hour on the platform, "a space normally reserved for statues of Kings and Generals." According to Gormley, "They will become an image of themselves, and a representation of the whole of humanity." Meanwhile the rest of humanity can watch the spectacle via a

. The production values are higher than for most Webcams, and the scenery is much better—cameras also take in the crowds, the National Gallery behind the plinth, and the square's shockingly clean fountain.

Most of the time, the plinthers show themselves to be all too ordinary. There are endless banal cell-phone conversations, far too much meta-photography ("and here's one of some people taking a picture of me taking a picture of them"), and a lot of high-concept justifications for doing very little. (My favorite,

from London, claimed to pay "homage to middle-aged fathers by assemblying a flat-pack deck chair, and then sitting in it and reading a Sunday paper.") It's mostly boring and awkward, but every hour on the hour, there's an audience-participation version of the changing of the guard when a cherry picker brings up the next plinth-sitter and carts off the old one. Take my advice and skip everything but these often awkward interactions.

you can see Graham packing up his deck chair, newspaper, and potted plants while Alistair, his successor, prepares to take the first of what must have been hundreds of self-conscious stretches during his hour above the square. Or check out the


, dressed as a giant pigeon, traded places with a considerably less outgoing young woman.

It's all downhill from there, so set an alarm, turn to

at the top of the hour, and after two minutes have passed, you can close the window and go get some damned work done.



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