Wednesday April 27, 2005
As you can tell from my handy counter, I will pass the 500th-unsmoked-cigarette-mark some time tomorrow, and let me tell you, I can really feel the effects. Sure, there’s the easier breathing, the freedom from chemical dependency and all that money I’ve saved, but what I’m really enjoying is the rapidly accumulating urge to be a complete prick to my former comrades, the smokers.
I can hardly wait to get off work today so I can hassle the remaining puffers in Park Slope—if there are any—while they totally try to be polite and mind their own business. Unfortunately for them, there will be no place far enough away from me for them to light up in peace. When I see them, I will cough theatrically. I will wave my hands in front of my nose. I will cover my mouth with balls of tissues. I will shield the eyes of children, and mumble (very loudly) about how Bloomberg should ban smoking in every last rat-infested square yard of this God forsaken city and beyond.
No doubt some of my former colleagues will be stung—especially since I myself smoked for 18 years and smoked a cigarette as recently as 13 days ago. Ah, but that was a week ago Friday, my weak-willed friends, and now it’s two Wednesdays later. I am over the wall, fiends, and it’s on, baby—it is on!
Tuesday April 26, 2005
I have to confess that these instructions for building a somewhat functional android head for $600—posted recently on Boing Boing—left me cold. I was much more impressed by this failed attempt to make a Lionel Richie head like that seen in the singer’s world-historically bad video for “Hello.” And this is from two years ago! The tale begins:
Here is a chronicle of how my friend and I built our first Lionel Richie head. We hadn’t had any prior experience and neither of us was particularly artistic. Luckily, you’ll find that anyone with a little time and a lot of clay will eventually be able to make an enormous noggin that captures the main feature of the “Hello” star.See how it turned out.
Monday April 25, 2005
Well, this is my tenth day off cigarettes. I’m hoping that my ability to produce sentences in sequences that (more or less) represent thoughts will return by the end of the week. In the meantime, I’ve just been watching as my entire smoking life flashes before my eyes. I even find myself envying little Milo, who is just setting off on his own nicotine-stained journey. (A little late, I might add. We start much earlier in Kentucky.)
Friday April 22, 2005
According to this site, nicotine cravings peak on day three of smoking cessation. Oh yeah they do. … Reminder to copy desk: This woman is not a whore! We don’t think. Actually, we don’t know who she is or what she does. … This does not surprise me. EH has been using this technology for decades. … Cravings apparently spike again on day seven, so don’t call me on Sunday. I will be busy crying. … Is this your crap? (WARNING: As always, do not read the artist’s statement. Just look at the
pretty disturbing pictures.) … Are you down with the Unitarian Jihad? First step? Get a name. I am Brother Sabre of Looking at All Sides of the Question. Sometimes.
Thursday April 21, 2005
Alert blogger Bankrupt Artist points out that Monday’s CSI: Miami episode revolved around officer Delko’s extracurricular “toothing” exploits. You can read the full plot summary here. Suggests a good tagline for the series: “Ripped from yesterday’s bullshit.”
Engadget also has some discussion about this and other CSI tech offenses.
Tuesday April 19, 2005
I admit that I was initially confused by the tough talk coming out of the FCC about the labeling of video news releases (VNRs). The commission, now under the command of Bush lapdog Kevin Martin, issued a tersely worded notice last week, reminding broadcasters of their duty to disclose the sources of VNRs—even if that source is, as it so often has been lately, the Bush administration.
At first glance, this warning seems at odds with the interests of the White House, which would presumably like all manner of propaganda passed off as news. The very next day, however, Bush tried out a similar message in front of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. According to TelevisionWeek, the president seized the occasion to pass the buck to broadcasters:
It’s incumbent upon people who use them to say, “This clip was produced by the federal government.” There needs to be full disclosure about the sourcing of the video news clip in order to make sure that people don’t think their taxpayers’ money is being used—in a wrong fashion.Translation? “Stop me before I lie again.”
As the Senate moves to prohibit the production of government-sponsored VNRs that are not labeled as such—and as the administration continues to create VNRs with taxpayer dollars, despite a finding by the Government Accountability Office that such advocacy is illegal—the administration seems intent on blaming broadcasters—who of course do share some of the blame—and Martin’s FCC is more than willing to help. In fact, last week’s notice from the Commission explicitly begged off on the issue of whether or not the government should be sponsoring VNRs at all, claiming the issue to be “beyond the Commission’s jurisdiction.” The FCC’s notice has been hailed as an important step forward, but really it’s just business as usual.
Monday April 18, 2005
Blogging might be light this week as I resist the urge to light up. I figure I’ll be back after I’ve missed around 500 regularly-scheduled cigarettes. That’s usually when it all starts to make sense again. Here’s where I am now:
(QuitMeter Counter courtesy of www.quitmeter.com.)
Friday April 15, 2005
My former colleague Chris Davis points out that Memphis’ Commercial Appeal reported that Tupac Shakur was at Johnnie Cochran’s funeral. And they’re trying to bust the union. … The Swift Boat people have issued a booklet commemorating their smear campaign against John Kerry—Behind the Scenes of Stolen Honor: The People who Made a Difference. Cute. … If you haven’t been reading “Six Things,” Francis’ daily online comic, you should really start. … Let everyone know your business with Sproutliner, a non-secure online outliner. Great for misleading stalkers! … Be glad you don’t live near this guy. … The coolest clock ever.
Thursday April 14, 2005
While I’m not much of a hand-wringer when it comes to the state of journalism—I figure if you deliver reliable information, people will continue to read, and if you don’t, they won’t—I am surprised how few of the outlets that fell for last year’s toothing hoax have gone back to correct their mistake.
Wired News gets the gold star here. The site posted a header on its story, and another item on the frontpage, almost immediately, admitting it had been duped. (Guess that’s what National Magazine Award-winners are made of.) Tech site The Register also followed up quickly, although it recalled its earlier skepticism, which was aimed more at whether or not toothing would work, not at whether or not it even existed. Reuters, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to have issued a follow-up, and the BBC’s story remains untouched. Even The Independent, whose writer admits on his own blog he was fooled, hasn’t issued any correction I can find. The New York Post? Please.
There have been a few mainstream articles about the hoax. Washington Post columnist Robert MacMillan issued a half-hearted mea culpa for circulating the legend, but says “it’s worth remaining skeptical,” since he can’t seem to find the names of the hoaxsters anywhere. Guess you shouldn’t do any more reporting on being duped than it took you to get duped in the first place. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, meanwhile, says that toothing still sounds like a good idea.
The best follow-up comes from columnist Fergus Cassidy, writing in Ireland’s Sunday Tribune. He writes:
As this prank only ended last week, it’ll be interesting to see how that apology is met. Already disclaimers are appearing on some websites which ran the ‘toothing’ story last year. Some have run the hoax revelation but others have pulled the original articles and made like it never happened. Amnesia is a handy bolt hole on the web, but ineffectual for print.
Extraction may be painful but the discomfort should rightly be shared by those who linked to, commented on or helped prolong the ‘toothing’ decay.
Anything I’m missing? If you’ve come across any toothing corrections, let me know.
Tuesday April 12, 2005
I don’t usually mix job with blog, but good news (and shameless horn-tooting) respects no borders. AdCritic.com, the site I edit by day, has been nominated for two Webby Awards, one each in the categories of “Broadband” and “Magazine”—AdCritic being the web wing of the advertising trade magazine Creativity. I doubt we’ll do much damage in the People’s Voice Awards, so no need to brace for the usual GOTV pleas. AdCritic is a paid site, and if there’s anything I learned when we took it subscription three years ago, it’s that The People don’t like paid sites—unless they cover vertical markets of professional interest to them, which is what AdCritic does for people who make ads. The winners will be announced on May 3.
AdCritic was last nominated for a Webby—a “Business Webby” that time—in 2003, when it lost out to a site no one had ever heard of.
Isn’t it a shame about David Duchovny and Tea Leoni? Sure, their marriage isn’t on the rocks yet, but now that they’re on the cover of the April issue of Redbook, can scandal be far behind? While Redbook’s cover couples present with five times the national average of marital bliss, their split rate has lately outpaced the national average as well. Of the last four couples to appear on the mag’s cover, two are headed for divorce (the Sheens and the Simpson/Lacheys), one pair was (literally) defunct at the time they appeared (John and Carolyn Kennedy), and one set co-starred in Dodgeball (Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor). Adjusted for mortality, that’s a failure rate of 66 percent. And the failures have been truly spectacular. A tip for photographers: If you get a Redbook cover, go ahead and shoot the “after” photo and file it away. You’ll be glad you did.
Sunday April 10, 2005
You can be excused for not noticing, but New Yorkers are living under the benevolent reign of a new Ms. Subways, the first to be crowned by the MTA in almost three decades. One of the royal duties of Caroline Sanchez-Bernat, who ascended to the throne in October, is to preside over the Ms. Subways Courtesy Campaign, which is “of special interest” to Her Highness. One ad has appeared so far, and—while a war on pushing and shoving is well and good—Alexandra and I came up with some other points of etiquette we’d like her to address. One suggestion:
(More after the jump.)
Friday April 08, 2005
The current issue of TelevisionWeek—which I faithfully read because the company I work for publishes it, so there’s always a copy or two folded up in the bathroom stalls—has an in-depth look at the uncertain future of Arrested Development, aka The Best Show on Television. (Although a free registration is required, hardcore geeks—speaking!—will want to read the whole thing.)
As has been widely reported, Fox cut this season’s order of the Emmy-winning series from 22 to 18 episodes in order to keep it from sullying May sweeps with its poison ratings. (The article points out that the episode that aired on March 27 actually alluded to the cut when a Bluth Company construction order was similarly cut from 22 houses to 18. The episode summary begins, “Michael Bluth had just been stunned to discover that a contract his company was counting on had been scaled back.” Excellent.)
While Fox has not actually canceled the show, things look even more dire with last week’s departure of Fox entertainment president Gail Berman, who has been named president of Paramount. According to TelevisionWeek, Berman was a “longtime champion of the show”—despite, of course, cutting its second season order. Berman’s replacement, former FX head Peter Liguori, has said it’s too soon to tell whether the show will be picked up. Fox has until its May 19 upfront presentation to decide.
Meanwhile, although AD creator Mitchell Hurwitz has said he will shop the show to cable if it’s canceled, the series appears to be caught in a Catch-22. The channels that can afford it—HBO and Showtime—prefer to develop original programming, while the networks that might want it—TBS, Comedy Central—might balk at the price tag. TelevisionWeek estimates that the show costs $1.5 million per episode, compared to the $300,000 to $1 million for typical cable half-hours. Oddsmakers will want to check out the sidebar detailing why the above channels might or might not make a play for the show. Especially intriguing is the possibility of the series jumping to FX, particularly since new Fox chief Liguori arrives from the cable net. A snippet:
Like HBO, the Fox-owned network is another commonly cited potential Arrested destination that is less likely than it appears. FX does not want to be seen as Fox Junior and already has a packed development slate. Still, with former FX Networks President and CEO Mr. Liguori named president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting last month, he might look to FX as a way to keep the acclaimed, home-grown Arrested in the corporate family. The series would also provide the drama-packed FX with an element the channel lacks: a sense of humor.
Thursday April 07, 2005
Since Monday, when the guys behind toothing admitted it was a hoax, there have been some posts around suggesting that a) communication via short-range wireless is actually quite common in some locales, and b) whether or not it started as a hoax is irrelevant because now it is (or perhaps always was) a genuine phenomenon.
On the first point, yes, communication via Bluetooth is, of course, possible and apparently popular in some places. I discussed this in my very first post. (And, to the second point, I also noted there that somebody somewhere has probably lucked into sex via Bluetooth, but that does not a craze make.) I have no reason to doubt (although perhaps I should) the gentleman’s account from India’s The Week, for example, in which he describes how he has met women for coffee via Bluetooth. That’s fine, but it is not the “toothing” that Wired News and others reported on, which detailed the use of Bluetooth—by a lot of unnamed people—for arranging anonymous sex. Now, the meaning of the word “toothing” may morph to describe a broader category of communication, but that won’t make the original stories any less false or ridiculous. The irony of the The Week’s story is that the author seems to think—thanks to the hoax—that what’s going on in India is some adaptation of a method that is primarily used for sex in other places. Really, the guy in the article might be the pioneer here.
All of this is made clear by a few emails I’ve exchanged with Olivier Chouraki, founder of MobiLuck, a company that distributes social networking software for Bluetooth. Olivier tells me that communication via Bluetooth is, as this Boing Boing reader says, particularly popular with young people in the Middle East. However—and this addresses the second issue of whether “toothing” is now a craze—Olivier says he has “never heard of any ‘sexual encounter with a stranger,’ that could be credited to Toothing.” And Olivier, who says MobiLuck currently has 500,000 users worldwide, is extremely optimistic about the possibilities of short-range wireless communication. Meanwhile, the message “Toothing?”—the pickup line suggested by Toothy Toothing et. al.—is sort of like the Holy Grail for short-range wireless users. “Toothing is like making love with 2 women (or 2 men),” Olivier says. “A lot of
fantasies, a lot of writings, very few actually doing it. It certainly happens but it’s not a craze.” And while Mobiluck team members have met other users via the software, he says he has “never heard of one making love with a stranger in the tube!”
So could reporters have slipped the noose of the hoax, or were its perpetrators just too savvy? I asked Olivier if he could have set a reporter straight at the time. “I would not have been able to say it was nonsense,” he says, “but we were skeptical.” Exactly.
- The Independent’s Charles Arthur licks his wounds after being taken in by toothing, while The Guardian’s Andrew Brown—who suggested toothing was a myth a year ago—resists gloating.
- At least this erotica writer managed to parlay the hoax into a published short story called “Toothin’ It.” Available at Amazon!
Wednesday April 06, 2005
Francis, one of my co-conspirators on Boring Boring—an April Fool’s parody of Boing Boing—tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the project. He does leave out one important detail, however. The server that choked was hosted by—write this down—GoDaddy.com. Great commercials. Bad servers.
Tuesday April 05, 2005
Now that “toothing” has been revealed to be a hoax, all the stories written about it make for particularly entertaining reading, as they report on legions of non-existent “toothers” and tell of governmental efforts to control the phantom practice. There are plenty of examples to choose from, but here are some of my favorites.
India’s The Week reported on a supposed government crackdown on the pan-European epidemic:
Toothing in places like London, France and Belgium has assumed scary proportions and the governments have reportedly banned toothing discussion boards.
Wired News told of its rapid spread and went inside the mind of a hypothetical “toother”:
Until now, toothing has been mostly a British phenomenon. But Jon recently added a new international toothing category to his forum. And quickly, several people began posting, looking to see if anyone in Mexico, the Czech Republic and elsewhere was into toothing. Either way, toothers aren’t going away. They ride their trains to and from work each day, hoping to find a little excitement amid the drudgery.
BBC News consulted a psychologist, who compared it to the apparently common British practice of calling people randomly on the telephone:
Psychologist Linda Blair, from the University of Bath, says the practice of Toothing is down to the human need to take risks. “I think we protect ourselves too much in modern society, and risk is a human need. We need motivation,” she said. “In some ways this is a tame way of picking people up, it’s almost a natural follow up from randomly picking people’s names out of the phone book.”Reuters, meanwhile, tried to nail down some solid numbers:
Jon, who’s in his 20s and works in finance, estimates there could be tens of thousands of toothers from all sorts of professions and lifestyles. Certainly the Web site’s message board is busy.
And the New York Post, as only the Post can, found in toothing a sign of the apocalypse, sounding at once wizened and appalled. Here’s its lede under the headline “Sex Sicko’s Wireless ‘Hookups’”:
The sleazy subculture of sex addicts has found a new way to use wireless technology to enable anonymous encounters with strangers. “Toothing”—which has been linking European strangers for years—is now making its way to the United States, and Americans armed with PDAs and cellphones are starting to embrace the craze.At least somone will be relieved it was a hoax.
Wired News has added the following header to its story about toothing from March 22, 2004:
This story is a hoax. Dozens of news organizations, including Wired News, were duped by pranksters claiming to be practitioners of “toothing,” in which strangers in the U.K. were meeting up on commuter trains for clandestine sexual encounters. The liaisons were supposedly organized through messages broadcast via Bluetooth phones and handhelds. However, one of those involved now says the story was an elaborate hoax. After first creating an online forum, the pranksters persuaded friends to fill the site with scores of salacious, but fictitious, stories. It was from the contributors to this forum that Wired News found and interviewed—by email—the subjects of the story.
Read how the hoax came to light here, here and here.
Toothy Toothing co-conspirator Simon Byron dishes even more ridiculous details of the great toothing swindle, which in one case included making it seem to a journalist that toothing was going on all around. He writes:
The media loved to believe there was this hideous underground movement of people having random sex. And to add to the list of press appearances—which I’ll dig out later—we were interviewed on Radio Air America in addition to Radio 5 Live. Plus, The Guardian—which apparently likes to think it was in on the joke now—wrote about us twice in one week, even providing an accompanying cartoon. We toyed with the woman from More, only agreeing to speak to them if they ran Toothing as a position of the fortnight. We hilariously got one idiotic journalist in a pub, by illustrating Toothing going on around him. He didn’t see the two of us changing phone names and beaming disgusting gay messages at each other. Maybe you believe what you want to believe.
Monday April 04, 2005
“Toothy Toothing,” aka Ste Curran (who says he was but “part” of Toothy, the other part apparently being Simon Byron), admits to duping Wired and the rest. In response to an email from me—and to the slashdotting of my earlier post—the source of all the toothing tales pointed me to this page, where he tells how it all began, explaining how he and others invented toothing and its pied piper. There, he writes:
All we did was register a forum (which has now been taken down by the service provider, but we have a backup) and fill it with fictional posts by fictional Toothing ‘sceners. A week later, we had what appeared to be a vibrant UK Toothing community all ready to roll, and I sent the link off to Gizmodo, a gadget blog. They reported it (you can see that first story here, with a credit at the end to ‘S’, my super-subtle pseudonym). Everyone else linked to / blogged / ripped off their story. Things started to roll, and we became a ludicrous, implausible meme. In turn, that brought Real People to our forum. Others created forums for their localities—Sweden, Denmark, Italy, whatever.
Outlets that fell for it include Wired, Reuters, the BBC, and on and on. As “Toothy” says, “We kept a record at the start of where we were mentioned, but there were soon too many to record in full. There are hundreds of tiny anecdotes, though. I had to write Penthouse-letters-page style sexual adventure stories for a full page article and interview in The Telegraph.”
UPDATE: After this post, the supposed originator of “toothing”—and the primary source for all articles written about it—came out and admitted that it was all a hoax, designed to make the media look foolish. Which it did. More details in this post.
Remember ‘toothing’? It was a craze that was sweeping England last year as bored commuters arranged sexual encounters using Bluetooth-enabled cellphones. You probably read about it over at Wired or Reuters or the BBC. There’s a decent chance you even blogged about it.
Well. What happened?
It occured to me that a trend like that must have made it across the pond by now, but as I poked around, I found almost no active toothing info on the web, and the online sources cited in the Wired article are all gone or abandoned. The blog of Toothy Toothing, the primary source for both the Wired and the Reuters stories—the articles from which all others were derived—hasn’t been updated since shortly after the articles appeared. The forums that can be found are inhabited by people who read those articles and want to get in the game, but their questions go unanswered. “Toothers aren’t going away,” Wired assured us last year when reporting on the globalization of this “primarily British phenomenon,” but they seem to have done just that. Presuming, of course, that they ever existed in the first place.
While it would be ridiculous to suggest that no one anywhere has ever hooked up via Bluetooth—or any other technology—the evidence that they are doing so with the regularity that would constitute a phenomenon (“primarily British” or otherwise) is pretty slim. There hasn’t been a post to the Toothing Blog since a month after the Wired article appeared. The Beginners Guide to Toothing and Toothy Toothing’s forums, meanwhile, are both gone, and a relaunched board has logged less than 500 posts in the last year, the majority by people who have never toothed but would like to or who are trying to find out how to make their cellphones work. Many of the posts are dedicated to trying to arrange (apparently elusive) toothing encounters—which kind of defeats the point, since we already knew you could arrange sex that way—and a few raise suspicions that toothing is just a myth. Journalists looking for first-hand accounts are met with silence. Other forums devoted to the practice are similarly anemic, and a U.K. Yahoo! group no longer exists.
The only non-anonymous corroboration of anything like toothing that I could find appeared in India’s The Week, in an article about a software engineer who met two women for coffee via toothing. But’s that not really toothing, now is it? That’s just standard mobile networking like that proposed by MobiLuck, Serendipity and CrowdSurfer—none of which are exactly setting the world on fire. The Week is even wistful about the fact that toothing in India is so staid, compared to London, France and Belgium, where it has supposedly “assumed scary proportions.” Back in London, however, Guardian columnist Andrew Brown, writing shortly after the Wired article appeared, went looking for toothing and couldn’t find it anywhere. “I am more and more convinced that it’s a myth like flying saucers, in which technology comes to dramatise emotional longings,” he wrote. ” It is a myth about the benevolence of the world—the modern commuter’s equivalent of believing that a statue of the Virgin weeps for you.”
So was toothing a trend that didn’t catch on, a case of wishful thinking, or just a big hoax? I emailed Toothy Toothing himself last night and put the question to him. He has yet to respond.
Saturday April 02, 2005
Friday April 01, 2005
And, what’s this? A pretender to the throne?
Well, our little April Fool’s gag seems to be going pretty well. I was up all night playing musical servers after we got the Boing Boing seal of approval from Xeni. (Which was a big relief, knowing how litigious the BBers are when it comes to IP.) Everything seems to be working well now.
Credit goes to Francis Heaney, who came up with the whole idea—and whose birthday is actually today, April 1— and Debby Levinson, who, among many other things, created the site-making “Sleeping Girl” (TM) logo and the excellent Flash movie of paint drying. Lots of fun. Same time next year, guys?
… why not make it Boring Boring: A Directory of Dull Things.