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Bluff The Listener

CARL KASELL, host: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Amy Dickinson, Tom Bodett and Charlie Pierce. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL: Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: Thank you so much. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

PETE GIORGIO: Hey Peter, it's Pete Giorgio from Belmont, Massachusetts.

SAGAL: Hey, Belmont, Massachusetts, I used to hang out there quite a bit when I was younger.

GIORGIO: I remember that.

SAGAL: You do?

GIORGIO: Yeah, it was great.


SAGAL: Did you ever steal my lunch money?

GIORGIO: That was my brother.

SAGAL: Oh, okay. What do you do there?

GIORGIO: I am a management consultant.

SAGAL: So you're the guys who go then you can do it - and you say you could do it this way or you could do it that way and either way you get paid.

GIORGIO: Yeah, we say it very convincingly.

SAGAL: There you go. That's important. Well, Pete, welcome to the show. Now, you're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Pete's topic?

KASELL: Can we back up the wheels of progress right over that thing?


SAGAL: Every day, some inventor markets something we're told we can't live without, and more often than not, yes we can.


SAGAL: This week, our panelists are going to read you three stories about unfortunate new technological leaps forward that make us want to huddle, frightened, right where we are. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home voicemail. Ready to go?

GIORGIO: Yeah, let's do it.

SAGAL: Let's do this thing. First up, let's hear from Amy Dickinson.

AMY DICKINSON: Trick or treat, smell my tweet. How often have you checked your social networking updates only to say to yourself "dang, I wish those tweets were smelly?"

Meet Olly, a product that will let you match a computer update to a fragrance. You mount a little scent canister on your terminal, fill it with whatever smell you want, and when you receive a ping from your calendar, a tweet or a Facebook post, it arrives in the form of a customizable scent.

The company behind Olly suggests it might be fun to match smells with the source of the update. They say to use essential oils, a piece of fruit or even a drop of jam.


DICKINSON: Got a Facebook message from Grandma? Mix Jean Nate with Virginia Slims.


DICKINSON: Your college roommate's tweets could smell like Fresca and regret sex.


DICKINSON: And Uncle Buddy doesn't have to ask you to pull his finger anymore.


DICKINSON: Now he can do it remotely.

SAGAL: Smellable tweets coming perhaps to a computer near you.


SAGAL: Your next story of something new and unwanted comes from Charlie Pierce.

CHARLIE PIERCE: The cash strapped United States Postal Service is striking back against its primary enemy: email. The Service will be introducing a new program called U.S. Mail, old school for a new age. In selected post offices around the United States, new computerized terminals shaped like old post office cages will be installed. They will speak to the customer in the voice of a crusty old clerk, as recorded by veteran actor Wilford Brimley.


PIERCE: Customers will be able to create letters, postcards and even design their own stamps. The electronically created mail will then be sent electronically at varying rates. A regular 49 cent letter will take three days.


PIERCE: $2.50 gets you, quote, special delivery, which promises two-day service. And a $5 airmail letter will arrive within 24 hours of being dispatched. Why, you may be asking, would people pay to have something delivered by this service when they could do it at home instantly and for free?

"Good question," replied PT Shepfer, the postmaster in Portage, Wisconsin. "It's the feel of the thing, the nostalgia and the anticipation of getting mail that we've lost in this age of instant communication." You can also buy a year's subscription to this service for one hundred dollars, payable online.



SAGAL: All right, the Post Office offering email services that take just as long and are just as expensive as the real thing. And lastly, let's hear a story of a bad idea from Tom Bodett.

TOM BODETT: Billy Straus had a dream, a very bad dream. A dream that changed his life and now can change yours. Straus claims he's always had very good dreams but an unbearably dark and distressing life. Then one night he had a dream so fraught with clowns, corpses, towering heights and unspeakable perversions that he woke up feeling good about his pathetic life for the first time.


BODETT: In his efforts to reproduce the experience, he's produced "Welcome to my Nightmare," a bedside low frequency audio bad dream machine that whispers horrors into your sleeping head all night long.


BODETT: Heavy scraping doors, boot steps, unintelligible voices, water streaming into a toilet, all designed to make you feel relief when you wake up.


BODETT: Is there anything to it? "No," says Harvard Professor Lynn Weinstein. "One person's goats with melting telephones and featherbeds nightmare, to name one recent example of my own, is another person's erotica. I can't imagine this device will do much more than wet a few bed linens."


BODETT: "Well," replied an undaunted Straus, "that's a good start."



SAGAL: All right, here are your choices. One of these is technical innovation you can actually go use right now. Is it from Amy Dickinson, a machine that'll make your tweets smell individually and distinctly, presumably of the people who sent them? From Charlie Pierce, the Post Office offering the chance to pay just as much money and enjoy just as poor service when you send your emails? Or from Tom, a machine that helps you experience the kind of nightmares that we've all dreaded?

Which of these is the real story of technological innovation?

GIORGIO: Man, to live in a world in which all these were true, huh?

SAGAL: Wouldn't that be great?


GIORGIO: It would be great. As much as I like Tom's version of nightmares, I think I'm going to have to go with number one.

SAGAL: You're going to with Amy's story of the smelly tweets? All right, well that's your choice then. Well, we actually spoke to one of the inventors of this thing.

BEN RADFORD: If you want the smell of rotten eggs when your ex-girlfriend tweets at you, then you can have that.

SAGAL: That was Ben Radford.


SAGAL: He is part of the company called Mint Foundry, one of the creators of Olly, the smellable tweet device. Congratulations, you got it right. Well done.

GIORGIO: Thank you, excellent.


SAGAL: You earned a point for Amy. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home voicemail. Well done.

GIORGIO: I can't wait.

SAGAL: Neither can we. Thank you so much for playing.

GIORGIO: Thank you, Peter.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.


(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.