Arts & Entertainment » Culture

Fiz - 3.8.06

Can you keep a secret?

Thanks to that great big confessional called the Internet, we don't have to be burdened by our secrets anymore.

There are websites like postsecret (, which asks people to send in secrets on hand-crafted postcards, and grouphug (, where visitors can post the contents of their souls and be identified only by a serial number.

Then there's local rant-collector John Passaniti, who runs Toxic Rochester (

You can remain anonymous if you want. Call the Toxic Rochester hotline (200-5766) and spend your 10 minutes of tape time talking about anything to do with Rochester. It doesn't have to be a secret, and it doesn't have to be negative. Passaniti offers a few suggestions: read your short story or poem, rant about local politics, talk about childhood memories, or "confess a sin, express regret, fend of ennui." Passaniti assembles the usable messages and compiles them, with music and effects, into a weekly podcast. It's listed on iTunes or you can listen directly from the website.

He started Toxic Rochester last year as a community photoblog, with less success. "I had people write in completely stumped about what to take pictures of," Passaniti says in an email interview. "I would reply with things like, 'take pictures of the essence of Rochester,' but I guess that was too Zen for them."

So by the end of last year, Passaniti was looking for a new form of community expression. It was an "inconsiderate jerk with a cell phone (yes, that is redundant)" at a movie theater who inspired him. "How many times have you wanted to get something off your chest, but didn't have anyone to say it to?" he says.

There have been nine shows so far. Passaniti gets about five calls a week, after sorting out the hang-ups and scratchy recordings. He says many of the calls are odd, and he doesn't mind.

"But what I'm personally more interested in are slices of real life," he says. "I'd like Toxic Rochester to be a catharsis for callers, and I'd like listeners to be emotionally affected by what they hear. I want listening to the lives of fellow Rochesterians --- possibly even your neighbors --- to be an emotional rollercoaster ride."

--- Erica Curtis

Porcelain goddess

Real toilet buffs have heated porcelain seats. This might come as a cruel blow to the millions of folks who have long paid homage to the ice goddesses in their bathrooms --- solved crossword puzzles upon it, shirked marital disputes, shut out screaming kids, snuck peaks at Playboy --- but there's something better out there. And you want it. So says Toto, the Japanese company that would like to roll out 400,000 of these porcelain beauties in America by 2008. Price tag: $400 to $1,000. But your ass is worth it.


Aside from providing a warm base to "eliminate cold seat discomfort," the company also promises to maintain top-notch ergonomic design standards, eliminate embarrassing toilet seat slam, and reduce the likelihood of injuring yourself while closing the lid. Awesome.

Most importantly, the Japanese are doing it --- and have been for a long time. They've so perfected the art that toilets there include everything from temperature adjusters, warm-jet bidets, and music that plays while you conduct your unseemly business. Sure, we don't understand a lot of things that emerge from the land of the rising sun (hulking men throwing themselves at each other in tiny loincloths, hanging out naked with a bunch of old women in a hot spring, rice paper doors posing as insulation, and chomping on everything from bee larvae to raw horse meat). But the Warmlet could cross cultural divides, weave its magic from the bottom up, bring us flush with these transpacific technological trendsetters.

Not to gush.

---Sujata Gupta