Top of the hops
Real frogs, or some of them, can croak at 105 decibels and be heard three miles
away, which is why their hearing systems are cleverly designed to prevent them
blowing their eardrums out. Denied such defences, humans are without an escape
from the frog ringtone and the consequences of its infuriating ubiquity.
Their plight is well-chronicled on a BBC website: "I have been gnawing my fists
off as a result of this infuriating noise," complained one correspondent. "Any
time I hear it I can tell exactly the type of personality of this person, and I
want to smack them across the head," fumed Brian from Dublin. Is there an
alternative? Millions of them. As the mobile universe expands, the simple
summons of the phone has become a sub-branch of popular culture.
There are ringtones that offer to help you quit smoking, find a girlfriend,
combat the onset of baldness, and catch more fish. Tens of thousands of Japanese
women recently signed up for a ringtone that claims to increase the size of
their breasts. Invented by one Hideto Tombabechi, an "alternative lifestyle
guru" credited with rehabilitating members of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult,
the bust-booster ringtone is said to help "mind and body commune unconsciously".
One woman told Japanese television: "I listened all the time for a week.
Incredibly my bust grew from 34 to 35 inches. It was awesome."
Everybody's in on the act. Earlier this year the London Symphony Orchestra,
founded in 1904 and the spiritual home of Edward Elgar, Thomas Beecham and André
Previn, became the first major orchestra to record and sell ringtones. The
choices available to punters include the Grand March from Aida, Beethoven's
Ninth and the theme from Thunderbirds.
The British Library is hungry for business, too, offering the pick of its
100,000 recordings of bird and animal noises. Serenade your date with the
delicate trill of a nightingale, impress your business pals with the earthy
mating cry of a warthog, show you're hip with the basso profondo croak of a fat,
slim… No, no! The frog market's already cornered. And worse is on the way. For
the industry is united in predicting that Crazy Frog's success will ensure an
invasion of even more annoying characters making ever more intolerable noises.
What does all this say about us? Martin Skinner, a psychologist at Warwick
University, believes that ringtone choice can be an accurate guide to
personality. The simple burble, he suggests, points to practicality, the popular
Mission Impossible theme to insecurity, and the music from M*A*S*H to
sentimentality. In other words, there is a whole world of possibilities out
there. And one thing is certain. It is time to forget Coldplay. The future
belongs to pondlife.