Curiosity can be a passing thought. Other times it's a burning question that latches on and won't let go. An itch that must be scratched. Such was the case upon my glancing at the title of a certain blog post, by Steve Rubel, a quotation that leapt right off the page:
For the record, it all began here:
[Steve Rubel, August 28, 2009]
So I follow the amusing quote link in Steve's first paragraph:
The amusing quote hypertext linked to a twitter message shown below. Working with this tweet, I decide to first look up @bdegraf and interestingly, I get the response That page doesn't exist!. A search.twitter query shows 4 results, 3 of which are a retweet of the quote I'm trying to back trace.
Moving on to the other username, I look up @anselm (this account does exists!) and click More until I get back to the August 20th range where I find:
So at this point on the breadcrumb trail, attribution is pointing back to @bdegraf, a username that twitter reports does not exist. Back to search.twitter to dig for "in the future everybody will be anonymous for 15", which turns up one result:
Well now, we hit a site that contains the word quotes in the domain. This is promising. Also, (Bansky) could well be an author reference.
A book quote? Actually no. And the quote does not belong to that one post only, it's the header that appears throughout www.quotesfromthestreet.com. Also, ADVENTURES IN CONVERSATIONAL VOYEURISM is not a book title, it's the tag line of the blog. So now it's time to hone in on Bansky. Off to google to query banksy anonymous 15. Of the first page of results, myartspace>blog: Banksy: Did Banksy Reveal His Identity? drew my attention. On this art-related blog post was a comment containing:
At last: "Banksy", "anonymous" and "Swindle article" in the same sentence. That article might be the original source. Back to google again with Swindle Bansky. Finally, the referenced article is found. Swindle Magazine, a pop culture and lifestyle print publication, has back issues available online. Issue 08 contains an interview with Bansky; unless other prior art surfaces, this is where the quote was first captured:
So there you go. Who is Bansky? A self-described art terrorist according to Wired who rose up in notoriety within the graffiti subculture. Then of course Wikipedia has some things to say. Among other things, he's managed to put on public showings such as this 100-piece art exhibition in the UK; and yet has more or less retained his anonymity.
The quotation was not preserved word for word, but the semantics are nearly identical. The person behind the quote is enigmatic, but all the dots are now connected for attribution to the root source.
File under Curiosity: Satisfied.
UPDATE [2009-09-13 00:10]: Wait! There's more. Commentors on Steve's post are arguing between the true source being the Swindle/Bansky quote versus a lyric from Robbie Williams' song, The Actor, which is on the Rudebox album.
Williams' lyric does exactly match the twitter version, and thus Steve's version of the quote. I'd consider that a strong indication of a match.
However, Rudebox was released in October 2006 while Issue 08 of Swindle appears to predate that album, having apparently been published on or before September 2006.
Did one inspire the other, or was it just coincidence plus the zeitgeist in Britain at the time? This case is not closed.