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OTR_gold.jpg

I recently ordered some refillable paint pens from Art Primo, and this was in the box as a freebie. It’s the exact size, shape, and color as a cigarette, and among a dozen real cigarettes in a pack it’d likely pass any search completely unnoticed. It took me a minute to figure out its nefarious purpose: If you get caught in the vicinity of a fresh tag, after all, it’s best not to be found with a marker on your person. They’re manufactured by Germany’s On The Run, but you won’t find them on their website. The one I got was gold; the silver ones below were photographed by Flickr user $30,000.

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Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • Rufus T. Harlemberry

    One filthy habit disguised as another.

  • Stoney

    That’s funny, they make one-hitters that look like cigarettes too!

  • Kearn

    I thought Make was a site to proudly show your creations, not to spread how to hide your destruction of other’s creations.

    • Sean Michael Ragan

      …I find myself compelled to point out: Just because I write about something doesn’t mean I’m taking a moral position pro or con. Personally, I don’t smoke and I don’t tag stuff. I choose to write about stuff that I think is interesting. Period. I knew I’d get a rash of graffiti-is-awful comments with this post, and while I happen to agree in most cases, the fact that there are people running around the world with little markers disguised as cigarettes hidden on their bodies is pretty amazing to me.

      • Kearn

        That’s not only a cop out, but one of the lamest ones I’ve heard for a while. This blog has a huge readership (over 160,000 subscribers in Google Reader alone) and anything posted on it goes out to at least that many people and makes them aware of whatever it is, good or bad. Take responsibility for the effect you have. One of the main functions of a blog is to raise people’s awareness about things, and this post does so for an item that is obviously designed with to facilitate destruction of other people’s property and evading taking responsibility for one’s actions.

        Posting items like this not only hurts my opinion of the site, but, to the casual reader, it also makes a mental link between anyone who likes to tinker and invent (what I view to be the focus of the site) and people who destroy other’s property for their own entertainment. And that does a disservice to all makers.

        • Andy L

          I enjoy reading about things that are *interesting*.

          Whether or not something is morally acceptable to me is not really a major factor in whether or not I find something interesting. (Whether it is acceptable to *you* doesn’t even come close, of course.)

          Example : I greatly enjoy reading about con artists. The more elaborate the con the more interested I am. At no point do I lose my grip on reality enough to suppose that authors of books about interesting cons and hoaxes are actually advocating that readers should start engaging in these activities.

          I understand that some people are similarly fascinated with serial killers. I suppose you’d want them locked up?

  • Jatt

    shiny cigarettes-so realistic=FAIL

  • cody

    Here’s something to think about:
    I work for a small company in a downtown area. Part of my duties include managing the building maintenance dept – which is one janitor and one handyman.
    Both the handyman and I are makers, and when he has a little downtime we work on projects such as solar lighting for the flowerbeds, a roof garden, and furniture built out of re-claimed lumber and the like..

    Last month we were going to get a roof garden going while he had some time, then some moron decided it would be cool to spray-paint “OBEY” on the bricks of our 100 year old building. We had to drop the project for a while because it took him two weeks of scrubbing and power-washing to get it off… and eventually he had to resort to harsh cleaning chemicals that we generally don’t even keep on hand.

    Way to go first year art student. You sure showed the man.

  • Anonymous

    Cory and the rest of his talent crew are free to express themselves as they wish, this is their creation and the embodiment of _their_ philosophy.

    However, I believe that posting this kind of stuff goes beyond the “Hey this is cool information that people should be aware of” or “this is a pretty neat kind of pen” to, here’s how you can get away with destroying other people’s property. Let’s face it for every great graffiti artist there are 10,000 dumb kids who have pretty shoddy hand writing skills and zero artistic talent.

    Like the TV be gone hacks this seems more like creative people flexing their muscles in the wrong way. No one has any right to enforce their will unfairly upon anyone else. Whether that be pranking people by turning off the TV or helping people get away with graffiti. I for one don’t support being an jerk no matter who you are. And I’m pretty certain at least 1 wall is going to end up with graffiti on it because of this posting. And, for me at least, that’s one wall too many.

  • sweavo

    This has nothing to do with making. There’s a world of cheap novelty items out there, why haven’t we got a brief writeup of PEZ dispensers and keyrings that beep when you whistle and chocolate money and pencil erasers that are shaped like monsters? Same reason we shouldn’t have this “article”.

  • John

    I’m surprised this garbage still provokes a reaction at all. Though 7 comments isn’t much of one.

    Make is a pathetic joke. I used to drop by a few times a day, now it’s once every month or two. I cancelled my subscription years ago. And I still see garbage like this as one of the most recent postings.

    Anyone care to google Sean’s home address? I read this really cool article about expressing your creative side using eggs and a certain bathroom product that comes in rolls. I would never make moral judgement about such things, but the article is out there amd it’s pretty cool. I hear it gets quite a reaction too.

    Well, see if you a few months. Feel free to ban me if you want. It’s no loss.

    • Becky Stern

      @John: We don’t allow personal attacks here at MAKE, and suggesting people come to one of our writers’ homes is a personal attack. Our official position is to post about things that we find interesting, and that’s what Sean did. This marker is something about which we can have an interesting discussion, so let’s do that instead of being mean.

    • JP

      That marker sucks! It doesn’t even run arduino! Bah! It needs to be way more steampunk, and play music too!

    • sccrplayer045

      You’re uneducated and shouldnt even be commenting on this.

      • Sean Michael Ragan

        …may need a light adjustment, my friend.

        I’m pretty sure JP, above, is kidding. I think he’s poking fun at the idea that content that deviates from historical Make: Online norms (Arduino, Steampunk, music) would meet with such a chilly reception.

  • decoycatfish

    Oh good Lord. Get off your high horses. Do I tag? Nope. Do I smoke? Nope. Have I had to clean graffiti off my building? Yes. Is this product cool? Very yes.

    Examples of graffiti, like many things, are largely stupid. However every so often I am pleasantly surprised by what I see, be it a huge colorful tag covering an entire water tower 50 feet up in the air, or angry eyebrows drawn on the bebe model at the bus stop. Never before have two lines been so funny.

    As for how this relates to making? Use your heads for once and think, you cant be spoon fed everything. From about the age of 4 I have been making hidden compartments and things that look like something they’re not. I blame Transformers and Indiana Jones. Did I tag buildings when I was 4? No. Did I need to hide controlled substances when I was 4? Hell no. I did it because it was cool, and I dare you to honestly say that it isn’t still cool.

    Whether or not you participate in illegal activities, secret compartments and disguised items are cool.

    Please, more posts like this.

  • Kurt

    At least spray paint was a challenge to use (and close enough to 100% of that is just a mess anyway) and had some barrier to use. I have yet to see a creative use of the Graffiti marker and seriously doubt I ever will. It’s lazy and detrimental to EVERYONE else. It’s about as important to urban culture as saying f*ck in between every other word as loudly as possible. I see no absolute no upside to the use of the Graffiti marker to tag things.

    Seeing this sort of invention actually makes me upset. Booo!

    But no, I don’t blame Make, nor am I upset at them. Perhaps some police will see this and keep an eye out for them.

  • John

    Becky, do you honestly not realize that tagging is a personal attack on someone? The property belongs to someone and someone gets to spend hours cleaning it up. How is my comment any worse than Seans except that he is advocating picking random victims who probably don’t deserve it and I’m suggesting someone who does deserve it because he assists it.

    • Stephen

      I’d say the most clear way that your comment is worse than Sean’s is that your comment talks about a personal attack on someone in particular, which is different from, not reading between the lines, reviewing a marker that looks like a cigarette. That said, even if you do assume that reviewing the marker is a support for graffiti it still doesn’t specify any targets, whereas your comment does.

      Consider the difference between “I’m going to kill Fred” and “I’m going to kill somebody” for an extreme but clear example.

      • Becky Stern

        I couldn’t have said it better myself, so thanks, Stephen. Furthermore, Sean’s not advocating or assisting any behavior by pointing out the existence of this strange object that he received for free in the mail. Notice he said they don’t even sell them on their website. And like decoycatfish said, disguised items are cool. They’re so cool, in fact, that we’ll be running a whole contest about them starting in November.

  • zof

    While I agree with most of you that tagging is vile should be prevented anyway possible… is the way to accomplish this by censorship? Maybe they should ban any project from being posted that involves long cylindrical objects sense such a object could be used as a club and possibly injure someone…. Sure that pen was probably designed for nefarious purposes but does the fact that more people know about it now mean that there will be more tagging in the world? Probably not, but on the bright side at least now if you see a kid hide a pen after tagging something and you can’t find it on them at least you now know to look in his cigs.

  • alandove

    Yeah, graffiti sucks. But let’s read the post, then think about its actual impact for a moment, and then consider whether it really justifies this kind of claws-out response. Exactly what did Sean do here? He showed a photo and wrote a description of a product that someone else makes.

    Is it a clever design? Yes. Could the concept (disguising an object as a cigarette to avoid detection) be useful for legitimate projects Makers might pursue on their own? Sure. Does Sean’s disclosure of this product’s existence somehow hurt people or promote vandalism? Maybe, maybe not.

    Consider this: the manufacturer doesn’t list this product on their web site. Why not? My guess is that they don’t want security guards, police, school administrators, and other enforcement types to know that this disguised marker exists. They want this to be a secret that only the taggers know about.

    Well, now the secret’s out. Taggers already knew about this, but now tens of thousands of Make blog readers do, too. I’m pretty sure at least a few of those folks are the sorts of people the manufacturer wanted to avoid alerting. Coming up next: a cop stops a suspected vandal near a new tag, conducts a pat-down, finds a pack of “cigarettes,” and immediately scrutinizes them because of something he read about online. Vandalism just got a little bit harder.

  • Andy L

    Seems like if you really wanted a stealth, ‘spy’ marker, you’d want it to be matte. Perhaps, since the dimensions are correct, it could be resurfaced with the wrapper from a real cigarette?

    With its glossy look, I wonder if its really intended to be stealth, or if they just thought it was clever.

  • craig

    This just shows the idiocy of the criminal mind; disguise your vandalism tool with something that will attract the attention of people… “He’s not going to light that in here is he?” Like the moronic ‘drive it like you stole it’ saying. Really? commit a felony and draw attention to yourself. Really? Criminals are so dumb, let them get caught doing their double Y chromo activity.

  • Wilson!

    The rash of comments here makes me think maybe it’s time for a post of how-to exclude certain tags from one’s view of Makezine.com That way, if someone doesn’t want to see Culture Jamming anymore, they don’t have to.

    Or maybe make it (more) prominent on the blog, point to it when comments get out of hand, and then realize that some people just enjoy being tools, just like others enjoy reading about sticking it to the man.

  • PHEST_ON3_510

    These markers are the greatest thing! I was only able to get one but I would buy a full set if they made them. A bunch of different colors in an OTR cig pack would be so awesome. Those who were lucky enough to get their hands on these will cherish them like a can of Icy Grape!

  • terry

    Quality read, reminds me of graffiti artist Darren Cullen at http://www.hire-a-graffiti-artist.co.uk he does stuff like this with a bunch of other graffiti artists called Graffiti Kings

  • DAVENYC

    That so called marker does not look like it will do much.

    If you are looking for a real graffiti Marker. Please go to,

    http://WWW.NYCMOPS.COM

  • http://twitter.com/Naina125 Naina

    Cool sketches thanks for sharing http://www.graffiti4hire.co.uk/

  • http://graffitilife.co.uk Graffiti

    This is cool, but I think it should be hidden within the lighter.