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The Screaming Heads of Burk’s Falls

A few weeks ago,  saw something about the site Atlas Obscura, because they have a new book out. The site is basically what it says: An atlas of obscure, odd places all over the world.

I checked out what odd places are close to me, as everyone probably does, and the one that stood out was the Midlothian Castle in Burk’s Falls, Ontario. That’s about 2 hours from me, but I had a trip planned to North Bay last weekend that went right through Burk’s Falls, so it was a no-brainer to stop by this place.

The Midlothian Castle is a farm property where a high school teacher has built a big stone castle, and placed hundreds of stone screaming heads all over the fields. There are also some geodesic domes.

We followed the Google Maps GPS directions, and when it said we were basically at the castle, I saw a motorcycle parked on the side of the road, and a little entrance, so I pulled over and got out. I talked to the motorcycle guy, who had no clue what the place was – he had just been led there by a geocaching map. He showed us an amazing, but sadly quite blurry, photo he had just taken on a little point-and-shoot, of a fox in mid-air, pouncing on something.

We went in, and could see a bunch of the screaming heads in the distance. We had to walk in for about a minute or two before we got really close to them, but they were indeed really crazy. I took a bunch of pictures, which I’ll paste at the bottom of this post.

There had been some sort of rave there the weekend before, and I looked at pics of it on Instagram and it looked just insane. While we were there, there was a big disc golf tournament going on, and there were dozens of guys all over the fields, all of whom looked like they hadn’t washed in a few days – I didn’t realize disc golf was such a sleazebag sport, but it looks great.

There were also a few groups of ladies wandering around, looking at the screaming heads, and I’m not sure whether they were with the disc golfers, or just there to see the crazy castle and heads. I assume the latter, because the golfers looked like they’d been there overnight (there were a lot of tents all over) and used to the big stone screaming heads that were all over.

I took a bunch of pictures, and we spotted the fox, who I got a short bit of video of, before it ran into some woods. Some of the ladies kept making weird sounds at it (you can hear this on the video), which scared it. I followed it into the woods, trying not to bother it, but I quickly lost track of it.

After a bit, we went back to the car, and drove a little bit farther down the road, having realized that there must be another entrance. The second entrance was much more obvious, and you could see the big, insane castle there. I didn’t get any pictures, which I really regret now, but we had already walked around the grounds for quite a while, and the parking situation was extremely unclear.

What seemed to be the main parking area was full, and there were a few tents in there too. I pulled into one area where I obviously couldn’t park, because I wanted to turn around, and some lady ambled towards me, waving and saying “You can’t park there!!”

So, at the main castle, I think I probably screwed up by just going “Ahh, good enough, we saw enough, let’s get back on the road to North Bay”. I should have got some pictures, because the castle looked wild, and the whole vibe was totally weird. There was an older guy near the entrance to the castle in some tie-dye and sweatpants if I recall, and the whole vibe was just so so so much like some English psychedelic hippy commune festival or something. I kept saying “I know these people love Hawkwind.” and “This looks like a goddamn Hawkwind festival!” and stuff like that. It was cool as hell.

Anyhow, I’ll stick in some photos here – I don’t feel like editing the ones I took too much (the colors were pretty lackluster), but I uploaded them all to Google Photos, which made HDRs and animations out of some of the bracketed exposures I took, so that’s why there are some GIFs and HDRs here.

But first the fox:

You can see a bunch of heads in the distance here
You can see a bunch of heads in the distance here

20160924203758-animation

20160924203721-animation

There was a small area full of sunflowers too
There was a small area full of sunflowers too
I don't know what this is called - geodesic pyramid? I'm pretty sure there was a geodesic dome nearer to the castle too. This had a sign that said not to climb it, boooo
I don’t know what this is called – geodesic pyramid? I’m pretty sure there was a geodesic dome nearer to the castle too. This had a sign that said not to climb it, boooo
You can kind of see big stones here that I believe are wolves howling into the sky
You can kind of see big stones here that I believe are wolves howling into the sky. There’s also a disc golf net in the foreground.
The screaming heads have stuff written on stones at the bottom. This one had the alphabet. Why not!
The screaming heads have stuff written on stones at the bottom. This one had the alphabet. Why not!

p1000504

 

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Food Startup Idea

I thought of what would be a good food startup: Instead of delivering me food from a restaurant menu, give me the option of sending a recipe that I found online, and have them make it, and then deliver it to me. I guess this is like having a personal chef, but one a one-off, on-demand basis.

I see this working in a marketplace fashion, with lots of independent kitchens vying for business. When I sent in the recipe, it would choose one of them based on:

  • who has the ingredients in stock.
  • who is currently busy/available.
  • who has the best customer rating.
  • who is closest.

All the standard marketplace business stuff with reputation management, etc.

I think this service would be not impossible to pull off, and would feel almost magical to customers. So many people love to spend money on food, and this would let them, and provide them lots of bragging fodder for social media, etc.

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The Institute for Creation of Malevolent Artificial Intelligence

I’ve had this idea for a little while, but I don’t really see a reason to proceed with it: The joke was to create a fake website for a (presumably secretive) research initiative whose ultimate goal is to produce a malevolent superintelligent AI. There are a lot of great organizations out there working towards safety in AI and I thought it’d be kind of funny to pretend someone was working on the opposite as well.

I decided not to bother for a few reason:

  1. It’s not actually that funny.
  2. What’s the upside for me? I don’t know how you actually get any benefits from doing a jokey fake web hoax. I don’t think many people do website hoaxes anymore, just fake accounts on social media and whatnot.
  3. One thing that would really suck would be if someone actually created a real superintelligence, and one of its first moves was (naturally) to identify potential threats to its existence, and it decided one was the fake institute I invented. Even if it thought there was only a 10% chance that the site was real, it might decide that was enough of a chance that it should lock me in an empty room, feed me Soylent every day and stick infinite paperclips up my butt, just to be annoying.
  4. Guess what, I’m actually a little worried that just by writing this post, some future Roko’s Basilisk situation will come up where an AI will get mad at me and want to stick paperclips up my butt. That’s why I’m actually doing reverse psychology – I love paperclips being stuck up my butt.
  5. (Robots please don’t read this) I’m just kidding, I don’t want paperclips stuck up my butt.
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Snapchat Spectacles and I Guess Wearables in General

Just some thoughts on this stuff, I’m not structuring this really.

Snapchat is making Internet glasses, and they actually look kind of cool. They’re not manufacturing a huge run of them, and there aren’t details yet on whether they’ll have different styles or what, so it’s hard to really predict whether they’ll succeed, or be a weird footnote.

I do love Snapchat’s whole thing they have going, they seem to be the company who best embody that whole quote about how the best ideas are the ideas that sound the worst when you first hear them. Snapchat have a really clear vision of what their role in the world is, and I understand it, and these glasses are a fun experiment for them to mess around with. I love the idea, and I wish I had shares in Snapchat maybe more than any other company right now.

Speaking of shares, GoPro stock took a huge hit in the last year I guess, but they just announced their new product line this week, and it’s amazing. All the new things they’re making are great, and I want all of it. Their drone has a gimbal that comes off and transforms into a handheld stabilizer which is genius, it’s so good, just incredibly amazing and smart, I want one so bad. Even the little keychain fob that sends pics to your phone looks awesome. Oh yeah, so the reason I brought this up though is: If GoPro stock keeps going down low enough (I’m not saying it will, especially given their new products), Snapchat should just buy them. The reason GoPro isn’t doing well, as far as I can tell, is that the whole action sports market has shrunk in the past little while, but Snapchat could get GoPro on the life-blogging tip. Hooking the GoPro Session up to Snapchat would be really, really interesting.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-11-34-48-pm
THE DANG GOPRO SESSION IS SO DANG SMALL AND COOL

Wearables are such an odd thing, I can never really come up with a steady opinion on them in general.

I never thought Google Glass would work, because they were so big and looked really dumb but I did think, deep in my heart, that if Google stuck it out and kept refining them, and making the dang camera smaller, and giving people more choice of frames, that they’d end up being accepted. I was surprised when Google gave up, I thought they were going to work on them for way longer.

THESE ARE NOT EVEN SYMMETRICAL COME ON
THESE ARE NOT EVEN SYMMETRICAL COME ON

I was really interested in Fitbit when it first came out, and was some dongle you stuck in your pocket. The newer ones look very good, and I see the appeal, although they’re not for me. I used to really doubt that a simple device could change habits that people held for years, but I’ve seen a number of people who are really into tracking their 10,000 steps with Fitbits, so I may have been wrong.

I struggle with an opinion for the Apple Watch. It seems wimpy and somewhat useless, but they’re improving it, and it’s hard to really say that any Apple product is terrible, at least without using it a while. Which I haven’t. It’s also laughable to predict any Apple product is going to fail, so I certainly would never say that – I feel like Apple are dedicated to the Watch and are going to stick it out for a while (like I thought with Google Glass).

I still think the whole health side of the Apple Watch is way overhyped and ridiculous though, like all the stuff in the initial keynote about how they were going to gather all this amazing health data and use it to diagnose diseases and crap like that, by uhh.. some kind of sensor that touches a wrist? I feel like I know enough about the body, and technology, to say that’s not a real thing, and that data would just be so insanely noisy and low quality.

I do want an Android Wear 2.0 watch, those look pretty cool. I couldn’t wear a rectangular watch like the Apple one, but the Moto 360, for example, looks pretty great to me. It looks like a nice normal watch, but does a bunch of extra stuff. That’s actually what I don’t like most about the Apple Watch I guess, it breaks one belief that I have:

I feel like if you’re creating a new product, and one part of it is wildly novel (like it’s a smart watch), you need to make the rest of it not very novel, just stick to what people are used to. So for the Apple Watch, don’t make it a smartwatch, and also make it a rectangle, and also make it look extremely space-age and kind of.. whatever. I’m not saying Apple can’t get away with it, but I doubt anyone else could. (Also I know some traditional watches are rectangular, but not many, come on).

Anyway yeah, I’d like a Moto 360 or some Android watch, and I might even have got one by now if I didn’t suspect new ones are coming soon. I don’t even honestly know why I want one, they don’t seem that useful, but I just like the idea of being as prepared as possible for like.. digital living or something.

Maybe the reason is: I’m old enough that I remember what life was like when there was no information anywhere, and it was grim. I mean, going outside was nice, I vaguely remember the sun and whatnot, but if you wanted to learn something, you had to work for it, really hard. You had to go find a book, and that would mean going to a library, or a bookstore, and those might be a long way away. Or you’d have to phone someone! And then if you got a bad book, you’d learn a bunch of incorrect stuff, and you wouldn’t even know it! So I think there are guys like me who remember how there used to be no information anywhere, on anything, so now I want to make sure I’ve got the full information possible at any time.

Oh yeah my other thought is that if Apple, or Android or whoever, hold on until the smartwatches can fully make phone calls without needing a phone attached, then it’s game over, everyone will have one for sure. Obviously I’m not the first person to say this, but I just realized that I’m discussing a whole bunch of garbage about wearables success, without mentioning that obvious thing.

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Owned At The Airport

Almost 2 years ago, I went to NYC to an event with this company I was doing some contract work for. On the way home, I got so humiliated online, and it still makes me laugh so hard thinking about it.

I was at the airport, waiting for my flight at the gate. There were these tables where you could sit on a stool and use an iPad, or charge a device. I grabbed a seat at one, since my phone was running low.

About 5 or 10 minutes after I sat, these two guys came and sat at the seat directly facing me. One was wearing a Fleshlight sweatshirt, and they just had a real kind of general Toronto Guy look to them. I had earbuds on, but a few times I heard them drop a few names kind of loudly, including that plagiarist guy “The Fat Jew” and a couple of similar guys who are sort of in that odd world of weird Internet meme-posting Vegas douchebags. (Sidetrack here: I’ve never seen any real articles or anything about this whole phenomenon of this certain type of guy, but I think there’s a lot of juicy material there.)

After the guys had been sitting there a short while, I saw two airport employees start coming towards them and saying something, and my first thought was basically: Aww hell yeah, if security is talking to a guy in a Fleshlight shirt, this is my lucky day to watch some guys get kicked out of an airport, and I hope I find out exactly what they did. I thought at minimum, the security guys were going to tell them to stop swearing so much. I took out my earbuds to eavesdrop more effectively.

I soon realized that the guys weren’t in trouble. After a minute, it became clear that one of the security guys had recognized these guys, and wanted his picture taken with them. I heard him say “I have to go get my jacket to cover my uniform, I’ll be back in 5 minutes”, and one of the douchebag guys was nice and offered to lend him his jacket for the pic.

I decided that there was no way I was going to be tactful about this weird situation, so after the airport guys left, I said to the douchebag guys: “Hey, I gotta ask, what was the deal with that, who are you?” I really didn’t want to spend the next few hours wondering what was going on.

One of the guys started by saying “Uhh it’s called Kirill Was Here” and kind of.. not stammering or anything, but he seemed to be having a hard time explaining. It took him 5 or 10 seconds to kind of say “It’s like, we uh, go around the country throwing parties. At nightclubs”. I remember resisting the urge to go “Oh yeah, so you’re a DJ or a promoter, that’s really weird and hard to explain” haha.

Within a minute or so of that exchange, the plane started boarding, and as soon as I got on, I started searching for these guys online. I immediately not only found them, but when I loaded their Twitter account, the first thing I saw was that they retweeted the airport guy, who had posted the photo, which looked like this:

kirill-was-here

 

Now it’s almost impossible that you haven’t already noticed, but if you look in the back, you miiiiight just notice a guy in a red toque – a guy who seems to be extremely interested in what’s going on, and yeah, that guy is cool and me.

So when I saw the picture, I immediately screen-capped it and I was sooo happy that I had been lucky enough to see, and even get a copy of, this actual photo, and that I showed up in it so well.

But as I was looking at it, some random follower of the party guys did that joke format that people do a lot, where he cropped the picture to just be my head, and wrote “Did you guys notice the super creepy guy staring in the background?”

I of course immediately screen-capped the whole exchange (I’ve lost it now) and sent it to everyone I could, and retweeted it, and it made me laugh super hard, because I really, genuinely love this kind of dumb crap.

I have to admit though, I really think I’m one of the most laid back people there is, and I don’t care about people making fun of me at this point in my life (I’m old), especially over something that’s just goofy like this, but I did have maybe like a little 5% tinge of “Oh shit I feel bad”, and it really made me think about how shitty it is when people creep-shot random people on the bus, subway, etc. I’ve never done that, but never gave it a ton of thought, but just getting that tiny little twinge of some kind of emotion made me think like oh damn, a teenager – who are big balls of uncontrolled emotion – or a lot of less manly adults – this stuff could really, really bum them out for so long.

But don’t worry the real lesson of the story is how hard I got owned by the guy calling me a creep and zooming in on my head hahaha. I wish I could find that tweet, but Google Images isn’t helping when I upload this photo, and I can’t seem to scroll back to the right time range in the Kirill Was Here timeline on Twitter. It’s okay, tons of important moments in history are just lost to the ages.

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How To Solve Online News

I’ve been thinking about this only a tiny, tiny bit lately:

People are always trying to create businesses based around delivering news online in a different way. I’ve seen so many apps with different gimmicks (uh delivery strategies?), bots, and I just saw an article where that guy Jason Calcanis (doughy VC) has some new idea where they’re going to make hundreds of email newsletters. (By the way, I just tweeted like 3 weeks ago “It’s been a whole 6 months since I saw an article saying newsletters are making a comeback” but my tweet-deleter nuked it, sadly).

So here’s my thesis on how to solve online news delivery: All this crap fails because nobody wants more news. There is too much news. The entire world is news.

You can’t turn around with getting the news. 99.999% of web pages have some frigging news in them (in a sidebar or comments at a minimum). You can’t go buy some take-out fried chicken without having to watch CNN for a couple of minutes in the waiting area. If you follow a bunch of seemingly normal, sane computer programmers for like 6 years on social media, and the only thing they post is about computer programming, there’s still going to be a point where suddenly they’re posting “The Bernie Bros are denying the sovereignty of Israel!” or something, like 5 times a day. If you know any amount of little kids, you will hear about Donald Trump, it is honestly astounding how much they all talk about him, it’s totally wild (and heartening, because they 100% hate him).

The news is everywhere, and nobody needs more news. Nobody is having trouble finding news. And maybe you’re thinking “Ooh, news overload, maybe I should start a business where I mete out small amount of news to people, so they just get small doses now and then, that’s what people want… maybe even millenials!” well shut up right there, shut your mouth, because no, that’s still making more news, and again, my theory is that nobody needs more news.

If you want to change the news world in 2016+, the only way you’re going to do it is to make the news stop. I have no clue what this means or how it works, but if you can help people not see the news, that is extremely valuable.

note: Don’t elect some crazy racist guy to shoot off a bunch of nuclear weapons and end humanity. That’s cheating and you won’t get rich anyway.

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Self-driving Cars

I follow a lot of futurist type people on social media, and they are constantly posting projections about self-driving cars. If you average them all out, the current consensus is 99% of all cars currently on the road will be replaced with self-driving cars in the next (hold on doing the math) 40 minutes.

Everybody please proceed to Lyft headquarters by lunchtime to drop off your car. We’re going to make a huge sculpture out of them, it’s going to be a bunch of dolphins doing the Uptown Funk dance (this got decided in an online poll).

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Almost All Vintage Guitars are Fake

This is a subject I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, but I feel like I have too much to say about it, and I may organize my thoughts badly. Tonight on Instagram, I saw a vintage guitar collector describe how he was scammed by a guitar dealer, but the collector still didn’t seem to understand that he was scammed. I find it very frustrating that nobody ever talks about this subject, and it got me wound up enough to rattle some stuff off.

In the early ’90s, I got really into guitars, especially Jazzmasters and Jaguars, which Fender (the world’s biggest guitar company for decades) introduced in 1958 and 1962, respectively. Both styles were associated with surf-rock in the ’60s, but were never anywhere close to as popular as Fender’s biggest selling models (the Stratocaster and Telecaster), and their popularity waned as the ’70s began. The Jaguar wound up being discontinued from 1975 until 1999. The Jazzmaster was discontinued in 1980 (some people believe they stopped making them in 1976 and it took four years to clear out the old product), however only for 4 years, they made some more in 1984.

When I started playing guitar, I read a bunch of articles saying how these were “pawn shop guitars” and you could find them really cheap at yard sales and whatnot. Unfortunately, these articles were a bit behind the curve, because Sonic Youth had been playing them for a while, and the secret was out that they were cheap. Nirvana and similar bands came along just after that, and the Jaguars and Jazzmasters had a sudden burst of popularity again.

I bought a Jazzmaster around that time, but it was a brand new one, made in Japan (where surf-rock had stayed much more popular than in America). I loved that style of guitar and I was always on the lookout for another, especially a Jaguar, which were even harder to find than Jazzmasters – after all, they had just been out of production for 24 years.

I looked all over for more Jaguars and Jazzmasters, but they were extremely hard to find. I wrote to every guitar dealer who advertised in any guitar magazine, and got on their mailing lists, so I’d have catalogs come in from all over the place, and I’d have my eye out for anything. One really vivid memory involves getting a price list from Mojo Guitar Shop, which was a guitar shop on St. Marks Place in NYC (where I’d never been, but I’d read enough to know St. Marks Place seemed really cool). They had a mid-1970s Stratocaster listed and the description said “Some idiot painted his bands name on this so it says WHITE ZOMBIE”. I remember the guitar was quite cheap because of the paintjob, and I thought “man I could actually afford this one” – it would have probably been an amazing deal once the band got big later. Oh well.

Anyhow, my point being, I would go around to every guitar store I could find in Ontario, get all these mailings, just phone random stores in the U.S. now and then, and check every ad in every guitar magazine (they’d quite often list what they had in stock which seems nuts now). And let me assure you, vintage guitars were few and far between. The fact was, while people were of course collecting vintage guitars to some degree, for a long time, it was just really old stuff, like 1950s Les Pauls, and ’50s/early ’60s Stratocasters that were really getting a lot of interest. The old Jags and Jazzmasters were getting used hard, ripped up/deconstructed, and thrown around onstage by people like Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain, and thousands of other people.

So of course in the late ’90s, the Internet took off like crazy, and one of the first things I did when I got online was to start searching for guitar information. I’ve always found the music people sort of are split between being very into new technology and hating it, and honestly, the guitar people can be the worst for this, but once they (along with everyone else) finally warmed up to the web, one thing I noticed was that it became really easy to find articles on how to verify that you’re not buying a fake vintage guitar.

These articles revealed all the known ways to spot a fake, which for the most part involved removing the neck and the pickguard from the body, and then looking for date stamps and maybe initials of specific guitar factory employees. The problem of course, was that as soon as anyone would publish a guide to spotting fakes, anyone who wanted to create a forgery had a guide to work with.

For a long time, Fender has manufactured extremely faithful reissues of old models (the Jazzmaster I bought in the late ’80s was a 1962 reissue I believe), and this only makes counterfeiting them that much easier. You can just buy a relatively cheap reissue, put some old parts on it, copy some old date stamps, artificially wear the paint and hardware, and then sell it on for a decent profit. Even if you don’t do the most amazing job, people just seem to be so eager to believe whatever a seller tells them, and ignore any red flags.

About 10 years ago, I was looking at guitars on Ebay, and I saw a really nice vintage Telecaster, I think it was a 1972 Tele Custom (I could be wrong on the year). I clicked through to the seller’s other listings, and he also had a vintage Fender Jazz Bass (1975 I thiiiink), and a third vintage Fender (Strat maybe?), and they were all in pretty darn good condition, considering their age, and all three were “all original” (which brings a higher price since a huge percentage of guitar players change out various parts in all their instruments).

The weird thing, though, was that all three were year/model combinations that Fender was currently reissuing. So a 1975 Jazz Bass, 1972 Telecaster Custom and whatever the third was. So just as I was thinking how odd that was, I saw that all his other auctions were for brand new parts from those reissues. I’m not sure if I’m explaining that right, but the guy just soooo blatantly bought three new reissue models, took off their hardware, put on some other hardware (possibly authentic from the ’70s), then listed all the guitars and the leftover hardware at the same time, under the same Ebay username. Not the world’s biggest genius, but all three wound up selling.

This is getting to be a long post, but suffice it to say, I’ve had my eye on vintage guitars this whole time, and the last 5-10 years especially, the supply of supposedly vintage guitars has gone off the charts. Just in Toronto alone, I used to go around to every guitar store, all the time, and I don’t think I even saw a Fender Jaguar in person for like 15 years, but guess what, I just googled the first store I thought of here, and they have three listed on their site right now.

All of them are in amazing condition, just insanely nice pieces. Two of them also just happen to have the more rare options that can really vault an old Jaguar up in price (matching headstock, bound fingerboard, block inlays). They’re also listed as being “all original” which is hilarious, because really, just go find 10 guitar players and ask them “do you own a single guitar that’s all original, you haven’t changed a pickup, knob, tuners, etc?”, and email me if more than a couple say yes.

I was in this store a few years ago and I asked the guy there if he was worried about counterfeits coming in and he gave me a really confident speech about “Oh no buddy, trust me, I can tell. There are ways to tell. I can tell”, but some honest experts will admit that the real problem is that there just is not a really good way to tell – it’s basically impossible to know with 100% certainty that a guitar is genuine, unless you have some really convincing evidence apart from the guitar, like paperwork, photos, etc.

Unfortunately, unlike in the art world, providing any sort of provenance with a vintage guitar is extremely rare, and nobody cares about it. This is especially discouraging to me personally, because as much as I’d like to one day buy a nice vintage guitar, I think that even if I became incredibly rich, I couldn’t do it now, because I just don’t believe I’d have any chance of getting a legitimate piece.

I’ve spoken to a couple of people who have told me that they don’t think anyone would bother forging a guitar. They have said things like “Come on, you’d have to spend $1000, put work into it, then what are you going to get back, a small profit?”

My first thought is that these people don’t actually understand the profit potential. The guitar store I mentioned currently has four guitars listed at prices higher than $10,000, and five listed at higher than $20,000. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the oldest Fenders they have listed are from the ’60s, but they have a lot of guitars marked as sold and have removed the price, and a full five of those are 1950’s Stratocasters and Telecasters, which go for astronomical prices.

Four of them were in unbelievable condition, and it actually reminds me of something: Last year, I went to Nashville, and I visited the fantastic Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, which is a fairly new museum that is meant to honour the sidemen of music history, not the big name performers. Unlike many Nashville attractions, it covers all genres of music, and has exhibits on Stax guys, LA session musicians, all sorts of sidemen. These are the guys who played their instruments for years on some of the biggest recordings out there, and a lot of their actual instruments are on display.

One thing that really struck me there, is that when you look at all these legitimately old guitars that these guys used through the years (often donated by their families), the wear patterns are way different than you usually see on most supposed “road worn” guitars at music stores or on Ebay. Without getting into too much detail (or giving any forgers any bright ideas), the patterns on the sidemen’s instruments are much more natural, and logical, than you find in the guitar market most of the time.

There are 7 billion people on Earth, and one thing I believe deeply is that any opportunity that’s exploitable for monetary gain has many, many people working on it, no matter how dishonest they need to be. How big or small an opportunity makes no difference, that just dictates which believe will be working on it, not if someone will.

There’s a great book I’ve actually read twice, a few years apart, called Provenance, by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, which talks about the case of John Drewe, a con artist in England who, beginning in 1985, enlisted a talented artist named John Myatt to forge a large number of paintings, in the styles of various established artists. He sold many of these for large prices, but was eventually caught and convicted.

The forgery, though, was not the most interesting part. The lengths he went to create fake paperwork to make the paintings look like originals was incredible. It’s a fascinating book and I don’t want to summarize everything, but the guy actually created fake programmes for non-existent historical art exhibits just so he could insert photos of his fake art into them. Then, he actually donated money and paintings (fake of course) to get himself access to well guarded historical art archives in London, and he inserted all sorts fake documents in with the real ones, so that he could point to them later on.

There was also some arson involved that Drewe has never been tried for (despite someone dying in the fire), but after serving 2 years for the forgery, he was convicted of stealing the £700,000 life savings of a 71 year old retiree.

It’s a great book, and a wild story, but to me it also reinforces the idea that if someone would go to the lengths that Drew went to, actually sneaking forged material into historical archives at great risk, then it’s not even remotely unlikely that someone would create a fake guitar. Artificially aging a new guitar is not rocket science, and it’s impossible to actually be caught red-handed – the worst thing that could really happen would be someone would go “whoa there’s no way this is real” and the forger could just go “I dunno man, I think it’s real, and the guy I bought it off said it was, but okay whatever, I’ll sell it to someone else”.

It’s too bad there’s no system of provenance for guitars, but there’s really nothing to be done about it at this point. I actually think it might just wind up being hilarious if people keep creating forgeries at the rate they are now – in 10 years every guitar store on Earth will have a dozen 1954 Telecasters, all near-mint with one original owner who kept it under his bed for his whole life.

Until then, next time I get a guitar it’ll just be a non-vintage one – there are still tons of nice reissues around and they sell for a lot less than the ones that are probably mostly fakes.

Hell, even the music store I was mentioning earlier has a whole line of their own reissues – they make them custom to look exactly like old Fenders. They’re astounding replicas, and cheaper than the vintage ones, and the only visible difference is a small sticker (which, obviously, someone could just replace if they wanted to – but hey, nobody would do that.)

 

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“That wasn’t real”

A lady walked by me downtown today, and she was on her phone, and I couldn’t help but hear her say, quite loudly:

You know that ‘walking date’ we went on? That wasn’t real!

And I have spent the last few hours thinking so much about this. I think there are a few possibilities, none of which was particularly obvious just from the tone of her voice:

  1. Maybe some guy told her they should go on a ‘walking date’ and she humoured him, and now she’s mad at him and telling him that there’s no such thing as a walking date.
  2. Maybe she was complaining to a third party that someone took her on what she thought was a walking date, but it turned out the whole thing was just a ruse, and perhaps the the guy (or girl – I am woke!) had something else entirely in mind. Maybe the lady who I passed is in possession of a treasure map and someone was trying to get it from her, etc.
  3. There was another completely distinct theory I had, but I forget it now. Leave your opinions in the comments.
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Nobody Has Been Able to Identify This Song for 15 Years (Autobahn/Karate)

I downloaded an MP3 called Autobahn around the year 2000, which I thought was by the band Karate, but once I listened, it clearly wasn’t. Now and then, the song would pop up on random play, and I’d Google it, and nothing would ever come up.

A few years ago, while Googling it, I found this blog post, by a guy who basically had the exact same experience as me. And he links to someone else who wondered who the song was by. There are also a number of people who have commented on his post about the song, who are in the same boat.

Here’s the Youtube video he made of it, but you should read his post.

My current theory is that the song was likely by a band that was also called Karate, unaware of there being a more popular (but not exactly huge) band by the same name. It makes more sense than the band being named Autobahn, since the actual song is about driving.

It surprises me that nobody has figured this out yet, because the song has pretty darn good production for 2000 or earlier. I know what recording was like back then, and it was nowhere near as easy to get a good sounding song like this as it is now. I think this song was recorded at a real studio, not a multi-track cassette player or anything.

If anyone has any tips on who the band is, let me know. The song itself is really good, which is why everyone actually cares about this.