Dave Nuttycombe’s Suburban Mysteries

As a crusading digital journalist, I often take to the streets in search of mysteries. And, like my heroes Frank and Joe Hardy, I find them each and every time.

Here I present my latest discovery, a mystery so deep that even I, a crusading digital journalist, may have difficulty solving. Once again, if you have any tips (and by tips, I mean cash), feel free to send them my way via the convenient Paypal page.

You’re welcome.

I Dared Click On Facebook Scam Ads.

For a few days last week, almost my entire Facebook newsfeed was taken over by a series of similar ads, sometimes identical except for the name of the advertiser. Indeed, there were more of these ads than posts from my friends. All of the ads offered musical instruments for sale and claimed–in the same slightly off language–that the companies were poorly run, going out of business, and thus many guitars and drumsets could be had for amazingly low, low prices.

Say goodbye to the old factory. And your money.

Say goodbye to the old factory. And your money.

For instance, a Taylor 818e DLX electro acoustic guitar could be yours (or mine!) for just $96. This model sells at Guitar Center for $3,499. The $97 “special offer” Fender American Precision bass retails for $1,499. Likewise, the $94 “special offer” Gibson Les Paul Classic T will set you back $1,950 in any real music store. You won’t find such deals even on eBay.

I don't want to pay, I want to bang on my fake drum all day.

I don’t want to pay, I want to bang on my fake drum all day.

The names of the sites you were invited to click were odd, too: pxfresh.com, babalunsa.com, jiaodm.com, encarcha.com, and mutjean.com. Double-checking two others — eurekahub.info and colorpalette.vip found they had disappeared. The happy-sounding site winwinlook.com that advertised complete Alesis electronic drum sets for $84.99 (actual retail $579) is now offering golf club sets for $45 (actual retail $349). And if you hoped to pick up a Gretsch drum set for $120 (a $600-$4,000 value) at montyme.com, you’re too late, site’s gone.

More like poor management at Facebook?

More like poor management at Facebook?


The sites that remain as of Aug. 10, 2021, all look alike, using the same bland template with a grid of photos of high-end guitars and a Paypal logo. (There’s lots of chatter from 2020 on a Paypal message board from people who fell for the scam.)
Lookalike sites come and go as scams are discovered.

Lookalike sites come and go as scams are discovered.

The sites these ads all link to look alike because an ICANN lookup of domain registration finds that they’re all from China. Jiaodm.com is registered by eName Technology Co., Ltd, the “#1 domain name marketplace in China and the preferred platform for all Chinese domain investors.” Encharcha.com was registered through PocketDomain.com, which is located in Room 747, 7/F, Star House, 3 Salisbury Road Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Mutjean.com is registered through Alibaba Cloud Computing, Beijing.

So, yeah. We know the Chinese can make things cheaply. But not this cheap.

We also know that Facebook has issues with disinformation and scams.

I MADE A SONG!

The Exciting Backstory: So I decided to update my WAV editing software, Sound Forge, which I bought as discs from a computer software store when that was a thing you could do. Over the years, the original program was bought and sold, became Sony SoundForge, and finally is part of the Magix family of whatever. That’s where I found the upgrade.

I can haz musix

But with the upgrade came something I didn’t ask for, a music-making program called Music Maker. (Of course!)

Music Maker seems like Garage Band with pretensions to Logic Pro. When I opened it up there was a sample tune ready to go, which was stupid, but enticing enough that I clicked around and managed to create this sick little ditty. It took almost no time. That there was even a vocal track available is proof that nothing matters anymore.

The bad news is that now I’m one of those music-illiterate people who can use a computer to create sounds that put actual musicians out of work.

The good news is that I can’t figure out how to make another song with the program. Guess it was just magix!

Enjoy this greatest song ever produced.

The Lure of folklore

Yes, I’m on record as being a huge fan of Taylor Swift‘s new album, folklore. Not normally any kind of Swiftie, I discovered the music thanks to the kind algo-bots on Youtube (Hi!), who blessed my feed with the lyric videos when the album first “dropped,” as the kids and marketers say. Intrigued, then hooked, I quickly bought both the digital files and physical CD, and I’ve been listening nonstop since. It’s a good record to do the dishes by.

But then a new Youtube rabbit hole appeared: Insistent, ardent folklore cover versions. As with the 300-plus fan versions of Shallow that I found shortly after A Star Is Born was released, there is no shortage of reverential performances by happy Taylor fans. More intriguing are the many, many rewrites and answer songs. These are not attempts at Weird Al japery, these are deeply felt, sincere efforts to make Swift’s music even more resonant than it already is.

Most are based on the “teenage love triangle” of tunes on the album, cardigan, august, and betty, a mysterious triptych of angst, regret, and remembrance, which Ms. Swift is known for and excels at.

So here’s some of the more interesting videos I found. As usual, they come from people with thousands of subscribers and views to those who barely register double digits. But numbers belie talent; so many of these ladies could be the next Taylor Swift. All of their efforts are heartbreakingly wonderful.

Betty seemed to provoke the most response, with many gals leaping to provide Betty’s point of view:

And a ukulele version, but gender-swapped:

Speaking of gender-swapping, there’s a fair amount of reworking Swift’s songs to be explicitly LGBT-centric. Here’s betty, again, reworked to that effect:

And illicit affairs:

august from Jame’s POV:

This mashup combines the trilogy into one:

As does this:

This person seems to be rewriting the whole album!

cardigan

the 1

this is me trying:

Finally, here’s an amazingly deep analysis about the whole Betty/James relationship that is positively Sherlockian!

I’m On a Podcast!

me-raimi-spider-man

I was delighted to be a guest on Jason Klamm‘s fascinating podcast about the world of film extras, The Professional Blur. We talked about me sneaking onto the set of Airport 75, almost killing the president in a made-for-TV miniseries, and being cut out of the first Spider-Man movie by my good friend Sam Raimi (pictured). Among many other topics.

Listen to the episode here.

Ode to the Uptown

On March 13, 2020, America woke to the horrible news–no, not that horrible news, the news that the fabled Uptown Theater was closing. In fact, it was already closed. In the middle of everything else going wrong, this hits me hard.

A 1936 Art Deco palace, the Uptown building is still owned by the Pedas family; brothers, Ted and Jim ran the equally-cherished Circle Theater, which they built into a local powerhouse chain of 22 theaters, including the Uptown. So, while the landlord is sympathetic to the public’s outcry, that is no guarantee that the place will come back.

Indeed, Josh Levin, who rescued the plucky West End Cinema from the Cineplex Odeon chain (which had gobbled up Circle Theaters and was then gobbled up by current Uptown owner AMC Theaters) before having to give in to market realities, posted a thoughtfully pessimistic analysis on Facebook, delineating the many obstacles standing in the way of reopening the Uptown as a successful movie venue:

It’s a single-screen theater
Needs equipment, seating, and concession upgrades
It’s a single-screen theater
Probably needs to become a community nonprofit
It’s a single-screen theater
Probably needs a liquor license
It’s a single-screen theater
Repeat

Yeah, that single screen is 70-feet-by-40-feet, but apparently watching movies on your phone is a thing. Still, there is a Change.org petition going around to try to save the place. I signed.

And with so many memories wrapped up in that theater, I made this video appreciation. Enjoy.

Express is Dead! Long Live Expresso!

So the Washington Post has finally stopped printing its weekday tabloid, Express, a mere 16 years after I tried to get them to give up on such a bad idea. In fact, I was so sure Express was foolish that I created a same-day-of-publication parody, Expresso, which was distributed at Metro stops right alongside the Post‘s confused hawkers. That is, I had the great help of the Washington City Paper staff, and its publisher, Jane Levine, who agreed to throw more than $10,000 at a fairly juvenile gag.

The inspiration for publicly mocking the Paper of Record came after reading the Post‘s article announcing why they decided to create the thing. Editors had noticed that half of Metro riders weren’t reading a newspaper. Their conclusion: That’s our market! My smug response from my breakfast table: No, those are the people you’ve already lost!

The Post seemed intent on creating a newspaper for people with no interest in reading newspapers. So I came up with the concept of “a paper for people who don’t like to read,” and the tagline: “Half the Content. Twice as Free!” And pretty much wrote all the content-free content, which was largely listicles, before that became a thing. Also took the photos of willing co-workers pretending to be goofs.

At the time, I was City Paper‘s Webmeister, in charge of its online music site, among other tasks. In addition to disliking the idea of what I perceived to be a dumbed-down news product — and note: I was also against the equally simplistic USA Today when it first appeared — part of my reaction against Express came from the fact that the mighty Post was marching into City Paper‘s territory, the free paper. In fact, Express’ initial rate card did undercut City Paper. I was not only opposed to Express on pretentious grounds, but also it was a real threat to my livelihood.

We printed 25,000 copies, I believe, along with bright yellow Expresso T-shirts for staffers to wear that morning at Metro stations around town. And we continued the joke by creating a website, u-love-expresso.com, which went to a gotcha page and then to City Paper‘s homepage. For all of this we won a “Format Buster” award from the Association of Alternative Newspapers.

Side note, as I was giving away copies at the Silver Spring Metro that morning, an older gentleman slowly walked up and, with a sad face, corrected me: “It’s espresso.”

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