Mako Guitar (Les Paul Traditional 56)

So a bit of an off-topic post for this site. But in addition to writing novels, I also play and record music. Recently while browsing in a locally owned guitar store, I came across a gorgeous Les Paul copy that looked to be from sometime around 1980.

My Les Paul II

The headstock, however, has been painted over with solid black to hide the brand name! And there’s no serial number info on the back or any useful info under the pickups or in the control cavity. So this guitar is a total mystery!

I turned to good old Google (and Bing…and Yahoo!) to try and find out what I’ve got. After tons and tons of digging, I figured out it’s a Mako “56” guitar. There are some details that give it away. The headstock design matches and the time period. But even more telling is the really unique bridge and white control knobs. Complicating things, the Mako “56” appears to have also been released under at least 3 other brand names during the time: the Hondo “Deluxe 748,” Marathon “Replay MG 120,” and Shafer (haven’t found a model name for that one). Those guitars all have the same weird bridge and often the odd white control knobs.

Les Paul Comparison

While the headstock shape definitely identifies my guitar as a Mako, there’s no info on where Makos were made. The prevailing theory floating around the Internet is that they were made by Matsumoku in Japan. However some claim they’re Korean guitars. A similar debate circles the Hondo “Deluxe” series, though the debate falls more toward the side of Korea on that one. Then the Schafer and Marathon also both have people saying they’re Korean guitars—specifically made by Samick. So which is it? Do i have a Japanese Matsumoku or a Korean Samick?

I kept digging. Again, the most identifying feature of my Mako and its cousins is the SUPER weird/unique bridge.

Hondo Bridge

Hunting, hunting, hunting, I find the bridge popping up as late as the mid-90s. And finally I find it on a guitar that has a maker identified: the Epiphone Sheraton guitars made in the mid-90s by <drumroll please> Samick in Korea. The Sheraton bridge is so weird that Epiphone owners often go hunting for replacements on the net and it’s even referred to as the “Samick bridge.” While not a smoking gun, I think this bridge being positively identified with the Korean Samick presents a pretty strong case for my Mako being Korean.

Or at least, that’s where I was leaning. Then I found a Mako Traditionals 56 on eBay with the serial number still on the back and a photo included. That serial number style is really weird. The sticker says “COAST F/A” followed by a 5-digit number. Stickers like this appear to have been how Memphis guitars (who also sold Les Paul copies in the 70s/80s) marked their higher-end, made in Japan guitars. And those were made by Matsumoku by most accounts.

The world may never know again who built these Makos (or its siblings under other brand names). But either way, I love my new Les Paul. It’s got a set-neck, mahogany body, binding over the frets, a nice medium tennon neck, and a lot of really “high end” features plus a gorgeous top. And I got it for next to nothing!

Back To The Future That Never Was

My contribution to BTTF day. So all of you are saying “Where are the flying cars and hoverboards? Why had the World Series already happened? Why can’t dogs walk themselves?” No one on the Internets that I have seen has pointed out that the 2015 in BTTF 2 never happens. That was a Future where Marty had broken his hand in 1985 during a drag race with Needles and been unable to play guitar well since. Because of that event, his life spiraled down the pits. However, when Jennifer and Marty find themselves in the race at the conclusion of the Trilogy, Marty intelligently (though he could have just staid still instead of backing up) ducks out of the race. His hand isn’t broken and the fax from the future erases. While hover conversion still clearly occurs at some point in the future—as evidenced by the train—we don’t know when hover conversion now becomes a reality. The butterfly effect of Marty remaining a musician and never losing his spirit to that crash could certainly spread far enough that most of the technology of the alternate 2015 would never come to be in the 2015 that then played out from that missed crash forward. Just look at how different the alternate 1985 was from the real 1985. Just saying :)

Jodorowsky’s Catharsis

Watched the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune last night. Very interesting documentary.

I think that Frank Herbert’s influence on Catharsis is pretty clear. While I didn’t borrow much in the way of plot, quite a lot in phrasing and style come from Herbert. Dune is definitely a novel that’s had a profound affect on me over the years both as a writer and just as a person. It’s a true masterpiece.

Jodorowsky has been much less of an influence on me. But, I am aware of his work. Seeing how much of an influence he’s had on the film industry without ever actually making his most influential film is a bit inspirational.

Even more inspirational to me personally is Jodorowsky’s marriage of sci-fi with Western mysticism. Obviously, at the heart of the Bodhi Trilogy is an attempt to take concepts of Western mysticism (especially Theosophy) and build a sci-fi story from them. To know I’m not completely alone in that effort was a nice thing to see.

Who Calls the Tune?

For reasons not worth going into, my mind’s been on Rosicrucian topics lately. That’s not all that important to this post, though!

One of the main Rosicrucian groups in the US today is AMORC. Based out of San Jose, AMORC has been active for about 100 years. They have a beautiful park/temple complex in San Jose with what they advertise as the most well stocked Egyptian museum in the States.

Their theology is—by and large—fairly standard Theosophy-derivative, Western dharma. There is a Cosmic Mind and the goal of the mystic is to realign his/her thoughts with it. Most groups dealing in Western mysticism have some variation of this Brahmanic worldview. AMORC also, like many Western groups, has a system of study on offer that is advertised to guide the uninitiated seeker into the light. AMORC provided and provides their course and initiations somewhat uniquely via mail-order. As I understand, a pamphlet arrives each month/week detailing the next exercise the student is to undertake. These exercises are purported to increase health and open mental abilities.

All well and good. But one thing really fascinates me in thinking about this particular instance of guided enlightenment. Harvey Spencer Lewis, who founded AMORC and wrote these health promoting exercises, died at the age of 56. Even in 1939, 56 is a young age to die at.

Why is Mr. Lewis’ early death interesting? Because his courses that provide students with decades of study are heavily advertised as increasing health. Clearly, Mr. Lewis was not the healthiest person to have walked the earth. Thinking it through, if Spencer Lewis invented and followed this health program and then died young, it seems logical that the health program is not as healthful as advertised. Yet, his early death doesn’t seemed to have slowed the sale of the courses in the least.

Why is that? Why do we follow leaders who clearly don’t know the path they’re leading us on? Is doing so always the wrong choice? When it comes to the spirit, are we all blind? In which case, is any guide better than none though neither you nor they know the way?

Alfred Don’t Shiv

So the latest episode of Gotham, a series detailing the early life of Bruce Wayne before he was Batman, has Alfred step up and accept Bruce’s request to teach him to fight. The recent cartoon series Beware the Batman also had built into the show’s backstory that Alfred was the one who first taught Bruce Wayne how to fight.

This is an interesting development, I think. Alfred, for most of his existence, has been a kindly old, aristocratically British gentleman. There was little indication that Alfred could himself put up a fight and none that Alfred taught Bruce anything about the martial arts.

Maybe there was an earlier example, but I think this new, tougher portrayal of Alfred really started with Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Michael Caine’s Alfred is much more of a working class butler who, it is revealed, has a history in the military. He’s presented as capable of rescuing Batman from a fire through physical force and seems able to handle himself. Was the change purely a choice on Nolan/Caine’s part that then found its way into the Batman myth, or does it reflect something deeper in our culture?

The Batman myth is constantly retold and revised. And each retelling, each revision, can easily be seen to reflect truths about the culture it finds itself in. The 50s had the innocent Batman, for a time that wanted heroes to be innocent. The late 60s and 70s saw a tall, mysterious Batman who was getting a bit old as his boy wonder grew up and struck out on his own—right when America was coming out of the last of the innocence and sliding into cynicism and a feeling of being out of a golden age. The examples could keep going.

Assuming that the change in Alfred that seems to be taking more and more pervasive of a hold is also similarly culturally based, what is it that this says about our culture? I’m really asking!

My guess, FWIW, is that it has something to do with our lack of faith in CEOs and other corporate big wigs. Our entrepreneurial aristocracy—of which the fictional Wayne family are part—is often portrayed in a fairly negative light with bailouts and excess greed. In fact, somewhere around the introduction of Fight Club, the Western zeitgeist seems to have truly rejected the claims of protection by the aristocracy, even to the point of fantasizing about taking them out of power. Fight Club shows the working class as having teeth rather than the captains of industry. The proletariat being the sheep dogs left to sleep outside so that the bourgeoisie lambs can get fat off the land. Whether that’s right or not (both about the current political climate and about Alfred’s change), I don’t claim to know or guess. But I do think it’s worth noting the change cropping up in the myth.

Will the Real Mulan Please Stand Up?

A friend recently posted up a picture of his daughters at Disney World standing with a Mulan. The Mulan in the picture looked like this:


With my own fiction, I’ve been accused of writing sexist visions of women before. Though I never intended to. Whatever, I was shocked to see the Mulan costume that the Disney World actress wore. It was Mulan in the costume that the match maker sticks her in at the beginning of the film. The one she hated that made her really uncomfortable! Given an actual strong Chinese legend about a warrior woman, Disney opted to present her as a princess ready to be match-made with her prince!

This is how Mulan felt about that costume when she saw herself in it in the film:


What’s wrong with Mulan as she appeared throughout most of the movie? Why couldn’t she be wearing her armor?


Of course, the answer would be that “Girls want to have their pictures with Disney princesses” and/or “We needed an Asian princess and Mulan’s all we’ve got.”

I haven’t really looked, but I’m amazed that there’s not more of a public reaction to this. Is the movie too old or too unpopular for anyone to notice or care? I admit, I was working in a movie theater when it came out and was even vaguely familiar with the story of Mulan already (seriously). So of all the Disney films, it caught my attention much more than most. But surely there have to be at least a few girls who don’t want their picture with a princess. There have to be some that would enjoy if not benefit from being in the presence of a woman in armor quite capable of contributing to a martial effort. Or am I totally wrong?