Fake Identities

While posting pictures of payphones on Smith Street in Brooklyn I entered one of the payphone numbers into a search engine and discovered the Fake U.S. Identities Site.

718-246-5413 is the number of a payphone on Smith Street, near Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. But according to the Fake U.S. Identities site that number belongs to one Frizzell Alan Schrader residing at 77 Montague Street in Brooklyn.

No such person exists, and it appears that 77 Montague Street is a fictional address. Mr. Schrader’s phone number, I accidentally discovered, traces to a Carroll Gardens payphone on Smith Street near Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

Typing in my full name at the fake identities site turned up my fake self, one Mark Alexander Thomas residing at 1106 Open Field Drive, an address which does not appear to exist in the town of Garner, North Carolina.

The bogus data on me all looks reasonably believable at a glance, save for the birth date of May 32, 1975. In the future maybe dates such as May 32nd will be a fashionable way to refer to June 1, and January 365 will be a hip way of referring to what we now call December 31. Until that time my fake identity does not quite parse.

I connected with the spirit of this web site because my identity was stolen over 10 years ago. It does not torment me like it used to but a decade’s passage has not fully allowed the anxiety caused by that incident to fade. Not only could it happen again but the fallout could be much worse given the increasingly sophisticated (and targeted) nature of identity theft today.

I got off relatively easy back then. Perpetrators (never identified) walked into Sam’s Club (and other establishments with lax credit screening protocols) armed with nothing more than my name and social security number. Credit applications using my name and SS# combined with fake addresses and phone numbers were promptly approved and purchases for hundreds of dollars were made.

My credit rating was toast. It took months to weed out bogus entries on my credit report — some of which reappeared years later.

A visit from two very helpful and understanding officers from New York Police Department did nothing to catch the crooks, though it was without question one of the most memorable encounters of my life. To this day I spontaneously play back parts of that conversation in my mind.

It took me a minute to comprehend the meaning of the fake identities sites (there are three others), which appear to be products of considerable investments in time and data crunching skills.

At first these sites would seem to be decoys, designed to confuse or mislead those who trawl web sites mining for information that could be used to steal identities. There are countless web sites with the business model of making thousands, even millions of names, addresses, and phone numbers publicly available. This information is drawn from public sources or simply from scraping web sites and databases. It is believed that many instances of identity theft begin with information gathered from these sources.

Identity thieves are not exactly who the fake identity sites target. More precisely they are designed to engage in search engine jujitsu with those sites that catalog peoples’ genuine personal information for commercial gain. The fake identities site lists 29 of these “web sties” which harvest personal information from public and commercial data sources. Some of these services claim they will remove your data upon request — for a fee, of course.

The creators of the fake identities site refer to these services as “web sties”. A “sty” is defined by dictionaries as “a filthy room or dwelling” and a “place of bestial debauchery“. The spelling error may not be intentional but if it is intended then it offers just a glimmer of the creators disdain for businesses built on publicly cataloging millions of individuals’ personal information.

Perhaps to the credit (or prescience) of the fake identity sites it appears that a majority of the 29 “sties” referenced either no longer exist or have changed their focus. phonenumberauthority, phonery, valueappeal, lookup-pad, mmnumber, and others listed at the Fake U.S. Identities site are either gone, have changed direction, or have retreated to the backwash status of parked domains, perhaps to reëmerge some day.

I enjoy anarchy in the data realm, but this fake info site is not without legitimate hazards. Some of us actually want to be found at our real, legitimate web presence without our reputation or perceived honesty being jeopardized. Someone with an Internet-fueled 3-second attention span could look up my name, glance at the search results without actually clicking through to any of them, and assume that I have lied all these years about living in New York and that I actually live in North Carolina.

To address that concern there is an option to “occlude” records, which appears to be as simple as typing in a captcha. (That should probably be “exclude”. “Occlude” either means to block a passageway or to absorb. I guess deletion of a record could be thought of as absorption into oblivion, but that that does not sound like typical usage.)

In the interest of foiling identity thieves or serving as a more convincing decoy the fake identities project could be more effective if its purpose was not so loudly announced atop every page. Somewhere in the fine print, perhaps, an explanation of why this site exists could be planted. Or maybe access to the site could only be allowed after clicking a lengthy “Terms of Service” (which no one would ever read) in which the bogosity of the data is explained.

The data would also be more effective if disseminated across multiple web sites designed to look like the “web sties” that so irk these sites’ creators. At present there appear to be 3 sites with fake U.S. identities and one with non-existent British names and addresses. If hundreds or even thousands of these sites existed then the goal of bumping loathed “sties” off the first page of search engine results could more readily be achieved. Then people’s real identities and personal information could be a little bit safer for not appearing on page 1 of the search results.

Of course this buffer would be created by flooding the Internet with what is essentially garbage content — as if that hasn’t happened already in other realms.

Dynamic DNS could address the issue of filtering out the fake identity web sites by IP address, unleashing a swarm of IP addresses that change hourly, always pointing to the same domain names. Hundreds or thousands of domains would have to be registered for this to be effective, and eventually the searchies would catch on and nuke their asses from the indexes, but it would be righteous fun engaging in the good fight of attempting to protect peoples’ identities from being stolen.

Water

Cold, gloomy day.

Stuffy, overheated apartment.

Looking at maps and trying to comprehend the enormity of this earth as it aligns with the tinyness of individual lives.

I was at the East River last week, hunting down what was left of a burned out payphone I spotted 11 years ago. A part of that old payphone still exists but most of it either rotted into dirt or became invisibly submerged in seaweed.

I have never been much for nature, with the exception of water. I cannot stand being in the rain, but I love to hear it pour from inside a building or even just under a roof. In Laos I remember standing under a metal roof supported by several metal sticks. Rain came roaring down on the roof, making an incredible racket of smiles, anger, and applause all at once.

The East River river has become a destination for me for some peculiar reasons, but to simply watch water flow by seems not so strange. It connects me to the earth, making me feel privy to its heavings and inhalations. It is orderly by appearance but chaotic in substance, like the earth itself, where everything is random.

When I feel especially depressed I look to the water. I see and feel some of myself in it, as if I, too, could rise and fall from one extreme to the next with no explanation. Patterns emerge at the river, of course, but what landlubber New Yorker knows of the tides? I don’t want to go to the river knowing when tides are high and the water impenetrably dark. Nor do I want to have a schedule of low tides, when shopping carts, metal railings, payphones, and other objects of discarded urban vomit appear for all to see, as if rising up when in fact they might only have barely moved since the last time they were visible.

I think of these objects as garbage, but a studiously artistic form of trash that sings with the water of the East River as it takes them into its mouth, never swallowing them.

8tracks and a Wissner Concert Grand

Making some use of the thousands of hours of piano music I have in my coffers I posted a shit ton of piano music to 8tracks.com, uploading alphabetically by last name of the performer. I’m up to Dinu Lipatti. To keep it legal there are rules. The one particular rule that inhabits this list is that you can only post 2 tracks from a CD and 2 tracks by the same performer. This makes sharing a 3 or 4 movement sonata or concerto pretty much off limits unless I take the low road and use recordings by different pianists for alternate movements.

Piano Music, via Sorabji.NYC from sorabji on 8tracks Radio.

My first paying piano gig in a long time occupied my time and mind last week. The concert is next week but a couple more rehearsals are afoot. It’s easy stuff, and a very low pressure event, making it a nice way for me to ease back in to this. It may lead to other things, or it may not.

Highlights from rehearsal #1 included a rare chance to play on a Wissner 9 foot concert grand. To say I “played” it is about half true. It was more like combat. The piano, built in the late 1800s (I think someone said 1889) splintered into pieces as I played it. The white tops of the keys (the so-called “ivories”) jumped off like popcorn. The rehearsal’s signature would be the stack of key tops piled on the the music stand.

The event organizer said I should be sure to keep the key tops on the piano, as numerous piano restorers have expressed interest in bringing the instrument back to glory. In fact the event kicks off a fund raiser which could raise money to do just that, and fortunately I will not be playing the decrepit Wissner at the actual concert.

The rehearsal was in a church. It was dark and at times the music in front of me was utterly shrouded in shadows, making it impossible to sightread even the simplest things. It would have been a perfect circumstance to use the Lenovo Horizon II, with its illuminated tablet interface, but transporting that mammoth platter would be tricky without a private vehicle. I do not think the Wissner piano’s music stand could have supported it anyway.

Wissner pianos come from interesting stock. I’m told that the design of Wissner’s innards were copied (stolen, rather) from Steinway, which sued for damages and won. The piano, then, is an ill-gotten Steinway at heart. It really sounds like a great piano which unfortunately languished in a cold, dark church for decades.

Who Was Clifford Clyde Clark, Jr.?

Who Was Clifford Clyde Clark, Jr.?

He lived at 122½ South Maple Drive and later at 221 North Swall Drive in Beverly Hills, California. His phone number was CRestwood 10803. Alas, he does not appear to be Cliff Clark the actor. I thought he might have had some claim to fame on account of the formal nature of some pictures, but I can’t find anything on this guy besides a handful of perfunctory references at ancestry.com. He rented his apartments and appears to have been a bachelor. Going out on a limb I’ll say that he might have been gay. Other pictures not shown here depict him traveling to Europe and other destinations with a man who appears to be about his age. I guess there is nothing to be made of the formal photos. One certainly need not be a celebrity to have professional photos of themselves made. His father was Clifford Clark and his mother Fuzzy Clark.

Where In The World Is This?

Really, I’m asking. It’s a photo from the 1920s or 1930s. The skyline, if it can be called that, strikes me as distinctive but mysterious. No context in the form of accompanying photos is available.

Where In The World Is This?

Where In The World Is This?

FARNKS

I think I might start posting my typos collection more publicly. Mostly they go to Sorabji.MOBI, but that’s blocked from search engines.

FARNKS

FARNKS

At Other Places

The folks at “Ask A New Yorker” have been kind enough to allow me to post stories at their site. I approached them some months ago proposing that I write regularly on the subject of (what else?) payphones in New York City. I am piecing together a narrative history of payphones in this town, specifically focusing on my personal experiences and reflections. It’s not going to be a straight timeline but more of a grab bag of stories and anecdotes with a certain quantity of historical perspective. Publishing stories to Ask A New Yorker could serve as a preview for that collection, or it could simply be an end in itself.

One of the accounts for this narrative history will be a longer version of “No Dial Tone: The Mysterious Story of an Astoria Payphone” — my story about a memorable encounter I had one night when a payphone started ringing on Broadway in Astoria. I may never know what that incident was all about but I maintain it was some ham-handed attempt by producers of a reality TV program to mine the streets for material.

I am not sticking exclusively to payphones. “In Loving Memory?” asks if the Central Park Conservancy should consider removing plaques which bear the name of one of the most notorious villains in modern times: Bernard Madoff.

A couple of months ago I found MyFirstApartment.com, an entertaining collection of stories about the first apartments people lived in when they moved to New York. Submitting that story was easy since I had already written an account of my days at the Parc Lincoln, a subject I’ve explored at somewhat interminable length on sorabji.com.

The story at MyFirstApartment.com is called “Early 1990s on the Upper West Side: Transient hotel, the Apology Line, and a general cacophony.

Memories of the Parc Lincoln do not torment me like they used to but I will certainly never forget Room 317.

Will Anybody Actually Live Here?

432 Park Avenue is a nearly-completed residential tower in Manhattan. It will rise higher than the Empire State Building. It will be the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere. I just want to know who will actually live in this structure, particularly at the 1000+ foot levels of the highest floors. Will anything so seemingly normal as raising a family occur in the 8255 square foot penthouses that sit as high as 1255 feet above the ground? The floorplans are bizarre to me. Rooms seem relatively small for the accommodation, and the “breathtaking” views would become nauseating after a while. The sudden appearance of this building (along with the nearby One57 and as many as 4 more to come) seems ominous to me, an almost apocalyptic foreshadowing of society’s unsustainable path.

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue