Tuesday, February 13, 2007


(Guest Blog by Bill Gasarch has has a large collection 
of novelty songs, mostly funny songs.)

I) There was a satire on Saturday Night Life called
CONSPIRACY THEORY ROCK (which was in the style of
SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK) that was brilliant, and only aired
once.  (Too controversial, though this posting is not
about that.) I have this video clip in my collection,
and it was one of the rarest things in it.

NOW this clip is on YOU-TUBE!  Hence I can no longer
claim it is `rare'.  But the YOU-TUBE clip says
``rare video footage''


II) With the ability to make perfect copies of CD's,
and MP3's its hard to say what it means to have a
`rare recording'.  If you have the original Vinyl
record or reel-to-reel tapes, that may be rare, but
I'd RATHER have the version put on CD or MP3.

III) Some paintings sell for gobs of money.  Do we have
the tech to reproduce those exactly (in 3D)? I suspect
no, but one day we will (holographs?).  When that day
comes, will the prices drop?  Maybe not- its already
an artificial market; `originals' may still be valuable.

IV) What music or video or TV shows or whatever bring
produced now will be considered `rare' in the future?
Note that even really bad TV shows and movies are on DVD.
Some really bad movies even have `directors cuts'.

V) So, what is the rarest thing in my collection now?
In 1976 I audio taped off of TV a satire- a Chrismas
song as if done by Bob Dylan.  I did not know who did
it.  I still don't.  I have not found it anywhere else.
It does not seem to be on vinyl, audio, CD, or MP3.
Since I have the largest Bob Dylan Satire Collection
in the world, (www.cs.umd.edu/~gasarch/dylan/dylan.html)
and this is known by that community (How large is that
community? Larger than the Gen Multidim Poly VDW
community) the fact that I can't find it, and nobody
has emailed me about it, means ... its rare! However,
I would rather FIND it on CD or some other medium and
know who did it than preserve its rarity.


  1. If you know someplace online to find Pierre Henry recordings, please post.

  2. How about synthetic gemstones? How long will natural gemstones remain expensive if you can manufacture gemstones that cannot be distinguished except by outrageously expesnive scientific equipment?

  3. A cynical definition: a recording is rare if you can be sued for owning it.

    Note that all TV clips are still within copyright range.

    As for other rarities and technology:

    Prints can be reproduced VERY faithfully, yet "originals" (sometimes in the hundreds) fetch a high price. Some unscrupulous dealers--and, perhaps some unscrupulous artists--have been known to imundate the universe with "original" prints.

    Some audiophiles complain that CDs introduce extra distortion to recorded music. Of course mp3 is a lossy compression, and the quality of those recordings is audibly worse than AIFF.

  4. Coin collectors deal with the question of rarity rathre directly. Along with date, grade, mintmark, and all that, they assign Rarity numbers ranging from R-1 (very common) to R-8 (unique). Some coins are regarded as "uncollectable", these being uniques or nearly so, and all known examples owned by major museums.

    By this definition, a digital file would never be considered rare, as it may be reporduced ad infinitum

  5. Is the list of accepted STOC'07 papers out?

  6. Or How about EC ? Authors have been notified, but there's still no list.

  7. http://research.microsoft.com/research/theory/feige/homepagefiles/stoc2007accept.txt

  8. here's an attempt at dealing with similar questions from 1936 -
    "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
    W. Benjamin