Now For Something Completely Different

Rarely do we get a break around here from the lofty world of startup law, corporate strategy, venture capital, SEC rules, M&A, etc. I received a submission from a friend who publishes ski/snowboard magazines and a fly fishing magazine. An interesting and funny guy who can throw together a good read. Enjoy! ~ Joe

Geek Vacations of the Future

tranquilityBy Jeff Galbraith

Several years into our small publishing endeavor, my wife and I launched a flyfish title to complement our other media properties (focused on skiing and snowboarding), as a means to create a “summer job” for ourselves and our staff. We soon discovered, like the winter sports, fly fishing has morphed from a classic approach – casting to rising trout; skiing down ski area runs – to a more adventuresome and often esoteric one – skiing Sicily’s active volcanoes; fishing for primordial looking Amazonian species.

It isn’t enough to provide readers stunning river vistas from Wyoming and New Zealand, today’s fly fisher’s want to go deep and get weird.

From the aggressive and mysterious mansheer of southeast Asia, to the taimen, or “river wolf” of Mongolia, to the golden dorado of Bolivia — going to far flung reaches of the earth, surviving monsoons, tropical swelter and occasional war zones has come to embody what one might be tempted to call “extreme fishing” if the phrase didn’t sound a bit like “extreme sunbathing” or other (choose your own) non-sequitur. That said, there is something particularly engaging about a journey to remote waters for a species that otherwise exists for most Americans only in taxonomy books and at the Smithsonian. The taimen, the world’s largest salmonid, gets upwards of 200 lbs and six foot-plus; it basically looks like a brook trout that made its way into Jurassic Park. My friends who have fished for them, employ flies that look like bedroom slippers and are meant to imitate squirrels. The golden dorado of Amazonian headwaters looks like a really pissed off goldfish, and like the taimen, hunt in packs.

You’re just not going to get that in the Catskills or the Cascades.

However I think that like the Teddy Roosevelt sportsmen of yesteryear, this new breed of fisher may be starting to run short on Paleolithic fish species to drag up, snap a photo with and plaster on their Facebook (the reason people fish). While I am certain there are untold strange sculpin in Kilimanjaro run-off streams and others like this, at some point in the future, fisherfolk are going to hit a critical mass with travel, fish and a finite planet.

Which got me to thinking about Jaron Lanier. Jaron Lanier is a Silicon Valley icon both revered and dismissed. With his beard, dreadlocks and stout build, he tends to look a bit more like he should be selling nitrous balloons at Phish show parking lots than the man who created and coined the term “virtual reality” more than twenty years ago. Sneaking into the Stanford Navy labs at age 15, grad students and government employees there simply figured he must be one of many teen prodigies on campus. Jaron was free to go nuts on the best computer equipment at the time, and he created another world.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak almost two decades ago at the Stanford Professional Publishing Seminar in Palo Alto, CA. While others at the time in Silicon Valley were ratcheting up the cash machine with Java, Sun Microsystems, etc. Jaron had effectively walked away from the whole thing. Disillusioned with the military applications DARPA and the Pentagon were now applying to his virtual reality, he created programs for gamers, as well as for surgeons to do virtual practice runs before diving into the real thing. Jaron then retreated to his music, a computer infused sort of world beat thing. Today, he continues to create and critique, his latest work “You are not a Gadget” both inflaming and inspiring electronic culture.

But the thing I recall most about the talk he gave, was his description of virtual realities of the future. He used jukeboxes as an analogy: “When you are walking down the street and hear music coming out of a bar, without looking in, you can almost always tell whether the music is live or recorded. But if you had never heard recorded music, you would not be able to discern. Such it is with virtual reality: if you could transport yourself 100 years in the future, the quality of virtual reality programs would be indiscernible from actual reality, but for someone who has grown up with it, they will be able to tell.”

Enter the colo claw fish. Now, understand, the colo claw fish does not, in the traditional sense, exist. At least outside of Lucasfilms Productions.

Featured in the first Star Wars prequel “The Phantom Menace,” the colo claw fish makes an appearance when Qui-Gon Jinn and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (I’m going to choose to ignore the Jar Jar Binks character altogether) are running the underwater canyons of Naboo. According to Wookiepedia (yes, it is exactly what you think it is), the colo claw fish runs approximately 40 meters in length, has opposing claws to hold captive their prey and bioluminescent nodules along their sides to attract them. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were only able to escape certain death when their pursuing colo claw fish is munched by the sando aqua monster, a 200m-long carnivorous sea mammal.

All of which starts making the heat of Thailand or rough roads of Mongolia start looking like kid’s play. And taimen, mansheer or whatever fish from South America look like anchovies with puppy eyes.

The thought is, if Jaron Lanier can conceive it, George Lucas can create it and DARPA can build it, retired Microsofties and oil execs can fish it.

Which brings me to my friend Agent X. Agent X, aka Mark Farmer is one of those unique Americans who straddle the line between renegade and hero. A former Coast Guard rescue swimmer in Alaska, he has gone on at various times to work at gun shops, mount a viable campaign for mayor of Juneau, and consult on such films as “Independence Day” as well as to write and shoot for Jane’s Defense, Popular Science, and frequency: The Snowboarder’s Journal, about everything from advanced weapons systems to interplanetary snowboarding. X is the first person to shoot good, land-based photos of Area 51 as well as the inventor of the sport of “gumbysuiting” (running class 4 and 5 rapids in a CG survival suit and no boat). Although X is not a flyfisher by nature, he does seem like the ideal guide for colo claw fish.

Conscripting Agent X into leading clients in a new virtual-based fishing guide service won’t be the tough part. I suspect some snowboard gear, and healthy tips from the 1% would do the trick. The tough part will be wresting the coding from DARPA and licensing from Lucasfilms, but I would be surprised if both outfits don’t have crazed flyfishers with greater allegiance to fishing than anything else. There will be moles.

Regardless, rest assured the wheels are in motion and we’ll be taking bookings soon. The deal with Expedia will be significant.

Forget about Alaska, Bolivia or the mountains of Central Asia, it’s all about Naboo now.

Jeff Galbraith is the President of Funny Feelings LLC, publishers of The Ski Journal, Frequency: The Snowboarders’ Journal, The Flyfish Journal. He is an expert on the pursuit of non-existent piscine.

This entry was posted in Startups and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.