This guitar has words on it

In the annals of rock history, sometimes it's what you write on your guitar, rather than with your guitar, that makes a lasting impression. The most famous example of this has to be Woody Guthrie's famous acoustic, on which he had scrawled "this machine kills fascists." I got to thinking about this two days ago, while standing amidst 65,000 sweaty Arcade Fire fans in 100 degree heat to watch The Arcade Fire headline the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival -- it was worth every droplet of sweat -- when bandleader Win Butler played several songs wearing a guitar on which he had emblazoned "sak vide pa kanpe." According to Wikipedia, it's a Haitian proverb meaning "an empty sack cannot stand" in Creole, apparently a reference to extreme poverty in Haiti, the country of origin of Butler wife and bandmate, Régine.

Other guitar-borne messages you might find interesting:

"¢ Sheryl Crow has performed several times with "NO WAR" written on her guitar.


"¢ The guitar player for indie rock outfit Explosions in the Sky was detained briefly in 2003 at an Amsterdam airport when authorities discovered he had "This plane will crash tomorrow" scrawled on his guitar. Creepy story: the band released their album, which featured strangely elegiac artwork of an angel casting a beam of light toward a biplane in a red-orange sky (pictured). The kicker: the album was released on September 10, 2001.
"¢ There have been a number of parodies/tributes to Guthrie's "fascists" guitar over the years. Singer David Rovics toured with a guitar on which was written "this guitar kills CEOs" (in support of his album Halliburton Boardroom Massacre); singer Cameron Gill wrote "this machine kills hipsters" on his axe; and the mohawked guitarist of The Bicycles sports a guitar with "this machine kills fashions" written on it.

Below: Win Butler of The Arcade Fire smashes his be-messaged guitar on Saturday Night Live.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


More from mental floss studios