Violin repaired – German Maggini copy

Posted by jerry on March 10th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music

One of the best bits of news I received on my birthday was that my concert violin is fixed. Four cracks repaired, new bass bar, new end block – so it was fairly major. But worth it 🙂

German Magini copy violin

Let me tell you the story of this violin. In the early 1980s I was touring in the northwest of Western Australia, with the Mucky Duck Bush Band and we played a show at a mining town called Mount Newman. After the show a woman came up and said how she enjoyed my playing – and how it reminded her of her uncle who used to play. She then said that she had had her uncle’s violin for the past 20 years since he had passed away. And she said she’d like to give it to me so that it can be played again the way he played it. On one condition. I would need to have it rebuilt as the dry hot summers in Mt Newman had taken its toll and the plates had separated – it was in pieces!

I pointed out that I would be leaving for the next town early next day, but if she could bring it round I’d love to see it. And I thought nothing more about it.

The banging on my motel room door at 06:30AM woke me with a start and I quickly threw on jeans and tee-shirt and opened the door. And there was (as I recall her name) Mrs Richardson? Simpson? bearing a box. A quick glance at the double purfling and the inlay in the back convinced me that this could be something special. We shook hands warmly as I duly promised to have the violin rebuilt. I knew just the person – Scott Wise a then up and coming luthier – and very fine musician in his own right.

It was several weeks later that Scott phoned me and told me I’d better get down to his workshop. He wouldn’t say anything more. When I arrived he handed me a bow and the newly restored violin. I must’ve played it for an hour in his workshop before I could bring myself to put it down. The tone was amazing and very loud – as perhaps only a German violin could be.

It instantly became my concert violin – at least until the hardangerfiddle was built – but that’s another story – and from then on the concerts were shared between the two instruments.

German Maggini copy violin

German Maggini copy violin

German Maggini copy violin

German Maggini copy violin

The side decoration is consistent with 1870s-1890s (Arts and Crafts Movement), the single turn on the scroll is not characteristic of Maggini and there is a label on the inside of the top plate in German which doesn’t give a makers name, just a quote that translates loosely as: “joy comes to he who brings joy to others“. A delightful sentiment 🙂 The back is flamed maple, the front is spruce, and the belly swell is unusually deep, yielding a rich mellow tone. I’ll post an audio link soon so you can hear it too 🙂

If anyone can shed any further light on the maker of this fine instrument, or if you have a similar one, I’d love to hear from you.

One possible clue is an uncertain dating by a US violin shop that lists a similar violin one as ca1930s from a ‘sears’ catalogue! Again if anyone has info on the maker I ‘d love to hear from you 🙂

Maggini copy violin


Vale Jean Baudrillard 20 June 1929 – 6 March 2007

Posted by jerry on March 9th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Theory, Writing

French postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard died on my birthday, aged 77. He leaves us with a question he himself posed in 2004 in a paper he presented at the European Graduate School in 2004:

… When the referent no longer exists, can we still speak of an image?

Where Roland Barthes spoke of language as a mediation of the real, Baudrillard realised that the mediation is what we have access to, not the thing itself – and irrespective of whether or not the thing itself was actual. The world is richer for his having been, and poorer for his departure.

Jean Baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard at the European Graduate School, 2004

I still think his short book Simulations was his best work.


Plato and new media

Posted by jerry on March 8th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, New media, Technology, Theory, Writing

Plato, one of the first new media analysts was concerned about the then new technology of writing. And he understood the potential (and actual) pitfalls of this new operating system. The same has been true of all subsequent new technologies. Always there remains the need for a meta-helper – one who understands the new technology to help later adopters make full use of the new technology.

This wonderful skit on medieval helpdesk support to a new user switching from scrolls to folio books is truly one of the internet video classics!


There is a wonderful parable here that speaks to one of Plato’s greatest concerns with writing over face-to-face communication. And that is that when something is written you can no longer query it or interrogate it – a bit like the user manual in the video here.

Plato, writing between 411 and 406 BC in the Phaedrus noted five key concerns with new information technology:

  • Education will suffer because it presents information rather than promoting thought
  • Information security will be compromised
  • Authorship will be difficult to authenticate;
  • It will be nothing more than a shallow distraction, devoid of serious purpose; and
  • people will stop interacting with real people.

Quite prescient really when you consider the many criticisms of the internet and with web 2.0. His objections were raised almost 2500 years ago, but remain true today, and form the basis for the key themes of almost any information technology seminar whether about censorship or eLaw or online banking or copyright.

In popular discourse, the internet is often presented as a dangerous and anarchic space. At the heart of the arguments against the internet lies the issue of authenticity.

The point is that virtual communities, like SecondLife, are real communities that exist in a virtual space. But people are still talking to people, albeit mediated by computers. It is no different from peopletalking on telephones, excpt that the interface is different.

In addition, the real/virtual distinction breaks down because human idiscourse is already mediated through language and social conventions – we can no longer harken back nostalgically to a ‘state of nature’.

There’s a lot more about this in chapter 9 of my book Virtual States, but there are elements here that will form the basis for my next book – more on that later.

Thanks to Angela Thomas for the YouTube link (though I haven’t yet figured out how to embed it properly into my self-hosted WordPress blog) *sigh*.


Speech accent archive

Posted by jerry on March 7th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Writing

We deal so much on the web with visual literacy and linguistic literacy, but as direct oral communication gets easier on the web so much can be lost in translation – from English to English due to regional variation in accent. At George Mason University there is a great site for exploring an archive of accents from around the world.

speech accent archive

You can browse by region or via the world map and there are sound samples as well as a descriptive linguistic transcription. Fascinating site! Check it out 🙂

Thanks to languagehat for the link 🙂 and to Sharon for pointing it out to me
Thanks to

Bags of power!

Posted by jerry on March 6th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology, Travel

A backpack that recharges your laptop/PDA/phone – now that’s what I’d like! Great for folk festivals where the power isn’t always plentiful, but you really need to keep things running – like an MP3 recorder for the music sessions to help you learn a new tune. All you need now is a backpack that recharges with a little ray of sunshine – and in a five year drought there’s plenty of that in Australia 🙂

solar bag

The Reware Juice Bag is just that – a backpack covered with flexible solar cells. They come in bright colours and with a built-in car lighter socket to plug in your adapter for whatever you need to keep charged – your camera, your laptop your PDA or phone. The thing is water resistant, light and padded to keep your electronics safe. And they’re made from recycled drink plastic drink bottles woven into a strong textile fibre.
I guess there are two things that give me pause before jumping straight in with my credit card. The first is price – these things aren’t cheap at around US$275, and the second, and bigger concern is how they travel through airports these days. I can just see the security guys having a sense of humour failure as they run it through the x-ray machines and see all those wires … Anyone been through an airport lately with one of these? I’d love to hear from you if you have.

And for the more fashion conscious there are other more discreet handbags – that actually look more like fashion bags than technology.

Solarjo power purse

But it’s a question of taste – Sharon would prefer more of a shoulder tote bag than either a backpack or a bag that just keeps your hands full. So the technology is coming – but I guess the designers still have a bit of a way to go yet 🙂

Some go part way, like this Eclipse shoulder bag – but it kinda looks like an anti-fashion statement
Eclipse shoulder bag

But these Voltaic ones are starting to look the part

Voltaic bag

Either way I like the direction this is going – would’ve been really handy in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Canberra when we were without power for a week.

It has the potential to be great travel technology if they can keep it tough enough and flexible enough to take the wear. Thanks to Popgadget via Angela’s blog