NZ Christchurch travel – The Bog session

Posted by jerry on November 5th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music, Travel

The tee-shirt read “I spend Tuesday nights in the Bog” But on closer inspection it turned out that The Bog is in fact an Irish bar located at the end of the City Mall in Christchurch New Zealand – and every Tuesday night there is a traditional Irish music session.

The bog Irish bar

Traditional? Well if you count a guy playing trumpet while standing on a table traditional… but yes the music is mainly old-school Irish celtic.

The bog Irish bar

So Eve, having made sure I brought the fiddle over, suggested we have a few tunes at the Bog. I was just going to sit in a corner somewhere unobtrusive and play odd tunes as I knew them – especially when they said they were recording that particular night for a live album.

The bog Irish bar

I was directed over to where other fiddle players were seated. Eve introduced me around to a few of the main players and there was a kind of band all mic-ed up and they would lead the session.

The bog Irish bar

Then this guy leans over and asks if I play anything other than Irish? So I said sure – how about some scottish? and started off a couple of tunes. Suddenly it became apparent that most of the place had gone quiet and everyone was watching me. The fiddle layer in the band then leant over and said “wanna swap places?” I declined, but a couple of the main players came over and complimented my playing.

The bog Irish bar

Then the session got going and to my surprise I knew almost all the tunes.

The bog Irish bar

At one point Neville – with the trumpet – dragged me out to play with him on the front microphone. And when Athol Highlanders March came on it was only natural that I should dance to the tune as I played. That seemed to get a few people going and soon there was another fiddle player out and dancing too. So I kind of turned reluctantly into a guest celebrity.

The bog Irish bar

It was a grand session – very lively and a load of fun. And it’s on every Tuesday evening – so if you’re travelling through, why not pop in for a pint of the good stuff and have a few tunes yourself 🙂

The bog Irish bar


NZ – Christchurch museum

Posted by jerry on November 1st, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Motorcycling, Travel

NZ Canterbury Musuem, Christchurch

NZ Canterbury musem

This is a good regional museum – well equipped and laid out. The collection is arranged chronologically from the first peoples – Iwi tawhito- whenua hou (Ancient peoples – new lands) covering first settlment artifacts, including stone axxes and adzes and a form of bow drill. There was an interesting note that there s little evidence of tribal warfare until the Moa (flightless bird) was hunted to extinction, with the speculation that resource pressures brought competition and conflict.

Decorative arts from early European settlement are well represented with glass and ceramics and furniture and costumes.

‘Christchurch Street’ – a recreated Victorian period street makes for a good immersive experience of life in the Victorian times.

But perhaps the most fascinating and unique exhibition is that devoted to Antarctic exploration. I was particularly taken by the steampunk looking dome used at Hallett Station. The dome was made from fibreglass and assembled in place by US Navy Seabees in 1957. The dome has a tongue and groove wooden floor and was assembled using brass bolts to ensure that there were no magnetic components. It was used as a weather observation post and housed a sensitive variograph which recorded tiny changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The observatory was kept free of magnetic contamination by ensuring that it contained no metal furniture or other items.


The dome was recovered from the base in 2004 when the Station was closed and the base site cleaned up.

Another interesting exhibit was Ivan Mauger’s 1970 winning speedway motorcycle. He had won the 1968 and 1969 World speedway championships, and undertook a US tour, during which an American industrialist told him that if he won the championship a record third time running he would gold plate the motorcycle. After the 1970 win, the bike was shipped to the US where it was dismantled and every component was gold plated over the succeeding 18 months at a cost of US$500,000 – even the pistons and valves are gold plated. But otherwise the bike is in exactly the condition in which it fininished the last race – so in theory at least it is a fully functional motorcycle.

Ivan Mauger gold bike

That bike can be seen today in Canterbury museum as a piece of motorcycling history.

How Manga conquered America

Posted by jerry on October 23rd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Writing

Wired magazine online has a manga-format brief history of how that popular culture art-form went from being a marginal specialist import to a publishing phenomenon the likes of which would make Astro-boy (Tetsuwan Atom) proud. Wired has a download in PDF format. But there is a twist – the pdf is in traditional Japanese manga style so you read from back to front and right to left. Considering Manga’s influence on the early cyberpunk science fiction movement this is certainly a cultural form to take seriously. But you knew that already from the way manga is gradually creeping down the central aisles of most contemporary bookshops.

manga history

I suspect that the manga explosion is also in part a function of a growing sophisticated visual literacy – bourne of the web and fed by new media of all formats. But I like too the uncompromising aspect of the back-to front binding (great for left handed reading!).


Newseums – museum in Second Life

Posted by jerry on October 22nd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Writing

What does the Newseum, Sistine Chapel and the Sydney Harbour Bridge have in common? They have simulacra in virtual world Second Life. For some the build raises the question of whether real life (RL) museums are a thing of the past. a Washington Post article poses the question:

Are museums in the bone-and-pigment business, reliquaries of the past? Are they in the theater business, telling stories through sensational lighting, presentations like stage sets and costumed interpretive actors? Are museums in the experience business, forced to reach for ever fancier gizmos and blockbusters to compete with the sports world and Disney for family time and money?

Perhaps they are all of these things and more. But then even the RL artworks within medieval or Renaissance religious architecture were about experiencing the virtual. Consider the perspective studies that appear to continue RL architecture into a fresco. Perhaps SL is a little bit like that.

Is it as good as the real thing? It depends on what the real thing is. The lovingly detailed Michaelangelo fresco copy in the virtual Sistine Chapel can be viewed as a real lovingly detailed Michaelangelo fresco copy in a virtual Sistine Chapel, while the one in the RL Sistine chapel is also real – yet partially virtual in virtue of its function as art, and overlaid with centuries of interpretation so that before you see the real one your concept of it is preconfigured before you get there. The difference being that in SL you can fly up to the ceiling for a closer look! The SL one is built here at vassar/165/91/24 (slurl).

The Newseum museum of news offers a parallel build in SL of the one currently being completed in Washington DC USA – or it will if they release it to the public (something they haven’t yet decided upon). So it is a virtual museum in several planes – in RL (still being built); in virtual form (as a build in SL) and in further virtual form (it doesn’t exist yet).

This is precisely the discussion evoked by Magritte’s famous painting: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) – because of course it is not a pipe, but a representation of one.

magritte pipe

After that the distinctions just get a bit academic.

Thanks to Archinect for the link.

Little known steam bike

Posted by jerry on October 21st, 2007 — Posted in Motorcycling, Steam

In 1917 William Taylor built a steam motorbike based on an F-N. The bike used a two-cylinder double acting steam engine. But there is little other information on this bike.

Taylor steam bike
Taylor steam bike

But there may be some hints in that at one point in the 1890s William Taylor apparently worked with Wachs – a company that produced steam engines ranging from 1HP-50HP – mainly for the small engine market to power workshop tools and small generators. Such engines might well be ideal for adaptation to motorcycle use. The wachs engines were also double-acting and likely came in a twin cylinder model.

Wachs steam engine
Wachs steam engine

Taylor steam bike

Interestingly, the bike used shaft drive – so there would have been little to wear out.

If anyone has any more information on this unusual bike I’d love to hear from you