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Julian Cossmann Cooke

Maddening things people say to you about your craft

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"Oh, do you play? you must play."  I usually respond by saying that it was playing which led me to making,  as it is much easier to make a violin than it is to play one. I also like to say it was that one song which led me to it: "Sex and Violins".

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So few people have ever met someone who makes violins that they have no idea about what to say-- so what comes out of their mouths seems silly to us. See the "curse of knowledge" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_knowledge to better understand your reactions.

 

 

Part of the work of any member of a profession is occasional public relations work which often means answering the same simplistic questions over and over again. Work on developing thoughtful and helpful responses.

 

And always remember that computer techs and auto repair people have lists of stupid questions and comments we make to them.

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And always remember that computer techs and auto repair people have lists of stupid questions and comments we make to them.

 

This!

 

I can assure you that armorers get outrageous questions as well.  I could give some examples, but no one here would understand why they were funny. ;)

 

Mac

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And always remember that computer techs and auto repair people have lists of stupid questions and comments we make to them.

Me at a party, talking to a very cute architect:

"What's your favorite building?"

Her: "God, I hate that question."

So yeah.

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So a doctor and a lawyer meet up at a dinner party. The conversation turns to the most dreaded topic they always seem to have to face that of being asked professional questions at the parties. The Doctor asks the lawyer for his advice on how to confront the issue without being impolite. The lawyer tells the doctor to just listen patently and then send a bill for his time to the person the next day. The doctor went off feeling much better. The next morning he receives a bill from the lawyer in the mail.

 

Reese

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I might. 

 

"So, Mac, I hear you build armor.  How much will it be to make me a sword?" ------That's a different occupation. I build armor.

 

"Would you be called a blacksmith?"-------No.  I would be called an armorer.

 

"Armor! Like the knights used to wear?  Is there any call for that?"    ------Yes, that is what I do for a living.

 

" If you got knocked down while you wearing all that stuff, you'd be helpless, right?" ------No.  It is an insult to our ancestors to believe that they would be that stupid.

 

"How much will it cost for you to make me a shield with my family's coat of arms?"-----I don't know.  You should speak to a shield maker.

 

"Do you make, like, the helmet and everything?" ------Yes.  I'm an armorer. That's what we do.

 

"But, they would not have had padding in the real helmets, right?" --------Of course they had padding in their helmets.

 

"You charge that much for a suit of armor!?......What do the materials cost?------Somewhere between $100 and $200, but I usually don't even consider that in the price.

 

"Couldn't someone just stab through the eye holes in the helmet?"--------You could try that, but the guy in the armor would be killing you at that time.

 

"What's you favorite sort of armor"-------The one that I am about to begin work on.

 

"What's you least favorite sort of armor-----The one I just finished.

 

"My brother-in-law runs an auto body shop.  I bet he could make armor."-----I look forward to seeing that.

 

"What do you say for occupation on your income tax form?" -----Armorer

 

"You must get a lot of work from museums.------No.  Museums try not to buy fakes.

 

 

Mac

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"Couldn't someone just stab through the eye holes in the helmet?"--------You could try that, but the guy in the armor would be killing you at that time.

 

Couldn't you just stab with a reeeeeaallly long pole?

 

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.   :) 

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...I've fixed fencing equipment...in the armoury...do I count as an armourer? ;)

 

I wanted to add though...that while as funny as all this is (in house) we need to remember that the people asking questions are mostly quite genuine in their interest...and how can you expect them to know more?

 

As big a fan as I am of Lara St. John (and I had the opportunity to meet her in person after a concert at one time...lovely woman) I was disappointed by one of her blog entries.  She was poking fun at people who approached her at airports and the like and asked her if she was carrying violin, sharing stories of when they were little and took violin lessons, etc.  I can understand that when you travel a lot, and are tired and cranky at airports and train stations, you don't necessarily want to field these 'beginner' questions, but at least people ARE showing enough of an interest to ask questions.  With the current state (decline?) of the classical music genre, I'd think it  would be a good promotions exercise vs. just an annoyance.

 

I generally haul my violin/viola (or the bassoon) with me when I'm in town running errands because I won't leave the instrument/s in the car...so I get a few looks and questions...mostly revolving around machine guns...but that's okay.  Giggling with strangers is fun... :P

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"Couldn't someone just stab through the eye holes in the helmet?"--------You could try that, but the guy in the armor would be killing you at that time.

 

Couldn't you just stab with a reeeeeaallly long pole?

 

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.   :) 

You could......  But, unless you can run backward faster than the other guy can run forward, you only get one try. ;)

 

Mac

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...I've fixed fencing equipment...in the armoury...do I count as an armourer? ;)

 

I wanted to add though...that while as funny as all this is (in house) we need to remember that the people asking questions are mostly quite genuine in their interest...and how can you expect them to know more?

 

It's true.  Fencers call the guy who maintains their equipment an armorer.  Likewise the guy who works in a police armory is also called by that title.   But,  I think the three different sorts usually congregate at different tables at the pub.

 

I absolutely agree with you, Rue.  Folks ask these sorts of questions out of ignorance, and we should always try to give them an informative answer without any sarcasm or condescension.   On the other hand, you should hear the snarky answers I claim to have made when I am telling "no-shit stories" to the other guys at the medieval-plate-armorers table in the pub! :D

 

Mac

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I'll just have to move our table closer to your table next time we're all at a pub together... :D

"Couldn't someone just stab through the eye holes in the helmet?"--------

I also safety checked helmets to make SURE no one could stab anyone else in the eye... <_<

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While most questions are honest and reflect interest, there is a small percentage of them that are an attempt to impress companions. For "what is the difference between a violin and a fiddle," my stock answer is "one syllable." That always works.

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David Burgess, on 30 Nov 2013 - 2:11 PM, said:snapback.png

Hah, about 20 years ago, I actually knew a gal who worked in a bra making factory.

Young and stupid as I was at the time, I didn't know enough to ask her if she could get me a job. :o

In the fitting department ...........

 

Hey I could put that on my resume.

 

Oh Rats, that's fitting not fittings

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We won't ask about the "job"...but anyway:

 

-- So how did you make these? (pointing at the pegs). Reply:" well those are bought from a supplier."

-Oh...So how did you make this? (pointing at the tailpiece) Reply: "uh ...bought that too"

-(blank facial expression) ...it's...uh...nice...(handing the violin back to me and wiping their hands on their shirt) 

 

Welcome to My world only in reverse.

"you mean you only make PARTS of violins?"

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I have a booth at "Punkinfiddle" every year, in Wells, Maine. It's an all-day affair of fielding these questions over and over again. It could be tedious, but I love that people are really intrigued. Most have never even thought about how something like a fiddle is made. So I try to answer each person seriously.

Yes, the number one question is: "What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?"  

Number two: "What woods do you use?" or "How long does it take you?"

 

After that, it's usually something about the latest "secret of Strad" that somebody has "discovered", or else they ask about some "really old" instrument they have squirreled away somewhere (which usually gets me talking about the "Tiffany" lamps available at Home Depot). Or they might ask about the Red Violin. 

 

Yeah, the questions may be dumb, and the repetition gets old, but that's from my point of view. From their point of view, a whole unusual world has opened up, and they want to know more. I imagine, if I met an astronaut, I'd probably ask something stupid like "could you really see the whole planet from up in space?" or even the absurd "how can you tell which way is up when you're weightless?"  Even when asking questions like this I'd know they were dumb questions, but I wouldn't have the knowledge base to ask anything more relevant, and besides, the real motive behind asking is to express interest, to communicate and touch this intriguing new world.  

 

So no, I don't mind the stupid questions. They're sort of fun. 

 

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...I've fixed fencing equipment...in the armoury...do I count as an armourer? ;)

 

I wanted to add though...that while as funny as all this is (in house) we need to remember that the people asking questions are mostly quite genuine in their interest...and how can you expect them to know more?

 

As big a fan as I am of Lara St. John (and I had the opportunity to meet her in person after a concert at one time...lovely woman) I was disappointed by one of her blog entries.  She was poking fun at people who approached her at airports and the like and asked her if she was carrying violin, sharing stories of when they were little and took violin lessons, etc.  I can understand that when you travel a lot, and are tired and cranky at airports and train stations, you don't necessarily want to field these 'beginner' questions, but at least people ARE showing enough of an interest to ask questions.  With the current state (decline?) of the classical music genre, I'd think it  would be a good promotions exercise vs. just an annoyance.

 

I generally haul my violin/viola (or the bassoon) with me when I'm in town running errands because I won't leave the instrument/s in the car...so I get a few looks and questions...mostly revolving around machine guns...but that's okay.  Giggling with strangers is fun... :P

Can we add situations to the list as well as people's reactions? I live in Lisbon, Lisbon Portugal, what seems to be the only european capital without a marked violin tradition or historic ties of any sort with any viol family instrument hence my exceptionally long list of stories with people who caused situations... I have a "short" temper which tends to become shorter when people whisper about some object of mine, a short temper which becomes microscopic normally as I absolutely can't stand when people gawk at what I consider none of their business.

 

Situation - Every single time I hop on a plane (10/12 times a year?) or leave the house with my instrument (2/3 times a week) people gawk, as in stop and stare, comment, whisper, point fingers, make odd bowing gestures, call out the name of the instrument they think fits inside an oblong case etc etc. Me + any bag/case shaped anything like a violin = bewildered reactions which indicate the gawkers have no idea what to do with themselves -_- I have yet to walk in Lisbon's center without hearing at least half a dozen times the work " Violino" or see reactions which look like they're in the presence of a foreign body they can't make out is "good willed" or downright evil, proof = I've been going to my new luthier's shop every day for 2 weeks straight to see her work and  have strung my number one along. Not once has the above situation/group of situations ceased to happen.

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i don't get a chance to answer a lot of questions about violins, but I have developed answers to these:

 

Q: What's the difference in a violin and a fiddle?

A: A fiddle generally has a flatter bridge so the fiddler can play on 2 or 3 strings at once and 4 fine tuners.  A violin will generally have a rounder bridge and only 1 fine tuner.  A fiddle is generally used for folk music while a violin is used for classical.

 

Q: What wood do you use?

A: I use maple for the back and spruce for the top because that's what Strad used.

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