The blog you nearly didn't get


Well, this is the blog post you nearly didn't get. Today I had to spend a day in an Emergency department at the hospital. Then I had to have a CT scan, only to find two kidney stones. One is on its way out, so that's why I'm posting a little earlier, just in case that pain comes back. The other isn't going to come out without an intervention involving a laser, it's 7mm so it can stay a while longer! Anyway, I am relatively pain free at the moment so here goes!


So many Americans buy new cars every year and are increasingly baffled by the technology, generally new safety features, and increasingly smart ways of staying connected on the journey between home and the super market. Don’t worry, we Brits are going through the exact same trauma.

In car technology
Not as confusing as some vehicles

Every three years my wife decides it’s time to upgrade the ride. Me, well I am quite happy with my Jaguar, (stereotypical Brit), it gets me from A-B and is a car. It’s built for two things, comfort and speed. As it is an older Jaguar, there’s nothing that jumps out at me before I start it. No fancy buttons to press, no rocket launcher type buttons, but my wife’s car; different story. Some woman likes to point out to me that the tyre pressure is low, there is no fuel, and I really need to pair my other phone.

By the time I start it, it has gone through the safety sequence, connected to a mobile phone, and heated the seats, I could have walked to the destination with a tortoise on a lead. Technology is actually slowing us down.

Some features automatically turn the car back into its lane should the driver close their eyes for a second and drift across into the other lane. Personally I wake up when I encounter the feeling of turbulence when the tyres bump over the painted lines. Some people like the feature, as for me, I am old school.

Technology once limited to high end luxury saloons is increasingly common in lower end cars. Everyone says that these new features hold tremendous potential to reduce accidents, eliminate collisions, or at the very least mitigate and reduce the potential for them to happen. But there is a major flaw, not least the Google self-driving car that was recently confused by a bike, but a degree in operating a vehicle’s features never comes as standard.

In fact, a good friend of mine recently purchased a very expensive vehicle full of buttons, screens, and safety features, last week he turned them off. Far too distracting. Reading the speedometer was like reading a Twitter feed apparently. In fact, his Twitter feed was coming up on a central screen while he was travelling down the M1 motorway. For those unfamiliar with the M1, it is essentially a car park that runs between just north of the Midlands and London. I am quite certain it is also a practice area for road work crews with an everlasting group of students.

My friend went back to the dealer for a two-hour lesson on using the cars features, but with less expensive models, that’s not really an option. The owner’s manual of my Jaguar is written in multiple languages so I can understand that it should be quite a hefty volume, but some of the owner’s manuals I have seen recently are like a full set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. They seem to have become manuals written by lawyers for lawyers. Now I am not sure about you, but I prefer to pick up a new car and go for a drive with a picnic packed in the trunk. I don’t want to read a 500-page opus that tells me that the beeping sound is an alert that I am just about to kill someone in my blind spot.

My friend was offered a DVD of the safety features but was unable to practice them as the car only played non-DVD film formats on its screen. There was far too much information in the DVD to remember, and on top of that the narrator seemed just as confused by the features. I watched the first five-minutes, some two hours later I was awoken by my friend’s wife asking if I wanted a coffee as the first one went cold.

A study carried out not too long ago found that some drivers believed collision warning systems would automatically brake to prevent a collision, when the reality was that the system would just alert the driver to hit the brakes. During my recent tour of new cars, I believe that the salesman thought this was the case himself. Never have I been so scared on a test drive.

In car technology
So which button do I press?

Some collision systems do offer the ability of self-braking cars, actually applying the brakes if the driver doesn’t act quickly enough to prevent the collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced recently that it has reached voluntary agreements with ten auto-manufacturers to make the system available in their cars. There is currently no time frame for implementation, but it is a solid sign of the direction of the next wave of vehicle models.


As for self-driving cars, you will know if you are a regular reader of this blog that I am not a lover of this type of driving experience. I hate sitting on a train or a bus, thinking that every time another train passes, “Oh my life, that was close”.

The problem it seems that today, most people have no idea how to get to their spare tyre. I looked for the spare for the best part of an hour in my wife’s last car, only to find an aerosol spray can. Apparently it is a rescue remedy for tyres, just one problem when it is 3am in the morning and you are stuck in the middle of the countryside with no mobile signal.

Personally I am a fan of turning a key, buckling up, and driving off into the sunset. I have no time to react to a beep or a Twitter alert while I am trying to maintain a steady 50mph through those average speed camera zones. Having said all this, my dream of owning the next Tesla is becoming ever urgent. Elon, if you are reading this, please can you send over one so that I can firstly overcome my fear of in-car technology and secondly, so that I can review it?


It appears that the Canadian Military are looking for a candidate for a new job position. The position is essentially for a car-hacker to hack their way into vehicle systems to test just how vulnerable they are to cyber-attacks.

A recently posted tender notice on the Canadian Governments procurement site says that the Department of National Defence is looking for bidders who can assess a vehicle, find vulnerabilities, and develop and demonstrate attacks on the vehicle. The Canadian Department of National Defence also notes that a car built in 2014 may include up to 100 computers that exchange up to 25 gigabytes of data every hour via the vehicles internal communications system as they run 60-million lines of code that manage 145-acctuators, and 75-sensors.

Earlier this year, hackers demonstrated how they could cut the engine of a moving Jeep on a highway over the internet by using the cars Fiat Chrysler Telematics system. That hack prompted Fiat-Chrysler to recall 1.4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. Then just a month later, Tesla delivered a software update following claims by security researchers that they had taken control of a Tesla Model S and successfully took control of the vehicle at low-speed. The Canadian government are offering $205,000 for the work to be carried out, just in case you are interested in having a go!


You will remember I wrote about the death of Sebastiano Magnanini a few weeks ago, and it appears from reports that two arrests have now been made. The finding of Sebastiano Magnanini’s body tied to a supermarket trolley in Regents Canal, London on the 24th September has been investigated by Police in the capital, and an announcement that two arrests have been made has been reported. Two men aged 61, and 22, were arrested this week in connection with Sebastiano Magnanini’s death.

Magnanini, who lived in South London and worked as a carpenter had previously been jailed in the 90’s after stealing an 18th Century art work worth around £1m, and painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, from a church in Venice. Detectives are continuing to appeal for information about his death.


London – Christie’s is pleased to announce Small is Beautiful, the second annual online sale of its kind, which is now live until 20 October 2015, and offers discerning collectors the opportunity to buy quality works with accessible prices across categories. For the first time, the sale combines works of art that are united in size and in quality of craftsmanship, from the Impressionist and Modern, Post War and Contemporary, Modern British, Latin American and Antiquities categories. Estimates range from $800 to $120,000.

The Impressionist and Modern lots in the sale include a rare bronze by Henri Matisse and a highly important work by Alexander Archipenko. Woman Combing Her Hair is one of the artist's most well-known works, and the sale offers what is currently the earliest recorded bronze cast of the subject, exhibited in Berlin in 1922.

The work has been in the same family ownership since acquired in the 1920s. Further Impressionist & Modern lots include a selection of works by German artists such as Ewald Matare, Georg Kolbe and Christoph Voll. Works by Voll rarely appear at auction, and this sale offers a unique marble by the artist, Akt mit Tuch, the first to appear at auction for over 30 years, having remained in the artist's family (estimate: $20,000 – $30,000).

The Modern British lots in the sale are led by two Henry Moore bronzes from the Collection of the family of Harry A. Brooks*. The most important of these is the unique Small Helmet Head bronze created by Moore in 1950 and exhibited in his important retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1988. It has been in the Brooks family collection for almost 60 years. In line with last year's Small is Beautiful sale, Christie's is offering international clients works by contemporary British artists including Giles Penny, Sophie Ryder and Emily Young.

The Post-War and Contemporary lots in the sale are led by an iconic Chillida Lurra terracotta (estimate: $100,000 – $150,000) and a stunning bronze by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (estimate: $80,000 – $120,000). In 2010, Christie's offered ten bronzes by the artist as part of the sale entitled: A View from the Spanish Steps - The Collection of Maria Angiolillo and brought the artist's work to a new international audience, with all works far outselling estimates.

Following the artist's passing in 2014 interest has continued to grow with exhibitions recently in Italy, including a large exhibition of monumental works in Pisa in 2014. The sale also includes a unique and rare 1960s paint tubes Accumulation by Arman.

Works by Latin American artists have seen increasing interest from international collectors for some time and those featured in the sale include exceptional pieces from modern and contemporary masters spanning the entire region. Leading the selection are rare and small-scale works ranging from the figurative to the abstract. Highlights include one of the only sculptures ever created by Cuban vanguard artist Mario Carreño, a wall-relief from Venezuelan-born leading kinetic artist Jesús Rafael Soto, and a unique marble table top sculpture by Uruguayan contemporary artist Pablo Atchugarry ($25,000 - $35,000).

Also included are beautiful pieces by modern and contemporary Mexican masters Francisco Zúñiga, Matias Goeritz, and Francisco Toledo.


Something is happening in London and I am not talking about Frieze week. On the South-Bank, in the historic and often overlooked district of Vauxhall, the surroundings are evolving into a desirable art destination that is soon to host a shiny new American Embassy.

London at Night
London - plenty of non-tourist areas you need to visit

A row of industrial Victorian studios have been converted into a vast and free exhibition space by artist Damien Hurst. It is right here that you will find some of the 3,000 artworks that Hirst has acquired over the years since the 1980’s.

There are some cultural treasures to be found at “Gasworks”, the recently refurbished artist’s studio and gallery. Once Vauxhall was considered to be on the outer edges of the capital, near to the Oval cricket ground, but now it has become both a residential district and a cultural hub.

Newport Street Gallery and Gasworks will be joined early next year by a third contemporary gallery, Cabinet, currently in the throes of constructing a new five-story home in Spring Gardens. The exhibition space and artists’ residences are in the former Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, an after-hours 19th-century hot spot where punters would pay a shilling to be entertained by the likes of lion tamers and fortunetellers. There will be none of that, unless someone create a cultural art installation in the area, but it is a rather exciting place to visit at the moment. If you plan on visiting London anytime soon, you might want to have a think about visiting the usual tourist areas because there is a lot more to London than Big Ben!

So another great week in art and technology, I will be sitting by the iPad all day just in case Elon gets in touch, and waiting to pass a kidney stone. If you plan to visit London in the near future, please do get in touch. As I visit London a few times each week, I have at last figured out where to go to see some art and will be running a feature on the ‘Underground’ art scene and avoiding the tourist trap, (excuse the intended underground pun!) in a future post. Take care and see you all soon.



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