Thursday, March 1, 2012

In 1974, art dealer Tony Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso's Guernica, which hung in the Museum of Modern Art, with the words "KILL LIES ALL" (probably a typo in the heat of the moment). It is believed that Shafrazi was protesting something or other and as a result, America lost the painting to Spain. In 2006 a man tripped over his shoelace at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum in the U.K. and proceededto fall down a staircase, colliding with three 300-year-old Chinese vases and shattering them. In January of 2010 Pablo Picasso's Rose period painting The Actor was damaged when a woman fell off her heels at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York creating a six-inch gash. In January 2012, a Denver woman, drunk, dragged her naked bottom against a Clyfford Still painting worth $30 million, punched it, slid down against it and with a final flourish, urinated on herself. On Febuary 25, 2012, a far less sinister 15 year-old inadvertently knocked over a Tracey Emin multiple at my kid’s curated show and it didn’t get damaged, but made it into 2 major newspaper and a BBC radio talk show.

The talk of the town is how could I have let a hoard of wild children run loose at a gallery filled with art and permit this mishap to occur, which only happened in the last minutes of a 5-hour opening. Did someone forget about the slaughtering going on in Syria or Iran’s imminent deployment of nuclear weapons? I guess teens coming together and presenting an art exhibit with their peers side by side with professional artists doesn’t make for much news—and you wonder why the model of being famous for being an asshole is so widely embraced the world over. Here is a perfect example of negative reinforcement that when something lousy happens (with no mal intent), you are plastered all over the press and celebrated.

On the BBC they described the show as practically an all night rave—there were rather 3 small, innocuous bands made up of kids and an adult group, all civilized to a fault. I was asked if this incident would put off more parents and children from undertaking similar activities to this, as if there are 1000 like-minded families gearing up to co-curate contemporary art exhibits. Then I was questioned how my kids would make the money for restitution to cover damage, to which I replied they could begin by selling some of the paintings in the show. I am sorry but my kids and their friends took a big risk displaying the art made with much passion in such a context, and it was a great outcome and experience working with them all towards this goal. If not for the gallery and their art endeavors what else is there to do in London? Go to the mall, or worse (if there is something as bad as Westfield).

I even had to defend myself at last night’s Teacher – Parents’ Meetings, discussing more this negligible art affair then the performance of my children at school. Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. What this has taught me is only to tone it down on fb as the newspapers swooped onto my page and printed some less than flattering comments I made about the situation—not the most pleasant reality test. And I understand the artist is not amused by the publicity, which reminds me of a now seemingly prophetic photo I made in 2006. Finally that this episode should not go totally to waste, some enterprising chap sent me the following email. Out of every mishap comes some way forward…for someone to figure out how to make a buck off it.

Dear Mr Schachter,

I hope you don’t mind the direct approach, only after reading in the Evening Standard about an incident at your gallery, albeit accidental, I wondered if you would be reviewing your security staff supplier?

I am the Director of Celebrity Protection Ltd (CPL), based in London we specialise in providing security services to the Entertainment and Arts Industries. With many years’ experience and customer satisfaction we believe we offer a service second to none. I have attached our company brochure which includes client references should the above be of interest, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you wish to discuss further.

Many thanks for your time.

Kind regards,

Paul Dallanegra
CPL Security Ltd
Tel: 020 7561 0101

image: the fear

Thursday, October 27, 2011

article for an upcoming conde nast car publication

We are facing an unprecedented confluence of international macroeconomic conditions that have collided with the unintended result of pushing prices for rare and desirable collectibles far into the stratosphere. Never before have these forces raged with such ferocity and velocity, bringing into alignment the disparate markets of art, classic cars, wine and property. Crystallizing the general malaise, there is the fear of inflation, uncertainty in valuing currencies, wildly gyrating stock markets (trending lower still), banks teetering, interest rates hovering near zero, sovereign debt bordering on worthless, commodity prices under pressure and dramatic political uncertainly and turmoil. It’s depressing just listing the plethora of negativity preoccupying world markets. So what better time to buy a pretty picture, a good bottle of wine, a nice set of wheels and a big garage to park it in?

Seriously, tangible assets have never before in history been so universally viewed as attractive and safe a harbor to park cash in. Coupled with an offsetting explosion in the generation of wealth in emerging markets over the recent past and you have all the ingredients in place to redefine the criteria for the valuation of collectibles. The beneficiaries are a $250,000,000 Cezanne painting and a $16,400,000 Ferrari. Sadly, with values rising so meteorically there is something tragic about the notion of paintings we don't hang, wine we don't drink, houses we don't occupy and cars we never drive. Other than an art collection of masterpieces, there is nothing to compare to the lineup of the RAC TT Race at the Goodwood Revival with Cobras and GTOs galore. Julian Treger, principal of Audley Capital, a fund the Financial Times called one of the world’s best last year, stated about art and cars: “They are both hard assets in a world of shortages of the best. Though art and cars have different collectors they have the same dynamics. Ferraris are very sculptural, but also incredibly well branded.” Where and when it will all end is anyone’s guess, but neither a $100 million car nor a $1 billion work of art would surprise me.

It may appear somehow wrong and that one should feel a sense of guilt enjoying the pleasures, delights and accompanying rising values of collectibles in the face of such seemingly universal hardship, but business has no moral compass. And although many remain skeptical, I am firmly of the belief that art and cars have inherent, calculable values. The factors driving escalating prices among art and cars coincide: rarity, history, provenance, and condition. The Supreme Court of the United States were asked to decide a case involving pornography and the Chief Justice replied he couldn’t explain it but he knew it when he saw it and the same applies with a great work of art or a sublime piece of automotive design and engineering. Only just recently, seven of auction house Gooding's top 15 Pebble Beach sellers were Ferraris: why does Ferrari above all other marques tend to dominate? Is it down to aesthetics, or provenance? Art and cars have become indisputable asset classes and Ferrari and Picasso are the gold standard against which all else is measured. However, markets are very unforgiving ecosystems so you had better know your stuff cold or stand a good chance of being run over, and separated from your money in the process. A Warhol from the same year and the same size can sell for $60,000 or $60,000,000 and a Ferrari is no different. There are better and worse Hirsts and Astons. Sadie Coles, one of the most significant and influential international gallery owners states that cars are somewhat easier to define value: “The valuation of a contemporary art work can be mysterious, subjective and unquantifiable. Rare cars are functional objects and however beautiful or rare they may be, they also have easier to define provenances - how many were made, during what dates, who owned them and how many miles they have.” I don’t entirely agree with the above reasoning and think there is as much disingenuousness and indeterminism in unraveling the mysterious, subjective and unquantifiable in cars as in art. Art is admittedly the last unregulated, multi-billion dollar business.

Though the high prices for art and cars can be hard for people to swallow, they are here to stay in at least the near term and with good reason. With art, its who’s buying, selling, writing about and exhibiting the work—these are all contributing factors playing into the notion of determining value. And it’s not all that different with cars; though, rather than which museum the car was exhibited in (this adds value too) its more a matter of which historic races the car was driven in and by whom. Whether cars are equal to art, and vice versa, depends on which is fuller, your walls or garage—it is more a condition of taste and opinion. Hardcore car lovers will say you can’t drive a painting, but art throws off a visual dividend and ease of coexisting beyond what cars can offer. True, you can't jump in your Van Gogh and race a Monet or head off to the country, but by the same token you can't climb into bed and drool over your Testarossa. Cars are the most ubiquitous form of industrial design and we see thousands per day, but we don’t see them when we are behind the wheel or when we park them up for the night. That really is unfortunate, as I have my cars in my office and under my desk, and if I could, I would have one under the duvet too.

There appear more and more crossovers between the bedfellows of cars and art, including the phenomenal Renzo Piano designed museum atop the Lingotto building and examples like BMW art cars and the recent sponsorship deal between Volkswagen and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Art and cars also share some not too positive attributes like the problem of liquidity: try and call your broker in the middle of the night to swiftly dispose of your car and/or art collections! Though art and cars are proven stores of value, nothing goes up forever, despite our strongest wishes. And there are those who climb into either category of collecting to ascend a social ladder, like nailing bags of money to the walls or stuffing notes into the garage and parading around like a peacock with fully exposed feathers.

With art and cars strictly as investment, divorced of aesthetics and functionality it all seems rather perverse. There have cropped up a number of classic car and art funds that look at both as nothing other than asset classes with untapped upside, stripped of use and enjoyment, but they are missing the point—art and cars are so great as investments because of the usability and joy, not just the reductive quality solely as appreciating assets. Shares, bonds and gold go into safes or drawers and draw no satisfaction other than the potential to increase in value. There is more to life— studies exist that say living with art (then why not cars?) can increase your life expectancy like having a loyal golden retriever. I can fully understand and appreciate the notion! Personally, I don't differentiate between a fork, chair, car or painting. Anything done exceptionally well shares qualities with art, and in the end its simply a matter of nomenclature, of naming and categorizing things that serve no purpose other than creating false hierarchies.

Richard Bremner, one of the UK’s foremost car writers weighs in on the art vs. car debate as follows: “For some, a car can be a thing of beauty, exquisite beauty even, and even the lowliest motor is the result of a creative process that has involved some artistry, no matter how modest. The vast majority of post-war cars, and some pre-wars too, were designed using not only the artistic skills of sketching and rendering designers but those of sculptors too. The result is an object that's quite capable of pleasing the eye that carries its own story, reflects the era in which it was conceived and the culture of the manufacturer that built it. As with art collecting, classic car acquisition can be about money of course, besides the displaying, coveting and hoarding of these things.”

An exceptional car is nothing to turn your nose up at, but there are many that would do the same with a work of contemporary art. Unfortunately regarding contemporary cars, over regulation and mass production sometimes aid in homogenizing design, which only adds to the values of classics. And in contemporary art, oversupply to feed demand can also lessen the values. There is nothing that can replace passion and connoisseurship in either endeavor including all the endless analysis a private bank could muster. Where will it end? Will it implode, like it did in the late 1980s, or are certain top vehicles now immune to the vicissitudes of the market? Though nothing is endless, art and high-end collector cars are not over leveraged like what might have been the case in decades past. For the most part, we are faced today with end users who have the wherewithal to stay in the game and not have to go prematurely running off the track.

Adam Lindemann, a highly noted collector and writer on art and design, who famously flipped a Jeff Koons sculpture for many millions in profit before it was packed off for shipping, told me that: “Cars are not at all like art, they are like ‘Design’. Buying a great car is like buying a great piece of Art Deco furniture. What matters is provenance and originality. There is no such thing as rolling art, there is however rolling design. The fact that we live in an age of computer chips, and technology molded into carbon fiber, means that the hand made machines of the last century will be valued objects of the future without a doubt. Over time the great cars can only go up in value, the question is deciding and sourcing the ‘great’ ones from all the other ones.” I find as plausible the thoughts of Kai Schachter (my 14 year old son and no car fanatic like his father) who said, “A car is a piece of art and even though you drive it around, it’s as fragile and delicate and needs to be cared for as much as any painting or sculpture.”

The downside in the public consciousness is that there is a bifurcation in the economy, a wider and wider chasm separating those that have from those that don't and many are dialing down their standards and style of living. The baby boomers are coming to the end of a party (and a good run It was) and facing the realization that someone is going to have to pay. Countries face the same harsh dilemma: debts are swallowing us all and it can’t go on and on and... It wouldn’t be the best of looks to roll into an Occupy Wall Street protest in your Ferrari with a Picasso in your tent. But let’s face it: since art came off the walls of a cave, it has been coveted and the same goes for life after the combustion engine—once it was invented and inserted into the bay of a car, we’ve had to have them. There is unparalleled seduction in a great car and artwork; the smells (even paint smells enticing), the feel, textures, and sight—a feast for all the senses. Unfathomably in a world wreaked by social, economic and political instability, it has been a record year for auction houses in cars and art, part of the ever-increasing acceptance of the rarity, preciousness and transcendent qualities of both: more so than anyone might have imagined in such recessionary times. We are only but custodians of things, charged with maintenance, preservation and appreciation of unrepeatable, glorious objects. And as we get progressively priced out of markets in cars, art, wine and property, the definition of what is desirable and covetable will only expand.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Requiem for an Engine


Why are wheels being soda blasted ?

They are chromed , no cost for refurbing wheels ? That alone could add thousand or so ?

What's the guarantee offered ?

Dyno sheet from engine ?


Charged twice for dyno £880

No piston or liners listed ?


Hi Kenny, there is only one Dyno charge listed and it is at a discounted rate to 660 ?? and the piston kit is also on there at 2635.00 so I am not sure what you are looking at ?

The balance owing including vat at the moment is £5055.81

The wheels are in the finishing stages and should be ready for me to collect mid next week so completion possibly by Friday depending on wheels.


I think it would be appropriate for him to give a total cost to put them back to standard anodised Finnish and not expect you to make a decision without giving that


I don't think soda will remove chrome and he should know that also , chrome is removed by electricity in a salt water bath with low voltage current


Kenny, nice wheels but no chrome anywhere to be seen just a good polish job

is this a problem !!


For an expert in the field there's still a lot of unknown costs

' the wheel refurb costs are up to date other than the cost for the refurb' says it all


Kenny, I really don’t have time for all this

A - the costs on your wheels were originally as you requested to change the “Chrome” in to satin this work was started and the rims were soda blasted as it is the most environmentally way to achieve the finish.

B – I mailed you and told you that the wheels could be put back to Original Porsche finish for not a lot more than the cost to just blast and paint, this you agreed to hence the wheel costs so far!

C- I have agreed to let you pay direct to suppliers saving you any charges from us for us incurring time organising and phone / email time.

D- I have moved and collected your car FOC from the paint shop although not far but still taking a total of 4 hours of my time including inspecting the strip.

Just what more do you expect


Hi Kenny to add to your issues, when the oil is hot in the car there is a oil leak weeping from around the oil level sender on the oil tank, and also the relay mounted on the relay board in the engine bay that controls over run shut off solenoid for the fuel injection pump is also not operating, i have swapped one of another car i have in at the moment and it is the relay that is at fault.

Do you want me to deal with these two issues.

Wheels, you are paying the guy direct for the referb do you want me to ask him to pop up and refit them ! or do i have to do it free of charge, I am trying to help you in every way possible to save money, but the fact is if you had have had the car inspected by a competent Porsche expert you would not be in this situation ! and unfortunately i cannot be held responsible for "your Mechanics Expertise" i will be in the shop most of tonight as i am running in engines. Drop me a line.


Hi Kenny let’s get thing straight

1 car was dropped off and was booked in afterwards for a engine inspection / rebuild

2 we advised you that on removal of the engine that there were issues with the chassis.

3 we addressed the essential issues that were outlined on the quote / invoice.

4 Wheels you requested them to be de “chromed” I suggested the soda blasting and re-paint as the only way to do this without doing too much damage, then you requested a more original finish all this is detailed our corresponding emails.

5 Engine – Rebuilt Detailed and back in the car after being run in and tested for power, report is with the chassis and can be collected, Given the facts that the engine had been “bodged” to sell one side of the engine had severe damage to both head and piston areas. This is now all complete and finished.

6 I have NOT overcharged you for anything and the fact is I have helped you in many ways to save money by paying suppliers direct.

I will fit your tyres and refit your wheels in good faith and you can arrange collection as soon as I have the vehicle on its own wheels and off the ramp, you will be the first person to know as soon as this is done.


Hi Kenny,

Stuart Has Collected the car, just to clear up a couple of things that arose from Stuart.

1 I told Stuart that your wheel caps were not shipped back with your wheels Alan was supposed to email you and tell you, when they arrive I will post them down to you.

2 Stuart commented on the exhaust smoke at start up, [Choke on ] it will clear once warm. As it did.

3 He returned the car saying the oil light cam on at idle at the main gate and the oil pressure gauge was low.

Oil pressure as per factory book should be engine warm and 4bar [60psi] @ 4000rpm your car gauge read's over 60psi at 4000 but I would dispute that your gauge is still reading a little low as the data from the Dyno is showing 6+ bar, the data is in the folder that Stuart has, the data from the test cell is very accurate unlike a old analogue gauge of some 39 years old

4 I also did tell Stuart that there was only probably 25 > 30 litre of fuel in the car as we have been driving it in and out of the shop.

Any problems give me a call and enjoy the drive.


Hi I will call you shortly re the oil pressure but firstly can you firstly gather some information for me as the whole point of my 500K test cell it to ensure there is no faults with engines before they are re fitted to the car, to this all the date and engine information is logged and dated and can be recalled at a future date for comparison.

1- Vehicle left our premises with over 60psi on the vehicle pressure gauge at 4000 rpm

2- At 4000rpm 80deg C the oil pressure was constantly above 6 bar [90psi]

3- factory Specification is one of two 4bar @ 4000rpm + or 5bar @ 5000rpm + [your engine meets this criteria easily]

4- Your independent test procedure -

5- Oil Temp ________

6- Oil Pressure ________

7- Test RPM Used _________

Could you please fill in the missing results for me.

If there is a problem I do not mind coming and collecting the vehicle and bringing it back to investigate the fault if there is a fault with the engine that is not related to the chassis I will rectify and return FOC If there is no fault with the engine I would advise that I would charge for my time and expenses to recover and inspect.

The procedure that would be taken is that once the vehicle is back we would check the oil temperature and set to 80deg using a independent sensor to measure the temperature, a independent calibrated pressure gauge would be fitted to the main oil gallery and the engine rpm be set to firstly 4000rpm and then 5000rpm the results would be compared to the data from the Dynomometer results from the final run #16 dated 09-06-2011 @ 18-14-37

Will talk soon


Hi Kenny,

Stuart has just called to say that he has re checked the oil pressure and it seems to be OK !

I don't want to seem like I am your worst Technician / Engine builder, but your mechanic of 10 years should stick to driving and car cleaning and stop wasting my time and yours!

I have always based my work on actual facts and information that is correct and relevant to the work completed and any testing is always done in a professional manner with equipment that can verify the results, I have invested over 500k in my engine test facility and don't need some knob to tell me that there is no oil pressure.

My wife has just looked at this email and said "I gather you are pretty pissed off by this Stuart guy"

Sorry if this a bit abrupt but I think that after working with Porsche cars for nearly 40 years and racing them myself for many years, put all this together with running and building historic cars and engines, I think I am justified in my comments.

I hope we can meet up shortly so you can see that I am a genuine enthusiast for the marque with a wealth of knowledge and I hope we can carry on to do business in the near future.


I thought I was being pretty reasonable - the car had 10 psi reading on the gauge at idle when I stopped at the exit of his estate , after all if the engine had gone wrong and I said 'oh yes noticed it had low oil pressure so I kept driving it ' it would have been lack of care .

The conversation I had with him today , I told him while driving the gauge temp is 210 f about 98 degrees c he said it shouldn't run that hot ( it's the halfway reading on the gauge ) , and that it was missing an oil cooler at the front , I suppose a road test by him would have shown the same temp? Maybe no road test ?

The alternator is not charging the battery ( would have been good to check it while off the engine?) so gauges maybe reading inaccurately , so when I got back to the workshop I checked the oil pressure with a mechanical gauge and it showed lower than the dyno readings he relates to . When the engine has the new alternator on again , I'll run it up to operating temp and check it again .

In terms of wasting his time the brief conversation on pickup and today's tel. call amounted to 5 minutes , I'll give anyone 5 minutes of my time .

Tell him I don't clean cars !


No need to be personal he's just doing his job to his best


Apologies, but glad to see you have a sense of humour.


Charge light on:

One battery low output (9.5v other 12.05v) causing alternator over load , removed alternator , changed all blown diodes (6) refitted with 2x new 063 batteries

Checked alternator output on test rig and again when re-installed , voltage stabiliser checked - ok

Oil pressure : gauges were reading lower when car was collected , probably due to low charge voltage ,

test results are :

Idle 4000 rpm

Gauge w/ coll Cold. 40. 80

Warm (180f) on dash 10. 40

Gauge today cold. 60. 100

Warm 20. 80

Mech gauge today cold. 50. 100

Warm. 15. 60

60 psi/4000 rpm warm tested with a mech gauge; although not immediatley alarming it shows a loss from the dyno sheet which showed 6 plus bar/ 90 psi .

Readings in psi , 'cold' test is 2 mins after initial start before dash gauge reaches lower temp mark of 120f on gauge ,

Round town driving shows 180-190 on gauge , constant motorway at 70 mph 200-210 - but still lower half of standard dashboard gauge - mech gauge is snap on oil pressure tester. Air temp for tests was 20-28 degrees c .


Hi Kenny, just to clarify, you are stripping the engine! To take internal photos, if you do this outside of my guidance your rebuild / remedy will be at your cost, please advise or have the vehicle dropped off on Tuesday for my personal inspection on Wednesday.



When I collected the car he said it did not need super unleaded fuel - I asked specifically-

I have not heard of different fuels producing more smoke/ moisture.

No problem with stater motor while I had it , what seems to be the issue?

Leave the gauge I'll get it calibrated at TAG aerospace


I thought the engine had been run in/bedded in on the dyno, full power testing for the figures supplied is supposed to be done afterwards there was no problem with the stater motor when i last drove it why does it need changing ?


Hi Kenny,

I traced the oil to it entering the back of the #3 intake valve, to be safe I have replaced all the intake valve stem seals with a different type to the original ones, I also re checked the valve to valve guide tolerance and this is less than 0.050mm, the permissible wear limit is 0.150mm so I am happy that the problem was not mechanical related and was probably the stem seal material, there is no overrun smoke on road test and therefore the new seals are now working correctly, however the engine still produces a lot of moisture on start up as before and the moisture is also dripping out of the tail pipe as it did before ? there is not a lot I can do about this and can only put it down to the climate at the moment and the heat cycle on warm up of the engine once the silencer and heat exchangers are hot this is not a problem.

I will call Stor-A-Car so it can be collected in the morning for you.


Hi Kenny I took the car out of the workshop at 6.15 this morning and it was parked in front of the workshop until the chap from store-a-car moved it at this point I was not aware that it was covered in bird shit? And when it went into the trailer I didn’t see any, if there was any I would have washed the car but it has been in the shop from the day it was delivered to us.

The engine oil leaks please advise as to where as it has not dropped any oil in the workshop and having had the motor out it did not have any evidence of any.

Oil smoke ? again when the delivery driver started it there was only condensation after 30 seconds.

Leaking water from exhaust there is not a lot I can do about this as its obviously air cooled and the water is condensation from the atmosphere and fuel.

If you want me to have the car collected and valeted and if you can let me know where the oil leak is from I will rectify it immediately.


Hi Kenny Oil pump seal defiantly NO and as for your car smoking all the time it is NOT oil smoke it is condensation your engine when warm has no evidence of smoke at all in the warm-up cycle the engine is emitting moisture only.

The issue with a oil seal on the oil pump would fill the crank case and if it was on the scavenge side of the pump it would draw air into the pump and therefore not oil as the oil is harder to draw I have known amateur builders to leave them out but as the seal is 20 / 25mm dia depending on which one it is usually never a issue as it is also a square section seal sat in a grove in the case.

It is very difficult for me to visualise just what smoke you are now talking about as you are now saying the engine is smoking all the time! This is defiantly not the case I have driven the car myself and it drives lovely and it did defiantly not smoke even after driving it for 15 min on road test.

Please give me more details or please feel free to pop up in the car as after driving it for a few miles I am confident that the exhaust will have got to temp. And the moisture smoke will not be there. 


But you said plumes of smoke appeared, that's not fine!


....and so the sssaga continues .


Asking questions now about how the throttle linkage was connected (or not ) is rather pointless , a quick test drive would have shown there was a problem as you found kenny , and he then would have had the opportunity to rectify it .

I have not adjusted any any part , so torque and hp should be unaffected .

I think now we need to look into the engine smoking which has been a continuous problem since it was collected after the engine rebuild .


Hi Kenny, I am beside my self-having driven the car for 60 + miles myself and Rob collecting and driving the car back to you with no fault, my only thoughts are there is something in the car I am quite certain that the engine is good, you could have an electric fuel pump that is faulty or contamination in the fuel tank.

Please take the time to explain to me the fault that you are getting, if I can help or assist I will.


The riddle appears to be the smoke me and kenny see , but you do not . It's not condensation just oil smoke coming out of the exhaust from cold start, and at warm idle you can also smell it although visibly it's less.

Shall I remove the exhaust and check for oil at the guides / in the cylinders or do you want to do it ? Changing the exhaust is not going to fix it .

The off side banks' throttle linkage was not connected . It's possible it came off but as you also noted the balljoints are in good condition and locate positively when connected.


It seems the smoke on initial startup - which points to oil residing in the chamber or ports -, is leaking down while the engine is cooling and /or mixture too rich when cold causing bore washing .There is some smoke visible when hot also exiting from the tailpipe.

I think removal of the exhaust when cold will show whether guides or seals are to blame also checking in the bore for any oil residing , this will also point to where the hot oil smoke is coming from .

And a cold start check while monitoring the air fuel ratio will see if the mixture is too rich while warming up causing bore washing .

Really this is becoming like a pub quiz with specifications measurements and such , ways to diagnose , probable cause, likely components etc


Hi Not sure what your man is on about as there is only one link to the pump and this is set at 114mm centre to centre and it was correct and fitted, both ends of the link rod are on snap on ball joints and were all in good condition. Both the pump timing and the ignition timing were optimised when on the Dynamometer and therefore should not be adjusted or if they are then the Torque and HP / drivability will be affected.

Could your Mechanic explain a little more precisely what linkage parts were incorrectly fitted, as I said there is only one link rod to the pump and the car will not drive if it's not fitted.


Hi Kenny,

Pointless or not the question is still there, If Rob had left some thing off then it would have shown up when I drove the car, as you will see from your speedometer the road test mileage was more than adequate to show up any fault, and the car had been delivered by driving it back to you as a further precaution. I seem to be missing something Kenny as if Rob drove the car to you without a problem, I also drove the car before it was delivered and found no fault with either the pump or the oil dropping onto the exhaust, the warm up condensation is something I cannot as I said before really do anything about, the only thing that could help this is to use a steel exhaust system this could possibly help due to the steel absorbing the heat quicker and the water content may be not as apparent at the tail pipe, but the engine on stop and start is not consuming oil or smoking.

If the Motor was a rough oil burning motor with no go in it then I would be a bit concerned, but as the engine is, as documented healthy powerful and giving good torque then if we have an issue with cold condensation so be it, if we are using a litre of oil in 500 miles [which we are not] then this would be a different story.

On a final note could you please get your man to explain the fault in plane simple English not a riddle so if I do have to issue a Monster bolloxing to Rob I am armed with the correct information.

I can also then apologise to yourself for the issue and inconvenience.


All I can say Kenny is that given the mileage, it as hung on a long way before popping off as it was not removed when the pump was taken off for repair so I can only assume it is a unfortunate incident, I cannot put the blame on any one and certainly not on Rob as I have just tried another S that we have just finished and without the rod connected it is virtually un-drivable, and it certainly would not have got the 60 + miles from our works to you?

I apologise if it is necessary.

My thoughts on Smoke are, given that guides and seals were replaced, if you feel it necessary to inspect the exhaust guides by removing the exchangers the vehicle should be run first and a oil consumption test be carried out in accordance with Porsche recommendations, [this has already been carried out on the Dyno and was found to be nowhere near factory limits i.e. new] but if you feel it to be beneficial Kenny please take the time to drive to me so the car is in a run condition and the oil is at its thinnest. I will personally remove both exchangers and we can both inspect the exhaust ports,

I can put the camera down the plug hole and you can inspect the liners, but as the car dose not smoke on the overrun it is unlikely to be a guide issue and as it also doesn't smoke on acceleration it is unlikely to be a piston ring problem.

As a final thought we could also drive to Bob Watson Engineering as he is not so far away and he can pop it on the rolling road and we can watch the exhaust as the car is run under different load conditions for Oil Smoke and he can give you a appraisal of the engine as an independent ?

Please accept my apologies about the throttle rod but I am sure there would be a simple reason it would fall off after such a long test / drive but I cannot for the life of me think why at the moment.

Please forward on to the Mystery Mechanic my regards for his comments and thoughts but as always in engineering things must be assessed and reported, tests conducted on solid evidence of faults in a methodical and controlled sequence to achieve a satisfactory conclusion. [ at the moment there is a lot of water exciting the tail pipe of your air cooled engine on start-up and a minimal amount of oil smoke if it can be distinguished from the condensation ]

If you need my help please let's look at the issue in person on third hand.


Hi Kenny, as pointed out before all the parts are new and within factory specification, are we now talking about fuel smoke or oil smoke or defiantly condensation?

1 It is very unlikely that oil will run uphill therefore how is it going to run down an exhaust guide ?

2 The oil visible in an exhaust port has to be from a intake guide as this is the only guide that could possibly have oil soak from the stem / spring? [Unless it was in a condition as yours was when delivered for repair] Or the cylinder has approx. 180cc of oil in it as this is the amount it takes to reach the seat of the exhaust guide and therefore be able to run into the port.

3 The Fuel enrichment device on your car as like all is a two part system the warm up is take by means of the pump main rack being adjusted by bimetal thermo washers expanding due to heat from the exhaust, the main cold start is by way of pumping in to the manifolds neat fuel from 6 jets whilst cranking therefore wetting the intake tract and cylinders until the engine fires,

4 If you want me to carry out the requested operations again I.e.
removal of heat exchangers and looking in the bore with bore scope when cold
I will do so. 

5 If there is a problem with the injection pump internally there are only 2 people in Germany that can address this properly and probably 100's of others that will have a go at it!

We now seem to be getting back to my previous mail about

" My thoughts on Smoke are, given that guides and seals were replaced, if you feel it necessary to inspect the exhaust guides by removing the exchangers the vehicle should be run first and an oil consumption test be carried out in accordance with Porsche recommendations, [this has already been carried out on the Dyno and was found to be nowhere near factory limits i.e. new] but if you feel it to be beneficial Kenny please take the time to drive to me so the car is in a run condition and the oil is at its thinnest.

I will personally remove both exchangers and we can both inspect the exhaust ports, I can put the camera down the plug hole and you can inspect the liners, but as the car dose not smoke on the overrun it is unlikely to be a guide issue and as it also doesn't smoke on acceleration it is unlikely to be a piston ring problem.

As a final thought we could also drive to Bob Watson Engineering as he is not so far away and he can pop it on the rolling road and we can watch the exhaust as the car is run under different load conditions for Oil Smoke and he can give you an appraisal of the engine as an independent ? "

Please don’t assume I am being difficult but having spent 36 years of my life working with Porsche air cooled engines I am finding it difficult to carry out "on line training" as we have already instructed your driver that the car does not have an oil light, it's chassis is not in an original condition and most of the equipment is going to be 37+ years old so don’t believe everything the gauges say as gospel.

Please let me know what you want to do other than enjoying the 202 bhp and 173 Ftlb Torque


The car smokes on start up , its blue smoke , oil smoke , its not supposed to smoke hot or cold.

It needs fixing, the 202 bhp is enjoyable , the smoke is embarrassing , and not expected after such an extensive rebuild at considerable time and cost .


Hi Kenny, Starter motor was not changed as the only option at the time was Porsche as Bosch had no exchange units, I did advise you that I could fit a non-original but much better unit but you declined, from memory the Porsche starter was over 1K ? and I thing an exchange one is around £400 for OE Bosch or 300 for Lucas or the better high torque unit £285 + vat in stock.

Smoke at start could be both fuel / condensation after start and even though the Mystery mechanic said is smokes when hot I did tell you it didn’t, carry out a Porsche 1000klm oil consumption check it will be perfect.

If you need my help please just shout, I am always hear to help, but please no more riddles or online training! And once again I apologise for the throttle link popping off the stack but I still cannot see how it stayed on for so long.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Art Market is the Best Judge of Good Art. Debate at Saatchi Gallery, October 7, 2011

The Art Market is the Best Judge of Good Art. Debate at Saatchi Gallery, October 7, 2011; Position: Against.

We can end this before we start. The best judge of good art is simple and unequivocal: experience, education, scholarship, and passion. The market, and namely money which is what we are talking about, is a snapshot of current whims, fashions and fads. Oftentimes, the crowd leading the auction scene is not the culturally brightest bunch at the brunch. Not to mention the rampant manipulation, speculation and deceit that is part and parcel of the auction process, with all due respect to members of the respective houses. But that’s why we love the art market, the last unregulated multi-billion dollar business.

What is the best judge of good art? Art is a lifelong learning curve and the market is no substitute for putting eyeballs directly on it—smelling it, tasting it and touching it. You need to lift it, hang it, insure it, frame it, pack it, ship it, live with it, damage it, hate it and idolize it. And read it like a book, day in and day out. That is the best judge of art: experience and tactility. Honing your eyes is of paramount importance; people always refer in art to having a good eye, but I say one is not enough.

All markets are by nature, inefficient, at least at moments. When the stock market goes up, the good, bad and ugly follow suit, same when it goes down; and, it’s the same with art. Auctions die because of lack of confidence, and quality works are often the casualty, call it death by (un)friendly fire. Reputations go up and reputations go down, history is revised regularly, so why depend on any one signifier of value when in effect it is many variables that contribute to worth. Don't get me wrong I am a true believer in art and money and think they make cozy bedfellows, but the “market”, or rather dollar value, being just one determining factor.

Manet couldn’t find a gallery to sell his work or a collector to buy it early in his career so he was reduced to borrowing money from his mother to build a temporary structure to house a one person exhibit of his work as no one else would have it. Duchamp barely sold his own art so he ended up relying on interior decorating and art advising rich patrons; he also pulled off wildly unsuccessful and impractical entrepreneurial flubs, like cardboard optical illusions for children that spun on turntables and a shirt dying enterprise. Try to buy work by either now.

Consider Warhol’s market before and after his death. During his lifetime, his auction record was about $285,000 in 1986, a fact that disappointed Andy to the core: the painting, 200 $1 Dollar Bills, went to Greek born, London based collector Paulina Karpides who sold it in 2009 for close to $44m. When Warhol died in 1987 due to medical malpractice after what was routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital, he was more known for cheesy portraits of Pia Zadora, hanging out at a different type of studio—Studio 54, a guest appearance on the Love Boat, and handing copies of Interview Magazine out of a satchel in Soho. Hardly the glory days of the $100m painting where we are today. Which market characterization makes more sense?

In fact, the art market is incapable of judging anything about art other than what one person (not necessarily of sound mind) will pay for something at a given point in time. There are no assurances or guarantees that there is anything backing up a price other than capriciousness. There are countless instances of collectors, speculators and dealers getting fired up and excited about the day's soup de jour that turned into nothing, that is nominal scrap value or perhaps less. Rather than good, the market can be a very bad judge of markets—and value.

There are many, many instances of meteoric rises offset by swift declines: for example, since the early 80s, the markets of Donald Sultan, David Salle, Julian Schnabel; and the triumvirate of Francesco Clemente, Sandro Chia, and Enzo Cuuchi (I think Mr. Saatchi himself might have had a hand in their decline but let’s leave that to another debate, at another venue). They are not all bad artists, though some most assuredly are; the market certainly thinks so now—but it certainly didn’t think so then.

As much as I admire Damien Hirst and I do, the late 80s to mid 90s stuff anyway, in the art world it’s like admitting to reading the Daily Mail (that's another debate, I should do programming for the series). It is human nature to find something sexy knowing an artwork is worth a lot of money, or we wouldn't be so obsessed. But the Qatari’s, the alleged purchasers at auction for $19m of some metal shelving laden with garish tchotchkes: you have been forewarned. Beware of ever-decreasing insurance valuations.

In today’s terms, think of the most glaring recent examples of market madness. There is the $250,000,000 paid for Cezanne’s The Card Players, the highest price ever for a work of art, fittingly about gambling; $105,000,000 for Giacometti’s Walking Man to Lily Safra, call it gilding the gilded lily; and $150,000,000 for Jackson Pollacks and Willem de Koonings, and that’s meant to be plural. My question is for the market-equals-value pundits: couldn’t the money be put to better use even in the age of zero sum returns on cash, from charities to investments? Where is the upside from outer space?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Upcoming, unedited GQ feature: A Porsche to Die For, or Dying Made Fun

A Porsche to Die For, or Dying Made Fun

This is about death, cars, craft, and the power of contemporary art to suck it all in and spit it all out, or shit it out in this case. I took my wife and four boys aged 14, 13, 11 and 8 on a world-wind trip to Ghana to visit the Joseph Ashong aka Paa Joe Workshop outside of Accra, a folk artist specializing in what he calls Proverbial Caskets, one of which I had commissioned. In the west we buy Warhols to display wealth and status, in Ghana, they get buried in a Mercedes. They are crafted according to the station in life of the deceased (or soon to be departed): the Mercedes would be for a businessman; corn, tomato or onion for a farmer; cell phones; coke and beer bottles; and crabs and so on. One is more colorful, cartoonish and kitschier than the next in the best possible way. Paa Joe calls them “intriguing imaginations of helping to convert the departed in flamboyant manner to the world of the unknown while providing him/her a royal ride into the next world.” Sounds like the next best thing to a royal wedding. My coffin will be in the form of a 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS in baby blue. I have always loved Porsche design since childhood, the simplicity and cleanness of the lines, not to mention the reliability. Some are Ferrari people, others not; in fact, I relate to the car so much, I feel that I resemble the shape, like a snake that swallowed a mouse. I suppose as an art dealer, I should have gone for a giant Duchampian urinal; instead, after my trip to poverty stricken Ghana, I am practically too embarrassed of the materialist nature of my choice to even post about it.

I first encountered the artist and his designer coffins at Jack Bell Gallery in Vauxhall. The dealer tried to get me to buy two Paa Joe’s stating how much shipping and customs duties could be reduced with the addition of another coffin – to which I replied that I would only die once. Must admit I was as nervous about the trip as the macabre nature of what I was getting myself into – literally and figuratively. At first it was more just another artwork among artworks that I thought would look rather cool plunked in the middle of my house. But then it occurred to me that I might be tempting fate by putting my sculpture, which happens to be a coffin, smack in the middle of my bedroom. In retrospect perhaps it wasn’t the brightest or cheeriest of ideas, as it seems too much like inviting the scythe wielder into bed. I guess I was enthralled by the notion of a bespoke demise, a last lap around the track.

Before we even started, the adventure had begun. This would be life outside the comfort zone: the things that one has to do to avoid Starbucks. For my children (and me) who are generally more accustomed to the Saints, as in St. Moritz, St. Tropez or St. Barthes (a slight exaggeration but sounds good) we were ready for something new. From the get go, my wife was none too amused with my holiday planning. The night prior to our departure, CNN posted a quiz before a commercial break: “What is to the east of the Ivory Coast, mired in civil war?” Er, that would be Ghana. Next off came visits to the vaccination clinic, there was malaria, cholera, and many other ailments to worry about. There were pills to be ingested before, during and after the trip and a plethora of shots to be had. The nurse implored us to stay calm and not to overreact; easy for her to say as she called off the list of possible diseases we’d be exposed to like the specials in an exotic restaurant. The sensation of my three-course meal of shots was a burning pain that lasted for days. Out of all malaria drugs, funny how the pill with the least side and after effects cost fifty percent more than the rest. And don’t forget the sun screen, insect repellant and spare needles should you need a blood transfusion during your holiday festivities. Did you know tsetse flies prefer blue? There went my wardrobe hue of choice. Shortly after the series of vaccines, the kids all became stricken with a mild form of yellow fever, an apparent common side effect, which only increased the consternation of my already hesitant wife.

Though we made dash to attain traveling documents, my family hasn’t planned more than a few days in advance for anything—needless to say we didn’t come close to meeting the deadline for securing visas. Once off the plane, armed with no traveling documents, already not speaking to my wife, the dark clouds of divorce loomed. After about an hour of phone calls and haggling it was agreed we could pay our way through, good thing after two planes and eight hours of flying. When I handed over the cash, the officer returned two $20 notes, stating they were too dirty and the bank wouldn’t accept them. I didn’t know quite what to make of that other than the fact I would accept currency dripping in malaria. The moment we exited the airport the money grab began, literally, as it was snatched out of my hands by an unruly group of taxi facilitators, i.e. guys who follow you to a cab and try and take your money for a tip as you get in. An auspicious way to start, we were definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Once we arrived at the hotel, I was determined to eat anything and everything that came my way in the face of my wife’s utter resolve not to. The presidential suite I decided to treat my reluctant family to was closer in feeling to the local council. And low and behold, the first person I encountered in the hotel restaurant was a Jew from Boston. My first impression was how strange it was to be in a place with no art market, in fact I don’t think that had ever happened to me before. Imagine how out of place and utterly wrong a £20m Hirst vitrine or Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture would be? How did it feel? As if I was naked. Many people in Ghana live in what is nothing more than modified shipping containers and they travel by foot balancing all manner of stuff on their heads, for transport purposes and goods for commerce; in the case of one guy, he had 4 steel street signs atop his. Baby’s heads pop out of rucksacks front and back like little figures with bobbing heads you see in the back of some American cars. All over the markets and curbsides, they sell swollen sandwich bags ready to pop filled with water to fight the heat. My kind of diet—you lose weight while standing in place.

To start our sightseeing, we visited Jamestown, the poorest harbor town amongst the poor. We were touring in two cars and rolled up to a lighthouse at the seaside and picked up an impromptu guide along the way to take us through. We bounded up the decrepit structure where the wooden stairs became more irregular, like missing teeth. Once on top afforded panoramic views of the shantytowns, yet the protective railings could best be described as barely present. Maybe there is something to health and safety. The fishing shantytown at the harbor was like a pulsating, 3D Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, exposing raw unspeakable poverty with bodies thickly and chaotically strewn about. We were told it’s impossible to drive down the streets in the area at night confronted with a carpet of sleeping people.

After the lighthouse, our off the cuff tour guide asked us if we’d like to venture through the actual fishing village. In doing so, we encountered a sometimes-hostile group of inhabitants screaming and hissing their displeasure at our intrusion. There were bands of youths, many with weeping eyes from drink and drugs, variously threatening and cajoling us. My kids were nearly relieved of their sunglasses by pickpocketers, one who swiped the camera out of the hands of my 14 year-old, only to hand it back moments later. Though an everyday occurrence on Kings Road, to say he was rather surprised would be the understatement of the century. I can understand their consternation, as we seemed rather gratuitous and pretentious in our foray into their modest village, but our intent was only to see and learn. We felt like bait, boldly protected by our fearless guide. Sadly, the history of the port included a fort where slaves were unceremoniously led from underground tunnels to awaiting ships, surely an atrocity worse than death. Fitting this about a coffin. The poverty would shock a fish in a tank of formaldehyde. The only bar in the desolate harbor town was called the London Bar, an apt reference to the hard drinking UK - that's what I call a reputation!

After a brief stint in a traditional crafts market, otherwise known as a tourist trap—unannounced, my crazy wife ambushed the kids and I and arranged for a visit to an orphanage. I guess the little figurines at market weren't enough. We were sat in the office and it was explained to us that the process would necessitate a series of meetings with social workers both in Africa and the UK to see if we were fit for such onerous parenting duties. They should have asked me, I would have readily admitted we weren’t. Within an hour, they brought out a brother and sister (one is never enough for my wife), so much for the assessment process. I was surprised there were any kids left in the region after Madonna, Angelina, Mia, and Sandra. Though thankfully she didn’t pursue it further, on Easter morning my wife did visit a local supermarket that was closely watched by armed guards, and then flooded the orphanage with food and gifts while I and a few of the kids hid in the hotel.

The only gallery in Accra is a spiraling, seaside disused hotel with all manor of wares from purely folk and decorative art to Paa Joe and other contemporary, more conceptual practitioners. The Artists Alliance Gallery, free of art world conceit and snobbery, was refreshing, accessible and priced a third less than the London counterpart, and priced about 20% less than the art purchased directly from the artist studios who could see us suckers coming for miles. Later that afternoon, the trip by car to Paa Joe’s studio witnessed a long snaking line of purveyors of everything from food, to clothing to household goods, all held aloft on the heads of the traveling merchants. The motorway, for the duration of the hour-long journey, veered seamlessly from asphalt to dirt and back.

When we finally made it to the studio of Paa Joe, whose nickname originates from the fact that his studio is apprenticed by a handful of the 8 children he has sired, they seemed to be laughing at us, but in a nice and disarming sort of way. Rather than for money, the traditional craftsman gain work experience in exchange for food, some booze, a goat, a pair of sandals, a roll of fabric, and a few quid; but, that relationship can go on for years until one breaks out on their own.

The workshop had no lights or electricity, and being in the midst of the rainy season made it darker than a winter day in the UK at 3pm. There was mold on the studio walls that would make any Londoner proud and though his marketing pamphlet alludes to sophisticated tools and machinery, these seem to be comprised of nothing more than hammers, nails and hand-operated wood carving tools. Rather than a negative, this constitutes the charm of the enterprise. And somehow, by hand-eye coordination and an intuitive response to the subject matter, they seem to get it just right.

My Porsche was taking shape nicely and was an amazing process to witness. Seemingly unrelated pieces of wood were nailed and glued to the frame, which initially looked nothing like the car I commissioned, until, using no more than a hand trowel, the surfaces were smoothed into the familiar form of the 911 2.7 RS. Granted, the shut lines of the lid appeared slightly off, as they do with most Ghanaian coffins, but its all part of the attraction and unwittingly, probably contribute to a virtual feast for bugs when these things are put into actual use. Come to think of it, Paa Joe never asked, nor did I, for a fitting. For the hedge funder, there's a smart lace-up brogue and I have seen a bible shaped coffin, the interior of which was fully illustrated; perhaps I should have chosen a life sized issue of The Daily Mail, admittedly my bible. My 8 year old couldn't resist jumping in one of the finished items and taking it for a test drive…

“For a Ga (the dominant ethnic community in the region surrounding Accra, the capital of Ghana) it is better to incur lifelong debts than to cut back on funeral expenses.” Going into Darkness, Fantastic Coffins from Africa, Thierry Secretan. Thames and Hudson, 1995, page 7. With my wife, incurring lifelong debt would be the cause of the funeral. Pointing out how these works of art are beyond any economic cycle, one of the leading lights of the trade of coffin making, Kane Kwei, said “all a dead person owns is his coffin.” Going into Darkness, page 20. The funerary art form of custom coffins, by nature intended to be appreciated only for the brief period of a funeral ritual prior to being buried six feet under, is that these objects of art have a shelf life before they are obscured forever, never to be seen again. Imagine doing that with your Damien or Tracey?

After our visit and purchase of some more small pieces, albeit over the mark, Paa Joe even pitied the taxi driver and shared some of the spoils with him prior to our departure, leaving him with a fiver. Not to be outdone, our enterprising, intrepid taxi driver pulled to the side of the hotel after our trip and tried to extort $1,200 Ghanaian dollars (40p for one Ghanian Cedi) for the ride. Thronged at the airport, thronged at the market, thronged at the harbor and thronged at the beach, we had reached our threshold after only two full days, but full they were. I called the travel agent from our roped off lounge chair on the roped off beach and planned our retreat. The squalor was otherworldly, heartrending and had taken its toll. On the beach alone, we struggled to ignore the onslaught of aggressive sellers; sellers of shells, paintings, sculptures, clothes, horseback rides. With some of the nutters gallivanting on the sand, it became clear the UK doesn't have a monopoly on eccentricity.

So, we a bailed a day early, and the UK never looked so good upon our return. When I got home I cried. My kids and wife, it feels like we all experienced the same simultaneous wound. When I mentioned the trip briefly on Facebook, within one short second after the post I had a reply from Paa Joe himself, which led me to believe that there was a secret, well-equipped underground nerve center to the operation. The experience in total made much of my life seem rather absurd and futile; the realization that half my obsessions revealed themselves as obscene was less than flattering. And I never saw my kids so sober-minded, which is a good thing, but my wife is still threatening to adopt. Though the bright pink Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture I mentioned might seem about the most irrelevant and frivolous thing in the world going forward, I could understand how it might brighten things up a bit. Maybe contemporary art is not quite nutritious, but thirst quenching nonetheless. Sadly with my insensitive, degenerate kids the effects didn’t last long: the lessons learnt about the ill effects of rampant materialism were short lived at best.

Inevitably, with all the prophylactics and vaccinations, we all got diarrhea before and after our return; I was struck down at a society luncheon in London shortly after touchdown. One by one we all began to spend more and more time either on the toilet or lording over it. There wasn’t a bathroom in the house without some residue of a Jackson Pollock splatter. My wife bundled up the kids and herded them to a series of doctors for tests, convinced a biological Noah's Ark of micro-organisms had lodged in the collective organs of my family

I focused on the words characterizing our trip and let my kids fight over whose images would pass muster with GQ’s photo editor. It became a competition with the end result that my 13 year old shot 4,773 images. What with the kids turned into a roving photo agency, I unwittingly created a group of mini Mario Testino monsters. As adamant as the kids were about photo credits, they were also persistent in pleading, “please don’t make us go back to a developing country for half-term.” In truth, in the past I never thought much about visiting Ghana or Africa for that matter. After my trip, it colors all that I think about and I can't wait to get back – I only hope I don't end up in my 1973 Porsche 2.7 RS coffin before I get the chance to. Is Africa going to be the next China in terms of development? Let’s hope so. Another upside to this episode in our lives, I received an indication my wife has moved on from the idea of taking another child on board-in one form anyway. Here is a recently received text: "I want to adopt an elderly person and we can take care of them so they don't have to be in a home." That could be my next article.


An email message from Paa Joe popped up that his fall gallery exhibit had been cancelled—a New York collector had purchased the latest body of work in its entirety and decided they didn't want it shown. Then Paa implored me to "find him more collectors." Though it honestly never occurred to me (a rarity, that), my coffin seemed to be appreciating in line with the car it was inspired by. And Paa was beginning to sound less like a hokey outsider and more like a middle-aged, aspirant YBA.

The eagle finally landed, after nearly a year in progress, it arrived; albeit a bit banged up after the long trip from Ghana, but it's a car, what can you expect. Not many people can say they welcomed, looked forward even, to such an unveiling. It’s a car that drives you to the next world, yet with my sense of direction, I will probably manage to get lost. I posted a casual phone picture on facebook and I was asked about the head peering behind the steering wheel, but strangely, in the real article, there is nothing (or no one) inside the passenger compartment. It’s an eerie apparition, the ghost in the machine or the ghost in the coffin. It’s that cool, who could blame him.

The exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum is titled “Power of Making” and is open from 6 September 2011 – 2 January 2012. It will focus on design and cut across a wide scope of areas. The Lion coffin is due to be a major feature.

Friday, August 26, 2011

simon's bar mitzvah

We were leaving a party in Jerusalem and decided to forego the bus back to Tel Aviv and make a dash to the hotel. We got into a random taxi outside the Dung Gate (a highly memorable designation) of the old city and the driver was of Saphardic descent. My wife asked: are you going to kill us? If you don’t, I will give you extra 100 Shekels; can’t deny her logic, its good to incentive-ize people. After we safely made it back we planned dinner. Another ostensibly less threatening taxi ride ensued where we argued the merits of a traditional Arab meal vs. the Israeli counterpart. You can imagine who took which side between my wife and I with the cab driver weighing in of course…it is Israel. After a salad and meat packed feast, my 15 year old’s face began to alarmingly swell, amidst a breakout of hives. So we had an after dinner drink at Tel Aviv’s very busy emergency ward—where the ambulances were demarcated as originating from New Jersey—I guess its hard to find good health care in the State’s nowadays. A little Cortisone and three hours later he was good to go.

In the morning I went for a run, with my glasses—had I gone without like last time in the rain, the ramifications could have triggered an international incident. When you think of the (sometimes heavy-handed) politics of the region, there is no reason the Jews, long persecuted, and Palestinians should not have peaceful places to prosper and co-exist. I went to the historical, stunning Arab city of Jaffa. I passed a gallery with kitschy, cartoonish paintings like a Palestinian Peter Saul—I actually ran through the exhibition; I am sure there is a joke there but I am not going to search. When I (barely) made it back in the scorching midday 30+ degree heat, I plopped down on a hotel bench and the security guard reprimanded me: “don’t sit after you run.” It is Israel after all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wet Run

It was raining so hard I had to run (didn't have to but need to seize the initiative when it crops) with no glasses on, the result was kind of like Mr Magoo. I am a step or two away from legally blind not to mention a stigmatism—my corrective lens need to be ground down so as not to resemble bulletproof glass. Wasn’t so much harrowing for me as for the hapless passers-by. Not being able to focus so much on my other-than-immediate surroundings was like going into a trance. I read of an ancient Arabic scholar who used the word unlearning to describe peasants who, with no formal education, could memorize the Koran by heart. This was more a matter of unseeing. At one point a postbox resembled a woman and at another, a group of four tourists huddled together in hooded raincoats I mistook for a horse. I stepped off the sidewalk to avoid pedestrians and when I tried to remount didn't realize the curb was two-tiered. My foot slid across the top level and I saved myself just before falling headfirst into oncoming traffic and becoming road kill. Near the end I resembled a wet t-shirt contestant, but more like a slightly chubby one on reality TV. A runner called out to me and I didn’t know if I knew him or he was voting for me. Maybe I should do an existential experiment and take off my specs for a week. If so, watch your flank.