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Sun, 29 Sep 2013
Pi Power
# 08:30 in ./tech

I've been setting up my Raspberry Pi again. Last time I used it to monitor a server room door by taking webcam pictures and emailing them to me. Now I'm considering if it would work as a WiFi access point.

Downloading and imaging the latest Raspbian to an SD card worked fine but I kept having problems. Works fine initially but the next morning I'd see massive filesystem corruption (segmentation fault, signal 11 etc. just doing an ls etc.). Maybe a bad SD card? So, try another: same thing the next day. Maybe my Pi is broken?

Turns out to be a poor power supply. I'd plugged it into a micro-USB phone charger that just isn't giving out the right power (needs a good 5V). Try a better supply and it seems fine now. This shows how critical a good power supply is!

How critical? Well, the wrong type can kill you, so be careful. A while ago, a Chinese iPhone user was supposedly electrocuted and died, probably using a poor (and fake) charger. For a detailed look at this, see Ken Shirriff's blog.

Wed, 25 Sep 2013
Real Art?
# 21:04 in ./general

Left: Jeremy Galton RBA – Spring / Still Alive
Not a fake. see below.

The Economist has an article about art forgery and makes the pithy point that art is far from inimitable. In fact, it is extremely imitable!

There have been numerous and notorious cases of unknown artists faking their well known counterparts with the art "experts" being none the wiser. Art forgeries that are so good that it can be almost impossiblle to tell the real from the fake. The latest case is in New York and concerns an art dealer buying fakes of Rothko, Pollock and others, and selling them on for millions. Everyone fooled.

The Economist mentions such expensive art works as being "positional goods" :

.. things that are valuable largely because other people can't have them. The painting on the wall, or the sculpture in the garden, is intended to say as much about its owner’s bank balance as about his taste. With most kit a higher price reduces demand. But art, sports cars and fine wine invert the laws of economics.

Why is an almost exact copy of a great piece of art worth so much less to someone? Why is the original, even when it can hardly be told from the fake worth so much more? Hard questions for the art world here, rather like those hard questions asked of the expert wine tasters a while ago.

And just as I was going to "publish" the post, I am reminded about the recent discovery that this old fake Van Gogh, is not a fake at all! Supposedly. So the experts say ...

Mall Art Shows

I visited the Mall Galleries at the weekend and took a look at the shows they have on.

Below: Lillias August, Brush on Folded Paper.

This was a small exhibition on still lives ("Still Alive: Contemporary still life painting"), the Sunday Times Watercolour exhibition and the Derwent Art Prize show (drawings). Lots to see, some very good. It's been a while since I last visited and it's well worth it, and also free.

The Galton oil painting was shown as part of Still Alive.

Above: House Beside the Lake in Winter, Thomas Lamb.
Shown in the Watercolour exhibition.

Thu, 05 Sep 2013
Precious Bane
# 20:03 in ./books

Precious Bane is a novel by Mary Webb, published in 1924.

I was first aware of Precious Bane when I listened to a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of it a few years ago. It was such a beautiful story and so well performed that I've never forgotten it. I would love to have a copy of the audio now.

One of the things I liked about the play was the accents used: proper Shropshire accent and dialect. Not all words were immediately understandable, and the use of "Ahh" for "yes" was pronounced. The book also uses dialect and, for me, this adds a lot to it's charm.

I've now read it and understand why it's so well loved, at least by those that know of it. Set around the time of the Napoleonic wars in Shropshire, the book tells the story of Prue Sarn and her brother Gideon, their family and neighbours. Prue's been born hare-shotten, that is, she has a "hare lip". This means that some people see her as cursed and she's often reminded that she'll find no marriage partner or true love. In spite of this, she's an intelligent and beautiful person and her relationships are very well drawn and natural. As is the darker side of human nature on occasion.

The story shows how the pursuit of money corrupts and destroys (the bane of the title) and also how true beauty is much more than skin deep.

It's a very affecting and moving book.

Tue, 03 Sep 2013
Phoebe Anna Traquair
# 19:49 in ./general

When I first heard about Phoebe Anna Traquair's Edinburgh murals, I knew I had to see them. If anything, they're even better than I expected. I'm still amazed that I'd never heard of her, or heard of her work, even though I went to school and university in the city (including an art history course).

The Great Cherubim. Detail of Chancel Arch from Catholic Apostolic Church, Edinburgh. 1893-94.

Walking into the Catholic Apostolic Church on a sunny day is a magical experience.

With the sun streaming through the windows, the murals are clear, bright and colourful and the large interior space of the church adds to the wonder. With churches, apart from some puritan and iconoclastic episodes, hasn't it ever been so?

Above: The West wall of the church.

Looking up and around it is easy to feel the sort of optimism that this art was designed to inspire.

Born in Dublin but based in Edinburgh, Traquair was working at the end of the 19th and first part of the 20th Centuries. There's a lot of Pre-Raphaelite in her work and her influences include Dante Gabriel Rosetti and William Blake, as well as other writers and poets, like Tennyson and Browning.

She visited Italy in the 1880's and you can see the influence of artists like Botticelli and Fra Angelico on her painting.

Fra Angelico, The Forerunners Of Christ
With Saints And Martyrs. 1423-4.

Traquair, detail of mural.

I love the Fra Angelico painting The Forerunners of Christ in the National Gallery. Lots of little portraits of people looking this way and that, many slightly different characters with their own personality.

I have a few photographs of it all but cannot do proper justice to her paintings, or the building. As usual, you have to see them in person to really appreciate how wonderful they are.

If you are in Edinburgh, you really have to visit.

I'm not alone in thinking so much of this place and Traquair's painting. Some other very good sites with lots of good pictures of the art are :

Traquair at the Last Supper

They're viewable on certain dates only. Next dates :
8th Sept
6th Oct
10th Nov
8th December 2013

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