Thursday, 26 February 2009

Surface SDK

I just watched an interesting video from the Microsoft Surface team demonstrating the Surface SDK that they are developing. It's really cool - it really takes only a few lines of code to write nice Surface applications! All I need now is a surface for the office:-) [It would be cool to be the first person to get F# code running on a surface!]

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Slovenia: Pust

Just back from a great long weekend in Slovenia. This past weekend, Slovenia celebrates a carnival - "Pust" - where most people dress up in costumes and parade through the town. (See here on Wikipedia.) Hana and Lina dressed up as a bee and a ladybird, and their cousin as a dinosaur. The grown-ups dressed as Dalmations. We had a great time parading through the streets of Mislinja barking at the locals :-) [And we won one of the prizes!]

The Carnival is to invite in the Spring, and to scare away the Winter. In Ptuj there is a special version where the "Kurent" scares away the winter. It seems the origin of Kurent is lost in history, but the costume is really impressive:

I'd love to be in Ptuj for the Carnival. Apparently there were 10,000 people in this year's parade and there were 700 kurenti!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

More awards for the Donmar

It's not just me gushing about the Donmar Warehouse. They're currently sweeping the awards shows. They just won five theatregoers' choice awards (best actor, best director, best play revival, best Shakespearean production and best supporting actor). This is on top of four wins at the Evening Standard Awards, four wins at the Critics Circle Awards and 13 nominations for the Oliviers.

Here's my brother with Michael Grandage and Anne McNulty holding some of their awards :-)

Twelfth Night @ Donmar

We spent Valentine's Night at the Wyndham's Theatre watching the second of the "Donmar in the West End" productions: Twelfth Night. It was a wonderful evening. You still have a few evenings left to go to see it - I recommend it highly!

Twelfth Night is the only Shakespeare play I know back-to-front; as it was the one I did for O level. It's an interesting play - at one level it's an out-and-out comedy with mistaken identity, gender swapping, drunkeness and sex. But at another, everyone is really rather cruel, shallow and opportunistic.

The Donmar production is very spartan: I think I only saw a couple of props (a couch and a wind-breaker). Everything else is left to the physicality of the actors. This is very smart as it emphasizes both the comedy and the cruelty in the play. The set is very organic - rugged wooden floorboards sticking out into the front row, and intense lighting suggesting both the sunlight of a coastal city and (at a higher level) drawing you to the cruelty amongst the comedy.

The direction and acting is first rate: Derek Jacobi is clearly revelling in his interpretation of Malvolio. His reading of the fake letter from Olivia is worth the ticket by itself. Ron Cook and Guy Henry as Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek are a great physical comedy team. Indira Varma is wonderfully cast: stunning beautiful and she draws a nice parallel between Olivia and a 20s "flapper".

But for me, the star of the show is Victoria Hamilton as Viola. Hers is the most complex of characters, but she makes it entirely believable. Viola's internal turmoil is beautifully done: clear but not over done. The homo-erotic tension between Viola and Orsino is fantastic. For me, she commanded the stage whenever she was on. Super.

[I also enjoyed talking with James afterwards about the only bit of the play I don't quite understand: the relationship between Sebastian and the Sea Captain. Bisexuality or accident?]

Monday, 16 February 2009

Nearly gone

Our snowman finally melted yesterday evening. Here's what was left at lunchtime.

Somehow this picture seemed apt as I rapidly approach my 40th birthday :-)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Cognitive surplus

Thanks to Phil Wadler for bringing this 15 minute video to my attention. It's a really interesting meditation on new media by Clay Shirky. He contrasts old media - which has been solely about consumpion; to new media - which is (also) about production and sharing. Old media consumption is pretty huge - two hundred billion hours are spent in the US every year watching TV! This "spare time", Clay calls the "cognitive surplus". Just a small shift towards production and sharing of information, i.e. putting the cognitive surplus to a different use, could yield great things. Clay estimates that 100 million hours have been put into Wikipedia.

Watch it for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Toshiba TG01

Just when I was all geared up to getting a Touch HD in a couple of months when I become eligible for an upgrade, from nowhere Toshiba have announced a very nice looking WinMob 6.1 phone: the TG01. 4.1" screen but under 10mm thick and sporting a snapdragon 1Ghz chip, it looks very nice. They've also customized the Microsoft UI in a nice way too. [There are some details online: here, here and here, for example.]