Archive for February, 2008

Derek Jarman: Homage and Trespass


Prospect Cottage TtV – found sculptures triptych

During the February half-term we went to Hastings and I took the opportunity to visit Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. I’ve been intrigued, delighted, and perplexed by Derek Jarman’s work since he presented the world premiere of his War Requiem at The Duke of York in Brighton in 1989. I don’t get his films: many are haunting and beautiful, some (well Jubilee) are unwatchably cringeworthy but they all leave you feeling there was more to understand, that you’ve watched a piece of art.

From his films I started reading his some of his books: so far Chroma and The Garden. Chroma is a gem – an unexpected book about colour in which artist notes abut scientific discussion of pigment or deeper reflections of the memories evoked. The Garden is a affecting account of the effect that crafting a garden and a home in the desolate Dungeness landscape can have on a dwindling life. It is a very moving and a very beautiful book.

So with his films and his books as inspiration I took Kate and the kids on a visit to Dungeness.

It was unsettling. On the one hand it had all the eerie haunting beauty I expected. I was excited to be there and to photograph it. But where I expected to feel moved by the death of such an inspirational artist instead I felt uneasy. People must move to Dungeness for its remote beauty, and here I was helping to turn it into a tourist destination. Our smart car parked in front seemed anomalous – an anomaly I’d injected into the scene. I chatted to the neighbour about the season’s weather as she hang out her washing; I tried to make it my own by taking a series of Through the Viewfinder photos; but in the end what I intended as a homage has left me feeling that I trespassed.

Is snobbery bad?


Jarman Super 8s

In the Observer recently, Michael Collins described Derek Jarman as a snob:

“Snobbery permeates Jarman’s writings, almost as much as sex and travel. In his view, only an artist has the ability to transform debris, found objects and a dilapidated seaside home into a thing of beauty.”

I don’t agree. He’s clearly exacting – demanding as much uncompromising creativity from us, our society and the British film industry as he gave to his life and work. Today I went to The Serpentine’s “Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty”, one of the films on show is a film about Jarman by Isaac Julien. Threaded through the film was a letter written and read by Tilda Swinton. In that there were a couple of wonderful phrases that may hint at what Collins meant by snobbery:

[…] before the Sunday Times educated us that culture means digested opinions about marketable artistic endeavours.

The formula merchants are out in force. They are in the market for guaranteed product.

So is snobbery bad? Snobs clearly run the risk of discounting something that turns out to be worthwhile, but they don’t oppress us – just challenge us to reply with equal rigour, and I guess to meet judgement with acceptance.

links for 2008-02-23


links for 2008-02-21


Bird Watching at the RSPB reserve “The Lodge” in Sandy, Bedfordshire.


‘The Lodge’ Sandy sunset (2)

When our kids were small much of our spare time was taken up doing things that they’d enjoy or benefit from, and any free time I had would be when Kate was looking after the kids and so we tended to develop separate pastimes. Now that the kids are of an age where they want to spend time with their own friends doing their own things Kate and I find ourselves faced with the question that I’m sure has faced many parents before us: what interests do we still share now? As a result of thinking this through we’ve returned to lots of the activities we use to do before we had Meg and Will, and one of our new year’s resolutions is to get back into bird watching.

We kicked off this weekend with a brief trip at the end of a busy Sunday to The Lodge, the RSPB‘s reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. It took just 30 minutes to drive there from home and although we had less than an hour before sunset we managed to see a brambling (which I don’t think either of us had seen before) and an amazing close-up view from the hide of a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker on one of the bird feeders.

Great fun – we’ll be doing more of that and maybe even getting some new bird watching gadgets and magazines 🙂

links for 2008-02-08


Jeanette Wing’s “Computational Thinking” at our reading group


This morning was our monthly HCI Reading Group that Alan Blackwell runs under the Crucible umbrella. Simon and Luke Church presented Jeanette Wing‘s “Computational Thinking” – definitely the shortest paper we’ve had so far.
Simon’s approach to the paper was educational, since he’s been thinking about how we teach ‘computing’ to young kids. There must be something in the ether about this as I had a similar conversation with Steve Drucker on his last visit to Cambridge. Simon was particularly impressed with Computer Science Unplugged.
Luke’s approach to the paper was more political. We talked about the potential negative impact on society of uncritical utopian views of computational thinking.
One of the most fascinating critiques of computational thinking came up when Alan was talking about ambiguity. We discussed whether/why Computer Science was particularly bad at dealing with ambiguity and used poetry as an example. Poetry cannot be studied as if it was objective, the ambiguity of a poem can only be studied in relation to the subjectivity of the reader.

links for 2008-02-06


Note to self: fixing “cannot locate resource window1.xaml” exception in vanilla WPF project


Visual Studio 2008 Screenshot

I’ve had this problem come up a few times. If I start a new WPF project and delete the default window1.xaml and add in a different starting page I forget to fix App.xaml to reflect the change. That’s the file with the line startupUri=”Window1.xaml” in it.

links for 2008-02-05