Thursday, 14 May 2015

NTLive "Man and Superman"

By doing a Twitter search on #NTLive it is clear that in some parts of North America this was a very good performance indeed. Sadly at the Scotiabank Theatre in Vancouver tonight we did not get to see much of it. A few minutes of the first scene and then about twenty minutes of the last act, and the curtain calls. Then we sat in the pitch dark, until finally someone got up and went to find a member of staff. The lights came on, but no-one from the theatre said anything. Two members of the audience said that we could get refunds at the box office. The line up actually blocked the escalators: fortunately people behind us saw what was happening and formed the queue on the stairs.

Eventually we were given replacement tickets for the Encore performance, which is actually a Saturday matinee next month. We could have had the equivalent value in vouchers for regular film shows if we had preferred.

As I said the last time I reviewed an NT Live show, we were warned not to expect perfection. The cinema staff were clearly overwhelmed, and not in control of the broadcast. Hopefully NT Live will pull their socks up and try to actually run the complete show they advertise in all time zones. I wonder how long they will keep the audience coming back if they get this kind of treatment again.

UPDATE June 13

It is not often, these days, that I duck into a cinema on a warm, sunny afternoon. But I did that today after a very early lunch to secure our seats for the encore performance of Man and Superman. And the NTLive broadcast was flawless. It is a very talky play - and everyone is expected to speak very quickly, presumably to cut back on the running time. The sequence in the middle, when the protagonists become Don Juan and his circle arguing in hell with the devil was left in (most productions cut it to save time) and it worked very well indeed. What did not work so well was shifting a bit of very early twentieth century social realism to the present day, while leaving most of the text unaltered, because most of the social issues are no longer relevant. No-one seriously expects a man to ask for his daughter's hand before he asks the girl herself. Unmarried sex and motherhood is commonplace, and so on. I also know no-one who undoes the cuff buttons on his jacket to flip up the cuff like on a shirt. Or is that a thing in London now? Not just a great performance by Fiennes but a good supporting cast too. Not that there is much point in me reporting any of this here, now unless NTLive does more reruns in the future. I hope that they do, because it does justify a wider audience.

Monday, 11 May 2015

What is wrong with flickr?

The last time flickr updated its User Interface many complained. Flickr did not listen, and quite a few of my contacts abandoned the site. Some of us moved to other sites like Ipernity that looked the same - but it is not the technical issues that make a site, it is the sense of community. And somehow Ipernity fails to do that for me, and I notice some of my contacts try to keep a presence in both camps.

Having just returned from a trip to New Orleans, I have over 300 pictures. Not all of them need to be uploaded - and anyway there is a lot to be done as each one goes on to the site. The image may need some tweaking: I do not make a great deal of use of enhancements but straight from the camera is frequently not optimal. Sharing means posting to groups: adding tags, geolocation among them. Not just the file number in the title but something meaningful and preferably some commentary below it.

So there is a process of selection and curation involved, not just uploading. flickr is also touting its new uploader app for Mac. But what does is scour my hard drive for every single image which is then put into the cloud as my "camera roll". That is so time consuming that I still have no real idea if I have the ability to restrict what it uploads after that "collection" process starts. What I have found is that there are already many images - which show up when in "date posted" mode - that I had never intended to be on flickr. They also get in the way when trying to find images to upload when using flickr's other uploaders - there are at least two distinct ways to do that on their webpage. At one time there was a good deal of integration between Apple's iPhotos and flickr: that seems to have been lost. Perhaps not such a bad thing as it had more than once caused me to lose images completely. Once deleted from flickr they were also gone from both my hard drive and the back up - no idea how that happened but flickr blamed my use of "too many apps using the API".

This morning - as yesterday - attempts to upload from Apple Photo app timed out. No matter how much or how little I tried to upload. In case the fault lay in my wifi connection I even tried it over a wire, with no change. I have also tried both flickr's current uploadr and the earlier one both still active through their web portal. No joy there either. The site itself is still functional in other respects, not just for the MacBook but also the tablets and the phone. Just the uploads are screwy.

When things went wrong with Shaw, Telus, Air Canada and United I was able to get some help by simply tweeting. That doesn't work with flickr either.

Review "In The Heights"

At the Arts Club Stanley Theatre until June 7, 2015

I am happy to recommend this show to my readers. It was, of course very successful on Broadway in 2008, playing over 1,000 performance and picking up a Tony. I did not see it there - quite possibly because they did not have tickets at the half price place on Times Square.

It is a musical and combines a variety of styles - including rap, which I must admit in general for me is a bit of a turn off - with plenty of latino rhythms and the rather predictable Big Broadway Solos - and excellent dance numbers. The 14 strong cast - all local - and all chosen by audition - are not just good actors but good singers and dancers too.

The book is by Quiera Alegria Hughes who has mixed Puerto Rican and Jewish descent and strong parallels with the experience with the lead female character Nina. The setting is the top of Manhattan Island, which is not the sort of area where tourists go, although the only warnings I have been aware of referred to the black 'hoods rather than the barrio. This is also not the same view of Manhattan we got from West Side Story.

It is all about how immigrants deal with a new foreign place and how they cling to familiar things from their own cultures. It's not a convenience store, it's a bodega. The taxi drivers speak Spanish, but even then there are significant differences between the cultures of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The guy who wants to be a dispatcher is an African American: is his status as an honorary latino enough for his girl friend's father who is also his boss? Money, or rather the lack of it, is a common theme of the interweaving story lines. As the needs of the residents of the barrio to move on, to assimilate and to escape from the inevitable gentrification that is coming. The story lines may be based in the Big Apple, but they have a distinct resonance for Vancouver.

So I was won over by the show and the showmanship and I think you will be too, unless you are hard hearted or prejudiced. The songs were not familiar to me, but then I do not listen to that kind of radio. So far as I know none of them became big hits. But they all work well. And the story does have its sentimental moments, and I did tear up - and more than once too. I am not going to pick out any one performance since it is very much an ensemble piece and there is no weak member of the cast in any sense. One or two real surprises to, so do not be tempted to read too far into "Bill's Notes" plot synopsis before the show starts.