Monday, February 25, 2008

YouTube (Thing #8)

As part of the "Web2.0" initiative, we've been asked to look at YouTube, and find a favorite video. I have been using YouTube for quite some time for all kinds of things - finding concert videos for favorite musicians, finding old Muppet Show routines, as well as other old T.V. shows.

But I think for my favorite, I have to go with the Hammer Juggler. While I initially was e-mailed this video, I was able to find it on YouTube, and thus I could send it to others without the bandwidth overhead. Each time I watch this video, I try to see if I can find any scars on this guy's face from previous practice sessions. Do not attempt at home.

One of the interesting things about YouTube is that it seemed to prompt the whole online "video on demand" concept that lead to studios releasing their own videos, and subsequently, the writer's strike. While it would be unfair to blame the writer's strike directly on YouTube, you can see how these events fall into sequence. In the future, you may see more creativity from common citizens using YouTube, and networks left to unscripted entertainment, like news, true crime and sports.

On the embedded player: I see the embedded player for YouTube turn up quite a few places. It's a cool little widget, but any secured web browser would not allow it to run, since it uses the same technique as a common cross-site scripting attack. A cool widget is not worth the security risk.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A favorite pic (Thing #5)

At my workplace, they've asked the entire technology group to look at "web 2.0", and try some of the features that are being built into web sites and web browsers. This week's lesson was to find a favorite pic.

After looking at my favorite spot for photos - Wikimedia Commons - I decided to choose one of the ones I took instead. I was just too overwhelmed with great pics!

The picture above is of a hidden lake north of Bemidjigamog (or just "Bemidji") in the State Park. There was a trail that lead from the campground through a "bog walk" - a boardwalk allowing visitors to walk into the bog without destroying it. Through the bog, and through thick woods, you come out at this small hidden lake - perfectly quiet and tranquil.

Pitcher Plants in the bog!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Attend the Tale ...

For my birthday this year, Kitty purchased tickets to the Broadway revival of "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street". As a teenager, I stumbled upon the very end of Sweeney Todd on PBS (probably waiting for Doctor Who to come on), and thought "That looked really interesting". I soon rented the video from that performance, and became a big fan.

The week prior to seeing the show, I heard a story on MPR that this revival used a minimal set, and had a minimal cast, with the actors also playing instruments (no orchestra!). This did worry me a bit, knowing that there is one version of the musical that is not acted out, but merely sung while standing in place.

The production was incredibly brave, with the actors constantly acting their part, playing their instruments or moving set pieces. The music was wonderful, and amazing to watch the actors deftly handle their increased musical responsibilities. But sometimes the additional work of the actors became a distraction from the story itself; other times, the instruments and staging interfered with natural, direct interaction between the characters, leaving the audience wondering who is supposed to be a talking with who.

Also, by having the complete cast on stage at all times, it was not always clear when a scene transitioned from place to place, or even who was actually in the scene. Especially the opening scene in Act II, it's hard to tell that the pie shop is now crowded, as it is filled with as many people as before.

Sadly, one of the most important "characters" was missing from this production - Sweeney's barber chair. This prop was important enough that you can hear it in use on the Original Broadway Cast recording. I think some of the black comedy was lost without the chair. Not only did it change the timing with the way each murder was symbolically staged, but I think the quick exit of the body in the original staging made it easier to laugh at the situation. Maybe it's not as polite to laugh at a murder victim if they're still in the room (and playing an instrument).

That being said, I fully understand how the chair would be a logistical nightmare for a ten-person ensemble.

Again, it was a very brave production, and incredibly well performed by the cast. I would gladly see it again if it were to come back through town.

Now, if only they'd do "A Little Night Music" ...