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Friday, April 20, 2012

Living In The Cloud - Update


When I wrote this, back in August, the BlackBerry PlayBook was getting tough reviews.  However, since the OS was updated to 2.0 at the end of February, I can honestly say those reviews are unfounded.

With native email, calendar and contacts now part and parcel of the device, it now really is possible to live in "The Cloud".

What's more, with the introduction of an Android player, the number of apps available has increased exponentially.  Personally, I'm not too bothered about apps.  I have what I need and don't have a desire to load my PlayBook with everything under the sun.

My device does exactly what I want it to do; and using my phone to connect to the internet, when not in a Wi-Fi area means I'm not restricted in any way.

So - if you haven't already; take a look at the latest version of the BlackBerry PlayBook; like others, you might be pleasantly surprised


"The Cloud".  It's a phrase we hear about more and more, as our computing lives take place on line.

We are living in an ever connected world. We're sold broadband that is always on; we have a number of devices that are connected to the internet. The laptop, the smartphone, games consoles like the Ninetendo Wii, XBox, Playstation and many more.  Even the fridge!
Can it be possible to do without the full-scale laptop and/or PC, and live within the means of the handheld devices we carry around.
There have been quite a few experiments recently, where people have lived without the use of a normal PC or laptop, for one day; and I thought I'd join the fray!
To 'Live in the Cloud' you not only need the equipment to, but you also need the software. This is how I spent one day, using just my BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry PlayBook

Browser - The whole reason for being in the Cloud.  The BlackBerry PlayBook offers a browser experience that is near the normal browser.

Bluebox - an app that connects to your Dropbox account. This is a great way to store and access documents, and once they've been edited they sync back and the new version is available anywhere. It's also easy to share documents too  When you sign up, you get 2Gb of storage, free.

Documents To Go - Included on BlackBerry (from OS5) it's allows you to edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents whilst out and about. It's also included on the PlayBook.  The one downside is the ability to fully edit spreadsheets, but otherwise, it's ideal for reviewing. *UPDATE - From OS2, it's now possible to edit spreadsheets...

BlackBerry Bridge - One of the negatives bandied about with regards to the PlayBook, is the lack of native applications, such as email.  However, BlackBerry created the Bridge, an app that allows you to access these on your mobile phone, including BlackBerry Messenger, contacts, calendar and documents.  Although not native, it could be argued that, since these are not available when the Bridge is disconnected, then security of the data remains intact.

Google Docs - An alternative to Docs To Go; but you need to be Online to use it.  Google Docs is a solid way to access and share documents, as well as GMail and Calendar.

GeeReader - Keep in touch with your RSS news feeds. It's a great, free app, for the PlayBook, that integrates well; and since the PlayBook can play video, you can also watch the news too.

Connectivity - Of course, living (and working) in the cloud means that you also need to be connected.  There are numerous ways - a wif-fi connection via a hotspot, a personal wi-fi hotspot, or even the use of the BlackBerry Torch as a modem.  If you have an unlimited data plan (or even  a high-use) then this is a great way to keep connected.

Nobody said it would be easy, and this is just a quick look at the possibilities, especially since everything I've mentioned here is free (apart from the network connectivity).

It goes to show what can be achieved whilst out and about.... Including this particular post!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Go Go Jo - Act Two

Following on from my previous post about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, here is Act Two

The interval was fairly hectic.

Twenty minutes to change back into our "Brother" costumes; frantic re-application of copious amounts of microporous tape to stick the microphone to sweaty faces - that stuff is really not suitable for a show like this; on the second night, my microphone came away; and I could feel the wire flapping over my ear!  Very disconcerting; not knowing if it's going to completely come away!

In any case, we were soon rehydrated and ready to make our entrances for the second half.

Once again, the orchestra played through the intro, and we stood in the wings.

Act two contains more songs, and once Pharaoh had done his 'thang' and rock 'n' rolled down Egypt way, and the girls had wopbopshawadibopped and ooh-eee-ooh'd ; it was time for the Brothers to re-enter the fray; this time as 'sad Parisiens'.

Comedy Moment

Joseph is a show on many levels, the sad poignant moments, the raucous dance routines (see the Hoe-Down in One More Angel) and also some wonderful comedic moments.

'Canaan Days' is one of the funniest moments of the show; a bunch of men; all crying and bemoaning times passed; all done in a French accent.  As cast members we loved doing it.

On the first night, it went quite well; but we received one direction from Debbie; it needed to be hammed up even more.  All I can say is, by the final night, we had taken it to a whole new level; and the audience lapped it up.

The routines were all great; and I must admit that each night I was more confident about what I was doing in front of a paying crowd.

The Finale

So Jacob came to Egypt, and was re-united with Joseph.
Joseph donned his multi-coloured coat, and started to reprise the anthemic "Any Dream Will Do" - as a company we slotted into our rehearsed positions and sang our way to the end.

As Joseph finished his song; we pulled back to reveal the multi-coloured sections of THE coat.

Megamix - It's All Over Now

As in the touring production of the show, we also 'did' the Megamix - re-visiting songs from the show.

Treated as an encore; and a way for the cast to take their bows, from the first moment that it started, to the bows at the end; with the running, dancing, clapping and cheering; this 8 minute, non-stop routine was electric.

You could feel it amongst the cast; and when we were in the audience, clapping along, it was the first time we could see their faces up close, and they were loving it.

The opening night standing ovation was just amazing.  Each and every cast member was ecstatic about the reception we received; and we knew that we had to repeat that the very next night.

And we did.
Every night; pouring our hearts and souls into giving the best we could!
Four nights of standing ovations.

There are no words to describe the feeling; but I can understand why professionals love what they do.

It was an amazing experience; three months of rehearsals, all boiled down to 4 nights of pure magic.  Working (if you can call it work) with some very talented people; some who had done shows before, others who were as new to this as me, we all gelled as a company; and it was this 'teamwork' which produced the final show.

I had a fantastic time.  We all did.  We're still talking about it now.

Question is? What's next?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Go Go Jo - Act One

It's been a while since I posted anything, and it's been a busy few months.  OK; not mad busy, but for those of you who missed my facebook, G+ and Twitter updates; I recently took part in a local amateur dramatic production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Having attended the intial meeting and deciding to 'do it'; the rehearsals were a challenge on many levels.  This may come as a surprise to some; but I'm quite reserved with people I don't know.  Once I'm comfortable, I'll relax, and I don't mind getting involved.

For me, doing Joseph was a personal 'journey' to prove I could do something on a bigger scale than than the review show I'd done the previous summer.

Firstly; for those that don't know, Joseph is a musical.  There are no spoken lines; it's all song (and dance, but we'll come on to that later).

The Singing

I know the musical, have listened to the soundtrack on countless occasions, and seen the show a few times too.  However, nothing prepared me for the relative complexity of the harmonies present in the score.

I was one of Josephs' 11 brothers, and I'm not a natural singer; sure, I enjoy a sing-song; but usually to the tune (some would argue that I can't do that!) When asked to sing a harmony; it took all my concentration not to sing the tune - and I have to admit, I didn't always achieve the desired result!

On the other hand, I was offered the chance to sing solo for "One More Angel"; sung Western style!  I was excited to do it.  It was a challenge; and it took some time to get it right. At least, I think I got it right!

After a few rehearsals, we, as a company, began to make quite a pleasant sound.

The Dancing

As I mentioned earlier; until I know people, I can be quite shy.  At this stage of the proceedings; I was in my element, and not afraid to 'give it a go'.... 

So, to the choreography.  Once again, I don't consider myself a natural mover... I like to 'dance' of a fashion, but when asked to perform steps, I felt clumsy and totally out of my comfort zone.  The moves didn't seem to flow; I had trouble mastering the more physical dances; but with perseverance, and locking myself in my room at home and practising; I soon made something of the routines.

Robert, our director, knew what he wanted; and refused to settle for second best.
Debbie, our choreographer, also had exacting demands - and she pushed for the best.

For three months we toiled sweat (and tears) burning the calories and building up the confidence to perform.


Costumes arranged, rehearsals over, it was soon time to 'do it'.  A four-night run at a local arts college was upon us.

The day before, we all met the orchestra; and sang along with them, as they rehearsed and it was at this time it felt so real.

All of a sudden our game lifted - this was it!

Monday evening.  Makeup, microphones, lighting, soundchecks.  Nerves started to jitter.  As a company, we were a little muted as we realised "this is it".  Anticipation within the audience was sky-high, as we had been cajoling our friends, friends friends, and their friends and anyone else, plus relatives to buy tickets; telling them that this was a show NOT to be missed.
This was a show where I'd be seen by people as never before!  On a personal level, I didn't want to disappoint.

The lights were dimmed.
The overture started.

Then we were off; our cue was upon us and out we stepped, a haze of people beyond the lights; the music flowed, the singing hit all the right notes (most of the time!) and the dancing was 'insane'!!

My solo went without a hitch; and my concerns about trying to sing whist out of breath proved to be unfounded.  I put it down to the huge quantities of adrenalin pumping round my system!!

From the first note of the overture, to the last note of Go Go Go Joseph, before the interval, it was a blur.
When the song ended, the audience cheered and clapped and we were smiling.
Feeling elated; we returned to the dressing room to prepare for Act Two.

I'll write about that next time.


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