Jaap van Zweden at the DSO

On Saturday, Susan and I attended our first Dallas Symphony performance since Jaap van Zweden took over as Music Director. His conducting style is very different from Andrew Litton. Litton always seemed to be conducting a few notes ahead of the orchestra – he waved the baton and a second later you’d hear the orchestra hit the note. Jaap van Zweden, on the other hand, gives the appearance of conducting in real time. The orchestra hits notes at exactly the same time that his baton makes the move. I’m sure there’s a technical name for that difference but I have no ideas what it is.

Jaap van Zweden did seem to be squeezing a little something extra out of the musicians during their performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. The conductor wore a black Dr. Evil outfit and tends to be very animated as he conducts. More than anything, he seemed to be using his baton as a magic wand and looked like an evil wizard madly casting spells.

Pianist Emanuel Ax performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. We last saw Ax perform John Adams’ Century Rolls. While I prefer Adams to Mozart, it was still an enjoyable performance.

Coyotes in Irving, TX

Wow, has it been two months since I posted anything? Time flies when you’re busy.

Yesterday Susan and I were driving out to Home Depot to buy a new lawn mower when we spotted a Coyote wandering along near Highway 161 (in Irving, TX). I had a camera with me but it didn’t have a long enough lens to get a good shot. We pulled over but the Coyote saw us and started trotted off toward the treeline. I managed to get a fuzzy photo before it vanished. That’s the first time I’ve seen one in town. Pretty cool

Coyote in Irving, TX

Last night we attended the DSO‘s performance of Ives’ 4th Symphony. That’s one weird piece of music and the first time we’d ever heard it performed live. It requires a second conductor at times as some groups of instruments are playing in a completely different time signature than the rest of the orchestra. It took huge assortment of instruments and a full choir to pull it off. A synthesizer substituted for a particularly hard-to-find type of piano. The optional Theramin was not used (or perhaps the synth or the organ filled in for it too?) We gave it a standing ovation. Nobody else did. Well, I did see other person stand, so I guess three of us gave it standing ovation. Everyone else just applauded minimally while looking a bit confused.

Andrew Litton Invited us Backstage at the DSO

After the DSO concert Saturday evening, Susan and I ventured backstage at the invitation of Andrew Litton. Following instructions printed from an email, we made our way through a nearly pitch black corridor of the Meyerson known as the green room and knocked on the appropriate door. But I should start at the beginning.

Susan has for some years been maintaining an Andrew Litton discography on her website. Mr. Litton’s 8-year-old daughter was learning to use Google image search recently in a class and stumbled onto Susan’s site. She showed it to her father, who was in the processing of having his own website put together. A few days later Susan received an email from Mr. Litton asking permission to use her discography on his official site. Susan offered to provide a copy of the discography on CD and that brings us back to the green room door.

To our surprise Maestro Litton opened the door himself. He was standing in the corridor next to the door talking to someone so it was perfect timing on our part. We waited our turn and he invited us into his office. A couple of musicians stopped to chat on their way to wherever musicians go after a concert and we got to meet Emanuel Borok, the concertmaster of the DSO. Susan and Mr. Litton chatted about website details for a few minutes and then he progressed to other after-symphony duties. But not before Susan got one of her CD inserts autographed.

Emanuel Ax

Earlier this Month, Susan and I were able to see a perfomance of John AdamsCentury Rolls at the Bass Performance Hall in Ft. Worth. It was performed, of course, by Emanuel Ax, for whom it was originally composed. Generally you have to drive to Austin or Houston to hear a symphony play anything by a modern composer, since the DSO is so reluctant to venture into the 20th century.

Robots and Robotron

I’m finally within sight of being mostly caught up on a lot of the work around here. Susan and I managed to find time to make two DSO performances in January. I might even have enough free time to keep my weblog up to date or work on a few non-work-related projects during February.

Work on the DPRG‘s non-profit status continues. We received our certificate of incorporation from the State of Texas this month. The next step is filing the 501(c)3 application with the IRS. The Tuesday night RBNO meetings at the DPRG World Headquarters (aka the “warehouse”) continue to grow in popularity. We now have two live webcams and an IRC channel during the RBNO.

I had to squeeze in a little time during January to open up the Robotron: 2084 cabinet and tune up the joysticks. A fellow VAPS member has challenged me to a game. This is the first time in 15 years or so I’ll be playing against another expert level player. In the 80’s I don’t think anyone could beat me – but I’m a bit rusty these days, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I’m thinking about updating the Robotron logic board to the slightly newer blue ROMs from the yellow/orange ROMs I currently use. At one time this would have been a simple matter of going to any of dozens of Internet ftp or web sites that offered the ROM images for download and then burning a new set of EPROMs. But it appears there has been some sort of crack-down on arcade game ROM images online. Several fellow collectors emailed me the ROM images but it’s sad that this has gotten so much harder than it used to be.

Buying Camera Gear From eBay vs Camera Shows

Busy day. Spent the morning mowing and edging the yard. We had lunch in Grapevine on the way out to a camera show sponsored by one of our clients. There was some interesting stuff to see at the camera show including non-photography items like two light sabers and an old Star Trek type one phaser. For buying and selling lenses, though, I think I’ll stick with eBay. Better prices are part of it but another part is the trust-metric-like feedback system on eBay. I’d much rather buy a lens from someone with hundreds of positive feedback certs on eBay than from a total stranger at a camera show.

From the camera show we drove by the office briefly to look for an Ovenbird that made an appearance friday. No sign of it today, of course, since I had a camera with me. Then we drove over to the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson. Lots of amazing art and craft items (and a few not so amazing things). There are a dozen or so “art” festivals in the DFW area each year but most of them have very little that one could really call art. The Cottonwood Art Festival is the one to go to if you want art. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival has a few interesting things and a lot of music. Most of the others can be skipped.

After a we got tired of wandering around looking at the art, we stopped to get some barbeque and consider further plans for the evening. We had Dallas Symphony tickets but, upon closer inspection, tonights performance turned out to be another blasted piano concerto (have I mentioned that I am not fond of piano concerti?). We decided to skip the symphony this week.