Symphony of Raiders

The movies of George Lucas have been said to have a lot with silent movies. This is both a slap at his dialog and a complement to his visual style. If you think of his movies there are numerous visuals that are iconic.

Friday night sometime after five, I got a call from my friend Jeff. He started to tell me something about symphony and having an extra ticket. I didn’t need more explanation. “I’m in.”, I said. If I’d let him finished his prepared sales pitch I would have heard that he had an extra ticket for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to play John Williams score of Raiders of the Lost Ark live on stage synchronized to the movie playing on a screen behind the orchestra. Now I was excited. I had 90 minutes to get to Dallas and find a parking spot.

The tickets where excellent: row A on the Orchestra side. This was my first time at Meyerson. It is a very modern looking theatre. The musicians slowly arrived and started turning their instruments. Every once in a while your hear a familiar refrain. When the first violinist came in, there was applause. Finally arrived the conductor looking like Russell Crowe with an extra mop of hair to help in his direction.

Without any preamble the lights dimmed and the Paramount logo appeared above the Orchestra. There was a bit of a glow on the musicians lest you forget why you were there. It appeared that they had a special cut of the movie without the score but with dialogue and foley effects intact. This is a good thing as there are a few moments in the movie that the Orchestra was able to rest.

The conductor had a custom version of the movie that was marked up with visual cues. A virtual scan bar acted as metronome. Color dots seemed to denote changes. The result was perfect synchronization with the film. It was fascinating to see some off-label uses of the instruments such as plucking the strings of a violin. The array of percussion instrument kept that section running to and fro. And since this was a Williams score it was the brass section that was there to play the triumphant themes.

There was an intermission just before the digging at the Well of the Souls. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times as a perineal favorite. Sometimes I watch the other movies in the series but they all pale. I thought it funny to hear full belly laughs from the audience at the appropriate parts.

When the movie first came out in 1981 I did not see it in the theater. I do remember my grandmother telling about it in great detail especially the romantic scene on the ship where Indy gets clobbered with the mirror. It would be months later before I finally saw it at the dollar theater. Yes, it was really a dollar.

The movie has really stood up to the test of time. The symphony experience was incredible and I would eagerly repeat whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali

I took my mother this weekend to the Salvador Dalí exhibit, Salvador Dali: Visions of Eternity, currently showing at the Arlington Museum of Art.

Dali was always much more than one of Surrealism’s leading figures. A virtuoso, gifted with dazzling skills and technique, Dali was a painter, designer, sculptor, writer and set designer as well as a master engraver who could produce equally outstanding work in dry point, etching, woodcut or lithography. This exhibition features Dali’s full series of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, for which each of the lithographs presented required as many as 35 colors. There are a total of 101 pieces included in this exhibition.

I’ve been to two other Dalí museums that I can remember. The first was opened while the artist was still alive. I visited the gallery in Catalonia in the mid 80’s and learned that art did not have to be boring. I was fascinated with the mathematical calculated intricacies in some of his work. That gallery featured tiny hand drawings lining a spiral staircase where you peeked through a port hole to see them. It also featured a large pieces that required their own room. I was taking a drafting class a the time so I recognized the standard methods for perspective being used and abused.

More recently I visited the new Dalí gallery in St. Petersburg. I was hoping to see the same kind of art I had seen before and was disappointed. It was if this collection was of a different artist. As I dug deeper, I found the connection to what I had seen. This collection merely showed a different aspect of the same talents that I recognized.

Yesterday’s visit in Arlington was of a single collection that was published in 1960 as a book of woodcut prints. It was a retelling of Dante’s Devine Comedy. For each print, there was a reference to the cantiche, canto, and line represented. The prints are displayed in order so you can go with Virgil into Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Once again it was a different glimpse into an artist that I thought I knew. There were a few pieces the threw back to classic Dalí’s surrealistic landscapes but by-and-large, this was a new experience.

The exhibit will be there through January 21, 2018 and is well worth the time and entrance fee.

A Château in Provence

Château d’Entrecasteaux

Munn Family
Munn Family
While at her 102nd birthday lunch, my grandmother mentioned that she and my aunt had learned of a memoirs written by the son of one of her cousins on the Munn side of the family. She told me the stories in the book were “scandalous”. She said this grinning ear to ear. I looked up the book and confirmed that it is available on Kindle. I read it over the last week and it reads like second had history with Forrest Gump like references sprinkled throughout. As I read my Kindle version I highlighted the author’s witness to history. The heart of the book is about his acquisition and restoration of Entrecasteaux with his father, an my grandmother’s cousin, Hugh Ian Mcgarvie-Munn in 1974.

Chateau in Provence
This book takes the reader on an amazing voyage, from living in the presidential house as the grandson of the President of Guatemala, to the tribulations of life in an English boarding school and France where I study architecture and restore our first home, a château in central France. After six years I move to Château d’Entrecasteaux in Provence, which is central to the theme of my story. The pages are filled with history, political intrigues, presidential elections, coup d’etats, murders, illicit affairs, kidnappings and ghosts, all interwoven by a love story that weaves its way through the history of Château d’Entrecasteaux and makes for compelling reading.
I most appreciated the references to my own great-great-grandfather, “…Robert Munn, a deep-sea pilot, was one of the last sailors in my family. He was constantly at sea, and rumour has it that he would only return once a year, at Christmas, deposit a pouch of gold coins on the kitchen table, father a new child, and then be off again for another year.” The book is full of additional intrigues in the 1960’s references to the CIA front The United Fruit Company that must have come in handy for a later infiltration of Panama. The author’s mother also was a fascinating character standing up to Charles De Gualle to become the first ever woman ambassador to France.

Heart of the Horse
Heart of the Horse
Photography by Juliet Van Otteren
Iain’s second wife Juliet is a noted photographer. He portraits are part of permanent collections in places like the University of Texas in Austin. Originally from California, she’s also known for her tabletop book of horse pictures.

Growing up the author spoke Spanish, French and English. There are numerous British spellings in the book and even a recurring substitution of the word “thought” with “though”. I recommend this book as a fun page-turner for anyone with an interest in 1960 Central American politics. I think it should be required reading for descendants of Captain Munn. Reading this book makes me want to plan a trip to the south of France and Guatemala, although not the same trip.

SEIR Building Project

As they built the new Apple Campus in Cupertino, it became a Mecca for drone photographers to document the progress of the construction. At one point Apple security tried to discourage enthusiastic remote pilots but that proved to be a harder task than they thought. With all the new construction on campus, I wanted to emulate the work done in California. The SEIR building broke ground a year ago. After checking local and campus rules, I set a project of myself to document the construction of this new building on the south side of the University of Texas at Arlington campus. When complete it will serve as one pillar of the south entrance to campus for people driving north on Cooper street. My plan is to take pictures and video once a month until the building is complete. After just one month, I’m still on track. You can already see progress between the two videos.

Penitentiary Hollow

Pictures from and around Penitentiary Hollow at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. This is a nice park for some light hiking. There was a bit of a squall brewing when I was there which made it a bit too windy for flying the drone. Most of these pictures were taken from ground level around Penitentiary Hollow which is a popular rock climbing spot. For $7 and a waiver you can run up and down the cliff. Jada proved herself to be a good climber so long as the rocks were no higher than 6″ tall.

Wings Over Dallas

Here are a few pictures from Wings over Dallas 2017 air show featuring the Commemorative Air Force. I was not able to stick around for the flying part of the show. I was able to get in before dawn and have the run of the place for a couple hours to take pictures. I also got some pictures of some non-planes. I used to think that CAF stood for Confederate Air Force which would be a bit of an anachronism.

Millennium Phenom

At Dallas Executive Airport there is an Embraer jet, tail number N100FZ, painted up with images from Star Wars that made me laugh. On one side of the tail is the Millennium Falcon. On the other is a painting of what looks like an X-Wing with the fuselage of a jet. On the front and back of the plane there are painted-on thrust ports that look like the nose of the Space Shuttle. On one side there is a painted on Flux Capacitor. On the main door there’s a logo that looks like it is from Star Fleet and the engines are painted like warp nacelles.

Plano Balloon Fest 2017

Last Sunday I got up early and drove up to the annual Plano Balloon festival. Being Sunday I was expecting there to be limited events. The morning schedule featured the balloon launch and a inbound contest. At dawn there was only one balloon on the field. This one was tethered to allow $25 vertical rides. At 7:30, more balloons arrived and started to inflate. By then the sun was already rising and the photo opportunities passing. Once those balloon left, they drew a big target on the ground. Balloons launched further to the south then attempted to hit as close to the box target without getting in it. Some of those balloons missed the field entirely. All in all, I need to remember to go on Saturday instead of Sunday if I want to get the full effect of a field of balloons. I have been to this festival 3 times now but never to the Saturday night activities. I’ll need to plan on going to the evening balloon glow next time.

Balloons

This really goes under the heading, “did not really think this one through”. It all started simple enough. A co-worker is having a milestone birthday. Someone suggested filling cube with a bunch of balloons. It sounded like fun. I recruited a co-conspirator and made a plan. First question is how many balloon? If you assume that a typical 12″ balloon occupies a volume of one cubic foot and a typical cube is 8x8x5, then I would need 320 balloons to fill the space. Next step is to find some balloons. Target has bulk balloons but they only had assorted colors. Next stop was Party City with helium quality (read expensive) bulk balloons in a variety of colors. Given the milestone, black was chosen as appropriate. I decided that two bags of 72 would be sufficiently obnoxious. My plan was to inflate the balloons the night before but I was concerned that they would be all deflated by morning. I did one balloon test that was still full four days later. These are good balloons. The prospect of transporting that many filled balloons meant that I would be filling them in situ. Fortunately I have a little portable air compressor with an attachment for air mattresses. My timing showed it takes about a minute to fill one balloon. Additional time is needed to tie the balloon off. My co-conspirator took care of containment and tying balloons but abandoned me after the first hour. I had it down to about 75 seconds per balloon so that math worked out to 3 hours with the little compressor pumping away. At one point, the cleaning staff came by and just shook her head. It all paid off. When the victim came into work this morning he was properly surprised.