Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Errands: What a strange day. We had to go down town because the government screwed up. We had called for absentee ballots some time back. They had not arrived and others we spoke to had already received theirs and sent them back. So Anna called. Well, they couldn’t find any record for the primary but the general election was good. So if we wanted to vote in the primary we could come down town and pick up the ballots. Anna went into the office building while I drove round and round. Of course there was no place to park, in downtown Seattle. Are you kidding? We were successful in getting a toner cartridge for my copier. A light lunch at Ivar’s Acres of Clams (that’s a whole ‘nother story, about Ivar, I mean) and then we were off to pick up a CD at Tower Records. I had called to see if it was in stock. Somebody told me that it was. But when we arrived there were no CDs by James Solberg. Miffed but keeping my temper. Back home I accomplished a couple of errands, Anna picked grapes. Our daughter showed up and we went out to dinner. In the evening I watched some television and prepared the grapes for grape pie. Labor intensive, because Concord type grapes have seeds. You must separate the skins from the innards, simmer the eyeballs (well, they look like it) then put them through a food mill to separate the seeds. Meantime chop the skins in a cuisinart, then combine them and into the freezer for grape pie later on. Lots of work but the pies are pretty darn good or I wouldn’t do it.

Why did we need absentee ballots? All will be explained tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Death Worms and Charging Spiders: There is much weird stuff in this world. And no better place to look for it than on The Fortean Times website. Every once in a while when I have an idle moment I click on and see what is new in the world of the weird and wonderful. Today there was a fairly long account of a trip to Mongolia to look for a snake/worm that lies beneath the sand for months at a time. The leader of the expedition was Adam Davies, who works for the Home Office in England. Nice holiday, what? The giant worm is said to emerge when it rains. This happens in maybe two months a year. Davies and his mate went looking for the thing. There is even a picture. It doesn’t look much like a snake. It is said to be five feet long and blunt at both ends. But is said to be very aggressive, very poisonous and can strike or spit a lethal corrosive venom for a distance of several meters. The expedition didn’t find the thing but they did meet with charging spiders, also very poisonous. And they did meet many people who had seen the worm. This reminded me of a book which I read not so very long ago, Big Tiger and Christian by Fritz Muhlenweg. It purports to be a young adult book but it’s really quite a good adventure in the Gobi desert of Mongolia for any age reader.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Hospital Visit: I spent part of the day watching sports on television; a little soccer, a horse race or two, and the Olympics. The remote got a pretty good workout. But around 4:30 we headed out for a visit to a downtown hospital. Two days ago a good friend was operated on for a tumor in the ear. It was small but growing and the doctors had been watching it for a year. The operation was essentially brain surgery. I anticipated seeing Dan with a swollen head and some bruising. He looked remarkably better than that. Already the doctors are confident that he lost no control of facial musculature. And although he had been warned that he might lose his hearing on that side, he says that he thinks he can hear faintly in that ear. The only thing he has to overcome now is loss of balance. It’s still early, only 48 hours since the surgery, but he has been up and has walked twice. He has to be able to deal with stairs before they release him. He won’t go home for several days but things are looking very good. By the way, I should mention that I first met Dan when I was a junior high school librarian and he was a student who helped in the library one period a day. That was back in ‘62. We’ve been close friends ever since. I am very relieved that the operation has gone so well.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Campion: I am a sucker for British mysteries, both novels and movies. And I especially like period pieces. One of my favorite British writers is Margery Allingham, the creator of Albert Campion. Allingham is long dead. But the BBC saw fit to produce two seasons of a television show based on her novels. I bought the first season of four shows recently and sat down the other night to see the first of the shows, Look to the Lady. Campion is played by Peter Davison, known for his roles in All Creatures Great and Small and Dr. Who. I expected a good mystery and I got that, but I also got a bonus, the scenery. Beautiful houses, beautiful country estates, beautiful scenery. There was also a bonus bonus, two classic cars beautifully restored and polished to a sheen. It was lovely to watch them being driven down country roads. The mystery had everything: the murder of a woman, the blame laid to a local woman known as a witch. The legend of a chalice, the secret of which will be revealed to the heir of the family when he is twenty-five. And finally, Campion, captured by the villains and put into a stall with a wild stallion who has killed before. All in all, a very nice couple of hours in front of the telly. (I did say it was a British show.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Night Thoughts: The darndest things come to me when I wake up at night sometimes. I don’t know why but last night I thought about the oil stove in our home. We used it from the time I was six until I moved out. There was no oil furnace. We’re talking 1936. There was a rather utilitarian looking brown oil stove, rectangular in shape, perhaps four feet high. It was not fed automatically. No such magic thing. Having recently replaced our 300 gallon underground oil tank I can unequivocally say that we had nothing like that. That was probably the first regular chore that my parents gave me. Out in the yard was a 50 gallon tank which sat on a stand my dad had built. My job was to fill a bucket with oil from the outside tank. I carried it into the house and carefully poured oil from a spout into a receptacle on one side of the stove. Best not spill any oil on the floor of the living room. One the other side of the stove was another receptacle. Water went in there in order to keep some humidity in the room. Keeping both of them full was my job.

Later, when I could handle an axe there was wood to split and a woodbox to fill. This was for the kitchen stove where mom prepared the meals, baked bread and wonderful pies. Oh, my! Mom was a darned good cook. But this was maybe a couple of years later that I was handed this chore. When I could be trusted to not chop off fingers or a foot. And lawn to mow, and chickens to feed (don’t forget to collect the eggs) and a rather large garden to hoe. Plenty of chores.

Strange things to be thinking about in the middle of the night. Where did that come from?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My Sherlock Holmes: I’ve been reading in a wonderful book of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. It’s entitled My Sherlock Holmes and was edited by Michael Kurland. The stories are by different authors and usually feature characters other than Sherlock Holmes as the protagonist. The lead story by Dick Lupoff features a young namesless scholar who seeks Monsieur Dupin’s help. Dupin, of course, was Edgar Allan Poe’s character. And the scholar couldn't be anybody but the young Sherlock. Other stories feature Mrs. Hudson, Moriarity, Dr. Watson’s wife, Wiggins, the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars and others. I’ve not finished the collection as yet, but I’ve had a lot of pleasure out of reading it so far. And I hope the rest of the stories are as entertaining. It seems that Mrs. Hudson’s husband was a con man and in the early days of their marriage she helped on a couple of cons. It was money from a con that bought the house at 221B Baker Street. Who’d have thunk?

Monday, August 23, 2004

John Thaw and Schroedinger's Cat: I did watch the movie, Laura, the other night. Well, over two nights, to be honest. I don’t know what I do with my time but I always seem to take two nights to see a movie. I enjoyed it as much as I usually do. Gene Tierney is her usual beautiful self, but also a self-reliant woman capable of making her own decisions. Vincent Price is a real sleazeball and one hopes that he is the perpetrator of the murder that takes place. Clifton Webb is an egocentric journalist that is sure that he can make Laura love him, wants to possess her. He also hopes that no one will discover that he is the murderer. Oops, I gave it away, didn’t I? And Dana Andrew is the detective who falls in love with a portrait. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

For a while I sat at my computer and searched "Inspector Morse." By some stroke of serendipity we saw the end of a replay of one of the episodes. I was again taken by how well they were filmed. I decided to see how many episodes there were and how many were available on DVD. Thirty-three, in both cases. The whole series. We have enjoyed John Thaw since he played Regan on The Sweeney, a really tough show, quite politically incorrect, about the Flying Squad which was produced between 74-78. It’s not on DVD but there are two movies that were made, and they are available on one disk. Something to look forward to.

I was out to Office Depot and Barnes and Noble tonight. They happen to be next door to each other. A case of paper, some gel pens and a magazine. The car parked next to mine had a bumper sticker: Reward! $10,000! For Schroedinger’s Cat! I had forgotten what Schroedinger’s Cat was all about. So when I got home I used my Google to look it up. Now I remember, but I still think I miss the point. Not much of a scientist, me.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Arthur Conan Doyle: There just arrived in the mail a wonderful volume of Doyle’s weird and supernatural stories. It was published by Ash-Tree Press of Ashcroft, British Columbia. This is the small press which specializes in publishing ghost stories by the greats and not so greats. Most of these stories have been out-of-print for many years. It has been wonderful having them available once again. The only problem is keeping up. If I read nothing but short stories it would not be a problem. I could probably read the volumes as they came along. But as many of you have seen, I do not read only one kind of book. So there is no keeping up.

The Doyle volume is entitled The Captain of the Pole Star after one of the stories contained therein. I’ve not read any of the stories as yet. But I did read a very interesting and informative introduction by Christopher and Barbara Roden, the editors and publishers of Ash-Tree Press. (They also publish and edit Calabash Press, a Sherlockian venture.) It is fairly lengthy, being 24 pages long. In it they detail when the stories were written and when and published by what magazine. Many of them were published in The Strand, where most of the Sherlock Holmes stories were published. Along with this information we learn about Doyle’s first wife’s illness, his marriage to a second wife, his growing interest in Spiritualism and the falling off of the volume of his writing.

I have read the so-called Canon, the complete Sherlock Holmes stories probably three times. Once when I was a youngster and twice more recently. I’ll probably read them again one of these days. But these stories of the weird and supernatural will be new material for me. I’m looking forward to them and hoping they will give me as much pleasure as the Holmes has done. The Rodens hint in the introduction of in future publishing the Professor Challenger stories. That also would be delightful.

Friday, August 20, 2004

OTR: Listening to old time radio is always a lot of fun. Some of the shows hold up very well. Some were favorites when I was a kid (that’s a long time ago.) Shows like Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, about an insurance investigator with an expense account. Like Casey Crime Photographer which always has a scene in a bar with Ethelbert, the bartender. Like I Love A Mystery which my mother and I listened to before I went to bed (Dad was a shift worker and often was either asleep or on the swing shift). Jack, Doc, and Reggie were favorites of a lot of people in those days. I’ve been listening to a show each night from an MP3 Sampler from The Radio Lady ( And some of the shows were not favorites and they weren’t very good. Tonight I listened to an episode of The Avenger. No, not Steed and Emma Peel; this was long before those two hit the small screen. The Avenger in real life is a biochemist and he has invented a telepathic machine and the ability to become invisible. Sounds to me like it was a takeoff on the ever-popular The Shadow. Two guys have perfected a murder for hire scheme and The Avenger is determined to find who and how. Businessmen are hale and hearty one moment and falling dead crying that they are burning the next. The Avenger must find out what is causing The Fiery Death. Lots of organ music and a pretty poor script, but tolerable acting. Ah, well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Bookstore and Books: A long hard hot day at the bookstore today. I only have a couple of days left. Tomorrow and next Thursday. And then I quit. It’s been an interesting time, working one day a week for a friend. I’ve known Bob Brown for almost 35 years. He was still living in the Bay Area when I met him at a science fiction convention. He was dealing in books then, although his real job was in advertising. Later he moved to Seattle, still with the advertising company. He hooked up with a couple of other book dealers and would work the store on Saturdays, while his partner, John Polley, held down the fort the rest of the week. Finally Bob retired, split with John and opened his own store. As it happens, right next door to John. So John has Seattle Book Center, Bob is B. Brown and Associates, dealing primarily in science fiction, fantasy and horror. On the other side is Sea Ocean Book Berth, owned by Chris Flavell, an old salt who sailed for many years in the South Pacific and hold master mariner’s papers. Naturally he deals in naval, nautical, sailing, pirates; almost anything that moves on the water. I’ve worked usually one day a week for probably the past 6-8 years. Occasionally I’ll fill in for several days or a week when Bob has a convention to go to or an antiquarian book fairat which to deal. It’s been fun and I’ve gotten to handle a lot of nice books, old and new. Like the galley proofs of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Bob is very careful what he buys and people say, "these look like new books." Much of my time is spent in putting books up on ABE, entering pertinent information and describing their condition. I’ve learned much. But then, I bought my first book with my own money at age 10, having the bookstore put it on layaway and paying a dollar every week for ten weeks. And I spent most of my career as a librarian or library director. So the fit was natural.

Speaking of books, I finished reading The Fencing Master last evening. It was written by Arturo Perez-Reverte. You may know of him through the motion picture The Ninth Gate. That was made from his novel, The Club Dumas. I find him a remarkable writer and have enjoyed everything I’ve read by him so far. One of the things that I admire is that all of the books are different. The Club Dumas was about a book scout trying to find a rare book on Satanism. The Seville Communion was about a parish priest trying to save his small church from being sold by the diocese to developers. The Fencing Master was a period piece, with politics and upheaval in 1866 Spain as background. A young woman comes to the fencing master to have him teach "the unstoppable thrust." He finally agrees and it is much to his chagrin that a friend, with whom he fences several times a week, is killed with that thrust. That is only the beginning of his troubles. The woman disappears. Is she dead? There is much mystery here and more to come. I recommend Perez-Reverte highly. I think I have 3 or 4 more novels of his to read.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

OTR Politics: We enjoyed sharing our dinner this evening with several friends from our old time radio club, REPS (The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound). The e-mails have been hot and heavy the last few days. First an announcement from our president to say that he has resigned. Followed quickly from our vice-president also announcing his resignation. At which time e-mails flourished as members sought to find out what was happening. Others, more in the know, responded. It seemed that a palace coup was under way. Older members who have been there since the club’s birth tried to make sense of it all. Newer members were surprised at all the fuss, not understanding. Whether the club remains as an active entity remains to be seen. There has been a call to review the constitution and by-laws. Seems that there are a lot of non-elected positions that have been allowed to vote. And it seems the elected board and the non-elected members chose to ignore a request from the president to postpone a meeting to discuss the convention for 2005 until he could be present. Thus the upset and many communiques flying back and forth. The six of us at dinner tonight make up a part, but not all, of the opposing faction. There is a serious movement afoot to correct this situation. We will just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I just listened to an episode of Gunsmoke, the audition show with the character called Mark Dillon and the marshall not played by William Conrad.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Library Stuff: The Burien Library Guild Board of Trustees met this evening. We were invited to the home of the guild president. His home is on Lake Burien, a placid lake surrounded by private homes. It was a beautiful evening. A couple of electric rafts quietly paraded around the lake with people enjoying the evening.

The main matter on the agenda was the library bond issue. My wife has been acting as liaison with the county library system for this. She has toted yard signs, lined up volunteers to be at various functions around town; concerts in the park, Thursday outdoor markets, a classic car show, tag sales in Olde Burien, even a beer garden. She now was asking for two things. The first was an endorsement by the board of the bond issue. This would then become part of a large ad being placed in the community newspaper by Discover Burien. The second was for a sum of money to place our own ad from the library guild board. She asked for $175 for a small ad, but the president said, "Too small." He wanted $350 for a larger ad with room for more information. The treasurer said that amount was a budget buster. I responded that out of a $10,000 annual budget, surely $350 was not going to bust the budget. Our side won and the ad will be placed. I’m quite sure this fellow is going to vote against the bond issue. He does a good job as treasurer and wants to take good care of our money but, my gosh, surely as a library lover he ought to endorse this issue with enthusiasm. If it passes Burien will have a new library double the size of the current one. I just don’t understand some people.

Laura: Today’s newspaper brought the news of the death of composer, David Raksin. He was 92 years old. He composed music for Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, Modern Times. But I revere him for writing the memorable tune, Laura, for the motion picture of the same name. It’s one of my favorite songs and I have several different renditions in my record and CD collection. Not by happenstance, it is also one of my favorite movies. The 1944 movie starred Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb and was directed by Otto Preminger. I was driving in my car this early evening and the jazz program to which I was listening played the Stan Kenton version of the song. It’s a wonderful arrangement. It occurs to me that I should pull out my videotape of the movie and view it again, my silent salute to the movie and the wonderful theme song.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Let the Games Begin: Every four years there is an occurrence that absolutely destroys my time. The Olympics, of course. Each time I swear I don’t give a hoot who wins, which country has how many medals. And I complain that the television coverage is terrible, so much travelogue and history of the problems overcome by the competitors to get there. And every time the Olympics come around I find myself spending more and more time in front of the tube. Today I managed to see the 144-mile bicycle, some heats of four-oared rowing, and swimming and diving. And it’s likely that this will go on for the next two weeks or however long the games go on. Living close to the Canadian border we have access to CBUT which gives much better coverage than do the American networks. It didn’t help that there was also a Major League Soccer match between Kansas City and San Jose to watch. Nor will it help Wednesday that there is a qualifying soccer match between the U.S.A. and Jamaica for the next World Cup. Well, I have only myself to blame. No discipline. Live for today. That’s me.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Anniversary: Fifty-four years ago today two relatively penniless (no, that’s not quite correct; we both had jobs) college students were married. Both of us were attending college and we both had jobs. There wasn’t much time for social life. By the time the work week was over we spent the weekend catching up on textbook reading and sleep. I could tell you of those ‘in those days’ stories, but it’s not worth it. Suffice it to say that we are still married. We got married the week before summer school finals. My literature professor let me skip the final test. Two other profs were not so kind. After the wedding we fled in my father’s Studebaker down to a house on the Washington coast. Sadly it burned about ten years ago. Our honeymoon was only three days long. Needless to say, we’ve made up for it with much traveling since. So mark this down on your calendars: a red letter day to be sure.

On the other hand, I had lunch yesterday with about a dozen people retired from the college where I was an administrator before I retired. We’re all getting old. The dean has had his knees replaced and now is looking forward to an operation on his wrist. Several people are pretty deaf and you have to shout at them to be heard. And sadly, several good friends are deceased. One of the librarians from the library-media center of which I was director has recently had a quadruple bypass, then complications for which they had to open him up again and a longer recuperation the second time. He’s been laid up since April. Still, I guess we should be thankful that we are still able to meet once a month. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Alarm Systems: I just returned home from a meeting at the Burien City Hall. The meeting was about a new ordinance concerning home alarm systems. The police say that 99% of the calls they respond to from home alarm systems monitored by alarm companies end up being false alarms. Our small city has few officers on duty any given shift. Other types of calls get priority and home alarm systems get a pretty low priority. The average response time for an alarm is 47 minutes. The new ordinance will require a "verified response." The next door neighbor isn’t going to check; he couldn’t hear our alarm anyway because it is inside the house. It might scare the burglar off. Most of the people attending the meeting weren’t accepting the fact that officers were wasting their time responding. I learned some things. I accepted what the officer was telling us. I think the alarm companies have sold their customers a bill of goods. They don’t have a direct line to the police station, as many people think. The alarm companies are going to have to contract with security companies. These, in turn, will verify that there has been a break-in and will call the police. In some ways, attending the meeting was two hours wasted and in other ways not.

That’s two times in the last month I’ve been to City Hall. The other time was to push for the City Council’s endorsement of the County’s library bond issue. That’s enough political action for a while. I'll save my political energy for the Big One.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Van Gogh: It suddenly occurred to me that the summer is fading quickly. There has been a major art exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum since last spring and it closes on September 5th. I decided that there was nothing on the calendar today and we had better take the opportunity to see the exhibit. It was called ‘From Van Gogh to Mondrian’ and was on loan from the Kroller-Muller Museum. Helene Kroller-Muller was the daughter of a Dutch industrialist and was married to a German industrialist. There was lots of money. Helene was interested in art and had the wealth to put an outstanding collection together. Today it is housed in the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands.

I was mainly interested in the Van Gogh paintings and there were plenty of them to satisfy me. There were several Picassos that were of interest and several by George Seurat and Paul Signac, pointillists whose work I enjoy. Three Signacs, to be exact, which is three times as many as I had seen previously. I was introduced to several pointillists whom I had never viewed before. One was Henry van de Velde, the architect who designed several building for the Kroller-Mullers. I was very impressed with his painting, 'Twilight.' The Cubists, Gris, Leger, Diego Rivera in his Cubist period, don’t interest me very much. And the Mondrian hardly at all. He was trying to make a statement, but obviously not to me.

The Van Goghs were very nice. No ‘Starry, Starry Night’ but there was the fabulous ‘Café Terrace at Night’ and the ‘The Garden at the Asylum at San Remy,’ the place where Van Gogh committed himself when he felt out of control. There were portraits of people knew during his stay at Arles in the south of France; the postmaster and his wife. There were some amazing, quite realistic, paintings in pastel chalk and ink which were done before he began painting impressionistic images. I remember being smitten by the impressionists fifty-plus years ago and thinking that I would never see any paintings in the flesh, so to speak. I’m very glad that I have had the opportunity; at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Portland Art Museum, The National Gallery in London, The National Galley of Canada, and now here at the Seattle Art Museum.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Fay Wray and The Goon Show: Fay Wray died today. She was 96 years old. She was not entirely happy that she was best known for her role in the movie, King Kong. But I believe that she eventually became used to it. Not many who have seen the movie will forget the huge ape climbing the side of a skyscraper with Fay dangling from one fist. I think I read somewhere that a remake of that movie is being filmed. And I think that the director is Peter Jackson. After Lord of the Rings is there any place to go but down. I suppose that I should reserve judgement until I have seen the film.

On another note today’s mail brought two disks which contain the complete The Goon Show, a radio show from the fifties. It's in MP3 format. It was a BBC production and featured Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and over the years several other radio actors. When it played on radio here our children were still in grade school. We tried to sit down to dinner at the same time the Goons were on and we all listened. Perhaps that’s why my kids, now all 50 years old or better, all have strange senses of humor. I’ve only had an chance to listen to the first program on the disk, which was actually a history and reminisces by the players, musicians, writers, director and producer of the series. It contained exerpts from various shows, by way of examples. That was enough to bring a loud guffaw from yours truly, and I should let you know that I do not guffaw easily. I think there are about 100 shows on the two disks. I am sure they will give me many hours of pleasure. And plenty of guffaws too.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Planes and Hydroplanes: Today was a very laid-back day, a couch potato day. Today were the Seafair Races, the running of the unlimited hydroplanes on Lake Washington. It’s a day when 100,000 people line the shores of the lake and hundreds more moor their boats along the logboom to watch the thunderboats hit speeds of up to 140 mph. Seattle has a long history of unlimited hydro racing. It goes back to when the boats were powered with aircraft engine like Rolls Royce and Merlin. And Bill Muncey and the Slo-Mo were the kings of the water. And the race was known as the Gold Cup. And the year was probably 1950-something. Now the boats are turbine-powered and quite a bit faster.

Today they had Heats 2A and 2B and the final heat for the unlimiteds. Preliminary heats were run on Saturday. They also had the unlimited hydros, powered by automotive engines. Only slightly smaller than the unlimiteds, but no turbine engines, they gave every bit as exciting racing as the big boys. Between races we were treated to the Blue Angels in their Navy fighter jets doing close order flying. Lots of maneuvers. Lots of noise. Today the skies were clear and that allowed the Navy fliers to do their high show. The Red Barons sponsored by Red Baron Pizza flew their Steadman bi-planes, originally built in 1943. Many pilots in World War II learned to fly in these Steadmans. With two wings and open cockpits they were every bit as close in their flying as the Navy pilots, maybe even closer. But they were not flying at 350 mph, more like 80 mph. Fun to watch them roll and loop and turn. Then there was Fat Albert, the Blue Angels’ C130, a pretty maneuverable cargo plane in the right hands. There was a stunt pilot who did incredible things with his plane, sponsored by Oracle. And finally Navy parachutists with flares alight, doing marvelous things en route to the ground. All this action in between the heats, keeping the crowd well entertained.

All of this I watched from my seat in front of the televison. No sunburn. No crowds when the event was over. No being caught in traffic jams. Excellent pictures of both the boat races and air show from the announcers and commentators for the various air show teams. I saw much more than the people who attended the event in person. Sometimes it’s good just to chill at home.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Horses and Indians: Today was a strange combination. This morning I watched the Hambletonian, the classic race for trotting horses, or Standardbreds, to give them their rightful name. We don’t have many trotting racetracks here in the west. Trotting races are much more popular in the east, and especially in Canada. I remember attending a trotting races on an autumn evening in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The farmers trailered their horses in for the evening, raced them, and trailered them home. We had a very entertaining evening at the track. They didn’t even charge admission, although they did have parimutuel betting. My dad used to talk about seeing the great trotter, Dan Patch. Maybe that’s what attracts me to this kind of racing.

The odds-on favorite for this year’s race, the 79th Running of the Hambletonian, was a horse named Tom Ridge. Why name a horse after our Secretary of Homeland Security, who puts us on orange alert, several years after the e-mails are intercepted? Well, I’m here to tell you he ran a poor fourth. The winner was Windsong’s Legacy, trained and driven by Trond Smedshammer, a Norwegian-born driver. First time in a long time that the winner has been both trained and driven by the same man. The race was run at the Meadowland in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Windsong’s Legacy won $1 million. Not a bad day’s work for less than two minutes effort.

Once the race was over we drove north to Arlington, stopped to see our daughter-in-law at her business. She is a massage therapist and has her own school of massage therapy licensed by the state. Our two granddaughters, Nora and Grace, were with her. Grace was asleep, out like a light. Nora was her usual self, telling us that she was going to take painting lessons and that she can play one tune on the fiddle. She and her dad can now play duets on guitar and fiddle.

We drove on to the Festival of the River, along the Stillaguamish River, where there was a music stage and many booths with information and food and other items for sale. The reason we had come was for the small powwow that is part of the festival. Several friends were there and we chatted with them, watched the exhibition dancers, talked with the m.c., an old friend of ours who now lives in Portland and generally had a good time. The clouds blew away, last night’s rain had freshened things, and the dance ground became fairly warm, especially for the dancer who wore regalia. No competition, some pretty decent drums, some good singing. Just a nice small traditional powwow. It made the drive north very much worthwhile.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The 39 Steps: I mentioned acquiring The 39 Steps on DVD the other day. Last night I sat down and watched it. It had been a long while since I viewed it last. When they said ‘Fade to black’ they meant it. Black screen for seconds between scenes. The movie is from a novel by John Buchan and features his character, Richard Hannay. Buchan wrote four novels featuring Hannay. In the movie Hannay is visiting England from Canada. He attends a music hall show and when it is over he befriends a young woman who is obviously frightened. He takes her home where she divulges that two men, foreign agents, are after her and that she has a secret that must be taken to a man in Scotland. She is murdered. Hannay knows that he will be accused of the crime and flees, attempting to get to Scotland and find the man. Then, as they say, the chase is on. He escapes from the train which is stopped in the middle of a bridge, then flees across the Scottish countryside. There is a wonderful scene where he comes to a town. He is mistaken for a politician running for election and must make a stirring speech on the spot. Arrested by the police, he escapes, only to be caught again. With a beautiful young woman he is put in a car, ostensibly to be taken to a police station. He realizes that the men are not the police and, handcuffed to the young woman, escapes again into the Scottish countryside. At a country pub they are taken for wedding elopers and put up for the night. They learn (by eavesdropping, of course) that the answer to what ‘the 39 steps’ are will be revealed at the same music hall where it all started. Hannay knows that he must be there. Cut to London music hall. Denoument.

In retrospect I found the movie to be quite a primitive piece of film making. I just had forgotten how far the equipment has come. The film was made in 1935 and was black-and-white. Many of the outdoor scenes were very dark and I found myself squinting in an attempt to see what was being photographed. But the plot was fine and pretty exciting. Robert Donat played Richard Hannay and Madeleine Carrol played the beautiful young blonde who finds herself handcuffed to what she thinks is a murderer. Old cars, double-crosses, the Scottish lowlands and moors, music hall routines and a pretty good mystery. John Buchan is one of my favorite authors. He wrote many more novels than the four aforementioned. He also wrote history and finished off a government career as the governor-general of Canada. As I recall he died in 1941. For some reason this film makes me think of Man Hunt, a film made slightly later from a novel entitled Rogue Male written by Geoffrey Household. I’m now going to have to dig that film out of my VHS collection and take another look at it.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Such a Political Boy: Last night I sat down and wrote a letter to the editor. I don’t do that very often. But our county library system has a bond issue on the ballot on September 14th. Since I am on the board of our local library guild and my wife, also a board member (and almost full-time volunteer, it seems like) is involved in this issue up to her earlobes, I thought I’d better do my part. There are 43 libraries in the county system and our local library has the third largest circulation in the system. Of course the bond issue covers the entire county excepting the cities of Seattle and Renton, which are independent library systems. So it is important for each community to do their part to get out the vote. Selfishly, we want to see the bond issue pass because it will mean a new library for our community. The library will double in size. Several communities which have not had libaries will get them, about fifteen libraries will be expanded or remodeled. So this is very important to the entire county. And this bond issue includes maintenance for the next ten years. Don’t know whether my letter to our community newspaper will see the light of day, but I put my best into it.

Today’s mail brought a letter from Al Franken. It was political, but not what I expected. Apparently Al went to Harvard with Mark Sidran, who is running for Attorney General for the State of Washington. Al says "I have known Mark since I was accidentally admitted to Harvard in the late 1960's." Later he says "Mark’s experience is what I like to call one of the three E’s. The other two E’s are integrity and energy. Wait. Scrap integrity. Although Mark has it in spades, it does not start with E. I remember learning that at Harvard."

The letter was both informative and at times quite funny. He didn’t have to convince me. Sidran’s opponent is not someone I would have voted for anyway. So, relax, Al. But send me another funny letter sometime.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Himalaya: Last night we watched the movie, Himalaya. What a remarkable movie! It was filmed in Nepal and has a cast of hundreds. Yaks, that is. The story is quite simple. Karma, a young villager, returns home with a caravan of yaks. He also brings the body of the caravan leader, son of the village headman. The son has died in an accident. Karma intends to load the yaks and begin another journey, carrying salt to trade for grain. Tinle, the village headman, says that the caravan can’t go until the diviners set the date. Karma doesn’t believe in this superstition, rouses the young men of the village and departs early. Tinle is left with only the older men and determines that he will lead them along with his young grandson. He is intent on catching up with the earlier caravan and takes a very dangerous route. He is assisted with a second son, who has lived in a monastery since the age of eight. He is a painter of frescoes and knows nothing about caravan life. Much of the movie was shot along the caravan route. The film is exciting with scenes along a very narrow route, a trail washed out, and through a blizzard. The scenery is spectacular. As were the yaks. There were some very beautiful animals.

What is just as exciting is viewing the special entitled The Making of Himalaya. Here we find out how the film was made by a French film crew. They had permission to spend 20-some days to shoot the film. The shooting ran some 80 plus days. Remoteness of the location and transportation of cameras and equipment added to the problems. Logistics of feeding and housing the cast and the crew was an additional burden. Most of all the film participants were not actors but simple village people who had never even seen a moving picture. They had to be taught to act and recite lines.This was an exceptional film and I recommend it very highly.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

50 Classic Mysteries: Oh, boy. A Red Letter Day. I got a package from Overstock with a double DVD with The 39 Steps on one side and The Lady Vanishes on the other. The 39 Steps is one of my all-time favorite movies. But that’s not all. Another box contained 50 (yes, count ‘em, folks, fifty) movies on 12 double-sided DVDs. 50 Mystery Classics. This little box of gems cost me about 58 cents per movie. What sort of movies? Well, movies I probably missed in my childhood or young adulthood or some hood because we didn’t have money to throw away on movies. Bulldog Drummond, Dick Tracy, Topper, Mr. Wong, Sherlock Holmes, even Nancy Drew. There are about 30 movies which are not from a character series. Some of the actors with starring roles are Brian Donlevy, Richard Basehart, Burgess Meredith, Noah Beery, Lizabeth Scott, Edward G. Robinson, Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone. These will take forever to watch. But they should be fun. I haven’t had time to look at the quality of the DVDs yet. When I’ve had a chance I’ll let you know. And if these work out there are other packages, one of science fiction, another of westerns.

In other news today I watched Manchester United play AC Milan in soccer. The game was played somewhere in New Jersey. This was a pre-season "friendly" which means that the European season starts soon, within a week or two. That means that I can once again enjoy games from England’s Premier League on Tuesdays on Fox Sports Net. And a Major League Soccer game in the U.S. on Saturdays. Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy! Hot diggety dog!

Monday, August 02, 2004

Tibet: It had to happen sooner or later. Nothing very important to talk about. Last night we sat down and watched a short film I received on DVD from the International Campaign for Tibet. It’s called Devotion and Defiance. It portrays the treatment of Tibetan Buddhist monks by the Chinese government and the way these monks fight back under incredible circumstances and against incredible odds, the least of which is being outnumbered by the Chinese soldiers and other Chinese who have come into Tibet. Now that I think more clearly, maybe this is important. Contribute if the spirit moves you.

By circumstance a CD came from Daedalus Books and Music today. Daedalus is a remainder house and for an inexpensive $5.98 I got a CD of Sacred Tibetan Chant by the monks of Sherab Ling Monastery. A brief listen told me that it won’t make My Hit Parade, but I’ll give it another listen when I have time to listen carefully. A couple of books also came in the package, including one entitled The Great Hedge of India. I’ll tell you more when I get to reading it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Muckleshoot Powwow: Last evening we went to the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation for the Sobriety Pow. We had gone almost a month without attending a powwow, which is pretty rare for us. It’s been so hot in the Puget Sound area that we spent a couple of weekends at our cabin near Mount Rainier, where it was about ten degrees cooler. In the spring of the year there are a lot of powwows sponsored by the Indian Education divisions of school districts. As soon as school is out the attention turns to outdoor powwows, usually sponsored by the tribes or other Indian associations. We missed the Seafair Powwow, which is sponsored by The United Indian Tribes of All Nations and held at the beautiful Daybreak Star Indian Center in Seattle. The grounds overlook Puget Sound. That powwow has become increasingly commercial, however, and I have several friends who say they won’t dance there again. We’ve boycotted that powwow for several years, if you want to call it that. Two years ago we drove about 125 miles north to spend the weekend with the Nooksak Tribe. We had a wonderful time.

A couple of weeks ago we were lamenting the fact that we didn’t go to Arlee, Montana. The powwow there is supposed to be a very good one. But last night friends who did go told me that while it was big, it wasn’t any bigger than this weekend’s at Muckleshoot. I’d estimate that there were probably about 150-200 dancers in regalia last evening. And the crowds watching probably were about 700 strong. During the entire weekend there probably were crowds nearing 2000. Some come and go, others come and stay for the entire weekend.
I did manage to dance one inter-tribal dance, where anyone can dance, regalia or not. Time was, before the back troubles, that I would be on the dance ground whenever an inter-tribal was called. I was talking to a friend and saying how sorry I was that I couldn’t dance as much. From his wheelchair he responded, "Just remember, my friend, every time you dance, you dance for me as well." That puts a proper spin on it.

It was a beautiful evening with a full moon shining over the ground. I watched a young friend dance in regalia for the first time. He’s been four years putting it together. I saw a young lady from Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana who has a hip operation since we last saw her and walks ever so much better. I saw a woman who is beating cancer and who prayed for me when I lost my finger. We’ve been praying for her in return. And we chided J.C., a young traditional dancer whose parents have said he has one month to learn to drive and get his license because they are not driving him to powwows after that. He grinned and allowed as how he’d better get at it. Another friend told us that he has only one more interferon treatment to go for his cancer. Just one big Indian family. A happy political moment when Ryan Wilson, vice-president of the National Indian Education Association, made an impassioned plea for Indians to register to vote and then get out and vote. The present administration has done nothing good for Indians and has done away with recognition of more than one tribe. One of those tribes was the Duwamish who lived on the ground on which Seattle was founded. Aho.