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, November 30, 2004

Another Blog

I just discovered that another acquaintance of mine has a blog. You are likely to find a lot of book talk on it. His name is Andy Jaysnovitch and he acquires books faster than an otter goes down a mud slide. He also has the largest video collection of anyone I know. You just might find his observations fascinating. Try

In other news today we had the carpet professionally cleaned. You know what this means. Several hours out of the carpeted space so that it can dry. I read part of the time, then remembered that Premier Soccer was on from England. I managed to make it through the several hours and the carpet does look a tad better. On the soccer side Blackburn beat Fulham, 2-0. A good game but both teams are near the bottom of the league standings.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Gentian Hill

During our recent trip I read about a dozen books, but three of them I deemed especially good. The first was Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge. Every writing book that I've ever looked at says that the writer should 'show' not 'tell.' This was a novel in which the story was mostly told. Yet I found it totally satisfying. An old fashioned book. A great story. Interesting characters and just a smidgen of coincidence. Elizabeth Goudge is practically forgotten these days, except for a couple of children's books which are still in print. I first read a novel by her probably fifty years ago. It was entitled Green Dolphin Street. Coincidentally that is also a favorite ballad that still is very popular as a standard jazz tune and has had many renditions recorded. Since I enjoyed the novel so much I intend to do some searching for other Goudge novels in the future.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I spent the day baking a couple of loaves of bread to take to a party this evening. The bread was deemed good. The three kinds of soup were excellent. And the dessert was to die for. The party was spectacularly lively. Seems most people were Democrats and it gave them a chance to let off steam, tell a few political jokes and generally talk about where do we go from here. A good time was had by all. So I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. We are off to Vancouver, British Columbia tomorrow morning. No, we're not emigrating, just going to take a few days holiday, visit the art museum, some bookstores, some excellent Greek restaurants and then go out to Chilliwack to visit old friends. I hope you have as much fun and we intend to do.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Trip Report #2 - Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan - I wanted to see how wild northern Michigan was, and what sort of forests it had. I also wanted to see at least a little bit of the UP, the Upper Peninsula. There were some outstanding houses as we went further north. These were people who had money, I decided. Mackinaw City was pretty much a tourist town and a jumping off place for Mackinac Island. Both names are pronounced the same, one being the English spelling and the other apparently the French. Lots of shops and we had a delightful supper and conversation with the waitress and hostess.

Mackinac Island, Michigan - There are three boat services to the island. We chose Arnold, which runs a fleet high speed catamarans. For a bonus I got to watch a young long-haired blonde who was a most efficient deckhand. She tied up and cast off the boat as well as any man I’ve seen at this task. The run to the island was smooth; the return was not quite. The wind was blowing pretty good and the water was choppy.

Mackinac Island is an island without cars. (Not exactly. No private car but there are about six emergency vehicles, fire trucks, a police jeep, ambulance). Transportation is by horse-drawn carriages or on foot. We determined to walk. The street closest to the shore is nothing but stores, clothing, restaurants, t-shirts, knick-knacks and do-dads. Touristy! Mackinac Island fudge is purported to be the island’s biggest industry. One street away were some wonderful historic homes, some of them now bed-and-breakfasts. One of the first buildings that we saw had been the headquarters of the John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. It was formed in 1817. Over $3M in furs were traded at this post. We walked on and uphill toward The Grand Hotel. We were told that this hotel is, indeed, grand. Excellent service and excellent dining for which one pays excellent prices. A fellow passenger suggested that everyone should spend a night there. We were able to approach close enough to take photos of the long facade, but to get closer one would have to pay a fee. This hotel was the setting for the novel, Somewhere in Time, as well as the movie, although part of it was shot at a resort on the island. Walking back toward the harbor, we stopped for lunch at the at The French Outpost.

St. Ignace, Michigan. This is truly the U.P., the Upper Peninsula. You travel there via a five-mile suspension bridge, quite a marvel in itself. I would like to have explored the U.P. further but time didn’t allow. We visited the Huron Museum and saw the place where Father DeSmet, the famous Jesuit missionary to the Indians, is buried.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A Massage Therapy Charity

We have friends from the powwow trail that have had an inordinate amount of medical expenses of late. Karen has had major surgery, one knee replaced and another to be replaced this coming week. Michael has had cancer surgery and much chemotherapy with still more to come. Someone was kind enough to set up a massage therapy session with all donations going to help them out. We sort of dinked around the house and didn't get started today so it was late when we arrived. Karen and Michael had tired and had left when we arrived. But we hoped to get a good back and neck massage. Unfortunately we were too late for that as well. The therapists were all busy. What we did get was a hand exfoliation (I beg your pardon!!) and a hand and arm massage. Which felt quite good, I must say. But the point was to contribute something to the medical expenses of these two people. They've got to be horrendous. We've not seen them since we returned from our trip but we'll see them soon at a powwow.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Mary Channings

I’ve been reading Maiden Castle by John Cowper Powys. Powys was a great English novelist, one of three brothers who were writers. Actually Powys was Welsh and it shows greatly in his work. He is difficult to read. He was never a popular writer because of this difficulty. So I’ve been reading this book a little bit at a time.

The protagonist of Maiden Castle is also a writer. He’s writing a book about Mary Channings, though Powys doesn’t give us a clue as to who she was. When she is first mentioned I just passed it by. Later she is mentioned again, and yet later with a reference to Maumbury Rings. About the third time I began to suspect that there really was a Mary Channings. The internet revealed the following:

"Mary Channings was forcibly married to an older man whom she disliked. She spent his money extravagantly and then poisoned him to death with mercury. Condemned to death for the murder, pregnant Mary’s execution was delayed so that she could bear and wean the child of her lover (presumably not the husband). The nineteen-year-old Mary was first strangled then burned at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, on March 21st, 1705, protesting her innocence to the very end. Just under 13,000 people were estimated to have gathered to watch Mary’s execution."

There you have it. Curiosity will lead you to the strangest tales.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lars Porsena of Clusium

Lars Porsena of Clusium
By the nine gods he swore
That the mighty house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrong no more.

This is the beginning of a poem by Thomas Babington Macauley entitled Horatius: A Lay Made About the Year if the City CCCLX. In our eighth grade literature book, entitled Prose and Poetry, we not only had to read this poem but also had to memorize a portion of it. The above lines are what I remember some sixty years later. Do any teachers demand that some memorizing of poems by done by upper grade and high school students? I doubt it. My granddaughter has not had to memorize. Nor, for that matter, as a junior has she yet to read a play by Shakespeare or a novel. We had one of each from the freshman year on. Woe to the education system. But I digress. As I recall the poem in our literature book was simply entitled Horatius at the Bridge. What brings all this to mind was an article on the Discovery website entitled Fabled Etruscan Kingdom Emerging? In the Tuscan hills near Florence the fabled kingdom of the Etruscan king Lars Porsena is being uncovered. Known as Chamars, it is thought to be the place where Porsena reigned in the 6th C. B.C. He is said to have launched an attack on Rome to restore the exiled Tarquinus to the throne. He laid seige to the city, but accepted a peaceful settlement and withdrew. Macauley’s poem has Horatius and two companions defending a bridge while the Roman army behind them dismantled the bridge. When it was nearly dismantled and would leave the Etruscan army stranded Horatius threw himself into the river and swam to safety, armor and all. By serendipity I am also reading a mystery novel by Marvin Albert entitled The Last Smile. It has Etruscan art at the heart of the novel. Not much is known about Etruscan history and it is hoped that this discovery and excavation will add substantially to what is known about this pre-Roman civilization.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Last evening I was in the library for a board meeting. They are replacing all the computers in the library and doing some minor remodeling to the Teen Zone. Anyway while the board were standing around and talking about the improvements I decided to take a look at what was available in DVDs. Not much; they are very popular. But there was a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams which apparently was an American Masters presentation on PBS in 2001. I thought I’d watch a bit each evening during the week. But the first fifteen minutes fascinated me so much that except for a couple of pauses for coffee I watched the entire ninety minutes. I must have heard Fitzgerald discussed in some literature class fifty-five years ago, but I know that I have never read any of his works. I probably won’t at my late age since I want to read Steinbeck and Hemingway and Somerset Maugham again before I die. But the film was quite fascinating. Fitzgerald was never as wealthy as he hoped, and when he did achieve fame as a writer, he and Zelda were having too much fun partying. Then the manic energy she displayed as a high school girl with whom Scott fell in love began to display the schizophrenia which it really was. In the end Scott went to Hollywood to write screen plays because that was where the money was. The last year of his life, and he died of a heart malady at age 44, he earned $13.31 in royalties on his books. Today they have sold in the millions but Scott wasn’t around to reap the benefits. A sad and tragic life. Perhaps I should read one or two of his novels to see just how great a writer he was.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Trip Report #1 - Lexington, KY and Keeneland

I promised sooner or later to write about our trip, or rather, some selective highlights of our trip. I probably should approach this sequentially or chronologically but I won’t. Hit or miss is what you get. One of the last places we visited before turning for home was Kentucky. I have always wanted to see blue grass and thoroughbred horses. Not that we don’t have thoroughbreds in Washington State. Emerald Downs is a bit south of Seattle. But the level of horses is a bit lower than those that run in Kentucky. We arrived in Lexington to find that the fall meet was still in progress. We determined to go to the races the following day, which was a Saturday. When we arrived at the Keeneland track we found that the grandstand was completely sold out. If we were to watch the races it was to be from benches down at the apron of the track. It was a bit windy and there was a chill in the air. It didn’t bode well for an entertaining day at the races. Anna went back to the car to get an umbrella (just in case) and hats for each of us. When she encountered a woman employee of the track (they wear green sports coats) she got to talking and told her a sob story. Edith managed to wangle seats for us in the top row of the grandstand, in front of where wheelchair patrons sit. In exchange we were able to give her housing information since her son, a lieutenant in the army, is being transferred to Fort Lewis. We were able to warn her away from some places that look good on the map but in reality have a fair amount of crime. What a nice person!

Just being there was a thrill for me. Anna bet most of the races and came out about even. I was content to bet a couple of race but mostly just to take it all in. And we bet on an Irish horse for out niece, Kelly Halligan, who paints the world green on St. Patrick’s Day. It came in last. Large television screen at either end of the tote board keep track of the race, sometimes using a split screen technique, so you could really see what was happening on the back stretch. Unusual for me was the fact that there were two finish lines, depending upon the length of the race. This is because the track does not have a front chute to start from. Interesting to see a man change the finish line by raising a red pole with a large round red marker at the top. I suspect the jockeys could become confused with two finish lines a furlong apart.

Around the sixth race the sprinkles began. By the seventh race it was raining hard and the track condition was changed from ‘fast’ to ‘muddy.’ And it really looked sloppy. Another feature we do not have at Emerald Down is a turf course. Two of the day’s races were on the turf. And I got to see one of the country’s top jockeys. Pat Day rode in two races. The first race he came in seventh but he won the feature race, which was a Grade III stakes, The Valley View, $100,000 added. In all, it was a fine day at the races, thanks to a kindly woman track employee. We were warm and dry and enjoyed every last minute of it. Now if I can get back to Lexington sometime when the trotting horses (standardbreds) are running at The Red Mile.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Young Frankenstein

This evening I watched Young Frankenstein on a DVD I bought the other day at my local super drugstore. It amazes me that so many good film can be purchased for a pittance, under $10. And some pretty awful stuff for $5.99. ButI digress. I had forgotten that the film was black-and-white. For atmosphere, I suppose. It wasn't shot in the days of black-and-white, obviously, but I was again surprised that it was 1976; that makes it almost thirty years old. Gene Wilder was over the top, Marty Feldman of the googling eyes was a hoot. Peter Boyle as the monster was excellent and the dance scene with him and Wilder was, for me, the high point of the film. Peter Boyle singing the tag line to Puttin' on the Ritz' just tickled my funny bones. Terri Garr, Madelyn Kahn and Cloris Leachman in the female roles were all excellent. It was a film which gave the actors and actresses a chance to play scenes with exuberance and for sheer fun. Well worth seeing again.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Library Victory and Holiday Trip

One of the bright moments during our trip was phoning home to our library after the September 14th vote to see how the bond issue came out. Both Anna and I are on our local library guild board. We are pretty sure that if the bond issue passed, our library will be the first to be replaced. It will double in size. We were very happy when we talked to the library manager and she told us that the issue passed with flying color. Anna had worked hard locally with the city council in promoting the vote, being a contact person and liaison between the county library system and the local community. She was quite happy to hear the good news.

One of my correspondents asked when I was going to start posting some blogs on highlights on the recent trip. After all, were gone for a total of 63 days. Something exciting must have happened during that time. Yes, indeed. Many things. Some were pretty exciting to us but may not be particularly good fodder for a blog. Others were and I promise that I will write about them soon. A day spent mostly at Midas in Hanover, Pennsylvania getting new brakes isn’t exactly an exciting topic. But the two days previous spent at Gettysburg is. So never fear, eventually I will sort out the things I want to write about and foist them upon you.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Best American Mystery Stories

I was wandering through Borders Book Store this evening and stumbled upon the 2004 edition of The Best American Mystery Stories. This has been a series which I have enjoyed very much. Otto Penzler is the Series Editor and each year he asks a different author to edit the year's edition. I can always expect to find some of my favorite mystery short story writers therein. Hoch, DuBois, Clark Howard and others. This year Otto chose Nelson DeMille as editor. I looked at the table of contents and blanched. I knew only three or four of the authors contained in the volume. No Hoch, DuBois, Clark Howard. No Pronzini, Estleman. Ah, there is a story by Joyce Carol Oates. Dick Lochte and Richard Lupoff, but I've already read the Lupoff story. Stephen King, but I am not a big Stephen King fan. And Jack O'Connell. Read one novel by him and thought it very strange. Well, this is going to be fun. Twenty stories and I only know five authors. This is either going to be really interesting or totally unsatisfactory. Time will tell. I may return to this topic at some future date. I'll let you know how it turned out. Will DeMille satisfy my taste or not?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Books and Their Attraction

During the trip I thought that I was doing pretty well. I've been collecting, or should I say accumulating, books since I was six years old. Now, approaching 75, I have been told by my wife that I should begin to divest myself of the books that infest the house. well, perhaps infest is too strong a word. So I was surprised that she would point out used bookstores to me as we were driving through cities and towns. I thought that I was doing pretty well at not stopping and feeling righteous in my self-denial. Today, after getting the bills paid and the luggage emptied I got around to the few books that I did buy. It turns out that I didn't do as well as I thought. Somehow there became a total of 35. I don't know how that happened. I truly tried to curb my tendency to buy whatever tickles my fancy. Granted that quite a few are paperbacks. I don't even want to think about where I will put them. The obvious answer is to get rid of 35 books. Then there should be space for the new ones. Ha! It is to laugh. Well, we can but try.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Home Again

We have arrived home after nine weeks on the road. Over 9000 miles on the Pontiac. We saw lots of places, had lots of adventures, met many wonderful people. But for old folks, it was wearing. Especially the last part when we had decided that we had seen all we wanted to see (for the time being). It was time to turn for home. That decision was made after visiting Louisville, Kentucky. Now for those of you who are geographically impaired, suffice it to say that Kentucky is a long way from the state of Washington. While we drove pretty hard, we didn't want to kill ourselves. It took eight days to get home from Kentucky. Now there is only unpacking to do, the laundry, finding a place for the many books purchased along the way, and otherwise taking up the normalcies of life. But we are back, albeit a bit weary, and ready to take up the pen again for this daily ritual. More about highlights of the trip anon.