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.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Seattle Asian Art Museum

Sorry I've been missing for a few days. But I lead such a social life, you know. On Friday my wife had an appointment downtown and for some nefarious reason I had to accompany her. Afterward we had lunch and then I said that since we were already downtown we should visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Originally this was the main Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park. When the new museum was built in the heart of the downtown area, this museum, a couple of miles up the hill, became the Asian Art Museum. Seattle, being part of the Pacific Rim, and having a large Asian population, feels that Asian art is important. There is a permanent exhibit of Buddhist art, jade, furniture and pottery from various nations. But we always look forward to the ever changing exhibits.

The first was the work of a Korean potter, Yoon Kwang-Cho. A video display showed him working in his pottery. Often he works with large pieces, using the coil method. These pieces are not necessarily round pots. Sometime he works with three and four-sided pieces. One of my favorites in this show was a four-sided piece in white glaze with the Bhuddist Heart Sutra inscribed on it. Yoon said that he had to be very careful with this piece since he could not make any mistakes in the Korean lettering of the sutra. A wonderful exhibit with traditional round pots, pieces in the shape of stupas and very irregular three- and four-sided pieces, some of them quite large.

The other changing exhibit was of firemens' coat from the Edo period, 1615-1864. These coats were worn by the firemen when they were called to a fire. They were stitched together in as many as five layers, and then designs painted on them. Dragons, a 'go' game, floral designs, a depiction of a legend of a spider, all very beautiful. Several of the coats displayed were made of deer skin. The designs on them were made by applying paper to the skin, then smoking the leather. The leather darkened but where the paper was placed the skin would remain light. Often the firemen did not so much put our fires but rather tore down adjoining houses so the fire would not spread. There were as many as 24,000 fire fighters divided into eight brigades. They were called machi-bikeshi.

I can't close without mentioning my favorite piece, an almost life-sized sculpture of a Buddhist monk at the moment of enlightenment. His eyes are closed, there is a smile on his face, and his legs, instead of being in meditation posture, look as though they have been released to begin some happy dance. A piece that always brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ain't It Cool

I was spending some time on the net today running down some movie information. In so doing I went to a website that is entertaining, sometimes bizarre, perhaps infuriating to some (mostly due to the use of language), but always educational. The site is Aint It Cool. Every time I've gone there, I've learned of some new movies that looks interesting. You need to look around a bit to find everything. For example, if you can find Harry's World, you will find not only reports on many film festivals which Harry has attended, but also a five-part article on a visit to The Ackermansion, the home which is also a museum for the many props from science fiction and horror movies collected by Forrest "Forry" Ackerman over many years. Or as he likes to call himself "4E."

There is elsewhere a list of the 20 movies that Harry is anticipating in 2005. I found movies listed that I did not know were in the works. Oliver Twist, The War of the Worlds, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sin City from Frank Miller's graphic novels, A Scanner Darkly from one of Philip K. Dick's novels, and the new King Kong. There are six that I, at least, am anticipating. You might try out this website. I found it enlightening.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sherlock Holmes

It’s been a Sherlock Holmes kind of day. The mail brought two presents to myself. The first was the DVD of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first thirteen episodes of the television series featuring Jeremy Brett. I’ve just finished watching "A Scandal in Bohemia." I haven’t watched any of the series for a long time and I had vague memories that it was good. But I had forgotten just how good it was. There are three more DVD collections which I will purchase in due time.

The second was delivered by UPS. It was the new two-volume annotated and illustrated collection of all the Doyle short stories featuring Sherlock. The exact title is The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger. So I will probably begin my fourth journey through the canon. That's not all that many for the real Holmes enthusiast. I first read all of the stories as a boy, but the second and third readings only came recently, within the last five years. This collection is published in two volumes, oversize and rather thick. They are contained in a slipcase. They appear to be heavy and I suppose I will read them at the dining room table, rather than hold them in my lap. A very nice production. If you're interested I suggest buying from Barnes and Noble on the internet. The set lists for $75 but B&N sells it for $52 with free shipping. That's about 1/3 off.

Between these two, plus the other forthcoming DVD collections of the Granada television productions, I should be kept highly entertained and no doubt educated. Oh, frabjous day!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Meeting Faith

We attended a very unusual reading last evening. The author was Faith Adiele and her book was entitled Meeting Faith; the Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun. Faith grew up in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. Her mother was Scandinavian and her father Nigerian. She was brought up a liberal in a very conservative part of our state. Her father went back to Nigeria before she was born, always intending to return but never doing so. She attended Harvard, dropped out failing, so she says and went to Thailand to do research. She sought out a temple of Buddhist nuns in the north of that country and asked to join. She was ordained and spent about four months with the nuns. Most traditions of Buddhism only allow ordination after several years of study. Apparently the Forest Tradition, the branch of Buddhism followed in northern Thailand allows it immediately. Her sister nuns were the anthropological study of Faith. The life of the nuns is harsh by our standards but she fit in quite well, eating one meal a day and meditating as much as nineteen hours a day. She does not claim to be a Buddhist now though she misses the practice, as Buddhists call it. The reading was delightful, brought many laughs and sold a few books. Faith Adiele now teaches writing as an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, having obviously returned to Harvard and completed more than one degree.

There is to be a future PBS television program called The Journey Home which follows Faith as she travels to Nigeria to attempt to find her father. When she does find him she does not think much of him; a little man, she says. But she was delighted to discover that she has three half-sisters. We enjoyed our evening very much with this delightful woman.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Von Helsing

Well, boys and girls, I have a movie recommendation for you. DO NOT SEE Van Helsing. Well, maybe you could watch it and laugh yourself through it. It has wonderful scenery and fantastic sets. That's it. The plot is Van Helsing trying to slay the three monsters, Dracula, the Werewolf and Frankenstein's Monster. There was one scene, early in the film where we see an overview of Paris and the Eiffel Tower is only half completed. Now that was cool. There is lots of action, all of it totally unbelievable. How many times can a human body, male or female, bounce off of a stone wall and live? None. Much of the acting was over the top. The young monk builds neat weapons, like the ones Bond gets from MI-6. Later on Von Helsing makes deductions as shrewdly as Sherlock Holmes. Coaches, you know, the ones drawn by horses, don't usually explode into fireballs when they wreck. Aw, c'mon, Denton, fess up. When you saw where this was going, you just sat back and enjoyed it. Even the vampires, beautiful harpy ladies, had funny lines and terrible accents. Go ahead and watch it, if you haven't. Don't say I didn't warn you. I'd give it 1/2 a star.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Bad news all around. I was scanning the morning newspaper. I don't usually look at the obits but my eyes lit on a photo of a woman who I knew pretty well when I was more active in science fiction fandom. Anna Vargo was far too young to have died. She was an ardent feminist, Democrat, science fiction fan. I saw her a few years ago when I dropped in on a convention in order to visit with Bill Bowers and to meet D. Gary Grady, visiting from back east. Anna visited our house when we were hosting Dave and Cathi Piper and daughters, Clare and Sara, from England. I remember she and Cathi Piper having a rather torrid conversation in which Anna espoused her feminist ideals. I was sorry to read of her death. She deserved to live much longer.

Then the news at a powwow on Saturday evening was that our good friend, Arnold Littlehead, had both legs amputated. Arnold has been diabetic for a long time. He never was able to get the disease under control and now has paid for it. He was often Master of Cermony or Arena Director at powwows throughout the northwest, although his home was in Poplar, Montana. In the last year or so he and his wife, Linda, have lived in Portland Oregon. I hope that Arnold heals well and is able to deal with being wheelchair-bound. He was always on his feet and walking and this will slow him down a bit. If you're the praying kind, he could use a thought now.

Bill Crider's blog reports that Charlotte McLeod, mystery writer, has died. She was often a visitor at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention. Her rather cozy novels were a delight. She has not written for some years.

And the final bummer, the blog of Richard Wheeler, writer of superb westerns, seems to have disappeared. Would that it were not so. If any of my readers know where Richard and his blog went, I appreciate it if you'd drop a line.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Princess Mononoke

For the last couple of evenings my Netflix fix has been Princess Mononoke. I didn't know anything about the film except that it was Japanese animation. I anticipated that it would be something like Spirited Away. It was not. A boy tries to protect his village from a boar who has become a demon. He is injured and left with marks on his arm. He is told that he will die but that if he goes to the forest and finds the forest spirit he might be saved. There is some beautiful background painting but the animation was a little stilted (probably not the correct word), not nearly as smooth. Still, I enjoyed the film and the story. Although the princess who governs Irontown seemed like an evil woman and I don't think the boy should have come to her rescue. But then I don't know the Japanese mind. I didn't enjoy the film enough to buy a copy like I did Spirited Away. This Netflix thing is working pretty well. We'll see what happens between now and Tuesday. Monday is Martin Luther King Day; no mail. Two DVDs have been returned; now we'll see if new ones show up in the mailbox tomorrow or Saturday.

Monday, January 10, 2005


I have succumbed. I love to watch movies but I never seem to get around to going to ...the theater...the video store. Saying you are movie fan and being a movie fan are two different things. As much as I talk about liking movies, the total that I saw during 2004, in theater and at home was a paltry forty. So I determined that at the first of the year I would try out Netflix. Now I have no excuse. It will come down to my ability to manage time. If I can find an hour each evening to watch part of a movie, this might pay for itself. With three movies in the house at a time there should be no excuse. I figure that if I watch five or six movies a month Netflix will pay for itself. With the help of Videohound, Maltin's and Martin and Porter's video guides, and the wonderful 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die, there should be no problem in making choices. Included will be a lot of recent movies that I missed, science fiction classics, mystery classics, film noir and lots of foreign films. I also have a long list of spy movies that I took from a book long ago and when I tried to find them on VHS out of almost one hundred I could only find a few. With the advent of DVD I may be able to find more.

I've just finished watching Cinema Paradiso. I had seen this film some years back, but I had read that the director's cut added another fifty minutes to the film. I watched the original cut first, then the director's cut immediately after. The original cut left quite a bit unanswered and the director's cut gave the answers. For the most part the added minutes were after the original cut ended.

We'll have to see whether this all works for me. Whether I find or make the time for these films. I'm hopeful I can make it work and that I will see more films this year. I'll report in a few months and twll you how it's going.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Do You Speak American?

I watched the excellent program last night on American English. Robert McNeil traveled across the country finding out about regional dialects, how words are pronounced and how certain sub-cultures have speech of their own (surfer language, snowboard and skateboard culture, and of course, rap and hip hop - remember Valley Girl speech?). It was a facinating show and a follow-up of a show he did on English about ten years ago. Regional dialect doesn't seem so strange when you think about how large this country is and that there are certainly regional foods and cooking. It certainly won't change my speech patterns but it gives one something to think about and perhaps to be tolerant of.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Netflix and An Art Museum

I've just spent the last few minutes signing up for Netflix. Sort of a stimulus for seeing more movies. We'll see how it goes. I love movies but don't go out to theaters much and never can find what I want at the local video store. So I'll give these folks a try.

In other news, today Anna and I spent a pleasant and fruitful hour and a little more at the Frye Art Museum. Exploring new art is always a pleasant experience whether one enjoys it or not. Three featured artists and we very much enjoyed two of them. Two out of three isn't bad.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year, Kerf

First off, let me wish each and every one of my readers (both of you) a Very Happy New Year. May it hold for you everything you want. As for me, it won't. Every year I ask for a red Jaguar and a million dollars. Never Happens! Oh, well.

I spent a few days at my cabin up near Mt. Rainier with some old friends. We've been doing this for beau coup years now and will probably continue to do so until we can no longer stand up. Five guys who hold the knowledge of the world in their brains. Except that we're beginning to forget things as we get older. So we have gathered reference books up there to help us out. The word "kerf" came up somehow and nobody knew what it meant. The wood spews out when a person saws a log or piece of wood. The slit or notch left by the sawblade is the kerf. One friend was really miffed because his Dad was a logger and he should have known the word.

Today I was reading a few pages of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. He mentions an oak tree that was killed by a lightning strike. A year later he sawed it up for firewood. Sure enough, he mentioned the word "kerf." Which only proves that one is never too old to add words to one's vocabulary. Nor to read a classic, which I believe Leopold's Almanac is. I know I should have read it a long time ago. But it's never too late and I am remedying that even now.