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.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

James Michener and Bull Fights

I’ve been revisiting a couple of my favorite writers from college days (a long time ago). Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. I’ve recently read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Recently someone left Hemingway’s The Dangerous Summer on the sale table at the local library. The book is about the temporada or season of two bullfighters who tour mano a mano or each man fighting three bulls. This is a re-issue and comes with a wonderful introduction by James Michener. The intro is long and much of it reveals that Michener probably knew as much about bullfighting as did Hemingway. It is very perceptive about the nuances of the art. I may catch some flack for this blog but I’ve been interested in the bullfight for a long time. Paul Gallico said in a very early article when Sports Illustrated first came on the scene - it may have been the very first issue - that there were only three sports: mountain climbing, auto racing, and bullfighting. All the rest were merely recreations. His reasons: these three were the only ones where one risked death. I’m anxious to get to Hemingway’s text but I will be sad when I come to the end of Michener’s long introduction.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

London 1849

A short note tonight as I am anxious to sit down for a couple of hours with a new book that just arrived from the History Book Club. It’s entitled London 1849; A Victorian Murder Story. The author is Michael Alpert. It purports to be a social history of London in the mid-19th century when lots of things were happening. The story revolves around the murder of Patrick O’Connor by Maria and Frederick Manning. Such things as the bus, the railway, the penny6 post, anaesthetics and the Telegraph were coming into being. Contraception, antiseptics and the employment of women for other than sweat labor and acting as governesses was beginning.

We’ve visited England a dozen times and always spend a week and sometimes more in London. We’ve done a lot of walking there. I find it a fascinating city. I remember being delighted last visit to walk from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul’s and thence to Seven Dials, where Agatha Christie set one of her mysteries. I’m anticipating that this book will tell me more about this city. It may turn out to be as fascinating as Peter Ackroyd’s London.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Blogger's Vacation

Sorry that I haven't kept up my blog for a bit. My wife, Anna, has been ill and I have spent a fair amount of time playing Dr. Denton.

One of my dear Indian friends, Jim La Belle, a Lakota, passed over early this week. Jim was a wonderful traditional dancer. That's a problem when one is part of the powwow family. Your friends are getting older, and begin to leave for the place beyond the sun. Jim will be greatly missed.

I watched The Fifth Element the other evening. In the early scene with Bruce Willis driving the air taxi I was struck with the likeness to the early scene in Bladerunner. The difference was that in Element the traffic was much thicker and craft were speeding in all directions at many levels. When Willis's taxi was trying to elude police I began to see that this was not going to be nearly as serious as Bladerunner. I thought it a pretty fair adventure movie. I'd love to know more about how the woman character (duh, don't remember her name) spoke the language that she did. She certainly had it down pat. It came across as believable. By the time we got to Richard Tucker, the drag queen, I had determined that this was an adventure comedy and I just sat back to enjoy it. I won't recommend it highly but if you want a giggle or two, lots of shooting on a intergalactic scale, hey, give it a try.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Kim, the Movie (1950)

Every few years I have to read Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. With my having subscribed recently to Netflix I was thinking of movies I wanted to put in my queue. One of them was Kim. The other day I sat down to watch Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell play out their part in The Great Game. This not-so-subtle battle over influence in Afghanistan and Tibet has fascinated me for a long time. I must have seen this film when I was a young man but I don’t recall doing so. With a bowl of popcorn and this movie I had a wonderful time. No movie can duplicate the book. This one gave some scenes from the book short shrift but for the most part stayed pretty close. This 1950 version had Hurree Chunder, played by Cecil Kellaway, killed off rather too soon so that Kim could play an important part with the Russians in the mountains. Exciting stuff, but not as in the book. One of my favorite scenes is when Kim is sent to Lurgan Sahib (Arnold Moss) to train his memory. That actor, Moss, had a wonderful deep voice. That scene was pretty accurate. Paul Lukas played the Tibetan Lama for whom Kim becomes his chela. I enjoyed the movie immensely and just may have to buy a copy for myself.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller, a great American playwright, is dead. Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and many others. RIP.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

La Strada

I just finished watching La Strada, Frederico Fellini's first internationally acclaimed film. The film is fifty years old and was shot in black-and-white. It's a sad story. Anthony Quinn plays an itinerant performer who does a strong man act. At the beginning of the film he pays the mother of a young and none-too-bright girl to go with him and help with the act. From the very beginning he mistreats her, but gradually she becomes fond of him. Later they join the circus for a while where Richard Basehart taunts and teases Quinn, who has a very short fuse. The girl, played by Fellini's wife, is offered the chance to go with the circus but declines. Later on the road Quinn happens upon Basehart. He punches him out and Basehart dies. The girl grieves and finally Quinn, tired of her, leaves her sleeping by the side of the road. Several years later he learns that she has died and finally he is sorry. Quinn plays the loud, blustering strong man very well. Giuletta Masina is a wonder as the girl, with a very expressive face showing an amazing variety of emotions. Probably not a film for everyone but I've been a fan of Fellini's since the 50s. It's well worth watching

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Allen Magee, Barry Lopez, and Pankaj Mishra

I've been to a couple of literary events lately. The first was a conversation at the Frye Art Museum between Allen Magee and Barry Lopez. I knew nothing about Magee. The exhibition of quite a few paintings and several sculptures enlightened me about that. His paintings are everything from beautiful lifelike drawings in pencil with watercolor, to rather abstract portraits of individuals. One immense painting of river rocks was so lifelike that one felt as though he could pick an individual stone and hold it in one's hand. Barry Lopez was the one I went to listen to. I've read several books by him, mostly essays about the outdoors and the environment. The museum's auditorium was packed with over a hundred people. The conversation was of a very high tone, often quite intellectual. Two bright minds exchanging views on the subjects of art and literature for an hour-and-a-half. Stimulating!

Several days later we attended a reading at the Eliot Bay Book Store. The reader was a young East Indian by the name of Pankaj Mishra. He has written for the Times Literary Supplement and for the New York Times Book review, as well as for Granta. His new book is An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. It's a sort of history of Buddhism coupled with Mishra's own introduction to and study of the history and current state of Buddhism, both in the east and in the western world. He read briefly from his book and then took questions from the audience. Mishra has traveled in Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar and other more Buddhist nations. He is going to spend nine months in New York although he admitted that he would rather spend it in Seattle. Quite educational. It's things like this that make the seventy-five year old brain turn over.

Friday, February 04, 2005

University of Washington Winter Powwow

Saturday was the Winter Powwow at the University of Washington. There were two Grand Entries, at 1pm and at 7pm. A good crowd was present and at least two hundred dancers in regalia. There were thirteen drums. The host drum was Wild Rose from Yakima, Washington. Each drum with its singers has a name. I'm always cognizant of the names of the drums just as I am always fascinated by the names of rock groups (I see many each week in the entertainment section of the Seattle newspaper). The drums who were present at Saturday's powwow were Wild Rose, Medicine Whistle, Broken Rope, Eagle Stone, Midnight Echo, Northern Plains, White Eagle, Pejuzta, Northwest Connection, Sage Crow, Sitting Horse, Black Lodge and The Outlaws. Each drum plays and sings in progression. With that many drums they each probably only sang five or six songs at the most during the whole time, excepting for the host drum. The host drum is called upon to sing the second song for any competition dances, so they may have sung as many as fifteen.

As usual we saw many old friends from the powwow circle. Lots of greetings, lots of hugs. And as usual, with such a large extended family, there was bad news as well. A Lakota elder and good friend of ours had a heart attack and stroke while in the hospital for a procedure and is now in a coma. We learned of another friend, whom we had not seen for a while, who spent two weeks in the hospital and only recently has gone home. Our friend from Portland, who had his leg amputated, is healing and looking forward to being fitted with a prostheses. So good news, bad news. All in all we had a wonderful day. What more could you ask for.