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, February 27, 2006

Dancing with the Stars - We Knew Her When

My wife, Anna, has been watching Dancing with the Stars pretty faithfully. I watched only the first show because I wanted to see Jerry Rice and Kenny Mayne strut their stuff. Rice played one season with the Seahawks and Mayne is a horse race announcer and commentator and is from Seattle. We were very surprised to see Ashly Del Grosso, the woman who had the unfortunate circumstance of having to dance with the hip-hop artist. It seems Mr. P didn't have much interest in dancing, only showed up for a few lessons or practice sessisons and generally showed his contempt for the proceedings by wearing his baseball cap and doing little dancing.

Segue to some years back. We were traveling on one of our famous wanders. In Wyoming we visited Devil's Tower or as the Indians call it, Bearlodge. We had hiked around the base of the tower and watched climbers. It was a pretty warm day. Just outside the park entrance there was a small store with various tourist items for sale. What attracted us after our hike was ice cream. We bought towering cones piled high with ice cream and went outside to sit on the porch and watch the prairie dog colony nearby. A very handsome family came into the store, bought cones and soon joined us on the porch. Anna remarked on how lovely the children were. The children were beautiful ranging from about five to twenty-one. It turned out that thefamily was Mormon and were on a vacation before the boy friend of the oldest girl went off to do his mission. The mother said that she was a dance teacher from Salt Lake. We mentioned seeing a program on television that featured child dancers and that some of them had been from this family. There were nine children altogether. The mother asked the two youngest, a boy about five and a girl about six, if they would dance for us. They obliged by doing a little cha-cha for us. The girl was the vivacious Ashly that danced on Dancing with the Stars. What a small world.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Two Tales of One City

With apologies to Charles Dickens: I’ve just read two books about Venice almost back to back. The first was Venetian Tales by Jane Turner Rylands. This was a book of short stories which got a pretty good review in the Seattle Times. Rylands is a longtime resident of Venice and her husband is the director of the Guggenheim Museum in Venice. I found the stories fairly average. They were undoubtedly based upon acquaintances of Rylands or Venetian characters who are well known. They were well-written but seemed New Yorkerish, interesting but sometimes going nowhere.

I followed that up with The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt, the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This was a non-fiction about Venice. It opens with the fire which destroyed La Fenice, the opera house. There are stories about the investigation of the fire, whether it was arson or negligence, the bids for reconstruction and the rebuilding. Meanwhile there is a large section about Save Venice, an organization which helps save buildings and art works. Its membership is largely wealthy Americans and Berendt details the struggle for power within the organization. And to link with the previous book, there is much about Ezra Pound, the poet, his mistress, Olga Rudge, a concert violinist, and the aforementioned Jane Turner Rylands, who sort of schemed her way into Rudge’s life and founded the Ezra Pound Foundation. Rylands and the Ohio lawyer who drew up the incorporation papers outvoted Olga Rudge and spirited the papers of Pound away, ultimately selling them to Yale University for $100,000. The aging Olga Rudge saw $7,000 of that money. Not a kindly story that Berendt tells.

Other stories are about the simple man with the uniforms of police, firemen, medical aid helicopter personnel and many more who was busy directing the various forces in fighting the opera house fire; the rat poison magnate, who formulates said poisons for various parts of the world based upon human eating habits, various expatriates who have lived in Venice for a long time, the glassblower who spent his last years in recreating the fire in glass vase, the poor poet who left a million dollar estate and the prosecutor responsible for the investigation into the fire. I found The City of Falling Angels a much more fascinating book than Ryland’s book of short stories. And forgive me for my enthusiasm for books about Venice. The city fascinates me though I have never been there. There are also some very good mysteries set in Venice written by Edward Sklepowich.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Others

I actually took some time to watch a couple of movies having to do with the supernatural. The first was just for a bit of nostalgia. There’s not a lot left to be said about The Night of the Living Dead after all this time. It was a fun movie to take to our cabin and watch one evening.

The other movie was more contemporary and much more interesting. The Others was a fascinating movie, with a good story and very good acting. Nicole Kidman as the mother of two children living in a fog-haunted house, apparently isolated somewhat from the nearest village. Both the children are very sensitive to light and the drapes in the house must be kept closed. I was never quite sure why the doors had to be closed and locked when one was finished with the room. It made Kidman’s character seem very paranoid. The housekeeper, servant girl and gardener who are hired had apparently worked there before and seem to know the house intimately. But there are things that go bump in the night ... and the daytime as well. Noises upstairs. One of the eerie scenes in the movie is when the piano is played. The mother rushes to the room, unlocks the door and throws it open and finds no one there. The daughter seems to be more sensitive to the ghosts than the mother, who does not want to believe her child. At one point the father, missing and presumed dead in a war that has ended a couple of years before, shows up. Then before long he is gone again. There is a strong overlay of religious belief on the part of the mother. As punishment the daughter is made to read from the Bible. I won’t give away the ending in case some of you haven’t seen it. But the stacking of ghosts upon ghosts upon ghosts is in the end very effective. I probably enjoyed this film much more than most films of the supernatural that I have viewed in the last several years. I must admit that I don't watch many movies of this kind.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Return of the Rogue

My, oh, my. What a relief to be able to get back on the internet. My modem burned out. When I (we) replaced it, we found that we couldn't connect with the internet. For two weeks I fought with the machine, me of little technical knowhow. Two friends were unable to get there either. Finally with the help of Geek Posse and a few bucks ... well, around $150 really ... I am finally up and running again. In a few days I may even be able to say something worth reading. But for now it is enough to be able to tell you that I am sitting up, taking nourishment and able to blog once more.

On another topic altogether, my dear wife was watching Boston Legal this evening. I don't watch it except occasionally in passing. I must say that William Shatner gets fatter every time I do get a glimpse of the show. His face looks like a moon. Credit must be given to the show for two things: it takes a shot at the government's tomfoolery almost every show and it gave Michael J. Fox a chance to act again, in spite of the disease with which he is afflicted, Parkinson's, I believe.