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.

Friday, April 28, 2006

My Lunchtime Reading...For A Long Time To Come

I received a book in the mail from England the other day. It has become my lunchtime book and undoubtedly will keep me busy for a long time. It’s entitled The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends from Spring-Heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys. It was written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson. Jacqueline Simpson is a sort of acquaintance of mine through an amateur press association in which we both are active. The book is 851 pages of fairly small type. Since I’ve spent a fair amount of time in England and have traveled it from end to end I know it fairly well. The subjects of the short and long items cover everything from ghosts, devil, fairies, churches, holy places, heroes and villains and many others. Already I’ve read about Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman, and the doomed dirigible, R101, which was thought, like the Titanic, to be indestructible. Its maiden voyage was supposed to be from England to India, but it crashed in a wood near Beauvais, France. Faulty design and bad weather were blamed. This is a wonderful big book filled with the legend and lore of England. Anyone with an interest in this sort of thing will find hours of enjoyment in this title.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Opening Day at Emerald Downs

Last Friday we attended the Opening Day of our local race track, Emerald Downs. A couple of things attracted us. First, it was a nice sunny day, something that we don’t always have at this time of year in the northwest. And second, there was a fine giveaway, a sports bag. One out of the 5,000 available one had $5000 tucked away in it. It was worth a shot. The card is not wonderful, neither on opening day nor at this time of year. All of distances were set at 5 or 5½ furlongs. The horses haven’t been in training very long and the longer distances would only bring injuries. We had a great time until the sun went down. It began to get cold and by the last race around 9:30 p.m. I was getting chilled clear through. Still, it was fun to see the horses run. We didn’t lose. Neither did we win very big. And no, we did not get the $5 grand. A lady who did was interviewed at about the fourth race. There was a good opening day crowd of about 8,000 and the handle at the windows was nearly $1½ million. So the track is off to a good start. I note that the first stakes race was Sunday and a horse was shipped in from California to take the big money. Smart owner or trainer. Well, this won’t be the last time I go to the track this summer. It’s about a half hour away and the drive isn’t bad at all. And on clear days there is a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier standing tall to the southeast. What more could one ask? Blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful horses trying their best.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Italian Alphabet

I must be getting blind in my old age. Or at least inattentive. Bill Crider responded to yesterday's blog to say that I surely must have meant 21 letters in the Italian alphabet, not 31. I could have sworn that the article I found on MSNBC said 31 letters. But a few moments research on the internet this afternoon found that I was inexplicably wrong. Oh, the shame, the embarrassment. To have to admit it. Is oldtimer's setting in? So forgive me, all, especially any Italian friends out there, particularly Bob Sabella. And thank you, Bill, for setting me straight. I may never write anything again.

I was just thinking that I grew up as an Irish kid surrounded by four square blocks of Italians. And I never learned any Italian. I'm wondering if the Italian kids that I went to school with learned any, either. Surely, they must have. But I never heard them speak it to each other. I did learn to love Italian food, however. Those families were very generous in sharing. There was even an Italian man who came from over the hill with his herd of goats to graze on the vacant land that was there at the time. And the women who came to pick dandelions to make wine. Don't get me started. I'll get all nostalgic.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mafia Arrest

I’ve been following an amazing story for the last couple of days. The arrest of the head of the Mafia, Bernardo Provenzano. The Italian police have been trying to find him for forty years. Forty years! They finally found him in a farmhouse in Sicily. Apparently he directed the operation of the Mafia from there, although he couldn’t have lived there for the last forty years. Apparently he used what the Italians call ‘pizzini,’ little notes to direct his subordinates. They were written on an Olivetti typewriter, I suppose much like the one that I used to produce many fanzines during the 70s and early 80s. Not very high tech. And it is said that he used a code that Julius Caesar used in ancient Roman times, a simple +3 code. Thus A become 4, B is 5, C is 6, etc. Apparently the Italian alphabet only has 31 letters, or so the article said. The pizzini were found after one of the Mafia subordinates was captured. The code was simple to read and other Mafia members have been arrested, and there are more arrests to come as associates are identified. It’s all very interesting, at least to me. Eventually there must be a book revealing all. I’ll be first in line.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Broadway Singers

Anna and I had a small discussion about singers in Broadway musicals after we had watched the movie, State Fair (1945). It is a movie about another time and another place, but fun to watch for a couple of oldsters who first saw the movie as teenagers. State Fair was never on Broadway as far as I know. At least I don’t think so. It got us wondering about a couple of Broadway singers who were very popular in their time. Ethel Merman and Carol Channing came to mind. I never cared for either of their voices. The most popular of the recent singers would seem to be Roberta Peters. I do like her voice. If you haven’t seen Into the Woods please do so. It’s a musical based upon many fairy tales all jumbled together. And I’m always surprised that Mandy Patinkin, who was so good in Sunday in the Park with George (Seurat) also acted in The Princess Bride and is now a current television series. Anyway, can anyone tell me why Merman and Channing were so popular? Not with me, they weren’t.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Just In Case You Weren't Aware

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.

That won't ever happen again.

You may now return to your normal stuff.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Occasional Macanudo

Today was the monthly meeting of REPS, the Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound. And the feature was a performance of an original Shadow script by the REPS Radio Readers. This group reads scripts of old radio shows for fun and occasionally performs one for the club. This script was written some years back by two of our members. The script needed changes and one of the writers did not want a word changed. So it lay idle for about ten years. Now that writer has found religion and said she didn’t care any longer and is no longer a member of the club. But the fellow who had the original idea has been a longtime member of the club and wanted to hear it performed. Bob Herman is blind and the story revolves around the fact that the Shadow is not able to cloud the blind villain’s mind. The Occasional Macanudo is an expensive cigar which the blind cigar store owner and villain of the piece sells.

So the readers reworked the script a bit and practiced it several times. This sub-group meets at our house and I usually take myself off to the library close by. When it got close to performance time the fellow who was supposed to play the part of Commissioner Weston and also read the Blue Coal advertisements came down ill. Guess who got to fill in. I do OK but I’d rather not. Since I had a minor stroke a couple of years back I have to concentrate to not make any mistakes and I probably read a bit more slowly than I formerly did.

The club had a bit of a blowup about a year ago and some people left to form a new club. So we had new actors who had not performed previously. We’ve also lost a couple of actors who have gone on to stage acting. The person who was going to direct auditioned for a play and got a part so Anna, my wife, had to do the directing. For several actors, this was their first time in front of the mike. We even had bit parts for the blind author who read from his braille script. All in all the performance went very well. We won’t be playing for the Radio City Center in New York any time soon but the cast had fun and the audience seemed to enjoy the performance. Shades of the 1940s!