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, June 30, 2006

Wildlife Report

A news story in the paper the other day was good news for a change. It reported that two whooping crane chicks had hatched and were being raised by their parents. There was a time when there were only 20 whooping cranes left. This species is one of the two species of cranes in North America. Today there are two flocks, one containing about 200 birds and the other about 60. The other crane species in N.A is, of course, the sandhill crane, of which there are thousands. We have seen these magnificent birds at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, where they gather in the late autumn. Anyway, the continuing recovery of the whooping crane is great news. We’ve seen a pair at the International Crane Foundation near Baraboo, Wisconsin but have yet to see this sspecies in the wild..

While I’m talking about wildlife I might as well tell you about the racoons and possum that seem to use our back yard for a highway late at night. My wife usually goes out to soak in an outdoor hot tub after the 11 p.m. news. She came in the other night and said, “Come and see this.” A mother racoon and four or five babies (kits?) were climbing over the back fence. The babies were none too steady and have yet to master walking along the thin boards that make up the fence. And they weren’t anxious to get down on the other side. They would hesitate, then almost fall, catching themselves by their front paws and hauling themselves back up to the top. We watched the show for about five minutes until the kits finally garnered the courage to get down into the neighbor’s back yard. The possum, dumb as they come (only Pogo had any sense), didn’t even scare as he almost ambled across Anna’s foot. I have no idea what these creatures are seeking. Food, obviously, but from what source. Maybe cat food for the neighbor’s cat that is left out. We’ve looked to see if they’ve been taking strawberries or blueberries off of our bushes but it doesn’t appear to be so. So that’s the report from the Denton Wildlife Refuge until something equally exciting occurs.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Pulp Novel

There is a new pulp novel out, just published. With a pulp cover and everything. I had great hopes for it. It’s entitled The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. I had high hopes that would be very entertaining. Especially when I read the cover blurbs and then read the first few pages. Walter Gibson (The Shadow) and Lester Dent (Doc Savage) are rivals arguing and a younger L. Ron Hubbard, then pulp writer who later became rather goofy with Dianetics and Scientology, is schmoozing with them. H. P. Lovecraft has been murdered while lying in the hospital. There is a writers’ meeting where other names of the time are dropped. Gibson takes his private car train to Lovecraft’s funeral and invites Hubbard along. When Chester, the black caretaker and porter of Gibson’s train car, I start shaking my head. Chester is certainly Himes. Meantime Dent takes his wife to dinner in Chinatown, they have a scare in an abandoned Chinese theater and the story begins to veer off. To China. At which point the story got far too wordy and disjointed. Paul Malmont apparently knows a lot about the pulps, the pulp era and its authors. And he wants to tell us every last detail. He seems to have forgotten that the pulp stories moved, had action, and dialogue was curt and moved the story. I’m sorry. Hopes dashed. I gave up after a hundred twenty pages. Other may enjoy it. Think I’ll go pick up a Doc Savage novel.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World Cup

I’m sorry to have been away. But, you see, it’s World Cup time. Soccer time. It doesn’t mean a thing to most a Americans. But to we few who think football is really a game that is played with the feet, World Cup time is the pinnacle of the sports year. Actually it takes place only once in four years. This year has been especially grand since for the first time Americans can, if they wish, see all thirty-two games on television, thanks to ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. So far I’ve watched one game a day for a total of thirteen games. I will probably continue to do so until the final match is played in Berlin.

The U.S. team has not been stellar so far. They lost to the Czechs in the first game, 3-0 and tied the Italians in the second game, 1-1. The one goal was a gift from Italians, an own goal. Tomorrow they had better play a more polished game and score some goals or they can sit in the stands and watch the rest of the World Cup go by.

There have been some very interesting events during the competition. Today the Ivory Coast, victims of civil war for twenty-seven years, beat Serbia-Montenegro 3-2. Their first time that they have gotten to the World Cup. And Angola got a brilliant game from players that are called the Black Antelope. Also their first time qualifying to play in the World Cup. Just a couple of the stories that make this event such a pleasure for millions of people (other than Americans).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Stillwater NWR Birding

The only other thing of great import that we did while in the Reno area was to visit the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is about eighty miles east of Reno-Sparks. We stopped in Fallon for lunch. As I was paying the bill a woman came in complaining that there was a big accident. She had to backtrack to get around the roadblock. When I heard the world ‘Stillwater’ my ears perked up. She acknowledged that it was the road to the refuge and that there were state police, county sheriffs, ambulance, a fire engine and aid cars. I don’t know any other roads so I took a chance that we could get through. There were still police on the scene when we reached it but all the other vehicles were gone. I don’t know how many cars were involved; maybe only the one we saw as we drove slowly past. It looked like it might have been a sports model. It was smashed so flat that I couldn’t identify the make. If the persons got out alive they are very lucky.

The day at the refuge was very successful. I’ve been ‘birding,’ as they now call it since I was a young lad. We can usually expect to see many species of birds at Stillwater that we won’t see in the Puget Sound area. We saw 26 species, of which only a couple were birds that we would find at home. The most interesting were white-faced ibis, long-billed curlew, yellow-headed blackbirds, American avocet, black-necked stilts, white pelican, horned larks and western kingbirds. Birding is cheap entertainment. All that’s required is a pair of binoculars and a good identification book. And in recent years several very good ones have been published. We enjoyed our day at Stillwater and hope to go back again next year.

We had intended to visit Lake Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon on the way home. However, my wife fell in the bathroom of the hotel room and was dealing with a knot on her head and pretty bad headaches. So we cut short the trip and headed for home. Some other time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Movies in Reno

I promised to tell a bit about the recent trip to Reno. It was quite laid back. We are not big gamblers but we find enough attractions in Reno to make our trips there pleasurable. Among other things we took in two movies, on two consecutive days. There is a fine movie theater on the banks of the Truckee River which runs right through downtown. My wife, Anna, had watched a program on television recently about the making of and the voice work done by Bruce Willis and others on Over the Hedge. She wanted to see it. Since she never never asks to go see a film - it’s always me that suggests one - when she does, I accede willingly. Over the Hedge is an entertaining enough film, nothing great but fun, with a few laughs (at least for me). And Bruce Willis’s voice is almost perfect for the character of the racoon.

The following day we saw The DaVinci Code. Lots of hype about this one. From the book by Dan Brown, of course. The plot is a lot of hooey, as they used to say, but it makes a good thriller movie. For me the best thing was being able to see places I have never seen but have read about (long before the book). The Louvre is Paris, the Templar church in London and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Opus Dei was portrayed as suitably evil. In real life the members are probably upstanding citizens. Their beliefs are conservative and they would change the Catholic Church if they could. There is a fairly recent book about the Opus Dei but I doubt that I have enough interest to pursue it. The belief that Christ and Mary Magdalene were married is old news. And the protection of Audrey Tautou as a descendant is a bit much. How many generations would have lived and how many descendants of Christ would there be? I read that there is no such thing as the Priory of Scion, or hasn’t been until recently. It makes a good story. Protecting the bloodline of Christ. But I must say that Tautou is my new favorite Audrey since Audrey Hepburn passed away. My granddaughter did not like the movie. Quote: “They left so much out.” She will eventually learn that they cannot film every scene in a book. No movie has since The Brave Bulls. My opinion. More about the trip to come.