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.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


“Clerkenwell in the early hours of the morning is one of the most unsavoury neighborhoods in the whole of East Central London, which is saying a great deal....”

I stumbled upon Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham his afternoon and sat down to read a few pages. Thus I came upon the above sentence and for several moments closed the book and wallowed in memories. I’m getting old and it’s not likely that I will ever visit England again. So please bear with me. Look to the Lady was first published in 1931 and features, of course, Albert Campion and his man, Lugg. And Clerkenwell, as I have read elsewhere must have been a very different place from the Clerkenwell that I visited in 2000.

It was a very sunny and pleasant day when Anna and I decided to spend the day walking. From our hotel near Trafalgar Square, we headed up the Strand, which becomes Fleet Street. Along the way we stopped at an optometrist to have Anna’s glasses put back together, a lens having fallen out. A nice Indian gentleman did the job, no charge. We continued on to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

After a quick tour of the crypt and the gift shop, we turned onto High Holborn and wended out way toward Soho, eventually coming out at Seven Dials. By happenstance there was a celebration going on. The day had been declared a day for no cars in London. Fat chance, but we could tell that traffic was somewhat diminished. A parade was in progress. I especially recall a couple on a tandem bike, she in a very fancy long-skirted red dress with a red parasol to match and he in a suit with top hat playing a jazzy tune on a trumpet. There were stalls along the street, food and other items for sale, balloons everywhere. It was quite a festive scene. Quite a difference from the poor district of earlier times, with cheap cafes and flophouses where one could find a doss for a few pence.

And may I recommend Margery Allingham’s mysteries if you have never read them. Dated, perhaps, but plenty of action and fine storytelling. Try The Mystery Mile or The Crime at Black Dudley. And let me know if you enjoy them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Garden and Cosmos

Last Sunday we went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to take a look at an exhibit out of India. The exhibit was of paintings from the courts of several relates maharajas in Jodhpur in the northwestern part of India. They were from the reigns (if that is the correct word) of Bakhat Singh, Vitai, Singh and Man Singh. The period was 1725-1843. The paintings were all of pretty decent size, say 18-24" wide and probably 12-16" high. One of the first things that struck me was that the people were all in profile. And several pools depicted were two dimensional. Apparently the painters (or perhaps the traditional style) of painting three dimensions on a flat surface had not reached this part of India as yet.

The paintings depicted court life, the celebration of holidays, and generally incidents in the maharajah’s life. There was exquisite detail in the paintings. For example, the second floor of the buildings which house the women’s quarters, had very detailed latticework. This allowed the women to see out but someone standing on the ground would only be able to see nebulous figures. All of the paintings contained human figures, from servants to the noble family. There were some paintings which showed running water, presumably a river. I was perplexed when I saw a wolf’s head in the water among many ducks. Later I realized it was the image of a crocodile.

There was a triptych in one of the rooms. I studied the last third of the triptych. The entire painting portrayed an encounter of the god, Krishna, with female swineherds. The last part had two rows of these women. I spent a good bit of time on the upper row which contained eighty-four women. As I looked I discovered that the skirt of each woman was different, colored differently and ornamented with a different pattern. Whether geometric or flowers, the patterns were each different from any other depicted. Other details in railings, trees and bushes were exquisite. I’m glad that we took this exhibit in, though we waited until almost the last weekend. The exhibit was crowded and very hot. Next time I’ll try to remember that.

I wasn’t too tired to go across the lobby to the Chinese exhibit to observe a couple of favorites. There was a triple-life size Kwan Yin in a relaxed state carved of wood. I don’t recall the age but the wood was split. There were also two very fine China figures of Kwan Yin, probably 16" tall. Kwan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion in the Buddhist world. She is sometimes called “the one who listens.” So tell her your woes.