It’s Away!

"Behold, the Argonath! The Pillars of the Kings!"

"Behold, the Argonath! The Pillars of the Kings!"

Heh, heh — they’re actually maneki neko, which means “inviting cats.” But I couldn’t resist pointing out the similarity to a certain mighty landmark in Middle-earth. I’ve never seen maneki neko in a paired set like this before. Maybe as the economy gets bad, more cats are getting jobs as inviters, sitting atop roofs. . . . Seriously, in Japan, the “come here” gesture is made that way, with the palm forward and brought

"They are Isildur and Anarion, my forefathers of old."

"They are Isildur and Anarion, my forefathers of old."

 down in a scooping motion — just the opposite of the Western upward scoop for “come here.” So these two cats are beckoning wealth: they’re positioned atop a booth that sells lottery tickets. People often have smaller versions of them in their homes or shops to call in people, good fortune, and prosperity.

Anyway — grrooinnk! (the sound of my changing subject) — it’s often pointed out by history buffs that the Persian Gulf War  was the first war that the general public could see unfolding before their eyes, through the “miracles” (?) of television and modern reporting. Through the miracle of a blog, this is the first time I’ve finished and submitted a manuscript “with the world watching.” (Delusion of Grandeur: $25 fine.) Okay: with a few people watching, which is way more than usual. Usually writing is the most solitary endeavor in the world.

So, The Star Shard is off to my agent. That’s always a good feeling, to send something out the door. Here’s your handkerchief and your lunch, little manuscript. Take care — send a postcard! Make us proud! And yes, you can always come home. If you come home all torn and coffee-stained and sadder but wiser, we’ll welcome you back with open arms and tend to your wounds and nurse you into better health, and you don’t have to leave again until you’re ready.

Grroinnk #2: Cricket had a poetry contest in which they invited readers to write poems inspired by their favorite Cricket covers. Three of the winners wrote poems based on the September cover, that hauntingly mysterious image of Cymbril on the high ledge outside the hatchway on the Rake’s prow. You can read these and all the winners on Cricket‘s Web site ( I am totally impressed by the quality of the poems these kids write! My favorite of those three is one by a girl named Amanda. (Well, I’m assuming “girl.”) I can’t post the poem here, but I can quote you some snatches of it: “A cat by her side, eyes bright and green, / Sees what the girl thinks cannot be seen.” And how about this? — “A stone to her forehead, magic inside; / An elf on the other end, linked to her mind.” Very cool stuff — and so humbling to think about the reality of it: young readers drawing artwork and writing poetry based on Emily’s illustrations of my story. “Who am I, Lord?” Again: Soli Deo gloria!

By the way, that picture (Cymbril on the high perch, with the night mists and the swooping owls) is available as a poster in two sizes through Cricket‘s  Web site. Yes, I have my own framed copy!

Grroooiiinnk #3: Thanks to the engaging discussions you’ve all taken part in, the blog has broken its own record for visits in a single day this past week — thank you all for being here! A blog is the one aspect of the writing life that isn’t lonely! (Maybe that’s why everyone recommends them….)

Grrooinnk #4: Awhile back, a good friend recommended to me a film called Cannibal, the Musical. I finally got around to tracking down a copy and watching it. Oh . . . wow! I have not laughed so hard in a good, long while. It is absolutely hysterical — brilliantly done, and probably not like anything you’ve ever seen. A few warnings are in order: as you can gather from the title, it’s probably not for most children. The guys who made it are the guys who also did South Park, if that tells you anything. There is some language, some simulated gore, and . . . well, some cannibalism. But anyone who grew up with Monty Python will laugh so hard at Cannibal, the Musical that s/he’ll have tears streaming down his/her face. (Whew! What an awkward sentence!) Just to give you a hint of what you’ll encounter: in one scene, the prospectors and the fur trappers nearly come to blows over precisely what key a song is in. And you’ll see the most suspicious Indians you’ve ever seen: “What? Don’t you think we are Indians? But loooook at all these teeeeepeeeees! We have teeepeees because we are . . . Iiiindiaaans!” (They’re actually extremely Japanese, with names such as Junichi and Tomomi.)

And one more warning: you’ll have some catchy songs stuck in your head for about a week. But I’ll say this: this is one worth owning, not just renting, because you’ll want to watch it over and over.

Okay, that’s it for now — talk to you soon!


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7 Responses to “It’s Away!”

  1. Chris Says:

    You have done a great service today, Fred. I had not heard of Cannibal The Musical and I have duly punished my usual source of “hip weird vids” for not notifying me of this earlier. Thank you! (I am a huge fan of Stone and Parker, especially loved Orgasmo and of course South Park).

    As for the Maneki Neko, interesting linkage here, a friend of mine from Georgia (former coworker) used to log into an online discussion forum with an ID that included “Maneki” and he had a really cool graphic of a Maneki Neko. I had seen the cat before but never realized what it was called. All this time I thought he was making a comment on Manechism or other dualistic theologies (it was a religious discussion forum) and just liked the look of the cats, but I was way off. (I never did ask him about his views of Manechism or Catharism etc.)

    Interestingly enough _that_ is the same guy who _usually_ informs me of strange movies I should see, like, say, “Cannibal the Musical”.

    It all comes around and ties up in a nice bow.

  2. Chris Says:

    Forgot to say “GOOD LUCK” with the manuscript!

    (As for the title Dragonfly, the thing that annoyed me most when it first came out was whenever I tried to find it online at various booksellers, the first hit I’d always get was for a book called “Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis aboard MIR”, and I was pretty sure that the subtitle wasn’t of your choosing. Imagine my surprise when it turned out not to be your book at all!)

  3. Catherine Says:

    Well, I second the previous commenter: good luck! I’m happy to hear that it’s off, and I hope it does well . . .

    I love your “subject-change” sounds! I have somebody next to me who is sounding them out loud, which makes it funnier. “Grooooeeeeeeeeeeennnnnk!”

  4. Daylily Says:

    Go, Fred! Go, _Star Shard_! My prayers are with you both.

  5. mileposter Says:

    May the Force be with you, and with Star Shard!

  6. Jedibabe Says:

    The cats are cool! I once worked for a Japanese family and in the office those cats were everywhere, along with a large, square wooden box filled with dirt. I guessed the dirt was from Japan, but we never could figure that one out. I thought the cats were cute, but never knew the story; thanks for solving the mystery! Do you frequently see large wooden boxes filled with dirt in Japan? Know anything about those?

  7. fsdthreshold Says:

    I’m baffled about the dirt! There’s one place I’ve seen square, open, wooden boxes of dirt placed at regular intervals on the floor of a building, but that’s back in my hometown in Illinois, at our local historical museum. We have the county’s first courthouse there, in which Abraham Lincoln as a young circuit-riding lawyer practiced law. Those boxes of dirt were to be used as spittoons by the tobacco-chewing public who came to hear and watch the court cases. I doubt there was any tobacco-chewing and spitting in the Japanese office you worked in…. So, no, I’m afraid I have no clue.

    One more thing about maneki neko: depending on which paw is raised, it means different things. One paw calls people, and the other calls wealth — or so I’ve heard.

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