Category Archives: magic

Ken Akamatsu

Ken Akamatsu

Japanese Manga is a complicated and difficult-to-understand thing. Of course, it is also a very beautiful art form when done well. There are many features of Japanese culture that play a prominent part in the comic book genre known as manga.

It is a strange fusion of the art of Meiji culture in Pre-War Japan and the Western influence of the U.S. Occupation forces after WWII. You read the comic from right to left, opposite to American comics, and the dialogue in speech balloons go from top to bottom rather than horizontally.

A manga by Akamatsu

I first discovered Ken Akamatsu’s manga brilliance in 2004 through Half-Price Books copies of his manga series Negima! I was reading the last two Harry Potter novels at that time and the Harry Potter-ness of the main character, Negi Springfield is what attracted me. He is a ten-year-old boy who is secretly a wizard. He is also so accelerated in school that they make him an English teacher in a Middle School where they give him an all-girl class. Of course, Negi is definitely NOT like Harry Potter. I learned that after three books worth of Negi’s magic sneeze that blows girl’s dresses off and all the other accidentally-seeing-middle-school-girls-naked jokes. Gushering nose-bleeds and the most-important girl character, Asuna, constantly ending up standing in front of the older instructor she has a crush on stark naked soon convinced me that Japanese humor and sense of adventure are very different from their American counterparts.

Negi Springfield is the little guy in the middle… Of course he’s the teacher.

The students in this ten-year-old teacher’s class are a diverse group of girls. One is a deadly ninja. Another is a dead-shot gunslinger. A third is an expert swordswoman who fights with a katana in each hand. Several of them wield magic like their teacher.

The adventures in this multi-book story are filled to the brim with magical battles, martial arts, demon summoning, Japanese festivals, and the many ups and downs of young love.

There are lots of instances of girls losing their clothing. Some of it happens in Japanese outdoor baths and spas. Some happens by magic. And some happens completely by accident.

Though, the writer seems to focus on it an awful lot.

Ken Akamatsu has been at the business of creating very similar manga stories for many years. He started in 1994 with A.I. Love You.

He has written three series since.

Love Hina came before Negima!

UQ Holder! is his current manga series.

So, I love the artwork of Ken Akamatsu. And it isn’t necessarily the story that makes it so good. The stories are chaotic and full of things that make very little sense to American sensibilities. And I do like artfully done naked girls. But the real attraction for me is something that I can’t quite name.

I just know it is there. Ken Akamatsu definitely has it. Whatever it is. (Maybe it IS naked girls?)

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The Fortuneteller

This week I ran afoul of the gypsy fortuneteller Madame Pumpkinwrinkle. She crossed my path and gave me the eye.

I, of course, immediately gave it back, and she popped the glass eye back into her right eye socket.

“You shud be seeing wot I am seeing, you silly, seely man.”

“Why? What are you seeing?”

“Your future is weary grave. You needs to be gibbing me ein nickel, und I weel tell you ov it.”

Well, I don’t credit her prophesying ability any more than the Trojans credited Cassandra. But I had a nickel in my pocket. So, I thought, “What the heck! Why not?”

She took the nickel and handed me the eye again.

“Yeck! I don’t want this!”

“I will look into your mind. Hold it up to the ear so I can see in.”

I held it up to my ear.

“What do you see?”

“Light from the udder side.”

“Somehow I knew that is what you would say.”

“I see many grave tings.”

“Like what?”

“Trumpy is elected again 2020. You is gedding so mad that you is having a strobe.”

“You mean a stroke?”

:”No, you is flashing in and out of existence. Strobe!”

“Ah, yes. So, is that what kills me?”

“No, you is not gonna die until after dat.”

“So, will I die before I get out of bankruptcy?”

“No, Bank-o-Merica not gonna let you die until day after you pay off everting.”

“Oh, so I die with everybody else from global warming?”

“No. You is gonna die before that.”

“Oh? How?”

“You is gonna try to be a substie-toot teachum. You will forget to wear cloze one day, and you is dying of embarrassment.”

“Well, then, I guess I already got my nickel’s worth. That’s enough for today… and maybe for a lifetime.”

“You come back wit anudder nickel. I got lots more.”

“Oh, good.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 24

Canto Twenty-Four – Squirrel Time

It was Skaggs the cat that started the action.   He stared at Valerie-squirrel with evil, mismatched eyes.  He licked his evil cat-lips.  Then he launched himself into the air, intending to come down on top of Valerie-squirrel’s head.

Pidney-squirrel was having none of that.  Faster than the eye could follow, he dashed over to defend Valerie-squirrel, latching on to Skaggs the cat’s left rear haunch with his sharp squirrel teeth.

“Yeeowehrrrrr-owwwerrrr!” screamed the cat as he tumbled over his wound into a very un-catlike pile of Pidney-squirrel-and-Skaggs-the-cat-awkwardness all wrapped up in a fight to the death.

“Chreee-chit-it-it-it!” cried Valerie, trying hard to say, “I’ll help you, Pidney-squirrel!” but not managing it very well.  She caught the tip of the cat’s tail in her mouth and bit hard with her own sharp squirrel teeth.

“Have a care, cat!” said Oojie.  “You can eat the boy-squirrel, but not the girl-squirrels.  I need them alive!”

The enraged cat was, paws and claws, splayed out in agony in four directions at once, spitting his fury and hatred at the squirrels who still had him impaled with buck teeth.

“You will die, beautiful one!” swore Skaggs in the mental language Valerie-squirrel had come to think of as cat language.  “I don’t care what the juju thing says.  He is only someone’s servant!  Not the witch-doctor himself.”

Mary-squirrel pulled at Pidney and made him let go of Skaggs’ hind leg.  She dragged him over to the furnace fixture and up a pipe that was wrapped with black tape where the squirrels could get a decent claw- hold.  Both Pidney and Mary squirrels shot up the pipe and out the open basement window above it.

Valerie-squirrel realized too late that she should’ve let go and followed them up the pipe.  The evil cat whipped his injured tail around and launched her toward the stairs.  Mary Philips’ father always kept a waste basket at the foot of the stairs, and Valerie-squirrel, head over tail, spiraled into it.

“Get outside and get the other squirrels!” Skaggs commanded the other cats.  “This one is all mine!”

The other cats disappeared up the cellar stairs and out of the house.

“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a shout.

“Spare me, little familiar… for that’s what you are, only the witch’s familiar, not the actual witch.  Magic flows through you, but it does not come from you.  You can’t control me.”    

Valerie-squirrel knew she was in deep and dire distress, so she felt around in the darkness for possible weapons.  But how does one wield a weapon with squirrel paws?  And then she realized that the waste basket was made of wicker.  She quickly bit into the soft woody fibers with her amazingly sharp incisors.

“I am going to report you to the master!” Oojie said to the cat.

“Go ahead.  I will have a nice squirrel lunch while you get him.  I have her trapped in this human trash thingy.”

The hole was big enough to squirm through.  And with luck, there was a mouse hole in the basement brickwork right near where she tumbled out on the dark floor.  She wriggled through the opening and into the hollow tunnel that was on the inside of the cinderblock wall.  She could see light somewhere far above.

“Where are you, beautiful one?  How can you be hiding under this paper and string and old apple cores?”

Valerie-squirrel heard the basket being batted away and new light flooded in the door of the mouse hole.

“Aha!  So that is where you have gone.”

The cat’s paw came reaching in through the hole, the only part of Skaggs that actually fit.  He nearly got a hold on Valerie-squirrel’s bushy blond tail.  She wasn’t used to having a tail the way a real squirrel would be.  She tucked it up underneath herself just in time.  Then she began to climb up through the brickwork.  It was a long, hard climb basically going straight up, but she could manage with four splayed squirrel legs.

“You haven’t escaped me yet!” cried the cat.  “I will have you still.” Her tiny heart beat even faster as she climbed.

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Filed under magic, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Practical Magic

Wizards do magical spells. It kinda goes without saying. But to do magical spells, you have to know how the magic works… and why.

Me, imprisoned in my own crystal ball by my naughty familiar.

The secret is in knowing what the word “magic” actually means. It is not supernatural power, nor the creation of something out of nothing. It is entirely the act of uncovering and understanding the underlying truth, the actual science that most people don’t yet comprehend that underpins the thing you are trying to accomplish. Jonas Salk was a wizard. His polio vaccine was a successful magical potion. But magic can be evil too. Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer were wizards. And the atom bomb was an act of necromantic evil.

Me, in my early green wizard phase.

So, being a wizard, I have learned lessons over a lifetime that uncovered for me the secrets of practical interpersonal magic. Being a teacher has taught me far more than I taught to others.

So let me share with you some of my hard-won practical magic.

In a room full of rowdy children, most of whom are not minding any of the teacher’s directions, you can get their attention easily by shouting, “What the poop is going on here?” with the biggest evil grin on your face that you can manage. They will immediately quiet down like magic and look at you. Some will be wondering if their teacher is having a fatal stroke. Some will be wondering what punishments their behavior has earned as indicated by your evil grin (and here it should be noted, their little imaginations will cook up something much worse and much scarier than anything you could’ve thought of to unwisely threaten them with. A few will begin recording you with their cell phone cameras in hopes of future behavior they can post online and get you fired with. And the rest will laugh at the word “poop” and forget why they were acting out. At that point, with their full attention, you can ask them to sit down and look at page 32, and, not knowing what else to do, they will probably do it.

Here are some other rules of practical magic that apply to the wizarding arts of being a public school teacher;

  1. Violence is never the answer. Change their actions and reactions by making them laugh, making them cry, or making them think about something else entirely. The last thing you would ever want to do is hit them, even if they hit you first.
  2. Anything they can be forced to repeat eight times in eight different ways is something that will be fixed in their memory for more than just the duration of a class period. It moves things into their long-term memory, and that is itself a very magical thing.
  3. Students laugh when you surprise them or present them with the absurd. Tell them they should imagine themselves as pigeons who have to act out Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. What costumes will they wear, and why? What stage directions are necessary to add to the play that are unique to pigeons, and how will they word them? How does pigeon Mercutio go about his death soliloquy when stabbed by pigeon Tibault? Will he have to say, “Look for me tomorrow and you will find me a very grave pigeon?” By the end of the lesson they will have learned more about this play they are supposed to learn about as ninth graders than they ever would have otherwise.

Being able to do any of those things is actually a manifestation of magical power, and only producible by a wizard. The simple fact is, every good teacher is a wizard.

Me, as a wizard in my blue period. The period at the end of this essay.

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Filed under autobiography, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, William Shakespeare, wizards

When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 23

Canto Twenty-Three – The Juju Man

“This is a very strange story,” said Pidney, blushing furiously.

“It’s practically pornography,” said Mary softly.

“I think the interesting part is where it tells about the juju man,” said Valerie.  “It tells us how to make it work.”

“Yeah, it does kinda, doesn’t it?” said Pid.

“It doesn’t say the order to tap them in,” said Mary, looking at the ugly wooden man with the even uglier wooden mask on his face.

“It doesn’t say they have to be tapped in order,” reminded Valerie.  “It just says to tap them each one time and say the magic words.”  She reached out her hand and tapped each of the twenty-eight tattoos only one time.

“Good gawd, Val, don’t do it!” whimpered Pidney.

“You mean say the magic words?” asked Mary.

“Yes!” said Pidney.

“Juju do dah goodah!” sang Valerie as if on cue.  Nothing happened.

“Don’t !” screeched Pidney.

“You must also have to say oojie-magoober,” said Mary.

“Oh, Mary!   No!” cried Pid.  At that moment a cloudy stream of purple smoke boiled out of the top of the wooden juju man.  The idol began to glow with an eerie greenish-blue neon light.  The smoke was sweet smelling, like burning sugar.

The little wooden man began to shake himself as if he was trying to wake himself up.

“Who are you?” Valerie asked him with a Cheshire Cat’s grin.

“Juju do dah!  Yaya!” cried the little wooden man.  “I am Oojie Magoober.  You have summoned me!”

“What?” said Mary.  “It was an accident.  Go back to sleep or something.”

“I cannot sleep again until my task is complete,”

“What’s your task, then?” asked Pidney.  “We will help you do it if we have to.”

“I must take a virgin back to my master, Mangkukulan!”

“Which virgin do you mean?” asked Valerie.

“You will do nicely, but my master asked for the other one.”

“No!” said Pidney.  “Not that!  You may not do that!”  The football hero drew himself up to his full height and towered over the little wooden man.

“Very well.  Be warned.  I shall cheat and use magic.  Oojie Magoober squirrelly doo dah!  Yaya!”

The little wooden man twitched his stubby wooden fingers at Pidney, and suddenly the football hero shrank down into his clothes, until nothing was left but a twitching pile of empty boy’s clothing piled upon empty boy’s shoes.

“What have you done!” cried Mary.  “Pidney!”

From out of the collar of the empty shirt, a reddish-brown squirrel popped his squirming, chittering body free.

“You turned him into a squirrel?” cried Valerie, distraught.

“Smaller and easier to deal with.”

“But there are still two of us against one of you,” said Mary menacingly.  “Both of us are bigger than you.”

“Oojie Magoober squirrelly doo dah, two dah, yaya!”  The fingers waggled at Valerie and Mary both.

Valerie felt a wave of nausea pass through her tummy and then the room swirled around her.  Everything went dark.  Except, it was a colored darkness.  Roughly the same color as the pink blouse Val had been wearing.  She pushed at the darkness around her and felt that it was cloth.  Her hands felt funny.  Not the kind of funny that makes you laugh.  It was a funny tingly feeling in the finger nails as she clawed at the cloth around her.  Then she found an opening.

As she freed her head and eyes from the darkness, she saw one of Mary’s saddle shoes.  In it sat a confused and forlorn-looking squirrel covered in about the same shade of auburn fur as Mary’s hair.  Then, horrified, she looked at her own two hands.  Squirrel paws.  Her arms and body were covered with a golden-blond fur that was not far from Val’s own hair color.

“We’ve been turned into squirrels!” she tried to say to the Mary-squirrel.  “Chee-chee chit-it-it-it!” was what actually came out.

“No one understands squirrel talk,” said Oojie.  “Now get into my sack.”

Valerie-squirrel rushed to the side of the saddle shoe where Pidney-squirrel had joined Mary-squirrel.

“Chit-it-it-it Chree-eek!” cried the Pidney-squirrel, leaping onto the wooden-head’s mask and sinking gnawing buck teeth into it.

“You can’t hurt me,” said the wooden man.  “You are just squirrels.  And I don’t even have to get you into the sack by myself.    That is the very reason I asked the cats to help.” Suddenly, at the top of cellar stairs, five cats appeared.  Valerie shuddered as she recognized flat-headed old Skaggs.  And he was leering evilly at her.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 21

Canto Twenty-One – The Deserted Beach

I was all alone on the island for all I knew, so I immediately got busy on my best Robinson Crusoe plan.  And then my headache made me rethink that, and I went back to sleep for another two hours.  I think it was two hours, estimating by the sun, but I don’t really know how to estimate time by the sun, and as I decided the first order of business had to be to locate any useful wreckage from the ship that had washed up on the shore, my head started hurting again, so I slept again.  Now, I know from re-reading this paragraph that I was probably sleeping way too much… and I didn’t know for sure that Chinooki wouldn’t come up on the sand to eat me, but, well… having this kind of horror-story adventure in the South Seas was really tiring.

When I did finally search the beach, I found almost nothing at all to help me.  I needed a knife, or a hammer, or a gun, or a shovel… but all I found was this log book and a wooden crate full of Pink Fizz Cherry Soda Pop.  Luckily, I also discovered I still had a pencil in my jeans pocket, otherwise I might’ve forgotten everything that happened before I could write it all down.  I know my thinking was a little fuzzy at the time… or possibly Pink Fizzy… but I wrote down everything as truthfully as I possibly could so that whoever found the book would know what happened to the Reefer Mary Celeste and her crew. 

Inland on the island was jungle… a rather thick jungle.  But I desperately needed food and fresh water.  And if I tried walking the beach until I either found civilization or discovered I was on a deserted island; I might die of dehydration and thirst before I discovered I was all alone for certain.  So, I made a brief foray into the island.  If I met headhunters or an evil killer gorilla, I couldn’t do any more about it than writing a scathing commentary on why they shouldn’t be eating me raw in this log book.  I could write that I hoped to give them a fatal case of indigestion as long as they ate my writing hand last.

The jungle was very hot and humid, but I found a rainwater pool a short way into the jungle and was able to slake my thirst. Coconuts and bananas were growing in abundance near the pool.   I also ate.  And it was then that I saw her for the first time.  She was a young girl.  I admit, at the time, I didn’t really know how young.  But she was lovely.  She was Asian-looking with slanted eyes and caramel-brown skin.  She had black hair and dark brown eyes that twinkled at me as she smiled.  And she was standing on the edge of the pool completely nude.  The only thing she wore was an adolescent red panda sitting on her shoulder and grimacing at me with a raccoon-like smile.

“Parlez vous Francais?” she said.  “Tagalog?  Maybe English?”

“I understand English,” I confessed.

“Ah, so good.  I am liking practicing my English.  We don’t be speaking it on this island.  Maligayang pagdating sa masasamang isla.  That means be welcome to Evil Island.”

I didn’t know whether to be frightened or worried about the name of the place, or be incredibly embarrassed that I was talking to a completely naked girl.  “I… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to spy on you while you were bathing.  I will give you some privacy…”

“Huwag pumunta!  I mean… don’t be going away!  I be liking you.  I don’t be wearing clothings on this island, but I am having a kimono back at my bahay… my house.  I can be putting it on if hubad is wrongness for you.”

“Um, well, I…”  I didn’t know what to say. I was seven kinds of flustered and at least three kinds of embarrassed.

“Please.  Gwapong Lalaki and I are wanting to be talking to you.  It is lonely on the island, waiting for sa galit na bulkan…  for the volcano.”

“You… you are waiting for the volcano?”  I looked up at the high mountain peak about a mile inland.  Black smoke curled nastily out of the top of it.

“Yes.  I am being the virgin bride.  I am waiting for my husband to be.”

This of course sounded like some of the worst rumors I had ever heard about South Seas islanders.  It seemed they intended to throw this beautiful, naked young girl into the volcano to appease an angry god or some such nonsense.

“We have to get you out of here,” I said as bravely as I could manage.

“Yes, yes, that is what I am waiting for.”

“Um, you are?”

“Oh, yes, my husband is to be coming and taking me away from here forever.”

I was determined to rescue the poor girl.

“What is your name, sweetie?”

“I am Malutu… the Red Flower of Matuling Lupa.”

“I don’t have a way off the island at the moment, but I can build us a boat or something…”

“First you are coming to the house of Malutu and Gwapong Lalaki.  Follow us.”

She padded out of the clearing on bare feet and back towards the beach.  She apparently had a house to live in while she waited for her evil people to throw her into the volcano.  I followed her, not knowing what else to do.

“Um, Malutu?  You haven’t seen any mermaids on the beach have you?”

“Mermaids?  You are meaning sirena Chinooki?”

“You actually know about her?”

“Of course, silly man…  She is being the one who brought you to me.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 20

Canto Twenty – The Evil Island

We were lost because the Reefer Mary Celeste no longer had a navigator aboard, and Chinooki had apparently destroyed the radio and all the other electronic equipment on board as well.  Kooky and I tried to keep her on the course we had been following, but two of us were simply not enough people to manage a ship of the size of the Mary.  We quickly lost our way in a thick fog and we were going in an unknown direction at too high a rate of speed.  We knew how to use a compass and we might even have been able to wait for the stars if our minds hadn’t been turned to Jell-O pudding by the mermaid’s singing.

“She killed all of our crew, didn’t she?” said Kooky.

“She did.  You know, Chuck warned us about her.  We should’ve listened.”

“You are right, Captain.  I realize that now.  But at the time, it was like I was under a spell or something.  She had power over me.”

“Yes, she did.  Over all of us, apparently.”

“I am so sorry, Captain.  I’ve caused the death of us all, haven’t I?”

“None of us should ever have let someone else take control of our lives.  We should’ve realized the danger from the start.  You can’t blame yourself alone.”

It was right after that conversation that Kooky spotted Chinooki sitting on a distant rock.

“I am going to make her pay, Captain.  She is going to regret coming on board the Reefer Mary Celeste.”

Kooky was at the wheel, and he steered the entire ship directly towards the rock where Chinooki was sitting.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’ll ram her!  I will run her over!”

“Kooky, she’s singing right now.  Do you think maybe she wants us to do exactly what you are doing?”

“Maybe so.  Maybe not.  But I have ta!” And the strangest thing is that I let him do it.  I let him ram the Mary bow-first into the rock.  It tore through most of the front end of the ship, separating her at mid-ship into two parts, both of which sank to the bottom.  I remember swimming in the ocean with shark fins in the water near the horizon.  I remember hearing Kooky call out and a sudden thrashing, and I wondered if it were the sharks or the mermaid herself who claimed him.  I never saw him again.  I never saw any of them again.  I blacked out, and don’t remember anything before awakening on the sand of the Evil Island’s shore.

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