Categorywaving cats

Relaunch: Slowly getting there

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Slowly, but steadily, I’m getting to the point where my website looks acceptable again. To be fair, that’s only partly my achievement: The design is to a huge part based on on Boris Anthony‘s theme for Joi Ito. (Of course Boris and Joi are referenced in my blog’s footer, and I’ll keep trying to get a hold of Boris, but since Twitter has been very shaky all day, this hasn’t happened yet. Sorry there, and thanks in advance.)

So what had happened here? I basically killed my old blog theme WP Premium. I liked it a lot, but was still looking for something lighter, something with as little ballast and restrictions as possible. Something very, very simple. So I started coding a new template from scratch, but kept using design elements of Boris’ & Joi’s website, which hopefully they won’t mind. The design is completely CSS’ed, so as far as I can tell right now the code should be pretty clean. It certainly is well commented. Also, I’ve asked a Melbourne-based pixel artists for a logo design, so let’s see how that will turn out.

What you see right now is, hopefully, a functional site. There’s still be occasional glitches for a while, I’m sure. If there’s anything major that doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be the way it is, I’m very thankful for a hint. (Also, I’m looking forward to seeing the Twitter badge work; so far it’s commented out due to Twitter’s outages today.) However, with all the behind-the-scenes work at Twitter HQ, I’m convinced my favorite micro blogging service will be up again soon.

So what’s new? As mentioned above the code is much, much cleaner that the old theme after I had customized it. Also, now I know much better what’s actually going on behind the scenes. The top navigation has switched from horizontal to vertical, and I cut out some points. I kept the RSS and email subscription. Only the five most recent posts are displayed on the start page. Recent posts and comments are much better to read now. The Dopplr profile is new, although I stuck to the classic look instead of any of the fancier options. A new Twitter badge is in the making. Links to my other profiles etc are now much easier to read. The section with external links to cool projects and other kudos (formerly called “Bumper Stickers”) is now in a format I like much better: Full 376×60 pixel glory.

In short: The whole thing is now much easier on the eyes, or so I hope.

The Beckoning Cat

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Now, reading up on the history of the waving cat as a symbol, you find all kinds of stories. Mostly localized versions based on the same common theme. LuckyMojo features some really nice & detailed background info about the history of the waving/beckoning cat, this one from Japan:

As explained by Patricia Dale-Green in “The Cult of the Cat” (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1963), the Beckoning Cat is associated with an ancient cat-shrine on the grounds of a temple known as Gotoku-ji near Tokyo. She writes:

“This temple was originally a very poor one, no more than a thatched hut run by poverty-stricken and half-starved monks. The master-priest had a cat of which he was fond, and shared with it such little food as he had. One day the cat squatted by the roadside and, when half a dozen Samurai appeared on splendid horses, it looked up at them and raised one of its paws to its ear, as if it were beckoning to them. The noble cavaliers pulled up and, as the cat continued to beckon, they followed it into the temple. Torrential rain forced them to stay for a while, so the priest gave them tea and expounded Buddhist doctrine. After this one of the Samurai — Lord Li — regularly visited the old priest to receive religious instruction from him. Eventually Li endowed the temple with a large estate and it became the property of his family. Visitors who pass under the temple’s gateways, walk through its broad avenues of towering trees and enjoy the beautifully laid-out gardens, discover, near the cemetery of the Li family, the little shrine of the beckoning cat — which, it is said, still draws pilgrims from all parts of Tokyo.”

Because the Beckoning Cat had lured a wealthy patron to the poor temple, images of this cat soon became talismanic emblems and were particularly favored by shopkeepers. According to Dale-Green,

“At the entrances to their shops and restaurants, the Japanese place clay, papier-mache, or wooden figures of the seated cat with one paw raised to the side of its face. Such cats are believed to promote prosperity, their beckoning paws inviting passers-by to come in and do business.”‘

Today one can purchase Beckoning Cats made of porcelain, papier-mache, or clay in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most are calicos, like the orignal temple-cat, but occasionally black ones are found. Some are realistic, others are conventionally “cute.” Some are left-handed and some right-handed. Some simply wave a paw, others both wave a paw and hold a gold coin to their chests. Some are statuettes, others are piggy-banks. There are even little spring-mounted cats made to be glued to the dashboard of your car, where every bump in the road will set them to waving their beckoning paw.

Read the whole story here.

(file under “history of self” )