augur hindsight

i come to bury caesar, not to praise him; the evil that men do lives after them


chotto, god is an astronaut

‘twas another “nic night”; baby slash dog sitting with a friend, who only after a couple of loose years is able to glimpse parts of your essence easier and with more virtuosity than a lifelong buddy who keeps hitting quicksand.

i’ve decided to showcase my awesome cooking powers (again) and in a humble exchange for a couple of drinks i brought from my dwelling every single ingredient needed for my hungaro-thai frankenstein masterpiece, another unpublished recipe from the person who brought you spicy-sausage fried with vegetables and a hint of scrambled egg on rice. except carrots — that i forgot <sigh>.

meanwhile, as usual, we couldn’t make up our minds what to watch, but the decision between barbarella, taxidermy, william shatner’s star trek memories and adventures of buckcaroo banzai across 8th dimension is never an easy one to make, so we didn’t watch any of that.

my kitchen ballet produced edible results: an acceptable and even enjoyable nutritional experience with much room for improvement (looking at you carrot!) and in proper commonwealth spirit (i say! cheerio!) we proceeded to indulge in a very new, very self-made and mostly self-inflicted drinking game. being who we are, this game requires (apart from the liquor) a deep, unwavering love of japanese animation and a cursory love affair with nihongo, the japanese language. my 3 months hardly compares to his 2.5 years of invasion of japan, but nic accepts me as his semi-semi-equal and we reminiscence about our land of the rising sun days with misty eyes and quivering hearts. we are europeans (well, he’s a briton) with asian previous lives, our reincarnated souls crying for miso soup with rice in the morning and hot baths in an onsen at the end of the day. but of course we are not japanophiles.

i am not ashamed admitting my fascination with the breathtaking economy of the japanese language (parallelled only by my actual knowledge of it), taking implied meaning into unheard of levels, heights that get unfortunately lost in arbitrary extensions of added context by well-meaning, helpful fan-subbers, god bless their souls.

there are words in the japanese language that possess fabulously flexible boundaries of meaning, wobbly edges that willingly stretch when called upon to fulfil hitherto unfulfilled contextual requirements above and beyond the call of duty — an elasticity that is matched in western languages normally only in the subject area of blasphemous profanity. one such word is “chotto”, a one-man-swiss-army-knife of mannered response. now it was also chosen as the audible trigger coordinating our liquid intake. the weapon of choice, the actual animation to deliver the punch (punch intended) ended up to be elegy of entrapment, a double episode of the notoriously classic samurai champloo.

anime, as such, rarely needs an explanation, as it is its own explanation. one either gets it or not. it is as binary as that. there is at least one anime about every possible theme in this world. yes, that too. but it takes immense courage, polite impertinence, and sky high ambition to tackle one of the top 5 most sacred japanese themes of all times: the ronin turned samurai sword-master. nevertheless, many animation houses try.

it is beyond the scope of this writing to attempt to analyse the above doctrine in any shape or form. suffice it to say, samurai champloo succeeds to communicate a surprisingly substantial part of the japanese culture by the unholy marriage of pure, palpable anachronisms and clichés of the highest breeding. i always imagine japanese viewers with a preprinted list and a pencil in their lap watching a show, pausing now and then to tick off — quietly, amidst bowing of approval — elements on the list that are also present in the show. it is as predictable as it is random.

chotto. kampai! chotto! kampai! chotto-eee? kampai! chotto-chotto-chotto!

needless to say i had to revert to prague’s night transport in the end, but my cosy little travel-plan constructed using the online sister of the graffiti scarred time-tables came down like a house of cards. first the night tram, then the night bus showed their respective rears as they departed 2 minutes 2 early, reducing me from prospective passenger to a simple eye-witness of their premature operation.

thus i was reading my book under the light of the bus-stop when i heard the muffled sounds, stripped of their base and naked, coming out of a PortaPro attached to a guy in a che army hat, a vest and brown bermuda shorts. it took me some 15+ seconds to identify the piece and i closed my book, stood up and stepped up to him. when he caught my eyes, i motioned i’d like an audience and he pulled his earphones back not sure what to expect.

“it’s god is an astronaut: the end of the beginning, isn’t it?” i said. first his eyes, then his whole face lighted up in a smile. “i know only 4 other guys who know this.” he said. aah, the obscurity and the sacred long tail, the everlasting battle of signal-to-noise. i always wondered how the future man will choose to fill his playlist, and i have no envy in my heart towards him.

while we parted after a single bus station, he was bigger than life when he casually announced an open secret: 6th september god is an astronaut will play in prague... he also unleashed a torrent of memories.

there are bands one listens to not necessarily because one is a hard core fan (or whatever reason one listens to bands), but simply because a friend or a person dear to us listens to them. albums and tracks that suddenly turn into shamanic tools for connecting to a person thousands of miles away, morphing into audible references to the past, melodic bookmarks of memories, original soundtracks to reminiscence — riding the schumann resonance instead of their natural habitat of the 20Hz-20kHz range to travel the vast distances they need to cover.

chotto. (kampai.) oyasumi nasai.