Saturday, October 31, 2009

What is going on, in general?

In my all time favorite British sitcom Father Ted, there is a scene where Father Dougal MacGuire (the gullible one) asks a priest beside him about the situation they're in.

Dougal: What's going on?

Priest: I think Ted has a plan.

Dougal: No. I mean in general.

(From "A Christmassy Ted", broadcast in 1996 as the Christmas Special, currently viewable at youtube, the lingerie section scene being available in part 2 of 6. The remarks by Dougal above can be heard at about 3:50).

In this scene, the priests have mistakenly found themselves in "Ireland largest lingerie section" of a department store. In order to avoid a church scandal, Father Ted tries to lead the priests out of the lingerie section safely, without the customers noticing the presence of the priests. That is when Dougal makes this immortal remark.

"What is going on, in general?"

If the job of the brain is to function within a context, then Dougal's brain is sometimes out of context. There is yet genius in his gullible mind.

"What is going on, in general?"

It is nice to ask this stupid question. Understanding the context might lead to effective intellects, but asking what on earth is going on in the first place is sometimes heavenly and uplifting.

The Immortal Four. The cover of a Father Ted DVD.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book signings

I sometimes do book signings. My record was when I signed about 300 books in Kochi. That was strenuous.

When I sign my book, I always add a small illustration. It all started with a tree and a bird perched on it. The tree symbolizes my name ("Mogi"). The bird presents some lovely things that visit my way in life.

Over the years, the illustrations have changed. My recent favorite is "an erupting volcano", under which I write the words "explode!". Needless to say, I write my name, too.

From time to time, I try to draw a different illustration for every book brought before me. That is when my brain is put to the most difficult labor. I can feel the circuits within me pressed hard against the wall.

Book signings are like ascetic trainings.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Childhood follies

When I was a kid, I used to love reading "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This short story depicts the passage of a particular day for a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov in the Soviet labor camp in the Stalinist era. I liked the story so much that I read it again and again and yet again. Needless to say, I read the Japanese translation (by Hiroshi Kimura) at that time.

Towards the end of this novel, the protagonist is lucky enough to get hold of a piece of sausage from his fellow prisoner, Tsezar Markovich. Tsezar is rich, and from time to time receives a box of goodies sent from his family. Ivan Denisovich is poor, but he has his wits and enterprising spirits which occasionally earn him the bonuses.

Now, at the end of yet another long and laborious day, Ivan Denisovich is able to taste the delicious food that has become his.

"He himself took the lump of sausage — and popped it into his mouth. Get the teeth to it. Chew, chew, chew! Lovely meaty smell! Meat juice, the real thing. Down it went, into his belly."

(from the translation by H.T. Willets)

I was fascinated by this description of the joy to be discovered in the simple act of eating a piece sausage. Then I had to put imagination into practice.

In those days, they sold a small piece of "salami" sausage in the stores. When I got the feeling, I would buy a piece of salami,
and gingerly come back home. Imagining that I was Ivan Denisovich himself on the prisoner's bed, I would chew the sausage slowly, and then finally swallow it.

"Meat juice, the real thing".

I remember I repeated this ceremony many, many times.

Those childhood follies taught me, in essence, that there is glory and joy even in the darkest moments of deprivation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I shall doubt myself today

I saw a bunch of people shouting slogans on the street. It is a free country, and people can say anything they like, but when people exhibit the signs of mental closure, it saddens and frightens me tremendously.

Nothing is to be avoided in this life than an absolute conviction that one is right. A grain of salt, a dash of self-doubt is all you need to breathe the air of life.

So I shall doubt myself today. And the wind begins to blow.

From twitter:

Hello world! I was born today. I greet you for the first time. How marvelous the things. Freedom is a greeting of the first encounter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


On a cold day recently, I was walking past the streets of Yamagata, looking for a place to console my soul and fill my stomach. I had finished a full day of intensive work.

Yamagata is two and half hours train ride from Tokyo on the Shinkansen train. It is not a place which people would normally expect to be rich in the genesis of culture, high or pop. But I simply knew otherwise.

The internet has been here for 10 years, more or less. Yet people still have this funny idea that there are centers and peripheries. I have always revolted against the conventional thinking since my childhood, and I cannot really stand the misconception that you have to be in Tokyo, London, Paris, New York, and other "cultural centers" in order to lead an intellectually stimulating life. With the advent of the web, the tap for deep information is everywhere. The limits are inner, not outer.

The key is contagion. Once you get infected by a virus of passion, you can bring the vibe anywhere. The crucial point is in that first exposure.

As far as I have a very clear idea of what the manifestations of a true intellect and devoted artists are, I can go anywhere. I would be happy to live in a quiet corner, and have a feverish life culturally. The volcano that is inside me will be connected to the world through the broadband of senses. I and my close friends would be the center of the world.

I would like to be contagious, and get infected. Even if we are vehicles for memes, there is an infinitely rich life in it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A massacre of possibilities

Today, the qualia journal celebrates 150 days of continuous entries, the streak starting on the 6th of June 2009.


I do not know why I have not done such a thing earlier. But then life is always like that, doing essential things too late too little.
Going through the every day is like trying to manage while being pressed against the wall. I am sure that by attending to a particular thing you lose track of others. Life is a infinite series of choices, forced, and sometimes out of rhythm, and yet you've got to keep your stiff upper lip.

Ken Shiotani, my best philosopher friend, once said that to live is like to experience a massacre of possibilities. You follow a particular trail, and at that moment precisely, an infinite number of alternatives perish.

I remember quite vividly the evening on which I and Ken Shiotani the fat philosopher talked about the inevitable mass death. I think we were talking about his former girl friend. We were on the river bank.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Imagining liberates

Recently, I received a very nice mail from a gentleman in Thailand. In it, he said some kind words about one of my books which has been translated to Thai. In the answer, I told him that to my regret, I have never visited the beautiful country so far, but hope to do so in the near future.

I know King Bhumibol Adulyadej Thailand, who has reigned since 1946, is ill. I can only imagine how the king's illness is affecting the Thai people. My compassion and best wishes for the Thai people.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein remarked, there's probably no private language. Intersubjectivity is the hallmark of any speech. On the other hand, each language defines a universe of its own. The English enshrines one, the Japanese creates another, and the Thai gives life to yet another cosmos in which there are numerous entities around.

To be born and grow up in one linguistic universe results in a unique world. Your neighbour is invisible, unless you make a conscious effort to immigrate. This blog itself is an experiment in that direction by somebody who started to learn English at the age of 12.

The mail from the Thai gentleman gave me thoughts. I imagined having been born and grown up in the country of smiles. I imagined being worried about and wishing the best for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Imagining liberates, by putting more life to circulate in one's system.