a real soundtrack for an imaginary spy film

or The Defeat of Nogudsguya Vybriazanskii, a.k.a. "The Anti-Brian"
(With A Little Help From The Bells O' Bubba)

Copyright © 2002 - 2005  Arthur Jarvinen

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Smith, Just Smith being considerably worse for wear after his recent Icarus impersonation, The Invisible Guy is left to enter the Blausemvyr'ld monastery (as it were) all by his lonesome and with precious little reconnaissance data to go on. The facility is unusually secure even for this sort of religious habitat and it takes The Guy quite some time and effort to make his ingress, especially after the strenuous climb up the bluff overlooking the beach. "Why didn't I just go in the front way and knock on the damn door?" he thinks to himself, but it's a little late for that now. He could have had a V8 too - but he didn't.

It's dark as hell in the corridors as The Invisible Guy gropes his way along, feeling the walls as if reading Braille, trying to find his way through the labyrinthine structure. Finally he emerges into a courtyard, which he quickly traverses to the katholikon, entering as quietly as he can.

"Ow! – God dammit!! That hurts" blurts out the Invisible Guy spontaneously as he stubs his toe on something. Grabbing his toe he loses his balance and stumbles, knocking things over and managing to get a whole lot of powdered incense all over himself. As he is still sweating like the proverbial pig from his arduous climb up the bluff (though we know pigs don't actually sweat at all) the sticky powder immediately clings to his skin and forms a sort of aromatic mud, which he tries to brush off, succeeding only in making matters worse by coating much of his body with it, rendering himself, even in the candle light of the sacristy, just visually apparent enough to attract attention.

"Welcome, The Invisible Guy" booms a deep voice in a vaguely Russian accent. "You're just in time for Vespers – though in your case perhaps it should be "vispers" – get it? – haha!"

It is none other than Nogudsguya Vybriazanskii, a.k.a. "The Anti-Brian", who runs the monastery for Mojo Stang – according to a fairly rigorous orthodoxy it may be added - in order to keep up appearances, and because he is seriously interested in the tradition from an historical perspective, but mostly because it affords him the opportunity to indulge his scholarly though faithless interest in Byzantine religious traditions - especially hymnody and rhythmic board-beating – and rehearse his male vocal group "The Chevy-Tones", carrying out experiments in vocal polyphony, orchestration, and the use of studio time that would hardly be tolerated within any true church. He has nearly completed work on what can perhaps best be described as a "pocket mass", incorporating every idea he has ever had into a single lasting even less than the usual 2:50. He intends to declare his genius to the world any day now. But we digress…

"I was just about to announce the hour, and seeing as you're here, you may as well help."

With that, Nogudsguya grabs a simantron and promptly gives The Invisible Guy a few sharp blows with it. The Invisible Guy, being no stranger to either the marshal arts or Byzantine ecclesiastical implements, grabs another simantron and responds in turn, smacking Vybriazanskii several times with the paddle, even matching his rhythm verbatim – Tal-A-Ton, Tal-A-Ton!

The fight ensues at a vigorous pace, Nogudsguya and The Invisible Guy trading rapid synchronous blows with their hardwood boards. Hearing the clatter, the monks enter the katholikon and, moved by the spirit, begin chanting, improvising an inspired polyphony worthy of a bunch of white guys with matching outfits, from Southern California.

Locked in mortal combat and accompanied by the angelic singing of the ascetic choir, the adversaries fight their way up into the bell tower. Suddenly, with one masterful stroke, The Invisible Guy trips up Nogudsguya and with his follow-through severs the bell ropes. Vybriazanskii falls down the tower, followed by a play of bells which rain upon him in a glorious tintinnabulum.

"No, not the "Bells o' Bubba".  There shouldn't be…bells. It's …Easter" gasps the nefarious priest as he gives up the ghost.

"That's a gentle word for such an unkind man" observes The Invisible Guy, softly smiling to himself. "I gotta get this stinkin' perfume off me! Blossom World, my invisible arse."

click the picture to hear bells of
Chilander Monastery,
Mt. Athos


Claude, in the chancel, solemnly partakes of the remainder of a V8 while, holding the can in both hands as if it were a prayer book, he reads the list of ingredients and nutrition information printed on the side.
The bells pictured in the above link are not those of Chilander. They are unidentified in the website for Blagovest Bells, of San Anselmo California, the source of the image. Their web site has links to some interesting articles about the history of Russian bell making.

The monk is identified only as a "monk at Mt. Sinai announcing services" and the photo is uncredited and not copyrighted as far as I can tell. The simantron (also semantron, simandrum, simander, klepalo and yet other names) is closely tied in to the history of bells in the Eastern church. Zen Buddhist monasteries have something similar, the "han" (meaning simply "wood").

TRIVIA: V8® vegetable juice was invented in 1933 by W.G. Peacock of Evanston, Illinois.

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