Monday, April 16, 2018

Snarkness at Noon

There are those who might quibble and look askance at my rather ideologically vacant interpretation of this stanza. Yes, it is a trifle irrelevant … perhaps even mendacious to illustrate a purported lack of Snarks with a veritable snathe of Snarks. The concerned reader might well ask : by whose leave do you have artistic license to mangle the words of Lewis Carroll so? Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

The eminent Oxford don and man-about-town, Charles Dodgson, was probably the only person who could genuinely claim to be intimate with Lewis Carroll. Mr. Dodgson had this to say about the so-called sanctity of Carrollian texts, their meaning and interpretation:

... I maintain that any writer of a book is fully authorised in attaching any meaning he likes to any word or phrase he intends to use. If I find an author saying, at the beginning of his book, "Let it be understood that by the word black I shall always mean white, and that by the word white I shall always mean black," I meekly accept his ruling, however injudicious I may think it.*

Well, that’s pretty much QED, I should think. Simply substitute the word "illustrator" for "writer"; it’s a mere sneesh of semantic and orthographic difference and expressly allowed for by the above-mentioned axiom. In fact, upon further reflection, we can see that the vast bulk of modern art, philosophy, politics and commerce is based upon Dodgson’s diabolically simple postulate.

So stop fussing over these drawings and rest a spell under the ol' Boojum tree with me. Goshdarned wordpeople, always making trouble for poor picturefolk …

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* Charles Dodgson, Symbolic Logic, Bartley, ed. Clarkson N. Potter (New York: 1977).

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Word for Snark is Boojum

The Shakespearean quotation will be familiar to all poetical and political earmongers. The Bellman has been depicted in the definitive Roman pose of imperial authority known as the adlocutio, which has been visually modified here to prove, amongst many other things, that everything old is new again.

Clothed in the rhetorical and semiotic crypto-imperial habiliments of Marxist-Leninism, the Bellman not only demands his auditors’ ears but even their arms so that he may throw them (their arms, not his audience) across the shoulders of the tottering capitalist-running-boojums and assist them into an early grave. This odd affinity (an unelective affinity?) towards Comrade Lenin is no accident, it allows us to make a second auricular reference to the rumored waxen ear which has replaced the genuine, damaged article on Lenin’s embalmed corpse.

The ear motif receives its third and final reiteration (thus fulfilling the Clochetic Rule of Three) in the somewhat maimed person of Vincent van Gogh, who stands behind Comrade Bellman (somewhat in the manner of the Laputian flappers) to encourage the enthusiasm of all concerned with his sinister aura … of menacing risibility.

Their audience, the proletarian hunters of the Snark, react to all this intellectual palaver as expected. Drinks all around and afterwards, dancing on the upper decks for the lower ranks! Huzzah for His Nibs the Bellman, huzzah for the Snark, huzzah for the revolution!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Socratic Snark

Jokes kept for a season of woe, an almost biblical undertaking on the part of the Bellman, whose storehouse of mirth has been sorely depleted by divers chasms and crags. But to this geologically disheartened hunter of the Snark, we say, in the finest demotic vulgate we can muster : lighten up, dude! Like, get a hobby!

Hmmm … how about music? Music is nice, musical tones are even nicer. How about the fiddle? It’s an instrument that’s still welcome at hoe-down and rave alike. And all the girls love musicians, especially those hirsute ones (musicians, not girls) who emote over their Boojums in smoky Parisian cabarets, the kind of place where Kiki de Montparnasse might toss her turban at sugar-dada Man Ray or Jean Ingres pops in to play some violon airs upon a g-string behind her naked bach.

But the Bellman knows it will never work out. From the vantage point of his solitary table in a dark corner, he sighs aloud and weeps a solitary English tear into his hemlock and branch water. 

He knows he’s the wisest man in the place, simply because he’s the only one aware of his own ignorance. That and the numbness creeping up his legs … and up his back …

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Obscure Object of Snark

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely Snark hunters: they have their exits and their entrances; and one Bellman in his time plays many parts, his acts being eight Fits. We have arranged things so that our B-Boyz players shall now disembark into a romantic comedy of the sort calculated to warm the cockles of even a Boojum’s heart.

While our snarkistadores peek backstage, the action downstage is upstaging them. A painted backdrop of the Desierto Pintado has set the mood. Love is in the air and will soon compel the Mouse pictured at stage-left to propel a fortuitous Brick upon the noggin of the unsuspecting Kat.

But is it true love, ask the critics? Is Mouse + Kat + Brick = Love a suitable proposition for the hardnosed, Gradgrindish theater of today? A Boojum in Surrey … a Brick in Coconino … an allegory of the search for happiness or a quick krease to a Kat’s noggin … the course of true love never did run smooth.

I say pshaw to the critics, the play's the thing! We must follow the sterling example of the sublime Mr. Herriman and summon the local gendarmerie! Offisa Pup, take ‘em away, the l’il dahlinks! Yezzah …

Monday, March 5, 2018

Waiter, there's a Nietzsche in my snark!

Another wordless sighting of the HMS Snark, observed tacking ‘round the Bonnet-Maker, whose resemblance to Friedrich Nietzsche borders upon the implausible. But plause we must! After a promising start in hunting Snark on the Continent, Fred Nietzsche was surprised by a Boojum on the streets of Turin* in 1889. The shock was fatal … in his own words …

"Since I am condemned to amuse the coming eternity with bad jokes, I have set up a writing business which actually leaves nothing to be desired … Last autumn I attended, dressed as lightly as possible, my own burial twice … negligé of one’s attire is a pre-requisite of good form … I go everywhere in my student jacket, here and there I tap someone on the shoulder and say : ' Siamo contente? Son dio, ho fatto questa caricatura (Are we happy? I am god, we did this caricature today) . " **

Apart from this, our communal Snark enterprise, to this day no one has ever taken Nietzsche at his final word, preferring instead his earlier, less humorous work. What a brilliant career this Prussian Snark-hunter could have had in the realm of Wilhelminian nonsense literature …

Let this be a lesson to all those who hunt the Snark — some Boojums one will never discover, unless one invents them first!
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NB. By habitually linking the words "Friedrich Nietzsche" with the word "Bonnet", I plan to create the germ of the seed of the beginning of a informational non-sequitur (triggered by some unusually google-gullible undergraduate searching for a quick copypasteprint) which will bring western civilization as we know it to its arthritic knees. Après la snarque, le deluge! Cue evil laughter here!

* Empty piazzi, depopulated train stations, the eternally recurring backdrop for our Snark hunt, de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Savinio, Calvino … all the lost and emptied portmanteaux of European protosurrealism. 

**Black Letters Unleashed: 300 Years of Enthused Writing in German, Ed. by Malcolm Green, Atlas Press, London, 1989. Do we detect the perfectly light and razor-sharp touch of Robert Walser in these sad lines? Oh, these literary bread-crumbs with which we encrust the Wiener Schnitzel of protosurrealism!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Schtummschnark!

In a world without words, only the small-minded will be tongue-tied. Although our gallant crew aboard the HMS Snark is none of the above, they are maintaining strict radio silence as they slip by the pictorially-fortified beaches of the deadly Festung Schnark. The tension is palpable, our brave lads (and lass) are straining every nerve as they man (and miss) their weapons.

And what weapons are these? Steam-powered concussion-primed pencils? Petrol-driven semi-automatic violins? Pshaw to such antiquated music-hall-cross-talk-claptrap! Our snarqistadores are armed with only an indifferent somnolence, punctuated by an insouciant nasal susurration … they are snoring, they are snorting, they are sniffing and sneezing, they are speaking that most ancient, somatic and asemic dialect of the body physical, proof positive against all visual illusions and cognitive man-traps of the so-called higher intellect.

Hold on, what’s all this, you say? Lost in the disorienting farrago of my mixed metaphors and strained allusions? Missing the connection, the old brain-box gone off-track, signals crossed somewhere? Don’t panic! I shall refer you to the classic solace of the dislocated and confused Victorian bourgeois Snark hunter — a Bradshaw’s Guide!

Look here, sirrah, here it is writ out, plain as can be! All the lost luggage and missed connections of long-dead phonemes, waiting on long-gone railway platforms for a linguistic rendez-vous with a common usage that never arrived … schnarren, schnarchen, snarren, snerka … and yes, dare we say it — SNARK!

I think I’d better go and have a nice lie-down now. To sleep, perchance to snore — aye, there’s the snark.

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NB. A tip of the ink-stained tuque to Goofy, the proprietor of the wonderful and highly recommended Bradshaw of the Future, whose etymological assistance in our Snark hunt has been invaluable and fascinating. BOTF’s provenance stems from that "desperate wrong-doer" in Lewis Carroll’s "A Tangled Tale".  Any resemblance to railroad Bradshaws real or fictional , either living or dead, is purely coincidental on my part … dismiss it all as a false cognate destined to plague as-yet-unborn googlistas surfing the digital Bradshaw of the future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Snark Winds

And so, even the least of the Bellman's hopes shall be occidentally disoriented. What wind blew you hither, noble Bellman? Not the ill wind which blows no man to good, nor that wind which winds the watch of your wit, so that by and by it will strike.

I think this wind is what the neo-scholastic Flann O'Brien would call the ultimate and inexorable and supreme pancake at the back of the whole shooting match, ie., omnium

And what is this omnium of this wind that we hear so much of on the tellyvision? It is the essential, inherent, interior essence which is hidden inside the root of the kernel of the heart of everything and it is always the same. The bane of Boojum and Bellmen alike, the eternal curse of the drinking classes, this omnium-wind is the wind of an indefinite divisibility.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Winter Snark

As the nurturing, endlessly comforting snows of Québec numb the extremities chez snarque, we have ample time to reflect upon the old adage: good artists borrow; great artists steal (and never from the merely good artists). I've mercilessly looted the Belgians, French and Italians, so the inspiration for this stanza will have to be purloined from the Germans.

Easier said than done, I soon discovered. Friedrich Nietzsche (The Bonnets) and Martin Heidegger (The Barrister) refused to countenance my scheme but Karl Marx (The Banker), that preternaturally prescient Protosurrealist, quickly came up with some snappy double-talk to justify my larcenous designs. He pointed out that crime is actually good for the likes of Lewis Carroll and his ilk (double-plus-good, in fact):

"The criminal produces not only crime but also the criminal law; he produces the professor who lectures on this law and even the inevitable textbook … the whole apparatus of the police and criminal justice … also art, literature, novels, even tragic dramas … he (the criminal) gives a new impulse to the productive forces."

That's pretty juicy stuff, say no more, Karl! Within minutes, my crack team of ninja-idiot-savant-cat-burglar-draftsmen had illicitly purloined and haphazardly reproduced this picture of a giant thumb lusting after his maternal walnut from none other than Max Ernst, the noted German surrealist and bon vivant with the consummate Carrollian good taste to die the day before he was born.

Of course, you, the dear reader, may ask: what's this picture got to do with a vessel being snarked in tropical climes? I can only reply: It's a fair cop, guv'nor!
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NB. Max Ernst's illustrations for the Snark are dadamax-loplop-good! One may wonder what Lewis Carroll would have made of them, but by using our Protosurrealist critical apparatus we can safely say: yes.

Monday, January 8, 2018

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great snark

Eugène Delacroix pooh-poohed maritime disasters and English literature, both of them subjects dear to a Snark hunter's heart …

"… I have been reading the story of a shipwreck by Edgar Allan Poe, where the survivors remain in the most horrible and desperate situation for fifty pages on end — nothing could be more boring. Here we have an example of foreign bad taste. The English, German and other non-Latin peoples have no literature because they have no taste or proportion … they drown one beneath a flood of detail that takes away all the interest."

Later that same evening, over a beaker of pure rainwater, he tossed off this observation:

"Lord Byron praised gin as his hippocrene, because it made him bold … happy are they who, like Voltaire and other great men, can reach a state of inspiration on fresh water and plain living."

So, you want fresh water and plain living with no details? Very well! Get on this sinking raft, Eugène! You did it for Théodore Géricault, you can do it for me! Down there in front, behind the Bellman with your arms outstretched and quit your whining, this ain't no alexandrine hémistichery — this here's Lewis Carroll! Tingle that bell!

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NB. I have increased the mineral content of Delacroix's head to compensate for his natural Gallic bouyancy and to highlight his affinity for impersonating an Easter Island moia.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Lost in the Snarkhouse

Yet another shameless Magritte pastiche, and not the last one to grace these pages, I'll wager. Shameless — the 10th Muse of Protosurrealism!

Even more shameless — this insistence that the crew of the HMS Snark use the French language for navigational purposes when it is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been lost at sea that English is the natural language of confusion. This is easily verified. Stand on a street corner in any francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while pronouncing every phoneme at the utmost decibel level.

I shall be observing you from inside the comfortable vantage point of a nearby bottle of plonk. Do not make eye contact with me or else — sapristi! Garçon, call the police, this crazy-man-anglais-cowboy-streetperson is bothering me!

Words, words, words … if only they had the decency to cover themselves up, like the Bellman & Co. They have no loyalty, they can't be bothered to mean anything anymore, they're shameless!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Terra Snarkorum

The original illustration by Holiday of this Universal Map is, to be honest, a bit trite. It's obvious that the poor man was trying to economize on india ink and pen nibs. However, as Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment reminds us: thou shalt not speak ill of another artist, particularly when they are dead and defenseless (the precise state in which their work is best appreciated and appreciates best).

I felt that I could do better. I assumed the traditional artist's position of cogitation whilst supine on my charpoy. I puffed upon the hookah proferred me by the Assamese chorus-girl who also pressed my feet, the predominant organ of mentation in my species. I was, of course, familiar with the etymology of the word "map", which ultimately conjured up the hebraic motif of a cloth which conceals and a cloth which reveals, all of which I deftly distilled into "what's-behind-curtain-number-four" and "the-Freudian-Slip".

But still … it was obvious … too obvious, perhaps. All the better for my class of readers! Starting with a gratuitious insult to Henry Holiday I had mentally arrived at a hookah-puffing Jewish savant peddling obscurantism to a witless Bellman in a Cairene souk. In the distance I could hear the blood-curdling screams of native children conjugating French verbs. I paid them no heed! I bent over my drawing board, pen in hand, my thoughts feverishly coagulating in a vivid mental maelstrom of mixed metaphors and incongruous images! Two weeks ago I couldn't even spell "artist", now I are one!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Snark on a Hot Tin Roof

There are some who might say this artist's conception of the Bellman is a base and underhanded attack upon the same, suggesting as it does that the Bellman was literally birdbrained and furthermore, that his colleagues possessed the collective wisdom and general prescience of a flock of chickens on the way to the abattoir.

But this is not the case.

I put it to you that the English penchant for all things avian is well-known. I put it to you that Lewis Carroll populated his verse and prose with many avian and semi-avian portmanteaux (or portmantanimaux?) such as the Jubjub Bird and the Borogrove.

I put it to you that the Bellman has suffered the ill-effects of a Violent Unknown Event and that he has metamorphasized into an avian state common amongst avant-garde English cineastes. The wisdom on his face is actually the smug look of a sporting wallah who finally knows for certain which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Sounds of Snark

The Bellman's speech is of that particular British provenance yclept "fruity". Not so much "plummy" but rather … "peachy". If one removes the fuzzy skin thereof (the burr, so to speak) one is left with a nectarine. This fruit (spelled n-e-c-t-a-r-i-n-e but pronounced "stuffed cabbage") was the preferred nutrition of most cavemen and it was they who first domesticated the dog.

We see here a sample of that species, a young pup named Laelapswho attends upon his master's fruity voice. And what does he hear? A sonorous mussitation which leaves no impression upon him at all, for, as Thomas Aquinas noted, dogs have no souls. Hence their proverbial high fidelity is but a marketing ploy.

A dog, a peach, a gramophone — after all these years, my own 3-piece jazz combo! At last, I can take a bath. And just in time too, my gin-driven ink-pen's almost run dry.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fitzcarraldo Goes Snark!

What is surrealism? The simultaneous memory of everything. What is protosurrealism? The same as above with the added frisson of remembering an impossible future.

What is the final panel of Fit the First? A protosurrealist Narrenschiff patched together from semiotic pentimenti and oneiric palimpsets, a carte-de-visite of the Victorian ideal of the future, an artifact drifting down the estuary of the Mississippi … the Amazon … the Thames … the Congo …

"We said there warn't no home like the ol' HMS Snark, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but the Snark don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on her.

"But when we reach the sea we'll build a bigger ship! What great treachery that will be! Then we shall control every bathing machine and produce history as others produce plays. I, the Bellman, the wrath of god!"


The Bellman ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. "We have lost the first of the ebb," said the Butcher, suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky — seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Win Friends and Influence Boojum

Declaimed by a drowsy Beaver at the stern of the HMS Snark as it drifts through the somnambulant equatorial swamps … simian caterwaulings and jackanape antics of the crew providing the needful soothing jungle lullabies … a siesta beckons … perhaps a postprandial charpoy, memsahib?

These snores, that I wish to outgribe.
So clear,
Their mimsy incarnations, which fly through the brillig air
I drowse a tulgey sleep.
Did I love a Boojum?