Monday, May 21, 2018

The Infernal Bathing Machines of Dr Hoffmann


Given : Only with one’s bathing-machine can one bathe properly and thoroughly.
Given : The divinely-ordained, absolute and ineffable perfection of any place cannot be achieved without a bathing-machine.
Ergo : Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Not a surprising sentiment coming from the pen of an English clergyman’s son but it is an accurate depiction of the Snark’s true character and motives? Read on, MacDuff …

Given : The Snark’s sentimental attachment to bathing-machines does nothing to improve the beauty of scenes.
Given : The Snark’s sentiments are open to doubt.
Ergo : When in doubt, do nothing. 

A Fabian approach to the hunting of Snarks but will the poilu tolerate it? History warns us otherwise! Je me souviens Cannae …

Given : The utility of a bathing-machine lies solely in its property of not allowing an observer to know what is inside it.
Given : The Snark’s chief happiness is the transportation of its bathing-machine from one place to another.
Ergo : Ignorance is bliss.

And there you have it, another Clochetic validation of the platitudinous proverbs with which we usually stave off our lexical and cognitive horror vacui. I have illustrated all of the above palaver with another infamous platitude, one of the Comte de Lautrémont’s most infamous bromides: the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. I think the bathing machine lends a certain banality to the whole thing, don’t you? Even surrealism (and especially protosurrealism) has its sentimental, even hackneyed picture-postcard moments!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Portnoy's Snark

The story so far … the Snark stands accused of Bad Taste, Poor Timing and now — Humorlessness! The Bellman’s Indictment of the Snark seems to have shifted to the tactics of an inebriated heckler pestering a talentless Las Vegas stand-up comedian, not a pleasant scene at all for our Snark!

The Bellman’s caught our Snark doing his surrealist schtick in one of those postmodern, off-Strip venues and frankly, it hurts to watch him trying his luck with outdated material cribbed from old René Magritte routines … trying to to make the audience laugh by pulling their legs with his grave puns … untranslatable from English to boot. 

His Belgian style of humor is so phlegmatic, one might even say flemish owing to his persistent coffin … but our Snark cracks wise one last time, that old protosurrealist chestnut about Madame Récamier owing Manet some Monet and when he comes to collect, she’s such a dead-beat that she stiffs him.

Looking grave, eh? Feeling distressed? The Snark … it is you …

Monday, May 7, 2018

Tiffin at Breakfastys

The Bellman continues his Exposition of the Snark with a second accusation — Sloth!* We illustrate his text with this shameless, paranoiac-critical crib of Salvador "Avida Dollars" Dali. Dali’s paranoiac-critical method of picture-making (essentially a groovy sort of free-association delirium) is itself a shameless crib upon 20 centuries of artists lying on the sofa with their feet up and eyes shut in search of inspiration.

But beware the light of the Bellman’s magic lantern! Beware the paranoiac-critical method — it’s bad juju! Once you start using it, you can’t stop — gateway surrealism I call it! Image generating out of image, a maelstrom of vivid mental pictures at the speed of thought itself, free-association run amuck while perceptual reality as we know it disintegrates in a chain reaction of infinite visual meanings — until you’re trapped in a world in which one breakfasts at five-o’clock tea and literally thinks nothing of it!

We find our hapless Snark lost in this paranoiac-critical Ice Age (perhaps the evolutionary niche of the dreaded Boojum itself!), trapped in a world not of his own making! Within this glacial Lost World of the paranoiac-critical zone, it is only the persistence of memory which allows the Snark to find nourishment. Its primitive intellect swamped with the visual overload of everything-being-at-once, it will starve to death if it cannot remember to eat its supper, even if a day too late. It even carries on its person a railway watch (shown above) with which it plans its desperate, solitary meals.

And so … our Bellman confounds for Sloth what we now know to be Hunger! Come on, guv'nor, spare a kind thought for a ‘ungry Snark, eh? He’s not such a bad fellow after all … (cue orchestra)  for when a Snark’s not engaged in his employment or maturing his felonious little plans, his capacity for innocent enjoyment is just as great as any honest man’s. Take one consideration with another, the Snark’s lot is not a happy one!
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*It should be noted that the Bellman’s sermon upon this sin of Sloth is amplified with instances of Gluttony which are thematically derived from the Snark’s prior sin of Bad Taste. Whether the Bellman’s general exposition is a catalog of Sins (Snarkian lapses from its ideal state of nonexistential perfection) or of Elements (qualifications of the Snark’s non-qualifiable nonexistence) is for the more subtle reader to decide. The distinction is scholastic, and thus, genuinely protosurrealist. The final word on the sinful ontology of the Seven Deadly Elements might be Max Ernst’s masterpiece, A Week of Kindness. Like The Hunting of the Snark, Max Ernst’s personal composition upon this earth was finished before his decomposition, his birthday being April 2nd and his deathday being April 1st. We tug on our ink-soaked forelocks in salute to Max Ernst, the Police Gazeteer of Surrealism!

Monday, April 30, 2018

See, see, where Snark's blood streams in the firmament!

The uncooked flesh of the Snark was sufficient for our more distant ancestors but today’s gastronomes must have their Snark curried, tandoori grilled or even minced into kebabs — but never boiled à la anglaise (the hollowness vanishes leaving behind a residue redolent of a fleet of bathing machines saturated in warm, flat beer). In the spirit of nothing in particular, a recipe for cooking Snark follows, a recipe from Assam, the most Snark-ridden province of India. 

Please try it, you won’t be disappointed!

Assamese Snark Curry


Mix the following together:
• 1 kilo of Snark meat, cubed (if no Snark is to be had, use beef, goat or lamb, preferably with bones)
• 6 medium onions, minced
• small head of garlic, minced
• an inch of fresh ginger, grated
• tablespoon of turmeric
• one cinnamon stick
• one cup of oil
• tablespoon of salt
• a sufficient amount of genuinely hot green chilis, slit
• if you wish to "Indianize" this curry, also add a tablespoon of ground cumin, a tablespoon of ground coriander and a tablespoon of garam masala. This might be preferable for those who are accustomed to the somewhat ubiquitious flavors of Northern Indian cuisine and enjoy a certain familiarity in their curry. However, the authentic Assamese version has a delicious simplicity which is worth trying!

Mix and let sit overnight. Cook on low heat, with the lid on and stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Add one cup of water, bring to boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. The curry should finish up with a thick gravy, not at all runny. Cook for about 90 minutes or until meat is tender. Taste for salt, etc. The curry can be garnished with ghee and/or tamarind water. If beef, lamb or goat meat was used, serve with rice, vegetables and dahl.

However, if you used Snark, serve with greens, using forks and hope. Wash it all down with copious amounts of Golden Eagle beer and the stimulating gyrations of two dissipated nautch girls named Anna and Paisa. What ho, memsahibs!
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NB. Special thanks to Farah for the genuine Assamese recipe and much, much more …

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Chariots of the Snark Gods

We have arrived now at the very omnium of Fit the Second, that critical portion of The Hunting of the Snark in which the author describes in detail the characteristics of the genus Snark. To explicate these crypto-stigmata, the Bellman has resorted to the very respectable Victorian expedient of the illustrated public lecture. His authoritarian nature naturally gravitates towards such methods of imparting knowledge to the working classes; he also favors the use of a magic lantern to illuminate the more difficult concepts of his lecture with the appropriate visual figures. These will become apparent in the following panels.

But we must turn now to a bit of textual analysis which will pique the interest of all Snarkologists. The Bellman’s preamble (which actually commenced in last week’s panel) mentions in passing three numbers. The numbers 7 and 5 appear on lines 54 and 58, which, in addition to his earlier mention of the number 4 on line 50 in the previous stanza, allows us (nay, compels us!) to perform the following simple Clochetic equation :

7x5x4=140


We now employ the number 42 (whose Snarkian significance needs no further explication to the Illuminati who frequent these parts):

140/42=3.333 …


As predicted by the
Clochetic Rule of Three, the entirety of the Bellman’s introductory remarks concerning the qualities of the Snark has also served as a cryptic verification of the truth value of 42 by multiplying that auspicious number precisely three times — in an infinite and irrational repetition, to boot! QED and bob’s your uncle.

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!