Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Your daddy’s rich and your snark’s goodlooking

In our economically blighted times, when the very mention of Brokers and their fiscal ilk makes even the staunchest of capitalists wobble somewhat at the knees, it behooves us to remember that Lewis Carroll thought it prudent to include a Broker amongst the Fellowship of the Snark. We see a picture of the Broker above, in the midst of some menacing spade-work in Fit the Fourth.

The Broker’s job description is minimal : he is charged with valuing the B-Boyz goods. Beyond that, the Admirable Carroll can add little else and nor should he, since the Research Department here at The Hunting of the Snark is perfectly capable of adding it all up on their own.

The Broker’s resemblance to the French musical gadfly, Erik Satie, is compelling evidence of something or the other. The Assamese nautch girl in charge of the investigation managed to curtail her lascivious gyrations long enough to unearth further details of Satie’s involvement in late Victorian financial nonsense …

« … if memory serves, Satie enjoyed creating miniscule models of houses shaped out of lead, which he kept in a cabinet in his home. He would periodically advertise these houses in the local newspaper — making no mention of their actual size — and would take great delight in ushering the prospective home-purchaser into his parlor, and there solemnly presenting him with the unexpected lilliputian house. »

This crackalackin’ summation of the essential nature of the global financial industry was then collated and cross-referenced with additional information concerning the mysterious Monsieur Satie which had been slipped anonymously into the go-go boots of the above-mentioned Assamese nautch girl in a rare, stationary moment …

Item : Erik Satie … this mysterious person who founded his own religion, The Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus, Leader.

Item : Erik Satie … who took up smoking to give his physician extra income.

Item : Erik Satie … whose 14-hour long solo piano masterpiece, Vexations, (which Gavin Bryars described as a sort of "Ring des Nibelungen des pauvres"), initiated the modern use of boredom as an artistic strategy.

Conclusion? Don’t be fooled by the sloppily inked moustache and glasses, nor even by the phony, Brad-Pitt-style French accent — Erik Satie was a dangerous character and unsafe in elevators and department stores, with or without Muzak. His appearance in this version of the Snark as the Broker is a shocking reminder of the grim human cost of applying Carrollian Nonsense to global financial strategies. In a world where millionaires weep, we all weep!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Send Lawyers, Snarks and Money!

The Encyclopedia Snarkiana defines a Barrister as someone who tries to appeal to the Beaver’s pride, vainly citing a number of cases in which making laces has been proved an infringment of right.

Lewis Carroll, the author of those lines, further elaborated upon them by providing the Barrister with a ready-made dream to occupy him with in Fit the 6th. This dream was also furnished with a snappy soundtrack by Messers Gilbert and Sullivan and a full supporting cast of judge, jury, witnesses and defendant. The oneiric defendant (and substitute judge and jury) was none other than the Snark itself, which led to a bit of what well-oiled jurists call a conflict of interest. The Snark’s legal status as a nonexistent, fictitious and nonsensical creature can be best summed up as being Nothing, and nothing, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, comes from Nothing.

This illustrator chewed over that legal, ethical and even metaphysical conundrum for quite a while when he was first looking about for someone to cast in the role of the Barrister. After countless auditions with aspiring non-entities ranging from obscenely wealthy middle-class American politicos to an entire gaggle of opiated American radio talkshow intellectuals, I threw my hands up in the air in despair. It was impossible, finding someone who could encapsulate the very essence of Nothing so thoroughly that it even permeated his dreams!

At that moment, the door opened and a sweaty and rotund German intellectual eased himself and his moustache onto The Hunting of the Snark’s rather tatty casting couch. It was Martin Heidegger, the notorious Continental philosopher and Black Forest gadabout. It turns out that good ol’ Martin had spent considerable ink and governmental educational subsidies bloviating ad nauseam on the subject of Nothing. It seems like everywhere Martin looked, in the kitchen, in the shower, behind the sofa, there it was, the bane of Existentialism — Nothing!

Of course, he had a fancy German name for it, curious readers can read all about it and much more here, but in short, Martin was our man. The fourth member of the B-Boyz, the Barrister, was going to be Martin Heidegger! Exhausted by the search, I lay back and lit up a hand-rolled Brazilian samba girl. Things were back to normal at Chez Snark, Nothing was working its nonsense mojo once again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Word for World is Snark

I must beg the reader's indulgence for the worse-than-usual blathering of this posting; my head is addled by a strong cold and gales of sneezing fits and suchlike …

In lieu of my usual tightly-argued Snarkian exposition, today we shall relax over a steaming hot drawing of the HMS Snark steaming off towards parts unknown whilst the natives regale themselves upon some semio-alimentary flotsam and jetsam.

And what does this have to do with Lewis Carroll? How does this pertain to the Hunting of the Snark? Could it be that this oddly familiar picture of two homunculi gorging upon these eroded, oneiric pictoglyphs is a symbol of something else? And the HMS Snark, can this hitherto undescribed vessel bearing its nonsensical crew on their futile quest to capture a non-existent beast, can it All Mean Something Else?

Symbols, symbols everywhere and not a drop to think! From whence comes this compulsion, dear reader, to, well, read meaning into everything you see? This picture which so fetchingly depicts nothing in particular does so in a certain coy manner hinting at some underlying pattern of meaning. But is it possible that the pattern's meaning is itself, and nothing more? 'Tis odd indeed how certain readers assume that the general objectivity of reading (and seeing) implies that what is read (or seen) must, ipso facto a priori & hey diddle diddle, be composed of some meaning beyond the reader themselves.

Oh, how we Snark Hunters yearn for the Platonic Ideal of the Reader To Come, the Super-Reader of Prophecy, who will disregard all petty illusory meanings and read only Themselves into the pure Text! Of such weighty matters composed of a sound and fury signifying nothing is our Snark Hunt set upon. Food for thought indeed, gluttonous Walruses and Carpenters!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Where there is happiness, there is found snarkish pleasure in nonsense

We continue with our introduction and explication of the Snark's Dramatis Personae with this week's specimen … the Maker of Bonnets and Hoods, or as he's known to the authorities, the Bonnet. Curiously, this character is given almost nothing to do in the epic, except for a brief episode in Fit the Fourth where he allows someone to chalk the tip of his nose. Other than that, not a peep, which poses obvious problems for an illustrator trying to flesh out this nonentity.

One might even say that the Bonnet poses us an existentialist problem, perhaps even a protoexistentialist problem of sorts. Luckily, the persona of Friedrich Nietzsche, the notorious Continental steamer, was available on short notice and we gladly inducted him into our Fellowship of the Snark, moustache and all.

We see him above, as he appears in Fit the Second of our version of The Hunting of the Snark, leering at the HMS Snark in a nautical manner. I think he looks rather fetching in his big bonnet, don't you?

No doubt the more well-heeled aficionados of Lewis Carroll, and Western Civ in general, are having a quick apopleptic fit upon seeing all of this. Why, they wonder aloud over their breakfast scotch-and-cornflakes, did this artist feel it necessary to clothe the persona of the Bonnet-Maker in the fleshly lineaments of the Prussian demiexistentialist Nietzsche?

Was it the leather, the machismo, the whips and such-like that Nietzsche was wont to bandy about when talking of women, a bandying which he not only spoke of in print but would even indulge in personally right in front of a camera operated by — yow! — a man named Bonnet?

And so … have we hoisted Nietzche upon his very own petard here, a petard which the philosopher had himself loaded with the scattershot observation that there are no facts, only interpretations? Have we stooped so low that we must rely upon the flimsiest of nominal accidents to populate our Hunting of the Snark?

Or is it just a petty bit of passive-aggressive revenge by an inkster who still suffers from debilitating bouts of Post-University-Philosophy-Course-Syndrome, an illness which can only be controlled by long-term exposure to Carrollian Nonsense and in severe cases, repeated applications of Three Stooges shorts?

In short, there’s nothing going on here at all, folks, just a guy with a moustache wearing women’s clothes, a guy who knows that to become what one is, one must not have the faintest idea what one is.


A propos of nothing else, I’m very pleased that MobyLives is peeking into the Carrollian goings-ons around here and I’d like to return the compliment by commenting upon an issue which they’re covering far better than most far-better-funded media outlets: the various machinations of certain American businessmen to corner the North American book trade.

Amazon’s deactivation of Macmillan’s buy-buttons is just the latest round in an old, old story: how to monopolize and thus fully monetize information. The byzantine nuances of this struggle over e-book pricing are better summarized by MobyLives; I will add my own two cents by adding that the e-book is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.

Yes, it has certain advantages which are not to be sniffed at but he printed book has itself almost perfectly evolved after several millennia to far better suit our optical and financial constraints; the e-book exists mostly to create a proprietary and pre-monetized system of reading.

The e-book reminds me of the essential fact of the American newspaper industry: the newspaper and its contents were secondary, what was critical was that the subscriber let the newspaper install a tube on their property which only they could legally use. The tubes were serviced by minimum-wage peons who fought like junkyard dogs to keep out penny-mailers and competing papers. The e-book will do the same thing, it will make the consumer give away his right of access. Heck, the e-book is even brassier, the consumer will pay the provider to take away his freedom of choice. Nice work if you can get it, eh?