Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fit the Fifth, Page 34, Panel 3 … the great white snark hunt

So engrossed was the Butcher, he heeded them not,
As he wrote with a pen in each hand,
And explained all the while in a popular style
Which the Beaver could well understand.

It’s not often that one finds Lewis Carroll, St. Anthony the Great, Hieronymus Bosch and the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson mentioned in the very same breath but such are the rarified quiddities of this inkster’s inspiration.

The Butcher is shown here writing a footnote, two of ‘em since he’s ambipedextrous, an affectation rampant amongst Liberians and Americans, both of whom share an affinity for feet over meters, the rascals! One of the most prodigal of these American metrophobes was the journalist, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who gained a considerable notoriety for "explaining it all in a popular style" to an otherwise unsuspecting American public.

Thompson’s most notorious national apologia was the jeremiad, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which detailed (in an autohagio-cum-psychedelic style known as gonzo) his quest for spiritual enlightenment in the nearest available desert. Having no recourse to any secluded grottos, Thompson pursued his ascetic devotions in the general direction of Las Vegas with astonishing success, and like St. Anthony, he quickly attracted quite an entourage of devilish phantoms in a variety of tormenting styles and sizes.

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert … suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming, 'Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?'"

The well-gargled Flemish painter, Hieronymus Bosch, whilst under the influence of an anachronistic plagiarism, had already worked up a police identification sketch of some of Thompson’s assailants, of which I have made the above drawing of a fax of a snapshot of a xerox. This startling image of a group of out-of-town snarkhunters taking in Wayne Newton and the lobster special at Circus Circus bears an eerie and uncanny resemblance to both the turgid cerebral froth of Messers Anthony, Bosch and Thompson, Esq., and a certain little stanza of The Hunting of the Snark which we’ve been seeing far too much of around here lately!

As your attorney, dear readers, I advise you to avoid eye contact with all these suspect, hallucinatory inhabitants of weirdo drawings brandishing their trippy, second-hand anapaests and uncomfortably reminding us that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. We are but amateurs of the Snark, you and I, and as such, cuddly little fluffy things ill-suited to the rigors of modern life and all that other mental stuff.

NB. Another Snark film has surfaced, a short student 3-D animation by a Mr. Jon Preston. Unfortunately, the website hosting this work seems a bit anemic but perhaps these technical Boojums will move on, eventually …

A brief update; Jon Preston's film is also available here, far easier to view.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fit the Fifth, Page 34, Panel 2 … put the banana peels on ice, my good snark, tonight’s the tony awards!

The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens,
And ink in unfailing supplies:
While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
And watched them with wondering eyes.

Strange, creepy creatures are the bane of modern life and both Lewis Carroll and myself have seen fit to embellish this crucial stanzel of The Hunting of the Snark with a surfeit of ‘em. Suitably alarmed, the Butcher has darted into a convenient telephone booth and re-emerged in the guise of St. Anthony, the father of Christian monasticism and more to our purposes, a veritable bit of human fly-paper for all manner of hallucinatory things that go bump in the night.

The attentive reader will remember that the very first stanzel of this Snark involved a direct quotation from Mathias Grünewald’s version of St. Anthony, a quotation which involved a fair bit of mirror-work and the cramming of a very hirsute and oddly fey Saint into the sturdy 19th-century country-squire’s boots of the Boots, AKA Charles Darwin. This saint-bashing mania of mine is shared with many other artists; throughout the ages, we picture-folk (or Bildervolk, gesundheit) have mass-produced St. Anthonys by the bucketful. Even Henry Holiday joined in the fun, establishing an Antonine precedent for Fit the Fifth which even the religiously fastidious Lewis Carroll approved!

From whence comes this Antiantonimania? Are Salvador Dali (the Norman Rockwell of Surrealism), Hieronymus Bosch, Feliciens Rops and Gustave Flaubert all victims of a sudden outbreak of religious fervor? Or is it all just an excuse to draw legions of naked women and creepy circus sideshow freaks mobbing a defenseless old man in a desert?

To be sure, there is a certain visual, even Luis Buñuel kind of appeal to such a proposition but nonetheless, dear reader, it’s just not very sporting, is it? The genuinely Christian thing to do is to insist that all these unreal phenomena besetting a very real person are promptly replaced with a new and improved denful of very real phenomena besetting a patently unreal person! The latter personage would be, of course, our Snark, and I’m certain that you, the readers and thus the ultimate — and only! — reality of this poem, will do a splendid job of standing in as the former.

So, that’s all settled, is it? I’ll go and have a nice lie-down while you slip into your new Snark-baiting role. Just study the above drawing very carefully and do whatever Mister Bosch says. He does have an active imagination and if anyone asks you why this is so, hint vaguely that it’s just that Hieronymo's mad againe.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fit the Fifth, Page 34, Panel 1 … jubjubs for algernon

“Two added to one — if that could but be done,”
It said, “with one’s fingers and thumbs!”
Recollecting with tears how, in earlier years,
It had taken no pains with its sums.
“The thing can be done,” said the Butcher, “I think.
The thing must be done, I am sure.
The thing shall be done! Bring me paper and ink,
The best there is time to procure.”

One can say what one likes about Lewis Carroll, one can say what one likes about The Hunting of the Snark, one might even cast aspersions at Carroll’s secretive doppelgänger, C.L. Dodgson, but one cannot say that any of the above ever ignored the intellectual and literary ramifications of what we now call common, garden-variety Stupidity.

The above stanzel is proof positive of all of the above blather, 100-proof positive, I should think, with all its various pictolinguistic bits and pieces denoting a thorough inability on the part of its protagonists to perform even the simplest of arithmetical tasks.

We know that C.L. Dodgson, in his capacity as a maths tutor at Christ Church, had many opportunities to complain to his associate Carroll of the genuine dunderheadedness of most of his pupils. Many of these young scholars, being scions of the British upper classes, abjured all abstract thought whatsoever and devoted themselves instead to the less mentally taxing pastimes of drinking, gambling — and yes! — hunting!

Can we venture to guess that Carroll, sympathizing with and perhaps even assisted by the unlucky Dodgson, undertook an elaborate scheme of passive-aggressive revenge, composing a cunning lampoon which in its essence is nothing more than a verse epic dedicated to the Stupidity of the Hunting Classes, a Victorian Dunciad, so to speak?

We know that the entire Hunting of the Snark is predicated mostly upon the Clochetic Rule-of-Three, a shining example of logical inanity. We know that this poem’s very title admits of two, very opposite meanings: either a hunting for a snark, or rather, a hunting undertaken by a snark! In either case, a nitwittery is produced since the Snark is unreal and thus unavailable for hunting in any sense of the word.

Furthermore, Dodgson’s fellow Oxonian, the inestimable Dr. Johnson, himself noted that no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money*, a pertinent observation in light of the fact that Carroll wrote all his literary works solely for his and his child-friends’ pleasure.

And so, in the most approved clochetic manner, we will triangulate from all of the above and arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the very Genius of Stupidity thoroughly permeates every phoneme of the Snark! We’ll then fritter all of the above’s wig by quickly dredging it in Jules Renan’s oh-so-Gallic remark that he never understood the concept of infinity until he contemplated the stupidity of the human race, in particular, the blockheaded stubbornness of those sportsmen who persist in chasing an infinitely receding prey!

The result is a infinitely-toasted-cheese sort of thing of utterly mixed metaphors which lets you, dear reader, off a certain hook entirely, for the fact that you have followed this ungainly argument so far is double-plus-proof-positive that you’re a Genuine Smartie and no Thickie at all! Huzzah for good breeding and the finest education that Mummy and Daddy’s pelf can buy, eh?

Now, join with Messers Carroll, Dodgson and myself in a spot of jolly good schadenfreude as we observe the Beaver and Butcher chase after those mysterious semioglyphs of numbers and language which puzzle them so. Ignore their tears, please, pay them no heed for they are but the tears of a clown!

NB. A very grateful tip of the ink-smeared tuque to Salgood Sam, who was gracious enough to include a sample of my Snark in the the first Special Print Edition of Sequential which he produced and distributed at the TCAF. It's available here for a free download and well worth a look, with a superb cover and lots of great art & articles from various Canadian comix wallahs! And while you're at it, bookmark Sequential for all the latest developments in the very happening Canadian comix scene and then take a look at Salgood's blog — how does he draw so much and so well?

*A statement itself proved true by the Clochetic Rule of Three in light of its triple-negative syntax! Darn these pesky liberals and their sin tax!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fit the Fifth, general musings … snark’d in the dead letter office

Drawing pretty pictures and coming up with snappy verses is — like life itself — often wasted upon both the living and so we shall classify Fit the Fifth as a sterling example of post-mortem and post-modern plot profluence in The Hunting of the Snark.

The godotian author we are forever searching for, Lewis Carroll, was a pioneering practitioner of the so-called Kübler-Ross school of verse and prosemongering: denial of authorial omniscience, anger towards literary hucksterism, bargaining with obdurate illustrators, depression of certain readers’ expectations and finally, acceptance of critical misunderstanding.

Of course, Carroll’s current authorial stance of being dead (or as Foucault et alia would have it, his being an Author Nonfunction) allows us to promote him from a mere garden-variety Eminent Victorian to a certified Artful Dodger. And since dead authors tell no tales, as certain literary pirates claim, we must rely on other, more vivacious ink-stained wretches if we wish to carry on the Snarkistic canon.

Luckily for us, the antipodean Peter Wesley-Smith saw fit to hoist that very petard with his own poetic sequel several years ago, the aptly-named The Hunting of the Snark: Second Expedition, An Ecstasy in Eight Fits and Starts. Ably assisted by the illustrator Paul Stanish, Wesley-Smith saw fit to promote his Snarquistadores from the B-list to the C-list, to wit : Candlestick Maker, Cartographer, Cuckoo, Cardinal Crocodile, Conductor, Composer, Comprador and Contralto.

All of the above were inserted neatly into the empty boots of the Carrollian Snarquistadores, empty since Wesley-Smith took fiendish delight in quickly disposing of the latter in various cunning ways, including but not limited to drowning, necro-narcolepsies, death-by-Jubjub, etc. Once the poet had installed his own cabal in place of Carroll's B-Boyz, a Biblically-proportioned plague of puns and word-plays was then visited upon this new crew with highly enjoyable results. As luck would have it, their own Snark was not a Boojum but rather a snuffling, sniffling roly-poly sort of mentally well-adjusted thing. I won't spoil the ending except to note that Wesley-Smith varies the traditional Carrollian ending by only two letters, a mere orthographical trifle rendering his finale safe for all the kiddies and even Hollywood! In fact, there is throughout the entire splendid production a faint, yet very agreeable whiff of W.S. Gilbert or even Edward Lear perhaps, an undercurrent of an uncomplicated happiness which is ever so slightly amiss in Carroll’s epic. Of course, Carroll being dead does preclude him from being too happy about the whole thing, or as Wesley-Smith puts it in his description of his Cardinal’s demise at the hands of the gregofulous Grumps:

The beast showed restrain but the priest made a feint
As he followed some Heavenly plan
And collapsed to his knees; he had lived like a saint
But he lay down and died like a man.

Yes indeed, these enjambed anapests are strong juju for the postmortem smart set! No matter, our dear Mister Carroll remains unscathed (as always!) but I fear for this Cardinal’s sainthood, now revealed as just another dead sinner revised and edited!

NB. Anyone wishing a copy of Peter Wesley-Smith's Snark should write directly to him at peterws at shoalhaven dot net dot au. There's still a limited number of copies available and they might even be free or with a minimal shipping charge. You won't be disappointed!