Monday, December 26, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 75/1 … raise high the snark beam, carpenters

What better way to celebrate Boxing Day than to ogle this salacious image of Karl Marx in blackface doing a disjointed, Nonsensical Carrollian bump and grind?

Lesser-minded readers will reach for their politically correct smelling salts or even their attorneys but well-oiled Carrollians will heave a self-satisfied sigh of relief at all of this, for they know that in this, Fit the Seventh of our GN version of the Hunting of the Snark, the Banker has been transmogrified twice! First by this artist, who has been depicting him throughout this Snark as Karl Marx and second, by his nemesis, the Bandersnatch, who has reversed his various Caucasian, upper-crust British Victorian polarities into those of a rupee-less, paan-chomping Hindustani rickshaw wallah slumming his way through the salad days of the British Raj.

All of this is per the instruction of the Admirable Carroll, naturally, so don't look askance. He wrote it all down in black and white anapaestics, in a coded message entitled The Hunting of the Snark which this artist then de-ciphered into anapaestic, Protosurrealist crosshatchings of the darkest, inkiest splendor.

It is horrible and senseless and rather confusing, this Carrollian Multiverse we call the Snark and as the observant reader can see below, its gravitational perturbations are rippling through the very fabric of time and space as we speak. Observe this oddly-shelved copy of our Snark which was spotted at a bookstore, endeavouring to say what its tongue could no longer express

Thanks to the talented and keen-eyed poet Sommer Browning for alerting us to this curious incident and please, if the person responsible for this shelving is reading this, accept my heartfelt thanks. I salute your innate sense of Surrealist horror, your senseless grimace at the pigeon-holing, soul-crushing dictates of modern commerce.

Carroll rubbing shoulders with Sappho and Ovid, the mind boggles deliciously.

NB. Sommer wrote a good essay on Steve Martin (my favorite American comedian) at the Rumpus. What better way to waste your employer's time this busy week than by reading her perceptive take on America's only genuine Surrealist … plus Brother Theodore, of course …

Monday, December 19, 2011

A child's christmas in Snark Island

Alas, dear readers, but the press of deadlines this week forces me to be an utter cad and skip the usual Snark commentary … instead, I must offer you a re-run, an earlier episode from this GN version of the Snark in which the HMS Snark set sail for Snark Island in a billowy puff of surrealist steam.

I've worked up this panel into a screensaver, cunningly heightened to a level of chromatic gaudiness sufficient to blow out your optical gaskets, if that's your sort of thing.

What better way to enjoy your Saturnalia than by staring at this screensaver whilst idly turning the pages of your GN Snark purchased from any of the above on-line links, or even better, from your favorite bookstore? Well, there is another way but it involves a lot of illicit scurrying around with bottles and flasks and bunsen burners, so we'll leave it to the reader's imagination to sort out the lurid, delightful details.

And remember, 42% of all the profits that this artist makes from this Snark will go towards the assistance of any idly-gyrating Assamese nautch girls he happens to find flitting about his ink-soaked charpoy! All aboard for Saturnalia!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 74/2 … black and white and snark all over

In an earlier stanzel we subjected The Banker/Karl Marx to the indignities of vamping as a perfumed houri in the lascivious environs of a Turkish harem but that is nothing to his current employment in a Carrollian minstrel show. 

Yes, the Bandersnatch has worked its magic at last, the hypnotic spell of the Orient has done its hypno thing and both reader and Snarquista stand amazed at this climactic thing-um-a-bob at the heart of Fit the Seventh.

Reflexive readers will grasp that there is a bit of artistic commentary going on here, most of it focussed upon Victorian British attitudes towards their Indian subjects but lighter-hearted readers can just go ahead and giggle up their mulligatawny soup whilst sitting in their bungalow, pajama clad and taking a good dekko at this latest instalment of The Hunting of the Snark.

And why not? It's all Nonsense and has hardly any bearing on anything at all except whatever I've surreptitiously meant it to have, ie. it's a wonderful thing to be seen!

Clear as rain, I should think.

NB. My memory is its usual swiss cheese holey thing but I remember reading somewhere of a minstrel show version of the Snark performed in the USA shortly after its publication … perhaps one of Doug Howick's more startling discoveries?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 74/1 … the snarkhood of nivasio dolcemare

A sudden outbreak of paranoid Orientalism has overwhelmed every drop of precious ink spilled upon this stanzel. Where once we saw pleasantly buffoonish Snark Hunters disporting themselves against a backdrop of English garden parties and nursery room labyrinths, we are now confronted with the raw animal passions of … well, animals.

The role of animals in Marxism is only lightly touched upon in academia but thanks to our cunning stratagem of employing Karl Marx to play the role of the Banker in this GN version of the Snark, it's about time we put an end to all that sort of thing.

As always, it was the Italian supra-surrealist Alberto Savinio who first grasped the essence of the animal-proletariat's dilemma:

Totemism is a sign of the dignity animals once enjoyed, a testimony that the earth was once a paradise. But the memory of this paradise grows more and more dim.

Paradise is precisely what both capitalism (the Banker) and Marxism (Karl Marx) promise all humans foolish enough to check in their brains at the door whenever invited to warm themselves beside any sort of comfy, warm mental fire.

And what was Orientalism for the Victorians but just more of the same? A paradise peopled by commodified humans regarded as monkey-like primitives (the worst sort of totems) until they clapped you inside a Bandersnatch's basket.

Go ahead and threaten them with your mass-produced, rationalist's forks and hope and smiles and soap but it's just as you feared: ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, just as you feared …

Next week: nonlinear thinking + linear inking = 100% snark

Monday, November 28, 2011

The song of the goat fills my heart in the night

A brief break from hunting Snark …

Alice in Wonderland is the Admirable Carroll's most famous work and I thought it high time to discuss some of its lesser-known translations, in particular, Áloþk's Adventures in Goatland (Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénliy). It's available from Amazon here, UK buyers go to my "Available from this Artist" for the UK link.

It's been back-translated into English by Byron Sewell (the infamously good-humored Carrollian and bon vivant), published by Michael Everson at Evertype Publications and illustrated by this artist.

Let's let Byron do the talking for a change … 

Róaž Wiðz (1882-1937), the locally-admired though otherwise little-known Zumorgian translator, spent seventeen years of his miserable life (when he wasn't tending to his beloved goats) translating Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Zumorigénflit and transposing it into Ŋúǧian culture.

Sadly, Ŋúǧ was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in 1947. Most of its citizens were either purged (lined up and summarily shot when they refused to combine their goats into a communal herd) or transported to the Gulag for political re-education and attitude adjustment … 

For those interested in such esoteric things, "Áloþk üjy Gígið Soagénličy" was first published by the Itadabükan Press in the capital city of Sprutničovyurt in 1919. The city, which was mistakenly thought to be a German forward supply area, was literally flattened and burned to the ground by Royal Air Force saturation bombing in 1943, and all that remains of it are a few remnants of the ancient Palace's foundations and a gigantic reinforced concrete statue of Joseph Stalin, whose face has been shattered by what was probably machine gun target practice.

The original story has here been updated to modern times, as if this strange, harsh, and dangerous land still existed in the modern world. It doesn't, except in my imagination and that of Mahendra Singh, whose heart swells with the Song of the Goat …

The book comes with a glossary and besides being a very funny book to read (especially for anyone who loves  the Alice books), my own meager, visual contribution is meant as an homage to the great Sir John Tenniel. Until you've inked in another illustrator's footsteps, you can't truly know him … 

And for those who wonder about such things, this artist really did spend many happy years of his life tending and milking dairy and meat goats (French Alpine and Nubian mostly) and despite the urban Quebecois blight I live in now, la chanson du chevre still fills my heart at night … 

The ladies of Unicorn Farm contemplate things …

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/3 … the square root of negative one is snark!

There are times in one's life when one realizes that one has simply drawn too many lines for one's own good. Not in the above stanzel, of course, which has precisely the number of lines and squiggles necessary to evoke the horror of a fat, timorous Banker (played here by Karlos Marx) being done away with by a snappy, savage Bandersnatch, played here by a Hindustani monkey who spends his spare time inside a snake charmer's basket.

This business of lines without rest or pause makes a middle-aged cross-hatcher wonder at times: what's it all about, eh? One skips and hops one's way across a page and once one is done, good lord, there's another page! And another and another.

To those readers who come here regularly for a bit of snappy analysis and pithy tomfoolery concerning whatever page of my GN Snark happens to be up for it this week, this must all come as a bit of a surprise.

There are no deep thoughts behind the above stanzel. There is no meaning, hidden or otherwise, nor any subtle message. It's genuine Nonsense of the highest, inkiest, most linear order.

It's just a bunch of subcontinental monkeys and a possessed hookah shanghaing a Banker dressed up to look like Karl Marx until, like this rather depleted illustrator, fainting he falls to the ground.

Next week: more lines! Who would have thought it?


NB. Saturnalia is fast approaching and smart shoppers know that no child's stocking is properly stuffed without a copy of this artist's GN version of the Snark. Not only is it the best thing Lewis Carroll ever wrote but this version goes all out to furnish the little tykes with what one reviewer called a "Surrealist version of Where's Waldo."

And why not lavish a fresh copy of Martin Olson's Encyclopaedia of Hell onto any disaffected, black-clad gothic teenagers you are compelled to know? The LA Weekly has an excellent review of it here and even better, you can buy the full-color poster here. It sure beats having Kurt Cobain on the wall, mom and dad. Available from Feral House or even Amazon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/2 … there's nothing like a good ol' delhi sandwich with extra snark and hold the marx

The Banker’s annihilation, or rather, impending deracination, at the hands of a Bandersnatch provides an excellent opportunity to shift the entire setting of this Snark into the farther reaches of the British Raj. We are in Old Delhi now and in the background of this Fit one can spot the distinctive silhouette of Delhi’s Red Fort, the last bastion of the Mughal emperors.

As for the Bandersnatch … modern Delhi is plagued by monkeys (they’ve even assassinated the deputy mayor) and the word for these sacred and homicidal creatures in Hindi, bander, combines perfectly with snatch for our deadly, Nonsensical purposes.

Was this deliberate on Carroll’s part? Who knows. Both the bander and his hookah have ensnared our Banker into playing the fatal role of the priest Laocoön, as immortalized in the immensely influential Greco-Roman sculpture of the same name.

The Laocoön: the marriage of rhetoric & draftsmanship … yow!

No scene of Carrollian tragedy would be complete without a pun of some sort and in this case, I’ve ensured that the cheque drawn to bearer really does bare her. Such a splendid specimen of well-inked feminine Snark-hunting pulchritude, eh, Carroll sahib?


NB. Apropos of nothing in particular except the desire to emphasize the importance of being paid to any young illustrators/writers/designers who happen to be reading this, Harlan Ellison has this to say:

… I did a very long, very interesting on-camera interview about the making of Babylon Five early on. So she calls me and she tells me they’d like to use it on the DVD, and can that be arranged? And I said, “Absolutely, all you gotta do is pay me,” and she said, “What?” And I said, “You gotta pay me!” She said, “Well, everybody else is, just, you know, doing it for nothing.”

There's more here and it's worth reading. If the suits are stiffing Harlan Ellison, what do you think they're going to do to the likes of you and me? And doesn't this imply that certain artists/writers with marquee value equivalent to Mr. Ellison must be doing it for free?

As the prostitute Miss Trixie put it in Jacques O'Bean's classic satire of American politics & mores, American Candide:

“Doctor Pantone always said that the business of Freedonia is business … That means don’t do anything for free, unless you want everyone to disrespect you and call you a really cheap slut. And that kind of sucks.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 73/1 … the snarkhunters of kumaon

We've arrived at the central conceit of this particular Fit of the Snark. The Banker, played here by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Karl Marx, is about to be assaulted by his nemesis, the Bandersnatch. You can see the latter's oddly mishapen hand clutching at the rotund Teuton's bloated ankle.

Karl Marx never visited the Old Delhi Railway Station, nor did the Admirable Carroll but we can be fairly certain that if they did, the general tenor of their surroundings would have appeared much as this artist has depicted them. The animal and mannequin headed bystanders, the bazaar atmosphere of narghila-puffing loafers, complete with a snake-charmer awakening the mysterious inhabitant of his basket, it's all there.

Perhaps the less-travelled reader will be taken aback by this local color but those of you who ever wandered into Old Delhi will heave an appreciative, paan-fumed sigh. It's all there, the latter will confirm, and the artist has done a slap-up job of capturing the ineffable, nonsensical air of the place.

In short, thanks to a little judicious visual interpolation and conflation by yours truly, the poet Carroll has done a superb job — despite himself — of conveying the air of a place where he had never been and probably never wished to be. And that is the very essence of hunting a Snark, a beast which conceals itself by cleverly non-existing wherever you are — you need to be where you aren't to pick up its ineffable trail.

To be where you cannot possibly be, that is the Snark Hunter's essential dilemma and you might as well get over it right now. It's not logical, Carrollian Nonsense, so go ahead and heave out your pathetic shriek of despair as you understand — too late! — that it's useless to fly!

Take a locally crosshatched scooter rickshaw instead, sahib, and above all, don't drink the water.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 72/2 … on your marx, get set, snark!

Framing devices are the very meat & drink of this illustrator's Snark, the very fritter-my-wig, as the Great One, Lewis Carroll, would have said. Careful examination of the above stanzel will reveal that the previous stanzel (72/1) is embedded within this one and that both of them are themselves the culmination of a 7-image train ride that departed an Old English Garden Party to arrive in an Old Delhi Railway Station, ca. 1876.

From whence comes this illustrator's penchant for the visual recursion of pictorial embedding? Was he lost as a child in a funhouse mirror? Was he reared by a family of Russian Matroushka dolls? 

Or does he simply believe in giving his readers good value for money? So many illustrators today practice a sort of pictorial minimalism, cutting back on wasteful expenditures of either conceptual or visual complexity. Minimalism is all the rage these days with most commercial artists (understandably so when most of us are paid less than pizza delivery drivers) which means that this Snark's maximalism is the new minimalism. 

The embedding of images within images and the dizzying vertigo induced by inflicting this unexpected pulling back of frames-within-frames allows the reader to rush madly ahead, like the Banker and even to be finally be lost to view if they so desire. And an unseen reader, that is the maximum desired effect of the genuine protosurrealist artist.

In short, if you can lose yourself in my Snark whilst seeking that very same Snark, my work in this Carrollian Multiverse will have been done and I can go to other worlds and places where illustrators are desperately needed to take naps on their readers' sofas, drink up all their readers' scotch, and borrow their readers' cars without permission. QED and all that, huh?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 72/1 … Oh brave new world that hath such snarks in it


For five panels now we've been tootling merrily along on our Snarkic Soul Train, through English garden parties and homunculi-haunted jungles into the depths of Page 72, where our train has debouched at last into the jumbled contents of a cigar box.

These contents are nothing less than the raw materials of the Snarkic Galdor which has resonated throughout this poem to such hypnagogic effect: soap, a thimble, hope (personified as an anchor), smiles (a Dali-esque sofa) and a railway share. But where's the care, more petty-minded Carrollians might ask?

To which this illustrator replies: care? You dare to question the care I've taken over this drawing? Go ahead and count the lines, squiggles, blobs and crochets of inky care I've lavished on this Snarkic semioglyph … even better, peruse the various labels & inscriptions embellishing the cigar box into which I've heaped up the raw stuff of our verse … all of 'em scraps torn from a larger whole:

Lo buscaron con dedales, con cuidado lo buscaron,
lo persiguieron con tenedores y con esperanza.
con acciones del ferrocarril lo amenarazon
y lo hechizaron con sonrisas y jabón.

Indeed, it is our Snark Hunter's Galdor-Refrain cast in the language of Castile, the language of Don Quixote, who must surely qualify as the Snark Hunter par excellence!

The cigars which once occupied this box were manufactured, as the upper label notes, in the manner of the Indians. Naturally, the Indians referred to here are the now-extinct Caribs & Arawaks who first introduced the Conquistadores to the joys of the evil weed, tobacco.

But we Snarquistadores are more literal-minded fellows and prefer a bit of geographic veracity with our cigars & porto; the Indians we refer to shall be the 100% genuine, curry-inflected East Indians of Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab, the Indians of Old Delhi, to be precise.

All shall become clear in good time, dear reader, for now, just remember that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even in the increasingly Orientalist labyrinths of our geographically discombobulated Snarkian Multiverse!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/3 … Magical Mystery Snark

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!

The Snark Hunters' Express continues its wordless journey into the jungles of Fit the 7th and the inquiring reader is already growing impatient with all this 19th-century transportation technology put at the service of 19th-century Nonsense Verse by 21st-century illustrator wallowing in his 20th-century obsessions. Sure, it looks cool but in the immortal words of Flakey Foont to Mr. Natural: what does it all mean?

Indeed! Ideas are the bane of the more fashionable modern hipster and most of 'em avoid that sort of thing like the plague. It's hard to have an idea and listen to one's iPod and update the world on one's various bodily eructations on Twitter, it simply cannot be done without incurring the risk of stopping to think. Especially if one has nothing to think about besides oneself and one's accessorized relationship to other consumer units.

But this illustrator is brimming with ideas, both visual and verbal. He keeps them in a mental swipe file which he can access at any moment by merely lying on a comfy sofa, having a really good cup of tea and then taking a nice nap. Whilst asleep, the thousands of books, paintings, sculptures, drawings and movies he's seen and read do their mysterious mojo thing inside his cinematically furnished mind and when he awakes, bingo! An idea is born!

Richard Muller (German, 1874-1952) “Miracle of Training”, 1911

Our drawing of a Snark Hunting train in the jungle was spawned by a vague visual memory I had, an image which I later discovered to be a drypoint by Richard Muller, an obscure yet quite talented German artist from Dresden. The basic idea of training something to do the impossible was the starting point that Muller furnished me; it led me to eventually depict the training of a train by a jungle homunculus magician, a personage which fit perfectly into the earlier depiction of the same homunculus-magician luring the train out his snake-charmer's basket.

Muller's style of German Symbolism was similar to that of the better-known Max Klinger and eventually this style would merge into what we call Surrealism. There is a subtle difference between the precursor and its more celebrated descendant: the former depicted the reality of dreams by using the reality of waking, while the latter was a far more ad hoc business which eventually dabbled mostly in solipsism and amateurism.

Young illustrators take note! The technical rigor of the Symbolists' training and their conceptual precision came from a careful study and understanding of all the arts, ie., they did not reject the past as un-hip nor did they wallow in self-expression without self-analysis and self-correction. This precursor of Surrealism is not only a rich vein to mine for ideas but more importantly, a perfect example of the usefulness of learning draftsmanship to better depict that which cannot be seen.

Zen-like, huh? But don't worry, most art directors today could care less about all this and in fact, you'll get more work doing the exact opposite of what I just recommended. Double-Plus Zen-like, dude!

Working the fields on Beard Harvest day (Poets Ranked by Beard Weight)

NB. The learned Gilbert Alter-Gilbert's edition of Poets Ranked by Beard Weight has finally come out from Skyhorse (click on the AVAILABLE FROM THIS ARTIST link at the upper-right to purchase). It is a classic of Pogonology and besides being lavishly illustrated by this mustachioed artist (sample above), it's a jolly weird laugh.

The generous and discerning Will Schofield has posted some sample text and lots of art on 50 Watts and readers are urged to go there, especially while at work for the Man.

In a perfect world, Gilbert would secure the foreign translation rights to the entire works of Alberto Savinio, along with bursting sacks of filthy lucre (Canadian dollars, preferably), sufficient to ensure that I can spend the rest of my days comfortably illustrating the words of The Master.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/2 … Snark-Train Spotting

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!

Attentive readers (shut-ins, penitentiary inmates, nursing home loafers, etc.) will have noticed by now that these last four panels share a common motif: a miniature train packed to bursting with all 1o of our Snark Hunting B-Boyz.

This is not an accident, this is what literary critics call a TRANSITIONAL MOTIF. You see, this illustrator needed to solve the problem of bridging two entirely different Fits; Fit the Sixth, which was set in a vaguely Gilbert & Sullivanesque inflected version of Pepperland and Fit the Seventh, which will eventually disembark into the British Raj of the Old Delhi Railway Station.

Lesser illustrators would have simply hired a charabanc or a palanquin or even a scooter rickshaw to schlepp their characters from one scene to another but this illustrator is made of sterner (and cheaper) stuff. In fact, if there's anything which makes this illustrator wax extra-wroth, it's the all-too-common phenomenon of artists choosing vague or irrelevant symbology to bind their pictures to their words. Just as the punishment must fit the crime, so must the conveyance fit the time!

Well-oiled Carrollians will sigh with appreciation at all of the above, for they are well aware that the Great One, Lewis Carroll, was fond of playing at trains in his youth, so much so that his undeservedly obscure puppet play, La Guida di Bragia, is set in a train station and features two station masters whose resemblance in manner & bearing to Vladimir and Estragon cannot be coincidental …

But more to the point, the very first time that the name of Lewis Carroll ever appeared in print was in a magazine entitled The Train. It was with that small poem, "Solitude", that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (prompted by the editor Edmund Yates) hit upon the happy device of latinizing his name into Lewis Carroll. The year was 1853 and curiously enough, (1+8+5)x3=42 … and as all Carrollians know, the number 42 is the cabalistic key to the entire Snarkian Multiverse. And you thought I was making it all up as I went along, didn't you, admit it! Ha!

Of course, there are some other, equally pesky readers who are asking: from whence come these urbanite, minaret-and-souk-bedecked camels seen in the above picture? Is this another example of the dreaded Orientalism run amuck?

Perhaps it is, but I must also draw such readers' attention to the fact that from the Oriental point of view of the unseen inhabitants of these Camel-Cities, a point of view blighted by the sudden appearance of a steam-locomotive with various Victorian gentlemen aboard it, it's a case of the dreaded Occidentalism run amuck.

Occidentalism is the persistent belief shared by many Orientals that the West is crammed to the gills with purring, blonde sex kittens, gun-wielding Christian mullahs and shamelessly easy credit.

If only, huh?

Next week: More of the same with winds light to variable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/1 … every night & every morn some to SNARK are born

Fit the Seventh of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch! Meanwhile, back at the paan-shop …

See the Snark Hunters run.
Run, Snark Hunters, run.
See the Snark Hunters on the train.
The train goes choo choo choo.
See Victor Hugo turned to stone.
Crumble, Victor, crumble.

Let's go to Fit the Seventh, said the Bellman.
Let's leave this basket for Fit the Seventh.
And the train went choo-choo.
And the snake-charmer tooted his flute.
And the Bellman rang his bell.

See the fetid Indian jungle.
See the freaky snake-charmer.
See the frightful choo-choo-train.
See the Banker's Fate.
Run, Banker, run!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 69 … Dialectical snarxism

At last, we've reached Fit the Seventh of this graphic novel version of Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark. I drew a frontispiece for the first page of each Fit, each one usually involving a feeble pun and all of them concealing in some manner the All-Seeing Eye which I chose to represent the Snark.

Karl Marx, the working man's Marx Brother

This Fit concerns the Banker and I chose Karl Marx to depict the Banker for simple reasons of poetic justice. This canto of the poem will prove to be his downfall, his well-deserved sweeping into the dustbin of history, the ol' coot. Imagine that, doubting our capitalist masters.

The Sleeping Odalisque by J.A.D. Ingres

For the moment though, his Fate is being depicted as his fête, or birthday party, in French. His cake has the requisite 42 candles and the charming Alexandra “Xie” Kitchin is playing the violin for his amusement, just as she did in Carroll’s photo. Xie was one of the poet’s favorite child friends although I doubt that he would have approved of her presence in this Snarky up-date of the French painter Ingres’ famous harem scene.

Alexandra "Xie" Kitchin as photographed by Lewis Carroll

No matter, the Banker’s fan-waving monkey will soon restore some decorum. His name in Hindi, bander, summons up the spirit of the Carrollian Bandersnatch, the Banker’s soon-to-appear nemesis. His hookah will also figure in his downfall, a Marxist reminder that opium is the religion of the masses.

Just say no, Karl!

Next week: The Gang of Four take Five

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fit 6, pg. 67/3 … the snark of reason produces sleep

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Sixth, where the Barrister (played by Martin Heidegger) is dreaming of prosecuting a pig …

We've been wandering the Carrollian Dreamtime of Fit the Sixth for quite a while, exploring the fascinating connections between Victorian Nonsense and the legal profession. This illustrator has seen fit to expand the nightmarish implications of all of the above by ensuring that the Barrister, Snark, Judge, Jury, Witnesses and even Defendant all possess the features of Martin Heidegger, the eminent Continental brain-and-nitpicker.

But perhaps now is as good a time as any to awaken from this dream, to ignore the bellowing and wake up to face the ringing in one's ears. And there's the rub, it seems, for awakening from one dream does not automatically guarantee one a safe berth in whatever reality that is assumed to enfold both dream and dreamer.

In short, when we awake, do we awake into reality or merely another dream? Perhaps such questions do not trouble the sleep of most readers but for those of us who Hunt the Snark, such enigmas are pure catnip, knowing as we do that Nonsense is the dream of Logic.

Like so many of the broad, unverified statements with which this blog is littered, I'll not bother with the piddling details behind it. It's all a question of recursion, really, and the very mention of that word gives most Occidentals a bad case of ontological hives.

From whence comes this fear? Eastern philosophy is brimming with the mind-addling fumes of recursion, it's the cat's pyjamas of classical Hindu metaphysics and for good reason: once one accepts recursion as a valid foundation for one's world view, reality starts looking a lot, well … more fun. All of which is a rather giggle-inducing poke-in-the-eye of what good old stodgy Aristotelians once called the First Cause.

All of which confirms this Snarkista's growing suspicion that for the High Anglican-cum-logician Carroll, Nonsense was the inflammatory reaction of a logician's mind plagued by the chronic affliction of Belief …

Whether you call it the First Cause or the Author or even the Illustrator, it's clear as mud that something is going on here, something fiendishly similar to a funhouse hall of mirrors haunted by a genuinely tricksy Boojum.

Of such mind-mangling quiddities are the recursive arabesques of Snarkish ontology constructed, dear readers. Now discuss amongst yourselves, please. And keep it down, I'm going back to sleep.

NB. The train hovering in the background is actually a wretchedly clumsy drawing of a 1967 Ford Falcon, a sturdy vehicle whose chauffeur is puttin' the pedal to the medal in response to his passengers' request to "take us out of this picture." Poor sods, little do they know, eh?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fit 6, pg. 67/2 … wondering which of the boojums to blame and watching for pigs on the wing

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Sixth, where the Barrister (played by Martin Heidegger) is dreaming of prosecuting a pig …

Fit the Sixth has reached an apotheosis of sorts in this stanzel. The swinish defendant has evaded his just desserts by revealing himself to be dead and thus safely beyond the reach of any earthly verdict — and all attendant legal fees, the cunning cheapster!

This artist has cleverly furnished Le Cochon with a small lyre and a spare set of wings to indicate his après-vie status. Naturally, this assumes that our pig is going to heaven, the jolly, winged, lyre-strumming place, as opposed to hell, the overcrowded, forked-tail and burning-flesh place.

Of such niceties are all of our after-life dining and entertainment plans based upon. One makes reservations for one's impending eternity based upon one's individual life choices. Some of us will be nibbling tapas in air-conditioned Elysian Fields while some of us will have to dress for hot weather and dine al fresco, ad infinitum.

Some readers may be shaking their heads in dismay at this conflation of eschatology and the food-services industry but such are the grim exigencies of the modern Snark Hunter. When one's entire day has been spent pursuing a non-existent, annihilating beast, one simply doesn't have the time to prepare for the afterlife, much less prepare a healthy supper for the entire family.

Which is why this artist is pleased to share the following Snark recipe with his fellow Snark Hunters. As befits the dead-pig motif vaguely binding together this aleatory posting, it can be prepared with either Snark or Pig …

Cuban-Style Roast Snark
• a large Snark roast, 2-4 kgs (if Snark is unavailable, substitute pork)
• head of garlic minced
• 2 tsp. cumin
• 2 tsp. oregano
• 2 tbsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. black pepper
• 4 bay leaves
• 1-2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice
• 3 medium onions, sliced thinly into rings
• 2 cups of white wine

Score the Snark/pork roast diagonally. Combine all other ingredients together and then add meat to marinade. One need not be too fussy or precise with measurements. Refrigerate meat & marinade for at least 12 hours. I find that the simplest way to do this is to combine everything in a large freezer zip-lock type bag and then leave it in the fridge.

Bake at 350 degrees, check periodically to baste roast with juices. If using a meat thermometer, roast till interior is 160-185 degrees, a nice crust will form by then, especially if you basted diligently. Remove from oven when done, remaining juices can be whipped up in a blender to provide a gravy. If necessary, remove fat from juices first by chilling in fridge & skimming.

Serve with forks and hope, or if unavailable, black beans and rice. And of course, bellow on to the last.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Man is a bad animal …

Patient readers, please endure one more week of hiatus from Hunting the Snark. In lieu of the usual daft blather, I present a comix page which I did for the Wallace Stevens anthology at the Hooded Utilitarian. There's much to see and read there …

I usually avoid making political comments on this blog, but what the heck, we're impoverished artists so our impractical opinions don't matter … the breaking of a Syrian political cartoonist's hands by masked gunmen led him to produce this. Mr. Ferzat's entire website is worth a visit, some really sharp cartooning, reminiscent of Tomi Ungerer (warning, graphic photos). If that's not enough and you need an even stronger emetic, this report describing the attempts of American politicians & businessmen to assist Col. Gaddafi (as recently as this August) should definitely do the trick.

And finally, this inky comment upon humanity's eternal, suicidal urge to just … believe …

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Well-Tempered Snark

In between hurricanes, earthquakes, repairing leaking wells, attending weddings and doing some illos for Byron Sewell's Alothk in Wonderland, time is a bit short this week. So here's another colorized re-run from my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark, a frontispiece, entitled …

The Bellman's Speech …

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 (probably a King Charles Cavalier but that's another story entirely).

We see here a sample of that species, a young pup named Laelaps, who 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 (the scholastic cur). 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, August 22, 2011

Dude, where's my snark?

I apologize in advance but this week's posting must be a re-run, something from Fit the First of our GN version of The Hunting of the Snark. This is a colorized version, so do not adjust your sets …

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the Butcher was by,
The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.

The aversion of the Beaver's eyes is motivated by the primitive belief that whatever cannot be seen by oneself, cannot itself see you.* This charming simplicity of thought is the innocent basis of all epistemologies, and it can be said, with some justice, that all of Western philosophy is but footnotes to the nursery-room game of peek-a-boo.

And so … we are indulging in a pre-Socratic, pre-school tautology of existential hide-and-go-seek … the Beaver dematerializes her stony-faced nemesis, the Butcher, by averting her eyes. Lewis Carroll disarms his Boojum by composing the Snark backwards and thus placing the former into a perpetually receding, invisible future of the latter. As for myself, I'm one of those literal-minded draughtsmen who cannot draw what he cannot see. I shall spurn Rule Number One of Illustration (if you cannot draw it, place a bush in front of it) for I am above such petty stratagems — a plague on all manner of foliage, those leaves, so many, so many, is there no end to them? The naked Boojum shall remain a naked, undrawn, unseeing Boojum.

To see a Boojum, ladies and gentlemen, is to be seen by a Boojum! Eschew the lethal gaze of all negating nonentities and all will be well! Focus instead your nondiscerning gaze upon the perfectly rendered nonchalance of this cool drawing. Nothing to see here folks, just move right along.

*Vide the protosurrealist Andrei Vyshinsky's observation: "The fact that it is dark at night proves merely that I am not paying attention." ("Clinical Morphology of the Parimutuel — Impressions of Mr. Pyridine", Berlin, 1897).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fit 6, pg. 67/1 … Aguirre, the Snark of God

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel … right now we're in Fit the Sixth, where the Barrister (played by Martin Heidegger) is dreaming of prosecuting a pig …

Transportation for life … it's not a pretty sentence, not even a pretty sentence fragment. Has the Defendant Pig been deprived of his Lexus and condemned to using the subway for the rest of his life? Has he been reduced to riding a bicycle to and from his sty? A skateboard with obligatory tattooes and iPod prostheses?

Gosh, no, he's been deported to one of the British penal colonies, such as Australia, where he can endure the agony of fresh air, sunshine and limitless social and business opportunities instead of the customary Victorian British urban pollution, pouring rain and stifling class system. Although, to be honest, I don't think that by the time the Snark was composed (1874-1876) the British were deporting felons to Australia anymore but I think you get the picture … or even better, you don't get the picture!

Cue evil laughter here, and meanwhile, peruse carefully the above picture. Now compare it to the one at the very top of this posting, the version which appeared in print.

Would it surprise you to learn that this artist often draws that-which-is-not-to-be-seen by the reader, ie., he goes to the bother of drawing whatever it is that the word-panel will obscure when it is positioned later in the production process?

I didn't think you did, smarty pants. Frankly, how could you? How could you guess that I would go to such ridiculous, creepily epistemological lengths to subject various players in my Snark to the dreaded … transportation for life!

The more thoughtful reader will quickly grasp that this curious graphic practice is the visual equivalent of the literary "softly and suddenly vanishing away" which the poet has utilized as the First Cause of his Snarkish plot engine. Pictures aping words aping pictures aping words, and all that. Such complex and delicately crafted levels of conceptual meaning have proved to be a reliable turn-off for the general book-buying public, I can assure you.

Lazier (and faster breeding) readers will content themselves with observing that various members of the jury have themselves been transported for life and that it serves them right. They might even exclaim aloud: This is not a legal system, it's utter Nonsense, I mean, good lord, look at them! Everyone resembles Martin Heidegger. That's not justice and it's certainly not legally sound nor even a legal sound.

Say it slowly, to yourself … Heidegger … Heidegger … it's more of a sneezy ejaculation, a snorty, snirty, snarky clearing of the upper respiratory system with viscous, Flemish connotations … it won't hold up in any court of law, much less a dream court populated by somatic body doubles.

Next week: a cease and desist letter from the Heidegger estate and a hearty thanks from the North American Swine Producers Council.

NB. Attention comix fans!
The Hooded Utilitarian has published the results of its Best Comix Poll Ever, the collated opinions of various artists, writers, critics, vendors, etc. As always with the HU, the results are instructive and they're currently expanding upon the subject with explanatory essays, rebuttals, detailed break-downs, etc. This artist's response to the poll should appear there shortly and is guaranteed to please any fellow devotees of Mixtec and Mughal comix art …

The HU's poll is worth a look, especially for younger illustrators. To be honest, the results confirmed my worst, elitist suspicions about the circular ruination of North American illustrators/comix wallahs … you are what you look at and if this is what some of us are looking at, yikes.

Inking towards Gomorrah, with scarcely a penny in my pocket and the debt-collector at my heels, drawing well is the best revenge. Second best is seeing well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Le Déclin de l'empire américain

A brief break from Carroll and comix and Snarks … a sample from an on-going translation of Jacques O'Bean's acid-tongued, Juvenalian update of Voltaire's classic … American Candide.

“Dear children,” Doctor Pantone would say, “always remember that although you’re the freest people on earth, there are those who hate you for that very freedom. And why is that? Because you are free — and they will never be free, except to hate you. That’s the difference that real freedom makes!

Strong stuff, eh? Read below, with illustrations by this artist or download here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fit 6, pg. 66/3 … I ink, therefore I am

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel … right now we're in Fit the Sixth, where the Barrister (played by Martin Heidegger) is dreaming of prosecuting a pig …

When drawing a dream in which the dreamer not only plays the part of every character in his dream, but is himself being played by the Eminent Continental Steamer, Martin Heidegger, the prudent illustrator pauses for thought.

From whence comes this illustrator's antipathy for Marty Heidegger? Is it the blathery philosophical drivel? The penchant for racist careerism? The beady, piggy eyes?

Perhaps the above stanzel can furnish some answers, for it is intimately concerned with "finding a verdict", ie., a quest for the truth, forensic and otherwise. The truth in this case is GUILTY, a blanket existential statement which Marty would have approved of, appealing as it does to the winsome young co-eds that Marty preferred to rummage through after classes.

But we Snark Hunters are made of sterner stuff. We take our philosophical marching orders from none other than Diogenes the Cynic (as shown here in Gerome's splendid painting), the bane of bloviating professors and politicians alike!

Diogenes was very much the Boojum of Western philosophy's Snark Hunt, preferring as he did to simplify things by cogitating in public while naked. He was a jolly rascal who often wandered through Athens with a lantern in daylight, claiming to be searching for an honest man. In case no one got the joke, he also preferred to live in a large barrel in which he would roll through the agora during moments of national crisis, a political tactic in need of revival in our troubled times.

His philosophy was simple, literally, and this simplification has earned him the eternal disdain of more practical-minded people, the kind of people who prefer the more comforting truths of money, religion, consumerism and groupthink.

In our Snark Hunt, we've replaced his barrel with the Bellman's Bell and we've clothed him in the garb of an English Barrister so as not to frighten the kiddies, but I think you get the general idea.

The truth, dear readers, is the very last thing one wishes to entrust to Barristers or Philosophers, unless, of course, they are furnished with a lantern, smelling of raw onions (oh yes, I've included them) and blessed with a dog-like sense of fidelity to the tenets of Cynicism.

Of course, we're all guilty of something or the other in this Snark Hunt, alas.

But you can buy a copy of this graphic novel and thus expunge some of your guilt in enjoying this free Carrollian exegesis whilst I shiver in my barrel-like garret. I shall expunge my own guilt by emulating Diogenes and doing some naked inking whilst my faithful King Charles Cavalier Spaniel lies at my feet, dreaming of chasing the squirrelly Boojums which plague her sleep.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is there a Cuban doctor in the house?

Even Snark hunters need a hiatus from time to time, so this week we'll eschew (temporarily) Carrollian verse for something a bit less Nonsensical …

The Hooded Utilitarian has launched a series of postings, combining the verse of Wallace Stevens with the artwork of 20+ artists. There's an intro here which you can bookmark to easily access all the various verses & pictures as they come on-line over the next week, one by one, in alphabetical order.

You can see & read my comixed version of The Cuban Doctor here.

This should be quite interesting for all verse lovers and in particular, for those artists interested in illustrating verse, which can be quite a tricksy business, like hunting Snark but without all the glamour and publicity.

And many thanks to Noah Berlatsky for coming up with this pretty neat idea, plus enduring the attendant headaches of editing it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hey, Lady Gaga — twitter THIS!

"… what Lewis Carroll would say about the goth niche … I suspect he would have grabbed a riding crop and delivered some hearty blows to the heads of the lower classes … We can’t have pond scum or bottom of the pond scum crawling to the top and making cultural choices … if we visual and verbal people continue to whore ourselves out so shamelessly, we’re going to get what we deserve, which is nothing."

To read more of Sean Michael Robinson's interview with me at The Comics Journal, click here. And thanks, Sean, for bringing my rant to the masses. That should really make 'em want to buy my book, the ironic rascals.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fit 6, Pg. 66/2 … Snark Rashomon!

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel … right now we're in Fit the Sixth, where the Barrister (played by Martin Heidegger) is dreaming of prosecuting a pig …

If you've ever had the pleasure of a boozy, slobbering confabulation with a magistrate or judge in mufti, you'll know that they're well equipped to sum things up, no matter the circs. Of course, the present situation is rather mind-taxing for even the keenest legal mind and in such cases a quick supplementary evidence-collecting trip to the corner liquor store is indicated. Snappy legal thinkery is best done with one's mind defragmented by pure, wholesome gin and tonic substances and milord agrees whole-heartedly.

Since these legal proceedings occur entirely inside the mind of the dreaming Barrister, all the characters involved are depicted with the Barrister's features, all of 'em, judge, jury, witnesses, the whole gang. And since the dreaming Barrister is played here by Martin Heidegger, we have a superfluity of Heideggers to contend with.

Tossing a martini olive at our idly gyrating Assamese nautch girl-cum-paralegal, we delve deeper into the facts of this case. How does one sum up a case in which everyone involved is indistinguishable? It makes one's head ache, just thinking through the metaphysical ramifications, the layers of boozy double-think involved in sifting through evidence and testimony which is all of it, a priori, stemming from the same person multiplied twenty-fold.

Ergo, all the facts in this trial are equivalent and hence, ultimately identical. If one sums up all the perfectly identical elements of a closed set, one is left with the overwhelming impression of having created a logical, spinning, looping thing-um-a-jig, rather like bed-spin after a particularly boisterous judicial Saturday night. This is because the summing up is being done by one of the very elements being summed up.

College-educated bar-maids and nautch-girls call this "recursion" and it's always been the secret tipple of the Great One, Lewis Carroll. He considered it to be the lime juice in the gin of logic and metaphysics and liberally doused all of his Nonsense works with it.

In any case, to sum up the summing up, the judge in this case deferred to the Snark because the latter was (and is) a creature of pure Nonsense, and hence, a thing of undiluted 100-proof recursive purity.

And the above drawing shows that the Snark has acted with Gordian decisiveness — by cheating! His gnarly finger tips the scales of justice ever so slightly towards his porcine defendant and leaves us all with the customary bad taste of purchased justice in one's mouth.

It's a heady tipple, this Nonsense vintage we call The Hunting of the Snark and best left to professionals like judges, illustrators and poets!