Monday, August 26, 2013

To have no time for snark is to be a true snark hunter

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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Twelve Angry Snarks

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 Alexandrian-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!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Snarktor resnarktus

Wipe the smirk from your face, dear reader, stifle the groan in your throat … yes, we are punning today and the punnee is a legal suit and the punnor is a gentleman’s suit, size 42.

Of course, you already know that puns are the bittersweet linguistic memory of that long-ago time when any word meant anything, and some of ‘em meant as much as six different things before breakfast.

In those prelapsarian times when language was first evolving from the sonic ooze of grunts and snorts into more upright, ambulatory fricatives and uvular trills, the assignment of one particular sound to one particular object was a slapdash, fritter-my-wig sort of business. In truth, we might say that once upon a time all words were puns and Nonsense reigned upon the land.

All of this came to a sticky end with the invention of reeling and writhing, as I’m sure you’ve heard before. Equipped with such skills, even circus and theater folk could interpret the written marx of contract law and stymie the Pig and his legal Snark, all by invoking the Sanity Clause.

What’s this, the Judge sputters! Sanity Clause? You can’t fool me, there ain’t no Sanity Clause! Exactly, milord, 'tis the perfect Christmas Alibi, the Snark replies!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everytime it rains, it rains snarkish shekels from heaven

The coin of the realm these postlapsarian days seems to be the last and greatest bastion of that very same unblinking faith-in-the-unseen which characterized the salad days of the Middle Ages. Nowadays, most governments print and mint the stuff by the bushel with nothing more to back it up save a vague promise of an tattered xerox of a smudged fax of a unfocussed photograph of a crude drawing of a shifty rumour of someone, somewhere, actually doing something of value sufficient to prop up the coin in question.

However, in the Nonsense world of Lewis Carroll, and more to the point, in the Barrister’s Dream of The Hunting of the Snark, we find a refreshingly hard-nosed, Victorian mentality vis-a-vis whatever coin of the realm you might be trying to palm off on the locals. Messers Carroll & Dodgson had a healthy respect for money, struggling as they did to support various spinster sisters (AKA spinsisters in certain musical circles) and even the odd charity case on an academic’s meager salary. Hence, it is with heavy heart (and light kidney, groan) that they would have regarded the Snark’s pooh-poohing of the charge of Insolvency on the part of his piggish client.

The Snark’s defense of "never indebted" must come as a vindication of sorts to the Pig, whose depiction here as a piggy bank will no doubt amuse the simpler-minded reader. Giant, auspicious pigs with financial and psychic clout were once all the rage in certain mythical, Celtic quarters and such cheap visual sleights-of-hand are this artist’s inky stock-in-trade.

But the Barrister would also like to draw your attention to the chorus line of Martin Heideggers who are shimmying seductively to the delightful tune of When it Rains, It Rains Pennies From Heaven. It’s a comforting melody composed to allay the Judge’s crypto-Calvinist suspicions of any rumored pay-offs emanating from Upstairs and to also lull the Jury into contemplating the possibility that the Pig isn’t responsible for his actions since Society Made Him Do It Anyway (a legal defense employed, curiously enough, by the real Martin Heidegger).

But what’s this, the Judge sputters in dismay! These are no pennies cascading into the Heidegger-Pig, these are — gasp! — shekels! Even more suspicious, these are Tyrian shekels! These notorious coins, adorned with the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart or Baal, were the favored form of payment for the most infamous act of Treason ever done, yes, they were the fee earned by Judas when he threw his lot in with you-know-who — Beelzebub & Assoc., Esq.! This same Beelzebub, associated in Jewish legal circles with the afore-mentioned Baal (and both of 'em B-Boyz like our entire Snark-Hunting crew, eh?), has also been seen in company with that pesky Lord of the Flies so memorably depicted by William Golding as a big, fat pig’s head impaled on a stick for the amusement of a crowd of hooting under-age lager louts on holiday.

To sum up, milord and dear readers, this tragic descent of a benevolent, well-moneyed Celtic pig into a satanic, treasonous Judeo-Christian pig is no mere question of fudge, as my learned Snark colleague would have it. No, it is even worse, it is a prime example of Gresham’s Law — bad pigs drive out good!

The defense rests in a crouched, fetal position, as ever, till next week …