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WEEK ONE HUNDRED

At a little past ten in the morning today Pacific Standard Time the moon’s shadow will enter America just below Portland, likely obscured by clouds. From this point, travelling initially at over 2,000 miles an hour, the ‘path of totality’, as it is known, will arc over the Cascades, into the Columbia River basin, through Idaho across the Grand Teton National Park, on into Wyoming’s high desert and across the rolling grasslands of Nebraska, where it will hook up with I-80 East toward Omaha before veering south by Lincoln, after which it will nip Kansas then cut a swathe of Missouri between Kansas City and St Louis, across the Mississippi River and through the foot of the great state of Illinois before entering Kentucky and Tennessee, where it will darken Nashville, the largest city in the path of totality, before making its exit through Georgia and the Carolinas, with Charleston, South Carolina bidding the final goodbye.

Eclipses aren’t that rare a thing. But this time it will be seen only in America, something that hasn’t happened since November 1776, four months into the American Revolution. This of course is nothing but a celestial accident, and no historical importance should be placed on such a coincidence, nor should any parallels be drawn between that historical moment and our own. Equally, little thought should be spent on the fact that a bird-silencing darkness will touch upon fourteen states of which twelve went red in 2016. One glance at that map is shows that it could not have been otherwise.

Those looking west just before totality will see a wall of darkness racing toward them at incomprehensible speed. Even those with the benefit of a scientific knowledge of the circumstances may weep at the sheer otherness of the thing. It’s said that witnesses to a total solar eclipse often scream or weep or fall to their knees at the horrible beauty, the great black vacancy in the sky, with its corona of twisting, hellishly hot gases. Back before we were civilized (which of course we are now) total eclipses might trigger a glut of human sacrifice or other forms of savagery and mayhem. It was also frequently assumed that an eclipse presaged a terrible event – or, conversely, it signalled that the greater forces were displeased with a people for their actions. Something precious was to be taken away from them.

Last week in Baltimore city officials removed a confederate statue in the cover of darkness. In Durham, North Carolina a statue was toppled in a matter of seconds. The average duration of total eclipse in any one location is two minutes. One wonders what might happen in this span of time in Paducah, Kentucky, or Nashville, or Charleston. Probably nothing. Not when you could otherwise be gawking at an impossible hole in the sky, contemplating the inconceivable. Besides, these things are just symbols. And symbols travel only so far as we carry them.

In summary, a bizarre darkness is sweeping across America’s ample midsection and leaving a degree of madness, irrationality and violence in its totalitarian path, and where once there was nourishing light there will instead for a certain period of time be an utter vacuousness surrounded by wispy orange hair. Happy Great American Eclipse Day everyone!

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WEEK SEVENTY-SEVEN

Since the US government shutdown began we have received numerous requests to assign Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner with his ‘life animal’, though since no one at Knits a stinK had ever heard of this phrase, we had just been filing these requests in the Investigate tray. As it happens we ran across a kindly gentleman who actually was familiar with this phrase, one Mr Grandville, on the same day that the shutdown ended, and so we decided to finally repay those requests by having our court artist (who also happens to intern at our local zoo) put together a likeness of Boehner’s life animal.

But first Mr Grandville’s explanation. Apparently, just as every person has a ‘color season’, so that for example a person with bluish undertones to their skin are classified as ‘winter’, every person alive or dead can be matched with an animal. Charles Darwin’s was, satisfyingly, a chimpanzee. Benedict Cumberbatch has recently been outed as an otter. Snoop Dogg is, of course, a doberman pinscher. You will yourself personally know people who are integrally linked to a boa constrictor or a zebra or the like.

Sounded straight-forward to us – but what was Speaker Boehner? You will find the outcome below, but please be warned that the results are rather more gruesome than we would have expected. This image may not be suitable for younger blog readers.

Observe:

Old hound Boehner

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WEEK SEVENTY-FOUR

image

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What happened next was this: I traveled
Down this Adirondack road for the
Bones of an hour when, suffering
The first pangs of hunger and seeing
No end to the curve of chosen path

I then began to fear that I had
Made an ill decision, and thus sat
By the wayside for a moment on
A fallen log, for to collect my
Thoughts and consider all my options –

Of which there were again two: carry
Blindly forth down my current road, which
In all truthfullness was even less
Traveled than I had first considered,
The leaves not only not having been

Trodden black but nary had met boot
In their lifetimes, so free were they from
Human truck or human muck; or to
Turn cowardly tail to the unknown
And discover that road that was just

That wee bit more frequently traveled,
And hence perhaps bear literal fruit
In the guise of fellow traveler,
Who may have set out with more forethought
Than I, not having even taken

With me a small sack of almonds, let
Alone a bar of dark chocolate –
So velvety, so chalklike – and what
I would not have done for just such a
Combo, atop ill-begotten log.

Casting my mind further it next came
To me that my first choice was from three
Options rather than two: the road less
Traveled by, the road more traveled by,
And to return the way I came, which

Was no less than forty minutes from
A kitchen of good repute, meaning
That if I retraced my steps I could
Be yet again satiated in
But two hours – were it that simple!

For upon this last hour’s walk I
Had come upon divergence upon
Divergence – ridiculous numbers
Of divergences, truth be told; for
Though as previously mentioned I

Be aware of way leading on to
Way, one wouldn’t say no to other
Ways just staying away for a spell,
So that a person could relax and
Simply stroll for a minute or two

Without yet another poxy old
Divergence busting onto the scene
And taxing the brain. Encountering
A certain number of said ways one
Finds one’s self quite choosing at random,

Frankly, at times saying to one’s self
‘I will take the more traveled path for
At least that way I may come across
A main road that can get me to an
Eatery’, and other times ‘I will

Take the less traveled-y road because
That way I might at least have some sort
Of chance of finding a bramble that
Hasn’t yet been picked clean of berries
By – what, birds or bears or the like, right?’

Because there sure as hell don’t seem to
Have been people down this one for
A good while, what with it lacking signs
Of civilized life of any form
And, in particular, utterly

Devoid of a nice patisserie
Or something,’ and the downfall of such
A situation, it must be said,
Being that if one tries to undo
All of one’s decisions one seems to

Be unable to unpick chosen
Ways once seen in reverse. It was a
Pickle, to be sure. God, would I have
Killed for a pickle right about then,
There would have been no doubt to that, sure.

All of this I pondered on my log,
My stomach emptying more by more,
Just as ants began to arise from
The wooden warrens within the log
They called home, as was now apparent;

Ants who became displeased to extremes
When they found a wayfarer using
Their home as a way-pondering stool,
No matter his intentions; ants who
Displayed their displeasure by means of

Large pincers, of which they squandered no
Time in making use. Though pained before,
I was doubly so now, faculty
For decision-making having left
Me with completeness, and I dashed through

The naked brambles, out into the
Hairy woodlands, shedding items of
Clothing as I fled, and slapping at
Affected parts of my poor body,
Curs-ed as I knew it then to be.

By the time I had rid myself of
The last of the red-fanged multitude
I found myself without ways to choose
From altogether, so far had I
Come to escape their spleen, and it was

With a heady brew of relief and
Dismay in roughly equal parts that
I sat once more, though this time safely,
I hoped, in the crotch of a tree whose
Trunk had diverged from itself at quite

An early point on its own journey.
This is how I came to know that it
Is possible to get by on bark,
And that I am partial to Slippery Elm,
At its best when young, green and tender.

Lessons learned in my situation?
Bring a compass and supply of nuts
If you wish not to chew on the trees.
Feel free to visit, though I fear I
Be not confident in directions.

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WEEK SEVENTY-TWO

Yaol-Yaol-Yaol

Thinking about the abject today, I looked them up on Wikipedia. This arose somehow from hearing the phrase ‘wiki waki’ in a Roy Acuff song, ‘I Like Mountain Music’, which I’d been listening to on repeat for about 45 minutes. He had been to Hawaii, you see, or at least he’d been there in the lyrics, and what he was doing in this song was trying to convince us that, though he appreciated the music he heard there, it paled in comparison to the music he knew from home, particularly that, so he tells us, played by a real hillbilly band. So, again, that led to Wikipedia, as all roads lead to Wikipedia. How the word ‘abject’ jumped on board along the way I don’t quite remember (a manifestation of a mindset, no doubt). But look it up, do, wiki it and you’ll see Julia Kristeva hanging out there, just as she seems to hang out in any other sleazy, neglected, obscure area, tossing cigarette butts into the alley over the balcony railings and pretty much dominating the area from on high. Right off the bat she starts in about corpses and the rejection of the maternal and pretty soon I’m mind retching. One respects her though, of course, because if you don’t she’ll pop you in the chops. And then explain away your pain. Smooth, that. Kristevan. Is that a word yet? I Googled it – it kind of is.

But this wasn’t going anywhere, and so I spent a few quarter hours wading through the Mars One website. You’ve heard of this. A bunch of Dutch people want to send six people at a time to live out the rest of their lives on the red planet. How Dutch. I think. There are probably approximately eight thousand questions to ask of this venture, and yet all that bubbles up into my head when I ponder life on Mars is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyeballs popping out. And c’mon, that didn’t look real at all. Not that I’ve ever seen anyone’s eyeballs pop out from exposure to the Martian atmosphere but, you know, c’mon. Plasticine, and the weather turning, I don’t trust it. To take another example I went out to the shed to check and the hinge had rusted frozen, that quick, and I couldn’t get in. I was going to use the sledgehammer to bust it open but of course it was in the shed, along with the claw hammer and the ball peen hammer. Then as I contemplated next moves I got sidetracked into wondering what a ‘peen’ was, and went to look it up. It turned out to be not an ‘it’ but an ‘is’. A verb, I mean. If you’re peening something it means you’re wacking at it, the it being a metal something. Like after welding, say to cut down on the old tensile stress. Very important, I’m sure.

That’s when I noticed, cocking my ear away from the screen, that ‘I Like Mountain Music’ was still on repeat. ‘You can’t beat “Turkey in the Straw”, by cracky!’, Roy Acuff said, for the hundredth time. So I found ‘Turkey in the Straw’ online, by the ‘Original’ Schnickelfritz Band, and listened to it, and thought about what might beat it. A ball peen hammer perhaps. Then I went back out to the shed, and the hinge, thinking ‘By god, by god. That’s me all over. The bent hats, the flannel, the ill-placed saxophone. “Turkey in the Straw”, c’est moi.’ And I found a big stone, looking like it was river-smoothed, or had the edges worn off of it by the power of Julia Kristeva’s analytics, which is just the sort of thing she would do, and I picked it up, heavy in the hand, heavy as seven fully loaded staplers, maybe eight, and I just winged it at the hinge. I missed, though, should have stood closer really, and it went crashing off through the woods, which is what we like to call the hedgerow between our house and the neighbor’s, and made a noise like the shattering of glass.

I thought again about those boys in the barn. Something was wrong; played it back in my mind they just didn’t look right. It bothered me, and so I went back inside to look it up. ‘S-C-H-N-I-C-K’, I typed, ‘E-L-F-R-I-T-Z.’ I needed to know. Sure enough, weren’t they a band put together for a Busby Berkeley bit with Rudy Vallee in it? This left me somewhere, though I wasn’t quite sure where, and so I went out to look for the stone. I pushed through the hedgerow, earning a few stripes from the thicket within and, once safely through to the other side and pressed up against the neighbor’s house, saw that the stone had come to a rest, perfectly, on the floor next to the sofa in my neighbor’s living room. Suddenly I wanted it back. I noticed that my neighbor himself was taking a nap on that very sofa and so I tipped my head through the window, careful not to bring my cheek or neck in contact with any of the jagged edges of glass therein, which I found to be quite a dangerous thing to let hang around, and I shout-whispered ‘Buddy!’ (I never had learned his name.) ‘Psst! Hey buddy!’ I said. ‘Wake up, huh? That’s my stone there.’ But nothing. To be honest I would wonder about him, though. Anybody that would let a big pulpy mess like that fester on his head while just sitting around in the middle of the day napping has got problems if you ask me.

So I reached through the window, minding again the jagged bits, and unlocked his window before pushing it up the frame, damn shards falling and lodging in my hand, some of them. I stuck that hand in my armpit to do its stanching then rolled on in. The crunching sound I heard I knew immediately was more bad news. Man is cursed. More shards of glass. What is wrong with people today? The stone was still there, though, and so I got up and grabbed it. I was tossing it up to myself, catching it, trying to cheer up my neighbor, or wake him, or anything really, badly as he kept his house, wanting to remain on friendly terms, when in comes this woman, typically hysterical, waving her arms and shouting incoherently, kind of hopping from one foot to the next as if she couldn’t decide if she wanted to leave or stay. Women. Having had enough at that point, I waved goodbye to them both with my rock and took my leave back through the window, not that either of them responded in any sort of cordial way, the one screaming and shouting the guy’s name (Phil? Bill? It was hard to tell), while the other just carried right on with his nap. Society is deteriorating, that much is clear. Julia Kristeva probably pointed something like that out at some point, I’m sure, finger flat on the pulse she got and all. Well at least I guess I know now who won’t be coming to dinner. No thanks. I’ll just stick to me YouTube in the Straw and Roy Acuff on repeat.

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WEEK SEVENTY

Language is a body and violence can be done to it, particularly with punctuation, and nothing is quite as punctilious punctuationwise as an aposiopesis. An aposiopesis, we learn, is a written equivalent of the ‘becoming silent’ – signalled at the end of the beginning of a thought on one hand by a dash to denote the violent cutting off of words, and on the other hand by an ellipsis, or a ‘falling short’, for the loss of will, the joke with no punchline, the failure to complete…

Examples?

Aposiopesis

‘Is that a dagger which I see before me? Why I nev–’

Ellipsis

‘Huh. When I put it down, over there, in the drawer, in the hallway table, the one outside the kids’ room, I could have sworn, I was definite in fact, that the, that the safety…’

Aposiopesicide

Aposiopesis Maximus

So where the dash is a dagger to the heart of the sentence, the ellipsis is three neat spots of blood trickled from its personhood, signalling its waning strength. And why three? Why always three? From whence came our love of the trio? Why is something not complete until the introduction of the third, while we walk on two legs and the beasts of the land walk on four? Yes a stool is unstable until comes the third leg, and everything after is superfluous, but can you see a three-legged peacock? You can not.

Why three when we couple in twos? Why tack on the holy ghost when the father and the son would have been fine on their own? What are the origins of the three? It’s three blind mice, and three wise monkeys, and three sheets to the wind (those being only three examples). Why are three cuff buttons on a man’s jacket the essence of elegance?

Yet one tries to picture an ellipsis made of only two points, and it is too horrible to imagine, too horrible.. Similarly, try to think of a sentence stunted by a hyphen rather than the mighty em-dash—I mean, wha-

The ingloriousness of it – like death by toothpick. Just ask Sherwood Anderson, who died after swallowing an hors d’oeuvre avec un cure-dent. It slashed his pouch to pieces. We don’t know how many.

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WEEK SIXTY-SIX

The project is to think about the last novel ever written. Before we’re burnt up, or the atmosphere suffocates the remaining few, or language finally just dissolves into characters. One would hope that it would hang out for a while at the top of the best seller list before we go but there’s every chance it would fizzle from the start. Here Be Dragons it would be called, but the plot would let the name down. Not fantasy, as you might expect, but a torrid little piece of realism. Reviews would be mixed. Animals would feature large – nature worship, that sort of thing. It would be fairly dark. Racial tension will be a major theme, but not in the way you’d think. Have you ever read the Decameron? It wouldn’t be a million miles away from that.

Which reminds Knit – has it been brought to the attention of the general populace by anyone else that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is named D. Cameron? This works for us. A group of wealthy men and women flee the plaguèd city to drink wine and tell each other titillating stories to while away the time until the storm blows over, clearing the dregs away. Fiesole in this instance would be replaced by Chipping Norton. But then you knew that.

Actually, forget what we were saying earlier. The project is no longer to think about the last novel on Earth. It is now to write a series of stories as told by the Chipping Norton set about the end of the world, or, if you’d rather, the downgrading of the UK from AAA status to DD. 34. Oh yeah. We would also accept submissions of said stories in comic novel format. Expect prizes. But not from us. We are a charitable organization. Not unlike the Chipping Norton set, come to think of it. Give give give.

While we’re here and we’ve got you thinking – one of the Knits a stinK interns recently made a lewd proposal, that if Scotland wants so badly to secede from the Kingdom, and Northern Ireland seems to have been abandoned by all parties, wouldn’t the two of them ever consider joining forces and forming their own country? We had to let our intern go, sadly, because of his lack of diplomacy, but he did have a point. Think about it: the Giant’s Causeway used to connect the two lands until a misunderstanding between Finn MacCool and Benandonner brought it down; they have very similar weather; the one was once a center of industry and the other has a history of producing inventors; they both make quality grain liquor. Complete no brainer. [Topic for later posting: what exactly is a ‘no brainer’?]

This arrangement would give you two handsome couples within these islands [England and Wales (leafy, slated), and Scotland and Northern Ireland (rugged, industrious)], alongside one happy bachelor. Imagine the dinner parties. We of course will have to come up with new names for both E+W and S+NI. Not wanting to go for anything too fancy, the Knits a stinK board put forward the following portmanteaus, respectively: England and Wales, meet Wangland; Scotland and Northern Ireland, say hello to Sculster. That would be Scotland+Ulster to those not in the know. Although aware that Northern Ireland≠Ulster, it is our view that sacrifices will have to be made for the sake of the greater good. Ask David Cameron what the greater good is. He can tell you.

Which brings us back to the Decameron, and the fact that many people would be interested to see what David Cameron might look like in a cotehardie and wig. Knits a stinK is pleased to oblige. Presenting the premier of romantic love:

Il DecameronUPDATE: It has been brought to our attention by more than one of our five-and-counting readers that this image may be interpreted by some as depicting David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the act of wooing the Republic of Ireland, who, they point out, appears not to be uninterested. This was in no way our intention, and we deeply regret any suffering this may have caused. We thank you for your continued patronage and hope to be able to tempt you back for future postings despite this and past transgressions.

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WEEK FIFTY-SIX

Knits a stinK has been doing a lot of thinking lately about the development of Western civilization. We’ve been reading book(s), trying to figure this out, looking to take a stand somewhere or other, to have a viewpoint, and with the power of reflection it seems to us that there are a few strands that stick out and beg to be pulled. We present to you here a certain few motes that have filtered through the cheesecloths of our minds. Juice features large, as does the colo(u)r purple (although not necessarily at the same time), when it comes down to encapsulating this place, this idea, we have come to know as Europe. Galileo pops up once or twice as well, as is his wont – putting the ‘perv’ in ‘impervious’ – as does Tyre, which is the symbolic starting point for old heart Europe.

Tyre, you see, which is currently located within the borders of Lebanon, and known by them as ‘Sour’, is the historic birthplace of Europa, that saucy lass that tempted Zeus to steal her away to Mt Olympus or wherever, disguised as a bull (Zeus that is, not Europa). One of the first horns of a dilemma. The Tyre king must not have been too happy. This was well before Helen went the other direction, don’t you know.

Europa coined.

PLUS, Tyre was well known in those days as a center for the production of purple. Our friend legend has it that some dude was walking along the Levantine seaside with his dog, when he (the dog) got a wild hair and bounded after a band of sea snails. Well apparently the dog came back and Heracles (who may or may not have been Hercules) cranked open the animal’s mouth for some ancient reason and saw that it was stained this lovely shade, falling in the range between dried blood and the colo(u)r of the sky in the last moments before night.

Well didn’t old Heracles think that was a hoot. And didn’t he show the King of Tyre, and didn’t the King of Tyre say to himself, that’s a shade I wish to associate myself with. Myself and no one else. I will be the King of Snails, and people will see me and say, ‘That sea snail-colo(u)red man is one powerful being, that much is obvious, I think I might just bow to him when he passes,’ but with a Tyrian accent, and it will be good. The lore unfortunately does not give us the fate of the dog with the snail-stained gob, or whether he became the King of Dogs for his brief time, or whether there passed a fashion or a passion for chewing on snails, or whether that was limited to a certain, very rarefied set of mutts, who trotted around with their mouths wide open as proof of their lineage. We’re guessing this is just what happened, though.

And was Europa wearing purple when Zeus, that randy old fellow, fell for her? I would say so. She was the King’s daughter, after all. Hello Princess Europa. Bye bye Phoenicia. Thanks for all the snails. The Tyrians used to collect them, and put them in pots, the snails – just after the rising of the Dog star – and boil them all up in saltwater, until they had their lovely liquor of Tyrian purple.

That’s the story about how a bunch of snails lured Western civilization out of the Fertile Crescent. Not very likely, is it? But it is etched in stone, so who are you to argue? Anyway, back in Europe a few thousand years pass with little incident, and this guy named Galileo Galilei Galilea* is looking up at the heavens through a tube, and what does he discover? Why Europa, of course, up there dancing around her fat friend Jupiter. And sure isn’t Jupiter just Zeus in yet another disguise, this time as the head of the Roman clan, who had stolen the purple torch from the Greeks? And so Galileo was burned at the stake for finding her out once again, a punishment meted by Zeus/Jupiter himself, no doubt, and afterwards there was another boring period for 400 years or so, at which point Europe suddenly remembered again where she was.

But this time when they looked they had some seriously advanced tubes, and what they saw at the other end was what looked to be an icy sphere. Europa, the revolving Ice Queen. And so back home on Earth her continent, recently united, cobbled together a space system for the sole purpose of sending out what they coined the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (giving us, in a very roundabout way, the acronym ‘JUICE’, though it looks to us that it should be JIME, but then of course that don’t jive). JUICE is the spaceship they plan to send to visit Europa in 2022, to break the ice in 2030. I suppose the reason they wanted their acronym to spell ‘juice’, is for what they think might lie beneath the ice – water. And what might be in that water? Life. The greatest juice of them all. And wouldn’t that be something? Europa, that tricky beast, never fails to surprise.

*To be sung to the tune of ‘The Happy Wanderer

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