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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 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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WEEK FIFTY

Some of the guys in the office thought we should enter our fiftieth week with a big bang, and I was out-voted, so we teamed up with the Inevitable Press to give you this:

What do you mean, ‘What is it?’? It’s a goatscape. Let me see if I can’t arrange for a few close-ups:

Whoever said we don’t love you?

We unfortunately haven’t been able to hook up the audio for this post (to the great displeasure of our librettist), but I thought it would probably go something like this:

climbing up goat moun-

tain they go,

bleating

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WEEK FORTY-THREE

That when (again) she was nearly asleep she experienced a bodily jolt, and that this jolt was the result of her soul attempting to exit her body, and that her body found itself in disagreement, in principle, with the move. Question: is consciousness separate from the soul? A third element?

Body snatching at the soul as it leaves, like snagging a fish on a hook. That the body’s barbs entangle, and that the soul be in danger of becoming torn. That the hypnic jerk be a preamble for a falling dream, smash up or no smash up, and not a part of the REM cycle, and therefore not even a dream. That it exists in limbo land. That there is a place between consciousness and unconsciousness – a grey matter area – and it is falling.

That when (on occasion) her soul is able to sneak bodily away, on quieter nights, it wanders the smoky streets. Question: does soul get bored? Have expense account at local market? Buys what?

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WEEK FORTY-ONE

To Oxford I went, to meet a wordsmith. Though he is fairly well known amongst certain circles, and anyone in the industry will undoubtedly be able to guess rather quickly who he is, this wordsmith insisted that he remain unnamed in my account. He will, therefore, at his own suggestion, be referred to herein as ‘Ink Stain’ or, more familiarly, ‘Inky’.

Our meeting was arranged by Mr Stain to be held, no doubt with a certain amount of aplomb, at the Oxford Conservative Club. He met me within the gates, in full tweedy regalia. ‘I don’t suppose you noticed on the way in that the flag flies at half mast?’ he asked, leading me through the hall and into the murky depths of the club. ‘Tis always thus,’ he added, with a grand flourish, before whispering behind his hand, ‘Mourning the Empire!’

Inky’s own empire is founded upon a single, simple idea. Having already established for himself a reputation as a producer of cleverly turned phrases, he was approached by regents of a small engineering firm who were looking to name their latest invention. Always a few steps ahead of the crowd, his big break came from China. They wanted dams – lots of them – but they had a problem. Apparently some very well-connected, ichthyophyllic sop in the upper administration of the People’s Republic was trying to put a kibosh [which, Inky was unable to resist adding, apparently comes from an Irish phrase, caip bháis, meaning ‘death cap’] on the whole operation, as they would disturb the breeding patterns of migratory fish. Unable to imprison this pesky pisci, they had reached a rather brilliant compromise of an engineering solution. To each dam was added a water ferry, a vehicle for transdamportation, similar to one you might find in a canal and now, ever-mindful of the power of words (and of English specifically), they wished to crown their great achievement with a title.

Extravagant full-page advertisements were taken out in all of the largest trade magazines that served the coining industry, promising riches and parades to whomever might be able to come up with a name worthy of this triumph of ingenuity, this present to the people, this demonstration of the generosity and kindness displayed, as always, by the leaders of the Party. The reaction of the smithing community was unsurprisingly overwhelming; official reports from the Chinese stated that they received more than 10,000 submissions for the competition. They also said that, once they had seen the eventual winner, all others were washed away in a tide of no.

The Carp Ark. When we hear it today it fails to inspire as much admiration as it once did, mostly because it resides at the tip of the great cone of coinings that followed it; it is the Ur. To revive the excitement it engendered, it helps to revisit his supporting statement, wherein he spun an ancient (and previously non-existent) fable. Carp, it said, were once worshipped in China, and nowhere more so than the provincial hamlet of Koi (錦鯉), stashed amongst the mountainous region of Qinghai. The carp in Koi was king. So much so that the city was actually built around a central water feature, which legend held had once been a pond little bigger than a puddle that, many eons ago, was come acrost by a lost wanderer (if wanderers can ever be lost). The young wanderer, ragged of clothes, was dying of thirst after having traversed the high dry mountains, and upon seeing the pond, fell to her knees and greedily began to slurp the soupy water through cupped hands.

‘Halt!’ she heard, ‘Who drinks my home?’ When the wanderer looked up she saw a mouth and some whiskers poking from the surface of the pond.

‘It is I, a lonely wanderer,’ said the wanderer. ‘And if you will allow me to ask a question as well, what is a cat doing living in a pond?’

‘Although I am whiskered, no cat am I,’ said the mouth. ‘Instead I am a fish, the wisest of all fishes, and if you will cease gulping down my house I will tell you many wondrous things. In return for revealing to you the secrets of existence, all I ask is that you fortify my home.’

And so the wanderer, who didn’t have much better to do anyway, pulled down several saplings to weave a basket, gathered the stones of the highest integrity into a pile, ground gypsum of the hills and mixed it with clay to make a spackle. Around the humble pond she began to construct a wall, wider and wider and higher and higher, all the while taking instructions and encouragement from the mouth in the water. ‘I will make you queen of my kingdom,’ he told her, though the wanderer was contented mostly with a job well done, even if her back did now ache.

With the wall complete she sat upon it, smoking dried herbs she had gathered from valleys traveled over many moon-cycles, and she waited for rain. When it came it came with a fury. As the wanderer took spare shelter beneath the boughs of a nearby tree, the fish leaped through the torrent, grown strong enough to swim up into the clouds, laughing and shouting as it ascended and returning only with the big few final drops.

Once the storm had passed the wanderer politely asked, ‘So what’s it all about, then?’

‘Why, what would you do with all of the riches of the mind if you had no one to share it with? Build a town around me, and gather people, so that you may spread the word amongst them. You will name it after me – Koi.’

The wanderer once again obeyed the wishes of the fish, and over the course of many years the humble houses she built were filled by fellow former vagrants. Half of each year’s harvest would go over the walls to feed the all-knowing one, and all the while the fish grew and grew, until once again it became crowded within its watery confines.

One day, when she was satisfied that she had developed the town sufficiently, the wanderer called the people of the town to assemble before its inner walls so that they might bear witness to the mysteries of life unraveled. She climbed upon the wall and stood so that she would be able to best deliver the wisdom.

‘Fish!’ she called out, ‘Great fish! Tell us about it.’

The fish splashed and grunted and complained. ‘Too crowded!’ he said. ‘Need more room!’

And so the wanderer led her people in erecting a second walled circle, twice as high as the first. This new wall was vast enough to include nearly the entirety of the town. As the rainy season rapidly approached they moved as much of their belongings and as many of the people as they could through the last remaining gap, which they had only barely closed before the first violent raindrops began to land. The remaining inhabitants of the village watched from under a ledge on a nearby hill as their homes were swallowed by water. The fish rolled over onto his back at the surface, letting his big belly be pummeled, and leapt playfully over the disappearing roofs.

The Koians were too busy rebuilding their town, and too tired, over the course of the next few years to bother Koi about his secrets, so he was free to grow quietly fatter and longer. Whenever he knocked over one of the abandoned buildings in his enclosure he would flip its stones over the walls with his tail, quite often flattening a dog or a villager, and to this they became as accustomed as to the seasons.

The next time the wanderer went upon the wall she had to be hoisted by a pair of younger Koians, for her bones had become brittle from age and toil. ‘We are weary, oh Koi,’ she said, ‘but ready to receive your wisdom.’ She and the villagers stood and blinked in anticipation, and the great fish blinked back at them, waving whiskers that were by now many times the length of a man.

‘I hold the secrets to life inside of me, as I always have,’ he said, his voice the rumble of thunder through the mountains. ‘If you wish still to be enlightened, you know now where to find them.’ He lifted his head fully above the surface, mighty cascades of water falling from his cheeks and his gills, bringing his lower lip to rest against the wall, then opened his mouth wide, so that it resembled the mouth of a giant cave. The wanderer turned her tortoise face to the crowd and called, ‘Come now, the answer awaits.’ And so they followed her into the cave, every last one of them, until the village was empty, and Koi closed his mouth once more, and slipped back into the water.

He was immensely pleased with the outcome of his plan, but his greed was his ruin. Grown once more so that his tail and his whiskers were forever brushing the walls of his home, he was left without anyone to move them out once more. And he struggled and burbled and filled all Qinghai with his wails, but no wanderers came to loosen his belt. He grew and he grew, and soon his fin protruded from the water always, towering above the water like the remnants of a long-departed civilization. The walls began to creak and spring leaks and the water drew dangerously low, revealing more and more scales. Koi thrashed in agony and despair, tossing even more water beyond the walls, and he tossed and he rolled until, with one final flop of his tail, he burst the walls completely, and the water rushed out in one monumental gush, rolling down into the valley and carving a vast canyon as it went, and Koi breathed its last.

The Chinese government received this story with both hands, and presented it to its people as a cautionary tale of capitalist greed, just as Inky had predicted, but the Carp Ark made Inky very wealthy nonetheless, and continues to do so. He still uses his talent, but now gratis. He says that selling his art makes him feel ‘icky’. One of the earliest of these contributions to mankind was the motto, ‘Devon is in the details’, which he gifted to that county’s tourism board, in an effort, he says, to boost the economy.

The world owes this joke to Inky: ‘I took my car to the mechanic the other day. They had a sign outside that read, “Tires and exhausts”, and I thought to myself, “You know what, I don’t need this in my life right now,” and so I left. Since then my car broke down and I walk everywhere. Sure, I’m beat, but just imagine how bad it would have been otherwise.’

Inky is also fond of the odd aphorism, such as: ‘In the same way that “parties” is an anagram of “pirates”, it is true that a shell suit is not made from shells.’ Mostly, though, he spends his time riffing, in an (to be honest with you) often rather tiresome way. ‘Take the word “inclement” versus the word “increment”, for example,’ he began, as we started into our silver service tea. ‘Increment (discrete), sounds like the act of compartmentalization, as does the word compartmentalization, whereas inclement, as in weather, if indeed the word is ever used for any other descriptive purpose, should mean an unselective hurdling and throttling – an “excrement storm”, if you will.’ Bewildering.

He continued later on (at length) about ‘Tarasalamata – one of the world’s greatest words. Its coiner was almost certainly drunk with roe. One just wants it to keep going and going, the soft ‘a’ being our most appealing sound, bouncing around those consonants. Think ‘mama’, or ‘papa’. The Greeks really know where it’s at. Though really, Malaga: that’s where the best tarasalamata must be made. Malaga tarasalamata papadapalapadas aparantalasa. Heaven. Then there’s “salami”, cut short in its prime, or “spanikopita”, also wonderful for its alternating, palindromic vowels: a-i-o-i-a, nice and even, that. Ah yes.’

Tips were offered as well, for those seeking inspiration in coinage or otherwise: ‘It is a well-known fact that the best ideas come just before one falls asleep. Let us set a scenario: you’re in your bed, drifting off.’ He closed his eyes and twiddled the dust motes with his fingers. ‘Lamplight filters through a gap in the curtains, tracing the edges of your laundry, the whites, which is draped over a series of inter-laced hangers hooked onto the upper ledge of your dresser drawers in such a fashion that it appears to be leaping, headless and dislimbed. Your mind, puzzled, pauses in the final stages of shutting down for the evening. Your body is insistent but still the mind resists; it wants this thing described.

What is it? Is it:

a) The skinned cow of a ghost

b) The ghost of a skinned cow, or

c) The cow of a skinned ghost, which it milks with vapourous fingers?’

I’ll spare you his conclusion.

He talked about fluffy planets, told me what apple pie beds were, and came up with what he says is the final answer for the economic crisis in Britain (which involved leasing naming rights for Bank Holiday Mondays to the banks themselves, for annual multi-billion-pound fees), and, eccentric to his core, he ended our interview by rising from the table, tipping his hat to me, and walking out without a word. Good old Inky. His like will never come again.

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WEEK THIRTY-EIGHT
Happiness! Joy! Elation! Jubilation! Avarice! Spectacles! Fantasmagorical emanations! Rosehip pilafs! Garrulous displays of affection! Pewter computers, with which to celebrate the coming of the next technical phase! Boisterisms! Fecund arrays: wealth and riches, riches and wealth! Endless pirouettes! Endless, endless pirouettes, as though ’twere a drill into a board!

Miraculous extensions of livelihood come down to us. Show us your ways. Give us tablets. Gulp down your fill. If this be fantasy let it remain so.

The editorial staff at KaK have recently finished reading The Greenlanders, by Jane Smiley, and it has done odd things to our brains. It was a very long book, for one, as such a tale must be, and it enveloped the entire editorial team for the length of more than a month. We feared we would not see them again, that they were lost forever to the cold beaten land that is 14th-century Greenland, but they did finally emerge. What follows covers a mere fraction of their report:

Within the book there comes a phrase from the mouth of one character to describe another, a man who had learned the art of writing in a latter stage of his life. We didn’t note the page number so we paraphrase: ‘Such a skill is like a deep hole, in which many other useful skills are lost.’ Jane put it much better than we have, but you get the gist. It reminds one of the popular saying which compares a boat to a hole in the water into which you throw your money.

Let us reflect now, on that which has been lost: boat building, for one, as well as maintenance; plumbing; hunting and trapping; accountancy. There is surely more. It is difficult to know that which never was.

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WEEK TWENTY-NINE

In which we review the highlights of existence. Why can’t one let one’s self go all chimpanzee? So one wants to jump onto a heightened structure and hoot as a way of announcing one’s dominance over one’s perceived enemies: why should we frown? But if one wears shoes, one’s feet becomes more tender, requiring more for the fact that one must need to don said shoes. A panderitious cycle of ever-softening softness. Light us up a candle, Gary. We’re going to toast us some marshmallows.

Moving on to the delicacy of pronunciation. As a person who lives in a place which is not the place near which I was born, I often get razzed on how I say me my words. ‘This is correct,’ they imply, ‘and that is incorrect.’ Poop fiddles. We’ve been here before. Sure, wasn’t it Tacitus who said, ‘Let’er rip any which way you want’em’? I say again, poop fiddles. What is the difference, for example between a ‘bird’ and a ‘beard’? Bad example, perhaps. Birds and beards and boards are all specific representations of themselves. The bard writes of a bird with a beard on a board because he knows what’s what.

And also, Knits a stinK will shortly be going on a mosquito-collecting expedition across the wild boundary waters of Minnesota. Paddle battle galore. If you never read from me again, let force be known that I fought the good fight with the moose. For every action is a noble action in the mind, and those that will submit to the ever-pressing need of the romantic intellect shall be acknowledged to the world, and the world will be grateful. Thank you, end unto end.

Others amongst you will be asking what point I have in dwelling in the manners of the absurd, and for you I have no answer, except for the following:  

High on a hill was a lonely goat turd, Yodelay-ee-yodelay-ee-ee-hee-hoo.

But why? Why a goat turd? What was it doing there, and why does it deserve highlighting? I for one am disturbed at the ease with which this sort of sentiment is consumed by the general populace. We must remain even-tempered, however. We must take everything for the value of its face. There has to be some reason why this has gripped our people to such an extent. So we will put ourselves there: we will become the goat turd, so lonely.

What exactly does it mean, for example, to be at such an elevated point, higher most likely than anything else within the eye’s range, buffeted by the wind, cold and afraid, all-seeing but having no one with whom to share? You, the turd, must wonder where all of the other turds have made off to; rolled down the hill, most likely. There’s probably piles of them congregating down in the valley. Gravity plays terrible tricks. So why have you, the lonely turd, been singled out, to find yourself balanced atop the precipice, superior to all, equal to none, so turd-like in your being: unique, irreplaceable, effervescent? What right have you?

And now you see. Now you see what we have to deal with. I’m off to canoe.

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