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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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The original idea was just to put it in single quotes. Simple enough – it was just a word. Looking back it’s hard to tell at what point it started snowballing. Things often happen so incrementally that you don’t notice it’s a problem until it’s too late, and then what do you do? Do you admit it to yourself or just move on like everything’s hunky dory?

Flapping

Hunky dory, now that’s a phrase. David Bowie liked it, apparently. The ‘Phrases’ website reckons it was first put down in words back in the mid 19th century by a blackface musical group in the US called ‘The Christy Minstrels’, who they suspect had Irish roots. So there you go, race-based issues. Stay away from that one. Just like Topsy, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin – which is another one: Knits heard the phrase ‘grew like Topsy’ the other day, and thought ‘wha?’. Well according to Wikipedia scholars it all started with a young slave girl in UTC named Topsy, who when asked where she came from responded ‘I s’pect I growed. Don’t think nobody never made me.’ From there the phrase ‘growed like Topsy’ eventually auto-corrected into ‘grew like Topsy’, and morphed from its original meaning to somehow denote monstrous growth. Poor Topsy, she’d be massive by this stage, all topsy-turvy (no relation).

But yeah, problems, we got’em. Jack of all trades, master of none. You know that was apprently the judgement used for the first published mention of William Shakespeare, in a book called Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit? Always good to get your groats-worth. Knits pictures a man called Jack working at AllTrades, an online hedge fund startup (Knits doesn’t understand what hedge funds are), who becomes a Master of Nuns. His story could be in the 50 Shades of Grey series. Additionally, did you know that a ‘groat’ is a hulled grain? It’s a great word, we think. Really, anything that rhymes with ‘goat’ will do it for us: oat, smote, float, dote, note, wrote, coat, boat – there are probably others.

But we know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about John o’ Groats, up there near the tippy-top of Britain. But no, that town was not named after Mr o’ Groats, the miller. It was actually named for some Dutch guy, Jan de Groote, who owned the ferry that whipped back and forth between Scotland and Norway in the early 16th century. So yeah he must have run a pretty tight ship, because they went and named the place after him, after slapping a little ‘o’ a distance from his ‘Groats’, with an apostrophe to make sure that never the twain should meet. Also, people from there are known as ‘Groatsers’.

There is nothing to be said about this except that we at Knits would like to commission an epic poem centering on these facts, if facts are what they are. Overall it makes us hungry. Our grandmother (we have shared grandmothers) used to tell us that the idea of being ‘tight-fisted’ came from frugal Scots who washed their groats in the river, keeping a hard grasp so as not to lose a one. This explanation satisfied us greatly, and continues to do so. People really thought a lot about their groats back in the day, and we believe that this should be brought back into fashion. Williamsburg: pay attention.

We were talking about nesting, though, weren’t we? And what were we saying about it? Oh yeah, it had gotten out of control, with the quotation marks and all. Which reminds us: did you know that some people over here on this portion of the globe call quotation marks ‘inverted commas’? That blows our little brains clear out into Neil de Grasse Tyson’s cosmos. Speaking of which did you see him flying all over the damn universe in his lunatic space machine? That thing just looked – wrong. We’d have it put in quotation marks, so we would. We’d nest it in a sea of quotation marks to protect it against the harsh cold rays of space (if that’s how it works – we had the sound turned off when we watched it). Plus it makes a person wonder how that space machine is meant to be powered. Why not via inverted comma fuel? Seems as good as anything else. You imagine him now in his space machine surrounded by what seems to be an infinite number of quotes, flapping like wings, or squiggling out into the black nothingness like exhaust fumes. Again, we’re not quite sure how this works, but if it could somehow be fit into the epic poem on groats and o’ Groats that would be great. Though it would probably work better as a limerick. To take one example from many:

There was a young man from o’ Groats
Who seemed to have misplaced his notes
A lady walked by with a glint in her eye
And he asked her to please hold his groats.

No. That makes no sense. Plus, where’s the quotes? Wait –

There was a young man from o’ Groats
Who held his great love between quotes
She asked him then why, but he didn’t reply
And she ended up –

What? Eating his groats? No, it has to be dirty, doesn’t it? Or is that dirty? This isn’t that kind of blog either way, though. Plus, where did Neil and his space machine go? Poetry is tough.

And what if commas weren’t the only thing inverted? Why stop there, we mean to say. The Spaniards invert their exclamation points and their question marks, so why shouldn’t we? Noblesse oblige, but our computers don’t make it easy for us Anglophones. The time for revolution is now. Or perhaps after lunch. (Ham sandwich, pesto pasta, side salad, two cups of coffee, piece of tart, bill please.)

But what originally made us start on this topic was a mental image (We share mental images here also. It’s a mental cloud. You should try it – it’s pretty great.) of a little word, maybe any word at all, sitting like a hatchling in an escalating nest of quotation marks. To wit:

‘owl’
‘‘owl’’
‘‘‘owl’’’
‘‘‘‘owl’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’’’’’
‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘‘owl’’’’’’’’’’’

We used ‘owl’ in order to extend the metaphor and facilitate visual stimulation. And because owls never sleep. You think they’re sleeping, but they’re not, they’re just thinking, hard. (Also, here’s a yet-to-be-hatched owl: (owl).)

But it got out of control. Soon we were putting inverted commas around anything that moved. It was chaos. We had no idea who was saying what anymore. All of our conversation started to muddle and blend like a delicious cocktail except without the ice. We were afraid. (Well, some of us were ‘afraid’, I’m afraid.) They were confusing times.

We’re better now, though. And we learned a lot in the experience. We learned that children should respect their parents, and that birds are the most wonderful things that were ever created because they used to be dinosaurs and now they get to fly pretty much anywhere they want, kind of like Neil de Grasse Tyson.

Anyway, bring on the summer. Good luck, and send us money.

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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-SEVEN

So this village was being harrassed by a wolf. For ‘harrassed’ read ‘eaten’. And for ‘town’ read the lovelily named ‘Gubbio’. Sounds nice and round and fleshy, doesn’t it? Well neither was this lost on the wolf. Thing was coming back for seconds and thirds for villager, delicately cured in olive oil and sage. Delicious.

Eventually the villagers, who were not at all pleased with this arrangement, grabbed their pre-modern weapons and went to stave the wolf’s head in, but it just laughed at them. And then ate them. It was a poor situation for the Gubbians. The Gubbiani. They were getting eaten alive out there, and as pleasant as Umbria can be in the springtime, the winter is as harsh as you like it, particularly when key members of the populace are being consumed by wildlife.

Well Francis heard about this, and he said, ‘I will reason with the beast.’ And so he went to the Gubbio Municipal Library and checked out every book they had on the Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Canidae Caninae Canini Canis lupus. He learned its language, which consisted mostly of howling and growling, and basically tried to figure out what its freaking problem was, what was its beef. He completely wolfed out, in other words.

And so Francis went a walking, armed with knowledge and staff, wolf-whistling all the way (this is Italy, remember). And the wolf smelled him, or heard him, or whatever it is wolves do, and came dashing out from the woods, all snarls and slobber, getting ready to eat the living daylights out of this guy. Francis, though, he was one serious interspecific peace negotiator, a real diplomat. He takes his staff, and he grabs it with both hands, and he jams it down into the earth before him, all Gandalf-like, and he says ‘Nuh uh.’ (in Wolf).

Well this just plain confused the wolf. He took a seat a mere few feet away and tilted his head off to one side, in a manner approximating cute, just to think about it for a bit. He was rabid, yes, but he was not incautious. And so he sat and foamed, while Francis just stood there, gripping his staff, smelling of human.

And that, unfortunately, is where the historical record cuts off, rather abruptly. There does remain this one drawing of the event, though:

Francis and the Wolf

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WEEK SIXTY-FOUR

This post is in accordance with EU law 57-E5273, which states that all websites must make mention of birds or bird-related topics at least once a month, by penalty of death by pecking.

Today we speaka Pica pica, the bird so nice they named it twice. Except the magpie isn’t nice. It’s cruel to other birds. It’s hurtful – one for sorrow. But boy what a beautiful bully. It recognizes itself in the mirror and don’t you forget it. ‘Oh yes,’ it says, mirror-facing, ‘looking good. Looking good.’ And just how does it keep its feathers so white? The white ones, that is.

And so now, in continuation with this particular site’s firmly-on-the-spectrum, distinctly magpie-like infatuation with repetition, we would like to propose that if the pica pica is the perfect specimen of the genus Pica, then Pica pica pica would be the name given to the most perfect magpie of them all. Bow before the Pica pica pica. (This magpie’s favorite child would then be known as Pica pica pica pica, naturally.)Pica Pica
Speaking of children, how about them Rothschilds? Who was this Roth whose kin did so well for themselves, his Rothschildren? They seem to this site to be fairly magpieish themselves (not that Knits has ever met any of Roth’s children. Assumptions, people, save time and lives), what with their tendency to hoard shiny objects, and their razor-sharp beaks. Luckily EU law 57-E5273 also guards against slander. Five for silver, six for gold.

Is David Lee Roth any relation, for example, and so entitled to his share of the family fortune? He does keep his feathers white, after all. How about Philip Roth, old happy pants himself? Hell hoth no fury like a writer scorned. Perhaps now that he has retired he might find his way back into the business. In reality, however, who cares, exactly? We’ll say it again: all hail the Pica pica.

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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-FOUR

I am putting forth for sale a new feminist paradigm. You will consider this a bargain, when you see what I am asking for it. All that is required is a simple search and replace.

[On a side note, ‘Search and Replace’ would make an excellent title for a TV cop show. Do they still make TV cop shows? If so I would like to offer this up for sale also.]

It’s simple folks. All words with ‘king’ in them will be replaced with ‘queen’. Please find examples below.

Words covering our most essential daily activities would be transformed: thinqueen, drinqueen, speaqueen. Banqueen, maqueen, worqueen and parqueen.

Yes, traditionally ‘feminine’ words would be given their due: baqueen and cooqueen, housebreaqueen and homemaqueen, but the new paradigm will apply also to words formerly more closely associated with the masculine world, words such as bloodsucqueen and earthshaqueen, wreaqueen and breaqueen, wrecqueen and rollicqueen – even viqueens themselves.

Yes, the crown weighs heavy on the head, but what does he wear beneath his robes?

This change will undoubtedly imbue conservative patriarchalists with a heartbreaqueen, sinqueen feeling, choqueen on the stinQueen, smoqueen remnants of self they thought they knew so well, forsaqueen all that was formerly dear, left licqueen their wounds.

But you, dear customer, shall be pleased.

Please contact me directly for new paradigm package deals: tobyscupper (at) gmail.com. Because you’re worth it.

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