Friday, October 13, 2006

Drawn and Faheyed

There’s something pejorative echoed at me when I think of that great leap of uncreative illustration taken by many philosophers as they crawl their tired cerebral cortex looking for apt and comprehendible imagery to showcase ruminations and conclusions. Forever the reader’s mental gaze is directed into a dire 18th century study, oozing with drab textures and moth-vomited entrails - an unpleasant topography, irrespective of the quality of the metaphysics being carved out in its interior. The writers table is always that object to be identified as “object”, to showcase the very mechanics of the ongoing deep inquiry. Leibniz (if I remember correctly) used to go mad for the wood grain and pencil shavings of his desk. Moulding out arguments for the existence of an omniscience will probably take it out of one’s cognitive faculties, so why not strike down as an example that which resides where you work?


Today’s more journeying philosopher can rest assured a plethora of physical vibrancy to purloin will present itself as he or she travels on a train, laptop in lap, producing a dialectic on why Wittgenstein’s entire philosophy is nothing beyond one hefty truism. The ever-shrinking globe means that the present’s hip, young deconstructionists need never be worried about a lack in nearby analogy material, or a jejune artefact to imbue with clichéd philosophical scrutiny.

Not that I place myself into that globe-trotting, anthropological adventuring, Levi-Straus on fifteen ecstasy, niche. I remain rather attached to the presence of a table. Comfort can be extracted from the stability of a wooden rectangle. Perhaps it’s a deep-rooted conservatism, suppressed under years of youthful idealism and leftist angst. The wafts of anarchy simply float over the rigidity of mahogany; it’s a superstructure impervious to the diatribes of rebellion. I think it was Phil K. Dick who said that a true police state needs no police – well the analogy is unequivocal, the table requires no totalitarian tactics as it receives no opposition. A Stalinist ideal that failed to uproot itself into the human psyche, but with the table, who would think to question a dominance created from inception and lasting till replacement with either another of its kin, or maybe some art-deco spheres.

On my table are a bunch of old Guardians, an issue of Bizarre, a dire (albeit free) Asian cinema magazine, the last issue of Sight & Sound and a quartet of books. One of these latter is an edited work by the name of British Horror Cinema, a collection of essays about the state of terror flicks from the UK, featuring such luminaries as a quiffed Mark Kermode and a mutton-chopped Kim Newman.

All is well and good, discussions abound about paganism as addressed onscreen, and how the dirty censors enjoy nothing more than ripping an eye-gouge here and a nipple-slice there out of an artwork. But what causes me to bring up this particular book is an odd occurrence to manifest itself towards the final pages.

‘Filmography of British horror films of the sound era’ is what is purported to linger after all the gothic essaying has run its course. This chronology is amassed with minimal factual details, neatly arrayed and nicely italicised. But what ascends its filmic body once 1992 is reached? Why it’s that virtual reality and cinematic innovation The Lawnmower Man, resting garrulously above the head of Burroughs/Cronenberg vehicle Naked Lunch. Whether either are indeed British films does not interest me at this moment. What does is the former film, which, as we’re all too aware, is one of the major achievements of Jeff Fahey. Or as I should say, as listed in this filmography, Jef Fahey.

Yes I know, I too was shocked. “There’s another one!?!” was the thought to ricochet in my head. The speculations and eminent turmoil bubbled the pus in my brain; I could sense my frontal lobe self-immolating as the infinite possibilities, both positive and negative, ran through my head like a juggernaut.

A quick communiqué to Mondo Towers added another layer to the expanding canopy of madness unfolding. The Duke, with hasty intellectual power and intuitive wisdom, was to conjecture the following: “What next? Jef Fayhey? Is there no end to it?”

A long fourteen hour slumber was necessary, so that I might return to the perplexing situation evolving around me. Dreams involving James Hetfield walking around, stealing the jewellery of the recently deceased, and my old neighbour trying to shoot me were punctuated by interpolations of rampaging hoards of Fahey, some afflicted with noticeable physical ailments limiting their individual rampaging.

Upon awaking, I took to examining the state of affairs. Taking one sheet of paper, I subdivided it into quarters, and on them wrote, ‘Jeff Fahey’, Jeff Fayhey’, ‘Jef Fahey’ and ‘Jef Fayhey’.

This was not the big epistemological breakthrough I had hoped it would be. But nevertheless it helped in quantifying things, and most often it’s best to get all known information on the table, literally.

A number of pessimistic hypotheses presented themselves to me, a collective of the stupid and the juvenile. Were these others giving Jeff Fahey the Elvis treatment, a tribute tinged with fears of self-identity? Subconscious neuroses led to these burlesque masks being created, where identification with Jeff Fahey overrides all other desires and urges. The need is not only to emulate him in the objective of amelioration of ones own persona, this is a need to actually be Jeff Fahey, far beyond mimicry. A transmogrification of innate instinct to that of someone else.

I decided quickly that this thesis was mired in idiocy. Switching to a different genre of inquiry, I posited that Jeff Fahey had somehow been divided into disparate parts, like a planet shattered by meteor impact into a multitude of rocky balls. Or perhaps like good Superman and bad Superman in Superman 3. However, in that film it was clear who the superior being was - with his sneering attitude and perpetual three-day beard, bad Superman made his opposite look like lame in the second and ubiquitous definition of the word.

What would these sub-Jeff Fahey fragments do? Try to coalesce with their origin? Get 9 to 5 jobs and settle down?

Whilst belabouring geometric equations, I realised that I had been coming at this conundrum from entirely the wrong angle. I hinted before of the spurious pessimism I had employed, well it had led me up the back alley of pseudo-intellectual masturbation. This impasse caused to me to revaluate the investigatory position I had been taking. Both my central hypotheses, while superficially of positive reflection on Jeff Fahey, had been, at their crux, a blatant negation of the man. That Jeff Fahey would demonise citizens of humanity by having them attempt to imitate his ways, that he would force such self-sacrifice is a unforgivable slur on him. Or, that his omniscient form could split so as to result in a scattering of traits and blue eyes across the plains of Earth, is an outright denigration. These things also imply a nefarious energy antagonistic to Jeff Fahey, whether or not acknowledged as such, something coercive and challenging presents itself in these scenarios. Each sacrilegious notion to hitherto have left my cerebellum was nothing more than a fascistic assault on the universal altruism as exhibited in Jeff Fahey. Good thing I came to my senses before it was too late!

I had also been dealing with things way too simplistically.

The Fahey paradox is: how can Jeff Fahey be one person onscreen yet be so many different existents outside of that medium? To put it basely, how can one be many? Well, this requires a particular level of interpretation and analysis. Also, I am not merely interested in elucidating on an inherent contradiction; I want to offer an alternative way of approaching the entire matter. For too long this has been an area for paranoiac rambling and perniciously-wrought treatises. I wish not to polemicize, nor to create the attempted-pragmatism of a manifesto; at least ostensibly, my aims are much more subdued and modest.

It is my contention that a dualistic two-way system is in place when the seeming-refraction of Jeff Fahey’s very ontological self occurs. Jeff Fahey is Jeff Fahey when depicted onscreen, whether that’s the big screen or, with more regularity, the televisual square.

Never have I come across a film that has purported to star one of the fraudulent variants. This is an important point, it leads us to assume by deduction that the problem must lie in the reception of such a singularity.

Something astonishing happens when the blue rays of Jeff Fahey’s eyes cast their illuminating power on an audience, or when his blonde locks cascading in the wind captivate an audience’s incredulity. A phenomenon ignites, tucked away out of the visual periphery of the nonchalant everyman; a subtle undertone actualised.

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges once wrote a story about a man writing Don Quixote in modern times, with complete authenticity and accuracy; less a remake, more a recreation, or a rebirth. The intimation being that a rewriting has as much validity as an original; through the mechanisms of subjectivity, a piece of work by default is imbued with originality.

Yes, this is only fictional philosophical pondering, but it has relevance for our pressing quandary. Allow me to point up another reference. In ‘Death of the Author’, Roland Barthes holds that when a work is read, it is the reader who conceives and constructs the contents, the intentions of the writer become negated, and he or she, by corollary, is annihilated as a benign superfluity. The work comes alive in, and via, the subjectivity of the audience. This of course is equally appropriate to the filmic arts; it too is a medium that acts as “the negative where all identity is lost.”

Jeff Fahey is complicit in a process of simultaneous negation and reification when he appears onscreen. In synchronicity to Barthes, Jeff Fahey is nullified as his original presence, while at the same time being revivified in the minds of the audience. This reanimated Jeff Fahey might appear as possessing alterations on the archetype, thus the result is a number of Jeff Fayheys and Jef Faheys. Each time a Jeff Fahey film is viewed, a new variant emerges from the internal viscera of the mind of the viewer.

These are no longer to be treated with disdain, or as a slanderous insult on Jeff Fahey. That it is a potentiality innate in the man - this elasticity of identity - is something that should be celebrated as far as I’m concerned. So, hark those window panes and bellow with fervour, end the vilification of humanity’s personal assemblage of Jeff Fahey, these ‘others’ have as much credibility as any a priori spectacle has.

I, too, was once replete with guilt over this fallacious and insulting assertion, culpability once noosed my proclamations, but I have since spun on my axis and flashed a chunk of back towards that baneful mode. You can also follow my example; put away those ‘Who the fuck is Jeff Fayhey?’ t-shirts, file down those machetes, slap a grin on your mug when someone reverberates the air with the tonalities of “Jeff Fahe”. And do not be afraid, in future, to decipher the cinematic marvels of Jeff Fahey in whatever way is natural to your own disposition, it is what he would want.