Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unsent Letters to Gary Busey: Letter 2 - Information Overabundance, the Agony of Thought & Ghost Rock

Dear Gary Busey,

I refuse to have any more thoughts. That’s it, I’m done with them. Niggling though they are – and it’s incessant, the thoughts always puncture the most innocent of my pleasures, from a stroll to the shop, to air drumming to Slayer – yet I can’t avoid the necessary and the desirable, for they must be cut adrift from my mind. It’s the only solution I can see. It’s a problem to be destroyed. Thoughts are open sores on the warped flesh of a day’s traversal. Dispel the distractions, melt down the mental pathways through which they move. Block the rising reflux of ideas and opinions, conclusions and propositions. Label them leprous, sully their existence, and charge them with crimes against importance.

I know your view, Gary Busey. You’ve lived an era free from thoughts. You exorcised the tyranny in one swift movement, and it was the cleanest defecation known to man. Scullion told me about it one day. Any mistakes or omissions are his fault.

You, Gary Busey, had spent many years chained to your thoughts. They’d come to you from afar, wave upon wave of speculation. Daylight sentience grew them in abundance. Twilight yawns tore rifts in reality, opening doors to the walk of ruminating madness. Senselessness observed night’s fecund flow – what made no sense had night bestow upon it a meaning in the propagation of thoughts.

Did you have a bad time of it? No doubt. A terrible plague had befallen you, Gary Busey. You were a captive of your own thoughts. You polluted conversations with your declarations and assertions. You even had the effrontery to translate your thoughts into writing. It was a dark time. Sheer reminiscence is almost enough to force tears upon me. But I will be strong, Gary Busey, I know that’s what you’d want. I also know the past is a shadow to you, a spectral quasi-presence that you really couldn’t give a fuck about. But humour me.

Languishing in the armpit of despair, hostage to the baggage of thought, you needed a cure, or some means of escape. Then it happened, an intervention organised by Keanu Reeves on the set of Point Break. In a show of support, the cast assembled on set, urging you to confront your problems and relinquish your addiction to thinking. Being a former addict himself, Reeves was the perfect man to give advice on how to suppress the need to think. His inspirational example of a life lived thoughtless proved overwhelming to you, Gary Busey. You broke down, the tears ran in heavy jets, the screams rendered all inaudible. Then courage hit. Dismantling all the craven ways of yore, you stood up, wiped the snot from your face, and started to shake your head. The shaking got more and more intense as shouts of support came from Reeves. As the shaking intensified, you started smacking the side of your head with your palm. The banging and self-violence continued a minute longer, then you fell to the ground in a spasm of dust and sticky head-goo. Reeves ran forward, lifting you up, consciousness slowly returning to your being. You looked around. Onlookers stared on, curious to know if the cure had worked. Then you said it: nothing. And the place erupted in raptures, your silence bringing tears to many. Reeves shook your hand and strode off into the horizon. You glared at him, you glared at the audience, you glared at the sky – all were one and the same to you. The treatment was a success, you were no longer shackled to the monster of thought.

It’s quite a tale, Gary Busey. I hope I was able to capture the magic of it. I dare say not even biblical prose could reach the levels of hyperbole needed to convey the importance of that moment.

Alas, until Keanu Reeves decides I’m fit to be saved from my thoughts, I will have to continue to live bearing the curse. I may refuse those thoughts, ignore their pleading, shun their heckles, damn the revelations to irrecollection, but plough forward they will. I have no defence. My fractured genes leave predisposed a personality unprotected against the injunction to think. To consider and to write are the promises of the information surplus. The vast infoscapes are multicoloured encouragements to create and contribute. Add to the mass, use what is deemed usable, delve into the relevant and reject the rest.

Evolution put us in a place where we take in all the information we can. Look about you, hear the audible, smell the odorous, touch all you can. Identify the threats, signal the eatable, take the useful. Hold in the mind’s eye a portion of earth freed from mystery. Enough for the senses to work, to exercise their genetic endowment. Information to be compiled on a limited scale, use of a limited lexicon, dissection of limited resources.

Now that portion of earth has changed beyond all recognition. Rather than gawk at a few stones, we see an endless stream of information in perpetual motion. Always being modified, always added to – magnifying in direct correlation to our own sense of insignificance. Gaze upon the history of everything, peruse the geographies of the micro and the macro; do it all, for now is the only present on offer.

The reactionary response is to criticise. It recommends ignorance and stupidity, obliviousness to the benefits of technological progress. The comprehension is nonexistent, the chance for technology to empower and free is disregarded. The right circumstances, the right uses, are both foreign concepts. Nothing’s neutral, but potential shines through the murk of cowardice and disinformation.

Sure our brains buckle at the thought of the internet’s gift to us – or rather, our gift to us, the gift we give each other, the gift we construct on a daily basis. The brain’s shortcomings are laid out naked in the heat of the internet’s infinite deluge. I know you, Gary Busey, you harbour few woes along these lines. But for the head set to maximum consumption it’s a difficult condition in which to live. Compulsion comes already preprogrammed into late capitalism’s push to buy and be the best consumer possible. The problem sees us lodged in the web of market logic, hearing only the bang bang of buy buy.

They’re dull considerations to you, Gary Busey, I know that. You’ve got no answers to offer me. I don’t write you in the hope of attaining answers. On the foregoing issues, I can discern all you’ve got to offer me from your performance in Ghost Rock.

Truly no better example can be found of just getting on with it. Your turn as Jack Pickett solidifies the absence of caring, it stands for action and not thought. Where’s reflection in the act of doing if not dead and buried in the past. There are no wasteful minutes spent asking the same tired questions, praying for something better, clawing for guidance from a spot in the sun that’ll blind you if you look too hard. Conventional hesitation has no place in Jack Pickett, he’s the product of an instant Yes.

Men built of stone weather in the wind; Gary Busey is the wind.

The internet is all writers, no readers. Or so it seems. We’ll go with it, Gary Busey, because a little exaggeration goes a long way. All writers, no readers. Whereas Ghost Rock’s all film, no viewers. It has all the facets of a film production: actors, a narrative, horses, Jeff Fahey. But no one to consume it. Ghost Rock is the internet written in film language. It’s a theatrical representation of the blog surplus, a dusty emblem of a guilt that scratches the soul every day.

How can one feel anything but guilt in adding to the information flood, Gary Busey? To exasperate the situation and give truth to the idea of ‘too much’ is surely a shameful pursuit that deserves outright prohibition. Adding to the already said and the already written, isn’t that the definition of a futile act?

Some fools insist that there’s nothing left to say, that it’s all already done, in turn ignoring millennia of creative struggle fought by writers and artists. The fools assume an ease that was never there. As if Dickens scribbled a list of titles at the beginning of his career and just wrote them out slowly over time.

Then again, Gary Busey, did Milton have to check his email whilst writing Paradise Lost? Was Ibsen nipping onto Facebook to update his status every time he wrote a scene? Would Bertrand Russell have written 3,000 words a day if he had Youtube as a distraction?

There are no excuses, Gary Busey. The world offers as much as it takes away. For every impediment comes a new avenue. Vaults of creative inspiration, whose paths are unobstructed, or becoming so, flash into view on a continual basis. The ongoing project of the world is the birth and death of ideas. Well, that’s the case for us poor tragedians anyway, Gary Busey, those of us tied irrevocably to our thoughts. I know Ghost Rock points in the direction of ‘shut the fuck up and just do it’. I know the example you set, Gary Busey, is aghast at my seeming acquiescence. But we can’t all be Ghost Rock, however enthusiastically we pray for it. Thinking will persist. As will the guilt at adding more and more sand to the desert. All we can hope for is that that sand is worth frolicking about in; after all, no one likes shite sand.

Sorry about the words, Gary Busey. I hope Betsy and Ethel are well. I hear that preproduction on your Broadway show is going well. The cast sounds highly talented, you’re lucky to be working with such fine actors. I have no doubt that Diabetes the Musical will be a great success.

Oodles of love and affection,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Unsent Letters to Gary Busey: Letter 1 - Sprawling Apologies & Silver Bullet

Dear Gary Busey,

Words are not your forte, I know that. The merest fart of a word is outright prolixity to you. Sentences are vulgar extravagance, needless and distracting. I know your pain about the words; your agony has no place to hide. Conceiving expression as a set of inky shapes and phonetic blips, limiting communication to signifiers and signifieds, imprisoning infinity’s charm within walls of grammatical rules, tyrannies propelled through time from a past non-existent to the present – all that reeks of the clearest declaration of shite ever inscribed upon the world.

I know that, Gary Busey, don’t think I’ve forgotten; your advice resists death like nothing else. And I know your time is precious, not one second is unimportant, not one minute can be abandoned to wastefulness. Your life is time lived radiant, encrusted with forms of expressivity that make language appear crude and antiquated. For some this is unfathomable: they question a man’s recourse to frenetic bodily dance as a way of imparting information, and they assume puzzled expressions when an inferno of blonde hair conveys complex data concerning the ontological integrity of biscuits.

That’s not me. I harbour no misconceptions about you, Gary Busey. Disdain for words and desire for their extermination – to be sure, hefty missions that go unenvied – they constitute a remit fit only for a Busey. Let no one say Gary Busey was a man who needed ambition.

Recognition, that’s my point: I recognise your position. Your podium’s faint to me, I can barely see your feet, but I see enough to know all, enough for my senses to be thrilled into recognition.

Surely it’s predictable, but I ask you to wait. Fight the basest temptation to cast this missive from your hands. Don’t discard the fiend just yet. You may recoil in horror, you might be recoiling in horror right now, the words suffocating every blowhole you own. Naturally I leave myself exposed to severe retribution, but I ask that you not enact revenge upon my person. Or if you have to, at least warn me first, leave some of your teeth scattered round the kitchen floor, or something.

Your truths are inescapable, Gary Busey. I know I run the risk of a maniacal Hollywood outcast arriving on my doorstep brandishing a machete. I run that risk every day of my life. But if that’s fate’s plan, then so be it, for I must discuss Silver Bullet with you.

It itches night and day, it’s a disease of a fortnight’s lack of sleep. It scars deep, but the urges drive me forward, compelling this circumlocutory discourse. The urges are a source of propulsion for the tired and the graceless.

Self-evident truths are clearly a leitmotif of this letter, Gary Busey, sir. Anticipation of your reading organises all its content, shaping like clay all the words so abhorrent to you. Each remark I begin to type is accompanied by its apprehension by you. Each remark is modified into a truism before the sentence has finished. Only cliché and empty verbosity remain. Yawning gaps between the vital and the superfluous open up. By cruel convention the former are always the aspects to be sacrificed first, with turgid spills of banality left behind to consume.

Let no insults bloody your person, Gary Busey. No condescension is intended. Every utterance comes soaked in self-consciousness. You may not think so, you may see only contrivance. But I assure you it is true. And if you still balk at belief, play the game nonetheless: slide into the role of recipient, of confidant, of the man gestured at by the words Gary Busey. Dive into the performance, block the calls of the real, seek only validity as defined by the present arrangement of words (which you hate).

Allow me to say it: Gary Busey films are impossible to discuss in a manner cogent and elegant. Sure, there is always the necessity of translation, regardless of what the film is. Narrative form and the flow of images demand conversion into wieldy units, which can subsequently be used to celebrate or dismantle said objects. Film criticism is a translation of film spectatorship, it gives form to the formless act of watching a film.

However frequently the routine is performed, your films, Gary Busey, represent considerable problems in accomplishing this translation. Other than direct translation carried out by your fine self, I see no guaranteed routes to success. Like Samuel Beckett translating his French prose into English, or Vladimir Nabokov translating his Russian novels into English, only you, Gary Busey, can fit the essence of your films into a different idiom. Although it must be said, you would do so without resorting to the primitive ebb and flow of language.

Failure is the inevitable outcome, but I persist nevertheless in writing a word or two about Silver Bullet.

The bounds of realism were never made for Gary Busey. Speaking your name – both silently, encased within the mind, and aloud – leads one to consider the phantasmagorical to be the most appropriate sphere for you. Madcap imaginative horror and wacky science-fiction are genres born to be sutured to the name of Gary Busey. Silver Bullet’s showcase of werewolf shenanigans is perfect fodder for you.

That’s remark number one. Perhaps I should have numbered these. Alas, there is zero scope for editing in this everlasting present of ours. March on…

An acquaintance once told me that before the days of Coreys Feldman and Haim, a another delirious era of twosome excellence existed. Never would I have guessed that this miraculous coupling would have been comprised of Corey Haim and Gary Busey. Yet this is a fact as derived from Silver Bullet’s wealth of curiosities.

I’m slightly hurt that you never once mentioned being a component of this duo to me, Gary Busey. Had I known, I would have been more hesitant in dismissing Silver Bullet as just another awful Stephen King adaptation. You never know, I might have watched the fucker sooner, rather than torment it with twenty-three year’s worth of wait.

Yes, nephew Corey to uncle Busey. Wheelchairs with rockets attached, grotty nights lain across the poker wastelands, unfunny jokes cloaked in expectorate, and of course a ravenous werewolf to unmask and defeat. Buddy protagonists rarely attain such heights, for Busey-Corey combine to create an almighty opus.

Sadly – and I must voice criticism here, Gary Busey, there’s no avoiding it – the opus is surrounded by a constant rain of weakness and indecision. One minute we get an unnerving Fulci-esque sequence of stilled faces and sub-Goblins rumble, then we have a polyester wolfman playing the pantomime villain, then finally some sentimental Stand By Me coming-of-age nonsense. Brilliant if the objective is a patchy mosaic of entrails and wistful childhood memories; rather shite otherwise.

But dear Gary Busey, yes, I hear your reply, I hear your garbled screams. You are too correct, Silver Bullet’s deficiencies are not of your doing. Blame resides elsewhere. I wouldn’t dare tarnish your reputation with words of attack aimed to undermine a young (fictional) boy’s struggle to live with a disability and fight a werewolf. Nothing could be farther from my intention.

I come to the end of my words. I hope the projects you were telling me about last time have proceeded well. A slew of remakes, wasn’t it? Enhancing dire narratives produced without your presence, that’s correct, isn’t it? The Bigger Heat, was it? Older Boy? Well whatever they were, may success find you well. Do give my best to Betsy and Ethel. Sorry about the words and whatnot.

Oodles of love and affection,


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crisis on Bearded Fahey

A sanctuary no longer, an inner pit assailed by change, become a sanctum diminished beyond fix, a porcelain paradise loose of its promise, born anew in the miasmic after-burn. Death wills and toxic stench are the only remaining truths left, now found set inside its charred walls. Bathroom lies be damned, henceforth they stand enchained to the maligned gestures of flippancy and misdirection. Cold sterility is the lifeblood, the very pulse of walls and floor alike, surfaces blotted in black clarity.

The light is off, the room dead in darkness. An arm punctures the stillness, clutching myopically for a touch, a feeling, fumbling in hope of a meeting – mighty bestower of light be here now. A recognisable click later and a persona is imposed upon the arm.

Eyes lacking the ability to identify the arm of a Fahey have yet to be born, for here clear to all is the wondrous limb foretold by scripture: the thousand-jointed limb of a Fahey, segmented tribute to flexibility and boundless treasury of party tricks.

- Hearsay that Fahey’s uncle once begot a spider for a son remain to this day unconfirmed. Suffice it to say, Fahey’s insectual ancestors swim forever in the channels of his gene pool.

With the bathroom now lit, the door is thrust open and in strides Fahey. Shirtless and hairy, blue to the balls, Fahey steps toward the sink. The mirror above returns his gaze. Beautifying utensils lie disarranged on a small shelf. A filthy towel long untouched hangs on a hook. Unoriginal bathroom details drift aimlessly, scattered across a sky of white tiles and spilt mouthwash.

Fahey’s eyes remain steadfastly locked on the sink. A razor, not too blunted, not too smeared by prior use, attracts his attention. An arm is raised, making a motion to lift the object. Fahey’s eyes flick to the left, toward the bathtub, then back to the razor. Shaking fingers lift the razor as the faint sound of pen on paper becomes audible. Fahey clears his throat, eyes flick left, eyes flick forward. The sink begins to fill with warm water.

Discomfort drains Fahey’s face of colour as he tries to angle himself in a way that he stands back facing the bathtub. A foreign cough interrupts the aural hegemony of the flowing water. Fahey takes water in his hand and splashes it upon his face. Then he starts to lather shaving foam over every bushy inch of his beard. Sound of bubbles to the rear, a splash this time born not of the sink. Fahey shakes his head, ears closing to distraction. Now the razor is in hand, coming nearer and nearer the face of Fahey.

…I don’t know when it was. Too long to say, too long for certainty. Sure it was shocking, no one’s going to expect that, I know I didn’t. You just go about your daily business, that’s all, it’s not my place to wonder the intricacies of it. I noticed, yes, but after how long? No way to know. Was I oblivious? Probably. Was he there long before I noticed? It’s possible. Truth’ll never be known, not unless he decides to confess all, which I doubt’ll happen. This is how it started: one day I wandered into the bathroom, I was in dire need of a piss. So there I go, relieving myself, when I turn my head and see him, a man, sitting in my bathtub. Like I say, there was a shock to it. He said nothing, so I say Who the fuck are you? Why the fuck are you in my bathtub? No reply. Then I notice he has a notebook on his lap and a pen in his hand. He’s scribbling the whole time, as I piss, as I look at him, as I speak to him, the pen never ceases. I step over to him, I’m starting to get annoyed now. I look down at him. He’s hairless and wears casual non-descript clothes. I repeat my questions. Still no sound bar the echo of the pen. What can you do? Soon I was exhausted. I could no longer be bothered to repeat my questions. Clearly he wasn’t going to speak. So I left him. He’s been there ever since…

Steam rises, rendering abstract Fahey’s image in the mirror. A fly darts past causing Fahey to twitch suddenly. He lunges for it, anger boiling. Then: palliation by way of reflection, Fahey considers the absurdity of his situation. Normalcy, or the memory thereof, can be sought free from the ties of difficulty, for its shadow traces a line on the horizon. Normalcy’s dance pollutes the surface of Fahey’s distress, its virus set to reinfect a world divested of its inscription. What remains is Fahey’s incumbency, that irksome pressure to action, to transform, to resurrect pastures of the past. Or not, perhaps, subject as it is to individual whim.

Fahey turns to the bathtub. One note sounds in the air: a scratching, the scratching, the minatory wail ill-fitting Fahey’s very being. Daggers – each and every pen-stroke is a weapon. Cessation of the subtle attack is mere fiction, additional dagger-thrusts act to further damage the integrity of Fahey. Temporal lacerations causing Fahey to bleed time. Spatial lacerations causing Fahey to bleed objects born of his porcelain madness. Ever try and bleed a shower curtain? Unpleasant is one word to describe it. But Fahey’s threshold for pain knows no limits, either that or he jettisoned his limits long ago, perhaps in that film where he fights a dinosaur.

Fahey stands over the bathtub.

“You fucker!” yells Fahey.

Not a hint of deceleration befalls the pen. The man’s head rhythmically stirs, his gaze alternating between Fahey and the page. Whatever diabolical record is being composed continues towards its completion.

“It’s been fucking weeks, months even, since I’ve had a shave! Look at me for Christ’s sake!”

The metronomic tilt of the man’s head catches Fahey’s grimaced face, before descending once again to the page.

“I just want to have a shave in peace. I don’t care if you’re here, just stop writing. Come on. Give me five minutes, OK?”

No let up.

“Three minutes. I’ll be quick. I don’t care if I rip half my face off, I’ll rush it if I have to, but I need to have a shave. Give me that won’t you?”

Scribbling continues.

“You writerly sonofabitch.”

Fahey takes a step back.

“Those notes of yours better be the most profoundest fucking thing ever written…”

Exasperated, Fahey wipes the foam from his chin and storms out of the bathroom, knocking off the light on the way.

…I don’t know why I didn’t do anything to get rid of him. He seemed to have as much a right to be there as anyone, despite it being displeasing to me. After a while I learned to avoid the blasted room. My habits evolved to accommodate the man. Occasionally, when I could no longer hold my urine, I’d have to enter the room and piss. Each time he’d be there, sitting in the same position, writing with the same pen in the same notebook. I have no idea what he is writing. One day I stooped to see but it was indecipherable. Clearly words and sentences, arrayed accordingly, but it was impossible to read. Perhaps it was written so quickly, or written at odd angles in the bathtub, I don’t know. I don’t even know if the man could read the stuff, that is, were he inclined to do so. It could be endless pages of mad rantings for all I know. Or a biography of me written from the perspective of my bathroom. I doubt he’ll ever break his silence. I might need to move someplace else. Then again, maybe we can learn to live together, and maybe eventually I can shave free of his distraction…

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Misattribution of Jean Claude Van Damme

A question and an answer, that’s how it started. An exchange lit by the crisp tingle of a monetary reward. The chime of the ringing phone, the disgruntled vibration of plastic on wood. A man’s death chamber bathroom frolics and the erasure of personal foibles.

Jean Claude Van Damme stands at a mirror, razor in one hand, phone in the other.

“A book signing?” he mumbles quizzically.

A garbled affirmation echoes from the speaker.

“Did I write a book? Was it those aphorisms from a few years back – is that a book?”

Distorted faint whisperings give the answer.

A further moment elapses before Van Damme resumes his enquiry. But at the first syllable cut loose from the chains of silence, the hum of Van Damme’s telephonic interlocutor recommences. Van Damme wears an attentive face. A drop of shaving foam slides from it. The razor drops into the sink. Now a let up in the other’s rhetoric, now a chance for Van Damme for speak.

“But I didn’t write Crime and Punishment.”


On a sea of stained carpet sits the eager and the idle. A Sunday afternoon, sun blasting outside, the smell of typeface portraiture and paper tyrannies. Unfolded plastic chairs are arranged in rows as a banner is unfurled in their gaze. Indifferent shoppers pass by, ignoring one corner of activity as a man is brought out to the song of restrained applause.

Van Damme sits at a wooden bench, his visage under the careful scrutiny of the dozen or so people before him. Some stand, some remain seated. Some hold tattered paperbacks, some fold their arms, expectation their only possession.

“Welcome and thank you for coming to this event…” begins the spotty bookstore clerk.

A man walks past, singing a song about an octopus. Books fall from the hands of a toddler as he sights an escalator to play with. Two men carry a smoke-machine, one stands on gum. An announcement explodes on the intercom: code nine at till five. A girl stares unimpressed eyes at a feeble classics section.

These are distractions of which Van Damme aims to free himself. His mind is swimming in anxiety. Regret that he took the buck, and at what cost? His public image? Already it features great discoloration. Do they know what he knows? Do they know what he doesn’t know? Are they aware in the same way he is aware? Van Damme’s mind ceases for not one second. Am I the only one who sees the ridiculousness of this situation? he thinks.

“Please give a round of applause to our special guest, the author of Crime and Punishment, Mr Jean Claude Van Damme.”

One distraction morphs into another as claps puncture the sonic abyss. White appears on black as the chequered senses of Van Damme get lifted, rising up in unison with his legs. Now standing before the baying bookstore minions, heat like a fireball raining upon the fuselage of Van Damme’s body.

“Thank you for having me. It’s a great honour…”

Platitudes subside as Van Damme searches his memory for words pre-prepared. The precipice of the void of nothing feels his approach, warming its belly with each and every word not retrieved. Stumbling formality gives way to the stuttered birth pangs of a modest auto-critique.

“When I started writing this book, I never…I mean, its scope was unknown to me, at the time, that is…I’m as surprised as anyone that I wrote this book.”

The exegesis continues as sub-school study notes pinned upon Van Damme’s cranium are read aloud. Raskolnikov’s moral distress, Sonia’s tragic piety, the place of Russian mores, St Petersburg as a kind of nightmare milieu. Ranging somewhere between the embittered and the cynical, Van Damme’s faux-English teacher oration progresses bereft of the silence that originally threatened it. Words flow unhindered by memory lapse or the pains of conscience. Words course through a rapid commentary on the novel of ideas. Names get dropped, dangling haphazardly from the lips of the speaker. Tiny spectral dots of Gogol; atomistically revolving spirals of Pushkin. Feigned conviction working to convince the unconvinced. Eyes open and close – an audience awake to the ululating spoken prose of Van Damme.

His time is up. He thanks his beholders. The reek of questions fomenting fills the room. Nose atwitch, Van Damme sneezes.

The map of his destruction has another section made visible. Questions erupt like volcanoes of literary puzzlement brimming on egos the size of Wales.

An easy beginning:

“Dear Mr Van Damme,” begins one.

“Monsieur JC,” begins another.

A tougher middle section:

“How is interpretative integrity certifiable,” a sweaty forest-dweller begins.

Life in ballets dressed up as action movies has made Van Damme tough. No one dares dispute that. But perhaps one ninja knuckle brawl too many has made Van Damme too tough. His answers come in showers of invective and deadly menacing word-fists. Jolting rejoinders delve into murky intellectual depths not even Van Damme could have envisioned. Tearing into one accusation at a time, he extends his critical eye over an entire kingdom of fallacy and error, pupils like sunspots burning through each falsehood.

“Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” he answers.

This is efficacy as bled from the stone of Van Damme.

The bookstore clerk rushes in to end the session. Premature but necessary.

“I’m afraid we’re out of time…”

At this, Van Damme’s whirlwind of comeuppance starts to slow. The shifting limbs of kinetic literary prowess return to Van Damme, decelerating as they assume former shapes and colours. Now a possessed dictator of authorial malice, now a gaunt frame stepping across a soiled carpet. The present is ointment for the sting of Van Damme’s singular confluence of energies.

Smoke clears, noise fades, pages float slowly from the ceiling. The feeling of cataclysm hangs in the air. Mental impressions that are cryptic at best hold sway in the pointillist wash of audience heads. Bound to failure, their deficiencies sentence them to a lifetime of wondering, of questioning, of dead night reflection and memorial damnation. Van Damme’s seed is capturable by the human eye, but grasp it you won’t, for its fortifications are impenetrable to all but he.


Out walks Van Damme. The street traffic a monotone din. Smog floats still on his face as he reaches for his pocket. A phone is produced, the display lit up. He lifts it to his ear.

“Van Damme,” he says, moving to the edge of the pavement.

The familiar drone at the other end again echoes.

“Yeah, it went well. I’ve just finished,” says Van Damme, an answer to an apparent question.

Once again the drone is heard.

Confusion enters Van Damme’s face, ears ceaselessly receiving.

“Another one?” he asks.

The drone warbles on. Van Damme scratches his head for a moment. A second passes. Now he replies.

“But I didn’t write Ulysses.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (and a tale: Twilight of the Care Bear)

It took place one night last week: an ordeal, a trauma, a hurtful jab in the guts of slumber. Mere recollection sears the memory paths, for this was the sort of nocturnal nasty destined to be forever remembered. Maybe it was the urchins playing foolish games in the black of midnight, or maybe I ate too much cheese, I can’t say. What I can say, however, is that this was wholly unanticipated; not one inkling had I that such an event was to disrupt my sleep that eve.

So there I was, chasing sheep up and down Elysian fields, smirking at the planets, giving sagacious advice to Plato, when suddenly the façade was torn down and replaced with the foulest of sentience. The unlit abyss of my room faced me, the dark offering nothing but a faint rustling in the distance. Quickly the distance shortened, the rustling seemingly now beside me. Then I sensed movement, a jolting presence, not out there but in here, under the very sheets under which I lay. It was then I threw back the bedding, revealing none other than a Care Bear.

There it was, stooped on all fours, pink fur ruffled by the sheets, plastic nose poking about the mattress, glass eyes adjusting to the light from the lamp I had just turned on. It looked at me, I looked at it. Was that murder in its eyes? Did I detect the glint of lust? Perhaps it was on its way to the Forest of Feelings and got lost halfway? Should I hug it or bash its brains out with my alarm clock?

It shuffled towards me and I shouted at it.

“You Care Bear bastard!”

It was instinct, reflex, a product of being born in the 80s. I won’t allow risk to enter the equation, I can’t, positions of power must be established immediately. That Care Bear stared its dead eyes at me, unfocused brown still and mysterious. The scene was one of tension, an escalating dread and possible regret that I had somehow offended the beast.

Truth is, far from mauling me dead then eating my skin, the Care Bear only wanted to know if I was interested in switching to British Gas. I was stunned. A salesman, by god, this furry dream creature was. Before I knew it, a plethora of leaflets were arranged on the mattress. It was then I kicked it to the floor. The pleading sales pitch came like white noise to my ears as I grappled with the light switch. Eventually the Care Bear lost interest, packed up its paraphernalia and used the window as an exit, and I was left to finish my sleep uninterrupted by the dulcet dollar drone of Care Bears Inc.

Such a tale carries little of the blood and hunger that marks Death Bed. In fact, it’s fairly needless to start a review with such prolixity and sub-juvenilia narrative nonsense, particularly a review of a film like Death Bed, one that quite clearly requires no prologue. But moods must be set, words must be used, regardless of vulgar excess. Further: the title is not the only element lacking in ambiguity. Were one still in possession of questions, the subtitle carries enough force to dispel any and all queries – Death Bed: The Bed That Eats.

Central to the film is a bed, a grand four-poster number that sits in the cellar of an old house. A wash of black begins the film, during which time we hear a crunching sound, a carnivorous chomping that brings to mind a wild animal. Well, kids, surprise surprise, that sound is emanating from the bed – it’s lunchtime and its having a feast.

A curse cast long ago means that the bed is alive. Despite having the appearance of inanimation, the bed lusts after meat, after a person or persons to digest in its tank-like stomach. Luckily, even though it resides in a rural manor, the odd flaneur does come by to test its comforts. When this happens, a bubbling starts on the surface of the bed allowing the hapless victim to descend into its interior, a watery yellow soup given the close-up treatment whenever feeding commences.


Certainly is. A monkey’s paw is one thing; we’ve seen that before. Familiarity kills fear, kills astonishment, curdles the creative juices. Look, it’s hairy, there are talons, it’s a certifiable threat! But listen, and retain your calm: any object is open to an injection of evil; whether it’s a video tape, a lift, a packet of bacon rashers, demoniacal gusto can be found living in anything. Perhaps it’s the guilt over our commodity fetishism that leads to us imbuing our objects with the potential to physically and mentally harm us (as if they don’t already do so!). Of course evil only has meaning in the context of the human; consequently, what we see is that with every increase in evil comes a corresponding anthropomorphization as the heinous object becomes a holder of human spirit and bodily presence. Observe the bed’s soft moans as a nubile undresses near it, or the tantrums it throws when bereft of food to dine upon, leading to the manor walls cracking and ceilings creaking.

Death Bed’s narrative consists of a young couple coming to use the bed for salacious purposes, the bed deciding pre-marital sex is not on the cards, the bed eating them, some digressionary scenes detailing the bed’s background, before finally three young ladies happen on the manor. Thus begins the main body of the story.

An unsettling voice-over gives the film documentary credence as a male tongue describes the actions of the bed, beseeching it to desist, to turn veggie and repent its homicidal ways. Less Fog of War, more Mondo Cane, the document is stirring. The voice-over has an odd efficacy in that its moral entreaties and observer position aligns it closely with the spectator, who has no one with which to relate. The narrator, a former victim of the bed who’s now imprisoned in a bizarre limbo behind a painting in the cellar room, is our only real figure of interest. Other characters are stock types, fodder for the screen cruelty, far from the glow of our sympathies. The artiste behind the painting, on the other hand, is a man of slightly more substance. He is essentially the sole user of language throughout the film (a few garbled screams is hardly a monologue) and is kind enough to gift us information as to the genesis of the bed.

His admonishments and whimsical questioning must compete with the influx of buxom ladies in the middle of the film. An eerie and eccentric atmosphere gives way to a Russ Meyer-esque showcase. Burlesque banality erupts as breasts are disrobed and intimate linens are wafted about. Struggles against the bed’s yearning stomach are conducted in wailed sex moans. The bed devours one girl, the other two look for her, then the bed devours one of the them, leaving only one remaining. With the mire of sleaze still present, the brother of one of the girls arrives. I thought for sure this would be the beginning of a fight back, the time for macho ass-kicking. But alas I was wrong. Big brother gets his hands stuck in the bed, it strips them of all their skin and muscle, and he spends the rest of the film sitting about looking at what remains of his hands, now simply bone, and whining about his own ineptitude. Fool.

Death Bed proves an enjoyable excursion into the odd spectrum of 70s comedy-horror cinema. George Barry’s film entered the cult cannon a few years ago, unsurprisingly, for it’s clearly made to be held in such esteem. I just hope we get that sequel, Death Bed 2: Death Bed Takes Manhattan, before too long. I can already visualise a manic Keanu Reeves engaged in a spectacular slow-motion fight with the bed, during which time a jet carrying a nuclear warhead gets nearer and nearer the city. It’ll be 2011’s most exciting blockbuster!