Meat Puppetry

This is an open-ended essay. It consists of a series of observations about a particular relationship but does not present an argument. I’ll add to it as further examples pop up. (Looks like I didn’t. (2019)) One of the acts in Lumiere & Son’s...

Meat Rays beef cont’d…


Further to my piece of the earlier instant, there are only two ways my sandwich could have infected Joe’s sandwich. The first way involves inter-sandwich contact, a scenario in which I place my meaty sandwich not merely on Joe’s plate but actually brush or collide with his lettuce sandwich. Beef atoms in the vicinity of the surface of the sandwiched beef are transferred to the surface of either the bread or the lettuce of the resident sandwich. it must be said, however, that lettuce atoms, in such a scenario, are also transferred to the surface of my meat. You don’t hear me whining about that, by the way.

It is, I will concede, possible that if the two opposed sandwiches were placed very very close to each other but not touching then atoms of beef might, willy nilly, ‘jump’ from one platform to the other. And vice versa, not that you’ll catch me snivelling about it. In the phenomenon of radioactivity, for example, we see hyperactive surfaces that can barely contain their vaporish exuberance. In the more depressed world of the placidly surfaced everyday item a more languorous local effervescence will take place.

But these fundaments of physics and chemistry should not be used as an excuse for Going Mad and shouting things like “But man, the whole Universe is vibrational! Everything is connected by wave forms in a continuum! Everything has its distinct wave form and this can be seen in its aura which you can see if you’re ready to see or happen to have a Kirlian camera! That’s why Jesus and the saints in paintings have plates behind their heads! They’re not plates! They’re their auras! That’s how spiritual they are! They’re giving it off! Like beef does!”

It’s not necessary to carry on like that.


For a Moment I was Meat


Freud was on a train in an overnight sleeper and stepped out into the corridor to enjoy a cigar. He returned to his compartment, opened the door then reeled back in terror. A stooped, bearded man was advancing on him from within the compartment. Freud threw up his hands defensively and in the same instant the stranger began to gesture threateningly. Freud then realised that he was looking at a mirror mounted on the wall of the sleeping car.

This morning I decided to place the garlic press in its drawer. I glanced down at the brushed metal device and started. The press was full of meat. I realised that the barrel of the press, which is removable to facilitate rinsing, had been removed. I was looking at the palm of my own hand.



David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #18

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 3: PC#18

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had enlisted the help of Lady Gaga to help me determine whether my unconscious had been turned off. The results were inconclusive. The situation was complicated by the fact that I had somehow become Kevin Spacey, who had played me in Alan Parker’s film ‘The Life of David Gale’.

I had always wanted to programme a major London Theatre. It would enable me to revolutionise the constipated bourgeois rituals which constitute mainstream performance in this country. My position on these matters was clear:  No more dallying with forms, artists should be like victims burnt at the stake, signaling  through the flames!

Strictly speaking, this was a quote by Antonin Artaud. But I really agreed with him. Artaud, the author of ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’, died in 1948, after five years of electroshock treatment in the asylum at Rodez, in the south of France. When I was at Film School in the 60s I directed a version of Artaud’s 8 page long ‘Spurt of Blood’.

The cast featured, among others, a Wet Nurse with Giant Breasts of Gruyere Cheese.   Her stage directions read: ‘a multitude of scorpions come out from underneath her skirts and begin to swarm around her sex which in turn begins to swell and splits, becoming vitreous and shining like a sun.” No photographic documentation is available.

We built a pair of exploding knickers for the actress, consisting of a pubic hair wig which was torn off to uncover a pouch containing a meteorological  balloon and six white mice. The balloon was attached to a compressed air line which led off stage and was activated by a student called Ross. When the cue came

the balloon swelled up and in under two seconds achieved an eight foot diameter. The mice clung eagerly to its surface. The actress wore a ring with a pin on it. She burst the balloon, which was filled with talcum powder. After the bang, as the clouds cleared,  the mice had been blown all over the stage. I realise this is not clever and I now regret it.

I was proud of the fact that famous Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, translator of the play, had sent me a signed letter giving me permission to use his text. At the time of making  the play, 1967, I was deeply immersed in alternative culture, into which I had initially been led by a passionate fascination with the Beats.

Over the years I’ve collected any books on the Beats that I could pick up second-hand but I’ve never really wanted to read them. This changed last week when I suddenly had an urge to examine Ann Charters’ biography of Jack Kerouac, called ‘Kerouac’. The ultimate Beat hero turns out to be a fretful, melancholy figure engrossed in wistful dreams of a lost youth and a lost America.

I was aware that my programming at the Old Vic had been the subject of a degree of disappointment and scepticism. The Board were polite enough but the honeymoon was over. I told them I had the answer to their problems. I would both write and direct an extravaganza that would pack in the punters and achieve great critical acclaim.

On the first night of ‘Hello Wasted Lives of Southern Riverine Banks with your Ghosts and Spectral Shrouds, your Sacrificial Buttons and your Golden Night-time Tumours that Haunt the Squeezing Alleyways of Old Misty Cockney Cock Shitting the Meat out of my Ears in Tightened Shirts of Brazened Pecuniary Death Star Steel Apocalypse’

an actor from ‘Brideshead Revisited’ was so incensed that he stood up and pissed on Helen Mirren’s neck. Helen, because of her mid-career roles as a policewoman, is actually quite handy in a ruck. She spun round and nutted the guy and he dropped between the seats like a pair of used shorts. That’s all very well, but not the sort of thing

you can do discreetly in a crowded theatre. Michael Caine, who was seated in front of Helen, rose to his feet and was about to punch her in the mouth when she grabbed his forearm and snapped it like a twig. She had calculated that due to his advanced years Michael was probably suffering from brittle bones.

Former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella was pissed off. She had always respected Caine and wasn’t about to let some ex-Royal Shakespeare Company slag fuck him over. Ripping off her shoe she started to hammer the stiletto heel into Mirren’s head. Mirren gave Kinsella a forearm chop that took three of her teeth out.

The whole place kicked off. Ray Winstone, alas, proved as handy as you’d expect but what got the thing totally fucked were the blood-curdling screams from the centre stalls. It was the Redgraves! Vanessa, 73, and Lynn, 67, accompanied by Joely and her cousin Jemma, came pounding down the aisle to support Helen. It was mayhem!

I spotted the Brideshead guy, the one who’d pissed on Helen. He was being held down by some of the kids from ‘Billy Elliott’ while right next to him, Bob Hoskins – I think it was him – was taking down his trousers so he could shit in the guy’s mouth. It struck me that this was probably a step too far. The Board would not be amused.

Motorists were surprised to see Kevin Spacey with his thumb out and in consequence I got a lot of rides. I was sad to leave the Old Vic but I was clearly out of my depth there. I needed to find David and sort out this whole who-was-who thing. I wondered if he was still hanging out with Gaga. The problem was I had no idea where they might be.

So I put Kevin on the train and he waved and I waved and it clickety-clack drew away across to Abberley | Abbey Wood | Abbots Bromley | Abbots Langley | Abbots Leigh | Abbots Ripton | Abbotsbury | Aberaeron | Aberargie | Abercastle | Abercraf | Aberdare | Aberdaron | Aberdeen | Aberdour | Aberdovey | Aberfeldy | clickety-clack

There was a little alley in San Francisco back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they’ll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed

and it’s all a sea, I swim out of it in afternoons of sun hot meditation in my jeans with head on handkerchief on brakeman’s lantern or on books, I look up at blue sky of perfect lostpurity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me and have insane conversations with Negroes in several-story windows above and everything is pouring in

And Gaga says Hey, what, no, I don’t know no David, I don’t know you, I don’t want this, I don’t want people’s dreams. My name is Stefani, I do a job. You stand over there. I stand over here. I go home. I go home. Do you not have a home? Where do you go when you go?  Do you talk in your sleep? Do you walk through the streets?


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #12

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 2: PC#12

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had attempted to find a balance between softness and hardness by visiting Clint Eastwood’s house in Ladbroke Grove.  Who should come out but Lance Johnson, the young surfer from Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. Lance walked north to the outskirts of London and I followed him.

Lance was played by the late Sam Bottoms. Sam’s first movie was Bogdanovich’s ‘Last Picture Show’ in 1971. That’s him in the small town cinema, aged 15. He played Billy, a mute and backward boy. Lance, Billy and Sam were brothers. They were all wistful, which I liked. Billy had a soft, distant smile.

Lance was stoned most of the time in Vietnam. He was so out of it that he didn’t seem to see the horror around him. Or maybe he did see it and had to get out of it. It’s so strange to think that soldiers smoked dope. We used to think that dope was part of the revolution. Lance was on acid going upriver. He befriended a puppy.

I knew that Sam was dead because he kept walking through things. It made it hard to keep up with him. He had a brain tumour. That’s why he died. Lance kept him going. Lance said “Sam, come over here, I’m on acid. It’s beautiful.” We were near St Albans. Lance didn’t understand that Sam was already dead. Lance would always be eighteen.

Someone joined us along the way. “Who are you?” we said. “I saw you going by from my house,” he said, “I’m Bluff Jack.” Lance said “That’s a beautiful house, man.” Bluff Jack said, as was his wont, “It is a beautiful house.” Lance said “I like you, man, you’re direct.” Jack put his hand out to shake Lance’s hand but it went through him.


As we neared Duxford Aerodrome we found Squadron Leader ‘Tatters’ Taytham and Group Captain ‘Taters’ Tatham sitting in deckchairs by the roadside. Bluff Jack was quick, as was his way, to establish that they, too, were dead. “We are,” they confessed. I asked if they were familiar with Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. They said that

they had admired Lance’s performance but found the drug references perplexing. Sam, assuming a protective attitude to Lance, told them it had not been a just war and they seemed to understand. I felt that they were soft in their hardness but this could be explained by their phantasmal bodies. They had not changed their clothes since 1943.

A large group of dead women pilots marched towards us. My mind began to race. If the women and the men walked through each other would the women become pregnant? Because this would be the ideal sex, where the bodies were light and there were no imperfections. The babies would form almost immediately.

But it was actually very cold. Several dead women passed through me and my brain silted up with snow. I heard Bluff Jack, the only other live man, moaning piteously. Then everything was quiet. I could not even hear my footsteps. I knew that I must keep going, though. Eventually I saw a steep pathway.

Sam was dead. Again. Lance, Billy, Jack, Tatters and Taters were nowhere to be seen. I felt sick and depressed. I knew exactly what had happened and where I was.  For reasons that were as yet unclear I had brought myself to a place where the only way forward was death or enlightenment. In other words a place of the utmost banality.

I was within moments of embarking on one of the most pointless journeys that life has to offer. Beyond cliché, beyond sentimentality:  the stairway to heaven,  in all its variants,  some less prescriptive than others, some involving actual death, some not, was  the single most debilitating prospect that any sane and healthy person could face.

Eager not to be absorbed into the eternal light, I went to a pub that sold Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. It’s an ale with a good head, malt aroma, fruit, a hoppy flavour, fairly dry and bitter. At 4.3% it’s obviously not as strong as, say, Director’s or Abbot, but it feels strong and delivers a beer buzz quite quickly.

My thoughts turned to Jade. I’d found her bullying and lazy racism pretty unpleasant  on Big Brother but now that she’d gone I had no ill feeling towards her and felt sorry for her kids and even the surly, feckless Jack. In a perceptive article in ‘The Guardian’, Madeleine Bunting quotes the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach, who suggested that

in Goody’s dying we are “grieving for the death of a fantasy world we have all been living in”. This was, clearly, the world of easy credit, happy motoring and limitless resources. Bunting also quotes another psychoanalyst, Andrew Samuels, who detects “a huge diffused anxiety”about the future spreading through society.

“Patients talk to me,” says Samuels, “of walking through a door into a room that has no floor. People fear the structure of their lives falling apart.” I ordered another glass of Landlord. It was clear that I had been mistaken in seeking solace in Clint Eastwood,  let alone Sam and Lance. I had been walking with ghosts.

I could see that ghosts were – to use a loaded term – spirits without bodies while zombies were bodies without spirits. I liked zombies – their single-mindedness impressed me. We’re encouraged to see them merely as the living dead but I think that’s unfair. Also unfair is the way that they are denied political status.

This zombie, for example,  is dedicated to a critique of the coercive cult of depression embodied in the colourful and manic clown.  The latter,  in its pre-depraved form, fails to address either the complexity of contemporary experience or the primal simplicity of the incontinent shitting and pissing upon which much slapstick is based.

Zombies also represent the obliterating power of religious belief wherein the sufferer, fuelled by the great light that suspends discernment, arrests experience and neutralises scepticism, subjects those of us still beguiled by the material world to the numb intimacy of the thousand yard stare.

What if the driven body of the zombie were somehow filled with the restless melancholy of the ghost? Surely this should result in a perfect balance of the softness and hardness that I had been pursuing! I needed to find a large open space to which I could attract great numbers of almost human creatures.

I hired a luxurious coach and filled it with uncooked meat  and a sound system playing Dutch gabber at 180 beats per minute. The coach had a capacity of 76, plus a driver – necessarily undead. It soon filled up. I would follow behind in my Volvo. We drove to Colindale in North London, a site of perfect melancholy.