Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Day After - Societal collapse as movie-of-the-week and sock-puppetry

"Sky Battle"
Acrylic on canvas, 2010-2012

Update: March 24, 2012
Tonight's #ZzorhnAndBingoRage episode -
Addressing Nuclear angst of the 80's, sock puppets, etc.
Update: March 31, 2012
Added the edited sock-puppet video to this post; "The Day After: deleted scenes (as portrayed by sock-puppets).
WARNING: Adult language and adult situations.

The Day After (1983) A review, etc.
This article contains SPOILERS, disturbing imagery and coarse language.

I am watching this old, melodramatic, made-for-tv movie again, in order to prepare for the next episode of the #ZzorhnAndBingoRage show. Sunday, March 25, 7 pm, CST, at

The video is in “VHS-quality”. And by “VHS-quality”, I mean it’s a heap of crap.

I have stopped the video at its most dramatic point to sum up the film so far: All these really nice, earnest, loving people that I am being introduced-to, are all about to be rat-fucked out of their civilisation. Corn-holed by history and power-addicts. I mean... these kind and gentle motherfuckers are about to eat shit and die, for no good reason and it makes my nuts tighten and my stomach hurt to remember how frightening this movie, and its ilk, were.

It makes me wonder if it wasn’t just part of a coordinated media scare tactic to keep us North Americans in line, putting up with the deregulation of corporate interests and the economic sinkhole of military spending started with the Reaganism that creeped over the border and into Canada. Clearly, the target audience for the movie was rural America, but it was well-known that any missiles coming from the Soviet landbase would be flying over Canada. Perhaps the “Russkies” had plans to detonate a few at altitude, over old Canadia, just on scorched-Earth principles; Denial of refuge and aid to their enemies and other bronze-age sentiments. That was the kind of thoughts that we, the last of the cold-war children were supposed to have, while watching this movie-of-the-week apocalyptic pulp.

It continues to seek out and fan the flames of armageddon indulgence in the dreams of the faithful and the memory and guts of the lapsed.

The main stars include Jason Robards and Steve Gutenberg. “The Gute”, of Smodcast infamy. There are a bunch of familiar faces and complete nobodies-no-more in the ensemble, including the old-fart from Northern Exposure. I am watching the movie in order to critique it and also to refine the draft of my most recent script for The BingoRage Filthy Puppet Theatre:

“Deleted scene from The Day After (Steve Gutenberg vehicle, 1983); as performed by
sock puppets”. (Check it out live, tonight.)
(OK; it wasn't really "a Steve Gutenberg vehicle", but doesn't that phrase just sound delicious?)

Like I already said; I have stopped the movie at its halfway point. Shit’s getting real. I don’t remember if The Gute ever makes it home, or if there is anyone there. That’s hardly relevant, but I remember his scalp falling off in my hazy recollection of the first time I watched this thing. Not in bits, but, like, all-at-once. That recollection is the basis for my puppet play. As I watch, I wonder if “The Gute” was really the right pick for this role.

There are alarms, ominous silent landscapes, reasoned, measured tones of voice rattling off codes and the flipping of switches and pushing of buttons. Oh yeah, we are using this in the show, too.

My sphincter is puckering in childhood fears as unquestioning technicians and bureaucrats follow their playbook of my doom.

When Z and I try to recreate the tension of those moments, I should lean over and
“tell him a secret”, but make him promise not to tell anyone, “Ever!”; even though we are likely doomed to perish in the retaliatory strike upon our position. Make him promise. Then, tell him.
- Z: “What could possibly be so bad that you can’t tell me without promising not to repeat
it, if we are going to be vaporised in the next eight minutes?

- Eric: “Z... I fucked a bear, once... It weren’t right.”

Go to black.

The start of the nightmare: Nuclear missiles literally fly out of a farm family’s back yard. The ones the government promised them, and us, never to use. Nuclear holocaust was our 9-11, but it never actually happened. It was a sim, a threat; a virtual apocalypse held over our head like the Sword of Damocles.

Ah, the “skeleton shots”.
Iconic cold war imagery, seen through the perceptions of a helpless, omnipotent observer as the immediate world is transformed from matter to light, shadow and heat. We see the shadows of numerous skeletons, metaphorical millions, stripped of their flesh a fraction of a moment before the bones, too, are vaporised.

At first, explosions in the sky strip us of our electricity and our technology. The shitbags have just murdered the last few thousand years.

Explosions on the ground rob us of our cities and our peoples. You can feel the heat coming, before the blast wave.

I had to stop and rewind that whole detonation bit. I feel dirty... like a junky, freebasing that old, used fear, finding a way to cook it down a bit more. We won the cold war, didn’t we?

The special effects may seem a little dated,
but they still gives me that ol' gut-punched feeling.


After the immediate effects of the nuclear detonations, this movie reveals itself as a modern incarnation of a 1950‘s “hygiene film” with hokey lines like “Dad... what is radiation?”. The PSA continues as the nuclear family huddles amongst their practical food and water stores and listen to the soon-to-be-dying-a-lingering-nearby-death whining of their family dog (which should not be let into the family shelter, unless it is to be immediately cooked and eaten). Doctors huddle about the cafeteria, planning their defense while DeusExMachina explains the effects of an EMP. The messages are so clear, these many years later. Be prepared, the government will not help, fuck off and die.

Then, the zombie apocalypse starts. Wait, what?!


I can hear the presumed few of yous sayin’: “The Day After, was no fucking zombie-movie. It was a nuclear armageddon-type depiction, sees.”

I say that the nuclear exchange between the USA and the USSR was only the initial apocalyptic event.

The real horror always begins after the first apocalypse, be it: volcano, meteor, tsunami, earthquake, moral decay, flood, siege, plague, massive direct attack... or some such variation of this queue. The land left bereft of civilisation and supplies always becomes a zombie apocalypse; just with varying degrees of death in the participants. The hubris of the zombie apocalypse is that we take satisfaction in planning to be amongst the living, the winners... that it is possible to be amongst the ultimate winners.

Is this is the core metaphor of our age? A hip, new incarnation of the same, old story:

The endgame in any series of personal and societal apocalypses is the metaphor of “my fortress and our survivors” against “the other”. The other... being in various states of strangeness, bloodlust, decay, hunger and desparation. The line between living human predators and undead human predators becomes moot in the real-world application of societal collapse and attack upon the species. Especially if both are covered in shit, rot and radioactive dust.

Zombie Zeitgeist
Acrylic on canvas, 2011-2012

This movie could not be made, now. There are no happy endings. There is no moral high ground. There are no plucky heroes triumphing against the odds. The movie ends as the squalid zombie apocalypse begins to gain momentum.


The Day After; deleted scenes (as portrayed by sock puppets)


Friday, March 23, 2012

Update to Miss LoonTrout - Spirit Fire Park sponsorship opportunity, March 2012


Update March 24, 2012. Early a.m. - Another Miss LoonTrout video added to end of post. New vid includes explanation of the Mayan calendar.

This painting has been around a while, but it keeps getting better:
"Miss LoonTrout Got A Crappy BoobJob,
Mr. & Mrs. CrackPenguin
Pull Their Tired, Old William Tell Routine,
Nanabush Is Alive, And In The World."

It was in storage for a couple years at Definitely Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay; then again for the last year, in the back of the studio.

I have been working on new canvases for most of this winter's painting, but lately I got the bug to take another look at some existing works. Nothing is ever done, while it's in the studio.


My most recent video with Miss LoonTrout; sock puppet interpretation of the Jay Mohr podcast, Mohr Stories #35, and a promo for our upcoming #ZzorhnAndBingoRage show.


March 2006, old BingoRage studio.

Used papier-mache technique to secure mask to canvas, on 1"x4" boxframe.

This paper cast had one other "brother", that was sold separately , as a wall-hanging, blue clownmask.

It was not as creepy as you might imagine.

First paint on the "Miss LoonTrout..." canvas.

It looks so nice and uncluttered.

Nanabush still has two, healthy antlers, strongly attached to his head. This imagery is a recurring motif in my work, taken from rock art and shamanic traditions around the world. The human figure portrayed with horns or a "halo", to denote wisdom and power.


This next video documents the process of "bead-embroidering" the "ghost" into the early LoonTrout canvas.

By July 2007, all the major parts were in place (except background-fishey, just added).

Irregular concentric rings ripple out from Nanabush, as he strides through our reality, like the ripples in the pond as he strides through the shallows.

The doorway, from which the bead-ghost entered the reality of the painting is much better defined at this point.

The Turtle figure is still prominent, upside-down in the upper right quadrant (under LoonTrout's left wing).

Nanabush's right antler is now busted.


This is how the canvas looked, as it was displayed at the
DefSup Art Gallery, NOCAA-10 show
(Northwest Ontario Contemporary Aboriginal Artists - 10)
winter 2008-2009.

Very, very bright. I had used a white spray paint to highlight the mask and needed to cover it up with alotta green.

UFO is more dimensional and Nanabush's third eye has appeared.


This is how the piece looks today, after I have been tweaking it for the last week.

All the characters have gone through visual upgrades.

Turtle is all but completely gone, replaced by a new character, the vertical background fish.

Vertical, background fish arose from a conversation with my friend Toshie and his dreams of surfcasting...
so, it must be a dream-striper.


The whole painting is a pile of chaos:
Damage by circumstance, bad decisions, survival by chance and the skin of our teeth.

The CrackPenguins are depicted running "their tired, old William Tell routine"; a grim drinking game.

It is based upon the "accidental" shooting of William S. Burroughs wife, down in mexico, famously portrayed in the David Cronenberg film, Naked Lunch.

The "Crack-Penguin" is a personal trickster-figure of mine. You just can't trust a penguin, they're always trying to ingratiate themselves.


The LoonTrout character cuts quite a figure.

It must have been a strange set of circumstances that allowed the pairing of a Trout and a Loon; natural enemies.

You would think that growing up in a blended household and overcoming certain self-loathings would have innoculated Miss loonTrout from the ravages of advertising...

But, no. She, too, has gone under the knife.
Probably a cutrate, back-alley-type cutter.

The UFO, in the background, now makes more visual sense as it attacks an "old-timey" police car, rather than the little stick figures that I had put there, fleeing, before. Happier UFO, happier artist.


Nanabush and his advising angels.

There appears to be some sort of moral arguement going on.

Nanabush seems to be in rather high spirits. At least for a trickster, who's had to tear-off his own right antler. Medical reasons, or what?


This piece is available as a sponsorship opportunity for Spirit Fire Park. We are installing the paper "Sturgeon Mama" statue in the park this summer and would like to build a roof to shelter it from the worst weather, as well as new muralwall infrastructure.

Purchase this sponsorship opportunity for $20 000:
- Receive the "Miss LoonTrout..." canvas, or have it sent to the museum/library/etc. of your choice
- Have a new mural installed at Spirit Fire Park, in your name, your business name or loved one' memory.
- Build a shelter for the "Sturgeon Mama" statue.

Yes. That is a bunch of clams.
If you haven't got it, please spread the word and pass this on to any rich relative or the notorious art patron in your life.
Forward, tweet, blog, pod, etc.


"Miss LoonTrout - evolution" video; with Mayan calendar explanation.


Monday, March 19, 2012

What's with all the frakkin' apocolypti?

Updated: March 21, early in the a.m.
The canvas in the accompanying photos
to this posting is called
"Grief And Beyond"
It was begun after I received word about the
death of a friend's mother, recently.
My friend Z, lost his grandmother this winter
and my own mum passed, a little while ago.

The main character in the composition is "the survivor". The antlers are representative of "acquired knowledge or wisdom", in shamanic pictography, worldwide.

The main action in the background is the allegorical crossing of the Styx and an imagining of the transition from flesh and information to mystery.

I'll post the video about this piece, shortly.


"What's With All The Frakkin' Apocalypti?"

- That may be the question that you are asking yourself if you've been following my newest endeavour: The Zzorhn And BingoRage Show. An atavistic, yet intellectual, cultural review. Certainly, there are moments of quiet desperation, near-crying and sulky bitchiness...
but shit gets real, occasionally.

The title refers to this season's overarching goal: Staring down the Mayan Apocalypse, millenialism, armageddon-seekers, fear-mongers and the impending panopticon.

It started out as a comedy podcast, but is hardly ever funny; not that there aren't moments of humour amidst the pathos. We are the embodiment of "a little knowledge being dangerous" in a world where authority is being leveraged to make us stupid, reproductively overzealous, poor and docile.

"dangerous"? To whom? Certainly not to our neighbours, friends and family; our whole community. No. "Speaking Out" is a danger to the powers-that-be, whom are civically and morally obligated to oppress us.

So, we are exploring the ideas of apocalypse, cultural and imperial collapse, armageddons, existential threat and popular media.

That's what I've been up to. That and painting... and a little sculpture... and some #AggroDemocraticoDocumentarianism. I have been promising Zzorhn and our "viewership" that I would start publishing more videos. I must apologise; I feel that I have some sort of mental block that is preventing me from publishing what is already essentially done. A ridiculous inability to finish punching a few more buttons and make a few more decisions.

Tonight; I remedy this, with Media Trap. This piece was painted to accompany a previous "Zzorhn And BingoRage" episode: "Media and the Technological Apocalypse".

During our most recent show, we spoke about Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" and "Fight Club" as our relevant movies. This is my review...

[Spoilers ahead.]
Apocalypto; A review of the 1996 film as history and metaphor, keeping in mind who made it.
Eric C. Keast, March 07, 2012


Mel Gibson’s epic film, Apocalypto, starts out as an Anthropological tour of pre-Columbian tribes of Central America. There is hunting, sex and humour in village life, but a hint of darkness is creeping into their jungle, pushing refugees before it.

The main character, Jaguar Paw, wakes from a prophetic dream, warning him to flee, but it is already too late. Empire comes to ravage his village and enslave his extended family; it is all that he can do to save his wife and child, before capture. Thus begins the march to the top of the world.

As they approach the outskirts of the Mayan city-state, they skirt the edge of a tremendous clearcut stretching to the horizon; the jungle is being mowed back, one tree at a time.

It is at this point that the film’s universe turns.

The city’s newest slave acquisitions are marched past a strange sight beside the road; a crying girl standing over a fallen body... a woman. They are both covered in some terrible growths. The returning captors beat her back in disgust, when her cries for pity are rebuffed. She carries “the sickness”, which the captors know enough of... to fear.

All the fear leave the child’s character and is replaced by judgement. The child becomes an angel of doom and pronounces her judgement on the empire. The implication is that the child represents some sort of divine intervention.

But from whom? Quezalcoatl? Jaguar? Nope...

It’s Mel Gibson... in allegorical representation. We have left the anthropological reconstruction behind and have entered a story-space of cultural propaganda. The girl represents a physical wave of biological destruction that spread out in fron of the first Europeans and their new religion. Her appearance as an angel, bringing divine judgement is lacking a line: “There is a new god in town and he’s about to start kicking ass... Yay, Christianity!!”

Now, just wait... don’t get all knee-jerky, just yet. Just because Mel is a little right of the current pope in Catholic matters doesn’t mean that this is a bad movie. I think that it is a great movie and a great representation of a cultural era that it is hard for us to fully conceive of, as modern “western” viewers.

But as a rural-Canadian, obvious leftwing-artist-type and Ahnishnahbeh; I have to say that the movie should not be seen without considering it as a cultural object, with implications in its imagery. All cultural objects have an agenda, either constructed and/or acquired.

The captors lead the jungle-dwellers through various layers of the city, which has extended its feeding of wood, stone and blood outward, like the tentacles of an organism.

The film’s delicious visuals of mass human labour and epic civil endeavour resonates with the imagery of Dante and Hieronumus Bosch. The bound captives are being guided through the various layers of hell. They pass a column of slaves cutting and chewing up rocks for the city; varying in size from pyramid block to plaster dust. They pass through layers of charcoal-makers (fire), madness, sickness, poverty, failed agriculture, starvation.

As they enter the city, the central market is abuzz with activity and produce. Although the countryside is failing and the vast population of the culture is slowly being deprived of their lives, things seem to be just fine inside the city.

It is at this point that new “castes” of people are introduced, the “elite”. They sit around the city, laughing and carefree. Some are carried about the city. Others participate in its important religious duties. There are priestess and musicians working double time; singing and preparing the ongoing ceremonies.

Husband are separated from wife and child. The men continue the march to die; the others to be sold or discarded.

The raucus machine of death continues in an orderly fashion. The sacrifices are painted a special blue and marched past a beautiful painting of their impending doom, explaining the procedure. It is kind of like a boilerplate sacrifice-contract that you ink with your passing. Nice touch.

Then. It is up the ramp... to the top of the world.

The death that the head-priest and the King’s family have in wait for you at the top of this Mayan city-state really, really sucks. I’ll save that and the ending for yous that haven’t seen it yet. I want to talk about cynicism and history, now.

The obvious questions in your mind at this point in the movie should be “Why the fuck is this happening?” and “What the fuck?!!!!” You should be ANGRY, or at least feeling a little bit ill by this point. If you have no empathy or sympathy with the jungle people about to die or live in slavery for the rest of their lives, you really should. They are you. Let me explain.


The sacrificial lambs may not be all of you, but they are most of you. Most of us. They are the victims of a social machine evolved from spare parts of resource extraction, resource management, history and myth, labour shortage, technology, power and religion.

They are the victims of a cynical ploy by the super-elite class to buy some more time and power atop the apocryphal “heap” of the regional power system. Using their society’s intellectual and scientific resources, they time the tightly-managed harvest and murder of their neighbouring societies to coincide with a solar eclipse and “prove” their rights to rule as successful petitioners of the gods and their right to skim the very best off the top of their society as directors of its economy.

Now the question that would never be asked at the top of that pyramid is : “Is it OK for us to pretend that ours is an unquestionable path, even though everything is a lie and we live by the suffering of millions below us?”

The implication of the story is that the ceremonies are now over, because of the eclipse. It is not certain how long this bloodshed has been going on, but a later scene indicates that there are hundreds if not thousands of victims.

The gruesome imageries depicted in the movie are probably good representation of events that actually occurred at different times in the Mayan empire, perhaps at every significant astronomical event. It is not known to me if those types of mass sacrifice were still going on during the earliest contact period with Europeans. The height of the Mayan empire had already passed by that time, fragmenting into smaller city-states. The Mayans, of course, still walk among us.

The last portion of the movie completes the arc of Jaguar Paw and lands the judgement of the plague-angel's prophecy.