PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

New Radio For The Quarantine On The AIR

The PopCulteer
April 3, 2020

Friday afternoon The AIR debuts a special new talk show/podcast, plus a new and very optimistic episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. It all starts at 2 PM, and you can listen at The AIR website, or just hit the “play” button on this nifty virtual player…

At 2 PM you can hear what might be the only episode of The Rudy And Mel Shut-In Show. This is one hour of your PopCulteer and his wife talking–often in a not safe for work manner–about whatever pops into our heads.

This rambling conversation touches on politics and how we got in the quarantine situation we find ourselves in, but veers off into topics like how to cope with the quarantine, why they never discuss toilet paper on The Walking Dead, what’s hanging on the walls in our living room, what the future holds for movies and comics and much, much more.

We even talk about the movie Cats and other methods of self-harm.

Mel and I have been talking (some would say threatening) about  doing a show like this for some time, and we decided, just last night, to do a pilot episode to see if anybody cared. If you like the show, go to The AIR’s Facebook page and ask us to make more. Or ask us not make any more. It’s your call.

At 3 PM Friday, this show, and all of this week’s new programming on The AIR will be available at the Podcast tab on the left side of the screen at The AIR website.

Also at 3 PM on The AIR, we debut a special new episode of our weekly salute to New Wave Music, Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. It seeems that after Sydney Fileen put together a rather subversive episode of her show last time, where every song had something to do with virus, sickness, plagues or quarantines, this week she decided to be more optimistic.

In the latest episode of the Big Electric Cat, Sydney introduces a two-hour collage of New Wave performances from Live Aid, the massive benefit concert which took place in various locations across the globe thirty-five years ago this summer.

Listeners will hear The Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Pretenders, Elvis Costello, Ultravox, Nik Kershaw, Sting, The Boomtown Rats, Paul Young, The Cars, Adam Ant, Simple Minds and more, all performing in either London or Philadelphia.

It’s a brief snapshot of humanity at its best, coming together to raise money and awareness for those in need.

For some reason, it’s comforting to remember Live Aid and its message of hope and decency these days.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back every day for all our regular features.

The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

DCs Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains
by various writers and artists
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1779501738
$39.99 (discounted at Amazon)

Right off the bat, I love this book, but I can’t see any logical reason that it was released. I suppose the idea was that this would somehow tie in with DC’s “Year of the Villain” company-wide story arc, but it’s a real stretch to think that fans of DC’s current form of story-telling would have any interest in an archival volume in which 20 of the 25 stories date back to before 1960.

DC doesn’t have many comics in their library with the word “Villain” in the title, and one of those (Secret Society of Super-Villains) was collected into a trade paperback recently, so I guess they felt they were stuck with creating a nice hardback collection of an obscure reprint title from the early 1970s.

Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains collects all nine issues of the comic of the same name, which was one of the many reprint titles cooked up around that time when DC and Marvel were cranking out as many comics as possible in an effort to grab market share and crowd each other (and any smaller publishers) off the newsstands. Right before a paper shortage caused prices to rise and smaller publishers to fail, DC and Marvel were attempting to glut each other out of business.

Marvel had several titles, some dating back to the mid 1960s, that reprinted the earliest adventures of Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, and DC had been reprinting stories from their vast libraries as “bonus” material when they expanded all the books to 48 pages and raised the price to 25 cents. Both publishers discovered that a decent amount of fans still bought reprint titles, and they had the added appeal to the publisher of already being paid for, so they cost almost nothing to produce back in those days before comics creators were given reprint fees.

DC created several themed all-reprint comics when they reverted to 32 page comics that sold for 20 cents (that is a long story that I don’t have room to tell you here), and Wanted was their all-villain book, published alongside other reprint titles like Secret Origins and Strange Sports Stories. These books were edited and curated by E. Nelson Bridwell, DC’s secret weapon when it came to his vast knowledge of comic book history and his impeccable taste in choosing which stories to reprint. Bridwell does not get enough credit for stoking the flames of comics fandom and instilling a love for Golden Age comics in a generation of comics creators and historians.

With Wanted, Bridwell didn’t take the easy route and just put Batman or Superman in every issue. He plumbed the depths of DC, reintroducing members of DC’s rogue’s gallery that hadn’t been seen in decades, and exposing a new generation to the formative works of such comics greats as Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantion and more.

The thing is, Wanted was never really a best-seller. It existed to take up space on the spinner rack, with the intention of keeping that spot away from a rival company. That it turned out to be such a wonderful, if random, collection of terrific comic stories was a bonus.

While the book did cover-feature a few heavy-hitters in its original run–Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash are on some of the covers–more than equal time was given to more obscure DC heroes like Starman, Doctor Fate, The Vigilante, Wildcat and Hourman. They even cover-featured two really obscure characters that DC had purchased from Quality Comics, Doll Man and Kid Eternity.

Some of the Villains are pretty obscure, too. We do see Batman fight The Joker and The Penguin, but those two are teamed up in one story. We also see the Caped Crusader take on The Signalman, who at that point had only appeared twice since the one story reprinted here. Other Villains showcased in this book include The Prankster, Soloman Grundy, Clock King, The Mist, The Dummy and Mister Who (not to be confused any doctors who came later). This book will educate newer readers of the scope of colorful evil-doers in the DC Universe.

As I pointed out, the stories are drawn by a murderer’s row of iconic comic book artists. In addition to the artists listed above, we also get to see work by Gil Kane, H.G. Peter, Jack Burnley and Lee Elias and stories written by Robert Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Alfred Bester, William Woolfolk, Jerry Siegel, John Broome, Bill Finger, Ed Herron and more. Plus they included the beautiful split-scene covers for the original series by Nick Cardy and Murphy Anderson.

Like I said, I love this book. They even give us a hypothetical tenth issue with an all-female villain line-up. I don’t have this entire series in my collection, and it’s fantastic to finally have them all in one volume. I should mention that it’s also a collection of short-form stories. Most in this book run between seven and 13 pages, and they manage to cram in more plot than a year’s worth of today’s comics. In terms of pure comics glee, this book is a home run.

A curious omission is that they left out issues #8 and #14 of DC Special, which were the first comics that used the logo and the theme. Those must have sold well enough to inspire this series, but they aren’t included here and with no text features, aren’t even mentioned. It’s like this book was thrown together so quickly that nobody even thought to Google the title to see if there were any more issues to include.

One other thing that DC didn’t include is any context. There are no text features explaining why this book exists or why it’s historically relevant. There’s not even a fond remberance from a comics professional who was inspired by this series. They don’t even reprint the informative text features and letters pages, written and edited by Bridwell, that explain the background of each story and why it was chosen. As it is, the only mention of Bridwell is where he’s listed among the editors of the original stories, on the Indicia page.

That is a major disappointment. It’s like getting a deluxe Blu Ray disc of a classic movie and discovering that there no extras–not even a trailer. They could’ve just scanned the original text pages (and I’m not even sure they had them in every issue) and ran them in the appropriate place. That “tenth issue” they included is about five pages longer than it should have been, so they could have sacrificed one of those stories if the page-count was a problem.

Aside from that gripe, I can whole-heartedly recommend Wanted: The Worlds Most Dangerous Super-Villains for anybody who loves classic superhero comics with colorful villains, crisp storytelling and great art.  It’s not a perfect collection, but it’s a lot of fun.

Also of note is that, while you can order this from any bookseller using the ISBN code, Amazon has it for almost half the suggested price.

Home Is Where The Curtain Call Is

Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a new episode of Curtain Call that celebrates the joys of staying at home. You can tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

This week Curtain Call‘s host, Mel Larch brings you a gimmick program. We were discussing what to do this week for all the people who are stuck at home, and we came up with the idea of doing a show made up entirely of songs from musicals that have the word “home” in their titles. We debut this show Wednesday at 3 PM on The AIR.

The idea being that, while essentially being quarantined may be boring, or suck outright in some cases, there are worse places you can be stuck than at home. Now, we didn’t use any songs from the musical Fun Home, because the “home” in that show is a funeral parlor, and the only song with “home” in the title is a Brady Bunch-style commercial jingle about the funeral home.

Now, I did swipe the graphics for this episode from Fun Home anyway. Just to be on the safe side, we’ll run a couple of shows with music from Fun Home starting at 4 PM.

Here’s the playlist.

CC 081 “Home”

“We Are Home” from In Transit
“When You’re Home” from In The Heights
“A Quiet Night At Home” from Bare
“Home” from Beetlejuice
“Home At Last” from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
“Welcome Home” from Bandstand
“Come Home With Me” from Hadestown
“Making A Home” from Falsettos
“Home Before You Know It” from The Bridges of Madison County
“Going Home Alone” from Amour
“The Swamps of Home” from Once Upon A Mattress
“Home” The Wiz
“I Will Be Your Home” from Mythic
“Welcome Home (Finale) from Bandstand
“Bring My Baby (Brother) Home:” from Freaky Friday
“Bring Him Home” from Les Miserable
“I’m Coming Home” from The Rocky Horror Show

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight..

We offer up two new episodes of our speciality music shows Tuesday on The AIR with fresh editions of Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift. You may point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this happy little embedded radio player…

Tune into this week’s Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday for a special show made up entirely of cover songs. Local and international artists turn their talents to songs by other songwriters in a show that revisits a theme we used to do occasionally on RFC International.

You’ll hear Christopher Harris of Qiet performing a Soundgarden classic; Kate Bush sings Marvin Gaye; DEVO does Hendrix; The Amazing Delores covers Ben E. King; several bands do Beatles tunes; The Carpenter Ants bring us their take on a Shania Twain song and a few dozen other artists sing songs that they did not write themselves.

It’s a fun show, with a few rare tracks and bizarre match-ups that ought to intrigue and delight you.

Check out the playlist…

RFCv5012

hour one
The Tom McGees “Country Roads”
Christopher Harris “Black Hole Sun”
Kate Bush “Sexual Healing”
Flaming Lips “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Dave Stewart and Colin Blunstone “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”
Men Without Hats “S.O.S.”
DEVO “Are You Experienced”
Groove Heavy “Do You Remember”
Reel Big Fish “Brown Eyed Girl”
Save Ferris “Come On Eileen”
Buck-O-Nine “Pass The Dutchie”
Goldfinger “99 Red Balloons”
Ben Folds “Video Killed The Radio Star”
The Amazing Delores “Stand By Me”
Sleepy Eyes Nelson “The Ballad of Pop Bottle Pete and Beercan Bud”

hour two
The Irreplaceables “Bad Moon Rising”
Under The Radar “All Along The Watchtower”
Klaus Nomi “Lightning Strikes”
Keith Emerson “I’m A Man”
Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Kaye & Steve Cropper “Riders On The Storm”
Todd Rundgren “Good Vibrations”
Deni Bonet “Frankenstein”
Go Van Gogh “I Am The Walrus”
Tin Machine “Working Class Hero”
Tim Curry “I Will”
Adrian Belew “Free As A Bird”
Dave Edmonds, “Lady Madonna”
Fred James “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”
Vintage Gramola “Layla”
Frank Zappa “Stairway To Heaven”

hour three
The Carptenter Ants “I Feel Like A Woman”
Unknown Hinson “Train Time/ I Fought The Law”
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes “On The Radio”
The Clash “Police On My Back”
Rabbit “Locomotive Breath”
GWAR “School’s Out”
Rammstein “Pet Semetary”
The Rock Lobsters “Stairway To Heaven”
Pseudo Echo “Funkytown”
Robert Palmer “Bad Case of Lovin’ You”
Keith Moon “The Kids Are All Right”
Hybrid Soul Project “Chain of Fools”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 2 PM we bring you a classic episode of NOISE BRIGADE. Steven Allen Adams will be back with new shows, probably after the governor stops having daily press conferences.

At 3 PM your PopCulteer returns to host a new hour of The Swing Shift as we salute the use of the guitar in Swing Music. It’s not the first instrument you think of when you think of Swing, but the six-string instrument has had a place in Swing since the musical form mutated out of Dixieland Jazz. After opening the show with music from our new friend, Tyler Pedersen, we’ll bring you classic tracks from pioneers like Alvio Rey and Django Reinhardt, plus new guitar-based Swing from Europe and America, and of course, Brian Setzer has to play a part in this episode.
Check the playlist here…

The Swing Shift 089

Tyler Pedersen “The Shake”
Alvino Rey “Cement Mixer”
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown “One More Mile”
Joe Jackson “Jumpin’ Jive”
Brian Setzer Orchestra “Hollywood Nocturne”
Herb Ellis All-Stars “Herb’s Here”
Steve Howe “The Continental”
Waikiki Beach Boys “Poinciana”
Omar and the Stringpoppers “Eager Beaver Baby”
The Monkey Swingers “Red Red Robin”
Vintage Gramola “Caravan”
Billy Jack Wills “Troubles”
Jim Hall Trio “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”
Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five “Savoy Blip”
Gagarin Brothers “Black Cat”
Django Reinhardt “Swing Guitars”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 2 PM and Saturday at 5 PM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Monday Morning Art: State Street Cubism

 

We wrap up our “Chicago-Inspired Art” event here in Monday Morning Art for the month of March with a real physical painting that began life as a digital design, which I liked enough to transfer to a small piece of canvas board. Your PopCulteer and his wife managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Chicago before the scope of the Covid-19 Pandemic became so evident. Today’s art is not based on photographic reference, but instead is just my impression of the view of State Street, looking out the window of our top-floor hotel room.

Things have been a bit stressful for everyone over the last few weeks, and when I get stressed out, my art gets a little more angular. So I did this and scanned it and here it is.

You can click the image if you want to see a bigger version.

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, our Monday Marathon runs from 7 AM to 2 PM, and brings you eight hours of the one-hour version of Radio Free Charleston. These shows will be moving off the server at The AIR after this, so this will be your last chance to hear them for a while. 3 PM sees a new episode of Prognosis. Herman Linte brings you a show loaded with great new and classic prog-rock tunes.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Here’s the playlist for today’s new episode…

Prognosis 055

Marillion “Script For A Jester’s Tears”
Peter Banks “Endless Journey”
Flutatious “Acid Rain”
John Holden “Tears From The Sun”
Pallas “Moonline”
Renaissance “Can You Hear Me”
Robert Fripp “Exposure”
OddsFishce “My Train Of Thought Derailed”
Emerson Lake and Palmer “For You”
Dream Theater “A Better Life”
Kate Bush “Jig Of Life”
The Phantom of Phobos “The Undead”
Genesis “The Musical Box”
Frank Zappa “Times Beach”

Prognosis debuts new episodes Monday at 3 PM on The AIR. That episode is replayed Tuesday at 8 PM, Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at Noon, Friday at 7 AM and Saturday at 9 AM. Classic episodes can be heard Monday at 5 PM, and as part of the Haversham Recording Institute overnight show Monday’s beginning at 11 PM.

Sunday Evening Video: Rick Wakeman In Cuba

YouTube’s technical issues with providing embed codes are subsiding this morning, but not for the video that I had intended to bring you today, so instead you will get Rick Wakeman in concert in Cuba from 2005.

It’s pretty dang cool, and I’ve got Wakeman on the mind while waiting for his new album, The Red Planet, which I told you about Friday. It’s due out next week, and since I already posted the latest video up from that project, here’s this to punch your prog-rock buttons.

The CD and DVD are currently out of print, so this is the only way to watch this great performance that includes songs from Wakeman’s acclaimed solo albums as well as some of his soundtrack work and his solo take on a YES classic.

Check out the info…

In April 2005, at the personal invitation of Fidel Castro and the Swiss foundation, Association Friends of Cuba, Rick Wakeman and the New English Rock Ensemble performed a mammoth sell-out concert in the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana, Cuba.

1. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
2. The Recollection / The Spaceman
3, Catherine Parr
4. The Visit / The Return Of The Phantom
5. Jane Seymour
6. Shed Building
7. King Arthur
8. Cathedral Of The Sky
9. Merlin The Magician
10. Starship Trooper / Würm

“Made in Cuba” presents Rick Wakeman with his band the ‘New English Rock Ensemble’ performing to a capacity crowd live at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana, Cuba. In April 2005, invited by the Ministry of Culture, the Cuban Music Institute and the Swiss Foundation, “Association Friends of Cuba” – Rock Keyboard legend Rick Wakeman travelled to Havana, to perform a series of concerts that will forever be recognised internationally as an enormous event for the Cuban people, and a historic moment marked by the importance of one of the first and largest official Rock Concerts ever to be performed on the island.

 

The RFC Flashback: Episode 2

Starting this week, The RFC Flashback will depart from the strict chronological presentation of the history of Radio Free Charleston so that we can restore and re-present some of the episodes of the show that have been missing in action…in some cases for more than ten years. In fact, four of our first 100 episodes are still missing. I don’t have copies, and if anybody out there managed to download episodes 21, 66, 79 or 80, I would be extremely happy to get copies of those.

This week we go back to our second episode, from July 2006.  This one has been available, but is harder to find. YouTube flagged it and gave it the boot for our inclusion of, ironically enough, scenes from an unlicensed Batman movie from the Phillipines. However, Vimeo didn’t give a rat’s ass, so it’s bee tucked away there for some time. Now we represent it for you.

This episode is called “RVD Shirt, named after the then-current ECW and WWE champion, Rob Van Dam. Shortly after I got the shirt (a matter of hours, really), Mr. Van Dam drove into a speedtrap near Ironton, Ohio, which is not advisable when you are indulging in fine smokables of an illicit variety. RVD dropped both championships and was escorted from the company shortly thereafter.

This was when the show was still in its infancy, and originating from the much-missed LiveMix Studio. Our musical guests were a solo Stephen Beckner (currently in the band Speedsuit) and The Sleeping Dons, which was Sean Richardson, Deron Sodaro and Jay Lukens. We had animation from Brian Young and Frank Panucci, and ended the show with one of my favorite jokes, which is now fourteen years out of date, but it still qualifies as “mind-hurting weirdness.”

Next week, if YouTube cooperates, we will bring you an episode of the show from 2007 that hasn’t been seen anywhere in four or five years.

 

For some reason, nobody seems to be able to retrieve the embed codes that allow us to put YouTube clips into the body of our posts.

Until this matter is resolved, I will be unable to bring you our normal weekend video features here in PopCult.

We will keep trying, and hope they fix it in a few hours.

 

Stuff To Do At Home

The PopCulteer
March 27, 2020

Usually, roughly once a week, I present a round-up of cool places you can go and things you can do here in PopCult.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen this week (or for the foreseeable future).

We are still doing our best to “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus from spreading. There are times, when trying to discuss things like climate change, voting in your best interests and how to best limit the damage from a pandemic that I feel like Jor-El trying to warn the Science Council of Krypton that their planet is doomed. It’s frustrating and tiring, but please, listen to the doctors and scientists and don’t go out unless you really need to do so.

This is the easiest assignment in the world. You can save lives by just not leaving your house for a while.

But there are still cool things in this world which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home. I’m going to divide it in a a few catagories, so you can take your pick of cool things to help pass the time.

Stuff To Read

thestoryisthething

 

For a long time I’ve been meaning to plug the blog of Douglas Imbrogno, my original editor at PopCult and the reason you have this blog to read now.

Doug is a terrific writer, videographer and musician, and in his blog, thestoryisthething, you’ll find essays, music, video and — if for some reason you’re a big fan of PopCult, Doug’s take on the genesis of The PopCult Blog  and how it led to the revival of Radio Free Charleston were all documented in a recent post of his.

I got to hang out with Doug a bit recently. He gifted me with some cool Pez dispensers a couple of months ago, and he provided pre-show music for the recent production of Titus Andronicus in Charleston in which my wife participated.

His blog is a wonderful collection of the musings and writings of a truly gentle soul who tries as hard as possible to remain positive, which is quite a feat these days.

Douglas also curates the Changing Climate Times Newsletter, to which you can subscribe HERE. That he covers issues of climate change and manages to remain mostly upbeat is a tury remarkable accomplishment in an area where identifying with Jor-El is an everyday occurence.

The Chronicles of Don’t Be So Ridiculous Valley

Last year I included British musical legend Mike Batt’s whimsical illustrated fairy tale for all ages, The Chronicles of Don’t Be So Ridiculous Valley, in the PopCult Gift Guide. This stunned Mike, who had no idea that anybody in American knew who he was, or knew about the book. We exhanged a few pleasant Twitter messages over that.

Now, with the first edition of his book sold out, he has made it available for free, to read online, to help people deal with the world-wide quarantine. You can find it HERE and pass your time enjoying a tale that will take you to a much funnier world, one where slugs long to play the piano, and there’s not a worry in the world…except for the Pigfrogs. But then, what would a good story be without some conflict?

 

More Cool Blogs

In the past, I’ve recommended a few other blogs, and now is a good time to remind you so you can go catch up.

NewsFromME is Mark Evanier’s blog that covers everything from comics to classic film, animation theater, Frank Ferrante and life in Los Angeles. Mark’s had an amazing career that starts with him writing letters to comic books, then becoming an assistant to Jack Kirby, before broadening his scope and writing sitcoms and variety shows and producing animation–while still keeping a hand in comics as a writer and historian.
I always used to say he’s who I want to be when I grow up, but since he’s only ten years older than me, and I’m not even in television’s “money demographic” anymore, that joke is more creepy than funny.

Dial B For Blog is a great comics history site that hasn’t really been updated for several years, but it’s still filled with a wealth of fantastic material, mostly devoted to the comics and comic creators of the Silver age of DC Comics. The writer, “Robby Reed.” has over 950 well-researched and wonderfully-crafted “issues” that bring that great era of comics to life.

Just a few weeks ago I told you about The Rialto Report, which does for the Golden Age of Porn Chic what Dial B For Blog does for Silver Age DC Comics. I’m reminded to recommend it again because of the strange parallels between the business practices of porn producers and comic book pubishers, and the way that both industries treat their star talents. Ashley West and April Hall post articles, podcasts and archival material and paint a vivid picture of a marginalized cultural influence. Not for kids, and not safe for work, but still a fascinating read.

Stuff To Watch

Rick Wakeman has a new prog-rock concept album coming out soon. The Red Planet is the full-blown 1970s-style progressive rock beast of an album that Wakeman’s fans have been clamoring for for decades.

Wakeman has even dragged and dusted off out his vintage synths to make sure this album delivers on all fronts.

The album features 8 newly composed pieces, especially for this project, and harks back to Wakeman’s critically acclaimed debut album “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” where there were 6 heavy keyboard pieces based around a central subject matter. It is a serious return to “Wakeman Prog”

The Red Planet is inspired by a potential mission to Mars. Here’s a snippet of the music as a preview…

You can watch more of Rick’s videos, where he talks about recording the project at his YouTube Page.

Stuff To Hear

In a departure from what I usually do, I am putting up recent episodes of our speciality music programs as podcasts at The AIR.

To listen, you have to go to The AIR website, and in the menu on the left of the page (where the arrow is pointing in the graphic below), click “Podcasts.” This will give you a list of shows, you can listen to on demand. You can choose from recent episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, NOISE BRIGADE, Curtain Call, The Swing Shift, Psychedelic Shack and Prognosis. Plus we have the Life Speaks UFO Special there, too.

We’ll do this for the time being while everybody’s quarantined. It’s our small way of helping out.

Go to The AIR and look here…

Stuff To Buy and Listen To

William Matheny has hooked up with Leesta Vall Sound Recordings for a really cool project. For 25 bucks, you can choose a song from the provided list, William will record it and send it to Leesta Vall, who will custom-press it as a 7-inch, one of a kind record, and they’ll mail it to you. It’s the Direct-to-vinyl Shut-in Session Preorder.

The cutoff date is March 29, so go to the website, pick your song and order now!

And that’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. I hope everybody is doing well and abiding by the recommended hermatige-ing. We’ll do this again next week, with all-new picks.

Pop Culture On Pause

That headline does not mean that I’m taking time off from PopCult. I’ll still be here, trying to post fresh content every day and keeping you all apprised of cool stuff in pop culture and what’s happening on The AIR.

But with the unprecedented situation brought on by the Coronavirus outbreak, pop culture in general has shifted from escapism and light entertainment to focus on what’s happening in the real world.

This is like watching 9 11 unfold over a period of weeks, instead of a period of hours. It’s traumatizing and horrific to see this happen to our country.

It’s really scary stuff, and I’m certain that you’ve had your fill of it if you’re taking the time to come here and see what I’m writing about. There are better sources online than PopCult to tell you what to do and who to blame, and half of them are even accurate.  In this post, I’m going to look at some of the possible ramifications of how this virus has crippled the pop culture economy.

Our priority is and always should be the healthcare workers and first responders who are on the front lines. We also need to recognize (and maybe raise the pay of) the grocery store and restaurant workers and pharmacists who keep this country operational  I don’t mean any of this to take away from their valiant efforts.

But I’m here to talk about the trivial stuff, the non-essential industries that help us pass the time when thing are going relatively smoothly. The workers in these industries are largely going without pay right now. They have bills, rent, need food and medical attention–just like everyone else. This outbreak, and the ensuing near-lockdown of the country, is going to change several industries drastically, and perhaps forever. Get ready for a little bit of doom, with just a dash of gloom. Things are going to be rough before they get better.

Sports will rebound. The restaurant industry will climb back. Streaming services and television networks are having a boom period because of so many people being stuck at home.

Some people may discover that they don’t mind being stuck at home.

The major Hollywood studios have rush-released movies that were in theaters when this hit to home video and streaming services already, and this could very well change the way they decide to do business when we get close to being back to normal.

I’m among the people who have discovered that they hate seeing movies in crowded theaters. This happened years ago, when my job involved seeing moves at the hated Marquee Cinemas. I don’t like having to go out, pay a lot of money, and sit in a chair that isn’t always comfortable just so that I can have the “pleasure” of being around people who have no respect for the art of movie-making, nor any concept of how to properly behave in public.

I’ve got a big screen in my living room. I don’t need that other crap. Plus I can hear every line of dialogue instead of having them drowned out by the guffaws of ignorant oafs. I try not to be anti-social, but I’ve always enjoyed watching movies most alone or with a small amount of people around.

If the major studios discover that they can make just as much money, or even more, by distributing their films directly to the consumer–bypassing the middleman–they will start to release movies digitally the same day they hit theaters, and the movie theaters will see a huge drop-off in boxoffice sales.

Theater owners have feared this for decades, and it’s why they’re vowing to “punish” Universal for digitally releasing the next Trolls movie on the day it was to open in theaters. Hell, fifty years ago they tried to have cable television outlawed because they feared the competition, as you can see in this theater ad from the late 1960s.

Charging people to watch moving pictures when they have multiple screens in their home that let them that for free might not be a great business model for these times. We could see a major collapse of the theater industry after this. However, the silver lining seems to be the revival of the Drive-In Theater, if only temporarily.

In a less-profitable arena, this shutdown could very easily kill off the direct-sales comics market. 90% of the comics shops in the country are currently closed for the outbreak. Diamond Comic Distributors, who have a virtual monopoly, will stop sending or receiving orders after next Wednesday’s books are shipped out.

Transcontinental Printing, based in Toronto, is shut down, and they print most of DC Comics’ output, along with that of several other publishers like Dark Horse. Several comic companies have delayed books, suspended publication or even laid off their artists and writers.

Some folks are urging the industry to go digital, but most people agree that there simply aren’t enough readers using digital platforms to support the industry yet.

The fear is that this will break the comics habits of the small number of remaining comics readers, and put the vast majority of comic book stores out of business.

DC and Marvel will find a way to survive. Image and IDW will try. Many other publishers will likely go belly-up thanks to this economic meltdown.

The lack of printing facilities, distribution and retail outlets could also wipe out what’s left of an already-struggling magazine industry. Playboy magazine has announced that their next print edition is likely to be their last this year, and possibly their last ever.

Entertainment Weekly has already dropped to monthly publication. Going a month or two (or three) without any sales could be the death knell for periodical publications as we know them.

Newspapers might come out of this with a bit of reprieve, if people come back to the idea of home delivery of any kind of print media. Attracting advertisers might be trickier, as we have to see how other non-essential industries weather this storm.

The music industry, which was already mired in a years-long depression, is a matter that will have to wait for a later column. Suffice to say, music venues, bars, music stores and the musicians themselves are taking a major hit.

The toy industry is in seriously dire straits. Many toy lines are tied to movies that have been delayed, and while Walmart and Target and Walgreens are still open for business, other outlets for toys are shut down for the duration. The factories have been shut down in China for two months, and are only now beginning to come back online. Shipping priority has been given to medical supplies, so what toys have been made are piling up on the docks in Hong Kong.

At retail in the US, toys are no longer competing against other toys for consumer’s dollars, they’re competing against food and toilet paper. I love toys, but they are pretty near the top of the “non-essential” list.

The same can be said for fashion, or make-up, or wall decor. I mean, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Who is deeply concerned about buying Tiki mugs or Funko Pops or collectible Nikes?

This is a bit of a weird time for yours truly, since I cut way back on going out when I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis and had to start taking hardcore immuno-suppressants, so I’ve sort of been living like this for almost four years now. Melanie and I have put all our travel plans on hold, but my everyday routine hasn’t really changed much. Mel’s working from home for the time being, so that’s pretty cool.

I lost ToyLanta, but there’s always next year. I don’t know what the future holds, but I think it’s only 50/50 that I’ll be able to attend the toys shows I want to in June and July. I wasn’t considering going to SDCC, but I’m certain the organizers are already formulating contingency plans in case we aren’t up and running as normal by then.

I hope this ends soon, and safely. I do not trust our current leadership on a state or national level to do anything in our best interests, so I hope they don’t try to rush things, only to make things worse. There is so much about this virus that we don’t know yet, and they seem hell-bent on demonstrating that on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, posting about whatever cool stuff I can point you toward. Tomorrow I’ll share links for some good reading to help you pass the time, and I’ll probably shake up the RFC Flashback and dig deeper into the Radio Free Charleston vaults. I also still need to post more VirtualToylanta stuff. I’m very angry of the preventable aspects of this tragedy, but I will try very hard to keep that anger from seeping into what I write here.

It’s been a rough three weeks.