PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Local Wrestling Under Assault

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RCW (Revolutionary Championship Wrestling), the Portsmouth-based independent wrestling federation is facing a crisis. Their show, which airs every Saturday at 4 p.m. on WHCP WB30, is scheduled to go off the air at the end of the month. WHCP has chosen not to renew the contract that has brought local viewers some very entertaining local wrestling for the last year. Unless the management at WHCP changes their mind, tomorrow’s show will be the last.

RCW has been a fun little treat. Some of the talent from IWA East Coast has turned up on their shows, and this half-hour program was a nice alternative to the slick WWE programming that dominates TV. I can’t understand why WHCP would want to kill off the only locally produced programming that they air, since their newscast was found floating belly-up at the top of the TV set back in February.

RCW would continue promoting events and selling DVDs of their shows, but losing TV would cut off a lot of their fans, who can’t travel to southern Ohio to see their live events.

RCW is suggesting that their fans contact the station to show support. You should be polite, and courteous, and it would probably be smart not to mention that you read about his here in PopCult, since WHCP seems to have a problem with us.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Uglydoll

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“They’re so ugly that they’re cute!”

You’ve heard that before. You may have even said it a few times. That’s the premise behind Uglydolls, stuffed animal monsters that are so ugly, that you just know that kids are going to love them. Created by Dave Horvath and Sun-Min Kim in 2001, these 12″ plush critters sell for around 20 dollars (lately, smaller versions have been released that sell for less) and they’ve been cropping up on the outer fringes of “cool” culture for the last couple of years. Debra Messing, Robin Williams, Nelly and designer Todd Oldham have all been spotted toting these lovable beasties.

There are a dozen Uglydolls, with names like “Wage,” “Ice-Bat” and the inseparable “Bop and Beep.” You can read their individual profiles at the Uglydoll website. Kids love ugly toys, and Uglydolls have the added appeal of being a hot pop culture item, too. In addition to the basic plush, you can now find vinyl versions of the Uglydolls and even Uglydog.

Google will take you to several dozen online retailers that sell Uglydolls, but locally, you can find them at Kid Country Toys. Go hunt them down. Ugly is the new pretty.

Animated From New York…It’s Saturday Night!

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Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Ambiguous Animations

This Saturday a rare television event will occur–NBC will broadcast an episode of the long-running Saturday Night Live which stands a good chance of being really funny and entertaining from beginning to end! How do we know this? This week, Saturday Night Live is a special compilation show that collects 90 minutes of Robert Smigel’s “Saturday TV Funhouse” shorts into one convenient spot. There will be new introductory segments hosted by Ace and Gary, “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” their first appearance in four years.

Ace and Gary are voiced by Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell, who were virtual unknowns when they first took the roles. Robert Smigel, the creator and writer of these animated shorts, has gone on to greater notoriety as the voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. The shorts range from poignant (the Christmas cartoon, where Jesus returns and is repulsed by everything he sees, until he catches the Peanut’s Christmas special) to silly (The Ex-Presidents), but they’re all worth watching, and short enough that, unlike the typical SNL skit, they get to the punchline before the audience loses interest.

“Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse” airs Saturday at 11:30 PM on NBC.

Kids’ WB News

Word on the Saturday Morning cartoon front: This fall, when netlets The WB and UPN merge into The CW, the Saturday Morning cartoon block will be called “Kid’s WB on The CW”. The network is dropping Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh, after years of declining ratings. New shows include new versions of “Tom and Jerry” and “Scooby Doo”, and a cartoon version of DC Comic’s “Legion Of Superheroes“, which oddly enough, will not be in the same style or continuity as their recent appearance on the JLU cartoon.

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Thursday night is supposed to be the last night that Adult Swim shows “Saved By The Bell“. We can only hope for two things: First, that the ratings were so low that they take the master tapes of “Bell” and bury them in a landfill; Second, that this was all just a really sick joke on the part of the Adult Swim guys, maybe making fun of the idiocy of Cartoon Network starting to show live-action films. Next week, the midnight Monday-Thursday timeslot on Adult Swim will be filled with The Oblongs, which was a really funny short-lived prime time cartoon a few years ago. The theme song was by They Might Be Giants, and Will Ferrell provided the voice for the limbless dad. It’s well worth checking out.

Son Of Great Moments In Cross Marketing Stupidity

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If the Hello Kitty Fender Guitar wasn’t bizarre enough, then how about lining up this fall so you can buy the Chrysler 300C Personal Computer. According to Brandweek Magazine, we’re going to be treated to a PC that features a base unit shaped like the popular overpriced gas-guzzler. The hard drive is inside the 21-inch-long car replica, and the disc player tray pops out from under the distinctive front grille.

It’s going to sell for $1,500, which puts it about 500 bucks higher than comparable computers that don’t happen to look like toy cars. However, for that extra five C-notes, you get special features, like the option of having the computer make revving-up sounds when you turn it on. The desktop icons all have the winged Chrysler logo, and you can purchase custom rims for the tires. On top of that you can even have the PC make idling sounds while the computer is on, at least until you snap from the constant noise and start beating it with a toilet brush.

Initially, this special PC will be a limited run of 5,000, and it will be sold in special retail locations that cater to foolish people with too much money. It’ll be interesting to see if this sort of gigantically pointless feat of cross-licensing will have any effect on the already idiotic practice of PC case modifications.

Fender Guitars wants more women to get involved in playing music. They especially want younger girls to pick up the guitar, and follow in the footsteps of artists like Lisa Loeb, who endorses Fender products. So, in order to target bright, talented, introspective and mature young women who might want to explore the artistic wonders of the electric guitar, Fender has decided to design a guitar that they think will appeal to intelligent, serious, budding young female artistes.

They took one of their cheaper guitars, painted it pink, and slapped a decal of Hello Kitty on it.

It’s the Hello Kitty Fender Guitar, and they honestly think that this will sell girls on the idea of becoming a rock star. Because, when you think of ROCK, you think of Hello Kitty.

Makes you wonder if Mattel wanted too much money to license Barbie: Fairytopia to Fender.

Song Of The Week: Magical Misery Tour

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Courtesy of Paul Hipp and the folks at the Huffington Post, this week’s SOTW is a fresh take on The Beatles’ classic “I Am The Walrus,” filtered through the recent spoutings of our Commander In Chief: “I’m The Decider.” Right click and save to download, or click here to see the lyrics while you listen.

“Walrus” is one of my favorite Beatle tunes, and normally, the thought of it being sung by Dubya would be stomach-turning. But this version is clever enough to overcome the inherent blasphemy.

Did I miss something?

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So, I took a week off from writing Popcult (and thanks for the kind words and well wishes), and I turn on the TV Sunday morning, only to find that they were showing the movie “The Road Warrior.” No big deal, except that they were showing it on The History Channel.

This was The History Channel, you know, the channel where they show programs about things that really happened, sometime in the past. In case you don’t know, “The Road Warrior” is a post-apocalyptic action flick starring Mel Gibson as one of the last civilized people on Earth who fights a band of mutants in the Australian outback. It was a sequel to “Mad Max,” but it was this second movie that was more successful and inspired the professional wrestlers who swiped the name.

I know I’ve been a bit preoccupied during the last week, but did I miss the end of the world?

Monday Morning Art

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At right you see a digitally assaulted photograph of the former Mound Elementary School in Dunbar, where I first learned to write good. Click the photo to enlarge.

Now it’s the Fairlawn Baptist Church Annex. Many years ago, before it was an elementary school, it was Union District High School, the first high school in Kanawha County.

And it’s built on an Indian burial mound, which explains all the zombies we used to have wandering around during math class.

Monday Mourning

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The above picture is a composite that I made of my parents a few years back for their anniversary. It’s their two favorite photos of each other, combined into one. I have pretty much dedicated the last fifteen years to taking care of my parents full time. Dad passed away in 2003, after a battle with leukemia. I mentioned in my sketchy bio, back when I started this blog, that I’d been taking care of Mom here at home since she suffered a major stroke in 1997. We lost Mom Saturday morning. She had a peaceful end, after fighting to live for many years more than any doctor expected.

I’ll be back posting in a few days.

Song Of The Week: Hasil sings Chuck Berry

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This week’s Song Of The Week is a bit of an archival recording, so you’ll have to excuse the audio quality. This was recorded the night that I met Hasil Adkins, back in March, 1990. It was a Friday night, and The Swivels (formerly The Swivel Rockers) were playing at the Empty Glass. All week long they promised a surprise guest, and they did not disappoint. Between sets by The Swivels, Boone County Legend Hasil Adkins got up and performed a handful of songs, sitting behind the drum kit with his guitar.

Whoever was running sound that night recorded it off the soundboard, and, with Hasil’s blessing (nobody wanted to cross Hasil Adkins), I was able to play this song the next night on Radio Free Charleston. This is a dub of the air check from that episode of RFC, digitized and cleaned up a bit, but it’s still pure Haze. Sure it’s low-fi, but somehow the thought of Hasil in Dolby 5.1 Surround doesn’t seem right.

So, travel back to that magic night when Hasil Adkins took the stage at the Empty Glass, and performed the Chuck Berry classic, “Maybelline.” For more on Hasil Adkins, check out the official Hasil Adkins website, from which I swiped the above photo. I had to “Hasil-ize” it, a little, though.