PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

April Winchell Rules!

One of the funniest women on the planet is April Winchell. It’s just a fact. She’s a fantastic cartoon voice talent, and has appeared on a variety of radio stations in the Los Angeles area. She’s just so funny that words cannot do her justice. Now you can find out for yourself, since she’s just started her own podcast, which you can find here. Depending on your office, this may not be work-safe. It may also inspire fits of disruptive laughter. Her podcast reveals her as a comedic force to be reckoned with. This is in addition to her website, which features a very amusing blog and an archive of some of the sickest, funniest music that you’ll ever hear. A sampling of that appears as our Songs Of The Week this week (see the post above, but you need to go to her site and check out all the weirdness, from the bizarre covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the life lessons from Fabio, it’s like Dr. Demento for grown-ups.

And it IS for grown-ups.
Those of you who flinch at adult language may want to steer clear, but for the rest of us, April’s site is an oasis of twisted humor tucked away in her own little corner of the Internet.

Whistlepunk at the Vandalia Lounge

Whistlepunk played a surprise show last Saturday night at the Vandalia Lounge, and I was lucky enough to be tipped off in time to catch the performance. I didn’t find out in time to post anything here in the blog, but they sounded great, trust me. You can check out a couple of their songs at their MySpace page. Whistlepunk is made up of three buddies of mine from the old Radio Free Charleston days, Spencer Elliott, Dan Jordan and Brian Young. This was the first time I’d seen Spencer and Dan in over ten years, and it was a mighty fun evening. I felt like I’d been thawed out after being frozen in ice for the last decade-and-a-half.

This was also my first visit to the Vandalia Lounge. I was impressed, and it takes a lot for a bar to impress a non-drinker like me. The place is great with high ceilings that keep the smoke from getting too bad, and great big comfy couches for us to sit on while we caught the band. I’ll definitely be heading back to catch more bands there in the future. I can see why people rave about the place.

It was a great time. Made me think that maybe I need to come up with some way to bring more music and cool experiences to my readers.


Monday Morning Art: Color Play

Our Monday morning art this week is a digitally assaulted photograph of a streetlight at the Summers Street entrance to Davis Square. It’s another study in color composition and juxtaposition. Plus, the red skies look like something out of an early-1980s music video directed by Russell Mulcahy. All it needs is some glass breaking for no reason.

Click the image to enlarge.

Boy! That’s some Squirrel!

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Squirrel Boy is a new show set to debut on Cartoon Network in July, but there have been so many sneak peeks that kids are probably already familiar with the cartoon. Created by Everett Peck, who previously gave us Duckman, Squirrel Boy is aimed at a younger audience, but in many ways it’s a superior cartoon. For one thing, the quality of the animation is spectacular. It begs the question, “Why can’t all TV cartoons look this good?”

Squirrel Boy chronicles the adventures of a boy, Andy, and his pet squirrel, a know-it-all named Rodney who manages to get the two tied up in a series of schemes and offbeat ventures. It’s an entertaining enough premise, but the real star of the cartoon is the overall look.

The fluidity of motion and color design is better than many feature films, and the animation stands head and shoulders above almost everything else produced for television. In fact, it’s a bit jarring seeing Peck’s designs rendered in such a lush manner. Previously, his cartoons were produced on a shoestring budget and were purposefully crude-looking. The animation in Squirrel Boy is on par with the classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons of the 1940s, but the design work is from another era. Still, this is a classy-looking cartoon.

The voice work is impressive, too. Andy is voiced by Pamela Segall Adlon, who also provides the voice for Bobby Hill, from King Of The Hill. Rodney’s voice is provided by Richard Horvitz. Squirrel Boy officially premieres on July 14, but it’s a safe bet that Cartoon Network will have several more sneak previews over the next few weeks, so you may want to check their schedule regularly.

Always In Threes

We lost three vastly different, but equally great, men in the last week.

Ian Copeland was the least famous of three brothers, but he still made quite an impact on the music business. One brother, Stewart, is the former drummer for The Police, and a noted composer. His other brother, Miles, was the brains behind pioneering new wave label, IRS Records, the first home of R.E.M, among many other bands of the 1980s. Ian took care of the less glamorous side of tour management. With Frontier Booking International, he booked tours for The Police, The B-52s, Oingo Boingo and dozens of other new wave bands. It’s been said that Ian Copeland was the man who brought New Wave to America. He was 57 when he succumbed to cancer last week. More details can be found here, and here.

Alex Toth was a noted comic book artist and animation designer. He’ll always be remembered for designing the 1960s cartoon Space Ghost, but he also worked on Jonny Quest, Superfriends, and countless other cartoons, primarily for Hanna Barbera. Before that, Toth made his mark in the world of comic books, where he is recognized as a genius, on par with the greatest names in the business — Kirby, Eisner, Wood and Kubert. His flawless sense of lighting and page composition makes him a true artist’s artist, whose work is, and will continue to be studied by aspiring comic book artists all over the world. Heidi MacDonald writes more about Toth here. Mark Evanier, who was privileged to work with Toth, explains just exactly what Toth did here.
Toth passed away at his drawing board last Saturday morning. He was 74. Fans can leave condolences here.

Desmond Dekker was a legend of Jamaican music. His song “The Israelites” was the first worldwide hit record by a Jamaican artist, and he was a key figure in the mutation of first-wave Ska music into what would eventually be known as Reggae. Dekker died last Wednesday of a heart attack at his home while preparing for a European tour. He was 64. You can read more about his music here, and check out more detailed obituaries here and here.

Hollywood vs. The Pirates

The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest BitTorrent search engine, was taken down by Swedish Police at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America two days ago. The charge is that Pirate Bay was aiding in the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. However, copyright laws in Sweden are notoriously lenient, and officials of Pirate Bay, who openly taunt the MPAA, are saying that they will be back online in a matter of days. This could be a major blow to peer-to-peer BitTorrent sites, possibly setting the illegal trading of files on the internet back days, or even weeks. Most observers expect Pirate Bay to return, or a replacement to arise to fill the void.

The Los Angles Times has in-depth coverage here. Other viewpoints can be found here, and here. Wikpedia offers updated information at the Pirate Bay entry on their website.

Song Of The Week: 200th Post!

Well, we’ve hit a minor milestone here at PopCult, so in honor of our 200th post, we’re doing something completely self-indulgent. This week’s SOTW is another dip deep into the Radio Free Charleston archives, only this time, it’s the THEME SONG from Radio Free Charleston! This rare location recording features a number of the area’s finest performers and waiters collaborating, at almost 3 AM one night at the Charleston Playhouse. The tune was improvised on the spot. We had no idea what we were going to do, we just wanted to crank out a theme song for my radio show. It’s an example of the type of music that can only warp into existence during the nether hours at an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. The Playhouse played host to quite a few magical moments like this during its short life.

Sung in a key previously unused by human voice, this rockin’ little ditty wound up being the theme song for Radio Free Charleston for the final five months that it was on the air. This was actually a performance by the Charleston Playhouse Quartet, which featured my own sorry-sounding voice, along with Jim Wolfe, John McIntyre, Jake Kennedy, and John (Sham Voodoo) Estep, who also played guitar. Yes, we always had at least five people in the Quartet. By the way, the photos accompanying this piece are not actually the performers on this song, but they were taken at the Playhouse.

Hearing this again makes me nostalgic for the old radio show. Sure would be great if, somehow, I managed to resurrect it now that we’ve landed in the internet age.