PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

50 Cool Things About 2008

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There were many cool things/events/people and places that we encountered this last year, and here, in no particular order (the numbers are for my convenience) is The PopCult Universe list of 50 Cool Things about 2008:

1) IWA East Coast, West Virginia’s premiere indy wrestling fed, capped off a stellar year by announcing two cool things: They now have an official MySpace page maintained by none other than IWA EC’s Mad Man Pondo (right) . and their next show, in February, will see the IWA EC debut of WWF/WCW/NWO stalwart Scott Hall.

2) Wal Mart continued their program of carrying cheap reproduction GI Joes. This year they re-released the 1960s-style guys with painted hair and hard hands, along with four uniform sets, all for a mere ten bucks a pop.

3) Barack Obama elected in the first untainted election since 1996. Local legend Lady D is chosen to perform at his inauguration.

4) The Concept released “The Empire Penguin Strikes Back.” See the review here.

5) The Police reunion tour continued.

6) The first annual issue of “Love and Rockets” “New Stories #1” is released after years of more frequent publication in a shorter form. Gilbert Hernandez turns in his usual amazingly deep work, while his brother Jaime returns to the genre of hot ladies with super powers.  Still the most consistently excellent comic book series being published after 28 years.

7) Wall-E. Pixar, ’nuff said.

8 ) DEVO played their hometown, Akron, for the first time in 30 years, as the “DEVObama” fundraiser on October 17 also saw fellow Akron native Chrissy Hynde backed by DEVO on the title cut from the new Pretenders CD, “Breaking The Concrete.”

9) The price of Gas drops to an eight-year low.

10) The CYAC production “Jack The Ripper,” is not only a brand-new musical staged for the first time in Charleston, but it’s also easily the best local theater production of the year.

11) Due to the leap year, February had an extra day. We spent February 29 at the UUC recording Barrrelhouse Bonni and Lady D for Radio Free Charleston. You can see Bonni here, and Lady D here and below.

12) Radio Free Charleston hits episode 50, with The Concept and Hasil Adkins, plus animation from Frank Panucci, cameos from Johnny Fairplay, Unknown Hinson, Kevin Pauley and Mad Man Pondo, plus Kitty Killton and Mel Larch singing the National Anthem.

13) WV Rockscene’s blog continues to keep us posted on the latest music in the local scene.

14) An updated Dan Dare comic book by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine is published by Virgin Comics. A collection is coming soon from Dynamic Forces. It’s kick-ass space opera at it’s finest, with top-flight writing and killer artwork.

15) “Iron Man” is released. Possibly the best comic book-to-film adaptation ever.

16) It turns out that Andy Kaufman did fake his death and is still the mastermind behind a series of world-spanning pranks.  Who else could actually get the Republicans to nominate Sarah Palin for VP? Who would have thought we’d ever see absurdist performance art on such a grand scale?

17) Gary Damron’s All Star Wrestling brings Jerry Lawler to Logan to wrestle Mad Man Pondo. You can read my interview with “The King” here. Check out photos of the event here.

18 ) Marcie Bullock releases her CD, “Spent.” You can read my review here, and see her on Radio Free Charleston in January.

19) Mega Bloks begins their “King Arthur” line of building sets.

20) I know it’s been around for a while, but Melanie and I just started eating at The Bluegrass Kitchen on a regular basis this year. Great food and ambience.

21) Season Three of “Moral Orel” on Adult Swim was real art. You can catch the entire third season New Year’s Eve, when AS runs a marathon.

22) Kanawha Players production of “Bright Ideas” starring Jason and Jamie Dunbar was a juicy dark comedy, with a brilliant cast. My first time in KP’s new building, too. Won’t be the last.

23) The Book Exchange reopens on Charleston’s East End. It quickly threatens to become a Mecca of cool in the Capitol City.

24) My nephew Willy starts to call me “Unca Rudy.” (Hey, it was cool for me)

25) Mattel finally releases the 1/18th scale George Barris Batmobile. Mel gets me one for my birthday.

26) The Vandalia Grille opens as a Tapas restaurant. Really good, adventurous food at a very reasonable price. My only gripe: if your fries come with two dipping sauces, they shouldn’t both be white sauces, and neither of them should ever be mayo.  Ketchup or honey mustard is a must.

27) Smoking is banned in bars.  COOLEST THING EVER. Sorry smokers, but those of us who still have working lungs like to go out without getting cancer.

28 ) The March 2 benefit for Emily Gunter Haynes at The Blue Parrot is an amazing day of great music to help out a great lady. Too many bands to list here put on an all-day show, and I’m glad to report that Emily is doing much better now. Kudos to Tom and The Blue Parrot for Hosting such a cool event.

29) Local cool guy (and friend of RFC) Paul Mullins appears as one of the main villains in Billy Tucci’s new “Sgt. Rock” comic book from DC Comics. Issue three goes on sale next week.

30) Not a new thing, but Graziano’s Pizza is always cool.

31) CYAC’s 12th production of the rock opera “Mary” was a thing of joy and wonderment this holiday season. See for yourself, below.

32) Saw the ex-wife for the first time in 22 years as I took her and her family to Olive Garden in October. Laughs were exchanged and no blood was shed.

33) Paul Callicoat’s new CD, “The Wayward Truth” is a masterpiece of Americana. Look for a review next week. Meanwhile go visit Paul at Route 60 Music. It’s guitar heaven.

34) My buddies Ed Catto and Joe Ahearn at Captain Action Enterprises announced the pending revival of one of my favorite childhood toys, the Robots from outer space, The Zeroids (seen at right)!

35) Kanawha Players production of “The Crucible” was a timely reminder that the Bush/Cheney era is almost over.

36) The Radio Free Charleston Halloween shows, episodes 54 and 55, are a hit, with music from Doctor Senator, The Hellblinki Sextet, Under The Radar, and Go Van Gogh, plus short films by Spike Nesmith and Rich Allen, animation from Wladislaw Starewicz and zombies galore. Plus I had hair. Special thanks to Liz McCormick and Chelsea Cook, who lent their star power to  the host segments alongside RFC Big Shots Melanie Larch and Brian Young.

37) Dog Soldier releases a great EP. Look for a review next week. Meanwhile check out one of the songs below:

38 ) LiveMix Studio, in addition to being the home base for Radio Free Charleston staged an array of cool events throughout the year. It’s a unique venue in Charleston, the very nexus of cool.

39) The IHOP in Kanawha City has filled the void left by the demise of The Southern Kitchen, due largely to having one of the coolest staffs in town working their overnight shift.

40) “The Bridge” who held several great all-day music shows in Davis Park. Free music, food and clothing if you needed it–one of the coolest things we’ve seen.

41) Watching Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen From Mars, AKA Jonathon and Laura, progess, getting even better every time we hear them.

42) Former WCW wrestler Daffney, who agreed to do an animation intro for RFC.

43) The No Pants Players, who continue to crack up the valley with their feats of Improv astonishment.

44) Long overdue recognition for John Nelson of Budget Tapes and Records, who sold me my first albums by DEVO and Kate Bush 30 years ago. Check out John here.

45) Local Author Brian J. Hatcher (right), who was published in Weird Tales Magazine and Legends Of The Mountain State volume 2 this year.

46) The Empty Glass was rightfully named one of the top 100 bars in the country. They marked the event by holding an all-day music blowout that saw a one-time-only reunion of The Pistol Whippers. The Glass also held a series of way-cool cookouts at Coonskin Park.

47) New episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies ran on Adult Swim at the same time, early in 2008.

48 ) Kind words about Radio Free Charleston from new fans like Dhani Harrison, Coati Mundi, Wayne Coyne and Ade Edmondson.

49) Charleston’s two cool coffehouses, Taylor Books and Capitol Roasters.  We’re lucky to have two cool places to hang out, meet people and hear great music.

50) Getting to meet, hear, film and/or hang out with great musicians like The Synergy Collective, Chuck Biel and the Underdog Blues Revue and Punk Jazz, The Ghosts Of Now, Stephen Beckner, Tofujitsu, Spurgie Hankins Band, Corporate Orange, Jonathon Wood, Marcie Bullock, Steve Himes, The Coal Men, The Buttonflies, The Hellblinki Sextet, Anthony Hoey, Ric Cochran, Rich Allen, John Lilly, Drop Ded Phred, The Science Fair Explosion, Dime Store Heist, In Formation,Unknown Hinson, The Drunken Gentlemen, Dog Soldier and way too many others to mention.

Tomorrow, come back to PopCult for “50 Things That Sucked About 2008.” To be honest, originally the plan was for these lists to be “100 Things” but one of the things that has sucked most for me in 2008 is this repetitive stress injury, or whatever it is, that has left my right hand virtually useless.  After I got past number 30 on today’s list, I decided to truncate the list in order to preserve my sanity. It’s not easy typing regularly with one hand, and peck-typing with the other.

So…come back Wednesday for the list of suckage, and apologies to the fifty cool things, events and people that got lift off this list.