PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

To The LEGO Batcave!

The PopCult Toybox

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The back of the (huge) box
The back of the (huge) box

Fifty years ago last Monday, the Batman TV show debuted on American television, heralding a superhero craze that foreshadowed today’s epic billion-dollar movie franchises and TV programs. To commemorate this Pop Cultue milestone, LEGO announced that they will be releasing a deluxe set based on the classic 1966 TV show.

Billed as a Batcave set, this massive, 2,500-plus piece set actually comes with the bricks necessary to build the Batcave, part of Wayne Manor, the Batcopter, Batcycle and the iconic George Barris Batmobile (the original and only first official Batmobile–accept no cheesy substitutes), plus nine figures and tons of cool features.

The one, true Batmobile
The one, true Batmobile

This massive set will retail for $269.99 in the US, and will probably fly off the shelves. It’s due out March 1, with LEGO club members having a chance to pre-order it.

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Godspeed, Mr. Bowie

tumblr_m895piaSQS1rblpyto1_500As I’m sure most of my readers already know, David Bowie’s death was announced yesterday. As with much of the rest of the world, I am deeply, deeply saddened. Bowie was a rare pop music artist who transcended simple musical success and made his mark as an artist, an actor, an activist and even a savvy businessman.

My first exposure to Bowie was when I was a wee lad obsessed with NASA and space travel, and the song, “Space Oddity” became a radio hit. Any song about an astronaut would grab my attention, and it may well have informed my musical tastes for the rest of my life.

“Golden Years” cemented him as a musician of whom I was a fan, and later in my teens, after I became way more obsessed with music, I snapped up the “Young Americans” and “Ziggy Stardust” albums along with my first Beatles and Zappa albums.

130320_CBOX_DavidBowie05.jpg.CROP.article920-largeI had not quite reached the level of maturity necessary to fully appreciate his Berlin trilogy, but “Scary Monsters” was a mind-blowing revelation. His continual musical and visual transformations spanned such a wide variety of different levels of an styles that it will be hard for future generations to comprehend that he was just one man. From sphisticated and edgy Art-Rock to number one, radio-friendly hits, he navigated the tides of changing tastes like a magician.

His influence on the local music scene has been so great that in recent years we’ve had two major local tributes to his music, one, a memorable Empty Glass concert by Ann Magnuson backed by Chuck Biel and Ryan Kennedy among others, the other an annual “Goodnight” performance by Ryan Hardiman with Maddie Gourevitch, Mark scarpelli and a string quartet.

81GaOhfPyFL._SL1300_That he also managed to make a major impression as an actor was no surprise. He’d already played so many roles with his music that it was a natural progression.

Now he’s gone, leaving behind a legacy of unbelievable creativity, capped off by what may be the most perfectly-executed swansong with his “Blackstar” album, released on his birthday, just two days before his death. That’s the video for the title track at the head of this post. At the end you will see the gut-wrenching video for “Lazarus.”

There are far more comprehensive obituaries, and far more personal farewells to David Bowie all over the internet, but I wanted to add my thoughts here, out of respect for an artist who always maintained a high level of class and dignity, even when he was being deliberately ridiculous.People rarely speak of his sense of humor, but David Bowie was capable of being one of the funniest men on the planet. We can only thank him and mourn our loss.

Monday Morning Art: That Catch

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I don’t think that I’ve ever posted a piece of art here that was inspired by sports (except for Pro Wrestling). However, I decided to pay tribute to the late artist Leroy Neiman and also commemorate the only pretty play in a very ugly AFC Wildcard Game, when Martavis Bryant, of the Pittsburgh Steelers,  performed an amazing (and 100% legal and legit, no matter what bitter Bengals fans say) summersault flip catch.

I did this digital painting, somewhat in the style of Neiman, over a photograph by Christopher Hanewinckel of USA TODAY Sports, and I’m proud of the way it came out. The rest of the game is better left forgotten (and I’m saying this even though my team won), save for the fines and suspensions that the NFL will hand down. Click to enlarge.

Radio Free Charleston is taking another week off so that your blogger and rest up a bit and try to feel better.

Sunday Evening Videos: Robby The Robot

DC00795lgYour Popculteer is still under the weather and has decided to delay Radio Free Charleston for another week, so to make up for that, we’re bringing you cool videos of and about Robby The Robot, one of the first “celbrity robots.”

Robby debuted in the movie, Forbidden Planet, in 195, and has been immortalized in toy form and has appeared in countless movies and TV shows since. In the above clip, you’ll learn a bit about him. Below you’ll see him in action.

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RFC Flashback: May, 2009

montage70This edition of your local music, film, animation and art webcast was jam-packed with music and other short bits of coolness. The music is from Barebones, the accapella group who debuted on RFC just a few weeks before this episode, plus we continued “Mark Beckner Month” with a couple of performances that feature Mark: one solo, and one supporting his brother Stephen while jamming on an old Go Van Gogh tune.

As if the music weren’t enough, we also had a 100-second art show, this time showcasing the work of Leia Bell, a promo clip for “Viva le Vaudeville,” and the debut of “A Plant Ro Duction Mini Movie.”

It was a magical show, and you can read the original production notes HERE.

Things That Aren’t Fun

11165092_10153404618104601_544033155819012330_oThe PopCulteer
January 8, 2016

Actually, that headline should probably read “Thing That Isn’t Fun.” That thing would be having a stomach bug at a time when you have work piled up on your desk.

It’s thrown your PopCulteer off his game this week. We were supposed to run our looks back at 2015 in toys and comics, and I had a fun piece planned for today, but it’s just not going to happen.

12238049_10153376971459601_4572953693515148465_oWith luck I’ll beat this bug over the weekend and get things back under control and on track next week. This is frustrating because there’s so much going on right now. That means that there’s even more busy stuff for me to do.

PopCult will be returning to The International Toy Fair in New York City next month. We will be there for all four days this time, and we are taking a three-person crew. One month later we return to JoeLanta, again with a three-person crew, to bring you the sights and sounds of one of the biggest collectors conventions in the country.

11049588_10153359603414601_8958673915885736139_nOn top of that, very soon we’ll be involved in the launch of an exciting new internet radio station that will see the relaunch of the Radio Free Charleston radio show, as well as other cool programs coming from the PopCult crew. I’ll tell you more about that as the launch date approaches.

This weekend, the plan is to produce either a full episode of Radio Free Charleston (the video show), or an RFC MINI SHOW, depending on how your host/instigator feels. Look for whatever we come up with on Monday.

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Calling In Sick

Due to your PopCulteer battling a minor stomach bug, the post planned for today will run next week. With any luck the PopCulteer planned for tomorrow will go on as planned. Thanks for your patience.

The PopCult Toybox Video Vault

toybox zeroidThe International Toy Fair in New York City is rapidly approaching, and your PopCulteer and his wife will be returning for our second year at the annual preview of all the cool toys.

With a special guest photographer and a four-day stay this year, our coverage will be more comprehensive than ever.

Because of all the advance planning and preperation, we didn’t have time to write a PopCult Toybox this week, so we will dive back into the video vault for nearly an hour of vintage toy commercials from the 1950s to the 1970s. Enjoy!

Ten Years Ago Today In PopCult

2006Welcome to a new, semi-regular feature here in PopCult where I go back and look at what was posted in this blog exactly ten years ago. You can expect this feature to show up any time that my planned post for the day falls through and there hapens to be a ten-year-old post worth revisiting..

It’s amazing how things have changed in ten years. In 2006, the media was just beginning to honestly cover the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush after giving him a free ride in the wake of 9-11. I was still in caregiver mode for my mother and was unable to travel. Melanie Larch and I were in our last days as The Charleston Gazette’s Animation Columnists. The Gazette and Daily Mail were still separate entities. Flying cars had not yet been introduced to the American public. The record charts were dominated by Skiffle music. “Snakes On A Plane” ruled the box-office and swept the OSCARS. Paris Hilton was still famous for no reason. And of course, Radio Free Charleston returned from the dead.

In PopCult on january 5, 2006, your PopCulteer complained about the changes in Medicare’s drug plan, talked about DEVO 2.0, Hayao Miyazaki, “Hoodwinked,” the ill-fated Virgin Comics, Rosario Dawson, Peter Bagge, Bat Boy and The Bonzo Dog Band. You can read it HERE and laugh at my youthful optimism.

Monday Morning Art: Mr. Blue Sky

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Our first Monday Morning Art of the new year sees your PopCulteer reworking an old photo taken in Downtown Charleston about nine years ago in digital watercolor. I always liked the composition and the effects created by shooting into the sun, but the washed-out color bothered me, so I fixed it. Then I named it after the ELO song that Melanie and I had played at our wedding. Click to enlarge.

There will be no Radio Free Charleston or RFC MINI SHOW this week. I needed a weekend off after a very busy December of PopCulting (we had around fifty posts last month, and still haven’t missed a day since August, 2013). The plan for the rest of this week is to do the 2015 year-in-review posts that we didn’t have time to write last week.