PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The 2016 PopCult Gift Guide: Picks From Curtain Call

cc-ggPopCult Note: Mel Larch, also known to readers of this blog as Mrs. PopCulteer, is also the host of Curtain Call, a weekly one hour show featuring the best of musical theatre, on The AIR. Today Mel offers up some ideas for the musical theater buff on your holiday gift list.

If you had to sum up musical theatre for 2016 in one word, it would have to be Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking, award winning musical about the “ten dollar founding father,” featuring a score that effortlessly fuses hip-hop, R & B, and pop, has become a cultural phenomenon.

Tickets for both the Broadway and touring production can be difficult (not to mention pricey) to aquire, but there’s several things out there to please the Hamilton fan in your life.

51pk6v0aiolHamilton: The Revolution
by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4555-3974

Written by Miranda in collaboration with cultural critic and theatre artist Jeremy McCarter (who was involved in the show from its earliest stages), Hamilton: The Revolution traces the show’s development from a performance at the White House to its Broadway opening six years later.

Fans will be delighted at the inclusion of the show’s libretto, complete with funny and revealing footnotes from Miranda, along with exclusive looks at notebooks and e-mails pertaining to the production.

Stunning photos from Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer Joan Marcus enhance the narrative, which also contains interviews with leading political commentators, The Roots frontman Questlove, award winning composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and over 50 people involved with the show. There’s even multiple appearances by none other than President Obama himself.

With its message that America has always been renewed by the upstarts, the outsiders, the brash and the brilliant who don’t “throw away their shot,” Hamilton: The Revolution is a must-have addition to the library of any musical theatre fan, especially for those who enjoy “behind the scenes” stories of how a show is crafted from a simple idea to a smashing success. Hamilton: The Revolution can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore using the ISBN number above or from Amazon.

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giftguide-graphic-008This is one of those years when Hanukkah coincides neatly with Christmas, beginning on December 24, and lasting until January 1, 2017. Because we don’t want to exclude anyone here on the PopCult Gift Guide, we wanted to revisit one of the cool items we saw at the New York International Toy Fair,  Mensch on a Bench. This is the perfect gift for your Jewish friends, or for your Gentile friends if you’re Jewish and want to share a bit of your traditions in a new and fun way. As gifts go, this one is pretty kosher.

mensch-product-shot_transparent-300x300Mensch on a Bench was created by a Jewish father who wanted to teach his sons about the Jewish holiday while adding new traditions to the family. First came the story of Moshe the Mensch who helped Judah Maccabee at the temple. Moshe played dreidel, loved gelt, and was a true Mensch. Next came the doll which could hold the Shamash candle and watch over the Menorah.

This very popular Jewish take on The Elf on a Shelf has been seen on Shark Tank and is expanding this year with new characters like Bubbe, the grandmother dool who talks, oversized versions of the dools as well as books and other products. In the video above, PopCult talked to its creator, Neal Hoffmann, to learn more about how he came up with this fun idea.

You can learn more about Mensch on a Bench and how you can get in on the fun at their website. You can find Mensch on a Bench in select stores, or shop from their entire product line at their online store.


14884551_10210847699171568_5579749299001068931_oThe new card game that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Captain Action is available now. This new card game celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first superhero action figure, Captain Action. The game features all the characters from the Captain Action mythos: Action Boy and his pet black panther, Khem, Lady Action and the diabolical Dr. Evil. You can expect classic art from legendary comics artists such as Murphy Anderson and Carmine Infantino, plus fan-favorite comics artists, including Jerry Ordway, Paul Gulacy and Kerry Callen.

The game offers 3-in-1 gameplay, just like the classic Captain Action card game. with three fun ways to play: Let Justice Be Done! is a casual game is for three or four players. Each player’s goal is to create the highest number of sets of 3 or more matching cards. Cards can form sets with the same background color (3+periwinkle backgrounds) or the same character (3+ Lady Actions). Action Boy is helping Captain Action, so any Action Boys in a set count double at the end.

giftguide-graphic-008Lady Action’s Escape is for three or four players. Each player’s goal is to discard all their cards before the others can do the same thing. The storyline is that the team is trapped in Dr. Evil’s prison! Lady Action has devised a way out, but they’ll have to be sneaky. Each person needs to carefully follow the person in front of them. Lady Action might find a different escape route… you’ll have to follow her if she does!

Find Dr. Evil is a simple game is for young fans of Captain Action.The object is to catch Dr. Evil by ending the game with him in your hand.In the storyline Dr Evil is in disguise! The team must flush him out of hiding! The object of game is to end up with Dr. Evil in your hand.

14992045_10154058671578857_6793925091387755628_nThis is a great way to keep the spirit of Captain Action alive while we wait on the next toyline and the cartoon series, plus it’s a fun way to brainwash young children into wanting Captain Action so that they can play with him, too.

You can order this game, which is an homage to the highly-valuable Captain Action Kool Pops mail-in game from fifty years ago, from the Gamecrafter, where it’ll set you back 26 bucks, which is a bargain compared to what you’d pay for the original Kool Pops card game. I’ve been telling you about Captain Action since the beginning of PopCult, and you have to know that this game is a toy-collector’s dream, perfect for the vintage toy afficianado on your holiday shopping list.


giftguide-graphic-008One of the really cool things that we got to see at Toy Fair this year was the I Am Elemental line of action figures geared for a female audience. These 4″ figures are original creations which you will hear about in the interview posted above. These are the perfect gift for the young girl on your holiday shopping list who needs heroes to look up to, and to help her look for strength within. Earlier this week I Am Elemental was named a finalist for Toy of the Year by the TIA.

The first two series of seven I Am Elemental figures is available now  You can also order a deluxe 6″ figure of one of the characters from each series. The first series is “Courage” and the second is “Wisdom.” For more information and to order, visit the I Am Elemental website.

From the website:

It’s character, not characters.™

“Every single figure practically radiates with evidence of the care and enjoyment put into them… They call back to a time when toys really were designed with kids in mind.” – The Figure in Question

“In the interest of creating strong women, the creators did not make them more masculine. They look like normal, fit, healthy, strong women. These figures’ strongest visual point is, first and foremost, their strength. After you take in their strength and power – then you realize, ‘oh, they also happen to be female, awesome.’ It’s so progressive, I am crying tears of joy.” – CC

“To be honest, when I ordered the figures, I had no idea it would give us such a good way to reinforce some of those really hard conversations we have had to face this year. I imagine other children facing adversity would be perfect recipients for your figures…Every child should be given the tools to fight whatever…life throws in their way.” – Behavioral Therapist


The 2016 PopCult Gift Guide: Picks from The Swing Shift

tss-ggOur broad topic in the 2016 PopCult Gift Guide today is music for fans of The Swing Shift, the weekly Swing Music show on The AIR hosted by yours truly that nobody listens to. You can hear a ten-hour marathon today starting at 3 PM on The AIR, which you can pick up on this neat little embedded player.

For the Swing Music lover on your holiday shopping list we have a cool collection of music and books about the Big Band era.

boop-a-dooFirst up, we have the new album by swing revialists, The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, The Boop-A-Doo. The Boop-A-Doo is the 2nd in the band’s trilogy of recordings that showcase their swing influences. The Boop-A-Doo documents: The Roaring 20’s, the Weimar Republic in Germany, The Great Depression, Pre-Code Hollywood film, Art Deco and Cotton Club Hot Jazz.

The band approached it as if we were recording directly onto a wax cylinder- they kept all the sounds hard and sharp. It was a very different than the lush “tape compression and reverb” approach the CPD used in volume 1 of this series –Please Return the Evening- CPD Salutes the Music of the Rat Pack.

Cherry Poppin’ Dadies used vintage era drum kits and the banjo for their chordal instrument. Bandleader and vocalist, Steve Perry, chose songs that combine lyrical and musical sophistication with edgy subject matter.

The Boop-A-Doo is great instrumental music and vocal music at the same time… and of course great songs arranged in a way that’s fun to dance to. You can order The Boop-A-Doo directly from the band’s website, and check out their other recordings and T-shirts while you’re at it.

71vpylguial-_sl1050_Next we have Let It Swing, the latest release from Italian retro-swing act, Sugarpie & the Candy Men. Sugarpie & the Candymen began in 2008, when five musicians from Piacenza and Cremona – small towns in Northern Italy – decided to share their passion for swing, manouche jazz, blues, soul, pop, and vocal close harmonies.

The band is made up of singer Miss Sugarpie, aka Lara Ferrari, and her Candymen: Jacopo Delfini (gypsy guitar and harmonies), Renato Podestà (electric guitar, banjo and harmonies), Roberto Lupo (drums) and Claudio Ottaviano (double bass).  Rather than devote all their time to recreating classic swing numbers, they instead apply the swing aesthetic equaly to songs by Led Zeppelin and Django Reinhardt, The Beatles and Bessie Smith, Van Halen and Benny Goodman, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Ray Charles, Queen and Peggy Lee and so on.

The band’s 4th album Let it Swing is a tribute to the Beatles in a progressive-swing way.You can pick up an import from Amazon, or just listen to the full album on YouTube. Either way, it’s great for the Swing Music fan who also enjoys the Fab Four.

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a15c-0hm2rl-_sl1500_This is one that us Beatle freaks have been waiting on for a long, long time. Academy Award-winner Ron Howard’s authorized and highly anticipated documentary feature film about The Beatles’ phenomenal early career The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years is based on the first part of The Beatles’ career (1962-1966) – the period in which they toured and captured the world’s acclaim.This was finally released last week as a DVD/Blu-Ray set, after being available digitally and in limited theatrical release for over a month.

Ron Howard’s film explores how John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr came together to become this extraordinary phenomenon, “The Beatles.”  It explores their inner workings – how they made decisions, created their music and built their collective career together – all the while, exploring The Beatles’ extraordinary and unique musical gifts and their remarkable, complementary personalities. The film focus’s on the time period from the early Beatles’ journey in the days of The Cavern Club in Liverpool to their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.

giftguide-graphic-008Featuring rare and exclusive footage, the film is produced with the full cooperation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.  THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS consists of two discs, Disc One has a running time of 106 mins, while Disc Two runs 100 mins. DISC TWO contains over 100 minutes of special features covering all aspects of The Beatles early career right up to 1966 and it includes five rarely seen full length performances.

This two disc set is packaged in a digipak in a slipcase which also holds a 64 page booklet with an introduction from director Ron Howard, an essay by music journalist and author Jon Savage and rare photos from The Beatles’ private archive.

You know that somebody on your shopping list must have this video. Won’t you please, please help them?  You can find it at Amazon, or almost anywhere that videos are sold.


This made our last-minute gift guide last year, but we’re bringing it back because it’s so darned cool.

Brenda Pinnell is an accomplished graphic designer who has branched off and become an entrepreneur with her creations, Hepcatz, including the main Hepcat, Mr. Fluffy Butt. Hepcatz promises “Cool Cats, Swell Design,” and I can verify that this is a case of truth in advertising. Her cat cartoons are cute, funny, clever and…well…swell.

Hepcatz brings us clever and hilarious cartoons featuring Brenda’s cast of feline interlopers having their way with the world at large. And you can find them on all kinds of Hepcatz swag.

You can find Hepcatz stuff at Tamarack and at the Hepcatz website, where you can find all of Brenda’s Heptcatz merchandise, including notecards, T-shirts, mugs, holiday cards, artwork and more. You can also buy Hepcatz gear at the River City Arts Sale and Show at UUC on December 2 and 3.


Pinball Wizards & Blacklight Destroyers: The Art of Dirty Donny Gillies
61fvh639hcl-_sx373_bo1204203200_by Donny Gillies
ISBN-13: 978-0764351785

Pop-art connoisseurs are treated to a mind-bending journey through the blistering paintings of San Francisco artist Dirty Donny Gillies. Take a visual tour of his vibrant, hand-drawn and screen-printed poster art series “Blacklight Rebellion” and hand-painted solo art show “Fantastic Voyage.”

This ultimate collection of cool also includes his iconic work for Stern Pinball, metal giant Metallica, Vans Skate, Snap-On tools, and Cruz Pedregon’s Top Fuel Funny Car, not to mention work on his own air-brushed 1970s boogie van.

The art attack continues with eye-melting imagery from skateboard decks, decal sets, toys, guitars, drums, and his series of model kits for AMT.

giftguide-graphic-008Pop-art collectors will appreciate full-page photos from the likes of legendary street photographer Ricky Powell, as well as the commentary by Ed Robertson of the Bare Naked Ladies, Mastadon’s Brann Dailor, Brendon Small of animated series Metalocalypse, Howie Pyro, (Danzig, D-Generation) and fellow weirdo artist Skinner.

This is simply the perfect gift for the coolest person on your list. From the blacklight colors on the suede-like cover to the mind-blowing art within, Pinball Wizards & Blacklight Destroyers: The Art of Dirty Donny Gillies is a trip and a half. This book can be ordered from Amazon, or from any local bookstore by using the ISBN code above.

The 2016 PopCult Gift Guide: Picks From Prognosis

giftguide-graphic-008PopCult Note: For this entry in the Gift Guide, we turn the controls over to Herman Linte, the presenter of Prognosis, the weekly progressive rock show heard every Monday at 3 PM EST on The AIR. We’ll be back at the end of Herman’s suggestions to tell you about the Prognosis marathon happening today.

Good Day! I would like to thank Mr. Panucci for this chance to offer my suggestions for holiday gifts for the discriminating admirer of Progressive Rock. To begin, I will look at new releases by veteran bands that prove there is plenty of life left in the progressive movement. Mr. Panucci has informed me that he will provide links where you can order this music online, but asked that I remind you to try and order them locally, first.

91rwnfu0c6l-_sl1500_The Prelude Implicit by Kansas finds the American prog-rockers returning to the studio for the first time in sixteen years with a new vocalist, a new guitarist and a new committment to their original sound. All of the familiar Kansas elements are there, but there is a newfound vigor. The Prelude Implicit could easily have been released in the era that produced their classics, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return.

This is a striking and surprising return to form for one of the unsung greats of progressive music.

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The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition
513saj8z1elby Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker
M Press
ISBN-13: 978-1616558352

This is the perfect gift for the Beatle fan on your list who also enjoys comic books and graphic novels.

The Fifth Beatle graphic novel recounts the untold true story of Brian Epstein– the visionary manager who created Beatlemania and guided the Beatles from basement gigs to unprecedented international stardom. It’s also an uplifting, inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. This critically acclaimed and multiple award winning graphic novel has been added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives!

giftguide-graphic-008This new softcover edition includes an expanded sketchbook and Beatles memorabilia section, with behind-the-scenes essays and insights from writer Vivek J. Tiwary, plus 25 pages of bonus art by Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker!

The new edition of The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story not only has way more pages at a lower price, but it’s also printed much larger than the first edition, so you can really enjoy the quality of the artwork in greater detail. With all that, this actually retails for less than the first edition and can be found online for under ten dollars. This book can also be ordered from any local bookstore by using the ISBN code above.

You know you always have a Beatles freak on your list. Get them this and they’ll want to hold your hand!