PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: Episode 70

montage70As we mentioned last week, May, 2009, was “Mark Beckner Month” on Radio Free Charleston. This 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.

How The Magazine Industry Is Killing Itself

pc-9-29-01The PopCulteer
September 29 , 2017

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, passed away this week at the age of 91, and his passing made me think about the changing publishing marketplace, and the rather dire prospects for the magazine industry, and in fact, print media in general. Keep in mind that these are simply my observations as a person of a certain age who really prefers the tactile feel of physical media to the sterile and fleeting idea of digital ownership.

Playboy, founded in 1953, was one of three magazines founded in the 50s that changed the face of pop culture and American culture for generations afterward (the other two were Mad Magazine and Famous Monsters of Filmland). The magazine struck a nerve with its clever balance of naked ladies, intellectual articles, cutting-edge fiction, naked ladies, liberal social politics and brilliant cartoons. You sort of have to mention the naked ladies twice to capture the essence of that balance.

marilyn-monroe-1953While the joke for decades was that people claimed to buy Playboy “for the articles,” the truth was that the articles were what made Playboy such an important and influential publication. When the current editorial staff made the decision to jettison the naked ladies in March, 2016, the real crime was that the length of the articles was cut, they were dumbed-down considerably, and with no articles that ran long enough to be continued in the back of the magazine, they didn’t need any cartoons to fill up space and break up the page layout.

Playboy probably could have survived the loss of the nudity if they hadn’t also destroyed the very soul of the magazine. The increased distribution made possible by the elimination of the nudity might have actually meant that more people would read the articles.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get the chance, and the magazine is hanging on by a thread as I write this, even though they brought back the nudity, they still aren’t the magazine that they used to be. It was time to change the cringe-worthy aspects of the Playboy Philosophy, but it didn’t work to throw out everything that made the magazine worth reading.

Continue reading…

AIRing Out The Week

The rest of the week looks cool on The AIR as we bring you new episodes of Radio Free Charleston International, The New Music Show, Radio Coolsville, Sydney’s Big Electric Cat and The Third Shift.  Listen in at the website, or on this cool embedded player…

Thursday, Radio Free Charleston International brings you two hours of live music. Friday Sydney’s Big Electric Cat commemorates 25 episodes with a 1983 concert by The Fixx in the second hour. Full playlists are below the jump.

You can soak in the complete schedule right here, so you can plan our your end-of-week internet radio listening!


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9-27-schedOur Wednesdays always bring lots of very cool stuff to The AIR.  Thousands of folks are tuning in for our NEW FALL SEASON and you can hear why at the website, or on this nifty embedded radio machine doohickey…

Wednesday we offer up new episodes of Life Speaks To Michele Zirkle, Beatles Blast, Curtain Call, Word Association with Lee & Rudy and The Comedy Vault, plus we have other special coolness awaiting you.

The morning brings you replays of The Swing Shift and three hours of great local music in the AIR MUSIC MIX.

At 11 AM it’s a special presentation of The Mystery Hour.

Noon sees 90 minutes of Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, first hosting a replay of Curtain Call, and then also hosting a classic episode of On The Road with Mel.

At 1:30 PM it’s time for an all-new edition of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle.  This week we bring you the overrun from Michele’s conversation with Verbal Abuse counselor, Patricia Evans, and Michele discusses her own Verbal Abuse mentoring program. You can hear a replay of Life Speaks at 7 PM.

At 2 PM music takes over witha brand-new Beatles Blast, hosted by yours truly, as we look at the longest songs the Beatles recorded, together and solo.

At 3 PM a brand-new Curtain Call presents part one of a two-part salute to the Bernstein/Sondheim classic, West Side Story, on the occasion of the 6oth anniversary of its debut.  The show is recreated using performances from different productions and some wild cover versions of tunes from the legendary musical take on Romeo and Juliet.

The AIR Audio Playhouse brings you part one of a Jules Verne classic at 5 PM and our double-shot of The New Music Show and The (BS) Crazy Show follow that.

Following a replay of today’s new episode of Life Speaks, we have a new episode of Word Association with Lee & Rudy at 7:30 PM. This week your pop culture pontificators take on the subject of reboots.

8 PM sees a replay of Monday’s new episode of Prognosis, as Herman Linte brings you the music of Gentle Giant. At 10 PM we present Marking Out with BelVillain and Betty, and at 11 PM it’s time for The Comedy Vault, new this week with a collection of the work of Shelly Berman, who recently passed away.

For the rest of what to expect, just check out that nice schedule graphic that accompanies this post. I made it just for you.

You can always keep up with the latest programming notes on The AIR here in PopCult. It’s our unofficial companion radio station.

What Really Happened to Toys R US

The PopCult Toybox

f8a20505ee1831d4c607f00fc9be458fRecently, Toys R Us, the last remaining nationwide retail chain dedicated to selling toys, declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. This means that they will be able to remain in business while they renogiate their debt and reorganize in an effort to correct their course and become financially stable in the long run. There is a chance that it will be determined that such a thing is not possible, and that they may eventually go into liquidation, but for now it’s business as usual for the House of Geoffry.

Lots of articles in the mainstream press and on toy collecting sites have popped up pointing their fingers at the “changing face of the toy business” and chalking the downward spiral of Toys R Us up to changing play habits and online games and the encroachment of online retailers on their core business.

tru_front-copy-1-845x684While these are cogent observations, and these conditions are somewhat to blame for the current state of the toy business as a whole, they completely miss the point of what really happened to Toys R Us. Toys R Us fell victim to a perfectly legal business practice that sounds to the average citizen like something extremely unethical and immoral.

I want to stress that even though I may use the words “scam” or “scheme,” I am not in any way accusing anyone of doing anything that is not 100% legal. I personally feel that these business practices should not be legal, but as I write this, the actions I am about to describe to you are not criminal, and are, in fact, routine financial transactions that occur every day.

On July 21, 2005, a consortium of Bain Capital Partners LLC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Vornado Realty Trust invested $1.3 billion to complete a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout of Toys R Us. At that point, the company was publicly-traded but was coming off several bad years following a series of terribly unwise business decisions, such as slashing the number of different products they carried from over 100,000 to less than 40,000, and expensively remodeling their stores to try and cover up the fact that they no longer carried 60% of the product that they had previously. The firms took Toys R Us private, but continue to make their financial records public, indicating that, at least at one point, the plan was to get the company healthy, then take it public again.

debt_loadaNow, in this case, the leveraged buyout meant that the three investor firms borrowed most of the money to buy Toys R Us, then transferred that debt to the company. Toys R Us acquired billions of dollars of debt overnight. They are now over five billion dollars in debt, and the bankruptcy will enable them to borrow two billion dollars more, just to get through the upcoming holiday season. They have been losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year for some time, but most of that loss comes from the staggering amount of debt service that they have to pay. It would be nearly impossible for them to sell enough toys to make the scheduled payments on their gigantic debt load. Last year Toys R Us borrowed two and a half billion dollars for the specific purpose of paying off 2.4 billion dollars of debt from the year before. That’s about half of their long-term debt. That’s like refinancing your house every year while your wages are going down.

Being hamstrung by this huge debt load meant that, for many years, Toys R Us was not able to purchase the most popular toys during the Christmas season (where they make most of their sales) at a low enough wholesale price to compete with Walmart, Target and Amazon.

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9-26-sched-airYesterday we ran down our schedule of BRAND-NEW episodes of all of our afternoon music programs, but today we have the playlists for Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift, and the theme for Ska Madness, all of which can only be heard on our internet radio station, The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Here’s what you can hear…

Radio Free Charleston                10 AM & 10 PM   

Bobaflex  “Off With Your Head”
Red Audio  “Girl From Outer Space”
The Science Fair Explosion  “Cosmic Girls”
Hawthorne Heights  “Running In Place”
Speedsuit  “Gwendoline”
The Heavy Editors  “How The West Was Won”
Pale Nova  “Los Ritos Los Diablos”
Scarlet Revolt  “One Like You”
Byzantine  “Dead As Autumn Leaves”
Kerry Hughes  “The New Yesterday”
The Company Stores   “So Good”
Jeff Ellis  “The Forgetting Place”
Scrap Iron Pickers  “Swamp Thing”
Time And Distance  “Little Disaster”

Ska Madness                                2 PM

One hour of the music of The Specials

The Swing Shift                           3 PM

Lady J and her Bada Bing Band  “EBAY”
The Brian Setzer Orchestra “Sittin’ On It All The Time”
Cab Calloway  “The Jumpin’ Jive” (from Stormy Weather)
Louis Prima Jr. Featuring Leslie Spencer “I Just Wanna Have Fun”
Tomaccos  “Ballerina”
Maureen and the Mercury 5  “Mambo Joe”
Colin James and The Little Big Band  “C’mon With the C’mon”
Glenn Miller  “I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamzoo”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy  “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie”
Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra  “More Soul”
The Swing Shift Big Band  “Leave Us Leap”
Woody Herman and hist Thundering Herd  “Northwest Passage”
Adriano Baltolba Orchestra  ‘Up The Line”
The Swinging Dice  “Don’t You Know”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies  “Whiskey Jack”
Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive  “You’re My Meat”
Benny Goodman  “King Porter Stomp”

New Metal, Prog, Local, Ska and Swing Music On The AIR.

9-25-sched-airEven though we still have BRAND-NEW episodes of all of our afternoon music programs, we’re bringing you Monday and Tuesday’s schedule together this week so that you can stand back in awe and soak in our line up of fine programming on our internet radio station, The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

We have our usual excellent line up of shows on Monday, headlined by a brand-new editions of Harrah’s Hard & Heavy at 2 PM and the triumphant return of Herman Linte on Prognosis at 3 PM. Then after that we expect a new episode of Marking Out with Betty Rock and Matt BelVillain discussing professional wrestling. Marking Out can be heard at 5 PM Monday, with replays Wednesday and Sunday.

Monday Harrah’s Hard & Heavy brings you a second consecuitve week of live Iron Maiden, while Prognosis presents three entire albums by the obscure, yet excellent, 1970s UK prog group, Gentle Giant.

Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM we offer up a brand new episode of Radio Free Charleston. This week expect new tracks from Bobaflex, The Heavy Editors, The Company Stores, Byzantine and more, plus classic local tracks from our massive RFC Archives.

The morning airing is followed by three more hours of fantastic local music as we bring you three recent episodes of Radio Free Charleston. The night-time airing is followed by last week’s brand-new Radio Free Charleston International.

Tuesday at 2 PM Dexter Checkers checks in from London with a special episode of Ska Madness devoted to the founding fathers of Two-Tone Ska, The Specials.

At 3 PM your PopCulteer hosts The Swing Shift. This new episode will bring you classic examples of Big Band Swing, mixed with Swing Revival music from the 1990s and brand-new Swing tunes from Louis Prima Jr., Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Lady J and her Bada Bing Band and more.

Check out the neato-keen schedule graphic for The AIR which I will throw together as soon as I finish writing this bit of copy.





This week’s Art by your PopCulteer started life as a simple digital abstract, then as I changed it and poked and prodded, it turned into a stylized digital painting of a lady in near-silhouette, hidden amongst psychedelic colors and patterns. It’s not political or divisive or controversial. Just a quick digital doodle. Click to see it bigger.

Sunday Evening Video: The Fantastic Animation Festival

fantasticanimationfestival_onesheet_usa-3Tonight we take you back to the days before the proliferation of cable television channels and the existence of the internet, when folks like your loyal PopCulteer, who were obsessed with seeing anything new and different in the world of animation had to scrounge to find anything new and exciting.

Animation fans basically had the PBS program, International Animation Festival, hosted by Jean Marsh, which only ran for a few weeks during some mid-70s summers to expose us to then-new works by independent animators.  At some point in the late 1970s many of the shorts that were shown on that program were compiled into a theatrical feature-length collection that was designed to be shown at midnight movies and in art-houses. Fantastic Animation Festival was a hodge-podge of unusual and psychedelic imagery that show the true potential of animation as an art form at a time when most people knew animation as badly-produced, cheap-looking and disposable children’s entertainment.

Fantastic Animation Festival began with the briefest of voice overs, “Welcome to the world of animation,” by legendary voice artist Paul Frees, and then launched into a series of short filmes that included: French Windows by Ian Eamesm which used rotoscope animation to bring Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” to life; Icarus, clay animation by Mihail Badica; A Short History of the Wheel by Loren Bowie; The amazing Cosmic Cartoon, animated and directed by Eric Ladd and Steven Lisberger; The Last Cartoon Man by Derek Lamb & Jeffrey Hale; Au Bout Du Fil Cradle (Cat’s Cradle) by Paul Driessen; Moonshadow, Cat Stevens’ story of Teaser and the Firecat, narrated by Spike Milligan, animated by Charles Jenkins; Oiseau de Nuit (Nightbird) by Bernard Palacios;  Room and Board by Randy Cartwright; the infamous Bambi Meets screen-shot-2017-04-13-at-1-51-10-pmGodzilla by Marv Newland; Mountain Music, very early Claymation by Will Vinton; Light by Jordan Belson; The Mechanical Monsters, a 1941 Fleischer Studios Superman Cartoon; Stranger, a 1971 Levi Strauss Jeans commercial; by Snazelle Films, narrated by Ken Nordine; Uncola, a 1975 7Up commercial; by Robert Abel and Associates; Mirror People by Kathy Rose; Kick Me (film) by Robert Swarthe, a 1975 Best Animated Short Film nominee and Closed Mondays, more very early Claymation by Will Vinton that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

At the time this was a godsend for animation buffs. The inclusion of a Fleischer Superman cartoon was a real treat because those were rarely seen back in the day. The animated commercials were terrific since commercials were considered disposable and weren’t readily available to be watched again in the days before home video.

faf-001Home video did change things, and this YouTube video is obviously a VHS copy, but it’s still cool a just a little bit nostalgic to see so much great animation collected in one place. Of course, nowadays more quirky, independent animation gets posted to the internet every day than you see in this collection, but this was back in the dark ages of media distribution, when people would toil over a film for months or years, with no hope of it ever being seen by more than a handful of people.These were the pioneers of independent animation.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 69

We have a bit of a bittersweet flashback today. May 2009 was “Mark Beckner Month” on Radio Free Charleston. Mark is a long-time friend and was a fixture on the radio incarnation of RFC as a member of both Go Van Gogh and The Tunesmiths.

Mark is still making new music, and we hope to bring you some as soon as we get our hands on it, but as many of you know, Mark’s bandmate in Go Van Gogh just passed away a few weeks ago, and we still miss him a lot. But we are presenting these shows in order, and even though we recently posted the unedited version of the film used in this show, here it is as we brought it to you back in May, 2009.

I had a wealth of archival material and new video featuring Mark, so I decided that, as a way to plug his “return” show with his band, Hitchcock Circus, I would devote an entire month of shows to Mister Mark Beckner. We kicked off what turned out to be his homecoming with this truncated version of the Go Van Gogh rockumentary, Go Van Gogh: The Sad Truth.

This film was directed by Timothy Rock, the bassist for GVG. Stephen Beckner showed it during a movie night at his house, and I started wondering why it seemed familiar. Then it got to the scene where I’m crouched over a toilet blaming the band for the RFC radio show getting cancelled, and it all came back.

It turns out I was the cameraman and was the offscreen interviewer in addition to my cameo as myself. I have this bad habit of forgetting really cool things that I’ve done.

I was able to get a copy of the film from Stephen, and trimmed it a bit for time so I could present it as an episode of RFC. This is a rare episode of the show which was not named after a T Shirt for the simple reason, it does not include a “host segment,” instead empoloying a simple voice-over.  This is also one of the few RFCs that doesn’t have the opening theme, and with this 2014 remastering, I corrected one shocking omission–after the end credits and remastering card, I put the “Ya-Hooo” guy back in.

The original production notes can be found HERE. You can see the uncut version of Go Van Gogh: The Sad Truth at this link, along with a bounty of other vintage Go Van Gogh video hijinks.