PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Life Speaks On The AIR & In Ohio

life-pealks-logoAs always, we have a brand-new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 Pm on The AIR. Check it out at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

This week Michele presents a follow-up to last week’s episode on worthiness and love, and veers into a discussion of education, which is on a lot of people’s minds this week. She doesn’t focus on the political angle of the strike here in West Virginia, but does talk about education in general and the need for people to be perpetual learners.

In that spirit, Michele will be making two appearances in Ohio this weekend.  On Friday, March 2, she will be at the Tranquility Salt Cave in Columbus for a session of “Heal Your Heart Meditation. ”  Michele will share her inspirational story of transformation from an abusive marriage to getting in tune with the Divine source of love. Afterwards, attendees join in the Healing Heart Meditation led by Michele in the cave and let the salt soothe your soul. Each paid admission also gets a free signed copy of Michele’s novel (soon to be a motion picture) Rain No Evil.

The fee for this experience will be $40, and you can  Call the salt cave to register (614) 859-3419. You’ll find more details on the Facebook event page.

Saturday, March 3, finds Michele in Zanesville, Ohio, at Gemini’s Eclectic Emporium from 10 AM to 5 PM as she sits in as the guest Tarot reader and also signs copies of her book. You can call Gemini’s at 740-995-9617 to make an appointment, or visit the Facebook event page for more details.

Of course, you can also stay tuned to The AIR for the best of our music programming, as well as stimulating and entertaining talk and comedy.

The PopCult Toybox

toybox-2-28-03It’s time for the fifth annual Classic Plastics Toy and Comic Expo in Parkersburg WV. We’ve gone in previous years, and it was a blast. The only thing keeping us away this year is another trip to a different toy show that you’ll be reading about all next week. Saturday March 3 & 4 are the dates, and the hours are 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday, and 11 AM to 5 PM on Sunday. Admission is $5 per person and kids 10 years old and younger get in for FREE.

toybox-2-28-01This year’s media guests are Timothy Clarke, who worked on Dark Crystal and was the creator of Boglins and Sectaurs toy lines and Daniel Pesina aka Master Pesina who played Johnny Cage and several other characters in Mortal Kombat I & II as well as appearing in other films. Autographs and photos will be an additional fee.

Guest artists on hand include Glen Brogan, J.R. Earls, Jordan Patton, Jamie Snell, Ren McKenzie and more. There will also be authors on hand, and the main attraction for any toy show, the toy dealers. There will be dozens of vendors selling a wide variety of the coolest toys from the past fifty years.

On top of that, there are some cool bonus events this year. In conjunction with the Expo there will be a screening of The Dark Crystal at the Smoot Theatre with a -Q&A with Timothy Clarke about his work on the movie. Daniel Pesina will hold a Martial Arts demonstration. There will be a cosplay contest, and there will also be a Mortal Kombat II tournament, in addition to a free video game room. Plus they’ll have table top games and concessions and it sounds like a ton of fun.

All this takes place at The Parkersburg Art Center, 725 Market St, Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Admission is only five bucks.



Look Up, In The AIR!

air-sun-log2oAre you ready for more encore presentations of Radio Free Charleston?  Tune in at 10 and 10 at, The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

All this week at 9 AM we’re been bringing you, in piecemeal fashion, the Rubber Sould Beatles marathon concert. Every morning at 9 AM tune in for two to four hours of this great live recording of the February 2 benefit for the Fund for the Arts.

This week the Rubber Soul goodness bleeds over into our morning RFC timeslot. Your PopCulteer is still setting up his new computer and recovering from producing the audio for this epic concert, and our colleagues at Haversham are still on their way back to London from working in the Winter Olympics, so our afternoon music shows will also be encores.

We had hoped for new episodes of all of our afternoon music shows this week, but after careful consideration, we decided to take it easy and rest up for our annual trip to ToyLanta. We will return with all-new programming next month, after our return.

We will have new episodes of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle while we’re out galavanting around the South, and we’ll be loading up the schedule with our very best hand-picked episodes. Thanks for supporting The AIR, and check out our schedule, embedded right here for your pleasure…

Monday Morning Art: The Kid In Play



We begin this week with a digital painting of my imaginary daughter, Kitty Killton, AKA “The Kid.” Kitty is one of my favorite models and the inspiration for this piece goes back to a photo session from Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Show a few years ago.

I really miss Dr. Sketchy’s. I hope they can start up again soon. In fact, I’d done a Monday Morning Art painting based on a similar pose from the same session a couple of years ago. In both instances, I changed the colors and was too lazy to paint the kid’s tattoos.

Anyway, this was created using some new software that I’ve installed on the new PC, and I like the way it worked out. Having a faster computer, combined with having working fingers again, thanks to the meds for Myasthenia Gravis that I’m taking, allowed me to go in a new direction and even try to put a little Adam Hughes gloss on the finished piece. As always, click the image to see a bigger version.

Sunday Evening Videos: ToyLanta Is On The Horizon

17309371_1283316801705724_8430803179771612796_nIt’s that time of the year when your PopCulteer gets all excited because in less than two weeks it’s time for ToyLanta!  ToyLanta is the new name, as of last year, for JoeLanta, the long-running GI Joe and Toy Convention that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. Mel and I have been going since 2013, and it’s become a trip that we just can’t miss.

The show is held to benefit the Cody Lane Memorial Toy and Diorama Museum, and it’s just a great toy show from top to bottom. Last year the name was changed to reflect how big this toy show has grown. JoeLanta is still at its core, but it’s a big toy collecting tent, and all collectors are welcome.

This year the show runs March 9 to 11, with early events for the Commander’s Package holders, but those three days are jam-packed with dozens of vendors and lots of cool panels about all kinds of toys.

28056712_1611597948877606_3829942543826785497_nIn addition to talk about GI Joe, attendees this year will be treated to panels on action figure customizing, Transformers, Funko Pops, vintage Star Wars toys, Space toys, The Walking Dead and more.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero creator, Larry Hama, will be on hand, and Marvel Cinematic Universe actor, John Anderson will also be signing autographs and meeting fans. Plus there will be even more artists and pop culture personalities around the convention.

In addition to that, you can expect the traditions that are carried over from JoeLanta–the parachute drop, the state of the hobby, the film festival, the Radio Cult concert and all the things that make JoeLanta/ToyLanta one of the most fun toy shows in the country.

Right now, in descending order, we’re going to bring you the wrap-up shows for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013, with 2016 up at the top of this post.  Next week we’ll bring you the videos from last year, and begin our countdown to ToyLanta 2018.

beatles-marathon-2-25Sunday February 25 listeners to The AIR will get one more chance to hear the entire Rubber Soul “With A Little Help From Our Friends” marathon Beatles concert, beginning at 11 AM (EST).

You can listen at The AIR website, or right on this embedded player…

This is the third time we’ve run the full marathon in one sitting, and after a few more plays through the next two weeks, it may be time to give these shows a rest, no matter how good they are.  If you want to thear the whole show in one sitting, Sunday may be your last chance for a while.

Tto find a rundown of who sings what, when, go to THIS LINK, which has the full playlist as we will broadcast it, with breaks for each hour, and all of the dozens of guest performers listed after each song. Th event was hosted by Larry Groce, with Mark Parsons-Justice.

This was an incredible event, and we are pleased to have been able to document it and rebroadcast it to you on The AIR. The show starts at 11 AM and runs until Midnight.

Rubber Soul is Mark Scarpelli, Greg Hunt, Michelle Toliver, Brian Holstine, Bryan Flowers and Garret Maner, and they should take a bow. This was a remarkable achievement, and a splendid time was had by all.

127-montageThis week we head back to April, 2011 for an episode of Radio Free Charleston that is jam-packed with great music and fun video hi-jinks.  Music this time came from Mother Nang, The Nanker Phelge and Jonathan Tucker. We also hde a promo spot for The 21st Annual East End Yard Sale, and remastered animation from Frank Panucci.

After you hear me jabber and then see a fun promo spot for the East End Yard Sale, we get to our first guest, which is my old buddies, Mother Nang.  Spencer, Jay, Deron and RFC Big Shot Brian Young have been friends of mine for a long time, and I wanted to get themk on the show performing live because they’d been kind enough to let me make a loopy non-animated video for one of their songs for April Fool’s Day. Here you get to see them performing “Bully” at The Blue Parrot.

Our animation was a remastered version of Frank Panucci’s “Porky Bang,” which was part of his existential series of enlightening animated shorts that we originally ran in 2007 and 2008.

Next up musically we had more dear, old friends,  The Nanker Phelge, in a special one-camera shoot that would have more camera angles if not for a last-minute computer failure. Luckily the song, “Walk Away” is so strong that nobody would have even noticed that it’s only one static shot if we hadn’t mentioned it.

We wrap up the show with a guerilla performance by Jonathan Tucker, recorded at the Charleston Town Center Mall. Jonathan sings “Speak Softly Love,” the alternate Italian national anthem that is better known as the love them from The Godfather.

You can find the original production notes for this show HERE. Check back every Saturday for another RFC Flashback!

pc-2-23-01The PopCulteer
February 23, 2018

The PopCult Toybox Toy Fair 2018 Finale

Today we wrap up our intensive coverage of Toy Fair 2018, but we will return to a normal schedule that will see The PopCult Toybox return every Wednesday (with the PopCult Bookshelf landing on Thursdays, and more new review features on the way). We weren’t able to attend Toy Fair in person this year, but there’s still plenty to tell you about, so this will be a long PopCulteer, filled with coverage, analysis and links.

Diecast and Toy Cars

Mattel’s Hot Wheels continues to be the big player in the field, and this year they introduced new augmented reality racing sets that are expected to give them a leg up on the Anki racetrack sets.

pc-2-23-02In the new Augmoto system builds on their previous AI Intelligent Race System set, and includes weapons that can be used to disable your competitors on the track. Instead of dedicated controllers, Augmoto mimics the Anki method and requires a tablet or smartphone to control the cars. Looking at your device lets you see  lightning effects, track enhancements and power-ups that can be used against your opponent. If your car is damaged, you will see it on the track maoking or bleeding fluids. You’ll need to tap the car to repair it.

The Augmoto set is scheduled for release this fall, and will cost around $120 .

Using much of the same technology, Mattel has teamed up with game developer Psyonix to create The Hot Wheels Rocket League RC Rivals set, based on the popular video game. This large set comes with the arena for the soccer/demolition derby hybrid, plus  the Octane and Dominus Battle-Cars as well as the Rocket League ball. The set  also includes a boost pad that charges up the cars as well as the ball, and the scoreboard will track any goals that are scored with sound effects.
This Bluetooth-controlled game will retail for around $180, and is due out later this year.

hw-50Moving on to traditional diecast cars, the big news is that 2018 is the 50th anniversary of Hot Wheels, and Mattel will mark the occasion by releasing new reprodouctions of their first sixteen cars in high-metallic paint. These will come on special die-cut flame cards, like the originals (seen right), and will sport redline wheels. The package will also include a button, just like the originals. The cars will have “50” stamped on their sides, so that collectors don’t get fooled by the reproductions. This is pretty much the same thing that Mattel did for Hot Wheel’s 25th
Anniversary, buack in 1993, which makes me feel very old, since I bought those…and the originals.

At the other diecast companies, big news from Toy Fair was not in great supply because so many of the other companies release their news all year long on social media.

pc-2-23-03Greenlight Collectibles had a great display at Toy Fair, but had already made all their big announcements on their Facebook Page.

If you are a fan of their high-quality cars, you really need to head over there and “like” it so that you can keep up with what this company is releasing.

I think their next big release are three 1/43 scale Hollywood cars based on Smokey and the Bandit, Charlies Angels and The A-Team.

pc-2-23-04Likewise, Round 2, the parent company of Johnny Lightning,  keeps in touch with their fans on Facebook, too via their Auto World page.  In addition to Johnny Lightning and other diecast lines, The Round 2 family of brands includes Auto World Slot Cars, featuring high-speed, highly-accurate 1/64 scale electric slot car racing; Forever Fun Holiday Collectibles, featuring detailed recreations of favorite holiday characters; American Muscle 1/18th scale collectible diecast and MPC, AMT and Polar Lights Model Kits, featuring classic auto, sci-fi and figural plastic kits.

In other diecast news, Tonka and Hasbro renewed their license that allows Funrise to continue to market toys under the Tonka brand, and Funko is dipping their toe into the world of diecast with a line of figural vehicles based on Five Nights At Freddy’s.  A great source for up-to-date news about diecast cars is the Lamley Group.

As with every sector of the industry, diecast cars are going to be hit hard by the continuing woes of Toys R Us. Other retailers are stepping up to fill the void left by the TRU store closings (more are expected to be announced any day now), but it’s a mad dash as Johnny Lightning and Greenlight Collectibles stand to lose one of their main retail outlets.

Mattel has already succeeded in placing Hot Wheels all over the place, in grocery stores, pharmacies, and conveninence stores. Greenlight has a presence at Walmart and Hobby Lobby, as well as hobby shops and a few auto parts stores.  Johnny Lightning is part of Auto World, so they have a great online store, but losing Toys R Us is going to hurt this end of the business, just like every other toy sector.

Board Games

PopCult hasn’t covered too many board games in our coverage this year. We will in the future, but we couldn’t get a good combination of press releases and images for many of the most interesting games, so we’ll wait until we can bring you a more full picture.

However, BoardgameGeek was at Toy Fair and provided top-notch coverage of all sorts of great new board games, so we’ll just refer you to their page for now.

Gund Plush

pc-2-23-052018 is a big year for Gund. The plush toy maker celebrates its 120th anniversary this year. At the Toy Fair 2018 the company unveiled their new toys for the Holiday 2018 season. Many of the new plush toys include nods to the past with an updated, contemporary spin as well as new collections within Baby Gund, license, and core categories.

Gund has updated its best-selling Snuffles bear (right) with a slight change to its design that harkens back to Snuffles of the past while adding a fresh palette of contemporary color options, including dusty pink and gender-neutral gray, and ultra-soft, premium plush. Snuffles was introduced to the Gund collection almost 40 years ago, so long-time fans of the crescent-moon-shaped bear will be reminded of their own childhoods.

pc-2-23-06The Gund Cozys line-up gets four new animals in classic patterns brought back with a contemporary twist and color palette: fox (seen left), panda, frog, and rabbit. Each will be available in 8-inch and 10-inch sizes. There are also new additions of an elephant to the evergreen line and a doe, husky, and polar bear to the seasonal Cozy line for holiday 2018.

Gund has introduced a new friend to the BabyGUND line with Luna. Luna is a sweet unicorn who makes playtime with baby magical. Luna comes in a variety of formats, including keywind musical plush and musical pull-string toy that play Brahm’s Lullaby, rattle, Lovey, Comfy Cozy, and plush and blanket set. Her blush pink hooves and mane give Luna a soft, contemporary appearance that fits in perfectly with today’s unicorn or mythical-themed nurseries. All formats feature satin accents on Luna’s golden horn and fluffy pink mane and tail, while embroidered eye, adorable eyelash, and nose details ensure safe use for all ages.

pc-2-23-07The company also presents their newest licenses from Sanrio at the Toy Fair 2018 in New York. Gudetama is a lazy egg that loves to lay around and sigh. You can see it to the right.

Gudetama, whose name derives from the combination of the Japanese words “gude” or “lazy,” and “tama” from “tamago” or “egg,” is well-known in Japan for its lackadaisical attitude, indifference toward being eaten, and catchphrases like “meh” showcased in its popular YouTube series.

GUND’s line of Gudetama plush show the lazy egg in some of its favorite positions with signature open mouth, closed eyes, and defined backside.

pc-2-23-08The Super Pusheenicorn came to Toy Fair to spread joy and light with her glowing horn leading the way! That’s her to the left.

The mythical, magical version of the internet sensation, Pusheen, is a favorite among fans and collectors of Pusheen products.

A touch of her sparkly crescent moon enables touch-activated lights in her horn and mane as well as three whimsical sound effects. Pusheenicorn is surface-washable for easy cleaning and appropriate for ages one and up. This one has actually been out for a couple of months already, and I can testify that it is very loud and distinctive.

Hitting stores now are the  Pusheen Surprise Plush Mystery Box Magical Kitties featuring everyone’s favourite grey tabby cat, and, for the first time ever,both of Pusheen’s siblings Stormy and Pip. This trend-setting and fun-loving trio are dressed in a number of whimsical and fantasy-themed costumes.

Pusheen super-fans will be able to get their paws on a miniature Pusheenicorn, Mermaid Stormy, Stormicorn, Mermaid Pusheen, Pegasus Pusheen, Pegasus Pip, Dragon Pusheen, and a mystery surprise Pusheen. Each plush within the mystery box series is a smaller version of the full-scale plush versions but with the same adorable features. Each miniature plush also features a handy keychain, so the contents of the Pusheen Surprise Plush Mystery Box Magical Kitties can be used as a stylish and super-on-trend keyring or bag chain.


The Rest of the Round Up.

pc-2-23-10Bleeding Cool, who we linked to earlier, has even more great photo essays up.  First they cover Hasbro’s new crowd-funding project, Haslab, and their initial offering, a five-hundred dollar version of Jabba The Hutt’s Sail Barge from Return of the Jedi.

Next up they have tons of great photos from Entertainment Earth, including the Hamilton Pin-Mate image that I swiped (right).

They also covered Jada Toys who may have the next big cheap collectible with their die-cast figures.

Shifting Gears, I want to give a nod to Ada at Papusile Mele, who covers Barbie in-depth all year long.

And with that, I will wrap up this PopCulteer and our intensive coverage of Toy Fair. Toy Fair actually ended back on Tuesday, but there will still be news sifting out about it and from the troubles afflicting Toys R Us, and you can follow the toy business and read about new toys every Wednesday here in PopCult.

Our regular features return tomorrow, and we plan to keep all our regular features in place while we make our annual trek down South to ToyLanta the week after next. Of course we’ll be telling you all about that, too, and we’ll be posting updates from the road, if the Wi Fi Gods smile down upon us.

Toy Fair 2018: Bachmann Trains

The PopCult Toybox

bach-001The last time we went to Toy Fair, one of the friendliest booths was Bachmann Trains, and this year they showed off a few cool new products and provided images, so we’re passing them along to you. Toy Trains are experiencing a bit of a rebirth by incorporating new technology to make them more appealing to today’s kids.

Bachmann has been in the forefront of this, and they’ve updated their app that allows you to operate a train using any smartphone or tablet. Features of the E-Z App® Touch-Screen Train Control include: Wireless control with any Android™ device (running Android™ 4.3 or later) or any iPhone®, iPad®, or iPod touch® device (running iOS8 or later); Operational range from up to 100 feet away with Bluetooth® Smart technology; Realistic, dynamic engine sound broadcast through your smart device; Compatibility with 16 volt DC or DCC track power for operation; Ready to launch and use instantly after downloading the FREE Bachmann E-Z App® from the Google Play store or Apple App Store and no configuration or additional equipment required.

We got to see a demonstration of this a couple of years ago, when they were still developing the system, and it was really impressive then. It’s cool to see they’re still improving it.

For 2018 Bachmann Trains introduced five new ready-to-run electric train sets in the two most popular scales at Toy Fair 2018

HO Strike Force

The HO Strike Force honors the tireless efforts of our men and women in uniform. Its GP40 diesel locomotive and three cars all feature a camouflage paint scheme.

HO North Pole Express

All aboard for a Christmas adventure with the HO North Pole Express, which includes a 2-6-2 locomotive and two passenger cars.

bach-004HO Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

You can join the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus® and ride the rails with The Greatest Show On Earth® Special! This HO set offers a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey F7-A diesel and two Red Unit smooth-side passenger cars.

Chessie Special
The Chessie Special is led by a classic C&O® 0-6-0 steam locomotive that hauls four freight cars.

Merry Christmas Express
Bursting with holiday cheer in N scale, the Merry Christmas Express is decorated for the holidays and is ideal for a table-top display or around a miniature tree.

Bachmann’s sets include everything needed to get started in model railroading in one complete package: locomotive, cars, track, power pack, and speed controller.

bach-006Bachmann also showed off two new battery-operated sets for younger railfans. Both feature a diesel engine with locomotive, whistle, and bell sounds plus an operating headlight. These ready-to-run sets come complete with a 63″ x 45″ oval of snap-together track and include either two passenger cars, station, crossing gates, and signals (United Railways Express) or three freight cars, crossing gates, signals, and trees (Fast Rail Flyer). Just add batteries (no controller or power pack needed) and you are ready for hours of railroading fun!” Each set carries an MSRP of just $29.00, and requires two AA batteries for operation (not included).


PopCult will wrap up our Toy Fair 2018 coverage Friday, but we’ll be covering cool toys all year long. Stay tuned.

The PopCult Toybox

poop-001It’s not every day that you sit down to write an article about a hot new trend in toys–the use of poop as a play item–and find yourself scooped by The Associated Press.

I’d actually planned to write this post last week, but held off because, well, I didn’t think anybody else would bother looking in-depth at this topic. I was wrong. To be fair, this is a trend in toys that I predicted almost five years ago, so you could say that I was some kind of fecal visionary, or scat prophet. At the very least, when it comes to toys and grossout trends, I know my poop.

poop-002This year at Toy Fair Mattel introduced “Flushin’ Frenzy,” a game in which kids compete to see who can grab the turd that comes flying out of a plastic toilet while it’s being plunged.You can see it above.

Hasbro countered with “Don’t Step In It,” a game where players are blindfolded and have to avoid stepping in Play Doh-ish poop. It’s sort of like pin the tail on the donkey, if you use a real donkey…and follow behind him. That one’s to the left.

poop-003There is also poop elsewhere in the toy section, as two new collectible lines are already in stores. Spin Master makes “Flush Force (right),” a blind-bag collectible with over 150 tiny plastic disgusting characters that live in a plastic toilet (sold separately).

poop-004Another blind-bag collectible is “Poopeez (left),” from Basic Fun, who have the advantage of being squishy.

Unlike Flush Force, Poopeez also actually happen to be poop, and come with commode accessories. Both of these are “blind-bag” toys, which means that kids will be asking parents to buy them bags of poop, without knowing what they’re getting. Sometimes life really is like a box of chocolates.

You can find both of these now at Target and Toys R Us.

poop-005Hog Wild makes “Sticky The Poo (right),” a squishy poop-emoji-esque figure with eyes, that clings to walls and ceilings when thrown. Just the thing to help train the kids how to behave, right? There is also a Sticky Unicorn Poo variant, and a Plunger, sold separately. I guess some toy companies really will throw anything against the wall to see what sticks.

poop-006There is also “Poo-Dough (left),” which is modelling clay, scented, but apparently not to smell like poop, that comes with a mold that lets you make realistic poop logs.

Smaller companies have squeezed out dozens more poo-centric toys this year, but if I sit here broken-hearted pondering them any longer my legs might fall alseep, so we’ll just wipe it up here.

There are two words I have agreed never to use in PopCult, and at the moment, I really wish I had access to one of them. Anyway, it looks like 2018 will be the year that the poop really hit the fan in the toy aisle. The message to kids: It’s never to late to start playing with your poop!