PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture


Monday Morning Art in May will have a theme: Surrealist Paintings inspired by Chicago. Up above you see a piece I did a few weeks ago (and one which may be familar to my Facebook friends), that I call “Down by the Escher Building.” It is, as I suggested earlier, a Surrealist painting inspired by Chicago. Also, it’s a tribute to M.C. Escher, with a little Magritte tossed in the mix, too. Look for another such thing next week.

And as always, click on it to see the image bigger.

Sunday Evening Video: The Edge of Utopia

Previously here in PopCult I’ve told you about the work of Studio Joe, Tim and Lisa Weedn, and the work they do making hilarious stop-motion videos with action figures, many of whom look a bit Joe-ish. You can see their work HERE and HERE.

That’s not all they’ve done. Between 1995 and 1996, Tim and Lisa wrote, produced, and directed a full-length documentary for PBS. With a huge assist from the fine folks of NASA’s film library at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Tim and Lisa created a fast-paced hour that celebrates America’s amazing space program.

The Edge of Utopia will take you back to a long-forgotten era when intelligence was considered a virtue, and science had not been disrespected and co-opted by special interests. We never would have been able to go to the moon if the Koch Brothers had been throwing their money around back then. This film shows what we can accomplish when we put politics aside and treat scientists and engineers with respect. It sure would be great to get back to that situation.

The program aired on PBS in 1997 and 1998, then took a trip to the Cannes Film Festival where it was picked up for a five-year world tour. It was particularly ‘big’ in Canada, Poland, and Australia. As Tim says, “Not bad for our first effort. Low budget as low budget gets. We mastered on S-VHS then had it kicked up to Beta Digital for broadcast. Particularly proud of the music score which I composed and performed.”

And this time I’m posting it here without asking Tim and Lisa first. I figured the element of surprise will be welcome, and It’s cool for even more people to be exposed to this great film. Somehow I don’t think they’ll mind. They’re pretty cool people.


The RFC Flashback: Episode 137

For the last few and next few weeks The RFC Flashback will go back to the most ambitious run of episodes in Radio Free Charleston history.  In June, 2011 I decided to try and do something sort of crazy. I’d managed to crank out Radio Free Charleston on a weekly basis before, which was no mean feat since the show was basically produced by me alone, with camera help from my now-wife Mel Larch and occasional help from other friends. For FestivALL 2011, I managed to produce eight episodes of Radio Free Charleston in under two weeks.

With this show we dive into the second week of Radio Free Charleston‘s ridiculously extensive coverage of FestivALL 2011. The video you see up there is Radio Free Charleston 137, Part Five of our FestivALL 2011 coverage. This episode takes music recorded at the Derick Kirk Memorial Concert and combines it with dance recorded all over town during FestivALL. Our music performed live at Capitol Roasters is provided by the Velvet Nomads, Comparsa, and The Voodoo Katz.

Our featured dancers included the Capitol High School Dance Company, Mandy Petry, Brian Roller, Kevin Pauley, and Jeff Bukovinsky of the No Pants Players, Jenna Brooke Swanson and Raqs Shakti, Professor Danger (left), Kathleen Coffee, the Trillium Performance Art Company (above), and Some Guy In Davis Park.

This whole show was blast to edit. This show was a bit of a departure from our normal format, but we were cranking out so much video that I changed things up just to keep it interesting. We have three more weeks of our FestivALL 2011 shows, and then we might jump forward a year and bring you the shows from 2012 to take you up to this year’s FestivALL.

Keep checking PopCult for fresh content every day.

Weekend Stuff

This is a busy weekend, with all sorts of things to do all over town. PopCult picks out a few things to spotlight here…

Lady D At The Glass

Friday night Beckley based Lady D & MI$$ION make their first appearance at the world famous Empty Glass. This is you chance to see what happens when a legendary artist collides with a legendary venue.

You can hear some blues, jazz, pop and soul with a dusting of reggae on top. Lady D is known as “W.Va.’s First Lady of Soul” and soul is what you’ll get with the Lady and her crew! Bring your dancin’ shoes for another great night at the Glass.

Seven dollars gets you in the door and the music starts at 10 PM. The Empty Glass is located at 410 Elizabeth Street in Charleston’s Historic East End.

Free Comic Book Day

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, and I am at a bit of a disadvantage here. I’ve been a loyal and satisfied customer of Westfield Comics for twenty years now, and I’m not even sure which local comic book stores are participating.

If you regularly shop at a local comic store, chances are they’ll take part. You can get two or three (or more) of the FCBD comics just for showing up. Last year Books A Million also took part, and they may do so again this year. If, like me, you are a Westfield customer, you can stay up Friday night until 1 AM, when you can go online and order all 52 of the FCBD comics before they’re all gone. All you have to do is pay postage.

If you’re into digital comics (your PopCulteer isn’t), you can find all sorts of digital freebies, some of which have been available all week, like over at Empire Comics Lab.

Any way you do it, free comics, folks.

Velvets De Mayo

Saturday, it’s the Velvet Brothers at Sam’s Uptown Cafe on Capitol Street…

The PopCulteer
May 4, 2018

I try to stay positive in PopCult. There are plenty of guys my age who are happy to be the cranky curmudgeon, and I feel like it’s too easy to complain when there’s so much cool positive stuff out there in the world to write about.

But I have to depart from my postive leanings today because of a really, really lame pun that has turned me quite peevish.

May the Fourth is not “Star Wars Day.” It never was. People think it is because of an excrutiatingly lame pun, originally leveled at the expense of Star Wars fans, that never should have risen above the designation of being anything more than a particularly unfunny “Dad joke.”

Yet, it has become such a cultural cliche that it makes me want to puke…just a little. And that’s coming from someone who normally loves really awful, stupid, annoying puns. This pun is awful, stupid and annoying, but now it’s also become wretchedly unfunny through repitition. The sad fact is that most of the “Star Wars Day” memes were created by alt-right white supremacist groups on 4chan who thought it would be “hilarious” if they could find some way to make it overshadow Cinco de Mayo.

It gets worse. This awful pun has become so ubiquitous that people have actually convinced themselves that May the Fourth really has something to do with Star Wars beyond merely being a bad lisping pun with a mildly racist secondary purpose.

And let’s make that clear. “May the Fourth be with you” was originally coined to make fun of nerdy Star Wars fans who had a lisp.

Yet, every year, on this day, Facebook is filled with heartfelt memories, some of them by dear friends, about how they saw Star Wars on May the Fourth, 1977, right here in Charleston.

Those heartfelt memories are a load of bollocks.

Star Wars opened in major cities on May 25, 1977, and it didn’t open in Charleston until the middle of June. I was there. I was a rabid Star Wars fan who had the first four issues of the Marvel Comics adaptation before I had a chance to see the movie.

I was fifth in line to see the movie when it opened, at the Capitol Theater, on that day in June, 1977. I would’ve been second, behind my brother, Frank, but we decided to run over to the Arcade Book Store to buy comics since there was nobody else in line when we got there.

And the books I bought, which included DC’s Five Star Super-Spectacular and an issue of Ragman, did not come out until the middle of June, in case you were wondering. I have a knack for remembering things like that.

It seemed like it took forever for Star Wars to come to Charleston, but it was so important to me then that I made sure I was there on opening day. I considered it a life-changing event. I was such an eager fan that I was the “gofer” when my brother and two friends published the first Star Wars fanzine in West Virginia, Continuum (Scan at right courtesy of Mark Wolfe). Yes, that is the Millenium Falcon blowing up the State Capitol Building.

I was a die-hard Star Wars fan up until about halfway through Return of the Jedi. The Ewoks showed up and knocked it down a few pegs, putting it behind Captain Marvel, The Beatles, Max Fleisher and Tex Avery cartoons and DEVO on my ever-changing list of favorite things in the world.

I’m not kidding. Those Ewoks really did a number on my give-a-crapper about Star Wars. The Empire Stikes Back was so good, and Return of the Jedi was so not good, that it taught me a valuable life lesson about how even cool things can suddenly start to suck. Then George Lucas screwed up Howard The Duck so badly that I completely lost faith in him as a filmmaker and was not surprised in the slightest when he came up with something as lame as Jar Jar Binks.

Thanks to the obsessive fandom of an ex-in-law, by the time The Phantom Menace hit theaters, I’d pretty much lost all interest in Star Wars, other than just observing it as a pop culture phenomenon. I don’t hate it, but I’m not in any rush to catch up with it. I sort of like the new movies when I get around to watching them about a year after they come out on DVD, usually when I’m watching my nephews. I am at peace with Star Wars.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find “May the Fourth be with you” as offensively vapid as “Bazinga” or any other cheesy, manufactured geek-culture catchphrase.  I loathe it as much as I do those freaking Ewoks.

Back in the day, when I considered Star Wars right alongside The Beatles as the most influential thing in my life, Star Wars fans had an air of dignity about them. They loved Star Wars, but they didn’t make fools of themselves like the Trekkies did, with their rubber Spock ears and speaking Klingon.

Man, time changes everything. Now the Star Trek fans seem like calm elder statesmen in comparison to the Disney-fied Star Wars mania. Whatever imagined dignity there was in loving a movie with a tall guy in an ape suit, a muppet and cool space explosions has evaporated.

Maybe it’s the mainstream acceptance, where Star Wars is now so universally-loved that it’s become “the establishment.” Maybe it’s just the bitter realization that everyone likes what you used to like so it’s not “special” anymore. I don’t know. Whatever. If it makes people happy and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m all for it. I just don’t know that I can ever regain my own passion for Star Wars.

I do know that I won’t be going out today. The reason is, if anybody comes up to me and says “May the Fourth be with you” to my face, it’s going to take all my self control to not throat-punch them until their ears bleed.

Seriously, cut it out. It’s embarrassing.

Scantily-Clad Women In Space!

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Prison Ship
written by Bruce Jones, drawn by Esteban Maroto
IDW Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-68405-159-5

Hailing from the days when Jim Warren was trying to imitate Heavy Metal Magazine with “adult” content in his comic magazine, 1984, we find a lesser work by two top-rank comics talents.  Prison Ship was written by Bruce Jones, one of my favorite comic book writers (and a damned fine artist), but it’s not his best work. It’s a serviceable sci-fi story with lots of gratuitious nudity and sex, but I came away with the feeling that he either knocked this one out for the paycheck, or it was heavily tampered with after he turned in the script.

Spanish artist, Esteban Maroto, is a legend, and he is one of the finest comics artists in history when it comes to depicting the female form. Prison Ship gives him ample opportunity for this to happen. This is a deluxe hardcover collection of the serialized story, which I don’t believe was ever completely published in English before. The presentation is top-notch, possibly better than the 96-page story deserves.

The story is pretty straightforward space opera stuff. Diana Jacklighter (seen left) is the captain of a ship that’s transporting a group of prisoners in suspended animation to a prison planet. Her ship is stuck by a meteor, and the prisoners wake up and scatter, and it’s her job to round them up or kill them. Along the way, she loses her clothes a lot. When she’s wearing them, they’re very, very tight.

As you may imagine, she becames intimately acquainted with one of the prisoners, and let’s just say that, if they made this into a movie, it would play well in the late-night timeslots on Cinemax.

Aside from the space-boning, there’s also a lot of blasters going off and jumping from planet-to-planet. A subplot comes to the forefront when it is revealed (SPOILER ALERT!) that one of the prisoners has exchanged minds with the newly-elected ultra-conservative president of Earth, and all the space-boning was therefore with a good guy and not a mass-murderer. Whew!

It’s not the most fulfilling of stories, but the attraction here is the art. Maroto does what he does best, draw beautiful women with hardly any clothes on, doing stuff. His work is striking, and any fan of his will want this book, which presents the artwork as it was originally drawn, without the flying talking penis that Jim Warren had added to the finished pages before publication. The book is in black-and-white, just like the original American publication, but as you can see in the page printed below this review it seems a bit sparse, like maybe it was meant to have tones added, or was meant to be colored. Still, Maroto’s art is spectacular.

Prison Ship is not essential reading by any means. Bruce Jones is capable of much better work, and may be embarrassed to have his name on this. Maroto’s art is as good as it always is, and is the major selling point. This is junk-food for the mind, but it’s pretty tasty in places.

You can find or order Prison Ship from comic book shops or booksellers.

Yeti In My Spaghetti

The PopCult Toybox

As regular readers of PopCult may know, I’ve been battling a stubborn case of bronchitis for several weeks. I am doing much better now, but during my down time, when I and Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, were laid up, medicated and not wanting to do anything too challenging, we found ourselves playing this game.

The nice folks at Playmonster had sent me Yeti In My Spaghetti to review here in PopCult, and I’d planned to let my nephews test it out and report on the results, but since we were both feeling a tad contagious and lethargic, we decided to stay at home and try it ourselves.

We had more fun playing this game than anyone our age should. Yeti In My Spaghetti is recommended for ages four and up, but it’s got an addictive quality that makes it hard to resist at any age. Seriously, it may have been the meds, but we played this game for hours.

The premise is simple. Inside the box you find a bowl, thirty pieces of plastic “spaghetti,” and a little plastic Yeti. You’ll also find the rules in English and Spanish. They aren’t very complicated.

You lay the “spaghetti” across the bowl, building a platform on which you place the Yeti. Then the players take turns pulling out the “spaghetti” strands, one by one, until the Yeti falls into the bowl.

It’s sort of like a cross between pick-up sticks and Jenga, with the added ingredient of snow monsters and pasta.

In a two-player game, the person who pulls out the spaghetti strand that makes the Yeti falls is the loser. With more than two players, the winner is the one with the most spaghetti.

It’s simple. It’s goofy…and it’s a lot of fun. This is not a game that requires a lot of brain power. There is skill involved, but it’s not like you’re going to have to “phone a friend” or anything.

Yeti In My Spaghetti is a great throwback to the goofy, fun games of my youth, and you ought to be able to find it anywhere that games are sold.

Tune in to The AIR Wednesday for new episodes of three of our most popular programs. At 1 PM, Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle looks into Synchronicity and Coincidence. At 2 PM, Beatles Blast presents part three of a classic Beatles BBC radio documentary. At 3 PM Curtain Call returns as your host, Mel Larch, presents a tribute to the musical HAIR, marking fifty years since its debut on Broadway. Listen to it on The AIR (or this embedded player).

This week Michele talks about Synchronicty and Coincidence and whether or not the two concepts are mutually inclusive. Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle about fire drills, knowing when to follow instructions and when to not follow instructions, and how to figure out when and why to use your better judgement. You’ll also hear a tale of two Dennis the Menaces.

Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle can be heard Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, with replays on The AIR Friday at 9:30 AM and Monday at 12:30 PM.

Continuing this week, Beatles Blast presents a re-edited radio series from 1973 devoted to The Beatles Story, a British radio history of the Fab Four which hasn’t been heard since its original broadcast. This third installment follows the band into the living hurricane that was Beatlemania.

Beatles Blast can be heard Wednesday at 2 PM, Thursday at 11 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 5 PM, and Tuesday at 9 AM.

At 3 PM Curtain Call returns after a brief hiatus with a show devoted to HAIR, the legendary “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” by Jerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt McDermott.

This week on Curtain Call Mel Larch brings you an all-star recreation of the highlights of this turning point in the history of the American musical, with performances from multiple recordings of the show, plus some choice, and in many cases unexpected cover tunes. You can expect to hear performances by such unexpected artists as Woody Herman, The Dickies, Treat Williams, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Nell Carter, Beverly D’Angelo and the casts of the 1967 off-Broadway production, the original Broadway cast and the original London cast of HAIR.

Curtain Call debuts Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 7 AM and 8 PM and Saturday at 6 PM.

Stay tuned all day, every day, for incredible music, thought-provoking talk and gut-busting comedy exclusively on The AIR.

Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift are new today on The AIR. You can tune in at The AIR website, or just listen on this little embedded radio doohickey…

At 10 AM and 10 PM our latest Radio Free Charleston Opens with a new track from Speedsuit, then dives headfirst into the archives with classic tunes by The BrotherSisters, Docotr Steamly, John Inghram’s Slugfest and more. Check out the playlist below…


Speedsuit “Gwendoline”
John Inghram “Gospel”
Under Social “Away”
Tape Age “The Hanged Man”
Superfetch “Quirky Bubbles”
Bud Carroll “Made To Last”
Bongwater “Schmoozedance”
Doctor Steamly “A Lab Near Arkham”
The BrotherSisters “Damn The Torpedoes”
Sasha Colette “Victory”
Total Meltdown “Wish You Were Here”
Sheldon Vance “Watch It Burn”
Feast of Stephen “Superfund”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM stick around on The AIR for a new hour of The Swing Shift, continuing our mission to bring you the best Swing music from the last century. This week we bring you a mix of classic Big Band era music, retro Swing and brand new Swing tunes. Here’s the playlist for this epic swingin’ hour…

The Swing Shift 041

Krystal Jyl and the Jacks “Drop Me A Line”
Big Papa and the TCB “Get Yo Self Together”
Glenn Miller “In The Mood”
Felix Slovaceck “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”
Tape Five “A Cool Cat’s In Town”
Squirrel Nut Zippers “Interlocutor”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Zoot Suit Riot”
Tony Pastor “Just For Kicks”
Django Reinhardt “Daphne”
Emerson Lake and Palmer “Maple Leaf Rag”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Mr. Pinstripe Suit”
Dean Martin “Sway”
Sugarpie and the Candymen “Lithium”
Sara Lugo and Jazzrausch Bigband “The One”
Benny Goodman “Rock Rimmon”
Frank Sinatra “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
The Rosenberg Trio “It Don’t Mean A Thing”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 AM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.