PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

I think I may have stumbled into a winning formula for Radio Free Charleston International, which you can hear at 3 PM Thursday timeslot on The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

As is our new Thursday norm, we now have a replay of this week’s Radio Free Charleston at 2 PM, followed by a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston International at 3 PM. For you old-timers who remember the original broadcast incarnation of , this combination comes close to recreating the original experience, with your PopCulteer unleashed to play whatever he felt like playing, mixed with a generous helping of great local music.

You can read about this week’s episode of RFC HERE.

Radio Free Charleston International is the two-hour weekly show where Rudy Panucci (that’s me, by the way) gets to play whatever he wants. It’s our way of revisiting the golden age of free-format radio, which is sort of what inspired us to go into this medium in the first place.

Once again in this week’s new episode of Radio Free Charleston International, I’m going with a mimxtape presentation, so to find out what I’m playing, you’ll have to follow along with the playlist below. Our listeners seem to like this, so I’ll probably keep doing the show like this for a while.

RFC International 071

Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Live Like An Animal”
The Stranglers “Freedom Is Insane”
Adrian Belew “Heaven’s Bed”
The Who “Magic Bus (live)”
Crowded House “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”
P.P. Arnold “Last Thoughts of Woody Guthrie”
Hollywood Vampires “I Want My Now”
Conspiracy “Lonesome Trail”
Shakespeare’s Sister “C U Next Tuesday”
Buck O Nine “Dust It Off”
Sublime with Rome “For The Night”
YES 50 “Close To The Edge”
Yoko Ono “Move On Fast”
The Dave Clark Five “Inside and Out”
Sleeping Giant “Visions III”
Mike Love “Rockaway Beach”
John Lennon “Well Well Well”
The Aristocrats “Last Orders”

You can tune in to RFC International every Thursday at 3 PM on The AIR. If you miss it, you have plenty of chances to catch a replay: Fridays at 1 PM and 10 PM, Saturdays at 1 PM, Sundays at 1 AM and 2 PM, Mondays at 9 PM, and Tuesdays at 11 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

This Wednesday afternoon The AIR, presents new episodes of Beatles Blast and Curtain Call.  You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

At 2 PM on Beatles Blast, yours truly hosts the tenth part of an ongoing look at rare and unreleased music by The Beatles. For most of the summer, Beatles Blast will follow this format and bring you The Lost Beatles Project. This will be a treat for the die-hard fans as we mine the best of the recently-released archive projects by the band, and mix in rare releases and wild remixes from their band and solo years. We won’t be posting playlists for these shows because the whole point is that each of these programs will be a revelatory surprise.

Beatles Blast can be heard every Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays Thursday at 9 PM, Friday at 11 AM, Sunday at 5 PM and Tuesdays at 9 AM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM Mel Larch presents a new hour of great musical theater on Curtain Call.  This week Mel shines the Curtain Call spotlight on overtures, those short, mostly instrumental bits of music that open many musicals, presenting themes and melodies as a preview and prelude to the evening’s entertainment. Seamlessly edited together into one lushly-orchestrated hour of music, you will hear the overutures from Over Here, Threepenny Opera, Comfort Women, The Who’s Tommy, Prince of Broadway, Tell Me More, It’s A Bird- It’s A Plane- It’s Superman, God Bless You Mrs. Rosewater, Tip Toes, Mack and Mabel, Milk and Honey, Miss Spectacular, Mame, Funny Girl, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,  and Newsies.

After the new hour of Curtain Call, stick around for two additional episodes from the Curtain Call archives. Curtain Call can be heard Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 8 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 5 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight..

Tribute To The Troops on RFC and More On The AIR

It’s another day with new programming on The AIR.

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver new episodes of Radio Free Charleston, Psychedelic Shack and The Swing Shift to our loyal listeners. You may point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this happy little embedded radio player…

It all kicks off at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new edition of Radio Free Charleston.

This week’s show goes back into our video vaults for the first of two shows that bring you highlights of the Tribute To The Troops II show, held at Saint Albans City Park back in the summer of 2012. Some of these songs were heard on a three-part series on the RFC video show, while others are being heard here for the first time. This week we bring you performances by HARRAH, Deck of Fools, The Under Social, Remains Unnamed, Candace Weaver, Breedlove,
Point of Jerus and Johnny Compton.

Next week’s show will focus on Everpulse and Point of Jerus. On a future show we’ll bring you the performances by In The Company of Wolves. Their music was recorded and mixed by Dave McClanahan for the RFC video show, but it’s in a different folder on a different drive, so we didn’t include it here.

If you can’t listen to the stream on The AIR, we are now uploading the RFC radio show to YouTube (by popular demand). So you can listen to it here…

At 2 PM on Psychedelic Shack Nigel Pye checks in from Haversham Recording Institute with a 60-minute mixtape of groovy Psychedelic Rock. Our friend, the Hippie Gnome, Nigel Pye, has cheerfully decided to provide us with a playlist for this new episode so tune in turn on and check out the playlist…

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Steppenwolf “Born To Be Wild
Open Mindframe “Grey Cats”
The Beatles “Penny Lane”
The Voodoo Kitchen “Head Over Hells”
Cream “Sunshine of Your Love”
The Weird Sisters “I’m With You”
Cheri Currie and Brie Darling “Get Together”
Mike Love “Here Comes The Sun”
Adrian Belew “One of Those Days”
Julian Cope “Cromwell In Ireland”
Julee Cruise “I Float Alone”
David Bowie “Life Is A Circus”
Paul Revere and the Raiders “Good Thing”
Vanilla Fudge “You Keep Me Hanging On”

Psychedelic Shack can be heard Tuesday’s at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM, Thursday at 5 PM, Friday at Noon, Saturday at 9 AM, Sunday at 4 PM and Monday at 7 PM.

At 3 PM your PopCulteer returns to host a new hour of The Swing Shift as we continue to bring you the best Swing Music of the last century.

This week it’s another mix of old and new, with classics from the Big Band era, Retro Swing from the 1990s, and fresh Swing from today’s top bands.

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Duke Robilliard with Elizabeth McGovern “Me, Myself and I”
Mojo Juju And The Snake-Oil Merchants “Scat Song”
Glenn Miller “String of Pearls”
Jimmy Hamilton and his Orchestra “Blues For a Prince”
Bart & Baker and Kitten On The Keys “Whoopee”
Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Peter Muller, Dani Gugolz “Rhythm Boogie”
Benny Goodman Orchestra “Sing Sing Sing”
Squirrel Nut Zippers “Axeman Jazz”
Tommy Dorsey “I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You”
Vaughn Monroe “Rum and Coca Cola”
Hetty and the Jazzato Band “Tu Vuò Fà L’Americano”
Chris Grant Company “Stop My Boogie Blues”
Kansas City Jazz Orchestra “Corner Pocket”
Helen O’Connell “Take A Tip From The Whippoorwill”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 5 PM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Remember, you can tune in to The AIR at all hours of the day and night for a variety and quality of programming that you will not find anywhere else. Check PopCult regularly for details on our new episodes.



Monday Morning Art: Chicago River At Twilight


This week’s art is a digital painting that depicts the Chicago riverfront, with the Marina Towers in the background, and a glorious twilight palette of colors.  This painting was done from scratch, but the colors were sampled from several photos I took from our hotel room when we were in the Windy City last month. I think it worked out pretty well considering how little time I put into it.  I’ll probably revisit this technique in the future.

If you wish, you can click this image to see it bigger.

Over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, this week we bring you a Monday Marathon featuring eight episodes of Mel Larch’s Curtain Call. This will begin a week of new episodes of our afternoon programming on The AIR  So get ready to keep your browsers pointed our way.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

At 3 PM Herman Linte’s show, Prognosis marks 50 episodes with the first of a two-part “Prog Rock 101” special that will present songs from the quintessential progressive rock bands. Part two will run next week in the usual timeslot. Check out the playlist below…

Prognosis 050

King Crimson “The Court of the Crimson King”
Genesis “Watcher Of The Skies”
YES “Heart Of The Sunrise”
Pink Floyd “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
Dream Theater “The Bigger Picture”
Emerson, Lake and Palmer “Karn Evil 9, Impression I part 1”
Emerson, Lake and Palmer “Karn Evil 9, Impression I part 2”
UK “Rendesvous 6:02”
Triumvirat “The March To The Eternal City”
Jethro Tull “Heavy Horses”
Marillion “Bitter Suite”
Camel “Song Within A Song”
Renaissance “Midas Man”
Vand Der Graaf Generator “White Hammer”

Prognosis will be followed by an extra classic episode at 5 PM, and then by replays of last week’s Psychedelic Shack at 7 PM, Radio Free Charleston at 8 PM and RFC International at 9 PM. Then at 11 PM we kick it back over to Prognosis, with an extra eight hour marathon of great progressive rock.

The sad news broke this weekend that legendary animator Richard Williams, who counts Who Framed Roger Rabbit among his many impressive credits, has passed away at the age of 86. Reportedly he was still animating until he took suddenly ill recently.  As a result, we have bumped our previously-scheduled video to next week so we could bring you this.

As a tribute to this largely over-looked genius, we’re bringing you a short video by The Royal Ocean Film Society about Willaims. While it’s a great sampling of his work, it is very short and some of the information about his epic, unfinished work, The Thief and The Cobbler, isn’t entirely accurate, but you can see the sheer beauty and high level of craft on display in his work in the animation they show.


The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW Episode Six

From mid-November, 2013, this week we bring you the sixth episode of The RFC MINI SHOW, starring Snakebox.

This episode of The RFC MINI SHOW was recorded in August of 2013, and songs from that session had already appeared on two prior episodes of Radio Free Charleston.  We recorded Snakebox at The Empty Glass, and grabbed at least four songs.

As their PR said, “Snakebox, from Charleston, WV, is an ever evolving nest of undulating sounds. Original songs and music tangle around guitarist and lead vocalist Kevin Crump, fiddle player and vocalist Beth Summers, bass player Thom Walker and drummer Dave Roberts. This orchestral orgy is often heard with violist Alasha Al-Qudwah, keyboardist Christopher Harris, trombone player Logan Umlor, and other fine specimens from the local music scene. Stick your hand in the box and be surprised!”

This was a very special band, and it’s great to have some of their music preserved here.

Next week The RFC Flashback will bring you more Snakebox, along with other artists, as we have an entire RFC show that was recorded at Third Eye Cabaret.

The PopCulteer
August 16, 2019

Over five years ago I tried the nerd/geek subscription box, Loot Crate, and found it to be a poor value, and I also found the company to have questionable ethics when it came to billing. You can read that review HERE. Basically Loot Crate was a monthly surprise box filled with T-shirts, comics, toys and trinkets. I thought it was overpriced. Currently the price is 25 bucks a month, plus shipping, if you don’t go with one of their slightly cheaper plans that you have to pay for months in advance.

I will give them credit. They managed to milk that lousy value and awful customer service way longer than I thought they would. Loot Crate has been in serious financial trouble for at least three years now, defaulting on loans and stiffing more than a few suppliers, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that the wheels began to fall off completely.

The boxes were arriving later and later, and as I write this, they don’t seem to have sent any out since May. Reportedly they owe customers over twenty million dollars worth of late subscription boxes.

Last year Loot Crate started re-using items from earlier boxes that they’d over-ordered. They also sold tens of thousands of “exclusive Loot Crate T-shirts” to Ollie’s the discount liquidator chain, who sold them for five bucks each or less. Loot Crate had apparently been over-ordering items for their boxes for a few years.

At one point it was believed that Loot Crate had half a million subscribers who were paying twenty-five bucks or so a month for their monthly surprise box of nerd culture items. Evidently, the number has actually been abut half of that for some time. Unfortunately for Loot Crate, they kept buying inventory to fill way more boxes.

In addition to the boxes shipping late, suppliers not being paid and more than a few billing discrepencies, a few weeks ago Loot Crate abruptly shut down their warehouse, laying off over 150 workers.

At the time they claimed that they were outsourcing those jobs to a third-party fullfilment house.

Last week the company laid off an additional 50 workers (leaving them with about 60 full-time employees) and filed for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy. This appears to be part of a plan to sell the company to a new lender, and get out from under tens of millions of dollars of bad debt.

Last week’s layoffs were sudden, and no severence packages were offered to their employees.

At this point the company promises that they will deliver all the ordered subscription boxes to their customers and they even continue to offer new subscriptions. It is remotely possible that they have a plan that will allow them to stay in business, but that really doesn’t seem likely to me.

My guess is that they will try to fulfill their outstanding orders with leftover items from their warehouse…that is if they haven’t already sold all of that to liquidators…and then quietly terminate the subscriptions. At some point after the dust has settled, I think we may see the name pop up on some other form of surprise package, maybe as an exclusive to a major retailer. I don’t see customers remaining loyal enough to the brand to give them their billing information again.

As for what happened–how did it all go wrong? Well, most of the generic subscription boxes have gone under already. The costs of acquiring items for the box, plus the ever-rising cost of shipping, made it necessary for the subscription boxes to start going with cheaper, lower-quality items, and customers started bailing out after realizing that they don’t really need all that crap.

There was also the problem that the folks who curated the boxes were of the mentality that all nerd and geek culture appealed to all nerds and geeks. That is pure nonsense.

I’m a life-long comic book fan. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons or any other RPG. I stopped paying attention to videogames around 1984. I stopped reading Manga when the publishers decided to print it right-to-left, instead of reversing it when they translate it. I collect some toys, but not all of them.

And even though I’m a longtime comics fan, I’m much more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. The “nerd” culture that people have been targeting of late is actually just Pop Culture, and it’s way too general and diverse to satisfy with one subscription box.

There’s no reason to assume that somebody who likes Adventure Time is also going to like Transformers or Zelda or Back To The Future. There is, of course, some crossover among the various genre, but it’s far from universal. Loot Crate even included stuff based on YouTube influencers, who should not even be a thing.

There are still successful subscription boxes, but they’re all specialized. Pusheen sends out a quarterly box for fifty bucks every three months, and it’s a great value, not only because they include cool stuff, but also because everyone who orders it knows that they like Pusheen. Loot Crate had tried to get into the themed subscription box business, but they sort of proved that they had no idea of how to manage inventory for a subscription box service and wound up losing money on those too.

One of my industry contacts who had dealings with Loot Crate guesstimated that they probably spent around nineteen bucks on buying the custom-printed box and contents that they sent out each month.

If you do the quick math, and assume that they had 250,000 subscribers, that means that they should have been clearing around a million and a half bucks a month. However, reports are that they over-ordered inventory, and bought enough supplies and inventory to fill up and additional 150,000 units per month.

And that was money spent that didn’t bring any revenue back in, so each month they would have been around a million dollars or more in debt. And that’s on top of the overhead of maintaining warehouses and offices and 260 employees.

These are all hypothetical numbers based on rough estimates, but they would explain why the company is so far behind on shipping out Loot Crates.

According to the L.A. Times, the bankruptcy filing claims that they owe suppliers over thirty million dollars, they’re almost six million dollars behind on sales tax remittals and they owe customers twenty million dollars of boxes. Their credit card service has been withholding payments due to customer complaints, so they have no money coming in. This was no shock to me. Below you can see an example of Loot Crate’s typically deceptive promotion, which combined the cream of the crop of several month’s worth of stuff to make it look like you’d get this much cool stuff in one shipment.

My advice for Loot Crate customers: If you haven’t already, cancel your subscription immediately and dispute the charges for the boxes you haven’t received yet. Otherwise you could lose any money that you’ve already sent them. Chances are that, if they do send out the boxes they owe you, they’ll be filled with leftover stuff that you may already have.

That is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features.

Shows And Stuff In Charleston

The weekend is rapidly approaching. ArtWalk happens in Charleston tonight, while Summerfest kicks off in South Charleston. Your PopCulteer will be chained to the computer all day so he can finish a magazine article, so that means you get to look at some colorful graphics of Stuff To Do around town this weekend. I know Glenville is not really “around town,” but it’s an all-ages show, and I really liked the graphic. Which reminds me…if you’d like to see your event plugged in this blog, make a graphic with the date, time, place and if there’s a cover charge. When I put together a post like this because I’m staring down the barrel of a deadline for a paying gig, it’ll almost guarantee that you make the cut. Check The PopCulteer tomorrow for details about how you can contact me on social media.











Tom Heaton of The Vintage Toy Room has a new Module in his series of books devoted to the 12″ action figures made by The Marx Toy Company, and even though I don’t have one in my hands yet, I am going to whole-heartedly recommend it based on the excellence of Tom’s other works on the topic.

Tom wrote the great Enclyclopedia of Marx Action Figures back in 1999, but he had to limit his scope to the available page count, and since so much more information is always coming to light he decided to create expansion modules to cover diferent elements of Johnny West and his friends. A couple of years ago I included the whole set (at the time) in the PopCult Gift Guide, and I’m happy to say that long-awaited fifth module is now available for order.

The original Marx Action Figure Encyclopedia and all the modules can be ordered directly from Tom’s website, The Vintage Toy Room. Tom will even sign and personalize these for you, if you wish. Now, in the eagerly-awaited Module 5, we’ll get the lowdown on Stony Smith, The All American Fighters and the Marx Military Action Figures.  These are low-print-run,  full-color books, crammed with vital information for the hobby, and are worth every penny. You can build an instant library of Marx Action Figure knowledge for your giftee, all in one fell swoop.

Let’s go to the press release:

The Vintage Toy Room has completed Module #5, The Military and Secret Agent Spy Era! This is the book many of you have been waiting for! The Marx Military and Secret Agent Spy Era! This book includes many new items not included in the Encyclopedia! Stony Smith Paratrooper variations, All American Fighters, Buddy Charlies, Canadian Buddy, Mike Hazard, Girl from UNCLE, Rat Patrol, Marx Factory visits, Artists, Likeness reviews of characters and celebrities they were based on, deep dives on The Girl from UNCLE original molds, Prototypes, Trade catalog slicks, store displays, test shots, color variations from other countries, Copper Head and Jane Blonde, and many more! I will also be including an 11×17 full color poster on the Military and Secret agent figures poster!

Thanks to all the folks that contributed to the book with pictures , editing, and preorder support to make this book a reality. This module far exceeds what the Encyclopedia delivered adding prototypes, test shots, retail catalogs, Sears combos, and so much more! This is by far our best produced book to date!

In this book you’ll learn all about Stony Smith, the variations and configurations of him and the transition to the All American Fighters. Plus you’ll find out about Mike Hazard and April Dancer and more. Each figures is shown complete with their packaging and all their accessories.

The best way to get this book is to visit The Vintage Toy Room.  It’s now in stock with a laminated cover and freedeluxe 11×17 poster. While you’re there, if you don’t already have them, pick up Tom’s earlier modules. If you like cool vintage action figures, or have a fondness for Johnny West and his friends and foes, this is exactly what you need in your life.

A Week Of Slack On The AIR

No, we have not converted The AIR into an auditory temple to Bob Dobbs (not that it wouldn’t be really cool to do that), but in the spirit of Slack and The Church of the Subgenius, this week we’re all in reruns. Luckily our shows are so fantastic that they hold up to repeated listenings. You can tune in to The AIR website, or listen in on this little virtual doohickey…

The reason for the reruns is simple. It’s my birthday. I produce most of the shows on The AIR, and I don’t wanna work that much this week. I have some long-gestating PopCult posts I need to write, plus a magazine article to finish, and I plan to take my birthday off and just relax.

So, Tuesday, instead of a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston, we’re going to bring you all of our most recent shows all day long, with a break at 3 PM to bring you recent episodes of The Swing Shift, one of the other shows I host on The AIR.

But back to Radio Free Charleston, you may have noticed that, for the last month or so, I’ve made the new episodes available as downloads. It was a good idea, but apparently was still too complicated a concept for many people to grasp. It hit me over the weekend that I could upload the shows to YouTube, with just a still frame on the screen while the audio plays. Everybody knows how to use YouTube.

There are many reasons I haven’t tried this before. And some of them may cause me to quit doing this after I try it for a few weeks, but for the time being I plan to embed a YouTube clip of each week’s show here in PopCult, in the same post where I beg people to listen to it at The AIR.

And that is the first reason that I haven’t done this before: I don’t want to cannibalize my audience for The AIR. However, I also want as many people to listen to RFC as possible, so both of those concerns sort of balances this decision out.

Also, Radio Free Charleston is NOT a podcast. It’s a radio program. We pay a (fairly hefty) rights fee so that we can stream music programs on The AIR, but those rights to not extend to posting those shows on YouTube. In the event that a record label files a copyright claim against one of our shows on YouTube (which happens more than you’d think on the RFC video show), then ads may appear before or during our clip. CDBaby is a real jerk about this. In some cases rights owners can order the video clip taken down or muted.

The music rights issue is why we won’t be doing this with our other programs. With RFC most of the music is owned by the artists, and they appreciate the extra exposure. In the case of a show like Beatles Blast, I think that band is pretty happy with the level of exposure that they’ve already received and don’t really need our help.

I also don’t want people to think I’ve thrown in the towel on every doing Radio Free Charleston as a video program again. That will happen, and probably sooner than you expect.

Like I said, we’ll do this for the time being. If nobody bothers listening to the YouTube version of the show, then it won’t be worth the effort of rendering it and uploading it. But if it finds an audience and doesn’t turn into a hassle, then we’ll keep doing it.

Let’s try this out with last week’s episode, right here…