PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Gift Guide: Christkindlemarket

Our final pick for the penultimate day of The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is a bittersweet website recommendation for Chicago’s Virtual Christkindlemarket.

Mel and I first visited Christkindlmarket in 2015 over Thanksgiving, and we fell in love with the bustle, the glass ornaments and Germanic trinkets, plus the hot cocoa and apple cider and we also fell in love with the pretzels. There’s something about eating a hot pretzel (I get mine stuffed with spinach and feta) in 35 degree weather that’s almost orgasmic.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago was first conceptualized in 1995 when The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. (GACC Midwest) was seeking alternative ways to promote bilateral trade between the USA and Germany. Peter Flatzek, former Vice President of GACC Midwest, and Ray Lotter, then Manager of Commercial Services for GACC Midwest, initiated the partnership with city officials of Nuremberg, Germany. Mr. Lotter invited companies from Germany and the Chicago area to participate in the first Christkindlmarket Chicago in 1996. The market was an instant success and continues to flourish through the work of GACC Midwest’s subsidiary, German American Events, LLC.

The inaugural event took place on Pioneer Court in 1996 for the first time. By special invitation of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since. With the support of the City of Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the Christkindlmarket Chicago has grown to become one of the most popular winter attractions for locals and tourists alike.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago is the most authentic traditional holiday market of its kind outside of Europe, offering a unique shopping experience, family-friendly events & intercultural activities.

That can’t happen this year. Only insane and reckless folks are traveling, and the Christkindlmarket will not be open in a physical sense this year due to the pandemic.

However, There is a virtual Christkindlemarket, and you can order mugs and scarves and ornaments and cool stuff, plus they have links to dozens of their regular vendors, so you can at least experience the shopping, even if the joy of hot cocoa and pretzels in Chicago is not possible.

As they say at their website…

From November 1st – December 31st, people from all around the nation will be able to enjoy the beloved tradition from the comfort and safety of their homes through the first-ever virtual Christkindlmarket “Home for the Holidays,” featuring an online marketplace, family-friendly events, and fun interactive activities.

Ready to make some wonderful memories and get into the holiday spirit?

You can find individual items, and gift boxes at their shop, and you can also visit their affiliated vendors for even more cool holiday items.

Shutting down to the public was the only thing that made sense this year. Below you see a photo of Christkindlmarket in 2016 that was taken at the least crowded time of day. But you can get into the Christmas spirit from the comfort of your own home, and we need it more than ever this year.

Next up in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide we have a triple-recommendation which is perfect for the kid on your shopping list who loves dinosaurs, foam blasters and target practice.

Zuru has come up with a suite of products that check off all of those boxes and they do it in a very affordable way. Let’s check these out…

ZURU X-Shot Dino Attack – Dino Striker 

It’s time to take down the ferocious prehistoric predators with the all-new X-Shot Dino Attack Dino Striker from ZURU. Face the Dino invasion with this Dino Striker foam dart blaster that features an auto-rotating 6-dart barrel to annihilate incoming predators with extreme accuracy from up to 90ft/27m away.

The additional 6-dart storage supplies foam flingers with maximum fire power. Join the included Dino eggs together, place them down and then blast them away before they hatch.
With Dino Striker, no invader stands a chance. This set includes blaster, 2 dino egg targets and 16 foam darts.

For Ages 8+, SRP $9.99. Available at Amazon and Target.

ZURU X-Shot Dino Attack – Claw Hunter 

If you’re after bigger prehistoric prey, get ready to have loads of blasting fun with the all-new X-Shot Dino Attack Claw Hunter. Once you fill the 6 dart barrel, fire at predators at an incredible shooting distance of up to 90 feet/27 meters with this two-shot blaster.

Don’t forget to load up the top storage with an additional 10 darts to keep the expedition going.

You can also join the included Dino eggs together to use as Dino targets and blast them away before they hatch.
This set includes blaster, 6 dino egg targets and 24 foam darts.

Ages 8+, SRP $14.99. Available at Amazon and Target.

ZURU X-Shot Dino Attack – Inflatable Target Unit

For a more formidable opponet, you can get ready for the Dino invasion with the Inflatable Target Unit from ZURU.

Simply blow up the inflatable T-Rex and then fill the base with water or sand. Standing at 3feet tall, this Dino Attack specialty item can be used for target practice by blasting at the 3 different point indicators.

You can also use it to shield yourself in an epic Dino Attack foam fight, ensuring you don’t get annihilated.

Ages 8+, SRP $9.99. Available at Amazon.

With these three cool toys, your young dinosaur hunter will be completely prepared for any incoming raptor threats.

Check out this quick video…

First up today in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide we have a brand-new album by Todd Burge, to be released November 25 to mark Todd’s birthday.

Todd is one of West Virginia’s finest singer/songwriters, and this album is a perfect gift for any fan of his, and for any fan of intelligent, heartfelt American music.

I’ll quote Todd here to let him tell you about it.

“Hello All!
I’m excited and proud. On my birthday this year I will release an album from a live show I played on my birthday last year. Let’s celebrate! There will be only 100 CDs available so jump on those right now! I sure hope you enjoy this new live album during this time when live music everywhere is being challenged. Love to you and thank you so much for supporting what I do!

Sincerely, Todd”

Todd Burge Live In Parkersburg was recorded live at Artsbridge in Parkersburg WV in Nov of 2019. It contains 21 tracks including some never before released covers of songs by Bob Dylan, George Jones and Jimmy Clinton. Cover artwork is by Sophia Burge.

With only 100 physical copies, you’d better act fast if you want something to put under the tree. You can order this CD from Todd’s Bandcamp page, and you’ll have it sooner than you realize.

Check out Todd’s recent livestream for a sample…

It may seem a bit like I’ve been ignoring The AIR, PopCult‘s sister internet radio station, while I’ve been compiling The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide. If it seems that way, it’s probably because I have. Sorry about that.

The plan is to wrap up the gift guide Wednesday, then run the master list Friday, and then, after all that falls into place, The AIR will return with all-new episodes of our music specialty programs next week.

In the meantime, in this week of giving thanks (during a somewhat thankless year), Tuesday you can hear a marathon of Radio Free Charleston, starting at 7 AM and running for 24 hours. This is our flagship show that combines local music with that of international artists.

Wednesday at 7 AM, we turn the reins over to Mel Larch for 24 hours of Curtain Call, presenting the best of musical theatre.

Thursday we begin PROGSGIVING, a five day marathon of Herman Linte’s Prognosis, which will be interrupted Thursday and Sunday at Midnight for our weekly seven-hour overnight runs of The Swing Shift. We get hate mail from Europe if we pre-empt The Swing Shift.

If everything works out, Monday at 3 PM, in the middle of the final day of PROGSGIVING, we will debut a new episode of Prognosis.

You can tune in and hear it all on The AIR, at the website, or on this lovely embedded player…

Gift Guide: Titans On DVD

Today’s final entry in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is the perfect gift for fans of superheroes who don’t mind if they cuss a lot. I mean, a whole lot. It’s the DC Universe (soon to be HBO Max) series, Titans.

You can get season one and season two on DVD at Amazon.

This is a very dark, grim and gritty take on the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez version of DC’s Teen Titans, with elements of other takes on the characters mixed in. It’s not terribly faithful to the comics, but it is recognizable. It’s a super team comprised partly of sidekicks to the major DC superheroes.

Freed from having “Teen” in the title, the producers took some liberties, having characters who are roughly the same age in the comics be anywhere from 14 to well into their thirties here. This makes for a stronger take on the stories, which are presented in an ultra-violent manner, with so much strong language that, at times, you might think that they have a quota they have to meet, with a minimum amount of gratuitous f-bombs sprinkled throughout the show.

It’s really weird hearing Robin cuss.

I’m not exactly a prude. This is the first time I can recall watching a movie or TV show that struck me as having too many curse words. The problem with f-bombs is, if they’re overused, they lose all their shock value and effectiveness.

Aside from that quibble, and the first season finale, which was a mess, Titans is a decent action show with superheroes. The characters are nothing like their comic book counterparts, and there are a couple of highly-questionable wardrobe choices, but if you forget that you ever read the comic books, then it’s a good, adult, superhero melodrama.

In season two, following the aftermath of their encounter with Trigon, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) reforms the Titans. Under his supervision in their new home at Titans Tower, Rachel (Teagan Croft), Gar (Ryan Potter) and Jason Todd (Curran Walters) train together to hone their hero abilities and work together as a team.

They are joined by Hank Hall and Dawn Granger aka Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) and Donna Troy aka Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie). Although these original Titans attempt to transition into a regular life, when old enemies resurface everyone must come together to take care of unfinished business. And as this family of old and new Titans – including Conner Kent (Joshua Orpin) and Rose Wilson (Chelsea Zhang) – learn to co-exist, the arrival of Deathstroke (Esai Morales) brings to light the sins of the old Titans which threaten to tear this new Titans family apart once more.

It’s not for kids, but Titans presents a new take on a classic comic book with an R-rated slant that might be right up some fans’ alley.

The future is here with our next recommendations in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide. Sure, years ago everybody thought we’d have flying cars and wrist radios by now, but the fact is, at this very moment, you can buy dancing robot animals!

These two terpischorian critters are the perfect gift for kids, or for adults who may need to inject a little silliness into their lives. I mean, who is entertained by dancing flamingoes or sloths. Folks, meet Fifi and Frankie…

ZURU Pets Alive – Fifi The Flossing Sloth

Get ready to floss like a boss with Fifi The Flossing Sloth, the latest addition to ZURU’s best-selling Pets Alive brand including 2019’s Boppi The Booty Shakin’ Llama (who was in our gift guide last year).

Mimicking one of the most iconic dances of the decade, Fifi’s hilarious floss movements, cute blinking eyes and butt wiggle are sure to get everyone up dancing.

For ages three and up, currently available for twenty bucks from Amazon and Walmart, and tons of fun, just check out the quick videos below…

Zuru Pets Alive-Frankie The Funky Flamingo.

Whose got that funky feeling? Frankie The Funky Flamingo, does!
Frankie entertains the whole family with her hilarious neck twirling and wing flapping movements, all while getting down to 3 funky jams.

With her realistic flamingo design, she is cute and groovy all at the same time. Frankie also includes a surprise Flamingo Egg with a baby Flamingo to keep the party going!

Also for ages three and up, and available for twenty bucks at Amazon and Walmart. Check out Frankie’s moves in this quick video…

There you have it, two great dancing robotic animals. Perfect for the fan of dancing robot animals on your holiday shopping list.

Today’s first recommendation in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is a thought-provoking book that will make a great gift for any White person who is trying to grasp what they can do as individuals to help improve the rocky state of race relations in this country.

Giving Up Whiteness: One Man’s Journey

by Jeff James
Broadleaf Books
ISBN-13 : 978-1506464022
$24.99 (discounted at Amazon)

I have not yet had the time to dig into this book, but it’s a much-needed conversation starter that should help White folks understand why they need to listen to Black folks, what they’re trying to say, and how we can make this world better for everybody by treating everyone fairly.

Let’s go to the publisher’s blurb…

It’s one thing to know about white privilege. It’s another to try to give it up.

Jeff James was one of the good white guys—or so he thought. But when he asked an African American friend how he could help fight the rising tide of racism, he had to think again. “Simple,” she shot back, “get rid of whiteness.”

Thus began his journey to discover, name, and dismantle the racial category that had defined and advantaged him for a lifetime. In Giving Up Whiteness, James leads readers on an intimate, humble, and disorienting investigation of what it means to be white in twenty-first-century America. He shares his discoveries on just how deeply the forces of race have shaped his own and other white people’s choices about where to live, what causes to care about, who to marry, and what church to join.

With a blend of honest storytelling and incisive critique, James guides readers through the questions he encountered:

How and why were race and, specifically, whiteness invented?
What privileges and protections accrue to people categorized as white—and why has it been so difficult to expand them to everyone?
How has the white Christian church bolstered white supremacy?
Is it even possible to give up whiteness as an identity, and if so, what would it look like?
The things we can’t see yield the most power, so it’s time to take a hard look at whiteness. Ultimately, James writes, well-meaning white people have a lot of work to do and it’s past time to get started.

Jeff James was a co-founder of Create WV, and this book came highly recommended by Black people I respect. It’s on my stack of stuff to read once I get the gift guide finished up. It’s a great gift idea for the thinking person who cares about making things better. You can order it from any bookseller by using the ISBN code.


During the month of November, PopCult’s Monday Morning Art will present pieces of art created using MAX Build More bricks. You can read all about them HERE.

Today’s piece is  a Tiki-esque face, made with the MAX Build More Bricks on one of their base plates. This is actually a work in progress. Next week, for our final piece of Max Build More Art, I will take this piece and manipulate it digitally, then paint over it, hopefully creating something completely different.

If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.

Remember to check back with PopCult later Monday around 11 AM EST for the continuation of The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide. Today we’ll bring you three entries, with about an hour between each. One will have more than one item! You can read about it below.

Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, the Monday Marathon brings you six hours of Psychedelic Shack, as we employ Nigel Pye to tie into the first entry in the gift guide.  The marathon follows the regularly-scheduled repeat of last weeks Big Electric Cat at 7 AM.

At 3 PM on Prognosis, Herman Linte brings us a replay of the very first episode of Prognosis.  It’s a little teaser for this coming weekend’s “Progsgiving” programming stunt. That’s followed by another classic Prognosis and an evening with Psychedelic Shack plus Radio Free Charleston. Most weeks you can hear replays of Prognosis Tuesdays at 7 AM, Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 9 AM.  This week Prognosis takes over The AIR Thursday morning, and runs all weekend. 

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

Gift Guide: Eddie Jobson Live

Our final recommendation for The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide today is a new compilation of live performances by Eddie Jobson and friends, available as a two-CD set. It’s perfect for any fan of terrific virtuoso progressive rock. You can’t go wrong with Eddie Jobson-Live.

Jobson is not a household name outside of prog-rock circles, but he has a rather impressive list of accomplishments. He is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, after all.

Eddie Jobson is best known for his virtuosic violin and keyboard work with Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and UK,and here he brings us a compilation of solo live performances from Poland, Russia, Japan and the U.S.A. with his all-star ‘U-Z Project.’

These concert recordings also include guest musicians Simon Phillips, Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann, Alex Machacek, Greg Howe, Marc Bonilla, Trey Gunn, Mike Mangini, TJ Helmerich, Ric Fierabracci, Billy Sheehan, and special guest appearance by John Wetton.

In addition to his own works and those of his band UK (with John Wetton, UK was sort of a dry-run at the style of music ASIA made), Jobson and friends cover tunes by John McLaughlin, Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson. It’s a prog-rock celebration.

The 2CD Digipak includes a 20-page booklet, filled with photos and information about the performances. You can order it from Amazon now.

And check out this performance by Jobson with the late John Wetton, doing their UK song, “Ceasar’s Palace Blues”…

Gift Guide: Fantagraphics

Next up in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide we have a website recommendation for a publisher that I’ve been supporting for more than forty years. Fantagraphics has published some of the greatest graphic novels and comics in history.

Just check out their own modest bio from their website…

For over 40 years, Fantagraphics has published the very best comics and graphic novels that the medium has to offer. Our mission is to celebrate great cartooning in all of its incarnations, from the form’s early luminaries to contemporary artists currently forging the future of visual storytelling. Not content to rest on our laurels and extensive roster of talented artists, we constantly seek out fresh voices from across the globe. Thus, we honor the rich history of comics while providing a platform for bold new stories, styles, and perspectives that push the boundaries of the medium. Fantagraphics remains peerless in our commitment to be the publisher of the world’s greatest cartoonists.

You will find classic comics strips like Pogo, Peanuts and Prince Valiant; Cutting edge graphic novels like Love & Rockets, Hate and Jim; Classic reprints of EC Comics work; newly-translated masterpieces by foreign cartoonists; scholarly tomes on the history of cartooning and much, much more. These are the people who publish the acclaimed and notorious The Comics Journal.

You’ll even find the new Tenacious D graphic novel that was so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to write a review for PopCult.

If you have a lover of graphic storytelling (that’s comic books, by the way), you can find everything from kid’s titles to very adult titles, classic comic strips to avante-garde art books, horror, crime, adventure, Disney, and everything in between.

Except for superheroes. Fantagraphics does not do a lot of superheroes.

If you can’t narrow down you choices, they even have gift cards. Just check out their website, already.