PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Gift Guide: 2020 Ambulance and Rescue HESS Truck

Most of the last several years have seen us kick off the PopCult Gift Guide with that year’s HESS Truck, and this year we see no reason to change that.

The 2020 Hess Ambulance & Rescue is a heroic and versatile pair of first responder vehicles, designed to deliver aid wherever the need, clearing the way with nearly 100 lights (the most ever on a holiday Hess Toy Truck), 4 different emergency siren / flashing light combinations, and off-road wheelie-popping action.

The first-ever HESS Ambulance pays tribute to all first responders. The heavy-duty Type I truck-style medical transport includes an oversized passenger compartment that doubles as a carrier for its Rescue partner. Designed for high visibility, the bright, attention-grabbing red and white cab coloring is accompanied by an eye-popping 70 lights. For the first time ever, four different flashing light patterns are included; each activated in tandem with a unique siren sound via the four cab-mounted buttons. A switch under the chassis activates lights in steady mode and for the first time ever, a “Mute” mode is included to keep those amazing lights flashing without the accompanying siren sounds. The sparkling chrome accents add impressive detail to the heroic vehicle. A top-mounted button at the rear of the see-through passenger compartment releases the rear door which acts as a ramp for the Rescue.

The accompanying Rescue is a rugged on/off-roader pickup truck with a fold-down tailgate and a pull-back motor that can be revved-up and released to create fun wheelie-popping action! Its bright red color is complemented with sparkling chrome-look accents and another 26 lights that work in steady mode.

The 2020 Hess Ambulance and Rescue is sold exclusively at HessToyTruck.com, for $36.99 plus tax. 6 Energizer® batteries and free standard shipping are included with this two-vehicle set.

This is a classic toy that appeals to both adult collectors and kids who love toy vehicles.

The Ambulance features 70 total lights, including super-bright LED headlights, 4-cab mounted buttons activate four realistic siren sounds, each with a different flashing light pattern, Steady “Lights On” mode, “Mute” mode to operate flashing lights without accompanying siren sounds, Button-activated back door/ramp release, Free-rolling wheels, and includes 3 Energizer® AAA batteries.

The Rescue vehicle has a pull back motor with tilt activated wheelie-popping capability, 26 total lights, Fold-down tailgate and comes with 3 Energizer® A76 button cell batteries. It fits inside the larger Ambulance for storage.

There’s a reason we always make the HESS Truck our first pick. This one is a winner!


This has been a most unusual, and some would say hellish, year, and your PopCulteer finds himself in a bit of a quandry. I’ve done a gift guide every year since I started PopCult back in 2005, and I always like to push folks toward shopping local, but this year, due to the pandemic, I’m not really comfortable suggesting that people go out and shop in person.

For the most part, I’m going to be suggesting things that can be ordered online, although I will make it easy for you to find them in person, if it’s possible.

Because of this, I’m ending the gift guide early this year. I’m going to wrap things up the day before Thanksgiving, and post the master list on what would have been Black Friday in a normal year. This should give everybody time to order stuff online and have it delivered in time for Christmas gift-giving.

This year I will skip the local shopping and dining suggestions, but I hope to make it up by plugging a few local online retailers, and plenty of books and music made by local creators.

I’m also planning to keep all gift suggestions under a hundred bucks this year. Times are tough, and big-ticket items may not be the best idea since we’re at least three months away from any further economic aid.

With all those disclaimers and warnings out of the way, welcome to The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide. I hope it gives you folks some good ideas to make this year more bearable. For the next twenty-four days you can come to PopCult for three or four gift suggestions–toys, music, movies, TV shows, comic books, magazines, cool online retailers and more–and we will kick it off in a traditional way in just a few moments.

This week we bring you the first of our month-long series of pieces of art created using MAX Build More bricks. You can read all about them HERE.

Today’s piece is a very timely message, created using the MAX bricks in a way that they weren’t really intended. I wanted to do a multi-colored “VOTE” logo, but these blocks are not specially-designed to form letters. Luckily, they are versatile enough for me to still be able to spell out my message in a three-dimensional construct. You can expect our November art to get more complex as we go along, because I’ve got all sorts of cool speciality pieces that I haven’t torn into yet.

If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image. Below you see an alternate view so you can tell where I cheated and where the letters were placed on the base. You can’t see it bigger, so don’t bother clicking on it.

Like this piece suggests, you should be sure to vote, if you haven’t already.

Also, check back with PopCult starting Monday at 10 AM EST for the start of The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide.

Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, the Monday Marathon brings you six hours of Steven Allen Adams’ NOISE BRIGADE which follows the regularly-scheduled repeat of last weeks Big Electric Cat at 7 AM. Today’s marathon presents six episodes of Steven’s cool, biweekly punk/ska show, which will resume after the election season is over.

At 3 PM on Prognosis, Herman Linte brings us an edition of Prognosis, that brings you two hours of great prog-rock. That’s followed by a classic Prognosis and an evening with one more NOISE BRIGADE plus Radio Free Charleston. You can hear replays of Prognosis Tuesdays at 7 AM, Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 9 AM. 

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

Sunday Evening Videos: The Week In Deep Fake

“Deep Fake” is the term used for a set of CGI technologes used to create fake videos by replacing the faces of actors with other people. Its roots go back to the early 90s, when commercials first made use of digital technology to insert dead celebrities like Louis Armstrong, Groucho Marx and Fred Astaire into commercials where they interacted with current celebs to hawk products like Diet Coke, Coors and Dirt Devil.

As more advances in computer generated imagery were made, and entire feature films were created using motion capture (Polar Express, Monster House, etc), the idea of bit-mapping a famous person’s face onto that of another performer took off, and a whole new and sometimes sinister art form evolved.

In the last week we’ve had two great examples of this technology at work. The our first video this week is “Sassy Justice,” a faux consumer reports show from Cheyenne, Wyoming created by Matt Parker and Trey Stone of South Park fame, along with Peter Serafinowicz, and actor and voice artist who also works on South Park. In this video, the host of the show has a face borrowed from a certain failed embarrassment of a president, while we also see fake versions of Al Gore as himself, and Mark Zuckerberg as the proprietor of a crooked dialysis clinic. Plus we get to see a seven-year-old girl as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner and Princess Diana shows up for no reason.

Below that you will see the creepy new video from Danny Elfman for his song, “Happy”. This uses some of the same technology to create a disturbing and not-safe-for-work music video using a distored image of Elfman’s face as its starting point.