PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Coffee House Shows In Two Cities

Caffeine addicts in both Charleston and Huntington will get extra treats with their java tonight as Radio Free Charleston vets perform at Capitol Roasters in Charleston and The Java Joint in Huntington.

Here in the Capitol City, Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars, who appeared as “Aurora” on episode 22 of RFC take the performance area at Capitol Roasters starting at 8PM.  Joining RFC’s cutest couple will be Joe Slack, who appeared on episode 25 of RFC.  This has been a big week for some of our youngest guests, as they landed an article in the Metro section of the Newspaper, and their new song, “Letters,” was featured as the “Song Of The Day” over in the Soundcheck blog, here at TheGazz.com.

If you find yourself fifty miles or so West, you might want to head to the Java Joint to hear Seven Minutes Till Midnight. This band lit up episodes 26 and 28 of RFC, and have one of the most exciting sounds in town.  Their show also starts at 8 PM, down there in the Sea of Green that is H-town.

Follow the jump for videos from Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars, and Seven Minutes Till Midnight.

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The Weekend Music Review

Last week was a good one for music here in town.  On Thursday, I caught The Coal Men (above) at the Empty Glass.  I’d reviewed their CD in The Gazz last week, and was really looking forward to seeing them in person.  They did not disappoint.  Then on Saturday, Mel and I observed the 18th anniversary of the day we met by indulging in a gourmet French meal at Cafe De Paris, and we got to hear a little bit of the world-class jazz from The Paris Project before we headed next door to check out Sean Richardson, Karen Allen and friends at Capitol Roasters.  It was a great few days for live music in Charleston, with the events we attended, plus Chris Botti at the Clay Center on Friday, and my adopted nephews The Concept at the Blue Parrot Saturday night (we would’ve been there, too, but that would have made the night way too long). 

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The PopCult Half Vast Gift Guide

Welcome to the third annual PopCult Gift Guide.  Usually we present a huge load of well-researched gift ideas a few weeks in advance of the big holiday.  Some people have even commented on how “vast” and encompassing our gift guides have been.  This year, however, we have scaled down somewhat.  Our Gift Guide will only run for three days, and the focus will be on last-minute gift ideas.  You could say that this year, the PopCult Gift Guide is “half vast.” 

With the holiday rapidly approaching like a runaway Amtrak train when you’re in a car stalled on the tracks, we’ll dive in and see what wonderful treasures we can dredge up to rescue your “wait ’til the last minute to shop” behinds.   Today we’re looking at Books and Toys. Tomorrow we’ll recommend Comedy, Music and Home Furnishings.  On Friday, check back for our picks in Movies, Animation, and Food.

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RFC Audio Flashback: Trying To Stay Awake

Portrait of your blogger as a young, underpaid, radio star.One of the pitfalls of doing the coolest radio show in the world was that it started at 2 AM, and ran until 6 AM.  And that was once a week. The rest of the week I kept somewhat normal hours.  So when the weekend rolled around, and I got to do the fun stuff, I was usually not at my sharpest.

That was one reason that I had “feature albums” on Radio Free Charleston.  The official reason was that we wanted to recreate the olden days of WVAF FM, when they’d play a full album, uninterrupted, every night, right before bedtime.  The real motive was that by playing a full CD in the final hour of the show, I could doze off without anything catastrophic happening. Sometimes I even left before the show was over, and let the guy who came in at 6 AM play a recording of the outro of the show while I drove home. 

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Monday Morning Art will be posted on Tuesday, due to pressing deadlines and Veteran’s Day and certain planetary alignment issues.  However, I do have time to update you on some weekend news about music, toys, karakoke, and the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or at least the component parts thereof.

First, we lost a landmark performance venue over the weekend.  The Columbia Music Hall in Portsmouth Ohio burned down.   Details are sketchy, but it happened sometime after a rock show Saturday night.  Reportedly, most of the expensive renovations have been gutted. The owners vow to rebuild, but it’s a daunting task. Details can be found here and here.

The MySpace page for the music hall just released the following statement:

Many of you now know that the Columbia Music Hall in Portsmouth, Ohio has suffered tragedy. The future is very uncertain at this time . The Scott family has suffered such a loss with this fire and your PRAYERS, SUPPORT and WORDS of ENCOURAGEMENT are needed.After 7 years of blood, sweat and tears……to bring a dream to reality… and the reality had come to life through our friends, family and community… through your support YOU had helped make their dream a reality and to watch it be engulfed in flames was beyond words for the Scott Family and staff.PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR FUTURE…. the Scott family built this place for YOU, the community and especially the kids.”

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Cool Thing Of The Week: SHAZAM!

If you’re a fan of the Original Captain Marvel, known by his magic word “Shazam” to most folks, then this is the best of times and the worst of times. We will ignore the god-awful “grim and gritty” re-imagining of the Shazam family of characters currently being inflicted by my least-favorite comic book writer, Judd Winnick (of MTV’s “The Real World.” He was the guy that made you like Puck in season three). Aside from that abomination, there are very cool things afoot with my favorite super-hero, The Big Red Cheese.

Jeff Smith, the cartoonist behind the amazing “Bone” comic books, is producing a four-issue mini-series that takes the Shazam characters back to their roots and re-tells a classic adventure in “Shazam: The Monster Society Of Evil.” This series restores the sense of wonder and light-hearted adventure that was the hallmark of the Captain Marvel stories of the 1940s, when he starred in the best-selling comic book of all time, with sales of six million copies every three weeks. The series even has a secret message in each issue that has to be decoded at the DC Comics Website.

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PopCult Gift Guide: Part Two

Yesterday we kicked off the 2006 PopCult gift guide with five cool items that are available nationwide.  Today we’re going to narrow our focus and suggest gifts that originate or are based in Charleston, West Virginia. 

Gift Certificates

The Purple Moon

716 Lee Street East, Charleston

Taylor Books
226 Capitol Street, Charleston

You can take the easy way out this holiday season, and give gift certificates from two of Charleston’s coolest stores. The Purple Moon is West Virginia’s only shop dedicated to vintage mid-century modern art and contemporary design, furnishings, accessories and art. They’re also the exclusive Charleston dealer in the famous Kit Kat Clock from last year’s gift guide.  Chuck and Connie at The Purple Moon are great folks and you’ll be able to see their store in the next episode of Radio Free Charleston.  If you have a fan of atomic-age retro design, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate in any denomination from The Purple Moon.  Call 304 345-0123 for details.

Taylor Books offers a gift certificate that can be used for books, classes, art and crafts.  They come in books of ten certificates which are worth a dollar each.   This is a great way to let the person on your gift list pick out their own book or art from Charleston’s coolest bookstore.  Call 304 342-1461 for more information.

Wrestling DVDs
 IWA East Coast
$20 plus shipping from Smart Mark Video

We are lucky to have an internationally-recognized wrestling federation right here in Charleston.  IWA East Coast presents a variety of top wrestling talent from all over the world, and puts on incredible shows at their home base at the South Charleston Community Center.  You can purchase DVDs of their shows from SmartMark Video.  I ‘d recommend “Stars With Scars,” their most recent show, due to the amazing title match between Chris Hero and Jerry Lynn.  You also can’t go wrong with either of the tournament DVDs, both filmed on September 16, 2006.

 “September To Dismember”
$19.99 plus shipping from AWA

Last September Danny Boyd put on a wrestling show at the Davis Fine Arts Auditorium at West Virginia State University.  I wrote about the event here, and covered the DVD release party here, just last week.  You can order your own copy from the AWA website and see what all the fuss was about.  This is a great evening of old-school wrestling, wonderfully directed by Amy Trent, and it’s a great look at Danny “Professor Danger” Boyd in action. 

Thrilling Pirate Adventures
 “One More Breath” by Pavanne Pettigrew
 $24.95 at all area bookstores

Local author Pavanne LeJeune Pettigrew has crafted a wonderful pirate adventure in “One More Breath,” the first novel from Headline Book’s new Publisher’s Page fiction imprint.  The story of Captain “Blackjack” Bellamie and his struggle to elude capture in the Caribbean is filled with suspense, romance, and swash-buckling action.  Pettigrew mixes her interest in pirates with a lifelong interest in Romany culture and delivers a first-rate pot boiler.  And it’s so refreshing to read a work by a local author that doesn’t revolve around coal mines.   You can purchase “One More Breath” at Taylor Books and Frog Creek Books, as well as other area booksellers. 

That wraps up this year’s PopCult gift guide.  I hope you got some good ideas for last-minute gifterization.  Next week in PopCult we’ll have the production notes for the Christmas episode of Radio Free Charleston, as well as a cool Song Of The Week and photos of my GI Joe Christmas Tree.

Cool Toy Of the Week: Pirate Booty!

For this holiday edition of Cool Toy Of The Week we’re going to revisit a couple of previous cool toys that we’ve written about, since they’ve been updated as official and unofficial tie-ins to the highly-anticipated movie”Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

First up, we have Mega Bloks, the folks who make PYRATES playsets. Their Pyrates toys must have caught the eye of somebody at Disney, because without much pre-release fanfare, Mega Bloks has released a slew of nifty playsets branded as “Pirates Of The Caribbean” toys. I wrote about Pyrates here, and the elements that made those toys cool are all present in the new movie tie-in toys. What’s even cooler is that they’ve managed to capture a decent likeness of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow on a tiny little two-inch action figure. If you like the movie, you may just love the toys. As with Pyrates, there are a variety of price points in the toy line, ranging from seven bucks to more than fifty dollars for the more involved ship playsets. This line is in most toy stores right now.

WizKids has also updated their “Pirates of the Spanish Main” constructible card game with a new expansion series that adds elements of the supernatural to the swashbuckling game play. You can read what I wrote about this cool game here. More details on “Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse”can be found here. For this update to the game, in addition to the cool ships and forts you can build, WizKids has added SEA MONSTERS! Sea life doesn’t get much cooler than this. “Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse” can be found at major retailers and hobby shops everywhere.

An Animated Childhood

Elsewhere here at thegazz.com, you’ll find articles about Wallace and Gromit I wrote with my partner in animation crime, Melanie Larch. You may be wondering how we know so much about the process of creating clay and stop-motion animation. The answer is simple… for most of my life, I’ve been an eyewitness to it.

I had the unique experience of growing up in a house with an animator. My older brother, Frank, started making his own animated films as a young teen in the late 1960s. Being five years younger meant that, not only was I likely to hang around watching him do this, but I was also pressed into service as something else to be animated. Yes, I was a child animation model.

It was better than getting beat up for not doing it.

Now, back in those days, Frank had to use Super 8 film to create his masterpieces. He experimented with all forms of animation. I was used to mimic the popular gas station commercials of the day that had pixilated humans scooting around like they were driving, only without cars. I ruined many a pairs of pants doing that. This technique is still being used for commercials today. In addition to little brother animation, Frank also tried his hand at using typing paper, Terry Gilliam-style cut-out animation, notebook paper, and clay.

It was tedious and expensive work. Film cost nearly $20 for three minutes, when you figured in the processing costs. This was before home video had revolutionized the home movie market. Back then, it was so rare for anyone to shoot home movies that people would actually watch them, as opposed to today, where more than half of the home movies shot on video are never seen by human eyes again.

Frank would work for weeks on some of his clay-animated films. He’d move the models, shoot one frame, move everything else again, and so on. It might take several minutes to move each model for each frame of film, and it takes 24 frames of film to add up to one second. So, there were many days where I would have to be quiet and still for hours. Loud noises or sudden movements could upset the models, which were often precariously balanced.

Frank managed to do some pretty impressive things with the limited resources he had available to him. There were cute alien cartoons, dinosaur fights, and the bloody ultra-violent finale to his “Mugger” series. I remember after the final shot was completed for that one, the set with the dismembered Mugger was left on display in the basement for weeks. Every time Mom did the laundry, she’d have to walk past the table with the little clay guy with his entrails strewn about. I think she eventually made Frank clean it up.

Aside from clay, Frank also made movies starring action figures. The epic adventures of “Captain X” spanned several films, and featured special effects ranging from scratches on the individual frames of film to the later years, when real pyrotechnics came into play. I still have film of my GI Joe Space Capsule getting destroyed. Somewhere in the basement, we still have a Latex-covered animation model of a monster for a film he did in college. Thirty years on, the latex smells just as bad as it did the day it was brewed up.

Anyway, these days Frank is using a new medium
for his animation. He’s pretty much mastered computer animation. He has done commercials, educational films and television shows, and is currently working on a movie, which stars IWA East Coast wrestler Mad Man Pondo. While he used live-action actors, all the backgrounds, most of the aliens, and all the vehicles and special effects are computer-generated. You can read more about REPERKUSSIONZ over at Frank’s production blog, here. Frank shot the live-action earlier this year, and expects to be working towards finishing it sometime next year.

Making the story complete, I also show up in the film for two brief appearances. I play a giant spider-legged creature. That’s me up at the top of this post. I don’t really have spider legs. It’s just my amazing acting ability. I also play a few hundred tree-headed monsters. Nearly forty years after first being used in one of Frank’s films, he’s asking me to share my incredible screen presence. I couldn’t turn him down.

It’s still better than getting beat up.