PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW number 41

This week we go back to November, 2014, for The RFC MINI SHOW starring Ouralias. Rising from the ashes of In The Company of Wolves and Cry Havoc, the band reached new heights of creativity with elements of jam music, progressive rock and alternative rock in the mix. Then they split up, with some of them reforming their former band. I’m not sure what they’re up to now, since the local music scene is in cocooning mode due to the pandemic.

You will hear them perform their original songs “Can’t Fight Love” and “Wave,” recorded live at The Bowling Alley-Dunbar.

Christmas Day Good Tidings

The PopCulteer
December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and whatever good tidings fill your bill from PopCult and the Larch-Panucci household.

2020 has been an interesting year, and this year I mean that precisely in the Chinese curse way. This is the year that we have a dumpster fire instead of yule log, and we have to look forward, because there’s a good chance that, if we look back, we’ll turn into a pillar of salt.

I hope that everybody can find some peace and well-being on this special day, and that the new year brings us all new happiness, joy, good health, and sound leadership. We are hoping to bring you a special post-Christmas treat sometime in the next week, so if you have time, keep checking PopCult.

As is our tradition on Christmas Day, we bring you Melanie Larch singing “Ave Maria” from the very first Christmas episode of Radio Free Charleston.

Let’s follow that up with the 2014 Christmas treat that saw Melanie backed by Mark Scarpelli…

And we’ll continue with Mel’s 2009 Christmas song with Diablo Blues Band…

Let’s go back to Chicago, a year ago, for one more…

Wishing you and yours the best-

Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Messed Up Christmas Eve Videos

For the third year in a row we bring you a collection of Christmas-themed short films that are, shall we say, “less traditional” than those you might normally watch to get into the holiday spirit. That makes this a new tradition! Some of these you may have seen before here in PopCult, while some are new to our readers. All of them, are pretty messed up, in their own ways. These are our olive branch to those of us who have more of a “Bah, Humbug” attitude toward the holiday on this Christmas season.

We kick things off with a new entry for this year. It’s a music video by The Dollyrots, conveniently called “Messed Up Christmas,” and it was written using contest entries from their fans that asked “What messed up thing do you want for Christmas?” This was just released a couple of weeks ago.

We continue with a newish one, a short film from 2017 called “Sleigh,” starring Matt Berry and Nigel Planer…

Let’s go on Christmas Break at Crystal Lake, with The Renfields…

Next up we bring you a six-year-old parody of the 30th Anniversary of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by the comedy crew of 22 Minutes…

Finally we bring you Ken Russell’s heartwarming holiday classic, “A Kitten For Hitler”…

In the spirit of the holiday season, I say, “There, that oughtta hold the little buggers.”

Unboxing The Rainbocorns

Following a recommendatiom in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide, the kind folks at Zuru Toys sent along a couple of samples of new Rainbocorns, an elaborate blind-blox plush toy.

As a result, your PopCulteer and his wife, Mel Larch, decided to do an impromptu, unrehearsed unboxing video.

We’re new at this unboxing stuff so please excuse the bad lighting and jerky camera moves. Hopefully, in the new year, we’ll be able to ramp up the quality when we do unboxing videos.

These Rainbocorns are tremendous fun, and we want to thank Zuru Toys for sending them along.  You can find these surprising critters at Amazon, Target, Walmart and other retailers. Read about Rainbocorns in our gift guide entry.

Think of this as our pre-Christmas bonus gift for you.

Except that we get to keep the toys.

The AIR is in Holiday Mode all this week, and Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM you can listen to the all-new Radio Free Charleston 2020 Shut-in Show Christmas Special.

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

es, how horrible 2020 has been, favorite Chrismas toys and other stuff, plus we play holiday music from Sierra Ferrell, The Dollyrots, Leslie Odom, Bob Dylan, and many more. There was no script, no rehearsal and we are accompanied by an extremely foul-mouthed talking plush. So be on alert that this show is definitely not safe for work.

It’s sort of like the Shut-in Shows that we did for a few weeks during the beginning of the pandemic, but without as much anger directed at our inept president.

You can see the playlist right here…

SpongeBob Squarepants “Don’t Be A Jerk, It’s Christmas”
Sierra Ferrell “Jingle Bell Rock”
Bob Dylan “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
The Members “Silent Night/Hallalujah”
Wynton Marselis “Go Tell It On The Mountain”
Malcolm McDowell “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
The Monkees “Merry Christmas Baby”
Royal Crown Revue “Don’t Be A Grinch This Year”
John Wetton “Happy Christmas”
Jaret and Kelly “Get This Christmas Right”
Geoff Downes “Linus and Lucy”
Brian Setzer Orchestra “Santa’s Got A Hot Rod”
The Dollyrots “Because I’m Santa”
Leon Redbone & Dr. John “Frosty The Snowman”
Norah Jones “Peace”
Eurythmics “Winter Wonderland”
Louis Armstrong “Chrismtas In New Orleans”
The Puppini Sisters “Step Into Christmas”
Helix “Jingle Bells”
Jethro Tull “A Christmas Song”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Run Run Rudolph”
Sierra Ferrell “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”
Rudolph and Hermie “We’re A Couple of Misfits”
Colin James and The Little Big Band “Cool Yule”
Unwritten Law “Please Come Home For Christmas”
Batfoot “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
December People “White Christmas”
Bad Religion “O Come All Ye Faithful”
The Dollyrots “Messed Up Xmas”
Leslie Odom and The Walls Group “Mele Kalikimaka”
Marty Thomas and Marissa Rosen “I Still Believe In Santa Claus”
Odyssey Productions “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”

You can hear The Radio Free Charleston 2020 Shut-in Show Christmas Special Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, Wednesday at 3 PM, Thursday at 7 AM and 8 PM, Friday at Noon and 7 PM and several times Saturday and Sunday, as we turn our internet radio station over to celebrations of the holiday season all week long, until 3 PM, next Monday.

Because it’s a hell of a lot easier to schedule repeats through Christmas than it is to work all week.

We’ll still run our regularly-scheduled overnight marathons, though. Can’t upset our Swing Music and Showtunes fans.

Happy Holidays from The AIR.

Monday Morning Art: Noir Tree

This week’s art is my annual painting of the Panucci-Larch Christmas Tree. This year it’s a physical painting using acrylics with some other mixed media, on a small black canvas. I  painted it using a photo as my guide, but took it way, way dark. It sort of symbolizes this year, while remaining somewhat festive.

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

Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, the XMAS MSS once again takes over for the rest of this holiday week. We’ll have news on a brand-new special tossed into the mix tomorrow.

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

Sunday Evening Video: Unboxing Day

Above you see the first-ever PopCult Unboxing Video. We decided to jump on the bandwagon after everybody else already rode the wheels off it.

Mel Larch, AKA “Mrs. PopCulteer,” enthusiastically digs into the first SpongeBob Squarepants subscription “Bikini Bottom Box, showing off and raving over all its contents. This is actually all Mel.  She got her first Bikini Bottom Box and was so happy that she whipped out her phone and shot a video as she opened it. Your PopCulteer simply provided editing and dropped in the YouTube-supplied background music.

You’re going to see more unboxing videos from PopCult in the future. Probably as soon as Wednesday. Let us knw what you think.

The RFC Flashback: Christmas Part Two

PopCult wraps up out Flashback to Christmas Editions of Radio Free Charleston with three more holiday gems from the RFC video show. Enjoy and I hope this gets everyone in the mood for celebrating…alone…at your house…without going over the river and through the woods to kill grandmother.

Check out The AIR (at the website,) for more holiday cheer, as we plunge headlong into Christmas for the next week.  PopCult‘s going to be all Christmas-y, too. So if you’re a Grinch…well, you probably had a pretty good year so far, so just deal with it.

Special note: PopCult may disapper from this location at The Charleston Gazette-Mail soon. Don’t miss out on our new posts at our NEW HOME. Bookmark the new site, and subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow PopCult and Rudy Panucci on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

PopCult Is Leaving The Gazette-Mail (sort of)

The PopCulteer
December 18, 2020

After over fifteen years as The Charleston Gazette (-Mail) pop culture blogger, I will be taking this blog independent. Actually, I sort of already have. Hopefully, it’s not a big deal for my readers. Chances are you’re reading the new version now.

If you have PopCult bookmarked at The Gazette-Mail, there is no need to panic. I will continue to post the same content there that I do in the new blog. I just don’t know how much longer they will keep that PopCult blog up and running.

There is no acrimony or bitterness, it’s just that PopCult has never really been a priority at the newspaper, and I can’t really expect them to keep hosting what is really a personal blog that they could never figure out how to monetize. That they did so for fifteen years was pretty damned generous of them.

However, lately PopCult has been having a lot of technical issues. Direct links to posts don’t seem to work on Chrome-based browsers, and it’s not really worth the effort of the Gazette-Mail IT crew to spend time working on the problem.

I think the reason I’ve lasted so long is that I try not to be a problem. I don’t post profanity or nudity. The one time an insane Canadian threatened to sue, I removed the post, rather than potentially cost the Gazette any money fighting a nuisance lawsuit. At the moment, to fix the issues with PopCult, the folks at the Gazette-Mail and HD Media would have to spend a lot of time and energy on the problem that they can’t really justify.

Then there’s the matter of the redesign of The Charleston Gazette-Mail website a few weeks ago, where you can no longer link directly to any of the blogs. I’m lucky they didn’t just pull the plug then. Many times over the years I have thought that I would have to take PopCult independent.  That redesign was a wake-up call. This time my sense of urgency overtook my laziness, and I took action.

When that redesign happened, I started porting PopCult over to a new location. My plan was to write this post and make the big announcement two weeks from today, just to have a big New Year’s Day post, but over the last month the issues with my permalinks not working became too great, so I started sharing links to the beta version of PopCult on social media this week, instead of the Gazette-Mail version.

I intend to keep double-posting at the Gazette-Mail as long as they’ll have me. The Google rankings for PopCult at that site are pretty remarkable, and there are several dozen Wikipedia entries that link to PopCult.  So unless they need to pull the plug to free up server space, I’d sort of like to keep that one going for a while.

I estimate that it will take me a year to go back and edit and clean up every post in the fifteen years of the archive. I’ll need to fix all the broken links and replace missing graphics and video where possible. I also find typos every single time I revisit my older posts, so I’ll fix those, too. It would be handy to have the original PopCult in place, just for reference.

“Porting,” by the way, is the process by which you move all the content from a blog over to a new virtual location. PopCult has actually been ported within the Charleston Gazette and later Charleston Gazette-Mail servers several times. It’s a long, tedious job, and often bits of the original blog get left behind.

The first time PopCult was ported was when we switched from using Blogger to using WordPress. That was about three years in, and we lost all our graphics from those first three years. There were a few other times since then, most recently a few months after the Gazette merged with The Daily Mail, and and they had to change the URL.

That was a bit more than four years ago. A few months after that happened they gave me admin privileges, which allowed me to see my reader counts for the first time. I agreed not to reveal my readership, but I will say that it’s been gratifying to know that my blog has had millions of views, just in the past four years. Apparently the counter reset every time the blog was ported, so I have no idea if my numbers have gone up or down since the beginning. I do know that I promote PopCult way more aggressively on social media now than I used to.

I’m pretty sure, now that I’m leaving the comfort zone of the Gazette-Mail, my readership numbers will plummet. It’s just the nature of SEO and Google rankings and the ways of internet voodoo. Luckily, it won’t affect my pay. The Gazette stopped paying their bloggers back in 2008, and I was having so much fun that I decided to keep doing it for free.

I wrote about this a few years ago, during another time that I thought I might have to move PopCult, when the paper was being sold out of bankruptcy and it looked like I may have been sacrificed on the altar of Odgen Newspapers.  Actually,the post at that link is a pretty good read that gives you an idea of my relationship with The Gazette-Mail over the years.

You will notice a few changes. The template (the layout of the blog) that they use at The Gazette-Mail is no longer available, so I had to pick one that was reasonably close to it.

The new template has some minor differences, some of which I love, and some of which are annoying.

I love that I can now embed the radio player for The AIR at the top of the right-hand column. I love that the RSS feed seems to work. I’m beginning to really like that the chosen feature image appears above the headline of each post. I love being able to have captions underneath my photos again. The last template change at the Gazette-Mail didn’t work with photo captions and made older posts look wonky.

I don’t like that the embedded radio player in all my archived posts throws off the layout of those posts. Those will all be edited out, eventually. I also wish I could make the header image a bit smaller. I may have lost the ability to embed Kickstarter widgets, but I can still do links, so it isn’t a big deal.

In general, I really like the new layout. I hope you do too.

I plan to do my best to restore the missing graphics and videos in the archives. A few posts that fell by the wayside over the years may come back, and I’m having an internal debate about preserving posts that plug events that happened long ago. I’m leaning toward preserving the historical record.

I also plan to become an Amazon affiliate. That means that if I review something and link to Amazon and you buy it, I get a tiny percentage. The only reason I didn’t do this earlier was that I didn’t want to have to figure out the revenue split with the newspaper. I may explore other affiliate programs. You’ll know about it when it happens. I won’t try to sneak anything like that under your noses without telling you.

I may also put in a “tip jar” link, to help cover the costs of blog hosting. I won’t mention it much, if I do, because I just hate to do stuff like that.

In the coming year, I plan to do more reviews, and I also will feel more comfortable writing about the challenges of print media in our digital times. I never wanted to come across as taking pot-shots at the Gazette-Mail while they were hosting the blog. Of course, you will still get the latest news on our programming on The AIR, plus our regular features like Monday Morning Art, The RFC Flashback, Sunday Evening Videos and The PopCulteer. PopCult will still have fresh content every day.

I want to thank The Charleston Gazette-Mail for letting me get away with writing this blog on their servers for so long. I still subscribe to the Gazette-Mail online and I encourage you to do the same. We need to support local journalism, even if some of their endorsements this year made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I also want to thank Douglas Imbrogno for hiring me in the first place, and to  my colleagues over the years who supported me in print for the first ten years of PopCult.  I wrote about my fifteenth anniversary just a few months ago, and leaving the Gazette-Mail was sort of a looming concern then.  This move shouldn’t realize be a surprise to anyone.

The Gazette-Mail web redesign happened when I was about three days into The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide, and it took me about sixteen hours over two days to get the new site set up while cranking out gift guide posts at the same time. It’ll take me longer to get the archives fully restored, but for now, I think we’ve got things up and running pretty well for now. I’m pretty excited to see what the future holds.

Welcome to the new PopCult. Tell all your friends.

Hustling Around The Christmas Tree

Meanwhile, Friday at 2 PM on The AIR (listen at the website, or just click on the embedded player below), one week out from Christmas, Mel Larch has graced us with a brand-new MIRRORBALL Christmas Special.

You can boogie down and celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus with The Village People, KC and the Sunshine Band, Hot Chocolate Band, The Salsoul Orchestra and more.

It’s one full hour of disco-fied holiday music. That will be followed at 3 PM by a Christmas Edition of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. Then Saturday The AIR goes full-tilt into the holidays with special programming in large blocks all week long.

The 2020 PopCult Christmas Tree

It’s become an annual tradition. Sometime, a week or so before Christmas, your PopCulteer posts a whole bunch of photos of his Christmas Tree, rather than actually write anything substantial.

Of course, nobody seems to mind because Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, does such a wonderful job decorating the tree. With 2020 being the year from hell, we didn’t get to travel much, and therefore don’t have much in the way of new ornaments with cool stories behind them this year. I think our only new ornamets were the glass-blown junkfood ornaments I found cheap at Kroger, and the Pusheen in a stocking that I got for Mel, not realizing that I gave her an identical one last year.

Normally Mel agonizes over how to group our ornaments together, so that all the Batman ornaments are in one place, and all the Walking Dead and SpongeBob ornaments are in their place. This year I asked her not to do this. I thought it was better to have the cool stuff spread all over the tree, plus it greatly reduced Mel’s self-induced stress level.

I’d say the end result is pretty spectacular. It’s fun to stare at the tree (I’ve been known to do that) and it’s like a a giant puzzle, finding all the ornaments from Chicago, New York, The Yellow Submarine, GI Joe, Pusheen, Senoia Georgia, Coca Cola, and all the fun things we’ve accumulated over the years. You see the whole tree up above this text. Below, with sparse commentary, you’ll see close ups.

We had to start with the topper. In the background you’ll see art by Jeff Pierson, a Svengoolie puzzle and some Wrigley Field stuff.

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