PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Monday Morning Art: Color Play

Our Monday morning art this week is a digitally assaulted photograph of a streetlight at the Summers Street entrance to Davis Square. It’s another study in color composition and juxtaposition. Plus, the red skies look like something out of an early-1980s music video directed by Russell Mulcahy. All it needs is some glass breaking for no reason.

Click the image to enlarge.

Boy! That’s some Squirrel!

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Squirrel Boy is a new show set to debut on Cartoon Network in July, but there have been so many sneak peeks that kids are probably already familiar with the cartoon. Created by Everett Peck, who previously gave us Duckman, Squirrel Boy is aimed at a younger audience, but in many ways it’s a superior cartoon. For one thing, the quality of the animation is spectacular. It begs the question, “Why can’t all TV cartoons look this good?”

Squirrel Boy chronicles the adventures of a boy, Andy, and his pet squirrel, a know-it-all named Rodney who manages to get the two tied up in a series of schemes and offbeat ventures. It’s an entertaining enough premise, but the real star of the cartoon is the overall look.

The fluidity of motion and color design is better than many feature films, and the animation stands head and shoulders above almost everything else produced for television. In fact, it’s a bit jarring seeing Peck’s designs rendered in such a lush manner. Previously, his cartoons were produced on a shoestring budget and were purposefully crude-looking. The animation in Squirrel Boy is on par with the classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons of the 1940s, but the design work is from another era. Still, this is a classy-looking cartoon.

The voice work is impressive, too. Andy is voiced by Pamela Segall Adlon, who also provides the voice for Bobby Hill, from King Of The Hill. Rodney’s voice is provided by Richard Horvitz. Squirrel Boy officially premieres on July 14, but it’s a safe bet that Cartoon Network will have several more sneak previews over the next few weeks, so you may want to check their schedule regularly.

Always In Threes

We lost three vastly different, but equally great, men in the last week.

Ian Copeland was the least famous of three brothers, but he still made quite an impact on the music business. One brother, Stewart, is the former drummer for The Police, and a noted composer. His other brother, Miles, was the brains behind pioneering new wave label, IRS Records, the first home of R.E.M, among many other bands of the 1980s. Ian took care of the less glamorous side of tour management. With Frontier Booking International, he booked tours for The Police, The B-52s, Oingo Boingo and dozens of other new wave bands. It’s been said that Ian Copeland was the man who brought New Wave to America. He was 57 when he succumbed to cancer last week. More details can be found here, and here.

Alex Toth was a noted comic book artist and animation designer. He’ll always be remembered for designing the 1960s cartoon Space Ghost, but he also worked on Jonny Quest, Superfriends, and countless other cartoons, primarily for Hanna Barbera. Before that, Toth made his mark in the world of comic books, where he is recognized as a genius, on par with the greatest names in the business — Kirby, Eisner, Wood and Kubert. His flawless sense of lighting and page composition makes him a true artist’s artist, whose work is, and will continue to be studied by aspiring comic book artists all over the world. Heidi MacDonald writes more about Toth here. Mark Evanier, who was privileged to work with Toth, explains just exactly what Toth did here.
Toth passed away at his drawing board last Saturday morning. He was 74. Fans can leave condolences here.

Desmond Dekker was a legend of Jamaican music. His song “The Israelites” was the first worldwide hit record by a Jamaican artist, and he was a key figure in the mutation of first-wave Ska music into what would eventually be known as Reggae. Dekker died last Wednesday of a heart attack at his home while preparing for a European tour. He was 64. You can read more about his music here, and check out more detailed obituaries here and here.

Hollywood vs. The Pirates

The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest BitTorrent search engine, was taken down by Swedish Police at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America two days ago. The charge is that Pirate Bay was aiding in the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. However, copyright laws in Sweden are notoriously lenient, and officials of Pirate Bay, who openly taunt the MPAA, are saying that they will be back online in a matter of days. This could be a major blow to peer-to-peer BitTorrent sites, possibly setting the illegal trading of files on the internet back days, or even weeks. Most observers expect Pirate Bay to return, or a replacement to arise to fill the void.

The Los Angles Times has in-depth coverage here. Other viewpoints can be found here, and here. Wikpedia offers updated information at the Pirate Bay entry on their website.

Song Of The Week: 200th Post!

Well, we’ve hit a minor milestone here at PopCult, so in honor of our 200th post, we’re doing something completely self-indulgent. This week’s SOTW is another dip deep into the Radio Free Charleston archives, only this time, it’s the THEME SONG from Radio Free Charleston! This rare location recording features a number of the area’s finest performers and waiters collaborating, at almost 3 AM one night at the Charleston Playhouse. The tune was improvised on the spot. We had no idea what we were going to do, we just wanted to crank out a theme song for my radio show. It’s an example of the type of music that can only warp into existence during the nether hours at an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. The Playhouse played host to quite a few magical moments like this during its short life.

Sung in a key previously unused by human voice, this rockin’ little ditty wound up being the theme song for Radio Free Charleston for the final five months that it was on the air. This was actually a performance by the Charleston Playhouse Quartet, which featured my own sorry-sounding voice, along with Jim Wolfe, John McIntyre, Jake Kennedy, and John (Sham Voodoo) Estep, who also played guitar. Yes, we always had at least five people in the Quartet. By the way, the photos accompanying this piece are not actually the performers on this song, but they were taken at the Playhouse.

Hearing this again makes me nostalgic for the old radio show. Sure would be great if, somehow, I managed to resurrect it now that we’ve landed in the internet age.


Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter

IWA East Coast returns to the South Charleston Community Center on June 7 with “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter,” another classy evening of refined mayhem. The big name guests for this evening of ring magic include Matt “Brother Runt” Hyson (AKA: Spike Dudley from WWE), The Blue Meanie of ECW fame, and Tracy Smothers, who has wrestled all over the world for every major company.

Hyson will take on Warpig, the monster who’s demolished almost every opponent he’s faced in IWA East Coast. Hyson’s reputation as “the giant killer” will be tested mightily as he runs up against the Kosher Colossus. An interesting side note: My “Animated Discussions” cohort, Melanie Larch, helped IWA get in touch with Hyson. She’d been trading emails with him since his “Spike Dudley” days. We can call her “Booker Mel” now.

Blue Meanie and Smothers will face each other in a dance-off. At least, that’s the idea. Nobody will be shocked if violence somehow ensues. Meanie is famous for his dancing skills, while Smothers is known for his short temper. There’s no telling how long Smothers will put up with Meanie’s disco hijinks. Meanie has just returned to the ring following major lung surgery earlier this year, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can shake off the ring rust should the dance turn dangerous. Meanie is the guy who was singled out by WWE wrestler John Bradshaw Layfield last year and had his face half ripped off by WWE’s top locker-room bully. This happened at the “ECW One Night Stand” event, and led to Meanie getting a short-term deal from WWE, to forestall any legal actions.

The most anticipated match of the night sees hardcore legend Ian Rotten facing off against Ashland’s Juggulator in a “loser leaves IWA East Coast” match. This match will feature barbwire-wrapped baseball bats, and the loser will be gone from IWA East Coast forever! The outcome of this match is a huge question mark with massive repercussions. Juggulator is local, and has a decent following, but Ian is not only a legend–he owns the ring that IWA East Coast uses. The loss of either man could be a major blow to the organization. Ian is also coming off a year that almost saw his forced retirement. He suffered a major concussion in 2005, and wasn’t supposed to get back in the ring after that. Anyone who thinks wrestling is all fake should meet Ian, and take a look at his forehead. He’s got the better part of two decades worth of scars to prove how “fake” wrestling is.

Also on the program: Trik Nasty seeks revenge against his former partner J.D. Escalade. Mad Man Pondo and 2 Tuff Tony team up to face the mysterious Hane Brothers. “High” flyer, El Drunko, takes on “high flyer” Omega Aaron Draven. “Mr. Insanity” Toby Klein takes on Brain Damage in the first ever “Cheese grater on a pole” match. Fans will be treated to all that and more, next week.

This will be a fun evening, and we should enjoy IWA events at the South Charleston Community Center while we can. There are rumors that the Community Center’s management isn’t too keen on keeping IWA East Coast in their arena. It’d be a shame if they allow their squeamishness to drive IWA East Coast to another building, since it’s such a good fit where it is. Fans might want to stop by while they’re at the show and tell the building’s management how happy they are that they can see IWA shows in such a nice place.

If You Go: IWA East Coast presents “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter” starting at 7 PM, Wednesday June 7 at the South Charleston Community Center, 601 Jefferson Road. Tickets are $15 and $10 and can be purchased at the door, or in advance at the Cold Spot in Dunbar.

The Bloggers Meet

The Charleston Area Bloggers group met Friday at Taylor Books on Capitol Street. It was a small, but cool group (well, except for me). Rick Lee was there, as was Scott Mitchell, both of whom I met at the previous CAB meeting. I finally got to meet Oncee, whose blog I’ve been reading for months, and the highlight of the meeting was a visit from Sharon, who writes the excellent Adventures Of A Domestic Engineer blog, which is a bright spot in the blogosphere. As the meeting broke up, Bob Coffield, who writes the Health Care Law Blog showed up. Rick took photos, as did Sharon. This meeting was called on the spur of the moment, so the turnout was less than usual, but it’s still great to get together, put faces to the names behind the blogs, and exchange ideas on the art and science of blogeration. We’ll have to try and get the word out more next time.

Congrats to MShane,
creator of Through the Lens, who was otherwise occupied over the weekend, and didn’t make the meeting.

Memorial Day Bonus Photo

In honor of there not being much going on for me on this Memorial Day, here’s a bonus photo, of the KRT Bus Station on the West Side. It is a digitally-assaulted photograph. I just assaulted this one in a more subtle manner than I usually do. See if you can figure out how. Click to enlarge.

This week’s Monday Morning Art hails from the West Side of Charleston. It’s a digitally assaulted photograph looking Westward down Randolph Street at the intersection with Florida Street. This is the way the streets look to me. Click to enlarge.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Dig This!

This week we’re taking an educational turn with our cool toy, but don’t worry, it’s still fun. Our pick is the I Dig line of playsets from Action Products International. These are little (or big) hunks of rock that come with the tools needed to chip away at them until you reveal a fossil, arrowhead, or other nifty treat within. It’s a cool way for kids to learn the techniques of fossil recovery and excavation without digging holes all over your front yard. These are perfect for the budding archeologist or burgeoning tomb raider. The prices aren’t too bad, either. Small kits start at around five dollars, but some of the more elaborate kits sell for more than 50 bucks.

You can order these directly from API here, but if I recall correctly, these can also be found at the gift shop in the Avampato Discovery Museum at the Clay Center.