PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

MondayMorning Art: Building Details

Let’s jump into this week with a study in detail. At the left, you will find a digitally-assaulted photograph of the metal design work on the outside of the Stone And Thomas building on Lee Street. I did this last February, and if you’re interested, you can study the progression of how I assault these photos here.

You’ll notice that most of the time I go a few stages beyond the piece I decide to share. You have to make a few wrong turns before you find the right way to go. click to enlarge

Song Of The Week: Harvest Moon

This week’s SOTW is a sneak preview of the next Radio Free Charleston. One of our guests will be my good friend Raymond Wallace, late of The Leon Waters Blues Band, dragged in from his sickbed and forced to play his guitar for the first time in a long time. Raymond’s been living the blues for the last couple of years with a variety of heath and housing issues, and after our recording session, he told me that he felt like he was coming back to life after being a dead man. It was great to see Raymond playing again, after all that he’s been through.

Raymond recorded three songs for us, and our SOTW is one that won’t be on the next show. “Shine On Harvest Moon,” performed in Raymond’s Leon Redbone-influenced style, will make you feel like you’re hanging out in a New Orleans whorehouse, circa 1910. Leon Redbone is one of Raymond’s heroes, as you’ll see on the show, and he draws a lot of inspiration from him and other legendary bluesmen like Muddy Waters.

As a bonus, You can listen to Raymond playing “Variations On Kotke,” Raymond’s take on a piece he heard Leo Kotke play on Mountain Stage. This tune was recorded with Raymond playing my cheap 12-string, on the very computer that I use to write this blog. My guitar never sounded better. The next episode of RFC, featuring Raymond and Under The Radar, should be posted here at theGazz.com next week.

Animated Links

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

It’s link week in Animated Discussions, as we slack off and let other people do the work for a change.

Heidi MacDonald, at the Beat, tells us about the new Adult Swim import from Japan, Shin Chan the adventures of a rude five-year-old boy, and how it will probably rock because Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer are writing the English scripts for the series.

Mark Evanier posts an embedded YouTube compilation of Quisp and Quake commercials made by Jay Ward (Bullwinkle) in the 1960s. Not only is this cool because of the animation and the background info Mark provides, but also because Quisp is the food of the Gods–the finest cereal ever crafted by human or alien.

Toonzone interviews Mark about the episodes of Superman: The Animated Series that he wrote, notably the tributes to legendary comics creator Jack Kirby.

Miles Thompson, an animator and designer who’s worked on countless of our favorite TV cartoons dating back to 2 Stupid Dogs has a way-cool art blog.

Meanwhile, Donovan Cook, creator of 2 Stupid Dogs, is currently working on an animated feature, Space Chimps, due out in a year or two. His last major project was Mickey, Donald and Goofy as The Three Musketeers, which you can read about here.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Power Team Combat Engineer

I haven’t exactly made a secret of the fact that I collect GI Joe action figures. I’m talking about the 12″ tall guys, like we had back when I was a kid (and also for the last ten years or so). Hasbro recently decided to take GI Joe into new territory, with a new size and the storylines and characters familiar to fans of the small GI Joes from the 1980s. So history repeated, and in 2005, just like back in 1976, the 12″ tall GI Joe was “retired.” The official GI Joe Collectors Club is still making extremely cool limited editions of the big guys, but unless you luck into some leftovers hidden on the shelves, you won’t be seeing the big GI Joes in stores.

However, GI Joe has always inspired a healthy group of fellow travelers, compatible toys made by competing companies. One of the best of these is the Power Team Elite World Peacekeepers line of 12″ action figures made by M & C Toy Centre. You can find Power Team figures at Big Lots, Kay Bee Toy Stores, and in the JC Penney Christmas catalog. Unlike the 12″ GI Joe, Power Team is still going strong! They have a ton of new product coming out and they put a tremendous amount of effort into their design and play value. Their current body design sports some of the most realistic articulation of any 12″ action figure, and is able to imitate nearly the full range of motion of the human body.

Our “cool toy” this week is the Power Team Elite World Peacekeepers Combat Engineer, which includes one fully-articulated figure, with interchangeable hands, and a huge assortment of cool 1/6 scale diorama pieces, including a garbage can, barrel, extending ladder, chainsaw, “wood” planks, a crate and a tool kit. The tool kit includes scale tools like a hammer, screwdriver, wrenches, pliers, facemask, axe, shovel, circuit tester, and eye protection. One of the major attractions of the Power Team line is that it provides such a wide variety of cool accessories in the proper scale for hobbyists who build dioramas. This set is a gold mine with tons of potential for that purpose.

Best of all, this set has been spotted in Big Lots just last week. So if you’re a GI Joe collector who’s depressed over the lack of cool Joe stuff in retail stores, look in the direction of Power Team. They’re still holding down the 1/6 scale fort.

Monday Morning Art: Branches

We kick off the new week, rested and refreshed after some birthday weekend slacking, with a digitally-assaulted photograph from last winter. This is a shot of barren tree branches, which has been a recurring motif in my work for over twenty years. I like the way they look. As always, click to enlarge. Later today I’ll be catching up on my weekend off, with Cool Toy and Animation posts.

I wasn’t slacking the entire weekend. Friday night Mel and I split our time between the Open mic night at the Unity Church and the CD launch party for Holy Cow at Capitol Roasters. I was out recruiting bands for future episodes of RFC, and found quite a few talented area musicians. We were particularly impressed by Holy Cow, whose new CD can be found at Budget Tapes and Records in Kanawha City and Fret & Fiddle in St. Albans. (and at CD Baby, online).

Your Chance For Pirate Booty And A Cool Book!

Saturday evening at Taylor Books author Pavanne Pettigrew will be signing copies of her new book, “One More Breath,” a fast-paced pirate adventure. But there’s more to this book signing than just a nifty book. Attendees will also be given a key–one of a thousand–of which, five can open the lock on a Treasure Chest at the Headline Books booth at the West Virginia Book Festival at the Charleston Civic Center, October 21-22 This is a fun promotion, and a great attention-getter for “One More Breath,” the first novel from Headline’s new fiction imprint, Publisher’s Page.

A native West Virginian, Pettigrew has lived in the Charleston area for the past twenty years, having moved to the capital city to pursue a career as a professional musician and university music instructor. She was also the classical music critic for The Charleston Gazette for a number of years. Since 1990, after receiving her Master of Science degree and making a career shift, she has been an environmental geologist in hydrologic and groundwater protection for mining.

A childhood experience with a band of Gypsies established a lifelong fascination with the Roma that is manifest in nearly every piece of fiction she writes, as is an obsession with pirates and the romance of the tall ships that is almost as long-standing. She is currently working on her next novel.

My own fascination with Pirates has been well-documented in this blog, and I’m looking forward to reading the well-reviewed “One More Breath.” Pettigrew will be signing copies of her book at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol Street in Charleston, at 6:00 PM Saturday August 12. You can also pick up one of the 1,000 Keys To The Treasure Chest at the same time.

Song Of The Week: Three Bodies

This week’s SOTW is “Three Bodies” by the band of the same name. The Bodies were one of the top bands on the radio version of Radio Free Charleston, and this song is the third from the batch of four songs that I co-produced with the band and Spencer Elliott back in the summer of 1990. I”m told that this song is based on something that really happened to lead singer, Kris Cormandy. The photo on the left is a publicity shot that I did for the band around the same time. I shot in black and white, and colorized it just a few minutes ago. From top to bottom you see Kris Cormandy, Brian Young, and Brian Lucas. This photo was shot in our state capitol building, back when you could take a camera in there without being gang-tackled by a half-dozen security guards.

I picked this song this week because the latest episode of the BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW video version of Radio Free Charleston is online, and features a vintage video of Three Bodies performing “Shingles and Tar.” That was already a song of the week back in March, so this time I’ll give you the band’s “theme song.”

Be sure to check out the latest RFC, which also features Eduardo Canelon, Pentagram Flowerbox, and The Alien Threat. Plus there’s goofy dancing. Go to the Gazz TV page and explore.

Radio Free Charleston Production Diary: Episode Three

The third episode of Radio Free Charleston is finished, and may be posted later this afternoon. This is a bit of a departure show for us. First of all, my host segments were shot against a green screen. I’ll tell you more about that later. We also feature our first music video by a local band, and the first chapter of “Pentagram Flowerbox,” a recurring cartoon by Third Mind Incarnation about Satan living in a trailer park.

We have a wonderful musical guest, Eduardo Canelon, who ran off to host a music camp before we had a chance to find out what the piece of music he performed was called. Evidently, this music camp is being held somewhere with no cell phone coverage. I’ll update you on Eduardo’s music as soon as he gets back. He’s the mastermind behind Latin Music WV and we’ll be telling you more about that in PopCult in the coming weeks. Eduardo is also the leader of Comparsa, an eight-piece Latin band that will appear on a future episode of RFC. He treats us to a very cool, laid-back Spanish number, performed on the Radio Free Charleston studio fire escape.

Our other musical guest is Three Bodies–no mean feat, since they haven’t performed together in over fifteen years. “Shingles And Tar” is a vintage music video, which was hastily assembled in the summer of 1990, the day before it was due to be shown at a film festival. I got a call from Brian Young, and headed down to an editing bay at West Virginia State College with a handful of tapes of stock footage. We combined the stock footage with a short film Brian had made starring Kris Cormandy, the lead singer of Three Bodies, and wound up with a decent little music video. As the night wore on, and the deadline loomed, we slacked off and ended the video with what may be a world record for the most nuclear explosions ever used in a rock music video.

For reasons of copyright and ox-mistreatment, this video was re-edited last Friday. Brian hasn’t seen this version as I write this. Hope he’s not mad. Since we were dealing with fifteen-year-old videotape, and a short production window for RFC, there is one glitch in the show. At the very beginning of “Shingles And Tar”, the audio is a little warbly. You can find an MP3 of the song here, which is all clean and neat and warble-free.

We wrap up the show with a public service announcement of great importance.

After we finished the show, we noticed that an unintentional theme had emerged. The show seems to be a bit hot. Perhaps subconsciously influenced by the record heat we’ve had in the valley of late, this episode of Radio Free Charleston has a recurring flame motif. In fact, the heat is the reason we used a green screen, instead of shooting on location. We actually shot the host segments twice. The first time, we had audio problems that were insurmountable. This was actually a good thing, because I was experimenting with my “look” for the show, and the particular combination of facial hair and old fedora that I tried for the first shoot imbued me with a look not unlike that of a fat Jed Clampett.

So we rescheduled the host segments for two days later. When faced with the prospect then of shooting on a rooftop in 104 degree weather at two in the afternoon, my resistance to the idea of using the green screen melted away, and we absconded to the secret RFC studio. I prefer shooting on location, but I think the show looks all right this time. In many ways, this is our hottest show yet! We’ve got fiery Latin balladeering, a neighbor from Hell, lots of nuclear explosions, and an oppressive heat which we defiantly flip off by shooting in an air-conditioned studio. Watch for episode three of Radio Free Charleston later today at the Gazz TV page.

Monday Morning Edible Art

This week’s art is not a digitally-assaulted photograph, or a painting, or a sketch. It’s a cake. To be exact, it’s a two-layer sheet cake, with one orange layer and one lemon layer, chocolate icing on the sides, cherry icing in between, and vanilla on top, and a swirlly-tasty design! I made my own birthday cake, about 360 days ago. It looked interesting, but it tasted fantastic! I’ll be doing something less ambitious this weekend.

click to enlarge, right-click to taste (if your computer is equipped with the special tasting hardware)

Songs Of The Week: Sham VooDoo does The Beatles

It’s another dip into the Radio Free Charleston archives this week, as we revisit the April 1990 “Beatles For Easter” show, which featured songs about the Fab Four, as well as cover versions of Beatles tunes by international and local artists. For some reason this week, I’ve been desperate to hear good cover versions of Beatles’ tunes. I have another reason for posting these songs this week, since these are in-studio performances by one of my best friends, John “Sham Voodoo” Estep, late of legendary Charleston bands The Defectors and Clownhole. I’ve lost touch with Sham–the last I’d heard he was living in Columbus. If anybody knows how I can contact my old buddy–and the co-host of the Beatles tribute episode of RFC, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

We have two songs this week. One really good one, and one that is tainted by my singing. First, the good one: “Cold Turkey” was John Lennon’s harrowing primal scream epic about withdrawing from heroin. This is performed by Sham solo, with just his fender, recorded live in the Radio Free Charleston studio. Despite my prompting, heard at the end, Sham did not do the primal scream finale of the song.

The other song is unfortunately marred by my attempted singing. This was at Sham’s prompting , and because Stephen Beckner went to sleep instead of coming to the studio at 2 AM to join Sham on the show. This was a medley of Beatle songs, with a few solo tunes added in the mix. I’ve edited out a few gaffes to try and make it more listenable–I would start laughing when one of us forgot the lyrics, and Sham would get the giggles if I accidentally hit the right note, so it had to be tightened up in order not to be completely awful–aside from that, this is largely as it went out over the air, live at 3:45 AM, on RFC. Most of the transitions between songs are exactly as they were on the original show–and they hold up pretty well considering that it was past 3:30 AM, Sham and I had never rehearsed, and I had no idea what song was coming next.

This medley also includes my infamous Reggae rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” This was a staple at the jam nights at the old Charleston Playhouse. “Reggae Imagine” was born out of my suggestion that somebody could have a huge hit if the covered “Imagine” with a light Reggae touch. In the drunken spirit of playfulness that inhabited the Playhouse, this got turned into a full-blown hardcore Reggae version, complete with Rastafarian references and “I and I” talk.

Near the end of this medley, which is really only recommended for the most masochistic of Beatle fans, Gary Price and Tom Medvick of the Swivel Rockers wandered into the studio and can be heard, along with Sue Gaines, joining in at the very end. So if you really want to torture yourself, take a listen to “Stars On RFC“. And again, apologies for my singing.