PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Monday Morning Art: Drew Redux

For our weekly art blog this time we’re going back a couple of weeks to FestivALL, where Drew The Dramatic Fool was peforming on Capitol Street. I caught a few moments of his act on video, and this is the resulting digitally-assaulted frame grab.

It’s another exercise in color composition and image manipulation.

Click to enlarge.

The Writer’s Best Friend

Two years ago, when I was hunkered down in my office bunker working on a particularly grueling deadline, I had a steady stream of folks knocking on my front door in a two-hour period. There were two kids selling fundraising crap, a seedy-looking guy asking if I wanted my lawn mowed, a hippy chick selling candles and incense, a Jehovah’s Witness, two ladies from a Baptist Church from Nitro (poaching potential parishioners from the Baptist Church two blocks away, I guess), and a young lady selling magazine subscriptions for Jesus who seemed frightened by the rabbit in my yard (the young lady, that is, Jesus fears no rabbits, or so I’m told).

“Does the bunny bite?” she asked me, her voice quivering. Unfortunately, I didn’t think the vicious attack bunny would scare off any other unwanted visitors, and the constant interruptions were driving me nuts, so I did something drastic. I composed a little note and posted it on my front door. I haven’t been bothered since.

Who know those people could read? The bit about not changing our beliefs because a stranger comes to our door was lifted from Mark Evanier, who writes a blog that I visit every day right here. Mark cracked me up yesterday with this suduko post. The solution is here.

Two years of peace, all because of one little piece of paper taped inside my screen door. Sometimes curmudgeonliness pays off.

Hypothetical Legal Question

I was just wondering, if a court ever ruled that contracts or release forms signed under the influence of drugs or alcohol were null and void, due to the incapacity and impairment of the person signing, would that mean that the Girls Gone Wild people would have to go out of business?

Songs Of The Week: Go Van Gogh

We’re taking another deep dip back into the Radio Free Charleston archives this week–all the way back to 1989. Go Van Gogh was the most-requested local band on my old radio show. Made up of two sets of brothers, all four members of the band were capable of singing lead, and they also wrote their own material, which includes some of the finest rock songs the Charleston area has produced. In addition to a rabid local following, the boys would often pop into the RFC studio late at night, as seen above. The composite photo depicts (L to R): Johnny Rock, Tim Rock, and Stephen Beckner. Mark, Steve’s brother, didn’t make it to the studio that night. This week’s main SOTW is “Shut Up, I Love You,” written by Stephen Beckner. It was easily the most-requested song during the eight months that Radio Free Charleston was on the air. This recording is a demo of the song, I believe, from late 1989. Steve sings lead on this tune.

As a bonus this week, PopCult also brings you Go Van Gogh performing The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus.” This is one of my favorite Beatle songs, and this recording was captured live, at the Charleston Playhouse, with Mark Beckner on lead vocals. It was recorded especially for the old radio show.

Stephen Beckner is currently living in Elkview and racking up photography awards by the armful. You can check out his blog here. He’s also still writing songs, and will be on a future episode of the new Radio Free Charleston video podcast. Mark Beckner is living in Nashville, and performing and writing songs with his band, Hitchcock Circus. The Rock brothers are still here in Charleston and they’re cooking up a new musical project. As soon as more details emerge, I’ll tell you about it here in PopCult.

Reminder: The Sleeping Dons

I don’t want to kick up another firestorm in the comments section or anything, but since we featured The Sleeping Dons performing our song of the week a couple of weeks ago, I figured some of you might want to go see them in person.

The Sleeping Dons, Sean Richardson (left), Jay Lukens and Deron Sodaro will be performing during happy hour (7:00 PM to 8:00 PM) at The Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday in July, starting tonight. I’ll be there to check out one of the most charismatic bands in Charleston, and you might want to go hear the guys, too.

Correction: The start time for the happy hour sets by The Sleeping Dons is 5:30 PM, not 7:00. They’re still playing until 8:00 PM. Sorry about that guys, your second set sounded great tonight!


More than sixteen years after office politics killed Radio Free Charleston, my greatest creation has returned! You can go to this page, click on the little TV, and see the new video webcast of RFC.

Yes, it’s a video show, but we’re calling it “Radio Free Charleston.” I wanted to keep the name, even though technology has caught up to my original vision. RFC will bring you the best music, experimental film and video, and comedy from the Charleston area’s most daring performers and artists. It’ll all be wrapped up in a tight little ten-or-fifteen minute package. I’ll be hosting RFC from various locations around town.

The pilot episode features the alterna-bombastic rock of Whistlepunk and the comedy stylings of the No Pants Players. Coincidentally, I got to enjoy live performances by both last weekend. You can read up on Whistlepunk here, here, and here. I’ve written about the No Pants Players here and here. It was a kick having these two groups of talented folks on the first webcast of RFC. The No Pants Players will be bringing their improv comedy to future episodes on a regular basis, and Whistlepunk will return on future shows as well.

We’re already hard at work on more episodes of RFC, and have an exciting slate of musicians, comedy bits and short filmic fits of weirdness lined up. We’re also working on an amazing scoop for our second episode, which will be ready by the end of the month. So go check out the show, and let us know what you think. And check back here in PopCult for more tales and music from the archives of the original Radio Free Charleston. Later this week, we’ll bring you some vintage Go Van Gogh from 1989.

So go check it out, and feel free to use the comments to let me know what you think.

Cartoons Back From The Dead

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

It’s a special, but short edition of Animated Discussions this week, as we note two animation revivals that are on the television horizon. Following the phoenix-like resurrection of Family Guy, two other recent brilliantly-executed animated TV shows are coming back, though one is still iffy. Family Guy, Futurama, and The Oblongs were all dropped by network television after poor ratings performances due to idiotic programming decisions. Since their respective demises they have found far greater success on Adult Swim and with DVD collections of their episodes.

Futurama, which was a major hit on FOX until they started shuffling it around the schedule for no reason, will return on Comedy Central in 2008. This series, which tells the story of a pizza delivery guy who was cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and then thawed out one thousand years later, ran from 1999 to 2003 on FOX, but then found new life on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block. Comedy Central managed to finagle the rights to the Futurama reruns (they move to their new home next year) and has gone one step further, and ordered 13 new episodes, which will air beginning in 2008. The original voice cast had already signed on for a series of direct-to-DVD movies, so it was no problem rounding them up for the new shows. What’s not clear is if the DVD movies will even happen now, or if they’ll just shift gears and start producing the new episodes of the TV show.

The Oblongs may also make a return. This is less certain, but there’s been a lot of buzz about the new Frankenstein Network, The CW (made up of body parts from the deceased WB and UPN netlets) considering bringing back The Oblongs based on the recent strong ratings that the series has earned on Adult Swim. This is still in the early talking stages, and there’s some question if they can still afford the cast, which includes Will Ferrell and Jean Smart. The Oblongs was a ultra-cool show, sporting a theme song by They Might Be Giants, and telling a tale of mutant lower-class valley folk that would make the Munsters flinch. It’d be great to see more episodes.

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.

Monday Morning Art: Laidley Tower

We kick off the holiday week with a digitally assaulted take on one of Charleston’s more striking landmarks. This is a poppity-art version of the Laidley Tower, rendered as a splash of color uncharacteristic for the monolithic steel-and-glass structure.

Click to enlarge

Special note: The “Cool Toy Of The Week” and “Animated Discussions” will make special appearances tomorrow, to celebrate the 4th of July!

Whistlepunk Photos

The scene was loads of fun just a few hours ago at the Vandalia Lounge, as Whistlepunk tore through a rip-roaring set of killer original tunes and well-chosen alternative covers. It’s late, so I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking.

Whistlepunk is:

Spencer Elliott


Dan Jordan


and Brian Young


You can hear a sample of Whistlepunk as last week’s Song Of The Week, and any day now, you’ll be able to see them on the pilot episode of Radio Free Charleston.

As an added treat, Sean Richardson, of The Sleeping Dons, joined the band for a classic song from his days as lead singer for Strawfyssh, one of the favorite bands of the original RFC era. You can catch The Sleeping Dons at the Vandalia Lounge for Happy Hour at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday in July. And you can hear a sample of their music here.

It was a great night for alternative music in Charleston. A late night, too. Time to go to bed.