Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Month: October 2020 (Page 1 of 4)

Halloween On The AIR

The PopCulteer
October 30, 2020

It’s a shorter than planned PopCulteer this week, as your humble blogger plunges into writing the 2020 PopCult Gift Guide, which is due to start Monday, November 2. I’ll tell you all about that in the introduction post Monday morning.

But today, we have the matter of Halloween 2020 to address. It’s a holiday that seems almost redundant in a year filled with abject terror. From a dangerous pandemic, a dystopian and dysfuctional administration hellbent on destroying Democracy and the sad knowledge that a third of our country seems to have become mindless zombies, This is a holiday about which I simply cannot get enthused.

However, in the past I have gone overboard with Halloween video and audio content for PopCult and The AIR and I have no problem warming up those cold dishes today and tomorrow. Your video will come in the form of The RFC Flashback tomorrow.

I realize that it’s sort of like spooning out spaghetti into kid’s trick or treat bags, but it’s all I can muster.

On The AIR, Halloween kicks off this afternoon, and you can listen at The Website, or on this spooky little embedded player…

On our sister internet radio station, The AIR, Halloween begins at 2 PM Friday with an encore of our sole new Halloween show this year, Mel Larch’s MIRRORBALL, which puts a disco spin on The Monster Mash (not actually that song, though…we couldn’t find a disco version of it).

At 3 PM Sydney Fileen brings us two Halloween-themed episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.

Starting at 7 PM Friday and running until Midnight Saturday, we dig back into The AIR Archives for special Halloween programming that includes Scary episodes of Prognosis, Curtain Call, Radio Coolsville, Radio Free Charleston, Word Association plus some classic radio drama and a three-part special of music inspired by Edgar Allen Poe.

This includes a couple of chances to hear Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds, Friday at 11 PM, and Saturday at 6 PM.

With that, I feel like I’ve done enough to contribute to Halloween this year. The real horror and uncertainty happens on Tuesday. If things go the way all good people hope, I may be so happy and relieved that I put up my Christmas tree the day after the election.

And that is this shortened PopCulteer. Check back for our regular features, and next Monday be sure to take a look at our Monday Morning Art with a piece created using MAX Build More bricks. Later Monday we will begin The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide.

Build More For Less Money With MAX Build More

The PopCult Toybox

In Walmart now, fans of building toys can find Zuru Toys’ entry into the building brick game with MAX Build More. These are fully compatible with LEGO bricks, but can be had for a fraction of the cost. There is no loss of quality, as these are well-made out of high-impact plastic, but since they don’t have “that brand name,” they are much more affordable.

As somebody who does extensive graphic and video work without ever having owned an Apple product, I can appreciate not overpaying for a brand name.

Right now you can get a giant tub with 759 pieces at Walmart for under twenty bucks. That’s about a third of the suggested retail price for a comparable LEGO set.

LEGO’s patents on their particular interlocking brick design expired a long time ago, and anyone can make compatible building bricks now. That’s why LEGO leans so heavily on licensed sets like Star Wars. They know that they can’t compete on price, so they go with licenses and blind-brand loyalty. The great thing about MAX Build More is that they are virtually indistinguishable from LEGO in terms of quality, but they won’t break the bank.

Zuru was kind enough to send me a big tub of MAX Build More bricks to review, and I have decided to use it to create five pieces of Monday Morning Art, which will run here in PopCult during the month of November.

This is going to be a bit of a departure for me, since I have never posted three-dimensional art during the fifteen years I’ve been publishing my art in this blog.

You can see my first, untitled piece right here.

For this piece I augmented the tub of MAX Build More with a gray base panel (under five bucks at Walmart) and used less than half the pieces from the tub to create a geometric abstract piece. This was basically me getting a feel for working with building bricks for the first time since I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, and seeing how well all the pieces fit together. These bricks are great to work with. They go together well, and come apart easily when you want them to.

The plan is to raid this work for bricks to build stuff for Monday Morning Art. So enjoy these photos. This build is not meant to last forever. Check back Monday to see what I do when I decide to cut loose.

The 759 piece MAX Build tub includes a huge checklist with all the pieces inside, so you can plan your projects in advance, or just wing it like I did. There’s a great mix of basic blocks in many colors, along with specialty bricks, fences, small baseplates, parts to build figures, a decal sheet with eyes and mouths and other features, plus there are dozens of smaller pieces that can be used as wheels, weapons or architectural features. There’s hours and hours of play value in this tub, regardless of your age.

Several MAX Build sets can be found at Walmart, in stores on online. The most expensive set is under twenty bucks, and you can also choose from additional baseplates and smaller sets that offer more specialty pieces like doors and window and vehicle parts.

For what you’d pay for one LEGO tub, you can get two giant MAX Build More tubs, plus a set of specialty parts and four baseplates. If you have kids who are into building sets, this is like manna from Heaven. With so many families spending more time indoors due to the pandemic, MAX Build More sets are an ecominc way to let kids use their imaginations in a constructive way. It’s not bad for adults either.

Below is an example of the kinds of things you can make with MAX Build More.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Collected

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight The Deluxe Edition
by Brian Augustyn (Author), Mike Mignola (Illustrator) and various
DC Comics
ISBN-13 : 978-1401299828

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight was the first imprint of DC Comics’ Elseworlds line, an extension of their long-standing tradition of out-of-continuity “imaginary” stories. Written by Brian Augustyn, with art by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and P. Craig Russell (Sandman, Killraven, The Ring of the Nibelung), Batman: Gotham by Gaslight was an instant classic.

Gotham by Gaslight took Batman and placed him, origin and all, in the Victorian era, where he investigated a serial killer who turned out to be Jack The Ripper, operating in the states after leaving London. Mignola and Russell’s art perfectly captured the era, and Augustyn crafted a spectacular story in only 48 pages.

The story was critically-acclaimed and has remained in print ever since it was first published in 1989. This new deluxe hardcover includes Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, along with its sequel, Batman: Master of the Future (featuring stunning art by the late and unjustly-overlooked Eduardo Barreto). Both of thise books, originally published as one-shot “Prestige” format comics, have been collected in several different editions over the years, but Batman: Gotham by Gaslight The Deluxe Edition also adds further stories where DC Comics characters from other “universes” cross over and team up with this incarnation of The Dark Knight.

One chapter of the 2008 DC Comic companywide crossover, Countdown was Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Gotham by Gaslight. This story where the main DC Universe Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy and Jason Todd wind up on the Gaslight by Gotham Earth while searching for The Atom (Ray Palmer) was also written by Augustyn, and is a bit of a jumble, but we do get to meet this world’s version of The Blue Beetle and Man-Bat, which is really pretty cool.

The real gem here is the two issue run of Convergence: Shazam! (seen right), which tells a story where the original Captain Marvel (aided by the rest of the Marvel Family plus Bulletman and Bulletgirl) wind up crossing across the universal divide and having an adventure with the Victorian era Batman. This story, written by Jeff Parker with art by Evan “Doc” Shaner, is an absolute delight, and really deserves to be collected along with Grant Morrison’s Thunderworld in a tabloid-sized deluxe edition of its own.

However, including it in this volume gives the collector every single adventure of the Victorian “Gotham by Gaslight” Batman in one handy volume, and it’s almost 200 pages of top-quality superhero adventure. The reader is not bogged down by decades of continuity, and best of all, except for one panel in Convergence: Shazam! there is no Joker.

The Joker is the most over-exposed, over-used character in Batman’s rogues gallery, and it is so refreshing to have him omitted from these adventures.

This book also includes a new introduction by Brian Augustyn and a gallery of images from the 2018 animated adaptation of Gotham by Gaslight.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight The Deluxe Edition is a treasure of terrific supherhero adventures that makes for great reading and doesn’t burn out the reader with an oppressive backstory. You should be able to order it from any bookseller by using the ISBN code.

RFC Has New Music From Stacee Lawson Stanley, Sierra Ferrell, Todd Burge and Rockwell’s Ghost, while The Swing Shift Goes To Europe: Tuesday On The AIR

Tuesday on The AIR we deliver new episodes of Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift.  In order to hear these great new musical treasures, you simply have to point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this convenient embedded radio player…

We have a brand-new Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday.  This show kicks off with brand-new music from Stacee Lawson Stanley, and the rest of the first hour has new music from Sierra Ferrell, IDKHOW, Rockwell’s Ghost, The Empty Hearts and Todd Burge. Click on their names in the previous sentence to buy their music.

Stacee Lawson Stanley’s lovely new song is a new direction for her. RFC viewers may remember Stacee as the lead singer of the hard-rock band, Under Social, but this tribute to her late father has more of a country/Americana vibe. You can purchase this track on November 22, and look for a new album in 2021.

For our second and third hours this week, originally I had planned to do a full three-hour show. However, over the weekend I had a few emails from folks asking if I was planning to run the 2016 RFC Horror Theater International Halloween Special this year. To be honest, I wasn’t but since people asked for it (and nicely, too), I decided to incorporate it into this week’s episode of Radio Free Charleston V5. So stick around past the first hour if you want to hear your PopCulteer improvise two characters in one take, introducing spooky music for two hours.

Check out the full playlist to see all the fantastic goodies we bring you this week…

RFCV5 035

Stacee Lawson Stanley (featuring Molly Lynn Page) “December 28th”
Sierra Ferrell “Jerimiah”
IDKHOW “Nobody Likes The Opening Band”
Cory Wong “Massive”
PUP “Anaphylaxis”
The Bounty “Sleep”
Rockwell’s Ghost “Moleman (Demo)”
Pink Turtle “Baker Street”
Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands “October”
Frank Gorshin “The Riddler”
The Replacements “Alex Chilton”
They Might Be Giants “We’re The Replacements”
Jay Parade “Jay Charade”
Todd Burge “Dear John Blue Skies”
Andy Prieboy “Get Me Out Of Town”
The Empty Hearts “Well Look At You”
Battleship Battleship “Ad Hominem”

RFC Horror Theater Theater International

MX 80 Sound “Theme From Halloween”
The Renfields “Machete A Go Go”
The Big Bad “The Omen”
Snakefinger “The Man In The Dark Sedan”
Blue Oyster Cult “Joan Crawford”
Crack The Sky “Invaders from Mars”
Christopher Walken “The Raven”
Kate Bush “Get Out of My House”
Stephen Merritt “Scream”
The Nanker Phelge “Scream”
The Jasons “Camp Arawhak”
Shaekspear’s Sister “Bad Blood”
The Dickies “Attack Of The Mole Men”
The Aquabats “Fashion Zombie”
Mike Oldfield “Tubular Bells”
Oingo Boingo “Dead Or Alive”
Harrah “Sawney Bean”
Nine Inch Nails “Come Back Haunted”
The Misfits “Horror Business”
The Stranglers “Ghost Train”
The Who “Boris The Spider”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 7 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.

At 1 PM we bring you an encore of last week’s new MIRRORBALL.

At 2 PM since Steven Allen Adams is still tied up covering some election or something that’s happening next week, we bring you an encore edition of NOISE BRIGADE .

At 3 PM our new hour of The Swing Shift shines a spotlight on five European Swing Bands, with three tunes each from Pink Turtle, The Monkey Swingers, Sugarpie and The Candymen, The Jive Aces and Lady J and her Bada Bing Band. These are all bands that were still active and touring before the pandemic hit, and I think that may explain why The Swing Shift has so many listeners in Europe.  Check out this playlist:

The Swing Shift 104

Pink Turtle “Get Up, Stand Up”
“Nothing From Nothing”
“Hey Jude”
The Monkey Swingers “It Ain’t Right”
“Swing 2”
“John Barleycorn”
Sugarpie and the Candymen “Bad”
“Bohemian Rhaspody”
The Jive Aces “Mack The Knife”
“Spread A Little Happiness”
“Bring Me Sunshine”
Lady J and her Bada Bing Band “Die For My Baby”
“Don’t Call”
“Sweet Talkin’ Devil”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 2 PM, Saturday at 5 PM and Sunday at 10 AM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each of our finest episodes, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Monday Morning Art: Dark Nymphs


This week we bring you a smallish acrylic painting on chipboard. For inspiration I dug back into my photo library for an image of Bella Rosa and Phoenix from a June, 2014 edition of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art Show. Back then the ladies were embodying the Scottish fairy theme, “Seelie vs. Unseelie Court,” but for this painting I used one of their poses to depict a couple of darker, night spirits.  If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.

Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, the Monday Marathon brings you six hours of Radio Free Charleston, which follows the regularly-scheduled repeat of last weeks Big Electric Cat at 7 AM. Today’s marathon is two episodes of RFC which will soon be leaving our server to make room for new programs.

At 3 PM on Prognosis, Herman Linte brings us an edition of Prognosis, that brings you two hours of Halloween-appropriate music by Goblin. That’s followed by a classic Prognosis and an evening of NOISE BRIGADE and Radio Free Charleston. You can hear replays of Prognosis Tuesdays at 7 AM, Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 9 AM. 

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

Sunday Evening Videos: Three Videos From WestVirginiaVille

Longtime readers of PopCult probably remember Douglas John Imbrogno as the former editor at The Charleston Gazette who hired yours truly to write this blog over a decade-and-a-half ago. Doug’s latest project is WestVirginiaville, which describes itself thusly, “WESTVIRGINIAVILLE is a selective & opinionated guide to some of the best writing, photography, video, and news on the life and times of West Virginia.”

One of Doug’s collaborators on this entertaining and informative website is Bobby Lee Messer of MesserMedia in Huntington WV. Together they have created some great videos of interest to those of us who love living in West Virginia, despite not always being proud of our fellow West Virginians. We’re going to look at three recent WestVirginiaVille videos tonight.

If you want to keep up with WestVirginiaVille, sign up for their free mailing list so you can get all the updates from this very exciting website, which is still a growing entity.

This first video by The Justice Project of drops-by for a visit with Sam Petsonk, a West Virginia attorney who is challenging WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the 2020 election. It’s mixed with a live version of “The West Virginia Hills” with Petsonk on banjo and vocals and Randy Gilkey on guitar and vovals.

Next up we have THE SILENT SENATOR: A JUSTICE PROJECT Video originally posted October  18.2020 . While waiting on WV Senator Shelley Moore Capito to do the right thing—not just mouth the right thing—you might notice your hair turn another color and not from dye. So, WestVirginiaVille points its second Justice Project editorial video her way.

Finally, with the caveat that this video contain offensive words, we go back to nine days ago for the debut of WestVirginiaVille’s multimedia editorial feature, The Justice Project, wherein they take a musical walk-through of the chatroom comments that led disgraced former West Virginia delegate John Mandt Jr., to resign. He has since said he’d serve if elected on Nov. 3, 2020. See the related story HERE.

Be sure to sign up for WestVirginiaVille‘s mailing list. The world of media is changing at a rapid pace, as old business models stop working, and new ways of delivering journalism to the masses are starting to sprout up organically with the influx of new technology. We’re entering a whole new world, and WestVirginiaVille is a great way to keep up with our corner of it.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 202

This week we go back to October, 2014, for our most recent elaborate Radio Free Charleston Halloween Special. This is a bit of a preview for next week, where the plan is to gather all of our Halloween shows and videos into one big playlist and embed it in this space.

But for this show, which was shot at Mark Wolfe’s old house, I gathered some friends together and we did a framing skit with a Ouija board, and summoned up Mark also directed the host segments which featured me, Mark, Penny Maple, Kitty Killton and Mic Bradford. Our music is courtesy of The Jasons, Radio Cult, HARRAH and The Possum KIngdom Ramblers. Plus we have some quick and sloppy animation from yours truly.

You can read the detailed original production notes HERE, and come back next week for several hours worth of locally-produced Halloween tomfoolery.

Spend An Hour In The Haunted Disco

The PopCulteer
October 23, 2020

Friday at 2 PM on The AIR we bring you the spooky 13th episode of MIRRORBALL, hosted by my lovely wife, Mel Larch. This frightening edition of MIRRORBALL debuts a week before Halloween Eve at 2 PM on The AIR. and that’s followed by two great encore epsodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat.  You can hear all this good stuff on The AIR website, or just click on this embedded radio player…

Since MIRRORBALL‘s 13th episode falls so close to Halloween, Mel Larch decided to put together a special episode filled with scary Disco hits. It turns out that was easier said than done, but we did finally pull together enough scary dancefloor hits (without resorting to playing “Thriller,” which isn’t really Disco) and you’ll be thrilled with the results. Check out the playlist:

C J & Co. “Devil’s Gun”
Hot Blood “Baby Frankie Stein”
Addrisi Brothers “Ghost Dancer”
The Vamps “Disco Blood”
Champs Boys Orchestra “Tubular Bells”
David Shire “Night On Disco Mountain”
Cerrone “Supernature”
Hot Blood “Soul Dracula”
Walter Murphy “Toccata and Funk in D Minor”
Manhatan Transfer “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone”

You can tune in at 2 PM (Eastern time) and hear the latest edition of MIRRORBALL. The plan is to drop a new episode roughly every other Friday afternoon, until Mel gets tired of doing it, or people stop listening.  MIRRORBALL will also be replayed Friday night at 10 PM, Saturday at 7 PM (part of a mini-marathon), Sunday at 11 PM and Tuesday at 1 PM. We’ll probably sneak in a few more airings during the week.

This is the first year that we’re not making a big deal out of Halloween on The AIR. This episode of MIRRORBALL is the only new Halloween program we’re creating for 2020. Basically, 2020 has been such a horror show that I’m already pretty sick of all the terror and scariness. Maybe I’ll regain my enthusiasm for all things macabre and gloomy after we’re not dealing with a global plague anymore.

We will bring you encores of some of our Halloween specials from previous years next Friday and Saturday, and I’ll run a Halloween edition of The RFC Flashback tomorow and on October 31, but except for that, I’m ignoring the holiday this year.

I’m ready for Christmas. If things go well the week after Halloween, I may put my tree up on November 4. This year Christmas has a special meaning. It means that there’s only one week left in this god-forsaken mess of a year.

5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands Photo Review

The PopCult Toybox

A few weeks ago I told you about the new 5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands from Zuru. These are an extension of the 5 Surprise Mini Brands that I was raving about, which are not only a great and affordable blind-box collectible for kids and adults, but are also a godsend for scale-model dioramists who work in larger scales like 1/8, 1/6 or 1/4.

These are great blind-box toys, with five surprises (hence the name) in each package.  The price (Suggested retail price of $6.99) is low enough that these are affordable for everyone, and will make great stocking stuffers. These should be available from Walmart, Amazon, Target, Books A Million and more, starting in November.

Thanks to the kind folks at Zuru, I got my hands on some of the new 5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands a couple of weeks before they should start showing up in stores and online. These things are a blast, and are going to appeal to even more collectors than the regular Mini Brands. We’re going to do a quick photo review right now.

Boasting a collection of great licenses, with tiny miniatures from Nickelodeon, Crayola, Wham-O, Rubik’s Cube and Zuru themselves, this first series is an absolute treat. The Nickelodeon license means that they have toys from SpongeBob Squarepants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nicktoons, Dora The Explorer and more. I am greatly amused that they included a minature version of the 5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands. It’s always cool to go meta with your collectible toys.

With the original 5 Surprise Mini Brands, the miniatures brand-name items were scaled-down versions of the packaging. However, since a lot of toy packaging has visible or touchable items inside, the items in 5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands are way more elaborate, with many containing miniature dolls or action figures inside tiny blister packs, and some of the boxed items even have little plastic recreations of the toys included inside.

I have to say, I’m impressed. They could have gotten away with putting flat cardboard toys inside, but many of these mini toy packages include actual miniature, three-dimensional and painted figures. Some of them are just miniature boxes, but I think close to two-thirds of them include an actual teensy toy inside the package.

Because these are packaged like the other 5 Surprise collectibles, there are limitations on the size of the items. This means that they have a wide variety of scales–wider than the original 5 Surprise Mini Brands.

After all, everything has to be small enough to fit inside one of the five cool segmented compartments.

While most of the Toy Mini Brands will work well with 1/6 or 1/8 scale action figures, some are even smaller. The Hula Hoop had to be small enough to fit in the 5 Surprise ball, so it’s about the right size for Green Army Men. The Frisbee would work for a 1/12 scale figure.

Regardless of the size, these are really cool toy versions of toys.

Let’s take a look at how tiny these are…

That Dora Figure is maybe an inch tall, and posts six paint ops. The Fingerlings package includes a full-color printed (both sides) backerboard, a half-inch-long figure, a blister pack with a paper insert and two stickers. You can see how tiny these are against the ruler.

Some of the 5 Surprise Toy Mini Brands packages include shopping carts, shelves or, as seen here, a couple of paper shopping bags. Meanwhile, check out the level of detail on the Robo Alive and the XShot Reflex dart blaster. That Rubik’s Cube is just the right size for GI Joe or Barbie (although the solid gold one doesn’t present much of a challenge). Continue reading

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