The PopCulteer
May 22, 2020

We are around ten weeks into the pandemic lockdown here at Stately Radio Free Charleston Manor, and this week the PopCulteer is going to share some observations and pass along some links to help the saner amongst you pass the time while the lemmings rush back into the minefield.

I have tried not to focus extensively on the Covid-19 crisis here in PopCult because I would imagine that nobody in their right mind is looking to this blog for up-to-date information or guidance on how to deal with this unprecedented situation.

I also wouldn’t want to contribute to any misinformation in the middle of what has proven to be an exceptionally fluid set of circumstances.

It is my opinion (informed, but not infallible) that most of the country is rushing to reopen way too soon, and the results will be catastrophic. Keep in mind that this is the point of view of someone who is taking meds to suppress his immune system, so I may be more sensitive to these things than most. The fact that I rarely see more than a third of people wearing masks when I have to venture out is a signal to me that folks are not taking the threat of the virus seriously enough.

I sincerely hope that these people, who look to me like dangerous lunatics–no smarter than lemmings rushing off the edge of a cliff–turn out to be right. If they are right, then me wearing a mask just looks silly for a short time.

If I’m right, then these people will spread a deadly virus that will claim the lives of many of their beloved family members and friends.

I would much rather that these folks be proven right. I would survive the blow to my ego for being wrong about this. However, the fact that the people who ridicule those of us taking safety precautions don’t seem to have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot does not give me much hope that they have any clue what they’re talking about. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

With that out of the way, we can address some of the ways that the pandemic has changed our lives.

What To Expect In Our New World

Malls reopened in West Virginia this week, and the small number of people who ventured out discovered that not all the stores within have survived. Reports are that The Charleston Town Center has lost Books A Million, The Shoe Department and Candy Craze, and down at the Huntington Mall, two anchor stores, Macys and JC Penney, are not yet open, while Bath & Body Works decided not to renew their lease. That’s just the ones I’ve heard about. There may be more (And to be fair, some of these stores may have closed before the shutdown. I don’t think I’ve been to the Town Center this year, so I can’t say for sure).

Nationwide, it looks like maybe 15% of comic books stores will choose not to reopen following the pandemic. This is actually a lower number than people suspected would close, so there’s some optimism there.

Movie theaters may be doomed. I don’t think the entire industry will go under, but I would be shocked if all of the three major theater chains survive. Variety released a poll this week that indicated that 70% of people would be perfectly happy watching new major movie releases in their homes, with over 20% of people saying that they never intended to set foot in a theater again.

It may take years before great numbers of people feel comfortable attending live sporting events, live plays or musicals, concerts or pop culture conventions.

The most dangerous point in all this is that not everybody sees this as a bad thing. Consumers of entertainment may, like your humble blogger, come to the realization that you don’t have to see a hit movie on the first day it opens in theaters in order to enjoy it. With the cost of large-screen TVs at an all time low, people are realizing that they can enjoy movies better without having to deal with other people, waiting in line, paying too much for concessions, and not being able to pause the movie if they have to pee.

People still want to see new movies. Trolls World Tour grossed over $100 million it’s first weekend as a video-on-demand title after its theatrical release was scrapped. That’s probably more than the animated sequel would have grossed in theaters, and due to the nature of the business structure, Comcast, who owns Universal Studios, probably kept a bigger slice of the pie.

Print media is also in crisis. Readership is way up, especially for magazines and newspapers with online components, but advertising is way down. Magazines that rely on bookstores are in trouble, since the stores that sell their product have not been open. Worse yet, the businesses that advertise in their pages have also been affected by the shutdown, and the first thing they cut is their advertising. It’s the same with newspapers, so if you’ve been putting off subscribing to The Gazette-Mail online, now would be a good time to do it. It’s worth it, if only for Phil Kabler’s columns, but there’s so much more than that.

Local TV stations took a hit from this reduction in advertisers too, combined with losing ad time due to running commercial-free daily press briefings from various state and national leaders. They are starting to recoup some of that now, thanks to campaign ads, but their rates must be astonishingly low now because I’m seeing ads for candidates running for offices that used to be considered too piddly for television advertising to be feasible.

I don’t recall seeing TV ads for county magistrates or state legislators before. It’s pretty wild.

There’s Still Cool Stuff

With all that craziness going on in the world, it’s good to know that we have a few cool pop culture stories to which we can link to provide some distraction:

Vanity Fair has a great interview with SCTV legend, Catherine O’Hara, complete with photos taken by a drone, to promote safe distancing. That’s her, in one of the drone photos, at the head of this post.

The City of Charleston and Moses Auto Group will put on a drive-in concert featuring Fletcher’s Grove and Parachute Brigade, June 13 at Hills Plaza on Patrick Street. Go and enjoy the music, but stay in your cars, people.

There is a cool report that crazy sons of bitches have been criss-crossing the country at high speeds in modified cars, breaking the underground speed record of the Cannonball Run. Read this while shaking your head at how reckless it is while quietly thinking to yourself how cool it is at the same time.

Mark Wolfe alerted me to an amusing article about an Italian designer who took some of the world’s worst logos and redesigned them to be blandly acceptable instead of unintentially sexual.

A three-year-old article at Quartz that started circulating again this week tells how Henry Ford forced square dancing into schools in an attempt to keep white children from being attracted to black people’s music. This would be an attempt that backfired, since I can say for myself that forced square dancing made me develop a hatred of country music, hillbilly culture and White Supremecy all at the same time.

Our old JoeLanta buddy and maestro of the six-stringed beast, Timothy Price, has a new fingerstyle album out.

Todd Burge passes along a form letter you can send to your legislators stressing the need for support to keep our non-profit peformance venues going.

A fascinating documentary abou the woman who was the “Roe” in “Roe vs. Wade” debuts tonight on FX. The Los Angeles Times leaks the stunning revelation from the film.

I’m going to call it a column at that. I hope you don’t mind the ramblings, and remember to tune in to The AIR this weekend for several day’s worth of Radio Free Charleston.

And read PopCult for fresh content every day and all our regular features.