Friday, April 28, 2006

Local Wrestling Under Assault

RCW (Revolutionary Championship Wrestling), the Portsmouth-based independent wrestling federation is facing a crisis. Their show, which airs every Saturday at 4 p.m. on WHCP WB30, is scheduled to go off the air at the end of the month. WHCP has chosen not to renew the contract that has brought local viewers some very entertaining local wrestling for the last year. Unless the management at WHCP changes their mind, tomorrow's show will be the last.

RCW has been a fun little treat. Some of the talent from IWA East Coast has turned up on their shows, and this half-hour program was a nice alternative to the slick WWE programming that dominates TV. I can't understand why WHCP would want to kill off the only locally produced programming that they air, since their newscast was found floating belly-up at the top of the TV set back in February.

RCW would continue promoting events and selling DVDs of their shows, but losing TV would cut off a lot of their fans, who can't travel to southern Ohio to see their live events.

RCW is suggesting that their fans contact the station to show support. You should be polite, and courteous, and it would probably be smart not to mention that you read about his here in PopCult, since WHCP seems to have a problem with us.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Uglydoll

"They're so ugly that they're cute!"

You've heard that before. You may have even said it a few times. That's the premise behind Uglydolls, stuffed animal monsters that are so ugly, that you just know that kids are going to love them. Created by Dave Horvath and Sun-Min Kim in 2001, these 12" plush critters sell for around 20 dollars (lately, smaller versions have been released that sell for less) and they've been cropping up on the outer fringes of "cool" culture for the last couple of years. Debra Messing, Robin Williams, Nelly and designer Todd Oldham have all been spotted toting these lovable beasties.

There are a dozen Uglydolls, with names like "Wage," "Ice-Bat" and the inseparable "Bop and Beep." You can read their individual profiles at the Uglydoll website. Kids love ugly toys, and Uglydolls have the added appeal of being a hot pop culture item, too. In addition to the basic plush, you can now find vinyl versions of the Uglydolls and even Uglydog.

Google will take you to several dozen online retailers that sell Uglydolls, but locally, you can find them at Kid Country Toys. Go hunt them down. Ugly is the new pretty.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Animated From New York...It's Saturday Night!

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Ambiguous Animations

This Saturday a rare television event will occur--NBC will broadcast an episode of the long-running Saturday Night Live which stands a good chance of being really funny and entertaining from beginning to end! How do we know this? This week, Saturday Night Live is a special compilation show that collects 90 minutes of Robert Smigel's "Saturday TV Funhouse" shorts into one convenient spot. There will be new introductory segments hosted by Ace and Gary, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo," their first appearance in four years.

Ace and Gary are voiced by Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell, who were virtual unknowns when they first took the roles. Robert Smigel, the creator and writer of these animated shorts, has gone on to greater notoriety as the voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. The shorts range from poignant (the Christmas cartoon, where Jesus returns and is repulsed by everything he sees, until he catches the Peanut's Christmas special) to silly (The Ex-Presidents), but they're all worth watching, and short enough that, unlike the typical SNL skit, they get to the punchline before the audience loses interest.

"Saturday Night Live's TV Funhouse" airs Saturday at 11:30 PM on NBC.

Kids' WB News

Word on the Saturday Morning cartoon front: This fall, when netlets The WB and UPN merge into The CW, the Saturday Morning cartoon block will be called "Kid's WB on The CW". The network is dropping Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh, after years of declining ratings. New shows include new versions of "Tom and Jerry" and "Scooby Doo", and a cartoon version of DC Comic's "Legion Of Superheroes", which oddly enough, will not be in the same style or continuity as their recent appearance on the JLU cartoon.

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Thursday night is supposed to be the last night that Adult Swim shows "Saved By The Bell". We can only hope for two things: First, that the ratings were so low that they take the master tapes of "Bell" and bury them in a landfill; Second, that this was all just a really sick joke on the part of the Adult Swim guys, maybe making fun of the idiocy of Cartoon Network starting to show live-action films. Next week, the midnight Monday-Thursday timeslot on Adult Swim will be filled with The Oblongs, which was a really funny short-lived prime time cartoon a few years ago. The theme song was by They Might Be Giants, and Will Ferrell provided the voice for the limbless dad. It's well worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Son Of Great Moments In Cross Marketing Stupidity

If the Hello Kitty Fender Guitar wasn't bizarre enough, then how about lining up this fall so you can buy the Chrysler 300C Personal Computer. According to Brandweek Magazine, we're going to be treated to a PC that features a base unit shaped like the popular overpriced gas-guzzler. The hard drive is inside the 21-inch-long car replica, and the disc player tray pops out from under the distinctive front grille.

It's going to sell for $1,500, which puts it about 500 bucks higher than comparable computers that don't happen to look like toy cars. However, for that extra five C-notes, you get special features, like the option of having the computer make revving-up sounds when you turn it on. The desktop icons all have the winged Chrysler logo, and you can purchase custom rims for the tires. On top of that you can even have the PC make idling sounds while the computer is on, at least until you snap from the constant noise and start beating it with a toilet brush.

Initially, this special PC will be a limited run of 5,000, and it will be sold in special retail locations that cater to foolish people with too much money. It'll be interesting to see if this sort of gigantically pointless feat of cross-licensing will have any effect on the already idiotic practice of PC case modifications.

Great Moments In Cross Marketing Stupidity

Fender Guitars wants more women to get involved in playing music. They especially want younger girls to pick up the guitar, and follow in the footsteps of artists like Lisa Loeb, who endorses Fender products. So, in order to target bright, talented, introspective and mature young women who might want to explore the artistic wonders of the electric guitar, Fender has decided to design a guitar that they think will appeal to intelligent, serious, budding young female artistes.

They took one of their cheaper guitars, painted it pink, and slapped a decal of Hello Kitty on it.

It's the Hello Kitty Fender Guitar, and they honestly think that this will sell girls on the idea of becoming a rock star. Because, when you think of ROCK, you think of Hello Kitty.

Makes you wonder if Mattel wanted too much money to license Barbie: Fairytopia to Fender.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Song Of The Week: Magical Misery Tour

Courtesy of Paul Hipp and the folks at the Huffington Post, this week's SOTW is a fresh take on The Beatles' classic "I Am The Walrus," filtered through the recent spoutings of our Commander In Chief: "I'm The Decider." Right click and save to download, or click here to see the lyrics while you listen.

"Walrus" is one of my favorite Beatle tunes, and normally, the thought of it being sung by Dubya would be stomach-turning. But this version is clever enough to overcome the inherent blasphemy.

Did I miss something?

So, I took a week off from writing Popcult (and thanks for the kind words and well wishes), and I turn on the TV Sunday morning, only to find that they were showing the movie "The Road Warrior." No big deal, except that they were showing it on The History Channel.

This was The History Channel, you know, the channel where they show programs about things that really happened, sometime in the past. In case you don't know, "The Road Warrior" is a post-apocalyptic action flick starring Mel Gibson as one of the last civilized people on Earth who fights a band of mutants in the Australian outback. It was a sequel to "Mad Max," but it was this second movie that was more successful and inspired the professional wrestlers who swiped the name.

I know I've been a bit preoccupied during the last week, but did I miss the end of the world?

Monday Morning Art

At right you see a digitally assaulted photograph of the former Mound Elementary School in Dunbar, where I first learned to write good. Click the photo to enlarge.

Now it's the Fairlawn Baptist Church Annex. Many years ago, before it was an elementary school, it was Union District High School, the first high school in Kanawha County.

And it's built on an Indian burial mound, which explains all the zombies we used to have wandering around during math class.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Mourning

The above picture is a composite that I made of my parents a few years back for their anniversary. It's their two favorite photos of each other, combined into one. I have pretty much dedicated the last fifteen years to taking care of my parents full time. Dad passed away in 2003, after a battle with leukemia. I mentioned in my sketchy bio, back when I started this blog, that I'd been taking care of Mom here at home since she suffered a major stroke in 1997. We lost Mom Saturday morning. She had a peaceful end, after fighting to live for many years more than any doctor expected.

I'll be back posting in a few days.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Song Of The Week: Hasil sings Chuck Berry

This week's Song Of The Week is a bit of an archival recording, so you'll have to excuse the audio quality. This was recorded the night that I met Hasil Adkins, back in March, 1990. It was a Friday night, and The Swivels (formerly The Swivel Rockers) were playing at the Empty Glass. All week long they promised a surprise guest, and they did not disappoint. Between sets by The Swivels, Boone County Legend Hasil Adkins got up and performed a handful of songs, sitting behind the drum kit with his guitar.

Whoever was running sound that night recorded it off the soundboard, and, with Hasil's blessing (nobody wanted to cross Hasil Adkins), I was able to play this song the next night on Radio Free Charleston. This is a dub of the air check from that episode of RFC, digitized and cleaned up a bit, but it's still pure Haze. Sure it's low-fi, but somehow the thought of Hasil in Dolby 5.1 Surround doesn't seem right.

So, travel back to that magic night when Hasil Adkins took the stage at the Empty Glass, and performed the Chuck Berry classic, "Maybelline." For more on Hasil Adkins, check out the official Hasil Adkins website, from which I swiped the above photo. I had to "Hasil-ize" it, a little, though.

Charleston Area Bloggers

I had a lot of fun last week at the meeting of the Charleston Area Bloggers, at Rick Lee's studio on the West Side. It's great to get to put faces to the names on the local blogs. They meet the first Friday of every month, and I'll post details here on the next meeting as the plans are finalized. Any local blogger, or prospective blogger, is welcome to attend.

It was a kick seeing Rick's studio, and over at his blog, you can see the first photos of me ever published on the internet--at least the first photos where I don't have robotic spider legs. Aside from the frightening sight of me, you ought to check Rick's blog for his terrific photography. The guy's a real artist.

I also got to meet two other photo bloggers who do great work: Shane Evans, who does Through The Lens; and Scott Mitchell who's behind the Entropy blog. It was also great to meet Robin S., the man who does One Stack Mind. Bob Coffield maintains the Health Care Law Blog, and is one of the deans of the local blogging community. Bob was just brimming with cool ideas and advice, and as I was leaving, he and Rick were helping set up Dale Morton, a Hurricane-based designer of way cool mascot outfits, with his own blog, which quickly got added to my everyday list.

I'm already looking forward to the next meeting, and hoping that my schedule will allow me to attend. I know that there are several other area bloggers that didn't make this get-together, so it'd be great to get to meet more of the flesh-and-blood counterparts to Charleston area blogger-egos.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

IWA East Coast: Hardcore Hangover

It was hyperactive night of incredible wrestling action as IWA East Coast put on yet another spectacle last week in South Charleston. Shoots And Ladders featured a rematch from last year, and a tremendous visitor from the East, as the South Charleston Community Center hosted nearly 300 fans of blood, guts, and mayhem. Here's the recap, with photos by Nick Gatens.

The evening opened with IWA's darling, Mickie Knuckles, venturing outside of the women's division to take on Ashland's Juggulator. Despite a valiant effort, Mickie was not able to overcome the outside interference by Jugg's sidekicks, Crowza and Woody Numbers. After the match, Ian Rotten rescued Mickie from a 3-on-1 beatdown, and challenged Juggulator to a "Loser leaves IWA EC" match at the next show, on June 7.

The second match of the night saw the team of Trik Nasty and JD Escalade take on the unstoppable monster, Warpig. Warpig won, after his handler, Dr. Max Graves, paid Escalade to abandon his partner. The score between Nasty and Escalade will be settled at the next show.

Next up, we had the terrifying Bull Pain facing hardcore legend, Ian Rotten. Bull Pain was intense, and had half the crowd shaking in their boots. Rotten was unfazed, and more than held his own against his frightening oppenent. After a brutal match that saw the Community Center's walls baptized in blood, Ian emerged victorious. After the match, Bull Pain managed to terrorize several ringside workers and ring announcer Christian Harper.

In the first of three marquee matches, former ECW World Heavyweight Champion, The Sandman, returned to face the inebriated luchadore, El Drunko, one year to the day after their legendary match at IWA East Coast's "Happy Hour Hatred." Sandman was in the best shape he's been in years, and both guys knocked themselves out putting on a great show for the fans. Sandman evened the score with a win, hopefully setting up a rubber match somewhere down the road.

The "Hell Match" was next on the card. "Mr. Insanity" Toby Klein, defeated Mad Man Pondo after smashing him over the head with a steel chair that had illuminated light bulbs attached. This match went all over the arena, and really gave the fans their money's worth. After the match, Pondo was attacked in the ring by two mystery men wearing prison jumpsuits. 2 Tuff Tony, Pondo's tag team partner in Japan, made the save, and the next show will see how well these guys can fair in a two-on-two tag team match.

The evening wound up with an acrobatic tour-de-force between IWA East Coast champ, Chris Hero, and Dick Togo, a legend in Japan who has wrestled in the WWE as part of Kai En Tai. Togo is a phenomenal, high-flying technical wrestler, and Hero was able to match him move for move. These guys really put on an exhibition for the crowd. Hero retained his championship, but after the match the crowd cheered both men, and chanted "Please Come Back" at Togo, who rarely works in the United States these days. It was a rare treat to see him live, and I hope that he decides to come back someday.

As usual, it was an
amazing, entertaining night of blood, guts, beer, and wrestling, courtesy of IWA East Coast.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Tracks East

We kick off this week with a digitally-assaulted photograph I call "Tracks East". The photo was from a batch of pictures I took in Dunbar a few weeks ago. The digital assault was done just last night.

It took some cropping, colorizing, retouching, and a quick run through the pointillism filter to get it to look like this.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Adult Swim Adds Five Shows

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Last week Adult Swim held their "upfront" meetings with advertisers, and unveiled their plans for the coming year. Since splitting off from Cartoon Network for ratings purposes, Adult Swim has ranked number one in the key 18- to 34-year-old male demographic. At the upfront meeting, executives at the network were mum on rumors that Adult Swim would completely split off from Cartoon Network and either be launched as a new channel, or move from Cartoon Network to Time Warner sister channels Boomerang or TBS. While they bring in a lot of advertising dollars, Adult Swim's "TV MA" programming is keeping Cartoon Network from being offered on the "family tiers" proposed by many cable and satellite systems. Given Adult Swim's ratings base, the only move that would make sense would be for them to move to TBS, so that they wouldn't lose a sizable chunk of their available viewers.

The real meaty news from the meeting was the announcement of five new shows that will start airing on Adult Swim later this year.

Death Clock Metalocalypse follows the adventures of an incredibly stupid Norwegian heavy metal band. It's the creation of Brandon Small (Home Movies) and Tommy Blancha. Blancha is a former writer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the WWF. For the WWF, he scripted what may have been the greatest single moment in the history of television, where an 80-year old woman gave birth to rubber hand on live TV. Sounds like a winning formula! Metallica will make a guest appearance. This show debuts in August.

Frisky Dingo (right) is a new superhero adventure series from the creators of Sealab 2021. It follows the epic battle between the evil Killface and the hero, Awesome-X. It premieres in September.

Assy McGee debuts in December. It tells the gripping tale of a renegade police sniper who has no regard for criminals or the justice system. He also looks like a giant butt. This one's from some of the writing crew for Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

Saul of the Mole Men is a low-budget puppet show about a government agent who accidentally destroys the civilization of the Mole Men. This experimental show will debut later this year.

Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil (left) actually debuted as a Halloween special last year. It's been picked up as a series and will debut late this year. This CGI creation of Loren Bouchard (Home Movies) is a delightfully irreverent chronicle of the life of the college-aged daughter of Satan.

In addition to the new shows, Adult Swim has announced the start dates for new seasons of several returning series. Robot Chicken began a run of 10 new episodes last week. Ten more will start in September. Tom Goes To The Mayor returns June 4. Venture Brothers returns June 25. 12 Oz. Mouse and Squidbillies return in September.

New Seasons of Boondocks and Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law will be scheduled to start sometime in the fall.

The ultra-popular Aqua Teen Hunger Force (right) will see a short new season begin in September, but fans will also be treated to a feature-length movie which has already been finished. The movie explores the origins of the very strange team of fast-food-item detectives.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: Mega Bloks Pyrates

This week, our cool toy is not from a small, struggling company, but I picked it because it's just way cool. Mega Bloks is a Canadian company that has successfully challenged LEGO for dominance in the construction toy world. They've done this by adapting to changes in the market, and have added elements of other types of toys to keep their construction sets fresh. Their latest toy line combines the fun of the old Marx playsets with the joy of model-building and the trendy genre of swashbuckling pirates.

"Pyrates," thusly named so that they can trademark the word, is a great series of toys that you can find in almost any store that sells toys. They come with cool fully articulated 2-inch-tall action figures in a variety of styles. Prices range from four bucks for a set of three figures, to 50 bucks for the large "Skeleton Crew" ship. The Skull-shaped playsets that sell for about eight bucks come with a CD-ROM that has a terrific 15-minute animated film that uses the toys to tell the background story of the toys.

Maybe it was the three months that I had to wear an eyepatch last year, but lately I've become fascinated with all things piratical. They're really cool. Assembling them is a nice peaceful diversion, and they look cool on the big corner table in the living room.

I've written more extensively about Mega Bloks Pyrates here. And you can check out their website here.

No Pants = Big Laughs

Last Saturday night I got to trek out to the Labelle Theater in South Charleston for an evening of improv comedy from the No Pants Players. It was a great night. The group was really hitting on all cylinders that night, and the all-ages audience was totally into their performance. For this performance, the pantsless crew was made up of Joe Wallace, Brian Roller, Tony Slack, Jason Dunbar, Jamie Dunbar, Duncan Stokes and Kevin Pauley, and they played their parts to perfection.

Last weekend, the No Pants Players worked with the "game" format of improv, which is great for audience participation and made for a very fast-paced show. I am eager to see what this talented crew can do working in the sketch form. Maybe we'll get to see that in a future show.

It's great that we can now see this sort of improv locally. Improv is a great way for young talents to develop their acting chops, and it'll be interesting to see if any big, giant, Hollywood stars come out of this group. Keep checking PopCult for news on the next performance by the No Pants Players. And don't just take my word about how much fun they are to watch. My fellow Gazzblogger Karin Fuller was also at Saturday night's show, and writes about it here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Song Of The Week: "Shingles And Tar"

As promised here, this week's Song Of The Week is "Shingles And Tar" by Three Bodies, one of the mainstays of Radio Free Charleston. From a batch of demos co-produced by Three Bodies, Spencer Elliott, and me, this one was my baby. I contributed ideas for the backing vocals, effects, and arranged the starts and stops near the end. Despite my contributions, the song was yet another mini-masterpiece by Kris Cormandy, Brian Lucas, and Brian Young. There is a story behind the lyrics, but it's faded from my memory over the last 16 years.

The images are taken from flyers I did for the band back in 1990. Above, you see that I couldn't resist the temptation to colorize one of them. The image at left shows that, before the days when I assaulted photographs digitally with my computer, my weapons of choice were Xerox machines and Sharpees.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday Morning Art: More Shadowplay

The Monday Morning Art this week is a sequel to the art that ran here. This is More Shadowplay, another digitally assaulted photograph of a fence near my house in the noonday sun. (click to enlarge)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

This week's animation news is all about Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. This is the first big-budget animated feature of the year, and expectations are high. The first Ice Age was a blockbuster, and this sequel will attempt to follow in its frozen footsteps.

There are a few changes this time: Chris Wedge, the co-director of the first Ice Age, as well as the voice of Skrat, is just executive producing this this go-around. Carlos Saldhana, his co-director on Ice Age, and Robots, flies solo for this sequel. Queen Latifah has joined the cast, as a female wooly mammoth named "Ellie." Skrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel, who stole the first movie with his brief appearances, has much more screen time in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, with a series of vignettes interspersed throughout the movie.

Advanced reviews are mixed, though generally favorable. Skrat is still a crowd-pleaser, and it seems that the chemistry between Ray Romano, Dennis Leary and John Leguizamo remains intact from the first movie. One criticism is that the film gets a bit preachy about global warming, but unless they have an unfrozen caveman Al Gore explaining it in great detail, we can't see how it could detract from the rest of the movie. We hear the highlight of the movie is a Busby Berkley-styled production number with Vultures.

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is currently playing, check the Gazz Movie Finder for theaters and times.

Battle Of The Brewery

IWA East Coast returns to the South Charleston Community Center Wednesday April 5 with "Shoots And Ladders," an evening of carnage and high-flying action.

The big match on a loaded card features a rematch, one year to the day, of the classic "drunken ladder match" between El Drunko, the inebriated luchadore, and Sandman, the beer-guzzling ECW legend. Last year these guys stole the show at "Happy Hour Hatred", and their rematch promises to be an alcohol-fueled funny car ride to oblivion.

Another match on the card is garnering international attention. Japanese wrestling legend, and former member of Kai En Tai in the WWF, Dick Togo, challenges IWA East Coast's champion, Chris Hero, in a ladder match with the championship belt at stake.

Fans will also be treated to a "3 Way Hell" match between Mad Man Pondo, Necrobutcher, and Mr. Insanity. Ruckus returns to take on Omega Aaron Draven in what promises to be an exhibition of acrobatic violence. Mickie Knuckles faces Japanese Women's legend Sumie Sakai in a rematch from last fall. Hardcore legend, Ian Rotten, goes up against Bull Pain. The newly-formed team of WarPig and Razorback, known collectively as "Freaks Of Nature,", take on Trik Nasty and JD Escalade.

IF YOU GO: Bell time is 7 p.m. April 5 at the South Charleston Community Center, 601 Jefferson Road. Tickets are $10 and $15. Visit IWA East Coast online for more details.