Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter

IWA East Coast returns to the South Charleston Community Center on June 7 with "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter," another classy evening of refined mayhem. The big name guests for this evening of ring magic include Matt "Brother Runt" Hyson (AKA: Spike Dudley from WWE), The Blue Meanie of ECW fame, and Tracy Smothers, who has wrestled all over the world for every major company.

Hyson will take on Warpig, the monster who's demolished almost every opponent he's faced in IWA East Coast. Hyson's reputation as "the giant killer" will be tested mightily as he runs up against the Kosher Colossus. An interesting side note: My "Animated Discussions" cohort, Melanie Larch, helped IWA get in touch with Hyson. She'd been trading emails with him since his "Spike Dudley" days. We can call her "Booker Mel" now.

Blue Meanie and Smothers will face each other in a dance-off. At least, that's the idea. Nobody will be shocked if violence somehow ensues. Meanie is famous for his dancing skills, while Smothers is known for his short temper. There's no telling how long Smothers will put up with Meanie's disco hijinks. Meanie has just returned to the ring following major lung surgery earlier this year, so it'll be interesting to see if he can shake off the ring rust should the dance turn dangerous. Meanie is the guy who was singled out by WWE wrestler John Bradshaw Layfield last year and had his face half ripped off by WWE's top locker-room bully. This happened at the "ECW One Night Stand" event, and led to Meanie getting a short-term deal from WWE, to forestall any legal actions.

The most anticipated match of the night sees hardcore legend Ian Rotten facing off against Ashland's Juggulator in a "loser leaves IWA East Coast" match. This match will feature barbwire-wrapped baseball bats, and the loser will be gone from IWA East Coast forever! The outcome of this match is a huge question mark with massive repercussions. Juggulator is local, and has a decent following, but Ian is not only a legend--he owns the ring that IWA East Coast uses. The loss of either man could be a major blow to the organization. Ian is also coming off a year that almost saw his forced retirement. He suffered a major concussion in 2005, and wasn't supposed to get back in the ring after that. Anyone who thinks wrestling is all fake should meet Ian, and take a look at his forehead. He's got the better part of two decades worth of scars to prove how "fake" wrestling is.

Also on the program: Trik Nasty seeks revenge against his former partner J.D. Escalade. Mad Man Pondo and 2 Tuff Tony team up to face the mysterious Hane Brothers. "High" flyer, El Drunko, takes on "high flyer" Omega Aaron Draven. "Mr. Insanity" Toby Klein takes on Brain Damage in the first ever "Cheese grater on a pole" match. Fans will be treated to all that and more, next week.

This will be a fun evening, and we should enjoy IWA events at the South Charleston Community Center while we can. There are rumors that the Community Center's management isn't too keen on keeping IWA East Coast in their arena. It'd be a shame if they allow their squeamishness to drive IWA East Coast to another building, since it's such a good fit where it is. Fans might want to stop by while they're at the show and tell the building's management how happy they are that they can see IWA shows in such a nice place.

If You Go: IWA East Coast presents "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter" starting at 7 PM, Wednesday June 7 at the South Charleston Community Center, 601 Jefferson Road. Tickets are $15 and $10 and can be purchased at the door, or in advance at the Cold Spot in Dunbar.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Bloggers Meet

The Charleston Area Bloggers group met Friday at Taylor Books on Capitol Street. It was a small, but cool group (well, except for me). Rick Lee was there, as was Scott Mitchell, both of whom I met at the previous CAB meeting. I finally got to meet Oncee, whose blog I've been reading for months, and the highlight of the meeting was a visit from Sharon, who writes the excellent Adventures Of A Domestic Engineer blog, which is a bright spot in the blogosphere. As the meeting broke up, Bob Coffield, who writes the Health Care Law Blog showed up. Rick took photos, as did Sharon. This meeting was called on the spur of the moment, so the turnout was less than usual, but it's still great to get together, put faces to the names behind the blogs, and exchange ideas on the art and science of blogeration. We'll have to try and get the word out more next time.

Congrats to MShane,
creator of Through the Lens, who was otherwise occupied over the weekend, and didn't make the meeting.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Bonus Photo

In honor of there not being much going on for me on this Memorial Day, here's a bonus photo, of the KRT Bus Station on the West Side. It is a digitally-assaulted photograph. I just assaulted this one in a more subtle manner than I usually do. See if you can figure out how. Click to enlarge.

Monday Morning Art: Randolph Street

This week's Monday Morning Art hails from the West Side of Charleston. It's a digitally assaulted photograph looking Westward down Randolph Street at the intersection with Florida Street. This is the way the streets look to me. Click to enlarge.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: Dig This!

This week we're taking an educational turn with our cool toy, but don't worry, it's still fun. Our pick is the I Dig line of playsets from Action Products International. These are little (or big) hunks of rock that come with the tools needed to chip away at them until you reveal a fossil, arrowhead, or other nifty treat within. It's a cool way for kids to learn the techniques of fossil recovery and excavation without digging holes all over your front yard. These are perfect for the budding archeologist or burgeoning tomb raider. The prices aren't too bad, either. Small kits start at around five dollars, but some of the more elaborate kits sell for more than 50 bucks.

You can order these directly from API here, but if I recall correctly, these can also be found at the gift shop in the Avampato Discovery Museum at the Clay Center.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Animated Blogosphere

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

There seem to be blogs out there on every topic, so it's no surprise that there are thousands devoted to animation. We're going to check in on three Spumco-related blogs today, and we'll check back with more animation blogs in the coming weeks.

All Kinds Of Stuff is the blog of John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy and Ripping Friends. John's blog isn't just a repository for plugs of his work and upcoming projects, John K. has also been sharing his vast knowledge on animation history and technique. This blog is updated several times a week, and it's all meat, no filler. John also gets more comments than any other blog we've seen. Any prospective animator, or fan of the art form, should bookmark this blog and visit it every day.

Funny Cute is the work of Katie Rice, a Spumco newcomer and protege of John K, who worked extensively on the most recent episodes of Ren & Stimpy. She specializes in drawing cute girls, and shares her work with her readers on a regular basis. Katie's been doing her blog longer than the other Spumco folks, and it's a safe bet that she may have inspired the others to claim their own little corner of the blogosphere.

Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner was just launched last week by legendary animator Eddie Fitzgerald, a longtime John K. cohort, and the possessor of the famous "clean hand" from the days when Nickelodeon fired Spumco from Ren & Stimpy. On this blog, Eddie will share funny drawings, poetry and whatever else he feels like doing. It's going to be a blog to watch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Charleston Area Bloggers Want You

CAB5, the fifth gathering of Charleston Area Bloggers, will take place Friday May 25 at the coffeshop in Taylor Books. Bloggers will be meeting between 8 and 9 AM. I was lucky enough to attend CAB4 (as seen in Rick Lee's blog, here), and I'll be at Taylor Books Friday morning. The meeting is open to any blogger in the Charleston Area (extending to the entire state, really). It'll be a fun meeting of the minds. Maybe we can get a record turnout this time.

Being Evil

Go ahead, follow this link. It'll stick in your head for days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Song Of The Week: New Bluegrass

This week's SOTW, in honor of this weekend's Vandalia Gathering, is a cool little tune by progressive bluegrass band, The Yonder Mountain String Band. "Left Me In A Hole" is a lament to a lost love from their 1999 CD "Elevation." Despite the sad subject matter it's an uptempo song with bright folksy vocals.

I first discovered the Yonder Mountain boys last year, when they provided the highlight of a CD tribute to the Beatle's "Rubber Soul" album. On checking out their website, I was mightily impressed. I'm not normally a big fan of country-leaning music, but occasionally a bluegrass band will cut through the twang, and get to me with their musicianship. The Yonder Mountain String Band manages to stay true to traditional bluegrass instrumentation while bringing a fresh approach to arrangements and vocal harmony. They manage to do this without giving in to typical Nashville gloss and phoniness. As they say in their press kit, they're "bridging the gap between bluegrass and rock."

Our SOTW is not from their latest self-titled CD. The new CD takes the band even further into new musical territory. Best of all, you can hear their new CD for free. It's streaming in the background when you visit their website. While visiting their website, you can also order their CDs and buy merchandise. I don't know if these guys have ever been on Mountain Stage, but if they haven't, they should be. They have the perfect sound for the show. They seem to be circling West Virginia for the next week, with shows in Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. Maybe we can get them to play here some time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday Morning Art: A Very Sunny Day

This week's Monday morning jumpstart art is "A Very Sunny Day In Dunbar." It's a digitally assaulted photograph of the recently-dismantled vacant Ames Department Store in Dunbar. I took this photo last week, but thought it would look better with a surreal sky and giant sun. The sun appears courtesy of NASA. click the image to see it bigger

Friday, May 19, 2006

Over The Hedge, Under The Radar

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Dreamworks' Over The Hedge opens this weekend, and it may be lost in the rush as crowds flock to "The Da Vinci Code" instead of taking in a fine family flick. Based on the comic strip, which has been running in the Sunday Gazette-Mail lately, all indications are that this is a fun, well-made little cartoon, but it may not be "flashy" enough to compete against summer blockbusters.

Initial reviews are generally positive, but not enthusiastically so. "Over The Hedge" just doesn't seem to be a big summer movie, despite an all-star cast that features Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell and William Shatner, among others. It's an indication of how far computer animation has come that the novelty has worn off. It's not special any longer, and it's going to take more than computer-animated cute little animals to stand out. The ad campaign for this film hasn't been as ubiquitous as those for CGI cartoons usually are. Those ads that have run don't make the film look much different from all the other CGI animal cartoons that are out there. Does anyone remember Disney's "The Wild?"

With Ice Age 2 closing in on 200 million dollars, and Pixar's Cars due out next month, it's possible that "Over The Hedge" could wind up lost in the glut. With the low-budget but heavily marketed Hoodwinked out on DVD this week, this could be a case of really bad timing for Dreamworks.

And that would be a shame. "Over The Hedge" is a sweet little cartoon that acts as sort of an origin story for the comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis. The writers and directors of the movie actually treated the source material with respect, which is rare for adaptations of comic strips or comic books. The designs had to be tweaked somewhat to be translated into 3D modeling, but they really seem to have stayed true to the spirit of the comic strip. Let's hope that "Over The Hedge" doesn't wind up as box-office roadkill.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Bush Bop Bag

It's never good to kick a man while he's down, but with the Bush Bop Bag, you can at least punch the president in the nose, while his poll numbers are at rock bottom. This is a fresh take on the old inflatable bop bag, only instead of featuring Bozo the Clown, it features a different bozo.

Produced by Rocket USA, a company that's also cool enough to make toys based on Futurama and Family Guy, this punching bag of the punching bag in chief can be found online at Cool Cheap Stuff and Amazon. You can usually find this particular bag of hot air for less than 20 bucks.

Think of this as a less risky way of expressing your true feelings over the war in Iraq, the price of gas, the erosion of our civil liberties, or the way he pronounces "nuke-yoo-ler." You can wail away at will without the fear of being dragged to the ground by the Secret Service and then whisked away to a secret prison where you'll be tortured and forced to listen to Dick Cheney croon "Volare."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Day At The Races/ A Night At The Opera

It's a stretch, but any tenuous link that lets me work in a cheap Marx Brothers reference in the headline is worth making.

Saturday, the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in horse racing's famed Triple Crown, takes place at Pimlico, which is a fun word to say, wherever the hell it is. This is a very big deal for some people. Not as big a deal as the Kentucky Derby, because there seems to be less alcohol involved, but it's a big deal nonetheless. NBC will be showing the big race at 6:14 PM, which means that you can watch it, then get dressed and head on over to the Clay Center.

Because at 8 PM, for one night only, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra presents Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro, which has a plot worthy of the aforementioned brothers Marx. It's a race to the altar, as Figaro tries to wed his bride-to-be before she's bedded by a philandering Count. This will be an elaborate version of the opera, with the Symphony at full strength under the baton of Maestro Grant Cooper. Director Richard McKee brings us a full staging, bolstered by the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, and several guest soloists.

If You Go: The Marriage Of Figaro kicks off at 8 PM at the Clay Center, Saturday May 20. Tickets start at $12 for the general public, with discounts for students. Call 561-3570 or visit the Symphony's website for more details.

A Flashback To The 60s

Friday night, West Virginia Patriots For Peace presents a benefit concert Celebrating The Fabulous 60s at Christ Church United Methodist on Quarrier Street in Charleston. This promises to be an incredible evening that rekindles the spirit of protest music from the turbulent Vietnam era.

Songs And Words Of Protest features Julie Adams and Colleen Anderson, along with the Carpenter Ants, Larry Groce, John Lilly, Kate Long, Ron Sowell and more. It kicks off at 7:30 PM, but the doors open at 7 for pre-show face painting. Bell bottoms and tie dye are the recommended attire as our loyal protest group aims to take us back to the days when more people had the energy to be passionate about government outrages.

You've probably seen the Patriots for Peace holding their weekly vigil outside the Library downtown, protesting the Iraq war. Now that the vast majority of the country agrees with their position, maybe a good crowd will come out and enjoy an evening of great music and free speech.

If You Go: The concert kicks off at 7:30 PM at Christ Church United Methodist, 1221 Quarrier Street, Charleston. Suggested donation is $10, for more information call 345-0427.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Song Of The Week: Caravader

This week's SOTW is not really a song, it's an instrumental -- but it's a good one! Caravader is a big band blending of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" with music from Star Wars. It's by The New Morty Show, one of the more enduring of the mid-90s swing revival bands.

While bands like The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Royal Crown Revue, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were garnering critical acclaim and decent record sales, The New Morty Show worked the live circuit, not releasing their first CD until 1998, after the boom went bust for new swing music. However, they are still plugging away, and have released three fine albums with a mix of traditional big band swing and oddball swing-styled covers of tunes like "Enter Sandman," and "White Wedding."

You can buy New Morty Show CDs here, and for booking information, go here. Meanwhile, check out the swingin' tune!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday Morning Art: The Shadow

We kick off this week with a self portrait in shadows. "A Man Called Rudy" looks like the title card, if there were a detective show with that name produced by Quinn Martin back in the early 70s. Shot on Washington street, outside the post office back in January, and colorized a few weeks ago, this is just an exercise in color composition. Click to enlarge.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Big Weekend For Animation On TV

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

This is a huge weekend for television animation, as we get treated to a bevy of fresh, first-run episodes of classic shows, and an overnight treat of classic anime. Here's your guide to a cartoon-filled weekend:

Miyazaki Redux on TCM

Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, Turner Classic Movies is running a double shot of Hayao Miyazaki classics, Princess Mononoke, from 1997 and 1998's My Neighbor Totoro. We wrote about these previously, and they're well worth staying up late, or setting your timer to record. Princess Mononoke starts at 2 a.m., and My Neighbor Totoro follows immediately thereafter.

The End Of The Justice League?

Justice League Unlimited wraps up its run Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network. This series has been one of the best animated treatments of the super hero genre ever, and it's a shame the way Cartoon Network has shunted it around the schedule and buried it. They recently started running it on their sister Boomerang, which is great for those of us who want to tape them all without commercials, but it's also a pretty strong statement that Cartoon Network never planned to support the show. Boomerang, of late, has become a graveyard for shows that the CN execs don't like.

However, this series finale is a fitting one, with a huge climactic battle between the good guys and the bad guys, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. There are strong rumors that the League will be brought back as a series of 90-minute "movies." We can only hope. This is the classiest super hero cartoon on the air.

Fox Sunday

Sunday night, we get a nearly-three-hour block of animated programming from Fox, spoiled only by the series finale of the "I didn't know that was still on the air" Malcolm In The Middle. A Simpsons repeat opens the night at 7 p.m. The season finale of King Of The Hill follows at 7:30, and then a fresh episode of The Simpsons, revolving around intelligent design, airs at 8 p.m.

At 9 p.m., we get a first-run episode of Family Guy, and at 9:30, the season finale of American Dad, which details a plot to kill George Clooney.

(adult swim)

The Sunday cartoon blitz continues at 11:30 p.m. over on Adult Swim with a new Robot Chicken. Then at midnight, there's an episode of the wretchedly unfunny Minoriteam. The real treat of the night comes at 12:15 a.m. -- the first of three unaired episodes of Moral Orel. These three episodes were pulled by Cartoon Network's Standards and Practices department, and could not be shown until now. Considering that the episodes of Moral Orel that did make it to the air included included Orel reanimating the dead, getting hooked on crack and getting genital piercings, we can't wait to see what they thought crossed the line. The remaining two "lost" episodes should air in the following weeks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Beatles Bootlegs Podcast

One of the guilty joys of the Internet for Beatles fans is the explosion of what had once been hard-to-find rare recordings of the Fab Four, available now for free, just a with a click of the mouse.

The Beatlegs Podcast presents nearly a half-hour chunk of good rare Beatles music, interviews, and snippets of notable events in each episode. This podcast is currently taking a few weeks hiatus, but there are many episodes archived on the site.

The most recent show presents,
cleanly edited together, the Beatles jamming on a variety of oldies during the warm-up for the "Get Back" sessions, which ultimately resulted in the movie "Let It Be." You get to listen in as the boys run through fragments of a litany of early rock classics. They also spend a lot of time goofing on their own early hits. You'll get to hear the Beatles singing "Help" in the style of The Goon Show. They also do slow blues takes on some of their other early tunes like "Run For Your Life" and "Rain". In addition to that, we also get to hear bits and pieces of tunes that would turn up on the White Album and Abbey Road, only with alternate lyrics and arrangements. The half-hour wraps up with John and Paul singing each other's "White Album" songs "I'm So Tired," and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."

And that's just one episode. There are dozens more focusing on topics like The Mellotron, the Beatles' solo works, classic albums and more. This podcast is a MUST LISTEN for Beatles fans. With the recent legal action between the Beatles and Apple Computers, this may be the only place to find Beatles music online for quite some time.

Greetings From Toontown

Over at Cartoon Brew, Jerry Beck has uncovered the mystery behind a sudden influx of really, really cool greeting cards. They feature classic-styled Looney Tunes characters, instead of the watered-down, corporate-approved, lifeless versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and company. These are incredible throwbacks to the designs of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery. It's enough to make you start hanging out in your local Hallmark store.

Political Theater

Okay, I know that PopCult is not supposed to be a political blog, but I have to say that, if the returns hold up from yesterday's election, I am thrilled beyond belief that Dave Higgins lost in his bid to represent the Democratic Party as the candidate for the 8th Senate District in the general election. I know that both papers endorsed the guy, but I was on the receiving end of a really crude and offensive push poll from his campaign a couple of months ago, and he ran what appeared to me to be the dirtiest smear campaign, for what is essentially a piddly little office, that I've ever seen.

But it wasn't the push poll, with questions like "Would it change your opinion of Erik Wells if you knew he supported forcing first-graders to have abortions?" that made me root against Higgins. It wasn't even the fact that Higgins was one of the architects of Charleston's much-beloved User Fee. It was the recorded phone messages-- three or four a day, for the last three weeks. These were the kind of recorded messages that kept playing in their entirety, even after you hung up. Your phone was held hostage for the duration of their message, whether you listened or not. So I had selfish motives for wanting Higgins to lose. I didn't want to have to deal with those damned phone calls for another six months. They were driving me to my wits end.

Any politician who wants a free ticket to get elected should just run on a platform that includes putting political solicitation calls under the domain of the "Do Not Call List." Promise to free us from the tyranny of the automated phone-dialer, and you can ride that gravy train all the way to the White House.

I just wonder if more people would have voted for Congressional candidate Mark Hunt if they realized that sending him to Washington would have meant that he wouldn't be advertising his law firm on TV anymore. If he'd run on that platform, I think he would have won in a landslide.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In Praise Of Gasoline Alley

One of the sad truths about comic strips is that most newspapers don't appreciate or understand them. Every few years, overcome by the desire to "freshen things up" newspapers will drop long-running comic strips and replace them with newer strips, which often display an alarming lack of taste on the part of the person doing the choosing. Because of this, long-running strips like "Dick Tracy" or "Popeye" get dumped, and manage to limp along with a greatly reduced circulation, while newer strips, many of which look like they're drawn by second-graders, take their position in on the comics page, and fewer and fewer people decide to keep buying the paper.

One of these classic comic strips is Gasoline Alley. Gasoline Alley began in 1918, by cartoonist Frank King, and had the novel approach of aging its characters in real time. This comic strip saga held the attention of millions during its heyday, but many people are shocked that it's still being produced. What's more amazing is that it's still better than 95% of the comic strips being published. You can read it online here. It's one of the first things I check out every morning.

After humble beginnings as a comic strip about auto mechanics, the strip really took off when one of the lead characters, Walt Wallet, found a baby on his doorstep, and named him "Skeezix." From that incident, the comic strip evolved into a unique creation, featuring elements of soap opera, situation comedy, and adventure. With the characters aging in real time, readers have been rewarded with a huge family tree. Currently, the strip focuses on the octogenarian Skeezix and his large family. In 2004, the strip dealt with the death of Walt Wallet's wife, Phyllis, at the age of 105. Walt is still alive, but has a live-in caretaker.

Currently written and drawn by Jim Scancarilli, Gasoline Alley manages to tell compelling stories, which lately tend to deal with issues of aging. However, the strip is never boring or morose. The gentle humor and realistic elements of the stories make this one of the best "continuity" strips running today.

Long overlooked by the critical elite, Gasoline Alley is just starting to garner some respect. Collections of Frank King's early strips are being published under the title "Walt And Skeezix," by Drawn And Quarterly. Getting back to the issues I addressed in the opening paragraph, if the Gazette ever wants to revamp their comics page, and turn it into a revenue-generating circulation-booster, I'll volunteer my services as an expert in the field.

Song Of The Week: Bar Mitzvah Music

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes is one of my favorite bands. They are considered by some to be a novelty or comedy act, but musically, their stuff holds up. Their gimmick is that they take the hardcore-punkish musical chops that the various members honed in a slew of legendary So Cal Punk bands like The Swingin' Udders, Lagwagon, and NOFX, and apply them to what can best be described as "inappropriate" songs. Our SOTW is from their most recent CD "Me First And The Gimme Gimmes Ruin Johnny's Bar Mitzvah." It's the Gimmes cover of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time".

"Ruin Johnny's Bar Mitzvah" is a live album, recorded at an actual Bar Mitzvah, and includes covers of songs by Led Zepplin, The Beatles, and a couple of very special versions of "Hava Nagila" You can buy CDs by Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, and also grab a few more free MP3s at the Fat Wreck Chords website.

After taking on Singer/Songwriters, Broadway, and R&B on previous albums, the Gimmes entered the studio just last month to begin work on their next opus, a collection of Western classics.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Town Was Jumpin'

It was a busy and fun-packed weekend here in Charleston. Anybody who complains that there isn't anything to do in Charleston just isn't looking. There was too much stuff to do. Case in point:

Friday night I attended the performance by the No Pants Players at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston. Even with a truncated cast, the Pantsless crew put on a hugely entertaining show that drew fans from as a far away as Kentucky. They also performed Saturday evening. The next No Pants Players extravaganza takes place during FestivAll. Details to come.

Saturday afternoon, uncle-y duties prevented me from dropping by the book signing by Robin Boyd at Taylor Books, but I'm sure I missed a cool time. I'll have to stop by and grab a copy of her book later this week. Late in the afternoon, I tuned into the Kentucky Derby to see if the horse that shares its name with a wrestling personality (Sinister Minister) would win the big race. He didn't.

Saturday evening, Mel and I caught our Gazz Editor himself, Doug Imbrogno, along with Paul Callicoat performing as "DouglasEye" at Capitol Roasters on Summers Street. Fifteen years we've been writing for Doug, and this was the first time we got a chance to hear him sing. We were both quite impressed, even more so when we found out that this was the first time Doug and Paul had performed together. It sounded like they'd been working together for years. As we were sitting there, enjoying the performance, I realized that this was the first time that I'd been out to hear live music (not counting seeing Mel perform) in a decade. I gotta start getting out more. Thank God for smoke-free venues!

Sunday was a day of rest. Or, in my case, it was a day for the mighty hefting of large appliances and pieces of furniture. I don't think there was anything major to go to Sunday night, but with new episodes of "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," "Desperate Housewives," "American Dad," "Robot Chicken," and "King Of The Hill," who cares? There's nothing wrong with spending an evening watching great TV.

Monday Morning Art: Double Shot

This week, we kick off with a double shot of Monday Morning Art.

These are two digitally-assaulted takes on the same photograph, a simple streetscape shot in Dunbar, during a February stroll. On the left, you see "Dunbar Street 1," a straightforward version, with the photo minimally tweaked for contrast and run through a variety of filters.

On the right, you see "Dunbar Street 2," a more drastic assault, with lots of extraneous painting, and a flood-fill rainbow, created using power lines, and a different set of filters.

That's the fun of digitally-assaulting photographs: You can create an endless set of variations using the same source material. If you want to stare at them more closely, click to enlarge.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: George Lucas as a Stormtrooper

This week the Cool Toy is an action figure made by Hasbro, one of the big toy companies, but since it's a unique figure, and since getting your hands on one is going to be fun, I thought it'd be good to showcase this guy. You read about him in GazzNotes, now you can get the action figure!

It's George Lucas, as the limited edition George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise tribute figure, from the new line of Star Wars action figures. The catch is that you can't buy it in stores. As part of the Star Wars Ultimate Galactic Hunt You have to collect and send in five proof-of-purchase stickers from the new assortment of Kenner-styled Star Wars action figures. These figures harken back to the classic action figures that many of us grew up collecting. Including Lucas as a Stormtrooper is a great gag and something that will delight hard-core Star Wars fanatics.

My buddy, Derryl Depriest, brand director for Hasbro's Star Wars division explains, "As the architect of the Star Wars galaxy, George Lucas has entertained millions of fans with his classic space saga of good versus evil. The new action figure allows Hasbro to honor Lucas, the greatest character in the universe."

You'll have to buy a few specific figures to get the redemption certificate and different stickers (you can see an example on the left), and you'll still have to kick in $4.95 for shipping and handling, but you'll be rewarded with a cool, somewhat goofy action figure. You can find full details about the promotion here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Day Without Pants

As everyone knows, May 5 is a special day. It's National No Pants Day! What better way to celebrate than to see Charleston's own No Pants Players, as they treat us to an evening of fine improv comedy at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston?

Friday (and Saturday, for you stragglers) The No Pants Players ply their improv trade at the Labelle with an all-ages show that kicks off at 8 PM. Admission is a mere five bucks, and audience members who participate on stage will be rewarded with prizes from Krispy Kreme and Main Tin. I caught the No Pants Players a couple of months ago, and it was loads of fun. It's about time that we finally got some great improv comedy in this area.

If you go: Admission is five dollars. The show is appropriate for all ages. Curtain time is 8 PM, Friday and Saturday May 5 and 6 at the Labelle Theater, 311 D Street, South Charleston.

Mountain Booking

Saturday at Taylor Books, author Robin Boyd will be signing copies of her new book, The Mountain Biker's Guide to West Virginia from 1 PM to 3 PM. Robin's enthusiasm for biking in the Mountain State is evident. She says, "I've mountain biked in Europe, Africa and Australia, and all across the United States, and I stand by the fact that the best mountain biking in the world is in West Virginia."

Robin Boyd is a professor and a journalist, but she's also a competitive athlete, mom, and bicycling advocate. In the book, she tells of her favorite places to ride, all over the state, covering different skill levels and locations ranging from remote to just five minutes from downtown Charleston.

The book also features photography by Danny Boyd. Already established as an educator, film maker and wrestler, Danny adds yet another "slash," as he shows off his prowess as an adventure photographer.

The Mountain Biker's Guide to West Virginia is available at stores around the state or from the West Virginia Book Company at 888-982-7472. The book retails for 8.95.

If you go: Robin Boyd will be at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol Street, Charleston, Saturday May 6, from 1 PM to 3 PM.

So Who Is Andy Prieboy, Anyway?

Okay, I've been writing about him all week, so here's his rough biographical sketch: Andy Prieboy was born in California, raised in Indiana, and became part of the San Francisco punk scene in the late 1970s. He toiled on the fringes of the music business until he was hired to replace Stan Ridgeway as lead singer of Wall Of Voodoo, in 1985. Wall Of Voodoo had one hit while Ridgeway was the lead singer ("Mexican Radio") but were not expected to survive his exit. Oddly enough, both Ridgeway and Wall Of Voodoo went on to make better music apart than they did together.

Around 1990, Wall Of Voodoo split, and Prieboy recorded "Upon My Wicked Son," a brilliant solo debut that showed more diversity and brilliance than even his impressive work with Wall Of Voodoo had. Two songs from that album have been recorded by other artists, with great success. "Tomorrow Wendy," a song about an AIDS victim, was the only hit for Concrete Blonde, while "Loving The Highway Man" was recorded by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. You can hear Prieboy's original versions by clicking on the song titles.

In the late 1990s, after contributing a few songs to the "Mr Potato Head" children's puppet show, Prieboy took up residence at a Los Angeles nightclub and developed his "Gilbert and Hooligan" style with "White Trash Wins Lotto," a musical about Guns N Roses. "White Trash" became a hit, and productions have been mounted in Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York. Thus far, it has not been recorded or released officially. He's been working on it for eight years now, taking time out to co-author "The Psycho Ex Game" with Merril Markoe.

I'm a huge fan of his work, and thought maybe some of my readers might get a kick out of him, too. He's one of those rare birds, a songwriter of substance and humor, whose music actually means something. Andy Prieboy, go listen to his music.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Overlooked Album Of The Year: 1995

The Artist: Andy Prieboy
The CD: "Sins Of Our Fathers" (out of print)

The best album of 1995 was so poorly distributed that I couldn't find a copy until one turned up at an affordable price on eBay three years ago. I knew it was out, but I could never find a copy at the same time that I had the disposable income to pick it up. It was worth the eight-year wait. This is an epic album, musically diverse, lyrically brilliant, with a perfect blend of humor and gut-wrenching emotional wreckage. Fueled by the dissolution of a long-term dysfunctional relationship and frustration from twenty years of being bounced around by the music industry, "Sins Of Our Fathers" is a masterpiece that deserves to be ranked with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" and John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" as one of the great catharthic achievements in rock music.

A recurring theme of the album is the collapse of Prieboy's deal with MCA Records, and the desperation at having your dreams dashed and your career left in ruins. This CD would have made the perfect soundtrack for the dot-com bubble bursting and the Enron debacle. Mixed in with the songs about business are the songs about Prieboy's personal hell in dealing with his failing relationship. His drug-addicted ex is a major character in these songs. One of the admirable things is that Prieboy doesn't shy away from exposing his own faults. The song "Psycho Ex" (which you've probably heard about by now), tells the tale of an obsessed ex who doesn't want to let go. It's followed immediately by "You Cannot Not Want Me," which is exactly the flip side--Prieboy's plea to a woman who's rejected him. It's a bold move, artistically , portraying behavior as "psycho" in one song, then exhibiting that same tone in the next.

Other highlights of the album are "Who Do You Think We're Coming For," a hair-raising tune which compares an executive at MCA to a Cardinal who turned his back on Louis XIV during the French Revolution, and "When The Dream Is Over," a doomed-love song, starkly arranged with piano and strings.

Mixed in among the heavy tunes are lighter moments with Prieboy's sardonic humor and a dash of vaudeville. The musicianship is top-notch, particularly Scott Thunes (late of Frank Zappa's band) on bass. Sadly this CD is out of print, and sells for as much as sixty bucks on the secondary market. Once in a while, you may luck out and find one for less than ten dollars on eBay. It's worth hunting down.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Psycho Ex Game: A Novel

Continuing with "Andy Prieboy Week" here at Popcult, today we're looking at a novel, co-written by Prieboy with comedy writing legend Merrill Markoe: "The Psycho Ex Game," inspired by the song posted earlier here at Popcult. "The Psycho Ex Game" is a "He said/She said" book, with alternating chapters told in first person by slightly fictionalized versions of Prieboy and Markoe "Grant Repka" and "Lisa Roberty." They meet at a performance of Repka's musical, based on the romance of Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson, and strike up a bizarre email correspondence, which develops into a game, as they try to out-do each other with sordid tales of their respective "Psycho Exes." This is one compelling read. Both authors so clearly delineate their characters that you feel like you know them instantly. The game itself is a terrific device to let us get to know these people.

" From the Psycho Ex Game Official Handbook:
All points in Psycho Ex Game are self-awarded by the narrator.
Points are given based on a personal value system of
humiliation, horror, self-debasement and pain endured. "

This book is a pure delight. Or to be more exact, it's a guilty pleasure. You feel bad getting so much enjoyment out of other people's tales of misery, but Markoe and Prieboy do such a deft job of letting you inside the heads of their protagonists that you instantly relate to them.

Part of the fun of this novel is that it's so thinly disguised. Though Markoe's "Lisa" is famous for having dated "Nick Blake," a big-time movie comedian, in real-life, Markoe spent the better part of a decade as the significant other of David Letterman. I'd rather not guess wrong about the identity of "Jane Gray," the novel's name for Prieboy's psycho ex, but I think it's one of the alternative music scene's favorite divas. In the book, "Grant's" musical is about Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson. In reality, Prieboy has created "White Trash Wins Lotto," an acclaimed musical that tells the story of Guns N Roses.

This book was published almost two years ago, but managed to fly under my radar. I didn't find out about it until last week, while I was making one of my periodic checks of Amazon to see if a cast album of "White Trash Wins Lotto" had been released yet. Imagine my shock when I discovered that one of my favorite musicians had co-written a book with a comic author whom I hold in high regard. Talk about not being able to put a book down: My desire to finish reading this book mirrored "Lisa's" obsessive need to read the next email from "Grant."

"The Psycho Ex Game" has been out long enough that you can buy it now for next nothing, using Amazon's "new and used" option. I think my hardcover copy was less than six bucks, including shipping. It's the best six bucks I've spent in years.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Song Of The Week: Psycho Ex

First off, a warning: This week's SOTW is NOT "work safe."

There are f-bombs galore, and you also run the risk of laughing so loudly that you disrupt the workplace.

"Psycho Ex" is by Andy Prieboy. It's the kickoff of "Andy Prieboy Week" here at PopCult, as I abuse the blog to promote one of my favorite, overlooked, creative people. You can download the song by right-clicking on the title and saving it, or you can go here to give it a listen while you read the lyrics.

"Psycho Ex" is a pop-operetta that tells of a particularly nasty break-up. This song is the basis for Prieboy's novel, "The Psycho Ex Game," co-authored with Merril Markoe, which I will be telling you about tomorrow.

In case you didn't know, Prieboy is the singer who replaced Stan Ridgeway in Wall Of Voodoo, back in the mid-1980s. After Wall Of Voodoo split in 1990, he released a couple of incredible solo albums, the latter of which includes "Psycho Ex." Of late, he's been working on a musical called "White Trash Wins Lotto," a fictionalized account of the beginnings of Guns N' Roses. I'll have more details on that, as well as bonus songs and more, later in the week.

Ailing Cartoonist

Bob Burden, creator of The Flaming Carrot and Mystery Men, has been in the hospital, in critical condition, after emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago. He's expected to be released later this month, after winding up a week in intensive care just a few days ago. Well wishers can send cards and other missives to him in care of his publisher:

Bob Burden Best Wishes
c/o Desperado Publishing
51 South Peacthree Street
Suite 8 Norcross, GA 30071

While The Flaming Carrot has managed to exist outside of the spotlight of mainstream attention, a one-shot gag team of supporting characters was the basis of the unjustly overlooked 1999 movie, "Mystery Men," which starred Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo.

In addition to being one of the nicest guys in comics, Bob has spent the last quarter-century creating some of the most entertaining, surreal comic books on the market. He'll be out of commission for at least two months. Let's hope he recovers quickly so he can start making more bizarre comic books.

Monday Morning Art: The Rear View Series

This week's art is a series of digitally assaulted photos, arranged nicely, on a virtual canvas.

"The Rear View Series" is a collection of seven digital variations on a photo that, to be honest, was just a screw-up. I was trying to get the camera ready to take a picture while I was driving, and wound up with photo of my rear view mirror, which you can see below, on the left.

When I found that photo on the Smartcard, I decided that I liked the accidental composition when I turned it on its side, and wanted to mess around with the colors. I came up with several different versions, and since none of them stood out, I just slapped the better ones together into the montage at right. Click to enlarge.

As a bonus, you can also see the first digitally assaulted photo in this series, below, on the right.