Monday, June 26, 2006

Digitrized Art: The Summit

Today's art is a digitally-assaulted photograph of The Summit, on Summers Street. Inspired by a visit to the Marx Toys Museum website, I tried to make it look like a late-1950s tin-litho and plastic Marx playset.

Click to Enlarge

Friday, June 23, 2006

FestivALL Notes And Stuff

Let me add my voice to the chorus of folks pimping FestivALL. To be honest, I skipped last year's FestivALL--other commitments and all--but this year I'm really getting into the diversity of entertainment and arts offerings around town. I'm planning on spending a big chunk of Saturday taking in the sights and sounds of the best of Charleston's arts community.

However, with so much cool stuff going on at the same time, some of the more interesting events seem to have gotten lost in the sauce, so to speak. So rather than blog about all the cool stuff that everyone else is covering, I thought I'd single out a couple of cool happenings that could use the spotlight.

I can't understand why this hasn't gotten more attention, but Saturday evening at 9PM at the Walker Theater in the Clay Center, Marshall University Theater is putting on a production of "Tomfoolery," a musical revue based on the work of satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer. Anyone who ever listened to Dr. Demento knows the work of Lehrer ("Poisoning Pigeons In The Park" is a favorite). Melanie has been itching to do this show for years, so I'm familiar with it. I think tickets are ten bucks, and it'll be well worth it. Lehrer's songs are both intelligent and funny, and this could be a good way to cap off a fun day. Competition is fierce Saturday night, so maybe Marshall University Theater could reprise their performance in the future.

I've written about the No Pants Players several times here in PopCult. West Virginia's only improv comedy troupe will be performing "street theater" at the Capitol Street Art Fair stage three times over the weekend: Saturday at 10 AM and 5 PM and Sunday at 2 PM. If you enjoy "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" you will love the No Pants Players.

Last night I got to take in the "preview" performance by Drew The Dramatic Fool, who will also be performing at the Capitol Street Fair Art Stage this weekend. He'll be there Saturday at 11 AM and 2 PM and Sunday at 11 AM. He'll also be hosting a clowning workshop Saturday at 4 PM at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater on Summers street. Drew put on a fantastic show of semi-pantomime comedy, and anyone who enjoys laughing out loud will want to catch one of his family-friendly performances this weekend. You can read more about the dramatic fool at the Gazz here. If you like Bill Irwin, you have to see Drew the Dramatic Fool. He's a world-class visual comedian.

At the Gazz preview party last night, something else happened. Our esteemed Gazz editor, Doug Imbrogno, who co-hosted the evening with Mountain Stage's Larry Groce, made an official announcement: Under the auspices of The, I will be reviving Radio Free Charleston as an internet video show! You may have noticed some of the "subtle as a cinderblock to the face" hints that I've been dropping lately. "Hmmm...."

I delivered the pilot yesterday, and hope to take RFC weekly by the end of July. We're going to feature local music, weird short films, comedy from The No Pants Players, and more, all in a tight little ten-or-fifteen minute package. As an added, you get to see my ugly mug hosting the show. I'll have more info on Monday, including details on how you can watch Radio Free Charleston, and maybe even a production diary with behind the scenes poop on how we filmed the pilot.

"Uh, we went over there and filmed some, and then they made us leave, so we had to go over there." You know, real meaty insider stuff. Check back here at PopCult Monday, but first go enjoy FestivALL.

Cool Toy Of The Week: GI Joe Convention Set

"Heroes Unite," the 2006 Hasbro International GI Joe Collectors' Convention happens next week in New Orleans. In honor of this cool gathering, our cool toy of the week is the special convention premium set that was created for the die-hard fans of GI Joe and the Adventure Team. This set features the 12" tall GI Joe, with his recognizable face sporting fuzzy hair and a beard. "Fight For Survival: Polar Bear Attack" comes with an Adventure Team "Land Adventurer" with a new super-articulated body design. Included in the set is everything you need to have a harrowing arctic adventure: a dog sled; a team of three dogs; snowshoes; supply crates; a flag; mountaineering equipment; and a huge, articulated polar bear. The Land Adventurer comes fully-outfitted with arctic gear, including a parka with interchangeable flag patches. The set also includes a mini-comic that tells the story behind the adventure.

This is the kind of item that can inspire a mighty case of toy lust. It's being produced in limited quantities, and will primarily be sold at the GI Joe convention from June 29 to July 2. I was lucky enough to lock in a non-attending package, so I'll get mine in the mail after the convention. I believe the deadline for ordering the non-attending convention package has passed. If there are any sets left after the show, you'll be able to order them here. The price is not for the faint of heart. GI Joe club members will pay $230, non-members $280, but if you're a passionate collector, it's not a bad deal. The level of detail is incredible, and the set was tailored to the adult collector. This is one of those annual indulgences that keep the hobby fun. I know that my office display table is going to be redone in an arctic theme.

Collectors of a later era, the folks who grew up with the smaller, 1980s, GI Joe, can get their hands on a set of fifteen figures in a great presentation box. You can read more about it here. Fans of the "Real American Hero" era get an additional treat if they show up--Sgt. Slaughter, legendary professional wrestler and one-time host of the GI Joe cartoon, will be at the show signing autographs and meeting the fans. If anyone happens to be headed to New Orleans next week, stop in at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, and maybe you'll get hooked on a great hobby. And tell 'em I said "Hi."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Song Of The Week: Wild River

On Monday, I told you about going to see Setting Sun at Capitol Roasters. Since then, there have been some changes! Setting Sun has decided to change their name to "The Sleeping Dons." They're still the same three great musicians, Sean Richardson, Jay Lukens, and Deron Sodaro, but now they've got a NEW AND IMPROVED NAME!

And they were also nice enough to give me this week's Song. "Wild River" was recorded just last Saturday, at Capitol Roasters on Summers Street. This is just a taste of how great these guys sound. The Sleeping Dons will be at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday night in July, so go check them out.

Photo Essay: Goodnight Moon

We wrap up our photographic safari to The Purple Moon with four last shots that show some of the cool glassware and other sundry knick-knacks available at the only retro lifestyle store in West Virginia.

Upon entering the store, you're greeted by a ceramic sampler of cruncy retro coolness with vases, creamers, butter dishes and more examples of post-war crafts.

This cozy little corner is packed with so much great stuff that I couldn't single out any of it. Click to enlarge and explore.

A working turntable--gotta love it! I think this item is already spoken for.

Finally, we bid farewell to The Purple Moon with one of my favorite photos from my visit--a vintage Rat-pack-era bar set, complete with shot glasses, tumblers, and a Martini shaker.

Since The Purple Moon has so much cool-looking stuff, maybe I'll take the camera back up there in a few months and see what other cool items they've harvested from the recent past.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Photo Essay: More Purple

Day two of the Purple Moon photo essay focuses on cool toys, neat smaller items and some of the art that Purple Moon has available. See the first part of this photo essay here.

The Purple Moon has a wide variety of art, ranging from signed prints by Bauhaus masters to recent works by the late William Goebel. I'd show more of it, but flash photography does not work well with framed artwork.

Being a toy collector, my eye was immediately drawn to the nifty vintage robot (left) and the complete set of Marx Presidents, complete with box and book.

If you're looking for vintage kitschy costume jewelry, The Purple Moon is the mother lode. I can see several gems from the 50s, 60s and 70s in the above photo, all of them dripping with retro charm.

This neat little Asian piece screamed out for a solo photo. There are great little accent pieces like this all over the store.

Tomorrow we wrap up our photo essay with a look at some more neat glassware and other cool items.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Front Porch Photojournalism

There was a house fire in Dunbar tonight. I don't have any details, other than it was a house that I used to play in back in the 1970s. The accompanying photo was taken from my front porch. I just snapped a few pictures and rushed in here to post them, so that I could scoop TV 8. That's what they get for parking in front of my house when I have company coming. The fire appeared to be out by 9 PM. Seems to have started shortly after 8 PM. The Dunbar Fire Department does good work.

Photo Essay: The Purple Moon

Last week, The Purple Moon celebrated their first anniversary as West Virginia's only shop dedicated to vintage mid-century modern and contemporary design, furnishings, accessories, and art. Their store, tucked away at 716 Lee Street East, right in the heart of downtown Charleston is a treasure trove of atomic age delights. Chuck and Connie Hamsher have created a terrific space where Charlestonians can finally find all that cool retro stuff that we see on the Home & Garden channel when they do a post-modern weekend.

I was fortunate to run into Chuck last week when I had my digital camera with me and a few minutes to spare before meeting Melanie for lunch. So, I ducked into The Purple Moon and snapped a few shots to share with you guys. You can probably tell I love this place. I've always had a fondness for post-war design, and I've spent the last decade writing about vintage toys from that era. And so for the next three days, PopCult will present a few photos of the cooler things you'll find at The Purple Moon. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and their stock rotates constantly, so you might want to visit the store and take in all the coolness in person. Thanks to Chuck and Connie for letting me go wild with the camera. This weekend, The Purple Moon will be surrounded by FestivALL, so if you're in town for the entertainment, stop in and look around.

Today, we're going to focus
on some of the cool furniture and lamps that you can find at the store.

You gotta love sectional couches. This one's a beauty.

Eating at this table would be just like dining with the Jetsons.

The Purple Moon has a huge selection of great atomic-age lamps. This is just a tiny sample.

Very cool stuff, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Tomorrow, we'll look at some of the cool toys and artwork that The Purple Moon has in stock.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Cool Saturday Night

I found out late Friday Afternoon that Setting Sun would be doing a show at Capitol Roasters Saturday night, so I re-arranged my schedule to attend. Setting Sun is Sean Richardson, Jay Lukens, and Deron Sodaro, all old friends from around the Radio Free Charleston days, and it's been 15 years or more since I'd seen them. So, aside from the great music, this was like a reunion of sorts. I even got to see Johnny Rock and Jason Ashworth at the show, and hear about their upcoming musical project.

Sean was the lead singer
for Strawfyssh, who were favorites on the old radio show. Jay and Deron were in Mother Nang, and Deron has since been in too many bands to keep track of, most notably the Voodoo Katz. The music was incredible. Sean's voice has always impressed the hell out of me, and he's really matured as a performer over the last decade-and-a-half, with an amazing stage presence. Jay and Deron have always been rock-solid musicians, and they gelled perfectly with Sean Saturday night. Of course, Capitol Roasters is a great venue, too, being smoke-free and having a really cozy atmosphere.

The cool thing is that the guys tell me they'll be playing at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday night in July. I'll definitely try to make it to some of those shows. We may even have a song of the week from them coming up soon.

Makes me think that it might be cool to revive Radio Free Charleston, updated for the internet era, someday.


EDITOR'S NOTE: You can take a gander at Setting Sun at the Gatecrasher gazzphotoblog, as the band stopped in to make some music recently at the monthly open mic hosted by Ron Sowell at the Unity church in North Charleston, on the 2nd Friday of each month. See the pix right here.

Monday Morning Arts

In honor of FestivAll coming up later this week, PopCult kicks off your Monday with a double shot of my over-rated doodlings.

First up, we have a quickie called "The Maestro." This was done with mini-Sharpies on the back of an index card when I was supposed to be working on the script for a soon-to-be -revealed top secret project. After I scanned it, I tweaked the holy hell out of it, so that it's almost a negative of the original.

Next we have a digitally-assaulted photograph of the Huntington Bank building. I shot this while walking down Hale Street, and started playing with adjusting the brightness and contrast of isolated parts of the picture. Then I colorized it in my patented slapdash manner.

Click the images to enlarge.
You can see the original images here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: Today Is His Birthday!

Today, Sir Paul McCartney turns 64, and the mainstream media is awash with ironic headlines snarking about how the lyrics to "When I'm Sixty-Four" don't apply to Mr. Macca this year, in light of his highly-publicized tabloid fodder divorce.

Which is a shame, because by most accounts, Sir Paul is a nice guy, and he's written some of the best music in the world--music that will last long after the tabloid hacks are forgotten. To observe McCartney's birthday here in PopCult, we're making him the "Cool Toy Of the Week." You see, McCartney has been immortalized in plastic by the folks over at McFarlane Toys a few times in recent years, and these are some of the best action figures that McFarlane has put their name one.

Many years ago, McFarlane created a toy line based on The Beatles Yellow Submarine. There were two series of figures, one depicting the Fab Four as themselves in the animated classic, and the other showing them disguised as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. These were so well-received that McFarlane released them again in different packaging a few years later.

Those re-released figures sold so well that McFarlane Toys came up with a set of action figures based on the goofy, low-budget Beatles TV cartoon, from the heyday of Beatlemania. The sculptors at McFarlane managed to perfectly translate the 2-D designs for the cartoon into a workable three-dimensional object. These are cool toys, and quite collectible. And any birthday with toys involved, has to be good.

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ren And Stimpy Return...Again

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Next month (July 18, to be exact), the lost episodes of Ren and Stimpy finally hit DVD! These are the "Adult Party Cartoon" shows that were produced for Spike TV a few years ago by Ren and Stimpy's creator, John Kricfalusi, who had been reunited with his perverted cat and dog after being booted off the series by Nickelodeon back in 1992. Spike only aired a few of these new Ren and Stimpy cartoons before the winds changed and they decided to drop their animation programming. This DVD will contain all the uncensored, adult-oriented, Ren and Stimpy cartoons that John K. produced. That includes three full episodes that have never aired. These have only been screened at events where John K. has spoken, although there are lots of clips circulating on the internet. The three un-aired shows are "Naked Beach Frenzy," "Altruists," and "Stimpy's Pregnant."

You can see a nearly five-minute trailer for "Stimpy's Pregnant" here, at John K's blog.

Here's a clip from "Naked Beach Frenzy," where Ren has been mistaken for a crab by the extremely hairy lifeguard.

Below are two short clips from "The Altruists."

We've always had a soft spot for Ren and Stimpy. If not for them, we never would have started writing about animation for the Gazette all those years ago. It was nice to see John K. vindicated when he got to go back and revisit his babies in 2003. Now we'll finally get to see the second half of his triumphant return to the show that launched his career.

"Ren and Stimpy: The Lost Episodes" is going to be one killer DVD that any adult animation fan should rush out and buy. Parents will want to think twice, or even three or four times, before letting children watch this DVD. They contain nudity, profanity, and enough twisted situations to cause a parent to have to explain delicate things long before they expect to. These will be good, dirty fun. If this DVD set sells as well as we expect, Paramount may be knocking on John's door, asking for more new Ren and Stimpy cartoons.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Song Of The Week: Christmas In June...

....For Beatles Fan, at least.

This week's Song Of The Week is a rare treat. PopCult is bringing you the 1967 Beatles Fan Club Christmas record. Each year the Fab Four would go into the studio and record a little "thank you" for their fans. This was sent out free to every member in good standing of their fan club. These were fun little collages of music and comedy skits, with the guys just goofing around and displaying their trademark senses of humor. On this record, recorded after Sgt. Pepper, but before The White Album, we get to hear snippets of "Christmas Time Is Here Again," a song that was not released intact until nearly 30 years later as part of the Beatles Anthology project. Mixed in with that happy little tune are several minutes of goofiness that display a major influence on the Beatles--the classic radio comedy, The Goon Show.

Error Of Omission

Last week, I wrote a little post about the renaissance of professional wrestling. I meant to mention that one of the major components of this resurgence was the upcoming movie "Nacho Libre", starring Jack Black as a humble Monk who turns to the high-flying world of the masked Lucha Libre to earn money for an orphanage. This foray into the world of Mexican wrestling is written and directed by Jared Hess, the mastermind behind "Napoleon Dynamite". It opens this Friday. I've been a fan of Jack Black since the second episode of "Mr. Show with Bob and David" over ten years ago, and I've been looking forward to this film since I first heard about it last year. It opens Friday.

And I forgot to mention it. I had it in my notes and everything.

Bad Rudy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Brawley Walkway

This week brings another subtle digitally assaulted photograph. It's a shot of a deserted Brawley Walkway in downtown Charleston. I messed with the sky, airbushed out the people, and made one lampost red.

It's another study of minor league surrealism.

click to enlarge

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cool Toy Of the Week: CARS Playsets

In honor of our mile-long review of Disney/Pixar's CARS, the toy of the week this week is a tie-in to the movie. Specifically, the playsets based on the town of Radiator Springs. Mattel has rolled out a full assortment of toy cars in all sizes based on the characters from the movie, but the really cool item that they're creating are the playsets. These are plastic play environments that replicate the buildings and scenery from this brilliantly-designed cartoon. There is a full assortment of cool, interlocking playsets. You can find detailed models of Luigi's Casa Della Tires, Lizzie's Curio Shop, Ramon's Custom House of Body Art, and the biggie, Flo's V8 Cafe. Flo's opens to reveal a detailed interior with lights and other cool features. These sets connect to the Mountain Challenge Playset, which features a shaking mountain road with sharp curves and constant motion. This set comes with an exclusive version of Lightning McQueen. These playsets hearken back to the glory days, when toy cars came with giant garage and service station playsets. With the nostalgic designs from the movie and the obvious kid-appeal, these toys can easily bring generations together. You'll be able to find these anywhere toys are sold, and probably in a few places where they aren't. Prices range from ten bucks for the smaller sets to over thirty for the Mountain Challenge.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Movie Review: CARS

Animated Discussions Extra
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Directed by John Lasseter
Co-Directed by Joe Ranft
Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Larry The Cable Guy
Rated G
Seen at Great Escape Theatre, Nitro, WV

"Cars" is yet another near perfect film from the folks at Pixar. This time, the crew that has previously given us great stories featuring toys, bugs, monsters and fish breathes life into anthropomorphic automobiles. "Cars" tells the story of rookie race car Lightning McQueen who winds up stranded in the middle of nowhere and learns valuable lessons about how to appreciate life in the slow lane.

As with any Pixar movie, the voice cast is top notch. Owen Wilson brings just the right amount of charm and naive arrogance to the brash Lightning McQueen. It's nice to enjoy a performance by Owen Wilson without spending the entire movie trying to figure out what the deal is with his nose. Paul Newman is perfectly cast as the grizzled old "Doc", Hudson Hornet. Bonnie Hunt turns in the quintessential performance as a romantic interest for McQueen. A very pleasant surprise is that, like Jim Varney before him, Larry The Cable Guy successfully makes the leap from lowbrow redneck comedy to first-class Pixar voice talent.

Other notable voices who basically turn up in cameo roles include George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, Bob Costas, Michael Keaton and Jay Leno. Racing personalities who lend their voices in supporting roles include Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhart Jr. and Mario Andretti. John Ratzenberger, the "good luck charm" who has provided a voice for almost every Pixar feature film, voices Mack, the tractor trailer transport for Lightning McQueen. Fans will want to stay through the end credits for a series of very funny jokes, one of which involves Mack.

Also buried among the end credits is a brief tribute to the late Joe Ranft, who co-wrote, co-directed and provided two voices for this film. Ranft perished in an accident last year. He was a longtime member of the Pixar team and contributed to many other animated features, including "Corpse Bride".

As with any Pixar film, "Cars" is pure eye candy. Not only are the designs sleek and beautiful, but they're also very clever. The rock formations and mountains around the desert town of Radiator Springs look like classic auto body parts from the 40's and 50's. The cars themselves are based on real models and are perfectly suited to the characters given them. In a sense, "Cars" is one big valentine to the classic automobile designers of the 20th century.

The movie opens with twenty minutes of loud, frantic, NASCAR style action. Had the movie kept this pace, it may have been overwhelming for some people. Fortunately, at just the right moment, the action slows down and the real story begins.

While en route cross country, Lightning finds himself stranded in Radiator Springs, a small town on Route 66 which has been bypassed by a massive interstate and nearly become a ghost town as businesses close and the cars leave. A disoriented Lightning destroys the main road and is sentenced to re-pave it before he can continue on to his race, challenging for the Piston Cup.

Some reviewers have complained that "Cars" steals its plot from the movie "Doc Hollywood". Actually, it owes more to "My Cousin Vinny" and Billy Wilder's "Kiss Me Stupid". However, such comparisons are irrelevant, because none of those movies featured talking cars.

"Cars" is fun for the whole family. Small children may be taken aback by the intense racing action in the beginning and very end of the movie. But most kids will love the film, start reciting catch phrases from it, and bug Mommy and Daddy for all the toys.

"Cars" is a fine addition to the Pixar showroom. This year's model is a state of the art testament to the excellence of American ingenuity and design. We think it's the best animated feature of the year. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Wrestling Renaissance

Wrestling is a cyclical business. It gets hot for a few years, then it hits a slump, then we get a resurgence. It looks like we're on the brink of a major resurgence, both locally and nationally. Last night was a great example of this. IWA East Coast, our own local wrestling federation, put on yet another strong show, with top-notch nationally-known talent. Meanwhile, ECW, the most influential national promotion of the 1990s took another major step in their revival with a very unusual "WWE vs. ECW" show on the USA Network. Also, RCW, the local fed that almost lost their spot on WHCP, got a reprieve, and is continuing with new episodes every Saturday at 4 PM. Things are looking up for fans of watching people hurt each other.

The IWA show was another incredible night of wrestling. Charleston-area fans don't know how lucky they are to get such a high caliber of internationally-known talent to perform for them. The results, very quickly: Tracy Smothers defeated Blue Meanie in a dance-off that turned physical. "Omega" Aaron Draven won over Zach Vincent in an intense high-flying match. In the first shocker of the night, the Hane Brothers defeated Mad Man Pondo and 2 Tuff Tony in a tag match that went all over the arena. A rematch is already signed for the next show on August 2. Trick Nasty beat the newly-renamed "J. D. Santos", his former partner. Nasty moves on to face former NWA champ Steve Corino in August. "Giant Killer" Little Spike Dudley, of ECW, WWE, and TNA fame, came up short in his bid to bring down the monster Warpig, but only after a tire iron came into play. The second shocker of the night saw Ashland's Juggulator defeat Ian Rotten in a "Loser leaves IWA East Coast" match. Fans are really going to miss Ian. Topping off the evening was a bloody conflict wherein "Mr. Insanity" Toby Klein emerged victorious over Brain Damage in a "Cheese Grater on a pole" match. Klein gets a shot at IWA East Coast champ Chris Hero, for the title, at the next show. The photos from last night's show are swiped from Vengon, who posted links at the IWA message board. Thanks for those!

After the show, there was a mad dash to rush home to catch the end of the WWE vs. ECW special. Many fans are skeptical about how ECW will do, now that it's not an independent company, but rather simply a subsidiary of Vince McMahon's WWE. The ECW pay-per-view event this weekend is largely another promotional war, instead of a stand-alone ECW program. Fans will have to wait until next Tuesday at 10PM on the Sci-Fi channel to see what the "new" ECW will really look like. Will it be the real ECW, or will it be like The New Cars?

Last night was the first time that I've had the opportunity to go to the post-show IWA gathering at The Tank in Dunbar. It was a bit of a surreal night. I found myself sitting at a table with Melanie and Danny Boyd (whom I've known forever), and at different times during the night, Spike Dudley, Blue Meanie, Ian Rotten, and many of the other wrestlers who were on the card. It was a trip hearing Spike tell stories about golfing with The Undertaker, and being treated to Ian's guinea pig story. It was a real kick, and the guys were really down-to-Earth.

So it seems that we're poised for a few years of wrestling being "cool" again. IWA East Coast is growing, and putting on one fantastic show after another. ECW, for better or worse, at least proves that there is a demand for wrestling beyond "RAW" and "Smackdown!," TNA, WWE's closest national competitor, is starting to branch out and run more shows outside their base studio in Florida. Fans of violence and mayhem may be in for a new golden age as a variety of diverse and creative wrestling programs sweep across the country.

Or Vince McMahon might screw everything up again. Still, it'll be fun to watch.

Popeye on DVD, Finally!

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch


In some of the best news for animation fans ever, Warner Home Video has announced that they have finally worked their way through the myriad of red-tape and ownership issues, and will release the complete library of Popeye cartoons, fully restored, on DVD, beginning next year. Quoting from the press release: " Warner Home Video (WHV), Hearst Entertainment and King Features Syndicate have reached an agreement for the exclusive worldwide home entertainment distribution of both the classic Popeye theatrical animated shorts and the Popeye made-for-TV animated shorts. The announcement was jointly made by Jeff Brown, WHV Senior Vice President and General Manager TV and Franchise, and T.R. ("Rocky") Shepard III, President of King Features Syndicate. "

This will include the classic Max Fleisher Popeye cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s, widely considered to be among the finest cartoons ever made, as well as the later Famous Studio cartoons, and the often-bizarre made-for-TV cartoons from the 1960s, which, while fairly awful, have a train-wreck quality that makes them worth trying to watch. Warners have even licensed the rights to the downright evil-bad Popeye cartoons from the 1970s and 1980s, just so that they can release the good cartoons without competing against the dreck. The real meat here are the Fleisher Popeye cartoons, which will be fully restored under the watchful eye of animation historian, Jerry Beck. These cartoons are holy grails for animation buffs, and to finally get a chance to seem clean, restored prints is a dream that many thought would never come true.

We're already stocking up on Spinach and clearing off a space on the DVD shelf for these sets.

Animated note: Check back this weekend, and we blog our review of Disney/Pixar's CARS!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Songs Of The Week: Evil Music

In honor of today's date, 6-6-06, I'm going to bring you three truly evil songs this week. I hijacked these from April Winchell's site, and if you like truly evil music, you should read the post above this one, and follow the links. These tunes get progressively more evil, so you should take care that these don't corrupt your soul. Stroke a rosary or eat a chocolate cross, or whatever it is you do to ward off devils.

First up, we have something mildly evil. This is Donald Duck singing "Amazing Grace." You can play this to drive evangelicals and other unwanted guests from your house. Pretty evil, huh? It's nothing compared to our next burnt offering....

"Stairway To Heaven" would seem to be a heavenly song, not anything hellish. But you haven't heard it played on Banjo and Tuba, have you? What could possibly be more evil than that?

How about Eminem? Sure, he's evil--just look at him, but is he evil enough to be the Song of the Week on 6-6-06? He is if you team him up with one of the most evil forces on the planet--ragtime piano! Before you click on this, be warned that this uncensored slice of ragtime rap isn't even remotely work safe. Here's Eminem's ragtime remix of "Without Me."

The Devilish Veronica image is courtesy of artist Dan Parent. Go check out his site and buy some stuff.

April Winchell Rules!

One of the funniest women on the planet is April Winchell. It's just a fact. She's a fantastic cartoon voice talent, and has appeared on a variety of radio stations in the Los Angeles area. She's just so funny that words cannot do her justice. Now you can find out for yourself, since she's just started her own podcast, which you can find here. Depending on your office, this may not be work-safe. It may also inspire fits of disruptive laughter. Her podcast reveals her as a comedic force to be reckoned with. This is in addition to her website, which features a very amusing blog and an archive of some of the sickest, funniest music that you'll ever hear. A sampling of that appears as our Songs Of The Week this week (see the post above, but you need to go to her site and check out all the weirdness, from the bizarre covers of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to the life lessons from Fabio, it's like Dr. Demento for grown-ups.

And it IS for grown-ups.
Those of you who flinch at adult language may want to steer clear, but for the rest of us, April's site is an oasis of twisted humor tucked away in her own little corner of the Internet.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Whistlepunk at the Vandalia Lounge

Whistlepunk played a surprise show last Saturday night at the Vandalia Lounge, and I was lucky enough to be tipped off in time to catch the performance. I didn't find out in time to post anything here in the blog, but they sounded great, trust me. You can check out a couple of their songs at their MySpace page. Whistlepunk is made up of three buddies of mine from the old Radio Free Charleston days, Spencer Elliott, Dan Jordan and Brian Young. This was the first time I'd seen Spencer and Dan in over ten years, and it was a mighty fun evening. I felt like I'd been thawed out after being frozen in ice for the last decade-and-a-half.

This was also my first visit to the Vandalia Lounge. I was impressed, and it takes a lot for a bar to impress a non-drinker like me. The place is great with high ceilings that keep the smoke from getting too bad, and great big comfy couches for us to sit on while we caught the band. I'll definitely be heading back to catch more bands there in the future. I can see why people rave about the place.

It was a great time. Made me think that maybe I need to come up with some way to bring more music and cool experiences to my readers.


Monday Morning Art: Color Play

Our Monday morning art this week is a digitally assaulted photograph of a streetlight at the Summers Street entrance to Davis Square. It's another study in color composition and juxtaposition. Plus, the red skies look like something out of an early-1980s music video directed by Russell Mulcahy. All it needs is some glass breaking for no reason.

Click the image to enlarge.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Boy! That's some Squirrel!

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Squirrel Boy is a new show set to debut on Cartoon Network in July, but there have been so many sneak peeks that kids are probably already familiar with the cartoon. Created by Everett Peck, who previously gave us Duckman, Squirrel Boy is aimed at a younger audience, but in many ways it's a superior cartoon. For one thing, the quality of the animation is spectacular. It begs the question, "Why can't all TV cartoons look this good?"

Squirrel Boy chronicles the adventures of a boy, Andy, and his pet squirrel, a know-it-all named Rodney who manages to get the two tied up in a series of schemes and offbeat ventures. It's an entertaining enough premise, but the real star of the cartoon is the overall look.

The fluidity of motion and color design is better than many feature films, and the animation stands head and shoulders above almost everything else produced for television. In fact, it's a bit jarring seeing Peck's designs rendered in such a lush manner. Previously, his cartoons were produced on a shoestring budget and were purposefully crude-looking. The animation in Squirrel Boy is on par with the classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons of the 1940s, but the design work is from another era. Still, this is a classy-looking cartoon.

The voice work is impressive, too. Andy is voiced by Pamela Segall Adlon, who also provides the voice for Bobby Hill, from King Of The Hill. Rodney's voice is provided by Richard Horvitz. Squirrel Boy officially premieres on July 14, but it's a safe bet that Cartoon Network will have several more sneak previews over the next few weeks, so you may want to check their schedule regularly.

Always In Threes

We lost three vastly different, but equally great, men in the last week.

Ian Copeland was the least famous of three brothers, but he still made quite an impact on the music business. One brother, Stewart, is the former drummer for The Police, and a noted composer. His other brother, Miles, was the brains behind pioneering new wave label, IRS Records, the first home of R.E.M, among many other bands of the 1980s. Ian took care of the less glamorous side of tour management. With Frontier Booking International, he booked tours for The Police, The B-52s, Oingo Boingo and dozens of other new wave bands. It's been said that Ian Copeland was the man who brought New Wave to America. He was 57 when he succumbed to cancer last week. More details can be found here, and here.

Alex Toth was a noted comic book artist and animation designer. He'll always be remembered for designing the 1960s cartoon Space Ghost, but he also worked on Jonny Quest, Superfriends, and countless other cartoons, primarily for Hanna Barbera. Before that, Toth made his mark in the world of comic books, where he is recognized as a genius, on par with the greatest names in the business -- Kirby, Eisner, Wood and Kubert. His flawless sense of lighting and page composition makes him a true artist's artist, whose work is, and will continue to be studied by aspiring comic book artists all over the world. Heidi MacDonald writes more about Toth here. Mark Evanier, who was privileged to work with Toth, explains just exactly what Toth did here.
Toth passed away at his drawing board last Saturday morning. He was 74. Fans can leave condolences here.

Desmond Dekker was a legend of Jamaican music. His song "The Israelites" was the first worldwide hit record by a Jamaican artist, and he was a key figure in the mutation of first-wave Ska music into what would eventually be known as Reggae. Dekker died last Wednesday of a heart attack at his home while preparing for a European tour. He was 64. You can read more about his music here, and check out more detailed obituaries here and here.