Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday Morning Art: The Forgotten Series

We kick off the week, after some hard fought Blogger-twisting, with "Scape Number One", the first of the series which I've been subjecting you to since last year here in PopCult.

This is a digital design of an abstract landscape--bold, yet meaningless, like all half-good art. From August 2005.

click to enlarge

Last Week In Charleston

We've had an interesting seven days here in Charleston, so while Blogger is having one of its "no, you can't post an image" snits, let's review:

Last Monday, I delivered episode two of Radio Free Charleston and it went online here at the Gazz. I'm very proud of this show, and I'm hard at work on episode three. Kudos to Steve Beckner and The Sleeping Dons for treating us to fantastic music, and thanks to Frank and Brian for their animated bits. Special thanks to my mole at Warners for getting me the sneak peek at the new Batman trailer.

Tuesday was a quiet day, except for me discovering a slow leak in the shutoff valve to my water main.

Wednesday some rich jerk ate an expensive dinner in South Hills, yet it somehow was deemed newsworthy. You can read an insider's take here, courtesy of Hippie Killer. I suppose that, if the wait staff had died of heat exposure while trapped in the bus without air conditioning, it would have been an act of aggression, like the suicides in Gitmo.

More importantly on Wednesday, I got to have dinner with Mel at Graziano's downtown, then checked out The Sleeping Dons at the Vandalia, where they valiantly struggled to perform in a room full of jabbering lawyers. The band was great. The lawyers, not so great.

On Thursday, this week's Toy Of The Week arrived from Hong Kong. You'll have to wait until later in the week to see what it was. It is cool, though. Friday was spent waylaid by a toothache.

Over the weekend, something....different happened. I have been actively scouting bands to appear on Radio Free Charleston. For only the second time since I've been going to listen to bands (over the last twenty years), I had to excuse myself and take off without meeting the band and offering words of encouragement. They were just so bad. I'm not going to name them, in the unlikely event that it was just a bad night, but man, I don't think I'll be giving them a second chance unless I'm forced to at gunpoint. I had to come home and crank up some vintage Beatles just to get the awful noise out of my head.

Ending on a happier note: I also got to babysit my nearly-five-month-old nephew, Willy, and pulled out an old radio broadcast of Radio Free Charleston, from which I will harvest this week's Song Of The Week. Also cool this weekend, but sadly not online, Rusty Marks had a fantastic article in the Sunday Gazette-Mail about the Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville. Any fan of vintage toys owes it to themselves to seek this out. Rusty always does a wonderful job, and it was great reading about this cool local attraction. I've been meaning to go since the museum opened five years ago, but I don't make it up that way very often. Rusty's article makes me want to plan a special trip.

So it was an interesting week, from the debut of RFC episode two, to a visit from our puppet-in-chief, to bad music, to babytime and a neat article on Marx Toys. It's amazing how interesting your week can seem when you're killing time waiting for Blogger to allow you to post your Monday Morning Art.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Disney Goes Krogering

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

According to a report in the latest issue of Brandweek, Disney is partnering with Kroger to introduce more than 100 Walt Disney branded "healthful" food items. This will be a Kroger-only "private label" brand, so it's quite a marketing coup our local dominant grocery chain. This new Disney food label will be pitched as a healthy alternative to junk foods, and will include water, low-sugar juice, yogurt, meat, cheese, bread, pasta, soup, veggies, and portion-controlled ice cream treats.

Disney characters appearing on the packages include Woody and Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story," Dash from "The Incredibles," Mike Wazowski from "Monsters Inc," Tigger, Winnie The Pooh, and Mickey Mouse. This is the first time that Disney has partnered with a food retailer for an entire line of products. Essentially, Disney's kid's line will become Kroger's fourth in-house "private label" brand. It comes at a time when Disney is allowing their relationship with McDonalds to come to an end, signaling that perhaps they're concerned with the possibility of Disney being found "guilty by association" when it comes to parent's rising concern over the effect of junk food on their kids.

Disney's healthy kids food items should start turning up soon, if they haven't already, so that they can be in place for the back-to-school push. It'll be interesting to see if this is just a cynical marketing push, or if Disney is serious about using their vast animated character library to try and influence kids to eat better. This effort goes beyond ineffective public service announcements, and actually tries to make healthier food products more enticing to children.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: Hot Wheels Silhouette

We're going retro for this week's cool toy. This is not something you can run out and buy, but it is relevant. Our cool toy this week is Bill Cushenberg's SILHOUETTE, one of the neat-looking cars from the 1960s heyday of custom car design. I wrote about The Batmobile from this era, here. The reason I picked the Silhouette is because, aside from having been made into Hot Wheels and Model kits in years past, it was also the inspiration for the car in "Ribbon Driving," the animated short by my brother Frank, which appears in the latest episode of Radio Free Charleston. See, it's all synergistic and stuff.

Read more about RFC here.

Song Of The Week: God Save The Internet

This week's SOTW is by The Broadband, an all-star, all-woman supergroup made up of Jill Sobule, Kay Hanley, and Michelle Lewis. "God Save The Internet" is a lovely plea for Net Neutrality, about which you should be seriously concerned. Go read up on it NOW!

Click on the song title, or follow the link to The Broadband to hear the song. Click on the rest of the links to learn more about the artists and the cause. This is a vital matter of free speech, and the danger of it being wiped out by greedy corporations and evil politicians. If you are an artist or musician, or enjoy the work of artists or musicians, you owe it to yourself to become educated on how this issue, which isn't getting nearly enough attention, can affect you.

This could be an historical turning point. I try not to get too serious here in PopCult, but this is really a big deal that every person who believes in the First Amendment should make a primary concern.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Behind The Scenes At Radio Free Charleston

The second episode of Radio Free Charleston is now online, over at the GAZZ TV page. Check it out and enjoy! Here are some behind the scenes tidbits about the show to enhance your viewing pleasure:

The shirt I'm wearing is an ECW shirt, featuring Rob Van Dam. I got this at the ECW show in Huntington on July 2. Later that night after leaving the show, Van Dam, at the time both the WWE and ECW Heavyweight champion, was pulled over at a speed trap in Hanging Rock, Ohio and was busted for possession of a certain illicit smokable herb popular with jazz musicians, or so I've heard. Wearing the shirt wasn't necessarily a show of support. I just liked the way it looked.

Stephen Beckner's song, "Falling Star" was the Song Of The Week last week here at PopCult. Stephen has only made a limited number of his "Apples" CD. If you're interested in getting one, drop him an email. Meanwhile, check out his Myspace page and his cool photography blog. We gotta work on getting Stephen to play out more. As a member of Go Van Gogh, he was a titan of the old radio incarnation of RFC.

The Sleeping Dons, quite popular among the commentators on this blog, do not yet have a web presence. If you want to contact them, drop me a line at and I'll get the message to them. Check out their Song of the Week here. On RFC they perform a brand-new tune about Native Americans playing baseball, "Story Of the Coyote People."

Look for more music from Stephen Beckner, The Sleeping Dons, and Whistlepunk (from our pilot) on future editions of RFC.

Of course, there's more than music to Radio Free Charleston (named after my long-departed revolutionary radio show, but with video this time, in case you came in late). We also have animation from my brother Frank and my RFC compatriot, Brian Young. The big treat this episode is the debut of the leaked trailer for the next Batman movie. We're really excited about that.

So episode two of RADIO FREE CHARLESTON is ready for viewing. We're hard at work on the third episode, which may be ready remarkably fast. Honest. Let us know what you think of the show.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Shameless Self Promotion

We kick off this week with a digitally-assaulted self portrait frame grab from episode two of RADIO FREE CHARLESTON, which should go online later today. Sure, it's cheesy and egocentric, but I never said I wasn't cheesy and egocentric. After the show goes up, I'll be posting more background information on the bands and short films, as well as other production tidbits.

Click to enlarge

PopCult note: The Cool Toy Of The Week has been delayed while I wait for it to arrive from Hong Kong. Be patient.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Animation Glut Continues

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Earlier this year, we wrote about the glut of animated features stampeding into theatres and at the moment, we're in the thick of that stampede. It's been quite a mixed bag--the ultra low budget "Hoodwinked" exceeded box office expectations in January; Disney's "The Wild" came and went with its only achievement being the footnote that, adjusted for inflation, it's the worst-performing Disney animated feature of all time; "Ice Age 2" is considered a minor disappointment, but still topped the $150 million mark. Disney/Pixar's "Cars" is humming along nicely and has already passed the $220 million mark in box office earnings. Most other animated films released this year sank like a stone, making barely a ripple at the boxoffice.

Which brings us to this week's entry, "Monster House", which brought in $23 million, good enough for second place at the box office this weekend. This haunted house story employs the same motion capture technology (and producers) used on "The Polar Express", but instead of going for creepy photo realistic character designs, a more cartoony approach was used. By all accounts, the film is much more entertaining than its plodding, padded, Christmas-time predecessor. One other element that possibly contributes to the success of this movie is that the characters are human. It seems like half the computer animated features that have come out this year starred talking animals who all seem to share the same bland sense of design.

Next week, the competition for the family audience heats up further with the release of Warner Brothers "The Ant Bully", produced by Tom Hanks and featuring character designs that look remarkably similar to Dreamworks 1998 cartoon "Antz." This movie tells the story of a sadistic young bully who burns ants with a magnifying glass, then finds himself shrunk down to their size. This film comes out of the studio that gave us "Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius." We don't know how well this one will fare, with "Monster House" going strong and "Cars" still in the top ten.

The first week of August, things get ridiculous. Nickelodeon Films releases "Barnyard", featuring even more talking animals, this time brought to life by some different members of the crew that did "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius". We can't imagine what these studios were thinking, releasing three computer animated family films on three consecutive weeks. It will be a real test of the family film market as the studios scramble to get their kid flicks in theatres before school starts. It'll be a shock if "The Barnyard" manages to draw more than $20 million total at the box office.

One other problem with the glut of animated feature films coming out this year is that so many of them look alike. Computer animation is no longer cutting edge. It's become a cliche'. That's why Disney/Pixar's John Lasseter has very quietly re-started Disney's traditional animation unit. Apparently, going back to old style animation is going to be the only way to get noticed in the future.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Radio Free Charleston Preview

Episode Two of Radio Free Charleston, featuring Stephen Beckner and The Sleeping Dons will be ready for viewing on Monday. Editing delays and technical hijinks kept us from finishing it in time for this week. However, you can check out a brief trailer below. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Song Of The Week: Falling Star

The latest SOTW is a treat from Stephen Beckner. "Falling Star" is the studio version of the song Stephen sings on the next Radio Free Charleston (which we are working on furiously).

This is a track from Stephen's new home-made CD, Apples. For information on how to get a copy, contact Stephen Beckner here. You can check out Stephen's photography on his blog here.

You can listen to a couple of songs from Stephen's old band, Go Van Gogh, here.

More No Pants Action

The No Pants Players are back in action at the Labelle Theater at the South Charleston Museum on D Street this weekend.

For a great evening of family-friendly improv comedy, with audience participation and prizes involved, get yourself down to see the state's only improv comedy troupe. The shows start at 8 PM Friday and Saturday nights. Admission is a mere five bucks, and the NPP will also have T-shirts available for the proud pants-free fan.

If you go: Admission is five dollars. The shows start at 8 PM Friday and Saturday at the LaBelle Theater, 311 D Street. South Charleston

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Vampires Of The Evening

Saturday night at the Empty Glass, area aficionados of fine cinema will be treated to a screening of Vampire Whores From Outer Space, a locally-produced epic by Eamon Hardman. As he describes it, "A group of idiots band together to defeat vampiric alien prostitutes. Raunchy sci-fi/horror/comedy/exploitation that should offend everyone at least once. " I hear it's like a Merchant-Ivory film, only with vampire space prostitutes and a bit of gore. The soundtrack includes tunes by The Pistol Whippers, Lords Of The Highway, and Pinky.

After the movie, you can stick around and catch a performance by Noizebox with special guest, the Scalliwags. Watch the film close and you'll see spaceships provided by my brother Frank. One of those actually made a cameo in the first episode of Radio Free Charleston.

If you go: The movie starts around 10:30 PM at the Empty Glass 410 Elizabeth St. in Charleston. There's a $6 cover charge, which includes the movie and the bands.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Red Bridge

More colorplay leads off the week, as I take a shot of the Dunbar bridge, colorize it, and set it against a yellow background. It didn't really take enough work to call it "digitally-assaulted," so let's just say it's "digitally-manipulated."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Free Previews Of Cutting Edge Animation

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Thanks to the magic of the internets, fans of cutting edge animation can get free sneak peeks at two cool new projects.

IGN is offering the first 24 minutes of Richard Linklatter's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. We actually didn't care much for Linklatter's previous foray into the world of rotoscoped animation, Waking Life. It was basically a sub-par arthouse flick with animated effects that served no real purpose. A Scanner Darkly is different, and suggests that Linklatter may have just been getting his feet wet with Waking Life in order to prepare himself for this project. A Scanner Darkly is a futuristic tale of drug interdiction and intrigue from the creator of Blade Runner. You can check out the first big chunk of this movie, which is currently in limited release, right here.

Mike Mignola, the cartoonist/creator of Hellboy, has a new project coming to the cable channel, Sci Fi. The Amazing Screw On Head is described as "an animated comedy" by Sci Fi. Based his 2002 comic book, it's a send up of Steampunk and Lovecraftian horror. This series tells the story of Abraham Lincoln's top spy, a bodyless head who is a master of disguise! You can watch the first episode of The Amazing Screw On Head here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: The Batmobile, you know THE REAL BATMOBILE

Short entry this week, because our cool toy is not official yet, rumors have been circulating for a couple of weeks, but reliable sources tell me that Mattel has coughed up enough money to end the feud between DC Comics and master car designer George Barris, and has secured the master toy license to produce the famous Batmobile from the 1960's Batman TV show. This car has been in legal limbo for years, as it was ruled that Barris owned the design, but not the name or the bat-insignia. There haven't been any legally-licensed toys of this most famous version of the Caped Crusaders car for over twenty years.

Now we'll finally get the full gamut--Hot Wheels, 1/18 scale desktop toys, remote-control versions and maybe (though this is a pipe dream) a version scaled for Barbie that we can steal and use for Captain Action! And it'll be the real Batmobile, not that ugly thing from the 1989 movie that looked like a Goth sex toy, or the 'roided up SUV from Batman Begins. This is the real deal--the coolest car ever built!

It won't be a done deal until the official announcement is made, reportedly at the San Diego Comic Con next weekend, but things are looking good for fans of the coolest car in the world. This is a big deal for us aging nerds, trust me. The Batmobile ROCKS!

You can read about the second coolest car in the world here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Radio Free Charleston Production Diary--Show Two

We are hard at work on the second episode of Radio Free Charleston. Last night, at the LiveMix studio, we recorded Steve Beckner and The Sleeping Dons. They'll be the musical guests on the next RFC. We're also working on a major Hollywood scoop, and of course we'll have all the unexpected visual treats designed to amaze and confuse you that you've come to know and love. If all goes according to schedule, the next episode of Radio Free Charleston will be coming your way next week!

We're also lining up guests for future shows. If you have a band, play solo music, or have some experimental films or short animated bits that you'd like us to consider, drop me a line at We're out to prove that the Mountain State is more than just country music and friends of minerals.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Song Of The Week: Wall Of Voodoo

A couple of months ago, we had "Andy Prieboy Week" here at PopCult. This included the SOTW, a review of the book he'd co-written, bonus reviews, and an explanation of who he is. To remind you, he is the former lead singer of Wall Of Voodoo. But he wasn't the first lead singer for that band. Originally, Stan Ridgeway was the frontman for Wall Of Voodoo, and it was Ridgeway who sang on their biggest hit, "Mexican Radio."

Since we paid so much attention to Prieboy, it's only fair that we give equal time to Ridgeway, so our song of the week is "Call Of The West," the title cut of a Wall Of Voodoo album, and a great example of their cinematic sound that blended Morricone with New Wave. This one is a Ridgeway tour-de-force.

And the reason we made this the SOTW this week is that next Tuesday, a reformed Wall Of Voodoo will open for Cyndi Lauper at a concert in Orange County. Nobody knows exactly who will be in this incarnation of the band, since two of the original four members are dead, one member who had been fired is complaining loudly that he wasn't contacted, and none of the other members of the band are talking.

However, in an exciting development over the last week, a photo was posted on a Wall Of Voodoo message board that showed Stan Ridgeway, shoulder-to-shoulder with Andy Prieboy. The two have never performed together, and in fact, Ridgeway hasn't performed much Wall Of Voodoo music since he left the band, so this may indicate a special union that would allow fans to hear song from the complete history of the band. It's only speculation at this point. All we know for sure is that Wall Of Voodoo, with Ridgeway included, will be performing next week. But all indications are that it might be a combination of both incarnations of the band. It would be like when David Lee Roth toured with Sammy Hagar, only with good music.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Disguise and Destruction in Nitro

I had a wild time in Nitro Saturday, as I took in my first XMCW wrestling show. It was lot of fun, seeing some of the up-and-coming area wrestling talents work their magic in front an enthusiastic crowd, but the evening ended on a shocking, perhaps even disturbing note.

But first, the show itself was a trip. This was my first time seeing most of these folks in action and I was impressed at the level of athleticism and theatrics on display. Local boys like Smokey C and Max Rock showed real star quality, while The Unholy made a tremendous fire-breathing entrance, before his three-way match with Wes Lynch and Eric Steel. I was excited to see Death Falcon, since I'd been hearing about him for some time, but he factored into one really weird turn during the evening. It was a fun show, and I'll probably be going back, but during one of the night's main events, something bizarre and unexpected happened.

The Kid, a miniscule, but vicious fellow, was facing Alan Lynch, the XMCW champ. However, he was not alone. He had Death Falcon in his corner. It was a particularly brutal match, with plastic tubs filled with barbwire coming into play, and Death Falcon getting in more than a few shots on the outnumbered champ. At one point, Lynch was on his back outside the ring when an elderly gentleman who had been at ringside in a wheelchair all evening rose shakily from his chair, and tried to help Lynch to his feet. It seemed like a touching, uniquely West Virginian moment, until the old guy (who looked like a Civil War Veteran) started beating on Lynch and then delivered a snap suplex. The now three-on-one beating continued back in the ring, where the "old guy" removed his disguise to reveal that he was, in fact, Danny Boyd--West Virginia filmmaker, author, and photographer.
Now, I've known Danny for over twenty years. And I knew about his fascination with professional wrestling. It even led him to become a professional wrestler a couple of years ago. His flirtation with professional wrestling was covered in a documentary film last year. But we all thought Danny was done with this. He left XMCW fifteen months ago. He made a hero's exit. He left as a good guy. It was a bit of a shock to see him return to the ring--now that he's pushing fifty--in such an underhanded way. It's almost like the world of professional wrestling has changed him. He's gone over to the dark side. I know Danny's friends are worried about him. I just don't know where this will lead. It was a strange ending to a fun evening.

Photo credit: Susan Lively

Monday Morning Art: Drew Redux

For our weekly art blog this time we're going back a couple of weeks to FestivALL, where Drew The Dramatic Fool was peforming on Capitol Street. I caught a few moments of his act on video, and this is the resulting digitally-assaulted frame grab.

It's another exercise in color composition and image manipulation.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Writer's Best Friend

Two years ago, when I was hunkered down in my office bunker working on a particularly grueling deadline, I had a steady stream of folks knocking on my front door in a two-hour period. There were two kids selling fundraising crap, a seedy-looking guy asking if I wanted my lawn mowed, a hippy chick selling candles and incense, a Jehovah's Witness, two ladies from a Baptist Church from Nitro (poaching potential parishioners from the Baptist Church two blocks away, I guess), and a young lady selling magazine subscriptions for Jesus who seemed frightened by the rabbit in my yard (the young lady, that is, Jesus fears no rabbits, or so I'm told).

"Does the bunny bite?" she asked me, her voice quivering. Unfortunately, I didn't think the vicious attack bunny would scare off any other unwanted visitors, and the constant interruptions were driving me nuts, so I did something drastic. I composed a little note and posted it on my front door. I haven't been bothered since.

Who know those people could read? The bit about not changing our beliefs because a stranger comes to our door was lifted from Mark Evanier, who writes a blog that I visit every day right here. Mark cracked me up yesterday with this suduko post. The solution is here.

Two years of peace, all because of one little piece of paper taped inside my screen door. Sometimes curmudgeonliness pays off.

Hypothetical Legal Question

I was just wondering, if a court ever ruled that contracts or release forms signed under the influence of drugs or alcohol were null and void, due to the incapacity and impairment of the person signing, would that mean that the Girls Gone Wild people would have to go out of business?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Songs Of The Week: Go Van Gogh

We're taking another deep dip back into the Radio Free Charleston archives this week--all the way back to 1989. Go Van Gogh was the most-requested local band on my old radio show. Made up of two sets of brothers, all four members of the band were capable of singing lead, and they also wrote their own material, which includes some of the finest rock songs the Charleston area has produced. In addition to a rabid local following, the boys would often pop into the RFC studio late at night, as seen above. The composite photo depicts (L to R): Johnny Rock, Tim Rock, and Stephen Beckner. Mark, Steve's brother, didn't make it to the studio that night. This week's main SOTW is "Shut Up, I Love You," written by Stephen Beckner. It was easily the most-requested song during the eight months that Radio Free Charleston was on the air. This recording is a demo of the song, I believe, from late 1989. Steve sings lead on this tune.

As a bonus this week, PopCult also brings you Go Van Gogh performing The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus." This is one of my favorite Beatle songs, and this recording was captured live, at the Charleston Playhouse, with Mark Beckner on lead vocals. It was recorded especially for the old radio show.

Stephen Beckner is currently living in Elkview and racking up photography awards by the armful. You can check out his blog here. He's also still writing songs, and will be on a future episode of the new Radio Free Charleston video podcast. Mark Beckner is living in Nashville, and performing and writing songs with his band, Hitchcock Circus. The Rock brothers are still here in Charleston and they're cooking up a new musical project. As soon as more details emerge, I'll tell you about it here in PopCult.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Reminder: The Sleeping Dons

I don't want to kick up another firestorm in the comments section or anything, but since we featured The Sleeping Dons performing our song of the week a couple of weeks ago, I figured some of you might want to go see them in person.

The Sleeping Dons, Sean Richardson (left), Jay Lukens and Deron Sodaro will be performing during happy hour (7:00 PM to 8:00 PM) at The Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday in July, starting tonight. I'll be there to check out one of the most charismatic bands in Charleston, and you might want to go hear the guys, too.

Correction: The start time for the happy hour sets by The Sleeping Dons is 5:30 PM, not 7:00. They're still playing until 8:00 PM. Sorry about that guys, your second set sounded great tonight!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


More than sixteen years after office politics killed Radio Free Charleston, my greatest creation has returned! You can go to this page, click on the little TV, and see the new video webcast of RFC.

Yes, it's a video show, but we're calling it "Radio Free Charleston." I wanted to keep the name, even though technology has caught up to my original vision. RFC will bring you the best music, experimental film and video, and comedy from the Charleston area's most daring performers and artists. It'll all be wrapped up in a tight little ten-or-fifteen minute package. I'll be hosting RFC from various locations around town.

The pilot episode features the alterna-bombastic rock of Whistlepunk and the comedy stylings of the No Pants Players. Coincidentally, I got to enjoy live performances by both last weekend. You can read up on Whistlepunk here, here, and here. I've written about the No Pants Players here and here. It was a kick having these two groups of talented folks on the first webcast of RFC. The No Pants Players will be bringing their improv comedy to future episodes on a regular basis, and Whistlepunk will return on future shows as well.

We're already hard at work on more episodes of RFC, and have an exciting slate of musicians, comedy bits and short filmic fits of weirdness lined up. We're also working on an amazing scoop for our second episode, which will be ready by the end of the month. So go check out the show, and let us know what you think. And check back here in PopCult for more tales and music from the archives of the original Radio Free Charleston. Later this week, we'll bring you some vintage Go Van Gogh from 1989.

So go check it out, and feel free to use the comments to let me know what you think.

Cartoons Back From The Dead

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

It's a special, but short edition of Animated Discussions this week, as we note two animation revivals that are on the television horizon. Following the phoenix-like resurrection of Family Guy, two other recent brilliantly-executed animated TV shows are coming back, though one is still iffy. Family Guy, Futurama, and The Oblongs were all dropped by network television after poor ratings performances due to idiotic programming decisions. Since their respective demises they have found far greater success on Adult Swim and with DVD collections of their episodes.

Futurama, which was a major hit on FOX until they started shuffling it around the schedule for no reason, will return on Comedy Central in 2008. This series, which tells the story of a pizza delivery guy who was cryogenically frozen on New Year's Eve 1999 and then thawed out one thousand years later, ran from 1999 to 2003 on FOX, but then found new life on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. Comedy Central managed to finagle the rights to the Futurama reruns (they move to their new home next year) and has gone one step further, and ordered 13 new episodes, which will air beginning in 2008. The original voice cast had already signed on for a series of direct-to-DVD movies, so it was no problem rounding them up for the new shows. What's not clear is if the DVD movies will even happen now, or if they'll just shift gears and start producing the new episodes of the TV show.

The Oblongs may also make a return. This is less certain, but there's been a lot of buzz about the new Frankenstein Network, The CW (made up of body parts from the deceased WB and UPN netlets) considering bringing back The Oblongs based on the recent strong ratings that the series has earned on Adult Swim. This is still in the early talking stages, and there's some question if they can still afford the cast, which includes Will Ferrell and Jean Smart. The Oblongs was a ultra-cool show, sporting a theme song by They Might Be Giants, and telling a tale of mutant lower-class valley folk that would make the Munsters flinch. It'd be great to see more episodes.

Cool Toy Of the Week: Pirate Booty!

For this holiday edition of Cool Toy Of The Week we're going to revisit a couple of previous cool toys that we've written about, since they've been updated as official and unofficial tie-ins to the highly-anticipated movie"Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

First up, we have Mega Bloks, the folks who make PYRATES playsets. Their Pyrates toys must have caught the eye of somebody at Disney, because without much pre-release fanfare, Mega Bloks has released a slew of nifty playsets branded as "Pirates Of The Caribbean" toys. I wrote about Pyrates here, and the elements that made those toys cool are all present in the new movie tie-in toys. What's even cooler is that they've managed to capture a decent likeness of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow on a tiny little two-inch action figure. If you like the movie, you may just love the toys. As with Pyrates, there are a variety of price points in the toy line, ranging from seven bucks to more than fifty dollars for the more involved ship playsets. This line is in most toy stores right now.

WizKids has also updated their "Pirates of the Spanish Main" constructible card game with a new expansion series that adds elements of the supernatural to the swashbuckling game play. You can read what I wrote about this cool game here. More details on "Pirates of Davy Jones' Curse"can be found here. For this update to the game, in addition to the cool ships and forts you can build, WizKids has added SEA MONSTERS! Sea life doesn't get much cooler than this. "Pirates of Davy Jones' Curse" can be found at major retailers and hobby shops everywhere.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Laidley Tower

We kick off the holiday week with a digitally assaulted take on one of Charleston's more striking landmarks. This is a poppity-art version of the Laidley Tower, rendered as a splash of color uncharacteristic for the monolithic steel-and-glass structure.

Click to enlarge

Special note: The "Cool Toy Of The Week" and "Animated Discussions" will make special appearances tomorrow, to celebrate the 4th of July!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Whistlepunk Photos

The scene was loads of fun just a few hours ago at the Vandalia Lounge, as Whistlepunk tore through a rip-roaring set of killer original tunes and well-chosen alternative covers. It's late, so I'm going to let the photos do most of the talking.

Whistlepunk is:

Spencer Elliott


Dan Jordan


and Brian Young


You can hear a sample of Whistlepunk as last week's Song Of The Week, and any day now, you'll be able to see them on the pilot episode of Radio Free Charleston.

As an added treat, Sean Richardson, of The Sleeping Dons, joined the band for a classic song from his days as lead singer for Strawfyssh, one of the favorite bands of the original RFC era. You can catch The Sleeping Dons at the Vandalia Lounge for Happy Hour at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday in July. And you can hear a sample of their music here.

It was a great night for alternative music in Charleston. A late night, too. Time to go to bed.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Song Of the Week: Whistlepunk

I wrote about Whistlepunk a few weeks ago, when I caught their show at the Vandalia Lounge. This Saturday night, they return to the Hale Street hot spot with what promises to be another evening of bombastic acoustic alternative rock.

On top of that, Whistlepunk is also the first musical guest on the soon-to-premiere internet video show version of Radio Free Charleston! (The news about that was buried at the bottom of this post, in case you missed it.) To thank the guys for being on our first show, and to give you readers a sample of their sound, Whistlepunk provides our Song Of The Week, "Falling Down."

If you go: The show starts Saturday evening at 10:30 at the Vandalia Lounge. There will be a minimal, but yet-to-be determined cover charge.

A Fine FestivALL Weekend

Saturday Morning, Mel and I took in the sights and sounds of FestivALL. We particularly enjoyed seeing the No Pants Players, Drew The Dramatic Fool, and the way cool catfish installation on Fife Street. The whole Art Fair atmosphere on Capitol Street was terrific.

The Bloggerazzi were out in full force. You can check out the Gazz photos at the Downtown WV blog and the WV Photo Blog, but there are also cool pics available from Scott Mitchell at his Entropy blog, On Location With Rick Lee, Jackie Lantern's Saved By The Torso, and Dale Morton, the man who made the naked catfish which were decorated by local artists, has more shots of the fish at his cool blog.

Local blogger Oncee and Gazz Editor Doug Imbrogno both have screen grabs from the Taylor Books Gazzcam that show Mel's bright orange hat in the lower left corner. I was standing to her left, just out of camera range. Oncee has been keeping a pretty comprehensive round-up of FestivALL coverage going over at his blog, and has also uploaded his own photos, which you can read about here.

In the afternoon, Mel had a surprise visit from a 60-pound Sulcata Tortoise that lumbered through her yard. It moved pretty fast for a Tortoise. Turns out that it belonged to a neighbor, and had escaped. I didn't think it looked native. This thing was huge! We were afraid that it might get hit by a car, but then we figured that it might do more damage to any car that hit it than the car would to to it I entertained fleeting thoughts of taking it home and using it as a dinosaur for my GI Joes, but sanity prevailed. As of yesterday, the hefty beshelled reptile was back home with its family.

Later that night, it was off to a short film festival in the front yard of Steve and Amee Beckner's house in Elkview. Steve was the main songwriter for Go Van Gogh, one of the most popular bands that I used to play on Radio Free Charleston many years ago, and he's still writing tunes. Along with the cool live-action and animated shorts, we had a sneak preview of the new video version of Radio Free Charleston, which will debut online any day now here at The Steve has posted a photo of the get-together on his blog, which you can see here. I'm way back at the top of the photo, sitting in front of WVSU Media Professor Steve Gilliland. Steve Beckner will be performing on a future episode of RFC, and next week, the song of the week will be a Go Van Gogh classic from the RFC archives.

Sunday, we had to forego the monsoon-drenched coolness at FestivALL to attend a couple of private events, a birthday party and a memorial service (talk about Yin and Yang), but it was still a fun day. Hopefully, for FestivALL next year the weather will be a bit more cooperative. My only complaint about FestivALL was that there was so much stuff going on that it was hard to take it all in. As far as complaints go, that's not a bad one to have.