Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Halloween Treat

Just a quickie: The Mostly Ghostly Music Sharing Blaaahhhggg!!! brings you rare music from monster movie soundtracks and other spooky audio treats all year long. You can head over now and download the musical score to the original "King Kong," the audio storybook for "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," and the original 1938 radio broadcast of "War Of The Worlds," among other way-cool scary gems.

Happy Halloween, now scroll down this page and follow the links to the Radio Free Charleston Halloween special!

The Comic Book/Soap Opera Connection

Neither side likes to admit it, but comic books and soap operas are a lot alike. Both tell melodramatic stories and use elements that require quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. Both have rabid fans who follow the stories closely and call "foul" quickly when something violates established continuity. And both genres are treated with no small level of disrespect by the mainstream press. So it's about time that soap operas and comic books team up. Tomorrow, November 1, long-running CBS soap, Guiding Light, crosses over with Marvel Comics. An 8-page insert started running in Marvel's comics last week, and tomorrow on the show, one of the soap's characters gets super powers. Harley Cooper, a cop, and a mother of two, gets electrocuted, and gains several new abilities, which she uses to fight crime, for at least the one episode.

This is a bit of a bizarre development, and somewhat surreal for the tiny population of people who both, watch Guiding Light, and read comics. Reaction has been mixed. Heidi MacDonald has a good sampling of mainstream reaction here. CBS has a preview of the episode up here. You can also see the trailer here (scroll down). Word is that her powers go away by the end of the episode, but they're being a bit coy about whether or not they may return someday. I'm in that tiny population that follows both GL and comic books, so I'll just sit back and watch.

UPDATE: Comic Book Resources has a behind-the-scenes look at the show here. However, they do list the wrong timeslot. In most of the country, the episode airs today at 3 PM.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Winchies


I've written about April Winchell before. She's a talented voice artist, actress, and daughter of the late Paul Winchell, who was a ventriloquist (Jerry Mahoney), voice artist (Tigger), and inventor of an artificial heart valve. Of late, April has taken up sewing, and she's been selling her creations, "Winchies," on eBay, with the proceeds going to charity. Her latest batch, inspired by Madonna's recent adoptorial misadventures, are "African Orphan Winchies," complete with Kente cloth, a Kabbalah bracelet and adoption papers. A portion of the proceeds will go to Toys For Tots. You can read April's explanation at her blog, and check out the auctions right here. It's a cool little artifact, spoofing a current event, and some of the money goes to charity. Can't top that.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Production Notes RFC Halloween

Episode Eight of Radio Free Charleston, the conclusion of our two-part Halloween special is in the books. You can see it here. Be sure to check out the first part of the Halloween special here. I was killed in the first half, and you can see me revived in the second half. So sit back and read the detailed production notes, as promised.

We brought back Professor Mike, who had first appeared on episode six, to kick off the Halloween festivities with their song "Poolshark." The Mikes just put on a great show Saturday Night with Ten Carp Lie at the Blue Parrot Halloween Party. Their performance was directed by Brian Young, and taped at LiveMix Studio (the area's only DVD showcase production facility for bands).

Tim Nichols, late of The Todd Who Project, is the driving force behind BetaJesus and Pentagram Flowerbox. You can expect more of his irreverent humor aided by a crack crew of animators and collaborators on future episodes of RFC. Timmy seems to be the breakout star of Pentragram Flowerbox, so don't be shocked if we see a lot more of him as well.

The Pistol Whippers have one of the most fanatic followings of any band in town, but even their most die-hard fans must have been shocked to hear them UNPLUGGED! Guy Parker and Dirt Reynolds came in to do an acoustic number when our schedule prevented us from getting the full band. We will have the entire lineup of the Pistol Whippers on a future show. Also, the song they perform is called "Nothingville." In the show, we called it "The Clock Is Ticking," because when we gave them a clipboard and told them to write down the song title, they gave us an entire page of jokes and "thank you'" for our end credits, but forgot to give us the song title. So we had to guess. We guessed wrong.

Clownhole was a legendary new-wave band of the late 1980s, fronted by John "Sham Voodoo" Estep, who had previously been in the even more legendary group, The Defectors. I wrote about trying to track Sham down a few weeks ago, when I featured him (and me) performing the song of the week. Since then, I was able to contact him, and got his blessing to have Clownhole's massive hit, "Heads On Fire" remixed by my brother Frank, who also created a video for the song. This has been so well received that I pulled the song out of the show and uploaded it to YouTube. You can watch it at the end of this post.

I have written many times about my notoriously camera-shy significant other, Melanie Larch, who is well-known among area theater and symphony aficionados. I was able to coax Mel on-camera with the plum role of my "Fairy Ghostmother," who brings me back to life at the end of the episode. Mel's actually been the voice behind the RFC Jingle since episode two, but you can finally see her on-screen, albeit in a white fright-wig. Yes, it's the same wig I wore in last week's Local Music Report.

So there you have it. Our big epic production that wore everyone out as we delivered the two-most intensively-produced episodes of RFC within eight days of each other. I hope you enjoyed them. We will have Professor Mike and episode seven's The Concept back on future shows, and we hope to bring you the entire line-up of The Pistol Whippers very soon. Whistlepunk will also be back on RFC, and you can expect more Pentagram Flowerbox. The big news that I've saved for last, we are in the very early stages of arranging for at least a partial reunion of Clownhole, sometime before the end of the year. Stay tuned to PopCult for more details. And check out the video below.

Monday Morning Art Halloween Art And Music

We're revisiting last year's Halloween week event with a new version of a familiar digitally-assaulted photograph, "Apocalypse On The River REDUX." New colors and aspect ratio lend a new look to this vision of South Charleston bursting into flames, as seen from the Union Building.

You may also remember that last year I brought you a week's worth of Halloween music, composed by yours truly. I've been writing orchestral music for some time, but most of it sounds like the soundtrack to bad horror movies, so it was appropriate. If you'd like the check out the music from last year, and see if you can guess which pieces I used to score the Radio Free Charleston Halloween specials, follow the following links: Day One-"Oooh Scary"; Day Two-"Robot Leprechauns With LEGOs"; Day Three-"The Raven Watches"; Day Four-"Native Drums"; Day Five-"Ten Ten"; and the bonus day, which was art and music called "Apocalypse On The River." And it was that piece of art that I recycled into our Monday Morning Art this week. See, it all comes full circle.

Click the pic to enlarge. Click the title to laugh at my efforts to sell shirts with this art.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Halloween Without Pants

Friday Night at the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston, The No Pants Players present SCARETACULAR, an evening of improve comedy with a few prepared sketches thrown in as extra treats. The show kicks off at 10 PM, which means we can expect a more adult than usual performance. Costumes are welcome. Admission is a mere five bucks. Check it out, it's sure to be scarily hilarious! Ghoulish delights will abound.

If you go: The No Pants Players present SCARETACULAR. Friday October 27, from 10 PM to Midnight at the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston. Admission is five dollars.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Song Of The Week: Professor Mike

Our SOTW this week is Professor Mike doing a cover of 311's "Beautiful Disaster," recorded at LiveMix Studio when Professor Mike came in to record their performance for episode six of Radio Free Charleston. They're also going to be on part two of the Radio Free Charleston Halloween special, which will be online no later than Monday, October 30. On that show, you can also look forward to seeing a special unplugged performance from Guy Parker and Dirt Reynolds, half of The Pistol Whippers and a newly-created video for a 2006 remix of a song by legendary new wave band, Clownhole.

Speaking of Halloween, there are three big holiday-themed shows featuring the musical guests from our Halloween special taking place this Saturday, October 28. First up, The Concept, fresh from headlining the first half of our Halloween special, performs with Last Standing at an all ages show at The Alpine Theater in Ripley, beginning at 8 PM.

Meanwhile, Professor Mike will be playing with Ten Carp Lie at the Blue Parrot Halloween Party here in Charleston, starting at 10 PM. While across town, also at 10 PM, at the Empty Glass, it's the Seventh Annual Halloween Hootenanny, hosted by The Pistol Whippers.

If I were still alive, I'd be burning up all the gas in my car driving between all three shows, but if you watched the first half of the Radio Free Charleston Halloween special, you'd have seen that I met a rather grisly demise. That's led to some production delays in the second half of the Halloween special, but we'll still get it to you before Halloween proper. Look for it by Monday here at the The Gazz.com.

In case you're wondering how I'm writing all this if I'm dead....I always write a couple of week's worth of posts, just in case I'm tossed off a fire escape by an angry ghost. If you haven't seen the first half of the Radio Free Charleston Halloween special, go watch it now! And remember....

Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Virginia Street Revisited

We kick off this week with a fresh take on the first digitally-assaulted photograph that was posted here at PopCult. Virginia Street Revisited is a differently-colored take on Virginia Street, blocked into a new aspect ratio. It's brighter and less ominous than the original version.

As always, click the image to enlarge, and click the title if you'd like to buy this image. You still have time to be the first!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's Halloween! Production notes for the first of our two-part Radio Free Charleston Halloween Special!

We've got quite the Halloween treat for you, as we present the first half of our Halloween special. I'm not going to go into great detail about the host segments this time, except to say that I start out evil, and end up dead. We're still working out how to shoot around that "dead" part for the second half of the RFC Halloween special. Suffice to say, fans of the ghoulish will not want to miss this stranger-than-usual episode of Radio Free Charleston.

The music is top-notch! We have our first returning band, Whistlepunk, with the holiday-appropriate "Vampire Love Song." You can read more about Whistlepunk here, here, and here, and visit their MySpace page, here.

Our other musical guest is The Concept, one of Charleston's most energetic new bands. I found out about these guys by reading Nick2's Localmusic blog here at theGazz.com. Nick was raving about how good these guys are, and when I followed the link to their MySpace page, I found that I agreed. Then I started pestering them to come on the show, and they did. It's very short notice, but you can catch The Concept tonight at The MonkeyBar in Huntington, and Saturday at Dave's Den in Red House.

We also have public service announcements, animation (including a new Pentagram Flowerbox) and a fleeting glimpse of Captain Action! You can watch the first half of the Radio Free Charleston Halloween special (official name: "DEVO Shirt") by clicking here. Then go back and watch all the other episodes at the GazzTV page.

Here's a quick preview:

Radio Free Charleston Show 7 Trailer

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Extremely Assaulted Photograph

This week, we kick off the week with an example of what can happen when the digitally-assaulted photographic process goes a little overboard.

Looking at the picture, you probably can't tell that it was ever even a photograph. If you did, you probably think it's a close-up of germs or something, taken under a microscope. It isn't. The picture at the right? "It's A Tree." I took the original photo in my front yard.

Click the title if your taste is impaired enough to want to buy it. Or look here for more.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Song Of The Week: Early Goth for an early Halloween

In honor of Friday The 13th, which falls in the Halloweeny month of October this year, our SOTW is a bit of prehistoric Goth from a Liverpool band called "Modern Eon." Modern Eon were contemporaries of OMD and Echo and the Bunnymen, but they never quite caught on as big as those now-obscure 80s bands did.

"Watching The Dancers" is a dark, moody, yet poppy number that typifies much of the music that would go on to inspire a couple of generations of disaffected youth to shop at Hot Topic. It's from their only album, 1981's "Fiction Tales." Modern Eon disbanded in 1982. The only notable work by a former member of the band is keyboard player Bob Wakelin's career as an artist for Marvel Comics and computer game maker Ocean Software. It's too bad, since these guys were pretty much near the top of the heap when it came to this type of downbeat-yet-not-too-depressing new wave music.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

KP Makes Some "Noise"

This weekend Kanawha Players presents the comedic play-within- a-play-within-a- local-production, "Noises Off." "Noises Off" begins with a troop of has-been or never-were actors on their frantic, final rehearsal of the classic farce, "Nothing On." As the melee of actors stumble through their lines, they are tossed about by a whirlwind of calamities - from missing contact lenses and misplaced sardines to philandering lovers and a lethally-swinging axe.

Terry Terpening will appear as Dotty Otley, the forgotten starlet; Greg Morris as Lloyd Dallas, the beleaguered director; Brian Roller as Garry Lejune, the empty-headed leading man; Jamie Dunbar as Brooke Ashton, the ditsy blonde sexpot; Joe Miller as Frederick Fellows, the nervous wreck; Kate Woestman-Anderson as Belinda Blair, the busybody ray of sunshine; Sarah Rohan as Poppy Norton-Taylor, the charming, sweet, hapless assistant stage manager; Jeff Bukovinsky as Tim Allgood, the sleep-deprived stage manager; and Joe Romagnoli as Selsdon Mowbray, the bit deaf/ bit tipsy Shakespearean never-has-been. Jeff Haught directs.

Roller, Dunbar and Bukovinsky are all members of The No Pants Players, well-known to regular readers of PopCult as West Virginia's only improv comedy troupe. The entire cast is up to the challenge of pulling off this hilarious farce.

IF YOU GO: "Noises Off" plays at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater on October 13 -14 and 20-21, 2006. Tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for students 18 and under. Call 343-PLAY for more details.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Radio Free Charleston News

Reaction to episode six of Radio Free Charleston has been nearly universal in praise of our latest humble little video webcast. It seems the Professor Mike fans are really happy with the way we presented their fave band on the show. Reaction to The No Pants Players and Two Watts Of Power has also been great, and we even have some GI Joe collectors enjoying the show.

Later this week, we're bringing Charleston's hottest punk band, the Concept, into LiveMix Studio to record their song for the main event of our first Halloween episode, and we're also bringing in the legendary Pistol Whippers, who'll headline the second Halloween episode. You heard right! We're doing TWO Halloween episodes of RFC, and they'll be jam-packed with eerie goodness!

If you are so inclined, be sure to zoom by our mySpace page and add RFC as your own close, personal internet friend. And head on over to the Gazz TV page and watch all our shows over and over until we get the next episode done. If all goes according to plan, the Halloween shows will pop up online within one week of each other, with the first part hitting within ten days.

Oh, and if you like the nifty "Official Seal" of Radio Free Charleston, as seen above, you can head on over to Says It.com and make an official seal of your own!

Monday Morning Art: Even More Scape

This is Scape Number Eleven, yet another in the series of abstract landscapes-come-digital design by yers truly. This version features a more limited palette, just yellow and black, perhaps a subconscious tribute to my alma mater, WVSU. By this point in the digitally-assaulting process, the image has gone from being a splash of color intended to evoke feelings of nature to a loud, electric jolt. If it were not the eleventh in the Scape series, it could be called "Scape 2: Electric Boogaloo." Still, it might look good on a black T-Shirt.

click to enlarge

Friday, October 06, 2006

Song Of The Week:

Sean Lennon has an astounding new album out. "Friendly Fire" was released on October 3, and it's a concept album about how his girlfriend (Bijou Phillips) left him for his best friend, who then died in an accident before the two friends could reconcile. It's a stunning, emotionally gut-wrenching work, and our SOTW this week not on that CD. "Idea" is an instrumental that hints at the tender melodies that Lennon uses on "Friendly Fire."

For a better teaser for the CD, you can go to Lennon's mySpace page and listen to "Dead Meat", which recreates the ugly confrontation between the lovers with a strikingly beautiful tune.

Lennon's birthday is October 9, and coincidentally, he shares that birthday with his late father. Also coincidentally, he turns 31, which is roughly the age his father was when he recorded "Imagine." The younger Lennon bears a slight vocal resemblance to his father, but it's not as pronounced as his older half-brother, Julian. "Friendly Fire" comes with a DVD with short films for each of the tracks on the album. You can read more about Sean Lennon and his new CD at his website.

Cool Toy Of The Week: Lil' Sideshow Playsets

The latest bit of twisted coolness from Archie McPhee is their new series of Sideshow Playsets, featuring the Bearded Lady, the Strongman, Frog Girl & Lobster Boy, and the World's Tallest Man & World's Smallest Man. Recreate the long-ago days when a traveling carnival meant more than riding on unsafe rides, eating dangerous food, and having the scary one-eyed guy who runs the Tilt-a-Whirl hit on your girlfriend. You can have your own carnival right on your desktop, without feeling guilty about exploiting the sorrows of real, unfortunate examples of humanity.

To be honest, these little pseudo-action figures don't really do much. They're minimally posable, if at all, and the sculpting is somewhat less than state-of-the-art, but still, the concept is so twisted that it overwhelms the absent craftsmanship.

Each playset comes with a small plastic stage and a small square vinyl banner featuring an old-time sideshow banner. The figures are around four inches tall, give or take a few inches for various horizontally-affected characters. You can order them from Archie McPhee, which is a must-visit website for those of us who like to indulge in off-kilter gift-giving. Be warned, that at fourteen bucks a pop, these strange little hunks of plastic are ridiculously overpriced, but doesn't it make you sleep better at night knowing that these cool toys exist?

Well, if not that, then isn't it handy to know where you can get a really repulsive gift to give someone who's way too polite to act horrified when they open the package?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

10-4 Birthday Wishes!

75 years ago today, one of our most famous detectives, Dick Tracy, made his debut on the comics page of the Chicago Tribune. The creation of Chester Gould, at one point Dick Tracy was one of the most-read comic strips in the country, inspiring memorable parodies like Bob Clampett's "Duck Twacy" Daffy Duck cartoon and Fearless Fosdick, who became a recurring character in Al Capp's "Lil' Abner" comic strip. Tracy himself starred in a radio show, movie series, and cartoon show.

Dick Tracy holds up remarkably well. Gould's bizarre villains and great detective stories rank among the most entertaining comic strip stories ever told. A new series of books that present the complete adventures of Dick Tracy--printing every strip in order, from day one, is coming out from IDW Publishing. The first volume is due out in a couple of weeks, and it can be pre-ordered here. I've been a fan of Dick Tracy literally as long as I can remember. This series of strip collections is long overdue.

You can still follow the adventures of Dick Tracy every day. Dick Locher is currently writing and drawing the adventures of America's foremost detective, keeping him current by having him deal with computer crimes, terrorists and pedophile Republican Congressmen (okay, I made that last one up). If you aren't lucky enough to have a newspaper that still carries his strip, you can read it here. Personally, I have never forgiven Garfield for replacing Dick Tracy in the Gazette back in 1978. I've been volunteering my services as a comics page editor ever since, to no avail.

Another long-running comic strip has been paying tribute to Tracy for the past couple of weeks. Dick Tracy was driving through Gasoline Alley, when he stopped to solve a crime. Below you'll find Gasoline Alley cartoonist Jim Scancarelli's tribute strip from today.

October fourth is also the birthday of somebody else important--my kid sister. Happy Birthday Diana, I'm working on your cake right now!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over!

The Month That Was.

September seemed to fly by in about five minutes. There was so much stuff going on that I didn't have time to write any proper recaps. So now, in convenient capsule form, here's September in Review:

September 2--My Brother's birthday(celebrated a couple of days early). I cooked dinner, pizza, Italian monster salad, and birthday cake (lemon with chocolate icing). A good time was had by all.

September 7--Mel and I had the cover story on The Gazz, about Danny Boyd's wrestling show at WVSU.

September 8--Danny Boyd and AWA Apex present "September To Dismember" at the Davis Fine Arts Auditorium at WVSU. It was an incredible night of old-school wrestling. Danny and his partner, Death Falcon, captured the AWA Apex tag-team titles. Also, episode five of Radio Free Charleston, featuring Kevin Duffer and the Appalachian Celtic Consort goes online at GazzTV.

September 9--Mel and I attended a reception for my buddy Eric Pardue's exhibit at the Frankenberger Art Gallery at the University Of Charleston. Eric does these great mixed media collages that capture frozen stream of consciousness moments with a great balance of humor and a wonderful subdued palette. And the Frankenberger Gallery is a terrific space. It was my first time seeing it.

September 14--Fresh bagged spinach is pulled off of grocery store shelves. Our long national nightmare begins.

September 15--Opening night of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's new season. Mel and I had front-row seats to see virtuoso pianist Yakov Kasman perform Prokofiev. The symphony also treated us to Beethoven and Brahms. It was a great night, and we ran into Sean Richardson, from The Sleeping Dons, there.

September 16--IWA East Coast's day of two tournaments. An amazing day, with the Zero G high-flyers tourney in the afternoon--TNA star Sonjay Dutt captured the Zero G cup--and the Masters of Pain tourney in the evening. "Crazy Monkey" Jun Kasai won the Masters Of Pain cup, and the tournament itself lived up to its billing, with each match featuring an extreme gimmick. You can buy the DVDs of both shows here, but let me warn you about one thing: animal lovers might want to skip the first match. It was a hardcore masterpiece, and it featured one spot that will become legend, and will be talked about for years. The squeamish among you might want to look away from the screen.

Those poor lobsters!

September 21--We taped Professor Mike at LiveMix Studios for episode six of Radio Free Charleston. It was an incredible night and they are an amazing band. We'll probably have them back for one of our Halloween specials.

September 23--Mel and I went to see Jackass Number Two. It was gut-bustingly funny, but less so than the first movie. Seemed to be an awfully gay movie, though, not that there's anything wrong with that.

September 25--My Z debuted on Suddenlink, a few days ahead of schedule. Needs more local programming.

September 28--Season debut of Smallville on The CW. Just in time to wash the taste of "Superman Returns" away. This is the real Superman.

September 29--"The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged)" at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston. Everyman Players put on an extremely entertaining evening at one of our favorite local venues. After the show, we ran over to The Sound Factory to catch Professor Mike. We had to call it an early night and take off before the Mikes took the stage, but we were quite impressed with the show that A Place Of Solace put on. Earlier in the day, episode six of RFC, with Professor Mike and Two Watts Of Power goes online at GazzTV.

September 30--The reason we had to leave the show early was that we had a wedding to attend the next day. Area wrestler Atrocity tied the knot with his lovely bride, and we ended the month on a romantic note. Later that night, the new season of Saturday Night Live debuted. Dane Cook continues to impress me by managing to be the complete antithesis of funny. I've laughed more at funerals.

October will be spent napping.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday Morning Art: Warmask Two

We have a new Warmask kicking off the week this morning. It's another computer-colored Sharpie doodle from last week. "Warmask Two" is a bit Tiki-ish, yet also somewhat bulldogesque.

Anyone interested in owning overpriced shirts and trinkets bearing this image can click here. Other examples of Monday Morning Art can be found here.

As always, click to enlarge.