Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: DEATH TRAP (Interview with Matt Miner AND Laura Palmer)

Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: DEATH TRAP (Interview with Matt Miner AND Laura Palmer)

This is a special edition of our Kickstarter boost posts. We were able to speak with the writer of the latest campaign and the musician behind the video theme. This is the perfect combination of what we are about here at Pop Culture Squad.

This week we are spotlighting Death Trap. It is a comic story that will be released digitally in four individual issues and then printed in a collected edition.

What is Death Trap?

According to the Kickstarter campaign page:

Death Trap is the story of a young woman named Ollie who grew up in the Strongin Circus crime family, surrounded by sideshow freaks and weird clowns and a huge albino dancing bear named Wojtek.  Her Dad’s killed by a rival crime family at Davenport Amusements, and ends up haunting his old Mercury Cougar muscle car.  So Ollie and her dad’s ghost team up for some sweet, sweet, revenge.

It sounds super cool and the various reward tiers are full of excellent material. We are stoked to see this project get funded.  At three days into the campaign, they are at about 20% of their goal.

Continue reading “Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: DEATH TRAP (Interview with Matt Miner AND Laura Palmer)”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind 046: Life’s Little Killings

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind 046: Life’s Little Killings

According to the Washington Post, last week 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin of Peoria Arizona stopped by the Circle K convenience store on his way home from work, one of the two summer jobs he held. He had been listening to rap music in his car, according to 27-year-old Michael Adams, who is not a fan of the genre. Indeed, rap music makes him feel “unsafe.”

Adams feels this way because, according to him, he had been attacked “by people who listen to rap: specifically, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.” Adams did what many unreasonable people might do under the circumstances: he leaped out with his pocketknife at the ready, he slashed Al-Amin’s throat and then, for good measure, stabbed him in the back.

Al-Amin staggered out of the store and died by the gas pumps in front. Adams said he was being “proactive rather than reactive” and that his victim did nothing to provoke him. That’s quite an admission from a guy who had been released from prison two days earlier – without access to medication. You’d think he’d know better. You’d think he was nuts. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind 046: Life’s Little Killings”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #041: YouTube Groove-On

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #041: YouTube Groove-On

YouTube used to be an infrequent destination in the grand scheme of my internetting back-in-the-day. A must-see movie trailer? Sure. A few clips of kittens being kittens? Of course. Having a laugh at the numa numa guy, the Star Wars kid, or that one dude practicing his karate? Who doesn’t love a good chortle! But one thing I’d never considered YouTube to be for… was music. Flash forward to my surf-habits now, and I’m not the same person I once was. My subscription list is at least 3 long scrolls — including comedy channels, beauty gurus who somehow snag my attention, cooking shows, pro wrestling news and scuttlebutt, and of course: musicians.

While YouTube of course houses the professionally produced music videos of my all-time favorites (Barenaked Ladies, Guster, They Might Be Giants, and so on), a cursory glance over my internet history — YouTube only, ya pervs — would showcase a litany of indie crooners and rockers alike. Each one tripped over due to some kink in the algorithms and eventually saved into my subs box like a hoarder with stacks of vinyl. You know, except I don’t honestly pay often to enjoy these artists work; save of course for whatever fraction of a cent they earn when I let their pre-and-post video advertisements run.

This week, I thought I’d feature my top 5 musical artists I found because of YouTube. I’ll showcase the first video that hooked me, as well as a piece of whatever of theirs recently I’m grooving to. Slap some cans on your ear-holes, kiddos. Let’s rock this joint. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #041: YouTube Groove-On”

Who Are BTS? A Crash Course on the World’s Biggest K-Pop Phenoms

Who Are BTS? A Crash Course on the World’s Biggest K-Pop Phenoms

Two months ago, I would have asked the same question – “Who are BTS?” And yet a short while later, I am a huge fan, and well down the rabbit-hole of listening to, viewing, reading about, and absorbing the many, many facets of this powerhouse group – from music; to music videos with complex choreographies; to live vlogs, interviews, and fan videos; to fictional universe storylines and the connected webcomic; to reality TV shows; to solo projects; to unique cultural aspects; to live performances; to merchandise; to social media interactions and the online presence of their devoted fans, affectionately known as A.R.M.Y. 

What. The Heck. Happened??

 Simply put, I saw videos of their live performances on Saturday Night Live, and that was all it took. On April 13, 2019, BTS made history as SNL’s first K-pop musical guest. They performed two of their songs live: “Boy with Luv (feat. Halsey)”

[the peppy-sweet pop single from their latest album, Map of the Soul: Persona; and “MIC Drop”

 a more driven and aggressive hip-hop number that came out in 2017. For both acts, while singing they danced in crisply coordinated and charismatic choreographies. The performances exuded a mesmerizing group energy and yet also showcased individual talent strengths and personalities of each member, a magnetic combination that (along with their stunning K-pop idol good looks) is one of the many reasons this group has an insanely large and dedicated fan group.

Immediately after seeing SNL, I found myself seeking out and listening to their music, and somehow discovering that they were going to be doing a live performance very soon and conveniently close to my childhood home in New Jersey, a reasonable distance to travel from D.C. – and one of only three U.S. appearance locations on a limited six-date U.S. tour. Of course, I recognized that this opportunity might not come around so easily again and curiosity got the better of me – were there any tickets left? Oh look, there were – and they were hella expensive; but not quite expensive enough to deter me from purchasing – which I did. But hey – if I spend that much money to attend a concert, let me tell you, when I get there I want to know the music and what to expect well enough to enjoy it.  Continue reading “Who Are BTS? A Crash Course on the World’s Biggest K-Pop Phenoms”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #040: PRIDE and Prejudice

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #040: PRIDE and Prejudice

So, if you’re like me — always a day late on the pulse of what the kids are in to— no doubt you just stumbled into Taylor Swift’s newest earworm, “You Need To Calm Down”. Like all of her work… its cotton candy made audible. Lyrics, if you don’t pay attention to them, are superficial and trite as an eight grade girl trying to be edgy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the song nauseatingly catchy.

But, as with most things in the post-millennial age, Swift’s single here is more than just audio saccharine for the summer. It’s also a companion music video that takes the lyrics to literal heart, and regurgitates the track as it’s clearly meant to be directed: a pride anthem for the LGBTQ community. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #040: PRIDE and Prejudice”

Beat JENeration #034: Six: The Musical is making it possible for me to survive this week

Beat JENeration #034: Six: The Musical is making it possible for me to survive this week

Remember all the feels the Hamilton soundtrack gave you in the first year — before it blew up into something so much bigger than itself that we all forgot how truly revolutionary it actually was? Those were good times for us history-loving musical theatre nerds and there was hope that our time had come.

Broadway, however, decided to focus on high school angst and misery. Dear Evan Hansen, Be More Chill, Jagged Little Pill, Mean Girls — the Apple Music play counts do not lie, I enthusiastically love them all, but it wasn’t the trend I’d wanted. Yes, I know a well-researched and written musical masterpiece takes time, but couldn’t they at least throw us a revival of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson? 

Thankfully, there’s a British invasion setting things right. Six: The Musical has brought all the feels of Hamilton on first 100 listens AND is as equally woke. Actually, it makes Hamilton feel almost dated for they way the Schuyler sisters are pitted against one another over some arrogant, wordy, cheating dude with a ponytail.

Henry VIII did all his wives wrong, and so they formed a girl group to publicly compare notes. Six is powered by a diverse cast boldly declaring their very modern #MeToo sentiments for the whole show. 

In pre-Gilead times like these, I need some chick empowerment. (And that’s all I can say on the subject right now, lest I cry and turn this into a darker, very different column).  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #034: Six: The Musical is making it possible for me to survive this week”

Two Music Legends Lost This Weekend: RIP Dick Dale & Andre Williams

Two Music Legends Lost This Weekend: RIP Dick Dale & Andre Williams

This past weekend turned out to be a double whammy of grief for roots music lovers. We lost the Godfather of Surf Guitar Dick Dale on Saturday March 16th and R&B Legend Andre Williams on the 17th.

Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937, his family moved to California when he was 17. He began playing musical instruments as a child; moving from piano to trumpet to ukulele and tarabaki before the guitar. His father was Lebonese & he cited the tarabaki and Arabic music as strong influences on his playing style. That style was a mixture of rhythm and lead played left-handed on a guitar strung for a right-handed musician. He tested equipment for Leo Fender. After blowing up several amps by playing too loud, a custom 15-inch loudspeaker was made. That amp is now the JBL-D130F model, more commonly known as the Fender Single Showman Amp.

Dale’s health and the British Invasion lead him into early retirement from music. He became an environmental activist after a pollution related infection nearly too his leg in the late 70s. He began recording and touring again in the 1980s, was nominated for a grammy in 1986. He appeared in 1987’s Back to the Beach playing Pipeline with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  And in 1994 was discovered by a new generation of fans thanks to his song Misrilou being featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Dale continued to have health issues which lead to his having to keep touring in order to stay on top of his medical bills. He had tour dates scheduled through November of this year at the time of his death. He was 81.

 

Andre Williams was born in Bessemer Alabama in 1936. He moved to Detroit at 16 where he befriended the owners of Fortune Records. He found success with singles like Bacon Fat and Jail Bait; with Bacon Fat hitting #9 on the R&B Chart in 1957.

He co-wrote Thank You For Loving Me for Stevie Wonder in 1963 as well as penning Shake a Tail Feather, a hit for The Five Duo-Tones. Shake a Tail Feather was also recorded by Ike & Tina Turner as well as James & Bobby Purify who went to #25 on the Hot 100 with it in 1967.

In 1968 he signed to Chicago’s Chess Records and hit #46 on the R&B chart with Cadillac Jack. The 1970s saw Williams write songs for Parliament and produce Ike Turner. The 1980s were particularly bleak for Williams, as his drug addiction took its toll, he eventually found himself homeless.

By 1995 Williams had returned to recording and touring, releasing an album of new renditions of his earliest releases, Mr. Rhythm in 1996. He continued to tour, a lot in Europe, and record through the 1990s and 2000s.

Andre Williams was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away after 2 weeks in hospice care in Chicago. He was 82.

On a personal note, I was able to see both Dick Dale and Andre Williams perform live on multiple occasions, they never failed to rock my face off.

Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week

Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week

Gen X’s having kind of a shit week. The death of our generation’s quintessential teen crush, Luke Perry, was just too much, too soon. And even though that alone was all it took to break my heart, on The Facebook and in conversations with my way-too-young-and-hip-to-be-in-their-forties friends, I realized the dawning of our mortality was closing in from other angles as well.

Somehow in an attempt to block out an Academy Awards I wasn’t invested in, I missed the whole Selma Blair chronic illness reveal in her gorgeous Ralph & Russo gown and custom monogrammed cane. Now that I’m caught up, I see she announced her MS diagnosis back in October and in doing so told a very familiar story of doctors explaining away her 2011 flair up as exhaustion and typical postpartum / mommy / women-y problems. I have been hearing tales such as these over the past couple-few years from friends and colleagues (all female, strangely enough, hmmmmm….) who have been lugging their undiagnosed and routinely belittled illnesses in and out of doctor’s offices. Treated as if their aches, pains, and debilitating fatigue was more emotional baggage than medical reality, they are slowly driven mad questioning their ability to effectively communicate what is happening to them. If they are lucky, the gaslighting stops once they get a diagnosis that makes their once vague symptoms finally seen for what they actually are.

But as members of Generation X, we’re a cynical lot, and so it’s not surprising that the actress who won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss in 2000 (with Sarah Michelle Gellar for Cruel Intentions — I’ll wait while you rewatch that) had to air her medical woes on GMA to highlight this disturbing issue of middle-aged properly-insured women having to go into battle over their health care.

So, now America knows, but still we can’t help being pissy — and skeptical that things are going to change — but at least we’re starting to be heard.  Maybe.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week”

Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .

Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .

So, the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and there were a few surprises. A super-hero film, Black Panther, became the first of its kind to be nominated and Netflix landed its first nomination for Best Picture as well and Meryl Streep got nominated as Best Actress. No, wait – Streep wasn’t nominated. That was the surprise. I thought there was some sort of rule she had to be nominated.

I have different levels of interest in the Academy Awards depending on the category but a particular favorite of mine is soundtrack, a.k.a. Original Score. And the nominees this year are:

Black Panther — Ludwig Goransson

BlacKkKlansman — Terence Blanchard

If Beale Street Could Talk — Nicholas Britell

Isle of Dogs — Alexandre Desplat

Mary Poppins Returns — Marc Shaiman

I haven’t seen as many movies this past year as I usually do and only saw one film that was nominated for best score (Black Panther, natch) but I was very impressed at the time with the music. I don’t know Goransson’s work very well, aside from Creed (which was also first rate) but his score for Black Panther both stood out and, at the same time, fully supported the film.  Continue reading “Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind

Funny thing (to me at least) is as much as I consider myself a pop-culture connoisseur, the one tent of it I tend never to wax poetic on is music. Where I find that in review of print media, film, and TV all lend itself easily to good or bad — with plenty of grey area between the two — music has long felt an area safe from my I’m right and if you disagree you’re wrong mentality. Why? Because from an early age I found it easy to understand the notion of music taste. That certain songs, genres, and formats could be loved by one person, tolerated by another, and loathed by a third.

As an example, sitting in the family room of my Grandma Mickey and Papa Bernie as they listened to the symphony… I could visibly see their enjoyment of the melancholy cacophony my ears where whispering to me was boring. And then, on the ride home, my mother blares You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Jimmy Sommerville — rewinding the cassingle after each play to enjoy it again long before “repeat” was a button on our stereos. My father, to date, owns only a handful of music — he is more apt to listen to literal silence or news radio if he is in control of the speaker-box. Yet amidst what anyone might assert as having no foothold to the larger musical world, my love of music is as much as part of my identity as my love of literally all other mediums combined.

I can go years without needing to read a comic. My Netflix and Hulu queues are choked with shows I know I’ll love that will remain unwatched as I make my way through my 813th viewing of the entirety of Scrubs. To date, I’ve still not seen dozens of mandatory films I should have absorbed years ago. But rest assured: whenever it is time to truly work on anything in my life — be it a comic book I’m drawing, design I’m completing for a client, or even just visiting the gym — music is on and affixed to my head so-as to ensure no other sound makes its way into my sphere.

With that preamble in place, I wanted to call out some music that I stumbled over in 2018 — be it new, or just new-to-me — and share some thoughts about why it wriggled its way into my head and didn’t leave.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind”