Commonwealth Speakers:Popular Culture
Props like this vintage Bill Tracy-produced "Mad Scientist," created an effective scare before being replaced with more modern-day technologies. Photo courtesy Timothy Hufnagle as part of Cheap 3-Minute Thrills.
From music, to books and television, to theme parks, people absorb cultural products to such an extreme that they become part of their everyday existences. These discussions address what we do for amusement, information and consumption, why we do it, and what it says about us.
Cheap 3-Minute Thrills: Darkrides and Funhouses as Genre L
Often eclipsed by roller coasters and carousels, the darkride and funhouse serve as examples of the amusement park's ability to tap into America's obsession with (and fear of) the macabre. The presentation takes a historical look at how these attractions developed from their 19th century roots and showcases social attitudes toward leisure and technology. Original behind-the-scenes photographs of the props and mechanical gags used to surprise patrons are included. Examples of how the darkride and funhouse have become integrated into other forms of modern popular culture (e.g., theme parks, Halloween celebrations and film) are presented through interactive discussion.
Equipment: Chair, display table, PC laptop computer (with PowerPoint and DVD drive installed), LCD projector, screen (or blank wall). PA sound system for large spaces.
Timothy Hufnagle, Sellersville
Former Popular Culture Instructor, Bowling Green State University
The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles F L
Through an audio- and video-oriented discussion, Beatles scholar Kenneth Womack brings the story of the Fab Four vividly to life. Womack traces the group's creative arc from their salad days in Liverpool, to the mean streets of Hamburg, through Abbey Road, to the twilight of their career. In an effort to communicate the power of the Beatles' remarkable achievement, Womack examines the Beatles' body of work as an evolving art object. He investigates the origins of the group's compositions, as well as the songwriting and recording practices that brought them to fruition. Through a carefully choreographed multimedia presentation, Womack reveals the ways in which the Beatles gave life to a musical synthesis that would change the world.
Equipment: Speaker brings his own equipment. Access to electrical outlet required.
Kenneth Womack, Altoona
Author. English Professor, Penn State University-Altoona
Time Travel in Popular Culture F L
Do you believe in time travel and parallel universes? This presentation explores the treatment of these ideas in popular media. Starting with classic stories like Rip Van Winkle and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, we examine how time travel has been used as a plot device. Next, we look at the groundbreaking nature of HG Wells' The Time Machine. Contemporary movies and television continue this theme, including Back to the Future and Lost. Learn how the depiction of time travel has changed in literature and film and discuss the reasons for its continuing popular appeal.
Equipment: Laptop computer, LCD projector (with speakers) and screen. If possible, display table.
Paul Halpern, Philadelphia
Physics Professor, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
F Family/Younger AudiencesAlso See. . .
H Hands-on/Active Participation