Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Jonathan Coulton's 'Artificial Heart' tiered album release: A model for others?

Musician Jonathan Coulton has a new album out called "Artificial Heart." If you don't know Coulton's work, he's best known for doing music with a certain geek flair, building a rabid fanbase by releasing a song a week for a year via his Thing A Week podcast. (He's also well known for writing the Portal video game song "Still Alive.")

OK, so sure, Coulton's new album is great and you should all go listen to it, but what I'm most fascinated by is his "Artificial Heart" tiered release plan. What to do when you have a passionate fanbase that wants to support you?

He's offering four different purchase plans. For 10 bucks, you get a digital download, whose accompanying online text largely puts you down if you make that choice. For $15, you get the digital copy plus a signed CD once the physical albums are done next month. Kicking it up another notch, for $40, you get the digital copy, a signed CD, a poster and a t-shirt.

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New documentary 'Shut Up, Little Man!' looks at going viral before the Internet

The new documentary "Shut Up, Little Man! An Audio Misadventure" opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York after previously opening in the heart of the film's story, San Francisco. It tells the story of two roommates who decided to record the darkly funny arguments of their alcoholic neighbors, Peter J. Haskett and Raymond Huffman. I had the chance to speak with those two neighbors who made the recordings, who went by the monickers "Eddie Lee Sausage" and "Mitchell D."


A young Mitch D and Eddie Lee Sausage.

Eddie and Mitch moved from the Midwest into a bright pink San Francisco apartment in 1987. Their neighbors would get drunk and fight until the wee hours of the morning, and Peter shouting "Shut up, little man" became the iconic cry of those arguments. Eddie and Mitch began recording Peter and Ray and ultimately started distributing copies to their friends, which started a viral phenomenon in the pre-Internet, pre-social media, pre-YouTube era.

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Motown legend Stevie Wonder drops in at Echo Park club tribute night

What began as a tribute night to Stevie Wonder at an Echo Park club took a turn for the unbelievable when Motown icon Stevie Wonder himself showed up to hang out, sing a few bars and talk politics. (Yes, politics.)

At the Echoplex, DJ Spinna was hosting his yearly "Wonder-full" club night, where Wonder fans gather to dance to the musician's arsenal of hits and B-sides, and buy T-shirts with screen prints of the legend's face on them.

It may have been his signature sunglasses or long braids decorated with small seashells, but Wonder's arrival was electric, unparalleled even by the Echoplex’s history of big-name talents like Beck and Nine Inch Nails.

The 22-time Grammy winner sat at a small table with friends and family, watching the party from a roped-off corner near the stage. This VIP area was modest, much like Wonder’s entourage and demeanor.

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Nike unveiling future shoes from 'Back to the Future 2'

Tonight in Hollywood, Nike is making a big announcement. There's been a bit of secrecy around it, but the word is that it's the unveiling of... future shoes.

The shoe from "Back to the Future 2," the Nike Air Mag, is becoming a reality. Early indications are that, unlike the shoes from the film, these will not self-lace. Nike is already known to have patented self-lacing shoes last year, though, so they could be on the way to your hands. And my hands. My hands really want these.

But wait — are these going to be available to the public at large? Michael J. Fox is scheduled to appear on David Letterman tonight, and Nike's CEO has announced that 1,500 pairs will be auctioned off on eBay with proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. That's great for the foundation, but that could also point to these being an extremely limited special edition not meant for the public at large. Perhaps these are just prototypes without self-lacing, and that will actually get here by 2015? We'll have at least some answers soon enough.

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Republican presidential debate: What else is on?

The latest Republican presidential debate takes place tonight at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern, right here in Southern California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. It's airing live on MSNBC, and later tonight here on KPCC.

As a political nerd, I plan to be glued to my set for the show. But not everyone shares my tastes. What else is on tonight?

CBS has a new episode of reality show Big Brother! As a recovering "Big Brother" addict, this would've been mighty tempting to the me of about five years ago. There are brand new episodes of adrenaline-fueled game show "Minute To Win It" and odd and great talent-fueled game show "America's Got Talent" on NBC. You can also catch reruns of ABC's Wednesday sitcom lineup including "The Middle" and the critically acclaimed "Modern Family." Or if you're a procedural fan, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is on NBC, while "CSI" is over on CBS.

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