Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 preview: What you need to know

July 20 through July 24 is when geeks the world over travel to their mecca, San Diego Comic-Con. It's where fans go to see What's Next in pop culture, including movies, TV and, of course, comics. There's been talk about Hollywood pulling back from Comic-Con just a smudge, but there's still always about 5,000 things happening at once. Whether you're attending or not, here's a rundown of some of the notable events. (You can also follow along with me LIVE from Comic-Con Wednesday, July 20 through Sunday, July 24 on Twitter at @MikeRoe.)

Last year's photo gallery of the sights of Comic-Con

Thursday, July 21

10:45-11:45: Oh, You Sexy Geek!

Starting off the convention on an appropriately nerd-centric note, one of the earliest panels is taking a look at some recent furor over female geeks. There's been some debate about whether geek girls are expressing a passion for what they love or pandering to men, either for attention or for marketing. With 9 out of 10 of the panelists being women, I think you can see the point they're making, but if you want to see many of the Internet's most notable female geeks (and one male) discuss gender issues, you'll want to check this out.

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Cheat sheets to help understand Google+

Google+ is the hot ticket in town, trying to steal Facebook's lunch (and Twitter's too, if they can get it). The service is still in its early days, so confusion is likely inevitable.

Thankfully, Simon Laustsen has risen to the challenge and created some Google+ cheat sheets to make the latest in social networking a little friendlier. There's at least one typo (see if you can spot it!), but what matters is the information that he conveys.

The first cheat sheet explains text formatting, some of the basics of circles, how to send someone a private message and more.

The second tip sheet takes a closer look at circles, photo sharing, navigation and Chrome browser extensions that can be used for a better Google+ experience.

You can read more of Simon's Google+ tips and tricks on his blog.. AppStorm also has an excellent guide to Google+.

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Kevin Smith skips traditional theatrical release for horror thriller 'Red State'

I've been intrigued for a while at the innovative distribution model cult movie director Kevin Smith has been using to promote his latest film, horror flick "Red State."

He kicked things off by forgoing an initial theatrical release, taking the film on tour and charging 50 bucks to see the film and get a Q&A with Smith. Smith's well known as a raconteur, doing sold out Q&A's for years. He went on to launch an online podcast network, then an online radio network with daily shows he personally hosts.

Now he's trying something else with "Red State" – skipping theaters altogether. It's a fascinating move for someone with nine theatrical releases to his name, eight which he wrote himself. His previous releases all made millions, with his last movie earning the most at $45 million.

He's offering "Red State" via video-on-demand beginning Labor Day weekend for 10 bucks. He's following that up with a one-night-only screening in theaters with a live stream of a Q&A and a podcast taping to the theaters that show it.

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'Green Lantern' media blitz: Onion parody, Muppets movie trailer, NASA finds Green Lantern planet and more

"Green Lantern" is permeating pop culture as the Ryan Reynolds movie based on the DC Comics character comes out. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of "Green Lantern" ephemera.

Green Lantern isn't as well known as your Supermans, your Batmans, your Spider-Mans. That might not be true anymore, particularly if "Green Lantern" turns out to be a hit, but The Onion captured the lack of awareness perfectly.


'Green Lantern' To Fulfill America's Wish To See Lantern-Based Characters On Big Screen

If you want some more Green Lantern comedy from the Onion, you can also check out this 2002 article on the character: "When You Are Ready To Have A Serious Conversation About Green Lantern, You Have My E-Mail Address." In a bit of corporate synergy, Mad Magazine, published by the same corporation behind Green Lantern, has a new issue with a cover story spoofing Green Lantern.

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Virtual tours of British things - Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Wembley Stadium...

The United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper launched a series of interactive panoramas of major British landmarks last week. They're not at the Google Street View level of being able to move through the space, but you can zoom in and out and pan in all directions.

So far, they've done St. Paul's Cathedral, the Glasgow School of Art and Wembley Stadium.

Seeing this got me looking for virtual tours of other British landmarks. There are some great interactive rooms from Buckingham Palace, which they call "Virtual Rooms." You can see the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, the Blue Drawing Room and the White Drawing Room.

So, for those of you who couldn't attend the Royal Wedding, feel free to Photoshop yourself in where you deem appropriate.

What other virtual tours have you seen that you like? Let us know in the comments.

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