Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

New Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' begins social media viral campaign

The folks behind the last Batman film, "The Dark Knight," conducted an extensive viral marketing campaign to promote the movie. They're back at it in the hype leading to the final part of the trilogy being released next year, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Through backwards audio files and a secret Twitter account, clues led to this image of villain Bane, played by actor Tom Hardy:

The latest in the puzzle could be this grainy video footage of a breakout from Gotham City's home for the criminally insane, Arkham Asylum. Rumor is that they're fan-made videos and not official, but DC Comics' official Twitter account sent out the link, helping to fuel the possibility that they're legitimate.

In the most famous DC Comics storyline involving the villain Bane, Bane broke out all of the other supervillains from Arkham Asylum to wear Batman down before breaking his back and putting him in a wheelchair. (Since it's comics, this was, of course, temporary.) Whether that remains to be how things play out in the movie is yet to be seen, but you can get a peak at a potential future in these videos.

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Playing with Google Music Beta

The hot new thing online recently has been cloud music players. For those not in the know, this essentially means being able to listen to music you own over the Internet.

Amazon was first out the gate with their cloud player, followed by Google, with Apple reportedly soon to come.

While in beta, Google Music is invitation only. You can apply for your own Google Music Beta invitation here.

I just got my invite to Google Music Beta today, so here are a few initial thoughts:

  • Unlike Amazon, Google is offering a nice selection of popular songs for free to get people into the service.
  • One thing that allows Google to do that is that you can't download songs once they're uploaded. However, it's playable on Android phones and tablets, and you can also select songs on your device to play back later when you're offline. It also automatically caches recently played songs.
  • It took a little futzing, but you can listen to music from Google Music Beta on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Much like Apple's iTunes, you can create automated mixes based on one song from your collection, as well as creating traditional playlists.
  • It's got a higher cap for free storage than Amazon, topping out at 20,000 songs. However, Amazon provides storage for any music bought through Amazon's MP3 store for free.
  • It's also got a built in rating system to let it know which songs you like and which you don't. Unlike iTunes' 5 star system, it's a bit simpler: thumbs up or thumbs down.
  • It's been a little buggier for me than Amazon's cloud player so far, with more frequent buffering issues.
  • However, while very similar to Amazon's cloud player, I found the Google interface a bit easier to use.

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Book I'll be reading this fall: The Office's Mindy Kaling's 'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?'

"The Office" took an interesting approach when they started: populating the office with behind-the-scenes staffers. One of those was Mindy Kaling, who was a writer on the show and plays Kelly Kapoor.

Kaling's one of those polymaths with enough talents to make me jealous, including writing, acting, singing, producing, directing and more.

Now she's got a book filled with humorous essays. It reminds me of the smart, fun tone she set on her popular Twitter account (currently clocking in at over 1.4 million followers).

Now she's released a 24-page sneak preview of her book, which you can read below. Chapters include "Don't Peak In High School," "Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities" and "Guys Need To Do Almost Nothing To Be Great." (Her style tips for guys may have convinced me to buy my first pair of Chuck Taylors.) The book comes out November 1.

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Surprisingly Great: Fast Five - No, really

I'm not a movie snob. I'll go see a wacky comedy or the big new superhero action flick. However, this weekend I encountered something that befuddled my expectations: Fast Five.

I had never previously seen a Fast & The Furious franchise film. I dismissively thought that these movies and the gazillions of dollars they make time and again weren't for me.

This weekend I had a family event, though, and my mom offered me two options of films she wanted to see: Fast Five or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I looked them up on my phone and went with the one with the higher Rotten Tomatoes score.

And boy was that ever the right choice. Friends, this is a capital-A-action movie. It's not often that you go to the movies and see a stunt/set piece that isn't similar to one you've seen in dozens of other movies, but I thought there were bits in this that genuinely surprised me.

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New Music: Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' & David Bazan's 'Strange Negotiations'

On this morning's Madeleine Brand Show, NPR music critic Ann Powers talked about new albums from Lady Gaga and David Bazan.

Lady Gaga's album went on sale for 99 cents on Amazon yesterday. "Wait, how much?!" you may be saying. Well, so many others agreed that Amazon's servers froze due to the huge demand, leaving many unsatisfied customers temporarily unable to access the latest pop confection from Miss Gaga.

If you'd like a peak into the world of Gaga, you can listen to a few of her new songs below from this past weekend's Saturday Night Live:

Born This Way:

Judas:

You can also see Gaga in a sketch with Justin Timberlake, "What's That Name?":

And the latest in a series of SNL's popular digital shorts series, as well as the latest in a sub-series of videos featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg as '90s-esque white R&B guys.

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