Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Challenge Watson, IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer

Is mankind lost to the machine? Some have jumped to this conclusion after the recent defeat of Jeopardy champions by Watson the supercomputer.

The New York Times has a new interactive game letting you test your mettle against the metal of the machine.

Unlike Jeopardy, you don't have to worry about buzzing in faster, and it's limited to one set of questions. However, you get the chance to see what Watson would have answered, as well as the alternative possibilities he would have considered for each question.

Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images

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Science explains how we can tell when someone's looking at us

Ever feel like someone's watching you? Do you find out you're right, and you don't know how you knew?

Psychology Today has an article on what accounts for the closest we have to Spider-Man's spider-sense. The information is at the edges of our awareness, but we can still detect when we're being looked at.

There's a system in our brains that detects where others are looking, and can tell the difference between when someone is looking directly at you or is just looking over your shoulder. According to Psychology Today, "Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer's gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead)."

This system gives power to the way we use our eyes, with eye contact being a powerful part of our communication with one another. It can make us feel intimate with someone else, or intimidated.

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Conservative blogger Matt Lewis leaves AOL due to Huffington Post purchase

The Huffington Post's recent acquisition by AOL has raised a lot of questions, but this morning I read about the first actual change I've noticed caused by this purchase: conservative blogger Matt Lewis, due to the purchase, is leaving his position blogging for AOL to write for conservative outlet the Daily Caller.

Lewis wrote that Huffington founder Arianna Huffington is "a far-left liberal" and that he didn't want to be affiliated with her. He wrote that Huffington become editor-in-chief for a number of AOL sites after the merger alarmed him.

 

"Obviously, I am more than happy to write for a mainstream news outlet where differing opinions are allowed to flourish, but I am less comfortable with the notion of being permanently affiliated with an overtly left-of-center (sometimes activist) outlet.

"As a conservative (albeit, an admittedly iconoclastic one), it is vital that I maintain the freedom to call them like I see them."

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New Pornographers video 'Moves' features faux-Paul Rudd movie trailer, comedian cavalcade

Indie darlings the New Pornographers' new music video is a Where's Waldo of comedy nerd favorites.

It opens up with a fake trailer for an awful-looking comedy called "Expectant Dads," starring Paul Rudd and Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader. There's a full site for the faux film at ExpectantDadsMovie.com, including pull quotes reviewing the imaginary film and a summary of the plot.

An excerpt, summarizing the plot: "But the two dudes bite off way more than they can chew when they battle with two rival X-Coiners (Andy Milonakis and Robert Blake, Jr.) who trick Nick and D-Bomb into ingesting a chemical (distributed by way of a pot vaporizer called “King Vidor Vapor”) that makes them both pregnant."

The site also includes an ad for the even-worse-sounding "Expectant Dads 2."

This also isn't the first time Paul Rudd and Bill Hader have appeared in a video together; they got a bit, well, intimate for Saturday Night Live's "Kissing Family" sketch.

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Comedian Gallagher (yes, that Gallagher) walks out on popular comedy podcast WTF with Marc Maron

Self-described "comedy legend" Gallagher made news in the comedy community today with his appearance on popular comedy podcast WTF, hosted by Marc Maron (who KPCC listeners may also know from KPCC's Comedy Congress). Gallagher made his name in the '80s for his comedy that prominently featured smashing watermelons with a mallet. He ended up being the first guest Maron's ever had walk out on his podcast in the middle of taping a show.

Maron apologized on his podcast for not handling the interview better and perhaps helping keep the conversation on track. Maron noted that he was approached by Gallagher's representation to be on the podcast; Maron's podcast has gained added notoriety recently after an article about it appeared in the New York Times.

The interview started out relatively calm, with Gallagher talking with Maron about Gallagher's career, starting as a chemist and becoming a huge star thanks to his watermelon bit, though Gallagher voiced frustration with his place in comedy and opportunities that had been offered to other comics. The interview turned contentious when Maron and Gallagher started talking about accusations that Gallagher's recent comedy is racist and homophobic, ultimately leading to Gallagher walking out.

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