Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

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.


Google Guitar: Homepage logo celebrates Les Paul while letting you play guitar

Google traditionally produces what they call "Doodles" to celebrate different historical dates, transforming the Google logo into everything from a Charlie Chaplin tribute video to a playable Pac-Man game.

Today they've got a virtual stylized guitar to celebrate the 96th birthday of Les Paul. If you click on it, it will conduct a search for Les.

However, the fun part is that if you move your mouse across the strings, it strums them. You can also click the black record button at the lower right to record your musical stylings. It records 30 seconds of you playing and gives you a link to share with friends.

Here's a quick recording I made after messing around with it for a bit. Les Paul is surely rolling over in his grave.

Record one and share your recordings in the comments. You can play it here today, or find it in the archives after it's gone from the Google homepage here.


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.


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.


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.