Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

American Idol season finale tonight; Simon Cowell says goodbye

Another season of American Idol is coming to a close. It's been a strange one with the absence of Paula Abdul, the addition of Ellen DeGeneres, and most of all, the last season for Simon Cowell.

After nine seasons, the show will have to set off next year without Simon Cowell. Remember that when the show started, it was a summer show when summer original programming was even less the norm than it is today, and Cowell's cutting remarks are what made the show an American institution. I remember first hearing someone talk about the show while interning for a commercial radio station, as the music director was intrigued by the possibility. Little did she or the rest of America know where the show would go from there.

Will Kara, Randy or Ellen step into that position? Kara seems the most likely to make her attempt at being the new Simon, and it will be interesting to see if she makes her move once Simon leaves and stops taking up all the air in the room. Ellen seems to have moved into Paula's position, often unwilling to be overly critical of the contestants, while also bringing her own schtick with a steady string of one liners. Randy is, well, Randy, and anyone expecting him to significantly change hasn't been watching for the last nine years.

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Google home page honors Pac-Man turning 30

Pac-Man, the iconic classic arcade game, celebrates its 30th anniversary today. Google put a playable Pac-Man game on their home page to mark the occasion, and it was even the lead story on CNN's website.

I'm too young to have been around when Pac-Man first came out, but I remember playing it in arcades and pizza joints across our fair nation growing up, as well as its various spinoffs like Ms. Pac-Man. I even vaguely remember the Pac-Man animated series. (Really? Did the deep plotting of Pac-Man require a television series?)

Check out Google both today and tomorrow to play their anniversary game on the home page, and you can also check out the Google Doodle archive once it's left the main page.

Related: AirTalk – Google Doodles: Cool & controversial

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The Onion takes on location-based social networking tool Foursquare, media

The Onion, always a fountain of mirth, has a great article taking shots at both Foursquare and media coverage of new media.

Excerpt:

"Although it recently hit the million-user mark, Foursquare has yet to approach the vast subscriber base of Facebook and Twitter. But that all could change as people become increasingly reliant on the…okay, here, here, let me sum up this whole 'news' story for you: Aging, scared newspapermen throw themselves at the latest mobile technology trend in a humiliatingly futile attempt to remain relevant."

As usual with Onion articles, not for those easily offended.

New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Christ, Forget It

(Oh, and that's a real photo of Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley. Seriously.)

If you're interested in checking out a more straightforward story about Foursquare, you can do so with this New York Times article.

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Parabola now in bottles

Earlier this month Firestone Walker Brewing Co. announced the release of Parabola, their barrel-aged Russian imperial oatmeal stout. It's part of the brewery’s Proprietor’s Reserve Series, which consists of bottled draft-only barrel-aged beers.

Reports say the 22-ounce bottles will retail for about $16, which is in line with Firestone Walker's other special releases and anniversary ales. This stuff should not be on the shelves for too long – their Buellton taproom reportedly sold out in 20 minutes.

Parabola, listed as 13 percent alcohol by volume, has earned an A-average from reviewers at the Beeradvocate website. One review, out of a total of 47, describes Parabola in the following way:

The nose is a stellar blend of roasted malt, molasses, and caramel. A light roast of coffee is well integrated and a low level of oak is present. Vanilla wafts from the glass, and the chocolate is a slightly bittersweet blend of milk and dark. Balance is superb and alcohol is mild. I'm enthralled by the caramel transcending the molasses, coffee, and chocolate.

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Ben Folds, Pomplamoose at San Francisco MusicTech Summit

The San Francisco MusicTech Summit is taking place today. I had a chance to catch the Rebirth of Video panel streaming online, featuring a couple of my favorite musicians, Ben Folds (who played Los Angeles just last week) and Jack Conte of YouTube sensations Pomplamoose. They played clips showing the ways that these artists were pushing the boundaries of video online.

Folds' most recent bit was a riff on Chatroulette. There was a guy named Merton who looked and sounded a bit like Ben Folds and did improvised piano bits about people he would see through the random video chat of Chatroulette.

Merton:

So, Folds took that to another meta level and did the same thing on stage at one of his concerts.

Ben:

Folds talked about the empowerment that the new medium gives to artists. He said that there was a time when, to get your music out, you had to convince bigwigs at a record label. "Now there's no convincing anyone at the top about anything."

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