Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Al Franken doodles Jeff Sessions during Kagan hearings, actually pretty good

Democratic Senator Al Franken showed that he's just like everyone else in a meeting they find boring, using a United States Senate notepad to sketch Republican Senator Jeff Sessions during Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

He's actually a decent artist. If he's ever looking for work, looks like he's got a variety of fallback options. (Caricaturist? Comic book artist? Police composite artist? Oh, yeah, and there's that comedy thing.)

It's a good thing I can't draw that well, or I'd be even more distractible than I already am. (This is also why I sometimes leave my iPhone at my desk to make sure I focus during meetings.)

Photo: AP

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Hulu announces Hulu Plus premium service

Hulu finally unveiled the much-rumored Hulu Plus service today. Instead of just offering the last five episodes of a program as Hulu currently does, you'll now be able to watch the full current season of most series, as well as previous seasons of a variety of series (though not all).

It's a subscription-based service. The item that made me raise an eyebrow is that, while you have to pay for a subscription, it's also advertiser supported, so you don't get out of advertisements by paying the subscription fees.

It's being priced at $9.99 per month. Will consumers be willing to pay for this service, or is the public happy with seeing the last five episodes of their favorite shows online for free?

You'll also be able to watch Hulu Plus programming on a variety of platforms, such as the iPad and the iPhone. I'm not sold on it over the streaming TV options being offered by Netflix, but it's definitely an intriguing new entrant in the paid streaming field. I'm also curious to see if they add more movies to their service to make their offering more competitive with Netflix.

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How not to be a slave to the label

Snobbishness, it seems, goes hand in hand with wine connoisseurs, but beer lovers?

Apparently it can. So, to combat the scourge, some local beer enthusiasts thought a blind beer tasting was in order.
Chris Quiroga, Dave Watrous and Brian Lenzo address the crowd gathered for the blind tasting at Blue Palms Brewhouse.

The Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood decided to remove the handles from their 24 draft beers and let the palates and imaginations of the drinkers do the mental work that a beer label alone often overrides.

The owner, Brian Lenzo, said the Woodshop 5.1 blind tasting was supposed to help remove misplaced preconceptions or allegiances a beer lover may develop about a certain beer style or brewery. Too often, subtle impressions take a back seat to hype and prior expectations associated with a given beer style or label, Lenzo said.

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Eat, drink and give to charity

My all time favorite kind of beer is... free beer.

Which would explain how I found myself waking up early on a Saturday morning to volunteer at a charity event in Ventura. Working a four-hour shift got me out of paying the $60 admission price to the Salute Beer Festival at the San Buenaventura State Park. It was originally my brother's idea to volunteer, but it didn't take him much arm twisting to convince me to go.

The event was hosted by a local food bank, Food Share of Ventura County, and featured over 60 brewery and food vendors. We signed up for the morning shift and somehow ended up commandeering a golf cart. The majority of our time was spent delivering kegs, ice and food to the the various vendors before the event opened to the public. (We were sober - volunteers had to finish their shift before they could start sucking them down.)

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The Best of E3

E3 2010 has come and gone. The show dazzled, with big players Sony and Microsoft demonstrating new motion-sensing games and accessories. Nintendo displayed new games in established franchises and allowed attendees a chance to get hands-on with the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS. With all these new devices, it's hard to know what the best things were at E3. Here are my picks for the best of the show.

Nintendo 3DS

This was the best item at the show, in my opinion. News had been leaked previously that Nintendo was going to debut a 3D handheld at E3, and this was the first opportunity for people to get their hands on it. Amazingly, the 3D effects are achieved without the use of bulky glasses. One merely needs to look at the screen straight on. There were no playable demos, but there were videos of upcoming games such as a new Metal Gear, Mario Kart, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts, and even Kid Icarus. There was a 3D Disney movie as well, leading me to believe that the system will also be used as a 3D movie player. The 3DS even includes two camera lenses on the outside for taking 3D pictures. All in all, it was a great device, and I cannot wait to see it in stores.

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