Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Random thoughts on the State of the Union

• Rock star presidents: Growing up, I always thought of the president and members of Congress as colleagues. I pictured them meeting together and calling one another on the phone. One thing that the State of the Union always seems to make clear is that this isn't necessarily the case, as you read stories about members of Congress coming early so they can get a good spot just for the opportunity to shake the president's hand and you watch Obama signing autographs for members of Congress as he leaves the chamber. Even for members of Congress, presidents are still celebrities.

• As a former history major, I always enjoy a good historical reference used to frame a major speech. President Obama referenced the period of history I spent the most time studying in school, the Civil War, drawing an allusion to when the Union was turned back at Bull Run. It was an intriguing allusion on the same day controversial historian Howard Zinn died.

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Wrapping my head around the iPad

The day has arrived, and Steve Jobs has come down from Mt. Sinai with Apple's long-rumored device, the iPad, a tablet computer. The price is cheaper than I expected (starting at $499), but especially the upper end models (up to $829) are priced significantly higher than netbooks. Apple did manage to stir everyone's imagination with the device's release.

Still, the first thought that came to mind when I saw Steve Jobs actually holding the thing was... awkward. It looked like even Jobs was still getting used to the concept, and I think the day of the tablet being just another common piece of technology is still years away, if ever.

One thing that did help me start wrapping my head around the potential of tablet computers was a story NPR did the other day on All Things Considered, "What's The Allure Of Tablet Computers?"

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Bill Gates' awesome new Web site

As a lifelong Mac user, it pains me to say this, but Bill Gates' new Web site, the Gates Notes, is excellent. He's retired from being actively involved in Microsoft, but is now working full time as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He created the Gates Notes site to share his thoughts on both his work with the foundation and on other things he's learning about and interested in. It's a great opportunity to get a peek inside the mind of one of the world's most successful people.

One article on the site I found particularly interesting was a piece he did answering the question "Where can I get unbiased news?" He sites some great sources, and it's well worth checking out.

Bill Gates also joined the ranks of Twitter just last week, where he's offering a wide range of thoughts, links, and retweets.

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Conan O'Brien: 'Please do not be cynical'

"I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show farewell speech was a great moment in television history, and one that will stick with me. As a journalist, it can be easy to become cynical, but I thought Conan's point was a great one to keep in mind and is a stance that I think will ultimately produce better journalism. Being a cynic is easy; working hard and being kind requires far more than that.

Video of Conan's full farewell speech (as well as the rest of the last episode of the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien):

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Life without a phone or a computer

I'm not having a good week technologically. Both my computer and my phone decided to not work this week, so outside of my time in the office, I've been largely disconnected the last several days.

I'm sure I'll get both fixed/replaced soon enough, but it's been refreshing/interesting/horrifying to be disconnected. I found myself sitting with friends the other night and reaching to pull out my absent iPhone. I've taken a step back from our group evolution toward pseudo-cyborgs.

I've also found more time to read actual print material rather than clicking around Web sites, caught up on my Tivo, and used a payphone for the first time in years.

Time to go. I'm off to go get my phone repaired so I can end the technological equivalent of caffeine headaches.

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