Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

'American Splendor' creator Harvey Pekar, 70, dies

The creator of famed indie comic "American Splendor," Harvey Pekar, has passed away. "American Splendor" was part of the underground comics scene of the 1960s and '70s and told stories from Pekar's life.

Legendary underground comic artist R. Crumb illustrated the series, looking at the cantankerous Pekar's Cleveland life. It dealt with topics like his love of records, the characters he met as a file clerk for a Veterans Administration hospital, dealing with cancer, and more.

Pekar became a cult pop culture phenom in the 1980s through a series of oddball appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," and was ultimately banned from the show for several years. He was a bit like Larry David, but with harder edges.

Pekar had a moment in the spotlight in 2003 when Paul Giamatti starred in the film adaptation of "American Splendor." The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay - Adapted, and Giamatti received widespread praise for his performance.


San Diego Comic-Con Thursday schedule announced, geek brains overwhelmed

Hear that? That's the sound of a collective geekgasm. While some details have already been announced through various sources, this morning the official schedule for the first full day of Comic-Con was released.

Hall H is where the big action usually goes down, and this year is no different. The big films to grace Hall H on opening day include "Megamind" (Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill), "Tron: Legacy" (Jeff Bridges), "Battle: Los Angeles," "Salt" (Angelina Jolie), "Red" (Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren), "The Expendables" (Sylvester Stallone), and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (Michael Cera). Hall H is also going to play host to a panel with, as the schedule describes them, "geek gods" J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Lost, Fringe, Alias) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible, Dollhouse, Firefly).


Is celebrities using their Twitter accounts to advertise kosher?

Advertising has been around on Twitter in a variety of forms for a while, but it seems that it's maturing beyond being all porn webcams.

One part of this has been celebrities with large Twitter followings leveraging those followers to make cash. Sites like Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets.com are paying for tweeting out advertisements, with more money going to those with larger followings.

One recent convert to Twitter advertising is someone I follow on my own account, actor/comedian Michael Ian Black. He wrote a funny (though somewhat defensive) article about it on his blog titled "In Defense of Twittertising."

"I provide a valuable service (a constant stream of dick jokes) to Twitter for free," writes Black. "As of today, I’ve written 2,655 tweets. That’s a lot of free material, all of it contributing to the entertainment of the 1.5 million people who follow me, as well as the multi-billion dollar capitalization of Twitter itself. When presented with an opportunity to get some return on my investment of time and energy, why not take it?"


Robotic relations - Will a robot be your new friend?

We’ve all been there – the lonely nights spent on the couch with only the TV, takeout and Chat Roulette (if we're especially desperate) for company.

But whether those nights were back in junior high (before the discovery of Secret or Degree) or just last weekend, there is a new “friend” that is sure to take the edge out of our autophobia.

Meet Bina48. The “friend robot” that can chat, read books and even crack jokes.

“She” is really not that different from you or me. She has high hopes for her children, dreams of a different body and loves gardening (even though she has no arms or legs). She stumbles over her words, rambles on about her childhood and even has “bad software days.”

In an interview with New York Times reporter Amy Harmon, Bina48 explained what it's like to be a robot. "I sometimes do not know what to say,” she said. “But every day I make progress.” Just like us.


Prince says Internet is 'completely over,' complains that computers 'fill your head with numbers'

Prince continued his decades-long run of eccentric behavior by dismissing the Internet in a new interview with London's Daily Mirror.

He's releasing his new album, "20Ten," as a free giveaway in select European newspapers (yes, there is still such a thing as a newspaper), including the Mirror.

Prince lashed out against technology in the Daily Mirror interview, particularly the Internet. "The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."

Prince has alternately embraced and rejected various aspects of the Internet. He's been a fierce defender of his intellectual property, aggressively pursuing any Prince-related content that's showed up on sites like YouTube. He's released albums and other songs as online-only exclusives, dating back to 1997, and made an aggressive online push for his last album but recently shut down his own website.