Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Sen. Scott Brown's daughter Ayla Brown's new EP

Bringing together two current cultural motifs, Ayla Brown, 21-year-old daughter of new Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, NCAA basketball player, and former American Idol contestant (top 16!), just released a new EP. Her first single is "Pick It Up."

Her association with Scott Brown helped lead to several appearances on Fox News, including this Web exclusive acoustic performance of the song "No More":

As a longtime American Idol fan, I enjoyed her appearance on the show and was rooting for her until she got voted off. I've yet to pick any favorites this year; has anyone caught your eye in the remaining 20 Idol hopefuls?

Finally, Ayla Brown's American Idol appearance, performing "Reflection" by Christina Aguilera:

Link: American Idol
Link: Ayla Brown's American Idol profile page

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Haiti and the return of the charity single

The tragedy caused by the Haiti earthquake has led to a resurgence of a pop culture phenomenon we've seen far less of in recent years - the charity single. Last year's American Idol winner Kris Allen got in the act last night with a stirring rendition of "Let It Be," along with video footage of his trip to Haiti, with proceeds going to benefit Haiti relief efforts. They also announced the return of Idol Gives Back on April 21st, raising money for a variety of charities.

We've also seen the return of one of the classic charity singles, "We Are The World," updated with new artists for 2010, as well as a cover version of "Everybody Hurts" put together by American Idol producer Simon Cowell with a more European-flavored collection of artists.

There was also the excellent Hope For Haiti concert featuring artists like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Taylor Swift and many others.

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Time running out for Bukowski postage stamp

Time is running out for fans of the late Charles Bukowski who were hoping to gather 10,000 signatures and have the U.S. Postal Service issue a postage stamp in his honor.

The online petition kindly reminds the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee that Bukowski is the Post Office’s second most popular former employee, after Benjamin Franklin.

In fact, the petition language describes Bukowski’s novel, “Post Office,” as a “wry portrait of the inner workings of the service where he was employed through age 49.” (Insert laugh track here). That’s kind of like calling “Apocalypse Now” a touching melodrama about U.S. foreign policy.

The drive will end March 1, and to date nearly 800 supporters have signed the petition. Eight hundred? Eight hundred is a pretty paltry number considering that Bukowski enjoys international fame, a plethora of imitators, and has several profiles and fan pages on Facebook that total over 150,000 fans. Even Hank Chinaski, his alter ego and the protagonist of “Post Office,” has a profile.

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'A Serious Man' & St. Olaf College

Best Picture nominee "A Serious Man" shot several scenes at my alma mater, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. The movie's a period piece, set in the 1960s, and the Coen brothers' search for a 1960s-era lecture hall led them to St. Olaf.

The most memorable image shot at the school is likely the blackboard that takes up an entire wall of the lecture hall, filled with physics formulas. Showing a real attention to detail, they enlisted the aid of a retired St. Olaf College professor who, working with an artist, filled the blackboard with physics equations that would have been appropriate in a '60s classroom. Another retired St. Olaf professor, James Cederberg, designed the blackboard used in another scene, with the aid of '60s books and journals.

Now St. Olaf is trying to make some money off their moment in the spotlight. A portion of the blackboard will be auctioned off (along with the oh-so-important Coen brothers-signed letter of authenticity) to raise money to benefit current students.

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Asterios Polyp makes LA Times Graphic Novel Book Awards nominee list

The Los Angeles Times has, for the first time, added a Graphic Novel category to their annual Book Prizes. This year's finalists are Luba (A Love and Rockets Book) by Gilbert Hernandez, GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco.

While on the indie side, it's still an eclectic mix, from the longtime contenders like the latest from Love and Rockets, GoGo Monster's manga style, or the frenetic pace of Scott Pilgrim (soon to be a major motion picture starring Michael Cera), but one book I'll personally vouch for is Asterios Polyp.

Asterios Polyp tells the story of an architecture professor, the great love of his life, and what happens after it all falls apart. It's a beautiful book, with inventive art that show the best of what comics as an art form can be. The layouts surprise you while still being completely logical, drawing you in. The book uses color, but does so sparingly, using it to express emotions and ideas rather than trying to be lifelike.

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