Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

My first Passover Seder

I attended a Passover Seder this week for the first time. It's a ceremonial meal which commemorates the Jews' exodus from slavery in Egypt, with the name "Passover" marking God passing over the homes of the Jews when killing the firstborn of the Egyptians.

It's an event filled with symbols, all meant to explain the story and the sacrifice. (And any event with everyone being required to drink four glasses of wine is probably going to inspire some revelry.)

I found the most striking element of the Seder to be the palpable sense of hope. Even through all these symbols of pain, such as salt water symbolizing the tears of the Jewish people, hope shines through. There's the empty chair and the opening of the door for the prophet Elijah, hoping for his return; there's the conclusion where everyone proclaims "Next year in Jerusalem!"


Explaining death to a child

I went to Phoenix this past weekend to see Wrestlemania, and on my way to the show, I ran into a father and his 9-year-old son visiting from Mexico. We naturally began talking about wrestling, and a wrestler named Umaga came up. I'd just visited a local restaurant owned by a former wrestler he used to be associated with.

The father asked me if Umaga was still wrestling. I paused, trying to think of how to delicately tell him the answer, particularly with the boy there. I explained to the father that Umaga had passed away last year, at 36 years old.

The boy overheard and exclaimed, "Umaga died?! They killed him? When's he coming back?"

I awkwardly explained that, no, they didn't kill him, and no, he's really not coming back. I tried to think of how to explain that he'd had a heart attack after mixing prescription medication. However, the father and son were already off on a related conversation.


Live perspective on American Idol top 10 TV taping

I achieved a dream last night. Yes, I attended a taping of American Idol! (I have strange dreams.)

The afternoon began with hours of waiting in line, followed by waiting in line, more waiting in line, and then waiting in some different lines. However, we were then led into the promised land of the Idol studios.

As far as the actual performances went, I had a conflicted night, as my favorites didn't do as well as I would hope for, and the ones I've previously disliked were, unfortunately, good.

My personal favorite, Siobahn, opened the show with "Through The Fire" by Chaka Khan. She's got a weird, quirky personality that makes her feel real and likeable, and she showed a little of that off camera before her performance. She did a brief impersonation of Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher bit from Saturday Night Live. However, she went off-key and never found her way back on.


Wrestlemania 26 in Phoenix, Arizona

Like AirTalk host Larry Mantle and Morning Edition host Steve Julian, I too traveled to Phoenix this weekend. However, unlike Larry and Steve, I did so not for baseball spring training, but for... pro wrestling! (I like my sports fake.)

Yes, Wrestlemania, the biggest professional wrestling event of the year, took place this past Sunday in Phoenix. Phoenix also hosted a wide variety of related events, both official and unofficial, including the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, smaller pro wrestling shows, fan festivals, a wrestling comedy show, and even a wrestling art show.

WWE announced over 70,000 fans in attendance at the big show. This year, Wrestlemania will be remembered for what could be legendary pro wrestler Shawn Michaels' final match. He's been wrestling since 1984, but his 25 year career came to an end Sunday night in an epic match against the Undertaker, a rematch of their memorable match at last year's Wrestlemania.


Jon Hamm, comedy geek

I saw comedian Chris Hardwick recently headlining a show at the Improv, and through this I discovered his excellent podcast, Nerdist.

You may remember Hardwick best for his cultural moment in the sun hosting "Singled Out" on MTV in the '90s, with sidekick Jenny McCarthy. Since then, he's done a wide variety of projects, including hosting G4's "Web Soup," a spinoff of E!'s pop culture rundown "The Soup."

He's embraced his geek side and has a personal Web site called Nerdist. He's also launched an accompanying podcast that talks about nerdy things, as well as spending a lot of time geeking out about comedy. He's had on some big names, including Drew Carey, Joel McHale, and Conan O'Brien sidekick Andy Richter.

My personal favorite episode so far featured Hardwick and his crew hanging out with "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm. I never knew what a huge comedy geek Hamm is, though it makes sense when you consider his excellent appearances as guest host on "Saturday Night Live" and as one of Liz Lemon's many boyfriends on "30 Rock."