Yes, You Could Spend a Night in Dracula’s Castle


Who wouldn’t want to spend Halloween night in Dracula’s Castle?

All you have to do is win an essay contest. AirBnB is running this one, and all you have to do is tell them what you’d say to the Count himself, if you met him in his castle. Talk about the place to spend Halloween Night!

In case you didn’t know, the real name of the place is Bran Castle, in Romania. Yes, it was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for writing about the infamous fiend. While this isn’t the first time in recent years that anyone has spent the night in the famous castle, this time around, the winner and guest can expect a far better experience than these folks:

Now, time to hope that this little stunt leads to more opportunities for people to spend the night in Bran Castle. Goes without saying, this place will immediately hit millions of “bucket lists” if it starts being open to the public, even on a limited basis.


Music Oddities from Dolly Parton to Danny Elfman


So, there are a couple musical oddities out there this weekend. The first has a political angle, and plays to those of use who love Danny Elfman. Yes, he did score the scenes of Trump stalking Hillary on the debate stage. Yes, it is priceless! From the wonderful folks at Funny or Die.

At least a little disturbing, but funny, right?

Now, if I told you that Dolly Parton can sort of sound like Elvis Presley, I’m guessing you wouldn’t believe me. Well, it’s true, but it does require a little “modification.”

Let’s start with her song “Jolene” – on a 45 played at 33 1/3 RPM.

Doesn’t sound like a woman anymore, and maybe you’ll agree she sounds a little like Chris Isaak:

No, I didn’t pick that track randomly. It was made famous by Elvis Presley, of course.

Ok, so it isn’t exactly playing fair, but one thing can definitely be said for Dolly Parton. You know you’re a damn good singer when you still sound good playing at the wrong speed on the turntable – and that’s when your music isn’t sped up to sound like the Chipmunks!


Women Should Vote – While They Can


So, #RepealThe19thAmendment was a thing temporarily on Twitter.

Normally, it’s not worth my effort to play around with this nonsense, but given some of the other crazy things we’ve been hearing this election cycle from the Trump camp….

No, I’m not ignoring it.

After all, Trump has already suggested that he is all for the concept of curtailing the First Amendment, through tort reform. At least that’s what one must assume, since he said that he wants to make it easier for him (he didn’t mention anyone else) to file suit against the evil journalists who *gasp* accurately report what he actually says.

So, it’s not out of the question, given his latest round of venom against women, that he honestly might be tossing the idea of repealing women’s right to vote. Yes, you do need to read the previous sentence a couple times. Let it sink in. I’ll make it easier for you.

So, it’s not out of the question, given his latest round of venom against women, that he honestly might be tossing the idea of repealing women’s right to vote.

Got that one?

Before anyone starts saying it’s ridiculous, please remember, most of the people who would say that Trump would NEVER try such a stunt are the same people who have been complaining about Obama with his phone and his pen.

Please remember that our government is perpetually on a slippery slope. Each time the people allow our leaders to get away with something, particularly the president, the next ones down the line tend to push those limits. Presidents are like toddlers – they’re constantly trying to push the people to let them get away with more, and usually they do.

Think about that, and take a look at the social media (hopefully) nonsense about removing women’s right to vote.


Amazon Unlimited Music Let Down


I saw the headlines, and knew from my inbox that Amazon was offering “Unlimited Music” as of, well, now. As someone who pays for Spotify, runs freebie Pandora on her Roku, and walked away from the Apple options ages ago, I have to say I was hyped!

So, I went through the “click here” stuff to start my 30-day-free-trial, that’s offered at least to those of us who are Amazon Prime customers, and started looking around. It was nice to see that my previous Amazon digital music purchases were updated to higher quality files. At some point, I’ll have to actually download those. But, this is about unlimited stuff, not what I already own, right?


Sure, the site works. It shows cute little pictures not unlike the ones I see on Spotify for music collections. Yes, it looks like I can start artist or track radio, like on Spotify and Pandora. But… Nothing plays!


There, ladies and gentlemen, is the equivalent of the blue screen of doom, in Amazon land. Yes, I did try – repeatedly. Different lists, waited. Waited some more. Still, nothing plays.

I even reduced the load on the WiFi, you know, to be fair. Maybe it was my fault, in spite of the fact that I know I can stream video on my television, my kid can play video games, my husband can stream video on him phone or Chromebook, and I can still work on my laptop – all on our WiFi at the same time. Yeah, I shut off video streaming, and stripped it down to just my laptop, since I’m the only one here anyway. Still, no dice.

So, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to my old standby, Spotify. Sure, I’ll go check and see if Amazon has straightened out their stuff later – maybe in a few days. Yes, I am putting a reminder on my calendar 30 days from now, though. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Amazon music won’t be as unlimited as they claim, and therefore not worth even the discounted rate they’re offering Prime folks, let alone the full $10 they’re wanting from everyone else.

Stay tuned, here, since you can’t tune in on Amazon, yet.

For those of you who are like me, and on Spotify, at least you can enjoy either the regular Subculture music list in the side column, or take a listen to the seasonal one – Halloween:


Matt Drudge Trying to Hand Florida to Hillary

Head in Hands

If you’re taking Matt Drudge’s advice on hurricanes, you might be a Trump supporter.

Some days it’s difficult to deal with the foolishness that is attached to the world of politics in social media. When it gets to the point where some people start suggesting that a natural disaster that has already laid waste to multiple countries is really just a conspiracy to promote theories on climate change, we’ve gone over the deep end.

Laid waste equals being deadly, of course. Making the suggestion that Hurricane Matthew evacuation orders are just a political conspiracy is not only stupid, it’s dangerous. However, there may be a bright side to Matt Drudge making these allegations.

He might be handing the presidential election to Hillary Clinton in at least Florida all by himself.


Of course, if someone from the left suggested that, heads would be on fire immediately. There would be calls for the public evisceration of whomever dared to suggest such a thing. Never mind the fact that the impetus of the statement is an infuriatingly stupid comment that could actually cause deaths.

But, I’m not from the left. Some might say I’m not from the right, either. No matter which political direction anyone might think I’m coming from, the bottom line here is that playing nice, and quietly pointing out the stupidity of Drudge is not enough.

This is not something to joke about, period. Is it possible that Florida will not be hit by the hurricane as badly as current predictions are suggesting? Yes. Is it worth it for anyone to bet their lives on that? No.

Consider the reality of this. If the storm doesn’t do too much damage, the worst thing that happens is that many people are inconvenienced by evacuating from the area. They’ll live.

If the storm acts as it already has in the various island nations it has passed over so far, people will die if they don’t leave. That’s not just a possibility. This storm has ripped apart buildings (albeit not the best constructed ones), and more importantly, has caused massive flooding along with wind damage. In case anyone is confused, we see people die in relatively minor floods all the time. This has the potential to cause massive flooding, along with significant wind damage.

So, if you’re willing to believe Drudge, and stick around to find out up close and personal how this turns out, you probably are setting yourself up for a post-humous Darwin award. Drudge deserves one, too for this stunt. Personally, I’d suggest that if you’re thinking about listening to him, ask him if he’s willing to hang out with you in Florida – you know, to watch the fake storm, or something.


YouTube, Censorship, and Capitalism


Earlier today, heads were on fire on social media, and YouTube ended up with fifteen minutes of infamy. Thousands of tweets went out about the demise of the streaming video giant, presumably because they decided to suddenly stop paying some high profile YouTubers for advertising on certain videos. This wasn’t a change in procedure, per se. The YouTubers just didn’t realize that ads weren’t running on certain videos because they weren’t told about it – they had to look to find it out. Now, YouTube has decided to be somewhat transparent, and let them know via email, or something.

So, this isn’t censorship in the strictest sense. It’s just a matter of YouTube not putting advertising on certain types of content, regardless who made it. Yes, this is annoying to YouTubers, along with the already fairly restrictive limits they place on videos that could be monetized. Seriously, one has to wonder if the advertisers really know where their ads aren’t appearing.

While it’s fair to guess that certain “wholesome” companies that want to keep a strictly family-friendly image might not want to advertise on controversial YouTube videos. However, there are many advertisers with commercials that actually contain the kind of material YouTube is keeping ads from appearing on in the first place. Yes, they are probably placing racy advertising on the relatively tame content of YouTubers who are currently complaining about not having ads on all their videos.

We’ve heard from the YouTubers. The real question is, why is YouTube doing “one size fits all” advertising? Sure, there’s the issue of corporate image, and the possibility that one group or another will get angry enough to call for a boycott of a product or company based on where an ad is shown. However, like the short-lived hashtag outrage over the issue of not placing ads on certain videos, those calls rarely last long, especially when it is just over advertising as opposed to something a company actually did wrong. But, the decision to place ads on controversial content shouldn’t be in the hands of the company serving the content. It should be in the hands of the advertisers. Shouldn’t they be the final decision makers on where their ads appear? They’re the ones paying for the placement. Since YouTube has established that they are capable of weeding out this content in the first place, instead of just pulling ads entirely, why aren’t they offering those placements to advertisers? Maybe they’re afraid of finding out the truth that is slowly sinking in across the internet. Controversial content is highly popular, and there is money to be made if a company chooses to advertise on it.

As for the protesters on social media, next time stick with asking why YouTube is making decisions for advertisers, instead of moaning about pseudo-censorship. YouTube doesn’t care what you think about their content guidelines, but advertisers certainly do care about getting their products and services in front of as many viewers as possible.


Facebook Is Now a Sociology Lab


Thanks to the bright decision of the management at Facebook, the social media site is one step closer to the Wachowski creation – The Matrix. The machines are pumping out the trends, without (much) human intervention. The initial results lead to questionable situations, particularly when it came to junk news about Megyn Kelly.

While that was a picture perfect example of unintended consequences, it brings to light an interesting point about many Facebook users. Much of the time, they are like the blonde in the commercial who believes that everything on the internet must be true. Without significant intervention of human editors, trending topics become a sociology experiment, showing the collective craziness of Facebook users. It becomes a semi-scientific lab for studying the concepts of group thinking and viral topics.

Since we’re heading into a presidential election, if the machines are just pushing out what the masses are sharing the most, this could get very interesting. Forget about presidential polling. We’d just need to see what’s being shared the most on Facebook. Maybe there could be prizes for which campaign manages to get the most fake news on the trending topics lists. Based on the Megyn Kelly situation, it’s fair to say that the Trump camp is ahead in that dubious race. Who can push the most libelous news this election cycle? Americans need to know!

Of course, the logical business decision will be to have at least some human involvement in the trending topics choices to avoid lawsuits. But maybe Facebook will decide to offer the undiluted version somewhere, just for amusement value. We can only hope they do, for the sake of sociologists and comedians. If you aren’t amused by the fake news making it into the trending topic list, there must be something wrong with you!


Sanctity of Life Versus Quality of Life


“Um, you can get dressed now,” the ultrasound technician said to Trish as she wiped the gel from her belly. “The doctor will talk with you shortly. Can you wait in the waiting room again?”

“Uh, sure,” Trish said as she cast a worried glance at her husband, Jacob, and started to gingerly move from the examination table.

The couple sat in the waiting room, holding hands silently. They had been trying to get pregnant for three years, and had almost given up hope. Jacob was 45, and his wife was 38 – they married only four years ago. Trish was 25 weeks along, and up until then, everything had been going well. The receptionist called for them from the doorway that lead to the doctor’s inner office, and they walked silently behind her.

After they sat down by the doctor’s desk, a young man who was probably at least a few years younger than both of them walked in, and took a seat across from them. “I’ve looked at your sonogram, and unfortunately, it appears that your baby is suffering from microcephaly.” He watched the couple in front of him for a few moments before going on. “Now, this means that your child will probably have severe birth defects, will need constant care, physical therapy, and have mental deficiencies.”

“Wait a minute,” Jacob broke in. Trish was sitting silently beside him, tears running down her face. “Are you telling us that there is nothing to be done?”

“Uh, unfortunately, yes,” the doctor said uncomfortably. “Your wife was probably exposed to the Zika virus, and since abortions are illegal in this state this far along, you have no choice. You must prepare yourselves to deal with raising a child with major medical needs.”

Trish and Jacob are entirely fictional, but their story could easily become the grim reality for some Americans. Too often, when it comes to considering hot button issues like abortion, people forget the fact that what they are arguing about has very real consequences for real people. Empathy dies in the battle.

As for this particular debate, this isn’t about whether or not someone is choosing abortion as birth control. It is about heart-breaking decisions that couples may have to face. Do you have a child who will suffer with no hope of truly improving? What happens after you’re dead, and your child who is entirely dependent on you happens to outlive you?

I am not suggesting that children with profound birth defects should not be permitted to be born. That is just the polar opposite of the argument that parents should not have the right to decide whether or not they are capable of dealing with caring for such a child. There are no winners in this argument, either.

By Beth.herlin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Who is the winner if parents are forced to have a child with severe mental deficits, physical deformities, and life-long needs for physical therapy just to reach a comparatively low level of functioning in life? Does anyone really believe that anyone who chooses to abort such a child does so gleefully? While it is important to encourage empathy, the fact is that no one can truly know how difficult it is to face this decision unless they have been there.

In spite of what some activists might claim, the fact is that most Americans aren’t comfortable with the idea of forcing anyone to have a baby with microcephaly. Last month, the Harvard School of Public Health and STAT conducted a survey which found that roughly the same number of people who generally oppose abortions after 24 weeks would not oppose them in cases involving microcephaly. The disorder cannot be detected before the 24th week of pregnancy.

Credit: STAT

Even before the various laws restricting abortion after 24 weeks, very few abortions were performed at that stage. The primary reasons for that have little to do with politics or society. The Guttmacher Institute states, “The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from 0.3 for every 100,000 abortions at or before eight weeks to 6.7 per 100,000 at 18 weeks or later.” It is no secret that medical malpractice insurance for obstetricians and gynecologists is very high, so it is not surprising that they would avoid doing a procedure that has such a greater risk than one at an earlier stage in pregnancy.


As of 2012, under 2% of abortions performed in the US occurred beyond the 21st week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, that number may increase soon due to Zika infections, in spite of laws forbidding abortions beyond 24 weeks. It’s highly possible that we will see women traveling out of state for the procedure. That will put the US only slightly above nations like Brazil, where they have doubled-down on their abortion restrictions, and have passed laws that will make aborting a microcephaly baby a crime punishable with incarceration for the woman. We are better than that, aren’t we?

Sonogram image: By Sarno M, Sacramento G, Khouri R, do Rosário M, Costa F, Archanjo G, Santos L, Nery N, Vasilakis N, Ko A, de Almeida A [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Just Stop Lying About Maryland and Heroin


So, I’m a little late to this particular party, but I was on vacation – in Maryland.

No, I’m not going to say that part of my trip involved checking out the dark side of the state. I will say that certain people picking on Governor Larry Hogan’s attempts to combat the heroin problem they have need to sit down and shut up. Hogan is pushing for more drug addiction treatment, and less incarceration – yes, that is a smart move.

Right now, too many people end up in the prison system over drug charges – including heroin use – and once they get out, they end up back in again. Sure, this might be an acceptable situation to some people, but we do need to remember that an increasing number of heroin addicts are getting their start with legal prescription drugs. You know, the opiates that the VA has been slammed for over-prescribing to veterans with PTSD, among others. It’s happening in the civilian population, too.

As for who was picking on Gov. Hogan, there was Jason Mattera:


Seriously, I wish I was making this stuff up, but I’m not.

Is it possible that some heroin dealers could end up in this treatment instead of incarceration program? Yes, they could. However, the dealers would have to be addicted to the drug, too. In case you were missing anything, the vast majority of the high level drug dealers out there are not addicted to the product they push. It’s poison, they know it, and they don’t want to end up strung out like their clients. So, the dealers that would be let loose on the masses are just people who are addicted to heroin, and are probably selling on a low level to keep up with their habits.

Justice reform is about getting people who made a bad decision or two out of the cycle of criminal behaviors, not giving passes to hardened criminals. Gov. Hogan is making a good choice by pushing for investment in drug treatment centers instead of jails. The problem is addiction, not criminality. Like every other part of the misguided war on drugs, it’s a money mill for law enforcement and prisons. If we had invested in addiction treatment instead of prisons years ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.


Farewell ‘Chilly Billy’ Cardille


Before SNL, there was Chiller Theater in Pittsburgh. Every Saturday night on WIIC-11 – now WPXI – there was a double-feature of sci-fi films, hosted by “Chilly Billy” Cardille, and his creepy entourage. Most of the footage has been lost over the years, but Cardille was entertaining Pittsburghers during commercial breaks for over 20 years. His family sadly informed the public that he died at home at age 87, after retiring from 60 years of television and radio broadcasting in the Pittsburgh region.

After Chiller Theater, Cardille went on broadcasting, finally landing at WJAS until their format switch to conservative talk. While broadcasting, Cardille also became the public face of fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Pittsburgh. He hosted a yearly telethon, and came out to see walkers during the yearly MDA Walk-a-thon. Cardille will be sorely missed in the Pittsburgh region, but definitely well-remembered.

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