Pop Culture Feed

Brrrrr! is the new Boo! for Halloween 2019. That's true here in Central Texas where we're expecting a high temperature of 55, along with northerly wind gusts making it feel even chillier. Today is forecast to the be Austin's coldest Halloween day in 28 years. I know. This is nothing compared to other parts of the country. An early-season snowstorm will move through the Great Lakes this Halloween, with truly frigid temperatures across much of the Midwest and Northeast. The winter weather system, dubbed Bessie by The Weather Channel, also dropped half a foot of snow to Denver earlier in... Read more →


A candy-seeking skeleton goes trick-or-treating on Halloween. (Photo by Don Scarborough via Wikipedia Commons) OK, that youngster dressed like an Internal Revenue Service auditor might freak you out when you open your door the evening of Oct. 31. I apologize (sorta) for suggesting such a non-traditional Halloween costume in my previous post on how scary our taxes and the agency that collects them can be. But it's not all tax ghouls and goblins this spookiest part of the year. There are some tax treats that are available, too. Here are five tax benefits you might be able to take advantage... Read more →


Halloween is almost here. Are you still looking for a costume? Here's a suggestion. Go as the Internal Revenue Service. On this annual night of frights, Uncle Sam's tax collector offers plenty of scares. Here are four terrifying tax situations to get you in a Halloween mood. Be afraid, but also be prepared, on this Oct. 31 as well as year-round. 1. Audit: There's no need to build up to this scare, which can occur any time of the year. Fear of an IRS audit is one of the biggest tax terrors for most people, even (or maybe especially) those... Read more →


The hubby and I got to see the Astros receive their 2017 MLB championship rings back in April 2018. Our fingers and toes are crossed this week for a repeat of that World Series outcome and another trip to Houston for a second ring ceremony. (Photo by Kay Bell) The 2019 World Series starts tonight and the best pitcher in Major League Baseball right now will be on the mound. The good news for me and other Astros fans is that that righthander, Gerrit Cole, is on our team. The bad news for me and other Astros fans is that... Read more →


Yo ho, all ye salty sea dogs and scalawags. Just a quick reminder on this annual Talk Like a Pirate Day that the Internal Revenue Service wants its cut of your ill-gotten gains, be they pillaged pirate loot or otherwise criminally obtained. Click image to watch the ESPN ad. I know Andrew McCutchen is no longer a Pittsburgh Pirate, but the daring attack the former MLB National League MVP and his crew of sports team buccaneer mascots launched on an ESPN meeting back in 2013 still is one of my favorite television ads. And while Cutch, who's now plays for... Read more →


Darth Maul apparently — spoiler alert — was killed in The Phantom Menace, but later showed up in subsequent Star Wars productions. His persistence is akin phantom investment transactions that are created simply to lower multinational companies' tax bills. (Photo via Lucasfilm) What I consider the real Star Wars trilogy came out when I was in college. That's why I've not bothered to see any of the subsequent sequel/prequel movies. But they came to mind last week when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the University of Copenhagen released a new study on the growth of so-called phantom capital and... Read more →


It's Friday the 13th and a full moon will rise late tonight. Werewolves and Friday the 13th. Scared yet? Take a breath. Depending on where you live, and how superstitious you are, tonight might not be so bad. The Farmers' Almanac says folks in the Pacific, Central and Mountain time zones will get to gaze on the full moon before midnight this Friday, Sept. 13. However, if you live in the Eastern time zone, the moon won't be full until 12:33 a.m. on the less spooky Saturday, Sept. 14. Micro Harvest moon: Plus, it won't be a very big full... Read more →


When California last year joined the literal growing ranks of states that have legalized marijuana, initial projections were that the state soon would be raking in $1 billion annually from weed-related taxes. That apparently was a pipe dream. The report on Golden State cannabis excise taxes collected between April and June was just $74 million. That disappointing revenue amount is this week's By the Numbers figure. Even more discouraging, California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office sharply scaled back projected tax dollars from the state's legal weed market. That's been the case in other states, too. In pushing through legal marijuana, both... Read more →


Oops! Someone at Topps was thinking about someone else when Shane, not Justin, Bieber's baseball card was produced. Did your mom throw out your baseball card collection when you went off to college? If so, you can start anew today, National Baseball Card Day, by picking up some brand spanking new cards. The Topps Company, the official trading card partner of Major League Baseball, is celebrating today by giving out free specially-made cards at MLB stadiums across the country, local hobby shops and a couple of major retailers. The new packs feature MLB stars and up-and-coming rookies. Lucky fans also... Read more →


The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. (Photo courtesy NASA/Wikipedia Commons) Today, July 20, is a momentous day for science, the spirit of adventure and humanity. At 10:56 p.m. Eastern Time (9:56 p.m. in my West Texas hometown's Central Time zone), Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember sitting on the floor in front of our black and white television with my younger brother. We had been allowed, actually encouraged, to stay up late to... Read more →


//Kara's Party Ideas If you don't have to work on this post-July 4th Friday, then you're probably spending the day recovering from your patriotic and fireworks-laden celebrations. Some folks also are resting up from their birthday partying. Yep, I'm talking about those folks born on the Fourth of July. Famous 4th birthday celebrants: Several celebrities share this early July birth date. People magazine published a slide show and those from that presentation that caught my eye include: Eva Marie Saint, the Academy Award winning actress immortalized in On the Waterfront, which was directed by Elia Kazan and also showcased real-life... Read more →


I admit it. I'm freaking out with this pre-All Star break slump that the Houston Astros are experiencing. My only consolation is that my pain is all emotional and psychic, not monetary since I don't bet on sporting events. I, however, apparently am in the minority. Now that sports gambling is legal, it's going gangbusters in the states where it's been approved. N.J. bettors take over: That's definitely the case in New Jersey, the state responsible for the Supreme Court ruling back in May 2018 that overturned federal law outlawing sports wagering in most parts of the United States. The... Read more →


James Holzhauer's epic winning run on Jeopardy finally came to an end, leaving him with winnings of almost $2.5 million. The take fell just short of the television game show's record winnings, but neither Holzhauer nor the tax collectors who'll get a nice chunk of the cash are complaining. James Holzhauer finally learned you can't win 'em all. It's been a good week for gamblers. For tax collectors, too. A 66-year-old North Carolina retiree came forward to claim the $344.6 million Powerball drawing, which he won thanks to numbers from a fortune cookie. A yet-to-be-announced lottery player in San Diego,... Read more →


Killmonger and crew steal a Wakandan vibranium ax in 2018's "Black Panther." This scene was filmed in Atlanta's High Museum of Art. (Watch full museum heist scene at YouTube) If you spend part of this long Memorial Day weekend watching a movie or two, chances are good that it was made in a particular place thanks to tax breaks. Movie makers have been getting tax incentives, at both the federal and state levels, for decades. The practice, however, is controversial. Supporters see the films, traditional television shows, streaming productions, commercials and even video games made in some part within their... Read more →


New parents Harry and Meghan don't have to worry about the expense of their new bundle of joy. But for us non-royals, raising children is costly. We former colonists here across the pond can get some help covering those costs thanks to several U.S. tax breaks. An obviously elated Prince Harry announces the birth of his and wife Meghan's son. (Screen shot from the Sussex Royal Instagram) It's a boy! Watchers of the Royal Family in the United Kingdom, here across the pond and yes, worldwide, are celebrating today's announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now parents... Read more →


Michael Cohen (left) and Tom Arnold run into each other in New York City in June 2018. (Photo via Tom Arnold on Twitter) Michael Cohen, Donald J. Trump's former attorney and previously self-described fixer, is heading to federal prison in a couple weeks. But in a recent conversation with actor Tom Arnold, Cohen said he didn't commit all of the crimes for which he will do time. Specifically, according to the story on the telephone discussion that the Wall Street Journal broke, Cohen says he's not guilty of tax evasion, one of the charges for which he's going to jail.... Read more →


420 Day celebrant photo by GoToVan via Flickr Happy 420 Day, when marijuana smokers commemorate cannabis. It's not surprising that the origins of this unofficial holiday to celebrate weed are fuzzy. Some say it's based on the California police or penal code number 420 that designates marijuana smoking. Not true. Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana. That count must have been made after a few tokes over the line. There are more than 500 active ingredients in marijuana, with only about 70 or so being cannabinoids unique to the plant. A more likely explanation is... Read more →


Hope springs eternal for MLB fans on Opening Day. I'm looking forward to this season bringing another World Series pennant to join the 2017 one in the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park. (Photo by me, taken at the 'Stros' championship celebration with fans at their home opener on April 2, 2018) Today is a holiday in our house. It's Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Our formal celebration of the sport's first games of the year began when we lived in the Washington, D.C. area. In those days, there were no Nationals. The Baltimore Orioles ruled the MidAtlantic baseball world,... Read more →


R. Kelly performing in in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of his 2006 "Mr. Show Biz Presents: The Light it Up Tour. (Photo by Nicholas Ballasy via Wikipedia Commons) Singer-songwriter R. Kelly is (once again) facing serious criminal charges, but a more common complaint is what has landed him in jail. The 52-year-old R&B singer was arrested March 6 after a court hearing that he failed to pay more than $161,000 in back child support. (Update: Kelly was released from jail on March 9 after making the overdue support payments.) Incarceration for failure to meet court-ordered family payments happens... Read more →


Much of the music industry's elite will be at the Grammy awards tonight, all hoping to go home with a new piece of hardware. Many will be disappointed. But perhaps they can take some solace from the goodies they'll get as part of the swag bags that will be distributed before the Recording Academy's 61st ceremonies. This year, the official 2019 Grammy swag bag is worth more than $30,000. But that's not the only gift bag. More than 50 presenters and performers will have the option to go home with not one, but two collections of goodies from the Grammy... Read more →