williamallenpepper

Here's a blog because NOBODY else has one!

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

TAX TIPSY

Here it is, the end of February. Snow on the ground. The dregs of Valentine’s Day swirling in the backwash of winter soon to end (at least if my pact with The prince of darkness holds out). If you had income last year, you’re dreading paying your taxes and are deep in the throes of tax preparation.

(If you had income last year, and aren’t planning to pay taxes, you’re busy obtaining a passport under an assumed name – Sven O’Donnell, cockroach gynecologist from Toledo – and painting your hair a different color with the kids’ water colors because buying hair dye would arouse suspicion.)

But tax evasion is a topic for another time – perhaps my upcoming Fraud Trilogy: Tax Evasion, Disposing of the Corpse and Fooling More Suckers with Monopoly Money Than Bitcoin.

Today, I’m here to help you actually defraud the government get away with it pay your taxes quickly and efficiently. If you’re hung up on also paying your taxes legally, well, there’s no time for wussies here.

SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS. ALL OF THEM
Your tax preparer will tell you all the boring deductions everyone takes. Here are a few you might not have thought of.

That day you bought coffee at the gas station in Green Bay on the way to work? That’s a deduction for work supplies. How many times have you said you sang function at the office without caffeine? Even if you forget to get a seven-year-old doughnut out of the case, but don’t forget the receipt.

Get a receipt when you pay your gym membership. You’re WORKING out, right? “Work” is right there in the name of the thing you’re doing.

Make a bunch of Candy Crush in-app purchases last year? Deduct ’em! You might not have receipts, but just show the IRS auditor your wicked awesome score and I’m sure she’ll understand.

CHARITABLE DONATIONS YOU MADE LAST YEAR WITHOUT REALIZING IT

You know how socks mysteriously disappear from the dryer? They had to go somewhere, right? It’s safe to assume some other foot is benefitting from your argyle. Go ahead and claim the cost.

All those times you let another car get ahead of you on the road or let someone with fewer items go ahead of you in the checkout line. Those kind acts cost some of your precious time, time is money, friend. And money is tax deductions. It’s accounting 101, which is a number but not a deduction. See, math is fun!

Ever been in the drive-thru Starbucks one and play the “pay it forward” game? You never want to be the schmuck who doesn’t play, but inevitably the car paying your order gets away with just picking up the one venti blonde roast you ordered while the car behind youis a clown car with an order of 47 lattes and 18 brownies. That’s like feeding a small nation. And people get tax credits for that. So should you. Also, front row seats under the big top. And so much cotton candy you’ll puke.

WHAT IS INCOME TAX REALLY?

Let’s step back for a moment and consider what we’re really doing when we pay “income tax”. As with all things economic, the best way to analyze this is through the game Monopoly. There’s a space on the Monopoly board called “Income Tax” and if you land on it, you have to pay either 10% of the value of your property and cash or a flat $200. How do you get income in Monopoly? Bankrupting your friends, of course. And screwing your friends is fun, right? Income tax is like calling your friend the morning after you drunkenly insulted him because his life choices are stupid. Which they are. But that’s a topic for another blog.

But if you follow the tax advice in this post, you can get away with paying less income tax. You’ll probably get audited and possibly prosecuted. But in taxes, as in life, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Happy auditing!

Advertisements

THE SEVEN DAY VALENTINE RECOVERY PLAN

Those guys who show up at your door offering to paint house numbers on your curb.

People who hand out flyers on street corners.

Reality TV programming.

Valentine’s Day.

What do all these things have in common?

All of these creep up on you and get in your face and won’t go away until you mace them. Or pull the plug. Or both.

It’s February and, as I write this, happens to be Valentine’s Day. Seems like a good chance to tackle at least one of these scourges petty annoyances of daily life elements of popular culture that makes life great. The truth is, though, that Valentine’s Day can be rough. it can reinforce for single people how lonely they are or, at least, how lonely everyone else thinks single people should be. Even people with valentines can be stressed out by the pressure of living up to someone’s V-Day expectations. I hear you. (Really. I do. Stop making that noise. It’s annoying.) I know you have post-traumatic-valentine-disorder right now, but we’ll get through this.

Since it’s impossible to pull the plug on Valentine’s Day without destroying the greeting card economy, thereby necessitating a White House- lead bailout involving Joe Biden dressed as Cupid, we need another approach. Here, then, is my seven-day valentine recovery plan:

SUNDAY

(Supplies: Trench coat with deep pockets. A couple dozen live mice. If they look unwell, all the better.)

Drive by that restaurant you couldn’t afford/that lost your reservation/where you got stood up. Wearing the trenchcoat, casually stroll into the dining room and even more casually (you may need to practice this at home – what else do you have to do, my valentine-less friend?) dump the couple dozen mice out of your coat pockets, then scream, “This place is infested with vermin!” Sure, you’ll never be able to eat at Wendy’s again, but its a small price to pay for revenge against an establishment that really never did anything to you.

MONDAY

(Supplies: A phone. A credit card. A voice.)

You know how all your friends got flowers delivered to them at the office an every time the dude walked in with another bouquet, you got all excited? For nothing? Because it wasn’t for you. Again. Well, here’s how you get the thing almost as good as love: revenge. Just call up your local florist and order forty-nine bouquets to be delivered. An even fifty is even better. Here’s the best part: when the delivery van rolls up, don’t answer the door! Ha! Zing!

TUESDAY

(Supplies: a pen)

Go to the greeting card shop and draw wee-wee’s and pee-pees in as many cards as you have ink.

WEDNESDAY

Go somewhere there are lots of couples, like a bar or skating rink, or jail or porn shop. The typical places. Then heckle them, they should feel bad for being happy relationship people. It’s only right.

THURSDAY

(Supplies: lots of free time)
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Shiny happy people holding hands. Turning lead into gold. It’s all about the bling, am I right?

I assume there’s statistics on it if I wasn’t too lazy to look, but I suspect jewelry stores rake in a ton of money at Valentine’s Day. But not from you, single person. Yet there they are, all shiny and elegant. If you just buy the perfect pendant or watch you’re beloved will be yours forever. That’s ruby-encrusted baloney, my friend. Hurts, doesn’t it? So, all you do is go to every jewelry store in the mall and browse. That’s it. Just shop. Because….inevitably, some helpful salesperson will offer to take something out of the display case for you. So you let them. Then you ask to see something else. And something after that. Keep it up until you’ve gotten every item of inventory right down to the salesperson’s Doctor Who cuff links. Then you say, “Thanks, but I’m gonna shop around a bit.” And walk out. Go to the next jewelry store and repeat. Feel better? Stop at the kiosk with the dippin dots on the way. It’ll help.

FRIDAY

(Supplies: guitar, piano, mandolin, spoons, armpit, anything musical)

What’s the most romantic thing you can do for someone you love?

No, the other thing, sicko.

Right. You can write them a song! Something sweet and funny – or epic or gushy – from the heart.

And what kind of song should you write of your single and jilted? Well, I’ll leave that to you. But I do think somewhere the lyrics should include the words crap-weasel and doody-face.

SATURDAY

(Supplies: the price of admission)

Your true love loved opera, right? Or theatre? Or films featuring some combination of hot tubs, time machines, killer robots, or period dress?

But then there was that one Valentine’s Day your one and only left you stranded in the lobby with a jumbo popcorn and two unused tickets. Want to get over that? Here’s how: go to the next show, find a seat in the front row and…

Just enjoy. It’s a pretty good show. Have a little “me” time. Just be in the moment. Take a second to enjoy how your ex couldn’t get a ticket. Then move on. Life is too short for regret and revenge.

Maybe get some Junior Mints too.

THE WRITER UNBOUND

It’s fashionable these days to express your lack of concern for something by rather glibly proclaiming: I have no more fucks to give.

It’s a little crude, sure. But sometimes a little well-placed crudity can cut through a lot of double talk. Casting off your cares, flinging your fucks, as it were (as it was? As it is?) is liberating. It can free your mind, boost your mood, whatever you need.

But can not giving a fuck apply to more than crappy jobs, Internet trolls, and that jerk in the restaurant on his cell phone?

Could it apply to, say, writing?

Writing, especially fiction, should be the ultimate in not giving a fuck. When you write, you’re building a world; sometimes a universe. You make all the decisions. Character names and traits. What the buildings in your city look like. Where to break the paragraphs. You can do whatever you want. Who cares if other people think Seymour is a funny name? If you like it, use it. Who cares if there’s no obvious market for “Meet the Press” fan fiction? If like it, write it. (“John McCain’s smoldering lust could not be contained by a commercial break. Mitch McConnell’s world would never be the same.”)

Writing should be freeing. It’s the ultimate “I have no fuck to give. I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT.”

Except…when you sit down to seriously write something, not just “oh, I think I’ll doodle a little story about a bunny on my iPad pages app while I wait for my chai latte”, but really, seriously write something it’s totally the opposite of freeing.

You can fall into the mindset that you’re writing a book and a book looks a certain way – whatever that is for you. You get bogged down in stuff like word counts and linear plotting and getting every detail of the backstory of the characters down before you even start the front story.

All that is important – but not right away. What’s important right away is getting the story out. Get everything out of your head and onto the page, you can cut mercilessly later. Just get it out now. I haven’t always been good at that, by which I mean I’ve never been good at that. Often then, the writing process feels stilted and awkward. And most of all, slow. I’ve probably wasted lots of writing time this way.

But, no time for regrets. No time to waste. My hopper is full of tales to tell, worlds to build. So much stuff to give, except…

Well, you know.

TINY LITTLE CELL PHONE POCKET

When I was considering what to write about for this week’s blog post, I had two possibilities: my looming birthday or my Atari 2600.

Looking ahead a month or so ago, it seemed natural to write about my birthday. Blogging is, by design, a narcissistic activity and listening (or reading) someone droning on about their own birthday seemed to be the epitome of that. And besides, I don’t think of myself as middle-aged, modern science being what it is, but that’s getting increasingly hard to deny. So, goddammit, I’ve earned the right to blog about it, or whatever.

So, that’s it then. The birthday blog.

Except…

A couple weeks ago, I was cleaning the office and saw my wife’s old, little TV, the one from the tiny apartment she had when we were dating. It sits there now, unused. The remote has disappeared. It’s not a flat screen. But, crucially, what it does have is the correct audio and video connections for the early-eighties technology of the Atari 2600 game console.

So, I plugged in the TV. Works! Then I pulled out the Atari and game cartridges salvaged from my parents’ house years ago. Would they work? Well, see for yourself:

20150131-103347.jpg

It’s not a great picture, but the game on the screen is “Missile Command”, a fun little game about defending your cities from nuclear annihilation. Right out of the box, thirty-odd years since last I played, I scored 28,000 points.

So I was going to to write a post about this. About revisiting Frogger and Pac-Man and Pitfall. About the Joy of showing my kids these games I played when I was not much older than them. The five-year-old, in particular, was thrilled to find the “Superman” game. I was thrilled, and a little surprised, to find that out of a couple dozen cartridges, the only one that didn’t work anymore was “Donkey Kong”; a tragic loss, but only one causality is not too bad.

I could go on and on about his, but the idea of the birthday post still nagged. Which one should I write? Atari or birthday?

Then I noticed something else.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been surrounding myself with things from my past: the Atari was first. I recently felt compelled to pull out of storage some old Star Trek and X-Files collectibles. The other night, I watched “Back to the Future”. Yesterday, I pulled out of the closet an old pea coat I really liked but hadn’t worn in ten years. Just because I felt like it.

These all seemed to be random exercises in recycling old junk. Then it hit me: could I be doing these things because it’s my birthday? Some sort of subconscious reconnection with youth as a defense against yet another turning of the calendar? Maybe. And it kind of works, I guess, with a little wishful fantasizing.

But here’s the thing. They say you can’t go home again. You also, it turns out, can’t completely return to your youth again. Here’s how I know:

That pea coat fits great and has an inside cell phone pocket with a Velcro flap to secure it. Nice, right? Only, the pocket is a little snug for the modern smartphones. Back when I wore this, everyone had smaller fliphones. Times change. Jackets don’t.

Nothing last forever. The Atari post and the birthday post are one in the same because past and present are linked. On paper (or pixels). But in life, the chain between past and present is there, but you can only move forward.

Man, I need a huge slice of cake. And a Jameson’s. Make it a double. On both.

Happy birthday to everyone with a birthday this year!

Post Navigation