Reader Request Week 2011 #8: Short Bits ’11
And now, some shorter answers to questions asked this week. These are ones not related to writing. The writing ones are coming later. So:
I’m really interested in hearing how other freelancers – writers, fellow illustrators/designers, musicians – survive the whole Taxes thing. It might seen like a boring topic, but you’re obviously doing something right, and it’d probably be awesome to hear what cleverness, misery and shenanigans Tax Season and it’s, ahem, “fun” has brought you.
I’ve never really had a problem with taxes, to be honest about it. Partly that’s because since I’ve been generally financially successful as a freelancer, so I was never caught up short, and partly that’s because of my own tendency to immediately sock away half of whatever I make for taxes and other unavoidable expenses in my life, thereby sequestering it away from harm. The way I handle taxes at this point is to immediately sign over every single penny I receive to my wife, who tracks it during the year and then hands all the information over to accountant, who does all the heavy lifting on preparing the taxes, because that’s her job and she’s good at it. She also provides us estimates for the next year’s quarterlies, so we’re not caught short when we have to file them. In a general sense, for those freelancers without the numbers gene, I recommend a fiscally responsible spouse (or equivalent) and/or an accountant; they make my tax life a lot easier to deal with.
Is there a word or phrase that, for some reason or another, you always type wrong; either in word choice (there vs. their) or typo?
“Souls,” which my fingers automatically and almost without exception type as “sould.” I do it enough that I’ve trained Microsoft Word to autocorrect it for me. Also, it’s surprising in retrospect how often I use the word “souls.”
Is there anything that you believe Man Was Not Meant To Know? Or, if you think that knowledge in itself isn’t harmful, is there anything you believe humanity should not experiment with, or try to create?
I don’t think there’s anything humans were not meant to know; I suspect there may be things that humans don’t have the capacity to know, in the same manner that it’s beyond the capacity of my cats to know calculus. The human mind is a lovely thing, but it’s not limitless; at some (I think still distant) point we’ll reach the horizon of our ability to understand. At which point, of course, the machines will say “we’ve got this,” and off they’ll go. As for the second part of your question, there are already things humans have the capacity to create but shouldn’t (messy, imprecise biological weapons top my list), so, yes.
Which Apocalypse scenario would you prefer to be extinguished by: invading aliens, nuclear war, zombies, pandemic, any particular mytholical one, meteors….you get my drift.
Why, the sex apocalypse, of course, in which we are all orgasmed into oblivion by the sexy sex partners of our deepest desires! Barring that, probably I’d go with an earth squashing asteroid, since it would be relatively quick, and I would have company. And you want company at the end of the world.
Tattoos. How has the cultural perception of tattoos changed over the generations, and how the symbolism is more personal than cultural. Also, how the placement is indicative of the psychological and spiritual meaning.
I think the perception has clearly changed, in that very few people really care if you have a tattoo, which was certainly not the case twenty years ago. I’m not personally a huge fan of tattoos — I don’t have any and don’t plan to get any — but I can appreciate good ink when I see it. My major complaint with tattoos at this point has little to do with the tattoos themselves and more to do with the suspicion that a very large number of people get tats without realizing that barring thousands of dollars of painful laser surgery, they’ve got the thing for life. If you’re going to embed an image permanently onto your skin, make sure it’s actually meaningful to you. Also, in the US at least, I still think neck and face tattoos are generally a sign you don’t expect to hold regular white-collar employment at any point in your life.
Inspired by your Lenten* Coke Zero experiment, are there other practices typically connected with religions (meditation, for example) which you yourself either find useful or are curious about/interested in outside of a religious context?
Not particularly, no. I believe in charity, which is a cornerstone of at least one major religion and a pillar of another, but my reasons for that are not associated with their religious significance. I’ve known people who have taken mescaline and rationalized it as a religious practice, but it was complete bullshit in their cases; they just wanted to trip.
I would like to know how you think your existence would change if Zombie-ism was real… only in pigs. How many Zombie Pigs do you think would be hunting you down with their bellies and backs flayed open? Would you be damned because of your move to rurality?
I have no fear of the zombie pigpocalypse, because the pig is so tasty, by the time we’re done picking parts off them to eat, there’s nothing left over to reanimate. Except the squeal. The ghostly, haunting squeals. But, eh. That’s what headphones are for.
Any thoughts or ideas on why so many authors and other creative types seem to have issues with mental illness and/or substance abuse?
Well, creative types have issues with mental illness and/or substance abuse because humans in general do; you notice it in creative types more because their lives are public facing. I suspect there is some correlation between mental illness and creativity, and also correlation between such illness and substance abuse, if only because some undiagnosed mentally ill people self-medicate. But not every or even most creative people are chronically mentally ill (or vice versa); not every creative person with a substance abuse problem is self-medicating undiagnosed mentally ill person. I think the biggest problem for creative people with mental illness is the fact that there’s still a social stigma attached to mental illness, and that keeps some of them from acknowledging they have an illness and/or seeking help for it. That’s something I hope changes over time.
If a man jumped from 1910 to 2010 (how doesn’t really matter, could have stepped into a rip in the time space continuum, frozen in a glacier, rip van winkled it, whatever), besides technology, what would he consider the best and worst things about the world?
I would imagine one the best things about it, assuming he landed in the US, would be how rich it was relative to the world of a century earlier, “rich” here being understood as “relative to amounts of stuff we have and the size of the houses we put that stuff in”. I would imagine the worst thing about it would be that it’s loud and fast.
Obviously there are a lot of pluses to raising Athena in your corner of Ohio. What are some of the minuses? I would imagine a lack of diversity is one minus. What do you do to address that?
We take her to see her cousins, whose ancestry ranges from Northern Europe, down through Africa and then over to the Americas. It’s nice to have that sort of diversity built into the family. Beyond that I can’t think of too many obvious minuses. We’re in rural America, but as I’ve noted before, Ohio is fairly densely populated, so “rural” here means “30 minutes from a large city.” I’m trying to think of a downside here and I’m really drawing a blank. Sorry. Or actually, not sorry at all, because it’s nice to be able to say that.
They say you killed a man in Reno just to watch him die, but I don’t believe that for a second. What was the real reason?
He told me I posted too many cat pictures on my blog.