Happy Halloween from BBT

Halloween is a fun holiday. There’s none of the awkward and forced family obligations that often come with Thanksgiving and Christmas. You don’t have to buy presents, or coordinate a multi-course meal. All Halloween requires is a costume, candy, and a willingness to enjoy a good scare.

It’s no secret that we love literature here at BBT. We’ve posted book recommendations, advice on re-evaluating how you read, summer reading lists, and even some commentary on a few classics.

In celebration of Halloween, here are some fund bits based on poetry and books that people have found frightening for generations.

The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe (as performed by the Simpsons)

Edgar Allen Poe + James Earl Jones + Homer Simpson = Must Watch Awesomeness

The Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving

Irving was one of America’s first acclaimed authors, and is best known for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He also wrote some pretty good ghost stories too.

“In a stormy night, in the tempestuous times of the French Revolution, a young German was returning to his lodgings, at a late hour, across the old part of Paris. The lightning gleamed, and the loud claps of thunder rattled through the lofty narrow streets—but I should first tell you something about this young German.

Gottfried Wolfgang was a young man of good family. He had studied for some time at Göttingen, but being of a visionary and enthusiastic character, he had wandered into those wild and speculative doctrines which have so often bewildered German students. His secluded life, his intense application, and the singular nature of his studies, had an effect on both mind and body. His health was impaired; his imagination diseased. He had been indulging in fanciful speculations on spiritual essences, until, like Swedenborg, he had an ideal world of his own around him. He took up a notion, I do not know from what cause, that there was an evil influence hanging over him; an evil genius or spirit seeking to ensnare him and ensure his perdition. Such an idea working on his melancholy temperament produced the most gloomy effects. He became haggard and desponding. His friends discovered the mental malady preying upon him, and determined that the best cure was a change of scene; he was sent, therefore, to finish his studies amidst the splendors and gayeties of Paris.”

Continue reading here. (It’s not very long, but too long to put the whole story here.)

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

For a special Halloween broadcast in 1938, the 1889 classic science fiction book was adapted for a radio broadcast. The first half of the broadcast consisted of fictional news bulletins describing the outbreak of an inter-planetary war. As listeners tuned in, many believed they were listening to actual reports. Panic ensued, with calls flooding into major news outlets. The uproar became a national headline.

Here, in all of it’s glory, is that 1938 radio broadcast.

Now go fill up on candy corn and pumpkin beer. Happy Halloween!

What Would You Do If I Sang Out of Tune? ‘The Wonder Years’ Tribute

By: Alan Meincke

True confession: I love me some The Wonder Years. I vaguely remember watching the show on TV as a child, and I excitedly binge-watched the entire series on Netflix once it was available.  Admittedly, as a Millennial, I have no first-hand recollection of the late 60s or early 70s whatsoever. However, I grew up listening to oldies in the car with my parents, as that was the music of their formative years.

Regardless of your age, The Wonder Years is one of the best coming-of-age sitcoms of all time (yes, it is better than Boy Meets World ever was…apologies to Ben Savage).

Side note: how is it that both Savage boys ended up a stars in similar types of sitcoms?

The Wonder Years was superb in every way. The cast and screenwriters perfectly captured the awkwardness of adolescence – a universal experience for us, at least as Americans. Foremost, was the sibling rivalry between Kevin and his older brother Wayne. Even those of us without older siblings can identify with the inexplicable powerlessness felt during pre-teen years and teenage years of submitting to authority – whether it was deserving or not. Wayne is the quintessential seniority hire. The guy who slacks off 99% of the time, but still seems to be one step ahead of you. The guy who embarrasses you in front of a girl…

We have all had run-ins with those types of people.

As a child (and youngest sibling), I empathized with the protagonist, Kevin. As an adult and future parent, I find myself more interested in Kevin’s parents. How did they react to their kids’ shenanigans? How did they interact with one another? How does their portrayal contrast with that of other parents on sitcoms today?

The archetype of the emotionally-distant, disciplinarian dad has largely faded away in today’s culture – think Phil from Modern Family or Joel from Parenthood versus Jack Arnold. While at first blush, I’d venture to say that’s a good thing, I also think there was some value to having a parent who relentlessly puts the fear of God into their kids! Either way, Jack Arnold still manages to have some meaningful connection to his kids – albeit in fleeting moments  (think, Season 6, Episode 2’s fishing trip).

Finally, perhaps the most excellent and unique aspect of the show was the soundtrack. Somehow, the producers convinced major record labels to give them music rights to top-notch artists from the 60s – The Beatles, Smokey Robinson, Elton John, Otis Redding, the Who, etc. These timeless songs were nearly as instrumental (sorry, not sorry) in capturing the heart-wrenching moments of joy, rejection, sorrow, and euphoria indicative of adolescence. Unfortunately, the same music rights were the reason the show was never released on DVD.

If you have never seen or have not seen The Wonder Years recently, do yourself a favor and catch all six seasons on Netflix.

- Alan listens to records, drinks bourbon out of roly poly glasses, and sometimes wishes he lived in the 60s…until he realizes the Vietnam War, Kennedy’s assassination, segregation, and the Cuban Missile Crisis all occurred during the same period.


So I Leased a Leaf

By: Alan Meincke

Pretty high at the top of my list of financial “no-nos” was the idea of leasing a new car. Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard both generally say to stay away from this potential money pit (the former being much more adamant than the latter). The dealer will kill you on junk fees, it’s better to keep a car for as long as possible, etc.

Here in the great state of Georgia, however, there exists a little extra incentive to change the cost analysis. Georgia residents get a $5,000 tax credit for buying or leasing an electric vehicle! The theory of leasing in this instance is that the technology is changing so quickly that you’re better off not being stuck with an older model two years down the road. Notably, the Nissan Leaf has an increased range by about 10 miles each model year.

Lots of folks have written about how you can drive a “free” car on a two year lease based on this tax credit. That is a misleading statement because those writers never account for electricity usage and car insurance – although those costs are fixed no matter what type of vehicle you drive (obviously I’m talking gas if you’re not driving an EV).

A few caveats:

1) The $5k tax credit is only applied to your state tax liability. Drivers are also not going to be able to get the money from the tax credit until they actually file their tax return for that year. You don’t get a check for $5,000. For example, if my Georgia tax liability is $4,000 for 2014 and I paid in $4,500 over the course of the year through my payroll, only $4,000 of the $4,500 liability refund is due to the EV credit (assuming you have no other deductions).
2) The tax credit can be spread out over 5 years. So, if I cannot take all of it on my 2014 tax return, I’d claim the remainder the next year, which certainly makes the credit less beneficial short-term.
3) There may be some federal tax liability for the credit you receive. *Ask a CPA about all of this to be sure!
4) The state legislature tried to kill the tax credit last year, but the bill did not pass before the end of the session. It is likely to go down in the future.
5) There is a non-negotiable $395 return fee at the end of the lease. They will also dock you for any wear and tear on the car. I happened to accidentally run over something that put a pretty good scrape on the bottom edge of our car, so I’m not really sure how that will play out at the end. There may be some wiggle room here if you leased another vehicle or bought another car from the dealer.
6) If you plan to use the trickle-charger (the 20′ cord that comes with the car that you plug into a regular wall socket), it takes 20+ hours to reach a full charge.

Now, for my wife and I, the lease made good sense. I confirmed we would be able to capture most of the tax credit next year based off of our 2013 state tax return. We were also spending approximately $250 a month to maintain and gas up my 14-year old Volvo, so we could basically cash flow the lease payment without missing a beat. Additionally, we avoided driving my old car on most weekends because it was so expensive to maintain. I also got a quote for car insurance so I knew exactly how much it would increase (for me, about $3 extra per month).

Insider tips:

1) See if you qualify for the vehicle purchase program (VPP) through your employer. This program enables you to get an additional discount.
2) Buy at the end of the month. We got a great deal since the dealer was trying to hit sales goals on the last day of the month.
3) Be realistic. Understand you cannot road trip in a vehicle that has an 85 mile range. 90% of our driving around town is close enough this hasn’t been a real issue. The Leaf probably couldn’t be your primary vehicle unless you were willing to rent another car for road trips.
4) Check out This app/website enables you to lookup public chargers near where you live.

So, there you have it. If you have an older vehicle, the Nissan Leaf may be a good car option. Three months in, there have been a few hitches here and there for my wife and I to plan our trips around the battery life, but overall it has been great to spend the same amount of money (or less, including the tax credit) to have a new car as opposed to an older car that risked major repairs at any time.

- Alan wants to throw off stereotypes by putting “NRA” and “Impeach Obama” stickers on his Nissan Leaf, but he has yet to do so.