• Meeting the Cookie Monster Shaped my Career Path

    Cookie Monster Loves cookies!!!!!!!In 1982, I met the Cookie Monster.  Well…maybe not THE Cookie Monster – most likely just someone officially sanctioned to dress up in the Cookie Monster suit. But I digress. Meeting the Cookie Monster ended up playing a significant role in my professional life.

    I was 7 years old, and my mom heard about a radio contest to win tickets for Sesame Street Live. Sure, I had already pretty much outgrown the show, but my mom insisted I enter. I guess she  knew how much I loved the series even a year beforehand. “Meh, whatever,” I must have said to myself…and so I entered. The rules stated that I had to write “why I wanted to go see Sesame Street Live” on a postcard and send it into the station. I didn’t know what to say, so I said “I want to go see Sesame Street Live because it’s one of my favorite shows.” A blatant lie, as I already mentioned – I had outgrown the show and cared more about Saturday morning cartoons. I kind of wonder what my mom were to say if she were alive today to read this. Such a big moment in my young life was about appeasing her – about going with the flow and not really caring if I won! Eh, she’d probably laugh. Maybe she’d  insist that I was still very much into the show. She’d probably say I was remembering wrong. Granted, that wasn’t the only lie involved in entering this contest. She transcribed my words to the postcard and later admitted to writing a few letters backwards. When I found this fact out, I laughed, but I was secretly offended as I never wrote letters backwards to my recollection. I knew my alphabet forwards, even at that age, thank you very much!

    What was probably a few weeks passed, and  found out that I, along with five or so other kids, won tickets. The radio station wanted me to read my postcard over the air on the radio, so one Saturday morning we trekked down to their studio. They sat me  in an early 80s DJ booth, and read my words into the microphone (somewhere, I still have a recording of this). Afterwards, we were ushered downstairs into what seemed like a gigantic room with huge couches. There we waited for what seemed like forever. The other contest winners were also there, and there were refreshments – meats, cheeses. Probably cookies – after all, we were about to meet Cookie Monster! Mostly though, I was kind of bored.

    Finally, I see a big, blue, carpeted muppet entering the room. Some of the other kids thought he was real. I knew better – he was just someone in a costume. Regardless….I thought it was cool. He didn’t say anything –  confirming that it wasn’t Frank Oz. A legit Frank Oz would have said “Me want cookies” or something like that. I felt kind of shy, but I did hug him, and my mom got a really cute picture of me and him embracing. He didn’t stay too long – did his rounds with all the kids, waved bye, and left.

    After the meet and greet, we were given a tour of the radio station – and that’s where I saw the most fascinating room of my young life. It was full of knobs, and levers, and buttons. I swear, one of the tech people said that one of the machines was for dispensing meat and cheese. Certainly a joke, but I saw him pulling a piece of salami from a slot. I would love to tell said tech how much his joke influenced my life. To this day, whenever I’ve walked into a strange control room, I wonder if they have the mysterious meat and cheese machine. But back to the story…what I can only assume was master control fascinated me on a level I had never experienced before.

    Master control from a radio station.
    I bet that machine on the bottom is the meat machine!

     

    Ever since that day, if you asked my inner, deeper self what I would do as an a adult, I probably would have said working in some control room somewhere. Sure, if you had asked surface me, I would have said something else. As a kid, I wanted to be “a doctor In Hawaii.” In high school, I wanted to be a youth pastor. Even now, I’m still trying to make my college dream of being a professional writer come true! Despite all those dreams and ambitions, something deep inside of me told me that I would be working in a control room. And If I hadn’t entered that contest, and then met Cookie Monster, I would have not gone on that tour. The fascinating room would not serve as a basis to my aspirations.

    To be fair – I really don’t work in a control room anymore. I did when I got my first job in television, I was a master control operator. My career has progressed from that point onwards. Even though I now work in an office behind a desk and with a computer, it is essentially still a control room. Sure, all the noisy machines and buttons and levers are in the room next door, where I no longer need to go – but I still control a good portion of those machines. I still give those machines input, and watch their output. It’s just that those inputs and outputs are, like most things, done via a computer instead of levers and buttons and knobs. So I still stand behind my statement! I always knew I would work in some control room somewhere and here I am.

    Of course, the Cookie Monster may have been one of the reasons I work in a “control room somewhere,” but it’s not the only reason. I was also greatly inspired by my dad, who ran the sound at my church every single Sunday. I’m sure sitting behind the sound council with all those knobs and buttons and sliders made me think “This is what I’ll be doing one day.” That’s actually how I got into television. I volunteered to do sound myself at one church, knowing that I could pick it up pretty quickly.  A couple family friends who happened to work together at a TV station knew I had some skills in “control room work,” and got me onboard. 18 years later, and here I am. Sorry Cookie Monster. You did have a little help in your attempts to shape my career.

    If there’s a moral to this story, it’s just this: Don’t be afraid to let your kids take chances at stupid things – even if they’re just a tad bit too old for said things. The memories I have of that experience are something I’ll always have with me, sure. But the seeds that experience planted shaped me in a deep way and continues to do so, some 35 years later. I’m not saying their experiences will lay out their career path – but maybe it will.  At the very least, it will teach them to take chances. And if you happen to scribe their letters backwards, well…they’ll forgive you.

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  • Retro Album Review: Passafist (1994)

    Recently I’ve been dealing with my midlife crisis by exploring all the music I loved in my youth. Of course, some of this music has held up pretty well despite my current standards, while some of this music sounds pretty dated. Part of this is, of course, the fact that my tastes have changed. The top 40 music I so loved as a teen isn’t really what I enjoy now, though some of the album rock I listened to in college is still quite amazing and relevant. All this being said, I am introducing a new topic to explore on aaronjedwards.com. I’ll be exploring, critiquing, and being downright brutal to the music I loved and thrived upon the int 80s and 90s. The general idea is to review albums as a whole, though I might review certain songs on their own, or perhaps certain artists. Some of it will be music most of my readers will know, while some of the music will be pretty obscure.

    The first album I want to review is certainly on the obscure side: the self-titled, and only, release by a band called “PassAFist.” The band formed in 1994 after Chagall Guevara’s disbanding.  Some might say that Dave Perkins and Lynn Nichols actually set out to make the second Chagall Guevara album with the Passafist project. Little can even be found on the album or band, so I’ll get right to the music itself.

    1. Emmanuel Chant

    The first track, Emmanuel Chant, feels like a post industrial dance number. The song almost sounds like if Trent Reznor wrote a song with MC 900 Ft. Jesus. It’s a very simple track, and very trance like. Ultimately, it’s a cry to God – a desire for the presence of the Lord.

    2. Glock

    The second track, Glock is a heavy and violent song speaking of vengeance. The  speaker in this song is an English teacher, who due to a school shooting, turns to a life of violence. While Glock doesn’t appear to fit with the first song, subsequent listenings could show that the speaker is the same. Emmanuel Chant, being the speaker’s desires, Glock being the speaker’s realities.  A mild-mannered person is suddenly feeling so unsafe that he must pursue a quest of vengeance. The pacifist in track one is suddenly finding himself needing to “pass a fist.”

    3. Christ of the Nuclear age

    Track three – Christ of the nuclear age is a confusing one. My interpretation is that the song revolves around an egoist who decides to follow the example of Christ, minus the love. We have someone who hangs out with prostitutes, but does not honor them. He’s a person who is not above destroying anything he dislikes, even if this is overly destructive to those around him. He’s one to mix spit and mud, and throw it in your eyes. It’s almost as if this “Nuclear Christ,” mocks Christ and all who follow Christ. But really digging into a deeper meaning, one can find a bit of a subtext: The man is actually representative of many churches. These churches try to mimic Christ, but forget that Christ had love as his central message.

    4. Love E900

    Track 4, Love E900 is a commentary of the culture that, before the internet, arose around 1-900 numbers. You could call for psychics,  you could call for phone sex, you could call for jokes, financial advice, and pretty much anything you might now just google. One could raise a pretty hefty phone bill on said services. I’ve always felt that this was the weakest track on the album, but that doesn’t mean it’s a weak song by any means. In fact, one might say that it’s a valuable piece of history. Love E900 shows the proto culture that eventually evolved into our culture of instant gratification. It shows a culture that demands instant gratification from their technology.

    5. Appliance Alliance

    Track five, Appliance Alliance pairs nicely with track three. They’re both about a church without the love of Jesus. Having said that, while Christ of the Nuclear age explores one unnamed man, Appliance Alliance is specifically about Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. The image of “Queenie” crying is a dead giveaway, as the now late Tammy Faye famously cried, several times on the PTL network. This is only one of the many details included on the fall of the Baker’s TV Ministry. It’s quite the chilling tale! Of course the take away from this song is that of any history lesson….learning from the mistakes of others. In this case, Appliance Alliance shows us what happened to Jim and Tammy Baker when they put money and power ahead of God. The current generation of televangelists should take head of this, sometimes, “Entertainment is…hell.”

    6. Street Fighting Man

    Track six, Street Fighting Man, is a cover of a Rolling Stones song. One must ask why Passafist, an album which talks about so many evils – violence, corruption, greed, and heresy, would include this specific cover. However, the song serves as a metaphor. The fact that Street Fighting Man found inspiration from the violence and outcry in Paris and America, while London seemed rather quiet in the late 60s. It feels as though Perkins and Nichols are asking themselves a question: With all this evil in the world, is it enough to just sit back, quietly, and play rock and roll? Are they changing anything by talking about said evil? Do they need to do more? Really, it’s the eternal struggle of all creators – be they painters, writers, musicians, etc. Where does singing songs really get us? When is it time to put down our guitars, paint brushes and pens and do something more?

    7. The Dr. Is In

    Track seven, The Dr. is in, ends the album with what can only be said a tangled mess, an anthem of peace, and an amazing tribute to a classic film – Dr. Strangelove. On the surface, the song sounds as though it’s just trying to give a recap to the film – complete with crazy conspiracies of Soviet plots to poison us with luoride. In the deeper sense, this song is all about what it takes to get peace. Essentially, “Peace like a river,” only “flows through this land” when we’ve fought ourselves to oblivion. When we’ve nuked ourselves and our enemies into a nuclear winter. Hopeless, eh? Or maybe not….this is a song about the cold war, written three years after the cold war had ended. Could it just be that Perkins and Nichols still didn’t trust the Russians? Or could it be that they’re pointing out hope despite the lack of hope? It’s a bloody miracle that the Cold War ended the way it did. There were several times that we came dangerously close to all out war with the Soviet Union….and yet we somehow didn’t. So perhaps peace like a river can flow without hell freezing over. Perhaps there is hope.

    Is Passafist still relevant?

    Part of this experiment is to ask how this album has aged. Musically, Passafist is a little dated, though I’ve seen worse offenders. The album sounds like a typical mid 90s rock albu. Could it have been composed today? Maybe….but probably not. Granted – while it’s not a “modern” sound, the music still holds up. The music may have aged, but it’s certainly aged gracefully. The lyrics, however, are certainly still relevant. Glock, talking about un violence and school shootings. Appliance Alliance, while talking about a specific televangelist, certainly warns current televangelist about their plight if they don’t watch their steps. The Dr. is in certainly could become very relevant if we end up in a second cold war – considering the crap Putin has pulled recently…. Of course, Love E900 hasn’t aged well as the technology involved really isn’t relevant. Still, as a whole, Passafist has indeed aged well for being almost 25 years old.

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  • Even if I’m wrong, I’m right and that’s why I write….

    IS this right or wrong? Whatever, this article won't be as awesome as this. But it will be more confusing!

    Wrong or right, I have no idea what to write, I just know I need to write. The reason I need to write is because I want to be a success. I want more hits to my blog, and I read something somewhere saying if I post more often, I’ll get more hits. I also need to make sure that if I write the right stuff, I’m not wrong. Does that sentence make any sense to you? Well, it shouldn’t – but it makes my readability score turn green and that means more hits from Google and Bing and Yahoo. I’m supposed to repeat certain words several times, like write, right, wrong, and other things. This will make my score right and right is not wrong. And even if I’m wrong, I’m right.

    You might notice that this entry has no content….that’s ok because content is secondary to visibility. You need to market yourself even if you have nothing worth saying….especially if you have nothing worth saying. Just say something…anything….Say how much you love cheese but don’t give a reason why. Say how much you hate dinasours, but make sure you can’t spell the world dinasour. And for heaven’s sake, make sure no one edits your mispelled words! It’s not about the art, it’s not about your creative flow….it’s about marketing…it’s about SEO and making yourself monitizable. Is that a word? Doesn’t matter – I just made it a word. Why? Because even if I’m wrong, I’m right.

    Actually, forget everything I just said…I wrote. People don’t google unique things! People Google the same words over….like weather or gmail or porn or google or flowers or pill indicator. Yes, pill indicator is on the list of most googled terms – sitting at number 26. So, there’s a ton of people staring at random pills and saying “hmm, I  wonder what this does!” Scary thought!

    My readability just dropped to ok, instead of excellent.  I better use short words now. I am short, I am not long. Oh, I  speak in small words. Also, I speak in short sentences. Plus, I am right even if I am wrong. Hmm, that doesn’t seem to be working….it’s dropped to “needs improvement.” I wonder why….I said I was right. I said I was right even if I am wrong! Writing for computers is hard.

    Ok, I did a little edit and got my score back into good territory. Apparantly, I started too many sentences with the same word. That’s….actually a helpful tool. I mean, in this case, it was a matter of stylistic choice, but in general that’s a useful thing. There’s one thing I do need to improve upon here though – I don’t have any subheadings.

    Here’s your damned subheading

    Happy? Good. Ugg, can I rant now? Seriously….the very fact that they want us to use subheadings is because people refuse to read! They just want the basic point – without the prose or the explanations or the….ugg. You get the point. Why do we even have writers if no one is going to read anything? Maybe we should just start making short lists. But I digress. Oh, it’s also saying I haven’t used a “focus” keyword in a heading….sooo

    Here’s your damned wrong subheading

    There….. I also need to add some links to external pages. so. www.google.com. Does that work? Oh, wait….internal links. Random link, coming up! Now we come to the payoff!

    Yep – there you have it. I’ve officially gotten in the green on all the categories. That’s just how simple it is to write. Sure, the tone of voice changed halfway through. I also have to say that some of this just didn’t make sense….but here we go. I wrote over 600 words on utter nonsense. As long as the automated scripts and search engines are happy, evidently I should be happy as well. What a load of crap.

    Wrong....so very very wrong. And gross as well.

    Getting back to frequency of writing….actually that’s something I’m hoping to do. It will be tough, but I have a lot of quality things to say. I realize I made a big fuss about quality over quantity earlier, but sometimes there’s room for both. I can put out two quality posts a month. Aaron has it in him!

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  • Maybe I’ll give Death Cab for Cutie another shot.

    I remember back in the mid 00s, I kind of hated Death Cab for Cutie. I had several reasons, but honestly, I think it was that they were just too popular and I was just too cool for school. I remember a friend of mine from that era used to say that if I don’t like something just because it was popular, I was still letting what is popular influence me. Damn I hated when she would say that. of course, I always said I wasn’t doing that – that I actually did not like whatever song, movie, or what have you. Still looking back at who I was, I’m pretty sure I hated things just because they were popular. I’ll even go so far as to say that I still do that – but I digress.

    Like I said, I didn’t like Death Cab for Cutie back in that era. I did like a few songs here and there. “President of What” felt like a battle cry against the current administration (sadly, that song is even more relevant today). “I Was a Kaleidoscope” is just a fun song. And of course, there’s the cover of “Handle me with Care.” Technically, that’s a Jenny Lewis song, but Ben Gibbard did an amazing job at covering Roy Orbison’s vocals. Oh, and of course the Postal Service still gets several plays a year from me. So it wasn’t like I hated all things Death Cab for Cutie, but I still felt they were overrated.

    One of the reasons I said they were overrated: I always felt like they tried too hard with their lyrics. I remember reading an article after Transantlanticism came out said something about their lyrics being “Hey, aren’t I clever?” I got really excited, and was like “yeah….that’s how I feel about them!” Looking back, maybe I thought that way because I do the same thing. Readers of my blog already know that I sometimes try to push how clever I am on my audience. So maybe there was more to it than just the fact that they were too popular….maybe they reminded me too much of myself. And maybe that scared me – but I digress. Aren’t I clever?

    OK, so what made me change my mind? Pretty much what changes my mind about most music anymore – a random song on Spotify. In this case, it was the song “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Half the song is this amazing instrumental. Four minutes or so in, and you’re like…this is nice. And then the vocals start. At this point, I didn’t even expect vocals, I thought it was all instrumental. It’s almost like two songs smashed together. Once more, the “two songs” don’t quite look like they could fit together…at least not on paper. The two songs feel almost alien from each other. The rhythms don’t match, the instrumentation on the first part does not match the lyrics on the second part…honestly it looks like two cars going full speed and crashing into each other. Yet, when they do crash, what emerges from the wreckage is an amazing and beautiful thing. Ok, so maybe that’s a morbid metaphor, so for the sake of making things well – no one in either car was hurt and their insurance covered the costs in full and both cars got replaced with something better. But I digress again….am I still being clever?

    While writing this article, I, of course, have been listening to Death Cab for Cutie – some of the more popular songs of course, but also some of the deep cuts. I have a theory that any band worth listening to should have a few songs that are absolutely amazing but just aren’t very well known outside of their fan base. I may not have found those songs with Death Cab (yet), but I got to say, I have not heard a bad song. As far as the “Hi, aren’t I clever lyrics,” I’m not hearing those either. I’m hearing clever lyrics, yes. Lyrics from a master wordsmith. So even if they are saying “Hi, Aren’t I Clever,” they have every right to say so. Maybe that’s what’s got me more receptive to this band. Car crash analogies notwithstanding, I’ve learned in the last 15 years I don’t have to try to be clever, because I am clever. I realize this sounds extremely narcissistic, but I’ve learned how smart I really am, and that it’s ok to admit it. I also know that in admitting this, I gain confidence, and thus come up with even more brilliant ideas, writings, or what have you. I’ve learned that being smart is a strength, just as the clever lyrics of Death Cab for Cutie is also a strength.

    If there’s a point to this article, other than go listen to everything Death Cab for Cutie has ever recorded, it’s don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to analyze why you dislike something. Don’t be afraid to admit you dislike something for stupid reasons. Don’t be afraid of letting your friends point out that you dislike something for stupid reasons. Don’t be afraid to say that you dislike things because you’re not confident in your own abilities. Most of all, don’t be afraid to look back, 15 years later, and say “I was wrong about X.” Tonight, in doing this I not only found an amazing band with several albums to explore, but I also learned something about myself. As I type this, I’m listening to the song “Your New Twin Sized Bed. This is strangely relevant…as the bridge states “It’s like we’re in some kind of hurry, to say Goodbye.” Don’t be in a hurry to say goodbye to music you don’t like, especially if you think you should like it. Maybe it will grow on you, or maybe you’re just being stubborn.

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  • Breaking Up with Godaddy.

    I’ve spent most of today doing something I should have done a long time ago….I’m breaking up with GoDaddy. I’ve had my domains and hosting with them for over ten years (maybe even closer to fifteen). The aaronjedwards.com website literally launched and grew into its current form using GoDaddy’s servers. So why would I kick GoDaddy to the curb? Well, let me tell you!!!!
    The very first reason…a few years back, I found out their CEO hunted elephants. This bothered me enough that I thought “it’s time to change.” I, however, didn’t make the change at that point. I was much too busy to really look into what needed to be done. It’s a pain for sure. So….GoDaddy continued to get my money, month after month for hosting, year after year for domains. They treated me ok, sometimes gave me annoying sales calls, but whatever. As much as I want to stand against the slaughter of elephants, I guess I just had better things to do. The rumor mill is that they’re going to replace their CEO anyways – with a guy who only slaughters puppies…..(sarcasm).
    The second reason emerged about a year ago. I get a notice telling me that some of my files had been infected with malware and I needed to deal with it. Ok….great. I really didn’t know exactly what to do on this front, so I procrastinated. A few days later I get a call from one of their customer service (or lack thereof) reps. The dude was insanely rude, acting like I had done this on purpose. He said it caused their entire system to slow down. Yeah….my dinky little website, which traffic logs state barely had any visits at that point, really did sooooo much damage! I’m totally sure! I eventually just deleted the files they said were problem files…..I really didn’t know what else to do. It caused some minor damage to my website, but nothing that I couldn’t fix with a few Google searches.
    At this point, I decided I needed some extra security, so I looked at a few different highly recommended plugins for WordPress. I installed a few, and got a message saying “ PHP v5.3.24 is not supported….upgrade to PHPv5.4 or higher.” OK, simple enough, or so I thought. Yeah….GoDaddy wouldn’t give me that version of PHP. As a special go (bleep) yourself to those of us who had been using my particular hosting program, GoDaddy would not be giving us anything new and shiny like that. Thanks so much – signed, your loyal customers.
    Regardless, I thought I had my security under control. I thought…..yeah. In September 2017, I got another email from GoDaddy telling me I had more malware. This time I researched what to do and found they have a rollback feature. Wow, this was great….I just selected a restore point and voila! Website fixed and no new calls from GoDaddy! Wooohoo, I knew what to do if this happened again!
    And it did happen again. December 2017. Right after my mom’s funeral – talk about timing, sigh. Ok….so this will take ten minutes, or so I thought. I log in…..and hey! They decided to change my website’s IP address! Guess what I lost in that process? All. My. Restore Points. Maybe if you tried to visit my website during that period of time, you’ll recall an unfriendly error message. It was a constant thorn in my side for over a month, as I couldn’t figure out what exactly to do and really didn’t have the time or energy to figure out a fix. Oh, and my files were still supposedly infected on top of that!
    It turns out that these types of things are prone to happen to bigger shared hosting companies like GoDaddy. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it happens….I guess.? This is actually why they changed what server I was on. Some of my server mates were less than reputable people. But back to that….in doing so, a firewall plugin I had for WordPress was not updated to reflect the new IP address, and thus gave everyone that wonderful error message! For a month! While I googled solution after solution only to get more and more frustrated. Yeah…..ugh. Some of the suggestions I found were to call GoDaddy and tell them what was going on – basically tell them to fix it. Yeah…..when I called, I was once again treated rudely. They told me to go fix it myself – and by fix it myself, they – their attitude implied I do another thing to myself beginning in the letter F. Even though they caused the error….and gave me no warning. Just……ooops! Sorry! Ugh.
    When I found the solution, quite simple. Still, this whole ordeal motivated me to finally end this abusive relationship once and for all. I found the time and that’s all I did that day. And oy what a process it was. For a week after, I wasn’t sure if my website was running on the new host or the old, but I do know when I went to transfer my domain name, GoDaddy was like, 20 percent off if you stay!!!!! I laughed so hard. Yeah….no…..nothing was, will, and would ever keep me from leaving you. GoDaddy….go…..away. I’ve got a new hosting service now, and it’s not you.
    To be fair, I know some of my issues had to do with my level of expertise. I’m a novice on websites, and really only know enough to keep my head above water. But maybe if GoDaddy had been less cold and unforgiving…and maybe if they hadn’t yelled at me over the phone, I might not have had to take the time and perhaps I could have done something fun instead. I’m still wondering if I made a big mistake, sure….but I’ve come too far to turn back now. I’ve given the new hosting service (A2Hosting) my money, and they’ve transfered my domain name. Yeah, some of my stuff still exists on GoDaddy’s servers, but that’s going to change soon – I’m hitting the cancel button this week! The transfer did make my website go down once more – but what a way to learn about MySQL databases!
    One more thing – to the CEO of GoDaddy, if you ever read this…killing Elephants is something only small cowardly, boys do. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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