• Thank you rich people, for paying your taxes.

    We have a problem in this country, and no one seems to know how to solve it. The rich don’t want to pay their taxes, and thus essential and even life saving programs suffer from lack of funding. I can’t say I blame the rich mind you. The libertarian side of me recognizes that it might not be so fair that such a small sect of society has to pony up for so much of what society needs. Then the human in me steps in and says, it doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not – it’s not fair that so many people in this country can’t afford healthcare, or that public schools, are so terrible due to budget cuts. Still – I go back to the fact that if I were rich, if money I worked hard for was taxed at such a high rate, I would be a little miffed. Heck, I get miffed by looking at my measly salary and seeing all that the government takes from me on a regular basis! It makes me wonder if there’s a better way. While said better way will probably never be found, there is something we can do. We can say thank you.

    Before I go on – I want to make sure to say that the rich aren’t the only ones being taxed unfairly. Taxes pretty much suck all across the board, and we all pay a lot more than we should. Still, the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 50 percent of the annual income tax revenue. Compare that with the bottom 80 percent (which most of us are in). We pay about 15 percent. That’s quite a difference. And again, I hate my tax rate – it’s too high. So before I say thanks to the rich, I’ll say thank you to every taxpayer in America. But especially a big thanks to the rich.

    Thank You indeed.

    Seriously, thank you rich people who don’t dodge every tax you can. You make our country great. You save lives. You provide healthcare to children. You give people the chance to better themselves. You give veterans services they need. I realize that some of you don’t see the value in some of the services provided, but that’s just how this country works. I for one don’t really see the value in spending so much on, say, building a new ship for the Navy or the latest superweapon. Still, some people do. But I digress. My point being is that your sacrifice is serving the greater good. You should be proud of this absolutely patriotic thing you’re doing. It helps so many of your fellow Americans.

    It’s personally helped me. I’m disabled, and relied on social security for four years of my life. Your investment in me made me have a better life. Without that money, I would not have been able to attend college. There, I not only got a degree, but also the confidence in knowing how valuable my skills are to others. I became a contributing member of society because of you. Besides, if you add up all the money the government gave me in those four years (including pell grants) and compared it to the amount of federal taxes I’ve given the government, the government has a net gain. Yes, not everyone is willing to better themselves, and sure, there’s a few bad apples that want to game the system – but I’m willing to bet that most of us want to be self sufficient. Most of us want to earn our own way.

    But why should we have to say thank you?

    Now that I’ve said thank you, both collectively and personally, I want to spend some time talking about why we should say thank you. Honestly, it’s just courtesy for one thing. We all learned to say please and thank you in Kindergarten for little things. We say thank you to those who serve in the military. So why wouldn’t we say thank you to those who pay the majority of the collective bills (including the military’s bills)? Going beyond that, there’s the old adage: you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. While this may or may not be true in the literal sense, it is true in the metaphorical sense. People are more likely to react positively if you present a positive attitude and demeanor yourself. Likewise, ordering and bossing people around – even for the right thing to do (like funding schools, hospitals, etcetera) – is going to provide a more negative response. Thirdly, it’s about “melting Pharaoh’s heart.” Ok, sure, a lot of rich people are greedy (close your ears and eyes rich people – or maybe this won’t work). But maybe, just maybe, if we make them feel good about what they’re doing, they’ll be a little more willing to put aside their greed. We are all human, and unless you’re a psychopath, I believe we all want to do the right thing despite our carnal desires and nature.

    Finally, it will stroke their egos. money and power are driving forces to the financially successful, but so is self image. If this helps their self image, perhaps they’ll be more willing to pay their taxes. Perhaps it could even become a status thing. I realize I’m an idealist here, but imagine a world where instead of people like Donald Trump hiding their tax returns, they proudly display them to all who asks. Heck, maybe we should take a page from the military, and give medals to people who pay x amount of taxes. Maybe even have certain levels – if you pay 45 percent of your income in taxes, you get a green medal. If you pay 50 percent, you get a silver one. And so on. Maybe we even denote the 100 or so people who pay the most taxes. Imagine some rich guy going about his daily routine, proudly displaying a medal saying he paid more taxes than anyone else. Like I said, I’m an idealist. But then again, it might work.

    We seem to be fighting a losing battle as far as taxes goes. More and more burden is being shifted onto the middle class, and less and less being upon those who can afford it. The current administration doesn’t seem to care about social programs (or people in general), and congress is too ingrained in old ways to do anything about it. We have a fight on our hands, and in some cases it’s a life and death struggle. People should not have to worry about medical expenses. People deserve to be able to better themselves by going to school. People deserve the right, the pursuit of happiness so promised us in the Declaration of Independence. We need to change our strategies if we actually want to get anything done. I realize saying “Thank you for putting your greed aside and doing the right thing” doesn’t seem like something we should have to do, but if it helps – what harm will it do? Besides, as I said before, it is the polite thing to do. So, thank you rich people. Thank you for paying your taxes. Please continue doing so. Please help us in our own pursuit of happiness. I realize it’s a sacrifice, but your sacrifice is greatly appreciated and patriotic.

     

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  • 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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