#0155: Armed Service Veterans

Dear Armed Service Veterans:

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for all the service that you do.  You all do something that many of us are, admittedly, afraid to do: put your lives on the line regularly to ensure the safety of our country’s laws and freedoms.

I myself come from a family full of veterans, serving in branches of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Based on the stories I’ve had told to me, I’m aware that making the choice to serve is a huge sacrifice, one that can have a huge impact on the lives of your families, as well as your own well-being.

You all get to do some pretty cool stuff, like flying jets; trying out the latest technology before the rest of us civilians get to even see it; and traveling around the world. At the same time, though, you also see the worst of what mankind has to offer: wars; killings; friends being kidnapped and tortured… so, I know choosing to do the job you do and continuing on with it for years at a time isn’t always an easy choice to make.

To say that everyone who holds their lives dear in this country (as well as other countries) owes you their gratitude is a huge understatement. Indeed, the work you do can never fully be repaid, no matter how many metals or “thank you” events we try to hold in your honor. But, as a kid who grew up in a military home, I can tell you this: we’re always happy when you come back safe; saddened when we’ve heard your life was taken in service; and proud of the work that you do.

Ah, armed service veterans… now THAT’s something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0154: Hugs!

Hugs – aren’t they just the best?

When you’ve had a bad day… when you’re feeling down… when you start to feel alone… when you’ve lost someone close to you… when you’re feeling scared… or worried… or need to feel close to someone…

When you’ve had a good day and want to share your good feelings with someone… when someone close to you accomplishes something worth celebrating… when you feel like greeting someone beyond using a simple hand wave… when you meet that special person for the very first time and a handshake just won’t do…

When your dog runs up to you looking for affection… when you’re out camping in the cold and need something other than just a blanket to keep you warm… when you need to hold on to someone tight as you jump out of a plane… or just want to snuggle up with the person that’s closest to your heart…

For all these reasons and more… a simple hug can mean so very, very much!

Ah, hugs… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0153 Companies That Will Book Background Extra Work For You

Above: An aired clip of me sitting next to one of the main characters on an airplane on the show “Grey’s Anatomy” this year, a gig I got thanks to my background extra service!

Whoever said it was hard getting cast for background extra work here in Los Angeles must have never heard of these things called “background extra casting services.”

When I first moved to California, I wanted to do background work as a way of bringing in some much needed income. Unfortunately – and anyone who first moves here can attest to this – the only one I knew of was Central Casting. They are a very well-known company that gets lots of freshly-minted west coasters to sign up with them, but using their services is actually more work than should be necessary.

For starters, it’s a call-in service. They give you a number you can dial up throughout the day to see what jobs may be coming up the next day. Of course, for the person who has other stuff to do during the day when they’re not trying to get a gig, having to remind yourself to call them up every few hours (in case they’ve FINALLY updated the line) can be more of a hassle than a benefit.

Furthermore, you are more than likely to miss out on a gig simply because you didn’t call them at the right time. I remember one time when I called them 5 times in a day. The first 4 times I called, the line hadn’t been updated with any new jobs or with any jobs that I’d fit the description for; when I called the fifth time they HAD updated the line, but I had called too late to be considered for it!

How is a person supposed to get any extra work in this town?!?

The answer came to me about a year after I had moved here. One of my friends had told me about the amount of extra work he had been getting recently (including a Taylor Swift music video!), and I asked him how he was able to do it.

His answer: background extra casting services!

Apparently – and, again, if you’ve just moved out to L.A. or are thinking about it, you may not yet know this – there are companies set up out here that actually do the work of submitting for extra gigs FOR you.

It’s pretty simple, actually: you contact the company, submit your picture and sign up for an orientation. At orientation, they explain how their company works; then, once you sign up with them, they either take your picture or have you submit a picture for them to use. That picture gets sent out to various casting directors who are looking for extras to use on their sets.  If they pick you, the company you’re signed with sends you a note letting you know you’ve been booked…

…and that’s it!

Now, there is a sign-up fee and/or monthly fee for these services – after all, they ARE the ones who will be doing the calling/picture submitting on your behalf. I know many people will start to think “well, I don’t want to pay them ’cause they might be a scam,” but this is normally not the case. You just have to be aware of the ones that are legit and the ones that are just trying to get your money.

The easiest way to do that is simply to ask an actor – ANY actor, what service(s) they use to get extra work. And believe me, just about EVERY actor in Hollywood has been an extra in something, and can usually tell you which ones to use.

For example, I use two services right now, both of which actually work with each other: Cut Above Casting (www.CutAboveCasting.com) and Background Talent Services (www.backgroundtalent.net). Both these services do a great job of getting me regular background work. I especially like Cut Above Casting because when you join, they give you an online calendar you can mark with the days during the week you’d be available to do extra work; that way, they can make sure they only try to get you work on your open days.

With these services, you can either pay them month-to-month, or you can get a discount in price by signing up for 3, 6, or 12 months. And if you’re worried about whether or not you’ll make your money back, don’t be; when I first signed up I did the 3-month plan, and within my first 3 gigs I had made all my sign-up money back… and still had 2.5 months of paid-up service left to go!

In closing, if you’re thinking about moving out here and becoming an actor, or already live here and are wanting to do extra work but can’t seem to get it on your own, I highly recommend connecting with one of these services. I’ve done TV shows, been on movie sets, and even shot quite a few commercials – and I didn’t have to do any of the work myself to get them!

Ah, companies that will book background extra work for you… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0152: Having Kids Shows Available that are Entertaining to Adults


Above: An ad for the kids’ TV show “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu”

Let’s face it: as we get older, our tastes in what we like to view changes. As we hit our late teens to mid-20s, we’re able to watch things we may have been banned from viewing as kids, i.e. movies with violence, bad language, nudity, drug use, etc.

And even if the things we like to watch don’t have these elements, there’s still an air of coolness about being able to watch something with a complicated plot, or deals with heavy issues we ourselves are going through. We like to think that what we like to watch in our older years are much, much better than what those younger than us our now watching.

But then, something happens to most people that effectively changes their viewing habits: they have kids.

Now, some people will continue their regular viewing habits regardless of if they have a rugrat now running around their house. But for most parents who are looking to raise kids that are somewhat wholesome, they suddenly realize that allowing their kid to watch something Mommy and Daddy can watch – like a cokehead having intercourse in an orgy while shooting bad guys in their faces – might not be the best thing to let their 2-year old do on a regular basis (or, like, EVER for that matter).

This realization can be a drag for parents, i.e. adults who really aren’t looking forward do having to watch hours of seemingly moronic, repetitive programing that features oh-so simplistic lessons about things they’ve already learned about (“Oh look, it’s a show about potty training!” “Oh look, they’re singing the alphabet again for the 26th time!”).

Sure, they’re happy to see their kid watch these programs and smile and laugh… but after watching it hundreds of times in a row (because kids LOVE repetition), the adult may end up wanting to have an unexplained TV accident occur that doesn’t allow for it to be viewed.

Fortunately, there ARE creators of kid content out there that understand the best way to have a kid show become popular is by making stuff that both kids AND adults will want to watch together.

These are the types of shows that often have 2 levels of understanding: level 1, where a kid can enjoy the bright colors, songs, and characters of the show; and level 2, where the dialogue and/or situations allude to things in their world that only they as adults will get.

A good example of this is a show like Veggie Tales.  They have talking vegetable characters that are zany, sing great songs, and teach kids about things like God, sharing, the importance of loving others, and so on. At the same time, though, most of their show plots are parodies of things adults may have seen that their kids haven’t (i.e. The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, just to name a few). And many of their jokes are things that allude to said movies or other pop culture references more familiar to an older generation.

Right now, my personal favorite is a show called “Ninjago,” courtesy of the Lego company. Whenever I have to babysit my Godson, it’s one of the few shows his Mom got for him on DVD that I actually look forward to seeing. Again, the show is colorful, the characters are likable, and the dialogue is funny yet tolerable.

At the same time… I mean, come on, it’s a show about friggin’ Lego NINJAS! Who wouldn’t like watching something with Ninjas and weapons in it!!

Ah, having kids shows available that are entertaining to adults… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

-Aaron P. Taylor

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#0151: The Right to Vote


Above: My video for “Vote Obama Style,” a parody of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” Now available on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Google and eMusic!

Every four years in the United States, we elect someone to be the new leader of our country. And, to be honest, at times it can be quite the circus to watch.

You have two main parties – Democrats and Republicans – battling it out to see who will reign supreme in the contest of “taking over the country.” First they battle constituents within their own party; once they get whittled down to one person in each party, then those two people battle it out all the way up to the first Tuesday in November when a winner is finally chosen.

In between that time, though, we get to see thousands of political ads from both sides – and not just from the two people running for President. In addition to that position, you also have people within each state running for a plethora of different offices, from senators to librarian of the tax office. And each person has an opponent they’re running against, and each person runs ads attacking the other person, while at the same time condemning that person for attacking them.

And all that is BEFORE we get into things like Super PACs, Independent parties, etc. At times, the whole election process can be quite a bit to take in.

And yet…


Above: My video for “I’m Never Ever Gonna Vote for Romney,” a parody of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together!” Now available on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Google and eMusic!

Despite all these electoral distractions, I’m glad to be in a country where my vote means so much that people are willing to go out and campaign for it.

There are still many countries in other parts of the globe where elections are not a democratic process, but more like a dictatorship.  The people have very little say about who gets into office, and even if a so-called “democratic process” is set up where the people get to vote, their choice of leader can still be over-turned by those who are REALLY in charge.

And so, as this year’s election day heads to its dramatic climax, be mindful that you DO, in fact, have a voice, and that your vote, unlike some in other countries, really DOES matter.

Ah, the right to vote… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

-A.P.T.

P.S. Please watch my videos and support an independent artist by ordering my song/mixtape, “The O-Bama Mixtape II: Vote Obama Style” today! Now available on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Google and eMusic!


Above: My video for “Obama Milli Remix 2012” a parody of Lil’ Wayne’s song  “A Milli!” Now available on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Google and eMusic!

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#0150: Chick-Fil-A

Chick Fil A

…Okay, so I didn’t want to write a note about this. In fact, my goal was just to stay out of it altogether. But then I started reading more and more stupid comments from people about this issue, and felt the need to make my opinion on the subject heard.

There’s been a recent bru-ha-ha about comments the President of Chick-fil-a made during an interview with the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina (later reprinted by the Baptist Press). Prior to reading the actual comments made, the only thing I heard that could be gathered from it was that Dan Cathy and the Chick-fil-a company were against gay marriage. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised at this – Chick-fil-a’s been a company running on Christian values since it opened. What, you think their “closed on Sunday’s” policy is just to give the chicken an extra day to marinate?

What I couldn’t understand was why someone would come out and blatantly state this, knowing full well that gay people may actually go to their restaurants.  So, rather than listen to what everyone else was saying, I decided to find the actual article that started this whole thing.

And, as it turns out, my suspicions were correct: that’s NOT exactly what was said.

For those of you who don’t care to hear second-hand info, here’s a snippet from the article as it was written (the entirety of which can be read at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38271):

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.
“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Let’s get a few things out the way here: first of all, nowhere in the ENTIRE ARTICLE do the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” or “bisexual” appear. So, anyone who’s been saying that Mr. Cathy stated he was against gay marriage has been misquoting him.

Mr. Cathy’s statement was made when he was being interviewed by the Biblical Recorder, which one can assume is a CHRISTIAN organization. The website that posted the article, the Baptist Press, is also a CHRISTIAN organization who’s motto is “News With a Christian Perspective.” The Christian view of gay marriage is that it’s wrong. Therefore, companies built by Christians are going to have the same viewpoint.

Furthermore, nowhere in his answer did he say he hated or had any animosity towards the gay community. In fact, he didn’t even go into discussion about his company’s position on marriage – one that’s been well-known for YEARS – until he was asked about it. And even then, it wasn’t as if whatever answer he gave was going to be that shocking. Can all of you who are now suddenly against Chick-fil-a seriously tell me, based upon how they’ve operated all these years, that you’re really, REALLY all that shocked that Chick-fil-a would support what they consider to be the biblical definition of a “family unit?”

I’ll just come out and say it: gay people take comments WAY too seriously sometimes.

They assume Mr. Cathy’s comment is just about their community. It’s not. Look at the way it’s worded: “traditional family.” Their stance is not about NOT supporting gay marriage (though I’m sure it’s not exactly something they’re looking to throw money at to support either). It’s about supporting the things and values they feel make for the healthiest family environment.

Their statement, if delved into more deeply, means they’re also against the following:

*Kids growing up in single-parented household

*Parents wanting to get divorced

*Families that constantly abuse themselves, each other, or others

*Incest relationships

*Families where the parents live together but aren’t married to each other

*Devil-worshipping families (note: NOT a comparison to gays, just an example of something else not supported by Chick-Fil-A. I had to add this ’cause people thought I was making a comparison. I’m not.)

It would be against the mission statement of the company – not to mention their image – if they decided to say “screw it” and show support for any and everything that goes against the nature of what their actual values are. If they are claiming to be a company based upon Christian values, supporting certain things – like the list above, as well as gay marriage – would be more harmful to them in the long run.

This is not to say these types of elements are not allowed to enter their restaurantsHowever, if their vision of what a “healthy family unit” is consists of households with a mom, a dad, a few kids and some grandparents, they have the right to support that vision.  They’re not discriminating against other types of families who come into their restaurant, but at the same time they shouldn’t have to feel the need to bend and/or change their views of what they feel a healthy family unit is just to make one group of people happy. In fact, if they DID do that now, it would be worse.

Before I finish this article up, I feel I should add something: I know someone is going to read this and want to comment with the response: “But Aaron, you’re Black! You should empathize with how gays would feel about this issue! How would you feel if they said they only support the idea of White marriages?”

First off, please stop comparing the gay struggle to the civil rights struggle. It’s not the same thing: Blacks were taken from their homeland, sold into slavery, separated from their loved ones, whipped, demoralized, pit against each other, and had to fight to get even an ounce of freedom and recognition as citizens. Tommy having to “struggle” about whether to tell his friends he likes boys is NOT a comparable situation.

More importantly: a company’s opinion about what they view a true marriage to be doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is how they treat me when I go into their establishment. Reality check: many, MANY businesses in this country were started and/or still ran by people who have views on things that are against my viewpoint. If I stopped supporting each one who had an “opinion” different from mine, I’d be walking around butt naked with no electronic devices or apartment to speak of.

Bottom line: if you liked Chick-fil-a before, don’t let Mr. Cathy’s sudden “shocking” statement about his company’s views on marriage stop you from eating there. You were eating there the day before you heard about him making the statement, but the company’s opinion has been public knowledge for YEARS. Suck it up, get your eat on, and make sure you order their lemonade when you do.

Ah, Chick-Fil-A… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

-Aaron P. Taylor

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#0149: Baby Fences

Ah, babies. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. They’re the joy of their parents’ lives…

Developmentally, though, they’re a bunch of idiots.

They cry over the dumbest things, want to touch everything on the planet – most of the time with their mouths – and they want to roam just about anywhere, not realizing that some of the places they’d like to go can be quite dangerous.

For example: the kitchen.  An adult who walks around in a kitchen knows what things to touch, how to use them, where they go, and how not to hurt themselves.  A baby, however, isn’t aware of these things yet. Instead, they see something that has cool colors or has a trigger to it, and they want to touch it. Never mind that the colorful item may be a bottle with mop cleaner in it, or that thing with a trigger is bleach cleaning spray that they shouldn’t put in their mouth unless they have a death wish.

Unfortunately, until a baby is able to have a better grasp of what’s safe, what’s bad to touch and where is safe to roam in a house, there’s nothing that can be done to save it from itself…

Oh wait, yes there is – it’s called “BABY FENCES!”

These fences are what allow parents all over the world to prevent their small child from walking around in places that can be dangerous. Kitchens, garages, office rooms with lots of plugs and things that can fall on them – they can all be cut off-limits to your baby by simply placing a fence in between whatever gap entryway your child would use to try to kill themself – er, I mean, “explore” – in.

They also serve another great purpose: to keep them in an area when you can’t have your eyes on them for a few minutes.  Need to go to the bathroom or run to the car and get something? No problem – just put your child in a safe place (i.e. their room), place a baby fence in the doorway, and BAM! Now you can piss and/or roam to the car without too much fear of them walking into a dangerous area of the house while you’re away from them!

Ah, baby fences… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0148: Holiday Dinner Left-overs

There are many things to love about the holidays: getting/giving gifts; spending time with your family; the holiday specials that get shown on TV… and of course, having a HUGE family dinner.

It can be hard to determine just how much food should be made when preparing a holiday feast.  Sure, 10 people said they were going to come over and eat, but is that ACTUALLY how many people will be coming over? There’s always the chance that it’s supposed to be 10 but more could show up… however, the more likely scenario is that 10 will R.S.V.P., and about half of them will either cancel at the last-minute or show up for a quick visit before bouncing off to someone else’s house, without touching any food in the process.

And when the latter happens, OH BOY, is it a happy day!

You would think, at first, that cooking an over-abundance of food would be a BAD thing.  But then, after eating dinner, you take a look around at all the food that’s left and you realize: you’ve cooked enough food to last you and your family for a whole week!

Not only that, but it’s GOOD food, too!  We’re talking sweet potatoes, rice, corn, 3 kinds of chicken, turkey meat, mixed veggies, fish, peach cobbler, bread pudding, dressing, apple pie… normally you’d be content with your “normal” set of left overs (spaghetti, McDonald’s fries, spam), but between all the cooks and dishes made, you actually have OPTIONS of things to eat, and enough to last for a good amount of days (especially if you freeze stuff)!

And the best part? Because dinner was made at your house, none of your guests get to partake of the leftovers once they’ve left your house! Oh sure, they may take a plate with them, but it will only last them a night – meanwhile, YOU get to keep on enjoying it for all it’s worth!

Ah, holiday dinner left-overs… now THAT’S something to be thankful for! (P.S. And I should know – I’ve been eating left-overs for 2 days now, and counting!)

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0147: Rechargeable Batteries

I use a LOT of gadgets, many of which require batteries.  Off the top of my head, there’s my Nintendo Wii remote; my Flip HD camera; my laptop; my MP3 player… the list goes on and on.

Upon purchasing these items, a battery either needs to be purchased for it to function or has a battery already built in with a full charge.  At some point the amount of usage one can get out of a battery will dwindle, to the point where it can no longer power up the item it’s/they’re being used for.

When this happens, you have two options. The first option is to go out and buy some more batteries (or, if the battery is built into the item, the option is to throw it out and buy another one).  This option does work, but it’s not very cost-effective.  If you’re going the AA battery route, the average pack of 8-pack batteries is $7.

That may not seem like a lot; but, for example, if you play Wii as much as I do (about 2 to 3 hours a day whenever I get a new game), you’ll probably end up using the whole pack in 2 months.  $7 every other month is $42 a year, and that’s just if you have them set aside for ONE electronical device. We haven’t even included in things like flash lights, alarms, kids’ toys (and Mommy’s toys :P)… that’s a lot of money to spend on batteries.

Luckily, there’s a second option: buying rechargeable batteries.  You can buy batteries that are specifically designed to be reused, along with a charger which, these days, is pretty affordable (like $15 to $25 for one). Now, when your batteries run out, instead of having to throw them out and buy new ones, you can simply place them in the charger, let them sit for 2 to 4 hours (depending upon the charger) and BOOM! You got more battery life, and didn’t have to shell out excessive amounts of money to do so!

With items that already have the battery built in to them it’s even BETTER.  They come with plugs, so all you have to do is charge it up in an outlet until it’s fully re-charged. Definitely more cost efficient then buying said item all over again!

Ah, rechargeable batteries… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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#0146: Security Cameras

A couple of weeks ago, my place got robbed!

Yep, I walked into my apartment, only to find that my suitcase, previously filled with clothes from an audition, was now missing, with said clothes having been dumped on the ground. As I explored further, I noticed other things of mine missing as well – hard drives, computer wires, social security card, etc.

As I would later find out, there was a meth head in my apartment complex who had decided to stop by my place while I was away and take a few things. Indeed, all the things he took would have been lost forever had it not been for some handy devices that had been set up in the apartment complex…

SECURITY CAMERAS!!!

The cameras showed the culprit dragging my stuff – in MY suitcase – back to his apartment. (Why he would go back to his place in the building instead of leaving the building is beyond me.) Long story short, the cops were able to be called, and the robber was able to be caught (after they rammed in his door and tasered him.  Pretty cool stuff.)

Once he was in custody, I was able to go into his apartment and identify/get back my stuff.  And it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the various mechanical eyes placed throughout the building!

Ah, security cameras… now THAT’S something to be thankful for!

– Aaron P. Taylor

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