Chortle: (n) a breathy, gleeful laugh.

What is your percentage?

What is the percentage of the things that happen in life that you find funny?

It’s a very important number. If you’re not careful, you can start taking everything very seriously, and end up frightened, aghast and terrified
to “move about the cabin.”

But also, if you think everything is a joke, somebody eventually gets the commitment papers signed and puts you away.

For instance, I don’t take government seriously at all. People who encourage me to vote because “every vote counts” are always complaining to me within a few weeks after the election–because every vote didn’t count.

There is a certain number of lamentations which can be changed into jubilations simply by altering one’s perspective.

For instance, some people take religion deadly somber. But you see, since we do not know if there is anything after death, it’s really not necessary to speak definitively or act pious.

What percentage of the things that happen in life do you find worthy of a chortle instead of needing to be treated as immortal?

I certainly think that every human soul, if he or she is to maintain sanity, needs to have a chortle meter set at 51 or above. Yes, over half of the things that we muse, confuse, diffuse and refuse end up being just meaningless worry which collected on us like morning dew, waiting for the sun to burn it away.

And as I get older, my percentage of laughs has increased, and therefore, in my opinion, my sanity is bolstered.

When I heard about the “war on Christmas” I laughed. Nobody’s gonna mess with Christmas. It’s when everybody makes their money.

When somebody told me that immigrants were causing problems in this country, it crossed my mind that this might be a color issue, colored by how these individuals view coloration.

Sometimes I giggle to myself because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who have brought a whole platter of difficulty and expect it to be honored.

What is your percentage? Are you prepared to go crazy with every piece of lunacy that leaps at us from the moon?

Or have you set your mind in the direction of silliness, allowing yourself the benefit of releasing your frustration–through a good old-fashioned chortle?



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Choreography: (n) the sequence of steps and movements in dance

Producing a Broadway-style musical does require some choreography–just as putting together a Ruben sandwich means you’re gonna bust out some sauerkraut.

Many years back, when I wrote such a musical, produced it, cut the tracks, penned the script and found a cast, it came time to go into
rehearsal camp and I realized I needed a choreographer.

Just to make my story clear, the goal of a choreographer is to show up and know choreography to such a degree that this information can be passed along to others. Simply having the credentials, the desire or the reputation for dance and movement does not make one a choreographer.

To teach choreography, you must be willing to come up with a format which can be commonly performed by people who are normally actors and singers–and not ballet dancers.

So when my choreographer showed up and began to conduct classes with my actors in an atmosphere that landed somewhere between a séance and a giggle-fest, I saw that my people were not learning anything. Matter of fact, when my choreographer brought me in to show me that day’s progress, the cast was so confused that they were running into one other. A friend standing nearby suggested that it more resembled “collisionography.”

Complicating the matter were the expressions on the faces of my hired actors, who pleaded with me through their eyes to either kill them or the choreographer.

So I made an executive decision to nicely fire her–which is a simple way of saying I paid her off–and hired two other guys, who were even worse.

By opening night, the lines were well-learned, the music was beautiful, the singing was enchanting, the blocking was positive, the costumes, lovely, and the choreography–disastrous.

It was one of those moments in my life which was so poorly accomplished that the onus fell on me–the fool who had no idea what he was doing.

So the next morning, as we were getting ready for that night’s performance, I asked a question. “Can you explain to me what you know how to do and what you would be able to do tonight without hurting one another?”

They came up with four moves. We quickly incorporated them into the show–over and over again–and the second night went beautifully.

I do not know why my choreographer could not teach choreography to my actors.

She insisted they were mentally retarded. Having their applications in front of me, I knew this was not true.

I also realized that it doesn’t do any good to know how to do something if you don’t know how to communicate it to those who don’t know how to do it at all.

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Chore: (n) a routine task, especially a household one.

I suddenly realized that there is no happy word to describe work.

“Labor.” That sucks.

“Effort.” Well, that takes effort


Even the word “employment” is constricting, brings a frown to one’s face.

How do we expect to ever move forward in our consciousness when everything seems to be a chore? We didn’t like chores when we were children, so are we going
to wake up one morning having accumulated enough birthdays that we will become intrigued with doing repetitious tasks?

And if we don’t like doing these “events,” what’s to guarantee that the mechanic who’s repairing the airplane doesn’t get bored and take a shortcut?

If we don’t like doing the things we’re supposed to accomplish, won’t we eventually just do them poorly?

And once mediocre becomes normal, normal is certainly dangerous.

How can we re-train ourselves to believe that work is not a chore and that chores do not need to be repetitious, but rather, gain glamor and gleam by being enhanced with new possibilities?

This is not the season to insist on tradition. The work force in America needs a revolution–a revival, if you will–of the passion that originally made us believe we wanted to do what offered us a paycheck.

Don’t ask me to do my chores.

I will rebel, go to my room and listen to the music you don’t like.

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Chord: (n) a group of three or more notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony.

Mrs. Bosley never told me.

She was my piano teacher when I was a boy. I took lessons from her for two years–and she never mentioned that music is very mathematical.

For instance, making a chord. You have a root note–like a C. You go up two steps to get your third and another step-and-a-half to get your fifth. There. You’ve got a chord. And it works with any key.

Once I discovered this magic, I realized any song could be played in any key as long as the chords could be attained by using my mathematical little formula.

My theories were put to the test when the music group I put together lost our piano player because her father thought it wasn’t good for her to be hanging out with a bunch of boys. He was also pissed at us because he insisted our hair was too long. So he told us that she was no longer allowed to play piano for us.

He thought that would be the end of our little group.

But instead, I grabbed the kid brother of our tenor singer, sat down with the mathematical formulas aforementioned–and in six weeks, taught this kid how to “chord out” five songs.

You cannot imagine how surprised people were when this boy walked to the piano and started playing.

Honestly, we kind of did this on a lark–but it ended up being a transforming experience for him. He went from being human wallpaper to decorating rooms with his talent. Within five years, he was in demand from every group in Columbus, Ohio.

All because he learned his chords.

We do a disservice when we try to complicate the good things of life, and make them seem inaccessible. Music especially needs to be available for all of us.

If it is, maybe we can all live in one a-chord.


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Chopsticks: (n) a pair of small sticks used as eating utensils, especially by the Chinese

I’ve taken the precaution of donning my suit of armor, which, by the way, already has quite a few dents. I’ve also calmed my spirit and satisfied my soul that all is well.

I must do this every time I launch into the cultural “holy of holies” and begin to make fun of sacrificial lambs.

Chopsticks are stupid. Worse than stupid, they’re pretentious.

Unless you were born in China and have never heard of a spoon or fork, using chopsticks is your way of establishing your superiority over those around you, who
insist on eating the cuisine of another country while using God-fearing American utensils.

I will be honest. I haven’t even tried chopsticks. What I have done is watch other people attempt to consume a meal while balancing the food on tiny wooden surfaces. Eventually what happens is, the bowl is picked up, brought close to the mouth, and the sticks are used as a shovel, to thrust the delicacy onto the tongue. So to use chopsticks, one has to break every other universal law of table etiquette. Once again, fine if you live in China, but not really required at the Main Street Chinese Buffet.

Pretension is bigotry done with a smile, and offered with over-explanation.

I don’t like chopsticks. Chinese people are fine. Chinese food is okay.

But chopsticks are Step Three in a process of ten in learning how to consume food more effectively. In other words, it began with fingers, went to hands, moved to chopsticks…

By the time you get to ten, there should be a damn fork.



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Chopper: (n) a helicopter.

Knowing that my brain, like most human brains, has selective memory, and that triggers installed for certain sounds, words, or even smells, I can tell you of a truth that the word “chopper”–and the vision of one–for me conjures memories of Vietnam.

I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because I came of age during the height of the conflict, came upon my eighteenth birthday and was eligible for the draft. Helicopters were prevalent in the nightly news, and made me think about that horrible war.

Today I call it horrible. When I was a teenager, I lived in a community that actually had its own chapter of the John Birch Society, and the violence in Southeast Asia was extolled as patriotic–our best avenue for stopping the spread of Communism.

So for me, it’s a chain of mental commands:

Chopper makes me think about Vietnam.

Vietnam makes me think about the protests.

The protests make me think about rock and roll.

Rock and roll conjures images of Woodstock.

Woodstock reminds me that I was living in a provincial village and was too frightened to go to the festival.

And being too frightened to go–as a young man, I was also always arguing with my family over a half-inch of hair over my ears, trying to rebel by listening to The Monkees.

I was no hero.

But as history moves forward, we realize that unfortunately there were no heroes during that era.

The government was corrupt, the hippies were imbalanced, the Vietnamese were crazed, violent and suicidal, the draft dodgers were relegated to the status of cowards as they drove their Volkswagen vans to Canada, and the soldiers who did go to war bled in a jungle that no one even cares one bamboo shoot about today.

So I guess when I see the word “chopper,” I think of lost causes, and I am alerted to spy them–and call them out before they generate guilt, graft … and graves.

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Choosy: (adj) overly fastidious in making a choice.

Oh, there goes Webster again.

For some reason, the dictionary feels it’s important to offer a certain amount of social commentary in describing the words that are showcased.

Here is the truth of the matter as far as I know: if you are not choosy, eventually you don’t get to choose, and you’re stuck with what’s chosen for you.

Welcome to Earth.

So portraying “choosy” as a negative attitude is the propaganda of governments, religionists, politicians and Madison Avenue agents, who would really like to plan your entire life, but feel that saying this bluntly might scare you away. So instead, they connote that you are “choosy” if you do not choose what they want you to choose on any chosen occasion.

If the dinner menu for the night is barbecued baked beans with barbecued beef and barbecued corn bread with barbecued pudding for dessert, folks might frown at you if, in a choosy way, you insist you prefer not to “go barbecue” tonight.

The problem in our world is not that people are too choosy. The difficulty lies in the fact that we’re not given enough choice.

  • Politics is divided into two major parties, with a whisker’s difference between the pair.
  • Churches insist they offer varieties of services, while simultaneously delivering the same spiritually tone-deaf message.
  • And the clothing in the department stores settles into shades that are determined to be this season’s preference, with stylings which are the “hit of the catwalk.”

What would happen if Americans actually did become choosy?

If we decided not to let the critics determine the best motion pictures?

If we didn’t leave it up to aging librarians to pick out the top books?

What if we had an open marketplace, an open discussion, an open spirit and an open mind–to give things a platform and see how they fared?

What if the whole world were a blind taste test? How would McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Apple, Democrats, Republicans and the religious system chart?

I’m choosy–and pretty proud of it. I often disagree with other people about my choices, but never in a disagreeable way.

But I’m not about to believe that something being popular gives it any more credence than I am to think that the hula-hoop was meant to last forever.


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