Contract

Contract: (n) an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.

Two hours after I wrote my very first song, I was already thinking I needed a contract.

I had visions of Grammy Awards, fame and thousands of record sales to reinforce my sheer joy of being a musician and simply composing songs.

Nothing happened after my first song, but along about my fifth or sixth tune, opportunities did float my way.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

What I learned very quickly, in my Midwest innocence, was that life and death lie in the wording of a contract. Someone saying they want to “sign your song” or “promote your music” does not mean your song is actually signed or that your music will be promoted. Sometimes it’s just means they’re securing that song, in case they want to use it, making sure nobody else can get it.

On occasion, it’s a deal where they plan to use the song but want to give you the lowest possible percentage of remuneration.

But one word always came to the forefront: exclusive.

What that meant was they wanted me to sign a contract saying I would not work with anybody else, while they determined how much they really wanted to work with me.

I grew up quickly.

Even today, when I hear someone utter the phrase, “Well, we need to draft a contract,” I immediately know there’s something they don’t want to say to me—that they want to hide in a contract, in a very small point size and a near-unreadable font.depressed, angry adolescents.


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Combo

Combo: (n) a small jazz, rock, or pop band.

Being clever is similar to setting a bear trap down in a room full of balloons. It is so easy to spring the trap and bust all your balloons of hope.

In my early years I had a music group and was desperately trying to promote us–at least to the point that I could make enough “jack” to pay for “Jill.”

Money was rare.

Now, opportunities and gigs seemed to pop up everywhere–but when the subject of remuneration was suggested, there were offers of free coffee, “help yourself
to the day-old pastry,” or “we have a garage where you can sleep overnight.”

I knew I needed to do something drastic to set our group apart from the rest of the marauding musicians trying to fend for the single crust of bread, so I put together a damn good press release.

Now, wait.

Understand–this was an era when bands did not advertise themselves via printed material, but rather, through audition tapes or live performances.

I got a great picture of us, looking our cutest (and surliest) and attached our release. One of the things I discovered in writing the piece was that if you’re constructing a great article, it should not repeat words.

I kept landing on the word “group.” “Group?” “GROUP!”

So thinking myself extremely clever, I went to the Thesaurus and looked for different words to communicate the idea “group.”

One of those was “combo.”

I was ecstatic. The word sounded good to me, so I stuck it in the press release a couple of times and sent it off.

I noticed when I started calling places back to see if they wanted to schedule us based on our fine piece of promotional material, the proprietors would grumble, “We’re not interested in a jazz thing.”

I tried to explain that we weren’t jazz, but by that time they had hung up the phone and I was left standing, listening to the dial tone of the day.

Finally, one of the gentlemen I called suggested a nightclub down the street that specialized in jazz.

I squeezed in my question. “We’re not a jazz group. Where did you get the idea we played jazz?”

“Really?” he said. “Your article said you were a combo, and I never heard of any band calling themselves a combo unless they were jazz.”

I wanted to tell him about my journey through the “prehistoric thesaurus,” but instead, I went back to my creation and removed the word “combo.”

Needing to replace it, I inserted “adventurers.”

 

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Checkmate

Checkmate: (n) in chess, a check from which a king cannot escape.

Rudy was not rude–but he was very stubborn, especially when it came to chess.

He loved the game and had practiced it since he was a boy of five, and now, at sixteen years of age, he was anxious to take on all comers. He loved to obliterate the competition, bragging about how few moves it took him to conquer.

He was certainly obnoxious.

He was so bratty that everybody wanted to play chess with him just to pull him down a peg or two from his glory perch in the sky.

Everybody but me.

I had learned to play chess when I was very young, but never liked the game that much. Even though I realized stating that aloud made the smug and the pseudo-intellectuals believe that I was stupid, I still found chess to be slow and over-rated.

So I had no intention of playing the game with Rudy the Rude. (I changed my mind. He was rude.)

This frustrated him and caused him to put out vendetta after vendetta, and eventually he told me that if I could beat him, he would give me five dollars and if he won, I would owe him nothing.

I thought it was time to risk my ego for the possibility of remuneration.

Call it what you will–an alignment of the stars, a lucky few moves, Rudy losing concentration, or maybe me just being better at the game than I thought I was–well, I beat him.

Checkmate.

He went ballistic. He was so angry that he nearly accused me of cheating–except that our little match had gained an audience of about twelve people, so there were witnesses.

He reached into his wallet, handed me five dollars, and screamed, “Double or nothing!”

Now, let me tell you that I possess many vices. For instance, I’m obese. I’m kind of lazy. I need to work on my consideration, like every son of Adam. But I am not bone-dead stupid.

Possessing the Golden Ring, it is not a good idea to go to a pawn shop and hock it. I wasn’t about to give Rudy another opportunity.

I think it nearly drove him crazy–because every time he began to discuss his God-given ability with knights, kings and rooks–there was always somebody who had been at the great match, and was prepared to remind him of his Waterloo.

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Baggage

Baggage: (n) personal belongings packed in suitcases for traveling; luggage.Dictionary B

For about two years, I did a lot of flying.

Since my personal wings never came in to my satisfaction, I used the airlines. This was prior to the attacks on 9/11. Things were looser then.

Since I was a musical act, I decided to travel with all my instruments and sound equipment. This created a lot of baggage. And honestly, some of it was beyond the 70-pound limit that Southwest Airlines said they would tolerate.

There were two of us traveling, and at that time we were allowed six units. So it became obvious that we were going to have a problem each and every week on our journey if we didn’t find some way to get around the weight limit and the obvious accumulation of baggage that was necessary to take our show on the road.

So I did what I considered to be an intelligent action–I became friends with the skycaps. And the best way to become friends with skycaps is to tip very well, and be nice. (But mostly tip very well.)

I overdid it. But in the process of being excessive, when the skycaps saw me arrive at the airport, they practically wrestled one another to get the privilege of serving me and putting through my numerous bags, which were obviously beyond the realms of airline acceptability.

It worked beautifully.

And I remember on one particular flight, I was thinking about the success of this system–and how it might be applicable to my everyday life.

Since I know I have a lot of baggage and some of it is over the limit, it is a good idea to make sure that I’m always nice, and I leave behind enough blessing and remuneration… to make people glad to see me when I arrive.

 

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Audition

Audition: (n) an interview for a particular role or job as a singer, actor, dancer, or musician,

dictionary with letter A

  • The wonderful thing about new things is that they aren’t old.
  • The terrible thing about new things is that they have not proven that they work.

Such was the case many years ago when I had a music group and we were auditioning for a spot to do a series of high school concerts which would have given us a nice piece of finance in a time when such remuneration was unusual.

It was long before American Idol or The Voice–where people are thrust in front of millions of listeners and evaluated on their prowess.

This was two guys, sitting in a barn-like building, who were not much older than myself, deciding if our group would be a “right fit” for this particular opportunity.

Well, here was the problem:

  1. They didn’t know exactly what the position was going to be. Since nobody had done it before, there was no reference point.
  2. Neither one of them were musicians and confessed to this lacking by saying, “But we know what we like…”
  3. They were pretty people, so they were very concerned that other pretty people might be prettier to high school students, who were really tuning in to the prettiest possibilities.
  4. They were impatient. They wanted us to do one song.

So I decided to do a medley, which I could insist was only one song, but still include four or five pieces of tunes. It seemed like a brilliant idea. When we finished, they told us they “would get back to us.”

I should have known at that point that we had not passed muster. The reason most of us get dissappointed is that we maintain hope for things that we know deep in our heart are gone.

Two weeks later we got a letter from the company explaining that they thought we were a really great group–but not the “look” they desired.

Like everyone else on earth, I’ve done my share of auditions. I’ve won some of them and I have fallen on my face.

But honestly, most of the time it had little to do with my performance or presentation and much to do with how I was eyeballed.

Basically, it’s not an audition–it’s an eyedition.

 

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Account

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Account: (n.) 1. a report or description of an event or experience. 2. a record or statement of financial expenditure or receipts. 3. an arrangement by which a body holds funds on behalf of a client. 4. importance of: money was of no account to her.

It’s that last definition that I’m most familiar with.

As a kid, my mother and father often referred to local folks as being “of no account.” I suppose they might have had some insight on the issue because they owned a loan company and received payments from many of these citizens each and every month, or on other occasions, DIDN’T receive such remuneration.

As a youngster, I didn’t think much about the statement–it seemed logical enough. It communicated to me that there were certain people who were valuable and self-sufficient, and then there were those who hung on for dear life by their fingernails, waiting for others to solve all their problems so they could slip into the back door to the celebration party, sheepishly bringing some chip dip and pretending they were part of the miracle.

Here’s the problem: if we could actually extend compassion to another person without feeling supremacy, then such an action would have divine conclusions. But the minute we open our wallets, our hearts or the door to our finance to other creatures who are less fortunate, we tend to place a status on them which renders them incapable of solvency.

How can you help somebody while at the same time empowering them?

For about two decades, we have attempted this by using the verbiage of “self-esteem,” pumping people full of hot air like balloons. When we arrive the next day and they’re flat, we pump them up again. No one knows for sure whether it’s on the eighth pumping or the twelfth that we stop being gentle to these deflated souls. But as long as we’re using air to try to make people look plumper instead of the opportunity  to be viable, then a part of our society will remain of “no account” and another portion will be nasty and snide.

Are there people who are just destined to be dependent? I don’t know. But the minute I believe that’s true, I cease to be of any value to the world around me.

I think we should approach life as if it’s an elementary school cafeteria. We all stand in line, get the same plate of food, walk to similar tables, with identical eating utensils and we either devour our portion with joy, producing energy, or we get too damn picky and end up hungry fifteen minutes later, looking for a snack.

The message? Encourage people to eat. Sometimes the food is a little less satisfying than other times, but eat it up. Sometimes it’s your favorite meal and you arrive at the next dining opportunity disappointed because it’s not repeated. Eat it up anyway.

Why? Because today has just enough in it for you if you slurp it up joyfully, granting you the opportunity to be successful.

I do believe that NoOne is better than anyone else. I just think some people finish their plate instead of scraping it into the trash. Those who do make it through the day understand why it happened. Those who don’t gave up somewhere along the way and lift their hands to the heavens, wondering why in God’s name it happened.

My mom and dad were wrong. There are NO people descended from Adam and Eve who are of “no account.” There are those children of Eden, however, who decline the provision given to them, dreaming and yearning for the magical apple.