The Hollow Failure of the Musical Cup

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

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Clyde couldn’t believe how difficult the task before him was proving to be.  He thought he’d have his challenge licked in fifteen minutes.  He sat at his desk with a computer monitor glowing on his reddened face.  Drops of beer lay in random specks around the surface.  And there, in the middle, was a blue plastic beer-cup turned upside down.

Try it, you’ll like it!
(Pic from Free Stock Photos)

Once more, Clyde rewound the video.  He cursed the actress for her talent.  She sang along with a lovely voice, though a hint of showbiz boredom appeared to be looking out from her beautiful eyes.  Clearly, she had practiced this feat hundreds of times.  There, poised to entertain in a formal dress, sat the woman.  She took the plastic cup that had been handed to her by the host.  She was obviously taking a moment to focus and prepare.  Soon, clapping along, the woman performed a simple tune complete with acoustic accompaniment from the plastic cup.  Clyde wanted to hate this woman for her skill, but the act was simply too enchanting.  He had to be able to repeat it.

I really wish she wouldn’t go so frickin’ fast, Clyde thought to himself.  She even says that she should be doing it slower.  How am I supposed to keep track of her movements?  Clyde watched as her long and graceful arms moved and swooped around each other.  He felt his fist thud against the desktop.  He couldn’t tell when she was passing the cup in an arc up into the air from hand to hand and when she was actually tapping it.  Slower, woman!  Why can’t you just move slower?

The hard part for Clyde was replicating the rhythm.  He believed that once he could mentally lock-in each tap on the cup, both hand-offs, and the mid-air thumps, then he would be able to sing along with his mini bongo-drum.  The easy part was getting confused, missing a beat entirely, or watching as the cup slid along the surface.  The libations that lubricated the wood were only making Clyde’s failures faster in coming and more disastrous.  The blue cup slipped, fell over, and often times skittered to the edge.  The drunken man started to wonder if the cup wanted to jump to the safety of the beige carpet below where it would no longer be repeatedly beaten or struck.

After an hour, Clyde felt like he might have a handle on the moves.  All he had to do was clap clap, tap tap tap, clap, and then stomp.  That was followed by more clapping, a hand over with a thump…   That was where the confusion set in.  Clyde tapped along as best as he could.  He got the impression that he was close.  His confidence rising, Clyde tried to sing along.

“You, er, I gotta a thicket; er, ticket for the lawn; long way around.  Son of a mother.”  If Clyde’s motor skills had warmed up at all, his hand-eye-song skills were still quite lacking.  He clicked off the screen in irritation.  He clapped and tapped to his own beat.  Soon, a drum solo was in full session.  He slapped his denim jeans, thumped on the cup, and clicked the plastic container against his watch. 

The “music” that came forth was about as majestic as Clyde’s beer-enhanced breath.  He stood up, danced around his living room, and tapped on the cup with his fingernails.  Feeling his oats, and the effects of the alcohol, he belted out his own little tune.  “La la ha!  Ha ha la la!  Boom!  Boom!  Boomity la-ha!”  For his grand finish, Clyde took a deep breath, focused on his stomach muscles, and belched.  The impressive, yet rather disturbing burping sound, echoed across the sparsely decorated room for a solid seventeen seconds. 

Thrusting his hands in the air, Clyde beamed in his victory.  “Take that, you stuck-up actress!”  His bitter retort was met and unanswered by the still-blackened monitor.  Clyde was done trying to repeat someone else’s song.  I’m an original, I’m a dadgum artist, he reasoned as he loosened his belt two notches.  Cups were made or drinking, not playing.  With that, Clyde swooped up his blue plastic cup and made his way back to the kitchen, stumbling more than he chose to acknowledge.  He was determined to find appreciation for his musical genius from the icy-cold companions that waited for him in the fridge.

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(If you haven’t seen Pitch Perfect, you must.  You really must.  Also, if you watch the video in slow motion, Dave sounds quite drunk.  Appropriate, no?)  😉

B(ee)-Grade Material

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

B(ee)-Grade Material

When I jumped off a roof in Cannes in a bee costume, I looked ridiculous. But this is my business; I have to humiliate myself.” -Jerry Seinfeld

“All right fellas, I’ve got quite the story for ya.  You’re never gonna believe it, but I bet ya anything this’ll knock yer socks off.  It’s a gasser, I tell ya.  A real smash!”

Johnny looked at the assembled group in their expensive suits and knew that he would really have to break out the big guns.  It was like looking at a pride of animals at the zoo.  For the moment, the large desk was enough to keep them at bay as they blinked at Johnny with boredom and disinterest.  Their attire was regal, but their viciousness was legend.  Johnny needed to make each move skillfully and cautiously.  He could only hope to leave the room with the angry crowd smiling and well-fed, not hungry for his head on a plate.

“Now ya see”, Johnny began as he wiped the sweat from his brow, “we have a killer story here.  It’s a real knock-‘em dead adventure.”  Johnny suddenly became aware that he had left his laptop in the car.  He would have to improvise.  Removing his gray suit jacket and exposing his white shirt and button-up vest, Johnny felt very much like a slab of pasty veal.  The higher-ups looked at the young fellow, realized just how ripe he was, and started sharpening their claws.

“Mr. Goodspeak”, the largest, oldest, and baldest of the man said as he sat forward in his leather chair.  “We really don’t have time for-“

“Right!”  Johnny clapped his hands and threw his arms up in the air and gestured for the men to sit back.  When he saw just how much he had sweated through his armpits on his shirt, Johnny hurried to pull his limbs back down.

“You’re busy fellows!  I get that; let’s cut to the chase.  We’re in ancient Egypt.  We have views of pyramids being built.  We really have to bring out the history here.  I mean, the story is a fun one, but there’s educational value to it as well.  That’s how we pitch it.  See, everyone knows about the giant pyramids.  They’re a wonder of the world, for crying out loud.  But what they don’t know is that there was a corner that had never been opened.  It’s location off to the side, and underground, kept it hidden until we had the technology to find it.”

“And in this tomb?”  The largest man spoke with venom in his voice.  If he hadn’t started shooting daggers at Johnny yet, he was certainly sharpening them.

“A bee”, Johnny said.  “A giant, mummified bee!”

“A bee”, the man replied, clearly bored.  “You’re wasting our time with… a bee?”

“Now wait just one second fellas.  Ya gotta hear me out.  I said it was a giant bee.  We’re talkin’ about a creature the size of a Volkswagen Bug!”

Johnny paused for a chuckle in response to his joke.  He heard none.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth had not yet begun, but he could sense it approaching ever closer.

“Anyways”, he said as he pulled his tie looser.  “This giant bee has been mummified the whole time.  But somehow; magic, honey, amber; we don’t need to understand right now, the bee’s alive!  We meet this bee when the wall comes down and he sends the people into a frenzy of panic.  This deep and booming voice comes bellowing out of the giant mummy-insect.  As strips of fabric fall off of its rotted face and his ancient wings beat frighteningly, the bee manages to call out in tone of doom, “Bee-warrrreee.”

“Bee-ware?  Honestly?  That’s the story you have for us?”

“I, that is, if we got the right person to voice the bee, it’d work.”  Johnny felt the sweat dripping down his back but did nothing.  At this point, all he could do was stand and face his attackers head on.  Fleeing for safety was no longer an option.

“And just who, dare I ask; did you have in mind for this?”

“Christopher Lee”, Johnny answered timidly.

“Christopher Lee.”  The man laughed.  “You think the man that did Dracula, and Tolkein is going to be associated with this stupid tale?”

“He was in Star Wars”, Johnny replied.

“Pff.  That proves nothing.  He was a Bond villain, for crying out loud.”

“Yes”, said the man to the right of the leader, pointer finger out-stretched in proper correcting form.  “But it was a Roger Moore one.”

“So?  Heath, you’ve really got to get over this whole Sean Connery obsession.  It’s annoying.”

“You’re just jealous that I played golf with him and you never did.”

“Because you didn’t invite me!  He called later and asked why I didn’t come!  I told him I didn’t know anything about it.”

“I still consider that a favor to the great Sean Connery.”

The leader roared in anger and rose up to his full height.  The dissenter got the message, sunk back in his chair, and picked at what was left of the T-bone steak in front of him.

“Look son”, the leader said, returning his attention to Johnny.  “We’re just not interested.”

“But I’m telling you, it’s a great story!  It’ll be scary and educational and if we shoot in the desert we can save all our efforts and production funding for the bee!”

“I’ve been in this business a long time, kid.”  The man stood up, his display of being an attentive audience member was over.  He leaned back slightly, tucked his hands into the pockets on his vest, and pulled out a solid gold pocket watch with the left.  “You simply don’t have a hit on your hands.”

“You haven’t even let me tell you about the main character.  Sandy Trapps confronts the bee in the dusty tombs and finds out a way to kill it!”

“Let me guess, this Trapps fellow finds a way to drop a giant piece of stone on the bee at the last minute?”

“How… how did you know?  I just wrote the ending last week.”

“Story as old as time kid”, the man said as he made a show of checking his timepiece.  “And your time is up.  We’re due for dinner.”

“Wait, there’s just one more thing!”  Panic had fully set in for Johnny.  He needed something that would save his skin.  “What if… what if Sandy Trapps is a hot female archaeologist?”

A silence fell over the room.  Johnny could see mouths closing, minds at work, and cash registers adding in the men’s eyes.  “You mean, like Tomb Raider?  We don’t want to get sued over this.  I mean, it has potential.  But I don’t want to be in litigation and get bad press.”

“No, no, she’ll be blonde.  Sandy blonde; get it?”

“Does she have to be blonde?”  The man to the right of the alpha-male had spoken up once again.  “I hear Catherine Zeta-Jones is in terrific shape.  She was in that movie with Sean Connery, y’know.”

“Jenkins!  Enough with the Connery!  I’ll lock you in a cage and melt the key if you don’t keep quiet.”

“Yes sir.”

“Now son, this is a promising idea.  Blonde, that’s inspired.  Genius.  What else did you have in mind for her?”

“Smart, adventurous; she’ll be able to talk her way out of trouble with tomb robbers and supervisors that don’t want her in the field.  She’ll cause too much ruckus out in the ‘quiet’ world of history.  She’ll be capable and savvy.”

“Okay, but will she be wearing a tank top?  We’re gonna need her in tight clothing.”

“Oh yes, sir.  Absolutely, sir.”  Johnny mentally shook his head sideways, but outwardly nodded in agreement.  You gotta give a little to get a lot, he told himself.

“Terrific.  And maybe there can be some underground lake that she swims in and gets trapped.  Movies with women in swimsuits are dynamite.  We’ll blow the box office lid wide open!”

“Yes sir”, Johnny agreed again.

“I tell ya what boy, why don’t you come and prowl the town with us?  We were going to have some lamb skewered and served raw, but I think we could all use a drink.  What say you join us down by the watering hole?  My treat.”

Johnny scrambled for his jacket and nodded excitedly.  He had survived his first meeting with the dominant-crowd.  But a part of Johnny couldn’t stop worrying that he would end up devoured by it all.

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