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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #523
David Gunn

Yes, there really was a man named Birdseye--Clarence Birdseye, an American inventor who almost single-handedly created the modern frozen food industry. It was a very lucrative business, and Birdseye's burgeoning affluence was envied by his many competitors. But after his most vocal coveter, Dr. Libertyne von Frappé, had the misfortune to turn into his namesake under cryogenically suspicious circumstances, the zeal of the others was soon tempered.

Over time, Birdseye's own zeal for freezing things cooled, and he sought out other, warmer endeavors. He discovered a latent talent for racing hot rods, and probably would have been happy to spend the rest of his days spinning his wheels around an oval track, except that Fate, as is her wont, intervened. One day, when Clarence was a lap away from victory at the Supersedure Pro-Am Nationals at the Hub City Speedway, a bee flew into his car's window and alighted on his nose. In the heat of the race, his hands were virtually glued to the steering wheel; he didn't even dare to try to brush the bee away. But neither could he ignore it. So when the bee performed a slow-motion apian fandango on his bridge, it definitely had Clarence's attention. Birdseye held on to win the race, but shortly thereafter, his interest in hotrodomontade waned. Simultaneously, his attraction to apiculture grew. That's beekeeping, of course. However, he wasn't content to merely cultivate friendly colonies of honeydews. Birdseye had other plans for these hairy-bodied little aculeators, based on a repressed childhood memory that had been triggered by the strange bee dance. He had shown his six-year old sister, Blanche, a beehive that hung from a low tree branch next to their house in Bung Hollow, Iowa. He said it was full of magic buzzing fairies that would make dreams come true for whomever possessed the hive. Then he sneaked off to a safe distance to observe. Well, Blanche was no less inquisitive than most six-year olds, so she got a stepstool and pulled and twisted the hive until it was free of the tree branch. At once, the bees flew out in droves to defend their home. As the raging little hymenopterons swarmed over her, Blanche ran screaming for her life. Clarence watched through his field glasses, noting that the bees agglomerating in Blanche's hair gave his sister an improbably exotic look, one that he thought had definite fashion possibilities.

The incident left Blanche permanently scarred, and she was thereafter a stingy and venomous person, cool even to her immediate family--a trait that coincidentally propelled her brother into the world of cold food storage.

And now, years later, Clarence's memory of the bees boogying in Blanche's hair prompted him to turn his back on both hot rods and cold storage and focus his energies on haute coiffure.

It wasn't easy. Other than his own cata-combover, Birdseye's knowledge of hair styling was nil. Oh, he knew what he wanted--i.e., the "bees in the bouffant" look. He just didn't know how to achieve it. So, he opted to modify the bees' behavior somewhat and hope they'd solve his problem for him.

First he placed a control group of eighty bees in a faux hive constructed of long-filamented toupees and perukes. To the tips of the filaments he daubed a variety of popular pollen grains. Then he piped equal parts of beguine, bolero and branle dance music into the hive. Grabbing his field glasses, he retreated to a bee-proof bunker to watch. Nothing happened. That is, the bees didn't entangle themselves fashionably in the hair follicles, though they did buzz about in a decidedly contumacious manner. Birdseye had not included a queen in the control group, and without her to order them around, the other bees were loath to cooperate. He attached another, more polleniferous material to the filaments, but that wasn't the anther, either--the bees still shunned it. After further failed attempts, Clarence deduced that the bees would not willingly stay in the hair. They'd have to be confined there against their wishes. More unsuccessful endeavors followed that involved hypnotism, cajolery, magnetism, and glue. That last experiment was the least unsuccessful of the lot, in that the bees didn't fly off. But neither could they move. So Birdseye modified his methodology. He'd keep them under, as he called it, "house arrest," however he'd give them free rein of the "house." So he set about to design tiny tethers.

Utilizing needlework skills that had languished since an after-school job in Beano's Tattoo Parlor, Birdseye sewed together elegant little bridles that fit over the bee's thorax. Each was attached by a microscopically thin strand to a single toupee fiber. Installing the harnesses was yet another challenge, but the inventor solved that problem with an ingenious blend of propolis and quantum mechanics. Again he filled the hive with music, this time a mélange of mambo, marengue and mazurka. Once more, the bees tried to fly away, but this time they couldn't. They buzzed crossly amongst the faux hair, entangling and untangling themselves and creating the bizarrely appealing visual spectacle that Clarence had long sought.

Over the course of his lifetime, the Bung Hollow visionary received more than 300 patents, but he was proudest for number 314,159,265(a), the one for the Birdseye Bee Holder®.

There was, however, one fly in the ointment. The bees' testy attitude caused them to sting whatever was nearby. In a real world situation, that was the defenseless head of the bee wearer. Ergo, sales of the "coiffurniture" peaked at negligible, then rapidly fell off. A class action lawsuit brought by the dozen women who had been stung to their senses finally put an end to the product's manufacture.

And while we're no longer apt to see bees buzz the beans of fashion-conscious babes, we'll not likely soon forget Clarence's clever advertising slogan: "Beauty lies in the Birdseye bee holder."

Coming in a close second in the "not likely to soon forget" category is today's 523rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. It features 314,159,265 bits of composition that today's guest has cleverly recontextualized into blocks of handsome sixty-second tunes, details of which are mere moments away, thanks to the verbal proximity of Kalvos.