But then they had this piece.
I dunno. I have a pretty simple rule about art: if I can do it -- or more to the point, if you can easily train a chimp or a dog to do it -- it's not art. Sorry. That leaves Christo and his stack of colorful bedsheets out too. Pretty much anyone can hang a bunch of orange bedsheets, and pretty much anyone and paint a fuckin' baseball over and over and over again.
Now, if someone were to recreate, say, the Sistine Chapel on the face of the painted spheroid, that would be art. This is just a small-town bonding ritual, which is perfectly nice and fine. I don't really like dumping on small-towners in Bobo's World, because that's basically where I'm at. But I simply do not get this exaltation of the mindless, this ritualized navel-gazing of mediocre pastimes. It's like watching someone mow a fuckin' lawn or something. Perhaps a piece on people who do things that are productive as well as actually creative would be more edifying. Piano prodigies are always good.
Profiling a guy who's repainted a fuckin' baseball thousands of times is not edifying. It's sad.
But the thing that really hit me about the whole story was this:
Lord help us all. They want to be known as a town of balls. I'm not even going to bother with painfully obvious testicle/scrotum humor, that's how much this depresses me. This is truly sad -- a heartland Midwest town, that at one time probably had some sort of manufacturing plant, some industrial base, devolving to this nonsense. This is probably a town that once produced something, a good or a product that people wanted to buy, thus allowing the producers to earn an honest living and support their families and communities. Instead of painting cars, they're painting baseballs -- or more accurately, one baseball. Over and over again. And then a few thousand times more.
I know many people consider the accumulation of crap to be a sign of "Americana", but I have never understood this notion. If giant balls of paint and twine really are Americana, then we really are in trouble, because this used to be a country that embraced the principles of dynamism and innovation. Collecting balls of garbage is a sign of mental illness.
You want a goal? I'll give you a goal -- give these folks productive, meaningful jobs, because clearly they don't have them right now, nor does the town seem to place too high a priority on such things. Painting the same baseball 20,000 times is not a goal, it sounds like a punishment from Greek mythology. Maybe someone should have to push the ball of paint up a hill, only to have it roll all the way down just before the top.
Amazingly, it gets even more depressing:
Great. This kid could be, oh I don't know, learning about the wonders of this huge world all around him. He could be learning some sort of craft, whether creative or trade-oriented. He could be striving to play an instrument, learning the wonders of writing twee love songs to women who are only going to break his heart. That too is part of experiencing the myriad ways of the world.
Instead he's making a huge ball of Saran Wrap, and thank God, because otherwise he'd be sitting in his room doing absolutely nothing. Unless Andy is 3, this is not nearly as charming as he seems to think it is.
We have become a culture that is deeply suspicious of intellectualism and knowledge and understanding, a culture that is content with exalting the inane and banal to a status far beyond their merits. People would rather check out William Hung than Yo-Yo Ma. That is the hallmark of a very adolescent, immature mindset, a mindset dominated by inertia and clutter. Of course, there is some degree of yahooism in every culture, past and present, because of the law of averages and fools living up to their names. But considering the immense resources and capabilities the USA has at its very fingertips, the current proportion is simply staggering. It's impossible to ignore.
This is of a piece with shit like pie-eating contests and child beauty pageants, things that are supposed to embody some slice of "Americana" or some such, despite the complete absence of the characteristics that should epitomize this country, like skill and fortitude. I find that insulting. I still think that this nation and its citizens were meant for so much more than gluttony and ennui. I think these people ought to join the fuckin' Peace Corps or something, or take a pottery class at the community college at least. Do something; making giant balls of paint and Saran Wrap is not something, it is worse than nothing. It's fucking stupid.