The 4 Most Inspiring Tributes to Spectacular Human Failure
We like winners. We build monuments to them, name three-day weekends after their triumphs, and carve their faces into mountainsides. It's the successful that we bother to remember, passing their stories through generations, ensuring that winning is the closest anyone will ever get to immortality. But every once in a while, someone suffers such an unparalleled failure that we have no choice but to look up and take notice.
Some inadequacies know no limits. I'm talking, of course, about the woman trying to look fashionable on a Segway.
These failures are so profound, they warrant admiration for their staggering inability to marry ambition with skill. Yes, we love the people who shoot for the stars and succeed, but we feel a much more painful type of love for the people who shoot for the stars and fall over mid-launch before careening into a dumpster. The following four failures in particular are so wildly disappointing that someone, somewhere said, "We have to commemorate this, the future needs to know it happened." And now, thanks to those people, we have ...
The Museum of Bad Art
It's tough to qualify any piece of art as a failure because its enjoyment is so subjective. It takes a truly special painting to make everyone unanimously agree that their eyes might be allergic to whatever is on the canvas. This is exactly the type of botched self-expression that adorns the walls of the MOBA in Massachusetts. They have very strict standards for what they will include in their collection, only acquiring pieces that fit the motto, "Art too bad to be ignored." They refuse all intentional schlock or art from children, instead focusing on the pieces from adult artists that display earnest and intense emotion that is irrefutably mishandled from start to finish. The prize pieces of their museum include:
"Lucy in the Sky With Flowers"
For anyone who's ever painted even an accent wall or a fence, you already know that painting isn't something you can do in a few minutes and forget about. The artists behind each of these started a project of artistic expression, felt it getting away from them, then continued painting anyway. Maybe even for days. Most mystifying of all, at some point they decided the piece was finished. They put down the paintbrush and showed other people the final product, on purpose. The museum as a whole is a reminder to ambitious creators everywhere that sometimes relentless enthusiasm and determination isn't enough. Sometimes things just suck.
It also doesn't hurt that the founders probably have the best comedic sensibilities of any museum curators in the world. When one of their paintings was stolen, the museum offered a reward to anyone with information regarding its whereabouts. The reward was $6.50. They also installed a fake camera in the museum after the theft with a sign stating, "Warning: This gallery is protected by a fake security camera." I encourage everyone to visit one of the three branches of their museum, or at least check out their website gallery to get an idea of just how extraordinarily an artist can fail in every direction.
The Zinedine Zidane Head-Butt Statue
Even if you despise European football to the point where you're outraged that I have the audacity to call it "football" when the sport already has the perfectly descriptive American name of "boring," you can't help but know who Zinedine Zidane is. During the 2006 World Cup Final, he was the sensational French midfielder who chose to use his final moments on the field before retirement trying to punch a face-sized hole through the solar plexus of Italian defender Marco Materazzi.
Now, for all of you clawing at your own eyes because you can't understand why I'm still talking so much about boring, you need some context to fully appreciate just how extraordinary that breakdown in self-control really was. Its only equivalent in American football, where players frequently head-butt their own teammates when they're happy, would be that scene from The Last Boy Scout where the wide receiver shoots all the defenders and then kills himself.
It was the worst possible way Zidane could have ended his career, and on the biggest stage possible. France went on to lose the World Cup while he was pouting in the locker room, which only extended the shame from a single man to all of France. And now that spectacular, embarrassing failure is immortalized in a 16-foot bronze statue in the middle of Paris.
Hopefully it's less likely to fall down, unprovoked, than the actual Zidane.
An ordinary person might ask why France would choose to commemorate such a disgraceful moment in their country's history. The short answer is that artist Adel Abdessemed created it specifically to question why we only honor victories with statues, thus calling into question the function and purpose of monuments in general and our relationship to them. The long answer is that, in the same way some Indian tribes have no word for "god" because it is a concept infused in everything around them, so too do Parisians lack the words for "pretentious artistic bullshit." Still, I like to think that the statue is a reminder to everyone in the city of how quickly and irreparably things can go wrong, even for the greatest among them. That's the kind of failure that's big enough to bring people closer together. It's the kind of failure we all want to remember.
ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand
Every year on April 25, New Zealand and Australia have a holiday to honor the joint campaign of their respective countrymen to infiltrate the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and also the crushing failure of that offensive. The campaign was so poorly orchestrated right from the start that they ran aground on the wrong shore in complete darkness at the base of a heavily fortified cliff. Then, for eight months, the Turkish military picked them off from above until the ANZAC soldiers were finally evacuated. It was, in all respects, a disaster.
So why would anyone create an international holiday celebrating the worst military showing in the history of New Zealand and Australia? Well, partially because it's less a celebration and more of a day of remembrance for all lives lost in war, and partially because it's important to their national identity to remember that it wasn't their goddamn fault.
"Cheers to having someone else to blame."
When the war started in 1914, Australia and New Zealand were dominions of Great Britain, which meant they were automatically thrown in with the Allied forces. Their introduction to the war was landing on that miserable beach and getting slaughtered for eight months under the command of British generals. In fact, just about everything that went wrong with that offensive was the fault of the British generals. Australian officer William Bridges realized after the first day what a terrible position they were in and urged British commanding general Sir Ian Hamilton to evacuate everyone, but Hamilton wouldn't allow it, opting instead to watch everyone explode around him (including William Bridges). The rest of the campaign was more or less the same thing.
So for Australia and New Zealand, April 25 is extremely important to their sense of independence, in a "I fucking told you so" kind of way. It's what made Australia and New Zealand realize they'd be better off standing on their own two (four?) feet, while simultaneously being a day of respect for everyone who suffered through war under the looming authority of the British Empire. It's the equivalent of two teenage twins whose mother won't let them drive until she nearly kills them both in a drunk driving accident. Ooh, I don't know if it's possible to make an analogy that's even more depressing than dead soldiers, but I think I may have just done it.
The Museum of Failed Products
It's fitting that the building dedicated to fiscally terrible decisions and the stillborn products of consumer capitalism is located 35 miles outside Detroit, Michigan. It's a warehouse owned and curated by a market research company that's filled with just about every miserable idea in consumer goods. It's structured similarly to a grocery store, with metal racks that hold everything from edible deodorant to push-up pops made of scrambled eggs -- a supermarket of failure.
What could go wrong with aerosol toothpaste?
Sadly, the public isn't allowed inside. The products are all collected and displayed exclusively for research and development teams to march up and down the aisles, making sure that their hot new idea isn't already a corpse from some other company. It's no surprise that products like Pepsi A.M. and For Oily Hair Only shampoo never had a long life, but it turns out that about 90 percent of new products fail, and only about 5 percent make it to grocery store shelves. A lot of them fail for weird reasons, too. Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman got a trip inside and found packets of gum that had to be discontinued in the 1980s because they looked too much like crack cocaine.
As a result of all the possibilities for failure in the market, the museum has a collection of over 110,000 different products that don't exist anywhere else in the world anymore. It used to be in Ithaca, New York, but because there just wasn't enough room for all the disasters they needed to display, they moved the operation to Michigan, where it's aisles and aisles of cautionary tales. Of course, all the discontinued products you miss from your childhood exist there, too. So if anyone in Michigan is up for breaking in and stealing some orange Bubblicious gum or Bonkers candy, I'll send you my address.