Commentary: Pretending to Be Art

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Every time I listen to Kermit the Frog singing “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” I hear that little guy proclaim that it’s no picnic being what nature has given him.

I am reminded that Mother Nature has dished out her share of challenges to all creatures – including us humans.

I can’t help but think that certain people have been handed an easy time of it and others a rough time, to say the least. Naturally, folks like me wish that our foibles would somehow disappear and be replaced by those belonging to people who seem to be perfect in every way.

I have to admit to being jealous of those who – at least on the surface – are eternally optimistic, forever happy, good-looking, and very smart to boot.

No one can ever accuse me of being a follower of England’s royal family, although I thought that Queen Elizabeth II was quite a lady. But I think of Prince Harry, who seems to have it all yet appears to me as being not so happy.

Think about it. He’s obviously rich, handsome and seemingly perfect in every conceivable way. Yet, his television interviews seem to reveal a fellow seeking contentment. Most of us would probably exchange with him in a nanosecond if asked if we’d like to walk a day in his royal loafers.

With apologies to both Kermit the Frog and Prince Harry, a new version of Kermit’s identifying song might be, “It Ain’t Easy Being a Windsor.”

My dream of one day being a professional baseball player was dashed when my high school success disappeared after graduation. Long gone was that feeling that ballplayers experience when the sweet spot of  the bat hits the ball squarely.

While I’ll never forget that feeling, I learned early on that I would never pitch for the Pirates or Guardians or cover center field where my childhood idol, Mickey Mantle, played to perfection.

I would have to say that if I could have been anyone in my past or future, it would have been Mickey, who also seemed to have it all, both on the ballfield and on the sidewalk. Yet we’ve discovered over the past few years that the great No. 7 was fighting the bottle while he was hitting 500-foot home runs.

The Oklahoma Kid, the perfect athlete who wowed all of us in the 1950s and ’60s, battled alcoholism in a struggle that makes me wonder just how good he might have been without that millstone around his neck.

Jamie Lee Curtis winning an Academy Award reminded me of the time when her father, Tony Curtis, exhibited his art at The Butler. It was an experience being with him for a week. He was the king of Hollywood back in the 1950s, the star of numerous films and flashing incredible good looks that made one critic say that Curtis was the best looking male on the planet.

But as all of us mere mortals know only too well, nature has a way of ultimately turning all of us into Kermit the Frog and thus fighting the ravages of time. The rich, the famous, even the most powerful, in the end come to the realization this is one battle to prepare to lose.

My mother used to say that aging is God’s way of evening things out. No one emerges unscathed.

Is it just me or have I lost my ear when it comes to the music that is listened to today? The other morning I stopped at the supermarket to buy a few things and wondered what was moving me to the door to leave before I had finished gathering what I needed.

I finally figured it out. On the sound system was the worst music that I ever heard. It was loud noise – cacophony (the only word that I could think of to describe it). Yes it was noise and in no way could it be construed as music.

I couldn’t help think that true music is what you hear from Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash and Dean Martin, among others. That would encourage customers to stay and perhaps even hum along.

Honest to goodness, I could not identify what was coming over the store’s sound system as music. I think of it this way: If we all believe that Sinatra or Ella singing the melodies of George Gershwin is music, then how can the sound that emanated from that store’s sound system be music when it has no musical characteristics?

Even Kermit singing about his greenness is like Beethoven when compared to that horrible sound I suffered through while shopping last week.

I’m going to assume that the problem is me and that I simply have lost my ear for what constitutes good or even great music. I probably need someone to teach me about hip hop or the completely nonmusical stuff called rap.

But here is where I fail. Much of the stuff that passes for art today is, in my humble opinion, in that same category. What ever happened to Andrew Wyeth’s beautiful landscapes or Jasper John’s carefully crafted works?

Kermit would be appalled to know that two naked people welcoming visitors to their conceptual art installation was accepted as high art. They should have painted themselves a cool pale peach color to go with their skin tones and they could be singing “It Ain’t Easy Being Peach.”