Eccentric composer Erik Satie wrote "Vexations," a four-line piece of music, around 1893, though that date is a guess because it remained undiscovered until his death in 1925. It was an unexceptional piece of music (by design), except for the instructions he attached that seemed to indicate that it should be played "840 times in succession" by a pianist who should "prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." It's not clear why he chose the number 840.
It was first performed in September 1963 at the Pocket Theater in Manhattan. Composer John Cage arranged for a relay team of 10 pianists to play the entire thing, 840 times. The entire performance lasted 18 hours and 40 minutes.
There was a $5 admission fee for audience members, but you got 5 cents back for every 20 minutes you listened to it. Joel Meltz sat through the whole thing, so ended up getting a refund of $2.80.
It's subsequently been performed a number of times and is, of course, available on YouTube. Check out the video below of the guy who plays the entire thing, alone, in under 10 hours.
In 1927, William S. Dutton, a writer for American magazine, decided to locate America's most average man. The requirements were that whoever it was had to be:
A native-born American, of average age, average size, average education and average viewpoint. He had to own an average home on an average street, drive an average automobile and be head of a family of four, which is the average used by the census bureau. He had to be engaged in an average one-man business, be neither a leader nor a laggard in public affairs, neither prominent nor obscure, popular or unpopular.
To conduct his search, Dutton used the census report, a map, and a weather chart to select America's most average city, which he decided was Fort Madison, Iowa. Then he conducted a survey of Fort Madison's residents to determine who the most average man living there was.
He finally settled on Roy L. Gray, owner of a clothing store. Gray was 43 years old, married, and had two children.
Dutton knocked on Gray's door and informed him that he was the most average man in America. Gray seemed to take the news in stride. He agreed to an interview, and then was whisked off to Chicago where he was given the VIP treatment, which included getting to meet the mayor. Then he returned to his average life, and as far as I can tell never made the news again.
You know, I was actually getting into this a little bit, finding the esoteric knowledge somewhat alluring. But five parts adding up to over two hours? I'm gonna call the total program a fit candidate for our "Boring Video" competition.
Benjamin Bennett has currently uploaded 84 videos to YouTube. They all share the exact same premise. In each video he sits in front of the camera and smiles — for four hours.
His unwavering adherence to the concept has, by now, earned him status as a minor Internet celebrity. (And what higher goal can one really seek in life than to be famous online?)
His most popular video is Sitting and Smiling #5 (below), because this includes a brief moment of drama. In Bennett's own words:
About 2.5 hours into the webcast, I hear someone come into the house, which is odd, because my only housemate is at work, and we aren't expecting anyone. I realize I didn't check to see if the doors were locked before starting the webcast. I hear the person stealthily moving around the house, and then I hear them stealthily climbing the stairs, towards my room. My door opens, and I hear an unfamiliar male voice say "Hello?". Then, after presumably seeing me sitting still and smiling in front of a camera, lit from beneath by a florescent bulb, he promptly descends the stairs and exits the house.
Man sits in front of the camera for 24 hours. The result is 3 videos, each 8 hours long. Every minute his computer chimes, and he says what time it is. He claims this is the "most boring video ever." He's possibly correct.
I suppose that if you managed to sync the time in the video with the time in real life, you could have the video running continuously and use it as a speaking clock. Or you could just ignore the video, like the rest of the world.
Maine Man Counts Peas for a Month and Wins Bet of $2.50
To win a wager of $2.50, Henry Parish of Meddybemps, Me., has spent nearly a month counting peas. His eyes are in such condition that whether open or shut he sees peas and quart cans. When he sleeps he dreams of peas and quart cans.
On Washington's birthday, Parish and a neighbor named Wainwright engaged in an argument.
"Bet you $2.50 I can count a million peas between now and the middle of March," said Parish.
"I'll take that bet," said Wainwright. "You count them and put them in glass fruit jars."
Parish began. He took all his wife's empty fruit jars and all the peas he could borrow, and by Saturday night he had counted 100,000. This gave him hope, and he began to boast to Wainwright.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said the latter. "If you count the peas without making a mistake, I'll eat them all in two weeks; if you overcount or undercount you eat them."
Parish took this bet and counted the first batch over again to be sure he had made no error. Finding that he was three peas out of the way he got nervous.
A couple of days ago Parish finished in a rush and took all the cans over to Wainwright's house.
"There's the peas. Now eat them," he commanded, "and fork over the $2.50."
"But how do I know you have counted correctly?" protested Wainwright.
"You don't, so count them yourself," chuckled Parish.
"Well, I guess I'll take it for granted if you'll let me off on eating them," said Wainwright, after thinking it over. "I'll pay you the $2.50 and call it square."
"Oh, no, you don't," gurgled Parish; "a bet's a bet and you've got to count them. Then I'll bet you have to eat them."
Wainwright is now counting peas to see whether he does or does not eat them.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.