World’s Worst Sculptor Dies at 96

Time for another picture from the trip. This one is sublimely and accurately listed in Roadside America as “Incredibly Ugly Statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.” Located in Nashville, Tennessee and erected in 1998, it’s been a target of vandalism and derision ever since, and deservedly so. Apparently it’s been shot at several times.


One blogger commented that there is no need for vandals to target this statue because the statue does the job perfectly well by itself. Unfortunately while researching it I ended up stumbling across a few blogs belonging to those weird neo-Confederate types and now I’m in a bad mood, but I find it funny that even these people are offended by this statue- not because a Nathan Bedford Forrest statue was erected, but because the statue is so damn ugly that it’s a disgrace to him and all his great works. So everyone hates it!

I think it’s an interesting side note that the sculptor of this statue was Jack Kershaw, best known as a lawyer who defended Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin. The owner of the statue is some wealthy attorney who has erected it on private land and enjoys flaunting his right to display it. It’s carefully situated so that it’s facing the highway for all to see and it’s impossible to miss, but still on private land.

And then in a timely fashion, there was this:

I guess the bright side here is that the Mold-a-Rama-like statue is so ridiculous and heinous that it’s legendary as a laughingstock. People like Jon and me come from miles away to take pictures of it, laugh at it, then post about it online to invite others to laugh at it. Forrest looks like an elf, or maybe a psychotic leprechaun. Upon looking closely at his face, I noticed his eyes are a brilliant aquamarine, a weird touch. So the sculptor and the statue’s owner got all the attention that they craved by erecting this hideous thing, but not really the kind of attention they would have wanted exactly.


I have another picture of a different incredibly ugly statue in Nashville. If I remember, I’ll post that one later.

RIP Atari

Alamogordo, NM

A fun stop we had along the way between Roswell and Albuquerque was this spot right here. It looks like a unremarkable patch of desert, but we have good reason to believe that this was the site of the great Atari 2600 E.T. Dump.

There’s a wonderful story on Snopes about what happened here exactly, but the short of it is that 5 million Atari 2600 cartridges of the game ET: Extra-Terrestrial are buried here. Jon was able to pinpoint this location with a modest degree of certainty with some sleuthing, Google-earthing, and reading what passionate nerds had to say about the subject.

To get the full details you can read Snopes, but the background is that once there was a horrible Atari game called ET” Extra-Terrestrial. Atari was booming for awhile prior to the release of the game and much hype was generated because this was ET! Everybody loves ET. Sales were grievously short compared to expectations. The development of the game was rushed in order to get it out in time for Christmas of 1982, and the description of the game on Snopes was “…the result was a virtually unplayable game with a dull plot and crummy graphics in which frustrated players spent most of their time leading E.T. around in circles to prevent him from falling into pits. Atari produced 5 million cartridges and according to Atari’s then-president and CEO “nearly all of them came back.'”

The funniest part of this to me personally is that my family got an Atari and this very game in the Christmas of 1982 and I actually liked it. What’s more, I beat that game. I really did! Of course I was really little and had all the time in the world to spend hours and hours on a tedious game. If you fail the game, the GAME OVER shot is one of E.T. lying crumpled on the ground, with something quivering over his chest. The graphics were…limited so it’s hard to be sure, but the quivering thing appears to be his heart beating on the outside of his body. Eliot paces worriedly in the background, outside his house.

To win the game, you collect all three phone pieces in those pits before your energy runs out. Once you have a complete phone, you go back to the first screen and do the E.T. neck-extension, which is how you call the mother ship with that phone you assembled. The mother ship arrives and takes you away. Then the game starts all over again, because it’s Atari.

So about the part where they buried all the unsellable game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill, Snopes says “In this case the rumor was accurate, although it wasn’t the first time Atari had destroyed cartridges, nor was E.T. the only game dumped on New Mexico…Atari, stuck with millions of games and consoles that were largely unsellable at any price, sent fourteen truckloads to of merchandise from their plant in El Paso, Texas, to be dumped in a city landfill in Alamogordo, NM in late September 1983. In order to keep the site from being looted, steamrollers crushed and flattened the games, and a concrete slab was poured over the remains.”

We believe we found the site of the former landfill, evidence by the mysterious patches of concrete in this stretch of desert that was curiously flatter and more uniform-looking than the surrounding area. Plus it’s in just about the right location. Here we have Jon admiring the site.

It might not actually be the right place, but we’re happy enough to believe it is.

Atari Burial Site

Playing Cards with Satan

Well, right now I got this highlight from the trip to share. This one was a special gem because it wasn’t on our itinerary, we just passed it by chance while driving around Austin, looking for The World’s Largest Longhorn. It’s the famous Daniel Johnston mural! I love Daniel Johnston. I knew he was from Texas, but it never occurred to me to look up the location of the mural. When we drove by it we stopped as soon as we could, thrilled by the discovery. This might be among the top ten of my favorite pictures from the trip (I’m not finished uploading them all).

Daniel Johnston

Note: It was hot as balls out.