Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Air Guitar - A Rant

It's been a while since I've written a Dennis Miller/Andy Rooney style rant, but I felt this one bubbling up so I thought I'd write it down and get it out.

US Air Guitar is a group that organizes regional, state, and national competitions for people who 'perform' air guitar. Once they pick a national 'champion', they then send this person to the worldwide championship competition in Ouhu, Finland. The current reigning top US air guitar champ is a guy named "Hot Lixx Hulahan". Cashing on the movement, there is even a new movie coming out called "Air Guitar Nation." What is it with these people who do air guitar? Why is this popular? In fact, why is it a thing to do at all?

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but have we really sunk so low on the scale of cultural excellence that we now have to applaud and encourage people who FAKE an ability? Is THIS what it's come to? I suppose it is one of the inevitable products of a society that is totally focused on appearance without substance, and instant gratification without earning it.

On the website for US Air Guitar, they actually say that since we Americans have screwed up everything from our war with Iraq to our abominable foreign policy, isn't it great to know that there is at least SOMETHING that we can still do better than everybody else. What's even more embarrassing is that we CAN'T. Apparently we didn't win at last years competition in Finland. But it's bigger than America. This folly is international in scope now. In fact, as in many other areas, we are falling behind! What exactly does it mean to fall behind in a FAKE skill?

Let's get this straight, folks. These people are not actually PLAYING anything. There is no skill. There is no ability. They are PRETENDING. Just like most 12 year old boys do when they are alone in their bedroom. Are we now going to start setting up national competitions for all the OTHER things that 12 year old boys do in their bedrooms when no one is watching? "And here we have Jimmy 'Hands' Miller, showing his mastery of masturbation using his patented two-handed-overdrive method. Nobody does it like Jimmy!"

Seriously now folks - what's next here? I mean if we are having national competitions about this stuff, that implies that there is some sort of learned skill involved, doesn't it? Does this mean that, in true American capitalist style, there will soon be professional air guitar players? People making a living doing this? teachers for this? Will there be schools set up specifically to teach little Johnny to PRETEND to play guitar??
When his mother and father discuss his extra-curricular options with him, does the conversation sound like the following: "Well Johnny, We were thinking that we might send you to guitar lessons, but since you have displayed that you have the attention span of a rabid weasel, we decided not to waste the money on something you clearly have no aptitude for, so instead, we've signed you up for air guitar lessons. That way, you'll look just as cool as those real guitar players, but you don't have to put in all the time and effort to actually learn to play. Also, you'll get through this course a lot quicker since the entire curriculum is covered in about 7 minutes. ...or 21 minutes if you opt for the Prog Rock Extension for extra credit."

Hey listen, if we have air guitar, why not Air Singing? Sure! Why not have some people stand on stage and mouth the words to songs into a pretend microphone! Maybe they can also fake some sincerity as they really put some thought into their sensitive emoting. Actually, I once saw Rowan Atkinson playing air piano, with the tux and the white gloves and the whole bit. It was on the tape of the live performance "Her Majesty's Secret Ball" and it was hilarious. But then it was intended to be funny. It wasn't intended as a serious musical performance!

There are lots of people trying to legitimize this by raising it to the level of an art form. There is even a woman in England who is working on a PhD in Air Guitar. I suppose it's a form of dance, since they are using their bodies, but I think this just goes too far. There has to be a line in the sand somewhere. If we treat this seriously, then how could anyone else in the world take US seriously? Doesn't this make us a laughing stock around the world? Imagine what future historians will think looking back on this period. Or will they just look back on this as the humble beginnings of what has become an established art form by their time?

Some Finnish researchers have even now created a software-and-camera-driven computer system to answer the dreams of air guitarists everywhere. The 'performer' wears special colorful gloves, and then does his thing in front of the camera. The software sees the finger movements captured by the camera and translates that into synthesized guitar sounds. So he wiggles his fingers and out comes the sound of Steve Vai or Eddie Van Halen and hey! - no guitar - or talent - required!

But hold on there Zippy.... What if they play a wrong note? Who is to blame there? The kid who was just wiggling his fingers in the air? The software? The computer? The programmer? Whose talent sucks? Maybe they DO have to teach the kids how to wiggle their fingers in the air to get the right notes to come out. But hey - if that's the case, if they actually have to teach them to do this with any care or precision, then why not just learn to actually PLAY THE GUITAR!!!

Of course that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.



At 11/02/2006 11:20 AM, Anonymous Björn Türoque said...

I understand your concerns my friend, but let me tell you, firsthand, that being a competitive air guitarist is not as easy as you think. I've been on the circuit for years. I even wrote a book about it (and yeah, I star in the documentary).

I suggest you read my book - you will be enlightened. It's titled TO AIR IS HUMAN: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist.

Air guitar is an artform. It is a sport. It is mindblowing.

Also, I do know how to play the "real" or "actual" guitar. I've played in bands for many years. But air guitar is its own instrument. Yes, it may be invisible, but it is very real.

Rock on, and join us.
-Björn Türoque


Post a Comment

<< Home