Sunday, July 15, 2007


Pitiless annoying person with plastic guitar at club in Manhattan. Sneakers and tatts more cost effective.

Two of the most fabulously irritating things I've been able to count on at the BestBuy in Pasadena are the Guitar Hero console game and the store's greeters.

BestBuy greeters are invariably the most obese and outsized thug the chain can hire, tasked with the job of rushing up to you upon entry to deliver a standardized salutation. The object isn't to put you in a good frame of mine but to discourage you from shoplifting -- if such was your nefarious plan.

Retailers were sold on the idea years ago that the employment of greeters shakes the confidence and breaks the concentration of shoplifters, thus improving the bottom line.

However, the greeter doesn't follow you around the store or park in a place that interferes with browsing the goods.

That function was reserved for the Guitar Hero game, an installation of which was placed near the music department. For well over a year, DD found Guitar Hero and the flies it attracted unavoidable, significantly diminishing the amount of time I was willing to spend in the CD department shopping for new titles. Since I buy a lot of CDs, you'd think record companies, hurting for sales as they are, could have done something about it. It's my extremely well-informed opinion that if you actually like Guitar Hero, you must subconsciously detest guitar rock.

At BestBuy, Guitar Hero in-store players were the doggedly pathetic and inept adult loser or child/teen in-training to be one. While such people might be embarrassed to be caught fake-wailing on a plastic toy in their bedroom, the arrival of Guitar Hero ensured that what should have modestly remained in the privacy of the home wouldn't.

So naturally, the New York Times' SundayStyles section, one carefully designed to search out only the most annoying people in a nation with no shortage of annoying, found a bunch of Guitar Hero players. (And placed them right next to a feature on another really annoying person, the unfortunate looking skin-headed pornstar turned Bible-beater, Rod Fontana/Boyer.)

"Kevin Doyle and Ivan Wine strode to the front of River Gods and picked up the [toy] guitars with the confidence of guys who had played this bar and those instruments many times before," wrote Katie Zezma, fudging the scene a bit for "Virtual Frets, Actual Sweat: The New Karaoke."

"With their wives watching from a nearby table, Mr. Doyle -- a software consultant in a Dewar's Scott T-shirt, and Mr. Wine -- a graphic designer with an unruly goatee and, strapped on the [toy] guitars ..."

"But the two men were not showboating. They were actually concentrating, biting their lips and staring ... at the screen ... When Mr. Doyle and Mr. Wine finished the last riff, the audience whooped and cheered."

"We rocked the song," said one of the nerds.

Sure they did.

For the next few hundred words or so, the Times reporter tries to get the reader to believe there's something groovy going on, not just a variation on a reason to stay away from certain bars where middle-class patrons become distraught if not allowed to sing very badly or do a pantomime of something they've seen on TV.

Playing Guitar Hero, DD could not escape noticing at BestBuy, isn't at all like actually playing the guitar. Playing a musical instruments requires an ear. Guitar Hero doesn't. It takes a variation on computer game click-and-twitch play, your ability rating upward the faster you can do such things according to the system's interior clock.

Although people who don't do real guitar might not be expected to know it, there's an unduplicatable pleasure one gets from playing an instrument made from a nice piece of wood. Your ears and fingers become a most intimate and emotionally satisfying connection between the instrument and the melodies or noise which must ensue.

In fact, many of the best times which come from the playing of an electric guitar arrive in complete solitude. Even the poorest players will tell you that.

Near the end of the piece, the Times seems to vaguely get this, finding an actual person who plays guitar -- a music student -- to furnish his opinion.

"It's like making love to a rubber doll," said the fellow.

DD thought even that a bit generous.

In terms of pricing, Guitar Hero isn't that much of a bargain compared to actual rock bottom entry-level guitar prices.

With a Guitar Hero bundle going for about eighty dollars, it's just a couple tens more than a guitar made in a slave-labor country on the southeast Asian rim and shipped to the port of Los Angeles in a cardboard box. While these guitars are certainly sh--, they are significantly less sh-- than phony pieces with a few pastel-colored plastic buttons.

(Sidebar: The US and Japan used to make s--- cheap guitars for beginners. I had two. However, labor costs being what they are in civilized countries, the function was outsourced. While you can certainly still buy an American made guitar that is awful -- search pawn shops and eBay -- they are no longer even remotely cheap. Therefore, the need for the US industry to outsource to slave-labor proxies.)

In any case, it is a timeworn tradition that almost everyone starts on a guitar that's a piece of crap. Whether it comes in a cardboard box from BestBuy with an alarm clock-sized practice amp or off a peg at a pawn shop, the investment which gets you into the real game isn't much. Unlike Guitar Hero, it will last a lifetime if you let it.

Gibson SG -- Les Paul Standard model -- like one played by DD. Is the real thing fun? You bet it's fucking fun.

If you enjoyed this post, you'll sure like Rock camp for kids and adults!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is hilarious.
My favorite part:

strapped on the [toy] guitars

7:45 PM  

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