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Air Guitar: Critiquing Art and The World

The Structure of the Book

Air Guitar by Dave Hickey one of those “snow ball effect” type of books, that starts off as  really slow reflective biographical anecdote, but gradually increase the intensity and pique one’s interest, gradually as one begins to turn the pages.  In a sense, the  book is structured in such a way that it becomes increasingly more exciting to read almost could be compared to a strum on the guitar from low, the high, back to low, like a sine wave. The formatting of the table of contents is reflective of this. The book was written in a form of an anecdotal pop culture survey of artists over the last 40 to 50 years, that was somewhat biographical at some moments by Dave Hickey. The book will make you think and laugh. I highly reccomend it.

One of the most interesting chapters to read in the book, was entitled “A Rhinestone as Big As the Ritz”. This chapter was an essay on the rise and fall of Liberace, a beloved pianist from the 1960s and 1970s that was often scrutinized for being suspected of being homosexual. The author reflected upon the notable time where William Connor asserted that Liberace was, “…the summit of sex—the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love”, as well as other members of the press writing devastating, denigrating things about Liberace.  Eventually, Liberace died from contracting HIV.

The authors account of how Liberace’s career rose and fell, was very similar Michael Jackson’s. Michael Jackson was and still is extremely popular all over the world, however due to molestation allegations of young children, his life essentially became a media circus. But essentially, there were two sides to it: There was still the side where people still loved MJ because of his voice, music, dancing, and life, but then, there was the side where the media tore him to pieces and chalked him up to be a weirdo. Ultimately, Michael Jackson eventually dies from taking inappropriately and unethically prescribed drugs by his own private doctor.  I also think about the rise and fall of Whitney Houston and how she ultimately dies from drug usage. And then there’s US and UK sensation, Amy Winehouse, who celebrated her own, and was sadly celebrated by the media for her admitted drug and alcohol abuse and singing about it within her music.

At the end of the book there is a chapter in it called Air Guitar, which is identical to the book’s title. As the author states, “People despise critics because people despise weakness, and criticisim is the weakest thing you can do in writing.  “It is the written equivalent of air guitar, flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures with nothing at their heart but the memory of the music” . I wonder sometimes, how much the criticism from the media, and other people in the world, impact these celebrities. The media can be pretty cruel, unbalanced, and evil. With the internet, it is even more so, even quicker  and even more widespread. As much money and fame as alot of celebrities have, I wonder how secure and strong these people are within themselves and nonchalant they really are, about what other people say. I suppose the lesson is that talent, fame and money don’t necessarily buy self-confidence or strength of character.

The media, including the news stations, seems that it has alot of impact on what the people like, see, feel, hear, and think. They show the public what they want them to see, and from showing them this fragment of information, to change the way they see things and their view. With sites like MediaTakeOut that show celebrities in some what compromising or “less than optimal manner”. People who look at these sites often look at them for entertainment purposes. While I don’t think anything is wrong with wanting to laugh or being entertained, it is important that one only takes the fragments of verbal, written or visual data as face value, and see how the fragments fit together, in order to make the whole.

1 comment to Air Guitar: Critiquing Art and The World

  • ssb425

    There was a theory I once read that the human brain likes to stay in the state of slumber, i.e. it does not like to completely stay blank nor working at an exhaustive pace. It is because of this reason that activities that require only one sensory organ are very attractive to us. And gossiping is one of those activities. It binds some preconceived ideas with an image you see and relays that to the brain. Hence, you start believing what you gossip. Such kind of media, I believe, is just another form of gossip where you attain positive feedback to your preconceived ideas by simply watching a particular show. This is what makes it so attractive but so controversial at the same time.
    It’s almost like tricking you through encouragement and that is why so many of us believe in what the media has to say.

    I completely agree that writing in about people in a judgmental manner is the lowest form of writing. As a writer, you do not build up a new world for the user but instead leech off of ill-formed ideas in the reader’s mind. But at the same time such articles could be a reflective measure of our thoughts. It is encouraging to see an increasing number of people despising these practices and readings. But there are still a sizable number of people who still are unaware, reading about some celebrity and making judgements on their character.