A new competition proves Americans aren’t the only ones with too much time on our hands.
The recent U.S. Air Guitar Championships in San Francisco, to determine who’ll represent the United States at the Aug. 20-22 air guitar world championships in Oulu, Finland proves the truth of an adage I’ve mentioned on several occasions: Everything happens in the Omniculture.
It’s also additional proof of my point that Americans turn everything into a competition. This apparently is true also of the Finns, who pioneered this loony sport-art-amusement.
[Defending U.S. champ William Ocean, 29] is a corporate events planner in New York; he’s Andrew Litz to his fan-tastic parents, who have been known to show up at competitions toting foam fingers to cheer on their son. "My mom likes to say that the kicks she felt in her stomach were really me doing windmill strums."
And Ocean and his dad used to do Keith Richards/Mick Jagger air duets at family weddings. Seriously.
Watch Ocean in action on any number of YouTube clips and you see a mix of Spinal Tap‘s grimacing Nigel Tufnel and some of Jimi Hendrix’s more outrageous moves. Sometimes it does look like he’s playing a guitar that’s invisible, but mostly it’s all about the posing and hopping around like a madman during a 60-second, custom-edited track.
Why do people like this activity to the extent of watching competitions? The USA today story suggests an answer, from writer-musician Dan Crane, 37, who wrote the book To Air Is Human:
"It’s a completely atavistic response to hearing music, much like dancing is," Crane says.
Possibly. A more likely explanation is Crane’s point about boredom in the Scandinavian winters:
the Finns, who pioneered this "sport," also are known for such offbeat competitions as wife carrying and cellphone throwing. "They have very long winters up there," says Crane.
We Americans don’t have long winters, but given our amazing wealth and astonishing amount of leisure time, it’s understandable that everything that can happen, does. And given the competitive nature of our society with its roots in market capitalism, it’s only natural that pretty much everything we do, we turn into a competition.