Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sarah's Take on why Guitar Hero....um.... sucks.

Sarah Murphy

Music, Technology and Values



               To understand whether or not “Guitar Hero” (or “Rock Band, for that matter, but from here on out I will only reference “GH” for them both) is musical, we need to take a trip down an unfortunately awkward road on the map of my memory lane: middle school. I distinctly remember my best friend Laura getting GH and spending hours in her basement learning how to shred on songs like “Bulls on Parade,” or failing miserably on “Cliffs of Dover.” I became relatively good at hitting the plastic keys to the right tempo; never “expert,” but I made my way through a majority on “medium,” which was pretty good for a girl not accustomed to the video game life. However, my pride at clicking buttons was cut short after a particularly memorable dinnertime conversation with my father. John Murphy has been playing guitar since he was in college and still performs gigs to this day. He denounced GH and all its’ relatives as pathetic excuses for music, or ways for lazy kids to pantomime true talent, or just another way technology was corrupting us all and destroying that which is pure and good. I listened to my dad, and my GH career was over.

               Soon after quitting my virtual rock band, I decided that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and pick up a real guitar. I began pitiful attempts at chords in the winter of my freshman year of high school and have continued to this day. My journey with real guitar has been much more interesting and rewarding than my short-lived glory of GH 3. I began making music, not pressing a button to a pre-selected song. My fingers grew calloused instead of my wrists growing weak. I learned chords and tabs, not just colors and frets. I learned how to tune an instrument, how to change strings, how to play power chords, how to read tabs, how to take care of an acoustic instrument, how to compare guitars, how to strum, how to alter the sound based on my hand position, how to make up my own solos, how to add my own flair to songs I loved, and more. I began to hear music differently and appreciate the songs I’ve loved with a new love. Learning guitar taught me how to be an active participant in sound, instead of a passive presser of plastic.

               I believe that GH isn’t music based on the argument of what music inherently is. Music is the ability to alter sound at one’s will, it’s being in control of what comes from your movements. It took me months to get down the “F,” chord, and I still think I play it a bit incorrectly based off of habit. My dad proudly points out that I play the “D” chord with a different finger position than 99 percent of the population, because he taught me how to do so. When I was learning how to play songs, the pride and accomplishment I felt after tackling Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” intro was indescribable. Months and months of calloused fingers and mis-plucked strings finally resulted in a sound all my own. I believe that even playing covers of songs sung by other people on a guitar is still an original creation, because no one can hold down the strings with the exact same weight, and no one has exactly the same strum pattern or even pick-density preference. These little changeable details of guitar and other instruments like it make them music.

               I think GH is a cop-out. Selfishly I think that because I’ve spent seven years learning and practicing guitar, and I still can’t come anywhere close to playing “Cliffs of Dover.” Even besides that, GH lacks the basic concepts of music. The limited song selection cuts off choice. The necessity to hit the blocks as they pass the bar cuts off opportunities for creativity. The quantifiable score at the end cuts off intrinsic pride of playing a song! I can understand the argument that GH is similar to an electric keyboard based on just hitting a button that makes noise at the right time, but even with an electronic keyboard there is participation in creating the sound. No matter how good you are at GH, all you’ll ever be able to do is play the song perfectly how it is recorded. With using instruments to play pre-made songs, there is always room for improvement, modification, and virtuosity. Not to mention the ability to create, which is one of music’s most important values.

               It’s not just because I’m bad at it, I promise. Playing GH in class on Monday just confirmed my initial hunch, and my father’s wise words from the past. It’s not real music! I received no joy from hitting a button at the right time while playing “Float On,” by Modest Mouse. In fact, I was stressed, frustrated, and embarrassed. When I play guitar, even when I was terrible, at least I am in control of my own failed notes. When I missed a beat in GH, I was greeted by the absence of noise; which is no way to learn how to play correctly. That’s another aspect of GH that bothers me: how unreal it is. It attempts to simulate what it’s like to play an instrument by providing a guitar-shaped controller, allowing you to create rocker avatars, or putting the background of every song as a different rock venue, but it does a poor job of simulating what it’s actual like to play a guitar. There is no ability to strum in a certain rhythm, which is indispensible in learning how to play guitar. You can’t play a sound that’s not supposed to be in the song, and the failed notes sound like someone ripped out your aux cord, not like you misplaced your finger on a fret.

               Through this uninterrupted rant about GH, (I started typing twenty minutes ago and have not stopped once- apparently I feel very strongly toward this topic) I have developed my own definition of what playing music is to me. Making music is creating sound and altering noise through the use of your own movements. It’s the ability to make something sound beautiful or terrible, and to have undisputed control over which you choose. Music is something that no game can completely simulate, because it’s a uniquely human capability that comes from combining raw motion and sound without any restrictions. GH is great for a game, but for music? I’ll choose calloused fingertips, capo’s, chord charts, and my Taylor guitar,  thank you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 Stages of Group Rides

Ok, so I 'may' have borrowed a bit liberally from one of my favorite writers and TCU graduate Dan Jenkins from his Baja Oklahoma novel. I just changed a few of the concepts from the 10 Stages of Drunkeness to the 10 Stages of a Group Bike ride. Enjoy.

1. Witty and charming (part 1)
This is right after the ride starts and we're rolling out. My tongue can still remain in step with the brain. In the witty and charming stage one is likely to talk about foreign bike riders and use phrases such as "au contraire Pistolero" in place of "No way, Jose" or "Bull-sheyet"

2. Rich and famous
By the 20th minute of the ride, you begin mentioning out loud those ceramic bearings or new wheelset you've had your eye on and how on the last charity ride you kept up with the Team 360 guys the whole way, and even took many lengthy pulls INTO the wind. And think maybe you'll sit in with them on their next hammer fest....

3. Benevolent
You start thinking how you'll buy the group drinks at the end of the ride--and maybe spring for some new mirrors so everyone can ride safe. Or order Road ID's for everyone or maybe design jerseys and buy 'em for everyone. It's only money and these are your pals afterall....

4. Focused
Gotta hammer now....the NuPhreds are starting to crack... and I only feel semi-thirsty. I still have half a bottle of warm water from last ride that I'll remember to drink from later.

5. To hell with my Heart Rate
Sure, it's been pegged at 178 for the last 20 minutes, but I can keep this pace up, right? The wind seems to have shifted in my face, but the others are keeping up... and I'm obviously stronger than they are...

6. Patriotic
The political stories begin with my feelings of Tea Party and how FOX News is too soft on the RINOs and why Lance is the greatest humanitarian and non-doper ever to whip up on them Frogs over there....

7. Crank up the Enola Gay:
Nobody in the group understands my positions or agrees with me, and are ignoring me. Start telling the group you see their brakes are rubbing or they look like they are getting a flat... and time to start attacking on the flats or hills. Dropping people shows them I mean business,

8.Witty and charming (part 2)
Sit up and wait for the group to catch back up and say.... "Good Job, Good Job" as I downshift and pin it whilst re-passing them to drop the hammer again.

9. Bulletproof
I have as much right to the road as these dumb cars...and....I'll just run this red light/stop sign because I'm not IN a car....

10. Bonk.
Why is everything starting to have a blue tinge around the edges of my vision....what do those words anerobic or...hypoxia mean?. Wait up guys....you are going too fast.... I think I'll take the trail in instead of climbing up Woodland....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Epic* Bike Ride this weekend

Epic....very imposing or impressive; surpassing the ordinary (especially in size or scale); "an epic voyage"; "of heroic proportions";

This past weekend Bob & Amy Rodriguez, Mark and Jane Tettambel, Connie and I undertook the latest of our ongoing epic bike training rides to prepare for an assault on the KATY Trail sometime over the next year or so.

To properly prepare, we made sure we all had:
-Fully inflated tires
-and nutrition/hydrational supplies

Since I have a touring bike with a rack and panniers that can carry stuff, I carefully packed the following load:

1 Bottle of Proseco (Italian Sparkling Wine)
6 Bottles of Schlitz
2 Bottles of Bud Light
2 cans of Guiness
6 water bottles
1 SingleWhite Wine
1 brick of Peccrino
1 brick of Havarti
1 brick of Jalepeno
1 jar Jalepeno Jelly
1 box strawberries
1 bag of grapes

In the Panniers I carried
-6 wine glasses wrapped in a towel so they wouldn't break
-4 pint glasses for the Guiness and other libations
-1 box of crackers
-3 oranges
-2 apples
-1 loaf of Foccia Bread
-1 loaf of french baguette.
-Wine Bottle Opener
-Appetizer Plates

All in all, the load was 42lbs...approximately just less than twice as heavy as my trusty 1982 Trek 613.

We rode on the Overland Park Indian Creek Trail from the Tettambels house, approximately 6 miles to the picnic spot and hunkered down for a refreshment session. Approximately 1 hour later we went another mile or two then turned around to head back. Covering 14 miles in 3 hours isn't really epic in sheer physicality, but boy was it fun.

The best news:
-No lycra
-No spandex
-No clip in pedals--tenny-runners were the fashion
-No carbon road-rockets
-The 'newest' bike was Connie's circa 1992 Giant Mountian Bike along with an old Motobecane Mark restored, Jane rode a Trek400 with downtube shifters, Bob has a Accordio Centurion from the 80s, and Amy rode her old Schwinn MTB.

We rode. We ate. We drank. We talked. We laughed. We rode some more. It was a blast.

Epic is what you make it.

As my brother Ferris/Brady would say, If you have the means, I highly recommend it... meaning riding with friends for fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Posting Proclivity

So a pal of mine (DLS) has been lurking on this blog wondering why I haven't posted more. Let me elucidate the reasons:

1. I've been traveling a lot.
2. Ex-PFC Wintergreen says I'm too prolix when I do post
3. While my trivial knowledge is vast and superfluous, nothing has come to mind recently.
4. I didn't have a reason to blog because even though Katie Devan worked like a scullery-maid at Madison's Grad party, we didn't take a late night cruise on the Murphini 2. THAT would have been post worthy.
5. I have nothing worthwhile to say.

After this weekend, I should have post-a-bility moments....

We're hosting Ryan's Grad Party, lots of people to comment about
I'm going to school Brady , Brendan and Ernzioni on the Hills of Woodland. Or one of them anyway
Matt and I are chapereonig 8 recent grads on the Murphini Friday night

If nothing else, I'll make something up.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eureka: Group Ride Secrets

I was starting to worry--my last 4 group rides have featured spectacular bonks by me about 75% into the distance. Last night, I broke that record and found the keys to success. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. For a 27 mile ride, come late and only ride 20.*

2. Ride with people who have had other things effect their performance.**

3. Have a goal for the end of the ride that is worth getting to***

4. Chose your pack/peleton position wisely****

*While I was so ready to get to this ride early, a conference call came up at 5pm that went til almost 5:45. The call was semi contentious so I was in a surly mood. Texted the gang and said we'd meet them along the route. (KOC needed a ride to the ride) Parked Guz at the bottom of the Woodlawn hill, got bike out and within 2 minutes saw the peleton of BPZ, BT, TL come to meet us. They had already ridden 7 miles.... I was fresh and cranky.

**One of our peleton was 'addled'. After being one the strongest riders last the last few outings, he was uncharactisticaly wan. Ever see Raging Bull or Rocky? Suffice it to say some of his mojo wasn't with him. He was smiling, but not fightng for the lead. TL had his mojo with him and was off the front several times, but see point #1 on how to deal with that.

***Gotta love the state of Missouri. At 7:20am I had dropped daughter Sarah off at Sion, across the state line. @ 7:26 I stopped at Royal's Liquors and bought a case of the new Schlitz long necks. KS doesn't get Schlitz yet, and their stores don't open til about noon. Over lunch, bought (2) 16# bags of ice to cool it down. It was waiting in the back of Guz for when we finished. I was ready to slake some thirst.

****It was a perfect late afternoon. 80 degrees, 10-15 mph wind from south. We started riding into the wind, but while everyone else rode 10 miles into the wind, I only rode 3 into the wind before we turned West. At that point, I hopped on the wheel of BP-Z and found out what it's like to have a domestique. (As Ferris Bueller would say, if you have the means, I highly recommend it). Cruising along in the slipstream was nice, especially when we turned north and had the 10-15mph wind behind us. On Valley View Parkway we hit 36 (Or he hit 36 and I was semi-gliding 3 inches off his back wheel), then as the road had slight incline, we settled in at a nice 27mph pro-peleton pace for a while. Que bella.

All in all, 20.8 miles, 18.5mph average, average HR 141 (last ride ave HR was 158), and yes, I was ready to responsibly replace some carbohydrates.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cousin Eddie, Part II

So there I was, checking my email like Clark Griswold would be checking his extension chords, wondering why, -OH MY FREAKING GOD WHY won't the lights come on!?? That was my feeling as I was trying to get the pictures from my sister in law Cheri Ernzen for the Christmas Vacation prank/contest we won over Thanksgiving. Somewhere in the ether the pictures were being blocked, firewalled, not getting to thru to me.

Then finally they got delivered to Connie's email address, who sent to me, still blocked!! I went to the Connie's Mac, used my thumb drive and manually moved them from the Mac to the PC . Now in all their dark and twisted rigor, here they are.
Here is Cousin Eddie in his full glory:
Here's my interpretation: Notice the left handed beer, right handed hose, RV, beer, cigar, hat, short robe, black socks....... BINGO.
Original Cousin Eddie:
Separated by birth? Maybe:
All in all, best $103 I ever spent:
$60 for RV Rental, $20 for driving to Cheri's, $20 for driving home, $20 being a great guy.
$29 for the Hat at Bass Pro Shops. (I'll probably take it back)
$14 for the Hose (Don't know what else to do with this...)
Winning the contest? Priceless.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Art of War v. Christmas Vacation

Ol' Sun Tzu was a clever cat, and his Art of War is the pre-eminent work of military strategy and tactics. Translated by a Jesuit priest in the late 1780's, it has inspired Napoleon, Mao Tse Sung, and the planning of Operation Desert Storm. It works on so many levels--war, business, advertising, etc. Basically; Lay Plans. Wage War. Attack Stragegically. Positioning. Proper use of Energy. Illusions and Reality...and most importantly, the best victory is one that is WON WITHOUT FIGHTING.
Here is the Backstory:
Every year at Thanksgiving we kick off the Christmas Season by watching the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and the actor who should have won the Academy Award for all time, Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie. Generally we watch it with Connie's sister Cheri & husband Rick, her brother Greg & wife Kelly, and sometimes with my brother Brady and his wife Katherine. The in-law parents sometimes watch, sometimes fall asleep, and the little cousins drift in and out. Every year someone says "we should have a Christmas Vacation contest".... One year there was a half hearted attempt by Greg or Rick to dress up as Clark Griswold, but it was so lame nobody noticed, accept maybe me, so I started laying my plans for 2008. It was the perfect storm: we were all going to meet in Des Moines for Thanksgiving, and "Operation Eddie" was put in place.

First of all, Craigslist is great for Step 1 in art of war "laying plans" . So I started looking for old piece of crap Winnebagos for sale around the Des Moines Area. There are lots. I sent emails to the sellers basically saying, "Here's an idea I expect you to turn down, and I don't want to buy your RV, but I'd like to rent it for a day." Then I'd lay out what I wanted to do-- Out of the 10 emails I sent between October and November three said they would do it. I ended up working with George Garwood who had an RV parked at his shop about 15 minutes from where Rick & Cheri lived. A very gregarious guy who was ready and waiting when we showed up.

Second, Google Images is great to find the picture of what you want. All I needed to get was a white robe (had one, just needed to hem it to a short-short length), a bomber hat (quick trip to Bass Pro Shops and picked one up), then needed to get a cigar (had some) and the hardest two parts were the can of Meister Brau (don't make it anymore--Old Milwaukee had to do), then the rubber hose from Orschlein's in Bethany Missouri and the costume was complete.
The plan was coming together. We met up with my RV guy George Garwood at the Pilot Truck stop less than 1 mile from the Ernzen's house. Connie, Ryan and Sarah had been 'confused' by this great idea, but as we got into the RV and I changed into my costume, it started dawning on them that this idea, while idiotic, just may be epic. Slow sly smiles came onto their faces when they realized that they may actually have fun with this hare-brained idea instead of just making fun of me. We got in the RV and drove over to Rick & Cheri's and pulled up, and our 8 year old Cousin/Nephew Grant was outside looking at us slightly confused as I got out of the RV in my bathrobe, hat, cigar, beer and long rubber hose that I was sticking into their sewer.

Right then my brother in law Rick pulls up in his car, does a double take and starts shaking his head. My father in-law Jim Dice comes outside and looks at me both very confused and somewhat consternated. Two neighbors of Rick & Cheri come out and say to Rick, HEY, YOUR "S#(^^#!$ Full" . Finally my mother in law Delores, sister in law Cheri, brother in law Greg & wife Kelly came outside to look, all speechless for a while, then laughing. Greg finally said the magic words:

"You Win".

All in all, best $103 I ever spent:
$60 for RV Rental, $20 for driving to Cheri's, $20 for driving home, $20 being a great guy.
$29 for the Hat at Bass Pro Shops. (I'll probably take it back)
$14 for the Hose (Don't know what else to do with this...)
Winning the contest? Priceless.

That's it. Game over. It's done. New Contest.

(Sun Tsu is looking down with a smile.)