Atrios doesn’t get the controversy over the iPad — which one of the comments likens to the rivalry between aficionados of Gibson Les Paul guitars and those of Fender Stratocasters. Something about technology invites people (mostly men, it seems) to go deep tribal, grab their crotches and bellow insults at their rivals.

“Some people might think it useful, others not,” Atrios admonishes, thinking reason might prevail. In the guitar shop the other day I made a similar statement to a guy who puzzled about the longstanding rivalry between Les Paul and Strat players: “Real guitar plays like Jeff Beck don’t give a shit.” Beck played most of Blow by Blow, his seminal jazz rock album, on an oxblood Les Paul (imitations of which sell for $25,000 — which is a steep price to pay for Jeff Beck cosplay); nowadays Beck tends to play a pearl white Strat (for which there are two imitations, custom and standard — for thousands less than the Les Paul, btw…though still thousands more than they are worth).

Indeed, the Gibson-Fender rivalry parallels the Mac-PC rivalry: Macs and Gibsons tend toward higher standards of design, interactivity, and aesthetics, entailing higher prices; PCs and Fenders tend to cut corners (Fender uses a bolt-on neck, which is cheaper to make and replace than the Gibson favored built-in neck) and, while sleek and pretty in their own right, can be more mundane, aesthetically.

But so what? Gibson players like to sneer at Fenders as a bunch of “toys” (a comment you will find in almost any YouTube video of someone playing a Fender or an Epiphone, Gibson’s down-market brand.) But what guitar did Jimi play? And for all of Jimmy Page’s association with the Les Paul, he recorded the first Zepplin album with (gasp) a Telecaster! That’s right, the twangy slab of wood so cheap only Country, blues and punk players could afford. Oh wait — that’s most of pop music right there. It’s hard to be a snob when so much cultural evidence is against you.

Jimmy Page on Tele

(Sidenote: On that link to Page’s gear, I find it funny that Page didn’t have to buy his main guitars — Beck gave him the Tele you see in the pic above, and Joe Walsh gave him the LP most identified with Page. That’s what happens when you are a professional player, you and your friends have so many guitars that you try to fob them off on one another.)

By the same token, most cartoonists I know, myself included, prefer Macs. Everyone, really, except Barry Deutsch, who uses a PC. Despite his horrible lack of taste in technology, he has gone on to create beautiful work as a cartoonist and is currently under contract with Abrams to publish a graphic novel. Yes, he’s a PC loser, but a cartooning winner!

The iPad so far looks like a glorified iPhone, a product I rolled my eyes at when it came out. But that’s because the iPhone cost $600, as does the iPad; now you can get an iPhone for half that price, a cost slashing that Apple will likely do for the iPad once the hype cools off. I still can’t afford either of them; if I ever had a job that required it, I would get one. Until then both products are just “toys” to me. However, if I ever get the money, I’ll happily plunk it down for both a Les Paul and a Strat.

And a Tele. And an SG.

Jimi with an SG
Against type: Hendrix with a Gibson SG.

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