Letters from the week of May 6

Plog: “Mean Melin fails to qualify for U.S. Air Guitar Championships, finishes 2nd twice,” April 21

Air String Samurai

I have been following Justin Kendall’s blog entries on air guitar championships because, frankly, anytime I see Mean Melin in a story, I click on it. [Justin Kendall wrote the August 6, 2009, Pitch cover story “Air Guitar Hero” and has been tracking Eric “Mean” Melin’s successes and failures on Plog at pitch.com.] Mean Melin’s skills and energy in the world of air guitar are exemplary and inspiring. All other competitors on the circuit agree that he has a unique but hard-rocking and solid style. But more so, he is a stand-up human being. I have been hanging out with him since his first foray into the 2010 USAG season, and his consistent and ever-growing posi-attitude, enthusiasm and social radness reaffirm why I involve myself with all this.

I love the community and creativity and shared nerdiness over music that this little world of air guitarists celebrates. The USAG competitions are not really about winning; they are about coming together to put on a show that at the very least entertains, but at its best reminds us that there are friends with shared passions and personalities and geeky indulgences all over the world. In my experience, USAG has provided a roaming clubhouse in which these people can meet, hang out and have a blast together. Melin and his “coach,” Dick Stiffens, have taken advantage of this as much as anyone and in doing so have enriched the community.

I say all this because you obviously have a vested interest in all this based on your series of articles, and I want to be sure you know how much I (and the rest of the traveling team) appreciate Melin’s contributions to the culture, despite his not clinching a regional title. His participation in the shows was not quantified by his five near wins but more by his attitude, approach, enthusiasm and infectious camaraderie.

Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier,
the back of a Kia rental car somewhere
in the Pacific Northwest


The Aftermath” Wins a National Award

Earlier this week, the Society of Professional Journalists announced the winners in its 2009 Sigma Delta Chi Awards for excellence in journalism. The winner for feature writing in the non-daily division: Nadia Pflaum, for her August 20, 2009, story “The Aftermath.” Pflaum’s story detailed the rape and near murder of a woman whom we pseudononymously identified as Juliette Jones. Though a decade had passed, Jones’ attacker hadn’t been found (and still hasn’t); Pflaum’s reporting led to state and federal crime labs, where huge backlogs in cataloging DNA have stalled the process of matching perpetrators with their victims. Despite the lack of progress on Jones’ case, “The Aftermath” was ultimately about her recovery: Ten years after the crime, Jones told Pflaum, she had decided to share her story with The Pitch in the hope that it would help other victims know “they can still live — well.”