Reblog: Kids of the Times

After yesterday’s rant, I figured I’d post something a little less, a little less…less rant-ish. Been meaning to run this, which first appeared recently on Patagonia’s blog, where I write about once a week (you can click here to see all the shit I’ve written, total hit-and-miss, from stuff people (including me) like to crickets chirping). That’s why I don’t write here as much as I used to. But some things seem better suited for this space. While Patagonia is great in giving me free rein, well, I just kinda felt like maybe yesterday’s thoughtful composition might not be right for them. It’s a delicate dance. Anyway, as I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, I’ll try to remember to repost — reblog? — some of the ones that I like here. Hope you enjoy:

Kids of the Times

by Kelly Cordes

Silence. So rare, so nice. Four recent days of disconnected bliss – from the e-world, that is. But fully connected in more natural ways, like with climbing, food, friends, a river and beer. My only reading was on paper, not on a screen. It was nice, anyway, until a leisurely check of my phone messages upon our return snapped me back into the modern world. It was my sister: “You are SUCH a loser. Do you have any idea that you and that stupid mullet of yours is in the New York Fucking Times?”

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[The boat times, with CF Scariot (left), Kelly Cordes (reading) and Andrew Gram (drinking). Photo: Dan Gambino]

Whatever. I was still in namaste land, so I texted her that I’d have my agent return her call. Wait, what? Well I’ll be damned. Climbing all up in the Times. The Sunday Magazine had a photo essay on the Ouray Ice Festival, where I was working hard. Strange world these days. Especially how this increase in virtual connectedness can sometimes leave us feeling disconnected.

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[Screen grab from the online version of a recent New York Times Sunday Magazine.]
Anyway, I guess climbing is getting big. Ouray in the TimesAlex Honnold in People magazineConrad Anker on NPR. Which might also mean that a couple of Sundays ago 1.6 million people were like, “Who’s the old guy with the graying mullet and racing stripes in the hot tub with them kids?”I shouldn’t complain. It’s better than the pic on my Ambassador page. I barely remember that photo – Tim, one of Patagonia’s photographers, grabbed me as I stumbled toward the coffee maker after margarita night at our last off-site design meeting, and next thing I know I’m stuck looking like Cletus Spuckler. Couldn’t they have had the decency to airbrush-out the molestache? Well, at least they used the best of the crop. Some of the outtakes made me look pretty ragged.

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[Making Patagonia proud and the outtake from a rough morning. Photos: Tim Davis]

When I think about these things my only concern, as a washed-up climber, is how such media might influence others. I mean, what about the kids?

Like, say, young Hayden Kennedy. My god, what a crusher. Kids these days. Talked with him last week and he mentioned how he’d finished a rigging job and then headed to the desert, where he, like me, had a blast. Only, instead of coming out to tell stupid stories of creeping people out in a hot tub, he sent a longstanding project that’s probably the hardest route in Indian Creek. Since he doesn’t have Facebook or a blog (he had them, but got sick of it and canceled both; how many 22-year-olds do that these days?), you can read about it here (which includes a great video from Sender Films of Nick Martino working the line) – when you climb like that, word gets out.

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[Hayden Kennedy acclimatizing on Naisa Brakk, Pakistan. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

Speaking of Hayden, and speaking of modern media, anybody catch the recent two episodes of the Enormocast that he was on? It’s our friend Chris Kalous’s dirtbag-level podcast – he’s had a half-dozen or so episodes, and you can subscribe on iTunes. He often records out of his sketchy 1970 RV, and it’s a down-home, usually R-rated, authentic climbing life podcast. An old school podcast (is that a contradiction?). Just him and a guest – but he gets interesting guests, so they’re good b.s. sessions. I love podcasts, though I can never just sit and listen at my desk. Unlike my time on the desert-river trip, I get too distracted. But while I’m driving or on a walk, I eat ‘em up. Between the Enormocast, the Dirtbag Diaries and This American Life, you’re all set.

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[Chris Kalous peering out from the mobile world headquarters of the Enormocast. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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[The Enormocast mastermind, Chris Kalous. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

And the episodes with Hayden discussing his Cerro Torre climb and subsequent controversial bolt removal are tip-top. Load ‘em on your iWhatever and save them for your next commute. Great words from the man himself, mature beyond his years, and with legit commentary and sharp wit from Kalous. In the first episode, Hayden talks about the climb, and his description of how it feels while doing a dream climb is the best I’ve ever heard. He articulates that feeling brilliantly, along with the bolt cleaning, and the tragedy and ugliness afterward. The second episode dives into the controversy, and Hayden speaks with far greater depth and knowledge than much of the commentary that dominated the immediate aftermath, most of it lobbed from those sitting in the cheap seats. Here we get the story from someone who wasn’t.

Not to imply that hanging in a hot tub was a cheap seat, of course. Which makes me think, why the hell wasn’t Hayden in the Times instead? Oh, that’s right. Because he was in the mountains, actually getting shit done while I was just talking about it. Damn, I hate it when that happens. But I love that I can listen, watch or read about it later.

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[CF Scariot just below a tower top in the western Colorado desert. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

Grumpy-O’s and the Ever-Falling Sky

Ever have one of those days where everything sucks? This sucks, that sucks, you suck, I suck. Some observations from a guy who, for no good reason, had a bowl of Grumpy-O’s for breakfast this morning.

Apple sucks. Microsoft sucks way worse. But Apple is becoming more like Microsoft every day. The reason people, like me, loved them is because their shit just worked. Windows, on the other hand, didn’t. You’d get these nonstop “software updates” that bogged down your machine, and then next time you went, say, to print a document, you get “Printer not installed.” Goddammmit, you motherfuckers, my printer worked just fine before this “crucial” security update you insisted I install. Too many “software updates” too often makes me suspicious. A buddy had a fine point when he ranted something like, “Hey, so if Apple is so great, how come every time I go in to their store for help, their ‘genius bar’ [most pretentious name ever, btw–Ed.] is so backed up that I have to make an appointment for the next day?”

And they’ve turned their phones and iPads into fucking sales devices for their apps. This shit costs enough to begin with, so quit trying to sell me stuff every time I turn around. Sell, sell, sell, indeed (by comparison, the climbing world is nowhere near as bad). And another thing (I’m not done yet), stop trying to track everything I do. When I turn off “location services” on my iPhone (yes, I’m sooo kewl, I have an iPhone, clearly making me a better person than the rest of you peasants) – because I don’t want, or see a need, for them to know where I am at all fucking times – yes, I mean it. I don’t need some stupid Windows-like pop-up asking if I’m sure. Yes, motherfucker, I am sure.

But Windows it still worse.

It’s like at the gas pumps, where you pay with a credit card, and they ask, “Do you want a car wash?” Why the fuck would I want a car wash? Hard though it seems to believe, I have some standards in life and the last thing I give a rat’s ass about is dirt on my car. No, dickhead (I’d love a list of the names those machines have been called), I just want to put gas in my car. That’s why I’m here. In the automatic pay lane.

Speaking of tracking, anyone remember Google’s *old* credo: “Don’t be evil”? They’ve been getting investigated, and getting lambasted, for their decision to track users over every fucking means possible. Sucky thing is, their email is way better than others I’ve used. Yahoo! blows (which is worse than sucks – just a little FYI there), for example. It’s a rough life, ya know, and I can’t be hassled to change-over from the Yahoo! email I’ve had forever. But they do, indeed, blow – Gmail works perfectly, controls spam, so why can’t Yahoo! do that? It can’t be that hard. The data-tracking-sellsellsell crew at Google can do it. I used Google Chrome for browsing, because I thought it was way more better. Firefox kept crashing. But Chrome bogs down all the time. I wondered why? Oh, I know, because you bastards are so damned busy collecting all my personal information that it slows to a crawl. The fact that, after looking at some backpacks online, I now get backpack ads on every site I go to is just plain creepy. I need to change.

We all (the “royal we,” that is…) buy into it, too. Hell, even Outside magazine (who I’m no fan of), and who’ve actually had some outstanding pieces lately, don’t even put their good stuff front-center. In the words of a writer friend: “Outside manages to turn us off with its stupid manfashion and hypemonster shit, but it uses that stuff to cover up its great journalism. Weird.”

Or, maybe not so weird in today’s world. Sellsellsell.

While I think Peter Beal was a bit alarmist with his “Sell, Sell, Sell” post (which generated retorts, counter retorts, follow-up posts, and all kinds of stuff on the climbing webs), I think it’s an important discussion. In the bigger scale, it’s endemic of our cancerous society with its all-important “growth.” It’s never OK to just make a decent living, is it? You have to keep selling, keep growing. And we’re all part of it, in various ways. Consume, grow, more, more, more. Somebody explain to me how this is possibly sustainable? Yet to suggest anything other than mass consumerism, like to suggest a possible homeostasis, is political suicide. So much for leadership. Instead, we consume ourselves.

Shit, now I’m drifting into serious stuff. It was easier to just be pissed-off and ranting nonsensical (even the Tea Party knows this).

Hell, the good stuff that worked just fine, like the old Apple products that I used while walking uphill both ways, get bogged down by fucking with everything in their endless effort to sellsellsell. Kind of like those used-to-be sweet jackets that [pick any company] made in the first generation, before the sales force hijacked ‘em and added 37 pockets and reinforcements and iPhone pockets and what-not. Then again, fortunately many companies still make real-deal items that work, which they often have to balance with the big-sales pieces that pay the bills, while picking and choosing where to abide by the wonderful notion expressed by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Wind, Sand and Stars:

In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.

Anyway, I know I’m full of shit on many levels, a hypocrite just like the rest of us, and of course I benefit from technology and advances. It’s just that, sometimes, I wish the cancer of consumption and endless sales would exercise some restraint. Can’t there be some balance?

Instead, we are cannibals. Maybe I’ll have to re-read The Road soon. Brilliant book.

Rant over. Grump-O’s digested. In the words of the immortal Kenny Fucking Powers: “Fuck this noise.” I’ve got it too good to just bitch and then sit around. I’m going climbing – just for some balance. Looks like a beautiful afternoon in the Park.