Web Redemption

posted by dpm on 07/23/2012

Is it me or has rock climbing blown up in the mainstream media? The Washington Post just did an incredibly professional article on Sasha Digiulian. Reading through the article, I couldn't help but notice just how interesting a professional journalist can make a bit of writing.

It dawned on me that climbing media will never sound as professional as the article in the Washington Post because the person that wrote it is a true journalist.  Anna Katherine Clemmons, the author of the article, is a journalist for the damn WASHINGTON POST! She's probably committed her life to journalism and writing, unlike everyone in climbing media who first committed their life to climbing and then somehow ended up writing about it. I'm certainly not going to name any names, and really don't have to, because everyone in climbing media is a climber.

Long-time Climbing Magazine editor Matt Samet. Note the proximity to pen, paper, computer, and other implements of journalism. Photo: dolomitesport.com

The plus side of this is that climbers actually know about climbing and can talk about it. They can use the correct terms properly like: crashpad, redpoint, rig, goober, trad, gobie, flapper, etc. The downside is that instead of writing, they'd rather be out climbing. So instead of creating an excellent, thorough article, it's more likely that they'll turn over some choss to the boss and head out the door to get a few laps in on the boulders. This is just the inherent nature of the selfish rock climber.

Conversely, again, if you look at articles written by true journalists that aren't climbers, you'll always find a little nugget that reveals their full lack of understanding of the subject. But along for the ride is their correct comprehension of 'speaking to the audience.' They understand that even though they know it's called a 'crashpad,' they still have to explain that it's a "portable mattress to cushion their inevitable falls." For climbers, this can break up the flow, add unnecessary wordiness, and distract from the story.

Internationally renowned journalist Peter Bergen can be found by google-searching for 'internationally renowned journalist.' Note the close proximity to paper, pen, suit, Blackberry, and ice cold beverage. This guy interviewed Osama Bin-Laden, which is a little more hairball than asking Dave Graham for his opinion of chipped routes. Photo: indeonline.com

I've gotten a kick out of reading these mainstream news source articles recently. For the most part, I've been really impressed by the author's understanding of the subject and their ability to make it interesting to both climbers and the general public. The New York Times seems particularly invested in climbing news with at least three stories in the past few weeks:

"For Climbers, Risks Now Shift With Every Step" discusses the seemingly growing risk of climbing.

"Solo Climber Reaches New Heights" puts in layman's terms how badass Honnold's recent Yosemite exploits are.

"Tiny Hand Over Hand" explains why it's so awesome that 11-year-old Ashima is better than the rest of us at bouldering.

The Economist jumped in with an article called "Scaling New Heights" that focused on the growth of the sport, Ashima (of course), money, and the current move toward becoming an Olympic sport.

New York Times, Washington Post, the Economist...? It's apparent that climbing has raised the brow of the general public. Definitely more in recent times than it has in the past. You might even be able to ask a random, educated person on the street who Alex Honnold is and there's possibly a 1% chance that they'll know. He was on 60 minutes, in the New York Times, on the cover of National Geographic and more. Climbing is certainly growing in popularity. But it hadn't really gone 'viral' until today.   

'Viral' is a term related to internet media and sexually transmitted diseases. Someone has something and gives it to someone else, who shares it with someone else, until the gift of 47-second video or Herpes simplex two has blessed everyone in your circle of friends and possibly the nation.

I'm not talking about climbing videos. The best free climbing videos on the internet, like Sasha Digiulian climbing Pure Imagination, which is widely regarded as one of the best free videos of 2011, currently has a watch count of about  516,000 views. Whoa! that sounds rad doesn't it! Well to put it in perspective for you, a quick google search for 'funny cat video' reveals that the number one spot in this category, a quality little film called "Probably the funniest cat video you'll ever see," has garnered 25.5 million hits.

I washed back the last sip of my second beer and hit the play button on this little gem of a clip. Cynicism and skepticism oozing from my pores, I pursed my lips and braced myself for 3 minutes and 13 seconds of getting dumber, just to see if it would really happen. It did. I couldn't have been 30 seconds in when I started Lol'ing and totally durr'ing out to cats fitting in fish bowls, swinging around on fans, attacking infants, and walking on their front paws or hooves or whatever the shit cats have attached to the end of their front legs.

Watching this cat walk on it's front legs made me dumber and I liked it.

This rig has gone viral! If you haven't seen it, you will, because I promise you won't be able to resist the urge to click on this link right here. That shit was funny wasn't it? You found yourself entertained didn't you?

That's why I put a lot more credence in Comedy Central, John Stewart, Steven Colbert and Tosh.O than I do Fox News, CNN, or the New York Times. If you really want to put your finger on the pulse of a nation, you tune in to their social networking and see where they actually spend their time. Call it sad, but I sure as hell would rather sit through the Daily Show than read a New York Times article, even if it's another 'inspirational' story about someone climbing some wall. Show me the cat riding the ceiling fan, you know what I mean?

When I heard that a climbing video was going to be featured on Comedy Central's Tosh. O tomorrow night, I knew that climbing has gone beyond mainstream into the world of 'viral.' Tosh's whole spiel is based on viral videos. He finds these videos of people totally 'failing' and making fools of themselves on the world's computer screens. Then he gives them the opportunity for 'web redemption,' by recreating the moment that led to their humiliating demise and offering them the chance to create a different outcome.  

The original pants-shitting video "Boogie 'til You Poop."

In this case, Tosh has picked up on the viral climbing flick "Boogie 'til You Poop" in which Jason Kruk is extremely hung over, goes off-width climbing in Squamish, gets his knee stuck, shits his pants, and nearly vomits on Cedar Wright. If you struggle to put two and two together, you may remember Jason Kruk from such humorous debacles as chopping the bolts off Cerro Torre's Compressor Route, shitting his pants on Youtube, or...unfortunately, that's all anyone really knows about Jason Kruk.  

The pants-shitting video has seen 272,000 views, which means that every climber has watched it at least three times. The only thing that would make this video funnier is if Jason actually puked on Cedar Wright. Other than that, it's solid gold. Here's the original video, and here's the preview for the Tosh. O episode that airs tomorrow night (July 24, 2012) on Comedy Central at 10:00 P.M.

Jason Kruk on left, speaks with Daniel Tosh who is wearing a down suit, presumably because he believes climbers wear down suits to get up Everest and also to avoid diarrhea splatter from Kruk's b-hole during his 'web redemption.' Click for video.