/ John Redhead's "Essence of Trad" article...

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Frank the Husky - on 08 Nov 2013
http://footlesscrow.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/xs-essence-of-trad-plea-and.html?m=1

After the kerfuffle surrounding CLIMB mag's rejection of this intruiging article, here it is in all it's uncensored Footless Crow glory. As with many things that JR writes, it needs more than one "drive by" to get the full effect, to get beyond the "popular" revulsion and accusations of - amongst other things - misogyny (which I can't even spell). Anyone who's spent time with the cheeky monkey in question will have made their own minds up about that accusation in a reasonably sturdy way. Anti-establishment? Probably. Iconoclastic? Certainly!

Rope Below!
The Pylon King on 08 Nov 2013
Frank the Husky - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to The Pylon King: I know - but the bland title of that one doesn't tell anyone what the post is about, hence this one which does.
Offwidth - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky: An external examiner once said to a colleague of mine I told you to be careful about similar exam questions and this one looks the same as one from last year. He replied that this year the answer is different: stumped the external completely. Vive la difference.
I like climbing - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:
A very inspiring piece of writing. Can't wait to climb in a few hours. Thanks for posting this.
KingStapo - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Frank the Husky) An external examiner once said to a colleague of mine I told you to be careful about similar exam questions and this one looks the same as one from last year. He replied that this year the answer is different: stumped the external completely. Vive la difference.

Brilliant!
Chambers - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky: Metaphysical drivel. But it's metaphysical drivel penned by John Redhead, so it has some value. What happens if you substitute 'soul' for 'penis'? Read the piece again and check it out. It works better for me. He's right about what capitalism has done to climbing; wrong about all this spiritual nonsense.
ice.solo - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Chambers:

well said.
reminds me a bit of twights strung out ramblings from the 90s - its got value because these guys have come thru stuff, but leaves me thinking 'f*ck i dont want to end up thinking like that myself'.

Seldom Seen Slim - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Thanks for posting. I thought it was a great article myself.So refreshing after after the dross that normally gets published. Can't understand why Climb found it too hot to handle? I guess its a case of the bland leading the bland !
IainRUK - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Chambers:
> He's right about what capitalism has done to climbing; wrong about all this spiritual nonsense.

I just don't get this.. I understand why but i don't think its true.. I moan about it in running.. but these activities are just about you and your mate going at it.. nobody can see.. no cameras.. its exactly the same as it always was when it's like that.

I just met a mate at 7 am, we're both pretty fed up with local runners being available for photoshoots.. sponsorships.. yet not 7 am runs in the rain. So we drove out to the Heide and did 21k on soft trails at 6:10-6:15 pace. A beautifully hard session. When you have such experiences these activities are exactly as they were 20 years ago. You just have to shut up and go and get it done... some do it some blog about it.. but there are plenty of people still doing great stuff and enjoying life.
IainRUK - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Seldom Seen Slim:
> (In reply to Frank the Husky)
>
> Thanks for posting. I thought it was a great article myself.So refreshing after after the dross that normally gets published. Can't understand why Climb found it too hot to handle? I guess its a case of the bland leading the bland !

Come on Jonno.. you are smarter than that...

JR writes quite on the edge, deliberately, by its nature some will like some of his writing.. some won't.. sometimes I do.. sometimes I don't.. there's no need to dismiss anyone who doesn't as bland..

In reply to Frank the Husky: I can never actually decide whether to bother reading stuff like that. It's either going to be a searing insight into a world that has passed the rest of us by, or the insane ramblings of a madman that can be read numerous times without comprehension. Is it worth the risk?
ice.solo - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

i thought it both, but about 60% too long. whatever good stuff is in there i found lost to the wind of making noise.
its worth reading because its a rant, but thats also what keeps it from being great. interesting thoughts, average to poor execution of them. shame really as he seems a guy to make some noise, but doesnt seem to get beyond himself enough to cut thru any shit, rather he adds to it as weve seen. if one has a strong opinion one tends to need the craftmanship of words to relay it otherwise the madman element creeps in.
i cant help but think it would work better spat out from atop a box with a snifter in one hand.

probably a good thing to keep by the lav or in your pack for a long night in a tent.
Seldom Seen Slim - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:



'Jonno''s not normally a handle for Steve but I'll give it go.
Mike Stretford - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to ice.solo:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
>
> if one has a strong opinion one tends to need the craftmanship of words to relay it otherwise the madman element creeps in.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. It has value because of who wrote it, and as internet rants go it's pretty good... but it aint good writing.

Mike Stretford - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Seldom Seen Slim:
> (In reply to Frank the Husky)
>
> Thanks for posting. I thought it was a great article myself.So refreshing after after the dross that normally gets published. Can't understand why Climb found it too hot to handle? I guess its a case of the bland leading the bland !

They're unnder no obligation to publish anything. If the editor doesn't think the current readership will appreciate it then that's that.

We're in a golden age of self publishing..... it's perfect for people like JR, as some people clearly like his stuff, but you got to his twitter page and he's just obsessing over Climb not taking his article.
Misha - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:
Thanks for sharing that. Pretty unique but not in a good day. Some good bits and valid points but they are drowned in rambling, disjointed drivel with an undercurrent of sexism poorly disguised as an alleged spiritual veneration of the feminine. If he thought that this load of occasionally offensive rubbish was worthy of publication in a paid for magazine, he must be deluded.

I do like experimentation with language and writing that makes you think and wonder. Johnny Dawes comes to mind. This however is all too often pure drivel.
malk - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Misha: i think you need to back up your drivel/sexist card with hard evidence..
In reply to Misha:
> with an undercurrent of sexism poorly disguised as an alleged spiritual veneration of the feminine.

<like>

I think there is a rather long standing tradition of men saying they love women, or they think that women are clever than men (or in this case have a better sense of balance/less likely to fight wars or compete in rock climbing) and that therefore it's ridiculous to accuse them of being sexist. They miss the irony of making sweeping statements on what one group of human beings is like and, indeed, what they shouldn't be like (girls shouldn't want to compete) whilst saying "I'm not sexist".

"and the sacred feminine informs my work" - it seems to indeed Mr Redhead, but I thought nothing is sacred to the eyes of that artist operating from 'beyond the mainstream'? Isn't Shauna on the front cover of Climb sacred enough?
Chris H - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky: A JR coaching masterclass would be an interesting experience. There would probably be a lot of papier mache phallus making.
Bulls Crack - on 10 Nov 2013
In reply to Chris H:

I always thought many of his route names the climbing equivalent of a schoolboy writing c*nt or wank on a toilet wall
rug - on 10 Nov 2013
In reply to Papillon:
>It has value because of who wrote it

Really ? I can see how it might invite comment because of who wrote it. I don't see how the same words penned by another would have any more or less value.

Unless you mean that it is a piece of work produced by an artist, and therefore has value as an artwork ?

Rug

wiwwim - on 10 Nov 2013
In reply to Chris H: or having a w*nk on the top of a cathedral spire...alledgedly
LeeWood - on 10 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky: Ironic that JR should complain about the 'commercial' and the 'system'. He had a magasine in his own home - and read portions of it. He submitted an article for the magasine. He has given allegiance to the system, he needs it though he scorns it.

The parallel runs in his own respect for life - needs but scorns; his particular precarious bias for scorn has allowed some serious extreme climbing which has gone down in history. But he is mistaken as a zealot in thinking he has found the true God, and the rest of us are butter fingered bumblers. Adventure on the cliff and in the skull - invigorates all sects and factions, as their psyche demands.

And its the same for male or female, by personal experience. What the onlookers get is something different. JR's perception and portrayal of sexuality is for me just a red-herring. It belongs in his own private fantasy world, (as does yours and mine) and I doubt that his airing it will endear him or his writing to anyone.

To sum up, I agree with others - it's too long. What JR needs to do is write about his very real and adventurous climbing - bring it alive with his lucid insights and leave inspiration to flourish where it will. He wouldn't be happy to find too many pews in his temple peopled after all.
Misha - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
Second paragraph is total gibberish. That's just one example.

Third paragraph reflect a sexist attitude.
Postmanpat on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Misha:

I've read the second para four times now and I'm none the wiser. Can anyone translate it for me?
ice.solo - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:

i get the 2nd. the 3rd tho reminds me of smoking shepherds sage which made no sense either.
ericinbristol - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

I think it's just rather low quality, half-baked, opaque posturing. Maybe that is the 'essence of trad' to some but hardly the view I think he was trying to promote.
TMM - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

No doubting John's skill as a climber but his writing is self-indulgent and barely penetrable.

There is a lot of 'sham' in shamanism.
Postmanpat on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to ice.solo:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> i get the 2nd. the 3rd tho reminds me of smoking shepherds sage which made no sense either.

What does the second para mean?
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MattDTC on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to TobyA:

> but I thought nothing is sacred to the eyes of that artist operating from 'beyond the mainstream'?

The path is sacred. Whether one chooses to defend it or not, is a personal choice. In this instance JR has chosen to do so, and I congratulate him for that.
MattDTC on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:
>
> What does the second para mean?

It tells us that our interaction with the landscape has something powerful to teach us.
SteveRi - on 11 Nov 2013
Still, it's nice to read something you disagree with every now and again, eh? Possibly part of Redhead's point is that most of what we read slips by in a warm fuzz of 'perceived idiom' - we mostly know what's going to be said before we read it. I dunno like.
Mike Stretford - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to rug:
> (In reply to Papillon)
> >It has value because of who wrote it
>
> Really ? I can see how it might invite comment because of who wrote it. I don't see how the same words penned by another would have any more or less value.
>
> Unless you mean that it is a piece of work produced by an artist, and therefore has value as an artwork ?
>

It has value as some people will always be interested in what he says, because of his climbing achievements.... maybe a few more because of his eccentric nature, but without the climbing I'd doubt we'd have heard of him.
Simon - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Chambers:

> He's right about what capitalism has done to climbing; wrong about all this spiritual nonsense.



...sorry you feel that way or you are not connected in any way spiritually or deride it as nonsense. Why can't you just let some people have their ideology and beliefs, for some it get them through life.

JR might not be everyone's cup of tea to all people all of the time, but if he were he wouldn't be JR and if he wasn't then we would be a lesser climbing community...

...one which sadly on here is becoming sterile, sanitised and lacking in freedom of expression as would you probably like it Chambers...
Postmanpat on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to MattDTC:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> It tells us that our interaction with the landscape has something powerful to teach us.

It does? Rightyho...Actually I think I thought the 2nd and 3rd paras were one para so it is actually the 3rd that is giving me most trouble.....

pebbles - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky: I didnt think it was misogynist. a bit unreadable quite possibly! But I think his rant was more anti commercialisation than anything else, reacting against what he sees as the world of indoor competitions and commercial sponsorship and airbrushed images - whether thats fair or not is a different matter, but I didnt see anything anti women in it.
Matt Vigg - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

I go along with some of that, although it reads a bit too much like the world is full of conspiracies which I don't agree with, I do think it's worth keeping in mind how money and maybe more importantly how the media changes a sport though. I quite liked what he's written before about doubt in climbing as well, can't remember where that was but worth a read.
Jim Nevill - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:
phew! I managed to get through a few paragraphs, and really didn't even really try to 'understand' it, having read enough of this sort of babble in the 60's and 70's.
On the plus side, you could use large chunks of this as dialogue in a BBC4 sitcom (somebody probably has, but they would have meant it as comedy).
Hephaestus - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Papillon:

I can't agree with this - it's a bit like Californians deciding that Schwarzenegger was such a great action movie hero that they'd make him a Senator. Maybe this was the rationale, maybe he's a great politician too, I'm just not sure.

Anyway, saying that we should all get something out of a piece of writing because of who wrote it, regardless of the quality of expression, clarity of thought or actual ideas involved reflects an elitism that the iconoclast Redhead would probably hate.

The more I think about this piece, the more I agree with the comments made by Pickford in the rejection letter. He likened Redhead to the Taliban, which I initially questioned. But Redhead argues that women climbers should suppress their sexuality and withdraw from the competitive elements of the 'sport' (sorry JR) so that he can retain his own idealised image of climbing by doing new routes onsight in the rain down at Gogarth, getting muddy and admiring flotsam, and then popping up to the RSPB cafe to draw weird birds with enormous genitalia on the toilet wall.

There's a paradox in this, which is that Redhead is comfortable expressing his own sexuality; his own gender defining idealism (which is bound up in "ancient esoteric wisdom, the divine feminine, latent powers within humanity, Gnostic texts and cosmic influences"), while simultaneously criticising women have ideas about how climbing, gender and sexuality combine. It does begin to remind me of some justifications for the hijab and the burkha - that female sexuality inflames men's desires and causes trouble, so women are in fact better off walking around behind a veil/hiding their hair etc. For Redhead, the female climber should blend into the philosophical framework that led him to name routes such as Menstrual Discharge without daring to assert what climbing means to them.

No, the fact Redhead climbed hard routes that were ahead of their time does not give him a free pass when writes offensive drivel. That's not to say he shouldn't be able to publish it, it just means we should criticise him for it.

pebbles - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Hephaestus: I didnt get a that from it at all! I just though he was saying climbings not about sexiness, no ones sexy when they are grimacing and grunting and bricking it a long way above their gear. iv think he was critcising what he sees as ssanitised tamed and commercialised approach to climbing. I dont agree with him- I think seeing female climbers pushing standards is inspirational to the rest if us whether its on plastic or gnarly trad -but I think some of his comments sre being taken way out of context.
Misha - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to pebbles:
If he actually wrote in an intelligible manner, we might actually understand what he meant...
Hephaestus - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to pebbles:
It doesn't come through very strongly, it's true, and I may be over-thinking the whole thing - it seems to have been turning over in my mind since I read about Redhead being upset at the rejection letter he received from a magazine (the one he complains about in the article, as it happens). That was where the Taliban comments came from, so I suppose that was the context I read the article in.

But.

Redhead posting that ‘muscled women athletes are not at all feminine and are just ‘women competing for death, illness, decline and warring factions - all the fine attributes of the male preserve’. ‘These are the attributes of sport, and sport represses that which is of nature. Should women know better?’ does sound a little bit like misogyny.

Why shouldn't a woman feel empowered by her strength and dynamism? Because Redhead wants them to personify mother nature in an idealised philosophy that divides the feminine and the masculine. Men have been telling women what the feminine is for millenia, and that's what riles some women and some feminists.
pebbles - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Misha: there is that! I lost the will to live first time round, then after mouthing off thought I'd better read it properly. what he needs is a strong minded sub editor with a red pencil to go through his articles and cut out the bits where he goes off into hyperspace, the vaguer and more flowery it gets, the more I suspect even he's not sure what he really means
Misha - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to pebbles:
Spot on!
Misha - on 11 Nov 2013
In reply to Hephaestus:
Yes that's what I was thinking. Nicely put.
Mike Stretford - on 12 Nov 2013
In reply to Hephaestus:
> (In reply to Papillon)
>
>
> Anyway, saying that we should all get something out of a piece of writing because of who wrote it, regardless of the quality of expression, clarity of thought or actual ideas involved reflects an elitism that the iconoclast Redhead would probably hate.
>

I didn't say that, though maybe I should have clarified what I meant by value. I certainly don't think his opinions should carry any weight because of who he is. It was in reply to Seldom Seen Slims claim that the magazine editor got 'cold feet', that it was 'too hot to handle'. To me this implies that the piece was well written but too controversial, which, like most people, I would disagree with (it wasn't well written). I assume the only reason the Editor got to the end of the text was because of who wrote it, and the only reason there is any fuss is because of who wrote it.

I maintain that in our world a piece of text or an interview transcript does a certain value, as in the sense of a marketable commodity, based purely on who wrote it, or who was interviewed. For example Morrisey's and Fergie's recently published autobiographies. I'd bet Alan Rusbridger would always consider a piece written by Norman Tebbit. On a much lesser scale Redhead has the opportunity to capitalise on this. As I said I think it's a good internet rant (if we're generous and assume there's a large dollop of self parody in there), so it's value is that it will attract a few thousand hits to his site and a few of those might buy his book. It's clearly not valuable enough to make it into print.



Mike Stretford - on 12 Nov 2013
In reply to Papillon: On second thoughts, I should have just said 'It has limited appeal because of who wrote it'!
MattDTC on 12 Nov 2013
In reply to pebbles:
> what he needs is a strong minded sub editor with a red pencil to go through his articles and cut out the bits where he goes off into hyperspace


<<finds guantlet on the floor and decides to pick it up>>

Here's my translation;

I think people are missing JR’s central point and getting side tracked by what they feel is his antiquated and misogynistic attitude towards women. I think the language JR uses doesn’t help in this respect, but putting that to one side, I feel the point he is driving at is an important one. With that in mind I will paraphrase what I believe JR has written.

JR states a number of times why he has written this piece; “My plea is for a perspective, because I feel something has been forgotten”, he also quotes Lao Tzu about ‘walking the great way’, and he writes “We sit on the shoulders of giants, remembering nothing”. This is about reminding us about the way we live, and the lessons we have all, to a greater or lesser extent forgotten.

His piece is about understanding who we are as human beings, the choices we have in life, and more importantly how those choices will lead us either to a life of fulfilment and peace or a life of increasing neediness and dissatisfaction. JR has chosen to use our concept of femininity to explore this, and in doing so he has made life difficult for himself! He has expanded our modern/western notion of femininity to represent the embodiment of ‘the knowledge’ which leads us to a more grounded life. While he uses masculinity as the embodiment of those choices which lead us to discontentment and alienation. He isn’t alone in using this analogy (belief), this is a notion which runs through many belief systems; mother earth, venus, pachamama, to name a few.

However, the notion of feminine-masculine, light-dark, yin-yang, call it what you like, is really just window dressing, the central theme is about understanding how to navigate a fulfilling life through a difficult world. JR’s beef is that much, indeed nearly all of the navigation tools we are supplied with are leading us down a dangerous path. In a society where our values, our navigational tools, are increasingly determined by powerful commercial interests, where people are feeling increasingly alienated and dissatisfied, we need to stop and think about the beliefs we hold, the choices we make and the repercussions they have. The landscape and our interaction with it, for example through climbing, provides us with a space beyond ourselves in which we can find and engage with an alternative narrative.

I agree with some of the comments criticizing the language JR uses and the apparent meaning behind that language, but for me these details need to be forgiven, the guy is only human, his piece is trying to convey a difficult narrative, one which few are capable of writing clearly and coherently about. But it is an important narrative, one which sits in the background whilst drowned out by louder voices. I for one commend JR for trying to bring this narrative back to the forefront of our attention.
Hephaestus - on 12 Nov 2013
In reply to MattDTC:
> (In reply to pebbles)
> [...]
>
>
> <<finds guantlet on the floor and decides to pick it up>>

>
So maybe it should have been rejected for lacking originality? I've been reading about how climbing is losing its heart because lots of people only climb indoors or sport or bouldering for years.

At the same time, there are still lots who love Gogarth adventures, new routes and crags or just climbing without a guide book.

Anyone know much about statistical analysis and data sets? Maybe we could persuade UKC to release some info so we could look at whether gender preferences exist in climbing.
Hephaestus - on 12 Nov 2013
In reply to Papillon: Yeah, I would have agreed with that.

And I'm smiling at the irony of discussing Redhead as a 'marketable commodity'. JR: the Morrisey of the climbing world! He'd hate that, too, but it just goes to show what a weird and paradoxical place the world is, eh?
pebbles - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to Hephaestus: having just reread the whole piece on footless crow, I've come to the conclusion that Climb should have rejected it for being ludicrously turgid
Flatus Vetus - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

I'm sure that if I fed a cholera ridden whoop of baboons with alphabetti spaghetti for a week they'd shite out a better, more comprehensible piece of writing. One gets the impression that he wrote this slightly controversial drivel solely for the purpose of gaining attention at the time of his book launch.
ericinbristol - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to Flatus Vetus:

You packed more entertaining, memorable writing in that post than JR did in the entire article.
MattDTC on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to Flatus Vetus:
> (In reply to Frank the Husky)
>
> I'm sure that if I fed a cholera ridden whoop of baboons with alphabetti spaghetti for a week they'd shite out a better, more comprehensible piece of writing. One gets the impression that he wrote this slightly controversial drivel solely for the purpose of gaining attention at the time of his book launch.

I'm amazed at how vitriolic some people feel they need to be about a piece of writing. One wonders why?
bullybones - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Good message, very incoherently put. I blame postmodernism.
In reply to MattDTC:
> One wonders why?

Isn't that quite obvious? Mr Appleby wrote a relatively lengthy blog post criticising Climb magazine for political correctness for refusing to publish a piece by Mr Redhead, in which he published a private email from Dave Pickford - editor of Climb - and admitting he did so without asking Pickford first. He then posted Redhead's piece in full on a second blog. Then someone else, the slightly mysterious "Seldom Seen Slim" who hasn't posted much on UKC but about half of his limited postings have been promoting Redhead's writing, linked Appleby's post calling it an "attack" on Redhead.

Someone wanted people to read the posts and I'm sure new they'd get a good old fashioned UKC bun-fight going in the process.
winhill - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to MattDTC:
> (In reply to Flatus Vetus)
>
> I'm amazed at how vitriolic some people feel they need to be about a piece of writing. One wonders why?

I'm astonished that you can claim to be able to interpret the shit but then not be able interpret people's responses.

Funny old world, I guess.
MattDTC on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to TobyA: & WinHill

Apologies, my reference to peoples virtiol was purely with regard to the actual content of JR's article.
I wasn't aware of the seperate issue of 'behind the scenes politics'.
Postmanpat on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to MattDTC:
> (In reply to Flatus Vetus)
> [...]
>
> I'm amazed at how vitriolic some people feel they need to be about a piece of writing. One wonders why?

Maybe it's just me (I suspect not) but I detect an air of dismissive arrogance and even aggression about JR's attitude to the "orthodox" ie. the rest of us.

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bullybones - on 13 Nov 2013
In reply to MattDTC:
> (In reply to TobyA) & WinHill
> > Apologies, my reference to peoples virtiol was...

Excellent new word. Virtiol (n): acidic comment made on the internet.

Misha - on 14 Nov 2013
In reply to Flatus Vetus:
LOL - brilliant!
Misha - on 14 Nov 2013
In reply to John H Bull:
Even better!

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