Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vertical Living

Photographed and reproduced without permission from neither jjobrien nor Vertical life.

Struggling through the toughest months of my working life, I kept a bright shining target in sight. Just keep it together till I get to the Grampians with the Vertical Life guys. I almost made it. I dropped my shit a week early. Never been much of a goal setter.
I'd been chatting online with magazine moguls Simon Madden and Ross Taylor, they'd kept me laughing for ages. Years? To be honest, I mostly laughed at my own jokes, I am my own favourite comedian, but it's good to have an appreciative audience too.
A full immersion experience in intelligence and wit would be therapeutic. It was cathartic.

They pick me up at Tiger Air's big shed at Tullamarine in a hire car that fools me for a while.
We join the Western Highway and fill in the life stories and details you don't get on a Messenger chat. I try to be fascinating but it's a long way to Wartook.

I raided the Red Phoenix Emporium storeroom on the way and snaffled a pair of pants each for Ross and Simon.
No time for gift wrapping. Good idea at the airport. Get Victoria's Secret gift bags, send the guys a photo and say "I got you a gift".
Pretty sure they'd be bang up for the joke. Turns out I spooked them. OK, I know the limits now.

Ross Taylor - Simon Madden.
Whether you are sharing a quiet evening with another gentleman on your mother's couch in country Victoria, or sporting your ripped abs while draped in gorgeous girls on an inner-city photo shoot, satin brocade pants are the indispensable style piece for any climber. 
Traditional Chinese pants, now sadly absent in China, re-introduced by jjobrien climbing & style.

Click on the logo to shop at the Red Phoenix store.

I met Tim Lockwood and snapped a moment of his "Groovy" attempt.
Taipan is the real deal. You can feel it.
This is Rosses' home crag and he works it like a local.
(Ross, I googled the apostrophe rules, but I'm not confident)

See this is how I like it, world class climbing with some time to smell the flowers. BTW Canola is redolent of a jar of old fish oil, maybe it was the fertiliser, but in the low spring sun and with nothing to do and nowhere to be it was perfection.
I never got to see their office but they told me all about it. Chrome and leather couches, huge windows, with a commanding view of the city and bay from the 43rd floor.

I keep thinking Simon is the ridiculous one, loud mouth, edgy humour. Ross is the straight man. But then they switch it up and I never really got a handle on it.

The setting sun washed the Difficult Ranges the way it probably has for thousands of generations.

Accidentally coming across aboriginal cave art many years ago was one of the most mystical moments in my life. Not the same thing, but seeing The Gallery dabbed (bombed, says Ross) in chalk awakened my spirit climber.

Weave World 23. Simon Madden puts the draws on for me, as promised. The sweetest red steepness, the immaculate granite finger dyke, the rest, the jug haul to exposed glory. Could this be the best route in the world?

The desolation wrought by fire.

Thanks Dr. Dre for the beat cave reprieve. Couldn't have done it without you.
Here's my playlist for recovery. Songs to soothe the savage soul. Click the image.

I love what these guys are doing with Vertical Life magazine. Get onto it, if you haven't already.

Half an hour to spare in Melbourne, Breakfast in Brunswick with hired enthusiasts. Thanks, whoever you were for your unconditional super happiness. And strawberry cream porridge.

Thank you Ross and Simon, I'm a lifelong supporter.
Follow them on Facebook - Vertical Life, that's where I stole the "Life's too short" photo.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

MONA - Prepare to be offended

The Museum of Old and New Art - Hobart, Tasmania.
My favourite installation: A mind bogglingly huge projection of meaningless data changing and flickering at an incomprehensible rate accompanied by beeps.

Here's what I do. I talk about going places and doing things, and I talk about it for years, but I don't take the first step.
Everything I've done, I've done because Sandra has bought my ticket, put down a deposit, signed me up.
And so it was with MONA. I first read about David Walsh and MONA in the Weekend Australian when it opened in 2011.
I instantly, badly wanted to go. And have ever since.
Sandra lined the whole thing up in secret and had to stop me from making climbing plans for the weekend. She went all out, we stayed at the most fabulous Henry Jones Art Hotel on Constitution dock, I've always wanted to go there too.
Check in.

We got an amazing room.
The bathroom could have been bigger.

I had read the reviews and I was prepared to be challenged or even offended by the exhibitions. I had concerns that perhaps I would find myself to be conservative, or that I would agree with 
Michael Conner that  "Mona is the art of the exhausted, of a decaying civilisation . Display lights and taste and stunning effects illuminate moral bankruptcy."
I didn't.
I wasn't offended. I was inspired, amazed, intrigued, uplifted, soothed.
Half an hour of commercial television will offend me. That's where I find my evidence of a decaying civilisation. That and question time in parliament.

I took photos at MONA but I won't post them here. MONA asks us not to. And anyway why spoil surprises?

Lunch at the Salamanca Markets
They were supposed to disperse and flutter gracefully. They dumped on her.
Wandering around the docks.

Sandra doing her share of the heavy lifting. 
From our window we kept an eye on the changing light catching the Antarctic Supply Ship "Aurora Australis". The news on the way home said a new ship would be commissioned, this time not built in Newcastle, but Europe.

Let's make Zinc!
They do along the Derwent river.

Listeners, you know I love Jazz. Not Swing, not Bossa, not Trad nor smooth, not neo-be bop, dixie, rag, Kansas City, nor Vocal. But arse-out self indulgent, cliché free make-the-shit-up-as-you-go Jazz.
So I was in a deep state of pleasure arriving back at the hotel bar to find these guys noodling away in their own augmented 13th world.
Here's a quick Jazz playlist I knocked together if you are in the mood. For 15 hrs.

OK, just one shot inside MONA. But strictly no art!

So here's where I'll slag off at MONA.
We booked the full degustation lunch at "The Source" restaurant above MONA, I thought why not go the whole way, we may never be here again. The moment I walked in I knew I'd made a mistake. It was a fucking bore.
The only good thing was watching Sandra get hammered in 20 minutes flat trying to keep up with the sommelier as he matched a bucket of wine to every bite. She got rowdy.
I was burping those little pickled carrot things till dinner time. Awful shit. Four hundred bucks worth of dead boring.  But so funny. Just go to the cafe or the fab wine bar instead.

I rode a cow to MONA. True.

Thank you Sandra and Willow and Lotus. It was THE most fabulous weekend ever.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Robbie Phillips - Call of Duty

Robbie's Climbing Visa application asked "what is your intended purpose for this visit to Australia?"
he ticked the box:

Shred in every State and Territory, fill every page of my climbing passport with coveted hard ascent stamps, and charm the pants off the little Aussie battlers I find in the caves and cafes along the way.

Tigercat 33/8c
Punks in the Gym 32/8b+
Evil Wears No Pants 30/8a+
The Don 31/8b
Lord of the Rings 31/8b
Flying Duck 32/8b+
The Singularity 32/8b+

I got off the plane from China and fought off the drowsiness of a night in economy class, robbed of access to chocolate for my sin of ticking the "vegetarian meal" box, and drove straight up the hi-way to my local crag, Coolum Cave, to meet Scotsman Robbie Phillips and share a lap on an old fav of mine.
Call of Duty 28/7c+
I've done 50 laps on this route. Robbie hadn't touched it.
To be fair, he got the beta. Rob Saunders worked it first.
I did a lap and hung at the anchors, peeled off my kneepads and shoved them in my leg loops to stop my legs going numb, pulled up the camera and captured some moves in the presence of greatness.
Here's what I saw as Robbie flashed "Call of Duty"

Not a great deal of contact at this point.

 Rob Saunders of belay.

I'm not alone. Everyone loves it when some traveling crusher comes to their local crag and sends their favourite route in rock star style. It's like we get to show our familiar holds and footers to the world. The details of texture and shape and sequence so intimate and local to us, get to be carried around the world in the mind and enthusiasm of another. And no better vessel than Robbie Phillips.

That's the crux right there. Study it. Try it. Then show your respect for this flash.

 I think Robbie is taller than me. I didn't mean to take the higher ground.

Follow Robbie: 
Instagram: robbiephillips_