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Andy Kirkpatrick

15 October 2013

Ueli - Gift from the Gods

My daughter Ella, in fact both my kids, never watch TV - in fact I can say without doubt that TV is - or will soon be - dead.  These days young people only watch Youtube, and not just hamsters on pianos, but youtube channels such as the Shaytards and Charles Trippy (who has the record for the longest uninterrupted vlog on Youtube), and gaming channels.  The gaming channels are the ones I really don’t understand, as they general involve some adult who still acts and talks like a child, playing a game - so all you see is their gameplay with what is generally low end nerd commentary.  Having your kids playing games all the time is bad enough, but having them WATCH someone else playing games is beyond me.  It’s like watching someone watching porn, and equally unsatisfactory (it also remind me of going round mates houses and watching as they played one player games, where’d you’d sit for an hour waiting for your turn). 

The Shatards and Charles Trippy and another thing altogether, and something I find really unsettling.  These blogs are the ordinary day to day things people do, all be it people who make a living out of filming the minutia of their family life (once you get over a million viewers you can start to make a small living from Youtube).  Think the Truman show.  All are Americans, all seem to be devoutly religious, and all live lives that are not ordinary in anyway, but lead the viewers in to believing they are ordinary.  And so my kids watch these people every day, and want to have lives like them.

I have pointed out that such people, who have what looks like amazing lives, probably don’t spend their time watching other such people on other youtube channels, but then I just sound like an old dad.  I find this troubling in the same way I find writing or blogging about my own life, and that of my kids, that one day, if you’re not careful, there will be a price to pay - that life - beyond the snapshot - is too delicate to be served as entertainment.

I’ve been away for a while, and on coming home, ella told me that Charles Trippy (who had a brain tumor, and has just had a second operation), has taken a turn for the worse, and has to go into hospital for chemotherapy.  “Dad if he dies I’m going to have the day off school” she told me “I’ve never had someone that close to me die”. 

I guess that in the past kids had pets that died, and that taught them such important lessons in life, to know tragedy and loss, but more importantly, forgetting, but there is some strange boundary here, voyeuristic and dangerous.  When I watch these vlogs I always feel, a little like reading John Irving novel, that some great tragedy is about to before them - and I guess this being real life, then this is certain.

When she went to bed last night I put my hands on her shoulders and said “This is real, this is not a TV program, prepare yourself for the worst”.

This week was also the high point in the evolution of alpine climbing, with Ueli Steck’s solo ascent of Annapurna South Face, which taken purely on sports performance is up there with Messner’s solo ascent of everest without oxygen (another landmark).  Like most people, I think I was a little scared by what I read, and hopeful.  I was scared about what Ueli would do next, as marketing managers, like circus owners, soon look elsewhere when their monkeys stop performing, and as Niko said “After every last shot, there is always another”. 

You can not do what Ueli did without dying - simple as that.  No matter how strong, no matter how fast, no matter how fit, the mountains will win, and belief in ones abilities in the face of that fact is a very dangerous illusion.  I was hopeful in that Ueli - the Achilles of Alpinism - an astute and calculating man (he’s Swiss!), would know full well that what he has earned a once in a lifetime gift from the mountain Gods; the line, and his life.


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