Archive for July, 2011

Flying chappatis.

Posted in culture with tags , , , on July 29, 2011 by bridbeast

Pure south Asian genius.


Moaning about climbing

Posted in Climbing with tags , on July 26, 2011 by bridbeast

If climbing this year has a low point, I reckon it came this weekend. A perfect sunny Sunday, partners lined up for a day in the Wye Valley, but I stayed at home. Less than a month ago I felt on a roll, pushing myself on trad routes, but since then I’ve done nothing.

There are plenty of good reasons. I’ve struggled to shake off a bad cold, exacerbated by a hectic work schedule. My knackered shoulder is taking its time to heal. I’ve just been tired. It’s one of those periods when living in London is tough. Even if I were dead beat, I would happily bodge out to the crag for an afternoon’s bouldering if it were a half-hour drive, but a minimum of 90 minutes in the car to reach rock – and those 90 minutes on the gladiatorial M25 – acts as a powerful deterrent when I’m exhausted.

The feeling that the summer of climbing is already waning only adds to my mood. Work and family commitments mean I’ve got one weekend and one day out before going to Sri Lanka at the end of August, and by the time I get back, get over the jetlag and long flight, it’s coming on for mid-September. And whilst the autumn can be one of the best times for climbing in the UK, it’s overshadowed by brooding November and chilly December ready to storm over the horizon.

But… hold on a minute.  I’ll be rested from my holiday in SL (which, in case it looks like I’m carping, I’m super-psyched about). The autumn is perfect for sports – and trad for that matter – down on the south coast. Perhaps I’ll tick my E2 down at scary old Swanage at the fag end of the year. Routes on the grit should be climbable well into October if we’re lucky with the rain. My shoulder may be iffy, but it’s getting better. And I have booked a three day trip to Catalunya in November, and hopefully will manage another weekend away on the continent before Christmas.

The year’s not over yet!

Dance music

Posted in culture, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 17, 2011 by bridbeast

Having a bit of a dance music renaisance at the moment, and have discovered Sound Cloud. It’s like having a massive box of DJ tapes to dip into every so often, brilliant! (That last sentence probably reveals my age, or at least the era when I dicovered electronic music.)

Here’s what I’m listening to today:

Ignore the odd warblin tarts track and get down with the euphoric house sounds. There’s a really great mix from about 35 to 43 mins. Enjoy!

Stuck in America

Posted in culture, ramblings with tags , , , on July 14, 2011 by bridbeast

The classic DJ mix “Too Many DJs” has many superb tracks, but one of my favourites is “I was born for made for lovin’ you”  – a prime cut of sleazy German electro if ever I heard it.

Except of course it isn’t, at least not quite. As I only recently found out, it was originally performed by American spandex pantomime rockers Kiss. I was quite surprised, being a bit of a heavy metal/hard rock fan, but there you go. In a way it’s no wonder I didn’t know this; although it was one of Kiss’ few chart successes in the UK, it only reached the heady heights of No 51 back in’79.

Yet Kiss are – or were – massive in the States. I think all you can say is: “America – what the fuck?!” I mean, men made up as kitty cats?! Kiss are one of those very few pieces of American culture that don’t make it across the Atlantic. Obviously there’s something about a bunch of guys dressing up as the Star Man and the Star Child and singing “Detroit Rock City” that doesn’t chime with a British audience. Only David Bowie could get away with it, and then only as a phase. They have Kiss, we have Spinal Tap.

Kiss’ failure is unusual. From JR to Woody Allen to Elvis to Jane Fonda’s workout video to OJ’s glove to Jay-Z, we’re saturated in American culture. So it got me thinking as to what else doesn’t travel so well to our shores.

First up: the Grateful Dead. I mean, I’ve never heard a Grateful Dead song, as far as I know, and I used to have dreadlocks. That’s saying something. Yet once again, they’re massive in America. They’ve been touring continually since the sixties and, as I write this, their next date is Saturday 16 July in Bethel, NY, should you feel inclined to catch them.

I just looked at “” and found this: “It’s hard to believe that a year like 1982, which included so many excellent shows, has only been represented once on an authorized Grateful Dead release. We’re making that “wrong” a “right” with Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4. This awesome three-disc set delivers an indisputably fine show from that underrated year: the complete Philly Spectrum 4/6/82 concert, with a heapin’ helpin’ of the 4/5/82 Spectrum show to round things out.”

People will buy an album from live shows from 1982? That’s what I call a fanbase.

I feel in the nature of research I should go and listen to a Grateful Dead song but I can’t bring myself to. At least not right yet. I guess they’re not going anywhere fast (except to Saratoga Springs next Tuesday).

Third up in my transatlantic no-shows: Ayn Rand. The only time I’ve seen Ayn Rand mentioned on mainstream TV in the UK was a month or so back in Adam Curtis’ documentary “Machines of Loving Grace”. She was the scary Russian lady, a fanatical rationalist and anti-communist who wrote long books that no one has heard of in England but which are massively popular in the US. When the Republicans don’t cut enough taxes for you, then head over to the Rand camp where you can, erm, live for yourself and campaing against taxes. She was the house philosopher for Alan Greenspan, number cruncher, chairman of the Federal Reserve and overseer of the financial crisis.

It would be too easy to note that a lack of irony runs through my three choices of American culture without a passport. When I discussed this idea with a friend, well travelled in America, he suggested including the American breakfast. Now there is indeed no trace of irony about an American breakfast, no sneaky saying one thing but meaning another. It is what is is – a massive Saturn Five of a meal to launch your day in calorific orbit, amped up with enough free coffee refills to wake the dead. The all American breakfast is a glorious thing. And unlike Kiss songs, Grateful Dead shows, and The Fountainhead, I have enjoyed many a three-egg omlette and blueberry pancake, nodded yes to that fourth cup of coffee, and left a few spare dollar bills atop the formica.


Posted in current affairs, Journalism with tags , on July 10, 2011 by bridbeast

I’ve spent today cleaning and hanging out at home rather than doing anything that requires much effort, physical or intellectual. So I haven’t been following the news much, other than to hear now it turns out that an internal NI memo has turned up which indicates that, oh what a surprise, executives at the company knew phone hacking was more widespread than they let on, and that they’d paid police for stories.

I thought about the cowardice of politicians who for years have refused to stand up to Murdoch, as a group, prefering short term tactical gain over their opponents to uniting in a long-term goal of reducing the power of one company. Blair had three meetings with Murdoch in the ten days before the Iraq war started, but ignored a million people marching in London.

Anyhow I was put in mind of something by the historian Tony Judt, and found the full quote here:

“Courage is always missing in politicians. It is like saying basketball players aren’t normally short. It isn’t a useful attribute. To be morally courageous is to say something different, which reduces your chances of winning an election. Courage is in a funny way more common in an old-fashioned sort of enlightened dictatorship than it is in a democracy. However, there is another factor. My generation has been catastrophic. I was born in 1948 so I am more or less the same age as George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – a pretty crappy generation, when you come to think of it, and many names could be added. It is a generation that grew up in the 1960s in Western Europe or in America, in a world of no hard choices, neither economic nor political. There were no wars they had to fight. They did not have to fight in the Vietnam War. They grew up believing that no matter what choice they made, there would be no disastrous consequences. The result is that whatever the differences of appearance, style and personality, these are people for whom making an unpopular choice is very hard.

“Someone once said: ‘But Blair’s choice to go to war in Iraq was unpopular with the majority of the population.’ I agree. But what Blair was doing was going for a different kind of popularity – he wanted to show his strength. To do this he had to do something unpopular, yet something that cost him nothing. Doing something unpopular that may cost you your job is much harder.”

(My italics.)

News of the World

Posted in Journalism with tags on July 7, 2011 by bridbeast

The phone hacking scandal emanating from the News of the World really is incredible. There are so many angles to the story that I can’t really grasp it all yet.

To me though, one thing stands out. It’s the time, in 2003, when Rebekah Brooks gave evidence to the Commons Select Committee. She admitted the paper paid police for information. That’s illegal. That’s corrupt. And what’s more – no one called her out on it (as far as I understand).

The police didn’t follow it up. MPs didn’t follow it up (or obviously not vigorously enough). And she felt confident enough to say it on camera in the Commons.

At least someone is paying for this, if not the right people. I feel sorry for the decent reporters on the paper looking at losing their jobs. But after Iraq, and the financial crisis, in which no senior people have lost their jobs, I think there might be a mood for revenge amongst ordinary people. I hope so!

Where was everyone?

Posted in Climbing with tags on July 5, 2011 by bridbeast

Had a splendid couple of days out at Curbar this weekend. What a wonderful crag – steep and striking lines everywhere, great ambience and virtually no one there. I don’t understand it. A perfect Sunday in the Peak and we didn’t see another team all day. I did Sorrel’s Sorrow, a classic graunchy HVS crack, and there wasn’t even a hint of chalk.

Where were all the climbers?