Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Breakfast of champions

Here in New York there always seems to be something to do or somewhere to be at night, so the only meals I've really been preparing lately are breakfasts. Summer is definitely here, and with it lots of delicious fresh produce - as well as sweltering days that leave you no choice but to skulk around the apartment, from fan to fan, in little more than a bra and jocks. But back to breakfasts. I try to resist the plumpening siren song of bagels and cream cheese every day. One thing that has made that easier is discovering that my obsession with tex-mex food could carry over to the breakfast table. Enter, huevos rancheros.

There are many different ways to make these delicious Mexican breakfast eggs. My version is mostly a rip-off of a recipe from Smitten Kitchen (do follow the link for clearer instructional photos), with a fresh little salsa. Start by chopping up half a red onion, an avocado, a tomato or two and a handful of cilantro (coriander). Squeeze over the juice of a lime, add some cracked pepper and sea salt and mix it all up. It's somewhere between salsa and guacamole and I serve it with pretty much everything I cook.

Heat up a tiny bit of oil in a non-stick pan, lightly fry a tortilla until it's golden. Flip over the tortilla and sprinkle some grated cheese on top. I use fluorescent orange cheddar, but only because that's how Americans seem to like to make their cheese. Once the cheese is melting slightly, crack an egg on top. Season with a little salt and pepper. It's pretty impossible to keep the egg from running off the sides of the tortilla, especially if your stovetop or indeed entire kitchen is on a slant, like mine. Don't stress. Things are only going to get messier and uglier from this point, but I promise the results will be delicious. Once the egg is about half cooked, you need to gently flip the whole thing over again and fry the other side of the egg for a few seconds. If you work out how to do this without egg going everywhere, please let me know how.

Slide your concoction onto a plate, egg-side-up. Top with the avocado mix and lashings of sour cream. Fold it as best you can and eat it with your hands, wearing a shirt you can get food all over and a big grin. You're welcome.

Good morning, sunshine

Oh hi, I didn't see you there. I guess we have a lot to catch up on...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shuffle all songs

When the clock ticked over midnight on Saturday night, I realised I’d been here in New York for a month. Somehow in that time I had been too full of everything else – tacos, adventures, beer, music, sunshine, love, gelati, excitement, biking, culture – to write anything down or to listen to my ipod. On Saturday night, after a few drinks with friends old and new, I did both. This is what I scrawled joyfully on the train back to my boyfriend’s place.
I’ve been so loved up since arrival I had to walk the streets alone – the chapels oozing stained glass light, the LES scenesters hanging out of dive bar windows, the cigarettes stubbed in 4th street gutters – to feel the hunger, the need to write. And this is why I came to this city. To race to unknown subway stops, giving tourists directions I’m 79% certain of. To sit next to a dude passionately air-drumming along to his ipod in a newsboy cap on the F train at one in the morning. To feel so far from home I’m somehow at home. When each day brings so much unexpectedness, the only suitable soundtrack is to ‘shuffle all songs’. The downtown streets of Manhattan are bleeding rainbow flags and there is so much love in the air – with the gay marriage bill passed last night and the rest of Pride weekend to play out... It was so lovely to see the streets erupt with trashy disco music and gorgeous men holding each other up in their elation down Christopher Street. “Now we can be just as miserable as you straight couples!”, rejoiced one couple. “Goin to the chapel and we’re, gonna get ma-a-arried,” sang another celebrating dyke duo. And, as is the nature of this ever-changing, ever-transient city, I felt like I’d contributed to this landmark leap forward somehow, just by being here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Does this movie have Muppets in it?

How good is the internet? Today I felt like it existed just for me.

First, NPR is streaming the new My Morning Jacket album, Circuital. There’s some weird sounding stuff in there but the more I listen, the more I love – and these songs are going to sound awesome live. “Holding On To Black Metal” is so irresistibly random.

Then this trailer was released for Green With Envy. But much as I adore Jason Segel, there’s something not quite right about this by-the-numbers rom com...

“Whoah wait, wait, wait, STOP. Does this movie have Muppets in it?!”


So, to recap. New songs from my favourite band and a first taste from the new Muppet movie I’ve been obsessing over for so long. Surely things can’t get any better?

Whoah wait, wait, wait, STOP. Does this My Morning Jacket album have Muppets in it?!

Um. Just about. What I thought was just a rumour I had dreamed, but figured I should google just to be safe, turned out to be not so far-fetched at all. I mean, if you’ve ever seen the Jacket live you know that Jim James is basically a human muppet, and there have long been those who’ve compared his voice to Kermit the frog. But, quoth James to Rolling Stone earlier this year:
Some of the first songs written for the disc, including "Wonderful" and the power-poppy "Out of My System," were originally intended to be played by Muppets: An exec recruited My Morning Jacket to record music for a new version of the Electric Mayhem band (the one with Animal on drums), promising a Gorillaz-style tour where MMJ would play behind a curtain while Muppet holograms bashed away onstage. The psyched band began writing and demo'ing, but the exec got fired and the project disappeared. (In any case, the lyrics of "Out of My System" — "They told me not to smoke drugs, but I didn't listen" — probably wouldn't have worked out.)

James also got a call to write a couple of songs for Jason Segel's new Muppet movie, but they didn't use those either. "So now, twice, Muppet glory has been within my grasp," says James. "It's pretty heartbreaking, but it did propel us just to kick into high gear and finish our own record."
Dear people of the internet: Please, can we start some kind of campaign to make the My Morning Muppet collaboration a reality?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things I Love Thursday – May 12

Here’s a curveball. I think the thing I love most this week is my job. Not just because today we got a ping pong table in our office, though that was BRILLIANT. And maybe it’s premature nostalgia, because in a couple of weeks I’ll be on a plane again and my temporary role will be up. But last Saturday we had a relaunch to celebrate being open again after the building was wrecked in the Brisbane floods (the water views come at a price), and I finally got to see The Edge full of young people performing and creating and learning and I got it.

See, the tricky thing about The Edge is that it’s hard to explain. My job is to communicate about it and I don’t know if I’ve ever given the same description twice. It’s new, just over a year old. It represents a hefty investment for the Queensland Government and the State Library of Queensland. It’s an incredible building with rich facilities: an auditorium with a sprung floor for dancers; a recording studio; a bunch of Macs loaded up with the software you can never afford to buy yourself. All the space young people need to dream big, and the resources and mentors to help them work toward realising their visions. It’s accessible and inspiring and free, but people don’t seem to know about it, or what it might be able to do for them. So to have the building open and full of people seeing it in full flight on Saturday, I think will go a long way towards building word of mouth that will drive kids in to check it out.

Every generation underestimates, or perhaps resents, the generation that follows it; I know I had to ditch a lot of notions I had about “kids these days” on Saturday. Sitting in the auditorium waiting for a dance workshop to start, I expected apathy, detachment and derision as were de rigueur in my high school days. But these kids were full of support for their contemporaries and there was no shame in participating, in risking looking silly. They learned new dance moves and then the whooped and cheered for the dancers' performance. (As did I. These kids from Fresh Elements are bloody amazing). So, um, way to go, young people. I’m going to miss my job and the rad people I work with; but I feel good knowing when I visit The Edge months and years from now, more and more kids will have found it and made the most of it.

Other things I’ve loved this week:

The beautiful Emily visiting from the UK and commanding quite a crowd of old school chums... Oranges... Freddo Frogs... Ping pong breaks at work! Doing my first shoulder stand at yoga... Crossing things off lists... The Jamie XX/Childish Gambino remix of “Rolling In The Deep”... Reading online advice columns... Wilco... The scary thrill of whizzing down hills on my bike in the dark... Watching girly TV with my very blokey housemate... Riding home without headphones tonight, and hearing someone playing trumpet across the river, notes floating across the water surreal and regal in the dusk. Oh, and I wired the LEDs in this lightning bolt:

OK, one last work-related thing. I have had so much fun writing bits and pieces of copy for the Future City project, which is part of the Ideas Festival. Basically it’s a role-playing game where six people will have to survive in the cultural precinct for a couple of days in the scenario that there’s been a climate apocalypse, civilisation as we know it is destroyed and zombies are marauding around Brisbane. Tomorrow’s the last day you can apply to play one of the characters so if you’re even the tiniest bit curious you should click here and read more. Go on.

What’s made you smile this week?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Folks & their spokes

Heaps of bikie things happening at the moment. I spotted this pink wonder outside Avid Reader in West End (only Brisbane's best bookstore). Here's a round-up of two-wheeled happenings in your neighbourhood and further afield...

Sydney kids – the WOOP! Rolling Festival is this weekend. Join like-minded bike lovers on Sunday May 15 and take to the Bourke Street Cycleway – riding from Waterloo to Woolloomooloo.

In Brisbane there's a Cargo Bike Picnic at the West End markets on Saturday May 28. Great for progressive families who've mastered the art of toting around small children/pets in those rad Dutch cargo bikes - or if you've always wanted to try one, bring along your helmet so you can have a test ride.

Ralph Lauren have a magazine apparently? In which they have an article naming their top eight most stylish bikes. Here's a delicious excerpt:

In the silent skirmish for style supremacy waged every time two dapper gents pass each other, a trump card is needed. Long ago it was a polished carriage with tufted seats. Today it's a bicycle—preferably a rare, custom-made, and extremely elegant bicycle.

Speaking of fashion kids, a match made in cycle chic heaven is Kate Spade’s collaboration with New York bike shop Adeline Adeline. Be warned, this video is basically pornography for the whimsical and twee (and me).

While we’re busting out the scarves and gloves, our pals across the Atlantic are stripping off the layers! New York Cycle Chic says hello to Spring! Scott from The Sartorialist spotted a dapper cyclist on West Broadway. And trust Garance to find the impossible: a cute helmet!

Gala Darling is on the bike band wagon and I can't wait to find out what steed she has selected to roll in her signature style. Her summer to-do list is highly covetable. Again, may be a little torturous for those of us in the southern hemisphere unpacking our jumpers and long johns...

One last observation. Spokey dokes ain't no joke. Baby Blue has been sporting multi-coloured spokey dokes since way back when, but this is an accessory you shouldn't give your bike without some giving them some serious thought. Do you need to make stealthy bicycle getaways? Are you irritated by repetitive noises? Do you have to walk your bike around other people regularly? Spokey dokes are not for you. Given all the rain in Brisbane lately I've taken to parking the blue girl next to my desk at work. An unexpected positive side-effect: seeing Baby Blue leaning up against the window cheers me up countless times a day. An unexpected negative side-effect: I'm driving my colleagues crazy. They can hear me coming from miles away by the twonkling spokey dokes! If I leave the office early, everybody notices! So, you've been warned. With great spokes, comes great responsibility.

How to eat an orange

Years ago now, I lived in San Francisco for a couple of months while doing an internship. It was a fantastic experience, not least because I lived with an amazing family. The mother was French, the two teenage kids were bilingual, the house was on a steep hill in North Beach with Alcatraz visible from the living room and sea lions' guttural grunts carried on the wind from Pier 39. I learned so much from them (the family, not so much the sea lions) about giving, generosity, and the truly random and surprisingly crude French sense of humour.

But the most tangible lesson I took away was how to peel an orange.

Each night dinner followed a fairly regular routine which I’ve always assumed drew on French influences, but could have just been a personal quirk. There would be a main meal – usually some roasted vegetables, maybe some brown rice, small but perfect steaks or duck-legs or some other meat. Then a huge bowl of green salad leaves appeared and everyone helped themself to a plateful, doused with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper, mopped up with crusty bread. Then Alix would make a pot of herbal tea, and there would be oranges and dark chocolate.

There was only one way to eat your orange.

It took me some time to realise this. Where I come from, orange season is footy season. Oranges are quartered and smashed into the mouth, bright skin wedged into the gums like a hillbilly mouthguard, fibrous pulp collecting between the teeth. On very special occasions an adult might denude a piece of fruit in a single spiral, presenting the serpentine peel with a flourish to an open-mouthed youngster. So I attacked the oranges of California with gusto, is what I’m driving at. I didn’t notice at first the cringes with every blatant bisection I made.

There was only one way to eat your orange.

First you use a sharp knife to slice in a circle around the top and bottom of the orange. You don’t cut into the flesh, just through the skin. Twist and pull out the circle. Make angled cuts vertically around the orange. Again, don’t pierce the flesh, just cut through the hard skin. Make about five of these cuts so you can peel off each segment. Pull off the hairy white bits of pith. Break the fruit into segments and eat with relish while telling dirty jokes.

In theory you shouldn’t get sticky hands because the fruit stays intact and no juice is spilled during the peeling. In reality I still end up a mess. But I still hold out hope of some day being able to disrobe an orange at record speed with no muss, no fuss.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to get up early

In summer, sleeping in is for mugs. The best thing to do is to roll out of bed straight onto the bike, and be at the pool before you’re even 100% awake. Track the sun’s trajectory as you peer over a kickboard, go to work with slick hair, eat a banana while you clear your inbox. Easy.

But now, even in tropical Brisbane, the seasons are turning. As the autumn mornings get chillier, it takes more coaxing to crawl out of bed's warm cuddle. So here is one method I’ve developed for getting up earlier, even if the sun’s sleeping in. Not to get anything done, necessarily (though you could fit in a load of washing or some writing). Just for a taste of mid-week luxury, or to start your working week gently.

1. Put a cup of rolled oats into a saucepan with 2 cups of hot water and a pinch of salt*. Just to soak. No cooking yet.
2. Have a shower.
3. Hit play on Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues
4. Add 1 cup of milk to the oats and turn on the hotplate as low as possible. Forget about it for half an hour.
5. Make coffee.
6. Make your bed or you’ll be tempted to get back in.
7. Read something nourishing in the half light. The latest Lifted Brow. Anything free and lengthy from the New Yorker. Or if you’re not up for words at that hour, prep yourself a good packed lunch.
8. After half an hour turn the heat up slightly on you porridge and stir as it thickens. A few minutes later it’ll be ready to serve – stir through some cinnamon and grated apple or pear, pour on some milk and sprinkle some brown sugar. You should have enough porridge to last you three generous breakfasts (reheat for 2 minutes in the microwave, stirring at the minute-mark).
9. More coffee. Finish your reading.
10. Apply shoes and ipod headphones, ride bike to work, smile serenely and infuriate others doing the Monday morning struggle.

*Recipe for slow-cooked, old-school porridge borrowed wholesale from the deliciously talented girls at
Trotski & Ash. Forget packets of instant oats – this recipe can turn 50 cent Home Brand rollers into gooey liquid gold.

Monday, May 9, 2011


The Seersucker Social from Brandon Bloch on Vimeo.

The Seersucker Social returns to Washington DC on June 4. It's a fund-raising event from the whimsically named DC outfit Dandies & Quaintrelles. I watched video from last year's event online with radiant envy last year - have you ever seen anything more gorgeous? Summer, spectacular estates, prissy vintage outfits, delicious picnics and cocktails, and, of course, bikes. This year I won't be watching from afar...

PS Between this video and my newfound Heathers obsession, not to mention my daily ride past the McIlwraith club in Auchenflower, I reckon croquet is ripe for a comeback.

Putting yourself out there

Sam de Brito is a polarising writer. He irritates a few people I know, but I’ve always enjoyed his candour even when I don’t agree with his opinions. Sure, his manly man blog for the Sydney Morning Herald, All Men Are Liars, is often provocative. But he’s thoughtful and analyses his research, which is more than I can say for his female counterpart, and he’s less prone to maul the english language than her too. (This amazing piece from Pedestrian says it all - and yet I can’t stop reading her blog to see what Carrie Sadshaw cliché she massacres next. I believe this is called schadenfreude.)

Perhaps the biggest love/hate sticking point people have with de Brito is the extent to which he’s always injected himself into his writing. Whether he’s self-deprecating, self-flagellating or just self-defeating, de Brito never shies away from drawing lessons or just laughs from his own experiences and mistakes.

Anyway, I was happy for Sam when he wrote about finding the love of his life, their whirlwind romance and having a daughter together. There was a noticeable settling and softening in his work – he seemed to embrace the shift in perception that comes naturally with welcoming a child into the world. A year later, though, he’s enduring a break-up which is all the more exposed because of how much he’d written about it previously. After he announced that his partner had moved out, there were actually commenters parroting back gushings de Brito had written in the flush of his new love. I'm sure that paled in comparison to not being able to see his daughter every day, but still. Ouch.

From a writer’s and a lover’s perspective, there’s the rub. So many people will advise you to “write what you know”, and you can never bring something to life on the page as well as when you’ve lived it. So do you write that experience – and there are few things more inspiring than the early rush of love – or is it just tempting fate to put yourself out there?

If it’s a matter of being “sure”, how long should you wait? Can you ever really be assured that you’re set for the long haul and things won’t go tits-up? And how much great art would we have missed out on – songs, paintings, poetry, novels – if every lovestruck joe resisted the impulse to shout his joy from the metaphorical rooftops? (On a side note, I would love to see someone do research into who famous love poems were about/for, and whether the relationships worked out.)

Taking the pretension of art out of the equation, you can bring this debate back to something as simple and accessible as social media. When – if ever – is the right time to put your relationship out there on Facebook? What level of wall-to-wall contact should you maintain with your paramour? Is there anything creepier than couples, who might even live together, constantly mooning over each other on their virtual walls? Personally I think it’s a bit gauche to have my relationship status broadcast on Facebook. But I can’t deny that a big part of that personal rule is my utter revulsion at the idea of how it would feel if it were my own break-up broadcast with the zig-zag split heart on all my friends’ news feeds.

Another facet of this question has been on my mind as well. What are the rules, the etiquette, for writing about your ex after a relationship has ended? Not so much the sadness or even bitterness that can come after a relationship – that should never be aired publicly. But what about poignant and happy memories? If I were to write about the first time I told my someone that I loved him, for example, do I have the right to share that? The memory, the moment, does not belong to me alone.

Memories are part of the murky grey zone of relationships’ shared property. What are the rules for the division of those assets when the partnership dissolves? Can you – should you – ask permission for broadcasting rights to a private moment? Or can you assume that you breach no covenant in rehashing your own experience of a situation that in all possibility was experienced, or is remembered, entirely differently by the other party? When you hook up with a writer (or stand-up comic, or indeed a two-bit blogger, or anyone with a social media account), do you surrender your rights to privacy? And if so, why would anyone ever hook up with a writer?!

Certainly it seems more dignified, respectful and safe to simply leave such things in the past. Or, as a lawyer might advise, switch to fiction and change enough details that the ex-partner has no grounds for defamation. But even then, that party could still recognise themself in print. Like LA-based TV writer Hilary Winston, who had the unpleasant experience of learning that she and her ex held rather different perspectives on their relationship when she picked up his novel in a bookstore and found herself referred to as the “fat-assed girlfriend”. Having now published and sold the film rights to My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me, clearly she responded in kind.

What do you think about writers putting themself – and their relationships – out there? How would you feel if your ex wrote a book about you?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mexican stand off

In so many respects, Australian food is better than American food. Often it's fresher, healthier, more creative and is served in less-insanely sized portions. But aside from cheap pizza by the slice, we lag terribly behind the Yanks when it comes to Mexican food. Specifically, the Californian approach to Mexican food, which features more fresh ingredients like avocado, coriander, lime, fresh salsas and slaws. It's a cuisine perfectly suited to the Aussie taste and climate, so to me it seems like a glaring hole in the market that no one is making it here. Worse still, we're all raised on Old El Paso and no-one seems to realise the supriority of soft over hard shell tacos. They taste better and they don't disintegrate in your hand after the first bite!

There are a handful of canny locals taking advantage of the niche. Melbourne's Taco Truck, from the Beatbox Kitchen guys, gets it. And if you're a Sydney kid you'll no doubt have discovered the amazing soft-shell tacos at the Newport on Cleveland over summer. Side note: how much is Redfern going off these days? But up here in Brisbane, a mate and I set ourselves a mission: to find good Mexican in Brizvegas.

Our first trip was to Tuckeria (421 Brunswick St, the Valley), which is inspired by the style of food served up in The Mission district of San Francisco. That's where this started for me, to be honest - a neon Friday night at Taqueria Cancun two years ago with my SF friend Bobby. Strings of intricately cut-out coloured paper decorations, freshly fried corn chips in a plastic basket, spicy fresh salsa, and a transcendant prawn burrito I've been trying to find the equal of ever since. Haab, back in my Williamsburg hood in NYC, came close. Could Tuckeria? When we finally arrived after plenty of online research, the restaurant itself was slicker than I expected, served up next to a Grill'd in the Brunswick Central shopping complex. But the food delivered on its promise.

Soft shell tacos in twos and threes, dressed with fresh salad, a wedge of lime and your choice of meat - I had the prawn (above). My companion had a chicken quesadilla which prompted her to perform those eye-rolling, grunting spasms of gastronomical delight. It worked out to about $20 each for our meals, beers and home-cooked corn chips with guacamole. Coriander is served complimentary with anything but you have to pay for other extras like guac, sour cream, jalapenos or beans and rice. The servings were generous (though more prawns would have been nice) and it was delicious but still left us feeling healthy. We rated it 4.5 sombreros out of 5.

Our next stop was Guzman Y Gomez, a chain that's nothing new in Sydney but we'd heard raves from a fellow Mex-loving Brizvegan. Tucked away amid the many delicious options at Emporium, G&G was pumping on a Sunday lunch time. Lots of people were coming in for takeaway - you can order ahead online - and we did have to wait a little while for our order. Could have been that I'm-starving-timewarp though. My barramundi burrito ($10.50 + extra for guac) was mild and tasty, with a nice balance of rice and black beans and cheese. My mate had a range of soft-shell tacos (3 for $10.50) which she enthusiastically endorsed, though she regretted getting a vegetarian one when she tasted the spicy chicken and steak chipotle options. Comforting and filling, but still G&G didn't have the zingy freshness of Tuckeria. 3.5 sombreros out of 5.

We always planned for our next stop to be Mad Mex (Brunswick St Mall in the Valley), but the mission has taken on some urgency with rumours that they are currently pimping a one kilogram burrito. Word is, if you can eat the entire, $18 thing you will be rewarded with a T-shirt. "Does the shirt actually say 'I just ate a one kilo burrito',?" asked a friend. "It would be too embarrassing to wear it in public." Au contraire, Sarah. Au contraire. I can think of few life achievements I would more happily broadcast emblazoned across my chest than "I just ate a one kilo burrito". And luckily, a T-shirt is a look that lasts longer than the meat sweats that would doubtless accompany such reckless overconsumption.

Changing tack for a second, did you know that Todd of The Selby has now turned his lens and artistic eye to producers and preparers of food? His photographic essays on the homes of creative folk have long been a must-see, and The Edible Selby is no different; only more likely to make you hungry rather than burn with jealousy over art-stuffed Manhattan apartments and Auckland seaside studios. There are even short films, like this one on Rockaway Taco which I can't wait to check out this American summer...

Rockaway Taco, A Selby Film from the selby on Vimeo.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not because we're far apart

I finally just watched the second half of Paper Giants. God, so good. All the magazine talk, plus all the 70s fashion and design and archival footage, plus the Packer in-jokes... And so beautifully, thoughtfully produced. Asher Keddie became Ita Buttrose so well, I've loved her acting since Love My Way but this was something else. And of course the music.

The chorus of this song, "Because I Love You" by the 60s Aussie band the Masters Apprentices, is so well-known it seems to have seeped into our cultural DNA. I feel like it's been making ads and montages seem 250% more "free-spirited" my whole life. But the best part of the song is the verses, when it is an altogether different creature. Lithe and mysterious, an airy wistful riff that sounds like balancing on nimble tiptoes in the wind. Pretty apt for a tune about hitting the road, the distances between people and the ties that bind them regardless. My sister and I became obsessed with the song for a while when it was part of a storyline on Seachange.

Some of the beard close-ups in the video are a bit graphic though, sorry. Somehow it put me in mind of the Tumblr that's going nuts at the moment, Dads: The Original Hipsters.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things I Love Thursday: April 14

Can you believe how far into 2011 we are? This year is flying by. I hope you're finding time amidst the rush to enjoy life's little pleasures. Things like:

Rainy mornings + porridge, cinnamon & golden syrup

Rainy nights + a good book + tea + Green & Black's Maya Gold dark chocolate. This stuff is my crack.

Subsituting ridiculous, made-up facts when you don't know the real answers at trivia (after all, you never know when you might be awarded extra points for humour).

This incredible list of flapper slang, which is frankly the duck's quack, the cat's particulars and the monkey's eyebrows simultaneously. Ie, it is fantastic.

Amazing purple and orange sunsets over the Brisbane river. The cityscape gleaming in almost unnaturally golden light, cranes poking up here and there like bendy straws in an elaborate cocktail.
Yoga. Oh my, it is so good. Stretching out all those random sets of muscles, cracking up at all the animal-named poses (cobras, cats and cows, locusts, eagles and the dreaded downward dogs), tantalising aromas wafting from the Indian restaurant down the street, almost falling asleep in the meditation at the end of the session, even the ommmm-chanting is kind of cool with everyone making the same sound in a darkened room. Especially since our instructor is the first yogi I have encountered who actually has a sense of humour. I had to laugh, though, at Garance's all-too-familiar take on yoga - the inching boredom of the class, the awkwardness of the poses, the all-consuming smugness once it's over and raving to the uninitiated about how balancing it all is...

Writing about the impending zombie apocalypse, YouTubing the Bush Tucker Man and researching data visualisations... For my job!

Having a job.

Continually confusing Deerhoof and Deerhunter... Listening to and loving them both, anyway. Deerhoof Vs Evil is fantastic, by the way.

Contemplating taking to Baby Blue's forks with a sharpie, inspired by this amazing bike refurbishment by illustrator Pete Fong. If only I could draw beards that well...

This afternoon I left work on my bike, the sunset fading to lilac and the new My Morning Jacket song in my ears, and out of nowhere had this overwhelming rush of euphoria. Be it slap-up broke pasta dinners with my sister, swapping music with old school friends, Sunday afternoons playing trucks with a one-year-old, road-trip-planning emails from Pakistan or hours on skype with the cutest boy in all of Brooklyn... I feel profoundly motherfucking lucky at how many first-rate people are in my life. I hope you do too. xx

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
- Kurt Vonnegut, from God Bless You, Dr Rosewater

Monday, March 28, 2011

30 days of biking

If you've been thinking about getting back in the (bike) saddle but lacking motivation, try this for size. 30 Days of Biking is a pretty self-explanatory initiative now in its second year. There are no rules. You just have to ride every day during April, whether it's a quick trip to the corner store or a few kilometres' commute to work, and then share your experience online. Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Flickr, whatever floats your boat. It's a great way to get people riding - and talking about how awesome it is.

Thirty days of biking - no matter the weather, no matter the distance - won't be a picnic, but it's a great way to start a good habit. Tone up those gams, lose some weight, meet some fun people, feel the sunshine on your face, ring a little bell, trail some streamers, see your city from a new perspective, and best of all it won't cost you a cent. What's not to love about the biking life?

Now, I know it can be intimidating riding on the road so ease in by planning your trips to take maximum advantage of bike lanes and paths. Ride The City is a great resource and they've just recently launched their Brisbane map. Trick out your treadlie with lights, strap on a helmet, make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Be confident and careful, follow the road rules. You don't have to wear lycra. You don't have to go fast. Get out there in your favourite floral frock and both cars and other cyclists actually tend to be more patient and friendly (call it the Mary Poppins Effect).

Personally I'm already riding around six days a week, including my commute to and from work every day, so I'm quietly confident I can smash this sucker. It's also a good opportunity to blog about some basic, important bike stuff - how to stay safe, how to look after your wheels, routes and shortcuts, what to wear, combating helmet hair...

Won't you join me? Register here, get your tyres pumped up ready for your first ride on Friday April 1, and do keep me posted on how you go through the month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's time we Met

The antidote to Tuesday blues, and indeed a shamefully extended blog inspiration hiatus? A night of great art and fascinating insights to how it's curated. Brisbane's Gallery Of Modern Art tonight hosted a talk by Gary Tinterow, a curator with 25 years' experience at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now the Met, if you haven't been there, is like heaven on earth. Perched in Central Park, with an impressive facade onto Fifth Avenue, it houses acres of amazing art and artefacts from throughout history. I would happily part with my left pinkie to spend a night locked in the Met. I'd walk around in a suit of armour (til it got too heavy, then I'd switch it out for something from the Costume Institute), play the old musical instruments, have a nap spooning a Rodin sculpture and basically just stare at my favourite paintings til I grew cross-eyed. Watching the sun rise over the Temple of Dendur would have to be pretty spectacular, too.

Tinterow's talk was a meandering stroll through the history of the museum, framed through the evolution of the collection he creates - modern and contemporary art - from 1870 to the present day. As well as being a delicious overview of the art of the past couple hundred years, this was a fascinating insight into how a great museum collection is acquired. And it was peppered with the kind of anecdotes only an experienced curator can collect.

Like the last words of H.O. Havemeyer. He and his second wife Louisine were filthy rich and avid collectors. (There's a fabulous article about her here from TIME Magazine in 1930) Louisine had a fortunate penchant for French art far advanced to what the Met was showing in the 1920s. Courbet, Manet, Degas and Renoir were among her favourites, and the collection at their amazing house on 66th Street (interiors all designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, swoon) had a big impact on the tastes of well-to-do New Yorkers. They tried in vain to lead a friend of theirs, Bingham, into amassing his own collection, starting him off by letting him buy some of the works they coveted - like Degas' famous "The Dance Class". Bingham never did collect with the Havemeyers' enthusiasm, much to their chagrin, and on old Havemeyer's deathbed his last command was to "try to get Bingham's Degas".

When you see grand-sounding names plastered over a wing of a museum you don't tend to think much about these benefactors. How they came to amass such crazy wealth that they could acquire a breath-taking art collection and then leave it to a museum. How curators at that museum might have cultivated those benefactors, perhaps in a decades-long flirtation, a delicate seduction.

There was an eccentric Ms Milton de Groot, who brought with her from Holland an impressive collection. She always intended to leave it to the Met, but until she died she kept it in her modest apartment, where all the museum's curators at some point were forced to take tea.

A sadder story was that of Scofield Thayer, who I visualise as quite the young dandy in the early 1920s when he ran a literary magazine called The Dial, which published the likes of TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Thayer's pal from Harvard ee cummings. Thayer took off for Europe where he collected artworks to use as illustrations in the magazine. He suffered from what Tinterow described as "sexual anxieties" and ended up on the couch of none other than Dr Freud - who encouraged him to collect the erotic works of Klimt and Schiele. Thayer lost his mind and was institutionalised in the mid/late 1920s; his collection came to the Met, but only after his death in the 80s.

There were a few decades of lean years for bequests, until the Annenbergs donated their collection in the 90s. Publishing magnate Walter Annenberg had been Nixon's ambassador in London and to the Brits' delight had redecorated the embassy with his epic collection of French impressionists and post-impressionists. When the Annenbergs returned to the US they had a bunch of museums contest for the right to collection - Tinterow described it as being like a reality TV show competition. Naturally the Met won, and the Annenbergs even helped the museum acquire works above and beyond their collection. Including Van Gogh's "Wheat Field With Cypresses", likely his first painting after being allowed to leave the asylum (after the whole ear thing). Tinterow said when they unwrapped the painting at the Met it was so fresh they found traces of pollen on the surface.

Such is the work of the curators of these great museums - stitching together the grand collections of rich benefactors with smaller donations from individuals, working out the narrative of the overall collection, identifying the gaps and then making acquisitions to fill those gaps.

Making these acquisitions highlights the conflict curators face - pulled in one direction by advanced collectors wanted them to push the boundaries, pulled back by often conservative boards of trustees. Tinterow related how the museum purchased Jasper Johns' amazing "White Flag" for an even more amazing price in the tens of millions of dollars. Decades earlier the same painting had been on loan display, in the 1960s, and was offered to the museum for $15,000 but the trustees declined. "We're at the mercy", Tinterow put it, "of the vagaries of taste and the market".

As well as exhorbitant purchases there are other options for acquiring works. Sometimes a private collector will offer to purchase a piece in shares with the museum and they take turns hanging it - two years in my house, two years in your museum, etc. In recent years Tinterow says the museum has done a number of retrospective exhibitions of ageing but still living modern artists, which often end in acquisitions. "And when we can't acquire a work, we'll borrow it," Tinterow says, citing Damien Hirst's shark floating in formaldehyde, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living", on loan from the Connecticut billionaire who bought it from Charles Saatchi for $8million.

As Tinterow moved into the most recent acquisitions, the idea of participatory art became more common - works that come alive or mean something only when the audience interacts with them. The works currently on show at GOMA are an excellent illustration of this idea, and Tinterow says it's also a parable for the Met itself. Whether on the grand scale of donating a collection, or the simple act of visiting and marvelling: it is communities and people who love art who bring these institutions to life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Love & war

Lovelorn Brisvegans: you have but days left to wallow in the sweet sadness that is the State Library of Queensland's Love & War exhibition. On loan from the Australian War Memorial, it's a lovely little exhibition exploring the many stages of love as magnified by the pressures of wartime.

From meetings and rushed courtships before men were shipped out, to tearful goodbyes and correspondence-fuelled seperations, and ultimately reunion or loss. There are some remarkably intimate insights into love affairs spanning a century; and unfortunately a happy ending is never guaranteed.

My mum and I went in on a Saturday, expecting a lot of love letters. In actuality the exhibition is more made up of mementoes, souveniers, and photographs and paintings. There are wedding dresses, one of which a bride went on to loan to a number of other wartime brides. There are handmade keepsakes, amateur cartoons, even some very early photoshop work from World War I!

Given the way colloquial language ebbs and flows over time I was really interested to see the ways people spoke and wrote about love (and lust!) over different decades. Some of the language of love and yearning is obviously eternal; other phrases seem dated and stiff. The rather chaste wishes of a soldier to lie with his sweetheart in a quiet bush hideaway and "let my hands roam about your face, arms and hair" seems adorably quaint.

Small acts of quiet romanticism now preserved behind glass now seem all the more remarkable for the stoicness of the men who were inspired to commit them. My favourite story was of Robert Towers who had a brooch made from the Australian coat of arms in the centre of a shiny florin. He gave the brooch to his sweetheart, Lois, and wore the outer part of the coin on a chain around his neck. When the two pieces were joined after he returned from Malaya, he said, they'd be together forever. It was 1945 before Lois heard anything of Robert; caring for freed prisoners of war, a patient told her Robert had died of illness in 1943 after being captured by the Japanese. His part of the florin was returned to her with his belongings.

So sad, you can barely imagine how excruicating it must have been for her not hearing from him for years, holding on to hope that he would come home ok. His token of his love for her was so simple and thoughtful. Makes you think, every love is so unique.

It's not all sad stories. There are beautiful romances that lasted through and beyond the wars, tear-jerking reunions, happy endings. I liked the inclusion of same-sex couples. And then there's funny stories like a young woman who ended up with dozens of penpals after her photo ran in a troop magazine. There are bawdy pin-ups, crass cartoons, and creepy propaganda posters.

Sunday (March 6) is the last day you can catch Love & War, on level 2 at the State Library of Queensland. You can have a sneak peek via the Australian War Memorial's website. It's well worth a look and, just quietly, the air-con in there is phenomenal.

Plus, if you've been feeling sorry for yourself for something as paltry as missing your long distance lover, reading the stories of people who lost their sweethearts and husbands to conflicts in distant lands will promptly put your woes into perspective.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bicycle rights!

This kinda says it all about militant fixie hipsters... From Portlandia. Don't look the show up on YouTube if you're predisposed to wasting endless amounts of time laughing at hipsters. But just so you know, the funniest clips are "Did You Read...", "Dream of the 90s" and the adult hide-and-seek league.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Odd jobs

Job-seeking is a bit of a psychological twilight zone. You need to be at your most look-at-me confident at a time when you're most likely facing more rejection that you usually have to deal with in a year. When crafting resumes and gilding key selection critera, you're forced into remembering all these past jobs you haven't thought of in ages, and then you have to somehow make that experience not only relevant to your current situation, but also make yourself look like a star. It's not unlike looking back on past relationships, particularly in that sense of selective editing and the rose-tinted glasses you need duct-taped to your head.

The forced self-reflection and the odd rejection make for a heady emotional rollercoaster. But as crazy as this process is making me, I've always been fascinated by other people's career trajectories (particularly the early struggles) so I thought I'd share. On that note, get comfortable. I give you:

Every Job I've Ever Had (pretty much)

Age 11: St George Bakery

Pretty sure this violated any number of child labour laws but however my mother made it happen, I’m grateful for those couple of Saturday morning hours each week spent sweeping up sesame seeds and polishing the glass front of the pie display case. It was back when the Fullers still ran the bakery and Saturdays were especially special because Charlie would bust out the doughnut machine. It was hypnotic, the squeezing of batter rings into spitting oil, the rolling into sugar and cinnamon. And at the end of it all I’d walk home, exhausted but with paper bags full of leftover lamingtons and finger buns. And, if I was lucky, doughnuts.

Age 16: Cotton chipping / St Ursula’s Tuckshop

There’s no shortage of cotton in the George, but looking back it still seems a bit random that I spent a few days of my school holidays hacking weeds out of fields of cotton with a hoe. Not the work, so much, but the fact that my dad came along with me; either to chaperone or to make some pocket money of his own. The rest of the crew were seasoned chippers, mostly chirpy and chat-ready old biddies from town. Once I got back to boarding school for my final year I wanted to keep my fiscal momentum going, and so scored one of the three prized jobs for boarders at the school tuckshop. Ever greedy for the approval of people I barely knew, I spent my afternoons clandestinely doling out extra lollies to those I deemed worthy. I am proud to say this was the last time I worked with a deep-fryer, too. Who knows what the coming months hold, though?!

Age 17-26 (sporadically): Grape-picking

See here.

Age 17: Kitchenhand, the Merino Motor-Inn / Childcare Assistant, Warrawee / Night Fill Ninja, Four Square Supermarket

For six months after leaving school I moved back in with mum and dad, deferring starting university in a bid to gain financial independence. I had nearly a full year before I could legally go to pubs anyway. Turns out it’s hard to make much coin when you’re still being paid as a minor. Copping $7 an hour or so was really just the salt in the wound after working 2-3 jobs simultaneously, which variously saw me carving basket garnishes out of oranges, up to my elbows in baby poo, and rotating stock in the wee hours. This period was made more miserable by my lack of a car or drivers license, which is why one of my most enduring memories of this time is of trying to frantically pedal my old mountain bike while a small dog had its teeth latched onto my sock. Also during this period, my friends, who were generally embracing the bacchanalian excesses of Centrelink-funded university and college life, liked to refer to me as "budget boy".

Age 18-20: Assistant Manager, the Queensland Copy Company

I’d moved in with Madge in Red Hill and we were both keen to get jobs. She’d made better progress than me, having got as far as the photocopying shop up at Paddington to do up some resumes. The owner, Annie, offered her a job on the spot. Luckily for me, though, Madge had her eye on a waitressing gig at the Broncos leagues club – and so I found myself employed without so much as an interview. It was a perfect job for a uni student. I must confess I often gave unauthorised discounts to local bands printing posters and this amazing googly-eyed kid who’d come in every few months to photocopy his zine. And the number of parties held at Bramble Terrace during this period which featured elaborately collaged invitations is purely coincidental. The shop was eventually bought out by the expanding bottle-o next door, but whenever I’m there buying a cheeky cleanskin I feel a pang of nostalgia for the scent of toner and the hypnotic, endless unspooling of the large-format laminator...

To be continued...