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.