The Love List: May.

Ahoy, bangin’ babes of the blogosphere! I return, my body practically convulsing in exam period hysteria, to bring you another instalment of the Love List. Yes, it’s back! Like a nasty dangin’ flu you just can’t kick (or Arnie Schwarzenegger, for a much more pleasant analogy. BYO Austrian accent, of course).

It’s been a blustery, arctic month here in Melbhattan, what with winter drooling icily over the CBD, suburban backyards, faraway mountains, and often my Saturday night plans. Yet I’m pleased to report that despite said frosty temperatures, I have ventured outside the house on multiple occasions for an annual uni ball, drunken dumplings sessions, potluck dinners, spontaneous Brunswick adventures, walks along the Yarra and some Body Attack classes that are probably more aptly described as an exercise in self-inflicted torture. I’ve also been doing a shit tonne of online shopping this month because, hey, ASOS exists, and I possess about as much self-restraint as I imagine Tony Abbott would at a Speedo’s convention.

Song of the Month:

At the risk of sounding like a total bore, a ginormous chunk of May has been taken up by study; be it written assessment, textbook reading, or cramming ten million trusts cases. Like many, I float between background music while hitting the books, although certain artists definitely woo me into a productive frame of mind more than others. Key favourites are Bonobo, Bon Iver, London Grammar and some wonderful random classical music playlist I stumbled across via Spotify. But the holy grail of study music for me is definitely Grizzly Bear. This is for a thousand reasons, one being that their 2012 album Shields is the dictionary definition of perfection, another being that they are absolutely stupendous live (my housemate and I saw them in Stockholm, Sweden when I lived in Paris back in 2012 and I have never been the same since) and one more being that Ed Roste just generally takes the cake for the most awesome frontman on the planet (side note: check his Instagram. Nature porn on crack. Just on another level). So this month, although it’s a slight throwback, I’ve been all about Shields’ ‘Gun-Shy’; a quiet, unassuming track that just oozes cool and calm vibes.

Media-gasm of the Month:

The New Yorker is, and will always be, my biggest source of inspiration. Yes, it’s snotty and elitist, but the journalistic talent that rests between its pages is nothing short of genius. There are so many articles I want to link, because each feature just transports you to a whole other planet, usually about something that’s never even vaguely crossed your mind before. That’s one of the reasons I love this month’s ‘media-gasm’, Stephen Rodrick’s ‘The Nerd Hunter’. This article is all about Allison Jones, an American casting director who may not exactly trigger your memory at first, but is the guiding force behind the careers of everyone from Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and James Franco, to Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Wiig, and Aubrey Plaza. She’s also the mastermind behind casting the likes of Rainn Wilson as The Office‘s Dwight Schrute, Nick Offerman as Parks and Recreations‘ Ron Swanson, and, in a great touch, The Office’s Phyllis, who for years apparently worked as Jones’ casting associate and isn’t a trained actor (doesn’t that just make your heart burst?) Look, I think I’ve divulged enough already. If you’re a TV nut or just like learning about the entertainment biz, this read is right up your glorious media-gasm alley.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/the-nerd-hunter

Fashion Item of the Month:

Rejoice, all ye fellow fashionistas! Revel in the rare event that trainers are en vogue, even if it’s just for a few minuscule moments. In the midst of a property law-induced haze, I caved into buying these babies online, the Adidas Originals Superstar 80s DLX Trainers in White and Green (woah! What a mouthful). I am so far from being a sneaker person. A velvet slipper or fun pointed flat, sure, but runners? Not usually my jam. Still, to me these scream “Hi! I’m a sophisticated French tennis player from the ’60s!” and “How ridiculously comfy are my feet right now?!” They also yell, “Don’t you dare get dog poo on me!” and “What’s for dinner?!” but I’ve usually told them to be quiet by then.

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Meal of the Month:

The Rochester Hotel, lovingly known as the Rochy, met a cruel fate early last year when it closed its grimy, beer-stained doors after a few difficult months. This Fitzroy pub is an absolute institution to my boyfriends’ friends and I, having spent countless dirty Saturday nights obscenely loose on its dance floor, and many a Wednesday howling with laughter at its famous Trivia evenings. We befriended the most amazing staff, flew paper planes down its sticky floors, took over the pool table, danced to sweaty bands upstairs, drank our weight in free cider jugs, and agonised over the meanings of the cryptic notes on its toilet doors. My boyfriend Michael even had a crack at their famous Clive Parma Challenge, where he attempted to chow down five chicken parmagianas stacked on top of each other with a serve of chips and salad – $30, and your money back if you finish it. Needless to say, much like the old Rochy we adored, Michael just didn’t make it to the end.

After many painful months standing by as the Rochy decayed into a boarded-up, heavily-graffitied, ghost hotel, I was beyond delighted when new owners began to breathe life into the pub we once called home. A few Friday nights ago, we ventured back to our beloved haunt to try its new incarnation, Miss Katies’ Crab Shack.

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This is definitely not the first time someone has got crabs from the Rochy… ha! Oh, and this is my boyfriend. He will probably bombard me with embarrassed texts in T- 20 minutes when he reads this blog post and sees his photo here. Hi Michael! Say hi to Michael, internet pals! Bib aside, I promise he is 10/10 rad and awesome.

Feasting on their famous country boil of a ginormous crab, surrounded by potatoes, corn and Kransky sausages, we also ordered soft-shell crab sliders, beer, and salty chilled prawns, which were as delicious as they were fun to pull apart and devour. We didn’t go overboard on the ordering, because Michael had already tried the fried chicken with waffles, and their chilli cheese fries. Needless to say, they are apparently nek level and I experienced crippling food envy upon seeing them on fellow diners’ tables, so God help me I will be back before the month ends to try those too.

While the crab was mouth-wateringly good (once you eventually tore it apart), I really wasn’t there for the boil. Frankly, it was enough of an adventure just putting on our geeky plastic bibs, using such novel utensils, and seeing the space we worshipped transform into such an atmospheric, hipster seafood joint. Where were the sleazy Strokes fans liasing by the bar tables? Why can’t I smell that intriguing stank of grit, sweat and vodka vomit?!  The actual food at Miss Katie’s is probably about a 7.5/10: great fun when you’re in the mood for some quirk and a cheeky calorie hit, but perhaps one to miss when taking Mum and Dad out for a sophisticated birthday dinner (or looking to impress a first date without wearing a bib drenched in ranch dressing). Still, a place where the music rocks, the candles are lit and memories flood back of grungy dance floor raves, pool table successes and questionable life choices? That will bring me back, time after time.

Most Googled Topic of the Month:

Without a doubt, this has to go to the Eurovision Song Contest 2015. It only finished less than 24 hours ago, and thus the smell of smoke machine and Russian tears still lingers nostalgically in the air. This was the first year in history that Australia was allowed to compete, which is both insanity and the most incredible thing that has ever happened to this country, ever (too far?). Being a little too obsessed with this Europop glitter fest that basically entails fighting World War 3 through spandex and key changes, needless to say, this has been a hot topic for me this month. What’s more, having all round Best Person in the Universe Lee Lin Chin read the Australian votes just took it to a WHOLE other planet. Swedish winner Mans Zelmerlow was of course a standout, and Australia’s rep Guy Sebastian killed it (despite wearing a fedora, ew), but my favourite would have to be Estonia’s entry “Goodbye to Yesterday”, which is genuinely a seriously addictive tune I may quietly download later on this eve (hey, don’t hate the playa, hate the game, baby). I would link it, but let’s be real, these gifs are far more entertaining.

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Inspiring Person of the Month:

In light of this infectious Eurovision fever, how can I not give the title of most inspiring person of the month to Conchita Wurst, aka Tom Neuwith? The Austrian hosts jokingly called her the “Queen of Europe” at the final last night, but I’ve got to say, I quite seriously agree with that title. The impact of Conchita Wurst is something that deserves a whole other blog post of its own (one day soon I’ll write one!), but let’s just say this for now- what she has done for LGBTQI rights and stigma in Europe is nothing short of unbelievable. The tolerance and equality she promotes is so much more than a European karaoke contest or a big silver trophy, and the light she has brought to so many lives cannot be underestimated. Above it all, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing a person truly comfortable in their own skin (Also, just saying, wouldn’t you sell a kidney for a waist like that?! And the sparkly pink jumpsuit. #FLAWLESS).

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Note: Conchita holding the hand of Russian contestant and runner-up Polina as she nervous cried and freaked out as the votes were being read. Comforting someone so publicly even though the country they represent not only wants to censor you from their TV screens, but actually has laws that cripple your sexuality? Now that is class.

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TV Show of the Month:

Orange is the New Black. I don’t even need to say anything else. Watched the entire thing in 10 days, without even a smidge of guilt. This show is seriously, seriously good. Go on, finish season two, so we can talk! Quiiick!

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Holy guacamole, what’s that? You got through that ginormous rambling post and have still hung onto the end?! Sweet Jesus, what a marathon. You deserve the largest M&M McFlurry I can find at 11.18pm on a Monday night for this kind of commitment. Second best to that, here’s a topless photo of the winner of Eurovision this year. I mean… what? How’d that get in there?

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You (and your ovaries) can thank me later.

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Politicians Eating Things.

This might just be because I’m currently in the midst of what can only be described as an atrociously potent hangover, where my sole purpose in life is to consume as many carbohydrates as humanly possible (for those of you playing at home, I’m doing a bloody good job of it thus far. This guacamole is delicious). But this has got to be more than a coincidence. I keep seeing photos of politicians eating things.

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It all started when the Guardian applauded Hillary Clinton’s “flawless” choice of a chicken burrito bowl from Mexican chain Chipotle while out on the campaign trail in Ohio. “It’s a fairly perfect order, when you think about it,” the article quoted. “You’re opting for chicken instead of beef, and don’t want that calorie-loaded flour tortilla, but you’re not so overly zealous as to get a salad.”

Upon Googling the topic further (it was clearly a very busy day for me), I soon discovered that not only had the Guardian considered the significance of Clinton’s burrito choice, but the Wall Street Journal too had commented on the “gastronomical symbolism” of Chipotle (deeming Taco Bell “more electorally savvy”), the New York Times analysed the calorie content of the meal, and CNN Money labelled the incognito lunchtime dash a “hip” symbol of her desire to “shed that outdated 1990s stigma.”

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Somewhat creepy CCTV footage of Hil ordering her burrito bowl.

Do we really need to read that much into what a politician decides to shove down their gob for lunch? No. Unless you’re the next potential leader of the free world, perhaps, but even still, the discussion of Chipotle semiotics is surely about as useful to society as the release of Kris Jenner’s cookbook (aka, not at all. One of the reviewers on Amazon said they’d rather buy a book from ISIS). From that moment forth, photos of politicians smacking their lips seem to be everywhere.

Take, for example, the news that British Prime Minister David Cameron ate a hotdog with a knife and fork while schmoozing with supporters at a voter barbecue. As the Huffington Post observed, the “‘I’m just like you’ campaign trail stunt backfired somewhat predictably, with Twitter exploding in a cacophony of piss-taking after noting the Prime Minister’s choice of dining implements.” Poor ol’ Dave became a posh lamb to the social media slaughter.

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But that was nothing compared to when incredibly unflattering photos of his opposition, Labour leader Ed Miliband, chomping on a bacon sandwich last year went viral. The image was so horrifically off-putting apparently even his advisors had to intervene after a few bites. Yes, Sandwich Gate is now so famous in his home country that the bacon sandwich incident has its own Wikipedia page. Apparently people do care what’s going into their guts (or at least what they look like when it happens).

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There is something to be said for leading by example, which is why another group of people definitely care about what politicians munch on when out in the public eye. In May 2012, the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a petition to stop President Obama, his family, and members of his Cabinet, from eating unhealthy foods while staging official photo ops after seeing him with a burger one too many times. Yes, a quick search uncovered many an image of Obama chowing down on treats, be it a hot dog at the basketball with David Cameron (man, that dude loves his hot dogs), cheeseburgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, or a cheeky ice cream on the sly. Indeed, it appears Obama is pictured eating burgers so often there’s even a blog dedicated to it. In defence of the petition, posing with a Big Mac does seem to go against everything Michelle Obama has worked for as part of her “Let’s Move!” health and fitness initiative (even if POTUS maintains his favourite food is broccoli). But is it really that enormous an issue for him to eat it in public?

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As much as many of us implore such fluffy stories polluting our media outlets, the reality is that with so many ready to pounce on and scrutinise a politician’s every move, you just can’t please everyone. People are always going to talk, particularly at a photo op. No doubt if Clinton was pictured sipping raw kale and chia seed smoothies everyday while out campaigning she’d be accused of being too healthy, or giving into the Paleo fad. But on the other hand, if Tony Abbott made a deal of ducking into Pizza Hut every couple of weeks (or, as he was recently, skolling beer in a pub), he’d be accused of making bad choices and promoting obesity. Still, it appears our political leaders would be wise to make a safe choice when in the presence of worldwide media, or at least save their junk food binge for the privacy of their own home. Oh, and perhaps steer clear of grotty bacon sandwiches, overly greasy burgers, or phallic-like foods, in the fear of viral internet memes or worse, sexual innuendo.

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I think that image probably speaks for itself. *Drops mic*

The Love List: April.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I would sporadically message each other to demand an exchange of our latest newfound music obsessions. Both being colossal Francophone nerds, this usually entailed YouTube links to soppy Carla Bruni confections, peppered with the occasional Kelly Clarkson hit, Eskimo Joe power ballad, or obscure movie soundtrack. Despite our clear lack of music-hunting prowess (whatever happened to Eskimo Joe?), there was something so inexplicably comforting about listening to my friend’s suggestions. Because music is so flippin’ personal, corny as it sounds, getting a glimpse into what my galpal had on repeat  while cramming international studies homework seemed so intimate and lovely, like finally understanding the inner workings of her brain. What did she listen to in the dead of night? What made her want to dance? What made her run that much further? What wrestled into her veins, knifed her soul, and made her cry?

Currently studying postgraduate law, waist-deep in stiflingly horrendous administrative law cases; I’ve swiftly learnt that the world is a much brighter place when you have things to be inspired by. Life is so much better when you’re excited, whether that’s about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, a fancy ramen joint opening up around the corner, a new pair of tailored navy Topshop trousers (just me?) or the fact Tony Abbott ate an entire raw onion. With ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ being my little sparkly corner of the internet, I’d like to propose my new monthly venture, The Love List: a bite-size insight of what’s filling my belly, what’s pumping through my earphones, what’s filling up my ASOS shopping cart, and what’s keeping me sane. I miss sharing those songs with my friend, so it’s time to get the blogosphere involved. Surely if these things have jazzed up my month, they could pep up yours too. And if not, well, you might just get a decent New Yorker article out of it, or at least a half-arsed excuse to fangirl over Taylor Swift (actually, I retract that. Do you need a reason?).

Anyway, enough yacking. Herewith lies my list for March/April, a month of mid-term university assignments, theatre visits, and approximately 36873 Cadbury Easter eggs.

Song of the month:

Fronted by full-on musical legend Alexander Gow, Melburnian indie rock band Oh Mercy is way up there as one of my favourite groups of all time. I’ve been forever enamoured by their 2009 album ‘Privileged Woes’ (and follow-ups ‘Great Barrier Grief’ and ‘Deep Heat’ go down damn well on a Sunday afternoon) but something about their latest track release, Sandy, just makes me feel invincible (and okay, kind of sexy. Can I say that on here? Hi Mum!). I’d love to say Sandy makes me want to slap on red lippy and go flirt with a thousand Calvin Klein models in a darkly lit bar, but it really doesn’t. I just want to blare this track full blast while jumping up and down on my bed, screaming the lyrics in my underwear… 10/10 obsessed with this song, which is probably no surprise considering my crush on Alexander is currently reaching obscene heights, rivalled only by mid-2000’s Jake Gyllenhaal.

Media-gasm of the month:

A self-confessed media nerd, there is nothing like a stellar article, podcast or documentary to really get the inspiration flowing. This month it’s Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s the Thing, hosted by WNYC and in association with Killer Content. Basically, Alec Baldwin’s voice is caramelised crack. It’s orgasmic. I could listen to him read the back pages of the Financial Review or the instruction manual of a hairdryer and still be head-over-heels. Surprisingly, Baldwin is a killer interviewer, and I really respect the idea behind the podcast- a focus on “intimate and honest conversations” with people that delve into how they got their careers started and what inspires them. For someone incredibly disillusioned with her degree at the moment, this is heavenly. I haven’t worked my way through all of them yet, but so far Lorne Michaels, Lena Dunham, Chris Rock and Kris Jenner (Bow down to the queen of momagers!) are standouts. Still, the best one to date has definitely been Kristen Wiig’s. Somehow, discovering that she spent a good part of her twenties working at Anthropologie makes me feel infinitely more okay with my life choices. I’ve linked it below in case you need a further excuse to procrastinate (you know you do).

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http://www.wnyc.org/story/197391-kristen-wiig/

Food of the month:

Hands down, the apple pie waffles at Mixed Business cafe (Clifton Hill, Melbourne). Ginormous, piping-hot buttermilk waffles with blistered, maple baked apples, crumbling pecan biscuit, covered in melting vanilla icecream. Who knew something could be better than Ryan Gosling naked, a binge-watch of ‘Girls’, and Solange Knowles’ wardrobe combined? Being a) lactose/fructose intolerant and b) possessor of a metabolism that operates at the speed of a snail on a peak-hour tram, I reluctantly resisted these babies, but my boyfriend devoured them in a matter of seconds.

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Oh, and with it being April, shout out to the literal hundreds of easter eggs I consumed in the space of 72 hours. Why can’t it be Easter all the time? Or at the very least, mini eggs should be available year round. I’m surprised there hasn’t already been a nation-wide rally, to be honest.

Fashion item of the month:

Despite now being unemployed and thus having a severe lack of fat stacks to burn, I stumbled across these Martha Jean earrings whilst perusing High St, Northcote last Saturday afternoon. How could a gal resist? A nifty price point, and a local designer? I mean, really, it would only be polite to buy one in both gold and black. Just doing my part to stimulate the economy. Thank me later, Joe Hockey.

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Cultural activity of the month: 

‘Cultural activity’ seems like such a wanky way to phrase it, but how else do you encapsulate plays/ gigs/ comedy shows/ concerts into the one category? Stay with me (or suggest a better name in the comments! Culture Club nearly won, but to be honest, I feel like this blog is jazzy enough without continuous Boy George references).

Anyway, being a Melburnite, I went along to see two comedians at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month, Adam Hills’ ‘Clown Heart’ and Rich Hall’s ‘3:10 to Humour’. Rich Hall NAILED it. Man, when you get two hundred politics nerds in the room and then a comedian starts talking about gun control, you just know shit’s going to get real very fast. I also saw the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’ on Monday night, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that, unless you like absurdist drama, an impending apocalypse, and not understanding anything you’re seeing.

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Inspiring person of the month:

Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and NYU law professor. If you’re a law student (and okay, even if you’re not), just watch his TedX Talk. The man is a walking legend. He needs no other introduction. I ordered his book ‘Just Mercy’ online, and plan to read it in approximately ten thousand years, when my trusts law professor will eventually stop giving me fifty-page cases to read every night.

Most Googled topic of the month:

Following on from my recent obsession with Bryan Stevenson, and in light of recent events concerning the Boston Bomber, my boyfriend and I have been completely fascinated with the death penalty in the United States. In particular, I was shocked to discover more about the botched execution of death row prisoner Joseph Wood in Arizona last year, and, following a bit of a gallop into the Internet hole, found myself on the Death Penalty Information Center’s website, accessible here. Being incredibly fortunate to live in a country where the possibility of state execution doesn’t hang over my head, I found the statistics regarding death penalty in the U.S. equal parts intriguing and horrifying, and was shocked to learn that California has the largest death row in the country (currently at a whopping 751 inmates, despite not having executed a single prisoner since 2006). Regardless of your beliefs (and heck, mine definitely reside in the anti-capital punishment territory), this topic is only becoming increasingly important, and, yes, one hundred percent Google-able.

(Coming close second: is Taylor Swift dating Calvin Harris? GUYS, serious question. They did look matey at Whole Foods. Okay, enough about that.)

Website of the month:

This month, what with a plethora of incredibly uninspiring uni lectures, I’ve been obsessed with the fashion blog of Ms Pandora Sykes: fashion writer, stylist and blogger. When I should have been giving my undivided attention to a case about mortgages, I’ve instead regularly perused the many inspired posts of this glorious English fashion maven. I could not be more in love with her chunky, fab coats layered with shirts, brogues, tights, and everything else under the sun- glitter, pom poms, piercings… And shout out to her use of the word ‘home slice’, which has now become an awesomely unexpected addition to my vocab (what’s up, home slice?)

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Movie of the month:

Now that I think about it, I’m fairly sure this is the only movie I’ve seen this month (does a Say Yes To The Dress marathon count?). Very late to the party, but I watched Interstellar on the weekend, while lying in front of a fireplace eating taramasalata and pita in my pyjamas on a Saturday night (yo don’t hate the playa, hate the game, baby). I’m equal parts amazed and totally freaked out by space, and this movie only intensifies both those emotions. Moreover, it’s the first movie I’ve seen that’s officially part of the “McConnaissance“, and dang, the dude’s got downright talent. I’m not a sci-fi/fantasy chick by any realm of the universe (ha! See what I did there?) but I didn’t snooze off or even check my Instagram during the entire film, which is basically like climbing Everest: it’s BIG. But what I love more than anything else about the movie? It reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re all here on this tiny little unique planet, spinning around a slowly dying sun in an infinite universe, a tiny speck within the concept of time. And suddenly… whether Taylor Swift is dating Calvin Harris doesn’t matter anymore. You feel insignificant, but in a way that is oddly comforting, not isolating- like you’re part of a wider narrative.

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(Okay, just kidding. Whether they’re dating TOTALLY matters).

Well, that’s clearly enough ranting for one day. I’ve got all that #inspo off my chest and now I’m as happy as a clam, ready to perve on what you’ve been loving this month too. Share below if you please! There’s always time to procrastinate. And hey, if you’re Alec Baldwin… call me.

WASHINGTON STATE OF MIND

The night before I interview Megan Washington, she posts a Facebook status. “The truth,” it reads. “I really want a tattoo but I am honestly afraid that my mother will kill me. I am twenty eight.”

 “I want to get something on my left palm,” Megan tells me the next morning. “But I’ve stopped thinking about it after last night, ‘cos Mum was like, ‘Don’t even think about it. Don’t even be funny about it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just wait until you’re dead.’”

This is the kind of response you can expect from the inimitable indie-pop songstress. Much like her lyrics, Megan Washington is magnificently candid, unapologetic, and full of the spice that sets her apart from the many squeaky-clean Aussie music darlings on the scene today. Her follow up full-length album to 2010’s ARIA-winning I Believe You Liar, the fiercely intimate There There, is no exception. Yes, two stints on The Voice, a film role, and one mini-album later, Megan’s caramel-coated vocals have finally sailed back onto our airwaves, and not a moment too soon.

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“When I was writing this record, we were listening a lot to early new romantic, sort of sweeping 80’s power pop…. bands like Talk Talk and Tears for Fears. I fell in love with that sort of lush romanticism of that era, and I wanted to do something that was as grandiose,” Megan explains. Certainly, tracks like ‘My Heart is a Wheel’, ‘Get Happy’ and ‘Limitless’ are quintessential Washington. Elaborate, infectious indie-pop with a hint of venom, they make you want to kick off your shiny brogues and dance to the synth with smeared lipstick in a dirty bar. Megan wanted to make a “mother record”, like her favourite ones by Rufus Wainwright, or Paul Simon. “An album that people could keep coming back to,” she explains. “Like, there are ‘dad records’ and they only have to be there for five minutes and then they’re gone. Do you know what I mean?”

Still, There There is noticeably distinct from both Liar and her hauntingly melancholic 2012 EP Insomnia. “It’s a different record to the first one, but I’m four years older … if I had done something that was similar to Liar, I would have probably been hauled over the coals for not growing enough. And now I’ve made something that’s a bit of a departure and an evolution for me. But that’s like, normal as a person for you to grow and change. It’s sort of natural, I think.”

Yes, there is a darker undercurrent to Washington’s tunes this time around. Certainly, it’s a credit to her musical prowess that such feisty pop tracks can be followed by emotional bruisers and pitch-perfect piano ballads, showcasing a poignant vulnerability and emotional maturity that can only stem from authentic experiences. With opening lines like “there’s a certain kind of lonely where you sleep in your jeans”, one can almost feel her heartache seeping through the sound. Openly admitting she has no idea what Liar’s hit “How To Tame A Lion” was about, it was only when producer Sam Dixon challenged her to write about real events that Megan realised songs were “about something.”

In a “supportive” London studio last year, she began to recall and draw on the “dark stage” following her 2010 public debut. What emerged were odes to struggling with fame, bouts of hospitalization, living with anxiety, being unfaithful, bad sex, and the perils of love and heartbreak, all of which formed There There. “We wrote it really calmly and it was really well put together and there was a lot of love in the room when I took those risks … even though content-wise it is quite intense, the memory of writing that stuff is a nice memory.” Megan has labelled penning her song ‘Marry Me’, of which her album title is named from, as her breakthrough (“or breakdown!”) moment. Confessed as a giant apology to the man she was engaged to, and then not engaged to, Washington croons, “Don’t be sorry, please don’t be angry. It wasn’t fair. There, there.” But the realisation that her songs needed to consist of moments from her own life doesn’t necessarily correlate to a fear of exposing her raw emotions. “This might sound tripe or cliché, but the truth is that something happened to me last year and I’ve just completely stopped caring about anything, really. Part of that is, I realised that I’m never going to really get it. Like, I hate, passionately, 80 per cent of what’s on the radio… And I think a part of me always thought I’ll figure it out, and I’ll get it, and I’ll understand how to be that and how to do that… but I kind of realised last year that I’m never going to like Diplo. Do you know what I mean?”

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With There There debuting at number five on the ARIA charts, it seems a lot of Australia does know what Megan means. “I didn’t grow up listening to what everybody else was, I grew up listening to Judy Garland. So it really isn’t scary for me to think that everyone else is going to hear what I think about my engagement or whatever because… it’s probably the only way that I can get people to understand me. Because I just don’t understand them.” Indeed, it is that raw candour that translates excellently in There There, and makes the themes within it so relatable. “I’m not saying that I’m some great philanthropic person doing humanity a great service, because let’s be honest, if I was that person I wouldn’t be making records at all, I’d be in a third world country helping people, actually… but I just feel like within the confines of my incredible narcissism, there is probably space there for me to actually do something that’s got a point.”

This ability to make her mark has gone beyond creating music, it seems. In particular, following her Ted Talk (that went viral on YouTube) and subsequent ‘Australian Story’ episode earlier this year, where the singer revealed her life-long struggle with stuttering. Apparently, “by some miraculous synaptic function”, the human brain is tricked into bypassing speech impediments when in song. “Singing for me is sweet relief,” she told the Sydney Opera House. “It is the only time when I feel fluent.” Although universally applauded for her bravery, Megan is humble about her confession. “I seriously did not want to do that talk. Like… it’s actually quite amazing that I did it because on a different day, in a different minute, maybe I wouldn’t have done it. You just have to do shit. Everything that’s uncomfortable you should do. Have you ever done that thing where you just do not want to go to a party or someone’s dinner or something? … And then you go and you have a great time? That’s basically, like, my whole life. But you just have to remember all the other times that you went and had a great time.”

 After conquering that fear, what’s on the horizon? “What I’m going to try to do next is to make a pop record,” Megan says. “This is a very new thing for me, so I guess I don’t really know if I’ve reached the pinnacle of song writing for me. I kind of don’t feel like I’ve made the best record I can make yet. And maybe I never will, and that would be a nice thing to always have ahead of me… We’ll see what happens, but I’d like to make something that they’ll play on the radio.”

Even if the exquisite There There screams ‘I’m sorry’, this chanteuse has nothing to apologise to her fans for. So if the best is yet to come, we’re in for something extraordinary.

First published in Farrago Magazine

PS- If you haven’t yet watched Megan’s TedxTalk, feast your eyes below:

Neknomania.

I’m sorry, do we know each other? Uh, this is awkward. Let me reintroduce myself. Bonjour, I’m Phoebe, an absolute dorkface who has not partied it up in the blogosphere since a very mortifying August 2013.

I know what you’re thinking. Did aliens abduct me? Did I finally manoeuvre that life transplant with Beyonce? Did I fall into a newly discovered, Carrie Diaries-induced television coma? No, no, and … no comment. Deplorable excuses aside, I’m baaaack. I’m going to take you to the blogging candy shop. I’m going to let you lick my blogging lollipop (what? Okay, this metaphor needs to stop). Today’s temperature here in Melbourne is a blistering, brain-melting 44 degrees and it seems all my body can manage is to eat its weight in Frosty Fruits and type sweet lil nothings into the Internet’s ear.

Naturally, there have been a billion and two topics to discuss since August 2013: the treatment of asylum seekers, boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics, our brand spanking new PM, that disturbing fad of pairing Nikes with jeans to name a mere few. Most recently, Lena Dunham’s hipster baby Girls Season 3 was birthed to the world, and while I journo-gasm at the thought of a lengthy discussion about Hannah Horvath’s nudity, the last thing the Internet needs is another opinion on Girls. But what I have noticed as being the flavour of the month is neknomination,. Or, as I should write, #NEKNOM (#badass #yolo #haiboyz #etc).

The highly academic and trustable Urban Dictionary defines neknomination as

“a grand tradition, with origins dating back to Mesopotamian time, in which a neknominator has the honor (after posting a video of themselves sculling/chugging whatever alcoholic beverage the have available to them) of calling out or “#neknominating” in conjunction with a Facebook tag two others to sculling/chugging an alcoholic beverage. Scholars say the first of the modern era neknominations started with a naval officer in a submarine sinking to the bottom of the Mariana trench and with his last means of communication he had, he #neknominated Will Smith and The KFC Colonel. If you’ve got one, scull a BEER ya pussy.”

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine you will know exactly what this is referring to. If not, essentially, people are uploading a video of themselves chugging alcohol as fast as they can onto social media, then proudly tagging two other friends to do the same. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. I found this one quickly on ye olde Tube de You. It’s probably one of the most obtuse ones out there:

Yes, that person really exists. Now, I don’t like to think of myself as the kind of gal who would poop a party by hiding all the pina coladas, smashing an iPod dock pumping Jay-Z, or sitting on the birthday cake. It’s important to be pro stuff, not anti stuff. But I’m putting on the Granny pants for this one. WHY IS THIS A THING? I will fiercely defend my Generation Y co-people until the day I cark it, but this really is an insanely stupid trend that bears zero reason to even vaguely exist. Neknomination is concrete proof that Australia’s binge drinking culture is not just socially acceptable- it’s a social expectation. We can all sheepishly raise our hands and admit we’ve necked a bev or two as part of a drinking game with pals, or skolled the Kings cup one too many times, but boasting about it on social media just takes it to a whole new level where people seek validation for consuming alcohol. By “neknominating” somebody, this game suggests that drinking beer isn’t so much a way to treat or even socially lubricate yourself, it’s a way of showing that you are “man enough”. Chugging a beer no longer means skolling the rest of your glass quickly before the pub closes, or as an ultimate dare- it’s an assertion of masculinity, strength, and that highly-sought-after “cool” factor. What’s more, the process of tagging your friends to join in on this task on social media escalates peer pressure to such a humongous height that if someone resists, they’re not only shunned by their friends, but by the entire online sphere too. It’s not a harmless way to share a bev with your buds- it’s a fully-fledged competition. What did that Urban Dictionary definition say again? Oh yeah. “If you’ve got one, scull a beer ya pussy.”

It’s highly improbable that inhaling one lone beer will kill you, but when we put this game into the scale and context of Australia’s alcohol-worshipping binge drinking culture, it’s really not something that any of us should be endorsing. A couple of bevs after work followed by few hours of drinking games with the lads, then a drunken #neknom dare? That’s the kind of picture Neknomination paints for me here in Australia, not just one standard drink being consumed in lightning speed. In this way, a cheeky #neknom may easily lead to a range of seriously dangerous, drunken situations. Immediate issues of alcohol poisoning, choking on your own vomit, or even just the insanely painful hangover the next morning could make way for more concerning risks- the link between cancer and excessive alcohol consumption being just one of many. Having had to call an ambulance recently myself because a friend of mine got far too wasted and was having trouble staying conscious or communicating, I can tell you personally that getting obscenely drunk isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

Health issues aside, what also comes to my mind with this neknomination trend is the number of unfortunate future consequences for all these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed beer chuggers. One can only imagine the kind of reactions potential employers might have when they stalk their candidate’s Facebook wall to make sure their lives are vanilla enough to be hired, only to find a year-old viralvideo of them chugging a beer alone in their undies, or while driving, or, as that seriously gross guy above was, to the applause of friends out of a toilet bowl (classy). Let’s just say the likelihood of that unhygienic lad getting that coveted position at KPMG might as well be flushed down the loo along with the Carlton they were trying to skoll.

It’s a pleasure to go out for a night on the turps in a dirty pub every once in a while, but this notion of competing with mates to neck as much alcohol as possible for the “glory” of the internet is just another byproduct of the increasingly destructive binge drinking culture we are immersed in. I’m not trying to be Senior Constable of the Fun Police here, but it doesn’t take a sip of an Asahi to see that this Neknomination trend is an embarrassment to all of us twentysomethings on this alcohol-marinated island we live on.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, how about a video of our former Prime Minister Bob Hawke doing a neknomination too? Yes. For real.

Really, Australia? REALLY?

Our Kids Need Mr & Mr Potato Head

Last week, I babysat my two-year-old nephew Matthew. Restless after a tiring day, I switched on ABC Kids to soothe him. The television show Peppa Pig blared. There was a Mummy Pig, a Daddy Pig, and Peppa’s little brother George. Matthew’s eyes were transfixed.

Next came Fairly OddParents, in which fairy godparents Cosmo, Wanda, and baby Poof, granted the wishes of godson Timmy Turner.

Somewhere between feeling like a terrible aunty for encouraging sedentary behaviour and Matthew bawling because I wouldn’t let him suck the remote, it hit me. This activity couldn’t be any more heteronormative if he was wearing a “Ladies’ Man” bib.

Why was television forcing these heterosexual relationships on my nephew? Sure, he’s only two. But who’s to say Matthew won’t grow up gay, bisexual or other? Why does Peppa Pig necessarily have a Mummy and a Daddy?

The intricacies of the LGBTQI community are undeniably too advanced for a young child’s mind, but we can’t keep pretending that same-sex relationships and diverse sexualities are non-existent in their lives. And, as much as we may not like to admit it, television plays a critical role in educating our brood.

Whenever the idea of introducing homosexual characters on children’s TV is brought up, the same repetitive arguments rear their heads. “Shouldn’t all characters be asexual?” “Kids grow up too fast!” “They’re too young to learn about that stuff!”

These points are completely inconsistent. Heterosexuality is at the crux of so many well-loved children’s tales. Where would Aladdin be without Princess Jasmine? There’s nothing wrong with showing innocent affection, so why should the depiction of homosexual relationships be any different?

For older children and teenagers, there is an increasingly diverse scope of sexualities portrayed on television. Glee, True Blood and Skins should be particularly celebrated for representing the LGBTQI community in a positive and realistic manner. But this concurrently sends a message that homosexuality is something you need to be old enough to understand. Surely this is illogical when heterosexuality is deemed appropriate from birth.

A 2010 investigation into the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people on the BBC encouraged further representation on television, stating that over half of the UK population felt comfortable with the idea. Imaginably, figures would be similar in Australia. Still, kids’ programs shy away from representing any form of homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality. If they do, it is likely to be coded or hidden, perhaps as a reference for a more mature audience. This form of social invisibility is a time warp back to the mid-20th century.

There have certainly been previous examples. In 2004, Playschool aired a “Through the Windows” segment showing a young girl with two lesbian mothers. Then Prime Minister John Howard condemned the action, asserting that “…to intrude that into a children’s program is just being politically correct…this is an example of the ABC running an agenda.”

In 1999, various social critics and religious figures worldwide demanded investigation into purple Teletubby Tinky Winky for carrying a red handbag despite his male identity and supposedly symbolising gay pride. “Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag,” the BBC responded.

Today, many raise an eyebrow at the apparent sexual tension of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie; rumours steady that they’ll tie the knot on screen.

Personally, I adored animated program Sailor Moon as a four-year old. In the original Japanese version, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune are a lesbian couple. But in the English adaptation, they are referred to as cousins. No scenes changed, no plot lines altered, just a different choice of dubbing for English-speaking audiences. I don’t understand why this was necessary. It certainly wouldn’t have hurt me to learn that the two were in love.

Image
Front cover of the New Yorker, edition July 8 & 15 depicting Bert and Ernie watching the Supreme Court’s landmark DOMA ruling. Slowly restoring my faith in humanity.

 There are so many benefits to introducing a homosexual character into children’s television shows. For one, it would help familiarise young audiences with the concept of same-sex parenting and alternative sexualities, as well as validating older children who may be beginning to identify with a particular sexual orientation.

Moreover, increased representation would encourage tolerance and acceptance from an early age. This would hopefully shape a generation that rejects homophobia and is more mindful of peoples’ differences. Surely the more often Matthew sees same-sex parents and interacts with the LGBTQI community, the more he will consider them normal and okay.

I would be mortified if Matthew never learned about homosexuality and publicly demanded, “Why are those two men holding hands?” In today’s society, that social faux pas is just no longer acceptable.

There’s such a significant proportion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the community our kids are growing up in. Children are thriving in happy same-sex families, or have gay uncles, aunts, cousins, babysitters or teachers.

Our most important task is to educate young children about the world, and television assists in teaching life lessons. So the last thing I want is for my nephew to grow up ignorant- particularly when it comes to the LGBTQI community.

Most crucially, a 2013 American Academy of Paediatrics study asserted that while same-sex parenting is in no way harmful to a child’s wellbeing, a lack of social support and representation in their community can result in feelings of intense isolation. As GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios commented, “as more and more loving and committed gay and lesbian couples begin families, it’s important that their children seen representations of their families on their favourite shows.”

Non-traditional home lives are increasingly familiar on kids’ screens. For example, the ABC airs Grandpa In My Pocket, where little Jason embarks on adventures with his guardian, Grandpa. Surely introducing a show depicting a child and their same-sex parents is the next step.

Children’s TV shows should never be overtly sexualised, but I just don’t see the harm in integrating a few same-sex parents and relationships here and there. So, are we ready for Mr and Mr Potato Head or a lesbian OddParent?  For sure, we are.

If you have objections, well, just change the channel. But as long as I have a say in my nephew’s education, he won’t be learning that a family with Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig is the only option.

A deplorable state.

Serendipitously bred to a world of fallen Berlin Walls, Nelson Mandela, civil rights and long-gone world wars, I have often taken democracy for granted. When possessing the unbelievable privilege of being educated in a secure, rich, and peaceful Western country, there is such comfort in knowing that your government, for the most part, truly represents the beliefs of its citizens. Although an increasing number of zany politicians and absurd statements are proving to the contrary, Australia is a contemporary and liberal nation. For this reason, equality should be a luxurious given we enjoy and appreciate. Certainly, racism, sexism, ageism and other discriminatory behaviour is severely condemned by the government.

Yesterday, my Same Sex Desire lecturer provided a few points regarding homosexuality and Australian law. I am by no means an expert on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and inter-sex rights, but the statistics she revealed to our brimming lecture hall drew audible gasps. Frankly, they’re infesting my mind. We all still recall the reluctancy of Tasmania to decriminalise homosexuality- legal only as of 1997- but in 2013, as a Generation Y Australian, I fail to see how such a fiercely democratic, equal and free country can still pertain some ancient and inappropriate laws.

In 1992, a legal argument for murder, “homosexual advance defence”, was introduced into state courts. Essentially, this defence outlined that it was acceptable to believe that a man would be provoked to attack another man when a non-violent homosexual advance was made towards him. Clearly homophobic in its nature by normalising fear of homosexuality, the argument of provocation successfully downgraded murder charges to manslaughter. YEAH, SO THIS STILL EXISTS IN NEW SOUTH WALES. No, seriously. Is this some kind of grotesque gag?

In Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT, 16 is the age of consent for all sexual activity. In South Australia and Tasmania, the age is 17. Today in Queensland, however, while the age for everything else is 16, anal sex, regardless of mutual consent, is actually an offence until the age of 18.

Finally, in South Australia, both lesbians and single women are still prohibited from accessing assisted reproduction such as IVF. Commercial surrogacy is illegal, amounting to a possible 2 years in Victorian jail, and extends to overseas surrogacy prohibitions in some other states. My lecturer also made the poignant observation that providing any form of medical or professional service to a commercial surrogacy arrangement also serves as a criminal offence.

I understand why amending the Marriage Act for same-sex marriage equality is difficult to pass in parliament. In my own utopian world, it would be enacted tomorrow- we should all be free to love who we love without hesitation or judgement- still, it makes sense that this is a harder obstacle for certain groups to cope with. But these state laws aren’t particularly thorny to adjust, and probably remain largely unnoticed to the mainstream population. For a state government to clearly still promote homophobia and discriminate against the GLBTI community while proudly calling itself democratic and just in these modern times is horrendous. In 10 years time, students like myself will sit in lecture theatres and visibly struggle to believe such statutes once existed in a contemporary nation. But for now, they still do, and that won’t change until we do.