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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Eurovision 2014: Holograms, Wind Machines and Rising Like a Phoenix.

Grab the Kleenex, dear friends. Find a strong shoulder to cry on. Hold my hand. Yes, it’s true. The 59th Eurovision Song Contest is officially over for 2014. I know, I know. It’s tragic. I’m already having hairspray withdrawal symptoms.

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This year held in Copenhagen, Denmark, the only way to describe Eurovision for those who have not yet seen it is that it’s basically European Idol on steroids. What contest is complete without pyrotechnics, human hamster wheels, fire, and costumes that look like the entire cast of Wicked threw up on them? Think wind machines, glitter, and hairstyles that well and truly belong behind the Iron Curtain. With competitors from 37 countries (and viewers from countless more- hellooo Australia), Eurovision is entwined with the underlying complexities of EU tensions, all culminating in one lucky country being awarded the coveted Eurovision trophy. It is hilarious, daggy, and unashamedly fabulous.

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Last year, more than 180 million people worldwide tuned into the extravaganza, then held in Malmo, Sweden. With this weekend’s spectacular arguably the most talked about in its nearly 60-year history, and some cracking best moments, viewing audience records are expected to be smashed like the Berlin Wall. More than ever, Aussies have claimed the contest as our own, with our debut performance at intermission care of the gorgeous Jessica Mauboy.

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Although touted as a non-political musical contest that unites all of Europe through power ballads and fake eyelashes, this year it seems current events just couldn’t be left in the wings. Indeed, the tension between Ukraine and Russia remained the enormous, bumbling elephant in the stadium. It rose to a ferocious climax when the Russian entrants, the Tomalchevy Sisters, were audibly booed during both the semis and the grand final voting. The 17-year-old twins began their song “Shine” with interconnected ponytails that resembled a faux umbilical cord, and spent most of their time on stage on a giant seesaw. Crooning “living on the edge, closer to the crime, cross the line, one step at a time… maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine,” you don’t have to be Henry Kissinger to interpret their lyrics as mirroring the invasion of Crimea and Russia’s territorial ambitions in the former Soviet Bloc.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian songstress Mariya Yaremchuk and her somewhat ironically titled song “Tick Tock” was accompanied by a guy in a human hamster wheel and some pretty impressive hair extensions blowing in the wind machine breeze. Maria stressed the song was free from political intentions. Well, with lines such as “my heart is like a clock, you wind it with your love”, it probably was. Still, controversy arose when organisers revealed that Crimea’s Eurovision votes were counted as Ukrainian because their tallies were based on existing national telephone codes. And, for those playing at home, Ukraine beat Russia by one spot- the feuding nations coming sixth and seventh respectively.

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Not to be overshadowed, the 35 other Eurovision entrants arrived at Copenhagen’s B&W Hallerna stadium armed with plenty of conversation-starters.

21-year-old Danish crooner Basim belted out “Cliché Love Song” to his home crowd, all about falling in love with a lesbian. Slovenia’s entry consisted of a woman dressed like an evil Disney character, armed with a jazz flute, while Romania’s featured a 30 second hologram of their singer Paula, uncannily resembling a fourth Kardashian sister. Greek band Freaky Fortune’s “Rise Up” was said to inspire the disgruntled Greek youth into rebellion and revolution, but really appeared an excuse for men in tight pants to jump up and down on a trampoline. Belarus’ entry “Cheesecake” was not so much an ode to baked goods as it was lead singer Teo berating his ex-girlfriend for calling him her “sweet cheesecake”. Often referred to as the European rip-off of Robin Thicke, his dance moves were a little more Backstreet Boy, and perhaps served best in moderation.

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Poland’s sexed-up, saucy “We Are Slavs” consisted entirely of washerwomen, boobs, butter churning, boobs, traditional dancing and, well, boobs. This might explain why the video has been viewed over 43 million times on YouTube, and why UK voters ranked the Polish performance number one. Apparently, nothing says Europe like a busty milkmaid.

 

Crowd favourite, Swedish singer Sanna Nielsen, warbled beautifully, but may need some English lessons after key chorus line “undo my sad.” But the sad was truly undone for tiny Republic San Marino, who got a little emotional after finally qualifying for the final after four failed attempts and two withdrawals for financial reasons, having only participated in the contest since 2008. It was entrant Valentina Monetta’s third time at Eurovision, and, with a population only three times larger than the actual crowd at the Copenhagen stadium, questions have been raised as to whether there are actually any other singers in San Marino who could enter.

Yes, it appeared that the theme for the night was well and truly one of acceptance. Proudly known as a gay icon, the Eurovision Song Contest stood as a strong statement against Russia’s anti-LGBTI laws, Copenhagen swarming with pride flags and expressions of tolerance.

“No Prejudice”, sung by Icelandic band Pollapönk, saw members looking like the Wiggles on LSD, in suits every colour of the rainbow, and a member of their own parliament on background vocals. “Being middle aged, heterosexual, white men makes us a majority group and we believe that we should use this opportunity to point out the injustice in the world,” the band, who are mostly pre-school teachers by day, told Gay Star News. And what was behind their decision to rock dresses on the Eurovision red carpet? One member replied simply, “it’s very comfortable to wear, and I feel sexy.”

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But the resounding highlight of the night indisputably went to the winner of the Contest for 2014, Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst. With her cascading locks, piercing eyes, enviable figure, and bushy brown beard, Conchita wowed audiences internationally with her rousing rendition of “Rise Like A Phoenix”, widely touted as a genuine candidate for the next Bond theme.

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25-year-old Conchita is no stranger to controversy. Following the announcement of her candidature last year, a 31,000 like-strong “Anti-Wurst” Facebook campaign began, and, in October, Belarus’ Ministry of Information called for her performance be edited out of their Eurovision broadcast, deemed a “hotbed of sodomy.” Russia and Armenia launched similar petitions against her televising. The leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party even asserted that Conchita showed that the Soviet army made a mistake in freeing Austria from occupation fifty years ago. Wow.

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Still, Ms Wurst, born Tom Neuwith, clearly didn’t allow politics to rain on her spangly parade. Her “Phoenix” anthem, an ode to those struggling with identity and discrimination, was heralded a grand success and, last night, secured the first Eurovision victory for Austria since 1966 with a win of 290 points. More importantly, Conchita’s tears of shock and heartfelt thank you’s saw her winning hearts all over the world. “I hope we can change just a few minds,” said René Berto, Wurst’s agent. “It is just a lady with a beard. But it is like we have landed on the moon.”

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First published in Farrago Magazine Online