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.

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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.

The New Winter Coat: Beards in Melbourne

Originally written for a journalism class, but thought I’d share it with you beautiful peaches.

Move over Don Draper, there’s a new man in town. He’s rugged and raw, unfussed and unshaven, wearing only an op-shopped woolly and the scent of pure testosterone. Keep your cologne at home and give your lotions a demotion. Welcome, gentlemen, to the age of the retrosexual.

Ladies, take a deep breath. It seems facial fluff is no longer reserved for Movember. Beards are latching on to Melburnian men at an epidemical rate, and they’re here to stay. Be it a 5 o’clock shadow, overgrown stubble or a solid chin-hedge, the contemporary beard resembles more of an out-of-work Johnny Depp than a Santa-style face rug. From Burwood to Hollywood, males worldwide are embracing the razor-free lifestyle.

Could this be an instinctive response to insulate the modern man’s jaw in these blustery months? Not so, says Ben Elgar-White, 22, criminology student and self-confessed beard enthusiast. It’s all about the aesthetic.

‘It started in year 12 when I was able to grow a ‘real beard’. Friends were jealous and encouraged me to grow it out into something fun. I get plenty of compliments, which makes me hesitant to shave it. Then again, maybe I just keep it because I like feeling in control of my face, and how I keep my beard likely has an impact on how people see me.’

What about his girlfriend? ‘Jess isn’t a fan,’ he admits. ‘She’s never complained about how it looks, but has protested against whiskers up her nose when kissing and pash rash.’

She’s not alone. A recent New Zealand study published in Behavioural Ecology in January last year found that women not only found beards unattractive, but also believe that they make men seem older and more aggressive. On the other hand, it was concluded that having a beard created a greater level of respect between males by signalling signs of masculinity, with both sexes agreeing that a beard symbolised higher social status.  Conversely, Northumbria University psychologist and researcher, Dr Nicholas Neave, found light stubble was the most popular amongst women. He theorized that ‘it was almost as if women preferred a man who could grow a beard but hadn’t.’

It may come as surprise then that Adelaide band The Beards’ hit ‘You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man’ was voted by Australians as #99 on Triple J’s coveted ‘Hottest 100’ countdown in January 2012. ‘Perhaps there are women- or men- who hadn’t considered bearded men as a viable sexual option who are now saying “You know, perhaps I should have sex with someone with a beard,”’ band frontman Johann Beardraven mused in a 2011 LiveGuide interview. ‘It’s for the bearded man on the street corner asking for change, we’re saying, “Maybe give him a go.” ’

Such a mentality can only encourage this hairy phenomenon- according to award-winning Professor Steve Jones’ Y: The Descent of Man, a man’s beard grows fastest when he anticipates sexual activity.

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If not just for morphing into an instant chick magnet, this sudden surge of follicle freedom could be a sign of the times. A 2011 Travelodge study published in the UK’s Telegraph found that the average adult’s toiletries bag was worth a staggering $251.55, with men spending approximately 81 minutes on their personal grooming regime each day (that’s 6 more minutes than women). The global financial crisis, economic slump and rising costs of living can be seen as a factor in provoking regular blokes to reject expensive creams and time-consuming styling in favour of sprouting something cheap, fancy-free and low maintenance.

Fashion blogger Hannah Borg, 20, also connects this popular trend to ‘indie’ culture and society’s new appreciation of eccentricity. ‘It’s quite a hipster aesthetic, particularly popular amongst independent artists,’ she commented. ‘Beards create a sense of style and bring an edge of cool and maturity to a guy. They ooze confidence yet mystery… sort of re-claiming the Y-chromosome.’ Style icons definitely do not shy away from the unshaven- everyone from Prince to Prince William embracing their inner bushranger.

But these facial hair vines surely have their limits. ‘While the acceptability has allowed more people to sport interesting facial hair without being labelled as crazy, it’s also encouraged people to grow patchy beards and wispy moustaches which look pretty awful,’ Ben observes. ‘Like wearing skinny jeans, it’s not for everyone.’

Trim the mop on top or else you could end up channelling Chewbacca with more fur than flesh.  Shampoo regularly, unless you want your beard to doubly serve as a visual food diary. Stray too much into dirty goatee territory and you might be asked to stay at least 500 metres away from schools and playgrounds.

Any good at wrestling your whiskers and you could be jet setting off to the biennial World Beard and Moustache Championships next held in Stuttgart in November this year. With categories such as the ‘Alaskan Whaler’, ‘Dali’ and ‘Full Beard Freestyle,’ Melburnian hair connoisseurs have much to strive for.

But at the end of the day, could this all just a quick fad? ‘In many ways, it’s no different to any other trend, from sixties style bangs to greasy grunge nineties hair,’ Hannah observes. ‘Everyone wants to be part of the cool crowd.’

As the Beards so eloquently croon, ‘having a beard is the new not having a beard.’ So there you have it, gentlemen. Let the manes begin.