Don’t saddle up for this fashion trend

Bike shorts are the new fashionista must-have item. Yes, bike shorts, you read that right. According to the fashionistas you can team them with a dress jacket, ballet flats, heels, a statement knit or jewellery. Do make sure you team them with great legs, preferably great tanned legs. Also the correct thigh/calf ratio. Hair must look adorable. At least helmet hair won’t be a problem because you won’t be wearing a helmet with your bike pants. It’s really just for Instagram purposes only. Speaking of which, make sure you post pictures of you and your bike shorts out for the night partying, going high-end shopping, coffee, drinks, dinner. Anywhere but on your bike really.

This highly sought-after fashion item is the dreaded bike shorts from gym classes of old. Yes, really. The boring, black, stretchy short pants that stayed permanently in the gym bag for a reason. Bland, unflattering and for activewear only. Even for activewear they look bad.

However Vogue Australia knows better. Cool girl staple, they say. Add a statement knit and heels for evening wear.

It’s a swipeable fashion, dreamed up by a PR outfit, here today and swiped off the feed tomorrow. It makes all the other bad fashions not seem so bad after all – fluoro, flares (at least flares can be flattering), skinny jeans, skinny ties and anything orange.

I’d like to think that surely, a species as creative as humans can invent a better fashion than bike pants. It’s only a look only a PR or a celebrity could love, but for the rest of us, bike shorts should take a hike.

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Can I have a rescue kitten with my beetroot latte?

kiven-zhao-536685-unsplashRescue animals are the latest must have accessory. As heard on James Valentine’s Afternoons show recently, he joked about ordering a turmeric latte and a rescue greyhound. The strange thing is that it isn’t so long ago that special breed dogs were de rigueur. Every man and his dog had an Alaskan Malamute crossed with a Portuguese Water Dog mixed with Bernedoodle or a Neapolitan Mastiff mixed with Whoodle. It was the epitome of everything to have a Scottish Fold Cat mixed with Sphinx. It signified individuality and care, as though you’d matched your lifestyle with a particular breed. In a way it was brandbuilding under the guise of thoughtfulness.

How things change. Now to hear someone say that they have got a breed dog would be the equivalent of saying you support child labour. To rescue a poor distressed poverty-stricken animal with no family, breeding or connections from a third-world suburb and offer them a “forever home” denotes depth and authenticity. The more tragic the tale – rescued from a flood, senior dog with broken leg, cat blinded in hit and run car accident even better. You are hot smoking woke.   

Once rescued, these animals have a pampered life. If you live In Melbourne you can even order a beer for your dog. Beerdog Bitter is a beef flavoured lightly carbonated drink that is on tap in a number of Melbourne ale houses. You can now take your dog out to lunch and a drink. How nice. Still in Melbourne, why not visit the café for dogs – dogachinos, pupcorn and grass-fed beef dog loaves. On the other hand, cats drink wine. You can order online a MosCATo or Pinot Meow, which substitutes alcohol for catnip. There are dog laughter workshops, pet reiki, behaviour therapy because – you know – rescue animals have … issues. And if your rescue pet is cute or quirky enough they can become Instagram stars and launch their own brand of merch. Life was never this good for designer pets of old.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, I think it is much better to rescue an animal rather than pay an exorbitant fee on a specially bred family pet. If a nice middle-class couple doesn’t rescue these animals more than likely they will not have a happy life, or any life at all. I’m just wondering why having a rescue pet has suddenly got so popular. Are people hoping for extra love and loyalty from their new pet given they saved its life? (If you’re looking for love from a cat, good luck). Is it that they feel powerless about world events so are putting their energy into a rescue kitten? Instead of solving the entire refugee crisis are they just going to try to help one abandoned pug? Is it instead of volunteering because, you know, who wants to spend all day in a soup kitchen when you can play with your new rescue puppy! Or is a rescue pet a little something to casually brag about on Instagram? Maybe it is because relationships with actual humans are just too complex now and better to get a new family member that can’t speak English.

Whatever the reason, I just worry these rescue animals will be dropped at the next fad. When the pet rock makes a comeback.

Keel over Kale, Cauliflower is in town

Take a bow and move aside please, Kale. Cauliflower is the new Must-have vegetable accessory. There’s nothing you can’t do with cauliflower – make it into rice or pizza or chug it down raw. You can smash it, mash it, pulverise it, roast it. You can spiral it, grind it, bind it and blowtorch it. Take that kale! You could do some of those things but you could never pull off rice or pizza.

It’s strange to think that the humble cauli, the veg that used to be like an embarrassing cousin at the wedding, is this year’s new It food.

But why? And how? Who decided you could rub it with spices and roast whole in the oven and call it Cauliflower Roast? Who exactly is the cauliflower Insta-influencer who told us cauliflower’s time has come. Who is the marketing genius who pared it first with pomegranate? And most importantly, with demand skyrocketing, where are the cauliflowers grown? Did farmers have to rip out kale plants to put in cauliflower? The logistics are fascinating.

Now that cauliflower has been elevated to the big league, I want to know how did we ever survive without having cauli in every meal? That was madness.

I’m not anti-cauliflower (although those those teensy tiny florets sure are mess mavens). If you smother it in salt and oil it tastes pretty good (which is the only way we got through the kale years). As far as fake rice goes it tastes pretty good and is nearly as cheap. It’s good to see it is finally getting the recognition it deserves but I’m worried for it. Kale lasted about 3 – 5 years and cauliflower is destined to do the same. Once you’ve had it as rice pizza, mac and cheese, whole roasted or raw with a vegan dip where can you go? And what will be next?

Zucchini has some form thanks to zucchini noodles, it probably has a little too much Latin flair. I’m thinking celeriac, which has a face like a dropped pie, or else turnip. They both have the advantage of looking and sounding bad, a prerequisite for the next hit vegetable. Until we can 3D print the next new veg, Kalieflower, perhaps?

Drought relief smells like spin to me

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Last week I saw a Woolworths employee dressed in a checked shirt and a fake Akubra hat dolling out olives, dips, cheese and biscuits to customers in return for a donation. All proceeds were going to the farmers as part of the drought effort. As I looked around, I saw many Woollies staff on checkouts decked out in the same new uniform.

This looks like a giant PR exercise to me. If Woollies were truly interested in helping our farmers they have had decades to work out how to pay them a fair price for their produce. Many studies show the Australian public is generally happy to pay a little more for items if it means keeping farming in Australia viable. It just looks shabby for the supermarkets to wait until the worst drought in living memory to look like they care. Dressing up casual staff in farmers shirts and Akubras to work on the check-out smells like spin to me. Where were those shirts made? China? How about supporting Australian manufacturing, Woolworths? In addition, why do you have to dress up urban staff in country and western garb to make a point? Getting customers to make a donation and getting the praise after decades of screwing the farmers feels cheap.

I do know that Woollies and Coles are making donations from their own profits. I know that Woollies have pledged the profits from a day’s fresh food. I know that Coles have said that they will match customers donations dollar for dollar. These are admirable things. My real beef is the need to turn the plight of the farmers into lavish PR spin (especially given the supermarkets have played their own part in this). Also almost no- one looks good in a checked shirt.

I’d love to see a nuanced rational approach to the drought. It’s entirely possible that climate change will make near permanent drought the new normal (until there’s a massive flood and a new PR campaign kicks in). Maybe there needs to be a national approach to keeping farmers on the land. Maybe I don’t have the answers. But I know for sure that sticking a disgruntled staff member in a checked shirt and knock-off Akubra isn’t the answer.

 

Ukuleles heal – not in this mean street

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There’s something strange in the zeitgeist when a ukulele is the latest must-have accessory. All over the hipster globe ukulele circles are springing up and any self-respecting millennial is keen to tout their uke appeal.

The ukulele is as stylistically on point as kale chips, fixed gear bikes and $18 Green Ant Gin Juleps. These I get. Kale chips taste good (there’s nothing a bit of oil and salt won’t fix) and so do $18 drinks (once you’ve finished them). Fixed gear bikes look cute on Instagram propped up against a milk crate. I get it, really I do.

But ukulele is the sonic equivalent of Sarah Huckabee Sanders reading a restaurant menu. Only one note and virtually no harmony (okay, none). All ukulele songs sound sort of similar and that’s because the uke only has four chords and takes up to forty minutes to learn. So, after a couple of Quince Aspen Gimlets with locally foraged berries it’s the perfect time to master another life skill. Ukulele – sorted.

Once someone has ukulele proficiency that means they have got life conquered (or slayed as a ukulele player would say). It denotes a connection, work/life balance, authenticity. It’s the new deck of cards, the new book club and the new moral highground. It’s up there with starting an NGO. It’s fermented, foraged, artisan, activated and minimalist. It has its own lingo – uke, noodling, up the neck. How lit is that!

I’ve even seen stickers like Ukes Heal and I’m Pro Ukulele and I Vote, which make me choke on my single-estate foraged blue algae latte. The ukulele might have a cute name (it’s from Hawaii and roughly translates as Jumping Flea) and sound summery but make no mistake. This is not music, this is not healing and the zeitgeist is wrong. And I vote.

Fancy a Tonka Bean Fizz?

So who decided that drinking gin and whiskey is now a thing. In the last few years there’s been an explosion of gin bars, speakeasys and whiskey rooms popping up faster than a Donald Trump tweet. These bespoke bars are a study in comfy clubby leather furniture, old-school framed pictures and hipster pot plants. Many of them invoke the 20’s and 30’s – an era that millennials are obsessed with and think they invented. It goes with the fixed gear bikes, upturned milkcrates and jam jars in an ex butcher’s shop. Throw in a bearded bartender, artsy menu and ridiculous prices and you are all set to order your gin fling (craft beer and organic wine is so last century).

So what to choose? Why not start with a staple. For instance a freshly foraged Lemon Aspen Gimlet with locally foraged berries which are pureed into a sorbet using liquid nitrogen.

Or how about a Pressed Kale Fizz or Green Ant Gin Julep with dill infused green Chartreuse and orange marmalade syrup. Want something more nuanced? Try a Norwegian foraged Cornish Cumbrian or a charcoal filtered sling with a shot of green pea tonic. To mix things up a bit add a single origin shot of peanut butter bitters mist, a cold drip coffee sphere, wood smoke popcorn or an infusion of whey vapour.

If this seems more confusing than ordering a glass of house red, then it’s important to know who is to blame. HIPSTERS! Not content with beer, wine or a gin and tonic, hipsters have to overdramatize the gin and whiskey scene. Make it something it is not, make it expensive and impenetrable. Make it an expensive conglomeration, not just a drink you have in summer on the balcony before you get stuck into the vino. And now, not only does it cost the earth but you have to wait a long time before that first sip. By the time the bartender (sorry, mixologist) has added small batch cardamom mist and hand-massaged pomegranate seed to your drink, it is a good six minutes, which is five and a bit minutes longer than I ever want to wait for a beverage. Anyway who wants salad in their drink. The more greenery you put in it, generally the less gin there is and the more it costs. Clearly hipsters are not very bright.

Not content with gin, hipsters have also moved into whiskey and spinning it like a vinyl record. I can see why whiskey is hipster heaven or on point as an actual hipster would say. Whiskey bars are intimate and clubby and the names of whiskies usually sound bespoke and hand-crafted. Besides who doesn’t want to imbibe a wee dram in a place called Irish Snug, Swine Moonshine, Whiskey Ginger.

Luckily for hipsters, no-one really knows how to drink whiskey. It is a drink that was last around in the 1950’s and 60’s, which means millennials have been able to pretend they invented it. Anyone who was thoroughly refreshed by a whiskey bar in the 50’s isn’t going out to bars any more.

Even though I’m not that ancient, I yearn for that time a few short years back when I could order a glass of $8 wine in a bar with only a short queue. Of course, this gin fling and whiskey fetish is nothing new. It’s the new smashed avo only in liquid form. Like edible flowers it won’t last. And like millennials it will fade and get old then wither. Just not soon enough.

Banks are not the French maids of the corporate world

Why does the Commonwealth Bank have concierges? The moment you walk in the door a “concierge” greets you and asks you your business.

The bank seems to think that giving a sexy French title to what is essentially a corporate triage nurse is going to make them alluring. Eh, no, they are still a bank.  

Also, this concierge greeting system doesn’t work. When the concierge is talking to another customer, or at lunch or getting a coffee or making the most of toilet time and customers arrive they tend to stand there looking confused and blocking the entrance. The other day I even saw them ask other customers what they are meant to do. Thanks Commbank – now you are getting your customers to do your work for you too.

When the concierge reappears, they elaborately log the query on an iPad and direct you to a lounge where other clients are sprawled. I suppose this is kind of like a hotel lobby, hence concierge, but somehow I am not feeling that holiday vibe. It’s all in the name of the bank trying to convince us it is not a bank. I’m surprised it is not doing single origin coffee or serving bliss balls.

Of course, the bank is just emulating numerous of companies giving exciting names to bad jobs eg Public Waste Technician for toilet cleaner, Mobile Sustenance Facilitator for food truck worker, Gastronomical Hygiene Engineer for dishwasher.

Concierge might not be so funny as these but it is equally ridiculous. A concierge is a bank employee and a queue is a queue. It doesn’t matter how the bank tries to pimp this up, it doesn’t matter how long I spend on the lounge deep down I still know I am at a bank. Also, I am not entirely sure we want banks to be sexy. They are not the French maids of the corporate world. We don’t want them to pacify us with their concierges and their slightly uncomfortable lounges and their open plan offices for discussing personal finance. We don’t want peppy staff. We want bank tellers.  

I suspect this is a move by the bank to limit costs. To employ very low-cost, non-teller staff to stand around, to give the impression of being looked after while in fact being treated worse. Then dress it up as personalised service and an exotically European title. Commonwealth Bank have saved half a salary and we have been treated just that much worse without anything concrete to complain about. I mean, it is hard to complain about being greeted without feeling like a tool. And queueing on a loungesuite is hard to whinge about without it sounding like a massive first world problem. And you can bet the bank is counting on that.