Posts by bikewalkeat

Julie Ihle writes about outdoor travel and food and lives in coastal Port Macquarie.

The ninja neat warrior who sparks crazy

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(Image: Decider)

Marie Kondo is having a moment. The diminutive beaming Japanese ninja neat warrior has tapped into the zeitgeist in a big way and is attempting to bring happiness and peace to the planet one neatly folded t-shirt at a time. Thanks to her recent Netflix series, she has become a global phenomenon. Who knew that tidying up was so Instagrammable? Who knew that sorting out stuff would lead to personal empowerment and who knew that a good old-fashioned cleaning session would spark joy. Certainly not me.

For anyone who has somehow missed her Netflix special, her books or massive media coverage, she is a Japanese de-clutterer expert who has devised a system, called KonMari to tackle tidying up. From what I can gather this really just means throwing things out and keeping the house clean. There are, however, a few signature moves. For instance, her approach to throwing out is that you should only keep things that spark joy. If they don’t spark joy, then you must hold the item (be it clothing, ornaments, books, whatever), thank it for its service and then toss it. She also has a special t-shirt folding and storage technique. T-shirts should be stacked upright in the drawer by colour. But first folded with love. (Why you can’t hang up t-shirts I’m not sure).

There is an argument that Marie, despite having released her first book in 2014, is having quite a moment now because of the global political situation. Because people feel adrift and have lost faith in governments and institutions to keep order, they are trying to create order in their own homes. That’s an argument I can get on board with and it’s the only way I can see tidying up being desirable.

It’s not that Marie isn’t likeable. She is. She’s positive with a beaming smile and neat, pressed pastel-coloured clothes and, refreshingly, she’s not an air-brushed Instagram model. She’s polite, she’s her own person and she doesn’t speak fluent English so she comes armed with an interpreter, which adds a different element to the program.

But from what I can glean on this program, there’s not a lot of focus on the root problem, which looks a lot like rampant consumerism. People have masses of stuff, be it fitness equipment, clothes, toys, kitchen appliances, because of the consumer model we live in. Western society peeps need big houses to store all this stuff they don’t really use. My problem with the KonMari method is that it doesn’t talk about what happens to all this discarded stuff. We never know if it goes to landfill or charity or is repurposed.

Also, another problem with the KonMari method is that it is a fact that some people are naturally tidy and others are naturally messy. But if you have never bought that much stuff to begin with then having a tendency to untidy is not a problem. For a start, you don’t need to spend forty minutes folding t-shirts. If I don’t have much stuff I don’t need to be neat! Also a subject Marie fails to mention, is that a little cluttery stuff makes a house a home, makes it personal, makes it real, gives it character. I’m not talking about a giant mess, just a little jumble here and there. If it sparks bemusement, keep it, I say!

I think all this tidying up is likely to spark anxiety, unless the root causes of clutter are tackled. Loneliness, too much stuff, spending addiction, fear of missing out on the latest gadget. And focus on the real things in life that spark joy. For me, what sparks joy is not having to do much housework. It’s life that should spark joy, not folding t-shirts.

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Beware buzzwords bearing resilient, strong women

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These days we are supposed to be agile, resilient, respectful, innovative, flexible, and if you are female, add a strong woman to the mix. I’ve heard the buzzword strong woman in recent years more often than I’ve had hairstyles and I’m still none the wiser. Of course, it’s never said, but implied that if you’re not resilient, strong and agile then somehow it’s your fault and you are a loser.

Of course, marketeers are very happy to have new buzzwords to play around with. The need for resilience can launch a thousand products. Anything really from deodorant to kale and linen to lipstick. Who doesn’t want resilient lipstick? It’s the lipstick of choice for strong women. Governments also love it. More mayhem, chaos, inconvenience plus a longer commute will just be absorbed by the population’s increased resilience. Hooray, win win. Governments can get away with cutting services, grinding down public transport, eroding parks and community facilities because the citizens are more resilient, agile and innovative. Never mind the extra 45 minutes standing up on the bus because the trains are out for ten months. Resilience people! Strong Women!

I wonder whether these words have crept into the zeitgeist because it’s the only way to get through the day let alone the year. Bombarded as we are with so much bad news, roadworks, austerity cuts during 27 years of economic growth that we are permanently just one stop away from a meltdown on a delayed train after a too-long day. Of course, these characteristics are useful personal qualities to have, but part of me thinks they sure as hell benefit the government as well. I wonder if public transport was upgraded, working hours reduced, community services restored and green spaces increased, if we would have a need for resilience and agility and empowerment. Something for a strong woman to ponder.

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.

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.