Friday, June 14, 2013

My Two New Obsessions: A Non-Forbidden Fruit and Lana Del Rey's Up-and-Coming Competition

1. Mr Little Jeans Thank God for insomnia. Well, not really, but sometimes it does have its benefits. Had I been able to drift off into a deep slumber on Monday night, I might have missed Mr Little Jeans entirely. No, that's not a new fashion line, or a distant relative/descendant of Mr. Green Jeans -- and there's no period after "Mr" -- but rather, the musical alias of Monica Birkenes, a budding Norwegian singer-songwriter with tons of underground buzz and millions of YouTube views who is still below-the-radar enough not to have her own Wikipedia page.

After seeing the video for her latest single, "Oh Sailor" (not a cover of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine single "O' Sailor"), in the wee small hours on Australian TV, I spent the next 60 or so minutes downloading as much of her music as I could find. Though she's hardly classifiable, her sound, dark and brooding with a heavy backbeat, is reminiscent of Lana Del Rey without the designer-gloomy posturing, more ethereal and less sadcore.

She's brave enough to cover Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" without a hint of irony or condescension, and she's even made me start to care a little about Arcade Fire, that Grammy-winning band I've spent the last several years ignoring while everyone around me has been raving. She did it with her cover of "The Suburbs" that not only does AF justice but, in my opinion, better.

2. Purple mangosteen Arcade Fire isn't the only thing I've been busy overlooking. I don't know how I've managed to spend 16 non-consecutive months in Southeast Asia, and I'm only now getting around to experiencing the mangosteen fruit (no relation to mangoes or any Steen in the telephone directory), which is indigenous to the area and looks sort of like a cross between a plum and a smooth, over-sized walnut wearing a stemmed four-leaf clover hat. I had my first one yesterday, and I'm now officially hooked. I can't wait to start devouring my new stash of 16, which I just bought from my local supermarket for 40 baht (or $1.30).

Eating a mangosteen is not a neat experience. You've got to tear into the purple outer shell with your fingers and past the reddish rind to get to the pale edible stuff inside, using your tongue and lips to remove the sweet treat from its two-layer giftwrapping. After finishing off the 10 or so that came with the complimentary fruit basket that greeted me in my Bangkok apartment suite, it took several hand-washings to remove the purple stains from underneath the fingernail of my left thumb.

But like the very best messes, the pleasure of getting there is worth the extra clean-up time. Once you've sucked down the juicy interior to the seed (or two), it's pretty near impossible to resist another - and another. Purple, never one of my favorite colors, in hue or in fruit (I can live without plums and prunes, and I'll take white grapes over purple ones any day), has never looked or tasted so good. Now pardon me while I get ready to tongue another one.

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