Put a bird on it!

In my last post I talked about reading the Wildwood Chronicles as a way to get a feel for Portland – the place, the people and the culture. Another great research tool that I should have spent more time with, and which inevitably came up in conversation when we told people that we were moving to Portland, is the satirical comedy sketch series filmed in and around Portland. It goes by the name of Portlandia


Portland has a reputation for…well…hipness – a reputation that I was even aware of back in New Zealand. When Olive and Edie were very little I began my foray into the world of crafting and the common denominator connecting many blogs I read, magazine articles I flipped through, and handmade objects I drooled over on Etsy, was…Portland. A quick rummage around the internet offers many reasons as to why Portland has the hip tag – hipsters like bikes apparently (which must make my husband the hippest guy around!) and Portland is known as a big cycling city; hipsters also apparently like good food and Portland is known as a foodie town; hipsters enjoy indie music and lo and behold there is a big indie music scene in Portland; hipsters like to be on the outside of traditional culture and in Portland they find that “alternative modes of thinking and doing” are welcomed. (Thanks to this site for the quote and many more musings on the origins of Portland’s hipness.)

bicycle rights

Conceived by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, a couple of very hip writers, actors and musicians, Portlandia pokes fun at all the hipness through a range of characters like hip cyclist guy above; Toni and Candace, the rude owners of a feminist bookstore; stereotypical couple Lance played by Brownstein and Nina played by Armisen – she’s very girly, he’s very strong and tough; and by many situations involving Armisen and Brownstein as themselves. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by two very famous television pals – Bert and Ernie.

Lance and Nina
Lance and Nina

Carrie and Fred are often seen with the Mayor of Portland, hilariously played by Kyle MacLachlan, working on ways to preserve Portland’s hip culture. Mayor is worried that Seattle is going to steal Portland’s thunder as a hipper, greener, cooler place to live and so he enlists Carrie and Fred’s help as Portland ambassadors. (You’ll find a range of well-known guest stars appearing on Portlandia…people like Roseanne Barr, Selma Blair, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Kirsten Dunst…and of course Colin Meloy who wrote The Wildwood Chronicles. These guest stars are all a bit hip wouldn’t you say?!)

In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, was seen as the Mayor's assistant.
In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, appeared on screen as the Mayor’s assistant.

Full disclosure…I have watched a grand total of two episodes of Portlandia but as I’ve been writing this today I have sat through many more youTube clips….and I have laughed a lot. In one of the very first episodes we are introduced to characters Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman…what do they do you ask? Well…they put birds on things!

Put a bird on it has become something of a slogan for Portlandia…and you’ll even find an entry for it in Urban Dictionary. I found this great Salon article which goes a long way towards explaining Portlandia…its cultural impact and its, for want of a better word, philosophy. It was written in response to the put a bird on it phenomenon and is well worth a read.

You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!
You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!

So I can highly recommend Portlandia…New Zealand friends I’m keen to know if you’ve seen it over there…you can find it on Netflix or youTube. I believe they are working on the 6th season of the show and it was nominated for an Emmy in the recent awards.

As for me, I’m pretty pleased to discover that, as defined by Portlandia, I must be hip. Below is a picture of my collection of Moleskin notebooks…actually there are more…I just couldn’t find them all…I suspect the sketch below the picture was written with me in my mind…


Here’s to being hip!