Waste Land

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Who doesn’t love a transformation? What can be more inspiring than watching an underdog rise from the dregs? Isn’t that how Susan Boyle shot to overnight stardom on The X Factor? If she had been your average, well-adjusted middle-aged woman, who would have given a damn about her old-fashioned musical number? Her magic formula was her visible metamorphosis onstage from classic misfit to soaring songstress, with an apt song choice that accompanied her ‘unreachable dream’.

That is what Waste Land (2010) is about. It is a story about making art with garbage – trash from the largest landfill in the world (Jardim Gramacho) and the ‘human trash’ that dwell in it. It is a land the polite society would love to forget – a land where human ‘scavengers’ lurk around trucks heaped with decomposing dregs the rest of the world throws out.

When you throw out old yoghurt, leftover dinners, films, books, bits and pieces of your past that no longer have a place in your life, they end up there where they are sorted out and recycled, eaten, and sometimes even read and archived in a library somewhere on the sprawling 321-acre open-air dump.

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The documentary is about how Brazilian-born, American-based artist Vik Muniz collaborates with a group of catadores – he takes their portrait, magnifies it and projects it on the floor of an art studio. And using a laser pointer, he directs pickers to recreate their own image with garbage, which he photographs as finished artworks. Proceeds from the prints and film (approx USD276,000 ) went back to the pickers.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.56.06 AM

You can view the finished artworks here: http://vikmuniz.net/gallery/garbage

That said, it is not the artwork that drives the film, but the lives and dreams of Muniz’s artistic subjects – their hopes and disappointments. Some of them have lost their families, some, their pride. Some of them hope to build a library, some hope to find love…

Ultimately, the film is about the power of art (both the portraits and the film itself) to transform these ‘social rejects’. As a movie, it’s not quite X-Men. The protagonists won’t sprout adamantium claws or grow wings, but I promise you, they evolve into something no less beautiful.

One of my favourite quotes from the film comes at the end. Muniz says:

“A lot of them were low, middle-class people. For some unfortunate event, they just ended having to go there and live in the garbage. On the other hand, when you see the appetite for life that these people have, and the way they carry themselves – it’s just inspiring. Even if everything went wrong, you could still be like them. And they are beautiful.”

In the vein of Forrest Gump and Slum Dog Millionaire, this is the ultimate underdog film. Perfect if you are feeling low and need a pick-me-up. But what do you think about critics’ suggestion that the movie is exploitative? See The Guardian’s review.

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The Escapist’s Atlas

I’m having a gloriously bad week. It’s like the universe chased me to the last known corners of the world and collectively took a dump on me. But because I don’t want to wallow (completely untrue) and also because I know I should do something useful to improve things (like pretending I’m not actually here), I’ve decided to wake up early and plot a grand escape (I’m terribly task-oriented like that). And these are the five best hideouts I’ve found.

Sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves and prep for battle, and other times, you just need to dream up a fortress and garrison it well. Because if you inhabit a beautiful fortress in an imaginary world, you become impenetrable in the real world, right?

TREEHOUSE in Kamishihoro, Japan

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If griffins were alive (or X-men griffins, for that matter), they’d live here. This bird’s nest treehouse realises all my childhood fantasies of running away from the world, building my own fortress and living amongst the birds. Interestingly enough, it was created by the Nestlé people for a Néscafe commercial and is now off-limited. Incidentally, it also has a lovely spiral stairway, in case you just don’t feel like flying today.

GLASS HOME in Milan, Italy

Glass House

All the white witches of the fantasy world must inhabit a space like this – pure, crystallised and charged with elemental magic. This blue-tinged glasshouse is the vision of architect and glass designer Carlo Santambrogio and sits in the middle of a wooden clearing. Everything, including the floor, stairs and furniture are made of glass. Acrophobes (those who fear heights) and scopophobes (those who abhor being stared at) are advised to stay away.

DESERT HOME between Vegas and LA, US

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As this design blog astutely puts it, this 360-degree home on a dormant volcano looks like the lair of some super-villain – good to note if you have any world dominion or elaborate revenge fantasies. If you’re particularly morbid, turn your thoughts to how some apparently ‘dormant’ volcanoes have erupted again.  The surrounding landscape is an apocalyptical wasteland and conducive to all matters of deep, dark melancholy.

IGLOO VILLAGE in Lapland, Finland

From www.myinterestingfiles.com
Pix from http://www.myinterestingfiles.com
Pix from www.hotelchatter.com
Pix from http://www.hotelchatter.com

In case fantasising is not enough, and you really want to go somewhere, this igloo village is actually part of a hotel open from December/January to end-April. They’ve got traditional snow igloos and futuristic glass igloos, where you’ll enjoy first class seats to nature’s most spectacular dance – the northern lights.

ENTIRE ISLAND in Iceland

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If you really need time out from the world, you may want an entire island to yourself. Interesting story: After Björk put Iceland on the world map, Iceland reciprocated by (literally) putting her on the map as well – they gave her an entire island. Elliðaey, off the southern coast of Iceland, now belongs to the eclectic singer-songwriter, and is only accessible via helicopter, boat or rope. According to a blog post by Maryam Shamlou, the house on it doesn’t belong to Björk though. It is a hunting lodge for puffin hunters.

The question is: if you had an island to yourself, what would your fortress look like?

My other grand escape plans include: Bucket List Spas and My Ashram Experiment.

Dawn Song

Dawn Song

How should I describe the dawn, my love?
The secret space between today and tomorrow
Where you are wandering between worlds
Falling from level to level
Always further away from me

How should I measure that distance?
Between your automatic endearments
As we pursue the waking rituals
Which lead us from room to room
Always closer to resignation

And how should I honour the passing?
As the tide changes, and the dying die
And we stand by the door
Shifting from one goodbye to another
Always nearer the next dawn

P.s.: This is an old entry from my private blog…

Also read: An Old Love Letter

Pix from mycolourfuldaze.blogspot.com
Pix from mycolourfuldaze.blogspot.com

What My Chihuahua Taught Me About Making Small Talk

What My Chihuahua Taught Me About Making Small Talk

Another one from my Chihuahua Series. As you can tell, I can’t draw, and my sexy women’s legs look like they’ve been twisted in a fall. But my own overweight chihuahua insists that underdogs have voices too, and that they deserve to be heard as much as anybody else. And I’m just trying to be a good mummy to her even though she always tells me I’m full of shit.
On that note, happy weekend-socialising!

Chi ST 1

Chi ST 2

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For more chihuahua rants here: Monday Blue Pooches

What My Mother Taught Me About Beauty

What My Mother Taught Me About Beauty
A Mucha print from http://graduate-extraordinaire.blogspot.sg
A Mucha print from http://graduate-extraordinaire.blogspot.sg

By the age of four, my mother taught me everything I know about being a woman.

As a little girl, my first memory was of her in red lipstick, stepping into a garden abloom with yellow miniature roses, purple orchids and dainty West Indian jasmines – the perfect picture of grace.

A picture of my mother
A picture of my mother

She passed away when I was four.

Later, I learnt from my father that she’d been struggling with respiratory problems all her life. But nobody seems to remember how weak she’d become. Staring into her coffin, what I saw was a poised and beautiful woman. And throughout my confused teenage years, I struggled to emulate her beauty and grace.

Thus I grew up in a confused and complex world, and like so many other, floundered through many moments of fear, self-doubt and heartache, seeking wisdom in books and forgetfulness in films.

But whenever I felt like I’d truly hit a dead end, I’d hit the road again and meet many amazing people through my travels – poverty-stricken India women with the most vivid dresses I’ve ever seen, a 70-year-old Japanese woman with the brightest purple hair, a breast cancer survivor finding love and intimacy after mastectomy…

From www.ericsstudio.com
From http://www.ericsstudio.com

Only through their eyes did I finally begin to see my mother’s true legacy –
her parting advice to me was not merely how to be beautiful, but one of enduring strength and hope in the face of pain, uncertainly and death.

She was the first person who helped me understand that a woman without breasts is no less beautiful, bright purple hair on an old woman can still turn heads, making the effort to wear lipstick when you’re very ill is a final act of defiance, and planting flowers that you may never see is the greatest leap of faith.

Beyond all the designer dresses and makeup, that is what it means to be a beautiful woman.

If you like this, you might like: WanderlustOlfactory Journeys and Bucket List Therapies

Olfactory Journeys

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

Beauty writing is really an exercise in synonyms. Read three consecutive issues of any women’s magazine, and you’ll see what I mean – you can almost picture a beauty writer straining beneath a pile of potions and salves, trying to squeeze out a new word to describe season after season of hydrating moisturisers, red lipsticks and blushers – in various hues of pink and orgasms (think: NARS’s famous Orgasm Blusher – http://www.narscosmetics.com/iconic-nars/cult-classics/~/orgasm-blush?d=true).

Sadly for me, 50 shades of seduction later, I still can’t tell the essential difference between chilli red and temptress red. And I’m not sure the equally bewildered man in my life can distinguish between a post-exercise and a post-coital blush either – God save his undiscerning soul.

Well, despite all this beauty blasphemy, I do, however, have an enduring love affair with perfumes – not the bubblegum juice of prepubescent celebrities or the saccharine launches of bargain brands, but those with real Florentine iris, sundrenched bergamot, Grasse jasmine and exotic woods.

Here’s why I strongly believe everyone should choose their juice with as much care as they choose their books…

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

It’s like choosing a theme song for the day

I love mornings when I have enough time to run through my fragrance wardrobe the same way I’d scroll through my iPod playlist. It always prompts me to do a mental forecast of my day ahead, set my intentions, and then visualise the perfect notes for it.

Like good music, the right perfume sets the tone for the day right.

Just as I firmly believe nothing great will ever happen when Justin Bieber is playing on the radio, nothing inspired can ever occur when you are wearing Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend – yes, that’s what he calls one of his perfumes…

It’s an inner journey

As skin-deep as makeup is, perfume is profound. Unlike makeup, it will not announce to every other passerby, “I am an indie-chick” or “Nicki Minaj is my latest not-so-secret guilty indulgence”. On the contrary, it is a more subtle language that you have to first discover for yourself, and then divulge to those select few that step into your aura. The goal is not to transform (like makeup) but transfigure – I always find that the best fragrances lend a certain vitality and depth to a woman’s intrinsic beauty.

Every bottle of perfume contains a world

A nose once told me that a perfume has to be worn by a woman, otherwise, it’s just like a dress hanging on an empty rack.

A good fragrance evolves with the woman who wears it – every book she reads, every city she visits, every time she fall in love or gets her heart broken, it gains new depth.

It conjures up subconscious images and forgotten memories, and teleports its wearer to undiscovered worlds only as rich as one’s memory and imagination – cotton fields, beach shacks, a perfect sunlit childhood vacation?

As I grew older, I began to lean towards such timeless scents that were complex and simple enough to age well with me – not those that represented a superficial marketing vision of sensually, as depicted by purring models in their ad campaigns.

…And, every once in a while, I would wear a ‘jasmine garden’ to bed and pray for a magnificent dream.

Photography by Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker

More beauty features at: Bucket List Spas and Beauty Beauty Advice From Mum