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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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

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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.