27 Jul 2017

InstaGlam - Dolce & Gabbana

Welcome to LBM and Mirabelle's brand new series, InstaGlam, which explores brands that celebrate the beauty of life on Instagram! We start off on a strong and vibrant note with Italy's dynamic fashion duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

D&G Alta Moda Collection, AW2015-16

There is something warm and generous about the Dolce & Gabbana brand, a little like a seasoned Italian mama: warm, spicy, friendly, coquettish, hands-on, streetwise and nurturing all at once. And no better way to appreciate it than via Instagram, where both D&G and Stefano Gabbana go beyond the call of fashion duty to share inspiration.

D&G Alta Gioielleria, Palazzo Gangi Valguarnera, Palermo

It is a sunny, vibrant, joyful, technicolor celebration of life, where the D&G man, woman and child lust for life. It is a far cry from certain couture houses out there that have a clinical, rigid, no-frills, monochrome approach to fashion and lifestyle, season after season. D&G is actually more than a fashion brand, it is a lifestyle umbrella.

Elements of nature, religion (Alta Moda Collection), tradition, artistry, and couture wizardry combine their threads to compose a tapestry of covetable craftsmanship with faerie-like, romantic, folklore and bohemian accents. Much detailing and ornementation are at play and those wearable works of art manage to pique our curiosity and send a message to those fast and furious fashion creators who have sent the high street bland and drab.

In our troubled times of transience and fickleness, and under the globalised aseptised world that elites are pushing us towards, D&G spells Italian heirloom, old money, oodles of originality, opulence and a waff of quirky flamboyance, not to mention an ode to cultural enrichment through the rediscovery of culture. In other words, they bridge past and future, like their flagship retail store on Via Montenapoleone in Milan.

Moreover D&G does not rest on their laurels. Their marketing and brand management is savvy, edgy and responsive. When a couple of months ago D&G faced a backlash due to their supporting US First Lady Melania Trump who proudly and consistently wears their outfits, Stefano Gabbana, a fervent admirer of Melania's style and persona, responded to his detractors boldly. He pre-empted any call for boycott on their part by actually launching a... #BoycottD&G campaign through social media as well as a matching tee-shirt range! No adverse publicity, just a smart move; what appeared risqué at first immediately brought limelight, coverage, and ultimately served the brand in a positive fashion! Well done!

D&G is fashion that sings and flutters and seduces like the Italian language itself. This is fashion lifestyle by a life-loving duo, and you can feel, breathe and eat it all you like! Bellissima pasticceria della moda!

D&G Sneaker Patches

6 Jul 2017

Espadrilles with Attitude

My love of espadrilles knows no limit: I would be lost without them! They are my essential Corsican Summer footwear, inside and outside. I don't just wear them, I wear them out: a pair lasts me a season (sometimes less according to the quality/ finnish or the wear and tear I put them through). When I lived in colder climes I would wear espadrilles essentially at home during the Summer in lieu of slippers (much more pleasant) and out, weather permitting. My love story goes back a long way: I first started wearing them as an 8-year-old, if I remember right, and have been wearing them year upon year ever since.

My pair of Little Marcel espadrilles, which I have worn a few times...

Talk about versatility: espadrilles are available in every colour and pattern under the sun, from basic white to coastal blue, via chintzy Liberty fabrics, warm Catalogne/ Basque Region stripes, pastel shades and polka dots... Along the way, fashion designers have pimped up the pump with gusto: dressed up in leather, adorned with sequins, laced up, filigreed in gold, propped up with a wedge heel... Anything goes.

'Madcarina' Wedge by Christian Louboutin: espadrille-inspired braided rope and a chic turban twist toe detail

Espadrilles are a social leveller in my book. Everyone can afford them at their most basic. Their understated chic makes them preppy, while their vivid colours and bold patterns lend a boho vibe. Their restrained Summery look makes them resort. Their overall design makes them as comfy as a pair of no-frills sneakers. Depending upon their colour and the way you wear them, you could get away with wearing them at church, at a town hall meeting, at the doctor's surgery or a garden party without anyone blinking an eyelid. Just dress up your attire and lend a little sassiness and confidence to your step.

'Vogue 125' Sandals by Soludos

I doubt orthopedists would recommend the regular wear of espadrilles because in all honesty their canvas upper and basic jute sole combo does not support the feet adequately like a pair of good quality flats would. Though for pottering around the house and garden, running a few errands, driving, and walking down the beach and back, they cannot be faulted. Despite the fact that I do routinely walk miles in them (flattish urbanised terrain of roadside and pavement - and the occasional dirt track), I wouldn't expect anyone to trek rocky terrain in those: this is not what they are made for! Consider the espadrille a week-ender, a city slicker with a garden for countryside, not a country lass per se.

Soludos for J.Crew Espadrilles in Chambray

Despite their very basic no-frills construction (no Air Max technology, ergonomics or air-cushioned soles here folks!) and their identical right foot/ left foot, espadrilles are comfortable for what they are, then again strictly for dry Summertime (not weatherproof unless you upgrade to the Sea Star Beachwear Beachcomber Espadrille) and to be worn on flat terrain. Their canvas upper makes them tempered and breathable. So no nasty sweats like you would with plastic beach sandals or even with the not-so-innocent flip-flops.

'Elisa' Espadrille Wedges by Tory Burch

The sole is natural woven jute (which absorbs perspiration like a dream), usually with a thin rubber underside, and sometimes with the insole lined in canvas (which I recommend because it will make your walking experience more comfortable).

'Baja' Satin Espadrilles by J.Crew

Espadrilles, especially if worn daily over a whole Summer, will harden the soles of your feet, yet by the same token you will never get a blister wearing those little darlings: bonus for a carefree Summer and to keep those tootsies in tip-top condition!

'Joanne' Embroidered Espadrilles, by Polo Ralph Lauren

Espadrilles are affordable if you are looking for basic ones (less than €10.00/ $11.50/ £8.80). But how high can you go in price? I mean some of those featured here are pimped up, dressed up variants, still reasonable in price and they may last the distance by a few more miles than the standard espadrille.

Wearing my (now worse for wear) Mellow Yellow Liberty Espadrilles on the beach with Tickle!

Espadrilles are essentially still manufactured in their locale of origin, the Pyrenees, Catalogne and French and Spanish Basque region. China and Bangladesh now produce them too. Regardless of how you look after them, one downside is that overall quality can be flaky, and funnily enough I find that this is not dependent upon the country of origin. The weakest link is the stitch that frays and comes undone and/ or poor-quality fabric that gives way and/ or splits in the big toe area or the heel... 

The Chut Charlotte espadrille atelier in the French Pyrenees

Espadrilles are flats with attitude regardless: versatile, slip-on, unisex, easy-going and still able to pull a dressed-up look together. They are comfy but not sloppy, and no matter how much you put them through their paces, they shall never lose that vacational, continental, sun-kissed, sand-filled, sea-salt-stained mojo!

29 Jun 2017

Toxic Love in a Southern Garden

There is a deathly obsession going on in gardens of southern France and elsewhere in the sunkissed regions of Spain, Italy and Greece. No matter how toxic the relationship, the likes of my mum and my unfortunate next-door neighbour will pursue the affair nonetheless, despite the warnings.

'Oleanders', oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh (1888), via The Met Museum

The affair involves misleading lust for mediterranean flowers of the easy kind: easy come, easy grow, easy show, easy go. A native of the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East, it was later introduced to the Far East and Central America. Give them a good watering in times of peak Summer heat, they take care of themselves the rest of the time. They even remember to flower year on year in time for Summer and would even do a little dance if they didn't look so conceited. They're a novice gardener's delight, thus can be pruned back, hacked hard and generally grossly mistreated. Still they will manage to summon enough gusto to thrive back to shape within a trimester and reward you for your carelessness with a myriad blossoms.

The Terrace at Méric (Oleanders), oil on canvas by Frédéric Bazille (1867), via WikiArt

Those come out all over in a rash, in shades of pink and white. The blossoms may look prim and proper as you drive by but get off the car and take a closer look: they are messy. They discard leaves and flowers on a whim, like a furry pet sheds hair, and the freshly-shed flowers end up sticking in clumps to the pathways and pavements and garden tables and the sole of your shoe. Maybe Charles Baudelaire spared them a thought when he penned The Flowers of Evil. You might call them pretty if you're my mum or the woman next door but that sort of beauty is lethal: avoid it at all cost!

(pict source)

They look impressive to the easily impressed, but it's all falsely affected to the tune of fakery in a flurry, like soul sisters begonias and petunias. They're a fifties garden fashion throwback that never actually went away - or went anywhere for that matter - passed on from generation to the next like a heirloom. Why? Because - remember - easy come, easy grow, easy show, easy go. Ubiquitous, so they are, especially when originality is unsummoned and garden space needs to be filled, a hedge be hastily erected at a moment's notice: Nerium oleander is the shrub of choice.

Fatal attraction

No surprise to be had: they behave as expected. The plants are easy on the dollar sign too. In their droves, they charm the charmless garden and will even endeavour to hide a multitude of sins like the ugly breeze-block wall they are backing onto or the irregularities of the terrain. They may fool you with their myriad petals and get you to absolve them of their sins. But their aroma shall fool you not with the old sweaty tee pong, yes the soaked-out worn-out garment that should have been thrown in the wash (or best, in the bin) but clocked an extra day instead. Sweaty pong is all there is to get out of that shrub, and if you stand long enough nearby, you may decide the heavy lingering aroma is posh speak for 'putrid'.

Pretty poisonous is the ugly truth!

Call it oleander all your might, it is of ill repute, plaguing life and playing with death, for it is toxic through and through. My next-door neighbour knows it, yet she amorously planted a couple of those next to her plum tree and allows for the branches to get jiggy with it under the midnight sun. And she still won't come to her senses, instead dragging her chaise longue across her patch of land so it stands exactly right under the flimsy shade of her protégés, admiring their pretentious stance from underneath as she lays down. A morbid rehearsal to God's waiting room?

Putting on a show!

My mum built hedges of those in her dreams and now her dreams are coming true. Leave it to her and leave her to it: she'll talk to them and caress their finger-like leaves with maternal care. Care for them to grow big and vigorous and take over her front lawn like a corporate mission statement: bold and boring. She'll refuse to notice the sap seeping out of the branches and scores of ants and white flies glued onto it. My mum taught me as a child about the toxicity of oleander and now she can't have enough of it in her garden's front row. Such a puzzling contradiction!

Where's Tickle gone? To the safety of the nearby bougainvillea!

I don't see birds showing an interest and rare are the butterflies that do so. I don't take an interest either: I actually dislike the plant with a passion and, as a nature lover, this is one strong statement. Tainted love for some, quiet desperation for others!

17 Jun 2017

Living Up to Better Homes & Gardens

Roby and I had an interesting conversation recently about home expectations and the difference between men and women on the subject and how magazines and visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are geared towards the female market.

Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab's Beirut home is a man-woman pacifier as a nest of style *and* comfort!

My husband laments that women drive their men to an early grave through the way they organise home life. Women, he argues, are heavily influenced by home and interiors magazines and home improvement programmes, and as a result seek to recreate the look in their own home.

It must be said though that generally women's forte is to have a certain idea of style that defines them individually, elegance, an indeniable eye for detail and for the eye-pleasing (understand all the cute little things out there!). This unfortunately clashes with men's domesticity quest for efficiency, practicality, comfort, ease of use, durability: the no-thrills, no-BS, no superfluous, home!

Generally women are a soft touch, easily influenced, and thus a marketer's dream: PR guru Edward Bernays understood it almost a century ago.  In this day and age, the media play a part in inspiring them first; this whets their apetite, i.e. their desire to purchase. The desire is influenced and reinforced further until they feel they have no other option than spend cash, seal the deal, make that purchase and buy that elusive slice of happiness!

Women have a propensity to spend cash on a whim, not only on fashion items but on homewares and home improvements that will come to pass with the next whim. New season paint scheme, furnishings upgrade, conservatory revamp, replace kitchen worktops, when there is nothing wrong with what they have. They get bored quick and fancy a change and that house will never be quite enough. If they still feel unsatisfied, they will want to look for the next best place and sell this one off!

A woman frets when her house is untidy (but is rather acceptant of her own untidiness). Their domesticity quest is form over function anytime! Clutter (trinkets, knick-knacks), poor sense of flow from one area of a room to the next... Objects are put away a certain way that only makes sense to her, everything in a place that is not about convenience but about decorum. Yes I have been there too!

If her home does not quite equate Better Homes & Gardens, a woman will be quick at blaming her man for not doing something about it (as in some DIY!) or getting a pay rise to afford the professionals in. A householder who strives for her house to look like BHG (and other lifestyle mags for that matter) might as well have a museum for a house. This is  therefore a no-go domestic area according to my husband. You must feel at home in your own home. Point taken.

1 Jun 2017

Lovely & Nice

Towards the back end of the 19th century, as the quaint small fishing harbours and coastal villages of southern France (Provence and Côte d'Azur) started morphing into the famed vacational hotspot now known as the French Riviera, Nice already was at its cutting edge: it had metamorphosed into a pretty butterfly, opening up to the pleasures of the sea and spreading its wings towards the future, embracing the Belle Epoque follies and later Années Folles (Roaring Twenties)... Its seaside mystique and splendour stretched beyond WWII, yet with less of its earlier upmarket gusto and panache, but this is a story for another time.

La Réserve, c.1900: a fantasmagorical - surrealist - folly that could have been dreamt up by Magritte!

Nice by name was Nice by nature back then: an almost pristine natural canvas of dramatic proportions, lending its coves and curves to architectural wonder, integrating the natural environment - its masterpiece - with style and elegance. The reworked landscape became imbued with a tangible frond of the exotic: imported Phoenix canariensis palm trees and other floral exotica that would lend themselves beautifully to the Orientalist trend of the times.  

Saint-Nicolas Cathedral, c.1935: testifies of the importance of the Russian community in Nice

La Promenade des Anglais would come to epitomise the renowned coastal seafront with dreams of odysseys to faraway exotic locales. A French Ipanema, a wide, tree-lined, five-mile sweep of a boulevard which was (and still is to this day) a destination point for leisure pursuits, parades and ceremonies, dotted with elegant Winter homes that later doubled as Summer villas, set in landscaped grounds and a seaview to boot.

Excelsior Régina Palace, 1912: fit for Queen Victoria

The properties unashamedly belonged to British and Russian aristocracy (and later the nouveau riche) who - it seemed - altogether led the way in terms of the resort culture before the French had even conceptualised it, at least outside their colonies. Progressively the Winter resort turned into a seaside resort with the construction of residential apartments, and leisure establishments such as luxury hotels (palaces) and casinos celebrating luxe, leisure, insouciance and joie de vivre

Nice, Jetée-Promenade, c.1900: an exotica showcase to itself!

In terms of turn-of-the-century architecture, we find a marked influence towards neo-classicism, with oodles of orientalism and a hint of Victoriana: Le Negresco Hotel is a perfect example. Or how about the (now defunct) Orientalist-inspired casino of the Jetée-Promenade? The concept was influenced by the Brighton Palace Pier, while Crystal Palace was the initial inspiration to the project instigator, marquis d'Espouy de Saint-Paul. The casino was designed by British architect James Brunlers. There is no denying that Brits shaped the French Riviera.

Nice, Jetée-Promenade, 1897: the Orient has landed!

La Promenade would be further celebrated with the advent of the automobile era as a G-spot of sorts. Any show-off driver and social climber worth their salt would make a point of showing up and down the Promenade. Success, it was thought, would rub off if only you showed up on the Promenade, unashamedly pretending to be someone you're not for a part of the action while secretly standing in awe of it all.

Nice unfolds from the Mont Boron, 1891

Only a small number of the original villas are still standing on the Promenade today. Some look sorry for themselves, locked in limbo, in need of refurbishment. Land value comes at a premium on the Promenade and it is likely that some of the older properties are locked down in hostile takeovers, expired leases, inheritance issues, tax conundrum or other legal and financial predicaments, ultimately pending a demolition order to make way for yet another high-rise. In the world of real estate emotion hardly has a say, even less so when the matter at stake is located in a sought-after, world-renowned tourist area.

Nice Opera, 1885: all about flamboyance!

Sorry to rub it in but as it stands today the Promenade has lost its lustre. Now it is easy for nostalgia to cloud one's judgement and I recognise that I sometimes allow it to take over my objectivity, yet I approached this particular subject with an open mind and visited the Promenade on at least three separate occasions that I can recall over the last seven years and everytime the lack (loss) of architectural cohesiveness hit me.

Promenade des Anglais and Palais de la Méditerranée, c.1930: cheek to cheek

Clearly building clearance took its toll. Relentless since after WWII, it has left battle scars in the form of an incongruous mish-mash of styles, some of questionable appeal. Cue the gutted Palais de la Méditerranée, whose Art Déco façade was salvaged at the eleventh hour... in order to be incorporated to the Hyatt behemoth. Elsewhere the Promenade is compromised by styleless cheap-looking condos and other bland hotel chains like Le Méridien (which replaced the stylish Hotel Ruhl). These modern structures may unashamedly steal the seaview; they however steal neither the looks nor the spirit of a time where elegance and refinement were the byword.

Avenue de Verdun, c.1920: just off the Promenade

It is understood that Nice City Council wishes for the Promenade to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site contender, and therefore is currently sprucing up its image. Who are they kidding? In this vanity exercise no amount of landscaping or carpark redesign will compensate for the negative architectural impact caused by waves of property clearances that made way for a non-descript, non-cohesive Promenade.

Nice from the Jetée-Promenade, c.1900: a view at your beck and call

The Nice seafront is certainly a tale for the unashamed: bold and beautiful yesterday, bland and brash today. What remains of its bygone golden age, if not found in pockets in-situ, will be appreciated pictorially in the comfort of your home. Prolific and talented French photographer Jean Gilletta (1866-1933) made sure of that by taking thousands of pictures that wrote all to themselves an anthology to Nice, Marseille, the Riviera as a whole, the southern Alps and further afield! He followed the muse and she never left him! His photography froze people, places and time for posterity, immortalised a depiction of Nice that is both haunting and promising, an epoch where all seemed possible...

Motorcar, c.1925: sweet and fancy!

Source: All photography by Jean Gilletta. Take a peek at his impressive collection... and sweet dreams to you! Hey, happy shopper: all the (repro) prints featured are for sale by the way!

'Bateaux dans le Port de Nice', by Tony Minartz (1870-1944)

Further Reading:

25 May 2017

World Fatigue

I haven't posted an article for over three weeks, yet this blog has been on my mind. It's not that I have been suffering from writer's block because actually there are so many - too many - posts I want to write! It's more a case of having become world-weary. I think it's been progressive but it has crept up over the American presidential election, a fascinating case in point. And then the weariness exacerbated over the French presidential election which, still, I only followed from afar. The glaring reality has been staring at me in the face that the system is rigged on a worldwide scale and reality has been manufactured for us the populace for decades - maybe centuries.

Melania, more than a pretty face... (pict source)

As much as I come across as happy-go-lucky and I am an idealist, I could not allow myself to be sceptical anymore, deny facts that were pointing at a different truth, a truth that the media is portraying as fake, as conspiracist, as anti-constitutional. Pardon my French fries, but... what the duck! NGOs for the most part are a sham, as state missionaries pushing a political agenda. Socialism is NOT for the people. Climate change was brought to us as an evidence by a salesman (Gore) who jets around the world to tell us to be frugal with our car journeys. We are sold one consumed lie after another, that we buy because the media and the governing elites have us believe the thoughts they program into us.

Being a nationalist, a patriot, used to be valued. Today it is derided and mocked and associated with being a racist. Full employment used to be a nation's forte. Not anymore. They took our jobs away, shipped them over to China and replaced them with imported open-border migration. Wealth has been depleted and replaced with communitarianism no-speak lingo. Anything goes. Anything goes as a family these days, as long as it does not resemble a married man-woman couple with two kids. 

Chaos theory is Obama's Bible... (pict source)

What used to be truth is now considered wrong; what used to be wrong is now considered truth. History is being simplified. Once you have no past and can't see the future, and transience has blurred the lines between past, present and future, you find yourself in a permanent present state. You don't know your origins anymore, in fact if you are white and christian, chance is you're a white supremacist. In France, kids spend more time learning about the workings of the EU and the 'goodness' of Agenda 21 in their history classes than they do about Napoléon, Joan of Arc, Clovis or Vercingétorix. Meanwhile stateside, confederate monuments are dismantled to make way for a rewritten history under the political correctness paradigm, the biggest sham of all, that was created in order to silence free speech. If you don't know who you are and where you come from, you have no idea where you're going.

I am weary because I have been writing this blog for almost 8 years and have not even been able to build up a following. God, if I had been writing about push-up bras and the latest stilettoes and my favourite S'Mores, it would be a different story. I'd be monetising through social media and a YouTube channel: Hot or Not, Lancôme's latest highlighter. You bet: what the duck... Sometimes you should just be pretty and shut up.

1 May 2017

A Floral Awakening

The end of Winter signals the start of Nature's Renaissance, a yearly art movement all to itself! And all the while, I shall never cease to be enchanted by Spring, my favourite season!

Semi-wild and heavy with scent: the roses at Château de Gudanes

Here in the northern hemisphere, nature is being reborn. The land awakes from Winter slumber, all aflutter in ways aplenty. It is sprouting a myriad of velvety catnips, soft to the touch. Sprouting tight buds, full of promise, unfolding into fresh tree leaves and floral blooms laden with sweet-scented aromas. Right now in Corsica, the air is fragrant with wild perennial Erysimum (wallflower), and elderflower, imbuing the air with their delicate yet intoxicating notes.

The joys of Spring will yield the boons of Summer (ibid.)

Our faunistic friends are busy nest-building. Bird songs speckle the canvas of our dusk and dawn with sparkles of sound, rich with joy, abundance and celebration. Enough to make you thankful to be alive! As I have said many a time... You are never alone with nature by your side.

Canopy of elegance: Albyzia trees (ibid.)

Hey, nature lover, more floral Spring delights await!

30 Apr 2017

Inspire Aspire - ASMR

Before you pop the $100 question, here is the four-word answer (and I cheated for it!): ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. As cryptic as it appears, it is even more cryptic to explain it. Basically it involves the senses but is no pseudo science - merely sensations that are triggered by a relaxation technique. A word of warning: it may come out woo-woo to some of you. Or you may finally be able to put a name to that sensation you have experienced for years (maybe since childhood) under certain circumstances. Call it goosebumps, but more generally felt as a tingling, kind of a hot tickling, that radiates from the crown of the head down the nape, across the shoulders and down the spine. A fuzzy head, feeling cosy, comfy and sleepy, almost in a meditative state.

A feast for the eyes and more! Certain sight, sound and/ or smell trigger ASMR.

It appears that the sensation (or state) which is probably as old as humanity, has only been officially reported, documented and researched over the best part of the last decade, and debated in earnest by the wider online community. Some individuals have even become internet sensations (pardon the pun) and household names in the process, and have spread the word. From being unacknowledged altogether until recently, ASMR has turned into a juicy lucrative business on dedicated YouTube channels and the likes. Maria at Gentle Whispering is an ASMR phenomenon and the go-to ASMR personality! She clocks 925,000+ followers and some of her videos have garnered more than two million views within the space of three months, and a staggering 10 million views over 12 months! In my eye, Maria is the best ASMRtist out there! Her videos are relaxing and send you tickled up to sleep!

Now the very first time I came across ASMR as such was through YouTube astrologer Karen Lustrup who had recorded a short relaxation video back in 2014, aimed at lulling insomnia sufferers to sleep. I realised straight away that I had indeed experienced ASMR before, for many years but had no idea this had been recognised and identified under some name.

Tyndall Figures, Lake Hoare, from "Gondwana" (2012), photography by Diane Tuft

Actually as a way of relaxing in the evening and basically fall asleep I find certain astrology channels to be conducive to this state of relaxation with all the tingling effects that go with it. Therefore sometimes astrology as a topic becomes secondary to me, if all I seek is a little respite that sends me to Nod.

Anything soft, delicate or muffled may trigger ASMR.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of ASMR triggers. First and foremost, anything soft, delicate or muffled is a potential trigger:

  • Sound triggers: light breeze rustling tree leaves windcharms, the harp, bells and other twinkling sounds rain drizzle, gently tapping against a window pane or a car roof, ocean waves crackling woodfire, flickering candle twigs cracking underfoot in the woods certain TV programmes (cookery, make-up, wildlife, gardening, cultural visits to châteaux and art museums) and this depends entirely upon the programme and the personality of the presenters, their demeanour (poised and relaxed, thus no Megyn Kelly material!) and voice (calm, serene, soft, slow, empathetic and mellifluous) cool jazz music, slow, moody classical music, ambient electronica light office environment (typing, rustling paper, muffled sounds, humdrum of printers, phones and other electrical equipment) guided meditation, yoga ― whispered conversations (un-)wrapping gifts and sweets, etc.
  • Sight triggers: slow, meticulous, detail craft work (knitting, embroidery, dress-making, drawing, painting, calligraphy, jewellery-making, ikebana, bouquet-making), baking, clothes ironing, etc.
  • Smell triggers: perfumery/ beauty counters in department stores, aromatherapy (essential oils, depending upon personal preferences and susceptibility) percolating coffee, frothing up cappuccino, home-baked cake straight out of the oven, etc.
  • Touch triggers: light warm breeze gentle beauty and wellness treatments (facials, head and body massage, jacuzzi/ bubble bath) and hairdressing soft materials (silk, sateen, lace, fur, feathers) touch (caress, stroke, tickle), etc.

Oftentimes a combination of triggers work out the ASMR. Not everyone is aware that they experience ASMR, yet if they do, might dismiss it. Approach the subject with caution with your grandma or your boss: you might get a funny look or two!

4 Apr 2017

Watch Out, There's a Hipster in Your Coffee!

I can't quite figure out how it came about. As my spoon cuts into the foam of my cappuccino and the cocoa constellation dissipates into the milky way of my cup, I look up across the packed out café and smile absent-mindedly. I vividly remember the turning point. At the turn of the millennium, the coffee revolution took us almost unawares and I welcomed it with open arms and a big kiss. In one swell swoop, it swept aside the shameless kettle and Nescafé combo, the gritty coffee pot at work whose treacle-like substance would be laced with lashes of full fat milk and a spoonful of sugar to tone the bitterness and general malevolence. The conservative coffee machine would not fare any better either if you were to self-proclaim coffee maestro. And tumble would the slightly higher-brow cafetière (French Press) that only ever had pride of place in those households that vacationed in France and Italy.

The London Coffee Festival 2015

At that point, coffee had ceased to be that monochrome, low budget, one-dimensional, nonchalant affair, black or white, one sugar, no sugar. Strong and you call it espresso like you're in the know. Weak and you call it Americano, once again if you want to flaunt your two words of Italian (three if we add 'pizza').

The London Coffee Festival

Coffee would be and it would be much more: a coffee named desire. Coffee was going to finally exist, express itself, albeit with attitude and a price tag that yells out indulgence. The Italian vocabulary would expand, and be re-invented should its linguistics become suddenly too limitative. Enter Frappuccino, the foam-at-the-mouth, shirty, expansive creation that makes the paltry espresso look like a size zero, deflated, monastic model. Savvy marketers gave themselves carte blanche to jazz up, sex up, amplify and yuppify coffee and make it indispensable under its new guises. Under the new paradigm, coffee became art creation, indulgence, a liquid brunch - and a neat, no-questions-asked multi-billion-dollar endeavour at the check-out.

The London Coffee Festival North 2016

The revolution would redefine coffee to the point where it would take a long sentence to define your drink to the barman, sorry the garçon, sorry the barista. Just so you can listen to yourself saying it in that all-knowing encompassing 'I'm in the club' way while the punter behind you in the queue quietly rehearses their prose before their grand finale, a brief, sudden verbal diarrhea of a purchasing interjection, cured by a fancy drink that costs a pretty penny.

The London Coffee Festival North 2016

Along with that morning white that suddenly became a long Ethiopian roast skinny decaff latte, the staff behind the counter would be redefined too. Enter Barista, full steam ahead, the busy body that is all arms, concentrated like a strong coffee! They whizz their magic within a few square feet perimeter on the other side of the counter like a storm in a teacup, precise, repetitive movements, attached to shiny expensive machinery with pumps and gaskets, and through the steam, the pulls and the metallic thuds, you would be forgiven to believe they're operating the Orient Express. They add the drama that you bought and paid for to your humble cup, tick boxes and scribble ancient codes on it, spin a thousand variants and combinations around coffee like they're the key to the Graal's safe, so many of them, they've morphed into algorithms. They froth up a hot beverage like a coiffeur teases a curl, with painstaking dedication. And if the impermanence of coffee art weren't fleetingly irrelevant, you have latte art to ponder about.

Now to the crux of the coffee is that correlation of late between fancy, jazzy, niche-market coffee from the café in the know, and the hipster. If we are to believe the hype, it's being percolated to us like it's non-negotiable.

Coffee has become art and science, especially in its percolation. Coffee is edgy: it has become the new absinthe. And in its heyday, absinthe was the poison of choice to the creative mind losing its mind in the buvettes of Montmartre. Modern creatives or wannabe creatives display their edge by drinking connoisseur coffee, a safer healthier option! They still look like the 1890s never quite went away, bar for the rolled-up sleeves displaying elaborate tattoos on their forearms. They wear the bushy beard, checkered shirts, suspenders. Unroll the sleeves to hide those arms, and the chaps wouldn't be out of place on those long-forgotten family photos circa 1890. But why, oh my, did fancy coffee and hipster become an item, if only for the fact that both are stuff of a fashion trend? I doubt I will eat my words on this one: fancy coffee will outlive the hipster but for the time being, chance is you'll spot them together like two coffee beans in a pod behind the counter, about to squeeze into that ristretto.

Hurry up if you wish to catch a gulp (sorry, a slice) of the action! The London Coffee Festival is taking place in a couple of days, 6th to 9th April, Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

10 Mar 2017

Papa, Get Well Soon!

As much as I like to keep my personal life private, I still wanted to send a little boost to my dad, via this blog. He needs all the encouragement and positive reinforcement he can muster right now. Maybe you want to send him a kind thought too. My dad's a fighter, he's fought many battles in his life, and he'll pull through this one! I know this in my heart of hearts.

So then, keep fighting, Jojo, you are not alone in this, we are right there with you! DAD, YOU ARE THE BEST!

22 Feb 2017

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society (Part 3)

Transience is supposed to be a temporary, transitory stage, yet we shall see in this third and final part of my essay how it is being made to drag on so as to become a permanent fixture of modern society. Transience applies geographically and figuratively and relates to transition, waiting for a change to manifest one way or another.

Transience is a state of limbo that occurs somewhere between a departure point and a destination point when events are fluid and uncertain. It summons aimless errance, perhaps drifting, with an element of waiting for circumstances to change for the better. It is the state of not knowing what's next and not belonging anywhere in particular at a moment in time and for whatever reason this might be. There are no roots to transience, no anchorage. It is the free agent for change, hence for uncertainty and unpredictability. It belies a period of unstability.

Lockheed JetStar and the 1960 Lincoln, via Plan59

I have identified herein five transience-generating areas within our modern society. The list is not exhaustive: -

 *  Paradigm Shifts:  Our governments, in cahoot with the media and corporate elites, have upped the ante to engineer a generation or two of confused kids: dumbed-down propagandist education system, gender theory, reinterpretation of the family unit, weakening of Christianity, radicalised angst-ridden feminism, political correctness, multi-culturalism, the sharing economy, and other paragons of humanist (undertand socialist) ideology jar with traditional homogeneous family values in terms of tradition, culture and history. We witness societal confusion, a shift in points of reference, landmarks sliding away. What used to be held in stone, held as truth by our socio-political system has now been questioned, deemed untrue. Reciprocally what used to be considered a lie is now held as truth.

Under European rule, Europeans are getting the feeling of not belonging anywhere anymore, not to their own country that they do not recognise as it is losing the characteristics that used to make it unique. Their national/ federal government is alien to their people and to the voice of discontent. Europeans do not feel allegiance to Europe either. They feel distrust towards this unelected body ruling unilaterally over a conglomerate of countries bundled up together because we so happen to live in close geographical proximity. We are all under the ludicrously remote, faceless, authoritarian governship of Babel (I mean Brussels).

This forced Europeanism on its way to the larger picture of globalism is a representation of transience. It stunts our organic growth as individual countries and puts us in limbo.

Labour to leisure: Parc du Haut-Fourneau U4, Uckange, eastern France

 *  Depressed Economy:  When jobs have moved en masse overseas, companies have restructured and fierce competition has increased, the job market gets tougher and job security scarcer. Lucky is being left with an entry-job for life (i.e. no or little scope for promotion and a career) and the general dead-end retail or office jobs that keep you on minimum wage for the duration of your working life. Employment opportunities are tough across the age groups, including those over-qualified graduates. You live in fear of not finding a job, not being able to keep it, getting on the dole, failing to make ends meet and falling onto hard times. There is no self-sufficiency, no financial independence in the picture; loans, mortgages, debts chain you down further. When unemployed/ on low pay, the State takes care of you with little it can provide, putting you in that shadow category, outside the world of workforce.

Lack of self-sufficiency, no sense of belonging, constant fear and discomfort are by-products of transience.

 *  Planned Obsolescence:  This good old trick that kicked in with Henry Ford in the 1920s is what keeps the production/ consumption machine oiled up to the hilt. It goes hand in hand with the fickleness of fashion and fast-moving trends that play right in the hand of disposability, and genuine technological progress whose pace has accelerated in recent years. Shorter lifespans and shelf lives, and little or no staying power... Even couture designers like ex-Dior's Raf Simons are burning out, complaining about the frenetic pace of the catwalk and fast turnover of fashion collections.

When you are on a constant move and feel you are playing catch up all the time, this unanchored, unsettled state is called transience.

Spend, spend, spend! Gucci Spring Summer 2017 Set, via Gucci's Instagram account

 *  Transhumanist Agenda:  Transhumanism is the science that correlates human and machine via AI (Artificial Intelligence). It demonstrates how technology is set to benefit us by increasing our mental, intellectual and physical performance with bionic aids, and in certain ways triggering our brain to think like a machine. Multi-lingual websites that are machine-translated subtly but surely show a facet of the transhumanist bias.

Transportation, media, telecommunications and information technology have transformed our lives beyond compare over the last 30 years. Meanwhile social media, a relatively new kid on the block, has already deeply changed our ways of communicating and interacting with others. Besides the treatment of information has taken on a strong transience bias. Instant messaging/ posting puts you right in the moment for the moment. The present has a very short, fleeting - even fickle - window of operation and lifespan. We are bombarded with so much information that our attention span is continuously challenged and titillated by other facts to consume fast without time for a thought.

We are literally drowning in an-ever expanding sea of news, visual distraction and solid ambient noise. Information is fed through technology, at the mercy of it being tampered with, manipulated, updated, upgraded, unplugged. Transience is right at home there!

Interstate 30 East of Dallas, for Portland Cement Association (1960), by Stan Galli, via Plan59

 *  Emperiled National Sovereignty:  Open-border policy and its resulting mass migration is the thorn in the side of the West right now. It acts as the wide-scale resettlement of an uncapped number of individuals (in their millions) allegedly fleeing war-torn, poverty-ridden countries (otherwise classified as emerging countries, Third World). They are essentially relocated to Western countries, which are economically richer, deemed politically stable, and with a welfare system in place.

Migration is a spur-of-the-moment, open-door policy that prides itself in being unchartered - and seemingly unregulated. The modern day migrants are mostly driven, angry young Muslim men, wearing fashion attire and technology-equipped. They land upon our shores with an erased past, a low IQ, high expectations and no expressed desire to integrate. No proof of ID required (which would technically have them qualified as illegals or refugees except they're not), and not a penny to their name. I shall add:-

When you erase someone's history, you undress them from the riches and depths of family, tradition, heritage, culture, self-worth. You uproot them, cut the anchors. You isolate them from their true self. Someone without history is not free and grounded; they are transient in their body, mind and spirit, on a quest to find out their origins, their true self. When you erase their history, you are left with a blank canvas. You may rewrite it for them, remould it as you see fit. This doesn't serve the individual, it serves the global agenda, which is all about short-term memory, superficiality and transience.

This incentivised mass population relocation is coordinated by a plethora of super-connected NGOs and not-for-profits financed by benevolent philanthropic elite corporations and tax-exempt foundations (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, George Soros's MoveOn.Org and Open Societies Foundation, etc.). What have they in common? They are New World Order and work in unison for a global socio-economic and political model that will fathom a rootless, pastless and futureless populace living in the moment for the moment. Transience in all its grace and glory!

Dissected/ Distorted reality? Matrix LED Screen, via MoMA Store

This forced multi-culturalism of sorts that is being expedited under globalisation personifies transience in modern society. It shakes up by its very essence the host countries' fabric in terms of republican and religious values, national identity, safety, homogeneity and unity to the core. Regardless of political affiliation, one must admit that migration in its current high numbers is not sustainable, and neither is this extended transience in itself. Meanwhile the natives feel invisible and unheard as all sorts of eccentric demands are placed upon them by their increasingly undemocratic government, in order to force them to surrender their nation to the global agenda that lies ahead, as the EU is increasing its governance over our lives - and we have no word in edgeways on the matter.

"Man without history, culture, nation, family and civilisation is not free: he is naked and condemned to despair." - French Canadian sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté (translated from French)

P.S: Note the difference between migration and (legal) immigration. Legal immigrants move from their country of origin or residence to a new specific country where they settle down with their family. There is an immigration protocole for them to follow in order to become part of the local society: for example, visa, application for residence and Green Card if in America. On the other hand, migration is an open model of immigration without a roadmap or demand, uncommitted to responsibility, including that of integration, and who whimsically follows the pick-and-choose-a-country formula as it is presented to them. Migrants are the no-history, no-fixed-abode and no-fixed-destination travellers with the risks that such can bring: social misfits, drifters. Note the Houdini trick here: illegal immigration has been cleverly merged into migration. This legalises and legitimises illegals instantly and automatically (cf. Paradigm Shifts section).

P.P.S: Nomadic tribes are not technically classified as transient because their nomadism is a pillar of their society structure. They have a history, culture, way of life that revolves around travel, follows a specific habitual pattern, in relation to seasons, transhumance (seasonal migration of herds and humans from lowlands to the mountains), customs and traditions, availability of produce, and trade. Their nomadism is no aimless wander.

The steady unrelenting erosion of national sovereignty paves the way for globalism, a paragon of transience all to itself as its aim is to level down all countries to a pre-made model, where we will be formatted to think the same, speak the same, dress the same, live the same, behave the same and essentially be the same. This Orwellianism has become a feat of realism as it is already happening right before our very eyes.


Transience, Pillar of Modern Society is a 3-part series:  Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3


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