Best Island in the World Gets Better With New Aqua Boracay by yoo Resort Residences

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Ta-ta, Tahiti. Bite me, Bora Bora. See ya later, Santorini. The best island in the world is Boracay in the Philippines. There’s no point in arguing this fact. The well-traveled editors of Travel & Leisure magazine officially named Boracay the bomb last year, so you need to get there as fast as you can. And once you’re there, you’ll need a place to sleep. Someplace as lovely as the island itself. Lucky for you, that’s all sorted as well, as Aqua Boracay by yoo will soon its doors on the island, welcoming travelers to an environment of luxury, leisure, and probably some really fancy coffee. It’s the stuff of Monday morning daydreams, so check out some of its more screensaver-worthy features and start making plans.

First of all, the resort is nestled in one of the most beautiful parts of the island, with endless turquoise water on one side and a lush rain forest on the other. The four-story development features 134 apartments designed by yoo, a firm launched by property developer John Hitchcox and renowned designer Philippe Starck. Yes, that Starck, the designer responsible for everything from the late Francois Mitterand’s Paris apartment to my the $300 million yacht "A" to the Delano Hotel in Miami Beach. So clear your mind of visions of tacky beachfront condos with sand-colored carpets, malfunctioning ice machines, and sliding glass doors that always get stuck. This is the resort as work of art.

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Its location on Bulabog Beach means you can roll out of your bed (with zillion-threadcount sheets) and wake up with a dip in the ocean before breakfast. Every unit has top notch appliances, of course, as well as open-plan kitchens and living rooms. That means you can sashay (it’s the kind of place you sashay a lot) from your lounge chair on the balcony into the kitchen to refill your glass of  rosé, stopping by the living room to check out the news headlines from the rest of the world (the sucky parts) before resuming your study of the sunset.

Active types, or people who plan to be active one of these days, will appreciate a host of on-site watersports like windsurfing, kiteboarding, scuba, and snorkeling. There’s a clubhouse with swimming pools and a fancy restaurant. And there’s every kind of housekeeping and concierge service you could ever want. You know, the kinds of things that free up your time, and your mind, for thinking up the big ideas that got you there in the first place.

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So the deal with Aqua Boracay by yoo is that you can buy these nice residences–which start, amazingly enough, at about $270,000–and visit whenever you like, then rent it out as a hotel room the rest of the time. The hotel will be managed by yoo collection (apparently they don’t like capital letters, or maybe the shift key was busted), so you can expect a healthy stream of rental income wherever you happen to be. Units are on sale now, and the resort is slated to be up and running in 2014. 

So peruse the website, drool over the photos in the gallery, take a virtual tour (it’s like, whoah) and start planning your visit to the best island in the world. For more information, email info@yoo.com or call 44-20-7009-0100. See you on the beach.

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New York Opening: Mihoko’s 21 Grams

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As cinephiles were made aware in the eponymous 2003 Sean Penn vehicle, 21 grams is the purported "weight" of the soul. And if anyone can be trusted to have communed with the more enlightened self, it’s one who has taken to a ballet stage. And so the name of former ballerina-turned-philanthropist Mihoko Kiyokawa’s debut New York restaurant, Mihoko’s 21 Grams, suggests something far from quotidian.

For one, the French-Japanese cuisine (everything from king crab to foie gras torchon) at Mihoko’s 21Grams is startling underrepresented on the NYC dining scene. But designer and Philippe Starck’s associate Bruno Borrione has also created a spectacular space that marries aristocratic glamour and utter surrealism, with enigmatic projections, tromp l’oeil, and neoclassical columns that seem to appear out of nowhere. Like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Hyde Bellagio Grand Opening: the Ten-Fact Countdown

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With Las Vegas expecting record crowds this New Year’s weekend, Sin City must make room for its revelers. Cue: Hyde Bellagio.

Opening New Year’s Eve, this Italian villa-inspired new club overlooking the Fountains of Bellagio is the first nightlife venture in Las Vegas brought to you by designer Philippe Starck and sbe, the group behind LA’s The Abbey, Cleo, the SLS Hotels, and more. And with a day-to-night New Year’s Day celebration featuring an intimate performance by three-time Grammy Award-nominated DJ Paul Oakenfeld, Hyde Bellagio is off to a very good start. Ten-fact countdown, commence.
 
10. The Hyde’s signature cocktail: the Cucumber Watermelon Margarita. 
 
9.  It’s open nightly from 5pm-1am, and opens and closes extra late on Friday and Saturday, 11pm-4am. You could put it in a full workweek here. Partying is a full-time job. 
 
8. The club is 10,000 square feet. That’s as large as Jenny Craig’s house!
 
7. The wine menu includes 1,500 bottles from Bellagio’s award-winning wine program. Come thirsty. Leave…at some point.
 
6. The outdoor terrace is inspired by a Tuscan garden. Lined with olive trees and flanked with sumptuous sofas and an outdoor bar, here is your front-row view of the Fountains of Bellagio. Bring popcorn.
 
5. There’s a fireplace. In the salon.
 
4. Be vain without shame at the upper living room’s vanity-inspired bar. Made of high-gloss black carved wood, the bar features assorted artwork and photography.
 
3. A private study (for studying?) features more wood-covered walls with bookshelves (for reading?) and a desk where books, festival masks, and candles are up for sale, as well as history-filled trinkets left behind by the space’s previous owner.
 
2.  Drink and eat with small plate offerings from the Strip’s home-style, NY-native Tuscan restaurant Osteria del Circo. Kobe beef sliders and Ahi tuna taratar cones. Mmmm.
 
1. The club fits 714 people. That’s the entire population of Tuscola, Texas!

Hyde Bellagio Opening: the Ten-Fact Countdown

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With Las Vegas expecting record crowds this New Year’s weekend, Sin City must make room for its revelers.

 
Opening New Year’s Eve, this Italian villa-inspired new club overlooking the Fountains of Bellagio is the first nightlife venture in Las Vegas brought to you by designer Philippe Starck and sbe, the group behind LA’s The Abbey, Cleo, the SLS Hotels, and more. And with a day-to-night New Year’s Day celebration featuring an intimate performance by three-time Grammy Award-nominated DJ Paul Oakenfeld, Hyde Bellagio is off to a very good start. Ten-fact countdown, commence.
 
10. The Hyde’s signature cocktail: the Cucumber Watermelon Margarita. 
 
9.  It’s open nightly from 5pm-1am, and opens and closes extra late on Friday and Saturday, 11pm-4am. You could put it in a full workweek here. Partying is a full-time job. 
 
8. The club is 10,000 square feet. That’s as large as Jenny Craig’s house!
 
7. The wine menu includes 1,500 bottles from Bellagio’s award-winning wine program. Come thirsty. Leave…at some point.
 
6. The outdoor terrace is inspired by a Tuscan garden. Lined with olive trees and flanked with sumptuous sofas and an outdoor bar, here is your front-row view of the Fountains of Bellagio. Bring popcorn.
 
5. There’s a fireplace. In the salon.
 
4. Be vain without shame at the upper living room’s vanity-inspired bar. Made of high-gloss black carved wood, the bar features assorted artwork and photography.
 
3. A private study (for studying?) features more wood-covered walls with bookshelves (for reading?) and a desk where books, festival masks, and candles are up for sale, as well as history-filled trinkets left behind by the space’s previous owner.
 
2.  Drink and eat with small plate offerings from the Strip’s home-style, NY-native Tuscan restaurant Osteria del Circo. Kobe beef sliders and Ahi tuna taratar cones. Mmmm.
 
1. The club fits 714 people. That’s the entire population of Tuscola, Texas!

Las Vegas Preview: Hyde Bellagio

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Hyde Bellagio (Strip: Central) – Villa-inspired nightclub designed by Philippe Starck and sbe. Opens New Year’s Eve. Party Renaissance-style. 

When a Russian Billionaire’s Yacht Met Philippe Starck…

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The Wall Street Journal scores an exclusive look inside the seldom-seen exterior of a Russian billionaire’s mega-yacht. The boat is called “A” and it’s owned by Andrey Melnichenko, a guy who has made a ton of money in fertilizer. We’ve watched plenty an episode of Cribs, but this boat is whole new level of ridiculous.

To begin, the 394-foot vessel is designed by Philippe Starck, and its exterior lines conjure a military ship, but in shiny white, more than they do your average mega-yacht. Apparently, this has been very controversial in the yachting world.

Inside, there are lots of mirror and crystal things — classic Starck. Yeah, we’ve been to the Delano Hotel in Miami, we get it. The master bedroom has a sliding door that can only be opened via a fingerprint touchpad, and there’s a bathroom with $40,000 shower faucets.

Our favorite might be the guest room covered in white sting ray hides. Also, there’s a secret nookie room — how clever! The yacht boast three pools, including a special massage pool with “his and her” chairs for your young Russian model and you. There’s also a helipad, of course, and a special grassy area planted for the owner’s dog.

Industry Insiders: Nikki Sood, Bollywood Babe

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Like a West Coast subcontinental Le Cirque, Beverly Hills’ most legendary Indian restaurant, Gaylord, has shuttered its doors, only to pass the keys to the temple down to its cooler progeny. The result is Tanzore, Los Angeles’ most stylish paean to Bollywood chic and gourmet curried eats. The menu samples and mixes classic Indian flavors like a culinary Talvin Singh, blending with international styles and techniques to reinvent the concept of Indian plates. Nikki Sood, mastermind behind Tanzore’s gorgeous design and reinvention, waxes on the struggle to stake a claim in the LA food game, the courage to try something new, getting your eyebrows threaded and your hair did in Artesia, and the happiness (and sadness) of living life like a Hindi movie.

Tell me about yourself. My life is like an Indian movie. If you’ve ever watched one, you’ll know what I am talking about. My dad is from Delhi, India, and my mom is from Kenya, Africa, but she’s Indian. My parents had an arranged marriage in London, typical of Indians, and they were married in one week. They lived in London for over 17 years. They struggled, worked hard, and brought my sister and me to America for the hope that there would be better opportunities here. My dad sold his house in London and decided to move to L.A. for the “American Dream.” I grew up around the restaurant business, but it wasn’t fine dining Indian food, rather a popular fast food chain my dad became a franchisee of. His passion was great Indian restaurants, and he always wanted to own one; that’s where Gaylord’s came in the picture.

Was this your lifelong passion? I never dreamed that I would be running an Indian restaurant. I was just a girl who was very passionate about design, architecture, and anything related to art. I was also discovering my culture, born in London, raised in L.A., having a very traditional Indian household and balancing East and West. I realized that I could use my background of art and my Indian culture by incorporating my experiences in both at Tanzore.

The toughest part about your job? The challenge has been learning the business side of running a restaurant. Having been around the family business and discussing it almost every day has kept me level-headed and grounded enough to establish a good foundation for Tanzore where I run the day-to-day operations with two key managers, work on marketing and design, handle customer service, and continuously book special events, as well as plan my own, like our comedy night called “Indian Imports III.” My dad taught me that, as the owner, you have to wear all the hats to be successful.

Where do you eat out? Growing up, I would never eat sushi. There is no way I am eating raw fish. Lo and behold, I can’t get this little sushi restaurant out of my mind; the food is unbelievable. A friend of mine introduced Katsu-Ya 2 in Encino [not to be confused with Katsuya] to me, and it has become one of my favorites — except the fact that even though you make a reservation, you still have to wait an hour. Typical L.A., right? Other favorites are Mi Piace in Pasadena and The Little Door. What was the biggest challenge in convincing your parents to hand over the reigns of their legendary restaurant? The restaurant spent 17 years as Gaylord India Restaurant. Frankly I never really understood the name, but I learned that Gaylord’s was all over the world from Japan, Hong Kong, London, the States, and had a great following. Still growing up in L.A., I wasn’t going to be caught dead there with my girlfriends on a Saturday night for drinks. I was scouting hotter L.A. places, but always wished that there was a cool, hip Indian restaurant in town. After years of traveling with my parents and having my dad show me some great Indian restaurants in London, I had this idea of changing the old Gaylord’s into something fabulous, fresh, and distinctive. It took four years of convincing, discussions, and disagreements with my parents. Let alone we needed time to save enough money to create this vision and dream we had. In the end, my dad was very supportive, and he let my creative visions be explored hand-in-hand with the architect. He included me in most of the decision-making for Tanzore. I was able to use my MFA in graphic design and pursue creating an identity for the restaurant. I was convinced that it was the way to go and we would be the first and best modern Indian restaurant L.A. has to offer. That’s what I hoped for.

Who do you admire in your industry? Philippe Starck is an amazing designer from restaurant interiors to impressive innovative furniture designs.

What is one trend that you love in L.A. dining? I admire those restaurants taking a leap and doing something different, whether it’s creating a new style of food, a cutting-edge design, or pushing the envelope. I think there is this world of creativity out there, and if you are lucky, you can have a chance of pursuing it.

Trends that drives you crazy? The “L.A. Scene.” It’s a tough nut to crack. You can’t be too in, or you’re already out.

Something that people don’t know about you? I am absolutely crazy about music, and I was blessed with having my grandmother live with me. Growing up, she taught me Hindi so I could at least speak and understand it. I absolutely have no clue how to read or write it. That being said, I love Indian Bollywood music, trance, and dance music.

What’s your favorite song? It changes all the time, but for now I would say, “Jai Ho,” by A.R. Rahman, from Slumdog Millionaire. Where can we get a strong shot of Indian culture in L.A.? You’re not talking about the local 7 Eleven, right? Try Artesia at Pioneer Boulevard or Little India on a Saturday is the best place to get a sense of Indian culture. You can enjoy some small plates of savory dishes and street food like chaat papdri, samosas, or pani puri; buy some nice bindis; get your eyebrows shaped; catch a three-hour long Indian movie with all the singing, drama, and dancing; purchase a beautiful, colorful Indian sari that your girlfriends won’t stop talking about, and maybe even try on gold jewelry. If you don’t feel like leaving your house, rent a Bollywood movie like Kabhi Kushi Khabhi Ghum — translated to “Sometimes There Is Sadness and Sometimes There Is Happiness” — and you’ll get a glimpse of the culture.

Has Tanzore been popular with those crazy celebrities? We’ve had all kinds of celebrities: Mayor Antonio Villagrosa was here with a group of guests this past weekend. Will.i.am attending as well. Diane Lane, Josh Brolin, Danny DeVito, Latoya Jackson, Zach Braff, Sendhid Ramamurthy, Gulshan Grover, Ravi Kapoor, Meera Simhani, Clifton Davis, Shar Jackson, and the cast of Cold Case. My favorite is Randy Jackson. He is so down to earth and loves our food.

What are you doing tonight? If I’m not working at the restaurant, then I’m home with my two boys, Shaan and Ahren, doing my second-hardest job.

Industry Insiders: Avi Brosh, Hip Hotelier

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Having made a name for himself as a developer, Avi Brosh found a hole to fill in hospitality, responding with his hyper-cool West Hollywood hotel Palihouse and succeeding where none had before in making LAX-adjacent Westchester hop with his Custom Hotel. This creative spirit expands on his years of hard work, present trials and travels, and dreams for the future.

Where do you hang out? I go to The Hall Courtyard Brasserie at Palihouse Holloway. It has the absolute best vibe and crowd in LA. I also love the street Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, where there are several great neighborhood restaurants and bars I go to frequently. I’m in New York at least five to ten days a month, and every time I’m there I always seem to manage my way, at some point, to this gorgeous little bar in Tribeca called Smith & Mills. I love that place, but they only take cash — which I pretty much never have on me — so I’m always bumming drinks from whomever I’m there with.

Who in your business do you admire? I vividly remember walking into the lobby of the Paramount Hotel in New York City in 1990 and my jaw literally dropping. I’d never seen a place — not to mention a hotel — like that before. The early Philippe Starck-Ian Schrager collaborations completely changed the hotel landscape, so I have a very high regard for them for doing that. In addition, I would add that I have a tremendous amount of respect for just about anyone who has the courage, audacity, and wherewithal to actually develop unique buildings and/or open independent hotels, because I know firsthand how unbelievably difficult that is to do.

What do you like in the hospitality industry these days? Authenticity is the positive trend for just about everything relating to travel and lodging. When people travel these days, they want to see people just as much as they want to see places. At the core of this attitude is a desire to stylishly — and cost-effectively — experience destinations all that much more authentically through the eyes of a local.

Anything you dislike? I think the whole notion of gigantic, corporate hotel companies and chains trying to manufacture cool, boutique, sub-brands is kind of bogus. It’s the complete opposite of the notion of authentic.

What don’t we know about you? People who don’t know me seem to have this perception that, as a fairly well-known developer and now hotelier, I might be loud or flashy, but I’m actually rather reserved and private.

Your hotels always have good music in the air. What is your all-time favorite album? I’m into bands like Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Yelle, and LCD Soundsystem. If I had to single out one all-time favorite album, I’d have to pick My Aim is True by Elvis Costello. In terms of sense of style in music, I think Pharell Williams is by far the coolest.

What do your future plans involve? To make it through this nasty recession as unscathed as possible. We currently have projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New York City. My number-one focus is to continue to carefully and stylishly grow the “by Palisades” residential brands and the Palihouse and Palihouse spin-off hospitality brands in the best locations in the best cities in the United States and Canada, and then around the world.

Icons: Phillipe Starck, The Big Bang

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Having placed his signature touch on everything from the interiors of hotels like the Delano and the Mondrian to toothbrushes and motorcycles, Philippe Starck, France’s Zen master of the modern, diversifies into New York rental apartments, underwear and the first sightseeing shuttle into outer space.

Philippe Starck may be known for a very particular, lofty aesthetic that has defined an era of überchic luxury, but personally, he is not at all fussy. Built like a rugby player, dressed today in jeans, a T-shirt and a motorcycle jacket, he looks more like a rock legend or a fashion photographer than an interiors maven. He speaks volubly, passionately, heavily French-accented, his gray-green eyes earnest and curious. Meeting in a suite of Dwell95, a New York apartment building where he’s been hired to give the entire complex his signature surreal fantasy gloss of gallery-white walls, fine fixtures and Austrian crystal chandeliers, he stands to shake hands, then hastens to sit at the one clear plastic chair placed at the meeting table. “I always have to be on the seat I designed,” he says, a twinkle in his eyes.

You’ve said that when you design, you pay more attention to what isn’t there than what is. Does that mean you might look at a space and say, This needs more fun? I never think that intent of the design or the architecture of the design is important, if you consider design to be just steel, wood, concrete, metal, glass and plastic. The real intent is to create a scenario or a set where people will feel better, where they can upgrade their lives. For that, you don’t need to use architecture. You just make use of a vibration… it’s like a perfume in the air, a management of energy. It includes poetry, humor, surrealism, all of that in a very strong vision. And this vision is mainly about our mutation, because we evolve every minute. As a people, it is our duty to evolve, to work, to be aware, to think and to dream. That’s why if I continue to make a hotel, or an apartment building, it’s not because I love architecture. It’s because it’s the best place to move people, to shake people, to surprise them. For me, it’s purely a political weapon. Maybe it’s not the best one, because if you want to be political, it’s better to be a politician, to sing a song or to make a movie. I try to express political ideas through design. It’s a lot more complicated to do this. But it’s my cross.

Which of your projects do you feel are the more iconic ones? For me, it’s always about the next one. Because once a project is past, I see how I was lazy, weak, venal, cynical or stupid. I always hope that the next will be the best. And strangely, it is. So, why we are here today is very important, because Joe Moinian, developer of Dwell95, has commissioned, with the same quality and creativity, the same type of building with apartments that were once sold for millions of dollars, but now you can rent one. It fits perfectly with what we need today, because we don’t know the economy of tomorrow. When you don’t know these things, you must stay light in movement.

Of all that this building has — including a Delano-like roof deck, a state-of-the-art gym and concierge — what’s your favorite feature? Could it be the complimentary breakfast available to all tenants? I love this idea! Deeply, I love this idea. It’s always fun to have a free ready breakfast. But, for me, it’s a symbol that says, Hey, you are home. It’s your home. You’re there with your mum, who has prepared a breakfast. And that’s a strong statement to make for a building in the U.S., in New York, on Wall Street, which is so menial, so dry, so much about drive and stress. Here is someone saying, “Here, your breakfast is ready.” It’s a very strong icon.

Speaking of amenities, you’re the creative director of Virgin Galactic, which is preparing to launch brief flights into the stratosphere in 2009. What stylistic details will be enjoyed by people traveling in outer space? Oh, the rocket? I have spoken a lot about it with Richard Branson, and I was thinking at the beginning to give people a small bag with a lot of things in it, but then I realized that I won’t be doing that. Because you will be out of the earth, lost in the space, wearing a spacesuit we have designed, which is almost nothing. You will be naked in the middle of nowhere, with no gravity. You are just to see our world, to understand its dimension, and how it is so small. So when one person recently asked me, “Shall I bring my iPod?” I said, I love iPods. I have twelve iPods. But, if you are somewhere out in space, I think you can be alone with yourself.

Genius physicist and A Brief History of Time author Stephen Hawking is scheduled to be on this first shuttle flight into space with you. What sort of small talk do you think you’ll be making with him? I do have one question for him: I want to check if I understand that he did indeed write that before the big bang, there was God. I want to check if he really thinks that, if one of the most intelligent people alive in our world today continues to be a believer. I cannot accept this idea.

The big bang makes me think of your own creative explosion — over the years, you’ve designed baby bottles, glasses, sailboats, watches, lemon juicers, a line of underwear called Starck Naked and much more…you’ve described your creative process as making your mind the printer of your subconscious. It’s the only way to work. Today, the power of marketing is so strong. If you work with your consciousness, then you are in the mainstream of thinking. How can you have a fresh, original idea with this incredible weight on your shoulders? The subconscious speaks less, but never lies. Consciousness speaks a lot, but always lies. That’s why my wife and I lead a different kind of life. We live far from everything, in small cabanas, with no electricity, no water, no cars. We don’t watch TV, we don’t go to the movies. We just read literature. It gives us time and energy to have perhaps, I hope, a different creative vision. We make it our duty to bring fresh, new, useful ideas to our tribe.

According to what you’ve said in the past, the best way to feed your creativity is with sleep and with sex. Yes, yes, yes. To feed your subconscious, the best thing is to fill it with diversity, and this is not about knowing what is the new Porsche. It’s better to know what is the best orgasm of your wife. You must try to understand everything, and that’s why sex is very important, because everything is sex. It’s not the only one barometer.

With all that you’ve created, is there any stone left unturned? Do you wake up and look at things around you and say, This toothbrush could be better? This frying pan? Everything. Ev-ery-thing. Everything I’ve done, I’m ashamed of. I repeat. That’s why I continue to work, because I hope that it will be better. But I have no design dream. I have dreams for new concepts, for new action, new political action, new subversion, new rebellion. But it’s mainly more and more conceptual, and hopefully less and less material.

You’ve said that the BlackBerry was not well designed. How would you redesign it? Darling, I have no more telephone. I am not interested in having one. The BlackBerry is perfect. The iPhone is perfect. I don’t need either.

How do people get in touch with you? They are not in touch with me. Some people know the number of my wife. But the idea of people sending me e-mails all day, speaking all the day? Ah! No more telephone! It’s done. It’s out of my mind.

Since you’ve usually got three hundred projects going at once, I was going to ask how many e-mails you get a day. Me, zero, because I have no computer. Mine is a very strange company. It’s a sort of abstract miracle. And it’s because I work alone, naked, at the kitchen table, in front of the sea at my oyster farm in Bordeaux. I am five feet from the water, the mud, the oysters. Because of this, I can focus deeply on the work. My team is the same team I’ve had for 25 years. They know me, they are friends. I send the work out to them, and that’s all, it’s done.

Your method sounds like an incredible luxury. But it’s a life of work to organize this sort of abstraction, to live in a crystal bubble — a productive crystal bubble.

Photo by Victoria Will.