Friday, December 28, 2007

bondage made beautiful

This Christmas, I received a most beautiful and interesting gift from a dear friend – a metal handcuff (below, left) from Dolce & Gabbana's Fall 2007 Collection.

I love it tremendously – even if I am not into bondage or S&M. In the creative world of advertising where I exist, edgy accessories are perfectly acceptable, if not expected.

Bondage is a recurring theme in fashion. Remember when Elizabeth Hurley (Hugh Grant's ex) stole the show at the UK premiere of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' in a Versace bondage dress? Way before that, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood successfully incorporated the bondage concept into punk fashion.

Dolce & Gabbana's latest campaign (below) features sexy young dominatrixes (wearing metallic bondage belts) forcing their half-naked male subjects into submission.

How such a concept can successfully seduce people is a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe, we are all secret sadists, masochists – or both. Come to think of it, we all feel pleasure when our enemies endure pain. And each of us will sometimes choose to suffer through a challenge than to be bored by ease.

(Top, right) Bondage Bear: The metallic silver bear which I've tied to a metal post is Series 11's Artist Bearbrick based on Naoki Urasawa's 'Monster', a Japanese anime produced by Studio Nuts. The bloody message on its chest (in German) is a cry for freedom: 'Help! The monster in me will explode!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


It's holiday season once again! Because I'm too lazy to decorate a tree, I always keep Christmas trimmings to a minimum. Thanks to the Crate and Barrel stuff which I got from NYC years ago, it only takes me ten minutes to spread cheer around the condo.

Since my place has a neutral color palette, the red accents make a huge difference.

Of course, the 2002 Santa & Snowman Bearbricks (top) are on display. These two are my friend Jun's favorite bears. I remember when I was sorting out my collection, I asked him which ones he liked the most. After checking out each of the 440+ pieces, he pointed out the two Christmas Bearbricks you see above. I asked him why. He replied, 'Because for me, they're the happiest Bearbricks of all.'

Merry Christmas, my dear friends
! :-D

Monday, December 17, 2007

ghosts of war

During our recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam, our tour guide took us to two historical places of interest. The first was the War Remnants Museum, an exhibit too painful and disturbing for words. The second was the Reunification Palace (below, left) which housed the President of non-Communist South Vietnam during the war.

Hidden beneath the Palace was the 'War Room', an underground operations / telecommunications center. As I walked through its winding corridors and peeked at rows of deserted rooms filled with rusty teletypewriters (below), radio equipment, topographical maps, desks, etc., I felt claustrophobic. At that point, I realized how poorly I would fare in times of war. Ten minutes in that place and I wanted to run!

After the tour, one of our companions (a clairvoyant of a woman) blurted, 'I saw a ghost down there... sleeping on... remember the small couch?' After a short chilly silence, everyone screamed!

Soldiers practically lived in those rooms for years. In fear. And I believe, in hope. Many of them died before the war ended in 1975. Today, they continue to haunt the halls of the Reunification Palace. In the same way, memories of war will forever haunt those who survived.

The BWWT 2 Military Be@rbrick (top) is by Frank Kozik (right), a famous graphic/toy designer from San Francisco, who created concert posters for bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers. His most popular toys are the Smorkin' Labbits, cigarette-puffing bunnies that have become vinyl toy classics.

Pic of soldiers from the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii Website / Reunification Palace pic from / Teletypewriter room pic by me / Kozik pic from

Thursday, December 6, 2007

monkey business

Two weeks ago, I traveled for three hours to Subic Bay, a beautiful port district north of Manila. I went there for the 20th Philippine Advertising Congress, a four-day biennial event that celebrated and awarded the country's best ads. Our agency, PC&V, won two trophies which made the long, out-of-town trip worthwhile for me. :-)

During one of the breaks in between guest speakers (which included writer Neil Gaiman), I went for a short drive along the bay. Aside from being bound by beaches, the place is known as a wildlife sanctuary of sorts. As a matter of fact, I passed by an area where monkeys roamed freely. Some of them swung on trees and electrical wires while others cavorted by the side of the road.

Then. I. Spotted. Two. Naughty. Ones. Doin the nasty! :-D So I whipped out my Canon Ixus 950IS and stole a shot.

On the way back to Manila, I showed the picture to an award-winning art director-friend. He quipped, "That will make a nice billboard for a motel." Then we both laughed. I took his cue and made a layout. Complete with a headline and the logo of the Philippines' most famous motel chain. Just for fun. ;-) The result is right below.

Do you think it can win an award at the next Philippine Advertising Congress? LOL

The Monkey Be@rbricks at the top are: (left) the Cute Be@rbrick of Series 5 & (right) the Monkey Bearbrick from the Medicom Toy Fan Club.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

electric shock!

I usually sleep while my driver weaves his way through the daily traffic. However, last Monday, I found myself keenly observing the street life along our route. It must have been the two cups of coffee I had for breakfast.

There were the usual elements of my morning ride – busy roads, crowded sidewalks, etc. Nothing extraordinary.

Until I saw a dead cat lying on a pavement, its legs stiff and outstretched.

The poor thing had a puddle of blood under its head, suggesting that it fell from above. So I looked up to see where that could be.

I saw an electrical post, with multiple wires that crisscrossed like spider webs, much like the ones on the right. The kitty probably suffered a high-voltage surge before it crashed to the ground!

As we drove on, I was shocked to see countless identical posts along the way. Tall, grotesque structures – what eyesores! How come I never noticed how they looked before?

Then an old saying came to mind: "What you see everyday, you no longer see."

In fact, it took a dead cat for me to realize how badly some communities need a safer and more modern electrical infrastructure. I wonder what it will take for local authorities to wake up and see this problem. 100,000 volts, perhaps?

(Top, left) The Series 4 Horror Be@rbrick, released in 2002, was the first 'glow-in-the-dark' Bearbrick ever released.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

dreadful dogs

I didn't like dogs when I was a kid.

Our entire neighborhood kept them solely for security. Most were caged or tied to a post, and released at night to keep out burglars. One family had a particularly vicious German Shepherd. We had to walk stealthily every time we passed by their house for fear that it might break loose. I actually discovered how fast I could run when it jumped against wrought iron gates, towards me, with its frightening fangs in full view.

When I was in Grade 6, a classmate's mother died because of a bite from a rabid mongrel. That fact that she had to suffer multiple needle injections (ouch!) before she succumbed to the rabies virus was the clincher for us kids, especially me – I was never going to like dogs for the rest of my life.

Until many years later.

I was in a mall with a friend, and we chanced upon a pet shop window with the most adorable puppies on earth. I told myself, 'These aren't killers, they're nice little... toys!' Cute toys that breathed, jumped, barked, ate and pooped. (Later, I found out how fun and easy it was to give the dog a bath – I simply placed it under the faucet with one hand like I was washing a coffee mug.)

How did I overcome my fear of dogs? I got myself a cute one to love. :-)

(Top) Petrified Duo: The 2002 Toycon Bearbricks were created by award-winning Hong Kong designer Colan Ho and are part of a series of six (6).

(Kenzo Comic Strip by me, made with Comic Life Software for Macs.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

the dark, dark world of h.r. giger

Do you know H.R. Giger, the creator of the most famous alien in Hollywood? His slimy, egg-laying monster (below) in the 1979 Sigourney Weaver sci-fi flick is the most ingenious and horrifying one I've seen so far.

Do you know that he also designed the cover of Debbie Harry's 'Kookoo' CD (left), producing an image so psychologically perturbing that it was banned from London's Underground years ago? In Japan, her single from this album made use of a less unnerving picture on its sleeve.

Have you heard of the magnificently macabre Giger Bars that he conceived and built in Switzerland? Spine-like buttresses, skull-encrusted furniture, and warped biomorphic shapes adorn their dim interiors. Just look at the pictures I've posted here – you can almost imagine the walls begin to move. (Right: That's Giger at the door of his bar in Chur, Switzerland.)

I'm quite sure that creatives all over the world have seen some form of his multi-faceted art. After all, Giger has dabbled in film, painting, sculpture, illustration, architecture, interior design, furniture design, graphic design and jewelry design. He even fashioned a special microphone stand for Jonathan Davis, lead singer of the rock band, Korn (below)!

Technically taut. Psychologically profound. Giger art is the best kind of art, if you ask me. :-)

The White Giger Artist Bearbrick (top) is part of Series 12. There is a black version, fyi.

(H.R. Giger pics/info from

Saturday, November 3, 2007

elephants in bangkok

Before I flew to Bangkok, Thailand for a 4-day Halloween vacation, I packed my Series 12 Animal Be@rbrick, a mini representation of an elephant carrying an apple at the end of its trunk.

You see, I meant to take a nice pic of it within the capital, as the elephant is a very important symbol of the Kingdom of Thailand. During the 18th century Thai-Burmese war, the King rode it to fight for his country's honor and glory. Since then, it has been acknowledged as an animal suited only for royal duties. In fact, a white elephant in particular is a gift fit for a king, and for him to acquire one is supposed to bring prosperity and happiness to his entire kingdom. It is customary for a monarch to own many (even as much as nineteen white elephants) during his reign.

Years ago, domesticated elephants in Bangkok were commonplace and served as an attraction to Western tourists that were hungry for exotic imagery. But many accidents and complaints later, the law prohibited them from entering the city.

Today, the most visible elephant around is the Tuk Chang (Elephant Tower) in the Chatuchak district. See pic below. The yellow protrusion on the right is supposed to be the tusk. It's easy to spot the eye and the ear, of course. However, the thick trunk isn't very recognizable. Nevertheless, I give it high marks for 'effort'. A multi-storey concrete elephant – not many builders will even bother to come up with a idea as 'big' as this!

(Elephant building pic and info from Elephant info from &

Sunday, October 28, 2007

a bloody feast

The Dracula Be@rbrick (above) is part of Universal Studios' five-piece set of 'Movie Monsters'. When I first saw it, I thought, 'Since when has Dracula become so cute?' I grew up having childhood nightmares from watching vampire movies, you know.

But I guess that's how things are – what used to be frightening can now be viewed as fun. Consider this: A horror cafe – complete with goth waitresses, coffin chairs and spooky snacks. Entitled 'Tommy Cafe', this dining concept was designed by Noda Nagi, a Japanese creative trendsetter who has been making waves in the advertising/music video scene. (She has done a campaigns for Coca Cola and Nike, music videos for Scissor Sisters and Yuki, and short films for retailer Franc Franc, among others.)

Check out the Sid Vicious tomb cake, buried cake, fish pancake with raisin muck, and bloody bone pastries.

Yuck or yum? The creator's friends try the bloodcurdling feast.

I say death is a very scary thing, but remembering the dead on the eve of October 31st can be quite a scream. :-D

Happy Halloween, guys!

(Horror cafe pics and coffin background from the Noda Nagi Website.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

dr. romanelli's cure for the cold

Dr. Romanelli or Darren Romanelli can't cure the sick, but he can definitely offer anyone relief from the cold.

He designs and manufactures jackets – and I'm not just talking about ordinary jackets. I mean... lookit these customized bombers below! Aren't they hot?

The back details are something else. For me, they score an A+++ for form and function.

Tasteful color combinations are accented with striking hues!

The question is, of course, the price. I bet these are gonna cost you...

Dr. Romanelli's retail space cum gallery in Los Angeles called 181 Martel carries the wonderful products you find on his website. But you will also find DRx goods at selected stores around the globe (Paris, Geneva, Berlin, Melbourne, New York, Tokyo, Vancouver, Seoul, London, Sydney, Honolulu, Boston, San Francisco and Hong Kong).

A great deal of the stuff are collaborations with known brands such as Nike (jackets, sweaters, shoes), Looney Tunes (custom toys, streetwear), and Jaeger le Coultre timepieces (jackets with built-in custom wristwatches – which Madonna wears). Aside from designing street fashion, the University of Oregon graduate also creates marketing campaigns (Disney, Fox, Warner Brothers) and manages a LA rock band (Ima Robot).

With a list of credits like that, I bet Dr. Romanelli is always on 24-hour duty.

The newly-released Dr. Romanelli SF Be@rbrick is part of Series 14. Its design is adapted from the scrub suit costume that Romanelli designed for Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird.

(Jacket pics / info from

Friday, October 19, 2007

mighty steps to follow, big shoes to fill

Last October 6, I drove through a seemingly deserted city to join my family for Sunday brunch at the new Bonifacio High Street shopping strip. When I arrived at our meeting place, I noticed that it was similarly empty, save for one big restaurant which was packed like a German pub during an Oktoberfest. It was the place where we decided to eat.

You see, it was the day of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Marco Antonio Barrera World Boxing Championship Rematch. Everyone at the restaurant was glued to the big TV screen where the fight was telecast. Meanwhile, the rest of the country stayed at home to watch, unwilling to miss the bout of the year even for a minute.

Will Mexican challenger Barrera, badly beaten during the first encounter, finally find the strength to defeat Filipino titleholder Pacquiao?

What an exciting lunch it was! We were treated to red-sauce rigatoni, crisp pizza, fresh whole wheat sourdough, blended cheeses, meaty stews... and an overwhelming show of Filipino power, agility, endurance and fighting spirit. Swear, I was teary-eyed for a brief moment – in between punches and pizza bites.

Manny Pacquiao. Filipino. Champion.

Later, as we were walking back to our cars, I spotted a billboard of Pacquiao (left) on the facade of the Nike Flagship Store. I immediately brought out my Canon IXUS 950 and took a shot. Below his image was a line from the Philippine national anthem which read: "Ang mamatay nang dahil sa 'yo." In English, it meant, "To die for you."

For a nation in search of a hero, it was one glorious day.

(Top) The Treadbear Bearbrick is part of the 2003 Bearforce One Series, a group of ten (10) Be@rbricks designed by Nike.

Monday, October 15, 2007

the real spidey saves the day!

News Flash: Real Spiderman Be@rbrick (right) finally arrived to save would-be buyers of the fake Spidey (left).

News Flashback: (June 2007) A reader wrote me to say how happy he was with his brand new Spiderman Be@rbrick which he snatched up in Singapore. But routine investigation proved there existed no such Marvel-licensed bear at the time. (In fact, the real one was released only last September 2007.)

In the end, I took the burden of telling him that his prized acquisition was a fake. The bad news left him very distraught – I felt it in his e-mail. Couldn't blame him – it was the very first Be@rbrick that he bought! :-(

Postscript: The fake Spidey is not only available in retail stores around Asia, it is also traded online – I've seen a lot on eBay. Consider yourself warned!

Related Stories: The Case Of The Bogus Be@rbrick / Part 1 & Part 2.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

a fetish for fishnet

After the brouhaha over Oscar Dela Hoya's alleged tranny pics, I can't help but think: What's the big deal?

Cross-dressing is more common than most people think:

1. In Greek mythology, Achilles (the hero of the Trojan War) dressed up as a girl in the court of Lycomedes to keep himself safe.

2. In The Odyssey, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, often came to the aid of people disguised as a man.

3. Joan of Arc, a French heroine and a Catholic saint, was burned at the stake after being convicted by a religious court. Her dressing up in male clothing was cited as one of the principal reasons for her execution.

4. Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, an early 19th century French novelist who is better known as George Sand, preferred to wear men's clothing exclusively.

5. William Shakespeare made substantial use of cross-dressing for his literary female characters. A lot of his heroines wore masculine clothing in order to carry out certain tasks. In Twelfth Night, for example, Viola disguised herself as Cesario in order to find employment.

6. All roles in Japanese Noh dramas are traditionally played by male actors.

7. Likewise, since it was illegal for women to perform in theaters in Renaissance England, men took over women's roles.

8. In China, a famous cross-dressing opera singer is Mei Lanfang.

9. Rock sensation Marilyn Manson cross-dressed his way to fame and fortune.

10. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the American band, Nirvana allegedly wore women's clothes at home and on stage.

11. And then there was Boy George.

12. In some parts of the world, men wear skirts called kilts.

13. I just saw an antiperspirant ad on TV featuring guys dressed up as cheerleaders.

14. What were traditionally men's clothes – pants, vests, and blazers, etc. – are now ordinarily worn by women. Even oversized men's watches on ladies' wrists are considered chic!

It's possible that one day, 'unisex' will be the operative word. And Dela Hoya will have the last... giggle!

The 'Glow-in-the-Dark' Madness Be@rbrick (top, left) is by Nexus VII, the next generation streetwear brand from Japan. The goods are available at R*izm, the Nexus VII flagship store in Tokyo. / Dela Hoya pic (top, right) is from / Info from Wikipedia

Saturday, October 6, 2007

be@rbook bonus!

Someone asked me once, "Is there a website where one can find a complete list of Be@rbricks?"

Yes, there is. Check out Toysdorado. It's a site for collectors that's updated regularly. But don't be disappointed with the small pics and the lack of editorial content – it is strictly an online database.

For bigger pics, grab hold of the 10th Aniversary Be@rbook (below, right), a complete documentation of all the bears produced from 1996 to 2006. A veritable bible for Be@rbrick lovers.

Bearbook Bonus: The collectible 10th Anniversary Be@rbrick, a star-spangled bear which I photographed between the book's pages (top, left).

When it comes to Be@rbrick info, the Be@rbook provides the basics. But for a geeky blogger like me, knowledge is found not only in between book covers, it is learned everyday – from long hours of surfing the Web to short trips to the toy stores, from endless chats with other toy geeks to quick peeks at their toy collections.

But if only for the FREE Be@rbrick, I am looking forward to the next Be@rbook!

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Damn! The atmosphere was hot and tense during our tv commercial shoot. For some reason, the cameraman couldn't keep a sharp focus on the basketball player who was doing dunk shots. After the nth take, the director got pissed, shouted expletives in the vernacular (?!*#??) then threw his microphone at the tv monitor!

What is it about basketball that makes men go ballistic? Fouls result in bad behavior. Wrong calls end in fist fights. And now, even shooting an action-packed basketball scene drives advertising directors crazy!

Must be the free flow of testosterone, the male hormone responsible for physical energy. The very substance that drives a man to 'lose it'.

Ironically, it's the same one that pushes him to win. :-)

(Left to right) Basketball players / advertising models Ram Sagad and Marx Topacio show us some hardcourt attitude.

The Basketball Be@rbrick (top, left) is from the Nike Bearforce One Series, a promotional set of 10 that was released in 2003. Through the years, Nike has been regularly producing Be@rbricks to boost sales. Fortunately, their designs are quite imaginative and clever, unlike some promoters who simply slap on their logo on the bear. Nice job, Nike! :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

reinventing love

At JWT Manila, the advertising agency where I used to work back in '97, Art Directors took a test before they were hired. One of the test problems (sort of) went like this:

'The heart has been the symbol of love for as long as we can remember – aren't you bored with it? Go ahead, design a new icon to take its place.'

Interesting exercise, wasn't it?

Just yesterday, we shot a television advertisement where we featured newlyweds. Similarly, the challenge for us was how to portray these clichèd characters in a new way.

Check it out below: we went for a wedding couple with a hipper style. Long hair, canvas shoes and a Vespa for him. A hiked up skirt and a tomboyish straddle on the bike for her. No guests throwing rice. No wedding cake. No white doves.

In my opinion, the principles of advertising are like the laws of love –

One, you simply can't bore the consumer – you have to continually reinvent the product to keep it exciting.

Two, a strategy is mandatory – you must plan to make it work.

And three, creative execution is key – from the setting, to the music, to the script/conversation, to the costumes – everything must be perfect!

(Hmmm, come to think of it, there is life after advertising for me... marriage counseling! :-D)

The 2006 Valentine Be@rbrick (top, right) is one of the few that come with a 50% size bear. The heart symbol on its chest has been modified to include an @ symbol. Why? Here's my take on it.

Models: Century Tuna Superbods Runners-up JC Tiuseco & Mica Tuaño assisted by Make-up Artist Effie Go

Monday, September 17, 2007

the case of the bogus be@rbrick / part 2

I was leafing through a local fashion magazine when something familiar caught my eye. There it was, hanging across the bare chest of a young, sassy-looking model named Jake Cuenca was a bearbrick (see Bench Underwear print ad below)!

I knew, of course, that there existed no such bear on a chain, and closer scrutiny proved that it was a fake! The rounded hands and feet, the big ears, and the small ribcage were clear indications. Check out my earlier post, 'The Case of the Bogus Be@rbrick / Part 1', for other telltale signs.

Lately, bootleg bearbricks like these seem to be proliferating – I've seen quite a few attached to manbags, keychains and even mobile phone straps!

Don't get me wrong, I don't detest these little imitations. In fact, they're not at all bad-looking. But a fake is still a fake. There's no thrill in owning one, if you ask me. :-)

At the topmost left is the original Series 1 U.S. Flag Be@rbrick, which I shot against a map of the New York City subway system. It was one of the first bears I bought. Back then, I was still clueless about fakes – so I guess I was lucky it was for real.