Monday, April 30, 2007

be@rbrick @ love

@ love.

If I were to make sense of that statement on the bear's chest (left), it would be this:

Being '@ love', to me, suggests an extrinsic geographical position: at the center of romance, but not necessarily being truly involved in it; being 'in love', however, describes an intrinsic feeling, heartfelt and genuine. In short, '@ love' may be the same as 'being in love with love', a condition that plagues most incurable romantics. Tell me what you think. :-)

The said Bear is one of two '07 Valentine Be@rbricks' that I acquired last February. I photographed it against the sheet music of 'Romance' Opus 44, No. 1 by Anton Rubinstein (right), Jewish/Russian pianist, composer and conductor born in 1829. As a pianist, Rubinstein was considered the closest rival of Hungarian Franz Liszt. Amongst Rubinstein's more famous works are the opera The Demon, his Piano Concerto No. 4, and his Symphony No. 2, entitled The Ocean.

He died in Peterhof in 1894, after years of suffering a heart disease. How heartbreaking!

(Rubinstein pic from Wikipedia.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

chill out be@rbrick

Chill Out Tip: Cool down with the completely transparent Jellybean Be@rbrick of Series 12 (right). Just drop it in a glass of iced water and admire its shiny, colorless surface amidst the ice cubes. What for? Just silly Brrrrrrbrick fun. :-)

Chill Out Trip: Fly to Boracay, a four and a half kilometer stretch of fine white sand and crystal clear waters in the Philippines (below).

There, get yourself a cool tropical drink and laze the hours away.

Expect an exotic mix of local and international cuisine, drunken parties from sunset to sunrise, and gorgeous tanned bodies sashaying up and down the beach. For me, it's the 'coolest' place to be in this part of the world. Its attraction is mainly due to the proximity of the hotels, restos, cafes, clubs and bars to the water's edge. One always feels close to where the action is!

J, a friend from KL who has been to both Phuket and Bali says, "I'll take Boracay anytime!"

(Boracay pics from Boracay Travel Information Guide. Check out the Boracay event calendar. More pics here.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

bear as black as soot

This semi-transparent Be@rbrick with a billowy black pattern was designed by a Brooklyn-based artist known in the designer toy community as West One. A rare bear with only 1.08% availability, it was released two years ago as part of Series 10.

I decided to feature it now because I recently saw the paintings of my other artist friend, Popo San Pascual, and they reminded me so much of this bear. They were called the Wig Series, which Popo said were inspired by the swirling lines of curly hair.

When I looked closely at one painting, I noticed that the strokes were far too smooth to have been made by a brush. The artist later revealed to me that it was a 'candle soot' painting.

Picture this: He fastened his canvas onto the ceiling, lit a paraffin candle, and slowly moved the burning wick across the blank surface, creating soft circular strokes of black soot.

"Wouldn't that fade?" I asked him. He answered, "I've sprayed it with varnish..."

Personally, I liked the stark color scheme, and the fact that it was mainly black. Like red, it's a color that almost never fails to make a strong – and lasting – impression.

Friday, April 20, 2007

from hardcourt animal to hardwood art

From the Nike Bear Force One Series comes... the Woody Be@rbrick!

Question: 'What does Nike have to do with wood?'

Answer: The wood board pattern represents the hardcourt (usually made of maple), the arena of basketball greats such as Michael Jordan (Nike Air's image model).

Without the usual Nike logo, this bear looks less of the promotional item that it is and more of a wooden pop sculpture. Isn't that more artful? Thanks, Nike. I like it when Be@rbricks aren't too commercialized.

Speaking of ligneous art: My artist friend from New York, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, just showed me her new work – a series of totem pole assemblages (right) made of recycled Philippine wood such as yakal, narra, guijo, and ipil.

Christina has always been interested in old-style architecture, and these 'found' objects gave her the chance to venture into interesting compositional excursions. Life-sized jigsaw puzzles, so to speak. The wooden stairs, banisters, and even wood shutters served as the puzzle pieces.

She's putting them on show this month and I think they'll be a hit.

Knock on wood, Christina!

Postscript: You can catch Christina's art in the Group Show, 'Ara Pacis' (Altars of Peace), which will run from April 20 to May 11, 2007 at the West Gallery, 48 West Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines. Other featured artists are Popo San Pascual, Mario Fernandez, & Ava Lugtu.

Monday, April 16, 2007

the many colors of the netherlands

Windmills, cheese, clogs, tulips, bicycles, delicate delft pottery – these form a pretty wholesome and traditional mental picture of the Netherlands for most of us.

However, there is a side to this country that many may find incongruous with the said image: its liberal policies toward drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

Such divergence also described our sightseeing in Amsterdam and its outskirts:

1. (Right) A trek to the colorful Keukenhof Tulip Gardens one day, then a trip to the Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum the next.

2. A visit to the city's oldest church, Oude Kerk, followed by a stroll around the nearby red light district that showcases bikini-clad sex workers in glass windows.

3. Morning melancholy at the Anne Frank House, and a swinging evening at the trendy bars on Reguliersdwarsstraat.

It was a juxtaposition of opposing inclinations, a psychedelic mix of moods and colors – much like a sidewalk display of hallucinogenic mushroom postcards (left) – that reflected a progressively tolerant lifestyle.

During a taxi ride downtown, our Moroccan driver, after learning that we were tourists, asked us what we liked about Amsterdam the most. We couldn't give a singular answer right away, as Jun and I had different choices. We threw back the question at him instead, to which he quickly replied, 'The freedom, of course!'

Ah, yes. Too bad Anne Frank didn't live to see this day.

Shown at the top is the tri-colored Netherlands 'Flag' Be@rbrick from Series 9. I have created a special background for it based on the flag and some images I took at Keukenhof.

Postscript: Below is a 3D installation of Amsterdam's new slogan, 'i amsterdam', in the middle of Museumplein, the city's popular cultural district. It is a symbol of the people's pride, confidence, and optimism about the life, freedom, and opportunity in Amsterdam. I love it!

(Research from Wikipedia)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

b is for brussels

From Paris, Jun and I took the high speed Thalys train to the Belgian city of Brussels. This short (and sweet) side trip was just enough for us to discover what this city was about! Here is our list; all starting with the letter 'B':

B is for Belgian chocolates – from the supermarket staple Cote d'Or to specialty chocolatiers like Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, & Marcolini. Switzerland may be famous for producing the most chocolate worldwide but, according to some enthuasiasts, it was Belgium that introduced the most preferred chocolate concoctions known today, the pralines. But why is the Belgian variety more highly rated? I learned they use pure cocoa butter instead of adding vegetable fat, a small difference that seems to matter greatly to the chocolate connoisseur.

To pay tribute to these Belgian delicacies, I took a pic of Series 12's Basic 'B' Be@rbrick among luscious Godiva goodies (above, right). Brown and yummy-looking, this bear is one of a set of nine that spells B-E-@-R-B-R-I-C-K.

B is for Beer. There are over 500 varieties of Belgian beer, around half of which is available at the store on the left. The biggest brewery in the world by volume is Inbev, a Belgian company previously known as Interbrew (makers of such beers as Stella Artois and Leffe, which merged with the Brazilian brewery Ambev to become the world's biggest).

At a bar, I was surprised to find out that Stella Artois, a well-advertised beer with a premium image in other parts of the world, was the cheapest beer on the menu! Can you imagine the quality of the rest?

B is for Blooms. The Tapis de Fleurs (Flower Carpet), a celebration of Belgium's flower industry, happens every two years around August. During that time, Brussels' main tourist destination, the Grand Place, is carpeted with millions of fresh flowers in patterns echoing historical scenes. However, during ordinary days, blooms still line up the famous square as part of the morning flower market (right).

B is for Beatles songs as sung by Belgian musicians Margriet Knip and Philippe La Grappe (left) who we caught at a corner off Grand Place, performing in front of a small but very delighted street crowd. Their version of the classic "Let It Be' was raw and light – effortlessly nostalgic. For the first time during this European trip, I was moved, not visually via spectacular art or scenery, but audially, by way of a beautiful song. Let's hear it for Brussels!

(Research from Wikipedia, Dorling Kindersley &

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

a pastiche of parisian patterns

When we visited the Grand Palais on Avenue Winston Churchill to see the 'ArtParis 07' fair, I was overwhelmed by the patterned ceiling – a geometrical orchestration of glass and metal in the art noveau style. I quickly brought out my latest acquisition, the 'I Love Paris' Be@rbrick of the 'A Round World' series from Colette Paris, and took a picture of it against the delicate-looking but magnificent ceiling (left).

The days that followed revealed more surprising patterns of inherent beauty: [Below, left to right] (1) an artful blur of a metropolis at the art fair; (2) tiers of light on a Bonaparte-era chandelier at the Louvre; (3) tree branches in front of the Dome Church at Invalides; (4) spring daisies sprouting on a dry moat;

(5) the I.M. Pei-designed pyramid cutting across the Louvre facade; (6) colorful displays of postcards on a Parisian sidewalk; (7) a modern art installation at the Pompidou Centre; and (8) tourists sunning themselves practically everywhere!

Postscript: That's me and my friend, Jun, (right) reflected on a 'mirror' painting of cherry blossom patterns, one of the artworks on sale at ArtParis 07.

After visiting numerous art museums, stunning churches, grand chateaus, and baroque buildings... and after walking through countless parks, historic squares, breathtaking gardens, and quaint streets, Jun sat down on a bench and said to me, "Can we rest for fifteen minutes? I think I'm having a 'beauty' overload."

And only a fifteen-minute break from beauty it was. :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

who's who at colette paris

Look at the transparent Be@rbrick on the right.

See the two dogs? They're Caperino and Peperone, two playful and funny canines from Stromboli, Italy who are now making waves in the retail/style scene. Various products based on these two characters are being sold, mostly at the Colette store on Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris. In fact, they are the official mascots of the hip Parisian retailer. This particular Be@rbrick (called the Nike [co]+lab) was designed by Kuntzel + Deygas for Nike Air, exclusively for Colette Paris.

Now, look at the inset on the left.

See that hand holding the Colette plastic bag? That's me, who just bought the 'A Round World' Be@rbricks, a set of 6 which was specially designed for Colette's 10th anniversary.

And finally...

See the guy on the right?
That's Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel design chief and Dr. Houdret diet devotee, who I bumped into at Colette Paris! I introduced myself and told him I was a great fan. He smiled modestly, shook my hand and told me, 'Nice shirt!' Of course, I did not bother telling him it was an Armani... :-)

Monday, April 2, 2007

be@rbrick lover in paris

Guess what?

Right now, I'm in the City of Lights with a friend! We just arrived yesterday! I wasn't planning to do any blogging here but this City is just so inspiring, I couldn't help but write about it 'tout de suite'.

Paris had always been on my mind. Judging from the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Book that I got (years ago!) in preparation for this trip, I told myself that I'd probably fall in love with every corner of the city. And it started coming true!

Above left is my France Be@rbrick, from Series 12, standing on a cement stump in front of the Arc De Triomphe. It falls under the 'Flag' Category in Be@rbrick design.

Directly above is a picture of my friend and I looking at Charles de Gaulle's speech, Appeal of 18 June 1940, cast in bronze on the floor of the famous arch. This was a celebrated speech by Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, during World War II. Standing there, amidst the throngs of people lining up to read it, I somehow sensed the greatness of those words, even if I didn't speak the language. I honored the moment by placing my French Flag Be@rbrick right next to CDG's signature. What an occasion!