Sunday, November 30, 2008

an unsolved mystery

Two weeks ago, I received an unexpected call from S, my business partner.

"My driver is missing!" she blurted out. "Around 5pm, I asked him to drop me off at Santi's Deli in Rockwell. He was supposed to park the car at the nearby mall and buy me meds for my headache. But when I called and texted him – countless times – to ask him to pick me up, he never answered. To think that I told him I wouldn't take long! After waiting for two hours, I decided to take a cab home. Should I call the police?"

My mind raced. Was her driver's phone on silent mode? Why didn't he check it for messages? Did he fall asleep in the drivers' lounge? Did he meet an accident? Or was the car hijacked in the basement parking area of the mall? (The car was a high-end SUV, a vehicle on the police's list of cars-most-likely-to-be-carnapped. )

"We must be very sure before we report the matter to the police," I replied, "I think they issue shoot-to-kill orders on drivers of stolen vehicles."

"Then I should go back to the mall and find out if the car is still parked there," she said, sounding worried.

"That may be dangerous. You want my driver to come with you? He can be your bodyguard."

"I'll go alone."

At 7:30pm, I called her on her mobile phone.

After three rings, the call pushed through but no one said 'Hello'. There was a sound of rustling like someone was fumbling for the phone. Then I heard a very loud and shrill scream! What the hell was going on?!

She finally spoke, "Hi, I'm on my way to the mall."

"Are you okay? I heard a scream–" I asked.

"Those were my brakes screeching." Then she put the phone down.

At 8:30pm, she called and said, "The security guards found my car in Basement Parking Level One but my driver's nowhere to be found. They've paged him already."

"Ask the guards to check inside the car – maybe kidnappers tied him up in there, and are waiting for you," I spoke slowly, horrified at the thought.

At 9:30pm, my phone rang. "Found him. Said his phone got busted. He didn't hear any ring or any text message beep."

"But he got the messages?" I was so perplexed.

"Yup, they were in his phone inbox," was her exasperated reply.

"What an excuse!" I exclaimed to S. Then I thought to myself, "What a lie!"

Consider the facts: (1.) He knew that S would only take a short while at Santis Deli. (2.) Four and a half hours had passed since he dropped her off. (3.) All the text messages telling him to fetch her were in his phone.

Was he lying or not? What do you think really happened?

For me, the mystery was far from over.

(Top) This rare 'secret' bear with a big '?' on its forehead is the Series 3 Artist Be@rbrick by famous Japanese DJ-turned-streetwear designer Hiroshi Fujiwara. The "HTM" logo on its chest is from his spring 2002 streetwear line for Nike.

Click here to check out his blog / artworks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

taking toys out of the box

Whenever I talk about the urban vinyl/designer toy/art toy culture to non-collectors, I always drop the name of Michael Lau, the Hong Kong toy designer who pioneered it.

In the late 90s, when toy figures consisted mainly of superheroes, robots, anime/movie characters, and Barbie/Ken-types, Lau created figures that were a reflection of the thriving youth culture. Instead of metallic armors and space suits, his toy figures wore hoodies, hip-hop jeans, chains, earrings, tattoos and cool rubber shoes. They were known as the 12-inch Gardeners, a collection of 100+ 'cool dudes' that were rare as they were unique.

Today, you won't be able to get hold of one – they are completely sold out, and no collector will ever want to part with his. You have better chances of scoring a 6-inch vinyl version. Below are two of them – Box B (with the recycling symbol) and Box C (with his pants down).

(Below) Snapshots of Michael Lau's Gardener book: The original 12-inch versions of the box head dudes.

Of course, Lau has also designed Bearbricks, two of which are shown on top. These two 'packing tape' Bearbricks were produced by his own company called Crazysmiles for the August 2002 Toycon in Hong Kong. You can see they were inspired by the Box Gardeners.

A Michael Lau Bearbrick that I'm really dying to have (in case they decide to mass produce it in a smaller size) is the one below – a 24-inch one-of-a-kind bear that was part of the Bearbrick Worldwide Tour exhibition.

A Bearbrick packed with Lau's originality, no less.

Info from The Art Of Michael Lau / Toys: New Designs From The Art Toy Revolution by Strangeco & MTV /

Saturday, November 8, 2008

be@rbrick vs. breast cancer

It all began with a red ribbon. First seen on actor Jeremy Irons at the 1991 Tony Awards, this ribbon quickly became the universal icon of AIDS awareness.

Soon after, the pink ribbon emerged. Evelyn Lauder, founder of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) made it the symbol of the battle against breast cancer.

And now, a diamond-studded ribbon.

The Hard Rock Cafe guitar pin with the ribbon made of pink diamonds (below) was auctioned off at to help raise funds for Lauder's BCRF. This piece of jewelry (with an estimated value of $20,000) was designed by jeweler-to-the-stars Michael Greene.

(Top, right) The Pink Ribbon Bearbrick with the BCRF logo was created by Medicom in partnership with Breast Cancer Network Japan. It's an elegant bearbrick in varying textures and rose hues. And while I normally shun bears with logos on their chests, I did not hesitate to buy this one. Once in a while, it's nice to know that Bearbricks help promote not just the sale of worldly goods, but also the fight to save human lives.

Info from / Pic of Hard Rock pin from