Monday, September 17, 2007

Toys for the Big Boy

(full length article on Big Boy Cheng; the edited version will appear in the next issue of Homestyle)

Toys for the Big Boy
by rick olivares

One can say that Big Boy Cheng is enjoying his second childhood. Only if that were true. The truth is, his childhood never left him. At 30 years old, Cheng is like the eternal kid. He has parlayed his love, no, obsession for toys into a more than a collection; more than a business, but into his life.

While most men his age will have gravitated to more ephemeral techy and bigger toys – well, Cheng has them too – the ones that strike his fancy now are the designer toys that cost much more than the playthings of our youth. For the uninitiated, designer toys are expensive collectibles that are produced in limited quantities by creators who have backgrounds in graphic design and illustration, lowbrow art such as graffiti, and even music. It’s far from the action figures or transforming robots that hold kids’ attention today. It makes for a flourishing industry where the toys are first and foremost collectibles that are better suited to display cases than bins or trunks. His toy specialty store, Fresh, which he co-owns with some like-minded friends, is doing well. Scouring the Internet for new items to collect and to sell is a daily ritual.

“The first ever designer toy that I bought was a Michael Lau (a Hong Kong artist known for his use of vinyl in toy manufacture and who has a profound effect in Asian and American street culture) that cost over HK $800,” recalls Big Boy. “I thought about it several times over before buying it but I eventually did. I still have it and its value is several times over now.”

The collection is easily worth a small fortune that is why great care is taken to ensure the toys are dust free and shielded from light that dulls their colors. The house help have also been instructed on the toys’ proper maintenance (they’re cleaned once a week) and care using special imported brushes called swiffers.

Big Boy’s home has a playroom feel albeit with the minimalist and elegant furnishings of Italian interior designers Cassina. “I like them because they’re stylish, innovative yet very humanistic,” he gushes. “The world’s leading museums and best designed houses make use of their products so you know they’re truly world class.”

While not particularly skilled at architectural illustration or interior design, he has an eye for beauty when he sees it. “I know what I want and have my own design group -- ahem, named Bigboy -- interpret and manufacture them. That way they’re done to my specifications.”

Every room has display cases of his personal design to house his massive toy collection by noted designers like Paul Frank, James Jarvis, Yoshitomo Nara, and Lau, as well as companies such as Kidrobot, Toy2R, Circus Punks, and Devilrobots among many others. His walls bear prints by famous graffiti artists D’Face and Banksy and a framed original and autographed 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball team jersey (“the one true Dream team,” he says). The rooms are lighted in such a way so they’re not harmful to the toys. “What I like about Poltrona Frau is that they’re more than just lamps; they’re lighted sculptures”

Big Boy has his own badminton court where he holds tournaments every three months (he’s often crowned the winner of the aptly named Big Boy Cup). And he literally has his own home theater; a small sized one that seats around 25 people where he can enjoy his favorite movies and anime.

His playroom also contains amplifiers, guitars, and a drum set. “Music -- can’t live without it,” he says as his eyes light up at the mention of his other great love. He frequently jams with his cousins and friends playing only so far in parties and family affairs. Like his toys, music has carried over to his family life as well.

His eldest son, Kurt, was named after the late Nirvana frontman. “He should have been named Stone (after Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam’s rhythm guitarist), but somehow, my wife and my parents thought that people might get the wrong impression,” he snickers with child-like glee. As for his second son, Miguel – “he’s named after my favorite beer,” he cheerfully says as you sift through your knowledge of rock n’ roll history for musicians of the same name.

Kurt and Miguel have their own collections – Pokemons, Transformers, and Marvel Super-heroes, but despite their youth, they regard their father’s collections with fascination and have begun to stoke an interest in them. “When I move on, they will inherit my toys,” jokes Cheng.

Together the three of them are like best friends with family meals at times having that gleeful air of a toy convention. “My wife, Jeanette, refers to us as her three children,” he fondly relates of his supportive wife.

Upon a person’s first visit, he feels the tug of that inner child’s wonder at the massive collection of toys. Even a couple of foreign news crews have asked if they could feature them on television. Big Boy can empathize; the toys do leave him with a sense of fulfillment. “You only live once so I try to collect what I can,” he says before he’s off to search the Internet.

Fresh is located at 5 Sgt. Esguerra St., South Triangle, Quezon City.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New stuff I've written

Tower Sports NBA - the latest issue with Kevin Durant and Greg Oden on the cover. It's a feature on siblings and father-son acts in the NBA.

Transit - This week's copy; a different Kobe Bryant in Manila article.

Homestyle magazine - a feature on toy collector Bigboy Cheng (brother of former Queen Eagle and my ADMU classmate Peachy Cheng) and furniture designer Rocky Camus

Coming soon: exclusive Ateneo Lady Eagles and Universiade Games stuff on the Loyola School Bulletin and Philippine Basketball League stuff I'll be doing with Commissioner Chino Trinidad.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I wasn't a huge fan of the first two Indy movies. I mean they were okay for me, but not fab. It took the third one, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE to turn me into a huge one. It still is one of my all-time favorites.

Seeing the late River Phoenix as the young Indy was just awesome. He carried the right amount of swagger and derring-do in portraying the adventurer-archaeologist. Sean Connery as Professor Henry Jones Sr. nearly stole the show with his bumbling witty character.

I thought that the film had the best action sequences of the three and the backstory such as the origin of the nickname "Indiana," the fedora, the scar, and how he got into all these adventures made it such an interesting film. It was a plus for me because it was about the search for the Holy Grail. Knight lore and medieval stuff have always been one of my favorite reading materials. In fact, I'm currently reading THE LAST LEGION by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. In case you're all wondering, the book is way different from the film adaptation.

But now, the adventure series fast forwards to the "future" that involves an older Indy with his son to be played by Shia LaBeouf.

Not much is currently known about the film save for the stars (Cate Blanchett and Karen Allen -- wooo!) so I googled instead "Crystal Skull" and this is what I found:

Skulls are humanity's foremost symbol of death, and a powerful icon in the visual vocabularies of cultures all over the globe. Thirteen crystal skulls of apparently ancient origin have been found in parts of Mexico, Central America and South America, comprising one of the most fascinating subjects of 20th Century archaeology.

These skulls, found near the ancient ruins of Mayan and Aztec civilizations (with some evidence linking the skulls with past civilization in Peru) are a mystery as profound as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Nazca Lines of Peru, or Stonehenge. Some of the skulls are believed to be between 5,000 and 36,000 years old.

Many indigenous people speak of their remarkable magical and healing properties, but nobody really knows where they came from or what they were used for.
Were they left behind after the destruction of a previous world, such as Atlantis? Are they simply ingenious modern fakes or can they really enable us to see deeply into the past and predict the future?

Much research is currently being done on the skulls. However, their origin is still a baffling mystery. They seem to defy logic. Everything that is known about lapidary work indicates that the skulls should have been shattered fractured, or fallen apart when carved.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

You can't call yourselves capitalists if you don't have Starbucks

Now there's a familar sign, comrade.

A tall filter coffee costs 75 rubles, or about $2.92. The most expensive item on the menu is a venti mocha, for 230 rubles, or about $8.96. A venti mocha at Starbucks in New York costs $4.71.

Moscow has one coffeehouse for every 3,187 people. New York has one for every 365 people, and Paris one for every 126.

Wow. Somehow I know all those caramel fraps I consumed must have helped fund these Russian coffee houses. bwahahaha