Archive for August, 2009

Before Superman


– You’re the only person I can trust Lana. What should I do with my powers? I’m faster than a speeding tractor, able to leap over barns with a single bo….

– Save the world.

– Wha … you mean like fighting terrorists, feeding the millions who are starving, re-routing natural disasters?

– You’re made for bigger things, Clark.

– I don’t get you.

– I’m talking things like preventing an alien invasion, stopping giant killer robots and your evil doppelganger from a parallel universe.

– Ha ha! Yeah, right.

– What you really need is a cool superhero name.

– You mean I have an evil doppelganger?

– Everybody does. Even Batman.

– Hey, what’s wrong with Clark?

– What?

– My name.

– If you’re going to be a superhero, you can’t call yourself Clark!

– I never actually thought of myself as a superh …

– Anyway, Clark sounds kind of sissy. Let’s see … we have Batman, Aquaman, Starman, Robin the boy wonder, Wonder Woman … I think it should be something-man so people will know you’re a man.

– Superman?

– (Shakes head)

– Um …

– Don’t worry, I’ll think of something and let you know.

– Okay!

– For your costume, I was wondering ….

– I get a costume? Coool .

-… if it should be tight-fitting to show off your muscles.

– Something in black then? It’s mysterious, dangerous, powerful … I like black.

– Black’s not your colour. You look terrible in black.

– What do you mean? I wear black all the time – I’m wearing black right now. People s…

– Exactly. You look good in blue.

– (Looks incredulously at Lana)

– Or red.

– Dark blue maybe. It’s close to black.

– How about sky blue? Plus a teeny tiny red shorts.

– I knew we shouldn’t be having this conversation in a bar.

– And a cape – all superheroes need a cape!

– A cape? A cape?!

– C’mon, Clark. Do it for me.

– I think you’ve lost it.

– No, I think very highly of you.

– How many margaritas have you had already?

– Mmmm…. ten? Twelve? Why does it matter?

– Waiter! Bill please!


The five guys (and their significant other) you meet in heaven

Photo source: Flickr

Photo source: Flickr

The guy who coined the phrase, “Pull my finger.” His girlfriend who initially thought this was a romantic gesture, but ended up with a whiff of the gaseous remains of yesterday’s dinner.

The guy who looked at a cow, then cast his eyes downwards to its udder and thought to himself: “That looks yummy. In fact, I think I’ll drink whatever comes out when I squeeze it and perhaps feed some to my newborn as well.” His wife who needed more than a little time to think this over.

The guy who threw a rope from one tree to another, pulled it real tight then announced to the world that he had just invented ‘tightrope walking’. His mother who didn’t quite share his enthusiasm but nevertheless brought an umbrella for her son to bring along “in case it rains”.

The guy who thought it would be a good idea – and potentially profitable enterprise – to make realistic looking turd with the consistency of actual turd. Imagine the research that must have gone into this project. His wife who – probably unknowingly – contributed to the research.

The guy who made tigers, lions, bears, elephants, and other wild animals jump through hoops of fire and charged other people a fee to watch. His daughter who had to explain what dad did for a living with a show-and-tell which involved a burning hula hoop and a blind tortoise.

We all have to pass through death’s door one day. Whether we make it to heaven or the other less pleasant place depends on the decisions we make on earth. I think the heaven will be more crowded than I’d imagine. I know it will be filled with people from every race, tongue and tribe. And in one voice, they will praise the name of the Saviour who paid the price for their salvation. Understandably, however, there will be no circus performances during the intervals.

Numbers 13:23

Desktop scuplture from

Desktop sculpture from

When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.
Numbers 13:23 

– Man, this thing’s heavy!

– Yup.

– Why do we get all these jobs?

– Be glad you don’t have to peel them later.

– I could have sworn they were bigger back then.

– What did you expect? Soil erosion, acid rain, over fertilisation – these things grow smaller every year!

– My grandfather once said a single grape could feed an entire family for a month. These ones will barely last a fortnight.

– (Snorts)

– You know, I’m thinking…

– (Grunts)

– At the rate these fruits are shrinking … do you think one day we can at least balance a grape on our head?

– Keep dreaming.

– How far are we from the camp?

– Just over that hill and we’re there.

– Uh, that’s not a hill.

– Wha … are you blind or something?

– That’s a watermelon.

DVD Review

The following article (updated 26 Aug) written for an upcoming issue of Adobo Magazine, a Philippines-based publication for advertising folks. Was probably asked based on my considerable experience in watching DVDs and falling asleep halfway through.
I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin'!

I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin'!

Buttoned-up and ready to go

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film you’ll either love or hate. Ebert called it a ‘profoundly mistaken premise’ and couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of someone aging backwards. Seasoned adfolks are, of course, comfortable with such concepts – mainly because we’ve presented advertising ideas that are even more complicated.

We open with 81-year old Daisy (Cate Blanchett) on her deathbed. Meanwhile, Hurricane Katrina is raging outside and about to devastate the town – this means it’s time for Daisy to tell her worried daughter about her ex-lover.

Her story begins with a blind clockmaker working on a clock for the New Orleans train station. After receiving news of his son’s death in World War 1, he decides to make the timepiece run backwards, in the hope that it would bring back those who died in the war.

There are a couple of important lessons we can learn here:
1) Never hire a blind clockmaker, because when he screws up, he’ll come up with some ridiculous story about his work being some kind of war memorial.

2) The New Orleans train station CEO is the man to see if you have a bridge in say, Brooklyn, that you want to sell.

We then cut to the part where Benjamin is born. He is the vilest, ugliest, most oldest-looking baby that ever came out of a woman’s womb. Surprisingly, nobody contacts Barnum & Bailey or the stations to propose a new reality show.

Next, Benjamin grows up with regular old people in an old folks’ home. This is where he meets normal-looking 6-year old Daisy. Again, nobody finds it disturbing when she frolics with old man Benjamin under the table late at night. Thus begins a whirlwind romance described by director David Fincher as an “elaborate parable of Biblical proportions”.

Suffice to say, the movie is nothing like the book. Apart from retaining the protagonist’s name and reverse aging process, everything else is completely made up by screenwriters Eric Roth (of Forest Gump fame) and Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha). The original story had Benjamin born 5 feet 8 inches tall with waist length beard. This must have required tremendous pushing on his mother’s part, and one can only imagine the size of her tummy before delivery.

So what’s in the DVD and is it worth getting? In the commentary, Fincher does a rather dry take throughout and if it doesn’t instantly cure your insomnia, you’ll at least gain some fascinating insights into the movie’s themes, and why Brad and Cate deserve to win several Oscars at least.

The producers talk about how long the script has been floating around and how the movie could only be made when CGI technology had sufficiently advanced. In other words, nobody wanted to take the risk. The script went through several directors (including Steven Spielberg and Spike Jonze), and lead actors (Tom Cruise, John Travolta) – all of whom suddenly ‘remembered’ they had other projects along the way.

We also get to hear from the makeup people on the whole process of ageing and de-ageing. Poor Cate had to sit through 5 hours of makeup to play a much older person. Add that to her strenuous late night schedule, and you’ll realise the woman probably wasn’t acting when she starts to mumble and fall asleep.

The youthenization of Benjamin takes up a whole segment. Some people may find this interesting – especially since this is the heart of what made the whole show possible. It was a little too technical for me though. Technology can do a lot of things these days, including being able to skip to the next special feature.

Admittedly, there’s quite a lot of it in the DVD: 14 in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes trace the film’s evolution, from the rights negotiation to its premier. Watching it, you get a sense that this is a project people genuinely cared about. You take away the collective energy and passion that went into its production. Six hours into the DVD, you can also feel your bones growing older and more brittle. The latter part is what they call an ‘interactive experience’.

But yes – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is worth watching again. Look out for the director’s little touches. Like how Daisy’s voice seamlessly morphs into Benjamin’s. The visual poetry in the final scenes. And the many parts in between that will make you go “Wow”, “Ahhh” and “Hey, it’s all done with soft lighting!”

Every film has its detractors and critics. For this 166-minute long performance, one suspects it is mostly among those with highly irritable bowels. The DVD release should solve that problem. Be thankful Fincher does not to make us sit through an extended ‘Director’s cut’ version.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button DVD
Disc 1 – Movie

Commentary by Director David Fincher

Disc 2 – Special Features
The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button: 14 In-Depth Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: Preface, Development & Pre-Production, Tech Scouts, Production Parts One & Two, Costume Design, Performance Capture, Visual Effects (Benjamin, Youthenization, The Chelsea & The Simulated World), Sound Design, Desplat’s Instrumentarium & Premiere.

Photo Galleries: Storyboard, Art Direction, Costume & Production

Trailers & TV spots

The rushing tide

In the coming years, we will see a resurgence of Christian art and literature. We have made intercession for this moment, and have already seen much evidence of answered prayers.  In music, movies, paintings, photography, writing, architecture and so on – this movement is unstoppable and will truly bless the name of our holy God.

Even as I’m typing this, am painfully aware of the many parts of our world that need healing. Roughly 12 percent of the population, or 884 million people, do not have access to safe drinking water. Over 781 million adults are illiterate, 64% of them women. Extreme poverty is tolerated – much like how racism was tolerated 50+ years ago. The list goes on.

But I digress. Yes, there’s a lot of work to be done – and we need many hands on the plow – however, it doesn’t mean one can’t get excited at what’s been happening in the Christian arts circle lately. The firstfruits are here, if you know where to look. And this is usually a sign of a greater harvest to come, no?

Below, a poetry titled Luke 18:35, winner of the Virginia Brendemuehl Poetry Contest from Rock and Sling. I think it’s brilliant. Sometimes He has to kill us to save us.

Luke 18:25
by Karsten Piper

He spread his blanket on the sand,
kneeled and arranged his bowls and tools:
hook, mallet, clamp, chisel, rasp, razor.

His smile glinted in the rongeur’s claws,
and upside down in the curette’s spoon.
Light shone out of the needle’s eye.

“Hoosh,” he said and began plucking hairs,
paring calluses, shearing wool, shaving
to the follicles, cutting to the quick.

He sorted these, trimming skin with skin,
hair with hair, into rows of clay bowls,
and set a large basin to catch each sour drip

as he sliced the hide and used both fists
to yank back the whole stubbled, gray pelt,
as wet and red on its underside as afterbirth.

He piled this heavily away, draping it
in clean linen, and turned to the meat and bone
heaving under sheer, tight membrane.

Sawteeth chewed into femur, rib and shoulder.
Pliers twisted and wrenched away tendons
until everything softened, canted, and collapsed—

yet not one sliver dies. Each ribbon and shard
bawls for the horror and hurt of their missing,
wishing for the old braying wholeness.

Pain bloodies evening and morning,
stabbing day after day from even the first cuts,
like the slow light of far stars.

Eyeballs and heart float alone in the last bowl,
dark and defenseless, quavering when he leans down
and they recognize in his eyes how little is left.

“Easy now, Camel,” he says and lifts me
in his fingertips, one quivering strand at a time,
through the eye of the needle.

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin

From the post ‘Can do’ on the illustrated blog “And the Pursuit of Happiness” by Maira Kalman. It’s about American democracy and comes with lots of pastel-ly pictures. Uh, maybe the above is not the best example. Anyway – Maira is an illustrator, author, designer, and wife of the late Tibor Kalman – a graphic designer whose style I have tried to copy many times. Check out her blog here. Worth the read. Deserves a place on your favourites at least.

Lunch escape

Attended the annual comic-con at Suntec City this afternoon. As expected, the place was crawling with fanboys and geeks. Throw a stone and you’ll hit somebody wearing a Spiderman or Batman t-shirt. I think our (my friend Mark and I) presence literally brought up the cool factor by about 40%. Although it was somewhat disappointing that nobody asked me for my autograph.

Mark and I went last year too. (It helps when your office is just a 10-min walk away). But left feeling underwhelmed – a whole lot vinyl toys, some BJDs and a couple of cosplay characters walking around like it was the most natural thing to do. Not my thing really.

This year, they brought in a host of illustrators and some big name artists. Managed to get several contacts for future Sunday Morning projects and well-wishes from DC/ Marvel artists Brian Bolland and Tan Eng Huat. If we have a Sunday Morning shop one day, these posters will be the first thing that go up!

Wonder Woman by Brian Bolland

Wonder Woman by BB

Thor by Tan Eng Huat

Thor by Tan Eng Huat