Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Project 365 (333/365): And Now, A Final Word On The Supernatural...

.:333/365: And Now, A Final Word On The Supernatural...:.

I didn’t really offer much in the way beyond just describing the things I showed in the past month, and to be honest, I was hard-pressed to fill up a whole month with nothing but stuff pertaining to the paranormal. It was sort of a success, but I know there was so much ground I could’ve covered but I didn’t.

This sounds funny coming from a guy who deals with magic on a professional level, but I’m a true-blue skeptic. I don’t like believing in things I have no evidence for, which would’ve made me the prototype rational thinker if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not an atheist at all. There is a wide gap between what we know and what we don’t know, and while I like to have proof before I believe in something for the most part, I also like to have proof before I don’t believe in something, no matter how ludicrous it might come across on initial consideration.

So do I believe in any of the supernatural phenomena I have describe the past month? Well, I’m open to being happily educated that they are real. Or not-so-happily, given how grim some of these things are. Either way, I’m healthily sceptical and wouldn’t take anything at face value, and in today’s day and age, that’s actually a very sober notion, when you think about it.

One can only hope that as the years go by, and these phenomena are proven or disproven once and for all, the sense of wonder people have don’t ever disappear. Let’s face it: it’s the one thing that keeps magicians in business. The sense of wonder and failing that, the willing suspension of disbelief in a magical performance. Without any of these things, I guess magic would be doomed into obscurity as a lost art form.

This is merely a preview for my last month of Project 365: A month I devote to magical issues and my thoughts on these various issues. Hopefully, my essays and my reflections on them would do justice to the magic community at large.

Monday, November 29, 2010

An Onrush

.:Ripe With Potential:.

Chino Liao introduced me humorously as the potential headliner for last week’s open mic in Votre Bar, and that potential was abruptly ruined when four other excellent comics showed up to make sure that the show will go on well after I’m done.

Despite that, I had arguably my best pure/almost pure standup set of the year last night, as for some reason, my jokes were all resonating with the audience. I suppose it helps that a lot of them have never heard me do my stuff before and the other comics actually built me up as a headliner of sorts, so when I did my jokes, they actually regarded me as a headliner.

Overall, a fun night for standup. I was exceptionally proud of my set, as I managed to mesh old and new material together in a warm, fuzzy package of hearty laughs.

This week was more of the same, more so with a short tribute to someone very significant in my life. I’m exceptionally happy how that whole thing turned out, because open mic has been my refuge from the hurly-burly of work as of late.

.:A Mini Review Of Toki...:.

Ate twice already in Toki, and my first time out, I couldn’t help but compare it to Tokyo Tokyo. Sacrilege? Not quite, because our plucky fastfood restaurant was actually on par with my beef Tepanyaki experience from Toki, and considering the price difference, that was majorly disappointing.

Nonetheless, I think they redeemed themselves when I had some of their Gindara...

Unlike real food bloggers, it occurred to me to take a picture only *after* I was halfway done.

At about 620 pesos, there’s no question about it: the Gindara was worth the price. There’s something amazing about eating fish that tastes like pork barbecue, minus all the guilt of eating pork barbecue. Adding on some of their seafood fried rice at 190 pesos was great as well. They went pretty well together, to say the least.

So, this non-food blogger heartily recommends their Gindara, but stay away from the beef rice bowl, since their “fusion” means they use local ingredients, and at those prices, that’s highway robbery. The Gindara’s awesome, and I’d imagine their Wagyu’s great, too, but since I was on a seafood diet, (I sea food, I eat it.) I decided to go for the fish instead.

I may not be a true-blue food blogger, but I definitely like to eat, and tend to go out of my way to try nearly anything once, when it comes to food. Toki is worth a try, definitely.

I even had a nice meal with the family last night in EDSA Shang, but since my family ate the food faster than I could photos of the food, well, I think I’ll skip out doing a review of that one.

.:Yeah, BOI!:.

So – it was the launch of Battle Of Immortals, brought to you by the folks of Cubinet, and it was quite an eye-opener.

On official business for Nuffnang, I was set to cover the event and talk to the brass of the company, but I couldn’t help but take a good look at their new MMORPG, Battle Of Immortals, which they were not only launching that day, but were even having sneak peeks of through multiple NEO computers set up to run the game. The game reminded me of your regular dungeon-crawling game, but with the bells and whistles that takes it well into the next generation of gaming. As a guy who has been a big fan of Diablo II, this is one of those games that definitely grabs my attention.

Anyways, aside from the game launch itself, and since it was in Centerstage, a videoke showdown had to happen for a Nokia C3. Now, see, I wasn’t intent on joining at all, particularly because they didn’t tell us that there was going to be a videoke showdown before they called for volunteers.

And then they sang Backstreet Boys.

Alex Villafania was first with “As Long As You Love Me,” followed by another guy who did “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” However, the third guy didn’t know the lyrics to “Get Down,” and as I was singing along with new acquaintance and fellow Atenean Karen De Vera, they ended up asking me to take over the duties instead of singing in my seat. So I did. And I won.

Moral of the story: it pays to know your BSB. I did have to sell the phone off already, though, since I kinda prefer Android phones at this juncture, and my new LG Optimus One is just made of win. Angry Birds for free? Sign me right up! And yes, I bought it at full price. Didn’t need to fall in line for a phone well worth it at full price, since I didn’t want to compete with a thousand other people for it.

.:Ermm... Go Red Mango?:.

I like frozen yogurt, I really do. While I have no clear favourites, I tend to go to Red Mango, Qoola, and Pancake House to get my fix.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I discovered Red Mango has a loyalty card. After all, this would give me all the reason in the world to have fro-yo exclusively from them. I felt this way until I, well, took a good look at the Loyalty Card reward...

Ummm, yeah.

So, for a bunch of Red Mango trips, I’d end up meeting and greeting the guys from Boys Night Out. Oh, wait, scratch that. I’d get a *chance* to meet them. As if seeing them everytime I swing by 99.5RT not enough.

Well, looks like I’ll keep dropping by the other yogurt shops, then. The boys are awesome, but I don’t think I need to win a raffle to drop in and say “hi” to them...


Apparently, the MMDA has created a new office, called the Traffic and Transport Management Office, or TTMO for short. I wish this were just a silly, sophomoric joke, but they did it. And you can see their patches proudly displaying the fact when they accost you on the streets now.

As this blog is an all-ages friendly blog with the occasional PG material thrown in, I think it would be best that I don’t go into detail on the limitless material this is allowing me to come up with. LOL.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

.:My Idea Of A Perfect Christmas Show!:.

We're baaaaack!

Kel and Jay are back for their annual fundraiser show, and like always, we're pulling out all the stops as we conquer Votre Bar along with Comedy Cartel's Richie Fernandez and GB Labrador, and world-class ventriloquist and Talentadong Pinoy's second hall of famer, Wanlu and his puppets! Yet another night of laughs and gasps, as can be expected only from an ensemble cast like this!

It's happening this December 3, 8:30PM, in Votre Bar, corner ABS-CBN, right beside East of St. Louis. For the benefit of the Real Life Foundation, tickets are only 200 each, inclusive of a consumable drink.

No question about it: this is My Idea Of A Perfect Christmas Show. Now, if we could only get Jose Mari Chan to perform...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Clearing The Backblogging...

.:Laughing It Out:.

Let the good times roll!

Last Saturday was a night for the ages as Comedy Cartel and Take-Out Comedy came together to bring an amazing show that I was thankfully witness to. With sixteen comics in one night, it was more comics than you could ever hope for, and each and every one of them delivered that night.

Meeting some of the comics from Hong Kong for the first time has been very entertaining, and performing for them after their sets, doing psychokinesis for them, has left quite an impression on them, and two more forks from Votre Bar aren’t ever coming back, after everything’s been said and done. Heh.

Doing shows for a cause has always been something I’ve been a big fan of, so I’m still hoping to have one of my own before the year ends, particularly with Mr. Jay Mata, as we try to deliver yet another Kel and Jay night for the ages, albeit most likely in a smaller venue, like, say, Votre Bar as well.

Belated happy birthday to Caca and much thanks for making this awesome event possible. I’d love to say more, but it was just an exhilarating event that you had to be there to fully appreciate. It certainly didn’t hurt that I made the acquaintance of one Chrisha that night, as well...

Pictures borrowed from Anna.

.:Ehra, Ehra, Ehra, Hey, Hey, Hey...:.

Talk about perfect timing.

One of the few times I decide to go to 99.5 RT, and I discover that the Madrigal sisters were promoting their latest FHM issue.

I’m at a loss for words, really. This was an awesome episode.

.:Twitter, Wat?:.

Really? You think I’d be the kind of person who’d care about what Tim Yap has to say?


Project 365 Smorgasbord (328-332)

.:328/365: The Karnival Of Magick Compilation:.

Now I know what I want for Christmas.

I’m a huge fan of Bizarre Magick routines, albeit I must admit that I have very few of them in my repertoire. To be honest, I always wanted to do one of Andruzzi’s classics, but it turns out that the ingredients I require to pull it off are no longer in production, which is a crying shame, really.

So here I am, watching the preview video, and while I’m not entirely sold on the author as a legitimate character for Bizarre Magick, I’m sold on his actual effects. He looks a little too kind, a little too gentle for the character to truly work, but the thing is, if you could transcend that, then things are bound to be very interesting, as really, Bizarre Magick has even less practitioners than mentalism, and this market is ripe for the picking.

.:329/365: Pyrokinesis:.

Here’s a skill I’m not very comfortable with picking up, because truth be told, the days of playing with fire are long behind me.

If you’ve seen me do poi, that isn’t me playing with fire at all. If anything, it’s me treating fire with an immense amount of respect, simply because I’ve been excessively careful in preventing any untoward incidents while I do my thing, and I always take the proper safety precautions when I’m going at it.

That being said, pyrokinesis, or the ability to control fire, is a talent some performers have demonstrated in the past. It’s tough, it’s dangerous, but it’s definitely impressive. Maybe, just maybe, I could incorporate it into my repertoire at some point.

.:330/365: Bruised:.

Shades of “Stigmata,” which counts as both a bizarre and mentalist routine, albeit the whole thing about “Bruised” is that it’s more visual, but obviously less impromptu.

Have a person choose a card, and after getting hit, you manifest a bruise that indicates the chosen card. It’s a pretty simple script, but it gets a lot of mileage because it’s one of those routines that you just can’t help but be impressed by on paper.

.:331/365: The Spirit Slate:.

Imagine if your every thought could be read not by a mentalist, but by the spirits around you. Imagine that within the slates that are clean and empty, you will find that the very thoughts you have come up with materialize eerily on their erstwhile pristine surfaces.

This is the Spirit Slate effect, and it has been one that has seen a lot of performers who have taken this effect to great heights, Richard Osterlind being one of them.

.:332/365: The Haunted Handkerchief:.

With no thanks to the magician above who turned one of the best freaky magic routines into a silly little charade, the Haunted Handkerchief routine is a lot better than the video lets on. Banachek’s version of this particular effect is nothing short of phenomenal, and it’s too bad I can’t find it at the moment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Project 365 (327/365): Mirror Magic

.:327/365: Mirror Magic:.

If there’s one thing about mirrors, it’s got to be the fact that it’s very evocative of dread when you’re staring at one in the middle of the night, armed only with a candle. Mirrors have been used a lot in stage illusions, but performing with actual mirrors rather than mirrors used to hide stuff or as part of the secret apparatus of a magic routine proves to be a whole different challenge altogether.

Some magicians like doing an illusion where they pass through a mirror, or routines involving two-way mirrors. In either case, there’s a lot of potential in doing magic with mirrors, and Cyril Takayama ably presents a very good example here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pardon The Delays...

My writing has been in total disarray this past week because something in the family happened that changed everything.

I'll explain everything all in due time, but for now, I'll do only the Project 365.

Project 365 (326/365): Ashes On Arm

.:326/365: Ashes On Arm:.

Oh, what a classic. David Blaine made this one popular, essentially doing some freaky mind reading through the power of his... arm.

Nonetheless, it’s definitely one of the freakier effects out there, and is the non-impromptu version of Stigmata, which I infinitely prefer, to be honest. This is a bit messy, and a bit too prep-intensive for my tastes, although it does have its fans.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Project 365 (325365): Realignment, And Wayne Houchin's Thread

.:325/365: Realignment, And Wayne Houchin’s Thread:.

So apparently, I double-counted Mr. Hydrick and the subsequent entry, resulting in my numbers being off by one. I hope that doesn’t happen again, though, although I’m still not 100% sure if my numbering is correct at this point. Nonetheless, I’ll take my chances.

One of the freakiest routines I’ve ever seen, Thread by Wayne Houchin involves the pulling of an ingested thread from your very eyes. It’s ghastly, it’s striking, but most of all, it’s effective and legitimate.

Truth be told, I’m very impressed by this routine even if it’s rather simple in theory. Houchin’s approach to the effect really sells the whole thing, and I’m amazed at his nerve to do something this dangerous, because hey, a thread from your eye is still a thread from your eye.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (321-323)

.:321/365: Astral Projection:.

If you can walk to another place without necessarily being even there, how do you think it would feel? How does one’s soul, tethered by the finest of threads to your corporeal self, go out and travel elsewhere, and then come back with details and memories of these travels?

Is this sane? Is this even possible? Or are we merely deluding ourselves into thinking that it can be done? And if true, is it possible to not find your way back? Well, I guess that’s one of the main reasons why I’m not so keen on doing astral projection, whether or not it’s true.

.:322/365: Spirit Of The Glass:.

Believe it or not, a lot of old-school paranormal performers do use this as part of their more intimate shows. There’s something that seems so powerful about having the ability to communicate with the dead, and to this day, it’s unclear if the Spirit of the Glass is the genuine article, or a result of mass hysteria. The fact that the glass seems to move on its own accord and every individual holding the glass swearing it wasn’t them moving it does lend that theory a lot of credence.

This practice hails back to centuries ago, and with something like a Ouija board, people come together to ask spirits questions answerable by the characters on the board. It’s a very eerie experience, and something I personally hope to never have to deal with myself.

.:323/365: Spirit Photography:.

Sometimes, it can really boggle the mind how a device like the camera can catch things that the naked eye can’t. Terrifying as it may be, photographs just capture images that tell us there are spirits out there.

Are these images believable? Or are they merely fabrications of a wild imagination. Ultimately, as this month has clearly demonstrated, Spirit Photography is but one aspect of the obsessive fascination people have for the paranormal. While I have yet to find an actual magic act that utilizes this fully, Ghost Vision is one of those mentalism acts that does allude to this phenomenon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Randomicity On A Thursday...

.:Laughing It Out:.

Let the good times roll!

Last Saturday was a night for the ages as Comedy Cartel and Take-Out Comedy came together to bring an amazing show that I was thankfully witness to. With sixteen comics in one night, it was more comics than you could ever hope for, and each and every one of them delivered that night.

Meeting some of the comics from Hong Kong for the first time has been very entertaining, and performing for them after their sets, doing psychokinesis for them, has left quite an impression on them, and two more forks from Votre Bar aren’t ever coming back, after everything’s been said and done. Heh.

Doing shows for a cause has always been something I’ve been a big fan of, so I’m still hoping to have one of my own before the year ends, particularly with Mr. Jay Mata, as we try to deliver yet another Kel and Jay night for the ages, albeit most likely in a smaller venue, like, say, Votre Bar as well.

Belated happy birthday to Caca and much thanks for making this awesome event possible. I’d love to say more, but it was just an exhilarating event that you had to be there to fully appreciate. It certainly didn’t hurt that I made the acquaintance of one Chrisha that night, as well...

Pictures borrowed from Anna.

.:Ehra, Ehra, Ehra, Hey, Hey, Hey...:.

Talk about perfect timing.

One of the few times I decide to go to 99.5 RT, and I discover that the Madrigal sisters were promoting their latest FHM issue.

I’m at a loss for words, really. This was an awesome episode.

.:Twitter, Wat?:.

Really? You think I’d be the kind of person who’d care about what Tim Yap has to say?


Project 365 (320/365): Past Live Regression

.:320/365: Past Life Regression:.

There are some believers in reincarnation, and the ability of the human person to tap into their previous lives to draw learnings and lessons from them. Hypnosis is often used to induce the perfect conditions for this phenomenon, albeit I’m personally not a big believer in the phenomenon per se.

Despite that, there’s a lot of interest in this particular phenomenon, and a lot of mentalists have dabbled into past life regression sessions even in a performance setting, to mixed results. Needless to say, the demand for such performers is at an all-time high, as new age beliefs and practices have been associated less and less with the occult.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Film Review: Megamind

.:Film Review: Megamind:.

So, I’m “the bad”, and she’s “the pretty ugly?”

It’s a no-brainer to catch this film...


By jove, I think Dreamworks finally got it. For the first time since Shrek, they’ve come up with an adventure that wasn’t just funny and interesting, but it was downright well-crafted from beginning to end, learning better than to rely just on simple imagery and comedy to get a very strong movie with major parental bonus moments on top of it to just really seal the deal.

I liked the film enough to catch it twice on 3D, each time going with a friend. First time out, I went with Faiye, the next, I went with new friend Chrisha.

The film follows a pretty good storyline, replete with affectionate send-ups to Superman, as Megamind and Metro Man are two infants sent from their dying planets to Earth. Life deals Metro Man a very favourable hand, and it wasn’t long before he became a superhero, while Megamind’s luck has ended up building him to become a master criminal, capable of the most diabolical schemes and plots, yet always losing to Metro Man in all their great battles.

In one of these battles, Megamind finds himself completely taken by surprise when his plan actually works, and it appears that Metro Man has been once and for all vanquished. Then as if to call upon the dynamic of a villain needing a hero, he discovers that his existence needs the opposition in order to achieve some measure of validation. Without it, he feels empty inside, and only when he begins to find himself romantically involved with reporter Roxanne Ritchi, who doesn’t realize that a disguised Megamind is working closely with her, while trying to create another Metro Man to take the place of the fallen hero.

Metro Man’s replacement is Titan, who happens to be Hal, Roxanne’s cameraman. Unfortunately, his obsession with Roxanne derails him from his supposed task of defeating Megamind, and instead attemps to use his powers to win her over, and finds himself jaded and jilted when she turns him down.

Now, it’s up to Megamind, master of villainy, to actually save the day...

The plot is a great although not necessarily untreaded twist on the superhero genre. Will Ferrell plays an excellent Megamind, Tina Fey is excellent as Roxie, Brad Pitt is genius casting as Metro Man, and there’s no question that David Cross redeems himself from his Alvin and the Chipmunks antics as Minion, Megamind’s trusty sidekick. Overall, you could feel that they put a lot of stock into character development for this, while including just the right mix of kid-friendly and only-adults-can-get-it (But not necessarily off-color.) humor. Dreamworks is pretty good with parental bonus material, but at times, they can really go a little too crazy with it.

When I reflect upon what it means to be a Megamind, it becomes a true exercise in putting stock in the power of a person to choose, rather than allowing destiny to just toss him along the ride. Megamind was destined to be a great villain, or a terrible one, but a villain, nonetheless. With his free will and his metaphorically giving determinism the finger, he managed to show that it all boils down to the choices we make and to the things we aspire to become that allow us to become more than what our bio-data would proclaim us to be. He truly is more than merely the sum of his parts, and in doing so, captures the imagination of anyone who has ever had a dream. And no, I won't name-drop any philosophers to make this review sound any nerdier than it already is, or my name isn't Gabriel Marcel - err, Marcelle Fabie.

I heartily recommend this movie, although my experience of the film was enhanced by watching it with awesome friends. I suggest you do the same.

Fun Evaluation: A
Critical Evaluation: B+

Project 365 Two-Fer (318-319)

.:318/365: Blockhead:.

A favourite among fakirs and geek magicians, the nail through nose routine is as legit as can be. You just out and out do it. There’s no special nail or special hammer, or heaven forbid, a special nose that you get to use to do this.

And oh, prepare for excruciating pain if you happen to do this wrong. A world of excruciating pain.

.:319/365: Hypnosis:.

The ability to control another person with but a gesture and the tick-tocking of a watch? Sign me up! Most people have very skewed notions of how hypnosis works, always thinking that it’s a simple process of achieving total mind control, when in reality, hypnosis involves surrender on the part of the person you hypnotize. It isn’t a simple process, and the whole procedure is so easy to disrupt: a mere misplaced word or gesture, a less than clear instruction, and all of it would add up to a very unsuccessful foray into hypnosis.

Hypnosis is real, but it’s nothing like mainstream media’s portrayal of hypnosis. A trance takes a lot of effort to achieve, and a subject who plays along with the hypnotist, is, for all intents and purposes, considered a success. With all of these factors, it’s a wonder we’ve actually had some professional hypnotists over the years, because their rate of success is directly proportional to the willingness of their subject to be hypnotized. The minute their quarry is outright defiant, things get a lot trickier, and it requires a lot more work than is well within the capacities of the average hypnotist.

Using hypnosis for medical purposes has been attempted, with varying degrees of success. Hypnotherapy, for the longest time, hasn’t had very convincing results to be worth pushing as a mainstream approach to dealing with addictions such as smoking, alcohol, or drugs. No mean feat, and hypnosis, with its lofty position in the minds of the layman, continues to fascinate and inspire a multitude of responses from all walks of life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Death Knells Of Philippine Radio

.:The Death Knells For Philippine Radio:.

In a span of three months, three different radio stations glaringly reformatted, each successive reformat conspicuously tolling the bells of the slow and agonizing death of Philippine radio. I’ve been trying to find the words to say as all of this happened right before my very eyes, but I’d be lying if I said this had the same emotional impact on me as opposed to when Campus 99.5 was unceremoniously killed over two years ago.

Then again, maybe it’s not that I’m no longer emotionally affected by these drastic changes to our airwaves, or even the obvious fact that I was, with the exception of one station out of the three, never an avid listener of any of these stations at any point in my life, regardless of what incarnation they took. It may very well be that I’m slowly becoming desensitized to the systematic demise of radio as a medium, and the only reason it still stays strong as a medium is that it’s easier to listen to a radio than to watch a television while riding a jeepney. Technology has been kicking radio’s behind for the past decade or two, and internet is being touted at this point (And no longer video.) as truly killing the radio star.

Three months. That’s all it approximately took to turn the radio industry on its head, although one must admit that the seeds were planted for a long time in two out of the three cases, so it wasn’t all that surprising when things panned out the way they did this year. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the landscape of radio has never looked bleaker, at least to the fans of the old school who don’t mind a bit of the new school, but certainly mind an obvious dominance of only one particular radio format on the airwaves – the masa format, to be exact.

Is Philippine radio dead? Heavens, no. The radio medium is arguably stronger than ever - in terms of lifespan. These reformats ensure that the radio industry will continue to be around. However, it’s safe to say that radio as we knew it is not alive but undead, for in its place is a zombie that would continue to exist, but not quite live on. Perhaps it would achieve more monetary success, even, but for the longest time, radio didn’t have to compromise much of its integrity in order for it to become successful, and now, it almost necessarily has to.

Or maybe I’m just looking at this with rose-colored glasses. After all, isn’t payola now considered a thing of the past, thus meaning radio, as a whole, is far more reputable now than it used to be? Not really, because payola existed in a time where radio was powerful enough to command payola. Now, it just isn’t the case: why would a record label need to pay any radio station for airplay at all? Clearly, radio has fallen at the mercy of nearly everyone else, and has only print and a lack of internet penetration to thank that it’s not dead last in the media landscape.

Through the eyes of a fan of the radio medium, here are the three stories that have changed the face of Philippine radio in ways nobody could have imagined just a year ago.

From Joey 92.3 to XFM to U92 to 92.3 News FM: Hatid Sa Inyo Ng Radyo 5!

Gone, but not... who were you again?

First, the least objectionable shake-up, in my opinion; although at the same time, the most dramatic one among the three reformats.

92.3 as a frequency was, for the longest time, known as one of the least talk-oriented radio stations in the metro. With very light and easy tracks that never fail to calm people down as they listen to it in the middle of traffic, 92.3, and its most popular incarnation, Joey, certainly went against the grain of the 90’s boom towards eloquent talk radio. It was normally compared to other stations like 96.3 WRK and 94.7 WLL, and at some point, 97.9 Home Radio. All four stations had similar philosophies, while at the same time, playing enough recognizable and current songs to not completely fall into being an outright jazz or classical station.

When Joey became XFM in 2007, it was quite a departure from its old easy-listening format, as it became a haven for electronica, house, lounge, and indie music. This was far from the mainstream adult contemporary ways of most radio stations in the upper economic strata markets, and as such, had its own cult following, most of whom were thoroughly hooked enough to not notice that within a year’s time, XFM went back to its old Joey format, just emphasizing more jazz tunes than before. Overall, this stealthy change confused most casual listeners who didn’t have a clue what made 92.3 work for all those years. With the clear lack of direction and reception in a niche it wanted to dominate yet nobody in the advertising world really cared if it did, the X gave way to the U.

U92 was MTV Philippines’s answer to RX, Magic, Mellow, RT, and I guess at the time, MAX. The station, an affiliate of MTV Philippines (Which was also reputedly at its death knells as well, much thanks to Myx.), was composed of arguably the most star-studded lineup of radio personalities this side of the world. While we’ve had DJ’s who became celebrities for one reason or another, U92 hired mostly celebrities to become DJ’s, thus ending up with people like The Brewrats, Pia Magalona, and KC Montero. They also did a number on the programming of at least WAVE, JAM, and RT, since these three stations lost the following jocks when U92 hustled to snap them up: Eri Neeman, Jimmy Muna, Rye, and Mike Potenciano from Wave; Patti from Jam; and Joshua Z, Tado, Angel, and Ramon from RT. There were even rumors that Mo Twister was almost swiped by U92 if Mo didn’t have the foresight to inform Magic of the attempt to pirate him, giving them a chance to make him an offer he can’t refuse to stay on in Radio Partners’ flagship station.

With star power and veteran know-how combined in the new radio station, it seemed like only a matter of time before U92 would start giving Magic and RX a run for their money, being the top two radio stations in their target market. Alack and alas, this never came to pass, and massive overhead costs for a very star-studded on-air lineup were but the tip of the iceberg that sank U92 just exactly 364 days after it set sail.

What replaced it was clearly an angling made to wrestle for media dominance, as exerted by the new powers that be from the Kapatid network, who aggressively snapped up a lot of news personnel from both Channel 2 and 7 in an effort to establish itself as a legitimate threat to the ratings game. As TV5 already had an FM radio station in 106.7, most famous during the time it was known as KOOL 106, the station that was once known as MRS, then Joey, then XFM, then U92, became 92.3 News FM: the first AM radio format to air on the FM band.

With one of my good friends, Michelle Orosa, as one of the personalities in the new station, I actually don’t find the new format objectionable at all, nor do I think it’s a waste of a good radio station, since 92.3’s current format is something that has never been done before and has a lot of potential. Neither would I miss the U92 format, since Magic, RT, RX, and Mellow all still exist to give me more of the same. It's novel in that you have standard AM fare on the FM dial, although the overlap between this and 558 RMN News is a bit telltale, what with key personalities like Raffy Tulfo still performing their duties on that network, last time I checked.

Of course, what I do feel bad about are the people who lost their jobs when U92 folded up, since a lot of them were people I have worked with or happen to be friends with. I honestly don’t have much of an opinion about U92 when it finally kicked the bucket, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been pleasant to know that not only are you out of a job, but if you came from RT, WAVE, or JAM, you probably can’t make your way back there. Neither would you expect to find yourself in Magic or MAX, either. Especially not MAX, since it became...

From 103.5 K-Lite to Heart FM to 103 ½ Max FM to 103.5 WOW FM: Lahveeet!

It *was* the right kind of Lite. Then they found their Heart. And it was screwed up to the MAX. Oh, WOW.

If TV5 was going to experiment with a never-before tried format on the FM band, by golly, the Radio Partners (Current owners of JAM 88.3, WAVE 891, Magic 89.9, 99.5 RT, and WOW 103.5.) were going to experiment with a format they never tried before.

Prior to the current Mr.Fu-centric incarnation of 103.5, many listeners fondly remembered 103.5 as K-Lite, that amazing little radio station that can. It was cutting edge, contemporary, and innovative all at the same time. Arguably the pioneer of modern Philippine talk radio, K-Lite was the brainchild of several radio legends who came together to see a dream come true from the moment of its inception in 1995. I’m not fully aware when the Radio Partners ended up acquiring K-Lite, but I know for a fact that this radio station was, without a doubt, influential to the upper market on so many levels. Only Magic, RX, and RT would have a chance to argue this claim, in my book.

With such a powerful lineup of jocks such as Joe Schmoe and Dick Reese, with these living legends manning the booth, brilliant ideas left and right, what could have possibly gone wrong? I don’t really know, since not only was I not really a huge listener of the station, but my timelines are skewed when it comes to the rise and fall of K-Lite (Although a good friend, Ren Aguila, recently told me what he believes to be the reason, but it's quite a long story, and this post is already long enough as is.). Despite that,the beginning of the end for the frequency itself obviously came the minute they decided to do a drastic reformat that saw K-Lite rechristened as 103.5 Heart FM.

Now, I will tell you one thing about my former boss, the legen... wait for it... dary Joe D’ Mango, and it’s that this man is one of those whom I respect and admire the most in the radio industry despite never having been an avid listener of his during his heyday. His mental acumen and pulse for the radio industry was unbelievably spot-on, and with the level of success he had with WAVE and subsequently, K-Lite’s spiritual successor, JAM, it was believed that he would work his Mango Magic to make Heart FM become a format to be reckoned with.

And then he touted Heart to become the station that would give Mellow 94.7 a run for its money.

With that, you might see where this reformat may not have been the brightest idea of all time, and perhaps the only knock on sir Joe's eye (Or ear.) for the radio industry. Mellow 94.7 is many things, but it was never a target worth aspiring to. It’s a good radio station, but at no point was it the best in anything. I say this knowing two of my friends, Jaybee and Vince G, currently work there. They are great individuals, no question about it, but I doubt they would tell you that Mellow is the number one station in anything, except for catchiest jingle of all time. Because you are the minstrel, and I’m your guitar. And they don't even use that jingle anymore. =(

When the masa-ish 93.9 DWKC (We are family!) became 939 KCFM, they had RX 93.1 dead in their sights as the kind of station they wanted to overtake. That sort of explains why they pirated Chico and Delamar from RX, to begin with. When KCFM became iFM after failing to unseat RX, it was clearly gunning for 101.1 YES FM, which it still has yet to unseat, let alone unseat current powerhouse 90.7 Love Radio in the masa format. When U92 replaced XFM, it was obviously gunning for Magic and RX. It didn't succeed at that, either. Any massive reformat was meant to do one of two things: to compete with an already established powerhouse in a lucrative market or niche, or to establish a powerhouse in an untapped lucrative market or niche. Heart FM, in gunning for Mellow 94.7, was neither of these.

And so the story went that things got so bad in Heart that Sgt. Pepper, yet another legendary jock, had to be brought in to bring back a semblance of order to the flagging radio station. He came in, allegedly (EDIT: And subsequently, in the comments section, debunked by the Sarge himself.) under one condition: that he would never have to answer to, or even work with, Joe D’ Mango. Don't ask me why: I never had the Heart (Pardon the terrible pun.) to ask sir Joe about it. In that desperate bid, JAM, WAVE, and Heart lost their general manager in Joe D' Mango, who ended up leaving the radio industry ever-so-abruptly, and new station managers came in for each of them, with Sgt. Pepper filling in for the 103.5 frequency. With that, Heart FM, after a mere six months, was turned into 103 ½ MAX FM, where some notable jocks ended up at some point, including Kelly of Kellybites fame, Carl McFly, and of course, King DJ Logan.

Max FM: dancing itself to oblivion...

Over the time of MAX FM’s existence, though, it would become known as a revolving door for jocks, as most of them would go in and out of the station for one reason or another, and that sort of explains why KDL and Marf happen to both be in 99.5 well before WOW FM came along, as is Drei Ball jumping ship to 88.3 around the same time, give or take a year. It was a hotbed of competition: a talented bunch of jocks who wanted to protect their spot in a very cutthroat environment, yet almost always dead last in sales when it came to the five Radio Partner stations. Even an attempt to reformat into a more dance-oriented station failed miserably, as MAX never quite shook off the stigma of just being another “Magic clone.”

Whereas 99.5 RT, after a foray into Campus 99.5 then an aggressive retrobranding as the Rhythm of the City, still struggles with the stigma of being a "Magic clone" a bit, MAX, perhaps unwisely, appeared to wallow in the similarities. After all, when Sarge took his classic Magic ideas like Tunog Kalye to MAX, it certainly didn’t strike most listeners as a return to form, but rather (And mistakenly, I might add, since most of these ideas were originally from the Sarge, to begin with.) a blatant rip-off of 89.9.

Was it any surprise then, that it was only a matter of time before this Old Yeller would be put out of its misery back in the barn?

Dahil diyan, close na tayo!

With an attempt at breaking into the masa market dominated by Love Radio and Yes FM (Which are actually sister stations, to begin with!), the Radio Partners turned what was once the pinnacle of thought-provocative adult contemporary radio that became a Mellow clone that became yet another Magic clone into, well, a Love and Yes clone. Do I feel that a great injustice has been done to the once illustrious numbers 103.5? I’ll be honest here and say that Heart and MAX did the job long before WOW came into the scene, and WOW is only the culmination of the metaphorical spit upon K-Lite’s grave. To be fair,though, Mr. Fu, Justin Bibbo, and even Tina Ryan of Magic and RT fame are certainly not lightweights at all, and give this masa station a touch of class that it sorely needs. It’s still not on my speed tuner, though.

It remains to be seen where this new development would take them, because hey, at least, the Radio Partners didn’t go for yet another Magic clone, right? And what's one more masa station? It's not like another institution in radio would finally cave in and end up becoming yet another masa station, right? Wrong.

From NU 107 to 107.5 WIN Radio: Pinag-iisipan Pa Ba Yan?!?

In loving memory...

And now, more egregious than a Christmas concert by 1:43 in Araneta Colliseum, comes Exhibit C: the proof in the pudding. The reason why I’ve heard “Philippine radio is deeeeeaaaadddd!!!” at least five thousand times in the past seven days.

NU 107 was in a league of its own, and rightfully so. Only one other station ever came close to capturing the magic NU had during its 23 years of existence, and that was LA 105. This was also the only time in my life where I was an avid listener of NU, although I was an avid radio listener for this time, period, and NU/LA were among the radio stations I was listening to all the time back then. I couldn’t ever forget that in the same time period, I heard the multiple callers on DM 95.5 and 97.1 DWLS FM sniping at DM’s Hitman and LS’s Triggerman, respectively. But I digress.

It was during this time where I heard Parokya Ni Edgar's "Lutong Bahay", Grin Department's "Magbati Na Kayo", and a band whose name I forget, imploring you to "Drive My BM(X)", while the Eraserheads were going on "Overdrive". Switching from NU to LA was a lot of fun for me, because I really liked these particular songs, and kids today, in the age of Limewire and music not even worth downloading like Callalily, wouldn't have that very low-tech experience of waiting for your favorite song to air, and then setting your radio to record the song while it's playing, all the while praying the DJ doesn't talk too soon and lets the whole song play untarnished from start to finish.

Upon this rock, a station was built, and NU 107 was representative of the kind of cutting-edge music that led to a band renaissance in the mid-90’s that saw Rivermaya, Eraserheads, Parokya ni Edgar, Yano, Siakol, even Grin Department, as just a healthy sample of what it meant to have great music at a point nobody expected there to be any. Of course, there were some indie names that only a few hardcore fans would be able to recognize, but I’m writing for the mainstream here, so I have to drop the recognizable names when I do a roundup.

Nonetheless, the station was held in very high esteem by some of the most fanatical listeners a radio station could possible hope for. With successful events like the annual NU Rock Awards and some of the most influential OPM acts owing their fame and very existence to NU 107’s willingness to play them when no other station would dare to, the station became an institution, and, with the demise of LA 105 for reasons I never quite understood, the only genuine rock station on the airwaves. RJ and UR don’t even come close to what NU stood for, and, for all intents and purposes, are not in the same niche at all. NU became one of a kind, and though some people feel that the deadpan jocks of the radio station had all the emotion of a dead fish, you knew that there was an underlying passion in what they did. In fact, any lack of passion people may have accused them of having was easily debunked on the final week where the jocks of NU said goodbye, more so when the final hour tolled, and almost all of them said their teary goodbyes to a 23-year legacy that could only be marked as phenomenal.

NU was never the top radio station in terms of ratings, but it was the best at what it did, and what it did was to rock out with their something-that-rhymes-with-rock out. It loved the niche, and the niche it cornered loved it back, no matter how many people claimed it “sold out” or watered itself down. That one moment where Diether Ocampo called everyone at an NU event “jologs” still stands out as something that killed people’s interest as quickly as a documentary on XLR8, yet it only emboldened the listeners to uphold the true rock lifestyle, no matter how NU itself may have faltered at being the trailblazer for it at times.

NU truly had a devout fanbase that may lash out at it at times, but never in a million years would have considered turning their back on the station. Even if I haven’t been an avid listener of the radio station for years, I respected the format and the institution that it was in Philippine radio. That’s sort of why I didn’t accept the job offered of me two years ago, when they asked if I was willing to be the “image consultant” of sorts to the home of NU rock. I came from WAVE 89.1, a hip-hop station, and felt I had no business tinkering around with the image of a station that is almost the exact opposite of hip-hop. It didn’t feel right, so I declined it in favour of Campus 99.5, which was a format I was more at home with. Turns out, either choice I had in 2008 wouldn't have carried me through to 2011, since both stations are gone now, although Campus Radio Online lives on.

I guess when the news started to unfurl about NU 107 being sold and eventually reformatted, a lot of people who took the station for granted began to realize they were on the verge of losing something that was big, important, and at this point in Philippine radio – the only one of its kind. The radio station many people have simply dismissed as “selling out” or “watered down” suddenly found a bunch of closet fans, or even bandwagon fans, and naturally, some hardcore fans took exception to that. Let me tell you this much, though: if you’re a station worth bandwagoning on, you’re definitely worth something, no matter how vestigial all those efforts may have been.

That fateful night at Emerald Avenue, home to several radio stations, about five hundred or more people came together to pay their last respects to NU 107. And while I’d be the first to crack jokes about the demise of NU once and for all proving that NU (the university) doesn’t exist at all, there was something surreal about the crowd that came together that night, all singing along non-stop to every symbolic song NU played on its final night.

In my time of being involved in radio, I have never seen a sendoff for a radio station the way NU got. It was heartwarming, if not envy-inducing, considering how many other radio stations just went out with a whimper. NU went out in the proverbial blaze of glory, and what a glorious blaze it truly was. As a great song once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Unfortunately, the new beginning? Nothing much to write home about.

The latest incarnation of the 107.5 frequency is known as WIN FM, with the very blatant Love Radio-esque slogan, "Pinag-iisipan pa ba 'yan?" Personally, I don’t actively despise masa stations, and I believe they have a purpose in the radio landscape. Hades, I'm even a fan of Mr. Fu, Chris Tsuper, Nicole Hyala, and Papa Jack! The thing is, there’s a lot of them already running around. You have 90.7, 91.5, 93.9, 97.1, 101.1, 101.9, 102.7, and 103.5. I’m not sure about 95.5 nowadays, but that marks eight radio stations with essentially the exact same format. Now, WIN 107.5 becomes the ninth, while NU 107’s format? It has zero representation in today’s airwaves.

If RX 93.1 decided to go away tomorrow, I would be arguably the saddest person you would ever find: I love RX, I love the people there, and I don't just mean the on-air staff: from sales to traffic to management, I've known them for years, and they know that if for some reason they ever needed me on their team, I would drop most everything I'm doing in a heartbeat to help them any which way I can. Despite all that, I would know that the format lives on in Magic 89.9. Same jocks? No. Same off-air staff? No. Exactly the same playlist? No. Same format? Indubitably.

When NU 107 went off the air the final time and that national anthem played, thus displacing "Ang Huling El Bimbo" from being the station's last song ever, where do you think their loyal listeners would go to now? I'll tell you where: YouTube. Their iPod. Frostwire. Anywhere but the desolate wasteland of Philippine radio, which no longer has a home for rockers, unless they're old enough to appreciate RJ 100, or hipster enough to pretend to like UR 105.9. In fact, the only good thing that could arise from all of this is if UR decided to really fill in the void left by NU, because hey, they're LA 105's spiritual successor, and they have both the on-air staff and the musical chops to pull it off. Then again, we don't have any UR Rock Awards, do we?

That a unique radio station is killed to make way for yet another masa station is a great travesty. That a station that gave rise to some of the best rock acts of the past two generations is now gone, and a ninth radio station churning out bubblegum music and encouraging mentally challenged K-Pop wannabe acts without caring for the long-term results upon the music industry is a grievous mistake that we sadly have no power to correct. NU may have been a niche station, but it was a notable enough niche, and it dominated its niche, competition or no competition. Personally, I believe that if you have the best product in anything, it should already sell itself, but then, I’m not really privy to the sales practices of NU 107, so I couldn’t speak for their efficacy or anything of the sort.

I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again: I love radio. I practically grew up on the medium. I was a frequent contest winner in 93.9 due to my vaunted speed dialing skills. I loved 94.7 and 96.3 because their DJ's spoke so little, I could record songs I requested from them with impunity. I loved 97.1, 106.7, and 95.5 because they had daily countdowns. I loved 105.9 and 107.5 because they were the only station playing Grin Department. I loved 93.1 because Chico and Delamar trained me in Radio 1 and I followed their career from RX to KC then back again (I'm still a loyal Rusher to this very day.). I worked in 89.1. I almost worked for JAM and NU. I worked (For free!) for Campus 99.5. And now, I regularly guest on 99.5 RT on weeknights with the Disenchanted Kingdom. In high school, I was even on an AM radio program called "Anak... Gabay Mo," a CMMA hall of famer that was never once supported by its own radio station (You go, DWXI!) despite espousing good values and positive influence on the youth who listened to us.

That’s exactly why when I had to choose between WAVE and QTV-11 in 2006, I chose WAVE instead of embarking on a TV career, albeit most likely behind the camera. To this day, I figure I’d still have done the exact same thing.

Now you know why it took me this long to write about this. It was difficult to take a long, hard look at the history of these three radio stations then to take a conflicted glance to where they are now. One story was almost inspiring. The other was interesting. The last one was downright depressing. Even a professed non-devout listener to NU 107, such as myself, was affected to the very core by the loss of the station. I could only imagine how the real fans felt, especially when the collective faces of the NU flock were spat on by the smug face of Tim Yap, as he found himself inside the station on NU's farewell night. It wasn't bad enough that he almost ruined the night the Eraserheads came back for a concert for the ages by pretending to be a fan, yet not even knowing the words to "Toyang," but did he have to do more of the same in Emerald Avenue?

November 8 will remain to be a very dark day in Philippine radio. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this was the day the (rock) music died. And for that, I light a candle in fond, hopeful yearning for better days for Philippine radio. Hindi na kailangan yan pag-isipan pa.

Do not go gentle into that good night...

Project 365 (318/365): James Hydrick

.:318/365: James Hydrick:.

One of the most popular pretenders to the throne of psychic abilities was the infamous and oft-ridiculed James Hydrick, who looked more like a serial child molester than a genuine psychic, and the pornstache matched with the McDojo costume certainly didn’t help things one bit.

A con man who decided that telling everyone he came from a Chinese master that taught him the mystical arts of telekinesis, Hydrick found himself quite the object of attraction in the now-defunct television show “That’s Incredible!” Here, he moved phone book pages just by gesturing towards it, and did more of the same with pencils and toothpicks. It seemed pretty impressive to anyone, to say the least, but when he found himself one on one with the great debunker, James Randi, he quickly folded, as you will see in this particular video.

Quite a waste, really. He could’ve just went ahead and become an entertainer, rather than an out and out fraud. And when I look at how he could’ve avoided this mess by doing just that, he’d probably be in a better place and his reputation in less disarray than it is now.

You see, when people ask me about my mentalism, I only tell them a few things, namely that it’s not a power, anyone can learn it, and there’s a science behind it. These are all genuine answers. If people ask me if I’m pulling their leg when I explain how all of these things work, well, I have to remind them that first of all, I’m not trying to start a religion, and second of all, I don’t expect anyone to believe my explanation. Thirdly, if there were some diabolical secret behind what I do, do you really think I’d casually tell you what it is?

Seriously, there’s an epidemic of fairy-killing going on, and it’s a tad disappointing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (315-317)

.:315/365: Cold Reading:.

Cold reading seems to be that phenomenal thing where someone just manages to tell you so many things “you couldn’t have possibly known.” Despite that, isn’t it funny how it mostly relies on vague words and minimal details rather than elaborate messages? If one could really speak to the dead, why are they mumbling?

I don’t know, really. Cold reading is a skill I’ve picked up, but one I’m not fond of utilizing to its fullest extent. Despite that, trust me when I say that cold reading in the hands of an expert could yield countless hours of entertainment and amazement, to say the least.

.:316/365: Dowsing:.

What if you can find water by using two rods and their frequencies would just answer the questions for you?

What if it were all just a big, fat lie? Well, it only takes a simple blind test from one James Randi to find out, eh?

.:317/365: Graphology:.

Psychoanalysis based on how a person looks, acts, and writes have been utilized with varying degrees of success, but graphology experts have always claimed accuracy in the face of heavy criticism. What makes graphology seem paranormal is that it can claim to know how a person acts and thinks just based on their handwriting, which I personally find hard to believe, in all honesty.

Regardless, James Randi goes on yet again to see if this phenomenon is testable and observable, and the results are... disappointing, to put it mildly.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

P-Pop? More Like P-Poop, Amirite?

.:P-Pop? More Like P-Poop, Amirite?:.

Reading Ade's, Rico's, and Jepoy's scathing commentary, I couldn't help but take a closer look at all the hubbub.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a new age in Philippine pop music (I dare not call it Original Pinoy music...): P-Pop, following in the tradition of K-Pop and J-Pop, is becoming quite a trend, and while the few acts composing the P-Pop scene are still sparse and not quite yet there in terms of overwhelming popularity, it’s still a trend to take note of, nonetheless.

I’m sure it’s easy to just handwave all of this and say that it’s just business as usual of Filipinos ripping off “foreign” and “superior” products, but you see, it’s always possible to adapt something well, and clearly, that’s not what they’ve managed to achieve here so far.

The thing I noticed with K-Pop is that while there are some distinct qualities present in all their popular acts, the whole concept is still very broad and very varied, and it seems that our take on P-Pop is limited by the equally limited viewpoint we have of K-Pop. It’s like we took a snapshot of one particular facet of the genre, then spun ourself off of only that snapshot of the tapestry.

I suppose this is the pot calling the kettle black, because I’d admit I use the same tactic when I try to channel my inner Colbert and Tsao when I write for The POC and now, Filipino Voices, but it’s best to be self-aware when you do these send-ups rather than act as if you’re suddenly a magical authority on the genre just because you’re aping it.

As a guy who has a wide range of taste in music, I can’t say I absolutely detest XLR8, although their new competitor, 1:43, what with their deliberately mangled Taglish, gives the term “indie music” a whole new meaning. In the words of the great Mike Unson, “indie yan music.” But I digress, because I recognize it’s a matter of taste. And I’m glad I have enough of it to just stick to less pretentious genres within the world of OPM.

For the life of me, I’d never understand how the local music industry works and survives the way it does. It seems to thrive off of remakes, novelty acts, Willie Revillame, and bandwagons, and yet at the same time, genuine genius in the likes of Eraserheads, Itchyworms, Juan dela Cruz, Gary Valenciano, Francis Magalona, Gloc 9 all still have a place in the industry. It’s easy to dismiss bubblegum pop as fluff that nobody will remember in five years’ time, but it’s here to stay, so I guess I’d just count my blessings whenever I see some of those acts slip through the cracks. Maybe as P-Pop gets more refined, we’d finally have a distinctive pop sound all our own, but for now, it’s just really badly mangled Taglish, and I can’t be bothered to support this kind of music.

And, oh, just because their frontman is still doing that stupid exposure show, can I just register my disdain for Callalily’s music? Yes, I’m biased. No, I don’t care.

Overall, watching this music video really made me facepalm. I think I’ve worked in the radio industry long enough to know that this doesn’t even remotely qualify as good music...

You hear that sound? That’s the sound of my soul dying juuuuust a little. It’s as if I looked at the face of the Other and tried to extend my kind gaze to her in a way that would make Levinas proud, then the Other promptly got up, smiled back at me, then swiftly kicked me in the ‘nads. It was just aggravating to listen to the song, and as much as I want to restrain myself from being overtly opinionated and blasting something I dislike without trying to be fair about it, this one made me want to tell this hidden “gem” of an act to please, please, stay hidden.

Lately, it feels like anyone who has a CD Burner, a Mac, and Autotune could come out with the latest and hottest “indie wonder” album. Somewhere out there, the Einerlei bares its ever-expanding maw, to consume one and all as we find ourselves deeply entrenched in a morass of mediocrity and bandwagoning.

Way to go, 1:43! You have set the bar lower for succeeding acts, and everyone else is going to look like effing Tchaikovsky right next to you! Thank you for rendering this great service to the music world.

Recently, Korean actress Lee Da Hae made apparently disparaging comments about how Filipinos speak English, and there was a mild furor over the whole issue. Once again, another celebrity has joined the Alec Baldwin's, the Chip Tsao's, and the Adam Carolla's of the world. She has subsequently apologized, but as per schedule, more than a few Filipinos still demand some retribution, some payback, if you will.

Filipinos looking for vengeance, look no further. 1:43 is the musical equivalent of flipping the bird at the Korean people.

Less vindictive Filipinos, on the other hand, would like to apologize to the Korean people for this travesty. Then again, we don't really know if we could forgive ourselves for this, to begin with.

On first look, 1:43 may seem like a bad ripoff of K-Pop minus all the talent. But don't be fooled, 1:43 is a bad ripoff of K-Pop minus all the talent.

Project 365 (314/365): Psychic Surgery

.:314/365: Psychic Surgery:.

Aaaaand this month just took a weird turn into “debunking psychic chicanery bullcrap” instead of just out and out paranormal magic, but hey, that’s a welcome change of pace.

Psychic surgery is the often-hyped ability of certain people to use only their hands to extract cancerous organs and the like. It’s supposedly painless, supposedly effective, and supposedly doable through the grace of God-given powers as done by individuals like Jun Labo, and as experienced by the late Andy Kaufman.

Imagine paying through the nose to be cured of cancer through someone just fumbling around inside your body, and then removing what does appear to be a cancerous organ that you apparently won’t ever miss.

And then you find out that it was all an act, and at best, you were given a most convincing placebo. Does this still sound the least bit justifiable to you?

Well, that’s how psychic surgery works, and when you abuse basic magic principles to substitute for genuine medical treatment, then you’re being quite a douchebag, to say the least, magic code or no magic code...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Exclusive Interview With Demi Lovato!

.:EXCLUSIVE Interview With Demi Lovato:.

Now, we reveal the truth behind the mysteries!
And because I take my music snark very seriously, I actually managed to secure an interview with the currently embattled Demi Lovato, who recently checked herself into rehab due to still unclear reasons.

Here’s a transcript of how the interview I conducted turned out, what can only be termed as a veritable clash of titans between a superstar of unimaginable proportions, and Demi Lovato.

Me: Hi, Demi! I know you don’t have much time for pleasantries, so I’ll go straight to the questions – is it true that the main reason you checked into rehab not because of your breakup but because of an eating disorder you wanted to curb once and for all?

Demi Lovato: This is real.

Me: Is this picture (See above) of you true? Or is it a doctored photo?

Demi Lovato: This is me.

Me: How do you feel about this situation you’re in? Do you have any regrets?

Demi Lovato: I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be now.

Me: Once you get out of rehab, what do you plan to do?

Demi Lovato: Gonna let the light shine on me.

Me: Thanks, Demi! I’m glad that now you know who you are!

Demi Lovato: There’s no way to hold it in.

Riveting stuff, isn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t have believed any of this either if I didn’t hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. We wish you a speedy recovery, Demi!

Project 365 (312/365): The Seance

.:312/365: The Seance:.

There’s something so eerie about séances. I should know, because I conducted one myself.

It was about two years ago, shortly after a particular student in ADMU took his own life. Fr. Bulatao, being the way that he is, decided to ask me to conduct a séance, and while I knew the motions of performing one, skeptic that I am, I never believed that any of the motions would ever lead to anything. It was a room full of Psychology graduate students and even professors, and I was the only Philosophy student in that room.

Since the person who committed suicide was a former classmate of mine, I was apparently the only guy in that room who actually knew the person. This would prove to be very important later on when I started doing the motions, and achieving what appeared to be the downright paranormal.

To this day, I look at this event with a healthy dose of skepticism, and just assume that the other students in the room actually did a bit of research on the person, but failing that, there was no logical explanation for how two people who apparently have never met or known the person could suddenly describe in complete detail how the person looks, what the person normally wears, the person’s demeanor, and a host of other things only someone who actually knew the person on a personal level would have known.

As I knew the person, I was the only one who could verify the facts that they were throwing around. I know the tenets of cold reading. Hades, I use them myself. But there was something so eerily accurate about their comments and descriptions, and it just really took me aback, to say the least. While I’m still not a believer in the paranormal, it does give me cause to think every now and then.

The séance has often been used and misused in the entertainment world by performers in an attempt to generate very raw reactions from audiences. Magicians have had their share of staging séances, and it’s really a practice I generally frown upon, if only for the fact that it’s very exploitative of people who obviously have no way of defending themselves.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Project 365 (311/365): Swallowing Razor Blades

.:311/365: Swallowing Razor Blades:.

Please don’t try this at home, but if you ever would, can I just please, please, please suggest that you use dull razor blades? I know for a fact that Paul Potassy uses sharp razor blades to do his act, but there’s no reason to risk it, and even if the blades are, in reality, dull, I’d rather that a performer not lose his tongue just to prove that he can do it the hard way. Seriously.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Project 365 (310/365): Walking On Coals

.:310/365: Walking On Coals:.

Walking on glass raised to the tenth power. There’s just something so visceral about this, and some of the top fakirs in the magic industry have taken to mastering the art of walking on a bed of hot coals, no question about it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Film Review: Till My Heartaches End

.:Film Review: Till My Heartaches End:.

It’s as if I went on pilgrimage!

Till My Heartaches End
Misspelling your title is only the first thing wrong about this movie...


Last weekend, I decided to pass up on an M:TG tournament because I had a more important thing to do, and that was to watch a Kimerald film with one of my best friends, Clair Ching.

You see, when I caught Paano Na Kaya earlier this year, I have come to expect a certain level of quality from Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson, acting-wise. It’s not like I was searching for FAMAS-worthy performances from the two, but I was expecting that my suspension of disbelief wouldn’t be shot down in flames while watching their story unfold.

Prior to the movie being released, there was a major controversy going on when Gerald Anderson and Bea Alonso both received death threats because the former finally admitted that he is in a relationship with the latter, thereby proving once and for all that the Kimerald pairing is purely a professional pairing now, and there is no actual relationship between Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson. Bizarre, possessive fans that the Kimerald fans are, they practically demanded that the two people get together – or else. Whether this does or does not play a role in the success of the movie is beside the point, but with all of this going on behind the scenes, I couldn’t help but look at the movie through a less rosy pair of glasses.

First of all, even if it has ended up becoming acceptable usage to say “till” when you mean the contraction of “until,” I still find it incredibly jarring because the last thing I expect to do with a heartache is to take after it with a hoe. When the story opened with a not-so-subtle attempt at eliciting “creativity” by being non-linear akin to 500 Days With Summer, I was already wary, because this was one particular movie that did not need to be told in a non-linear fashion. In fact, doing so only enhanced what was clearly a paltry attempt at artistic value, and what little of this the film had going for it was quickly squandered as the story continued to unfold.

This was the tale of an illegitimate son with daddy issues in Powie, and a province girl trying to find her way in the big city in Agnes. While I would have to admit that the fact that the Agnes character was a nurse leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth (Those who know me would know why.), what was really appalling about this story was that while their interactions and the way the whole thing played out was plausible from start to finish (As opposed to their first official vehicle film, I’ve Fallen For You.), the film was so rote, so predictable, that it was boring. There was nothing about the film that made you want to see how things would pan out: there was nothing about Powie’s telegraphable desire to make himself rich and Agnes’s clinginess to Powie and Powie’s subsequent... well, indiscretions that made you think “whoah, what a shocker.” When you watch the film, it was just a romantic story by the numbers:

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy and girl fall in love with each other after a montage of kilig-inducing moments.
3. Conflict arises.
4. Parental issues with one of the characters is addressed.
5. Conflict appears to be resolved.
6. A third party makes the conflict irresolvable.
7. Boy agonizes over leaving the girl because he feels responsible for her.
8. Boy finally leaves girl.
9. They get back together because true love conquers all.
10. Number 9 doesn’t happen because you want to pretend that this film isn’t a romantic movie by the numbers.

The romantic drama has been played out so many times before, but at some point, either some stellar member of the cast, an exceptionally memorable line, or a fresh spin on the rote concept would be trotted out and save the film from complete mediocrity. Unfortunately, this film never once attempted to draw that out. In an eidetic reduction of what it means to be a romantic drama film, they boiled everything down into the core things you expect to find in one, then made it as blasé and as routine as was humanly possible. There was no saving this movie even if Kim and Gerald decided to break character in the middle of the film and propose marriage to each other before returning to the story at hand: this film was so archetypal, and yet it was also bereft of any sense of urgency or heart.

When I saw Paano Na Kaya, even if the best friends as lovers trope has been overplayed to the hilt in the past, the film just clicked not just because of the memorable lines but because the film, overall, felt like it had heart. It had a story to tell. It was a film that new how to tug at the hearstrings, and played to the strengths of Kim and Gerald. Till My Heartaches End took a step in the wrong direction by expecting to get stellar performances from the ill-fated loveteam, only to realize that their limited skill could only take a flimsy storyline so far. The film, for all intents and purposes, was a skeletal outline that required a lot of improvisation to work – a skill neither Kim Chiu nor Gerald Anderson ever possessed to begin with. What we were left was a story you can’t hate, you can’t love, you can’t feel a thing about, because it was just an outline playing itself out in running time, and nothing more.

The best thing about Paano Na Kaya were the memorable lines they had in the film ("Shinota mo ang best friend mo, Bogs!" being the most popular.). This film didn't have anything near that level, although the "Hindi lang tayong dalawa ang tao sa mundo!" elicited a chuckle from me, since I did catch some episodes of that teleserye...

The romantic drama has taken a lot of twists and turns in the countless decades it has been utilized on film. No matter how good or how bad, the memorable ones always knew that there had to be a kind of conflict that felt so urgent and so necessary to deal with that the relationship hung in the balance because of it. Instead, we were met by real life, and we realize that yes, real life is rather boring. The little things that add up to drive a wedge between lovers? It’s as real as it can be. But nobody cares. It’s like having an action movie without throwing a single punch. Or a horror film without a single spine-tingling moment. Or Willie Revillame without a shred of sleaziness in his body. It just felt so toothless and bereft of a message.

As a huge fan of both Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson, I do wish them well now that the mystique of their loveteam has been shattered to pieces. Despite that, I cannot in good conscience say that I liked this film. Other than the open ending, this film just really left me cold, and I know they can do so much better than this because I’ve seen better from them, slurred speech aside. As it stands, this film was an uninspired dreck you’re better off missing out on.

Fun Rating: F
Critical Rating: D+

Random Thoughts While Staying Up Way Too Late Before Going To A Company Thing...

.:This Is A True Magician:.

Ummm.... yeah.

.:Demi Lovato’s In Rehab!:.

In what appears to be a pattern for Disney stars, Demi Lovato of Camp Rock fame entered rehab recently. Compared to other Disney/former Disney stars excluding Hillary Duff, this is pretty tame and actually laudable as Demi did this for her own good and before things truly got out of hand, but one does wonder what’s going on in Disney’s tinseltown that so many of their talents/former talents get pretty messed up for one reason or another.

One hopes that Demi Lovato does recover from this ordeal, but right now, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be now.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (306-309)

.:306/365: Thomas Medina:.

Often considered as the premiere geek magician, Medina’s repertoire involves some of the freakiest routines you will ever witness, and once you check him out, you’d insist that this Rick Moranis lookalike is not human at all. From eating razor blades to chewing broken glass, Thomas Medina is a veritable goldmine of visceral effects designed to elicit the most primal of reactions from people.

Needless to say, his brand of magic, known as “geek magic,” has inspired a very (thankfully) small group of performers to take after him: doing things that are either too freaky or too creepy to just explain and to witness one after the other, but powerful because more often than not, they just do these things as it is, and prove that they’re just made of sterner stuff than you and I, really.

A more flattering title for some geek magicians would be “fakirs,” but when you watch them, you might want to refer to them as geek magicians all the same, lest you accidentally blurt out some decidedly un-family friendly words when referring to the “amazing fakir” performing right in front of you.

.:307/365: Tony Andruzzi:.

Tony Andruzzi, also known as Tom Palmer, was both a comedy magician and the father of modern Bizarre Magick, performing some of the grisliest and most visually astounding effects you will ever see. This is how Max Maven would be if he out and out decided to utilize the occult as part and parcel of his persona, and his looks alone would tell you that.

The late and great Tony Andruzzi was certainly a character that just managed to draw out vivid responses from everyone around him. As a performer, he had absolute command over the mood of the audience. He knew what it would take to push their buttons, and in doing so, he managed to create a larger-than-life aura for himself. He was not a magician: he was a sorcerer, taking you on a journey into the occult. His whole look and onstage persona was geared towards upholding this mystique and assuring himself that he would go down in history as a person who would never fail to leave a lasting impression on anyone who crosses paths with him.

.:308/365: The Bicycle Ghost Deck:.

While special Bicycle decks tend to make spectators scream “faaaaaake” faster than you can do an invisible pass, the Bicycle Ghost Deck is often excused because of the eerie way the deck looks, and how this becomes a way to enhance a freaky effect or two.

These cards are easily found in Cutting Edge stores in malls everywhere locally, and they do last long. My Ghost Deck is actually two years old already and I can still use that deck on occasion. That’s value for your money, folks! :p

.:309/365: Mother Fakir!:.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Project 365 (303/365): Ghost Vision

.:305/365: Ghost Vision:.

Creepy effect, isn’t it? Well, it’s one of the earliest effects I learned, but it’s strictly a street magic routine. Despite that, it’s powerful, and definitely can get people talking. Who knows? Maybe I’d be able to perform it again if the opportunity ever presents itself.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Project 365 (304/365): The Spirit Cabinet

.:304/365: The Spirit Cabinet:.

This is the Spirit Cabinet, as performed by the recently departed Glenn Faulkenstein and Willard.

A true classic, hailing back arguably even before Houdini’s time, this involves having a restrained woman inside a cabinet, and having the most ghastly of things happening while she’s clearly bound. The mystery is how these things happen yet once the curtains or cabinet are opened, the woman is still clearly in the exact same position as we left her before we let her out of sight.

Pretty amazing stuff, to say the least, and certainly one of the best “ghost” effects you could ever hope to see, as it’s handled by two great performers who came together to really present a marvel of ingenuity.

Granted, back in the day, the Spirit Cabinet was used to elicit realism, as it was insisted that the spirit within the cabinet was very much real, but thanks to Harry Houdini’s unrepentant myth-busting, this kind of aspect quickly faded into the background, albeit some people still do go around places to perform this as if it were the real thing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Project 365 (303/365): November Is The Supernatural Month

.:303/365: November Is The Supernatural Month:.

Whether or not you believe in it, there have been more than enough stories about the supernatural to tide us all over for the rest of our natural lives. It permeates the very core of our being when we hear an exceptionally scary story, and we don’t quite know how to make heads or tails of it, but it’s like ice cubes running in our backs: the feeling is eerie, and it’s impossible to shake off.

As a skeptic, I’ve never been a huge believer in the supernatural, even if some of my experiences appear to point towards it. Whether it was that infamous séance I conducted two years ago, or the uncanny coincidences that have occurred around me, I’ve always just attributed them to just that: coincidences, and freaks of chance. I’m willing to suspend disbelief when watching a performance, sure, but for me to suspend my disbelief when someone offers to contact my dead relatives for me? That’s quite a stretch.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the supernatural, there are countless things that we still don’t understand in this world, and that’s a given. This uncertainty, this inexplicability, is precisely the charm and conceit of magic: we can’t explain something magical, thereby, it’s amazing how our eyes are fooled, or how someone plays voodoo with our mind in that manner. Magic has always played up on this uncertainty, and in the context of a magic act, they wouldn’t shy away from toying with the audience’s imaginations through the immense resources they have at hand.

This month attempts to chronicle some of the more impressive bits of the supernatural in the context of magic. Whether it be a magic act that uses ghosts, geek or fakir, bizarre, or even phenomenon often associated with magic, I’ll try to discuss them here, whether at length or in brief, as is my always mercurial tendencies when it comes to this Project 365. Hopefully, this month will prove to be interesting to magic fans all over.