Thursday, December 30, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (361-363)

.:361/365: On The Self-Degradation Of The Art Form:.

Let me tell you a story but not mention any names. I have a feeling that if the person concerned would read this, though, he would pretty much know it’s him.

Anyways, there’s a reason why I no longer try to completely erase my background as a magician, and it’s not because I still do a lot of magic routines despite always ending my shows with a bunch of mentalism stunners.

It’s mainly because in the Philippines, among the booking people, “mentalism” is turning into quite a dirty word. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I’d have you know that as a performer and as a mentalist, I’ve wanted nothing more than to elevate the perception of mentalism as an art form and to have it regarded with a kind of respect that I feel it deserves, especially since, given how a lot of the things we do are all psychological mind games put to practical use rather than the conventional magic “trick” we have grown accustomed to already. That air of legitimacy around what we do has allowed us to take what we do from purely a performing art to even become an educational endeavour, and as an academic at heart, this was a prospect I was very interested in.

Unfortunately, certain unscrupulous people have married mentalism and pickup artistry. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it took a turn for the worse when mentalism techniques became widely available for pickup artists, and in turn, pickup artistry and mentalism have become synonymous, even within the booking community.

Now, I can’t tell you how many times I get asked about PUA as if I’m one of them whenever someone hires me to perform. On top of that, any bad experiences they may have had with whoever that mentalist in particular ends up levied on me as if I personally went there and did an aura reading not meant to indicate someone’s personality but rather to set someone up via negging them and all that jazz I’m only vaguely familiar with.

Hey, do what you wanna do as a PUA. I have no problem with it. It’s when you go out there and ruin the reputation of mentalists for everyone else that I have a beef with the self-degradation of the art form in your hands.

Professional courtesy is the lifeblood of an industry as small as ours. The least you could do is to know better and realize that your actions become representative of the whole. If you’ve been using your mentalism gigs as a way to try to pick up women rather than to, you know, entertain people, then I can assure you that it will reflect on the industry because you get more engagements than the average mentalist, and they will have to deal with the consequences of your offenses.

.:362/365: On Stage Names And Titles:.

Whether you call yourself “The Boss”, “The Manila Enforcer”, “Leodini”, “The Maestro”, or whatever other title you think would suit your onstage persona, it’s always a good idea to have enough self-awareness to know whether or not you’re doing justice to the monicker you’ve given yourself as a performer.

I’ve said this before, but I personally feel that the greatest contribution I can give to Philippine magic is my passion at speaking about it online in a way that makes the very colourful status of the industry an excellent snapshot of the spirit of the art in the country. As a performer who appreciates contemporaries and colleagues and would sooner put them over than attempt to put himself over, one can see that I’ve taken it upon myself to set the record straight about Philippine magic in the online world, giving an uncompromising snapshot of the country’s industry, looking both at the good and bad elements, and helping to shape awareness about what issues keep magic from becoming as good as it could be in the Philippines.

With that in mind, I’ve always fancied myself as an “Ambassador” of sorts, although I’m certain that other far more well-travelled colleagues of mine such as Jeff Tam and Rannie Raymundo would lay more claim to that, and I can’t be quite an “Archivist” either, because most of the information I’ve gleaned have definitely come from active sources who can and will tell you the stories from a first-hand point of view, rather than from the lens by which I view the Philippine magic industry, which is, when you get down to it, more of an outside-looking-in approach despite my participation in it.

And it’s funny how other people dream up names for themselves, and try to incorporate the word “magic” into a weird “Bennifer” kind of amalgamation with their real names. Magicarl. Magicharles. Magikel. Oops. What’s in a stage name, really, but just an easy way to remind people what you do, right? I also am amused by the countless people who add the suffix –ini to their names to come up with their stage names. It’s like we could have a random magician name generator just by adding “magic” or “ini” to your name at this point. I await the time we see a Magicolbini gracing the stage with his undeniably magically-inspired codename.

And then, there are the amusing and self-effacing names or titles given to magicians, like “Magic Man” or “Fork Man Dude”. Or, for someone like yours truly who has used a breakup as fuel to become a professional magician, I have been referred to in a very hilarious manner as either the “Dramagician” or the “Senti-mentalist.” Even the designation of which art of magic we specialize in has resulted in people being labelled as “The Illusionist,” “The Hypnotist,” and “The Escapologist.” At times, these arbitrary assignments have also led to people being given misnomers, as for instance, I am far from a stage illusionist, yet I still get called that, and just the change of label already makes them believe that I’m not your run-of-the-mill magician. Never mind that none of the routines I perform at this point count as illusions.

What’s in a name, indeed? A lot of it is very contingent on what one hopes to achieve as a performer, and what one intends to market himself as. But then, on the other hand, even more of it comes from what the performer has already earned, and as such, while anyone can be a Magi-name-ini, it takes real qualifications to be “The Boss”, or “The Raconteur.” Stage names are picked, but titles, for all intents and purposes, need to be earned.

.:363/365: On Stooges:.

Oh, yes. Stooges. Somewhere, Criss Angel is biting his tongue.

I put a lot of stock in a genuine performance as a magician, and one of the key requirements for that is the ability to perform it for a live audience. Stooges can still be used for live audiences, but it’s pretty clear that stooges need to be kept to a minimum, if not altogether eliminated.

To be honest, I find it pointless to do a show where everyone is an active agent in the deception. It kinda ruins the whole point of magic as an art where we unlock their sense of wonder when nobody has anything to wonder about because it’s pretty clear the people who go up onstage to help you out are all on your payroll. It gets doubly annoying when you do it on television, where you actually have the benefits of camera tricks and angles that allow you to hide stuff that would be impossible to hide in front of a live audience, and thus is not magic you should ever be showing on TV as it unfairly raises the bar for those of us who actually do the hard work.

Everyone already knows magic is fake. You really shouldn’t have to go out of your way to make it even faker than it already is.

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