Friday, December 31, 2010

FINAL Project 365 For 2010!

.:365/365: On My Hopes For Magic In 2011:.

And so, after 364 other articles about magic... what have we learned?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Tribute To Mang Bert Timbol

.:Gone, But Not Forgotten:.


Mang Bert Timbol: 14 June, 1931 - 20 November, 2010.

This year was one of the most volatile years of my life, and it's been so hard to stay positive in the face of all the adversity I've ended up dealing with in 2010. I tried constructing a list of people I wanted to be thankful for this year, the way I did in the past how many years before, but for some reason, this year just wouldn't allow that. I think the most glaring change is that some of the people I was most grateful for last year are currently people I wish I never even met. When you hit that kind of resentment, it's hard to be all thanky-thanky, but I feel that throughout the year, there was only one person I could not in good conscience not thank at the end of 2010.

I really have only one man to be grateful for this 2010: my grandfather, Norberto Timbol.

In my life, there are two men that I admire more than any other men: my grandfather, and Rick Astley. Now, while I may have attended Rick Astley’s concert with front row tickets two years ago, I would’ve certainly done the same for my grandfather if he ever had his own concert. Besides, seeing how I have no musical talent whatsoever, it should be pretty obvious that despite all my adulation for Mr. Astley, even that pales in comparison to how highly I think of my grandfather.

When I was about five years old, I was struck down with a severe case of dengue, and found myself in critical condition while laying in the hospital. It was probably only one of two times I could recall where I was truly in mortal danger, and my entire family knew it.

My grandmother would always tell me this story when I was older: that my grandfather prayed hard and offered his life in exchange for mine. He prayed that the Lord take him in my place, just so I may survive. He prayed fervently, and it seemed God heard him: indeed, I survived.

But see, the Lord was good, and He ignored the other half of my grandfather’s prayer for the next 22 years, until finally, on 20 November, 2010, my grandfather passed away due to complications with his nine-year long bout with cancer. He was 79 years old.

Lolo Nor was larger than life to everyone else around him, but to his family, he was the best and most down-to-earth husband, father, and grandfather anyone could ever know or hope for. The fond memories I had of Lolo Nor are countless, and I will never forget that his kindness and gentleness for his family inevitably shows even for the very people he works with throughout his phenomenal career, both in Unilever and in MASSCOM.

He was an institution in the industry, and only in his passing did I personally realize that this was truly the case, seeing some of the movers and shakers of the media industry present day in and day out at Lolo Nor’s wake, when a calculated PR move would have simply required a single ten-minute visit instead. When the industry mourned the loss of Lolo Nor, they truly mourned for the loss of a great man. As someone who looked at Lolo Nor with the all-too casual eyes of familiarity, it struck me that as great as I thought Lolo Nor was, the man everyone else knew as Mang Bert was even greater than I could begin to fathom.

And with that realization of how devastating the loss of this man was to so many people who have known him even just in passing, one could only imagine the sense of loss his own family felt. I realize that everything I say right now may come off as cliché, but they are every bit true and every bit applicable. The devastation and the grief that washed over us was powerful and almost paralyzing, but with the strength of will and character Lolo Nor showed us throughout his life and until his very last moments, we couldn’t but follow his example and stay strong for each other. He would have wanted nothing less.

I’m grateful I never missed out to tell my Lolo Nor how much I loved him and appreciated him for the influence he has been to me. My insatiable appetite for knowledge and wisdom, my drive and stubbornness, all these qualities were born through his encouragement of me and my dreams, always reminding me that whatever I choose to do for myself, I should aim to not give myself room to regret the choices I would take.

I guess my greatest regret was that with his passing, he would never see me march onstage to receive my Masters Degree. And though I turn my back on the academe with that realization, I won’t turn my back on the lessons my grandfather has taught me in the 27 years of my life that he spent with me. I always joke that “bata pa lang ako, apo na ako ni Lolo,” but it is less of a joke and more of a testament of his drive to be the best in whatever he put his mind and heart into. From the moment he could call me his grandson, he resolved to be the best grandfather he could ever be, and he succeeded with flying colors. For that, I cannot thank him enough.

Before he passed, he made my grandmother swear to him that she would never put him on life support, no matter what. She reluctantly complied, but knew that he was ready for this moment for years. Lolo Nor lived a full life and was not afraid for himself in facing the other side: he was a great man with great faith. He knew he would be in a better place, and we know that, too. The cliché’s always go: it’s not the year you were born or the year you passed, but the dash in between. We do not mourn for him, but for ourselves, bereft of such a great human being. Whatever you may call them, they are absolutely true. We could only have wished to have more time to spend with Lolo Nor before his life’s mission was over. We know he lived a wonderful life. In spite of all that, the grief that overwhelms us reminds us just how much he loved us and how much we love him.

He was brilliant, he was passionate, he was steadfast, and he was truly one of a kind. He proved to me that you’re never too young or too old to learn something new, and it doesn’t matter how much you think you know, it’s how much you don’t know that would keep reminding you how much you should learn to live life rather than to let it pass you by.

You know, if I could ever be half the man my Lolo Nor was, I think I’d end up pretty okay already.

Godspeed to you, Lolo Nor. We miss you, but we know that you will always remain with us in our hearts, a constant inspiration and beacon to all of us whose lives you have touched. Thank you, we love you, and you will always be in our prayers.

Project 365 (364/365): On Being The Best Magician In The Philippines

.:364/365: On Being The Best Magician In The Philippines:.

I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for any performer worth their salt to be regarded as “the best magician in the Philippines,” if such a title could possibly be given to someone and undisputed at the same time. Recognition of one’s contributions, skill, and abilities as a magician would certainly be quite a boon, but alack and alas, it’s rather difficult for anyone to ever so much as give a conclusive answer to a person who’d ask me, “Hey, Kel, who do you think is the best magician in the Philippines?”

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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry F'N Christmas. Whoop-De-Doo.

.:On Taxis And Humbug:.

Taxis have officially ensured that I would continue my tradition of humbug-ness and have nothing but contempt for the entirety of the Christmas season yet again.

I think this past year has shown to me the kind of lengths people would go through all in the name of greed and selfishness, and it sickens me to the core that they are doing it all in the name of having a “merry Christmas.”

Newsflash, you jack@$$: you’re not the only one celebrating the holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The PBA 2010 Personal Roundup

.:The 2010 Philippine Blog Awards Retrospective:.


Movie poster moment! (Image courtesy of Ryan H)

This year was a year where blogging has gained mainstream recognition in ways we never thought possible a mere year or two ago. From the very express inclusion of bloggers in the campaign plans of most candidates to the strides bloggers have taken to effect change within this nation, 2010 was a continuation of the seeds planted in 2009 that really shone at its brightest in the aftermath of Ondoy.

Project 365 Smorgasbord (357-360)

.:357/365: On The Sleight Vs. Gimmick Debate:.

Some purists in the magic industry have been rather vocal in the past about their aversion for using gimmicks to achieve an effect when a sleight (No matter how difficult it happens to be.) could be utilized instead. Even more annoyingly, they turn their noses up at people who love their gimmicked items as if it makes these performers any less of a magician for not being able to use dexterity to achieve magic.

As one of those magicians who does love his gimmicks, I can’t help but scoff at this misguided notion, because at the end of the day, it’s all the same to the audience, and as most people who know me are quick to point out, that’s really all I care about.

The difference between using a gimmick and using paid actors is the difference between a Criss Angel magic show and one you could actually do live. As most skeptics like to point out when they demonstrate how they duplicate “psychic” abilities, if they can do it with no powers, yet charlatans insist that they do it with powers, then these charlatans are doing things the hard way for no good reason whatsoever.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Project 365 (356/365): On Longevity In The Industry

.:356/365: On Longevity In The Industry:.

We’ve seen so many magicians who have come and gone like the proverbial flash in the pan in the industry, but the ones we almost universally look up to are the Burtons, Hilarios, and Copperfields of the world, who have managed to capture the imagination of their audiences and with each passing decade, have successfully managed to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and marketable for bookers worldwide.

What does it take for a magician to last as long as these luminaries have? Is it all about being at the right place at the right time? Skill? Personability? Or do we go with the cliché, “a combination of all the right tools?” In actuality, I believe it has a lot to do with flexibility, more than anything else.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Project 365 (353/365): On Being As Good As Your Last Show

.:353/365: On Being As Good As Your Last Show:.

A jock I know told me a long time ago: you’re only as good as your last boardwork.

In a lot of things, that holds true. So let me tell you about my last show, but before that, let me tell you about my worst one...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (349-352)

.:349/365: On The Philippine Online Magic Community:.

With The Story Circle as one of the most recognizable websites about Philippine magic among the younger generations and stellar blogs like Leodini’s holding up the banner for the Philippines in the international community, the Philippines is fairly well-represented in the online magic community. There are a ton of videos on YouTube showcasing our craft, and a lot of it happens to be pretty good, to say the least.

We have a pretty solid community, and thankfully, most of our “infighting” remains just that: infighting. The international community is relatively insulated from any controversies within our little corner of the world, unless it’s something the entire Philippine community stands behind. And that’s nice, really. The rest of the world doesn’t need to know which magician is feuding with whom in the Philippines – although they’d best be informed which undesirables are deemed so by the community at large. Sure, the united front may give other people the misconception that everything is hunky-dory in the Philippine magic scene, but anyone can read between the lines, and they can get down to the nitty-gritty if and only if they want to, rather than the whole mess being in plain sight for everyone to see and pick at in their free time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Project 365 (348/365): On Philippine TV Magic

.:348/365: On Philippine TV Magic:.

There’s a lot of magic on Philippine television lately, and in this case, I’d want to focus mainly on non-exposure features of magic, for starters.

Philippine TV has had its fair share of magic programs, whether they be full-blown TV specials, or even regular TV shows. Currently, Wow, Meganon has segments featuring Jeff Tam and Wanlu, albeit Wanlu has focused on his ventriloquism at this point.

Nonetheless, there has been a lot of television airtime featuring magic from Filipinos, and it’s a bit funny and sad that in terms of fresh ideas, the regular TV shows have a lot more of them than the TV specials, seeing how nearly every single TV special aired so far has been a spiritual ripoff of a western one, and that practically every single effect that has been performed has been done before in a western one. It’s not even just the fact that these effects have been shown before, it’s that all the pizzazz and sizzle from the previous ones were stripped away in the localized performances.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Project 365 (347/365): On Skeptics

.:347/365: On Skeptics:.

Skeptics aren’t necessarily hecklers, but you can spot them a mile away. These are the people who look at a mentalist and assume that trickery is involved. Which is pretty funny half the time when you realize that mentalists are pretty forthcoming about revealing to everyone that they utilize psychological gambits and other similar methods to achieve their results. Or they just do exactly what they claim to say, consequences be damned.

Skeptics look at magic with a certain air of disdain. While not all of them will challenge a magician onstage, you can just tell they’re rolling their eyes at a performer because the whole thing feels beneath them and an insult to their intelligence that someone could so much as pretend to have magic powers when everybody knows that simply isn’t the case.

Project 365 (346/365): On Hecklers

.:346/365: On Hecklers:.



It’s happened to the best of us. We’re out there, minding our own business, performing for a most appreciative audience. Then there’s this one guy who looks at the whole thing sternly with his arms crossed, and he couldn’t help but feel envious that the magician is the centre of attraction now and for the next, oh, five minutes or so.

He walks up to you, and tells you with so much conviction: that’s fake. That’s not real magic. You look at him, dumbstruck. He’s what? 25, maybe 27 years old, and he still believes in real magic? Is something wrong with him? Next thing you know, he tries to grab your cards when he thinks you’re doing something funny, he chalks up all those sleepless nights he spent watching the Masked Magician as he tries to reveal your secrets, and clearly, everyone else is just tolerating this guy because he’s their friend.

Thankfully, you’re not, and with people like those, do you really want to be?

Welcome to the experience of being heckled. Consider yourself unlucky if you’ve never gone through this before, because heaven help you if you get so big and successful before your first one comes along to ruin your style and to wreck your day.

Hecklers never fail to get the goat of magicians. You will find on magician’s forums endless topics devoted to how to deal with them and at times, even wish fulfilment fantasy of showing them up and putting them in their place through some brilliant means or some other. In reality, though, there is no one surefire way to deal with them.

Some hecklers are best ignored. Others are best played along with. Still others are best maimed and left a bloody pulp on the ground. The rare breed are best taken out for dinner and a movie. Regardless, a lot of attention has been showered on these hecklers, but we haven’t even come close to solving the problem yet. And while it’s a bit disastrous to have magicians getting heckled, I can safely say that comedians have it tougher when it comes to hecklers.

And you know the worst thing about it? More often than not, your first ever hecklers would be family. It’s one of the most disheartening things to encounter, but it’s so commonplace already that it’s like a rite of passage. If you could actually impress your family, then you’re on your way to something good.

Really, when it comes to hecklers, there’s only one applicable advice at all times: get better. Whether it’s your magic that needs to improve, or your spectator management skills, you just get better, and it wouldn’t matter if former president GMA herself were heckling you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kris Aquino's Dalaw: Unfortunate Implications And Fridge Logic

.:May Dalaw Sa Disyembre?:.


Wow. Just wow.

I don't know what Kris Aquino was thinking when she signed onto this program, but there's something about having a movie entitled "Dalaw" and a poster tinged with lots and lots of red that puts me off.

Now, imagine if this kind of mental acumen was put to good use, giving rise to a whole new bunch of films?

First, we'd have a starrer featuring how the MMDA, in all its power, has ended up having way too many people just trying to suck up to them in order to curry their favor. In short...


This couldn't possibly be taken for anything else, right?

Next, we'd have a movie about how a young lady finds true love, only to discover that things weren't as beautiful as they seem, and now she is caught in a web of lies and deceit: a prisoner in the truest sense of the word.


Absolutely no alternative meaning can be derived from this!

And of course, the piece de resistance, as it stars a young doctor who works in the boondocks as a medical missionary, giving vaccinations to poor indigents. Here, he discovers love in the most unlikely of places...


What else could we be implying, right?

With a lineup of movies like these, I think it's safe to say that the Philippine film industry will be reaching its glory days in no time at all!

Project 365 Smorgasbord (343-345)

.:343/365: On Overexposure:.



Ever felt that there’s more magic all around us than ever? What used to be a rare, at best occasional treat, has become so commonplace that, well, the magic is gone. The video above features an excellent bit of magic, but because the Coin Bite has been so used on so many shows so many times already, even a stellar performance from Cyril Takayama can’t overshadow the routine’s overexposure.

How many TV shows have featured magicians at some point? In local TV alone, you could see a ton of magicians on their talent shows, a few more in their noontime shows, and even a bunch of them in their daily talk shows. News programs have some magicians involved, TV 5 in particular has shows that either feature magicians or expose magic, and it’s hard to think of a single wee of TV programming without any magicians showing up at some point.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Double Film Review Time!

.:Film Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1:.


Clearly, I can’t take my own pictures to save my life.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
At last, the end is near...

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Project 365 (342/365): On Feuding Magicians

.:342/365: On Feuding Magicians:.

Apparently, magic isn’t spared from feuds, intrigues, and controversies, and there have been quite a number of them over the decades. While I’m sure revealing the details behind the not-so-blatant feud between Criss Angel and David Blaine is quite a thrill for some, overall, I can’t really think of how magician feuds benefit the industry, to begin with.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Whole Lotto Fun

A Whole Lotto Fun
By Marcelle Fabie

Nation, there is truly nothing greater than feeling joy and happiness for the good fortune of another person. It feels as if there is a kind of bond that we manage to share with those who are so blessed: a sharing of joy and happiness that cannot but lift our spirits as we vicariously bask in the glory of those whom we congratulate and wish nothing but the best for.

We are a country that shares in the victories of our heroes, whether in the realm of sports like Manny Pacquiao and Efren Bata Reyes; or in the realm of music, like Lea Salonga and Charice Pempengco. We recognize that the victory of one of our countrymen is the victory of the nation as a whole. And even if it were a foreigner who has found themselves in the company of the Filipino people, such as Korean superstar Sandara Park or former beauty queen Dayanara Torres, the Filipino people also shares in their triumphs.

That being said, I hope whoever won the 740M pot in the last lottery draw disappears from the face of the earth for all eternity, the rotten bastich.

Was it not the eminent Archbishop Cruz who condemned this anonymous winner for all eternity by letting him know that he or she stole this money from the Filipino people? Clearly, a person who bought a ticket for twenty pesos stole 740 million pesos from all of us, no matter how illogical that sounds. After all, how dare somebody win a lottery, right? These things were supposed to be a tax on people who are bad with math, yet somehow, someone broke those odds. And for that, we have to begrudge them.

And nation, everything’s better with Tim Yap, considering how famous he made Miko Morelos by tweeting that the man actually won the lottery. Let’s not let the fact that he was merely reporting about someone winning the lottery nor the fact that for the sake of protecting a person, the names of lottery winners are withheld get in the way of Tim Yap’s insatiable desire to get a scoop despite being about as credible a journalist as 1:43 would if they came up with a documentary about quality music.

With a lynch mob out for the scalp of Miko Morelos for his (non-existent) good fortune, is it any wonder that we patriotic Filipinos cannot feel anything but utter pride in how classy we have become as a nation in the face of good fortune and triumph? After all, we merely want to spare this poor, anonymous (Possibly Korean) lottery winner from a lifetime of misery that would beset them if they took that prize money.

Statistics have been clear about how many big lottery winners have ended up being worse off financially after everything because of paranoia, exorbitant spending, and fair-weathered friends (and even wives) all teaming up to do a number on a winner who, in the end, feels more like a loser after everything. We don’t want that fate upon them, and in wishing they would share the burden of 740 million sinful Pesos with the rest of us, perhaps we could mitigate such a Herculean task.

And really, we patriotic Filipinos have nothing but the best of intentions at heart for our anonymous winner. With the destruction upon one’s life that 740 million pesos can wreak, one can only hope that they would not allow this misery to befall our unknown friend.

In the end, no matter how much money one may win, all the money in the world can never buy them class. The kind of class we patriotic Filipinos already have in buckets.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (339-365): On The Next Generation

Before anything else, in case you missed our Christmas show last Friday, "My Idea Of A Perfect Christmas Show (Sayang hindi namin nakuha si Jose Mari Chan...)," you can catch snippets of it tonight on TV5, after Willing Willie, on the TV Show Wow Meganon!

Hope you guys like it, as we definitely pulled out all the stops for that show. :)

.:340/365: On The Ellusionist Culture:.



I’ve touched upon this in the past, but it’s something that bears repeating: Ellusionist has been both one the biggest boons and banes for the magic industry in the last decade, arguably next only to David Blaine (Criss Angel is a bane to the industry, period.). Through Ellusionist, we ushered in a whole new breed of magicians, with a throng of young performers who have been reared on the style crafted by the E to reach out to the next millennium’s budding magicians.

While Ellusionist did its part in spreading the love for magic for a new generation, it did so with an inordinate emphasis on only one particular aspect: street magic. By positing the classical acts of Copperfield and Hennig as “old-fashioned” and “cliché,” they ended up indirectly disrespecting the facets of magic that actually paved the way for them to make an impression on the industry and in the mainstream all at the same time.

It was a stroke of genius on their part, really: they made magic seem cool all over again, and anchored it on the misleading premise that anyone can be a magician, and magicians will always impress people, without allowing their would-be clients a chance to glance at the fine print: yes, anyone can be a magician, but only if they work at it. Yes, magicians will impress people, but only if they’re actually any good at it. While retreading age-old material just given a new and edgy twist may seem like an excellent way to milk money, it isn’t a very viable one in the long term. Ellusionist is succeeding and will continue to succeed, but mostly because of an excellent marketing team rather than any actual substance behind
the things that they do.

This isn’t to say that the E is completely bereft of substance, but it’s impossible to ignore how much more sizzle than steak can be found in almost all of their recent releases. After the initial onrush of great material, they began to rely more on their slick production values than in actually coming up with effects that really turned magic on its head.

All things considered, I like that there are more magicians than ever, but I also hate that there are more magicians than ever. To be honest, one can’t blame Ellusionist for this lack of regard for magic as an art form, but simply a matter of statistics: as more people want to learn magic, there will be more people who will want to learn it for the wrong reasons, be it for exposure, just scoring some one-night stands, or any other less than delightful motives. At the same time, couple this with the YouTube culture that we would have to discuss tomorrow, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It’s a huge burden, but the onus needs to be shared by Ellusionist to uphold magic and continue elevating it on their own turf. At the moment, they’re doing well coasting along on their success, but there’s no reason for them to not want to take it to the next level if it means that it will benefit everyone in the industry. How they could do it remains to be seen, though, because clearly, their current methods have reached an upper limit, and something drastic needs to happen to make that next transition.

.:341/365: On The YouTube Generation:.

Ever noticed how a good magic trick on YouTube would never go without having some smartass commenter divulging how the trick works? Heck, the video above? That’s proof in the pudding right there.

Welcome to the YouTube Generation of magic: a place where poor performances, exposure, and outright bootlegging of full videos are commonplace and unstoppable. If you thought torrent was dangerously hurtful to magic, YouTube is probably infinitely worse.

Ever wanted to learn how to do a magic trick? Just go to any YouTube video online, and either there’s a video out there that teaches the trick, or you could see a performer flub the trick so bad you’d know how he did it, or you could see an excellent performance filled with commenters who just have to tell you how it’s done and kill the faerie for everyone else.

While it has been an excellent platform to showcase magic, it has, in my estimate, done more harm than good to the magic industry. Really. Why would the average person want to pay money to see a good magic act when not only can they see the same performance on YouTube, they can even find out how it’s done afterwards?

And I guess that’s exactly why you would never find my full act online, for fear of eliminating any surprises I have up my sleeve as a performer. I like being able to keep people guessing what I would do next, and how free-flowing my performances can be. Having my full act on YouTube ruins that spontaneity because there are no more unexpected bits and pieces to my show, so the entire audience can potentially brace themselves against anything I can cough up, which is a crying shame, really.

The YouTube generation hasn’t really inspired a new generation of magicians. Instead, it has given an avenue for killing faeries wholesale, whether it be the likes of the Mythbusters (More on them next time.) or just your average sub-par magician botching the trick to the point of exposure. It doesn’t do a whole lot of instilling respect for the art form, and instead perpetuates the notion that anyone can do magic and that it’s nothing but trickery, and all trickery is bad. As it feeds into the cycle of denigrating the perception of magic, I feel that the gains it may have garnered for the magic industry in terms of dissemination and exposure are not enough to undo the damage it has caused upon the respect for the secrecy of the art form, as it has become so casual and widespread that it’s no longer a big deal to do exposure the way Valentino’s actions used to be such a huge issue for us.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (336-338)

Before anything else, thanks to everyone who made last night's "My Idea Of A Perfect Christmas Show (Sayang, hindi namin nakuha si Jose Mari Chan...)" a huge success, from the audience to our performers, Jay Mata, yours truly, the Comedy Cartel's Richie Fernandez and GB Labrador, and Talentadong Pinoy's second hall of famer, the world-class ventriloquist, Wanlu and his puppets.

Also much thanks to my consultant for the event, the Boss, Rannie Raymundo.

.:336/365: On Exposure:.

The topic that almost unanimously ticks the magic industry off, exposure has always been considered as the knife that plunges into the heart of the industry every single time it happens.

During the times of the Vaudevillian magicians, it was commonplace for them to steal their tricks from each other, so they ended up turning to patents and the like in order to protect their routines. Unfortunately, this meant that the workings of their routines would become matters of public record, thereby allowing any unscrupulous performer to steal a magic routine with ease, to begin with, or just killing the fairy itself, so to speak.

From magicians stealing from each other to laymen feeling slighted at not learning how these apparent miracles are done, the resentment for the secrecy of magic grew and grew, and when Valentino came along, things rose to a fevered pitch. The greatest secrets of magic became available for anyone who’d care to watch a television special.

As if that weren’t enough, the dawn of the YouTube generation brought about a general lack of respect for magic’s secrets: half of the people who do magic onscreen expose it unintentionally through poor performances or poor camera angles or snide comments they allow to get through, or intentionally make videos to expose magic, to begin with.

The general excuse for exposure has been to challenge magicians to “evolve.” The challenge is for them to come up with new ideas to revolutionize magic until someone sees it fit to unveil the secrets again, as if any one person actually had the right to go out there and strip people from their livelihood just because they feel like it or because they want to put some logs in the punch bowl.

But see, I can’t say exposure has always been bad. If anything, what is truly bad about exposure is the general disrespect that is thrown towards magicians while the exposure goes on. “These are all tricks! Don’t be fooled!” As if anyone is stupid enough to believe George Clooney was really a doctor. Or Batman. But no, these things just keep going on, and there’s little the magic community can do to stop people who just want to expose their secrets willy-nilly.

In contrast, the way Penn and Teller expose magic may get magicians up in arms, but it has certainly done its job in raising the profile of magic. More often than not, their exposure of a magic trick actually proves how difficult magic is, and how it takes skill to actually pull anything off.

And this is why I hate the term “may daya,” or in English, that the magician “cheats.” Looking at the sheer amount of skill a Rannie Raymundo has in manipulating coins to appear and disappear at will, it becomes rather disrespectful to say that what he does to achieve this is “cheating” when in reality, what he does is extremely difficult. Cheating connotes that something difficult is made easy. Magicians are very well capable of doing difficult things and making them look easy. Is that cheating? Of course not. That’s talent.

And with that, we see how exposure has become a devastating facet to the magic industry: while it does have its share of elevating the art form and entertaining people more, it also emboldens these same people to think that the art of magic isn’t an art worth respecting at all. If only for that, I tend to look at exposure with a wary eye, no matter how liberal I may be about my stand on the issue.

.:337/365: On Creating A Magician Persona:.

Whenever I watch a performer onstage, I always look out for their performing persona. Believe it or not, this oft-ignored facet of a performer’s total package can spell the difference between a successful performer and another brick on the wall. Just ask David Blaine, who was originally every bit as animated as your regular street hustler.

You see, how you project yourself onstage allows the audience to form an immediate opinion about you. This can work to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on what character you choose and how well you portray it. If anyone remembers “The Prestige,” we’ve seen performers who absolutely lived and died by their characters and refused to let anyone outside of their personal circles find out that the character is all just an act. Few people knew Chung Ling Soo, the Chinese mystic who was fatally shot while doing his bullet catch routine, wasn’t even Chinese to begin with, but a full-blooded American. Obviously, Teller can actually talk. Derren Brown plays a suave and debonair character, yet happens to be gay in real life.

When you add all of these things up, you understand that even a performer who hardly changes how he is onstage and offstage still plays a character onstage, even if it’s just an extension of one’s real personality. The character one projects determines the confidence level of the performer as well, because if the performer isn’t at home with the character, it will show. A good character can enhance the simplest of magic acts. Who would’ve thought that a simple two-card monte would become legendary in the hands of David Blaine? Yet notice how many two-bit magicians do some amazing illusions as done by Copperfield, yet get reactions of people rolling their eyes in boredom. I can assure you that if Copperfield himself did the exact same routine in front of these people, more than half of these seemingly jaded viewers wouldn’t react the same way.

We’ve seen mentalists who insist on coming off as satanic. Their very intense and occult personality intimidates audiences and puts them at a level where nobody would dare question if what they do were legitimate or otherwise. We’ve seen comedy magicians who are a laugh a minute, but know when to reel in the comedy when the magic needs to be the focus of attention. Of course, we also know some comedy magicians who don’t know how to reel it in, but the less said about Bearwin Meily, the better.

It doesn’t matter what character you portray, you need to be able to live it once you’re onstage. I think of some of the best workers in the wrestling industry, and I can’t help but feel that they’re the best because they know how to live their gimmick, no matter how ridiculous it can get. Think about it: how easy was it for Mark Calloway to get over a character of an undead zombie in the ring? The Undertaker had camp and ham written all over it, but the man behind the gimmick knew what it took to make it work. That’s the same thing a magician needs to get over as well: one needs to show that they are at home with what they are doing, unless it’s really their act to fool people into thinking they’re not.

Speaking of magic and wrestling, that reminds me of tomorrow’s topic...

.:338/365: On The Magic-Wrestling Connection:.



Aaaaaaaaaaand I have no shame. In the above video, you will find one of the most embarrassing chapters (Though one ought to be grateful it was a short one.) of the WWF/E’s storied history, where they tried to push a magician/wrestler named Phantasio. This was reportedly his first and only match on WWF TV, and with good reason: the two things simply didn’t mix too well inside the ring, although I can tell you that they probably would mix better onstage, where the magicians are.

Magic and wrestling are both, in my humble opinion, art forms. I have a deep respect for both of them, but regrettably am adept with only one of them. Maybe if I could take unbelievable amounts of pain the way those pro wrestlers do, but alas, I don’t have that kind of intestinal fortitude.

Having said that, the similarities between magic and wrestling don’t end there. Both are looked down upon as carnival fare. Both rely on suspension of disbelief from the audience in order for them to get a good reaction from their audiences. Both have their ridiculous shares of blowhard know-it-alls who challenge the performers because they think that just because it’s an act means that there’s no merit, skill, or art in what they do at all.

And really, when people think of it that way, it’s such a crying shame. Just because we know in advance who’s going to win. I always like to say that wrestling is scripted, but it isn’t fake. When someone falls off from the top of a cage onto the cold, hard, floor, there’s no amount of padding that would make that completely painless. If you don’t believe me, try jumping on your mattress on the ground floor from the top of the stairs and see if it doesn’t hurt at all.

And really, why single magic and wrestling out? Aren’t actors just more of the same? Why do they get a pass and the former two don’t? Is it because people just really have this insatiable desire to prove that they’re smart by going out of their way to reveal that magic and wrestling aren’t real? Newsflash: nobody gives a flying eff. People came to be entertained, and that’s really what you should be expecting when you go there.

So I guess it’s a bit disappointing for me that Phantasio never really got over in the WWF. I think it would’ve been cool if he churned out some more routines en route to the ring. What could he have pulled off, right? The possibilities were countless.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Giddiness Galore

.:Giddiness Galore:.

So...

Last Tuesday, I performed with my friends from the Comedy Cartel for a comedienne’s birthday in 77 Cafe. Now, this was a blast, and our open mic the next day was more of the same, but something about Tuesday night really stood out, and I can’t help but think about it with utter giddiness.

See, I was introduced to the comedienne’s friends as Kel, and one of them, upon finding out that I was a comedy magician, asked me if I knew a Marcelle Fabie. I looked at her, blinked, and said meekly that I was Marcelle. She didn’t recognize me, and neither did I recognize her.

That was, until she started jogging my memory. First, she reminded me that I was the aunt of a friend of mine. Unfortunately, I had three friends with the same name, so I was still drawing a blank. Then, she told me she was the mom of someone I knew very well, because this girl was someone I was very smitten by the first and only time I met her.

As the rest of the night unfolded, things just went unbelievably well, and while nothing is set in stone, hey, I definitely broke into a genuine smile for once in a long time.

I’m giddy. And I deserve to be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Project 365 (334/365): December Is Magical Essays Month

.:334/365: December Is Magical Essays Month:.

With less pictures and videos this month, the final month of this Project 365 will be ample walls of text that I hope would leave their mark on the magic community in a constructive manner. As a great fan of the art form, I certainly want to contribute to the elevation of magic whether in my country or worldwide by chiming in and throwing ideas meant to benefit the industry through the limited experience and knowledge that I have.

Perhaps I may or may not touch a controversial nerve over the course of this next month. Either way, I wholeheartedly encourage fellow performers who may stumble upon my blog to let your voices be heard. If you agree or disagree or have other ideas about magic and the issues besetting the industry today, I’d be more than happy to allow you the opportunity to let my humble blog become a soapbox for you to air out your thoughts. Heaven knows that the magic industry could do with a little more candor and a little less of silent suffering.

It has been an amazing year of doing this Project 365, even if I certainly had some days or weeks where I was clearly just coasting along. Still, when I found a particular month worthwhile to put effort in, it clearly showed, and the Mentalism, Filipino, and Escapology months were all the better for it, as well as some of the other earlier months that may have slipped my mind.

There are so many problems plaguing the magic industry today, and I wish to look at them in my own personal way and try to see where the problem stems from, and if within my capacity, suggest ways to alleviate these problems. It can only be hoped that this would result in some constructive brainstorming, and perhaps, other people in the industry would take heed and refine these ideas. If any magicians would like to share their own essays as well, just drop me an e-mail at mistervader@gmail.com, and I’d be more than happy to credit you and publish your thoughts on this platform.