Wednesday, April 25, 2012
For the sake of prudence, I won't use a single photograph in this post. I think it would be for the best.
It's really not a good time to be a magician in the Philippines right now. Not only has there been a saturation in the market with dime-a-dozen magicians crawling out of the woodwork and giving stiff competition to more established magicians solely based on their price point, but the PR beating magic has taken has been insurmountable as of late.
Sure, among magicians, Bearwin Meily's exposure of magic secrets on TV 5 has been quite a big deal, what with even Ellusionist denouncing any connection with the apparent exposure. That affected magicians, but the average person couldn't care less.
There was also a bit of cheapening for magic and mentalism that happened during the whole Mind Master brouhaha where mentalism ended up being put in the same league as the Madame Auring's and the Jojo Acuin's of our society, and overall turning an art form into outright exploitation of the willingness of people to believe in something otherwordly instead of their own capacities.
All of this has yielded a marked difficulty in taking magic seriously, and ironically, utilizing my Laughs And Gasps approach, mixing magic and comedy in a way that makes no attempt to insult the intelligence of the audience, has managed to keep me afloat, personally. Other magicians of sterner stuff than the average have similarly found their own ways to move past exposure and bastardization and still continue to be forces to reckon with in the entertainment world. Hades, Erik Mana is opening for Rex Navarette and Mike Unson tomorrow for Rex's comedy show, so that definitely says a lot about Erik's longevity as a performer.
No, these aren't why I'm saying it's tough to be a magician right now.
I'm saying it's tough to be a magician right now because of what happened last April 3.
I was one of the last people to find out about this. In fact, I found out only last Sunday, from my friend and mentor, Tito Bing Lim-It. To this very moment, I'm still in shock, because I remember having shared the stage with Alakim just sometime last year, and even finding my picture in the newspapers along with his, when Ms. Giselle Sanchez wrote about us for her column in Manila Bulletin. I spoke very highly of Alakim as a professional, then, and I even met his wife during that one time we shared the stage for Ms. Giselle's party.
Later that year, I even met him again as he judged TSC's closeup magic competition, where I was asked to be a host. I have never had a single unpleasant experience with Alakim, and though I cannot speak to how he sees me, I always considered him a friend in the industry.
I guess that's precisely why I still can't believe what happened, and why I simply don't know what to make of this. I will not even try to play an armchair CSI agent and assume Alakim's guilt, because I personally believe in the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. I withhold any judgment on the man, simply because I feel it is unnecessary and uncalled for at this point. I am not an expert, nor would I pretend to be, and the last thing a potentially innocent man needs is yet another person accusing him of killing his wife, when he actually didn't.
Despite that, it is a very dark day for the magic community when a tragedy like this happens. Maricar was prominent enough for most of the magicians who made acquaintance with Alakim to know her, as well. Aside from that, it's difficult to see one of our luminaries have his career snuffed out like that. Guilty or innocent, this will affect Alakim in ways I cannot even begin to predict, much in the way that Ted Failon, despite being exonerated of any suspicions of killing his wife, still has people insisting that he was guilty, as if they were there when his wife died.
If innocent, Alakim is ruined. He is not quite like Ted Failon on the totem pole, after all. If guilty, Alakim ruined himself. Either way, magicians in the Philippines are affected by this, and the biggest parallel I can draw isn't even to the case of Ted Failon, but to a grislier one: Chris Benoit's double-murder and suicide case, which has affected and shaped the pro wrestling industry in ways nobody thought possible. To this day, Chris Benoit never so much as gets mentioned on WWE programming, and all his accolades as a pro wrestler are forever overshadowed by what he has done to his wife and son.
Alakim's actions, or even his circumstances, in no way reflects the actions or circumstances of any other magician in the Philippines. Yet with this case, all magicians, regardless of Alakim's guilt or innocence, will now possibly be viewed more warily purely by association. It's uncomfortable and it's terrible, but nowhere nearly as terrible as having a life snuffed out so needlessly last April 3.
I don't want to end on a note that makes it seem I'm more concerned about the reputation of Philippine magic than about the family that Maricar de Paz left behind. This day is a dark day for the Philippine magic brotherhood far less because of how the average person would look at magicians from this day on (And for all I know, maybe they wouldn't even know about it.), but more so because on that day, we lost two people: Maricar, and Alakim. No matter what happened on that fateful day of April 3, two people who were near and dear to a lot of us are taken away from us, and we end up asking ourselves what happened and why this had to be.
Rest in peace, Maricar. We ever met only once, but I won't ever forget you and the zest for life you had during that one time. May the truth come out and may it lay your soul to rest, and then and only then would I choose to speak about Alakim. They both at least deserve that much.
I recently bought a copy of Street Fighter x Tekken for the PS3, and I was very pleased about it. I mean, wow. 38 characters from two of the best fighting game franchises in the gaming world! Playing the game, I definitely felt a rush, because the game simply handled like a dream. Oodles upon oodles of different flavors across the cast, and a host of other features that add a whole lot of depth to the game. My favorite SFIV character, Makato, isn't in the game, but no game is perfect, I guess.
It was a great game, and I was more than happy to pay full price for the game because, hey, I knew going in that I was going to have 38 characters to play with, and a few more to come in a few months via DLC.
And then gamers far and wide found out that the DLC was already there in the data of the disk, just locked out from play. Oh, noes!
Now, a furor has been raised about this "issue." Clearly, Capcom is being greedy and wants to make money! How dare a company selling video games want to do something as unthinkable as make money? I mean, obviously, 38 characters aren't enough, and we want those other 12 characters like, right now, for freeeee!
If you find this kind of thinking ridiculous and, well, entitled, welcome to the world of gamers, who hate on the very games they love to play.
Let me take you on a trip down memory lane as we remember the history of Capcom's fighting games from the very first Street Fighter II that hit the arcades. For its time, it was a revolutionary game, inspiring a relentless number of knock-offs from other companies. When it was sold on the SNES more or less two decades ago, cartridges were available at $79.99 a pop or so. It had eight characters. If you got lucky, maybe you could find the game at $59.99, the exact same prices brand new games are in 2012.
Wow! Eight characters who don't have the exact same movesets unlike Street Fighter 1? Sign me up!
In contrast, Street Fighter X Tekken is approximately $60 in today's prices, and you get 38 characters.
So when SFII: Champion Edition came out and had the exact same price point, did we hear fanboys complain? Probably not, since the internet didn't exist yet, but really, weren't the four "new" characters in this game just you having access to the four boss characters already in SFII: World Warrior, to begin with? Doesn't this mean that the data for these guys is already, ahem, on the cartridge? I don't know about you, but if you found nothing wrong with paying $60 for an extra four characters you were already playing against, I fail to see how whining about an extra $20 to get three times as many extra characters is worth complaining about. And for those complaining about the fact that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and rendering the first MVC3 obsolete in nine months, well, guess when SFII's SNES Champion Edition (Actually titled SFII: Turbo) came out? SFII: The World Warrior came out in June 1992. SFII Turbo came out in July of the same year. A month. Can you imagine how an early adopter who bought World Warrior for $80 would've felt back then?
What? Can't we just unlock this content on our cartridges via... err, something?!?
And Honda slapping Sagat around? Lies!!!
Can't we just DLC this on our cartridges?!?
What? Just one new character?!? And these Super combos are just so playskool and baby shoes!
And... Street Fighter X Tekken has 38 characters, and we're complaining?!?
What a swindle!
In fact, when Super SFIV came out, and it added about 10 characters, we had people scoffing and saying "What? Just 10 characters, some new stages, balance tweaks, and new Ultra combos? That's already a new release? What a rip-off!!!"
This is ignoring the fact that an update precisely consists of either balance tweaks, new stages, new characters, or new moves, and all of that was included in the Super SFIV package. You take all that away, then you have exactly the same game, so I don't think anyone whining about this "not" being an update actually knows what the word means.
There is no promise that without DLC, we were going to get those 50 characters on Street Fighter X Tekken. They could functionally have done the same thing they did during SFIV to Super SFIV or Marvel vs Capcom 3 to UMVC3, where they came up with another disc release instead of making the game available via DLC. Rest assured that would probably cause a lot more rage than the current situation we are faced with instead, since even at a discounted price of $40, that would be double the $20 they plan to charge us with for the DLC characters.
Granted, X-Box users have every right to gripe about the fact that certain promised features were not included for them, such as co-op online, but to assume that not developing those 12 DLC characters to instead deliver these features, as if the character designers would be the same people as the game system designers, is bordering on ridiculous. Furthermore, to ignore the convenience of having DLC content locked away on your disc instead of downloading it on a hard drive with limited space when it was clear from the get-go that: 1. The game was going to have DLC you were gonna pay for anyway, and 2. The original game was being marketed as a 38-character game, then you can see how being a stickler for semantics on the notion of "downloadable content" and all this bull about "developing cycles" and whatnot is just fanboys playing armchair game developers without understanding the first thing about it: games are designed to make money for the game designers.
Do I wish I had 50 characters and got the extra 12 right now, if not for free? Of course I do! Do I expect it from Capcom? Of course not! At no point did they promise any of these things to me, so at no point do I feel entitled to something I was not promised, even if it happens to be locked away on my disc. If I really had a problem with this practice, I simply wouldn't buy the game. I wouldn't buy the game knowing full well it's for 38 characters, find out about the 12 extra hidden on my disc, then proceed to whine why I don't have access to those 12 and completely ignore the fact that nobody from Capcom said I was going to get those 12 for free or right now. Ever.
So with that in mind, I simply cannot fault Capcom for this move. They promised us 38 characters + DLC, and we didn't complain. We found out that a simple line or two of code (Simple as it may be, 99.99% of you reading this, like myself, wouldn't know how to write it, much less where to put it, anyways.), and all of a sudden Capcom is the devil? Really? For what? For wanting to save a little money since they pay for data storage whenever they make DLC available, when this on-disc thing doesn't really affect us any which way? I mean, seriously.
And sure, of course people have a right to complain. Nobody has the right to stop them. But if you really, really hate Capcom and all that they stand for, maybe you should stop buying their games then whining afterwards? Being critical of Capcom's business practices is one thing. Being a hypocrite while you're at it is another.
Case in point: "Freemium" games on iOS, particularly those that come from Glu. If you feel compelled and swindled to pay your way to play their games, then yeah, maybe you shouldn't even be playing those games if you weren't willing to pay for it in the first place. I learned this the hard way when I plunked over $100 into that stupid Blood and Glory game, which, while free to download, was impossibly hard without making in-app purchases. What made this thing even worse was the game was a ripoff of a game I already had: the infinitely better Infinity Blade, which wasn't a free download, and cost an astronomical $7.
$7 versus $100? Yeah, I think that taught me quite a lesson, all right, and I have no reason to ever blame Glu games for it, because I willingly walked into that trap, hook, line and sinker. It just means they're never seeing another cent from me ever again, because hey, I actually hate their business practices, and am letting my wallet speak for itself, although $100 too late.
Otherwise, I'd continue plunking money into Blood and Glory while whining about Glu's unfair practices, and wouldn't that just be the height of not just hypocrisy, but stupidity?
But still, screw you, Glu Games. That felt cathartic to say.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The typical Nuffie mating call.
As most of you who know me know by now, I am no longer an employee of Nuffnang Philippines, albeit by my leaderboard and sidebar, you know I'm still one of their bloggers.
It was three years ago, April 15, 2009, when I first walked into the doors of Nuffnang as an employee. It was a really great experience, and I can't tell you enough how amazing being part of the Nuffnang family has been. Working with sales, getting to meet people of all kinds, getting insight on all the things in life that I would never had given a second glance otherwise. It was, to me, home. A family, if you will, rife with all the idiosyncracies that come with it, all the same.
And who can complain, really? I had the time of my life, I made great friends who I will probably have in my life for the rest of my days, and my life as a netizen has been remarkably changed by having been an employee of Nuffnang, although I still do regret never having been able to go to Malaysia or Singapore when I had the opportunity in the past. Just because I'm quiet in my own little corner of the office doesn't mean I don't give a damn about everything going on around me.
I’m still at a loss for words, but really, I will write the next chapter of my life with a lot of optimism in my heart, thanks to how much Nuffnang has shaped and molded me. I remember how crazy things were back then, and how a ragtag group such as ours could buck the trends, go against the odds, and make respectable names for ourselves. We were so young and stupid back then.
But now? I’m just stupid.
Judd, on the other hand, was wishing for a camera since he ruined his.
Sir Eric and sir Jay, thanks for the opportunity. Hindsight being 20/20, I doubt I’d have chosen differently than to walk into that door on April 15 three years ago. You have been amazing mentors in your own right, and I am grateful for that.
Tim, Ming, Jestina, Elise, Yee Hou, Kruppy, and everyone else from the other Nuffnang regions, I will make it a point to see each of you in your own countries sooner than later. That’s a promise.
Ms. Jing, Charles, Roanna, Patty, Dani, and Toni, though our time spent together here hasn’t been that long, I’m still happy because the sheer insanity of being around you guys never failed to turn my day around.
Jaja, Vanessa, and Danes, thanks for the interesting conversations and the extraordinary memories. Whenever I walk down a dark, scary alley, I will always walk with a limp just the way Vanessa taught me to.
Ms. Beng and Chakka, thanks for being there, and listening to me whenever I felt everything was too much to bear. People like you kept me going far longer than I thought I could, and for that, I’m grateful.
Ms. Grace, thank you for driving me to achieve things I never realized I could if I put my mind to it. I carry the steely resolve, can-do attitude, and tenacity that any consummate professional would find to be a boon to have.
Anne, thanks for being the de facto mommy of the sales team. I’m sure you will hear this often, but when things started out, few of us saw eye to eye with you, but now we know that there is no arguing with success, and thank heavens for that kind of success you enjoy and never fail to share with all of us.
Jel, thanks for being a blessing. Your quirkiness will always make me smile as I read your insane Tweets on a daily basis.
Thei, thank you for being as great a friend as you are a professional. You have a wisdom beyond your years, and I foresee a lot of success ahead of you in nearly anything you would want to ever do.
Rendhl, thanks for putting up with me as you run the backbone of the entire operation as quietly and as efficiently as can be. Whenever you’re not around, a certain sense of chaos envelops the office, so I guess that’s a credit to your uncanny talents.
Maris, thank you for being the office noise barrage, and I mean that as a good thing. You always speak your mind, and you give the company a shot in the arm in the oft-ignored “Babaeng Beky” demographic.
Ria, thank you for being brutally frank and honest. People like you are few and far in between, and knowing that you care underneath it all makes all the difference.
Trixie, thank you for being the superstar diva that you are. I know you’re only nice to me when you’re drunk, but I’m genuinely happy to see you achieving success in the world of showbiz. Guys, don’t forget to vote for her for this year’s FHM 100 Sexies Women of 2012. Let’s see if she makes it beyond 102 this time…
Judd, for the longest time, you were the one who kept the words “girl’s night out” from being a word I dread to no end. From Rockeoke to SPIT to Route to every single other crazy misadventure we’ve had, thanks, because I don’t think I could’ve managed being the only thorn among the roses for much longer than I actually have. I could’ve sworn I became even more introverted the minute you left Nuffnang, and I think that really told me everything I needed to know about the difference you made in this company.
Carlos, no matter how many times you refuse to accept this fact, you are the boss, and a damned good one at that. There is only so much a single person could do, but you tried everything you could to go beyond those limits, and I would argue that you are doing a pretty fine job at it. Thank you, and you have no idea how big a deal it was to me that you finally caught one of my comedy gigs.
Did I forget anyone else? Oh, but of course. Denise, thank you for being the best part of my stay in Nuffnang. It was much easier to wake up every morning knowing that I would practically start and end it in your company. You are treasured. Never forget that.
So where do I go from here? To better, brighter places, perhaps? Or to worse, darker ones? It doesn’t matter at this point, because wherever I trudge on to next, the three years I’ve spent with Nuffnang will always be an indelible part of my psyche.
Who could ask for anything more, really?
I know I can’t.
And the end is not in sight
But the stars are out tonight
And they're bound to guide my way...
Friday, April 13, 2012
Oh, look. The friendzone. What else is new?
It doesn't really matter how bad my Friday the 13th is going to be. Given how things are, this day would've been bad, regardless of the date it falls upon.
And see, I know I'm supposed to be making a point here somewhere, but I feel not just heartbroken, but completely broken. I'm not thinking coherently, and I can't make heads or tails of what I'm feeling, but damn, I'm really walking wounded right now.
All I know is this: when Friday the 13th rolls around, we look extra hard for the bad things happening, and that's why we think it's a day of bad luck. Yet obviously, 9/11 didn't happen on Friday the 13th now, did it? Well, good things or bad, the days will keep on rolling, and this is exactly the same scam that has allowed Phiten and Power Balance to work its magic at fleecing people of their hard-earned money. After all, when you expect something to happen, or work, you're going to look extra hard for indicators that something did happen or work.
Yeah, well, screw this day, regardless. I could've sworn I deserved better. Looks like I was wrong.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Three years, and this is what it's come to. I still don't quite know how to feel about it, but I actually sense serenity and perhaps even happiness in the horizon.
I've been afraid for so long, because it's easy to keep moving around in your comfort zone, despite the obvious things that you just know really hold you back. I've followed the rules I've set for myself, but it has gotten me twisted for a long while already, and I guess, it's good to know that this change of pace, the new horizon I look upon, actually has something very positive for me, even if it's scary at the same time.
The funny thing is, I realize now that I never needed to find a replacement for her. All I needed was to find you, for all the wonder that you are. And now, I feel that the universe might be lining up just a bit in my favor, and it's up to me to make this happen and show you that this is, indeed, worth it.
A new chapter awaits. I look upon it with trepidation, but I couldn't be more hopeful that finally, I have a shot of not just existing, but finally living.
In all my years, I may have never felt more alive, all thanks to you. S'funny how no longer being so close to you brings me to life even more for reasons that would be clear to anyone who knows me.
A new chapter begins, and if you know what this is about, then I hope you're excited for me, too. I know I am.
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Don't you just love it when Cyanide and Happiness, gets it right?
Sometimes, you find yourself in a relationship for so long where everything becomes mundane, even mechanical. At times, you end up pretty much letting the relationship run on auto-pilot, and this is true for a lot of long-term relationships, whether ranging from the romantic or the professional.
However, after everything has been said and done, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it's the routine that gives us a kind of reliability, maybe even a kind of stability, that we've come to unknowingly appreciate for its sheer predictability. Not everything needs to be a page-turner in life, and long-term relationships can be some of the most rote things in the world.
That stability, that mundaness, all of it can be good. It can bring about an ordered world and some semblance of sanity in one's hurly-burly life. It gives one a sense of certitude where everything else can seemingly be called to question, and where one's appreciation for the relationship itself allows them to find a deeper kind of understanding in the very banality of it all.
So yeah, just imagine the inevitable mess that comes about with the abrupt end of that kind of relationship.
Imagine your feelings being torn asunder as everything you held to be true suddenly becomes a lie the very next moment, and how it throws all your best-laid plans, the future you're building with that relationship in mind, and the certitude that comes with the relationship, no matter how easy it seems to take such for granted. Imagine the feeling of abandonment that comes when suddenly, the simple things you took for fact no longer exist, and in their place, there is an immeasurable void that you don't quite know how to fill anymore.
Imagine having to say goodbye when you're not yet ready to. The uneasy feeling as everything you held to be true and everything you had faith in becomes little more than a hazy light that burns brightly only in your mind, and nowhere else.
I mean, are we ever really prepared to say goodbye to the things we've held near and dear to our hearts for so long? I honestly don't quite know if we truly get to that point, and perhaps, we never would. From that point on, we feel a sense of betrayal, regardless if there was anyone to blame for the abrupt farewells, or even if it may have been our fault, for that matter.
It is with these haunting thoughts I begin to ask myself why we, as temporal beings, seem to want to hold on to some things permanently. Perhaps it's simply because we know everything else is fleeting, and the few things we have as constants are so because they are worth keeping so. Perhaps it's naivete on our part, expecting something we should never have in the first place.
Any which way, having to walk away from something without being ready for it stings. And it gives one a moment of pause: what now? How am I supposed to live without you?
A year ago, "Break Even" was one of those songs that spoke to me with the lyrics "what am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you?" This year, "Somebody That I Used To Know" did more of the same when the song got to "but you didn't have to cut me off, make out like we never happened and we were nothing." It's hauntingly real and close to home to have to feel these lyrics hit you, but sure, that's all about romantic relationships, right?
Sure. But more often than not, walking away from other relationships when you're not quite ready to just yet could have a deeper effect on you than you would expect. And heaven help you if you never find the answer to the most important question that you inevitably encounter at this point: where do we go from here?
Indeed, that's the five-million dollar question. And only you can answer it for yourself. In time.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
I find it hard to breathe as the news hit me like a mac truck just this morning. Quite frankly, it's not like I didn't see this coming. Despite that, it's still something that utterly crushes me and demoralizes me far beyond what I can take.
I don't know what's going to happen next. I don't know where we go from here. It's been a crazy ride for nearly three years, but now, through circumstances under my control, it has to come to a stop.
The easy way out would be to toss blame around and say none of it is my fault. The easy way out would be to whine and complain and say I didn't deserve any of this. And maybe I didn't, but they're not to blame for any of this, either. Ultimately, bad luck happens, and they're very well within their rights to enforce exactly what they've made very clear from the get-go.
Despite that, it doesn't make this any less devastating.
I'll be damned. This whole mess feels like another breakup.