Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At the launch for To Give and Not to Count the Cost

I'd really like to thank a good friend, Dean Rudy Ang of the John Gokongwei School of Management in Ateneo for asking me to be a part of this project. To Give and Not to Count the Cost is a coffeetable book about 150 Ateneans who inspired 150 other Ateneans and more. I wanted to write about four people -- Gregorio del Pilar, Fr. Manoling Francisco S.J. and my grandparents. In the end, my essay on Fr. Manoling and the Bukas Palad Ministry was used.

My third year high school teacher Esperanza Chee Kee was the second one to spur me to write (the first was Baybee Reynoso). In third year, she marked one essay in red ink with a note that said to see the Prefect of Discipline for plagiarism. She told me that no way could a third year high school student write anything quite like what I did. But the thing is -- I wrote my essay some 10 minutes before class and it contained profound bullshit. It was investigated and I got to see the details of this a few weeks ago when my mom found the letter of complaint she lodged against my teacher. When my essay was checked they realized that it was nothing but profound bullshit. She reversed my grade and gave me an "A+". 

In the book, Bam Aquino wrote about Mrs. Chee Kee.

I was in the English Honors Section in first year college where I had Eric Torres as a prof. before we got into college, he was that terror prof that we were told to avoid. But fate had other plans. I was in the class or a mercurial yet brilliant teacher. I still have every essay that I wrote that he savaged. The highest I ever got for something I wrote was a "B+". And that college textbook that we used then -- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White? I still have it too. He changed the way I wrote until I got into advertising years later. This was a nice reunion! He even has that old English M t-shirt.

During the cocktails for the launch of the book. With some good mentors Fr. Ben Nebres, Monching Cruz, Fr. Bill Kreutz, and Eric Torres. We had a grand time catching up with one another.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Intro to Journ class: A hatch is plotted (haha)

Who knew I’d have a career in Journalism?

One of my students asked me what I wanted to do when I was in college. There were three things – a rock star (I didn’t have the attitude for it), a teacher (surprise, I am one now), and a US Marine (I wanted to put away the bad guys).

I wrote for the Eaglet, Hi-Lites, and the Guidon. Between college and my first job in advertising, I contributed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Since 2006, the life of a journalist has been more or less my career.

And in five years it has been fun and quite eventful and it has led to this. A sort of fulfillment of one of those three dreams.

Teaching Introduction to Journalism can be tedious. We’ll go through the rudiments of it. But…. for me the best way I can communicate my knowledge and experience to my students is to immerse them in it. Plus, everything that we do is inter-connected. And we’re going to have fun wile doing it. During class last Tuesday, we played a game of Family Feud.

You see during the first day of class, I asked them to fill up an index card with their basic info (including grades) and to answer briefly four questions that I gave them. The questions were related to expression and communication, their interests and ambitions, and what they hope to learn from me.

We go through the traditional journalism to new media (I am a practicioner of both). They will be doing interviews, videos, reports, and podcasts which they will post in a blog site. I also instructed them to take advantage of today's social networking. For example, the other week, I tweeted about how some streets kid robbed a taxi passenger of her belongings while in the middle of a traffic jam and under the pouring rain. That tweet was one of the most resonated of that day and even made the news. So in effect, it became part of the news. So what we're trying to do here is utilize that as a vehicle for reporting news.

You see, I divided my class into four groups where they will do individual and group work. We won’t have much written tests but the work they put in here will be the basis for their grades. Each group will come out with their own name (for their site) and put in different work. We will have guest speakers who will talk on a variety of topics as well (so they can learn first hand).

Intro to Journ is also a crash course into getting into business. Perhaps more importantly, it will also serve as a resume to the world.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'm teaching at the Ateneo de Manila

Here's my work area in the Communications Department of the Ateneo de Manila University where I am in my first semester of teaching. I am teaching an elective course on Introduction to Journalism where I have Comm majors and Interdisciplinary Studies students. Right now I have 22 students (they only allowed 20 slots for the class originally) and quite honestly, I'm just happy doing it whether I have five or ten students. Sometime last year, I asked Sev Sarmenta, the Dean of the College if I could teach and nothing materialized out of that. This year, about two weeks before the start of the semester, he told me there was a vacancy and it was mine if I wanted it. Now what kind of fool am I to refuse that? I've not done a syllabus in ages (since my Tulong Dunong days in high school) and I was really elated when Sev liked it and made minor changes in what I did. His advice was most helpful in getting me ready for my first day. 

In the last several years, I done several seminars not just in Ateneo but in UST, San Beda College, Immaculate Concepcion Academy, and the Mindanao State University! There were also a memorable seminar with my alma mater the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and most recently, the In the Huddle Sportswriting Congress. But those are one-off talks. This one is different and honestly, it added some fire to my daily grind. 

Journalism is all about life and that's what the course will be all about. I hope to really make it a memorable class for my students and although I said that I'm only doing this for this semester, who knows where I will go with this?

The picture above is my workstation while the one below is my pigeonhole outside the department. I'm kind of disappointed that there won't be classes this coming Tuesday although I'm sure that students everywhere are kind of happy that there aren't (I would if I were a student, right?). So on to the next!

Monday, November 8, 2010

NU107: There is a light that will never go out

NU107: There is a light that will never go out
by rick olivares

"My my hey hey
Rock 'n' roll is here to stay.
It's better to burn out than to fade away.
My my hey hey."

Listening to those lyrics, I felt as if my world had been rocked by a most powerful hurricane. I went to watch Neil Young and Crazy Horse and their live and electric performance of "My my hey hey" just blew me away.

I knew then that I was never going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or some business professional that my parents envisioned me to be. 

Most people know me as a sportswriter but those who really know me well will tell you that the one thing I am more passionate about is music. And when asked if that's true, I'd always offer the same answer: "sports can go away forever and I won't feel bad, but music... now well that's something else." Say something uncool about music and them's fighting words.

Honestly, I feel fortunate enough to have experienced first hand many of those early vehicles for musical expression. Even better, I was able to participate or contribute something. I was in Grade 7 when I put up my first band with a few of my classmates in Ateneo (hey, XL Tajonera remember those days). We sure were awful but who cared? It's one of the best things a kid of 12 years of age can ever experience. All my friends were into music and putting up bands. It was truly a magical time.

I first listened to DZRJ that was the only station then that was playing rock music. When I was home, the radio was on all the time. Can you imagine what it was like when Punk and New Wave became all the rage? DZRJ played the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones, and X while other stations played MOR crap. My dad nearly purchased DZRJ (pre-EDSA I) but the deal fell through. 

Then I began to buy Jingle Magazine and hung out at their editorial offices in Cubao at times. The writers and editorial staff were liked music gods to me. That is until one of them tricked me to part ways with my vinyl album of Rockpile's Seconds of Pleasure. I used to send letters to the magazine and one of those that I was printed ignited a war between metalheads and new wavers. In case you were a part of that, that was where I rebutted writer Tony Maghirang who trashed Rush's Moving Pictures album while comparing them to the Jerks. Apples and oranges, man. Yeah yeah I know. I love the Jerks too, okay? Then Jingle Magazine ceased publication.

Howzabout Club Dredd? I lived near the rock club when they relocated from Timog to EDSA. I watched many a band there and was a habitue. My brother's band (which won a Battle of the Bands contest in UP) performed there as well. It was there where I "discovered" Datu's Tribe and Parokya ni Edgar and helped sign them to their first recording contracts. There were other bands that I wanted to get but office politics got in the way. One time I hung outside Dredd with Parokya's Buwi Meneses (who is a good friend to this day) when I first heard the strains of a hauntingly beautiful voice that was singing the Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends". I rushed back inside and that was my introduction to Sugar Hiccup and Melody del Mundo. When I moved to the United States, I brought only a few OPM CDs with me and they were the first two Sugar Hiccup albums. There were other great Dredd memories such as watching Betrayed, the Eraserheads, Tropical Depression, Color It Red, Teeth, FrancisM and Hardware Syndrome, Tame the Tikbalang, and Put3ska to name but a few. Then Dredd went away.

As RJ went stale, the best source for radio music was Capital Radio -- a two-hour radio show on DZXB by the people behind Jingle Magazine. They played stuff that you'd never hear on RJ or anywhere else. They played the Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedys, X, and lots of other music you wouldn't hear anywhere else in this deprived country. The good folks of Capital Radio also ran A-Z Records in Anonas where I would go with a blank cassette tape so they'd record stuff I couldn't own back then.  I'd save my allowance just to pay for a tape of all this great stuff coming from the western world. Then they closed shop.

And that leads to NU107. Sorry but I never listened much to LA105. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I'd do before my morning rituals was to switch on the radio. I listened to the station when I was home, as soon as I arrived from school, and at night where sleeping with the radio on was something I kept from my parents. 

I watched the first NU Rock Awards and was able to get a few of those early live recordings of the artists who performed during the awards night.

I remember when Rivermaya performed and they tossed free copies of their CD that was titled -- "Free". Rico Blanco even wore the Ateneo Blue Eagles jersey of his classmate Olsen Racela to the Rock Awards. 

I wanted to be an NU107 jock. Who didn't right? So co-hosting Halikinu Radio in the past two years is something I will always cherish. It was the closest thing to be a regular NU jock. While waiting for our show, it was certainly fun catching up with an old friend, schoolmate, and neighbor like Papadom as it was talking music and life with new friends like Cris Hermosisima and Pontri who was always impressed with my being up to date with so many new bands. 

I first heard of the impending demise of NU107 sometime in the middle of the college basketball season when we'd do Halikinu Radio. I didn't pay too much attention to it thinking that it was either a hoax or maybe it wouldn't go down. So imagine how I felt when I confirmed the bad news the other week. 

How do I feel? It's like taking something for granted and just when it's about to go away, I'm in denial and all emotional about it. Like many others, NU107 was a soundtrack to my life. I may have not listened as regularly as I did before but that was because work and life got in the way. The mini-components at home was tuned only to one frequency. If someone changed it, I would angrily put it back to where it rightfully belonged. With the days slipping away fast, I really tuned in. 

I passed by yesterday afternoon at the station. Pontri was there as was former morning jock Roxy and it was the one bright thing in an otherwise horrible day for me. Going to the station, I felt like I did when we left our old home for our current place in Marikina. It held so many memories both good and bad. Yet in spite of the bad, it's something I will not trade for anything else in the world.

Inside the booth for the last time, I shared my memories on the air. I snapped pics. I signed the greeting cards. I tried to stay cool but it was difficult keeping all these emotions bottled up.

The first song that came to my mind that summed up NU107's demise was The Smith's "There is a light that never goes out" (from their The Queen is Dead" album). The second was Neil Young and Crazy Horse's classic. I am not sure if they played the Neil Young song from that great album "Rust Never Sleeps" but am so glad they played "There is a light..."

When NU signed off for good at exactly 12:09 in the morning and the rock music was replaced by static, I didn't know whether to switch off the radio or not. 

After a few awful seconds, I turned the radio off. But the light it lit for local music and the music that I love will never go out.

The last time I'm in the booth at NU107 and below with NU jock Pontri.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saying goodbye to the Walkman

Saying goodbye to the Walkman
by rick olivares

Remember that classic new wave song, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles? Yes, the synth duo of Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Horn eventually joined British prog-rockers Yes so they sort of qualify as a one-hit wonder that was common in the 1980s.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about that song was it was the first ever music video played in MTV.

But did video really kill the radio star? Maybe it weakened radio but it’s still around.

What really did go the way of the dinosaur is the Walkman? The iPod Generation might raise an eyebrow at the term but the Sony Walkman was the biggest thing back then.

Last October 25, Sony announced that they had finally ceased production of the Walkman of which over 220 million have been sold since July 1979. Some might argue that the correct date that should appear on the Walkman’s tombstone is October 23, 2001 when Apple released the first iPod.

And digital technology sure is Yes, I did own a Walkman and eventually a Discman. As soon as digital technology became all the rage, you can be sure that the Discman, Laserdisc player, mini-components, compact disc, video compact disc, and digital video disc were on its extinction agenda.

I held on to my Discman until I bought my first iPod in 2003 and it has been a staple of my music listening habits since. But the one concession I have and will not make is the compact disc. Music purists will talk about how different the sound quality is on vinyl records and honestly, that is so debatable. However, the one thing I missed was those huge sleeves with all the liner notes and lyrics. The sleeves did make their way to the compact disc although in a smaller and compatible form and size. I for one, truly appreciate their compactness because it does make for more room inside my closet. Or at least it did until my CD collection multiplied into the thousands (I currently own over 3,000 CDs all of which are original since I do not buy pirated ones) and now I need another closet to store and display them.

Funny. My dad often kids me that what I need is a small-sized record store to display my collection.

When I travel and shop, you can be sure that there are a couple of stores where I will make a visit – a book store and a music store.

Books. There’s another one that is said that will disappear.

That’s another traditional item where I will never make concessions. A friend of mine recently lent me a disc of some documents that I need to use for posting somewhere but I really dislike reading long documents on digital file. I still prefer the hard copy. And that goes all the way to my books. I will never own a Kindle or anything of that sort.

I’m not sure my kids can say the same about hard copy books because I believe that the traditional way of reading has become a lost art.

The computer alone has destroyed my once flawless penmanship. I got so used to tapping the keyboard that when I sign my name on check encashments, I have oft to re-sign them a couple of times since I am no longer used to writing with a pen.

When I cover sporting events and jot down notes, I take a few extra seconds to jot down my thoughts because more often than not I do not understand what I scribble onto my notepad.

About two years ago, a writer from the New York Times got in touch with me to commend me about an article that I wrote about the Super Bowl. I took the opportunity to ask him if there was a way to write for the world’s greatest newspaper. He said that the printed page was going to soon go out of business and that online was the wave of the future.

That one I embrace wholeheartedly and have taken advantage of with my blogs and other social networking tools but I still purchase newspapers once in a while.

The world and the tools we use to go about our daily lives is changing at a dizzying pace that it almost seems ridiculous cost-wise or practicality-wise. I appreciate the benefits but unlike Andy in Toy Story 3, I am not letting go of some of my toys (for the big boys).

I may be older but some things – my books, my compact discs, my DVDs, magazines, and whatnot – will always be a part of my life and me.

Except for that sainted and late lamented Walkman.