Saturday, May 23, 2009

UFC Sarsarap... "...put your hands in the air..." ...and nutrition out the window!

The whole concept behind the economies of scale has always been a fact of life here in the Philippines. But some "product developers" (or mad scientists) at pseudo-ketchup mega-brand UFC have just insulted the Filipino middle class even further. (And the citizens don’t even know it yet.)

Introducing UFC Sarsarap Rice Buddy! The latest “product” from another semi-monopolistic conglomerate aimed at making a buck off hapless people, while helping push the rapid downward spiral of Filipino malnutrition even faster than ever.

"...But man… to peddle a product of such questionable value..."

As an ad guy for over a decade and a half, I can imagine the ultimate joke is that the cost of the tri-media ad campaign, the fees of a has-been celebrity endorser, the product development fees of the creative house, the “research and development” costs, and the production cost of the sachet packaging makes the cost of the actual product mere crumbs.

At P5.00 per sachet (suggested retail price), I’m guessing that a few milliliters of starch, sugar, MSG, breadings, flavoring powder, and of course water will chalk up less than a single Peso at the most. And I’m being generous there.

So the product exists mainly so we can see a poor cup of rice haplessly made to look like said has-been celebrity endorser singing a sad, sad tagline: “No more lonely rice.”


" rich and delicious that people sometimes came by to buy only the sarsa..."

In the advertising universe not too long ago in an ethical galaxy now far, far away… there was a beloved product called “Mang Tomas Sarsa ng Litson.”

People may not know this, but legend has it (according to my yaya, when I was a child) that there really WAS a Mang Tomas lechon store in Metro Manila. And the legend further states that their “sarsa” (or liver gravy, for non-Filipinos who may be reading this) was so rich and delicious that people sometimes came by to buy only the sarsa.

Fast forward to the present. The lechon store is no more (was it ever?), but the bottled sauce lives on. People have made “Mang Tomas” a staple in the cupboard. Used with or without lechon. Now the concept of using anything one can find in the cupboard to top off some rice, whether it be with some soy sauce, or a pinch of salt, a bit of bagoong, a spot of banana “ketchup,” or (horrors) Mang Tomas, is a common practice in every Filipino home. In my “growing years” (which didn’t do me much height-wise), I have wolfed down up to five cups of rice matched up against a single tablespoon of bagoong (again, shrimp paste, for non-Pinoy readers).

At one point, Mang Tomas “Sarsa ng Litson” was relaunched into “All-Around Sarsa” with an amusing ad campaign that featured local band, Parokya ni Edgar. One of the most memorable moments of that ad was when Mang Tomas was used (horrors, in public view!) to top off rice as a viand substitute, and even as a bread spread (again, horrors!).

But see, while some people found it demeaning, it was being done. And at the very least, it was presented merely as an “alternative use.” It’s pretty common to find a bottle of Mang Tomas in very other Filipino home. What the residents do with their sauce is none of anybody’s else business.

But man… to peddle a product of such questionable value to capitalize on a people trying to scrimp and save in every possible aspect, and render them even more malnourished than ever… a whole new level, man… if they used the money to produce the Sarsarap monstrosity and diverted it into a rural feeding program, they can probably cover a few hundred barangays.

I have been told that Sarsarap isn’t doing too well in the stores. I hope it falls sooner than expected. Because while I believe that Pinoys really are hanging on to every Peso like crazy, they still have enough self-respect to not want to be caught dead with a “product” that is pretty much little more than an added insult to a nation’s already deep injury.


‘catch you later…

Monday, May 18, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek (Old dog, new "Trek")

An old dog with new “Treks”

I am embarrassed to say that I came in late in the game. Despite being a solid Trekkie for the better half of my thinking life, I only saw “Star Trek” last night. A full week and a half after it opened.

I bow my head in Trekkie shame…

Now on to this review!

The initial differences and inconsistencies I noticed:

1. Chris Pine is too pretty to be Kirk. Please don’t get me wrong. The boy did a fine, fine job in “Trek,” but I can’t latch on to the idea that he’ll grow up into the rugged-looking toughie that William Shatner depicts. And I keep seeing his mug on the poster of the teen rom-com “Blind Date.”

2. Ok, so John Cho is now officially cooler than his stoner Harold persona. But guys, Sulu is JAPANESE, NOT KOREAN. Love the collapsible katana and all. But man, white guys think they’ve seen one Asian they’ve seen it all. One look at John Cho’s kimchi-eating mug already tells you he only gets his hentai off pirated DVD shops. It is absa-tively racist for Hollywood to just lump up Asian guys and think they can interchange one with another. Racist, man…
Besides, the character’s name is HIKARU Sulu… not KIM or PARK or JONG… but all that aside, Cho finally makes it cool to be Korean.

"...Do I feel that many things were out of canon? Maybe. But I went there to see a movie, not to see the panting revival of an old religion..."

3. Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy is probably the only movie doctor I’ve seen in recent memory that did not do anything remotely medical apart from drugging Pine’s Kirk and looking constipated for most of the movie. And as in Trek of yore, why the devil is the doctor on the bridge and not in sickbay? Ah yes, “Trek” canon… fine.
Having said all that, I love how he was introduced in the movie.

4. Pavel Chekov has been transformed from a kid who looks like a rejected member of the Monkees, into a pasty-white holocaust victim who looks like he was conceived in a vodka-fueled Russian sex orgy. And I’d like to think that in the 23rd century, a Russian accent doesn’t have to be THAT thick. I mean, he went through Starfleet Academy, right? And most people in there, with the exception of Jean-Luc Picard and a few Vulcans, talk like rednecks. The exaggerated Russian accent was RACIST, man… just plain RACIST.

5. The bridge is too… white. I know we now live in an age when computer-related things don’t all have to be colored gray or metallic, but the whole bridge looks like it hired Macintosh’s industrial designers to conceptualize a department store’s make-up section and called it a bridge.

"...I suspect that ...J.J.Abrams fears the powers of William Shatner..."

6. Zachary Quinto’s (a.k.a. Sylar's) voice is too high-pitched. I’m used to Leonard Nimoy’s baritone. But hey, better the high-pitched voice than a forced guttural growl that’s trying too hard to not sound like a yelp (calling Christian Bale…).

7. I like how Montgomery Scott was reimagined. Although I would have preferred somebody who looks just a wee bit like Jimmy Doohan.
Okay, the last two gripes were lame. I can’t complain about Zoe SaldaƱa’s Uhura because I honestly think she played it flawlessly. Although I wouldn’t have minded another babe or two thrown into the cast, canon or no canon.

I’ll save my biggest gripe for later…

But for the record: I LOVED THE MOVIE. It not only successfully revives and revitalizes the “Trek” franchise, but it recreates it just enough to still be “Trek,” while being a refreshing new movie altogether that will effectively bring in new fans. Please note that I said “fans,” not “Trekkies.” There will never be “Trekkies” the way there used to be. Firstly, if my hunch serves right, this new “Trek” will be a box office smash. Ergo, it will be such a universally accepted movie, that liking it will no longer require the fervent (and sometimes blind) loyalty attributed to Trekkies of old. Why seek out a fellow Trekkie to chat with, when “Trek” is destined to become water cooler fodder for the next few weeks?

Do I feel that many things were out of canon? Maybe.

But I went there to see a movie, not to see the panting revival of an old religion that follows an antiquated dog-eared bible for sci-fi culture that was written in the 60’s when a 3-speed hair-dryer was a state-of-the-art piece of technology, computers gave data on miles of worth of paper tape with undecipherable holes in them, and a mobile phone was the size of a couple of suitcases.

This is a movie written for 2009, guys. This is Star Trek for the new millenium. And from the looks of it, these voyages of the starship enterprise will find a lot of people watching. All Trekkies, old and new, or simply just people who want to sit down and catch a damn good movie.


I almost believed it when they said that throwing Bill Shatner in the flick would be like shoe-horning a twisted old foot into a brand new shoe. But they managed to put Spock in there and it wasn’t bad at all.

I suspect that the real reason is that J.J.Abrams fears the powers of William Shatner.

As a bona-fide Shatnerite (yes, there is such a word. At least, there is NOW), he deserved to be there in some measure. Even in a creative flashback at the very least.

But they fear Shat. That is an undeniable truth.

Fellow Trekkies, what do we want to see in the revitalized Trek franchise? Repeat after me: “LIVE LONG AND SHATNER!”


'catch you later...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Non-Concert Review: Chicago's "Finest"

Chicago’s Finest (Impostors)

I was almost duped again. Obviously riding on the current of the musical nostalgia circuit, I caught myself trying to acquire tickets (whether bought, cajoled from or even begged for) for a “Chicago” concert.

You know… Chicago… rock band with a horn section and all.... Jimmy Pankow, Jason Scheff, Bobby Lamm, Bill Champlin and the guys… They made those radio staples “If You Leave Me Now,” “You’re the Inspiration,” and other things I’m sure you’ve heard but may not have known it was them…

"...Now I’m pretty sure that they’re excellent musicians... with Marty Grebb along with one of the former members of Tower of Power, Tim Scott... But no Pankow, no Champlin, no Lamm, no Scheff…"

And then one day, I heard the words “former members” in a radio ad… then I said, WAITAMINIT… not again…

A quick online check reveals that only three guys on the five-man lineup ever played with Chicago. With guitarist Chris Pinnick being the only officially listed member (for all of five years), while multi-instrumentalist Marty Grebb and Kenny Cetera (yes, Pete’s brother) only performed tour duties without ever being on any album.

Now I’m pretty sure that they’re excellent musicians, and with Marty Grebb along with former member of Tower of Power, Tim Scott, they may have a horn section with a technical level that can give Jimmy, Lee Loughnane and Walt Parazaider a run for their money.

And yeah, they have a Cetera on vocals. Fine.

But no Pankow, no Champlin, no Lamm, no Scheff… none of THOSE guys.

Al McKay and his Earth Wind & Fire “Experience” already got me once, and while they did put up a good show, there’s something profoundly missing from not catching the “real” band. Considering that they’re all being sold as a retro act.

I mean, in the case of “Chicago’s Finest,” how on earth can you position it as a retro act when they’re not even a solid band to begin with? At least Al McKay’s band is a “together” kind of band, not a hodge podge obviously put together to capitalize on a semi-correct marquee billing that was assured of putting a bunch of white guys on stage.

And if all I was after was a tribute band of any sort, I don’t think I’d need to wait for an assemblage of Americans who’ve played together only for all of their rehearsal schedules. I mean, we are in the Philippines, man… c’mon! We got tribute bands galore who can sometimes sound even better than the real thing. Does some guy named Arnel Pineda sound familiar?

The whole thing reeks of opportunism. But an ingenious opportunism, I must admit. And I’m betting there are a few hundred more Arnel Pinedas out there just waiting to be heard by the right people…

I almost considered catching Bobby Kimball who came in recently in a concert dubbed “TOTO Hits.” At least he wasn’t pretending to be a retro act. Just some former frontman who promises to sing the hits he helped make famous. But I’m more of a Lukather, Paich and Porcaro fan… Kimball’s cool, but without the other guys… I dunno…

Too bad I didn’t catch Cook and Archuleta… but I got my share of open-air concerts… not very pleased… lousy audio, even worse crowd control, and the crowd is sure to be predominantly young… most likely rowdy teens and twenty-somethings… I’m getting old…

‘catch you later…