An Open Letter From My Introverted Self To The World At Large

Good day my friend,

 

If you are reading this, you most likely know me in some way. I appreciate your company and continued existence in my life and to those around you. I’m sure you’re a great person in your own right, as is everyone else, but there is something I have to tell you that had always bugged me.

You see, you keep disturbing me. And it’s not during the times that I am in front of my computer working, on my car working or doing something that I would deem as the activities of a productive member of society. Rather, you disturb me during the rare moments of peace that I want to enjoy.

I know you see me with a smile quite a lot of the time, and that we’re chummy and chatty while we’re at it. I know you see me a loud and cheerful, bursting with life and ideas.

But you see, I also need peace and space.

There are times that I feel like I should not be disturbed, that I should be left alone with my thoughts and my music. I know you see me constantly with my headphones, and I am certain you realize that most of the time, I distance myself from large groups whenever those things are on my ears. It’s not that I dislike you, but at least for those moments, I feel like I do not need to share my mind with you.

Before you paint me as a prude and a snob, I would like you to know that I am not. As I mentioned previously and I will always say this, I appreciate your company and you being a part of the world I move around in. I would love to listen to you and your stories, but only at certain times of my choosing. And it’s not because I only find it convenient during those times, but it’s because I want some moments of peace for myself. You see, I need it to recover from the constant pressures of life or the demands of whatever it is I am working on at any given moment. I am deathly afraid of not being able to pay close attention to your stories, or reciprocate your enthusiasm for oral communication and I am equally afraid that I would turn you away if I am not able to respond to you properly.

I greatly respect you, and again I appreciate whatever it is you have to share. But whenever I feel that I want to be left alone, I would appreciate it if I you would allow me to be so. It won’t make that great of a difference if we don’t talk together all the time, but it will make a big difference to me if I lose touch with the inner sense of peace I crave every once in a while.

If you see me with my headphones on, please don’t intrude into my voyage into silence. If you see me looking out in the distance, I would love it if you would not launch into your stories without making sure I am ready to listen and return your appreciation for that moment. If you see me with a book, looking through my phone, writing, playing on my guitar or any sort of activity that I am concentrated on, please do not inundate me with how your day is going. We can always talk at a later time when I am ready to interact and it just happened to be that at the moment you see me, I am not in any sort of mood to interact with the world around me.

Let me be alone with my thoughts, even for a few fleeting moments. The world already has us at its whims, at least allow me to get lost with the flow. I’ll definitely come out of it, but also at the time of my choosing.

 

Please my friend, leave me alone. I need it as badly as our innate need to breathe.

 

Your friend and mine,
Jo

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A Much Needed Breather…

Just over the past week, we made yet another trip to my wife’s home in San Antonio, Zambales. We have a bunch of reasons on why we wanted to make the trip – for one, our kid turned two the past month and we thought it was a good reason to see the grandparents. Another is that we just seriously need a vacation – the initial plan was to see the Montales folk every quarter or so, but seeing as how I was very busy the past few months, I could not make the time.

In any event, we pushed through this time around and we got to enjoy a few days of being almost off the grid – almost because in as much as there is no cable tv and the place is far removed from Imperial Manila, they have a much faster internet connection there.

We left Thursday morning at Jojo’s Hour (0300) because it was going to be Aska’s coding day and that would’ve killed off almost a day worth of peace and quiet if I stayed in Manila. I really love traveling during those wee hours of the morning, and while it is dark and fairly “dangerous” with many drivers becoming sleepy at the wheel, drunk or both, I see the lessened vehicle volume to be all the advantage I could ever need. Driving at night also seems to lend well to me seeing as how I stay awake on most nights due to work.

This time around, we were traveling with my sister-in-law and she elected to sit out back beside our kid, while my wife rode shotgun. That was the plan – in practice, all three are peacefully asleep, leaving me and Aska mentally alone to enjoy the peace and serenity of the open road.

For some odd reason though, I chose to pass through San Fernando, Pampanga going to Zambales. Our normal route always made use of the SCTEX, but I thought that it would be early morning anyways and I wanted to shave off an estimated 30 kilometers off the trip distance and save some gas whilst maintaining my average speed.

Or so I thought.

The roads from San Fernando going to Dinalupihan are at times so bad that even the WRC will never have their cars pass through there. Some parts have been dug up and some are in the process of being dug up. Some of the more “exciting” parts had asphalt still remaining but had big patches missing from the road. I thought it would be a cool idea to keep the speed high and avoid the holes as much as I could. The yellow foglamps certainly helped picked out the bad parts from a distance, but on the most, I lost precious trip time going to Dinalupihan. From there, I took the SCTEX again because I was thinking that I would lose even more time going through the Olongapo – Bugallon Road.

SBMA is of course a breeze, but the roads outside of Olongapo and into Subic itself presented yet another challenge. A long stretch of road was being dug up and left only one lane of traffic on each side to traverse the muddy and bumpy way for a good kilometer or so. Past that point, it was smooth sailing going to San Antonio.

I didn’t get to do very much while at the house, and that was exactly the point! I was able to sleep at will, eat, and just laze around the place. Of course, I did take some photos, occasionally went online to check on things and continue my progress on Real Racing 3.

When evening fell on the quiet town, I stumbled upon a food stand that sold fairly passable Shawarma. It was good enough for me to keep coming back almost every evening and it gave me an opportunity to marvel at the fact that the town was so sleepy that past seven pm on any given night, the main plaza is almost devoid of people. I really like that kind of feel that you can walk outside, bump into almost no one and yet feel safe.

I also made good on a self made promise to get Aska some new clip on mirrors. The mirrors on her were already shaking pretty bad and close to just giving out on me. I had a spare set that I got from a friend of mine, but I’m keeping those as mementos since that friend is already deceased. The auto supply store, Rex’s, lies the next town over and that particular errand gave me time to drive out and relax some more while behind the wheel. Surprisingly, the mirrors were sold to me for about half the price since I last inquired about them back in March. Even then, the mirrors were still cheaper than can be had in Imperial Manila. It doesn’t help that many sellers have jacked up prices to almost ridiculous levels, saying that they’re the only ones selling the stuff and therefore giving them an unassailable excuse to mark up.

I plan on coming back to get more parts that I want, and check other places that may have other pieces of interest. I’d since put the mirrors on because I couldn’t wait to get back to Manila to do the job. One of the mirror base plates though was not angled correctly, but there was nothing some hammering could not fix. I’m glad to report that the mirrors are now very stable and do not shake with the wind while traveling at speed.

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The cool evening breeze also allowed me to indulge with a flask of Johnny Walker Black, which as a friend of mine once told me, is noob level shit. But it’s my kind of shit and with some dark chocolate, it really is my shit. I was planning to get some pork to cook up a steak but laziness got the better of me. I also shared this relatively newfound thing with my sister-in-law, who thought it was weird but ok. I guess that’s really how it goes, and is an acquired taste given the Filipino context of drinking. I capped off each night with whiskey and listening to some jazz fusion.

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I “rediscovered” this gem while on vacation. I first heard of this album as a young kid back in the last 90’s from my friend’s step-dad, who many years later would be my godfather in marriage. Great guy and I actually thought of him while I eased

Of course, I took the opportunity to hone my motorcycle skills by riding around some. I was supposed to get radiator coolant and went through a couple of stores within the towns closest to where we were. Not surprisingly, no one sold coolant there because everyone thought water by itself is great. Many people there and elsewhere in the Philippines don’t believe in using radiator coolant – maybe I can cover that on a future entry. I also had a funny run-in with some lawmen manning a checkpoint but they let me off easy after they found out I was too much of a klutz with a bike to do anything dangerous with it.

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One thing I really regret on this trip was the fact that I left my D40 at home. See, this time around, I thought I’d travel light and wanted to depend on my Xperia XA1 Plus to do all the image capturing. It did its job really well, except it could not handle one thing – the night sky. On the third night, the sky cleared up so much that I saw the band of the Milky Way. No shit, I am not and cannot make it up. Of course, to the naked eye, it appears like nothing in photos you’d see. I very easily could’ve taken such images had I the camera with me. Next time, I won’t be so lazy as to actually leave a good camera behind. I marveled at the night sky as much as I could, or as I figured, until my neck hurt.

The drive home was fairly uneventful and with a heavy heart, we had to leave early Sunday morning. This time, I went through my normal route through SCTEX. Never mind the fact that it took an extra 30 kilometers to get home, but all of it was spent at speed so it wasn’t like I was losing time anyway. We are now stopping twice along NLEX because the kid has to eat, and we thought getting out to stretch would be nice. Previously, I had my wife and kid sleep and not stop because I wanted to spend as less time on the road as possible.

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No overheating problems, but I routinely pop the hood open during stops to help cool down the fluids faster. The only bad thing about this was people saw how filthy my engine bay was err still is.

In all, Aska performed admirably during the trip. I didn’t spend much time beyond the speed limit though because the front wheel bearings now seem to need replacing. Since I replaced the bearings in the back, there was much less noise back there and I could now hear the whine of the front bearings. I knew I should’ve taken care of those previously, but I guess I’ll just do them sometime on at home since those don’t need special tools to take out and install.

 

Until the next trip then!

 

 

 

~

A Word From The Author…Make That A Few Words…

I’d been checking my stats these past few days and I found that while I have been fairly silent here, views are quite booming along.

For some odd reason though, I’m getting a bunch of hits from the Philippines, which while I don’t mind, is not something I am used to seeing. Actually, this had been the trend for quite a while now and I have no idea who takes the time to visit this godforsaken corner of the internet.

In case some of you regular readers are wondering why I am not very active nowadays, it’s a mix of many things. My kid is growing up fast and most of my waking hours are spent chasing his ass around the house. I spend maybe two to three hours asleep either in the mornings or afternoon and it kinda takes away from my creative juices.

I’d been dealing with a few things and I’m still in the middle of either trying to find solutions to a bunch of life issues and questions, or just sitting back and letting time do its thing. I’ve 37 drafts that I’ve started and stopped on because I keep getting distracted from finishing them. It’s like I have so many things I want to write about in one moment then run out of juice in the next moment.

If any of you would be interested to know, I am now more active on IG than FB. I’ve been fairly successful at avoiding the dolts that are on my FB feed and I am on my way to weening myself off it. Follow me there my dear readers!

In any event, thank you anonymous viewers and readers .

 

~

Re-String My Acoustic Guitar With Ernie Ball Earthwood

 

I own exactly one acoustic guitar, which is a Phoebus 20CE. I got it sometime in 2015 from Guitar Pusher, a Makati based outfit well known for being really good at making people walk out with their wares. My guitar is a dreadnought with a cut out, and I bought it mainly because I wanted to work on some acoustic songs with my then (now, wife) girlfriend. My other reason was because I wanted to cover some songs from Michael Schenker’s “Thank You” series of albums. Those songs showcase Mr. Schenker’s mastery of the acoustic guitars with some very tasty and well made instrumental tracks.

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Grabbed from the net, this is exactly how my guitar looks.

The guitar (Sara) that I have comes with an onboard Fishman ISYS+ pickup and pre-amp system. Originally, I was supposed to get one without it and while there was a very substantial price difference between the non-pickup models and the others with it, I chose to go with the one I have now. Something worth noting is that the guitar I own was the last 2014 model stock that the store had. According to them, the 2014s were better than the current (2015) models in terms of sound, and some testing revealed it to be somewhat true, with the older models somewhat having a little bit more “mojo” to it. I also liked the 2014 finish more than the 2015s as the stocks they had were a darker shade on the top, whereas the 2014s are lighter. Something worth noting is that this is actually one of Phoebus’ entry level guitars, and seem to be discontinued already.

Paid the guys, made off with the guitar with my then girlfriend in tow and we made for home. Somehow, we never got to work on the songs, and I’ve only learned two songs from “Thank You” – “Positive Forward”, which up until now is a concert stable and “Acceptance and Forgiveness”.

I’ve never used this acoustic guitar for any gig, and it remained mostly at home for the past three years. I was supposed to use it for when Urusai did a Hale cover set back in 2016, but I switched to Maya (Epiphone Les Paul Special Model aka cheapstuff) at the last moment because I found it had to sing and play acoustic – mostly because of the oem strings which were hard as hell to press down. Blame it on my dainty hands and preference for 0.10 light gauge strings for electric guitar work. What I wanted was the feel of an electric guitar string on an acoustic. However, the guitar had seen action with a friend of mine who had gigged twice and recorded with it.

So three years without a string change, and the sound was becoming dull, not to mention the strings are all black (G, B, E) so I thought it was high time for me to get a new set of strings. I was also due to play an acoustic thing at the office with some of my colleagues and I sure as hell wasn’t showing up with a guitar with half dead strings.

Since I did not have enough time to strengthen my fingers for the strings that were currently on the guitar, I thought I’d get something that would kinda simulate the feel of electric guitar strings while being made for acoustic guitar. See as a kid, I have tried putting on electric guitar strings on acoustic guitars, usually the sets that have been swapped out since I cannot quite afford to get new packs of strings all at once. That works some, but I found that while the strings were more comfortable and playable for my hands, it doesn’t have the “oomph” that regular steel acoustic guitar strings have.

I did some looking around a week or so back at a local music store and found Ernie Ball Earthwood steel strings, which come in a gauge (0.10) that I thought would be perfect for me.

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This is the actual set that I purchased for Sara. These sell for about Php 300 per set from JB Music

The string change procedure was something I’d never done before since I’d never owned an acoustic guitar. It was a little hard to do having to deal with the bridge pins and everything, but it was a straight forward job and I was able to remove the then almost three year old strings and swapped in the new set. Of course, I also took the time to dab some lemon oil on the fingerboard since it was all dried up although I forgot to polish the frets because I was hurrying to get the strings on so they would stretch out and the guitar would hold its tune.

Those of you who’re familiar with me may know that since at least 2012, I’d avoided Ernie Ball strings. I liked the brand previously since they have a slinker feel to them, and when they label their strings “light” they’re really light on the hands! It had been my go to brand since at least 2005, and I only stopped using them due to some unfortunate incidents of the strings unwinding from the ball. That’s right, from the damn ball. After a few packs of pretty much the same issue on either the G or high E strings, I ditched them and went to d’Addario, which had also been my other preferred brand and is still currently the string brand on all my electrics.

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My newly oild fretboard and strings. I think I’ve been spoiled by Papi Mico’s stainless steel frets that I feel like I want to get Sara a fresh new set of those silky smooth frets.

Now on to the strings themselves. The strings feel great, they have not yet undone themselves at the ball ends and feel slinky and so much brighter than the old set. They do feel closer to the electric stuff that I have although I must say that even though these are the same gauge strings, they are actually lighter on the hands than those on my electrics. It’s almost like they’re .09s to my hands. And for strings made mostly of brass and copper, these certainly sound bright. The highs are very clear and ringing, mids are quite pronounced but the lows are a little lacking in comparison to the highs. As of now, I haven’t plugged the guitar in so I don’t know how the strings will sound through the pickups.

Due to the much more pronounced treble, I find myself mostly using my fingers to kill off some of the sharpness when using a pick.

Since the strings are light and this is an acoustic guitar, sustain actually suffered and while the guitar sounds clearer and more vibrant, the old set of strings (purported to be Elixirs although I don’t know the gauge) had more oomph to them, quite possibly due to the fact that the previous set had more vibrating mass to them. Strangely, the new strings have a more pronounced ringing to them and I can faintly hear the ringing in the sound box well after the string had been plucked. Volume had also dropped noticeably – previously, I just have to pluck some, and the guitar comes to life. Right now, I have to put some effort into plucking but not too hard as to introduce buzz. As of the moment, the guitar needs a good set up, so I would be bringing this down to Pusher HQ for a set up job, a Graphteq nut and string pins as well.

The guitar sounds alright, but isn’t quite what I want it in terms of sound, although in terms of feel, this set feels so much better. One thing I want to point out though is that this set seems to already have started to tarnish – I’m spotting darkening on the far ends (2nd fret) of the B and G string. It may be because I’m using those more frequently nowadays. I’ll run the strings through some more and I’ll write about any other findings.

Overall, not a bad experience and these may actually get me back on track with Ernie Ball. I guess I just have to keep looking for a set and gauge that would give me the tone I actually want. For now, check out this noodling video of me and the newly strung Sara. It’s tuned half a step down and the first part features the ending sequence of Extreme’s extremely (pun) popular song, “More Than Words”. Took this video using my wife’s Xperia, and I have yet to make a properly made recording.

For now, enjoy and check it out. If for some reason, you’re studying the song and trying to get this part down but cannot find tabs or references on the net, let me know and maybe I can help you.

 

 

 

 

~

Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy : Marriage and Family Life

Alright, so I sat myself down and figured I’d go write something to pass the time. As a lot of you readers know, I got married early last year and my son was born a few months afterwards.

Marriage, a big word. One that drops men to their knees (or knee, if you want to be technical about it) and is one of the word that separates “men” from “boys”.

Family is also a big word. It has terrified both men and women since forever due to the responsibilities it entails.

 

What do I think about these so far?

 


 

Marriage

 

As far as marriage goes, I’d be one to admit that ours is not a smooth road. I don’t think it will ever be for anyone, and those who say it won’t or can’t happen to them is either lying, or haven’t encountered the rough patches yet. I’m honest enough to tell you that while a lot of people (well those within our little community) who know of our love story will tell you that we’re like a dream-come-true, we still have a lot of things to grow into. Now growing into things doesn’t always mean everything will fit snugly into place. In the same way that kids get sick while growing their baby teeth, it’s pretty much the same as with us grown-ups who are growing into a new identity, like being a mom and dad, as well as being a husband and wife. There are times of course that friction happens, and I think this is a fact of life.

When two completely different people come together and decide to start a family, there will always be arguments. Brace yourselves people – being so close to each other all the time will make the wrong words hurt much more than say if you were still living apart. A bedroom isn’t going to be big enough for a long drawn conflict.

Long before we got married, we made an agreement on a few things, and we try to remain true to these things that we’d agreed about. One would be that it’s ok to argue, but we have to make up before long. That means that even if it was time for one of us to leave for work, we have to make sure we can look at each other squarely without feeling the need to wring each other’s necks, and to always kiss each other hello or goodbye. I have to admit though – almost two years into our marriage, I am still getting used to this kind of an arrangement.

You see, I’m the kind of guy who grew up with nary a touch from my parents. I kid you not, I feel uncomfortable (not so much nowadays) with a hand to my shoulder, or a pat on the back, or even my elbow brushing against anyone’s body parts. My wife is a very sweet lady and back when we were dating, I almost always kept away from her because of this. I mean sure, we can sit together, hold hands and all but hugging is such a chore for me, except this one time when I spontaneously did so out of gratitude.

One thing we’re still working on is the fact that my wife isn’t well versed with household chores, but we’re making steady progress however small it is.

What I totally love about her is how attentive she is to our child. I mean sure, she needs a lot of help with some of the stuff, but she keeps a detailed memory on what he’s had for shots, when the next shot is, any medicines that he may need and so on. She even knows what kind of medicines I need just based out of her memory. She’s also really attentive to any health issues, almost always prodding me to see a doctor when before it gets out of hand. Me being a douche only goes when it’s already fairly bad – as evidenced by this one time I put off seeing a doctor when my throat got swollen to the point I was having a hard time breathing. You see, I grew up almost having never to see a doctor and just totally dealing with things myself, because my parents also didn’t go see doctors. She on the other hand was fortunate enough to always be within easy reach of a doctor and seems to be quite used to seeing one. In a way, she’s helping me get over my apprehension of doctors and professional medical attention.

I absolutely love the fact that even though I get grumpy due to lack of sleep, she manages to flash me a smile. I have yet to learn how to do that because when I’m grumpy, I just want to be left alone. I also don’t tend to smile very much and while neither does she, a smile from her is almost always in order before leaving for work, or coming home.

While she doesn’t really cook very much, and I’m pretty much the main chef at home, it escapes me how she can make instant noodles tasty. That had always been beyond me and I can never make those Korean noodles taste as well if I had cooked it myself. One of the things we do almost constantly is for me to buy the noodles (with her funny description of it having a “Kanji” character and not much of a name, how I even found the noodles beats me) and she will get up from bed when I come home from work. She’ll cook the noodles, sprinkle whatever sort of magic ingredient she uses, and we’ll make small talk over the kitchen counter. See, these are some of the only times we spend alone together – being parents kind of takes away a lot of the alone-ness we were so used to having.

One thing I almost immediately was able to do, was to be able to introduce her to people as my wife. I mean, it was just so natural I almost never had to think about it. One of the things people may notice about me is my apparent lack of ability to introduce people to each other, be it friends meeting strangers or vice versa. But with her, I don’t know, magic I suppose.

 


 

Fatherhood

 

On to our little bundle of explosive potential energy.

So while I work at night, and my wife is off to work in the mornings, it is but natural for me to be the one tasked with looking over our kid on the most part. We don’t have a maid – well we kinda used to but she packed up and tapped out. It’s mostly fun and games for my kid and I – wake up in the morning and feed him breakfast. Then it’s mostly a quick trip to the other garage / ghetto shop / man cave where my father often spends the day. I’ll probably leave him there for a bit while I go prepare lunch. Play around some, maybe watch some TV, give him a bath, eat lunch then nap for the afternoon. It’s a repeating cycle and while honestly I’m mostly all tired and ready to sign off into oblivion, it’s a fun thing to do. Sometimes, I even juggle the laundry for good measure. My wife keeps wondering how I seem to be able to do all those at the same time. The short answer is I don’t – what a lot of people see as multi-tasking are actually carefully orchestrated moves done in sequence. I mean hell, I only have a pair of hands and feet.

Having a kid was, quite honestly, something I had not quite imagined.

Marriage? Sure thing. As early as three weeks into our then budding relationship, I had already told my (then) girlfriend that I was not into this to play games, I was serious about her and that I want to eventually marry her. How and why I thought of this – I have no idea. Love just happened I suppose, and no one had ever promised to wait for me, much less stay. The whole thing is so ghetto in a sense that I ditched the idea of a fancy proposal, and formally popped the question in a dark lit parking lot somewhere along a tollway far from Manila.

While the above paragraphs might give you the impression that I’m some kind of superdad and husband, I’m not and I don’t really think I am. For many years prior to getting married and being thoroughly surprised that we were going to be parents, I had not given thought about having kids of my own. I’m not very fond of children, although I would make an exception of my sister since she was really easy to take care of when we were kids. There was this one kid with whom I grew really fond of, but sadly I had to resign myself to the fact that I may never see her again since I had decided to ditch that portion of my life.

Now as an almost full time dad, I could say that while I miss gigging, learning and writing music, working on Aska, driving, doing Gunpla, drinking myself into near alcohol poisoning levels and so many other things, I think I’m slowly growing into this new mold of being a father. I’m sure my wife also misses so many things that she was into while she was still single, so I’m surely not alone in this venture.

Right now, I don’t have any set expectations for my son yet. Although I think I should say that I do, but it’s more of a general expectation for him to grow up into a fine man. I’d definitely show him the ropes as the time comes for each one to be learned. A lot of folks are saying the kid will be musically inclined seeing as how my wife is a good (even if she doesn’t think it) singer, and I’m a guitar player (mostly) in a band (/s). I don’t know,  but there’s definitely a lot more to learn about over the next few years.

 

 


 

What now?

 

I must admit that I still have so much to learn about all these things happening in life. There are times that I loose my almost Kolinahr-esque way of dealing with things. I’m quick to admit faults, but of course sometimes, a lot of things get in the way. In this regard, I’m glad to know that I’m still human and not Vulcan or something.

One thing is for sure though – I’ll hold up my end of the bargain to make sure that my wife was not wrong in telling me she wanted to stay, and probably try my hardest to be the best father to my son.

 

I guess those car and guitar repairs can wait for a bit while I figure it all out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

A Look Back : The Shinkan / Urusai Wonderyears

It’s been a long time since I last played a gig with any of the bands I used to play with. My last gig was with Urusai at Sky High’s “Tales from the Unfriendzone” back in February. Since then, I’d been pretty much out of action, thus ending an almost 5 year playing streak with Shinkan, and then Urusai.

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credits to Mr. Carlo De Lacy for this wonderful photo of us

I really miss playing out with my guys and girls, but real life had caught up with us all at this point and I guess it’s time to put down our guitars in order to put down our roots. I got married this year, so did Icel and Marlo and it probably won’t be long before Ivory and Kajo decide to go at it as well.

We’d gone ways down the road from when we first started jamming together. We’d played good shows and while Shinkan never got to play at the event we formed up for (Ongaku) we did get good gigs which as a whole are quite memorable.

 

An exception to my current band-less streak would be the band that our department had put together to play for our company’s Thanksgiving Party. Perhaps I will dedicate a future post to this quirky bunch of guys who came together to answer the call for rock n’ roll – or reggae as I suspect.

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Yes, I came up with the name as joke. I didn’t know people would take it seriously.

 

 


 

 

That being said though, as with any band, there would be high and low points. There would be gigs worth remembering and those we don’t want to even mention. I picked out some of the more noteworthy gigs and songs we’d played for your viewing and listening pleasure. Also, take note that the videos you’ll encounter below may be chronological in terms of order but not of importance.

 

Without further ado…

 

2011 Asian Pop Expo

This is the very first show we’d played in, and was also the first time we met asterysk* in the flesh. It was also the first time they handed us our asses. This was me coming out of my classic rock / prog closet, hence the Michael Schenker-esque leather jacket while the girls wore more J-pop inspired outfits.

 

2012 Revotaku Jam Pack

This show found us playing our first outdoor gig in the cold January air. This was also the first time we came out with the red “Shinkan” band which was Marlo’s wonderful idea because we didn’t have any sort of stuff with us that show us to be a band. The kanji on the band spells the band name, and we have used the same characters ever since. This was also the first show that we experienced major hassles in almost every aspect except when we played our set.

 

2012 Asian Kung Fu Generation Tribute Night

I think this is the first of the many appearances we made at the then already tore-up af Freedom Bar. This also marks the first time that we joined a gig that had a theme going on since all bands had to play one song from Asian Kung Fu Generation, a band that none of us really pays close attention to. It was a lot of fun, and also began the tradition of Marlo, Kajo and myself drinking before a set, often to hilarious results.

 

2012 Otomonogatari

Now this one is really memorable especially for me, for a lot of reasons. This was the first band competition that we joined on and won a respectable 2nd place, and was also the first competition I ever joined that I was picked as Best Guitarist, an award that I still can’t believe I won. It was also around this time that I began my long period of fanboying over the popular anison singer, LiSA. We selected her version of “Brave Song” for one of our pieces, which incidentally was also one of the songs of yet another group, Yui for President.

Beyond that, this was also the day that my wife and I had seen and heard of each other. The memories of this gig is so important to me and my wife that this was where we had our pre-nuptial shoot.

 

2013 One Rock Tribute Night

This show found us back at Freedom Bar, this time playing to the Philippine One Ok Rockers (P.O.O.R) to the music of One Ok Rock, a band which we have absolutely no sense of similarity whatsoever. Although my sister and I listened to the band quite a bit at the time, my bandmates didn’t but we agreed to play the show anyway. This was the first time that I first began my now current practice of bringing two guitars to a show, and possibly changing them out when there is a need for a differently tuned guitar. Marlo took on the bass on this night since we needed his awesome slap and pop techniques, so in order to have Icel play guitar, we decided to teach her our setlist entirely in drop D tuning, which she did quite well considering a six string isn’t her native instrument. I played part of the show on standard (Yuri) then changed out to a drop D guitar (Maya), and this was the first show I started using my Vox wah. Actually, I bought the wah specifically for this gig only, but found that I liked it so much that it remained on my set-up since then.

This was also the night that us guys got so hammered drinking before the show that when the time came for my sister to hand me my other guitar for a swap, I totally forgot about it. LOL

 

2013 Best of Anime 

This was my first BoA appearance with the band – they’d appeared a few times prior to me joining up. The twist on this particular gig was that we needed to play an original song that the band had written and composed. I wanted to come forward with some ideas, but it turned out that Ivory had written one such song (“Rockstar”) years prior and they had already worked on it before I came aboard. That made the job so much easier for us, and all I had to do was provide some fancy guitar parts. At the time, I was learning how to play string skipped arpeggios in the style popularized by Paul Gilbert. Due to my noobness, I was only able to use one pattern in D major that I played up and down all over the intro chords. We had a good showing for our efforts in that while we didn’t win on this one, we did garner a lot of supporters.

 

2013 Ozine Fest 

This was the day we finally won first place in a band competition! Although it wasn’t without due sacrifice – I was supposed to be attending my car club’s Christmas party after we confirmed our set to be at 3pm, but we ended up playing at 6pm much to my dismay. There were a lot of people on that day, and admittedly I played my solo quite half heartedly because my amp suddenly sounded strange after we started playing. All’s well that ends well I suppose.

 

2014 Toycon

This was our first Toycon appearance, and my second time to appear in the said event in about eight years. We were still rocking it out with our usual set list but what made this particular gig stand out was that we played this particular Macross classic, a song that many dub as the song that stopped an interstellar war. I was supposed to be using my then newly acquired Peavey Telecaster (Phoebe), but I ended up switching back to Yuri after I felt uncomfortable with the single coil sounds I was getting.

 

2014 UP AME-X

 

This marked the first time we played at this famed convention series, and also our first time to play at the Word Trade Center Pavillion. Personally, this is one of my favorite gigs because we got to play a good long set with people actually singing along to us. We chose to play this Love Live! classic because at the time, the series and the mobile game was very, very popular. This also marked the first time that I was able to utilize a fully analog effects rig, along with my by then better developed string skipping arpeggios which no longer kept me in one box up and down, that I used on “Yuzurenai Negai”, a song that our community friends seem to tout as our signature song.

 

2015 Otaku Expo 

By this time, we had already become regular guests and performers at a lot of the more popular conventions in Manila. Having won a previous Ozine event, we secured a slot on this one, playing to what I think is the most densely packed audience we’d played to. This also marks the very first time someone outside of our band (Jake) took on vocalist duties along with our girl Ivory. I liked our sound here, and we seem to have become tighter as a band, and a lot of people had responded that Kajo was growing really well as a drummer, and that Icel was doing great on the bass because she was playing “H.T.” quite well – this is mostly due to the fact that the bass and guitar parts all go through the same notes and patterns.

 

2015 Influence @ Biz-Ahr

This is my personal favorite actually for the top Shinkan gig to date. We played a posh and great sounding venue, with ample space to not have everyone knocking into each other due while moving around. We were really in the groove on this particular night, my rig sounded amazing and needless to say, I think we really did well. We were furnished with a new set of “Girls Dead Monster” band shirts courtesy of RV Urban Style, the previous design being the all black Shinkan shirt with the crescent moon logo that we gave out to some audience members before. We also gave away the last of our remaining shirts on this gig, with one ending up in the possession of Sol of Solguilty Project, a famed cosplay and events photographer. This also happened to be Phoebe’s first real gig, and I think she sounded like balls that night.

 

2015 Toycon

This marked our second Toycon appearance as a band, and while we didn’t secure a prime time slot, we still played our hearts out and did well in general. Again, RV Urban Style designed a new shirt for the band and I think Ivory took the time to advertise our generous sponsor. I was still going with my analog gig, and this marked the first time I used my Flying V (Hana) onstage and also the first time I played some slide guitar in a live gig.

 

The Toycon gig is the last time Shinkan played together as a band. Although we’d put down our gear for now, I still look forward to a time that we can all come back together and play out under the lights.

 


 

Now while Shinkan is mostly the band we are best known for, the girls also had a little thing on the side going on. With the addition of Jazz from asterysk*, they called themselves “Dreamsicle”, they sang (occassionally danced) as a group ala Kalafina. The boys of the band then decided to go with an often talked about but never executed plan – form our own sub-unit that played more different styles of music than what Shinkan usually does. After some practice with just the three of us, we decided to see if we’ve got the mettle to do things our way and “Urusai” was born. With just the three of us, we usually played instrumentals but we eventually got around to singing the songs ourselves.

 

2014 Grand Theft Maco

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This was our first gig as Urusai, but before we actually got to play the date, it was supposed to have been a Shinkan gig. People expected the band to be there, only to be taken by surprise that only the three of us boys showed up. Things didn’t quite work out to how we wanted it because I developed a cold then a cough prior to the gig, severely hampering my already limited singing voice (ugh) but I tried as best as I could seeing as how the guys could still belt it out. “Highway Star” is a personal favorite of mine, and I suggested we play this to see if a three piece band can pull it off. The idea for the arrangement we did was an old bootleg recording from a band I used to do roadie duties for, Leaf. Marlo’s suggestion was that we actually play Siam Shade’s “Triptych” for real because up until that point, we only played the last parts of the song as a soundcheck.

The idea was to combine the opening bars of Daita’s “TGE4” version as per Kajo, and spliced it to Siam Shade’s V7 live version – complete with the thrash metal inspired bridge and *gasp* headbanging. Honestly, I didn’t like how I performed the song on this because I was feeling cold and I was struggling to keep my hands going. But did pull it off somehow and we even had the audience going “Oi!” during the bridge. This also marked my return to using my trusty Korg AX1500G and since to get a “beefier” guitar sound, I did a stereo set-up with both amps but to make things interesting, I dialed in the amps different from each other, with one having a more bass / mid setting and the other having more of the harsh treble coming out.

 

2015 Summer Over The Rainbow

This one is my favorite Urusai gig because I think we simply rocked that night. We did all vocal songs, and we wanted to showcase Kajo’s singing. Thing was, he wanted to sing the whole night so what we did was we picked a friend of his as our drummer for that night. So we had Simon on drums, Marlo on bass, me on lead guitar, Kajo on rhythms and we also had Ivory sing one number, and yet another friend, Rainier,  on our last song. Since we were supposed to play a tribute set to Parokya ni Edgar, Kajo took the lead vocals and we sang behind him. This was the first gig that I fully appreciated the sound I was getting with a Marshall compressor pedal, and Phoebe was a screaming mass of wood and steel strings that night. Considering the fact that our drummer isn’t exactly a gigging drummer, our set sounded tight and people sang with us.

I don’t really dig PnE songs per se, so instead of copying the leads note for note, I took the main themes and added my own flourishes to it.

 

2016 Tales from the Unfriendzone

This gig was mostly my idea because I’m a closet Hale fan. My friend Jei was asking around if he can get a band to play a Hale set for his gig which was supposed to be for people without a date on Valentine’s Day. I asked the guys if they wanted in on the action, they agreed and since this was my idea, I have to do lead vocals. This was a pretty amazing set for us and to keep the song order coherent, I tied it up to stories about my then recently ended long term relationship, which elicited laughs from some people and scorn (towards me) from others.

The audience did a lot of the singing that night because as luck would have it, I was coming down with a fever than night and I was losing my voice on some parts. For that particular night, we had Kurt (Riku) from Kamaimasen playing additional guitar parts. The house was packed and we had a really good time playing what people thought was a strange choice for us – people thought we were going to shred that night.

 

 

 

It had been a really long and fruitful journey with the guys and girls of both bands, and I am really grateful that we were able to bind our common love for music, and share it with the people around us. The good thing about it all is that while we’re no longer actively playing together, we started out as a group of friends and we still stick together.

I think that’s a really beautiful thing and maybe, just maybe, we’d be able to get back at it in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Until the next time the lights find us again.

 

~fin~

Pokemon Go And Getting Lost In The Flow

Earlier this morning, I left the house at the usual time at around 0300. I felt like taking a walk today, and left the car at home just so I can indulge in the early morning air and catch some exercise while I’m at it.

I’d just barely closed the gate behind me when I spotted a grey Hyundai Accent hatchback at the street corner about 50 meters from our house. Paying no attention to it, I started walking. Almost immediately though, I noticed through the moderately tinted windshield of some movement – like something was being picked up from the floor of the vehicle and being passed around the front seats. It was then that I noticed that it was proceeding very, very slowly, almost at a person’s walking pace, if not slower. Its headlights were turned off, only the parking lights were on and the hazards were blinking. The occupants were looking to the back of the vehicle, then looked forward and turned to look from side to side, as it they were looking for something.

 

Nowadays, there have been a lot of news about people being shot on the street for being alleged drug pushers and what not. Since I have a deep distrust in the manner by which vigilantes carry out their dirty jobs, and there would definitely be “collateral damage” under such a system, I thought this might be one of those instances.

  • car creeping along suspiciously
  • occupants seem to be scoping out stuff
  • me being out at an inopportune time

 

I was getting ready duck the fuck out the way of any damn bullets that might come flying my way. I continued walking forward anyway since I was in the more real danger of being late, and there seemed to be no signs of impending death from the passenger side window – I think.

A few tense seconds passed and the moment of truth came when I crossed directly in front of the passenger side window. I held my breath, started humming “Komm, süsser Tod” and there was…

 

 

 

n_logo_thunderclap

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t get shot, I didn’t get robbed.

 

n_logo_thunderclap

 

I breathed a sigh of relief that I can still go to work and come home to my family afterwards.

 

Curiosity got the best of me so I glanced inside the car, the inside of which was by now fully visible as it was lit by the street lights from the other side of the road.

 

Both the driver and occupant were holding up their mobile devices, and playing Pokemon Go. I could tell via the screens on their phones and the screen captured maps that friends of mine have posted on Facebook. While I didn’t get shot with a 9mm, they did shoot bad glances at me then proceeded forward.

 

The car continued its snail-like pace right up to the plaza at the upper end of our street, and I lost sight of it from there. I continued on my journey to the office without further incident.

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Seriously though, Pokemon Go.

Jesus.

 

 


 

 

For my dear readers who aren’t in the know, Pokemon Go is the latest mobile app craze that’s taking the world by storm. It’s based on the popular manga, anime and game franchise and is basically an app that uses your phone’s GPS locator to send you on a journey to catch all 151 (?) Pokemon. I think this app will also allow you to grow, train and eventually battle other Pokemon trainers.

 

logo

 

According to most sources I’d read up on, Pokemon Go was envisioned so people can go on quests which will take them to various places, and to allow the younger generation (that are almost always cooped up at home behind a computer screen) to go out, see the world and maybe make new friends in the process.

And it’s true – there had been many documented instances of next door neighbors who had been previously oblivious to each other, meeting and hanging out for the first time, or crowds of people who end up at the same location and sharing their passion for the franchise. Young millenials who were content to be in a darkened room and hanging out in the cyber world are now coming out of their homes and hanging out with others in real life. Even the older folks who were around playing the original games have gone on the crazed wagon, mostly because now it had become possible to go on quests that involve moving around, something the Gameboy and the ported versions of the original Pokemon games didn’t allow us to  do.

pokemon-go

credit to the Manila Bulletin for this screen cap

Here in the Philippines, the game was finally released a couple of days back to much fanfare. In a nation that had a good chunk of then 90’s kids and teens growing up around the first beloved Pokemon anime and Gameboy series (I myself played the Red / Green versions, etc. what-nots of the original game series) this was big news. People like my sister first downloaded the then mirrored “bootleg” version of this app late last month, and were dismayed when the app got blocked prior for the actual release date.

Now that the apk was finally and officially released, the past 24 hours had filled my Facebook feed with all sorts of posts about friends who’d downloaded the app, and started their quests to be the very best.

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It’s all good really, and in the name of totally hanging out with other people apart from stalking each other on Facebook, this app is really something.

 

 


 

 

However, there are some inherent dangers to the game, those playing it and people around them.

 

Let me point out some of these from my point of view.

 

You see, a lot of people can get lost within a given activity, a psychological phenomenon known as “flow“.

flow-33

I like the band too LOL

I learned about this during our infamously dreaded INDIBEH (Individual Behavior) class, facilitated by the legendary Adonna Esleta. In a nutshell, people involved with a certain activity will experience full involvement, enjoyment and focus. This “heightened” sense of involvement often allows the person involved in the activity to make “better” use of their mental faculties, able to provide output that would otherwise not be possible had they been not caught within the flow. Their focus is often so intense it is hard to break through, and if you do break it, they can lose the experience. Street lingo describes it roughly as being in the zone, and being in this zone can make feel almost devoid of all other inputs from the outside world, being very focused on the task at hand. Some examples of this phenomenon include writers getting lost in thought, musicians writing or performing music, race drivers who are so in one with the vehicle that they feel and see nothing else but the race they are winning, video gamers who lose all sense of time while playing and so on.

I myself frequently fall into this zone of complete immersion and thought, and when I was still actively writing and recording songs, I can miss meals by many hours because I cannot think of anything else but the song I am working on. I can also fall within this zone when I play a guitar solo, and in my experience when I’m fully in it, I do not think of what notes to play and how to play them, I just do. I can attribute it to muscle memory, but my mind knows ahead of time what I should play and how to play it. There instances I replay our gig vids and I go “Wow! How the heck did I play that!?”.

 

That’s the flow experience as best as I shortly summarize it, and you can wiki quickly or read more about it here , here and here. I leave it entirely up to you if you want to read up on it, and there are loads of good references all over the net.

 

~

 

While the zone and being in it is good and isn’t really a problem by itself, it becomes so when it takes away attention from the real world.

 

The main gist of Go is to get people to move from one place to another in search of Pokemon. If say one is within the flow, they may forget to look both ways while crossing the street, endangering themselves by lowering their awareness to street traffic.

They may lose sense of being law abiding citizens and find themselves trespassing into property, something they inherently know is wrong but unable to process in their mind since they are caught within the flow.

They may engage in otherwise dangerous physical activities like jumping across gaps and roofs, which may not be the kind of activities that they normally do, but being lost within their zone, they are unable to think otherwise. Of course, injuries are in order whenever we allow ourselves to autopilot into things, something that non-Newtypes aren’t built for.

They may take their minds off their driving, and start looking left and right for Pokemon instead of looking left and right at an intersection. Given the Filipino propensity to “multi-task” while doing things (driving among them) this will certainly happen. And with the Anti Distracted Driving Act having been signed into law recently, we may have an influx of people being caught and penalized in trying to be the very best – while driving.

 

~
I am not discouraging anyone from downloading, playing and enjoying Pokemon Go. If you are a millenial, cooped at home and wants something to do and take you outdoors, this is the shit. However, remember to leave some semblance of sense whenever you are out journeying to catch ’em all. Look both ways while crossing the street, do not trespass, obey the law at all times. Remember, those virtual pocket monsters won’t guarantee your freedom should you end up behind bars for doing something stupid. Most of all keep yourself, your friends and the people around you safe, so everyone can go on and enjoy this app.

 

Also, please do not go hunting while driving. Keep your eyes and mind on the road, unless you want Jesus to take the wheel.

 

 

 

~


PS. I do not play this game and have no intention of doing so. I’m already (still rather) hooked to Real Racing 3.