Pressing Pause to Play

I am on the second day of the second half of my family’s vacation in Bacolod. It’s really good to be on break, but it’s even better when you’re on break somewhere else. It’s not like we’re staying in some posh hotel or resort. We’re staying in my mother-in-law’s house, practically where the missus grew up, but it’s still a refreshing change to the routines of our little apartment. We did spend a night at a resort in the city though. It was a reunion of sorts for the missus and her friends from high school, kids and spouses in tow. Needless to say that the kids had a blast playing in the pool (Why people always say the thing that they claim is needless to say, I will never understand. Just like when people say “With all due respect…”). It was also the first time in ages that I stayed up till sun up. The activity? Playing pusoy with the husbands of the missus’ friends. After about 6 hours of playing, I won 15 pesos, which is like winning 3 games. Unfortunately, I felt the adverse effects foregoing sleep when I got a splitting headache after dinner the next day, which was aggravated by the bumpy cab ride home. And that story ends with me pretty much puking my guts out when we got to the house. So not worth the 15 pesos I won. Energetic youth, why hast thou forsaken me?

The only downside of this vacation, aside from missing our scheduled flight, paying extra (like twice over) to board the afternoon flight, spending 7 hours in the airport, and the headache episode, is that it takes time away from making music. I still have to record 2 tracks to make the 10 for the album. I left for Bacolod with track #7 half-finished. However, I think I’ll be able to record vocals when we get back and finsh track #10 and at least play a couple of jam sessions with Inhaler (my former band) before leaving for that conference in Exeter.

While I’m away from recording, I guess now is the best time to celebrate small musical accomplishments. I haven’t posted any update on the album since I posted the album cover and the video for track #1. Since then, I’ve finished videos for the first 5 tracks, and I am now working on recording the 2 remaining tracks, and the videos for the 3 other tracks that have been recorded. The videos for tacks #1 to #5 are below. I’ll post the videos for tracks #6 to #10 as soon as they’re done.

Track #1

Track #2

Track #3

Track #4

Track #5

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What I Will Do Instead

As another work year comes to an end,  I suppose it’s human nature to assess things and assign value to them in some fashion. That’s what I caught myself doing yesterday afternoon while preparing dinner. How do I consider this past year? Four-and-a-half stars? One star? But it isn’t that easy. I’m not rating a product, a book, or a movie; I’m attempting to rate life.

There is actually just one fundamental difference between products that people usually rate and life, but this difference makes… well… all the difference. In a product, book, or movie, you can strip it down and really decide which bits are good or good enough to keep, and which bits are crap and should be tossed out. You can then proceed to giving an overall rating for said product. You can even go as far as specifying what to replace those crappy bits with so that the whole thing will become much better.

But you can’t do that with life. If you take out a crappy bit in life, whether it’s an event or a condition, you have no assurance that the rest of it will be the same. In fact, we pretty much have the guarantee that it will be different; just varying degrees of different. The network of relations between the various pieces that make up life is something that is currently beyond human comprehension, and may forever be so. However, we have enough empirical proof to conclude that even the slightest difference in conditions or in the chronology of events can have a huge impact on subsequent events.

With that said, we have no way of knowing if the crappy bits in life are any less essential because they may very well be components in the development of the good bits. And if they are, would we then be able to say they are indeed bad bits that we could have done without? If we can’t call them bad bits because they may be essential, are all the bits then good? And if so, is every life a good one then? But why the hell does it hurt so bad sometimes? As you can see, because of that one uncertainty, our logic turns on itself and ultimately collapses. We cannot come up with a final rating for life as we would for a toaster.

Because an overall rating for life is an attempt at futility, here is what I will do instead. I will celebrate the good bits because they brought happiness to me and/or those around me. I celebrate…

  • my family; the missus and the kiddies who make everything better
  • finally getting our own place (even if it’s a 3-year wait)
  • being home room teacher for the first time
  • teaching Mathematics… again
  • teaching Humanities for the first time
  • making a significant impact on the lives/learning of even just some students
  • being band teacher and getting to teach kids how to rock
  • actually seeing these students rock… and rock beyond expectation
  • teaching and learning from awesome students
  • hanging out with awesome students
  • working and collaborating with awesome colleagues
  • awesome colleagues who are awesome friends
  • getting to go to Sagada (with students) for the second time
  • getting to go to China (with students) for the first time
  • being appreciated for my hard work
  • finally getting an electric guitar budget (Yay, tax refund!)
  • and finally getting to share my music on Youtube (search for the joeytandem channel)

As for the shitty parts, I will gut and bleed them for all they are worth.

  • friends who are going away
  • the hectic deadlines
  • getting an NBI clearance
  • being cooped up in a plane for hours
  • stupid, stupid fires that scare my daughter
  • the mistakes I made
  • the difficult people
  • the indifferent people
  • the insensitive people
  • the insincere people
  • the spineless people
  • the selfish people
  • the thoughtless people
  • the people who sold out their integrity for image
  • the incapable people
  • the passive-aggressive people
  • the stupid decisions
  • the tragedies
  • the losses
  • the frustration
  • the disappointment
  • and all the fucking bile

I will make every one of them pay out in currencies of experience, wisdom, and fortitude. I will take all that for my own and discard the remaining husk made of regret, anger, and despair. Even though it was not a very good year, I am not walking away empty-handed.

And did I mention I already have some songs in the works for all that shit up there?

370 Days Later

It has been a year and 5 days since this blog was born. It has also been a year and 5 days since the floor above ours was razed, and we had to find a new place. It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, I’ve almost forgotten how to go about this. But maybe that’s how things are, seasons. I just hope I remember enough, so I can post some more things because so many things have happened since my last post… when was it?

Well, first off, I guess it should be mentioned that the family’s doing well. Father-Mother-Daughter-Son family, not a bada-bing-bada-boom family. Just saying.

We’re still staying in the same place we moved into last year. And more importantly, no fire. We originally planned to move out in a few months, but it’s looking like the missus and I aren’t up to the hassle of another move. We’ll probably just get some things fixed up to make the place better and stay here until it’s time to move into our own place. It’s real this time. Barring any major disasters like the Earth’s core stopping, or a giant meteor crashing to the Earth, or a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion… Yeah, if nothing like those things happen, we should be home sweet home in a bit over 2 years. Yay!

I am currently on a four-day weekend thanks to the term break at school, but I’m also swamped with reading and checking papers because it’s report card season soon. 178 papers. Count them. That’s not including another 35 journals that I have to check when I get back on Wednesday. Sometimes, I really wonder why I do this to myself. I also wonder why I’m writing this entry instead of checking more papers. But let’s not talk about that during my break.

Sadly, another thing that happened (or not) since my last post was the new electric guitar has been put on hold indefinitely. Though unfortunate, I don’t really mind because the resources are going toward more important things. But looking back, it was quite a feat of willpower and maturity to let awesome guitar deals go just like that. A second-hand, grey Fernandes Jaguar copy from the’90s in very good condition? Ouch. A brand new Epiphone SG for half the price? Double ouch.

Despite that setback, music is still looking pretty good this year. First, there’s word that the Foo Fighters (yes, the Foo Fighters) will have a Philippine leg in their world tour this year! Not like it’s confeeermed, but I’m keeping my finger’s crossed.

Next, though I am still stuck on the last 3 tracks (7, 8 and 10), the Tandem album is definitely going to push through by May, at the latest. I’ve also finished the ‘album cover’ and ‘back cover with track list’. It finally came to me what I wanted it to look like. Yes, I’ve been taken quite a few breaks from checking.

The album cover.

The back cover.

Another thing I’m excited about, and another reason why the Tandem album has to be done by May, is Inhaler reuniting in June! We’re going to record all our 12 songs and come out with an album! A post-break-up debut album, to be exact. We plan to release it on the web just like the Tandem album. We’re also inviting our friend JusTech on board to play guitar. It’s actually going to be amusing how the recording will turn out because all three of us guitarists will be using Telecasters. I’m also actually sure less than a handful of people actually found that amusing.

I hung out with Byugi, our bassist, yesterday and talked about our recording schedule. He suggested we should jam a couple of times to get ourselves back in the groove. I think that’s an awesome idea! I really miss playing live with a band. But it will also mean I need to record guitar and vocal tracks for the songs and send them out, so the rest of the band can prepare. It’s going to be a lot of work, and will probably need some funding to record the drum tracks, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Well, it’s dinner time. I’m going to have to eat and get back to work. Hopefully, it won’t take another several months before my next post. But no promises…

The Marshmallows Called Fernandes

I don’t particularly like the marshmallow test. It’s not because I fail the test. I can delay gratification when necessary. What I don’t like about it is that the closer you are to success, the more excruciatingly painful the waiting gets. It’s probably a little difficult to see the ‘excruciating’ aspect of the pain of waiting if you think about a marshmallow and the twenty-minute wait. However, the real world hardly deals in marshmallows, and it is rarely a matter of just twenty minutes. Add my ADHD to that mix and it can really become frustrating.

My marshmallows at the moment are electric guitars. The missus and I plan our family’s expenses, both regular ones and big, long-term ones. We don’t just plan for what we need and living expenses, we also plan for what we want. Electric guitars and recording equipment are part of that plan. My long term plan is to own seven electric guitars and one bass guitar. Here is my wishlist.

The Jaguar. My favorite Fender guitar.

The Telecaster. My favorite Fender guitar before I saw the Jaguar.

The Stratocaster. Probably the most-cloned guitar.

The Jazz Bass. The only bass guitar I want.

The SG. My favorite Gibson guitar.

The Flying V. Screaming with attitude.

The Les Paul. The first electric guitar I used to play my own songs. The one I used was a copy, of course.

The semi-hollow archtop. Classy. Full stop.

The guitars above are arranged according to manufacturer, with the first four being Fender models and the next four Gibson models. The Jaguar and the SG are my two favorites among the seven electric guitars. But I’m not picky when it comes to brands. I never wished for my guitars to be Fenders and Gibsons. I don’t even require them to be Squiers and Epiphones. I’m good with good copies.

Of those eight, I only own one at the moment. It’s my first electric guitar, a black Telecaster copy that I bought six years ago. I need to bring it to a luthier to get it reconditioned. I’ll probably have it repainted white with black binding. The repairs and repainting will probably cost like I bought the guitar all over again, but it will be worth it. I love the sound of that guitar.

Now that you have a good idea of what my marshmallows look like, let’s look at the actual test that I’m undergoing right now.

I’m scheduled to buy a guitar in December. I’ve had my eye on an SX SG copy that I saw in JB Music last year. Waiting for December wasn’t so hard because it was a current model and JB would periodically restock the item.

SG copy is good enough for me.

Then I was sent to Kuala Lumpur for a workshop. When the workshop was done, I asked the front desk of the hotel if there were any guitars available. They gave me directions to a music store that was a couple of blocks from the hotel. That was where I saw a Squier Jagmaster that was all black. When I got back from the workshop, I did some research and found out that the Jagmaster was locally available at Yupangco Music. It was even a bit cheaper than the price tag I saw in Malaysia. Again, the waiting was bearable because it was a current model and the store would have it in stock.

Jaguar+Jazz Master=Jagmaster. They could have been a tad bit more creative.

Enter boredom. I was idly surfing the net one evening and had the idea of searching for guitars at sulit.com.ph. After a few pages, I came across a Fernandes ‘The Function’ Stratocaster copy for sale. That’s when the marshmallow test began.

Blue, black, and gold for the win!

It's more than just The Function. It's als the form.

I had the money to buy it, but it wasn’t December. We also seriously did not have space for another guitar at home. It was difficult not to think about it because I knew the guitar could disappear any time. But things became a bit easier when we had to use the money for Gray’s birthday bash last weekend. But I still think about The Function every now and then. I haven’t looked at sulit.com.ph again. I don’t really want to know if it’s still there or if it has been sold. I try not to think about it.

A couple of days ago, I was on the train ride home. As the train approached the station, I spotted a streamer in one of the low-rise buildings that had a drawing of a Gorilla with a Les Paul. Curious, I read the words beside the drawing.

Musical.

Instruments.

Japan.

I instantly knew what it meant. I wasn’t in any hurry, so I went to the store to check it out. The first floor wasn’t impressive. They had a handful of amps (Marshall, Roland, and Yamaha), an Ibanez GRX, a couple of no-name Strat copies, a drum kit, a trumpet, and a few keyboards that I didn’t even bother inspecting.

But then I saw the stairs. The stairs that led to the mezzanine. The mezzanine that held the walls and walls of guitars. It was awesome. Not even the new JB branch had that many guitars on display. There must have been a hundred or more. I didn’t know most of the brands, but they looked like good enough copies. They’ll probably need some careful testing, of course.

I also saw a few Fenders (which were above my price range), a few more Ibanez, a handful of Grecos, and several Fernandes. And then I saw a guitar that spoke to me, a Fernandes Jaguar copy.

The Fernandes JG. It speaks to me.

It was a little pricey, but it almost looked new. Initially, I thought the JG would replace The Function as my marshmallow. But no. Now it’s two marshmallows. And this test is just twisted. Instead of seeing one marshmallow, I see two. Instead of twenty minutes, it’s two months. And instead of being assured more if I wait, the chances of getting the marshmallows grow slimmer as I wait. It’s insane!!!

But all I can do is wait.

It really isn’t that bad, actually. It’s mostly me being an impatient brat about it.

But I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Please do too.

Gray Day

Yesterday, we threw Gray a party for turning two. It was loads of fun. My folks were there. Even my dad, who is next to impossible to get to leave the house, was there. My brother and three of my five sisters were there too. Of course, my sister in Canada couldn’t help but be absent, but my other sister was on a business trip in Cagayan de Oro and is just coming back today. But my brother-in-law was there with their kids. Rune had a blast playing with her cousins.

My friends from college were there too. Well, not all, but a good number. It was also surprising because some of them were early, or at least earlier than their usual late selves. Some of them brought their kids too. It was really good to see everybody. I don’t see my parents and siblings very often. We (my wife, my kids, and I) only get to see them during Christmas. I don’t see my friends very often too. Usually, it’s also around Christmas time, but only if we have a party. We said we would this year though, so that’s something to look forward to.

Some friends from work also attended. Most had engagements that day, but that was no problem. There was a lot of food (of course). The missus and I also held some games. Two for the kids and two for the grownups. The kids enjoyed themselves looking for treasure and breaking clay pots that had prizes inside. The grownups had a good time making fun of each other while they were playing relay charades and a trivia quiz.

As fun as it was, it was a very tiring day. The missus and I had to constantly go around to make sure everybody was attended to and was having a pleasant time. On top of that, there was a lot of conversation to take part in, especially with the people we didn’t get to see often. As a result, I didn’t get to eat anything until 7pm (the party started at 3pm). But my wife didn’t get to eat until we got back home at 8. It was a good thing we had lunch. But the thing I regret the most was that we weren’t able to take pictures. Not one. I brought the camera and charged the battery, but we completely forgot about it when the guests started arriving. This is why I’m giving verbal descriptions of the party. It sucks, I know.

One of my friends took some pictures though. Hopefully, I can get copies of those when we see each other on the Christmas party. It’s at his place, so he should be attending. But I still say hopefully because he hasn’t gotten around to giving us our copies of the pictures he took of Rune when she was a baby (5 years ago). So, yeah… we’ll see.

First Time Out

Growing up in the province in the 1980’s and hailing from a lower-middle class family, leaving the Philippines and going to another country only meant one thing to me: work. We are not even making any references to the United States, for only a select few would be well-off enough to afford sending their children to reputable schools in Metro Manila and still have money to pay for the expenses of sending them to the States.

For most fathers and old-enough sons, there was only one place to go. The Middle East. My father did it. My uncles did it. Their friends did it. It was almost as if all the men in town went away to work in Saudi Arabia at least once. During that time, there was a huge push in developing infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. The highways there are pretty much made out of gravel, sand, cement, asphalt, and the sweat and blood of Filipino workers.

I grew up in that reality. I eventually got lucky enough to attend some of the best schools in the country. That, of course, is me being humble. I would rather say the best schools, but that’s not the point. The point is, even with the credentials and the skills, I never left the homeland. Not that I didn’t have opportunities. I had a lot. The United States’ mass-recruitment of Filipino teachers began at the turn of the millennium and would go on for ten years. I would have undoubtedly been able to leave the country several times had I wanted to. But I didn’t. Maybe because I knew what it was like to be one of the people left behind by Filipinos who work abroad, I never felt the urge to go to the US, or any other country for that matter. Not even a $2000-$3000 monthly salary enticed me. Which probably explains why I felt weird two weeks ago going through immigration at the airport with AR, CL, and GG for our workshop in KL.

The flight to KL took almost 4 hours. When the plane began its landing sequence, I still couldn’t get my head wrapped around the fact that I had left the homeland and was about to set foot on foreign land. What was amusing though, and also kind of strange, was that Malaysia looks a lot like the Philippines. If countries were made out of Lego blocks, the Philippines and Malaysia would have the exact same type of blocks. Except Malaysia has about two to three sets more and the kid who built Malaysia knew what he/she was doing.

What I also noticed was that Malaysian advertisers are less obsessed with tarpaulin and billboards than ours are. Considering they do not get as many tropical storms as we do, I find our obsession for billboards all the more strange. But Malaysian pedestrians are just like ours in their disregard for regulations. Their traffic enforcers also ignore pedestrians like our own MMDA boys do. However, unlike our motorists, theirs don’t require physical barriers to follow traffic rules. Though I did see one guy driving a car, talking on his phone as he went through a red light, clocking a whopping 10 km/h.

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By the time my companions and I got to the hotel, it was already past 1pm. My last meal was on the plane, and it was pretty much crap. I was ready to pass out. To make things worse, we found out that even with reservations, we needed to make a $172 deposit before we could check in. Good thing we were able to find ways to cover that, but I was forced to eat a Kit Kat bar to keep from keeling over. CHOCOLATE! I had to eat CHOCOLATE! I hated it. After checking in, we were all starving and just wanted to get our tummies filled, so our first meal in KL was Wendy’s. Nice.

After our late lunch, we went around on foot. We paid a visit to a couple of malls. It was nothing spectacular. I mean, the Philippines is a country of malls. But there was some pretty nifty advertising and an amazing shop window display! What, for me, was the most interesting bit about KL was that they had crows! It was cool seeing these elegant scavengers fly from one building top to another as we walked around. It was just frustrating because I couldn’t really get a close enough shot of these magnificent birds.

We made up for our deplorable choice of cuisine for lunch with our dinner. For dinner AR took us to the street of the hawker food stalls. Now that was truly authentic. She took us to the best stall. And it was not hard to believe it was the best because their tables filled up first. The food was really good! We then walked our way to the KLCC to see the Petronas towers. The long walk proved useful in preventing food coma. The towers were truly a sight to behold at night when they were fully-lit. I kind of felt sorry for all the other buildings in the area. They seemed sad and neglected being not as tall and not having as many lights. After taking some pictures, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

The Factors of My Age

It’s the last ninety minutes of thirty-three.

Thirty-three is three times eleven.

I don’t remember much about what it was like when I was three. But I have pictures of me wearing an army helmet and these round yellow (I think) swimming goggles. I carried a wooden pole that was about as tall as me, probably my rifle. And I rode this thing that I can only describe as an ATV-type of trike. It was blue and yellow (again, I think), and it had bike-type handlebars but it had four wheels. Now that I think about it, I think that toy was way ahead of it’s time. I have vague memories of being in an accident on that ATV-trike. I think I lost control as I rode it down the sloping walkway of my father’s ancestral house. I remember crashing at the gate. There is also this vague memory of me sitting on that ATV-trike bawling as I watched my mother walk out the gate. I don’t remember if I was crying because I didn’t want her to leave or because I wanted to go with her. But I remember the crying being intense.

I have other pictures of me when I was three. There are several of me and my cousin, who is my age, hanging out in the town plaza. We wore denim overalls. My hair was still pretty much a light shade of brown then. Back then, we also had this vinyl record of Battlestar Galactica. When ever my aunt would play it, my cousin and I would always pretend to be Apollo and Starbuck. I was always Starbuck. I don’t know if it was to match the hair color of the characters or something, but I was always Starbuck. We also had these cassette tapes different children’s songs. But my favorite cassette tape then was the one with opening and ending themes of Japanese animated series, most notably the big mecha series like Voltes V and Mazinger Z. I guess, you could say that was the first sign that I would grow up to be an anime freak…

When I turned eleven, I was attending fifth grade in a public school in Pampanga. Our school competed in inter-school competitions pretty frequently. Nerdy stuff like Math, Science, and Spelling. I remember representing our school for Math competitions several times. But I never got to compete in the regional level because I always just got second place in the division level. Public schooling ain’t what it used to be, I guess. Back then one took pride in attending a public school, and private schools had the reputation of catering to rich-not-so-bright kids, who could only do well with the help of a tutor.

During those days, I watched a lot of afternoon TV. Those time slots were reserved for cartoon series. I watched M.A.S.K., Thundercats, Silver Hawks, and Comic Strip every afternoon. I no longer remember what was on on which day. My favorite toy at that time were G.I. Joes. I still played with my Legos, but only when I was in my father’s ancestral house, which was located in another town. On some Saturdays, I would go to a classmate’s house to play on his Nintendo Famicom. He was one of the two kids in our class who owned the consoles. We played a lot of Spartan X and Super Mario Bros. I can’t remember if he had any other games. But during that time, the 8-bit graphics blew us away! They were amazing compared to the graphics of Atari games (which he also had, which we went to his house to play before he got the Famicom). But most of my free time was spent outdoors, playing basketball, hide and seek, different versions of tag, climbing trees, climbing fences, and jumping down from what ever I climbed.

When I turned twenty-two, I was teaching part time in a private school in Quezon City that catered specifically to children with dyslexia and other learning needs. I was the Art and Music teacher from the first grade all the way to the sixth. It was my first job. I was still finishing college then. I worked so I could pay for my tuition and living expenses. It was while teaching there that I realized that I, in all probability, have ADHD. That was where I met the missus too. My first taste of Starbucks coffee was her treat because I helped her finish preparing materials for her class. I was appalled that someone would charge close to one hundred pesos for coffee! I never became a fan of Starbucks. It’s just wrong.

I wasn’t used to being a teacher then. I was also a little different from what I am like now. I hated being hugged. One of the teachers there would sometimes hug me out of the blue just to see my discomfort. And on my 22nd birthday, she told the first graders to greet me happy birthday and give me a group hug. It was the longest 1 minute of my life. I also remember getting birthday presents! The missus got me some hair care products. That was the first time I grew my hair long. And CS gave me a Parker ball pen with my name engraved on it. If I’m not mistaken, I still have that pen somewhere in my disorganized clutter of things from the past, along with the cards that came with them.

Back then, I lived with my friends. We were renting a room in Loyola Heights in Quezon City. The staple food was fast food. It was a rotating menu of McDonald’s, KFC, and Tapa King. Rock radio was a staple then too. The rock scene was very much alive then, and rock music was very diverse. We listened to a lot of stuff, but I was already a shameless fan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters,  the Lemonheads, the Ersaerheads, and Rivermaya then. I had also started dabbling in song-writing during that time. But trying to form a band would not happen until the following year.

Recreation during those days was a mix of run-of-the-mill college-type activities and nerdy activities. I played pool, got drunk, gambled, and many times, all three on the same night. As for the nerdy activities, there was Starcraft and Counterstrike. My friends and I probably played a minimum of six hours a week. It was a lot of fun because our group was big, sometimes we would gather enough people to have teams of eight. Back then, the Missus couldn’t understand why we would play a game for two to three hours, andthen spend another hour just talking about what happened in those two to three hours. But that was before she met Diablo II and the Sims.

Then there was also the Sony Playstation. Tekken 3 was THE game. Everybody had their favorites. We would all hang out in my friend’s condo unit and play for hours on end. I mostly played Paul (of course!), Lei, and Julia. But I wasn’t the best. The guy to beat in our group used Yoshimitsu and Brian. To this day, (to quote Etlevs) I still call hacks. We also played RPGs. The most memorable ones were Final Fantasy VII and the Playstation port of Diablo because my friends and I did marathons playing those games. We did it in shifts, some people playing while the others slept. And again, many a time, the nerdy activities and the colleg-type activities would all happen on the same night.

Writing about this now, I wonder how I got to hold a job and finish college amidst all that recreation… Now kids, don’t try those things at home. Those awe-inspiring feats were done by trained professionals.

Last time I checked I was three times eleven. Thrity-three. Now, I’m thrity-four, for all of thirty minutes. I wonder what thirty-four will be like. I’ll start finding out when I wake up later. But right now, all I can tell you is that it’s two times seventeen.

The 8 Music Stores of My Backyard and the Just as Many Meet-Up Mishaps

I love Araneta Center in Cubao. It has everything I need. Malls, check. Supermarkets, check. Wet market, check. Electric-powered shuttle to take you from one mall to the other, check. But what I like most about it is that just three weeks ago, the 8th music store in the area opened. Yes, there are eight. They do come in varying degrees of awesomeness, but each has something good to offer.

In Ali Mall, there’s an Audiophile branch. They carry Ibanez, Vox, Hartke, Peavey, Korg, and Tama. Next to it is In-Tune. They mainly carry Behringer, but recently they started selling Epiphones from China. It’s just too bad that Epiphone China only makes a few models. The G400 not being one of them. Boo. Then there’s Music Source. Their main brand is Stagg, but they also have Aria stuff. Lazer Music mainly has Samick gear that’s from Korea, but that’s where I go for my strings.

The old Rustan’s Building across from Ali Mall houses three stores. What I like in Lyric Music are their Dan Electro pedals and their Tokai guitars from Japan. They also have some Washburn pieces. Salonga Music is probably the oldest music store in the area. They carry a lot of brands, but the ones of note are Laney, Orange, PRS, Zoom, Martin & Co., Pearl, Ludwig, Hamer (Indonesian), and SX (China). That’s also where I bought my M-Audio interface. Then there’s One World Music and Sports. Their main brand is Ashton, an Australian brand. But they have a few Fenders from Korea.

And lastly, there’s the new JB Music branch on the side of Shopwise facing SM. It carries pretty much the same line as Salonga, being sister companies.

Last week, I told Etlevs about the new branch of JB Music, and that my friend and I paid it a visit. I related to him the awesome gear that we saw, like Martin & Co. acoustic guitars (the kind that John Mayer uses) and a Marshall JCM800 head amp (the kind that Slash uses). Etlevs said he should go see the store. Probably Saturday, he said. Since I lived two blocks from Araneta Center, I told him to tell me when he was going so I could meet him. He told Betts about it, and some kind of a plan came to be. Saturday at 11am, Ali Mall.

A day later, Betts told us that she had a dentist appointment and wouldn’t be able to make it at 11:00. So, I asked Etlevs if he was okay with pushing it back to after lunch. Having nothing else planned, he agreed. Another day goes by and Betts said she would be able to make it at 11:00. I gave Etlevs the update and he remembered that he had a class that would end at 11:00, meaning it would take him some time to get to Araneta Center.

Saturday morning came and I told Betts if she could delay her ETA to 11:30 to give Etlevs time to travel. She agreed and we were set. But just a wee bit before 11:30, I got a message from Etlevs. Due to a mix up in logistics, he didn’t have transportation. The earliest he would be able to make it was 2pm. Because Betts was already at Ali Mall, I went to meet her.

Apparently, she tagged along to work with her mum, and her mum, in turn, tagged along with her to the music store tour. But lunch was the first order of the day (no pun intended). We had pizza and pasta and lots of good conversation. Our first topic was how funny it was that the person whose idea this tour was couldn’t make it.

After lunch, Betts and I paid a visit to the four music stores in Ali Mall while her mum waited in the restaurant. Afterwards, we went through SM and crossed the street to the new JB Music branch. After about half an hour of looking around, we walked back to Ali Mall. Betts and her mum waited for their car and I walked back home. We didn’t go to the other 3 music stores because they would require more walking. Besides, Betts lived near an even bigger Lyric branch. We skipped Salonga Music because it’s practically the same as JB. And there was no need to go to One World Music because Betts already owns a US Fender Strat.

When I got home, I took a nap with Rune and Gray. Less than an hour later, I got a message from Etlevs saying he was almost at Ali Mall. So, I went out to meet him and did the tour again. This time though, we really went through the 8. We started with the 4 in Ali Mall, followed by the 3 that Betts didn’t go to, and saved JB Music for last. There, Etlevs bought a chain for his snare drum and a drum key. We parted ways at Ali Mall. He was finally able to meet up with his ride after some minutes of directional challenges.

It was a pretty good Saturday, despite the small mishaps. It was fun looking at music gear with fellow musicians. I still got to record vocal tracks when I got home. Free pizza and pasta is always a good thing. And it was funny that a staff member at JB thought that we (myself, Etlevs, and Betts) were siblings. Now, that’s one for teh lulz!

Analog Experience

A few weeks ago, I took part in a workshop about conducting discussion-based classes. The basic structure of the workshop was that we would have simulations of discussion-based classes followed by a discussion of how the class discussion went and opportunities to ask questions and share insights or strategies.

On the second day, the group I was with simulated a Spanish language class. One of the things that was stressed by our facilitator was that the learning had to be experiential. It cannot be just rote exercises on vocabulary building and verb conjugations. The students have to experience the language if they are to learn it.

In the afternoon, our class discussion was about immigration and immigrants in the United States. In our discussion on the discussion, we were asked to reflect and share which moments in our discussion we thought were wonderful, wobbly, and woolly (it’s basically the good, the bad, and the ugly). One of the things that our facilitator pointed out was the substantial number of personal anecdotes that were shared during our discussion of immigration and immigrants in the United States. She also cautioned us in keeping these to a minimum as they have the tendency to make the discussion lose its focus and lead it to numerous elsewheres.

On the way home, MM expressed her disagreement on keeping personal anecdotes to a minimum in a discussion. She argued that it is  through these that students find relevance in learning. This got me thinking about what kind of role personal experience plays in our learning. Does it help us learn better, or does it keep us from learning? And since I am in the middle of recording my music, it sort of found its way on board my train of thought, and well… this happened:

The first methods of recording sound, dating as far back as the mid-1800s, were completely mechanical. A machine captured and stored sound directly. However, these methods did not provide very good quality recordings and were not very practical. In the early 1900s, advances in electronics allowed the development of and electromechanical method of sound recording. This method did not capture sound directly but it gave better results and more flexibility.

In this method, the sound energy emitted by the source is captured by the recording device. This recording apparatus then makes a representation of the sound using an electrical signal. Representing sound as an electrical signal allows us to transmit it securely without losing parts of it along the way. The information that this signal carries about the sound it represents can then be stored and/or converted back into a reproduction of that sound. This method of capturing sound is referred to as analog or analogue because the relationship between the electrical signal and the actual sound is analogous in nature.

In learning, it is pretty much common knowledge that experience is the most efficient way to learn about something. But what we sometimes take for granted is that there are things people want to learn about that they cannot experience. Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe the technology is inaccessible or nonexistent. Maybe it will kill you. Or maybe it’s just outright impossible. But what ever the reason, some things just cannot be directly experienced.

When this hurdle in our learning appears, we go and do the next best thing. We create representations, simulations, models, dramatizations, diagrams, games; anything that will give us some sort of experience, no matter how indirect, to help us understand something better. Just like in sound recording, we can’t always directly ‘capture’ understanding. Sometimes, we have to rely on analog to do it.

Personal anecdotes that come up in class discussions are examples of such learning analogs. Considering them as tools to improve learning may sound counter-intuitive because they make us take an indirect route towards learning. However, anecdotes serve as anchors to real life for concepts that would otherwise be alien or abstract or both. Whether or not the anecdotes are something we went through ourselves or something someone we know went through, they can help us attain a better understanding of what we are learning. They can make our learning have more relevance. Just like analog recording, anecdotes afford us more flexibility and better quality.

Recording sound doesn’t mean recording just any sound and in just any way. We want to capture very specific sounds. We want to capture them as accurately as possible, and we want to capture them exclusively. The recording term for unwanted sounds is noise. And noise can very easily ruin a recording.

Analog recording technology makes use of electricity to capture and reproduce sound. However, the very systems and structures that allow audio devices to capture, store, and reproduce sound also cause the electricity flowing through them to generate sound. This sound is called electrical or mains hum, and is considered as a type of noise. This duality of electricity becomes quite problematic. We need it to capture sound, but it is also in its nature to compromise the quality of the sound that we are capturing.

Relating what we learn to our personal experiences exhibits a similar duality. Does it play an important role in learning? Yes, our experiences allow us to deepen our understanding and give relevance to our learning. But at the same time, it carries with it just as much potential to bar us from the very thing we are trying to achieve.

Even in today’s world of digital recording, noise cannot be completely removed without affecting the quality of the recorded sound. However, it is not a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ To put it more precisely, it is a case of ‘damned if you don’t, damned if you do too much.’ Getting the best sound quality is not about eliminating noise, it’s about managing it. This is one of the things audio engineers do. They design recording environments to minimize the presence of noise. They set up equipment in certain ways to minimize the noise they generate. And they use some tools that further reduce the effects of noise.

At the end of the day, we teachers are essentially engineers. We need to design effective learning environments. We need to set up equipment properly to increase their efficiency. We need to use the appropriate tools in appropriate ways at appropriate times. All this to harness and maximize the productivity of the different ways our students learn, and to minimize their inherent capacities to hinder learning.

Analog as analog to experiences as analog to concepts. It sounds unnecessarily complicated, but sometimes the disparate allow us to make connections. Sometimes we need to stray a little to get to where we want to go. And sometimes blurring boundaries provides us with clarity.

A Day at Work with the Avengers

I’m very excited about the upcoming Avengers movie. It’s quite a big thing for someone who grew up reading all these superhero comic books to see movie adaptations that do them enough justice (I mean, after a long line of failures). I’d like to channel all that positive energy now to help dispel the appalling memories of a day whose potential for productivity was completely pissed away.

It happened on his day, a Thursday. I really wanted to fling Mjolnir at some people, if only to knock some sense into their heads.

I'm still bewildered why shields were up. WTH? Some of us really were in suspended animation. And those who weren't felt like it took almost 70 years.

It's more like Irony, Man! The need to practice what you preach just went up to a whole new level.

I personally felt piercing arrows. But they totally missed what they were shooting for.

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. But only if you're in the kingdom of the blind.

In Soviet Russia, the wolves would have come to eat them waaaay before lunch time.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!