Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gig Galore in June: Prelude

I obviously haven't been blogging for quite some time now.  Given some recent mishaps and disappointments at work, I'm starting to think about blogging again as an outlet.  So for now, I'll give a prelude to some of the things I'll be blogging about.

I've been feeling largely depressed and uninspired the past month or so.  It could partly be about the failure in the pursuit of genuine romance.  It could also be partly about my work preventing me from joining my bands at gigs on weeknights.  There aren't any real problems in my life aside from some paranoia about trivial things or my general lack of life direction.  Regardless of the actual reasons, the net result is a limbo-esque restlessness that I can't quite put my finger on.

Perhaps it's God grace or the universe giving me a break.  This month marks the first time in a long while that I got booked to gig every weekend.  I get to gig with all my bands some time this month, participate in a band video shoot/live recording, and do a few solo handpan gigs to boot.  Below is my gig schedule for the month of June.  Some gig dates have passed already.  I was planning on posting this prior to June.  But never seem to get around to it.

June 7, 2014 - Percussion for SunDownMuse, Last Home, Ortigas Home Depot
June 8, 2014 - Jack Versus the Crab Live Recording/Video Shoot, Blue Light Studios
June 8, 2014 - Percussion for Turtle Club (Guys from White Beach, Puerto Galera), Irie Sunday, B-Side Makati
June 14, 2014 - Solo Handpan Set, Handuraw Sikatuna
June 21, 2014 - Percussion for SunDownMuse, Fête de la Musique, Mod Stage, Society Lounge, Atrium Makati
June 21, 2014 - Percussion for Jack Versus the Crab, Fête de la Musique, Main Stage, Intramuros
June 28, 2014 - Solo Handpan Set, Tago Jazz Cafe

There's a possibility that the set time for my two bands at Fête de la Musique might be overlapping.  So I may very well be only playing with one band.  But all in all, this is such a musical month.  Amongst all the unshakeable woes at work, at least I can find solace in music and bathe in its sweet embrace.

I'll be blogging about each of these musical activities as the month progresses.  Even just to get it all on record in my blog.  So I can remember it for the rest of my life.


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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Handpan Diary #8: A New Beginning (Chromatic Spacedrum)

This is the first ever composition using the newest addition to my handpan family, 13 Note Chromatic Spacedrum.  This new year, there are a lot of changes and new things that entered my life.  I started my new job at a advertising/marketing production company.  Gigging will be a lot less frequent given my newness to the job and the work shift I have to put in.  My funds have been drained from months of unemployment.  So I have yet to see the light of day with my finances (I don't get a paycheck until the end of the month).  All this frightens me to a certain extent primarily because I'm a creature of habit.  All my past routines and supposed constants from last year have been broken apart.  Now I'm trying to rebuild a new way of life.  We shall see how this year pans out.

Pardon the length of the this particular composition.  I wanted to write something that sounded a little like a music box.  As well as something that I can play over and over again that lightens any weight I would feel in my heart.

Given that I have more than one kind of handpan now.  I have renamed my handpan video series to Handpan Diary instead of Bali Steel Pan Diary.  My next composition will hopefully integrate both my Spacedrum and one of my Bali Steel handpans.





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Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Book of Tyrael and 13 Note Chromatic Spacedrum have Arrived!



Last Friday, I met up with my friend Kenny for lunch.  So he can hand over to me my copy of the Book of Tyrael.  The book is technically the sequel to the Book of Cain that Kenny previously bought for me.  Both books were hardbound and nicely printed.  My interest in these books is how they depict Diablo lore (Diablo 1/2/3 are Action RPG games developed by Blizzard Games for those of you who don't know.).

When I got home after lunch, I saw a customs notice in my mailbox.  It was a notice that indicated that my 13 Note Chromatic Spacedrum handpan has arrived and was ready for pick-up.  I was supposed to leave for work soon after lunch.  But I decided to speed off to the post office first to pick up my Spacedrum.  I usually came in early for work with over an hour to spare.  Normally, I would burn that time enjoying a cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks or CBTL.  But I decided to forego the coffee ritual that day.

Upon arriving at the post office, I was surprised that they cleaned the place up a bit.  The inside walls were all repainted.  There is generally less junk in the area.  The process of claiming my new handpan was the same as the last two times.  But I was afraid how much the customs tax would be.  The maker of this latest handpan specifically indicated the amount I paid for the handpan.  So I expected customs would levy a hefty tax on it.  The resulting tax amount was indeed hefty.  But not as hefty as I expected.  So I gladly paid for tax amount and post office fee.  I got into a cab and lugged my Spacedrum back home.


As soon as I put the box containing my Spacedrum down in my apartment, I instinctively headed out the door to head for work.  But I stopped midway through my door, looked back at the large box.  In a split second, I decided to spare a few minutes to open the box and at least take a gander at my new toy.

I opened the box and saw that my Spacedrum came with a blue carrying bag.  The site where I purchased the handpan from indicated a grey/brown colored bag.  So I was pleasantly surprised that the bag was actually a nicer looking blue color.  I unzipped the bag and pulled the handpan out.  The handpan was smaller than what I had imagined.  It seems much larger when I watch videos of people playing with the same particular handpan.  There was a rubber ring covering the edges.  I assume the ring is to dampen the notes when played.  The finish was what I expected; a smooth brownish copper tinge all over.  I did see some minor scratches which I assume was from the last minute tuning they did before they sent the handpan to me.  Overall, it was a very pretty handpan.  I sat my Spacedrum on my bed and headed to work.  I knew if I started playing it, that I would get sucked in and actually be late for work.  So I left for the office, went through my work day, and quickly headed back home to my Spacedrum.

I tried all the notes one by one and notice that Spacedrums definitely resonate differently from Bali Steel handpans.  My Spacedrum has damper sounding notes.  But I still thought the notes would ring nicely nonetheless.  I played around with it for a while and quickly realized that this was indeed a full chromatic scale that I expected; 13 notes from C4 to C5.  My two Bali Steel handpans were each a specific key and scale.  So hitting any string of notes will always relate to each other.  With a full chromatic scale, you can no longer just randomly hit notes.  I knew that I would need to learn actual scales in order to play my Spacedrum well.  I did manage to create the beginnings of a possible composition without learning any scales yet.  But I need to play around with it more before I can complete the composition.  I will try to record a video of me playing that composition when it's finished.

I have a few things to post about from my experiences last year (i.e. My band Jack Versus the Crab's album launch, my recent Cluster Headaches, etc.).  But I felt I needed to blog about my the latest addition to my handpan family first.  My family is now three strong.  One more handpan, and I could give them a name each from the Ninja Turtles. LOL.  I don't have the funds to buy another handpan so soon.  I need to ease into my new job and start earning paychecks before anything else.  But I would like to have another handpan someday.  Here's hoping my 4th handpan would be a Pantheon Steel Halo.  I'm waiting on their lottery for this year, to get a chance to buy one.

Of course, I have to post a family photo.  Below the picture is a list of all my handpans in descending order of when I got them.  I have indicated which one is which on the photo as well.


Bali Steel Pan (Minor Pentatonic) [Lower Left]
Bali Steel Pan (D-Minor) [Upper Left]
Spacedrum (13 Note Chromatic) [Right]

My handpan journey continues with a new addition to my handpan arsenal.  The start of this year is definitely a time of many firsts and new things in life (i.e. new job, less gigging with bands due to work shift, trying to reach financial stability, etc.).  There will be a period of adjustment to say the least.  I admit it does frighten me a little.  The compositions I create will  reflect all these changes adjustments in my life.  Hopefully, that musical curiosity will dampen the slight fear and make this year exciting.


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Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Radial Nerve Palsy Experience Part 3

This the last post regarding my life experiences while I was slowly recovering from my Radial Nerve Palsy hand injury.  I'm just getting this all down in my blog.  So I can move on to the topics in my backlog of things to blog about this past year.

My iPhone and iPad was my new gaming platform. (Shadow Cities and The Walking Dead)

Like I mentioned in my previous blog posts, my iPad was one of the only things I could actually interact decently with as an interface to both my PC and iOS apps.  It was just much easier to poke and drag on a touchscreen than toil with a mouse/keyboard or console controller.  I looked for iOS games beyond just the plethora of dinky casual games that I could play on my iPad. I found two games that saved my sanity and kept me entertained.


The first one is called Shadow Cities. It's a geo-location based augmented reality action RPG. Basically, you pick one of two mage factions, and engage in building structures, destroying spirit beings, leveling up, learning new action skills, slaying enemy mages, etc.  There was some semblance of a skill build in the game to boot.  Casting spells was easy to manage one-handed. You essentially draw the shape corresponding to the specific spell. So you can imagine my amusement when I found out that I can interact and play this game easily.  I picked the Architect side out of the two factions available primarily because the other faction was the top choice of the two and seemed like the good guys. I thought I picked the evil faction. But there's hardly any difference between the two other than picking a side and picking green or yellow/orange as a color.  This was an iPhone game and had no iPad version.  It ran decently enough on iPad.  So when I was out, I would play the game on my iPhone.  When I was at home, I'd fire the game up on my iPad instead.


The game's world took place in a virtual replica of your actual geographical location. Since I live in Makati, my home base in the game was in Makati. I found it amusing that my Mage could astral project (essentially warp) to other friend mages around the world. So from the comfort of my own home, I have travelled to the US, France, Japan, South Africa, etc.  All the street names and locations were all Google maps accurate. I also found it amusing that my mage's starting location when I log into the game, would be relative to where I am in real life. So if I was in Mall of Asia, for example, my mage would start in the Mall of Asia area in the game when I log in.


The game even had raids.  The game had normal spirits (esentially mobs) of different house/types and sizes (amount of HP). The raids came in the form of these huge spider looking spirits that required at least 20-30 mages to kill.  The spiders were essentially the largest form of those spirits and were regarded as bosses in the game. There was no way you could down a spider on your own. So you really had to make friends with other players of your faction.  When a spider gets taken down, a random 1 or 2 mages that participated gets a spider token.  When you earn enough tokens, you get to unlock spider sigils to change the look of your mage in ingame chat.  Not a big deal cosmetic wise at all.  But it was valued by all players in the game.  The rest of the mages that were not awarded spider tokens get experience for the spider kill.


The game also facilitates wars between mages of the two factions. Enemy mages that are located near you can prove troublesome as they can start attacking you and your structures on their own or en-masse with 50++ enemy mages. So you have to call for help with your comrade mages when a war in an area erupts. Killing enemy mages was quite satisfying to say the least.


Even when my hand already recovered, I continued to play the game until my mage reached max level (Level 22).  I invested so much time in the game, that I felt I needed to keep playing until I hit the endgame.  It felt good to hit max level just like how it would feel like in any MMO or action RPG that I've played.

The game was waning in terms of revenue for the developer for quite some time before I started playing the game. I was sad to learn that the developer made the decision to close the game down. The game closed down back September of this year based from the comments of the Facebook fan page.

I'll get into the Walking Dead game on iOS after the jump.

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Radial Nerve Palsy Experience Part 2

Continuing from my first post regarding my Radial Nerve Palsy hand injury last year. This post will tackle my initial reaction and difficulties given the lack of motor control of my right hand.

All of a sudden, everything I did at home was extremely difficult.

Like the title above states, everything that I needed or wanted to do at home was extremely difficult. I was right handed. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to try to do even the simplest of tasks without the use of my right hand. Using a mouse and keyboard on my PC all of a sudden proved for be a challenge. I couldn't press down on the mouse buttons with my right hand, let alone move the mouse to navigate the mouse cursor onscreen. I tried to train myself to use the mouse with my left hand. I initially was only typing at a very sluggish pace with my left hand.

Washing the dishes was close to impossible. My initial attempts to wash the dishes resulted in dropping quite a few plates and glasses. Good thing my plates were plastic. But my glasses unfortunately weren't. Dropping a fork on my foot was funny. Dropping a knife on my foot wasn't as amusing.

Dressing up was a long frustrating process. I would often get stuck with a shirt halfway over my head. Putting on pants with one hand was a struggle in its own right.

Don't even ask about cooking at home. That was just plainly impossible and I burned myself a few times by just trying to fry. I also stopped attempting to cook altogether just to avoid having to toil with washing the dishes after.

Gaming was dead.

I am both a PC and video game console gamer. And given my hand injury, I essentially couldn't play any game on a PC or console. My inability to use a keyboard/mouse with my right hand screamed I couldn't play any games that required quick actions. There was no way to use a PS3 controller one-handed either. I couldn't use games as a means of escape to deal with life anymore. And that was very saddening for me.

Gigs were dead. Music became less of a source of happiness.

I am a percussionist in several bands in the local scene. Full use of both your hands is important regardless of what instrument you play. It was sad to explain my condition to all my bandmates. Missing gigs was heart breaking. My bandmates would invite me to watch the gigs even though I couldn't join them onstage. But most of the time, I opted not to watch because it would just make me even more sad than I already was. I did watch one of my bands' gigs once (Jack Versus the Crab). But when my bandmates started playing onstage, my eyes started tearing. I couldn't really bare to go through that again.

The weeks prior to my right hand getting injured, I was gearing up to have my first solo handpan gig. I wrote a few handpan compositions by then and have been practicing. But unfortunately, even that had to be shelved. So my debut as the first and only handpan player for the Philippines wasn't going to happen any time soon. I wanted to be the first. And given that I had no idea if and when my right hand was going to recover. I started to see that dream of mine slipping away.

I would play my congas, bongos, or even my handpans when I was down. The inability to do so during my hand injury period was especially heart-breaking. There were countless situations where I attempted to use my right hand, only to fail miserably. At times, even wounded or bruised myself in the attempt. Many nights were spent crying myself to sleep. I realize that my reaction is essentially like a whining baby. I knew that there are many people in the world that have a permanent disability and have learnt to live around it. I was knew at being disabled (albeit temporary disability). My apologies to anyone who feels insulted with my rather immature reaction back then.

However, I did try to find ways to work around the difficulties. Most centered around forcing myself to use to my left hand more. It felt akward. But it's not like I had a choice. I researched on the net how to do simple things like how to put on a shirt or wash the dishes one-handed. But the most prominent and useful tool I used was my iPad.

My iPad saved me at work.

At the time, I was the Director of Operations for a company called RenditionDigital. After taking some time off and realizing that I wasn't going to recovery from my injury any time soon, I had go back to work. I was lucky that I had a managerial job. Even though I couldn't use my laptop to work, I used my iPad to work instead. I managed to do all my work emails through my iPad. My right hand was usually in a brace. And it was easier to poke at a touchscreen with both hands compared to typing on a keyboard. It proved quite a challenge to work on Excel spreadsheets on my iPad. But I managed somehow. I would have to pull out my laptop at times anyway when editing spreadsheets proved far too difficult on my iPad. But generally, I was able to do my work just fine.

My physical therapy sessions we're scheduled in the morning and I would walk to the office from Makati Med right after. So there was at least an equilibrium reached between my medical needs and work.

My iPad saved me at home.


I started looking for apps that would help me still use my PC a little easier than toiling with my mouse and keyboard with my left hand. I found an app on the AppStore called WifiRemoteHD. This allowed me to control my PC from my iPad. Essentially giving my PC touchscreen functionality. The app was not all that pretty by any standard. But it did was it was suppose to do. And I was happy with that. It even had remote controls for certain media players like VLC. So I could at least watch anime, TV series, or movies that I've downloaded without having to get up and use my mouse.


There were iOS app equivalents of all the SNS sites I frequent. So at least I could check Facebook or post a tweet from my iPad, no problem. Slow. But at least I could. I also had all the same apps on my iPhone as well. So I was able to function decently enough just wielding my iPhone and iPad.

Gaming and music eventually also remained as a sources of happiness because of my iPad as well. I will get into that on the next blog post.


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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bali Steel Pan Diary #7: Dawn on the Horizon

I posted this back in November on my YouTube channel.

I've been in a creative drought the past few months due to suddenly getting retrenched from my previous company. This marked the first time in my career that I have been unemployed. So my apologies, if any of you feel that I have over-reacted to it. It was a new life experience for me and a major eye-opener. This is one of the few handpan compositions that I did manage to write. I wrote this one as a way for me to carry my heavy heart and paranoia through to a new chapter in my life. I recently just signed on with a new company and will start work there next month.

Given all the tragic death and destruction that Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) has brought to my fellow countrymen in the Visayas region. I picked this particular composition to share with all of you. The first time I ever played this particular composition was last Thursday at a benefit gig for typhoon victims at the Keg, Fort Strip. I made a personal video of this composition in dedication of the strength and resilience of all the Filipinos affected by the typhoon.

The handpan that I am using is a Bali Steel Pan Minor Pentatonic - (F) Bb C# Eb F G# Bb C# Eb.




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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Radial Nerve Palsy Experience Part 1

It's been a year since my hand injury. And unfortunately I'm plagued with yet another medical condition. But before I get into my current health situation, I want to put into writing some of my experiences with my hand injury last year.

The clinical term for my hand injury is "Radial Nerve Palsy" or "Wrist Drop". It's apparently also amusingly called "Saturday Night Palsy" and "Lover's Palsy". The former being the most apt description of what happened that resulted in my hand injury. Below is a link to the condition's definition in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrist_drop

I came home after a night of heavy drinking and debauchery with some friends on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. I got home real late. The sun was probably going to appear in about an hour from then. When I woke up it was Sunday afternoon.

My right hand was rather numb and I couldn't move it, let alone use it. I was still largely hungover. So I figured I must've slept on my right hand and constricted blood flow. So I went back to sleep for a few more hours thinking that once the blood flow resumed that my hand would be fine. When I woke up from my nap, I still couldn't move my right hand. I started to worry. I took a shower and got dressed. I then headed to the emergency room of Makati Med. The medical personnel the left me waiting for about an hour or so. When they finally got around to me, they brought me to a section of the ER and made me wait even longer. I have never been all that impressed with Makati Med. But it was the closest hospital from my place. So I didn't really HV a choice. After being examined by several personnel and had x-rays taken of my right hand and arm, the 3-4 hour hospital experience resulted in identifying what was wrong with me. Radial Nerve Palsy.

How it actually happened was a bit hazy to me. But over the days and weeks, I realized that I was on my PC when I got home drunk. I stayed there for quite a while and fell asleep on my PC chair with my right arm slung over the back rest of the chair. Since I was heavily intoxicated, I didn't feel the strain it was putting on my arm for hours. This therefore caused the nerves on the upper section of my right arm to be compressed. This essentially cut most, if not all motor control of my right hand and wrist.


This began what was to be a 4-5 month ordeal of essentially having a gimp right hand. I consulted a number of doctors only to be referred to another doctor (Makati Med at its finest). I took numerous tests involving electrocuting my arm and neck, shoving me inside a MRI machine while injecting painful dye into my blood stream, etc. Eventually a Neurologist recommended that I undergo occupational therapy. For the purposes of this post, I'll just refer to it as physical therapy or PT since they're quite similar. This was the breakthrough recommendation towards my recovery. But sadly, this only came about after over a month of getting bounced around between doctors in Makati Med and given what was really only vitamin B complex as prescription medicine.


I had physical therapy 3 times a week for 3-4 months. I hated the annoyingly tedious way to file for HMO claims. My company's HMO was a new player in the HMO industry. I figured they would give me a hard time with my medical claims. And in the end, I still have to pay for a good portion of it myself. So I decided to suck it up and pay for all my medical expense myself. I consider myself fortunate to be able to earn money that can pay for all my medical costs. I don't think many can afford to spend as much money as I did for my hand injury recovery.

I will insert a little music related trivia about Radial Nerve Palsy. Dave Mustaine of a metal band called Megadeth apparently came down with Radial Nerve Palsy over a year prior to my injury. What from what I read, he passed out drunk on a bench with his arm slung over the back rest. So he sustained his hand injury in a similar fashion as I did. He was told by doctors that he may never fully recover. But being a high profile musician, he refused to accept it. Over the course of 4 months, he consulted several doctors from different fields.  He underwent many treatments simultaneously, from physical therapy to acupuncture. I was encouraged with my situation when I read about Dave Mustaine's experience. But at the same time, Dave Mustaine is a rich man. I couldn't pour nowhere near as much time and money as he did into his recovery. Okay, going back to my own situation.


Physical therapy felt demeaning at first. The therapy sessions consisted largely of doing these simple motor control games with blocks, pins, etc. I felt like a pre-schooler doing them. But I knew it was necessary if I ever hope to recover motor control of my right hand. One of the few non-childlike activities was to electrocute my hand to force hand muscles to move. Most, if not all, of the other patients there were all elderly. The other patients found me amusing because I was much younger than them. They were all wondering why I was there. I was a bit embarrassed to admit that my injury was a result of heavy drinking, especially when the other patients were there due to car accidents or strokes. They seemed to grow quite fond of me and found it amusing to tease me with one of the female therapists that was attending to my case.

I showed virtually no recovery progress for a month. Even the therapists working on my case were worried that I wasn't even showing signs of slight recovery. Back then, I knew that this would be a long and arduous recovery process. And a part of me was already thinking that I may never recovery at all.


I started to feel hopeful when the therapist was telling me to stop wearing my wrist brace.  This was on the 4th month of my injury. I felt uneasy at first when I remove my wrist brace. I wore that wrist brace all the time, even when I'm sleeping. I suppose I got so reliant on the wrist brace to support my hand. I eventually was able to play bongos and congas. Albeit, my right hand would feel fatigue very easily.

I eventually did recover from my hand injury. Again, it was a 4-5 month arduous process. Admittedly my right hand's motor control isn't quite the same compared to how it was prior to the injury. But I'm just glad to be able to use my right hand again.

So that was my long and overly verbose post about the medical side of my Radial Nerve Palsy experience. What I wanted to blog about is what was happening to me during those 4-5 months aside from the medical aspects. And how I managed to cope with my temporary disability. That will be on my next posts.


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