Musical Talents of Famous Martial Arts Actors

I just realized that some of the famous martial arts actors have a musical talent under their sleeves. This post popped in my mind while I was listening to High Upon High by Jackie Chan during my weekly workout. I’ve seen some videos of an interview or an event where they perform something beyond their combat skills. I’m impressed with what these guys can do. Just take a look at what each actor has to offer.

Jackie Chan

You probably know this already, but I’ll include it here anyway. Aside from doing stunts, Jackie is also good in singing. He recorded tracks for his movies, including Drunken Master 2 and Armour of God. He also sang the Chinese version of I’ll Make a Man Out of You for the Disney movie Mulan. back when he was a child, he had vocal lessons at the Peking Opera School. He has released over 20 albums from which he sang in different languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Japanese, and Taiwanese.

David Carradine

Known by the older audiences (nope, far older than me) as Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu and known by the younger audiences as Bill from Kill Bill, David Carradine can also play the guitar and flute. He can actually make flutes out of bamboo, and you can see him playing one of them in the mentioned movie. As a guitarist, he was a member of the band called Soul Dogs. They play in small venues and charity events.

Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen’s hand-speed is top-notch as you can see in his movies like Ip Man and Flashpoint, so it’s not surprising that he can utilize such skill for playing the piano. Donnie actually belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother was a soprano and a martial arts teacher while his father is a violinist, so he was taught to play different instruments at a very young age. You can actually see him playing the piano in his movie Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. He plays classical music like what you’ll see in this video…

Tony Jaa

This is the most surprising part for me. I had no clue that Tony Jaa can actually rap. This wasn’t explicitly mentioned in any of his online profiles. Probably he’s doing it for fun, but I still find it cool. I mean, how many actors can you name as a spit artist and martial artist rolled into one? Here’s a video interview where he showed this hidden talent. He’s rapping in Thai language.

It’s good to learn new skills. Like these martial arts actors, I hope you get inspired to learn something new too, even beyond the field of music. Find it, and show the world the talented person that you are. (~^_^)~

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Rocksmith 2014 – A Faster and Fun Way to Learn Guitar

A few months ago, I bought Rocksmith 2014 to fill my basics in guitar playing. My initial thought is that I will be able to practice while also playing a game (for the gamer that I am), and I was not disappointed. It’s fun as a game, but it also borders as a guitar learning software. Here are some of the features that made this a faster and fun way to learn guitar.

  1. Tracks – When you start a new game, you’ll be asked to choose which track of guitar playing are you planning to learn. The three options are Bass, Lead, and Rhythm. Each option will affect how the practice songs will be presented to you. The rhythm will be more focused on strumming the chords. Lead will be heavy on plucking. And bass will play the bass guitar part.
  2. Lessons – This is my favorite part of the game. The lessons’ options are made up of a lot of items ranging from the most basic things like Picking 101 to Advance Chords. I thought I can skip to some of the lessons since I can play several songs, but after performing poorly in the power chords lesson, I was obliged to run through each lesson until I completed it to 100%. This feature is really useful since it made me aware of my wrong habits and practices in guitar playing. The lessons are usually divided to three parts:
    Lesson Screen for Rocksmith 2014

    Lesson Screen for Rocksmith 2014

    1. Lesson Proper – The concept will be taught to you in a video lesson so you can imitate it with your own guitar.
    2. Trial Playthrough – Here, you’ll play a segment of musical notes that focuses on the chosen lesson. For example, if the lesson is about slides, then you’ll encounter notes that prompt you to slide from one fret to another.
    3. Practice – The last part will let you play a longer segment of musical notes. If you performed well by hitting around 90% of accuracy and technique, then the segment will transform into a more challenging sequence. With this, you will need to repeat the lesson (you can skip to the practice part) until you reach the lesson completion to 100%.
  3. Learn A Song – This is one of the features that make this an authentic video game. The format is just like the rhythm games you play in the arcades like Guitar Freaks and Rock Band except that it’s displaying the fret board of a guitar and not the orthodox three to five buttons. The camera moves accordingly so the transition from one note or chord to another is smooth and not obtrusive to your gaming experience. There are also more notations to remember since you’re dealing with chords, slides, pulls, hammers, etc., but you’ll get the hang of it if you go through the lessons. It also has tool called Riff Repeater. It lets you select a segment of the song that you want to practice. You can adjust the difficulty which will determine what notes you are going to play for that segment. Basically, the 100% difficulty is the actual chord of the song. The lower difficulties will transform it to an easier chord (e.g. barre chord becomes a power chord) or to a single note for the lowest setting. You’ll play this segment again and again until you hit all the notes right. After this, there’s an optional setting to increase the difficulty and replay the segment or proceed to play the next part of the song. To know more about the feature. See the guide video below.
  4. Guitarcade – These are minigames that practice the different parts of guitar playing. One game might test you in playing the scales while another game will test in regulating the volume of your strum. All games are presented in 8-bit retro style which is a lot of fun to play. It has leaderboards that submits your score via UPlay account. If you need a break from the lessons and songs, this is a good diversion while still practicing your guitar skills.
  5. Missions –  This is  your main guide on what to do next. It will also show the features that you possibly haven’t explored yet. There was one mission that required me to use the riff repeater, and from there I got my resolve that I could really learn each song because of this tool. This feature is also aided with markers that stick with the game’s menu items. If you see the Rocksmith logo beside the session play, then it’s part of your current mission. Once you’ve fulfilled the requirement, the logo will be removed. It makes the entire learning process more intuitive. However, there are times that the mission may still seem unclear and will leave you wondering what you need to do. Don’t fret (pun-pun-pun). You can go to the forums and seek some advice. Chances are, that part is already resolved by your fellow players. If not, the community will be there to help you.

    Missions will serve as your guide for all of Rocksmith's features and learning path.

    Missions will serve as your guide for all of Rocksmith’s features and learning path.

Some Clarifications

  • What do I need to play the game?
    • You need an actual electric guitar, a copy of Rocksmith 2014 game, and a Rocksmith™ Real Tone Cable. If you buy the game on game shops, the copy is already bundled with the cable. If you buy the game from steam, you’ll have to buy the cable separately.
  • Can I use my Steam account if I purchase the game from a game shop?
    • Yes. The copy also comes with a key which you can redeem from steam. After installation, it will be added to your account’s library. You won’t need to insert the disc again.
  • Can I use my acoustic guitar?
    • YES. As long as it has a pickup where you can plug the Real Tone Cable.
  • What guitar brands are supported by the game?
    • Technically, it should support any brand, but I suggest that you use a mainstream brand like Epiphone. I’m currently using Yamaha EG112C.
  • Can I plug other types of instruments?
    • NO. You can only use a guitar. There’s actually a feature called  Session Play that will let you play with a wide range of accompaniment based on the notes that you play, but all of the sounds will be provided by the game and not from an actual plugged instrument. The said feature is pretty impressive, and you can create a lot of possible combinations.

I won’t claim that this is the best way to learn because I really value the importance of an actual teacher. However, if you’re someone who wants to play the guitar and is looking for other options to learn, then I suggest that you give Rocksmith a try. It has a 60-day challenge program that will boost your current skill level. You can even share your experience with fellow players. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next great rockstar of this generation. Enjoy playing and rock on! (~^_^)~

My Sources for Free Legit Games

It’s nice that video games have gone a lot cheaper now that piracy is becoming more and more of an impractical thing. A lot of gaming platforms are offering seasonal sales, especially during the last months of the year, but you know what’s better than those discounted games? Why of course, free games! I’ve been keeping track of some sites and services that offer these sweet giveaways. There was actually a time that almost everyday, I’m sharing a new link of a free game. With that, might as well just share my sources with you.

EA Origins – On The House

Origins is the gaming platform powered by EA Games. Much like Steam, but as you would expect, it caters EA published games. One thing that is special about this app though is that it has a section called On the House. Usually refreshed every month, Origins gives away a free game for all registered users. No catch, no kidding. Currently, I already got my 7th free game. They’ve given popular games such as Dead Space, Plants vs. Zombies, Battlefield 3, and Dragon Age Origins. Their download speed is pretty fast, so you don’t have to worry about installing large games in your library. Occasionally, they also give free games through a special code. That’s how I got the complete bundle of Sims 2. It may be two iterations behind of the Sims series, but given that all expansions and packages given away for free? It’s still a good deal for me! 😀

Indie Game Bundles

Indie Game Bundles is a site dedicated to bundles, sales, and of course, free games! It seems that they closely monitor all the game merchants out there from applications to bundle websites. They have a section dedicated for free games. Just carefully read the instructions on how to get them since some sites will require you to register or download their provided platform. Sometimes they also run electronic raffles for steam gifts. Raffle entries include following them at twitter, joining their steam group, and re-tweeting the raffle. Pretty good strategy to increase their popularity, but with the great deals that they’re giving, it’s just right for other gamers to learn more about them.

PC Gamer

PC Gamer is more focused with the entire PC Gaming industry.  This site is tied-up with the game magazine of the same name. They have reviews, news, and other articles about everything related to PC gaming. Like Indie Game Bundles, they share deals from other sites and platforms. Just take a look at their news section. If you’re active in facebook, then it would be better if you like their fan page.

Bundle Sites – (Humble Bundle, Bundle Stars, Indie Gala, etc.)

Bundle sites are not just for discounted prices anymore. Every once in a while, they also give free games for promotional purposes. Usually, you’ll see that at the store’s home page where the only requirement is your email address where they can send you the link or key to redeem the free game. To be honest, the two websites mentioned above would probably lead you to the bundle stores so you need not to visit that often, but I think it’s worth mentioning because if you’re a fan of bundles like me, then might as well take a closer look and maybe you’ll find a pleasant gift, waiting for you to claim. 🙂

I’m not sharing this to bloat your backlogs (though this is what’s happening to me right now LOL). It’s more of giving you alternatives, especially if you’re short on budget. This will also make you more conscious when purchasing games. If you don’t want it that bad or if you’re not playing it anytime soon, then it would be nice to re-consider your purchase and probably wait a little longer. Who knows, may be it will get a lot cheaper by the time you’re ready to play it, or better yet, it will be given for free. Until then, game on! (~^_^)~

Dealing with Multiple Pursuits and Interests – The Craving of a Renaissance Soul

One of the things that I like about video games is that it’s a convergence of different disciplines resulting to an entertaining and fascinating creation. Its field of development is something that matches my interests because other than my passion for gaming and programming, I’m also fond of a wide range of interests and I’m always hungry to learn something new. Music, Literature, Asian Culture, Otaku Stuff, Martial Arts, and everything in between are the other things that makes me tick. It’s a lot of fun to have such holistic learning experience, though at times it can get out of hand, and it feels like the twenty-four hours of the day cannot fit in for everything that you want to do. Here, I’ll try to share some approaches that worked for me in order to keep progressing with my pursuits and interests.

Keep a List

If you have a lot of hobbies and tasks, chances are you’ll miss some of them if you don’t organize it into a list. Creating a list reminds you of the pending items that you want to start or continue. It’s also useful for prioritizing which ones you like to try the most. If an item gets stagnant in your list for quite a while, then you might want to reconsider if it’s actually worth keeping in your list. By elimination, you’re removing clutter from your tasks, which will give you more focus on the things that you really like. If you want to go hardcore, you can also set deadlines for each task so that you’re bound to progress for each item, but don’t impose it to the point that you’ll experience burnout. Schedule enough time to recharge and unwind with a different type of activity.
I use the To-Dos feature of HabitRPG. Gamification is motivating for me, so this web app is my weapon of choice. You can try other note-taking apps as well, but if you’re a gamer, especially of Role-playing games, then this productivity tool is for you.

Find Activities That Will Cater More Than One Interest

Zombies Run: A Game That Combines Real-life Running with Zombie Survival Mehcanics Image from http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/7a/dd/7add9234834237b0b01c0d3bf0ec8002.jpg?itok=H1s8LrDf

With all the stuff that you have to attend to from full-time work to relationships, you have to utilize the time that you have as much as possible, and what better way to do that than to address more than one interest at once. It’s not multitasking but rather choosing the right activity that caters two or more of your interests. Review your list and try to come up with possible combinations that can be formed into one hobby or job.
I’m a bit lucky that a lot of activities are being gamified now so it can address my crave for gaming while doing something productive. A good example would be Rocksmith 2014 which is a rhythm game that features an actual electric guitar as your controller. It has the expected core gameplay of playing songs by following the timing of hovering markers for plucking and strumming the guitar. Beyond that, there are also lessons from basics to advanced concepts for playing the guitar and arcade games that test your skills from controlling your strum volume to playing different scales. These  features are useful that I found some bad habits that I need to correct.

Get Involved in the Community

It’s always fun to meet people who share the same interests with you. It’s also motivating to follow through if you have someone to compare your progress. Just keep it as a healthy competition. You’re there to gain more friends and get motivated, not to pick up some bitter rivalry. Ask for tips from experts of your chosen activity or field. You can also contribute by assisting your colleagues or classmates, especially the newbies in your specific activity. As one of my programming professors taught me, to understand something, teach it to a person. There’s also the possibility that they’ll introduce you to a new hobby that you will enjoy.
For hobbies that let you attend classes, this will be a given thing, unless you want to sit in one corner and just participate to the actual practice, but you’ll miss the opportunity to learn more from other people and get some useful feedback. For other activities, you can join online forums and Q&A sites. Join contests if applicable. It will be a good avenue to hone your craft and find out what you still need to improve.

Having a lot of interests and pursuits gives you a wide range of knowledge and a myriad of skills to take advantage of. Just remember, you’re supposed to be doing these things because you really have fun doing it, and it makes you feel alive. Take it one step at a time and don’t put any unnecessary pressure to yourself. Live the moment and embrace your renaissance soul.  (~^_^)~

Iron59’s Hong Kong Adventures

Two weeks ago, I went to Hong Kong together with my two college orgmates. We have witnessed different sites ranging from a fascinating light show to an impressive  wax museum. We also found some considerably good shopping deals in between. In this post, I’ll briefly show what the place has to offer.

Sites and Accommodation

There are so many places to see here in Hong Kong that our three days of stay weren’t enough to visit all of them. We stayed at Golden Crown Hotel located at Tsim Sha Tsui. The price is quite cheap compared to other hotels with the choice of single and double bed rooms for HK$ 400 a night. Each room has a shower room, a bed, a television, and Wi-fi connection. They also offer ticket purchases for The Peak, sim cards with one week of Mobile Data, and Ferry Tickets to Macau. Perfect for our travel plan, since we’ll be departing from Macau back to the Philippines.

Tsim Sha Tsui already hosts a lot of sites that you can visit especially in the Victoria Harbour where you will find the Avenue of Stars which was patterned from Hollywood’s Walk of Fame to pay tribute to the celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry. Being a martial arts film fanboy, I was delighted to see the hand prints of Stephen Chow, Jet Li, Bruce Lee, John Woo (action director – Mission Impossible 2, Face Off, etc.), Yuen Wo Ping (action director – Old Jackie Chan Films, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The One, The Matrix, etc.), and of course Jackie Chan! Also found in the said area is the Clock Tower which is actually a remnant of the original Kowloon train station of the Kowloon-Canton railways and currently one of the declared monuments of Hong Kong. The highlight of the Victoria Harbour is the Symphony of Lights, which happens every night at 8 PM. Here, lights from different buildings located in the other side of the harbor are being manipulated to synchronize with a background music. This was a project of the Hong Kong Tourism, and boy did they allot such huge budget to make this work. I can’t imagine how these lights were set up. No wonder it was declared by the Guinness World Records as the largest permanent light and sound show. I’ve covered a video below, but it didn’t accurately justify the beauty of the view. Don’t miss this place when you go to Hong Kong.

Snake Stance at Avenue of the Stars.

Snake Stance at Avenue of the Stars.

 

Bruce Lee Statue in Avenue of the Stars

Bruce Lee Statue in Avenue of the Stars

 

Victoria Harbour

Victoria Harbour

 

Another place that we visited was the Victoria Peak located in the Hong Kong islands. It’s amazing that you can cross to another island in a short span of time via train. Upon arriving at the entrance, you’ll be greeted with a classic tram station where you’ll see a small exhibit of railway tools and clothes that were used during the time that the railways were active. From there, you’ll ride a tram towards the Peak Tower where you’ll find shops, Sky Terrace, and Madam Tussauds which is a famous wax museum with branches located in different parts of the globe. The statues are top notch and closely resemble the physique of the person from whom it is patterned from. I was already excited when I saw the pictures of Donnie Yen in Ip Man costume that I brought my Marshall Law costume to create the scenario of “Ip Man meets Bruce Lee”.

Waiting for the tram to arrive.

Waiting for the tram to arrive.

 

You can leave love notes in this stall of The Peak Sky Terrace

You can leave love notes in this stall of The Peak Sky Terrace

 

Part of the exhibit at The Peak's entrance

Part of the exhibit at The Peak’s entrance

 

IMG_20141017_140811

Lady Gaga at Madame Tussauds. Just like the real person.

 

Maria Sharapova. Looks like her actual height <3

Maria Sharapova. Based on her actual height ❤

 

Yup. Obama works for me now, LOL.

Yup. Obama works for me now, LOL.

 

My entire purpose all along for coming to Hong Kong. A cosplay pic with Ip Man.

My entire purpose all along for coming to Hong Kong. A cosplay pic with Ip Man.

Food

There’s a wide variety of foods to choose from. My top recommendation would be the Prince Court Restaurant at Tsim Sha Tsui. Their Ribs on Strawberry Sauce is one of their best sellers. Yup, you read it right, strawberry sauce. We didn’t expect that it was that good. Just make sure that you eat it while it’s hot because the sauce gets sticky once it dries. The serving is also big that two dishes plus a bowl of beef fried rice is more than enough for us three. My runner-up would be Cafe de Coral which is the leading fast-food chain in Hong Kong. They serve set meals at very affordable prices. I got a breakfast meal with two hams, one hot dog, one French toast, and one hot coffee for less than HK$ 50.

Shopping

The budget items here would be clothes, perfume, and cosmetics. The best place to buy perfume would be in Goodyear Perfume Center, again in Tsim Sha Tsui. They offer “Buy One Take One” deals to a wide range of brands. I bought a pair of Umbro for my Dad and my brother. They will also give you a sample product and a discount voucher when you buy an item. The store clerks are very accommodating too and quite skillful in hard selling that they close the deals with the customers. It’s a good buy, so I don’t mind. At Victoria Peak, there’s a Tony Moly shop where I bought a lipstick and face powder for my mom (yes, I have to clarify that haha). The prices there are quite cheaper compared here in the Philippines. For clothes, we were able to visit the H & M shop and they offer discounts on a wide selection of clothing.
For other cheap items, head over to Temple Street Night Market. You’ll find stuff from clothes to toys. Oh, and there are 32 GB flash disks that come in the form of miniature characters from popular franchises like Marvel Comics, Disney, various anime series, etc. You can also find travel trolleys and accessories. Just be warned, some of the store owners here cannot speak in English, so there’s a chance that you’ll have a hard time explaining what you’re looking for. Other than that, if you’re acquainted with the dry market here in the Philippines like Divisoria and Quiapo, then this place will be familiar for you.

Temple Street night market. Pretty familiar huh?

Temple Street night market.
Pretty familiar huh?

It was a fun experience, especially that it took me six years to have another overseas trip. Like I said, three days weren’t enough to go to all the tourist spots in Hong Kong. We weren’t able to go to Disneyland, Ocean Park, and several museums. For those of you who are planning to go to Hong Kong, my advice is for you is to always bring a tourist map, and if possible, buy a sim card that will provide you mobile data. Internet access can save you lots of time in finding places. Know the railroad system in Hong Kong. It’s quite easy to follow, and it helps you cut your trip short. It’s most probable that you’ll meet some staff members who don’t speak English, so as much as possible, use a picture or written text to communicate in such situations. I think that’s all I can suggest for now. I hope you guys can see the beauty of Hong Kong. ‘Til then, have a safe trip! (~^_^)~

P.S. Special thanks to my college orgmates, Kitten and Barbz for the pictures. V(^_^)

Random Quote – A Mindset That Will Save Your Precious Time

Painting from Totems Exhibit – Brian Barr and Lauren Rice (http://voxpopuligallery.org/exhibitions/totems/)

I’m not fond of arguing with other people, and it’s not because I don’t stand for what I know is right. If it’s for a sensible and enriching exchange of thoughts, then I’m all for it. It’s just that, what I usually notice in such scenarios is that each one listens to think of their rebuttal and not to understand the other party. For me, it’s not worth it to consume my non-renewable resource to an endless spiral of criticism with the lack of open mind. Of course, you can’t totally control your emotions, which can get heightened depending on the words you hear, but at the very least, you can be aware about it, and when you do, get back to your senses and know what it’s worth. I believe the key here is to really start listening and respect each other’s differences (morals, values, culture, beliefs, and everything in between) without compromising your self-respect.

Mobile Applications For Keeping Track of Important Stuff

I’ve been using a handful of applications to aid me in my productivity, especially now that I have a home-based job. These are some of the tools that I use to keep track of my stuff from shopping lists to task durations.

Keeping Track of Item Lists (ColorNote)

This compact application works like a virtual sticky note. You can create a plain text document or a checklist. I use the latter more frequently since it’s quite handy for easy-to-setup list which I can cross-out one by one like when I need to shop for some items, check the people who already paid for our movie nights, update accomplished daily tasks, and the list goes on. The notes can come in different colors so you can define your own color-coding scheme in organizing your notes. It also comes with a widget that you can pin in your device’s home screen so you can easily be reminded of the lists that you made.

Google Play: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.socialnmobile.dictapps.notepad.color.note

Keeping Track of Notes (Evernote)

Even though ColorNote can be used for note-taking, there’s a reason why Evernote can be a better choice. It’s most powerful feature is synching your notes between mobile devices, computers, and even web. Thus, maximizing your notes’ accessibility. It also comes with the basic formatting tools like font styles, bullet points, tables, etc. The notes are organized into notebooks so you keep similar or related info intact. You can also add tags for faster searching. I use this app to write some notes when I’m reading a book, when an idea came into my mind that I don’t want to lose track, and when I’m creating some meeting minutes.

Official Website: http://evernote.com/
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.evernote&hl=en
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ph/app/evernote/id281796108?mt=8

Keeping Track of Habits and Tasks (HabitRPG)

One of the best forms of Gamification that I’ve seen so far. As the name suggests, its primary goal is to build some habits that you desire to learn for yourself as well as other tasks that you want to be reminded on, all of it incorporated in RPG mechanics. Basically, you play a character that has different attributes and items. You improve your stats by gaining experience points and buying better equipment. The quests are represented as tasks, which are categorized into three types namely Habits, Dailies, and To-Do’s. In Habits, you can increase the point (if you succeeded to do the habit) rewarding you with coins and experience points or decrease the point, penalizing you with HP deduction. Dailies are repeating tasks that you need to allot to specific days of the week, you’ll get the same rewards as habits and your HP gets deducted for each item that you fail to complete for the current day. Lastly, To-Do’s are just like Dailies except that you have an optional deadline instead of assigning days. With this webapp, I was able to build the habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day (it’s about time), create a more consistent schedule for working on my side-project, and list the things that I need to do for a particular trip.

Officiial website: https://habitrpg.com

Keeping Track of Work Time and In-Between Breaks (Breaker)

Usually, people tend to expect that they’ll accomplish more by working several hours straight with no break in-between, but actually, it’s quite the opposite. You have to take breaks periodically in order to be more productive. With this, you can use the application called Breaker to schedule work and break times. Save yourself from RSI, eye strains, and other potential harm brought by sitting in from of the computer for long hours. Better yet, do some stretching exercises during your breaks.

Official Website: http://davidevitelaru.com/software/breaker/

Maybe you’re wondering why personal financial budgets were not included here. Well, I already wrote an entire blog post about that, so if you’re interested, you can check it out. 🙂
As much as technology is giving us more forms of entertainment and more avenues for convenience, I highly recommend that we also utilize it to increase our productivity and aid us for self-betterment. Until next time! Wohooo! One new quest completed for my HabitRPG. (~^_^)~