Electric Rain Dance 2011: redux

Here’s an updated version of my June 2006 track:


Listen/ Download at www.archive.org. The track is licensed under a CC-BY license. Feel free to reuse or remix this song (CC license applies).

Please credit the music as follows:

Music by Ivan Chew – MyRightBrain.wordpress.com

The original was composed at a time when I was still new to GarageBand. There wasn’t much of an original lead guitar. More of a tentative attempt at learning how to record an electric guitar “live instrument” into GarageBand. And it was composed after a 12-year break from playing the guitar.

Here’s the original (the volume is mastered too low and uneven; lack of any significant melody):

Four years on, and about four digital albums later, I’ve learned more about recording, mixing and mastering.

While I’m far, far from the likes of playing like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, the lead guitar playing is considerable better. By my standards, at least. Definitely more thought to the lead guitar composition and musical phrasing.

Also have a better understanding of Compression settings, tricks like applying a Limiter to the final mix, stereo and panning effects. Had help from books like this, this and this.

Redstone Arsenal Army Concert Tour
Originally uploaded by familymwr


On writing: Show, not Tell

Over at the Speculative Fiction Writers of Singapore Googlegroup, Dave Chua shared this link from io9.com, on five situations where Telling is better than Showing.

1) Your characters all know something your reader doesn’t
2) There are too many mysteries
3) You have too much insane backstory
4) You can think of a more entertaining way to tell than to show
5) It gets in the way of the emotional potency of your story

Didn’t get the article. My shortcoming, cos I don’t quite understand the difference between Showing and Telling.

I’m aware that the rule-of-thumb is “Don’t just Tell your readers something; Show them!”

Just now, I decided to look it up.

Here’s an explanation from an author, Beth Revis:

It was cold. = Telling
Amy shivered in the cold. = Showing.

She adds:

The difference between boring showing and good showing is in the emotion.
Amy shivered in the cold. = Boring showing.
Amy shivered: the cold seemed to reach all the way through her skin and into her heart. = Good showing.


I got it instantly. One of the easiest and clearest explanations I’ve come across.

This Yahoo! Answers entry, by Vernan, is less concise but equally clear:

When you say, “The rose is beautiful.”, you are basically telling.

What you should do is to show why and how the rose is beautiful. It could about the physical appearance or maybe something deeper like an experience.

It could be something like…

I have seen how our garden rose grows and bloom flowers, but I have not seen it this beautiful. Its petals are pinkish with a strain of reddish dots. The dew on its petals emits a strange glow of colors as the morning sun passes through it. I have never thought that something in the world could be this beautiful, perhaps it is because Anna gave it to me when she was alive, before I drove our car straight to the lamppost. looking to the rose makes me remember her and our happy moments. I almost touched it, but I was afraid the touch of my hand, a foreign object could destroy its beauty.

Now the io9.com article made more sense.

Oh, I realise my blog posts tend to Tell than Show.

Perhaps blogging (as a writing style) tends to be that way.

“The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog”

To my 13-year old eyes, it was a huge grey hulk of a machine.

Must have weighed at least 10 kilogrammes.

A typewriter.

Remington Typewriter. Originally uploaded by alonso_inostrosa. . CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Till then, I had never seen one up close before. Pa brought it home from his office. Said the office didn’t want it any more. He taught the three of us how to type on the QWERTY keyboard.

The proper way.

Left pinkie on ‘A’, the third finger on ‘S’, the middle for ‘D’, index finger for ‘F’ and ‘G’.

Rather unnatural at first. But my father said it was necessary to learn the proper fingering. If we wanted to type without looking at the keys.

I spent hours typing on that machine.

Became proficient with “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog“. That was the first sentence Pa taught us to type. Said the phrase contains all of the letters of the alphabet (the very idea blew me away!)

For practice, I copied chunks of text right out of books (upon hindsight, I should have copied from my school text books).

Sometimes I invented my own stories.

One time I liked a short SciFi story so much that I reproduced the entire text on the typewriter. My very first act of copyright violation, I think.

One day Pa remarked that my typing speed had improved. He observed that I could type fairly quickly and error-free without looking at the keys. But he noticed I didn’t quite follow the standard fingering.

Still, Pa said: “As long as you get the same results, it doesn’t matter”.


Lear-Siegler ADM5 video display terminal

Lear-Siegler ADM5 video display terminal. Originally uploaded by LevitateMe. . CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0.

When I discovered OPAC terminals at my public library, I found one more reason to visit the library on a regular basis. I would queue to use the terminal. Just to type on its keys.

The OPAC was a big clunky machine (in those days, it seemed everything was big and clunky). Old-style “dumb-terminal”. The keyboard produced a distinctive ‘whispery clacky’ sound. I just found it fun to type on it.

Library Geek.

Mazovia 1016, Polish PC XT clone, pt. 3. Originally uploaded by Marcin Wichary. CC-BY 2.0.

At 17, after I enrolled in a polytechnic, I started using computers on a regular basis. For my Business Studies course.

Top-of-the-line machines back then: XTs and 386s.

Students had free use of equipment if there were no classes scheduled in the lab. First-come-first-use. No time limit. Free use of the printers too. Dot-matrix. Noisy buggers.

I would pop into the computer lab between classes. Switched on the computer, fire up the Word processor (heard of Wordstar?) and just typed stories for practice.

The lab was usually unoccupied (I suppose it was because the Internet was not available in those days). But one day, after I had been in the lab for about half an hour, I found the lab fully occupied. Maybe there was a deadline for assignments.

A girl was waiting behind me, looking over my shoulder.

I continued typing my story, but felt increasingly self-conscious. So I got up and left.

She must have seen what I was writing (a science fiction story). Because as I left, she remarked loudly enough: “Students who are not from this course should not use the computers here”.

I didn’t want an argument. Though in my mind, I thought there was no rule against using the computers for purposes beyond coding Dbase programs or whacking out class assignments.

20090823-Typewriter-3. Originally uploaded by rahego. CC-BY 2.0.

No, I wasn’t obsessed with the keyboard.

I think it was because I liked to get ideas out of my head fast. Writing by hand was rather tedious. It always reached a point where my writing speed slowed but the thinking process increased. Then the quality of my handwriting deteriorated.

Typing became a more productive exercise in creation. Taking less effort in transforming formless ideas in my head onto something more tangible, magically appear on paper or on a screen.

But yeah, I do admit that at some level I like the feel of the keys. The sound that the keys made.

It just adds to the “writing” experience.