Book review: American Accent Training

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1438071655/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1438071655&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Many (including native English speakers and other non-Chinese speakers) people have asked me how I managed to acquire such a heavy American accent, despite the fact that I’ve never been to any English-speaking countries. Furthermore, numerous ESL learners and even some native speakers (Americans included) thought I was an ABC (American-born Chinese), until I told them otherwise. Well, this book is the answer. It was very helpful during my early years of studying how to speak “the American way.” It goes without saying that consistent, frequent practice and actual application (i.e. by conversing with Americans) are essential for your pursuit of the otherwise elusive American accent (that is, if you weren’t born and raised in the States). Trivia: Back when I was dating an American girl, she insisted that I must have stayed in the USA for a long time and that I simply had memory loss. Like I said earlier, I’ve never been to the States to this date. If I could make it, you can, too. Trust me, you CAN change your accent, provided that you’re committed enough and that you do your practice regularly for a considerable amount of time. Fake it until you make it.

To conclude, I can’t praise this masterpiece enough. Ann Cook surely knows what she’s talking about. If American accent (by which I mean the so-called “standard American accent” commonly heard in public broadcasts such as NPR and among educated Americans) is what you’re aiming for, you do not want to miss this book.

It’s not a hyperbole to call it the Holy Grail of American accent. Period.

I finished reading this book sometime around 2012-2013, so this book review is long overdue!

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Zhang Yu-sheng, my all-time favorite musician and rock singer, hitting one of the highest notes (D#6) a male could ever achieve in chest voice

Below are a few clips of the late Zhang Yu-sheng (1966-1997), a Taiwanese musician who has been my all-time favorite musician, rocker, singer, song-writer, and, above all, my mentor.

He was very talented as a singer-songwriter, but he’s mostly known for his ability to hit ultra high notes, with purity and power at the same time.

It’s a shame that he died young (at the age of 31); while driving on a weary condition, he accidentally hit a traffic island at a high speed. He passed way at the hospital 24 days after. Contrary to what some people think, he did NOT drive under the influence (DUI).

Caveat: All the English translations next to the Chinese titles are mine, i.e. they’re not the official ones (if there’s any). 

Hitting high notes (A5)
He is asked to hit some insanely high notes by the hosts. (After hitting the very last note [an A5], he tells the hosts that he used mixed voice to achieve that.)

Xiaobao Lianxiqu (小寶練習曲) (HD)
(This is a recording of his rehearsal at the studio, about 10-minute long. This clip basically gives you an idea of how monstrous his voice was. All of the songs he sings in the clip are his own creations. FYI, Xiaobao [小寶] was his nickname.)
(He starts singing at 2:50.)

Zhang Yu Sheng’s (張雨生) high note compilation (C5 – D#6)

High Notes in Rock: Power, Pt. 2
(Zhang is featured as the last vocalist in this compiliation, indicating that he’s the most impressive vocalist among all the great singers listed in the clip.)


Blow are some of my favorite songs written by Zhang (both lyrics and melodies)
Meigui De Mingzi (玫瑰的名字/The Name of the Rose) (HD)
(This is one of those rare occasions where he uses distortion and heavier sound.)

Wo Qidai (我期待/I Look Forward To…) (HD)
(This is probably his most famous song.)

Live version of Wo Qidai (我期待/I Look Forward To…)
(This live performance truly showcases his mastery of his vocals. The ending is simply incredible and jaw-dropping.)

Xiongdi Ya (兄弟呀/Oh My Brother)  (HD)
(This is the song where Zhang famously hits a D#6 [4:08-4:30]. It’s a shame that there’s no live recording of this song.)

Houzhihoujue (後知後覺/When I realize it, it’s too late) (HD)

He (河/The River) (HD)
(What he does during 4:03-4:20 is simply monstrous…)

Younggongjie De Jiezhang (永公街的街長/The Chief of the Younggong Street)
(Though this piece is almost 10-minute long, I am sure you’ll enjoy it all the way. Please note that the section after 8:14 isn’t sung by Zhang himself, but by a Taiwanese female singer called “馬毓芬.” He dedicated the song to the homeless and the mentally challenged, whose suffering he thinks the society is responsible for.)

Heaven On Fire – Metal Kids (HD)
(With this song, Zhang and his bandmates won the first place in the first Rock&Roll band competition held by Yamaha in Taiwan. Metal Kids was the name of his band. It is said that this studio version is a compromised version due to the demand of the label company; the original version was much heavier than this one, but it is unfortunately no where to be found.)

Koushixinfei (口是心非/False Words) full album
(This is arguably his best album, also his last album, with every single song written by himself.)


TV appearances

Live version of Wo Qidai (我期待/I Look Forward To…)
(This live performance truly showcases his mastery of his vocals. The ending is simply incredible and jaw-dropping.)

Speaking of jaw-dropping, his singing did make a grandma drop her jaw. This is one of my favorite clips.
(Starts at 1:02)

Koushixinfei (口是心非/False Words) (2:22-3:08) & blues jam session (4:04-end)

(Again, the jam session is a rare occasion where he uses a lot of distortion.)

The Phantom Of The Opera (HD) (6:40-8:20)

Love Potion No.9

So Much In Love (0:00-1:07)

Without You (Air Supply)

Tonight (5:25-6:05)/ Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Unchained Melody (13:39-end)

A medley of his songs
(All of the songs in this medley were written by someone else for primarily commercial purposes, and that’s why they sound so poppy..)

A medley (some of which are not his songs)


Below are some of his epic renditions of classic English rock tunes. Hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do

Paradise city

Crying in the Rain-Whitesnake

Dream on- Aerosmith

Separate Ways- Journey

Turn me loose- Loverboy

Highway star

Keep the faith

Mr.Crowley

Show must go on

Smoke on the water

Final countdown

Carrie

You give love a bad name (incomplete)


For those of you who want to dig more, you’re welcome to check out my playlist where I collect his live performances and songs.

Last but certainly not least, this is a thread on his voice in terms of his vocal range and other technical aspects.

http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/t2700-zhang-yu-sheng-new”>therangeplace.forummotions.com/t2700-zhang-yu-sheng-new

R.I.P. Zhang Yu-sheng

The Demise of Freedom of Speech in HK?

I found another piece that eerily resembles my earlier commentary about the abrupt disappearance of 5 Hong Kong booksellers: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/world/asia/china-hong-kong-magazine-editors.html?ref=world
Yet another relevant note that directly involves a magazine based in mainland China: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/world/asia/china-yanhuang-chunqiu.html?ref=world&_r=0


It turns out that some of the abducted HK booksellers are of non-Chinese nationalities, just like the one in the above-mentioned news article (the first one), which calls for an international outcry over the blatant breach of freedom of speech in an otherwise autonomous Hong Kong.

This is truly saddening.

I realize that I might have charged too much of a pessimistic note in my headline, but I hope I am just overreacting.

If only.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Seems like the OP of a Facebook message I shared the other day about Black Lives Matter deleted her post, causing my post to disappear as a result. I wonder what happened to her. Anyway, in all seriousness, I’d like to recap on the message I said in that deleted post:

Black Lives Matter; and, for that matter, every single life matters, regardless of what race they’re told they belong to by the so-called conventional wisdom.
Yet, with a backdrop of the current disproportionate discrimination against blacks, I feel compelled to emphasize once again that Black Lives Matter.
However, that is not to say that the discriminated ought to resort to violence. Force is never the answer; it would only backfire, as can be observed in America proper recently. Their frustration is palpable; it has been so. But only through meaningful, genuine discourse can we solve the deep-rooted issue.
I am for one against all forms of discrimination, which, categorically, includes reverse discrimination, in which the initial discriminator is now being discriminated against.
Black Lives Matter; All Lives Matter.
 
That’s all that matters.

Looking for singing gigs in Japan

A guy looking for singing gigs in the evening or on weekends within or in close proximity of Tokyo, Japan.


Hi there. This is Alvis, a Taiwanese male expected to start a full-time work in Shibuyaku in this coming Aug.

While I do have a full-time job as I said in the beginning, it’s on a contract basis and the hourly wage isn’t very flattering. My work starts from 10 am to 7 pm, almost always from Mon-Fri. And the folks who interviewed me said that working overtime would be a rarity. That kinda makes sense given I’d be paid by the hour. I’ll get a work visa (under the Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services category) from my company and I’d stay in Tokyo for at least a year (potentially for good!).

In short, due to my future meager income in Tokyo, I am looking for some singing gigs in the evening after my office work to make some pocket money. Any places that I should look into? I am currently still in Taiwan, waiting for my certificate of eligibility that I’d use to apply for a Japanese work visa at the TW-JP office here. If things work out, I should be able to move to Japan in early August. In the meantime, my schedule is rather flexible for a Skype interview. (Skype ID: alvisspeaking)

I’ve always had a burning passion for singing and do frequent karaoke establishments a lot here in Taiwan. On top of it, I’ve entered several singing contests and won the first place most of the time. I prefer and mostly sing hard-rock songs, though I also like and sing ballads and R&B, albeit to a lesser degree.

Just in case language is a relevant factor, I speak very fluent English. Mandarin (aka Chinese), evidently, is my mother tongue, and my Japanese is somewhat lower intermediate.

You can listen to my cover songs in my YouTube Channel here: http://www.youtube.com/c/AlvisYu

Looking forward to hearing from y’all! Any pointer will be greatly appreciated!

My covers of ONE OK ROCK/Power Station/Zhang Yu-sheng

Apart from my labor of love for learning languages, I also have a burning passion for singing. You can easily find my covers in my YouTube Channel. I often fantasize about becoming the lead singer of a rock band, but now I mostly just quench my thirst for singing at karaoke parlors. Hit me up when you’re in town (I’ll move to Shibuyaku, Tokyo, in August of 2016) and let’s sing our butts off together, won’t cha?

Below are some of my cover songs I recorded at karaoke parlors; the recorder I used was quite good, so I believe the sound quality should be fine, albeit recorded at such imperfect locations. These are mostly hard-rock songs, namely my favorite genre.

Hope you’ll like them!
(Alternately, you can also go to my SoundCloud channel to check them out.


翻唱 第一滴淚-動力火車 My cover of Dìyīdīlèi (the first teardrop) by Power Station

翻唱 甩開-張雨生 My cover of  Shuǎikāi (Get rid off)

翻唱 莎郎嘿 -迪克牛仔 My cover of shālánghēi  (“I love you” in Korean)

ONE OK ROCK – Goodbye:

RE:Hong Kong Bookseller Finds Associates Challenging His Account of Detention

This post is in response to a news article here.

Image credit: Vincent Yu/Associated Press


 

Alas; it saddened me when I read this piece during my daily reading of the NYT articles.

First things first, I’d like to give kudos to Lam Wing-kee, who, despite knowing his doing so would put himself under immense danger from the mainland, still chose to stand up for himself — and by extension for the justice Hong Kong people righteously deserve — and tell the truth about what exactly had happened during his abrupt disappearance from Hong Kong.

While I understand why Mr. Lam’s colleagues and girlfriend decided to refute his whistle-blowing — that was nothing but a well-calculated move under the great pressure from the powers-that-be — it is nevertheless painful to see that they cannot — or perhaps dare not — tell the truth to the public. The fact that they are booksellers, be it regular books or materials deemed sensitive for the mainland, makes this case all the more relevant and significant. I believe it is part of booksellers’ responsibility to spread knowledge to the masses without fearing sabotage.  With a bullying, all-mighty China, however, that mission seems to be nothing but a tall order. I wonder what will befall Mr. Lam afterwards, but I certainly hope he’ll remain safe and free to speak up; more importantly, I hope this will serve as a wake-up call to all Hong Kongers. Without sticking to their guns, they’d run the risk of losing the very last vestiges of their autonomy altogether soon. Now, exactly how they can do that without putting their own lives and the lives of their loved ones in peril, that’s the question. Nevertheless, they should by no means do nothing and simply see their once-touted freedom be completely ripped off by the Big Brother.

For us Taiwanese, this is an equally worrisome episode. Though being granted a special administrative region status in 1997 by China, Hong Kong, as we’ve observed, has been on a trajectory of going downwards in terms of freedom and democracy. The so-called “one country, two systems,” under which Hong Kong was allowed to retain a large degree of political autonomy, simply doesn’t hold water. The international community has witnessed the Umbrella Revolution, yet little if nothing at all seems to have come of it.

It is well known to all Taiwanese that China has relentlessly been trying to apply the same “one country, two systems” formula  to Taiwan. If they’ve been trying to use the Hong Kong experience to win our hearts, they’ve been doing it all wrong. Considering the Taiwan’s proximity to Hong Kong, little wonder why we Taiwanese remain wary of the political development over there. There’s a popular saying in Taiwan that sums up the mentality and the sympathy we have for Hong Kong, which goes “今日香港,明日台灣,” which literally means “Today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan,” or “what happens in Hong Kong will happen  in Taiwan tomorrow” in natural English. However, the reverse can also be true: One can argue that the Umbrella Revolution might have been partly inspired by a similar movement known as the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan that took place about 6 months earlier. With Cai Ying-wen becoming our new president, I am cautiously optimistic about the cross-strait development.

For the time being, let’s just hope that Mr. Lam will somehow manage to come out of it unharmed.

God bless Lam Wing-kee; God bless Hong Kong.

 

(EDIT: A similar thread I’ve posted on Forumosa has also received some response from a few netizens.  For those interested, you can find it here.)

 

 

AI vs. Humans

From The Economist Espresso: Automation nation: the future of work

http://econ.st/1nzwtwB


 

While reading this article, it got me thinking: Will I be one of those whose jobs are taken by AI in the future? In the translation/interpretation field, a field that I am currently working in, machine translators cannot (at least not yet) replace their breathing counterparts as yet. Nevertheless, the fact that AlphaGo has beat the Go champion Lee Se-dol for three times in a row seems to remind us that we should take AI more seriously. To do Mr. Lee justice, though, he did beat the AI for the first time yesterday.

Although the future is eerily unpredictable, here’s to hoping!

Law and order: Apple v the Feds

From The Economist Espresso: Law and order: Apple v the Feds

http://econ.st/1QAa9Kv


Having followed this news for a few days, my take on this is that Apple should give in and assist the FBI in cracking the locked iPhone belonging to the dead terrorist who committed the atrocious killing spree, rather than refuse to budge on the grounds of its so-called user privacy concern and great “implications” beyond this particular law order. The way I see it, it’s an act of sheer hypocrisy. After all, what most corporations (excluding not-for-profit ones, evidently) truly care about at the end of the day is nothing but profit. While Apple is seemingly trying to win the hearts of its users, I think this tactic will eventually backfire.

 

I am not saying that there’ll be no negative implications whatsoever. Under special circumstances as in this case, however, what’s at stake for the general public should override a privately-owned company’s interest.

Let’s see how this episode winds up. Stay tuned!

 

Cross-strait chill: Taiwan’s elections

http://econ.st/1l9G24c

From The Economist Espresso: Cross-strait chill: Taiwan’s elections


 

Whether or not China will treat Tsai Ing-wen frostily, if she does win in today’s presidential election, remains to be seen. Ms. Tsai, the favorite to get the helm of the leadership on this island, along with other presidential hopefuls, will surely remain restless throughout today as the ballots are being counted.

I missed my chance to cast the ballot, due to a conflict between the election date and my personal schedule. That was indeed a shame. This year, four years later, I made sure I had my voice heard and “felt” by commuting back home to vote. The moment of my casting the votes (presidential, parliamentary, and legislative votes) felt solemn and electrifying, not least because it was the first time I voted in a presidential race.

I’ll be watching the news closely tonight to witness a new chapter in Taiwan’s history. It’s about time.

Stay tuned.