A Short One On Current Albums

O.K., you have probably rallied that when it comes to music, I have a bug soft spot for Hardrock and heavy Metal – specifically stuff from the 80’s, more specifically Van Halen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, etc.

And this is exactly my entry today. There are two albums that have been in heavy rotation on my iPod: Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth and Slash – Made In Stoke.

I like the lash album better thn the VH album The Slash album somehow conveys more fun in what the musicians are doing. They play like they have nothing to loose. While Van Halen had/have to live up to this large than Iife reputation – a pressure that might have gotten to the VH boys. Yes, critics may point out that Slash is playing a mix of of old GNR songs, Velvet Revolver and some of his own and that perhaps most sacrilegious to some, Myles Kennedy is singing. All true, but I like the way the band just gels and how they gamer through 21 songs. I even like Myles Kennedy singing – he does not try to b someone else, he sings, like you sing when you are in the shower – uninhibited, that’s what allows him to give the songs his own stamp, despite the big shoes he had to fill. Then again, he comes without the diva ego that seems to have done GNR and VR in when it comes to singers.

In summary, “Made In Stoke” wins over ” A Different Kind Of Truth” – and I know, “That’s just like your opinion, man…”


Markus \m/


Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the urban jungle of Hanoi. Without many words few impressions of Hanoi’s street life.

Kids skating. It is truly amazing that skateboarding has taken the world as it did and that it still kept its casual and loose attitude. I love it – I rode my first skateboard at 6 back in the seventies – never looked back.

Then there is traffic – a lot of it. But because traffic is dominated by scooters and small motorbikes it flows, much better than Bangkok for example, where traffic usually stands close to still.

And of course like in many Asian countries there are cell phones. Also amazing how a lot of the Asian emerging and already emerged economies have simply leap-frogged the landline technology and moved from central plaza loudspeakers and the jungle drums to cell phones.

When the sun sets, light streaks appear on photographs and people gather on the streets to hang with their friends over drinks.

The road around Hoan Kiem Lake with its great little restaurants and cafes just a block recessed from the lake – this is the strip to go cruising’.

Walking through Hanoi means being exposed to art all over the city. Some if it cheap imported knock-offs from China, some of it ancient Vietnamese, some of it hill tribe and some of it on the bottom sides of balconies.

I love the idea, that these people jut found an empty canvas and started painting it.

And after this little stroll about town, your moment of Zen. This time from Perfume Pagoda.

Until the next, stay sharp and try harder to do good.

Markus \m/

Quiet – I Want To Hear My Soul Breathe

On our recent visit to Vietnam, there wasn’t much time to hear one’s soul breathe, but there were moments, that were just bliss. In the mountains in the north of Vietnam is a little village called Sapa. You reach there by train – the Night Train from the previous entry. So you arrive early in the morning, take a van or taxi to drive the final forty some kilometers from Lao Cai where the train stops into Sapa – up the mountain (would be an excellent ride on a bicycle). You check int your accommodation, perhaps sleep a little – because if you are taller than 180cm, you feel a bit crouched – and then have breakfast at 9:30. Now you are ready to explore Sapa. We walked all over town to some of the neighboring villages. Sapa is surrounded by agriculture and to my great delight lots of will growing bamboo.

Bamboo fascinates me tremendously. It grows very fast – it can reach 10m in about 100 days, which makes it easily renewable. Its material properties are anisotropic, meaning it is much stronger along the length of the blade, then across. Bamboo belongs to the family of grasses. It is lovely to look at. And, finally, bamboo us very photogenic.

But ultimately, to me bamboo is a flower that represents kitschy lonely island romance a mix of shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe, hut by the beach, but also modern architecture, environmental consciousness and good taste and stillness. I know this is a wide array. When we walked past the bamboo patches or sat there to look at the huge blades swaying in the breeze, there was hardly any sound, because the leaves are again blades, so traditional rustling of the leaves is not happening. The area around Sapa is a great contrast to the business of Hanoi or the other industrious areas in Vietnam. Sapa lives off agriculture and tourism. The hill tribe that live around Sapa do artisan work and come to Sapa to sell their goods to tourists. The pace is simply different.

Sapa was the place where we could hear our souls breathe.

More soon and take care.

Markus \m/

Gooood Morning, Vietnaaaaam

Alright, I sent you guys two updates from my teeny-tiny keyboarded Blackberry last week. It has since then died – rest in peace, but I am not going to miss you! Why I am not missing a BlackBerry could be an entire blog – no not just a post, but an entire blog – in itself. But we are not going to write about BlackBerries, we are writing about Vietnam. I admit, Vietnam was not on my radar at all. Barbara made me too it, she booked the trip organized everything. All I had to do was brush my teeth, get a shower, get dressed and have all that done by a certain date at a certain time and then follow the ladies with the knowledge. Now, I must say, when-ever Barbara plans a trip, it is always immaculate and exceedingly fabulous. Some of the readers of this blog have experienced Barbara’s trip organization talents first hand and would quite readily completely agree.

Now, Vietnam. The trip was simple. Fly into Hanoi – explore the city, see HCM. Not a big fan of cult around individuals, but hey, it was part of the travel program. Then transfer using the 4Bs (Bus, Bus, Boat, Bus) to Catba Island – fro-lick in the waters of Halong Bay. And finally, visit Hue – which we didn’t. Instead we took the Night Train (yes the GNR song was the inner soundtrack in my head for the trip) to Sapa in the northern mountains.

So let’s start with Hanoi. Of course you have to eat – which we did as a team, hence I call this image “Teamwork”.

Then similar to Thailand, the Vietnamese have an ability to see through wire chaos – think Spaghetti, but black and some of them with high voltage other just with digital, television or telephone signals. But to the Western eye they are all looking the same and are indistinguishable.

Traffic deserves a dedicated entry, which it will get over the next few days. But there are also great places sprinkled throughout the city where the body and the head can rest and the heart can slow down. One such place is the garden of the temple of literature.

Hanoi is a city of pretty stark contrasts – which I like as you may know. One one hand there is hat appears to become an emerging middle class. People with jobs who bought themselves added mobility with a scooter. Then there are this insane-wealthy who drive Bentleys, Porsches, BMWs – surprisingly many of these cars were on the streets. And finally there are traditional means of transportation all co-existing peacefully in traffic. One of my perennial favorites are bicyclists, such as this gentlemen.

When the days’ work is done, young Hanoians go to hang with each other at one of the many sidewalk restaurants and cafes or they go party – maybe to this one (at least I think it advertises for a party)

Through al this traffic at any time of the day, people ride their scooters in a very safety conscientious way – wearing a helmet. Now, the helmets would also make nice flower pots, if turned upside down. And don’t expect much padding, but just like women’s shoes they come in different colors – some with a little cutout at the back of the head to accommodate a ponytail. I leave it up to you to imagine how much a helmet with a ponytail cutout will really protect a head in case of a crash.

Alright, I have to work tomorrow and need to go to bed. But this is a quick overview of Hanoi – more to come.

Stay sharp and keep it real…

Markus \m/

Hanoi – Hotbed For Entrepreneurs

Let’s get right to it. Hanoi, Vietnam’s capitol is a bustling city with a great mix of old Vietnamese culture, the best of the French colonial influences and a youthful population, that is ready to work and live hard. The word must have spread around. The city has lots of galleries and apparently attracts artists from all over the globe. For example. I knew that Rolling Stones drummer Charly Watts was a man of fine taste and a clear preference for Savile Row suits – all that besides being a really fine drummer. What I did not know was that he and Keith Richards ventured into the sales of fine women shoes with a store in Hanoi, right along the east shore of Hoan Kiem Lake – Who would have thought?

By comparison, it is a lot less surprising that the Van Halen brothers entered into the diamond trade. I personally view it as a jab at Dave, who is known to refer to himself as Diamond Dave. Well there you have it. VH Diamonds. I find the extension of the classic VH logo especially smart – instant brand recognition.

Finally, we have found that Apu and Manjula Nahasapeemapatilon opened their second store of the Kwikee Mart franchise – being an immigrate myself, I love it when the immigrants make it big.

In the foreground you can see Dolph on his scooter. Kearney’s bike is on the left. I am not sure where Jimbo Jones was,¬†at the time, I took this picture. My assumption is he was with his girl friend and the other two guys were waiting for him in front of the Kwikie Mart.

Alright, more soon.


Stay very sharp

Markus \m/


Last day and I realised today, that I had time to relax. I see it in my photographs and in the sketches I have been doing. But the realisation hit me just now as I stood in the shower. From the depth of my subconscious memory a skit from a very good German comedian bubbled up. I know, there is a stereotype that Germans don’t laugh (that would be the Swiss, really they only laugh in the basement. No. Basement, no laughing in Switzerland) or at best have an evil laugh like an Indiana Jones villain. WRONG – Germans don’t do fart humour. We do political humour and we are “very serious” about silly humour. HaPe Kerkeling, a German comedic genius did a skit shortly after the wall came down. He pretended to be a famous Russian opera singer. He was announced to a knowledgeable audience as this Russian opera star on his first European tour who explored the boundaries of his vocal capabilities and (unknown to the audience) the boundaries of his audience’s patience and tolerance.
Then he appeared wearing a coat-tail and a fake beard (think Grizzly Adams, because all Russian opera singers have full beards – it’s a union requirement) and started singing. No lyrics, just words that had no context, made so sense. For example:”The lamb, the sheep, a woman…HURTZ[hoorrdz]” The word HURTZ he yelled with a very shrill, high pitch at the audience and he rolled the “r” as the Spanish do. Everyone in the audience flinched and was sort of shell shocked! The experts immediately tried to interpret the art, trying to make sense, trying to “get” the message.
It was pretty hilarious. Look it up on Youtube under:”Hape Kerkeling Hurtz”
So, you see I know my mind is de-compressing when crap from the past like this comes up from nowhere.
Next posts will feature images from this current trip.
Until then…stay sharp.

Markus \m/

Things To REALLY Avoid

Live from the train. We are traveling from Hanoi to Sapa, a Hill station in northern Vietnam. But that’s not really what I want to tell you about. No, what I want to tell you to my greatest surprise is that Vietnam is the first country in Asia, where punctuality is considered a virtue.
More importantly, being not punctual or say living by “Thai Time” will cause you to get reprimanded in public and everyone will hear it.
This morning we left CatBa Island on the 9:15am bus which left at exactly at 9:15 sharp. All were aboard, except a French couple who had been lolly gagging about town, along the harbour promenade. As the bus driver and the conductor were driving and spotted the two late comers, they ripped them a new one – quite funny. The two jumped on board in no time, when I asked, where they had their luggage. The conductor gave a short evil eye and then looked at the latecomers. Of course they would have forgotten their luggage – the conductor unleashed a second tirade – again, very much to the amusement of the other travellers. I must say, there is a certain beauty and clearly humour when you listen to someone opening a can of verbal whoop-ass, without actually understanding a single word.
So, lesson learned for today: Vietnam runs on the same schedules that German trains and Swiss watches run on – precisely!
As I write this we are on the 21:10 train from Hanoi to Sapa. It left precisely at 21:10 and shall arrive just as precisely at 5:30am in Sapa, tomorrow morning.
Until then good night from the Nighttrain.

Markus \m/

Things To Avoid

I just learned something oh so important. So here goes my plea to the car manufacturers and automobile aftermarket manufacturers. Guys when you sell cars or aftermarket horns into Vietnam please consider the following carefully and with the maximum amount of goodwill:
– Noise limit any stock car horn to 12 dB.
– Make the sound of the horn something pleasant, like ocean surf or forest birds calling; jungle birds morning calls are acceptable, too.
– Power the horn through a capacitor, rather than connecting it to the car’s main power circuit.
– Keep the capacity small. Use a larger resistor in series to delay capacitor re-charging. This will conveniently limit the honking length and the frequency of use.
– Locate the horn button inaccessably and inconveniently, like under the boot, where it is exposed to the elements and can get damaged easily.
– Skimp on the horn hardware, take the cheapest, lowest quality stuff your China based supply chain is willing to produce without invoking craftsmanship pride in protest and then let them have it, that you want the lowest quality, least reliable and cheapest crap they can manage to manufacture.

If you ask WHY?, you have not been to Vietnam. The country is great. Lots of friendly people, lots of things to see. I love Hanoi in particular. But all this changes when you give a Vietnamese a motorized vehicle equipped with a horn – then
All Hell Breaks Loose!!! and they turn into horn tooting, horn abusing psychopaths.

I have seen southern Italians here in tears like little French girls, because they couldn’t take it anymore – broken down completely. Of course they were also shattered that they had lost the “World’s Best Honker” title by a country mile to Vietnam – really a non-contest.
Finally, it’s not that the other drivers who are being honked at actually care, because they absolutely DON’T! So, all the horn and the honking does is noise pollution.
And this gets us to what’s in it for you. Your slick ad-men will trumpet the low (noise) emissions and the barely detectable (noise) polution, thusly turning your respective companies in the public eye into environmental choir boys – Attaboys and bonus checks for everyone.

Thank you for your consideration. And while you are at it, may be also look at volume limiting car stereos here, especially in the painful frequency range between 1kHz to 30kHz.

Much obliged.
Markus \m/

Hello, I’m Back Again…Finally.

Hello readership. You may have been wondering why there weren’t any posts for the last month. I needed a break. It was not a planned break, because else I would have mentioned it before. But it was more one of those breaks that kept creeping deeper and deeper into my life. It actually started with the completion of the Bangkok Half Marathon on February 12th 2012. After that I took it easy. A little Yoga in the morning to relax the muscles and help with the recovery. Then we had visitors for two weeks which who we had a great time. Then I just kept taking it easy. I slept longer in the mornings past 6:00AM, left my bike and running shoes untouched. When I hopped in the pool it was essentially to frolic, you know fool around, doing underwater handstands, silly stuff but sooo relaxing for the mind. We also went snorkeling a few times, also very relaxing. After a few weeks of athletic sleep-walking, I got used to that lifestyle. But then two weeks ago I got antsy, it started to itch. I got on my mountain bike and started riding – and I enjoyed it again. Since last week, I am back in training and I feel so much better. I swim run and bike again. I feel invigorated with more energy, stress levels falling off, creativity high. The conclusion for myself – I need to sweat once a day! The average (Wo)Man is born with about 206 bones connected with mostly multidirectional joints, we are made to move! So move!
I found two images I want to share with you. Just like in Black and White images where I prefer strong contrast, I found two color images, that I want to show in color – strong color:

A painter’s palette. He paints in acrylic and has built up a mountain of unused, dried paint. Click on the image to see it larger and then let your eye wander over all the mixed colors and streaks. I love it.

The second image is two images – the same in color and in B/W. My cousin saw these fisher boats at dusk in Krabi and we took the image at four seconds exposure time. The sea was very quiet, hence not too much motion blur.

And the same image in black and white.

And now for something completely different. My totally subjective verdict on the new Van Halen album “A Different Kind Of Truth”. I need to spilt my review into two target groups – those born before 1975 and those after.

Born before 1975: You may have children now and you inevitably grew up at least of the tail end of when Van Halen were at their height. Do yourself a favor and do not make the comparison of the new album to any album released between “Van Halen” to “1984”. The new album will fall short. It’s good, but it does not measure up. You have a choice to make. You either lock your kids into the original VH area between 1977 – 1984 or you expose them first to “A Different Kind of Truth” and then let them figure it out later. Clearly, this is a hard choice. Again the album is good in places, but compared to what was released until the 1984 album, it cannot compare! (you see I used an exclamation point, which means I mean it, End Of Story. Oh this is purely my opinion.)

Born after 1975. You guys have the mercy of a law birth. Especially if you were born in the 80’s. For you it doesn’t mater. Likely you have no idea what the hype was all about back then. So for you, I have no whole-hearted recommendation. I am sorry, I really am. If you have never heard VH, then buy the original self-titled debut album, then listen to the new one and you will instantly understand what I mean.

Now, the skinny:

1.) Tattoo – is a catchy song, not my favorite but it sticks in my head, especially the chorus. Not the song I would have released as the first song.

2.) She’s The Woman – we are getting somewhere. Very vintage. I like it.

3.) You And Your Blues – is a great song. Again, very vintage with great background vocals and a great bridge. I like it.

4.) Chinatown – Nice EVH intro which turns into a nice ass-kicker. Not recommend for listening to while running – You will kill yourself! Ass-Kicker!!!!

5.) Blood And Fire – More vintage, this is one of the songs that hasn’t grown on me in two months.

6.) Bullethead – another good ass-kicker. Eddie just shows off that he is still the king on the guitar. There are other excellent guitar players, but only one Eddie Van Halen. Dave’s voice sounds strong here.

7.) As Is – changes themes as th song progresses – think Smetana’s “Die Moldau”but with Eddie on guitar, Amps full die open and a drum that just drives the whole one forward without mercy – NICE!

8.) Honeybabysweetiedoll – not my favorite, however great intro and Eddie just let’s it all hang out. I think this could have ben a great instrumental track.

9.) The Trouble With Never – Hmmm? – No has not grown on me at all.

10.) Outta Space – fast paced, Dave’s voice is not great on this one. The song has a good drive, but hasn’t blown me a way.

11.) Stay Frosty – a remake of one of my favorite Van Halen Songs “Ice Cream Man”. While it is good, I prefer the original Ice Cream Man. Admittedly, there is a lot of sentimental when I remember how I was blown away, just in awe, when I listened to Ice Cream Man for the first time. To me the Grand Daddy of all Ass Kickers. (PERIOD!)

12.) Big River – please this is a filler. I do not like it.

13.) Beats Workin’ – I love the hook of the rhythm guitar, else pretty average.

The Videos – It is obvious, that these guys have aged, matured and that have had a lot of fun – at last doing the videos. Another piece of evidence that Eddie’s guitar wizardry has aged a lot more graceful than Dave. Although, this is an unfair statement, because we all age. But Dave was such an over the top persona and lad singer that aging just cut him down that much more. I have to agree with Homer Simpson, who would say:”I hate you age, you think you are so smart. Oooh, I hate you sooo much!!!”

So there you have it. I will not tell you to buy it or not.

Till the next, stay sharp, very sharp.

Markus \m/