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zondag 20 september 2009

Robber knocked the fuck out at beauty parlour


Last Man On Campus mixtape

I've got a mixtape online titled Last Man On Campus. You can download it here. It was originally a mix I did a while back on the radio show Oskoorland, Radio Campus ULB (hosted by French and Défi J). I recorded it afterwards for your listening pleasure.

01. Intro (Bucktown Trailer)
02. Smif-n-Wessun - Bucktown
03. Common - Maintaining
04. Colors Break
05. A Tribe Called Quest - Oh My God
06. Peanut Butter Wolf - I Love H.E.R.
07. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - This Land Is Your Land
08. Bernard Purdie - Cold Sweat
09. Cannonball Adderley - Phases
10. Stanley Clarke - Power
11. Coldcut - Timber
12. Michael Jackson - Get On The Floor
13. Madlib - Mystic Bounce
14. Rozer Break
15. Various Panthers - Freedom
16. OC - Time's Up
17. Défi J - Un Ange Saigne
18. Various Panthers - The Points
19. DJ Static - ITF 1997
20. Outro (LMS Shout Outs)

Go and check it out!

maandag 24 augustus 2009

Master Shardlake

I've been reading C.J. Sansom's historical mysteries lately. He has written four novels about Master Shardlake, a hunchback London lawyer. The stories take place at different intervals during the reign of Henry VIII. So far he has written four books: Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation.

Dissolution takes place in the year 1537. The King has recently proclaimed himself to be head of the Church of England, and the country is rapidly changing as a result. Thomas Cromwell is at the height of his power and has ordered the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries. However there is trouble at the Scarnsea monastery, off the Sussex coast. One of his investigators has been found dead, brutally murdered in a sacrilegious way. He calls upon Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and adamant supporter of Reform, to investigate the crime.

The story reminded me of Umberto Ecco's The Name of the Rose. The mysterious murder, set in a monastery, surrounded by internal politics, ressembles this story very much. You could it is more an "Ecco light", with less theological discussions and more detective elements. I enjoyed the book very much as light bed-time reading. The historical setting is depicted well, and the mystery captivates enough to keep you wanting to know more.

Dark Fire takes place a few years later, in 1540. Since his involvement in the murderous events at Scarnsea, Shardlake tries to stay away from politically laden investigations. However, Cromwell once more calls upon his services. The formula to Greek Fire, the legendary weapon used by the Byzantines to destroy the Arab navies, has been discovered in the library of dissolved London monastery. Unfortunately the formula has dissapeared after the brutal murders of the officials who had found it. Once more Shardlake gets on the trail in order to retrieve it.

There is more action/adventure in this novel than in the previous one. Since Shardlake is a hunchback and takes the intellectual challenges on himself, a second character is introduced, Master Barak. Barak works for Cromwell and brings muscle to the story. The historical depiction is again excellent, yet this time the work has more of an adventure movie type of feel.

Sovereign is set a year later, in 1541. Thomas Cromwell has fallen from favor, his role as trusted advisor to the King has been taken over by Archbishop Cranmer. The events take place during Henry VIII's Progress to the North. A state visit to accept the surrender after the rebellion of 1536 in York, called the Pilgrimage of Grace. Shardlake is there in order to deal with the petitions by the locals to the King. Barak, having lost his job after the demise of Cromwell, is now working for Shardlake as an assistant. Once again, there is a political murder tied to the rebellion. At the same time, Shardlake has been charged with the care of a political prisoner, Sir Edward Broderick.

Although the first two books, were nice-an-easy reading material, the formula is starting to wear thin by now. I hadn't noticed before that Sansom's character development is actually very superficial. It hadn't bothered me before, because the previous stories bounced merrily along, whereas in Sovereign things just seem to happen to our heroes. Their actual input is very meagre. They could have easily been left out of the story. I had to drag myself to read to the ending. When Sansom tries to convey emotions, he resorts to basic descriptions like "he felt frustrated" or "he couldn't take the horror". You can say it, but if I'm not feeling it ...

Revelation is the final installment of the series. A brutal murder displayed publicly by a friend of his, draws Shardlake back to work for Archbishop Cranmer. Cranmer is less of a favorite than he was the year before. After a few years of hard Reform, the King is allowing some of the Catholic traditions. A behind the scenes war between Reformers and anti-Reformers is going on. The outcome will influence the place of political adversaries at Court. And since the King has a tendency to chop off the heads of people he disagrees with, quite a lot is at stake. Cranmer believes that the murder might have something to do with Catherine Parr. The King , after having disposed of his latest wife, is pursuing her now. Since she looks kindly on Reform, Cranmer and his circle are hoping she will accept. If however, it would be known that religious fundamentalists are involved in murders tied to Parr, it would not bode well. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that they are dealing with a serial killer, who commits murders in a certain way in order to make sure the prophecy about the end of the world as depicted in the biblic book of Revelation comes true.

Although the flow of the story is better than in the previous novel, the weak character development is still a turn-off. Sansom tries to link the way insanity was viewed and treated (in places such as the infamous Bedlam) with the murders taking place. But because you see everything through the eyes of Shardlake, who apparently is not a man with the most emotional insights, I wasn't really drawn into the psyche of the killer, nor the plight of the people chasing him.

For the fans if historical fiction, I can recommend the first two books. But only as light entertainment. The descriptions of the era are very nice, and no doubt historically correct. However, it would be best to stop after the first two, because you can only get more of the same but less good.

dinsdag 9 juni 2009

Latest goodness

Like I said in the previous post: Don't you love it when life is good? The last few weeks have been filled with dope parties. First up was the incredible Cheeba Cheeba party at Café Bota with Vic 'n Lloyd, Funky Bompa and Shimmy Timmy. The played an amazing set with classic breaks, funk, soul, nusoul, latin and hip-hop. The music itself was "upgraded" by J to the C singing over instrumental tracks. Plus, there wasn't an incredible throng of people. There was just enough crowd. The same people that had come in around 11, stayed until 5 in the morning ("where ya gonna be ...").

The week after I've been to the Mirano club to see Cerrone live. Me and Reck were completely out of place there. You had the fancy chicks, some models, fancy schmancy dudes ... and us. Wierd night out. Dope tho, since Cerrone absolutely rocked (supernature a.o.). There was also a cocktease hitting (or annoying, you pick) on a friend of ours. Finally we ended up in a bar in downtown Brussels where the Funky Bompa was playing some dope ish.

Last week was the exposition of Kool Koor, "the 11th letter", with grafitti based art. Besides the art Smimooz and Défi J were doing a set, plus there was free beer. What more can you want?

The day after Reck and me went to Radio Campus to chill in the studio with the guys from Souterrain (Défi J, Rayer, Rafeek Trafikante, Simon Le Saint). They were doing an interview of Mantrax, a musician/composer from Brussels living now in New Jersey. He's been working on a new album, which in all probability will be the fucking bomb. It all went well until someone lit up a blunt. And then everybody was so fucked up it became a live sitcom. The conversations/interview was ... well ... about nothing from that point on, but oh so hilarious. This was followed by an excellent nineties hip hop set by Le Saint and a dope soul, funk, hip hop set by Défi J.

dinsdag 19 mei 2009

Dope ass week

These last few weeks have been dope, and will continue to be dope for the week to come. Starting with Monday 4th, when I attended the defense of a PhD (Permanent Head Damage some say) of a friend of mine, who can call herself Doctor in Neurolinguistics now. This was followed by the obligatory drunken bout.

Fast forward to Saturday. The illest brothers of Landen Jay & Ray (Raydius 360) organized the event "Hip Hop op een Hoger Nivo" ("Hip Hop on a Higher Level). The concept was to throw a 4 elements barbecue. According to the planning the first people would be arriving at 11 in the morning. Starting from 12 beat makers would be making a beat each, to which MC's would rhyme later on. At six the b-boy crew Rafaga de Viento (Leuven) would be doing a showcase, and afterwards a party was planned. In between somewhere everybody could eat some BBQ, while grafitti artists did their thing. The problem with all of that is that you're dealing with Hip Hop headz. Me and my man Reck arrived at 2 in the afternoon. There were about 5 people there plus Ray. Everybody only started arriving after 4 o'clock. Jay got there at 5. The beat makers got to work only at that moment. The delays were tremendous, but perhaps that was a good thing. Everybody was relaxed and nobody was in a hurry. Reck, i-Sa, Raydius 360, Sir-5 and SolarNRG presented their beats, Rafaga did their show, and dope ass records were spun. Late in the evening Jay did some freestyles with Kool Koor. We thought the evening would be over about midnight and we were actually ready to leave then. But, the atmosphere was too nice, the Landen crew is excellent company, so we weren't able to take off before 4 o' clock in the morning.

After a short work week, I went to Club Med, Vittel. This was an incentive from my company, because we made our objectives last year. I've never been to anything like that. And I probably never will. Club Med is excellent for sports, and that's about it. The food is not bad, but not excellent either. There's always a lot though. The animations in the evening suck ass. But apart from that I had an excellent stay there, chilling with the colleagues. I did some archery, played golf (which is actually nice to do) and drank free booze.

We got back from Vittel saturday evening. My plan was to go out for some drinks and be back at a reasonable hour. Until Reck told me Madlib and J-Rocc were dj'ing in Antwerp (The Petrol). The Landen crew would be there as well. So, we got in the car and were off to Antwerp. That evening was pretty amazing. Before the main event our local dj Lefto (De Hop, StuBru) was on the ones and twos. He kept that shit locked down. Swerving from nineties classics to underground new school stuff. His set was amazing. In between a Canadian group (singer and dj) did their thing. I wasn't really into it, but they rocked out, so props to them. Later on J-Rocc did a few dope routines before he started spinning with Madlib. I have to admit that I wasn't always feeling them, with their electro sounding beats at times. Round about four we decided to bounce. We didn't get any further than the entrance, where we chilled till 5 with Jay, Ray and Kool Koor. By the time we got back to Brussels, the street lights were turning off and natural light was coming up. Oh what a night ...

And this weekend, we got Cheeba Cheeba coming up and the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Don't you just love when life is good?

donderdag 30 april 2009

Witch Hunter

C.L. Werner's Witch Hunter is the first book in the trilogy surrounding Mathias Thulmann, a (you guessed it) witch hunter living in the human areas (the Empire) of the Warhammer fantasy world. He is a sort of inquisitor tracking down the undead, necromancers and everybody and anything that has something to do with the Chaos gods. In short, he's a über-righteous bad-ass motherfucker. In this story he has been send, together with a mercenary called Streng, to investigate a series of strange murders in the territory of Lord Wilhelm Klausner, a former witch hunter. He finally unravels a dreadful mystery surrounding the Klausner family, which set in motion events which no doubt can be read in the following two books.

The book makes for an enjoyable read in the evening, althoug it cannot be counted among the literary greats. The story in itself has the right amount of tension, mystery and plot twists to keep the story interesting. The pace keeps going at a steady rate up until the ending in a cliffhanger. I have started the story now, so I'll probably buy the next volumes as well. However, it is a good book, not a great one. What is mostly lacking is proper character development. All the characters are relatively flat, having only a little more depth than Harry Potter. The only people I could feel for were the weakened Lord Klausner and his honest son Gregor. But only slightly. All in all it makes good bedtime reading, but not more than that.

The God Delusion

The first time I saw Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion I was a bit reluctant to pick it up. Not so long before I had read Michel Onfray's Traité sur l'Athéologie (in a Dutch translation), which bored me to death. The man basically bitches for 200 pages how bad the world, and more importantly, himself, has been treated by organized religion, while making a few shortcuts in his historic analysis. The book actually got on my nerves after about page 50. His rantings did not support my atheism in any way. In fact, the history of ideas within the great religions as depicted by Karen Armstrong in The Great Transformation has given my atheism a much better basis (although arguably this was not the author's intention). I saw Dawkins' book in several bookstores, and each time I was bit tempted, but the memory of Onfray's bitching steered my away from the counter. I finally decided that I did want to read it after seeing one of Dawkins' speeches (video). The man was not boring, he wasn't ranting. He was very scientific, witty, and entertaining. I've recently been on a holiday overseas. While we were waiting to board our plane, my girlfriend and I were wandering a bit throught the duty-free shops. On an impulse I bought The God Delusion.

The book's object is to analyse the god hypothesis as explanation for life, the universe, and everything from an evolutionary, scientific standpoint. Dawkins takes all the arguments believers generally make for religion and/or against the evolution theory, and deconstructs them one by one. All the things you kind of sense that are wrong with the religious myths are duly thought out and spelled out for you. If you ever needed some sources to back you up when you're trying to get a christian/muslim/whatever of your back, they're all there. Especially the part about morality was interesting. He argues that all our moral choices stem from a universal, human approach to morality (a sort of blueprint in your mind if you will) coupled with the current zeitgeist. This is also true for religious people, who justify the "right" morals for their time by picking and choosing the appropiate parts of their scriptures (instead of it being the other way around). This book is a perfect support for my atheism. The only part where it falls short on is the explanation about the "beginning" of it all. Science does not cover that aspect to date. Maybe one day it will. At least adherents of science dare to say that they don't have all the answers. Attributing this lack of knowledge to some god(s) however is just plain intellectual laziness.

As a conclusion, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. It is to the point, well written (save the abuse of the sentence "have your consciousness lifted by Darwin" in the middle chapter), and build upon solid science. In general I don't discuss religion too much with people who are not interested in an intellectual discussion. And when I do I don't really try to prove religious people wrong. Since reading this book, I probably keep the same attitude, apart from one thing: I have lost a part of my cultural relativism. When parts of a culture/religion is wrong, people should be called out on that. Gay people are not the scum of the earth, hitting your wife is wrong in all circumstances, ...

maandag 27 april 2009

Moments for Miel

Last Friday I went to a tribute to Miel Vanattenhoven with my dad, Hammy and my man Reck. Miel Vanattenhoven was one, if not thé, leading forces behind the Jazz scene in Belgium. He has run Jazz Middelheim up until his untimely death not so long ago. During his lifetime he has helped many musicians in Belgium and he has introduced many others to each other.

In honor of his work, the Flagey organized a tribute concert with a.o. Freddy Thielemans, Fred Van Hove, The Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Toots Thielemans and a few members of Grazzhoppa's DJ Bigband.

We arrived a bit late, so we missed the first concerts. Fortunately we were in time to see the divine Toots Thielemans play. For those of you who don't know who Toots is: shame on you if you're a Jazz fan!, if you're not check his website. He played with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra once more. They started off with arrangemants by Maria Schneider, an excellent contemporary composer. They played more laid back orchestral arrangements. After the first tracks, Toots joined them to play his (Dat Mistige Rooie Beest, Bluesette, ...) and other's (Summertime, Wonderful world, ...). As usual the man was ûber dope. Especially when he was talking about how Jazz is like a virus (Grafitti headz know what I mean).

After the concerts a jam between the DJ Bigband members and Toots and other members of the bands that played took place. This was interesting to see, although it didn't really go anywhere. It was clear that neither the DJ's nor the musicians were used to playing together, especially when switching styles (turntablism vs. jazz).

At any rate it was a lovely evening and I think Miel would have approved.

zondag 29 maart 2009

Last days

Alas, all good things must come to an end. And in general way to soon. I'm writing to you with a jetlagged mind in the comfort of my own chair. Although traveling is always fun, it feels good to just sit here. Unfortunately I've got to work tomorrow, ... but that's tomorrow.

Before flying back, we still had two more days in Hanoi. Hammy filled these by going on a mad shopping spree with my sister, to which I was allowed to tag along. The result was a score of gifts for ourselves, family and friends. Most of it was taken up by clothing. Hammy got herself about 20 new pieces of clothes, most of which was tailor-made at two stores named Le Soleil and Countryside Silk (near the St. Joseph Cathedral). She also bought a designer dress in a shop named Cocoon (30 Pho Nha Chung, Nha Tho Area), in which she looks absolutely gorgeous. It has a traditional Southeast Asia cut, but with a modern twist. As for myself, I get a few shirts and three suits made by the best tailor in Hanoi, Minh Quang (175 Phùng Húng).

In between shopping, we paused for a visit to the Love Chocolate Café (26 To Ngoc Van, Tây Hồ). As the name suggests they specialize in chocolate. For those who know me: it doesn't get any better than this, I swear. The inside design is a bit kitch, but the service and the calm more than makes up for that. And the chocolate! Hot chocolate with banana flavor, chocolate pudding, intense brownies, chocolate cake with coffee sauce, chocolate chip cookies, ... and that's only what we had! Mmmmh, chocolate.

The first day was rounded off by drinks at Minh's Jazz Club. Minh can be considered to be the father of jazz in Vietnam. He started listening to jazz during a time when that kind of music wasn't on the radar in the country. Moreover his father was afraid he might attract negative attention by the communist party by listening to it. Minh studied the classics by day, and jazz in secret by night. Eventually he played a concert in the capital in front of an audience that had some influence. He kept to the traditional repertoire, except for the last song. This song started out like a classic, which he then flipped into a jazz rendering. At firtst the people were taken aback, but after the initial shock he got a thundering aplause. Since he has been playing, recording and teaching jazz. For the last twelve years he also runs his own bar. Every night there is live music, performed by now established names and up-and-comers. This particular evening we saw amongst others, Minh's son perform. The repertoire was a mixture of local and American jazz. I made a little video, which I'll be posting on online somewhere soon.

The second day we had an excellent brunch at the Sofitel Metropole. This hotel was originally build by the French during rule of Ino-China in 1901, and is therefore a prime example of colonial art. It was then, as it is now, one of the finest luxury hotels of Vietnam, with rooms price between €200 and €500 a day. Surprisingly enough, they offer a brunch package which is very good value for money. These brunches are priced €15 to €20, for which you get an offering of assorted imported cheeses from Europe, pâtés, a sushi bar, caviar, a main dish (we had rabbit and langoustine), and a desert bar. For what is considered in Europe to be a bit more expensive than student prices, you can stuff yourself from 11h till 16h on excellent food, in a little oasis of calm.

In the evening my sister took us to some back-alley projects near the Westlake to a local sculptor of Buddhas. For the measly price of 800 000 VND (about €30) we were able to buy a 20 year old statue of more or less 50 cm high. It used to serve in an actual temple. These sculptors have got a deal with several temples to provide them with new statues at a lower price, in exchange for which they are allowed to resell the old ones. The woman who sold it to us, told my sister that we got a significant reduction in price because of sis's vietnamese roots. I would like to thank my little sibling at this point for the trouble she went through in letting us stay at her place (the same goes for her boyfriend of course) and for letting us schlepp her around during the shopping quest. She has been instrumental in showing us the good stuff and in negotiating the fairest prices. I'm sure she saved us a lot of money. So, again, thanks baby sis.

As I said in the beginning of this post, all good things must come to an end. That evening we packed and the next morning we were off to Hanoi airport for our first transfer to Singapore. The only thing we couldn't fit in our luggage was the wrapped up Buddha (the skinny serene version by the way, not the happy fat one). Hammy has been going on about buying ever since we decided going on this trip. Needless to say she was extremely happy we were able to get our hands on a semi-antique. She carried the statue like a baby during the entire trip. Upon embarking in Hanoi, right before we would be passing immigration, an office stopped us. She asked to check if the statue would fit into the overhead compartments in the plane. The Buddha is sitting on a lotus flower, making the base just a little to big to fit. She told us we would need to check it in. Hammy pleaded that it would get damaged and that we would make it work and that afterwards we were taking an international flight where there would be more room. The officer must have seen the despair in her eyes, because eventually she let us pass.

After 5 hours we arrived at Singapore airport, where we needed to wait for 6 hours to catch our connecting flight. Luckily the airport is quite big, so we were able to wail away time visiting the orchid garden, the butterfly garden, buying shoes for Hammy, getting a new gadget for me (iPod Touch, damn my sister's boyfriend and his iPhone gadgety goodness), and take a swim up on the roof. At midnight local time we got on board, and about 14 hours later (with a trip of 6 hours back in time) we were back in Europe. I got a little time left to just chill and do nothing, waiting for my kitties to get back home (I'll be glad to see them). The only question that remains now, is: where will be going next time?

woensdag 25 maart 2009

Ha Long Bay

Last weekend we (I, my girlfriend, my sister and her boyfriend) spent an evening and half a day with my sister's biological family in a village about 15 km outside of Hanoi. As always we were greeted with a warm welcome, which (of course) included an enormous amount of food and quite a lot of alcohol. There's no better way for fraternizing with the uncles than getting drunk together on the home-brewed ricewine. They call it wine but it's actually hard liquor containing at least 50% alcohol. It's always a bit surreal visiting them. They're my extended family in a way, and I'm treated as such, yet at the same time they're not really family. I know all the faces, I recognize kids that have grown since the last time I've seen them, so it all feels familiar. On the other hand I don't see them enough to be able to create an actual bond. Plus there is the language barrier. Nonetheless, surreal or not, I've had a lovely stay, and it was nice to see everybody again. My sis' big sister has gotten married in the meantime and is raising a ... well to be honest, a rather chubby little boy, who's absolutely delightful. The kid brother has turned into a rather tall young man and the little nieces have become charming young women. It's been six years since the last time I was here, and it'll probably be a lot longer before I'll come back. So, we need to bring grandma over to Belgium in the near future, now that we still can, for to experience a European culture shock and to see where she sent her granddaughter so many years ago.

Monday morning Hammy and started a 3 day-2 nights tour of Ha Long bay. Ha Long is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the site for the James Bond movies The man with the golden gun and Tomorrow never dies. It's a very typical thing to do in Vietnam, but that doesn't make the bay less beautiful. The problem you might have, is choosing the best option out of the myriad possibilities to visit the site. There are hundreds of travel agencies and hotels offering cruises. And all of them offer more or less the same thing, ranging from prices between $30 to $300. The more or the less can be found in slight variations of the itinerary, but most importantly in the services and levels of luxury that are offered. Although you have to take the 'brochures' with a grain of salt. You never really get what they say. Hence the expression 'same same but different' (those of you that have been to South-East Asia recently know what I mean). First of all, although there a gazillion different agencies, the're actually all working together in some way or other. At every tour we've done, we got lumped together with people from 'other' tours. That doesn't really pose a problem as such, but a little intellectual honesty up front wouldn't hurt. We were promised seafood dinner and lunches. To us that means an abundance of crabs, shellfish, squid, etc. To them it meant two scampis and some squid. There were two french girls who had been promised foot massages on board. No foot massages. We and a Canadian couple paid for a double room, upon arrival on the boat the guide just asked who would like a double room like it was up for auction. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Of all the choices we had we settled for a tour with one day and night on a junk, and the second day and night in a bungalow on Monkey Island for the modest amount of $95 per person. In total this made $190 or 3 325 000 vietnamese dong. Being in Vietnam makes you feel like a millionaire sometimes.

After a three-hour bus drive we arrived in Ha Long city. The harbour there is completely filled with boats, almost all of them now are styled after the old style junks. Although the weather forecasts were favorable, the sky was cloudy and grey. During the morning we could only make out the silhouettes of the islands around is in the dense fog. We boarded the boat and after the room lottery we ate (not so seafood) lunch. There were a little less than twenty other people with us. All of them (Germans, Canadians, French, Singaporese, Australian, Vietnamese) quite nice (apart from our guide, who was an annoying pushy twat), so that was an added bonus. After lunch the fog had lifted somewhat. After a small kayaking excursion, there was an opportunity to enjoy the surrounding scenery on deck. Ha Long Bay is made up of an enormous amount of islets (and a couple of bigger islands) with varying sizes. These islets are made up of dissoluted layers of limestone giving the area a particular shape and feel. These limestone karsts (as they are called) consist of pointy rocks with trees and bushes growing on top of them. It's quite amazing to see how these plants have found a way to grow on such a barren surface. In that afternoon gloom with low hanging fog in the distance, they had this very special twilight zone look to them. Unfortunately there wasn't any sun, but fortunately this also gave an extremely cool effect cruising round the bay.

The next day we were dropped off at Cat Ba Island for a small trek to the summit of the Viet Hai mountain. Being part of large group, which had to follow a guide gave it a bit of a school outing kinda vibe at first, but we quickly forgot about that when the climb became steeper and steeper. At first there were rocky steps, along the way these steps became craggy rocks. Again, it was fortunate not to be too warm that day. On the summit we could climb a rickity rusted promontory, which was missing a landing at the top. The view was exceptional from up there.

In the afternoon we were dropped off at our bungalow resort on Monkey Island. And the first thing we see while walking to our bungalow, was a monkey chilling on the gravel road. That afternoon was extremely chill. The resort is entirely made out of bamboo and is situated on a small beach in a secluded hamlet. Peace and quiet all over. Just around the corner of a large rock there are a few other beaches where the other tourists are dropped for a short visit, but the they stay on their side. This creates the illusion of a small paradise, especially since only we and another couple were staying there for the night. Up until the moment when they guys from the bar decided to blast nineties style crappy house music. I was obliged to ask them to turn it off.

In summary, our trip was absolutely lovely. OK, there were a few details service wise that could have been better and some of the things that were promised weren't delivered, but on the whole I think we got good value for money. Now we've only got a few more days left in Hanoi to do some last minute shopping (including tailor made suits) and to check out Minh's Jazz Café.

zondag 22 maart 2009

More Hanoi

Before I get into the next part of our stay, I still need to tell you something that happened before we left for Sapa. Lil Sis proposed to use her bike while exploring Hanoi. I've got a driver's licence for a car, but I've never really driven a motorbike. It didn't seem too difficult, however a little training couldn't hurt. During the evening we drove to a secluded area where the expats live. As expected, controlling the machine wasn't that difficult. After a few laps I was confident enough to use her bike the next day. She let me drive back to her appartment. The road in front of us was almost empty. At this point I got a bit cocky. We were driving at 60 km/h when I saw people in front swerving to the left. Because of the bad lighting I couldn't really see why. There seemed to be a darker patch in the middle of the road. I thought it was a pothole. In order to avoid it I moved to the right. Wrong choice. Someone had put a large metal grille covering the entire right side of the road, which I only by the time it was too late. Next thing I know we're on the ground. Luckily we didn't get hurt too much. Lil Sis got a cut on her leg. I got several cuts on my hands and left leg, and my ribs are bruised. I learned my lesson though.

Anyway that was before leaving for Sapa, the cuts are healing and my ribs hurt a little less. Yesterday we visited my sister's Vietnamese family. I'll get back to that later. Right now it's time to get some rest. Tomorrow Hammy and I are getting up early for a 3 day visit of Ha Long Bay.

vrijdag 20 maart 2009

Sa Pa

Sapa is a village not to far from the Chinese border. The main attractions are the mountains and the local minorities that live there (e.g. the Black H'mong, Xa Pho, Muong). We took the local night train at 22h, in order to arrive at 6 in the morning in Lao Cai (situated on the Chinese border almost). From there we took a van to Sapa.

We did the traditional tour of three villages in order to visit the minorities. The walk in itself was very nice. Together with two other couples we walked in the mountains, saw a few local houses, and passed by rice terrasses. As for the minorities, it was more a case of us being watched than the other way round. The moment we arrived we got surrounded by people (mainly women) trying to sell us jewellery, bags, and clothes. The sales tactic is very simple. Be persistent. If you keep offering, they've got to buy something. Or so they thought.

We were supposed to trek through part of a bamboo forrest. One of the couples was Vietnamese. The man wore suit pants, his girlfriend wore a miniskirt. The walk through the bamboo was to difficult for her, forcing us to cut the funnest part of the day short. I hope she got blisters.

The second day we stayed near Sapa for a shorter hike up the Dragon's Claw mountain. Here it is possible to follow a stone path, making the climb less arduous. Since it was very hot, that worked out just fine. The same day we took the slightly more comfortable night train back to Hanoi.

Ha Noi - Day 1 & 2

In a way arriving in Hanoi was a relief after the busy streets of HCMC. More importantly, I got to see my little sister again. She's been living there since the beginning of last year, and I hadn't seen her since september. We're staying at her (small but comfy) apartment near the Westlake in the north of the city. This is in the Ho Tay district, which roughly translates to "­where the foreigners live".

The plane trip from HCMC to Hanoi was with a lowcost company called Jetstar. The flight was OK, but unfortunately the plane was constructed for Asian people, meaning no legroom for the big westerner. Anyway, we arrived in Hanoi and naturally we needed a cab. This has given us the opporunity to jack a local, instead of getting ripped off ourselves. A normal cab ride costs 230 000 vietnamese dong (roughly 10 euros). A minivan will take you to the centre (to a fixed spot) for 30 to 40 000 dong. There was a minivan outside who wanted to take us for 170 000 dong. For this price the driver would take us to the exact address. That seemed like a fair price, but only if the time he needed to drive us was reasonable as well. They tried to get us in the van quickly. Now, when people are telling me to "hurry up" to take a deal, I'm suspicious. I asked how long it would take. They told us 35 minutes, which is how long a normal taxi would take too. Eventually we got in. First everybody else was dropped off, then the driver didn't know where he had to go, thus taking a total time of 1h30. So, there was no way in hell we were paying 170K. The driver did not know this. My sister explained it to him in Vietnamese. Eventually we gave him 100K. Driver not very happy. After being rippee all the time, it felt good to be the ripper for once.

We've had a lovely two days in Hanoi, with my sis and her boyfriend, and visiting the city (the temple of literature, the ethnology museum, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Hoan Kiem). As for the people, I liked HCMC better I have to admit. HCMC is assailed by motorbikes, you have rivers of the them, making the city a very noisy and crowded place. In comparison Hanoi has hardly any traffic at all. But, the people in HCMC are more relaxed than in Hanoi, less "communist" I'd say. It doesn't really matter of course, since we're here mainly to see my sister.

zondag 15 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh - Day 4

As expected, today was a lot more fun. Even though we spent most of the time in the bus, and the tour was just as touristy, the sights were a lot cooler.

After a four hour drive (for a mere 96 km) we arrived at the Cao Dai temple. Cao Dai is a mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. One of their saints is Victor Hugo fro some reason. We visited their holy see in Tay Ninh. The main building is a prime example of the word kitsch. They've got dragons spiraling columns, a ludicrous amount of Divine Eyes, images of Buddha, Christ and Lao Tze; and all of this in exaggerated colors. Is it a must see? Not really, but you can't help leaving the place with a faint smile on your lips.

We then proceeded to the Cu Chi tunnels. During the Vietnamese-American War, US troops controlled Saigon. The Viet Cong controlled most of what was outside of the city. Their main camp was to be found at Cu Chi (or better never was found). The Vietnamese started digging tunnels at the start of their War of Independance, initially against the French. By the time the Americans came to play, an elaborate network was created in which the VC lived, cooked, studied and fought the ennemy. During the visit, we were shown a part of the tunnels (especially enlarged for us westerners), the erstwhile living conditions, and the cruel spiky traps they left for the GI's. Before the actual tour started a video was shown, with footage from the sixties. Pure old school propaganda about the American killers War Heroes and other victories. Brilliant. At the end of the tour there is a possibility to shoot with one of the guns that were used back in the day for about a dollar a pop. I couldn't resist the AK 47. I probably didn't hit a thing, but it was fun though.

That about wraps it up for our stay in HCMC. Tomorrow we'll be flying to Ha Noi.

zaterdag 14 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh - Day 3

Today we did a one day tour of the Mekong Delta. That was not as interesting as anticipated. We started with an early rise at 6, and set off at 7.30 for a two hour busride. This was followed by a loud motorboat ride over the river near the village of My Tho. First stop was a beekeeper. We tasted honey tea (sweet and sticky, can't go wrong with that) and people could hold a huge snake. By this time I was started to feel like the typical tourist, no more like the teenager on a school trip that's preplanned. Naturally they tried to sell us honey. Next up: a boat trip to another island, where we saw how coccnut candy is made, where they tried to sell us, you guessed it, coconut candy. This was followed by a rowing boat trip, all down the same line, one after the other. And finally, after lunch, we got the chance to ride around an island on a bicycle. That at least was fun.

We fell once more into a dreadful tourist trap. Luckily we met some nice people on the bus: dutch travelers, a Belgian expat living in Shanghai with his American-Chinese girlfriend. Also an MC from Germany with the right attitude towards hip-hop (from the Gonzales Familia). It was a forced day of semi-rest in good company. That counts for something too I guess.

Tomorrow will be infintely more interesting. We'll be seeing the Cu Chi tunnels and the kitchiest religion on this planet, Cao Dai.

vrijdag 13 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh City Day 1 & 2

In the meantime we've arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, (HCMC) Viet Nam, the former Saigon. But before I get to that I need to talk a little bit more about Cambodia.

The third day we did our last tour of the temples. This was pretty nice, but a bit unnecessary as well. In two days you can see all of the most interesting ones. On the other hand it was a pretty relaxed day. One of the reasons we did a third day was that we had a 3-day pass, another reason was the fact that the battery of our camera was dead the before right about when we were visiting Preah Khan. So, we went back there for the pics. I really enjoyed that temple for the same reason I liked Ta Prohm: the awesome sight of the strangler trees. These huge trees grow right next to or on top of buildings. Their reeds go round and/or insert themselves in the stones of the structures. The buildings become unstable, but eventually they're held together by the strangles. Pretty dope sight.

In the evening we went out for some entertainment and food to a place called the Dead Fish Tower. It was recommended heartily by the local tourist guide for the free apsara dancing (the ritual hotties for the Hindus) and crocodiles. Like fools we walked into the tourist trap. The resto is different, in that they got several plateaus on which you can be served, making it a bit special. But then you've had the most interesting part. The dancing is ok, but not that exceptional. I expected to see the crocs displayed somewhere in the center of the room, but no such luck. They're stuffed in a corner of the room. The positive part is that the animals come from a breeding farm that closed. Instead of setting them free, after which they get killed and turned into handbags, the Dead Fish takes care of them. Nevertheless, it was expensive. I wanted to see the dancing (fool that I was). The next day we saw a flyer of a daily free show by Cambodian orphans. So, if you ever go to Siem Reap, skip the Dead Fish and go help orphans instead.After dinner, we were tempted by a Thai/Khmer massage. That was pretty violent I must say. Not bad, just rougher than expected. But hey, who can say no to being manhandled by young chicks?

Conclusion of our stay: Cambodia isn't a country you'd readily think of going to. This, however, does not mean it isn't worth going. People are very friendly, selling tactics are not as agressive as say Egypt, and it's quite beautiful. I can only speak for what I've seen during a brief stay in essentially one town (and surroundings).

And now to Ho Chi Minh. You move one country and there is a world of difference. Your basic SE Asia-ness remains, but whereas Cambodia (or at least Siem Reap) is a slowly developing country, Vietnam is steadily on the rise. We went from a small town to a big city. You immediately get the big city vibe of course. The first thing we noticed was the cleanliness of the streets though. Siem Reap is very dusty and there's dirt and trash all over the place. HCMC is paved almost all the way and there is as good as no trash. The second thing we noticed was the amount of traffic on the road. Ten years ago Vietnam's cities were filled to the brim with bicycles. Every street was a river of bicycles. These have been replaced by motorcycles. And a growing number of cars, quite a few I can't afford. The last time I was here (in 2004 if I'm not mistaken), the motorcycles were not all that young and the known Western music was still mostly about the eighties. Nowadays most of the bikes are new and accessorized: colors ranging from white to pink, drawings on the side and all kinds and colors of helmets you can see. There are actually entire shops dedicated to helmets alone. Another thing I noticed is the change in clothing , mostly of women. Back in the day most women wore simple pants and (mainly see-through) shirts. Now there is all kinds of clothing. Music has been updated as well. They even got local hip-hop (sort of) and r&b acts. The city is bustling and economically on the rise, that's very clear. Strangely enough, everything here is a lot cheaper than in Cambodia. And Ha Noi is supposed to be even cheaper. So we're holding off buying stuff here.

Today we did the tour of the historical city, which included the General Post office, the municipal house, and the erstwhile Opera house. All of these are French colonial style buildings. We also saw the Reunification Hall and the War Remnants Museum. The Reunification Hall is the former presidential palace where the American puppet regime, led by President Diem, ruled the south before the viet cong seized/liberated (depending on the point of view) the city and the region. Again, my mistake. I already saw it, and I'd forgotten that it's actually quite lame. You just get to see the former presidential rooms, which have been preserved in an early sixties time-warp. The War Remnants Museum tells the story of the Vietnam/American War through the eyes of the communist regime. Absolutely brilliant just to see how "the glorious Vietnamese people" have overcome "America's war of sabotage against the reunification" of the country. It's being renovated right now, meaning the top levels weren't open. As a result Hammy didn't get to see the bottled Napalm babies which used to be here (she didn't mind that much).

Tomorrow we're doing a trip of the Mekong Delta. We'll be seeing floating markets, islands, honey rhum.

dinsdag 10 maart 2009

Cambodia - Day 2 and 3

We started our tour of the temples today with the classics: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

Most of the constructions were build between the end of the 12th and the end of the 13th century. The Angkor kingdom was at its height during that period and lasted until the beginning of the 17th century. After this time the power shifted to the Khmer in the South, present day Pnom Penh. The temples were lost to history until the French rediscoverd them in the 1850's. Most of them are either dedicated to Hindu gods or Buddha, sometimes both. Their most exquisite features are statues and bas-reliefs.

Amgkor Thom consists of a series of temples, of which the most interesting one is called Bayon. It is not extremely large, but it contains very nice bas-reliefs on the outer walls and huge faces on the towers. These faces point in the four cardinal directions and represent the four buddhist virtues. The basic idea is that they send out these virtues to the world. The buddhist equivalent of a beauty queen wishing for world peace (remember Miss Congeniality).

Angkor Wat is the biggest (and most famous) temple complex. I say complex because it used to be a religious village within the enclosure on itself. It has a moat, a huge causeway flanked by nagas (mythological mulit-headed snakes), and a very large temple. It's very nice, but a bit of a letdown after Angkor Thom. See it as the difference between the Koekelberg Cathedral in Brussels and St Gudule or the Antwerp Cathedral: one is huge and fairly simple, the other is intricate and detailed. I have to admit though that the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat are quite impressive. Plus we got the see a monkey from upclose, that in itself made it worth the visit.

I'm not going to bore you with details from Ta Prohm. Suffice to say it was quite nice, but not as dope as the other two. But, when you're there it's worth the visit.

Since we're still recovering from jetlag we made it an early night after that.

Today we did another tour to some more temples: Bantaey Srei, Bantaey Samre, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean and Preah Khan. All of these were a lot smaller than the ones we did yesterday. They're less known, but that doesn't make them uglier. All well worth the visit. They had more of a nice and small character after the bombast of yesterday. Furthermore there were a heap less tourists, so we had some space and quiet. Those of you who want to know what they look like will have to wait for the pictures.

After a quick swim we'll be getting some food, we'll watch traditional apsara dancing (apsaras are supposed to be the hot chicks you get in heaven, as opposed to devadas who are chaste and no fun) and feed live crocodiles.

maandag 9 maart 2009

Cambodia - Day 1

Saturday morning Hammy and I took the plane at Schiphol Airport. The first time I went to Viet Nam (in 1996) with my family, it was with Singapore Airlines and it was brilliant. Since then I've been going on and on to Hammy about how good it was. For this reason we're flying with them again. The service hasn't changed a bit, in the sense that it was excellent once more. Very good service, proper food, ample leg room, and the hottest airhostesses in the business. Needless to say, Hammy (and me as well) was very pleased, especially since this her first time on a big plane. The 12 hours of flight were over in no time.

Our stop-over in Singapore was a bit of a letdown though. I had forgotten, or willfully blocked out, how expensive everything is. Even a simple coffee costs up to 8 euro.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, Cambodia, it was excrutiatingly hot. Moreover, the pick-up driver which the hostel was supposed to arrange wasn't there. No biggy, we took a cab, but it didn't bode well for our stay. The cabbie told us he couldn't park in front of the hostel, because else he might get a fine from the cops. We needn't worry however, since he could drop us of only a street away. Naively we agreed. After zigzagging 5 streets we arrived at the hostel. The room we got is big enough, it's relatively clean (as hostels go) and we have a view on a pagoda. Plus, there's an indoor swimming pool. So, at least that's alright.

After checking in we did a tour of the city. Siem Reap is actually quite small. In one afternoon we have seen most of what there is to see. We see practically all the markets, one of the 5 pagoda's and the former Royal gardens. Apart from that, there's only the Angkor history musem and the miniature temple complex. So basically we got it covered.

Today we started our tour of the Angkor temples, but that's a story for another post. I'm going to take a swim now.

vrijdag 6 maart 2009


We are mere hours away now from the holidays. Tommorow at 11 o'clock Hammy and I shall be flying to fair Cambodia, and from there on to Viet Nam. I'm finishing up my day of work. So ... the good times start now!

maandag 16 februari 2009


Funny as hell.

Crowley bio

Ruud Vermeer's Aleister Crowley chronicles the life of one of the more influential occult writers. Crowley is best known for his work on the Thelema religion and the controversies surrounding his way of life.

I first come into contact with his work on holiday. Someone I met on the road introduced me to his book on yoga and meditation. I only read the first 50 pages or so, but I was impressed by the clarity of his writing. Up until I didn't have the time to go deeper into his ideas. Since, he wrote quite a lot, it's good to know beforehand what is essential and what isn't. So when I saw this biography in a second-hand bookshop for a reasonable price I bought it immediately.

Unfortunately, the contents of this bio are a bit weak. Although all the aspects of his thinking and his life are there, the writing is not very captivating. Events just happen one after another and that's about it. Even when an attempt is made to explain some events or background to his ideas, it only scratches the surface. The book is good to give you a quick overview of Crowley's life and works, but nothing more than that. The author is clearly a fan of Crowley, nevertheless his description is not very flattering. After reading this book, Crowley strikes me as a narcissistic fils-à-papa, with a penchant for the occult and pompous poetry, who apparently had a certain amount of charisma.

zaterdag 14 februari 2009


My mom wanted to see the exposition Körperwelten (Body Worlds in English). At first I wasn't especially thrilled to go. I thought it was another artsy fartsy exhibit with dead people's bodies. But, since I did like the idea of doing something with my mom, off we went. In retrospect I'm actually glad she proposed it. The exhibit was surprisingly tasteful and expertly done. In reality it's not an art venue, but rather an educational exposition. The object is more about giving a lesson in anatomy 101. You start with a bare skeleton, and gradually the bodies get more fleshed out, as the next part is being explained. A visit should be made compulsory for med students, but also for high school pupils. The whole is very scientific, yet respectful. And I must admit I got schooled today in a pleasant manner.

vrijdag 13 februari 2009

A hat full of sky

A hat full of sky is the second Discworld novel in the Nac Mac Feegle series. It tells the story of Tiffany Aching, the new witch of The Chalk. At age 9 she got her calling, when the evil Queen of the Fairies kidnapped her little brother (see The Wee Free Men). Together with the clan of the Nac Mac Feegle she embarked on a rescue mission. The Feegle are little blue Scottish fairies, or Pictsies. The curse, fight, drink and steal, but they have great respect for the new 'hag' Tiffany. In this follow-up story Tiffany has become 11. She leaves her home to be an apprentice of witchcraft. She goes to work with Miss Level up in the Ramtop mountains. Although she is quite young, she's already full of power. This attracts a bodyless creature called a Hiver, who takes over her mind. With the help of the Wee Free Men and Granny Weatherwax she's able to overcome the entity.

The story is a natural follow-up in the coming-of-age story of a young witch. Although the story itself is not the most complicated or ornate one Pratchett has already written, it is perfect bedtime literature. Tiffany is a very likeable character because of her stubborness, and who wouldn't be charmed by a bunch of Feegles falling over each other trying to help her out? On the other hand, I do think more can be done with these characters than has been done to date.

vrijdag 6 februari 2009

Obama's transparancy

Everybody is saying nowadays how great the new US president, Barack Obama, is. So, I know that this post seems a bit "jump on the bandwagon", but still you gotta hand it to him. After 8 years of hearing that monkey mangling the English language on the news, it's refreshing to see someone who's got a clue as to what is going on in the world and is tech-savvy.

Obama has made a stance on how the US will evolve again to a more open and transparent form of government after the extreme secrecy of the previous administration. And at first sight he seems to mean it. Since his inauguration he has made some interesting changes that don't make it to the big media. On of his more important decisions was to revoke Bush EO 13233. The National Coalition for History noted that "The President today signed two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memoranda. These five documents represent a bold first step to fulfill his campaign promises to make government more responsible and accountable, to launch sweeping ethics reform, and to begin a new era of transparent and open government. . . . Finally, the Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution." Archives Next notes that he also signed the Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, in which he "instructs all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context."

Another small change to note, that is indicative of the new mentality, was blogged about by Jason Kottke. He noticed that the robots.txt file on the sit has been changed. This file tells search engine crawlers which content is OK to index, and is therefore searchable. The old text file contained almost 2400 lines. This is the new one: "User-agent: *Disallow: /includes/". Or put differently, everything we put online is free for all to see (including the Presidential blog!).

Enough Obama loving for now. Let's just hope he keeps his other promises as well.


I was really forward to last saturday. The plan was wake up round 'bout noon, eat something, pick up my man Reck to buy some records in Antwerp, go to the VK to see Capone-n-Noreaga. Instead I woke up with a killer migraine. Not the kind of pain that makes you wanna throw up, or lets you feel the contours of the inside of your skill, but more a persistent nagging ache in the frontal lobes that just won't go away. It finally did the next day, but it took 4 Dafalgan Codeines and 2 Immitrexes together with a lot of sleep. The good (?) news though was that apparently CNN was crap. The rhymes are still tight, but the beats suck (new school jiggy shit). So, at least I didn't lose €20. That's gotta count for something, right?

donderdag 29 januari 2009

Malus Darkblade: The Daemon's Curse

Dan Abnett & Mike Lee's The Daemon's Curse is the first in the Malus Darkblade series. Malus is a well-known character from the Warhammer fantasy tabletop game. He is a Dark Elf, who is especially cruel (even for his race). This series tells the story of how he gets possessed by the demon (or daemon if you will) Tz'arkan. The first installment recounts the events leading up to the possession.

Malus is a highborn Dark Elf, a noble, who has not been able to gather the amount of bounty which is expected given his place in society. On the instigation of his sister Nagaira he leaves the race's capitel Hag Graef in search of an unknown source of great power and wealth. During his search and travels, accompanied by a score of retainers, he basically gets in fights, captured and tortured all of the time. This is followed by him worming or fighting himself out of the predicament of the moment. It goes on like that right up until he gets possessed.

The description above doesn't really do justice to the crafty writing of the authors, but this is how the book feels. Things happen one after the other. There isn't a real deepening of the main characters, apart from Malus' cruelty and hateful temparement. Maybe I'm missing something because I'm not a Warhammer player. I only know what the game is about thanks to what some of my friends have told me about it and the few times I joined them. So for the Warhammer fans there might be an extra layer to the story that went straight over my head. In short, if you're not really into the whole Dark Elf thing, I wouldn't especially recommend the book. In my opinion Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 books are a lot more interesting (even for a 'layman' like me).

woensdag 21 januari 2009

Comin' to u live!!!!

There are some hip-hop shows comin' up. Next week we got Capone-n-Noreaga coming to Brussels at the VK (Vaartkapoen). They should have come to Belgium about ten years ago (at the time of the excellent War Report album), but that got cancelled. Prob'ly because Capone happened to be in parole violation right about then (again). But they're playin' now! And at the VK in Molenbeek. For those of you who don't know: that means not too many RnB chicks/dudes and hardcore beats all the way.

However I'm especially looking forward to the 24th of February. Check the rhyme - tour is coming to Gent, with none other than: Paris (The devile made me do it, Guerilla Funk), Lords of the Underground (Chief Rocka, Tic Toc), Alkaholiks (oo oooo!) and ... Jeru the Damaja! What a killer fucking line-up. So in the words of the Liks: One million beers to drink, choose one.

donderdag 8 januari 2009

Anderson's Long Tail

Chris Anderson launched in 2004 the Long Tail hypothesis in an article in Wired Magazine, which he reworked into the book The Long Tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. It is based on the graphical representation of a Pareto distribution. Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who saw that in 19th Century Italy 20% of the population controlled 80% of the country's wealth (this is why it is also known as the 80/20 rule). George Zipf saw the same phenomenon in the use of words. The most commonly used words (such as "the") account for the largest proportion of use. The frequency of words is inversly proportional to its rank in the frequency table. When you display this graphically you get what is known as a Powerlaw distribution. The high use of a limited amount of resources can be found in the "Head", while the low(er) use of a huge amount of resources can be found in the "Long Tail".

Anderson noted a similar distribution in online shops like iTunes (music) and Netflix (movie rentals). In bricks-and-mortar retail stores the amount of available items are limited because of real world limitations to shelf space and distribution issues. In the digital realm, the cost of an SKU is virtually zero. This means that the less mainstream items can also be placed in inventory. His research showed that in these cases selling a little of a lot can also contribute to profit. Simply put, business is ruled in most cases by a given level of scarcity. Thus the most viable business model is one that focuses on selling as much hits as possible, whilst avoiding losses. Anderson postulates that when confronted with more choice, people tend to buy more and with more variety. Niches become more important and generate revenue. In order not to be swamped by the multitude of niches good filters are absolutely mandatory. Filters are not the same as the traditional cultural gatekeepers.

Even though I'm not sure how pervasive the concept of the Long Tail is in the world-wide economy, I am convinced that (for now) in certain sectors and/or for certain ways of doing business it is a force to be reckoned with. Long Tail economics is an important new business model. The classic examples of Amazon, iTunes and Google have shown its viability. Anderson states his case in a convincing well written way. For anyone interested in how the internet is changing our way of living, this book is a must read (together with Weinberger's books). It is a perfect introduction to a new way of thinking about business. The natural follow-up read is Wikinomics, which provides a complementary insight. In short: heartily recommended.