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Nokia Lumia 1020 just plain rules

As soon as I blog this, the thing will probably break! But I’ve had it for just on seven months now and it hasn’t missed a beat. Battery life is about 1.5-2 days, call quality is good and it does exactly what it should do. It’s a smart phone, not a smart arse phone.

Now the real shock, I love using Windows 8 – on a phone. I’ve heard it’s hideous to use on desktop and a tablet. However I’ve had no problems so far running it on a smart phone. It just does what you need it to do and gets on with it.

Now this phone’s party trick is the 41 megapixel camera. As far as I can see it’s actually 36+5 megapixels. In other words it takes a ginormous photo and a regular one. So your phone doesn’t crap out loading up detailed pictures. A bit cheeky but fact of the matter is it takes pretty good pictures. For the first time ever, I went on holiday with just the phone and not a camera. No regrets. Just awesome shots.

In the office it integrates perfectly with Outlook mail too, as you’d expect. You can do a lot more with meeting invites too than you can on Android or iOS. The Office stuff is on there too but I haven’t actually had to use that very much. From what I’ve seen of Microsoft Excel on the phone though, it’s pretty good.

This does raise a point though. On the ads they show a dad at a school talent show in the back row zooming right in. Bullshit. I’ve been to the Nokia store and they couldn’t zoom in any further than I can either. That’s the one thing about it that’s bogus. You can still do some quite sophisticated exposurey stuff you wouldn’t expect to do.

Of course smug Apple puritans gawk at the size, or indeed anything non Apple. You can never convince them and frankly who cares. You’ll buy a new iPhone every time the one button on the thing conveniently breaks. Coincidentally about the time your contract is up for renewal and a bright, shiny new model is about to go on pre sale. I don’t really buy into that any more. Apple users are becoming scarily evangelical, like a bunch of Mormons or something. I’m just over the Apple stuff.

Even worse are the Android nerds. “Oh but the processor isn’t fast enough”, “the specs aren’t good enough”, “there’s a blah blah coming out that’s going to be better than that”… frankly I don’t care. It does what it needs to do and does it really well.

Having said that, I don’t know about the black background on everything so much. Possibly it’s black to save battery life. The only other disappointment, you can’t access Google Play or any other decent book stores (I read a lot of books on my phone). There’s a Kindle app but I found the book selection there surprisingly disappointing. Despite that all the apps you will ever need have been ported across to Windows. Just plenty of what you need and nothing you don’t.

So whether this phone is good for you will suit entirely on your disposition. But if you want something with good battery life, an awesome camera that’s a no fuss phone, then this thing is pure win.

Leaf Fielding To Live Outside the Law review

The name Leaf Fielding didn’t mean anything to me. What did resonate was the reference to Operation Julie. It was one of the biggest drug busts in British history ever and arguably one of the strangest. Watch this doco below to get the full story.

cover of Leaf Fielding's to live outside the law

leaf fielding to live outside the law cover

Without too much of a spoiler alert, Leaf was complicit in producing and distributing massive volumes of LSD in the 1970s. But this isn’t some Scarface gangster, ‘the world is yours’ hubris crap. This was way before the days of rap, hubris, gold grills and blinged up SUVs. Leaf was an out an out, tuned in, dropped out hippy. Someone whos eyes had been opened from a strict boarding school upbringing with a career driven military father.

What I loved about this book is that it starts where it finishes. He basically starts with being caught up in the massive police raid and being nicked. The book then rather brilliantly weaves the beginnings of his life with his life in maximum security scrubs. The contrast between the Technicolor eye opening youth, full of reckless travel and discovery with a bleakness of prison.

It’s fascinating because all this stuff happened. It’s fascinating because the world was that big hard to travel back then. It’s outstanding that LSD was both an enabler and a drug. These guys like many others didn’t think their actions were any more criminal than holding a church sermon. His life alone, travelling through Europe, South East Asia and all over England was interesting enough. But the whole Operation Julie thing pushes it over the cliff. Fielding was quite literally involved in such a rubicon moment of drugs and criminality that could never be repeated for decades.

To Live Outside the Law makes you question criminality and the value of life without adventure. It was easily the quickest I’ve read a book this year and very hard to put down.

Anyway here’s the Operation Julie documentary approx. 10 years old.

Paul Stanley autobiography review

So now I’ve completed the holy trinity of Kiss autobios: Ace, Peter and Paul. Yes I know there were four original members of Kiss, you know what’s his face… the bass player… um Chaim Wutz. I’d rather a blowtorch colonoscopy than the thought of even reading Gene Simmons talk about himself. Whatever he writes would be as self indulgent and disastrous as Mein Kampf. Anyhow, enough about that. Gene’s a great bass player, but for everything else, he should be neutered, muted and booted.

I’ve been very much looking forward to this book and it lived up to expectation. Paul definitely is the most level headed of the bunch. He practices a different kind of self indulgence. He has heaps to say about his very troubled family life and psychological issues. Although that might be a tad harsh, he does spill the beans a lot on how a messed up he’s been. You might even call it a bit brave to be so honest, revealing and at times earnest.

Stanley talks about all aspects of his career through the seventies, gaudy eighties and the reunions. He does have a bit of a go at former bandmates, but not without merit. After reading all three sides of story, it definitely sounds like Paul has done most of the heavy lifting in the band. Especially after the band became huge. He’s clearly not without his flaws and definitely not entitled.

What might be lacking is all the craziness, drugs and booze. Stanley’s clearly not into that. Thankfully he does remember some of the crazy shit that Ace and Peter mention in their books. One thing’s for sure, if he ever gets a ‘Celebrtity Roast’ he will have some actual friends attending up unlike Gene’s – the shocker that was.

So down to business. Should you read this book? Yes absolutely. he might be a bit too straight for some but the Star Child is the man. Nuff said. Read it!

Volkswagen Passat – it has a big boot

It has a big boot. That’s about all you can say about this car. It’s an unusual way to start a car review but if you have any interest in cars, please stop reading now. Driving the Passat is like death of a thousand paper cuts via your accountant. It’s beige inextremis. In other words it’s deathly boring.

I was driving this car by default as it’s what was on offer at Hertz Montreal. Given I only needed a car for the day to drive from Montreal to Quebec it was no big deal. It had a big boot (trunk if you’re American) and took all our luggage. I mean it took 2 full size suit cases and fairly large cabin bags effortlessly. With what it costs to rent cars here, that will have to do.

Clearly this is not a German built Passat. While it looks like it was hewn from solid stone from the outside, inside the plastics feel a little sub par. This car has 60,000 on the clock and the door skin was feeling a bit flimsy. So fit and finish isn’t great. It just feels a little bit cheap. The seats weren’t exactly rock hard like other Euro Volksys either which is a bit strange. So these Mexican built cars really aren’t as solid as their Seth Efrican or Euro forebears.

When it comes to the driving it’s uninvolving to say the least. It’s gutless when putting along in city traffic. Sure it cruises at highway speeds well enough. But the noise levels with winter tyres was at times unbearable. Worse still the noise of the engine under acceleration is like the sound of otters flaying. I don’t really know what it sounded like but it didn’t sound particularly good.

In fairness, it proved it can pony up those otters and accelerate hard onto highway entries when you really need them. It did soak up the bumps of Canada’s terrible roads (the winter takes quite a toll on the tarmac) quite well too.

It drank about 30 litres of fuel to get me from Montreal to Quebec via the long way, with plenty of sightseeing. Which to me seems reasonable but not amazing. But it certainly didn’t have the 1000k per tank range that the trip computer was promising.

All in all perhaps the Passat did an OK job. But the happiest moment was handing back the keys. It’s just a plain as the nose on your face car with no aspirations. At least my little Honda Civic still thinks it’s a motorbike.

Driving from Montreal to Quebec

Us Aussies have a lot to take for granted when it comes to driving. For better or for worse drive right hand drive cars. Driving on they go left takes a little getting used to but touch wood I find it no big deal. This drive in the Canadian spring though proved a little interesting. They have the arrow straight highways we have in Australia that hypnotise you with their repetitiveness and mundane 100 kph speed limits. While this is a journey worth making (train rides are for the lame), I thought I’d share with you a few learnings.

The fun didn’t start at the rental lot either. Getting a rental car in French Canada is about as interesting as going nightie shopping with your mum. The metallic charcoal coloured Volkswagen Passat on offer was about as good as the Montreal rental lot got. The exciting upgrade option was some mincing Dodge mini SUV, which we passed on. Once we hit the highway, It’s winter tyres rumbled along the highway so loudly, I thought we had an industrial boiler in the boot! It was expensive too. About $180 CAD will get you a regular sized car for the day insured. Be warned it’s not cheap!

There’s two main routes you can take to Quebec. We took highway 40 which takes about 3.5 hours because it’s more scenic. It passes through a few pretty little towns. My only advice to you is if the weather is as bad as what we had, then don’t bother with the scenic route. You won’t see anything through the blinding rain anyway. I think Highway 20 is the quicker router, where you’re guaranteed to see nothing, and would shave an hour off of your journey.

It might sound crazy to a Cannuck, but I couldn’t get used to the whiteness driving along the highway. There was melting white snow everywhere and constant water flare up from other cars  I found to be incredibly hard on the eyes and tiring. So take care if you decide to make this journey. Make sure you have a passenger and a few coffees to keep you awake too. You will need it. The good news is Canadian cars (at least in Montreal) have speedometers in kilometres per hour and temperatures in Celsius. At least in this weather I couldn’t see any speed cameras and only saw one cop. Once you’re out of Montreal, the locals tend to drive well over the speed limit.

Moving down the highway, I was watching the outside temperature as we barrelled along. It was about 12 degrees in Montreal. But every ten kilometres of so we got closer to Quebec, it was dropping a degree each time. Until we hit 4 degrees Celcius. It gets bloody cold! Seat warmers be praised.

As you get within Quebec city limits, it’s clear the local Cannucks are mad bastards. OK they live with this year in, year out. But where I’m from, when it’s raining cats and dogs and you can’t see 20 metres ahead, we’re not doing 130kph. It beggars belief that as I crawled along in the middle lane, Mr Cadillac Escalade is sipping a 40 oz latte while chatting on the cell phone is pounding down the highway full pelt, merrily tailgating anyone who dare impede his haste. At times my car was aqua planing (bouncing around left to right) in the lane because there was so much water built up on the road. Lucky I guess that Hertz didn’t have the 5lt Mustang I wanted to rent.

Once you’re in Quebec town, it’s not too bad at all. We dropped off the Passat and braved the weather to our hotel. Given we made this trip in the Spring, it wasn’t exactly the peak of winter. So my advice would be if you’re thinking about the journey, then keep watching the weather. If it is a bit average, don’t bother with the scenic route. Lame as it sounds, maybe even cancel your rental beige barge and go the train option instead. Not much fun seeing the sights in a white out!

Toast restaurant Quebec review

At the bottom of old Quebec city is a real treat. Toast is in its 11th year and loving life. The menu was ‘crowdsourced’ with all their customers’ favourite dishes of the past 10 years. While I’ve only been in Quebec 10 minutes, its clear as day they love to eat out. Thus toast is well on the money for repeat business.

what was so good about it? Well in true Quebec style you can get a side of foie gras with any main. I like that ‘screw you hippie’ defiance to the caring foodie. Second they had a dish that was piglet done 3 or 4 different ways. Oh yes and did I say home made bacon? You bet your Toyota Prius I did hippie. Overall an ambiance, warmth and obscenely decadent tastiness that would make any Francophile melt. The perfect compliment to a freezing Quebec night. Plus if not the best, easily the most memorable meal I’ve had in years.

Johnny Rotten Biography review

Clearly this book (No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish) has been out for quite some time. But it’s not got any less complex with age. As a huge Sex Pistols fan, I had been wanting to read it for a while. After finishing it I’m still not sure what to think of it. Is Rotten the world’s biggest wanker, humble lad come good, a charlatan or a Rhodes Scholar? What does he really think of his band mates? He clearly loves to create hyperbole and be the centre of it.

Perhaps the most interesting points of the book is him being groomed by Richard Branson. Being whisked off to Jamaica after the Sex Pistols break up to scout new reggae talent. Or perhaps how his dad and many of his mates had contributed chapters. Possibly him talking about going to a drag queen bar in redneck Atlanta in the deep south and upsetting the local queens.  But it doesn’t speak about any of the Public Image Limited days or anything. It’s almost like they never occurred. That was a bit disappointing. Especially given it would be a very interesting point ego wise for Mr Rotten.

It was always going to be full of Nancy Spungen hating drivel (well that’s not the word but there’s plenty of it). I’m just more perplexed for reading this book than having not about Mr Rotten. Although I can’t help but feel that was entirely the point. If I understood it correctly (and I think it’s perhaps too high falutin for me) he wants you to decide for yourself. I don’t recall one myth or rumour he tried to dispel in this book. Congratulations Mr Rotten, you’re still a jolly great enigma. But I still don’t know why I love you for it!

Please Kill Me. Punk Rock Book review

This has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while. After seeing Legs McNeil in The End Of the Century: The Story of the Ramones and the more recent CBGBs movie, it shot straight up the list.

It’s a motley collection of scrapbook entries and fanzine interviews from the heart and soul of seventies New York. Like you’d imagine it goes far deeper than say The Ramones or Television. Like psychotherapy deep. It starts with the Andy Warhol factory era and goes from there. Anyone and everyone is covered in between. Particularly Danny Fields, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Dee Dee Ramone, Sid Viscous and the Dead Boys amongst many, many others. Heaps of rag tag drag queens and star fuckers that made the scene back in the day.

At times it’s a dirty, gratuitous and obscene look at the New York that was. A place seemingly run by rent boys, junkies and starving artists with amphetamine habits and switch blade knives. Where girls made big money pulling tricks in massage parlors or in the back of some stranger’s Cadillac. Please Kill Me, spares nothing while taking you on this dark journey. This is not the sanitised Time Warner, Disneyland version of Time Square we know and loathe today with a Starbucks on each corner. And the sleaze drips from each scuzzy page as you read it.

The way Legs McNeil has managed to juxtapose all these clippings into something so meaningful and enjoyable is inspiring. At times it’s a little hard to read, but then equally hard to put down. These are not the stories your granddad will tell you. You wouldn’t have to anyway. If it were real you could see it in his track marks, tattoos and scars. This book is so nasty, I hid all the spoons before bringing it into the house. A definite must read.

The Lisbon thieves market

Once a place for gypsies to sell their stolen wares (thus the name) some things never change at the thieves market. They just get more trendy and organised. There’s honestly not much you won’t find at the thieves market, which is truly a Lisbon institution. You can catch the tram there on a Tuesday or a Saturday (an experience in itself) and truly lose yourself for a few hours.

Depending on which end of the market you go to is a measure of how ‘real’ it gets. Up one end there’s trendy clothes stores, designers, middle class types with weekend flea stalls and antiques. Up the other a lot of down trodden immigrant Portuguese selling mobile phones off a sheet on the ground that look like they were stolen yesterday. Honestly though, at no point did it feel unsafe (you have to watch out for pick pockets in Lisbon anyway). Europe being Europe, one bloke was selling hardcore porn and two dozen (unused) condoms and thought nothing of it. You have to be pretty hard on your luck when you’re selling off your last two dozen condoms. Hey it is a global financial crisis. EU leaders, time to act!

To balance it out there’s the trendy designers. My wife found a ring that was like a goat in an old fashioned kitchen jar. ‘In English a dog is a bitch’ said its designer. ‘But in Portuguese, a goat is a bitch. So this is my bitch ring’ she proudly proclaimed. If that isn’t originality I don’t know what is. Other weird and interesting stuff like a Sagres (Portuguese beer from the south coast) bottle from the 30s and some original 1955 Michelin road maps. These were like the Lonely Planet of their time, detailing Bed and Breakfasts and taverns on the journey between European cities. Not bad for 50 cents.

You will honestly find pretty much anything here. Not that I saw it, but I was told by some local Portuguese guys that there’s one or two stalls selling vintage World War II Nazi memorabilia. ‘I don’t like that kind of shit, but it was pretty impressive’ he said between sips of his pint in a local bar. This guy being a tour guide that takes foreigners there weekly. The odd piece of Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) propaganda also makes an appearance. These guys liberated Portugal the first time from its dictators. In these hard economic times the party is making a come back on the streets of Lisbon and Porto.

Amongst the bourgeois bric-a-brac I found a vintage 45 vinyl Kiss single and some killer punk vinyl. Even a bizarrely rare Portuguese vinyl pressing of a Rose Tattoo record, the seminal Aussie hard rock band. Times being tough, heaps of reluctant DJs are selling their vinyl. Luis, a one vendor looked a little pissed when I started to haggle over a Ramones record. He looked at me and then gave in ‘OK, because it’s going to a good home’ he said. Never relenting in his eye contact. He then spent the next 10 minutes taking me through his collection of rock and old Portuguese post punk. Luis reckoned there was only one club in Lisbon for punk and rock in the 1980s. It’s amazing how far this city has come. A story that the people here can tell you.

If there was one thing that the market lacked it was probably good food. Venture back into Rossio square for that. But a day at the thieves market is well spent. It’s definitely a Portuguese experience and nothing fake about it.

Tony Iommi biography review

Let’s get something clear. Tony is a Brummy. A laconic, hard as nails Birmingham underdog that made something of himself big time. Something put the fear of god in him at an early age and his determination assured his success.

How Black Sabbath managed to turn their upbringing in Nazi bomb levelled Birmingham into one of the most successful rock (I stress rock, not heavy metal) bands in history beggars belief. That is why this book is so worth a read. For blokes that couldn’t afford shoes AND a change of clothes, they’ve done well. Within five years of starting they were rolling in Rolls Royces.  This book walks you through the highs and lows of all of it – Sabbath and beyond.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the shortness of the chapters. The book starts in the most laconic possible way. He’s slow to open up, tight lipped and complex. But as you read it becomes very cool indeed. He even admits to a few home truths about the Spinal Tap film. Essential though, Iommi’s story is a rarified one of a factory worker come very, very good. In a time where rock and roll needed to explore its darker side. And who better than Tommy and Ozzy to bring it to life. This book is well worth a read.