Pro-ject Debut III turntable review

A word of warning to anyone that’s not yet an audiophile – turntables are a gateway drug for more addictive high quality audio equipment! In the past I’ve been a bit pragmatic and cheap with audio gear. But there comes a point when you can’t be bothered with bargain basement, consumer stuff from your national chain department store. Or perhaps you don’t like the look of some gaudy plastic black box in your flash living room. With its tacky, mass produced digital screen flashing useless information at you with all the subtlety of a Bangkok strip bar. Forget that. It’s not my thing! It will only last you until your next eBay purge or council hard rubbish day. Pro-ject turntables are a whole new frontier. They are not gaudy and they are definitely not cheap.  Their cheapest turntable is approx $500 and you don’t get much for your money on paper. My Debut III turntable comes in red base and an Ortofon cartridge or ‘needle’ (I don’t know much about turntables). I think the base is made of MDF, not even wood (the wood models cost a lot more). It doesn’t even have a button to select between 45 and 33 speeds! There’s no automatic on/off for the record. So you get that ‘ca-chunk, ca-chunk, ca-chunk…’ once the record finishes playing until you stop it. What you do get though is absolute quality. The finish is flawless and the quality of the whole arm and needle is amazing. It reaks of something you would give to your grand kids. Just by looking at it, you know it’s made in...

Reflections on Japan

It’s said absence makes the heart grow fonder. I can vouch that this is absolutely true of Japan. After visiting in 1991 I have vowed to go back. Despite a high Aussie dollar making Europe being relatively accessible I finally succumbed to the addiction in May of 2010. Some itches have to be scratched. It’s not difficult to be a Japanophile. Far beyond the desert bling of the middle east Japan manifests everything that’s good in this world, whilst hiding its brutality in plain sight. Perhaps Japan was the first Asian country to binge on Western opulence; to celebrate en primeur French champagne vintages, gorge itself on grain fed beef and the latest flaunt Louis Vuitton handbags. They still do this in abundance, but in a world of Cantopop and Asian subtleties Japan has no problem expressing each and every pop cultural phenomenon known to man. All with a dedication that is inspirational rather than insipid.   It seems the Chinese copy their style in a muted, toned down inoffensive way, but are yet to add anything to the palette. That’s what makes Japan so amazing. Walking through the streets of Ginza in Tokyo, on the surface little has changed. Cadillac Escalades drive past Italian wine bars all the time while bums sell papers on the street. At night those same bums are there sleeping in makeshift tents, having barely moved an inch. Unlike Japan of nearly 20 years ago, even Ginza shows signs of hard times. Once famous for $20 coffees, the lofty mock Fifth Avenue Ginza now has senior citizens working the local McDonalds and espresso served...

Microsoft. Will they ever learn?

So I’ve been using Microsoft Hotmail for a while because I’m a little bit paranoid about Gmail. If only because Google have your mail, web analytics tracking, calendar, browser, applications, potentially everything they would ever want to know about a human being. Which brings me to my point. Frankly you could never expect much of Hotmail. It’s a lo-fi “me too!” approach to online services. They bought it from an Indian guy years ago who was experimenting (Hotmail being kind of an acronym of HTML – HoTMaiL) and kinda grafted a Microsoft head on it in some Frankensteinesque way. Then of course they leave it out to pasture for years until Google kicks their arse into online oblivion. Harsh, but pretty much true. Yes the functionality has improved over time, but it’s still not cutting edge. And for such a lo-fi experience, you wouldn’t expect ads from the bleeding edge would you? And rightly so because Microsoft are now advertising the new Hotmail to existing users! In what must be the most poorly executed online campaign since I was organising online campaigns, there’s a ‘the new Hotmail is here’ banner appearing in Hotmail. Better still, when you click it, you are taken to some ridiculous page of a guy in a hoodie asking you to sign up for the service. But I’m already a customer. Then the schpeel about how great it is makes it look like it’s not actually live yet. Golly I’m confused. Well with campaigns this poorly executed, hopefully big brother at Microsoft can be trusted not to be able to do anything too intelligent spying...

The truth about the Israeli art scam

OK, a while ago I posted something about an Israeli art scam occurring in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne. And for a two bit blog like this one the response has been overwhelming, 80 comments of peoples experiences all over the world and counting. From Brisbane to Ireland to Arizona, people have been having so called Israeli art students knocking on their door with a folio full of student canvasses for sale. Whether or not this is a con or not depends on your moral disposition. It is a con if you don’t like people lying to you or being grossly ripped off. Some of you seem to think that this is the essence of capitalism. The culprits of this scam probably go with the Israeli bit because of poor old Israel always getting bombed in the news and what have the Jews done to anyone (a hem, MOSSAD! But let’s stick to the point). In this sense it is a scam. It’s highly unlikely that they’re Israeli. They’re just backpackers. And because of the all the bohemian Israeli hippies that travel the world (we saw a bunch in Peru), it’s a lovable and harmless persona for some unsuspecting homemaker cooking dinner to be surprised by. The other way is it’s guaranteed not student art – Jewish or otherwise. They are reproduction paintings of more famous art, made in a factory probably somewhere in China. What is consistent is at poor quality canvases and very inferior inks are used. They’re typically not going to look great forever. Just think, Ford could paint your car with crappy paint, but...

Eight things to do in Kuala Lumpur

OK, twice in a month I’ve been asked what are some cool things to do in KL if you only have a few days in town. I put this list together for a friend and thought it might be useful for some. These are selected highlights. Virtually all of them will be between 30 minutes to an hour from your hotel if you’re staying within KL city. So all very doable in a short time frame and a massively cool experience. 1) Go to the KLCC observation deck. it’s a big fucking tower!!! You have to climb a big fucking tower! Like how the fuck COULDN’T you climb one! It’s easy, i didn’t. But if you want to go, they only let like 5000 up to the observatory bit every day. Shopping is OK in KLCC, nothing I haven’t seen anywhere else. Watch it when you step outside though, the heat REALLY hits you in about 300 metres! Perhaps a cab to your destination might be a good idea if you’re not crazy about humidity. N.B. KL really isn’t that accessible, especially if it’s raining because you get covered in pollution. And when it’s hot, you’ll walk about 500 metres and have sweat right through your clothes! This is not really an exaggeration. You’ve been warned! Oh yeah, everything is negotiable – retail or market stand. Don’t like take any shit from no one lady! 2) See the view from KL Tower. So damn high the elevator ride is a few minutes. You can have quite a conversation going to the top. It is cheaper and easier to get...