Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Halloween with DJ Towa Tei

DJ Towa Tei a.k.a. Jungle DJ Towa Towa emailed me about a week ago asking about cool places to visit in San Francisco. He is a world famous DJ and music producer who has worked with Bjork, Kylie Minogue, Jungle Brothers, Biz Markie and Mos Def, among others and had a dance hit with Deee-lite. I kinda know him because he is also a customer of my art website's shop. He also has bought stuff from my friend Erik too who lives in San Francisco. Towa agreed to have us show him around when we offered. He was strictly in the city to check out art mostly Barry McGee. Since music is his profession and he was sorta on vacation, he wasn't interested in going to clubs or record shops like Erik and I thought. In a way, I can understand that. We picked him up downtown, he was smoking underneath the overhang at the side entrance of his hotel. Erik parked the car on the street and we got out and introduced ourselves. He was a short, thin man. He had short, thin (not thinning) hair and wore thin, clearish eyeglass frames. He was not sporting the thick, bob haircut and black, thick eyeglasses that I was expecting. No one would know who he was even if he went in a record store. He was very softspoken, but spoke English very well and was pretty talkative. He researched a lot about San Francisco and had a lot of questions. We talked a lot about art and Erik and I occasionally asked him about music. From what I remember, Towa has a new album coming out around March and he will also have a book of photos released about the same time. The front and back cover will be Barry McGee artwork. No t-shirts or anything else will be reprinting the art, as requested by Barry. Since Towa has sort of a business / friend relationship with Barry, he planned to visit him sometime though he has never met him. He planned on showing us a picture of the album cover from his laptop (at the hotel) because he didn't want it leaked on to the public on the web yet. Because of the busy day, we didn't have time to see it. We first went to Southern Exchange gallery and looked at the artist box sets. Barry McGee had some photos in a stitched envelope printed with one of his characters. Then we drove to Alemany Flea Market. Towa was hoping to find some art. We then looked at the graffiti walls of Pyscho City with the tribute to Mike Dream. Dream was a gifted graffiti artist who was shot a while ago. Erik and I met him and Vogue at the train tracks near Fruitvale in Oakland many years ago. He and his crew (TDK?) dominated the area at that time. And he was a nice guy to us being toy writers, at least I was one. Towa, Erik and I then went to West Portal where Towa took pictures through the driveall the way there. Then we went to the Super7 store in Japan town. I bought a zine by Josh Cochran. His art looks like David Choe - from of his drawing style, I guess Josh went to CCAC too. We then went to Kinokuniya (large bookstore) across the street. Yeah, Towa was not recognized even in Japan town community where I think he is even more popular or recognized in Japan. We then went to Erik's house and talked and looked at Erik's art collection. I joked with Towa that I had a demo CD to give him. He said yeah, he'd like to hear it. I said I was only kidding. I thought he'd get tired of getting CDs from people all the time. He doesn't mind. He said he didn't like when people try to sound like him or someone else and appreciates people who are original. I guess some people probably make demo cds based on what they think Towa wants to hear. We took Towa back to his hotel. He didn't even officially check in to his room yet and he wanted to rest. We left Towa and I had dinner with Erik and his wife at Tai Chi on Polk Street. On the BART train home that evening it was a funny site to see all the Halloween costumes of the people in San Francisco. I saw trains and stations full of revelers on their way to the city. Yep, Halloween came to a close quickly for me as I arrived to home in time to catch my kids going to bed for the evening.

Buyer Beware #1 / High Tech Woes Part 2

Maybe you have previously read about my purchase of Home DVD Recorder. Well all is resolved as much as can be so I can give the details of it and my other purchase warnings. I bought an Aspire Digital Home DVD Recorder model AD-8091. It was $200 ($150 with rebate) from A great price I thought but I've had a lot of problems with it. Once customer support at Aspire (which took a few emails at the company website) confirms it is a defective machine, I get a case number to give to ECOST to get a return request (RMA). I had to buy another machine to replace it and would be credited when ECOST got the return. I was pretty scared that I was being billed for 2 machines. I have 30 days since the recorder was sent to return but I waited til I got the 2nd machine to compare and not leave myself without a DVD player. When I got the new DVD recorder, I noticed it had the same problem. What can I do? I took the old machine to Fedex to ship back because I had to get it back within 3 days. Shipping cost like $40. ECOST pays for return shipping if you fax them the receipt but only for GROUND SHIPMENT. I used a slow overnight method because I was sure they weren't gonna pay $80 to overnight a $150 recorder. No one specifically told me I had to ship ground but that I had to return it in 30 days and return shipping would be paid. ECOST told me they were only gonna pay me $25 for the shipping. I didn't argue, I was happy they accepted the return that was probably a day late. And I chalk it up to learning a lesson, so read on. BE WARNED: As of my experience, ECOST's policy is if you return something, you are charged a 10% restocking fee when the box is unopened. If you return something opened and it is not confirmed to be defective, you are charged a 50% restocking fee. You pay for the return postage in those cases too. Not when the product is confirmed defective. Also at ECOST, the website has banners all over the site that say FREE SHIPPING. Yes technically shipping is free but they charged me about $5.95 for HANDLING. My advice is always look at the small print. But in general be wary of return policies especially when you buy big ticket, heavy items. Now so my DVD player still has problems. I emailed Aspire's support dozens of times trying to find solutions. They will take it back and see if it is defective which no one is really sure. BUt I don't want to have to ship again and be without a recorder and then what if they said they don't see a problem??? I told the tech guy to check the one I returned to ECOST. He said he would probably not see it for a while. I pretty much left it at that. I have a year warranty I think in case something really goes wrong. My recorder is workable I guess. I eventually found a website where I read reviews of a lot customers of the same product that had a lot of problems. I can't find the link right now, but I think it was a shopping site.

Buyer Beware #2 / Heroe's Club - Art of

I bought what I thought was a KAWS Accomplice (pink bunny) vinyl figure at Heroe's Club / for like $34 + $10 postage/tax (originally when released approx. $99) and it turned out to be a cheap, plastic, badly painted bootleg figure. I emailed KAWS for help and he confirmed it was a bootleg but said he could not stop the store from selling bootlegs (for whatever reason). Art of Toy claim it was listed as a product in KAW's style but didn't necessarilly mean it was made by KAWS. I immediately emailed back and asked if people can make Mickey Mouse toys and say Walt Disney's Style?? That's straight up forgery in my opinion. Now if it was a Green Turtle figure that said KAWS style - I would have been cautious about buying it because I'm not sure it exists. But it was a Pink Bunny figure which KAWS has really made called the Accomplice. Art of Toy are total frauds. I bought a Michael Lau figure from them before for a cheap price and now I am worried it is a bootleg too. You cannot return clearance items, but after complaining, Art of Toy offered to accept return at 30% restock and I would have to pay postage. 30% is a joke. I counter-offered $25 credit back and I would keep the figure or they could pay me extra to ship the figure back. I figured it was a reasonable settlement because they probably got the bootleg in Hong Kong for $5. Art of Toy responded with the same email about returning it for 30% restock fee but the text was larger and bolder. They did not answer any of my bootleg issues or settlement issues. I said screw them and wanted full refund including return postage if they wanted it back. So I emailed them I would file a claim with the Santa Clara County Consumer Protection Unit. A non-bias mediater reads the case and tries to make a settlement. A woman from the SCCCPU calls me and says well it said KAWS style and I argue my case with the lady. KAWS makes a pink bunny figure called Accomplice and Art of Toy sells a pink bunny that is not made by KAWS but in KAWS style. I had to reiterate these are not just kids toys, they are collectable, limited made art pieces. KAWS' name is being devalued by hundreds of dollars. She realized what I was saying and would talk to a D.A. about pursuing charges. Then I get a call a few days later from her that Art of Toy will give me a full refund if I return the item. I ask if they are paying for my postage to send it back and she said she didn't ask them for that. I said well what about them selling bootlegs? She says that only KAWS, the artist can file a complaint against them with a lawyer. I decided to mail the figure back to Art of Toy with the cheapest postage. It was only like $1.35, so I added a tracking number for $.55 cents thinking those crooks would probably say they never got it. Well eventually they credited me the money but I thought they were very rude when I emailed them about it - they said I should ask my bank about the money. Would you take that as rude? KAWS recommended I tell everyone about my experience with Art of Toy so people will avoid them and that is what I am doing. I know they get community awards in San Francisco and get voted best toy store in the city and even COMPLEX magazine mentions them as a place to go, but I am saying they are frauds and they are very rude when they get questioned on it. They admitted it was a FAKE to the Santa Clara County Protection Unit but said they only get a few of those. Like that makes it any better. Buy your legit figures at or

Buyer Beware #3 /

Straight Up I email them and ask if they sell burned CD copies or do they sell the actual DJ issued releases because I've gotten CD copies before. The guy, Big Mike emails me and says they only sell the originals. Guess what? After spending $40 bucks with them, what do I get in the mail? Burned copies with cheap labels. The CD inserts are even cut the wrong size and keep slipping out of the CD case. Tell me, have you ever bought a CD and the the insert keeps slipping out of the case? I don't think so. I found these guys while searching for the cheapest priced mixtapes and I tell you, now you know why they are cheap. Anyways, Mike Paypals me back the refund but then I have to pay the PayPal fee to accept it. Oh well, I've learned that the Santa Clara County Consumer Protection Unit wouldn't do crap about it. These mixtape burning fools are the worse because it's like they're printing money. DO NOT BUY from them because for a dollar or so more you might as well get the limited-made original made from the DJ's master.