Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I personally love Rick Steves comments on traveling abroad and often reference his books on places to see and things to do in any given city, with the focus of getting more bang for your buck.
One of the things I love to do is visit flea markets and thrift shops around the world and bartering for that unique piece as a souvenir. I like doing that better than buying something that says "Paris," and it's made in "Taiwan." (I'll go to Taiwan too someday, I hope, and when I do, I won't be looking for something that says "Made in Timbuktu.")
And I've found some amazing things, from a leather jacket for $10 in Amsterdam, to another leather jacket in Belgium for $20, to a Stieff, rare, stuffed elephant on the banks of the Seine for $20.
Let me explain the plethora of leather jackets. I seem to have this habit of misreading the weather, and ending up places sans proper attire. I guess because I have so much to pack, the jacket is the last thing I think of? I don't know.... :-) But never fear. It's also an excuse to head to the nearest bargain hunters street and find something neat to take home. And...
It's just fun! I'd do it anyway!
Reading over Rick's comments, it also struck me that you can apply these same techniques to flea markets, garage sales, and antique fairs here at home in the US as well.
I'm lucky enough to live in NYC, and I have my pick of amazing places to frequent.
But I'm sure you do too. Check your local listings, find the Canton Flea Market of your region, and give it a whirl.
And then...Let me know about your great finds!
(Above, on the beach in Gijon, Spain, with one of the leather jacket finds from the Amsterdam flea market.)
"Top Tips for Bargaining at Europe's Markets"
by Rick Steves
At Europe's lively open-air markets and bazaars, bargaining for merchandise is the accepted and expected method of setting a price. Whether you are looking for door knockers or hand-knitted sweaters, seize the chance to bargain like a native. It's the only way to find a compromise between the wishful thinking of the seller and the souvenir lust of the tourist.
Bargaining can be fun if you learn how to haggle. Among many good markets to practice your skills are Amsterdam's Waterlooplein, London's Portobello Market, Paris' Puces St. Ouen, Madrid's El Rastro, and Tangier's Souk. Caution: Pickpockets enjoy flea markets as much as you do—wear your money belt.
When browsing, first determine if bargaining is appropriate. It's bad shopping etiquette to "make an offer" for a tweed hat in a London department store. It's foolish not to at a Greek outdoor market. In Venice, walk away from knock-off goods; the sellers and even the buyers are subject to fines.
To learn if a price is fixed, show some interest in an item, but say, "It's just too much money." You've put the merchant in a position to make the first offer. If he comes down even two percent, there's nothing sacred about the price tag. Haggle away.
Snoop around and find out what locals pay. Prices can vary drastically among vendors at the same flea market. If prices aren't posted, assume there's a double price standard: one for locals and one for you. I remember thinking I did well in Madrid's flea market, until I learned my Spanish friend bought the same shirt for 30 percent less.
To avoid a bad case of buyer's remorse, decide what an item is worth to you before beginning to haggle. Many tourists think that if they can cut a price by 50 percent they are doing great. So the merchant quadruples his prices, and the tourist happily pays double the fair value. The best way to deal with crazy price tags is to ignore them. In determining the item's value to you, consider the hassles involved in packing it or shipping it home. (If a merchant ships an item home for you, remember to have a picture taken of yourself with the item and merchant; it will help you get the item replaced in case it arrives in pieces.)
When you're interested in an item, look indifferent. As soon as the merchant perceives the "I gotta have that!" in you, you'll never get the best price. He assumes Americans have the money to buy what they really want. Your job is to determine the merchant's lowest price. Many merchants will settle for a small profit rather than lose the sale entirely. Promise yourself that no matter how exciting the price becomes, you won't buy. Work the cost down to rock bottom, and then walk away. That last price the vendor hollers out as you turn the corner is likely the best price you'll get.
Work as a team with your spouse or a friend. While you bargain, your companion can act the part of naysayer, threatening to squash the deal entirely. This trick can work to bring the price down faster.
Study ahead, especially if you want to buy something more substantial like a leather coat or a big-ticket item like a Turkish carpet. Istanbul has very good leather coats for a fraction of the US cost. Before my trip I talked to some leather-coat sellers and was much better prepared to confidently pick out a good coat in Istanbul's bazaar.
Obey the rules. Don't hurry. Bargaining is rarely rushed. Show you are serious by taking the time to talk with the shopkeeper. Dealing directly with the owner can lower the price (no sales commission).
If you are truly ready to buy, show the merchant your money. Physically hold out the amount you are offering to pay for whatever you are bickering over. The seller will be tempted to just grab your money and say, "OK."
Prices can drop at the end of the day, when merchants are starting to pack up. Swoop in at closing time to snap up the real deals.
If the price is too much, move on. Never worry about having taken too much of the merchant's time. Vendors are experts at making the tourist feel guilty for not buying. It's all part of the game. Most merchants, by local standards, are financially well-off.
It's true that you might find the same souvenirs in a large department store, with a firm price. But where's the fun in that? Store shopping can be quicker and easier—but it's never as memorable.
Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at email@example.com and follow his blog on Facebook.
Here's the original link to the Steves article: http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-advice/how-to-bargain-at-europe-markets.html?id=9385331&source=91&value=2011-10-24+00%3A00%3A00&u=F443465D01&nl_cs=9121187%3A%3A7597281%3A%3A9385331%3A%3A
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
One of my old Marvel Editorial cohorts, Daryl Edelman, just had one of his photos used as a sign of the times. This one may go down in history, Daryl. A picture does say a thousand words... and more. Classic!
This just in. Artist and comics creator Michael Golden has been asked by WonderCon to be an official guest at the 2012 show. It will mark Michael's first time appearing at WonderCon. More details to follow. He is very happy to accept this honor. And hope to see some of you at the show!
(Above: Batman Sketch by Michael Golden. Michael Golden and Renee Witterstaetter traversing the Great Wall of China, circa 2009.)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
New York Comic Con starts today in Manhattan at the Javits Center on the West Side, and Eva Ink Artist Group will have a bevy of talented artists and writers on hand to sign and sketch to your heart's content.
Just another reason to love the Big Apple, is the opportunity this show provides to watch some of the top names in the illustration business and sequential art at work in an amazing multi-media venue.
With Eva Ink Artist Group will be writer/artist Michael Golden at F-10, writer, publisher and agent Renee Witterstaetter at F-9, fine art painter and illustrator Mark Texeira at F-8, artist Steve Scott at F-7, aritst Rodney Ramos at F-6 and writer Ric Meyers at the Media Blaster's booth on the show floor.
All the talent will have books and prints for sale, and the artists will be sketching on site.
To get on the sketch list in advance of your arrival, contact Renee at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or come by her table at the show. And check out the Eva Ink Artist Group website at: www.evainkartistgroup.com
For more information on the NYCC, go to: www.newyorkcomiccon.com
See you at the NYCC!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Here's a new interview with artist Michael Golden, now on YouTube.
I say "new" but by the presence of the ubiquitous pony tail, it's probably about 1 year old. I'd say from Wizard Chicago in 2010, probably.
Nevertheless, as the Golden One says, his viewpoint has not changed since then. He's a pretty constant fella. :-)
Here's the link:
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Listening to the news tonight about the passing of the Einstein of our era, Steve Jobs, I heard excerpts of this speech. Very interesting. Give it a read.
This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The award consists of a ceramic Ladybug…about 3 x 2.5… made in China, smiling a mischievous smile, and I'm told, bought in the dollar store down the street.
But to me, it's priceless.
Simple because of whom it was presented by and what it represents.
Two weeks ago in Spain, surrounded by people I have come to think of as wonderful friends, at the closing of the Jornadas of Comics in Aviles, I was presented with the "Most Asturian Award," at the closing ceremonies.
It's a Gala event!
Every year at the Aviles Festival--which I've been attending now for five straight years-- the organizing committee takes about $20 and goes to that aforementioned bodaga to buy roughly 12 items that are all the same, and that will serve as the "Oscars," for the closing ceremony.
Seeing what the silly, cute, whimsical statuettes will be each year is half the fun. The other half is hearing the categories! Which are whimsical themselves!
"The Coolest Guest"--which often goes to the person who works the hardest with the most glee.
"The Guest Who Traveled the Furthest"--Self Explanatory
"The George Perez Award"-- For the guest that embodies the spirit of the show the most. Named after George on his first visit to Aviles years ago.
"Coolest Companion of an invited Guest"-- Which goes to one of the fantastic wives or husbands or significant others there with an invited guest--and we've had some great ones over the years!
"The Night Owl Award"-- The Guest who leaves the bar last every night. And yes, we've had some great ones of those too. I remember the year Steve Dillion and Joe Jusko were both vying for the honor and the competition was fierce! The battle now legendary.
"The Ron Garney Award"-- For the best looking guest. Named after Ron on his visit to Aviles. I think he left an impression!
There are more, but you get the point! It's all in great fun.
And of course my award this year, "The Most Asturian Award."
Now, you may ask, what does this mean?
Asturias is the region of Spain which has existed since before the Middle Ages. The autonomous community is bordered by Cantabria to the east, by Castile and León to the south, by Galicia to the west, and by the Bay of Biscay to the north. The area have been coveted by the Celts, the Moors, the Romans....and many others. Later after being assimilated into Spain, Asturias itself played a large part in the colonization of the Americas. It's sister city is St. Augustine, Florida.
You can read about the unique history of this land here:
The culture is amazing, and heavily Celtic influenced, as mentioned above. A type of kilt is the national costume, along with a unique type of three prong wooden shoe and bagpipes. (I always love hearing the sound of bagpipes in the morning across the town square.)
The national drink: A type of cider from the numerous apple orchards in the area, that must be aerated by pouring it from a height into a very thin, specifically shaped glass. They say you break many before you get the pour just right! The taste can best be described as "zingy." The glass is passed around and everyone drinks from the same vessel. After drinking most of the contents, it is customary to splash a little out onto the ground, as a way to clean the glass of any lees for the next pouring. (I love this tradition of sharing cider. So gregarious.)
Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales, are also famous throughout Spain and beyond; Asturias is often called "the land of cheeses" (el país de los quesos) due to the product's diversity and quality in this region.
The traditional country houses on the rolling green hills are on stilts, and totally unusual in their design.
The local jewelry is made from a jet black stone that is often carved into fists, which ward off evil. (You can't buy one of these for yourself. It must be given to you.) The pottery is black too.
And the national dish is Fabada-- Oh man! Simmered white beans with shoulder of pork (lacón), black sausage (morcilla), and spicy sausage (chorizo). I LOVE it!
So you see, after all this time, I've learned a thing or two about Austrias and my two favorite cities there: Gijon and Aviles. That much is obvious...
But why me as "Most Austrian?"
When I see those cured ham hocks hanging from the ceilings, I have NO idea the best direction to carve them, or how thin for the optimum taste, and I certainly have NOT mastered the all important pouring of the cider.
I'd like to think-- which I guess is probably the case-- that my dear friends in Aviles gave me the award because, well, I simply love the place so much.
From the moment I first heard of Aviles from artist Rodney Ramos, and I venture there with artist Michael Golden for the first time five years ago, I was at ease, and felt at home.
It was second nature to hang out in the square, sipping coffee, as the artists draw for the people around them, and we joke and laugh and looked at artwork, surround by building with hundreds of years of stories to tell... Lunches and dinners are also communal events, lasting sometimes three hours each, as you really get to know the people you are with. (I've never seen anyone pick up a cel phone during a meal, and that is so refreshing.)
When not eating or sketching or talking, the ancient part of Aviles is a charming old city, with cobblestone streets and a lush central park that is wonderful for a jog or a walk.
In short, I am hooked on the place.
And I've always encouraged others to come.
Some have: Bill Stout, Herb Trimpe, Joe Jusko, Ken Lopez, Ric Meyers, Tim Burguard… I love to share this amazing place with people I like, and introduce them to the wonderful folks that run and work at the Aviles Festival-- Jorge, Angel, Jose Manuel, German, Diego, Irma, Roccio, Carmen… the whole crew--You won't meet a more dedicated group of folks.
In fact, Jorge started this show when he was just 16, going to the local government and convincing them that what Aviles really needed was a festival to celebrate comics.
He's been making it happen ever since.
Along with some other great festivals in the area, Aviles has been instrumental in drawing attention to the region, it's customs and what it has to offer.
I tried to help in some small part.
Along with videographer Robin Dale, we documented much of the spirit of the city and festival in a documentary we produced several years ago. And now even more has been added to the Aviles story by the addition of the Neimeyer Center for the arts that opened this year, and which is attracting talent and performances from all over the world.
(Our fear is that it may get too big here! But things must grow. And when you love something, you are happy for it to thrive.)
So, in short, I don't know why I got this little Ladybug (which is more than the sum of her parts). But I'm happy to have it. I'm not going to question it too much. Except to say "Thank you" to my friends for the...acceptance…
I'll try to live up to it.
As she sits on my shelf overlooking my attempt to make a Fabada kit I bought two weeks ago, throwing in the three types of local sausage and meat and reveling in the wonderful smells, the one thing running through my mind is: How in the world am I going to master that cider pouring before next year!!
Time to break some glasses...
(In photos above, with my fellow recipients (alot of ladies won this year!), and guests at the Festival in Aviles, Spain. Photos by Pepe Caldelas.)