Saturday, August 30, 2008

Report from the US Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. – There were two hot tickets this month – maybe the only one who attended both the Democratic Convention AND US Open is the band Earth, Wind & Fire, the opening entertainment for both.

For the past 30 years I have watched the Open grow up since it moved in 1978 from the grassy courts of Forest Hills to the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. I spent part of my childhood there before the move–my parents brought me there as a kid as a break from our Bronx apartment beginning as a baby going to the ’69 World’s Fair. It must have been just as crowded then as now. This week the grounds turn into a human traffic jam by noon. I have no idea what it was like in Denver but the wait to stand in front of an empty urinal in Flushing is close to 20 minutes.

Every year it’s my routine to reserve the last weeks of August for the Open to see friends who I will not see any other part of the year. Many have Open relationships – friendships which only exist during this three week period (for real fans the Open begins with the week of qualifying rounds). The court with most memories and drama for me is the food-court. It’s a strip mall at the hub with all human tributaries of the event spilling into it’s plaza. I have bumped into high school teachers, old friends, and enemies of mine. I have fallen in love here, ended relationships here…even got fired here (last year when arguing with my new week-old editor and ex-boss of TimeOut.). It is here that highlights are coupled with low points. In 1980 my closest friend from high school was escorted off the grounds for pinching Chris Evert’s ass when she was signing autographs in the food-court. It was at the food-court that I sat down at an empty table with tennis great Illie Nastase after I saw my hero disgrace himself and get defaulted for taking his shorts off during a dispute with an umpire (“It was an entertaining match, no?”). It was the food-court where I was consoled after I was shellacked in the semis of my last NCAAs (but it was my biggest tennis thrill, playing in Louis Armstrong Stadium). I know this place like the back of my hand–in ‘04 I created the US Open map for Tennis magazine, now run by Chris Evert. My favorite story happened when I was sitting on the top row in a neighboring court. I asked my friend if he knew who was sitting next to him and then explained, “That’s Stan Smith.” My friend got so nervous that he turned to the tennis great and said “I’m a big fan of your sneakers” and then knocked his knapsack off the bleachers, sending it banging down the support beams. I called the move “smooth,” getting a chuckle out of Smith and then we all watched my friend climb down to find his bag.

As usual, I have been spending the past two weeks catching up with old friends, listening to old stories of matches long over but never forgotten. As one friend reminisces of what could have been if he stayed on one more year on the pro tour (careers end with either injury or in his case, an exhaustion of funds), some are still going strong (Terry just won the Bronze in the Senior Olympics at 73). And some just starting out. My neighbor, a 15-yr Russian girl, is a top prospect and is playing here in the juniors).

But the food-court is where the real action is and filled with fresh faces ready to talk tennis;
Tara and Vanessa of Tom’s River, Davis Cup trophy “managers”
Is it true that you never let the trophy out of your sight?
Tara: "I was hired to sleep with the cup!"
The moment I said, “Hey, look , Kathy Griffin!” Tracy Austin’s assistant grabbed my camera away from me.

Jeff owns oil rigs (“a mess of ‘em”) and came to the Open with his bride for their honeymoon.
What do you think about [tennis player] Ashley Harkleroad posing for Playboy?

I regret not sporting Stadium Pal, an eternal catheter that I, ironically and jokingly, endorsed in ’98 as a sports writer.

Everett, CBS
How would you improve the US Open?
“Turn all the cement on the grounds into grass. Tickets would be free but all fans must take of their shoes and have them checked at the door (for a large fee).”

Closure. Everett last year was unwillingly sprayed by an Evian “spritzer.” But as one can see, we can all laugh now over the misunderstanding.
(Visitors are not allowed to enter the Open with water bottles that say everything other than Evian.)

Michael is a professional spritzer by day…off-Broadway director by night.

Gretchen came to root for her friend and swim teammate John from the University of Georgia. John Isner is the 6’9” sensation whose doubles match was the highlight of the day.

What should be done to improve USTA’s youth program?
Polo spokesmodels: "Yes, definitely!"

Polo Ralph Lauren is holding a contest to benefit cancer–$3,000 spending spree if you correctly guess how many balls are in the container.

One of the sideshows of the plaza is the Continental Airlines booth where you can “book” a flight in these airline seats which face the food-court for one-hour intervals.

Below is an informal assessment of the food selections with the help of my friend and guide Ali, a scientist and accomplished 4.5 player who learned tennis and cooking as a boy in Southern France. Selections based on value, price and quality.

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It's been a slow month for snowman news– August often is, but it's now September and things will begin picking up. I will be appearing at the famous Brimfield Flea Market on September 5th & 6th (Friday & Saturday) at the New England Motel field (specifically, field # 102) to sell and sign books (The History of the Snowman)...

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Offensive Cartoons

I did this cartoon for a client of mine, The Automobile Association of America’s Home & Away magazine on the safety (of SUVs and cell phones). They found it distasteful so I tried selling it to Geico magazine. Not even the cavemen over there found it funny.

About 15 years ago, during a period when the NRA was in the news, I created the anti-gun cartoon below. At the time, seeing Andy Kaufman perform encouraged me to think out of the box. In this case having no punch line or real caption I thought was kind of untraditional.

This was typical of the gimmick cartoons I tried to come up with then. I did a series called Cartoons the Times Would Run If The Times Ran Cartoons (btw, now they do in their magazine). I did one spread for The Village Voice where every cartoon was in Norwegian (because the Winter Olympics at the time were taking place in Norway) about the hot scandal at the time, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The jokes actually worked if you spoke Norwegian. Another project was Cartoons The New Yorker Rejected (this ran in Details magazine before the Rejection Collection–published now ironically by my publisher). Not that I got rejected by The New Yorker. I didn’t even try. Around this time I refused to submit my cartoons to any traditional places.

Why? Subconsciously, I was probably too insecure to compete straight up with professional cartoonists. It was easier to claim I wasn’t interested in the cartoon culture and have zero respect for the field than to play on the even playing ground. I wasn't a failed cartoonist because I wasn't a cartoonist. And no one could say my cartoons were not funny–of course they weren’t, “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

I didn’t even want anyone to think I was a cartoonist (at parties; “oh, I’m a writer slash [said with hand gesture] illustrator,” or better yet, “I’m a grand-prix racer in Europe.”). If you’re not Charles Schultz or Gary Larson and someone you heard of, saying you’re a cartoonist is like walking around with a sign around your neck that says “I’m broke.”

Only now will I admit I do cartoons for a living. Even my family knows now. Here’s the punch line. Back then I made a good living making cartoons but now that I’ve embraced this occupation, my annual income is a joke. It’s not rocket science. Humor magazines like Spy and National Lampoon have evaporated. The other reasons are boring.

Anyhoo, the hunting cartoon is a parody of sorts to cartoon great Sam Gross (who changed my view of the vocation last year and since talked me into being a New Yorker cartoonist. A lunch that changed my life.). Initially, it was to run in The Village Voice but instead ran in a tiny new wave magazine and then again in a newsletter I produced regarding land preservation in the region and scientific research being done at the Lacawac Sanctuary. After this cartoon ran I received angry letters from my Pennsylvanian neighbors who no doubtedly grew up with hunting as a family tradition. I’m still opposed to hunting but just recreational hunting, hunting for sport or machoism. Hunting for survival and with a purpose is different and I’m currently active addressing our deer population problem. Sadly, culling is currently the only practical solution and more humane than the deer starving.

OK, that’s just depressing. On a positive note, I do have an awarding back-story to the cartoon. It was relayed to me that at a luncheon art directors voted as to what was their favorite cartoon and this hunters cartoon was a serious contender. In this business, you have to take whatever satisfaction you can find…

I'll end this brief slice of my cartooning life with a pie-chart which, unfortunately, sums up everything I know about the business of cartooning.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Interview With Cartoonist Feggo

Felipe Galindo is a freelancer “extraordinario.” An award-winning cartoonist whose humor is enjoyed worldwide including in La Jornada (Mexico), The International Herald Tribune (Paris), F1-Red Bulletin (Austria), Hauser (Germany), Nebelspalter (Switzerland), The Spectator and Prospect (UK) Ode (Holland) and here in the US in The New Yorker, Mad, Nickelodeon, Reader’s Digest, and The Wall Street Journal. He has received many grants and awards and has been exhibited in over 100 shows including many permanent collections including; The Library of Congress, Washington DC, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece, Vianden Castle Museum, Luxembourg, Omiya City Hall, Omiya, Japan, Palazzo Comunale Gallery, Foligno, Italy, Palacio dos Aciprestes, Linda-Velha, Portugal, National School of Arts, National University, Mexico City, Wilhem Bush Museum, Hannover, Germany, Museum of Caricature, Warsaw, Poland, The Sammlung Karikaturen Museum, Basel, Switzerland, and various US institutes. 

If that wasn’t enough he’s has illustrated four books and has written, directed and animated short films (one of which was an award-winning short animated film about Mexican culture in New York that has been screened at more than 50 international festivals and cultural venues, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid).

Freelancer’s Lament: I’m exhausted just glancing at your achievements–and this was edited down. Do you feel like you the struggle is over in your career and you have reached the promised land?
Felipe Galindo: Hey, thanks for the introduction...I guess reaching America was to reach the promised land in terms of opportunity. I promised myself to try to make it here and I’m still trying!

FL: Coincidentally, you spent your honeymoon at Promised Land State Park. It’s located down the street from my house in Pennsylvania. You were born in Cuernavaca Mexico. How long have you been in the United States?
FG: I came here in 1983. My original idea was to be in New York for 6 months...they have been the longest six months of my life! I didn’t know anybody here, so it was like starting a new life from scratch.

I got married in 1987. Promised Land Park is gorgeous in the fall, it was great being surrounded by the colorful trees and the threat of grizzly bears.

FL: Did you always speak English?
FG: I learned basic English in high school, then learned a bit more listening to rock music and reading magazines at the American bookstore in my hometown. Being bilingual is like running 2 software programs in your brain all the time, unfortunately sometimes the computer crashes.

FL: What was your childhood like?
FG: Was? You mean is over?

I was into superheroes, World War II comics and Disney movies (I thought Mr Disney did all the drawings!). I enjoyed spending my afternoons drawing. My family moved constantly due to my father’s job. I remember him desperately trying to make me a professional golf player but I was having more fun doing doodles than hitting the links. I was making money drawing his friends at the 19th hole (I sold my first drawing when I was 7 years old, and published my first cartoon when I was 18).

FL: When did you know you wanted to be a cartoonist?
FG: When I was a kid I had the vague notion I could work at a place like Disney studios but never thought you could make a living as a cartoonist. I studied visual arts in college–painting and public art (there is no school for cartooning). I love art but also humor, so at the same time I was doing my paintings and projects at school, I was doing cartoons and selling them to publications in Mexico. I also came up with a pen name for my cartoons, a tradition among Latin American cartoonists. I compressed my full name, Felipe Galindo Gomez, into Feggo.

I realized I was a real cartoonist after seeing my work published regularly, getting paid for it and having good feedback from the public.

I have never devoted myself exclusively to cartooning. I have many interests, I’m an art and history buff (early in my career I was a graphic researcher for the Mexican National Archives investigating watermarks on documents from the XVI-XIX centuries.). I now work on illustration, comic strips, animation, fine art, and recently public art.

FL: How difficult was it succeeding in a different country?
FG: It was difficult but also incredible rewarding, sometimes even understanding the challenges was a challenge! My major surprise was the process to sell cartoons (sending the batch and wait several weeks or months for a response and/or payment.) I was lucky that soon after I arrived I had a good run with Twilight Zone magazine, they published a section titled “The Way-Out World of Feggo.” Also, most of my cartoons were captionless and I discovered that an additional market for captionless drawings was the editorial illustration field, something that I also pursued. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with an image that reflects the article, sometimes with a 2-hour deadline!

When I was a kid in Mexico, I admired the work of cartoonists like Sam Gross, Gahan Wilson and many others, illustrators like Guy Billout, or animators like Bill Plympton. So to be able to befriend them, being their peer, having lunch with them and listen to their stories is a Mastercard moment, priceless. It’s also fun being part of Mad’s famous contributors “Gang of Idiots.” Another good experience was to be invited by the Ministry of Culture in Greece to attend a week-long workshop for international cartoonists in Athens and Patras. We even had lunch with the Greek president!

FL: What is your favorite cartoon?
FG: I don’t have one particular favorite but I always like my first ones in a publication. My first published cartoon in the US was in Audubon magazine (oddly enough I live now a few blocks from where he used to live and where he is buried, Audubon Terrace). The other is my first one in the New Yorker.

I also like my on-going series of works on paper titled “Manhatitlan”, inspired by Mexican culture in the New York City area, they are not cartoons but humorous works of art (Manhatitlan is a word I coined combining the Algonquin name Manhattan with Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs capital, now Mexico City.)

FL: Many at the New Yorker seem pained from the process and pressure one endures getting into the magazine. What is your side of the story?
FG: I started submitting sporadically soon after I came to NY. I have been doing it more regularly in the past few years, after Bob Mankoff became the cartoon editor. I think he has been more open to use other cartoonists and new humor.

About the pain of submitting… I guess it’s different for everybody. For me it’s a great learning opportunity. And like [Saul] Steinberg said, it’s great calisthenics for the mind.

FL: How come you’re not in the Rejection Collection?
FG: Perhaps I shouldn’t have sent my cartoons in Spanish, I thought the editors would be bilingual by now, ay caramba!

FL: Do you have a philosophy at being successful at cartooning?
FG: I believe you have to feel successful every time you do a cartoon, every time you come up with an idea and put it on paper, even if you don’t sell it. Success lies within the process of making the art. I also think success is a relative concept, I don’t take anything for granted.

FL: What came first, the idea or the drawing?
FG: In my case the idea comes first. The muse can call at odd times–I always carry a sketchbook to write down what the muse tells me, although sometimes the idea gets lost in the translation! I have several notebooks with written ideas ready to be drawn. I love to draw but it takes me quite some time to finish a cartoon.

FL: What projects are you working on now?
FG: Currently I’m working on a new animation that will be shown as part of an exhibition this fall. It’s titled Manhatitlan Codex. It’s part of the project I described earlier. I’ll send you an invite.

FL: Thank you, and I’d like to extend an invite to you and your wife to stay at my home in Pennsylvania this fall. You can revisit Promised Land. One last question! What advice would you give to those who are their own boss?
FG: Don’t yell at yourself if you don’t finish the job, just get up earlier. And give yourself a raise whenever you can! I guess discipline is the word… Excuse me, I have to go procrastinate now.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kaplan Boxing Archive Surfaces

Childhood sketch by Muhammad Ali.
Photo: Andrew Henderson/ The New York Times

Boxing's most valuable archive, the infamous Kaplan collection will be preserved at Brooklyn College thanks to my friend David Smith, supervising librarian at the New York Public Library. The 2,600 books, 200,000 rare prints, 790 boxes of newspaper clippings dating from 1890 to 2007, and 300 tapes of fights and interviews is said to be worth about $3 million. The story how David saved this collection is fascinating and typical of his persistence in things he believes in. David was instrumental in my 6-year quest solving my own personal Holy Grail for my book who made the first snowman.

Photo: Andrew Henderson/ The New York Times

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Edwards; One Very Good Multi-Tasker

When will people credit John Edwards for being a darn good multi-tasker. Lost in all of this is the fact Edwards demonstrated one of the most essential presidential skills. I wish I had the energy and ambition to devote time into public service (I recycle), provide for a family (self-centered) or be an adulterer (too lazy). Let's throw Edward's hat back in the ring as a running mate—he gets things done.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Odds & Ends

Bob Eckstein/John Kascht copyright © 2008

• Poll results; Thank you to all who participated on the Freelancer's Lament poll...More than half of the voters make a living freelancing...the numbers showed there's just as many freelancers now as before with just as many in the business longer than twenty years as there are rookies....and most people enjoy being a freelancing and want to continue.

• The joke for the above cartoon is from John Kascht whose work will be on display Sept. 4th to Oct 4th in POLITICS 08 at the Society of Illustration. 

Get Known Now is doing workshops on how to lead workshops. Mostly for coaches, therapists, creative teachers (i.e. voice teachers) and the like. 

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Interview With Career Expert Lee Silber

Continuing on the theme of time management, Freelancer's Lament went straight to the man, Lee Silber, best-selling author of numerous books (including audio and "mini-books" meant to sent by email) and life planners. I actually have three of his books in my house and highly recommend them to anyone serious about becoming as proficient and efficient as humanly possible. If we were all married to Lee our careers would be soaring. Since that's not possible this informative interview will have to do.

Freelancer's Lament: Lee, welcome and thank you for letting us pick your brain. Could you please first describe what you do?
Lee Silber: I offer creative solutions for every kind of business problem. I also specialize in helping creative, right-brain thinkers master the left-brain aspects of their business—time management, accounting, planning, promotion, and organizing.

FL: How did you get involved in this business?
LS: I come from a long line of successful entrepreneurs and grew up surrounded by people who worked for themselves. In fact, I opened my first business when I was eleven years-old. I went to my neighbors and offered to repaint and renumber their mailboxes for a fee. Not a bad gig for a summer "job." When I was old enough I moved to Maui and started a design company and was a wholesaler of art supplies. I then turned my passion for surfing into retail stores when my brothers and I opened a chain of surf shops in San Diego. As if this story isn't long enough already, I took everything I knew about business and combined it with my background in the creative arts (I attended art school at night while running my retail business) and wrote a series of books for creative people for Random House. All this led me to what I do today—helping others who want to start and succeed in their own business—[which is the focus of his new book, Rock To Riches: Build Your Business The Rock and Roll Way].

FL: You've produced a regular library of books on personal management; Time Management For The Creative Person, Self-Promotion For The Creative Person, and Organizing From The Right Side of the Brain. What is the function of these books and what will Lamenting readers learn from them?
LS: The thesis behind all of my books is this: We should focus on our strengths—our natural way of doing things—rather than dwell on our weaknesses. This is especially true of most freelancers who tend to be more right-brained—risk-takers, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, divergent thinkers. The problem is we live in a left-brain world where we are forced to focus, play it safe, plan, and be neat and orderly. While these are worthy traits, it may be that no matter how hard a person tries, they will never understand tax code or put everything away at the end of the day. So, why not leave things out that you are still working on if it helps you avoid procrastinating and allows you to juggle ten things at once? Why not turn your day-to-day business plan into a slide show you watch on your computer featuring images, target numbers, and key words? That's why the creative person series of books are so popular. They don't try to change people, but make them better versions of themselves.

FL: What is the biggest reason freelancers are unable to sustain their business?
LS: Small business is about the small things. It may not seem like a big thing to let your marketing efforts go when things are going good. But marketing—just a little every day—has to be on your daily things-to-do list no matter what. It may seem like a small thing when you have a couple of slow paying clients. But it's a big deal when all of a sudden you have your own bills to pay but don't have the money. When you own a freelance business chances are you wear many hats and always have a lot to do. It's also likely a lot of the things you have to do take up most of your time. Don't let the small stuff get in the way of the things that have the potential to make a big impact—proposals, pitches, projects—even if they don't pay off now, you have to get them done.

FL: If you were to provide a punch list for freelancers, what are three tips you would pass along to them?
LS: 1. The new way to land big business is to team up with other freelancers. You can either work together or refer business back and forth, but this is the way to build your business quickly.

2. Get a mentor that has been there, done that, and has all the knowledge you don't. Whether you turn to the Service Core Of Retired Executives (SCORE) or someone in your community, this is your shortcut to business success.

3. The difference between a hobby and a business is your level of commitment. No matter how hard you think you are trying, you can always do more.

FL: What's your mantra?
LS: Do the right thing. This will mean different things to different people, but when you always do the right thing, you don't have guilt, worry, or repercussions.

FL: You have a new book coming out...
LS: If you have ever felt business books were boring (I know I did) and wished you could learn everything there was to know about being an entrepreneur in a quick and interesting way? I know, that's what I thought, too. That's why I wrote Rock To Riches: Build Your Business The Rock and Roll Way. I use rock stars as examples of how to do everything from manage your money to market your business. It's fun to read and readers will learn a lot about rock AND everything about business. It's coming out this fall from Capital Books.

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