11 or so pics from Dubai

So I was a keynote speaker and guest at the Access Film & Media Conference at this years MEFCC. I was terrible at getting my camera out of my bag, it was just too frantic of a trip to stop and click the shutter. I’ll do better next time. Here were a few snaps, I’ll try and make up for it with stories though. Click one for slideshow & biggerer:

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So I did get to go do a deal in Al Karama district. As a Canal street veteran, Grade A New York haggler, and boisterous braggart when it comes to street negotiations… my new friend Arafaat decided to challenge me in Karama. Like you would handicap a pro golfer, Arafaat wheeled us in a shinny new Cadillac CTS-V (which mind you is a slick choice in the world of Dubai supercars). Having just walked out of meetings, we were dressed to the nines and far away from our typical wardrobe of comic book shirts and flip-flops. Arafaat, with his bespoke carbon-fiber cuff links and my super shinny near Mexicali Barrio Apache Hyphy crew shoes, wasn’t doing me any favors. We began strolling by the vendors hearing the standard call outs of well known brand names. We decided that a high-line watch would be the most difficult item to negotiate for based on our current look.

There were several shady characters in this grey market here. I caught some younger vendors, that while having the energy to negotiate for hours, seemed to be the most enturpanuring of the lot. I gave the nod that we might be interested in seeing some watches. They whisked us into a tidy, brightly lit store front, pushed on a section of uncovered wall, and slid it back to reveal a secret passageway to a set of dimly lit stairs. In any other country (looking at you Mexico), I would have faked a phone call, and jettisoned outta there in a flash.

This however was Dubai, and I had something to prove, so we lead the way into the unknown (Pro Tip: never be the first guy on the stairs in a dangerous situation, you have little tactical advantage). We got to the negotiating room. Lined floor to low ceiling with suitcases I assume were filled with contraband.  They set up a folding table and chairs, removed a section of wall in front of us, pulled out merchandise, and began calling unknown parties on their cells.

They promptly left the room. Arafaat looked at me in wild-eyed confusion. “Take a picture”, I said.

photo credit: Arafaat Ali Khan

photo credit: Arafaat Ali Khan

The men came back in the room, and as a Canal street knockoff watch connoisseur, I wasn’t overly impressed initially with the selection or quality. They were quick to catch on, and after a call and barely a minute of wait time a new suitcase arrived. Now we were talking. Before me was s selection of the best quality grey market timepieces that would make the most hardcore nerds on do a spit take.

Now the dance could begin.

The initial prices they were quoting were on the ridiculous high side. It was clear our current dress and arrival in the fuck-off Caddy had put targets on the wallet. Settling on a timepiece of the utmost build quality (only way I do knockoffs anymore, besides I’m a vintage guy at heart as you probably know) I told them the price I would pay. No. That price. No deviation. That was the price. Mind you, we’re talking below 60% of their ask.


They argued for a hot minute, and after at least two more calls to a big boss I assume, they capitulated. Arafaat stared at me in wonder. Was I a wizard? It was clear they were not trilled with the deal, but a sale was better than no sale. How could I have known their bottom line from the start? How could ol’ Nortega get so close to their margin? It’s not like I deal with shady knockoff watches everyday. No… simply put-

I cheated.

Allow me to teach you how it was done. Early on I noticed the merchandise had price tags on the bottom but with only letters in place of numbers. In this case, there was a very simple substitution cipher in play. Based on their repeat opening offers of 2x listed value it was pretty clear how the code worked. In this case it was the most basic: A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 etc.

Most pawn shops and some antique stores will use a similar code to remind themselves and let employees know what their cost was. MARYLOUISE used to be a common pawn shop code. With M=1, A=2 and so forth. Other common cipher blocks are MONEYTALKS, BLACKHORSE, and VOLKSWAGEN. 10 letter words if you hadn’t caught on.

By the way, it is best not to let on that you’ve cracked their code. I later had to get Arafaat a little thank you gift. What better than a 12V automotive Shisha!?!

automotive shisha


Anyway great time in that city. Very unique spot on this earth. Some other things that happened that deserve stories… but we’ll just have to go with pics for now.

Got to chill with Shatner:


Got to hang with the greats of the anime industry (some of whom I hadn’t seen in years!):


Got to drag race this turkey (info on vanity plates in Dubai) :


Ate some fish split in half an roasted via open sand pit:


Got to see where the Electronic Dance Music Saxophonists have gone to die:


Miami Connection

This revival film is playing at Fantastic Film Fest the same week we are. I must say I’m only a few minutes into watching it as I’m working on some new JiJ pages... and wow… this is just amazing. A era of Florida history captured perfectly on a bootleged VHS. There’s even a little guy that I swear is John Oates… and I should know I’ve worked with him and his mustache before.


Mama told you not to gamble

I dunno know if you all know about this noise. Bottom line is it’s kinda like an internet gambling slash ponzi scheme.  But with any form of gambling there are usually ways to best the system or at least get close to 50% odds.

So internet coding badass, Joshua Stein set out to best the system. Read part ONE & TWO.


Uh, seriously… WTF?

Best review I can find: It’s the Citizen? Kane of the armpit katana-anal bleeding- tengu milk squirting-bleeding building-action-gore-geisha-an al bleeding-anal katana-shamisen-romance genre!

Fight the Power

080316kabukichosign Wish I had known about this site long, long ago. This guy is a real fighter! His name is Arudou Debito (and is a naturalized Japanese citizen… he’s Japanese like Joe) and he has an amazing website were he chronicles his and others’ battles to clear out the racist practices of Japanese businesses.  Visit his “Rogues’ Gallery” where there is photographic evidence of his (and others’) plight to remove publicly displayed signs forbidding non-Japanese from entering.

Fight on Debito-sama, fight on! Japan is kinda like CB radio… one of the last bastions of ”civilized racism’…



CLICK TO WATCH : Nortega Animated Logo

CLICK TO WATCH : Made ‘n ‘Merica

There aren’t many of us left in this country.  We draw every frame by hand, and will fight to the death to get every drawing made. One by one, we finish each frame. Then we can stamp our animations with pride.


Ribera Steak House

Here is a photo of the sign of the Ribera Steal Steak House:


There are two types of men in the world: Those who have had a barely cooked steak at Ribera and weak-armed, vegan girls.

Every major fighter of any sort (boxing, wrestling, MMA, etc.) have eaten at this place. Good bluegrass music twangs in through trebley speakers.  Chad Rowan (aka Akebono Tar?) is probably seated near the entrance. You order your cheap (for Japan) steak and by the time it took you to read this sentence; it’s ready. Backstroking in it’s own bloody juices, you are ready to experience what man has been given incisors for.

Photos hang on every square inch of wall space. Photos of every man who has stepped into a ring to fight for a better understanding of himself and what his fists are capable of achieving. A youtube video could never give you the smells of this tiny place but here’s one anyway:

Where is this place of legendary man meat? First go to Tokyo, Japan. Ribera is in Higashi Gotanda(12 minutes walk from JR Shinagwa, 5 minutes walk from JR Gotanda, or 2 minutes walk from Takanawadai Station on the Asakusa line). On Sakurada-dori between Takanawadai and Gotanda Stations, next to the Red Baron motorcycle shop.