tools of the trade and other conundrums

hey, i have one of those!!

Does having professional equipment make you a professional? If you are a professional (ie. making a living from your profession), what kind of threat does an influx of new technologies and talent have on the existing order? And what pitfalls exist in those chaotic periods of influx?

With the introduction of cameras like the Canon 5D Mk 3 or the Nikon D800, professional level cameras have reached “affordable” levels. It may still be $3k to pick up a bare bones version, but that’s a far cry from spending $60k on an IQ180 digital back.

Although affordability is generally good, some professional photographers don’t like the hobbyist photographer proclaiming, “Hey, that’s what I shoot with, too.” It rarely happens when you’re using a $60k camera. It pro’ly doesn’t happen to neurosurgeons much, either – “Hey, that’s the same Stryker Saw I have at home!”

While photographers may complain that now everyone who has a 5D3 or D800 thinks they’re a professional photographer, writers have always had to deal with this challenge. Writing doesn’t have a big “cost barrier” to entry, so I’m sure people were like, “Hey Shakespeare – look at this new quill I bought and all this ink. I bet I have enough ink for like 100 sonnets here!”

The democratization of media is a modern innovation (although it pro’ly started with the printing press), but it does have its downsides. Before ePublishing, you had to convince a real publisher that your book was worthy of being printed and distributed (and maybe promoted if you were lucky). Many worthwhile books got passed over, and people without the right connections might have been overlooked. But that barrier also served to maintain a certain quality level.

When I was a kid, I had to hunt through the shelves at my local bookstores to try to find book 3 of a series where I’d already read books 1,2 and 4. Now I can just blaze through them in order on my Kindle. However, when I’m looking for a new book on Amazon, there are tons of eBooks that are, to use the technical term for it, atrocious. So I find myself doing the electronic equivalent of hunting through bookshelves – but instead of looking for specific authors, I’m trying to find the diamonds in the increasingly rough landscape. Sites like GoodReads have helped to simplify the process a bit, but it’s still quite challenging.

Authors who are already established or have some cultural prominence are, counterintuitively, the ones who benefit most from this democratization. They are no longer at the mercy of big publishers, bookstores, etc. The people who haven’t breached those old world barriers are usually the ones that are least able to benefit. Before, you might have to convince one publisher or agent that your book was worthwhile. Now, you have to convince 100,000 readers to buy that book – you have to be author and marketer. Promotion is not as simple as “good worth of mouth” – if it were, studios wouldn’t spend $40 million promoting movies that will be accessible at every multiplex in the country anyways. (Although that skips part of the formula – those multiplexes wouldn’t have that many showings if the studio hadn’t guaranteed a big media buy).

If you are author and marketer, then you may start to do what publishers and studios and other corporations do – create your own fake word of mouth. Look at the case of John Locke and others, who created hundreds of fake Amazon reviews in order to promote their own work. Brilliant? Maybe not. Effective? Definitely. Yet if you are just a “good writer”, you are now competing not only against other good writers, but people who may be much better marketers, advertisers, fake promoters, etc. The authenticity of what you’re viewing is always to be questioned – whether it’s on Amazon, Instagram or the 6pm news. Everyone is evolving with the shifts in culture and technology, and not all that evolution is beneficial.

In any event, like most things that “simplify” our life, these innovations come with their own new complexities. Email and cell phones were invented as devices of convenience, efficiency and time-saving. Yet how much of our day is spent on these “time-saving” innovations? I’m not sure, but I’m going to check my new time-boxing app to figure out how much time I spend on email and cell phones, then I’ll put it into Google Docs and make a pie chart, then with all the time I’ve saved, I’ll look at some webcams of beaches.


living by proxy

I sometimes shoot live music for a Japanese magazine called Rockin’ On. Pretty much any project for them is fun because of the people involved. When they do a story on a band, they’ll devote eight pages to photographs and another eight pages to carefully translated questions about a band’s career trajectory and the underpinnings of their lyrical message. It’s not only interesting to their Japanese readers, but makes Western bands wrestle with questions English language journalists rarely get the space to ask (unless you’re reading Chuck Klosterman books, which I highly recommend).

So I shot portraits of Dave Grohl for the cover and the whole Foo Fighters band for the inside story. And although they wouldn’t announce it until the last moment, they were going to play the Troubador in about eight hours. For a band that plays to 20,000 fans, it’s rare to see them in a 200 person club.

dave grohl on stage at the troubador 2011

I showed up at the Troubador and stuck a big Foo Fighters WORKING label on my shirt to discourage the idea that I might be also having fun (and to make sure security wouldn’t tackle me). I wandered through the crowd, climbed onto both sides of the stage, perched up on the catwalks, and watched the fire marshall high five a drunk girl while they listened to Dave sing My Hero.

foo fighters rock the troubador 2011

The next day, portraits of Dave for the cover were first on the editing block. Most of my photography tends to focus on human connection and intimacy, and looking for a real connection in photos can be challenging when you have a short time to develop a rapport. Then I switched to the live shots. The thumbnail images showed an intimate venue with ecstatic fans reaching toward a larger than life singer. An enlargement revealed a different story, however. All those ecstatic fans reaching desperately toward someone they normally only see on TV or playing a stadium…actually had iPhones and Blackberries in their hands. No one was looking at the Foo Fighters performing six feet in front of them – instead they were looking at them play on a 3 inch video screen.

i don't remember the show, but my facebook shows i was there

Of course I was doing the same thing, but I was there working and while I love my job, I do take it seriously. I wasn’t posting a Facebook photo just to prove I was there, I was trying to capture the energy of the event for tens of thousands of Japanese Foo Fighters fans who would never see Los Angeles, let alone the Troubador.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Facebook and Twitter encourage people to share and I’ve spoken to friends who feel more motivated to do things solely because of their ability to share their experiences. At the same time, doesn’t this detract from the actual “experiencing” it part? Facebook and Twitter also detract from people’s verbal and written abilities – overall they are more visual outlets. I would like to read someone write about how they felt watching Foo Fighters perform (in more than 140 characters), rather than look at a blurry and noisy picture where I’d have to read to caption to even know what’s going on.

Maybe this is just part of digital life in 2011, but it’s such an example of carefully captured disconnection. We preserve so many of life’s little moments, yet we live them less fully.

As always, Louis CK sums it up quite well.



captain at age 8, shortly before my command was sunk by a hurricane

everything lasts forever in a photograph.

Sometimes people ask me why I got into photography or what I like about it.

Although my father did like to take vacation photos on fancy cameras and I even got to play with a Canon F1 that was lying around the house, I didn’t grow up surrounded by photography. Instead, most of my childhood memories are of family trips to England and France, and even more of constant relocation. We lived in Germany, Brazil, Israel, Northern Virginia, New York, etc. Just ahead of the internet age, there wasn’t really any such thing as “keeping in touch” with your third grade crush (although I did end up going to prom with her in another country, but that had more to do with fate and the US Air Force).

Through a series of (un)fortunate events, I eventually found myself in the strange position of making a living from photography. Still, I don’t think I had ever really examined what I liked about photography. Sure, I enjoyed the process, the combination of technique and artistry, the collaboration with subjects and crew, the pretty girls, the catering (might I recommend the caprése), the pretty girls, etc. All accurate, but it ignores the fundamental question of “why is photography important to me?” There are plenty of other things I could do for a living…so why photography?

It comes down to this:  I’m an antisocial person who lives for human connection on a visceral level. I love seeing what makes someone tick, exploring relationships and friendships, feeling physical chemistry, finding vulnerable beauty. Unfortunately, due to imperfect memory, age, death and red wine – once I learn this information in a 3am conversation, I can’t always retain it.

I only have a hazy memory of what my friend Josh in third grade was like to hang out with (and no police reports to reminisce over, as we both had diplomatic immunity from our respective countries and paid cash for doctor visits). I only have a vague image of what Nikki, the first girl I kissed, looked like – modified by my own id and years of poor quality chocolate consumption (thankfully remedied in my adult life). And I’ve lived in many incredible cities, but can only really remember the family vacations that stuck in my head and occasionally in my father’s camera.

my father at his law firm on fifth ave at 42nd st

Sometimes, through sheer luck or possibly with the help of some craftsmanship, a photograph can capture a moment or even a person.

Throughout our lives, relationships change. Occasionally through traumatic physical events like death or illness, but often through the more mundane machinery of life. People grow up, lives diverge naturally, arguments turn into lifelong excommunication, lovers grow apart, old relationships take on new dimensions, etc. Things are constantly evolving, being destroyed and reborn.

What I love about photography is that in my images, nothing will ever change. While my own perspective on the person or place in the image will surely change in the years to come, when I go back to that image, it hasn’t changed. In 1/60th of a second, I can show someone’s mischievous spirit. I can capture the introspection in their eyes. I can highlight their sexuality in an everyday expression.

There’s a certain type of immortality that can infuse a photograph of a person. To me, a perfect image is not one that is technically brilliant, or has the most innovative composition, or was shot with unusual equipment, or any of those things. To me, a perfect image is one that gives you the same emotional experience you would get if you could sit down in a room and interact one-on-one with that person at that moment in their life.

my mother's class photo at cornell

No single image will capture a personality – hopefully we are all a bit too multifaceted for that. And neither will a 30 minute conversation capture a personality – if it did, modern courtship would be a far different animal. Instead, I’d like a single image to capture a 30 minute conversation.

I want the picture to be worth a thousand words…of meaningful conversation with my subject. You can learn a lot about someone in a thousand words. We have 278 left…


the dslr revolution will not be televised

panavision platinum - slightly larger than the average dslr

just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is good

While the plummeting price of wonderful tools like the 5D Mk II, the Nikon D3s, and the RED have created interesting opportunities in the world of video, they have also left many people contemplating the falling trees and failing to note the remaining forest.

I hear it trumpeted. Now everyone with a DSLR can make their own films! This is not an entirely positive sentiment. I view it akin to saying that the prices of scalpels have plummeted, so now everyone can perform their own ACL surgery. No thanks.

In the narrative arena, there is usually one reason a script isn’t made into a movie. I worked as a reader at Universal and almost everything in the slush pile was…well, the industry term would be “crap.” There are the occasional great scripts that don’t have enough universal appeal (no pun intended) to get funded, but these are the rare exceptions.

Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood runs out of piles of great scripts before they run out of piles of money.

As for making something “look good” – that’s been an almost foregone conclusion in the world of Hollywood features. That you can sometimes make something look good on a tiny budget is great…but it’s only a budgetary concern, not a creative one. The DSLR crowd is mixing up directing (director) and shooting (cinematographer) and pro’ly studio exec. While it’s remarkable that a 5D Mk II has a frame that is close to Super 35 and only costs $2k and doesn’t eat up your budget 400′ at a time, it’s still just a tool – and not always the right one.

Filmmaking truly takes a village. I loved When Harry Met Sally. Barry Sonnenfeld was a great cinematographer (who went on to become a great director), but take away Nora Ephron’s script, or Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s chemistry, or even Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher – and it’s a very different film. If you could shoot those night scenes at 1600 ISO without big 20k lights on Condors, that would certainly lower your budget…but it has nothing to do with making a great film.

no, he's never gonna leave her

I hear many aspiring DSLR directors (can’t bring myself to say videographer) discuss cameras and cheap Steadicams and dynamic range – all reasonable technical concerns. Yet I never hear these people discuss a weak third act or a flat character arc. I can solve a dynamic range problem with a couple silks and some HMIs – no problem. A flat character arc is going to take more than a bigger lighting package to fix (although that is the solution that some directors use).

I did a portrait of a cinematographer named Matty Libatique awhile ago. We got to talking about his start in the business. He had found himself somewhat adrift in Los Angeles and decided to direct a short film because that’s what all his friends were doing. However, with every shot he was obsessed with getting the angle and the lighting and everything “just right”, but found himself less interested in discussing performances with the actors. At some point during the film, he had an epiphany and realized he wanted to be a cinematographer and not a director.

The DSLR revolution is great for film the same way the computer was great for writing. It’s much easier now to sit down and write annoying blog entries on my computer than when I would’ve needed some serious cash to pay for all this papyrus (talking about the ancient times before Web 2.0). Nonetheless, that doesn’t make me a brilliant author – it just makes me an annoying guy with an opinion and a blog.

Hmmm. I think I just made the case for papyrus.


real sci fi

science fiction goes mainstream

As special effects technology has gotten cheaper, Hollywood has rushed to embrace genres that were once niche products. At one point, an action blockbuster that stretched the laws of nature meant Rocky Balboa taking 43 million punches with the only adverse effect being a slight speech impediment.

the amazing new steadicam even makes philly look pretty

Yet in the last ten to fifteen years (probably dating back to the Matrix), science and technology has gone mainstream. Before that, mainstream movies that glorified science and technology were few and far between. Movies like Terminator 2 had universal appeal, but most science fiction movie audiences fell into more stratified demographics (which, let’s face it, is a fancy term for geeks) like the Star Trek audience. Even critically acclaimed movies like Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey were rarely box office smashes to the extent of a Ghost or Pretty Woman.

blade runner from 1982

There’s a real distinction between a movie like Titanic that uses a ton of effects to tell a non-scientific story, and a movie that actively promotes science and technology like The Matrix. The movies that I am singling out are the ones that actively discuss and exhibit technology on the bleeding edge. All things that good science fiction novels do.

All the genuine advances in science and technology have made these special effects extravaganzas possible. Bringing comic books and science fiction to life can be done with incredible special effects, unfortunately often at the expense of incredible storytelling.

Yet we live in an age where all kinds of *genuine* science and technology strides are being made, and they are rarely well incorporated. When writers make an effort to plausibly advance technologies in their films, the result can be sublime. One of the things that made Michael Crichton’s storytelling so compelling was not just his gigantic characters – it was also a vigorously researched and carefully advanced technological view of the world. His Jurassic Park concept for how dinosaurs could be clones was plausible – at least plausible enough that you didn’t have to ignore truck sized holes in the plot.

special effects create a t-rex and an interesting mathematician

It’s okay to ask the audience to believe in one implausible event if it’s integral to the story. A superhero origin, a crazy coincidence, an unlikely pairing. Yet Hollywood often assumes that if it can get away with one implausible event, then it’s okay if everything in the movie is unmoored from reality. This is what separates brilliant movies from pedestrian ones. You can still make money with a well cast and produced film, but to have a real artistic impact – you can’t ignore all the laws of nature. That’s a law of artistic impact.


oxfam unwrapped

I recently directed a few commercials for Oxfam Unwrapped. Oxfam’s concept was to have people give Christmas “gifts” of goats, chickens, etc – so your recipient gets a funny message that they’ve received a goat, and someone in Africa gets an actual goat to help feed their families and support their community (or for the finishing touches on their beet salads – not sure which).

my christmas shopping list

Anna Torv from the show Fringe was one of the actresses who contributed their time and talents. They say in Hollywood you should never work with kids or animals – and aren’t goats kinda both? Thanks folks, I’m here all week. Anyways, Anna makes it all look effortless – but let me warn you, she’s a trained professional and you shouldn’t try this at home (unless you have access to goats at home, in which case I don’t even wanna know what you’re doing).

It’s a great concept for a charity. I have to say that I dislike charities that solely try to bombard you with reminders of terrible things going on in the world. Anyone who reads a newspaper or follows current events is aware of the horrific situations in Darfur, North Korea, the Congo, Somalia, etc. Give me information and I’m interested, make me feel involved and I’m inspired – but guilt me and I just feel manipulated.

People choose their own battles, and I think it’s unfair to fundraise with guilt. Bill Gates isn’t focused on stopping animal cruelty, but he’s trying to stop the millions who die because of lack of access to clean water. Sam Simon isn’t focused on water borne disease, but he is a huge supporter of many animal charities. They shouldn’t feel guilty for what they’re not doing – they should feel fulfilled that they are doing something.

Whether we have $16 to spend or $16 billion, it’s never enough – so get involved with what inspires you and feel good about it – don’t feel guilty that you can’t do more.

I love that Oxfam is trying to do something creative that genuinely appeals to people. We all put our time and sense of humor into a project that hopefully makes fundraising more enjoyable for everyone. I hope it inspires people to donate rather than guilts them into it.

That said, I’m really trying to improve my blog. If you read this whole post and benefited from it – how could you live with yourself if you didn’t send me money? I mean, you’re basically stealing. I do have beet salads to buy, after all.


brand awareness

Or – how to promote your competitor’s product.

Recently Panasonic UK released a behind-the-scenes video from the new Lumix G2 commercial. The tagline for their video is Everything Matters. By this, I assume they are referring to everything except for the fact that they shot it on a Canon 5D MkII and included footage on YouTube clearly showing multiple Canons (even their distinctive white L lenses) in the BTS video.

This seems like a bizarre error. I have trouble even imagining how it occurred. They decided to shoot a Panasonic ad on Canons, then decided to shoot behind-the-scenes video showing them doing this, then edited and color corrected that BTS video, then compressed it for the web, and finally someone at Panasonic UK uploaded it to their YouTube account.

Personally, I’m relatively brand agnostic. I love products and companies – but my love is conditional. If I like a company, it’s because they treat me well (mmm…In N Out). If I like a product, it’s because it works well for my needs (Predator drones). If I like a lot of products, then I probably like the company (which actually applies to both Canon and Panasonic for me).

Now, let’s ignore for a moment all the various brand identity and marketing rules they’re breaking, and instead focus on why this is technically infuriating.

Why in the world would a company like Panasonic hire a director or DP who then decides to use Canon? Now, if Panavision hired me to shoot a still photo of David Fincher sitting behind a Panavision Platinum – I might well use a Canon, because there is no technically appropriate Panavision product. Yet this Panasonic commercial was shot with a camera that was probably *not* even the best choice. As much as I love the 5D MkII, this commercial would be perfect for the GH1, which is made by…Panasonic. It shoots at 60fps (great for action sequences) and is much smaller than the 5D MkII or even the 7D (great for actor rigs).

I’m not saying the Canon was the “wrong” camera. I shoot Canon all the time. But I also shoot Phase One and even Panasonic. I use the right tool for the job, but in this case I could easily shoot this commercial with the Canon 7D or the Panasonic GH1 (actually wouldn’t choose the 5D MkII because its slower frame rates is less flexible for action). When it’s a coin flip on which camera to use, it’s just a strange behavior that they chose their competitor’s product.

While I personally really like the Panasonic Lumix G series, Olympus certainly has their marketing more organized.

Now when we add the rules of branding and marketing into the mix, this “Panasonic” behind-the-scenes video transforms from really annoying to an error of mind boggling proportions. If you work for Pepsi, they don’t even want you to travel on an airline that serves Coca-Cola products. And vice versa. It sounds silly at first, but these are real concerns with millions or billions at stake. Besides not wanting to give any money or support to your competition, it also avoids the possibility of a photo of the Head of Marketing for Coca Cola sitting next to his (presumably First Class) Pepsi drinking seatmate.

Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo recently spent about 30 billion yen to consolidate Matsushita and National all under the Panasonic brand name. I imagine he would not be happy to know that their money is being spent to promote a competitor.

Knowing that’s the landscape, how could this have happened? Having spent a significant amount of time in Japan, I have trouble imagining this mistake would ever happen there. They take company loyalty (not just branding) extremely seriously. Does Panasonic’s Japanese right hand (カメラの手?) not know what its UK left hand is doing? Possibly they are having difficulty bridging the cultural divide.

After having worked for many companies that have Japanese offices and Western offices, I can easily imagine Panasonic UK and Panasonic Japan having serious communication problems. I am often amazed at the extent of the cultural gap and how little is done to bridge it. 残念ですね。I have even found myself as the liaison between employees in Japan and the US…both theoretically working for the same company.

When Panasonic Japan made a video about their ToughBook series of laptops, they clearly display that the video was made with a Panasonic Lumix camera – and it looks great.

These aren’t even the same departments (computers and cameras), yet they clearly understand brand consistency. In the UK, apparently the camera department isn’t even aware of the importance of internal brand consistency.

In any event, the Panasonic Lumix series and the Canon DSLR series are both great, but Canon’s advertising is far better organized. I really hope Panasonic uses this as a wake up call and gets their brand strategy together. That way we won’t have to see their engineering outpace their marketing.


teaching v. learning

photo by Jeremy Goldberg

Is it better to do or to teach?

There’s a saying that goes something like, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

It’s kinda funny and pithy. It’s usually quoted by myopic university students. It’s also quite misleading. It tries to answer the question of whether it’s better to do something, or to teach someone else how to do it. Overlooking the obvious issues (eg. we don’t want self-taught thoracic surgeons), I think it bears closer examination as many people believe this, even if only subconsciously.

A good teacher usually possesses a different skill set than a good performer. It has nothing to do with being better or worse – it’s just different. The same way that a thoracic surgeon is no better than a neurosurgeon. Either one can be a godsend if that’s what you need. In the same vein, if you are trying to become a lawyer, a great law professor will do you more good than a great lawyer.

I have met people who were amazing practitioners who couldn’t impart their knowledge to others. They had no clue how they manage to fly – they just did it. Ask them about the Bernoulli principle and you would get blank stares. Often they had no interest in imparting their knowledge – making discussions about their own craft cramped and vacuous.

I’ve also met people who were inspiring teachers who were unable to implement their own teaching. They could make you love their subject and inspire you to follow it with all your heart. Yet their own work was less exciting than the work they could teach you to do.

Of course there are the exceptions that are able and interested in doing both of these things. Yet I’m not sure how one would pick the more noble or worthwhile vocation. The world needs both. Whether you’re teaching or doing, as long as you find it inspirational, others probably will, too.

I am largely self-taught, but that’s not because I think it’s more noble to struggle through learning things on your own. Possibly I thought that way when I was younger, but as I gained some knowledge that should have come more quickly, I learned that while even a mediocre teachers can be worse than no teacher at all – a good teacher is indispensable. They can alter your life’s course, give you inspiration that lasts for decades, and impart wisdom that would have taken you decades to acquire. If you were lucky enough to have a teacher like this, I’m sure you remember them.

Part of the reason I’m involved in the entertainment industry is because I took a class from Peter Guber at UCLA, who was Chairman of Sony Pictures at the time (now President of Mandalay Entertainment). He obviously didn’t need the UCLA “paycheck”, and we all know studio heads keep their jobs because of raw desire (theirs) and raw fear (everyone who is supplying the money) – not because of the dubious resume trophy of a film school Professorship. It was obvious he was not only genuinely excited about the industry and wanted to share that, but that he was excited to learn more about an industry he had been at the top of for 20 years. This class was his excuse for still exploring and learning about an industry he had helped shape. While being the consummate doer, you couldn’t help but be influenced by that kind of enthusiasm for learning about the business and art of moviemaking, and how the two might be combined. I’ve often been frustrated that people seem to view the business or art of movies separately in a vacuum, but that’s a post for another day.

Unfortunately, most teachers impart only vocation and detail, but rarely knowledge and inspiration. If you’re lucky enough to encounter even one really great teacher along the way that does more than that, make sure you appreciate it and gain as much as you can from it.



What will people remember you for?

Everyone (except my friend Troy House who avoids basketball like the plague) has probably heard the “greatest basketball player” discussion. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlin, etc. Is it based on pure shooting ability (Kobe?). Is it based on team importance (LeBron?). Is it based on championship rings (Bill Russell?).

You can argue the relative merits of any of those positions. The same thing happens in any competitive field. Who’s the best director in Hollywood? What’s the best burger spot in New York? Who’s the best dentist or car mechanic? People use all sorts of metrics. Cheapest car mechanic, highest grossing director, the director with the most awards, etc.

I find it’s nice to turn to sports, as it often paints a clearer picture. Hence all the wonderful metaphors in the sports world. A team’s winning or losing has to do with many factors, but in the end they either win or lose. In Hollywood, one person’s most hated movie will be another person’s favorite.

Getting back to basketball, however, all the same confusion applies with this discussion. People usually just tend to pick the most public figure who was playing when they were about 10-15 years old. Same way people often pick sports teams for life, someone who is about 22 now might automatically think Kobe Bryant is the best player, more because of timing than sheer ability. If you’re 12 now, in 10 years you will write blog entries about LeBron being the greatest player.

However, I think people often come back to Michael Jordan for a number of reasons – and for more than just being a great player.

Michael Jordan put his imprint on everything he did. He didn’t just win, he did it with style. He looked like he was simultaneously working harder than everyone else, playing with less effort and having way more fun. While other players might beat you, Jordan would make you look bad, but without ever making you look bad. I saw players actually fall down from Jordan’s feinting stutter steps – not because of anything he did, but because they were already scared and anticipating what he was going to do.

People talk about a “mental” game, but they don’t realize that it’s not just in your head, but in everyone else’s head, too.

When it comes down to it, no one had more signature “moves” than Jordan. Kobe has a distinctive fadeaway, and Kareem had a distinctive hook – but everything Jordan did was distinctive. Things that had nothing to do with even playing were distinctive! The way he chewed gum, or stuck his tongue out when driving the lane. What other player put such a stamp on themselves, and on the game?

It’s no surprise that the most distinctive player in basketball history practically branded Nike during the 90’s with just the afterglow of his own personal branding.

Nothing Jordan did was a gimmick, though. He didn’t stick his tongue out to distract you from the fact that he couldn’t drive to the basket. This is a huge distinction, and one that people forget. If you develop a way of doing things because your way is better and reflects your personality – that’s a signature. If you develop a way of doing things that hides the fact that your way isn’t better and only reflects your desired image – that’s a gimmick.

Jordan really did change the game.


baby, it wasn’t me

BP, TransOcean and Halliburton giving testimony before Congress

Responsibility, or the lack thereof.

On Monday night, the Utah Jazz lost to the LA Lakers, ending Utah’s playoff run. 25 year old Deron Williams, when asked about the loss, responded with, “We’re a playoff team and they’re a championship team. They’re just better than we are.” He didn’t blame the refs, he didn’t mention that his right wrist might need surgery, and he didn’t blame anyone else on the team or in the state of Utah or the tooth fairy.

On Tuesday, the President of BP America, 51 year old Lamar McKay, testified in front of Congress about the accident on BP’s oil rig. He explained that Transocean was responsible for the safety of drilling operations, so it wasn’t BP’s fault. The CEO of Transocean, 45 year old Harvard MBA Steven Newman, said that offshore oil drilling responsibility begins and ends with the operator of the rig, so it wasn’t Transocean’s fault. Executive VP of “Strategy” at Halliburton, 58 year old Timothy Probert, said they did everything according to accepted industry standards, so it wasn’t Halliburton’s fault.

Personally, despite a losing performance on Monday, I would trust Deron Williams to oversee offshore drilling more than any of these three companies. He pro’ly gets paid more than those clowns, but at least he earns it.

When people ask why sports figures make more than businessmen and teachers and doctors…I’d like to think this is the reason.