I did the cover story on Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln for Preferred‘s winter issue. The zombie genre has been done and re-done, but Lincoln brings something unique to this telling.
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Sebastião Salgado is a renown Brazilian photographer who has his career explored in-depth in the 2014 documentary The Salt of the Earth. His subjects tended to revolve around his learning as an economist: workers, displaced people and others affected by the geopolitical forces.
The documentary gives his insightful glances into the artist within Salgado, like when he describes the method behind his portrait photography, “The strength of a portrait is that in that split second, we understand a little the life of the person photographed. The eyes speak volumes, the expression of the face. When you do a portrait, it is not you alone who takes the picture. The person offers a photo.”
Some of his images can only evoke sadness and despair, something Salgado fell into after witnessing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The Salt of the Earth does not hide the terrible truths of the human condition.
Despite all this, there is hope for the future. The documentary ends on a positive note as Salgado finds a way to “undo time.” Perhaps that’s what photography does–capturing moments in eternity, while simultaneously, we must acknowledge that some moments are lost forever.
I’ve been making the rounds at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare to see a friend. It’s described as a “complex cares and rehabilitation center hospital.”
The first time I came by to see him, I noted his roommate, an elderly gentleman who we’ll call “Nigel.” Nigel wanted to know why I was building my friend up (I was reminding him of the great things he’d done and the great things he was going to do when he was out of the hospital). It’s got to be understood without saying that positive thinking helps people heal.
There was another moment where I really caught the essence of Nigel’s thought process. He was staring out the window, looking at some people waiting for the bus and moaning, “Everyone else is out there.” Yes, out there doing things, leading active lives and moving on. At least from his fifth floor window perception.
Nigel was confined to a wheelchair when he got out of bed and confined to the hospital due to some sort of brain injury or memory problem. His wife and other family members came to visit him on a regular basis, but as soon as he was alone, self-doubt and self-pity surfaced.
I’m not here to say what’s right or what’s wrong. Were any of us in Nigel’s precarious position, perhaps we’d have similar thoughts as he experiences. It’s a lot to handle, being hospitalized indefinitely. And yet Nigel probably had some really good years when he was younger. He’d had the same chances as the people waiting for the bus.
The point is, we all get our chances. That’s why we have to make the most of them when we can. Forget other people, forget comparisons, forget judging people from afar. Just act with intention and commitment today, because that might be all we ever have.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a classic film about a group of prisoners of war (POW’s) who are enslaved and working for their Japanese captors to construct a bridge. It’s a movie about one man–Colonel Nicholson–and his massive hubris in taking pride in what is essentially a partnership with the enemy.
The bridge that his POW’s construct will supply the Japanese, who are at war with the Allied forces. While there is duress in extracting labor from the prisoners, Nicholson adds his own special element of delusion: Nicholson actually believes that the bridge stands for something.
Have you ever had to work for a cause that was completely unethical? Like, say, working for a corporation that skirted the law to defraud people? Or writing advertising copy that was purposely misleading? It happens everyday in the world, somewhere, in some way.
What also happens is that one day, someone comes along with a mission to blow that bridge up. To eviscerate the lies and deceptions and reveal the true nature of how things work. Imagine all the crusaders appearing with statistics and studies attempting to end the war on drugs. Or the educators who unveil a new model for learning. There are going to be pissed off stakeholders within the DEA and education system respectively who do not want to see any change.
What’s worse, what’s far worse is when the slaves themselves rally to the cause of their oppressor. Rational thought is thrown out the window as they react with rage towards those trying to change the status quo.
I think it’s crazy that people would willingly give up their freedom. But how much more terrible is it that people involved in building something unethical or contravening their own mission statement would rally against their own best interests?
I suppose it can be soul destroying to see that lie destroyed. Well, the people that lose sight of what’s important don’t really have much comfort when the truth comes out, do they?
One gym I enjoy being a part of is TorontoBJJ. Of late, I made a couple video interviews with my teammates Gabe Sagman and Jon-Taine Hall. Gabe was scheduled to have his third pro fight on May 30 in Burlington, but he had to pull out due to injury.
I shot a lot of video of Gabe and his brother Reuben for a documentary short that I plan to release before Gabe’s next fight, which is tentatively scheduled for late October.
As for Jon-Taine, he is a jiu-jitsu phenom who faced an elite Olympic wrestler at Hard Knocks 44 in Calgary, Alberta on June 26. It was a real struggle for Jon-Taine to find opponents, so he stepped it up and took a really challenging match. He ended up losing a decision, but I believe he will come back much stronger next time around.
I give full credit to both Gabe and Jon-Taine for the commitment they’ve shown to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu throughout the years. Both are brown belts and both proudly fight under the TorontoBJJ banner. Of course, there’s much more to come and I look forward to watching their journeys unfold from the best vantage point in the house–as their teammate.
Many factors come into play when discussing success. Some will point to a superior educational pedigree. Others to inherent class advantages. Some like to chalk it up to luck. And then there are those who talk about cognitive patterns that are hardwired into us–obviously, that’s my preference.
We are conditioned into our mindset by those around us and other environmental stimuli.
As the quote goes from Good Will Hunting, “Most people never get to see how brilliant they can be. They don’t find teachers that believe in them. They get convinced they’re stupid.”
I won’t get into the debate over which type of teacher, professor or coach is ideal– authoritarian, authoritative or hands-off. But I will make the bold suggestion that if certain types of people don’t mesh with your goals, perhaps it’d be better to move in separate directions.
The worst thing you can do is start throwing negativity into relationships before they’ve even been established. Talking behind someone’s back. Arguing with people over nothing. Letting jealousy affect your ability to be professional/courteous/polite. Maintaining or allowing negative relationships and people to stay in your life is another mistake.
No matter how talented someone is, no matter how much potential they have, they can be brought down to the level of mediocrity or non-achievement without the right people around them. The bad attitudes of others rub off and surface as bad habits in you.
Formula One champion Nigel Mansell devotes a page in his autobiography on how himself and his wife actively distanced themselves from friends who were overtly negative about his embryonic efforts in Formula Ford (a feeder league for Formula One):
There were people whom we hardly ever saw, but if something went wrong they would come up to us and say, ‘I could have told you about that. I could have told you that wouldn’t work.’ It’s amazing how many people we’ve run into with that attitude.
Mansell goes on to say that if these people were more constructive in their approach, their opinions would have been palatable.
I have a cousin who has always been negative to me since my childhood. She’s older by about 7-8 years, so perhaps a false sense of superiority or smug condescension blossomed with the age gap. While I couldn’t imagine going up to her and criticizing her prospects at her office job, she’s always had “smart” things to say about writing, journalism and the arts.
I find it ludicrous that this kind of person presents themselves as a direct impediment to mental confidence and then complains when communication breaks down. Worse still is when someone with no context or background in an area wants to pontificate as an expert on the subject material.
As the article from ExpertBoxing.com states, I don’t need an army of ‘Yes-Men’ to fluff false confidence and agree with everything that I do. But I also certainly don’t need prolonged exposure to toxic opinions that offer no benefit to me whatsoever. And neither does anyone else.
Sometimes a song catches us because we know how real it is. The Killers “Mr. Brightside” is one of those songs, and it has an interesting back story.
Says vocalist Brandon Flowers, “Lyrically, it’s about an odd girlfriend of mine. All the emotions in the song are real. When I was writing the lyrics, my wounds from it were still fresh. I am Mr. Brightside! But I think that’s the reason the song has persisted – because it’s real. People pick up on those things. And that goes all the way down to the production; we recorded it in a couple of hours, but it just sounds right, you know?”
Of course, the listener feels the emotional resonance. That’s what makes a hit. The artist can’t explain after the fact– the song has to speak for itself.
Back in the day, in high school music class, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: we learned to play instruments with high technical proficiency. But something was missing– there was no emotional attachment to the music. I can only speak for myself, but I never put my heart and soul into playing the notes; I just went through the motions because I was doing what I was told to do.
Creativity is such a personal journey. If you’re working to please the teacher and allow them to overlay their own concepts of good and bad onto you, you’re silencing a part of your own dynamic range. You’ll find a rebellious spirit in every emerging artist worth mentioning because they brought something different to the table.
Leading up to Canadian Georges St-Pierre’s announcement of his impending retirement, I wrote about how the UFC has to rely more on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. With UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez out for a year, GSP retired and lighter-weight fighters not drawing, it really does look like Jon Jones will be forced to carry the brunt of duties as Zuffa’s point man.
I gave my thoughts on GSP’s retirement in a new CagePotato article, A Survivor in a Dangerous Game, GSP Finds the Exit Before It’s Too Late:
Georges St-Pierre’s tremendous desire for public validation of his talents was both his greatest strength as a fighter and his greatest weakness in terms of his personal health. He put it on the line for fans, media, and a promoter who were all just as likely to offer scathing criticism as they were to give him praise.
As part of the well-received (and continuing) “Shill ‘Em All” series on the MMA media, I wrote part 3 on the “Fanboys” who populate the MMA industry.
The most direct response to the article came, not from an MMA fighter, but boxer Paulie Malignaggi during a press conference to promote his upcoming bout with Zab Judah:
The media has always been inaccurate or overly critical of Malignaggi when it comes to his fragile hands and close/controversial decisions he’s dropped.
FightOpinion.com’s Zach Arnold dissected Malignaggi’s rant, and came up with things that fighters can do in order to support change like attending commission meetings or pushing back at the right time. Zach’s point is that any change in combat sports requires fighters and managers act as active participants who are involved in all issues across the board.
Would Malignaggi be so upset about bad judging or the biased media if he wasn’t a victim of either? The conclusion is obvious: people agitate for change when they have a problem; when problems don’t affect them, they don’t care.
One of my favorite scenes from The Sopranos is where Tony starts questioning his entire life– asking “How did I get here?” instead of selling pots and pans in China. Being a sociopath, he finds a way to dismiss any attempt to actually change his life. Worse still, those around him–notably, Meadow–get sucked into the family business.
Still, this begs the question about whether things could have turned out differently. What if Tony had been born into a Norman Rockwell-type family scene? Not suggesting he’d be happy, but certainly, he wouldn’t be caught up in a life of criminal activity.
Of course, it doesn’t matter where Tony Soprano grew up or who he became. As a fictional character, or even looking at real life examples, people want to believe they have the option of choice. Rags to riches, or so they say. If you’re in the majority of people who wasn’t born into the good life, could you condition yourself into someone who has it today?
As artists, creative types and writers, we put ourselves in positions, each and everyday. The outcome is always guaranteed before anything takes place because we know the maximum potential that a project entails. We enter into that contract knowing the pitfalls, drawbacks and rewards.
All of this being said, for Tony Soprano, there’s only the next score. For Sopranos creator David Chase, there’s only the next project. And for myself, well, with the right approach, the sky’s the limit.