Jason Lee and the love of photography

I stumbled across this fantastic video on YouTube this summer, produced by Ilford (makers of photographic films) and highlighting the film photography of Jason Lee. For those not familiar, Jason was a professional skateboarder before becoming an actor. About 15 years ago, he discovered photography, and like so many of us, photography became a passion. The video itself is a work of art, and I have watched it a few times now. 

I became a bit curious about his work, which led me to this podcast with Jason and the folks at Kodak about a photography book he created called, A Plain View. The book is out of print, but the images on his website of the book are simply beautiful. I hope I can track down this book in the secondary market at some point, but for now, it’s unavailable to me. 

Few things that stand out with Jason photography:

-He doesn’t have a social media presence at all. He doesn’t collect likes or followers on Instagram or Facebook. His work is in books, short films, fine art prints and his own website. How refreshing.

-You can tell from his work that he loves the beauty of film photography, from exposing the film to printing the image. He mentions his use of old lenses not because they give him a photographic look that he seeks that cannot be matched by new gear or digital manipulation.

-His curiosity leads to experimentation. Jason’s work is across 35mm, medium format and large format. You get a sense that each format is intentional and also the photographer on a self exploration of the unknown.

As you can tell, I am quite taken with Jason’s approach to the craft and the final output. I highly recommend checking out Jason’s work on his website.

Hallway Chat, a podcast by me and Nabeel

My good friend and business partner, Nabeel and I have a little ad hoc podcast called Hallway Chat. It goes back over 5 years but we only record a few episodes a year, at best.

Yesterday we turned on the mic and recorded another episode. In 40 minutes or so we chatted about stuff we would talk about about over coffee or in the hallway on any given day. No agenda, no script. Mics on and go.

And this day we discussed investing during a pandemic (ie 2020 vs 2019), how we are working from home (technology and daily schedule), some likely controversial thoughts about remote work, AirPods woes, and a few memorable moments at Postmates.

Thanks for listening and as always tweet us (@bijan and @nabeel) with comments/questions/suggestions.

You can listen to our podcast on Soundcloud or with your favorite podcast app.

You can also add the RSS link to your player or browser :)

https://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:210042272/sounds.rss

Disconnecting from the news is often healthy, what you do next is the thing that matters

“I’m just going to disconnect, I can’t follow the news anymore”

I’m hearing this with increased frequency from various folks in my life.

And I get it. The daily news coming from various parts of this country can be intensely stressful, depressing and angering. That plus our own addition to our phones can be an tough combination. 

Disconnecting for a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks at a time can be enormously helpful and healthy.  A great opportunity to spend time with your loved ones or to pursue personal creative projects. Or just to relax. 

But I would also encourage you to use the time offline to reflect on what you can do to help change the situation that made you disconnect in the first place.

Does the endless corruption from this administration make you sick? Does the systemic racism and inequality in this country make you heart break? Does the lack of leadership with the Covid19 pandemic frustrate you? What are you going to do when you come reenter the community and the world. It can be big or small but be intentional about it.

It is a privilege to be able to disconnect from the daily – so use and cherish the time for all its worth.

When you come back, make it count.

Another new song from the upcoming record. Nine years later and I can’t wait for this album to drop.

Matching donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Based on the current level of activism around the country, I can’t help but feel extremely optimistic that the progressive voter turnout is going to be massive this November.

In fact this week we saw historic wins for women of color in many elections across the country. An icing on the cake, well known racist Steve King lost his primary in Iowa.

And it’s just not progressives that are rejecting systemic racism and those that seek to divide us. Yesterday, the former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis penned an essay and emphatically denounced President Trump’s behavior. This portion of the essay really brings it home:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

But there is so much work to do and so much to do to end racism everywhere. It can feel overwhelming where to help. The key I believe is to find ways to get engaged.

So one thing my wife and I decided to do is raise money for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We are seeking to raise $75k and we will match dollar for dollar up to $75k. The donation page is here.

In a few days we have raised about $7,500 on the GoFundMe page and another $20k that a friend privately emailed me. So I’m counting all of that and tomorrow and each and every Friday, we will make a donation on GoFundMe to match the prior weeks donations from all of you. I hope those of you reading this post will consider contributing as well. Every dollar helps.

I know this is a drop in the ocean given the scale of the challenges. But I believe action is better than no action and my family will do more in other ways. We all need to.

Great taste is underhyped

One piece of advice that is often cited in startup land is the idea & importance of building a monopoly or a moat strategy.

I get it. The desire to build something defensible and durable for the ages requires something that suggests you can withstand competition.

But in the software/tech world it is immensely difficult, if not impossible to build a monopoly. There are just too many creative entreprenuers and talented people to build an everlasting moat.

Throughout my career, I find myself drawn to founders less interested in building a monopoly and more drawn to founders with exceptional and extraordinary taste. It’s rare but when you see it, well, it takes your breath away. In fact, I think taste is one of the most under appreciated attributes of a product inspired founder.

Steve Jobs calling Microsoft out for a lack of taste back in 1995 sums up the point:

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”

There are no text book ways to develop great taste. It doesn’t come from countless A/B testing or cloning some successful feature in another app. It often is derived from a some unique combination of vision and talent. And always comes from the heart.