A Star is Born Lifted by Performances of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

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Several years ago, I asked a limo driver in Sydney, Australia which celebrity impressed him the most. Without hesitation, he volunteered Lady Gaga, who was then on her acclaimed Monster Ball Tour. Lady Gaga was reverential when she talked about her fans, and how important they were to her career. No other celebrity, he said, showed more authentic respect and appreciation for their fans. This humility and grounded authenticity may well be the touchstone for her compelling performance in A Star Is Born, earning her a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for best actress (in a movie—drama).

Movie remakes tend to make eyes roll, but the newest “retelling” of A Star is Born is worth watching, and not just because of Lady Gaga’s performance. The movie earned five Golden Globe nominations and is a thoughtful, updated mix of themes from the previous versions. This version, co-written and produced by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) in his debut as a movie director, serves as a relevant reminder of the toll that substance abuse and addiction takes on human creativity, relationships, and identity. The fact that Lady Gaga and Cooper, who also plays the tarnished rock star Jackson Main, provide compelling performances allows this film to shine despite its flaws.

The general arc of the story is familiar. An aging rock star, in his case Jackson Main (Cooper), discovers a young songwriting and singing talent Ally (Lady Gaga) way off the mainstream tracks in a grungy part of Los Angeles. Main is taken by her talent as well as her innocence. He uses his celebrity platform to coax her onto his stage and expose her talent to world, convinced she will be a star if she is just given a chance. He is right. Literary, “a star is born.”

But Ally’s journey to stardom is not easy, nor is Main’s life in the industry or on the road. Main’s alcohol addiction wreaks havoc on his professional and personal life. Ally gets caught up in his downward spiral. Ally grapples with her love for the man who freely gave her his platform to launch her career, but who is now falling hard and dragging her with him.

Jackson Main, for his part, is too drunk to fully come to grips with his own demons until he nearly topples the career of the woman he loves. In many respects, the 2018 movie borrows more from the 1937 original (which was awarded two Oscars and nominated for six others) than from the 1976 version (which won one Oscar and five Golden Globe Awards), both in the dynamic between the two lovers as well as the darkness of the story’s ending.

Screenwriters Eric Roth, Will Fetters, and Cooper have weaved a sophisticated story that doesn’t shy away from the hard truths about the devastating consequences of addiction, the dilemmas faced by those in their lives, or the vulnerabilities of addicts. Despite the story’s focus addiction and its consequences, the music and live performances are stellar, adding richness to the personal dynamic between the characters. Indeed, Jackson Main comes alive and returns to peak form on stage in the presence of Ally, providing some of the movie’s most touching and poignant scenes. While Main is significantly older than Ally, his world-weary character and its toxic effects on their relationship are wrapped into his addiction, not his physical age or talent as a musician.

The attention to the story’s detail and environment also gives this movie depth. The stage band singing with Jackson Main, for example, doesn’t just play their instruments. They become part of the story as they send encouraging and validating nods and smiles toward Main when Ally is performing. Lady Gaga conveys a genuine sense of awe as she is caught up in the surrealism of the lights, crowds, and attention while watching, and then singing, with a rock star. Meanwhile, the camera never loses its focus on Main, reinforcing his authentic support for Ally’s emerging talent and adulation.

The songs and lyrics are an integral part of the story, most of which were written for this version of the movie and performed by Lady Gaga and Cooper. The hit “Shallow” has been nominated for best song at the Golden Globes. But the musical performances also convey the couple’s sense of wonder, hope, interpersonal conflict, and personal losses, reinforcing key themes of awe, love, and heartache.

A Star is Born tends to move more slowly when Ally and Jackson are off stage, particularly in scenes that feel as if they were lifted with minor tweaks from previous movies or adaptations. Early scenes appear to unnecessarily ground Ally’s character in a hard knock life, serving more as a convenient plot device than a source of real bonding between the characters. Some may also find the romantic story moving too quickly, given Ally’s understandable skepticism of the more famous and entitled rock musician celebrity. Despite these weaknesses, the movie works well on many other levels, bolstered in large part by the excellent acting by the leads as well as supporting cast (including prolific character actor Sam Elliott as Main’s brother and road manager).

All versions of A Star Is Born are rooted in the devastating consequences of substance abuse and addiction, but the Bradley Cooper version takes a more nuanced (or perhaps contemporary) approach. While Jackson Main faces the same personal weaknesses as celebrities of earlier generations, the personal and relationship toll the addiction takes is more layered and sophisticated, making the tragic ending more poignant. The consequences of his behavior are firmly rooted in the choices he makes, for better or for ill. This is particularly evident when Main’s emotional fragility is exposed at his lowest point. This approach to addiction was also reportedly one reason Lady Gaga was drawn to the role of Ally.

Overall, A Star Is Born is worth watching for the compelling performances by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, the strength of the music, and the performances that knit the story together. The chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga is undeniable, and this helps the film to rise above previous versions while giving it a fresh, contemporary relevance.

For the record, A Star Is Born’s Golden Globe nominations are for best movie (drama), best actress (drama), best actor (drama), best director, and best original song (“Shallow”). It should be a strong contender in all its categories even if it falls short of winning.


Samuel R. Staley is Research Fellow and film critic at the Independent Institute.

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Federal Government Shutdown Theater 2018: The Drama Really Begins

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To borrow a line from ABC’s reality shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and with all due apologies to host Chris Harrison, this may be the most dramatic season of Federal Government Shutdown Theater ever!

According to The Hill‘s Jordan Fabian, the fireworks started on December 11, 2018, shortly after President Trump unexpectedly invited the cameras into his meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer:

President Trump on Tuesday engaged in an extraordinary argument with Democratic congressional leaders over government funding, threatening a partial shutdown if his demands for border wall money are not met.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a contentious, 17-minute exchange inside the Oval Office.

Trump’s vehemence left Pelosi and Schumer exasperated, with both leaders pleading with the president not to debate the funding request in front of the news media.

“Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward,” Pelosi said, after arguing with the president over the need for a border wall and whether Republicans have the votes to pass wall funding through the House.

“It’s not bad, Nancy. It’s called transparency,” Trump shot back after one objection from Pelosi, who appeared to anger the president when she accused him of wanting a “Trump shutdown” over the wall.

CNN has uploaded a video of the exchange to YouTube.

It’s official. Federal Government Shutdown Theater season has truly begun! Stay tuned!


Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org.

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Why Your Business Needs A Corporate Lawyer Even When You Don’t Have Any Lawsuits

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Lawsuits. Lawyers. Judges.

It would seem that the majority of the population have the impression that the only time you’re going to need a lawyer is when you get involved in a lawsuit, whether it’s a lawsuit that’s against you or when you’re the complainant. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that presumption. However, this presumption becomes folly when people think that this is the only time that they’re going to need a lawyer.

See, the thing is that yes, it’s true that lawyers are excellent at solving problems. However, their mastery of the principles that govern legal matters does not reach its full potency when only used in lawsuits. It’s akin to having a boxer, who has two arms, only punch with one arm.

Lawyers are good at solving problems, but they’re even better at preventing them.

Now, as young business upstarts, you may lack the experience necessary to comprehend how to properly utilize the skill and knowledge that a lawyer possesses. Which is why this article is so necessary, because running a business has many facets, each with varying levels of difficulty and each with its own score of problems should you mishandle it.

Of course, you’re going to want to be at the reins of your business. That’s only natural and right. But, there are some tasks that you may need expert legal help with. As a rule of thumb, any task that involves licensing, trademarks, employee termination, employee misclassification, shareholders’ agreements, and even overtime disputes should all be issues left for your lawyer to handle.

The reason being that these are tasks and issues that could result in you getting sued if you mishandle any of them. For example, an overtime dispute is a very costly lawsuit to have thrown at you.

The Fair Labor Standards Act allows employees to recover all unpaid overtime as well as liquidated damages. The real kicker here is that they are also entitled to recover attorney’s fees. This is because even if the employee wins even a single dollar from an employer, the employee is still entitled to recover all attorney fees, which are almost always hefty.

You do not want this happening to your business. Hire a reliable corporate lawyer and have your lawyer help you with these legal processes.

But a lawyer can be expensive to hire.

That’s true. Which is why you should also know which tasks do not require expert legal help. These are tasks that you can handle on your own, or you can Google how to handle yourself. After all, the point of business is to profit, is it not? And one of the surest ways to do that is to cut costs as much as you responsibly can.

A few examples of tasks that you can handle on your own are: hiring and recruitment, business permit application, contract writing, domain name reservation, business strategy planning, and even handling IRS audits.


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Exhibitions And Gift Fairs: Everything A Small Business Owner Needs To Know

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When you run a small business, chances are that you operate mainly from one set location. If you run a brick and mortar store, you will sell goods to customers who walk through your doors, browse your stock and displays, and hand over cash or pay by card on a face to face basis.

If you engage with E-commerce and operate through an online store, your customers will head to a website and make online transactions. You are likely to then post items out from home or from your commercial premises and storage spaces. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to limit yourself to your main premises or means of meeting customers when it comes to raking in money.

There are alternative locations that you can sell at temporarily too! Let’s take a moment to look at exhibitions and gift fairs and examine how they can prove to be extremely lucrative and profitable for your small business.

What Is an Exhibition?

An exhibition is a public display of something of interest. When you engage with exhibitions as a small business owner, you will generally rent a stall or space within a hall which will be shared with other businesses operating in a similar field to you. If you sell confectionary, you might want to set up at a food exhibition. If you sell craft goods, you could rent a stall at a craft show. Members of the public interested in these given areas will purchase tickets to the exhibition and will browse all of the wares on offer there.

What Is a Gift Fair?

A gift fair is very similar to an exhibition, but it is generally marketed as a great place to pick up presents for loved ones. They are consequently generally put on at busy times of year near special occasions that are widely celebrated, such as Christmas.

The Benefits.

There are plenty of benefits that come hand in hand with setting up at exhibitions and gift fairs. Here are just a few to consider.

People Are Willing to Spend – people buy tickets to these events with the intention of buying things while they are there. This means that you will come face to face with a number of people who are looking to part with their cash. Making sales becomes a whole lot easier.

You Can Establish Your Brand – if you are a newbie in your field, these events serve as the perfect opportunity to get your name out there and to establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with. This is also a great opportunity for online companies who wouldn’t otherwise come face to face with consumers.

Tips and Tricks.

When choosing a stand to rent at a gift fair, don’t be afraid to spend a little more on a space that is in a prime location. This will be more than worth the investment, as placement can significantly affect the volume of traffic that will pass by your display. Try to secure a spot in a main aisle at an intersection. This maximises the number of people you’ll come into contact with. You should also make sure that you have plenty of business cards ready. If you connect with someone at the show or someone shows interest in your goods, you want to make sure that they can get in touch with you easily. Make sure that your cards have an eye catching design and fit perfectly into the card compartment of a wallet. Remember to detail your brand name and have details such as your contact number and email address without any typos.

While you might not have considered setting up at a trade show or gift fair before, there are plenty of benefits that come hand in hand with doing so. Hopefully, the above information will help to prepare you for the first one that you do decide to attend.


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Losing More Business Than You’re Winning? Try This.

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by Laurie Richards, co-author of “Ready, Set, Go!“

Why do so many new business pitches fail, and what can business owners do about it? When it comes to pitching new business leads, everybody says “Don’t talk about what you do; talk about what you do for them…” but then no one tells you how to do it.

Here are three surefire tips for creating a client-centered pitch that is more likely to win you new business.

1. Use “you” language.

When you sit in a meeting or listen to a business pitch, notice the first three minutes of it. It’s always about the speaker. The person introduces themselves, gives background about their project or their company, and on and on and on — and before you know it, you’re mentally making your grocery list, not listening to a word he or she has to say!

Instead, a new business pitch needs to start out with language like, “Imagine your business is such and such,” or, “As a company who’s been in business for 42 years, you know that it’s not enough to just be good performers; you’ve got to have the strongest ability to perform task X.”

At that point you could even add, “As a person who’s been in business for 25 years myself, I understand that.” It’s okay to use the word “I,” but it should be more of an afterthought, with the entire focus of your presentation being about the client.

Another common business pitching faux pas is when people say, “I want you to be able to [fill in the blank].” Who cares what you want? What does your customer want? Instead of “I want you to,” try “If you want to be able to afford to retire, you’re going to want to put together this much money,” or “If you want your family protected, this is the policy that offers the clearest benefit,” or “If you want this organization to succeed, you’ll want to have your members be able to do X.” Present action steps, not your personal wish list — which ends up sounding salesy and disingenuous.

2. Know your client’s heaven and hell.

This is all about knowing your client’s ideal and worst possible outcomes and pitching to those. “If you want this ideal outcome, you’re going to take action X,” or “If you want to avoid this terrible outcome, you’re going to want to do this.”

For example, when someone says, “We’re going to invent new uses for this product,” does that inspire you? No; it’s just generic. Or when someone says, “We’re going to build business,” there’s nothing there to grab onto mentally or emotionally.

If instead you say, “The goal is to invent new uses so that there’s a long term usefulness for this product… so that you can have it for years to come… so that the organization survives and thrives through the next generation,” all of a sudden you have people connecting to survival and ongoing stability. Practice using “so that” language to tie your pitch to creating the client’s heaven or avoiding the client’s hell.

3. Know where to showcase your “bottom line” in your pitch.

Pitching your product, service, or business more effectively means using a structure that is opposite from what most technical professionals are accustomed to. In most academic and technical environments, people are taught to build up to their idea by backing it up with all the facts, figures, opinions, and hypotheses first. This is an A + B = C way of presenting.

In business though, it’s better to follow the way journalists present their stories: with the newest, hottest info right at the top and the details after. This is more of a C = A + B way of presenting. Here’s why this works best for business pitches.

The higher most people go up in their careers, the fewer nitty-gritty details they need to be involved in. If a company Vice President is trying to determine if they want your services, they need to know the bottom line. Then, they will ask you about the pieces if the bottom line interests them. They don’t have time to learn how you did your job; they just need to know if the end result is something they would like to learn more about and engage with you on.

Always have answers ready, but start with your bottom line first. Then offer succinct, limited details and see if more information is requested.

With these three tools in hand, you can reframe your new business pitches to create more engagement and a greater sense of urgency for your prospects. Implement these techniques team-wide to create a meaningful shift in your new business pitch success rates.


Laurie Richards, co-author of “Ready, Set, Go!“, is an accomplished international speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant who works with leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, salespeople, and other professionals to improve communication at every level. Known for her practical, interactive, and entertaining approach, she helps clients strategically plan outcome-based presentations and improve everyday communications to directly affect the bottom line.


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Best Practices When Video And Email Cross Paths

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by Sean Gordon, founder of vidREACH.io

Every business today, no matter the industry, has someone working with video. Whether marketing, or a startup, video is always an integral part of how you conduct business.

That said, in many ways digital video production and distribution remain in its’ infancy. While programs with exciting new features pop up on a weekly basis, existing tools like email are playing catch-up to the video revolution.

Besides hardware taking steps forward, we’re still adapting to the production of video, as well as the etiquette when it comes to distribution. Etiquette is equally important; when to send, whom to send what, and what accompanies a video, are crucial considerations.

How can we ensure our video will reach the widest intended audience? Let’’s look at some best practices for sending videos through email to prospects, customers and for internal communications.

Treat Your Subject Line as a Film Studio Treats Their Movie Titles…

Put thought into it! Be creative, draw their eyes, make them want to open and view. Be forthcoming but clever, not misleading. What are some subject line strategies? First and foremost, let your recipient know a video is embedded.

Another strategy is to be self-referential of the video, stating something like, “INSERT CONTACT NAME, I created this quick 30 second video to introduce you to our INSERT PRODUCT”. The benefit here is that it personalizes and even includes stakes; this title is obviously predicated on an earlier outreach, so you’re delivering specific information for the recipient that they may have requested.

Words Are Your Friend.

The video is the key to your email, the reason you’re sending it in the first place. However, don’t ignore the power of text to augment your message!

Don’’t use your email to reiterate what was said in the video; summarize, add personalized caveats to strengthen the message.

Don’t Forget to Follow-Up.

Include a call-to-action at the conclusion of the emailWhat would be the next step you’d like to see taken?

A final thought, don’t be afraid to show some personality! You can be a little bit goofy or a little bit eccentric. Personalize and humanize, those two words should be your guiding creed.


Sean Gordon founded vidREACH.io to engage candidates, prospects, customers and employees – all on one platform. Sean has created new lines of business, reinvigorated stagnant company cultures, and mentored hundreds of employees who have gone on to do great things.


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5 Reasons Why Your Business’ Instagram Posts Fail

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Instagram’s engagement is higher than Facebook and Twitter, and a major reason for this is that images and video perform much better than text. People prefer these media formats, and they have been a key growth driver for many businesses on Instagram.

But some posts work well, while others fail.

When posts fail, they lead to lost revenue and engagement. Key reasons why your business’ Instagram posts are failing include:

1. You’re Not Linking to Your Site in Your Bio.

If you own a company, don’t assume that the name of your account will be a “hint” as to which website your followers should visit. You need to have a link in your bio, or a call-to-action, which will direct users to your website.

Your stunning photography and videography may attract viewers, but for a return on investment, you need to lure visitors to your company’s website.

2. Ditch Private Account Modes.

If you want to gain Instagram followers, one of the worst things that you can do is set your profile to “private.” We’ve all seen how “meme” accounts can attract followers with a private profile, but it’s an inconvenience for consumers.

And it also adds more work for a business.

You’ll need to accept all of the followers on a private account, and this means more work for your business.

3. Start Adding in Hashtags.

Hashtags are the way that people search on Instagram, and if you don’t include hashtags, it’s going to be much harder for your audience to find you. When you have no followers, hashtags are what can mean the difference between success or failure.

You can add 30 hashtags on a photo, but studies show that adding 5 – 10 hashtags works well.

Vary your hashtags, and try to find a sweet spot, often between 7 and 9, where engagement seems to be the highest.

4. You’re Posting in Batches.

Scheduling posts is a great way to keep your account’s users engaged day and night, but there’s a big difference between scheduling posts and batch posting. A lot of accounts will post pictures rapidly, and posting 2 – 5 pictures in succession is doing you no good.

First, these pictures clog up followers’ feeds.

Second, you’re missing the key metric of time in your posting. There are active times and inactive times in each time zone. By batch posting, you’re losing out on the potential for more people to see your posts and follow your account.

5. Leaving Out Call-to-Actions in Posts.

Your posts should have call-to-actions embedded in them, but a lot of businesses skip this part. Perhaps a business owner believes that this practice is too “spammy.” But all of the major brands are adding a call to action in their posts.

You need to do the same, too.

This doesn’t mean spam your post with links, but it does mean encouraging visitors to follow a link to learn more information about the product image that they’re seeing.

Spend time on your Instagram account and don’t forget to learn from others in your niche. Follower your competitor’s accounts to see what they’re doing – right or wrong – on their accounts.


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National Press Club Enterprising Women: Red Shoes and Recaps, Part 1

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On November 28 I was invited to be a guest of the NBN on the Enterprising Women panel, hosted by the National Press Club of Australia. Alongside my fellow panellists Olivia Ruello (CEO, Business Chicks – below right) and Mikaela Jade (Founder, Indigital – below left) we discussed the topic of women in business and leadership, specifically female entrepreneurship in rural and regional areas.

A recent study by the NBN found the number of women starting up their own businesses in areas that are connected to the NBN has gone through the roof. Now a 2.3% lift doesn’t sound like much, but that’s actually twenty times the pace of growth that’s happening in areas that are not as well connected. Technology is empowering women to be more financially and professionally independent, and to strike out on their own. Here I reflect on the day’s events and share some of my key thoughts and take-outs from the day.


Is there enough attention being given to helping women start their own businesses, particularly in rural and regional areas?

I’ve visited and addressed audiences in places from Mt Isa to Shepparton, Tasmania to Bundaberg – and the number one thing I’ve noticed and been excited to see shifting more and more is the ability for so many locals to enjoy an incredible lifestyle while maintaining employment, largely through remote working. They may commute weekly or a few times a month to conduct face-to-face business meetings in the major cities, but the rest of the time they’re raising families in small country towns and rural areas; their lifestyles enabled by technology and connection.

As a  role model for others and an advocate for small business, I love to share what I have learnt. The most important thing for us to do for start-ups in the community is to encourage people to have the vision. What is it that they really want to achieve? You can be world-class at anything anywhere in this country now. That’s transformational for Australia to be on the global stage.

How do we also harness that enthusiasm?

There is a certain level of business acumen required to sit underneath – it’s one thing to have an idea and another thing to be able to execute on it. So what I believe we need more of is educating people on the business acumen and the support networks to help them grow their business. At any given point, more than a third of Australians think they have a cracker of an idea that they want to turn into a business. But I promise you, not a third of Australians should be business owners…

The real power comes when self-employed women become true ‘entrepreneurs’ or business owners, employing others in the local community. That’s when the real value and impact will be amplified even further.

Do you think something has to change in the Australian political system, especially in regard to the treatment of women?

People have a choice of where they focus their gifts and their energy and where they want to make a difference. When people talk to me about leadership I approach it from the perspective of, ow I can best use my unique gifts for the good those around us.. I sometimes ask myself where can I make the ‘biggest difference?’ In my opinion right now the biggest difference I can make is by growing the Big Red Group and delivering customers to the thousands of small businesses who provide experiences to our marketplaces. One thing that continues to drive me is seeing the economic impact I have because of the work we do. Perhaps this is the best way for me to show leadership.

So I believe that every woman who believes in leadership, who believes in ethics and the power of doing good, should start wearing red shoes. We need a symbol to remind us every single day of the role we need to play for our daughters and our granddaughters. We’ve had enough. The suffragettes did their work. They got us the vote. We must remind each other. Julie Bishop made a statement with her red shoes and has since donated them to the Museum of Australian Democracy. Ann Sherry, from Chief Executive Women, wore red shoes. We see Annabel Crabb wearing red shoes. There is a reason why I wear red shoes. I am a leader for others. I am a role model for others. It is important that I show people I’m a leader and I will stand out. I am proud to be woman.


Once you have the idea, how do you get it off the ground?
First and foremost, there are the fundamentals of business. You’ve got to earn more than you spend and then you make the profit. Money is the way our system works. I sit on the board of the business and economics faculty of the University of Melbourne, of which I am a graduate. After all these years they invited me back because I represent small business – and I’m so proud to be able to be a voice on behalf of small business. What we need more than anything is role models and people to say ‘this is possible’. But what they also told me is that 60 percent of their undergraduates want to run their own businesses. They had bankers and lawyers and accountants on our board, but they had a need to show people the way forward when it comes to running businesses and the fundamental shifts and changes to come as the nature and notion of work changes. The future of work is very different than the work we sit in today, and as such we need nimble, agile, education – not just institutional.

We must educate for the workplaces of tomorrow. Life is a lesson, it is our curiosity that allows us to become the best version of ourselves. Thisis the first part of a two-part series. Check in next week for part two.

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Interview with the Author of PyImageSearch and Computer Vision Practitioner: Dr. Adrian Rosebrock

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Part 13 of The series where I interview my heroes.

If you’re interested, you can find the Index to all the other “Interviews with ML Heroes” here

Today, I’m talking with One of my Gurus and mentors: Dr. Adrian Rosebrock

Adrian is the author of the PyImageSearch blog, he runs one of the best Computer Vision Course: PyImageSearch Gurus, where I had the chance of being mentored by him.

He also holds a Ph.D. in CS, he’s a serial entrepreneur and has been working on startups for the past 8 years.

About the Series:

I have very recently started making some progress with my Self-Taught Machine Learning Journey. But to be honest, it wouldn’t be possible at all without the amazing community online and the great people that have helped me.

In this Series of Blog Posts, I talk with People that have really inspired me and whom I look up to as my role-models.

The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had the chance of learning from.

Sanyam Bhutani:​ Hello Adrian, Thank you for taking the time to do this.

Adrian Rosebrock: Thanks for having me, Sanyam! You’ve had quite the distinguished set of guests on your blog. Thank you for including me amongst them 🙂

Sanyam Bhutani: Today, you’re running one of the best Blogs on Computer Vision, you’re also author of Deep Learning for Computer Vision with Python, Practical Python and OpenCV, and the PyImageSearch Gurus course. You hold a PhD in CS.

Can you tell us how did Computer Vision come into the picture, what got you interested at first?

Adrian Rosebrock: The first time I became interested in computer vision was actually during my senior year of high school. I was taking AP Statistics at the time and instead of a final exam our teacher instead assigned a “final project”. We were free to choose the project ourselves but it had to incorporate statistics in some manner.

I decided that I was going to build a simple image search engine using basic statistics. I gathered up some photos on my hard drive (~50 in total) and created an algorithm that:

  1. Computed the mean and standard deviation for each RGB channel for every image in the dataset (six values per image)
  2. Given that each image was now quantified as six values, I concatenated the mean and standard deviations in a list to form my feature vector
  3. I then column-normalized the features by performing min/max normalization
  4. And finally, I compared images by computing the Euclidean distances between features

I tested my basic image search engine with a few query image and was really happy with the results given the simplicity of the system. Since that point I knew I wanted to continue studying computer vision.

Sanyam Bhutani:​ Can you tell us more about how does a day at PyImageSearch headquarters looks like. Whats a day in your life like?

Adrian Rosebrock: Well, the PyImageSearch “headquarters” is really just a second bedroom in my house. I don’t have an official “office” for PyImageSearch.

Each day I wake up between 4–5AM. Get out of bed. Make a cup of coffee. And within the first ten minutes of being away, I’m working.

I’m an author and I write best in the morning. I normally block off the hours of 5–10AM exclusively for writing with no distractions. The only exception is that my wife and I have breakfast together before she goes to work. Otherwise, during this time periods I’m purposely hard to get a hold of (unless I’m not writing).

Before lunch I typically take a 20 minute walk to help clear my head. I normally listen to audiobooks on 2–3x speed during that time, mostly non-fiction but sometimes fiction.

After lunch I work for 2–3 more hours before I workout for 45–60 minutes. Fitness is extremely important to me and something I always prioritize.

By that time it’s normally 3–3:30PM so I take on what I call more “procedural” and “non-creative” tasks, such as answering email, responding to blog post comments, etc.

I normally end the day by practicing guitar for 45 minutes. I enjoy playing guitar and it helps activate and exercise parts of my brain that are potentially not used or utilized as much as they should be during the day.

I end the day with my wife, normally reading or watching a few episodes of what TV series we are binging at the time.

Sanyam Bhutani: You’ve had an interesting career path. After completing your PhD you started your first company and later decided to switch to teaching the tech that you had worked on over the years.

What made you start the PyImageSearch blog. Why was it important to you?

Adrian Rosebrock: There are actually two reasons I started PyImageSearch.

The first is I had built and launched a two computer vision and machine learning startups while in college. It was a fun experience and I learned a lot during the process. But I always missed writing as well.

The second is that I was self-taught much of my computer vision education. At my school there were some incredible professors doing work in machine learning and graphics, but no one in particular was dedicating their work to the computer vision field.

I took my first (and only) computer vision-related course during my final year of my undergraduate career from a part-time instructor. I then took three separate machine learning and data science courses.

Everything else, including the practical elements of how to “glue” all the pieces together and build an actual computer vision solution with OpenCV, was something I had to learn on my own.

It was a lot of hard work and back then the documentation was hard to find, incorrect, or “only okay” at best. Furthermore, practical, hands-on tutorials were few and far between.

During the final semester of my graduate school career I decided to start PyImageSearch. I felt I had a lot to share and I really wanted to help others who were either (1) self-taught as I was or (2) trying to find practical tutorials to supplement their university courses/education.

I also knew that I wanted to write a book regarding computer vision but I wasn’t sure what the topic would be. Starting the blog helped me learn from my readers and ultimately lead to my first book, Practical Python and OpenCV.

Sanyam Bhutani: You’ve written many amazing blog posts over the years. Which project/development has been your favourite one?

Adrian Rosebrock: It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but I think my favorite is where I used OpenCV + Keras + a Raspberry Pi to create a Santa/Not Santa detector:

I write a lot of technical content on the blog and in my books/courses so it was fun to create something light-hearted and fun while at the same time actually teaching readers how they could utilize OpenCV, Keras, and Deep Learning in their own projects.

Another one of my favorites is my Keras tutorial on how to get started with deep learning and Python. I often get asked what is the best way to get started with deep learning. I wrote that Keras tutorial to help readers learn incrementally, starting with a simple neural network and eventually training their first Convolutional Neural Network, all in a single blog post. I love that tutorial as I’ve seen it help developers and engineers get their start in computer vision and deep learning.

Sanyam Bhutani: I have to say, like many others, I’m a fan of your articles.

Could you share some tips on effectively writing technical blog posts?

Adrian Rosebrock: One of the worst ways to start writing anything, whether technical or not, is to open a new document and expect that you’ll have words pouring out of you, magically filling up the page — it rarely works like that and it’s normally a recipe for frustration and failure.

Instead, I recommend outlining first. I personally outline in bullet points.

Start with your headers first — what are you going to cover? And in what order?

From there you back and start filling in the sub-headers. What do you need to cover in each section?

Finally, I go back and include the details for each section. Sometimes I even write in complete sentences, but that’s a personal choice.

I always leave notes to myself such as “Insert an image here” or “Lines X-Y of some_script.py go here”. I try to keep myself focused on the actual writing process as much as I can. The actual images and code can be inserted later during typesetting.

Sanyam Bhutani: You’ve always used a “theory minimum” approach when teaching a concept. Why do you think a code-first approach is useful when both-learning and building a project?

Adrian Rosebrock: I think “some” theory can go a long way when implementing a computer vision or deep learning algorithm but when you go to colleges or universities that’s all you find in the textbooks. Lots of mathematics. Lots of equations. That is only one side of the coin though — those books are missing the practical implementation.

The best way to learn these concepts is to intersect the two. Teach a bit of theory then show how it’s done in code. Many books and textbooks purposely try to separate the two — in my opinion that is the incorrect approach.

The fact we live in a world where developers and engineers can now type `import sklearn` or import keras` has changed the machine learning landscape.

The notion that people need a decade of mathematics or a college degree in computer science to perform machine learning is frankly incorrect.

The best way to get started in machine learning is to get started. Install one of the Python machine learning or deep learning packages. Follow the basic tutorials and examples the best you can. Train your first machine learning model and look at the result.

Did it get you excited? Do you want to learn more? Awesome, that’s great! Go dig into the documentation or other tutorials where you’ll continue to learn.

If you didn’t like it, that’s fine too. It’s better that you learn now that you don’t enjoy coding or writing machine learning code before you spend a year studying it.

Don’t get me wrong — theory is very important, especially if you wish to write scientific publications. But if you’re a programmer just getting started with machine learning or deep learning, start with existing code-based tutorials first. See if you like it and enjoy it — then supplement your education with theory as you go along.

Sanyam Bhutani: For the readers and the beginners who are interested in working on Computer Vision, what would be your best advice?

Adrian Rosebrock: I would recommend you install OpenCV on your system and following my free OpenCV tutorial on how to learn OpenCV. I created the guide to help readers new to computer vision take a code-first dive into image processing.

Inside the tutorial you’ll learn the basics of image processing along with how to drive the OpenCV library. You’ll learn the fundamentals through code and I believe you’ll have fun doing it as well.

Sanyam Bhutani: Before we conclude, any tips for the beginners who are afraid to get started because of the idea that Deep Learning or Computer Vision is an advanced field?

Adrian Rosebrock: I would tell beginners to just get started and don’t make any excuses for yourself. Don’t worry that you don’t have a degree in computer science or mathematics. This is an incredible time to be working with computer vision and machine learning — there are so many guides and tutorials to help you along the way.

The best possible think you can do right this second is get started — no excuses.

If you’re interested in getting your start in computer vision and deep learning I offer a free 17-day crash course on the them. Inside the course you’ll learn the fundamentals of computer vision, eventually building your way up to face detection, neural networks, and deep learning. You can find the free 17-day crash course on my website, PyImageSearch.com.

Sanyam Bhutani: Thank you so much for doing this interview.

If you found this interesting and would like to be a part of My Learning Path, you can find me on Twitter here.

If you’re interested in reading about Deep Learning and Computer Vision news, you can checkout my newsletter here.

Interview with the Author of PyImageSearch and Computer Vision Practitioner: Dr. Adrian Rosebrock was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Interviews with Machine Learning Heroes

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Meta Article with links to all the interviews with my Machine Learning Heroes: Practitioners, Researchers and Kagglers.

During the past few months, I’ve spent time interviewing great practitioners, researchers and kagglers.

This post serves as an index or Meta-Article with a link to all of the interviews that I’ve conducted. I’ll keep updating this post as the interviews happen.

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

About the Series:

I have very recently started making some progress with my Self-Taught Machine Learning Journey. But to be honest, it wouldn’t be possible at all without the amazing community online and the great people that have helped me.

In this Series of Blog Posts, I talk with People that have really inspired me and whom I look up to as my role-models.

The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had the chance of learning from.

Interviews in Alphabetical order:

Aakash Nain: Kaggle Kernels Expert

Dr. Adrian Rosebrock: Author of PyImageSearch and Computer Vision Practitioner

Andrew Trask: Deep Learning Researcher and Leader of OpenMined

Christine McLeavey Payne: OpenAI Fellow

Dominic Monn: DL Practitioner

François Chollet: The Creator of Keras, AI Researcher

Dr. Ian Goodfellow: Deep Learning Researcher and The GANfather

Dr. Jean-Francois Puget (CPMP): Twice Kaggle Grandmaster

Dr. Marios Michailidis: Kaggle Competitions Grandmaster: KazAnova (Rank #3)

Mikel Bober-Irizar (anokas): The Youngest Kaggle Grandmaster

Dr. Rachel Thomas: Co-Founder and Researcher at Fast.ai

Sebastian Ruder: Deep Learning and NLP Researcher

Tuatini Godard: Deep Learning Freelancer

If you found these interviews interesting and would like to be a part of My Learning Path, you can find me on Twitter here.

If you’re interested in reading about Deep Learning and Computer Vision news, you can checkout my newsletter here.

Interviews with Machine Learning Heroes was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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