In a world of overnight successes and Internet celebrities, Alan Rickmans story truly inspires.
If youve been hustling on your dream for years, or even decades, let the eventual Professor Snapes story encourage you to never give up.
At a young age, he took up art and became very skilled at calligraphy and watercolor.
This led him to get an art degree at the Royal College of Art in London.
Upon graduation he began working as a graphic designer and achieved some success working for a newspaper.
He even started his own business:a graphic design studio with a couple partners.
But art had always been his fall back degree, and after a few years of career success, he decided the time to pursue his acting dream was now or never.”
He wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and asked for an audition.
I love this; imagine what his friends, family and even the faculty at RADA, must have thought.
Why is this graphic designer, who is actually making a decent living with his art, going to acting school? Dont people start acting in their teens? Dont you already have a college degree?
Still, he chased his dream, auditioned, was accepted and earned a second degree in the arts.
But the chase was a long one, filled with small role after small role.
He pressed on in the theater circuit for a decade, supporting himself as a dresser for other actors.
To recap, he left his own successful business and then spent years literally dressing other actors to make money.
You could ask any actor about their early days, and I think you know if you decide youre going to do it, and then you train and youve committed you know there are going to be long periods out of work.
I dont remember it now, but Im sure the difficult moments made me stronger, or at least thats what Ive trained myself to think.
Rickman on starting out as an actor, TheLeakyCauldron.org (June 2015)
Rickman landed his big break at 42, as one of the leads in the stage version of the book, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”
The play was a huge success, however that big break probably felt like a big flop because Rickmas was passed over for the movie role.
His performance, however, caught the eye of Joel Silver, who eventually offered him his first large movie role — in an action movie.
I read it and said, ‘What the hell is this? Im not doing an action movie.’
But people said, ‘Alan, you dont understand, this doesnt happen, youve only been in LA two days and youve been asked to do this film.
— ScreenDaily.com (April 2015)
So he walked through the door that was opened to him.
You have to think that year after year of dressing other actors would be enough for anyone to quit, but Rickman didnt.
This is probably because he truly loved the work itself — a key for any dream chasers success.
Its what Im built to do. [laughs] Until one finds something else, thats what I do… Its not just work, its your life.
—IFC.com (December 2008)
Thank goodness he didnt, because Rickman brought so many characters to life for us, like Hans Gruber, Sheriff of Nottingham, Colonel Brandon and of course, Severus Snape.
What will you bring to life if you don’t give up?
Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference.
It can change the world.
—IFC.com (December 2008)
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Demonisation of Clintons Goldman Sachs speaking fees aside, Wall Street isnt in great shape and its influence over country and politics is declining
In the 2016 presidential campaign, Wall Street and the banks have emerged as Public Enemy Number One.
That Hillary Clinton accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three speeches in 2013 probably did more damage to her battle for the Democratic nomination than any other single issue. Even for Clinton, half of a political couple with an estimated net worth of $110m and 2014 earnings of $28m, that figure was not insignificant. For most Americans, its more money than they can imagine seeing in a single year or even a single decade, absent a lottery win.
Worse still, it came from Wall Street. And not just from Wall Street, but from Goldman Sachs, the infamous giant vampire squid.
Clinton, whose views on Wall Street regulation have been middle of the road and who seems to focus on averting the next crisis rather than revisiting the last one, could be telling us the truth when she says such speaking fees in her past would not affect her willingness to crack down on malfeasance. But a perception of conflict of interest remains.
Theres a bigger question out there, though, and that is whether Wall Street really is as massive a threat to our national wellbeing as it was a decade ago. If it is, is it really for the reason that most of its critics argue: that the banks are too big?
True, the banks are back to being profitable by some measures (eyeing their bottom line in isolation) more profitable than ever. But increasingly those earnings are being achieved only by CEOs cutting costs.
Thats a far cry from seeing growth in profitability amidst growing revenues and expanding businesses: rather, its a sign banks are fearful of headwinds. Certainly, there is little confidence that profits will prove lasting but Ill get back to that in a minute.
Then theres the matter of the all-important return on equity measurement. This tells a banks CEO, his board of directors and investors just how well the bank is doing at generating profits from all the billions of dollars (in the case of the countrys most massive institutions) on the balance sheets. Right now, the answer has to be that they arent doing a very good job.
Historically, banks have earned returns on equity (ROE) somewhere in the low to mid-teens. Recently, that figure has hovered around 9.2%. Many of the biggest banks are faring far worse: Citigroups ROE is only 6%. Goldman Sachs delivered a mere 3%, a far cry from the 33.3% it earned in 2006, when the average bank ROE was 23%.
Right now the banks are less healthy than their profitability would suggest. Consider bankers bonus checks: while lavish by any normal standards, in 2015 the average payout fell 9% to $146,200 and the total bonus pool shrank by 6%. It doesnt make sense that CEOs would suddenly scale back bonus payouts during a blockbuster year for earnings.
Nope, winter is coming.
Goldman Sachs may be feeling the chill. It is one of a handful of banks which has not yet warned investors to expect some bad news when first-quarter results start trickling out next month. Analysts at Credit Suisse, however, kindly undertook to do so on Goldmans behalf, publishing a research note last week predicting that Goldmans investment banking income would fall by nearly a third in the first three months of 2016 and that its trading revenues would slump 17%.
Like many other banks, Goldman is trying to diversify: its asset management business bought an online retirement benefits company, Austin-based Honest Dollar. Its an interesting twist, given that Goldman ended up in the spotlight in 2010 as the poster child for bad behavior on Wall Street, in connection with a particular set of transactions where the bank sold mortgage investments that its own bankers thought (and documented in e-mails) were lousy deals. In a subsequent Senate hearing, Republican Susan Collins of Maine grilled four Goldman Sachs officials as to whether they felt a duty to act in the best interests of their clients. Only one indicated, indirectly, that he did and it wasnt CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
That was, and remains, one of the real problems with Wall Street and with the banks as a whole: the business they undertake and the way they approach that business. The emphasis on trading rather than lending will continue to leave them with volatile earnings and riskier-than-necessary business models. Banks have moved slowly to incorporate the concept of risk appetite the institutions willingness to take on risk and tolerance for losses into actual business decisions.
So, theres a lot of stuff besides just the size of a financial institution to worry about. Breaking up Citigroup into three or four small banks, each of which ends up behaving precisely the same way and having lots of exposure to the money losing energy sector (as many banks have warned they now do), isnt a guarantee that the level of systemic risk will fall, especially if they are all linked together through trading relationships. The problem lies in behavior.
Happily, six years after the Senate hearings exposed the attitude of Goldman Sachs to its clients, were on the verge of seeing a new fiduciary rule. This would require big banks and other financial advisers to put our interests ahead of their own when advising us on our retirement assets, at least. (Though for institutions, its still caveat emptor.) Not surprisingly, banks and brokerages are threatening to stop serving smaller clients, claiming the business will become less profitable.
Wall Street is still far more powerful a force than it should be. Rampant financialization remains a problem for society as a whole. But critiques cant stop demonizing the big banks. This isnt 2006, and while the banks may report big bottom-line profits, those profits are more fragile and they face significantly more constraints both from the markets and the regulators. Dont cry for them, but dont assume they are the only source of risk in the financial system today.
Some of the smartest people with a keen interest in finance are no longer trying to build careers in finance; instead, after spending a few years there, they are heading off to make money in the fintech world, ideally by launching new ventures that will disrupt the banking world and seize a bit of their revenues and profits. They are profiting some lavishly from our distrust of Wall Street. And were not yet thinking about whether there are new risks emerging here, because were happy to applaud the innovation.
Or, if youre looking for dangerous behavior on Wall Street, look no further than the world of hedge funds, where a lack of ability (by both their own investors and regulators) and fast-moving, freewheeling and risky trading strategies can be just as risky as anything a bank can do. (Remember, it was a hedge fund, Long Term Capital Management, that nearly brought the financial system to its knees in the late 1990s.) A new bill, the Brokaw Act, co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, aims to make their activities more visible.
Then there are dark pools in trading, whose lack of transparency makes it harder for regulators to understand what is happening with stock prices from one millisecond to the next.
We can wrestle with these tough, complex issues. Or we can take the easy way out, and banish all the bankers to work at Waffle House.
The latter option might be more satisfying, but the first is wiser policy.
Uber received the single largest investment ever made in a private company on Wednesday — a $3.5 billion check from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which values Uber itself at $62.5 billion. The company’s CEO called it a “vote of confidence in our business.”
Uber denies that the investment makes for awkward bedfellows, instead portraying the company’s presence in Saudi Arabia as the first in a long line of incremental positive changes for women in the country.
“We’ve been operational in Saudi Arabia since 2014,” Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker told The Huffington Post. “Today, 80 percent of our riders [in Saudi Arabia] are women. The government has made clear that they are working to increase entrepreneurship and women’s employment, and we are uniquely positioned to help in both areas,” she said.
And hired drivers aren’t necessarily the safest option for women.
“Like most Western companies who have been making billions by helping the Saudi oligarchs [in] suppressing their subjects, Uber’s moral commitment is to make money at any cost,” said Ali Alyami, the director for the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.
By chauffeuring women around, Alyami said, the ride-hailing service only “reassures women’s continued marginalization.”
Asked about the company’s role in pushing for women’s rights, an Uber spokesperson said that “of course” women should be permitted to drive, but while they cannot, Uber provides a valuable service. The person also said that Uber’s acceptance of the investment did not mean it endorsed the government’s policy.
Note: The Huffington Post’s Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington is a member of Uber’s board of directors, and has recused herself from any involvement in the site’s coverage of the company.
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Down in the crypt underneath the vast bulk of St Paul’s Cathedral, down there where London started, there is a handsome memorial stone with a haunting inscription.
“Lord Thomson of Fleet,” it says. “He gave new direction to the British newspaper industry.”
And then the sentence that gives pause: “A strange and adventurous man from nowhere, ennobled by the great virtues of courage, and integrity, and faithfulness.”
Roy Thomson died in 1976 at the age of 82, and his was indeed a remarkable business story. The plaque made me remember it again.
He was born to a pretty poor family in Toronto in 1894, and was hindered by poor eyesight. Or maybe helped, increasing his doggedness. He dabbled in small businesses from his teens onwards, with little success.
He tried farming, and failed. He went back to Toronto and had several undistinguished jobs. Then he started selling radios in small towns deep in northern Ontario, the only territory left.
And there began a remarkable media story. Rural radio users in the 1930s had little to listen to. So Roy Thomson bought someone else’s neglected radio licence, and his station CFCH began broadcasting in the town of North Bay in March 1931; the inaugural programme had music by the Battery Boys and a speech by the mayor.
Roy Thomson, odd job man, was on his way. In 1934 he bought a small local paper, the Timmins Daily Press, beginning what soon became a diverse media empire. By the end of the 1940s, Thomson owned 19 newspapers and was president of the Canadian daily paper publishers’ association.
But the old country beckoned. In 1952, seeking his Scottish roots, Roy Thomson moved to Edinburgh. The next year he bought the Scotsman, giving him some status but a lot of criticism as he applied commercial instincts to a venerable paper.
Then came television. The government introduced what was called, in typical British look-down-the-nose way, “commercial” television. Roy Thomson with his Scotsman credentials led the consortium which won the franchise for Scottish TV, launched in 1957.
In a much-quoted (but maybe inaccurately quoted) phrase, he described television as a licence to print money. It was.
But print was at the heart of his increasing empire. As he put it: “I buy newspapers to make money, to buy more newspapers to make more money.”
Like Beaverbrook before him and Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch after him, Roy Thomson was a wild colonial boy who cut a swathe through traditional owned British newspapers.
He used the profits from STV to buy a raft of Kemsley newspapers from the Kemsley family in 1957, including the Sunday Times.
When the family owners of what used to be termed The Times of London panicked over tiny losses in 1966, Thomson was there to snap it up. His newspaper empire grew to embrace more than 200 papers in Britain, Canada and the USA, and a host of other publishing interests.
Every time he met another newspaperman, he would ask if their paper was for sale. It was brash, vulgar, persistent.
Not just publishing, either. With its Scottish perspective connection, the International Thomson Organisation (as it was by then called) joined a consortium that successfully struck oil in North Sea fields.
Much of the group’s flair was due to a canny chief executive, Gordon Brunton, now Sir Gordon. He had been at the London School of Economics with Vladimir Raitz, the man who revolutionised post war British travel.
In 1950 Mr Raitz had organised what was effectively the first modern package holiday, flying fellow Russians to Corsica for a holiday in the sun for 32 all round, at a time when harsh official limits on taking sterling abroad severely restricted foreign travel from the UK.
Mr Raitz founded the pioneering Horizon Holidays and later helped Sir Gordon launch what became Thomson Holidays, one of the main travel companies of its time.
I saw Roy Thomson once, coming in through the revolving doors at the Sunday Times in London, where he moved around by public transport.
His pebble thick spectacle lenses glinted in the sun, and he was on his way upstairs to his office, probably to get out his ruler and measure the amount of advertising in his own newspapers and that of his rivals.
This overt preoccupation with the commerce of newspapers was scorned by superior journalistic types, but it was he, not they, who got a barony named after Fleet Street, where his newspapers never had offices.
But for all Roy Thomson’s commercial instincts, he failed to transform the impossibly tangled way that newspapers were produced.
A year-long strike of production workers at the Times and the Sunday Times in 1979 changed little, and not long afterwards his son Kenneth (Lord Thomson in Britain, Ken in Canada) sold those two papers to Rupert Murdoch, who then took on the print unions in a decisive encounter that transformed Fleet Street.
Many other papers followed that sale. But though print has little or no part in it, Roy Thomson had created a continuing huge business empire.
At one time his late son Ken (also Lord Thomson, but only in Britain) was named by the magazine Forbes as the ninth richest man in the world.
Roy Thomson’s grandson David inherited the leadership of the company in 2006 and continued the evolution of the business by buying the venerable news agency Reuters two years later. He’s now chairman of the company named Thomson Reuters, the biggest business information provider in the world.
It is a remarkable family story, based on the man who was still a failing jack of all trades at the age of 36, still known only in Canada at the age of 54, who became a national known figure in Britain only in his 60s. Roy Thomson’s autobiography is called “After I was 60”.
That’s what the plaque means by calling him a strange and adventurous man from nowhere. It is striking to see him so memorialised in St Paul’s.
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