97 points in two games

97 points in two games

Going through physical pain and health issues is annoying but we have to be prepared to it as it is an unavoidable part of life; everyone eventually gets old and even individuals that seem immortal cannot escape this rule. Let me get it straight, with an example: everyone gets old and this includes Micheal Jordan.

In January 2000, Jordan returned to the NBA for the second time, after his memorable “I am back” in 1995. That time he would return not as a player, but as part owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. The next summer, Jordan hired his old Chicago Bulls head coach, Doug Collins as Washington’s coach for the upcoming season, a decision that many saw as foreshadowing another Jordan return.

On September 25, 2001, Jordan announced his second NBA comeback as a player in the team he partially owned. Here follows a story that Doug Collins told an ESPN interviewer; it is a snapshot of Micheal Jordan exceptional NBA career sunset. This story goes out to those that were lucky enough to witness this fantastic basketball player dominate the game throughout the nineties.



When I was coaching in Washington we played the Indiana Pacers and we were down 25 at the end of the third quarter. I took Micheal out of the game and I said: “look Micheal, I know you think that we can still win this game but we got to play again soon, you know. If we make a little run tonight I’ll put you back in the game”, but we didn’t.

I found out after the game was over that he had eight points in the game and he broke a streak of like eight hundred and sixty something games in double figures and so the media was: “you know, how do you think Micheal is going to be with this?”

I said: “You know what? Micheal has got championships, rings, he’s got gold medals, he’s got NCAA championships, he’s got MVPs. He is not going to care about the eight points”.

So he (Micheal Jordan) met with the media and agreed.

You know, the bus is lonely as a coach when you’re sitting there after you got your head handed to you, so I was sitting on the bus and actually Micheal had hired me. He was the part owner and president General Manager and he hired me to be the coach and then he came back to play.

I’ll never forget this moment. As his coach this to me was greatness.

He got on the bus and said “scoot over”. Then he looked at me and said: “Do you think I can still play?” and I said: “Absolutely, that’s why I am here to help you”.

He said: “You know, to be my coach you have to believe in me and believe I can still play”, and I said: “Micheal, I believe in you”.

He said: “You did the right thing tonight, you did the right thing tonight. I don’t care about the points but I needed to know that you believed in me”.

Fast forward; we get on the plane, he has a few cocktails, smokes a couple cigars, all the things you’re not supposed to do. We get back about 3.30 in the morning in Washington. At 7.30 that morning he is in the fitness room with Tim Grover, training like you can’t believe. Nice 41 years old. We play the New Jersey Nets next night and Micheal scores the first three times he has the ball.

Byron Scott takes a timeout and Micheal comes over and says:

“I want the ball right there the rest of the game and don’t take me out until I tell you”

And so that’s fine by me but with two minutes to go in the game he gives me the sign like that’s enough.

I take him out of the game, he walks over the bench and I say: “Micheal, what happened tonight?”

He said: “Well, the guy that was guarding me told me his back was hurting, don’t ever tell me you got a problem, I’ll make you pay for that”.

51 points later, 51 points at age 41, he came back the next game with 46 (points) and he looked at me and said: “I told you I could still play”.

97 points in two games. I was absolutely blown away at what this guy could do with his mind, how strong he was, and he is playing on one leg, and he cut his finger doing a cigar, all his finger was bent, he had a bad knee; the competitive will and great, I’ve never seen anything like that, but that moment when he looked at me and asked if I still believed in him, as this is the greatest player to play the game wanting to know if I still believed in him. It was a moment I would never ever forget.


Micheal Jordan played his last NBA game on April 16, 2003, in Philadelphia and retired for good at the end of the season.  He scored 32292 points in his NBA career and for the impact he had on the game and his unparalleled skills, is generally regarded as the greatest basketball player of all times.

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Good Bye Tsukiji​

Good Bye Tsukiji​

On October 11, 2018, Tsukiji fish market in central Tokyo will close down and the area where the market is located will quickly be redeveloped to become a transport hub for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Tsukiji market started operations in 1935 and is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. It is also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market was portrayed in many popular movies, including 2012 Jiro Dreams of Sushi, that revealed to the world the unlikely saga of Jiro Ono, the 93 years old chef that runs a three-Michelin-starred Japanese sushi restaurant in Ginza.

Tuna auctions are maybe what Tsukiji is most known for. Throughout the day, intermediate wholesalers assess hundreds of fresh and frozen tuna before they go up for auction. Following a ritual unchanged for decades, they check fattiness of tail cross-sections in the dim light of their torch lamp and scribble down the lot number of the best animals. After the auction, tunas are cut using hand-crafted traditional knives and dispatched to the next ring of the supply chain.



The fish market will move to a new location in Toyosu waterfront district and precious space will become available in the heart of Tokyo. Since the plans were first unveiled, the project has been delayed multiple times. The last delay was due to concerns about consumers health after important quantities of chemicals had been found in the new Toyosu site.

Paradoxically, the urbanists that layout plans for the capital of the most traditional country on Earth seem not to care about symbols and legacy of old times. Ancient buildings are a very rare sight in Tokyo: many have been destroyed by Second World War bombings or earthquakes. Those that survived will likely be wiped away by Japanese passion for progress and novelty.


More travel photography on this blog


Other media on Tsukiji fish market

The incredible hands: a documentary on Tsukiji fish market and tuna wholesalers

Big Jet Plane

Big Jet Plane

I like Angus & Julia Stone because they are chill and have beautiful voices. It is the kind of music I want to listen when I’m at home for the first weekend in a long time and I’m laying on the sofa, while the warm sun filters through my living room window shade and caresses my cheek.

I definitely took too many planes in the last weeks. Every time the same routine, it seems normal. But flying is a miracle and recently inspired me a collection of pictures named “Airliners”.

Last Sunday, while my stereo was playing that relaxing music and I was enjoying the warmth of the sun filtering through the window shade, I suddenly started feeling creative. So I thought of asking Angus & Julia to lend their voices to my pictures and the result was this video.

https://youtu.be/8Gr6Jtdop7k

Floating wishes

Floating wishes

According to the Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, Thai word loi (ลอย) means “to float”, while krathong (กระทง) has various meanings, one of which is “a small container made of leaves which can be floated on water during the Loi Krathong festival”.


Loi Krathong falls on a full moon night, in November. Come the right time, Thais dress up in their best clothes and go in a place close to the water, a pond, a canal or a small lake will do, holding a little boat made of banana leaves. In the boat, they have put flowers and a candle. They light up the candle, set it afloat and make a wish while they look at the small thing going slowly away.

More travel photography on this blog

Airliners

Airliners

A famous quote by Richard Branson goes: “If you want to be a Millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline”. There is almost no rationale behind accomplished businessmen obsession to invest into a high-risk business like civil aviation.

Unfortunately, unlike Sir Richard, I am not wealthy enough to bet on airlines. Instead, I have moral concerns working in an industry that accounts for a huge share of the world greenhouse gas emissions; I hope technology improvements and regulations will one day inverse the trend and make air transportation environmentally sustainable. Nevertheless, having rubbed shoulders for years with airlines people and dragged my ass on the most unlikely commercial routes, I cannot avoid feeling sincere sympathy and admiration for those who carry our life around the world with care,  every day and in every season.

No airline is perfect: glitches appear here and there when closely looking at the fusion between the technological prowess of a 180 tons aircraft floating in thin air and the work of hundreds of persons allowing it to detach from the ground.


 


Ignore the glitches and consider how in only a few decades, civil aviation made accessible to the majority of people two of our most innate dreams: defeat gravity and go discover remote places.

Please restrain from displaying contempt to the stewardess showing the way to your seat while boarding your next delayed flight. It takes an amazing resilience to sustain the stares of the 160 annoyed passengers fitting in an Airbus A320, a remarkable humanity to smile and say “welcome onboard” to each of them and many weeks of exhausting training to make it sound so heartfelt.

In the blink of an eye, you’ll be floating in the sky and that is incredible. Forget the delay, sit down and relax. We hope you’ll enjoy your flight.


More travel photography on this blog

 

 

Let’s get lost – episode three

Let’s get lost – episode three

What happened so far?

In episode one, when told that I was going to Mongolia to meet some airline executives for my job, I decided to lose myself in the silent wilderness of that country. Before leaving I did some research and chose as destination a place that even Google Maps fails to locate, named Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve.

In episode two, after arriving in Ulaanbataar, I meet mysterious Mr. Batar, who delivers me a rugged Toyota Land Cruiser. On an early Saturday morning, I and my British workmate Mark leave the town; throughout the whole day, we will explore a scarcely inhabited territory while trying not to lose our track. We also become familiar with the solid beauty of Mongolian horses, roaming free in the wildland.


Being right there

In the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller plays a middle-class man, trapped in a 9 to 5 job he does not like anymore. For a succession of unforeseen circumstances, one day he quits his office and embarks on an adventure on the tracks of Sean O’Connell, a legend photographer who disappeared while hunting the animal whose image no-one has ever captured, the snow leopard.

When finally Walter Mitty meets Sean O’Connell on a frozen Himalayan ridge, the snow leopard is there, in the middle of the zoom lens, just one click away. Oddly, Sean O’Connell, although mesmerized by the unique vision, is not shooting, and this dialog happens:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it [the snow leopard shot]?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here. It’s gone [the snow leopard]

In the strange days we live, when was last time we were “right there”? How much “right there” experience we allow ourselves in one of our average weeks? Are those moments something we look forward to, or we prefer to escape them and comfortably choose the distraction, being it social networks, messengers, noise, other people opinions, scary news on TV, information overflow, a job that does not excite us…

And so we are, me and Mark, my British workmate, in a place named Gun-Galuut, in Mongolia. For a whole day, we have been breathing fresh air and wandering across the vast grassland. Since the moment we entered the Nature Reserve, every trace of human presence has vanished. We continue venturing deeper into this unknown territory, using the profile of the hills or the clouds in the sky to locate ourselves and hoping we will be able to find our way back. All around us, Mongolian horses roam peaceful and free.


 

 


The track becomes rougher and now insinuates at the feet of low promontories, covered with sharp rock fragments. Afternoon sun is going down and the lights around us change, giving the landscape a more dramatic pitch. I decide to look for a viewpoint and see on our left a steep path leading to the edge of a higher hill, possibly accessible to our Toyota. The full power of our four-wheel drive is barely sufficient to climb our way to the top. The car pants and progresses slowly as we gain altitude and approach the end of the ascent. Finally, we get there; I stop the car, turn off the engine,  pull the handbrake and get off, followed by Mark. We are on level ground now: in front of us, the upwards path that took us there finishes into a vertical rocky wall. On the right, at a distance of about fifty meters, we see a natural terrace ending on a cliff top and I start walking in that direction, instinctively attracted by the panoramic opening.

As I get closer, my point of view changes and a chain of mountains starts to appear at a great distance. I am maybe twenty meters away when I see the horse and, at first, I do not understand. He lays on the ground, on a side, you would tell that he sleeps but he is dead. It had to happen not long before, as the hair is still shiny and the body is in a perfect state, except for a little scar on the head, probably caused by a scavenger bird.

Now I am just next to the dead horse and appreciate the harmony of his figure. While I walk around him, the first thing that awakens irrational thoughts is the position of the body. It lies exactly at the middle of the half-circle shaped terrace; his head looks at the view opening from the height of the cliff on hundreds of kilometers of emptiness.

I look at Mark, who has not made it to the terrace and is standing a dozen meters away, staring in my direction.

The second thing is the ascent and how hard I had to push the Land Cruiser in order to get there. For a dying animal, that had to be a hell of an effort.

The wind blows and the sun has gone down; the air is chilled now.

The third thing is the dead horse position, the effort to get there, the absolute majesty of the landscape.

I keep turning slowly around him, observing the scene from many angles, immersed in my thoughts. The view in front of me is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Far ahead, hundreds of identical peaks, crowned by bright white clouds rise up to the sky. The physical space between the dead horse and the mountains is an immense empty prairie where the animal lived in freedom from the very moment he first stood on the ground to his last day when he decided to climb there and look at all that again from a height.

As I continue standing right there, in front of that mystical scene, lights and composition remind me the most accomplished Caravaggio paintings. I have my camera with me, in my backpack and I am looking at award-winning photography material but there is something bigger around me on that cliff and I just want to stay in it.

I look at the horse for the last time, then I look at the far away mountains, turn around and walk away. When I pass by Mark, he follows me and asks: “What do we do?”. I can only tell: “We go home, man. We go home now”.

Let’s get lost – episode two

Let’s get lost – episode two

What happened so far?

In episode one, when told that I was going to Mongolia to meet some airline executives for my job, I decided to lose myself in the silent wilderness of that country. Before leaving I did some rough research and chose as destination a place that even Google Maps fails to locate, named Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve.


Wild Horses

I have an appointment with Mr. Batar, from Drive Mongolia, the car rental company, at Shangri-La hotel in Ulaanbataar. When I arrive there from dinner, I notice the Land Cruiser and my man, waiting for me on the door. Batar is a cool dude, his fancy hat and turtle round glasses give him the looks of a Mongolian dandy. After a vigorous handshake, he proposes me to inspect the car, so we walk to the rugged four-wheeler. At a first glance, the Toyota had a fairly good life, one full of adventure but not too harsh. Mr. Batar shows me how to start the engine and that’s it; he seems happy and ready to leave. When I tell him that I am going to Gun-Galuut, he understands that the Land Cruiser is going for an hard-core day and gives me the second chapter of explanation: he shows me how to operate the electric winch on the front bumper, the spare tire, the hydraulic jack and all I needed in case of trouble. Then he looks at me, shakes my hand again and says: “Anyway, I know you can drive”.

I ask Batar how to reach my destination; he takes a map out of the Toyota gloves compartment and points to a spot in the middle of nowhere: “Follow the road, East direction – he says – when you get to the river, turn right. When you see the mountains on your left, go there”. I thank him and ask if there is something I should be aware of driving in Mongolia. Mr. Batar looks at me again and says: “do not drive over a goat. If you kill a goat you’ll have to pay for it”, then he hands me the car keys, wishes me a good trip, turns around and disappears into the fresh night. At no point, he has bothered to check my identity or driving license.

Comes Saturday and after an early breakfast, I meet my co-pilot, in the hotel lobby. Mark is a British workmate, he lives in Bangkok. The night before, he enthusiastically accepted to join in the adventure. When we get in the car I ask him if he knows how to drive an off-road car; he tells me that he has driven once or twice in the past ten years. I start the engine and here we are, cruising through a sleepy Ulaanbataar, direction East. It is seven o’clock in the morning, streets are empty and the sun shines. As the kilometers go by, tall concrete buildings become sparser and are gradually replaced by single-storey constructions. A little later, Mongolian Gers, the local dwellings, start becoming more and more frequent.

The paved road in the direction of Baganuur is comfortable. I relax at the drive of the Land Cruiser and observe the changing landscape passing slowly by. After an hour, we arrive at the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue. The 40 meters tall shining complex is a monument to exaggeration but serves the purpose of reminding whoever passes by that the fusion between the war chief and the horse, allowed Genghis Khan to federate the biggest empire in the history of humanity.

We start a slow ascent towards a mountain pass, now the road and the lineup of electric posts that flank it are the only visible signs of human presence. While we keep driving East we become acquainted with the sight of wild horses. They have compact bodies, long tail and mane and most often brown and shiny hair; Mongolian horses are known for their strength and at every winter can lose up to 30% of their weight due to intense cold. Beautiful and admirable animals.

The few signs along the road, all written in Cyrillic, do not provide us any workable information but, according to the map, we have approximately reached the point where we are supposed to leave the main road. We just take a 90-degrees turn and start driving straight in a vast grassland. A huge mineral mine on our right-hand side is the only landmark we use to navigate the otherwise completely empty space. As time passes, the sense of freedom is gradually replaced by doubts on our direction but there is no-one around to help us find our way. Finally, I see in the rear-view mirror a guy wearing traditional Mongolian attire on a motorbike. I stop the car, get off and he comes to meet me: I show him our destination on my mobile phone, only to realize that he can not read Latin characters or understand English. I keep saying “Gun-Galuut”, trying to pronounce the way I imagine a Mongolian would do and finally, our man understands and points in direction South-East. I exchange a dubitative look with Mark, then look at the guy smiling. He smiles back to me and makes a vague gesture spinning his forefinger around. I go back in the car and turn the key while the guy kick-starts his motorbike. My coworker asks me what is happening and I explain to him that we will follow our friend; he seems puzzled by the non-verbal communication that just happened.

Our Mongolian guide drives fast ahead of us.  From time to time he steers his motorbike right into a bump and enjoys a jump. After some time he stops and so we do. I get out of the car and go close to him. He gives a look at South, makes a sign with his hand as if he was putting a glass close to his lips, then looks at the high rocky hills at South East and smiles. I smile, put my hands together and slightly bow my head to thank him for his help. He starts his bike and goes away, headed West. When I get in the car, Mark seems more puzzled than ever as he asks me what we’re doing next. I look at him and say: “the guy told me to keep going until we find a Ger where we could be offered fermented horse milk, then we have to take a left turn and climb the mountains”. My coworker now clearly believes that I lost my mind but after a few minutes driving, we find one lonely Ger; a shy girl hears the noise of our engine, comes out and confirms, non-verbally of course, that the high hills we see on our left are the entry gate of Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve.


 


As we make our way into it, we realize that the notion of Nature Reserve in Mongolia is different from what we have seen elsewhere: this is not yet another man-made attraction park. There is no dedicated structure,  ranger, patrol car, no entrance gate or fee, not a single road. No-one explains what you will see. There is nothing to explain and the situation could not be clearer: nature owns the place and man is a very rare species.

The travel becomes adventurous: we test the power of Toyota engine to climb a low ridge and look at the panoramic landscape. Snow just finished melting and the yellow ground reverberates against the pristine blue of the sky. Then, we descend and drive close to one of the affluents of the Kherlen, where a herd of Mongolian horses is peacefully watering. The animals let us come close and observe us with curiosity. They seem familiar with human presence and show no visible stress.  I take some pictures and get back in the car.

We abandon the river bank to continue driving in East direction, following a track that softly ascends a hill. As we start sloping down, we see a more prominent trace of human presence: an agglomeration of eight Mongolian Gers, ordered in two lines of four, too neatly organized to be a nomad thing, enclosed by a wooden fence. As we park the car at the front gate, a tall man with a bright red sweater comes to meet us, smiling; he is the owner of the Ger camp and surprisingly speaks a very good English. Mr. Batbold is a biologist, a conservationist and a very busy man: during the winter, the temperature in Mongolian steppe can drop well below -40 degrees Celsius. The camp is open all year and when the snow finally melts, our host has very few days to repair all the scars that ice caused to the infrastructures. Also, he needs to install eight more Gers on their round concrete slabs, to double the camp capacity and revenues during the summer season.

While we have lunch at the ger camp, Mr. Batbold tells about the species of birds and other animals that populate the reserve, then he advises us to continue our exploration towards the mountains. We thank him for the hospitality and get in the Toyota again.

The camp disappears from our views, driving becomes challenging when the path crosses very bumpy sections and I do my best to reduce the discomfort. The landscape around us changes but remains magnificent: lowlands around the Kherlen river gradually morph into hills covered with bright green grass, where goats peacefully graze. Another spring has arrived and the cycle of life perpetuates: all creatures have a few months to recover and build up sufficient energies to survive next winter.

As we glide slowly through this eternal countryside scene, shepherds go up and down the hills, riding their horses with mastery. From time to time, falcons float in the air above our heads. In the total absence of distraction, my thoughts slow down, crystallize, melt with the environment, capture slight changes in the air. Time has stopped here: our Land Cruiser is the only visible sign of modern civilization, the rest would have looked exactly the same if we passed by five hundred years ago.


What happens next?

In episode three we will reach the end of the adventure. We will also have an intimate conversation with a legendary photographer who will tell us what it means to be “right there”.