Breakfast with Richard Bookstaber


This morning we had breakfast with my friend and neighbor Richard Bookstaber on the back deck of his house in the Hamptons. It is on the water and the views were incredible, as was the food.

Bookstaber is the author of the recently released A Demon of Our Own Design.

It’s a finance book. It’s about how markets react, and it is catching a lot of buzz in the financial world.

And this is not esoterica. At last look, the book was rather remarkably (considering the subject matter) ranked 106 on the Amazon list.

Bookstaber is not a media guy. He is not a TV guy. He is not a journalist, (although this is his third book). He is a Wall Street Guy. A real Wall Street Guy.

Here’s his bio:

Richard Bookstaber, PhD (New York, NY) runs a hedge fund at FrontPoint Partners. Prior to this, he was Director of Risk Management at Moore Capital Management, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, and also served in that role at Ziff Brothers Investments. He served as Managing Director in charge of firm-wide risk management at Salomon Brothers and also served on that firm’s powerful Risk Management Committee. Mr. Bookstaber spent 10 years at Morgan Stanley in quantitative research and as a proprietary trader, concluding his tenure there as Morgan Stanley’s first market risk manager. He is the author of three books and scores of articles on finance topics ranging from options theory to risk management. Bookstaber received a PhD in economics from MIT.

Like I said, he is not a ‘tv guy’ or a ‘news guy’.

Which is what made the breakfast all the more interesting.

Bookstaber has spent his life (and made a ton), by taking a cold look at market trends and making predictions.

Here’s a small write up on the book:

Why do markets keep crashing and why are financial crises greater than ever before? As the risk manager to some of the leading firms on Wall Street–from Morgan Stanley to Salomon and Citigroup–and a member of some of the world’s largest hedge funds, from Moore Capital to Ziff Brothers and FrontPoint Partners, Rick Bookstaber has seen the ghost inside the machine and vividly shows us a world that is even riskier than we think. The very things done to make markets safer, have, in fact, created a world that is far more dangerous. From the 1987 crash to Citigroup closing the Salomon Arb unit, from staggering losses at UBS to the demise of Long-Term Capital Management, Bookstaber gives readers a front row seat to the management decisions made by some of the most powerful financial figures in the world that led to catastrophe, and describes the impact of his own activities on markets and market crashes. Much of the innovation of the last 30 years has wreaked havoc on the markets and cost trillions of dollars.

Why am I writing about this? Why was I so captured by this morning’s conversation?

Successful people on Wall Street make billions (literally) because they are able to look at trends and events and see them dispassionately for what they are. There is no emotion in their conclusions. When they are good, they guess right – cause and effect.

Bookstaber is in favor these days because most recently he predicted the collapse of the sub-prime market and the residual impact around the world. Apparently this is not over yet. But he saw it coming a long time ago.

George Soros was famous for his ability to perceive impacts from world events. When Chernobyl exploded, Soros immediately bought potato futures, understanding that the radioactivity would wipe out most of Russia’s potato crop. He was right.

In our own business we have a strong disinclination to making the same kinds of cold decisions based on the empirical evidence before us.

The explosion of demand for video content – cable, satellite and web and the consequent fractionalization of the audience are going to radically change the video business. Compound this with cheap cameras and edits in many hands and you have the makings of a whole new business model.

This is going to happen.

It is absolutely inevitable.

Those who understand it will profit enormously from the shift that is going to come. Those who resist will be caught up in the undertow.

We are not Wall Street Guys.. but every once in a while we could learn a thing or two from them.


20 responses to “Breakfast with Richard Bookstaber

  1. I just finished watching a marketing piece on Apple’s Website on the Washington Post’s New Media efforts and needless to say, the TV guys should be concerned. Although the video is aboutr Apple’s products, from what I saw, TWP is creating compelling content and delivering it multiple ways (Jack of all trades, master of them all – sounds familiar)

    Seems to me that those who feel they need to lock themselves into the old way of doing things as being more valuable are in for a rude awakening.

    As you said Michael:

    This is going to happen.

    It is absolutely inevitable.

    Those who understand it will profit enormously from the shift that is going to come. Those who resist will be caught up in the undertow.

    Nay sayers can refute the issue all they want – larger print organizations like The Washington Post are doing this now and the trickle down effect will eventually hit the smaller print media companies, taking away market share from what was once an exclusive area for TV stations. The TV people who choose to not adapt will wake up one morning with the sobering realization that they may be too late in climbing on board.

    The solo VJ paradigm isn’t locked into one style of shooting. We have the flexibility to shoot in a commercial style, yet can transition over to more news or doc oriented pieces with the agility of small high quality equipment without all the excess baggage that some feel is necessary to be considered professional.

    The detractors will have a field day with this post and I expect the same rehashed pablum they espouse in trying to make their position as gospel.

  2. Michael,

    You know I have respect for what you’re trying to do (though I differ on your approach). However this Etzel clown is so far up your ass, his eyes are brown.

    You deserve better.

  3. Isn’t it interesting that the way this person of note delivered his message to the masses.

    With a printing press.

    I’ll bet he even had help with the usual assortment of people involved in producing a book. A team of people all the way up to the publisher who got the book to market.

    Even Richard Bookstaber knows when you want to deliver a quality message to the largest audience, doing it alone is not the way when you want the biggest audience possible.

  4. There’s a good reason of why VJ is failing and Cliff, you are the poster child for the failure. I warned Michael five years ago that this will happen and indeed it did. I’m convinced that Michael was naive and underestimated the mass of stupidity and ignorance that’s running wild in this country. I told him that when you make it sound too easy everybody will jump on the bandwagon and most of them have no business being in this business. I warned him that those too ignorant and too lazy to go thru the discipline of learning will overpopulate the VJ ranks. By doing so they will overshadow and give a bad reputation to the entire project; but not only that, even more damaging is the fact that good professional that could make VJ a viable and worthwhile part of journalism will disassociate themselves or get lost in the sea of crap being produced by people like you Cliff.

    I went over your resume and you portfolio; you haven’t work a day in your life in this business. You show no education or training of any kind, you show no affiliation to any organization or employer in this business and have no sample of your work that was published anywhere, you talk about awards but don’t have any to show, the best accomplishment in your career was that you were accepted to attend a seminar? That’s the extension of you technical education? Aren’t you embarrassed? You are a fake Cliff, a big mouth fake too. Your work sucks; you have no concept of what the elements necessary to create the aesthetic of an image are, you have no technical knowledge whatsoever and all my doubt about you were confirmed when you mentioned that you do real estate for a living, Cliff, receptionists at real estate agencies go out and do real estate videos. Real estate video doesn’t even qualify as amateur work. I don’t mind you being an amateur, throughout my career I helped hundreds of amateurs crossing the line into professionalism, but unlike you they were humble and had a desire to learn, but you in your little brain of yours know it all have the balls to bad mouth and ridicule working professionals who, unlike you, had the balls to go thru the sacrifice, discipline and hardship of getting an education in this field even knowing that the future was uncertain. You don’t deserve to kiss the ground that these people walk.

    This is a visual business, your works should do the talking for you, not your mouth, Go diving man, looks like is the only thing that you can do.

  5. i don’t think cliff is much more than a very enthused person with a passion for his new craft.

    hang in there, cliff.

    i’ll leave lenswhatever out of this part of the comment, but look at the two sources (actually it’s 1 because the jig is up, nino)… a washed up hasbeen.

  6. Invited – Thanks for the kind words. I look at the source of these personal attacks as a confirmation regarding the validity of the comments. There is no validity.

    I’m sure many of the professionals who are moving to video from photojournalism, such as Chuck Fadely at the Miami Herald, Dirck Halstead, PF Bentley and others whom I have been in personal contact with would get a kick out of these b-roll types who choose to use comments that border on defamation of character.

    As I stated earlier, if a print organization like The Washington Post which has won Emmy’s for their work can do as much if not more than what TV shooters have done, it bodes well for those who have worked in print who are transitioning over to video.

    Nino’s almost hysterical rant above has me laughing at the sheer lunacy of what he has said. It has been my experience that those who stoop to such an infantile level of commentary usually feel painted in a corner and are lashing out at those whom they feel they can blame – with an almost victim mentality mindset.

    The great thing is – I don’t have to prove anything to these guys. They haven’t earned the right to be given any respect from my POV.

  7. Sadly for Cliff, and “invited”, they have yet to learn about the real world where people actually go to work and make a living.

    Invitedmedia might have a chance once high school is over. Cliff? Only he knows when he’ll get the gumption up to go out and do what he’s taken so many classes, for so many years, to prepare for. Then again, some people never try because they are too afraid of failure in the first place.

    Cliff! When are you going to take one of Mr. Rosenblum’s classes since you are so confident of the future? What’s stopping you? Lack of funds or a lack of something else?

  8. $, if that is your real name…

    You have some big brass ones (or you’re compensating for something) to keep posting your trite, insipid, and ugly comments while not identifying yourself. It is fairly obvious that the Fox website is not your work, so how about showing *your* credentials. Show me that your wonderful profession, whatever that is, is superior to cliffs work before you run your mouth.

    What you are posting immediately loses any credibility if you are just some guy hiding behind a symbol. I have no respect for you whatsoever, and I am very low on any totem pole, so there you go. I’ll start actually reading your misinformed garbage when you stop hiding behind mommy fox’s skirt.

    Cliff at least has the stones to list a site showing who he is. He takes the abuse that some send his way and acts like a man with a vision.

    Meanwhile, you hide behind some sort of “bling” character. If you are going to attack someone else, then sign your name. Frankly, I have no idea why Rosenblum puts up with it other than to try to be fair. I assume he knows who you actually are, and has decided to let you hang yourself with your asinine one-liners.

    Agree or disagree with Nino, but he is man enough to say who he is. He recently used some strong words about Cliff’s website, but again, he at least had the cajones to sign his name and provide links to his work, and that allows any reasonable person to weigh both sides.

    Even lenslinger, who also posted a strong criticism, had the strength of conviction to list a real website.

    Who the heck are you, and where is your contribution? I bet there is none, which is why you are sticking to symbols that don’t rate their own keys on the keyboard.

    In the words of that woman from the movie “Working Girl,” ‘Sometimes I like to dance around my living room in my underwear: doesn’t make me Madonna; never will.’ If you don’t run the Fox website, then who the heck are you?

    I play at video production. I admit my lack of qualifications and am honest about who I am. I also have a website with comments enabled, so anybody can write whatever they think about my work.

    Man up, dude.

  9. Jim,

    In previous posts I’ve explained my background.

    If you prefer not to believe, that is up to you.

    The fact is my comments come from experience. Make that, continued experience.

    That is why they carry the impact they do and why some, not you, feel their sting.

    You are honest, as am I. If I was looking to slam any and all just because they try VJ then you would be a recipient of my thoughts as well but you, unlike others, are a balanced individual who is trying something new and learning in the process.

    I have even commented about your work in the past in a positive, encouraging way.

    I have not been too mean to Cliff as he has to myself and others who practice our profession daily. I have no regrets for any comments I’ve directed at him or others and, I’ll point out, I haven’t gone to the extreme name calling that others have.

    My symbol as signature, $, speaks for itself. I’m working and learning while also earning a salary. It’s a direct reflection of what I think many VJ fans forget. This is about business. Either admit you want to do this as a profession or admit it’s nothing more than a hobby. A profession pays the bills. A hobby maybe makes a buck or two at best, and usually not even that. Cliff is aware of this but won’ admit it. Others like him also want to avoid this basic truth.

    You are an honest person Jim and will always have my honest reaction, with respect, to your comments.

  10. Cliff, soon or later you’ll have to realize that your are a little league player trying to pass yourself off as major league player. Everybody stand a chance to make it but there’s a long road full with hard work in between, there are no short cuts.

    You keep bringing up names, calling them colleagues but when we compared knowledge you are insignificant, be assured that they will not refer to you as a colleague. I’m sure that actually they’ll get offended if you are trying to pass yourself off at being one of them, on the same level of knowledge that they are, that’s what a colleague is. Chuck Fadely, Dirck Halstead and PF Bentley are accomplished photographer with extensive education with along list of credits, their work could be seen everywhere long before they picked up a video camera. You on the other hand do you have any credit to show us? All you are doing is trying to ride on the coattail of others who have worked very hard to get where they are, but you have nothing to show, stop talking Cliff, show your work and your accomplishments, that’s the only ways in this business to get credibility and respect, you don’t ask for you have to earn it. Those names that you keep throwing around have gained the respect of the creative community because of their hard work not by shooting off their mouth. And do you know how they got to be that good? After they finished their formal education they attached themselves to already experienced photographers for many years, that’s referred to as internship, something that every good photographer went thru, just like doctors and lawyers do, and most important, unlike you, they did not go around telling people that they can do everything better that others can, they were humble and kept their mouth shut, they observed and learned, that’s why they are here today in a position of leadership. If you know anything about this industry then you would also know that some of the best TV photographer and cinematographers were once still photographer who sometime during their career went back to school and made the transition, myself included. Some have chosen to pursue the journalism end of the business while other went into the commercial end of the business. The main reason is that years ago there were no video schools; everyone had to go to photography or film school. The compositional rules and elements of creating an image are exactly the same regardless if you create an image on canvas, on photographs or on moving images, like cinematography or video. Once you are educated in these areas the transition is only a matter of learning which button to push.

    Why am I wasting my time with you? In my career I helper hundred of people in making the transaction between amateurs and professionals, I still do that. I have an internship program connected to local colleges and high school; I’ve seen a lot of cocky know-it-all kids, just like you; they don’t stand a chance of succeeding, just like you. Thankfully most are humble with a true desire of learning; these are those who will succeed. If by putting these posts here and anywhere else I might help some kid in not making the same stupid mistake that you are making.

    Now let me give you two very good examples, right here on Michaels’ blog. Here we have you and Jim, both amateurs and both of your work is on the same level. But Jim knows where his place is and has a desire of learning. His works start showing promises, he asks all kinds of questions and people will gladly give him all the answers he needs. I’m convinced that his work will be very good if he stays with it. Then we have you Cliff, on the same level as Jim but you already know it all, in your mind you don’t need any help because you already know it all. Which one of you do you think will stand chance of succeeding? One of my professors in art school once told us something that I never forgotten, something that has helped me in my career more than everything else. He told us that this craft is all about learning; imagine learning as a ladder that you must climb in order to get to the top of your craft, every day when you learn something new you get one step higher than everyone else, but the moment that you think you reached the top, the next step is down and down fast you’ll go.

  11. Ok $, you make a good point. You did give me a thoughtful critique before, and I forgot about that. I apologize for what amounts to a personal attack.

    I still wish you had a website or even an email, but perhaps that is because of other reasons that aren’t shown here. You say that you’ve given credentials before, but I must have missed that post. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since I was a bit rough.

    Let me apologize to everyone here for my stringent comment. I sure wouldn’t want anybody to rip me a new one.

    Nino, thanks for the kind words to me. I still don’t think that Michael is trying to pull one on anybody. That’s based on my reading of the blogs of those who have taken the bootcamp.

    My (unlearned as it may be) opinion of the newsrooms taking up VJ as a way to capture news is that the producers are professionals who can decide what format to use. If they chose vj and hire Mr. Rosenblum, then I really believe that they are getting what’s advertised.

    Upper managment, in my experience, quite often are morons, but if they are buying technology that is not a fit for their market, then that is their fault – especially if they buy vj, but then don’t use it properly, which sounds like what has happened in places wher vj has found opposition.

    I spent many years gaining the experience that I have as a systems engineer on high-end medical systems (right now LASIK lasers), so I have no illusion that somebody could simply take an electronics workshop and go fix LASIK lasers. However, I do think that the adults who are buying these lessons know what they are getting and think that they are getting the value they are expecting.

    I’ve already said enough about my opinions of the marketplace so I’ll spare everybody that today.

    I will add this though. If I am going to create what I want, it’ll have to be with me, a camera, and Final Cut – which is what is in the bootcamp. I’m not going (because I don’t want to) to make decisions based on what will pay. Admittedly it is a luxury I can afford.

    Mr. Rosenblum is allowing open commentary on what he is doing on his own site, including yours (Nino’s and others) opposition. It appears to me to be on the up and up.

    Plus my wife has met him and found him to be an all-around nice guy 🙂

  12. Pingback: » The Solo VJ paradigm works and why TV shooters should be concerned - bluprojekt/Cliff Etzel - Video Journalist

  13. Jim, you have nothing to apologize for.

    I’m here to share my thoughts gained through experience.

    Not to play “look how smart I am for what I’ve done over the last 30 years.”

    Nino is expressing himself his way. I do it my way but we are pretty much saying the same thing when it comes to what this business is about.

    It’s not about short term promises which never come true, nor pay bills.

    It’s about life and working towards financial security which allows one to continue learning and improving.

    Not paying for more classes which lead to nowhere but youtube.

    You have promise Jim. You have direction and, from what I can tell by your written words, a maturity that will continue to push you to be even better in the future. You have what it takes to learn and grow in whatever direction you choose.

  14. Jim, let me clear the air about my position on the VJ thing. I’m not against the one man band, backpack journalist or VideoJurnalist, or whatever other name they are called these days. I always said that the one man-band is a viable and essential part of journalism; it has existed since before video existed. I spent 3 years in the US Army as a photographer during the Vietnam War, I got drafted six months after arriving in this country. My job at one time was to lend support to civilian press photographers and cinematographer that were heading in the combat zone. I’ve seen some incredible talents doing solos with the cameras. What I’m against is the free-for-all journalism, Michael claim that everyone can be a VJ. As I said before I believe that Michael with all his good intentions underestimated the number of idiots that are running wild in this country. Being a journalist is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. You can claim amendment rights of free speech but citizens also have the right to carry guns and because of rampant stupidity that too is very dangerous. A lose mouth can be as dangerous as a gun is and do considerably more damage. The adverse side effect of open VJ participation is that real good talent will not want to be associated with a bunch of wannabe idiots armed with cameras, it only take one to spoil the whole bunch. So, not only we flood the country with incompetent-idiots-armed-with-cameras but we are also risking losing good talents.

    As far as revamping television news you don’t need to re-do the entire thing, you said it, too many morons running the business, that’s where the problem is, change to VJs and same morons will still be running running the business, no improvements there. The system is not broken, it’s just mismanaged, I can think of dozens of ways to improve and streamline the current system without making any drastic changes that in the long run could be more damaging than beneficial.

  15. […] newspaper & solo vj detractors are at it once […]

    Cliff, you keep comparing yourself to educated and trained working journalists who are adding video as just another tool to their reporting resources. What are your competences and expertise as well as your credentials in any area of journalism, being video or print or whatever.

  16. and here we have a RADIO station making media… other than radio. i mean VIDEO!

    check it out. best i can tell it’s less than a month old.

  17. Nino and $ – you both have way too much time on your hands to post such extensive and detailed comments on a regular basis – about nothing.

    Anyone who resorts to such adolescent behavior shows their true personal character. In addition, it displays a total lack of professionalism that you both claim to have (operative word – CLAIM).

    My past professional work has garnered me multiple regional awards from the ONPA and SPJ. My peers reviewed my work and honored me with those awards. In contrast, the detractors opinions regarding my work are of no importance. Going to the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop was by portfolio submission only along with a letter of recommendation by a photojournalist who is well known and respected in the field – not only was I accepted (1 of 99 out of 847 applicants), I won a special merit award for my work – again, from top level professionals in the field who actually know what they are talking about.

    A formal education is necessary for certain professional fields (Doctors, Lawyers, etc) – being a Visual Content Creator isn’t necessarily one of them as far as I’m concerned. If one can learn on their own, that doesn’t make them any less of a professional, although the detractors seem to pontificate otherwise.

    To lenslinger, who appears to be yet another b-roll shill, Michael provides a service to those who accept what he has to offer. I shake my head at how the Solo VJ detractors portray him as a Charlatan. No one has been forced to utilize his services. Maybe the detractors should get a clue about that. Michael is cordial and respectful – unlike the detractors who comment to the contrary.

    The comment of riding on someone else’s coat tails is laughable as well and shows to what level one is willing to go to for their own egoic pain body needs. The continued use of derogatory statements only shows the lack of personal integrity each of you has.

    And since I haven’t seen one detractor who has been willing to step up and prove their position accurately, giving credence to what has been posted in various comments isn’t worth considering.

    I’ll continue to read the detractors rantings with great amusement.

  18. Nice speech Cliff, but he fact remains that you have no work to show including the awards that you are talking about. Giving you the benefit of the doubt I made a search for the last nine years on awards recipients at ONPA and you’re nowhere to be found.
    You show no employment in this business, ever, no list of clients, ever, and no samples of your works, none whatsoever. The only clips on your blog are self assignments. Usually when people do self assignments they do it to impress potential clients, they show the best they can do. Even your self assignments are awful. These are not just my questions; these are standard questions that a client will ask before hiring you for assignments. When you list and show work that you’ve done for clients it only means that somebody somewhere was impressed with your work enough to be willing to pay you. If you don’t have any to show it only means that your work wasn’t good enough for anybody to hire you. This is the truth of the business this is why schools spend week teaching how to put together a demo reel or a portfolio, but you just don’t get it.

    There are two ways to take criticism, constructively and destructively. Smart people will take it constructively, even if everything is negative there’s always something good in a criticisms, if you were smart you would just take what you can use and throw away the rest. Everything that everyone has been saying to you is a constructive criticism and you should treasure it and apply it, unfortunately you fall into the next category.

    Then there are those that take every criticism destructively, these are the stupid people. They think that everybody is out to get them and throw away valuable information that could really help them to improve their work.

    Why do you think that Michael has been posting on B-roll for years even thou he knew what type of responses he would get. Because all the criticism was true and he was learning about what he was doing wrong, using what was useful to him and discard the rest. For him B-roll was a free focus group. Even thou everything was negative and often offensive he was taking criticism constructively because the points that we were making on B-roll would be exactly the same that his potential clients would make. That’s the difference between being smart and being stupid.

  19. Cliff,

    I’m no b-roll shill, Nor am I a unilateral detractor of Michael’s efforts. Just ask him.

    What I AM is a veteran of TV news who has been solo-newsgathering for the better part of 17 years. I’m also an avid writer, reader and critic who long ago tired of your shrill claims of my particular breed’s demise. I’m all for emerging media and new paradigms, have written extensively about them and never pulled any punches when it comes to examining the damaged world that is TV news. I’m a lurker too – one who reads an awful lot more than I comment but You Sir compel me to come forth, for you talk an awful lot of smack for someone who. hasn’t. done. dick.

    That’s something no number of fevered attaboy posts will ever erase.

  20. Pingback: Risk Moment RES » Blog Archive » Breakfast with Richard Bookstaber

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