Model Jet RC SR71 Blackbird

Sehr schön! This is a 7-minute video of the flight of a model RC SR71 USAF jet plane (the “Blackbird”) made, it seems, by a German engineer.  The video has nearly 2 million views as we sit today. Proof that a great innovative product can get attention still!  Worth taking a look at… especially if you like gadgets.  Comes with twin jet engines and retractable gear.

Lech Walesa at the MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009

Lech Walesa, ex-President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gave a resounding speech at the MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009. Walesa retraced the history behind the Solidarnosc movement he led in Poland and then presented his case for progressing the European cause. Here are a few sound bytes (translated from the Polish into French and again into English by me).

Lech Walesa, ex-President of Poland, 2009

Walesa spoke about the extraordinarily peaceful times we live in, saying that “no generation has ever had as great a period of peace and we have a great chance to make a unified Europe, without the use of force.”
–Commentary: Of course, the ‘peaceful era’ doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case for the Americans.

He continued by asking whether today’s generation will be capable of taking advantage of this worldwide truce? Walesa called for more action to create a unified Europe. “I believe that this generation, via democratic debate, will understand what is missing… what is needed…”

“If the individual’s wishes continue to be privileged, we cannot do much … we will continue to have the crises…. such as the economic crisis we are experiencing today” — meaning that there needs to be more solidarity…

“I am just a revolutionary, and I don’t have all the answers…” including to the question “what economy, what economic system is needed for a unified Europe?” A second question: “Which Democracy, which liberty [for Europe]?”

“If I could tell my [dead] father that there are no frontiers in Europe and that there are no soldiers between Germany & Poland, he’d have a heart attack.”

I’d like to be the world’s last revolutionary. I would like to have lots of monuments, but with due reason because I would have succeeded and you would have succeeded…” i.e. that there would be no more need to revolt.

I enjoyed his speech and his passion. I also believe that the questions he raised for Europe and the clear risks that are poised in not unifying Europe are indeed critical for today’s generation. Of course, on a few other points, I considered his thoughts unlikely to gain traction (especially that the way to avoid all crises lies in finding solutions to create general solidarity…). Nonetheless, if he’s not the most appreciated person in Poland, he certainly gathered a few [more] fans in France with this speech.

Here’s the video of his speech on MEDEF TV (translated into French only) and featuring Laurence Parisot’s introduction and a question from the floor.

Usain Bolt clocks 9.58 World Record in 100 meters

Usain Bolt World Record 9.58 Berlin World Championships

At 9:35pm last night (August 16), Usain Bolt (Jamaica), clocked in at 9.58, dashed Tyson Gay’s (USA) fine effort (9.71) and, along the way, dashed to a sparkling 100 metre World Record at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. It was a marvellous race, with all the hype and high expectations more than matched by the performance. For all the bravado that Bolt demonstrated before the race, he was able to execute flawlessly, almost incredible (as in not credible). Amazingly, whenever he runs, you always feel he can do more. You can’t help but think that his wandering eyes and seemingly cocky headturns at the end of the race (to ensure he’s on top) would possibly add a couple more milliseconds! Tyson Gay etched his name in the stone as the man who is always a step behind. His excellent 9.71 time was just 0.02 behind Bolt’s Olympic World Record performance.

In a pre-race buildup on French Television, there was a small documentary on Usain Bolt, indicating that he may be ready to overtake Bob Marley as the spiritual figurehead of Jamaica. Bolt is portrayed as a down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky man. On the cusp of his 23rd birthday (he’s a fellow Leo with an August 21 birthday), he has certainly gone down some uncharted paths compared with Marley’s charts. Holding the 200 metre and 4×100 world records as well, he is taking the human race to a new level and, along the way, providing good brand love for his country.

Here’s the video courtesy of YouTube / BBC. Enjoy (it’s a 10 minute video).

LIDL – A web campaign that merges value and values

MEANINGFUL MESSAGES AND SINGULAR SHOPPING EXPERIENCES…
A consumer’s journey with a brand

Ever since I latched on to the Firebrand (RIP) site, I have been interested in the concept of advertising as content, beyond merely being a reflection of contemporary society. Ads that have content have meaning and create conversations. They can become viral, for example, because they transmit values to which people adhere or humour that bring true cheer. Content-filled ads are rather rare, as marketers are reluctant to step away from the classic advertising ways; and, yet, in today’s environment, I believe that creating meaningful ads should be on the top of marketers’ priorities — at least for those up and comers wishing to make waves, make a difference and make a buck. Arguably, all brands with at least a little attitude or a semblance of community, should be looking to make their message meaningful.

The brand’s marketing [advertising] message is one thing; but, the in-store “live” feeling is another. There is a lot of work to be done for a brand to connect its advertising message with that in store feeling down the line. In today’s economically depressed and evermore time-compressed conditions — not to mention the paroxysm of information and misinformation that besiege the consumer — there is a need to rethink the shopping experience. And, whether it is the high street independent, the department store or the supermarket, the shopping experience is in need of a significant [r]evolution. Consumers are no longer willing to put up with the deluge of confusing messages, lost time and wasted packaging.

LIDL LogoHere is a wonderful return-to-values and bring-me-emotion campaign by the German discount supermarket chain, LIDL (with stores in 17 countries, including major presences in UK, France & Holland…). I add a Wikipedia write-up here on LIDL. This web-based 1’31 ad (below) associates fundamental, daily emotions with basic (and cheap) accoutrements that you can find at LIDL. It is perhaps a more practical take on MasterCard’s Priceless campaign. Of course, I now need to see how this translates in the LIDL in-store situation.

For such a great creation, I was surprised to see that it only has 39K views (since its October 2008 posting). Perhaps, that is because it is only in German. In any event, I think you can get the gist from the euro figures…and the English lyrics to the accompanying song.

What are your thoughts? Please drop me a line!

UPDATED on 2nd June, 2009: Since there was a decision (I assume by Lidl) to shut down access to this ad above, I have re-added a different link to the YouTube ad from LIDL. In any event, if they do the same thing again, I add the link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkSOv52qvD4.

UPDATED on 19th April, 2011: This last ad was also taken down.  I guess LIDL don’t want their ads on line — or at least certainly not on YouTube?

You Started It! — Fawlty Towers and Wars Declared by US Presidents

You started it!

Series 1 Episode 6 – The Germans, Fawlty Towers
—————————————-
When Sybil is out of action in hospital, Basil is left to cope with his shabby hotel (in Torquay) in her absence. What could go wrong when there’s a fire drill scheduled, a moose’s head to hang and a party of German tourists due? Quite a lot really, but it will all be fine as long as… you don’t mention the war.

Many people quote “The Germans” as their favourite episode of Fawlty Towers and, while I would pick another (The Rat), those sequences between Mr Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and the German tourists are certainly among the most memorable of the series.

Direct quotes from this episode:

Basil [who keeps making Freudian slips about the war]: Is something wrong?
German Guest: Will you stop talking about the war?
Basil: Me? You started it! [referring to WWII]
German Guest: We did not start it. [referring to the conversation about the war]
Basil: Yes you did, you invaded Poland.

Speaking of starting it, I was challenged in a conversation a little while back as to which political party in the US was more responsible for starting wars. The supposition was that the Republican hawks were more prone to engage in war than the Democrats. When I mentioned a few top of mind wars (WWI, WWII, Korea…) as having a Democratic president at the outset of the war, it led me to investigate further. In the last 38 years, each significant engagement/war has indeed been started by Republican presidents (you also have to bear in mind that a Republican president has been in office 28 of those 38 years).

There should be at least four qualifiers before attempting to come to a conclusion. (1) What would be more interesting perhaps is to look at which party was dominating Congress at the times when the meaty decisions/approvals were made… (2) A second consideration is whether the war can be judged to have been a “good” or “necessary” war. (3) What was the outcome? And (4), who was responsible for carrying out and/or ending the war?

Anyway, I have put together a list of most the more significant wars since the 19th century (and I have chosen to include all the recent wars). A more rigourous and comprehensive study would have to go into all the wars (definition of “war” needing to be clarified). I have not touched the wars with the Indians for example. The list of all military wars/engagements involving the USA has been made over on Wikipedia here. In any event, if you look at the associated presidents below, it is not exactly conclusive as to which party is more likely to declare war.

War of 1812
Begun and ended 1814 by James Madison (Democratic Republican, precursor of Democratic Party ironically)

Mexican-American War 1846-1848
Started and ended by James Polk (D)

Spanish-American 1898

Started and ended by McKinley (R)

Philippine-American War 1899
Started and ended by McKinley (R)

WWI 1914-1918
Started and ended by Woodrow Wilson (D) who declared war on Germany in April 1917

WWII 1939-1945
Started under Roosevelt (D) 1941
Ended under Truman (D) 1945

Korea 1950-53
Started and ended by Truman (D)

Vietnam
Started officially in 1959 under Eisenhower (R)
Escalation under JF Kennedy (D)
War ended by Nixon (R)

Invasion of Grenada 1993 under Reagan (R)

Persian Gulf War 1990-1991
Started and ended by Bush Sr (R)
(note bombing of Iraq in 1993 by Clinton)

Afghanistan Invasion 2001-
By Bush Jr (R)

Iraq or Second Gulf War 2003…
Started by Bush Jr (R)

The only conclusion I feel like making is that, despite all the civilizing that we human beings have been doing, the net net is that military conflicts, whether borne of need for power, zeal or fear, are an ugly and consistent part of our existence. And, for sure, there are necessary wars. If the world were run by women, would it be entirely different? Female Presidents, Prime Ministers, Queens and Empresses throughout the ages have been known or associated with wars (see here for a list frm womenhistory.com). Solutions to avoid an escalation in wars would include heightened education, international integration and, most importantly, increased prosperity. However, given the current and foreseeable economic crises and the hardships and pressures that will inevitably arise, it would seem more likely that we are in store for more conflicts than less in the near future. And, that’s when I take refuge in Fawlty Towers, and return to viewing Manuel being clobbered on the head about his Siberian Hamster [aka rat].

Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Euro 2008 semi-finals — half the expected teams

Euro 2008 Semi-FinalsThe ongoing Euro Cup 2008 is showcasing a new set of teams and cast of players, specifically in the form of the never-say-die Turkish team and the pesky Russians. There have been a number of ‘disappointments’ (depends on your perspective, of course) proving that, aside from talent and money, it is important to have good chemistry and timing (as in, when you peak). With the semi-finals now just around the corner, the heavy favourites must be Germany, with a likely final opponent of Spain. But, I suppose you never know. Are Turkey’s squad of 14 and Russia’s need for revenge against Spain going to be enough?

Personally, I’d love to see Russia versus Turkey in the final.

However, one thing I remain curious about is how or who ruled that the players must come from the country to play on a team, but a coach can be another national (as in Russia’s Guus Hiddink who coached the Russians past his own nation). Seems odd, no?

Barcelona’s City Bicycle Program – Nice Bicing

Barcelona features–like Paris’ oh so grey Vélib or London’s bright yellow OYBike–a city-sponsored rent-a-bicycle-easily program called Bicing. The small-wheeled red bicycles (photo to right) can be remarked easily, being ridden by mostly Barcelona citizens on grey days and sunny days alike. Started in March 2007, the Bicing program is notable for one thing: it is thought to be only for the Barcelona residents! Every local person (e.g. taxi drivers and pedestrians) to whom I spoke said that these bicycles could only be rented out by the locals. This is in contradiction to the brochure which clearly is written in English (as well as Catalan and Castillan, of course) and states that the bike can be rented out for all your touristic visits. Moreover, the majority of the bike stations are located at the highly touristic centres. Even the Bicing website, which is only in Catalan and Castillan, talks about the usage for tourism purposes.

For further reading on Barcelona’s Bicing, please go here: Treehugger or BlastBlog.

The Barcelona program is an overriding success if you listen to the citizens. That said, with only 1500 bikes (100 stations), there must be some challenges in terms of availability, etc. Paris’ Velib now boasts around 20,000 bicycles. London’s program, begun in August 2004, is largely focused on the western region of London (I can’t find how many) bikes there are in the OYBike program). Other cities that feature a similar bicycle program include Copenhagen (2000 bikes), Stockholm CityBike (with the same bikes as Bicing, but in blue), Lyon Velo’V (1500) and in Germany, for those traveling one-way along the Ruhr Valley, in the revier rad network, there is the Hase low-rider bicycle.

Certainly, with all these programs cropping up in Europe, you would hope the same eco-friendly initiatives might take root in certain cities in the States. In Asia, in certain cities, it might be like bringing coals to Newcastle… although with the increase in motorcycles (Hanoi, etc.) and cars, keeping the bicycle tradition wouldn’t hurt. Anyone know of any cities in the US considering or doing a similar program?

Social Shopping as part of the Web 2.0 Revolution

Social Shopping RevolutionIn the wake of the social networking onslaught has come the wave of the more overtly commercial social shopping online concept. A combination of social networking and e-commerce, the concept is a consumer-centric version of Amazon, putting the shopper at the centre and giving the “subscribers” the opportunity to vote, note and share what they like and don’t like. Community oriented shopping that allows the individual potentially to buy smarter is definitely sociologically “in the money.” I have a friend on the west coast (USA) who has launched Stylehive, but, not surprisingly, there are many competitive sites bidding on the same trend in the US (as in the brandogram above) such as Kaboodle Beta and ThisNext (N.B. ThisNext has a nice tagline “real recommendations from real people,” but also has a fairly scattered interface).

And these social shopping sites are popping up in other places around the world, including Osoyou (out of England) and I Like Totally Love it (Beta, out of Germany). While I seem to have trouble getting engaged with these sites, I must say that my favourite functionality goes to Stylehive focusing on “featured people” and its easy to understand “followers” concept, as well as the “popular bookmarks” (my lingo). Kaboodle uses “featured kaboodlers” which just is a little too esoteric. In my opinion, the battle will be won by the one(s) that establishes a true point of view. I would be remiss not to plug shopwiki, a portal attempting to list everything you can buy on line, although I note that it has only limited “social” applications so far.

Social shopping brings a new era of immediate customer feedback and will almost certainly have an impact on the marketing budgets of the future. I can anticipate that certain “opinion leaders” among the consumers may become tomorrow’s true branded spokespeople (as in the speak about your brand for real). Soon enough, we will start talking about word on line as opposed to word of mouth, and how about contaminated goods (contracted virally). kakashi I am sure that, at one point (if they haven’t already), Google and Microsoft will get more seriously in on the action of social shopping. The current MSN Shopping site is rather plain and web 1.0 for now.

As far as the future of shopping on line is concerned, there is a whole 3D world out there to augment the experience (a Second Life goes to Third Life…) Presently, the efforts of 3D on line are essentially focused on the viewing of items, without the community aspect. Beyond the ability to zoom in on articles that already exists, the new concept is to replicate the mortar store shopping experience virtually.

A few examples across a variety of consumer goods: Thanks to MED Blog, I found out about Potoroze (en français) which is still in BETA (& private, therefore non viewable). But, there is a Potoroze video screencast. And here, at La Redoute (VPC or Distance Selling specialist), you can use a virtual mannequin to try out your clothes. And, for the shoe fetishists, there are notions of a ShoeTube…shoes in motion! Finally, (thanks to this site) at mydeco.com one last link to a 3D tool for planning the decoration of your room (UK site).

Meanwhile, Walmart is apparently developing an altogether new experience for its online shopping site, whereby you can walk down (empty aisles) and actually remove items from perfectly stocked shelves, do a 360 inspection of the article, put it in your virtual (but visible) caddy and continue to walk down the aisle… And the good news is that you can mute the “attention walmart shoppers” announcements, get more information on the products than you can normally in a store, much less deal with being seen by the hoards of other Walmart shoppers. When I find the prototype, I’ll be sure to post it.

In the meantime, attention all you community shoppers, let your fingers do the talking and buying, but don’t forget that your credit card must have limits and to live within your limits!

Happy No Smoking & New Year

No Smoking this New YearGlad to usher in a new year and, with it, the beginning of smoke-free hotels, bars and restaurants in Paris. But, as this BBC article explains, Paris is not the only place to take on new year resolutions. Eight German states, including Berlin and heavy drinking Bavaria, have now taken on a similar ban, with three more to follow during the year. The subject has evidently taken on a different spin in Germany where enforcement will be somewhat more lenient than in France due to, what I have to imagine are mediatised, links with Hitler’s Nazi regime’s crackdown on smoking. In France, the “leniency” was accorded all the way to the end of January 1st, 2008.

After reading up on the smoking bans, I was interested in the smoking populations in Europe and per the BBC site, it says that 45% of the adult population in Greece is smoking. Naturally, the more painful number would be evaluating how that statistic translates into children smoking. Of the 13.5 million smokers in France, as cited in the BBC article, how many are not adults (I hesitate to use the word kids)?

Thanks mostly to wiki, I have calculated that there are just over 50 million 18+ years olds in metropolitan France. Then, if one were (mistakenly) to take the 13.5 million as all being adults, that would give France a 27% adult smoking ratio (I assume an adult is still considered 18+). Double checking what statistics I could find on adult smokers, I discovered this NationMaster site, whose source is the World Health Organization, which claimed a wholly different picture, with 34.5% of smoking adults in France — and this is only marginally less than the 35% cited for Germany (in line with the BBC’s “one third of Germans” who smoke). The worldwide weighted average of adults smoking is 27.5% per the NationMaster site. For good reading, try the Herald Tribune’s article on the Future of the [smoking] Cafe Society!

Stateside, Chicago has also just put in place a revised no-smoking inside law to usher in the new year, too — this new law was to snuff out loopholes. There are just 23 states in the US that have imposed on indoor smoking. That is quite surprising to me.

Anyway, Happy New Year, Health and Happiness to all smokers and non-smokers alike.

Global Power Rankings China versus ROW

China Global Power RankingChina is making progress up the Global Power Ranking if you count market caps.

Chinese publicly traded companies are now dominating the top 10 list of biggest market capitalizations worldwide. This Figaro article of 30 October highlighted that 5 out of the top 10 largest market caps are Chinese, including world #2 PetroChina at $446 billion USD, behind the ExxonMobil at $511 billion. China Mobile is fourth at $398B.

There are 3 US companies in the top 10 (ExxonMobil, GE #3 at $413B and Microsoft #6 with 327B). Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom (Russian with $253B) round out the top 10. In other words, there is only one [true] European country represented.

Of course, this is just a snapshot before a currency revaluation, a downward shift in oil prices [what?] or another Enron were to occur. Nonetheless, it speaks to the prospective valuation of future earnings.

Another interesting slice of the top 10 shows that 5 of the companies are in Petrol & Gas, 3 are financial institutions (including GE which is classified as diversified financials by Fortune, but go figure), and 1 each for computer software & telecom.

On another angle, and not to be forgotten is the size according to sales… The Fortune 500 is still widely dominated by US companies (162) with Japan (67) #2 and France at #3 (with 38), just ahead of Germany (37) and England (33). Six of the top 10 are US and the first Chinese company in the Fortune 500 is Sinopec at #23, albeit with the fifth highest sales growth. But, one can expect the composition of the top 100 to change dramatically over the course of just the next five years.

Of note, tracing back the data from Fortune 500, as limited merely to US companies, there are now 4 financial-related companies in the Fortune 500 top 10, as opposed to just one basically since 1955 (always the same company, GE which, naturally, couldn’t always be considered a financial company). Since 1955, there have been between 3 and 4 oil & gas companies year in and year out, with communications and computer (IBM) rounding out the top 10 historically.

For an interesting blog and further reading about the shifting balance of power, visit Global Power Europe. Plenty of commentary and numbers on the world balance and the need for a stronger, united Europe. I also enjoyed this post from America vs the World, a subjective listing of the International Power Rankings dating to last year ,but still pertinent. Last posting on the topic was August 2006. I loved the fact that the Football World Cup is included in the concept. Note to Gordon: time to update! Meanwhile, thanks to Gordon, I found this link to an IHT article referring to Paris’ perception of the US and the terminology of ‘hyper power.”‘

And for a thread that seems plentiful and dynamic, try the World Affairs Board, Whose Who… Power Ranking. An interesting point: can a super power be a power if a large portion of its population remains illiterate?