#ParisAttacks Aftershocks – And The Urge to Find Meaning

Paris Republique MeaningfulnessI think it is finally dawning on all of us that we are living in a radical new era. It seems that little by little, methodically interspersed with several months and country by country, we find a new date to mark on the calendar as a day of memorial, of grief and of spine-chilling angst. This Wikipedia entry — documenting all types of terrorist actions in 2015 alone — shows how frequent the acts of violence have become. In 2015, we may be living in times when there has never been more progress in medicine, technology and science. There may be great ambitions to send manned missions to Mars and the other side of the moon.There may not be a world war as history books tend to write about them. However, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that there is also good reason to review what we all doing, ponder why we are doing it and, pressingly, how we are spending our time and resources at work.

In contemplating November 13’s tragic events in Paris, I came away with three thoughts.

  1. It is evermore critical to do things that are meaningful. Did anyone else notice how hard it was to get any work done in the aftermath? Granted it was the weekend, but everything non essential seemed to be stripped away. Unless our activity has a deeper purpose, one can literally feel the reservoir of energy running out. I am sure that many people around the world who have trudged into work this Monday morning are scrubbing their brows.
  2. As much as we might now know that change is every day — evermore so recently than ever in the past — that doesn’t make the change any easier. If we all have to gear up for systematic perturbations, that heightens the need for a strong, shared and meaningful NORTH heading. This is true for us as individuals. It is true for us as entrepreneurs, business leaders and employees. And, of course, most emphatically for our society. With all these changing winds, we need a strong compass to help guide us in our professional and personal lives.
  3. Lastly, on a rather more banal level, I could not help but feel upset at the mundane tweets and messages that floated out on Friday evening and over the weekend thanks to a cue of pre-programmed communications using one or other marketing automation service (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.). I thought I’d made sure all of mine were closed, but I still missed one tweet. Marketing automation is possibly a necessary evil for business, but when you pre-program all your communications, you lose the context and can end up with some awful mistakes – that come off as total callousness.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

 

Review of Hugo Cabret, the film – 3 truths from my point of view

Not the film of all time

The_Invention_of_Hugo_Cabret, from the Myndset

Part biography, part novel, part compendium, part flip book!

To ring in the new year, we went to see the new Martin Scorsese film, Hugo, based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. This 2 hour+ film did not seduce me on the merits of the direction, plot or acting. I thought of it more like a nostalgic film for the film industry. At best, Hugo is a film about time, rather than a film of all time.  However, the “picture” — as in the cinematography — was at times delightful. Being in Paris and having been a student of film at university, I can appreciate the desire to recover and repurpose archival film and the wonderful creativity of Georges Méliès. The film does a good job of reinserting old film into a new context, which I am going to assume was one of Scorsese’s primary motivations for making the film.

Oh yes, there was one other thing: vocabulary.  The charming young Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) spent the entire film showing off her good English vocab.  I smiled, thinking that maybe some kids would pick up some words.  Only problem, there was no clickable link through to the dictionary to verify the meaning!

The collateral messages

Meanwhile, if I may not have been overly thrilled with the writing and some of the acting, I did have a few “moments” in the film, where my internal message center lit up.  Here are the three parts to the film that did ring true for me:

  1. Find your North.  I like to use the expression, “to find your North”, because we all need a compass to guide us, especially through these turbulent times.  As the film explicits for the film industry, we sometimes yearn for the nostalgia of the “good ‘ole days,” filled with tradition and, yet, synonym of rejecting change.  I particularly liked the passage when the small boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) says to his co-adventurer, Isabelle, that in machinery every piece has a purpose.  And, Hugo and Isabelle, being a part of the world’s machine, have their purpose, too.  The point is find one’s purpose, or one’s North.
  2. Storytelling.  A common theme these days for brand marketers — because brands need to learn how to tell a story to which its customers can relate — storytelling has long been monopolized by the cellulose film industry.  As was exposed in a delightful TEDx Marin speech by Robert Tercek, we as a culture have handed over the reigns to Hollywood to do the storytelling for us and that it is time for us to take storytelling or “personal narrative” back.  Dreams and storytelling are what films can bring to us.  But, we should all be allowed to have our individual dreams in real life (IRL) and to be able to tell our stories (blogs and more…).
  3. The French smile.  The Station Inspector of the brilliantly reconstructed Quai d’Orsay train station, is played by the ever surprising Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat and Ali G.  Not the nicest of Station Inspectors, but certainly up there with the quirkiest, the French Inspector is not good at smiling.  As the film goes on, he develops a repertoire of 3 smiles with which to seduce the flower girl.  I’m not sure how intentional this was, but it certainly made me think of the French lack of propensity to smile in a happy way (as opposed to a smirk), much less to laugh.
My daughter (12) thought the film was too juvenile for adults (based on the dialogue and plot), while my wife thought the film was too “old” for children because of the rather dour, nasty and somewhat depressive nature of some of the characters.  Appropriate confusion.

I’m not going to make you go out to see the film with this review.  The film has its moments and I enjoyed Christopher Lee as the librarian, Mr Labisse, and Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies.  Kingsley, whose birth name was Krishna Bhanji, typified a rather international crew.  Hugo is a touching tribute to old film with a couple of poignant moments, but not well enough written to have more than 2.5 out of 5 rating.

Motorcycle Taxi in Paris – Getting around Presidential Traffic Jams

I had my first ‘motorcycle taxi’ ride last Friday. It turned out to be a classic experience of getting to the airport JIT (just in time). My flight was at 4:15pm and I left my meeting at the MEDA headquarters at 2:30pm. According to the driver, we would arrive within 25 minutes, no sweat.

Motorcycle Taxi service in Paris

My first thought about the Motorcycle-taxi regards the very different experience of getting “into” the motorcycle taxi, this being my first such taxi ride. The first point is that my driver, David, felt the need to shake my hand. A personal touch. The next challenge was the suitcase which was apparently much bigger than expected. However, after some stretching of the veritably industrial elastic bands, the suitcase was cabled on to the back of the bike. Then, with hairnet to boot, I slipped on the second helmet. The final ritual involved the alcoholic gel for the hands before putting on the provided gloves. Only fitting, I thought, before you split your legs and sit behind a total stranger. All aboard, we went off with a relaxed feeling – I was, indeed, very confident that we would make it in time. So confident, in fact, that I decided to make a quick stopover at my home – basically on the way to the Roissy (CDG) airport, some 30 kilometres north of Paris.

Having arrived at our home, I scrambled up and down and was back on the saddle at 2:45pm. A little tight, but we should get to the airport at 3:10pm at the latest assured David, my friendly driver. As it turned out, as we arrived at the first entrance to the péripherique (Paris’ ring road), we found the on-ramp blocked off, causing general mass confusion of honking, a lot of frustrated drivers and a quite unexpected traffic jam. We diverted to the next entrance, not without jumping a few curbs. Same problem. The entrance was again blocked. By the time we arrived at the third entrance, my heart had taken on a noticeably less consistent beat. We asked the policeman, who was nonchalantly shooing us off the on-ramp, how many of the entrances might be closed off. “Presidential Procession” was the surly explanation, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders.

After the fourth ‘diversion,’ we wiggled and ziggled and finally found a route onto the A1 toward the airport via St Denis. At last, we experienced some free sailing. We arrived at terminal 2A at 3:18pm. Pretty good, I thought, but later than I would have wanted and less than an hour before the international flight was to take off. Catastrophe struck as I found out that the right terminal was actually 2E. Fortunately for me, David was still re-arranging his bike for his next trip. Putting the helmet back on, without hairnet this time, and jamming the suitcase between us, we zipped over to the E terminal, which, if you don’t know CDG, is a good kilometre away. Imagine my horror, when I discovered that the real right terminal was 2F, some 500 metres away by foot. The sprint was on. I arrived at the check-in counter to hear “sorry, sir, the flight is closed for check-in.” To my good fortune – and thanks to the electronic new age – I had pre-checked in and had a boarding pass. The woman accepted my situation (and my C2000 card) and I was able to go through the final formalities to board the plane. Hurray.

Anyway, the motorcycle taxi definitely saved me… I cannot imagine what might have happened had I been in a classic car taxi. It was worth it all the way. Anyone else want to share a Moto-Taxi experience? Zip on over here and tell us.

Laduree – A Royal Tourist Trap in Paris

Laduree Store, Rue Royale, 75008 Paris
A long line formed outside Ladurée, rue Royale, Paris

I have long worked right next to the Ladurée, the famed French patisserie, on rue Royale, the site of the company’s very first store at its founding in 1862.  If there is one place which incarnates Paris in its best and its worst, this may be it.  It is a site loaded with history on a luxurious street.  With its headliner double-decker macaron (invented by Ladurée), the quality of the pastries is certainly above par (as is the price: (3.40 for a big macaron, 1.35 for the bite size).  And, on the service side, this site is particularly exemplary for Paris.   The reception area is cramped and often very confused in that the doorway and the reception space basically sit on top of one another.  Secondly, the servers are practised in the art of frowning, rolling the eyes and muttering under their breath.  I would go so far as to say that, in order to become a server at Ladurée, there is a very serious hazing process that scrutinizes one’s dark side.  And, even on days when there is no queue of tourists formed outside — stuck like flies moths in a flame — the service is abominably slow.  In any event, Ladurée is worth visiting if you want to know what the worst of the Parisian service feels like.  And, of course, the Royale service is included in the regal price.

In short, I can think of many other better place to go to… where quality need not rhyme with incivility.

Prada creates “temporary” store in Paris 8e (92 rue Faubourg St Honore)

Ariane Dandois rue St Honore 75008 ParisWhile Prada renovates its flagship store on rue Faubourg St Honoré, they have created a temporary storefront at 92 rue Faubourg St Honoré, Paris 75008, (previously it was the chic Ariane Dandois art gallery, pictured right courtesy of Google Maps).  Even if this is merely a temporary move, PRADA has decorated it in a way which I must classify as startlingly attractive.  Mixed in with the existing architecture, the store has a lovely trompe l’oeil overlay all around the outside of the building, replete with a faux bridge structure, street lamps, railing and statues.

Prada temporary store on rue Faubourg St Honoré
View from the front of the store (just 100 metres from the Elysées Palace)
Prada Store Front Faubourg St Honore, Paris 
View of the store from the side, rue Saussaies, 75008

Makes for quite a strong impact, and considering the large number of tourists that come to oogle at the entrance of Elysées, I dare say the store should gain some good foot traffic.  Meanwhile, this is how they have left the scene further down the road at their flagship store, where they explain that if you mozy on down some 500 metres, you can find the Prada goodies.  Not bad planning, I say, even if I am not a fan of their brand.

Parking nightmare in Paris in August 2009

Parking Meter in ParisIf you drive a car in Paris, then you know what a daily battle it is to find a parking place…. especially one that is not under a pigeon-infested tree which will cause the chrome paint to dissolve the following morning because of all the pigeon dooodoo.

On national holidays, parking on the streets (in legal “paying” spots) is free.  And, in Paris, during the month of August, parking is also free… in some places, not ALL places.  I had thought that all Paris, all the month of August, was free.  Clearly, there is a lot of shared misunderstanding out there, even for the true Parisians.  I was walking back from work last night and observed a few “signs” of misunderstanding in the form of a screaming match between two Parisians and a parking tickets emitter.  And, for the owner of this “abandoned” mini (photo below on the right), the surprise will likely be all the bigger upon his/her return from holidays as the car was clearly left in the street, believing that the month of August was “libre.”
Parking Tickets on Car in Paris
If parking in Paris has become ever more difficult over the years, when will they abolish even free parking in the month of August for all?  With more Velibs and the same concept for cars (Autolib) coming in 2010, the idea of owning a car in Paris may become, finally, either a ridiculous luxury, or a real nuisance.

Spelling Mistake at Orly Sud Airport… really!

Have you ever spotted a spelling mistake on restaurant’s menu and wondered if you should tell the waiter?

What about when you see an error on an official document or signpost?  Wouldn’t it be handy if, right near by, there just happened to be a comment box (complete with a pen on a string) where you might be able to jot down and drop in a helpful comment?

Instead, I am again left with the only means I know how: a little blog post.  Below is an error spotted at the baggage carousel area at Orly Sud airport, Paris.  I had spotted mistakes in less developed airports (most recently in Marrakesh), but Paris should know better.  Forgiving the extra space after Norway, I could not, however, let the faulty translation of Islande pass by.  For my friends from Iceland: I am looking out for you!

CDG Airport Error on Signpost: Island instead of Iceland

Starbucks opens eco-store, 50th in France

Starbucks France celebrated last week (July 1st) the opening of its 50th store in the country, with all the Starbucks high brass in attendance.  Located in the Disney Village at Disneyland outside of Paris, this store is the first “eco-responsible” Starbucks outside of Seattle, where they have already opened two such eco-concept stores. 

The concept and design of this Eco-Responsible Starbucks is “an evolution of the Third Place concept,” whereby, according to the company, Starbucks would be the third “go to” place behind the home and the workplace.

Starbucks Disney Paris Eco Store: Light within a Light Concept
 Light within a light decorations

In keeping with a Sustainable Development approach, the design of the store was conceived by using as many local partners as possible (furnishings were all provided by businesses within a radius of 30 km of the store) and to be strongly ingrained with the local [“Disney”] community.

One of the highlight points was that this Starbucks store is LEED certified.  Now recognized in some 90 countries, LEED has become an international standard for benchmarking energy consumption and CO2 emissions.  Three pillars to the eco-conception: natural ventilation for the air conditioning system (-30% reduction in energy), LED and fluo-compact lighting (-90% in electricity consumption in the public zones of the store), and various water reducing mechanisms (mousser, sensor systems…) which are expected to reduce water consumption by 49%. 

Starbucks Euro Disney Store: Wine Rack Lighting 
Wine rack used for ceiling decoration

This Disney Village Starbucks features a number of recycled materials and objects, including using wine racks for lighting (pictured) and ceiling decorations, wood from wine barrels, airplane carpeting and used leather from jettisoned cars. 

Starbucks Founder CEO Howard Schultz in ParisI spoke with CEO and founder, Howard Schultz who was on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon, and asked about when Starbucks would make it to coffee-paradise Italy?  He said that there were no definitive plans, but that Italy’s day would come some day.  Meanwhile, in another coffee-loving country, Turkey, Schultz was quick to say how well Starbucks has done there. 

Starbucks Community Involvement
Around the store were plaques that made for casual reading and reaffirm Starbucks’ official policy regarding its community involvement (pictured left) and environmental stewardship.  In all, the Starbucks store continues to provide a different way to enjoy coffee and clearly the Starbucks employees (“partners”) were enjoying the new concept.  Starbucks plan to generalize this concept throughout its network for all new stores and any renovations.  Read here for more on their own news wire.

Irony of the opening ceremony was how hard it was to get served a coffee.  A little “pull” and I was served.  After the store opening ceremony, Starbucks “partners” in France were invited to a 5-year anniversary party in a big tent behind the 50th store.  I took a sneak preview and enjoyed a few words with a woman there to teach about Starbucks’ philosophy regarding bean selection and coffee-making.  Kudos to Starbucks France Managing Director and fellow INSEAD grad Philippe Sanchez.

Review of Le Bamboche Gastronomic Restaurant in Paris

Bamboche Restaurant in Paris 75006
Le Bamboche Restaurant in the heart of the 7th arrondissement, Paris

Aside from being open on Sunday evenings, Le Bambouche is a singularly good and gastronomic spot in Paris. In fact, run by Serge Arce & Philippe Fabert, Le Bamboche is open EVERY day, rather rare for a non-Bistro type restaurant. For a Sunday night delight, I highly recommend trying here.

With a robust and diverse menu, as well as a fabulous Burgundy wine selection, the service and cadre at Le Bamboche were wonderful. And, for the record, the service (at least with our charming host, Serge Arce) is perfectly bilingual — although I note that the site is not totally translated, you will find enough information!

Bamboche Restaurant Paris InteriorI ordered the pan-sautéed Dublin Bay prawns with hibiscus, garden peas, elder blossom jelly and truffle terrine, gilt-head bream marinated with sesame seeds (“Langoustine juste poêlée à l’hibuscus, petit verre de petits pois, truffe”). For the main course, I took the slices of lamb (Aveyron) with citrus honey-flavoured sauce, polenta with Parmesan cheese, spring vegetables (“Tronçons d’agneau d’Aveyran, miellé d’agrume bergamote, polenta au vieux parmesan printanière de légumes”). To round out the meal, I delighted in the Savarin au Rhum (an adaptation of a Baba au Rhum).

For wine, we delighted in a Clos des Santenots de Volnay (Appellation Volnay 1er cru contrôlée)

Location: 15, rue de Babylone, 75007, +33 (0)1 45490-1440. Email: lebamboche AT aol.com.
Bamboche on Google Maps

Parking Meter Cards in Paris – Way to recycle?

Another Idea for the Environment:
Eco-Conscious Parking Cards

Parking Machine in ParisI have long enjoyed the card machines that you use in Paris to pay for your street parking. Originally, you used coins to pay, then they introduced the prepaid cards (e.g. 10€ or 30€ option). Naturally, it took some getting used to because you had to know to buy the prepaid card from the tabac.
Now, most machines only accept the prepaid cards (or a system called Moneo where you top up a bank card for instant payment). Now, the thing that has come to irk me is the waste inherent in these cards.

Once the card’s credit is used up, there is no way to re-use (top up) or recycle it. My suggestion for the collection would be to add a little compartment on the side of the machines in which to deposit the used cards. Afterwards, I have no idea if there is truly a way to recuperate and/or reconfigure the cards. But, at least there seems like there would be an easy gesture to gather the used cards. Anyone know of any organization that could figure out how to make a business out of this opportunity?
Herewith some tips on parking in Paris, courtesy of parisinfo.com.