Listen, I have nothing to tell you…

I was 30 minutes late for meeting the other day and when I got there, my rendez-vous was visibly annoyed. To my great relief, after fumbling through a few poor communication-related excuses, he seemed to get over it and we sat down promptly. He then launched into a barrage of questions. Time flew by. As we had had only one hour booked, at the end of the conversation, he got up, and said, “It was great seeing you. Good luck with everything. Talk soon.”

At this point, looking up at him from my chair, I wanted to ask him a question. And how was he? What was new on his side? What was interesting in his space? How was his family…? He shrugged and muttered something like, “Another time…”

The funny thing is, I felt like I was missing out. Maybe he had more interesting things to tell me that I had had for him?

Being Cyrano (Dans La Peau de Cyrano) – A Review

Last night, I attended the world premiere of the English version of a new play, “Being Cyrano.” Originally written in French, the play is entitled “Dans La Peau de Cyrano.” The play is a one-man show, starring Nicolas Devort, who plays 5 very different roles, including the ‘lead,’ Colin, who is a boy entering a new school with a rather daunting challenge.

being cyrano dans la peau de cyrano

What I liked most about this play is that it shows the power of the arts to help in our development. The Maths & Drama teacher at the school decides to put on the play Cyrano de Bergerac and, with parallel stories between actors and characters, plays out how acting and music can be most therapeutic. But the therapy isn’t just for Colin (or Cyrano). It’s for us all. Nicolas Devort spins through the different personalities with a wonderful and distinct set of accents, ticks and manners. The marvel of Nicolas is that he is able to deliver the play in both French and English. An extraordinarily tough act that anyone who is bilingual will understand perfectly.

If you get a chance, check it out. It’s 1h15 in length. Well worth the visit en famille. Here’s the trailer with subtitles en français.

dlpdc-v05 from Marc Kawam on Vimeo.

The show is in Brussels on Tuesday next week (in French). Book here. Then the show moves to Casablanca on the 14th Jan! The show will be coming out in English officially in March 2017. Contact the team directly to find out about dates.

Is There A Win-Win Case In The Brexit Vote?

brexit euro 2016Isn’t it ironic that the BREXIT vote is happening in the midst of Euro 2016? With good fortune (or planning?), there are no matches on Thursday 23rd. I am not particularly fond of football, but I feel like such tournaments are the best way to get out our atavistic nationalistic tendencies. May they remain there.

I have lived two-thirds of my life in Europe. I love Europe. I love Europe for its diversity of food and language; for its culture and history; for its proximity; for having the Alps and the Mediterranean; and much more. And, yet for Europe, I believe a BREXIT Leave vote will be best. Here’s why.

BREXIT – Business Angle: Short or Long-Term?

Taking the viewpoint of businesses in the Brexit debate, I have to state that there is little incentive for the UK to bust out of Europe. Businesses in general, and the stock market, in particular, do not like uncertainty. However, those vying to Remain based on financial matters, are doing so with no better assurances than those clamouring to leave. The difference is that the Remain camp is focusing on the negative shorter-term impact, while the other (leave) camp is more concerned about the longer-term impact.

Brexit Euro 2016

Obviously, no one knows for sure what would happen if Brexit goes through, except to say that it will cause a distinct amount of chaos. We know that there will be a major impact with the mobilisation of resources to reorganise (adjusting the legal and constitutional framework, redefining European political and trade relationships…). Another major thorny issue: what to do with the 3 million EU nationals living, working and/or studying in the UK, or the 2 million UK nationals spread throughout the EU?

Remain = Status Quo

Yet, to remain is to accept the status quo. Things I personally appreciate about the EU include the ability to travel without having to change monies or get visas and/or my passport stamped every time I cross a border. As a French national, I have the opportunity to settle wherever I would wish in Europe. Last but not least: the general peace Europe has enjoyed, regardless of the gross misfortune of the radical Islamic terrorism.

The one thing of which we do have a better understanding is if Europe stays as is, i.e. the UK votes to remain. Pretty much everyone everywhere knows that Europe is sickly. Even on the Remain camp, there are many who agree. What does the future hold with Europe continuing with the status quo?

Europe is ill

Europe is suffering on many layers, not least of which is its economic health. The European economy is systemically handicapped. The list of illnesses range from the systemic to the temporary to the cultural. The list of problems includes (but not limited to):

  1. the lack of fiscal harmony
  2. the hideously bureaucratic (and consensual) decision-making process in Brussels
  3. the lack of a harmonised vision of Europe across the 28 member countries of the EU
  4. the legacy feelings of entitlement
  5. the continuing divisions within the countries (Catalonia in Spain, Flemish in Belgium, Scotland in Britain, and an enormous laundry list of other active separatist or autonomy movements in Europe courtesy of Wikipedia)
  6. the risk of further pollutive immigration from the IS ranks

A chief argument for the Remain camp is that it will be easier to change from within… But, change hasn’t exactly been easy to forge in the past (especially over the first sixteen years since the introduction of the Euro). The UK’s half-wedded status has perhaps not helped them or Europe in this regard. Why will remaining in the EU mean that change will come any faster or better considering the poor record?

Vote for Radical Change?

My personal opinion underlying my position on the Brexit vote is that Europe needs to find a way to heal, and to do so quickly. I don’t believe gradual change will be good enough. In a democratic and consensual process, any change has been laborious to push through. Europe needs a real wake-up call to understand that staying as is will be like the proverbial frog in the (gradually) boiling pot. If a Brexit Leave vote will be painful for Europe, it will certainly be more painful for the UK, at least shorter term. But short of a Brexit, I do not see how or why Europe will take the necessary and hard decisions that need to happen to fix it. For this reason,

It won’t be pretty, but it would provide the best chance of forcing Europe’s hand to bring about necessary radical reform. Staying “within” will mean that any such change will come only with major compromises that bring Europe down to its lowest common denominator. Given the obvious stresses that the immigration issue will continue to provoke, much less the continuing slide of the European continuing faced against much more competitive players, Europe in its current incarnation seems destined to hit the wall.

I thus support Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

Unbroken film review – Angelina Jolie’s tribute to a great spirit

The film, Unbroken, the epic story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, was released this Christmas Day. Based on Unbroken Film Trailerthe eponymous and gripping book by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s inaugural film as a director is a worthy film to see. As stated at the beginning of the film, this is a true story … that is very hard to believe, it is so gruelling and impressive. This 136-minute film was clearly shot with the Oscars in mind, in that there are a number of “big moments” that are portrayed with intentional big screen drama. On the positive side, though, for a wartime film, Jolie did not overplay the violence. It’s a war film, written by a woman, directed by a woman, that shows a man’s war with pathos and intensity. As such, my wife and daughter, as well as my son and myself, enjoyed the film. Neither my wife nor daughter had read the book, so they had no attachment to the book version. And that’s okay, as far as I am concerned, because the purpose of the film is both entertainment and educational. The film does a good job of portraying the emotional journey of Zamperini, played by the English actor, Jack O’Connell. Zamperini’s stout resistance in the face of sadistic treatment is credible and inspiring.

“If you can take it, you can make it”

The POW experience in Japanese prison camps

Unbroken film review defianceFor someone who has read some 300 books on this part of WWII and has interviewed over 100 ex-POWs, the film, Unbroken, does a standup job of portraying just enough of the inhumane treatment. It glosses over some of the daily miseries, such as the ever-present insects, the menace of tropical disease and the paucity of food and clean water. However, between the missing finger nails, the wretched forced labor, the harrowing punishments imposed on Zamperini and the scene of the hundred punches, the execrable POW treatment is evident. The 30% to 40% death rate in certain Japanese prison camps is understated, since none of the prisoners around Zamperini ever die during their internment.

Telling history

The film, Unbroken, does not portray the Japanese captors in a favorable light. As mentioned above, there is enough grim treatment in the film to capture the essence of the cruelty. That said, there is no gratuitous violence portrayed, whereas it is well known that there were miscellaneous bayonettings, beheadings and beatings bestowed by the Japanese captors, whose Bushido code designated prisoners as less than worthy. Unfortunately, the Japanese have never truly recognized their responsibility nor officially apologized. There is a current movement in Japan to re-write history and whitewash this chapter of the war. In point of fact, there is a movement underway to ban the film in Japan. Read this article in The Telegraph (UK). This is deeply unsatisfying. According to historian Rudolph J Rummel, in his research, “Statistics of democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900 Transaction,” about 10,700 US POWs were killed by the Japanese in captivity, including my grandfather (see the Smithsonian article by Gilbert King). An appalling total of 570,000 POWs were killed in Japanese captivity — Chinese 400,000, French Indochina 30,000, Philippines 27,300, Netherlands 25,000, France 14,000, UK 13,000, UK colonies 11,000 & Australia 8,000. (Source: Wikipedia).

If you so agree, please do sign this petition to encourage the film Unbroken not to be banned in Japan. (Via Change.org)

SIGN THE PETITION: STOP THE BAN

And read the book

Unbroken Film reviewIf you have not read the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I most strongly recommend it. The hardcover version has been 180 consecutive weeks on the NYT best-seller list. The paperback version is now available for $9.60. It has been translated into 29 languages.

What did you think of this Unbroken film review? What did you think of the film? Please do let us know your thoughts!

A perfect Vine video?

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited The Grove — a rather celebrated shopping center, replete with Apple Store and Nike Running store among others. In any event, at the center, there is a fancy fountain that is musically coordinated. Playing with Vine, I managed to cut an almost seamless video… with a great degree of luck. Hope you’ll enjoy!

Only in Canada: It’s different in Canada… eh?

Only in Canada…

A car crash, special fast food, graffiti, breakdancing, Canadian News, parking, a diary entry, burglary, controversy, knock-knock joke, racism, polo, protest, trapping, driving and two of the funnier GIFs you will find… only in Canada!  Enjoy!

The unfair weather knell of democratic politics

Water rain - The Myndset Brand StrategyWe are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.

As of today, we now have:

  • Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
  • Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing  a very new form of democracy
  • Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
  • …not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.

A major year for elections

These elections alone have been rather momentous.  And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]

It was a busy week of voting for me, too.  I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”).  I will also cast my vote in the US elections.

For what purpose?

But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:

  1. how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
  2. how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible.  If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind.  I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress.  But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.

The political cycle

The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected.  Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed.  By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck.  The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes.  Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.

Marketing is DEAD… even in Dutch

I came across this Dutch presentation courtesy of a post at Molenaar Online Marketing. It is a slideshare presentation with the feature message that Marketing is D.E.A.D. With my particular passion for the Grateful Dead, I found the link far too curious not to pursue. Of course, since I do not speak Dutch, I had to make do with some approximations for the surrounding commentary. Nonetheless, the main message is quite tight. [Today’s conventional] marketing is:

Disengaged

End-User Focused

Automatic

Disenchanted

Here is the slideshare presentation link for those of you who spreken Nederlands. It comes with lots of powerful images and a YouTube Video (in English, so all is not lost if you speak just English, like me).

Marketing is DEAD

"Classic" Marketing is DEAD

And, with broad artistic license, here is a reworked quote from a classic Dead tune:

music notes

“Listen to the client sing sweet songs, to rock my brand…”

If I were a rich man – What’s a wealthy state to do?

If I were a rich man... indeed

If I were a rich man... indeed

“If I were a rich man? Tweedle idle dyddle doo…” is a wonderful song and could probably be singled out as the common person’s most regular dream. But, little does one truly wonder about the plight of the rich. To begin with, there is the difficulty of sorting out the difference between a friend who likes you or likes you for your money? And then there is the question of what’s an excessively rich man (or woman) to do with the wads of extra money? This question came up in a conversation I had last week with a long-time friend in England. Clearly, as far as I am concerned, this is a theoretical debate; but a few privileged others have actually to put their money where their mouth is.

So how does one spend one’s excess cash usefully? The crux of the question, inevitably, comes down to what is “useful”? If many billionaires have generally had a zero or two snipped off their personal fortune over the last 18 months, most of the Madoff-exempted billionaires still have plenty left to fritter away. The same question could be asked of governments which, while not having necessarily “idle” cash at hand, have been faced with the question of how to stimulate growth (i.e. to use taxpayer cash to create value). Some governments – like some individuals – strike it rich for just being in the right place (at the right time)… such as countries sitting on top of oil fields or an internet entrepreneur whose company is bought out at the height of the bubble. Value is not systematically reproducible.

So, the question is posed: what to do with that excess money?

Here are just a few ideas for governments or fantastically wealthy individuals:
• Invite the Rolling Stones to play at your birthday party
• Buy a $5000,000 wristwatch that needs to be have full-scale maintenance every 4-5 years at a cost of several thousand dollars and takes three months
• Build a fantasy Palm-shaped island city from scratch on water
• Go to war
• Dig a [big] hole

Foolish Fantasy or Visionary?

Foolish Fantasy or Visionary?

If consumerism and, more significantly, the capitalist model are to be sustainable, the creation of wealth would need to enable further wealth creation in a virtuous circle. And, if society – or a specific civilization — is to benefit longer term, the greater common good must be kept in mind in the way that the money is spent. In order to evaluate the benefit to society, I feel that the best way to define the value of the material and non-material gains is by the amount of positive energy created.

I share with you some of the thoughts we had regarding how the ultra wealthy might choose to go about spending their money and welcome your participation.

Option #1
Keep it under the mattress… courtesy of a belief that “the world is falling to bits and I don’t trust anyone or anything.” In my opinion, this is the worst possible solution – and likely self-fulfilling. The cash collects dust and naturally devalues over time. No use to anybody. Plus, I simply have a more positive outlook on life.

Option #2
Invest in typical financial publicly traded instruments, such as stocks & bonds. If this investment helps nourish the capital markets, the gains are essentially cosmetic (almost psychological). The real opportunity to add value is when the money is directed as additional capital to an entrepreneur to help him/her invest, i.e. making the money accessible for the companies to invest. Otherwise, if the money is just poured into the stock market (to make stock prices go higher), the gain to society is only marginal, since the capital has already been raised/issued. Nonetheless, it would be hard to deny that higher stock prices do create ‘positive energy.’

Option #3
Create a new business. Assuming that the experience earned during the wealth creation can be passed on to some effect, this is a most reasonable option. The employment of people and ancillary activities has a solid knock-on effect.

Option #4

Give to charities... providing they are efficient

Give to charities... providing they are efficient

Donate to charities. If the hurdle of finding an efficient charitable organization can be overcome, the choice of the most beneficial charity for society is entirely discretionary. We identified the epic and valuable work of Greg Mortensen, who has created some 60 schools in the impoverished Afghanistan/Pakistan region, because the creation of schools helps to bring up the rear end of society…which can possibly help improve overall conditions, stimulate wealth creation and, along the way, possibly even diminish the negative forces of war.

Option #5
Dig holes. If the economic stimulus of war is well documented, Keynsian style “stimulus packages” have, as yet, unproven long-term benefits. Taking the metaphor of digging holes to mean infrastructure building, one can make a solid argument for positive energy creation. Communication and travel via the improved infrastructure will most likely have a longer-term benefit, providing the resources are budgeted and managed efficiently. Keynesian “holes” are required activity to be stimulated/paid for by government when consumers become too frightened to spend and end up putting money into risk-free assets, such as government bonds, gold, savings accounts, etc. In other words, if savings rates go up too high (typically this has not been the problem in the US) and spending stops, the economy nosedives. The real problem lies, as now, when governments keep on printing money, paying for holes to be dug to prime the next consumer boom, only to need more debt to be printed to overcome the next bust… “That’s where we are now,” as my good friend said. “Sooner or later the alcoholic needs to stop drinking to save himself – but the cold turkey is painful and electorates don’t like pain.”

Option #6
Live life to the fullest, in the most decadent version of carpe diem. Buy and experience the biggest, best of everything. The value (energy) creation is rather restricted in its reach.

Notwithstanding the fact that this is clearly no real concern of mine, I think that dreaming of having this problem is in itself, creating a positive energy for me. I love Dubai and the scale of its ambitions, even if the varnish may have come off rather dramatically recently. I have always been more Beatles than Stones, but one has to accept that Mick is hanging on and puts on a good show, so therein lies a strong energy. And, insofar as digging holes is done to improve transportation and communication, this too creates positive energy. So, the bottom line is that the first two options received a thumbs down (unless you invest in a specific company), while the next three received the thumbs up. As for the throwaway sixth option, it is hard to fault at least some full on living in the present. However, the chances of veering into committing one or more of the deadly sins would seem to warrant, ultimately, the thumbs down.

If you were excessively wealthy, how would you spend your money? Your thoughts?

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.