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The September scramble has started, I’m off to NYC tomorrow. Let’s make this quick!
WORK: Deep Tech Trends Tour, Fund Update
EXPERIENCES: Phone Karma, Artistic Attempts
CULTURE: Dead Dodo, Comedy Specials, The Good Wife, Some Movies
THOUGHTS: Basic Magic Typology, China’s Social & Tech Rise
Deep Tech Trends Tour
A quick note about the ‘Deep Tech Trends Tour’ starting next week.
SOSV invests in 150 pre-seed startups per year, with a majority in deep tech (robotics, medtech, life sciences, etc.). I’ll present our research on long-term and emerging trends in the following cities:
NYC (09/24 - already >100 RSVPs)
Paris (10/02 - already >50 RSVPs, almost at capacity)
London (10/03 - already >100 RSVPs)
Our focus is mostly B2B / health tech these days so our startups now rarely use Kickstarter, but if you’re a ‘creative pro’ (photo, video, sound … PowerPoint?) here is a tool you might like.
Once again, I found someone sitting in my seat when I boarded a plane.
It was a friendly lady but the trade she offered was poor so I declined. As I was tip-tapping on my phone during take-off, I dropped my phone. It then slid and disappeared under my seat as the plane tilted upward.
Was it some karmic payback? I waited anxiously for the long minutes it took the plane to level off — playing various rescue or lost scenarios in my head. Eventually I called the staff, who proceeded to ask every row behind me to search under their seat, but they found nothing. Eventually, I contorsioned to check under my own seat, and my phone was stuck at the row just behind mine, where a child was sitting and hadn’t looked. Karmic relief?
No Paint No Gain
I was walking around PMQ in Hong Kong, a former apartment complex for the police force (not including Jackie Chan), now converted into designer shops, and stumbled upon a painting workshop. For $25 they gave you a canvas, acrylic paint and brushes for up to 4 hours. It ended up being a pretty intense session and I carried the canvas all the way back to Paris :)
I had been very hesitant to paint because I found watercolor so hard to control, and this gave me new confidence. In Paris I went to several life drawing sessions at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and experimented with charcoal and watercolor in addition to my usual pencil (I also bought an acrylic set). Progress awaits.
A friend was looking for size 45 shoes (US: 11+) in Hong Kong (he couldn’t find his size easily in Shenzhen). Walking again around PMQ we found a custom shoemaker! During the next 90 minutes my friend was measured, scanned (with lasers) and interviewed to design his new shoes. The price was almost $800 — but the story alone might be worth it!
Lost in Translation
I tried to translate Gary Gulman’s standup comedy piece about the state abbreviations into French. I think it turned out pretty good, though the final puns resisted my efforts — maybe simply impossible to translate?
Paris had two serious heat waves over the Summer. It means peaks above 33°C, which is very rare in Europe, where most homes don’t have AC. I had ordered a fan online, but Amazon screwed up and the package went missing … I ended up with bad sleep during the first wave. I eventually got TWO fans and fended off the second wave. Now I understand why I heard in Singapore that the AC was among the best things that came to the country!
LONDON & OXFORD
A quick visit that wasn’t a business trip for once!
I hit six museums: British Museum, V&A, Tate Gallery, Natural History Museums (in both cities), and the quirky Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford (well worth a visit).
The Oxford dodo, often depicted as fat, likely due to an unsuitable diet once in England,
A mummified cat in his X-rayed sarcophagus,
A shelf showing examples of ‘Treatment of Dead Enemies’, including shrunken heads and a nice Bakongo Nkondi nail fetish (it looked very powerful!),
My favorite sculpture at the V&A: a gladiator fighting a gorilla.
I wasn’t too psyched by the Tate — I’ve become quite non-plussed by most modern art — but some classics were there. I also saw two comedy shows but, sadly, Eddie Izzard wasn’t in town.
ART & SHOWS
I watched a handful of Netflix comedy specials.
Three shows: Sticks & Stones, Equanimity, The Bird Revelation. Covers many topics including the recent scandals affecting celebs, from digging into things they said or did, sometimes decades ago. More of a social commentary than comedy, still worth watching.
Three shows: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, Paper Tiger and Walk Your Way Out. His angry character is entertaining, and allows him to get away with a lot.
Aziz Ansari: Right Now*
It’s easy to understand the humility induced by his #metoo-induced professional NDE. Still, I wasn’t sold.
Note that making a 1-hour special is no small feat: a professional comic needs to average about five laughs per minute, that means 300 funny bits in one hour. Each of those has been patiently refined, and is among the best of the many more that were tried on stage. No wonder only the hardest working can put out one new show per year!
The Good Wife****
I first watched its sequel ‘The Good Fight’ on Netflix about a black-owned Chicago law-firm and enjoyed it. Then I started to watch this one, also about lawyers in Chicago.
Little did I know it would take me through 156 episodes over the summer… the show deals with all kinds of stories (some in tech — Bitcoin, Anonymous, search, non-poaching, etc.).
The acting is top-notch, which made the summer’s cinema offering pale in comparison (kudos to Christine Baranski — no wonder she was in the sequel — to Alan Cumming and to a surprising Michael J. Fox). I feel like I earned a law degree now, or at least the theatrics of it — Objection! (then pick among: argumentative / asked and answered / badgering the witness / hearsay / irrelevant / leading the witness / narrating / counsel is testifying / not in evidence / speculation).
The Office (UK)****
Re-watched this old classic. Still great. It made me think that #MoralHarassment is still awaiting its #metoo moment. I have endured some over my working years — including at a time when it didn’t have a name — and know many who did too. Not enough celebs working in offices to trigger a movement?
Re-watched this timeless 1984-inspired dystopian comedy, and noticed more details. Nothing beats a freelance heating engineer!
Third time watching this superbly twisted movie by Spike Lee, starring an African-American media executive who decides to produce a show to rub people’s covert racism to their face. Don’t be fooled by the lower production value, the story is great.
Once Upon a time in Hollywood***
The latest Tarantino movie. Pretty entertaining. With, as you would expect, numerous references to Hollywood nostalgia. I didn’t quite understand the historical re-write around Charles Manson though... Manson’s music can be found online, excepted the tapes edited while in jail by Henry Rollins, which apparently were never published. Manson died in prison 2 years ago, maybe those will come out one day? I might watch this movie again soon.
A Rainy Day in New York***
The latest Woody Allen — featuring several actors that seem like they play younger or idealized versions of himself, as usual :) I had a pleasant time with this modernized version of his timeless topics.
Crimes and Misdemeanors***
First time to watch this Woody Allen classic starring a philandering eye doctor. Quite enjoyable.
Never Look Away***
A German movie about a budding artist in East Germany during the worse time possible, inspired by a real story and made by the director of The Lives of Others. It mixes art, love and war with solid acting despite being over 3 hours long. The French title was ‘the work without author’, as some of the art is based on seemingly random family photographs (side note: it reminded me of the controversy about the copyright for the ‘monkey selfie’).
A low-budget but fun movie starring Michel Houellebecq, the most popular French novelist alive, and Gerard Depardieu, France’s most famous actor, playing themselves as they meet at a spa where they are supposed to take a rest. The contrast between the brash style of Depardieu and Michel’s introverted style makes for great laughter, as they ponder on their predicament while smoking and drinking in hiding.
Widely-acclaimed Korean movie about a family of thieves who live off an upper-class family. I found it too forced and unrealistic past the first half. Better watch Memories of Murder from the same director (with the same lead actor too).
Life of Brian**
Another re-watch: the Monthy Python classic talking about Brian, the other messiah born in the stable next to the more mainstream one. Some good lines but I found it funnier the first time.
The Waltz of The Trees And The Sky***
Van Gogh died from a bullet in the stomach, and after walking for miles back to his hotel — not the typical suicide. This novel dives into the mystery of Van Gogh’s, looking into a possible murder or accident.
By Dan Ariely. If you are a reader of his previous works or WSJ column, or simply into social psychology and persuasion, you will not learn that much from this comic book version. The challenge is always the practice!
THOUGHTS & MORE
Thoughts about Magic
I’ve been watching YouTube channels analyzing magic tricks. Also it’s good fun — and an uncle’s job — to know a few cheap tricks. I tried to come up with a simple classification.
Cheats. It makes uses of custom props (trick cards, other apparatus). It’s interesting but hard to re-do. A classic one would be the fake thumb.
Misdirection. Here I mean tricks that directing your attention. For instance, the trick used for guessing a word someone just read in a book.
Angles. It’s not about making you focus on the wrong thing, here the trick is to hide what’s happening because you don’t see it from the right angle. For instance vanishing a card by holding it between your fingers.
Faster than the eye. This one is fun because everything is right in front of you, only just too fast.
Tank (Top) Man vs. USA
China’s summers can be hot and humid and many men like to air their stomach to cool down. Well, that won’t be possible soon, at least in the city of Jinan (a second-tier city with a population of only 7 million). It has been labeled “uncivilized behavior” “seriously affecting the image of the city.”
Meanwhile, 6 states in America (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) allow all genders to go topless.
You can clone your pet in China (there are places abroad too) for about $50k.