#43 | Covid Edition, Some Humor, Shows and McChoconuts

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2020 has been quite eventful so far — Covid-19 almost makes us forget Brexit.


MENU

  1. WORK: The Last Event In Paris, Upcoming Interviews, Covid Startups

  2. EXPERIENCES: Dance, Gaming

  3. CULTURE: Some Humor, One Great Movie and A Bunch of Shows

  4. THOUGHTS: Cause and Correlations, New Words


1.
WORK

Deep Tech Investors Night (Paris, March 12, 2020)

The Hello Tomorrow conference has been postponed but we are so far maintaining our Deep Tech Investors Night on Mar 12 in Paris during Deep Tech Week. About 20 other events are still planned that week, including half a dozen by France’s sovereign fund. We’ll see if things change by Thursday!

Deep Tech Interviews

The covid-19 situation helped kickstart this. The next newsletter should have more info.

Covid Startups

It’s great to see that several of our portfolio companies have technologies that can be part of the solution, like the lab robot OpenTrons, or Caspr Bio, who developed a testing kit. Science and technology to the rescue!

2.
EXPERIENCES

Contemporary Dance

I had taken a few classes of salsa and tango in the past but didn’t persist. This year, as an experiment, I gave a try to contemporary dance. The first two were not very fun, but while it got better, I did not get rid of the feeling that we looked a bit like the dancers in Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ (trivia: the lead dancer is Spike Jonze). Unfortunately, distance and schedule didn’t allow me to continue. Maybe some other time!

Gaming

I visited a friend who works in A.I. and plays Starcraft. I hadn’t played for 15 years (and on older versions), but it was fun. Unfortunately it reactivated my taste for Plants vs Zombies 2, which I ended up completing within a week. I improved my tactics but I’m happy it’s over!

3.
CULTURE

SHOWS

Mike Birbiglia — The New One (Netflix)****
I am not 100% sure who recommended it to me, but it was a fun discovery. Long-form and clean storytelling and humor. A nice change from the many angry, shouting, swearing standup comedians out there.

Bref**** (online)
If you want to brush up your French, or just watch an example of outstanding video editing skills, check this series of 2-minutes clips portraying the daily life of an average Frenchman. Each is like a 90 minutes movie in 2 minutes. I watched some ‘making of’ videos too — and while the show is not so recent, it’s very impressive (you might find them with subtitles, I didn’t look, but maybe you can infer most from the video anyway).

Alex Lutz*** (standup)
A French stand-up comedian (in French). Or rather, storyteller, as his most interesting sets were not on the humorous side. Oddly, he’s much better at capturing female than male characters (for instance, one elderly woman who sees the bright side of life despite a cascade of catastrophes).

Flowers for Algernon*** (theatre)
This one is more of a tragedy. A nice solo play based on the novel, describing the parallel fates of Algernon-the-lab-mouse and simple-minded Charlie Gordon, whose IQ skyrockets following an experimental surgery … until it doesn’t.

Feeding Paris**
An exhibit about the history of the food supply of Paris over the past centuries. There were fields near the Arc de Triomphe! The ‘guinguettes’ — countryside food & entertainment — have disappeared, and so have the slaughterhouses at La Villette.

MOVIES (Novelties)

Sorry we missed you****
This is the best movie I watched this year so far. As often (always?) with Ken Loach, it’s about the struggles of the UK working class, this time with a perspective on what ‘gig economy’ and ‘on-demand’ really mean. Note that I did not like his I, Daniel Blake who won the 2016 Palmes d’Or, but this new opus is a real gem.

What Did Jack Do*** (Netflix)
This Netflix short by David Lynch is pretty strange, which is exactly what I would expect from Lynch. I liked it, thanks to Lynch’s voice and charisma. Will Netflix be the future of shorts too? I read it’s already a game-changer in Hollywood since there is no theatrical release and ticket sales with Netflix, agents had to update their business model and contracts with stars.

The Story of a Gaze (Histoire d'un regard)**
A new documentary and research on a French war photographer and journalist named Gilles Caron who died in Cambodia in 1970. It explores some of his iconic reporting. The most interesting was how he was able to create opportunities for great shots by thinking ahead, and how the presence of a photographer can first change people’s behavior, then the perception of the event itself (this one of a student leader in Paris during the 1968 ‘revolution’ comes to mind). His final reporting was an assignment he didn’t really want, as he was now a father...

It also reminded me of a good movie about the Japanese war photographer Taizo Ichinose, who died at 26 in Cambodia. The movie is called One Step on a Mine, It's All Over (Jirai wo fundara sayônara). The lead was Tadanobu Asano, one of the coolest and most shibui actors (check also Twilight Samurai, Taboo, and the odd Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl for more of his acting).

The Farewell**
I liked Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians but here the scenario didn’t fly. I didn’t know much about her, but apparently she first shot to online fame with a vagina song.
Was it award-worthy? Not in my book. The best part for me was to be able to understand what she said in Chinese...

Ad Astra*
Watched that one on the plane as it looked somewhat sci-fi. Turned into a movie about father issues. The top voted tags on it on google were ‘slow’, ‘boring’, ‘overrated’, ‘forgettable’. Yet, 6.6/10 on IMDb, 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, 80% on Metacritic. Oh, well.

MOVIES (Re-runs)

Kiki Delivery Service***
A Studio Ghibli classic I re-watched on the plane. Story of a 13 yo witch who leaves home to become the city’s resident witch in another city, doing Prime deliveries. I realized I had forgotten a good chunk of it. It’s — as most of their works — a very charming tale with a strong and independent female protagonist.

The Dinner Game***
A group of rich friends invite ‘idiots’ with odd hobbies, to make fun of them without them noticing. This time, it backfires. This movie was a popular theatre play first, starring some of the most iconic French actors.

OSS 117: Cairo, Next of Spies** and Lost in Rio***
Two of the most beloved French comedies, centered on a very French 007 special agent. It’s based off a long-running series of books, which first novel was published in 1949, 4 years before the first 007.

Jefferson in Paris*
Movie director James Ivory was visiting Paris and presenting one of his older movies. Sadly, that movie wasn’t quite his best ... I would have gladly skipped it but it was mandatory to attend his later ‘Masterclass’. I am trying to remember what Ivory said but I can’t recall much anything, aside from the vibe of a creative and mellow older gentleman who had a quite productive and satisfying life with its share of failures and struggles, and encouraging people to do their own thing. This also reminded me I never saw the ending of ‘Call Me By Your Name’, as it got cut when the flight landed …

Anon*
By the writer of The Truman Show and Gattaca! Unfortunately, it ended up being a fairly weak movie related to the future of anonymity.

SERIES

The Young Pope****
It’s a few years old but this short series was a very fun show, about Jude Law becoming Pope, and the intrigues going at the Vatican and beyond. The Cardinal Secretary of State is outstanding — a kind of quiet Eli Gold (for The New Wife fans). So much so that I painted a portrait of him. Side note: Jude Law’s net worth is apparently about $45m. More and more celebrities turn to venture capital investment to multiply their wealth, and leverage their fame.

The New Pope***
It’s the sequel series, featuring John Malkovich as a reluctant new Pope while the other is out of order. Still a good show though it lost some of its pace and charm.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 10)**
Not the best season of this iconic show, but still an interesting watch. Larry David’s character is the nagging voice in the head of many of us that we rarely let out, complaining about others. It might bring you a smile next time someone folds their laundry right inside the drier you’re waiting to use — or give you the boldness to voice your discontent, thinking ‘what’s the worse that can happen?’.

BoJack Horseman (Season 6)***
The show picked up a bit for the last season. Also includes the usual ‘experimental’ episode. Still, kudos to the creators for pushing the envelope in both form and themes.

Better Call Saul (Season 5)***
Not the best season so far, but I’m quite attached to this hustling, independent and ethically ambivalent working-class lawyer guy. Great acting, even if the story is not as fresh as it used to be.

The Mandalorian**
I was a game master for the Star Wars paper & dice RPG in my teenage years and generally enjoyed this universe. A friend of mine seemed obsessed with Baby Yoda, which lead me to trying out this series. The production value is pretty good for its budget, but I found the writing a bit weak. One episode was a weak remake of Yojimbo. As for the 50yo baby yoda, no wonder he’s a bit slow, when you see how under-stimulated he is all day. It’s aggravated neglect. I thought various scenes didn’t make much sense, from the hero not paying attention to his previous cargo and more. For fans only, I guess. Now, I also encourage you to check online how they managed to create their rich sets — it’s the future of cinema!

Cheers** (Netflix)
Not sure how I got there (Twitter, I recall), but I watched parts of this Netflix show that follows the life and training of an award-winning co-ed cheerleading team. I fast-forwarded a bunch, but the intensity of training was impressive. ‘We do it until we do it right; then until we can’t get it wrong!’.

BOOKS

The Way of the Bow***
A short book by Paulo Coelho telling the story of a famed Japanese archer. Can you still shoot a target when full of fear on a dandling rope bridge? Can focus and diligence permeates all your life? Despite my wanting to believe it, my jiu-jitsu coach wasn’t too supportive of the idea that skills translate so well from one field to the other…

Cities***
I finally finished this classic series of anticipation stories by Clifford Simak, which pictures a world where humans have left and dogs rule the Earth. If you’re thinking ‘Planet of the Apes with dogs’ — it’s very different. In POTA, apes are a bit like a primitive human society, while here the dogs are very intuitive, have a different value system, are vegan, and cooperative with all races, even helping other animals to change their diet and behavior too. The final twist in the book involves another emerging species (guess who?), which has a link to the book I read next:

Tomorrow, Cats**
While partly inspired by the book above, I had high hopes as Bernard Werber is a famous French ‘science novelist’ (his ‘Ants’ was great). Sadly, I found his attempt at anticipation where cats become intelligent quite unimpressive.

4.
THOUGHTS

Cause And Effect

Many are familiar with the ‘marshmallow test’: if a child can postpone the satisfaction of eating a marshmallow, he is offered two. And delaying gratification is seen as a strong predictor of success in life … until it isn’t: apparently scientists discovered they might be more variables, like — surprise, surprise! — the socio-economic background of the child.

In the same vein, I came across an article about whole milk vc reduced fat milk. Guess what? Those drinking whole milk are less likely to be overweight! (at least that’s what the editor wrote despite the warnings of the researcher). What to conclude? Probably that the science doesn’t easily separate cause and correlation and that there are, again, more important parameters at play. Not only fat has been wrongly accused by sugar for decades, but also one could think families with higher income are more on top of the latest dietary realities. Whole Foods shoppers are likely in better health, on average, than those shopping at Walmart.

Obsessions About The Future

I wrote a post about how Japan saw 2020 back in 1920. It looks like we’ve been obsessing with flying cars for a while. The flying hospital exists but hasn’t scaled. Maybe covid-19 will help?

today, obsession with the old myths (flying, etc.).

New Words

Begpacker: the often-Western hippies who beg as a way to keep vacationing.

Mysogynoir: intersectional discrimination directed towards black women.

Hard Seltzers: an alcoholic drink made up of carbonated water, alcohol, and often fruit flavoring. I was quite disappointed after reading more closely the label on the ‘cider’ sold at my local M&S, and seeing it was not a product of fermentation (yet still labeled ‘cider’ — you can’t trust words anymore!).

McChoconuts: the latest dietary supplement created by Mickey D’s. It’s a kind of nutella-filled burger. Will it cause more casualties than Covid-19?

That’s all for now. Let’s hope humanity is still around for the next newsletter!
— Ben