Around the Dot

30 September 2005

A US Dream Trilogy
I just finished reading my third “US Dream” novel (at least that’s how I decided to call them half ironically) of the summer (it was about time as Fall is just starting).

Entertainment, Sex, more Sex and more Entertainment could be a great summary of the topics covered. Knowing that I only took those books from my wife, maybe I should watch what she’s reading… as long as this stuff doesn’t make its way into her junior-high English class, I guess I have nothing to say.

Enough digression, here are the books:

How to be famous? – Alison Bond
Good title (not a life-enlightenment guru-ish book at all), great British glimmering book cover and most importantly entertaining funny story and storyline between London & L.A. (me this year…).

Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl – Tracy Quan
Weird subject (though I guess very marketable and appealing) with touches of NY craziness (a call girl with a shrink, not unlike the Sopranos or Analyze this). Once again, I love the cover and title, both very fifties-like. One could say this is “Sex & the City” on steroids, I have to say that the main character’s hesitation to commit is much less frustrating that Carry Bradshow’s little games.

The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
This one should resonate with anyone with a bit of work experience – I wouldn’t believe anyone who said they cant’ relate any of this to a work situation they’d run into, at least to a certain extent. Captivating from a psychological-study point of view too. I won’t carry on with my title-love thing but you know what I mean.

Not brand new stuff but great often stylish reading. I’d love to work on the adaptation* of one of these novels to the small or big screen – anyone (producer, studio…) interested at all by my amazing credentials in that field: drop me a line (I wish…).


*: “How to be famous” is the only one I couldn’t find a project for on the web…



22 September 2005

MBA Stories
Tonight was the clubs presentation (dubbed “Clubs Fayre”) and I was there to represent the French Club (Co-President duty, especially when the other Co-President is on exchange in Berkeley) along with some of my fellow Froggies in the programme.

Spending this week on campus, seeing the fresh intake of MBA2007 (rightly) excited by their new life (and struggling with their statistics pre-programme) and getting to know them, I can’t help but remember me one year ago and of all the great stories that append and made that year so special to me. This was reinforced tonight by the clubs fair which was the first occasion for our class to get together and socialise after our summer break, filled with internships.

There are many stories, anecdotes and small facts that I’d like to capture for my old days (and my autobiography – a future best seller of course) and I think I’ll try to write some of them during the next week which is completely free and that I plan to dedicate to sleep and relaxation.

As they come to my mind:

My arrival in London and my two first weeks, staying (camping?) at the Goodenough College near King’s Cross, struggling to put my brain back to student work on stats and basic accounting.

The great friendship that I built with my study group over many challenges (high ropes, MOB experiences, case studies, drinks, more case studies and more drinks).

The hilarious Squirrel story with John on the morning before orientation day – which I was reminded tonight when passing in front of Lord’s Cricket Ground on my bus ride.

The surreal New-York trip to New-York with Amit – actually, I think I’ll have to get a few authorisations before writing this one if I want to tell the full story…

The School Band gigs ?

The infernal first term – damn.

The first night working to 4 o’clock to handle our first MOB and Ethics papers – John and many others were around on the campus that night…

That evening at David’s place in Soho and walking back home afterwards on a cold January night.

The pub crawls after the last exam of each term. And the other ones – extended sundowners…

Spending (very valuable “workable”) hours speaking about nothing or very serious stuff with my flatmates up to late in the night.

Having my friends coming over and spending an evening at the Oxo tower and later at the Electric Ballroom (a heavy-metal club) in Camden Town.

Really enjoying London, especially with Raquel on week-ends, going to the movies, wandering in the neighbourhood (Maida Vale, Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Camden).

My two-week vacations in Hawaii when we both learned to surf – what an amazing part of the world (but then, which one is not if you think about it).

There are also the not-so-funny stories like feeling alone sometimes and leaving Raquel at the Eurostar terminal almost every Sunday afternoon.

I’m sorry for the nostalgic almost war-veteran tone, maybe that’s tonight’s beer talking. :)


Sure, I’m going to miss living in London this term and it’s going to be weird commuting every week but that’s the low cost MBA – no rent in London as Raquel has to stay in Paris anyway.

Anyway, there are still a lot of fun and great moments to come and my term on exchange in UCLA will bring its share of good stories too. So, stay tuned!



Running into Jack
London Business School is this fabulous place where you just run into business celebrities more often that not.

On my way to the quad earlier today, I ran into Jack Welsh walking with our Dean. Electron Jack was on our campus to give a speech to the executive programmes.



19 September 2005

Back in London again
Paraphrasing Aerosmith, I’m back in London again.

During the summer in Paris, I sometimes felt nostalgic about our campus, our neighbourhood and Regent’s Park with its football, rugby and unique cricket grounds and games where I went to run in a (very) few occasions.

It occurred to me that I am a bit culture-schizophrenic, switching from a bit less than average French attitude while in France to a French-tainted British/Atlantic behaviour when I am West of the Channel (if such a behavioural pattern exists).

I was a bit doubtful when we had to fill our “Cultural Intelligence” questionnaire while embarking on the program last year but I really realised today that this might not be total BS (and by BS, I don’t mean Business School). But then, I was a bit tired by waking up too early compared to my natural inclination, so maybe I was not thinking clearly… OB making sense?!?! :)

Anyway, it’s great to be back on campus and I’m going to enjoy this week, one of the few that I will spend here as I’ll be commuting to London for only 3 days during the term.



Sunrise in Eurostar
Nature offered me a nice compensation for my cold hard morning starting at 5:00 to take the 6:22 Eurostar to London. I couldn’t sleep because I had about 80 pages of Grant’s Contemporary Strategy Analysis to read for my Strategy Dynamics class but the scenery was gorgeous.

I had the moon up in the sky on my left and the rising sun’s light slowly emerging from northern France’s mist. At one point, the track was above the fog and offered a surrealistic view of a cloud sea where roofs and trees looked like small islands. Then the train dived back into the fog before the sun finally emerged projecting a pink-red light.

I left a message on my wife’s voicemail before we reached the tunnel, finished my readings and slept during the train’s journey in the British countryside.



15 September 2005

The Scream that stuck
Maybe a good explanation why recent blockbusters have not “busted” as much as expected: they don’t use the Wilhelm Scream (watch out – there is sound on the page).

One sound effect that has found a following with many sound editors and observant movie fans is a distinctive scream named Wilhelm.

In 1951, the Warner Brothers film "Distant Drums" directed by Raoul Walsh starred Gary Cooper as Captain Quincy Wyatt, who leads a group of soldiers to stop some Seminole Indians from threatening settlers in early 19th Century Florida. During a scene in which the soldiers are wading through a swamp in the everglades, one of them is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator.

As is usually the case with the making of a movie, the scream for that character was recorded later. Six short pained screams were recorded in a single take, which was slated "man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams." The fifth scream was used for the soldier - but the 4th, 5th, and 6th screams recorded in the session were also used earlier in the film when three Indians are shot, one after another, during a raid on a fort.

After "Distant Drums," the recording was archived into the studio's sound effects library, and was re-used in many Warner Brothers productions.

In "The Charge at Feather River" (1953), the scream is heard when a soldier named Pvt. Wilhelm (played by Ralph Brooke) gets shot in the leg by an arrow. Originally released in 3-D, the film used the "Distant Drums" scream recording two other times as well.

Up until the mid-70's, the scream recording was used exclusively in Warner Brothers productions, including "Them!" (1954), "Land of the Pharaohs" (1955), "The Sea Chase" (1955), "Sergeant Rutledge" (1960), "PT-109" (1963) and "The Green Berets (1968).

In "A Star is Born" (1954), the scream is heard twice - one of the times because a scene with the scream in "Charge at Feather River" is playing in a screening room.

One person who noticed the same distinctive scream reoccurring in so many movies was sound effects fan Ben Burtt. Ben and his friends in the cinema department at USC, Rick Mitchell and Richard Anderson, noticed that a scream was popping up in a lot of movies. One of the films they made together, a swashbuckler parody "The Scarlet Blade" (1974) included the scream - which they borrowed off another film's audio track.

A few years later, when Ben Burtt was hired to create sound effects for Star Wars (1977), he had an opportunity to do research at the sound departments of several movie studios. While looking for sound elements to use in the space adventure at Warner Brothers, he found the original "Distant Drums" scream - which he named "Wilhelm" after the character that let out the scream in "Charge at Feather River."

Ben adopted the scream as a kind of personal sound signature, and included it in all the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" films, and many of the other films he has worked on including "More American Graffiti" (1979) and "Willow" (1988).

Ben's friend Richard Anderson also continued the tradition. Both Anderson and Burtt worked on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), and Richard used the screams in the film's truck chase - one of the sequences he cut sounds for himself.

Anderson also used it in many of the films he supervised sound editing for, including "Poltergeist" (1982), "Batman Returns" (1992), "Planet of the Apes" (2001), "Agent Cody Banks" (2003), and "Madagascar" (2005).

Because of Ben Burtt, the Wilhelm has lived in the sound library at Skywalker Sound. Other colleagues there including Gary Rydstrom and Chris Boyes have used it in such films as "Toy Story" (1995), "Hercules" (1997) and "Pirates of the Caribbean" (2003).

Richard Anderson and his company, Weddington Productions (now a part of Technicolor Sound Services), archived the scream into his library as well. Editors there including Mark Mangini, David Whittaker, Steve Lee and George Simpson have used it in "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992), "A Goofy Movie" (1995), "The Fifth Element" (1997), “The Majestic” (2001), “Just Visiting” (2001), “A Man Apart” (2003), and "Tears of the Sun" (2003).

Growing in familiarity with fellow sound editors, especially with its use in the hugely successful "Star Wars" series, the Wilhelm Scream has become a favorite with a few sound editors outside of Skywalker and Weddington. Although it has never been available in any commercial sound effects library, the recording has made it around the sound community through editors who appreciate its history.

(…)

After finishing the last "Star Wars" film and beginning work at Pixar, Ben Burtt has announced he will no longer be using the Wilhelm. This is surely an end of an era for the scream, but there is no indication that it will be silenced anytime soon. The Wilhelm Scream continues to be heard in new films every year.



14 September 2005

Blog Searching (Beta!)
Google and Blogger have both released a blog search feature. In beta, of course!

You can find my blog and posts on both and it's amusing to see that Google has all my posts while Blogger, which I use to publish my blog, is missing the more recent posts.


Note: It's interesting how beta are deemed cool and that nobody wants to risk a 1.0 release on the web, whereas people were reluctant to use anything beta a few years ago (to avoid bugs, etc.).



12 September 2005

The Cool Factor
What Ruppert Murdoch couldn’t achieve with $3bn, eBay just did with $2.6bn. The summer story “who’s gonna buy Skype?” (reported successively by Olivier and me) has now reached an end and taught us an interesting lesson in my opinion: the importance of the “cool” factor.

If we ignore the option for $1.5bn more depending on financial targets and the nature of the deal (half cash – half share), this deal seems less interesting than the rumoured offer from News Corp. Then, enters the “cool” factor: who would you be more likely to sell to: ultraconservative Murdoch’s “old economy” News Corp OR typical “new economy” eBay, founded by open-minded Omidyar and led by impressive CEO Whitman?

In our era of one-to-one micro-segmenting Marketing, where you have to seduce everybody, be it your customer or your takeover target, eBay surely has done a great job to convince Skype founders and owners, especially as the synergies from that acquisition are far from obvious – to a point that this deal has had the financial community wonder about its finality (resulting in a small fall of eBay stock price).

Takeaway lesson: never underestimate the “cool” factor. That’s ironically how Sony entered the PC market (pioneered 20 years before by Apple) and how Apple stole Sony its leadership role in portable music devices. :)



50 posts already...
Crazy how time flows...

I was somehow struck when I saw the number "50" on my Blogger dashboard when I logged yesterday to add the "word verification" feature to my comments - something I really urge you to do if you're spammed on your Blogger blog comments.

All my apologies to my dear readers who like to comment (Miss N, KV, Karibu & Co...) for the inconvenience.



08 September 2005

Nano wow
The iPod Nano looks so great...

So, if you don't know how to support this amazing blog or what Christmas gift you can offer to your favourite blogger... In return, you can have my Mini (with autograph). ;)


Update: Alternatively, you can get my wife the Harry Potter iPod, but shhh... (a poor MBA student can't afford to buy an iPod to his wife every Christmas).


Update again: always connected and "in the know", my dear friend and estimated colleague Laurent just sent me this very funny spoof ad for the iPod Flea... I can't wait to see my first collar hipster in London. :)



06 September 2005

Show off on a board...
As promised recently...

The great Guillaume Rigal windurfing in Oleron!

Credit: Raquel



05 September 2005

Science & Magic
Maybe a better title for this post would be “Computer Security and Literary License”.

Cryptography expert Bruce Schneier posted yesterday something about flaws in the security system of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (from Harry Potter for those who managed to escape the phenomenon) and in J.K. Rowling’s magical world:

And while we're on the subject, can you really render a powerful wizard helpless simply by taking away his wand? And is taking away a powerful wizard's wand simply as easy as doing something to him at the same time he is doing something else?

One, this means that you're dead if you're outnumbered. All it would take [is] two synchronized wizards, both of much lower power level, to defeat a powerful wizard. And two, it means that you're dead if you're taking by surprise or distracted.

This seems like an enormous hole in magical defenses, one that wizards would have worked feverishly to close up generations ago.

I just found that funny – I see Schneier’s point and at the same time it’s one of those paradoxical could-turn-absurd blog/web pieces that I love and keep me surfing (in this case, a world class expert serious about a children's book).


Note: the comments are worth reading too, though a bit geeky...



02 September 2005

Hutchison investing in Skype
French economic newspaper Les Echos reports today that Chinese telecom giant Hutchison is taking a 5% stake in Skype - with a 1bn$ valorisation.

According to this Yahoo article, both companies "may enter into further commercial relationships".

I promised myself not to blog about Skype or Google again but I have not seen the info somewhere else on the web.