Monthly Archives: December 2009

Jay Leno remakes Rendezvous

One of the most famous car movies ever made was Claude Lelouche’s C’était un rendezvous, which is a single take, 9 minutes long, of an incredibly fast drive through the streets of Paris. The film was not speeded up, and the only safety concession was a lookout near the Louvre for a particularly sharp turn into traffic. The car used was a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 (erhm, not unlike mine…) but the sound of a Ferrari was overlaid later. Here is the result:

Now Jay Leno, car collector and talk show host, has made a version of this for LA, doing a lap around Mulholland Drive and Beverly Hills in a Mercedes SLS AMG. Though not as exciting as the original (given that the driver is identified, it would have landed him in jail), it nevertheless induces some of that sinking stomach feeling from going really fast around a bend with a good car. (Note that the speedometer is never shown.) Enjoy:

(Yes, it is kind of childish, I know. But fun.)

7 hour train journey via Bittorrent

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK recently made a 7 hour program about the very scenic train journey from Bergen to Oslo. The program was hugely successful despite the rather slow subject, offering long views from the front of the train interspersed with interviews and various other happenings along the ride). Here is a selection:

The raw film from the front camera is now being offered as a free Bittorrent download under a CC license. There is even a competition (in Norwegian only) for best reuse of the footage.

Kudos to the people behind NRK Beta, the experimental part of NRK, who again come up with interesting ways of making their material available!

Update 20.12: Boingboinged!

How about donating to Wikipedia?

Wikipedia Affiliate ButtonAs the holidays come up, how about making a donation to Wikipedia? The canonical Internet encyclopedia has no other income than donation, and need money for running technical and other costs.

A donation to Wikipedia – no matter how small – ensures that you will still have access to one of the world’s most complete and updated sources of knowledge. It is also a way to support a project which goal is to provide all the world’s knowledge to all the world’s people, in a form and with an interface that permits everyone to use and enhance it.

I am convinced that Wikipedia today is the single most influential collection of knowledge available, and the one that helps the most people, be they pupils, students, knowledge workers or anyone without access to the knowledge and learning infrastructure we in the richer and more liberal parts of the world take for granted. 350 million people go to Wikipedia to find neutral and detailed knowledge about the world we live in. Do your part so that it can be sustained and evolved further!

(Incidentally, it is really simple, as well. Credit cards accepted. Easily)

Cringely bows out (with predictions)

Bob Cringely has written his last column for PBS, and bows out after 11 years. I for one will miss his long, mostly insightful and always readable columns. He predictably comes up with ideas that are different from what other pundits write, is frequently wrong (4 for 11 in the prediction market is not wonderful, exactly) but always interesting.

And I do like his latest prediction: That VCs will channel money into starting small banks that can extend credit to the very creditworthy companies currently cash-strapped because most of the incentives and the focus is on mortgages. Might not happen, but deserves to.

Bob will, of course, not stop writing (he has his own website, of course, like any professional tech writer) but I particularly like the long essays he has been posting at and hope he will continue that format, in some highly visible channel.

Obama impresses again..

…this time with a ready message about a prize given too soon: The US is the world’s guarantor of peace and democracy, no matter what others may think about it. And in that role, the country needs and deserves the world’s trust that it is doing the right thing – and gives the assurance that it will listen.

An impressive speech, given the uncomfortable situation the Nobel committee has placed Obama in.

To paraphrase the (Republican, but well-traveled and well-read) humorist P. J. O’Rourke: No matter what you think about the US, please notice that when the world needs power behind good arguments, nobody calls Sweden (or, for that matter, Norway.)

Web sites blocked in China

Currently I am sleepless in a hotel in Shanghai, where I am teaching a four-day module on IT and technology management at the NSM-Fudan MBA program the Fudan University School of Business. I do this about twice a year.

Every time I am here, I try to figure out what websites are blocked by the "great Internet wall". It differs from time to time, and between the hotel and the university. Currently, I cannot get to

  • Youtube (but Google Video is available, can’t show Youtube videos, though)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook (but Gmail works fine)
  • Bloglines
  • various blogs, including anything from og
  • and other redirectors/URL shorteners

On the other hand, Wikipedia is available, as are all the big news services. It seems self-publishing is seen as more dangerous than anything hewing to a more traditional process. Or, rather, sites where you can self-publish in Chinese, outside of China.

The trouble with airline movies

I am writing this from a business class seat between Frankfurt and Shanghai, which I cannot, in all fairness, describe as an altogether frightful experience, in between good red wine, awful whisky (unfinished), reading Alfred Chandler’s very enjoyable Strategy and Structure (I am teaching a session on it mid-January) and Nassim Taleb’s equally enjoyable The Black Swan at the same time.

Another thing they have in business class is movies – a terrifyingly bland selection, which led me to choose Love Actually, something of a family tradition. Only, this was is the airplane version, which is edited for offensive content. This turns out to be most of the interesting dialogue and quite a lot of the story. Not only is all of the glorious swearing (and lots of other colorful language) missing, but one of the subplots (involving two stand-in actors performing an ornate sex scene on a film set while conducting a very bashful courtship.) Not to mention that even "complicated" words are edited out, and whole scenes missing.

I think this kind of ham-fisted sanitization is a particular problem for English comedies – they enjoy their swearing and sexual innuendos and perform them with panache and inventiveness. The watered-down and sensibility-tested version just doesn’t wash at all.

(Incidentally, in the screenplay to Four weddings and a funeral, Richard Curtis talks about how having to shoot the airline version of his comedies brought even more swearing into the world, as the director invariably had to be reminded after finally completing a long series of takes of a complicated scene that they now had to do it all over again for the airline version.)

Which leads me to think – I have watched a lot of movies on airplanes (my main source, come to think of it) – what have I missed? Perhaps all those bland comedies and dramas actually were a lot better than I thought?