Month: December 2012

Anti-Malbouffe

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Millau, 12 Aug. 1999 sheep farmer and Roquefort producer Jose Bove & a few friends decided to dismantle an under construction McDonalds in the South of France. His action was precipitated by an EU-US trade dispute at the WTO where the cheese had been punitively subject to a 50% tariff. 

Some accused Bove of nation bashing, of national chauvinism. But Bove himself made himself clear that his target was not the national origin of the restaurant. Rather, it was the quality of the food it served.

It wasn’t anti-American, it was anti-malbouffe (against bad food). It was a struggle against global free trade and capitalism. It was about the logic of a certain system, of globalization, of homogeneity, it was not directed at those who carry an American passport. 

In a later incident Bove was detained for setting fire to a field of genetically modified crops. At the same time a group of peasant Indian farmers were touring Europe as part of an international caravan. After Bove’s arrest they insisted the French Authorities arrest them too, the meaning of the golden arches was just as objectionable to them. 

Bove is part of an international movement, one that is far from knee-jerk. It’s a movement that would like to turn the clock back to a time when food was the result of traditional cooking. 

The amount of time spent cooking in UK homes has fallen dramatically in the past hundred years. This has happened as a function of women’s changing role in society, the possibility of long food storage and preservation, longer working hours, the availability of food which is quicker to prepare, and the sense that there are better things to do than food preparation. 

Bove is aiming to return the meaning of food to one of celebration rather than one of requirement. When people no longer feel the need to eat together at home or cook for themselves then the family will begin to disintegrate. Those who do this are complicit in the march towards universal alienation. 

Children tend to do better when they interact with adults and mealtimes are the best time to interact this is not, I offer rocket science. Bove is making a much deeper point though, adults do better when taking time to eat, to appreciate the ingredients and the process of cooking. 

1934 = average time to cook a meal 150 minutes (2.5 hours)

2010 = average time to cook a meal 8 minutes 

Good reasons to love Bordeaux wines

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Freedom, diversity, simplicity… and much more! 

The 7 Bordeaux appellations account for 54% of the Bordeaux wine region, 63000 hectares and 5000 winegrowers, making it the world’s largest fine wine area. With such a wealth of wines, there is something for every taste and every fancy, an infinite variety of pleasures.

They are simply delicious wines.

Elegant, delicate, balanced… There’s no shortage of words to describe Bordeaux wines. They can be drunk with any meal from the simplest of country fair to the most elaborate of dishes, from the most traditional to the most exotic.

They can be drunk at any age. Bordeaux Superieur can give the best when young.  The fruity quality is a delightful experience on the palate. But they are also capable of aging for a few years to offer a more subtle bouquet.

Famous all over the world for quality, Bordeaux is now available at more than reasonable prices. They are well within the reach of everyone’s pocket.

Bordeaux reds boast a wide range of nuances and combine their qualities in a 1000 ways. But diverse as they may be they all share the same quality; the ability to express the fruit to the full.

When most people say Bordeaux they are referring to the Chateaux. But Bordeaux is so much more. Wine blended by wineries of trading houses or cooperatives can be equally excellent too. Behind the label you’ll fine wine of a consistent nature year-on-year variations in the terroir notwithstanding.

Vines that are often ancient, a minimum maturing time of 12 months, long periods in oak barrels… If you want to earn the Bordeaux Superieur Appellation you have to comply with some really strict rules designed to give an optimum expression of the terror. But the wine maker will also show off their talents too. Each bottle will contain an imprint of the maker. The wine will be a reflection of the specific expertise, personal style, each bottle will have the taste of the vintage, something quite special.

Consumed young the wines are generally eloquent, but with some patience they will reveal aromatic richness, and fruity flavors endowed with woody, leathery, spicy notes as well as plenty more. Bordeaux Superieur do not age they simply get better with time.

My advice is discover the wines, share the wine. There is no need for a special occasion or ceremony open a bottle and enjoy.

 

Really cool stuff last bit!

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This list is going to be slight different from the other 3, once you’ve ready a couple of the points I’m sure you’ll get where its going, so here goes…..

  1. Maxou; Vanessa Paradis.  Now to be honest I could have chosen any of VP’s songs, She’s an absolute star! honest!  As a Brit the nearest we got to VP was probably Joe le Taxi, but really?  Brits don’t do foreign, they do Brit and American.  Well I got news for every “everybody speaks English anyway…” types, the world is a wide and varied place and this song is FAB!!!!!  VP can act too, so check-out her films.
  2. Messrine; I don’t mean the man, I mean the film.  By the way its in French, so either read the subtitles or learn to speak French.  Great film (there’s two actually), stylish, just like most French films and Vincent Cassel (he was in the Oceans series of films) is fantastic in the lead role.
  3. Paris au Printemps, that Paris in Spring; simply stunning.  As a city, its got to be the best place on earth, if you like city’s that is.  Take a trip down the river, cheesy I know but great fun all the same.
  4. The Rodin, the window looking out of the garden has to be the most romantic place in the world when the sun’s out.  Love, Love, Love the place.  The art is GREAT, the atmosphere is GREAT, just a great place to be.
  5. Wine from Bordeaux, I’ve already had this in a previous list but hey, its sooooooo good its worth a second mention.  If you’re an alcohol free type, hard luck you don’t know what you’re missing.  Bottle truth!
  6. Jose Bove, this guy’s a rebel in the true French mode.  He more or less tore down a McDonald’s to make a point about local cheese.  I’m sure there’s some dodgy politics going on behind the sceans but hey anybody, and I really mean this, anybody who can take down McDonald’s has got to special, seriously special.
  7. The French Presidential system.  This is an object lesson in how to do democracy for real.  Its more democratic that the American system and way more democratic than the British system.  In fact its damned near perfect!  One person = one vote for the President, not an electoral college, and not for a party who then choose a leader.  WOW, this is real power for the people.  And you know what else, its impossible to have a hung parlement or a coalition government.
  8. French driving; this is huge fun to watch, and read about if you’re not involved in it that is.  They have a well deserved reputation for driving like maniacs.  I think its something to do with the attitude that nothing and nobody is going to get in the way of them doing whatever it is that they’re doing which at that moment in time is the most important thing to do.
  9. Payee system.  The French quite rightly ignore skin colour, religion, sex…. once you’re French, well that’s it, you’re French.  So they have their very own version of localism, the Payee system.  It’s related to the land, food, drinks and some customs.  It’s almost underground whilst being right out in the open.  To an outsider it can be confusing but trust me on this, once you get some sort of handle on it your time in France will be 100 times better for it.
  10. Department administrative system.  This is a bit like the French attitude to being French in that everybody no matter where they live will live in a Department and will be given equal access to facilities.  So you will get the same level of governmental service if you live in Guadalupe as you would in the centre of Paris.  It just works that way.  They and you can thank Napoleon for the system.
  11. French Language; the sound of beauty.
  12. Tour de France, I’m not very sporty (this is probably the first point in this list about sport) but this is the worlds most watched single sporting event, that’s a fact, you can if you like check it out, I’m not making this up.
  13. Eiffel Tower, once you’ve seen this structure you will never forget it.
  14. Paris Metro, as a undergound, and I’ve been on quite a few, this is the absolute best by some margin.  Generally on time(ish), easy to navigate and pretty clean.

Now I know I’ve given you 14 points instead the usual 12 but over 4 lists this brings the total to a nice round 50 points.  I hope you enjoyed my take on whats cool, I might put some more really cool lists up again in the future because to be honest I could keep going for some time yet on cool stuff.

Thanks for reading.

Even more really cool stuff

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This is the third of 4 lists of cool stuff (well what I think is really cool stuff anyway), so here we go again:

  1. Forbidden Colours; David Sylvian, yes I’ve started with a song again.  Music is at the heart, the very essential beat of my life.  I surround myself with music whenever and however I can (probably because I can’t sing a note in tune or play any instrument I am forever in awe of those who can).  This song is so damned beautiful it hurts, its sweet, bitter, considered, sparse and great all at the same time.
  2. Peebles on a beach; to understand this one you need to go to Nice, France where the beach is all pebbles.  Just watch the posers trying to get out of the water, it’s so funny.  But pebbles themselves can be so endearing, I love them.
  3. Stand-up Comedy; I like stand-up pretty much no matter what (so long as it doesn’t offend too much).  My favorite, well at the moment probably Stephen K Amos, check him out! Laughing makes problems seem much more in perspective, it’s a break from the everyday stuff.
  4. Bridges, any bridge really but the really big ones are sooooooo impressive.  So seem to just defy gravity, totally mesmerizing.
  5. Citroen DS car, this has got to be a car to die for.  they aint cars really, they’re works of art on wheels.  You could put one in a gallery and it would fit right in, stunningly beautiful objects.
  6. Citroen 2CV car, now this would be my car of choice if I was allowed to pick excluding modern practicality.  Not great in the north of England but I can see myself in one in the South of France.  Comical, yes but so comfortable ton the behind.
  7. The moon, luna it may be but I find myself some evenings just sat at my bedroom window staring out at our closest neighbour.  Our lives would be so different (if we existed at all) without it.
  8. Skinny dipping, not done this for a whole lot of years now, don’t want to be accused of scaring anybody.  But if you’re young and you’re with somebody special, and its night-time, and you’re alone give it a go.  It’s just totally liberating and you never know what might happen with that special other person.
  9. Cool showers in summer, now I don’t mean the type that falls out of the sky, rain that is I mean at the end of the afternoon when you’re all hot and sticky after a day in the hot sun there aint nothing better than having a cool (not cold) shower.  Standing there under the running water a constant temperature now that is a great way to pass the time of day.  And if you have a shower big enough have the shower with somebody special, the fun just increased by a factor of 100, I guarantee!
  10. Pizza; there aint nothing better than settling down with friends, and those close to you on a Friday (or any other day) at the end of a long working week with Pizza and beer/wine, slobbing out in front of the telly watching some non-sense.
  11. Full height windows; I mean the French type, really classy!
  12. The French Connection, set in Nice, one of the prettiest city’s on earth! The last time I was in Nice I met friends from London, Paris, Israel, New Zealand & French Polynesia, totally epic.  I couldnt we could actually organise the get together, but we did. EPIC!!!!!!!

Some more really cool stuff

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This is another short list of stuff that I just have to share because they are just so dammed cool.

  1. Debbie Harry, I first discovered DH in 1979ish and when I saw her I knew from that moment on that I was a confirmed heterosexual no questions asked she was the hottest person that a 13/14 year old boy could wish to see. The music was/is good as well, even now 30+ years later.
  2. Gustave Klimt; any of his work is worthy of a list of this sort. Honest and decorative whilst being somehow faintly erotic. It glitters.
  3. The cafe at the National Gallery, Prague: this place servers the world’s best soup. Simple but delicious and for next to nothing, the price was unbelievable for the quality of food, service and all round atmosphere, very bohemian. Excellent is the only word that describes the experience.
  4. Night flights, especially when on long-haul. You can read, eat, drink, or just sleep all the was. If you’re going a long way, this is the best way to travel no argument to be made to the contrary.
  5. Indian trains, especially overnight. If you’re traveling on a budget, heck even if you aren’t you have do this. You can’t fail to make new friends if you go second or less class. And if you go on the night train well this is just magical, highly recommended, you have to put this experience on any to do list of any kind.
  6. Reggae music,  music for the soul. From the Wailers Stir it up lovers rock, to the Upsetters hard and tight style to Toots soulful country style its music to make you dance, to move to, sing along with, makes you happy inside, gives you sound when you’re sad. Music of emotion. I love reggae music of all kinds.
  7. Paul Weller the mod father,  the man is cool personified.
  8. Diving with shark’s, this scary but hey when you’re that scared you know you’ve alive. That’s a promise. 
  9. Wildlife, actually any wildlife because it’s all fascinating to me. But if you really want an experience you have to go on safari. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, early starts, water, patience and understanding that you have to be lucky.  It will come to you eventually so have your camera ready to shoot, you’re gonna get some great pictures. 
  10. Israel, a list like this has to have Israel on it someplace. The whole country is totally beautiful in it’s own unique way. Jewish culture generally is really interesting but when you get to Israel you’ll find its just so diverse you’ll wonder why you haven’t been before, magical, inspiring, friendly, sunny, just a wonderful place to be. You have to feel pride for the israelis because they built a nation from next to nothing, in the face of massive adversity at a time when nobody wanted a Jew anywhere near.
  11. The Internet, I couldn’t do this if not for the Internet. But it’s not just this it’s that people can communicate right across the globe at the touch of a screen. So cool! 
  12. Wooden furniture, I’d love to be a carpenter they are just so dammed skillful it’s untrue. 

Cool Stuff

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Here’s some really cool stuff that just gets me going.

  1. Boys keep swinging: David Bowie. Now this is the best song the world has ever heard. It’s the song that set my imagination free, free from convention, free to think, free from limits set by those who professed to be teachers. On first hearing this song I knew it was okay to be the person I wanted to be, to be me just because I could. It was okay to wear makeup, to dress up, to dance, to paint, to like boys or girls, it was just okay to be. Love this song and love the creativity of David Bowie, so many songs I could include but I’ll stick to one.
  2. Florence, what a city! This place is totally awesome. Any lover of art can die happy if they’ve been to Florence, so don’t wait book the flight, hotel and everything else and get going, you will not be disappointed I absolutely promise.
  3. French Wine, especially from Bordeaux. The best thing the French did, do, make is wine. They just do it so well. They just know how to grow it, pick it, press it, mature it, blend it, barrel it, store it, bottle it…. I’m sure you get the picture.
  4. Cycling, now this can be awfully dangerous on the British roads (ask Bradley Wiggins he’ll tell you how it is). I used to be a mountain bike nut but I’m a bit old for all that down hill a break neck pace now so I stick to my spinning bike. Nice and safe and the bathroom is right across the landing. Oh and no punctures either, bonus.
  5. Coffee, apart from wine the best drink in the world, no argument. Such a diverse range to choose from as well, brilliant.
  6. Europe, has to be the most diverse continent. From frozen waste lands to over-populated cities to baking sunshine it’s got it all and most of it you can get to by train if you like.
  7. Night time. This is the time to party do I have to say any more?
  8. Summertime. The very best time of year. Sun’s out and I can chill in the park. Fresh air without the hassle of winter clothing. Wow I just love the summer.
  9. Gurnica 1937 the best painting ever. The sentiment and feeling are just so relevant then, now and probably in the future.
  10. Bladerunner what a film. Watch the movie it’s all about mortality I want say anything more.
  11. India; a totally unique, special, enchanting, mystical place. I cannot recommend enough taking time out to visit India. I don’t mean in star rated hotels, I mean the real India, trust the locals they will confound, nothing will be on time but you will (only if you lose yourself that is) find people who are just so beautiful, not just physically either. Go!
  12. Tom Peters, world’s best mgmt guru. No argument, he just is.

You’re BONKERS!

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If you think the biggest thing affecting your business is the economy, you’re bonkers!  Success depends on whether you’ve got the right brand, are selling what consumers want and at the right price.

The ongoing recession, double dip, triple dip, quadruple dip?  Lots of dips??? has led to lots of companies having gone the discounting route both on and off the high street; B2C & B2B alike.  Businesses chase ever faster, cash-strapped customers going forever faster downhill, down-market, down, down, down.  The low-price strategy can seem appealing but its unlikely to deliver much, if any benefit.

In a survey (true this by the way) Motor Company Execs were asked to tell different cars from each other when all the badges had been removed from 13 competing models, all in silver.  Well you guessed it some of them couldn’t even pick out their own from the others.  The harsh lesson from this is that if you have allowed your products and services to migrate towards the centre ground in markets that overcrowded where you don’t, can’t stand out from the rest, then all that lower ing the price is gonna achieve is less margin (no margin in some cases).  Unless you’ve organised your business to have lower operating costs than the competition then discounting is a losing strategy.  somebody is gonna play the game better than you.

I promise, absolutely guarantee that!

Whats the alternative?

DIFFERENTIATE, NOT DISCOUNT!

Successful differentiation is the alternative, the only alternative, the best alternative, period.

To illustrate:

Unilever and Proctor & Gamble both saw profits slump by 18% and 17% respectively in one quarter.  Reckitt Benckiser’s rose 14% in the same quarter.  The difference; both Unilever and Proctor & Gamble both launched ‘value’ versions of products, Reckitt Benckiser went in the opposite direction, launched a premium version.  Twice as much as the ‘value’ versions in some cases.  Reckitte CEO “in a downturn, people don’t walk away from better products”.

Micheal Porter Competitive Advantage published 1980 said the very same, so what I’m saying aint new, it aint clever but it is right, I make no apology for Mr. Porter.

So why oh why has this simple strategy been forgotten, overlooked, ignored?  Perhaps the simple truth is this; If you can’t come up with a product or service which is absolutely outstanding, then the very uncomfortable truth is that possibly no other strategy will do.