Thoughts From Off-Centre

Restaurant-Bar Carr's
If you're tired of the sand in the Tuileries,
this place has cool pints nearby.

Better Might Be No Thoughts At All

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.30:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 29. July 1997:- There are several things I cannot write about this week and one of them is the weather. Another is a 'disaster.'

Things burn down in the summer, even in Paris. The bad fire at the Musée des Monuments Français at Trocadéro is mentioned in this week's 'Au Bistro' column. When I wrote the headline I made it plural because I was sure there was another disaster - but looking back through the papers, I found nothing.

This means I cannot write anything about this second 'disaster.' One a week is enough anyway.

It must mean I'm losing things... my mind perhaps. What it really means is it is nearly holidays for me too. In the 'good old days' this used to mean looking forward and getting ready and planning 'to be on holidays.'

Now it means finding the time to do extra features for this magazine, to fill the summer-time 'hole' - so that readers who live south of the equator will be able to have at least a reduced version - while they wait for me to come back and moan about the 'rentrée.' I will try not to write about that either.

The thing I mislaid the most of has been time, so starting with the next issue, Metropole becomes bi-weekly until September. I had two major features planned and one of them is not going to appear; and I can't even make up my mind which of the two will be the loser.

More than anything, it is like the year's end. South of the equator, having New Year's in the middle of summer makes good sense. After a week to come down, having a New Year's party and then making a bunch of good-faith fete in the Tuileries resolutions and maybe actually doing them while on holidays, has its attractions.

Here in the frozen north, we take one night and make a couple of snap promises and forget them a week later, as they get snowed under by events.

This is one of the temporary attractions in the Tuileries and I don't know what it is.

About here I should write something nice about Paris. Well, I can't say much for the natives, but there are a long of fairly happy-looking visitors around.

I am a bit past noticing fine details - yes, I saw the long line at the Louvre entrance on Friday - or was it Wednesday? - but I didn't look closely at anybody. All the people in the Cour Napoléon had a purpose to be there while I had a bug in my head.

If anybody noticed me, they probably thought I was crazy because I was trying to follow this imaginary but real straight line - the one from the Arc de Triomphe to... to where? I had thought it went through the centre of the Pyramid, but by keeping my eyes on the pavement, found that the Pyramid is north of it.

I ended up outside the Caryatid Gallery at the east side of the courtyard, and from there I could see that the statue on the other side of the Pyramid wasn't on the axis-line either.

There is a stone seat there and I sat on it awhile, looking towards the Arc de Triomphe, without thinking very much about why I was doing this. Now I wonder why I'm even writing about it. You are wondering why you are reading it.

If your alternative is watching summer re-runs on TV, I think we should both go outside.

With a Little Help...

Take a well-off community with a high-tech industrial base, add summer recreation centres and some bright sparks, and you get kids putting together a web site for a big event. In this case it is this year's 'Le Tour de France à la Voile.' This site was organized by Yves Machebeuf and a local service group, Commic'association, for Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines - in which 54 percent of households are supposed to have PCs; possibly a national record for France.

From Our Friends

A little more help was obtained from France Telecom, which lent cable-modems to the community centres. Yves Machebeuf must be some sort of local dynamo because he's planning to have the high-speed modems installed in all community centres by the end of October.

France Telecom has been offering Internet access via cable in selected areas of the Ile-de-France and one or two Paris arrondissements for a short Arc du Carrousel in Tuileries while now - but not where I live. All I get from the cable are TV summer re-runs and FM radio.

The Arc du Carrousel in the Tuileries. Note that the Pyramind is not directly behind it, but to the left.

France Telecom apparently has plans to re-model its creaky old Minitel. The guessing is that the new one will contain a cable-modem, but this will be well-hidden behind an inoffensive low-tech name - so existing Minitel users will not realize there is a 'computer' inside it.

These units will cost a bit more to manufacture than the old crate so the question is - how much money will France Telecom ask for them, considering the existing Minitel hardware is free. The bean-counters are working on this problem now.

France is considered by some - within the country - to be woefully backwards when it comes to a question of being 'wired.' Yet six to ten million telephone subscribers willingly use the clunky old Minitel daily, without giving its technical backwardness much thought or thinking too much about its pay-per-use nature.

The fact is, Minitel is a goldmine - for France Telecom and for Minitel service providers. All users see is one bill, from France Telecom - without realizing that there are elementary Minitel services taking hundreds of thousands of 'hits' per month which are billed by the minute - which France Telecom splits with the independent service providers.

The sad part is the philosophy that nearly all access is pay-for-info or pay-to-see. Toll-free business numbers are rare in France, especially since companies and services discovered that they could be paid for providing commercial information to customers or clients. Some companies probably make more money off this than off whatever business it is they do.

You kind of know what you are getting into when you use the Minitel to consult the 'Madame Wigwam Astrology' service; but you might not when you are looking through the catalogue and placing an order with the 'MegaCon Catalogue' service. You might not even think twice about how much you are paying for the half-screen bitmap ads on every page either.

Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 1.23 - 29. July 1996 featured the columns - Metropole count-down eiffel 'Diary' - Industrious Industrial Tourists and 'Au Bistro' - Which Half of the Bottle is Full? Articles in the issue were: 'Paris As Bazaar - Low-end Sales With High-end Sights.' The second feature was ' Downtown Hideouts - Rest Areas for Heavy Plastic Users.' Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:
Only 887 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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