Techno Bubble Explodes

photo: cafe maryland, ave clichy

Quiet days at the Maryland in the Avenue de Clichy.

Ed Says 'Excuse Me!'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 24. May 1999:- Some mysterious thing went 'pop' in the night, possibly over Saturday-Sunday, and Metropole went off the Internet for the first time I can remember since February 1996.

There have been other incidents when parts of the Internet have broken down and access has been disrupted to or from some parts of the world, but this incident is the first that I can remember that put Metropole into a flat out 'off-the-air' situation.

I almost feel like getting on the phone and calling everybody who tunes in on Mondays, to tell you not to bother. Luckily for all of us, I know very few phone numbers.

What is similar to the other times when there were disruptions, is that it has happened on a long holiday weekend - when it is impossible to get anything fixed. There is just nobody around with a screwdriver.

I received an alert yesterday from Metropole's server-lady, Linda Thalman - and, though it may be bad luck to say so, it has kind of saved my neck.

A couple of weeks ago, I 'changed' the type characters for the magazine's bodytext. Some of you will not have noticed, because you have your browsers set to your own preferences - or the browsers will simply show you what they feel like anyhow.

Other readers did notice the typo changes, and wrote to say so, positively. This encouragement helped me decide to change the fonts for the headlines, to something looking a bit more 'headline-like.'

You all know the old rule, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' When I got the call about Metropole being offline - and the impossibility of puttingphoto: terrace on champs elysees this issue online on time - my 'fixing' was already costing me secundos, minutos, horas, dias, mesas, años - of time, spent fooling with the idiot code that lurks behind all these pages.

The new headline type showed on some pages, but not others. The tiny signature image I did for the Email pages was floating around like a loose balloon - three hours were spent hacking on that alone - just to place an 'image' that took me 90 seconds to write. I arrived at a solution, one I am still unhappy with because it looks like band-aid code.

For the reluctant headlines, the 'fix' was relatively simple. I threw away the code that didn't work, and copied and pasted in seemingly identical code, that did work. Does work.

Back to our techno-bubble burst, explosion, meltdown. When Paris newspapers don't appear because of whatever reason, the next day's edition usually has a little box on the front page saying something like, "Due to an Inkwell-Fillers strike yesterday, certain of our editions did not appear. We are sorry about this because we had some neat news ready for you, and the advertisers are hounding us for their money back."

Metropole was not on strike. It was broken.

Any Hackers Out There?

This reminds me - you may be able to help out here. I am one of the ten-percent minority of lunatic-fringe Macintosh users, and this is what is used for Metropole's production.

The people who make browsers and the people who dreamed up the code for Web pages obviously thought typography was of no importance, because they seem to be unaware that type fonts have names.

If I go to the trouble of selecting the fonts for Metropole - by name - I do it so the pages will load faster and will be easier to read when displayed. As a long-time European resident, I do notphoto: rain on champs care for serif-fonts in small type sizes for reading on-screen. The little 'feet' of these fonts are blurs at best.

If you have your browser set to 'Times Roman' that is your choice and I can't do anything about it anyway. If you have the size set to anything larger or smaller than 'default' - what a choice! - you will definitely not get 'what I see.' If you have a PC, and use Microsoft's browser - somewhat probable - my whole page layout and typography scheme becomes very dubious indeed.

So let's forget minor things like layout and body type. The only thing we may see remotely in common, are the headlines. When I am in the mood I try to make these - er, I - I work on these a bit - always dreaming of the chance I missed to work on tabloid headlines, in ten-inch type.

For headlines for Macs, I have the 'Chicago' typeface. It's been around since 1984 and even enjoyed a recent vogue with graphic print designers. It is a 'fat' face, relatively compressed - more short words of it fit into a shorter, bold line.

For today's Metropole, for PC users, 'Lithos Black' has been written into the page code for headlines. I have seen this in a book - with a magnifying glass - and I can say two things about it: it is not as compressed as 'Chicago' and I don't really know what it looks like at a size which can be seen with an unaided eye.

If you know of a PC font similar to 'Chicago,' I'd like to know its name. If this 'Lithos Black' looks like garbage, please let me know and I will look around a bit harder to find something better to replace it.

The Photos On This Page

I had an errand to do on the Champs-Elysées last Wednesday, plus the usual things I do there in a usual week - so that's where all the 'rain' photos are from. With the idea of doing some sort of feature about the Avenue de Clichy on Friday - after Thursday's non-stop rain - I took the opening photo of the Café Maryland. But other events, plus a number of reader's letters, prevented any profound thoughts about colorful Clichy - so its story will be for another issue.

Letters From Readers

This issue contains five letters from you. One is from Frank Watson and it is in the Café Metropole Club page. I expect this is going to grow into being a very 'interactive' page. We'll see how this works out.

Two ladies are planning visits to Paris and their letters pose questions about safety and 'what to wear.' Jim Auman has written about the street cleaners' twig brooms and there is an email from China, which may be 'spam.'

Having all these letters in one issue is not a signal of a policy change. Pure chance has produced these letters for this issue and I decided to run all of them and I think you'll enjoy them.

If you have the urge to write, don't hesitate to do so. I answer all letters unless I forget until I remember to do it. If I've seem to havephoto: metro on champs, rain forgotten yours, I don't do it deliberately. Some of your return email addresses are duds - don't ask me why - but if they are, this is the most likely reason for not getting a reply.

For publication in Metropole, I try to pick letters that pose general questions - which require answers to subjects I may have overlooked, or haven't gotten around to yet - replies that may address the interests of many readers. Oddball letters are also appreciated, especially if they are general enough to tickle the fancies of many.

Behind the scenes, partly because of Metropole's own very large database of proper nouns, I get a steady stream of letters, posing very specific questions, usually concerning Paris. The answers to these are often specific too and therefore would be of little interest to all. Not all of these letters get the answers they seek, even if they all do get replies.

It may not seem like it sometimes, but I am a bit leery about self-promotion. The preceding category of letters sometimes gets things done for their writers, who cannot do it themselves because they are not where I am. These little jobs are not always successful; if they were, I'd be Mr. Magic.

Finally, there are a small group of reader-writers - who know I am not 'Mr. Magic' - but who write more or less regularly. I really appreciate this - and look forward to seeing your thoughts pop up in my email Inbox. Thank you. Thank you all.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.21 - 25. May 1998 - This issue featured - Café Metropole - 'Rattled in Long Weekend May' and the 'Au Bistro' column had 'Libération: Paper of '68, Born in '73, Hits 25.' This issue had two features: 'Paris Is a Moveable Picnic' and 'Véloville! Rollerville!' Murray J. Aronson sent an eMail about the'Hôtel des Bains.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was about 'Season Ticket' or some such other foolery.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 222 more quite rainy, but slightly warmer Ile-de-France late-spring days to go until summer happens before it's over.

signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini