28 June 2012

The End of An Era: The French Minitel

photo source
On Saturday 30 June, exactly 30 years after its launch, France's original online information and communication service known as the Minitel, then then innovative precursor to the World Wide Web, will quietly go off-line and exist no more.

Originally used as a way to make or check travel reservations or consult the telephone directory, the Minitel (the service and the now clunky computer terminal by today's standards) found its way into millions of homes and businesses. But its days were numbered, especially with the rapid growth of the Internet which quickly replaced most of the information-finding services the Minitel was created for in the first place.

The BBC website published an informative article yesterday about "the rise and fall of the France-wide web" here.

I first saw the Minitel in action during a trip to France in 1995. We were checking for some specific piece of information (train departure or movie starting time, I really don't remember which) and all I could think was, "this is so slow", watching the little blinking cursor move across the black screen at a caterpillar's pace, forgetting that just a decade before I would have been thrilled to have this little computer box on my desk to consult the great wide world of information whenever I wanted.

What was even more surprising was to see the fierce attachment and pride the Minitel brought out in some people. When I moved to France in 1999, I quickly went about setting up a personal email account and Internet access with one of the many service providers at the time. One day I was speaking to an acquaintance about searching for information and was completely baffled when he suggested I use the Minitel, but that I connect to it through the Internet. When I realized he wasn't joking, I just dropped it. But I never saw the point, like wearing a pair of slippers underneath my running shoes.

But the thing is, it worked. It just took a while for some to realize it was time to embrace a newer technology.

I don't know how much longer the Minitel website will be up and running after Saturday, so if you want to go have a look at the different services offered, you can see it here.

18 June 2012

Mallet Créations

I talked about Pascal Mallet's creations in an earlier post here. But there have since been some interesting developments in his work these past several months that deserve a second look.

It's now easier than ever to own an original Mallet creation: one-of-a-kind writing pens, rings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and more. Since May 2012 Pascal has been selling his work through an online boutique called alittlemarket.com.

His pens and jewelry, spread over nine different categories, are each elegantly displayed in color photos with written descriptions of each product. The online order form is very simple to use and shipping charges and other relevant information are clearly explained on the site (in French).

photo credit
If you're on Facebook you can visit Pascal's new page here and keep up-to-date with all of his latest developments. There you can also find the dates and locations of the different artisanal markets (in France) where Pascal will be selling his work in person this July and August.

With the wedding and graduation season upon us, why not offer yourself, or someone you care for, an original piece of art from one of today's most trend-setting designers of handmade jewelry and writing pens.

You never know when someone will approach you with admiring eyes and ask:
"Is that a...Mallet?"

12 June 2012

Croix-Rousse Street Fair

The Croix-Rousse district of Lyon held their annual June street festival this past Saturday - La Croix-Rousse en Fête.

People come from all over the city on this day for the fun and festive atmosphere. And the shopping, of course.

It's the perfect place to come if you're looking to buy original and inventive arts and crafts. And with the garage sale on the Place de la Croix-Rousse, it's also the opportunity to take home a little bit of your neighbor's "stuff". George Carlin would no doubt have a thing or two to say about that.

Others probably come to see, or to be seen, like these seven baton-twirling men wearing shiny blue skirts and booties. They spent a good part of the morning marching up the street, stopping from time to time to dance about, toss blue and white confetti and shout their thanks to Gérard Collomb (the mayor of Lyon) — for what I never quite figured out.

If you missed the festivities this weekend, don't worry. There's usually another street fair held every September that lasts an entire weekend. There's no guarantee the baton squad will make another appearance, but chances are good you can find yourself a good deal, no matter what kind of "stuff" you're looking to buy.