THU SEP 8 05

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Cool News of the Day
Wandering Moleskine. "There is this belief that the internet has killed off note keeping, and it's really not true," says Joy Rothke, who is proving her point with an on-line/off-line traveling journal game called The Wandering Moleskine Project, as reported by Stephanie Rosenbloom in The New York Times. Joy started her project by copying "a favorite Frank O'Hara poem" into a Moleskine brand journal ("the legendary notebook of Van Gough, Matisse and Hemmingway") and sending it "to a stranger on the Isle of Man," who read the message, added one of her own and passed the journal on to someone else. Anyone who wants to participate can sign up to receive a journal by emailing Joy or visiting her website.

Joy's project is not the only one of its kind -- in fact it is just "one of at least five such traveling journal games that have lately sprung up on the internet. Others include the Baghdad Diaries Project, Sight Unseen Journals, and projects in Italian and German." Then there's the 1000 Journals Project, started by Brian Singer in the fall of 2000, when he "left 100 blank journals in various places -- cafe tables, park benches, bus seats and the like" throughout San Francisco ... After that he began sending them by mail to people he met through his website until 1,000 journals had been dispersed to all 50 states and about 35 countries." Contributors are asked to scan and post their entries on the 1000 Journals website, and to send the journal back to Brian if it is full. Brian says "bathroom graffiti" was his inspiration, and comments: "There's something interesting about collaborating with people you don't know."

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang of the Institute for the Future sees the traveling journals -- the idea that people would choose to "pass along actual books via land, sea and air" (versus posting messages online) as reflecting "a change in the way people are thinking about the internet," that cyberspace is melding with "everyday life." He comments: "It's a move away from talking about (online) information as separate from the physical world." Others, such as Sarah Becker, a contributor to Sight Unseen Journals, sees something perhaps less profound at work: "I think it's just the mystery of it," she says. "You get something in the mail other than bills, something exciting to look forward to." A major motion picture may be on the way, too. The first of Brian's 1000 journals to be filled and returned -- No. 526 -- "is currently in the hands of filmmakers who are creating a documentary about the project.

Dying Gauloise. "Praised in song, featured in films, dragged on by such addicts as Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso" and John Lennon, "the dark and heavy cigarette" known as the Gauloise, is "a dying brand," reports John Tagliabue in The New York Times. At its peak, some 12 billion Gauloises -- and its sister brand, the Gitane, were produced each year. At one time the Gauloise was "as much a symbol of French identity as berets or Bordeaux wine," as well as an "icon of French machismo ... In the old days ... they were favored by students and young people, simply because they were cheaper."

All of that began to change a couple of decades ago. "Up to the 1980's, dark was the principal taste in France," says Aneta Lazarevic, spokesperson for Altadis, maker of the Gauloise. But now the brand, its sales down by more than 27 percent last year, will shutter its factory in Lille and move operations to "Alicante, Spain, where people presumably still appreciate a cigarette with the force of a small flamethrower." Says Ms. Lazarevic: "It will continue, there's been a change of taste." What happened? "For young people today, it's Marlboro," says Raymonde Deba, "who runs the tobacco stall in narrow Rue de Provence. "The cowboy draws well," she adds.

Indeed, the decline of the Gauloise seems to have relatively less to do with health concerns than image considerations. And that shift apparently dates back a early as the 1970s, when "the Gauloise began to lose ground to slickly advertised brands like Marlboro and Camel. Sales slumped from a healthy 80 percent market share in 1978 to a bare 20 percent now." Not only is the Gauloise seen as "the cigarette of an older generation," but "young people eager to appear professionally successful probably will not smoke Gauloises for the same reason that leftist philosophers, writers and singers once did." Comments Gabriel Deloya, who sells cigarettes along Rue Taitbout: "As a cigarette, it's a little prolo," he says.

Tim Manners
Tim Manners, editor

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