Moles need skins too

Screenshot1"Now this is where things get out of hand.

A few days ago, I learn of this website, moleskinerie: legends and other stories.
I go there, of course. It’s a weird amalgam of images of other people’s
moleskine notebooks and huckstering for crap like a clock implanted in
the belly of a Buddha. I detect the spoor of an online cult of the
moleskine. I learn that pronouncing it as I always had, as if it were
the skin of a mole (perhaps taken after baby moles are clubbed to death
by burly Canadians, but probably not) is wrong. Mo-luh-skeen-uh. I learn of,
created by Patrick Ng, who should buy a vowel and turns out to be a
stationery buyer for a retail company in Hong Kong. The site’s
dedicated to disseminating sketches and doodles contained in moleskine
notebooks from all over the world. And to marketing the notebook, which
contributes to my gnawing sense that I’ve now encountered some sort of
merchandising event horizon. There’s even a forum. I learn there’s a moleskine lifestyle. Will it conflict with my Passat lifestyle? My iPod lifestyle? Can I trademark “lyfestile"? (Shit. Someone’s there ahead of me. Figures.)

I’m depressed. I’ve bought into faux cool, and not for the first time.
I’ve probably helped some graduate of Wharton buy his next Lexus, or
some jerk at Modo and Modo his next Ferrari. In the air, whispers from
the briefcase beside my desk (the briefcase is black and made by
Oakley, but I didn’t buy it to look cool or creative or anything): It’s not a notebook—it’s a lifestyle. I feel so…used."

Scribble, scribble, scribble
Dale Keiger

7 thoughts on “Moles need skins too

  1. While I agree with the general idea that any commercial product having a “lifestyle” associated with it makes me shudder, I find this rant amusing if only because of how the author flaunts his own inability to read or see beyond his own cultural constraints*.

    The Buddha clock. While a horrific piece of kitsch, it was simply on someone’s wish list. The clock was not being advertised — you’ll notice the lack of information as to where, who, or how much. Lorianne was suggesting one as something her friends could buy if they short on ideas of what to get her. Personally, I suggest a donation to Project Heifer ( if you’re at a loss on how to mark my upcoming birthday. To each their own.

    The various forums and websites. If you took a moment to read them, you’d notice that while the general conceit is a particular brand of notebook, the content is more art, literature and observation than any one brand could ever claim. Sure, they’re overpriced little notebooks, but is it really so evil to purchase one (and, yes, fund Mondo e Mondo’s kids’ college funds) if by doing so this many people are drawing, writing, thinking and sharing those thoughts? The forums do not wax poetic about the blank pages — well, not for long — instead they extol what is placed on those pages. I don’t know about you, but if I could get the planet involved in peaceful, thoughtful pursuits like this rather than our usual occupations, it’d be tempting to buy one for all six billion of us!

    * “Buy a vowel,” because of course, only Western names contain the proper mixture of letters? Buy off some of that ethnocentrism, Dale.

  2. Misplace your sense of humor this morning, Alia? Read the whole post and you’ll find I mostly make fun of myself for my susceptibility to products like carnets moleskines. So susceptible, in fact, that I recently bought a case of 18.

  3. I just wanted to comment on Alia’s mention of – I recently bought my sister a gift of chicks for Christmas. This is a really great site for all occasions – it should be one of your first ideas for anyone that cares about the world around them. Happy Holidays!

  4. Sarcasm can be subtle when printed, though any snide mark regarding these notebooks has practically got to be sarcastic. (For slightly more of the vitriolic sense, see It is a legitimate fear though, that someday soon Moleskines may become so popular that they become uncool if not obviously burgoise. The related culture of counterculture is the subject for another day though. It just turns out that the notebook is so good that it’s lovable.

    As for me, the plain pocket variety alone is something I’ve determined to be the all-around best notebook I’ve come across for what I want, both in form and in function. My only complaint is that it’s sooooo nice that I’m extremely reluctant to use it for its original intended purpose. The bloody thing wants to be more than just a scratch space for shopping lists, notes, trivia, and such. It wants to be a keepsake. The cost as well disallows me from writing “buy eggs” in it and ripping pages out. I wonder though if that would still be the case were the price significantly less. Something makes me say no.

  5. Ahhh… the dread of “lifestyle products”! I like Moleskines because of their sheer utility– and their looks. Yes– there is a “lifestyle” element: imagining oneself being an expat writer or a Chatwinesque nomad. But shouldn’t any well-made product have the ability to touch the imagination? Is there something *wrong* with seeing a notebook as a talisman for dreams?

  6. Before I became the buyer of stationery in this company I fell in love with Moleskine and wondered why it was sitting beside some functional yet no “style” or “meaningful” existence notebooks. I felt so alone in an Asian country where people in general don’t know or relate to your Chatwin experience. That was before I saw Armand’s great site. I decided that I should arouse some souls with cultural differences from westerners yet able to appreciate drawing and thought capturing in ways our next generation will applause (Imagine my soon to be born son flipping the pages dad wrote 20 years ago). As a Mac user like Dale, I tried to capture thoughts using keyboard and purchased a few note taking OSX software, I used PDA to create To-Dos that turns out to be Unable-To-Dos, all these tech stuffs. Finally I gave up because there is this essential element tech these days still can’t catch up – the free flowing minds in forms of art unable to be captured by input devices (mouse keyboard drawingboards) yet have the paper, classic, raw feelings attached. Marketing? Yes, only because I like the product so much I want to promote and find somebody around me sharing, my site’s motive is not selling but sharing. Yup milesh, we want M to be the minority’s favor in order to stay unique and valuable, not a bad thing to have more people writing and sublimating writing in the form of “buy eggs” to art on simple paper and oilskin. Still, even as a stationery buyer, I think it is a little too expensive. Dale, since you’ve bought 18 M, will you spare one and take the challenge in my exhibition project? 🙂

  7. Patrick,

    Thank you for the kind invitation, but I’m a word guy. I don’t know if I have the visual design chops to take a place in your exhibition. What some people can do with a notebook intimidates one challenged to draw a straight line with the assistance of a ruler.

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