It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a brand-new song

No matter your location, language or taste, discovering new music is a fun experience for most people, and when it’s free—even better. Air France realized the appeal of this activity and looked to the sky to create an innovative app for discovering new music.

Air France is “known for its music selection in on-air entertainment,”according to Skift.com. In fact, its “Air France Music” Facebook page has more than 165,000 fans.  The airline is taking its reputation for good music to the next level with its new app, “Music in the Sky,” released on November 13.

The app is simple to use: point your iphone to the sky, aim it at the music note that appears on your screen and discover a new track. What will make users keep coming back is the fact that the songs that are available change with your location.  According to Air France Music’s Facebook page, “From Paris to Tokyo via Buenos Aires, every sky in the world has its own music with our Air France Music iPhone application, Music in the Sky. Make new discoveries every time you travel!”

Of course I had to try the app for myself. At first I was skeptical. There had to be a catch. Would I be able to use it without being an Air France customer? Would a track be available to me in the middle of Missouri? So I downloaded the app, pointed my phone up and “caught” the track. Within seconds I was listening to a new song!

The app is cool because of how easy it is to use and the access it gives users to undiscovered artists and songs, but it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the year, the airline will give users access to unreleased tracks, concert tickets and even plan tickets “by discovering undiscovered hidden games in the sky,” according to an article from finchannel.com.

So far, users seem to be happy with “Music in the Sky.”  It’s got a five-star rating on Itunes, and all the comments on the app are positive.

User comments on iTunes

User comments on iTunes

Though I don’t think the app or Air France’s music selection would convince people to choose the airline over others, I think the app and interactive Facebook page are a great way to engage young travelers especially. The app will help Air France stick in the minds of travelers, so they log on to the airline’s website when they are looking for plane tickets.

 

One of the hidden games the app offers

One of the hidden games the app offers

 

Overall, I think the app is a great idea. It’s a smart move for Air France because it will help people become more familiar with the airline, and it’s a good opportunity for music-lovers to test their music knowledge and discover new music no matter where they are in the world.

I will definitely be pointing my phone skyward again soon to see what other songs I can discover.

Hail Mario, Full of Grace

Super Marie- Soasig Chaillard

What do you get when you mix one of the most important symbols of the Catholic faith with elements of pop culture? Quite a bit of controversy.

The refurbished Virgin Mary statues created by French artist Soasig Chamaillard have been criticized for portraying the Virgin Mary in a sacrilegious way.  As a Catholic who has sat through 12 “Living Rosary” celebrations while earning my “good, Catholic education,” I can attest to the fact that Mary is a pretty important woman to Catholics.

A blog called “World ReligionNews” has a good explanation of just how important she is.

Catholics have a strong affinity toward Mary as the mother of God and view her as an ultimate compassionate human being, giving her full self to birth Jesus Christ via the Immaculate Conception. Mary in a sense is viewed as mother to all.”

I understand and appreciate the beliefs of my religion, but my first thought was not how offensive these statues are. It was how funny and creative they are. I think the artist’s mixing of religious symbolism and pop culture is creative and original. I was interested to learn that her idea for the art came from wanting to give a damaged figurine from her father a more modern take.

An article from the Huffington Post describes Chamaillard’s modern Mary statues as “blending iconography from the realms of religious tradition and contemporary kitsch into results that can hardly be described without using the words ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ at least twice.” I completely agree with that. The statues are just plain fun. When I first saw these statues I did have a feeling that many of my fellow Catholics probably did not feel the same—and I was right.

 

A post from a French-language religious blog urging readers to protest an exhibition of Chamaillard’s works in Nantes, France received quite a few comments.

There were ones that were critical of the artistry:

And there were a few that expressed offense regarding the statues. This comment was particularly extreme, especially the final paragraph:

Although I don’t feel this way, I can understand why a lot of Catholics are offended by the statues. Mary is a big deal to us, and these statues could very easily be interpreted as poking fun at her. However, I think it’s important to look at the artist’s intent and hear what she has to say before we draw conclusions and hope that she “burn in hell.”

Chamaillard does have a response to the controversy surrounding her art, and she says she was surprised by the amount of offended Catholics. An article from Art Info France quotes Chamaillard as saying, “ I suspected that this could shock the sensibilities of certain people, but I didn’t think there would be so many of them,” she says. “As an artist, you don’t necessarily see the clash between your internal world and the external world.”

She goes on to criticize her critics by saying, “Faith is not in statues, and perhaps they should remember that … Faith should be strong enough to remain unshaken by simple objects. I think they need to step back from the object and not forget that it’s an artistic work.”

Not only did Chamaillard not intend to offend Catholics, but she doesn’t interpret her work as religious in any way; she sees her statues as purely artistic.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Chamaillard’s art will ever be accepted by her critics, but as the World Religion News says, “like most things described as ‘scandalous,’ ‘shameful,’ or ‘blasphemous’ it will all blow over and the next outrageous religious crisis will appear. But while they Catholics are still upset, Chamaillard will always have her Virgin Mary Power Rangers to defend her.”

Louvre Islamic Art Exhibit: Perfect Timing?

The Mona Lisa recently got some new company at the Louvre in Paris. In September the Islamic Art wing of the world-famous museum opened in a time when racial tension in France is high.

The aim of the wing is to “showcase the radiant face of a civilization,” according to museum director Henri Loyrette. It also aims to heighten a cross-cultural understanding at a time when tensions are high in France, especially after a French weekly publication published lewd caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

The wing, which cost about 130 million euro and took ten years to complete, is the museum’s largest development since the completion of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid 20 years ago, according to an article from CBS News. The exhibit  features works from 632 A.D. all the way up to 1800.

Before this new addition, Islamic art was only displayed in the museum sporadically, according to an article from Al-Ahram Weekly. In the new gallery “the pieces have been inserted into a chronological and thematic display.” The article criticizes this organization because although its size and permanence is significant, the gallery does not give visitors proper context for the pieces.

Obviously the gallery has a high cultural significance because of its showcasing of Islamic art, but the political significance was emphasized when French president Francois Hollande paid a visit to the exhibit before its opening last month. Hollande was joined by the presidents of Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

Hollande called the gallery a “political gesture in the service of respect for peace,” according to the CBS News article. “The best weapons for fighting fanaticism that claims to be coming from Islam are found in Islam itself,” he said. “What more beautiful message than that demonstrated here by these works?”

I agree with the president. I think the gallery is an excellent way to educate Europe about the rich Islamic culture, and I think it’s great that the French president is supportive of the new wing. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe and tensions are high recently after the burqa bill and the cartoons in the French newspaper. This exhibition could serve as a way to unite the western world with the Muslim world through creating tolerance and an understanding of Muslim culture.

The Al-Ahram article points out that the Louvre is a perfect venue for a large Islamic art display because of its fame and prestige. The article states that the Louvre will attract a long list of donors and a lot of attention from the public. I agree with this statement. Visitors will come for the pyramid and the Mona Lisa, stick around for the new exhibition and will hopefully leave with a greater understanding and respect for a culture that has faced quite a bit of adversity in France and throughout other parts of the western world.

Latest Royal scandal brings up questions about privacy and celebrity obession

Every morning in Brussels when I walked down Boulevard St. Michel on my way to work, I passed an electronic sign that rotated between a stream of Dutch advertisements, which I could not read, and one ad for a French-language tabloid.  I was surprised that Europeans had tabloids. I thought Americans were the only ones who needed to see a photo spread of Snooki’s baby eleven days after his birth. After I noticed the ad for the first time, I realized how prevalent tabloids are in Europe. There is a preoccupation with the Brads and Angelinas from their own countries and what seems like an equally large preoccupation with our own Brad and Angelina.

I was surprised to find that, in the aspect of celebrity culture, the Europeans are not much different from Americans. I did not expect to see photos of celebrities (mostly American) plastered on newsstands with outlandish and scandalous headlines attached. I thought that a preoccupation with celebrities and their daily lives was something that was uniquely American. I was wrong. In Europe celebrities seem to be portrayed as more scandalous; the more controversial, the better.

My observation from my time in Europe was exemplified recently when photos of a topless Kate Middleton spread throughout Europe like wildfire.

A French photographer took the photos while Kate and her husband were vacationing in the south of France. The Royal Family’s attorneys are working hard to bring the publication, Closer, and the photographer, Valerie Suau, to justice, according to an article from The International Business Times. 

We will soon find out if the photographer legally snapped the pictures or not. Either way, the photos and the subsequent media firestorm are frustrating to me. Why would people want to see or care about this?

Admittedly, I’m a fan of William and Kate. I stayed up late to watch the Royal Wedding and I enjoy reading about their latest travels and work.

However, I think fascination with celebrities and their portrayal in the media has a line, and Valerie Suau and Closer crossed that line. The Royal Family are people too, and they deserve at least a semblance of privacy.

While the Royals are taking legal action in regards to the photos, Suau, who, according to The International Business Times, “has worked for some of the biggest news agencies in Europe,” claims that she was completely within her rights when she snapped the photos because she was not on private property.

A colleague of Suau’s told the Daily Mail:“There were other people around, including walkers and cyclists, as well as staff of the chateau. The Duchess was sure to have known this, and perhaps should have been a bit more careful about displaying her body in such a prominent position.”

Even if the photographer did legally take the pictures, I don’t think it makes it right. Kate Middleton did thrust herself in the spotlight by dating and eventually marrying the future king of England, but she still deserves privacy.

More importantly, what do the photos and their international publication say about journalism? Do journalists no longer respect privacy and integrity of people, famous or otherwise? I certainly hope not.

Do you think Valerie Suau was right in taking the photos? Futhermore, Do you think the Royal Family is right in taking legal action, and will they win the suit?

A “Burqa bill” in France

Recently, seven people in France were brought into questioning following a demonstration in support of Pussy Riot, according to an article from The Age. The people were not in trouble for the content of their protest or for becoming violent, but for wearing burqas, traditional full-face veils worn by Muslim women. They were brought in for questioning because, as of April of last year, wearing burqas publicly in France is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to €150.

The government justified the ban by saying it was introduced to combat a rise in Muslim extremism, according to The Age. It is also argued that the ban is to further gender equality in France, which is an important value in the country.

Another aspect of the bill is that people who force another to wear an article of clothing similar to the burqa could be sentenced to jail time. The article from The Age says that this measure was clearly aimed at Muslims and I could see how people would think that.

I can see the point behind the ban, especially in a time of higher racial tension. However, I don’t think the ban necessarily makes sense for France. With 5 million Muslims, the largest population of any country in Europe according to a Seattle Times opinion piece, can France afford to make such a large group feel inferior? The piece from The Age also pointed out that the ban has not been heavily enforced because officers feel that it would cause tension. Wasn’t the reason for the ban and its enforcement to combat racial tension?

I don’t see the point of creating a law that causes controversy and targets a specific group of people if it is not going to be enforced.

Finally, supporters of the ban say that it is a step in the right direction for women’s’ rights in France. However, I see it as the opposite. Banning the wearing of the burqa limits the practice of Islam. Women should have the choice to wear the burqa and practice their religion to the fullest. I don’t think true feminism would take away a woman’s right to choose what she wears.