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Saturday, May 04, 2013

France 2012 - Day 1 - Arrival

France 2012
Day 1 - 13th October - Arrival

Note: This series is called "France 2012". In January 2012 I also visited France, but that is tagged "Europe CNY 2012" since I spent most of my time in Great Britain.

I wasn't intending to go to France again in 2012, but I won the Runme Shaw Cup at the Alliance Française and so got a free air ticket on Air France (sans taxes) and a week at a school, Institut International de Rambouillet.

My journey didn't start well. Because of a delay in the arriving plane, my flight was delayed by 15.5 hours.

The A380 was indeed more spacious than other long distance planes. I couldn't quite remember the last time I'd been on an A380 (October 2010) but I think it was also better than other planes then.

The flight was quite empty. Possibly people had booked other flights in order to reach France earlier.

Some Air France aircrew had red badges to indicate that they were "Safety" staff. This was puzzling: shouldn't all aircrew have safety training? What additional training is required? Or is this like Range in the SAF - they just get arrowed with a few additional duties?

Annoyingly there were no aircon vents to control the flow of air to my seat (weirdly there was one in the toilet). And occasionally snow (ice chips) fell from above).

I was very impressed with the in-flight entertainment. There were more than 200 music CDs, and the movie selection was huge.

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"kids" was not localised into French

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World Cinema - in English and the original language (e.g. "Indian"), with no French.

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One could load one's USB drive with useful information. Unlike the Dutch they didn't translate "infos pratiques" as "practical information" (i.e. there's impractical information). Perhaps this is an endemic European problem, since there're examples from the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Colombia, Spain and Austria. Actually I don't think there's a good translation in English for the concept of "practical information". Perhaps "logistics"?

One movie had a soundtrack in both Cantonese and "官話". I was quite pleased to finally sight this term in the wild.

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The baguette was very slightly crusty, though it was cold. Note the two desserts.
The appetiser looked good but wasn't very flavourful. The fish was tasteful though it wasn't good quality fish.

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No pork. Gah.

I was amused to be offered a digestif (I wasn't offered an aperitif but I guess I could've asked for one). Hoho. So I got a pear liqueur. It was very sweet and smooth, slipping down the throat. Though I spilt half of it. Grr.

Air France had a self-service beverage bar (with snacks like Breton chocolate cookies, les galettes sablées vanille à l'ancienne and cheese crackers - albeit with palm oil in the latter). They had Sprite from 3 countries (the US, China and Singapore), Champagne Brut and lemon - but no Häagen-Dazs, as I'd been told (cost-cutting, perhaps). I sneaked upstairs to see if we lesser mortals were getting stiffed but the selection looked the same. I asked a stewardess and she said it depended on the flight, and there would be fruit salad, sandwiches and soup in the second half of the flight (there wasn't - I got conned).

I found Air France service to be better than both KLM and Lufthansa, making it the best European airline I'd flown. They were not friendly, but at least were polite (and not just because I spoke French, from what I heard of their interactions with other passengers). The self-service bar got refilled with stuff (and different stuff too!) Even the ice got refilled. KLM had had the self-service bar too, but it hadn't been refilled.

Since my flight would arrive at almost midnight, I employed my anti-jetlag technique of matching the timezone and ended up consuming more in-flight entertainment than normal. I watched "As One", which was shameless feel-good Korean propaganda. This would be considered gauche if it were in Western Cinema (e.g. Special Forces got bashed as propaganda because it was not critical). As One made the Chinese look bad, the South Koreans look good and the North Koreans less bad than they probably are.

There was a documentary from Arté on "It girls" (i.e. girls who are famous for being famous [and pretty]). My comment: "tout le monde aime une jolie fille" (everyone loves a pretty young girl).

It Girls are 16-20 years old and they fan the endless flames of desire and consumption. The idea of an It Girl is "the shoes you gotta have, the bags you gotta have, even the girls you gotta have". It was quite critical as befitted a French production, and was very honest about Cory Kennedy (no wonder Sandra Chung refused to be interviewed); she said she had become an adult, so it was no fun being an It Girl (interestingly enough, since she was 21 it was considered daring to still feature her).

They also featured Blake Lively, 23 (I thought that was supposed to be too old) and Kim Kardashian (29 - definitely too old).

The documentary "Profession It Girl" quoted Peaches Geldof: "Every girl wants to be an It Girl" since one gets to "be celebrated publicly for being yourself". She then said there was lust in every girl.

The image of an It Girl is that they don't have to work. Young girls who idolise It Girls have work as a big part of their lives, but they want a life of leisure, branded goods and doing what they want.

The script was great, with the narrator having lines like "the problem with becoming famous without having put any effort into it is you are dependent on others", "[It Girls are a] product of the narcissistic illusion that you have several lives and when you put it into action something creative is bound to come out of it", "the trials and tribulations of New York city youth fluctuate between partying and shopping", "the apparent ease with which [Taylor Momsen] assumes her lolita trash image serves as an inspiration for all young girls searching for their identity" and "that's the future of the feminine condition in the West. To have money and spend as much as possible and to have an okay job".

One of the staff serving an It Girl: "You've grown up. You have breasts. You've slept with men"
It Girl: "I know"

"How else can we enjoy life by spending" - some girl

Perhaps the most fun part of the documentary was when I listened to the French version, and I could hear the contempt dripping from the narrator's voice.

The moral of the story for It Girls is that it is a great example of the objectification of women by themselves and other women - for the consumption of other women (I don't think you can deny that this is primarily about the Female Gaze, not the Male one).

The in-flight entertainment told you, while watching a movie, the time to your destination. In retrospect this seems very obvious, so I'm not sure why it struck me (perhaps I didn't notice it on other airlines).

There was another documentary: "les ados: métro, boulot, dodo" (Teens: the soul numbing drudgery of wage slavery) where they were interviewed about what they thought of wage slavery. It was very depressing. Interestingly, the presenter had a sociology/philosophy degree and shadowed adolescents for a year (that was not the depressing bit).

I was lying down when the seatbelt sign came on. I got up but the attendant was okay with me putting on the seatbelt when I was lying down. However she fastened a seatbelt around my neck, so when the turbulence came I got strangled. So much for safety!

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This one had no "no pork".

15.5 hour delay aside, why would one fly "Can I helpch you?" (SIA) instead of Air France?
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