French iTunes

My mobile phone carrier here in France is SFR.  One of the incentives offered on my calling plan is CanalPlay+, which is a Netflixesque service (because Netflix n’existe pas en France).  I got a text message a few days later from SFR encouraging me to download the app.  I dutifully clicked and a few screen flips later – link to browser to iTunes store to…nothing.

I kept trying to research but couldn’t really find anything on forums regarding this issue…because I was looking for problems with the app…not a problem with American iTunes.

Apple has iTunes stores for different countries.  That’s how they can charge more for a song in Australia (they routinely pay around $2 for what Americans normally pay $1 for).  But it’s not just a smart move by Apple to put some price controls in an otherwise free market.  It’s also something that unwittingly prevents access to country-specific apps.

In my case, CanalPlay+ and even SFR Mon Compte (a little app that would me monitor my data usage in real time) were only available in the French iTunes store.  So, why don’t you just switch over to French iTunes, Stephen?

Well, you see, there’s not really any fun way to try to get these apps.  I could create a separate iTunes account and then log in, download those two apps, sign back out and then sign back in to my American iTunes library.  I have iTunes Match on my account, which is a service that keeps my over 6,000 legal songs in the cloud accessible anywhere, anytime.  Having it means I can’t just switch regions with iTunes and then switch back.  I’d have to cancel the service.

Long story short, I’m too happy with my current iTunes shop to risk it all just to grab two nice-to-have-but-not-necessary apps.  CanalPlay+ would be parfait for my ongoing French learning, as I could continue my intake of French movies.  To speed my uptake of new vocabulary I’ve been French subtitling the movies I already know well, notebook in hand to catch the nouveau vocabulaire.

So as a note to those user of American iTunes – you don’t know how good – and cheap – you have it.  And as long as you don’t have iTunes Match, you can just switch over to another country store, grab an app, and switch back.  Just remember you’re walled out of future updates on that plan.

Homelessness in Paris

Homelessness is an issue in any big city, but it’s an absolute epidemic here in Paris.  The local phrase translates into English as “sleeping rough,” and from what I can tell by conversing with fellow Parisians, it’s only been on the rise as of late.  Yet, in that recognition, there is a sense that it’s an accepted way of life rather than a problem that will be eradicated anytime soon.

20090402_paris_homeless02A socialist way of thinking in France ensures a high level of tolerance for homelessness.  People set up tents on frequently traveled streets.  People sleep in store doorways after those stores close, and in subterranean car parks when it’s cold (those places are quite warm), and in the metro (all the time).

The homeless themselves have their own routine.  You can catch them hanging out, reading, or holding puppies, which leads to a 500% increase in the level of donation.  “Oh, you have puppies, so you must need more money,” not, “You’re homeless, why the hell do you have a dog?”

At least once a day someone will get on the metro and make a speech.  They’ll cite children, or being out of work, or some other malady.  They then walk through the car, cup or hand extended.  People will donate mostly on your appearance.  Avuncular and kindly-looking types clean up.  Young and unkempt routinely get nada.  Women are 50/50.  Once they’ve gone through your carriage, at the next stop, they go to the next carriage and repeat the routine.

Buskers (people playing music) get donations purely based on their quality.  There is a guy at Opera who is at the change to the 8 Line every Sunday (that’s the station I change at to go to Mass) who plays his accordion with an amp which distorts the sound and gives nobody any peace for the 3-4 minutes we are waiting on the platform for our train.  I’m too annoyed to donate.  But last week there were these two guys playing acoustic guitar who TOTALLY cleaned up.  This wasn’t just because they were handsome guys playing guitar (surely some scribbled phone numbers were mixed in with those euros), but also because they happened to be GOOD.  They had decent voices and were playing the strummy catchy music you wouldn’t mind hearing on your metro trip.  There IS money to be made in the metro – we always have spare change in our pockets – and unlike in the US where coins are mostly denominated under $1USD, in Europe those coins can be 1 or 2 euros and what can look like a jumble of coins is probably close to (as it looked to be on this night) close to $100USD, ostensibly just in this carriage on this particular ride.

Just last night I witnessed two young lads do a satiric song-and-dance striptease (down to a shirt and briefs from shirt, suit and tie) about ticket inspectors on the Metro.  I might have been the only one who did not contribute – just about everyone else in the carriage did.  Want to make some money on the Metro?  All you need to do is strip in front of the French.  They find it tres amusant, apparently.  The americain was not.

Yet, for all the antics – puppies, begging on trains, etc., the fact that I’ve seen more than one homeless person reading is impressive to me.  It reinforces the notion that maybe this is a “regular person” who is just down on his/her luck, or if not, proof that being homeless doesn’t need to lead to despair.  It might just be another way to be happy with what you have.

Featured photo is from Nando Prudhomme’s site and is used with his permission.  You can find Nando on Twitter @cyanskies and at