samedi, septembre 30, 2006

Not Night #2

In the end, I never made it to the second night of the Backstage Minimal Festival. I lost 7€ in not going, but that would've been half of my taxi fare back, so I considered it a wash. Besides, it's not like my evening wasn't full.

Well, after hauling my ass out of bed at 9am in preparation for the students that I was certain would arrive today, I ended up spending the majority of the day in my room, waiting for the students to arrive. And they never did. I think, in retrospect, that some of the students (i.e. 3 of them) had given the Centre their date of departure rather than their date of arrival. When you're taking an overnight flight, that makes a difference. Either way, I ended up spending the majority of the day at home blogging and reading. I realize now that I had promised to blog about my adventures with Traktor. I'll get around to that in a day or two.

As evening came on, I had made plans to join a friend who had just arrived in Paris for drinks. The plan was to head to a bar in the Marais called Nyx, which had apparently just opened. The place was a neat little boulangerie that had been converted into a bar. By the time we got there (around 10:30) the place was packed. It was mostly a lesbian crowd, with a fair amount of gay men mixed in. We pushed our way through, got a couple of beers, and settled for standing in the middle of the room. Although it was fun to be in the middle of all the hubbub, we eventually got tired of standing and sweating, so we headed out in search of a terrasse.

Since we were on rue Roi de Sicile, we had the option of going into the old Jewish quarter or the GLBT area for drinks (I love that the two areas are practically on top of each other). We wandered down rue Sainte-Croîx de la Bretonnerie, which is sort of the main drag of gaytown in Paris, and eventually settled on a bar intersecting rue des archives. As the night progressed, we downed beers, people-watched, chatted about our various interests, and commented on the fashion decisions of passers-by. I've noticed that there is a general feeling of exuberance in fashion in Europe; people are a bit more bold, they attempt a bit more with colour and design, and are willing to follow the whims of designers to a greater degree than North America. The result, however, is mixed; some people accomplish feats of style that are simply impossible within a North American context, while others create fashion catastrophes that practically bend space and time around them, such is their suckiness. As you can imagine, these extremes are even more extreme in the gay areas. It made for some fantastic eveningtide entertainment.

As we parted ways around 2am, things suddenly got rather bizarre. I had already decided that it wasn't worth the trouble of heading over to Batofar for the last night of minimal techno. I walked down rue des archives toward Châtelet. As I went around BHV, I saw a man asking for change from a passerby. I passed them, not paying much attention to what was being said. After a moment, I heard an "excusez moi" close to my shoulder. The same man approached me, offering to shake my hand while apologizing for the intrusion. With polite but very rapid speech, he explained that he wasn't a racaille. Racaille can mean a lot of things, in French, but it most generally means "undesireables," "scum," or "criminals," and at some point came to be used to refer to a singular person. Racaille also carries significant racial undertones, as it was the used by the Minister of the Interior during the riots in Paris banlieue (Val d'Oise) as a way of referring to the mostly arabic, muslim population that was involved in the riots.

So this man, who certainly looked to be of Arab-Maghrebi origin, insisted that he wasn't racaille, pointed to his rather worn Asics tennis shoes and saying "See? I'm not a racaille, I'm a beau mec!" Beau mec means "handsome guy" literally, but can also mean "respectable" or "well-groomed." Admittedly, he was dressed in appropriate clothing, didn't smell, and was clean-shaven; on the other hand, his weather-worn face, the scar over his eye and the last traces of a bruise suggested that all was not well with him. He continued apologizing and insisting on his distance from the racaille category for a minute or so, all the while shaking my hand with an urgent grip, before finally asking me for money. I gave him a 2€ piece, thinking the transaction was over, but instead:

"You don't have any more? A ticket restaurant would be great. No? Respect, man. I respect you, you know, like a brother. Because you're honest not like those people, you know. Where are you headed? Châtelet? I'll walk you over. Man, nobody will rob you when you're with me. Come on, take my hand, I'll protect you. Nobody messes with me. Everybody respects me. I'm not racaille, though. I used to have money, I'm just going through something right now. I used to pull down thousands of euros. The ladies would just give me money. You see these shoes? Hey, let's get a coffee. Come on, there's no need to worry, let's get a coffee and chat for a while like civilized people. You seem really cool. No, man, it's OK, you won't miss your bus, another one will come in 30 minutes. Which bus do you take? Oh that's not coming for 30 minutes anyway. We'll get a coffee and be back before the bus leaves. Come on, this way."

This man was clearly manic. For approximately thirty minutes, he took me on a high-intensity tour of the block, insisting that he knew of a café "just around the corner" that was open. All the time, he would insist that we lock elbows or hold hands as if we were best friends. And, I don't doubt that he was sincerely convinced that we were, at that moment, best friends. At one point, he found a bar and approached, only to have the guard look at him, shake his head, and say "No, not him. It's not even worth letting him in." A few minutes later, two blocks north of Châtelet, he tried to enter a bar. I tried to tell him it wasn't a café, at this point hoping to convince him that nothing was open and anyway I was about to miss my bus, but he charged forward anyway, only to be rebuffed by the bouncer. This time, the bouncer (a thin white gay guy) closed the door until only his shoulders fit outside, and said, "Tonight we're only open for regulars." I saw my bus pull up ahead of me, and used that as a distraction. Still riding his mania, he was convinced that he would help me catch the bus, just by grabbing my arm and running. Thankfully, the bus stopped at the next red light and, when I knocked on the door, the driver opened it. With a mix of relief and regret, I jumped on the bus and left my momentary companion behind. I felt relief because I was spared any further awkwardness, but also regret that for this man there was little relief in sight. I also felt embarassed and ashamed for being turned away at two bars with this man holding my hand, and also guilty that I was embarassed or that all I had given him that night was 2€ and a few minutes of company.

Well, that's it. I didn't find a way to close this story or make a comforting rationalization about the outcome. I don't have anything particularly enlightening or profound to say about his or my lot, nor about the why and how of our meeting. It was a bizarre, awkward, tragic way to end an evening and I didn't sleep well. I doubt he slept at all.

vendredi, septembre 29, 2006

Backstage Festival : Minimal Techno (Night 1)

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So tonight was the first night that my research collided with my job. There's a new batch of students arriving tomorrow (Sep 30) and Sunday (Oct 1) in preparation for the autumn programs here at the Centre. Although there's only 3 scheduled to arrive tomorrow, the first lands in Paris at 7:45am, thus probably arriving at the residences at 10:00am. The "den mother" part of my job requires me to be on site during the arrival of the students to help them get settled in, answer any questions, and eventually give them a tour of the building, the neighborhood, and help them buy their metropasses. Now, allow me to remind you that these clubbing soirées that I've been going to usually start at midnight and finish at 6am; with public transit, that means I get home at 7am. Obviously, this would make Saturday morning difficult.

By midday Friday, I made the decision to go and steeled myself for the oncoming sleep deprivation. In my high school years, I had more than once stayed up all night at a rave, slept at home for two hours, showered, and then run off to sing as a cantor in the town's cathedral at 10am. I'm certainly not 17 anymore, but I've functioned on little sleep before, I can do it again. Since the headliner (Dan Bell) would most likely spin from 2am to 4am, my plan was to stay for the entirety of Dan Bell's set, catch the beginning of the next DJ, and then head home around 4:30, with the hopes of being in bed by 5:30 or so. I had already given the front desk people at my residences my cell phone number, so I could come home and crash, put my cell phone next to my pillow, and sleep until someone called to tell me the first student had arrived. The plan worked fine, except for that "in bed by 5:30" part—but I'll get to that at the end of this post.

The event was held at Batofar, which is a club located on a boat more-or-less permanently moored on the banks of the Seine. (I totally forgot to take a picture of the exterior, so I'll make sure to do that Saturday night.) As it turns out, this whole club-on-a-boat thing is pretty popular in Paris, and there were at least 3 other "party" boats moored to the same quay when I got there. I guess it's a rather sensible solution to the problem of establishing a club in Paris. Thanks to the city's Haussmannian construction, it's almost impossible to turn a street-front space into a club without annoying the 5 floors of apartments above. Instead, these boat-clubs have a lounge area on the deck that pumps music at a volume that makes it barely detectable from the street level, and the loud, clubby spaces are located in the hull of the ships. In the case of Batofar, the hull was also sound-proofed, so very little sound escaped, and that which did carried off harmlessly into the water, rather than the air. On the other hand, there are some downsides to this solution. It's floating on water, which means that the boat was listing to one side for the entirety of the evening; not visibly detectable, but certainly unmistakeable when you're trying to dance. Also, the boat did rock ever so slightly. I didn't feel it, but I suspect that a person with a delicate inner ear might leave after 6 hours with a vague feeling of nausea.

The Batofar boat had two entrances, one for the lounge on deck and one for the club below deck. I totally missed the club entrance, and went to the lounge entrance. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to ask the guard before going in, "Is this the soirée minimale?" Without actually speaking, the guard shook his head, paused, then nodded towards another gangway at the other end of the boat. I headed over there, checked with the guard standing next to gangway and walked on board. As I approached the stairs descending below deck, another guard stopped me and told me to wait. He looked a bit perturbed at my presence, and he shouted to the guard on shore and told him that he needed to slow the flow of entry to create a line. Ah, this was a familiar annoyance. Clubs want to look popular and in-demand. Popular clubs have long line-ups (or so it goes). Moreover, a long line-up suggests to passers-by that the club is already packed full, promising intensity. If a club is in fact underpopulated and/or unpopular, a common (although frustrating) solution is to create a line-up by halting the entry of people into the club. The irony, of course, is that once you're done waiting in line for this fantastic club, you get in and it's empty and lame. A certain club in Toronto (*coughcoughBUDDIEScoughcough*) was notorious for this.

Anyway, I got inside quickly and the club was about half-full. The entryway was a network of half-flights and landings, creating a multi-tiered effect that took up the rear half of the hull. The front half of the hull was a flat-floored bar, stage and dance area—just like you would find in any typical club. By the time I got into the club, I had to pee like a racehorse, so I made hit the WC. The washrooms were located in a short hallway underneath the entry stairway; there were three full doors, and one set of saloon-style half-doors. I saw somebody's head through the half-doors, and before I could head to the other doorways, the bathroom attendant looked at me, showed three fingers, then gestured at the half-doors. "Oh, it costs 3€?" I said. In retrospect, what I said must've sounded like "Oh, there's thre uros?" ("uro" being an abbreviation of "urinal"), because he nodded. I wasn't phased, since I've noticed that almost everything costs at Parisian clubs. Unlike the little Chinese takout restaurant I went to on Wednesday—where the hostess gave a complimentary beer, aperitif and shrip crackers while I waited for my order—clubs and other night destinations (i.e. youth industry) take every opportunity to charge you money.

So, off I went to buy a drink and break a 20-note so that I would have 3€ for the washroom. I order a beer and, again, I accidentally order 2 beers; those of you who have been following this blog probably notice that I've had this problem before, here and here. With a mixture of shame and bemusement, I drank my beers and then hit the washroom. I knew something was wrong when I slid the 3 1€ coins into the washroom attendants hand and his eyebrows shot up. He said thanks with unexpected sincerity and I opened the saloon doors to find: three urinals. So, I just gave a washroom attendant a 3€ tip (i.e. about $5), after accidentally ordering double the amount of drinks I wanted. As I answered the call of nature in Batofar's filthy, filthy, filthy bathroom, I took relief (ha!) in the thought that, well, at least the "Luis does something stupid" part of the evening was over (it wasn't).

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DJ Choco

I had arrived around 1:30am (I'm getting a hang of the European bar schedule), to the opener DJ, who I *think* is DJ Choco. I tried to get his name from someone standing nearby, but I couldn't hear over the music. Nonetheless, I did get a couple of good shots of him and the stage set-up, as well as a short video. It's funny how the bass pretty much disappears from the audio recording.

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A couple of wide shots of Choco (I think)

Choco's set was good, minimal techno without much digression into the house-y or click-y sides of the genre. During his set, some guy approached me and asked me if I knew where to get drugs. I took it as an odd compliment; although I was the least qualified person to answer that question, I liked thinking that I looked "local" or "connected" enough to have that information.

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Daniel Bell

Daniel Bell's set (2am-4am), on the other hand, sort of shifted gears at several points. It started out as rather straightforward minimal techno, then shifted to something very tech-house-y, paused briefly in vocal Chicago house, and ended up somewhere on the click-pop side of things. Here's a brief video and some pics from an earlier part of the set.

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Some shots of Dan Bell (a.k.a. DBX) and a reverse angle on the crowd.

One thing that struck me throughout the night was how there would be these spontaneous moments of collective cheering. Certainly, the DJ would often make performative gestures that would elicit cheers from the crowd (e.g., removing and then returning the bass kick, tweaking the EQs), but sometimes everyone would cheer—including me—with little provocation. It always started somewhere in the crowd, one or two people making noise; sometimes it would spread into a room full of cheering, other times it fizzled away and left the impression of one or two overenthusiastic fans. Was this reducible to a quantitive equation of critical mass of excited dancers + individual trigger = mass euphoria? It seemed like the shape of things, but not necessarily the cause. In some ways, I wonder if it's maybe more rhythmic and cyclical. That is, the intensity of engagement and excitement in each member of the crowd has its own rhythm, affected by where they are, when they got there, what they're on, and who they're with; every once in a while, the peaks in these cycles line up. Hmm.

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At 4am, Darko came on. He's a Belgian DJ and party organizer who is connected to statikdancin and seems to have made minimal techno a specialty of his. Although I was planning to leave right away, his first few tracks were really solid, so I had to stay. In contrast to the other DJ's that night, Darko seemed to be leaning heavily into a bassier, funkier and darker minimal techno. However, after about 30 minutes the set began to wander and I finally decided to call it a night.

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Good shot of the stage lighting

As I headed out along the quay, I noticed this beautiful footbridge spanning the Seine from the front of the new Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French Nat'l Library) to a park on the other end. The bridge is named after Simone de Beauvoir, and the bridge makes use of two intersecting wave patterns to create a braiding effect. Both patterns are walkable, and they are connected at the intersection points. The upper level connects directly to the library grounds, while the lower level connects to the street.

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I decided to take the night bus back home. I was pretty far from home (actually, very close to my usual workplace), and a cab ride would be prohibitively expensive. I had already researched my bus route, and I would need to take a bus to Gare de Lyon, another one to Chatelet, and then a last one back to Porte des Lilas. I headed off to the bus stop and caught the first bus OK. I made it to Gare de Lyon and then spend nearly 30 minutes finding the bus stop for my connection. I caught the right bus, but in the wrong direction. Once I figured that out, I walked another 500m along a random street before I found a taxi. At that point, I had thrown in the towel. Apparently, Luis still doesn't know his way around Paris yet. Appropriately chagrined, I took my 16€ taxicab back home and crahsed for the night.

jeudi, septembre 28, 2006

Little Moments of Passion

Well, it's actually Friday right now and I'm about to head out to another minimal techno event (more on that in Friday's post), so this is going to be brief.

After work on Thursday, I decided to take the bus home instead of the metro, again enjoying the sights and smells of a prolonged bus ride. Truth be told, it's no worse than the subway on a hot day, and at least you can see the streets passing you by. At some point, a rather young-looking man came by with a name tag and asked me if I could take part in a survey. Back in N. America, my reaction would be a polite version of "hell no," since these "surveys" usually lead to an attempt to sell you something. Nonetheless, I felt game, I had a good excuse not to buy anything he might offer (I'm only visiting), and I wasn't sure how to politely rebuff his overtures. In the end, it really was just a survey for Paris' public transit company, asking me how often I used transit, and what routes I took. For the rest of the ride, I noticed who he attempted to approach and what success he had. For the most part, he approached more females than males, younger rather than older (with the exception of older asian women, oddly enough), and white or light-skinned more than darker-skinned. Notably, he made one attempt to approach a younger african man, who at first ignored him, then gave him a refusal that was somehow both dismissive and hostile. Survey in hand, he nodded and continued on. I still don't know what I want to make of this moment, but right then I thought about self-fulfilling prophesies and circular causalities.

When I got to Porte des Lilas, I took a diversion from my route home to hit the Franprix, which is one of the ghetto-est grocery chains I've found in Paris so far. Exposed lighting fixtures, pallettes of product half-unwrapped on the sales floor, warehouse-style shelving. I took my time gathering items, noting that the low-budget setting was reflected in the prices, and made my way to the cash. The place was, as one might say in French, le bordel (lit. "brothel", but also "fucking mess"). There were three cashiers with sprawling lines, to which they all tended with an admirable lack of urgency.

As I waited in line, I noticed two construction workers come in, one clearly drunk, and one not at all clearly sober. The drunk(er) one stopped at the security guard near the entrance to notify him that he had a can of beer in his jacket that was purchased elsewhere. The security guard asked him to check it at the door, but he was having nothing of it. It appeared like things might escalate further, but I was distracted by the man two spots ahead of me in line. He was an older, stout, short man, with a high-pitched voice, and lovely if well-worn suit, and a jet-black toupée. He had just pointed out to a woman in front of him that she had dropped some métro tickets and now he was flirting clumsily with her while she seemed to be weighing her options: do I eat tonight, or do I escape harassment?

When I looked back to the entrance, both men had cleared the entrance and the security guard was still standing there, unscathed, so I can only assume the conflict had been somehow resolved. In a moment, both men appeared behind me, right next to (natch) the liquor case. The case was locked under glass, which greatly distressed the less drunk of the two. In an accent that I can only guess as slavic he shouted mademoiselle! at the cashiers, while snapping his fingers. When nobody responded, he charged past the lineups and told one of them to open the case for him, now. The cashier pointed at her line, and told him to wait by the liquor case until the security guard came to open it for him. He returned, muttering complaints just lound enough for everyone to hear. When the security guard arrived (less than 30 seconds later), both men began to berate him for taking so long and neglecting them as customers. The security guard, unflappable, shrugged the admonishments off and proceeded to open the liquor cabinet. Unsatisfied, one of them continued to complain loudly, insisting that the guard's behavior amounted to a form of racism. This was a bizarre moment: the guard was African, the three cashiers were Indian, African, and Maghrebin. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that folks from Eastern Europe face discrimination in Paris, but it was odd to see that all the agents of the alleged racism were just as much minorities.

I couldn't follow the rest of that drama, because the little old man in front of me had begun to raise his voice. He had just paid his bill and it was too much. The grapes were too expensive. How much were they? 3€/kilo?! They were marked at 2€/kilo!! The cashier shrugged and the man began to sputter and complain loudly that she (or perhaps the whole company—it wasn't clear) was taking advantage of him. He insisted that she take the grapes off the bill and refund him the difference. As she went about doing it, with a profound disinterest, he continued his string of complaints, ending with "I'm not an American, you know." It reminded me of a certain Peruvian aunt of mine, who's secret weapon in haggling was to say, "What do you take me for, a gringa?!" ("gringo/a" = American, but also white, but also sucker, but also obnoxious tourist, but also...) The cashier shared a beleaguered grin with her co-worker across the aisle, as if she were dealing with a troublesome child. Once the refund was taken care of, the man disappeared...only to reappear a minute later. Triumphantly, he slapped down the price label that he had ripped from the fruit display case. "See?!" Unmoved, the cashier shrugged slowly and told him he'd need to speak with the manager (who, it seemed was the security guard). The guard, who had obviously resolved the confrontation with the two drunken men, listened to the man's complaints for a few minutes, and then passed him over to another cashier, who apparently was going to sell him the grapes for the rate he had expected.

I left the store smiling in bemusement, as I recognized something nostalgic in that scene that I associate with the entirety of the "Latin atlantic" (apologies to Paul Gilroy): the quick flashes of temper, the melodrama of complaints and negotiation, the politics of the public market. But I also left feeling a bit guilty about it all; why should I find this scene of petty conflict amusing? The employees of the store faced an unending stream of hostility, the old man seemed sincerely distressed with his over-expensive grapes, the woman standing in front of him had certainly endured some form of harassment just to buy groceries, and I doubt that those two drunken men were in for a smooth night. I'm still not sure about it, but I suppose that part of it was that I used to work in retail, including some rather unpleasant clientele, and my smile was a smile of recognition. In some sense, I could see a lot of the drama unfolding around me and think "I've been there," or "I've felt that way before." In a strange sense I felt like a "voyeur on the scene," like the fact that I had an experiential point of commonality with some of these people allowed me to be both in the middle of it all in the present, and also distanced in time through memory's projections. With all of this still inchoate in my mind, I passed by my boulangerie, bought a baguette, and wandered home.

mercredi, septembre 27, 2006

Lemon-Cream Chicken and Peking, France

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OK, so this post is going to be very food heavy. So let me preface this whole thing by saying that I actually did a lot today that did not include food, but it was a lot of uninteresting crap: spent most of work fixing things and frantically helping teachers set up their virtual classroom sites in time for the new quarter next monday, left work late and hit Darty to finally buy a proper 230V-110V transformer for my hair clipper, bought some DVD-Rs to archive some of my material on my laptop to make room for Traktor (I'm also considering eventually getting an external drive), and I eventually got dinner. I also finally got Traktor set up on my laptop, but I'm going to blog about it tomorrow, when I've had a chance to play with it for a bit.

My first bit of food-related blogging actually has to do with something I made tuesday night, after I had already written up my blog post for the day. On the way home, I bought a blanc de poulet (that is, 2 chicken breasts still attached to each other). Once dinner time came around, I took the last two onions of a rather cheap batch I had bought 2 weeks ago, peeled off the soggy layers, and then french-cut them. I heated up a fair bit of butter in a pan, tossed in the onions, and covered them to make them sweat out their juices and render a liquid base. When they were getting dry and beginning to brown, I added a bit of tandoori mix, some mace, some cinnamon and some cracked pepper (my ghetto-garam masala). In the meanwhile, I had separated and trimmed the chicken breasts, and sliced them into finger-sized stir-fry strips. I tossed the chicken on top of the onions, added a sprinkling of salt, and then squeezed an entire lemon over the whole thing. A quick mix to coat, and then cover on medium heat. After about 20 minutes (with occasional mixing), the chicken was thorougly cooked and the mixture had surredered a fair bit of liquid. I took the whole thing off the heat and mixed in all of my remaining crème fraîche from my previous culinary adventures (about 3/4 cup, I think). I was curious to see if the crème fraîche would curdle with the acidity of the lemon juice, but it held together and created a creamy sauce that was surprisingly good. Good enough that I'm going to make it again in a few weeks and write down the recipe. Next time, I think I might use some rosemary from the garden rather than my masala mix. Mind you, I'm also very fond of making chicken in an apple/pear glaze with chinese 5-spice and hot peppers, and I wonder what that would taste like with a mountain of crème fraîche.

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And now, back to today. After getting home rather late, with a sinkful of dirty dishes (see paragraph above) and a full night of data-backup ahead of me, I decided that tonight would be the night that I try take-out food in Paris. Of course, I've ordered sandwiches to go all over Paris, but I've always made dinner at home (except for those wonderful few days when Val was in town, buying dinner). At around 9pm (standard dinner time in Paris) I headed over to a Chinese restaurant called Auberge de Pékin (Peking Inn). It was just on the other side of the porte des Lilas, with a very small and very kitschy façade. The interior had mirrored walls with day-glo landscapes taken from blue-willow china sets and the ceilings were underlit with pink lights. When I asked for the take out menu, the woman at the bar gave me a large, bound menu and left me to think. When she came back, I ordered some hot and sour soup, lemon chicken, and curry fried rice. She asked me if I would like a coke or a beer, and I began to refuse, thinking I would have something at home. Realizing that I didn't, I took the beer...but the price of my order didn't go up. When she saw my look of confusion, the hostess explained that the beer/coke was free as part of the take-out order. Then, as I sat down to wait for my food, she poured me a little champagne-flute full of crème de menthe and pear juice (surprisingly tasty) and a little basket of deep fried shrimp crackers (always tasty). I've never ordered cheap Chinese take-out from a restaurant that gives me free beer, snacks and an apéritif while I wait. Even if their food was horrible, all of these little gestures guaranteed at least two return visits from me.

In the end, the food was variable. The hot and sour soup was delicious. The lemon chicken had a great texture, but was too bitter (too much pith from the lemon). The curried rice was just mediocre: inoffensive, but also unexciting. The beer (Kronenberg) was execrable. For approximately 14€ ($17.80USD) for about half the portions I would get in the States or Canada, it wasn't exactly the best value I've ever had. On the other hand, they gave me shrimp crackers...

mardi, septembre 26, 2006


Of course, the title is an homage to Slashdot's 2006 April Fools' OMG!!! PONIES!!! layout. Be sure to scroll down about 4 or 5 posts to find the beginning of the OMG!!! posts. They begin with something about glitter.

By the way, did you know that Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek : The Next Generation fame, is an active "Slashdotter?" His username is "CleverNickName." More amusingly, he has a blog. All of the gay geeks that grew up in the early 90's just wet themselves. Alas, he is evidently straight (either that or his wife and kids deserve an explanation). And, alas, that receding chin of his is harder to ignore without the cinematographic magic of ST:TNG. On the upside, he's a surprisingly funny writer and he's started blogging reviews of the early ST:TNG episodes.

OK, so back to the OMG!!! CHOCOLATE!!!. Although this did not occur until after I got home from work, work was unexciting so this will be both the beginning and the ending of my day, blog-wise. Here's what happened:

As she came in asking for a some IT support, one of my fellow grad students brought with her a small square box with my name on it. It was shipped from the exotic land of Chicago, and the declaration on the customs/duty form said "chocolate." I remembered that I had been expecting a package from Mark and Sharon. These are none other than Mark of ORTED fame, and Sharon, whose awesomeness requires no proof. Mark and Sharon are, at this moment, my mostest favourite people in the world, and this has at least something to do with the fact that the contents of that package were chocolate. Now, if you've been reading this blog since the start you can probably already guess this, but chocolate is sort of totally my Achilles' heel. It's like giving heroin to a junkie. For as long as the trip lasts, you're their hero. Or so I've been told.

So, I put the box down next to my groceries (I had gone to the marché des enfants rouges that morning before work) and willed myself to wait until I got home. After a surprisingly sweaty ride home, I immediately tossed my groceries in the fridge and got to opening that box. Inside was a veritable treasure trove of chocolate deliciousness. There was a box of neuhaus chocolates (16 pieces!) and a bar of Galler 70% cocoa chocolate. You see, Mark and Sharon had been in Belgium just before I left for France, and I was looking after their car. I was mostly making sure that the Chicago parking faries weren't putting up street-cleaning signs near their parking spot, but in the end I was more occupied taking care of the crash report after some guy lost control of his car one saturday morning and took out 3 cars (including theirs). For some strange reason, Mark and Sharon felt that this required payment in the form of CHOCOLATE, and I was not about to argue.

I took one of the organic comice pears I had bought that morning and cut it up, poured myself a goblet of orange juice and sparking water (the puritan's mimosa), and started in on the chocolate. Sometime during the gorge-fest, I took a moment to take the still-life picture above. A brief momento of what was otherwise the haze of a chocolate-berzerker. Shame prevents me from disclosing how many chocolates I ate, but it's currently 10:51pm and I'm only vaguely hungry for dinner.

As a closing non-sequitur, I'd like to gesture towards this sunset, taken from my window:

lundi, septembre 25, 2006

WiFi and Laptop Mixing

Well, this Monday morning started off with a bang. I had heard that one of the WiFi networks in the UofC portion of the residence building wasn't working, and went into the affected room this morning to check it out. To spare certain folks a lot of embarassment and possible retribution, I can only say that the resulting hour or so involved a bit of panic, some frantic interrogation, and some dumpster-diving. Most importantly, though, the network is back up.

During the same morning business, I also took that moment (post-panic) to ask about changing the day that the cleaning lady sweeps my room to another morning. So far, she's been coming on monday morning, which is usually my day to sleep in (a bit). I wouldn't have to get up until 10 or 10:30, but she's knocking on my door at 9am. And I prefer to be showered and dressed when that happens, so 7:30 it was, this morning. I managed to get that shifted to Tuesday, which is a relief.

Also, I noted that the next batch of students are arriving on the first of the month (as per usual), but the first of October falls on a Sunday. This means that the usual 2 days that I get to go through the welcome ritual has been drastically shortened. As a result, a bunch of kids are going to arrive in Paris sunday afternoon, jet-lagged, with nothing open, and I'm going to drag them through a tour of the building, a tour of the neighborhood, and then take them to get their metro passes. To blunt the damage, some of the folks at the residences suggested that I buy a bunch of pains au chocolat and maybe some coffee to greet the students as they stumble in. Sounds like a great idea, although I'll have to think through the logistics (i.e. not every student stumbling in that afternoon will be part of the Chicago party)

The folks at the front desk (who are super-nice, and—significantly—who are going to lend me a pressure cooker to make my food) suggested that since I work on electronic music, I should take care of providing something techno-y for the general welcome party at the residences sometime in October. The idea was exciting and terrifying, so I said "maybe, yes" on the condition that I could have a bit of time to research my options. Obviously, I didn't bring my vinyl and turntables with me, and I hardly have enough tunes to fill a night on vinyl anyway. However, I do have an iPod full of material (40Gb) and a copy of Ableton Live. I'm thinking of creating a bit of raw material to use in Ableton Live's improv interface. However, that probably won't provide more than an hour's worth of performance material (and live sets can get old after an hour, anyway), so I still need to do some research on programs like Traktor, that will allow me to mix my iPod tracks from a laptop. Speaking of which, I have to figure out how to get my music back off my iPod. Does anybody on here have some suggestions? I'm sure there's a few iPod hacks out there by now...

[Right now, there's another riotous traffic jam in the roundabout in front of my building. This time, there's a fire engine trying to get through and nobody is moving. Ah, Paris!]

The workday was surprisingly full of projects, but I was also surprisingly efficient. I also did a pretty good job of getting there right at the beginning of my shift, and leaving as soon as my shift ended. I've found that when I stay behind after my hours to do my own work, it tends to be interpreted as "I'm still available." Meh. That's fine, because there are plenty of nice places in Paris to do readings and such. Actually, I've taken to reading De Certeau on the subway ride to work. It's sort of like reading Foucault in prison, or Freud in a nursery, or Derrida in a void.

As I headed out from work, I had plans to hit LCL (Le Credit Lyonnais) to try to open a bank account. Admittedly, I had heard that LCL was not the best bank to deal with in France, but they have a branch one block from the UofC Centre, and they take care of all of the year-long students' accounts, which means that they already know what to do with bank accounts opened by foreigners.

I had actually thought about doing this before work, but I pulled on the door and it was closed. The sign clearly said that it was open Mondays at that hour, but there was no sign of life. After work, I came back, sure that they had just taken an early lunch (which is totally a possible explanation here), only to find a couple of contractors tinkering with the neon sign directly over the entrance. Clearly, it wasn't going to be open, despite their posted hours. An inconvenience? A little. A bad idea for a large and essential business to not observe its posted hours? Definitely. An apologetic word of explanation posted anywhere? Come on, this is Paris.

In the end, the afternoon wasn't a total wash. I went by my bakery and picked up a baguette for tomorrow morning (and, of course, this evening), a few choux pastries (mmm!!) and this thing called a Diplomate. I wish I had taken a picture of the thing, because its looks were SO deceiving. It looked like a GIANT brownie, about 4cm high and as big as my hand, covered with a topping of chocolate chips. So, after eating the choux pastries and feeling only a little bit guilty, I tried the Diplomate. As it turns out, a Diplomate is a french version of the English cabinet pudding, which is essentially a compressed layering of biscuits, bread, custard, and (in this case) coffee flavoring. Although the first bite bland and decidedly un-chocolatey, I kept on taking bites, convinced that the chocolate, promised by the pastry's brown appearance, would eventually materialize. I eventually gave up on the thing with about 3 bites to spare. Keeping in mind the actual size of the pastry and the fact that it was made mostly with custard (i.e., eggs and cream), I also had absolutely no appetite for anything else tonight. If you're reading this, mom, I swear that this is not my daily diet!

I also finally got around to doing laundry today, which made me feel rather productive. However, I managed to lose 3.50€ during the washing in a manner that was SO stupid, I won't even disclose it on this blog (see earlier posts to see how low I normally but the stupid-bar).

dimanche, septembre 24, 2006

Slothy Goodness

If friday and saturday were particularly slothful, sunday was the summit. I did absolutely nothing constructive, not even laundry. It was pretty fucking awesome.

On the other hand, I have developed this strange rash on my forearms (only my forearms?) which I've found a bit puzzling. I've tried to blame it on several things (cheap bedlinens, crappy laundry detergent, etc), but nothing quite explains why I only have it on my forearms. Either way, it's only mildly annoying, so I'm going to give it a few days and see if it goes away. I'm wondering if it's the "new city" rash. I've noticed this always happens to me (and several other people I know) when they move to a completely new city. It's like your body is trying to deal with the unique cocktail of pollution that is your new home. Delicious!