vendredi, septembre 21, 2007

Wake Up! : Pheek live

I had a busy day leading up to the party. First a student org meeting, then a few hours of library work, then a department dinner/reception, then a birthday gathering at the pub nearby. Nonetheless, after a good afternoon/evening of socializing, I was still up for a night of techno. I drove back to my place, changed into something more dance-y, and then off I went to Sonotheque, for another night of fun.

?h??-0h00: Antiphase vs. Kiddo

Unfortunately, my previous engagements that evening prevented me from catching anything but the last few beats of their back2back set (a.k.a. "ping-pong" in France), so I don't have much to report about their set, except that I liked the last track they were playing. However, I do have this cute pic of Kiddo peering over the edge of the DJ booth. Sorry the picture wasn't crisper!

0h00-1h30: Pheek live

Pheek's set was great, although the video clips don't show it very well. Something about the accoustics in that club make the crowd louder than the music to my camera's mic. That never happened when I recorded video in Paris, so I'm not entirely sure what's going on with that. Nonetheless, I did get a 2-minute long segment of the very beginning of his set, which was mostly static-y pads and high-end twiddling, finally brought into motion by beats around the end of the clip. Also, the third clip captures a few moments of one of the video projections that appeared a few times during the night. There's something about the classical indian dancer (is that kathak? bharatanatyam?) in a pixelated, iridescent silhouette that I find mesmerizing. And the occasional jump-cut and reversal adds a nice stuttering effect.

Anyway, Pheek's set was nice, crisp minimal techno with moments of looser microhouse. Generally, his emphasis was on fine and intricate patterns in the high-end, with punchy but relatively mellow bass beats and a rather thin mid-range. Check out the video clips for a sample, despite the poor sound quality. This was also a pretty tough show for my camera and pictures, partially due to the DJ booth of reflective glass, and partially thanks to the fact that I had left the ISO really high and the shutter too slow. One day, I'll get a hot SLR camera that allows me to take good quality pictures without flash. Someday. That's what research budgets are for.

1h30-2h00: DJ Sassmouth

Just like last time at Sonotheque on a Thursday, Sassmouth's set was wonderful, but far too short. Sam managed to throw down a few good techno tracks that skirted the line between heavy classic techno and crystalline, crackling minimal. Half an hour later, the bar manager was making the "kill it!" sign with his hands and turning up the lights.

Thankfully, I was able to snap a bunch of great shots of Sam (and some video) before the night was over. The first one was actually a botched, fuzzy picture, but I like smooth luminescence of the photo.

mardi, septembre 04, 2007

Longing for Boulangeries

Setting: In the Flourish Bakery on Bryn Mawr

Bakery Clerk: Hi, can I help you?

Luis: Hi, how fresh are those baguettes?

BK: They're fresh.

LMGM: Um, OK. I'll take one. And one of the cupcakes with green frosting.

BK: That'll be $3.00

LMGM: Really?! Jeez. By the way, do you guys bake an afternoon batch?

BK: Huh?

LMGM: Do you bake bread more than once a day? In the afternoon, so that you have fresh bread for dinner?

BK: We bake our bread fresh everyday.

LMGM: *silence*

BK: Actually, we bake it the night before, so that it's fresh every morning.

LMGM: *sigh*

vendredi, juillet 20, 2007

Wake Up! : John Tejada, Sassmouth, Kate Simko, and Matthew Martin

Well, I'm blogging about this literally two months later (summer happened, as did moving and painting and life), so I don't have a detailed memory of the event. However, I do have a few good pictures and bits of video, along with some fragments of memories. The first memory I had, actually, was finding this poster on a window a few blocks down from the club, as I was parking the car:

click to enlarge

If you can't quite read the fine print (click on the image for a bigger image in a new window), it lists several famous thinkers, writers, composers, artists, and then declares "People with Mental Illnesses Enrich our Lives." Neat. I like the approach that doesn't just exhort people to tolerate the mentally ill (which is an euphemism for "put up with"), but to in fact appreciate the contributions some of them make to their society. Admittedly, the guy standing on the corner of Sheridan and Foster strumming a de-tuned bright-red guitar and shouting random words may not be out generation's Schubert. On the other hand, he might just be an experimental performance artist; the two categories blend more than you think.

23h00-0h00: DJ Sassmouth

After getting past the doors (no lineup! no bagcheck!), I did the rounds and caught up with a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in a long while. I had already gone out the week before, but not everyone was out at that event, so this was in some ways the real "I have arrived" party. It was great to catch up with everybody, chat about music, hear apocryphal stories about the parties I missed, and take a few pictures. I got to the club early enough to catch most of Sam a.k.a. Sassmouth's set, which was just the sort of techno pounding I had been hoping for. Alas, I was standing in the middle of a very loud crowd when I took this video, so a lot of the sound in this clip is drowned out.

Well, leaving aside that video clip, I at least have some great pictures of DJ Sassmouth:

0h00-1h30: John Tejada live

John Tejada's set was GREAT. His sound somehow balanced between microhouse (i.e., minimal and glitch-inspired house) and punchy Detroit Techno without ever really sliding into the ascetic minimal techno that was hot in Paris last year. What was surprising about this is that, if all three of these genres were mapped onto some sort of continuum or plane, I would imagine minimal techno lying in between microhouse and classic techno—and yet Tejada somehow navigated around it (check out the video clips below).

The set was (as advertised) an all-hardware live set. For those who are not conversant in the terminology of dance music scenes, "live" sets are DJ performances that don't primarily involve mixing vinyl. Up until the late 90s, this always meant a performance with "gear": sequencers, effects boxes, samplers, drum machines and the like. Sometime in the late 90s (concurrent with the rise of glitch and click-pop), it became increasingly common to see live sets performed from laptops. At first, these DJs were simply using the same gear in software form, but eventually programs were designed that allowed laptop users to do things that were difficult (if not impossible) to do on "gear" (a good example of this would be Ableton Live). At the same time, mixing programs like Traktor, Serato Scratch and Final Scratch gave DJs the ability to perform canonic vinyl-style sets (i.e., tracks chained together rather than short loops and samples stacked and tweaked) using their laptops. All of this blurred the line between the traditional "vinyl" set and the "live" set. The alternative label "laptop set" is sometimes used to distinguish between a set performed on software and one performed on hardware, but the usage is too inconsistent to really preserve "live" as a term exclusive to "gear" performances. All of this comes down to proof of work, really. When a DJ does a laptop set, there is very little tangible, visible evidence of her work; all you see is the back of a laptop screen, the performer staring intently at it. When it's a "gear" performance, the artist has a bank of impressive looking knobs, switches, lights and dials—all of which she can manipulate in a way that seems physical, kinetic and transparent. Sure, there could have been the same amount of work put into preparing both sets, but appearances count when you're trying to sell tickets, and "gear" performances are still valued above laptop sets as "special" events.

Anyway, this is just a long way of saying that I took several pictures of John Tejada and his gear setup. Part of this is because I like to have a pic of the DJ, but part of this was also to document the impressive array of technology Tejada had before him. Even if you're not an expert in music technology (e.g., a gearwhore), you can still look at the blinking lights and innumerable knobs and be impressed by his ability to master these technological beasts.

At some point during the set, I was chatting with a friend, R., and he said something very interesting. I'm paraphrasing two months after the fact, but here is the gist of it:

I like going to events where I know some of my crew will attend. That way, you can be pretty certain that you'll fit in--or at least that you won't be excluded. I still like to go out and meet new people, talk to strangers and such, but nobody wants to be excluded.

I had just been reading some essays by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick about shame and rejection, so this sort of struck me right between the eyes. Everything R. said is pretty obvious and unremarkable, but it was a really succinct summary of how and why socializing in nightclubs works the way it does. Certainly, an important part of why we go out is the "you never know" effect: maybe you'll meet someone new and have a moment of closeness and connection. However, the risk is that you might not meet anyone or find your attempts and friendly interaction rejected, ignored or maybe even ridiculed. The quest for intimacy is one that travels between pleasurable possibilities and ego-bruising risks, and ensuring the presence of friends at these events can function as insurance against those risks. Sure, an important goal of going out is to expand your social network and make new friends, but bringing along your existing social network helps smooth things out.

01h30-2h00?: Kate Simko

I don't recall exactly when the bar manager told Kate to cut the music, but it felt too soon. I was still running on the Parisian party schedule, which started at midnight and ran till 6am at the earliest, so I felt like we were just getting started. Nonetheless, Kate's set was great, rounding out the evening and providing a slightly lower-intensity conclusion to the whole thing. Alas, my batteries were running low by then, so I only have one fuzzy picture to show for it. Sorry, Kate!

lundi, juillet 16, 2007

ApartmentWatch: Pictures!

Finally! Pictures of my new apartment. I've put them all together on a Flickr photostream here, but I'm mirroring them here as well for those who are too lazy to click on the link. I spent most of the day cleaning up around the apartment and starting to put away the kitchen stuff that I had kept in storage with a friend while I was away. Aside from that, I went to a drag show tonight that involved a Wisonsinite hausfrau baking pies.

These first few pictures are of the living room. While I'm totally unimpressed with the mirrored doors on the closet, the space is huge and the gothic arched portals are very amusing.

And here's the dining room, along with a view out of its window. I'm planning to convert this room into a sort of library, with dark smoking room walls...

And check out my kitchen! It's a galley kitchen, so there isn't much space to move, but there's plenty of counter space (3 workspaces!) and there's a GAS STOVE. This is a huge improvement over the kitchens I've been working with for the last three years.

Bathroom! A little less exciting, I admit.

And the Bedroom. Notice the amazing built-in cabinetry on the far wall. It is AWESOME.

And I can't forget the lobby. The folks here clearly put a lot of work into making the entrance of this building impressive.

samedi, juillet 14, 2007

Dim Sum and Housewarmings


After getting home around 7am, I slept until 10am and then got myself together for dim sum with Lauren and Peter. After a cold shower and a change of clothes, I headed out to pick up the other two and make our way to Shui-Wah restaurant in Chinatown.

At first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to muster much of an appetite or any substantial conversation, but by the time we walked into the restaurant and I got a whiff of the steamed dumplings and buns, I was ravenous. And by the time I got some warm congee into me, I was chatting up a storm. We ate until we simply couldn't anymore, and then settled the bill and lurched our way back to my car.

Lauren and Peter still had a bit of time before they needed to start preparing for their housewarming party, so we drove up to my new apartment to take a quick tour. I also took the opportunity to take some pictures of the apartment before I started painting, which I'll post on this blog tomorrow (hopefully). The drive to Uptown went rather quickly, but Lakeshore Drive was a mess southbound, so we cut across Fullerton and took the 90-94 to the 55 to the souther portion of LSD. The jury is still out as to whether it actually saved time, but either way, we arrived in Hyde Park a much later than we had hoped. I dropped P&L at their place to start preparing their party, and I headed back to Steve's place (where I'm currently crashing) to get a bit of work done.

I spent some time getting a start to changing my mailing address with banks and preparing some mango-jalapeño salsa for Lauren and Peter's party. By the time I got over to their place that afternoon, the party was already well in swing. Lauren & Peter had prepared a fantastic spread of delicious and (mostly) healthy party foods, and all the guests came along with their own offerings, so there was a fair bit of food to absorb all the wine and beer I drank there. My offerings (aside from the mango salsa) included a couple of bottles of fancypants French wine, which seemed like an appropriate thing to bring, considering where I've been for the last year.

By about midnight, all the partying of the night before finally caught up with me, and I hitched a ride with Andrew M. and headed back to Steve's place to crash for the night. Yay! For whatever reason, this particular party really made me feel that I had arrived in Chicago again. It will hopefully help motivate me during the endless painting I'm going to be doing soon...

Back in the scene

Friday night, after a long day of unpacking kitchen stuff and admiring my new apartment, I got a call from M., a friend in the techno scene here in Chicago. Apparently, there was an event going on at a nightclub downtown, followed by someone's birthday party as an afterparty. I had made plans to celebrate my return to down with drink's at Jimmy's in Hyde Park with the U of C crowd that night, but I didn't expect it to last much past midnight, so I thought I could do both.

I headed down to Hyde Park with my friend Scott in tow and we met up with Shayna and Andy G. for some beer at Jimmy's. A few other people made appearances, including Travis, Greg and Melissa, and I eventually made my way back out around half past midnight, heading off to the club. The event was in the basement of Vision nightclub in River North; Vision is not exactly my favourite club--it's one of those mega-clubs that tend to cater to a meat-market crowd with trance and progressive house as the soundtrack--but this event was in a separate space ("The Lair"), and organized by folks that I knew from the Naughty Bad Fun Collective.

After dropping off Scott at a train line and getting some cash from an ATM, I spied M. crossing the street as I was searching for parking. After stopping traffic to say hi to him and his crew, I finally and miraculously found a parking spot only a couple of blocks away from the club and headed over. At the door, the bouncer asked for my ID as the doorwoman asked me if I was on the list. I said, "Well, I'm here for Nadia's party..." and the doorwoman said, "Oh, then go right in and take the spiral staircase downstairs."

I walked down a hallway and came to another woman at a cash register, who took my cover charge ($8; I still had to pay) and waved me in. I got a drink from the bar and looked around at a nearly empty club with some rather unexciting music coming from a stage that was "decorated" with a flashing construction roadblock. Hmmm, not what I expected.

A few minutes later, I remembered that the doorwoman had told me to go down a set of stairs, so I spotted a discreet spiral staircase and headed down. Immediately, the scene changed to a busy but small room with a DJ setup in the corner and some good, pounding techno. Apparently, the entire Volatl DJ roster was in attendance to spin for Nadia's birthday event. This makes sense, as Nadia is pretty much the founder and manager of Volatl Talent Management.

I immediately caught up with M., as well as several other friends and acquaintances from the Chicago scene. It was really nice to be back, and it was great to see so many familiar faces and get caught up on what they had all been up to. One particularly interesting aspect of this experience was how it was facilitated by the NBFC's forum / message board. While in Paris, I had been posting occasional stuff in the forums to keep people apprised of what I was doing and to share photos and party reviews. When I got back to Chicago, I immediately posted a message to the board saying that I was back in town. Within a day or so, several people had added me on MySpace, many more had sent me their cell numbers or asked for mine, I had a list of upcoming events that I was invited to attend, and I was helping a couple DJs make connections with promoters I knew in Paris. So when I arrived at this event tonight, several people knew I was coming and were eager to say hi, give me hugs, and chat with me about Paris. In other words, the experience of intimacy tonight was augmented and channelled by the actions we took on social networking sites in the days and weeks before. Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, I'm sure, but interesting nonetheless. M. would never have called me to come out tonight if I hadn't been posting on NBFC, and few of the people in attendance would've known that I would be there (or perhaps even remembered me).

Anyway, I ran into R., a good friend and Sassmouth's boyfriend, and we spent a good part of the evening chatting. By 3am, the club was closing and the bouncers were hustling us to the doors. After my time in Paris, it was really weird to be kicked out of a club that early. In Paris, the headliner would be just coming on at this point.

From there, a bunch of us headed to M.'s place to hang out while Nadia and her crew headed over to her place to put set up the afterparty. At around 5am, we put together a car caravan and headed over to her place in Humboldt Park. Nadia has this AMAZING loft space in a desanctified church, with vaulted ceilings and long church windows. She had an incredible sound system and food and drinks for everyone, and things were just getting started when we arrived at 6am. Alas, I had a date for dim sum with two friends the next day at 11am, so I headed out shortly thereafter to get some rest.

Getting home at 7am, it felt a little bit like Paris all over again...

vendredi, juillet 13, 2007

Apartment Update: Yay!

Well, after a great deal of phone-tag, I finally got a call from someone at Horizon Realty Group yesterday. As it turns out, the person that I had been trying to call was the wrong person, so the receptionist had given me the wrong contact information. In addition, the receptionist had also been wasting my time by telling me that basic cable wasn't included. Apparently, if she had just transferred me to an actual agent rather than try to answer my question herself, I would've signed that lease on Tuesday and saved myself a lot of time.

Anyway, the result was that basic cable is included in the rent, but it doesn't appear explicitly in the lease because the lease is a general one they use for all their properties. Part of the confusion was that they would be shifting to a no-cable lease by Oct 1, but that would not affect me (although it might when/if I renew the lease next year). The agent (Mary), gave me a verbal contract that the cable would be included, and so I started calling Apartment People to make arrangements to sign my lease.

Today I finally got a hold of someone in the processing department and drove up to Lakeview to sign my lease. After signing the thing and paying the security deposit and getting the keys (yay!), I drove straight up to the new apartment. I went upstairs, opened the windows, and took a moment to put my hands on my hips and survey my domain. I was almost tempted to pee in a corner and declare the place mine!!

Anyway, from there I spent some time exploring the building (I have a freight elevator! And a workout room!) and then headed back down to Hyde Park to pick up a bunch of stuff from my friend Tim's apartment. After loading my car with a TON of stuff I had left in his storage space (mostly kitchen stuff), I headed back uptown and unloaded it into my apartment. From there, I spent easily 3 hours meticulously measuring the apartment, accounting for every nook and cranny so that I could plan out where I could put furniture. More pressingly, I need to have an idea of the surface area of the walls so that I can start buying paint.

Well, I won't have a chance to scan and upload the hand-made blueprint I made today, but here's a layout I found on the Horizon Realty Group website:

[If you go to the actual website for this floor plan, you can click on the little red camera symbols to get pictures from the unit.]

The plan is actually for a different unit, so you have to imagine this plan flipped right-to-left. Essentially, my bedroom is to the right of the entrance, and my living room / kitchen / etc. is to the left. Also, the measurements aren't precisely accurate (the living room is more 17' by 10'), but it's a good indicator. Also, here's the presentation page of my building, in case you want to see a few pictures, including the front of the building:

And you can find some photos of the interior of the building here.

jeudi, juillet 12, 2007

Chicago Apartment Update: Hiccup

So this morning I got up and headed off to the Working Bikes Co-Op to shop for a "new" bike. I say "new," because Working Bikes specializes in taking landfill-bound bikes and refurbishing them. So, for $45 I got a bad-ass vintage Schwinn road bike with a basket and STREAMERS. Did you hear that? STREAMERS.

Anyway, after buying my AWESOMETASTIC bike, I spent a good half hour trying to stuff it into my tiny Saturn. Finally, I borrowed a wrench from the store and took off the front wheel, which made it possible to cram it in there. While I was testing the bikes, I had received a call from Apartment People saying that they had my lease ready to sign, so I headed over to their offices.

Well, actually, I first made a detour to the Italian lemon ice stand on Taylor Street, near Racine. That place is AWESOME. They make this fantastic italian-style ice that is made from real lemons, not too much sugar, and slices of lemons. It was something I really needed after nearly sweating 1 litre of water getting my bike into my car in the blazing sun.

Anyway, I made it to the agency's office and started to look over the lease, only to find a discrepancy between the apartment's initial listing and the terms of the lease. According to the listing, basic cable was included in the rent--which was a good thing, considering that neither heat nor electricity was included. I got the number for the property management agency (Horizon Property) and gave them a call, only to get a receptionist that was dead sure that they never pay for cable. When I pointed out that it was included in the listing that they published, all she had to say was "Sorry." Well thanks.

So I said that I had taken the cable into account when I considered the price of the rent, and the receptionist gave me the number of the person (Mark) who manages that specific building. Of course, he was off today, so I have to wait until tomorrow to find out if this man is going to honour the word of their lease. If there is no way that they are going to pay for cable, they at least need to reduce the rental rate for the monthly cost of basic cable.

From there, I left the lease uncompleted, voided the charge they made on my credit card for the security deposit, and headed home. Ironically, I'm less disturbed about the possibility of paying for cable, and more about the possibility that my future landlords might be lying sleazeballs. Of course, they still have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow when I call this Mark guy, so we shall see. But if he's a prick, I think I'm going to re-start my apartment search.

I knew it was too good to be true.

mardi, juillet 10, 2007

My Chicago Policy

Before leaving Paris, many people asked me what I was going to do with this blog. After all, it's called "Luis in Paris," and I'm not currently in Paris. On the other hand, I'll be back there in September of 2008 at the latest, so there's some good reason to keeping this blog going.

As you might guess from the last couple of posts and the new "Chicago" label, I've decided to continue posting, even if I'm not currently in Paris. However, unlike in Paris, I'll only be posting from time to time, mostly when something amusing or important happens to me. Most importantly, I'm going to try to continue blogging about my evenings out at EDM events and research-related stuff, since this blog has become a really useful aide-mémoire for my research. Also, when people asked me if I was going to keep blogging, they were often really asking about these "club reviews." Furthermore, why not give my French friends a chance to read about Chicago club nights? Considering they've been the subject of my scrutiny for the past year, it only seems fair.

Nonetheless, I'm not going to change the name or domain of this blog, since it's already well-established as "Luis in Paris." So you'll just have to imagine "...and Chicago" for the time being.

samedi, juillet 07, 2007

French Bureaucracy: How to close a bank account

OK, while I'm no longer in Paris, I had an amusing/frustrating experience closing my bank account in France that probably merits a blog post. And all the more so because of my encounter with Chicago bureaucracy on Thursday.


Random Receptionist: Can I help you?

Me: Yes, I'd like to close my bank account.

RR: Alright, then, you'll have to make an appointment.

Me: Really? To close my account? I can't just do it?

RR: No. You'll have to make an appointment with the consultant that has been assigned to your bank account.

Me: I don't even know who that is.

RR: We'll have to look it up then.

Me: When is your earliest availability?

RR: Your consultant is available Friday morning at 9am.

Me: Don't you have anything later in the day? I have my departure party the night before.

RR: No.

Me: But what about all that empty space on the calendar? It looks like he's available around 3pm as well.

RR: (sigh) I suppose so. 3pm it is. Here's your appointment card.

[At this point, she takes a blank index card with the bank's logo and writes "Friday, June 29th at 15h00" in longhand. Because apparently I'm too retarded to remember a meeting time.]

Friday, 3pm

Me: Hi, I'm here to close my bank account.

M. Khellaf: Ah yes, you must be Monsieur Garcia. Please sit down. (pause) So you want to close your bank account?

Me: Um, yes.

K.: And your reason for closing the account?

Me: I'm leaving France.

K.: For good?

Me: Yes.

K.: Will you be returning to France later?

Me: No.

K.: Will you be keeping another bank account?

Me: No.

K.: Will you still have an address in France?

Me: No. I'm leaving France. To North America. Forever.

K.: Oh, I see. Well, you'll need to remove all the funds before I close it. Here, take your bank card and walk to the ATM around the corner and take out all your money. You have 446€, so take out 440€ from the machine.

Me: Really? Um, OK...

[5 minutes later...]

Me: So, it all came out in 10€ bills. All 440€'s worth.

K.: Oh, I suppose that they haven't restocked the ATM machines yet. Sorry about that.

Me: So can you exchange these for larger bills?

K.: Nope. We don't have cash here.

Me: Really?

K.: Yes.

Me: No cash?

K.: No.

Me: At a bank?

K.: Well, some branches keep a cash teller, but most do not.

Me: Oh.

K.: So your bank account is closed.

Me: And the remaining 6€?

K.: Well, as I said, we don't have a cash teller here, so we can't give you the 6€. And 4€ of that will go towards bank fees for this transaction. If you had another account in France we could wire the remaining money to your other account. We could always wire the money to an international bank account...

Me: Yes?

K.: ...but there is a 16€ fee.

Me: Oh.


Me:'ll be keeping my remaining money?

K.: Yes.

Me: Oh. Well...I guess I'm done here.

K.: Thank you very much for coming. Have a lovely day.

Me: Thank y...well, um...goodbye.

vendredi, juillet 06, 2007

Apartment-Hunting for SpeedFreaks

After driving uptown to one of the Emissions Testing facilities (see yesterday's post for that)--and my car passed--I headed over to the Lakeview offices of an apartment-finding agency called Apartment People. I had heard of this agency through friends who swore by it, so I decided to give it a try. The concept is simple: this agency helps you search through their own listings of apartments, helps you pick out 4 or 5 potential apartments, shows you all of these apartments, and then helps you fill out the paperwork for the apartment of your choice. Rather than charge a commission, they take your first month's rent as their payment, which they take from the landlord, who pays for the service of having his/her apartment filled ASAP.

So I headed into their offices and filled out a form, with my basic contact information, my price range, and my preferences for location and amenities. I hadn't made an appointment in advance, so I left them my cell phone number and headed off for lunch while they tried to find me a spot during the day to take me. One of the only downsides of this whole experience was the wait. I walked up and down Broadway, had lunch at Melrose's Restaurant, and wandered back to the offices without any news from them. It was almost two whole hours before I got a call from someone. By then, I was waiting in their lobby, so I headed right upstairs and met one of their representatives.

This guy sat me down at a cubicle/desk in a large room that appeared to be a sort of shared office, asked me for clarifications about my price range and neighborhoods, and then walked off. A few minutes later, a woman came by and introduced herself as Lisa, my apartment-finding expert.

She used the computer sitting on the desk to start a series of rapid-fire searches in their database of available apartments. As she quizzed me on my likes and dislikes, deal-breakers and daily routine, she brought up listings and showed them to me. What was really useful about this whole encounter was that she seemed to know a lot of these buildings already and/or knew the property management company, so she would pipe in with "This building has a huge courtyard," or "These guys keep the place in great shape," or even "They're putting in new hardwood floors next month."

After picking out 4 or 5 potential places, she went to the "key room" to get keys for the buildings. Yes, you read that right. Apartment People has an arrangement with these landlords that they give them a copy of keys to the apartment once the apartment has become vacant. Since almost all of the apartments I was looking at were already vacant and available to move in right away, she was able to take me directly into each apartment building, without having to wait for the landlord / superintendent to let us in and show us around.

As we were zipping all around the Uptown and Wrigleyville area, Lisa chatted with me about food and nightlife and other such stuff. As it turns out, she knew of a fancy imported cheese store down the street from her offices, so once we were done looking at all the apartments, we stopped in there to buy a few cheeses. I was thrilled to discover that you CAN get raw milk cheese in Illinois, but only if it has been aged more than 60 days. This means that many of the soft, creamy and smelly cheeses aren't available with raw milk, but many of the harder ones like comté, tomme de chèvre and manchego were all available. Yay!

I had a pretty easy time deciding on apartments, since one of them was less expensive, better-located and better-maintained than all the others. There's even built-in cabinetry in the bedroom! I won't have to buy a dresser, after all. We got back to the offices and Lisa went off to get the paperwork for my application to rent the apartment. After a few minutes of filling out paperwork and getting everything ready, I paid the first month's rent (in the form of a commission to Apartment People) and headed home. Later that night, I faxed a bunch of my paystubs and scholarship stuff to them so that they could include it in my application.

Cross your fingers! I really liked the place that I decided on, so I'm waiting for the results with baited breath. If I get it, I'll take a bunch of pictures of the interior and post them on here for everyone to see. I have all sorts of plans for painting!

P.S. I went on (and consumer rating site) and noticed that there are a slew of negative reviews for Apartment People. From the descriptions and narratives being left on there, it sounds like I lucked out with the only honest broker in the building. Here's hoping the rest of the deal goes through well!

Hot Parking Action in Chicago

Driving around Chicago today, I've been re-encountering the problem of finding parking in this city. On the one hand, nearly every street has street parking available, even downtown. On the other hand, there is a byzantine set of rules as to when and where you can and can't park, which makes parking a sort of chess game and blood sport at the same time.

I recall, during my first two years in Chicago, how I coveted the parking spot directly in front of my apartment building. It was on a busy street, so I usually had to park 2 or 3 blocks away.

I coveted a good parking spot so much, I eventually started using sexual terminology to discuss it, which produced conversations such as this one between me and my friend Erika:

"Do you see that spot right in front of my building? That is a hot spot."

"Ooooh, yeah! That spot is fucking sexy."

"That spot is a HOT SLUT."

This, my friends, is what we have come to in Chicago. Please send parking.

jeudi, juillet 05, 2007

Welcome back to Chicago, bitch

Ah yes, Chicago saved it's warmest welcome for me this morning.

When I got up and headed out to my car in the morning to check on it, there was a ticket for having expired plates (my car had been in Canada all year and I had been in Paris, so I hadn't been able to renew the sticker). In the time it took me to walk down 53rd street for some toiletries and such, there was another ticket waiting for me. That's already $100 in tickets. And the best part about it was that the two tickets were only hours apart and for the same violation. In other words, a certain police officer saw the ticket already stuck on my passenger side window, wrote an identical one, and pasted it ON TOP of the previous one. Thanks, guys. The first one was justified, but the second one was just malicious.

You know, I realize now that there are differences between the bureaucracy I witnessed in Paris, and the bureaucracy that exists in Chicago. In Paris, everything is done in triplicate, you have to make an appointment for tasks that would normally be a drop-in service elsewhere, you need a piece of stamped and laminated paper for nearly everything, every organization you pass through from housing to work to play demands a set of mug-shot photos that they will turn into yet another ID card. Paris has turned bureaucracy into a fine art. Chicago, on the other hand, has a layer of red tape that is less thick and sometimes faster, but it is malicious. Paris's bureaucracy seems to strive toward some ideal of Perfect Efficiency and Organization, while Chicago just wants to hurt you. Paris is ubiquitous and surveillant, while Chicago is arbitrary and punitive.

Needless to say, I immediately headed off to the nearest DMV and got in line to renew my plates. God knows how many thousands of dollars in tickets they would've given me if I left my car there a minute longer.

And then, to top it off, I had another round in the City of Chicago Citizen Sodomizer when I got back from dinner with Tim and Erin. Tim had been receiving my mail for the past month or so, and he also had all of the mail that Erika had been collecting for me during the year. Among the mail that had just recently arrived was a letter from the Secretary of State, declaring that my vehicle registration would be suspended as of July 24th, because I had failed to take an emissions test. During the 2006 X-mas break, I had actually sent in a form that should've allowed me to delay my emissions test, since I was out of the country and my vehicle was also not in Chicago. Apparently, that didn't go through. Anyway, I clearly need to take care of that emissions test tomorrow...

mercredi, juillet 04, 2007

Chicago and the 4th of July

I didn't get out of London at quite the time that I had hoped. I had worked out at Carla's gym on Monday and overdid it; while my muscles weren't all that fatigued, my kidneys were apparently rather unhappy with the extra work with the byproducts of fat burning. So I spent some time feeling feverish and a bit delirious, and my this morning I was mostly recovered but still rather tired and in pain. I slowly loaded my car and packed up my stuff, and by approx 11h30, I was ready to hit the road.

The drive was pretty uneventful, and the last of the symptoms from my renal overload dissipated over time, but things were delayed for almost an hour at the border. You see, there is this document (an I-94) that foreigners with student visas must fill out and get processed at their port of entry into the United States. Technically, you're supposed to surrender this document when you leave the states, and get a new one the next time you arrive. Canadians have enjoyed an exemption from this practise, since we cross the Canada-US border far more frequently than folks from other parts of the world. However, if you travel beyond Canada, even if you're Canadian, you have to give up your I-94 and get a new one upon returning.

All of this adds up to me having to pull over and get my I-94 at the Sarnia/Port Huron border (since I had been in France). While the folks in the immigration processing centre were mostly quite nice and helpful, today was apparently Complicated Immigration day, because there were easily 15 people in front of me, and they each had a complicated immigration issue that required a great deal of time to resolve. So it took me more than an hour to get a little white stub stapled into my passport. Hooray.

I arrived in Chicago around 18h30, rolling down the streets of Hyde Park and over to Steve and (previously) Peter's place. Peter had moved out a few days before, and I'm sub-letting his room while I find my own place. There was a 4th of July BBQ going on at their place, so I unloaded my crap quickly into Peter's old room, said hello to Steve's cat, and then headed back out onto the deck and grabbed a beer.

By about 21h00, Greg and his Very Special Friend (sorry, I forgot her name) decided to head out to the point (Promontory Point) to watch the fireworks over Navy Pier. Feeling in the mood to celebrate my return to Chicago, I tagged along with them. We found a choice spot on some rocks looking to Navy Pier, and then amused ourselves by making fun of the ghetto-ass fireworks that the people around us were trying to set off. It's a wonder that nobody lost a hand in the process. If you bought your fireworks at Wal-Mart, don't be surprised when it fizzles for a while and then sets a bush on fire.

Anyway, the "official" fireworks were lovely and we had a nice walk back through Hyde Park, but I was beginning to feel the fatigue from a day of driving. I stayed up with Steve and Greg and a few other folks, but I eventually gave in around 1h00 and headed to bed. Despite being tired, I'm really excited to be back in Chicago.

samedi, juin 30, 2007

From the airport

Ok, I only have 3 minutes of WiFi left to write this, so it's going to be very concise. I made it to the airport Charles de Gaulle OK and managed to check in, despite getting in the wrong line at first.  I passed through a duty-free shop that had all sorts of wines and cheeses and foie gras and paté, but I made the wise decision of leaving the bad-for-you stuff in France for now.  I'll be back anyway. Now I have about 20 hours of travel ahead of me.  Paris-Chicago, then Chicago-Toronto, then Toronto-London, Ontario.  It's gonna be AWESOME. LUV, LMGM

mardi, juin 26, 2007

You know you're Parisian when...

I've clearly been in Paris for a while, because today I was on my way from Pigalle to Bastille, taking the 12 line, and I decided to take 8 line instead of the 1 line to connect to Bastille, despite being roughly the same number of stops, because the 8 platform at Bastille is closer to the north-east exit of rue de la Roquette.

When you have memorized the layout of the subterranean warrens that are the main métro stations here, you've clearly been here for a while.

vendredi, juin 22, 2007

WE #2: Triple R, Franck Valat, and Be My Chose

[So, my mom is still in town and I've been still hanging out with her, so I'm continuing my practice from last week and not blogging about her visit. Things were a lot more relaxing when I didn't have to stumble home after every evening out to blog about it. Anyway, one thing that IS worth mentioning is that my mom, DJ and I all went out to La Gueuze for beer and mussels, and I ordered a beer that apparently was supposed to be served flambé. The took a huge stem-and-bowl glass and covered the interior of the glass with liquor, then lit it on fire and poured a bottle of rather sweet Ayinger beer over top. It was pretty amusing, although not all that tasty.]

0h00-2h00: Franck Valat

It was show-and-tell night for me and DJ. The idea was that I would take DJ out to a dance club night to show him my "workplace," and DJ would take me out to a jazz club to show me his scene as well. There seemed to be no better opportunity than tonight, as the evening was organized by the good folks of La Petite Maison Electronique, it was two days after my birthday (June 20th; send me presents!), and it was probably the last opportunity I would have to go out before I return to Chicago.

We ended up running a bit late (my fault), so we arrived at the club just under the 1h00 deadline. This got me in on the list, and got DJ in at a reduced rate (8€). As I was waiting for DJ to pay at the door and chatting with Nathan, the bouncer next to me said something to me that ended with the word "vestiaire." OK, I thought, I'll check my jacket. When I came back downstairs and tried to get into the club, it quickly became clear that what the bouncer wanted was for me to check my bag. I was frankly surprised, since I've been in La Scène several times now without having any difficulty entering with my bag.

I was pretty miffed about having to check my bag; my camera is a bit too large for a pocket, the combination of my cellphone, wallet, coin purse, keys and transit pass are too bulky to stick in my jeans, and my bag has useful things like pens and papers--which are sort of essential when you're trying to make connections with people. Anyway, as I was muttering testily about this while preparing to check my bag, the coat check guy pointed out that, if I was supposed to be taking photos of the event, I should be allowed to bring in my bag. "You need to ask to the left and to the right," he said, implying that I need to pull some strings.

So off I went to find someone I knew. Thankfully, Fantô was still at the front door helping with the guest list, so I grabbed her and told her that my photo-video-blogging coverage of the event was in jeopardy. Immediately she said we needed to talk to the owner, Bruno B. He happened to be standing right next to us, so we stepped over and Fantô explained the situation to him. Bruno recognized me from previous events and quickly agreed. Bruno walked over to talk to the bouncer and tell him I'm all right, while I thanked Fantô profusely. A moment later, we were finally in the main room.

DJ and I made the rounds of the room, which was still pretty empty (it was only 1h00 after all), and then settled on one of the banquettes to chat and comment on the surroundings. It was a lot of fun having DJ around, as he would notice things that I took for granted, or ask for definitions and explanations of things that I had never thought to work out. Even a simple question like "Is this considered a big club?" elicited a long and interesting response.

I actually don't have a great deal to say about Frank Valat's set. His tracks were generally quite good, but very low-intensity and difficult to engage with. He was properly fulfilling his role as a warm-up DJ, so his choice of pleasant but unobtrusive tracks created a sort of background. There wasn't a direction or feel of trajectory to the whole set; it was as if he was simply linking together an un-ordered set of records to kill time until the headliner came on. Having said that, the mixing was mostly fine and I was never inspired to complain about the overall sound of the tracks.

2h00-4h00: Triple R

I was in mid-conversation with someone when I noticed that the overall sound of the music had shifted. I looked up, and realized that a Triple R had come on. It was rather odd for a headliner to start his set without some sort of fanfare. Often, there is a pause between sets as one DJ takes over from another. Even when the following DJ mixes directly into the set of the previous one, there is often some relatively dramatic manipulation of texture and/or volume to articulate the switch. Either way, a signal is usually made to the crowd. And the crowd can usually be counted on to alert each other through cheering and clapping. At least a few people close to the stage would notice the change in DJs, and both applaud the previous DJ and cheer the next one. In this case, instead, Triple R just quietly took over the turntables.

Some of the quiet shift may have been due to the technical issues he seemed to be having. At first there were some routing problems with the mixer, and later it seemed that the pre-cue channels weren't working properly. Either way, he may have been avoiding drawing attention to his arrival until the technical difficulties had been resolved.

I don't know whether the issues were fully resolved, but Triple R's mixing was a lot rougher than I remembered from the time I saw him in Chicago a year or two ago. There were two undeniable trainwrecks in the set, but they were pretty clearly technology-related. For the rest of the set, however, transitions between sets tended to be either short and abrupt, or long and increasingly out of sync. All in all, it sounded like he was having a hell of a time beatmatching.

That much said, his selection was great. All of the tracks that he played I really enjoyed, and there were a few that I thought were amazing. To use an expression that Anatoly passed on to me a few months ago, good selection and bad mixing is tolerable, but bad selection and good mixing is intolerable (insupportable). Despite the technical issues, the music was great.

As DJ would later point out that night, this is sort of situation where, in jazz circles, you would say "Great set! That didn't swing at all." In other words, the musical/sonic content was there at some level, but the "feel" that is associated with the style is absent.

Also, among the pictures and videos below, check out the second and third videos. The video artist working for tonight's event had several rather interesting loops of video that he used. The first of the two was a rapid and rhythmic flow of faces, apparently chosen to be as broad and diverse as possible. I couldn't help but assume that this was resonant with the title of the soirée ("WE"), and the ideal of the eclectic, mixed crowd. The second video loop seemed to involve some sort of mash-up with Twitter, the "what are you doing right now?" website. I thought the videos were interesting, and I especially enjoyed the twitter mash-up, which had had this mix of intimacy and voyeurism that I will probably have to write a paper about sometime.

4h00-6h00: Be My Chose

Well, Nathan and Fantô have just been getting better and better, ever since I first saw them spin. Much like their performance at the first WE event, their set was well-chosen and well-paced. Be my chose managed to "work" the crowd in a way that the previous DJs had not been able to do.

I think the most important thing they did differently was that they created more points of articulation within the set. They played with the EQ's, cut and dropped the bass, used filters and effects, and generally did their best to create moments of departure and arrival that helped to engage the crowd. These punctual moments of arrival both entrained the crowd and synchronized it, both manipulation and prompting.

Regardless of the precise mechanics and causality, Be My Chose very clearly got the crowd moving. Although the club was never packed during the night, the dancefloor filled out quite nicely during their set, and the crowd danced and cheered with great enthusiasm. Considering their set started at 4h00, I was pretty impressed with the reaction they were getting. Admittedly, I did run into one person that night who found the changes in texture and intensity to be excessive and ultimately static. But aside from her, everyone I spoke to was really impressed with their set.

Just before 5h30, DJ was getting tired and I had managed to give myself a vicious stitch in my side, so we decided to start heading home. I did the rounds and said my goodbyes, we reclaimed our jackets, and then we headed off to the métro. The métro was the usual mix of odd creatures that one finds at 5h30 on a Saturday morning, which provided us with enough entertainment to stay awake until our stop. From there, we dragged ourselves through the hallways of our building, past those !@#$ morning people who were all getting ready to !@#$ing productive and chipper and sunny, and collapsed into bed. (In the interest of DJ's flawless reputation, we collapsed into separate beds.)

vendredi, juin 15, 2007

With Love, from Nantes

So, I managed to collect my mother at the airport the next day, go down to Le Mans to meet our friends there, have lunch, and then head off to Nantes. Nantes has been great so far, but I won't be blogging for it because I'm on vacation, dammit.

On the other hand, Blogger now has a Draft option that allows you to test new features, and of course I'm totally on board. Currently, they have a new video-posting capacity that is in the testing stages, which I'm going to test out right here. Yay, new gadgets! I'm a total gearwhore, sometimes.

Hmm. On preview, I see that this video-posting thing is convenient, but loses some of the utility of YouTube posting. I can't tag the video sample with useful keywords, nor can I add metadata about the time and place of the recording. But I suppose those are features that can be added later....

Blogging from Widget

Hi!  Apparently, Google has created a Mac OSX Dashboard widget for Blogger, which allows you to write blog posts from your Dashboard.  I'm writing this post on that same widget.  It's pretty neat, you can post to any of several blogs or save as draft and you can make use of bold and italic typfaces, BUT you can't edit the HTML tags directly nor add links and such.  Limited, but I suppose useful when you want to make a quick post.

mardi, juin 12, 2007

Day, Compressed

My mother's arriving tomorrow. I'll be in Nantes for the rest of the week. I'm moving back to Chicago one week after my Mom leaves Paris. My apartment is a cluttered mess of crap that previous students have dumped on me. I've mailed home all of my books, but I still have a shitload of stuff to put into two suitcases. I have a pile of household goods that I want to hold on to until the last minute, but need to be passed on before I leave. Also, I'm the child of immigrant parents, so throwing anything away violates all sorts of deep-seated rules; therefore, I must find a way to re-use, store, or gift everything that I can't take with me.

These were all things that were on my mind today, along with the usual go-to-work and OMG-I-have-a-thesis-proposal-to-write stresses. So, my day was spent mostly panicking about these things and trying to be as productive as possible, while also getting ready for my mother's visit. I know I won't be very productive while she's in town (which is to be expected when entertaining visitors), but I only have 7 days between her departure and mine. So, yes, a bit of hyperventilating. C'est normale.

lundi, juin 11, 2007


My day was busy but rather straightforward. I headed out before work to drop off more boxes of books at the post office (almost done!), then to work to take care of several projects. From there, back home and leftovers for dinner. Yay!

However, what I want to talk about today is something I found last week, called SelfKiss. First, a sample:

Selfkiss is a photography project by Pupsam, a studio run by David Puel and Thomas Libé. The idea, put simply, is to create photographs that explore the possibility of kissing oneself. Some of the pictures are sort of funny and cute--like the older guy, Hilton, holding himself in the pouring rain as if he were in an old-fashioned melodrama--others are a bit creepy, and others are rather sexy (or sometimes, creepy-sexy). Mind you, none of these pictures go beyond a kiss, although my favourite one is rather sexually intense (warning: man booty!). From the main page of Pupsam site project, you can click on a link to get a slideshow (diaporama) of all the photos they've taken so far.

Anyway, I find the whole thing vastly interesting. Like most things bizarre, I found Selfkiss on MetaFilter, where there was a lengthy comment thread about the topic. The person who posted the link asked whether the other readers would want to kiss themselves, and the responses and reactions were rather interesting. Some people found this photo series frankly sexy, some people found it profoundly disturbing. Some people loved the idea of kissing themselves and occasionally went so far as to express interest in "selfsex" as well, while others were completely horrified by the idea. Ultimately, for me, it's both uncanny and sexy, and that's what makes it so fascinating. Also, certain pictures are just amusing novelties, while others are far more compelling to me.

By the way, here's a translation of the explanatory text from the main page, for those of you who don't speak French:

The marvelous thing about a photo is that it captures a look, a gesture, an instant, a fleeting reality from which emotion springs. However, what is presented here does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist. But this technique puts us there, in front, like a tightrope walker on his rope, in an unstable balance between I believe it and I don't believe it.

These instants were invented by Pupsam. And yet, indeed, this is a record of real events (reportage), since long searches and deep internal journeys were necessary to arrive here:

Starting from one consenting individual, imagine together his encounter with himself (not another, but his double), to create a couple that will embrace each other, then trace their posture, the spark in their eyes, and finally the abandon to the other that is me, to make visible the impossible kiss, monstrously shameless. And so? moments that are desired, dreamed, hidden at the bottom of us, denied... taboo! Perhaps the fleeting reality from which trouble springs.

Louis Samaria

I've also noted that when the page was first posted on MetaFilter, the slideshow was a series of php-enabled pages that served the images with a simple previous/next button on the bottom corner. This allowed you to link directly to specific images, and therefore also to copy and download the images if you want to. A week later, I'm preparing to write a blog entry about it, and I find that the introductory photograph on the main page has been removed, and the slideshow has been converted to a Flash movie. The Flash format makes it very difficult to extract images, and it's impossible to directly link to it or "hotlink" (insert images in your own webpage that are actually references to the original image source, which adds unexpected bandwidth to the original image provider's server). Also, now every page on the Flash movie has a bunch of text in the corner that says "All rights reserved" and then the Pupsam company info.

While I can understand the desire to prevent hotlinking and clarify ownership of the images, I think that making the images impossible to download or link to is kind of silly. The images are small thumbnails of what are probably very large and detailed images, and all of the internet word-of-mouth advertising that they've enjoyed in the past few days has been largely thanks to the previous ability to take a sample image and post it elsewhere on the web. Either way, I would totally pose for one of these (but maybe not naked, thank you).