samedi, janvier 20, 2007

My My and Jesse Rose @ the Rex

Yes, this was night #3 of going out and partying. Let me tell you, as much as I like going out and dancing, if this wasn't for my fieldwork, I would've stayed in. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good time all-around.


Well, when you were out 'till 6am the previous morning, "pre-clubbing" reduces to something like this:

  • Sleep in. A lot.
  • Check mail and generally try to avoid the work of writing what you know will be a long blog entry on last night
  • Scrounge for food
  • Finally write the blog entry
  • Shower, shave, change, go out.

Correspondant: My My and Jesse Rose @ the Rex

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NOTE: Clicking on the names of the DJ's in each title heading will take you some of their recordings on Beatport

0h00-2h30: Jennifer Cardini

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Okay, so this Jennifer Cardini was barely recognizable from the one that spun Thursday night. Although her set started out rather downtempo (she was the opener, after all), she eventually moved uptempo to a pretty solid minimal / microhouse set. Although she repeated a few tracks from Thursday, they were all the tracks that I liked, while none of the ones I disliked reappeared in this set. The second half of the set was mostly high-intensity, loud and dense, so the label "microhouse" needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In many ways, it's probably more correct to say "punchy, glitchy tech-house," since her set borrowed the first two adjectives from microhouse, but otherwise played with tech-house intensity.

So, after my last experience at the Rex and my line-up difficulties last night, I decided to get there real early. However, I overestimated my travel time and got there at half past midnight. This is totally the wrong time to be arriving at a Parisian club, but I expected an insane lineup during the 2am rush hour (from the looks of things later, I was right). Anyway, I got in the tiny line outside and was in within a couple of minutes. On the way in, I struck up conversation with an Austrian jeweler and his partner, who wanted to know what kind of music was on that night, but only spoke English (and Austrian German, of course).

I got downstairs and hit coat check, which was also mercifully empty. While there, the woman in the Austrian couple asked permission to get a picture of the Jägermeister sticker that they had on one of the purse-racks. A few minutes later at the bar, she was taking pictures of the Jägermeister dispenser. Clearly they were delighted.

The club was very close to being literally empty. Aside from the bar staff and a group of 9 people that had gotten bottle service, I counted 10 other patrons. I got myself a drink (9€ for a vodka tonic!) and sat down at one of the tables near the dance floor. After a minute or two, this guy with shoulder-length hair and a pink shirt came over looking for a lighter. He invited himself to sit with me and struck up conversation, which started with "I forgot my lighter 'cause I'm so CRAZY tonight!!" He was ... um ... intense. However, it was 0h45, there were barely any people in the bar, and there was no crowd to disappear into, so I made awkward conversation for as long as my drink lasted. By then, I spotted the Austrian couple on the dancefloor, holding their drinks, so I said "I'm gonna take a walk around," and off I went.

After a somewhat forced (but at least non-creepy) conversation with the Austrian couple, I headed over to the bar for another drink. By the time I got back to the dancefloor, there were enough people in the club that I could stand on the dancefloor and not look like a lonely stalker.

2h30-3h30: My My

If Cardini's set was tech-house with microhouse sensibilities, My My's set was on the other side of that fine line (I know I'm splitting hairs here, but bear with me). Their set was definitely microhouse, but with a tech-house sense of intensity: on the one hand, there were the condensation of complex patterns in the mid-to-upper registers, the use of unusual samples as analogs of conventional percussion, and lots of space between layers and between beats--like stretching a wide net of glass beads; but on the other hand, there were a loud and intense 4/4 kick drum that seemed conventionally "techno," and a clustering of low-register basslines and drum kicks. To illustrate my point, I've got three short clips taken from various points in their set. Unfortunately, the bass barely registers, but if you listen through speakers with bass response (or if you fiddle with your EQs) you should get some of it (i.e., don't use your laptop speakers).

By the way, I managed to get a brief glimpse over their shoulder to see that they were running Ableton Live.

During this set, I also ran into N. again, as well as a guy who had hung around a bit with N. the night before, but whom I didn't know personally (never got his name). Although still friendly and affectionate upon greeting, N. wasn't inspired to make spontaneous displays of affection as he had been the night before. By the time we ran into each other, things were so packed that we didn't have many opportunities to chat.

3h00-6h00: Jesse Rose

Rose's set was great, although I didn't stick around for the whole thing. Although he (like so many of the DJs I see here) would probably fall into the category of "minimale" here, I found his set to be a pretty canonic example of tech-house. His tracks included some classic house features that normally don't show up in microhouse, such as disco/soul vocals, along with characteristically techno electronic sounds and driving bass. Here's a quick clip, with the same qualifications I made for the previous clips:

After two previous nights of getting home at 6am, I decided to head in "early" and leave around 4h00 (getting home about 45 mins later). Unfortunately, this meant I had to walk to République and take the night bus rather than the first métro train, but I really needed the sleep.

vendredi, janvier 19, 2007


Boy, am I ever glad I pushed myself to go out tonight. I ran into N. and his crew, made a bunch of contacts, finally got some contact information, and had a bunch of random encounters with people at the bar.

So, I spent the first part of the day sleeping in like crazy. I got up sometime after noon and eventually got myself together (after fixing myself a breakfast of day-old baguette and ham) and headed off to run a couple of errands. After that, I got home and realized that I had a bunch of stuff that I really needed to take care of if I was going to go out that night. I needed to do the insane pile of dishes that had been accumulating in my sink, I needed to put away all the stuff I inherited from Greg, I needed to send out a bunch of administrative emails, and I definitely needed to blog about the night before, lest it slip out of my memory.

All of this took longer than I had expected, and I wasn't heading out my door until 0h45, which meant that I missed the last train out of the station (I forgot that it wasn't Saturday night). I walked up to the stop for the night bus, and saw that one was scheduled to arrive shortly. As I waited, a young Arab (read: North-African) guy came up to the stop and asked me if I knew when the bus was coming. As we checked our watches, we realized that the bus should be here right now. At that moment, an Asian woman approached us and asked if the bus had already passed. I said "I've been here for a few minutes and it hasn't passed, but it should be here by now. I hope it hasn't already passed us, because the next one is in 30 minutes." To which she smiled and said "Insha'Allah" ("If Allah wills it" in Arabic).

Lessizmore @ Nouveau Casino

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0h00-2h00: Pierre

The night bus took me to République, and I had to walk the rest of the way to the club (which was a substantial hike), so I didn't get to the club until well past 1h30. After months of arriving too early to clubs, I was realizing that there may be an upside to arriving early. The line outside had been reduced to a disorganized clot of clubgoers, pushing each other aside and trying to cut ahead while accusing everyone else of the same sins. I stood right behind a rather tall guy who seemed to be capable of defending himself (i.e., shooing off line-cutters) and then pressed close to him whenever he moved forward. Thankfully, the line was packed enough that this contact wasn't taken as some form of inopportune courtship. Two guys were trying to cut ahead of us, speaking to each other in very broken English. Hearing this, the guy in front of me said (in French) "Hey, in France we don't cut in line, it's not civilized." Of course, wasn't the case at all (QED this !@#$ing lineup), but the shaming seemed to work. One of the two guys shifted into perfect French, saying "We're all Frenchmen here." His buddy, however, only spoke Iberian Spanish and a bit of English (very, very badly).

Just as I was approaching the door, a tall, well-dressed black man was turned away at the door (by a black security guard, no less). The man had the half-lidded eyes that suggested he was pretty stoned, but that would hardly be a good reason to refuse admission, considering the condition of the majority of people inside the building. He wasn't given a reason for why he was turned away, the security guy just said "No, you can't come in. It's not possible." Some of the other people at the front of the line started to protest this, although nobody said the word "racism." This moment reminded me of my first visit to this same place, as well as a line in Sarah Thornton's book, Club Cultures (1996), where she notes that racist and classist door policies are often enforced by underclassed racial minorities, often using "quality" of dress as an "alibi" for refusal (p. 113)--which makes the turning-away of this well-dressed man even more odd. On the same page, Thornton also suggests that self-selection is the first technology of crowd-design in clubs, followed by controlled routes of communication (e.g., posting your flyers in specific places and not in others), and finally by door security. In other words, security guards put the "finishing touches" on a club's crowd, taking care of those undesirables who passed the first two filters. It makes sense that there are various layers of filtering and selection before door security, since a refusal at the door puts everyone there in the awkward position of participating in/witnessing the kind of racial/class/sexual violence that normally happens in the "nowhere" of self-selection and channeled communication. And that would be a buzz-kill.

After he left, another rather self-important man pushed through the line, trailing a few other people with him, cellphone to his ear. He told the bouncer that he had a "reserved place," which I suppose means that he had bought bottle service at one of the tables on the upper level of the club. Apparently, this gave him rights to jump ahead of the line, since nobody else seemed to complain about this. However, the bouncer did start to chastise him for talking on his cellphone while addressing him, threatening to refuse him entry if he didn't show more respect; although the man may have been entitled to the table he paid for, he was apparently trying to smuggle in an inappropriately large group of "friends," who risked not getting in if this guy didn't step down. As the guy tried to apologize to the bouncer, I slipped behind his group of "friends" and walked into the bar.

As soon as I got in, I literally ran into a wall of people waiting for the coat check. Indeed, one of the good things about arriving a bit late is that the party is already started and the music is already bumpin', but that also means that you're pretty much there for rush hour. I waited for ages trying to check my coat (I should've worn a !#@$ing sweater), and so I only heard the last 15 minutes of Pierre's set, while clutching my jacket and glaring holes into the back of a pair of girls that were trying to cut in line.

2h00-3h30: Exercise One (live)

Exercise One's set probably falls within the broader European category of "minimal," although I'd qualify that as maximalist-minimal techno. The sort of forward-driving intensity and lack of house-y swing puts the accent on "techno," and the use of sparse textures with high volume and intensity makes the set maximal in certain senses (see my review of Chloé and Magda for a similar discussion). Certainly, this wasn't the same minimal you might hear in Plastikman's early releases or the stuff by Pole. Either way, it was a great set and one I would've loved to dance to, if I didn't spend most of it crushed between people and a wall.

As I made my way towards the front of the room, I came across N., who I had just seen the night before (previously here, here and here). He is again thrilled to bits to see me and I get another pair of "hey buddy" kisses, as if we hadn't seen each other for years. He had L. with him, whom I hadn't seen since September (see last link). After exchanging another set of kisses, L. re-created our conversation from last September, asking me "Remind me of your country of origin?" "Canada." "Ah, great! I love the music coming out of there!" L. introduced me to two other people, C. and A., who apparently work with L. and N. on a record label. After a few moments of jostling around in the crowd, I turned to C. and chatted with him a bit more about the label, eventually getting an invite to their next event and the website for the label. It's called Labelle, which is both a phonetic spelling of how French folks prounounce "label" (they don't use the French marque for record labels) and a reference to a feminine idea of techno (la belle = the beautiful [female] one). Ironically, most of the DJs on the label are male. And speaking of irony, N. kept on spontaneously hugging and kissing me (on the cheek, mind you) throughout the evening, but he was also without doubt the biggest flirt that night, successfully currying the favor and attentions of several girls throughout the evening. At one point in the evening, while N. had his arms wrapped around one girl, L. came by and grabbed his shoulder they kissed on each cheek and then on the lips (point of clarification: N, L, C and A are all guys). It was just a peck, but interesting nonetheless. Within the French norms of social kissing most of this behavior wasn't actually all that ironic; men can kiss their male friends in certain ways and be entirely within the realm of conventional masculinity. If anything, the frequent hugs were more ironic; as I've mentioned before, hugging around here is something sexual partners do.

At some point during this set, I also overheard a couple speaking in English next to me. I leaned in as the boyfriend walked to the bar and said "Hey! Where are you all from?" To which the girlfriend replied with an Irish accent, "Yay! You speak English! Are you American?" "No, Canadian." "OH!" holding her hands up apologetically, "So sorry! No offense, luv." I laughed awkwardly, trying to show that I appreciated her acknowledgment of the difference between the two countries, but didn't necessarily take offense at the confusion. International relations, ahoy!

3h30-6h00: Anja Schneider

I really enjoyed Anja Schneider's set. Her set was squarely within what I would consider microhouse, pushing fine-grained, crackling high-and-mid patterns through punchy grids of house kick drums and hi hats. At some points in the set, her sound migrated towards more straight-ahead minimal techno, and towards the end she even dabbled in Schaffel, which is a style applied to various genres of techno (usually minimal in texture) where the "swing" setting on the sequencers is set so high that the beats appear to be subdivided into 3 instead of 2. In other words, it feels like there's three sub-beats to every beat; if you're familiar with time signatures, it makes 4/4 feel like 12/8 or 6/8.

Towards the end of the evening, as things were beginning to clear out and there was a bit more room at the back of the club, I was taking a break from dancing back there and watching the stage absentmindedly. Suddenly, I feel someone touching my ear and slipping something behind it. A guy that had been standing next to me for the last few minutes was putting a cigarette behind my ear (as a very French gesture of goodwill, I suppose). The cigarette fell out of his hands and to the floor. With shout of surprise, he bent down to pick it up. Trying to smooth it over, I said "It's OK, it's OK! It's still good!" Of course, I was going to chuck it as soon as he got out of line of sight, but I didn't want him to waste another cigarette. Nonetheless, he took the cigarette and said "I'll smoke this one," and then took out a fresh one and put it behind my ear. "You have such small ears!" Um...okay...I've never heard that before. Honestly. Changing the subject, I said, "Thanks for the cigarette!" and then leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek. He smiled and said "No problem! How's your night so far?" "Great! Yours?" "Great! I saw you up front a moment ago..." Pause. "You know, I'm hetero, but...hey! The cigarette's falling again!" He caught the cigarette as it fell and put it back behind my ear, forever depriving me of the end of that sentence. Sensing that he was a bit uneasy, I put my hand on his shoulder and said "That's cool! Thanks nonetheless and have a good night." He smiled and wandered off. Once he was out of sight, I offered my cigarette to a girl near the bar.[ADDENDUM: I can't believe I forgot to mention that this guy kissed me on the forehead after successfully securing the cigarette behind my ear.]

A few minutes later, in the exact same spot, I was dancing as a blonde girl passed in front of me. She caught my eye and smiled and I smiled back. She asked me if I was having fun, and I said yes. Picking up on my accent, she switched to English "Where are you from?" "Canada," I said, answering in French. We chatted for a bit about her visits to Canada as well as what I'm doing in Paris. She kept on inviting me to speak in English, so I eventually got the impression that she wanted to practice her English. We switched to English for the rest of the conversation, as she told me about how she works for a multinational consulting company that organizes clinial drug trials. She was eager to speak in English, so all I had to do was nod occasionally and say "Cool!" or "Oh, neat!" After nearly 10 minutes of discussion about careers and the medical research industry, during which she kept on absentmindedly playing with the collar of her very low neckline, she said "I better find my boyfriend. Pleasure to meet you!" And off she went.

Throughout the encounter, I was reminded again of how I'm glad / not glad to being doing this work as a male. As we chatted, my interlocutor was grabbed and fondled by random strangers 3 times. Each time she glared at them and told them where to stick it, but nonetheless she was subject to a kind of physical sexual aggression that I rarely encounter. Of course, as I've mentioned before in this blog, being male means I get less attention, and that attention can lead to contacts. Although I had great luck that evening talking to people that night (helped by my own determined gregariousness), there have been other nights where I spend the whole night without exchanging more than "excuse me" with anyone.

5h30 rolled around, and I began to make my way to the coat check. It wasn't nearly as busy as it was when I got in, so I got my jacket in a few minutes and headed out the door. The trip home was relatively uneventful. I had thought I should walk to a nearby boulangerie to get some bread to eat the next day, but my usual boulangerie was closed and I was too tired to walk all the way to the next one. So, second night in a row, I head home and crash in my bed.

jeudi, janvier 18, 2007

Greg's D-Day Bash

That's right, it's departure-day for Greg. Actually, tomorrow is the day that he departs, but tonight was the time for celebration and tearful goodbyes. To begin with, Greg organized a dinner for a bunch of us at Le Chateaubriand. Like Unico last week, this restaurant has received recognition on LeFooding, tied with another restaurant for best restaurant (within LeFooding's purview of affordable, tasty and friendly restos).

The food was great (I had crispy scallops with hearts of palm, and baba au rhum with gellied aloe vera for dessert), and the portions were quite right for the night of clubbing that was to follow. The only hiccup was the server, who was trying a bit too hard to be "charming" by being silly and/or sassy. To a table of largely non-francophones, a lot of the wit fell flat, and even the francophones at the table weren't entirely buying his shtick. Part of what made it awkward was that the kind of humor he was trying to perform involved a lot of intense stares (which are particularly charged in France) and appearing rather serious. Anyway, it seemed to work pretty well with his other tables, who all seemed to be regulars that he knew.

After a lovely meal (at which I met several of Greg's friends, whom I look forward to exploiting--erm, consulting), we made our moves. Most of the group dispersed home, alleging responsibilities like jobs and families and such. Feh. One among them decided to stick it out with us until we returned to Greg's placed and helped him finish his store of liquors (mostly Calvados). Good times were had.

By the time we were heading to the club, there were only two: Greg and yours truly. We were heading to Pulp, which describes itself as "a club for girls where boys also like to come" (the double-entendre translates, too). On most nights, Pulp is a lesbian club (note, NOT a bar, which contrasts with the patterns of N. American lesbian nightlife), with primarily lesbian crowds on Fridays and Saturdays, but Thursdays are mixed (both gender and sexuality). Also, Thursdays are no-cover and often host a series of great techno DJs. The result is that they are always packed on Thursdays. Anyways, although this evening out wasn't as research-y as I normally do, here's my usual party review/analysis:

3SOME night @ Pulp

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0h00-2h00: Martin Scharrenbroich

As we arrived to the club, there was a substantial line out front. As the line crossed the sidewalk and curved away from us, we cut across the line to get to the end. As we crossed the line next to a pair of young guys, I heard one of them mutter something that didn't register right away. Once I got to the back of the line, I realized that he had been muttering in my ear "Reste!" which means "Stay!" Essentially, he had been inviting us (although he was speaking in the singular...hmm..) to cut in line with them. Dang! Thankfully, the line moved quickly. Also, we rationalized the missed opportunity to hang out with these guys (who were no longer making eye contact with me) as a good thing for two reasons: 1) Greg had a plane to catch the next day, so now was not a good time to have a negative balance on your karmic credit card; 2) accepting the offer might've implied compensation of the sexual sort in the future, which neither of us found appetizing (hey, just 'cause I'm gay doesn't mean I'll sleep with anything with the right genital configuration).

By the time we got in the club, it was just about 2am, so we only caught the end of this set. Also, we spent a bit of time digging through the crowd to get to the washrooms, which were all the way at the other end. While we were in there, I ran into N. again (previously here and here). When the guard watching the bathrooms saw us kissing (the "hey buddy!" peck on each cheek), he mistook it for something a bit more saucy and yelled at us. We scooted back out onto the dancefloor and I made the proper introductions (as well as giving N. my email, finally). Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I didn't pay much attention to this set until it was nearly over, so I can only generally describe it as electro-y.

2h00-3h00: Gui Boratto

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So, Greg and I had come here thinking that Chloé was spinning that night, but apparently not. Nonetheless, there was this Brazilian guy who was apparently releasing on Kompakt records (a shuffle-house/minimal label out of Cologne, Germany). He did a "live" set that was both live and vinyl-ish. He had a laptop (Mac) hooked up to an M-Audio external audio box, which was in turn connected to MIDI-controller/mixer and a MIDI-controller/FX box. All of this he had connected to a running version of Ableton Live, with the controllers allowing him to control the mixers and the effects in his send channel as if they were solid gear rather than parts of a software program. Anyway, aside from the name of the program, this looked a lot like a "live" set. However, his technique was much more like a vinyl set with a few additions. He kept the banks for channels 1 and 2 in Ableton Live filled with lengthy clips that were in fact entire tracks. He would mix between these two channels as if they were coming from two turntables (i.e., back and forth, linking the end of one track to the beginning of the next one). The rest of the channels had a scattering of clips that were usually no more than one bar (4 beats) long; he would often bring in one or two of these clips, repeating constantly, over the transitions between tracks, to provide some more connective material and smooth over the mixing. Other than that, he also made pretty heavy use of a Send channel that seemed to have a reverb effect on it. In many ways, this set up was a sort-of software version of Richie Hawtin's Decks, FX and 909 setup.

Regardless of the setup, the set itself was pretty good. It was mostly techno, ranging from minimal to noisy, with the occasional moment of tech-house. Towards the end, he did drop a couple of tracks that were a bit more electro, in the sense that they tended to make use of vocals and song structures, as well distorted sounds that referenced rock aesthetics. Greg and I spent most of our time near the front, pinned to a set of guardrails, trying to dance among a packed crowd.

3h00-6h00: Jennifer Cardini

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At this point I still thought that Chloé might be spinning, so I stuck out the rest of the night, even though I wasn't thrilled with this set. Greg had left right after Gui Boratto's set, so I was left to my own devices. Cardini's set was more generally electro, often alternating between the more orthodox "electroclash" tracks (step 1: take song from the 80s; step 2: add the sound of antiquated/distorted electronics; step 3: add 4/4 beat) and minimal techno tracks (many of which I heard when Magda was in town). Anyway, being a bit bored of the music allowed me to circulate around the club and check things out. It's a shame that Pulp will be closing in March (after 10 years of being open), since this place is just the right size to foster an "intimate" crowd. 100-150 people seems to fill the place out entirely, and there was a general sense of "woo! party time!" running through the crowd all night. Interestingly enough, there was this one rather drunk guy (with a buddy that was similarly drunk, but less rowdy) who spent a few minutes yelling loudly and jumping around, trying to get everyone else to follow along. At one point, everybody ignored him and seemed to think of him as an obnoxious boor (especially when he would approach girls while screaming "YEAH!! WOOO!!!"), but 20 minutes later he managed to get about 15 people around him to join him in his exuberance. I'll admit that it was still annoying (to me), but I was interested that his gestures were ignored/rebuffed at one moment, and contagious a bit later.

Also, another guy made eye contact with me, then came over and grabbed my hand. Leaning in, he said "Isn't this music fantastic?" To which I replied, "Well, I sorta preferred the guy that was on before." "Oh, excuse me. I LOVE this." This exchange might seem a bit fresh in English, but in French (and in a French context) this was actually a very friendly conversation. He offered me a sip of his drink (I'm happy to report there were no roofies), and then wandered off with his buddies. I didn't gather that he was probably on E until I saw him as I was leaving. I grabbed his shoulder to say goodbye and thank him again for offering me his drink, and he became very affectionate (in that distracted way that people high on E can be) while chatting to me: "You're leaving?...Well, did you have a good time?...Heading straight to bed, or heading elsewhere?...Oh, well, I'm glad you had a good time...It really does me a lot of good, you know, going out and all....So my name is [Y.]...I know we don't know each other well, but I wish you all the best tonight and in whatever you do...Get home safe and sleep well!...It was a real was your name again?" There's probably an entire dissertation chapter buried in there.

I left the bar at 5h30, certain that Chloé was not going to come on, and then caught the first métro back to my place. With little fanfare, I stripped off my party-stanked clothes and fell into bed.

Know your MTU!

Remember how I was kvetching just two days ago about the weird internet outages I've been having on the home network? As it turns out, it has everything to do with MTUs. MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) is the upper limit of packet size for a particular router / network. When you're sending a file or an image, your data is broken up into size equal to or smaller than your router's MTU. The problem is that your packets have to travel through various routing nodes before it gets to the other side. If your packet is smaller than a router's MTU, that's great; if it's larger, it need to be fragmented and then reassembled at the other end. The problem with packet fragmentation is that it potentially increases overhead (i.e., one packet turns into two or three, each taking as much time to transmit), and the loss of one fragment equals the loss of the entire packet.

So, the problem was that, despite being online and problem-free (allegedly) they offer their ADSL services over France Telecom's phone lines (the old national monopoly), who have been recently having some problems with packet loss. As a result, certain websites don't seem to load, because the packets are fragmenting, and then one or more fragments are getting lost. So, the solution was to manually set the MTU on our network routers to 1400 bytes. Bam. Fixed. I'm not saying there will be no more problems, but just that this particular one is solved. I think.

mercredi, janvier 17, 2007

More food, Ableton Live, and more theatre

So, after a bit of sleeping-in, I headed off to Greg's place to help him pack together stuff that he'll be leaving with me (mostly kitchen stuff, of course). Once everything is packed up (and once I'm done coveting the apartment of the family across the street) we head off to the subway. When we transfer to my line (the #11), we find that the train isn't going anywhere. As the train gets more and more packed with people, and Greg and I are sandwiched between a golden retriever and a couple of talkative locals, we hear the announcement "Following a technical incident, service on the 11 line has been interrupted." No indication of how long it will take, no indication of what alternate modes of transportation are available, no explanation of what they're doing to fix it. In other words, it was just like the last time this happened.

Taking my cue from that previous experience, we eventually got ourselves out of the station and caught a cab. The cab took a bit longer than the métro (it was midday), but at least we got there. Now under a bit of pressure, we dashed upstairs--but not before Greg dumped some crème fraiche all over himself. It was fantastic; in a brief moment, Greg single-handedly inaugurated the "après-spooge" fashion trend. When you start seeing runway models covering themselves in yogurt, you'll know who started it.

Anyway, we made it upstairs, Greg wiped the sweet dairy love off himself, and I got to making the patacones and papas a la huancaína (with help from Greg, of course). Much starch was consumed. I had originally planned on getting a roast chicken from one of the butcher shops nearby, but that went out the window with the massive métro problems earlier on.

I also helped Greg to set up an iMic with the Mac's built-in Core Audio to create an aggregate device. The bonus of this is that certain programs (i.e., Traktor, Ableton Live) don't allow you to spread your inputs or outputs between audio devices. In Traktor, you're pretty much limited to one device, whereas in Ableton Live you can send output and take input with different devices, but all input must come from one device and all output must come from one device. What aggregate devices allow me to do is take two devices and hide them behind an abstracted "umbrella" device through OSX. Then, the operating system presents this abstracted device to audio programs, who treat it as if it were one device. The only real trick to the process is making sure that you know which inputs and outputs correspond to channels 1, 2, 3 and 4 (and more, if you have them).

Anyway, after Greg dashed off to his Portuguese class, I looked continued to play around on my version of Live, beginning to finally re-familiarize myself with the program. I'm still a long way from doing anything remotely productive with it, but I feel a bit more like I practise music and not just write about it (although a part of me hates myself for not respecting the dancing I do every weekend as a form of musical practise).

Afterwards, I headed off toward the Cartoucherie in the Bois de Vincennes to catch a play with a group from the University of Chicago. The play, in the Theatre du Soleil, is entitled Les Éphémères and is directed by Ariane Mnouchkine. Mnouchkine and her troop are obviously well invested in the "A collective a day keeps fascism away," since all of the writing credits are collective and the notes in the program make a point of declaring the script "improvised, dreamed, worked-out" collectively.

As one might guess from the title, the play is a mosaic of vignettes, mostly unrelated to each other, although certain characters seem to reappear (partially because they are played by the same actor), and certain vignettes continue previous vignettes. And, as one might guess from the format, it was pretty hit-or-miss. The opening vignette was this overwrought vaseline-over-the-camera-lens bit about a daughter selling her dead mother's home to a guy who just had a baby, while having these very nostalgic flashbacks about how wonderful her mother was. I don't know who "improvised" that scene, but please work out your issues with your dead mother's gardening some other time. On the other hand, there was a very cute vignette about a transsexual American woman living in Paris who catches a small girl peering through the window at her with her schoolmates. The girl is, of course, curious about this oddly-masculine woman with the deep voice, and a "let's explain trans life" dialogue (monologue, mostly) ensues. What was nice about this vignette was that it was a mixture of funny one-liners, dry humour, and tragic loneliness (for both characters).

Then, there was the clichéd junkie-begs-grandparents-for-money scene, with the young man (dressed in full racaille uniform) pounding on the door and being all "out of control!" while the grandparents weep and look pitiful. It reminded me a lot of the criticisms Dancer in the Dark got for crass manipulation of audience sentiment. Either way, the play left me lukewarm at best, occasionally nauseous with schmaltz and saccharine. As we left, certain people in the UofC group were practically spitting venom about the play (apparently because Mnouchkine is normally known for socialist critique sorts of plays), while others had more tepid readings. But nobody seemed particularly thrilled. On the upside, it was mostly in a very colloquial and banal French, which made it easier for the French students to understand.

The play ran 3+ hours long, so by the time I got home, all I could do was frantically cook up some pasta and then head for bed. Whew!

mardi, janvier 16, 2007

Blogger me no likey

Hi everyone (i.e., my imagined community of people who read this),

I'm having some significant problems connecting to at home, so I'm currently writing up my blog entries by email and then posting them from work. I don't think that this is particularly Blogger's fault, since I'm having similar problems with a few other sites ( for example), and I noticed similar problems on another user's computer on the network at home. Obviously, it's a network thing. I blame our ISP for the home networks, Of course, I've given up all hope of getting help from them: every time I call their help line, I get disconnected AND help lines in this country are decidedly NOT toll-free. It's amazing, but in France most help-line numbers charge fees for the call, as if it were a phone-sex line or something.

Anyway, to make a long story short ("Too late!"), my posts will probably be a bit terse and possibly sparse on the photography until I can get this fixed. Argh! This confirms my conviction that the only good internet connection is a T1 line into a university backbone, or cable internet (which isn't available in Europe, alas).

So, I got up early to prepare for the cleaning staff, and then headed off to the market at Place des Fêtes to pick up some stuff for tomorrow. Greg will be leaving some of his stuff with me and I've offered to make him papas a la huancaína and patacones, so I picked up some red onions, violet potatoes and pink potatoes. I couldn't find a cheesemonger that had the kind of fresh white cheese I needed, but I found it later that day at the Monoprix near my work (I used the Corsican brousse/braccio cheese again).

So I had a reasonably uneventful day at work, finished my grocery shopping on the way home (I bought some plantains and some yucca/cassava/manioc), and got to making the huancaína sauce. This time, I must admit, I went a little overboard preparing the hot peppers. I used three scotch bonnet peppers, but I boiled them three times, which made them barely detectable in the final product. Otherwise, the sauce turned out great, and I came to realize that I need to use nearly twice as much cheese to get the consistency I like (i.e., nearly solid). My next project is to make ocopa and papas con maní. Also, I eventually want to try my hand at making causa, which is a sort of cold preparation of spiced mashed potatoes and various fillings. (Sorry, most of these don't have descriptions on the net and most english-language recipes I found were heretical, but here's a Wikipedia entry with brief descriptions.)

Aside from that, my night was pretty uneventful. I spent an ungodly amount of time trying to figure out what was wrong with my connection to Blogger and, but otherwise I just cooked and cooked.

Oh, by the way: I found this very nice mural on the side of a building at the corner of rue de Belleville and rue Haxo. How is it that I hadn't noticed this before? (click for larger image)

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lundi, janvier 15, 2007

Argh! Internet hell

The day got off to such a lovely start. I got up roughly on time, got ready for work with plenty of time to spare, and took a relaxing ride to work on the bus (i.e., it was low tide on public transport). At work, I had enough requests for support that I felt like I was actually working, but at the same time all the problems were simple enough that I wasn't stressed and I spent a lot of time playing with Google's Beta content hosting system. It's called--imaginatively--Google Apps for Your Domain (NOTE: you need a Gmail account to use this service; email me if you want a Gmail invite).

The service sets up (and hosts on Google's servers) site administration, calendars, email, chat, and web content. The last part was particularly interesting, since Google is trying to offer it's editor-in-your-browser approach to web-publishing. I tested the system on one of my domains,, which had previously been aliased to (which was itself merely parked with a "coming soon" flash animation). The idea is fantastic, and I can't wait to see it fully tricked out, but at the moment the service is rather limited. In the interest in making it noob-friendly, Google restricts a lot of what you can do. For example, you have to choose style templates that are pretty similar to Blogger's templates. The difference is that you can go in and hack Blogger's templates in HTML if you wish, whereas this service doesn't give you the option. And I haven't even tried to figure out how you would go about embedding flash or rolling AJAX. In short, it's a great idea but I'll probably end up building my homepage myself at some point (hopefully soon). By the way, I also have reserved. =]

And then I got home. All three wireless networks were down, which I came to realize just as I had started doing my laundry. So there I was, frantically trying to fix three networks, check on my laundry every 29 minutes, check in with my boss on the phone, reassure the students that their lives weren't coming to an end. The highlight of the evening was when a group of students stood near my open door and said loudly to each other, "This fucking sucks that I can't get on the internet." "Yeah, this is bullshit." "Yeah, these networks are such a pain in the ass." Nothing like passive-aggressive crap to inspire me to permanently disable all the WiFi equipment with a blunt object. Were it not that I would've lost internet access as well, I would've considered it.

Anyway, the networks weren't just being glitchy this time. All three of them went down simultaneously, with alarmingly strange error messages. All of them were failing their CHAP authentication (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol), which had never happened before. I tried everything in my power to make them work for about 3 hours, and then, magically, everything was back online. Well, it wasn't perfectly online, but the networks started giving me the sort of errors that I'm used to and that I can fix.

As I was fixing the last of the networks, crouched in the hallway next to the room where the router was with my laptop, night security guard came by, doing his rounds. As we were chatting, he mentioned that several other non-UofC students from the building came to his desk and complained about service outages for both ADSL internet and phone service. Apparently, there was some sort of physical breakdown with the communications wiring in the building, because someone from France Telecom came by that evening just before our networks went back up. Now I know who to yell at the next time this happens.

Anyway, that was my evening shot. I finished my laundry, cleaned my place a bit, made rotini bolognese (forgive me if I don't post the recipe), and then headed to bed. Oh, and I watched Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (legally bought from iTunes, thank you) and was pleasantly surprised. I don't know that it's a great movie on it's own, but it's pleasant if you've read the books. In fact, I really want to re-read the whole series now.

dimanche, janvier 14, 2007

The Day that Never Was

Which is a very dramatic way of saying "I was a shut-in today."

I was actually really, really productive today. I did a TON of blogging and reading and web research, but I didn't leave my room. I can't say I regret it. The only thing I regret is not buying a baguette or something like that yesterday, so I didn't have to whip up more food today.

Speaking of which, here are (finally) those pictures of the Black Ethiopian tomatoes that I bought at the market at Télégraphe a week ago. I've included a "red" onion, just to make it clear that the folks responsible for classifying vegetables by colour need to get their eyes checked: