samedi, mars 03, 2007

Happy People Only: Be My Chose, Bruno B., Nick-L

at La Scène Bastille

0h00-1h30: Nick-L

Alas, I didn't actually see much of Nick-L's set. In fact, I only caught the last couple of tracks as I was heading to the coat check. You see, I perfectly timed my arrival that night, getting there when the club had already begun to fill, but before it was packed. Fantomette from Be My Chose put me on her list that night, so I arrived at 1h30 ready to walk past the line and loudly declare my privilege. There wasn't much of a line outside (I give credit to the bouncers for not artificially creating a line outside by making people wait arbitrarily), so instead I just approached the door person / host for the evening, who was apparently trying to mess with me.

"Hi, I'm on Clothilde's list."

"I'm sorry, she's not here tonight."


"Just kidding! What's your name?"

"I should be there under Garcia

"Nope, no Garcia."

"How about Luis?"

", wait. Here you says you'll have one companion."

"Yeah, he couldn't make it tonight."

"Well, I'm afraid you can't come in, then."


"Kidding! Have a nice night."

I've only been here two times, but I swear this club has the most jovial doorstaff. In most clubs, they conduct the guestlist process with the seriousness of border guards--which, considering my experiences last night, is not an insignificant comparison.

Anyway, I missed pretty much the entirety of Nick-L's set, although what I heard from the the folks who had been there was very positive. His DJ moniker when pronounced with a French accent, is a homomym for "nickel," which has the same literal meaning as in English, but also means something like "neat" or "cool." This is one of those expressions that seems a bit odd to a linguistic outsider. From an English-speaker's perspective, it might seem odd to use a word to express approval that seems to suggest "Hey! This is just like nickel, a metal which is shiny like silver but is disappointingly not as valuable!" Nonetheless, the word makes perfect sense in French. Languages are fun, eh?

1h30-3h30: Bruno B.

Bruno is apparently the manager of La Scène Bastille, although he is clearly a capable DJ as well. His set ranged pretty broadly, running from progressive house through electro to techno. Although he had a couple of moments of uncertainty during the early part of his set (beatmatching, scratching), things smoothed out quickly and the rest of the set was really great.

I'm particularly proud of some of the pictures I took, which, like last night, merit their own little photo-essay:

OK, of this one I am less proud. It's got the haze that is a result of digital noise combined with smoke machines, but it gives pretty good detail of Bruno himself.

This one I particularly like. This used a flash with standard exposure (ISO 400), but a long shutter (1/2 second), which picked up a lot of colour and also some luminous motion blur that really creates a feel of activity.
This one was taken with the same settings as the last one, but I got a bit more digital noise and my hand jittered a bit. Nonetheless, I like how the stage lighting shows up in the background.

Although the picture is rather grainy and Bruno is barely visible, I included this pic because Nathan appears to be eyeing Bruno's back with suspicion; considering Nathan's cheerful disposition (see below), I find this little moment absurdly amusing.

Of course, I didn't fail to get a bit of video of Bruno as well...

3h30-6h00: Be My Chose

The duo of Fantomette and Nathan H. put on a great show, spinning a set that started of in the more lush and thick-textured areas of electro and tech-house, and made its way into minimal-aesthetics/maximal-intensity microhouse (sorry, I tend to over-use that term). Although both their set and that of Bruno B.'s could fall under the rather broad category of "minimale" here in Paris, Be My Chose's set was certainly closer to the more restrictive North American meaning of the term. They played a harder and longer set than last time, running until nearly 6h00; it's a testament to how much I liked the set that I stayed right until they turned on the lights and kicked us out.

When I say that they put on a show, I also mean it in the more literal sense. Nathan in particular is the unofficial cheerleader of the duo: pumping his fists in the air; smiling broadly or wincing with that "I can feel it, it's so good!" face; dancing around the stage when he's not mixing; hugging and kissing his friends that gather near the stage. This was pointed out to me when one of Nathan's friends--let's call her J.--jokingly taunted Nathan, yelling, "Enough fooling around! Get back to work and earn your pay!" She then turned to me, laughing, and said, "That boy doesn't stop socializing!" Indeed, Nathan is quite the social butterfly, and--considering the French norms about touch and body space--remarkably affectionate. Even before the set started, he spent most of the night criss-crossing the dancefloor, hugging and kissing everyone he knew.

So, I guess what all of that does for my own project is remind me that performers can have a substantial impact on the feel of an evening and the currents of intimacy and affect in the room--not only by the music they play, but also by the way they behave and interact with their audience. I suppose none of this is particularly shocking; popular music scholars from the late 70s were underlining the importance of performer-audience rapport, but most scholarship has tended to underline the many-to-one relationships between the performer and individual fans, rather than among fans as a group or crowd. This makes me want to inaugurate a new category of intimacy, oblique intimacy, as a way of describing how bearing witness to the display of intimacy in one set of people (i.e., performer--audience member[s]) can engender intimacy among another set (i.e., clubbers). Mind you, I'm reluctant to start creating new terms...but I'm really fond of the word "oblique."

So, I had originally planned to take TONS of pictures and videos of Be My Chose, since they were delighted with the coverage I gave them last time, but near-disaster struck right at the beginning of their set. As I raised my camera to take a video clip, a dancer in front of me swung her arm up and knocked the camera out of my hand. She was too distracted/drunk/high to notice and I was too freaked out to bother her about it. I looked down at the dark sea of stomping feet and realized that I had only a few minutes to save my camera. After a few panicked moments, I found that it had landed underneath the lip of the stage, so I picked it back up and dusted it off. The camera's zoom lenses were jammed! I tried turning the camera on and off several times, but the mechanism wouldn't budge. Getting desperate, I grasped the lenses with one hand and wiggled them clockwise and counter-clockwise, only to feel something loosen and slip into place. A moment later, the lenses finally retracted into the camera and closed. All that was left was a scuff mark on the preview screen.

After a moment, I re-opened the camera and started taking another video clip, but the camera suddenly turned off. Panicking, I turned it back on, only to see a blinking light telling me that the batteries were dead. It's weird, only a moment ago the batteries were fine (not full, but not giving me a warning) and now, after a sudden impact, the camera couldn't function for more than a second. The result was a series of 1-second video clips that were sort of hilarious in their uselessness. I didn't post them here, but you can find them on YouTube if you go to my channel; everything from Part 1 to Part 4 are these short clips. I could still take pictures, although if I used flash the camera would shut off after saving the picture. I tried every trick I could think of--switching the batteries, warming them in my hand, shaking them, licking the ends--but nothing produced substantial results. Finally, I just left the batteries alone for about 30 minutes and found that I could take about 30 seconds of video before the camera cut off. So, the result is a long series of photos and two rather short clips.

Also, I need to start carrying batteries with me.

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At one point later in the evening, J. pointed out to me this guy that was clearly completely "lost" in the music and his own internal experiences. With his eyes closed (which I tend to do a lot myself), he swayed around, made large sweeping gestures with his arms and hands and seemed to be completely immersed in sensation.

"I love that sort of thing," said J., "you're a little bit défoncé [smashed, plowed, high] and you're having all these feelings that nobody else is having and you're totally lost in yourself and the music and the experience and it's awesome!" Smiling at him while clutching my hand and forearm and and pulling me closer, "I just love to see that. It really makes me happy [me fait plaisir].

To me, this seems like another situation where I could employ my notion of oblique intimacy. Here we were, watching this guy from a distance, but J. was imaginatively projecting herself and her own memories into his experience while acknowledging its incommensurateness. At the same time, this play of imagination and memory/nostalgia gave her a certain sort of pleasure that also brought about some form of intimacy. On the one hand, she expressed a form of distance-but-identity with the guy we were watching--a sense of having intimate knowledge of his experience while understanding its alterity; on the other hand, she was clutching my hand enthusiastically, effusively, almost wistfully sharing these feelings with me. Again, one form of intimacy begets another.

At the same time, what J. was describing was only half of the story. This "lost" man actually went through cycles, emerging from his immersion to make eye contact with the people around him, make brief comments to his neighbours about the quality of the music, display his particular style of dancing and trying to generally interact with the people around him. As I had suggested a few weeks ago, making eye contact and initiating interaction with those around you at these events are also inaugural moments in intimacy; we ask the people around us: "Are you feeling this, too?" In many ways, he was a bit awkward and overenthusiastic, but everybody around him seemed to appreciate it and encourage him. At that moment, I realized that this was the first bona fide "geek" I had seen at a Parisian event since...well...I don't even remember.

vendredi, mars 02, 2007

Party's under the Bridge! Elegangz vs. Tigersushi Party


Well, my daytime activities were almost exclusively work-related, so I'll keep them out of the picture, although I'll mention that I later went out with Tommy and DJ to a Canadian "theme" bar called The Beaver (actually owned by an Australian, I think) for some beer and poutine. Ah, poutine. I think they used shredded cheese rather than cheese curds, but it was still tasty and heartattack-inducing.

BIGFIGHT: Elegangz vs. Tigersushi at Le Showcase

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0h00-1h30: Random Nameless DJ

Well, that's not his actual DJ moniker, but I was far less interested in what he was spinning (low-intensity "background" house) and much more focused on playing with my camera settings, checking out this massive space, and--most of all--actually getting in. You see, I had learned two things from my friend S. (who I was meeting there) earlier that night:

  1. Entrance was free (i.e., hordes of people)
  2. Guestlist people got in first (i.e., potentially endless wait for non-listed)

Now, this was a problem because I hadn't put myself on the guestlist. This meant that, if I wanted to get in at a reasonable time, I would have to start lining up around midnight. Conveniently, my beer-and-poutine date with Tommy and DJ ended around 23h30, so I just hopped on the métro and headed over to the club. The place is actually beneath one of the older and more ornate bridges that crosses the Seine, the Alexander III Bridge. You follow a set of steps down toward the quays that run at the level of the river. Right where the steel arch of the bridge meets the stony banks of the Seine, there's this huge club. All of it runs underground, held up but a double-row of stone arches that create three galleries in total (some pictures below).

I made it down to the quay around 0h15 and saw two massive lines. Although one was for "invited" guests (i.e., those who were on the guestlist), both lines were the same length. This worried me a bit, but both lines seemed to be moving rather quickly. However, what I quickly realized as I was getting to the door was that my line (the non-invited, so to speak) were being turned away almost as often as let in. It seems like the club here was practising a bit of "crowd control." That mix of selection and self-selection that makes the composition a club's crowd seem "spontaneous" was really visible from my perspective.

  • All girls get in, along with whoever is in their party--as long as the overall composition of the party is more female than male.
  • I didn't see any women get turned away for failing to "look" the part, but, then again, there were no women in line who didn't already look the part.
  • Groups of guys without female accompaniment will get turned away--unless they're REALLY hot / well-dressed.
  • If you know one of the organizers, this trumps everything and you jump the line.
  • I didn't see anyone get turned away due to their ethnicity, but, then again, I didn't see many ethnic minorities in the line, and those that were there were mainly light-skinned (i.e., Maghrebin) and doing their best to look generically European and affluent.
  • In particular, none of the urbanwear popular among youth from the banlieues (strongly underpriviledged suburbs, often filled with failed housing projects) was anywhere to be seen, let alone rejected.
  • Reasons for rejection are rarely if ever made clear. The answer is "no" and you'll just accept it and move on.

Mind you, much if not all of this applies to other clubs and bars in Paris, so this is nothing particularly shocking. Nonetheless, the long lineup and the clear view of the woman performing the crowd control allowed me to watch it at work in a more intense way. I would hear her say, "How many in your group?" then look them all up and down, and then say yes or no. Interestingly enough, no one really argued when they were turned away. They just nodded and walked out of the line, discussing their "plan B" with each other as they headed away.

I was a bit worried myself, because I was male, coming alone, not on the guestlist, with gauged piercings in my ears, wearing a biker-style leather jacket and loose-fitting jeans. Even more worrying, the two guys in front of me were turned away, despite looking quite good and being well-dressed. Hoping that queer guys might be the exception and also hoping that I broadcasted my queerness enough to exploit it, I smiled and announced that I was the only person in my party. She looked me up and down impassively, paused at my shoes (black nikes) and then gestured towards the doors of the club. Trying not to sound relieved, I thanked her and headed inside.

I began to wait in a gargantuan line for the coat check, only to have someone from the club tap me on the shoulder and say "There's a coatcheck inside the main room, too. The line is shorter." Grateful that he had just saved probably 30 minutes of my life, I headed into the club and checked my coat. From then on until the end of the DJ's set, I was pretty oblivious to the music. I mostly ran around snapping pictures of the immense locale and observing the crowd. Nobody was dancing; instead, a large crowd of people were milling about, buying drinks at the bar, watching the video displays against the interior wall, and waiting expectantly at a stage near the back that seemed prepared for a rock band. I spent a lot of time fiddling with my settings while taking these pictures, so this is an excellent opportunity for a photo-essay on the challenges of taking pictures in nightclubs.

No Flash, ISO 1600, Shutter 1/10s, Aperture f2.8: This is my standard high-sensitivity setting without flash. Note the great colour from the lighting, but poor detail and motion blur.

Flash, ISO 400, 1/30, f2.8: This is the same pre-set but with flash. The flash washes out the lighting and combines with the high ISO to create a lot of digital noise, which makes the picture hazy. Great detail in the foreground, though.

Flash, ISO 100, 1/30, f2.8: Same as above, but with a much lower exposure setting. This gets rid of the digital noise and provides excellent foreground detail, but everything else is dark.

No Flash, ISO 400, 1/2, f2.8: Normal exposure with no flash, compensated by a REALLY slow shutter. The result is more luminous and a more realistic representation of the "feel" of the place, but detail is crap and blurry.

No Flash, ISO 1600, 1/8, f2.8: Similar to the first high-sensitivity setting, but with a slightly slower shutter. A very steady hand and a largely stable crowd minimized blur, but detail is still low.

Flash, ISO 400, 1/30, f2.8: Virtually the same as the second picture, with similarly hazy results. Used here as a point of comparison with the next picture of the same spot

Slow Flash, ISO 200, 1, f2.8: Bingo! Although this isn't perfect, I really like this setting. This uses a relatively low exposure sensitivity, with a flash to get the detail and a super-long shutter to get the light.

Oh, and although this doesn't have much to do with the preceding photographs, here's a picture of the view through the windows, onto the quay, and through the iron arches of the bridge into the Seine river.

1h30-2h30: Poni Hoax

I was at the far end of the club when I suddenly noticed that the music had shifted from house to rock and the main areas of the club seemed to have thinned out. Following the sound, I suddenly found that the stage area that I had passed earlier was now occupied by a band. This was Poni Hoax, a band signed on to the Tigersushi label. Although I actually rather enjoyed their set, I couldn't help but imagine their press kit saying something like: "Do you like LCD Soundsystem? Great! Now, what if they sang in French?"

2h30-??: Joakim (Bouaziz)

Although Joakim is apparently the head honcho and founder of Tigersushi, I have to admit that I wasn't blown away by his set. The set started off rather slow, but showed some potential of going somewhere:

However, even when the tracks picked up speed and intensity, I kept on waiting for that feeling of arrival that would signal that his set had finally begun. For a headlining, prime-time act, I was expecting something a bit more...I dunno...strong. Either way, I felt that the big moment would arrive any time, but never did.

All in all, the set was good, danceable electro, but I never got the feeling that it was going anywhere. At about 3am, S. and his girlfriend decided to head home, and I followed suit about 30 minutes later. Normally I would've stayed until the métro re-opened (5h30), but I had to work a bit more the next day with Tommy, and I didn't want to be all cracked-out from an endless night of partying. However, this did mean that I spent more than an hour finding the nearest night bus, taking it to Châtelet, then taking my usual night bus back to my place. Still, it's cheaper than a taxi!

jeudi, mars 01, 2007

DJ and Luis eat more stuff

So, the majority of my daytime activity was at work, working with Tommy on the disk images for the new iMac lab we're in the process of installing. So, rather than comment on that, allow me to focus on the more pleasant part of the day: DJ and Luis eating more stuff.

You see, DJ had a rather rough day at l'Université de Paris VII, where he spent a great deal of time bouncing from office to office, trying to find out where his money went. Also, he had to deal with LCL (Le Crédit Lyonnais, one of the largest French banks), so it was suck-tastic all around. Since I was totally in the mood to eat out, I told DJ I was going to take him to dinner. All he had to do was go home and wait for my call.

With that, I started calling l'Ourcine. As you might've noticed, I'm quite fond of the place, having visited already three times before. I called and was a bit startled to hear a male voice; previously, the front-of-house portion of the restaurant was run by three women. In the interest of gender-equality, I wanted to not be disappointed, but his manner over the phone was distant and cold. Also, he told me that the only table available was at 19h00, which gave me a little more than an hour to go home, meet DJ, and head over to the restaurant.

In the end, I didn't even make it home. I met DJ at the métro station near our places and then headed right back out to the restaurant. The unfortunate result of that was my somewhat informal attire, but I've noticed that l'Ourcine seems to observe a rather "bistro" dress code, so I think it was all right. 19h00 is far too early in the evening for dinner here (especially dinner reservations), which was partially why we were able to get a table on the same day. I think we were the second group of people to arrive and be seated.

Alas, "the new guy" on the waitstaff lacked all the charm of the all-girl team--and when I say "charm," I don't mean "boobs," since I'm all gay and stuff. Rather, he had mastered that very french affect, which is not neutral but polyvalent and unsettling, implying at least one of three moods: 1) "I couldn't care less about you." 2) "I loathe you but am too polite to show it overtly." 3) "I find you quaint and amusing and whatever other condescending adjectives I can think of." None of that said "Welcome to L'Ourcine!"

Anyway, aside from my disappointment with that guy (there were still 2 other women on staff who I remembered from my previous visits--they just didn't serve us), the meal was great as usual. I seemed to hit home runs on all of my choices, while DJ started strong and declined in later innings (this is me channeling DJ's sports metaphors). I started out with a plate of ravioli stuffed with poached hen, topped with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms and a mousse-like butter emulsion. Although I would've appreciated the meat in the ravioli stuffing ground or shredded or chopped finely, the dish itself was great and the real star were the chanterelle mushrooms. DJ's entrée was a remoulade (mayo-based salad) of bulots (whelks, sea-snails) with curry spice and granny smith apple slices. I was really impressed with the bit that I tasted, and DJ seemed to be thrilled with it.

For the main dish, I got the "jambonette" (stuffed chicken leg) with sautéed winter vegetables and cream sauce. This was AMAZING. It was a full leg of pintade (a pheasant-like guineafowl) stuffed with a delicious mixture of herbs and what I think was seared bacon/pork belly. The meat was very juicy and tender yet well-cooked, and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. Still firm and flavorful, but also tender and buttery. As much as I love me some pintade, I think the veggies were my favourite part. DJ got some lieu jaune (pollack, I think) baked a la plancha. The fish was good but a bit underseasoned, with only the faint scent of the wood plank to give it some character.

For dessert, I ordered these neat little "bon bons" made by filling phyllo pastry with dates and orange peels and then twisting them like christmas crackers and then baking them until crispy. The results were glorious. It also came with a little dab of their house-made almond-milk ice cream, which was similarly amazing. DJ got a pralinette (chocolate & hazelnut mousse), which was, in his words, "pedestrian."

Eventually, we were chased from our table for the next seating, so off we went. It was only 21h30, which seemed hellaciously early to be finished dinner and headed home, so DJ led me up rue Mouffetard to a great "Irish" bar on the place de la contrescarpe. I finally got to have some Faro, which is a kind of lambic beer (i.e., fermented with wild yeast), which is aged three years and slightly sweetened.

After a long chat and a few beers, it was closer to midnight and it seemed like we had finally done justice to our evening out, so we stumbled back to the nearest métro station and headed home.

mercredi, février 28, 2007

DJ and Luis eat stuff

Right. So, I slept in deliciously late (still on my quasi-vacation from work), then went to work cooking up lunch. I had a substantial quantity of fatty-tuna ceviche kicking around from the previous day (recipe at the bottom of this post), but that wasn't a complete meal. I dug up some tomatoes I had bought at the market yesterday, along with some leftover mozzarella and made an italian salad. I also had some mixed greens in the fridge, so it was a hybrid salad in the end. Last night, I had soaked a cup of mung beans, thinking to do something with them today, but without realizing two things:

  1. Mung beans are like lentils and don't need to be pre-soaked.
  2. Once soaked or cooked, they double in size

The result was that I had a TON of somewhat over-soft beans this morning. I took out one cup of them for cooking and put the rest away in the fridge for the time being (I'll make curry with them tomorrow). Then, in a saucepan, I mixed together 1 cup of brown basmati rice, 1 cup of mung beans, a ton of garlic, a generous tablespoon of ground cumin, and a similar amount of chopped cilantro; this was a sort of approximation of my mom's "green rice," although she usually adds chimichurri as well.

DJ came over, wine in hand, and the foodie fun began. We did honour to the French tradition of leisurely lunches, taking a whopping 4 hours to eat salad, have the ceviche and rice, have some yogurt for dessert, have a round of coffee, have some pastis and water as an apéritif, etc. Good times for all.

So, to close out this post, here's a recipe for the Peruvian version of ceviche (note: there are as many versions are there are mothers in Peru).

Ceviche (Seviche, Cebiche) Peruano


  • Some very tasty fish or other seafood. About 500 grams should do it
  • A lot of limes--about 15. You can substitute half as many lemons if you need to.
  • 2 bitter oranges--hard to find, but worth it. In Europe, try shopping for it in Chinatown areas. In the US, try mexican grocery stores.
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped finely (you can add more or less to taste)
  • a heaping tablespoon of grated or chopped ginger (not ground)
  • 1-3 finely chopped hot peppers (remove seeds and veins if you want it less hot)
  • One large white onion, chopped into fine half-rounds.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • A tablespoon of ají amarillo (optional)
  • chopped cilantro to taste (optional, but why not?)


  1. Essentially, mix everything together in a non-reactive container and marinate to necessary doneness. What follows is mere details.
  2. Wash the fish and then cut into 2cm cubes. You can also cut them into hair-thin slices if you like and thus make tiraditos instead of ceviche, but this should only be done with very fresh, very tender fish that you can serve immediately.
  3. If you wish, you can soak the fish in salt water for an hour. This will help the fish keep it's shape if it's too tender otherwise.
  4. Once the fish has been mixed with the ceviche preparation, you can marinate or serve immediately, depending on the kind of seafood and the desired results. Tender-fleshed fish will get a bit tough after long marinating, so serve after 30 minutes of marinating. Tough-fleshed seafood like shark meat, octopus, calamari, and all shellfish should marinate overnight.

NOTE: while the acid in the ceviche mix "cooks" the fish raw, it doesn't kill 100% of microbes and/or parasites, so it's best to use only high-grade (sashimi-grade) fish. Alternately, you can freeze the fish overnight to kill everything, but that often does funny things to the texture.

mardi, février 27, 2007

Fatty tuna and Photoshop

The day started with me sleeping in (I was up late working on my blog entries) and then traipsing off to the market at place des fêtes, where I picked up a bunch of fresh veggies and fruit. At one of the fish stands, I noticed a platter piled high with thick, shiny, pinkish filets with a prominent sign saying "Today! Fatty tuna!!." This is a big deal. Fatty tuna is often one of the more hard-to-find and expensive varieties of sushi and sashimi. The flesh is much-valued for having the full flavor of tuna, but the softness of a more delicate fish and a higher concentration of fat, which turns to silky liquid in your mouth. The moment I saw it, I was sold. I bought a large filet (in retrospect, I should've taken the huge one on top; the price was so good), and decided to shop for the necessary ingredients for ceviche.

When I got home, I started to prepare the tuna for ceviche. My plan was to use the thickest 1/3 of the filet for a sashimi and rice dish (chirashi) that night, and then I would cube the rest of the fish and marinate it overnight for ceviche. One problem, though: the filet still had the belly-lining attached and my knives were dull as rocks. I didn't have a sharpener with me, so I just set about trimming off the lining as best I could.

It didn't go well.

The thinner parts of the filet were hopelessly mangled and went directly into the ceviche preparation (the overnight pickling makes the flesh a bit firmer). I managed to get two 2cm-wide strips of solid meat for the sashimi that night. The rest went to the ceviche as well, although I spent far too much time trying to trim the remaining belly-lining while fretting about the "wasted" meat that fell away with the belly lining. Ah well.

Either way, the tuna sashimi was great. I emailed DJ and invited him to lunch the next day to eat my ceviche, and then tossed the ceviche mixture in the fridge to marinate overnight.

I spent most of the rest of my night working on a particular task. I'm still working on building an "artist" MySpace page in their Music section, and I decided this morning that I needed a picture that was less banal than this:

So, with the magic of photoshop I made this:

Here's what I did:

  1. In a blank photoshop project (with the artboard clipped to the size of the original image), I inserted the original image (File --> Place...).
  2. I then "froze" the layer with the picture and named it "Background" (in the Layers window).
  3. From there, I created new layers for the various parts of the face (e.g., eyes, hair&jawline, mouth, nose) and started tracing over the original image
  4. I mostly used very simple lines created using the Pencil tool or the Pen tool, modifying the lines with various Brush sets for the desired effect (take a look at the eyebrows and mouth for good examples).
  5. For the hairline, I traced a complex curved polygon with the Pen tool, simplified the lines afterwards (Object --> Path --> Simplify Path... ), and then filled it with a chocolate brown shade to match my irises (which are simple circles).
  6. I would occasionally "hide" the Background layer (the little eyball next to each layer), so that I could see what the finished product would look like.
  7. Don't worry about slightly altering shapes to make things look a bit better. When I traced the outline of my lips perfectly, the line drawing looked like I had huge Betty Boop lips (well, I have big lips, don't I?). So I smoothed out the notch at the centre of my upper lip and things looked more proportional.

Alright, that is all! I really need to get back to work.

lundi, février 26, 2007

Champs-Elysées and Microphone Shopping

So I got up in the morning and realized two things:

  1. This was the "go and travel" week for the UofC students, so they won't be around.
  2. Tommy was coming over from the IT dept of the college of UofC to help set up the new computer lab (new intel G5 iMacs!) on Thursday, so I would be working overtime during the latter half of the week.

This resulted in the decision to take the next few days off. I slept in a bit more, then put myself to the task of hunting for microphones in Paris. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, gearlust (the desire for particular items of technology) often takes the form of promissory notes you write to yourself, saying "As soon as I have [insert desirable object here], I'll finally complete that project." In other words, I could explain my failure to create substantial electronic music on my own in terms of a lack of resources/tools (rather than time, effort, creativity, talent, good looks, etc.), and the aspiration for achievement comes in the form of a lustful desire for the "gear" that will make it happen. Of course, these tools deliver quite a bit of satisfaction when we finally get our hands on them, but not quite as much as we had hoped. Despite buying the $500 sequencing software or hardware synthesizer, the music doesn't make itself. The solution? I need more gear.

Against my own will, I've sort of described Lacan's idea of the economy of desire (but in "gear" rather than sexual terms). Also, the dynamic I just outlined is a bit of a pathologized caricature. Of course buying gear isn't purely symbolic; it multiplies the possibilities available to me to reach my goal and in many cases eases the difficulty. Also, I understand very well that making musical output requires more than simple possession of gear. Nonetheless, the desire is there and it's potentially distracting.

So I decided to suppress my gearlust and focus on fully exploiting the potential of the gear I have available to me. Nonetheless, I needed a mic. I'm very much interested in recording sounds from the world around me and putting them to use in micro-house-ish tracks (lots of debt to musique concrète here), so I can't tolerate working with my laptop's built-in microphone. On the other hand, I don't have the budget for a high-end condenser mic, nor do I want to risk transporting something that delicate back to North America once I'm done here in France. The interim solution was to be an electret microphone; they're very compact and usually startlingly cheap. The most common application of an electret mic that you might have seen are the tiny clip-on "lavalier" mics, which clip to the lapels of newscasters, tour guides, etc. They tend to still be a bit noisier than their capacitor counterparts, but you can get a Sony electret mic for as little as 20€ and they're durable and smaller than your hand (i.e., discreet).

In the past, I had made attempts to find electret mics, but few electronics stores sold mics and those that did would usually carry a limited range of dynamic mics and maybe one or two condensers. After getting some advice from DJ as well as my boss here, I decided to spend the day bouncing between large media megastore locations, hoping to find what I needed. I decided to start with the FNAC on the Champs-Elysées, since I had just realized that I had yet to set foot in that area since I arrived in Paris. I suppose that shows my priorities, eh?

I checked the FNAC on the Champs-Elysées, but they only had one mic, and it was an overpriced low-end dynamic mic. Since it was already the early afternoon and I hadn't eaten, I decided to treat myself to lunch at an Alsatian restaurant called L'Alsace (natch). They had a reasonably-priced lunch prix-fixe that included 6 oysters as an appetizer and Alsatian choucroute for the main dish. All the food was great and surprisingly large, but the choucroute came with blood pudding, which I have to admit that I don't like at all. I've tried to like it, but the texture just turns me off.

I decided to try to get dessert and a tea service at La Durée's location on the Champs-Elysées (which is a rather lovely 19th-century metal-and-glass structure), but the lineup was nearly out the door. So I got back on the métro and tried the location at Madeleine. No success there, either. While I was there, I darted into the DARTY nearby to see if they had electret mics, but all they had were condensers and dynamics. The weather was nice, so I decided to walk down to Concorde and walk along rue Rivoli, looking for an available salon de thé. Alas, any place that looked decent was also packed to the rafters. I eventually made it to Châtelet and turned north in search of the massively-enormously-huge FNAC location in Les Halles. FINALLY, some success! I found a tiny lapel-clip electret microphone for 20€.

With that out of the way, I headed over to the Marais and looked for a tearoom that was still open and not too packed. I eventually found Le Loir dans la Théière (the doormouse in the teapot), which had passable tea and desserts. The place tried a bit too hard to do the "found furniture and whimsical DIY murals!" thing, which clashed with the prices they were charging and the attitude they gave the customers. But they were around the corner from the campus of one of the Parisian universities, so I suppose they have a captive audience.

Finally, I trudged home, made some dinner, and started working on blogging the past weekend. Yay, productivity!

dimanche, février 25, 2007

Freak'n'Chic @ Le Zèbre

I've decided to frontload the flyer and my video clip, since the "pre-clubbing" part of my day was mostly writing and sleeping and making food. Also, I'm not organizing this post by DJ, since I didn't pay as much attention as I usually do to sets tonight. I dunno why, I just wasn't "taking notes" mentally the way I normally do. Anyway, Dan Ghenacia did the opening slot 19h00-21h00, Rob Mello took the headliner slot 21h00-23h00 and David K closed the evening from 23h00 to 1h30. Ghenacia's set was rather languid and warm house, which wasn't particularly exciting but did a good job of setting the mood (his set is on in the video above). Rob Mello's set was more punchy and uptempo house, seeming to drift between classic house and microhouse, but never really settling into a minimalist aesthetic. I only heard a little bit of David K's set, because he started at 23h00 and I was ready to head to bed by then; nonetheless, what I heard of it sounded like the makings of an emphatically microhouse live set.

The idea for the Freak'n'Chic nights is actually very practical. On a Sunday night, billed as a "before/after" party, Le Zèbre opens as a club at 19h00 (instead of midnight) and closes at 1h30 (instead of 6h00). Otherwise, the club runs as usual. The result is that you can go out, dance till midnight, catch the last train back home, and be up in time for work or classes the next day. All in all, it made for a less intense but also less taxing experience. There were still people partying hard, drunk or high, possibly still awake from the previous night--but the overall feeling was more like a dancey lounge than a full-on nightclub.

Shortly after getting there and checking my coat (again, people cutting in line), I took a few shots from the balcony (the club is also a theatre) and then headed to the bar to get a drink. After finishing my first vodka-strawberry concoction, I headed back to the bar and got a drink from the same server. While I was ordering, she leaned in and asked "Eres español?" ("Are you Spanish?") Since it was loud and there were a throng of people waiting for their drinks, I gave her the short version: No, I'm Canadian, but my parents are South American. "Oh," she said, "you have a Spanish face." Although my ethnic background is only partially traceable to Spain (there's also French, German, Sephardic Jew, and an undocumented understanding that my dad's Columbian family included some Afro-Hispanic mixing), I presumed from her accent that she herself was Spanish and took it as a compliment. We chatted as she fixed my drink, and it turns out that she's from Malaga.

Anyway, I hit the road shortly after David K. started his set, easily catching a train back to my place. Alas, since I was coming home at 23h30 rather than 6h00, my bakery wasn't open and I couldn't buy my morning baguette. Ah well. Win some, lose some.