samedi, mars 10, 2007

Down, but not out

Well, as I had mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, I was feeling pretty barf-tastic this morning and in no mood to do anything but convalesce. I slept in, then spent most of the day trying to re-hydrate myself and eating small portions of bland food (stale bread and soup). I also spent a bit of time blogging and reading stuff on the net, but most of the day was a loss, really.

However, I *did* have stuff to do that night, so I had to convince myself that I was actually in shape to go out. By approx 10pm, I had cleaned myself up and headed out the door

Be My Chose and Syl Sounday @ On cherche encore

This wasn't a club night so much as a bar night, running from 21h00 to 1h30. I got there around 22h00, in time to see the end of Syl Sounday's set. I hung around and caught most of Be My Chose's set (Fantomette and Nathan), but left around 1h00 to run over to the Rex for my next engagement.

While I was there, I ran into Laurent (fresh back from doing sound at a huge royal wedding in Riyadh), with whom I had a good long chat. It was great catching up with everyone and collecting recent news. Labelle Records was releasing an EP pretty soon, including a track by Laurent. At the same time, Be My Chose had separated from Labelle and created their own collective (whose name escapes me at the moment). Laurent also had some great stories about the trip to Riyadh (it was for a princess, who apparently wanted a "Versailles" theme for her wedding).

Aside from Nathan, Fantomette and Laurent, I saw about 8 other friends and acquaintances, which made me feel like my fieldwork was finally coming along. I was also reminded of how much this blog circulates outside of my knowledge; at least 4 different people approached me, saying "Hey! I like what you're doing with your blog! That review of that last party was great!" There was always a mixture of surprise and pleasure--like being seen naked when you sort of wanted to be seen anyway. There's something fun but also a bit risky about leaving a residue of yourself on the Internet for others to find. Speaking of which, I need to work on my MySpace profile!

Sender Records @ the Rex

0h00-2h30: Bloody Mary

I ran from the previous place to the nearest subway stop, where I ran into two friends, R. and C., who were also heading toward the Rex. We chatted about my PhD project and C. reminded me to make the pilgrimage to Berlin while I'm in Europe. We got to the Rex just before 1h30 (the cutoff time for guestlist), and R. and C. were kind enough to let me take their spare spot on the guestlist, so in we went. I also ran into S. in the lineup, who I've hung out with on previous occasions.

Bloody Mary's set was actually really nice. Although I don't have any video clips of her performance, I could describe it as very much microhouse: take the syncopation and funk of house, the punchy bass and thin textures of minimal techno and add the unconventional timbre of glitch music. I would've actually been happier to see her spin the closing set at 4h30, rather than Benno Blome. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the last hour or so of her set.

Unfortunately, I didn't really get a good portrait photo of Bloody Mary, but I got a bunch of colourful crowd shots that I quite like. As before, these ones don't have much focus, but capture a lot of the feel of the evening.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

2h30-3h30: Pan/Tone

I was really impressed with the set from Pan/Tone (who is apparently an Ontario boy--go home team!). As his set began, R., C. and I all pushed to the front for a better view of things. Things got really packed very quickly, so unfortunately it was hard to dance. Despite that, I did manage to get a one pic and a bit of video:

Thankfully, the video spares me the trouble of describing the set's sound in detail, but I can probably summarize it as less house and more techno, spanning from a minimal-ish sound at the beginning to a noisy, acid-house-y sort of techno later on. Unfortunately, there were some pretty substantial technical problems that brought the set to an early close. I wasn't able to figure out whether the problem was with his laptop, his firewire audio box, or the club's system. Either way, after about 3 different outages and frantic fixes, he gave up and unplugged his laptop. Bloody Mary and Benno Blome threw down some records for a few minutes while Pan/Tone tore down his kit and Misc. put up theirs.

3h30-4h30: Misc.

Alas, no pictures or video for this set. I had put my bag down and hidden it under the stage area, but things go so crowded that I couldn't really go back to my bag to retrieve my camera when I wanted to. Also, Misc.'s set was a lot of fun and I sort of forgot to be "documentary" about it.

Misc.'s set followed well from Pan/Tone's, being entirely techno in sound (not a trace of microhouse) and louder/more intense. They tended to use bass kicks that were less punchy and more round, and the middle and high frequency bands tended to be quite dense. They were particularly fond of analog synth-like sounds, it seemed.

4h30-6h00: Benno Blome

Shortly after Benno Blome started, I finally threw in the towel and went home. I was still weak and sore from being so ill the same morning, so it was a wonder that I lasted as long as 4h30. I hunted down R. and C. and made my goodbyes, fought to get my jacket from coat check, and hopped on the bus home.

I was approached by a guy on the bus, asking for a cigarette. His dress, body, and bodily habitus marked him as a "banlieuesard"--a term for the collection of working-class North and West Africans that were brought into France during the post-war period and settled into the regions around Paris. Whereas a lot of racial and class fear in the U.S.A. is often directed towards black and latino bodies in the inner-city, the same kinds of anxieties and prejudices are directed outwards to the suburbs and onto Arab-Berber and West-African bodies here. Anyway, I told him that I didn't have any cigarettes, and when he didn't seem to believe me, I opened my bag to show him that there were none. At this point, he suddenly became very talkative (he was rather drunk) and interested in my welfare. As we both got off the bus near Port des Lilas, he advised me to "cover" myself more. Essentially, he thought that I was being too forthright and open and that I was liable to get mugged or otherwise exploited for it. As we walked toward my building (and his next bus stop), he showed me the lacerations on his legs where he had been beaten by police earlier that night. He didn't seem too angry with them; he was happy they didn't arrest him and let him go home. With that, we arrived at my door and parted ways. I was pretty sure he was heading in the wrong direction, but he insisted that there was another bus to Porte de Bagnolet just around the corner.

vendredi, mars 09, 2007

Luis & DJ get drunk at the Salon d'Agriculture

So a few days ago I got a pair of tickets to the Salon d'Agriculture, which is this fantastic regional food & produce show in Paris. Essentially, every region of France (and their former colonies) set up booths, where they sell and advertise specialities from their region.

DJ and I made plans to go down that afternoon, arriving there shortly after lunch time. The palais d'expositions at Porte de Versailles is massive, and this show actually took up almost all of the buildings. It was pretty amazing. DJ and I started by stumbling across the cognac booths, and things took a downward spiral from there. From what I can recall, here's a quick list of what we did:

  • Buy a bunch of fantastic saucisson sec of various flavours from the Auvergne region
  • Sample some XO Cognac from one booth.
  • Sample some Pineau des Charentes from another booth nearby.
  • Sample some cheese from the Auvergne region, and I bought a half-kilo of the Vieux Cantal
  • Sample some Corsican salami and buy a small dry sausage (the woman at the stand did things à la corse, weiging the sausage at 12€ and then telling me she'll give it to me for 10€ "because you're you").
  • Sample Corsican whisky (decent) and beer (bleah).
  • Sample Breton cider.
  • Eat a "light" lunch of aligot and sausage.
  • Snap some photos of the "Jésus" sausage for sale
  • Pee.
  • Sample some muscadet from the Loire valley region.
  • Sample some pear cider from the same region
  • Sample several delicious red wines from the rhône valley regions
  • Sample some burgundian whites
  • Buy (and sample) a bag of Normandy butter caramels.
  • Sample some calvados liqueur and pear apéritif.
  • Sample some Norman beer and chestnut apéritif.
  • Sample and buy some vin jaune from the Jura region.
  • Pee.
  • Sample some triple beer from the Lorraine region.
  • Drink some caribbean-island rum (from Guadeloupe, I think).
  • Have one more round of cognac.

When you consider that every "sample" in the above list was usually a full serving, you can see what sort of state we were in. We would've stayed later, but I had to dash home to do a bunch of room-inspections for the departing students, and I needed some time to sober up.

DJ and I split ways, I did the room inspections, ate half a baguette to sop up the alcohol, and then headed back out with DJ. We first tried to eat at a bar / pizzeria near where I live, but it was pretty much deserted. We headed over to Le bar du Berry Zèbre in Belleville, where Laurent a.k.a. HDProject was supposed to be spinning. However, there was nobody there when we arrived and the bar staff seemed entirely unaware of anything happening that night, so we grabbed a quick drink and moved on.

DJ took me out for a late dinner at Les Trois Marmites, which was walking distance from Belleville. I had an avocado and tuna remoulade for my appetizer, while DJ had an escargot preparation (what was with the escargots, DJ?). I had a huge slab of rump steak seared and jigglingly raw with steak fries and béarnaise sauce, while DJ had a leg of pintade (guineafowl). For dessert, DJ had a fondant chestnut cake, while I had a cup of sorbets. All in all, the meal was delicious, although I would pay for it later (see below).

We stumbled out of the restaurant around 1h00 and headed back to Belleville to take the night bus. On the way, we came across a tearoom named "Al Jazira." I'm sure this has a totally appropriate meaning in Maghrebi Arabic, but I have to admit that we took some amusement in the cognitive collision of tearooms and news channels. Someone should open a "FOX News" hot dog stand in Morocco.

Once I got home, I felt like I had an unusual amount of heartburn, but since I didn't have any pepto-bismol with me, I just drank some water and went to bed. Several times during the night, I woke up with a stomach ache, but at around 6am I was driven out of bed by a wave of nausea that had me heaving my previous meal into the Porcelain Altar of Salmonella. I'm pretty sure it was salmonella, since DJ and I had been eating the same thing all day except for dinner, and my dinner included two different sauces that used raw egg yolks (remoulade and béarnaise). My guess is that they used not-so-fresh unpasteurized eggs. Either way, it was an unpleasant way to spend the morning.

One thing that came to mind as I was clutching the toilet bowl and shaking: we make some pretty "inhuman" sounds when we're retching. I was amazed at my own involuntary ability to make guttural noises that were probably audible two rooms over. If there ever was a vocal sound that broadcasts "I'm not alright," it's got to be this.

Also, it really sucks when you puke so hard that even your nose is burning.

jeudi, mars 08, 2007

Luis is the IT crowd

OK, so I haven't actually watched any of the IT Crowd episodes, so I can't be entirely sure that I was "the IT crowd" today, but it seems like a good comparison. You see, 12 brand-new G5 iMacs finally arrived for the computer lab at the UCParis Centre today, so I put in a substantial 8 hours setting up the computers, transferring the default OS image onto them, testing each one, making the final adjustments and changes as necessary, and running all of the cabling through the very neat and streamlined new cabinetry we have in the room.

When it comes to setting up large numbers of computers, it's usually rather inefficient to start each one from scratch, initializing the operating system, registering it, installing all the software you want for your computer lab, and creating the complex system of user profiles, permissions and passwords that are necessary for secure system management. Instead, what most people do is set up one computer well in advance, create a copy of the entire hard disk, and then copy that disk image onto the the hard disks of the new computers, deleting the out-of-the-box system and overwriting it in the process.

The transfer of the original image only takes a little while, but the task is substantially extended by all the little things you need to do afterwards. You need to check for any new updates available for the operating system (Mac OSX in this case), open all of the programs once to allow them to create their preferences lists, add the network printers and test the connections, make little adjustments that you didn't forsee (e.g., changing the paper size in Word's "Normal" template), and so on. Anyway, all of this meant that I didn't leave work until about 8pm.

One of my profs was in town again (the same one that came touring through Paris with her partner a few months ago), this time with her mother in tow. I gave her a call as I was wrapping up work, and we made plans to eat dinner at La Tour de Montlhéry -- Chez Denise. I had heard of this place before on and my boss gave it a glowing recommendation, so I called them and made reservations for 22h00 (the restaurant is open pretty much all night).

Ordering our food was a bit chaotic for a number of reasons: the place was packed an noisy--with a particularly shrill woman seated very close to us; the waiter spoke quickly and mumbled, which made it hard for a group of 3 foreigners; the menu, which was written on a slate board, was organizing in a confusing manner, grouping the seafood main dishes with the appetizers. After a fair bit of confusion and translation, we finally got our orders in. I had an appetizer of raw salmon slices marinated in lime juice and olive oil, my prof had no appetizer, and her mother had the same salmon dish. For our main meals, I had a mutton and white-bean preparation that was very similar to cassoulet, my prof had a braised salmon dish, and her mother had tripe in calvados (ew).

The food was lovely, the portions were HUGE (I mean, ridiculously so) and the wine selection was great. By midnight, we had finished our meal, paid the bill, and stumbled out onto the Paris métro back to our respective abodes.

mercredi, mars 07, 2007

Franco-Mexican Cuisine

I don't know if I was the first one to think of this, but I'm pretty damn proud of it. You see, a colleague of mine passed on to me a bottle of concentrated mole sauce, smuggled from the USA. I had three chicken thighs sitting in the freezer that needed to be eaten soon. I thought about the very French mushroom-cream chicken that I often make, and realized that I could mix the concetrated mole with crème fraîche to make something very delicious. Add to this the fact that I still had that cocoa-based pasta I bought a few months ago, and it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

So I invited DJ over again after work and I made a big pile of mole-cream chicken over cocoa pasta. DJ brought along some fine whiskey and wine (and bread), and we ate like kings. The recipe itself was surprisingly simple. It hardly merits a recipe, but here it is nonetheless. [By the way, I had meant to get a picture of the resulting dish, but I was too hungry and forgot.]


  • 1 jar of Mole (I used a concentrated paste of 125g marked "4 portions")
  • 1 tub of crème fraîche, 500ml
  • 3-4 chicken thighs or breasts
  • Rotini or penne rigate, enough for 4 people


  1. Ideally, you should brown the chicken in its own fat, remove the chicken, and then begin making the rest of this recipe in the same saucepan. However, you can skip this step if you're pressed for time or your using frozen chicken.
  2. Prepare the mole as indicated on the container, but half the liquids. In this case, I used a 1 : 1 ratio of water to concentrate, rather than the 2 : 1 ratio indicated on the bottle.
  3. Heat the water and paste gently and mix vigorously until a smooth sauce forms.
  4. Add crème fraîche and mix together. Increase heat to medium and wait for mixture to begin bubbling.
  5. Add chicken, partially cover, and leave on a low simmer for at least an hour. Stir occasionally to pull up any milk solids sticking to the bottom.
  6. The fat will likely separate from the cream during this process, and this will be even more pronounced if you're using a fatty part of the chicken (e.g., thighs). You can either skim some of the fat (but lose tasty fat!) or whisk it back into the emulsion later.
  7. About 15 mins before the chicken is ready, begin to boil pasta in salted water. Drain and toss with a ladleful of the mole-cream sauce to prevent sticking.
  8. Remove from heat. Remove chicken and place to one side. Whisk cream and oil until it returns to a smooth emulsion.
  9. Serve chicken on a bed of pasta. Ladle sauce overtop.

mardi, mars 06, 2007

Nothing to report

Really. I did pretty much nothing interesting today. Worked. Bought groceries. Made dinner (actually, a sandwich). Finally caught up on blogging.

lundi, mars 05, 2007

I hate Mondays

Actually, my Monday was pretty decent. However, I tripped across this interesting online discussion while searching for something entirely unrelated. Check this out:

Essentially, the premise here is that if you take away all of Garfield's dialogue, the comic strip quickly becomes surreal. A couple of them are actually kind of poignant, too. I'm not pathetic!....Am I?

dimanche, mars 04, 2007

And Sunday makes free

So, considering I got home around 7am, all I did for the first half of the day was buy bread, get undressed, and collapse into my bed. Sometime around 13h or 14h, I made it out of bed and started the long task of pulling the images and videos off my camera and sorting out which ones to keep and how to edit/enhance them. Also, I still hadn't caught up with my blogging for last wednesday or thursday, so I had a fair bit of writing to do. So I took a nap. Then got back to work.

Oh, and one of my colleagues from work had given me some leftover waterzooï, which is this fantastic Belgian dish that involves making a very light fish and/or chicken stew, and then thickening it with heavy cream and an egg yolk. It's kind of rediculous. Anyway, I reheated some of it today and ate it with a baguette. Fucking fantastic.