samedi, mars 17, 2007

Against all odds, Luis goes clubbing

Despite how my night ended yesterday, I woke up feeling a fair bit better. I puttered around the apartment, took care of a bit of work, and finally got around to getting my MySpace page up and running. I had delayed "publishing" the MySpace profile until I had at least one bit of music to upload as well, and that part of the project had been lagging behind. I managed to throw together a little track from two audio samples, some MIDI instruments, and a fair bit of audio FX--all of it through Ableton Live. Once I find a decent mp3 hosting site for all of the audio examples, I'll make a short "how I did it" post, explaining how I manipulated a few short recordings of my hand brushing and tapping the body of my laptop into an actual track. For the moment, you can hear the finished track on my MySpace page here.

Working on that track and then uploading it took the larger part of the day, so at 21h00 I found myself getting ready to head out. Although I wasn't due at the Rex that night until 1h30, I had two friends in town that I was going to meet for drinks and possibly clubbing. I picked them up from their neighbourhood and took them down to a bar/café on Place des Vosges that I'm particularly fond of. The food was decent and the beer was fine, but we had one of those especially saucy waiters whose demeanour seemed to waver between acerbic wit and contempt hidden behind humour. We took a little walk through the Marais and ended up in the gay district for another round of drinks. By approximately 1h00, we all headed off in our own directions. I was on a guestlist that expired at 1h30, so I had to make a quick dash to the Rex.

45: Kiki & Silversurfer Live, MIA and Mlle Caro

0h00-2h30: Mlle Caro

I zipped over to the Rambuteau métro station and waited on the platform. At first, the sign on the platform said "Next Train: 1 minute." After a minute, the number disappeared and the sign was blank. Another minute later, the sign lit up again and said "7 minutes." Well, there was no way I would make it my métro at this point, so I ran up to the surface and hailed a taxi. My hope was that the cost of the taxi ride would be balanced out by the 13€ I would save by getting to the line in time. Despite the fact that the Gods of One-Way Streets were plotting against me, we managed to make it there with about 15 minutes to spare.

I rolled out of the car and got into the guestlist line. There were maybe 20 other people there, so I was optimistic about getting in under the 1h30 deadline. Then, all of a sudden, the speed of the guest line decreased drastically. For every 20 people that went through the cash-only line facing us, only 1 or 2 would go through from the guest line. It was pretty clear what they were up to: when the deadline for the validity of the guestlist passed (1h30), suddenly the guest line started moving and the door man shrugged his shoulders, saying "You're too late, now. You'll have to pay full price."

A few minutes (and 13€) later, I found myself inside, eyeing the line for the coat check. It was an unmitigated mess, and I was wearing a relatively light sweater, so I just kept it on and headed off to the dancefloor. By the time I ran into Fantomette and Nathan, Mlle Caro had pretty much finished her set, which is why I have nothing interesting to say about her set.

2h30-3h30: Kiki & Silversurfer Live

As the music paused for a moment and I heard a lot of cheering, I noticed that they were switching from Mlle Caro's vinyl setup to the dual-laptop setup of Kiki and Silversurfer. I parted ways with the Be My Chose crew and headed up to the front of the room to get some pictures and video. After getting a few pictures of the two of them from the front (Kiki is the twinky blond one, while Silversurfer is the swarthy one with the hat), I went around the side of the stage area and took a few pictures of their laptop setup from over their shoulders.

Essentially, both of them had Ableton Live running on their laptops (which were both Dells, I think), each connected to FireWire audio interfaces (which allows the laptops to manage multiple audio and MIDI channels, rather than the built-in "line in" jack), each connected to an outboard midi controller (so that they can control the tracks in Ableton Live using physical knobs and sliders, rather than a mouse pointer) as well as a shared multi-channel mixer (I didn't count the number of channels, but you can see it in the pictures below).

While taking these pictures, I was interested to note a certain division of labor going on. Silversurfer's laptop only had one track playing in Live, which he seemed to rarely touch. On the other hand, Kiki had numerous loops on several tracks running in Live. While Kiki was entirely engrossed in the manipulation of the various elements he had running in Live, Silversurfer spent more time working directly on the mixer, manipulating EQ levels for the channels. A few minutes later, things shifted and Silversurfer started spending more time at his laptop.

I have to admit to being not as excited about their set as I had expected. Based on the individual tracks I had heard from them, I expected something a bit more minimal and glitchy in texture. Instead, while they certainly maintained a formal minimalism (i.e., lots of repetition, slow or infrequent changes), their sound was closer to a noisy, thick-textured, big-room techno set. While this in itself wasn't disappointing (I can definitely enjoy thumping techno), I found the pacing of the set kind of off. I think this is a common risk with live sets rather than vinyl. When you're working with vinyl, you have a set of "finished" tracks (although they're always "finished" with an eye toward being recombined with other tracks) that usually come with their own well-proportioned topography. As long as you line up the next track with a breakdown or an upcoming climax, you can usually be assured a great overall pace at the 5-10 minute level. Outside of that, it's still very much up to the DJ's selection skills to create trajectories and pacing that span the entire set.

Live sets, on the other hand, tend to come out of improvisation with a collection of pre-made materials (loops, samples, etc.). The form is much more open-ended, and it is up to the performer to think about pacing and variations of intensity at the 1-minute level, 5-minute level, 10-minute....pan-set level, all at the same time. As a result, the quality of a live set's pacing rests a great deal on the performer's ability to set and maintain a good large-scale rhythm.

That much being said, I still had a good time and managed to get a few choice bits of video:

3h30-5h00: MIA

I really like MIA's set a lot more. Her selection of tracks were a bit more microhouse and minimal, with an emphasis on complex, crystalline patterns in the high end, and punchy bass. In general, the pacing of her set was better, working up the crowd with "arrivals" and "departures" (see waaay back for what I mean by this) without becoming erratic or boring. She seemed to have a good feel of how long a particular "moment" should last before she moves on to something new.

Hot man-on-man action after the images & video!


During MIA's set (and also a bit during Kiki & Silversurfer's live set), I noticed a group of male friends who were hanging out near the front of the crowd and having a great time. Much like the homosocial behaviour I reported on way back at the Techno Parade (and which I've seen in many other contexts since then), these guys were engaging in forms of sexual play with each other while dancing--until a cute girl walked into their midst. One moment they were all over each other and mimicking same-sex sexual acts, the next moment they all re-oriented themselves toward the hot female in their midst their "divining rods" all pointing in her direction. As soon as she had passed on (and after usually some failed attempts at winning her favour), the boys were back to feeling each other up. While you sometimes see a bit of this play among (presumably) straight guys in North America, you rarely see it at this intensity: they were grinding on each other, crotch-to-butt, rubbing and pinching each other's nipples, licking necks and biting ears. Even when a girl might deign to dance with one of them for a moment, often another guy would dance against him from behind, forming an unexpected female-male-male sandwich (instead of the usual girl-in-the-middle thing). I think what stuck with me the most was how sustained a lot of it was. If, in Chicago or Toronto, your average str8 techno boy wanted to joke around with his male friend, he might approach him and grind on him / smack his ass for a few seconds but then quickly pull away and laugh, creating a certain "corrective" distance. In this case, however, these guys would casually grab their friend's hips and grind on them for minutes on end, without the "Ha Ha! This is funny because we're not gay!!" gesture at the end.

Anyway, I still haven't decided what I think of this, but I wanted to mention it and sort of add it to the "archive" that is this blog...

5h00-6h00: Kiki & Silversurfer Vinyl Set

It took me a few minutes to realize that Kiki & Silversurfer had taken over the DJ booth from MIA. Their vinyl set was better and well-paced, but by then I was tired and ready to head home. Keep in mind that about 24 hours ago I wasn't feeling very well at all. I kept dancing until the subway reopened (5h30) and then headed up to the surface and made my way home. I realized as I was getting on the subway that--aside from a few sips of water stolen from friends--I had not bought anything to drink while inside the Rex. I took a certain satisfaction in knowing that what Rex took from me at the door, I took back from them at the bar (in reduced consumption of alcohol). I know it's an empty satisfaction, but you'll have to allow me this one comfort....

vendredi, mars 16, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

After sleeping in a fair bit, I rolled out of bed and was immediately caught by the announcement of the most recent Best of Craigslist. For almost two hours, I was held captive by the crazyness of Craigslist, including this, this, this and this. Oh, and this and this.

DJ rang my door around noon (he's moving into my building right now) and we went out for lunch. We headed away from Paris and into Lilas (the once-village now suburb that abuts Paris and pretty much our backyard). We headed to an Italian pizza place that DJ knew and had a full, leisurely meal. We need to stop taking an apéritif and digestif plus wine every time we eat out. Anyway, we lumbered back to our building and DJ continued with his quest to move his crap into the building.

I caught up with Anatoly (who has been in Geneva for the last little while) and we made plans to meet at Batofar to catch some microhouse and then head over to Nouveau Casino for the minimal techno night there. Alas, it never went beyond "plans," because a little while later my tonsils got sore and my lymph nodes began to swell. Hooray! I guess I was bound to get the flu at some point this winter (nevermind that it's practically spring, dammit).

Since I have an iron-clad immune system, there was still the possibility that whatever I was having would come and go by the evening, so I took a megadose of vitamin C and some ibuprofen, drank a lot of water, and got some food in me (mostly leftover arroz chaufa).

Later that evening, DJ came by after his move was done and had some leftovers and whiskey with me. I swear, I think I'm going to create a new Label Tag for my blog called "Luis&DjEatParis" or something like that. Anyway, we hung out for a little while, I still felt like crap. I sent a penitent text to Anatoly, took a nap to see if things would get better, then texted Anatoly again at about 2am to tell him that there was no way I could go out. Rather than be pissed off for standing him up, Anatoly very kindly wished me a speedy recovery. With promises to make it up to him later, I headed to bed and tried not to think too hard about the great music I was missing.

jeudi, mars 15, 2007

DJ and Luis eat yet more stuff

In the ongoing development of our food-based relationship (i.e., I cook a load of food, he brings the alcohol), DJ came over tonight to help me eat the mountainous load of arroz chaufa (note: the recipe in this link isn't the same as my recipe). I haven't had or made arroz chaufa since I left Chicago last August, and I forgot how much I missed it until I made it. Since it is essentially a Peruvian-Chinese version of fried rice, I prepared all the materials ahead of time (chopped green onions, rice, chicken or beef or pork in a soy-ginger-cassonade glaze) and whipped them together with DJ when he got there. The results were FANTASTIC, but I have to admit that arroz chaufa is total comfort food for me. I've grown up with this food and I have many happy memories of all of us kids rushing to the table to wolf down as much of this stuff as possible. So I realize that any arroz chaufa that follows my mother's recipe will always be amazing to me. On the other hand, DJ made my inner latina mom proud by valiantly attempting a second heaping plateful, so I think it went well. And this was after we ate sliced dry sausage with our apéritif (very french), purple potato salad, and a simple green salad (I was really channeling the stereotypical latina mother and preparing too much food).

Ironically, I totally forgot to take pictures of the food prep for the arroz chaufa, so the recipe + photoblogging will have to wait. On the other hand, I did get a few pictures of the purple potato salad. By the way, if you haven't tried purple potatoes (a.k.a. vitelotte in France), you totally should. They're harder to find in the USA or Canada, but they're pretty available near the Andes or in Europe (when in season).

Purple Potato & Rosemary Salad


  • Approx 1/2-kg of purple potatoes (10 or so small ones)
  • One onion, chopped
  • Two sweet peppers of any colour, chopped (I used white and purple)
  • The juice of one lemon
  • Mayo as needed (no more than 1 cup)
  • 1 leek, chopped and sautéed lightly in butter (optional)
  • Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Salt and/or pepper to taste
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary


  1. Put the potatoes to steam (20 minutes in a pressure cooker with a basket, dunno about regular steamers). Place the rosemary in the basket to steam with potatoes, but reserve about half of it for later. I like to leave the skins on, because it's better for you, tastes better, and helps keep the purple colour from leaking into the water. Also, you can boil the potatoes rather than steam them, but they tend to lose their colour this way as well.
  2. click to enlarge
  3. The important part is to mix almost all of the ingredients while the potatoes are still warm, so I suggest chopping up all of the other ingredients while the potatoes are cooking and having them ready to go, much like in the image below
  4. click to enlarge click to enlarge
  5. When the potatoes are ready, remove from steamer and cut into cubes. Admire their adorably purple flesh. Snicker at the phrase "adorably purple flesh."
  6. click to enlarge click to enlarge
  7. Chop the remaining rosemary and mix it in with the hot potatoes.
  8. Add the remaining ingredients (except the mayo) and mix. Make sure the mixture is no longer very hot (high heat will curdle the mayo) and mix in the mayo. Serve!

mercredi, mars 14, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure

That was the main title of a paper I was planning to submit to the next meeting of SEM (Society for Ethnomusicology), which will be in Columbus OH this fall. In the end, I went with something different. Here are the various versions I considered before making my final choice:

  1. Choose Your Own Adventure: Self-Selection, Exclusion and Crowd Control in Parisian Nightclubs
  2. Self-Selection for Less Rejection: The Management and Self-Management of Crowds in Parisian Nightclubs
  3. "Sorry, you're not on the list": [subtitle from #1]

In the end, I took the subtitle from #1 and added the French equivalent of #3 (roughly speaking) to get this: "Desolé, c'est pas possible": Self-Selection, Exclusion and Crowd-Design in Parisian Nightclubs. And, in case you're interested, here's the amazingly brief abstract I submitted. For those of you who are not familiar with SEM, they have a very strict 250 word-count limit, which I respect and appreciate, but which can be a real pain in the ass when you have a lot of say. Thankfully, I managed to be very compact this time.

Nightclubs in Paris, as in many other large cities, trade not only on the design of their space and the music that fills it, but also on the clientele that pass through their doors. While the image of nightclub bouncers enforcing exclusive door policies is a common trope, this is not the only nor even the primary means of "designing" a crowd. Extending from arguments made by Sarah Thornton in her book, Club Cultures (1995), I will argue that crowd-design begins with a combination of self-selection and selective advertising; while rejection at the door plays an important role in motivating self-selection, the actions of club promoters and potential clubgoers help sublimate techniques of exclusion that often operate on criteria of distinction such as class, wealth, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

mardi, mars 13, 2007

Rest, Risotto, and Paper Abstracts

Well, I took another day off work, slept in, tried to catch the tail-end of the market on place des fêtes, and then headed off to the grocery store next door to buy anything else that I needed. I got this thing called a roti de saumon et julienne, which looked like an oven-ready roll of salmon and ling cod. My great idea was that I was going to lay down several layers of vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, cauliflower, zucchini), a bit of rice, and then the roll on top, and them steam the whole vertical structure. I didn't realize two things:

  1. the roll was actually a cylinder of what looked like reconstituted fish flesh held together by some binding coagulant wrapped in salmon and cod
  2. the rice takes much longer to steam than anything else, which meant that the zucchini and cauliflower were practically mush by the time the rice was edible

I still ended up with a relatively healthy dinner, but it was a lot less exciting as a result. And that fish roll was pretty lame.

Anyway, I spent the rest of the night taking care of some final laundry tasks (I had been procrastinating for a LONG time) and finally firing off a bunch of emails that I've been needing to take care of. I also fooled around on Ableton Live for a while, discovering that you can do a lot of very fun things with a chain of effects and a couple of send channels. I'm going to post my results soon, hopefully.

[I only now realized that I mentioned "paper abstracts" in my title today, but in fact the abstract appears in tomorrow's entry. Sorry!]

[I also just realized that I didn't make risotto today, despite the title. What have I been smoking?!]

lundi, mars 12, 2007

Laundry and Living Tables

So, I took a day off work (the winter students are gone and the spring students haven't arrived yet) and took care of catching up on a bit of blogging as well as some more email. A far-too-large part of my day was dedicated to doing laundry, which was an unspeakable nightmare. I spent a large part of my day fighting with broken machines and dryer-stealing residents; I don't know how the designers of the building thought that 3 washers and dryers for 300 people would work. If I was wealthy, I would take my clothes to a cleaners rather than deal with this crap. On the other hand, if I was that wealthy, I wouldn't be living in this building. So touché.

Anyway, rather than go on about that, I want to show you this:

...and this...

...and also this.

So this is apparently a specialty food service, called "Living Tables", offered by Makeup by Julie. This is one of those things that I find both fantastically awesome and horrifying at the same time. The idea of turning furniture into humans or humans into furniture has all sorts of post-human implications, made even better by the fact that this is popping up in a themed-catering company rather than an avant-garde film. Do people want furniture that talks back? Do they want to use other humans as furniture? The main page advertises that these "living tables" will chat with guests "in character," which raises some questions about what some of these characters would say if people were eating hors d'oeuvres off their ass.

On the other hand, a lot of these "characters" are in fact generic stereotypes of particular ethnicities and classes. I'll give them credit for some consistency at least: they're happy to stereotype whites and white Europeans as well (French, Southern Belle, "Crazy Tourist, etc.). Also, they obviously put some thought into which stereotypes were safe to use and which ones weren't: there's a "spanish seniorita" but no "conchita, the paperless domestic"; there's an "african queen" but no "nightclub bouncer" or "DMV princess." There are no gay or aboriginal stereotypes (yet); the former one is sort of ironic, considering these two photos:

I'm just sayin'...

dimanche, mars 11, 2007

Desperately Seeking Dinner

Essentially, there were three parts to my day, so let's make gratuitous use of headers:

Part 1: The Awakening

After getting home pretty late last night, I slept in till about midday and then tried to get myself together. I did the shower thing, I tried to nibble on some more bland food (still recovering from the food poisoning) and started working. In particular, I had a virtual pile of emails sitting in my inbox, overdue for reply. It seems as if, ever since I got to France, my email correspondence has become much more involved. I can literally spend hours replying to mail and still not be done.

Anyway, I did my best to clear out my inbox (with no success), and then headed out around 17h00

Part 2: Drinks at Solférino

I had an appointment with an anthropology prof that I had taken a really fantastic course with last winter. She was in town for a day before heading off with her partner to Barcelona, so I arranged to grab a drink with them near their hotel. We wandered into a brasserie near the Solférino métro station and ordered some drinks and a platter of oysters. It was really nice to catch up with her as well as bounce my ideas off of her. It was also nice to summarize my project again and get some probing questions; I had been forgetting to think about a lot of interesting questions that she brought up, and I have a few new books to read now.

Part 3: Finding Dinner

I got a call from DJ just as I was taking the métro back home. Apparently, he was planning to go out for dinner, but his dinner date had cancelled on him. Flattered to be his Plan B (just kidding, DJ), I headed back over to the Left Bank and waited for him to arrive. The plan was to go to a crêperie near Odéon that he was very fond of, so off we went, following his lead. A few minutes later, we come upon the creperie and they're closed.

That's OK, we're not too far from the Panthéon, and I know of that fantastic Italian restaurant, Terra Nera, right near there. So off we go, walking another mile or so. We get there a while later, and THAT restaurant is closed, too. Well fuck. Strike two.

I'm about to throw in the towel, when DJ points out that we could get moules frites (mussels and fries) at La Gueuze nearby. La Gueuze is a very Belgo-centric brasserie, serving a huge selection of international beers--but especially all the Trappist, Lambic, Gueuze, Faro and Fruit beers you can imagine. We each got a huge order of mussels and fries "paysanne" (i.e., with mushrooms and cream and lardons) and stuffed ourselves. Sooo, delicious.

Afterwards, we both headed back to our respective homes, we me realizing as I arrived that I still had a big pile of work to do. Oy.