samedi, novembre 22, 2008

Saturday Night Respite

OK, this will probably be my last substantial post for the next week or so, as I put my head down and focus on writing my first dissertation chapter. I've been thinking about perhaps posting portions of the chapter as I work on it, but I've ultimately decided against it, since the writing style is substantially different from what I do on this blog. Those who are in contact with me can certainly ask for a copy of the chapter once it's completed, though.

Anyway, I spent most of today in the BnF again, clocking in at 10h00 and staying until 20h00. Yes, that's 10 hours in a library. It wasn't very pleasant. On the upside, I wrote about 25 pages worth of my chapter and I'm about halfway through, so that's a good thing. The downside is that the first half of my chapter was mostly a re-work of my proposal section on "intimacy" as a concept, so there wasn't as much new prose to be written. For the upcoming half of the chapter, however, I have to write entirely new stuff on "touch" and so on. I've done a fair bit of reading on it already, so the rest of this coming week is all about writing.

After my endless day in the library, I headed home and got ready for my night out. There was a party going on at Le Rex including Sven VT (from Zander.VT) and Pantha du Prince, and I had a friend in town from Berlin, so plans were made. I managed to get on the "regular" guestlist for the Rex (thanks Molly!), which meant that we didn't have to rush to the club to get in before 1h00 and stand in line for ages. My plan was to arrive around 2h00, after the Com2Daddy guestlist had closed. So I grabbed a bit of food and took a moment to relax and watch some TV.

By the time 1h00 had rolled around, my Berlin friend still hadn't called, so I gave her a quick ring to see what was up. As it turned out, she had fallen asleep and she was exhausted from a week of working and going out back-to-back. With her apologies, she backed out of going out and I got ready to head over to the Rex. The upside of my friend cancelling was that I was able to just take a Vélib bike over to the Rex. However, I made the mistake of not bringing my gloves so that I wouldn't have to try to check them at the coat-check, but that meant that my hands nearly froze off on the way to the club. Lesson learned.

SvenVT, Pantha du Prince and Chloé @ Le RexClub

???-3h30: Chloé

I took a bit longer than expected and arrived at the club around 2h30. By then, the guestlist line was pretty much non-existent while the cash lineup ran almost to the end of the block. I know that it's totally dirty-elitist to say this, but there's an undeniable pleasure in walking past a huge lineup of people and saying "Hi, I'm on the list" and getting right in. It may be embedded in some communitarian guilt, but there's pleasure there nonetheless.

On the other hand, there's no "guestlist" for the coat check, so I spent nearly 30 minutes waiting to check my coat. By this time of night, they usually have a second coat check open to manage the volume of people, but for some reason they hadn't opened the second one yet (and they didn't for the rest of the night).

Anyway, I only caught maybe the last 15 minutes or so of Chloé set, but what I heard was quite good. I've had rather uneven experiences with Chloé; sometimes her sets have been fantastic, sometimes they've been profoundly disappointing. Notably, though, her vinyl sets are usually consistently good; it's her "live" sets that are unpredictable.

3h30-4h30: Pantha du Prince

I ran into a couple of friends just as Pantha du Prince was starting, and it turned out that there was a big group of them partying tonight, so I suddenly found myself in the company of about 10 people. As much as I'm interested and fascinated by the anonymous and casual aspects of crowd intimacy, I can't deny that it's really nice to have a community of friends to accompany you through a night.

Pantha du Prince's set had a rocky start and then eventually got better. The first half of the set fluctuated in a disorienting way between high-intensity and low-intensity sections; although it was a "live" set, it was clear that he was just linking together his own tracks; the "seams" between the tracks showed in the awkward transitions and in the sharp contrasts of intensity and texture. The second half of his set was much better, though, with smoother transitions, a more congruent and even sequencing of tracks, and a discernable contour to the whole thing.

4h30-6h00: SvenVT from Zander.VT

It seems that I've become so attuned to the sound coming out of Berlin right now that I can identify a Berlin-based DJ from a distance. I knew that Zander.VT was a Berlin-based duo, so this was no major feat of identification, but from the moment he put his first record on, I was thinking of Berlin and all the "local" DJs I had seen there this summer. Anyway, the set was great. His overall sound was that very Berlinesque mix of minimal techno and house, with heavy bass-drum patterns, sometimes melodic basslines, and light, agile high-frequency patterns.

Anyway, around 5h30 I was tired and feeling ready to head home, so I made my goodbyes and started heading out. When I got to the coat check, I found a large group fo people standing around, but none of them seemed to be waiting for the coat check. I pressed past them and got to the short stairway that leads down to the coat check, and found the way blocked by a bouncer, who was speaking intensely into a walkie-talkie. Puzzled, I turned around and looked behind me, up the stairwell the leads to the main entrance of the club. There was a group of men in police uniforms on the first landing, there was a bouncer blocking the way up that stairwell, and there was another bouncer telling the crowd I had just passed to clear the area. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but it didn't look like fun. Was it a fight? An overdose? A robbery? Why would they close the coat check as well as the exit?

Just as I was pondering that, the bouncer in front of the coat check got a message over the radio and stepped aside, letting me and a few other people claim their coats. When I headed out of the coat check and toward the exit, the bouncer there told us to cross through the entire club, pass the smoker's area, and exit the club by the fire escape. Goodness.

At the fire exit in the smoking room, I saw an employee holding the door that I had briefly gotten to know during the Techno Parade, so I asked him what was going on. All he said was, "A big, big problem," and then waved me through the door.

As I headed out the fire exit and around the block to the subway entrance, I saw an ambulance parked outside the club, as well as a police van that was being filled with clubgoers. They were going quietly and they didn't appear to be handcuffed, so I was guessing that the police van was giving them a ride somewhere. I still haven't figured out exactly what happened, but my guess is that there was a medical emergency of some sort and the police were transporting the companions of the distressed person over to the hospital where s/he had been sent. If I hear anything else, I'll post an update here.

So, on that rather troubling note, I headed home and finally got me some sleep.

vendredi, novembre 21, 2008

French Pizza and Dodgy Copyright

So I went to the BnF (the national French library) this morning at 9h00, and I was there until nearly 20h00. Lots of work got done, but I left tired and starving. I ordered pizza from a local pizza chain called Speed Rabbit. The pizza was surprisingly good (and the selection of French-influenced topics is great—crème fraiche and gruyere cheese, anyone?), but I want to point something out. Take a look at the “mascots” of the pizza chain:

OK, come guys. If you’re going to rip off Bugs Bunny and the female lead from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you could at least be subtle about it. Jeez.

jeudi, novembre 20, 2008

Hard at work

Do you think that's the title of a porn film yet? Lemme moment...oh my, why yes it is. I'm not going to link to it, you perv.

Well, I’m kinda going into blog-hiding for the next few days, as I’m locking myself up in the Bibiliothèque Nationale de France and working on my first chapter. I’m planning to go out Saturday night, so I’ll have something to post then. But for now, nothing exciting.

mercredi, novembre 19, 2008

What men want

Rather than summarizing my entire day, which was pretty unremarkable, I just want to tell one very short anecdote.

After I finished work around 19h00, I biked home and stopped at the Monoprix at the top of the hill near my place (near Goncourt) to buy some tomatoes for tonight’s curry and a few other things. As I headed towards the cash register, my path was crossed by a guy who was…well…pretty emphatically gay. I don’t mean he was especially feminine or limp-wristed, but rather that he had groomed and dressed himself into the epitome of the middle-aged Parisian gay man who claims to be “over” the scene while being totally in the scene: a meticulously-trimmed “oh, I just let this grow” three-day beard; buzz-cut hair that announces that he is balding gracefully; a simple navy blue knit scarf knotted at the throat; a brown leather motorcylist-style jacket to give his skinny frame the appearance of musculature; a discreet and solid-colored designer shirt; expensive designer jeans that are just tight enough to show off his ass; leather ankle boots with a low heel.

Anyway, I list all of this because he was broadcasting “gay” to me from the moment he entered my field of vision, and he was heading to the cash register with something small in his hand. He pulled into the aisle across from mine, so I could get a clear look at his purchases: two large packages of “personal lubricant.” We’re in a grocery store in a mixed-class ethnic area of town, surrounded by mommies and screaming children piling the cash registers with food and household items, and this dude plops down TWO boxes of lube as his only purchase.

The boy is buying in bulk, yo.

(Good for him if he’s going through lube that fast, though.)

mardi, novembre 18, 2008

Reluctant to Return to Paris?!

I had a frustrating start to my day. I just barely missed the express train to the airport at Ostbahnhof by about 10 seconds, thanks to a clot of three people in front of me that were tying up the only ticket machine that took bills. I took the regular train a few minutes later and checked in for my flight a bit later than I would’ve liked.

The rest of my day was pretty unexceptional, if rather tiring. After getting up super early to catch my flight and failing to sleep during the flight, I got into Paris, headed home to drop off my luggage, and then headed straight to work. I didn’t finish until 19h00.

I did get home, though, and get a lot of much-needed sleep. Mmmm, sleep.

lundi, novembre 17, 2008

Shopping in Berling (with Jewish-Russian food)

Having slept with only a brief pause from 16h00 last afternoon, I got up this morning at 7h00 feeling surprisingly well-rested. Also, for the first time since I got to Berlin, I was able to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet. Since I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours, I totally stuffed my face and probably scared my fellow hotel guests.

I spent the rest of the morning forcing myself to write up my notes for Saturday before I forgot all about it. By afternoon, I headed out onto Berlin for one last goodbye. I stopped at my favorite Kebab joint on Hermannplatz again, feeling a bit guilty since I had a dinner date with my friends later tonight. From there, I headed over to the Hackesche Markt area and wandered around. I finally bought that Comme des Garçons perfume, “Soda”, from their “Synthetic” line of perfumes. These are all perfumes that smell like synthetic things like tar and “garage.” I can’t explain why, but I really liked the soda one.

Anyway, I bought the perfume at WoodWood, that fashion-victim shop run by crazy Danes, and then kept on walking around the neighborhood. I realized that the prices for clothes in Berlin are much lower than in Paris. Then, I realized, “Holy shit! I’ve been staying in a city full of (relatively) cheap shopping I haven’t bought anything until today!” So now I was on a mission. I found a bunch of amusing hats (baseball caps with knit argyle patterns across the front), but they were all too small for my head. Over at Skunkfunk—a label that I find usually far too olive green / camouflage / brown—I discovered a cute sweater that was chocolate with a sort of argyle pattern in the lower third of the torso in a gradient of robin’s egg blues. Only one size left, and it was too small. I’ve been losing weight and all, but this sweater was embarrassingly tight.

I wandered into a store called Cyroline, I found a pair of rather cute t-shirts, including dark brown one with a spatter of bright colors that develop crazed faces as they rain down on a landscape, and a black one the says “Minimal Play” and has a “male” headphone jack entering a “female” headphone jack.

Knowing full well that European sizes tend to fit small, I grabbed medium sizes in both shirts and headed for the fitting rooms. The “minimal play” one fit just fine, but the other one was clearly one size too tight. I gave the girl at the counter the “minimal play” t-shirt and said “I’ll take this one, but I need a large for the other shirt.” She went off and grabbed one, puzzling over the size discrepancy and delivering the same line I had always delivered when I worked in clothing retail: clothing makers are surprisingly inconsistent in their sizing, so you need to try everything on just in case. We held up the large-sized brown shirt against the medium-sized “minimal-play” shirt and they were a match.

Now, an experienced and canny salesperson would say absolutely nothing at this point and just ring them up, leaving the obvious answer to this puzzle to rest unspoken. Not she. She gestured at the “minimal play” shirt and said, “Clearly this one has been mis-labeled. Both of these t-shirts must be larges. There’s no way this one is a medium; just look at how big it is!” Hint for any of you working in retail: NEVER express surprise when something fits a customer well, and NEVER explain the fact that it fits them by surmising that it must be a size bigger than it appears.

Anyway, I bit my tongue (I don’t know how to be properly catty in German) and headed off with my t-shirts. I was getting late, and I had a dinner date with friends at a restaurant called Pasternak Café over in Prenzlauer Berg, so I started heading in that direction. As I was getting closer to the restaurant, a middle-aged man approached me and asked me for directions to the Jewish synagogue in the area. I was about halfway into giving him directions, when I realized that I had no freaking clue what I was talking about. I cut myself off and said, “Look, I’m not even from here. You should probably ask a local, like the drunkard over there rummaging in the trash.” And ask he did.

Anyway, this is already getting long, so here’s the short version of the rest of the night. I had a great time having dinner with a group of Berlin-based friends at Pasternak, we ate a pile of tasty Russian and Jewish traditional dishes, we had a bottle of good Georgian wine ( მუკუზანი ;Mukuzani) and a surpring Austrian one. One of the amazing desserts we had that night was called Moskauer Kaiserschmarrn, which involves toasted blinis (like shredded pancakes) covered in fruit and fruit syrup. Fucking delicious.

We left in the plummeting cold and headed to the U-Bahn station, where we each took our leave of each other. One U-Bahn stop later, I realized that I had left my shopping bag at the restaurant. Thankfully, the staff were still cleaning up when I returned to restaurant a few minutes later.

dimanche, novembre 16, 2008

A Typical Berlin Sunday

Well, considering how last night went, this entry will be about as short as all of my Sunday entries when I was in Berlin:

I got up at 20h00, called a friend to tell her I couldn’t make it for drinks, and then fell back into bed and slept into tomorrow.