samedi, janvier 17, 2009

Female:Pressure night at Le Rex

My daytime activities mostly involved catching up on blogging and finishing up my fellowship proposal (the first in what will probably be an unending sequence). Things didn’t get interesting until the evening, when I headed out to meet a friend from Berlin who was stopping through Paris on the way home from a trip to Australia. We grabbed some drinks around 23h00 at a somewhat cheesy “Irish Pub” on the grands boulevards, called “Corcoran’s,” before heading over to Le Rex for another night of partying.

Correspondant: Female:Pressure night @ Le Rex

So tonight’s event was an all-woman DJ night, co-promoted by Female:Pressure, a web community for women in electronic dance music (techno, house, etc.). I had only been vaguely aware of one of the headliners, ADA, and of course Jennifer Cardini, who is something of an establishment in the Paris scene by now.

We got to the club at around 1h30 and met Fantômette and her girlfriend at the door. Fantô was on the guestlist and I hadn’t been able to get into contact with the person I knew in the club, so we managed to follow them in the guestlist lineup and Fantô sweet-talked me and my friend in with them. Yay!

0h00-2h00: Jennifer Cardini

We only caught the last half-hour of Cardini’s set, but it was sort of what I’ve come to expect from her. The mixing was rough and her selection was sort of all over the place, but the diverse mix of “minimal” techno and “electro” (which remain two styles that overlap a lot in Paris) made the crowd very happy. Fantô pointed out that Cardini’s look has become more and more butch—tank-top, tattooed arm sleeves, stocky build, “classic” K.D. Lang hair.

2h00-3h30: Julietta

Fantômette had been really excited about this DJ’s set, mostly due to a podcast of hers that had been posted to the Ibiza Voice recently (listen and download here). Julietta is apparently based out of Frankfurt, with a residency at the famously-minimalist Harry Klein bar there.

Anyway, I hadn’t been able to listen to her podcast before tonight, but I was pretty impressed with what I heard. She mostly played very “minimal” tracks with sparse and hollow textures, but her selection favoured tracks that had resonant, agile basslines, including pitched bass kicks that have more complex patterns than just 1 beat = 1 hit (see this post for a bit more discussion of what I’m talking about). This muscular style of minimalism produced an overall sound that was both full and streamlined, solid yet intricate. I also appreciated that the tracks she selected were inflected with house characteristics, like acoustic-sounding percussion, swung rhythms, rhythmic patterns that resemble funk or Afro-Caribbean styles, and the occasional vocal sample. It gave a bit of blood to the whole thing and warmed it up.

My only complaint is that her pacing was a bit off. The beginning of the set was great, but after a little while, she would dwell on uninteresting plateaus for too long and breeze through exciting ones too quickly.

3h30-5h00: Ada live

Her live set started really well, with a sound similar to Julietta’s, but with a electro-inspired distorted synths to fill in the mid-range texture. Soon after, though, she started to revel in these “electro” synths, to the point of making the whole sound really noisy and a bit annoying. She also tended to cycle through what were obviously pre-made tracks, rather than really improvising with musical elements and creating new stuff on the fly. Nonetheless, it was pretty good.

At some point during the set, a guy passed me in the crowd and gave me a long look. After a moment, he said, “We know each other from Berlin.” At first, I was a curious about how suggestive the word “know” was for referencing our contact in Berlin, but then I suddenly recognized his face and realized that it wasn’t anything salacious. As it turns out, he’s the (ex-)boyfriend of a friend of a friend who I met back in the summer in Berlin rather briefly.

We chatted a bit and got to know each other better (still in a platonic way, although I’ll admit he’s cute) and then went back to dancing. A few minutes later, Fantômette came by and I told her about this chance meeting; since she wasn’t sure if she had been formally introduced to him, I turned around to introduce him to her.

“Do you know Fantômette?”, I said.

“Yeah, we know each other. Are you friends with her?”


“Cool. Pleased to meet you.” And this man who was clearly not the guy I was talking to a minute ago shook my hand and we exchanged names.

Relieved that my gaffe was covered over by this other guy’s affability and the good luck that he already knew Fantô, I went back to dancing and did my best to make it seem like I had meant to do that all along. Let’s hear it for smooth sociability!

5h00-6h00: Electric Indigo

This woman’s set started out pretty good, but it coarse and heavy for my tastes, and I was already feeling a bit tired, so by about 5h10 I headed out and got ready to head home. When I left the club, I saw that it was raining heavily, so I stood under the awning at the entrance and decided to wait until 5h30 rolled around and the subway opened. Then, a couple next to me started having some sort of domestic dispute, at which point I decided that I would rather bike home in the pouring rain.

vendredi, janvier 16, 2009

Mobilee Night at Le Rex

Although I didn’t have to work today, I did head into work to join the rest of the office in celebrating the boss’s 40th birthday. After some tasty food and champagne, I got ready to head home and work on a fellowship application. The deadline for the American Musicological Society’s AMS50 fellowship had sort of snuck up on me, so I was scrambling to put together the paperwork and get letters of recommendation.

These plans were impeded for a while by a bit of a scare upon leaving the office. I headed by my bank to cancel this automatic magazine subscription that they had put me on, and in the process I put down my bag in the banker’s office (who scolded me for not making an appointment in advance to cancel a subscription to some stupid lifestyle magazine), and forgot about it. Thankfully, I didn’t make it very far; I got to the nearby Vélib station to get a bike, reached for my Vélib card, and realized that my bag wasn’t there.

I scrambled back to the bank and asked the woman to check in her office for me (she wouldn’t let me check it myself) and she said there was nothing. So I headed back to the office and turned the place upside-down looking for my bag. I told all of my co-workers, who got all worried and started looking all over the building as well. I had my wallet, house keys, cellphone and identification in there, so it would be a huge problem if I didn’t find it.

Desperate, I finally went back to the bank to ask again, and the banker produced the bag. Apparently, she hadn’t looked under the chair where I was sitting. She said this with no word of apology for not letting me look for it myself and then doing a shitty job of looking for it. Ugh, French financial institutions are horrible beasts.

Anyway, I eventually got home and got to work on the fellowship paperwork, which took most of the afternoon and evening. I also had a teleconference meeting at around 20h30 with folks back in Chicago to interview a candidate who would replace me next year in Paris. The meeting took a lot longer than we had expected, so by 22h00 I was just hanging up with them and getting ready to go out.

Before going to Le Rex for the Mobilee label night, I headed over to S. and D.’s place for a pre-party apéro. Fantômette and her girlfriend were there, along with a pair of friends that I hadn’t seen since their bon voyage party in early November. We had a great time catching up, chatting, and also eating D.’s delicious apple-goat cheese phyllo pastries.

But when it came time to head to the club, most everyone bailed out and it came down to just S., D., and me. Well, “three’s company,” as they say.

We all had Vélib cards, so we grabbed bikes and headed over to the Rex, which was about 10 minutes away, taking the back streets. (You can get there in 5 minutes, but you have to take main streets and deal with traffic.) After going around in circles looking for free spots on a Vélib station, we eventually got one and then got in line. S. and D. were on the guestlist, so I followed them in and S. gave me one of his Rex passes. The doorman seems to have taken a shine to me, as he called down to the box office “Three [free entries]!” instead of “Two plus a pass!” So I gave S. back his pass and thanked him.

Mobilee Night at Le Rex

0h00-3h30: Pan Pot

Unfortunately, we had taken a long time to finally leave S. and D.’s place and head over to the club, so we only caught the last 30 minutes of Pan Pot’s set. This was a bit of a bummer, since I have seen Anja Schneider and Marcin Czubala (the other two acts) several times before and I hadn’t seen these guys more than once.

Anyway, what we did hear of their set was really good. The mixing was smooth and well-paced, with very effective manipulation of EQ levels to give their set some shape. I just wish we had gotten here a bit earlier! And I wish Pan Pot hadn’t been relegated to the opening act…

3h30-4h00: Marcin Czubala live

Czubala’s set was solid, although not quite as great as what we heard from him at the Mobilee Summer Soirée [LINK] at Rechenzentrum this summer in Berlin. The set started off pretty solid, then alternated between frustratingly long low-intensity moments and exciting high-points, and then finally attempted some sort of large-scale dénouement at the end that wasn’t engaging at all for me. The majority of the set was still solid, but the pacing and the management of the cycle of high/low, departure/return in his set wasn’t effective.

At some point during his set, a friend of mine that works for the Rex plowed through the crowd and grabbed my shoulder, asking me, “Hey, you’re Peruvian, aren’t you?” Yes…half-Peruvian and born in Canada, but yes. She grabbed my hand and dragged me through the crowd up to the DJ booth, where she pulled me into the booth. In the most-exclusive space of the club, the DJ booth, I was surrounded by Pan Pot, Anja Schneider, and this short guy with a shaved head and a goatee. My friend presented me to this last guy, saying, “Hey, Luis, this is Luis! He’s also Peruvian!” As it turns out, I’m not the only Peruvian dude named Luis in Paris. Also, he lived in Berlin for a bit, just like me (although he lived there longer).

It’s funny how this little bit of commonality created this opening for a conversation that was both brief and surprisingly intimate. We talked about what we’re doing in Paris, what we did in Berlin, and what we do for work. He offered me some champagne from the collective bottle back there in the booth. And then, when he mentioned that he was going to move to New York for a while, I suddenly offered to put him in touch with my sister so that she could give him a tour of the Peruvian / South-American areas of NYC. We finished our 5-minute-long conversation by exchanging emails, and headed off in our own directions. I guess what surprised my about our conversation was that, based on sharing a name, ethnicity and some affinities for Berlin, I felt comfortable offering the tour-guide services of my sister on another continent. Mind you, when he hinted at crashing at her place, I gave him a polite version of “No.”

4h30-6h00: Anja Schneider

Ya know, it was a good, solid set. The track selection was generally good and her mixing was flawless. She was clearly playing to the typical Rex Friday-night crowd, which expects harder techno, so her sound was less delicate as I’ve heard it at other events. I think I prefer earlier sets that I’ve heard from her, but this was good stuff.

By about 5h45, I decided to grab my jacket before the music stopped and there was a rush for the coat check. From there, I made my exit and biked back home, doing my best not to wake my apparently noise-sensitive neighbour below me.

jeudi, janvier 15, 2009

Rascasse en papillote

Again, a busy but non-noteworthy day at work. BUT, then I went home and made some excellent, excellent fish. So here’s the recipe. This time, I used a rascasse (a type of scorpionfish), which has a more buttery flavor than the maigre from yesterday. Nonetheless, the results were delicious. The whole spices I used here are optional, but certainly add some flavor.

Whole Fish in Papillote


  • 1 white-fleshed fish, about as wide as a dinner plate and no thicker than 2 inches thick at its widest point
  • 1 red onion, sliced in thin rounds
  • ½ bulb of fennel, sliced thinly from the base to the stalks to create thin horseshoes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 key lime or ½ lemon, juiced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • whole coriander seeds
  • whole fennel seeds
  • whole cumin seeds
  • olive oil
  • (equipment: parchment paper, roasting pan)


  1. Start preheating your oven to 200ºC (around 400ºF)
  2. Slice the onions, fennel and garlic and place on a dish near where you’ll be preparing the fish.
  3. Cut a length of parchment paper that is as long as the fish and twice as wide (i.e., enough to wrap the fish). Fold the parchment paper lengthwise and then open again. The fish will be placed on one side of this crease, and then folded over.
  4. Before bringing preparing the fish, you can prepare your first layer of aromatics. Lay down a row of onion rounds, then a thin layer of fennel, and then another layer of garlic. Leave enough aromatics for the other side of the fish as well as the cavity.
  5. Wash the fish under very cold water in your kitchen sink, running your hands over the body of the fish and feeling for any remaining scales (note: there are always scales left around the head). Rub the belly cavity under running water to remove any bits of blood and check that the internal organs have all been removed.
  6. [Also, if your fish’s fins haven’t been trimmed by your fishmonger, get a pair of scissors and cut them close to the body.]
  7. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and transfer to the parchment paper but don’t place it on the vegetables yet. Salt liberally on both sides of the fish and in the cavity, then lay it down on top of the vegetables.
  8. Stuff the cavity with aromatics, and then lay the remaining vegetables on the top side of the fish.
  9. Fold the parchment paper over and start to fold the two layers of parchment paper together by making overlapping diagonal folds. Be careful not to rip the paper on the pointy bits of the fish (fins, mouth, tail); you can use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper to avoid tearing, but the acidity of the lemon juice will react with the aluminum and create odd flavors.
  10. Carefully transfer the papillote package to the roasting pan, and then place in the oven.
  11. Cook for 30 minutes (25 if the fish is a bit thin)
  12. Pull the papillote and carefully transfer the fish to your dinner plate. The parchment paper is probably quite wet on the bottom, so it will tear easily. A pair of flat spatulas will probably help.
  13. With a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, cut the top of the papillote along its length and pull back to expose the fish. Stick a fork into the thickest part of the fish along the spine and twist gently. The flesh should flake away easily.

mercredi, janvier 14, 2009

Fish! It's what's for dinner.

Meh, nothing much to report today. I ended up staying rather late working on some stuff for work (for which I should be taking a day off, dammit) and then went home and made delicious, delicious fish for dinner. I baked a maigre (meagre) fish, which is a Mediterranean/Atlantic fish similar to a bass. Anyway, I baked it en papillote (sealed in parchment paper) with some lime juice, olive oil, onions, fennel, and garlic, which was delicious…but I messed up and pulled it out of the oven too soon. The upside was that the flesh close to the surface of the fish was stunningly delicious and perfectly cooked. Alas, the stuff closer to the spine was somewhere between “sushi” and “undercooked.” My solution was to eat all of the cooked parts of the fish, snap off the head (and throw it away), and then put the remaining carcass in a skillet to fry with some oil. I actually got a nice bit of browning on the remaining flesh, and as it cooked I flaked the flesh off of the spine, so that I was able to remove the skeleton altogether and throw it away. I added back the cooking vegetables and the drippings from the pan and kept it simmering until the drippings had reduced to a sauce. The result was a sort of tasty, tasty fish curry. Not bad. I have another fish in the fridge for tomorrow, so I’ll try the papillote method again and post the recipe.

mardi, janvier 13, 2009


After a long and pretty frustrating day at work, the plan for tonight was SHOPPING. It’s January, and in France that means les soldes (“sale season!”). According to French law, stores are only allowed to mark down items in their stores twice a years for about 5 weeks (plus, starting this year, one extra “surprise” week of the store’s choosing). These seasons are normally the month of January into early February, and the month of July (I might be wrong about the precise timing of the summer one).

Anyway, the mark-downs tend to be drastic, since the stores have a few weeks to clear their stores of all of the stock from the previous season. Once les soldes are over, leftover stock is liquidated.

So off I went with two other UofC grad students to the big famous department stores, including Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I scored really well in Printemps, picking up a pair of pink and olive Tiger Onitsuka runners for 40€ and a Mexx sweater for 41€. Lafayette was less exciting. While the boys in the group were waiting for the girls in the group to finish making purchases at Lafayette, we decided to head down the street to Zara to see what they had. The place was a war zone; there were piles of mismatched shoes and clothes on various tables, in complete disarray, and with half of the merchandise on the floor and currently being trampled. The cash registers looked like they were selling the last tickets off the island before a hurricane. We quickly found ourselves totally disinterested in shopping there, and so headed over to the Benetton store a couple of doors down. That was just boring and not very well priced, but thankfully by then the girls had finished in Lafayette and we were ready for some food and drinks.

We ended up going to a restaurant on rue Caumartin called “Le Clos Bourguignon.” On the way down, we noticed that a chunk of rue Caumartin had a bunch of Christmas lights strung across the street that involved red maple leaves. Upon closer inspection, one set of lights spelled out the phrase “A Canadian Christmas” in French. None of us had any earthly idea what that was about.

Anyway, we sat down to eat at about 19h00, so we were really early for the food service. Nonetheless, the waitress was rather displeased when only two of the four of us ordered food with the wine. There was practically nobody else in the dining room, but she nonetheless gave us a scornful look and then had her grandmotherly co-worker serve us for the rest of the meal.

From there, we headed over to the Marais for some drinks, although one of our party wussed out and headed home before we got there. One of our group was visiting from Montréal and really wanted to check out the lesbian scene here, but my knowledge of it was pretty spotty, seeing as most of my contact with lesbian gals in Paris is through the techno scene. I remembered that there was a bar called Nyx on the rue Roi de Sicile that opened a couple of years ago and was supposed to be a dyke bar, so we walked over there.

Not so in the bar, however. When we got in, there was a bartender, a hostess, an a few of her friends, all of whom nearly pounced on us when we stepped in. None of the small group looked at all connected to the dyke scene, so we quickly surmised that this was no longer a girlie bar. Nonetheless, a certain recent mother in our group needed a quiet place to pump out her breastmilk, so we grabbed drinks while she ran downstairs and took advantage of the very empty bathroom.

We were actually planning on hanging out for an hour or two until the place filled with people, but the heating was really insufficient in the building, and we found ourselves totally freezing. So we finished our drinks and headed over to a café on the corner of roi de Sicile and rue vieille du temple (I can’t remember the name) and settled in for a couple of bottles of wine. The café turned out to be dyke central, so we guzzled our wine happily while the lesbian member of our group ogled the girls. Good times.

lundi, janvier 12, 2009

The price of interdiciplinarity

Etude 006: Sampling!

So today we seemed to finally start emerging from the cold snap that had been holding Paris down for the past couple of weeks, which meant that the ice that had formed over the past week had melted enough for me to actually venture out on a bike to work.

Work itself was fine and productive and all that, but the highlight of the day was going online and discovering that there was a seat sale for Paris-Berlin flights in March on EasyJet. Yay! I also managed to find a good price on tickets to Berlin with Lufthansa in February, so I bought tickets on the same weekends that my friends from London will be in Berlin, both in February and in March. Party-time!

After that, it was straight home to catch up on blogging, compose a new track, and do some work trying to track down some books that I need to consult for the next draft of my chapter. As it turns out, almost all of them are actually available somewhere in Paris, but the problem is where. I finally found a catalogue that covers all of the holdings of the various academic libraries in Paris. As I started punching in the various books that I needed, I was at first delighted to see all of them show up in the listings. However, as I started taking note of the institutions, I realized that every book was in a different fucking library. Seriously. Unlike most major academic libraries in the US and Canada—which are connected to universities that teach a wide variety of topics—Parisian libraries are usually very topic-specific. This is fine when you’re doing a project that focuses on a topic that covers one discipline and one topic/region, but if you’re doing something interdisciplinary or trans-local, this means you have to go from library to library, consulting your various sources.

But wait, it gets better. As anyone who is familiar with French bureaucracy might expect, each one of these libraries has a separate set of hours, regulations, borrowing policies (whether you can take a book off-premises or not) and—most frustratingly—borrower registration. That means that, in the next couple of weeks, I will apply for and get borrower’s cards for about 6 different libraries in Paris, each of which has a different set of requirements and forms and procedures. I suppose this is the price of interdisciplinarity: incessant border-crossing, with all of the hassle that entails.

And, since I’m sure you’re incredulous at this news, here is a link to the online GoogleDoc version of my list of books, which shows where each one is located. The first three authors are articles rather than books, but after that you can see how each one is located somewhere different in Paris.

dimanche, janvier 11, 2009

Sleepy Sunday

Etude005: DYI Drum Kit

Mmmm, sweet repose.

After sleeping in again (yay!), I got up, did some blogging, and then headed out to do some laundry. I realized that the washers at the Laundromat are locked during the wash cycle, so I decided to take advantage of the 40 minutes I had free to go grab a coffee or something. I hit upon Café Charbon on Oberkampf and I had myself a little coffee at the zinc counter, while enjoying the golden-era interiors of the place.

After going back to the Laundromat and drying my stuff, I headed up to my apartment to fold the laundry. Just as I was folding, I got word from my friend from Chicago that he was passing through town again on his way to see his parents in Strasbourg. So I quickly finished folding while he came to my neighborhood. We grabbed a coffee in the café near my place and spent a couple of hours chatting, before grabbing a cheap kebab nearby and then seeing him off to the train station.

The rest of the day was spent working on another étude, catching up with some correspondence, and giving some serious thought to what I’m going to do to produce a new draft for my chapter. Alas, a lot of the books I need to consult aren’t available at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do in the meanwhile….