samedi, avril 04, 2009

Taxes and other demons

Well, I managed to sleep in thunderously late and feel all groggy. I didn’t fare much better when I started preparing to file my taxes.

You see, normally UofC’s office of international affairs (i.e., int’l students like me) offers an online tax application that helps you prepare your federal tax returns. However, this is only if you qualify as a non-resident alien. Somehow, I’ve managed to maintain that status for years before, but as of this year I count as a resident alien, which means I’m beholden to the same tax regulations as regular U.S. citizens. This is great in some instances (i.e., no taxation on scholarships), but it has its downsides. To wit, this online application won’t help me prepare my tax return as a resident alien, and most of the free tax-filing programs in the U.S. (for low-income folks) don’t know how to handle filing for resident aliens.

So I spent about 8 hours today scouring the web for the appropriate documents, reading pages upon pages of instructions, and hobbling my way through my own return. It was a colossal pain in the ass, I tell you, and I had a headache to show for it.

After all of it, though, I was able to get out of the apartment for a bit for some drinks. I headed to a friend’s bar, called “Ave Maria,” which was only a few blocks away from my place. The theme was Brazilian / pan-Latino apparently, with the appropriately kitschy and brightly-coloured décor. The place was packed waaaay more than I would’ve expected. I also didn’t realize that it was a restaurant as well as a bar, which became clear when I walked in and the whole place was rammed with tables that had every seat taken by diners and drinkers. Fun!

My friend was working at the bar, which made chatting with him pretty difficult, but we managed to say hello and he threw me a free mojito, so all was well. A little while later, a Franco-American friend of mine appeared in my neighborhood, so I went to pick her up from the métro station and then we headed over to On Cherche Encore to see Fantômette spin with another friend of ours. Unfortunately, everybody was apparently burnt out from the previous night (there were three big events going on), so the turnout was pretty disappointing. On the upside, though, I was able to chat with Fantô and introduce her to my Franco-American friend as well. Hooray for sociability! To my surprise, I managed to stay until the end of the night, but once they started locking up, I headed off home.

vendredi, avril 03, 2009

Live Impact #3 @ La Scène Bastille

I slept in this morning and then forced myself out of bed to hit the neighborhood market for some roast chicken, which served as both my lunch and dinner. I had a pile of fellowship applications to finish and submit, so I dedicated myself to that for a large part of the day, although I did allow myself a bit of distraction to break the monotony. I also managed to do a little bit of work on revising my first chapter, but it was very little more than inserting a paragraph here and correcting some grammar there.

Then, by 1h00 or so, it was time to head out. A couple of friends had organized an event at La Scène Bastille called “Live Impact,” which features only live sets all night. Two other friends had been booked to perform that night, 2 Buddies, alongside big-name Berlin DJ Guido Schneider, so I could hardly miss the event. I had been feeling sore all week from my spectacular bike accident last weekend, but I sucked it up and told myself that a few drinks would make dancing a lot easier.

Live Impact #3 @ La Scène Bastille

The streets around rue de la roquette were no longer closed for construction, so I was able to bike my way through to La Scène without having to go all the way around place de la Bastille itself (which is never much fun at night). I wasn’t on the list or anything, but I managed to nonetheless get a warm greeting from the doorwoman, who recognized me from all the previous events I’ve been to (the majority of which I’ve been on the guestlist). As usual, I was braced to argue with the bouncer about keeping my bag, but I didn’t have any trouble this time.

0h00-2h00: NewBorn

The opening set was delivered by the duo of NathanH and GuiGui, both of whom were also the organizers for the soirée itself. Their sound tends to be a harder style of techno than I usually follow, with rather heavy influences from the “electro” sound that tend to make it a bit too noisy for my tastes. Tonight’s set, however, was much closer to the kind of techno I like; while not quite “minimal” per se, the sound was less busy and more focused, giving the whole thing a lighter, more spacious feel. Also, their pacing of build-ups and breakdowns was much slower than usual, which made the set feel less frenetic.

Although it was still relatively early in the night (1h30), the room was barely ¼ full, which was certain to make the promoters nervous. Throughout most of the night, they wouldn’t get over 50% capacity (by my estimation), and a large percentage of the crowd were friends of the promoters, showing up in support. This was pretty disappointing, considering that Guido Schneider should be able to fill a room pretty much in any large city, but this was mostly explained by the fact that there were two other big nights going on tonight, including the OpenHouse party at Bataclan, and the Panik party at l’Elysée Montmartre. Both events are long-standing events that have dedicated followings, so most likely a lot of potential attendees had been drawn away by the competition. Win some, lose some. On the upside, I was able to dance comfortably all night without being trampled on.

2h00-3h30: 2 Buddies

(note: I don’t remember the playlist-times precisely, so these sets may have been a bit longer or shorter)

I was impressed with their ability to give a large-scale contour to a live set, which often tends toward deconstructed amorphousness, but the imposition of that shape made the beginning of their set difficult to get into. Following off of New Born’s rather energetic/hard set, the began with a very low-intensity sound, in which even the bass kicks felt muted. The texture was certainly very sparse and minimal (as was most of their set), but it lacked the sort of energy and focus that excellent minimal techno/house can have. By about 30 minutes into the set, the sound become more intense and driving, with a greater emphasis on punchy bass kicks and judicious use of dubby vocal fragments to provide some linearity among all of the circular loops. The level of intensity continued to mount until the end of the set, when it finally felt like they were using the complete range of the sound system. Their beats had a tactile force to them, the mid- and hi-frequency elements were intricately woven without being too busy, and the whole ensemble had a forward-driving feel, a velocity that had the crowd really excited.

3h30-5h00: Guido Schneider

Although 2 Buddies’ set ended with a lot of energy and intensity, there was still a dramatic contrast with the beginning of Schneider’s set, which immediately began with the typical Berlin minimal sound. The bass kicks were punchy and resonant at the same time, being pitched very low to give them a room-filing quality. They also tended to be rather mobile, tracing patterns that were more complex than 4/4 and often having slight melodic contours. On top of this were very sparse mid- and hi-freq elements, which were generally simple in their arrangement, but sonically complex (i.e., the samples themselves were very richly-textured). There was a lot less structure and shape to the set than the one that came before, but Schneider managed to fill the room with that Berlin sound: both massive and tightly focused. I was actually surprised; when I had seen him last summer at Tresor, the set was far too hard and heavy-handed, and when I saw him at Bar25 at the end of the summer, it was lovely but very light (appropriate for a Sunday afternoon).

5h00-close: Bruno B

Well, I’ll admit that I wasn’t hugely thrilled with Bruno’s set, but I think there’s just a simple difference of aesthetics. He was clearly punching out a good electro-tinged set that dipped into harder techno and even trance, but that’s rarely what I like, so I found myself disconnecting from the set and losing interest. I eventually said goodbye to everyone and headed back home, feeling more than a bit sore from a night of dancing.

Ironically, I have very few amusing and/or scandalous stories from tonight. I had a great time and really enjoyed everyone’s sets, but nothing extraordinary happened; I usually have at least one intense conversation with somebody or I witness some interesting scene of human drama, but nothing of the sort tonight. Considering my misfortunes last weekend, though, perhaps I should be thankful.

jeudi, avril 02, 2009


Huh. Apparently I’ve been lax on my blogging lately. I totally thought I had posted something for today, but, alas, no. Well, nothing particularly exciting happened today, aside from roasting a big sea bass in the oven and feasting on fish, so I’ve got little to report. Oh, right: I spent the majority of the evening plugging away at some dissertation fellowship applications. Fun!

mercredi, avril 01, 2009

Of Teaching and Scrambling for Academic Funding

I’m back! Monday and Tuesday were really busy with the beginning of the spring quarter and the arrival of new students, but that was actually a good thing; it kept my mind off of my less-than-excellent weekend.

Today, I got a good bit of news from U of C: I got a teaching fellowship! At first I was under the impression that it was the Tave fellowship that I won, since that was what I had applied for (this pays you to teach a course of your own design). But then the email I got said that I could list this as a “Whiting Teaching Fellowship” in my CV, which was confusing, seeing as the Whiting fellowship is something substantially different (tuition + a large stipend for 1 year). After an exchange of a couple of emails, I figured out that it was a teaching fellowship in the same format as a Tave fellowship, but with funding coming from the Whiting family endowment.

Either way, I’ll be teaching a course called “Nightlives: Music and Nighttime” next year. Yay!

However, it’s not quite that simple. Next year will be my first year out of the funding package that brought me to UofC in the first place. I’ll still have a tuition waiver for the next year, but I need to find money to pay for rent, food, and other living expenses, and the teaching fellowship only pays $5,000. I’ve got two other applications in the works (well, I have many more, but these are the two where I have some chance). One is a dissertation-writing fellowship where I get a reasonable amount of money BUT I can’t take any jobs, including teaching gigs (i.e., I’d have to give up the teaching fellowship). The other is a job as a preceptor (editor / mentor / tutor) for the MAPH program (a general humanities MA program), which pays very well ($22K!), but also involves a lot of work-hours, so I’m less likely to finish my dissertation by Spring 2010 in that case.

So I’ve got that coming down the pipe, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there (how’s that for mixed metaphors?).

In other news, I made daurade rose (red sea bream) today, which has to be one of the most expensive fishes by weight that I’ve ever bought, but it was certainly tasty. The daurade rose is described as having a very delicate flavor and buttery texture. I agree with the first part; “delicate flavor” is often used as an euphemism for “tasteless” or “not stinky,” but in this case the fish did have a delicate flavor that was slightly buttery and salty. For the texture, however, I found that the flesh was far too soft. It wasn’t as bad as that vieille I had the week before, but nonetheless it was seriously lacking in firmness.

dimanche, mars 29, 2009

Nor do I like this very much, thank you

So I woke up this morning hoping that I would have a better day than yesterday, and here’s where that got me:

  • On the way over to the pub where I was when I lost track of my phone, my bike slips on a recently-washed curb and I manage an action-film-style fall, where I’m sent flying over the handlebars and rolling to a stop on a cobble-stone street (yes, cobblestones).
  • I do this in my nice leather jacket, which I still haven’t worked up the courage to inspect closely for damage.
  • I only discover at the end of the day that I had rolled in dog shit, and it had dried onto the cuff of my jeans in the course of the day.
  • The pub didn’t even have my phone, and the girl there made a half-hearted attempt at pretending to care enough to contact me if she did find it.

On the upside, I made a lovely sort of refried beans with urad dal, hot peppers, lardons, onions, garlic, coriander, fennel, mustard seeds, and unfiltered olive oil.