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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

NY Times – How 10,000 People Keep a Secret

Posted by 4love2love on July 6, 2011

Diner en Blanc De Paris

POP-UP The Dîner en Blanc, or impromptu “dinner in white,” in the Cour Carrée at the Louvre in Paris. New York is having its own.

Published: July 5, 2011


THERE are picnics, and then there are picnics.

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

DRESS CODE Notre Dame was one of two sites for Paris’s Dîner en Blanc. Guests, all in white, brought their own tables and food.


Three weeks ago, in the golden light of an early-summer evening, thousands of Parisians dressed entirely in white converged on two of the city’s most picturesque locations — 4,400 of them in the plaza at the cathedral of Notre Dame; 6,200 in a courtyard of the Louvre — for a feast that was neither advertised nor publicly heralded. They had brought along not only their own epicurean repasts but also their own tables, chairs, glasses, silver and napery.

At midnight, after dining and dancing, they packed up their dishes, stowed their empty Champagne bottles in trash bags brought for that purpose, stooped to pick up their cigarette butts from the cobbles and departed. The landmarks were left immaculate, with no traces of the revelry of the previous three hours.

This annual event, called the Dîner en Blanc — the “dinner in white” — is like a gustatory Brigadoon, equal parts mystery, anachronism and caprice. Now attended by thousands at some of the best-known Parisian spaces, it began humbly in 1988. That year, François Pasquier, now 67, returned to Paris after a few years abroad and held a dinner party to reconnect with friends. So many wanted to come that he asked them to convene at the Bois de Boulogne and to dress in white, so they could find each other.

But while in certain circles in Paris, everybody knows about the Dîner, many Parisians have never heard of it. And despite the precision that goes into its planning, it retains an air of surprise.

For the first time, New York will have its own Dîner en Blanc, on Aug. 25, rain or shine. A thousand people — half invited, the others drawn from an online waiting list ( — will participate in this refined flash-mob feast, at an as-yet undisclosed location in Manhattan.

The New York event is being spearheaded by Mr. Pasquier’s son, Aymeric, who lives in Montreal, where he inaugurated the Canadian version of the Dîner en Blanc in 2009. But can brawny Manhattan, with skyscrapers from top to bottom, innumerable regulations and a dearth of public spaces on a Parisian scale, possibly approximate the romance of the French pique-nique? The New York organizers, Daniel Laporte and Alexandra Simoes, are hopeful.

“The emphasis is on spontaneity, but we are making absolutely sure to be completely in accordance with all city rules,” said Ms. Simoes, an elementary school director at the Lyceum Kennedy, who volunteered for the Dîner organizing job. “But we don’t want the guests to be impacted by our concerns. The guests should only be concerned about the dress code, and the tables they’ll carry, and what kind of food they will prepare.”

Mr. Laporte, a Canadian-born architect whom Aymeric Pasquier asked to participate, said: “Everything is extremely carefully organized, because to seat a thousand people at the same moment you need a lot of planning. But the most important thing is for everyone to have the best memory of the night.”

In New York, as in Montreal, the Dîner en Blanc is being conducted openly, facilitated by Facebook and Twitter and other online aids, and coordinated with municipal authorities. But in Paris, despite the tacit approval of government officials, the Dîner is private — a massive demonstration of the power of word of mouth, and the strength of social connections. The guest list is made up entirely of friends, and friends of friends. And despite the dinner’s vast and visible attendance, it has remained discreetly under the radar. Paris is still a class-stratified society — “It’s horizontal, whereas Montreal is vertical,” Aymeric Pasquier explained — so unwritten rules of privilege have allowed secrecy to surround the event. Nobody is sure who decides, year in, year out, which people are invited to create tables for the evening.

François Pasquier calls the party-list formation a “pyramide amicale,” a friendly pyramid; trusted friends invite their own trusted friends. The event’s exclusivity was evident just before the Dîner en Blanc in Paris on June 16. As I hurried with my dinner companions along a bridge to Notre Dame last month, passersby stopped us.

“What’s going on?” a man asked. “Haven’t you heard?” joked my friend Aristide Luneau (who had invited me). “It’s the end of the world.”

One tourist asked, “Do they do this every night?” If only.

At 8 o’clock, clusters of diners emerged from the Metro or chartered buses to gather at rallying points, where they had been instructed to meet their “heads of table,” the organizers who had invited them. The site is revealed at the last moment, both to avoid gate-crashing and to preserve instantaneousness. The guests, decked out in white suits, dresses, skirts, feather boas and even wings, carried heavy picnic gear and delicacies like pâté de foie gras, poached salmon and fine cheeses — each table brings its own meal.

At about 9, with the sky still light, the site was announced. Guests hurried across bridges and side streets to reach their destination. By 9:30, all the tables had been deployed in orderly rows, according to diagrams in the possession of the heads of table, with men all along one side, women along the other. The guests quickly covered their tables with white cloths; laid out the crystal for Champagne, wine and water; the plates for hors d’oeuvres, main course and dessert; and began tucking in.

As night fell on Notre Dame, a clergyman appeared and blessed the throng, and church bells rang out overhead; at the Louvre, opera singers serenaded the diners. At 11 in both places, diners stood on chairs and waved sparklers — signaling the end of dinner and the beginning of the dancing (to D.J.’ed music at Notre Dame, and to a brass band at the Louvre). An hour later, the frolickers switched off the merriment and packed up their tables to depart, like Cinderella, on the stroke of midnight.

Needless to say, New York presents its own challenges. As in France, the organizers have created a fleet of “heads of table” who will collect picnickers at various meeting points around the city and shepherd them to the location. But some differences will apply. For one thing, it’s likely that Champagne will not be permitted, if the Dîner is held in a public location. For another, the proceedings are expected to end at 11.

“Even if we can’t have Champagne, it will be nice still,” Ms. Simoes said.

Mr. Laporte said, “After this year, the city will know the beauty of the Dîner,” adding, “We can show them that a big group can be very respectful.”

As in Paris, guests in New York will have a strong incentive to uphold the code of conduct. If they misbehave — for example, by bringing uninvited guests, getting too rowdy or not showing up or helping to clean —  they will receive a punishment worse than any police fine: being barred from future dinners.

“Any guest who doesn’t respect the rules of behavior will be put on a blacklist and never invited back again,” Aymeric Pasquier said.

Initially, Mr. Laporte and Ms. Simoes worried that New Yorkers would find these rules too demanding.

“But the more we talked to our New York friends,” Ms. Simoes said, “the more we realized that they were fascinated by the idea that it was difficult and special, and that you have to build your own dinner and bring your own table.”

Mr. Laporte added: “Our first impulse was to rent tables for the event, so people wouldn’t have to carry them.  But we realized that would change the spirit of the dinner too much. Part of the event is the journey there.  To think ahead, to get ready, to get the table, to prepare your picnic, to choose your outfit.  Not making it easy is part of the allure.”
© 2011 The New York Times


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Huffington Post – Noel Gallagher Details Liam Gallagher Fight That Broke Up Oasis

Posted by 4love2love on July 6, 2011

First Posted: 07/6/11 08:52 PM ET Updated: 07/6/11 10:34 PM ET


With over 70 million records sold, eight number one albums in the UK and more NME and BRIT Awards than they could even carry, Oasis was perhaps the largest, most consistently successful English rock band since the 70’s. And like any great rock band, they hated each other’s guts.

After 18 years of tumult, a brotherly rivalry between guitarist Noel Gallagher and trip-wire combustable Liam, amplified for the whole world to hear, the band finally called it quits in August, 2009. It came after a massive explosion of tempers in their dressing room at the V Festival in Paris, France, leading to their canceling of their set moments before they were supposed to go on stage.

Soon after, Noel posted a message on the group’s site, reading, “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer… Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan.”

Now, nearly two years later, at a press conference to promote his two new solo projects, including his new band, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel has opened up about that fateful night, detailing the argument leading up to the row, the violence involved and even admitting regret over the situation.

The fight, he said, started over fashion, not music.

“I’ve never had enough of Oasis. Our own relationship was never as bad as people made out, but it wasn’t, we weren’t like milli Vanilli… what that means, I don’t know. It kind of all started to unravel, if I’m being honest, when he started his clothing label, and demanded that in the Oasis tour program, that he be allowed to advertise it, which I was against. I didn’t think that it was right for him to be flogging his gear to our fans, and there was a massive row about that. And it kind of went back and forth for a bit, as I remember it, and I said alright, and if you want to advertise in the program, how much? And he couldn’t get his head around that…”

Then, the ultimate incident.

“It slowly went downhill from there. The night in Paris, he didn’t turn up to the V Festival gig, because he had a hangover. He claimed he had laryngitis, but whatever. There was a lot of bad press around that, and in his head, he thinks I’m some sort of f*cking puppet master who controls the media in England. So we get to Paris and he starts saying, he’s reeling off journalists names, and some of you are in this room, and it’s all manner of people I have never met, you f*cking tell Johnny Bowles Mustache I want to kick his f*cking head in, and I’m like I dont know what you’re going on about. And Elvis Costello, and he’s just f*cking off his head. And it kind of went, it was a bit like that.

And it wasn’t just a verbal altercation — fruit was involved.

“And he was quite violent. At that point there hadn’t been any physical violence, but it was kind of, it was a bit like WWE Wrestling, and he was like the Macho Man Randy Savage, and he was like oh yeah and had that going on, and it’s like f*cking hell. And I’ll never forget, and I’m looking at Andy who is sitting there, constantly how many shoe hes got on, not saying a word, and I’m like f*cking hell you know what I mean, and Liam kindly does the f*ck you and f*ck you and f*ck you and he kind of storms out of the dressing room. And I’m glad it never ended like this. And on the way out he picked up a plum and he threw it across the dressing room and it smashed against the wall. Part of me wishes it did end like that, that would have been a great headline.”

Of course, fruit was just the beginning.

“Then he kind of leaves, he goes out the dressing room, for whatever reason he went to his own dressing room and he came back with a guitar and he started wielding it like an axe and I’m not f*cking kidding. And I’m making light of it because it’s kind of what I do, but it was a real unnecessary violent act, and he’s swinging this guitar around, he nearly took my face off with it. And it ended up on the floor and I put it out of its misery. And then I said, well look, I mean, there were people who were in the band, looking the other way, it wasn’t even a big dressing room. And I was like, you know what? I’m f*cking out of here. And at that point someone came in and said, five minutes!… I kind of got in the car and I sat there for five minutes and I just said f*ck it, I can’t do it anymore.”

But despite his new freedom, and the opportunity to do solo projects, Gallagher says he still regrets the way things went down — even if he, ultimately, knew they had to be that way.

“And I regret it really, because we only had two gigs left. If I had my time again I would have gone back and done the gigs — that gig would have been dreadful because he was out of his mind — I would have done that gig and done the next gig and we would have all gone away and we could have probably discussed what we were going to do. We may never have split up, we may have just taken a hiatus and we could have all gone and done our things. LIam always said he would bring down armageddon in the end, thats the way he kind of likes things to be. And there you go. And it’s a shame, because I was comfortable in that band. I perfected that role of that guy who just stood on the right who played the lead guitar and sang backing vocals and sang the occasional, it took me 18 years and I was brilliant at that… at the end of the day, he doesn’t like me. He doesn’t like me in a violent way. I don’t get on with him, but he kind of takes it to a level of, for me, there’s no point in being in a band with people you fight with. What’s the point? Just go on to do more tours and make more f*cking money, it’s just always the arguing about nonsense. I did everyone a favor when I left.”

Copyright © 2011, Inc.

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The Times & Democrat – A vulnerable voice is heard

Posted by 4love2love on June 23, 2011

By STEVE and COKIE ROBERTS | Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011 8:00 am

They listened to the woman. That is the most remarkable part of the sordid sex scandal ensnaring Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who stands accused of attacking a maid in a New York hotel room.

Powerful men have always manhandled vulnerable woman and gotten away with it. Victims often chose silence over justice because they feared that the criminal system would reject their accusations or, worse yet, blame them for the assault.

The “blame the victim” syndrome is so pervasive that even an honorable institution like the Peace Corps fell into that pattern. A former volunteer, Karestan Koenen, recently told a congressional hearing that after she was raped in the African country of Niger, the official investigating the case told her, “I am so sick of you girls going out with men, drinking and dancing, and then when something happens, you call it rape.”

“The treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape,” said Koenen. If you replace “Peace Corps” with “military” or “university” or “police” or almost any other institution in our society, Koenen’s statement would apply to countless women who have been victimized twice: by a man who felt free to assault them and a system that felt free to ignore them.

So the events in New York represent real change. The alleged victim had the courage to speak out. Her bosses took her seriously. The cops pulled Strauss-Kahn off a plane 10 minutes before it left for Paris. The district attorney charged him with attempted rape. The judge denied him bail.

Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn, a major figure in French politics known as DSK, claim he’s innocent. But an assistant DA gave the court a graphic account: “The defendant restrained a hotel employee inside of the room. He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her.” For emphasis, he added: “The victim provided very powerful details consistent with violent sexual assault committed by the defendant.” Forensic evidence supported her “version of events.”

Strauss-Kahn has gotten away with abusive behavior for years, protected by a French code that tolerates — and even admires — potent politicians. He clearly follows the ancient tradition of “droit de seigneur” (yes, ironically, a French phrase) that literally means “the right of the lord.” In medieval times, a nobleman could claim the virtue of his vassals’ daughters. In the modern version, a hotel maid will do if no virgins or vassals are handy.

After years of coverups, the stories are now spilling out. Actress Danielle Evenou said on French radio, “Who hasn’t been cornered by Dominique Strauss-Kahn?” Writer Tristane Banon claims he came after her “like a chimpanzee in heat” during a 2002 interview. As she told French TV, “I kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra … and tried to unzip my jeans.”

On the advice of her own mother, an official in DSK’s Socialist party, Banon never filed a complaint. “I didn’t wish to be the girl who had a problem with a politician for the rest of my life,” she explained. But her lawyer says she is now likely to bring charges because “she knows she’ll be heard and she knows she’ll be taken seriously.” That’s progress.

Piroska Nagy, a Hungarian economist at the IMF, consented to a brief affair with Strauss-Kahn but felt she had no choice, given his stature and influence over her career. In a letter to the fund’s board, she echoed the lament of many women faced with a predatory boss: “I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.”

Any American who wants to feel superior to the French should stifle the impulse. As that congressional hearing revealed, the Peace Corps has a poor record in dealing with sexual abuse. According to an ABC investigation, more than a thousand volunteers reported attacks between 2000 and 2009, but many others stayed silent because the Corps’ response to their complaints was often “callous, dismissive or woefully insufficient,” according to Koenen, the former volunteer.

The army, if anything, is even more protective of predators. A recent lawsuit filed by 17 female soldiers against Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, alleges that they “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted … in which plaintiffs and other victims were openly subjected to retaliation … and ordered to keep quiet.”

We don’t expect the world to change because one brave woman refused to keep quiet, and one powerful man found himself in a Manhattan courtroom, facing the consequences of his actions. But it’s a start.

Steve and Cokie’s new book, “Our Haggadah” (HarperCollins), was published this spring. Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at


© 2011 The Times And Democrat

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