Main Dish

Beep, Beep. Pop, Pop! World Cup Finale Turns Marseille Red Hot

July 15, 2018

In Le Panier, an ancient neighborhood near the Old Port in Marseille (Photo by: Beth Solomon) In Le Panier, an ancient neighborhood near the Old Port in Marseille
MARSEILLE -- I was mid-yawn, lilting along limestone streets under a hot Sunday morning sun in this southern French capital, when I heard the pops.

Pop, pop, pop....Beep, beep beep!! Was I dreaming, or were French people lined up in Tricolor wigs and waving flags at bars at the Vieux Port?

France's Independence Day was yesterday. Were they still lighting fireworks? Still raising glasses of beer and vin rouge the next morning?  

Getting ready for the World Cup Finale in Marseiile (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Getting ready for the World Cup Finale in Marseiile
My aunt Suzanne, an American journalist who married in this country and spent most of her life here, was always skeptical of loud celebrations of Le 14 Juillet (July 14), marking the Storming of the Bastille, a turning point in the French Revolution in 1789, which eventually led to the Republic. "They put firecrackers under women's skirts," she shook her head with a warning, "and call it a celebration of democracy. Did you know that'?" 

I didn't know it. I had never seen it. Truthfully, I never would. But it was my aunt speaking. So I nodded.

At a Marseille boulangerie, baking time was only less important than World Cup Finale time (Photo by: Beth Solomon) At a Marseille boulangerie, baking time was only less important than World Cup Finale time
The French can be spirited. Excuse me, they are. But on this Sunday morning in Marseille, through my jet lag fog, it became clear, like a slowly developing Polaroid photo, that the wigs, flags and revelry were not to celebrate routine history. 

When I told friends at work last week that I was going to France on vacation, some immediately said, "That's amazing. Where will you be during the game???"

The Game? 

I rolled my eyes. Some soccer thing, I thought. Yawn. They're hyped up about the World Cup. Double yawn. "I have much better things to do," my thought bubble announced haughtily.  

So as crowds were building in bars and cafes today, I barely noticed. Churches, galleries, artists, the ocean. I'm in France! It's the French!

The French are serious about Les Bleus! (Photo by: Beth Solomon) The French are serious about Les Bleus!
But at about 4 o'clock I slipped into a boulangerie and noticed clerks with painted flags on their faces.

Wait -- isn't that a Capitals thing? American?

I noticed clumps of humans lingering around flat screen TVs outside in cafes in the swelter. Dripping. I noticed more TVs propped up in small, empty shops. Nothing was on yet, except a sense of anticipation. Is this normal, I thought? People toweled off their faces in the heat, pacing around nervously. Was a birth expected? Did I see a cigar on a table?

Marseille from Notre-Dame de la Garde (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Marseille from Notre-Dame de la Garde
I kept walking. An image on a hill called from above. Up a small mountain beckoned Notre-Dame de la Garde, a stunning chapel perched on a pinnacle overlooking this amazing Mediterranean collage of a city. It was built starting in the 12th Century by a priest who wanted to honor St. Mary. He asked permission from the local Abbey of St. Victor. They gave him the OK to grow a garden, plant some vines, and put down a few stones. It became a shrine for sailors and others to give thanks.

Inside Notre-Dame de la Garde (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Inside Notre-Dame de la Garde
Fast forward a few centuries to the 1800s -- a few, you know, European history chapters of kings, queens, crusades and dueling empires later -- and you are inside a stunning basilica, the most visited destination in Marseille, and a feast for the eyes, ears, and senses you didn't know you had. The choir of young voices, sweetly singing a Gregorian-inspired melody, backed by a soulful organ, turned my eyes into a faucet of tears. Old and young, from near and far, padded in to listen for a while. A priest and nuns spoke and waved insense. 

Sana and Amwa from the Aquarius refugee aid ship, and the author in front of Notre-Dame de la Garde (Photo by: Unknown fellow tourist) Sana and Amwa from the Aquarius refugee aid ship, and the author in front of Notre-Dame de la Garde
Drying my tears outside (in truth, they evaporated in three seconds in the Mediterranean sun) I met two staffers of the Aquarius, the ship that rescues refugees and migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. They were in the news in June for being turned away by Italy before taking passengers to Valencia, Spain. Amwa, the midwife from the Ivory Coast, said she had prayed to God to find an end to the refugee crisis plaguing our Earth. Sana, half-Egyptian and half-Swede, looked clear-eyed when she commented on the problems of worldwide anger, climate change and refugees. "It's all politics," she said. "These problems are created by politics." 

Back down at sea level, the problems of refugees and climate change and politics had also evaporated for a while, replaced by beer, soccer, and the wildly mixed crowd that is Marseille, cheering on the team that would win the World Cup Finale.

"Allez Les Bleus!" they chanted, young and old.

And long live this polyglot, easy-going southern capital. 

Vive La France... 

The author outside Notre-Dame de la Garde (Photo by: Amwa of the Aquarius) The author outside Notre-Dame de la Garde


Click here to share your thoughts.


Savvy with a Shock: Dambisa Moyo

May 16, 2018

Author Dambisa Moyo, center, with hostess Juleanna Glover at left (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Author Dambisa Moyo, center, with hostess Juleanna Glover at left
She's savvy, she likes to shock, and she's wearing stilletos. You believe her when she says she wants to save liberal democracy. 

But in Dambisa Moyo's new book Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth, the Oxford-and-Harvard-educated author prescribes a system of “weighted voting,” in which individual ballots are ranked and weighted more or less depending on a voter’s educational or intellectual qualifications. Oh -- and throw in compulsory voting.

Journalist Michael Hirsch asks a question (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Journalist Michael Hirsch asks a question
It's Saturday night at the lovely home of Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter, so provocation is expected on the menu, and even the most outrageous ideas receive a respectful review.

Just nice -- or in this case necessary -- the champagne is flowing like a hidden Arctic spring. 

Andrea Coronado and Sean Weppner (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Andrea Coronado and Sean Weppner
The glittery crowd includes Ambassador Dina Kawar of Jordan, journalist Michael Hirsch, Gloria Dittus, media-coach-to-the stars Anne Dickerson, Hollywood on the Potomac's Janet DonovanAudrey Pichy, Suzanne ChavernAlexandra Sarner, and co-hosts Steve Biegon, Devon Spurgeon and Ziad Ojakla.

You have to hand it to Moyo for sparking conversation, even consternation. She rattled Bill Gates and the international development establishment with her last book Dead Aid, arguing that Western dollars have had negative effects on Africa. 

Agree or disagree -- democracies need fresh debates and provocateurs are much less prevalent than political couch potatoes.

Audrey Pichy, Suzanne Chavern, and Alexandra Sarna (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Audrey Pichy, Suzanne Chavern, and Alexandra Sarna
Moyo was born and raised in Zambia, one of the poorest countries on earth, and earned a Ph.D. in economics at Oxford before working at the World Bank and Goldman Sachs. She serves on the boards of Barclays Bank, beverage giant SABMiller, and along the way earned a master's at Harvard and and a degree in chemistry at American. And, oh yeah, an MBA too.

So it's refreshing to get an intellectual shock from this plausible provacatrix, even if some of her ideas are off base.

That's not the champagne talking. 

 


Click here to share your thoughts.


Anne Dickerson: More Than 15 Minute's Fame

May 14, 2018

Top D.C. journos, authors and VIPs celebrated one of their secret weapons Friday at the gloriously renovated Cosmos Club.

Jenn Cobb of Internews, Anne Dickerson and Amanda Ripley, contributor to The Atlantic and Time (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Jenn Cobb of Internews, Anne Dickerson and Amanda Ripley, contributor to The Atlantic and Time
Anne Dickerson, founder of 15 Minutes Group, was surrounded by friends and fans to announce that she'll be advising clients from New York starting this summer, joining husband John Dickerson in the Big Apple where he now co-anchors CBS This Morning. The glittery crowd included NBC's Pete Williams, former HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, journalist-author Claire Shipman, literary-agent-to-the-stars Rafe Sagelyn, author and Atlantic writer Amanda Ripley, Political Gabfest co-creator David Plotz, Future Tense's Andres Martinez, Internews's Jennifer Cobb, authors Dan Pink and Sally Mott Freeman as well as Susan Farrell of IHS Markit.

CARE's Beth Solomon and John Dickerson, co-anchor of CBS This Morning (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) CARE's Beth Solomon and John Dickerson, co-anchor of CBS This Morning
Said John, who fell for Anne when they were students at UVA: "As I became a writer, the one person I talked to about my ideas and how to make them sharper and how to hone them and what I was really trying to say – was Anne. And so I was kind of the first client," he said to laughter.

David Plotz, co-founder of Political Gabfest and Andres Martinez of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) David Plotz, co-founder of Political Gabfest and Andres Martinez of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State
"The rates were a little steep, but I’ve been a client for a very long time and it’s also why I’m such a booster, because I know how all of you work so hard on your ideas and pace around late at night when no one’s up trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say, and then you birth something into the world. And then it’s like what Upton Sinclair said about The Jungle. He said he aimed for people’s hearts but he hit them in the stomach," he continued.

Anne Dickerson and former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Anne Dickerson and former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan
"You do something and you pitch it and then people misunderstand. So somebody who can help you communicate the way you want to and in a way that’s true to your heart and true to your work – that’s the key for those of us who work with ideas and who spend so much lonely time trying to get those ideas right – it’s so important. So I’m not just her husband, I’m also her client." 

John Dickerson, (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) John Dickerson, "The Jersey Brothers" author Sally Mott Freeman, and literary agent Rafe Sagelyn
Anne described 15 Minutes Group's first assignment. Hired by the United Nations, the team dove in. “We did a dissertation on what makes the perfect soundbite. We did flow charts on how to structure the right answer. We did all this deep work because we said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to be one of those shallow media training firms.’ So we did a session with the UN client. We were so pleased with ourselves. We felt like we delivered all this deep information. And at the end of it, he let out this big sigh, and he said, 'Aren’t you going to tell me what shirt to wear?'"

Over the last 15 years the firm has worked with clients like the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Carnegie Endowment, helping them be clear and more confident in their media appearances.

In recent blogposts Anne and the team noted former FBI director James Comey for his skilled interiews to promote his book, A Higher Loyalty. As any media observer knows, it’s not easy to communicate clearly and sucinctly. You need to “distill your thinking and keep distilling,” Anne writes. “Answer the hard questions and the sound bite will come to you, clear, potent and concentrated. Like a shot of Tito’s Vodka.”

 


Click here to share your thoughts.