Archive for the ‘Fake’ Category

Service of Who Vets the Details for a Prince?

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

The characters in this post are Charles, Prince of Wales, a British businessman, James Stunt, and a convicted painting forger Tony Tetro.

Javier Pes covered the incident on artnet.com in “Prince Charles’s Charity Displayed Paintings by Picasso, Dalí, and Monet—Until a Convicted Forger Claimed Them as His Own.” He wrote that Stunt lent “works supposedly by Monet, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí to Dumfries House, the historic property in Scotland that is a cause close to the heart of the heir to the British throne.”

Dumfries House Photo: dumfries-house.org.UK

Stunt got them back after Tetro announced he’d painted them. He also said that Stunt knew they were fake because he’d ordered them for his home. The faux artist added that “there is no way that these paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny. The canvases are new, paint is modern, stretcher bars are not correct or period.”

The coverage implied that the Prince should have known better and we don’t know if he’d ever seen the canvases. Pes wrote: “The British royal, who is a former trustee of London’s National Gallery and grew up surrounded by Old Masters, must have been delighted when the flamboyant British businessman James Stunt agreed to lend 17 works.”

“LE FERMIER ET SON ÉPOUSE” by Joan Miro Photo: joan-miro.net

Stunt was also on the griddle. Quoting the Daily Mail‘s account and what Stunt said, Pes reported: “ ‘What is the crime of lending them to a stately home, [to] the Prince of Wales and putting them on display for the public to enjoy?’ He stopped short of accepting that he knew they weren’t originals,” added Pes.

Pes wrote: “Tetro, who was found guilty of art forgery involving works by Dalí, Miro, Chagall, and Norman Rockwell in the past, now makes what he calls ’emulations’ of Modern masterworks. Stunt ‘knew with 100 percent certainty that these works were by me,’ Tetro said, a claim that Stunt denies. ‘We discussed the subject of the paintings and many of the particulars. These were decorative paintings that were purposely made by me as decorations for his home.'”

It’s hard to tell who was pulling the wool over whose eyes in this $136 million art scam. Was Stunt trying to gain provenance for fakes he knew were such? Did he really know what he bought from Tetro? Was the Prince of Wales, who was trying to generate funds for a historic Scottish property, taken to the cleaners by Stunt, whom, Pes notes at the end of the article, went bankrupt this summer? Should the Prince’s front people/handlers–or the folks in charge of fundraising for Dumfries House–have done a better job at vetting the background of the theoretically munificent businessman before accepting his offer? Or should the Prince have known better?

Photo: vootelecom.co.uk

Service of Research

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Photo: stemcell.com

I admire researchers for so many reasons. It can take decades for them to make a discovery and years more to prove it. Diligence, the ability to fight frustration and dissent are just three characteristics of this valiant group.

I was distressed to read Noam Cohen’s New York Times article, “M.I.T. Shuts Down ‘Food Computer’ Project” about the world-renowned research citadel. The allegedly promising venture–The Open Agricultural Initiative [OpenAg]–involved greenhouses, called food computers, designed for crops that grow in air–without soil or sunlight. In addition to those in food computers at the university there were larger greenhouses in shipping containers in Middletown, Mass.

M.I.T. Media Lab. Photo: news.mit.edu

Cohen wrote: “The once-celebrated M.I.T. Media Lab micro-greenhouses were supposed to grow food under virtually any conditions. In the end, they worked under almost none. And now, M.I.T. has turned off the lights, possibly for good.”

He added “The project has been accused of misleading sponsors and the public by exaggerating results while the Media Lab has been under scrutiny for its financial ties to the convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein.”

The director of the OpenAg program, Caleb Harper, posted images and videos on social media “that looked like experiments” and exaggerated or made false claims. Former researchers said he bought plants and put them in the “food computers” pretending they’d grown there. They said that data would have “little scientific significance” because they could not “control the conditions within the boxes.”

The Middletown containers were closed down recently because they dumped wastewater “with 20 times the legal limit of nitrogen underground.”

M.I.T. Photo: news.mit.edu

According to Cohen, Harper boasted that food computers he’d sent Syrian refugees in camps gave them “the means to grow their own food inside the camp.” Instead, these computers ended up “in a Jordanian research lab where they faltered because of hot, dry conditions and technical failures.”

The project attracted $millions in sponsorship funds and heaps of positive publicity including the likes of “60 Minutes” and a TED Talk.  I wager it received the acclaim and financial support based on its affiliation with M.I.T. Such shenanigans can’t help the university’s reputation and I wonder who minds the store in such institutions to prevent this kind of tempting fabrication from happening more often.

Photo: twitter.com

 

Service of Calling a Spade a Spade

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Photo: Steamit.com

I can’t sell a ring with glass in the setting and call it a diamond; I can’t call a synthetic textile cashmere, linen or silk no matter what it looks or feels like.

So why is it OK for the substitute milk producers to call their oat, almond or coconut alternatives milk?  And what about the food fiddlers who use the meat word to ID their plant-based alternatives?

Photo: Nexgrill.com

In “Dairy, Beef Products Fight for Shelf Space with Plant-based Alternatives,” Wall Street Journal reporters Heather Haddon and Jacob Bunge write about what cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are doing about it.

They wrote: “Now, cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are starting to push back. Trade groups representing meat and milk producers said Monday they are ramping up marketing to underscore the difference between their cattle-made products and new rivals made from soy, almonds and peas. Plant-based replacements make up just 1% of the U.S. meat market by volume, Nielsen said.” [Nielsen the polling company.]

Photo: timesunion.com

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “also want legal limits on the ability of plant-based producers to call their products milk or meat. This year 45 bills have been introduced in 27 states that seek to police the labeling of plant-based products and cell-cultured meats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a hearing last month on how to update dozens of labeling standards governing food products, including plant-based meats.”

The FDA is currently reviewing 13,000 comments that chime in on whether meat and milk can appear on packaging. One of the advocates for plant-based substitutes for meat thinks it’s unfair to bring the government into the discussion.

I think it’s simple: if it’s not meat or cow [or goat’s] milk the manufacturer shouldn’t use the words meat or milk in labeling and marketing. Your thoughts?

Photo: youtube

Service of Healthy Frozen Desserts–But is it Ice Cream?

Monday, August 12th, 2019

Photo: saltandstraw.com

I have tried ersatz food and have learned that if for whatever reason I cannot find the real thing, I’d rather pass. This goes for meatless burgers, diet sodas or sugarless salad dressing and cookies.

Someday I would like to be proved wrong. In the case of ice cream, my verdict about the increasingly long list of faux treats stands–based on what they sound like: No thanks.

Plant based products at Expo West 2019 Photo: vegtv.com

Anne Marie Chaker’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘There Was Something Else Ground Up in the Ice Cream,’ Children Revolt at Plant-Based Treats,” brought me up to speed on the artificial landscape for ice cream. She wrote “For ice cream lovers, it is the summer of our discontent. Eager to woo health-conscious consumers, food brands are marketing a growing range of ice cream alternatives made with ingredients such as avocado, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, oats and navy beans.”

One man in her article passed on dairy-free ice-cream [an oxymoron?] made of avocado. Other frozen treats in this category include ingredients from soy to sweet potato, pea protein to coconut.

Some dairy ice creams are supposedly healthy, promoting benefits like being “light” while including probiotics. Additional ingredients are spices or vegetables such as turmeric, cinnamon, spinach, zucchini or cauliflower. I like these vegetables and seasonings but for dinner, not in ice cream.

Chaker reported: “Ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat for it to be labeled ice cream, according to federal regulations. Farm to Spoon bills itself as a ‘plant based frozen dessert’ while Snow Monkey pints made of banana purée and other ingredients say it is a ‘superfood ice treat.'”

I might like these frozen desserts if they tasted OK, but not as a substitute for my favorite food group. Maybe they’d work as a side to a main course. Have you tried any of these exotic concoctions? Would you seek them out? What faux or tampered with foods to make them healthy do you like? In referring to ice cream in Chaker’s article, several people used the word “fun.” Don’t vegetable-based frozen treats sound anything but fun?

Real ice cream Photo: tatecooking.com

 

 

Service of Whose Job is it Anyway? Fact Checking a Nonfiction Book

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Photo: arstechnica.com

Writing a book is daunting. Grasping the tremendous amount of information often gathered over many years and then wrapping it in the coherent and engaging form of a nonfiction book leaves me in awe and admiration of authors. Writing is just the second of many essential steps.

Lynn Neary wrote “Checking Facts in NonFiction,” a transcript of an NPR program I heard on Weekend Edition Saturday. “Authors, not publishers, are responsible for the accuracy of nonfiction books. Every now and then a controversy over a high-profile book provokes discussion about whether that policy should change.” Fact checking is in an author’s contract with the publisher.

Photo: phys.org.

The controversy Neary mentioned involved feminist author Naomi Wolf’s latest book Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love. Matthew Sweet, the host of a BBC 3 podcast “Free Thinking,” said in an interview “I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.” According to Neary, The New York Times joined the fray adding that she’d also made errors in previous books.

An author/journalist friend wrote me in an email: “It’s a privilege to be an author and it’s also a responsibility. We’re human and mistakes are unavoidable…and it sure would be nice if publishers were willing to pick up the tab for fact-checking. But at this point, they’re not, and I think there is a level of due diligence where you are responsible for either hiring a fact-checker or putting in the long, tedious hours to do it yourself.”

Photo: phys.org

Neary reported that Maryn McKenna “paid $10,000 to have someone check the facts in her last book ‘Big Chicken.’” McKenna concentrates on science and health. Best-selling authors like Wolf– and another author caught with errors, Jared Diamond who wrote “Upheaval”–can afford to pay fact checkers McKenna told Neary.

McKenna said “It really makes one wonder whether accuracy, as a value, is something that’s really top of mind for publishers or whether there’s a separate calculation going on about sales volume that accuracy and veracity doesn’t really intersect with.”

My author/journalist friend, who did her own fact checking for her fifth book—it was nonfiction–added: “I also asked a leading neonatologist to read the whole manuscript so he could tell me what I got wrong, and he very generously pointed out my errors so I could correct them before the book went to press. I’m sure there are still mistakes in there somewhere–there was so much conflicting source material and as a journalist there’s also a point where you need to make your best judgment. (For instance, newspaper eyewitness accounts of the same event on the same day conflicted, which I explained in the end notes.)”

The author/journalist added: “I was terrified of making mistakes and agonized over details. So while this opinion might come back to bite me, my feeling is that there was a level of sloppiness in Wolf’s book that’s troubling.”

Photo: pediaa.com

Neary wrote: “Money, says literary agent Chris Parris-Lamb, is the main reason writers don’t get their books fact-checked.” Parris-Lamb told her “I would like to see every book fact-checked, and I want to see publishers provide the resources for authors to hire fact-checkers.” Neary said: “Parris-Lamb sympathizes with writers, but he doesn’t expect publishers will start paying for fact-checking anytime soon because, in the end, he says, the author has more to lose than the publisher.”

Do you read nonfiction? Do you assume the information in the biographies, history, memoirs, journals and commentary you read is accurate? Does a sloppy research job feed the fake news monster? Given the state of book publishing today, what if anything do you think will inspire publishers to step up and pay for fact checking?

Photo: prowritingaid.com

Service of Fakes

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

 

Fake

While art might come to mind first on the subject of fakes, [I covered that angle on Monday], there’s plenty going around that’s unrelated to pictures. Here I describe a telephone wolf in sheep’s clothing who is prowling the phone lines of Dutchess County, NY and a legitimate business that boasts a healthy, suitably ecological–if ersatz–meal in a bottle.

Taxing

I was alarmed last Friday night by a message left on our home phone that went something like this: “I am Denis Grey calling about an enforcement action executed by the US Treasury. You should cooperate with us to help us to help you or this would be considered an intentional attempt to avoid appearing before a magistrate of court or a grand jury for a federal criminal offense.”  Denis gave a phone number to call. He never said my name.  

Voice mailMy husband wasn’t disturbed—he said we’re up to date on our taxes for one thing and that the IRS would write before calling in any case. I felt antsy until I checked out the number online and saw that others had also heard from “Denis,” confirming this IRS scam.

I mentioned the Denis message to the attendant at my dry cleaner and she’d received the same as had the next two customers, one of whom had seen it covered on TV news. Pretty sure that anyone foolish enough to return the call would be asked to confirm their social security number or to provide other personal information.

A few days later I got a text marked urgent supposedly from Chase Bank telling me to call a number with 860 area code immediately. There were a string of others online who had also received the text, some from faux Chase, others Bank of America. One person reported that his text noted that his credit card was deactivated and in order to re-activate it he was prompted to enter his 16-digit card number. Sure. Right away.

Taste Sensation-less

Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Mins wrote “The End of Food Has Arrived, Finally.” He welcomes a quick and easy way to eat healthy, cheap food [$2.50/bottle] on the run with a bottle of Soylent. He wrote that the company claims that its 400 calories from the plant sources of protein, carbs and fats, contains a quarter of daily nutrients.

The taste of Soylent today is “much evolved from its nearly unpalatable first version,” in Mins’ opinion. Not a novel concept, he lists predecessor meal replacement products such as the wine, bacon and twice-baked bucellatum biscuits ancient Roman soldiers carried to the portable soup Lewis and Clark lugged cross country. He qualifies the drink as “the most recent and highly evolved version of the convenience foods without few of us could function.”

Soylent. Photo: soylent.com

Soylent. Photo: soylent.com

Mins reminds the reader that food is “a deeply personal, cultural and even political phenomenon, which is one reason Soylent touches a nerve. But it’s precisely the time in which we find ourselves—when our humble daily bread pales in comparison to the meals we see on social media, and our health and environmental consciousness becomes more acute than ever—that a generic and convenient food replacement like Soylent starts to make sense.”

Have you ever been alarmed or duped by a scam artist on the phone, by email or text?

Have you tasted Soylent in its first and/or current iterations? Do you seek out less tech-y yet healthy substitutes for a quick meal—like drinkable yogurt–when you are on the run? To ensure that there’s enough food to go ’round, should we force ourselves to opt for foods like Soylent?

  Bread and water

 

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