Saturday, May 25, 2013

How a Fake Restaurant Review on Yelp Backfired

W. Blake Gray is a food writer for the SFWeekly. He was informed about a review of Tuba restaurant on Yelp, written by a Maya C. In her review, she claims to be working for the SF.

She wrote: “This place totally rocks! The food blows your mind away. I also write for SF weekly and I definitely am writing about them this week."

But there is one major problem - she never wrote for SF! As the food editor stated, he knows all the writers and what they are and aren't assigned to do. However, he never heard of “Maya C.”!

Blake Gray set out to correct the “mistake” – easier said than done. Yelp isn't easy to deal with, as he found out to his readers’ amusement.

He started by sending Ms. Fakester a message:

"I am the food editor at SF Weekly. Who are you? We don't have a Maya C. working for us right now. Please explain why you cite us in your review of Tuba."

Maya C, sent the following response (to avoid legal action?):

"sf weekly voice, I will fix it. I am very very sorry to cite your name, I haven't checked my reviews since

Needless to say, she never did. Yelp also took the moral low ground:

SF Weekly is obviously worried about its credibility, while Yelp could not care less.

In the mean time, just ignore the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! fake review of Tuba - it’s as real as a three dollar note. If you still want to go to Tuba, I have a bridge I want to sell you…..

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Harper Lee Sues Her Agent Samuel Pinkus Over ‘Mockingbird’ Royalties

For those of you who don’t know - Harper Lee is the author of one of my favorites – To Kill a Mockingbird which was published in 1960. The novel is set in the racial South and won a Pulitzer Prize. It was also turned into a compelling movie featuring the legendary Gregory Peck who won an Oscar for his portrayal of lawyer Atticus Finch.

Harper Lee is still alive, at the ripe age of 87. Ms. Lee has failing eyesight and hearing. She resides in an assisted-living facility since 2007 after suffering a stroke.

Harper Lee engages McIntosh & Otis as her literary agent for many years. When Eugene Winick,one of the principles at the firm became ill in 2002, his son-in-law Mr. Samuel Pinkus took over. Pinkus was sued by McIntosh for stealing several clients, including Ms. Lee.

In 2007, Ms. Lee signed a document assigning her copyright to her agent’s company. The idea was that her agent, Mr. Samuel Pinkus, would act on her behalf.

Once Harper Lee found out that her agent took advantage of her advanced age and infirmity to swindle her out of royalties due to her. She promptly sued at the federal court in New York. ( Lee v. Pinkus, 13-3000, U.S. District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court,Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Samuel Pinkus et al are sued to confirm Harper Lee’s copyright ownership of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  In her suit, she asks that all commissions received by Pinkus will be forfeited.

Last year, Lee’s copyright was re-assigned to her after legal action. Samuel Pinkus was fired as her agent. However, he kept receiving royalties from sales of “To Kill a Mockingbird” as detailed  in the legal complaint.

According to Harper Lee’s lawyer Ms. Gloria Phares: “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see.  Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.”

The defendants, Samuel Pinkus and his wife Ann Winick did not respond. Ms. Winick is the president of Keystone Literary LLC and listed as a defendant. Another named defendant, Gerald Posner, also did not respond. Mr. Posner is a New York lawyer and investigative journalist who incorporated one of Pinkus’s businesses.

Ms. Lee wrote an amazing novel that inspired generations. Taking advantage of her is just obnoxious. Let’s hope that the court sees it the same way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dutch Dirty Past - Slavery Was Abolished in Holland As Late As 1863

Slave trade has been a black chapter in Dutch history. The Dutch always had a problem recognizing the fact that they made hefty profits from slave trade for centuries. Recent research shows that the Dutch traded an estimated total of 600,000 slaves and not 550,000 as reported before. This means that 3,000 slaves a year were transported for profit between the years 1600 and 1800 on Dutch ships.

The driving motive for transporting those slaves to the New Colonies (USA) was pure greed. In 1855 Mr. W. R. van Hoëvell wrote in his book Slaves and Freed Persons under the Dutch Law: “Each house in Amsterdam is like a palace – but the treasures that build these houses are for the greater part the result of squeezing life, sweat and blood out of whipped and beaten slaves.”

Professor Piet Emmer made it his mission to downplay the historic profits of the Dutch slave trading by juggling the numbers. He fails to understand that the numbers are not important; it’s the attitude and lack of conscience that makes it all so obnoxious.

The Dutch tradesmen got the lowest purchase price by enlisting African Ashanti slave traders to raid whole villages to meet the demands of the US. Ships were stocked to the maximum in order to compensate for the “loss of cargo” percentage during the voyage.

Food was also calculated as a business cost in order to transport as many “goods” as possible for the lowest possible costs. Once arriving in the US, the “heads” were sold as cattle and put to work on the plantations – whipped, abused and suppressed by their “owners” and local authorities. There was only one goal: making as much profit as possible by producing sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo for the lowest cost.

The reason that the main Dutch trading companies (the West-India Company and the Middelburg Commerce Company) decided that slave trade was not profitable anymore does not make them any less inhuman.

Abolition of slavery was not inspired at all by decency or morality, but solely by the fact that it just was not financially viable anymore. It was therefore a pure business decision and nothing else.

This makes remembering the slave trade even more horrific. The last thing we need is another “Holocaust denial” movement to gloss over the horrific acts our ancestors conducted towards African slaves.

 (Image© ANP. 2002: three statues in the Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam, part of the exposition 'Slaves and Ships – One way trip, destination unknown'.)