How loosely do you define “antiquity”? Would something “quite a few months old” qualify? Technological advances and the resourcefulness of forgers have created what one expert calls a “pandemic” of fake gold jewelry that’s being presented—and sold—as ancient or medieval. Jack Ogden, the president of the Society of Jewellery Historians, told The Guardian that a combination of 3D printers and old-school filigree work involving “designs applied with the point and cap of a ballpoint pen” have resulted in a market flooded with ersatz collectibles. Ogden, who “estimates that half of the supposed ancient gold jewellery he is shown is fake,” addresses the issue in detail in the new issue of Antiqvvs magazine. Still, he said, “I actually admire forgers enormously. They’re very clever guys.”
One of the hottest tourist destinations these days is apparently the Luding Bridge, which crosses the Dadu River in Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China. (It’s about 50 miles west of Ya’an, if that helps.) For several years, and especially with overseas travel curtailed, mainland-Chinese vacationers have been heading for places that loom large, if sometimes factually imprecisely, in the history of the Communist Party, the Red Army, and Mao Zedong. “Citing data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, [the state-run tabloid] Global Times reports that the number of people ‘taking part in red tourism’ has increased from 140 million in 2004 to 1.41 billion in 2019,” wrote Mercedes Hutton in the South China Morning Post, meaning that “every single Chinese citizen (and then some) visited a red tourism site in the year before Covid-19 struck.”
As for Luding in particular: in 1935 the bridge was the site of a fierce battle—or possibly a routine, relatively easy, subsequently over-dramatized military operation, as the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once admitted. In any event, one father interviewed by the Global Times said he planned to take his six-year-old daughter there so she could “learn the true heroic feat of the Red Army during the Long March.” Sounds great. And presumably there’s a waterslide?
Lego, the Danish toy company responsible for everyone’s favorite addictive plastic-brick constructs, is about to introduce a 346-piece L.G.B.T.Q.+ set—its first. The rainbow-themed Everyone Is Awesome edition will feature 11 new figurines, 10 of which have no specific gender. And the one that does? “I purposely put the purple drag queen in as a clear nod to the fabulous side of the LGBTQIA+ community,” explained Matthew Ashton, who designed the model.
No Fumadores (No Smokers), a group hoping to prevent Spain’s beaches from turning into enormous, crescent-shaped ashtrays, has delivered to the country’s environment minister a petition to that end, with more than 283,000 signatures attached. A recent analysis by the European Environment Agency found that “cigarette butts and filters were among the most commonly found items on Europe’s beaches,” reported The Guardian, and warned that “nicotine, heavy metals and benzene contained in cigarette ends may leach out, contaminating soil and aquatic environments, and that filters represent a serious ingestion and entanglement risk to marine wildlife.” Plus, there’s the secondhand smoke, even if it’s being carried along on a delightful sea breeze. No Fumadores said that 475 beaches in Spain are already smoke-free; they’re coming for the rest.
Oxford’s decision to reverse itself and not take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the 19th-century British mining magnate/politician/imperialist/white supremacist, isn’t playing well among anti-racism activists who have campaigned for years for its removal. The university’s Oriel College, which Rhodes attended, cited “regulatory and financial challenges” in announcing it would ignore an independent commission’s recommendation that the statue disappear.
In response, the group Rhodes Must Fall said, “No matter how Oriel College might try to justify their decision, allowing the statue to remain is an act of institutional racism. Pretending that this is a choice made due to financial costs is a slap in the face with the hand of white supremacy.” Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson, Britain’s education secretary, tweeted: “Sensible & balanced decision not to remove the Rhodes statue from Oriel College, Oxford — because we should learn from our past, rather than censoring history, and continue focusing on reducing inequality.” To be continued, clearly.
The Polish double agent Michal Goleniewski, who defected to the West in 1961, had an eventful, even exhausting life: Nazi collaborator, spy both for and against Polish counter-intelligence and the K.G.B., informer for the F.B.I.—and victim of the C.I.A., according to Tim Tate in his new book, The Spy Who Was Left Out in the Cold. Goleniewski exposed 1,693 Soviet-bloc agents, and, Tate told The Guardian, “no other defector or agent—before or since—has identified such a vast haul of spies.” (Among them was George Blake, the notorious Soviet mole inside M.I.6, who claimed to have betrayed 500 British agents, eventually escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison, and died only last year in Moscow, at 98.)
But far from being celebrated, Goleniewski was cast aside by the C.I.A., said Tate. The agency, having found a new favorite defector, “reneged on [Goleniewski’s] contract, harassed, smeared and attempted to discredit him and, ultimately, pushed his already fragile mind into full-blown madness.” He died—in New York in 1993—claiming, as he had for years, to be a Romanov, heir to the last czar of Russia.
Now a story about, rather than from, The Guardian. The Guardian Media Group’s chairman, Neil Berkett, intends to step down in 2022, and Alex Graham, the chair of the Scott Trust, which controls GMG, already has—leaving two significant board openings and throwing into relief a feud between The Guardian’s editor, Katharine Viner, and its chief executive, Annette Thomas. So reports The Times of London, by the way—not The Guardian.
“Insiders said that Thomas, 56, wanted to make the newsroom more efficient and believed that the publisher needed to ‘think more commercially’ to capitalise on its large online audience,” said The Times. “Viner, 50, has bristled at Thomas’s perceived incursion into her domain. Her supporters accuse the chief executive of crossing the divide between commercial and editorial.” Furthermore, “the feud between Viner and Thomas has become so toxic that one may have to leave, The Daily Telegraph said last week.” But maybe there’s an end in sight? “A media executive who was approached about the GMG chairman’s position turned down the offer due to the enmity.” Or maybe not.
Three years after Stephen Hawking’s death, his Cambridge University office is being cleared out: the physicist’s children will be sending its contents—ranging from academic papers to a Homer Simpson wall clock—to the university’s library and to London’s Science Museum. Under U.K. law, the acquisition of the archives will also settle the estate’s $6 million inheritance tax.
Selections from the Hawking trove, which also includes several of his wheelchairs, communications equipment, office furniture, and quite a few Simpsons mementos—he had cameos on the show several times—will be on view at the museum next year, possibly followed by a tour, and then on permanent display in London. At Cambridge’s library, Hawking’s 10,000-page archive, including his scientific correspondence and a first draft of A Brief History of Time, will join the papers of both Newton and Darwin and, presumably, any Simpsons memorabilia they might have collected.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL