Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No, really, I went to Rio. I just took my fur coat, just in case.

A fascinating article in the LA Times about the rampant market in Russia for all things that are fake.

And we're not talking about Rolexes here. For example, a company called Persey Tours can basically fake a whole trip for you to any location in the world.

From the article: " Persey Tours was barely keeping the bill collectors at bay before it started offering fake vacations last year. Now it's selling 15 a month — providing ersatz ticket stubs, hotel receipts, photos with clients' images superimposed on famous landmarks, a few souvenirs for living room shelves.

If the customer is an errant husband who wants his wife to believe he's on a fishing trip, Persey offers not just photos of him on the river, but a cellphone with a distant number, a lodge that if anyone calls will swear the husband is checked in but not available, and a few dead fish on ice."

Think they're kidding? The photo above is an example of their handiwork for a recent customer. The picture is from Rio, but she never went there. Nice, huh?

The article also goes on to talk about a person who sells fake college degrees:

False diplomas and term papers are the busy student's way of getting over that last hurdle at school. Even Putin's doctoral dissertation, researchers from the Brookings Institution revealed earlier this year, contained major sections lifted from a text published by academics from the University of Pittsburgh.

The revelations were barely repeated in the Moscow press, not because they were scandalous, but because they weren't — government officials routinely rely on fake dissertations patched together by underlings.

A woman named "Nadezhda," whose number was distributed in Moscow subway stations offering to provide university diplomas, was asked by a reporter if she could come up with a degree from the Russian State Medical University.

"No problem. It will cost you 15,000 rubles ($555). What year of graduation do you want?" she asked.

"How about somewhere between 1982 and 1984?"

"It is doable."

She told the caller to provide his full name and education specialty, and asked what kind of grades should be listed on his transcripts and whether he wanted to have attended day classes or night school. "By the way, have you studied medicine?" she inquired then, in an apparent attack of conscience.

"Frankly, no."

"Then maybe you don't need to go into it."

"Well, I need it badly."

"Well, I mean, if you have nothing to do with medicine, maybe you should reconsider it and maybe settle for something else."

"No, really, I need a medical degree quite badly. I can't explain it to you over the phone now."

"Well, OK then, let's do it. When will you have the information ready?"

Hey, what's this all about, anyway?

Yuri Lubimov, advisor to the economic development minister on piracy issues, said to understand the Russian public's appetite for fakes, one must understand the importance of appearances.

"It's like the French notion of faire montrer. It's better to look like something than to be something. It's a very Eastern way of thinking," he said. "I know people here who have not very much money at all, but he will buy a very big car so that other people will see that he's rich, he's powerful."

Of course, no one can spot a fake like a Russian — ask any woman who ever looked with disdain at a rabbit fur coat going down Tverskaya Avenue. Or ask Maria Babalova, music critic at the newspaper Izvestia, who raised an eyebrow when she saw billboards pasted all over town for an upcoming performance of "The Rising Stars of La Scala."

Why hadn't anyone ever heard of this tenor and soprano, if they were from La Scala?

Grigory Papish, general producer of the Moscow International Music House, where the performance was scheduled, said he learned too late that the singers were "on their way to having contracts" with La Scala.

"The man, the tenor, he showed some hints of a voice, some signs of the old Italian school of singing," Babalova said in an interview.

"As for the woman, she was a tragicomic sight," she said. "Her dress barely covered her aging knees. One of the straps didn't want to stay on her shoulder, and she was more concerned with fixing it than with her performance. She had no voice to speak of. Instead of singing, she howled, squeaked, slurped."

So there's definitely a downside. But is there anything that people won't try to fake?

Dmitry Popov, founder and chief executive of Persey Tours, certainly hopes not. Last year, he made $2,000 helping a Siberian gas station owner convince his friends that he had rented a ride on the Russian space shuttle to the moon.

"Of course he was smiling when he ordered this," Popov said. "But he paid."


Anonymous Ted said...

"Passing and Wishing You Were What You Are Not" Chapter 12 of William Ian Miller's book Faking It.
Check out the creepy, creepy, cool cover.

Refreshing blend of tones in your blog LJ. And oh, He-man on ice? Indelibly virtuosic. Unfortunately so.

7/15/2006 6:59 PM

Blogger Lindsay Jones! said...

Hey, who am I to judge?

Thanks for stopping by, Ted! I'll check out the book.

7/15/2006 7:26 PM


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