Review: “How to Fight Fake News” Event at the French Consulate on November 14, 2017

Cover image: How to Fight Fake News at the 934 Conférence courtesy of the French Consulate

Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre – Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

“You will be the heroes of this topic,” Alexander Eisenchteter began. Little did we know in the audience that we would be the ones “debating” and “co-creating solutions” at the How to Fight Against Fake News 934 Conférence at the French Consulate.

I suddenly felt more relaxed, although up until that point, I had been in awe of the glamour and trappings of the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue. Looking at my attire, I wondered whether I’d fit in among the well dressed. Straightening my dress, taking a mental deep breath, I switched to “French mode.”

Interior of the French Consulate © Meg for WhereNYC

 

 

Before me stood six large round tables, enough to seat six people each, complete with iPads. As a public school teacher who reads the “5 Things to Know for Your New Day” every morning on the CNN app on my daily commute (and not much more), I though I was out of my depth.

Alexander Eisenchter making the rounds. Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Eisenchteter, co-founder of Stormz, a friendly looking guy with red glasses, approached our table and introduced himself. His interactive presentation focused largely on the audience, as we discovered with the iPads on our table. For a teacher like myself, I know that student-centered lessons are always a plus.

After a brief introduction by Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre, David Andelman, both former editor and publisher of World Policy Journal and journalist for the New York Times discussed the phenomena of “old news that’s surviving today.” Before 24-hours news stations existed, few considered news as ‘fake,’ whereas now, the majority of public have grown skeptical. With the many layers of readers and writers and the complexity of the Internet, for Mr. Andelman, “trust is the most important thing” in order to fight against fake news.

“Nous sommes tous les médias!”  – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mathieu Magnaudeix, U.S. correspondent for the French-based news agency Mediapart, defined fake news as “false information,” often created by “ideological people.” While President Donald Trump derides unfavorable coverage as “fake news to appear as a victim of the media,” his constant presence in the news can inadvertently aid his popularity.

Mediapart calls itself an “ad-free, investigative news website,” that depends on the support of its subscribers. When comparing news coverage in both America and across the pond, Mr. Magnaudeix states that the coverage in the U.S. tends to be more polemical and “talks too much of fights and not much about ‘real’ problems” — unlike its European counterparts. For Mr. Magnaudeix, the solution is to educate oneself rather than complain about fake news. But some in the audience believed that fake news like tabloids are popular due to the entertainment and “instant gratification over what reality is.”

It was then our turn to be media sleuths as we worked on the following:

1) Challenge Storming (i.e. Come up with “How to” questions related to the topic)

2) Generate Seeds of Ideas (i.e. Come up with possible answers to the “How to” questions)

3) Select Most Appealing Seeds (i.e. Add points to appealing answers to the “How to” questions)

4) Present one “solution” as a group

Using the Stormz app on our iPads placed on the tables, each group collaboratively brainstormed questions and ideas. Mr. Eisenchteter, our animated facilitator, brought the whole audience together for a debrief after every 10-15 minutes.

Following the “Challenge Storming,” we searched for common words used among our groups. For example, a commonly used word in our “How to” questions was “reliable,” as in, “How to identify a reliable source?” Like Presi or NearPod, The Stormz app was very engaging and easy to use, allowing us to type our answers, or ‘seeds’ of ideas, while seeing the other groups’ seeds, and then providing feedback. Mr. Eisenchteter then projected the most popular ‘seeds’ including: “Advertising transparency – who is paying for the news?” As an educator, I would definitely consider using Stormz in my classroom.

Our table group came up with the following solution: “We are all media. We are responsible. – Eliminate safe harbor from legal liability for online publishers of fake news,”  which received a round of applause. Some ideas that other groups came up with were “create media literacy classes in schools” and “emphasize critical thinking in the education system.” Although perhaps I was the only teacher amongst the audience, it was refreshing to see how pedagogical activities like this can be used to discuss global affairs – and lead back to education.

French hospitality – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mr. Andelman concluded the event with “Don’t sue [journalists],” and “I love the idea of democracy taking its course.”

After the event, wine and orange juice were on offer in the reception across the hall. As I was on an empty stomach, I enjoyed a glass of orange juice, and left during the  mingling portion of the evening.

It was a satisfying experience to attend, and any teacher would probably appreciate Mr. Eisenchteter’s interactive approach to understanding current events.

Merci, French Consulate, for a very educational event. And yes, I take full responsibility for my words. This is not fake news.

For more information visit the 934 Conference.

Review: New York City Craft Beer Festival on November 4, 2017

Cover image: © Tatsuya Aoki for WhereNYC

It was an afternoon of absolute beer-filled bliss at the New York City Craft Beer Festival event on Saturday. After arriving, I was immediately mesmerized by the beer tastings and more (They had a million flavors of beef jerky for sale and even candles made from beer bottles!).

Lit Up candles for sale at Beer Fest (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Upon entering, each patron received a complementary beer-tasting shot glass. Tables stacked with different beers made it difficult to choose where to start. While the afternoon had a slightly low-key crowd, both sessions were full of people who were prepared to go par-tay after they were done enjoying their beer tastings.

Happily, many of the brews were local, along with others from different states and countries (even one from Nicaragua!). Most breweries displayed their flagship beers and new flavors.

Panga Drops beer, brewed in Nicaragua, one of the most unique displays (c) Meg for WhereNYC

There were several highlights of the beers we tried, including the Caramel Porter by Saranac (brewed in Utica, New York). According to the Saranac representative, this beer is a fall/winter beer due to its “darker, sweeter flavor.” On the contrary, the summer and spring flavors are “lighter and more bitter.” The caramel taste of the Caramel Porter was something unexpected. It was not too sweet, and the caramel taste gradually appeared in your mouth, leading to a, “Yep, that’s definitely caramel,” comment that my friend and I both made after we sipped the beer from our shot glasses.

Caramel Porter by Saranac © Meg for WhereNYC

Others were funky yet with delicious flavors, such as Westbrook’s Key Lime Pie flavored beer (brewed in South Carolina), and Golden Road’s Mango Cart beer (brewed in California). These are year round flavors due to their brewing locations. Golden Road’s Mango Cart is inspired by California’s beach weather, and beer fest customers each got a Golden Road cap, which certainly matched the brewery’s Southern California image.

Golden Road’s Cali style beers (c) Meg for WhereNYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my friend and I did our rounds, we learned about beer trivia, including the basics. For example, did you know that IPA stands for Indian Pale Ale? Also, apparently IPAs, which tend to be bitter, are more “West Coast style” than “East Coast style.” According to the folks at Five Boroughs Brewing Company, East Coast style tends to be more “juicy” and less bitter. Hence, the Gose was their “East Coast style” beer. (I did not even know that Gose was a beer style, so this was all new to me.) I guess, for East Coasters, we experience enough daily bitterness from our stressful, uptight lifestyles, so an IPA would not be our go-to beer?

West Coast Style vs. East Coast Style beers by Five Boroughs Brewing Co. (c) Meg for WhereNYC

The festival also featured spirits, such as brandy (e.g. Western Grace), cognac (e.g. Camus), and even tequila (e.g. Blue Nectar). They had beer cocktail tastings that included these spirits, and my favorite mix was the Caramel Porter and Camus mix, naturally. For whiskey lovers, I recommend the Blue Nectar Arejo. If you did not know it was tequila, you would think it was whiskey. It was that whiskey-licious.

Camus Cognac x Caramel Porter = Oh la la… (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Blue Nectar Tequila (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Furthermore, Kombucha was also poppin’ at the event. As a Japanese person, I thought of Kombucha as “kelp tea,” which is what kombucha is in Japan. Here, however, it is actually a “fermented tea” with many health benefits (such as energy gain, improved digestion, etc.) which can have alcohol content. There were many kombucha beers (?), such as Kombrewcha from Patchogue, Long Island. My confused self felt rewarded by the health benefits and did not feel like I was drinking alcohol at all when I tried these “kombucha” beers.

Kombrewcha (Is this beer?) (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Needless to say, the beer festival was an excellent event, even for ones who may not be self-proclaimed beer lovers (like myself).

For more information on upcoming events, please visit New York City Craft Beer Festival.

 

 

Review: How to Eat Like a Samurai Event on September 26, 2017

Cover image: Discussion with Kanna Himiya at the Japan Society © Meg for WhereNYC

“In order to conquer the world, we need to live a long life. And in order to live a long life, we need to eat properly, having the best food at the proper time.”

From the moment Ms. Kanna Himiya stood up from her seat, I was mesmerized by her pure elegance.

Mr. Romano introducing Ms. Himiya © Meg for WhereNYC

After New York City-based executive chef and restaurant owner in Japan, Mr. Michael Romano, presented Ms. Himiya, she stood up perfectly from her seat without moving her back, which was already formed in perfect posture. Then, before she climbed up the steps to the stage, she faced the audience, revealing her beautiful blue kimono, and bowed in a perfect 45-degree angle. I heard gasps and various “Wow” whispers from people sitting around me. As an American-born Japanese person, I, too, felt the urge to straighten my back in my seat.

For the Japanese, eating is a “Godly act” (i.e. shinji), because one shows grace to honor life, earth, peace and love. The term “Itadakimasu” used before eating, roughly translates as, “I will gratefully have your food.” “Gochiso-samadeshita,” said after eating, means, “I have finished your food and I thank you for giving me this food.” Ms. Himiya adds through an interpreter, “Even though Japan is a tiny island, I believe that it has the best cuisine, full of the most profound history and culture.”

Samurai Cuisine Introduction © Meg for WhereNYC

For Ms. Himiya, Kanazawa, in the Ishikawa prefecture of Japan, has the “healthiest cuisine” and is  the “birth place of samurai cuisine.”

What is the samurai diet?

Essentially, it consists of healthy, well-balanced food with the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. It served both to entertain and represent the samurai’s land and power. The origins of the “samurai diet” started in the Sengoku Period, which directly translates to the “Period of Battle Country.” During this period, the samurais held miso shiru (i.e. miso soup) parties, or shirukou, allowing them to forge alliances. The samurai regimen featured “ritual foods for good luck” before they went to battle. This led to “Kyouoh” (i.e. banquets) during the following long, peaceful Edo Period in Japan, led by Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. Under Tokugawa, the daimyos had to entertain each other, and they did this through Kyouohs, which were full of the “spirit of thanks,” or omotenashi  as they honored each other.

Beer from the Ishikawa Prefecture was also a hit. © Meg for WhereNYC

The samurai’s philosophy of a healthy diet contributed to the betterment of Japanese culture during the Edo period. The samurai regarded fresh, seasonal ingredients as “medicinal.” Staples such as miso, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and umeboshi (i.e. pickled plums) were key to “umami,” which “can only be expressed in Japanese food,” explained Ms. Himiya, who believes that naturally delicious food made with the “spirit of thanks” (i.e. omotenashi) can help achieve world peace.

Soy sauce and dried soy sauce.. along with dressing. Soy-yummy! © Meg for WhereNYC

“I believe [cultural exchange] is the key to having a better world,” said Ms. Himiya through her interpreter. Perhaps a reference to today’s political climate, Mr. Romano, bluntly remarked, “If only our government could see that…” followed by rapturous applause in the audience.

The reception following the talk showcased an array of delicious food and sake samples from Ishikawa prefecture. One could feel like a true samurai in Edo Japan. The exchange of good food, sake, and conversation was almost therapeutic, making me feel very peaceful.

Sake tasting- tastic! © Meg for WhereNYC

The talk by Ms. Himiya was truly sublime, and the sake and food tasting from the Ishikawa prefecture added to the whole experience. It was so enjoyable that I unfortunately missed my chance to receive a signed copy of Ms. Himiya’s book, The Samurai Gourmet. Ah, well… Gochiso-samadeshita.

For more information on upcoming events including Escape East @ 333, Fri. Oct 20, please visit the Japan Society.