Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Faux Chevaux

Bill Finley, once a horse racing reporter for the New York Daily News, wrote a piece in the NYT as a stringer that thoroughly described the difference between a donkey and a mule. There are actually mule races at some lower level tracks in California, generally called Fair racing. But I never thought there might be a difference between a donkey and a mule. They aren't the same? No.

Bill's story was about a highly proficient mule mare, Black Ruby, that had so far, at the age of 10, won 57 of 75 starts. In 2002 alone, through July, Black Ruby had won 21 of 22 starts. The story was written in July 2002.

Black Ruby is half a horse. A mule apparently is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. Mules cannot reproduce, and run considerably slower than a thoroughbred. They race up to half a mile, which is four furlongs. That they run at all goes against any pre-conceived notion of what a mule can do.

Isn't a mule what Juan Valdez uses to bring the hand-picked Colombian coffee beans down from the slope to your favorite barista? Possibly. But you might also be thinking of a donkey.

Wikipedia tells us:

There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdevolped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.

A male donkey, or ass, is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal.  Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.

And when it comes to mules:

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two F1 hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny which is the product of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion).

I'm starting to read words I've heard all my life. So, a mule is not a donkey, and a fake is not a forgery. Huh?

Just as mule and donkey seem to be used inter-changeably in speech, fake and forgery get used in the same context. But apparently when it comes to art, a fake is not a forgery.

Reading about a museum in Virginia that has purposely placed a competent fake amongst an exhibit of originals of James E. Buttersworth's famous nautical paintings, the difference between fake and forgery is explained.

The museum has done this to engage the museum goer into really looking at the works. Apparently, a fake, is a reproduction of a work that has already been produced. It is a copy. A forgery is a piece being portrayed to have created by the artist that has not been seen before. It is being portrayed as a new original piece, when really its creator is not the more famous artist. 

Being a fan of the TV series 'White Collar', I can't think of there ever being a time when Neal Caffrey, the con man, art forger supreme, explains to Peter Burke, his FBI handler, that fakes and forgeries are different. Neal, you've been holding out on us. Again.

I've made the joke that on 'The Antiques Road Show' you don't want to hear the four letter f-word uttered about your great aunt's vase: fake.

So, mules and donkeys are different, and fakes and forgeries differ. But what's a jackass?

Someone who spends beaucoup bucks on a fake or a forgery and tells you it's real.

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