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How to Choose, Store, and Eat Grapes

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Illustration for article titled How to Choose, Store, and Eat Grapes

Photo: Marie Barresi (Shutterstock)

For a large portion of the country, it is grape season, a vastly underrated fruit season. Most of us have access to grapes all year, but fall is when they really show off. And whether you’re partaking of the season’s more unusual grape offerings or simply enjoying a standard green table grape, you should pick, wash, and store them with care to maximize their lifespan, and your enjoyment while eating them.

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How to pick ‘em

Grapes are technically a berry, but they are (luckily) one of the least fragile berries around. Still, there are some measures you can take to ensure you get the best-tasting, longest-lasting bunch of grapes at the market.

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First, look at the stem. It should be green and flexible, and the grapes should be firmly attached and not look shriveled or moldy where they meet the it. Next, look at and feel the grapes. You want ‘em firm and plump and—again—attached to the stem. Loose, mushy grapes bouncing around in the bottom of the bag can encourage mold and rot, and you don’t want the subpar fruit to contribute to the weight of the bag (and price of the bunch). Red and black grapes should be even, rich, and dark in hue; green grapes should have a yellowish tint. They should also appear to be coated in a fine, kind of silvery dust; this the called the “bloom,” and it protects the grapes from insects and bacteria and seals in their moisture. The bloom starts to fade once the grapes are picked, so the more bloom, the fresher your grapes.

How to store ‘em

Most grapes are sold in well-ventilated bags, which are actually the perfect storage container for your grapes. If you buy your grapes in bulk, you may have to bring them home in paper or standard plastic bags, neither of which is ideal for storing grapes. If this sounds like a scenario you have faced or will be facing, simply transfer them to a well-ventilated container, like a colander with a clean dish towel draped over it or not-quite-closed freezer bag. Keep your grapes in your crisper drawer, which is humid but not wet, and keep them away from any produce with a strong odor (like that half an onion you need to use up).

Though humidity is a good thing for your grapes, actual droplets of water are the enemy, as excess moisture can encourage mold growth and rot, so don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them. Just rinse them under cold water (no soap or bleach, please!) and place them on a paper towel to absorb any drips before serving.

How to eat ‘em

To enjoy a grape, simply put it in your mouth and chew. If you want to get fancy, you can lacto-ferment them with a little salt to make a fizzy grape pickle. If you’ve missed their prime eating window and they’re starting to get a little mushy, do not fret (or throw them out). Freezing them can firm them up into an icy little treat, or you could roast them into a cheese plate accoutrement, or sous vide them with a lamb neck. If you need another fun grape-related activity, you could always try and see how many you can fit into your mouth at one time, though honestly, this is a dangerous game you should not play. (My record is 23.)

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Fire TV boxes are getting a host of new hands-free features via paired Alexa devices

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If you’ve got an Amazon Fire TV box, hate picking up a voice remote, and have a separate Alexa-enabled device like an Echo smart speaker, then I have some great news. A new update rolling out this week is adding a host of new hands-free features to the Fire TV like being able to use it to view calendars or the weather, control menus, and play music.

Although many of these smart display-like features have been available on the Fire TV before thanks to Amazon’s voice remote, what’s new is being able to access them hands-free. You’ll need to pair an external Alexa-enabled device like an Amazon Echo to get the functionality to work, however. The Fire TV Cube is the only one of Amazon’s streaming boxes to have the far-field mics to handle hands-free voice controls built into the device itself.

Although you’ve been able to pair Alexa-enabled devices with Fire TVs for hands-free control for years, its functionality has been more limited until now. It’s mainly consisted of opening apps, playing movies or TV shows, searching for content, and controlling playback.

The biggest new features will be able to turn a TV into something more akin to an Echo Show smart speaker. You can ask it to show a calendar, the weather, or a feed from a compatible internet-connected camera. There are also new navigation controls, allowing you to ask Alexa to “scroll right/left” or “go back.” Finally, Amazon is also adding more music playback features, effectively letting a smart speaker play music from a TV’s speakers.

Amazon says the new features are rolling out over the coming week to “compatible” Alexa-enabled, Fire TV, and Fire TV Edition devices (we’ve asked exactly which devices will be supported and will update if we hear back). However, Amazon says Echo Show and Echo Spot smart displays are not supported.

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Protest art leaves the streets

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Amir Diop opened up Instagram on the morning of July 22nd to find photos of his shredded mural. A few days earlier, he and artist Eddison Romeo had spent 16 hours painting the wooden boards that covered up the windows of the Museum of Modern Art’s design store in SoHo, Manhattan.

They painted as protests against police brutality and racism rocked the nation. In the mural, which spanned four nearly floor-to-ceiling boards, smiling Black and brown figures surround a swirling black hole. Written across the top were the words “Take me to a place where” — the T-shirt of a person with a raised fist completed the sentence: where “Black Lives Matter.”

“They said that place doesn’t exist and they just threw it in the garbage,” Diop says. He was upset that he wasn’t contacted before the boards came down. By the time Diop saw the photos on Instagram, some of the boards had already been reduced to a pile of long wooden strips. Next to the pile in the photo, a couple of workers were sawing through more boards. He had added another note on the mural next to his Instagram handle that read: “If MoMa cares about art, they’ll save this.” That was gone, too.

Amir Diop poses for a portrait in the studio space that became a home base for the newly created Soho Renaissance Factory collective.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Diop didn’t have permission to paint on those boards or on dozens of other boards he turned into works of art across SoHo. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, artists transformed the neighborhood of SoHo from an industrial area into the center of fashion and design it is today. When the pandemic shuttered businesses, the neighborhood more closely resembled its old, emptier self — block after block devoid of anything but boarded-up buildings. When the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked massive protests, demonstrators and artists brought life to the neighborhood again. The streets became an outdoor gallery for protest art.

Diop and a group of other artists banded together to save their art as businesses and museums open back up. A patchwork of friends, social media followers, and security guards in the neighborhood kept a watchful eye on the pieces and tipped the artists off when any boards started to come down. At a moment’s notice, they rushed to the scene where they sometimes successfully convinced storeowners to let them take back their work. They’ve scared off random people looking to take the art for themselves. Sometimes they were too late.

They don’t technically own the boards that became their canvases. But each layer of paint is evidence of hours of labor they invested in their causes. The resulting works of art are invaluable as symbols of the ideals that have propelled one of the most pivotal civil rights movements in the nation’s history.

Amir Diop poses for a portrait in a Soho studio space that the collective, Soho Renaissance Factory, used as a meeting place. July 27th, 2020
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

“It just seems as though MoMa determined what’s art, and what’s not art … If I’m not a dead Black artist, they don’t want to hear from me,” Diop tells The Verge. “They destroyed a piece from this movement. When I am dead, they’ll be looking for the works that I’ve made.”

After Diop’s art was taken down from the MoMA Design Store, he and his friends took to Instagram. Konstance Patton, another artist, posted a video of Diop. “Tell me why you mad, son?” Patton asks Diop in the video.

“MoMa just chopped up my art,” Diop answers.

“Does MoMa care about Black artists?” Patton says.

“Apparently not,” replies Diop. The MoMa Design Store did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Even if the artists don’t own the boards they painted on, shopkeepers don’t necessarily have the right to chop up the murals. The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) that was passed in 1990 gives artists rights to protect their work. It is intended to prevent the intentional destruction, distortion, or mutilation of works of art. Under the law, artists have the right to claim their work and must be given 90 days’ notice to take it down before it can be destroyed.

One of the highest-profile cases that invoked rights under VARA was the stunning legal victory of 21 graffiti artists against a real estate developer in New York City. The artists had transformed an old factory building in Queens into 5Pointz, a graffiti art mecca. Some of the artists rented studio space in the building, and with their landlord’s permission, began painting the walls in the 1990s. By 2013, some 1,500 artists had left their mark and tourists were trekking to the landmark in droves.

That year, after the owner of the building decided he’d rather tear it down to build new apartments, he unexpectedly painted the colorful walls white overnight. The structure was demolished in 2014. “This is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti,” Marie Cecile Flageul, a spokeswoman for the 5Pointz artists told The New York Times after the whitewashing. The artists successfully sued the real estate developer for violating VARA and won $6.75 million in damages. The Supreme Court this month declined to hear an appeal, leaving the decision in place and likely making it easier for other street artists to use VARA to protect their work.

“5Pointz” was an outdoor art exhibit space for graffiti artists.
Photo by Hohlfeld / ullstein bild via Getty Images

New York’s graffiti iconic spot “5Pointz” stands defaced with white paint covering most of the artwork, after the building was painted white in New York, November 19th, 2013.
Photo by Emmanuel Dunand / AFP via Getty Images

VARA is one of the strongest laws protecting artists’ work in the world, according to Enrico Bonadio, who teaches intellectual property law at the City, University of London. But for an artist to successfully invoke it, they need to prove that the work of art reaches “recognized stature” — a gray area that largely depends on what art is deemed important enough to be saved. The 5Pointz case paved the way for graffiti and street art to be recognized as such, and social media has opened the door for more art to become influential outside the walls of galleries.

“Internet recognition could be enough,” Bonadio says. “Graffiti and street art live on the internet. They thrive on the internet more than fine art.”

The context in which the art was created gives it gravity, too. Similar to the way graffiti is an integral pillar of hip-hop culture, the street art that’s accompanied worldwide protests this year has become an iconic piece of the movement to end police brutality and institutional racism. “These pieces are the visual art expression of the political, sociological, and cultural movement that is raging,” says Brooke Oliver, an attorney who specializes in art law in the US.

“I want to make something beautiful that is going to energize the movement,” Patton says of her art. She paints “goddesses,” Black and Indigenous women in vibrant hues, sometimes adorned with gold earrings and pipes. “Showing these Black women that are just strong and graceful and beautiful and obviously goddesses, for me that’s a really strong protest,” she says.

Konstance Patton stands in front of two of her goddess paintings.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Before the recent protests, Patton painted her street art by cover of night, sometimes leaving behind “messy” murals that she rushed to complete before anyone could stop her. “Now it’s like I’ve been allowed by the streets to take my time,” she says. She was able to paint blank boards across SoHo undisturbed. “It’s for me, a powerful statement. I’m a Black Native American woman and I can go outside and paint — I’m not bothered by the cops, which is really crazy.”

Patton struck up relationships with security guards stationed outside shuttered businesses on the streets where she painted. When one business where she had painted a board opened back up, she got a message from one of the security guards to let her know that her work was in danger of being tossed out. Patton was able to get in touch with a group of artists that had banded together to collect boards from reopening businesses, and they picked it up from the security guard’s station.

Since she started painting, some of her goddesses have vanished, including one she named after her newborn niece, Kaya. Patton and Diop think some people stole their art — taking pieces down to keep in their own homes or potentially sell or display elsewhere. Diop even saved one of his murals from a man he caught red-handed taking boards off storefronts and loading them into a moving van. Diop says the man claimed to be hired by renowned art fair Art Basel, but Art Basel denied collecting any murals in New York City in an email to The Verge.

“There’s definitely like this predatory situation happening,” Patton says.

Artist Konstance Patton walks down the street in SoHo in lower Manhattan.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Patton and Diop, who met while painting in SoHo, have banded together with a few other artists, Trevor Croop, Brendan McNally, and Esteban Sulé Marquez-Monsanto, to preserve and promote their art. They all stumbled across each other in the art scene that sprung up during protests and the pandemic. Now, they call their collective the Soho Renaissance Factory.

Croop, who was previously a Facebook artist in residence, rented a studio space in SoHo that became a home base for the new collective over the summer. Croop stored more than 80 boards in his space, 10 of which have been returned to artists, with some even lining the staircase on the three flights up to his studio. He’s also worked with other groups, including the local nonprofit SoHo Broadway Initiative, to reunite other artists with their work.

SoHo Broadway reached out to businesses before they opened back up and asked them to be in touch so they could collect the art. Now the SoHo Broadway and the Renaissance Factory each have databases of dozens of boards they’ve collected. They reached out to artists who left social media handles or other identifying information on the murals. SoHo Broadway has returned or made arrangements to return boards to nearly 30 artists.

Trevor Croop’s studio loft space in SoHo stored dozens of pieces of artwork that he and other artists saved as businesses opened back up and took down painted boards.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Trevor Croop in the staircase of his former studio space shows the many boards with work by various artists being stored there.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Amir Diop’s work that once boarded up the side of a Chase bank was hung inside the loft space.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Everything happened on the fly and neither group was sure how long they’d have to keep storing the pieces, but they didn’t want to keep the art to themselves. Many of the artists the Soho Renaissance Factory reached out to didn’t have a place to store the boards they painted on or were unable to pick them up.

Since Diop started saving boards from being destroyed, he hoped they would eventually wind up in a museum or gallery. Now, the plans are in place for that to become a reality. Last week, the Soho Renaissance Factory struck a deal with Mana Contemporary, an arts center in Jersey City. With artists’ consent, Mana plans to hold all the boards that the group saved through the end of next year, with the hope of putting together a show once COVID-19 related restrictions lighten up. Artists can take their art back if they want to keep it, but they will also have the opportunity to sell their work when it’s exhibited. If they choose to sell, they can either keep all the proceeds or donate some to a charity of their choice. Mana Contemporary is also developing an interactive map of street art made alongside racial justice protests in the US this year.

In the meantime, the Soho Renaissance Factory has already landed a residency at the NoMo SoHo hotel in Manhattan, where some of their boards are on display. They’re living and working there, too, making new works inside a new studio space at the hotel.

“My hope is that [my art] is a part of history,” Diop says. “We can teach kids in the future that this is what happened in 2020, and there are different artists that were coming out and putting beautiful stuff up that can impact the future.”

Brendan McNally, Trevor Croop, Konstance Patton, Esteban Sulé Marquez-Monsanto, and Amir Diop came together to form the Soho Renaissance Factory
Brendan McNally, Trevor Croop, Konstance Patton, Esteban Sulé Marquez-Monsanto, and Amir Diop came together to form the Soho Renaissance Factory.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

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Landing AI launches new visual inspection platform for manufacturers

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As companies manufacturer goods, human inspectors review them for defects. Think of a scratch on smartphone glass or a weakness in raw steel that could have an impact downstream when it gets turned into something else. Landing AI, the company started by former Google and Baidu AI guru Andrew Ng, wants to use AI technology to identify these defects, and today the company launched a new visual inspection platform called LandingLens.

“We’re announcing LandingLens, which is an end-to-end visual inspection platform to help manufacturers build and deploy visual inspection systems [using AI],” Ng told TechCrunch.

He says that company’s goal is to bring AI to manufacturing companies, but he couldn’t simply repackage what he he had learned at Google and Baidu, partly because it involved a different set of consumer use cases, and partly because there is just much less data to work with in a manufacturing setting.

Adding to the degree of difficulty here, each setting is unique, and there is no standard playbook you can necessarily apply across each vertical. This meant Landing AI had to come up with a general tool kit that each company could use for the unique requirements of their manufacturing process.

Ng says to put this advanced technology into the hands of these customers and apply AI to visual inspection, his company has created a visual interface where companies can work through a defined process to train models to understand each customer’s inspection needs.

The way it works is you take pictures of what a good finished product looks like, and what a defective product could look like. It’s not as easy as it might sound because human experts can disagree over what constitutes a defect.

The manufacturer creates what’s called a defect book where the inspector experts work together to determine what that defect looks like via a picture, and resolve disagreements when they happen. All this is done through the LandingLens interface.

Once inspectors have agreed upon a set of labels, they can begin iterating on a model in the Model Iteration Module where the company can train and run models to get to a state of agreed upon success where the AI is picking up the defects on a regular basis. As customers run these experiments, the software generates a report on the state of the model, and customers can refine the models as needed based on the information in the report.

Ng says that his company is trying to bring in sophisticated software to help solve a big problem for manufacturing customers. “The bottleneck [for them] is building the deep learning algorithm, really the machine learning software. They can take the picture and render judgment as to whether this part is okay, or whether it is defective, and that’s what our platform helps with,” he said.

He thinks this technology could ultimately help recast how goods are manufactured in the future. “I think deep learning is poised to transform how inspection is done, which is really the key step. Inspection is really the last line of defense against quality defects in manufacturing. So I’m excited to release this platform to help manufacturers do inspections more accurately,” he said.

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