The Week What Caught Our Eye

October 1, 2022

Photo of Mt. Rainier“How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet!” — Thomas Jefferson

(Mount Rainier as viewed from Mount Defiance in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of western Washington state. Bill Callen)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

The images from Florida this week were at once terrifying, heartbreaking and disorienting, documenting in real time destruction and suffering on a staggering scale. It will take days, if not weeks, to tally the losses; months, if not years, to recover and rebuild.

Seawater surging through downtown streets, while up the Gulf Coast, Ian’s counterclockwise force created temporary mudflats in large swaths of Tampa Bay. And of course, in the midst of heartbreak, heroism, sacrifice and kindness.

The big-picture questions about climate change, development patterns, density, public policy and other matters will be asked, but for now, it seems, the most appropriate question is, how can I help

JUDGE RULES: Aaron Judge of the Yankees this week tied Roger Maris’ American League (and, to Maris’ son, legitimate major league) record with his 61st home run of the season in a victory over the Blue Jays in Toronto. Judge, who hit his 60th home run eight days prior and patiently waited out 12 walks during that time, had six games left to break Maris’ record heading into a weekend series at Yankee Stadium against the Orioles, the Yankees’ final regular-season homestand.

PICKLEBALL MOGULS: As if more evidence were needed that pickleball is taking over the world, or at least seemingly every inch of paved playing surface in the United States, NBA superstar LeBron James and two of his all-star buddies are among the four buyers of an expansion franchise in the nascent Major League Pickleball, which apparently is a thing now. Other owners in the league include future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, former pro tennis star James Blake and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSING: A post-pandemic movement to change private property laws is gaining steam in Britain. Hundreds of people are intentionally ambling across rolling fields and bucolic countryside they don’t own. Some are seeking to see the elusive shining Dumbledore or other exotic flora and fauna, others want to thwart proposed developments, and a few are looking for a place to have a picnic. There are some eco-warriors, to be sure, but you’ll also find retired business people, teachers, musicians and a minister all traipsing about without permission. Private landowners point out that trespassing is unlawful and that there are well-defined trails owned by and available to the public, but the ”Right to Roamers” insist they are simply reclaiming the lost tradition of rambling.

PLENTY OF SPACE: Fans of “Mad Men” may recall a storyline in which a fictional Conrad Hilton told Don Draper that he wanted an ad campaign focused on building a Hilton on the moon, and was unhappy when his request was dismissed as a joke. And while there’s no evidence that the real Conrad Hilton ever had such designs, the company that bears his name will, in fact, be headed to space, announcing it will be designing the rooms, suites and lounge areas of Starlab, the upcoming replacement for the International Space Station.

SPEAKING OF DON DRAPER: Glamorous, post-war New York was awash in legendary watering holes, none more famous than the Stork Club run by a former bootlegger from Oklahoma who knew how to cultivate celebrities. His customers included Grace Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, and members of the Roosevelt and Kennedy families. From Table 50, Walter Winchell gathered materials for his nationally syndicated gossip column and radio show. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco were there just before news of their engagement broke. Ernest Hemingway got into a brawl there with the warden of Sing Sing. All gathered ’round a great mahogany bar that survives the Stork Club. But where is it?

TARGET PRACTICE: NASA this week aimed a vending-machine sized spacecraft at an asteroid the size of a football stadium 6.8 million miles away and scored a direct hit, slamming into the rock at 14,000 mph. The $330 million exercise was part of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, which is designed to determine whether mankind could, if necessary, alter the path of an asteroid as it hurtled toward Earth. It’s unclear yet whether the impact altered the asteroid’s path.

PASSING THE CONCORDE: A Spanish designer has developed a plane that could speed passengers from New York to London in under 90 minutes. The Hyper Sting would travel 2,486 mph, twice as fast as the Concorde, with 170 passengers aboard. It would be quieter and would emit less, but its two ramjet engines would be fueled by a small nuclear reactor. And it would also require the use of a so-far theoretical cold fusion nuclear reactor.

 

Photo of the SagamoreThe iconic Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, N.Y., has been voted the third-best destination resort in America by readers of USA Today’s 10 Best List. The first Sagamore rose on Green Island on Lake George in the 1800s. Today, it’s a modern luxurious resort and spa with dining, golf, tennis and many other recreational amenities.

UNFUNNY PAGES: Newsday, the New York newspaper, had a cheeky slogan some years ago about what it delivered to readers: “Truth, Justice and the Comics.” Now, as print newspapers decline, the comics page is seeing the end of the line. Lee Newspapers, owners of the Glens Falls Post-Star and more than 70 other publications, and News Corp. are taking some of the fun out of their papers. Dilbert, the strip satirizing modern office culture, is getting cut and its creator, Greene County, N.Y., native Scott Adams, wonders if it’s something he said.

DOWN TO EARTH: California has become the fifth state to legalize composting of human remains, joining Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Human composting is considered a “green” burial option because it avoids the use of embalming fluids or cremation, which emits about 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in the U.S. alone, according to National Geographic. The process of decomposition, which takes place in a reusable steel tube, takes about a month. The founder and CEO of a funeral home in the Seattle area that specializes in human composting said there's been growing demand for the practice in recent years. 

KINDNESS MATTERS: Kira Rumfola was distraught. A student at the University of Tampa, the Long Island native arrived at the airport in May, ready to head home for summer break with her pet betta fish, Theo, riding along in a container on her lap. One problem, Southwest Airlines customer service agent Ismael Lazo told her — the airline’s pet policy wouldn’t allow her to bring it on board. Seeing how upset she was, Lazo made an offer — let me take care of Theo this summer, and you can pick him up when you return. And that’s exactly what happened.

HE'S THE MANN: When the knock came at his door early Wednesday, Ernie Mann of Rensselaer, N.Y., wondered “who the hell” was bothering him. He had no idea “The Today Show” was outside with 30 of his friends and neighbors and a live national audience. Mr. Mann was honored for his life of service to his friends and neighbors in Rensselaer. He taught for 30 years in the Rensselaer schools and has served as a volunteer firefighter for 60. But he’s especially beloved for his daily small acts of kindness.

LEAN IN TO FALL: Do you find yourself lost in your own head in the fall, despairing the loss of summer light and the freedom and greenery that abound? In the winds of autumn some hear a whisper of decay and mortality. But leaning into that sadness can be an important way to overcome it. If you’re always trying to avoid difficult feelings, you might end up also cutting yourself off “from love and richness and sweetness,” says one researcher. “This is how life is: sweet and sad, poured from the same vessel in equal measure.”

ROYAL MISTREATMENT: It appears that Prince Harry is getting the Edward VIII treatment. The king who famously abdicated after less than a year on the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson was ostracized by the royal family and the British public, and it appears that King Charles III, Harry’s father, similarly has no inclination to reconcile. A former Buckingham Palace staff member told The Daily Beast, “Charles will be ruthless when it comes to protecting the Crown, and that means keeping Harry and Meghan as far from the center of gravity as possible.”

NURTURE CENTER: Shamayim Harris ­— Mama Shu to the people who know her around Detroit and Highland Park, Mich. — has known a degree of tragedy and loss that would break lesser people. One child, a toddler, was killed by a hit-and-run driver, another shot to death. She turned her grief to action, leading a fund-raising effort to renovate and equip a 111-year-old house in Highland Park into the Homework House, available to any child in Highland Park who needs a peaceful place to do schoolwork and attend to other fundamental needs. “My hope is for it to be a safe haven for children to learn, grow, explore, for them to be able to be fed and all of their needs to be met,” she told the Detroit Free Press. She said she envisions a sprawling block with community services for families in and around Highland Park, including the Homework House, a marketplace for female entrepreneurs, and a vegetarian cafe that creates jobs in the area.

TRANSPARENCY DYNAMICS: There’s a movement afoot to require companies to be more transparent about how much they pay people, a tactic meant to address historic imbalances in earnings between men and women for the same jobs. And while pay transparency may sound good in theory, learning that a co-worker is being paid more than you can lead to workplace behaviors that diminish the effectiveness of the organization. An economics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado examined the effects when a newspaper in 1990 published the salaries of every NHL player, a first. He found that, because players who scored a lot were paid more, players at the lower end of the scale changed how they played to score more, affecting the balance of the team. As The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen writes, “It’s not hard to see how those findings generalize to any business. That hockey player putting offense ahead of defense could be a salesperson being paid to boost short-term commissions instead of building long-term relationships, or a teacher getting a bonus for improving test scores rather than inspiring students. When people feel undervalued, they prioritize the flashier parts of their jobs that are easier to measure, even at the risk of costing their organizations.”

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: Republicans in Congress are demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the wake of reporting that Venezuela is deliberately releasing violent criminals from their prisons who are thought to be among the estimated 130,000 Venezuelans encountered at the southern border of the U.S. between October 2021 and July 2022. The report was based on a DHS analysis shared anonymously by a source with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

ALBANY’S DISGRACE: Chris Churchill, a columnist for the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, often does what a columnist should — in the words of the late humorist Finley Peter Dunne, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And he spares no affliction in his commentary about the deplorable public bus station in Albany, comparing it to the millions in upgrades that have been made to the region’s airport and train stations. “The front of the Hamilton Street station offers not a single tree or plant, save a few weeds bravely rising from cracks in the concrete,” he wrote. “Travelers wrestle their luggage through the building's entrance — no fancy automatic doors here! — only to be confronted by disintegrating floor tiles, battered vending machines and a dingy waiting room where, on Wednesday, buckets were assembled to catch water dripping from the ceiling. … Bus riders, generally poorer and with less influence than airport travelers, don't really matter. That's the harsh message sent when government spends so lavishly on one transportation option while ignoring another.”

MYSTERY SCHOOL: Kanye West is one of the most creative and dynamic entertainers of his or any generation and has made himself a billionaire with his apparel and merchandising deals and general business savvy. He has turned his attention to education, founding a private school in Simi Valley, Calif., that he named Donda Academy, after his late mother, who was a college professor. But despite a great deal of fanfare, almost nothing is publicly known about the school’s academic programs, nor its faculty or students. Its 28-year-old principal and executive director has never held a formal position as an educator. Rolling Stone tried with little success to crack the cloak of secrecy around the academy, which requires parents of students to sign nondisclosure agreements. The lack of transparency about the inner workings of the school, and its lack of accreditation, “raises questions about what’s actually happening behind the scenes,” according to Rolling Stone, though a consultant for the academy told the magazine, “Honestly, we don’t care if people know about the school. The people that want to come to the school are looking for a good Christian school in that area and they know that we’re there.”

MEDICAL ADVICE: It’s one of those things that makes sense if you think about it, but honestly, does anyone ever think about the position of their body when they take medication? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the Washington Post reports, “have found whether you’re standing upright or leaning, as well as which side you’re leaning to, could affect how fast the contents of a pill are absorbed into your body. … The bottom line: leaning to your right side after swallowing a pill could speed absorption by about 13 minutes, compared to staying upright. Leaning to the left would be a mistake — it could slow absorption by more than an hour.” The reasons: the shape of the stomach and gravity.

LIVES

BILL PLANTE was never elected by anybody, but he spent 52 years in the White House as a CBS News correspondent. He was an evening news fixture, reporting from Vietnam and the front lines of the civil rights movement. Of all the leaders he covered, he once said he was most impressed by John Lewis, the civil rights icon who became a congressman and was “the real deal.” He was 84.

ARTIS LEON IVEY JR. was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Compton, Calif., in the early 1990s to pursue a career in rap. He scored his big break when he recorded “Gangsta’s Paradise” for the 1995 film “Dangerous Minds,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer. It quickly became one of the most popular rap songs of all time and was the No. 1 single of 1995. The next year his “Gangsta’s Paradise” was nominated for record of the year and best rap solo performance at the Grammy Awards, with Coolio winning the latter. He was 59.

LOUISE FLETCHER won an Academy Award for her masterful portrayal of Mildred Ratched, the cold-hearted administrative nurse who tyrannized residents of Salem State Hospital in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She achieved overnight fame from her performance, and made further history by utilizing American Sign Language to thank her parents, both of whom were deaf, in her acceptance speech. She was 88.

FRED T. FRANZIA did not invent cheap wine but his distaste for wine snobs led him to make It work. At a time when all the cool kids talked about the expensive wines in their cellar, he came out with Charles Shaw Wine, which tasted good and sold for as little as $1.99 at Trader Joe’s. Fans called it Two Buck Chuck, and his family-owned Bronco Wine Co. sold a billion bottles of it. He was 79.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“What a year it's been so far, we're definitely not done, but this is a great first step into the ultimate goal of going out there and winning a World Series.”
—    New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge, after the team clinched the American League’s East Division.

THE SIGNOFF

MUSIC TO HIS EARS: Will Sideri went to an estate sale in Maine with a few items in mind, but a framed document with elaborate Latin scripts, musical notes and gold flourishes caught his eye. He paid $75 for what turned out to be a 700-year-old parchment that could be worth $10,000.

——

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THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Ryan Moore, Mike Cybulski, John Behan, Matt Behan, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, and Tara Hutchins.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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