The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 15, 2022

Autumn.jpg“So bright and soft is the sweet air of morning, And so tenderly the light descends, And blesses with its gentle-falling fingers All the leaves unto the valley's ends…” Autumn Light by Max Eastman. (John Bulmer photo)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

We start this week with some pretty fantastic news about our friends and clients at Pretty Rugged.

In 2018, they made Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things list for the holidays and were named “Best New Product” and “Best in Market” at the influential gift show NY Now. Now, Tracy Slocum and her team are swimming with the sharks. Next Friday evening at 8 p.m., Tracy will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to tell the story of the Latham-based luxury outdoor fashion brand and vie for financial backing from the show’s celebrity investor panelists. Her pitch will focus on the brand’s mission and story, inspired by the maritime adventures of the founder’s great-great grandfather Joshua Slocum, who in the 1800s became the first person to circumnavigate the world alone by sailboat.

Inspiration washed over Tracy as she was trying to stay warm, dry and fashionable while boating on Lake George in the evening with family and friends. She came up with the idea of a blanket that had luxe faux fur on one side and was waterproof, windproof and washable. It’s been a runaway success. The Shark Tank outcome is a secret, so you’ll just have to watch.

SURPRISE REVELATIONS: Psychologists have long understood that we typically pay more attention to something that surprises us because, well, it’s out of the ordinary. It’s why traffic slows near an accident. There’s new research that suggests we follow a similar pattern when describing something we experience as unusual, a term called “surprised elaboration,” which can reveal hidden or subconscious biases. For example, a review of law enforcement agency public reports about more than 1,000 missing children found that reports about missing white children were, on average, about 30% longer than those prepared about children of color. “(T)he reports may reflect the writers’ conscious or unconscious stereotype that white children are less likely to go missing than Black or Hispanic kids,” the researchers wrote. “Their sense that a missing white child was an unusual and surprising event led them to write more about it.” The researchers achieved similar outcomes in controlled experiments: “What we found repeatedly was that participants wrote more — indicating their surprise — in situations where negative events were associated with white individuals and positive events were associated with Black individuals. … Putting this evidence together, we start to see how surprised elaboration can become a tool for identifying and documenting society’s stereotypes.”

UPENDED EXPECTATIONS: Actor William Shatner famously traveled to space last year aboard a Blue Origin rocket, an experience that left him with feelings he didn’t expect. Recounting the trip in “Boldly Go”, published earlier this month, Shatner recalled being struck by the vast emptiness and blackness of space, summoning a sense of death and causing him, as he returned to Earth, to reflect on the degradation of the planet, what he described as one of the strongest feelings of grief he’s ever encountered.

IMG_5082.jpgKEEP THE SALT OUT: Road salt has long been a staple of winter road safety in the northern part of the country. But scientists are increasingly finding associated risks to our lakes and rivers and drinking water wells. The Lake George Association in Upstate New York has been on top of the situation for nearly a decade, organizing and partially funding a science-guided, technology-driven initiative with local municipalities that has achieved significant reductions in salt use and expenditures while keeping roads safe. This week, the LGA’s seventh annual Road Salt Reduction Summit was attended in-person or virtually by 200 municipal officials, highway crew members, business owners, scientists and concerned citizens interested in how they can apply the LGA model on their properties. It’s a great example of how a not-for-profit environmental protection organization can directly affect meaningful change and rally a diverse community of Lake Protectors behind its cause.

DRIVEN TO SERVE: We’re pleased to report that Basil Seggos, the longest-serving commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, has returned safely from his voluntary two-week humanitarian deployment to Ukraine. Seggos took a leave of absence to drive ambulances from Slovakia to Kyiv as part of a nonprofit called Ukraine Friends. He discussed the experience with North Country Public Radio’s David Sommerstein.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: An unmanned NASA spacecraft that slammed into an asteroid millions of miles away succeeded in its mission to alter the path of the target, the space agency announced this week. The impact, which left a trail of dust and debris thousands of miles long, marks the first time humanity has ever altered the orbit of a celestial body. The idea was to see if a future interstellar body threating Earth could be nudged off its path.

PRINTING MONEY: A West Virginia man who wanted to make a point about gun buyback programs — he’s not a fan — while also collecting the rewards has caused New York State to change the rules of its buyback program, giving buyback personnel more leeway in what to accept. The man, who used a pseudonym and declined to disclose his name to The Associated Press, used a 3D printer to produce 60 devices that can convert firearms into fully automatic weapons. He drove them to New York, where he turned them in at $350 a pop at a buyback event in Utica. That’s $21,000 in gift cards.

HAUNTED ADIRONDACKS: If you’d like a side of creepy with your apple crisp, take a look at the Adirondack Wayfinder’s Haunted Adirondack Trail. In time for Halloween, you’ll discover the scariest legends in remote mountain towns. Learn about the 300 shipwrecks on Lake Champlain, meet the ghost who haunts Lake Placid’s Palace Theater and the one who likes to rearrange things at the Stagecoach Inn. You may even spot the ghostly figure of Mabel Smith Douglass who disappeared in 1933. Thirty years later, her body was found at the bottom of Lake Placid.

THE NEWS ON SAWDUST: Today we call it the “circular economy,” using the waste products of one process to make useful products in another. Think incinerating waste to make clean energy. In 1880, in Glens Falls, N.Y., it was called ingenuity – a local man’s invention of a way to make newsprint out of the ample supplies of sawdust that built up at local sawmills. Historian and journalist Maury Thompson reports.

MEDICINE MEN: Myron Rolle was a star defensive back at Florida State whose prowess in the classroom made him a Rhodes Scholar and whose prowess on the football field led to his selection in the 2010 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. Carl Allamby got his first summer job at 13 to help his family make ends meet and owned an auto repair shop practically straight out of high school in Cleveland, a self-taught mechanic who sharpened his skills by taking evening classes at the local community college. Today, both men are doctors, both having resurrected childhood dreams that had seemed impossibly distant.

HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP: From the looks of things, Bear 747 will have plenty of energy to draw from in hibernation. The beefy brown bear, which weighs an estimated 1,400 pounds, was named winner of the Katmai National Park & Preserve’s annual Fat Bear Week contest, as selected by thousands of online voters. It’s Bear 747’s second title; he also won in 2020. The bears gorge all summer on salmon from the park’s Brooks River, as people watch on a network of webcams. The competition was briefly sidetracked when judges discovered that fraudulent votes had altered one of the outcomes, a development that was given the mockery it deserved by Jezebel’s Kady Ruth Ashcraft.

DOWN TO EARTH: Widespread deforestation and loss of habitat is causing many tree-dwelling primates to spend more time on forest floors to seek shade and water. The behavior is reminding scientists of evolution, but the pace of modern climate change is far greater than previous climate cycles that may have driven earlier adaptations. An expert with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said, “None of the species we studied are likely to fully transition to a terrestrial lifestyle. It’s simply not a viable long-term outcome to happen in such a short period of time.”

SOMETHING’S WRONG: A newspaper columnist in Tennessee draws a connection between the aggressive hostility — and, increasingly it seems, physical assaults — directed at youth sports coaches and officials and anger in our politics, and says neither is good for our nation’s well-being. Sports, he writes, are where young people should be learning about collegial competition, playing by the rules, respecting the opponent, and the authority of coaches and officials. “From presidential elections to a missed holding call, too many of us can’t imagine a world where we don’t secure our desired outcome,” he writes. “Our unique vision is righteous whether it’s a political worldview or line of sight during a play. We too quickly forget the rules we accepted as players, coaches and citizens. And the rage takes over.”

CATCHING SOLACE: For Don Kirk, the simple act of tossing a baseball back and forth offers a measure of peace and comfort as he continues to process the loss of his son, Jonathan, at 35, to heart disease. Inspired by the 2020 book “A Year of Playing Catch,” he decided to do just that, and to turn his quest into an opportunity to raise awareness about heart disease and funds to assist those struggling with life-threatening medical conditions. The Jonathan D. Kirk Foundation, which the family started in his honor, raised more than $13,000 last year.

ALL THUMBS: Yo, geezers! Stop with the Thumbs Up emoji already. And while you’re at it, lay off the red love heart. Gen Z’ers are alienated by some of the symbols commonly used in social media.

FAKE NEWS: Politicians love to rag on the news media, questioning their biases and motivations and suggesting the media aren’t to be trusted. But in a tacit acknowledgment that local newspapers are, in fact, generally respected in their communities, some political groups have taken to creating political mailers that are packaged and presented in the same format.

DELIVERING TIKTOK: The online video platform TikTok is planning to build e-commerce fulfillment centers in the U.S. to ship products through TikTok Shop, setting up competition with Amazon.com, though TikTok is unlikely to build out its own transportation unit. Building an e-commerce supply chain could give TikTok more control and boost profits in the U.S. and around the world.

LIVES

ANGELA LANSBURY was among the most decorated actors in the history of live theater, winning five Tony Awards, four between 1966 and 1979, in addition to a string of TV and movie roles. She was perhaps best known for her 12 seasons as the widowed mystery writer and amateur crime fighter Jessica Fletcher in the Sunday night CBS hit “Murder, She Wrote,” and for voicing Mrs. Potts, the teapot in the animated “Beauty and the Beast.” She also received three best supporting actress Oscar nominations in the era of black-and-white films. She died five days shy of her 97th birthday.

JOSEPH CUTSHALL-KING knew how to tell a good story and make people laugh, and he brought his considerable talents to the preservation of local history. As director of the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, N.Y., and as a newspaper columnist, radio commentator and prolific author, he had a knack for digging up compelling human stories that brought to life the struggles, foibles and enduring accomplishments of the people who laid the groundwork for the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties. He was an expert on the seminal Adirondack photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard, served as a college development director and entertained crowds as a member of local men’s choruses. He was 75.

ART LABOE’S first words on the radio were “This is K-S-A-N, San Francisco.” It was 1943 and he was a teenager. He would go off to study engineering at Stanford, but he dropped out to be a disc jockey. He became a legend of the West Coast airwaves, where his voice was heard for 80 years. Laboe pioneered live broadcasts, originated the phrase “oldies but goodies” and was the first disc jockey to take on-air dedications. He was 97.

ROBERT TOLL went to Cornell and then the University of Pennsylvania law school. He loved law school but hated practicing law, so he persuaded his father, a home builder, to let him build Colonial-style spec homes on two lots they owned. Over the next 60 years, he and his brother Bruce built Toll Brothers, one of the most successful home-building firms in the nation and often chided by critics as the developers of the McMansion. He was 81.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.”
—    Judith Martin

THE SIGNOFF

HIGH-CRASH AREA: Rollercoasters at King’s Island in Ohio give thrill seekers a rush and, lately, emergency services agencies a headache. New iPhones have technology to detect a crash and notify emergency services, a feature that’s being triggered by rollercoasters, including at least six times at King’s Island.
____

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THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Ryan Moore, John Bulmer, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Mike Cybulski, Troy Burns, Claire P. Tuttle 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 conversation:   mark.behan@behancom.com.

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