The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 16, 2021

Sunset over a hayfieldAs if the sky were saluting the summer gone by, a brilliant sunset adorns the season’s final bales of hay. (John Bulmer)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

We’re headed to the crystal ball repair shop this morning. We knew we shouldn’t have let that thing tell us the Tampa Bay Rays would win the World Series, not when they had to go through a team managed by a guy whose playoff record before the series was 12-3 and who has never lost a postseason series as a bench coach or manager (that’s 8-for-8 if you’re keeping score at home).

Of course, it helps when your team gets bounces like this.

Regardless, Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox now take on the Houston Astros, the team Cora served as bench coach in 2017 before moving on to Boston and leading the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title, their fourth since 2004. The winner of that series advances to the World Series.

CATCHING INLAND WAVES: Teddy Roosevelt’s famous advice to do what you can, with what you have, where you are, comes to mind: On the churning eastern shores of Lake Ontario, where the waters of the Great Lakes basin join the St. Lawrence in a journey to the sea, a group of surfers who call themselves “The Losers” — Lake Ontario Surfing Enthusiast Revitalization Society — wedge into wetsuits, grab their boards and conquer waves few will ever see. And their members happily offer mentorship and amateur meteorological training to newcomers, a critical skill when the waves are at the whims of the winds.

PAPER’S CUTS WOUND: By now, millions of words have been written about the decline of daily print journalism and its effect on communities across the country — no one to keep elected officials on their toes, investigate wrongdoing or keep readers informed about the goings-on at city hall. But the losses are even more acute, as The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey writes in a poignant essay about the withering of her hometown daily in southeast Iowa. “(O)ften overlooked are the more quotidian stories, the ones that disappear first when a paper loses resources. … These stories are the connective tissue of a community; they introduce people to their neighbors, and they encourage readers to listen to and empathize with one another. When that tissue disintegrates, something vital rots away.”

TAPPED AS JAKE: Viewers of the FX series Impeachment: American Crime Story saw an episode this week that featured an actor who is part of one of the better-known families of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. And his part was highlighted in the show’s official trailer. Chris Riggi played Jake Tapper, portraying his one date with Monica Lewinsky (played by Beanie Feldstein) in 1997. He spoke with the Albany Times Union about the part, his surprise at the response and his work to forge a career in Hollywood.

MOMS RULE: Elise Stefanik is a new mom to son Sam, a member of Congress, a leader of her party and a go-to fund-raiser, and she’s determined to be all of those things exceptionally well. “I think it is important for women in a senior position in all sorts of careers to talk about that and show that,” she told The New York Post of balancing family life with a career. “I am so energetic in fighting for the future of this country because it will have an impact on Sam’s life.”

BEATLE BREAKER: For years, the debate among aficionados of a certain sound has raged — Paul or John, who broke up the Beatles? Or was it Yoko Ono? Many assumed it was McCartney, because it was he who sued to sever the business relationship, but he told the BBC it was Lennon whose four-word declaration fractured the Fab Four.

FEAR AND FURY: Lisa Peacock is one of thousands of public health officials across the country who, before 2020, was likely to be in the news only to issue the occasional boil water advisory or remind you to get your flu shot. They did their important work, like many do every day, behind the scenes, the ultimate no-news-is-good-news public servants. Then came the pandemic, and sudden prominence, the urgency of the crisis evident in the time and resources devoted to informing the public. Lately, though, many of those public servants have become the targets of emotional confrontations over mask mandates. One Michigan health director is done mincing words, fuming about the “destruction of our basic civic responsibilities to one another,” accusing elected county commissioners who oppose her school mask mandate of whipping up discord and allowing members of the public with opposing views to be talked over, shouted down and harassed in public meetings. “Taxpayer money has also been dumped down the tubes” to pay for extra security, “the public’s time and money has been spent on empty, pandering theater” and staff are burning out and quitting.

HOLD THE FISH STICKS: A customs dispute between the U.S. and Canada over methods of transport is threatening to disrupt the American supply of the Alaska pollock, commonly used in fish sticks and sandwiches.

A man operating a model train by voice control in 1939William A. Gluesing demonstrating a radio- and voice-controlled electric locomotive for GE’s “House of Magic” at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The image is part of an exhibit on New York’s World’s Fairs at miSci in Schenectady. (miSci- Museum of Innovation & Science)

STEM BEFORE STEM WAS COOL: STEM is the new name, but science and engineering education has been going on in schools for decades. Seventy-five years ago, the world premiere of “Adventures in Jet Propulsion” drew a packed house to a junior high school auditorium. The question on every mind: Is this science or magic? Maury Thompson has the answer.

EXHAUSTED FROM CLIMBING: All those years spent working just a little later, doing just a little extra and learning just a little more may pay off with a job in the C-suite, but don’t be surprised if it takes more out of you than you might expect. A Harvard Business School professor examined records of more than 1,000 managers and other employees at General Electric starting in the 1930s and found that, on average, high-level executives died three to five years earlier than other workers at GE, linking the deaths to work-related stress. The findings were the opposite of those in studies of British public servants, which found shorter life expectancies among subordinates.

THE CRIMINAL MIND: Last year, in California, more than 300 wildfires were set by arsonists. Criminologists consider the wildland arsonist among the most dangerous criminals because, as one expert said, “they can burn down a whole town in an hour.” Now, one of their own, an academic expert on deviancy, has been charged with setting a forest ablaze.

NET LOSS: Basketball superstar Kyrie Irving has always seemed mildly eccentric and, with his injury history, as likely to dishearten his fans as he is to dazzle them. He has stood firm against being vaccinated for COVID-19, a decision that is at odds with New York City vaccine mandates and would prevent him from playing games either in Brooklyn or Manhattan, where the Knicks play. After briefly entertaining the possibility of playing him only when they could, the Nets banned Irving from the team until he’s vaccinated. Irving is defending his decision not to get vaccinated. Stay tuned.

CLEAN UP THE STREETS: Initiatives focused on stemming gun violence typically direct resources with the intent to head off violence or help victims in the aftermath. A team in Pennsylvania wondered what would happen if, instead, resources were devoted to sprucing up high-crime neighborhoods, planting grass and trees in formerly garbage-strewn lots and beautifying blighted buildings. They designed a study to test their theory that gun violence would drop in better-maintained areas, and their findings supported that to an eye-opening degree. “(S)eeing vacant lots and abandoned buildings, to me that’s a sign of neglect,” one participant said. “So I feel neglected.”

DIET DILEMMA: A study out recently found that drinks made with sucralose — a common sugar substitute that gives diet sodas their sweetness — may stimulate the appetites of some people, which obviously would defeat one of the purposes of drinking diet soda in the first place. The effect was most profound on women and people with obesity. Previous long-term research has found diet soda consumption is linked to weight gain.

GETTING PERSONAL: Gov. Kathy Hochul spent her first weeks in office raising her profile (and her polling numbers) and distancing herself from her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo. She also has shown a willingness to engage with the public on a deeply personal level, as she did when she told worshippers God wanted people to be vaccinated, and when, in signing a package of bills meant to address the opioid crisis, she shared the loss of a nephew to addiction and an overdose. “His mother found him with the needles in his arms,” she said.

COMEBACK TIGERS: Tiger Woods, whose lower right leg was shattered in a car accident last February, watched his son, Charlie, play in a golf tournament last weekend. A source told “People” magazine that Woods’ pain has become more manageable, and that he’s “optimistic that he'll be able to return to tour.” It was feared that the accident would end his competitive career. Meanwhile, the tigers that roam the wild are resurgent in northeastern China, where their number had dwindled to seven known individuals. Officials now estimate there are 55 of the big cats in the region, a rare success story in the world of conservation.

THOSE MENACING LEAF BLOWERS: The leaf blower is the bane of peace-seekers in suburbs everywhere. “It’s basically a gas- or electric-powered mosquito attached to the world’s largest megaphone, and the mosquito was already designed to produce the single most annoying sound in the world,” a columnist writes. She may be in luck, if she’s willing to move to California, which just outlawed the sale of new gas-powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers and chainsaws as early as 2024.

LIVES

PAUL PONTIFF was one of the most recognizable faces — and giving hands — in the Glens Falls-area business community for more than seven decades. A U.S. Army veteran, he came to the city by way of Brooklyn and St. John’s University and School of Law in 1962 and began his legal career at what is today Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, where he remained until retiring 57 years later. He was a dedicated volunteer and fundraiser for dozens of community organizations, including service at a legal clinic for survivors of domestic violence. He was a devoted Rotarian and a die-hard fan of every pro hockey team that called the city home. He’ll be missed at the downtown arena this season and at Glens Falls’ Gourmet Café, where he and his wife, Judy, often enjoyed a pre-game meal. He was 91.

JON GRUDEN is still alive. His career most certainly is not.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.”
—    Howard Cosell

THE SIGNOFF

GOODNESS, GRACIOUS: Parents magazine has named the Barróns of Edmond, Okla., “America’s kindest family.” They have continued the altruistic legacy of their late son, who, with another young cancer patient, started a “kindness club” while undergoing treatment, with a directive that all donations go to charity.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Maury Thompson, John Bulmer, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

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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