The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 10, 2022

Photo of Whirlpool GalaxyThe Whirlpool Galaxy is a spiral galaxy about 31 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici. The reddish areas represent energized hydrogen within giant star-forming regions. The blue color can be attributed to hot, young stars while the yellow color is from older stars. It took more than five hours of exposure time to capture the image. Photo by Andy Downey.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

If you’re up at the crack of dawn and reading, maybe after a few minutes on the treadmill or a brisk walk, go ahead and skip this item. But if you’re typically too groggy to face anything first thing in the morning, read on for news that probably won’t surprise you.

A University of California-Berkeley study of 833 people found that those who woke more alert exercised the day before, slept later and ate breakfasts high in complex carbs, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat toast and fiber-rich fruits. Grogginess is more than an annoyance. It costs developed nations billions each year through the loss of productivity, increased health care utilization and work absenteeism. Worse, it causes fatal car crashes and work-related accidents like nuclear plant meltdowns and the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill. Now that we have your attention …

THE WILL TO ENDURE: Nadja Halilbegovich, who wrote about her experience living as a young girl in a city under siege in “My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary,” recalls in vivid detail the fears, hardships and daily sacrifices of that era to shed light on and express compassion for what the people of Ukraine will be facing this winter. She and her family survived three brutal winters with intermittent electricity, barely any heat and no running water in an apartment whose window frames were covered in plastic. “War and winter are relentless,” she writes, “but so is the human spirit. This is why I have hope that the Ukrainian people will survive this winter with grit — and even some grace.” One group of unsung heroes in Ukraine: librarians.

Russian forces demolished the state archives in Chernihiv, which held sensitive KGB information about Soviet-era repressions that the Russians wanted erased. They ransacked archives in Bucha and gutted the archival department in Ivankiv. But librarians are not to be trifled with. They fought to keep their libraries open and on line, their way of keeping Ukrainian culture alive.

PAY IT FORWARD: The people of Ukraine will get some measure of help from the sale of an emerald that was recovered in 1985 from a Spanish galleon that sank in a hurricane in 1622 off the Florida Keys. Frank Perdue, the late chicken magnate, had helped finance the undersea treasure hunt that led to the discovery, and the jewel was among his bounty, most of which he donated. He used the 5.27-carat emerald in an engagement ring when proposing to his wife, Mitzi, who put it up for auction this week, with proceeds used to support humanitarian work in Ukraine. The ring, expected to fetch in the range of $50,000, sold for just under $1.2 million.

NAME GAMES: Kim Jong-un, evidently not content to merely rule North Korea with an iron fist, is now instructing parents which names for their children are acceptable and which are not, including directives to change names deemed too “soft” or sounding too much like names common in South Korea. The government wants children to be given “patriotic” names that translate to terms such as “bomb,” “gun,” “satellite” and “loyalty.” Names are to end in consonants, because names without a final consonant are, in Kim’s view, “anti-socialist.”

THEY CAN RELATE: Chelsea Vandergrift Podgorny, a librarian in eastern Ohio writing under the name Chelsea Banning, was looking forward to the book signing for her debut novel, a self-published story she had been working on for more than 15 years. She was excited when nearly 40 people said they would be there, crushed when only two showed up. She shared her disappointment to her 100 followers on Twitter, and was stunned to see best-selling authors Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman and Jodi Picoult encourage her by commiserating about their own book-signing flops. Within 48 hours, her story had gone viral and her book, “Of Crowns and Legends,” had become an Amazon.com Best Seller.

ANCIENT DISCOVERY: Archaeologists in Italy, working in an ancient Tuscan thermal spring, have unearthed two dozen bronze statues of human figures that were perfectly preserved in the hot mud and waters of what had been a sacred pool, where sick people came in hopes of being cured and offered gifts to the gods. The statues, more than 2,000 years old, will eventually be displayed in a new museum along with other items recovered from the pool.

TREE OF TREES: In rural Schaghticoke, N.Y., on the banks of the Hudson River, an arborist believes he’s discovered the largest tree in the entire Empire State and perhaps the largest cottonwood in the world at 108 feet tall with a canopy more than 100 feet wide. Fred Breglia has made big trees his life’s work. He grew up hearing family stories of a tree so large his entire family could wrap themselves around it without touching each other’s hands. Today with the Landis Arboretum, he documents majestic trees for a statewide register. There are rules about these things, and Breglia believes the cottonwood is the champion because of the record-breaking point total it received from measuring guidelines delineated by American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization that considers circumference, height and size of “crown” or leafy cover overhead.

MAKING A CULLING: More deer are moving into populated neighborhoods, so in Syracuse, N.Y., beginning next week, federal agents and local police will team up to kill them. The polite term is “culling the deer herd.” It will take place with the permission of some large private landowners and on city-owned properties between dusk and dawn. Sharpshooters will use thermal imaging and spotlights. The “culling” season is December to March. The removal of 316 deer from Syracuse’s neighborhoods over the last three years has cost $104,000.

REVIVING MALLS: There seems to be broad agreement that dying 1970s malls could be usefully repurposed as much-needed housing with a mix of retail, restaurants and even space for residents to gather and walk. So, why does it take so long for that to happen and why are so many underperforming malls still standing with so few tenants and no redevelopment plan? Westchester County, N.Y., may know the answer.

Photo of empty Santa chair.More Santa chairs are sitting empty in malls this year, just as demand has snapped back. Photo by chameleonseye/Adobe Stock.

HELP WANTED, JOLLINESS REQUIRED: As in every line of work, there’s a shortage of Santas this year. With a big increase in demand now that pandemic restrictions are gone, there are too few jolly old St. Nicks to go around. Mall Santas get paid an average of $30 an hour, and they have some greater leverage this year. Many don’t exercise it; they love the work. But the fact is, most Santas are retired and living on a fixed income.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Going out on a limb here and guessing the average American has no idea who Ursula von der Leyen is. She is the president of the European Union whose decisive moves to implement economic sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, as well as her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, made her Forbes’ choice to top its list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. European Central Bank President Cristine Lagarde was next, followed by Vice President Kamala Harris and General Motors CEO Mary Barra, chosen the most powerful woman in the private sector.

JUST GO AWAY: Author, essayist and social critic David French is unimpressed by the modern conscription of repentance, especially by public figures. Too many, French writes, view public expressions of repentance as a box-checking exercise, the first step in regaining whatever status or stature was lost as a result of the act requiring repentance. In French’s view, the truly repentant would withdraw from public life and dedicate themselves quietly to deeds that demonstrate the depth and seriousness of their remorse. “The best thing” they can do, he writes, “is to go away,” preferring the example of English war hero and secretary of war John Profumo, who confessed to lying to Parliament about his affairs, resigned in disgrace and devoted the rest of his life to quietly serving others. “Once he lost the public trust, he never attempted to gain it back,” French writes. “The irony is that he did in fact recover that trust.”   

FLOUR CHILD: Isla Davis, a 10-year-old fifth grader from Ballston Spa, N.Y., near Albany, dreams of one day owning and operating her own bakery in her hometown. We wouldn’t bet against her. Inspired by a fictional character who loved baking pies, Isla, with the support of her parents and grandparents, is quickly growing and reinvesting in her business, Isla’s Devine Desserts. She even has a state home processor permit that legally allows her to sell certain baked goods. She spends countless hours watching baking competitions and online tutorials, which has enabled her to tweak her recipes and fulfill custom orders. “I didn’t think I’d be very good at the business part of it, like pricing the items and budgeting, but I’ve really learned how to spend and manage money, which I’m really happy about because it’s a good skill,” Isla told the Albany Times Union.

SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER: Cazenovia College in Central New York, which opened 199 years ago as the Genesee Seminary, announced this week that it will be closing at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, felled by the declining enrollment, operating losses and mounting debt that bedevils smaller colleges with small endowments across the country but disproportionately in the Northeast and Midwest. Cazenovia, which became a four-year college in 1988 and launched its first graduate program in 2019, has entered into agreements with several colleges to accept Cazenovia transfers, with more being added.

CULTIVATING GRACE: We’re all familiar with the concept of schadenfreude, the feeling of pleasure one gets when witnessing another’s misfortune (the English translation is “jerk,” which we may or may not have just made up). We hardly ever talk about its opposite, freudenfreude, a word that makes you smile just looking at it. It should — freudenfreude is the joy one derives from seeing another person do well, even if we had nothing to do with it, and it has a lot of benefits in the day-to-day lives of those who practice it.

COOL, JOE: Joe Musgrove, a pitcher for the San Diego Padres, found a unique way to raise money and awareness for a sports charity while likely earning himself a mention in the Guinness World Records Book. Musgrove, working with a polar exploration guide to obtain the necessary permits, traveled to Antarctica, where, throwing from a makeshift mound made of gravel, he threw a baseball 86 mph, the fastest pitch ever recorded on the continent. Musgrove raised nearly $100,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides opportunity and support to people with physical challenges so they can pursue active lifestyles.

BURIED PLOT: Authorities in Germany stopped an alleged plot by right-wing extremists to overthrow the government, whose members included former members of the German military’s special forces. The group, which calls itself Reichsbürger, allegedly was planning to attack the Parliament as part of a violent coup. Forces stormed apartments across the country in coordinated raids this week, arresting 25 people, including the alleged leader, a member of the former Germany royal family. The group allegedly planned to attack the national power grid and to depose the federal government and take power by force.

FIRE AND ICE: Billy Trudsoe flipped hamburgers to get his start in the restaurant business, worked in some of the finest kitchens in the Adirondacks and Florida, and then went on to local fame as a contestant on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Now, he’s returning to his Adirondack roots as executive chef at Basil & Wicks in North Creek just in time for ski season.

LIVES

BOB McGRATH was an original cast member of “Sesame Street,” playing friendly neighbor Bob Johnson for 47 seasons, until 2017, and continuing to represent the show at various events in retirement. A musician by training, he helped make such popular “Sesame Street” staples as “People in Your Neighborhood” and “Sing a Song.” The Sesame Workshop remembered him for delivering “joy and wonder to generations of children around the world,” and said it was “honored that he shared so much of his life with us.” He was 90.

HUBERT AND JANE MALICOTE celebrated their 79th wedding anniversary in June, a month before each celebrated 100th birthdays. The western Ohio couple had wed while he was on leave from the U.S. Navy, unsure when, or if, he would return from World War II. They gathered with family for pizza the day before Thanksgiving, but that night, Jane Malicote became seriously ill and was transported to a local hospice. Hubert Malicote, his heart broken, joined her there two days later, sharing a room, hand in hand, neither regaining consciousness before dying 20 hours apart. “I feel sad, but I shouldn’t. Who can expect to live a life like that?” their son, Sam Malicote, told the Dayton Daily News. “They lived a long, happy life together and they were devoted to God and the family.”

KIRSTIE ALLEY earned five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations for her breakout performance as bar manager Rebecca Howe on the NBC hit sitcom “Cheers,” winning both awards in 1991. She would win a second Emmy three years later and appear in several other TV series, in addition to starring roles opposite John Travolta in the “Look Who’s Talking” trilogy and in films such as “Summer School” and “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” She made her final television appearance in April, on “The Masked Singer.” Her family said she died of cancer only recently discovered. She was 71.

JIM KOLBE represented southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years, until 2007. A prime architect of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he was a fierce advocate for trade and free markets. He gained national prominence in 1996, after his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman under federal law. A gay publication threatened to out Kolbe, but he did it himself, at a two-hour news conference. He later said he regretted his vote. He married his longtime partner in 2013 and left the Republican Party in 2018 over its support for then-President Trump. He died of a stroke at 80.

NICK BOLLETTIERI called himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis,” and no one could argue. No fewer than 10 of the players he coached and helped develop reached No. 1 in the world rankings, including the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Boris Becker. He revolutionized sports training when he founded the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978, and in 2014 became only the fourth coach inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” fellow Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.” He was 91.

NOODLE THE PUG was a viral sensation, a TikTok star with 4.4 million followers who checked in for his daily “bones” prognostications. His owner, Jonathan Graziano, filmed himself standing Noodle up in his dog bed. If Noodle remained standing, it was a “bones day,” a day to take risks and indulge. If not, it was a “no bones day,” which meant his followers knew to take it easy on themselves, and above all, wear soft pants. Noodle’s fame — he also had followers on Instagram and Facebook — led to a children’s book, “Noodle and the No Bones Day,” and an appearance on the Today Show. He died at home at 14.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“We've already seen significant interest. Who doesn't love James Bond and his cars?”
—    Carly Connors, executive director of the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on its new exhibit, “Bond in Motion: The Official Collection of Original James Bond Vehicles,” which features 23 motor vehicles, including a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 worth $15 million.

“I need ammunition, not a ride.”
—    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after the U.S. offered him safe transport from Ukraine shortly after Russia invaded. The comment topped a Yale Law School librarian’s list of the most notable quotations of 2022.

THE SIGNOFF

THANKS, DEAR: New York’s environmental police have been busy with deer hunters behaving badly, including one who came to the attention of police after his wife congratulated him on social media for a successful morning in which he had shot two deer, along with a photo documenting the feat. Hunters are permitted only one tag for antlered deer during the gun season. Charges are pending.

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THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Ryan Moore, John Brodt, Claire P. Tuttle, Lisa Fenwick, Leigh Hornbeck, Andy Downey, John Wheatley 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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