The Week: What Caught Our Eye

February 1, 2020

Aerial image of people ice fishing on a lake near open waterYou like it haute? Well, in Upstate New York, we like to sit on the ice and wait for dinner to swim by. (Crown Focus Media)

OUR CHIP? NOT SO FAB:  Upstate New York has a chip on its shoulder and a foolishly long memory that holds it in place. We’re still griping about Ed Koch’s shot about our gingham dresses and our Sears suits. (Ed said that in 1982, he’s been dead seven years, and we don’t even have a Sears anymore.) Not long ago The Simpsons skewered us as overweight, underachieving, Fox News-watching, disability-drawing alcoholics. We agree. That was harsh.  SNL poked fun at our overpriced, flavorless apples in orchards where we fly Confederate flags. They said our gourds look like penises (how could they know that?), we keep animals in prison, get the deer drunk. Geez. The venerable New York Daily News felt the need to remind us, during one of those periodic let’s-just-split-the-state-in-two moments, that as long as upstate dutifully furnishes the city’s drinking water, the city will continue to pay our bills and entertain us. As Mrs. Potts said, we only live to serve. When she ran for Governor, Cynthia Nixon actually couldn’t define upstate. (“I don’t think the Hudson Valley is upstate. Once you get to Ithaca, by around there, you’re starting to get upstate.”) It’s gotten so that, when Spectrum News asked viewers what they liked best about upstate New York, the reporter felt compelled to add: “And, please, no sarcasm.” And now comes a member of the New York Assembly who last week galvanized upstate boosters the way only a rich insult can by complaining about limited food choices in Albany. It was a mistake, and she apologized right away. We can take a joke about our gourds, but when you start with the no-good-place-to-eat shots, well, them’s fightin’ words. We take our cuisine seriously – even if we do have to sit on the ice and wait for it to swim by, as comedian Jeff Foxworthy claims. He also makes bank bashing upstate. (You know you’re from upstate if you carry jumper cables and your girlfriend knows how to use them. You know you’re from upstate if you have more miles on your snowblower than your car.) Some believe this upstate sensitivity is, in fact, seasonal political disorder. Longtime Albany watcher E.J. McMahon once said: "The entire state, to a greater degree than ever in its history, is controlled by people from New York City."  But City Journal’s Fred Siegel takes a different view. Upstate is not inferior to New York City, he says. We’re superior: “(U)pstaters often consider Albany a semi-criminal enterprise run out of Manhattan.’’ So, as wise old Homer Simpson put it, “stop watchin’ your weight,’’ start believin’ in upstate.

An ice bar castle made from blocks of ice, with 2020 in ice on topWHY WE STAY:  It’s the weather, of course. The 123rd Winter Carnival opens this weekend in Saranac Lake, drawing visitors from all over the country. Its main attraction: The elaborate 2020 ice palace, built by volunteers from thousands of blocks of ice. Lake George’s 59th Winter Carnival kicks off as well, with four weekends of fun on tap, and the screams are getting loudah and loudah… why? Because in Saratoga Springs it’s time for chowdah.

By the way, which Upstate New York lake holds the record for being frozen longest?

NO NIGHTLIFE? NO PROBLEM: Vermont is getting old. In fact, it’s older on average than the rest of the country. The population statewide is barely growing, and the population of southern Vermont — Bennington, Rutland and Windham counties — is actually shrinking. So, how does the Green Mountain state attract young people who want more than a weekend ski trip? And what’s happening to its colleges?

Image of trees in a park, with an icon indicating it links to a videoA YEAR IN THE PARK: John Bulmer has been a professional photographer since 1999, but he and photography go back much further than that.  His dad is a photographer, too, and John grew up with a darkroom in the basement and “endless hours’’ in a hunting blind with a camera waiting for a deer to come along or in a row boat waiting for a beaver to surface. He remembers being bored to tears then. Now, he says, “I realize it taught me the patience that's required to get past the obvious images and angles and capture something unique and memorable.’’ As a child, John discovered Grafton Lakes State Park, all 2,500 acres on the plateau between the Taconic and Hudson Valleys and came to know it well. “I have a long history with the park in every season and all sorts of weather conditions. All these years later, the park still shows me new things with each visit. I firmly believe our state parks and public lands are treasures that need to be protected and secured for future generations (and) compelling photography helps further that cause by highlighting the beauty and fragility of places like Grafton.’’ On average, John shoots in various locations like Grafton 40 to 50 times per year. He makes a special point to shoot in less-than-ideal weather conditions that present the opportunity to capture Grafton’s many moods. “Shooting a subject in all varieties of conditions and times of the day is an enduring lesson I learned in art school: It’s really the only way to tell the story of anything properly.” With pride, we present John Bulmer’s A Year in the Park.

BUFFALOVE: Buffalo has undergone a stunning resurgence some never thought possible. Some Buffalonians are so confident in the city’s future they started a brewery called Resurgence and a mascot called The Unexpected Buffalo.  The thriving arts, architecture, food, sports, music and waterfront scene are so popular Lonely Planet has named Buffalo to its 2020 Best in Travel list. But as a new decade begins, like every other major city, Buffalo is facing monumental choices: A new football stadium, a new civic center, more development along the downtown waterfront? Invest big and swing for Niagara Falls — or invest incrementally and hope for the best?

O FOR A SMALL-TOWN VACATION: Oprah says you really should visit more great American small towns, and her favorites include Skaneateles and Corning, N.Y., Dorset and Shelburne, Vt., Woods Hole, Mass., and Keene, N.H. Maybe you’ll run into Stedman.

A WINERY NOT IN THE CITY: City Winery imports grapes from all over the world and makes local wine in its countrified “city wineries” in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and other cities. Now it’s bringing its blend of winemaking, intimate concerts and food and wine classes to a former knitting mill in the Hudson Valley.

HIS TIME HAS COME: Unlucky in the draft, he drew Number 7. So, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1971, became an ordnance specialist, and cleared land mines. A couple years later, he blew a month’s salary ($345.95 with a 10 percent discount) on a mail-order watch purchased through the base exchange. He loved that watch but rarely wore it. So, when Vietnam veteran dug out that watch, he could hardly believe what it was worth. You’ll just have to watch.

WE’RE IN IT FOR THE ADS:  Before the big game tomorrow, grab a cold one, settle in with some chicken wings, and watch the 50 best Super Bowl commercials of all time. Britney Spears, Beyonce, Cindy Crawford, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Mean Joe Green … they’re all waiting for you here.

METHINKS YOUR MINK STINKS:  Many millennials and genzennials prefer not to wrap a dead animal around their necks, but how do you break the news gently to grandma when she offers you her cherished old stole? And are the new plastic alternatives better?

RUNNING FINLAND: Finland’s new government is headed by Sanna Marin who, at 34, is the youngest prime minister in the world. She formed a coalition government with five other party leaders, all women, all but one under 35.

SYRACUSE ON THE SILVER SCREEN: The first major deal at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival had Searchlight Pictures buying worldwide rights for about $12 million for a horror film shot in Syracuse. The David Bruckner-directed thriller The Night House is the story of a widow who begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets.

AFTER DARK AT THE PARK:  The Park Theater in Glens Falls is quickly becoming known as the Capital Region’s northern home for comedy. Comedian Dave Hill is up next.

PERCHED ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Tia and her dad struggled to pull that monster through the hole in the ice and, when they landed the yellow perch, it turned out to be a world record … twice.

MORE NEANDERTHAL THAN YOU THOUGHT: Do your eye brows meet in the middle? Ever open beer bottles with your teeth? It turns out we all have a little Neanderthal in us – more than we thought. New research shows that a wave of modern humans left Africa approximately 200,000 years ago, interbred with Neanderthals, and then set out to the see the world.

San Francisco or Kansas City? Here are our predictions:

Mark: 49ers, 24-21
John: Chiefs, 34-24
Bill C: Chiefs, 34-26
Bill R: Chiefs, 17-13
Lisa: Chiefs, 27-17
Matt Behan: Chiefs, 31-27


“As you may remember, I came from Upstate New York where everything had the look of not belonging to this century, by which I mean the century that’s dead and gone by now, the good old 20TH.  Upstate was all 19th.’’
John Updike
The Widows of Eastwick


PUPPIES TOUCHING DOWN: If you love the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving, give this Super Bowl alternative a try: Puppy Bowl 2020:

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Matt Behan and Claire P. Tuttle.

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.

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. 

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