The Week: What Caught Our Eye

February 20, 2021

A large frozen waterfall being scaled by an ice-climbing hikerAn intrepid climber scales the 260-foot icy face of Kaaterskill Falls, one of the tallest in New York, in Palenville, Greene County. (John Bulmer)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

It was a week to weather. Snow and cold brought skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers to the Adirondacks. Cold, snow and ice brought Texas to its knees. Snow covered sandy beaches along the Gulf Coast. Kids went sledding in El Paso. Mississippi put out a call for heavy-duty plows. Storms raged from the Rio Grande to Rochester, and snow covered more than 70 percent of the mainland U.S. In Texas, the state that produces more energy than any other, millions were without electricity, water and heat, the result of a grid unprepared for extreme winter events. So, why this coast-to-coast cold? And could the grid fail here?

SKUH-NEK-TUH-DEE: The Dutch referred to it as skahnehtati, derived from a Mohawk word meaning "beyond the pines.” (Recall the 2013 movie starring Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling?) Headline writers liked to call it Old Dorp. The Chamber of Commerce preferred “The City that Lights and Hauls the World.” But that was a long time ago, and now Schenectady needs a new nickname, a new brand and a new national reputation, says a loyal son, investor, civic supporter and consummate branding expert.

WHAT A WEEK IN SCIENCE: From the Siberian permafrost, scientists plucked molars extracted from 10-ton elephants, long extinct, and recovered DNA that’s 1.2 million years old. Until now, the oldest known DNA belonged to a prehistoric horse that lived between 560,000 and 780,000 years ago in Canada. NASA’s robotic rover Perseverance landed on Mars to study whether life existed there when it was a planet full of flowing water. And move over, Dolly: For the first time in the U.S., scientists successfully cloned a native endangered species, the black-footed ferret, using preserved cells from a long-dead wild animal.

RODNEY REDUX: Little Liam McCabe absolutely loved Rodney, the stuffed sloth he won as a prize while playing games at the Great Escape a few years ago and named for a special friend. Sadly, good old Rodney met an untimely end — an encounter with the family’s new dog. Liam was heartbroken, but people at the Great Escape know how to make happy the heart of a child. By the way, Six Flags Great Escape announced Friday it will reopen May 1. Let the fun begin.

THE BEAUTY OF KINDNESS: From the beginning, the enterprise that Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell built was all about kindness. And goats, of course. The Fabulous Beekman Boys started with 100 goats and built a media empire and one of the world’s most successful skin care lines. Now, they are taking their culture of kindness, diversity and inclusion to schools.

WE’LL TAKE IT: Dreaming of a summer escape? We have just the place: 10,000 square feet, eight bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms, 23 acres, elevator, guest house, five-slip boathouse, a Great Camp-style beauty on the site of one of Lake Placid’s first hotels. All for a cool $13.5 million.

TALK TO ME: See a home you’d like to own? Old School: Submit an online form and the selling agent will text or call. New School: Capital Region college students have built an app to connect Realtors and prospective home buyers in real time — a tool that allows for direct conversation. What a concept.

PR-ICE-LESS: Someone had a little fun with the ice palace on Saranac Lake, listing it on Zillow as the Coolest House in the Adirondacks and noting “Furnishings include two throne chairs.” It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, but kudos for the creativity!

A LIGHT ON THE UNDERGROUND: The North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its North Star Underground Railroad Museum near Ausable Chasm. The Adirondacks became a natural route for enslaved people seeking freedom, association president Jacqueline Madison told the Adirondack Explorer, because of the region’s proximity to the Canadian border and because it was home to Quaker societies that believed in abolition.

An ice sculpture of a snowflake in front of a museum building.“A Winter of Hope” honors front-line workers and is the theme of The Hyde Collection’s ice sculpture exhibition, a place for reflection, healing and peace, on display in Glens Falls through February 26.

SPIRITUALLY CONNECTED: Churches and other houses of worship, and their congregants, were naturally concerned when public health restrictions prohibited or severely limited in-person services. Many scrambled to set up online services and prayer groups, and for some, something unexpected happened: with geographic location no longer an impediment, their congregations grew and became more energized.

HOCKEY’S BIG PROBLEM: Ken Dryden was a collegiate All-American at Cornell and a six-time Stanley Cup champion as a goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s, so when he has something to say about goaltending, it’s worth listening. In a long essay in The Atlantic, Dryden makes the case that goalies today, with the abundance of padding to protect from hard rubber pucks coming at them at greater than 100 mph, have gotten too large and can play the game in a way that has made scoring too difficult.

THE FUNDAMENTALS: Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo know a few things about building winning political strategies at the grassroots. Abrams, who nearly won the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018, and Groh-Wargo, her campaign manager, are given a lot of the credit for registering voters and driving turnout that helped Democrats win the presidential race and the two Georgia U.S. Senate seats in this cycle. Their advice is valuable for anyone looking to reverse their fortunes, especially in the political arena.

LOVE AND WAR: Albany author Jacqueline A. Kane has compiled the love letters her parents wrote to each other during World War II in a book she titled, “A Real Whole Lot: A World War II Soldier’s Love Letters to His Wife.” "My parents loved language and they loved to express themselves through words," she told Spectrum News.

ELECTRIC SLIDE: This has been a big couple of weeks for the auto industry, and a clear indication that a future of all-electric vehicles is closer than you might think. First, General Motors announced in late January that every new consumer vehicle it manufactures will be all-electric by 2035. Its crosstown rival, Ford, followed that up this week with news that all of its European-made vehicles will be electric by 2030, backed by a $1 billion investment in a German factory.

TEBOW BOWS OUT: Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow ended his professional baseball career this week, announcing his retirement after four seasons in the New York Mets minor league system. Tebow was an all-star in Double A in 2018 and great with the fans, but struggled in Triple A, the step below the major leagues. Still, not bad for a guy who hadn’t played competitive baseball since he was a junior in high school.

THE HOUSE FOLDS: The former Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City, a place of glitz and glamour in the 1980s and the onetime crown jewel of the Trump casino empire, was felled by implosion this week, having fallen into disrepair. It took the structure less than 20 seconds to topple.

ANOTHER WINDOW IN GLASSDOOR: Glassdoor, the website where job seekers can learn about an employer through anonymous employee reviews, has begun disclosing race and gender data, breaking down how women and people of color rank their workplaces as corporate America faces pressure to improve diversity within its ranks.

THE PRICE OF RENEWAL: Hundreds of residents in what was the predominantly Black west side of Saratoga Springs were bought out and relocated in the name of urban renewal in the 1960s. The grandson of the man who led the city’s Urban Renewal Agency is now a Saratoga Springs Supervisor. “It was devastating to people,” Matthew Veitch told the Times Union. “People were moved out of their homes and mass condemnation occurred throughout the neighborhood. Whole families and people who knew each other for many, many years got displaced by urban renewal. If you look at it from that perspective, it’s kind of a horrible project. We don’t do urban renewal anymore and there’s a reason why.”

RISK ASSESSMENT: It’s fair to assume Jeep had been hoping to get quite a bit more mileage out of its Super Bowl commercial, given the resources that no doubt were poured into making it. But when news broke that the star of the piece, Bruce Springsteen, had been arrested on suspicion of DUI, the company acted quickly and decisively to pull the ad and reassess.

THE GOOD IN PEOPLE: A 24-year-old mother in Youngstown, Ohio, was arrested after leaving her children alone in a hotel room while she worked her shift at a nearby pizzeria. A GoFundMe account was created in her name to help the family with housing costs, with a goal of raising $5,000. By Wednesday afternoon, more than $100,000 had been donated, including $5,000 from NBA player JaVale McGee.

USEFUL NEWS: Looking to buy authentic N95 face masks — the gold standard for pandemic protection because of its tight fit and 95 percent efficiency in filtering airborne particles — but don’t know where to begin? New York Times consumer tech columnist Brian X. Chen has answers.

COVID UPDATE: If widespread COVID-19 immunity is to be achieved, researchers say we’ll need to vaccinate teens. Though they contract the novel coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, they seem to get less seriously ill. The problem is they are spreaders. Right now, vaccines authorized in the United States are mostly for adults — Moderna’s for 18 and older, Pfizer’s for 16 and up. Meanwhile, U.S. life expectancy dropped a full year because of COVID to 77.8 years, and the impacts on Black and Hispanic people were greater.

19th CENTURY SAFETY NET HOLDS: The Merchants Fund was founded in Philadelphia in 1854 to help small business owners who were down on their luck. It’s still going strong after 167 years, having distributed nearly $7.5 million in grants since 2007 and throwing a financial lifeline to many businesses that have suffered during the pandemic.

LIVES

RUSH LIMBAUGH’s impact on talk radio, popular culture and conservative politics is impossible to overstate. He created the most-listened to radio show in America. Love him or loathe him — there was really no in between — there’s no denying that he remade a medium and became a huge influence in the way politics is practiced today. He died of lung cancer at 70.

ARNE SORENSON took over by-the-book Marriott in 2012 with a mandate to prepare it for the future. A lawyer turned CEO, he led the chain to adopt hip new designs and new brands, negotiated a king-sized deal that made it the largest hotelier in the world and then guided the organization through the pandemic that nearly emptied its rooms. He died of pancreatic cancer at 62.

BRUCE BLACKBURN was the father of “the worm” – the nickname NASA gave its logo, the sleek sequence of winding red letters that the space agency adopted to modernize its image after the 1969 moon landing. He also created the logo for the American Revolution Bicentennial celebration and developed brand imagery for IBM and Mobil.

JYL WAY was a beloved school library aide in Central New York, known for the colorful leggings she wore to celebrate special occasions. She loved the job and loved the kids, said those who knew her, and they returned the love with a Crazy Sock day in her memory. “She had a heart the size of Texas,” her former boss told Syracuse.com. She died of COVID-19 at 49.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS 

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”
 – David Foster Wallace, February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008
Infinite Jest (1996)

THE SIGNOFF

EXPERT ADVICE: Like most cultural organizations, opera companies have been hard hit by the pandemic, their performance venues shuttered and large audiences out of the question. In England, out-of-work vocalists have temporary new careers, training those recovering from particularly difficult struggles with the coronavirus in breathing techniques to help them regain lung function.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, John Bulmer, Millie Putnam, Brooks Byer, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue and John Brodt.

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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