The Week: What Caught Our Eye

February 6, 2021

Aerial view of a walker's tracks through the snow, with bare treesWalk, ski, sled, or snowshoe this weekend, and make your own trail as someone did in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs. (Crown Focus Media)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

Welcome to Super Bowl Weekend. Believe it or not, the NFL was able play its full season without any cancellations, and here we are, with a compelling matchup of the consensus greatest quarterback of all-time and a guy who looks more than capable of taking that mantle himself a few years down the road.

For the casual fan — emphasis on casual — CBS Sports, which will broadcast the game Sunday evening, has a primer that covers the basics.

Those who tune in for the commercials will notice a decidedly different tone this year. A lot of the big brands are sitting this one out, or redirecting their ad dollars to advocacy messaging.

And while you’re thinking about the game, spend a few minutes getting to know someone who isn’t there — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a cornerstone of the Chiefs’ offensive line. He has a medical degree that he finished during the first four years of his career, training that he put to use at a long-term care facility near his native Montreal, where he has worked since March, foregoing a season in the NFL to help people during a global health crisis.

Enjoy the game!

MOVING UP: Interest in real estate is surging in North Creek this winter. As Americans seek healthy escapes within driving distance of major cities, Boston, New York and Philadelphia are dispatching people to places like Uniondale, Pa., Choteau, Mont., and North Creek, N.Y., third on Forbes’ list with a 132% increase in recent home searches. It’s no wonder: North Creek has invested heavily in the arts at Tannery Pond, proudly displays a large outdoor mosaic, and hosts concerts by the river in the summer and theater throughout the year.  Plus, it’s “(h)ome to the Gore Mountain Ski Center (and it’s) a mecca for outdoor activities,’’ says Forbes, ‘’including downhill and backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, fishing and camping in warmer months. … The Gore Mountain ski area has been expanded in recent years, which has resulted in an influx of private investment in new businesses as well as several new housing developments.’’

THRILLS IN THE CHILL: Snowmobiling is always important to the Adirondack winter economy. This winter it may save it. Gas and food purchases are helping local stores, as is the strong weekend business for struggling restaurants. Interest in snowmobiling is growing throughout North America; snowmobilers generate more than $26 billion in economic activity annually in the U.S. Local trails are generally in fine shape, and more snow is forecast. Check out trail conditions in Indian Lake, Newcomb, Speculator, Brant Lake, Chester, Hague, Lake Luzerne and Lake George.

COME WANDER IN THE WOODS: Just in time for what may be the best conditions of the season, why not lose yourself for a few hours this weekend on snowshoes in the wilds of Warren County? A new website, warrencountyny.gov/snowshoe, includes maps of trails as well as a beginner’s guide to the sport and information about where to rent or borrow snowshoes. If you prefer to break a trail of your own, check out Warren County’s Rec Mapper

WINTERFEST DEBUTS: If nice restaurants and hotel discounts, or cozy horse-drawn carriage rides and hot chocolate, or even axe throwing are more your thing, the first-ever socially distanced WinterFest kicks off this weekend in Lake George.

RINK WITH A VIEW: And, of course, north is not the only direction for fun. Consider the luxury William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn and, at 23 stories above Williamsburg, its rooftop skating rink with an unobstructed view of Manhattan.

THE SECRET BALLOT: Do ever speculate on how your neighbors voted? The New York Times aggregated data from nearly 2,000 counties in 42 states, representing 64% of all of the votes cast in the presidential election. There are no names, of course, but this new interactive map will give you a clear idea of how the wind blows in your neighborhood.

IMPROBABLE CITY OF POLITICAL WIZARDS: Do you remember when the Republicans owned Albany? Of course you don’t. That was 100 years ago. No major city in America has had longer uninterrupted Democratic rule than Albany. The political machine that has long cast its shadow on the Capital City turns 100, and the question remains: Is it a benevolent protector of people, or a force for retaliation, corruption and intimidation?

THE TWITTER CONUNDRUM: Should journalists tweet? They do, of course, and while some break news, others tend to share their opinions on politics, policy and people. Does that repel readers and viewers who prize objectivity or attract like-minded readers and viewers who prefer a reporter who discloses his or her biases?

NUKES FELL ON AMERICA: If you knew that, good for you; we’re going to guess that isn’t common knowledge. It happened 60 years ago in east-central North Carolina, where a B-52 attempting to return to a nearby Air Force base broke up in midair, its flaming wreckage plunging to earth in a field. It was carrying two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. National Geographic picks up the amazing story of a disaster averted.

NATURAL HABITAT: The Columbia County home of author Susan Orlean and her husband, built in 2005 and designed inside and out to blend with its natural surroundings, is on the market. The family will be spending more time at their primary home in Los Angeles. As Orlean told The New York Times, which reported the listing exclusively, “The raw fact of having a weekend house that is 3,000 miles away really came home to roost.” The asking price: a shade under $3.5 million.

A STAR IN TWILIGHT: Tony Bennett for decades was among the most recognizable stars in show business. A hitmaking singer since the early 1950s, his appeal crossed generations and genres, as comfortable in front of a camera as he was before a microphone, his smile as easy and smooth as his melodious voice. His family chose to keep secret that he had been diagnosed in 2016 with Alzheimer’s disease, until now, sharing his journey with AARP in an intimate and revealing portrait in which we learn that, though much has been lost, “when he sings, he's the old Tony."

SNAKE HANDLER: Amy Siewe was homecoming queen at her high school in southwest Ohio, a collegiate tennis star and, for 13 years, a successful realtor in Indianapolis. She gave up her real estate career two years ago to do something few would imagine, let alone try — she became a professional python hunter in the Florida Everglades, subduing mammoth beasts that are devastating the ecosystem and nearly match her in weight.

CHERRY ON TOP: Once a center of trade and industry, and long a haven for artists like Willa Cather and Allen Ginsberg, the picturesque community of Cherry Valley in Otsego County has suffered in recent years, its light dimming in comparison to its neighbors Cooperstown (the Baseball Hall of Fame) and Sharon Springs (home to the goat farm/cosmetics boutique/country store Beekman 1802). Now, local artists have decided to light up Cherry Valley once again.

CIVILIANS IN SPACE: SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company that designs, manufacturers and launches rockets and other spacecraft, said it will send the first all-civilian orbital flight crew into space in late 2021. The mission will be led by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who’s using it in part to raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

BREAKING THE ICE: Ride along aboard the Penobscot Bay, a Coast Guard vessel that parts the frozen waters of the Hudson River, chopping and hammering a path through the ice to keep goods flowing even in the depths of winter.

A STATEMENT FOR EQUALITY: Ken Lovett, a longtime State Capitol reporter best known for his work at the New York Daily News, notes that while the 10th anniversary of legalized same-sex marriage in New York State is in June, the groundwork for the momentous law started seven years earlier, when the 26-year-old mayor of New Paltz, having decided that laws narrowly defining marriage were unjust and unconstitutional, defied the governor and other powerful state leaders, as well as his local district attorney, to preside over same sex-marriages in his community.

View of an ice-covered lake looking toward mountainsFrigid temperatures are laying down a coat of ice on Lake George and other waterways, though we wouldn’t recommend landing a plane on one. See The Signoff, below.  

GET MOVING: We can vouch for this: For those who can do it, there’s nothing quite like a walk to cure a host of ills, help you clear your head and boost your creativity. Whether you seek perspective, connection, a productivity boost or something else, think about making walking a part of your daily routine.

UNWELCOME NEIGHBORS: The coyote population in New York State seems to be doing quite well and getting closer to human populations, as personally experienced by an outdoors writer in the Finger Lakes.

RESCUE ON THE RAILS: The two trains collided head-on, one carrying passengers, the other barreling through a blizzard to clear the tracks of snow. The accident, on a line between Ogdensburg and Utica, disabled both engines, which froze as the snow continued relentlessly. The blocked line effectively cut off much of St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties from goods and supplies in the midst of a fierce wintry siege. The lines would have to be cleared, and they would have to be cleared fast.

SALT SUMMIT: Ever driven behind a snowplow preparing for a storm and watched all the road salt granules bounce across the pavement and onto the shoulder? That’s not just money down the drain, it’s road salt entering our waterbodies, groundwater and drinking water supplies. Warren County and the towns of Lake George and Hague are on the cutting edge of cutting road salt use, as part of the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative, coordinated by The FUND for Lake George. On Wednesday morning, Feb. 10, they’ll share the secrets to their success in a special one-hour online event, highlighted by a new FUND documentary film, “The Road Map to Road Salt Reduction: Success Stories from Lake George.” Designed for municipal leaders and large property owners, registration is now open.

PLOWMAN’S LAUGH: And speaking of snow plows, the next time you pass one hurtling down the highway, hail that beast by its proper name. Snow plows have names? They do in Scotland. The country that gave us Robert Burns, Adam Smith, Sir Walter Scott, David Hume and Robert Louis Stevenson now brings us “For Your Ice Only” and “Gangsta Granny Gritter.”

LOOKING OUT FOR NO. 1: Apparently the Gamestop stock stuff wasn’t the only thing to come out of the blue lately. Netflix, which springs the occasional surprise with its Top 10 lists of most popular content on the platform, is back with another unexpected No. 1 in Below Zero, which, in the words of Slate, “debuted on the streaming platform on January 29 with no fanfare.” Slate provides a primer to catch you up before something new comes along.

THE ARGUMENT: Changing the mind of someone firmly committed to a point of view is nearly impossible. But, for those of us interested in the science of persuasion, new research suggests motivational interviewing may at least crack the surface.

DELIVERING HAPPINESS: Laurene Stang has a great singing voice and she’s not afraid to use it. The “singing mail woman” who livens her daily deliveries in Great Barrington, Mass., tells The Berkshire Eagle, “I tell my daughters this: Any job you do, you can’t be talking to yourself and being miserable. You gotta go out happy, every day. Especially now with COVID. Now we need happy. We need normalcy, some kind of normalcy.”

NEW LEADER FOR LARRYS: At an extraordinarily challenging time in higher education, St. Lawrence University trustees select Kathryn A. Morris as the University’s 19th president. Dr. Morris formerly was the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Butler University in Indianapolis, where she and her husband were members of the psychology faculty. The search was chaired by St. Lawrence Trustee and author Marion Roach Smith of Troy. 

SPORTING LIFE

PEDEY BOWS OUT: For 11 seasons, Dustin Pedroia was the emotional center of the Boston Red Sox, a hard-nosed and productive second baseman who was an American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player and a key member of two World Series winners. Knee injuries limited him to few game appearances over the past three seasons, and this week he announced his retirement at the age of 37.

A SECOND CHANCE: Drew Robinson was living his dream, pursuing a career in professional baseball that had taken him briefly to the major leagues and landed him an opportunity in 2020 to compete for a job as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants. Though he had spoken of his struggle with confidence, no one knew the true depths of his despair until, on April 16, he put a newly purchased handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. ESPN’s Jeff Passan picks up the remarkable story of survival, resilience and comeback.

OUTDOOR EDUCATION: Galway, in western Saratoga County, is a place where forests mingle with fields, hobbies are pursued outdoors and firearms aren’t foreign objects. The Galway Central School District got 100 responses last year to a survey gauging interest in forming a scholastic trap shooting team, and 40 students followed through this year. Galway, the first Saratoga County school to join the New York State High School Clay Target League, will be coached by two alums who are former collegiate shooters.

A PIONEER IN PADS: Haley Van Voorhis of The Plains, Va., the first girl to play football at her high school, is being recruited to play by several colleges as a defensive back. Wherever she goes, the first time she steps on the field she will make history as the first woman to play college football at a position other than punter or placekicker.

LIVES

AS A KID, he earned money performing magic shows at birthday parties. Then Andrew Brooks grew up to create life-saving magic: In April 2020, when coronavirus tests were scarce and lines to get them long, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval to Dr. Andrew Brooks’ ground-breaking technique for coronavirus tests, requiring only some spit in a tube. Health care workers have performed more than 4 million tests using his approach, and it remains one of the most reliable means of determining whether someone has the coronavirus. He died of a heart attack at 51.

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER first fell in love with the Berkshires as a teen and came back often. He was a star of stage and screen who is most famous for the role he perhaps least liked, as the stern and patriotic Captain von Trapp in the Oscar-winning The Sound of Music. He played Shakespearean roles in both his native Canada and in England, and later in his career delivered on screen with roles that included J. Paul Getty and an Oscar-winning turn as Hal, a father who comes out as gay late in life. He was 91.

MARY-ARTHUR BEEBE was a distant relative of President Chester A. Arthur, a journalist, a golf champion, a civic leader and the longtime executive director of the oldest lake protection organization in the country, the Lake George Association. She was 80.

PAT FILIEN was part of the 1992 team that took The College of Saint Rose to its first Division II NCAA Tournament. After his playing career ended, Filien went into coaching and became a successful Division I assistant, making it to five NCAA Tournaments with the University of Vermont and the University at Albany. “He always had a smile on his face, and no matter how bad of a day I could have, he always made me smile because he’d come up and put his arm around you and ask how you’re doing,” said a former Saint Rose teammate. “Pat never had a bad day, and if he did, you’d never know it.” He was 51.

HAL HOLBROOK was a veteran character actor who played Mark Twain on stage longer than the real Twain was alive and won five Emmys for acting in TV movies and miniseries. Oscar-nominated at 82, he once told NPR, “I’ve always wanted to just be an actor. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, playing different roles.” He was 95.

DUSTIN DIAMOND, the nerdy Screech in the hit 1990s sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” died of cancer just three weeks after it was diagnosed. He was 44.

JAMIE TARSES at 32 became president of entertainment at ABC, having played major roles in bringing shows such as “Friends” and “Frasier” to prime time on NBC. An unquestioned star in the field, she quit the job at ABC after three years, jaded by the politics of the job and the personal attacks she endured. She died of “complications from a cardiac event” at 56.

CAPTAIN SIR TOM MOORE inspired England and became an international sensation by walking laps in his garden to raise money for the U.K.’s National Health Service in the early weeks of the pandemic. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in July at a private ceremony at Windsor Castle and he became, in the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “not just a national inspiration but a beacon of hope for the world.” He recently had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and died at 100.

MICHAEL WAYNE VANDERVORT wasn’t famous. He lived nearly all of his 46 years in Kokomo, Ind., where he rarely missed a shift at the Chrysler Transmission plant. He loved to bowl with his wife and was a father figure to three young women whose fathers weren’t around. We introduce you to him today because the few words in his obituary tell a story of gentle, humble decency, and who can’t use a little more of that these days?

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet,
And left to Heaven the rest.

— John Vance Cheney, The Happiest Heart

THE SIGNOFF

FROZEN TREAT: Jimmer Sherman and his friends were doing some ice fishing on Lake Champlain last week when someone casually landed his plane nearby and asked if the guys could give him a hand. Turns out that another pilot’s engine had quit and he glided his plane to a safe landing about a mile up the lake. “It was quite an experience,” Sherman told North Country Public Radio. “Not everyone gets to tow a plane on Lake Champlain.”

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Mark McCormick, Tara Hutchins, Matt Behan, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue, John Brodt and Lisa Fenwick.

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 or interest 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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