The Week: What Caught Our Eye

March 13, 2021

A purple-streaked sky with clouds over a lake and mountainsNothing we could say would do justice to a photo this breathtaking, except, enjoy yet another spectacular dawn on Lake George. (Jeff Killeen)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

If she follows a calendar, Spring should reveal her lovely countenance next Saturday. Her advance team has been in town this week, heralding not only the season of possibilities and a renewal of our spirits but a gradual reopening of the world.

In Saratoga Springs, Caffè Lena, the longest continuously operating folk venue in the country, will reopen to live audiences April 2. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is getting ready to light its darkened stage, and the thoroughbreds will return to Saratoga for the most prestigious horse racing meet in the country. The Sembrich in Bolton Landing is planning an all-outdoor 2021 Summer Festival, with visitors gathering under a tent to enjoy opera, chamber music, folk music, and Shakespearean theater, all performed against the backdrop of Lake George and the Adirondack Mountains.

Indeed, across the Adirondacks, the year on pause seems to be coming to a welcome close. The Adirondack Almanack has a helpful rundown of this summer’s attractions and events. Meanwhile, the Great White Way is pointing toward a fall reopening.

A WEEK FIT FOR A QUEEN: The Queen of American Lakes had a far better week than the Queen of England. Lake George’s two preeminent protection organizations announced they would join forces to protect the lake, a tribute to the vision and leadership of Jeff Killeen and Eric Siy of the FUND for Lake George and Peter Menzies and Walt Lender of the Lake George Association. The Lake George Mirror reports the merged organization will be the single largest, best-financed lake protection organization in the United States.

ESCAPE TO THE LAKE: Almost everybody finds something to love about Lake George. This week we learned that dancers from the American Ballet Theater, fleeing New York City, found their creative refuge in snowy Silver Bay, where they isolated with choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. They were there to create a new ballet, “Bernstein in a Bubble,” to be available on the New York City Center website later this month. And if ballet does not float your boat, there’s always the Real Housewives of Northern New Jersey who descended on the lake for a drama-filled girls’ weekend and loved their spin on a Lake George Tiki Tour boat.

BAGEL BATTLE: The New York Times offended the sensibilities of prideful New Yorkers by declaring California makes a better bagel. Then came rounds of denunciations, rising outrage, and, of course, a rolling rush to defend the honor of NYC.

MID-HUDSON HAPPENINGS: New York Upstate strolls through hip, happening Hudson, city of antiques, bookshops, and lovely restaurants,  and recommends a stay at The Maker hotel, opened by the cofounders of the beauty brand Fresh, and a visit to its Perfume Bar. Thirty minutes away, in Kingston, a former brickworks has been converted to a rambling retreat, (subscription required) with 31 separate cabins and suites spread across 73 acres of riverfront.

ALL DOWNHILL: Andrew Weibrecht, a two-time Olympic medalist in ski racing whose family owns the landmark Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, has turned his love for the sport into a new challenge: Skiing each of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. He’s doing it not just for the sport, but as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast New York, where he serves as a volunteer board member.

SHOT FELT ’ROUND THE STATE: Hamilton County is as big as the State of Delaware and still has no need for a traffic light. It’s the least densely populated county east of the Mississippi. It’s also the statewide leader in vaccinating its residents, thanks to the leadership of County Board Chair Bill Farber, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Barbara Taylor and Director of Public Health Erica Mahoney. Meanwhile, neighboring Warren County leads the Capital Region and is fifth in the state in vaccination rates, under the leadership of Public Health Director Ginelle Jones and County Administrator Ryan Moore.

WHERE ARE THE KIDS? Across the nation, public school attendance, both in person and virtual, has declined during the pandemic. (subscription required)

JUSTICE IS NOT BLIND: A Michigan prosecutor participating in a virtual court hearing over an order of protection noticed what she thought was the accused in the victim’s home. A few minutes later, local police were at the door, and the prosecutor is being hailed as a potential life saver for following her instincts.

MILITIA DRAWS FROM NORTH COUNTRY: A website leak opened a window into the world of a far-right militia group, revealing that at least 53 people from New York State, including 17 from St. Lawrence County, identified as members. North Country Public Radio spoke with the reporter who broke the story, who expressed surprise at the level of militia activity in the state.

LOVE REUNITED: Donna Horn and Joe Cougill — cheerleader, star quarterback, sweethearts — were young, in love and in deep trouble. It was 1968, and Donna had become pregnant. Her father would dictate the terms, and those terms were that the boy was never again to speak to his daughter. That edict stood for half a century, until the baby girl they had given up for adoption found them, still living in Central Indiana.

A rainbow over homes and trees against a gray sky.Nature showed her colors during an unusually mild evening this week, a sign of better days ahead. (Bill Callen)

NCAA SLEEPER: Quick! What’s the eighth best college basketball team in the country? It’s a Division I team rated ahead of powerhouse programs like Virginia and Kansas. This season, it’s played just 14 games against only four opponents in the Patriot League, an Atlantic seaboard conference, but it could get to the Big Dance by winning the league championship Sunday against only the fifth team it’s faced all year. (subscription required)

GOOD FILLINGS: Drivers who don’t spend a lot of time in New Jersey may never encounter a full-service gas station. They’re so rare that the reporter of this story found it necessary to describe what a full-service gas station is (“where you don’t have to get out of the car and someone pumps your gas.”) Fortunately for the people of Massena, NY, Scott Irish is on the job.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: A UPS delivery driver in Central Pennsylvania worked as long as it took to get his customers their packages, always with a smile and some friendly words. He once held off delivering a package until he could stash it in the customer’s garage, concerned that her child would see it and a surprise would be ruined. The other day, Chad Turns thought he was picking up a delivery from the local firehouse. Instead the community delivered him a sign of their gratitude.

PANDEMIC UPS AND DOWNS: The shift to remote work has given people more flexibility to live where they want, not where their jobs are. Two of the communities likely to benefit the most, according to Moody’s Analytics: Ithaca, NY, and Pittsfield, Mass.

POTTY TALK: Headlines are meant to grab a reader’s attention, so mission accomplished. But the substance of the piece is thought-provoking, and accurate: in the U.S., it’s hard to go when you’re on the go.

WOMEN OF NOTE: Former First Lady Michelle Obama will be inducted into to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, in October, joining soccer star Mia Hamm, NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson and Indra Nooyi, the first female CEO of PepsiCo.

BEAM ME UPSTATE: Star Trek fans, rejoice: William Shatner, forever the cool and handsome Captain James T. Kirk, will celebrate his 90th birthday with a return to the Star Trek Tour set re-creation in Ticonderoga, NY. Packages are on sale now for the celebration, which is scheduled for July 23-24. Shatner, who has maintained a public profile as an actor and well-liked pitchman, tuns 90 on March 22.

BURGER DING: Burger King typically is celebrated for its sharp wit and marketing acumen, as well as its cheeky trolling of fast-food rivals. But they delivered a whopper of a misfire this week with an International Women’s Day social media campaign built around the idea that “women belong in the kitchen.” The reaction was so gruesome that CMO Fernando Machado was compelled to issue the mea culpa and assure customers the intent was not to offend.

SIGHTINGS AND SHOWINGS: Well, we were outside a lot more in 2020; perhaps that explains why reported UFO sightings in Upstate New York doubled compared to the year before. Rochester had 10 and Buffalo had 8, which given their populations might sound reasonable, but what were 8 people seeing in West Chazy? (Sky watchers in Vermont got a gift from the heavens on March 7). Meanwhile, if you think you have supernatural abilities and can furnish indisputable proof that you do, you can earn $250,000 in the Center for Inquiry Investigations Group’s Paranormal Challenge. There’s more to the challenge than meets the eye; it tests the notion that once people believe they have powers, you can’t change their minds with logical reasoning or any amount of evidence to the contrary. Why that matters: People who accept the paranormal are also more likely than those who don’t to believe in conspiracy theories.

PRESERVING MEDICAL HISTORY: The vial containing the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine administered in the United States is headed to The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The newly obtained materials include the medical scrubs and ID badge of the New York City nurse who was America’s first coronavirus vaccine recipient.

CRISIS CASE STUDY: Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who famously split with the royal family, caused a global sensation. It also offered several lessons in crisis communications.

BLOCKBUSTER TIME FOR LEGOS: Parental bare feet the world over are suffering one of the countless aftereffects of the pandemic: a 21% jump in Lego sales, the colorful bricks a reliable way to keep homebound children busy and creative.

FRIENDS FOR LIFE: Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana María Wahrenberg said goodbye to each other as 9-year-olds in 1939, their lives uprooted by the urgent need to flee Germany. Each assumed the other had died in the Holocaust. Some remarkable detective work brought them back together. After 82 years, Grebenschikoff and Wahrenberg both said they felt deep friendship and love, as if they had never parted. (subscription required)

BUILDING EQUITY: LeBron James, whose name is in any discussion of the greatest players in NBA history, is putting his wealth and fame to work in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, part of a new brand of socially responsible development that has taken hold to address historically neglected communities across the nation. “It’s a promising model for community redevelopment at a holistic level,” Jeff Levine, a lecturer of economic development and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times. “It delivers high-value development in places where there aren’t resources for people to do it themselves.”

TAXING INGENUITY: Konstantin Anikeev played the game and won. Or so he thought. An experimental physicist — so, a smart dude — Anikeev took advantage of credit card bonus programs to generate more than $300,000 in additional income over a two-year period, on the theory that credit-card rewards are not income and thus not taxable. Trust us, it takes commitment to game a system as effectively as Anikeev did, but now the IRS wants its cut. (subscription required)

MIXED MESSAGES: Police in a rural Virginia community joined in when a local hairdresser organized its first Black Lives Matter protest — dancing, holding signs, even bringing food. Then two of them were photographed inside the Capitol on January 6.

PICTURE THIS: Vincent Scalise, a member of the New York National Guard from Utica, was deployed along with his unit to the U.S. Capitol in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Assigned to work in the Senate buildings, he took advantage of down time to get pictures with all 100 U.S. Senators, with a little help from a new friend, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

THE LOVE OF THE GAME: Landis Sims is a 15-year-old high school freshman in Southern Indiana, where playing basketball is as much a part of the culture as tenderloins and open-wheel racing. As the Indy Star reported, he catches every pass thrown to him, shoots with a nice, easy backspin and is a willing screener. His motto: “Just watch me.” Given that he was born without hands and legs below the knee, it’s hard not to.

A TOUCH OF RELIEF: The pandemic has limited our ability to touch or even be in close contact with most of the world, which can be excruciating for people who express themselves and receive emotional fulfillment through touch. One solution: Cow cuddling, available for about $75 an hour. You can find such a place in the Finger Lakes(subscription required)


ROGER MUDD was a versatile and well-traveled newsman who worked as a correspondent for NBC, CBS and PBS during more than three decades in television. He received a George Foster Peabody Award for his November 1979 interview with then U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who famously fumbled for an answer when Mudd asked why he wanted to be president. Mudd was 93.

ALLAN McDONALD was worried that the unusually cold weather at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida could affect the performance of the space shuttle Challenger’s booster rockets, and urged that the mission be scrubbed. It wasn’t, of course, and McDonald’s fears came to fruition. He died at 83 after a recent fall.

BILL ROBINSON was an elite distance runner who was just finishing a long training run the day before St. Patrick’s Day when he was hit by a car and left paralyzed from the chest down. He used a wheelchair for the final three decades of his life, but according to a friend, never stopped thinking of himself as a runner. An annual road race in Guilderland, NY, is named in his honor. He died at 74.


“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
John Updike
March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009


LUNCH WILL BE DELAYED:  A gentoo penguin enjoying a swim in the Gerlache Strait in Antarctica is set upon by a pod of killer orcas. Fortunately, there was a boat with helpful tourists nearby.  Go, Penguin!

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, 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.

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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