The Week: What Caught Our Eye

March 14, 2020

View of Adirondack chairs on a dock looking out on a lake and snow-capped mountains beyondAfter a week of unsettling news, take a deep breath and soak in the pre-spring splendor on Mirror Lake. (Nancie Battaglia)

U.S. PATENT 794,777: Long before they had a name we all know, they were an idea in the head of a Massachusetts designer who summered in the Adirondacks. Thomas Lee longed for chairs that could handle the local terrain: Sturdy, balanced and comfortable on everything from sandy ground to a steep hill. He envisioned wide armrests, a high back, and a slanted seat and back, all made from single pieces of wood. His friend Harry Bunnell took the design and crafted the first ones in his Westport carpentry shop. Then he began building and selling the chairs to his neighbors. After modifying the design to make the chair a little narrower, Bunnell patented his Westport chair design in April 1904. The Adirondack Chair was born.

THE DOCTRINE OF CLEAN HANDS: Move over, apples, cabbage and corn. New York’s new top product is prison-produced hand sanitizer, mixed up in the maximum-security Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, Washington County. Gov. Cuomo rolled out the Big House wash this week as an answer to sanitizer shortages.  Not surprisingly, the prison is pumping out sanitizer that contains more hooch than commercial varieties. Now all they need is a brand: Coronacorrectional? Comstock Clean? Great Meadow Fresh? All of this has some lathered up over prisoner pay.

NEW YORK’S TOP DOC: The man overseeing New York’s response to the coronavirus was one of the nation’s youngest physicians when he graduated at 22 from George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Howard Zucker was trained in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital; in anesthesiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and in pediatric cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Then he earned law degrees from Fordham University School of Law and Columbia Law School at night while running an intensive care unit.

WHEN THE NEWS IS BAD: The international response to the coronavirus is a real-time lesson in the best crisis communication practices (and some weaker ones). Some organizations are reflexively inclined to hide bad news. Others get it out quickly, act on it, and benefit reputationally in the long run. What’s the difference? Psychological safety – and it’s a competitive advantage.

$1 BILLION MAKEOVER: Marilyn Monroe stayed there. JFK, too. In fact, every president since Herbert Hoover has enjoyed the comforts of Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria. Queen Elizabeth liked it, as did Emperor Hirohito. Hoover liked it so much he moved in after leaving office, as did Eisenhower. Now, after $1 billion in renovations, the owners of the Waldorf, a China-based insurance company, are reopening it with 375 large hotel rooms and 375 residences for sale in the towers above them.

MapleSyrup.jpegNew York is America’s second largest producer of maple syrup. Only Vermont produces more. Savor the Empire State's sweetest season. (Nancie Battaglia)

EASY LIES THE HEAD: Wise kings sleep with one eye open, but we’re pretty sure you can close both eyes and rest your uneasy crown at any one of these 11 Upstate New York castles, including Highland Castle in Bolton Landing and the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. Highland “poised on a mountaintop overlooking Lake George is a hidden jewel in a private setting.”

OUR SUBPAR PARKS? Yeah, the trees are big enough, but there are also “bugs and they will bite you on your face.” The Grand Canyon’s grand all right, but remember it’s just “a very, very large hole.” And all this peace and quiet? It really gets on your nerves. There’s “no cell service and terrible wi-fi.” Take a look at the nasty things some people say about our national parks. If you’d prefer a concierge to a ranger, you’ll understand.

NO CELL? NO SWEAT: Green Bank, W.Va., has a signal distinction: The Green Bank Observatory, home of the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope with equipment so sensitive the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone. For the 143 people who live there, the absence of technology is wired into their DNA.

BORN TO PLAY: The DiMaggio name in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is magic. Dom played 11 seasons for the Red Sox and was a seven-time All-Star. Older brother Joe is a Yankees legend, one of the greatest hitters of all time. This spring, a DiMaggio cousin, a lifetime Yankees fan, is pitching for the Sox.

BIG BLUE: Major League Baseball is experimenting with an automated system that reads pitches, then sends the data to a computer that calls balls and strikes.

TASTE OF THE HUDSON VALLEY: They are the Pulitzers of the kitchen, named for the champion of American cuisine who taught and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. The annual James Beard Foundation Awards honor greatness in the culinary arts in the United States, and this year, five Hudson Valley chefs have been named semifinalists for Best Chef in New York State (including New York City): Two in Hudson, one in Kingston, one in Westchester and one in Hartsdale.

DARK MONEY: Talk all you will about getting the money out of politics, but there’s no putting an end to the venerable political campaign tradition of staffers grabbing a beer after hours with colleagues, reporters and even people from rival campaigns. What happens when a campaign folds its tent? Venmo lights up with intriguing reimbursements.

BIG BET ON BITCOIN:  Glens Falls papermaker Finch Paper’s co-owner Atlas Holdings has set up a Bitcoin mining operation in its Greenridge Generation power plant in the Finger Lakes, installing 7,000 crypto-mining machines in a plant that produces clean natural gas for New York State.


ROSIE’S SECOND ACT: Rosie, in overalls and bandana, worked the night shift at a factory in Connecticut, driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes because the men who had always done that job had gone to war. World War II’s Rosie the Riveter died this week. You may recognize her as Rosalind P. Walter, the PBS benefactor who underwrote “Great Performances,” “American Masters,” “PBS NewsHour,” “Nature” and documentaries by Ken and Ric Burns.

THE DIE IS CAST: He brought an end to the Roman Republic and crossed the Rubicon to become the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire. The great military strategist of his age and Cleopatra’s lover, he was scheduled to leave March 18 to fight yet another war. Julius Caesar never made it. Three days before his departure, he was murdered on the Ides of March by Roman Senators who feared he would become king.

EIGHT WHO CHANGED AMERICA: One was the 16-year-old plantation manager who cultivated the first American indigo plant. She brought us blue jeans. Another published the Declaration of Independence. A third was the washerwoman who became America’s first self-made millionaire. Meet eight women who changed the world.

WE’RE ALL IN THE MOOD FOR REWRITE: Sing us a song, you’re the piano man, sing us a song tonight … Please let us rework your lyrics, because you’ve got us feeling uptight. Imagine if Billy Joel had to face the regular crowd shuffling in. (P.S. Do yourself a favor and read more McSweeney’s)


“What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.”
— Gaius Julius Caesar
July 13, 100 BC
March 15, 44 BC


SOMETHING SPECIAL: Most of the “art” at the Hotline Pink Art Shop in Kitty Hawk comes from people who are remodeling their beach cabins. But that one signed wood engraving in the back room, that looked a little different.

Stay healthy everybody!

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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