The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 1, 2021

Sunrise over a lake and mountains with clouds in the sky.A sunrise brings an explosion of color as seen from aptly named Diamond Point on Lake George. (Jeff Killeen)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

Welcome to May and Derby Day! The Triple Crown of horse racing is back on its regular, pre-COVID schedule, beginning today with the 147th renewal of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

One of the great features of horse racing is that it’s arguably the only high-visibility sport in which it is possible to participate at the highest level without either being a phenomenal athlete or fabulously rich. Case in point: A group of former Brown University football players and fraternity brothers who decided pitching in and buying a race horse would be a great way to stay in touch. That horse, Hot Rod Charlie, is listed at 8-1 in the morning line, the No. 3 betting choice.

Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t typically watch horse racing, but he’ll  make an exception this afternoon; he’s a part-owner of Hidden Stash, a Derby long shot.

And consider Brooklyn Strong, he of great heart and humble hay, a 50-to-1 long shot today, born on a small Fort Edward farm that barely makes ends meet.

One thing is for sure: It’s unlikely that any of the competitors today will show quite the closing burst of this furry little fellow.

PAINFUL LOSS: When Prince Phillip of Great Britain passed away on April 9, much of the world took notice. But with the exception of his family, perhaps no one felt his loss as keenly as some of the villagers on the South Pacific island of Tanna, who believed the Prince to be the incarnation of a deity. At one time, perhaps as many as several thousand people in the villages of Yakel and Yaohanen were members of the Prince Philip Movement, the origins of which are unclear.

BREAK TIMES: The New York Times, whose journalists have dutifully chronicled more than a year of sickness and suffering, is implementing some of the principles found in its voluminous reporting on wellness and personal care by giving employees three additional days off, one a quarter, for the remainder of the year in an effort to combat burnout. The company designated May 14, August 13 and November 5 as Global Days Off for nonessential employees. Essential employees will choose their extra day.

HEAD NORTH TO HEAL: As New York City plans to reopen in July and welcomes returning visitors, diehard New Yorkers who stuck to it out throughout COVID-19 are ready for a break from the stress and anxiety. Pure Wow, the website dedicated to offering readers life hacks, offers 16 suggestions on mind-healing getaways, including this one: Head to a super-cute Lake George waterfront BnB.

LIFE TEACHER: Stephen Ritz was a public school teacher in the Bronx when happenstance changed the trajectory of his life and his life’s work. And it may never have happened if two of his students hadn’t started fighting in class. The idea he had in that moment has grown into a national curriculum that is changing lives and drawn the attention of Pope Francis and Oprah Winfrey.

SUMMER OF TEROR: Forty-eight years ago this summer, Daniel Porter, 23, was working for the celebrated young Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell. They were under consideration to advise Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy if he ran for president in 1976. Then Porter was murdered in the Adirondacks. A political crime? No. A serial killer was on the loose.

Red tulips along a city sidewalk, with a clock and trees in the backgroundTulips are the sentinels of spring, and red ones symbolize love. In the 1600s, they were more valuable than most people's homes.

BATTLE OF SARATOGA BRUNCH:  Part-time Saratoga Springs resident Bobby Flay declares it “one of my favorite places in the whole wide world.” Saratoga Springs’ food scene gets more national love when local chefs Jeannette Liebers (Sweet Mimi’s Café) and Chris Bonnivier (formerly of the Adelphi Hotel) set out to “Beat Bobby Flay.” Oh, those lemon ricotta pancakes!

HOT SPA: The secret sauce of Saratoga is sizzling. Last week, GlobalFoundries announced it’s decamping from Silicon Valley to a  new international headquarters in Saratoga County. (subscription). The world’s leading specialty foundry, with 15,000 employees on three continents, is also about to go public and investing $500 million in its Malta facility, as it rushes along with other semiconductor manufacturers to fill a global shortage of chips (subscription) essential to everything we use. Meanwhile, Rockefeller Capital Management – yes, those Rockefellers – advisers to ultra high-net worth families, opened four offices in the last two years, in Chicago, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, and the Saratoga office, (subscription) fastest growing with the largest number of employees, is expanding. 

AN ACE: George Pulver Sr. was a Saratoga golf legend, head golf pro at two country clubs and designer of courses. But perhaps his greatest legacy lies in the letters he wrote to the young woman he mentored, future golf pro and NBC golf analyst Dottie Pepper.

WILD ROOMMATES: Erika Barker was having trouble with a neighbor, so she left her New York City apartment for a few days to stay with a friend. When she came back, a family of pigeons had moved in, and she didn’t have the heart to kick them out.

HEISMAN HOUSE: Turns out there were two fake Heisman houses — the one in the Nissan commercials and one in Cleveland where football pioneer John Heisman was thought to have been born. A marker had stood in front of the wrong house since 1978, but thanks to persistence on the part of several people, including the current homeowner, the error was confirmed and a new marker erected in its rightful place.

WASTE NOT: Tom Barnes doesn’t have a trash can in his house. Not one. “The grandkids don’t even ask anymore where it is,” he told The Herald-Bulletin of Anderson, Ind. That’s just the way it is for Barnes, a 66-year-old who has run his Indiana home as a zero-waste operation for years, flies an Earth flag out front and has been recycling religiously for decades.

FIGHTING WORD: Josh. That was the fighting word: Josh. It’s a story that weaves together boredom, creativity and the reach of the internet, and culminates with a bunch of people named Josh whacking each other with pool noodles in Lincoln, Neb. Which, when you think about it, makes just as much sense as anything else these days.  

FOOT PATROLS: People flocked outdoors last year in unprecedented numbers, stripping inventories of tents, backpacks, kayaks, bikes – basically, anything that facilitated movement in the fresh air. A lot of the newcomers headed to trails in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, causing havoc on the roads and in parking areas as well as chewing up the trails themselves. The New York State DEC has launched a program to station volunteers at several trailheads this summer to, among other things, help educate hikers about proper trail etiquette.

A TASTE OF HISTORY: A bottle of whiskey that likely was produced sometime in the late 18th century — a period that included the Revolutionary War and the Whiskey Rebellion — is going up for auction in June. The bottle was among a set of three owned by financier J.P. Morgan until the 1940s, when he gifted the bottles to three friends — the one up for auction to a gentleman from South Carolina, and the other two to FDR and Harry Truman. The bottle is expected to fetch at least $20,000.

WHITE GOLD: New York State ski areas reported significant increases in visits this season, driven by residents reluctant to cross state lines — or hop on a plane — for time on the slopes. “Some of our smaller ski areas saw record visitation,” Scott Brandi, president of the SKI/NY trade group, told the Times Union. Officials in Vermont said the state’s well-publicized if not so well enforced policy of requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine reduced revenue there by about $100 million.

MUSK BE JOKING: Colorful billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was chosen to host Saturday Night Live on May 8. Not everyone was pleased with the choice — including some members of the SNL cast.

HOW TO HONOR MOM NEXT WEEKEND: What could you do to make a real difference?

A HARD ROAD: “Nomadland,” which won the Oscar last week for Best Picture, is based on a non-fiction book by the same name about people whose homes were lost and lives wrecked during the Great Recession and who survived by living in vans, campers and RVs and working odd jobs. Mitchell Johnson’s mother hit the road after losing her job and house in 2014, by which time the RV life had taken on an air of romanticism and opportunity. But after a few years, she decided to come back to a more stable life and try once more to be a homeowner, only to find the pandemic had sent property values skyrocketing.

PRIVACY POINTS: Apple’s latest mobile software update offers its iPhone and iPad customers more control over how their data are shared. Any app that wants to track your activities — for purposes of delivering targeted ads, for example — now must get your explicit permission. New York Times consumer tech columnist Brian X. Chen with some helpful information about the update, which includes the ability for Apple Watch owners to unlock their phones with facial recognition while masked.

LIVES

CPL CLIFFORD S. JOHNSON’s fate remained unknown for decades following his service in the Korean War. The 20-year-old native of Valatie, N.Y., was reported missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950, after his Army unit was attacked. His brother, Nathan P. Johnson, had been killed in action in World War II. His remains, among those surrendered by North Korea after a summit meeting between former President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, were identified by military forensic scientists.

RATHER THAN JOIN his father’s manufacturing and media empire in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1940s, Peter Warner ran away from home at the age of 17; his love was the sea. In 1966, when returning from a journey to Tonga where he had hoped to obtain fishing rights for his fleet, Warner and his crew discovered six teenage Tongan boys living on the deserted Pacific island of ‘Ata. Their story and Warner’s became a media sensation at the time and again recently when the film rights were sold. At age 90, while sailing in familiar waters, he was swept overboard by a rogue wave. Efforts to revive him failed.

KATHIE COBLENTZ was the third-longest serving employee at the New York Public Library. She read or spoke 13 languages, loved the New York Yankees, ran in several marathons and lived in a 900-square foot apartment she shared with 3,600 books. Perhaps in order to help other bibliophiles living under similar circumstances, she authored the book, “The New York Public Library Guide to Organizing a Home Library.” She was 73.

JOHN RICHARDS was a British newspaperman whose frustration with his coworkers’ misuse —or worse, omission — of the apostrophe led him to establish the “Apostrophe Protection Society” to defend that “poor defenseless creature” against the slings and arrows of modern technology and usage. The Society grew to include (subscription) more than 500 folks from around the world who were every bit as aghast as he to see the growing mistreatment of the apostrophe. He died in Lincolnshire, England last month at 97, a year after disbanding his Society “with regret.”

DANIEL KAMINSKY is known as an internet security savior, and that’s no exaggeration. In 2008, Kaminsky, a security researcher, discovered a flaw in the internet’s basic address system that was so serious, any hacker could mimic, say, a bank website and steal all of the user’s banking information. He quietly spearheaded an effort that resulted in a secret meeting of the world’s top cybersecurity experts and a fix for systems worldwide. He died at 42 of diabetic ketoacidosis.

MICHAEL COLLINS was the man who stayed behind as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bounded along the surface of the moon. In 1969, he piloted the command module of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission. He circled 60 miles above as Armstrong and Aldrin worked below. "The thing I remember most is the view of planet Earth from a great distance," he said later. "Tiny. Very shiny. Blue and white. Bright. Beautiful. Serene and fragile." He died of cancer at 90.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May’s in Milton, May’s in Prior,
May’s in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May’s in all the Italian books —
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May’s at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.
—    Leigh Hunt, May and the Poets

THE SIGNOFF

Prom-posals can be a bit over the top, and don’t even get us started on gender reveals, but sometimes they hit just the right note.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Jeff Killeen, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue, Katie Alessi 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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