The Week What Caught Our Eye

August 8, 2020

The Peaceful Beauty of Dawn on Saratoga Lake. (Skip Dickstein)

The Peaceful Beauty of Dawn on Saratoga Lake. (Skip Dickstein)

Good Morning, Colleagues and Friends. 

For those of us who love old-line New York companies, the last few days have not been picture perfect. First, what appeared to be good news: The Trump Administration announced that Eastman Kodak Co., which nearly collapsed less than a decade ago, would receive a $765- million federal loan to help expedite the domestic production of drugs to treat a variety of medical conditions and lessen the country's reliance on foreign sources. The move would create at least 350 new jobs and launch a new business unit in Rochester. The White House summoned Kodak’s proud history as a trusted American brand. Trade Advisor Peter Navarro even likened the new effort to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Arsenal of Democracy." Kodak shares soared on the news, and soared and soared — up as much as 2,190% in the two days after the announcement. Then it was revealed Kodak’s CEO was granted options worth about $50 million on the eve of the announcement. Now the SEC is investigating. Was this what Paul Simon referred to as “the greens of summers?”

MAKIN’ BACON MORE ACCESSIBLE: In the shadow of Hackensack Mountain in Warrensburg, Oscar’s Smokehouse is an Adirondack epicurean landmark that has been smoking meats and cheeses for more than 70 years. After a devastating fire destroyed the business in 2009, no less a connoisseur than Rachael Ray lamented: “When Oscar’s burned, it was the first time I thought about going into therapy!” Oscar’s survived the fire (its second) and came back stronger than ever to serve loyal customers locally and across the nation. And Oscar’s is bringing home the bacon with an innovation that will surely sizzle: A bacon vending machine.

SARATOGA ROCKS ON: Pinball and rock’n’roll are like diners and juke boxes. They belong together. And now Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs is opening an exhibition from Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that explores the connection between rock and pinball. Rock-themed pinball machines are on display, as are playable machines that were owned by Elvis, Alice Cooper, Dolly Parton and other legends. The exhibition runs through September, and special safety protocols are in place.

SALT OF THE STATE: First, state and local governments in the Adirondacks struggled with the dilemma of how to keep Adirondack roads safe in the winter without the salt that was adversely affecting bodies of water. Now, they are struggling with an even more poignant issue: The salt spread by state plow trucks has contaminated drinking water wells. When Adirondack residents sought redress in the courts, they were denied. The water is not fit to drink, public health is potentially at risk, and property values have been harmed. New York State has found a way around its own strict notice of claim issues before. Will it do so now in the Adirondacks.

SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND: A pair of Harvard researchers interviewed more than 60 leaders who were trying to persuade business associates and others to change their minds on a course of action they initially disagreed with. They found that age-old advice — seek first to understand, then to be understood — really works.

WHAT A START: Chaim Bloom expected a few rough patches as he took over as chief baseball officer of the Boston Red Sox, a team in need of a makeover cheered on by fans too impatient to want to hear about rebuilding. But he could not have imagined the turbulence that has marked his first year on the job.

Lake George Purple Sunset.jpeg
The sky’s ablaze in this majestic sunrise on Lake George. (Jeff Killeen)


THE AMERICAN CASTE SYSYEM: As we re-confront the defining issue of race in America this summer comes Isabel Wilkerson’s important new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” Dwight Garner, the highly respected book critic for The New York Times, declares it “an extraordinary document, one that strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” Wilkerson examines how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions that dates back centuries. She makes unsettling comparisons between India’s stigmatizing treatment of its untouchables, Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, and America’s treatment of African-Americans,” the social systems that “keep the lowest-ranked people at the bottom.’’

TV DINNER: The new Downton Abbey is appearing this summer on the Sundance Channel. It’s “The Restaurant,’’ set in 1945 Stockholm as the multi-generational owners of a 150-year-old white-tablecloth restaurant struggle to find their way in a post-war world of new custom and social mores.

GRAN RESTAURANTERestaurante Botín, a cozy eatery in Madrid, opened in 1725 when guests had to bring their own food. It managed to operate continuously even through the Spanish Civil War. Ernest Hemingway loved the place and, in “The Sun Also Rises,” his character Jake pronounces it “the best restaurant in the world.” Botin, closed since the pandemic, has just reopened, and the future is uncertain.

MADDY’S STORY: Maddy Holleran was an All-American kid, an accomplished distance runner, excelling academically and athletically in her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. But beneath all the winning lurked deep pain. She tried to force herself to be positive; it did not work. And so, one January evening, after leaving gifts for her family and friends, she leapt from a ninth-floor railing of a parking garage. Could her death have been prevented?

DO WE NEED A LITTLE DISNEY RIGHT NOW? Serena Lyn burst into tears when she and her family passed through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, four months after the pandemic forced the closure of Disney theme parks. The sense of relief was overwhelming. “I think the world needs Disney right now,” she told The Atlantic. Indeed, in a year when the pandemic has canceled so much fun, Disney fans are seeking the happy gratification they don’t feel anywhere else – even as others ridicule their choice.

YOU LOOK LOST: Three men who sailed off course and were stranded on a tiny, uninhabited Pacific island for three days were rescued after writing SOS in giant letters on the sand.

SOLVING AN ANCIENT RIDDLE: The origins of Stonehenge, the mysterious, roughly 5,000-year-old monument in southern England, have long intrigued historians and archaeologists. A paper just published in the academic journal Science Advances has pinpointed the source of the giant sandstone slabs that form Stonehenge’s central horseshoe.

CABBAGE FROM CHINA: Is it suspicious that the Chinese are sending unwitting American green thumbs free seeds this summer?  No more so than General Tso showing up to weed your garden. They’re sending cabbage, rosemary, mint, morning glory and even “studded earrings.”

SUN WORSHIPPERS: Anyone who’s ever spent any time around a cat knows they love to lounge, especially in the sun. A meteorologist and cat lover explains the instinctive reasons why. 


HE PLAYED ON: The piano prodigy Leon Fleisher gave his first public recital at age eight. He was 16 when he debuted at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic. At 25, he recorded his first album for Columbia Records. Critics called it “transcendent.” For Fleisher, all the promise of a burgeoning golden career ended at 36. And yet it didn’t.

HEART OF NEW YORK: Ironic, in the end, that it was Pete Hamill’s heart that failed him. It had sustained his work as a street columnist, author and essayist for 40 years, his endless search for the characters who make New York City. He wrote of their lives with grace and empathy. Hamill had met Robert Kennedy while working for the New York Post, and he was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night in June 1968 when Kennedy was assassinated. He was one of four men who disarmed Sirhan Sirhan. As a colleague wrote: “If the pavement of New York City could talk, it would sound like Pete Hamill.’’


“One thing about being successful is that I stopped being afraid of dying. Once you’re a star you’re dead already. You’re embalmed.”
Born August 8, 1937


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation authorizing the production and sale of liquor-infused frozen desserts, citing “increasing consumer demand” for alcoholic ice cream. And in this year of the pandemic, who’s to argue? Legislators say the law will help New York State businesses and boost tourism.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Skip Dickstein, Jeff Killeen, Troy Burns, Tara Hutchins, 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 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. 

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