The Week: What Caught Our Eye

September 11, 2021

The sunrise over a mountain with a bright red skySteve Barnes is best known in Upstate New York as a senior writer at the Albany Times Union, where for 25 years he has been the acknowledged expert on restaurants, theater and all things culture. He’s also a talented photographer of food and sunrises. This shot captures a recent Rensselaer County dawn.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

9/11. 8:46 a.m. 9:03 a.m.

Twenty years ago, our world changed forever. Actually, it had changed long before then, but most of us were innocent — and fortunate enough — not to have noticed. 9/11 tore back the curtain.

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, we rallied in unity, determined that a destructive ideology would never defeat us. Today, a virus is doing what terrorists could not. And it’s fair to wonder whether we’ve lost the ability to come together in another time of crisis, to set aside ideological differences and gather again around common principles and beliefs. Can we set aside our differences this time? 

MEDICINE’S BRIGHTEST LIGHTS: Three of the most brilliant minds in medical research will be in Albany later this month to receive America’s Nobel, The Albany Prize, now in its 20th year as one of the most important in science, awarded annually to individuals responsible for breakthroughs in medicine. Long before they came to public prominence nationally, people like Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., (The Code Breaker); Dr. Anthony Fauci; Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health; and geneticist Eric Lander, Ph.D., science adviser to President Biden, were selected for Albany Medical Center’s Albany Prize. In fact, the Albany Prize has honored eight individuals who went on to win Nobels.

IN THEIR WORDS: North Country Public Radio tells the stories of life in Northern New York with uncommon grace and insight, as in recounting the experiences of Akwesasne Mohawk ironworkers who first helped build the World Trade Center, and later returned to Ground Zero to help in recovery and salvage operations. NPR introduces us to Lori Guadagno and her daily quest to keep alive the memory of her brother, Richard, among those who died on United Flight 93. And Ken Lovett, a longtime Albany reporter for the New York tabloids, recounts an epic week that started with a three-word email from his editor: Go to Boston.

MORE ABOUT MASKS: Kristi Gustafson Barlette, a features writer at the Albany Times Union, wrote an important piece in April about why, after a great deal of thought and research, she changed her mind and decided to become vaccinated against the coronavirus. She’s back this week to express her displeasure with school mask mandates — not that schools are implementing them, but that they feel the need to. “The mask requirement is a sign we failed as a group to support one another,” she writes, dinging those who refuse to either get vaccinated or wear a mask as “childish.” Not surprisingly, polling on school mask mandates breaks down along familiar ideological lines.

SICK OF IT ALL: The local editor of an online news site made it clear to readers that he’s done biting his rhetorical tongue when it comes to those who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or who abuse and harass public servants, and he did so in a remarkably raw and visceral piece in which he writes openly about the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on him. “Everyone hates wearing masks and getting shots,” he writes. “But it's time to face reality. If you do not know the difference between legitimate news and propaganda; if you don't know the difference between actual medical officials and medical heretics; if you can't discern between news that informs you and fiction that feeds your confirmation bias; if you believe your ability to read an item on Facebook equates with a medical professional's 20 years of research, go find a mirror. You are the problem.” 

WHAT’S OUT THERE 

EXHALE IN STYLE: The Lake House on Canandaigua and The (“unbelievable”) Point, the exclusive former Rockefeller retreat on 15 acres in Saranac Lake, make Travel and Leisure’s list of top 15 resort hotels in the United States. Tied with The Point: Twin Farms in Barnard, Vt., and its 300 bucolic acres dedicated to customized retreats.

A roadside sign reading "Spiderfest. Today. 5:00"CELEBRATING SPIDERS: If there’s a collective sense of Adirondack humor, it’s about the things that drive people crazy yet seem impervious to change. Take black flies. Adirondackers tolerate the seasonal annoyance by celebrating it with a Black Fly Challenge, a mountain bike race where competitors try to outrace the blood-drawing winged beasts. For years, to blow off political steam, the Blue Mountain Lake Center for the Arts sponsored a live show, “Forever Wild,” a hilarious parody of local events and players. And now there’s Spiderfest, celebrating the creepy, crawly weavers that inhabit damp spaces on porches and docks and trap more prey than all other terrestrial predators combined. Spiderfest, being held today in Indian Lake, N.Y.,  will feature a chili cook off and cookout, corn hole, a bonfire and, beginning at 7, live music to shake all eight of your legs. Bring your biggest, fattest, ugliest porch spider (it must still be alive) and enter the competition. Spiderfest is held on Route 30 near the Snowy Mountain trailhead. Drop in, hang around or just dangle. The crowd grows every year, and organizers Jon and Linda Hutchins say next year they may even put it on the web.

RIDIN’ HIGH: Thrill-seekers in New York’s Capital Region are a short hop from experiencing the longest zipline in the U.S., which stretches more than a mile over the treetops at Catamount Ski Resort on the Massachusetts border. Riders of the CataMonster hit a top speed of 60 mph as they descend more than 1,000 vertical feet. It’s $89 to ride.

TOWERS OF HISTORY: The western wildfires and last week’s Light up the Night event have revived attention in the fire towers that still stand in some parts of the Adirondacks and Catskills. The towers were built in the early 1900s after major forest fires swept the region and, while they are no longer staffed, the 34 that remain standing, through the efforts of historic preservation advocates, are a major attraction for hikers. 

COLORFUL LESSONS: Fall foliage is about to repaint the landscape of the Northeast, and in case you ever wondered what makes some years better than others or why leaves change colors at all, Syracuse.com has answers from an expert.                 

BUILDING CAPACITY: Virginia Rawlins realized shortly after starting a job with the Albany County Land Bank that there were great opportunities to help members of minority communities get into real estate at a lower cost. Soon she launched Building Blocks Together, which aims to educate potential homebuyers on the purchase process as well as available local funding opportunities, beginning by leading seminars at the local library. “Real estate is a way for us to own something, and eventually create that passive income and generational wealth for our families,” the 30-year-old University at Albany graduate told the Albany Business Review. “We want to teach people how to own their own neighborhoods.”

EVERYBODY WINS: Alumni associations and other school groups are always innovating when it comes to fundraising for scholarships and other student needs. But the folks with the Lake George Alumni Association – coming off a crazy busy summer – have come up with an entirely new way to raise money: Sit home and listen to the radio. Here’s how it works: Buy a $10 ticket and you are eligible to win cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000. Winners will be drawn daily, from Oct. 1 to 31, at 9:45 a.m. on Glens Falls oldies station 98.5 WCKM. Tickets can be purchased online at www.lgalumni.com, and winners will also be posted there as well.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING? With the arrival of the fall TV season (and perhaps more evenings hunkering down at home), the entertainment critics are out with their picks and prognostications. Here’s a look at recommendations from Rolling Stone, Variety, the Daily Beast and Vulture. Our viewing? We’ll be watching “Impeachment,” Ken Burns’ documentary on Muhammad Ali, a Peter Jackson documentary on The Beatles, and Will Ferrell’s The Shrink Next Door.

I LEAVE NEW YORK? Eric Adams, the shoo-in as the next mayor of New York, is prodding New Yorkers who fled to Florida to “bring your butt” home. Not that he blames them for leaving.New York has become too violent, too bureaucratic, too expensive to do business.” The man who spent 22 years in the police department is focused on “scaling up excellence” in schools and resetting relations with his former colleagues in blue.

OLD TROY IS NEW: What Manhattan has lost, Troy, N.Y., retains: Ornate, gilded-age architecture and streetscapes that fascinate historians and filmmakers. Take Troy’s Hart-Cluett House, designed by architect Martin Euclid Thompson and used as the prototype for the elegant row houses that became a 19th century standard for well-to-do families in New York. It’s why Martin Scorsese chose Troy to film “The Age of Innocence,” why HBO chose Troy to film the new Julian Fellowes series “The Gilded Age.” And why Troy is showing off its architectural gems today.

PRESS CORPS: If printed newspapers are in decline, it’s news to The Berkshire Eagle. The talented Felix Carroll spends an evening with the men and women who run the presses, producing a behind-the-scenes story so richly detailed that you can practically smell the ink: “Someone, a genius, and not Johannes Gutenberg, figured all this out: how each cylinder and each metal plate can be arranged such that a ream of carefully tensioned paper can weave its way up, down, over, this way, that way, until it’s finally folded and snipped into a single, assembled product — a newspaper.” A delightful read that will give you a new appreciation for the old-fashioned skill it takes to get the news on the street.

WHO DRIVES GROWTH: Colin Read calls himself a hands-on nerd. The truth is he’s a polymath with a Master’s and Ph.D. in economics, a law degree, an MBA and a Master’s of Taxation. He’s a pilot and certified aircraft mechanic, a certified solar electric installer, full professor and researcher of the year at the University of Alaska, dean of the School of Business and Economics at SUNY Plattsburgh, former county legislator, former mayor, owner of a vineyard, frequent media commentator, and a HAM radio operator. His weekly blog is compelling reading for those who ponder how to create more winners in our economy. Hint: Henry Ford and Warren Buffet got it right: If you want growth, tax the rich and redistribute the money to those who actually spend it.

WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT: If you need a lesson in salmon fishing, watch Alaskan Heather Douville’s video of a black bear fishing for salmon on a creek near the Tongass National Forest. Black bears are smaller than grizzlies and coastal brown bears and not typically associated with salmon fishing. But this guy seems to get the hang of it.

AND SPEAKING OF BEARS: If you encountered one in your suburban neighborhood, would you shout loudly and try to scare it off or stop and enjoy it before slinking away? 

A NEW CHAPTER: As a kid, Jason Zerrillo’s love of reading led him to Saratoga Springs’ iconic Lyrical Ballad bookstore, where he would spend hours (and his allowance) in happy discovery. Now, he’s teamed up with his friend and fellow book lover Charlie Israel to preserve the legacy of John and Jan DeMarco and keep the charming warren of rare, new, used and antiquarian books overstocked with wonderful finds.

THE SHAPE OF FALL: Ease into autumn, the Berkshire Eagle recommends, with a visit to five must-see outdoor sculpture shows, including Wells, N.Y., sculptor John Van Alstine’s “Tipping the Balance” at Chesterwood and “Land of Enchantment” at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

LIVES

WILLARD SCOTT once did the weather dressed in frilly pink as Carmen Miranda with an outlandish spray of fruit on his head. Another time he showed up as Boy George. For 35 years, he entertained America and sprinkled in a little forecast information as the Today show weatherman while celebrating centenarians’ birthdays and spreading the sweet story of Smucker’s. The original Ronald McDonald was 87.

KYLE VAN DE WATER ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado for New York’s 19th District congressional seat in 2020, and announced plans in July to seek a rematch, only to pull out a month later, citing a change in his life circumstances. A decorated combat veteran, attorney and father of four, he died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound at 41.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

In honor of teachers as schools reopen:

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
― Michelangelo

THE SIGNOFF

INVEST IN RENOVATIONS: Builders renovating a manor in northwestern France discovered a metal box lodged inside a wall and purse above a beam, both of which contained gold coins minted during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV in the 17th century. The 239 coins are expected to fetch well in excess of a quarter-million dollars at auction.

Thank you to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, Steve Barnes, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

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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