The Week What Caught Our Eye

September 19, 2020

Butterfly1090920-3.jpg“Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." — Hans Christian Andersen (Skip Dickstein photo)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

This week we were moved by a 76-year-old story with modern resonance: The story of the single place in which the United States sheltered people fleeing the Nazis during World War II — Upstate New York. In August 1944, after 20 days on an overcrowded former troop ship, nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees arrived at a pier on the west side of Manhattan. The next day they boarded a train for an overnight trip to an old army camp in Oswego, N.Y., the first of what was expected to be many such shelters for people fleeing Nazi rule in Europe. Turns out, amid cries to “Keep America for the Americans,” Oswego’s Fort Ontario became the only American camp for war refugees. As the world now experiences its biggest refugee crisis since World War II, here’s a look at how Oswego and the refugees coped.

FORTUNE FAVORED: The seven friends, all Saratoga Springs High graduates and all avid horse players, figured they had it made: The first four of their late Pick 5 at Churchill Downs had come in, and they needed only a win from heavy favorite and hometown legend Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby to hit their jackpot. Or so they thought.

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: In these fraught and uncertain times, a mysterious little box appeared on a Montreal street inviting passersby to leave a wish for the world. Dear Universe, wrote Montrealers, we need more love, more money, more understanding, better health —nothing too surprising in these times. But also: Jobs that align with one’s values, an apartment with cool friends, a world that’s less polluted and one that takes adolescent depression a lot more seriously.

A WALK AROUND: The sounds of silence enveloped the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this summer and, like so many other cultural organizations, it turned to imaginative workarounds to stay connected to its audience. Now, with beautiful fall days upon us, music is wafting through the pines of Spa State Park again, thanks to SPAC. A team of world-class musicians led by Pulitzer Prize winner composer Ellen Reid has created Soundwalk, an aural experience to help immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Spa State Park .

OLD GOLD RETOLD: Get those old records off your shelf. The stacks of wax are back. For the first time since the 1980, vinyl record sales have outpaced CD sales.

HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES? Apples are in abundance in New York this year. While apple production is down nationally, production is up 2 percent in New York to 32 million bushels. Apples are New York’s top fruit crop, and New York is the second largest apple-producing state in the country. All those apples need people to pick them, so UpstateNewYork.com has shined up its list of the best you-pick orchards. And Lake George is celebrating fall restaurant appreciation weeks. Check out the apple-themed drinks and delicacies

NUMBER ONE IN OUR HEARTS: Travel and Leisure Magazine counts the 12 most beautiful lakes in the United States and names Lake George #2.

LAKE-BREAKING NEWS: The good news is that Adirondack lakes are getting healthier. The twist is that in recovery they’re ecologically different from the way they were decades ago, before sulfur emissions from Midwest power plants acidified them, says Dr. Jay Curt Stager, an expert in lake ecology and paleoecology at Paul Smith’s College.  

YO, HYPE BEASTS: Gov. Andrew Cuomo was frustrated watching college students and other young people flout social-distancing guidelines, so he turned to noted millennial Paul Rudd for help. And Rudd delivered.

IN THEIR ELEMENTS: Educators touting outdoor classes as a way to curb spread of the coronavirus are drawing on precedent. In the early 1900s, as many as three in 10 school-aged children in Providence, Rhode Island, were thought to be carriers of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that often attacked the lungs. The prescription: lots of fresh air and sunshine. Thus was born the first open-air school in the U.S. Yes, in New England.

PARADE REST: You had to expect that major public events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were iffy at best, and this week New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio confirmed that the iconic door-opener to the holiday season “will not be the same parade we’re used to.” Macy’s hasn’t announced the details.

REPAID IN FULL: Chuck Feeney co-founded a retail giant back in the days when that sort of thing could be quite lucrative. The company, Duty Free Shoppers, made Mr. Feeney a billionaire. Then, four decades ago, he made a decision that changed countless lives, including his own: he would give away his fortune. All of it, except a comparatively modest sum for living expenses. More than $8 billion. Given anonymously and sometimes in large chunks.

RACHAEL RAY SAYS THANKS: Rachael Ray has shared photos of the damage done by a fire last month at her home in Lake Luzerne, with messages of thanks to first responders, viewers and friends. Her eponymous TV show makes its season premiere on Monday.

SPECTACULT: The HBO documentary “The Vow” has taken viewers inside Nxivm, the Albany-area cult that masqueraded as a professional development and women’s empowerment organization and revealed it to be, in the words of The New York Times, “the cult as internet spectacle.”

VENUS TO EARTH: PLEASE, NO: The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay imagines being on Venus and getting word that scientists on Earth are on to them. Despite knowing that we earthlings would like it there — “800 degrees Fahrenheit, like August in Scottsdale” — he politely asks that we keep our distance.

PAPER CHASE: As if news of Chuck E. Cheese’s financial troubles hadn’t already triggered a flood of remember-when nostalgia, now comes an update that both illustrates a hard business reality and is sure to bring back even more memories of Skee-Ball and claw games — an inventory of 7 billion tickets that it no longer needs, enough to cash in $9 million in prizes.

ELECTION REINVENTION: Dana DeBeauvoir had started her 2011 speech to an audience of academics, computer scientists, and hacktivists, whose collective occupation was warning the American people that the country's election technology was dangerously vulnerable, as a visitor from a hostile tribe. She is, after all, the chief clerk and election administrator for Travis County, Texas, home of Austin, and thus part of a group that typically insists elections are secure, nothing to see here. She ended her speech to fervent applause, having invited the computer scientists to design a new voting system entirely from scratch and with the greatest security conceivable. What happened next is a fascinating tale told in rich detail by Wired’s Benjamin Wofford.

LET ME BE: Jeanne Huet, a 22-year-old college student in France, was told she could visit one of the largest and most famous art museums in Europe, but only if she put on her jacket and zipped it up. She complied, but her fury remained, resulting in an open letter that immediately went viral, spurring protests against the museum and a nationwide conversation about the “hypersexualization” of women in France and elsewhere. “I am not responsible for the fantasy that other people project on me.”

DELIVERY DELAYS: Media outlets are mailing random letters around the country and reporting on how long it takes to reach their final destinations. It’s all part of the coverage examining the U.S. Postal Service and its ability to handle the anticipated crush of mail in the run-up to the election. We suppose this one is an outlier.

SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY: The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation has moved the world championships, scheduled for Feb. 5-14, 2021, from Lake Placid to Altenberg, Germany, in response to ongoing concerns about COVID-19. The Olympic Regional Development Authority, which has spent millions upgrading its sliding venues, now turns its attention to the 2023 World University Games and the 2025 world championships. 

MARCHING OFF: The Columbia University marching band, which saw an awful lot of bad football in its 116 years of entertaining, has “unanimously and enthusiastically decided to dissolve,” according to a statement to the Columbia Spectator. The band, known for its colorful irreverence, has ruffled feathers for decades, and more recently has confronted allegations of serious misconduct.

SALE SKIRMISH: The Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for the Los Angeles Times blasted the Everson Art Museum in Syracuse for its decision, announced just before Labor Day, to auction an influential Jackson Pollock painting that has been in the museum’s collection for nearly three decades. The work, titled “Red Composition,” is estimated to be worth between $12 million and $18 million. “It’s easy to cast stones when you have nothing invested in Syracuse and our community," Everson Board of Trustees president Jessica Arb Danial said.

image001.jpg"There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves." — Joe L. Wheeler (John Bulmer photo)

LIVES

GENE BUDIG left a successful career in academia for his dream job, president of the American League, a position from which he once shipped George Steinbrenner a very large, autographed jockstrap. But five years after he took the job, the baseball owners voted to abolish league presidents and fold their functions into the commissioner’s office. He retired to South Carolina, where he bought a minority stake in a Yankees minor league affiliate.

FILLED WITH LIFE: Ruth Colvin already was a legend in Syracuse. She founded a literacy program in 1961 that has taught thousands to read, and has helped develop literacy programs around the world. She’s just published her 12th book, a memoir built around her 73-year marriage to her late husband, Bob, “the love of my life.” And at 103, she has more to say.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

—    Franklin D. Roosevelt

THE SIGNOFF

YOU GOT THIS, DAD: The Dallas Stars have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. You don’t even have to like hockey to root for them after watching this.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Troy Burns, Matt Behan, John Bulmer, Skip Dickstein, Bill Richmond, Kelly Donahue, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, 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.  www.behancommunications.com

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. 

Let’s make it a conversation:   mark.behan@behancom.com

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