The Week: What Caught Our Eye

September 25, 2021

A view of a sunset across a lake, with docks and a boat in the foregroundFrom Assembly Point on Lake George, the sun delivers another virtuoso performance. (Tom Clune)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends: 

While the first whistle of the football season is like a ticking clock reminding us of another summer gone too fast, the crack of the bat on a cool autumn night is a great reminder of all that’s been accomplished these last few months. 

The boys of summer have been working throughout, and as always, fans will reap the benefits — some more than others. 

From New York to LA and Atlanta to Milwaukee, fans in every corner of the nation will tune in for a taste of the crisp evergreen with just over a week left in the MLB season. 

As the AL wild card barrels toward a dramatic finish between the big markets ball clubs in Boston and New York, the Money Ball-loving Rays of Tampa have secured their spot atop the American League. A young White Sox team led by an old-school manager in Tony La Russa aspires to bring a World Series back to the South Side of Chicago. 

Of course, great rivalries don’t stew only in the Northeast: The Dodgers and Giants have been at a simmer all year long. And the feisty Brewers, Braves and Cardinals will do their best to divert the National League playoffs from Highway 1. 

Our quick prediction: A Dodgers bullpen collapse leads to the Rays hoisting the franchise’s first World Series trophy. 

WE’RE FANS: Mookie Betts is one of the best players in baseball and has been for years. His gesture on behalf of a rookie on the opposing team shows he’s one of the best people, too. And speaking of people who get it, a high school football coach in California is earning much-deserved praise for a short video he posted after one of his players quit the team, acknowledging he lacked passion for the game. I’m proud of you, coach Kurt Hines told his now former player. “Coaches, support your players if they want to be great,” he said. “And if they want to be great in something other than football, support them just the same.”

HELPING HANDS: Americans are opening their arms to Afghan refugees. More than 30 companies, including Amazon and Hilton, announced this week they are joining the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees, established by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder, chairman and CEO of Upstate New York-based yogurt maker Chobani. “The moment a refugee gets a job, it’s the moment they stop being a refugee,” Ulukaya said. In Troy, Russell Sage College will be the first New York college to host a refugee family.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: If you can’t come to the Adirondacks, make the Adirondacks come to you. A 3,000-square-foot log cabin that dates to 1925 with antique heart pine floors, soaring beamed ceilings and a stone fireplace set on 1½  acres of woodsy charm with a fountain, waterfall and beautiful gardens could soon be yours. Your future Adirondack Lodge is located in Chappaqua, an hour north of Manhattan.

AND SPEAKING OF THE ADIRONDACKS: For the newscaster in Sioux Falls, Idaho, the Adirondacks posed a real challenge. Don’t laugh. Can you pronounce Picabo?

STAY AWHILE: The Common Ground Alliance of the Adirondacks has, since 2008, produced an annual Blueprint for the Blue Line, as the 6-million-acre park’s boundary is colloquially known. The purpose is to identify priorities that are hashed out at an annual forum involving a broad range of stakeholders from across the Adirondacks, and to communicate those priorities to state lawmakers and agencies. One of the group’s points of emphasis this year: Addressing a housing affordability — and availability — crunch that has made it increasingly difficult for young people and families, especially, to put down roots. The others: workforce development, climate change and recreation.

CHANGES ALL AROUND: The best time to deal with change is before it happens, just as the best time to manage a crisis is before one erupts. It takes time, imagination and the ability to think through various what-if scenarios. It also takes commitment. But if the past 18 months have taught us nothing else, it’s that change can happen suddenly, presenting risks that can turn an otherwise successful operation upside down. Author and futurist April Rinne, who helps individuals and organizations rethink and reshape their relationships with change, uncertainty, and a world in flux, has some advice for the steps leaders should be taking now to prepare their organizations to thrive amid constant change. Be aware, though: Our brains were not built for this much uncertainty. Fortunately, there are strategies to overcome that, as well.

BUZZ OFF: If you live in New York State and are doing anything at all outside, especially in the evenings, you may have noticed a lot more mosquitoes than usual, and that they’re hanging around later in the season. It’s not your imagination. The soggy summer has created ideal conditions for mosquitoes, and health officials are urging people to use repellants and remove standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

A view of a farmhouse in a field, with clouds and a sunsetAn old meeting house in Halfmoon is an ideal place for a 6 p.m. meeting of storm front and sunset.  (John Bulmer)

HER NEW GOAL: Nationally, only 4 percent of professional firefighters are women. (There are many more women in the ranks of volunteer firefighters.) But next week the professionals will get a high-profile new recruit in Christine Nairn. She plays her last professional soccer game for the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League this weekend, and on Monday starts at the Houston Fire Department Academy where, you may be surprised to learn, she will earn more money.

RIGHTING A BUREAUCRATIC WRONG: When New York schools received $12 billion (with a b) in special COVID relief funding designed to help smaller schools with large populations of families in need, two of the smallest school districts in the state were cut out. The reason: The tiny Long Lake and Indian Lake school districts had too few kids in poverty. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, Gov. Kathy Hochul, State Sen. Jim Tedisco, and Assemblymember Robert Smullen redid the math.

A CONTAGION OF MISINFORMATION: A team of academic researchers examining the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories in the U.S. found, not surprisingly, that social media platforms accelerate the spread and allow misinformation to thrive. When a user clicks on one conspiracy-oriented post, the algorithm offers up similar posts, often containing yet more false information. But why do people believe it? Partisanship and political division have created informational echo chambers and an “us versus them” mentality, factors that can make conspiracy theories easy to believe. “Online, we have so much opportunity to search for things to support our case. It just makes (these beliefs) unbelievably sticky and hard to change,” said Cynthia Wang, a clinical professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School.

FIRE AND WATER: Celebrity chef Rachael Ray, whose spacious home in Lake Luzerne, N.Y., was destroyed by a fire last year, told People magazine that flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida wrecked her New York City apartment not long after she and her husband had finished a makeover of the place: “It was like the apartment just literally melted, like in Wicked or something.”

100 STRONG: Betty Soskin, a ranger with the National Park Service, relocated to California with her family after flooding badly damaged New Orleans. Not Hurricane Katrina — the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Now 100, she is the country’s oldest ranger, serving at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. She’s even had a San Francisco Bay Area middle school named for her.

CHANGING COURSE: A well-maintained golf course is a pleasure to look at, but it’s no secret that it takes a lot of water and chemicals to keep them looking lush. Golf course operators are paying more attention these days to sustainability, with the U.S. Golf Association touting its efforts to reduce water consumption and funding research into different types of grasses and water sources. “We know the game obviously has a large footprint on the American landscape and on the global landscape. The very nature of our business means that we are consumers of resources that are critical for communities and society,” Rand Jerris, head of public services at the USGA, told the Albany Times Union. “There’s a really important responsibility that we all have to be proper stewards of these resources and of the environment.”

WHEN NOBLE GOALS COLLIDE: When it comes to fighting global climate change, the Adirondack Park is an international gift. Its millions of acres of publicly and privately owned forests soak up enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. By some estimates, the region stores as much as 113 times the carbon it emits. New York State is fighting climate change with a Clean Energy Standard that sets a goal of generating 70 percent of the state’s energy from renewable resources like wind, water and solar by 2030. Naturally, all that vast open space means the Adirondacks could also be a major producer of solar energy, if large solar panels are permitted. Which delivers greater value to the planet: Unobstructed open space or clean energy, and can they co-exist? And by the way, will solar panels ever get smaller in size? 

NOT VERY NEIGHBORLY: Margi Conklin, a New York Post editor, and her husband rode out the pandemic at what had been a weekend home in New Paltz, in the Hudson Valley. She loved it, and said so in a piece published by the Post. Someone posted the article on a community Facebook page, and the unkind and accusatory comments flew. “They are hating to hate,” Conklin told the Albany Times Union. “It’s not constructive, and it doesn’t help the situation. There might be a solution to these problems but spewing hate at someone who loves your town isn’t going to make anything better.”

A closeup of yellow roses and purple flowersRoses are like good friends, showing up just when you need to see them again.

DEMANDING JUSTICE: Jim Justice is a big man with a big job. A coal mining tycoon, he’s also the governor of West Virginia and somehow finds time to coach the girls’ basketball team at Greenbrier East High School, 110 miles from the state capital in Charleston. That, evidently, wasn’t enough, given his indignation at being told by the local school board that he couldn’t also coach the boys’ team, which he led before being elected governor in 2016. He filed an official grievance with the state public employees board before withdrawing it.

THAT’S THE TICKET: Regular readers may recall the story of David Klein’s Willy Wonka-inspired “The Gold Ticket” contest, in which Klein offered as the top prize ownership of an honest to goodness candy factory in Florida. Andrew Maas of Colorado Springs won it, having traveled to Kokomo, Ind., to find the golden necklace with the key to the factory. Klein, who created Jelly Belly, said he always wanted to give away a candy factory. Alas, Maas was unwilling to uproot his family and move to Florida, so they in essence worked a deal for Klein to buy the factory back from Maas.

MONUMENTAL CHOICE: Two weeks after Richmond, Va., took down a statue of Robert E. Lee, the former Confederate capital unveiled a new one, commemorating the abolition of slavery. The Emancipation and Freedom Monument consists of two 12-foot bronze statues of a man and a woman holding an infant who have been newly freed from slavery. The statue's pedestal includes the names, images and stories of 10 Virginians who contributed to the struggle for freedom before and after emancipation.

LIVES

MELVIN VAN PEEBLES was known as the Godfather of Black Cinema, with groundbreaking hits like “Watermelon Man,” a racial satire of a bigoted white insurance salesman who goes to the bathroom in his suburban home in the middle of the night and discovers he’s Black, and “Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” a renegade film that he wrote, directed, produced, scored and edited while starring as its antihero, a ladies man with superhero lovemaking abilities who battles the corrupt white establishment in Los Angeles. The New York Times called Van Peebles “the first Black man in show business to beat the white man at his own game.” He was 89.

GEORGE HOLLIDAY had just gone to bed when he heard police sirens on the street below his Los Angeles apartment. He grabbed his Sony Handycam and began recording the surreal scene unfolding before him — a squadron of police officers pummeling a defenseless Rodney King. He tried to give the video to the police, but they blew him off, so he gave it to a Los Angeles TV station. The aftermath changed the city and the way ordinary citizens document public events. He died at 61 of complications from COVID-19.

CORNELL MAIER survived 51 bombing missions in Europe during World War II, attended college on the GI bill,  and joined Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. His 40 years culminated in 15 years as chief executive. When he retired in the late 1980s, he took up a new passion: Taking care of kids in the inner city and at hospitals. It was, he said, “as close to heaven as you can get.” He was 96.

REUBEN KLAMER invented Life, the game. He had pitched another idea, but the Milton Bradley Co. demurred. It asked him instead to take up the particularly delicate task of reinventing the Checkered Game of Life originally developed by the founder himself, Milton Bradley, whose idea of fun was a grimly moralistic exercise warning against drinking and gambling. Klamer’s collaborative effort with Bill Markham sold more than 50 million copies in 20 languages and became the second highest-selling game in history. He was 99.

WILLIE GARSON played Stanford Blatch, a talent agent and stylish best male friend to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw for six seasons on TV's “Sex and the City” and in movie sequels. He also had roles on “White Collar,” “NYPD Blue” and “Hawaii Five-o.” “I couldn't have had a more brilliant TV partner,” tweeted Mario Cantone, who played Garson's husband in “Sex and the City.” “I'm devastated and just overwhelmed with sadness.” Garson was 57.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”
— Albert Einstein

THE SIGNOFF

James Bond fans, rejoice: The Little Car Company is producing 125 No Time to Die special edition Aston Martin DB5 Junior cars, about two-thirds the size of the car used in the movies. It even has toy machine guns that can come through the headlight openings. The price: About $123,000.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Matt Behan, Tom Clune, John Bulmer, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, 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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