The Week: What Caught Our Eye

September 28, 2019

Pumpkins in a pumpkin patchSummer has taken her leave. Fall has arrived. You needn’t spend a chilly night in the pumpkin patch with Linus, but we do hope you’ll  make the most of the season. (Skip Dickstein)

ON AND OFF THE COURT(SHIP): This is the story of a basketball romance. It began in a hotel hallway with a long stare and an awkward hello.  They were in town with their respective teams to play Fairfield University. Her team lost in overtime, and after a long day, she repaired to the hotel bar for a nightcap. That’s where Ali Jaques, the women’s basketball coach at Siena College, met a basketball guy who didn’t have much respect for the women’s game. All that’s history now. They’ve teamed up and beaten so much more than their opponents on the court.

GREATNESS IN THE ARIA: American opera is not dead. It’s being reinvented in the Adirondacks. The oldest summer vocal training program in the United States, at Seagle Colony in Schroon Lake, is staging new operas and providing its talented young artists the rare opportunity to create a role from scratch. This summer Seagle staged “The Manchurian Candidate” based on the 1959 Richard Condon novel twice made into films. It premiered the comic opera “Yeltsin in Texas,” recounting Soviet diplomat Boris Yeltsin’s rethinking of Communism in 1989 after discovering the bounty of an everything-is-bigger-in-Texas grocery store. “Harmony” brought together novelist Russell Banks, composer Robert Carl and a true tale of love in the Adirondack community of Keene Valley. The season’s ending quickly, but you can catch a final Seagle performance of “HOT! The Music of Cole Porter!” Saturday, Oct. 5, at 2 and 7 p.m. at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge. And keep your eye on Seagle in 2020.

THAT OLD THING? At an auction near Hudson, a savvy, 87-year-old collector spies a dusty, forgotten, unframed old painting, its back splattered with bird droppings. Six hundred bucks he paid. The painting turns out to be a lost work by the Dutch old master Anthony van Dyck, unseen by the public in 400 years. van Dyck specialized in portraits of European aristocrats and became the leading court painter in England. Today, his work is in the collections of the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick, the Hyde, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands – and now, thanks to the savvy collector’s gift, the Albany Institute of History and Art.

UTICA’S POWER SURGE: Cree — the North Carolina company best known for its LED lighting products — is planning to build the world’s largest silicon carbide manufacturing facility in the town that gave us Utica Club, Chicken Riggies, the Boilermaker and Annette Funicello. It will invest $1 billion and projects 614 jobs, with average salaries of $75,000 in Utica. The plant will be on the SUNY Polytechnic campus, and SUNY will train workers. Construction is to be completed in 2022.

ALL THE WRIGHT MOVES: GE hired a promising young chemist in 1895. He found a place alongside his intellectual peers, Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz, as they invented electric motors, generators and transformers. W. Howard Wright knew varnishes and other compounds could improve the performance of motors; he set up a varnish manufacturing system at GE. But skyrocketing demand for electrical devices soon outstripped the early manufacturing capacity. So, in 1906, was born the Schenectady Varnish Co. We know it as Schenectady Chemicals, Schenectady International or simply SI Group. Over time, the company developed a global customer base, built factories in 20 countries and employed 2,800 people. Last year, after 112 years of family ownership, it was sold to a private equity firm in New York. Now, its suburban-green Niskayuna headquarters is on the market — but here’s the good news: SI Group is looking for new digs close to restaurants and businesses in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties.


WHEN IT’S GOOD:  Revered, reviled but rarely ignored — that’s the lot of The New York Times. Denounced for its mishandling of a recent Justice Brett Kavanaugh Op-Ed piece, The Times is still, despite political turbulence and economic pressures, producing distinguished, narrative-changing journalism for readers willing to invest some time. In three examples, we find two triumphs and one big apparent stumble: Triumph #1: “What Really Brought Down the Boeing Max 737?” by William Langewiesche, is a narrative-changer by perhaps the finest, most meticulous longform journalist of his generation, famous for his deconstruction of the 9/11 attacks. Triumph #2: Columnist Maureen Dowd’s sit-down with Disney’s Robert Iger, the driven, disciplined, perennially under-estimated rescuer of Hollywood from the tech giants. And then the stumble: Did The Times unfairly accuse the most recognizable trainer in horse racing, Bob Baffert, with drugging Triple Crown winner Justify? NBC Sports’ Tim Layden says The Times’ story breaks down under scrutiny.

WHAT GOES AROUND: By now you know the story of Carson King, the Iowa State fan whose “I’m out of beer sign” went viral.  A Des Moines Register reporter began looking into his background. Then somebody began poking around in the reporter’s background. This thing’s turned into a bar fight.

ALL ABOUT ALICE: She’s a Schenectadian by birth who skipped medical school for the stage and then went on to become America’s most beloved housekeeper. As the Brady Bunch kids enjoy a resurgence of fame on HGTV, we take a break from our Saturday morning housekeeping to celebrate the late Ann B. Davis.

SEND ME TO POUGHKEEPSIE: Remember when Poughkeepsie was irreverent local shorthand for looney bin? That’s where the Hudson River State Hospital was located, the huge psychiatric center that, despite the jokes, was at one time a model for residential mental health care. It opened in 1871 and treated as many as 6,000 patients in the 1950s. By 2003, all the patients were gone and the beautiful buildings were falling apart. Now, it’s being transformed into a walkable campus of town houses, single family homes, apartments, medical offices, restaurants, a grocery store, hotel, conference center and an arts center.

View of a lake with mountains in the backgroundA glass of New York Riesling to toast the gorgeous glass-like surface of Mirror Lake on a fall day?


RAISE A GLASS: Dr. Konstantin Frank believed New York could produce the same delicate wines for which Europe is famous. And so he set about the work of elevating New York wines from mediocrity to global stature. Dr. Frank came from the Ukraine, taught at Cornell, and theorized that lack of proper rootstock — not the cold climate — was the impediment. Earlier this year the Finger Lakes winery he founded was named one of America’s 11 best wineries by Men’s Journal. Now, Wine & Spirits Magazine has named it one of the top 100 in the world.

IS THAT PINOT ON YOUR PINKIE? We’re not sure we’d drink the resulting wine, but this fall Upstate New York is home to grape-stomping opportunities in some our best wine regions: So, haul your Size 13 slabs to the Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Lake Erie and the Thousand Islands.

HAUTE TOPIC: This had to cause heartburn on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. ranked the best food on college campuses across New York. Number one was St. John Fisher College in Rochester. The nation’s top culinary school? Well, it came in second. Cornell, Skidmore and NYU round out the top 5.

SCHOOLED IN LOCAL FOOD: Saratoga Springs schools are nourishing young minds with what may be the most important life lesson of all. They’re partnering with Pitney Meadows Community Farm to put just-picked, farm-fresh produce on the lunch menu. Goodbye, Mystery Meat. Hello, roasted vegetable soup.


THE SWITCH IS ON: The R.S. Automotives gas station has been around since 1958, and Depeswar Doley has owned it since 1997. With a nudge from his live-wire 17-year-old daughter, Doley made history this week. His station became the first in America to ditch oil for electric vehicle charging exclusively.

$106,000 FOR CHEVY NOVA? One of us once owned one of those beauties. The driver’s side door fell off its hinges, the gas gauge was stuck permanently on full. Apparently, others fared better. And at last weekend’s Saratoga Automobile Museum benefit auction, five cars, including a ’69 Nova, brought in more than $100,000 each. How about $187,500 for a 1938 Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood?


SHE’S STYLIN’: Rensselaer native Nicole Bridgeford is making her name in hair and makeup for TV shows and films and on Broadway.  She was the makeup artist for the title character in Broadway’s "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." She was the makeup artist for Michelle Williams in "After the Wedding." Williams was so impressed she chose Nicole as the exclusive hairstylist for FX show “Fosse/Verdon,” and now Nicole and her colleagues have been honored with an Emmy Award.

IN NO FINANCIAL JEOPARDY: Upstate New York is producing more than its fair share of Jeopardy champs.  Western new York’s Jason Zuffranieri, now a math teacher in Albuquerque, amassed $532,496 and became the third-highest regular-season winner in the history of the show.  In May, Glens Falls native Francois (Chip) Barcomb, now living near New Paltz, won $100,000.

CHIEF COOK AND BOTTLEWASHER: Satchel Smith is 21, a college track star and part-time hotel employee. An uninvited guest named Imelda showed up last weekend, and suddenly he and 90 guests of the hotel were hostages to rampaging flood waters. Satchel customarily works behind the front desk, but as the only employee on the job, he knew that taking care of guests was the real mission.

NEW GIG REALLY PERKED HIM UP: Kevin Johnson quit as CEO of Jupiter Networks after being diagnosed with skin cancer. The press release said he was going to spend more time with his family. Sure. Turns out he did — and that set the stage for his next big act.

FAREWELL, ANTHONY: A few months ago, we introduced you to the world’s oldest working barber — 108-year-old Anthony Mancinelli of New Windsor. Anthony was just eight when he came to the United States from Montemilone, Italy, in 1919. He learned the barbering trade after school and opened his first barbershop in Newburgh in 1930. Anthony died a few days ago, and his last wish was a long and happy life to all his friends and customers.

BILLIONAIRES AMONG US: Six-hundred-eighty billionaires live in the United States, and some — more than you might imagine — live in small communities, including three in Hudson Valley communities.


“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

— Winston Churchill


WILD THING(S): A walrus sinks a Russian Navy boat? A mountain lion stalks Saranac Lake? And is that a moose on the porch in Schroon Lake?

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