Bernie Sanders is now a fashion icon? Well, not quite, but his inaugural appearance warms the hands and the heart.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It was a truly historic inauguration that was memorable for so many reasons ...
But who would've guessed that Senator Bernie Sanders, showing up as if going out for a gallon of milk in a Vermont snowstorm, would've been a "quiet" sensation? Was it the outfit? Was it the attitude? Was it the posture in the chair? The answer's probably all of the above. (Curious about the photo that went viral? Check out this Rolling Stone interview of the photographer.)
Red was clueless that Bernie's mittens were taking on a life of their own, with the Vermont teacher who had made them from old sweaters being inundated with orders, until Black brought it to her attention. It's not a story you'd expect Black to follow, except there was a business angle as the teacher, Jen Ellis, was now teaming up with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company to bring them to the world. Plus, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of "Vermont Swittens" will go to Make-A-Wish Vermont. As soon as Red heard that, she knew the Make-A-Wish connection would've gotten Black's attention as she's been on the Board of the local chapter, Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana, for years (maybe decades) as well as having raised over a million dollars for the charity.
What Black didn't know though, was that the story had a connection to Red as well. When Red was growing up, but after Black had left for college, she'd go with her parents up to Vermont three to four times a year. Then, as Red got older, she continued to go to Vermont. At first by herself, and then sometimes with her husband as she dreamed of living in Vermont one day. It's a dream that she still sometimes thinks about. However, it definitely subsides when the weather in Texas dips below 40 degrees and she realizes it's probably below zero in Vermont!
It was on one of those trips, when visiting Burlington and a small town just south of there, called Shelburne, that Red discovered the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. It was love at first sight. Plush stuffed animals, a beautiful setting close to Lake Champlain, and even an in-house "doctor" that over the years mended more than a few of Red's favorite stuffed animals.
So, when Red heard that they were going to start making Bernie's mittens, aka Vermont Swittens, she couldn't get online fast enough to learn more and sign up for switten updates. And while Black may only buy them because of the Make-A-Wish connection, you can be sure that Red will be getting at least one pair as a reminder of not only how much she loved Vermont, but all the happy hours spent over many years at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company store.
Texans are tough. And independent. But that may not be enough to win the war against the coronavirus.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We were born and raised in New York, so although we both now live in Texas (Black got here with the oil and gas industry in the late 70s, whereas Red arrived in 2001 as her husband has a career that relocated them around the world), we sometimes struggle to understand the Texas way of doing things.
Case in point … trying to figure out Governor Greg Abbott's recent decision to end statewide mask mandates and allow all businesses to operate at full capacity. Red's first and foremost a mom, so it's not surprising she prefers a protective and overly cautious approach focused on keeping everyone safe, even if that means being inconvenienced for a little longer. And while she appreciated that the vaccines are now becoming more readily available, so few people have been vaccinated, which to her way of thinking is even more reason to "stay the course". Why rush into anything right now? And why not err on the side of caution?
Black, given her corporate background, combined with her pragmatism, has looked at the pandemic from a very different perspective, although she gets to the same conclusion. And she believes Red's "safety first" approach has important business implications as consumers will only go where they feel safe. And what was her reaction to the Governor's announcement? It initially featured some "colorful language" but was soon followed by one of her analogies, that while amusing Red, also made perfect sense to her,
I was just starting to feel better about going out into the world (masked, of course) but may continue to hide away as Texas is returning to its roots of the wild, wild, West. But instead of cowboys and masked bandits … we have unmasked, well, you decide what to call them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. And many of Texas' largest cities have already announced they will keep requiring masks in municipal buildings after the mandate ends. So, Texas businesses, school districts, and individuals will have to decide for themselves what to do. And at the end of the day, all we can do is hope that everyone will make the right decisions.
We do not like racist images. We do not like them here or there. We do not like them anywhere.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: When Black first emailed Red that six Dr. Seuss books would no longer be published because of racist and insensitive images, Red's reaction was quick and questioning,
I need to read those links, but my first reaction is … seriously? Is nothing sacred anymore?
Red's was concerned that the pendulum's swinging so far to one side of things and so fast, and wants to know that each case is truly being looked at on its own merits or, perhaps more accurately, faults.
Black, knowing her sister well, let her know that Dr. Seuss Enterprises proactively made the decision after working with a panel of experts, including educators. In fact, the decision was made last year, but they waited until Dr. Seuss's birthday to make the announcement. She also added, as the business half of Red & Black, that she didn't think these were any of their top-selling books, so would have minimal impact on their sales. However, she was confident any remaining copies would sell out fast and become collector's items.
Regardless, Red at that point understood the reasoning but still felt the same way that she feels about other similar decisions to "ban" things, such as the movie "Gone With The Wind" (they re-released it with a new introduction) or statues of Confederate leaders – you can't ignore history. And as a lover of history, she knows there's much to be learned, and on that we both agree.
To use one of Black's favorite words, we understand WHY these decisions are made, but think it's equally important that you consider using these things as teaching tools. You can't change how people saw things at the time, but you can change how you use them now. Acknowledging and discussing things, rather than just purging them, is the way to make lasting – and impactful – change.
Drug companies, typically competing against one another, are coming together in an amazing move to fight a common enemy … COVID.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: For those of you that might remember Monty Hall and the game show, "Let's Make A Deal," this latest news on the war against COVID may represent one of the best "deals" ever made – as it has the potential to vastly increase the availability of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine.
And for those of you who love history, it's often during wartime that American ingenuity and determination are at their best. There's no question that the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were developed in record time. Now the challenge's getting the vaccines produced and into the arms of Americans. The idea of drugs companies, who are typically so competitive and secretive, working together is both a unique and historic approach, and had Black reflecting on her corporate experience,
When I worked in the oil and gas industry we, of course, were competing against other companies. But there also were times when we would partner on projects for an assortment of reasons (profits and reducing risk were the most common) – but never anything like this. This alliance between Merck and Johnson & Johnson shows the power of corporate collaboration when we're focused on the good of the American people.