retail news in context, analysis with attitude

If you have a job like mine, you tend to get inundated with stories and press releases about studies that have reached this conclusion or that. Some of these studies are genuinely revelatory, and some are just patently absurd. And some of them are just plain fun to read…

For example:

HealthDay News reports that a new study says that up to two glasses of alcohol a day – beer, wine, or hard liquor – not only is good for the heart, but also may be good for the lungs, helping to prevent diseases such as asthma and emphysema.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

In fact, the only downside of the study is that the consumption of alcohol seems to help the lung function even of people who smoke – which I suppose some idiot will use to push for bars to allow smoking yet again.

Still, it is nice to know that we can all breathe a little easier for having had a glass or two of wine or beer with dinner.

And there’s another couple of studies out, one from the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina and the other from Glasgow's Caledonian University in Scotland, saying that there are two ways to prevent obesity. One is to chew gum. And the other is to stay single.

I write these words as someone who never chews gum, and who has been married for more than 24 years.

Explains a lot.

Just as a change of pace – and it seems appropriate since we’re right smack in the middle of the World Series – I have a couple of beers to recommend this week. Both of them are from the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY, which is, of course, home to one of the world’s great museums, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The two I’d recommend are:

• Witte Ale, which is a pale golden wheat ale with just a touch of citrus, perfect for the unseasonably warm days we’ve been having this October.

• Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, a wonderfully rich golden ale that is a little heavier and spicy than the Witte, but is great with anything from a thick, juicy hamburger to a nice, rich cioppino.

Enjoy. You can thank me later.

Normally, I like Subway’s TV commercials, mostly because they have the courage of their commitment – long before most companies were talking about obesity issues, Subway decided that being anti-obesity and pro-nutrition was its ticket to the fast food big time.

However, Subway has a new commercial out that I find profoundly offensive – it has a father literally throwing a temper tantrum in front of his wife and small son because they don't want to go Subway and get a particular sandwich.

I am so tired of fathers being portrayed as idiots and big kids…

Okay, a lot of us are, in fact, big kids. But portraying us as having temper tantrums over a Subway sandwich? That stretches credibility way past the breaking point.

By the way, if Rudy Giuliani wants to root for the Red Sox in the World Series, despite the fact that he is a lifelong Yankees fan, I’m okay with that. Presidential politics being what they are, I understand that a little pandering can go a long way. (Though he seems to have irritated a number of New Yorkers with his proclamation, and has made it difficult for him to criticize Hilary Clinton for her own baseball waffling a few weeks ago.)

What I find unforgivable, and illustrative of a total lack of character, is Giuliani’s preference for the American League. They may have better hitters in the AL, but there is no question in my mind that designated hitter-free National League baseball is the purer, superior version of the sport.

So there.

Robert P. Parker is out with his 35th Spenser novel, and “Now & Then” (Putnam - $25.95) is a worthy addition to the canon. This one starts with private eye Spenser tracking a wayward spouse, and quickly develops into a case of murder and possible terrorism – with his longtime ladylove Susan Silverman targeted by a bad guy who wants to get at Spenser through her.

As in all the best Spenser novels, Hawk is a major presence in this one, and their repartee, as always, is some of the sharpest dialogue. Unlike most of the best Spenser novels, Susan also is a big factor in the story – but for some reason she is a lot less insufferable here, perhaps because she – and Parker – are maturing.

“Now & Then” isn’t densely plotted, but then none of the Spenser books are. They rely on character and dialogue, have a minimalist’s avoidance of adjectives and adverbs, and essentially are stories about the meaning of commitment and loyalty, using the private eye form as the vehicle through which Parker makes his points. It is an extraordinary achievement that Parker has written more than 50 books, and that midway through his seventies he continues to turn out two or three books a year, including the estimable Jesse Stone series of mysteries.

It also is interesting that Parker has decided to write a number of westerns, a genre that hardly is a hot property these days. (His novel “Appaloosa” currently is being turned into a movie by writer/director/actor Ed Harris, and is being shot right now down in New Mexico.) When you look at the Spenser and Jesse Stone books, they also are a kind of western, even if set in Massachusetts – in some sense they have the lone gunslinger, the evildoers, and the town that needs to be tamed.

I love this stuff.

I don't know if you watched the series “Damages,” starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson. The ratings suggest that not many people did…but I saw every episode, looked forward to it eagerly, and was absolutely enthralled by its portrait of high stakes legal poker in New York City and its unwillingness to paint any of its characters in any color other than gray. Until the final minutes of the final first season episode this past week, who did what to whom remained unclear…and yet by the time of the final fade out, it all became clear.

The whole series is available on iTunes, and I’m sure will shortly will be out on DVD. I’m also pretty sure that if you start with it, you won’t be able to stop watching. “Damages” is a first-rate television series.

That’s it for this week. See you Monday…

KC's View: