retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is a lot of discussion here on MNB about transparency. Probably so much that some of you are getting sick of me bringing it up.

Well, here I go again.

There was an interesting piece in Fast Company that took note of a recent speech given by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Fordham University, in which he dismissed privacy concerns as not being a legal matter of any real consequence. Afterwards, teacher specializing in Information Privacy Law decided to have his students do a quick search to see how much information could be found about Scalia…and were able to see, in fairly short order, his home address and phone number, his wife’s personal email address, photos of his grandchildren, and a list of movies that he liked.

This struck me as interesting since it was just a couple of weeks ago that we noted here on MNB that when doing some cursory research about a petition signed by Walmart CEO Mike Duke, I was quickly able to find his Arkansas home address … which I thought was a pretty good example of exactly how exposed executives and companies are these days.

As Fast Company correctly notes, this can be a troubling situation to consider … even if one thinks, as I do, that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Because in this case, “exposed” is precisely the right word to describe a world in which your identity is vulnerable to being stolen, in which every decision you make can be made public, and in which privacy is an increasingly rare commodity. It’s also a world in which people expose themselves routinely via Twitter and Facebook and assorted other sites…assuming that people are actually interested in their lives.

It is an odd juxtaposition, a world in which there are both people who see transparency as an invasion of their privacy and people who relentlessly expose themselves and build lives and communities out of it.

The thing is, I’m not sure that is much anyone can do about it. This is reality. We just have to deal with the downside, and delight in all the advantages that transparency can bring us.

Now, here’s a continuing education class I can get into.

The Boston Globe reports that there is one weekend a year when Lobster College convenes near Boothbay Harbor on the Maine coast, attracting folks from as nearby as New England and as far away as Australia.

According to the Globe, “Along with retirees and other curious fans of the crustacean, there have been restaurant owners and students of marine science for whom this is a serious hands-on learning experience. Instructors are University of Maine faculty and lobster fishermen and dealers who serve up generous lessons on lobster biology and ecology, stock management, branding and marketing, and related environmental issues. Students learn to bait traps and go out on a working lobster boat. They hear about lobster products and taste recipes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Last year they ate at least ten lobster dishes in four days. ”

Does this sound like fun or what?

Robert B. Parker is out with the third book in his series of westerns, “Brimstone” (Putnam, $25.95), which continues to follow the adventures of gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch as they bring order and some level of peace to lawless towns in the Old West. Like “Appaloosa” (which became a terrific movie starring and directed by Ed Harris) and “Resolution,” you can almost feel the wind and the sun and hear the sagebrush rolling across the prairie as you read Parker’s spare but evocative prose; the language and tone are comfortable and familiar to those of us who have looked forward to his Spenser novels over the years.

There’s a lot going on in “Brimstone,” especially as Cole tries to reconcile his heart and head as he deals with Allie French, the woman he loves but with whom commitment seems to be a bad bet. The central conflict is between Cole and Hitch and a charismatic fire-and-brimstone minister who may have a hidden agenda as he preaches what he calls a “militant Christianity.” There are as many metaphors in this story as you choose to find; it’s fine if you just want to read it as a yarn about men who do what they have to do, who find more solace in guns and horses and their own company than they do in women who seem almost beyond understanding.

“Brimstone” was a delight. Do what I did, and read it while listening to the wonderful soundtrack to “Appaloosa” that was composed by Jeff Beal.

A couple of weeks ago, I recommended to you the 2007 Bramble Bump Red from JM Cellars in Washington State, which was a particularly nice find because I’d never hard to the winery before.

Now, compliments of a friend of mine, I’ve had the opportunity to taste the 2006 Red Mountain JM Founder’s Reserve, a red wine that I can only describe as a “wow!” This wine is so pleasingly mouth-filling and robust that I cannot say enough good things about it. It is just fabulous…and I look forward to trying more of this terrific winery’s products. They are a real find.

I thought “Terminator Salvation” was interesting but ultimately a disappointment. The production values are strong, and there is a compelling performance by Sam Worthington in a supporting and pivotal role…but Christian Bale is sort of one-note as John Connor and the whole thing was sort of predictable and relentlessly bleak. Which I guess is sort of the point, but it just didn’t work for me.

The good entertainment news this week is that “Burn Notice” is back this week on USA…and if you haven't seen any of the previous seasons, you should try to catch up with them on iTunes or on DVD. (I think USA is running a marathon of episodes on Thursday before the summer season launches at 9 pm.) This tongue-in-cheek spy thriller has winning performances, stylish locations in Miami, and smart writing that elevates it beyond typical TV fare. Sue, it is popcorn TV…but really good popcorn TV. Watch it, and thank me later.

That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend, and Let’s Go, Mets!


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