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    Published on: November 20, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is out with a study saying that legislation that would regulate the imposition of interchange fees - the amount of money that banks charge retailers when credit and debit cards are used - “would be challenging to implement.

    "If interchange fees for merchants were lowered, consumers could benefit from lower prices for goods and services, but proving such an effect is difficult, and consumers may face higher costs for using their cards," the GAO wrote, according to the Journal story, which noted that “card issuers, faced with lower revenue from fees, could trim back the availability of credit. Smaller issuers also may cut back on reward cards, the GAO said.”

    However, the GAO also pointed out that even "consumers who do not use credit cards may be paying higher prices for goods and services, as merchants pass on their increasing card acceptance costs to all of their customers."

    A variety of retailers and retailer-oriented trade associations - including the Merchants Payments Coalition, which was set up specifically to fight for reform of current interchange fee rules - maintain that the usurious fees charged by banks result in an increase in the cost of goods. Banks, however, argue that “efforts by the merchant community to have the government interfere with the payment system amount to little more than retailers not wanting to pay their fair share and to have consumers bear this burden," said Kenneth Clayton of the American Bankers Association.

    The Journal writes that “the Credit Card Interchange Fees Act of 2009 would, among other things, limit the fees merchants accepting credit cards could be charged and allow merchants to give discounts for cash purchases. It would prohibit charging higher fees to merchants when customers use reward cards and would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to review interchange-fee practices ... Other proposed legislation aims to give merchants greater leeway to negotiate fee amounts with banks.”

    The new GAO report prompted a number of reactions from retail organizations.

    From the Food marketing Institute (FMI): “The GAO report confirms that credit card companies are increasing interchange fees, contrary to their claims — a trend they cleverly disguise by charging myriad rates for different industries and transactions,” said Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of FMI, who added, “The GAO report recognizes that big banks benefit the most from rising interchange fees, while neighborhood supermarkets and other main street businesses struggle with swipe fee increases, forcing them to pass along the costs to consumers. We hope the findings of the GAO report will help Congress better understand the need to act and provide relief to businesses and consumers.”

    From the National Retail Federation (NRF): “This report shines a spotlight on credit card fees and their cost to consumers,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said. “In the past two weeks we’ve seen the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City hold a major conference on credit cards, a study from the Hispanic Institute on how card companies take from the poor and give to the rich, and now this document. Clearly, there is a growing focus on this issue and it’s time for action. With this information in hand, we hope Congress will move quickly to pass legislation to bring these fees and practices under control.”

    And from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): “Today’s GAO report verifies what retailers, small and large, have been saying for years.  Congress must act to reform this broken system and prevent credit card giants and their issuing banks from continuing to impose unjustifiable fees on retailers and their customers,” said John Emling, RILA’s senior vice president for government affairs.
    KC's View:
    Heaven help the retail community if, a few years after some sort of reform is passed, a study comes out that says they’ve been soaking consumers for extra margins and that the complaints about interchange fees were a crock.

    Now, let’s be clear. I don’t think this will be the case. I believe firmly that the banks need to be put in their place on this issue, and that retailers and consumers will both benefit.

    But I think the warning is worth offering. Just in case.

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has voted unanimously to “expand U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of the food supply and shift its focus toward preventing, rather than reacting, to foodborne outbreaks. FDA would have the power to order recalls, increase inspection rates and require all facilities to have a food safety plan.”

    However, because of Congressional wrangling over healthcare reform, it is expected that the full Senate won’t vote on the food safety legislation until next year.

    If the Senate passes the bill, it then has to go through reconciliation with a House of Representatives version of the bill before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

    According to the Journal, “The Senate bill is similar to legislation passed by the House in July in many key areas. One area where they differ is the Senate bill does not include a yearly fee to help pay for the increased oversight. The House would require processing plants to pay $500 per year.”
    KC's View:
    The good news is that there have been enough food safety scares over the past few years to convince most companies that this legislation is a good thing - that something has to be done to slow down the steady erosion of consumer confidence in the food supply.

    The bad news is that sometimes it seems like these guys cannot chew gum and walk at the same time.

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    In Illinois, the Arlington Heights Journal reports that the new 68,000 square foot Roundy’s supermarket scheduled to open there in the first quarter of next year “will be a new brand of Roundy's store ,” as well as “the first Chicagoland location for the company.”

    No final choice for a name has been announced, the paper says.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    Reuters Health reports that a new cholesterol study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that “between 1999 and 2006, the number of adults in the US with high levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol, decreased by about one-third.” However, the study also concludes that “a high percentage of adults still are not being screened or treated for high cholesterol levels, putting their health in jeopardy.”

    Among those people identified in the study as being “high risk,” the report says that “more than 35 percent had not been screened for high cholesterol in the last 5 years and nearly 40 percent were either untreated or inadequately treated for high cholesterol. Roughly 20 percent of high risk subjects were candidates for statins or other cholesterol-lowering therapy but were not receiving it.”

    The CDC also concluded that at least part of the reason for the lack of treatment in high risk cases was the complexity of cholesterol guidelines, as well as the fact that in some cases, treatment is not covered by patients’ health insurance programs.
    KC's View:
    Hard to imagine that there are insurance policies out there that wouldn’t cover statins; I’m quite sure that Lipitor is extending my life, though it is hard to know by how much. (I figure that red wine is the other great contributor to my hoped-for longevity.)

    The confusion about guidelines reminds me of the current controversy over mammograms. If doctors and experts cannot figure this stuff out, how are civilians supposed to?

    Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future likes to say that we live in a “VUCA” world - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.” These stories illustrate how little some of the so-called experts are doing to make the world less VUCA.

    It is a good lesson to anyone in the business of helping people be healthy, whether through food or medicine. Are you helping people understand and take positive action? Or are you adding to the confusion, or doing nothing to alleviate it?

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    Want to know at least one of the reasons that America has an obesity problem?

    A new study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) suggests that when people order a large popcorn at the movies, they usually ingest more than half a day's calories and three days' worth of saturated fat.

    USA Today notes that many theatre chains began offering air-popped popcorn and other, more nutritious snacks a number of years ago...but went back to traditional buttered popcorn when patrons demanded it.
    KC's View:
    Always been more of a Twizzlers guy myself. Though I’ve pretty much had to cut that out because I find that once I start eating them, I can’t stop.

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Pinnacle Brands Corp., owned by private equity firm Blackstone Group, will spend $1.3 billion “to acquire Birds Eye Foods, the largest frozen-vegetable company in the U.S.”

    According to the Journal, the all-cash deal “is yet another sign that private-equity funds have become more willing to make acquisitions after a tumultuous two years. Simultaneously, many such funds have been eager to sell businesses, having delivered meager returns during the freeze in the credit and merger markets. The purchase may also be another signal that lenders are willing to provide financing for deals with more leverage.”

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has recognized Barbara McConnell, president of the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE), with an award of excellence for her leadership in promoting the food industry through the strength of state associations.

    “Barbara has worked tirelessly to make sure the state associations are kept up-to-date and are well-informed about the industry’s most pressing issues,” said Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of FMI.  “She is an extremely popular and effective leader on behalf of the food industry.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    • Tyson Foods has named Donnie Smith, the company’s senior group VP of poultry and prepared foods, to be its new president/CEO.

    He succeeds Leland Tollett, who has been serving on an interim basis since the resignation last January of Richard Bond.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    Got the following email responding to the story the other day about how a new survey suggests that retail employees are less than happy in their work:

    I think that one thing that people don’t really consider is how brutal any customer service position can be. No matter where you work in retail, you are in customer service. You have to have a thick skin and be able to balance a very fine line between being “helpful” and being a chump. While 90% of customers are reasonable, considerate human beings even with a complaint, there is that other percentage that are rude, mean, and base. The problem is that, as a representative of your business, you basically have to continue to smile through gritted teeth and give the customer exactly what they want regardless of the validity of their complaint.

    My personal opinion (having been in customer service for many years) is that low morale stems from a lack of respect or support for the employee over the customer by management. There is a certain amount of self-degradation that you just have to accept to work in retail.

    Smart management knows that the retail employee needs to be the highest priority, because a store is only as good as the people on the front lines. If what you are saying is accurate, it explains a lot.

    Responding to our laudatory comments about Hy-Vee and its CEO, Ric Jurgens, the other day, MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:

    My wife and I spent an hour or so Monday at the brand new Hy-Vee market in Madison Wisconsin. Having shopped often in one of the Dubuque locations we have been eagerly anticipating the opening of a store that is only 100 miles from home. The place and the people did not let us down. The usual excellent assortment in every department and friendly people in every aisle were not surprising but the knowledge of every single person we encountered was phenomenal for a store starting its third week of operation. I think I figured out why Whole Foods bought a lot and put up a big sign announcing the relocation of their Madison store then subsequently removed the sign and canceled the project. Mr. Jurgens is to be congratulated; these people are definitely doing something right.

    And MNB user Chris Connolly wrote:

    Well said.    There is no question that I would not have had the level of success in my second career that I have experienced had I not spent 20 years with an excellent company such as Hy-Vee.

    I often told my friends that I had the ability to run a store (for the most part) as if it was entirely my own entrepreneurial business…..except I got to use someone else's money to do it.    I kidded that my success was built upon stealing good ideas from other people and putting them to work in our operation.

    The last time I counted there were 28 Hy-Vee store directors and assistant directors who had worked under me at some point in their careers.   I hope I taught every one of them something that they were able to find valuable later in their progress through the managerial chairs.

    There is no work-related statistic in my life that I am more proud of than that.

    John Mackey was quoted the other day as saying that his Whole Foods chain would only pursue small acquisitions in the future that would not attract the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Which led MNB user Art Ames to write:

    I couldn’t help but recognize the irony in John’s comments that he would restrict future acquisitions to “mom & pop” operations. After his acquisition of Wild Oats as a chain, what else is left? All other natural food stores that remotely consider themselves a “chain” are small in terms of units, gross sales, and any other form of measurement. Whole Foods has succeeded in becoming just about the “last one standing” in the natural food chain market due to acquisition and attrition.  Maybe he needs a vacation, but in the sprit of his declaration, our co-op has decided to no longer sell 8-track tapes.

    And we keep getting email about the continuing problem of hunger in America.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Interesting that we continue to talk about the government's role in feeding the hungry, specifically children. I don't think it's the government's role to feed the children or the population as a whole (except in extreme circumstances). Free market systems were designed so that you can work and feed yourself and your family. When I see families of 4 and 5 children talking about falling on hard times, I wonder about their ability to justify having so many children. Yes, I know, "we have a right to have as many children as we want" chants come waffling out as soon as you challenge a person's reasoning for having so many children. You also have the right to go hungry. That is what is I suggest you do, but you should go hungry while feeding your kids. The ones that you have so much of a "right" to. They didn't ask for you to be irresponsible.

    I don’t know. We’ve just been through the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression. Somehow, the approach you suggests seems a little....extreme.

    You’re right that some people behave irresponsibly. But some people are victims of life’s circumstances, as the great Delbert McClinton once sang.

    Besides, kids really don’t have much say about what families they are born into, or how many sisters and brothers they have. Maybe we could find a little compassion for them?

    Another MNB user offered:

    Give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

    Now get the government involved, we’ll give you the fish, then tax everyone else to pay for that fish. And because a few of you had more fish than the others, we’re taking more fish from you.

    And to those getting the fish, keep coming back, we will get you more FREE fish, what a deal...

    Another MNB user wrote:

    You state today that "it is not government's responsibility to feed people...except in the sense that government ought to be an extension of a people's priorities", as part of this discussion of hunger in America, which then morphed over into the health-care-reform debate in America.  But does everyone automatically agree with you that it is "not the government's responsibility" to ensure all citizens are properly fed?  Maybe you unwittingly flung open Pandora's box with that remark.

    People widely proclaim positions like "health care in America shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right."  I would submit that freedom from hunger, from a hierarchy of needs standpoint, is an even more-basic "right" than the "right to health care."  I would say the same thing about "freedom from homelessness", i.e., the "right" to have adequate shelter.  Maybe health care, then, comes in third; maybe "proper education" comes in fourth; maybe "freedom to be entertained" free of charge comes in fifth; I don't know.  But in any event, who's to say the government isn't failing to properly prioritize, and then discharge, its primary missions by taking up something like health-care reform before taking up what I'll call "food & shelter reform"?  Sure, people are hungry in America everyday; people are homeless across America everyday; and of course, again, people can't afford health care across America everyday.  Why is health-care reform number 1 on this Hit Parade?

    Philosophically, this "hunger in America" topic is very provocative in that it can juxtapose some arguable "fundamental rights" of citizens, and maybe force us all to take a long, hard look in the mirror.  Would "solving the health-care 'crisis' in America" be a major step forward?  Crafted sensibly, I would submit it surely would.  But if in the end, it became law, but in the process, "crowded out" providing "food & shelter reform", maybe also crowded out "education reform", can we then as a society not be properly accused of slightly, if not grossly, misplaced priorities?  Hell!  If enough people in America truly believe that proper health care is "a right", then they ought to, in my opinion, feel even more strongly that "freedom from hunger & homelessness" is an even more-basic right.  Why not?  If the conscience of the country is such that everyone truly does "deserve" meaningful & affordable (or free) health care, it ought to be an even "slicker slippery slope" to say they similarly deserve freedom from hunger & homelessness.  As well as "the right to proper education."  Lest we forget, a clear undertone in the health-care debate rejects themes like "only people who can afford health care are entitled to health care;" instead, the underlying message is borne more, I believe, out of the belief "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs."  Socialistic sounding, sure; but it's undeniably there; let's face it.

    Going forward in Washington, maybe this thought process will pick up some steam on the domestic agenda.  And maybe it ought to.  But if in the end, health-care reform becomes the law of the land, yet these other key aspects of everyday life don't get picked up with at least as much verve, if not more so, I will have difficulty feeling that people who vociferously endorsed "health-care reform", but are comparatively silent on these other life dimensions -- food, shelter, education (I'll leave "entertainment" off this list) -- aren't at least a little bit guilty of "issue du jour politics", motivated by no loftier a reason than to get their humanitarian credential punched.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    The negative reaction by some of your readers about this issue is not surprising but it is seriously misguided. Although it is not my primary job, I am very involved with hunger prevention where I live and over the past few years I have become more educated about the problem. Believe me, before getting involved, I had some of the same misconceptions about those who receive food assistance and subscribed to some of the thoughts espoused by the readers I mentioned.

    However, it became apparent to me early on that hunger in our society was very real and that most people found it difficult asking for help on such a basic commodity like food. The current economic climate and the resultant job loss is forcing an entirely new group of people to frequent their local food pantry and/or meal program because they don’t have food, not because they won’t provide for their family, but without a job, they can’t!  What do you think they they feel “entitled” to?  The chance to eat? To satisfy a basic human need? Many are people who have never asked for any kind of handout and, in fact, are embarrassed to have to ask now. The focus of the article in the Post was that children are being affected like never before. What choice do they have in the matter? They have to depend on someone. If it wasn’t for the school meal programs, many more of them would be hungry more often.

    Look, there will always be anecdotal stories of people “using the system” which unfortunately will probably continue in the future and reinforce the belief by many in our country that the only people using social services are deadbeats. And, I understand that an entitlement mentality has in some cases replaced working for what you earn. Unfortunately, this mindset began many years ago and is frustrating to those who go to work every day, pay their taxes, and generally play by the rules. But, does everyone honestly think that only poor people “cheat”. Have any of your readers ever “cut corners” on their taxes. Does one’s economic status determine whether it is ok or not? Not preaching, just some “food” for thought.

    It seems to me that there are several solutions to help alleviate the problem but most of them start with jobs and until that happens, the problem will only get worse. This is where I feel our leaders have let us down. It is unfair to target only the private sector executives and their bonuses when speculating how that money could have helped solve this problem. What about all the stimulus money and the ridiculous “pork” included in the bills? Couldn’t that have helped just as much?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    After referring to the country’s inability to feed its population, specifically its children, you received the typical rhetoric about an individual’s responsibility and the role of government ... The connection is that the conservative paradigm of less government is no longer accurate.  It’s about less government when it can save me money and more government when it can benefit me.  If someone can’t see that the government should have a role in feeding CHILDREN, then they have gone off the deep end.

    MNB user Mark Delaney wrote:

    Gotta tell you that I was genuinely saddened to see a couple of the negative responses to your comments regarding the alarming hunger statistics. I don't believe your note mentioned anything about entitlement or the welfare system - it was simply pointing out that we ought to spend some time on this issue. This politically charged atmosphere is becoming toxic and if people can't simply acknowledge that it is disgraceful in our "advanced" society that so many of our neighbors, and worse still children, are going hungry and that perhaps we should put that ahead of anything else - then I'm embarrassed to have them as fellow citizens. You would think that going into the holidays people would put the grandstanding aside for a moment. If addressing the issue means addressing some broken programs I'm all for it but don't dismiss the issue as being part of someone else's problem. We really need to get our priorities straight if we're going to leave this place any better for our kids….

    We do live in a politically charged atmosphere. I found that out yesterday when I commented about a story that I thought was something of a trifle - a CNN story about how Kellogg’s is warning that there will be a shortage of Eggo waffles until mid-2010, owing to flooding at an Atlanta factory during October that shut down production on the popular frozen breakfast item. The company said that it will be rationing available product to stores across the country as it works to return its manufacturing and inventory to acceptable levels.

    My comment was keyed to one specific word in the report:

    Rationing? Does that mean we’ll be seeing town hall meetings and waffle parties as people protest this unacceptable development?

    Well, thank goodness I didn’t make a joke about waffle panels.

    I got a couple of emails on this commentary, but this one is typical:

    Watch it Kevin. Don’t be so sarcastic, using the term town meeting and waffle parties as bad things. Many of your regular readers are not as politically left as you are and many of us see the town meetings as just the beginning. Many American are fed up with Washington. Washington is not listening and this is just one of many way we have to get their attention. The 2010 election will send shock waves through Washington and maybe then someone will get it.

    As someone has said, it is time for “Change.”

    First of all, you might be surprised by my politics.

    You criticize me for being too politically left, and the other day I got an email saying I was being too tough on the unions in Colorado and Arizona. Go figure.

    I reserve the right to be sarcastic, acerbic, sardonic...and to poke fun at pretty much anybody I feel deserves it. And I’ll probably actually be funny about half as often as I think I’m being funny.

    Y’know who I think make the biggest targets? People who don’t have a sense of humor, who take themselves too seriously. These are usually folks who refuse to admit that people who disagree with them might, occasionally, have a point. Self-righteousness can be a terrible character flaw.

    Besides, I’ve always believed that “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is a pretty good definition for what people like me ought to be doing.

    That’s the way it’s been around here for eight years and a day. And I figure it’s the way it’ll be next week, too..
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Miami Dolphins defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-17.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 20, 2009

    Really interesting story in the Boston Globe the other day about a new iPhone application called Stamp, which if open when a person walks into a restaurant or store using the program, allows the establishment to instantly see information about the customer that he or she has entered, allowing the retailer “ to offer a tiny dose of personalized service in an often impersonal service world.”

    Of course, in a perfect world, it would be nice if employees went out of their way to get to know and recognize customers, especially the regulars who often account for a large percentage of an establishment’s business. But it isn’t a perfect world. And so maybe this is a way to create more of a connection.

    The Globe story suggests that some people believe that customers simply don;t want this kind of help and personalization. But I think that is a foolish conclusion. Some people will never want it, of course, and some people will only want it in certain venues. But to create a system that allows it to take place - when the customer wants it - strikes me as a very, very good idea.

    I’ve long thought that there ought to be some sort of system that would identify when high-value customers - maybe the top 10 percent of spenders - walk into the store, so that the store manager could actually go out of his or her way to welcome them, or offer them some sort of personal recognition. (Maybe a cookie one day, or a piece of fruit, a cup of coffee on another day.) When customers that are important to our business walk in, it is an opportunity...and too few retailers, especially in the food business, take advantage of it.

    I love this one.

    A website called apparently has done a study to see if people’s political opinions are somehow reflected in their food choices, or vice-versa. According to a story in , apparently they are.

    Here’s how Fast Company describes it:

    “Hunch's results range from the unsurprising to the just plain weird (conservatives prefer iceberg lettuce while liberals favor arugula). But in a nutshell, the report can be summarized as follows: Conservatives like meat, comfort foods, cheeseburgers, deep dish pizza, and wooden, country-style kitchens. Liberals are vegetarian brie-lovers who enjoy wine, international food, and sleek, stainless steel-style kitchens.

    “The world may never know why liberals like Samoa Girl Scout cookies more than conservatives, but many of these trends can be explained by regional differences. For example, liberals heavily populate the coasts, where international food is extremely popular. And fried chicken is beloved by the more conservative South.

    “Of course, some things cross political lines. Liberals and conservatives are split on whether cilantro is gross, and few non-vegetarian respondents could turn down a good hot dog.”

    I love this...especially because I would appear to have feet in both camps. I love comfort foods, cheeseburgers, deep dish pizza, wine, international foods, and sleek, stainless steel-style kitchens. I hate brie and Samoa cookies.

    Go figure.

    I get emails all the time that accuse me of a specific political bias, which I find amusing. I have biases, but they tend to be all over the map...and far more complicated than you might assume. (Hold on a minute...I’m watching “Morning Joe,” and Joe Scarborough just said something that I agree with, as he often does. Okay, I’m done now.)

    As I said above, my biggest bias is for the joke. And against people who have no sense of humor.

    There was a story the other day on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website about how the newly elected mayor of Seattle and his staffers want to use Macs and iPhones when they take office, as opposed to using the PCs and Blackberries that previous administrations have used.

    Now, some folks out there in God’s country are a little upset because the Pacific Northwest is, after all, home to Microsoft...and Apple is headquartered down in California.

    It was interesting to see all the responses to this story that were posted on the PI bulletin board, with a number of folks saying that this was case of elected officials wasting the people’s money on the most expensive options. Now, I’m no fan of most elected officials, but this struck me as a perfect example of voter myopia.

    Y’know what I want out of my public officials? Productivity. Pure and simple. (Okay, honesty and ethical behavior also make the top three.) And if they think they are going to be more productive with superior equipment (and I know my Mac bias is showing here), then I’m okay with that.

    Besides, if it were me, I’d have to work on a Mac. I haven’t worked in Windows ever, or on a PC in more than two decades. And I never had a PDA until I got my iPhone, to which I am completely addicted.

    “Pirate Radio” is the very good new movie written and directed by Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”), depicting a time in 1966 when, because the BBC put strict limits on how much rock & roll could be played on the airwaves, broadcasters filled a consumer need by operating radio stations on ships that sat just outside England’s territorial waters. While the ship in this movie is fictional, the movie is very good at portraying a time when a new musical form was awakening all sorts of emotions in people...and when the defenders of the status quo thought they could simply legislate away their discomfort.

    There’s a terrific cast, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Emma Thompson, January Jones and Kenneth Branagh delivering standout moments. And the soundtrack is just out of this world...with the only notable gap being that there are no Beatles songs played. (They couldn’t get the rights.)

    Not a perfect movie by any means, but lots of fun.

    As for “New Moon,” the sequel to “Twilight” doesn’t really matter what I think of it because it wasn’t made for me. It was made for teenaged girls, who seem to love every moment of it, especially when the male characters rip their shirts off. I do understand that it is all about yearning and yet not having...and it that sense, it works very well.

    Not sure if you saw the remake/reimagining of “The Prisoner” on A&E this week...but I have to admit that this production, which I was very much looking forward to, left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was gorgeous to look at, and ambitious in scope.

    But the problem is that in attempting not to be a carbon copy of the old Patrick McGoohan series from the late sixties, it managed to avoid tackling the essential issue that he faced head-on: the battle for individuality in a world where labels seem far more important, far more comforting.

    I have to be careful about this. After all, it is important not to be so in love with the works of the past that one cannot appreciate new approaches. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. I really wanted to like the new version of “The Prisoner,” but in a time when technology tends to slot us in with passwords and user names and code numbers, the six-hour miniseries could have been much more by having a greater focus, not a broader canvas.

    Ian McKellen was fine, as always, as Number Two, though I’m afraid that Jim Caviezel was a shadow of McGoohan’s original Number Six. A big complaint: Nowhere in the credits did they even mention McGoohan’s name, which is an egregious error considering that he created, produced, wrote, directed and starred in the original series.

    In short, the new “The Prisoner” was a good effort that failed. There was nothing to match the original clarion call by McGoohan, “I am not a number. I am a free man.” Nor was there anything like my favorite line from the original series: I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.”

    My wines of the week:

    2008 Cooper Hill Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. A light pinot, but tasty. (About $20.)

    2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir....also, obviously, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. (About $25.)

    Big thanks to all of you who wrote in yesterday about MNB’s eighth birthday - I couldn’t have done it without you.

    And, thanks as well to all of you who continue to order copies of our new book, The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies. We couldn’t do this without you, either. (Well, we could...but writing a book that nobody reads doesn’t sound like very much fun.)

    Finally, a shout out to Mrs. Content Guy, who is celebrating her birthday today. Can’t tell you which one, but I can tell you this...there is a Jimmy Buffett concert in her immediate future as a birthday present.

    That’s it for this week.

    Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    KC's View: