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    Published on: October 8, 2010

    Sometimes there are even great lessons in obituaries. Just a week ago both Tony Curtis and Arthur Penn died. The former was a movie star of great fame, the latter a director of great reputation. Apparently they never worked together, but as the New York Times explained, their careers can be viewed together as bookmarks of the changing times of the movie business.

    Although Curtis was the younger of the two, he was considered a product of the “old” Hollywood system of stars and studios. Penn was in the vanguard of the film makers who changed that system and his signature work Bonnie and Clyde is considered a hallmark of that change.

    But here’s where the article on the two deaths made such a great point:

    “Change does not happen overnight, even in an industry as volatile as motion pictures, and for a few years the two Hollywoods continued to exist side by side.”

    In short, according to the article, the new Hollywood “pulled the rug from under (Curtis).”

    It’s an interesting point about how when even earth-shaking changes take place, the old and new exist side by side and those who are still focusing on the old can get better and better and still lose. Only with the passing of time can we look back and see the enormous change that was taking place in front of our eyes and understand what happened.

    That’s my Eye-Opener for today…

    - Michael Sansolo
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor David Paterson are asking the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to no longer allow food stamp recipients to use them for the purchase of sugared soft drinks, blaming them for the obesity epidemic affecting the poor.

    “The use of food stamp benefits to support the purchase of sugar sweetened drinks not only contradicts the intent of this vital program, but it also subsidizes a serious public health epidemic,” Paterson said in a statement. “There is clear evidence that low-income individuals have higher rates of obesity and are more at risk of becoming obese than other groups.”

    According to the story, “The state’s office for disability assistance intends to ask the USDA to exclude the drinks from the list of items that can be purchased with food stamps, a welfare program that started in1964, the statement said. The ban, requested by both the state and local governments, would affect only the city.”

    The statement from Bloomberg and Paterson also made the point that “obesity related illness costs New York state residents almost $8 billion annually, or $770 for each household ... Overweight or obese adults compose 57 percent of the city’s population, they said. Almost half, or 46 percent, of the 22,300 people hospitalized for obesity-related diabetes each year live in low-income neighborhoods, the statement said.

    Not surprisingly, the American beverage Association is against the proposal, saying that it “will only have an unfair impact on those who can least afford it ... There is nothing unique about the calories in sugar-sweetened beverages -- which include flavored waters, sports drinks, juice drinks and teas -- to justify singling them out for elimination from eligible purchases in the food stamps program in New York City.
    KC's View:
    The last point is what should be debated. The first point from the beverage folks, however, seems a little specious to me. After all, if a ban would affect those “who can least afford it,” that means the people it affects probably also can’t afford very good health care, and are having at least some of their obesity-related medical expenses picked up by the government...which is to say, by the taxpayers.

    I also don’t understand limiting the request to New York City. If people really believe this claim about soft drinks and obesity, it ought to be a national ban.

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    Whole Foods announced yesterday that it is calling for this Sunday, October 12, to be celebrated as “Non-GMO Day,” with a goal of raising consumer awareness “about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply.”

    While it was not mentioned in the announcement, the initiative comes as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers - and appears to be leaning toward - the approval of GM salmon for human consumption, a position that has created a great deal of antipathy among some consumers.

    In the announcement, Whole Foods makes the following statements about GMOs:

    • “GMOs are now present in 75 to 80 percent of conventional processed food in the U.S., according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.”

    • “58 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the issue of GMOs in food, according to a 2006 Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology study.”

    • "’Non-GMO’ is the fastest-growing health and wellness claim on store-brand food labels, up 67 percent in 2009, according to Nielsen Co.”

    • “80 percent of Whole Foods Market shoppers surveyed said they would seek out non-GMO products with clear labeling, and would be willing to pay more for these products.”

    • “The FDA does not require food with GMOs to be labeled as such, so avoiding them is hard to do.”

    • “GMOs are banned or significantly restricted in 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the nations in the European Union.”
    KC's View:
    I’m really going to have to re-think my whole attitude toward GMOs...

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    Salon.com has a piece about how some activists in Canada are targeting Campbell Soup for its line of Halal-certified soups and broths there, calling for a boycott of the company; an anti-Campbell’s Facebook page reportedly has more than 2,000 followers.

    According to the story, “the Campbell's Halal line is certified by the Islamic Society of North America, a large and mainstream Muslim umbrella group. It clearly denounces terrorism and has widespread support among non-Muslim religious and political leaders.” And the piece notes that Halal foods “are merely those that hew to basic Islamic dietary laws such as a ban on pork products.”

    Ironically, the soup line was introduced a year ago, but the controversy was fanned by the debate in the US over the Islamic community center being planned for a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, which has been characterized as the “Ground Zero mosque.”
    KC's View:
    I think there is a technical, scientific name for these activists.

    Morons.

    Does anyone really think that by selling soups to people who observe a Halal diet, Campbell is supporting terrorism?

    Does anyone really think that slogans like "M-M-M-M-M-Muslim Brotherhood Good?" are either fair or useful?

    Does anyone really think that creating this controversy is anything other than not-so-veiled racism?

    They probably can’t do it, but I really wish the folks at Campbell Soup would say to these people the same thing that Woody Allen’s character said to the congressional committee at the end of The Front.

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    In the UK, the Mail reports that Sainsbury CEO Justin King is hoping to follow Tesco’s lead and develop an international presence for his company - with the first target being China. The story says that Sainsbury has more than 100 people in Shanghai “getting to know the market” in advance of rolling out stores there.

    King also said he wants his executives to identify “other international markets” that might work for a Sainsbury roll-out.

    Of course, this isn’t the first time that Sainsbury looked beyond its home shores for opportunity. As the story notes, “Back in 1987 it acquired America’s Shaw’s supermarket chain, only to retreat with its tail between its legs 17 years later.” But King says that’s because the proper groundwork wasn’t done, a mistake that will not be repeated this time around.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    In upstate Connecticut, the Republican American reports that the Bantam Library there has decided that in order to be relevant to local residents, it needs to reach beyond its library walls. And so, “the library, using two grants totaling $36,500, has installed a vending machine anyone with a library card can use to check out materials. Known as the OWL Box, it's the first machine of its kind in the state” - and it is located at the entrance to the local Big Value Supermarket, more than three miles away from the library.

    "We wanted to reach out to the people in Bantam and others in that area who can't always get to the center of town," says Anne Marie White, director of the local library. "Providing greater access to our materials is a goal, and we thought Big Value would be an ideal place to do it ... "We're offering more without adding staff and overhead.”
    KC's View:
    I believe this falls into the category of both a library and a supermarket thinking outside the box...

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Target is planning a Canada invasion of as many as 200 stores over the next decade, which would represent its first foray outside the US. The first units are expected to open in 2014.

    • It is being reported that PepsiCo plans to give away some 10 million cans of its new Sierra Mist Natural this weekend at Walmart stores around the country, as it looks to introduce the new version that has sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

    • Target announced yesterday that it plans to discount more than 1,000 toys in both its stores and online as it positions itself for what is expected to be a competitive and price-conscious holiday season.

    • The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that Nash Finch plans to open a Bloomington, Indiana, warehouse, hiring 100 people and investing $10.6 million in the 300,000 square foot facility.

    • The Toronto Star reports that Loblaw has reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on a new contract that will cover almost 30,000 employees in all but nine of its Ontario stores. According to the story, the deal will help Loblaw be “more competitive with non-union rivals such as Wal-Mart.” Employees from the nine stores where they rejected the deal were expected to go on strike as soon as today.

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has recognized Lund Food Holdings and Hy-Vee for their human resources development programs, presenting them with the 2010 Maximizing People Potential award at the FMI Human Resources/Training Development Conference held last week in Baltimore, Md.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    • CVS Caremark announced yesterday that it has promoted Jonathan Roberts, currently in charge of prescription purchasing, pricing, and network relations., to be the new COO in charge of the Caremark pharmacy benefits management business, a new position.

    • United Fresh announced that it has hired Dr. Barry A. Eisenberg, formerly head of technical services for River Ranch Fresh Foods, as its new vice president, food safety services, responsible for developing education programs, training and individualized expert support to help companies in their food safety planning, operations and compliance with best practices and regulatory standards. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    Lots of reaction to yesterday’s radio commentary about a community that outsourced the management of its public library to a private company.

    MNB user Bill Drew wrote:

    I enjoy reading your postings every morning, Kevin, as you pose a number of different questions to your readers through thoughtful and engaging prose.

    However, I have to take exception with one of your basic premises, namely that “every person has access to enormous resources on line.”  In much of your writings, you assume that the entire population of the United States (if not the world) has the means to pay for both the device and the access.  I’ll wager that there are millions in the U.S. who cannot, for a variety of reasons, afford this access, let alone a device through which to access the internet.

    But then again (and you’ll probably call me cynical for saying so), many families relying on government assistance for food, utilities, and rent seem able to afford cable television, cell phones, and internet access.  Perhaps that is a discussion for another day.

    I’ll mourn the loss of libraries, if that ever happens.  I am, admittedly, a bibliophile, and what concerns me most is that fewer students relying on libraries will, I think, lead to a loss of the skills of both writing and researching.  I believe that writing is an art honed by reading, and I also believe that writing for too many students in high school and beyond has become, unfortunately, a copy/paste function within Microsoft Word.  Perhaps this is due to that universal access with which you seem enamored.  Has that access made things too easy?


    MNB user Jean McLaughlin wrote:

    This morning you said that "in a world where every person has access to enormous resources on line, are public libraries necessary?"
     
    I have three comments:

    Firstly, I read a tremendous number of books (fast reader and poor sleeper) and my budget does not allow me to purchase that many books (either in print or electronically). The library serves a very useful purpose for me. Plus there is something about holding a real book and turning the pages.

    Secondly, each time I visit the libraries in this area I am amazed at the number of people using the computer stations. Very rarely is there one not being used and the users must book time in advance. There are still many people who do not have access to the internet other than through public sources.

    Thirdly, libraries are far more than a repository of print media. I encourage you to check out (pun intended) those services. You may change your opinion of public libraries being an relic of a past business model.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    It’s interesting that you start your commentary with the question “ in a world where every person has access to enormous resources online, are public libraries really necessary?”  When I go into my local library, I’m one of the very few people there for a book.  In the middle of the library, there are 50 computer stations with internet access, and they are always filled.  Apparently there are a lot of people that only have access to those resources, thanks to their local library. 

    You also made me think about the different business models I use to satisfy my love of reading.  I use Amazon to order books for friends and family members.  In thirty seconds I can select a book, pay for it and have it shipped to their address (convenience and price).  E-books, for my e-reader(convenience).  Library, for books I am not likely to re-read and to save money (price).  A great local bookstore (Books & Books in South Florida) that has author events almost every night of the week.  They have a great café and just being in the Coral Gables store makes you appreciate a love of books (social and atmosphere).


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I don’t disagree with anything you said, but…while access to information usually requires access to the Internet, many of our poorer citizens do not have the luxury of Internet connection at home…Libraries offer this access for both learning and entertainment.  However, you made one comment, “It isn’t hard to imagine that this actually could make the library more efficient and market-responsive...because that’s what private companies do.” Private companies are designed to make money through efficiencies and the good ones are market responsive…However, since they can’t make money from our poorer citizens, it is unlikely they will be responsive to that market. Is this just another stepping stone towards the bifurcation of economic classes and the “dumbing down” of America????

    Can we trust private companies to provide services for the good of the community – the whole community? Before you answer, please consider the economic disturbance we have been going through since 2008 and how we got there, please consider that corporate America has very little regard for those poor unfortunate citizens out of corporate America’s “market!”


    And, from another MNB user:

    It's an interesting dilemma. Libraries are valuable, even critical, assets in our communities. The question to wrestle with is: What role do libraries play as books and magazines increasingly go digital?

    How many years will it take for virtually every book to be available digitally? When that happens, will it be as a free service or a paid service?

    Will "they" figure out how to make this a limited time access? We take out a book or movie digitally and then have the access end when it is due to be returned.

    Libraries are not "free." We pay for this through our taxes in most places.

    It seems that a variation of disintermediation might be at work here.

    If the world is changing, and it is, how should libraries respond? Who should "own" and operate the libraries in the future? That's the question.


    MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

    I don’t have a problem outsourcing public institutions to private companies, even libraries as long as they stay public and accessible to the public (no matter who the public is). I don’t see libraries as outdated, maybe because I visit one close to once a week and I am never the only patron in the library. I don’t buy books because I can read at least one a week sometimes more especially when I travel and that can get expensive, even books I will more than likely read again I borrow from the library. Our library has a very dynamic website including the ability to download books, all this is free as long as you return your books in a timely manner and you can keep books a minimum of two weeks for new release up to 4 weeks with the ability to renew online for another 2 weeks. You can also check out DVD’s, books on tape and art. PLUS our public library shows all the films nominated in the Shorts categories for the Oscars. I find the public library to more than just a source of information, but a vital part of the community.

    It is all about changing the business model to adjust to changing times. Maybe, based on what many emails seem to be saying, libraries could end serving as a model for how to do this, rather than a model for irrelevance.




    We wrote about a study the other day that said people find it easier to buy produce for their kids in restaurants and fast food joints, and said we didn’t really understand the conclusions.

    The study came from Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation, and the organization’s Jill M. Le Brasseur wrote in to explain it:

    Maybe I can help clear things up about our latest press release. In essence, what we are saying is that moms report that it’s easier for them to find fruits and vegetables on restaurant menus than it has been in the past, which is great news, but restaurants still have a lot of room for produce on their menus. The majority of fruits and veggies Americans eat are eaten at home cooked meals, not while dining out. Presumably, these home cooked fruits and vegetables were purchased at either a supermarket or farmers market, or perhaps even grown at home.

    At PBH we think it’s great that restaurants are stepping up to offer more healthy fruits and vegetables on their menus, but we would like to see even more dishes featuring them in the future. We would like to encourage restaurants to serve more fruits and vegetables so that those who dine out don’t have to forgo the delicious produce they enjoy at home. We feel that it’s especially important to see these healthy and nutritious options on kids’ menus in light of the current childhood obesity statistics.
     
    Hope that helps, and Thanks for mentioning our research! We read MNB every day.



    MNB user Patti Pagels wrote:

    I just had to respond to your comments about the study regarding fruit vegetable consumption varying between home and restaurants.  Here’s what I think is happening—which I believe falls under three scenarios:

    At home, kids may not be exposed to a lot of different options.  So, when they go to a restaurant and something unusual shows up, curious kids will at least “mess around” with what’s on the plate.  If parents chill and let this go on for a little bit while still encouraging their kids to take a taste, it will often happen. 

    More likely, though, is that parents seem to have given up on what my mine used to call “no thank you servings.”  There would typically be two vegetables on our dinner table—one “basic” option, like green beans and one “grown-up” option like asparagus.  We had to have a good helping of the basic one.  We had to have a small serving of the other.  I’m the youngest of four kids.  I’m sure my parents had to endure countless “this is gross!” protests.  They may have had to stay at the table a little longer to make sure we ate everything.   Today, two of us will eat just about anything and the other two are still kind of picky—but they survived.  I just don’t think a lot of parents make that much of an effort today.

    And, perhaps, the most common issue:  cooking vegetables and thinking of something to do with fruit besides handing a child an apple takes time and a little attention to detail.  So often vegetables are boiled—and to a dull pulp!  So, if a restaurant serves bright green beans or apples cut like french fries, kids are just more likely to eat them. 

    Grocery store demonstrations are usually trying to help folks get something on the table in less time using processed foods—rarely fresh fruits and vegetables.  I get it.  I was a single mom working full time for almost 12 years.  I know time is precious and I wasn’t always able to follow my own advice.  But, I know it’s worth the effort.  My daughter will eat just about anything (and yet she’s 5’ 7” and wears a size 0).  So, maybe if grocery stores put properly prepared fruits and veggies out to sample (with instructions/recipes to go along with) it would help parents back home as they try to shape their kids’ eating habits for the better.  And, I have to believe that store would earn a lot of loyal customers.





    Got the following email from an MNB user:

    I sincerely applaud both you and Michael Sansolo’s position that society should review multiple sources prior to forming opinions on matters.  However, I’m constantly disappointed by a society that forms definite opinions when listening to clearly biased points of view.

    Case in point: Every reader that suggested you watch “Food, Inc.” because it will completely change your opinion on the GMO topic.  It would be far more enlightening to point to peer reviewed scientific journals on the matter than to point to a movie with a heavy bias against the current state of agriculture.  The website www.foodincmovie.com claims that it features such “experts” as Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan.

    Surely, Michael Pollan must be an expert.  He wrote the best-selling book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

    So I looked up what makes Michael Pollan an expert.  Interestingly enough, there is very little about what would make him an expert on Agribusiness or Nutrition.  This surprised me, since much of his assertion is that the industrial farm complex is skewing the American diet to be based off of corn products – implying that this is detrimental to diets (ex. High-Fructose Corn Syrup).  Did Michael Pollan earn a degree in nutrition?  Is he a professor of Agribusiness at a respected institution for those studies (ex. Cornell University, Ohio State, Texas, etc.)?  No.  He earned an English degree from Columbia.  He is an author, not a scientist.

    I’m not saying there aren’t things broken with the American diet or the agriculture industry.  If you knew me personally, you would know I’d be the last to make either of those assertions – my family belongs to a dying breed – the family owned farm.  Furthermore, I’m known to my friends as being their “go-to” person on health and fitness.

    What I want is facts, not opinions.  If one watches Food, Inc., check out monsanto.com/food-inc.  Clearly, both will have a bias, but one will see the issue is not black and white.  The movie only gives you their perspective.

    The problem with listening to only one perspective and one that is emotionally charged is that it can lead to legislation with unintended consequences – increasing food prices that will hurt the poor more than the wealthy, causing them to only be able to afford even worse options.

    The world needs more science and less opinion – because facts and truth should be supreme over emotion.


    As long as we’re clear that Monsanto’s point of view is every bit as biased as those expressed in Food Inc....

    Now, here’s my bias. If I understand Michael Pollan’s career correctly, he started out as a journalist and as a result of his work became a food activist. I have a pro-journalist bias...and so I tend to give people like him a little more benefit of the doubt.




    On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    Thinking about generational differences…..the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”,  came up not too long ago in a conversation with two colleagues; one is 42 years old and the other 26 years old.  I was interested in both of their perspectives about the origin of this phrase.   They both had their take on the phrase being born out of buying into the “corporate philosophy” of their employers.  Neither one of them were old enough to remember the Jim Jones incident in Guyana from which the phrase is actually derived.  I pulled out my smartphone and Googled the event and read them the entire accounting of everything that happened.  They were riveted to the news of the event, about which they had never heard.  The Google article even mentioned this event’s role in the development of this now commonly used phrase.




    And finally, responding to my reference the other day to the Philadelphia Phillies as an “estimable” team, MNB user Shawn Ravitz wrote:

    Wow... "estimable Phillies"!

    It is without question... the word of the day!

    I do not use that word enough!


    I suspect you’ll be using it a lot over the next few weeks.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    In the first game of their National League Divisional Series, a pitching duel between the Atlanta Braves’ Derek Lowe and San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum resulted in a 1-0 win for the Giants, giving them a 1-0 lead in the best of five series.

    Over in the American League, the Texas Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-0, and the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 5-2, giving the Rangers and Yankees each a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 8, 2010

    It was with a certain amount of fanfare - and maybe even a little smug satisfaction - that DailyBeast.com, the news site founded by former New Yorker editor Tina Brown, announced this week that the longtime media columnist for the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, would be joining the site as Washington bureau chief.

    This came just weeks after Howard Fineman, the longtime Newsweek reporter and columnist, announced that he was going to HuffingtonPost.com. (Of course, Newsweek has just been sold to a guy with zero journalism experience for the whopping amount of $1, so maybe Fineman saw the writing on the wall...)

    The stories have been all over the media this week, trumpeting the notion that these moves - as well as plenty of others - reflect the broader changes that are taking place in how people consume news and information. It may not be a death knell for traditional newspapers and magazines, almost all of which have gone through major layoffs, restructuring and agonizing self-examination, but the people who work at such places have to be wondering when the bell will toll for them and their careers.

    I did think that there was an interesting “think piece” on Salon.com - which has been in business longer than DailyBeast or HuffingtonPost - which said that the Kurtz move was “terribly exciting news for fans of thrilling, new-media journalism experiments run by old magazine and newspaper veterans who don't understand and are honestly a bit put off by the Internet.”

    The column went on, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Between this and Howard Fineman's move to the Huffington Post, this is a fine time to accept a great deal of money to go work for your rich friend's cheap-content farm. Keep working for next-to-nothing, kids, and someday you'll get to watch some useless old dude receive a fat check and a fancy title for penning the kind of equivocating, boring piffle that the Internet was supposed to kill.”

    Now, that’s a little rough. I’m not sure I’d describe Fineman’s or Kurtz’s work as “piffle.” But it makes an excellent point - that innovation within the new business model could be diluted if there are too many members of the old guard put in charge of it.

    That’s something that all business leaders, regardless of the industry, have to beware of as they pursue innovation and non-traditional responses to new challenges.

    Now, this isn’t to say that the old guard has no role. in fact, they can bring a certain amount of institutional memory and yes, even standards, to organizations that may be so caught up in being innovative that they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

    But it is a balancing act.

    I find it hard to cast stones at Fineman and Kurtz, who probably just want to be relevant for a 21st century audience. I don’t have their resumes, but my career certainly has been one long search for continued relevance. I started in newspapers, went to magazines, then produced business videos and now am on the Internet. I figure that before I’m done, I’ll be beaming into your homes and offices each morning as a hologram... (Now there’s a scary thought.)

    I had the chance this week to spend some time at Cornell University, where I was speaking to a business class on Monday evening. The early October weather may have been cold and rainy (is it always like that in Ithaca?), but I was warmed by the ideas and enthusiasms of the young people I met who have some unique business ideas about issues such as sustainability, food safety and obesity/nutrition - the very issues that captivate many of us on an almost daily basis. This is where the real innovation will come from, and their voices cannot and should not be lost as those of us looking to extend our career expiration dates try to march over them.

    It forces us to be better, to be more open-minded, to be less strident in our thinking and actions. It probably forces them to work a little harder to be heard.

    The ultimate responsibility for managing this balance, however, falls to the business leaders who are responsible for shepherding their companies into an uncertain future.




    I never thought I’d have to say this, but I think that now it is a requirement if one wants to be part of the public discourse.

    I am neither a witch nor a warlock.

    Wasn’t even tempted when I was young.

    Though I remain scarred by the fact that when I was a little kid, my mom dressed me up as a witch for Halloween, which annoyed me mightily since I was, and am, a guy. (Thank goodness I also managed to avoid gender confusion issues.)

    I just wanted to get it out there.




    You gotta love this story from Time.

    Apparently there is a Lithuanian company that wants to set up a luxury resort in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, that will be completely run by blondes, and even plans to arrange charter flights to the island nation on jets manned by all-blonde flight crews.

    According to the story, “The business plan has faced heavy criticism, with objectors calling the idea both sexist and racist.  But Giedre Pukiene, Olialia's managing director, denies that her company discriminates when hiring, adding that ‘when women with dark hair work here, they are surrounded by all these beautiful blondes, so eventually they end up going blonde too’.”

    There are about 47 jokes in there somewhere, but I’m not going to make them because I don’t want to be accused of being either sexist or racist.




    Last week, Mrs. Content Guy and I went to see a play Off-Broadway called “The Flying Karamazov Brothers,” which is the latest iteration (the original version opened in 1973!) of what can best be described as a circus without elephants - it is essentially a review, with music, juggling, jokes and plenty of awe-inspiring tricks. I mention this because there is a touring company traveling the country, and it is a fun evening at the theatre - especially if you can tear your kids away from their video games and computers. There is nothing like live theater - in this case, the performers are quite literally working without a net, and “The Flying Karamazov Brothers” is a wonderful way to introduce them to a centuries-old tradition that seems entirely fresh and entertaining. Check them out online...and if you get a chance, check them out onstage. They’re terrific.




    Last Saturday morning, Mrs. Content Guy showed me a book that a friend had lent her - “The Film Club,” a memoir by David Gilmour. I had other things to do, but I picked it up to browse the first few pages. A few hours later, Mrs. Content Guy had to remind me that we had theatre tickets and had to head into Manhattan ... which we did. But when I got home, while she went to bed, I grabbed the book and finished it, finally hitting the sack in the early morning hours.

    I loved it.

    “The Film Club” is about a father who sees his son failing in school and showing absolutely no aptitude for traditional learning methods. Fearing that he may lose him, Gilmour made a deal with his son - he could drop out of school and would not be required to pay rent or get a job, but the price was that they together would watch three movies of Gilmour’s choosing each week.

    What happened then was remarkable - and makes up the bulk of this touching, highly readable book. Gilmour was a writer and film critic, and thus perfectly positioned to guide his son through a century’s worth of movies, make them relevant, and even turn them into a hidden learning experience. But at the same time, he saw shades of his son that he might have missed under more traditional circumstances, and I found myself caught up not just in the connection between real life ands films, but in the dynamic between father and son.

    This is a terrific book, and I suspect it would be great for book clubs since it opens the door for discussion of a wide variety of subjects - child-raising, alcohol, drugs, marriage, fidelity, the state of the educational system, and, of course, the past and future of film.

    I cannot recommend “The Film Club” enough.




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Slainte!
    KC's View: