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    Published on: April 15, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    • The New York Times reports that next month, a new product will be unveiled that answers a question unique to the current literary environment - how do you get an author to sign your book if you have it on your Kindle, iPad, or in some other eBook format?

    According to the Times story, “Here’s how an Autography eBook ‘signing’ will work: a reader poses with the author for a photograph, which can be taken with an iPad camera or an external camera. The image immediately appears on the author’s iPad (if it’s shot with an external camera, it’s sent to the iPad via Bluetooth). Then the author uses a stylus to scrawl a digital message below the photo. When finished, the author taps a button on the iPad that sends the fan an e-mail with a link to the image, which can then be downloaded into the eBook. Wait time? About two and a half minutes. Bragging potential? Endless: Readers can post the personalized photo to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

    This becomes important because, as the Times writes, “By 2015, sales of eBooks in the United States are expected to triple to nearly $3 billion.”

    • The Los Angeles Times writes that “a school district in Maine is proposing to spend about $200,000 on Apple iPad 2s to get the devices into the hands of about 300 kindergartners.” The story notes that the proposal contends that “the iPad is a powerful tool for education when equipped with some of the hundreds of apps available that can aide in interactive learning.”

    Not everybody thinks that this is a good idea; some say that there is no evidence that computers can help kids learn, and others say that kindergarten is too early to introduce computers into the educational experience.

    But the other argument is this - that anyone who believes that kindergartners are too young to engage with computers, too young to be engaged by computers, and that the potential exists for greater learning through technology...well, that anyone who believe such things probably isn;t spending a lot of time around kids.

    And those are our Eye-Openers for Friday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    Even as budgetary battles unfold in Washington, DC, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman has an interesting piece about a way in which the nation can save money. A lot of money.

    Some excerpts from his most recent piece:

    • “For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones. Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to ‘cure’ them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.

    “But they’re preventable, and you prevent them the same way you cause them: lifestyle. A sane diet, along with exercise, meditation and intangibles like love prevent and even reverse disease. A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more.

    “This isn’t just me talking. In a recent issue of the magazine Circulation, the American Heart Association editorial board stated flatly that costs in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease - the leading cause of death here and in much of the rest of the world - will triple by 2030, to more than $800 billion annually. Throw in about $276 billion of what they call ‘real indirect costs,’ like productivity, and you have over a trillion.”

    • “Similarly, Type 2 diabetes is projected to cost us $500 billion a year come 2020, when half of all Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Need I remind you that Type 2 diabetes is virtually entirely preventable? Ten billion dollars invested now might save a couple of hundred billion annually 10 years from now. And: hypertension, many cancers, diverticulitis and more are treated by a health care (better termed “disease care”) system that costs us about $2.3 trillion annually now - before costs double and triple.”

    • “It’s worth noting that the Federal budget will absorb its usual 60 percent of that cost. We can save some of that money, though, if an alliance of insurers, government, individuals - maybe even Big Food, if it’s pushed hard enough - moves us towards better eating ... Corny as it is to say so, if we can put a man on the moon we can create an environment in which an apple is a better and more accessible choice than a Pop-Tart. Some other billions of dollars must go to public health. Again: we built sewage systems; we built water supplies; we showed that we could get people to eat anything we marketed. Now all we have to do is build a food distribution system that favors real food, and market that.”

    Standing in stark contrast to Bittman’s recommendations is a story in USA Today about a new YMCA survey, saying that “most kids don’t come close to getting enough exercise daily and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables: 62% of 1,630 parents with children ages 5 to 10 say their kids eat junk food one to four days a week.

    “Only 14% of parents say their kids eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.

    “These results shed light on the reasons for the childhood obesity epidemic. About a third of children in the USA are overweight, which puts them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems.

    “Even though 89% of parents rate themselves good or excellent in providing a healthy home environment, most say they face serious roadblocks to providing healthy lifestyles for their kids, citing too many competing activities - especially social networks, computer games, TV and cellphones.”
    KC's View:
    The contrast just struck me. And I think Bittman is right - we can do better, as parents and as a society. The first step, I guess, is that we have to stop kidding ourselves.

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that “the United Food and Commercial Workers union is holding a strike authorization vote next week and warning its members to be prepared in case they have to walk off the job.”

    The most recent contract - signed in 2007 after a long strike and lockout - expired on March 6, and the negotiations cover “about 62,000 grocery workers in Southern California, including those employed by Ralphs, which is owned by Kroger Co.; Safeway Inc., which owns Vons and Pavilions stores; and Albertsons, which is owned by SuperValu Inc.”

    According to the story, “Notifications announcing the April 20 vote date and seven voting locations were emailed to members and posted at stores Thursday.

    “For the strike authorization measure to pass, at least two-thirds of the union voters participating have to support it. Approval of the measure does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike, but union leaders say it would give them a stronger negotiating position.

    “Contract talks between the union and three of the region's leading grocery retailers have been sluggish for months, as both sides debate employee wages, healthcare benefits and pensions. The contract is now being extended on a day-by-day basis. Either side can cancel the agreement with 72 hours' notice.

    “Both sides are expected to return to the bargaining table April 26.”
    KC's View:
    It doesn’t speak well about the possibilities that the vote is taking place six days before negotiations resume.

    I also find it hard to believe that two-thirds of affected employees will vote in favor of a strike after two years of recessionary living, and in a state where the economy has been worse than in many other places.

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Walmart is planning to open a 14,500 square foot Walmart Express store on West Chicago Avenue in the River North district, just beneath a CTA Brown Line subway stop.

    The store “would be Wal-Mart's second near downtown, in addition to a bigger Wal-Mart Market grocery store planned in the West Loop's Presidential Towers apartment complex,” Crain’s writes. “The Chicago Avenue deal, which sources say isn't yet a finalized lease, also shows the variety of sites Wal-Mart is considering as it aims to open several dozen stores in the city over the next five years.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) is out with a new study that - no surprise - suggests that “shoppers on average could save 33.3% off their grocery bill by filling their market baskets with the store brand versions of 40 essential household items and pantry staples.”

    The study, PLMA said, “tracked the pricing for typical grocery items at a conventional supermarket. Included in the survey were spring cleaning items like glass cleaner, paper towels and pine oil disinfectant, as well as two dozen pantry staples like corn flakes, pasta sauce and carbonated beverages, and personal necessities like mouthwash and facial tissue.

    “The study results indicate that consumers who choose the retailer’s brand for products on the list rather than the national brand could save $42.30 (a savings of 33.3%) on average on their total market basket. When buying the national brands the 40-item purchase came to $127.03 on average over six separate trips, while the same purchases for the retailer’s brands cost $84.73.”
    KC's View:
    Again, this is no surprise, though I am guessing that the numbers might be different for different areas of the country - this survey was done in the northeastern US suburbs.

    But it does illustrate why private brands have seen so much growth through this recession. The question is whether it continues as the economy improves.

    BTW...this study comes out just days after another study said that consumers have a “muddled” view of what private brands are, and often do not even know that they are buying an own-label item when they do so - a situation seen as “unwelcome news for national brands that must be distinguished to warrant their premium prices.”

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    Sen. john McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) have introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, which they described as a bipartisan effort to protect consumer privacy on the internet.

    The New York Times reports that “the privacy ‘rights’ would ensure that companies that collected data implemented security measures to protect that data. It would also require companies to provide consumers with notice about what data were being collected and allow them to opt-out if they chose.

    “The legislation also would require consumers to opt-in to the collection of sensitive information like their medical condition or religious affiliation. Users would also be able to access and correct the information that had been collected about them or request that companies cease to use or distribute that information. The bill also seeks to limit the amount of data that can be collected on any one consumer by requiring that companies only gather what is needed to perform a specific transaction for a specific amount of time.”
    KC's View:
    The Times notes that “the proposed legislation received mixed reaction from advertisers, technology companies and consumer advocates,” some of whom thought the proposal did not go far enough because it did not include a “do not track” provision.

    I’m not sure about the economics, but I think the ability to stop marketers from tracking consumer behavior - which the “do not call” rules made so popular a couple of years ago - would be an important provision.

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    A new “QSR” study suggests that people are not as loyal about their coffee drinking habits as some marketers would have us believe.

    According to the report, “while 41 percent of Starbuck’s customer visits come from customers that can be considered ‘loyals’ who did not visit any other coffee/breakfast chain during the average month, 53 percent, identified as ‘roamers,’ also stopped by either Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s during an average month.

    “Shopping patterns for Dunkin’ Donuts’ customers were similar (42 percent of visits by loyals and 53 percent by roamers).  McDonald’s had the most business driven by loyal customers, with 62 percent of the visits by those that did not visit either Starbuck’s or Dunkin’ Donuts during the average month.”

    The study was conducted by CustomersDNA, a marketing and research consulting firm.

    “The significance of these patterns became clear when we found that the roamers purchased a hot beverage and/or breakfast nearly twice as often as loyals,” said Dave Jenkins, Customer’sDNA co-founder. “During the average month, loyal customers of each of the three chains visited their favorite store 6.7 times, while the roamers averaged 13 visits per month. Converting these sometime-customers to loyals is key to winning the coffee/breakfast battle.”
    KC's View:
    The big lesson here goes beyond coffee. Art the end of the day, most shoppers are free agents ... and retailers have to work every day to reignite their interest and enthusiasm for their offering. complacency is not an option.

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    Reuters reports that Walmart has settled “an ethnic harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged several employees of Mexican descent endured slurs.

    “Sam's Club, a wholesale chain store, will pay $440,000 to settle the lawsuit, the agency said on Thursday.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois House of Representatives has passed legislation “would ban artery-clogging trans fats in food served in restaurants, movie theaters, cafes and bakeries or sold in school vending machines, starting in 2013. School cafeterias would be affected in 2016. Most prepackaged food would not be covered.

    “If the Senate approves the bill and Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, Illinois will be only the second state to enact such a ban. The first was California.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    • The bankrupt Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) said yesterday that it is seeking approval from the court overseeing its finances to put 25 more stores on the market - all Superfresh units, with 22 in Maryland, two in Delaware and one in Washington, DC.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “Kraft Foods Inc.'s Gevalia coffee will go head-to head with its one-time partner Starbucks Corp. in supermarkets starting in August. Kraft plans to sell Gevalia as its premium coffee brand at more than 20,000 retailers, marking the first time the nearly 160-year-old Swedish coffee brand, which has been primarily sold in the U.S. through online and mail orders for the past quarter-century, will be widely available at U.S. retailers.

    “Gevalia will replace Starbucks as Kraft's entrant in the premium coffee category. Kraft had exclusively sold Starbucks products in the high-end coffee category until March 1, when the distribution pact was dissolved in what became a messy and public divorce in court. The two sides are still involved in arbitration over the breakup, and whether Starbucks may have to pay Kraft more than $1 billion for terminating the agreement.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    In yet another indication of the profound changes taking place in the way consumers get their information and entertainment, and the growing importance of the food culture, Walt Disney-owned ABC said yesterday that it is canceling two long-running afternoon “soap operas.”

    “One Life To Live, on the air since 1968, and “All My Children,” which debuted in 1970, will close out their runs in January 2012.

    According to the story, “In their place, ABC is planning two less expensive lifestyle shows that it says better match the tastes of its daytime audience. ‘The Chew’ will be a live show about food trends with multiple hosts, including restaurateur Mario Batali. Another show, tentatively titled ‘Revolution,’ takes a page from makeover reality shows, and each week will chronicle one woman's five-month-long effort to lose weight.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    Responding to our story earlier this week about how many consumers have a “muddled” view of what private brands are, and often do not even know that they are buying an own-label item when they do so, MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

    I am both encouraged and disheartened by this study – encouraged because the entire goal of private brands is to get the consumer to look past the price only focus and see the products as a brand in their own right.  Disheartened because there is still so much to be done to create a “reason to believe” for consumers for too many private brand products.

    The folks who only want to see the store’s name on the product are simply looking for a way to identify price focused value – they will know that the item with the store’s name will be cheaper.  This is lazy marketing in my opinion.  For the entire consumer base to embrace the overall concept of private brands, these brands need to be elevated to “real brands’ with “real meaning” for the consumer.  This requires a Brand Portfolio Strategy for each retailer and their associates – so everyone knows what each brand stands for (and this needs to be simple, scalable and transportable to make sure EVERY new associate quickly learns it) and why the consumer should buy it.

    The marketing program needs to be completely systemic – infiltrating the store’s overall marketing program and occupying a position of authority (the largest brand that most retailers sell is their own – and they pay it the least amount of attention).  One retailer has educated their team like this – our brands are our children and they need lover, attention and nurturing just like children.  No one would just thrust their kids into the world and wish them “good luck” against the harsh realities of the competitive space.  I am not sure I can put it much better – private brands need to have the retailer’s love and attention every day – with the marketing program nurturing the brand equity and brand resonance.  Only in this way can retailer’s truly deliver superior value to the consumer in the form of private brand.

    I have helped several retailers see this “Ah Ha” moment (and a few manufacturers as well) – but the process needs to be sustained over time and through all of the leadership changes the industry has experienced.

    MNB user Ben Ball chimed in:

    This report simply reinforces the fact that most of the people involved in researching, marketing and competing against private brands still don’t understand them. A good private brand should NOT carry the store name necessarily – and in most cases shouldn’t. That’s what genericizes the product to begin with, simply re-invoking the quality horror show of private label in the 70’s – 90’s. Distinct brands that can only be found in one chain (Dave Nichol’s “proprietary” concept) are what make the brands differentiating to that chain – not having “Safeway” plastered all over it. The fact that consumers are “muddled” in their association of private brands with the chain identity means we are heading in the RIGHT direction.

    On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    Thought you might enjoy this real life story.  I've always been fascinated with trying to understand what makes a customer take a "drastic" action in regard to the shopping experience.  Never thought I would be the subject of my own fascination.

    I have been, unfortunately, saddled with a few significant health issues for quite awhile.  As such, I'm a frequent customer at the local Walgreen's.  I like their systems because it's pretty seamlessly integrated with my health insurance, my "cafeteria" plan that pays for out of pocket medical expenses, and my payment cards.  I show up, they hand me my prescriptions, press a few buttons, and I go home.  Over the past nearly 20 years I have developed some good relationships with some of the folks that work there and I admit that it is nice to be called by name, despite understanding that it means that I am there far too much.  The last prescription that I tried to fill proved to be too much for the staff, though.

    One of the medications that I take is very tightly controlled.  The prescription cannot be called in or faxed in.  It must be a real, written prescription and it must be filled within 21 days of the date on prescription.  It's also pretty darn expensive.  Recently, my insurance company decided that they knew far more about my treatment than my doctors did and decided to not cover it at all.  The doctor could not persuade the insurance company to change their minds, so he came up with a generic version of a drug that was substantially similar to the "name brand" pills we had started with.  I went to fill the order and was told by the pharmacist that there was no such thing.  I was dumbfounded.  I explained the situation and also clearly communicated that I understood that this was a slightly different medication, but that $50 a month out of pocket versus nearly $400 a month was nothing to sneeze at.  She told me that it had nothing to do with money, the drug that the physician had ordered did not exist.  "Are you sure?"  "Yes, I am.  I'm a licensed pharmacist."  At that point, I knew that I would have to call the doctor for yet another written prescription, so I went home with the no_such_thing prescription in hand.  And before I called the doctor, I hit Google.

    Sure enough, there were bajillions of hits on the drug that my doctor had prescribed.  And I called up CVS, the one that was all of a mile away from my Walgreens, to ask if they knew of the drug.  "Yes, and we keep it in stock."  I went over and proffered my doctor's note and was greeted with a cheerful smile and a "it will be ready in about 10 minutes".  And I started stewing.  Walgreens had made a significant mistake.  And if a "licensed pharmacist" could make that kind of mistake like that, my health could be in jeopardy if other mistakes got made.  I explained the whole dramatic chain of events to the CVS pharmacist and asked how difficult it would be to transfer all of my prescriptions to them.  Turns out, not hard at all.  And I got a nifty little discount for doing so.  CVS gained a customer.

    And Walgreens lost one forever.

    Responding to yesterday’s castigation of Barry Bonds, one MNB user wrote:

    I believe 99.9% (if not more) of professional athletes take a performance enhancing drug (PED) of some sort.  If you have the desire to dig into any one of their lives, you can find a similar story like that of Bonds, Sosa or McGwire.  PED’s reach much further down the chain from Olympic curlers (yes, curlers…are you getting a feel for the magnitude yet?) to bodybuilding (Governor Schwarzenegger) to that group of meatheads grunting and screaming at your local gym.  I bet you know someone on the intramural or City League (any sport) team that looks a bit different than six months ago and looks the part of “athlete” now and didn’t before. 

    Now for the part that hits home to those with children.  What do you think is happening to those kids trying to win roster spots at ten years old, or teenagers trying to keep up with those kids who made varsity?  From the Book of Hodge, “Peer pressure is a greater force than gravity.”  The kids want to compete and be better than their friends, who are all looking for an edge to be better.  And what kid doesn’t like to hear their parents do some bragging on their behalf to their friend’s parents?

    So stop hating on these “athletes” and face the facts that PED’s are everywhere.  The before and after pictures don’t lie.  And God forbid that anybody even looks twice at all the football players in the world and attempt to give Brady or Manning an asterisk.

    Fist of all, I don;t share your pessimism about the numbers. I am absolutely sure, for example, that nobody on the NY Mets is taking steroids, because they all suck.

    (Okay, I’m kidding. A little bit.)

    Your larger point about young people is precisely the reason that we need to shine a harsh spotlight on any athlete who takes PEDs. Shame them in the town square. Take away their medals and their endorsement contracts. Make them feel the disappointment that so many of their fans feel about them.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    In no way do I disagree with you on your comments about Barry Bonds, but something to chew on is the #1 homerun hitter will not go into the Hall of Fame.  In fact the top 2 HR hitters will be at the scrutiny of steroids (Alex Rodriguez to most likely be #2), and 6 of the top 15 will probably not make the Hall of Fame for the same reason.  Not to mention the greatest pitcher of the last 30 year (Roger Clemens) will not be inducted either.  Now a shadow is cast for others still playing including Albert Pujols, and what to say of future players.  There is plenty of blame to go around for what might be one of the worst sports issues to be swept under the rug for too long, and with the slap on the wrist to Bonds the baseball purists face a dilemma that will continue for years.  It is too bad how quickly the American public forgets, as all I have heard in the last 3 weeks is “who cares about Barry Bonds anymore”.  That is just plain sad in my opinion.  The man broke the law, tried to cover it up, and was one of many the destroyed America’s past time.  Just wait until the NFL cracks down on HGH…

    This reminds me too much of Fortune 500 CEOs (“super stars” if you will) that walk away from companies in complete chaos with huge bail out bonuses and sold stock options without a care in the world.  Worse yet the ones that lied, cheated, and stole from their companies to push the stock up only to run at the last seconds as the stock plummeted and the works were left in ruin.  All while they faced slaps on the wrist from the government with house arrest/probation in their multimillion dollar mansions.  Does anyone remember Enron still?  Like you say, I know there had to be a business lesson in here somewhere.

    And, from MNB user Tom Devlin:

    Since Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire did get medicinal help in reaching their record breaking home run milestones I say let the fans vote to throw out all the records they personally achieved. Obviously you can not take away team or World Series victories but you can take away personal achievements. So we can now say the Home Run King is still Hank Aaron and the most home runs for a year is the 61 that Maris hit...

    In the light of day, the achievements of Hank Aaron and Roger Maris look all that more remarkable.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 15, 2011

    One of the great side pleasures of traveling the country to speak at conferences has been the opportunity to visit almost all the Major League Baseball stadiums, plus a number of minor league ballparks. This week, I added to my total, with a visit to Chase Field in Phoenix - where I got a chance to watch a truly terrible game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals in which it seemed like the pitchers simply could not get anyone out. (People who like slugfests probably enjoyed it, but I hate games that seem like they last forever ... I much prefer a crisply played 2:30 game with great pitching, crisp defense and strong offense.

    The game aside, I very much enjoyed the ballpark. For $40 I ended up sitting 25 rows behind home plate, and the food was wonderful - especially the Niman Ranch Chipotle Cheddar Sausage sandwich, covered with salsa, and the Mirror Pond Pale Ale. I engaged the woman serving me the beer in a conversation, told her it was my first time at this park, and she urged me to try the garlic french fries ... and she wasn’t wrong.

    I suspect the experience was improved by the fact that it was a gorgeous night, and the roof was open; indoor baseball is a less pleasurable experience, I’ve found. My big complaint would be about the scoreboard, which I actually think provides too much information - sometimes it looked like the back of a baseball card, with data to spare. Now, I’ve never been a stat guy - I prefer the poetry of baseball to the numbers - so this informs my opinion. But this is the big thing I’d carp about.

    Chase Field probably does not make my top five or six stadiums. But it was an entirely pleasant experience.

    Just FYI...there are just six MLB stadiums I have not yet been to.

    The St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium. The Florida Marlins’ Sun Life Stadium. The Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park. The Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field. The Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. And the new Yankee Stadium.

    (Stadium construction hurt my track record. I’d been to the old Yankee Stadium, the old Busch Stadium, the old Astrodome, and the old Metrodome in Minneapolis. Oh, well. Man’s gotta have goals.)

    My top six, to this point? In no particular order ... Petco Park in San Diego, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Camden Yards in Baltimore, Safeco Field in Seattle, and, because I’m a traditionalist, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.

    Can I ask a favor?

    Raphel Marketing, which published our book under its Brigantine media imprint, is writing a book about online couponing that it plans to publish this summer. The focus will be on the rise of companies such as Groupon and Living Social that offer groups of people discounts on services and products, including travel, spas, and restaurant offers. The  deals are heavily discounted from retail price, and are often distributed by people to their friends and colleagues. It's a different and interesting way for merchants to reach out to new customers.

    Raphel Marketing is conducting a 3-minute online survey that will help in the research for the book ... and if you provide your email address (which will not be given or sold to anyone else, and not used for any other purpose), the Raphels will send you a summary of the survey results.

    The survey can be found here.

    I saw Limitless, the new Bradley Cooper-Robert De Niro movie, the other day, and liked it. Didn’t love it, but liked it. Limitless is about what happens to a struggling, down-on-his-luck writer when he takes a pill that allows him to access his entire brain, turning him into someone who is a fast and brilliant novelist, a canny and successful financial investor, multi-lingual, and devastatingly attractive to women. The moral question that it poses is how far a person is willing to go in order to achieve his or her dreams, and the film - directed by Neil Burger - is extremely well done, with sharp cinematography and dovetails nicely with the characters’ various dilemmas.

    At some level, I thought the film was a little too fast-paced; they could have taken a little more time with the concept, let it breathe a little more before plunging into the chase elements that define the end of the movie. But that may be an age thing; movies today almost never take a leisurely approach to character development.

    What is interesting to me is the similarities that Limitless shares with two other movies I’ve seen recently - The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon, and Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal. All three movies feature strong leading men who combine youth with some level of maturity; in some ways, I can see any of the three headlining any of these three movies. And all movies are about testing the limits of human capabilities, and they explore, to varying degrees, the definition of ethical behavior. I liked Source Code the most, and Limitless the least ... but enjoyed them all, especially because they all seemed, in their own ways, to be about something more than just sex and explosions and car chases.

    In today’s moviemaking environment, being about something is a quality to be savored.

    My wine of the week: the 2009 Diemersdal Reserve Chardonnay from South Africa, which my wine guys quite rightly describe as having “mouth feel that is rich and buttery.” I would have said it is “yummy,” but that’s just semantics.

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

    KC's View: