retail news in context, analysis with attitude

So before I go off on vacation, let me make a few recommendations to you....

• "Bad Monkey" is the latest comic novel from Carl Hiaasen, and the perfect definition of beach reading. It starts with a bang, as a man's arm is fished out of the sea, and then spins into unexpected areas, as the events leading up to the victim's death are investigated by a former cop who has been busted down to restaurant inspector., and who wants to earn his badge back. As always is the case of a Hiaasen novel, the characters are sketched out in bold colors, the Florida and Caribbean landscapes are portrayed in evocative tones, and he brings a sardonic eye to human frailties and compulsions. "Bad Monkey" is funny and great ... I enjoyed every page.

• If you get a chance, try to find and watch "Mel Brooks; Make A Noise," a wonderful documentary about the filmmaker that was featured on PBS's "American Masters" series. Brooks remains an American treasure, perfectly willing to be lowbrow for a laugh, but also possessing a depth that puts his comedy in a different sort of context. And the testimonials about his work - coming from the likes of Carl Reiner, Nathan Lane and Cloris Leachman - are both affectionate and very funny.

• "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee," Jerry Seinfeld's internet series, is back for a second season, and it is exactly what it says it is. Seinfeld, driving a different car each week, picks up a comedian and they go out for coffee and talk. The thing is, the talk tends to be hysterical while getting to the essence of what makes certain people funny, and Seinfeld has a genuine appreciation for the work and skills of other comics. The first two episodes this season featured Sarah Silverman and David Letterman ... and they are laugh out loud funny.

I've also enjoyed the return of two cable series this summer...

• It is the final season of "Burn Notice," the tongue in cheek spy series that has long been a success on USA, and this season things have turned a little dark and a little sad as we follow burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) as he tries to get back in the good graces of the country that has spurned him, protect his friends and family from becoming collateral damage, and maybe even save his soul. Since it is on USA, I'm pretty sure that things will turn out all right in the end ... but I must admit that this season, the writers have made me wonder a bit.

• And, it is the second season of "Longmire," the modern western series that follows the exploits of Walt Longmire, a Wyoming sheriff played to taciturn perfection by Robert Taylor. The landscapes are forbidding, but no less so than some of the human interactions, and the writers continue to fashion strong mysteries that serve to illuminate, a little bit at a time, Longmire's character strengths and inner demons. Good stuff.

Finally, here's a wonderful wine recommendation for you - the 2011 Legado del Conde Albarino, which we had the other night with a seafood risotto. It was perfect, with just enough spice to stand up to the meal. And, it'd also be perfect as a sipping wine on a hot summer evening.

That's it for this week ... as noted above, for the next two weeks we'll be running our special "MNB Interview" series, and I'll be back with fresh, hand-crafted news and commentary on Monday, July 15.

Have a great couple of weeks .. enjoy "MNB Interviews" and the beginning of summer ... and I'll see you soon.

Fins Up!
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