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    Published on: August 5, 2015

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you yet again from the campus of Portland State University in Oregon.

    Tonight is my last class of the summer here at Portland State, and, alas, my 2015 "adjunctivity" will come to an end. Except that it won't, not really, because I'm lucky enough to have a continuing relationship with this school, Tom Gillpatrick and the folks who have turned the Center for Retail Leadership into a remarkably vibrant player in the area's food and retail scene, and with the students, who still send me emails from time to time. Besides, tonight may be my last class of this semester, but there still will be exams to grade...

    Part of what makes this class, and the Center for Retail Leadership, so special is the connection to the local community. For example, tonight we're actually doing our class in a New Seasons store, and I want to thank CEO Wendy Collie for making it possible. Our feeling was that you can only learn so much in the classroom...and I'm really looking forward to our time there tonight.

    When we're in the classroom, we've been lucky enough to have some fascinating folks come in to visit with us ... people like Mike Burrington, who has forgotten more about e-commerce than i'll ever know; Erik Wolf, who practically invented the concept of food tourism); Todd Cornwell of Franz Bakeries, who came in to talk with us about branding; and Bruce Silverman, who might be best described as a born-again entrepreneur. All great folks who taught us a lot ... and, by the way, if you'd like to join us in class next summer, just drop me an email.

    As it happens, the first guest we had in class was David Howitt. I wrote about David a couple of months ago after he appeared on a panel I did at PSU's annual executive conference, but since then I've had a chance to read his book, "Heed Your Call," and I want to recommend it to you. You can find it on Amazon here.

    "Heed Your Call" is a fascinating work, mixing in philosophy, spirituality, art, commerce...and even some movies. (I love that he references Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, among others.) His premise is that business can be purpose-driven beyond just making a profit ... though make no mistake, he is a capitalist and believes in profit. But Howitt also believes that businesses can change the world for the better, and he takes us through his own journey from what he calls "the abyss" of being a lawyer through his own discovery of entrepreneurial talents and abilities he didn't even know he had, which has allowed him to help shape businesses of consequence.

    I loved this book, and I loved that David came to class to share his philosophy with us. To me, what he is doing ... and certainly what Tom Gillpatrick and I tried to do with our students each week ... is summed up in a story he tells in "Heed Your Call" about a grandfather talking to his grandson.

    "There are two wolves living inside each of us," the grandfather says. "One is good, living in harmony with the earth, hurting no one, and will only fight when the fight is good and just and right. He believes in hope, generosity, and empathy. The other is evil, and survives on anger, arrogance and jealousy ... he is filed with hate, and will fight for the sake of fighting. And these two wolves inside us are constantly fighting for domination."

    "Which wolf wins?" the young boy says to his grandfather.

    The grandfather smiles. "The one you feed," he says.

    In class each week, and here on MNB, I hope we're feeding the good wolf.

    That's what is on my mind this Wednesday morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    Have you read the stories about Vin Baker, the four-time NBA all-star who played for six franchises over a period of 13 seasons, earning more than $97 million during his career?

    These days, the 43-year-old Baker works at a Rhode Island Starbucks as a barista, and is training to be a store manager. He has none of his NBA money left, having struggled with alcoholism during his career and squandered his fortune on stuff he didn't need and people that were there for the money, not the friendship.

    "I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune," he tells . "I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they’re like ‘Wow.’ For me, I’m 43 and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces. I’m a father. I’m a minister in my father’s church. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back."

    Good for him. Baker's willingness to go back to the beginning and rebuild his life is testimony to the fact that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong - especially these days. There are second acts in American lives.

    Baker's commitment to change his life, and to being so public about his failures, is certainly an Eye-Opener ... and a demonstration of real character.

    And by the way ... kudos to Starbucks for hiring him.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    The Idaho Statesman reports that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill yesterday ruled that "an Idaho law making it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities violates the right to free speech."

    The law in question, referred to as an "ag-gag law," was passed in 2014 after an animal rights group took and released video showing the inhumane treatment of cows at an Idaho dairy. Business interests pushed for the law as a way of protecting themselves from journalists, activists and whistleblowers, but the law was challenged in the courts by a number of these activist groups.

    “The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment,” Judge Winmill said in his ruling.

    The Idaho Attorney General’s Office has not yet indicated whether it will appeal.
    KC's View:
    Good for the judge. Such laws have no business being on the books, since they serve to protect people and companies that engage in bad behavior. They are a crock, serving to obscure and hide the truth, not expose it.

    Do animal rights activists always get it right? Of course not. But as I've said here before, another way to characterize "ag-gag" laws is to call them "CYA" laws.

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said it best: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    The Associated Press reports that Netflix is expanding its parental leave policy, offering new parents on the payroll "up to a year of paid leave in a move that could pressure other technology employers to improve their baby benefits as they vie for talent.

    The story says that the new policy will allow new parents to go out on leave, come back to work full-time or part-time, and then go back on leave, as needed ... being paid in full the entire time. It is, the story says, "generous even by the high standards of Silicon Valley, where free meals and other perquisites supplement lavish salaries in the competitive battle for technology workers."

    The AP notes that Netflix always has been seen as a generous employer, offering good pay and stock options to the majority of employees. Plus, "Netflix traditionally has long given its workers more leeway than most employers. For instance, the company already allows employees to take an unlimited amount of vacation each year, as long as they get their assignments done and fulfill other requirements of their jobs."
    KC's View:
    Obviously, not every company can offer such a benefit. But I think Netflix is to be complimented for having an enlightened approach to employee benefits issues, and to understanding that a nurtured and supported employee often will respond by feeling a sense of real ownership in the company, which is good for everyone in the long run.

    In a tough technology job market, this is how you become a preferred employer.

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    The Chicago Tribune reports that "McDonald's, looking to boost its sales, is in search of an iconic burger for the Chicago area and is soliciting recipes from the public for its Burger Build Off contest."

    The story goes on: "There are countless combinations. Choose among eight kinds of buns from ciabatta to pretzel. Make it a double or triple patty stack. Would you use a special sauce? Perhaps a healthy kale burger? Go beyond the typical American and cheddar cheese slices and sprinkle on feta or shaved Parmesan. Add applewood smoked bacon or chili lime tortilla strips. Drizzle a cilantro lime glaze or spicy buffalo sauce. Sure, top it off with healthier ingredients like apple slices, if you really want to."

    The Tribune writes that "voting goes from Aug. 24 through Sept. 13. Only 10 finalists will move on to the McDonald's chef kitchen in Oak Brook to refine their recipes and present their burgers to a panel judging on taste, texture, smell, appeal, appearance, size, how easy or difficult it is to prepare, and how it will fit in the McDonald's kitchen process."
    KC's View:
    I can't tell you how to win, but I can tell you how to immediately take yourself out of contention. Just begin the recipe with the words, First, start with real beef...

    Okay, that was a cheap shot. I couldn't help myself.

    I actually don't think this is a bad idea. McDonald's has to do something to freshen up its menu, and getting customers to invent a burger is not the craziest concept I've ever heard. If it works, maybe they could make it a national and ongoing effort...

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    There's a terrific piece in The New Yorker about what the author calls "the state of modern winespeak," in which the language is extravagant, flowery, elaborate - and "intrinsically B.S.-prone." The problem is that despite the often overwrought language, descriptions tend to be imprecise and no helpful, reflective as much of the biases of the reviewer as the quality of the wine.

    The additional problem, the story suggests, is the people describing wines are as often committed to the poetry of the product as the reality.

    It is an amusing little story, with a nice bouquet and a strong finish ... and you can read it here.
    KC's View:
    A tip of the hat to my old friend, teacher and mentor Vic Magnotta, who used to tell me as a writer to be careful "not to engage in nebulous verbosity." I remember it, and him, pretty much every day.

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    GeekWire reports that Macy's "is expanding its same-day delivery service to nine additional markets in a move that keeps the retailer on pace with competitors like, Walmart, and Target." As of now, Macy's is offering same-day delivery in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, New York/Western Long Island, Orange County, Calif., Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Northern New Jersey.

    The story notes that the service is being offered "in partnership with Deliv, a startup that utilizes a network of drivers and also partners with other shopping mall retailers.
    Customers will pay an extra $5 for the same-day service. Macy’s, which has nearly 900 stores in the U.S. and reeled in $28.1 billion last year, also plans to offer same-day delivery from its high-end Bloomingdale’s chain soon."

    Reuters reports that Kellogg's said yesterday that "it was aiming to stop using artificial colors and flavors in its cereals and snack bars by the end of 2018. The world’s biggest breakfast-cereal maker is the latest in a string of American food companies to bow to growing pressure to remove synthetic ingredients from products because of health concerns."

    Full disclosure: Kellogg's is a valued MNB sponsor ... and there's nothing artificial about that.

    • The New York Times reports that a federal judge has rejected "a proposed $75 million class-action settlement between American Express and a group of retailers that have been fighting for the right to charge consumers more for using Amex’s credit cards." The reason? "Egregious conduct" by attorneys in the case, who shared information in a way that was both collusive and completely inappropriate.

    The decision by the judge follows last week's story about how "a $6 billion class action antitrust settlement that was supposed to resolve a decade-long dispute between millions of merchants and Visa and MasterCard is now in jeopardy of falling apart" because the lawyers in the case colluded...

    They are, in fact, the same lawyers as in the Amex case.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    First of all, let me offer a round of applause for Jon Stewart, who tomorrow night will end his 16+ years as host of "The Daily Show," turning it from just another talk show into a cultural and political institution that for many of us was must-viewing. Stewart's take on the headlines of the day provided millions of people with fodder for how to think about important issues, and how the mainstream covers such stories ... and did so with rare humor and humanity.

    I've watched "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" pretty much every night for as long as I can remember. When I could not watch it at night, I always tried to catch up the next day ... simply because it was an indispensable part of my day.

    I'm going to miss him enormously. I'm sure Trevor Noah, who replaces Stewart next month, will bring his own perspectives and humor to the show, but even if he's great, he'll never be the same. Because even in the madness, Stewart always was capable of combining moral outrage with a moment of zen.

    I have often written in this space of the novels of Ace Atkins, who these days is turning out two high-class series - succeeding the great Robert B. Parker as author of the iconic Spenser novels, and writing his own series of Southern mysteries about a former US Ranger turned small town sheriff, Quinn Colson.

    "The Redeemers" is the latest of the Colson books, the fifth in what is turning into a classic series that places the elements of the western into the modern south of fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi. One of Atkins' great achievements has been his ability to breathe full-blown life into this community - you can smell the grit and feel the weather and practically taste the cigars and bourbon and home cooking that he describes with precise and evocative language. And the people ... Atkins hasn't just created a compelling hero in Colson, but a group of personalities that comes alive because of ripe characterizations that often emerge from a small movement or a simple phrase.

    In "The Redeemers," Colson has been voted out of office in favor of a lesser man, but like most heroes, his journey does not end just because people are telling him that his job is done. He's propelled by a moral sense of purpose, as a kind of modern Will Kane unwilling to step away from his greater responsibilities. Tibbehah County is in need of such a man, because of a deep corruption of the place that has taken place over decades, though it is clear that not everybody thinks the community needs to be cleaned up ... which means that Colson's enemies are not always the obvious ones. And sometimes the enemies who lurk in the shadows are the most dangerous.

    Most of all, "The Redeemers" is terrific ride, gathering momentum with every page as it moves to an inevitable and yet ambiguous conclusion. Read it ... it is great stuff.

    You can order "The Redeemers" here.

    Finally, let me offer an unqualified rave for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

    I am as surprised by this as anyone. Longtime MNB readers will know that I've never gotten over the first Mission: Impossible movie, which I thought showed utter disrespect for the original TV series, which I loved, and put its fixation on Tom Cruise above any sense of what the series was all about. I didn't love the second one, and thought the third one was only marginally better.

    But the fourth one, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was a blast ... in part because it restored a sense of humor to the proceedings, and in part because director Brad Bird understood that one of the things that made M:I work was a sense of teamwork ... and he gave it a surprising amount of actual humanity which made us care about the characters.

    And now, against all odds, Rogue Nation has done it again, as director/writer Christopher McQuarrie has fashioned a thriller with heart, complete with the fabulous set pieces that always have typified the series. (Like Cruise hanging off the side of a plane, or engaged in an underwater sequence that is quite literally breathtaking.) And while Cruise remains entirely committed to doing his own death-defying stunts, there even is a little "I'm getting too old for this stuff" vibe creeping in ... which makes him oddly more appealing, not less.

    Go figure. Five movies in, this series just gets better and better. And I'm even looking forward to the sixth.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 5, 2015

    Today marks the end of my summer adjunctivity at Portland State University's Center for Retail Leadership, where Tom Gillpatrick has been kind enough to let me share the teaching duties with him this summer, as he has in three previous summers. I've said it before and I'll say it again - these weeks in Portland are consistently among the happiest of my professional life, and I love the hours I've spent in the classroom.

    Tomorrow I start the drive back to Connecticut. Hence, the reason for this note...

    I'm not exactly sure how long the drive will take, but I'm going to put MNB on hiatus for a few days until I get back home. I'll post pictures from time to time on Facebook if you want to track our progress, and I'll keep an eye on the news and will file reports and commentary if events warrant it. But I think we'll get back faster and safer if I focus on the traveling and not the writing ... and, as I say, I'll let you know when I'm back by posting MNB.

    Thanks for your patience ... and I'll see you soon.

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: