business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    A couple of kitchen-related stories grabbed my eye this morning...

    First, in the Wall Street Journal, there is a story about how "when it comes to designing the home kitchen, say data and industry pros, men increasingly wish to be heard. No wonder: According to a 2012 University of Michigan study of Americans born from 1961 to 1981, married and single men now cook more than their fathers did, an average of about eight meals a week ... The rise of foodie culture has made home-cooking more alluring to everyone, and the increase in dual-income families means more men are sharing KP duties."

    There's also a sense, the story says, that cooking has become more macho. Which I found sort of amusing, because it reminded me of a line from Robert B. Parker's "Promised Land," which was written in 1976 ... and in which the book's PI protagonist, Spenser, observes while making a meal that it isn't fair to call him a gourmet cook ... that a woman who made the same meal would be called a housewife." It is inherently sexist, he suggests...

    Meanwhile, I also became aware of the appearance the other night on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" of a young man who knows something about cooking - Jonah Reider, 21, who attends Columbia University. Reider was doing a lot of cooking in the room for his roommates and friends, who suggested that he could expand his horizons a bit.

    So he did. He started a restaurant called Pith, right in his room.

    The word spread. fast. Right now, he has a waiting list of 1,000 parties of four waiting to get a table in his room.

    Columbia reportedly isn't overjoyed. But Reider apparently is rethinking his sociology and economics double major.

    Somebody ought to hire him. Or fund him. Or something. (Colbert thinks he ought to sell his story to the movies.)

    Because this guy is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    Amazon yesterday released fourth quarter and end-of-year financial results that were impressive on a number of levels, though not impressive enough for many in the investor class.

    For the fourth quarter, the company said, net sales increased 22% to $35.7 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $29.3 billion in fourth quarter 2014 ... operating income increased 88% to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with operating income of $591 million in fourth quarter 2014 ... and net income was $482 million in the fourth quarter, compared with net income of $214 million in fourth quarter 2014.

    For the full year, net sales increased 20% to $107.0 billion, compared with $89.0 billion in 2014 ... operating income was $2.2 billion, compared with operating income of $178 million in 2014 ... and net income was $596 million, compared with net loss of $241 million in 2014.

    A prepared statement from CEO/founder Jeff Bezos said, in part: "Twenty years ago, I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping we might one day afford a forklift. This year, we pass $100 billion in annual sales and serve 300 million customers. And still, measured by the dynamism we see everywhere in the marketplace and by the ever-expanding opportunities we see to invent on behalf of customers, it feels every bit like Day 1."

    The New York Times reports this morning that "Amazon prompts strong emotions, and they were on full display Thursday — first a faith that the company will indeed measure up to outsize expectations to be the store that sells everything to everyone everywhere, then the sneaking fear that that might be a dream.

    "Analysts said the fourth-quarter numbers, momentarily disappointing as they might have been, did not dent the optimistic case."

    And the Times goes on to note that "Amazon might be the powerhouse of e-commerce, yet paradoxically has only a small share of the global market — which is one of the things feeding enthusiasm for it. For Amazon bulls, there are so many more worlds to conquer.

    "In data assembled before the fourth-quarter results were in, the research firm eMarketer said Amazon had $71.8 billion in e-commerce sales over the last 12 months, an increase of 5.6 percent from the previous 12 months. Walmart, by contrast, had revenue of $13.5 billion online during the period."
    KC's View:
    We know that there are people out there, and not just in the investor class, who are dubious about whether Amazon makes enough money to be a sustainable business model. The thing is, Amazon makes money ... but it also reinvests money constantly because it knows that reinvention and innovation are absolutely necessary if it is going to continue to grow and lead.

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Mrs. Green's, the New York-based natural and organic food store, plans to take another stab at the Chicago marketplace, opening the first of what it hopes will be six stores there just months after it closed the one store it had in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

    At the same time, Crain's Chicago Business reports that Whole Foods plans to open at least one of its "365" stores there - a smaller format that is said to be focused on lower prices and technology that will appeal to millennials.

    The Tribune writes that Mrs. Green's hopes that "a new downsized store — think mini-Whole Foods — will resonate with upscale suburbanites."

    "We're the anti-Mariano's," CEO Pat Brown tells the Tribune. "Mariano's are great stores. But sometimes you want convenience, you want to get to know the people you are buying your products from."

    The story notes that Brown was not at Mrs. Green's when it opened its first Chicago store. "It's very difficult to get a second chance," he tells the Tribune. "But we're going to get one here, and we've got to make sure that we do it right."

    Of course, Whole Foods has its own plans for a mini-Whole Foods store in Chicago.

    According to Crain's, "In the first known Chicago-area deal for a 365 by Whole Foods Market, the Austin, Texas-based chain leased 30,000 square feet in the new Evergreen Plaza Mall that is under construction in Evergreen Park just outside Chicago, according to people familiar with the deal ... The mall will be an early testing ground for the 365 brand, which Whole Foods unveiled last year to help combat its 'Whole Paycheck' nickname, a reference to the upscale chain's prices."
    KC's View:
    I like Pat Brown a lot, and respect everything he was able to do at companies like HEB and New Seasons. That's a strong pedigree, and not to be underestimated. But ... I'm just not sure that taking aim at Mariano's is the way to go, especially because it isn't hard to imagine that with new ownership by Kroger, Mariano's could get a lot more aggressive. And the potential of a bunch of "365" stores there could raise competitive temperatures a lot higher.

    It'll be tough to get traction in this environment. Pat Brown and his folks have their work cut out for them.

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    Just a week after opening its first store on Long Island, New York, and its fifth grocery store overall, Stew Leonard's said yesterday it has plans to open another store there, in East Meadow.

    The store is expected to open next year and will be in a renovated section of the East Meadow Mall.

    “We were thrilled with our store opening in Farmingdale, and it encouraged us to expand on Long Island,” Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive of the family-owned and -operated company, said in a statement.
    KC's View:
    I liked the Farmingdale store a lot, and think there is plenty of room on Long Island for more Stew Leonard's stores. The one thing you can count on, I think, is that Stew Leonard's won't make the Fairway mistake ... selling the company to financial types who will drive growth to the point where the company cannot manage it.

    They'll grow as appropriate, but they won't put the company at risk. Which is very smart.

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    CBS News reports that Minneapolis got the nation's first vegan butcher shop last week when The Herbivorous Butcher opened there, selling things like " vegan Italian sausage, kielbasa, porterhouse steak and many different vegan cheeses." The owners use "natural seasonings, sauces and other flavors to achieve the texture they seek," and the story notes that it had "customers lining up around the block on its opening day."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    Reuters reports that Walmart has been ordered "by a federal jury in New Hampshire to pay $31.22 million to a pharmacist who claimed she was fired because of her gender and in retaliation for complaining about safety conditions."

    The pharmacist, Maureen McPadden, says she was fired because she raised concerns about customers getting the wrong prescriptions because of inadequate staff training though the store said she was fired because she lost a key to the pharmacy. McPadden said that a male pharmacist lost a key but was not disciplined in this way.

    Walmart says it will ask the trial judge to either throw out the jury award or reduce the damages.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    "The X-Files" is back. They're planning a reboot of "24" (without Jack Bauer, alas). So can a reboot of the DeLorean be far behind?

    Apparently not.

    The Detroit Free Press reports that nostalgia enthusiasts can rejoice over the announcement by a Texas company that it plans to build replicas of the famed DeLorean automobile that made a splash back in the eighties, not least because one of them was turned into a time machine in the Back To The Future movies.

    As Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) puts it, "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

    According to the story, the DeLorean brand was acquired by an entrepreneur named Stephen Wynne who has made a living restoring and selling old DeLoreans. There were only 9,000 originally sold; Wynne plans to make 300 new ones, and will sell them for about $100,000 apiece.
    KC's View:
    If they can't manage the flux capacitor, maybe they can have a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor. And they certainly have to have a big circle around the 88-MPH mark on the speedometer.

    And maybe a little Huey Lewis & The News music programmed into the radio.

    This is a totally cool idea.

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    • The Seattle Times reports that "the International Franchise Association has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in its continuing fight against a part of Seattle’s $15 minimum-wage law the association says discriminates against franchise owners ... The group filed a lawsuit in 2014 against the city to block a provision in the minimum-wage ordinance that treats franchise owners the same as national companies, instead of as small, locally owned companies. The law requires enterprises with more than 500 employees to scale up to $15 per hour faster than companies with fewer than 500 workers ... Franchise owners have argued they operate like small businesses and don’t have the profit margins to absorb higher staff costs. So far, the courts have not bought that argument."

    • The Phoenix Business Journal reports that Starbucks has opened a military family store in Arizona, near Luke Air Force Base in Litchfield Park.

    According to the story, "The opening is part of a company initiative to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018, which Cliff Burrows, group president for U.S., Americas and Teavana at Starbucks, announced during his visit to Phoenix last year. The store is a partnership with Blue Star Families, and 'aims to connect with and support military members and their families as they transition from military to civilian life, and to create a local environment where veterans, reservists and military spouses feel welcomed and recognized'."

    The Arizona store is the 17th unit opened as part of the Starbucks initiative.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    • Sobeys Inc. announced that the president of its Quebec business, Claude Tessier, has left the company "to pursue another opportunity." He will be replaced on an interim basis by Simon Gagné, the company's Chief Human Resources Officer, while a search is conducted for a more permanent replacement.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    We've had a bunch of stories on MNB about cord-cutting consumers who are abandoning traditional media venues that have been disrupted by innovative ventures ... and I've speculated that it won't be long before we see Amazon or Netflix bidding for sporting events like the Super Bowl.

    One MNB user responded:

    This becomes all the more possible as cable cord cutting continues. I don't think I saw anything on your blog about Disney's latest warnings driven by ESPN's financial challenges. Their subscriber numbers are down significantly while they continue to pay more and more for sports content. Seems like a prime opportunity for some folks with deep pockets to push their way into the sports content game. 

    If Jeff Bezos is willing to buy the Washington Post, bidding for the Super Bowl seems like a no-brainer. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon...

    On another subject, from MNB reader Jay Theiler:

    I found the conclusion that young people are less interested in driving than previous generations fascinating.  While it may be true that there potentially is some less interest (I don’t know), I would argue that the drop in under 25 is also a major matter of economics.

    According to the latest "Life Delayed" report  from American Student Assistance, 62 percent of survey respondents said their student debt posed a hardship on their personal budget when combined with all other household spending. Specifically, 35 percent said they found it difficult to buy daily necessities because of their student loans; 52 percent said their debt affected their ability to make larger purchases such as a car; and 55 percent indicated that student loan debt affected their decision or ability to purchase a home.

    Maybe car manufacturers should look at partial student loan forgive-ness incentives in selling cars to those under 25?

    The level of student debt being carried by an entire generation may be one of the most potentially damaging influences on the economy for the foreseeable future.

    Regarding new raises announced for Walmart employees, one MNB user wrote:

    Wow, a 2% raise. Based on a worker working full time, 40 hours/week x’s 52 weeks = 2080 hours making $10/hour, going to $10.20/hour = $416.00 annually. Take 7% out for SSN, maybe 10% for Federal, and 5% for state, the net is somewhere around $325.00. On a weekly basis, that come to about $6.24. How generous of Walmart.

    I sense a level of sarcasm here.

    Responding to another story, one MNB user wrote:

    Interesting article about how 50% of Kroger shoppers still read and clip paper coupons. In the Sunday Oregonian, the #1 section  pulled out to read is the Fred Meyer grocery ad. They still use 5-6 gatefold coupons on the grocery side and the same number for GMD on the right side of the ad. Boomers and Gen X people still comprise a large part of the shoppers who still read newspapers and clip coupons. Don’t count us out yet, as there are still a lot of us out here.

    I know that when Fred Meyer puts a grocery related item on a newspaper coupon, the sales sometimes exceed 7-8 times turn sales. The printed coupon is also a great way to measure sales and ad markdowns versus an open ad. We all know the times are changing, but the printed ad and  print coupon are not dead yet and Kroger is smart enough to figure that out as part of their overall strategy to engage their diverse customer base.

    On the same subject, from MNB reader Rich Heiland:

    As one old print guy to another, your Kroger piece has me wondering when newspapers will take another hit vis-a-vis the death, decline or reduction in scale of print inserts.

    Regarding Walmart's store closure, one MNB user wrote:

    So, "Washington, DC, officials are feeling "enraged" by Walmart's decision to, as part of its plan to close more than 150 stores in the US, not open two stores in the city's poorest neighborhoods."

    Fifty years ago I was a pharmacist in a chain drug store located in a poor neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.  Our "shrink" (theft) was pretty bad.  [I don't think that store is still open as things are a lot worse there today.]

    Walmart is between a rock and a hard place.  If they raise prices in such neighborhood locations to cover this additional cost they get bad press.  If they decide not to do business there they get bad press.

    Whether the cause of this increased theft is lack of morals, poverty, drugs or something else it is what it is.  To ignore this politically incorrect reality reminds me of the fable "The Emperor has new clothes".

    Let's see if Wegmans chooses to fill that gap.  Neither Walmart or Wegmans is run by Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity.

    From another reader:

    Interesting comments from 'Time', as well as your comments regarding the coming Walmart closures. All of the points are true, but the headline might have better have been stated 'Long Term Implications of a Walmart Opening'.

    Cities and towns all across the United states willingly give up their way of life and quality of living for a cheap toaster every time Walmart comes to town.

    Every single town impacted by Walmart's closings and suddenly finds themselves without a local grocer, pharmacy, or general retailer chose to buy the cheap toaster and they are NOT victims. They rushed in, bought the cheap toaster, giggled with glee as they searched out the next bargain and so it goes. They shook their heads when 'Bill's Appliances' bolted the door thinking; that's a shame but Bill's prices on toasters were way too high. Were they? Maybe, maybe not.

    Sure, you can possibly make the argument that this would be an oversimplification.

    Yet, when it comes down to it, in many ways it is the reality. They picked the cheap toaster for the sake of the cheap toaster and failed to even consider the implication of the decision. 

    Now, we find angry Americans as a result of getting exactly what they asked for to begin with - a cheap toaster. Its easy to paint Walmart as the villain, just as the serpent with an apple.  They are not. They simply sell cheap toasters.

    The fact that our brains and wallets do not connect the dots when it comes to shopping the majority of the time, is as old as the lure serpent with an apple. Certainly these cities, towns and villages all across the country that are impacted provide for a lesson, but they are not victims that require pity. They just liked cheap toasters. 

    The reality of just how much we like cheap toasters and disregard the implications is the story of Walmart's rapid and vast expansion. The outcome remains the same, town after town, city after city, village after village. The lure of the cheap toaster has yet to lose any of its attraction. Now, throw a cheap flat screen TV into the mix and you can have customers in those cities, villages,  and towns hurting, injuring, or even killing another to get to it.

    Just because you got what you asked for does not a victim make. As with retailing throughout history, where there is a need, a retail will generally in time fill it. If they do not, the consumer generally migrates to where their needs can be met. Or, they scratch their heads and reminisce about how much they miss Bill.

    And another:

    So the summary of this article is “If Walmart had never come to town nothing would have changed.”  I think this is just way too simplistic.  Isn’t it just as likely that the local small businesses would have gone out of business themselves, because if Walmart could not make money in the market then the local small businesses could not either.  Also, if there is not a store in 50 miles I wonder if declining population is contributing to the situation which would also supports this point.  Please note there is nothing about all the money everyone saved while Walmart was there. Lastly, if there is demand and opportunity someone will open new stores.  I would also guess these areas would be strong and fervent supporters of free enterprise, which should apply to Walmart and its right to close stores.

    From MNB reader Richard Parsons:

    I think it is interesting that everyone is now mad at Walmart for closing stores and claiming it leaves communities unserved for their basic needs.  Why isn't anyone talking about the opportunity that creates for local businesses to step in and fill the need.  Especially in areas where local business was harmed, you would think there would be at least a few people who see this as a good thing and an opportunity for locally owned entrepreneurs to seize the moment and provide a needed service.

    And from another reader:

    While without question some of those Walmart shoppers found it absolutely necessary to “save the few dollars” by shopping at Walmart vs. their local merchants, I also believe others simply wanted to save the money at the expense of their local merchants where in many cases they have shopped for years and as is often the case of rural communities, knew the family business owners and perhaps were even friends.  As is often the case with Walmart when they move into new communities and practice predatory pricing to put independent business owners out of business, one would hope insight into what  “X” would look like if “Y” happens would prevent what is now happening. However, as we now live in a “what’s best for me society”, it’s both clear more situations like this will happen in the future and it makes it difficult to feel sorry for those people who made the shopping decision they did…Amazon, send in the drones!

    From another reader:

    It was said that in a number of markets that fresh produce and meat would not be available for sale after Wal-Mart closed.  That is a stretch since it suggests that fresh produce and meat were available at Wal-Mart.
    From MNB reader Bob Vereen:

    In some of the reports I’ve read, Walmart apparently opened stores in towns with population of 1,000 and maybe less or slightly more.   Those were dumb decisions to begin with, it seems to me—not enough population to support even a slimmed-down Walmart Express.  And how good would the existing competition have been?

    And from MNB reader Frank S. Klisanich:

    If the WMT closures creates unmet demand then some (courageous) entrepreneur will open up a store and serve the market.

    Walmart is not the villain .... the economics as they calculate them, don't justify one of their stores but you know this will be an opportunity for someone else.

    And from another MNB reader:

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about in Wal-Mart's announcement of closing a small % of their stores. Everyone failed to pick up the fact that they are ALSO opening several hundred stores in 2016.

    Every prudent retailer needs to “prune” from time to time.

    NOT every location can be kept forever. As you so often espouse- need to keep up with the times, and constantly review your business practices.

    They are simply being prudent in their decision making, and I give them credit for staying ahead of the game in that regard, much as I hate their competition to us.

    And another:

    I understand a community’s position, Walmart came in, local stores closed their doors because the community started shopping at Walmart, now Walmart leaves, OH NO! Now would be the time for the communities to come together and think of a solution. What if the town bought the Walmart property being closed and developed a co-op that worked as a delivery site for on line purchases of groceries, plus maybe local produce. Not sure how it work, but now would be the time to get creative with a solution. The Walmart door has closed, if the community truly wants a grocery store think of a solution that involves the whole community.

    And still another:

    I enjoy your website every day and appreciate your thoughtful commentary to news that is relevant to my industry.  Saw the article today on Walmart Closings Will Create Food Deserts, Underserved Markets and wanted to respond to your comments that “perhaps one ought to apply different profitability standards”.

    I used to run stores and then buy for a major food retailer in Chicago and we too would be accused of abandoning a community when we made the decision to close “food desert” stores.  However I wanted to share with you often-overlooked truth was that those stores were far, far less profitable (to the point of negative overall margin) due to significantly higher operating costs from:  much higher theft, much higher product damages, much higher maintenance costs due to facility damage, much higher payroll costs (due to more frequent absenteeism and higher security costs).  Successful businesses don’t usually close, so before community leaders accuse a retailer of cruelly leaving them underserved, maybe they should turn a mirror to ask what can they do in their own neighborhoods to allow a business to be successful?

    On another subject, from MNB reader Jim DeLuca:

    I just finished reading the update from the FMI mid winter which had a blurb about needing GMO foods to feed the upcoming billions of people followed by the GMO rice story to decrease greenhouse gases.

    Both of these stories sound great.  However it is not that straightforward.  Feeding the people can be done without GMOs according to the UN and changing a rice species may have unintended consequences.

    I have written before about my change in open mindedness about GMOs after reading Steven Druker's "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth" because of the real scary history of the GMO development and the apparent lack of oversight by appropriate agencies.

    Of course it is tough to imagine climate change raising the global temp so high by 2050 that we could all be at risk which would make the risk of altering the rice strain more reasonable.  I am no longer clear about what might be a bigger danger.

    From another reader:

    My first thought about the GMO rice that fights global warming was, “terrific!”  But my second thought was, “at what cost?” 

    As food gets more complicated, consumers, producers, and vendors will all have increasingly complex decisions to make that affect more than we probably realize.  As I read the description of SUSIBA2, I had two questions pop into my head.  If they are splicing a barley (which has gluten) gene into the rice, does this mean the rice is no longer gluten free?  And if the plant directs carbon toward the grain and leaves, increasing the starch level, will this rice be more detrimental to our diabetes epidemic?  I have even less scientific background than you, Kevin, so these questions may not even be relevant.  But I have to wonder what other questions we should be asking that we aren’t even aware of.

    It’s an eye opener for me -- the GMO labeling issue is about more than whether or not it’s a GMO; it’s also about labeling these GMOs for allergens, celiac, glycemic levels, environmental impact, and who knows what else.  To be honest, I really don’t think I’d be interested in buying tomatoes that had a label on them that says, “Allergens: fish.”

    We had a story the other day about Walmart Canada eliminating free single-use plastic bags, which prompted MNB reader Paul Gillis to write:

    I attended a World Series game between Toronto and Philadelphia in 1993.  First I was shocked to see how clean the city of Toronto was but I was absolutely amazed at the ballpark. 

    When patrons eat something in the stands, they take the wrappers, cups  or any other left over trash and pass it to the aisle.  There, ushers pick it up and dispose of it.  They don’t just toss it on the ground like they do in the US.  I have no doubt that the Wal-Mart initiative of getting folks to bring their own bags will be successful because Canadians have been trained their entire lives not to litter.

    Wow. I was at that World Series ... a friend of mine and I attended games one and two in Toronto, in which I have long described as the "best non-marriage-related weekend of my life." (That's an important qualification.)

    I agree with you about Toronto. It is much bigger now, but one of the world's great cities. (Though I do have a problem with the ballpark ... I was there on a gorgeous day last spring, and they kept the damned dome on. Which strikes me as a crime against humanity.)

    Finally, from another MNB user:

    Your mention of the UK’s “Serious Fraud Office” that cannot impose fines for serious fraud reminds me of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.  Who decides what is serious fraud as opposed to just really bad fraud?

    I'm thinking the Rev. Arthur Belling. Or the Black Knight.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2016

    Reed Farrel Coleman, the accomplished and soulful crime novelist who is best known for his Moe Prager series and recently taking on - and energizing - the Jesse Stone series that was begun by the late Robert. B. Parker, is out with the first of what we can only hope will be a new series of novels with a particularly compelling and flawed protagonist. "Where It Hurts" is out this week, and is wonderful.

    Gus Murphy is a former Long Island beat cop who has retired after the unexpected death of his son and unraveling of his marriage have pretty much destroyed his heart and soul. He works now as a shuttle driver for a Long Island airport hotel that has seen better days, occasionally working as house detective and bouncer in the hotel bar when necessary. He just wants to be left alone to live out his days, content to marinate in his own misery and loneliness.

    But when a thug who he had arrested back in the day comes to him for help in finding out why his own son was murdered, Murphy finds himself reluctantly drawn into the case. He has no interest in being a detective, but Murphy finds in the case the opportunity to make sense of what appear to be senseless circumstances, something he can't do with his own son's death.

    Coleman is a fabulous writer, and in this book, he paints a portrait of a Long Island far from the Hamptons of popular imagination - the neighborhoods he describes are flat and depressing places, the main road occupied by strip shopping centers and chain restaurants, and the people more like the kind Elmore Leonard used to write about than those of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In Murphy, he has a terrific protagonist who, I think, will be fun to watch grow and evolve over a series of books.

    "Where It Hurts" is a page-turner of a book that you should pick up, read, and then recommend to your friends. It is that good.

    Count me among the people who were thrilled with the announcement that "The X-Files" was coming back to television with a limited series of six episodes, produced by, written by and starring the same people who created the cult series back in the nineties.

    The first two episodes ran last week, and while they got mixed reviews in the media, I thought that they did precisely what they needed to do, and whetted my appetite for more. The premiere, I suppose, had a little more exposition than necessary, but then again, the show had been off the air for more than a decade, and certain things needed to be accounted for. The second episode was certainly better, in part because it could be more plot-driven, setting in motion events that I think will play out over the next four episodes ... and, if we're lucky, future iterations of the series.

    The whole thing hinges on the characters of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully and their unique perspectives on issues of truth and faith as reflected in their investigations into the paranormal. As always, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson infuse the characters with wit, wry sensibility, and in the end, utter devotion to each other. And that, as always, drives "The X-Files" narrative ... as I hope it will for many years to come.

    Had a beer last night that I've never had before - Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale on tap, which was absolutely delicious ... and went perfectly with an order of arancini (risotto balls) and one of the best barbecued chicken pizzas I've ever eaten at a place called The Parlor in Phoenix. Life is good.

    Finally ... a couple of weeks ago I did a piece in which I talked about challenging students in a class at the University of Florida in Gainesville - where they are using "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies" as a textbook - to write an essay about who would play them in a movie about their lives, and why.

    I do this a lot when I give talks about the book, but this time something unusual happened ... I got a bunch of emails from MNB readers asking who would play me in a movie about my life.

    To be honest,I had to give it some thought ... I'd generally asked the question, but never really answered it. In doing so, I asked my wife and kids who should play me ... and I have to admit that I love their answer.

    Martin Sheen.

    Now, I might've preferred someone a little younger (not Charlie Sheen), but I love this ... though, to be clear, when we make such choices it should be actors who represent an idealized version of ourselves. As much as I've always loved Sheen as an actor (from his Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now to his Jeb Bartlet in "The West Wing," still one of my all-time favorite TV series), I've also had enormous admiration for a level of faith and social commitment that we do not share, and that I think make him a better man than I am.

    These qualities come together in one of his recent movies, The Way, written and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez, about a grieving father who unexpectedly finds himself walking the El Camino de Santiago. (Wonderful movie ... I recommend it highly.)

    Of course, my son didn't think about all that stuff when he said Martin Sheen should play me in the movie of my life. He just said we have the same hair.

    Go figure.

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

    KC's View: