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    Published on: July 2, 2020

    And now, for something completely different…

    As we go into the holiday weekend, KC hangs out (virtually) with Aaron Meyer, the Portland, Oregon-based rock violinist who he talked about a few years ago on MNB as an example of competitive differentiation.  Aaron's business model has been upended by the pandemic, and so he's doing all his teaching online, which has required him to adapt his communication skills - something we've all had to do.  Plus, Aaron offers the MNB community a brief preview of a virtual concert that he's going to do next month to benefit musical education programs for underserved communities, a concert that has garnered considerable support in the Pacific Northwest food community.

    For more about Aaron's concert, "Harmony in the Vineyard," which will be streamed online on July 26, go to AaronMeyer.com.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "The jobless rate fell to 11.1% in June as the U.S. regained 4.8 million jobs, but a recent coronavirus spike could hamper the labor market’s recovery.

    "Job growth in June followed May’s payroll gain of 2.7 million and showed Americans are slowly getting back to work. But the U.S. labor market is operating with millions fewer jobs than in February, the month before the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. economy.

    "The jobless rate, down from 13.3% in May, is still well elevated at historically high levels compared to before the coronavirus drove the U.S. into a deep recession. Until March, the unemployment rate was hovering around a 50-year low of 3.5%."

    KC's View:

    Good news, but we need some perspective.  These are people going back to work, which is a good thing, but it is hard to know how spikes in infections, new closures, and continued uncertainty about the nation's health will impact businesses going forward.

    We have to remember - the economy cannot fully recover until Covid-19 has been dealt with, and that means a vaccine and/or a cure.  This has to be job one.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "the chief executives of Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee as it investigates their power over the digital marketplace."

    The hearing will take place sometime this month.

    The Journal writes that "lawmakers are working on a report that could include policy recommendations to address a perceived lack of competition or monopolistic behavior in technology markets. The report’s publication is expected to follow the CEO hearing, but it doesn’t appear likely Congress will pass a law on the matter this year."

    The story points out that "the testimony would be a first for Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who had previously agreed to testify.  The others—Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai—have all appeared before Congress in the past."

    KC's View:

    One word of caution to all these folks…

    Remember that coverage of the tobacco execs all getting up in front of Congress and swearing under oath that cigarettes weren't addictive?

    Don't let this happen to you.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    CNBC reports that Walgreens has opened some 30 small store formats - focusing more on pharmacy and less on the front of the store's HBC/GM selection - as part of a pilot program to see how they perform.

    The test has been code-named 'Cooper," a reference to the Mini Cooper.

    Some context from CNBC:

    "Walgreens is balancing its investment with cost-cutting efforts that have included layoffs and hundreds of store closures. Shares of Walgreens, which have a market value of $36.7 billion, are down 29% since the start of the year. The company’s drugstores initially saw a sales surge during the pandemic, as people stocked up on essentials and prescriptions, but that dropped off with stay-at-home orders.

    "Walgreens has turned some of its more than 9,200 U.S. stores into 'neighborhood health destinations' - a term it uses to describe locations with health care services along with a pharmacy. In some stores, it rents space to diagnostics company LabCorp, optical company For Eyes and weight loss company Jenny Craig. It has 14 locations that offer primary care through agreements with third-party companies, such as VillageMD. More than 230 of Walgreens’ stores have clinics run and staffed with a nurse practitioner from a health system."

    KC's View:

    Certainly a worthwhile test.

    When you think about it, one of the few things that can differentiate a drugstore is the pharmacist and the relationship that customers can form with that person - it can be a critical factor in the total healthcare equation.  (I'm told this.  Personally, I've never had a relationship with a pharmacist in my entire life.)

    The rest of the store can be just as easily delivered through e-commerce.

    Coupe's Rule # 12 of Post-Pandemic Retail Behavior:  Build on your strengths, reduce or eliminate your weaknesses.  Focus on the stuff that differentiates you, not the stuff that makes you the same.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Great story in the Wall Street Journal about an e-commerce mystery.

    Here's how the Journal sets it up:

    "John Smith started shopping early on a recent Wednesday and didn’t stop for days.

    "He visited an auto-supply site where he loaded his cart with a replacement turn-signal lever, emergency strobe light and two dozen other items. He hopped over to a home-goods merchant for another 10 items including wood picture frames, address plaques, a towel rack and mailbox. He ordered one of every kind of baby bundle, ranging from about $80 to nearly $500, from a site that sells infant sleeping boxes popular in places such as Finland.

    "When the roughly 48-hour spree was over, John Smith did what he always does.

    "He walked away without buying anything.

    "For more than a year, online merchants selling items ranging from kayaks to keychains have puzzled over the mystery shopper with the generic name behind thousands of abandoned carts. Each cart has only one item.

    "It is more than a nuisance. John Smith’s activity skews analytics that online merchants use to advertise and make other critical business decisions. The shopper also uses a bunch of bogus email addresses, and sellers get warned by their internet service providers for sending follow-up pitches to phantom customers."

    You can read the fascinating story here.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 2,780,152 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus … for the first time since the pandemic began, the Us saw more than 50,000 new cases in a single day.  The US now stands at 130,798 deaths and 1,164,794 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there are 10,829,468 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 519,397 fatalities and 6,048,749 reported recoveries.


    •  The Washington Post reports that "more than 800,000 new coronavirus cases were detected in the United States in June, many of them in Sun Belt states that were quick to reopen … California, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia all broke their previous single-day records for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, while Louisiana’s infection rates continued to rise … Arizona reported a record number of coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday as intensive care units approached 90 percent capacity."


    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday "ordered tougher restrictions on indoor activities for most of the state, marking a major step backward in the reopening and an attempt to slow an alarming rise of the coronavirus in 19 counties.

    "The governor took action to halt visits to indoor restaurants, bars, wineries and tasting rooms, entertainment centers, movie theaters, zoos, museums and card rooms for the next three weeks in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Sacramento counties and other regions hard hit by the virus."

    The fear is that July 4 weekend revelries could send the entire state, which responded early to the pandemic, into an infection tailspin.

    "The change signals a reversal in the state’s reopening that began in early May and quickly progressed by June 12 to allow retail stores, dine-in restaurants, bars, religious services, hair salons, gyms and other businesses to open again with modifications in counties that met state guidelines," the Times writes, adding, "The state applied the closures to counties that have been flagged for at least three consecutive days based on troubling longer-term data on key public health metrics, including hospitalizations, community transmission and hospital capacity."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that New York State officials, alarmed by spikes in coronavirus infections elsewhere in the country and concerned that all the hard work done in the state to flatter the curve could be undone, have decided to delay the start of indoor dining in New York City:

    "Gov. Andrew Cuomo said rising case counts in other states, insufficient compliance by the public with mask and social-distancing protocols and a lack of enforcement by local authorities were factors in postponing the return of indoor dining to New York City. The state has moved to limit the virus’s spread by requiring travelers from 16 other states with higher coronavirus prevalence and positive test rates to quarantine."

    At the same time, the Journal writes, "Michigan on Wednesday joined more states taking steps to limit crowds in bars. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed indoor service for bars and nightclubs in counties that had moved into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan."


    •  The Washington Post reports that "Pennsylvania has joined a growing list of states mandating that masks be worn in public.  On Wednesday, state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine signed an order requiring masks for anyone who leaves their home. The order, effectively immediately, includes limited exceptions.

    "The announcement comes the same day that Pennsylvania health officials reported 636 new cases of the novel coronavirus — its highest 24-hour surge since early June. Before Wednesday, Pennsylvania had seen a relatively low climb in daily cases compared with the nation’s hot spots."


    •  Kroger announced yesterday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted its Kroger Health division "Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit. The testing solution combines the safety and convenience of at-home sample collection with the expert guidance of a telehealth consultation to help improve the quality of the collection process.

    "Kroger Health’s COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit will be available to frontline associates across Kroger’s Family of Companies, based on medical need, beginning this week. In partnership with Gravity Diagnostics, a full-service clinical laboratory located in Covington, KY, Kroger Health plans to rapidly expand the availability of the home collection kits to other companies and organizations in the coming weeks, with a goal of processing up to 60,000 tests per week by the end of July."

    According to the company, "The home collection is performed under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional. The process is simple and is available at no cost to eligible patients who meet established clinical criteria for likely COVID-19 infection or exposure.

    "Patients will be provided access to a website where they will answer screening questions, input their organization’s benefit code and an individual code, like an employee ID, and complete a clinical assessment. If a patient qualifies, a healthcare professional will issue a prescription and the home collection kit is shipped to their home within 24-48 hours … Upon receipt of the home collection kit, a healthcare professional guides the home collection process via telehealth – a two-way video chat. The direct observation helps to ensure the proper technique is used for sample collection.

    "The patient will then overnight ship their sample to the laboratory for processing, which on average will take 24-48 hours."


    •  Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) said that it has given employees a second round of gift cards to its more than 15,000 employees as a way of thanking them for their "effort and dedication while serving our customers during this pandemic."  Full-time employees are receiving a $200 BGC gift card and part-time employees are receiving a $100 BGC gift card totaling $1.9 million, bringing to more than $17.5 million in rewards given to employees of the 180-store company.


    •  Axios reports that one of the casualties of the pandemic may be cash … because people have stopped using it - in part because they're going to physical stores less, and in part because of fears it could spread the coronavirus.

    It matters, Axios writes, because "the coronavirus may have changed our buying and payment habits forever. Online shopping is through the roof, and consumers are rushing to get 'contactless' credit and debit cards, which are tapped at a merchant terminal rather than inserted or swiped."

    It isn't necessarily good news:  "The acceleration of e-commerce and card payments at the expense of cash is convenient for consumers and good for banks, which reap fees on the transactions. But it can be bad for merchants, who pay those fees, and for low-income people who lack bank accounts."  And it can be particularly tough on those who survive on tips.


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald's "is pausing the reopening of dine-in service in the U.S. as coronavirus cases continue to spread across states.  The burger giant said Wednesday that it would wait three weeks before any new U.S. restaurants add dine-in service to its drive-through, takeout and delivery operations."


    •  Apple announced yesterday that it re-closing 30 stores this week -  in Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada and Oklahoma - because of concerns about local spikes in coronavirus infections.

    Apple said in a statement: “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”


    •  New York reports that Cirque du Soleil is seeking bankruptcy protection, laying off 3,480 employees, and looking for an entity to acquire it, as it deals with the fact that virtually all of its shows have been closed down since March because of the pandemic.

    The story says that "of their more than forty shows, only Cirque du Soleil’s The Land of Fantasy, which reopened in China on June 3, has been able to resume."

    Land of Fantasy?  Is that about the world before the coronavirus?

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    The Retail Feedback Group (RFG) is out with its 2020 U.S. Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study, spotlighting one surprising conclusion about online grocery shopping:

    "Walmart still registered the highest overall percentage of shoppers at 40% (showing a small increase from 37% in 2019) and Amazon decreased significantly from 29% to 14%. Instacart-fulfilled orders grew to 36%, up from 27% last year.

    'However, despite the pandemic surge, supermarket shoppers constitute the largest percentage indicating they plan to shop less for grocery items online in the coming year (20%), as compared to Walmart (16%) and Amazon (13%) shoppers."

    Some more results:

    •  "Overall, 50% of in-store supermarket shoppers in the last 30 days also ordered groceries online."

    •  "Not surprisingly, this is even more common with Gen Z (66%) and Millennials (61%), and to a lesser degree Gen X (52%), followed more distantly by Boomers (37%) and the Silent Generation (38%)."

    •  "It should also be noted that Gen Z shoppers registered the lowest overall satisfaction, on a five-point scale where five is highest, relative to the other generations, for both their online (4.22) and in-store (4.02) experiences."

    •   "While 38% of shoppers used one online grocery provider, 62% used two or more providers in the last three months, during the pandemic. This suggests many shoppers tried multiple services to see who could best meet their needs in terms of factors like product availability and pickup or delivery slots."

    KC's View:

    I think it is important to remember that this is not an either/or proposition.  People can still go to the store for certain kinds of items like fresh food, and use e-commerce for the things for which there is no advantage in physical shopping.  It is, quite literally, a mixed bag … and retailers that embrace this, aggressively marketing e-commerce services such as auto-replenishment, can use it to create stronger relationships with shoppers.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Fast Company reports that Brandless, which launched in 2017 as an e-commerce business designed to offer alternatives to national brands but then closed earlier this year, is back.

    The story says that it is "being acquired by two Utah-based companies: SEO marketing firm Ikonifi and VC firm Clarke Capital Partners.

    "The new owners have little experience with direct-to-consumer startups, and while they want the company to look the same to customers and offer the same products at the same low price point, behind the scenes, they plan to operate it much differently. Ryan Treft, Ikonifi’s founder and the new CEO of Brandless, hopes to run a leaner, more efficient operation that grows at a more sustainable pace. He will focus on profitability, rather than growth at all cost."

    The story says that "at its zenith, when Brandless had hundreds of millions of dollars from investors and a valuation of $500 million, it was growing quickly and had nearly 100 employees and 800 SKUs."   But the new owners' "expertise is in launching small, scrappy businesses that make money without a lot of capital or staff," and so things are going to change at Brandless.

    KC's View:

    It always seemed to me that this was a niche with possibilities … and I'm glad to see it get a second chance.  

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Ace Atkins, one of my favorite novelists, has a piece in Garden & Gun about the small resurgence of drive-in theaters around the country, which is tied to the fact that going back to traditional theaters seems relatively unpalatable while the pandemic rages around us.

    An excerpt:

    "I remember my first visit to a drive-in, back in the summer of ’86, in Alexander City, Alabama. The movie, Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield, was pretty terrible, but that didn’t matter. I sat in the humid night, lightning bugs flickering in the shadows, with two of my cousins at the same theater my mom frequented as a teenager in the 1950s. The lot was weedy, the screen was cracked, and the projector sometimes fluttered. But I had private seating, fresh air, and concessions were only a short walk away. Dangerfield never got more respect performing the Triple Lindy off the high dive."

    And, he adds:

    "The other day I was driving in my truck to where I work in the Oxford town square. The guest on NPR that afternoon was Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Osterholm was talking about how much he hated the phrase 'social distancing.'  He preferred 'physical distancing,' because now more than ever humans need to feel they are part of the community.

    "I couldn’t agree more."

    Other than the fact that I remember liking Back to School, I'm totally with Atkins on this … and the piece is a lovely bit of writing that you can read here.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    •  All About Ann Arbor has the story how "Refraction AI has partnered with the Produce Station in Ann Arbor to offer contactless grocery delivery with its autonomous robot … According to the robotics startup, the REV-1 delivery robot is able to hold about six paper bags of groceries at a time. The three-wheeled, battery-powered vehicle is about 100 pounds and moves at speeds of 10 to 15 mph."

    At the moment, free delivery is available to customers living within a three-mile radius of the Produce Station.

    According to the story, "In order to remain safe, the company disinfects its delivery robots between uses. Since March the autonomous restaurant delivery service has received three-to-four times as many orders for its restaurant service than it had prior to Michigan’s shelter-in-place restrictions, according to a statement from Refraction AI," which was founded by professors and roboticists at the University of Michigan.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Reuters reports that "Sears is exploring a sale of its home improvement business," looking to take advantage of a moment in which the pandemic and shelter-at-home orders have made it a "coveted asset."

    At least some of the interest is coming from private equity groups, the story says.

    Reuters writes that "the division is one of the department store operator's few crown jewels following its bankruptcy in 2018 and $5.2 billion sale to hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, who was already its biggest shareholder and creditor.

    Transformco, the owner of the Sears and Kmart retail chains, could raise at least $1 billion by divesting the home improvement business."

    In a line that is unintentionally funny, Reuters notes that Lampert has been "slimming down" Sears operations for years.  Which strikes me as both the understatement of the year and an inaccurate representation of what has been going on.  Sears isn't "slimmer" because of a tactical and strategic approach, but largely because of missteps and mismanagement by someone who doesn't seem to know anything about retailing.  The story points out that late last year, Sears was down to 182 stores … but later this year, when Sears permanently closes stores that were shuttered because of the pandemic, that store count could be down to as few as 65.


    •  CNBC has a story about how some real estate analysts are suggesting that Simon Property Group, the mall company, may want to acquire bankrupt retailer JC Penney.

    And, in fact, "Simon is considering teaming up with Brookfield Properties and Barneys New York parent company Authentic Brands Group to make a bid for J.C. Penney, a person familiar with the talks told CNBC."

    The logic seems to be that this would allow Simon to control all the JC Penney store locations, which would then allow it to "ultimately redevelop many of these in order to densify and introduce mixed use elements."

    Simon has a JC Penney store in 50 percent of its malls, the story says.


    •  The Associated Press reports that  French cosmetics giant L’Oreal said that it "will remove words like 'whitening' from its skin care products, a move that comes amid global protests against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States.  The company said in a statement Saturday that it 'has decided to remove the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products'."

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Responding to the story we referenced from The New Yorker about the dangers in and around dollar stores, one MNB reader wrote:

    As a 45 year veteran of the food industry at one time I made the mistake of working for one of the dollar store companies. Worst 18 months of my life. Only silver lining was good benefits as my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Without that insurance we would have been financially devastated. So the pain of not having a life for 18 months proved to be an investment with a return. Will recommend all to be cautious of where you go in spite of the perceived growth and profitability. Those in charge are only taking care of themselves.

    Wow.

    Reacting to another story, one MNB reader wrote:

    It will be interesting to see how Nordstrom adjusts their retail branding to align with new shopping habits caused by both Covid-19 related restrictions to physical stores AND on-line clothing brands.  Nordstrom permanently closed their store near me, which was in a mid-scale mall.  The store was never too busy to begin with, and I assume the low traffic was made up with high-quality, higher-margin items.  For me, buying in Nordstrom is experiential.  They offer great, personalized service and I can see and feel the quality for which they are asking me to pay a premium.  I wonder how this experience can be updated in a virtual shopping trip.

    Yesterday's FaceTime was about a restaurant that used to specialize in 12-course meals and molecular gastronomy, but had to pivot to a unique drive-through model - differentiated and yet maintaining its value proposition.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Excuse me? What’s the percentage of unemployed Americans? And this is a solution? C’mon . . . $100 a person? I wouldn’t even consider that in good times.

    First of all, the restaurant is in Ottawa, where the unemployment rate is in the 8-9 percent range … not good, better than in the US.

    Second of all … I'd pay $100 for a meal for a special occasion.   But it would have to be really special.

    I checked, by the way.  There is a McDonald's a half-mile away.  Personally, I like the idea of living in a world where both can exist in such close proximity.

    Finally, from MNB reader Brian Blank:

    Like you, I was saddened by the news of Carl Reiner’s passing, but was pleased that he lived (and contributed!) for so long.  Just a few days ago we finished up our start-to-finish viewing of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which remains funny to this day.  I also noted that references to Judaism (and even an entire episode revolving around Buddy having his Bar Mitzvah as an adult since he wasn’t able to as a 13 year old) came up in later seasons, which was rare, even unheard of, back in the day. I must say as well…his obituary has provided me with a list of movies I want to watch or re-watch.

    L'Chaim.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    Last night, at Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia, the Savannah Bananas defeated the Macon Bacon 8-0 in their first game of the season.

    KC's View:

    I only know about the Savannah Bananas because of MNB reader Peter Talbott, who alerted me yesterday to the season opener.  The Bananas are part of the Coastal Plain League, but because the minor league baseball season has been officially canceled because of the pandemic, they - along with the Lexington County Blowfish and the Macon Bacon - will play an abbreviated 2020 Southern Summer Ball Series that will end in a championship game in mid-August.

    You have to check out the Bananas - they're a fascinating franchise, using marketing moxie and a high degree of creativity and innovation to bring people to the ballpark (they're working on a sellout streak at the moment, apparently).  That's not happening this season, of course - there is reduced capacity at the ballpark, you have to wear a mask, and they're following local health guidelines.

    Now, I have to be honest here.  I'm not sure that this is a good idea, much as I admire their dedication and persistence.  It simply isn't safe to be congregating, even in an outdoor stadium, and I worry that there will be an outbreak among people going to these games.

    But, I must admit (with some degree of guilt) that my spirit lifts a bit at the crack of the bat … not to mention the whiff of a company willing to challenge the status quo.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    There is so little going on in world of government and politics these days that I found myself looking for a fix in fiction.  (Not really.  It was only after I'd watched this movie and read this book that I realized that they shared some themes.)

    Irresistible is the new Jon Stewart move that satirizes the world politics.  Steve Carell plays a Democratic campaign operative who, devastated by the results of the 2016 election, decides he is going to revive the party's fortunes by getting involved in a small-town Wisconsin mayoral race.  The lure is retired Marine Col. Jack Hastings, who he believes is "a church-going Bernie Sanders with better bone density," and who he believes can help redefine the party.

    But when Carell's character starts making waves in the small town election, the Republicans - not wanting to give an inch - send in their own operative, played by Rose Byrne.  From that point, the game is on … the movie is all about money and one-upmanship and about how politics ultimately is seen as a game by those who play it most ruthlessly.

    Irresistible doesn't have the sharp elbows of Stewart's years on "The Daily Show," isn't as accomplished as a Preston Sturges effort might've been, and not as deeply perceptive as might have been expected.  But I have to admit that I enjoyed it … there are enough laugh lines and insights to make the movie work.  In the end, when the plot takes turns that Stewart may have seen as being hopeful, I actually found the movie to be surprisingly cynical … and maybe it says more about me than Stewart, but that's when I found the movie to be at its best.

    One other note.  Since Irresistible was opening during the pandemic, when movie theaters were largely closed, it was available on streaming services for $19.95.  It is, in fact, a perfect streaming movie - not too expensive (certainly cheaper than going to a theater), and an easy hang on the sofa with a glass of wine.  Plus, after Mrs. Content Guy and I watched it, our kids watched it at different times - so it ended up being a bargain.

    The other fiction with which I engaged this week was "The Hellfire Club," a novel from a couple of years ago by CNN anchor Jake Tapper.  This political thriller follows freshman Congressman Charlie Marder as he navigates the ins and outs of American politics circa 1954 - Tapper shows off a bit with his knowledge of the Capitol and the times, but it is never less than fascinating.  While Marder is fictional, he bumps into all sorts of real-life characters - Richard Nixon, Roy Cohn, Estes Kefauver, Lyndon Johnson, and Jack, Robert and Jackie Kennedy.

    One can tell that Tapper is having a lot of fun when he shows us what like was like in 1954 - within the first few pages, a pregnant woman is shown drinking and smoking! - but I have to wonder if he is as deeply cynical about politics and power as the book implies.  I wonder if he has more adventures planned for Charlier Marder - it will be interesting to see how he views not just the character, but the milieu milieu in which he finds himself.

    Check out "The Hellfire Club."  Lots of fun.

    Published on: July 2, 2020

    In a normal year, this is when I would be telling you that I'm about to take a few weeks off … that I'll be spending the time in Portland, Oregon, and environs with Mrs. Content Guy, biking, hiking, wine tasting, beer drinking, jogging, reading, attending the Portland Waterfront Blues festival, and enjoying some great food … as well as team-teaching with Tom Gillpatrick our retail/CPG marketing class at Portland State University.

    In a normal year.

    Which this ain't.  So I'm not going anywhere.

    But … Starting as soon as I file this MNB, I am going to unplug for a bit, and will be back on Monday, July 13.  (If something major happens, as always, I'll return.)

    I'm hoping to get in some jogging and maybe some bike riding … I have a bunch of books to read … some chapters of a book to write … a few recipes I'd like to try … but generally, I'll be staying close to home and family and just recharging a bit.

    My goal is to do this a few more times this summer, but I'll be spreading the breaks out, unlike in past years.

    Between now and my return, the MNB archives will, of course, be open. And, I may post the occasional note or picture on Facebook or Instagram if the spirit moves me …

    Thanks…I hope you'll also get some time this summer to recharge your batteries.

    And, as always…

    Stay safe.  Stay healthy.