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    Published on: June 25, 2021

    ChaseDesign, which describes itself as a "human-centered design agency," is out with a study suggesting that while "about 50% of grocery shoppers began buying online and picking up in store during the pandemic … only half of those customers will continue this behavior in the future."

    The survey reflects that at least in part, people's resistance to BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store) may be a function of how some retailers delivered the service.

    According to the survey results, "shoppers want to be in control - 54% prefer to pick items out in person and 40% want the experience of shopping in a physical store. These customers also encountered a degree of frustration with the BOPIS experience, citing product availability, quality, items missing from order and wait times as the leading challenges they faced."

    In addition, the ChaseDesign survey says that "when shoppers buy products online for pick up at store or delivery to home, shoppers tend to avoid some of the most profitable categories due to concerns over freshness and selection. Nearly half BOPIS shoppers won’t buy meat / seafood, about 40% avoid dairy, produce and frozen products, about 35% won’t order deli or bakery and 31% get t heir healthcare/personal care items through another channel."

    Joe Lampertius, president at ChaseDesign, says that "retailers devoted most of their resources during the last 15 months on accommodating shoppers who wanted to avoid the store for safety reasons by upgrading their digital presence and installing new systems for store pickup and delivery. As those shoppers return to physical stores in droves, and as restaurants start competing for more of the food dollar,  successful retailers will turn their attention to making their real estate more engaging than ever before."

    KC's View:

    That's an important distinction, I think -  successful retailers will make their stores more engaging, but there will be a bunch of stores that will go back to business-as-usual, not understanding or appreciating the degree to which shoppers have changed in the past 18 months.

    I would also argue that successful retailers - you know, the ones that want to be relevant - will also improve their BOPIS offerings, taking the time to make them more customer-centric.  They'll look to expand their online offerings.  They'll do things like offer automatic replenishment.  And they'll recalibrate their stores so that they are exciting and ambitious when it comes to selling the things for which coming to the store makes a difference, and find new ways to sell products for which the store does not really matter.

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    CNBC has an interview with Marc Lore, who has created several e-commerce companies and most recently ran Walmart's US e-commerce  business, in which he saw a "hot market for direct-to-consumer retailers such as Warby Parker and Allbirds, which offer something special that mass merchants such as Walmart are having a hard time replicating."

    The comments came as Warby Parker filed for an IPO.

    “Their products resonate with customers — a certain demographic — that are difficult for big mass merchants to replicate,” Lore told CNBC, adding, "“Those companies will continue to grow and get bigger, and it’s difficult for mass retailers to replicate those types of brands inside … it’d be really tough for those brands to have a real soul.”

    Lore went on:  "Something that really makes those brands special, like Warby Parker, is that connection to the customer. ... Things that really resonate with millennial, Gen Z-type customers, you just can’t create that from scratch, from a mass merchant. It’s not authentic."

    KC's View:

    So the secret sauce for success includes soul and authenticity.

    Go figure.  Doesn't sound so hard.

    Except that, as we all know, it really is.

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    Bloomberg reports that Uber has "added a disclosure to its food delivery app saying menu item prices may be higher than those charged by restaurants, bowing to pressure from attorneys general."

    However, the disclaimer will only be seen by shoppers in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., where attorneys general have been pushing Uber for greater pricing transparency.

    The story says that "the move comes amid growing frustration from consumers rankled by high fees by Uber and other food-delivery companies like DoorDash Inc. and Grubhub. Companies have also faced mounting scrutiny from lawmakers for charging commissions that can reach as much as 30% of an order, squeezing small businesses’ already razor-thin margins."

    KC's View:

    Y'know what I don't understand?

    If that disclaimer makes the company more transparent, what is the rationale for not including it in states where Uber is not being pressured by regulators?  Doesn't the selective disclosure of pricing realities actually argue that Uber doesn't really want to be transparent, and only is doing so under duress?

    Actually, I absolutely understand what Uber is doing.  And it doesn't fill me with admiration.

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that, as expected, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has voted to put considerable resources against unionization efforts at Amazon facilities around the country.

    According to the story, "Roughly 99% of more than 1,500 delegates from the Teamsters, which represents more than one million employees across North America that include package delivery, warehouse and trucking workers, voted in favor of the resolution during the union’s 30th annual convention hosted online.

    "The resolution, titled 'Building Worker Power at Amazon,' stipulates that the union would 'supply all resources necessary' and eventually create a special division to organize workers at the company."

    The Journal notes that "Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment on the resolution. In the past, the company has said that a union is unnecessary because its workers already receive the pay and benefits that a union would bargain for. It has also said it works hard to listen to its workers and make improvements."

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    •  Online grocer Farmstead said this week that it is now live in the Miami area, delivering "to addresses throughout Miami-Dade county, and to destinations as far north as Boynton Beach and as far south as Key Largo."

    Farmstead argues that it "stands out from other offerings by leveraging proprietary AI technology and a dark store model - delivery-centric warehouses that generally serve a 50-mile radius - to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. As a result, Farmstead offers prices comparable to or lower than most supermarkets, but with free delivery to doorstep."

    • From TechCrunch:

    "Facebook is making it even easier to buy stuff while you scroll past photos of your high school lab partner’s dog. Yes, Instagram Shops and Facebook Marketplace are already displayed prominently on the apps’ bottom navigation tabs. But now, you can shop on WhatsApp too, along with other updates."

    CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced three e-commerce updates that are coming to Facebook products: Shops on WhatsApp and Marketplace, Shops Ads and Instagram Visual Search, saying, "A lot of shopping discovery begins with visual discovery, right, so you see something that you think is awesome. And then, you know, maybe you want to see other products that are like that, or you want to figure out how to get that product.  And this is the type of problem that AI can really help out with."

    •  The BBC reports that in the UK, "Amazon and Google are under investigation over concerns fake five star reviews on their websites could be misleading shoppers.

    "The Competition and Markets Authority is also worried that 'law-abiding businesses' who sell over Amazon and Google may be losing out to firms using false recommendations.

    "Amazon and Google could face court action for breaking consumer law.  Both firms say they have resources and policies in place to stop fake reviews."

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    •  The US Department of Labor yesterday announced that new jobless claims during the prior week were 411,000, higher than the 380,000 that had been anticipated and lower than the upwardly revised 418,000 the previous week.

    Bloomberg writes that "jobless claims are still above their pandemic-era low of 375,000 and the 2019 average of just over 200,000 new claims per week. The previous week's unexpected increase in new jobless claims had ended a six-week streak of improvements in initial filings. But overall, initial filings have been unambiguously on the decline, with broader business reopenings from New York to Los Angeles helping stoke economic activity and demand for labor."

    •  Amazon-owned Whole Foods has announced that beginning this week, it "will give away weekly prizes when weekend rain hits at least half of the continental US … The Rainy-Day Redo giveaway series will leverage the expertise of meteorologist Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel. Whole Foods Market will share Abrams’ weekly weather call on Instagram at noon ET every Monday from June 21 through Aug. 9. If the previous weekend was deemed a rainout in at least 50% of the country, a limited number of Rainy-Day Redo packages will be available."

    According to the announcement, "Prize packages will feature a variety of summer-themed items – from beach and grilling gear to tasty 365 by Whole Foods Market snacks – as well as coupons for summer essentials like ice cream or fresh fruit. Prizes will be available on a first come, first served basis, while supplies last."

    •  Sales and marketing company Acosta said yesterday that it is acquiring Impact Group, described as "a dynamic sales and marketing agency with a national presence and local market expertise in natural, specialty, ethnic and emerging brands."

    The announcement says that "Acosta and Impact Group provide highly complementary services, and this strategic move will expand service offerings and open new channel opportunities for clients of both companies. Acosta will provide local market proficiency and a distribution solution that gives emerging brands access to the shelves of major retail chains and enables smaller brands to thrive."

    Terms of the deal, expected to close next month, were not disclosed.

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    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…

    •  Here are the US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  34,464,956 total cases … 618,685 deaths … and 28,871,914 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  180,833,446 cases … 3,917,623 fatalities … and 165,465,939 reported recoveries.    (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 65.7 percent of the US population age 18 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, and that 56.2 percent is fully vaccinated.

    • Axios reports that "the World Health Organization anticipates vulnerable populations will need to get an annual COVID-19 booster shot to be protected against variants, while the general population may need one every two years.

    The WHO also "forecasts that the need for boosters in wealthier countries could push poorer nations, which have barely received any vaccine, to the back of the line and further widen the gap of vaccine inequality."

    The CDC isn't yet going that far, Axios writes, saying this week that "the vulnerable, like the elderly and transplant recipients, might need annual boosters but there was yet not enough evidence to support the need for boosters for the general population."

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    The discussion about Victoria's Secret's new board composition (seven women, one man) and new approach to marketing (the "angels" are no more, replaced by a number of high profile and accomplished women), continues to generate email … especially in reaction to the MNB reader who wrote in the other day that one of those women, Megan Rapinoe, was "humorless and brittle" and that "there is no poll anywhere in the world, not even from the fake media, that backs up the idea the general public is anywhere close to embracing this anti-human nature woke horse&*@#."

    I pointed out that it wasn't like Victoria's Secret was a thriving brand in recent years - it was desperately in need of a new direction and new customers.  And, I wrote that this particular reader…

    seems to have a problem with Megan Rapinoe (who I find to be a breath of fresh air), among other things and people … and has real chip on his shoulder, which he verbalizes in terms that I think are hardly uplifting.

    I sometimes struggle with whether or not I should post emails like this.

    On the one hand, I believe in the Brandeis principle, which is that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    But on the other hand, sometimes sunlight allows certain things to grow, like weeds and poison ivy and hemlock.

    One MNB reader took issue with me:

    We are soooooo far apart on this issue !!!

    Megan Rapinoe kneels for America’s national anthem but wants lots of Money to do ads here in America to enrich her personal wealth !!!

    Did she Share her big Subway paycheck with the “man with burger,” “man with phone,” or “man next to man with phone?” NOPE !!! What a Hypocrite !!!

    Let me be perfectly CLEAR I would NEVER EVER Buy ANYTHING  Megan Rapinoe was associated with!

    I think I'll mark  you down as "undecided."

    I'm a little confused by one part of your email.  (Not the kneeling during the National Anthem part.  You're clear on that one.)

    But what is the thing about sharing her paycheck?  I'm not exactly sure what you expect her to do that, I'm guessing, no other paid (male?) spokesperson would do.  While she may have certain beliefs with which you may or may not agree, is that to say she doesn't have the right to earn a living?  (Of course, it is sort of ironic to bring this up in connection to Rapinoe, since she was part of a lawsuit brought against the US Soccer Federation accusing it of discriminating against women because they aren't paid the same as men.  That's something that she is associated with that I am absolutely, positively willing to buy into.)

    From another reader:

    Regarding your VS reader's comment. Although it may be a “tad” to the right, I think it is important to show various POV’s since the left is controlling the vast majority of news these days.  The direction of the company to reach out to a broader base is a good choice.  However, it is my opinion, that they don’t need to go less sexy, they need to figure out how to appeal to the base that wants to be more sexy.  It will be interesting to see where this goes.  But from my male standpoint, angels are good.  On a side note, anyone take note of the latest H&M commercials?  I changed the channel. 

    One MNB reader responded:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve written in, but I always enjoy reading the “Your Views” section of MNB because your readers often offer additional insight to previous articles that you’ve reported and it’s generally very interesting. I’ve noticed that since the pandemic more and more of the views are turning… aggressive. I appreciate your response to the truly vile response from the sexist transphobe who seems to have a bone to pick with Victoria’s Secret. I’m of the opinion that while I may not agree with everyone who writes into your newsletter, I can’t see any point in giving a voice to those who choose to be as nasty as that last guy was.

    And as a woman who shopped at VS in her late teens/early 20s, the brand started to become frustrating by pushing “bigger cup sizes = sexy” when I could get a better fitting bra from a dozen other retailers who didn’t tell me that I was actually 2 cup sizes bigger than my actual body size. Hopefully a refresh in the board of directors at VS will lead to some better sizing and marketing towards their intended audience.

    Interesting you bring up the fact that the tone of some emails has become more "aggressive."  I got a similar note from another reader:

    MNB, like the rest of the media landscape, has definitely had an uptick in the amount of folks writing in to holler about liberals and fake news media and etc etc. Or maybe you're just publishing more of those letters?

    I am generally happy in my leftie bubble but I do appreciate that you will run letters from people with differing views than mine, but this last letter you ran was just… I don’t know. I don’t need to add more white guy rants into my morning routine. This was so incredibly insensitive, offensive and… just stupid. Obviously he (and there is just about zero doubt that this person is a he, and I will bet that he’s also white but I do live to be proven wrong) has an issue with women, with successful women like Megan Rapinoe specifically, with trans people, with people who aren’t skinny model types catering to his every whim. I have to imagine the insane amount of jealousy he feels at the fact that there’s strong successful women like Rapinoe out there, and hoo boy he sure doesn't like that she doesn’t even like men!! He’s so triggered! And it would almost be funny but it’s honestly just sad.

    Her claim to fame is actually leading the US women’s soccer team to TWO world cups but somehow even that gets denigrated to some weird metaphor that doesn’t make sense. What is a Luxury Whine?? And no doubt he’s got a “first wife.” I bet he even has a “third wife,” or more likely no wife at all. Did a lesbian soccer player break your heart, boo? How many world cups have you led your team to win? 

    How about we ask this guy to send in a photo of himself.  My guess? He’s an aging pot belly who maybe once was very close to getting on the varsity football team but didn’t make it. Let’s all have a look so we can be as judgmental and hateful as he is. What do you say?

    I love MNB and I love that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there and if this is what you’re publishing I shudder to think what letters you’re getting that you’re NOT publishing. I think I’m just finally at a breaking point trying to figure out what people like this guy think their opinions are adding to the world. Fat women aren't going anywhere. Lesbian superstar soccer players aren't going anywhere. Transgender people aren't going anywhere! How about let's just learn that what someone else does with their life is ok. I think the phrase is "you do you."  None of the above things are going to hurt you, babe.  

    ps. Writing this was just catharsis for me, but I also want you to know that you have readers who aren't insane. Despite some of what I wrote … which I admit, is mean. 

    We all need a little catharsis from time to time.  I hope you got it out of your system … I'm not sure it is constructive in terms of dialogue, though.  

    I do think that the polarization that is playing out in the national dialogue is finding it way into the conversation here on MNB.  That's too bad, but I think I'd rather have people talking (admittedly, moderated and curated by me) than not.

    I don't think I'm posting more of these emails on purpose.  There just may be more of these emails.  (And you don't really want to see the ones I don't post.  Trust me.)

    From another reader:

    Regarding the "charged up" individuals with their collective panties in a twist about Vickie's--These are just more old, white guys trying to exercise their opinions and will on the female body. Cue the collective female eye roll. (Yes, including myself, a 30yo millennial woman.)

    Have they shopped in a VS lately?? Do they even have women in their life who would shop there?? The products VS currently sells are not sexy, they're laughable. Tell me what the heck a "micro strappy open back cheeky panty" is or how to even get into a "Very Sexy banded logo shine strap teddy" ($119.50--for something with no discernible fabric!) or why on earth any woman wants her breasts pushed up to her neck. Surprise--women want to be comfortable AND sexy. Victoria's Secret has not offered that in a very long time... or perhaps ever.

    Getting more women--who understand WHAT WOMEN WANT--with leadership and influence within the company and becoming more inclusive and approachable externally can be nothing but positive for VS (note I only said "positive" not necessarily "successful").

    Thanks for all you do, KC!

    Your email made me think about the old saw that if men got pregnant, there's be no discussion in this country about abortion, birth control, parental leave, child care and all the other so-called "women's issues" that really aren't women's issues at all.  This Victoria's Secret conversation might take a different tone if men had to buy and wear all this (apparently) over-priced, uncomfortable crap just because that's what some female marketer decided was "attractive."  (Y'think stiletto heels would be a thing if men had to wear them?)

    And from another reader:

    My jaw is on the floor after reading the ‘Your Views’ section today on Victoria’s Secret.

    I feel so sad for the person that wrote that for the amount of hate and shame they must be holding on to from a clearly non-empathetic and misogynistic upbringing.

    Just WOW.

    Thank you for sharing, it’s important to remember there’s still a long way to go for a LOT of people.

    Yup.  That's true.

    And from yet another reader:

    I'm raising two preteen boys right now, and the (very) good news is that they and their friends have a much more generous, loving, and open minded attitude about women, beauty, and sexuality than this neanderthal. Thank God.  That kind of old school thinking is exactly why Victoria's Secret and the commenter need to rethink their narrow world view - it's hurtful, regressive, and condemns the speaker far more than the targets he aims for.

    I hope your sons realize how lucky they are.  If they don't, they will.

    And MNB reader Steven ritchey chimed in:

    I've only been in a Victoria's Secret store a few times, both were with my girlfriend as she looked for "things" for her daughter.  To quote Robert B. Parker, "I stuck out like a moose at a gazelle convention."

    That being said, I applaud their efforts to turn the company's fortunes around.

    There's also a few things I would remind the writer of the scathing comment, and may I say somewhat crude comments.

    Yes, sex is fun, and it should be for both parties involved.

    Finally, if a woman feels sexy and pretty, then she is.

    Maybe just maybe it is time to let the gender that actually wears these garments decide what looks sexy and pretty, and what they actually want to wear.  Maybe sales will go up.  Maybe they have some ideas Mr. Neanderthal hasn't thought of.

    Now to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

    Wow.  You got Robert B. Parker and  Forrest Gump into the same email.  Extra credit.

    We had a story yesterday about how, somewhat unexpectedly, supermarket sales are still are growing, even as restaurants are reopening.

    One MNB retailer observed:

    A couple thoughts on this.

    Loosening of restrictions came at the beginning of summer, so people are looking to get together more.

    Restaurants are not in full swing yet due to hard-to-find labor.

    The shut down hurt a lot of people financially.  People are tightening their belts some.

    You may now have more people like me, who actually prefer having people over verses gong out and spending $8 to $12 dollars for a glass of wine or $35 dollars for a steak, when I can get the same bottle for a little more and grill my own steak.

    I think people are more cautious with their spending due to the “in the back of your mind” fear of having less spendable income due to the looming tax increases.   So to me, not much of a surprise, more of directional indication.

    And, regarding the slow demise of conventional supermarkets, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

    I think it is important for your readers to understand that “conventional supermarkets” are more than just a physical asset or a format.  In fact, those are the shell in which “conventional thinking” (as you noted) lives…which is the real cause of death.  Conventional retailers think about making money on the buy-side, as well as the sell-side.  In fact, a lot of grocers would have to admit that the buy-side generates the bulk of their margins.  Things like slotting fees, promotional fees, new product introduction charges, off-invoice penalties, etc., etc., etc.  They spend countless hours and human resources trying to maximize these instead of focusing on innovation and the customer.  This is what kills conventional models.  It creates costs and aggravation throughout the supply chain, ultimately resulting in customer dissatisfaction.  That is partially why more people are shopping online…to access more for less aggravation.

    Once early in my retail career, I almost derailed it by telling a group of my company’s senior executives that "an entire generation of grocery executives would need to retire or expire before the industry became innovative”!  Yikes…that was nearly thirty years ago…maybe it has happened!

    From another reader:

    I couldn't agree more KC, you look at Stop and Shop, Shaw's, Hannaford, they all look basically the same as they did 10 years ago. Who will be the first to really shake things up format wise? However the exception to this being Market Basket, whose stores look like they did 40 years ago, just larger, minus the sawdust. Dairy being the first department you see as you walk in, not produce!

    But they're successful because they are perceived as being the lowest on price.

    MNB reader Dave Wendland wrote:

    I believe the future of retail – in particular grocery – will be based on three critical levers: technology, delivery, and omnipresent access. Your references to Seattle Microhub, Alibaba, and Sears underscore how shopper expectations are changing and smart retailers/service providers are stepping up to reinvent the playing field. We’re not talking about minor incremental changes (tweaks) to a broken system (e.g., Sears), but game-changing strides to “level up.”

    Got the following email from an MNB reader:

    I was quite surprised to hear it was Amazon Prime Day – and I didn’t find out till that evening when my wife mentioned it.  I didn’t receive any type of notification from Amazon letting me know Prime Day was coming, nor did I receive any notifications that day.  Granted, I’m not the primary account member (my wife is), but I am a family member under my wife’s account – and I receive many other emails from Amazon regarding new music, recently added tv shows and movies to stream, order information, etc.

    I’m a bit baffled as to why Amazon wouldn’t have promoted Prime Day more strongly.  (Although, I probably saved quite a bit of money by not knowing.)

    On another subject, from an MNB reader:

    Great article on Sears.  It is ironic that the columnist’s last name is “Lazarus”.  Unlike the namesake, Sears is not coming back from the dead.

    And from another reader:

    Sears, the company you could buy a house from.  They became irrelevant.  Down graded product quality.  Lack of service in the stores. They failed to make their stores an event.  It became a chore to go into Sears, not an enjoyment.  Then add in the e commerce piece and goodbye.  Maybe the lesson to staying alive is focusing on providing a pleasurable environment, good service, and quality items.  Then the e commerce piece won’t hurt as much. 

    On the subject of big retailers vs. small retailers, one MNB reader wrote:

    So Amazon and Walmart are at the top, with the exception of some very strong regional players, like Meijer, for one.  It's been a while since the last big supermarket merger, will we see one this year?  Could Amazon look at buying Albertsons?  Hard to say.  Can Stop and Shop and Shaw's figure out a way to slow Market Basket down, who is eating their lunch?  Does Kroger try to get into the Northeast by acquisition, and with Ocado do they really have to?  All food for thought, and it could be an interesting second half of the year!

    Responding to our commenting on the New York Times piece about Subway tuna fish sandwiches not having any tuna in them, MNB reader Dave Ahrens wrote:

    Really Kevin – letting Subway “off the hook” on a tuna fish story?

    Not at all.  I think it seems possible that Subway is being victimized by its tuna provider, but that's no excuse - I think it should be doing these kinds of tests long before the Times, and that every retailer ought to be responsible for everything it sells.

    Regarding my skepticism about bipartisan legislative and regulatory efforts to curb big tech companies being as nuanced and informed as it ought to be, MNB reader Joe Ciccarelli wrote:

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I’m a fan of free enterprise but when large powerful, dominant companies start behaving badly they bring this action on themselves. But at the end of the day the lobbyists will buy off (think mid-term elections) enough of representatives to either kill the legislation or save face with a “watered-down” bill which is basically a slap on the wrist.

    The other day we took note of a New York Post report on how an Atlanta Ikea store "sparked outrage with what employees are calling an intensely problematic menu curated to celebrate" Juneteenth - it promoted a special menu that included "fried chicken, watermelon, mac n cheese, potato salad, collard greens, candied yams.” 

    The Post noted that "the selection, including items that have historically been used to demean African-Americans through stereotyping, resulted in multiple employees calling out of work in protest."

    I commented:


    I'm going to choose to believe that ignorance is the problem here. Though ignorance is hardly a defense.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I suppose it is inevitable these days that the menu Ikea chose for their lunch is seen as racist but as one who grew up in the south it seems worthwhile to point out I have eaten that very menu on numerous occasions and particularly during summer holiday gatherings. Wish I’d been there to sample the fare.

    Sorry, but I think that - especially on Juneteenth - it was racist.  Maybe unintentionally so, but that's just as bad.

    I'm with the writer Ibram X. Kendi, who, if I understand him correctly, argues that it isn't enough to be anti-racism.  One has to be actively anti-racist.

    And finally, the other day I did a piece about Netflix enlisting Steven Spielberg on its side in the streaming wars, and quoted Sean Connery's Jimmy Malone from The Untouchables about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Speaking of Spielberg and bringing a knife to a gunfight….

    Extra credit.

    Published on: June 25, 2021

    When I watched In the Heights at home a couple of weeks ago - I'm still not quite ready to venture into a movie theatre - it was the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that I thought to myself, "Gee, I wonder if this would play better on the big screen."

    That said, I liked In The Heights, the film adaptation of the broadway musical that put Lin-Manuel Miranda on the map.  (You may have heard of him.  He went on to create little musical called "Hamilton.").  The movie tells the story of a small neighborhood in Washington heights, in northern Manhattan, weaving with song and dance a charming tale of a group of people whose families were originally from the Dominican Republic, and who now are seeking various ways of achieving better lives.

    But as much as it is about ambition, In The Heights is about the power of family and connection, and the essential promise of America - that it is a place where anything is possible.  The movie is largely and  irrepressibly sunny, but that is the message that Miranda wants to send.  Darkness passes, and love transcends.  Y'know, just like in a musical.

    The cast is wonderful, and the music and choreography energetic … but I must admit that when it was over, I thought it could've been about 20 minute shorter.  But, I really enjoyed it, and thought it was nice to see a community with which I am not that familiar portrayed onscreen.  We need more of that, I think.

    One other note.  My son, David, who lives in Chicago, did see In The Heights in a movie theatre.  He said that we saw it, he had two thoughts.  One was that he wished he could turn down the sound a bit.  The other was that if he'd been watching it at home, he could've hit 'pause' so he could use the bathroom.

    Just sayin'.

    "Lupin," the Netflix series produced in France that is a modern take on an early 20th century series of novels about a gentleman thief, is back for a second set of five episodes, and they are every bit as charming as the first five.  Omar Sy is all charisma as Assane Diop, the son of a Senegalese immigrant who is using techniques learned from the Lupin novels to avenge the murder of his father.  The series is noteworthy in its treatment of race - one of the reasons that Diop is so successful a thief is that his blackness makes him invisible to the upper class people from whom he steals.  But the message never is hit too hard, but rather lightly interwoven through the plot.

    "Lupin" is very clever in its construction, consistently putting its protagonist into corners and then finding ways to get him out of them with supreme confidence and composure.  Last year, "Lupin" was a surprise and enormous hit for Netflix, and there's no reason to think it won't happen again.  Plus, Paris looks great.

    One suggestion - watch "Lupin" in the original French and use subtitles.  it is far better than watching it with the dialogue dubbed into English.

    I have an excellent rosé to recommend to you this week - The Pale, which is a new wine from the originator of Whispering Angel.  The Pale is from Provence, is dry and refreshing, and is just a great summer wine.  It certainly is going into the rotation at our house.

    That's it for this week.

    I hope you have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    Stay safe.  Be healthy.