business news in context, analysis with attitude

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was and am a huge Tim Russert fan, and was saddened by his death last week. Even so, I have had a few moments during the past seven days, especially as I’ve read about his wake and funeral from some distance while in Munich on business, when I wondered about the attention paid to Russert on the networks. Too much? Too self-referential? Maybe, and I wondered if perhaps a line was being crossed – from love and respect, not crass exploitation, but a line nonetheless.

But on second thought, maybe not. Maybe all the attention paid to Russert’s death actually is a learning moment for the rest of us. About the importance of family and friendships. About priorities. About authenticity. About the importance of finding one’s own voice and using it for good effect.

There was a presentation here at the CIES World Food Business Summit in Munich by Caroline Sami, who has a company called ID:OLOGY that says that its goal and mission is “to awaken the best in the human spirit.” It was hard to figure out how to write about Sami’s talk because to try to boil it down to a hundred words or so would make it sound less profound than it was.

But one of her central tenets was the importance – no matter what one does for a living – of finding your own voice and using it effectively. And while she never mentioned Russert – the audience, with very few Americans, probably wouldn’t have known him – it occurred to me that this is precisely who she was talking about. And one of the things we learned during the last week was how that voice resonated to an extent that few people would have predicted.

Extraordinary.

I’ll tell you one other thing, and I say this is as a dad. Tim Russert had a lot of accomplishments, but there is nothing more impressive about his life than his son, Luke Russert, who demonstrated over the last week a level of grace and poise and eloquence and love for his old man that was breathtaking.




Want more evidence that the world is changing? There was a story in USA Today recently noting that Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles between November 2007 and April 2008 than they did during the same six months a year earlier. That puts the miles driven by Americans during that six months at 2005 levels…when, extraordinarily enough, there were eight million fewer people in the US.

If you don't think this trend is going to continue, then I think you are sadly mistaken.

And here’s how you can tell a person’s mindset. Some people will say that the situation will “worsen,” meaning that people will continue to drive less and less. And some people will say that the situation is getting “better,” meaning that people are using less and less of a finite resource.

Count me among the latter. And to make things even better, my wife and kids got me a bicycle for Father’s Day.




Another sign of the coming apocalypse.

The Washington Post reported the other day on the decline of the sentence. The problem is that young people, used to writing emails and sending text messages, are taking shortcuts that eliminate verbs and vowels. This creates, according to some experts, a kind of “creeping inarticulateness” and assaults the “basic component of human communication – the sentence” and, eventually, storytelling itself.

The Post writes:

“The sentence itself is a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Something happens in a sentence. Without subjects, there are no heroes or villains. Without verbs, there is no action. Without objects, nothing is moved, changed, destroyed or created. Plus, simple sentences clarify complex situations. (‘Jesus wept.’)

“Since its invention centuries ago, the sentence has brought order to chaos. It's the handle on the pitcher, a tonic chord in music, a stair step chiseled in a mountainside.

To combat writer's block, Ernest Hemingway advised: ‘All you have to do is write one true sentence . . . and then go on from there’.”

Agreed. People don’t know how to write anymore. Don't take pleasure in a well-crafted sentence.

Here’s a radical notion. Companies ought to invest serious money in making sure that all of their employees are literate. The ability to communicate, to write a simple declarative sentence, ought to be a prerequisite for getting a job, or at least keeping one.

This may sound silly. But imagine how an improved ability to communicate could revolutionize an organization, from the top down. The bottom up. It could be spectacular.

And could stave off the coming apocalypse.




Let me be clear about this. I have no problem with extra bag fees by airlines. And I have no problem with them enforcing carry-on rules more strictly. The airlines have significant business issues, and it probably is better for all of us if they stay in business.

But they start charging for water bottles – especially when you’re not allowed to carry liquids through security – and I’m going to have a little problem.

That just strikes me as being a line they don't want to cross.




By the way, I’m intrigued that even as the airlines announce all sorts of cutbacks, this story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“United Airlines is giving some passengers the option of plugging their iPod or iPhone into their seat's entertainment console to watch videos on their personal 15.4-inch screen - and all while the device charges.”

That’s smart. It is a way of making the airplane more user-friendly at a time when other cutbacks threaten to alienate consumers.

Just one problem. They are reserving the service for first class and business class travelers. Which at a time when prices are going through the roof, seems a little insulting to those of us who spend a massive amount of time on airplanes but do so in coach, because that’s what the budget will bear.




Right now, plan on seeing the new Michael Mann movie, “Public Enemies,” which stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the FBI man, Melvin Purvis, who hunted him. The movie doesn’t come out until next summer, but they’ve been shooting in Chicago…and there is at least one scene that features a gifted young actor named David Coupe in a small non-speaking role.

I’ve seen some stills from the set, and I couldn’t be prouder.




I had a really yummy white wine the other night. (In most wine reviews, they use words like “bouquet,” “tannins,” “acidity” and “balance.” On MNB, you get “yummy.” Mostly because I don't completely understand what those other words mean, but partly because I think “yummy” is more descriptive. But I digress…)

The Four Graces 2006 Pinot Blanc from Oregon is unbelievably good – so much so that when we finished that first bottle I went out and bought a bunch more. My wine guys, the estimable Nicholas Roberts Ltd., say the following about it: “Opening with aromas of nectarine and lush white peach, with a hint of pineapple, it’s visually vibrant with a charming light straw color and tint of pale green. The palate is soft and creamy with a bold mineral-laden finish that is perfectly balanced with fresh, crisp acidity. Drink now.”

All of which is good. I’m sticking with “yummy.”

Also worth noting that the wine has been produced by vintners committed to sustainable farming techniques.

When we had it, I served it with grilled scallops, which I’d never made before. I got jumbo scallops and marinated them for about six hours in a wonderful Tequila Agave Marinade from Williams Sonoma, and then put them directly on the grill (with the grates being well greased, of course). Three to four minutes on one side, then turn the scallops and dust them lightly with a bit of Emeril’s Essence. Then another three minutes or so, and then they’re done…perfect to be served with a bit of pasta or rice.

Unbelievable. And, if I do say so myself, yummy.




That’s it for this week. Coming back to the states tomorrow…and while I will be on the road again all next week…MNB will still be around and kicking.

Have a good weekend.

Sláinte!!
KC's View: