business news in context, analysis with attitude

I attended an alumni reception in New York City for Loyola Marymount University the other evening, and Rev. James Lawton, the Jesuit priest who heads the college, asked the following questions when discussing the school’s dedication to public service:

“To what purpose, power? To what point, wealth?”

Of course, those are questions that everybody and every organization have to answer for themselves.

But they are questions that should be asked and answered. Especially by people who think that job and company ought to come first.

Thank goodness the Jesuits keep asking them.

Anyone who spends a good deal of time traveling on airplanes should read David Sedaris’s Reflections piece, “Turbulence,” in the June 13-20 issue of The New Yorker. Just laugh out loud funny.

My favorite story of the week? The one about physics genius Neil Gershenfeld, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms. Gershenfeld is doing research that he believes will allow him to invent a real life version of the “Star Trek” replicator that will create food and other items by rearranging atoms.

How cool is that?

Next step: the transporter.

As Jimmy Buffett sings:

I'd like to go where the pace of life's slow.
Could you beam me somewhere, Mister Scott?
Any old place here on Earth or in space.
You pick the century and I'll pick the spot.

It was a terrific week, starting off with a visit to Milwaukee to give a speech and moderate a panel of consumers. I had a wonderful dinner at the Water Street Brewery – the smoked sausage platter, made up of smoked beef sausage and smoked link kielbasa, charbroiled and served with red cabbage, freshly sautéed spaetzle, and the fabulous house mustard. Washed it down with a Belgian-style ale. Yummmmm…..

It seems almost like heresy in popular culture to say I don’t like movie director Ron Howard; after all, who doesn’t like Opie? But while I respect his talent, shown in movies like “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind,” I can never quite shake the feeling that his reach exceeds his grasp. (I’ve always sort of liked his “Ransom” (1996), starring Mel Gibson as the father of a kidnapped boy, best of all his films…which is odd.) So it was with some trepidation that I went to see his “Cinderella Man,” starring Russell Crowe, about Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock.

And was pretty much blown away by some terrific performances (Crowe, Renee Zellweger as Braddock’s wife, and especially the wonderful Paul Giamatti as his manager/trainer) and a film that does an excellent job of showing one man trying to deal with the professional and family pressures created by economic ruin. The movie has a kind of simply dignity about it, which is enormously appealing.

I can’t figure out for the life of me why people aren’t going in droves to see this movie. You should.

I also had a certain concern when my sons dragged me to the midnight showing of “Batman Begins” the other evening. (They needed a ride and so decided to tolerate dear old Dad.) After all, I’m getting a little old for comic book movies and feel like I’ve seen it all before.

Well, I was wrong. “Batman Begins” is a very good movie that takes its source material seriously without being ponderous, and, as directed by Christopher Nolan, actually plumbs the psychological underpinnings of what makes a man decide to become not just a vigilante, but one who wears a bat costume. Christian Bale is excellent as the Caped Crusader and especially as his alter ego, Bruce Wayne…in fact, this movie is more about Bruce Wayne than Batman, and that is a very smart move. (The folks making “Superman Returns” for release next summer should take heed…Clark Kent is the far more interesting part of that dual personality.) And you have to like any movie that features, in supporting roles, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson.

I loved reading “Batman” comics growing up, and this movie made me a kid again for a few hours with a comic book movie suitable for grownups.

Three wines (all French) to recommend this weekend:

• The 2003 Puligny-Montrachet from Vincent Girardin, an excellent white wine perfect for hot summer nights – crisp and cold and perfect with pasta or chicken.

• The 2003 Beaujolais from Pierre Chermette, which starts off a little thin but, given some time and some air, actually gains flavor and strength. (I love it when that happens in the glass.)

• The 2004 Chateau de Flaugergues, a rose from France that was perfect when served cold during the really hot evenings we’ve been having lately. Not too sweet, and really refreshing…in fact, my own caveat is that it has a screw top. (When the French start selling wines in screw top bottles, the end of civilization may be at hand…) But I forgive them because it is an excellent wine, even if I continue to believe that comparing a cork to a screw top is sort of like comparing a wooden bat to an aluminum bat – they may do the same thing, but one is a lot more magical and pure than the other.

It’s a good life.

Have a great weekend. Go to a movie. Have a glass of wine you’ve never tried before. And forget about the business for a few minutes or hours…because one thing I’ve figured out lately is that it is when I forget about the business that I generally learn something that helps me in my business.

KC's View: