business news in context, analysis with attitude

Remember last weekend’s controversy when, faced with a copyright violation issue, deleted the electronic copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” that people had downloaded to their Kindles? While Amazon refunded the purchase price, it also faced enormous criticism for technology that allowed the company to control data that people thought they’d bought and owned. (The Orwellian nature of the scenario was a delicious irony.)

Now, however, Amazon is facing a lawsuit – from a 17-year-old high school student who had been reading “1984” on his Kindle and keeping electronic notes for a summer reading assignment. When Amazon deleted the book it also deleted his notes, the suit charges, and the student deserves some sort of compensation. Not surprisingly, the lawyers for the student are seeking other plaintiffs with similar stories so they can turn the thing into a class action suit.

If this were my kid, I’d have a simple message to him:

Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.

I mean, I understand that this is an annoying turn of events. But things happen, and you have to adjust. People don’t get to sue computer manufacturers when their laptops crash and they lose all their work…though if it were up to some lawyers, they’d probably try.

When you think about it, while these events may be inconvenient, they actually give him a much better essay to turn in when school starts up again. (Never look a good lead in the mouth.)

I’d tell my kid, think of this as a life lesson. Three of them, in fact.

1. Companies sometimes behave unethically and betray their core values.
2. When things don't go according to plan, you have to be self-sufficient enough to create your own solutions, not blame other people.
3. Always keep a back-up.

I suspect that this kid’s parents aren’t teaching him these lessons. Rather, they seem to teaching him about greed and litigiousness.

Sometimes, it seems as if we live in parallel universes. (Like in ‘Fringe.”)

There’s the world in which we’re all grappling with the recession.

And then, there’s the world described by the New York Times this morning, where a Brooklyn pizzeria is charging $5 a slice.

The Times writes, “Di Fara, one of the most acclaimed and sought-after pizza shops in New York City, now sells one of the most expensive — and still-sought-after — slices in New York City, on a no-frills Brooklyn block next door to, of all places, a 99-cent store. The price of a slice increased to $5 on July 1, up from $4, the cost for the past year and a half. Just about everything else went up as well: Plain round pies are $25 and specialty square pies are $35.”

My first reaction was that this is nuts. But I have to admit that I like the take by NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “The real question, relative to the local economy, is whether people are trading up from a $2.75 slice or down from a $25 entrée. And from what I hear in the subways and on the streets, it’s probably a mixture of both. But if you’ve ever had a really great slice of pizza, you know there are worse deals.”

And then, there’s the reaction by one patron: “It’s like they dug up my grandma and she made the pie.”

So now, much as I hate to admit it, I have to try to figure out how to get from Connecticut to Avenue J in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

Hope springs eternal, especially in baseball.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that sportscaster Vin Scully, currently broadcasting his 60th season of Dodger baseball games, has decided to likely put off his planned retirement at the end of the year and come back for one more season.

This is good news for Dodger fans, because, as the Times put it, “we now have 15 months to hang on to every syllable, cherish every story, embrace his hellos as we prepare to say goodbye.”

Sixty seasons. It is such an extraordinary record of achievement and excellence, and Dodger fans – originally in Brooklyn, now in Los Angeles – have been blessed to have had Scully for all these years. He is the prototypical gentleman broadcaster, a reminder of an age when baseball was far more innocent.

It may be unfair to ask, but I hope he hangs around forever. The baseball world will be poorer and a little less civilized when he steps out from behind the microphone.

On the other hand, if hope springs eternal, sometimes faith is dashed.

David Ortiz. Manny Ramirez. The 2004 World Championship Boston Red Sox.

Need I say more?

I understand the Hollywood impulse to do remakes, but I have to say that the announcement this week that there may be a new version of “The Rockford Files” caught me by surprise. It is almost impossible to imagine anyone other than James Garner in the role, or that the new producers will be able to capture the series’ insouciant charm.

On the other hand, the guy behind the remake is the same guy who created “House,” which is one of the best shows on TV. So you never know…

(Wonder if they’ll try to get Garner out of retirement to play Rocky, Jim Rockford’s dad, played memorably by Noah Beery Jr. in the original?)

Excellent news from Washington, DC, where it is reported that Tony Kornheiser will return to the radio airwaves with a two-hour daily program that will be broadcast on WTEM and, hopefully, carried on iTunes.

It has been too long since Mr. Tony abandoned daily radio for “Pardon The Interruption” and “Monday Night Football.” He is good on “PTI,” but is constantly scintillating on the radio…and I cannot wait until the day after Labor Day.

Four wines from the Tenuta Rapitala vineyards in Sicily…all wonderful, each distinct…

• The 2007 Piano Maltese Bianco, a fresh and bright white wine that is perfect with seafood. ($11)

• The 2007 Campo Reale, which is like a Zinfandel, a young red that is great with pretty much any kind of poultry. ( $11)

• The 2006 Nadir Syrah, a delicious fill-bodied wine that was Mrs. Content Guy’s favorite of the four. We had it with grilled lamb chops, and it was great. ($15)

• The 2002 Hugonis, which is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and Nero d’Avola, which is ripe and thick and bold…and was my favorite. ($35).

I have no idea if you’ll be able to get these from your local wine merchant…but if you can’t, feel free to contact mine: Ask for Pete at Nicholas Roberts Ltd. (203-656-9463) or email him at

(Blogger’s full disclosure. I am paid absolutely nothing for my endorsement of these wines, nor on any sales made by Nicholas Roberts. However, if you live close enough to the store to have your wine delivered in the next three weeks or so, feel free to give a generous tip to the handsome young man making the delivery. It’s my son, Brian.)

And while I’m plugging my kids…

There’s a very cool chain that has started up in Chicago called Argo Tea where my son David – a young actor/writer – is working. I’m very impressed with the chain, and look forward to visiting their newest store, where David works, in the building formerly called the Sears Tower, now referred to as the “Big Willie.” If you stop in, say hello to David.

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

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