Tom Romita

Writer. Director. Frustrated Human.

Tom has been successfully (not) writing “unscripted” television shows for almost twenty years.  From the romantic comedy of “Blind Date” and “Matched in Manhattan,” to the family drama of “Wife Swap” and “Shalom in the Home,” to the workplace shenanigans of “Counting Cars” and “New York Ink,” Tom has crafted stories to the delight of millions of viewers over the years.  He’s reached a level of success that has allowed him to live in the city he loves, New York, and secure a wife and daughter so beautiful, people think he’s adopted.  But now, he’s doing it the right way. He’s writing stuff down. Right here. Please enjoy his website, and feel free to share, Tweet or contact Tom directly to say hi, exchange ideas, or introduce him to really rich people who might want to produce his movies.

I HATE MAGICIANS

I hate Magicians. Not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s the clothes. Maybe it’s the hair. Maybe it’s the choreography. Maybe it’s because they all look alike. (White male, dark hair.) Maybe it’s because some of these geeks have actually become sex symbols. Maybe it’s that intense stare they all put on for publicity shots. You get paid to do tricks. Smile douchebag.

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Maybe it’s because the more popular they get, the less they have to do. I would imagine it's harder to impress a bunch of people huddled around you on the street, than a theatre full of overweight Midwesterners, with a production staff of 100 working with you in a Vegas casino.

If you get really big, you can get a TV special. Visual illusions on TV. Tough stuff. Who the fuck green lit that? The guy who created Cop-Rock? Shelly Long’s agent?

And what’s with the tigers? Have an original thought why don’t you? Make a wombat fly or something.

What really gets me though is that in essence- these guys do nothing. Petty fraud at best. Their job is to sell you something that you aren’t really getting. Like palm readers and real estate agents. We’ve all had the experience of seeing a trick and being “amazed” at the apparent "skill" of the magician. Then the trick is revealed, and it's so simple you are completely disappointed at the complete lack of skill actually needed to pull it off. But that doesn’t stop these dorks from prancing around the stage, sweating in mock urgency, convincing millions that what they are doing is actually difficult.

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A magic show leads otherwise intelligent people into the most inane arguments afterward. You’ve all been there:

“Wow did you see when he ate that book of matches then shot fire out of his ass? How did he do that?”

“Prop in his pants, maybe?”

“Noooo I looked for a bulge near his asshole, didn’t see one.”

“Little blowtorch in his hand?”

“Noooo no way, he wouldn’t have time to light it.”

“I don’t know maybe he eats Taco Bell before each show.”

“You’re being silly.”

“Oh I’M being silly? You're the one who seems to think farting fire is MAGIC!!!!!”

This is the essence of the magic game. There is a simple, boring, un-sexy explanation for all of these tricks. We just don’t know what it is while watching it go down. We choose to be entertained by these wonks, even though they aren't doing anything interesting. You can try and try and try to figure the tricks out, and if you are successful, you’ve ruined the appeal. As long as you are ignorant, these tanned turdheads are entertaining.

It’s not magic. If any of these goofballs had actual access to supernatural powers, trust me, they wouldn’t be grinding it out on the Vegas strip every night. Twice on Saturdays. They’d be conjuring up a few trillion bucks and a Bellagio suite full of Megan Foxes. Or...tigers.

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OLYMPIC ATHLETES' HOMELANDS

What the hell is the deal with athlete’s homelands in the Olympics? I watched a cross country skiing event and a guy from Dallas came in last, representing Thailand, a Russian guy took second for Austria and a German guy won the gold for Spain?! I thought you were supposed to represent the country you live IN.  If you have the choice to represent the country you are from, or the one where you presently live, doesn’t that foul up the spirit of the international competition? I mean why don’t I go spend a week in Botswana and be a ski jumper? I’m sure I could make the team. What’s next- if you think a country is “really neat” you’re qualified to represent them?

“Now on the downhill, Fritz Ramstein, who once sat next to a woman from Malaysia on a bus, now representing that land in these Olympic games.”

MEATLESS MEDALLIONS

So, I’m in one of those fancy vegetarian restaurants where they make stuff that tastes like meat out of soybeans and glue and cork and stuff. It was actually quite good- I’d swear that tofu came from something that at one time had a face, but I digress...

Here’s what I don’t get- an entree like a “Chx Cutlet” cost $9. But the “Meatless Medallions” goes for $19. “Open Faced Tofurky Sandwich" is $7, while “Braised Rack of Tofu” will set you back $17. Huh? It’s all TOFU!!!!! Shouldn’t it all cost the same?! Maybe a dollar or two difference for preparation, but this is clearly Tofabrication! They are clearly setting prices based on the prices of the dishes the tofu is configured to look and taste like! But it’s still Tofu!! Tofraud!! Tofuck that!!

TITLES OF BOOKS I HAVEN’T WRITTEN YET

Idiot Philosopher

The Best Book- By Tom Romita

Title

A Piece of Work

Pick Your Own Damn Title

If You Buy This I Promise To Never Write Another One

I Wrote It You Name It

Why Can’t I Ever Finish Anythi

Will Write For Food

I Just Work Here

Buy this Because I Want A Yacht

Extreme Book

When Books Attack

Progress in Work

Assembly Required

Insert Title Here

Fu@* You- A Retrospective

Higher Me

If I had a Ponytail, Would this Book be Better?

My Book Can Kick Your Books Ass

NY Times #1 Best Seller

An Idiots’s Guide To Living

How To Not Be A Jerk

Stuff I Wrote Down

This Would Have Been Done Sooner, But I Was Watching TV

NASCAR VS. NYC CABS

I’m trying to get into NASCAR. Really. I don’t want to be the last moron in the country saying “They’re just a bunch of cars going in circles!” Like people who still say “I can’t watch Reality TV- its not REAL!!” These are the same people you'll hear saying “Cell phone? Why do I need a cell phone?”

But I am having difficulty. I mean they are driving cars. In a circle. When things get too intense they crash into a wall. Or each other. And occasionally die. It’s difficult for me to appreciate this as a sport. Or game. Or show. Or modern gladiatorial event.

I think I’ve figured out part of the problem and why NASCAR remains a small town, non-coastal rural phenomenon and not a big city trend.

Taxi Cabs

This exclusively urban phenomenon, when experienced first hand on a daily basis, I believe negates much of the awe-inspiring entertainment value of NASCAR. Lets compare:

NASCAR DRIVERS drive multi-million dollar high tech precision vehicles.

CABBIES drive small yellow tanks held together with duct tape and hummus.

NASCAR DRIVERS drive on flat, circular tracks.

CABBIES drive on crowded city streets with random turns, pedestrians, hippopatamus sized potholes, emergency vehicles, traffic signals, dogs, horses, trucks, buses, bicycles, vespas, motorcycles and other cars and cabs all driving equally random routes as fast as humanly possible.

NASCAR DRIVERS drive same route every race (a circle).

CABBIES never know where they are going from one 'race' to the next. Often the passenger doesn’t know either.

NASCAR DRIVERS receive instructions and information on track conditions, traffic, car performance etc from a team of professionals via state of the art wireless communication equipment.

CABBIES receive instructions from impatient rich white people in the back seat.

NASCAR DRIVERS can communicate their intentions via wireless integrated headseats.

CABBIES must use a horn and middle finger.

NASCAR DRIVERS get champagne, gorgeous models and a huge paycheck at the end of the race.

CABBIES get a pocket full of singles and an assortment of bodily fluids to be cleaned off the back seats.

NASCAR DRIVERS get all necessary information communicated in their native language- Southern.

CABBIES' chances of receiving instructions in their native language- zero.

NASCAR- If you bump into another vehicle, you could get hurt or worse.

CABBIES- Same, but the injuries will be from a knife or gunshot.

AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

After 2 long years I finally found the strength to break the chains of oppression that bound me to a tormenting partner who  I trusted with the well being of myself and my family.  My health insurance company.

I won’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Fatlantis”, and the experience I’ve had with them, while not dangerous or truly abusive, was as frustrating and just simply bizarre as it gets.  Ever since getting health insurance for my dog many years ago, and then being told that everything that ever happened to him wasn’t covered by our policy, I’m not surprised by stories of health insurance companies NOT covering as many health issues as possible.  After all, despite all their commercials featuring cute dogs protecting their beloved bones and young vibrant actors sailing and skiing into the sunset, their business model is that of a casino, in that they are betting that they get more money from our premiums than they pay out in our health care costs. Period.

But Atlantis (oh sue me) brought an all new level of ineptitude to the insurance game. On June 6 of this year, our beautiful daughter Casey was born. The fact that you are fully responsible for the massive health costs your child racks up by simply coming into existence, well before your health insurance company knows of her existence, is one of those things they don’t tell you about the miracle of birth.  Foreseeing this, I actually called Atlantis before Casey was born to insure as seamless a transition in   coverage as possible.  I was told to fax an enrollment form upon her birth, and to then fax and mail it again when she received her Social Security Number.  The gentleman on the phone suggested I send the form certified mail as well, which I did.  Seemed overkill, but if I had to jump through a hoop or two to insure a smooth transaction, put me in a tutu and gimme a pogo stick, I’ll jump. Within a few weeks, we received an insurance card with Casey’s name on it, and bills reflecting a newly inflated monthly premium. Transition complete.

Then the doctor’s bills started arriving. And then the phone calls, from the hospital, pediatrician’s office, etc. Atlantis was apparently not paying ANY of Casey’s medical bills. I called and spoke to a well spoken woman who informed me I would have to speak to the billing and enrollment department.  This is where the “abuse” begins, and as with many victims of abuse, I have suppressed many of the most troubling details. I did begin to recognize a pattern, however.  Here’s a typical exchange with the “Billing and Enrollment” department of the Atlantis Health Insurance Company:

TJ: Hello Mr. Romita, (in thickest Indian accent imaginable. No- THICKER) this is Tim Jones. May I have your policy number please?

ME: 113-45-5436-01

TJ: Thank you, how can I help you today?

ME: Yes, Hi, you guys aren’t paying any of my daughter’s medical bills and I don’t know why.

TJ: What bills specifically are you calling about?

ME: All of them Tim. All of them.

TJ: What is your doghter’s name?

ME: I’m sorry my who?

TJ: Your DAWCH-her.

ME: Ok, my daughter or my doctor?

TJ: DAH-CHTER, DAGH-TER, DAWK-HJETYER!

ME: I’m sorry I can’t understand. My daughter’s name is Casey and my doctor’s name is Dr. Chang. Use whatever you need.

At this point I swear instead of hearing fingers typing on a keyboard I hear papers shuffling…

TJ: Mr. Romita, I’m sorry we have no record of your dotcgher in our records. What is her name again?

ME:  Oh! You’re saying Daughter! Her name is Casey.  And you guys say the same thing every time I call. Then you promise me that the problem is being fixed.  I don’t have time to keep…

TJ: Can you hold please?

ME: Sure.

35 minutes and 14 Yanni knock-offs later…

TJ: Mr. Romita, when did you send her enrollment form?

ME: Again really with this? I mailed it before she was born, then I faxed it two days after she was born then I faxed and mailed it AGAIN when she got her SS# a month later. The carrier pigeon should be arriving soon as well.

TJ: I’m sorry Mr. Romita, we never received any enrollment form for your daughctor.

ME: Then why did you send an insurance card with her name and policy number on it and increase our rates by $500 a month?

TJ:

ME: Tim?

TJ: Hold please

ME: Absolutely

20 minutes and an extended Spa Sounds/Bollywood mashup later…

TJ: Mr. Romita I have your new policy identification numbers. Do you have a pen?

ME: New ID numbers?! What are you talking about?

TJ: I am sorry, we had a computer glitch and we need to assign new ID numbers- do you have a pen?

ME: You had a computer glitch that sends out new ID cards to new members and increases rates but doesn’t pay bills, then requires everyone to get new ID numbers?  I’ve called ten times and this is the first I’m hearing of this. What did your computers get the Ebola virus?

TJ: Hold please

ME: NO!! Is there anyone there who knows what they are talking about?  

TJ: Mr. Romita, if you will simply scan and email your dogthccker’s enrollment form to tim@atlantisisbest.com we will straighten out your dogkghqters bills immediately.

ME: Doctor or daughter?

And so it went , for three months, no bills got paid, no one in Atlantis India ever had an answer  and I eventually had to drop Atlantis and switch to another company that rhymes with Foxford.  I had no choice but to switch, for my dogwghwter’s sake. 

Our new company seems great but the Atlantis fun continues. I have received about five letters denoting my owing of premiums for the two months SINCE I discontinued coverage, threatening to cancel my coverage I have already cancelled.  I have received as many confirming that I have discontinued coverage and owe nothing. I guess I should send checks and then cancel them. Then I started receiving new ID cards. No letter, explanation why, just new cards for all with new ID numbers, of course for a policy we no longer have. And most recently, a letter to inform us that the rates on our policy, cancelled due to its utter worthlessness, were going up 14%.

I was a bit gun shy when around this time the front left wheel of our Slate Blue Uppababy Turbo Tot 9000 stroller with optional mounted 50 calibers and an onboard latte machine started squeaking, then vibrating  violently.  I waited till the child was on the verge of shaken baby syndrome and I called the manufacturer.  A woman picked up. A live woman. A live woman who spoke English. Well. I was befuddled. I told her we had a squeaky wheel that turned into a shaky wheel. She asked if I had used any product on the wheel. I said WD-40. She sighed and said “Oooohhhh”. 

I know that sound. That’s the sound the customer service person on the other end of the line makes to signal that YOU did something wrong and THEY are not going to help at all. I get immediately pissed:

“If you people don’t want us using WD-40 on squeaky wheels you should put that in big Goddamn writing on the instruction manual! I can’t believe you are not going to..”

“Mr. Romita if you will calm down long enough to give me your address I will gladly overnight a new wheel to you.”

“What?”

“I’ll send you a new wheel. This happens occasionally so we send out new wheels when it does. Should get there tomorrow afternoon, if that’s ok. May I have your address?”

“I’m really sorry.”

“It’s ok. Oh and use petroleum jelly next time.”

“I could have used some of that dealing with my health insurance company.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing. Thanks so much for your help- we live at 22 Smithfield Lane…..

THE BIGGEST RIP-OFF EVER

So I'm strolling Madison Avenue on my lunch break today, and I see Tourneau Watches. I remember that the silver and black Tag Heuer on my wrist was purchased there about two years ago, and it could use a cleaning. (Spend way too much cash on a watch, you might as well keep it looking sharp right? Yes, I'm a watch snob and you can keep your filthy Casio adorned mitts off it.)

I always go into a situation like this with a "best case scenario" and a "deal breaker" threshold, reality usually lies somewhere in between. The best case in this case would be this, "Yes Mr. Romita, as a full service watch dealership, Tourneau offers complimentary cleanings for all of our timepieces. Can you come back in an hour to pick it up?"

Dealbreakage would begin at the costing $40 and/or losing my watch for more than 24hrs phase.

The Reality- Tourneau would gladly remove the specks of schmootz from my watch. By sending it back to Switzerland. For three months. For $500.

I don't think I've ever actually laughed directly in a person's face before. I'm going to leave my watch on in the shower next time instead.

HOW MUCH IS THAT MOVIE IN THE THEATER?

As an aspiring movie producer, I’ve been recently considering the question that baffles all aspiring motion picture creators. How the #^&% are you supposed to make any money in this business? Everyone knows of the rich movie producers with the house in the hills, the Bentley and the blonde bombshell, but for every one of these there are probably a dozen aspiring producers out there begging for a loan from family members to pay off the debt they racked up maxing out their credit cards making one measly movie. The most intriguing example of this phenomenon was the story of Cathy Schulman, the producer of the Oscar winning Crash, who after winning the naked gold guy, could not pay her rent. She successfully convinced investors to fork over millions of dollars to make five pictures, the highest powered actors and directors and cinematographers followed her on a mission to create pieces of art that people loved, paid for and someone profited from. But not her.

There have been dozens of books written about the movie business, and they are fun, fascinating reads. I’ll give the short version of the process:

Anyone with an idea is a movie producer- that’s right- even you. Then comes the hard part of your job- getting enough money, approximately $200,000-$200,000,000 depending on your idea, to put your idea on film, let people know what you did, and distribute it to these people so they can pay to enjoy it. Simple, but not so easy. And how do you make money in the process? See the opening paragraph…

Movies have widely varying budgets based on talent involved, special effects, locations, etc. The finished products vary wildly in entertainment value and marketability, often, but not always, based on their budgets. But with the wide variety of talent and dollars poured into these products of various end quality, movie producers must try to entice consumers to pay to see these movies with absolutely no say on how much that will cost.

Tickets for the “Police” reunion tour cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, while you can go see a local band for under $10. Less popular product, lower price. The Metropolitan Opera tickets- $120, the same tickets for the Sparrowfart, Arkansas Performing Arts Society’s rendition of Carmen- $3. Filet Mignon costs $30, Quarter Pounder- $5. A Lambourghini- $200,000 a Kia- $15,000. So why on earth are consumers expected to pay the same price for “Lord of the Rings” as “The Hottie and the Nottie”?

The former made hundreds of millions of dollars while the latter made $25,000 for reasons too obvious to dwell on. The question is this, while few people with firing synapses will plop down 10-15 dollars to see Paris Hilton carry a story for 2 hours, how many would cough up $3? And let’s be honest, anyone considering attending a Paris Hilton flick probably doesn’t have 10 expendable dollars, but they might have 3.

Capitalism is all about producers creating products for consumers at varying qualities and prices to satisfy the varying tastes and spending practices of the public. Why are movie producers not given this basic economic right? You’ve got a couple hundred grand and an idea for a cute comedy starring Carrot Top and Gary Busey, go ahead and make it, but you have to charge the same price to the consumer as “Mission Impossible 5” to see it. It just doesn’t make sense.

Picture this- you look in the local paper for the weekend’s flicks and not only do they come with reviews and taglines, but prices. The new Tom Hanks courtroom drama is $15, the Keira Knightly period piece is $10, a small experimental project done from the perspective of a blind monkey is $4.25, and “I Still Know Who Killed Me”, is $2.50. A veritable cinematic buffet. More consumers will pay for a product because the price makes it more enticing. Sound odd? It’s known as basic economics, and apparently some mysterious relationship between the studios and the movie theatres disregards the laws of supply and demand, making the business of movie making truly weird.

I’m not calling the powers that be out on greed- I’m calling them on bad business. As far as I know, theatres make all of their money on $15 popcorn and $7 Cokes- so they shouldn’t care what tickets cost. Wouldn’t things be a whole lot easier for producers, studios, distributors, marketing and promotional entities and all involved in the movie making business, if, as they undertook that new Andy Dick vehicle you knew you were making it in an effort to pry $3 out of the hands of the stingy masses rather than $15? If Andy can’t put asses in the seats, maybe his cheap asking price will. Greenlight!!

Anyone who thinks this will lead to lower quality movies has not browsed a VOD playlist lately. Did you know Alec Baldwin and Michelle Pfieffer made multi-million dollar movies that were so poorly produced they went straight to video recently? Were you aware Paris Hilton has been in FIFTEEN features (not counting “home videos”)? The present system as is, is clearly not a conduit for quality. I dare say it can’t get any worse. For every “No Country for Old Men” there are 20 “Blonde Ambition”s. Because we are expected to shell out 15 or more dollars for every piece of garbage produced, movie makers are lately circumventing the current distribution system and looking to DVDs and the internet to bring their visions to the people.

Variable movie pricing will make the job of producing movies a whole lot easier, as the producers can price their product based on quality and projected marketability. If we get really good, prices can change AS movies are in theatres due to reviews, buzz, etc. Imagine” Juno” being released as a $7 movie and jumping to $15 as it gained popularity. Would this upset the public? Probably not as much as paying $15 to see “Norbit.”

A shift in the current paradigm would require one simple thing- ensuring that all involved in movie making, distributing and showing business, would make more money. If that can happen, I anticipate a higher level of enjoyment all around for the movie viewing public, that will hopefully lead to a closer, fairer relationship and synergy between the movie makers and the movie viewers. The public will come to appreciate the fact that when they take a chance on the new Jessica Simpson - Jean Claude Van Damme romantic comedy, they will be getting exactly what they paid for.

UGGS-UGH!

Stylish. Trendy. Comfortable. Warm. Versatile. Shabby Hollywood-Chic.

A Complete Fraud

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If you haven’t heard of Ugg boots, I’d like to be the first to welcome you from the rock under which you have been residing for the past several years. (By the by, the Democrats took congress and the Red Sox won). They are those strange looking suede, calf-length chunky casual boots first made wildly popular by Hollywood starlets around 2000. Their unbridled popularity lead to supply shortages, bidding wars on Ebay, a virtual feeding frenzy of the hip. “Tickle Me Elmo” for rich white girls. Besides being one of most wide-spreading fashion trends ever, the Ugg phenomenon has quietly evolved into one of the most insidious corporate deceptions in history.

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Ugg boots are Australian. They have been popular with swimmers and surfers from Down Under since the 1960’s. Pamela Anderson discovered them while filming an Aussie version of Baywatch and brought them back to the show’s California set. “Ugg” is an Australian term that was actually trademarked in Australia in 1971 in conjunction with the casual sheepskin boots. They were made by several small shops in Australia and had labels like this: (I had some imported from Australia at the height of their initial hysterical popularity.

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When I recently contacted the Australian company that I had originally ordered the Uggs from to get a new pair, I was informed that they were no longer allowed to use the term “Ugg” or manufacture the product that they had for decades. They were currently desperately hawking other “Genuine Australian” products like Teddy Bears and blankets. I’m not an overly emotional guy, but this made me as sad as when my ex-wife ran off to San Francisco with my dog. I checked into what had happened.

Turns out, the “Ugg” boots everyone is wearing these days are neither Australian, sheepskin, or authentic. They are a Chinese manufactured product owned and distributed by an American company, and are made of pigskin. They are NOT the boots that Pam, Paris, and Kirsten discovered and turned into a fashion addiction.

Right about the time that Uggs were taking off, American shoe manufacturer Decker Outdoor secured the trademark of the term “Ugg”, opened a factory in China and began mass producing the short chunky boots under the name “Ugg Australia.” These are the boots that everyone is wearing these days and are regarded as the original item. They are not. They have a label that looks like this:

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Soon after, Decker sued several Australian manufacturers and blocked them from using the term “Ugg” to market their product. Decker Outdoor literally stole the “Ugg” identity, mass produced the product cheaply, then made it illegal for the original “Uggs” to ever get their identity back. Decker in essence killed off the manufacturer of the original product that it copied and has profited immensely from. This is akin to Starbucks trademarking the term “coffee” and forcing anyone selling the brown breakfast beverage to do so under a different name.

I am a capitalist to the core. I’m all for one big business outwitting another, and putting them under, only to be outwitted by some other down the line. I enjoy watching corporate minds compete to provide the public with the most desirable product they can, and reap the rewards from their inspiration and ingenuity. But this one doesn’t pass the stink test. Everyone wearing “Uggs” today talks about how wonderful they are and have an air of “Wow, I see why these are so popular- they are amazing!!” But what they are actually wearing are mass-produced Chinese boots made out of left-over pig parts. The Wal-Martized version of a formally rare and special product. Easily the most pervasive example of corporate pulling-the-sheepskin-over-the-eyes of the public I have ever seen.

So I say lets rally the troops. Come on Pam, Uma, Keira, Oprah- lets fight the power!! Boycott these Sino-American Ugg Wannabes. When no one wants them anymore- it will open the door to the Ugg name and product being returned to its rightful owner- Australia. Eventually consumers can once again get what they think they are currently paying for. Genuine Australian “Uggs.”

WHY THERE IS A GOLF CHANNEL

Two reasons. The simplest first:

Money

Although televised golf may have a small viewing audience, due to its relatively boring visual nature, it has by far the richest. This is why, not only is every major golf tournament televised, there is an entire 24 hr. network dedicated to it, whose ad roster reads like the Fortune 500. By the end of every damn tournament I want to chug a Heineken, go get a Verizon phone and call my Smith Barney rep to finance a new Lexus.

Soccer, which probably has a billion more fans worldwide, gets no love from the Networks. Television is, as I have to often explain, a business. Not a magic happy box that sits in one's living room. It's about selling product to viewers.  Botswanans kicking around the heads of their formal rivals- probably not looking to smart-lease that Jaguar when they gather ‘round the village TV to watch the World Cup.

The second reason is a little more obscure, and for any soccer fans reading, I'll type slow. Despite golf’s ‘elitist’ reputation, it is actually the only professional sport in existence that basically anyone can play- anytime they want. Granted, it takes money, but try to take a 10 million dollar check to the NFL and ask to run a few plays with your favorite team this Sunday. For a couple of hundred bucks, I can go play the EXACT same game Tiger Woods plays. Hell, for $35 I can go play where he won the 2002 U.S. Open. Try getting in a few rounds of professional hockey. Basketball? “Hey Carmello- Winners?” Horse racing? Baseball? Even sports like Volleyball and Tennis, while essentially identical to the professional game, involve beating a professional opponent. “Hey Andre- volley for serve?”

Golf involves you, and a course. A field of grass with holes in it. The same damn hunk o’ turf Tiger plays on. Not to mention that in any "Open" tournament, you can compete in local qualifying tournaments, and actually play in the televised finals, right along with Tiger. Even if you are 55 and fat. Of course, that requires being really, really good.

So while this may have been one of the most boring articles ever written, like the Golf Channel, it has its place and purpose. Think of it the next time you let out the oh too familiar “Golf on TV?! You have GOT to be kidding?!?” shriek as we huddle around the set, and get ready to watch the masters play our favorite game.

REMEMBER WHEN THE CUSTOMER WAS ALWAYS RIGHT?

Call any customer service line. See how “right” you feel. See if you can even get a US citizen on the line. See if you can even get the person on the line to understand your problem, no less resolve it.

Most of the customer service people I deal with know far less about their products than I do. I was once shopping for a phone that would flash a light when I had a new voicemail message. I was informed by 'Best Boy' that those don’t exist. I looked at the first phone I saw and asked-

“What does the little red light with ‘VM’ under it do?”

Complete product ignorance doesn’t stop these idiots from stalking you pitching a $200 a year service plan on a $75 VCR. When I confront a relentless moron at a Circuit City, Best Buy, Car Lot etc. I say “I’m ready to buy, go see if your manager can authorize a $20 million travelers’ check.” When they scurry off to lock down the commission that will allow them to buy a new spoiler for their 1988 Honda Civic, I split.

“They shouldn’t have told you that.”

That’s the new customer service tag line. Swissair lost ALL of my bags on a return trip to the states. Swissairhead at the counter says, “Buy whatever you need and mail in the receipts” I did so, six years pass, and no refund. I call to plead my case. “Oh they shouldn’t have told you that”

The California DMV (I’m not sure government mandate makes us customers, but anyway…) tells me that if I was going to sell my car, I didn’t need to re-register it, I simply needed to have the new owner fill out some paperwork, and mail it in. I told them that that did not sound accurate. They insisted and sent me off. The police officer who gave me a ticket on the way home didn’t think it was accurate either. I turned around and waved the ticket at a manager who defended their actions saying “Oh, they shouldn’t have told you that, you can pay that with a check or cash. Or fight it in court…”

What’s next? You buy a new car, and its first trip to the mechanic its discovered it has been in 17 accidents. You go back to the dealer screaming “They told me it was NEW!!!!!” “Oh they shouldn’t have told you that.”

This is the perfect ‘out’ for companies. “It’s not my fault, it’s that other guys fault, sorry about the inconvenience HE caused you but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Or in other words- 'F&@% you'.

BREAD FUMES

What is with people whose job requires them to do ONE thing- and they cannot friggin’ do it? There’s this Subway sandwich shop that I frequent. I order a turkey sandwich, with the same toppings every time. And these Sharpie sniffing troglodytes fuck it up every time. A typical visit: Cheech Marin’s slow nephew looks up at me with that “I will be folding bread around meat forever” gaze, awaiting his marching orders. I say very clearly “Everything except onions and hot peppers”, because what I would like on my sandwich is everything, except onions and hot peppers.

After a moment of dazed panic, he goes straight for the onions. “No! Bad Cheech!” I say and attempt to slap his hand through the glass. Having deviated from the standard “Cheech shift unfinished sandwich left, and point to toppings and customer say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” ritual, I’ve apparently fucked up the entire system. “NO ONIONS! Bad, bad Cheech!”, I say. Simple organisms will retreat to the safety and comfort of the familiar under conditions of extreme stress. Cheech points to the olives. I say “Yes ( I get two and a half, but that’s a whole different essay) He then points to the tomatoes. Again “Yes.” I quickly realize any attempt at time efficiency is futile with this WWF devotee, as we go through the lettuce and 6 other items that require individual affirmations, and then of course the hot peppers which get the denial. As he goes for the onions again, I pull out my gun and shoot him just above the right knee.

Bravely pressing on, Cheech folds the bread and vegetables without any dressing, and at this point, every fucking day, I say “Can I have mayo please? After application, Cheech attempts the finishing fold- “And oil and vinegar?” Cheech obliges, then goes for the quick fold and paper tape “And salt and pepper.” Then I get the pause, the frustration induced sigh, and the “Is that all stupid customer?” look. I nod “That’s all” and he completes the ritual with the fold over and paper tape and the transaction is completed by the eye-patched cashier who they have apparently taught to add through electric shock behavioral reinforcement training.

I leave the store with what I clearly asked for 45 minutes earlier- a turkey sandwich with everything except onions and hot peppers, filtered through the carmelized brain stem of Cheech the mongoloid sandwich maker. People run multimillion dollar corporations. Entertainment empires. Hospitals. Armies of thousands. Countries. Cheech has to make sandwiches, and he can’t do it. We can only hope that freshly baked bread fumes cause sterility.

WHEN DID SMALL BECOME TALL?

(This was written years ago, before Starbucks ruled the planet and before there were blogs)

Hey I’m a capitalist. I love big business. I’ll take Bill Gates over Bill Clinton any time. But there's a wicked little retail trend that's got my panties in a bunch.

About 15 years ago, in a smokey Seattle office tower, a Starbucks executive devised a plan so evil, so deceptive, so heinous, that it would lead to great profit and success. But it still pisses me off.

The little weazle anti-christ thought the chain should go ahead and call their smallest size drinks “Tall” their medium size “Grande” and their largest size “Venti”. While this may seem like a cute little tactic to make their products sound trendy or foreign or something, it’s a profit-driven and brilliant, and evil to the core.

“Tall” doesn’t sound small, it sounds, well, tall. "Tall" is defined- “of more than normal height”. It is, by its nature, a relative term. A thing MUST be larger than something else to be considered ‘tall’. Except at Starbucks. Here, the “Tall” is the smallest drink size offered. So a “Tall” at Starbucks would be a “Small” anywhere else.

Starbucks figured out that when a customer comes in they will want one of three sizes, Small, Medium, or Large. If they ask for a Small, the “barista” reads his evil little script- “This is a “Tall”" and holds up the smallish cup. Since a “Tall” looks like a regular size coffee the customer usually just says ok. If by chance they want a smaller one, the barista informs him that that’s the smallest size. If the person has a hint of logic in his skull he will become confused at this point, and think he needs a double.

If the person asks for a Medium, the barista holds up a “Tall” and says in his best Obi Wan Kenobi, “This is a tall”. Again, it looks like a regular size coffee, so the person probably says ok. If by chance they want a larger one they will be shown a Grande, become confused by the Starbuck Mindfuck, and order it.

If the person asks for a “Large” the barista will probably hold up all three. And the person will probably go for the “Grande” the Venti containing enough caffeine to revive Keith Richards after a night at the Rainbow.

So you say, “What’s the harm?” The harm is in that when many customers receive their “Tall” however the transaction occurs, they think they are getting not the smallest, but the largest drink size offered, therefore justifying the $3.00 they just spent. If you’ve got a “Tall” in your hand instead of a “Small” you feel like you got more for your money. But you didn’t. You got a “Small”. And so people flood Starbucks ordering “Talls” thinking they are getting the largest size offered for 3 bucks when they are in fact not. Psych-out selling at its finest.

Now other venues have taken this to the next mind-boggling stage. Seeing the success of Starbucks size-shifting ploy, Burger King is now calling their smallest size offerings "Medium", their medium sized "Large" and the largest "Super." Now that is just wrong. Medium, by definition, means in the MIDDLE!!! The smallest offering can NOT be a MEDIUM!!! Again- it’s a dirty trick, even dirtier than Starbucks. When people ask for a medium they clearly do NOT want the smallest the place has to offer, but that’s exactly what they get.