Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Apologies

So, Tiger finally apologized today. I watched the entire thing, twice, and my opinion comes down to this: You seemed sincere, you took ownership of the problems/issues, but why did it take you 3 months to issue it?

And that is the crux of the matter for me. Had Tiger said this apology in December, when everything started to unravel after the Thanksgiving dust-up with the car accident and subsequent investigation, I would have agreed with him and been at least a little sympathetic and would have moved on. The fact that it took him this long to say what could have and should have been said within days of the first few women coming forward bothers me.

I still think Tiger is one of the most gifted golfers ever. I don't think this episode in his life affects my watching him play golf. But I don't trust him as a leader or a spokesperson any more, and that is where he makes the majority of his money.

Now, that being said, this is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. This is a personal failing of his, and it is up to his wife and children to forgive and forget or not as they see fit. He has committed no crime. The most I can say is that he acted immorally, for which he apologized. Until I see/hear otherwise, I take his apology at his word and give him the right to move on and prove that he was sincere in that apology. I'm moving on and giving this no further thought.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movie Studio Math

You have to love how movie studios do their math. I was reading an article about the upcoming Mission: Impossible 4 movie and it provided some interesting information about M:I3.
Although that movie clocked global box office of $400 million worldwide, DVD revenue of $200 million and an additional $100 million in television sales, the studio barely broke even. Cruise, guaranteed 22.5% of the studio's gross receipts, walked off with $80 million, leaving Paramount with nothing to gain from its $180-million production investment, said people with knowledge of the matter.
So, let's put the math down to make it easy:

$400 m
$200 m
$100 m
------
$700 million

Minus

$180 m (studio's production costs)
$080 m (Cruise's take from the gross profits)
--------
$260 million

Net profit

So, you are left with about $440 million in profit.

How, exactly, is the studio not making money on the deal? Did it spend over $440 million on advertising costs? How in the hell can they justify "barely broke even" when discussing $440 million?

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time studios have fudged the numbers. There have been a number of cases of those with profit shares in movies not being given a dime by studio and having sue... some of which are some of the most profitable movies of all time or, at least, their era.

This article shows a number of examples of the creative accounting done in Hollywood. I especially like this one:
Winston Groom's price for the screenplay rights to his novel Forrest Gump included a share of the profits; however, due to Hollywood accounting, the film's commercial success was converted into a net loss, and Groom received nothing.[7] That being so, he has refused to sell the screenplay rights to the novel's sequel, stating that he "cannot in good conscience allow money to be wasted on a failure".
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Addendum

A friend pointed out that the profits from sales of DVDs do not necessarily go into the pockets of the studios (some do have distribution arms that produce and distribute DVDs, but many do not). So even taking that $200 million entirely out of the equation, you are still left with a profit of $240 million... still profitable.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Music with a Message

I just became aware of Taylor Swift's song "Fifteen" (lyrics found here, Youtube copy of video here). I have to admit that, while blissfully unaware of this young lady's career and music catalog in general, I am pleasantly surprised by the message I hear in this song.

Basically, the song breaks down as such:

A young girl is starting her first year at high school. She wants desperately to fit in and be accepted and to be popular. She meets a girl who becomes her best friend. A boy with a car asks her out. Her friend "gives her all" to a boy who "changes his mind." The protagonist of the song realizes that, while everything seems vital and important now, she'll do more with her life later, and waits.

Pretty heady stuff. What I especially like about this song is that it is sung by a girl with a strong teen female audience and it is pointed directly at them. They are hearing, possibly for the first time, that waiting and abstinence are good things. They are hearing that boys lie to get in their pants. They are hearing that after high school, they are going to go on to greater things.

How many songs can you think of with such a positive message for teens, and young women in particular? I can't think of any outside of the Christian Rock genre, and even there it is muted.

The vast majority of popular music is about sex, drugs, and having a good time. This is because, for the most part, the vast majority of song writers have experience in these areas, being male and having women throw themselves at them, people supplying them with any drugs and alcohol they want, and moving in a drug induced haze from one "happening" to the next. It is rare that you find a song about something other than these topics. The trappings are different, but this is generally true of pop, rock, metal, country, alternative, and hip/hop, and can be found in abundance in the other genres.

To have a female star so directly tell her audience something different is refreshing. Now, I'll grant the song winds up being a tad cliche and even a bit trite, but the message is more important than the vehicle used to say it. It certainly sounds different than all those hip/hop and rap songs talking about "bitches" and "hoes" who like being showered in alcohol and used like dishrags. It certainly comes across different than all those rock and metal songs about "sex machines" that objectify women as "sweet cherry pie" and other, less savory things.

While I wouldn't say this has made me a fan of Ms. Swift, I laud her efforts and think any positive message of this sort should be commended.

Now, if Ms. Swift would just eat a cheeseburger or two and stop looking like an emaciated size 0, she'd really be giving her audience the right message.

WMDs, revisited

Some are proclaiming that Al Queda and Iran are working toward WMDs, primarily nuclear. These same people are saying we should go after them and take the WMDs we don't even know they have away from them.

In some small way, I kind of wish that some terrorist group would get ahold of some WMDs and would set them off within America. I'm not saying that for any sort of anti-American sentiment or reason (I'm one of the most pro-America people you'll meet), but instead as a last laugh at the terrorist.

What most of the world, and terrorists in particular, don't seem to understand is that America feeds the world. Yes, the world. No other 10 countries combined ships more food to more places in the world than America. With so much of the country in temperate climates, the growing season in America is nearly year-round. Corn, wheat, and fruits/vegetables are shipped everywhere. The middle east and northern Africa, all hot beds of terrorism, in particular could not survive without the constant influx of staple food from America.

If terrorists set of a nuclear explosion anywhere that either affects America's ability to produce the food or its ability to ship it the rest of the world, some of the first people to suffer will be the terrorist themselves. They will, in essence, commit suicide by that act of terrorism. They will murder their wives and children by doing so. They will wipe out their own nations and ideologies by disrupting the global food chain that is currently feeding them.

Look at North Korea. To show our displeasure at what Kim Jong Il was doing, we cut back our exports of all items to that nation, including food. Now, the people are starving, the economy is on the verge of collapse, and the people are revolting against the government. Now, imagine there was no food coming again, ever, and think about how bad things would be there... that's what it would be like for most of the world without America supplying it food.

I have often argued that the easiest way for America to make rogue nations come back in line would be too cut off all food supplies we ship to them and their allies. Within a month, those nations would be starving and they would have to capitulate or cease to exist. But Americans don't do that; we see the difference between affecting change in a corrupt government or military or terrorist group and starving women and children. We won't do the latter even if it is the fastest way to affect the former.

And this discussion doesn't even hit on the monetary aid America sends to these nations or the disaster relief we provide, which exceeds most other nations.

But, in the end, I guess we're not dealing with ideologies that are rational. So they would do it, just to make a point, even if it kills them. Hence the use of suicide bombers. I do not want to see America harmed and I do not want to see the world suffer global starvation. But some small piece of me would be shaking his head and laughing at the terrorist if they ever do it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Having Your Cake

So, the Republicans ask the President for a meeting to go over their ideas for health care reform. They ask it to be televised. He grants them both requests; matter of fact, he welcomes them. He schedules it for February 25. Now, Republicans are decrying the "trap" that the President has laid for them?

Er, what?

He has been asking for their input on health care since day one. He said in his original speech, basically, "if you have a better idea, my door is open." He basically said in the SotU address, "I'm still waiting to hear your ideas, if you have any. Door is still open."

They finally take him up on that open-ended offer, and he agrees with their conditions, and it is somehow a trap?

Of course, this is on top of the RNC having their meeting where one of the primary topics of conversation was how to defeat the President's health care agenda in the one state that has, in essence, federally provided 'universal health care' and it works beautifully and is something of a model for what the rest of the nation should have... Hawaii. Oh, and to all the RNC members who said it couldn't work long-term, Hawaii has only had this working for the past 40 years. I especially loved how the face of the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh has a health scare while in Hawaii and comes out of it with nothing but praise and goodwill toward the medical services he was provided... until it was pointed out to him that it was provided via a form of universal health care. Now he is decrying it, even though it didn't cost him a thing and he got excellent service (his words, not mine).

How can any rational Republican trust his/her representation when this is how they act?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Enough Already!

My wife sent me this link to an article about Tim Horton's in St. Andrews (FYI for my American readers; Tim Horton's is the Starbucks of Canada, only with generally crappier coffee and food items). The crux of the article is that the owner of the Tim Horton's in question, Edwin Dow, has banned a customer from his two locations for complaining about the coffee.

It is implied that this man has frequented this Tim Horton's for some time prior to this issue coming up. In my opinion, although the article does not go into great length about it, it seems like the person/people in charge of making the coffee or the machine(s) used to make is faulty or undertrained, and therefore the coffee is getting burnt. This customer recognized it and tried to bring it to the establishment's notice and get it changed. For his concerns, he is now banned from the store(s).

While the fact is that he is now better off, can make his own coffee for much cheaper, and can make it exactly the way he likes it, that isn't the primary point-- a business should listen to its customers and root out what the cause of the problem is, not ban them from the store.

This just shows some things I am struggling to cope with since moving to Canada:
  1. The lack of competition creates near monopolies where businesses feel they don't have to provide good service, products, or staff in order to stay in business.
  2. The feeling by companies that shit-service and products are acceptable and any complaint labels you a "troublemaker" and, via the grapevine, you become blacklisted and are always a complainer.
  3. Canadians in general are a) willing to put up with this type of service and product to "get along" and b) do not complain as a whole, regardless of how bad things get. Which means when they do, they are always "troublemakers" rather than voicing legitimate complaints that need to be rectified.
Anyone who knows me knows that I will say what is on my mind when it comes to service. If you provide bad service, the company, your manager, whomever will hear about it. But if you provide exceptional service, they will also hear about it.

I also vote with my pocketbook. If you provide me with poor service multiple times in a row, then I take my money elsewhere and I try to convince any friends, family, or acquaintances to do the same. By taking money out of your cash register, I'm doing the most hurtful thing I can to express my discontent and to try and force you to change your business.

However, in Canada and in the Atlantic Provinces in particular, it is difficult to do as there aren't alternatives. There is, for example, only one movie theater in SJ. If they hadn't responded favorably to my complaints, then I would have been forced to go to another city's/location's theater for movies or only watch DVDs and TV. If you don't like the local Taco Bell, well, tough. There is just the one here, so screw you. If you become a "problem patient" for one doctor, you'll suddenly find that no other doctors will take you on.

If you read the comments that a lot of the people (who claim to be business owners) make on this article, you find a strong feeling of entitlement. Many are wishing they had the balls to kick out "troublemaking" customers. I wish I knew which businesses they owned so I could never/no longer patronize their business and get as many others not to as well. Especially in this poor/weak economy, most businesses need all the paying customers they can get.

My actions will be as follows:
  1. I will stop going to Tim Horton's altogethers.
  2. I will contact Tim Horton's and tell the company why I will no longer be a paying customer.
  3. I will post this blog, on FB, and talk with friends and family and try to convince as many as possible not to go to Tim Horton's (any, not just the two owned by Edwin Dow).
------------------
Addendum

I went to TimHortons.ca and found their online customer complaint form. I provided the following complaint to them:
Due to a recent article found on the CBC News site relating to Tim Horton's owner Edwin Dow banning customer Jim Craig from two locations in St. Andrews, NB, I will no longer patronize ANY Tim Horton's. I will also actively campaign to get as many friends, family, and acquaintances to stop going to Tim Horton's as possible. This is unacceptable behavior from a business owner and reflects poorly on the Tim Horton's brand, and I will not stand for it.
I also included the link to the CBC news article in question. We'll see, and I will post, any result I receive from the corporation.

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Second Addendum

Here is the response I received from Tim Hortons:
Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting us at our Head Office in Oakville regarding the
recent article about our store in New Brunswick.

We want people leaving Tim Hortons with a smile. In this particular case,
we understand a customer had complained multiple times, and no matter what
the staff did to make it right, he was unhappy. He became increasingly
aggressive with store staff and was impacting their ability to serve other
customers. Our staff work long and hard to please each customer every day.
But at some point, we have to respectfully agree to disagree and suggest we
go our separate ways.

We always appreciate hearing feedback from our customers and we will pass
on your comments.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind Regards,

Lisa
Operations Services
The TDL Group Corp.
Strangely, she doesn't mention what this "aggressive" behavior is that Mr. Craig performed toward the staff. The wording of "multiple times" also implies this is chronic behavior, but the video with the article states he complained only three times. My response to her is as follows:
Thank you for the prompt response, Lisa.

This action by a Tim Hortons franchise owner seems so out of the normal for a situation such as this, that I am still left angry and confused. It seems like this owner could have done many things which were not mentioned in the article or by you, such as a) check the coffee equipment to ensure it was clean and functioning properly, b) make sure the staff was following all standards in making the coffee, c) check with other purchasers of decaffeinated coffee on the days in question and get their opinion on the quality of the coffee. Maybe these things were done, but it seems odd that the news article wouldn't mention them or that Mr. Dow would not mention it to the author of the article. If he did do these (or other) actions to help appease the customer and they didn't resolve the problem, why not mention them to show that he was willing to work hard to help this customer and to show he was being reasonable to his customer's complaints? This would certainly have painted Tim Hortons in a much better light.

Anyone who takes a business course, seminar, or who has worked retail knows that any one complaint received is indicative of multiple people having the same issues (my business courses specifically mentioned a 1:10 ratio, but I realize this varies by business, size of town, and type of complaint). So Mr. Craig's complaint about the coffee was likely the tip of the iceberg and any of the three ideas I provided above may have gone a long way toward resolving the issue, as he could have seen that the owner was doing something to address his concerns (even if the end result was the same) and the owner may have resolved by these actions any unvoiced complaints from other coffee drinkers.

Mr. Craig may have felt he was in a catch-22: no one else complained, so he was the troublemaker for mentioning it and got consistently bad service which caused him to become more belligerent; but no one complains because they don't want bad service or to be labeled a troublemaker and receive bad service. If, as you say, he became aggressive toward staff, I certainly do not condone his actions, but I can understand his impulse to push through the obstinacy.

In the end, the fact that Tim Hortons is not stating what they did to appease this customer (who only complained three times, according to the article/video, out of how many visits to that store?) makes me wonder what this franchise owner is hiding and what Tim Hortons is hiding. I appreciate your responding to me, but until further details are released which cause me to rethink my opinion, I will continue my stated action of not patronizing any Tim Hortons.

Again, I appreciate the civil discussion on this topic.
As always, faithful readers, I will post any further response I get from Tim Hortons on this topic.