America’s Got Talent finale (Update)

September 16, 2010

The four finalists performed Tuesday night in the final competition for the $1 Million prize.  Prince Poppycock lead the way, with Michael Grimm, Jackie Evancho, and Fighting Gravity following close behind. This is how I rank their performances on Tuesday and how I would rank their potential as a Las Vegas act.

Finale performance

Coming in last on Tuesday was Prince Poppycock. His performance lost most of the entertainment value as he chose to perform a more serious stage act rather than his more lighthearted routine which carried him throughout the competition. In addition to losing the “magic,” his stage show was lacking reason. He started on the steps wearing a headpiece that was taller than him (and might have caused his reoccurring earpiece malfunction), singing towards a woman hanging over the stage in chains. As he walked down to the fog-covered stage, he drew a sword and held it in front of him while standing relatively still. He backed away as the stage doors opened behind him, with two men pulling a white chariot into view … but for what purpose? He never addressed the woman, made no movement towards the chariot, and his sword-handling was nonexistent. In all, it was a fairly dull set.

In third, I would rank Michael Grimm. Channeling his inner Bruce Springsteen, Grimm belted out another raspy soul number on stage. There weren’t many errors, but I find the quality of his tone to be hard to listen to after a while, especially compared to the other singers in the competition.

Fighting Gravity comes in second with their most impressive performance to date. Acting out a “good vs evil” routine on a three-tiered platform, the college guys from Virginia Tech put together a very technical display in just a weeks time. Unfortunately, those few days denied the crew enough time to practice their act, leading up to two obvious errors. The first error was when one of the characters was being pulled through one door on the first level and through a second door just above the first. As one person tugged on the characters feet, the upper half of the body would disappear on the level above/below. However, there was a breakdown in timing, with the whole body of the character flew through the door on the first level while the feet of the same character were still being held on the level above. The other error came when one of the crew members was trying to change clothes quickly on the main level while the black screen was held open.

Coming in first was the little angel Jackie Evancho. Singing a heavenly tune in front of a live band, the little opera singer performed nearly perfectly. She did have a few missed or “nervous” notes, but they were difficult to pick out if you weren’t listening for them.

Las Vegas potential

The least-likely person to have a Vegas act in my view is Michael Grimm.  I think Grimm has a future as a singer, and might even start up a small band, however, I don’t see how he could maintain a Vegas show.  Besides, there might be more money in store for him as a touring performer anyway.

The next least-likely would be Prince Poppycock.  This guy is fantastic and could have a Vegas act, but I think he might find better success on or off Broadway.  With the recent success of shows like the stage adaptation of Monty Pythons’ “Holy Grail,” he could easily land in a show that is both whimsical as well as musically entertaining.

In second, I place Jackie Evancho.  She is a song bird and would definitely be a Vegas draw (especially if she sings as well as she matures).  However, like Poppycock, she might find better opportunities on Broadway.In some ways, she reminds me of Charlotte Church.  Like Charlotte, she could easily cut many albums and become an international sensation.

The most “Vegas” act has to be Fighting Gravity.  Their act is quite unique – a quality sought after on the Vegas circuit.  They could become the new Blue Man Group.  Without having any individual star in the act, they could rotate performers in and out of their rotation without interrupting the act.


4th – Prince Poppycock

3rd – Fighting Gravity

2nd – Jackie Evancho

1st – Michael Grimm

Printer problems, spoolers, golf clubs, and HP Q6470A?

September 15, 2010

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I come across an object that I just cannot conquer.  One of those items are computer printers.  For some reason, they are my most difficult computer peripheral in my opinion.  If it isn’t that the toner or ink is no longer available in stores, it is the drivers not being compatible with my latest operating system version.  And if the drivers are working properly, there is some sort of hic-up within the operating system causing print jobs to be stuck in the print queue (and good luck trying to clear those out of the system).

My recent issue is the print spooler acting up.  For some reason yesterday, the spooler (or whatever application that is associated with it) has failed to work properly.  I’ve reinstalled the existing driver and downloaded and installed the most recent driver.  The only thing I haven’t tried is taking the wooden driver out of my golf bag and threaten my computer with it.  There isn’t much saved on the computer, so if I need to slick the harddrive and start over from scratch, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Fortunately that is cheaper than going out to buy ink and toner.  I’ve never understood why that stuff costs so much.  And in many cases, it seems that the stores don’t carry my ink or toner any more.  (Why make a quality printer if you are no longer going to supply the ink or toner for it?)  Thank goodness for the internet.  There are many online stores that offer hard-to-find ink and toner.  As an example, the website carries the HP Q6470A toner on their website.  Exploring the websites for Best Buy and Staples, I cannot find the toner being listed anywhere.  If I had purchased the printer model that takes that toner, I would be left with an expensive paperweight if online stores didn’t still offer the harder-to-find inks and toners.

Hopefully my printer has sensed this article and is currently fearing the idea of me breaking out my golf clubs.  For two days it has tormented me, and I think it’s time for me to turn the tables.  Anyone else out there have these kind of issues?

Is this a fortune or an insult?

September 14, 2010

Last week, myself and a group of my coworkers went to the local Chinese restaurant during our lunch break.  As tradition, we received our fortune cookie when we were finished with our meals.  I always get a kick out of these “fortunes,” but the one I received made me question: is this a fortune or an insult?  After cracking open the cookie, I read the following:

You should be able to make money and hold on to it.

Huh?  Did this fortune cookie just call me fiscally irresponsible?  Looking back at the slip of paper, I reread the fortune in the following context:

What’s wrong with you?  You should be able to make money and hold on to it.

Yep – it sounds like an insult to me.  One of my coworkers took the fortune and read it for himself.  He placed it in the following context:

Good news!  You should be able to make money and hold on to it.

When you phrase it that way, it sounds like whatever money that is coming to me, I will not have to apply it to some sort of debt or other expense.  Still, the question lingers.

What do you think?  Is this a fortune or an insult?

America’s Got Talent finals (UPDATE)

September 9, 2010

After watching the show Tuesday night, this is how I would rank the 10 acts:

1 ) Jackie Evancho
Jackie is a fantastic singer, no matter what her age.

2 ) Prince Poppycock
Poppycock is not only a great singer, he is a complete persona.

3 ) Fighting Gravity
These guys are a riot. My only criticism about their performance last night is that it seemed to be a bit weaker than their earlier acts. Additionally, some of the props were not well hidden when moved behind the cast. However, with just a week to put the whole routine together and practice, these issues can easily be forgiven.

4 ) Anna and Patryk
A fantastic dance duo. Except for the fall by Anna at the start of the routine, their performance was near perfect.

5 ) Studio One Young Beast Society
Second only to Anna and Patryk, these are the best dancers from the whole season. Unique moves mixed with a lot of energy. I could easily see them with a stage act in the future.

6 ) Taylor Matthews
My favorite of the two male singers. Unfortunately, he is still a bit rough around the edges and needs some refinement.

7 ) Michael Grimm
A talented singer, but his voice isn’t the greatest. He reminds me a lot of Bruce Springsteen. Michael will definitely have a career following this show.

8 ) Jeremy VanSchoonhoven
This boy is crazy. The fact that he fell 15 feet, banged himself up and went to the hospital, and then return to compete live shows true grit. However, I have a difficult time seeing him as a solo act with a Vegas show.

9 ) Michael Grasso
Most of the magicians that made it into the Semi-finals were fantastic. Unfortunately for Michael, he lacks a showmanship quality needed for a stage show. Plus, with the coordination issue last night with the clear box getting snagged on the roll-away screen, the quality of the performance was a little weak.

10 ) Christina and Ali
I don’t want to come across as cruel, but I don’t think these two gals show have made it into the Semi-finals, let alone into the finals. They have a very touching story, but they are average singers. I feel more qualified acts lost out on a chance to compete in the finals, but since it was America’s choice, who am I to argue?

Prince Poppycock, Michael Grimm, Jackie Evancho, and Fighting Gravity made it into the final round. I guessed three of the four. Not too bad if I say so myself!

Gold – one of my biggest mistakes

September 3, 2010

For over a decade, I’ve had fun (and some rewards) with playing in the stock market.  Between purchasing shares of SBA Communications, Edison Schools, and the likes, I have more than offset my losses in stocks such as WorldCom and Countrywide.  However, one of my biggest mistakes was not purchasing gold bullion, gold coins, or a gold IRA.

In 2001, gold was sitting comfortably below $300 an ounce – well within my range of investing.  Since then, it has gone up over $1000 an ounce (see the chart below).  This return on an internationally appreciated commodity is impressive and probably the best investment during the global economic pinch over the past few years.

Gold Price

Gold is used around the world in so many different applications.  NASA uses gold in the construction of their satellites because the metal is corrosion-resistant and shields delicate components (and astronauts) from solar radiation.  Due to the non-allergenic properties of gold, doctors and dentists use gold in treatment of patients; using gold for filings, treatment of arthritis, and fighting cancer.  Gold is even found in your cars airbag, since the contacts and wiring provide reliable contacts to ensure the airbag deploys when you need it the most.

While it is unlikely that it will continue this level of growth, the fact that gold is a finite resource might mean that it will remain a safe investment until the economies around the world recover.  Gold is unique because the value placed on the metal comes from two completely different points of view.  Industries need the metal for its unique physical properties, while nations need the metal because bullion is internationally accepted as a form of financial backing for their currencies.  Until a time comes when there is a synthetic material developed to replace the application of gold in electronic devices, odds are this precious and finite resource will maintain its value for years to come.