America’s Got Talent Wednesday 6/24/2009

americas-got-talent-judgesThe second night of the season for America’s Got Talent was just an hour long. Not a lot of time, but they used that slot to show many more good acts than bad. The total amount of talent that is shown on TV is limited. Tonight, we saw several good performers with potential. The judges Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and David Hasselhoff were unanimous in their decisions on who to keep and who to send home.

The acts that didn’t practice enough or had little entertainment value included the chubby bad singing guy who does the splits, the girl in the suitcase, the big belly dancer, the colorful acrobatic creatures, the solo trio dancer, the clowns, and the bucket balancer.

drew thomasThe acts that are moving on include Manuela Horn the Yodeling Dominatrix, Comic-Bots musical break dancing robots, Tom Durnin the retired magician/pop-and-lock dancer, G-Force the pre-teen all girl rock and roll band, Erik and Rickie the 8-year-old ballroom dancers, Drew Thomas Illusionist, Alizma–the violin-playing triplets, and Arcadian Broad the 13-year-old expressionist dancer.

arcadian broadAll of the performers that made it through to the next round in Las Vegas were worthy. They will have to take their act up a notch to continue further, because the winner needs to be great. At this point the acts are just good.

Tonight, I liked Tom Durnin the best. He is an older guy who displayed hip dance moves while performing magic tricks. He was high energy, interesting, fun, and entertaining.  I want to see him perform again and hope he makes the top 10.

The program is showing too much of the judges, families, and crowd reactions to the performances. There were several acts where most of the TV time was spent away from the performers. The people at home will have to vote based on the audience reaction, not the performance, as we didn’t get to see all of any act. I’m sitting on my couch at the Munro House trying to make an informed decision on limited observance. I hope the show’s director gives more time to the actual performances as the season rolls on.

America’s Got Talent Tuesday 6/23/2009

americas-got-talent-logo

Simon Cowell and friends are looking for talented people in America who have the potential to capture an audience for a one hour show in Las Vegas as the grand prize. Some contestants are serious, some are not. Some may not be able to fill a 5 minute show and some could go on for hours. The judges critique the contestants with help from a live audience. At the end of the season, the winner gets $1,000,000 and a contract to appear on the strip in Vegas.

The 2006 winner, Bianca Ryan, was the “11-year-old red head with the voice of a 40-year-old black woman” has fallen off the radar. Terry Fator, the ventriloquist winner from 2007, has parlayed his opportunity into a $100,000,000 five year contract at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. 2008 winner, Neal E Boyd, is an opera singer whose debut album is scheduled to be released this week.

judgesOnce again this year, the contestants are being judged by Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and David Hasselhoff.  During the performances, the judges can show their displeasure with the act by pressing a big red button that emits a buzzer and lights up a red “X”.  Three X’s and the guest is done.  Each judge then gives the person a bit of advice and they go home or move on to the upcoming next round in Las Vegas.

The new host is Nick Cannon. He was the lead actor in the movie “Drumline”. He is an accomplished actor, comedian, rapper, and TV personality.

If you want to have a chance to win, you need to have honed your act to become a better song and dance guy, family singing troupe, dance group, accordion player, singer, keyboardist, animal caller, freak show, comedian, yodeler, acrobat, bagpiper, or impressionist. If you want to gross out your audience, take your freakish body and insertions and make it entertaining.

The acts that are moving on include the Footwork Kings fast stepping dancers, Peter Peterkin the Obama impersonator, the Black Fire Percussion group, Annointed X beatbox percussionist, Unexpected Step Team dancers, Tony Hoard and Rockin’ Rory the Frisbee dog, Brad Byers the fishhook anchor guy, EriAm singing sisters, Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir, Draconic fire and whip act, David Johnson the comedy singer, Bruce & Simone aeriel acrobats, NYC Gay Men’s Choir, Parodys of Dance acrobatic dancers, and Voices of Glory young singers/harmonizers.

My favorite act was Peter Peterkin. He nailed his impersonation of our President, and he took it to the next level when he made the President do an impression of James Brown. He was unique, funny, and very entertaining. I hope to see him in the top 10.

Watch them all at NBC online. I’ll be watching them from the comfort of my couch on the big screen at the Munro House in Jonesville.

Adam Lambert in Rolling Stone Magazine

adam lambert rolling stone coverRolling Stone Magazine has made it official–Adam Lambert is gay. A big cover story about the American Idol runner up announced his sexual liberation. Does anybody really care? I thought we were over that as a nation.

Does it really matter if someone is gay? Should anyone’s sexual orientation be an issue? Is he a better or worse singer/performer/person because of his sexual orientation? I don’t think so. I base my opinion of Adam Lambert on his stage performance and the way he handles himself in public. I know he’s a great singer and I know he’s a polished performer. He appears to be a nice guy, he appears to be humble, and he is at the top of his game.

Adam is one of the few great things happening in America, right now. He is fresh, young, good looking, extremely talented, and has unlimited potential. He is on the short list of performers that I would pay just to listen to him sing–no stage show, no pyrotechnics, no animation.

Adam Lambert yellow glassesAll through the American Idol competition, Adam chose great songs. Some were familiar, all were brand new when he put his spin on them. I can only imagine the ride he will take his audience on when he finally does a solo show. He will make old songs new and classic songs better. No one has done what he’s doing–reinventing untouchable classics and making sleeper hits popular. If he can do that to classics, I can’t wait to see what he creates that is brand new.

A talented young man is rising in the entertainment industry. I don’t care that he’s gay. Do you?

Adam Lambert young hollywood

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Prezi Presentation Software

exchange clubWhen I am not the innkeeper at the Munro House Bed and Brekafast, I am a member of the Exchange Club in Hillsdale, Michigan. We are a service organization with a national cause of child abuse prevention. Locally, we honor local students and volunteers, build things, donate time, and do good deeds.

Every year, we seek out well-displayed American flags. We give an award called “Proudly We Hail” to a local individual and a business for displaying the flag. It sounds pretty basic, but there is a lot more to it. I think everyone has heard of the Flag Code, but just what is it? I really didn’t know either, so I looked it up online and found some very interesting stuff to share with my group.

I started out with a PowerPoint presentation and was pretty proud of myself because PowerPoint is not one of my most familiar software programs–I did a fine job. I was testing out my presentation with my friend Andrea when she mentioned that it would be so much cooler to do the same presentation using Prezi. PreziI had never heard of Prezi. Andrea is a school teacher and is up on all the current trends, especially in the technology world. She directed me to Prezi.com where they have some free software.

I checked it out and completed my 100+ page presentation in one night. It was so easy, and fun. Instead of having a separate page for all of my slides, I just have one big map. On this map are a series of smaller slides that can be linked together. It is kind of like going on a long trip from city to city. You choose the route, and Prezi takes you there one stop at a time. Prezi ToolEach slide can be as big as you like or as small as the dot on an “i”. The Flash Player navigation automatically zooms you in or out to the next slide on your predetermined route. Slides can be easily rotated, moved, expanded, or compressed with a single tool. Moving from slide to slide gives a feeling of motion or progress as you travel around the map.

I finished my Flag Code Presentation and looked at the grand map. It was a rectangular mish-mash of information. As I thought about it, I realized that I could resize arrange my slides into the shape of the United States of America without having to adjust the itinerary–it was already locked!  How cool!Flag Code Map

Today, when I make my presentation to the group using Prezi, I will begin with the projector on. My audience will be able to see a bunch of red, white, and blue flags, along with other pictures, words, and paragraphs on what looks like a map of the USA. As we start the presentation by zooming in to different areas of the map and traveling along my scheduled itinerary, I hope to keep them interested in my speech and engaged by the information. At the end of the day, we all have a larger appreciation for the symbolism and thought that went into developing the flag code. I am sure that there is a lot about displaying the flag of which we didn’t have a clue but will realize and appreciate after my presentation.

It was actually fun to put this slideshow together. The learning curve was very small, and I impressed myself with the results. Prezi is easy to use, easy to learn, and fun to present. I am looking forward to my first public display using this new software and hope I will have the opportunity to create something for a future engagement.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 7:56 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

NASCAR racing at MIS in June

NASCAR 2Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, Michigan, is the site for two NASCAR races each year. The first date is Father’s Day weekend in June. The second is the third weekend in August. The track can handle about 140,000 people. That is by far the biggest weekend crowd that comes to Southern Michigan every year.

I own the Munro House Bed and Breakfast in Jonesville. It’s just a half hour from the track and we have always had a nice bunch of race fans stay at our house. I had been familiar with NASCAR all my life, but had never been a big fan. I knew the big names and heard about the big races, but never had a desire to go to a live event–it just wasn’t my thing. All those people, plus traffic, parking, and the potential for sunburn was not appealing. Year after year, many of the same people would return to stay with us on race weekends and they got me interested enough to consider going just once, as an observer.

NASCAR Juniors Fans Auto RacingI was told to get there early, because the gates opened at 6:00 a.m. and it would be a good thing to be there when they opened to enjoy the full spectacle of it all. Most of my guests would pay a local $25 or more to park in their yard, because it is easier to get out of their yard than the parking lot when the race is over. Then I was told to go to the NASCAR Village to get t-shirts and hats and other memorabilia plus food and water. Then I was to mingle with the crowd and await the 2:00 p.m. start.

NASCAR souvenir trailerI had work to do, so I didn’t leave the house until 11:30 a.m. I thought I was in trouble, but I was wrong. I was driving the only track-bound vehicle on US-12! I did not see another car until I got 5 miles from the track at the intersection of highways 12 & 127 where 3 cars turned in front of me at the traffic light. The four of us drove right to the track without ever slowing down below the speed limit. We pulled into the MIS grounds where we were directed to a designated parking area. I was pointed to my spot and was surprised to find that they did not charge a fee to park! I had arrived in 30 minutes flat.

I walked a half mile or so to the NASCAR Village–it is a huge area with over a hundred semi trailers parked in rows. These trailers are actually small stores, museums, and restaurants. They pull them from track to track and set them up very quickly to take care of the needs of the fans. Everything NASCAR is available in the village. I checked out several things, but my focus was on obtaining a ticket, as I didn’t have one.

NASCAR michiganThe start of the race was about an hour away, so my attention was on people selling tickets. While meandering through the village, I saw a guy raise his hand and call out “I got–one!” I approached him and told him I was interested. He showed me the $65 face value ticket and said I could have it for $20. I noted that it was high in the third turn and said “deal”. I flipped him a 20, he walked away happy, and I started figuring out where “turn 3” was.

I made my way to the bleachers about a half hour before the start. I picked up something to eat and some extra water and got to my seat about the time the proceedings began. There was a parade of cars, a jet fly-over, and the singing of our national anthem. I had a good view of the jumbo tron TV screen and settled in with my fellow race fans.

NASCAR michigan speedway grandstandI could see the entire track from my seat and watched as the cars drove away from me, then towards me, and around again. Those cars are LOUD! The crowd got louder as the racers went by. Some were wearing headphones, listening to their team’s radio broadcast. Some also had headsets and were talking to their friends. Everyone had their favorite driver and cheered them on while they good-naturedly ribbed their friends who were following someone else. NASCAR is more than a race, it is a huge social gathering.

nascar michigan 400The heat of the day and the noise got to me rather quickly. After 50 laps, I was ready to move, and so I did. I made my way through turn 4 and into the grandstands opposite pit road. That was where all the action was really taking place. Tires were being changed in moments, gas tanks were filled in seconds, and many other things were happening in the blink of an eye. I found this location to be the most entertaining. I spent a little bit of time in somebody else’s seat, then moved on when they returned. When the cars weren’t in the pits, there was a lot of jostling for position going on as the vehicles hit top speed on the straightaway.

I decided to put an early end to my day and listen to the rest of the race on my radio on the way home. I left with the competition a little more than half over. I didn’t want to mess with over 100,000 people trying to leave Brooklyn, Michigan, at the same time. I made it to my car and drove away and was home in 30 minutes flat.

I got to experience NASCAR in person. I had a good time. More importantly, I was home.

I enjoy most sports from the comfort of my home and prefer to watch sports on TV. But until you’ve been to a live event, you just won’t know all the extra stuff you miss out on. If you have a day or more to spend with your sport and like-minded fans, it is pretty hard to compete with the NASCAR experience. Everyone should go at least once, many people go every year, and some folks are NASCAR groupies who get to as many races as possible every year. I have been there and done that and will probably go again with a group of friends, but not by myself.

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

My Favorite 14-Year-Old Next Door Neighbor

green2Hannah has been living next to the Munro House all her life. When we moved here in 1999 she was just 4 years old and has been a source of amusement ever since. She started by choosing my couch as the only place she would take her daily nap and would actually come over to sleep every day. When she outgrew naps, Hannah would come over just to get candy from the bowl by the front door.  After a couple of times of  ‘grab and go’, we told her that if she was going to come over, she would have to spend some time with us and tell us about her day before she could have any candy.

The best thing about Hannah was that she never talked about Barbie, or cartoons, or any of the other things that little kids are interested in. Hannah came over to discuss life. We would talk about what was going on in her life, our town, the country, and the world. The opinions of a child are sometimes verbatim what comes out of their parents’ mouths, but it proved that Hannah was listening and she understood the issues of the day and took a stand on her side of the debate and defended them.

We didHannah Indian 02034n’t just talk about current events. There’s a lot going on in the mind of a youg person. We have talked about school, doing the right thing, relationships, manners, rules, how things work, and more. All the while, we have given her little jobs to do while we had our discussions. It started with folding napkins and setting the table, it graduated to being our little hostess for community events, and now includes kitchen help, wait staff, and groundskeeper.

Today, we were goofing on the piano. She plays violin, I am learning ukulele. Between the two of us, we were going to figure out how to play “Edelweiss” on the piano. She knew which notes were played by each key and was explaining it to me. She told me that when reading music, the notes are either on lines or spaces. FACE rhymes with space, so F, A ,C, and E are the notes in the spaces. Then she explained about the lines. E-G-B-D-F is easy to remember by making a sentence where each word begins with those letters. The sentence she told me was not the one I remember from grade school. She said “Even George Bush Drives Fast”. I was caught so off-guard that she had me in convulsions laughing so hard.

2007-02-28- 006Life is good in Jonesville, especially when you have a good friend who is a great source of entertainment. I call her “Hannah-Hannah-Coco-Banana”.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags:

Spring is Here

Winter came early last season.  We had snow on the ground before the last leaves fell from our trees. They eventually fell and are now messing up my yard.  For the past 2 days, the weather has been beautiful.  Sunny and 60 degrees.  Now that my peeps have left the building, I have an opportunity to do some work outside while it’s still nice out.

It is customary for us to plant on Mother’s Day weekend–the second Sunday in May. The timing for planting flowers and vegetables is alway a big question mark. Last year, we could have planted early, because the last frost was early in the season. Who knows what will happen this year. Frosts have occurred as late as Father’s Day weekend–the third Sunday in June.  All we can do is make a decision to plant, and check the weather forecast until summer officially arrives.

Newspapers over the plants will do the trick, but if we forget or get caught off guard, a tip is to water your plants first thing in the morning after a frost. Often times, the watering will save a plant that wasn’t covered.

We will sow more veggies and fewer annuals this year. I prefer perrenials. The perrenials are so nice, they come up when Mother Nature tells them to, and they are hardy through a frost or snow. This year, we will have an assortment of tomatos, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, and gourds.

I have little concern about critters invading my garden. We have few rabbits on our block, and the deer have stayed away, too. My neighbors 3 blocks down aren’t so lucky.  With a little luck and some decent weather, we will have a bounty of healthy fresh foods in mid summer.

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Chinese restaurant fortune cookies

fortune cookieOur local Chinese restaurant is the King Buffet in Jonesville. It is located next to Super Wal-Mart and is owned by a nice young couple–Jimmy and Lee. They have a very large selection of oriental dishes on the buffet line plus 2 kinds of soup and a selection of sushi. They also have some American favorites for the kids–pizza, chicken tenders, etc.

Additionally, there are raw foods that you may combine on a plate for the chef to prepare fresh for you on the Mongolian Barbeque. Everything is “all you can eat” for a very reasonable cost. My friend “Johnny” knows that when he goes there, it’s going to be a “five plater”–he has a healthy appetite.

Fruit, pudding, and ice cream are also available for dessert.

My favorite part of a Chinese meal is the fortune cookie. It could be in Jonesville, New York, or San Francisco–the fortunes are always the same.  A long time ago, another friend, Penny, told me that every fortune must be read aloud and two words need to be added to the end.  Just read the fortune and add “in bed” to the end to make it true. This always makes for an amusing fortune that will surely make you feel like a champ.

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,