Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughts And Points: February 2012

I should start off by apologizing for the lack of submissions for my blog. I have not found the quality time to submit to my blog, due to the heavy load I have had when it came to what life has to offer. Even in my spare time, I have been using that to hone my skills of reading literature and brainstorming for my own fiction writing. Due to this occupation, I have had little time to come up with just the right blogging topics.

For this post, I am doing another "Thoughts And Points," which means I will simply jot down some random topics and discuss them. These are brief posts that become wrapped up into one. We shall now begin...

The Last Two Episodes Of Shark Tank

As I write this post, I saw one episode, but not the other. I will definitely catch up on the newest episode online. It's brilliant how the advancement of the Internet is able to help me out in this situation. Anyway, the episode I watched featured a loud couple from New Jersey (feeding in to the New Jersey stereotype as to why people from New Jersey are worse than everybody else in the country) who had this idea for a lid that stays on the garbage can (called "The Last Lid") and they pitched a deal with Daymond John. Two partners came up with a line of gourmet tea in which Kevin O'Leary made an offer to buy. This is his first successful deal of the season. At the end of the episode, a teenage girl, her younger sister, and their mom came up with a jewelry line in which three sharks jumped in to take a piece of... Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec.

I could honesty say that if this show is renewed with a fourth season (which it SHOULD), then Lori Greiner should and will likely receive a contract extension. Not only for more episodes, but possibly for most of or the entire season. Mark Cuban had three memorable appearances in season two and is now on every show for season three. Lori Greiner has had memorable appearances of her own, proving to be slick, clever, and clear on her offers. Barbara Corcoran does demonstrate a more aggressive foil to Kevin O'Leary than Greiner, who is the heart of the show. Without him, the show would clearly not be the same.

American Idol Will Have A Whitney Houston Night

I am almost positive that American Idol will most definitely have a week in which the contestants sing music from the late Whitney Houston. Her death has shook the world of pop culture, though the fact she took plenty of drugs means that this death couldn't really be considered shocking. Her death flooded the news, her future was private, but widely discussed, and the coverage is beyond belief... the biggest coverage on a celebrity death since Michael Jackson. Then again, death's of those caliber then to really stick out. Elvis Presley's death outshadowed Groucho Marx's (Groucho died three days after Elvis) and Kurt Cobain's death coverage continued to flow into the coverage of Richard Nixon's. It's very unfortunate, but these controversial sudden death's (if you could call it that based on their lifestyles) tend to lead to heavy coverage.

On American Idol, Whitney Houston's music has been covered time and time again. The judges have also looked up to her as a musical icon, especially Randy Jackson. I will be extremely shocked if the show does not have a night in which her music is covered.

Also, the Michael Jackson night of the show aired a few months before his death. After he died, the show reaired the episode in order to pay tribute. For Whitney Houston night on Idol, there will be a heavy amount of paying tribute to the singer that could go to the extent of blowing steam up the backside.

Davy Jones's Death

Talk about a shocking death, the death of Davy Jones was extremely shocking when I heard about it. He always had a positive personality and he was one of the last people I would see dying a sudden death. He died from a heart attack on Leap Day 2012 at the age of 66. Heart attacks could very well be sudden if you don't know the signs, but in some cases nothing could be done.

Jones was probably the most famous member of the sixties bubblegum group "The Monkees," which also featured Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith (who became set for life with his mother's invention of liquid paper aka. White Out, and after leaving the group did not return). "Daydream Believer" proved to be his most memorable hit with the group, but he also led with songs such as "Valleri" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." He also had a solo career and reunions with Dolenz and Tork.

His death came really soon and is highly unfortunate.

My Craving For Literature

Recently, I have been broadening my horizons as to what type of reading interests me. I generally collect horror fiction and read this genre, along with books that are either recommended or are highly discussed. At this point, I thought I should get into literature from several genres and countries, which could simply be called World Literature. You name the country, I'm looking into the literature. American literature is also included in the mix.

To me, I follow the dictionary definition of literature, this being "the art of written work." Many people believe literature has to be poetic, a work of Shakespeare, or classical. However, if the work is written, then it's literature. Some literature is better than others, but that can be applied to just about anything and everything.

I'm currently reading 75 Short Masterpieces and am really enjoying it thus far. Two stories that have really stuck out thus far (though I have not completed reading the series just yet) include "The Lottery Ticket" by Ventura Garcia Calderon and "A Wicked Boy" by Anton Chekhov.

Catching Fire And Mockingjay Are Not Really Good Sequels

The Hunger Games was a brilliant novel. I really enjoyed the concept of having a Vietnam War-esque story about teenagers fighting to the death in an annual competition. If they extended the book a bit and created a resolution right then and there, that would have been the best case scenario. Instead, we had two sequels... Catching Fire and Mockingjay. In the first sequel, we get the aftermath of the competition, what happens between competitions, and a twist that forces Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark back into the competition. In the final book in the series, we see a revolt against the Capitol.

At this time, they simply inject the book with ways to set up Katniss, the importance of Katniss's position, the complete setups, and the deaths that are included for the sake of including them. There are also many of events that do not come with very good explanations.

These two books are still in hardcover and still cost $17.99 at regular cost, which could be considered a form of robbery for the book buyer. I would say wait for the price to shrink down to at least half of this, if not, bargain price, in order to make your purchase. I wish the remainder of the series was excellent compared to the first in the series.

These are the Thoughts And Points that are floating through my head. Again, I apologize for the inability to come out with more posts, that's the way things flow. Hopefully these mini-posts filled you up. I'll be sure to post if something floats through my mind and I find the chance to do so up and coming.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 4

Yesterday evening's episode of Shark Tank proved to be a very vicious, exciting episode that showed just how far the sharks and entrepreneurs would go to make a deal or have a deal made. The episode featured two duds and two very good ideas, but made fairly questionable decisions and may have not had the greatest products. I'll get to that when I review each pitch. The sharks featured in this episode included Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec. That is correct, Lori sat in for regular female shark Barbara Corcoran

The episode started off with Ivori Tennelle and her product known as "The Swilt," which could be worn like a sweater and then turn into a quilt. Despite a deal of $30,000 for 35%, her product proved to be too much like a "Snuggie" and held incredible flaws. None of the sharks chose to invest in this product. I should add that her personality did not necessarily rub me the right way for one, and for two, I am not a fan of the Snuggie. I bought a blue Snuggie that has sleeves for my arms and that is it. I didn't like it and I gave the product to my dog. At least he's enjoying it more than I, because he simply tucks his upper body into the blanket and uses it like the product it does a better job at being.

Shelly Ehler is the next one into the tank. Her product, called "Show No," is a product that you wear like a poncho and use to change out of your wet bathing suit and into dry clothes. Kevin and Robert saw nothing more than a seasonal business in the product and went out. However, the other sharks wanted a part of the deal. With the original offer being $50,000 for 25%, Lori matched the offer and wrote a check right then and there, Daymond made an offer of $50,000 for 20%, and Mark decided to offer $75,000 for 25% of the company. Lori struck back by raising her offer to $75,000 and saying that since she's a woman, she could speak her language and that's an advantage. Daymond also bounced his offer to $75,000 and kept his interest in just 20% of the company. When Shelly felt the need to walk out for a moment, Kevin started ripping apart the sharks for falling for her emotional passion she expressed (she did have a story in which she had to sell her home and move with her husband and two sons), saying that they're making a big deal out of a towel with a slit in it and considered this as being "financial pornography." When Shelly returned, she decided to take Lori's offer, giving Lori her first offer of the season. The question I come out with is, how much can you do with this product? You would have to get your wet suit out of the towel, then get your dry clothes under the towel, plus getting a shirt on would be challenging. Getting the clothes in and out is what is most flawed about the product. I would simply have high hopes that the bathrooms are in good condition and then run into a stall to change.

"Note Hall" was the updated product of the week. This was a product in which two guys had an online site where users could buy notes off of people. They took Barbara's offer and have been succeeding since. They have since been made an offer by the Chegg and have been working with them on sending their product skyrocketing.

Kelly Chaney was next into the tank, with a product called "Puppy Cakes," which was a puppy mix with ingredients that were good for dogs. The sharks, however, did not find the product to be useful and more so a novelty product that did not sell. They all went out. The only one really enthusiastic about the product was her Vizsla, who came with her into the tank. She had little passion and could likely find more success on one of Paris Hilton's shows than in the business world.

The final entrepreneur into the tank was Eric Corti, who offered the sharks $40,000 in exchange for 30% of the company. His product, "Wine Balloon," is meant to go into the bottle and take out some of the excess wine in order to keep the majority of the wine in the bottle fresh. Kevin, a wine connoisseur, decided to match his offer, but in the condition that he goes with him to meet with a company in order to use the product. However, Lori and Mark disagreed with this tactic. Lori offered $500,000 for 100% of the company, and with Mark in the deal, they made a $600,000 offer to buy him out. Eric became hesitant and an inpatient Mark went out. Lori returned to her original offer. Robert and Daymond went out and believed Eric was not making the right decision. Mark decided that he would go back in, but the offer would be $400,000 for the entire company. Eric took Mark and Lori's offer, completely ignoring the offer Kevin put on the table. The decision as to selling his entire company remains questionable. I felt that such a big deal was made on this monster offer for complete control when there was an alternate offer on the table. Even if Mark and Lori's offer blew up into flames, Kevin had an offer matching the original offer, but had some more provisions. It just goes to show you how much of a reputation Kevin has built as being the quintessential money hungry shark who's simply in it for his own gain. If Eric wanted a fine amount of control, he could have very well went with Kevin on this one. Besides, you're working with someone who has an interest in wine.

This was an exciting episode. Lori Greiner's addition to the show was a fine one indeed. She's clever, she's smooth, she's calm, and has a good business ethic. Creating an empire with QVC only strengthens her resume. I believe she should be given more appearances if the show continues. There's no reason it shouldn't, because it's a hit, rating wise and in quality. Lori seems to have much more of a direct fight in the tank than Barbara and could engage in five shark battles. When Mark Cuban showed his aggressive personality and expectations of quickfire decisions, he was given a contract to appear during the entire season. Greiner is slick and extremely businesslike and by next season, she should be given a larger contract. It's unfortunate for sharks like Kevin Harrington and Barbara Corcoran, who either don't stick out or don't make enough offers respectively. Kevin O'Leary doesn't count, because while his offers aren't accepted very often, he makes enough offers and has a personality that's so vital to the show that without it, the show would not be the same.

Next episode will feature Lori Greiner and sounds very promising. We'll just have to see HOW promising.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 3

I asked for amends on the fact that this post is five days after the show aired. I'm a busy guy and this was the best opportunity I could find to write up a review for the most recent episode of Shark Tank. I must say that this week was an extremely impressive episode. Last week, we had one offer and one potential offer the entire episode. This week, we had several offers and it became extremely heated among the sharks. Speaking of which, the sharks were the same as last week: Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec.

The first entrepreneur was a guy from Alabama named Travis Perry, who pitched his product, "Chord Buddy." This product provided an easier way to learn how to play the guitar. Perry showed a ton of enthusiasm for his product and for teaching people how to play the guitar. I must say even I may have gained a bit of encouragement to go out and play knowing that controlling the chords will be a bit easier. Perry believed that keeping the production and jobs in America was key to the strive in his company. It seemed like Perry's American approach was not as severe as the same approach last week, because four of the five sharks (Cuban being the odd shark out) were interested in teaming up with him. The original offer was $125,000 for 10% of the company. O'Leary offered $125K for 20% plus a promise to star in the infomercial, John $125K for 20% plus a celebrity endorsement, Corcoran (making her first offer of the season) $175K for 20%, $50K of the stake would have to be used in an infomercial, and Herjavec also offered $175K for 20%, $50K of the stake to be used for the infomercial. Perry went with Herjavec (who was eager to learn how to play guitar)'s offer. The two went strumming out of the tank.

For a recap, Shawn Davis, who created a shrimp burger line, was this week's update. All of the sharks turned him down, but he seemed to be doing just fine.

Pat McCarthy was next into the tank. He created a scent line of perfume and cologne that smelled like money. While this seemed to be the product that would be right up the sharks alley, it really didn't prove to be the the dream product people who dream it would be. The only shark that showed any interest was Daymond John. The offer was $100,000 in exchange for 5% of the company. John would provide the money, but needed 80% of the company. McCarthy refused and the offer was turned down. As Corcoran said, the product didn't really smell so much like natural money.

Kyle Rainey was the next one in the tank. His product was "Tail Lightz," a not so hip glow in the dark patches that you place on your back pant pockets. The offer was $50,000 for 50% of the company. None of the sharks had interest. Who would blame them, because as they said, the patches were dated and they looked uncomfortable. I should add that they did a very poor job glowing in the dark. This would be one of those ripoff products like the Marvin's Magic Drawing Board.

Megan Cummins was last into the tank. Her product was "You Smell," a luxury soap company that came in such scents as lemon, which would be mentioned on the back of the bar wrapper. Her offer was $55,000 for 20% of the company. Three of the sharks expressed interest in the product. Cuban matched the offer, Corcoran offered $55K for 40% and Herjavec offered $55K and a $50K salary in the first year for 20%. Corcoran would eventually drop her offer to 30% and use comments about girl power and how women work harder to sway Cummins over. Nonetheless, she goes with Herjavec and his clearly strong offer. Cuban did do well, but Herjavec did better in an offer that couldn't be turned down.

Episode 3 of Shark Tank was clearly Robert Herjavec's episode. He went away with two strong offers of products that could potentially be huge. Chord Buddy is definitely something of the future, while You Smell seems like a regular luxury soap, but could come off big. It all goes to show you the limitations to each of the sharks. This was a fine episode indeed!

In the next episode, Lori Greiner from QVC will be sitting in Barbara Corcoran's seat for the episode and hoping to come out with an investment. The male sharks will all be the same. We'll just have to wait and see what the next episode has to offer. Should be really interesting.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How 'Bout Them Super Bowl Winning Giants

I was waiting for sometime to be able to say this title phrase. Four years ago, the Patriots were 18-0 and were just coming off of one of the greatest red-handed cheating scandals of all time, known as "Spygate." The Giants were 13-6 underdogs who came close to spoiling the Patriots and their season, but then went on the road to defeat the Bucs, the one seeded Cowboys, and the Brett Favre led Packers, then finally squeaking one out against the Patriots, preventing a perfect season.

For the next three years, we had to make due with this Super Bowl win. In 2008, the Giants had an explosive start by going 10-1. Then Plaxico Burress accidentally shoots himself in the leg while going clubbing, ending his season with the team, forcing them to falter to 2-3 and falling out of the playoffs quickly. The 2009 season started strong, but ending flat, and the 2010 season started strong, but ended painfully. I can honestly say that the loss at home against the Eagles after leading by twenty-one points was the single most painful loss ever.

The 2011 season was the ultimate dark horse season for the New York Giants. After the first week, I questioned whether or not they could even last the season. Losing to the Redskins for the first time since 2007 was most definitely a heart-breaker, especially due to the difficulty of the game. The Giants had a very easy schedule at the start of the season, which included games against the Rams and Cardinals. Both were wins, though the Cardinals game ran close. The Eagles victory was a sweet one, as it was their first victory against them since 2008. While a loss against the Seahawks was painful, victories against the AFC East, including the faltering Bills and hefty Patriots were sweet victories indeed. The Patriots seemed to be unbeatable at home, but the Giants put that streak to rest.

When the schedule grew difficult, the Giants began to struggle. Much of this had to do with inconsistency on both sides of the ball. The injuries were catching up to them and either the offense, the defense, or both sides would struggle. After a painful loss to the Redskins in the first sweep since the 1999 season, the Giants were 7-7 and needed a miracle if they wanted to make the playoffs. Even if they made it, chances seem to be that with the competitors in the NFC, the Giants would be knocked out of the postseason quickly. However, the NFC East was still up for grabs. The Cowboys were in the lead, but at 8-6 and falling in a side, and the Eagles still had a chance to make it, even though they were 6-8. If they all went 8-8, the Eagles would reach the playoffs due to tiebreakers.

The Jets and Cowboys remained on the Giants schedule. One was a home game and the other was technically the same. They pulverized a struggling Jets team that had a crumbling crisis occurring in the locker room and then defeated a struggling Cowboys team in the last game. That Cowboys game was the first game of the season in which they took and maintained the lead throughout. The Giants were 9-7, but division winners and in the playoffs.

The first match was against the Falcons, the top wildcard seed. They won that game with a score of 24-2, the only points they gave up were due to an intentional grounding in the Giants own endzone. The Packers, 49ers, and Saints were the teams left in the NFC. The Giants lost to each of these teams: the Packers in a close one, the 49ers by a touchdown, and the Saints in a game they didn't even contend. My feeling was before the Packers game that if the Giants lost against the Packers in the regular season, chances were they would redeem themselves by shocking them in the playoffs. Despite a game that was poorly reffed, the Giants heavily dominated and brought the Packers down with a score of 37-20. The 49ers were the next team up, and this was a rejuvenated, comeback team. The Saints looked like the frontrunners that could have won the whole thing, but were brought down by the 49ers. Much of this may have had to do with the fact that the Saints are flawless at home, but aren't so good on the road. Luckily for the Giants, going to Candlestick Park wouldn't be as difficult as going to the Superdome. The game went down to the wire and into overtime. The inability to maintain hold of the ball and the Giants ability to recover the ball was the key to the Giants victory.

Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis would be a rematch against those pesky New England Patriots, or at least pesky to the Giants fan. The match went down to the wire and it came down to botched plays as opposed to great plays. While things could have gone better, the Giants made the least crucial mistakes. This meant they didn't botch catches late in the game. As for the run by Ahmad Bradshaw, all of the Giants fan would be able to sleep at night after the end result. I do believe that going for the touchdown would be the right decision, because it would mean the Patriots would have to get into the endzone. While running the clock could have been wiser before scoring the touchdown, a touchdown was a must. Kicking a field goal would only put them up by one and the Patriots would just need to get into field goal range and kick a winner. This isn't too difficult with a good kicker like they have. While I would have preferred a sack or interception at the end of the game on the Giants end, the fact the Patriots couldn't catch the ball in the endzone was good enough. The Giants won and that was that.

While Eli Manning was named MVP, many of the players had excellent games. While wide receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham (who had a memorable catch in the closing minutes), and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck had great games, several others who didn't have so much highlighted moments in the season really stuck out. Fullback Henry Hynoski showed some excellence, linebacker Chase Blackburn made some explosive plays, including the only interception in the game, and punter Steve Weatherford (who was an excellent offseason acquisition after punting issues last season from a rookie punter) showed he should be the long term punter. He was able to keep the Patriots deep and in one instance put them deep enough in one situation that Brady intentional grounded in the endzone and committed a safety, giving two points to the Giants.

Tom Coughlin has always been one of those coaches that has a team that plays great under pressure. In 2007, he looked like he would be on his way out and then won the Super Bowl. This season, I agreed that if he didn't reach the playoffs, he should and would be fired (three seasons without a playoff berth), and they finish with a Super Bowl victory. He just also happens to win the title in his fourth and eighth season with the team, the same seasons in which Bill Parcells won. However, there's not much comparing the two. Both of them have different coaching styles. Though there is something that is the same... both coaching styles work. Tom Coughlin is also the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl at the age of 65, breaking the record held by Dick Vermeil, who was 63 when he won the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Will he retire? We'll have to see. Coughlin is an excellent head coach with a method that works for the team and it would be extremely unfortunate if he was no longer with the team. However, it would be great to see Coughlin retire on top. He's had an excellent coaching career and he deserves to retire in a respectable way. That decision will be entirely up to him. I find it likely that Perry Fewell would succeed him if he retires, which while he has experience as an interim, I don't know what to think about him coaching just yet as a Giants head coach.

This was a well deserved victory and I'm thrilled that the Giants won the title game. This is a true underdog story and the six game streak from the end of the regular season to the postseason was just excellent and well deserved. The Giants now have four Super Bowl titles, tied for fourth place with the Green Bay Packers. The only teams that have won more Super Bowls were the Pittsburgh Steelers (six titles), the San Francisco 49ers (five titles), and the Dallas Cowboys (five titles). For the Giants fan, this victory was a breath of relief and a true gift for the fans... each and every one of them.

We'll just have to see what off-season brings. The Giants have been good with ending historical streaks and bending the traditions of history. Let's hope they win one again in 2012. How 'bout them Giants! How 'bout them Super Bowl winning Giants!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mathew Pope: Travelin' The Highway

I have always been fascinated by the performance ethic of Mathew Pope. When I first met him, he wanted to be a firefighter. By the time I got to know him, he began to realize that he true calling was by being a country musician. The two of us really got to know each other very well, performed in a quartet with one another, and I began to realize that he is a genuine, natural talent. He sounds like a young Johnny Cash, looks like a young Roy Orbison, strums like a young Brian Setzer, but is ultimately his own star. I wrote about his first album, Sunshine In The Horizon, when it was released back in October 2009. He moved away soon thereafter, but the two of us remained in touch. Now, he's in the works of creating his sophomore album, Travelin' The Highway, and from what I'm hearing, I'm liking the tone.

"Travelin' The Highway," the key song in the album, is a smooth song about... well... traveling the highway. The singer engages in such activities as gambling his money away. That happens to be a typical theme in the field of country, but typical themes happen to make up the infrastructure of the country music world. There will be more songs that will make up the album, but there were two in which I heard when given a bit of a screening for this new album. One of which is "Tryin' To Love A Woman" and the other is "Foolish Heart." Like each of his songs, they were all written and arranged by the Pope himself. I find this to be such a positive in the music industry. All three of these tracks happen to have a smooth and slow tone, not like the signature song in his first album.

Mat Pope has shown major improvement in his vocal and lyric arrangement in his sophomore album. These songs have a very deep meaning and deliver a very strong message. These songs happen to be typical themes when it comes to country and typical country themes. Not the country themes that have been so overdone and have engaged in arrangement that has been so overdone.

I would definitely look to buy the finished product when it comes out in the near future. The samples have proven to be convincing, thus I'm more than ready to go back for more. The Pope has definitely demonstrated that he could play his hand at the many sub-genres in the country world. Definitely give Mathew Pope's music a chance and enjoy!