Kpop Star: Final Two

I guess I’m not as good at predicting the outcomes of Korean reality TV shows as I thought I was.  Kwon Jinah, who I had pegged to win Kpop Star 3 was the most recent contestant to be eliminated from the competition, leaving Korean Americans Bernard Park and Sam Kim as the show’s finalists.  Despite having strong, original and creative performances each round, Jinah lost out to the show’s more popular contestants, who I suspect had their fair share of teenage fangirls.

While I’m disappointed to see Kwon Jinah be eliminated, I know she will have a bright future ahead.  Plenty of the show’s “losers” have gone on to secure record contracts with various labels and I wouldn’t be surprised if Antennae, JYP or YG made an offer.  In a previous episode, Jinah mentioned that Antennae would be her ideal label, which I think would be a great match because I believe that with a smaller label, Jinah would have more creative freedom.

Both Bernard Park and Sam Kim are extremely talented, but I’m hoping that Sam will be crowned the next Kpop Star.  Bernard sounds great when he sings American songs, but I’ve yet to see him sing a song in Korean that’s impressed audiences and judges.  I mean, the show’s called Kpop Star, after all; contestants should be able to captivate an audience while singing in Korean.  On the other hand, each week Sam has become stronger and more confident in his performances and has proven that he can sing well in both languages…  Plus, I got to root for Sam since he’s from Washington.  Whatever the outcome is, I’m sure the three contestants in this episode will go own to have successful careers in music.

How is HowAboutWe for Couples?

HowAboutWe Couples

HowAboutWe for Couples’ dates to choose from

I first heard about the dating site HowAboutWe in an article from Time which explored the adventures of online and app dating.  The concept of HowAboutWe seems pretty cool; members pitch date ideas (i.e. How about we go to the Seattle Art Museum and get drinks) and wait for a perspective date to respond.  But once you find your significant other on a dating site, there’s no need to use it anymore, right?  Well, HowAboutWe hopes to retain its members with HowAboutWe for couples

How it Works

HowAboutWe for couples offers a wide variety of discounted dates.  You book the dates and HowAboutWe works out the logistics.  Each month you can also select a free date to enjoy. In addition, the site offers  a free “concierge” service for members to help you plan your own date.

Example Dates (Seattle)

Free

  • Tour and tasting at Sound Spirits Distillery
  • Truffle tasting at Intrigue Chocolate Co.
  • Cookie flight and coffees at Hello Robin
  • Meal at Veggie Grill

Purchase

  • Flying trapeze class ($90)
  • Sushi and spirits at Liberty Bar ($23)
  • Food truck cooking class: includes two sandwiches and dessert ($23)
  • Brunch, cocktails and cookies at Hot Cakes ($24)
  • DIY cheese kit ($34, retail $53)

Cost

At the time of writing this post, couples get the first month free.  After that, a monthly membership fee is assessed.  A couple needs to buy only one membership. There are three different membership packages to choose from:

  • 3 months for $50 ($16.67 per month)
  • 6 months for $90 ($15 per month)
  • 12 months for $140 ($11.67 per month)

Is it Worth the Membership?

Currently HowAboutWe is offered in five cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.  Since Gun lives in Korea, I haven’t had a chance to actually experience a HowAboutWe date, but I’m very tempted to just couple up with a girlfriend and give this site a test drive.  Since you’re guaranteed a free date a month, I think this would be a worthwhile membership, as long as HowAboutWe continues to offer quality free and purchase dates.  After all, paying $11.67 for two people to go on a new date that they probably wouldn’t go on otherwise, seems like a cheap and fun way to experience Seattle.

Kpop Star’s Top 4

Almeng and Heejun were the latest contestants to be eliminated from Kpop Star 3.  Now, the Shorties, Kwon Jin Ah, Bernard Park and Sam Kim remain.  So, I guessed three out of the final four contestants correctly.  I’ve always preferred watching the episodes building up to the live show rather than the live show, so I’ve ceased watching the full episodes on Hulu.  However, I  have been watching clips of the recent performances on YouTube and have been making a note of view counts and comments.  From my observations, I now believe that the final four contestants will be ranked in the following order:

  1. Kwon Jin Ah: Jin Ah is my favorite remaining contestant, and it seems that the viewers agree with me, as her videos are the most popular from this season.  To think that she’s still in high school and is this great at arranging covers and singing is incredible.  I hope she signs with Antennae because I believe she will be able to best retain her style with a smaller record label.
  2. Shorties: The Shorties also appear to have a strong following.  They definitely have a lot of talent and it seems viewers like how unique this group is from the other contestants.
  3. Sam Kim: Sam’s had his share of rocky performances, but I think he is becoming more confident and comfortable on stage.  I actually think that either him or the Shorties could be the runner-up in this competition.
  4. Bernard Park: Despite being highly praised among judges before the live show, Bernard hasn’t been fairing so well this round.  I think Western songs are definitely his strength and I don’t foresee him advancing any further.

Before bidding farewell to Almeng and Heejun, we got to see this awesome collaboration from the top six:

Kpop Star 3: Top 8

I’m sad to announce that Something, the group I pegged to win Kpop Star 3, has been eliminated.  I’m not so sad or surprised to announce that Nam Young Joo was also eliminated.  I haven’t seen the performances yet, but had the top three in each episode been decided by the viewers, I doubt we would have seen this outcome.  With both Sam and Bernard, two of the most talented contestants being in the bottom two last episode, it would have been challenging for the losers from this episode to advance.

The one silver lining with Something being eliminated is that we don’t have to worry about them selling their soul to some record label.  At the same time, Something will most likely disband since they were not a group until they joined Kpop Star 3.   

Peddle: The fastest, easiest way to sell your car?

peddle.comTwo weeks after being gifted a 2004 Kia Sorento with over 130,000 miles, I began having difficulty steering.  I took the car to a repair shop and it turned out I would need a new engine.  The cost of replacing the engine would have been a little under the KBB value of the car, so I decided to start searching for a quick way to sell the car and get some cash.  The Kia’s exterior wasn’t in the best shape and considering it wasn’t even driveable in it’s current state, I opted to find a place to scrap my car.

After consulting google, I found Peddle.com which boasted that it was “the fastest, easiest way to sell your car.”  I was a little skeptical at first, but I did some more research and the site seemed legit.  After entering the year, make and model of the car and answering less than ten questions (i.e. does your car have any dents larger than a golf ball, is your car driveable) I had a quote for how much I would be given for the car.  The amount was at least 200% more than what other scrap places were offering, so I decided to continue with Peddle.

At least in the Seattle area, Peddle uses a towing service called Road America to pick up the car and deliver the car owner a check. Now, this is where things get challenging.  I was assured that I could schedule a time with Road America to get my car and drop off the check.  This was not the case.  I “scheduled” pick ups with various Road America associates five different times and no one ever came.  I Facebook messaged Peddle and a customer service rep assisted in calling Road America in a three way call to pick up the car. We confirmed a good date and time for someone to retrieve the car and still no one came.  Road America was so flaky about getting my car that the CEO of Peddle even called me to apologize.

After a lot of messaging and phone tag with Peddle and Road America, my car was towed at 4:30 on a Saturday, only six hours after the agreed upon time.  The Road America driver who picked up the car explained that they didn’t know where the driver went who was supposed to pick up my car, but that they hoped he was OK.  I handed over the keys to the driver and he handed me over the check.  The car wasn’t inspected or anything.  In less than five minutes, the car was gone.

I’m happy that I was able to get as much money as I did for my P.O.S. car, but it was definitely one of the most frustrating customer service experiences I’ve had.  In Peddle’s defense, they did everything they could to help out and were great about touching base with me and responding to my concerns.  However, they definitely need to reevaluate their relationship with Road America.  Even though getting my car picked up was such a headache, I would still recommend Peddle if you have patience.  (I’m hoping that my scenario isn’t how most transactions go).  The paycheck that I received for the car outweighed the hassle of trying to get it towed.

Kpop Star 3 Predictions

Something

Something

I never fully understood how the voting process worked for the live round of Kpop Star.  I remember watching the first live episode last season and getting lost while the MC went on and on about how to vote.  If I recall correctly, viewers can vote via text message and online only while the singer is performing, which seems pretty wanky to me because viewers don’t have the option to hear all singers before making their decision.  So, everyone just ends up voting for their favorites regardless of how their performance is for that night.

Everyone in the top ten is very talented, but this competition seems to be more about who is the most unique and whose back story has been featured most. With that being said, here is my prediction for the order in which the contestants will be eliminated:

  1. Bae Min Ah: I was very impressed with Bae Min Ah when she sang American pop songs, but she did not have a strong performance when she sang in Korean.  Bae Min Ah would succeed in another singing competition, but I don’t think she’ll be able to advance far because she didn’t have a strong storyline during the previous rounds, likely limiting her fanbase.
  2. Nam Young Joo: Nam Young Joo impressed the judges in the beginning of the competition, but now I think people are getting bored of her performances.  In addition, she just seems kind of whiny, at least to me.
  3. Jang Hanna: She’s definitely talented, but I’m not sure why the judges are so fascinated with her “natural groove” and sense of rhythm.  When I first saw her sing I thought she sounded alright but I wasn’t blown away by her performance just because she could shimmy to the music.
  4. Heejun Han: If Heejun wasn’t a former American Idol contestant I doubt he would have made it this far.  Of course he’s a talented singer, but I don’t think there’s a lot going on that makes him unique.
  5. Shorties: I’ve enjoyed each of the Shorties performances, and I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with their rendition of “Faith.”  They definitely know a lot about music, particularly how to harmonize, but their style of music doesn’t come across as the type to win a pop star competition.
  6. Almeng: Since one of my favorite groups from Kpop Star 2 was Raccoon Boys, I was bummed that there were not more rappers this season.  Throughout the whole audition process, Choi Ran from Alemng was the only rapper.  If Choi Ran sticks to rapping and doesn’t try to sing I think Almeng has a shot at advancing to the top five.
  7. Kwon Jin Ah:  Jin Ah is definitely one of my favorites.  While I don’t think she’ll win the competition, I hope she continues to make music independently.  Hopefully she’ll become one of those stars like Kina Grannis or David Choi that does their own thing without the influence of a big record label.
  8. Sam Kim:  Kim is also one of my favorites, and it’s partly because he’s repping Seattle.  He’s a natural when it comes to the guitar and it’s exciting to think that he’s only 15.  Like Jin Ah, I hope Kim continues to do his own thing without being controlled by a big label.
  9. Bernard Park:  I think Bernard will go far because he’s very well liked by the judges and viewers.  Of course, he has a great voice too.
  10. Something:  Something has come very close to being eliminated several times because the judges don’t like their songs.  Fortunately, the viewers do.  (I love Something’s self-composed songs and I think the judges are off in their criticisms.) Both members of Something have an interesting back story and they’re so darn cute together.  While Something is my favorite group, I’m conflicted with whether I want them to win this competition.  I’m afraid that if they do win, one of the big labels will force them to crank out bad pop songs and drain them of their originality and indie charm.  On the flip side, I want them to win so that they’ll remain a duo and continue to make music together.  Hopefully, even if they lose, they’ll be able to continue to work together and create more songs.

Kpop Star 3 Top Ten Contestants

The top ten contestants of Kpop Star 3 were revealed on Sunday’s episode. Unfortunately, everyone here in the states will have to wait another couple of days before the episode is translated and uploaded to Hulu.  Overall, I’m not too surprised with the outcome of the final ten.  Although, I would have predicted that Lee Chae would have advanced since the judges seemed so impressed with her improvement over the first time she auditioned for Kpop Star.  I also wasn’t expecting Bae Min Ah to go on to the live show.  My favorite contestants are all from Antenna, so I would be happy if Something, Kwon Jin Ah or Sam Kim won the competition.

The ten to advance to the live show are as follows:

YG

Heejun Han

Shorties

Jang Hanna

Bae Min Ah

JYP

Almeng

Bernard Park

Nam Young Joo

Antenna

Kwon Jin Ah

Sam Kim

Something

Yuna Kim Deserves Gold?

kim yuna

I was rooting for Yuna Kim to take home a gold medal at Sochi.  After watching Kim’s short program, I quickly became enamored with her ballerina-like abilities on ice.  She made a difficult routine look easy.  When I read online that after the free skate competition Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova won the coveted gold medal by more than five points I was pretty surprised.

However, after watching both performances and reading commentaries that analyzed the routines, I understand why Sotnikova won gold.  Kim’s performance was beautiful and well-executed.   It was a captivating performance that highlighted Kim’s gracefulness and skill.  Sotnikova’s routine, while not nearly as artistic, was slightly more difficult, more athletic than Kim’s which explains why she went home with the top prize.  While Sotnikova did bobble after a jump, her program was so complex that she could afford that small error.  Had Kim done one or two more triple jumps, the results of this competition would have been different.

Mark Sappenfield from The Christian Science Monitor breaks the scores down:

Sotnikova blew Kim away with her combinations. Sotnikova’s three combination jumps added up to 27.48 points, with Kim’s adding up to 22.64 points – a massive 4.84 point gap…

Sotnikova built such high scores on her combination jumps in two ways. First, she did harder ones. And second, skaters get bonus points for every jump made after the halfway point in the program – an acknowledgment that the same jump with tired legs is more impressive than with fresh legs.

Sotnikova put two of her combination jumps after the two-minute mark. Kim did only one… All of these points are not “judged,” per se. If you execute the element, you get the score. Sotnikova’s “base technical score” – the cumulative mark for all the elements she executed, with no “judging” involved – was 61.43 points. Kim’s was 57.49.

On paper, from a technical standpoint, it’s clear why Sotnikova won.  Nevertheless, Kim’s fans who expected Kim to walk away with a gold medal believe that she was robbed.  An online petition demanding an investigation into the judge’s decision has already amassed nearly two million supporters.  Now, did Sotnikova deserve a score a whopping 5.48 points above Kim?  That’s definitely debatable.  While I think it’s clearly plausible that Sotnikova be awarded a gold medal for her performance, I’m uncertain if she was worthy of that high of a score.  After all, Kim’s components score (judged on choreography, interpretation, skating skills, etc.) was 74.5 whereas Sotnikova’s was 74.41 which seems a little suspicious. 

But, just because no one really expected Sotnikova to win doesn’t mean that she didn’t deserve to win.  Kim’s piece was beautiful and she will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the world’s best figure skaters.  However, on this particular night her performance came up a little short.  Sotnikova skated a complex, nearly flawless routine and while the win will always be controversial, it was certainly justified. 

Looking Back

Gangnam

Gangnam

I’ve managed to recount my whole Korea trip over the span of three months when I was actually only in Korea for two weeks.  Although I was there for a  short period of time, I feel like it was the right amount of time to see all the main sites in Seoul.  Of course, there’s plenty of more things to do in the city, but I’ve at least developed a good sense of where I would like to revisit and explore more.

What I would do differently

  • Get a direct flight: I bought my tickets in June, four months before departure.  From Seattle to Seoul with a layover my flight round trip was a little less than $900.  On my next trip I’m going to search for a direct flight which will probably add at least $200 to my bill.  I’m a thrifty person, but I think the additional cost is worth it because I lost about half a day from having layovers.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight so I watched movies to keep entertained.  I remember looking at my phone and thinking, Wow, it’s already been three hours, oh wait, I still have sixteen hours until I get to Seoul.
  • Experience Seoul nightlife: It took about a week for my body to adjust to being in Seoul.  For the first part of the trip I would get sleepy around 8:30 and wake up at 7:00.  The next time I go to Korea, I’m going to try to force myself to stay up later so that I can adjust to the time difference quicker.  Since I was always tired early on, I missed out on experiencing Seoul nightlife (clubs, bars, dorebang, etc.)
  • Go to more cat cafes: I had so much fun at the cat cafe we went to and since the admission was only a little more than what a drink would cost at a normal cafe, why not go someplace where I can enjoy a drink with some feline companions?
  • Visit Namsan Tower: We tried visiting the tower but it started pouring rain as we began our trek so we decided to turn around.
  • Visit Jeju Island: I really liked going outside of Seoul for a weekend getaway.  Next time, instead of Busan, I’d like to see Jeju Island, which I’ve heard is like the Hawaii of Korea.
  • Try more foods: I wasn’t very adventurous when it came to food this trip.  On my next visit I will force myself to try new foods that I wouldn’t be able to get at a Korean restaurant in the states.

All in all, this was a great first trip to Korea and Asia.  I’m glad I got a glimpse of what Korea is like during the two weeks that I spent there.  I’ve been back in Seattle for several months now and I definitely miss certain aspects of Korean life (i.e. how easy it is to get around on public transportation, cheap, readily available food).  I will probably return next October, as fall is really the best season to visit and because airfare is reasonable during that time as well.  Until then, I’ll have to stick to watching Kpop Star 3 and dramas on hulu to get my Korea fix.  Paiting!