Monday, October 28, 2013

Why is Blogging so Damn Hard?

It's funny, even after switching things around on this site I'm still having trouble finding motivation to blog about stuff.  About anything.  I was gonna write about how the Detroit Tigers are the biggest chokers in the game, but that's boring.  Then I thought about listing the top 5 worst franchises in Major League Baseball, but that really would have been just a bunch of bashing on the Dodgers and Angels, and everyone already knows those franchises totally suck.  Then I just kinda sat there and picked my nose.  What the hell am I gonna write about?

I have stuff to write about, it's just getting that motivation to open the blog up and get to work.  I guess motivation was really the main reason my food blogging lagged.  So I started thinking about what happened and it's really actually pretty simple: blogging is hard.  I mean, even when I stopped marketing and would only post a few times a month, the website never went to waste.  It's going on three years which is a long time to stay active on a blog.

So I'm gonna do a case study on blogging and today's topic is:

 What the Hell Happened to Basketbawful?

Basketbawful (the best of the worst of professional basketball - and there's a lot of it) was the premiere blog to read up on the daily failings in the NBA.  Every morning there'd be a new post trashing Darko Milicic, the Charlotte Bobcraps, or how David Stern secretly controls the outcomes of all the games.  It was a pleasure to read because Mr. Bawful's writing was cynical, sarcastic, and just damn funny.  Reading Basketbawful was a great inspiration for keeping things entertaining here at Greg's Gourmet.

But then something happened.  Bawful, who had a real job writing about the Chicago Bulls (By the Horns), gradually stopped blogging everyday and it was following the 2012 Finals where he basically dropped Basketbawful and quit.  Since I was a loyal reader since 2007 or 2008, I saw the warning signs early that he just wasn't into it anymore.  You see, the NBA doesn't have much of a middle class anymore.  You've got some really good teams and a bunch of really bad teams and that's it.  Finishing at .500 has really become a mirage.  While it does happen (Dallas finished 41-41 last season), you generally have a huge gap between the 50 win teams and the 30 win teams.  There's just not a lot of middle ground anymore, and it's the big wigs and the player egos that have caused this.  Bawful saw it coming several seasons ago and didn't make it a secret at how dispiriting it was, that basically the NBA just pimps out a handful of "super" teams (where all of the league's best players team up) now and that's it.

So last summer following Bawful's departure, Evil Ted (Bawful's friend and number 2 guy) opened applications for new writers on the site.  Essentially you could write in about anything related to the past season: a season recap, a playoff recap, draft analysis, etc.  With Greg's Gourmet's popularity at an all-time high and being a loyal Basketbawful reader for years, of course I applied.  This is where things got stupid.

ET's plan was to pick through the best submissions and post them on the site and let the public decide who gets to be a new contributor.  Ultimately three writers had their work posted for public evaluation and all three became contributors.  I'm too lazy to go through the comments, but I'm guessing ET liked their stuff enough and may have made them contributors either way.  So obviously I didn't get picked, nor did my submission even make it onto the site for public consideration.  It didn't bug me that much until I saw this posting from ET.

Note: I'm leery of people with their own blogs...while that shows dedication to something, I am seeking someone (or someones plural) to be dedicated to Basketbawful and make it what it once was...a nasty, sarcastic place for semi-literate anonymous people to vent. HA! Kidding. But not really. of the qualifications to blog at Basketbawful is that you can't be a blogger?  Oooooookay.  And thanks for the heads-up after the application process, that's great timing.

Anyway, three new writers were brought on paired with ET and a couple writers who were carried over from the Bawful days, so you had about 6 people contributing to keep the site active on a daily basis.  But that didn't last long.  The writers who contributed during the Bawful days quickly abandoned ship, so we were then left with the three new guys and I'm pretty sure ET is pretty let down on how that turned out.

Jason was supposed to be the savior.  His writing most closely resembled Bawful's and he was entertaining.  When he was first brought on he was submitting several things per week.  Unfortunately once the 2012-13 regular season started, Jason all but disappeared.  His posts became majorly sporadic, like once a month if anything.  Another guy who was brought on, Paul, whose submission I don't even think was that great, never actually posted after the regular season started.  So that left Glenn, who gets major props because he went into the trenches to try and keep Basketbawful afloat.  His writing style is much different than Bawful's in the sense that Bawful would make fun and make funny of people and teams.  Glenn just makes funny, and the difference is night and day.

For example, Bawful would refer to underachieving teams such as the Detroit Pissed-ons, the Charlotte Bobcraps, and the Toronto Craptors.  Players who only got to see a minute or two of floor-time were lauded (in a taunting way).  And if a player had more turnovers, fouls, or missed shots than any other contributing statistic then they were praised as Basketbawful heroes for being so horrible.  Basically the more someone or something sucked, the more attention it got.  Glenn's writing just didn't have that fast paced sarcasm to it.  But he still posted nightly recaps every damn day without any help from any of the new writers.  Toward the end of the season and into the playoffs his posts became more sporadic until he disappeared.  He openly mentioned how doing the nightly recaps were exhausting and I don't blame him.

Jason has since posted a couple things over the summer, but nothing much and honestly, who really gives a shit?  The site's readership has tanked.  Unless Bawful comes back I doubt there'll be much activity this season at all.  This brings us back to the original idea of this post: blogging is hard.  A team of three new writers couldn't do the job of what one guy was doing.  And seriously, Bawful is a spectacular writer.  And the NBA season goes from late October to early June and this guy blogged about it every single day.  It was a pleasure to wake up to.  But even he got tired of it.

Am I upset that I didn't get a chance to write for Basketbawful?  Not really.  With its readership as high as it was you'll always need to be on your game cause the readers will know if you're half-assing it.  I would have liked to give it a try, but I think like Glenn I probably would have just lost interest, just like everyone else did.  No hard feelings of course, though I'm still baffled as to why ET didn't want someone who was already a blogger.  Like, dude, what?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Everything Wrong with "The Purge"

2022...unemployment is at 1%...crime is at historic lows...there's barely any violence...except for...on one night...DUN DUN DUN!!!

This is the best part of the movie

Forgive my vulgarity in this post but...what a pile of maggot sucking horseshit.  Seriously, how could a movie with such an interesting be so damn horrible?  

First of all, the poster says "from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Sinister", two films made on miniscule budgets that wound up making tons of money.  Sure enough, The Purge was made on a budget of about $3 million with the agreement that profits would be split up accordingly, most notably to lead actor Ethan Hawke.  Let me just say this to Jason Blum or whatever the hell this producer's name've trolled Hollywood long enough.  You've shown you can make huge sums of money without investing a lot.  But it's time to start putting MONEY INTO YOUR FUCKING MOVIES!!

How could a movie like this be so horrible?  Let's go through the list:

1) First of all, the concept of a 12 hour period where all crime is legal is really, really hard to pull off but there's also a lot of different directions it could go.  Why they chose to confine this entire movie to a house, other than the producer being too much of a little bitch to invest some money in this, is beyond me. 

2) What the fuck is this shit?  

I spent the whole movie trying to figure out what this Timmy nonsense was and I still have no idea, other than perhaps it indicates that the boy is schizophrenic.  

3) Ethan Hawke plays a security system salesman, selling Purge-specific systems and it's found out early on that he's the number 1 guy for selling these things.  Keep this in mind. 

Hey, Wanda Sykes is in this movie

4) The Annual Purge starts at 7 PM on March 21st and the Sandin family is calmly eating dinner without a care in the world until 6:58 PM.  So shit's about to go down and these people are just like whaaaa???

5) Henry appears out of nowhere and pulls Zoey onto the bed.  Who didn't see that one coming?  

6) What the hell is up with Charlie's hiding place?  What relevance does this have at all to the story other than being a convenient spot to, uh, navigate your remote controlled baby doll tank from. 

7) Okay, so Henry's plan to win over his underage girlfriend is to fucking shoot her father?  Is this guy's head so far up Carrot Top's ass that he actually thinks that's a good idea?  And Zoey doesn't even check on her father after the shootout.

8) Why the hell does Charlie disarm the security system and let the Stranger in?  Like, I get that he doesn't like the Purge (neither do I, it's a shitty movie) but, like, there's some missing character development here to completely buy that he'd let this stranger in.

8b) Why does the stranger decide to stop in the middle of the neighborhood street and scream for help?  If you're being pursued by a Hummer loaded with members of the Manson Family then wouldn't it be best to STAY OFF the roads and RUN SOMEWHERE AND HIDE rather than stopping in the middle of the street and announcing yourself? 

9) Why does the stranger randomly run off after he's already in the house?  Why doesn't he just explain what's going on?  Why is this stranger such a jackass? 

10) Massive Plot Hole: OK, so Mary Sandin (the mom) is very secure in her home but when things start to get a little rough outside she proclaims "Purging doesn't happen in this neighborhood!"  Now, as Ethan Hawke was driving up to his house in the beginning we got a good look at said neighborhood.  Pretty upscale, right?  Like, mansions.  Which means this is likely a pricey part of town, yes?  So then WHY is there a PSYCHOTIC army of zit-popping fuckfaces hunting down HOMELESS people in the same area??? Even Malibu I'm sure has its homeless people but if you're gonna go all Manson Family and "purge" the streets then you're sure as shit not gonna do it in an upscale area where you're unlikely to find a lot of homeless people.  

11) Why the fuck are the zit-popping fuckfaces wearing masks anyway? 

Hey, you let the stranger in, so why not let these fine, friendly individuals hang out with you for a little bit?

12)  Better yet, why the fuck isn't THIS guy wearing a mask? 

I am Cornholio! 

13) Why the hell would it take an hour for reinforcements for breaking into secure homes to arrive?  The Purge starts every year at the exact same time.  Why do you need an extra hour?  

14) OK, so, Ethan Hawke sells Purge security systems, right?  And he's the best in the business.  He's even sold security systems to all of his neighbors en route to being named #1.  But then after the Stranger enters the house and the Manson Family arrives do we find out that the security systems DON'T REALLY DO ANYTHING!  They're a DETERRENT!  I mean yeah, the steel plates in front of the windows I guess help a little bit, but they don't cover "worst case scenarios" as he explains.  Well slap my ass and call me Bob...HEY ETHAN?!?!?!  ISN'T THE PURGE KIND OF A WORST CASE SCENARIO?!  WOULDN'T YOU WANT YOUR SECURITY SYSTEM TO WORK ON THE NIGHT THAT ALL CRIME IS LEGAL?!?!?!?  OUTSIDE OF WORLD WAR II I CAN'T THINK OF ANOTHER SITUATION WHERE I'D MOST WANT THE SECURITY SYSTEM TO ACTUALLY WORK!!!

15)  But it doesn't stop there.  Not even Ethan Hawke's own home has a legit security system.  His own FUCKING HOME!!!  This guy makes millions and millions of dollars and builds on extra rooms to his already massive mansion yet he doesn't think, hey, even though I'm scamming everyone with these half-assed security systems, maybe, just maybe, I should get a REAL one for my family.  I mean, it takes the Manson Family about three seconds to cut his electricity off.  How the hell has this guy been able to sell so many of these bullshit security systems?  Is America really that much dumber in 2022 that nobody sees how crappy these things are?

16) "We have tested the system.  It works 99% of the time.  It looks good.  It's strong.  They'll stay away."  So your entire research and testing method is based off your product looking good and 99% of the time it...looks good?  Did someone really write this shit? 

17) For a while there's a whole lot of nothin' going on.  Ethan Hawke sneaks around armed with a gun, Mary sneaks around armed with a gun, Charlie picks his nose, Zoey is off doing who the hell knows what, the Stranger is snooping around the house when he should be hiding, and for whatever reason the Manson Family are making violent gestures at the security cameras because they're totally insane and make no sense. 

18) So the anti-climactic last third of the movie consists of the Manson Family breaking in and bullets go flying, Ethan Hawke gets stabbed by Charlie Manson himself, but then, THEN, the big twist comes.  See, the NEIGHBORS enter the house packing heat and take out the rest of the Manson's and for a second we think they're the heroes but no, they're actually just there to murder the Sandin's themselves so, naturally, they had to get rid of the fuckfaces.  Does that make any sense?  Of course not, because it's so damn dumb.

19) Okay, so, while Ethan Hawke is badly wounded, the neighbors for whatever reason tie the mother and children up.  Why?  I don't know.  They're about to murder them but apparently they've just gotta be tied up because that buys some time.  But duh, of course they don't get to murder them because the Stranger comes in at the last second in, like, the third saved-at-the-last-second sequence and saves the day.

20) Why do the neighbors want the Sandin's dead?  Well, because Ethan Hawke sold them security systems and that made him wealthy so he was able to build more rooms into his house.  Yeah.  Seriously.  They buy his shit and make him rich and are mad about it so they kill him.  Right.

"I baked you some cookies and, oh, I'm gonna kill you later!"

As I mentioned, this movie was made on a budget of about $3 million but it may as well have been made for strips of regurgitated pork fat.  Generally if you've got a smallass budget then your strengths should be overwhelmingly placed in your script and/or your acting.  The acting actually wasn't horrible here, but the script is just, well, it's dogshit.  Too many plot holes, too many cliches, too many questions of "wait, why did that happen?!"  

The problem is that the otherwise big concept is contained entirely into this small budget, single location movie.  That's not necessarily a bad thing but you've gotta be more bold about it.  For one night all crime is legal.  Obviously the movie touches on murder, especially murder between acquaintances.  But what about rape?  Arson?  Vandalism?  Terrorism?  Drug trafficking?  Human trafficking?  What about the collateral damage that would come from the Purge and inevitably effect the other 364.5 days in the year?  What if all of Downtown Los Angeles is blown up during the Purge and there's nothing left?  I know the movie states nothing higher than a class 4 weapon can be used (which is a made up phrase for the movie, so presumably class 4 is probably a shotgun or assault rifle or something), but since all crime is legal, why the hell should anyone follow those rules?  Who's gonna enforce it?

These are the kinds of questions that should have been approached but instead were completely avoided.  Obviously the budget doesn't indicate how good a movie is going to be, but for something like this I think it should have been a much bigger production than it was.


The Purge - what a horrible movie.   

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Changes to the Site

Hey, so, here's the thing: I know I haven't been as active on this site as in the past and I've also found that there's a lot of things I want to talk about but don't because I don't really have a platform for it.  For example, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk about why the Blu-ray/DVD/digital download combo packs are a waste of resources because, you know, this is a food site.  Food blogging (and vlogging) has been a lot of fun but I'd like to make this website a little more personal.  You can still expect food pictures and stories, but there are other topics I want to talk about.  Stuff you may see in the near future includes:

  • Stories from the kennels.  I do a lot of work with the County animal shelters which produces a wealth of stuff I'd like to talk about. 
  • Writing.  I do a lot of other writing, but I seldom ever talk about it.  
  • Things that annoy me.  There's a lot of stuff out there that's really stupid, like the day the government shut down I still received my student loan bill.  I mean, seriously? 
  • Sports.  10 year, $300 million contracts are stupid and it's amazing that no baseball club has figured that out yet.
  • Neat stuff.  I dug up a picture I took a couple years ago of an eight track/cassette adapter that had been sitting in my family's LA storage locker for about 30 years. 
Basically I'd just like to turn this into a regular blog.  I still want it to be entertaining and interactive, but food won't be the only thing I'll be posting about.  

The general layout of the site will remain the same.  The banner may be tweaked a bit, but otherwise I'm happy with the appearance.  The sections of the site are gonna change, so "Gourmet Videos" are probably gonna go and possibly "Gourmet Models".  The "About/FAQ" section will be updated, as will the "Links" section.  I'll also update my social media links to include my personal Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  

So there's gonna be more posts, more fun stuff, and of course more pictures of food.  But this is all just FYI.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Curious Case of Barry Zito

On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 29th, Barry Zito walked in from the bullpen in the top of the 8th, the score 7-6 Giants over the Padres.  He struck out retiring veteran Mark Kotsay on three pitches and then walked off the field to a roaring ovation.  You'd think Zito had just thrown a perfect game or was retiring as one of the most dominant pitchers in San Francisco history, but you'd be totally wrong.

Such is the case with Barry Zito who, after signing a 7 year, $120 million contract in December of 2006, went on to become one of the worst free agent signings in baseball history.  The strikeout of Kotsay marked the official end of Zito's tenure with the Giants and a merciful conclusion to the behemoth nine figure contract which saw Zito go 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA.  Yet Giants fans were ecstatic for his token appearance.  Is it because his contract was finally coming to an end and he wouldn't be paid $20 million to go 10-15 anymore?

No, it's because Barry Zito is a frickin' champion.

Six of Zito's seven seasons in San Francisco saw him put up sub-.500 records.  He never reached 200 innings like he had in his 6 full seasons in Oakland (not counting his rookie season).  He was constantly scrutinized, criticized, and booed loudly for a great portion of those seven seasons.

And he never, ever, NOT ONCE, complained about it.

Zito didn't pitch like a $120 million man but he did his part and acted like one and did everything professionally.  He never blamed the front office and never blamed the fans for his struggles.  He simply blamed himself and took all of the criticism like a pro and continued to go out and do his best every single start.  Some may think that he just dogged it after signing that massive contract but I don't believe that's true at all.  I mean, here's a guy whose fastball is in the low 80s now.  Even fuckin' Tim Wakefield's knuckleball can go faster than that.

For five years this guy was the punchline of all jokes, the pinnacle being that he actually really did help his team win the 2010 World Series by NOT pitching.  Plus with guys like Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner shutting down the National League, suddenly Zito's struggles weren't all that apparent.  But then 2012 happened.  Zito went an amazing 15-8 as the Giants cruised into the playoffs.  They fell behind 0-2 to the Cincinnati Reds in the first round when Zito was given the ball to try and extend the series.  He didn't even last three innings before being pulled for ineffectiveness, but the Giants managed to win that one as well as make an epic comeback to win the series.

What Zito will be most remembered for is his next start: Game 5 at St. Louis with the Cardinals leading the series 3-1.  The Giants needed something, anything out of Zito and what they got was 7+ shutout innings that set the stage for a winning streak that would win them another World Series.  The second thing he'll be most remembered for is his Game 1 of the World Series start vs. the Detroit Tigers where he out-dueled Justin Verlander to take the victory.  Barry Zito won his second championship, but this one he earned with grit.

He was horrible in 2013, but so was the rest of the team.

So that brings us to last Tuesday where he received a huge standing ovation in his final Giants appearance.  Honestly, had he not won those playoff games I still think he would have received it because he was a professional every single day and an all around good guy.  Not sure what his future holds, but I predict the A's will bring him back on a two year contract worth the league minimum.  Book it.

Click here to see the amazing ovation he received following the strikeout.  His teammates in the dugout even shoved him back onto the field so he could be applauded.  And he actually laughed and smiled.  In that moment he was an A again, where it doesn't matter if you succeeded or failed, but just as long as you tried your best.

Zito kinds reminds me of another left-handed curveball guy named Shawn Estes.  Most people will remember Estes as a journeyman and for hitting a home run off Roger Clemens, but Giants fans remember him as a guy who was electric at times but otherwise unreliable.  He went 19-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 1997, his first full season in the majors.  In 10 seasons after that, he never had a sub-4 ERA again.  He had a couple decent seasons here and there, but could never replicate the stuff that won him 19 games.  I think it's a case of two guys who relied so heavily on their curveball that once guys figured out how to hit them then that was it.  Or if they couldn't get their curve to work then they were just sitting ducks.  Granted, Zito had far more success than Estes, even winning a Cy Young award, but if the curve wasn't falling then all he had to fall back on was an 81 MPH fastball, and that's not gonna get the job done.

Shortly after Zito signed with the Giants he set a career goal of winning 300 games but it's pretty obvious that unless he turns things around and pitches well into his 40s, that's not gonna happen.  But I think he could still be a serviceable player without the weight of $120 million on his shoulders.  Each season I always thought "okay, this is the season he turns it around!" and likewise almost always drafted him to my fantasy teams.  Wherever he winds up next season I'll probably do it again because I think he can still somewhat resemble the pitcher he once was.

Even if he can't he goes out of San Francisco as a champion, and a well deserved one at that.  Thanks for always being a professional, Barry.  Keep it real.