The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for October 2009

What NFL games are you getting on Sunday?

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A while ago a friend of mine showed me this awesome website that shows, in map form, what game you will be getting from what network on Sunday. For those of us without DirectTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, it’s a good way to plan ahead or prepare yourself to follow your favorite team via internet play-by-play coverage. It isn’t official or anything. It’s just some guy who does it out of love for the game.

Anyway check it out here. It’s been dead on for me so far all season.

Written by the bee dub

October 30, 2009 at 10:37 am

Posted in NFL Ramblings

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Hermit Cinema: The Brothers Bloom

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Judging from Rian Johnson’s remarkable directorial debut, Brick, this was a newcomer worth paying attention to. That movie showed a truly original vision and approach, creating a new take on the Noir-genre picture set in a suburban high school of all places. Here he sets his sights just as high, if not higher considering that this picture is loaded with heavy Hollywood talent.

Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and his younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody) are world-class grifters, aided by their mysterious, silent accomplice Bang Bang (Rinko Kukuchi). Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a sheltered heiress and recluse, is their mark. In fact, she is to be their last as con after con, Bloom swears it’s his last time. Bloom yearns to live a life of substance as opposed to a role in a deception.

The movie’s excellent opening sequence explains their history, their bond and their discovery of their gift for graft. It also plants the seeds of the brothers’ differences. It’s a truly impressive opening to a movie, and unfortunately, from there the movie slowly loses cohesion.

Cut to present day. The Brothers Bloom, as they’re known, travel the globe as they pull off elaborate con after elaborate con, complete with overarching thematic nuances devised by the mad genius that is Stephen. Only Bloom’s had enough. He can’t do another con. He wants to live an ‘unscripted life.’

Stephen is able to get Bloom aboard¬† for this last con because he knows Bloom will fall for Penelope the moment he sees her. (In fact, Stephen is seemingly able to get anyone to do anything with his mastery of manipulation.) Yet Penelope seems aware of much more than she lets on. The plan they’ve devised takes them (and us) all across the globe, from New Jersey to Greece to Prague to Montenegro to Mexico. The scenery of the movie resembles something from a fancy travelogue and adds to its glossy veneer.

Without getting into too many details, the movie revolves around the same central premise as almost all con movies: who is really conning who? Unfortunately, that question became one I stopped caring about far too early. The movie has its share of magical moments – the opening sequence, Penelope describing her childhood while performing a card trick and the montage showing Penelope’s affinity for picking up hobbies are worth celebrating – but they don’t do much to hold the film together as a whole.

Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz are among my favorite actors and Rian Johnson’s first movie really impressed me, so maybe my expectations were simply too high. But for me, what could have been a quirky, irreverent movie instead ended up feeling a bit pretentious and contrived. Too bad. This movie does show you how gifted a director Johnson is but only in spurts. The rest of the movie cannot make up for the shortfall no matter how hard it tries, and try hard it does. You can almost feel the effort the movie is making to keep you interested.

There are flashes of brilliance here. Unfortunately, they all outshine the final product. This movie left me yearning to see what Johnson can come up with next, yet overall, I give this one a C.

Here are a few of the scenes that I really liked if you’re interested.

Written by the bee dub

October 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm

NFL Week 7 Menu: Thirty Dollar Chili

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The chill in the air now has some bite announcing Fall’s arrival – the perfect time for chili.

This recipe evolves a little bit for me year after year. The very first time I made it, the ingredients literally cost me over $30. Hence the name. The original was a Food Network recipe I saw called El Cid Chili. Since then I’m made some tweaks and this batch turned out great.

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This is a beef and pork chili. You’ll need 2 pounds of pork or beef cut into cubes, 3/4 of a pound of pork chorizo sausage (with casings removed) and 1/2 a pound of ground sirloin. For this batch I went with 2 pounds of pork. Start by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a big pot.

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When hot, add your cubed meat in batches, browning on all sides. Remove to a plate with a paper towel and finish up the rest. When done, remove all the cooked meat. Then add two chopped onions into the pot, stirring regularly. Cook them just long enough for them to start getting translucent. Then add the pork chorizo and ground beef.onions.10.09addedmeat.10.09

Make sure to break up the meat so the chili has a nice, even texture to it, at least as nice and even as chili can get. Cook until all the meat is browned.

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Now you’re going to throw in a long list of ingredients: a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes (drained), two 14-ounce cans of beef broth, 1/4 cup of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of garlic salt, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 3 bay leaves and a cinnamon stick.

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On top of that, add another chopped onion and a cup of fresh, chopped cilantro. Make sure to rinse the cilantro thoroughly, otherwise grit and dirt will end up in your chili. It happened to me over and over and it took me several batches to figure out I just wasn’t washing off the cilantro enough.

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Now normally I’d tell you to just mix it all up and then let it simmer for a couple of hours. But then I had one of those ‘oh shit’ moments where I realized I forgot to add two sliced jalapeno peppers and a tablespoon of corn meal.

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Now mix it all up, bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and keep the chili covered. I usually add a ‘pour’ of beer for good luck at this point. Let it simmer for a couple of hours.

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Give it a stir every once in a while and make sure to stir up ingredients off the bottom. I dump any collected condensation from the lid into the sink. You may also want or need to break up the tomatoes as they cook. You’ll also notice the cooked chunks of pork will get more and more tender and will start breaking up into the chili. You really can’t cook this too long. The more you let it simmer the better it gets. After about two-plus hours here’s what mine looked like.

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We usually serve this with some sour cream and cheddar cheese along with some heated tortillas for dipping. Awesome…

Written by the bee dub

October 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Week 6 NFL Menu: Bitter disappointment and roast chicken

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Why Giants, wmy? Et tu, Eli? There’s a moment in every first-half of the season where the Giants get labeled the ‘class’ of the NFC. Usually, this happens right before a matchup against another ‘class’ of the NFC-types. Result. Always the same. Giants go down in flames. But in the recent history of the NFL, it really only matters how you’re playing at the end of the season. Still this game stings. Bad.

What does this have to do with dinner? The Giants got pounded so bad it literally ruined my day. I could hardly even bring myself to record any of the meal for posterity so I apologize. Especially because the Roast chicken and vegetable recipe is kick ass. I don’t have any pictures of the finished product because I was drowning in drunken disappointment. But here’s the recipe and pictures of the prep.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Take a five-pound-ish chicken. I actually did two. Rinse it and pat it dry. Stuff the cavity with a sliced bulb of garlic cloves, half a lemon and a handful of fresh thyme.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and have a brush ready.

In a baking dish, combine a one-pound bag of baby carrots, a bunch of yellow, gold or red potatoes, a chopped onion and a handful of sprigs of thyme. Mix it all up with a good pour of good extra virgin olive oil. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Arrange it all evenly so you can set the chicken(s) on it.

Place the chicken on the potato/carrot mixture. Brush the chicken with the butter. Squeeze half a lemon of fresh lemon juice over the chickens. Salt and pepper the chickens.

Place in the oven for an hour and a half, depending on the chicken. Remove chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil. Let rest for five to ten minutes.

Then dig in.

Written by the bee dub

October 20, 2009 at 6:42 pm

The downside of fantasy football

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I have one of the very best fantasy players on my squad in Drew Brees. He carried me all the way to a championship last year and this year he’s been lighting it up again, more or less.

Here’s the problem. I’m a Giants fan. Big time. (Go fucking G-men…) I also have Eli Manning on my team. He’s pretty good too but Brees usually puts up ridiculous, video-game-like numbers. How can I play Brees, the statistically smart choice, against my team? This is also a huge, undefeated meatchup between the Giants and Saints. So I stuck with my heart and played Eli. How can I put bad mojo against my team?

Now I’m watching Drew Brees and the rest of their offense shred the Giants’ defense. (Time to pick up the pressure, defense.) Even ex-Giant Jeremy Shockey has scored a TD against us. This is awful.

C,mon Big Blue, don’t let me down.

Written by the bee dub

October 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Hermit Cinema: Frost/Nixon

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This movie had a lot unfairly going against it for me. For one, I was on a cross-country flight in May and this was the in-flight movie. I didn’t listen to the sound but tracked things visually. Seeing the visual storyline detracted from any urgency and frankly, I didn’t see anything that really piqued my interest. On top of that, this is a historical recreation so this is another movie where we know the ending before the opening credits appear. Both of those were big mistakes on my part. This movie was surprisingly engaging and well done.

Ron Howard directs here and does a good job. The performances he gets from the actors are outstanding and feel very spontaneous, yet the whole movie feels under the firm control of a central, unified vision.

The movie opens with a quick recap of the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s (Frank Langella) last days. Meanwhile, David Frost (Michael Sheen) is an English television personality/performer who once tasted the intoxicating experience of ‘success’ in America and yearns to taste it once again. He’s a performer first and his reputation is more that of a talk-show host than a journalist. But he sees the huge audience potential that an interview with Nixon holds with the American people.

Frost’s confidence in the project hides the fact that the underfunded endeavor is actually being held together with smoke, mirrors and his TV-friendly smile. He culls together a small team to help him prepare and bring the project to fruition: John Birt (Matthew Macfayden, who is a dead ringer for John Cusack’s illegitimate English sibling) as his producer, Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) who is a journalist for ABC News and James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell), a writer who sees conspiracy in everything Nixon does and has penned four books on the subject.

Zelnick and Reston are skeptical of Frost. They, and seemingly the rest of the nation/industry, see Frost as a lightweight who is in way over his head. They become aware of the lack of funding, which does nothing to encourage their faith in the project. But somehow Frost gets together the funds to pay Nixon his gargantuan fee and get the production underway. Both Frost and Nixon are aware that they are two adversaries who are to best the other over several interviews to take place over the course of a couple of weeks.

At first, the interviews are a disaster for Frost. Nixon is in complete control. Frost is the passive participant with Nixon seemingly talking about what he wants, how we wants. As the interviews go on, little seems to change. This leads to tension within Frost’s group and a sense of validation within Nixon’s, as they head for the final showdown: the last interview which is supposed to cover Watergate.

Of course, we know what happens. And if you don’t the internet makes it very easy to find out. I’m not going to talk about any of that. But this movie, very surprisingly had me fully engaged from beginning to end. Michael Sheen does a nice job with Frost, struggling to balance a desire for legitimacy with his baser, TV-friendly instincts. Rockwell does a lot with a smaller role, and Platt handles his part well.

The real standout here is Langella’s Nixon.¬† He actually manages to make Nixon – the perpetrator of the greatest political fraud in modern American history – a flawed, egotistic and sympathetic figure. That’s no small feat. The scene with a late night phone call between an inebriated Nixon and Frost is a real showstopper, thanks to Langella chewing up the dialogue and spitting out a real peak inside the man as opposed to the politician.

Howard does a great job recreating the period as well. You really feel like you’re stealing glances into the past.

This movie felt just a bit long to me, but otherwise is a very solid movie. I give this DVD a B-plus.

Written by the bee dub

October 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

NFL Week 5 Menu: The Enchilada Compromise

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Sorry for the late post. I had a new business presentation on Monday, which invariably meant I was going to have to work a lot on Sunday to get ready. Luckily, I sort of prepared myself mentally much beforehand, otherwise the thought of losing football to work would have been too depressing. Plus however long we think it’s going to take, it always take far longer so I knew I needed something that would feel like football food but wouldn’t take as much time as I normally put into Sunday football dinner.

The answer? Enchiladas. Recently, we’ve recently tried to add a healthier dimension to our diet by going meat free for some meals. A friend of mine steered me to Morningstar Farms’ Recipe Crumbles.

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They’re pretty good and have a fairly close meat-like texture. The key, as I’ve discovered, is to cook it until it crisps and deeply browns up a bit, somewhat similar to the way corned beef hash browns and crisps. That makes it seem a lot closer to the real thing.

To start with, preheat an oven to 350 degrees and wash a baking potato and dice it, then mix that with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put it all into a baking pan and roast it for about 20 to 30 minutes. Check on it every five minutes or so and give the pan a shake to make sure the potato doesn’t stick. At least once or twice, mix and flip the cubes of potato so it browns up on all sides.

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While that’s all going, dice an onion and add that to some heated olive in a fry pan. Stir the onions frequently and cook until just past translucent, when the onion pieces start browning up along the edges.

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Now add your Morningstar Farms Recipe Crumbles. Mix that into the onions and cook.

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Let it cook for a few minutes and then stir, and just keep repeating that process until the mix gets browned up along the bottom.

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Admittedly, the mix doesn’t look all that browned, blackened or crisp in the picture, but it was more so than you can see here. It will keep browning as you keep cooking as well, don’t forget that.

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Now add a small can of diced green chiles, the roasted potatoes, a can of stewed tomatoes, a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix that all up and then add salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and then simmer that for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Most of the liquid will evaporate so before that happens, make sure to use any liquid in the pan to free any bits stuck to the bottom.

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Preheat your oven again to 350. Now take some red enchilada sauce and heat that for just a minute or two, then dip a soft-taco-size tortilla into the sauce which will make it soft and pliable. Put that on a plate or cutting board and spread a small amount of cheese along a line across the center.

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Take some of the enchilada filling and spread a small amount of it over the cheese.

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Spread some enchilada sauce in a baking pan, over any area you anticipate putting an enchilada.

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Roll up the tortilla around the filling and then place that over the sauce into the baking pan. Repeat this procedure. I usually make two tortillas per person. I used to put way too much filling into each one so watch out for that. You don’t want the filling to dominate.

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Place into the oven for about 25 minutes. I usually serve these with a dab of sour cream. It’s not the fanciest thing in the world but it still hits the spot and goes down well with a beer and some football. Go Giants (5-0, who would have thought it?). Here’s a picture of the enchilada filling before I put it into the refrigerator, to give you a reference for how browned up it can get, which is a good thing.

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Written by the bee dub

October 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

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