The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for July 2010

Hermit Cinema: Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Wes Anderson triumphs again. After underwhelming with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson regains his earlier top form with this old-school, stop-motion animated tale.

This is the story of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney). He steals birds for a living but a close call while raiding a squab farm with his wife, Felicity (voiced by Meryl Streep), causes him to change to a safer career as a newspaperman. Mr. Fox yearns for a better life for himself, his wife and young son Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and ignores his lawyer’s warning (voiced by Bill Murray) against moving into a better home inside the base of a tree. The new home is in close proximity to three farms, the most menacing farmer being Franklin Bean (voiced by Michael Gambon).

Soon after moving in, Felicity’s nephew Kristofferson (voiced by Eric Chase Anderson, the director’s brother) comes to stay with them while his father recuperates from double pneumonia. Kristofferson and Ash seem polar opposites, Kristofferson being a natural at everything while Ash seems a bit awkward and introverted.

Mr. Fox seems to have it all but can’t fight the urge to be…fantastic. He plots with an opossum (and the tree’s superintendant), Kylie (voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky), to raid the nearby farms and experience the rush of his yesteryears.

This all leads to inevitable trouble, of course. Franklin Bean will stand for none of this and organizes with the other farmers to annihilate Mr. Fox. Will Mr. Fox be able to outwit the farmers and Franklin Bean’s head of security, Rat (voiced by Willem Dafoe)?

There is an impressive amount of talent in this film, which seems just as appealing for adults as it is for kids. The animation is visually arresting. It’s funny how different it looks compared to today’s computer-generated perfection. The animation alone gives this film a unique perspective and personality.

You’ll find both of Anderson’s movie trademarks, a very quirky sense of humor and a terrific use/selection of music. The songs seem as if they came from that one hipster friend of yours that’s able to comb his old vinyl collection to find just the perfect song to match a scene.

I felt the ending sort of fell apart a little bit as far as the plot goes, but by then I didn’t care. I was having too much fun watching Mr. Fox being fantastic.

And for me, being fantastic earns this film an A-minus.

Here at the pork lab

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I decided it was time to experiment a little with our boston butt technique. This really isn’t all that bold of a move because if you take a piece of pork and cook it over low heat, the thing will almost always be pretty good.

But I thought I’d throw a few variables into the mix:

-First off, I dry rubbed a four (plus) pound boston butt the night before and let the sucker marinate overnight. Hadn’t ever done that before.

-Played around with the mixture I use to spray the meat and help it develop its dark, delicious bark. Usually that’s half cider vinegar and half apple juice. The ghetto gas grocery near my house was out of apple juice so I used cranberry juice.

-Usually I use only my rear burner and place the meat towards the front of the grill. This time I flipped it around, using the front burner and placing the meat to the rear.

-Made a packet of smoked hickory chips to add some actual smoke into the cooking process.

Here’s a pictorial essay of the pork’s progress.

So I’d say the experimenting had mixed results. I liked the idea of applying the dry rub the night before but I didn’t really notice any difference in flavor. It was one less thing to do in the morning so that’s a good thing.

The cranberry juice was a failure. All it did was add some semblance of tart to the bark, but it didn’t make anything better and I missed the flavor and effect of the apple juice/cider vinegar mix.

There was a big difference using the front burner instead of the rear. For one, the thermometer that’s built into my gas grill lid was thrown off. I think that’s because the only lit burner was directly underneath it so the grill thermometer was reading a good 50 degrees warmer than an oven thermometer I put on the grill for reference. It also didn’t heat the meat as effectively. I put the butt onto the grill at 9:45 am and finally pulled it off after it had reached 194 degrees at 9:45 pm. 12 hours is a lot longer than the usual cooking time and that was also a few degrees cooler than ideal. The hickory chips definitely helps add to the flavor. The meat had more smokiness to it.

Sure, it could have been better but experimenting is half the fun sometimes. Once cooled, trimmed and pulled by hand, it still made for good eating. We’ll get a few meals out of those will all be meals I’ll look forward to.

Written by the bee dub

July 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: Crazy Heart

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I resisted this movie for a while, joking to people that, “I liked that movie the first time I saw it…and it was called Tender Mercies.” There is some truth to that. This movie never really strays into unfamiliar territory. More interesting still, Robert Duvall, the star and creative force behind Tender Mercies, appears in this film as well. I felt a lot could be said for some areas of execution in this film, and really, execution counts for a lot. There are things Scott Cooper, the writer and director, should be applauded for but frankly I wish there were more.

Based on a Thomas Cobb novel, here we follow Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), a broken-down country singer/songwriter who has seen better days. He’s performing, if you call playing in bowling alleys and the like performing, whenever he’s not busy sucking down booze and creating demons to run from. He’s haunted by his past better days and the breakthrough success of his onetime protegé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).

Eventually he is interviewed by the kindhearted Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a young writer and single mother. They strike up a relationship. Her love seems to set Bad down a better path in life. Or does it? See, we’re not talking about the most original material here.

One of the biggest faults I had with the movie is that I never really bought into their attraction and relationship. For me it felt more like a relationship of plot convenience. I like Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress and she does fairly well with what she’s given, but their relationship never won me over.

There are two things I really did like about this movie. One is Jeff Bridges. He is a true treasure as an actor, a man with enough range to play the “Dude” Lebowski as well as handle his own, singing country songs and playing the ‘barely running on inertia” Bad Blake. He does a lot with this role, though not original, he should be applauded for it. Is it a Best Actor performance? You be the judge. To me, his winning felt a combination of this performance and a lifetime achievement reward.

The other thing that really stood out to me is the music. It’s great. All of it. There’s no doubt that T Bone Burnett has the magic touch when it comes to infusing music into movies on any level or any way. The music alone elevates the entire movie. Is that something we should credit the movie itself for? Again, you be the judge.

This is an enjoyable film. But weighed down by massive critical acclaim and a Best Actor Oscar, perhaps my expectations were higher than they should have been. I’m happy to recommend this movie as it is a positive movie experience. If you can strip away any the buzz and buildup, perhaps you’ll enjoy it even more.

For me I give this movie a B.

Written by the bee dub

July 20, 2010 at 11:16 am

Turkey Meatloaf…again?

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You’re probably thinking, “What the fuck, dude? How many times are you going to give us your fucking turkey meatloaf recipe?” Well, there’s a different reason I’m mentioning it here on the blog.

See, here in the South, it is hot and humid as fuck during the summer. As a result, anything we can do to avoid cooking in the house is as good as gold. Turning on the oven heats up the whole house and batters the hell out of my poor, barely-hanging-in-there air conditioner. So this whole post is really about the fact that lately, I’ve been using my grill as an oven as often as possible.

I have three rows of burners on my grill. One front. One middle. One rear. What I usually do is turn on only the front burner, put whatever I want to roast towards the rear of my grill, close the lid and then just keep an eye on the thermometer that’s built into my grill lid and adjust accordingly. This meatloaf calls for an hour and a half of cook time at 325 degrees. That was no problem here.

Basically, doing this works just as well as my oven. I’ve tried a few different items this way and have yet to experience failure. From now until the time that my air conditioner is no longer on 24/7 (usually sometime in early October), I’ll be roasting on my grill as often as possible.

Written by the bee dub

July 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Carnitas: The Sequel

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This was the Godfather II of pork. The original, though a notable achievement in deliciousness, was surpassed by the sequel.

When I made this a few weeks ago it was good but the recipe called for way too much salt. I was also able to tweak things a little to create little, nuggets of perfection that have just a moment of resistance before dissolving in your mouth into a mixture of hot, juicy perfection.

Seriously, this may have been the best thing I’ve ever made. I’m considering never cooking anything ever again, like a pro athlete who walks away from the game after winning a long, sought-after championship. If nothing else, this ranks right up there with my chicken parm recipe as the closest home-cooked food can get to perfection when prepared by an amateur.

I started with a 3.5 pound boneless boston butt roast. Using a sharp knife, I cubed it into 2-inch-ish cubes removing whatever fat I could along the way. I cut a fair amount of fat away…I’d guess as much as half a pound. Once cubed, I added just under two tablespoons of seasoned salt and mixed that into the pork.

Using Lou Gehrig, my trust workhorse of a dutch oven, I heated some vegetable oil over medium high heat and added the pork in batches, browning on all sides.

This takes a while, always longer than I anticipate. Remove the pork when browned and when all the batches are done, add a cup of orange juice. Scrape up all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Then add your other ingredients.

Throw in a handful of chopped cilantro, a quartered onion, a sliced jalapeno, five or more garlic cloves and a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Then I returned the pork all this and mixed well.

I covered the dutch oven and then put it on my backyard grill, igniting the front burner and placing the pot towards the rear so it gets indirect heat.

Covered the grill and then maintained a 300-degree temperature. I left it alone for the next four hours. Then…

Here’s a closer look.

This ought to keep our bellies full for the next couple of nights. The only thing that’ll make this taste better is a nice, cold beer. Speaking of which…

Written by the bee dub

July 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Am I the only one rooting against Dwayne/Bosh/LeBron?

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I doubt it…

Written by the bee dub

July 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

An open letter to LeBron James

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Dear LeBron,

You are way too in love with the idea of media coverage. You and Brett Favre clearly have an undeniable dependency on appearing in the media. This is extremely unhealthy because the level of coverage you both seek far, far outweighs the public’s actual interest in your activities.

Please contact Brett and see if you can both seek help together which would surely give you a break on the cost of treatment. We could all use a break from hearing your names whenever we watch Sportscenter. Seriously. We need some time off. I mean it.


Functional Hermit

Written by the bee dub

July 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Daily Happenings

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The iPhone 3G + iOS 4 = not for me

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I was eager to play around with the new iPhone OS so I upgraded my 3G. Big mistake.

The interface and features are cool. I just don’t think the iPhone 3G has nearly enough horsepower to make the OS work. Everything bogged down and became sluggish and at times completely unresponsive. Sometimes it would take 10 seconds for the phone to respond to a touch or any kind of input. The phone also would no longer reliably connect to my Kenwood car stereo through its USB port. I tried everything I could think of to troubleshoot as well; a clean, new restore setting it up as a new phone, resetting all settings, resetting the phone, etc. Nothing had much effect.

The problem with all this is that Apple does not make it easy to downgrade from iOS 4 back to iOS 3.

Thankfully, I found this Macworld article, which directed me to this Lifehacker entry. I followed the directions and everything is nice and snappy again. I ordered an iPhone 4 and should receive it in the next two weeks or so. Hopefully that will be a more positive experience.

Written by the bee dub

July 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

Slow Grilled Chicken

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This is going to be a quick, down and dirty post because it was just that kind of weekend.

We rung in the 4th with some slow grilled chicken, which has been documented here more than a few times in various shapes and forms. A few weeks back I did a batch with my teriyaki wing marinade. This time I used my standard chicken marinade.

There aren’t very many ingredients. Combine 1 beaten egg, 2 cups of vegetable oil, 1 cup of cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning and 1 teaspoon of ground pepper. Put all this in a container that seals with a lid. Then shake, shake and shake it some more. The big challenge here is getting the salt to dissolve and spread evenly through the liquid. I shook it for at least five or more minutes and it probably could have used some more.

I then put one whole cut up chicken and a package with about six drumsticks into a freezer bag and then added the marinade. I let the chicken soak in the liquid overnight, turning the bag over as often as I could remember. When you’re planning to eat, give yourself a three-hour window to get the chicken cooked.

I fired up the rear burner of my grill and then arranged my chicken around the front so it gets indirect heat. The temperature should be between 225 and 250 degrees. I put the breasts on first, by themselves, for half an hour. Then I put on the rest of the chicken.

Give your full spread of chicken about another 2 1/2 hours. It can cook quicker than that so you may want to check on it after 2 hours. Once the chicken is cooked, I fired up all my burners and cooked the chicken on both sides for a couple of minutes. This makes the skin more crispy and gives the chicken a more appetizing look. After that, you’re good to go. Grab a drumstick and a beer and you’ll be recreating the highlights of my 4th of July.

Written by the bee dub

July 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

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