The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for October 2010

Brett Favre: The slow, sad goodbye

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How much would you risk for one more walk in the sun? Brett Favre has put far more into jeopardy than he possibly ever imagined by coming back for one last season, again.

There was a time when the very large percentage of my soul that is a football fan was in awe of all things Brett Favre. This started in the 90’s and continued for over a decade. The way he played the game was like a schoolboy enjoying his first recess in months. His meetings with the press after the games were honest, blunt and entertaining. Beneath his feet was sacred ground.

It seemed any mistake would be forgiven because of all he had given to the sport. His mistakes on the field and his aw-shucks demeanor were part of what made him so human. He seemed like some guy you knew who just ended up there somehow. Outside of some comments he made when Javon Walker made a contract holdout from the Green Bay Packers, he never came close to making a mistake off the field.

He had it all it seemed. A Hall of Fame NFL career. Lucrative off-field endorsements. A loving family and devoted wife who is a cancer survivor at that.

Then he started considering retirement. Now hit the repeat button and hold it down. Professional sports is big business and it’s understandable that the Packers would want to move forward with a person willing to commit beyond the current season. When the Packerrs tried to play that card, Brett balked. He walked his game to the NY Jets for one forgettable year that all contemporary  sports legends seemingly have to experience before walking away.

Then he defied historic pattern, went to the Vikings and the magic came back. They marched all the way to the NFC Championship and were so close to a dream Super Bowl they could taste it and were able to coax Brett back for one more try. I say coax because at no time this season has it ever seemed like Brett really wanted to be playing in the NFL. Have you ever seen footage of players arriving at the stadium? I saw Brett arrive for his first game this year and he looked like a man walking to a root canal. The chips are not going the Vike’s way this year and there is little joy visible in Brett’s game.

But he was clean. Not like a politician who claims to have never, ever have watched porn of any kind. Brett was clean because he generally came across like a regular guy. Nobody ever really imagined him doing anything but what regular guys would do.

Then came the Jenn Sterger controversy. He has admitted to leaving the alleged voicemails but denies sending her pictures of him fondling himself. According to the report, the pictures were sent from the same number as the voicemails. So if he left the voicemails, someone went to a CIA/gangster hacker level of trouble to make it ‘look like’ he sent the pictures. If he had not come back for this last season with the Vikings, I doubt anyone would really give a rat’s ass about this story.

So here’s what Brett has laid on the line to play this season. First is his legacy as a football player, with the added tarnish of an athlete who doesn’t know how to walk away from the game with grace or dignity. Second is his streak of consecutive games started, which I think is way, way more important to Brett than he ever admits or maybe even realizes. His aging body is going to require him to sit a few games if he is going to rely on his body come playoff time.

But beyond that, with the recent scandal, what else can he lose? His wife and loving family? Clearly shady things were going on. His endorsements? If not, I guess being a Wrangler-kind-of-guy means courting women with cock photos.

He had it all. And for this one season, he could lose it. Maybe he doesn’t give a shit. That’s his right. Personally, I think he needs a little more George Costanza in him. Always leave them wanting more…

Written by the bee dub

October 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

NFL Week 7 Menu: Thirty Dollar Chili

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I have said previously that pork and football is the king of all combinations. Chili and football would be a close second. Chili with pork in it and football would be even closer to the throne.

It’s getting a bit chilly around these parts – finally – so it’s time for chili. This recipe is pretty easy. Here’s what I used:

2 pounds cubed beef (any cut is fine, here I used chuck)

3/4 pound pork chorizo with casing removed

1/2 pound ground sirloin

2 onions, sliced

1 green pepper, cut

5 garlic cloves, minced

28 ounce can whole tomatoes

28 ounce can beef broth (I used reduced sodium here and did not miss it)

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic salt

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

1 cup of fresh cilantro

Dash of salt and fresh, ground pepper

Hot sauce

In the past I’ve thrown in a cinnamon stick as well. Start by browning the beef. You know the routine; heat oil and sizzle the suckers in batches.

Once that’s done, throw in your onions, garlic and pepper. There will be a fair amount of stuff stuck to the pan that will loosen up and flavor the veggies. Cook until the onions soften, stirring often.

Now add the chorizo and ground beef to your pan. Mix well with the onion, pepper and garlic and make sure to break up all the pieces of sausage and meat.

Now return the browned beef to the pot and add all your remaining ingredients: broth, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, herbs, spices and a little hot sauce.

Give it all a good stir and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for at least two hours. This time around I gave it over three.

Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar and some scallions if you’re into that kind of thing. We serve this chili with warm tortillas. It never disappoints…

Written by the bee dub

October 27, 2010 at 10:27 am

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: The Informant!

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This Steven Soderbergh film is a hard one to wrap your head around. Comedy? Yes. Period piece? Check. Docu-drama? Yep. Given how odd the created reality is in this movie, it wouldn’t have felt all that surprising if the characters had broken into song and dance.

The last movie I reviewed suffered by not building adequate empathy for its lead character. Here you don’t have much empathy, either. But you’re just so perplexed by the motivations of lead character Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) that you can’t help but keep watching with the faint hope of finding some clue that sheds the outer layer of his onion revealing only the true core.

Allegedly based on real events, it’s the early 1990’s and Whitacre is an up-and-comer at Archer Daniels Midland, or ADM. His impressive rise up the ADM ladder and the scattered thoughts that fuel his consciousness make for a strange juxtaposition.

When one of his projects hits a snag, he invents a lie that becomes the precursor to thousands more. The more he lies the deeper hole he digs for himself and he keeps digging, seemingly intent on coming out clean on the other side. At first it seems he lies to better his prospects at the company but the lying, cheating and attention given to him by Special Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) of the FBI become an addiction. Whitacre feeds Shepard tales of corporate price fixing and payoffs. Shepard thinks he’s onto a major, major case.

Whitacre seems to believe many of the lies he comes up with, a fact that underscores his lack of grasp on any firm reality. Soon rules and morality become so bendable to Whitacre that he become unable to realize how devious his words and actions have become. He is doing the right thing. He’s the good guy. And he keeps repeating as much probably in an attempt to convince himself as much as anything else.

There’s no real point in going into the plot here because this movie is as much about how it’s done as it is about what happens. The period details are pitch perfect and the film is desaturated to give it that very sterile video-look of the time. Damon gives a committed performance; his rambling inner monologue is perhaps the most entertaining and illuminating part of the movie.

I honestly don’t know whether to recommend this movie or to suggest taking a pass. This is one of those movies that is going to hit every single person in a different way. It is entertaining. It is funny. But sitting through the whole film is like being trapped in a humorous yet awkward conversation for a couple of hours. There’s a strange discomfort that permeates from the beginning; by design, I would guess, and probably the intended result. The filmmakers play it straight the whole way through. Damon too. See what you think.

I give this movie a pretty confused B-plus.

Written by the bee dub

October 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hermit Cinema: The Spanish Prisoner

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After watching the surprisingly good Spartan, I added David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner to my Netflix queue. I had read in more than a few places that it was a film with some good, unpredictable plot twists.

Now the problem with con movies is that while you watch, it’s nearly impossible not to be on constant lookout for the next crazy twist to reveal itself. Perhaps this movie suffered too much from that fate for me? Or maybe the film doesn’t fit together as perfectly as one might hope? Ultimately, I would argue that this movies suffers from one of the most common movie drawbacks: an inability to build adequate empathy for its lead character.

Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) is a contract employee and creator of ‘The Process’ – a proprietary invention that can be used to make a fortune. He is in the Caribbean with friend/coworker George Lang (Ricky Jay – the human acting equivalent to the cartoon character Droopy Dog) and new coworker Susan Ricci (Rebecca Pidgeon). It’s a big meeting where he’s pitching the use of ‘The Process’ to the head of the company, Mr. Klein (Ben Gazarra), and other members of the company’s board.

More than anything he wants to make sure he makes out well financially because his work is going to make the company boatloads of money. Much to Joe’s distress, every time he tries to bring up with subject with Mr. Klein he is brushed off with vague promises that everything will be made right in the end. He begins airing his concerns to Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin), a wealthy American on vacation with whom he strikes up a quick friendship. Jimmy comes across as serious, successful, connected and charming. (Big, red flag, anyone?)

Everyone returns back to New York and once there, Joe gets more and more worried that he’s going to get screwed out of any big payday. Jimmy offers to help arrange a meeting with a lawyer to gain some leverage. Susan begins flirting with Joe shamelessly, seeing that he is heading for much bigger things.

Of course, this is a con movie so nothing is what it seems. Soon Joe enlists the help of FBI agent Pat McCune (Felicity Huffman) because he realizes he cannot trust anybody. Joe is played time and time again, eventually ending up on the lam for crimes he did not commit.

The truth is revealed, of course. Joe learns who everyone really is. But by that point, I just didn’t care enough about him to worry that much. Joe’s character never gets fully developed, only played. That’s surprising to me in a Mamet movie.

This isn’t a terrible movie or anything. It was a bit long and ponderous for me and in the end, just didn’t feel all that remarkable. My high expectations may have doomed this movie but personally, I would guess that most of you would find it a tad underwhelming as well. This is a movie that just doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

I give The Spanish Prisoner a disappointed C-plus.

Written by the bee dub

October 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm

NFL Week 5 Menu: BBQ Boston Butt

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I tried. I really did. This year I made an honest effort to cook things other than pork on football Sundays. Basically, I made it one whole month before the perfection that is the combination of pork, football and beer commandeered the voluntary part of my brain and made any further resistance futile. Some things are simply made to be enjoyed together. Pork, football and beer just may be the Big Kahuna on this list.

As long as you’ve got some time and plenty of gas for your grill, this is actually a pretty easy thing to make. The reward far outweighs the effort you put in. I started with a three and three-quarter pound boston butt. I seasoned it with a dry rub that I often use made with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Rub it in over every side and surface area. You can season your meat the night before but I never taste any difference when I do. This is my way of telling you to feel free rubbing your meat anytime you damn well please. Frankly, this time I did the night before simply for convenience.

Before you start cooking, track down some hickory chips. I get a small bag at the hardware place around the corner. It’s easy to find. Arrange a generous helping of chips onto a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle the chips with some water. Then wrap and seal the foil around the chips. My grill has three rows of burners that go across horizontally. So I shape my hickory chip packet so it can sit over the single burner that I use.I like to punch some small holes or slits into the foil to help it burn.

The idea is to get the chips to a slow burn so they release a long and steady amount of smoke. Just a little bit of smoke adds a lot of flavor. I often make boston butts without using the chips however. It’s really optional but I like what it adds to the dish. I have to lift the grates of my grill and put the chip packet down underneath. You can see the chip packet sitting over the rear burner which is the only one I use for this dish.

Then I put the pork in, close the lid and get the temperature to around 225 degrees. 225 to 250 is a good range but the lower and slower the cook, the more tender the pork becomes. I also like to spray down the surface of the pork with a apple cider/cider vinegar every couple of hours. This helps bring out more flavor from the rub and to carmelize the outer bark of pork. Here it is about halfway.

In the past, I have pulled the pork off the heat after it reaches 190 degrees. But I think that the closer you get to 210 degrees the better everything turns out. This time out I pulled it when it hit 208 degrees and had been on the grill somewhere between 10 and 11 hours. Once it’s off, I moved it to a cutting board and let it cool awhile. A boston butt has a weirdly shaped bone in it and you know you’re in good shape when you can pull that bone out of the meat pretty easily. The outer portion of pork should transform itself into a chewy, seasoned bliss of bark that is not only delicious but also helps protect the juicy, meaty interior.

I like to use my hands to pull the pork. Sometimes I use a knife or a large blade to chop it up. If you’re going to use your hands, be careful because it can be pretty hot to handle.

On this particular day, I strayed from my regular barbecue sauce. We were running low and all the store had when I went on my “Oh shit, I forgot bbq sauce” grocery run was something called Williamson Bros. and plenty of other choices produced by America’s finest agri-business conglomerates. I opted for the Williams Bros. This was a tomato-based sauce that was a little too sweet but not so much that it ruined the end product. Normally though, I have to hand it to Johnny Harris. They make themselves one hell of a vinegar-based bbq sauce with just enough twang in each bite to remind you you’re alive. On this round, we missed you Johnny. We really did.

The final touch is to mix in the amount of sauce you like, then decide. You want straight pulled pork or you want yourself a pulled pork sandwich. If you go with the sandwich, don’t be afraid to add cole slaw on top because that is some good shit. Either way, you can’t lose.

Fucking delicious.

I want to close this entry by backtracking on one of my earlier positions. Previously, I had written in this space that I was so sick of Brettt Favre that I refuse to write about him any more. Well, that is still true, with the exception of anything related to Brett sending pictures of his manhood to a female Jets employee while he was the QB there. That story, I just cannot get enough of.

Written by the bee dub

October 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Hermit Cinema: Let The Right One In

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A couple of people I know kept bugging me to watch this movie and they were very much in the right to do so. I’m not much of a horror movie fan and to be honest, once I heard it was about a vampire I could think of nothing but the vampire overload that is jamming much of our pop culture.

The long and short of this movie is this is one very interesting movie. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, this Swedish movie is well worth the effort required by its subtitles. Oskar is a lonely, bullied boy who dreams of exacting a violent, humiliating revenge on his tormenters. He ends up befriending Eli, a girl who moves into the apartment next door. Initially, she tells Oskar they cannot be friends but eventually, they form a growing bond. Eventually, Eli encourages Oskar to stand up to his bully tormentors and to take them on.

Oskar notices some strange things about Eli but  doesn’t suspect the truth: she is a vampire. Eli lives with an older man who tries to kill victims and bring their blood back to Eli. He is, however, not a very successful serial killer so Eli is sometimes on her own to take care of her needs. Lacke is a local townie who swears to get the vampire himself, after his good friend Jocke is killed and his girlfriend, Virginia, is attacked but survives. Virginia is not left unscarred however. She becomes painfully aware that she has now become a vampire herself.

Meanwhile, Oskar makes a bold and somewhat anticlimactic stand against his main tormentor and he and Eli form a deeper and deeper bond. On the way, Oskar begins to realize that Eli isn’t what he first thought.

This movie is very well done. What really stands out is the note-perfect way it captures the loneliness and uncertainty of adolescence. The awkward beginnings and development of their relationship, the dynamic of the bullies with Oskar and each other, all of it feels so real. Seeing both Oskar and Eli struggle through it – one a weak, lonely outsider while the other has strength and powers yet is trapped in adolescence for perpetuity – gives their relationship a really unique and intriguing dynamic.

The deft use of gore and effects gives you just the desired result, no more. Nothing is done for shock value but rather for the best interests of the movie and the characters’ relationships. (I’d imagine that won’t be true for the recent release fo the American version of this film, Let Me In.) What you don’t see is used just as powerfully as what you do.

Overall, this is a strong choice for a movie that entertains while also defying any familiar categorization. It’s not a perfect film, mind you. Frankly, I found it to be fairly predictable. But just because you know where your car ride is going to end, doesn’t mean the trip can’t be a unique and enjoyable experience.

I give this movie a strongly recommended A-minus.

Written by the bee dub

October 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

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