Cats Working Says Good-Bye to Adele

September 16, 2019

By Karen

I’m deeply saddened to report that Adele passed away on Thursday, September 12. She was 19 years and 5 months old, the last of the original Cats Working team who inspired my book, How to Work Like a CAT.

Without missing a beat in her routine until the very end, Adele became yet another victim of chronic renal failure, which she lived with for over two years. In her lifetime, she watched four “brothers” who were her world also succumb to CRF — Rex, Fred, Yul, and Cole.

Adele and Yul

This past spring, Adele also began developing a tumor on her neck. It didn’t hurt or bother her and seemed comparatively the least of her ailments, so she didn’t undergo any aggressive diagnosis or treatment for it.

Cole and Adele

Adele drove the daily agenda around here until her days slowly became more bad than good. When most foods lost their appeal (and we tried them ALL) and her meds weren’t helping, and even sleep didn’t bring much relief, we knew it was time to let her go while she still had her dignity. Her death was very peaceful.

Max and Roc are adjusting like a couple of rebels without causes to the newly quiet house and Adele’s empty favorite spots. They’re facing life for the first time since kittenhood without their etiquette coach and disciplinarian. They are better cats thanks to Adele’s tough love.

Max and Adele shared a bed

I’m missing my Delly so much, feeling the weight of accumulated grief from losing another decades-long companion to a scourge of epidemic proportions that veterinary medicine inexplicably seems to NEVER make any headway against. It’s taken me days to bring myself to write this and I’m in tears as I type.

Roc and Adele

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Book Review – Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview

September 9, 2019

By Karen

I read The Last Interview, a 109-page trade paperback, in two sittings over the weekend. I believe it’s the 23rd installment in a series about deceased writers, musicians and celebrities.

It begins with an introduction by food writer Helen Rosner about how she discovered Bourdain and eventually got to know him personally. They were in touch right up to his death, and she never got to respond to his last note.

It’s unclear if she selected the seven interviews in the book, arranged chronologically from 2003, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, January 2018, and finally June 3, 2018, the last Sunday he was alive.

Quick digression on production quality. This book isn’t going to age well in your Bourdain collection. It’s printed on that coarse, cheap paper that yellows. And I wonder about the editing. Some chapters are transcripts of live appearances, and I was surprised to find typos like “Namimbia” and “Columbia” (the latter misspelled four times).

During a 2011 appearance in Sydney, Tony said about his daughter Ariane, “I don’t want her reading terrible shit about me on the internet, behaving badly toward women, for instance. I’m not going to do that.”

I just shook my head, thinking, “No, Tony, you did something much, much worse.”

As a Bourdain watcher since 2007, I didn’t really learn anything new about him here. The most notable bit for me was when Tony mentioned in his 2013 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson the Roman condiment garam. He described it as “essentially rotten fish guts and rotten fish sauce,” and said it was as ubiquitous a seasoning in Europe as salt is to us. If he’s ever mentioned garam on TV, I missed it, and it was another example of his encyclopedic mind.

January 2018 is a transcript of Bourdain on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That might have been the last time I saw Tony alive in real time. He seemed in good spirits, saying, “I’m an enthusiastic son of a bitch.”

In hindsight, we know he was then embroiled in trying to extricate his girlfriend Asia Argento from charges of allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy. You may refresh on the timeline of that in this archived post.

The last chapter is an interview with IndieWire, which was published on June 3, a Sunday. Parts Unknown Hong Kong first aired on CNN that night. It was also the weekend Argento cavorted around Rome for the paparazzi with Hugo Clement.

Obviously unaware he was being betrayed as he spoke, Tony raved about working with Argento on Hong Kong, which she supposedly directed. “My god, I’d love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible.”

In other interviews, he’d called that shoot some of his best work. It’s become one of CNN’s “lost” episodes because they no longer rerun any Parts Unknown Argento was involved with.

Bourdain went on about Argento: “She listens to my advice and frequently if not most of the time, rejects it. That is something Asia cannot help but do. She is brutally honest about herself and anything, and it’s a great quality.”

I just about gagged on that paragraph. And when I turned the page and realized that was the last line in the book, my jaw dropped. It felt like the editor deliberately left readers to wonder, was Bourdain really that deluded or just lying? We still don’t know.

You can read that particular interview at IndieWire.

On Tuesday, June 5, Bourdain, while filming in France, would see the photos of Argento with Hugo. We’ve heard only unverified stories about arguments, and Eric Ripert told Tony’s mother Tony had been in a “dark mood,”

On Friday, June 8, Ripert found Tony dead in his hotel room of apparent suicide.

Personally, for the foreseeable future I’ll buy any book about or by Bourdain. Fingers crossed he left something more to publish. But I’d say go ahead if you want to give The Last Interview a miss. Reams of more illuminating interviews are available online.

For example, I was surprised that “Bourdain Confidential” in Popula from February 2018 with Maria Bustillos wasn’t included.

Or even better, you can just reread the books Bourdain wrote before his life took that last fatal turn.


Gordon Ramsay Couldn’t Shake Bourdain’s Shadow

September 4, 2019

By Karen

Gordon Ramsay’s first season of Uncharted recently wrapped on National Geographic. On the NatGeo site you can watch his travels to Peru, New Zealand, Morocco, Laos, Hawaii and Alaska. The reviews were not positive, usually comparing Ramsay unfavorably to Anthony Bourdain.

Ramsay has been my guilty pleasure for years, though I admit he’s not for everybody.

He shows (I hope) his nice side on MasterChef Junior with adorably precocious kids. On adult MasterChef, the withering insults flow, but he leaves the heaviest dickishness to fellow judge Joe Bastianich.

I love Hell’s Kitchen when Ramsay, in bleep-filled fury, strips culinary bozos of their delusions of competence. He’s similar on 24 Hours to Hell and Back, trying to save failing restaurants by berating and humiliating the owners in front of their customers. I was also a fan of Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell. Not so much The F Word.

Bottom line: I’ve seen a lot of Gordon Ramsay. Uncharted was something else.

Ramsay denies ripping off the Bourdain formula, saying he got the idea in Cambodia during a 2004 visit. But comparison was inevitable because both men’s series focused on travel and food. Ramsay’s big twist was his trademark move: turning the food into a competition with a tight deadline.

Ramsay’s mission was to learn as much as he could about the place’s cuisine in a week, then to prepare a feast against a local chef, with invited guests blindly choosing which dishes they preferred.

To make it a “fair fight,” Ramsay gave himself the disadvantage of cooking outdoors with unfamiliar ingredients. He always managed to create something edible, but his dishes weren’t always the favorites. His willingness to come in second showed, at least, an attempt to be humble.

To develop his menu, Ramsay roamed around and had people show him where ingredients such as eels, ants, beetles, grubs, plants growing on cliff sides, fish and game were sourced. Gathering them was often physically grueling, showcasing that 52-year-old Ramsay works out a lot.

What Uncharted never showed was Ramsay strolling through city or village markets, looking effortlessly chic and cool in a rumpled shirt and jeans.

Also missing was the stunning cinematography that Bourdain’s Zero Point Zero film crew had honed to Emmy quality. Uncharted captured what it needed of Ramsay, but any tourist could have shot the uninspired B-roll.

Another glaring omission for Bourdain-spoiled viewers was compelling narrative. Ramsay’s voiceover was often nicely self-deprecating, but light on wit and insight.

Ramsay did break new ground by introducing the Ugly American’s cousin — the Ugly Scot. He mocked locals for going to extremes to snag ingredients. He spit out what he was served a lot. Apparently not a drinker, he missed those opportunities to bond with his hosts, settling instead for a quick sip of the local brew, then insulting it with a puckered face.

Most irritating to me were Ramsay’s ever-present deadlines, which he enlisted everyone into helping him meet.

“I want to hear all about your history, your culture and your cooking techniques, but I’ve got this feast to prepare in the morning, so chop-chop!”

Bourdain had a production schedule, but I can’t recall ANY meal in ANY of his series where he ever made his hosts feel like he didn’t have all day or night to spend with them, eating, drinking, just shooting the shit and enjoying himself.

If Gordon Ramsay accomplished anything with Uncharted, it was to unwittingly remind us of the extraordinary soul we lost with Bourdain’s passing.


Trump Sees Himself in Mass Murderers

August 6, 2019

By Karen

“Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

These words came out of Donald Trump’s mouth yesterday. Reading from a teleprompter without comprehending what he was saying, he unwittingly gave the truest description of his own behavior and its consequences that we’ll ever hear from him.

I say “without comprehending” because when he erroneously said the mass shooting in Dayton happened in Toledo, it didn’t register with him at all.

Trump’s enablers felt obliged to prop him up behind a podium to condemn the latest back-to-back massacres, in El Paso and Dayton, in an attempt to absolve him from national outrage over the government’s ongoing failure to address gun violence.

Side note: Have you noticed they prop Trump up now almost exclusively? If he doesn’t have a podium for balance, he squats in a chair in potty position. His ambulatory ability seems to be deteriorating along with his increasingly slurred speech. The goal, with our own media’s complicity, seems to be to keep us from seeing Trump’s advancing loss of coordination.

But no matter what words they put in Trump’s mouth, they know Trump doesn’t condemn the shooters. He’s called racist domestic terrorists “very fine people” when he wasn’t reading a speech.

That’s because Trump sees himself in them. Or, more accurately, he sees the self he WISHES he were if he hadn’t grown up a sniveling loser, stunted by his domineering father. His courage never developed beyond childish name-calling and passive-aggression.

If you view our rogues’ gallery of mass murderers, it’s almost all white boys who grew up hating some group of people. They compensated for their own lack of education or moral compass by telling themselves they were superior to and needed to exterminate whomever they hated.

Trump’s main difference from that bunch was that he had a wealthy father who kept him in school, shoveled money at him, and brought him into the family’s criminal enterprise business. Young Donnie may have fantasized about sneaking off to buy a gun and killing everyone he imagined had ever wronged him, but he never had the guts to do it.

When his opportunity to have a free gun in the military came along, Donnie faked bone spurs because he couldn’t face being a man and defending the country. A country he now should be leading instead of destroying with his irrational hate.

Trump LOVES young mass killers because in them he sees Trump 2.0, the next, improved generation of himself. At every rally, he carefully fills their heads with racism and hatred of this country’s people.

The 57-year-old homeless loser in Florida who lived in a van splattered with Trump stickers and sent inept DIY pipe bombs to many leading Democrats and CNN just got sentenced to 20 years in prison. He explained his crimes by writing that he was never political until the name Donald J. Trump “popped up” on his cellphone. He described attending Trump rallies as getting “wrapped up in this new found fun drug.”

That’s from a man old enough to know better. Just imagine the impression Trump is making on aimless young punks whose minds are pretty much blank slates and who have ready access to as many assault weapons as their little hearts desire.

Conservative writer George Will in his latest column, “Trump doesn’t just pollute the social environment. He is the environment,” wrote that Trump has a “fascination with what he utterly lacks and unconvincingly emulates: strength. Hence his admiration for foreign despots, and his infantile delight in his own bad manners.”

Every time there’s a mass shooting, Trump the chicken-shit imagines himself the triumphant commander of an army of Mini-Me’s — disaffected, brainwashed white kids armed with assault rifles, fearlessly willing to murder innocent men, women and children on Trump’s signal. They carry out his delusion that this country needs to be “cleansed” of its “infestation” by immigrants.

Yes, guns are a huge problem and must be taken off the streets. But Trump being allowed to prey on and gleefully goad the ignorant and weak-minded among us to murder en masse and glorify his vision of a pure white U.S. is the real and immediate crisis.

Trump is bathing in human blood and loving it. It fulfills his dream of being the most brutal despot in history. But we know it will satisfy him only temporarily. We can’t wait to see how he takes it to the next level. We can’t wait for the 2020 election to put an end to his reign of mayhem. Trump needs to go NOW.

Note: I haven’t used the names of any of the mass murderers because scum doesn’t deserve an identity.


Enduring the Stench of Trump’s Rotting Mind

July 16, 2019

By Karen

Sit back and imagine what Mike Pence and members of Congress smelled when they visited Trump’s concentration camps on our southern border. Sweaty bodies in un-air-conditioned Texas heat that haven’t bathed in over a month, wearing the same clothes they walked through dirt in for weeks from Central America. Teeth that haven’t been brushed in all that time. Children’s underwear and diapers soaked with urine, loaded with feces.

Take a deep breath. Take it all in.

Are you gagging yet? You should be. That’s the same fetid stench permeating the White House right now, but it doesn’t come from immigrants. It’s the odor of Trump’s mind decomposing before our eyes.

Today everyone’s panties are in a bunch over Trump’s tweets telling four nonwhite female members of Congress to “go back where you came from.” Trump is now finally and openly being called a racist. Nancy Pelosi wants the House to pass a resolution condemning those tweets.

Yada, yada, yada. More words. Empty gestures to deflect that Congress is sitting there watching the clock run out, hoping, HOPING they won’t have to do anything really mean to Trump or his enablers before we the voters stomp Trump and everything he stands for at the polls in 2020.

The focus should be squarely on the fact that Trump’s already-limited ability to reason has dropped into what would be the red-alarm zone for anyone else.

Think about it. Starting with the witless names he’s coined for his enemies. “Sleepy” Joe Biden. “Crooked” Hillary. “Little” Adam Schiff. “Cryin’” Chuck Schumer. Jeff “Flakey.” “Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”

Calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” was the dizzying height at which his creativity peaked because it, at least, indicated awareness that there was a female Native American in history.

His latest, “Go back where you came from,” isn’t clever, isn’t creative. It’s a cliché repeated by ignorant racists since the beginning of time.

The media and Washington should be fixating on Trump’s obviously deteriorating mind. Pundits debating Trump’s master reelection plans or strategies that don’t exist should be replaced by video loops of Trump’s babbling, circular reasoning, and repetition of words ad nauseam in what he thinks pass as a substitute for thought.

The country needs a steady stream of this reality like a water torture until Trumpers can’t refute that DONALD TRUMP IS MENTALLY UNFIT TO BE IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

Trump has never been a leader, due to his towering ignorance of everything that doesn’t touch on his own self-interest. But now his brain is rotting at an unmistakably steady clip. He can’t form sentences. He can’t pronounce words. His vocabulary is reducing to one-syllable words.

I’ve reached the point where I ignore or dismiss his tweets. The real concern should be how much time he increasingly devotes to tweeting and how garbled and nonsensical the result is. He’s behaving like a two-year-old.

Congress must stop slow-walking Trump’s inevitable downfall. We’ve got a dementia patient with demonic tendencies sitting in the Oval Office with the nuclear codes.

Pelosi needs to stop playing coy and tell her committees to cut the empty threats and delays and start slinging subpoenas and contempt citations. The House needs to make the case — and fast — that the unelected squatter in the White House is a danger to the world and needs to be removed.

BONUS: Stephen Colbert from July 2018…


It’s June 25. How are You Celebrating #BourdainDay?

June 25, 2019

By Karen

I’m inviting everyone to let us know how you may be remembering Anthony Bourdain on #BourdainDay, what should have been his 63rd birthday.

[People.com]

Eric Ripert and José Andres, who initially announced this celebration, were in Singapore (12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast) and posted their toast and feast on Twitter yesterday.

Restaurants across the country too numerous to list here are planning various events and special menus to honor Tony.

Later today I hope to trek to Popeye’s Chicken, a few miles off my usual rounds, to try some spicy chicken, biscuits and gravy, and mac and cheese, which were Tony’s guilty favorites.

[Weirdly, when Bourdain died last year, I was in such a state of shock that I patronized a nearby Bojangles Louisiana Chicken by mistake and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t serve his mac and cheese.]

A few notes on some new developments…

The book, Anthony Bourdain Remembered, seems to have dropped off the Publishers Weekly bestseller list already, after standing at No. 10 a week or so ago.

His last graphic novel, Hungry Ghosts, is being made by Sony into a four-part animated series. They say each episode will have a different look and include the accompanying Bourdain recipe. Not sure how that will work. Also, no word yet on where or how the series will be available.

New Jersey officially opened the Bourdain Food Trail on June 13 with a ceremony that Tony’s brother Chris attended. It includes 10 stops they made for an episode during season 5 of Parts Unknown.

Tony’s alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, in partnership with Eric Ripert and José Andres who are helping with fundraising, has established a scholarship to enable students to study abroad. Donations are also being accepted online.

On June 10, Bourdain was named one of 10 winners of EatingWell’s 3rd Annual American Food Hero Award.


One Year: Anthony Bourdain Remembered

June 8, 2019

By Karen

Eric Ripert and José Andrés declared on Twitter that June 25 — Anthony Bourdain’s 63rd birthday — is #BourdainDay. They encourage us to pay tribute to Tony in any way we see fit.

But today, June 8, marks one year since Tony ended his life while filming in France, shocking a world unaware of the internal and external demons he was battling.

On May 28, CNN and Ecco published Anthony Bourdain Remembered, a gorgeous book of photos and tributes to Tony originally compiled as a keepsake for his daughter, Ariane. I’m so thankful she agreed to share it with us.

Brace yourself upon first read because many pages turn and you suddenly have Tony’s brown eyes close up and staring through you. It’s a joy to see him, but also heart-breaking.

Cats Working wasn’t a contributor in spite of the reams you and I have written about Tony here. Neither was Nigella Lawson.

Rewatching Parts Unknown, and poring over this book, I find myself searching for his silver wedding ring. To me it signifies when he was relatively content and grounded. In hindsight I’ve bisected his life into two very lopsided halves: pre- and post-fatal attraction.

Speaking of Parts Unknown, I’ll confess my interest waned near the end, and unwatched episodes piled up on the DVR. Tony seemed to be retracing his steps, but lacking joie de vivre. I don’t think he filmed his last season without a friend or acquaintance with him. It was as if he’d grown sick of his own company.

I rationalized that Bourdain once described himself as a bus that made many stops, and he didn’t expect everyone to stay on for the entire ride.

In his “spare” time, he was everywhere: producing documentaries; trying to launch the never-to-be Bourdain Market; Roads & Kingdoms; editing books for his Ecco imprint; writing and recording voiceovers for other ZPZ shows; doing personal appearances and interviews; supporting charities; filming Raw Craft videos for The Balvenie Scotch Distillery; writing a novel he’d been working on for years.

I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.

Now I wish I’d stayed on that bus and hung on, like I did for the years after I first stumbled upon him in 2007 on Travel Channel and began sharing my fascination with him on Cats Working.

The archive still has the most complete account of Bourdain’s career and life in those days that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. He was on the cusp of transcending cable TV obscurity to become what the world came to adore — the antithesis of the Ugly American.

We all thought we had many years ahead to hop on and off the Bourdain bus. Until we woke up one Friday morning to learn he’d hopped off it himself.

I don’t know yet what I’ll do on June 25. It’s a Tuesday. But food and drink will definitely be involved. Maybe you can give me some ideas.

UPDATES…

I haven’t seen anything about CNN’s documentary on Bourdain’s life. Ditto on the two books Tony’s co-author Laurie Woolever said she was working on.

Tony’s Russian sidekick Zamir Gotta was enlisting companions for a five-day tribute cruise to Cuba on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas October 14. But Trump just fucked that up by suddenly, for no reason, banning port calls in Cuba by cruise ships sailing from the U.S.

I’ve lost track of Ottavia and Ariane. They moved from the home where they and Tony staged some of the photos in his last cookbook, Appetites. The place sold in May.

One day I arranged all of Tony’s books in order of publication (from right to left) so I could see his evolution. I once hoped to fill the entire shelf with his books, but the only new additions now will be written about him. I’m sure there will be many.

Parts Unknown has continued to win awards, including…

The six-part Explore Parts Unknown web series on Little Los Angeles won a James Beard Media Award in May, as well as an award for Visual and Technical Excellence.

In February, Parts Unknown: Bhutan won a 2019 Cinema Audio Society Award for Re-Recording Mixer.

Also in February, Parts Unknown: West Virginia won an American Cinema Editors (ACE) Award for Best Edited Nonscripted Series.

In January, Parts Unknown Seasons 11 and 12 won a 2019 Producers Guild Award for Non-Fiction TV.

BONUS…

Actor Michael Moriarty has been writing a series about Bourdain on his blog, Enter Stage Right. They’re strange, to put it mildly. See for yourself. The blog is needle-in-a-haystack on searches, so here are the links I found…

#1 Introduction (3/11/19)

#2 Detroit (3/18/19)

#3 Mexico (4/8/19)

#4 Russia (4/15/19)

#5 Chiang Mai, Thailand (4/22/19)

#6 Shanghai (4/29/19)

#7 Tanzania (5/6/19)

#8 Iran (5/13/19)


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