Brig’s Too Good for Greedy Bankers

January 30, 2009

By Fred

President Obama thinks $18.4 billion bank executives got in 2008 bonuses was “the height of irresponsibility” and “shameful.” VP Biden would like to throw some of those guys “in the brig.”

I think Biden’s on the right track.

The banks have tried to justify their squandering by saying their executives needed millions in rewards or they might quit.

Let me get this straight. The banks are worried about losing the very bozos whose bad judgment sent them to Congress begging? And in gratitude for getting handouts, they shoveled taxpayers’ money into the pockets of those who needed or deserved it least?

Bank execs have shown incompetence and short-sightedness on a grand scale. If no one has the guts to fire or prosecute them, then perhaps their motivator should be the same line they hand the rank-and-file employees:

“No raises this year. Bonuses? Fuggeddaboudit. Don’t you know times are tough? You should feel lucky you still have a job.”

Shame on Congress for naively stroking checks without strings, like, “You will tell us how you spend it,” and, “Not a penny goes to anyone who helped run you into the ditch.”

Bankers are probably stunned by Obama and Biden’s sudden disgust, since the banks have been stealing and lying for years. Charging fees on deposits, which the banks invest to make even more profit. Charging fees on automated transactions and claiming they’re more expensive than human tellers.

To make a buck, banks basically force customers to buy can openers when all the cat food comes in pouches.

Overpaid bank executives are just crooks in expensive suits. Their massive bonuses came largely from money they got in their $700 billion heist on Congress. So when is someone going to get it back or put them behind bars?

A Long-Lost Ottavia Bourdain Sighting

January 29, 2009

By Karen

Reader Bob provided a link to an interview Anthony Bourdain did with Adam Roberts that’s been out there for a while. Bourdain seemed quite drunk and pulled no punches in dissing the Food Network. But for all you Ottavia-watchers out there, the real action happens in the background. The top of Ottavia’s head bobs out of camera range right at the beginning, then she appears briefly a few more times in a strapless red dress.

I originally saw this clip uncensored, but the Food Network seems to have sanitized it across the Web because now I can’t find it anywhere without bleeps. However, there’s this translation of the bleeps, which is what I recall Bourdain saying.

And there’s finally a thorough first-hand account of the “Cook’s Tour of the Caymans” event at the Cayman Cookout on January 18 by Shinan Govani, complete with several pithy Bourdain quotes and a great photo of Tony with a new little friend.

Remember when the producers of No Reservations were all uptight about the blogosphere letting the cat out of the bag on the episode in the Philippines? Times have changed. NR fixer Louisa Chu has dished on every bite Bourdain put in his mouth while filming the new Chicago episode, which airs February 2.

I just checked on the status of my rendezvous with Bourdain in Durham on February 19, and there are no tickets available at any price. Tony’s sold out in North Carolina. Now I wish I’d bought a parking space in advance.

Curlin Finally Beats Big Brown

January 28, 2009

By Fred

Big Brown was recently recognized at the 38th annual Eclipse Awards in Miami — but the ultimate honor went to his nemesis.

Three horses were in contention for 2008 Horse of the Year — Big Brown, Curlin, and Zenyatta.

The champion Brownie never raced — Curlin — won the top honor — again. He was the first horse to win back-to-back since 1996, and it wasn’t even close. Curlin received 153 votes to Big Brown’s 13.

Now, that’s insulting.

To give Curlin his due, he did win 5 of his 7 races last year, and was the first North-American-based horse to top $10 million in earnings.

Big Brown’s only satisfaction came from winning in the 3-year-old male class over Colonel John, whom he beat in the Kentucky Derby, and Raven’s Pass, the horse who out-ran Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which Big Brown skipped after hurting his foot.

Zenyatta, undefeated in all her 7 races, was named top older female or mare.

Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, took honors as top trainer, besting Brownie’s trainer, Rick “Ricky the Needle” Dutrow, and one other contender.

Big Brown and Curlin are both adjusting to the good life as studs on different farms in Kentucky and probably don’t give a flying carrot about any this.

Anthony Bourdain’s Evil Alter-Ego

January 26, 2009

By Karen

According to promo and his own admission, there’s classic Tony snark in the Azores episode airing tonight (he mentions it at the end of this preview). We know he hates scenes involving dancing with indigenous peoples, but who’d have guessed sharing a frame with water sets him off?

Bourdain’s latest blog entry explores “Snarkology, the Sweet Science” and he reveals an alter-ego named “Vic” who’s well-known to his production crew. You have to read about “Vic” in his words. As always, priceless.

What intrigued me is that Tony lapsed occasionally into that unorthodox punctuation he used in a post back in August.

It wasn’t as pronouced this time, and the post was lengthy and otherwise coherent. For example, referring to “Vic”:

The name emanated from a prolonged, alcohol and fatigue, fueled fit of the giggles

In another spot, dashes intended to indicate breaks in thought morphed into new hyphenated word combos:

Over time, “Vic” became my alter-ego, what they called me whenever they felt I was being “difficult,” or standing in the way of quality TV-friendly yuks-or when I began to balk at 14-hour flights in economy class. There was “good” Tony-who’d obligingly stick with the program and “bad” Vic, who (often speaking of himself in the third person) would make his unhappiness known-usually in pungent terms — as with “Vic,” who doesn’t want to go to the Halloween party at Motel Dracula.

As the final dash in that paragraph shows, he didn’t forget how to use them. But later, he popped in a dash for no reason:

Like I said, I try to be nice. I don’t want “Vic” emerging from his dark trailer in the deep, ugly – recesses of my subconscious.

He also revealed that he’s well aware the blogosphere is tracking him, most recently spreading his comments about Alice Waters like a bad rash. (I’ve been reading up on her, and he’s right. Someone who thinks $8 for a “garden lettuce salad” is reasonable has no business telling the common man where to shop for food.)

UPDATE: Reader Cindy just sent in this link to fresh Bourdain observations on Waters. He praises her accomplishments (wise move, since they’ll be sharing a stage in Connecticut in May), but doesn’t really back down and adds a new dig about her lack of Heimlich skills.

I found a great photo of Bourdain’s unique autograph. I’m sure there comes a point in an author’s career where an indecipherable scribble is needed keep forgers at bay.

I’m not there yet. I just got a royalty statement on my book — 500 more sold, bringing the total to 7,100. But with my publisher’s hands-off approach to promotion and placement, I guess that’s not too bad.

Orange Cats Obsessed With Obama

January 26, 2009

By Yul

Felines generally agree that working like a cat got Barack Obama where he is today. With style and grace, he left the old dogs of Washington panting and wishing they could learn some new tricks as they watched him defy the odds and leap to victory.

But on Inauguration Day, certain orange cats seemed over-enthusiastically glued to their TVs, and I’m wondering why. I found proof at newyorkshitty.

Was it out of sheer admiration, or are these representatives of a feline sleeper cell planning to keep the Obamas from getting a dog? With deceptively cute cats the color of butterscotch, you never know…

Bourdain Strikes Again – Watch Out, Alice Waters

January 22, 2009

By Karen

Talk about biting the hand that wines and dines you. Anthony Bourdain left the Grand Cayman Cookout this past weekend to fly to Washington, DC, on Inauguration Eve for a $500-a-plate celebration bash. The wine, Ponzi’s Arneis, was chosen by Alice Waters.

In a bit of exceptionally unfortunate timing, dclist released online earlier that day an interview Bourdain gave the previous week from home base in New York (thanks for the link, Cindy!). In it, Bourdain bashed Alice Waters:

“I’ll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living shit out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I’m not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits.”

I’d never heard of Alice Waters, so I did a little digging and discovered this. It may be what set Tony off.

Interestingly, Tony and Alice both have New Jersey roots and started out specializing in French cooking. But that’s apparently where any similarity ends.

Bonus Links:

Warning: You won’t feel the love in this post by Zeitgeisty, who has done a complete 180 on Bourdain. But since his new idols are Andrew Zimmern and Adam Richman of Man vs. Food, you gotta wonder.

Bourdain’s (former?) buddy, Tom Colicchio, recently saved cookbook author and NY Times writer Joan Nathan with a timely Heimlich maneuver.

1/23/09 UPDATE: On that last item, get this. I just discovered that it was Alice Waters who noticed Joan Nathan choking and summoned Colicchio. Small world, huh?

What Was Michelle Obama Thinking?

January 21, 2009

By Adele

While Barack Obama showed super-human grace under pressure and imperviousness to bone-chilling cold, Michelle was right beside him, losing her usually dead-on fashion sense.

Humans believe animals are largely color-blind, but cats see more than you think.

First, the winner: Michelle’s elegant “lemon grass” yellow inaugural outfit, which designer Isabel Toledo claims was also warm. (Hillary Clinton, regal in royal blue, really looked toasty and appropriate.)

But Michelle managed to glow in a color nobody white can. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a yellow collar, and Bill Clinton should lose his yellow scarf. Michelle stood out for miles by looking like spring, which the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial probably appreciated. She even made puke-green gloves seem pretty.

But, Michelle, rhinestones before noon? Come on! That’s a rookie mistake.

Everyone’s gushing over her inaugural gown, but I think it was a loser. They said Michelle had several possibilities, and surely one of them must have been classier than a recycled wedding dress festooned with pom-poms or shredded Kleenex tissue. When Michele and Barack (super-suave in white tie and tux) made their big entrance at the Neighborhood Ball, they looked like the top of a wedding cake.

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

In addition to making Michelle look fat, didn’t anybody tell designer Jason Wu she would be dancing? The last time I saw Michelle’s train, it was wrapped around her feet getting stepped on.

Leave it to a 26-year-old guy (Wu) to limit the First Lady’s dance moves on the biggest night of her life to shuffling back and forth or tripping her partners.

Once Michelle sees all the ink her wardrobe choices get, she may start seeking a second opinion before future big events.

A Proud Day for Black Cats

January 20, 2009

By Yul

I’m trying not to gloat, but there wasn’t a cooler cat than Barack Obama ad libbing an oath of office so it would hold up in the Supreme Court, even though Chief Justice John Roberts did his best to throw Obama off.

And just like that, the country’s governance went from the ridiculous to the sublime. Unflappable, confident, focused, and without naming names, Obama gracefully tossed George Bush and Dick Cheney on the trash heap of history right before their eyes by vowing to clean up their messes and dismantle their web of denial, lies, and secrecy.

But what was with Elizabeth Alexander and that inaugural poem? Is it a cat thing, or was she losing everybody? Maya Angelou she is not. Bush and a lot of others probably wished they had earbuds and an iPod in their pockets during that recitation.

In the talking head department, Tom Brokaw cleverly got in one last dig by observing that Dick Cheney in a wheelchair had a “Dr. Strangelove” quality to it.

It seems a testament to Obama’s power to uplift that millions of people gathered in DC — with every living president and VP and most of Congress (with no love lost there) — yet no shoes were thrown.

Obama’s only been president a few hours, but you can already feel the change.

A Bourdain Gallery

January 19, 2009

By Karen

After showing Zamir the frigid Rust Belt, Anthony Bourdain undoubtedly made the most of his weekend at the Cayman Cookout, where the festivities kicked off January 16 on beautiful, balmy Seven Mile Beach.

(Photo - Travel Channel)

(Photo - Travel Channel)

Tony’s event on Sunday afternoon was sold out. But when the guest chefs prepared a 7-course gala dinner for the attendees, I was surprised he wasn’t among them. He’s no shirker. Does he fear his kitchen skills are too rusty, after seeing buddy Eric Ripert tame the grill station at Les Halles?

Cats Working readers uncover Bourdain pics everywhere. The links are scattered throughout the comments, so I’m bringing some to the fore. Don’t want you to miss anything.

Bob provided a great peek into Tony’s youth, including the whole Bourdain family.

I found this interesting account of Bourdain in Seattle in June 2008. You’ve got to admire his ability to speak off the cuff to 1,400 people.

If you’re an author, Tony’s the man to write you a killer book blurb. That’s more than I can say for humorist Dave Barry, who pleaded being too famous and busy to blurb How to Work Like a CAT, even though it complements his own book, Claw Your Way to the Top.

Nickole found Ariane facing the camera for once, with Ottavia and proud papa Bourdain.

This album is huge, beautiful, and mostly irrelevant. I flipped through nearly 500 pics to find the best Bourdain. Here’s Ariane again on the left in a group shot, held by a stranger. What happened to Ottavia?

And a refreshing variation on “Tony posing with female fan” at the Florida Film Festival.

Tony with Ottavia on his left. Her hair looks a lighter and longer than usual.

And suave Tony — at a black-tie event in Charleston, South Carolina.

He’ll be in Santa Barbara, California, on February 27 to discuss Kitchen Confidential, which seems odd, since he’s written many other books since.

Top Chef must be feeling the absence of snark at the judges’ table in Season 5 because they added Toby Young to fill the void left by Bourdain — if he were short, bespectacled, bald, and British. Young seems to strain to be clever. He makes me wish for Tony to breeze through unannounced, lay a big wet one on Padma for shock value, drop a few verbal bombs, and leave Toby in his dust.

Demented Dick Cheney Dishes His Last Dirt

January 16, 2009

By Fred

Before crawling back under his undisclosed rock, Dick Cheney recently let his madness hang out for PBS’ Jim Lehrer.


Cheney still fantasizes that Saddam Hussein was buddies with al-Qaeda. He thinks his only “miscalculation” on Iraq was underestimating the extent of Saddam’s mental abuse of his people. He rejects the notion that the U.S. attacking and killing tens of thousands of them and driving several million from their homes without provocation may have been a little depressing for them.

He doesn’t “buy” his own unpopularity because he’s conveniently forgotten he remained in office through another suspicious squeaker (in Ohio) in 2004. He thinks he and Bush won re-election “comfortably.”

Once in office, Cheney has felt no obligation to answer to anybody for anything, and believes polls are manipulated and don’t reflect what people really think.

On the economy, he says the Bush Administration had some good policies “early on” and shouldn’t have been expected to see disaster coming.

And now he denies that we have tortured, although he was quite proud of it a few weeks ago. He prefers to call it “robust interrogation techniques.”

In the end, Cheney thinks, “The argument that this is a failed presidency is just dead wrong…. over time, I expect that history will judge this administration in a fairly favorable light.”

Dream on, Dick, and be grateful there isn’t a jail cell waiting for you.

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