Bourdain & Zamir Do the Rust Belt

July 27, 2009

By Karen

After last season’s debacle in Romania, Anthony Bourdain returns the favor by taking his pal Zamir to Baltimore, Detroit, and Buffalo in the dead of winter. In Baltimore, they feast on cheap fried fish and greens out in the cold on a roadside picnic table.

In Detroit share a Middle Eastern meal with Rashid, a man who was evacuated with Tony and his crew from Beirut. There, Tony also engages in another lame athletic endeavor (compensation for the crazy stunts he no longer does?) — feather bowling.

And in Buffalo, of course, they try – beef on weck? WTF?

Zamir’s always-entertaining presence should make this an episode not to miss.

Found this chat with Mario Batali. Bourdain had just returned from the as-yet-unaired “Meet the Fockers” episode in Sardinia, and asks for advice on how to fit in. He mentions that daughter Ariane already has dual Italian citizenship, and he wants it for himself.

Tomato offers some clips of Bourdain’s latest episode in Melbourne, and at the end provides 7 links to an interview he did with Tony there in 2005 (with some great, youthful-looking photos). Not much new, except Tony totally trashes truffle oil.

Smell My Plate weighs in on celebrity chefs, and draws an insightful conclusion on where Bourdain fits in to that category.

On an side note, way off to the side, NBC must have a death wish. They’re planning a sitcom starring Padma Lakshmi, tentatively called Single Serving. Since Padma’s acting credentials make a list as long as your pinky, Defamer offers some other series ideas for the vapid Top Chef host.

PS: Padma and Tom Colicchio were co-nominated for Emmys for best reality competition hosts. Talk about riding the bald guy’s coat tails.

Obama Signals He Gets It on Healthcare Reform

July 24, 2009

By Karen

I’ve been worried that President Obama intends to throw us all under the bus of private health insurers by mandating we buy their shoddy policies, but he sent the clearest signal yet during his press conference the other night that he really does get it.

And no one in the clueless media picked up on it, though it knocked me off the couch. They’re too preoccupied with the next hot scoop on the late Michael Jackson, I guess.

The signal came in the first words out of Obama’s mouth:

“Good evening. Please be seated. Before I take your questions, I want to talk for a few minutes about the progress we’re making on health insurance reform and where it fits into our broader economic strategy.”

In his opening remarks, he called it health insurance reform three more times. And not one hotshot reporter in the room picked up on the subtle shift in emphasis. In fact, they all kept calling it “healthcare reform.”

Here’s the difference: Reforming health care implies making medical practices, doctors, and hospitals do things differently. Yes, we need some of that, too, but they’re not really the problem. They’re victims, just like the rest of us, only trying to protect themselves.

What everyone in Washington hasn’t dared to say until now is that we need to reform health insurance. To end the extortionist, discriminatory practices that have enabled health insurers to thrive while their customers go bankrupt over medical expenses the lousy insurance they’re buying won’t cover.

Obama has talked about how his mother fought with her insurance company while she was dying of cancer. I was afraid he’d put that behind him, but now I know it’s only because he can’t speak the truth without committing political suicide.

The truth is that the insurance industry has health care in a death grip. Unless that grip is broken, doctors and hospitals will continue to squander fortunes on bureaucracy and patients will continue to face financial ruin and die while paying insurers through the nose for a product that refuses to deliver.

Let’s just hope Obama can persuade enough members of Congress to hop off the lobbyist gravy train fueled by our insurance premiums and do the right thing for once.

Adios, Taco Bell Dog

July 23, 2009

By Yul

Whenever I see our bobblehead figure or the basket of cheap little stuffed talking Chihuahuas, I will fondly remember the Taco Bell dog, who was actually a female named Gidget, the canine Meryl Streep.

Gidget-TacoBellDogWe acquired all our toy dogs from 1997 to 2000, every time Karen saw the Chihuahua in another cute commercial and craved putrid faux-Mexican food. Karen saw Legally Blonde 2 because “her dog” was in it, and futilely hoped Gidget was poised for a big comeback in 2002 when she did a cameo in an ad with the GEICO gecko.

Gidget’s run with TB ended when they hired new marketing geniuses who dumped her in favor of mumbling young boys, their prime demographic. It worked, because Karen never eats at Taco Bell anymore.

Two guys who originally conceived the talking dog recently got the last laugh, to the tune of $42 million. Seems Taco Bell nixed their concept, then had their own ad agency run with it.

We cats tolerated Karen’s fascination with the dog because I could have kicked a Chihuahua into next Tuesday with one foot tied behind my back if Karen were ever crazy enough to bring home a real one.

But Gidget’s passing at age 15 after a stroke she suffered at her trainer’s home on July 21 has left us all sad.

Taco Bell never recaptured the wit and appeal their ads had when that winsome Chihuahua was teaching us all a little Spanish. Maybe some day, TB will wise up (and run out of ways to churn the same half-dozen ingredients) and give another Chihuahua a chance.

Resto en paz, Gidget.

No Reservations: 3 Emmy Noms + Australia

July 20, 2009

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain seems to be walking on Cloud 9, wherever he is. No Reservations got an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series, and the Laos episode netted two more nominations for photography and editing. Tony has covered it in depth on his own blog.

Tonight, No Reservations goes to Melbourne, Australia, and Ingrid at Room214 provided a few details and a peek:

Tony visits the Queen Victoria Market with British chef buddy, Paul Wilson, where Tony sees a lot of fresh meat, fish, and produce. Then he eats at Wilson’s restaurant, Half Moon.

Tony plays trugo (whatever that is) and WINS! Now, that’s something I want to see. Bourdain the jock. But I’m guessing trugo is some kind of board or card game.

Tony tries Middle Eastern street food, visits Chinatown, and ends up at a BBQ where roast lamb is featured.

Here’s the Travel Channel run-down of his Australia itinerary.

Someone at the Examiner spotted Tony in New York City at a restaurant called Michael’s with an “unidentified guest.”

In case you’ve been skipping past comments…

Cats Working reader Cindy tipped us off to the possible sale of the Travel Channel. No telling what that could mean for the talent, but somehow I don’t see Bourdain returning to the Food Network stable. He works like a cat, and he’ll land on his feet, no matter what happens.

Meanwhile, reader Petunia thinks she heard Bourdain doing a voiceover on a TV commercial for Glad storage containers. I haven’t heard it yet myself, but keep your ears perked and check in when you hear it. Tony has wondered if he should be cashing in on endorsements like so many of his celebrity chef friends. Maybe this is his way of testing the waters.


Sillymharia writes about her admiration for Bourdain and her despair over the lack of his female equal on TV, enumerating the shortcomings of female hosts she watches. Her humorous style puts her in Bourdain’s league for snarkiness and wit, and she’s only 23. Recommended reading.

Cats Had Best Virginia Derby Seats

July 19, 2009

By Karen

Adele was right about watching the Virginia Derby on TV. As things turned out, I watched most of the race on TV myself, and I was at the track.

Interstate 64 was gridlocked much of the way to Colonial Downs, a drive that should have taken about 45 minutes but lasted 2 ¼ hours. The only obstacle seemed to be one state trooper car with flashing lights sitting beside this sign:

Virginia Derby

Use Caution

Expect Delays

Thoughtfully placed at the END of the bottleneck. After that, clear sailing, but my parents and I missed the first 5 races.

Then our reserved tickets were screwed up, so we got a complimentary bump “up” to the Jockey Club, which meant air-conditioned comfort and TVs everywhere, but no seat outside close to the action. We slipped outdoors for one race, but got caught inadvertently stealing somebody’s seats, so we slunk back indoors.

Jockey Julien Leparoux (who rode Fred’s favorite, General Quarters, in the Kentucky Derby) was on fire in Virginia. We watched him win 3 races in a row before Kent Desormeaux and Edgar Prado started riding to give him some competition.

Then Desormeaux seized the spotlight, winning 2 stakes races in a row. I felt very confident he’d ride Adele’s pick, Hold Me Back, to victory in the Virginia Derby. So did the crowd, because Hold Me Back became the favorite.

Adele was right about Straight Story’s Derby performance. He held the lead until Battle of Hastings came up from behind in the final paces and beat Straight by a nose — again.

Battle of Hastings beat Straight Story by a cat's whisker. (Photo - Joe Mahoney, Richmond times-Dispatch)

Battle of Hastings beat Straight Story by a cat's whisker. (Photo - Joe Mahoney, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Hold Me Back came in a disappointing fifth.

Leaving Colonial Downs was painless in spite of the crowd, but the track needs to fix that sign saying, “Richmond, Center Lane.” It sends cars directly into a subdivision. We took Route 60 for half the trip home and hit no traffic.

So now I’ve visited Colonial Downs twice, getting trapped on I-64 both times. Being track-side is nice, but unless you watch the TV monitors instead of the horses themselves, you can never see all the exciting “jockeying” for position that goes on during the race. Just watching the horses streak across the finish line through a window is the pits.

The cats and I will be watching the next big race together.

Nicanor Scratched from the Virginia Derby

July 18, 2009

By Adele

It’s a black day here at Cats Working. Nicanor, Barbaro’s younger brother and our favorite to win the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, has been scratched.

Nic pulled something in his left hind leg 2 days ago while training.

We know trainer Michael Matz will take the best care of Nicanor because he’ll have to answer to a grassroots group called the Friends of Barbaro (FOB) who are closely following Nic’s every move. Many of them were driving to Virginia from other states today to see Nic run his first stakes race.

Karen is still going to the Derby and leaving the TV on for us. Our new pick is Hold Me Back, who ran 12th in the Kentucky Derby. His jockey again is Kent Desormeaux, who rode Big Brown in every race for the Triple Crown.

FYI, Brownie’s former trainer, Rick Dutrow, dubbed “Ricky the Needle” by Big Brown himself in an exclusive interview with Fred after the Belmont, is currently under a 30-day suspension for… yup, you guessed it… giving some horse the wrong stuff.

Barbaro’s Brother is Coming to Town

July 15, 2009

By Adele

On July 18, Barbaro’s younger brother, Nicanor, is running in the $750,000 Virginia Derby — AND KAREN’S GOING TO SEE HIM!

Nicanor, are you our next hero? (Photo - Yetta Feltner)

Nicanor, are you our next hero? (Photo - Yetta Feltner)

Colonial Downs discriminates by prohibiting cats from attending races, and Cats Working briefly considered staging a poop-in all over the front lawn. But the race will be shown on TVG, the horse racing channel, and Karen promised to leave the TV on for us, so we can’t complain because we’ll probably see the race better than she will.

Nicanor’s odds are 7-2 in a 10-horse field, and considered the wild card who could beat the favorite, a British horse named Battle of Hastings, who won the Colonial Turf Cup at the Downs earlier this year.

Another horse in the race, Straight Story, lost the Turf Cup by just a head to Battle of Hastings, so he may be out for revenge and make things really interesting.

Nicanor ran his first race on dirt in January and it wasn’t good. He came in 10th and hurt a hoof. But then he came in second in his next 2 dirt races.

On May 13, trainer Michael Matz switched Nic to turf and he took off, winning by 15 ¼ lengths at Delaware Park, the same track where Barbaro first proved he was a champion.

Then Nic did it again on June 17 on another turf track.

So he’s coming to Colonial Downs’ turf on a winning streak. His jockey is Jose Lezcano, and they’ll be racing against Barbaro’s jockey, Edgar Prado, now on Take the Points, and and Big Brown’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, now on Hold Me Back.

Just FYI, Barbaro has other full brothers besides Nicanor. Lentenor is now 2 years old. There’s a new foal, and mother La Ville Rouge is pregnant again by their father, Dynaformer.

Bourdain Responds to Cats Working?

July 13, 2009

By Karen

A new episode of No Reservations in Chile airs tonight. Anthony Bourdain’s blogging and full of snark again, and — although I can’t prove it — I swear he’s been reading Cats Working.

The biggest bombshell in his blog post is that his upcoming visit to Sardinia (airing September 14) will have so many “prominent personal/family elements,” they’re calling it the “Meet the Fokkers” episode.

Perhaps a long-anticipated glimpse of Ariane? Ottavia occupying center frame at last? Could the “Fokkers” be Mr. and Mrs. Busia?

But what really spooked me was the link he included to the episode list I’ve been complaining I can’t find. When has he ever done that before?

Just FYI, Ingrid at Room214 is alive and well. She surfaced again last week to supply her advance scoop on Chile, which I noticed took no time to scatter around the Web like fairy dust.

As you’d expect, Tony does his share of “pigging” out, and mentions the completo in his blog, a monstrous hotdog topped with sauerkraut, pickled veggies, tomatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise.

According to Ingrid, he also channels Andrew Zimmern with caldopata (hoof soup) and chunchules (fried intestines), pays his usual visit to the local market, and takes in a rodeo.

The Travel Channel has actually published a list of where he went, ate, and slept in Chile before the episode airs. Can you say “180 degrees” from their attitude in the Philippines?

And the last question Tony answers via blog is that he must be getting R&R now because filming for Season 6 doesn’t begin until August, and the ‘Net continues to be silent on new appearances and chance encounters.

Hope you have a relaxing summer in some great, undisclosed location, Bourdains. You’ve earned it!

PS: To illustrate how closely the fate of Cats Working is tied to Bourdain, we’ve been averaging a lackluster 500 hits a day this summer, but since the Travel Channel began running a NR marathon yesterday, we’ve logged nearly 2,800 hits. Obviously, new episodes spike interest. (Note to Tony: Searches on Wife #1 are the most popular topic by far, running about triple Current Spouse. Go figure.)

Palin’s Latest Dumb Move: Picking on Levi

July 11, 2009

By Adele

Sarah Palin just can’t let a fact go unpunished. Her daughter Bristol’s ex-sex partner, Levi Johnston, revealed at a news conference that he heard Sarah talking 7-8 months ago about chucking politics to take the money “and just run with it” as a celebrity.

So Palin shoots back, Oh, no, that’s what Levi’s trying to do.

Yeah, when he’s not pounding nails on his latest job (anything to avoid school), he’s trying to sell a book and movie deal. The heartwarming tale of a redneck dropout raised by a drug dealer in the middle of nowhere.

The only thing that story has going for it is lots of teenage sex, which could be fun until the baby shows up.

And why is a 19-year-old hit-and-run father having “news conferences,” anyway? What is WRONG with the media? Don’t they have Caller ID? Haven’t they learned not to pick up when these Alaskan white-trash attention junkies call, craving a camera-and-mike fix?

Palin’s sure good at dishing out disingenuous drivel, but she just can’t take it. Every time someone lands a dig too close to home, she goes postal.

Don't you go dissing Sarah Barracuda.

Don't you go dissing Sarah Barracuda.

Palin had her spokesperson, Meghan Stapleton, respond to Levi with what must pass for wit in Alaska:

“It is interesting to learn Levi is working on a piece of fiction while honing his acting skills.”

With all this ping-ponging “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah,” Palin’s proving the last thing she needs is a regular gig where she can make a fat living constantly defending her asinine remarks and behavior.

Go ahead and write your book, honey, although I doubt you’ve got enough thoughts in your head to fill one unless it has lots of pictures. Most people never read books anyway.

But, please, media, for the love of God, I’m begging you, DON’T — I repeat DON’T — give that idiot her own TV or radio show.

Big Cat Makes the Big Time

July 10, 2009

By Cole

As a long-time shelter cat who recently lucked into this cushy gig at Cats Working, I relish rescue tails tales with happy endings, and Pat the Cat is one. But Pat isn’t your typical shelter cat. He’s a jaguar.

Pat was born in Belize 8 to 11 years ago. His ‘hood kept shrinking, thanks to human development, until Pat’s only hope for survival was to become a cattle-rustler.

It wasn’t long before the humans noticed their herds dwindling, so they captured Pat and would have made him into a rug, but they noticed he had a certain je ne sais quoi and seemed friendly, in spite of everything. So they gave him to a sanctuary where he was further tamed and even had a song written about him.

Pat's a real hunk of cat.

Pat's a real hunk of cat.

In March 2008, he emigrated to the Milwaukee County Zoo and is now a worldwide celebrity.

The jaguar is the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere, and only 44 live in North American zoos. Only 9 of those were born in the wild, so inbreeding is a problem. Pat’s genes are welcome because he’s got no family here. Since jags live to be about 20, Pat’s considered a teenager and his new owners plan to make him the feline Hugh Hefner.

Here’s some video of Pat at the zoo, where he saw cheetahs and lions for the first time. There’s also a potential girlfriend named Stella. But if sparks don’t fly with Stella, Pat will be loaned to other zoos to party with loose females.

Here’s another video of Pat and Stella. She’s a real looker.

Since Pat has become the poster boy for preserving jaguars, he’s spawned merchandising that includes jaguar-themed jewelry and cookies.

So that’s another happy cat tale. Me and Pat. From the skids to success.

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