Tiger Tale with a Happy Ending

August 31, 2010

By Cole

It happened on August 28 at Jungle Island in Miami. A white-handed gibbon named Watson got out of his enclosure and taunted a 3-year-old Bengal tiger named Mahesh, causing Mahesh to jump his 12-foot chain link fence with a 2-foot barbed wire overhang and take a stroll through the zoo.

Mahesh (Photo - NBC)

Lucky for Mahesh, the humans screaming and running in all directions didn’t particularly interest him. At one point, he even came face-to-face with a 2-year-old girl. The big cat and the kid just stood there until the girl’s mother picked her up and quietly walked away. That act earned the woman one of those excruciatingly dull “15 minutes of fame” interviews on the Today Show, where Matt Lauer tries to milk a whole segment out of what I just told you, getting monosyllabic responses to his attempts to make the experience tense and horrifying.

MSNBC even went so far as to call it a “tale of survival.”

After about 20 minutes on the lam, Mahesh was coaxed into a cage and didn’t even need to be tranquilized. For now, he’s relaxing out of the public eye while the humans “investigate.”

This incident has been compared to the experience of late Tatiana at the San Francisco zoo. She was taunted by three human boys, escaped and killed one, and was shot dead, causing Cats Working to ask, “How High Can Tigers Jump?

If people haven’t figured it out yet, Mahesh gave them the answer again: “As high as they need to.”

Even though the fence is already 2 feet higher than state law requires, and no one was hurt, the state is considering charging the zoo’s owner with something so they can fine him. Anything for a buck. And they want the fence extended to 14 feet with a 4-foot overhang.

But at least Mahesh is still alive and not in any trouble.

Is Bourdain Back on Top Chef?

August 30, 2010

By Karen

This week’s No Reservations is another special. The production team had a team track them as they filmed the recent episode in Kerala, India. I found this behind-the-scenes look much more interesting and entertaining than finished product. You’ll see Tony not just as “the talent,” but as senior gang member.

His crew has an endearing sense of humor and loyalty to the cause. Now I want to revisit Bourdain’s previous book, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, where he wrote about them extensively, because now I feel as if I might relate better.

UPDATE to UPDATE: I was right the first time. Bourdain is going to be a guest judge on Top Chef on September 1, not in Singapore on September 8.  This season really could use an infusion of his wit. And I learned from judge Eric Ripert’s video recap of last week’s episode that they cut probably the best moment — him spitting out a cheftestant’s toxic gray tuna tartare.

I found a thought-provoking post on the Jawa Report about Bourdain’s visit to Saudi Arabia and what it accomplished — not. (Remember, the one where Danya won his fan contest?) Bourdain was faulted for not delving into that (or any other) culture’s ugly underbelly. But he’s no investigative reporter or diplomat, and I think for him to do so could have terrible consequences for the innocent people who host him.

Jessica Wong at CBCNews in Toronto is seeking reader questions before Bourdain appears on September 22 at Ryerson University. She gave her own list, and it’s so well-worn, if there’s any chance she’ll be talking to him, I suggest she do her homework. Like maybe watch an episode or two of NR and at least skim Medium Raw.

On the other hand, Katharine Shilcutt with the Houston Press blog, Eating Our Words, did an excellent phone interview with Bourdain before his appearance there on September 20. He seemed in good spirits and mentions that he hopes to go to Cuba with Zamir around New Year’s for No Reservations‘ next season, and he’s already picked the show’s theme.

Evan S. Benn of stltoday.com in St. Louis also interviewed Bourdain before his October 1 appearance there. Tony tells why he’ll never tweet, and mentions some other places NR might visit in Season 7, which he says they’re deliberately trying to make “very difficult” to challenge themselves and keep it fresh.

Here’s a video interview with Lauren Ezersky of Better about Medium Raw. I give Bourdain points for keeping a straight face.

DC Bend Over, Here Comes Glenn Beck

August 27, 2010

By Yul

If you can’t get enough of Glenn Beck’s rants on TV and radio, you have a chance to catch his act live on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow, where he’s holding a “Restoring Honor” rally.

Beck claims it’s pure coincidence it’s exactly 47 years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech there. Surely, Beck would never try to hijack such an historic occasion for self-glorification. He’s probably just humbly hoping that TV crews catch any black people who might be milling around looking for Al Sharpton’s King commemoration and make them look on the evening news like Beck rally attendees.

And how much do you want to bet that Fox will report attendance in figures astronomically higher than any other news outlet?

Beck also claims the rally isn’t political because he invited no politicians. That’s why he’s holding it in DC instead of some Kansas cornfield. Apparently, royalty doesn’t count, because Sara Palin, the Tea Party’s unofficial queen, will be by Beck’s side so they can egg each other on, criticizing and mocking Obama and Democrats right on their home turf.

I mean, who needs hope and change when the world would be perfect with NO progress — and even better if we could turn the clock back 50 years?

But Jon Stewart ripped Beck a new one on The Daily Show far better than this cat ever could. The segment is called “I Have a Scheme,” and I’ll let Jon take it from here.

Belgium Plots to Wipe Out Housecats

August 25, 2010

By Cole

I wish I were making this up, but it’s true. By 2016, Belgium plans to have every short-haired cat in the country sterilized. They have one cat for every 10 people, and last year 13,000 homeless cats had to be put to sleep, so the Belgian government thinks it has an overpopulation problem.

I agree. They have 90% more humans than cats. If it’s a question of allocation of resources, they’re “fixing” the wrong species.

Belgium’s human population grew 0.776% in 2008 and is trending upward, while they think the cat population increases about 6% annually. But they ignore an important fact…


If the proposal is passed, in 2011, they will begin with all cats in shelters, then those belonging to breeders and pet shops. Finally, housecats will have to be registered with the government and face mandatory sterilization.

Pedigreed cats like Persians and Abyssinians will be exempt. So in one generation, Belgium’s cats will consist of nothing but flat-faced, long-haired shedding machines. Not that I have anything against purebreds, but whatever happened to Vive la Difference?

The eradication of kittens should be complete in 5 years. The only thing stopping them from starting immediately is a lack of government funding.

Speaking on behalf of the “ordinary, unwanted” domestic shorthairs at Cats Working, if Belgium follows through on this heinous, incredibly short-sighted plot, may it find itself overrun by vermin. Who knows? Maybe they’ll bring the Black Plague back into vogue. Whatever hardy European mousers are left may be too old to hunt, or even deliberately let the rats thrive to control future human generations. Payback’s a bitch.

Bourdain Mugged by Yogi Bear for Emmy

August 23, 2010

By Karen

I planned to title this post, “2010 is the Year of Bourdain,” because his book, Medium Raw, continues to occupy bestseller lists, and because he won his first personal Emmy for writing the Prague episode of No Reservations.

But I was only half right.

Bourdain didn’t win the freaking Emmy. It went to PBS’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

Are they KIDDING? Even the title is boring!

With a new movie coming out later this year, 2010 is shaping up to be the Year of Yogi.

I’d have been happier if Tony lost to Buddha.

The Bourdains traveled to Los Angeles for the Emmy ceremony on August 21, and Ottavia was resplendent in a pale gray strapless Marchesa gown with beaded bodice. She tweeted that they skipped the red carpet but, from what I’ve seen, Ottavia would have mopped the rug with most of the women there. Don’t those ladies have mirrors?

Well, back to the day job…

This week on No Reservations Tony returns to Beirut to make the happy foodie show he intended in 2006 when he inadvertently got trapped as war broke out with Israel (and the show earned its first Emmy nom). This time, he stays in the same hotel and catches up with the same people.

Since it’s been a niggling annoyance with me lately, I watched this episode (thanks to Room214) with an eye on how they ate. Finger foods were picked up with bread. During the show’s last meal, one of Bourdain’s hosts even said that Lebanese don’t eat with their hands (except for foods Americans would also pick up) because they like to stay neat.

Last week’s black-and-white episode in Rome sparked a lot of controversy. ChowHound weighed in, and it wasn’t good. Apparently, some of Tony’s fans have no tolerance whatsoever for the absence of color. Their loss. They’ve essentially slammed the door on Hollywood’s heyday and greatest stars.

On the other hand, Phoodie.info in Philadelphia loved it.

September 6, Travel Channel plans a No Res marathon, with a new special called “What Were They Thinking” airing right before the Paris episode. (Note: CinemaBlend says No Res has been on for 15 years; it first aired in 2005.)

To further set the record straight, you’ll see all over the Internet that NR is in Season 7 or 8. According to Room214, we’re still in Season 6 (I specifically asked). As always, thank Travel Channel for pulling air dates out of their ass so nobody knows what’s what.

If you happen to be in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 28, Tony is making an appearance at the International Book Festival.

He’s back on the road in the U.S. with a vengeance in September, with many personal appearances until around Thanksgiving (I’m seeing him myself in Washington, DC, in November).

Tony gave a phone interview to the Sacramento Press before his appearance there on September 17.

How226 published a surprisingly high-quality forbidden video of Bourdain speaking in Santa Cruz about Gordon Ramsay. If you’ve never seen Tony in person, it’s a good sampling of his off-the-cuff speaking style.

Eat Pray Love Envy

August 21, 2010

By Karen

Critics are mercilessly trashing Eat Pray Love exactly as they did Sex and the City 2 — calling it shallow and self-absorbed. WHAT is their problem with movies about women?

Unlike many reviewers, I read the book before seeing the movie and I liked both a lot. Who wouldn’t want to spend a year disconnected from their daily ruts and problems, exploring strange and beautiful places and meeting interesting people?

In the book, I couldn’t relate to author Elizabeth Gilbert’s marital problems, but she hooked me when she decided to find her true self through travel. I spent about 15 years doing the same thing, but in a very different way. (My memoir, Counting Nights, is in the works. Stay tuned…).

As Liz, Julia Roberts was perfect. Much of the plot is cerebral, and Julia did a wonderful job with those many quiet moments. Her eyes speak volumes.

Liz’s first stop was Italy. After No Reservations, it was my second trip to Rome this week. But Liz’s Rome was in full color and her adventures in eating consisted of spaghetti, pizza (in Naples), and gelato. I loved watching her do what I’ve always wanted to do, but in Paris.

Next, India. If not for Richard the tortured Texan at the ashram, I would have slept through this part, but that’s me and India (explained in my book). And I don’t believe endless chanting brings you any closer to God than handling snakes.

But then Liz goes to beautiful, quirky Bali and meets her future husband, a sexy, gorgeous Brazilian named Felipe.

My memory of the book is vague enough that I wasn’t bothered, or even noticed, if the movie mangled some parts, but Felipe (played by Javier Bardem) was nothing like I remember him.

In the book, Liz and Felipe were like the May-December romance of Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque in South Pacific. In the movie, they’re more physically matched, but they still have Bali Ha’i.

I left the theater feeling strangely hopeful that my Felipe is still out there somewhere, waiting for me to find him. And I had spaghetti for dinner.

PS: The New York Times review got it right.

Ever Heard of Simon’s Cat?

August 19, 2010

By Cole

I just discovered this very cool and funny cat on YouTube known only as “Simon’s Cat.” Simon is an English human named Simon Tofield who works as an illustrator, animator, and director at Tandem Films in London.

Simon's Cat (Drawn by Simon Tofield)

In 2007, he started drawing simple cartoons about this cat. They received tens of millions of hits on YouTube, so he published a book in October 2009 for the cat’s fans that has sold over half a million copies. Now there’s a second book in the works.

The latest YouTube cartoon is called “The Box” (not the “box” you probably think). If you know cats at all, I guarantee it will make you chuckle. Even I purred. This guy has got our number.

The cartoons credit “Shrooty” for sound, which I at first mistook for the starring cat, but Simon himself makes all the cat sounds. Shrooty is a human who combines the sounds with the drawings. No actual cats are involved.

I think Simon’s Cat is probably a composite of the 4 cats who live with Tofield — Hugh, Maisy, Jess, and Teddy. (Notice they all have sensible people names, another clue that Tofield “gets” cats.)

But during this interview, Tofield said he was first inspired when Hugh was a kitten and trying to wake him up to be fed. (Been there, done that with Karen.) The first YouTube cartoon was based on that incident and you may have already seen it. It’s called “Cat Man Do.”

Anyway, I just had to share this. Many of us cats who work the ‘Net dream of achieving fame and fortune, but few succeed. It’s kind of ironic that Simon’s Cat isn’t even real, but we’re all proud of him anyway.

Obama Trapped in Muslim Mudslide

August 18, 2010

By Yul

For a fellow black cat, President Obama sure doesn’t seem to have my surefootedness nor an ability to land on his feet when he gets himself into a jam, as he did on August 13 during a dinner at the White House for Muslim leaders to honor their holy month of Ramadan. In a prepared speech, he brought up the proposed mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero and said

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the . . . right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”

It certainly sounded like he has no problem with that mosque. So naturally, it gave the right-wing wackos reason to scream, “See, what did we tell you? He’s a closet MUSLIM! One of THEM!”

So the next day, Obama tried to backtrack by saying…

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”

He’s beginning to remind me of that Woody Allen character, Zelig, who would try to fit in everywhere by morphing into whatever type of person he was with.

I agree with Adele that if Muslims want to build a “community” center, fine. But making it a mosque intentionally excludes everybody but, uh, Muslims.

Obama certainly could have handled it better and sounded like he wasn’t caving to extremism. Michael Graham of the Boston Herald eloquently provided the words Obama could have and should have said.

Rome + Bourdain = La Dolce Vita

August 16, 2010

By Karen

No Reservations is in Rome tonight. Don’t miss it. Period. It’s that good.

Yes, it is filmed in black and white with some subtitles, but they’re sprinkled like condiments, not the main course. The food gets hints of color.

Bourdain fears that fans will hate his foray into Federico Fellini’s style, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a Fellini film, you’ll get it. Tony is justifiably proud of the result and blogged at length about how they achieved it.

Rome is now on my short list of episodes, along with Venice and his very first one in Paris, that I could watch again and again. Bourdain, in suits and ties throughout, channels Marcello Mastroianni, and Ottavia appears in two scenes, the quintessentially earthy Italian. She deftly deflates his ego as only she can, even though she tweeted at the time that she was ill and off her game.

Travel Channel used one of the lamer moments for this promo which, for some reason, WordPress isn’t letting me post, even after repeated attempts, so here’s the link.

This show reminded me why I fell in love with NR in the beginning, and wiped away the ugly memories of Dubai and Kerala.

Australian blogger Lorraine Elliott at Not Quite Nigella did a phone interview with Bourdain that’s the best I’ve seen in a long time. She managed to cover new ground, and Tony confirmed that his next book is a crime novel.

Blogger Cooking for Assholes was thrilled to find himself “validated” by Bourdain during Lorraine’s interview. Look for his August 11 post; they don’t seem to have separate addresses.

Dallas Observer interviewed John Tesar, chef at Dallas Fish Market, and asked about Bourdain’s drinking habits. Calling Tony “Flaco,” Tesar said Tony never passes out, and throwing up is against his religion.

The Show Girl at TVSquad spoke to “Iron Chef” Michael Symon about Bourdain (she’s totally annoying, but it’s mercifully the first clip), and Symon good-naturedly said some catty things about our Tony.

Cats Working reader Morgan found a lengthy November 2002 Q&A with Bourdain in the Washington Post. I don’t remember ever seeing it, but it accompanied publication of A Cook’s Tour and is vintage Bourdain.

Now Steven Slater is a Villian

August 12, 2010

By Cole

Meredith Vieira fluffed my tail on the Today Show this morning when she reported on a “backlash” against JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater over his dramatic resignation. If you haven’t heard about it, catch up with my previous post.

Vieira’s slant was that Slater was a loose cannon who might have done the same thing even if a passenger hadn’t given him a head injury and cussed him out TWICE.

She spoke by phone with a female passenger seated near the front of the plane who apparently missed the altercation, but saw Slater with a huge gash in his forehead, which she described as “wet,” so it was still bleeding. She asked him for a wet wipe to clean up coffee spilled on her seat, but he told her to sit down because he had to take care of himself first. The passenger shut up because she could see he was upset, but has also complained in The Wall Street Journal that he was just being rude.

Next, Vieira interviewed Slater’s ex-wife in person, who has been supportive, and tried to get her to concur that Slater was looking for trouble.


So what about this so-called “backlash?” Not surprisingly, managers and “employment experts” are vilifying Slater. They just hate it when abused underlings finally say “Enough’s enough!” and walk (or slide) away to find something better. Sheeple are just impossible when they get assertive.

Robert Hogan, Ph.D., a personality testing expert in Oklahoma, thinks Slater is a publicity hog and told a Washington Post columnist that people in similar situations should…

Shut up and bear it. People who try to stick up for themselves always lose.

Yeah, right. Try telling that to a cat.

Meanwhile, Slater’s Facebook fan page is up to 170,000 “likes.” I’m guessing none of his fans are managers.

And JetBlue has given $100 vouchers to everyone on the plane — including the still-anonymous “World’s Worst Passenger.”

That’s how JetBlue responds to assault and abuse of their employees. Yet they wonder why people (and cats) admire Steven Slater’s reaction.

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