Rachel Alexandra Hangs Up Her Racing Shoes

September 30, 2010

By Adele

The hopes of horse-racing fans to see the ultimate match-up between 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated Zenyatta were dashed this week when Rachel’s owner suddenly retired her.

(Photo - HorsePhotos.com)

But don’t worry. She’s in good health and has been running fine. She just hasn’t been the same record-breaking super-filly she was in 2009, so she’s moving on…

…to a date with Curlin, the 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year. They will be living the good life on her owner’s Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

With any luck, in 4 years or so, Rachel and Curlin’s first offspring will be a contender for the Triple Crown.

When I talked to Rachel back in January, she wasn’t ready to settle down, but after winning only 2 of her 5 races this year (although she came in 2nd in the other 3), the decision was taken off her hooves. Her owner said she deserves a “less stressful” life.

I reached Rachel’s nemesis, Zenyatta, by phone at Santa Anita to find out what she thinks of all this. At 6 years old, Zenyatta remains unbeaten with 18 career wins under her saddle, but has never worn the Horse of the Year crown.

Zenyatta told me…

“Yeah, that whole Horse of the Year business does make me feel like Susan Lucci. But, hey, I’ve never run a race that didn’t end with me standing in the winner’s circle.

“In spite of all the hype, I always suspected Rachel was a flash in the pan. She backed out of every race were were supposed to run together. But what do I know? I’m a horse.

“I wish the kid well. I hear Curlin’s a handful. He’ll probably have her wearing a maternity saddle in no time.”

Here’s video of Zenyatta winning her 18th race on August 7 at Del Mar.

For the history books, Rachel ran 19 races. Except for coming in 6th her very first time, she won all but 5 of the next 18 starts, but never came in farther back than 2nd.

To honor Rachel, the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, the last prep race for the Fair Ground Oaks, which she won last year, is being renamed at Fair Ground racetrack in Florida. The Rachel Alexandra Stakes will be run on Feburary 19, 2011.

I’ll miss Rachel Alexandra, but Cats Working wishes her and Curlin the best!

“No Reservations” Season 6 Not Quite Over

September 27, 2010

By Karen

One new episode does remain of No Reservations this season. It’s a holiday special and Anthony Bourdain’s pal, Michael Ruhlman, is a guest. That’s all I know. I assume Travel Channel will air it sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Wife Ottavia recently tweeted that Tony declined an invitation to appear on Dancing with the Stars a few years ago, so Eater.com ran with it and did some hilarious PhotoShopping of what “might have been” with Tony burning the floor.

“Frienemy” Ruhlman reviewed Medium Raw and provides some of his history with Bourdain, including a link to Tony’s New York Times rave review of Ruhlman’s book, The Soul of a Chef. Ruhlman managed to get off a few great lines of his own, such as describing Tony’s reverence for Fergus Henderson as a “little too close to fellatio for my own comfort.”

Cats Working reader Cindy first told us that Bourdain is returning to Top Chef as a judge next season, alternating with Gail Simmons — just when I’d vowed to swear off it forever. Guess I’ll have to eat those words. The cheftestants are all runners-up from previous seasons. I’m happy to see Fabio and Carla get another shot.

Bourdain talked to Jennifer Bain of The Star in Toronto before his appearance there on September 22 and confessed to feeling like he bombed in Houston 2 days earlier. It was sold out, but the audience knew too much, he said…

“Three minutes into it, I realized they’d heard it all, between interviews, articles, blogs and the books. It was an awful moment for me. This audience was very wired in and this is the world we live in now. If you write about food too long, you run out of adjectives and, more importantly, you lose the sense of wonder. It’s a terrible thing.”

Houston Press confirmed it, accusing Tony of regurgitating his books. But he’s apparently already booked there again next year for a joint appearance with Eric Ripert.

The Toronto Sun offers a poignant description by Rita Demontis of Bourdain as a person that’s worth reading.

While in Toronto, Tony announced that he plans to film an episode of No Res there in Season 8 (2 seasons from now).

Sorry, Winnipeg.

Bourdain came within spittin’ distance on September 23, appearing at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, VA. Local blogger RVA Foodie attended and provided the low-down.

On September 24, Bourdain was in Springfield, Massachusetts, and A La Carte quoted some of his best lines. I got a chuckle from his remarks about Japanese porn and Dick Cheney.

And I just discovered that Bourdain is returning to Virginia on February 13, 2011 — in Norfolk. I just might show up for that appearance.

Incandescent Lightbulbs, We Love You

September 24, 2010

By Yul

GE just closed the last U.S. factory making incandescent bulbs and 200 workers are out of jobs because GE is importing compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) made in China. Under George Bush’s 2007 energy bill, incandescent bulbs will be banned in 2014.

Our house is full of them and, like this woman, we refuse to switch until the last one dies.

The Daily Green tells you what to look for in a CFL:

“…Energy Star-certified models…. .two-year warranty… minimum rated lifespan of at least 6,000 hours and cannot emit an audible noise. They must turn on in less than one second and reach at least 80% of their output within three minutes. They can’t have more than five milligrams of mercury.”

Noise? They take THREE minutes to come on? MERCURY?

“All fluorescent bulbs contain a small, and decreasing, amount of mercury, which is toxic. They actually result in less mercury released into the environment than incandescents, since those use so much more energy, much of which is generated from coal (which releases mercury).”

Does this look like the lamest rationalization for topping all your lamps with deadly poison you’ve ever seen? Yeah, I agree.

If you break a CFL, open all the windows, don heavy gloves if you don’t own a full hazmat suit, and carefully scrape up the glass and mercury. DO NOT VACUUM; it spreads the lethal fumes. Then use duct tape to pick up any tiny bits. Put the bulb and anything that touched it in sealed double plastic bags or a lidded glass jar and take it to the nearest hazardous waste dump (which should be right around the corner if these bulbs catch on). It may be illegal in your state — it’s already immoral in all 50 states — to throw it out with the trash.

Next time you vacuum that area, throw out the vacuum cleaner bag. In the meantime, you and your pets can walk on whatever’s there and that’s OK.

I want to know why our government is pushing CFLs while DOING NOTHING to facilitate disposal.

The mercury in one CFL can cause kidney and brain damage and poison 1,000-6,000 gallons of water.

CFLs create light with UV rays (you know, the same stuff you wear 30 SPF sunblock to avoid). The UV light bounces off the white coating on the glass. Reviews are mixed on whether this is dangerous, but UV is UV. Decide for yourself whether you want it inside your home every waking moment.

If a CFL is too close to electronic devices, the infrared light it produces can disrupt them. So if the channel suddenly changes on your TV, it could be the lamp.

A CFL hates being turned on and off a lot, dims over time, can’t be used in a fully enclosed fixture unless it’s outside, and craps out in extreme heat or cold. When it dies, it can smoke, sizzle, pop, and even start a fire.

So unless you coddle your CFLs like rare hothouse orchids, the chances of one lasting as long as the hype on the package and putting out decent light seem slim to none.

Thank you, U.S. government, for embracing CFLs, knowing full well that the fools who always dismiss facts — the Palin, Beck, and LimpPaw followers — will carelessly discard CFLs until they’ve poisoned every drop of potable water in the country — and then blame you.

The real tragedy is that there IS a safer, energy-efficient bulb: the LED. But it’s prohibitively expensive.

So why don’t we create jobs and protect the environment by investing in this technology? Companies could get incentives for making LEDs more affordable, and Congress could keep its damn light bulb legislation until people have a SAFE alternative.

In the meantime, we’re stocking up on incandescents while we still can and dare the Bulb Police to catch us.

PS: GE tells all you need to know about CFLs, but beware of the rosy corporate spin between the lines.

Iran Thinks Virginia Punishment is Nuts

September 22, 2010

By Yul

You should know something’s seriously wrong when a self-proclaimed “enlightened” country like Iran, which still believes in blood-thirsty forms of retribution, thinks Virginia’s judicial system is hypocritical.

The reason is Teresa Lewis, who’s now 41 and reportedly has an IQ in the 70s. She allegedly conspired with her lover and his friend in 2002 to kill her 51-year-old husband and 25-year-old stepson for insurance money. The men got life sentences for doing the shooting; Lewis is scheduled to die by lethal injection tomorrow night. The first woman executed in Virginia in 98 years.

Another case this week involved a 21-year-old punk named Sam McCroskey who came to Virginia from California to meet a 16-year-old girl he met online. When she didn’t live up to his fantasies, he bludgeoned her, her girlfriend, and her mother to death while they slept, then stayed in the house for 2 days with the bloody corpses and beat the girl’s father to death when he showed up. The police nabbed McCroskey in the airport, waiting for a flight back to California.

For pleading guilty to the 4 brutal murders, McCroskey just got life in prison.

Can you see why the Iranians are confused?

Virginia’s Governor McDonnell has refused to grant clemency to Teresa Lewis. It seems to me that she deserves either life in prison so she can become a lifetime burden on taxpayers like all the men who actually did kill people, or they should ALL be executed. The sooner the better.

Smart Tigers Living High in Bhutan

September 21, 2010

By Cole

A BBC film crew captured candid video of tigers living and breeding in the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan after local inhabitants told them they’d seen big cat tracks.

Everyone was surprised because tigers are believed to be jungle creatures who live only in more tropical climates. Problem is, man can’t seem to hunt them and destroy their habitats fast enough, so tigers are now on the brink of extinction.

It seems perfectly logical to me. Cats love high places. The beleaguered tigers probably decided, “Screw humans!” and took to the mountains where the air’s too thin for gun-toting crazies to always be after them.

Now that people know tigers are comfortable living at this altitude, where they don’t have to worry about anybody building malls and condos on top of them, sanctuaries can be created so they can breed in safety and save their species.

The tigers would say, “Well, DUH. Where else did you humans think we’d be? Floating around in your polluted oceans with the tar balls, dodging cruise ship propellers?”

Bourdain’s on the Road – Again

September 20, 2010

By Karen

We’re fresh out of new episodes of No Reservations, but this week Anthony Bourdain is making personal appearances in Houston (tonight), Toronto (9/22), Fredericksburg VA (9/23), and Springfield CT (9/24).

The Houston Chronicle got an advance interview. Among other things, here’s what Tony had to say about food writers…

“I can hardly imagine that this brave new world of bloggers can be worse than the agenda-driven, overprivileged, entitled class of dottering old farts who currently occupy the top tier of food journalism. It’s a pretty appalling bunch of bent, angry people who despise their subjects and hate their jobs and have been going through the motions for a long time.”

NowToronto published a 2-part interview with Bourdain, where he describes himself as an “’ex-cook who tells stories.’ Essayist maybe?” In Part 2, he says he doesn’t hate Paula Deen, and describes his upcoming graphic novel, Get Gyro (spelling? Ottavia spelled it Get Jiro on Twitter) as “Yojimbo meets Big Night and Babette’s Feast, an ultra-violent slaughter-fest over culinary arcana.”

Earlier, he told the Omaha World-Herald it’s “a gourmet slaughterfest, sort of like Fistful of Dollars meets Eat Drink Man Woman.”

Whichever it is, it sounds like an orgy of food, blood, and guts that may make his animated Alternate Universe seem tame.

When Bourdain was recently in London pushing Medium Raw, he told Metro that he doesn’t see food writing as part of his future path. He said he’s “kind of pushing himself” out of it because he’s becoming jaded, and has shelved plans to move to Vietnam because of No Res.

Hey, you read it here first. I’ve been saying that all along.

He also said something I take issue with. That is…

“I don’t think my writing has evolved. I mean I haven’t been working at it.”

By virtue of his output since Kitchen Confidential, he has unconsciously been honing how he expresses himself, even if he thinks he writes like he talks.

Tony, here’s the test: If you can read anything you wrote at least 6 months ago and find anything you’d like to revise, your writing is evolving.

On September 13, Bourdain appeared at the 92nd Street Y in NYC with David Chang and Eater.com provides a thorough account of what sounds like a strange and awkward night. Chang is weird. Tony mentioned that Cuba, Haiti, the Congo, and Kurdistan are on his short list for NR Season 7.

Bourdain did an interview with Submerge before his September 17 Sacramento appearance and said that daughter Ariane and Alice Waters are a lot alike because Ariane eats only organic food and likes Paris.

CTnow got a really good interview with Tony before his September 24 Springfield appearance where he mentions that Ariane behaves herself in restaurants.

For some reason, I want to give Ottavia most of the credit for making sure Ariane’s never a whiny, fidgety brat in public, like the ones we’ve all had the misfortune of sharing meals or airplanes with.

On a side note…

Chow.com selected the still-unidentified Ruth Bourdain as one of the Chow 13 in their 2nd annual recognition of the food world’s movers and shakers. They even got an e-mail interview with the elusive, yet always hilarious, tweeter.

Calicos vs. Pit Bulls

September 16, 2010

By Adele

The quick thinking and courage of Tiger, a 3-year-old calico cat in Harrison, Michigan, saved her 97-year-old owner from being attacked by 4 pit bulls who live next door.

Sophie Thomas was working in her garden in August when the dogs surrounded her. She hit one on the head and got it to back off, but another one charged and bit her on the arm.

Tiger leaped into the middle of the pack and distracted the dogs by getting them to chase her into the garage. Tiger undoubtedly jumped onto something out of their reach while giving Sophie time to escape into the house.

Tiger sustained a small scratch on the nose. The dogs were quarantined for 10 days and their owner fined. She claimed her dogs had escaped through a bedroom window and were “just playing.”

Just the sort of excuse you’d expect from a moron who keeps 4 pit bulls in a small house.

Another brave calico was involved in a similar incident in Houston in May. Her name is Lima. When she saw 2 pit bulls on the loose chase her owner across the street, knock the woman down and start attacking her, Lima leaped out of the bushes to scratch and hiss at the dogs, distracting them while her owner’s husband pulled her indoors. Lima was unhurt.

Before any pit bull lovers drop by again to comment that Cats Working unfairly picks on that friendly, cuddly breed, I’ll give them the credit they deserve. I found  a story where 2 pit bulls in Colorado actually rescued a Chihuahua from a coyote attack.

But if Tiger and Lima hadn’t possessed superior feline intellect, speed, agility, and nerves of steel, they and their owners would have certainly ended up as Pit Bull Chow.

What is IKEA’s Beef with Black Cats?

September 15, 2010

By Cole

Swedish furniture maker IKEA recently hired a new ad agency who concocted a scheme to let 100 cats and kittens loose one night in an IKEA in Wembley, England, to shoot a TV commercial. The “actors” weren’t trained stunt cats, but they seemed mostly light-colored purebreds with a few calicos and one bald gray one thrown in. There wasn’t a single black cat. Such discrimination could only have been deliberate.

But why? Black cats look GREAT on IKEA stuff. We’re trés chic!

Here’s a video about how they filmed the commercial…

I think it was harebrained to let the cats roam the whole store and warehouse at once. They couldn’t possibly have captured all the picturesque things those cats must have done. The best bits probably never made it to film. It was also dangerous for the cats because they were in a strange place surrounded by strange people and never knew who was lurking around the corner.

IKEA’s ad people said they used cats because the new tagline is “Happy Inside” and cats have a reputation as pleasure-seeking missiles who will do anything to be comfortable and content.

Here’s the finished 1-minute ad…

Just imagine the same ad with 100 dogs, barking and drooling and cocking their legs. At the end of the shoot, the humans wouldn’t have had to just vacuum fur off the cushions, but shovel steaming piles while trying to salvage the furniture that had been peed on.

As the next step in their advertising campaign, IKEA should let some of the cats star in a reality show. The ones who flashed their claws would be naturals. They could call it The Real Housecats of Wembley and furnish their homes exclusively with IKEA products.

Bourdain is Bullish on Spain

September 13, 2010

By Karen

On tonight’s No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain heads to Madrid in a new episode. Tony arrived in July just as Spain won the World Cup in soccer, so the city was celebrating. Here’s the promo…

Tony also revels in pork and gets the definitive answer to who was hotter, Ava Gardner or Rita Hayworth. And there’s one scene where I actually wish they had used the Chase Sapphire card as payback for previous annoying intrusions. You’ll know it when you see it.

Room 214 tells me there’s one more episode left in Season 6, but doesn’t know where it takes place nor when Travel Channel will air it. Maybe TC thinks they’ll keep us viewers so “hungry for more,” we’ll resort to watching Zimmern stuff himself with bugs or Richman just stuff himself while we’re waiting.

Bourdain blogged about achieving the 100th episode and listed many of the stellar chefs he’s had on camera, which may constitute some kind of record in food television.

Kevin McDonough of South Coast Today had a kick in the pants for NR’s recent spate of specials in a column titled, “Hey Tony, Snap Out of It.” He wrote…

“With the 100th behind them I hope the host and producers of “Reservations” start thinking about their audience again and stop making self-indulgent home movies.”

What I noted during the specials was that Tony was asked several times if he wants to continue making the show, as if everyone around him has felt his steam running out. He insists he’s still “hungry for more,” but only time will tell if that’s true. What else can he say unless he really wants Travel Channel to pull the plug on him?

BootsnAll got Tony to talk about travel itself in a refreshingly unusual interview. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Bourdain mention my previously favorite travel writer, Somerset Maugham.

In an interview with CBCNews in Canada before his Toronto appearance on September 22, Bourdain mentions, among other things, that he’s put on about 15 pounds since NR began.

If you’re on the West Coast, Bourdain will be there making personal appearances on the 17th and 18th in Sacramento and Escondido, respectively, and hitting Houston on the 20th.

It’s a Ritz for Cats

September 10, 2010

By Cole

Life in England seems to run the gamut for kitties (or “moggies” as they sometimes call us). First, there was that crazy woman who shoved a cat into a trash can, and now there’s a couple who so dote on cats, they built a posh resort called the Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel in Welwyn Garden City. Hertfordshire, where guests are waited on tail and paw.

It has 6 “chalets” decorated in distinctive themes such as Autumn, Bluebell, Bonsai, Daisy, Poppy and Savanna. The last two can be turned into adjoining suites for multi-cat families. Each chalet has a private bedroom and exercise area.

Rates range from about $22.95 to $29.07 per cat per night (based on a GBP/U.S. exchange rate of $1.53). That includes meals of Sheba, Pro Plan, Whiskas, and several other varieties.

But for an extra $5.35 a day, dinner may come from the “A La Cat” menu, which includes delicacies like poached salmon, tiger prawns, and steamed white fish served on silver platters and bone china.

Other amenities include porcelain water fountains, bird boxes outside the windows, toys, cushy beds, perches, and piped-in jazz or classical music. Pamper packages of pedicures and massages are also available, and they have plans to add a catnip bubble machine.

This place got my attention because we cats are ruling the roost for a few days (with concierge feeding and litterbox service). As nice as the Longcroft sounds, when you get right down to it, the cats are still in cages.

Now that I finally have a home, I have to say I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.

I just hope Karen doesn’t bring us back any bed bugs.

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