Paws Up for “Who Moved My Mouse?”

November 30, 2010

By Karen

Since I live with three cats who can’t resist the occasional binge on a fine ‘nip, Who Moved My Mouse? is a question that comes up frequently. It’s also the title of a funny new book by Dena Harris.

As I read it, I couldn’t shake the sneaking suspicion that my book, How to Work Like a CAT, inspired Dena to write this self-help book for cats, who don’t need any help, according to the book’s subtitle.

A few years ago, Dena placed third in I Love Cats magazine’s essay competition on how to work like a cat, with my book awarded as prizes. Had the magazine allowed me any role in judging the entries, Dena’s essay would have won hands-down.

Rereading that piece today, I find germs of WMMM? all over it.

* * *

“If I ever needed pointers on how to be a more brilliant cat (which I don’t), Who Moved My Mouse? is the first book I’d read.” – Yul

* * *

Dena’s advice to cats is down-to-earth and practical, like…

Dog owners respect brute shows of strength. To this end, you may want to offer them a tour of your ‘Trail of Sorrows,’ including the bunny slipper you de-tailed, the napkin you surprised on the hall floor, and the loop pile rug in the bedroom that, thanks to you, will never bother anyone again.

And no book that goes nose to nose against the totally unjustified bestseller, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, would be complete without a ridiculous parable about success. In Dena’s version, Fat Cat embarks on a search for Mr. Mouse, aided by a pair of humans named Dim and Witted, and their dogs, Dumb and Butt. Along the way, Fat Cat shares lessons learned, such as, “Intimidation can stop others from messing with your stuff”

* * *

“Dena Harris’ talent for getting into cats’ heads and figuring out our meows is downright scary. I suspect she has retractable claws and a tail.” –Cole

* * *

The book includes self-tests such as the “Purrsonality Profile” to help cats determine if they are a Loner, Snuggler, Eager, Comatose, Bold, Fraidy-Cat, Rebel, or Innocent. Cats will also find plenty of strategies for getting ahead because “nice cats don’t get the corner litter box.”

* * *

“When I read ‘…we’re always the best-looking creatures in any room, not to mention the smartest, most graceful and — it goes without saying — the most fashion forward,’ I felt like Dena was talking directly to me. She really ‘gets’ fastidious felines.” –Adele

* * *

The consensus at Cats Working is that Dena Harris is the country’s foremost cat humor writer. If you’re short on Christmas ideas for cat-lovers (and you’ve already given them How to Work Like a CAT) then we heartily recommend Who Moved My Mouse?

Next Bourdain Fix: “Top Chef All-Stars”

November 29, 2010

By Karen

On Bravo, December 1 at 10 p.m. (EST), Top Chef All-Stars begins and Anthony Bourdain’s back as a judge. I swore off TC after last season, but they’ve hooked me again by giving 2 of my past favorites, Carla Hall and Fabio Viviani, another opportunity to win.

Bourdain says he feels no urge to mentor the already-experienced cheftestants or to play “resident son of a bitch” at the judges’ table. But since all the contenders are well-versed in the rigors of the competition, let’s hope Tony doesn’t play softball with them.

While in Atlanta for a November 20 appearance, Tony stopped by CNN so Fredricka Whitfield could pepper him with most of the usual questions.

Remember Michael P., who won the Medium Raw essay contest? He traveled from his home in Dallas to NYC to stop by and pick up the $10K Tony pledged to the winner. While in the Big Apple, Michael dined at Les Halles. I was a bit surprised he claimed to be a huge Bourdain fan, but didn’t realize Tony’s a writer until earlier this year, when he bought a used copy of Kitchen Confidential.

Eric Ripert talked a bit to about his Bourdain “bromance.” He admits their friendship is improbable because their personalities are so different, but it works.

South Park has brilliantly lampooned food porn, the Food Network, and celebrity chefs in an episode called Crème Fraiche.

Tony dropped in on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on November 26. The video wasn’t yet available when I wrote this, but maybe it’s there by now.

Ottavia tweets that the Bourdains are off to Vienna today. What a life!

Palin’s Pawns Get a Reality Check

November 24, 2010

By Adele

When Bristol Palin seemed deeply disappointed she didn’t win Dancing with the Stars, she revealed an appalling sense of entitlement. Just because she managed overcome utter ineptness after 3 months of intense dance training, she seemed to think the other far superior dancers deserved to get the shaft.

Palin fans undoubtedly cheered when Bristol said that winning would “feel like a big middle finger to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me.”

In other words, her dancing was irrelevant. She was out to prove that most people love Palins.

Mom wasn’t there for the finals to share Bristol’s chagrin and comfort her. Sarah left that duty to whomever she’d paid to be there because she had a book to launch. From early reports, America by Heart sounds like a rambling, pointless, snipe-fest, a big “middle finger” to anyone she holds a grudge against.

Spite is now the name of the game.

“Sorry, honey. Wish I could see you dance one last time, but I’ve got scores to settle.”

I’d also bet my treats that Sarah’s absence was calculated. She couldn’t afford to be there if Bristol didn’t win. Who would vote for the mother of a loser for president?

Fortunately for DWTS, the results, such as they were, turned out exactly as they should have. Jennifer Grey’s superior technique and string of perfect routines deserved to win, and Kyle Massey’s showmanship deserved runner-up.

I’ve gone on record saying Bristol is the smart Palin, but she has set me straight. All I want now is to see her return to her brainless receptionist job, raise her son, and stop being her mother’s tool.

Everyone who voted for anybody but Bristol showed Sarah, her Mama Grizzlies, the Tea Party, and other neocon nut jobs that fair and reasonable people can still say “Hell, NO!” to rewarding blind ambition and stupidity.

Now, let’s try to channel that momentum from reality stars to elected officials.

Bourdain’s Becoming King of the Foreword

November 22, 2010

By Karen

The remaining new episode of No Reservations Season 6, a holiday special, debuts on December 6 at 10 p.m. EST. Travel Channel’s site says…

Tony and Michael Ruhlman prepare a holiday dinner that goes awry. Celebrity chefs Mario Batali, David Chang and Duff Goldman are just a few of the special guests to also make an appearance.

Tony did a phone interview on Wednesday, November 10 with Besha Rodell, the Omnivore blogger at Creative Loafing Atlanta, before his November 20 appearance there. Nothing much new except that he suggests term limits for food writers.

Momnesia provides a succinct rundown of the highlights that night.

Bourdain contributed the foreword to Eric Ripert’s new book, Avec Eric, a companion travel/cookbook to Ripert’s PBS series that looks truly beautiful. And I found this Ripert video at Vanity Fair, which was shot partially at last year’s Cayman Cookout. Tony was nervous about helping to prepare the Gala Dinner. (Tony’s bit begins 6:30 in.) It may explain why he seems to be taking a pass on the kitchen work for the next one.

Tony blogged about his recent trip to Haiti as Hurricane Tomas approached. For me, this post felt like an amuse bouche of things to come with his writing.

Amazingly, some idiot commented that Tony’s blog posts scream “ghost writer.” I can’t think of many writers today whose voice is as distinctive and unmistakable in their work as Anthony Bourdain’s.

I’m hoping one day Bourdain will invent a fictional alter-ego, along the lines of Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden, to make use of as-yet-undocumented material from his many journeys.

Here’s a bit more on the DC Food Fight November 11. Bon Appetit Foodie is a much better photographer than I am, and she managed to meet just about everybody there.

It turns out Bourdain was in Nicaragua filming No Reservations recently, he revealed in an e-mail interview with the St. Petersburg Times before his November 19 appearance there. He also said that his appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba cured Ariane of her fear of doctors. (In case you missed it, he played a doctor.) This interview covers some new ground. For example, I had no idea Tony’s worried he may have pissed off Thomas Keller with Medium Raw.

The windows at Barney’s New York inspire shoppers to “Have a Foodie Holiday” with dolls of many culinary stars, including Bourdain. They coincided with the release of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook, for which Tony — you guessed it — wrote the foreword. WorldRedEye has a bunch of photos from the launch party.

How Do Cats Drink?

November 19, 2010

By Cole

Scientists think they have figured out how cats drink. Guess what? Our lapping style is different from dogs’.

Well, DUH!

Dogs use their big, fat, sloppy tongues like ladles. We move the tip of our tongue with lightning speed to create a steady stream of water we suck in, sort of like a human at a drinking fountain.

Here’s the much more scientific description from the abstract in Science magazine…

A combined experimental and theoretical analysis reveals that Felis catus exploits fluid inertia to defeat gravity and pull liquid into the mouth.

I’ll tell you, this amazing “breakthrough” in human knowledge was greeted with a “Ho, Hum” in the Felis catus world. Every kitten knows how to defy gravity without giving it a second thought. Don’t those bozos know any cats?

One scientist said our lapping strikes “a balance between the inertia that makes the liquid rise into the cat’s mouth… and the gravity that makes the liquid fall,” and marvels that we have figured out all this complex science.

The heck with inertia and gravity. We call it thirst.

Cats supposedly lap about 4 times per second, but I may contact Guinness because I think I’m faster. I usually wet my face so, obviously, my gravity-defying skill is so superior, it shoots water right past my mouth.

Roman Stacker, an MIT engineering professor and the goofball who initiated this study after watching his cat Cutta Cutta drink, admits the research has no immediate practical application, but justifies it on the grounds that it may contain “evolutionary lessons” about why cats and dogs drink differently.

He thinks cats want to keep their whiskers dry and dogs don’t care about appearances.

Maybe he should look at the bigger picture and notice that a cat’s tongue goes with the rest of the cat. We’re lithe and agile inside and out so we can make dogs look like clumsy oafs.

That’s the real evolutionary lesson.

DWTS is a Tea Party Tool

November 17, 2010

By Adele

Sarah Palin sits there gloating in the audience, tacitly reminding her Mama Grizzlies to prove she’s got clout by calling in and shredding what’s left of Dancing with the Stars’ credibility.

There’s NO WAY IN HELL Bristol Palin should be one of the top 3 dancers in the finals next week. For 7 WEEKS OUT OF 9, she has been at or near the bottom of judges’ scores, including this week. Yet Brandy, who has danced better than Bristol since Week 1, got the boot, narrowing it down to Bristol, Jennifer Grey, and Kyle Massey.

Granted, dancing has made Bristol more outgoing, but her routines are still beginner stuff, and she has remained chubby. Either rumors she’s pregnant again are true, or she’s not working at it very hard. Many past contenders have lost weight and gotten into shape, and it shows. Not so with Bristol.

Bristol rationalizes that her popularity is due to ordinary people identifying with her. Sorry, kid. Mom and her Grizzlies are trying to buy you a trophy you simply don’t deserve, and they’re shafting much better dancers to do it. You guys are fooling nobody.

DWTS has always been a toss-up dance/popularity contest. But after this flaming fiasco, future contestants might as well skip the aches and blisters. Dancing well has nothing to do with the outcome.

Bristol’s partner, Mark Ballas, undoubtedly knows they don’t belong in the finals. In Bristol’s paso doble “solo” bit, he just had her stalk the floor like a giant bat. Even on a good night, Bristol’s footwork is sloppy, if she remembers it.

The judges have probably been ordered to ignore all her shortcomings, because instead they gush about how much Bristol has “blossomed.”

The Tea Party has an undeniable death grip on this season. They’d vote for Bristol if she fell on her face and crawled. Palin proudly told People magazine she’s been paying for people from Alaska to fill the audience and cheer for Bristol.

ABC can bask in their high ratings now, but selling out to Palin this season may spell the beginning of the end of DWTS.

Bourdain’s Food Fight Sparks a Cat Fight

November 15, 2010

By Karen

I can’t often report on Anthony Bourdain from a personal encounter, but…

On November 11, Cats Working readers Adele, Cindy, MorganLF, Zappa’s Mom, and I met in Washington, DC, for the Capital Food Fight, a charity event that Bourdain has co-hosted with José Andrés for several years to benefit the DC Central Kitchen.

Before the festivities began, Tony spotted our crew in the crowd and came over to greet us. Unfortunately, there was no time to chat because he had to get right to work. I will say that for someone who just weathered Hurricane Tomas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and entertained fans in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the previous night, Tony looked amazingly fit, well-rested, and gel-free.

You got it, Tony. Women know the secret: If you think your locks are feeling skimpy, go for fluff and volume, not wet Persian.

On stage, Tony was José Andrés’ comic counterpoint, trading insults with Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and ribbing Eric Ripert, who both served as judges.

Washingtonian rates some of the evening’s highlights.

Local chefs, including former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, competed in cooking competitions that required using unexpected secret ingredients (don’t ask — I’m no foodie). The most interesting matchup for me was when Bourdain and Ripert teamed against Colicchio and Andrés. By audience applause, Team B&R’s dish won.

The evening was a cocktail-party-style grazing occasion with 60 restaurants disbursing tasty morsels. Seating was scarce and coveted, but Morgan snagged us all chairs, which resulted in the cat fight…

Morgan was off grazing when a skinny, aging blonde had the audacity to take Morgan’s seat. Trying to dislodge her, I made the mistake of jokingly threatening that she’d have to deal with a Jersey girl when Morgan returned.

How was I supposed to know the bitch was from Brooklyn?

Morgan did assert her ownership of the seat politely, for a Jersey girl, only to be called a “f**king asshole” by Brooklyn and shoved almost off her feet when Brooklyn gave up the seat.

The next few seconds passed in slow motion, with white wine sailing through the air toward Brooklyn as she sidled past me. What didn’t hit the back of her head fell in my lap. The spray also christened Zappa’s Mom and an unsuspecting guy sitting beside me.

Immediately, a burly female Food Fight rep was on the scene to head off further violence. While she was piecing together what happened, Brooklyn had the nerve to come back, determined to have the last word with this catty put-down:

Leaning across me, she hissed at Morgan, “You must be a Democrat, with your sense of entitlement!”

Only in DC.

The night went without further incident (we got a last wave to Bourdain, Colicchio, and Ripert from the sidewalk as they left the building together), but I firmly believe some things — like horse races and cooking competitions — are best seen on TV. I’d rather watch mildew grow than chefs making steam, which was all the spectators could really see.

If you want a taste of being there, basically the view from our “entitled” vantage point, these videos capture it well. To fill the big screen above the stage for the sold-out crowd of 1,000, guys with cameras blocked virtually every possible glimpse of the live action.

Politico snagged a brief video interview with Bourdain before the Food Fight, and he revealed political leanings Brooklyn would find despicable.

Rather than trying to share the lousy shots I captured on my new Sony digital, here are many clear photos, probably from the guys who kept me from getting any.

This year’s event raised $501,000.

And now on the Bourdain awards front…

Eater recently bestowed 2010 honors. Bourdain was nominated for Television Personality of the Year, but lost to Eric Ripert.

The 2nd Annual Tasty Awards has nominated No Reservations for Best Food Program and Best Food Travel Series. Best Male Host in a Series nominees will be announced later today, and I’ll update here if he’s nominated. The awards ceremony is in Hollywood on January 13, but Tony’s supposed to be at the Cayman Cookout.

Seattle Weekly asked the burning question, “Bourdain v. Ray?” Guess who won as fan favorite?

In the “What do Tony and Elvis have in common?” Department…

An interview with Tony before his November 12 appearance in Charleston mentions that he was recently in Nicaragua. Was that during his trip to Haiti? I can’t keep up.

And Asheville’s (NC) Citizen-Times reported from Twitter many unconfirmed Bourdain sightings the weekend of November 6. I’m going out on a limb here to declare them bogus because Tony was really in Raleigh, NC, for an appearance on the 13th.

Sku’s Recent Eats discusses Medium Raw and offers Tony a few writing tips, which would carry more weight if Sku knew the difference between everyday and every day.

I just found out that a 9-hour audiobook of Medium Raw, read by Bourdain, has been available since July.

And while checking that out, I unearthed A Chef’s Christmas, a forgotten one-hour audio short story written and narrated by Bourdain in 2002. You can listen to a sample before you buy.

Dog Poop Justice

November 11, 2010

By Cole

An unnamed woman in Belmont, Massachusetts, is in deep doody for throwing dog poop in the name of justice. She was walking her dog through her ‘hood recently when a vehicle sped through. She thought the driver almost hit a man on a bike and indignantly threw the bag of poop she’d scooped at the vehicle. It went through the open window and splatted in the driver’s face.

Now the woman faces charges of “assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, vandalism to property, and disorderly conduct.”

Fortunately, no charges were brought against her dog for “aiding and abetting” by supplying the woman with said dangerous weapon.

That woman shouldn’t be prosecuted. She should get a medal. She was doing the right thing by picking up after her dog. The driver was potentially homicidal, not some innocent victim.

Neighborhood Watch associations should follow the poop-thrower’s example and enlist all their dog-walking residents to give speeders the same treatment. It would serve two purposes:

1. Irresponsible dog owners who now don’t pick up after their pets would be more likely to start if they could have the thrill of flinging a steaming pile at a bad driver.

2. If more speed demons knew they might end up with a puss full of poop, maybe they’d slow down.

The speed limit on our street is 25 mph, yet drivers whiz through here like they’re training for NASCAR. Seems like our used kitty litter could do something to address the problem. Hmmmm…..

Zenyatta’s Still the Queen

November 9, 2010

By Adele

On November 6, for the first time in her long racing career, Zenyatta traveled east to race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Big mistake. Watch the race:

I phoned Zenyatta when she got back to her digs at Hollywood Park, California, and she was ready to dish some dirt — literally.

Adele: Do you think trading your usual synthetic track for dirt affected your performance?

Zenyatta: The hooves don’t care, but I’ll tell ya, Kentucky dust leaves an awful aftertaste. And it took my groomers hours to get that crud off me.

A: I hope you flew home First Class so you could relax and unwind.

Z: They told the flight attendant to pour me a good stiff belt of carrot juice and keep ‘em coming. I just wanted to forget the sight of Blame’s Durante-like schnozzola sticking over the finish line.

A: Now the press is saying you lost by “a head.” Did you hear the race commentators calling you the “Aging Amazon?”

Z: I call them aging jock douchebags. They probably bet against me, too. Always did.

A: Mike Smith, your jockey, blames himself.

Z: Poor Mike. He’s probably right. If we’d kicked into gear just a few strides sooner, I would have been tickling Blame’s schnoz with my tail. The stone-cold fact is that I outran 10 of the best males racing today. Did you see how far behind I was when I started passing them? We just ran out of track a few steps too soon. So send me to the glue factory.

A: They’re saying Blame will probably be named Horse of the Year.

Z: He can have it. Horse of the Year is bullshit. If I can’t win it with 19 straight victories, it’s a joke.

A: I’m sorry to hear that you’re probably going to be retired soon, too. In Kentucky.

Z: So is Blame. I just hope they don’t try to hook us up. He’s got a reputation for pointing fingers. He’d never stop gloating. I may have finished behind him, but I never want to end up under him.

A: The day after the race, Kentucky fans came out in force to get see you off, but not Blame.

Z: What can I say? It was just one race. Star power is forever.

A: Now that you’ll have more free time, are you going to pursue your dancing?

Z: Absolutely! I’ve always want to learn Argentine tango.

A: If you start a family, colt or filly?

Z: Filly, definitely. I’ve even picked out her name. Zenyette.

There you have it. Zenyatta is pissed, but unbowed. Long live horse racing’s Queen!

BONUS: A tribute to the fabulous Zenyatta.

Bourdain Meets Tomas, Up Close & Personal

November 8, 2010

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s been busy making television. He returned from Cambodia in time for Halloween, and wife Ottavia tweeted that he became Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas to escort his daughter, Little Red Riding Hood.

Yet Tony claims he has no interest in “stretching his range” as an actor.

This past week, he flew to Haiti during a cholera epidemic to rendezvous with Hurricane Tomas, so we’ll probably see another breakout episode of No Reservations next season.

I think I smell an Emmy nomination…

I just hope Tony and his crew didn’t drink the water, stayed in one piece, and get home safely (tonight, according to Ottavia).

The HarperCollins Medium Raw essay contest wrapped with 1,949 entries. Michael P., a mover by profession, won for writing “Late Nights.” It only garnered 3 reader votes and was ranked #834 among all entries. None of the runners-up ranked lower than #383 in reader votes, and the first runner-up was #2.

The methodology would make you think the winner would have been #1 in reader votes, but that would have been a crock because many entrants campaigned online for votes, even if their essays were crap. So it’s no surprise that Bourdain’s people dug deeper into the pile for the winner.

But here’s the promo blurb for the essay, which I assume Michael P. also wrote:

On those late nights after moving you peoples stuff all over the city all I need is a home cooked meal and a beer.

When I saw that, I had a “WTF?” moment. No offense to Michael P. — he wrote about what he knew and from the heart — but I’m surprised the essay won because exactly one sentence in 300 words mentions food. It says…

The arroz con pollo is cooked perfectly and a small side of tostones is topped with a spicy pico de gallo.

But Michael P. sounds like Tony’s favorite kind of downtrodden working stiff, albeit not a kitchen slave, who will be truly grateful to win the $10K Bourdain personally pledged.

Just as Kitchen Confidential spawned a new genre of culinary tell-all, Bourdain’s upcoming graphic novel, Get Jiro!, is being credited with inspiring knockoffs even before its publication, like The Dirt Candy Cookbook.

Here’s an interesting post from Catalan Cooking, although only the opening and third-from-last paragraphs are about Bourdain. First, she calls Kitchen Confidential a male Eat, Pray, Love, and in relating a personal appearance anecdote near the end, says Bourdain has “a drawl.”

Yeah, just like Fran Drescher’s and Woody Allen’s.

Later this week, several Cats Working readers and I are having a personal brush with Bourdain at an evening of great food, the DC Capital Food Fight, hosted by Tony and José Andrés, with Eric Ripert and Tom Colicchio. Stay tuned…

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