How the South Can Help End the Madness

June 19, 2015

By Karen

I’ve read conflicting reports, so I’m unsure if Dylann Storm Roof legally bought a Glock with birthday money, or used a 45-caliber pistol his father gave him for his 21st birthday (because every unemployed 9th-grade dropout needs fire power, right?).

Either way, Roof shot and killed 9 total strangers at a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, simply because they were black and Roof thinks he’s better than them.

What immediately followed were more futile pleas for strict gun control, a no-brainer in every other country. Unfortunately, we let the puniest-brained among us control that issue, and they love our reputation as the world’s most senselessly violent society.

Meanwhile, there’s one facet of this whole racist-serial-killer problem that might be easily rectified if anyone had the balls to mention it.

Today on CBS This Morning, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said this country needs to have a conversation about race.

Well, DUH. Hasn’t she noticed we’ve been having that conversation since an almost-daily event has become white police officers killing defenseless black people (even in Charleston)?

What we really need is an intervention. Someone needs to tell the South to shut up about the Civil War. Instead of perpetually keeping it front and center, let’s finally bury it so future generations of clueless punks will have to do some research to fuel their baseless bigotry.

Roof grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, which proudly flies the Confederate flag. Roof has that flag on his “Confederate States of America” license plate.

I’m a New Englander who has lived in Virginia for 43 years, well over half my life. But I will never, EVER identify as a Southerner because I refuse any association whatsoever with the Civil War.

Yet Virginia marinates in it because Richmond was once the capital of the Confederacy. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union, and it got the war rolling with the first battle at Fort Sumter.

If South Carolina is anything like Virginia, it has preserved battlefields so lame-brained re-enactors can refight the old fights, secretly hoping they’ll have a different outcome and “the South shall rise again!”

You can’t swing a cat in Richmond without hitting a statue of some defeated Southern general. The Richmond Times-Dispatch manages to dredge up late-breaking Civil War “news” most days. And it recently ended an interminable reprinting of ancient daily war-time dispatches to commemorate the war’s 150th anniversary, or some such bullshit.

I do my best to ignore every bit of it.

The South persists in nurturing this delusion that there was something noble about the Civil War. It’s as abhorrent to anybody else as if Germans waxed nostalgic about how wonderful it was to be Nazis.

In both cases, an entire race was ritually abused and died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of another race that believed itself superior. In both cases, the oppressors were white.

Glorifying the Civil War accomplishes nothing but to sow seeds of racism and blind hatred so they take root in empty minds like Dylann Roof’s.

The Civil War had no justification. Period. Nobody was ever born to become somebody else’s labor-saving appliance.

Until the South lets go of its bizarre need to paint the Civil War as “the good old days” and sincerely acknowledges the equality of blacks and all human souls, it will continue to spawn racist killers.


Good Luck at Belmont, American Pharoah

June 5, 2015

By Adele

There’s no point analyzing or speculating on the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes, Saturday, June 6. We’ve got a horse within a whisker of being crowned for the first time since 1978, and I’m not going to jinx it.

It may bring good luck to actors on Broadway, but the one thing you never, EVER say to any horse before a big race is, “Break a leg.”

Now that American Pharoah is on the verge of making history, they’re emphasizing the fact that he’s the great-great-great grandson of Secretariat, who happened to be born not too far from here, in Doswell, Virginia, in Caroline County.

And my colleague Max never tires of reminding me that he was born in Caroline County. However, we don’t know, and he doesn’t remember, if he was brought to Richmond from a kill shelter or if someone found him dumped on the side of the road. (Considering how annoying he is, I suspect it’s the latter.)

And I never tire of reminding Max that Caroline County is the final resting place of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing creep’s big brother, because nowhere else would have him, even to throw dirt on him.

But I digress…

Firing Line and Dortmund are skipping the Belmont after failing to outrun the Pharoah in the first two Triple Crown races. The field will consist of only 8 horses, and only one (Madefromlucky) didn’t run in either of the previous Triple Crown races.

American Pharoah is the only horse to run all three, so he’s the least rested before the longest (1-1/2 miles), most grueling race. He’ll be in post position 5.

On his first spin around the Belmont track earlier this week, trainer Bob Baffert said Pharoah ran the wrong way, but he seems in fine spirits.

Cats Working wishes American Pharoah the best in winning the Triple Crown, and may all the horses cross the finish line safely.


Catching Up with Bourdain

May 26, 2015

By Karen

It’s impossible to “catch up” with Anthony Bourdain anymore. He’s always going at full steam in a dozen directions, but these are some noteworthy developments I’ve been tracking.

We’re mid-season with Parts Unknown on CNN. I particularly enjoyed Miami. I’ve been there a few dozen times, and did a double-take upon seeing our paths virtually cross for a split second when he flashed the Colony Hotel’s Art Deco façade. I stayed there in October.

Back in Tony’s Travel Channel days, you’d never imagine him becoming comedy fodder for the likes of Billy Crystal. But a recent episode of The Comedians on FX began with a parody called Unknown Parts, with Crystal strolling around in a silver wig, and then tasting several courses of human testicles, which all caused him to projectile vomit onto his co-star.

And then Tony popped up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a shot of his younger self out in some wilderness, saying armadillo tastes like chicken.

Speaking of popping up, something that has pooped out is a fourth season of The Taste on ABC. Not even Bourdain’s Emmy nomination as best host could save it.

I’ve always said the premise of cramming one meal onto a spoon was ridiculous, and the dwindling audience apparently agreed. It was the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars staging all routines in a phone booth, or forcing aspiring American Idols to sing into an empty mayonnaise jar instead of a mic.

If The Taste accomplished anything, it was to give Nigella Lawson refuge and camaraderie while she was going through a personal nightmare. And it spawned worldwide franchises that may very well keep it a nice income stream for years to come.

Coming up June 2, Bourdain will be inducted in the RealScreen Awards Hall of Fame in Santa Monica as Person of the Year. Parts Unknown is nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Reality Series, and Tony for Best Reality Series Host. A&E is supposed to broadcast the awards live May 31.

Boudain hits the road July 7 for a 10-city personal appearance tour called Close to the Bone. Unfortunately, he’s coming nowhere near these parts. (I’m waiting for Tony to get wind of Richmond’s growing reputation as the newest foodie utopia and drop by for a few bites.)

And then there’s literary Bourdain. Still no word on the novel, but October 20 he’s got a prequel to his graphic novel, Get Jiro!, coming out. It’s called, Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi.

In addition, he’s co-authoring with Lauri Woolover a new cookbook called Appetites to be published by Ecco imprint in fall 2016. It sounds more down-to-earth than the French recipes and techniques he covered in the Les Halles Cookbook.

Speaking of Les Halles (as in, the market in Paris), Bourdain’s vision of a vast American counterpart in New York City took another step toward reality, after many months of speculation.

Bourdain Market will reputedly occupy 100,000 square feet (double the size of Mario Batali’s Eataly) in a new facility being constructed in the Meatpacking District on the Upper West Side at West 15th Street, Pier 57, on the Hudson River.

Here’s an excerpt from the linked Commercial Observer article…

Stephen Werther, Mr. Bourdain’s business partner, said that the food hall will ‘include a farmers market with an oyster bar, bakery, tapas bar and much more,’ according to Eater. It will house 100 vendors – some permanent, some for a few weeks at a time – and will include a rooftop beer garden.

The new food court will cost between $20 million and $30 million to build, Eater indicated.

‘We will work with the tourism boards to create a complete experience of the place. Not just prepared food or packaged food but serving ware, cookware, cookbooks, cooking demos, everything to promote the area,’ Eater quotes Mr. Werther as saying.

It sounds like a place where you could easily lose yourself for a weekend.

And, finally, in spite of the utter contempt he’s always shown toward the James Beard Awards, Bourdain’s series, Mind of a Chef, won for Best On-Location Food Program for the 3rd straight year.

If there’s one thing nobody can ever accuse Anthony Bourdain of, it’s being lazy.


The 2015 Preakness Conundrum

May 15, 2015

By Adele

After watched the Kentucky Derby on May 2, my little kitty heart is in pieces — three to be exact — going into the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

I had rooted for Big Brown’s son, Dortmund, to continue his lifetime streak with a 7th win in the Derby, but he came in third, behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. Dortmund had outrun Firing Line in their previous two races, so the Line showed Dortmund what hell payback can be.

American Pharoah and Dortmund are both trained by Bob Baffert, and he has them stabled at Pimlico side-by-side, so they’re practically roomies.

Once any horse wins the Kentucky Derby, I believe it’s poor sportsmanship to wish him not to take the Triple Crown, so my fair side wants to see American Pharoah win the Preakness.

But deep down I still want Dortmund win it. Baffert says this may be Dortmund’s race because he’ll like the distance, shorter than the Derby by 1/16 mile.

And then we have poor Firing Line, who’s endured second-place finishes in his last three races against these two, yet he’s gamely trying to win for the fourth time.

All three have to be pooped, since the Derby was only two weeks ago. For the Preakness, American Pharoah and Dortmund forebodingly drew post positions 1 and 2 at the rail, respectively, while Firing Line got the far outside pp 8.

That’s the good news. Only 8 horses in the field this time. Mr. Z (pp 3) and Danzig Moon (pp 4) also ran in the Derby, placing 13th and 5th, respectively. The remaining 3 horses are new faces, and I’m not considering any of them.

All eyes will be on American Pharoah, Dortmund, and Firing Line in this year’s Triple Crown menage à trois. If American Pharoah can’t do it, then I want Dortmund and Firing line each to win the Preakness and Belmont and make it a team triumph.

As always, may the best horse win, and may they all cross the finish line safely.


A Cat’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 1, 2015

By Adele

I couldn’t be more excited about the Kentucky Derby May 2 because I have a special favorite at last. At 3-1 odds, it’s Dortmund, son of 2008 Derby and Preakness winner, Big Brown.

Like dear old dad, Dortmund comes to the Derby with an unbeaten record. He’s 6-0, after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 4 by 4 1/4 lengths. He’ll be in post position 8 under jockey Martin Garcia. Dortmund is the first of Big Brown’s progeny to show the potential to fill Brownie’s horseshoes.

Dortmund’s got a half-sister by Big Brown named Puca running in the morning in the Kentucky Oaks, the derby for fillies. She’s only won one of her 6 lifetimes starts, and starting on the outside in pp 14, but we’re rooting for Puca.

But I digress…

Dortmund is competing against two horses who each twice came close to winning in Dortmund’s last 4 races, if not for him. Ironically, all three are running side by side from the gate, with Bolo (30-1) in pp 9 and Firing Line (12-1) in pp 10. Will they be the most motivated to make Dortmund eat their dust?

The race also features a couple of other celebrity kids…

Materiality (12-1) in pp 3 under Javier Castellano also comes to the Derby with an unbeaten records, but he’s only run 3 previous races so far. His dad is Afleet Alex, the amazing horse who got clipped in the stretch and stumbled badly in the 2005 Preakness before winning it in record time, and then winning the Belmont. It was heart-stopping. If Materiality has half of his dad’s gumption, I’d say he has a shot to show.

And then there’s Keen Ice, son of Curlin, Big Brown’s old nemesis. Keen’s in pp 13 under Kent Desoremeaux. His odds are 50-1 because he’s only won one race in 7 so far. But I wouldn’t mind if he showed, too.

The people’s favorite is American Pharoah. For some reason, he’s considered the most talented horse, having won 4 of his 5 lifetime races, usually leaving the contenders far in his wake. He’s in pp 17 under Victor Espinoza with 5-2 odds.

Dortmund seems to like taking the lead, but when he can’t, he has this secret extra gear that kicks in as he’s heading for home. I expect this Derby to be dominated by Dortmund and American Pharoah, and I’ve got paws crossed that Dortmund’s winning streak will continue so he can make his dad Brownie proud and revive the Triple Crown dream.

May all the horses run safely across the finish line.


Bourdain’s Got a Bone in the Throat: the Movie

March 20, 2015

By Karen

Not all fans may know that Anthony Bourdain was a chef/moonlighting novelist before he hit bestsellerdom with his nonfiction restaurant exposé, Kitchen Confidential, in 2000.

Bourdain published his first crime novel, Bone in the Throat, in 1995, followed in 1997 by another one, Gone Bamboo.

Over the past few years, Bourdain’s career hit critical mass and now he’s on a roll, with one success after another. I knew he’d arrived when his birthday appeared last year in the “Born This Day” list of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Anyway, actor Ed Westwick plays Will Reeves (called Tommy Pagana in the book), an aspiring chef who works under this guy, whom I don’t believe ever gets named…

The chef, the tallest one, was pale and thin, with long brown hair that curled out from under his chef’s hat. He held a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and was turning the pages furiously. He wore the hat high on his forehead and pulled straight back like a skullcap. A cigarette dangled from his mouth.

In chapter 18, we get more description of this chef…

His face in the bathroom mirror was pale and bloodless. Tiny pupils floated around in watery, bloodshot eyes. His thick brown hair was too long, sticking up at odd angles, and his sideburns were uneven…. One tooth was missing on the right side, but you couldn’t see it; there was one crumbling molar on the left, also invisible to the casual observer, and a chipped eyetooth.

The chef moved his eyes down over his naked, bony chest: protruding ribs, the stomach that was showing the beginnings of a paunch. He examined his arms. There were no tracks to speak of, only a small, yellowish bruise in the crook of his left arm.

Remind you of anyone we know?

Well, I’m sure the paunch must be gone since he took up MMA and lost 30 lbs., and his arms are now covered with tattoos.

The story for the movie was transported from Manhattan to London’s East End for some reason, and premiered March 14 at a film festival at the Alamo Ritz in Austin, Texas. Here’s the trailer…

The Austin Chronicle gave it a positive review.

Variety, not so glowing.

The movie’s official website includes some recipes, although food isn’t a central character.

I doubt this flick will ever make it to a Richmond screen, but that gives me time to reread the book before I get my hands on it.

Having read both novels years ago, I remember little about the plots. But I do recall laughing out loud at Bourdain’s sharp dialogue and vivid, witty descriptions of the seedy gangster underworld his imagination dwelled in.

Diving back into his fiction is one task on my To-Do list that I eagerly look forward to doing.


If Not for Hate, then Killing for Nothing is Better?

February 12, 2015

By Cole

So Craig Hicks in Chapel Hill, NC, a father of two, shot in the head, execution-style, three college students in his condo complex: a 23-year-old man, his 21-year-old wife of only a few months, and the wife’s visiting 19-year-old sister. All the victims happened to be Muslim, and the women wore traditional Muslim dress. They were murdered inside the condo the newlyweds shared, presumably after letting Hicks in the door.

Hicks later turned himself in to police and his wife made a statement that the murders weren’t because her husband hates Muslims. No, her husband’s beef was over a parking space.

Oh, OK. That sounds SO much more reasonable.

By all appearances, it was a little of both. We may learn that Hicks is a man who pays attention to just enough news or right-wing propaganda to think all Muslims place no value on human life because they allow an Islamic lunatic fringe group (ISIS) to rampage among them in the Middle East, destroying towns and killing mostly other Muslims.

And Hicks has the good fortune to live in a country where any idiot can own a gun and think it’s a good idea to murder THREE people over a parking space because they shouldn’t mind being dead.

There’s plenty of blame to go around here, but I place most of it on a cowardly Congress for allowing the NRA to bully it into continuing to give even the stupidest humans the right to bear arms.

Just like in the Muslim world with ISIS, when is the body count in the U.S. ever going to be high enough for decent people to start demanding strict federal gun control laws to rein in the madness?

I say “federal” because the states can’t handle it. In Virginia, it’s perfectly legal for kids UNDER AGE FOUR to shoot firearms.

So what will we tolerate next, toddler-inflicted fatalities over who gets to ride the swings at daycare?

 


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