Tag Archives: Travel

Bizarre World: Neither Bizarre, Nor Worldly

I should just change my tagline to “The Travel Channel Bitch Blog.”

Recently I’ve mentioned my growing ire for Andrew Zimmern. At first his show, Bizarre Foods, was mildly entertaining. He went to different countries I can’t afford to go to, and ate things that I wouldn’t even dare to put on my plate. It was mindless escape on a weeknight. The theme music was pretty irritating, but that’s why we have a DVR and watch things on a delay (seriously, there’s no need to sit through commercials and bad jingles anymore, friends!).

I’ve always thought Andrew Zimmern was a little oafish and culturally clumsy. Well, maybe not culturally clumsy. He handles his reactions and such correctly, according to the culture of the area he’s in, but… He’s just not smooth. Andrew Zimmern is that kid next door that everyone dared to eat ants or worms or <insert gross item here>. “Hey, it’s not so bad, HA HA!” His food critiques never really helped me at all. If I wanted to watch a fat person eat food and go “MMMMM,” I’d eat in front of a mirror. If you really want to tell me how something is or how it tastes, fucking use some adjectives!

Since Bizarre Foods was such a successful show, I guess Travel Channel decided they needed to inflate Andrew Zimmern’s ego even more and give him a “new” show. Titled Bizarre World. Where he goes… to other places… and does weird things… Sure, there’s less of a spotlight on the food, but, on Bizarre Foods he didn’t just sample foods. He was doing/seeing other things in the places he visited. I guess this is just an overdue name change, maybe?

I just can’t take him anymore. It’s like the show’s name change caused his persona to grow from Bumbling American to Smug Douchebag! I can’t stand watching him go hang out and be a token American in some obscure cultural ceremony and try to stammer out some poor excuse for an intelligent sociological comparison.

Well, yesterday evening I pretty much wrote off the Travel Channel. We were channel surfing around 10PM or so, and the encore of the latest Bizarre World was playing. Yesterday’s exotic destination was Milwaukee. Figuring it had to be so bad it was entertaining, I begrudgingly turned it on. Andrew Zimmern was at some Mexican restaurant/grocery store with a bunch of white people, eating things like tongue, tripe, stomach, etc. All he kept saying was how difficult it was to get a good taste out of these organ meats, and blah blah blah.

WHAT?! Now, I love me some organ meat. Gamey, chewy, sometimes oddly crunchy, and likely plenty for me because no one else is eating it. Seriously though, organ meat really requires no sort of flair or skill to cook. These pieces each have their own flavors, and since they’ve basically been soaking in the animal’s gut juices for their entire existence, it’s really hard to change the flavor. You almost literally CAN’T change the flavor of some offal/organ meats; you place the flavor within a dish that has other, complementing flavors. But first, you boil or roast the ever living shit out of the meat. For hours. Seriously.

If you’re just putting organ meat on a tortilla with some onions and cilantro, how is that skill? Answer: it’s not, you’re just making a god damn taco!

I had to rant about that a bit. But the fact remains that Milwaukee is just not “bizarre.” It’s a sleepy Midwestern city, and most of the inhabitants probably drive down to Chicago if they actually want to have an exciting time (sorry cheeseheads, it’s true). Andrew Zimmern should have just driven down to Chicago, because Milwaukee is watered down Chicago.

Of course I can’t really give an unbiased answer because I turned it off after Andrew started yammering on about the huge Polish population in Milwaukee (uh, hello, CHICAGO?). I’m boycotting the Travel Channel until they put Madventures back on the air… Or Bourdain starts again. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker.

Censorship, personal responsibility, and bad television

Hang on kids, we’re going for a ride! Originally I was constructing an entry centered around my recently developed loathing for Andrew Zimmern and his “new” show. I had also wanted to mention the AWESOME new show on Travel Channel, Madventures. Unfortunately, not very long ago today, I found out through the Madventures Twitter feed that Travel Channel has seemingly cut the show for the rest of the year.

What we were enjoying of the show was likely its downfall — hard-hitting, gritty, real  third-world travel. There are no umbrella drinks in this backpacking travel show. The Finnish hosts, Riku and Tunna, addressed subjects few mainstream travel journalists would touch. Curt, amusing descriptions in the hosts’ heavily accented and sometimes broken English accompany the footage of their travels and adventures. According to the show, the hosts travel without security and without a video crew — it’s just Riku, the main host, and Tunna, the director/cameraman and occasional commentator.

At this point I can really only speculate why the show has actually gone off the air. I’m figuring the subject material was a little too risque for American TV audiences. Many of the activities and rituals filmed are the types of things movie directors make obscure documentaries about, and [vicarious] travel junkies like me look for in the darkened corners of the internet.

The next few episodes of the show were going to deal with human sacrifice, ritual scarification, and terrorism. The most recent episode depicted Riku and Tunna hanging out with a cannibalistic tribe in Papua New Guinea. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with American television. Love because it can be good, believe it or not, but hate because the television is often so watered down it’s not even worth watching (or it’s reality TV, which, again, isn’t worth watching). I’m guessing, and I’m sure it’s a fair guess, there were some people out there who didn’t want their prime time television invaded by true reality TV. Or, lazy parents can’t figure out how to block shows on the cable box.

This brings us to censorship. One of my big issues with the American media and well, reality, is the simple fact that the American media doesn’t really want to show anyone reality unless it’s seven strangers picked to live in an awesome house and work awesome jobs! I’ll often say if you want real coverage of what the US is doing in other countries, look for news sources outside of the US. There seems to be this deep-seated fear of seeing the reality of war, or what’s going on in other countries. You could probably say that right now we’re still living in some transitional phase of the Bush era, since Obama hasn’t been in office all that long. Extreme patriotism took over. Support our troops! Support the war! Blah blah blah, yellow ribbons rah! Funny though, no one really wants to see the reality of war. Real life violence is apparently too real for the average person. I’m betting if more people knew what the reality of war looked like, fewer people would be in support of war, or “government intervention.” Sex, drugs, and fictional violence during the day and in prime time? Gather ’round, friends! Poverty? Well, that’s not any fun. War? You should think of the children before you put that on TV!

I think people should see [it]. I think people need  to see it all  for a little more of a worldly perspective. Not everyone on this planet lives in the same little dream world that we do, but I guess ignorance is bliss. Not everyone wants to see the reality of war, or the reality of living in a third world country in absolute poverty. Not everyone wants to see the aftermath of our country bombing the shit out of some tiny, flavor-of-the-week Communist country on the other side of the world. If you don’t want to see it, turn it off. Change the channel. Don’t let your children watch it if you’re that worried about it. But for those of us who want to see, want to know, don’t take it away.

Blogs I’ve been reading instead of posting

Here’s a list of the blogs I’ve been following and/or reading backwards lately (and should probably be adding to my link list). Partake and enjoy!

Hooked on Heat - Blog about modern Indian cooking with food porn and recipes
Bike Man Dan - Dan takes his bike with him where ever he goes and documents his adventures
Wandering Why - This couple took a year and a half off of work to travel the world
Breathe Dream Go - Mariellen took off to India to achieve her dream after the devastating loss of her parents
Matt Logelin - Life and death in the span of 27 hours. Seriously if you’re prone to crying, don’t read this at work. Link is to the first-timer’s page.

World Travels from Suburbia

Many of you who have spoken to me more than a few times know that I have a certain obsession interest in traveling the globe. Like most people, we really don’t have the funds or the free time to do this. I’ve been nursing a dream of backpacking south/southeast Asia for several years now. I’m lucky enough to have 3 weeks vacation, but 3 weeks is certainly not enough time to backpack through one country, let alone an entire region. We’d probably have to save up several thousand dollars and take an unpaid leave from our jobs (or quit). There’s always that lottery fantasy…

The relatively recent purchase of a house has put travel on the back burner. Fortunately, putting off a dream doesn’t mean forgetting about it. I’m exploring destinations by learning how to cook in the regional style. My close friend April gave me a starter wok kit several years ago. I’ve always been interested in stir-frying and Pan-Asian food, but April basically created a monster.

One of the greatest things about living in Chicago city proper was the sheer diversity: I could hop on the bus or the train and be at a Korean grocery in 15 minutes. Since moving to the suburbs, there has been a distinct lack of Asian cooking in our household, and I’ve been on a mission to rectify the situation.  This past weekend we located the Indian/Pakistani groceries in our area. I stocked up on some hard to find spices, Shan masala packs, and a few assorted frozen goodies.  For those of you in south suburban Chicagoland, click through to read about the markets…

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