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Bluff the Listener

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here's your host at the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: So this is our all animal edition of WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.

KURTIS: Translated into cat that would be meow, meow.


SAGAL: And I do hope that the cats are listening because a short while ago, with special guest panelist Rosie Perez, we featured a Bluff the Listener game about cats.


ANDY DRACE: Hey, this is Andy Drace from Hickory, North Carolina.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Hickory, North Carolina?

DRACE: They are great. They are wonderful. And I can't complain.

SAGAL: Now what do you do there in Hickory?

DRACE: I am a truck driver. I am a disc golf player, and I'm a father of four cats with my wife.



SAGAL: Did you just say father of four cats?

DRACE: I'm the only person I know whose pets have pets.

SAGAL: You know what? They were right. We have gay marriage. Now everything has gone to hell.


SAGAL: People are having cats.


SAGAL: This is terrible. Andy, it is nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Andy's topic?

KURTIS: Here Kitty Kitty.


SAGAL: We talk a lot in the news about man bites dog, but when do the cats make the headlines? This week, our panelists are going to read you three stories of felines in the news. Guess the real story, and you'll win Scorekeeper Emeritus Carl Kasell's voice on your very own voicemail. Are you ready to play?

DRACE: Oh, yeah. Let's do it.

SAGAL: All right. Let's do it. Let's hear it from from Amy Dickinson first.

DICKINSON: Cat lovers know there are times - special times - when the Friskies just go down wrong, and your kitty produces explosive nuclear pooh. And that's why we rely on clumping kitty litter. It turns out, the industry controlling actual nuclear waste - not the stuff produced by my tabby Chester - has been using kitty litter for years to stabilize and store toxic sludge because they just can't pretend to ignore the smell or blame the dog the way we do. Contractors at Los Alamos made the big switch recently from clay-based litter to the organic green kind. And like so many well-intentioned ideas, this one blew up - literally - in a mini mushroom cloud of blame. Turns out, while the organic litter might make the technicians feel greener and more virtuous, it does a terrible job of stabilizing nuclear waste. The drums almost immediately started leaking radioactive goo. And I'm not sure, but I think the fact that I figured this out before the nuclear scientist qualifies me for a better game show. Their frightening solution falls into the "it's so stupid it might just work" category. They're storing the drums now inside bigger drums. What could possibly go wrong?

SAGAL: A nuclear meltdown...


SAGAL: ... Is leaking nuclear waste caused by the wrong kitty litter. Your next story of extreme cattiness comes from Rosie Perez.

ROSIE PEREZ: New Yorker Jonas Elfin, a top venture capitalist on the upper West side and proud male cat lady, hated coming home to cat litter strewed throughout his Fifth Avenue high-rise. He especially hated how his two Siamese cats - Ba Ling and Jackie Chan Ling - kept getting kitty litter stuck in between their toes. Knowing that his beloved felines hated water and would freak out every time he dug into their little paws, he was perplexed. Then one stormy night while sipping a glass of Malbec as Ling and Chan were enjoying their catnip, Ling jumped up on Jonas and rolled over on her back, paws up. Taking advantage of the situation, Jonas grabbed a Q-tip and some wet ones and figured out a way to give Ling a waterless pedicure. He was elated, but felt that something was missing. What his cats needed was a nice coat of nail polish to complete the look. The following day, Jonas called up his good friend Essie Winegarden, president and founder of Essie Nail Polish. She loved the idea of a catnip pedicure. This summer, they will open six cat salons across the city, offering pedicures in 10 toxic-free colors including Purrfect Pink, Call Me Calico and Litter Box Lemon. But that's not all. The salons will also offer fur blowouts, whisker straightening and will have a team of experts on hand who specialize in the art of applying false eyelashes to the cats.


SAGAL: Cats in Manhattan getting - getting a mani-pedi or I guess, since they're cats, a pedi-pedi. Your last story of cats in the news comes from Mr. Adam Felber.

FELBER: Remember smudge, the hero cat who was caught on video saving his toddler friend from a vicious dog a couple of weeks ago? Of course you do. More than 130 million people watched it on YouTube. Well, the happy story has kind of a sour coda because in addition to being a hero, it now turns out that Smudge is a huge racist.


FELBER: It seemed just random when Smudge and his family made an appearance on the "Today Show." Smudge was happy to be stroked by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, but started hissing and clawing whenever Al Roker tried to get close. But it wasn't random. Smudge wasn't just Rokist, he was full on racist. In appearance after appearance since, Smudge has consistently bristled and spat at blacks, Latinos and even his local Bakersfield news anchor, who is Asian. Quote, "we're mortified," said Smudge's owner, Allegra Brandano. We are an inclusive, loving, tolerant family. We don't know where Smudge learned this stuff, but it wasn't here. Embarrassed, the Brandanos were forced to put Smudge up for adoption. But the good news is that he was immediately adopted by Donald Sterling.


SAGAL: Here then are your choices of the cats in the news. Was it, from Amy Dickinson, how the wrong cat litter led to a nuclear meltdown at a nuclear waste facility, from Rosie Perez, how somebody annoyed with cat litter on his floor came up with a business for cat manicures, pedicures and other salon services in New York, or from Adam Felber, how the hero cat of YouTube turns out to be an unreconstructed racist?

DRACE: Let's go with the nuclear meltdown.

SAGAL: You're going to go for the nuclear meltdown. That would be Amy's story of the organic kitty litter causing a problem at the nuclear waste facility. Well, we spoke to somebody familiar with this story.

JIM CONCA: The absorbent, what you usually add is inorganic kitty litter, and they added organic kitty litter for whatever the reason - probably a good reason in their minds, but the wrong reason chemically.

SAGAL: That was Jim Conca. He's a geochemist who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business - explaining why organic kitty litter just wouldn't work the way the normal stuff does. Congratulations, Andy. You got it right.


SAGAL: You earned a point for Amy Dickinson. You've won our prize - Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home answering device - whatever it may be. Congratulations, Andy.

DRACE: Thank you Chicago. I love you.

SAGAL: Thank you for playing with us today. We love you too. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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