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Best Martha moment

These fabulous Bloody Finger Cookies over at BLOGHUNGRY reminded me of my favorite Martha moment ever. Back on her old show, pre-incarceration, she did a whole Halloween episode where she made similar severed extremity confections, laid out on a loamy…

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The Butterfly Effect, Part 5

The Butterfly Effect
Part 5: A food "personality"

Iron Chef

KagaI’ve always had a thing for foreign television. I love the glimmerings of insight into other cultures, as expressed through the lens of the glowing box. Television is in many ways simultaneously the zenith and nadir of modern culture, a place where anything can happen, for better or worse.

Our first major foreign TV obsession, in the early-mid-nineties, was a game show on Univision called El Gran Juego de la Oca. This was played on a large game board, like the game of Life, in an expansive studio. Contestants would roll "dice" (using a remote control; the dice would just appear digitally on-screen). They would progress the number of spaces rolled, at which point the host would inflict torture upon them for money.

The forms of torment were varied and arcane. In one case, a woman had to dive into a pool of water and navigate through a maze of netting. Along the way there were occasional barriers of netting that had to be cut through … because the oxygen was on the other side. In another case, a woman (they were mostly women) had to adorn a big, puffy suit and enter a cage full of snarling German shepards to pull sticks of "dynamite" off the walls, extract herself mostly intact, and use the "dynamite" to blow open a box which contained one of the svelte, scantily-clad assistants that just lounged around the board like Christmas tree ornaments.

Some of the Herculean tasks were more benign. Another (yes, female) contestant had to wear a suit covered in bird seed, lay on the floor and be pecked by chickens — while they asked her to do math problems in her head. (Martha claims this is the cruelest one of all…) Another time one had to visually assess three of the hunky, gold-Speedoed ornamental men, then tell which was which by fondling their chests while blindfolded.

Of course all of this was in rapid-fire MadrileƱo Spanish, which we didn’t understan a word of. As each stunt was being assembled, the announcer would be rattling away like a machine gun. Our blood pressure would rise, hoping he was explaining how safe each of these stunts were, or at least how well insured the show was. True to form for many Spanish-language shows, Oca ran for something like three and a half hours. It was a grand way to blow a Sunday afternoon.

Oca stopped running around 1995 or ’96, and we were left without a new source of quirky, incomprehensible entertainment. But it wasn’t long before our other friends who were fans of international esoterica alerted us to something else. A ground-breaking show that had everyone scratching their heads yet unable to tear themselves away. A cooking show from Japan — but not just a cooking show. It was also like a game show. No, more like sports. Well, if you consider professional wrestling a sport. If my memory serves me correctly, this show was of course Iron Chef.

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