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.comment: Little-Iron Chef

Relieving Ennui

  • March 28, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

Maybe it was the weather, which has been unrelentingly miserable here in the Northeast. I was going to sit down and write about the tremendous improvements David Faure has made to KWord by backporting much of the upcoming QT-3.0's rich text engine to the KWord CVS. And at the same time I thought I'd talk about the exciting new KPrinter that will be part of KDE-2.2, and which promises finally to get a grip on printing in Linux. But I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm.

Then the tape arrived.

It was in a brown, padded envelope, a standard VHS cassette in a plain white shuck. It bore no label, and I wondered what it was until I saw the note, handwritten in the unmistakable hand of a friend in program planning at one of the big media conglomerates.

``I wonder if this time they've gone too far,'' it began. ``I mean, after people started suggesting that we rename it the Revisionist History Channel, I thought they'd calm down and take programming more seriously. But then I found this -- another ripoff of a foreign show, actually two of them: Junkyard Wars and the Iron Chef. The first one is a contest where two teams are given a day to make an airplane that won't fly out of things they find in a junkyard. The second is where two great chefs are asked to make first-class meals using some specified ingredient, often an invertebrate, fish innards, or something that washed up on the beach. Some programming genius here decided they could be combined with an American (meaning stupid -- you know what the networks think of America) twist. Looks like it will be our new reality show (meaning a show that has no connection to reality) this fall.''

Well, I thought (in italics, as writers often do), this could be interesting. I popped the cassette into the VCR.

``Five years ago,'' the narrator began, ``a man decided to squander his vast fortune before the government could get its hands on it by seeking very silly things that people might do just for the recognition. To this end, he built Scrapheap Stadium, where the world's finest chefs gather to make dishes palatable-looking enough to fool people. At the same time, he began rounding up the finest representatives of culinary skill. He called his men the Junkyard Chefs: Junkyard Chef Industrial, Junkyard Chef Landfill, Junkyard Chef Toxic Waste Dump, and the newest member, Junkyard Chef Recycling Center.''

The narrator went on to explain that a challenger -- this week a former backhoe operator named Joey from the recently closed Fresh Kills garbage mountain on Staten Island, New York -- would take on one of the Junkyard Chefs. They would be given an hour to produce a meal using only ingredients and utensils that they could find within the junkyard itself.

``Oh yeah,'' said Joey in his pregame interview. ``I seen a lotta guys from the big Manhattan beaneries, all of 'em down at da dump foist ting in damornin', seein' what dey could get. Youse guys ain't got nuttin' on dem. Course, youse guys don't have to grease any palms ober at de healt' department.''

There was a certain familiarity to the whole proceeding, having to do with a project I had underway in which two operating systems were battling it out to see what they could make from an old computer I'd gotten.

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