Songs That Made Childhood Magical: “7” by the Alligator King #sesamestreet

Okay, so No. 9 in the “Ten Best Meals I Ever Ate” List is not going to appear today. I’m on the fourth day of a complete fast/cleanse, i.e. no solid food and only lemon-water, honey and cayenne pepper to sustain me. Thus, my long and illustrious history of gastronomic adventure is the last thing I want to expound-upon, at the moment. Instead, we’ll opt for some HazMat pop-culture profiling. For the Goodreads crowd, please accept my thanks for various “Welcome to the community” sentiments. They are much appreciated. I look forward to connecting with such a knowledgeable bunch of book-devourers as both an author and a rabidly tenacious reader myself. Some delicious giveaways will indeed be forthcoming on Goodreads as soon as the promotional itinerary for my Rowan Blaize series is further elucidated. Stay tuned. Meanwhile …

You can COUNT on this song being stuck in your head all the livelong day!

You can COUNT on this song being stuck in your head all the livelong day!

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME (MUSIC THAT MADE CHILDHOOD MAGICAL) posted by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S HONOREE: “7” by the Alligator King of Sesame Street (Voiced by Bud Luckey)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing warms the sweet cockles of wistful Kiddie Heart-Land like the memory of a Sesame Street “number song” that you couldn’t get out of your head at age five if you’d even tried. Forget about the fact that you used to you drive your poor mother bananas with endless repetitions of what you had learned. Forget about your mother’s desperate prayers that you would one day employ your knowledge of figures and digits to conquer Wall Street and put her in the most posh Park Avenue spread that money could buy. Irrelevant! These “number songs” were magical, and they were the top of the Toddler Hit Parade, back in the day, before Barney and Sponge-Bob and Ninja Turtles and Tellytubbies came around to rip the innocence of youth from our tender, fluttering souls with all manner of subtle-but-wanton devilry. Okay, so Barney wasn’t all that Evil. Still, none of the others could match Sesame Street’s penchant for producing cartoon ditties that made you want to COUNT until the cows came home! The plight of the Alligator King and his Seven Sons was one of the best, made all the more immortal by the swampy New Orleans ragtime inflections of the great Bud Luckey. What are you waiting for? 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 … SING IT!

DEFINITIVE LYRIC:Said the alligator king to his seventh son, “My son, you win the crown. You didn’t give me diamonds or rubies BUT you helped me up when I was down.”

SEMI-TWISTED “ADULT HUMOR” MOMENT: When the second son gives the Alligator King “seven statues of girls with clocks where their stomachs should be.” Surely this was some sort of perverted metaphor, but our beloved Jim Henson has taken the secret to his grave. Talk amongst yourselves about it, philosophers and sociologists.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: No one can swing like the ALLIGATOR KING!

HazMat HOF Women We Need to See More Often: Juliette Binoche

Best Meal I Ever Ate No. 9 coming tomorrow. Meanwhile, my mind is on chocolate. More particularly, my mind is on Chocolat …

Binoche

HAZMAT HALL OF FAME (WOMEN WE NEED TO SEE MORE OFTEN)

TODAY’S FORTUNATE HONOREE: JULIETTE BINOCHE

PEDESTAL-WORTHY LEGACY: The English Patient (as “Hana”) 1996 and Chocolat (as “Vianne”) 2000, etc.

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: The British gave her a bit of a trouncing for daring to take the role of quintessentially English Cathy Linton/Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights (1992) but the tempest subsided without leaving any permanent damage.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Incandescent? Luminous? Resplendent? Brilliant? Could-roll-out-of-bed-on-her-worst-day-and-still-not-need-a-hint-of-eyeliner? All of these words and more describe the winsome wonder of French actress Juliette Binoche, a creature that seems to beguile with an equal mixture of transcendent angelic charm and down-to-the-earthiest Girl next Door camaraderie. Whether enchanting viewers on the stage or in seminal roles like that of Vianne in the mellifluous film adaptation of Joanne Harris’s splendid novel, Chocolat, Binoche is ever a classy, transfixing antidote to so many chintzy pseudo-“stars” that prance across the screen in projects tailored for today’s deliberately Attention Deficit Disordered set. Nothing can detox a diseased culture like a Woman Who Knows What She’s Doing, and for my money, Binoche fits that bill with an almost uncanny grace. And, yes, I’d marry her. Silly, silly man that I am.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Well, it’s not cinnamon, it’s a special kind of chili pepper.” –Vianne, describing her “secret ingredient” in a scene with Judi Dench (Chocolat, 1996)

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: One is hard-pressed to think of anything lamentable in regard to Binoche’s legacy … except perhaps for the Withering Doom-Glare of Absolute Murder & Eternal Ruin that Lauren Bacall gave Juliette when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1997 for The English Patient. I think a few people might’ve turned to stone in Lauren’s vicinity that night. Had to be carted off with forklifts after the ceremony. Feel Lauren’s pain (if you dare) at the 3:02 minute mark.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Whull, apparently, Juliette Binoche is slated to star in a remake of Godzilla, thereby bringing my favorite actress and one of the world’s most beautiful women together with my favorite monster and one of the world’s most fearsome scourges in a rather unlikely Collision of Brilliance. Irony, thy name is Cinema. The cosmos must have heard my prayers.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: “What do you see?”

TEN BEST MEALS I EVER ATE (Where, Why & What-Not) Number 10: Cafe Sud at Sofitel El Gezirah, Cairo

TEN BEST MEALS I EVER ATE: THE WHERES, THE WHYS and THE HOWTOFORES

(And I Can’t Believe I’m Dredging This Up NOW, When I’m On a 10-Day FAST! Then Again, Of Course I’m Dredging it Up. Dream, Boy, Dream. That’s All You’ve Got, for the Moment …)

Cafe Sud in Cairo Astounds in the Middle of the Nile ...

Cafe Sud in Cairo Astounds in the Middle of the Nile …

10. Cafe Sud (Sofitel El Gezirah, Cairo)

Forget the Cairo smog and the fact that you need some “hair o’ the dog” by the time you’ve ridden the bumpy zephyrs across the Med, gotten through customs, past the artillery and anxiety and have even made it into the deliciously convoluted heart of Cairo. The 5-star Sofitel el Gezirah towers above an island in the middle of the Nile and whisks you from any initial discomfort to become your all-purpose luxury resort, gastronomic paradise and ostensible refuge, in case an uprising happens to uprise, which is likely to occur with rising frequency, these days. There are five fabulous restaurants at Sofitel el Gezirah, but we enjoyed the Mediterranean fare at Cafe Sud most of all. When they brought out a plate lavished with about 25 succulent escargots in garlic & herbes de provence buerre blanc as a mere starter, I knew we were in for a good night. The lamb tagine was worthy of its own chapter in some devilishly apocryphal holy book, and the traditional Egyptian date torte proved quite the complex-yet-delicate and subtly spiced piece de resistance. The service was friendly and white-glove spectacular, and who could argue with glorious company or a stunning view of the Nile shimmering by moonlight while fragrant tendrils of tagine curl up, up, up into your quivering nostrils? Not I, friend. Not I. Of course, I expected to find the best Egyptian food in the grungier, out-of-the-way places in Cairo and beyond, and indeed I did find it. Invariably so. For a night of absolute captivation in a truly flawless, once-in-a-lifetime setting, however, 5-star is sometimes the only way to go. When the cuisine is as dangerously simple and as excellent as it is at Cafe Sud, you’ve got a dining experience you’ll sigh wistfully and wonderfully about for the rest of your life. Uber-satiated, I had a good frolic in my Speedo the next day at the pool, also overlooking the Nile. The god Ra shone down until I was sweet golden brown. Only the Pharaohs themselves could have had it so good. Damn straight.

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL of LAME: Vienna Sausages …Good Enough for Lohan, Good Enough for You

You Know You Want to Eat at Least Two

You Know You Want to Eat at Least Two

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD FOOD FROM CHILDHOOD )

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: VIENNA SAUSAGES

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: In America, these dainties consist of the unspeakable parts of beef, pork and chicken combined with wiggly rat tails (for color), all thrown in a Secret Hadron Atom-Smasher located 5 miles beneath the earth near Vienna, Austria and transformed into pudgy little cylinders of Molded Maybe-Meat.

DEFINITIVE QUALITY: They come seven-to-a-can but you only need three to make a classic “Hobo sandwich” if you slice each l’il treasure in half! Ask any thrifty granny.

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Allegedly, Lindsay Lohan, now that she’s a bit down-at-heel, mashes these babies up with a plastic fork, taps the whole mess down into the only crystal bowl she hasn’t yet pawned and serves it to guests (her mother) as pate de foie gras. (Or, as she calls it: “PATTY day FOY grass”.) You need to learn from the Lohan.

WATCH AND DROOL!: Vienna Sausages — Delicacies to be Loved and Shared with Those You Love.

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD FANTASY CINEMA): Trolling for Ideas, Were We?

Troll flick

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD FANTASY CINEMA) by Jonathan Kieran

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: TROLL (1986)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Noah Hathaway as “Harry Potter Jr.”; Michael Moriarty as “Harry Potter Sr.”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus as “Jeanette”; Sonny Bono as “Peter”; Shelley Hack as “Anne”; June Lockhart as “Elaine St. Claire”; Phil Fondocaro as “Malcolm Mallory” and “Torok” (titular troll).

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Whoah, is this stinker ever loaded with the Buckshot of Badness! Hoo-wee, is this flop also a Scattergun of Suspicion! You’ve got Elaine Benes from Seinfeld, Ben Stone from early Law and Order and Timmy’s mom from Lassie, along with “Chaz” Bono’s daddy and noted thespian Shelley Hack (among others) in a fantasy film about a wizard-turned-troll who bewitches a young girl who must be rescued by her brother, whose name is … er … Harry Potter. Harry Potter asks an old sorceress (Lassie’s Lockhart) to teach him magic in order to save Big Sis. Moreover, you’ve got fairies, nymphs, goblins, and elves thrown into the mix that constitutes Harry Potter’s magical challenge. Harry is eventually armed with a magic stick that shoots bolts of energy. Okay. Let’s just get it out in the open. Does it sound like someone-now-richer-than-the-Queen of England pinched a fair amount of inspiration from one of the worst fantasy movies ever made? (Picture it — a hypothetical coffee-shop in Britain, where a young lady pauses for an instant over her notebook and says: “Piffle and rubbish! Wot wot! Nobody’s ev-AH going to remem-bah that bloody awful bit of cinematic spotted dick!”) Hmmm. Whatever the case may be, Troll is a moribund magical masterpiece of bedraggled special effects, terrible performances, abominable ’80s hair (even, ostensibly, on the troll), and a plot as painfully awkward as Elaine’s dance moves on “The Little Kicks” episode of Seinfeld.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “I think what he’s doing is going from apartment to apartment and turning parts of this building into fairyland.”

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Um … the movie’s main character and hero, a wand-wielding wizard-in-training named “Harry Potter” … um … may have gone on to … um … a few “bigger” projects. Maybe.

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: Troll 2, Troll 3 and possibly staggering psychiatric bills for Michael Moriarty. Shame hurts. It hurts bad. Also, there are (and have been) some grouchy words and legal chain-rattlings over the (ahem) possibility that the identity of the real creator of the Harry Potter “character” is open to question. Personally, we at the HazMat think ol’ JK would have to have been a complete nincompoop to consciously “borrow” anything from this howler, much less her main character. And let’s face it: fantasy works of the “classic” type tend to share some universal similarities (wizards, witches, magical objects, old magicians, young magicians, hordes of fantastic creatures, etc.) no matter how respective plots or characterizations might differ.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: June Lockhart is NOT baking apple pies and serving collie-chow in the sky; she is still very much alive, THANK YOU. Michael Moriarty is some sort of “political refugee” in Canada. Sonny Bono is sadly no longer with us (Cher, however, remains). Julia Louis-Dreyfus writhes daily in a polished emerald tub filled with century-old Dom Perignon and worships at Our Lady of Resplendent Residuals. Noah Hathaway (“Atreyu” in 1984’s Neverending Story) was last seen in something called Mondo Holocausto! Shelley Hack is a sometime producer (see Zombie Blondes, 2012).

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Harry Potter knows how to USE that wand!

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y/Lord of the Rings-y universal Good vs. Evil kind of way (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click will suffice. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. I really do. – Jonathan Kieran

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD MUSIC): WORK that Monkey-Coat Right ‘Round!

Pete Burns, lead singer of Dead or Alive sporting a natural evening "look".

Pete Burns, lead singer of Dead or Alive sporting a natural evening look.

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD MUSIC)

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: “You Spin Me (Like A Record)” by Dead or Alive (1985)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Lead singer Pete Burns for imitating Boy George imitating a rabid chicken imitating a goat being skewered alive up the wazoo with a rotisserie-spit.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: One of the most egregiously nauseating sonic pop-disturbances ever to assault human eardrums — BUT a Top 20 hit in the USA in 1985 and a ’round the clock (RIGHT ’round) staple of nascent MTV programming. Back in the day, there’s no telling how many people threw themselves in front of oncoming locomotives or, conversely, onto drug-saturated dance floors upon hearing the first cat-in-estrus chords of this Offense Against All that is Good and Holy. Probably equal amounts of both. Statistics are inconclusive.

DEFINITIVE LYRIC: “You spin me right ’round, baby, right ’round, like a record baby …”

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Burns was once married to a hairdresser and is reputedly popular in Japan. He was also featured on the British version of Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Oh, wait … the dude knew how to wear the hell out of a colubus monkey.

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: It appears there is a slim chance an identity crisis may perhaps exist, along with a possible penchant for life savings-depleting surgeries of the cosmetic (~ahem~) “enhancement” variety. Plus, the dude wore a coat made of monkeys. I mean, c’mon.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Hopefully, seeking intensive psychological treatment or converting to Sufi Islam. Godspeed.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Behold the spastic, herky-jerky display of neurotic neediness, the finger-wagging insouciance, the atrocious dancing, the third-rate drag bar lip-syncing/posturing, the utterly embarrassed back-up band members, and, of course, the disco ball (for gravitas).

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. I really do. – Jonathan Kieran

HazMat Headline Du Jour: Are Those Kidneys Sustainable? by Jonathan Kieran

CAUTION: Scientist at WorkEars for Supper?

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: Science Fiction Comes Alive as Researchers Grow Organs in Lab

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 9.5 (Catastrophic) There is every likelihood that, given current trends in abhorrent human behavior, human organs could soon be grown and packaged as popular snacks and “What’s for dinner tonight?” solutions, rather than for medical purposes.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Scientists are using industrial detergents to basically frazzle-fry parts of dead human bodies and are then using the gray, globby, gelatinous leftovers to “grow” things like noses, ears, esophaguses (esophagi?), arteries, and tear-ducts in jars. These parts are then used to replace the diseased or missing organs of living humans.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: While these scientists want you to think that mass-market “organ-farming” will help sick humans and put the kibosh on reprehensible things like the harvesting of organs from murdered Brazilian street orphans, one expects that they’re lying and that the ultimate purpose of this work is to grow even more enormous breasts. That is always the (hidden) ultimate purpose of science. One suspects there will one day exist vast “boob farms” and that consumers shall one day be able to choose from “Hickory Farms Honey-Glazed” and “Nature’s Own Sustainable/Organic” organs. Either way, there’ll be a price to pay for admission to the ole Slippery Slope.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “Nose scaffold for clinical use. Do not touch. Thank you, Lola.”

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Young Frankenstein (1974) starring Gene Wilder, Teri Garr

MUSICAL REHAB: “My Skin” by Natalie Merchant

DETOX DINNER: Grilled Sweetbreads

FURTHER READING: Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Accounts of Nazi Experiments on Humans

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. – Jonathan Kieran