Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fly Away Home

So, as mentioned a couple of days ago, I've planned a little treat to make up for the trials and tribulations of this particularly tiresome November. I'm flying off to meet Mr. Muscato in Egypt and spend a few days on the shores of the Red Sea; it's a tad counterintuitive to go from one idyllic seaside resort to another, I know, but the Egyptian version has any number of diversions one doesn't find hereabouts - being in Egypt, principally.

With Ermilia safely home, I know Koko is in good hands, and with things humming over at the Chateau Thombeau, I hope I'll be forgiven if we once again slip - briefly - into intermittent mode.

Bad Boys

Oh, it's been a pattern since time immemorial; first the houseboys break into the liquor cupboard, then they get maudlin. Pliny the Lesser just hated it when it happened during his peroraration...

Star Quality

Miss Constance Bennett, superb, steely, languorous with self regard. She's the rare creature who can look both fluffily blonde and carnivorous...

Remembrance of Sleaze Past

I ran across this image recently and was seized with nostalgia. When I moved to New York in the late '80s, this fine theatrical establishment was just 'round the corner from my tiny flat, part of the great, messy, tawdry, crime-and-drug-laced spectacle that stretched out from Times Square and 42nd Street.

All these years later, that same neighborhood is Tourism Central, a cacophonous mass of souvenir shops, chain restaurants, and Disney musicals. The dim, cheap railroad flats like the one I lived in have been gentrified, and Hell's Kitchen is just another post-porno pomo-boho district. Of course, because of the Internet, these physical redlight districts have given way to their digital successors - meaning, in a way, that the old Times Square is now, to an extent, in all of our neighborhoods.

But I still miss passing Rhonda Jo Petty and her ilk on the way home from the grocery store on a rainy November evening. The muggings and the crack dealers, not so much. Pop-up ads and phishing schemes may be their contemporary counterparts, but there's nothing like the neon, carnie atmosphere of the old Eighth Avenue online, and in an odd way I can't help think that we're the poorer for it...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crowned Head

Much as one adores the Queen, one must feel a tinge of sympathy for the journalists assigned to cover the Royal Beat, an assignment of ceaseless routine, implacable structure, and rigourous protocol, all centered around a woman who has not made a public misstep since the height of the Jazz Age.

Which makes it all the more admirable when a photographer is able to come up with any kind of innovation, even something as simple as a new angle. Her Majesty is seen here during the recent opening of Parliament, and the nameless Reuters shutterbug has really made rather an interesting picture - a backstage glimpse, as it were, at the person of the monarchy.

She's wearing one of her grandmother Queen Mary's diamond necklaces and what is more or less her travelling crown, the George IV State Diadem, familiar not only from its regular appearances worn to and from state occasions, but from its perennial presence on stamps and banknotes from around the realms. She has lovely hair, don't you think?

Boys will be Boys

Sometimes, if he would do their math homework, Dave and Chip would let Floyd watch them play "bunk bed gymnastics" - but only for the first ten minutes...


With the spare time I've had of late on my own, I've been, as previously noted, spending far too much time in front of the TV. Fortunately, I've been in good company, as I've been rewatching the three seasons of Arrested Development, and finding it even richer, funnier, and more subversive on a second go 'round.

I've become, more than anything else, an enormous fan of Jessica Walter, whose brilliant portrayal of monster mother Lucille Bluth is the heart (a cold, controlling heart, but still) of the show's dysfunctional family circus. She plays Lucille as a carnival of couture, cocktails, and collagen; despite being about the dressiest part imaginable, it's one that requires a total lack of vanity, and Walter comes through.

I always enjoy seeing a longtime trouper get a break. Walter's career, which stretches back to the early sixties, has been mostly a matter of guest shots, disposable-girlfriend roles, and movies of the week: a working actress, but not a particularly prominent or even interesting one. It's as if the chance to play Lucille unleashed something in her, a lifetime's worth of observation of California dragon ladies and West Coast pretension that all came together at once.

She'd bloomed like this only once before, really, as the sweet-faced psychokiller in 1971's Play Misty for Me (she's seen here menacing co-star and fellow B-list survivor Donna Mills). It got her a Golden Globe nomination, but not all that much more.

Frankly, I think the shag 'do is more than enough motivation for serial-killing; thank goodness Arrested Development brought her a role with better taste in coiffures...

Friday, November 27, 2009

With all the Frills Upon it him...

Conscious, perhaps, of his status as second-generation subcontinental cinematic royalty, Abhishek Bachchan is in general one of Bollywood's less ludicrously presented stars, a conservative figure in a firmament prone to spandex, regrettable hats, and other sartorial trappings of their trade.

Still, given half a chance he can pout in absurd costume with the best of them, as evidenced by this beruffled, boycolletaged re-interpretation of a Saturday Night Fever-esque suit. Perhaps it's the sort of thing we'll see more of if and when he really does do a sequel to Dostana...

It's Grand, isn't it?

I feel like dear Liza at just about 1:48 in this vintage little slice of Dinah Shore, for something rather wonderful, something almost too good to be true, has happened: just like Mrs. Levi to the Harmonia Gardens, Thom has at long last come back to us. Yes, it's so; he has descended from Fabulon to take up residence at the Chateau Thombeau.

And so, just a tad, I like the life I'm living, just a little bit more, nowadays...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mother's Little Helpers

Well, actually more like your Aunt Doris's, from before she settled down with Uncle Lew, back when she was stewing for Eastern and always going on endlessly about that one time she swears Merv Griffin made a pass at her in First Class on the way to Vegas once.

The ones on left and right more or less make sense - as much as anything of their era does - but I really can't imagine the challenges of integrating the center one into any kind of halfway not-laughable coiffure, not least because it's still well more than a decade before Star Wars. It is one piece, wrapped around the back, or two independent hair-blobs? Did it actually hook over the ears?

The past, it truly is another country...

Thanks, but...

It's going to be a quiet holiday at the Café; having had a business celebration earlier in the week, I'm sated on the turkey front and have successfully resisted all invitations arising from the overwhelming urge other expats have to ensure that no strays or orphans miss out on this lovely and traditional day of gluttony and family recrimination.

Oh, I'm fond enough of Thanksgiving, mind you, and have many happy memories, stretching from Rockwell-perfect celebrations in the late 60s to modish 90s family-of-choice observances in Manhattan. Since coming overseas, I've celebrated everywhere from Simpsons in the Strand in London to the Valley of the Kings. There will be something pleasant about a solitary day, marked, as Christmas skeptics do in New York, with takeout Chinese and a movie (although mine, alas, won't be at Film Forum).

It is not, of course, the mere presence of cranberry sauce in a crowd that allows one to be thankful, and even à deux with the dog over the local interpretation of Kung Pao chicken, I am. I'm thankful for all the essentials with which I'm blessed and for the extravagances and little extras life affords. I'm thankful for the challenges (trying as some of them are) of this odd existence. I'm grateful for the big things (health, Mr. Muscato, and a steady income among them) and the small (that iTunes, for example, has at last made available the Scarlatti keyboard sonatas as interpreted by the great Wanda Landowska, or that I've finally found a good moisturizer that doesn't make me break out - Oil of Olay Complete all the way, baby!).

Most of all, though, I'm more than ever aware of and thankful for all the connections that knit the world together - ones like family, which can often be as painful as they are joyful; friends, old, new, actual, virtual; and all the others - social, political, technological, physical, you name it. We live in this bizarre world in which something written at the far edge of the Arabian peninsula can instantly be read in places as far apart as Pakistan, Queensland, and Quebec (just to pick three Gentle Readers who've stopped by the Café in the past hour or so). We deal with high-school friends five thousand miles away as easily as we do colleagues the next office over. And we have to be as aware of what's going on in places like Mumbai, Beijing, and Manila (to choose the top three stories just now on Google world news) in order to figure out our lives as our grandparents did the three nearest towns.

With Mr. Muscato away, I've been watching lots of DVDs, among them the HBO production of Angels in America. There's a lot there to blow you away (and to be thankful for, for that matter), but the one that always does it for me (along with the quietly epic finale at the Bethesda fountain, on stage perhaps the most moving thing I've ever seen performed) is the character Harper's fantasia of healing while flying from New York to California:

Night flight to San Francsico. Chase the moon across America.

God! It’s been years since I was on a plane! When we hit 35,000 feet, we’ll have reached the tropopause…the great belt of calm air. As close as I’ll ever be to the ozone.

I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air…and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn. Patches of it threadbare as old as cheesecloth, and that was frightening!

But I saw something only I could see - because of my astonishing ability to see such things - souls were rising from the earth…far below. The souls of the dead…of people who’d perished from famine, from war, from the plague…and they floated up! Like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning…

And the souls of the departed joined hands, clasped ankles and formed a…a web. A great net of souls. And the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired…

(pauses, tears welling up in her eyes, a sad smile on her face)

Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of…painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.

At least I think that’s so.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Birthday Girl: The Queen of Cartoons

The work of Roz Chast is one of the things that makes me very, very happy. Her scratchy little people, with their hopeless clothes, questionable posture, and ongoing existential dilemmas, are reminders to me that a certain strain of America continues, one nearly subsumed by mass media and Walmart. Bright, puzzled, well-intended, of a kind likely to subscribe to The New Yorker but not to show up at the more experimental first nights or daunting restaurants profiled therein, they are in some ways the stateside cartoon counterparts of the characters who populate the world of Alan Bennett. Let's just say I identify with their constant surprise at what the universe throws at them.

Roz aside (and why aren't there more Rozes in the world, and what can we do to encourage them?), it's a fierce, fierce birthday day, kids - she shares her celebrations with an intimidating array that runs from Her Imperial Majesty Maria Feodorovna, last Dowager Empress of all the Russias (and her niece, the signficantly mousier Maud of Norway) to Her Imperial Majesty, Miss Tina Turner. Also in the running: Supreme fifth wheel Jean Terrell, delightfully oleaginous belter Robert Goulet, and Lindbergh-baby ultrabaddy Bruno Hauptmann.

Koko Lives!

Several Gentle Readers have written in noting the comparative absence in these pages (in this digital data?) lately of that domestic tyrant, Koko the Wonder Dog. There were even fears of kidnapping, heaven forfend.

No, he's out and about as usual but hadn't, until I recently grabbed this casual snap, been in the mood for a portrait. He's funny that way, but then again some beauties are; for a terrier, he is rather Garbo-esque...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

File Under "Complaints, Litany of"

So sorry, mes amis, to have been such an utterly remiss host over the past two weeks. Life has been something of a trial, and I post the above snap, of the palms at our favorite seaside café, only so that neither you nor I lose the context that, horrid as some things have been, there are still consolations to be found.

To pick up where we left off, our little gathering all that while ago was in fact very pleasant indeed, and a much-needed moment of fun before things went to the usual place in the proverbial handbasket. Much good food was prepared and enjoyed, there was music and dancing and gossip, and it was a very late morning the day after. All to the good.

And then, as had been planned (but which I always manage to put at the far side of consciousness until it's actually happening), Mr. Muscato jetted off to be a good son and brother chez la famille. We get irritable on our own, Koko and I, and this time has proved no exception. Although this time around we have had very good reason.

First, I had to deal with a weeklong visit by Important People From The Home Office, a phrase that strikes fear in all of us who operate almost (and almost is the key word there) independently, but remain nonetheless part of a larger entity. They arrive, they expect to be entertained in High Style (but then get snarky about one's knowing how to do so, with dark hints of misuse of the corporate dime), they want to know why this is happening and why that isn't, they unnerve one's colleagues who are unused to such periodic descents from on high, they offend one's local network, they make a long series of almost entirely irrelevant, impractical, or utterly laughable recommendations, and then they fly off at 4:00 in the morning and expect you to take them to the airport. We were not amused.

And while that was happening, our irreplaceable Ermilia had to be replaced, at least for ten days, to deal with various issues back in her far-off home. I know this will stir not one scintilla of sympathy in something like 99.99% of readers, but really it's difficult to cope without her; I've been feeling very Georgie Pillson-deprived-of-Foljambe, even though before taking flight, Ermilia brought in a pinch-hitter in the form of a tiny, silent, and rather mysterious presence called Flordeliza who is at least keeping the dog happily walked.

And then I got the 'flu, or something equally nasty. Splitting headaches, among other joys too disgusting to enumerate.

And another (albeit comparatively, next to the floods of September, minor) plumbing disaster.

And so on, with lots that I've doubtless already put out of my mind. I have been sufficiently shaken by all this nonsense and negativity as to require getting an early jump on the approaching long holiday, the Sultanate having combined the observance of the Eid al Adha with the days off given for November 18's National Day (which in a curiosity of local life is never actually itself a holiday, reputedly so that everyone doesn't travel and leave no one to say Happy Birthday to the monarch).

Said early jump has meant a heavenly morning under those palm trees with a very content terrier, even in the trying presence at the next knot of sofas of a pair of terrifying blondined Russian housewife/socialites, chain-smoking impossibly long, thin, and vilely scented cigarettes whilst chatting intimately at top volume about, from what I could gather, the inadequacy of local luxury shopping and (inevitably) the iniquities of their husbands, neighbors, and servants. Nice to know that worldwide financial collapse is sparing some people...

So things do seem on the upswing. Having begun to regain my senses, I've organized a little treat, more of which doubtless anon, and for the next few days will try to enjoy life seul before that begins.

In any case, I hope to be a little bit less of an absence henceforth. Did you miss me?*

* Pardon the intrusive and recurring Francophony; I'm currently reading André Aciman's quite marvelous Out of Egypt, a memoir of his family's cosmpolitan existence in Farouk-era Alexandria, and finding that his dialogue is contagious...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Home Front

Mr. Muscato and I, aided and abetted by the doughty Ermilia, are spending Veterans Day in a domestic frenzy. We're having people in (a far less formal - or organized - concept than having a party), with a seafood theme.

The weather is finally lovely, and so the doors and windows stand happily ajar, with the breezes from the nearby Gulf a more than satisfactory replacement for air conditioning and a joyful dog gamboling about, in and out chasing Ermilia's cat, as if there had never been a summer of being cooped up from the heat.

There are, of course and as always, more than enough things to cause worry and concern, but for today we're boiling shrimp and reviewing my Grandmothers' simpler recipes, with the prospect of a glass or two of Champagne and some good company tonight.

When I was a child, on the 11th of November we would go out to the cemetery to pay our last respects before the real winter set in. The various family plots, tidied up on Labor Day, the geraniums and such of Decoration Day brought home, would get a final trim about the evergreens, and my grandparents would point out the advantages of the large and well-placed area they'd chosen for themselves not long after their 1920 wedding. "It's on the hill, you see, and so we see the rest of the family and the Lake," my Grandfather would note with satisfaction, "and there is plenty of room for all of you."

The last time I visited, I realized that they were right. The view is lovely, and while some of the trees and plantings have grown enough that they would take some cutting to let one see the oldest family graves below, there is a pleasant sense of permanency. All the grandparents are there, and my mother now as well. I usually stop to straighten the holders behind each grave for the little flags that various organizations bring out in the spring - one with a Navy seal for Grandfather; DAR for one Grandmother and Eastern Star for the other. Mother, never really a joiner, could I suppose have had one - does the Junior League bring flags to members' graves? - but would have been mortified at the prospect.

In those days, one felt a genuine connection to World War I, and the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was, after all, Grandfather's war, even if he never ventured closer to the Marne than Buffalo. It still surprises me that they're all gone now, World War I vets, every one of them.

In any case, I stopped this morning, thinking of a bleak November day in 1918, when even sensible people hoped that not just that war, but War altogether, had stopped. And then, in the same way that the grandparents would bustle us back into the car and on to lunch at the club, with one last backward glance as if to assure the family they would return come spring, I went back to getting ready for our party. I think we'll have a lovely time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Such a Nice Young Man

Mrs. Stassinger over on Shawnee Court thought it was just marvelous that her Lloyd was so eager get a jump on his Christmas craft projects. The lower-rent mothers two blocks east had a thing or two to say about the boy whom, over their ChampAles and Parliament Menthols, they called Queeny McPrissyPants...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Stay Very Still..."

I've been remiss, having been meaning to feature this treasurable little moment of international drama ever since dear Plumcake brought it to our attention back around Hallowe'en. Yes, it's the coming together of two of the world's more glamourous power-spouses, and don't they look like they're having fun?

Mme. Sarkozy appears to be hoping that a coping strategy more usually used when confronted with bears will prove effective; she is fighting to stay as calm as possible and likely about to try sidling out of range in the hope that that her formidable neighbour won't notice. The divine Mme. Chantal of Cameroon, by contrast, is (as usual) not impressed. At all. What she's thinking about la Carla's mousy 'do, gray pinstripes, tacky folk-pop singing, and nude photoshoots clearly doesn't bear repeating.

But wouldn't you kill to hear her inner monologue?

3 Girls 1

Sorry, carissimi, for the little hiatus 'round these parts, but life is unendingly boring and deeply practical and all sorts of things that keep one from Thinking Good Thoughts.

In the meantime, why not consider the mysterious identity of the versatile young lady we see above? She's someone I know many of us adore, but in these guises I find her nearly unrecognizable. I'll be interested to see if you do, too...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swiss Mister

Some day, I want Swiss Guards. Most of the Vatican is just too overdone for my tastes, but their uniforms? Just about perfect, and when we visited, they were about the only thing that Mr. Muscato and I agreed on; the particular guard snapped here was especially memorable...

Funny how they're all such elegant specimens themselves, too. Say what you will about the Mother Church's hierarchy, but they know a strapping young Swiss when they see one.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Perestroika Pop

I don't know what's going on here; I'm not sure I want to. I just want to encourage all of you to fall helplessly into this little slice of 80s heaven à la Russe. I'm finding it hard to believe that it's not some kind of Toni Basil-choreographed parody, but it's evidently the real thing.

The terrifying girl singer (who reminds me of Janis Ian on acid) aside, all involved look rather sheepish, as well they might. Still, it must have a seemed a breath of fresh air at the time, don't you think?

Birthday Beauties

I'm normally not very fond at all of February, but it's clear that there is some strange magic to that unpromising month, if only based on the extraordinary gifts it seems to have bestowed on what would appear to be a disproportionate number of children born nine months later.

Today, really, is an embarrassment of gorgeousness...

We start with the woman Cecil Beaton described as an "Asian Venus," the extraordinary Princess Fawzia of Egypt. Today she's a little old lady living quietly in Cairo, but in her time she was rather a handful, as well as being the Shah's first wife.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have art-film darling Tilda Swinton, seen here, I believe, doing an al fresco Carrie Nye impression. Or is it Cybill Shepherd?

Joel McCrea ended up a grizzled character player in Westerns, but in his youth he was a gleamingly handsome leading man at the dawn of the Talkies.

Ah, Lady Olivier. Mercurial, brilliant, and capable of inspiring, based on all one reads, almost boundless reserves of affection among friends and loved ones despite infinitely bad behavior, Vivien Leigh never quite recovered from the strain of being married to one of the few people on earth perhaps as lovely as she and yet more able than she to be regarded even more for his acting than his entrancing bone structure.

Speaking of which, bone structure would likely have carried this young man far (or at least further than sleazy Joan Collins TV movies) had not an unkind fate intervened. Somehow one feels there is an element of mercy in Jon-Erik Hexum's having been saved from a future as the David Hasselhoff of the 2020s...

If Hexum's presence here adds a note of the tragic, let's scurry right back to the ridiculous and consider the last of our birthday belles and beaux, the smoldering Miss Elke Sommer. Here we see her in full Scandinavian sexbomb bloom, in a still doubtless drawn from one of the almost endless number of All Star International Productions of the 1960s to which she contributed ... well, not very much at all.

The last I heard of her she was feuding with Zsa-Zsa over who was or was not a bigger has-been, but that was years ago. I'm sure it's still a question she's mulling over, but even so I hope she's having a happy birthday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Be Our Guest

Much excitement about the Café today, as we're getting ready to welcome this evening our dear friend The Executrix, on a break from her dauntingly high-powered metropolitan life up in Europa. We look forward to several days of gossip, intemperance, and general catchings-up.

Seen here, of course, is one of the principal guest chambers of the Villa Muscato, in which we shall be lodging the dear girl . Oh, all right, it's not; it's a bedroom in the fabulous doll's house that formed one of Queen Mary's great legacies and which is one of my favorite things to visit when I've an idle hour to spare in Windsor. I do like to think it rather gives one an idea of our décor, though...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Birthday Girl: Leading Lady

Let's wish a happy 117th birthday to dizzy screen favorite Alice Brady, seen here in her alternate incarnation as sophisticated stage star in a rather dazzling Steichen snap.

Brady's career is a nice example of both the richness of casting available to the studios back in the day and the dilemma that faced theatrical favorites as they considered their place oncscreen. A leading name on Broadway from the teens, Brady made dozens of silent films without ever really compromising her reputation with stage audiences as a glamorous leading lady, adept at both arch comedy and serious drama (and you don't get by in O'Neill, and especially not in Mourning Becomes Electra, on a cute profile and your comic technique - just ask Rosalind Russell).

When talkies beckoned, she likely thought she could follow in the footsteps of fellow luminaries like Ruth Chatterton and Helen Hayes, who essentially transferred their stage personae onto the soundstage, playing great ladies, socialites, and other parts that called for poise, diction, and the kind of wardrobe we see above.

Instead, Brady found herself in the company of theatrical veterans like Billie Burke and Spring Byington, players who discovered that what registered on Broadway as ladylike chic and nervy elegance made Depression movie audiences giggle. Rising 40, with features a little too broad for movie beauty and a definite tendency toward the dithery, Brady was transformed into a character lead, often a supporting player; of course, she also found a niche that guaranteed her, whether playing a foolish mother in Our Man Godfrey or the lady whose cow burned down a metropolis In Old Chicago, a kind of immortality.

Sometimes, before her too-young death in 1939, she must have wondered - even with the praise, the cash, and the Supporting Actress Oscar - whatever happened to the star whom Steichen saw. That her fellow stage ladies fared a lot less well than she over the long haul (with Chatteron, Hayes, and fellow travelers like Tallulah Bankhead all heading back to Broadway by the mid-thirties) must have helped. And, come to think of it, the cash couldn't have hurt as well...

Sometimes a Cigar...

I really don't know what to say. This vision of our dear Mr. Upen Patel is just so wrong on so many levels, and yet at the same time it is unquestionably riveting. One truly didn't know that Bollywood ventured so far out toward fetish-land, but what else is one to make of it? It looks like a still from one of the more ... adventurous gentlemen's studios, not of course that I'd know anything about that.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go lie down with a cold compress until my blood pressure drops.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why Don't You...

Shake off the post-Hallowe'en blues by taking a nice hot bath in your best jewels? Look how jolly it's made dear Princess Margaret. Her signature tiara may have ended up on the auction block, but it was all great fun while it lasted...

Top of the [Meme] Pops

Have I mentioned lately that I hate Kevin? Not only, as proprietor of The Lisp, is he sending trashy ecclesiastical traffic my way, but he's putting the jpg equivalent of earworms in my head, via his latest bright idea, the Album Meme.

It's fast, he says. It's easy. Well, you can head right over for the directions, but in the meantime I've been caught up in trying to create the latest Sgt. Pepper, or at least the 2009 Breakfast in America. The basic idea is that you generate a random band name, album title, and accompanying graphic, and try (using, in my case, the most rudimentary of graphic skills and most elderly of software) to mash them together as an LP cover.

I think I have a new hobby.

He's having a contest, and having done the most I can do in one sitting, now so am I. Tell me which of these three you like best, and I'll submit it to the Dread Taskmaster for his consideration before the November 7 deadline. Will it be:

1. The one I've decided is the sixth and final album of an outsider loner, a onetime child prodigy on the oboe who spent his 30s and 40s rarely leaving his Hell's Kitchen studio and creating dense, multi-layered sound collages that are equal parts Satie and Gary Numan; or

2. This offering, by a highly Pink Martini-influenced Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, wedding band, which features their daring jazz/lounge reimaginings of MOR classics like "Always a Woman to Me" and "Sometimes When We Touch"; or

3. This indie release out of Boston, by a neo-ska quintet of white guys who desperately wish they were the love children of Me'shell NdegéOcello and The Specials.

You be the judge. In the meantime, I'm off to hit "refresh" on one more set of possibilities and see what transpires...