Monday, March 8, 2010

When Worlds Collide

So we're sitting home tonight, Mr. Muscato and I, watching that award-handing-out thingummy that y'all back there in civilization caught last night. Mostly what I'm thinking is, "Hmmm. Not all that interesting, the current crop of WAMPAS Baby Stars, are they?" Also, "What is George Clooney on and where can I get some?"

But they just did the criminally short bit assigned to this year's honorary award winners, and all I could do when presented with the spectacle of Lauren Bacall standing next to Roger Corman, the two of them being ovated by All Hollywood, was imagine what she was thinking: "What the f*** am I doing standing next to this hack, the Putz of Poverty Row? I've survived pictures from To Have and Have Not to Dogville - and he produced Attack of the Giant Leeches."

But he's thinking all "Yeah, whatever, Mrs. Bogie. At least I didn't make The Mirror Has Two Faces."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

File Under "Bedfellows, Strange"

I tell you, by reading some of America's smaller papers, one can learn the most astonishing things. For example, the above gem comes to us from a feature in TCPalm, proudly serving "Florida's treasure coast and palm beaches."

If you pay close attention to the second paragraph, you'll discover something both astonishing physiologically and intriguing in terms of its implications to film history.

And as for the copy itself, well ... I suppose I'm not that surprised that this plucky little periodical doesn't have a fact checker, but really - couldn't they even spell her name right?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blond on Blonde

Mr. Warhol presents his portrait of Barbara Millicent Roberts. Should I be embarrassed that I know that the subject is depicted in her Superstar Barbie incarnation? It's a look that's half '80s trophy wife, half JonBenet, but Andy makes it work...

A Family Saga

Poor cousin Winky tried to go on and act like nothing had changed, but she was never really the same after Aunt Marvelle expelled her from the Tri Tones. It's not as if there was much she could say, not after Marvelle stumbled on that little scene with Uncle Waldo in the vestry.

"That pert baggage," said Marvelle later, on learning of her niece's solo release, "would have been better off learning to say 'I don't.'"

In Local News: Censorship Strikes Again

UPDATE: Well, how very interesting; following a major blowback from local blogs, the site is suddenly, in mid-evening, unblocked. Certainly a turnaround in record time from our beloved monopoly Internet provider. Bravo to the local cybernauts!

This one's mostly for readers here in the Sultanate, but to those outside - enjoy freedom. It's a precious, fragile thing.

I've written about this before, but now our Local Information Overlords have really lost it, blocking just about the most interesting local expat voice on the Internet and, potentially, giving the country a real black eye in the estimation of people everywhere who care about freedom of expression. Yes, blocked as of this morning is Muscat Confidential, an invaluable resource and a great read.

Fortunately, on the Internets, everything is possible (almost), and it's my joy to do for MC's Undercover Dragon what he did for another site that recently faced the censor's axe: provide a link that, through the miracle of Google, allows local readers who don't have their own ways around the dungeon walls to make their own decisions about what they read.

Here it is: Muscat Confidential for all, Muscat Confidential forever! If things don't improve, I'll add a link over there on the right for more permanent use, but for the moment, I hope any local readers who stray by find it of use.

Friday, March 5, 2010

(Not) At The Movies

So apparently the Oscars are this weekend. Living in a country with, on a good day, three movie screens showing films not made in Bombay or Cairo, and most of those featuring things blowing up, it's easy to fall out of the habit of keeping up with Film Today, and I'm afraid I have.

I realized, in fact, when reading about the coming festivities this morning, that this is very likely the first year ever in which I have seen exactly none of the nominated films in the theatre, and only one of them on DVD (that was Inglourious Basterds, which seems to me far too weird to be an Oscar-winner).

Still, I remain intrigued by the people, if not the films, and I was pleased to run across a gallery of luminaries snapped at these year's BritOscars, the BAFTA Awards. It included the usual run of wholly obscure outside the UK TV types, but also two of my current favorites:

The excellent Stanley Tucci, whom I first fell for in Big Night and then A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has that nebbishy/hot thing down pat and gives every indication of being exceedingly smart and very, very funny. In The Devil Wears Prada he managed to be both funny and tragic at the same time, which is really a very New York state of mind. I just wish he played more in movies that feature shower scenes.

And my newest favorite, the irrespresible Miss Gabourey Sidibe. I'm actually kind of hoping she doesn't go home with the little gold gentleman, as I'm afraid it would doom her to one-hit wonderdom and eventually having to make movies with other one-time-rans like Marlee Matlin and Brenda Fricker. I think she's just about perfect and likely only to get better as she goes on.

I have to reason to hope that this year's is a record I won't repeat; if nothing else, it truly reduces one's interest in the proceedings, red-carpet gawping aside. Although that, after all, takes one a very long way; there's always the off-chance that Stanley will show up in the world's first topless tuxedo, isn't there?

Birthdays: Jack in the Box

Two birthdays come to mind, with no real relation between them except that funny way that odd allusions can fire random synapses.

First up, beloved UK canary Clodagh Rodgers, a performer whose moment in the spotlight as fourth-place finisher in the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest was forever overshadowed by the taking in vain of her name in one of the greatest of all Monty Python pieces, the extended "Cycling Tour" episode. I know it's hard to imagine if you haven't seen it, but "Ce n'est pas la belle Clodagh ... c'est Trotsky, le revolutionaire!" is one of the towering comedy moments of all time.

Here she is, though, at her moment of triumph, in all her be-hotpanted splendour, belting out her biggest hit; sadly, it's a song so idiotic that even here, when it was new and shiny and fun, even Clodagh doesn't look like she's having a very good time.

Also celebrating today, albeit in a completely Different Part of the Forest, is American broadcaster and writer Ray Suarez. His name, to me, will always conjure up a very specific time, one when his smooth, reasonable voice was, although I didn't know it then, something of an anchor for me.

In the early nineties, I was just coming off a spectacular, demanding, and really rather impossible job, one that had taken me around the world, allowed me to meet many of the people I most admired, and, when I left it, left me exhausted, adrift, and a little bit miserable. I was living in New York, I had contacts and friends and all sorts of potential opportunities, and I didn't want to do anything.

Which was a problem, since like most New Yorkers working in the arts, I was also quite thoroughly broke. Knew everyone, went everywhere, of course, but had a standing balance in the high two-figures down at the Chase Manhattan.

Fortunately, a friend came to my rescue; she needed someone to clean up tens of thousands of data records for a project on which she was engaged and decided I would do. Although I was a complete computer novice, she taught me the database program (Paradox in its pure DOS form, for those who care) and set me loose.

For the better part of a year I spent at least part of most days sitting in a tiny, windowless office off Times Square, completely alone, correcting spelling, making formatting consistent, and generally learning how data works (which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds. Or at least I think so). At a time when I needed it, this seeming drudgery provided refuge, structure, and consistency. I would walk up from the Village, let myself in, turn on the radio, and sit down and try to figure out how to standardize international phone-number fields.

NPR was the background noise, and "Talk of the Nation" often the show; even today I can hear Ray Suarez's calm, reassuringly sensible voice. It brings back exactly that empty little room, the endless packets of Nabisco Vanilla Cremes I went through, the clanking sounds of pipes in the ancient, faded building.

Looking back, I suppose I was probably pretty depressed, and the undemanding routine of Paradox and radio just about the best therapy I could have had. As the project was ending, my friend - surprised, I think, that it had gone so well - asked me if I would teach other people, her clients, how to work with the product she was developing. Talk to people? It was a big step, but I gave it a shot, and it worked, and from there has turned into all sorts of other lines of work.

So here I sit today, on a nearly perfect morning on the far side of the world, with Mr. Muscato asleep upstairs, Koko curled up on the sofa, and the birds singing in the garden, and think gratefully of Ray Suarez, 53 today.

Were I a real writer, I'd probably try to find a way to link it all together - some kind of a pop-music epiphany/jack in the box/time in its flight kind of mashup, but instead all I can think of is Graham Chapman dressed as a French girl, shrieking "Oh, Maman! Ce n'est pas..." and so dissolve in giggles. Koko really must think me very odd.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What If...

...Hollywood's most fabled feud was nothing more than a PR stunt? I've never seen these two broads look more relaxed and at ease than here. And isn't it kind of fun thinking that maybe all those years they actually got together once in a while for a couple of vodka-Pepsis and a whole lot of laughing at their enemies?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Radio Boom Boom (Sha La La La La)

Watch this first. I'll explain.

So, as the tumbleweeds rolling around might have clued you in, life has been hectic for the past couple of weeks. Something vaguely resembling a lull, however, may be in sight, and so last night the Mister and I celebrated by retreating to our favorite pub. We normally sit on the terrace, which has great views of our little city and the sea and less smoke, but last night lots of folks were out and about, and so not a table to be had.

We sat inside, in a quietish booth near the bar. Mr. Muscato was actually quite pleased, as it meant he (vy. vy. butch, you know) could watch the big football match (Sultanate vs. Disdained Neighbor). So there we are, in a relatively quiet nook, him looking over my shoulder at the vast screen at one of the room and me... discovering that tucked into the other side of our booth was a mysterious little screen, the size of a computer monitor ten years ago, that for reasons wholly mysterious was showing a succession of Asian pop videos with the sound off.

I was lost. Football fans on all sides raged, our excellent meal came and went, and we were even treated to an especially choice version of one of our favorite bar sights (older and very respectable local man enjoying the company of a lady distinctly not his wife, sister, mother, or daughter, although very likely about the age of the last). My eyes stayed glued to the Silent Mystery Karaoke Screen.

One video especially stood out. Now, I know nothing but nothing about Asian pop; my last flirtation in that regard came two decades ago while I was living in Japan. I came home armed with only three words gleaned from the credits: Seaside, Super, Shinee. And, thanks to YouTubes, here it is. I think that what most enchants me is that both this video and the version in the bar featured handy English subtitles - which appear to be almost entirely different (last night's version featured a great deal of "going down the road of love," which is wholly absent here, for instance).

They do share, however, the deathless refrain that has provided the title above. I think the boys are Korean, they're certainly very energetic, and, unlike I would ever be, they're able to keep a straight face while exclaiming "Take me Take me Enjoy Today!" My current guess is that the song is "Seaside" while the band is Shinee. After watching it three or four times, Seaside Super Shinee is exactly how I feel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thieves in the Night

One of the surprises of running the Café, I've discovered, is that despite being only at best intermittently about topics local, we still quite steady draw traffic from Gentle Readers here in our little Sultanate.

I therefore take the liberty of appealing to those in this part of the world who haven't already done so to pay attention to the current posting by fellow blogger Suburban, who is looking for insight into the realities (which seem very likely to be harsher than we realize) of crime in this generally idyllic place.

That I can do so while reminding myself of one of my favorite Kay Francis pictures is just a little of what my Lousiana pals would call lagniappe. Fortunately, the Villa Muscato features very little to attract a jewel robbery; now, if there were evildoers out to steal biographies of minor royalties or Garbo DVDs, we'd have something to worry about...