Friday, July 30, 2010

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Nice Muscles!

In honor of Mr. Muscato and me finally finding a pretty good sushi place in our new community, I thought a moment's communing with the madness of contemporary Japan might be in order.

Oh, yes, I'm fully aware that everybody's over weird Japaniana; but then you stumble on something like this little startler, and you realize all over again that the "Why am I Mr. Sparkle?" Simpsons episode is still a work of sheer genius (not to mention verisimilitude).

Watch and marvel...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meanwhile, at the Cookout

"Oh, Christ," thought Carol, grimly setting the picnic table for yet another disastrous barbeque, "there goes another batch of hamburgers. Sometimes I wish those two would just screw and get it over with. And get Shirlee, with her goddam surprised act. If she hasn't figured it all out yet about her Ed, I'm going to have to draw her a picture."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hare Today, Tomorrow, and Always

It's hard to believe - given that if any Hollywood star deserves to be called "ageless," it's he - but today marks the seventieth anniversary of the screen debut of one of tinseltown's most versatile stars. Action pictures, musicals, horror, comedy, and even his own biopic (who can forget "Oh, we're the boys of the chorus/We hope you like our show..."?) - there's hardly a genre in which the great Bugs Bunny hasn't triumphed. Who else has done both noir and opera so successfully?

Yes, on a fine July evening in 1940, audiences at Warner Theatre's across the nation sat down for a nice double-feature to find their evening preceded by A Wild Hare, the gripping story of a hunter and his prey - and it's all been nothing but good times since.

What Bugs's epics may have lacked in length (averaging, I believe, something between six and ten minutes), they more than made up for in quality. I'm especially partial to the ones in which Bugs torments poor clueless Daffy Duck, although I can also be talked into a vintage Marvin the Martian now and again. The opera parodies, the triumphantly disastrous night at the Hollywood Bowl ("Leopold!"), encounters with fellow stars from Edward G. Robinson to Errol Flynn and with adversaries that ranged from a baby to a truly deranged witch - really, they're all pretty wonderful.

If I had to choose one favorite, I suppose it would have to be The Rabbit of Seville - what's yours?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Movin' On Up

The vans arrive at the Villa Muscato 2.0 (artist's impression)

Movin' on up indeed, in the immortal words sung so memorably by Miss Ja'net Dubois, albeit to the very far East Side and not exactly to a deeluxe apartment in the sky-hi-hi (although I will be crushingly honest and admit that our new digs are not exactly up to the standards illustrated - the people actually movin' on up in that snap are in fact the Eisenhowers).

Yes, here we are, once again surrounded by a bewildering profusion of random possessions (it's not a good sign when your first thought on opening most boxes is "why on earth did I keep that?") and slowly sorting things out. I have been moving on average every three years or so since I was 18, but that doesn't make the process any less agonizingly annoying. While Mr. Muscato has been almost as consistently nomadic, he is significantly less a packrat than I, and so finds the whole thing that much more depleting.

I keep telling him that moving is like childbirth (a process neither of us, it must be admitted, is particularly familiar with aside from our own arrival), and one never remembers how very unpleasant it was once the baby (or, in this case, the decorator*) arrives. I don't think he believes me.

The dog, on the other hand, restored to us after a bureaucratic process only slightly less Kafka-esque than that required to extract a Soviet dissident, has found his favorite sofa cushion and is entirely content. So some things are as they ought to be.

* Who am I trying to kid, being so grand? To paraphrase Pogo, I have seen the decorator, and he is us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Goddess at Sunset...

One reads with sorrow the news trickling out of the City of Angels. The indomitable lady whom dear Donna Lethal with very good reason calls Saint Zsa Zsa of Gabor does appear to be enduring a particularly horrid version of that staple of the tabloids, Sad Last Days. Her last decade or so, actually, seems to be turning into a particularly melancholy contrast to the whirlwind of glamour and silliness that preceded it, which really is just a lousy shame.

I'd rather remember her in palmier days, dripping in diamonds, teased out to there, and painted with an insouciance that seems almost Fauve, as convinced of her perfection as she is that the sun will rise in the morning (a time of day she last saw 'round about the time she may or may not have been Miss Hungary).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Allons, Enfants!

In a terrible rush for all sorts of good reasons, darlings, but I couldn't resist (only slightly belatedly) celebrating le jour de la Bastille with this image of overwhelming fabulosity. Yes indeed, look who jetted in to help the Sarkozis celebrate their special day - none other than Café icon and Cameroonian style sensation, the glorious Mme. Chantal Biya!

I am madly in love with the almost baroccoco composition of this snap, in which La Chantal assumes the position of a beneficent background goddess, bestowing her approval on the curious union of the tiny if powerful President of France and his bride. As always, though, the primary thought on Chantal's mind appears to be how very much more glamourous she is than anyone around - and who can say her nay?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jifts of the Season

One of the great joys of a summer in Xanadu-on-Sea is the opportunity to catch up on what's been going on in the Great Wide World of Drag. On any given night, there are upwards of a dozen choices, ranging from almost embalmed traditional evenings of more-or-less straightforward impersonation* to performances that take makeup and heels as a springboard for something much, much more ambitious/transcendant/surreal.

Of these, I don't think there can be anything better than the creature pictured above, the incredible Dina Martina. It's actually rather hard to describe an evening in her presence, except that it is raucous, mindbending, and, most surprisingly, startingly cosy. She reminds me of one of my favorite Susan Sontag lines: "Camp is a tender feeling."

Who else could make an audience vie fiercely for the privilege of winning what are billed as "the world's largest underpants" (emblazoned, live on stage, with the star's own makeup faceprint)? Who could create a mash-up on "Fever" and "No Scrubs"? Most of all, who else could take an act made up of just about equal parts malapropisms, mispronunciations (g frequently becoming j -Ms. M. is very pleased with her "jifts"), hoary jokes, show-biz lore, and a healthy dose of the very difficult art of singing just badly enough (it really is tough, kids - just ask Jo Stafford)? I can think of no one but Dina.

Each of the acts we've seen these past few weeks have been pretty fab - the tight, Vegas-style evening of cabaret with Cher-extraordinaire Randy Roberts (whose own character, a diva poised somewhere between Ann Margret and Rita Hayworth, is even better than his star takes), the trip into Varla Jean Merman's glamorously demented song-stylings, nights with Miss Richfield and Miss Burlington and more, and of course the truly awe-inspiring trainwrecks that are each week's edition of the town's legendary "talent" contest/revue Show Girls. Still, it's Dina I'll take away as someone I'd not only like to see again, but maybe have a cocktail with, in character or out. I know nothing about the man behind the legend, but it must take a fascinating brain to go so far out and still feel so very much at home.

* Although no one, alas, seems to be doing Bette Davis this year. I have a hunch that you can guess who this year's sensation is, done in tributes ranging from respectful to disembowelling. If you were to guess that her initials are L.G., you wouldn't be far off (and no, it's not Linda Gray).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Call Me Madam Freedom

Well, I bet you thought this was the last place in the world you were going to encounter a World Cup post, didn't you? Guess again, darlings, for Mr. Muscato and I have been caught up - as much as one can on the benighted shores of Massachusetts - with the goings-on in Capetown, Jo'burg, and thereabouts. Of course, it hasn't been the same since the team I was rooting for - North Korea, natch - was so unceremoniously ousted, but we've soldiered on.

Even better, I've got not one but two ways to tie the (it must be admitted) unaccustomed athletic theme into topics more regularly found herein.

First up, the video seen above - a regionalized version of the omnipresent tournament song, "Waving Flag", featuring my favorite Arab-pop ultrastar, that Kylie of the East, Miss Nancy Ajram. It's both an improvement on the original song and actually rather a fun little clip.

Second, as part of my ongoing effort to broaden your horizons, I'm proud to bring you a snippet of news from our once-and-future part of the world that may have escaped your attention. The National, a UAE-based English rag, has passed on the rather fascinating news that local religious authorities have declared via fatwa that the World Cup's signature contribution to noise pollution, the vuvuzela, is - at least in certain conditions - haram, or off limits. That'll learn 'em, but I doubt it will do much to quell the mosquito-like hum that has been the background to our lives for the past four weeks or so...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Better Safe...

Decreasingly certain of her technique, Gladys took to donning some protective gear before attempting the pointe section of her trademark Dance of the Leopard Lady.

Of course, it wasn't the first time those kneepads had come in handy...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

East Side, West Side...

...Her Majesty was all around the town yesterday. Yes, while we laze here by the sea, feeling only slightly less attenuated and elderly after several weeks of crushing leisure, that indefatigable woman - who even at my advanced age is nonetheless my senior by very nearly a factor of two - topped a demanding week in Canada with a whirlwind day in Manhattan.

She dressed for the heat in floral prints (the better to show up, too, against the imposing green marble backdrop of the United Nations podium, from which she spoke very nicely about the importance of that at times invaluable, at times infuriating body), but as always the focus of her toilette - and the real reason for this post - was her charming and highly decorative chapeau.

I say the real reason for this post because, while I do of course as always appreciate a Royal visit, what I really want to do is call attention to one of my favorite recent blog-finds, Mad Hattery! A lighthearted, possibly borderline-obsessive look at topper trends among the titled classes, MH! is presided over by the almost impossibly knowledgeable hostess Ella, and she and her coterie of fascinator-followers make for very good company indeed.

Among other things, we share a level of despair over the sartorial choices of the Princess Royal, a healthy disdain for Princess Michael of Kent, and an unbridled fondness for the slightly demented charms of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, a lady to whom the MH! generally refers to as "Cake," for reasons obvious to anyone who studies her very distinctive hatting tendencies. Further afield, MH! takes aim from time to time at the studiedly dull dressing of the Japanese Imperials, looks now and again at such regional favorites as Princess Haya of Jordan (and Dubai) and the colorful Sheikha Moza of Qatar, and is now gearing up for the August nuptials involving the erstwhile Greek royals. It's all in excellent fun, and I really can't recommend it enough.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

(Re)Born on the Fourth of July

Well. So where were we? What? What do you mean, "where have you been?" Oh, very well, if you insist on explanations, here's the deal, or at least as much of it as I can cope with at the moment.

First things first: we're all well - Mr. Muscato, Koko, and me. It's been something of a wild ride over the last few months, a whirlwind of surprises, difficult decisions, unexpected opportunities, enormous annoyances, horrid misbehavior from startling corners, the occasional complete nervous collapse, a shade too many doctors and lawyers, endings, and, now, beginnings. It all required a good long rest, which I have to say we've been enjoying tremendously.

Now that I'm catching up, at last, I can't tell you how much all the interest, concern, and nagging from friends and Gentle Readers over recent months has meant; I only wish I'd had the energy not simply to disappear for a while, and I hope, very much, that forgiveness will reign for the long and enigmatic silence.

So, here's what's up, more or less, in no particular order.

Alas, the Villa Muscato is no more. One of the first signs, in fact, that the universe - ours, at least - was falling out of alignment was the unwelcome news that our longsuffering landlord had at last awakened to the fact that he was being woefully underpaid and was exercising his option to retake his little slice of heaven, ostensibly for a family member.

In discussing domestic options, it became clear that my betters at VeryDull International Consulting (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gilded Cage Career Choices, LLC) were not encouraging about the prospect of a new long lease. "I wouldn't," said my Fearless Leader in the Home Office, "count on more than six months, really..."

At that point, much becomes mercifully unclear even in such recent memory.

Lights up, then, on a sunny morning some six weeks later, in which after much backing-and-forthing, suggestions, proposals, and just the slightest hint of threats in several directions, our way forward became clear(er). In short order, we were dealing, badly, with the appalling prospect of packing, closing accounts, zeroing out obligations business, fiduciary, and social, and generally steeling ourselves to entirely unendurable levels of activity, change, and general stress and strain.

The first wrench was saying adieu to Ermilia, our stalwart domestiche, who is now brightening the lives of a charming expat family who have taken on the formidable bureaucracy currently required to secure the presence in one's life of what Grandmother Muscato referred to as Good Help. Even the temporary attentions of her silent and eccentric chum, the ever-reliable Flordeliza, were only a pale substitute for our lamented factotum.

But then, at last and with a curious mix of relief and melancholy, Mr. Muscato and I bade farewell to the peculiar little Sultanate in which we'd made our lives for the past six years. I suppose I will have more thoughts as time passes on the place we've called home, but for the moment, suffice it to say that we don't miss the driving, and it's wonderful not to feel guilty wearing shorts.

And ever since we've been recuperating, most recently for an extended stay in one of America's loveliest, most relaxing, and most invigorating (a seeming contradiction, I know; but it's not) seaside villages, one that will I suspect be familiar to at least a few of you from the snap above. We've slept, we've luxuriated in the sun and sea, we've gorged on lobster in all forms, we've regaled friends and family with tales of our injustices and triumphs, we've shopped furiously for perfectly useless bibelots, we've made our way through a fair amount of Champagne, and now...

We're preparing, with a certain amount of mixed trepidation and excitement (and a great deal of procrastination and inertia), for the next Great Changes.

Soon, therefore, we will once again be expatriates. We've found ourselves, long distance, yet another commodious-looking villa not too far from the sea. We will shortly be reunited with our beloved Koko, who has spent his long summer leave in the devoted care of friends and who has been sorely missed. We will be facing all sorts of new hurdles and opportunities, from securing basic services in a place almost as noted for bureaucracy as the dear Sultanate to securing a (pale, but with luck adequate) Ermilia-replacement to finding a decently amusing place to spend a Thursday evening.

It all raises the question, I have to say, of what to do with the Café. The name, of course, will no longer be entirely accurate, nor, for that matter, will my own nom de blog. We shall have to see, as things go along, and I hope you will be as patient with me as I figure these things out as you all have been while I went, for a while, underground.

In the meantime, a lovely Independence Day to all of you who care for such things; we'll be celebrating in our own quiet way, before shortly setting off for our own New World. I hope you're all as well, or at least as content, as, in the end, it's turned we have managed to be.