Friday, January 23, 2004

Into the Cryer

I'm always happy to encounter a network sitcom that actually makes me laugh, and I laughed a lot Monday when I finally caught CBS' "Two And A Half Men," starring two actors I'm inclined to like, Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen. Cryer is probably best known in the role of Duckie, Molly Ringwald's geeky friend in the 1986 John Hughes film Pretty In Pink. Charlie Sheen made his name--or, at any rate, reiterated his father Martin Sheen's name--in films like Platoon and Wall Street, but after some PR difficulties Charlie retreated to network television, where as an ailing Michael J. Fox's replacement he amusingly deadpanned his way through the later episodes of the credible ABC sitcom "Spin City."

And now comes "Two And A Half Men," the premise of which has Sheen as a late 30ish hipster bachelor whose life changes when brother Cryer, reeling from a marital separation, moves himself and his apple-cheeked young son (Angus T. Jones) into Sheen's life and SoCal beachfront house. The presence of ten-year-old Jones of course leads to the sort of from-the-mouths-of-babes wisecracks that writers of mediocre sitcoms can't seem to resist giving children, but otherwise the show--judging only from the one episode I saw, of course--is smart and funny, with a lot of genuinely good jokes about hangovers, penises and nympho soccer moms.

Is there something wrong with me? I dislike most popular sitcoms, especially "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Friends," which in its final days NBC is touting as the best comedy ever (?). "Friends" leaves me utterly cold. It never makes me laugh. (Okay, Lisa Kudrow sometimes makes me laugh.) So when I find a sitcom that does make me laugh, like "That '70s Show" and "Will & Grace" and even the ill-starred "Bette," I get excited. Like Ed Wynn in Mary Poppins, I love to laugh. I hope "Two And A Half Men" continues to make me laugh.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

With a bullet

I've been listening to a lot of hits radio over the last couple of days, mostly because of my strong yen to hear Kelis' "Milkshake" as many times as possible.

And I just want to point out that Britney Spears' new single is "Toxic," the exciting track I last year singled out in my Isthmus review of her record In The Zone. If the frequency with which I've heard "Toxic" of late is anything to go by, it's a smash.

I should be working for Britney Spears. Short of marrying her, it seems like the best way to get some health benefits.

Other hits I'm enjoying: No Doubt, "It's My Life"; Kelly Clarkson, "The Trouble With Love Is"; Sean Paul, "Get Busy."
Sisters are doing it

Ereck and I have new drag personae. He is Chinet, and I am Sleeza Gibbons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

J'aime la bibliotheque

I sing a love song to the Madison Public Library and its cohorts in the South Central Library System, the lending network that links libraries in seven Wisconsin counties. With my web browser I'm able to reserve materials from all over, and then I can go downtown and grab them at my leisure--relatively recent bestsellers (currently: Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars), music I'm excited about (the Strokes, Ryan Adams, Justin Timberlake), hard-to-find videos ("Degrassi High," old-school "Star Trek"). And it's all free, free, free.

When I picked up a Donnas CD recently, my librarian friend Mary was behind the desk. She glanced at the disc, shook her head in disbelief and said, "I love that the library owns this."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

What's on my iPod?

For starters, it's not an iPod; it's an iRiver IFP-180T, with exciting built-in FM tuner and exciting voice recorder. The iRiver holds 128 megabytes of music, enough for a workout or a good, long bout of self-pity. This is nowhere near the capacity of your hard-drive mp3 players, your iPods and whatnot, which can hold entire music collections. So every few days I refill the iRiver with tracks chosen more or less at random from my stash (much of it ill-gotten--don't tell the RIAA).

Here's what's playing, in the seemingly random order in which the tracks ended up on the iRiver. Much of it is, as they say, totally 80s. All of it made me smile yesterday as I ice skated on Tenney Park lagoon and, later, did the dishes:

Tracy Byrd, "Drinking Bone"
Human League, "Fascination"
Fun Boy Three & Bananarama, "It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)"
The Go-Go's, "Our Lips Our Sealed"
Merrilee Rush, "Angel of the Morning"
The Oak Ridge Boys, "Come On In"
Styx, "Crystal Ball"
The Specials, "A Message to You Rudy"
John Stewart, "Gold"
Cheap Trick, "Up the Creek"
Fannypack, "Cameltoe"
No Doubt, "Oi to the World"
Anne Murray, "Just Another Woman in Love"
The Bee Gees, "Night Fever"
Big Audio Dynamite, "Medicine Show"
Conway Twitty, "Don't Call Him a Cowboy"
Elvis Costello, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding"
Eric Clapton, "Motherless Children"
Fleetwood Mac, "Peacekeeper"
Garth Brooks and George Jones, "Beer Run"
James Ingram, "One Hundred Ways"
Jefferson Starship, "Count On Me"
Lee Majors, "The Unknown Stuntman"
Liz Phair, "Divorce Song"
Missing Persons, "Destination Unknown"
New Edition, "Cool It Now"
Pablo Cruise, "Love Will Find a Way"
REM, "What's the Frequency Kenneth"
Rod Stewart, "Infatuation"
Santana featuring Michelle Branch, "The Game of Love"
Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks, "Whenever I Call You Friend"

Sunday, January 18, 2004

It's showtime

I'll be writing more about this in Isthmus in a few weeks, but I wanted to mention that I just came from the Civic Center, where auditions were held for an amateur competition on "Showtime at the Apollo," the syndicated variety show taped at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Some highlights:

  • A girl of about nine who swayed her hips and belted Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man." "Being good isn't always easy," crooned the moppet. It's freaky when little kids sing sex jams.

  • A young man who began a standup routine about pop music, blanked, started again and then wouldn't stop even when the judge asked him to repeatedly. I'm no expert on standup, but I believe this was an example of what is known in the business as "dying."

  • A 60ish man who tapped out Rossini's "William Tell Overture" on his cheeks. I don't think this act would be big at the Apollo, but he caused a stir nonetheless. He was wearing a sweater that had creases from a hanger.

    The judge, Vanessa, was a lovely woman. She was all business, but she was friendly to me and supportive of almost everyone who performed. I half expected Simon Cowell-like histrionics and derision, but no: a lot of compliments, a lot of questions, even some pointers.

    I found the auditions moving. I've been thinking a lot about music lately, why people like it, why people make it. I got a glimpse at the answer this morning: because it's fun, and it kicks ass. Keep rockin', kids. You may not make it to the Apollo, but you have a gift, most of you. Work it.