April 29th, 2006

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Po-Mo Slideshow



Last night, I went down to the Cactus Cafe at the UTexas Student Union to see a very unique act, the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. They were visiting from New York City, and they brought their very funny collection of slides purchased from estate sales and flea markets. They really are a family -- all three of them introduced themselves at the start of the show, with Jason playing keyboard, guitars, vocals, commentary and dad, Tina doing vocals, running the slide projector, and playing mom, and Rachel, drums and daughter.

The songs were melodic in an anarchic sense. I don't think they'd be that catchy out of their context, but when played along with the projected photographs, they were really great. My favorite part was the five-piece rock opera performed using slides from a 1978 McDonald's corporate advertising presentation. Jason composed music to go with each of the pieces and sang the words. The 70's executive pictures that went with their quotes were totally cheesy, and the song called "Wendy's, Sambo's, Long John Silver's" was a highlight. They also did their hit (#79 on the CMJ charts!), "Mountain Trip to Old Japan 1958", which featured slides of a post-war vacation that all seemed to be oriented around death (graveyards, hanging memorials, public executions).

If you get any chance to see these guys, please go. The mid-set Q&A was awkwardly awesome, and Jason's long-winded introductions to the songs were often better (and longer) than the performances. I loved the rant about band names: Death Cab for Cutie isn't a good name because they don't bring death, they don't have a cab, and they aren't really cute, while the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players is a great name because every word is true and descriptive.

Opening for the TFSP was local group The Total Foxes, headed by Sinus Show guy Jerm Pollet. They were quite entertaining, more for their lyrics and on-stage antics than for their musicianship. I'd see them again, if just to hear their song about Jerm's stint in a KISS cover band again.
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Live Colbert vs. Bush Action

I just got done watching the political nerd's version of the Oscars, the annual White House Press Correspondents' Dinner. This year's dinner was a combination of funny and awkward moments. One of the big things they covered is the renovation of the press area, and they showed a droll video tour of crowded news agency rooms with most of the press people poking light fun at themselves. There was also a montage of presidential funny moments that C-SPAN provided, including a slightly too long LBJ story with a great ending. The president's speech was funny, although most of the laughs were delivered by the Bush lookalike that represented his "inner thoughts". The jokes here tended to at the "Jay Leno"-level of political awareness -- if you know that Bush has trouble speaking at times and that Cheney shot a man, you could appreciate these.

The awkward moments were in Stephen Colbert's monologue, which borrowed heavily from material he's already used on his TV show. Colbert's brand of sarcastic irony seemed to fall flat with the press audience, and the material he did on how the gut is the ultimate determinant of the truth just didn't work outside of the cable show context. I did like it when Colbert flubbed a joke about Bush's approval rating and restarted it mid-punchline, doing an apparent ad-lib about the glass being 2/3rd empty. Colbert repeatedly asked for Bush's agreement, but the cut-aways to the President seemed to show a man who was trying very hard not to show disapproval. Colbert was much better later in his speech, and a joke about Washington D.C. being "the chocolate city with the white marshmallow center" gave me a belly laugh. I also appreciated the pretaped segment where Colbert tries out to be the new White House press secretary and succumbs to the wrath of Helen Thomas.

C-SPAN's showing a repeat later tonight, and it's likely there will be another airing soon. I also expect to see parts of it popping up on Google Video and YouTube within hours. It's worth checking out.

Update: Here's Colbert's speech on YouTube in three delicious parts, and here's a transcript for those of you who like your comedy all old-fashionly wordified.