Monday, August 22, 2005

Culture Watch

Last Saturday night, we went to see the movie Cinderella Man. "In the middle of the Great Depression, when an America in the grips of a devastating economic downturn was nearly brought to its knees, there came along a most unlikely hero who had crowds cheering on their feet-as he proved just how hard a man would fight to win a second chance for his family and himself. That common-man hero was James J Braddock..." (from the movie website). Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan gave this film a top rating:
"As Braddock walks toward the ring, a cynical reporter dictates the opening line of next day's story, 'The last time Braddock was seen on his feet was when he came down the aisle." But Braddock wins with a startling KO, and the comeback begins. As money comes in, he returns to the window of the relief office and hands the same lady a roll of bills to pay back all that his family had been given.

"These were the values the Jimmy Braddocks were taught. These were the values by which so many in our parents' generation lived. This was how they acted, and they did not think it heroic. When a reporter asks at a press conference about his returning the relief money, Braddock says simply: 'This is a great country, a country that helps a man when he is in trouble. I thought I should return it.'

"Men and women like the James and Mae Braddock of this film were the products of homes, schools, churches and parishes, and Howard's depiction of the community that produced them marks this as one of the most pro-Catholic films Hollywood has produced since the 1940s Bing Crosby-Ingrid Bergman classic, 'The Bells of St Mary's.'"
It was the least we could expect for a movie after his own heart.

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This morning I came across this piece at For those who want to build a good classical music collection, they should read Brad Edmonds' The Important Works of Music.

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Now, getting back to me...

Last Friday night, we went to Finn MacCool's, to see an Irish band named Scythian. I signed on to their "street team" list to help out unloading equipment during set-up. One of my occasional dreams is being a roadie. Gotta start somewhere.

Actually, I first saw the brothers Fedoryka about twenty years ago, when they appeared at a country fair near Manassas with about a dozen of their siblings (it seemed that many at the time), all decked out in Ukrainian folk costumes. It would appear their song-and-dance routine has evolved since then. Brothers Danylo (Danu) and Oleksander (Olek) started playing Irish tunes on the streets of Old Town Alexandria about five years ago, with one of the other Fedorykas joining in occasionally. The lineup (including family members involved) has changed since then. At this point the roster appears stable, and with appearances in the Washington Post and on Bob Edwards' show on XM, they have reached the status of regional cult following.

Most percussionists in "celtic rock" bands fall into the trap of simply being rock drummers in need of a retrofit. Mike Ounallah doesn't have that problem. In addition to a fine academic background, Mike lends a third-world, Afro-Celtic feel to the rhythm, one that most bands of this niche genre don't quite master, even in this post-Riverdance era. Even the addition of the froittoir (essentially a washboard-type instrument optimized for zydeco music) is respectably outside the box. Scythian has gone through quite a few drummers, but they should really keep the latest one around for awhile. Ounallah sets these guys apart from the crowd. Josef Crosby completes the lineup, holding is own on on the obligatory second fiddle (not bad for a guy who hasn't done it long and has to keep up with a Suzuki alum), and otherwise playing bass.

They're also fun to watch. That they are a high-energy band is putting it mildly. They give the standard Irish pub ditties like "Whiskey in the Jar" and other boilerplate selections a bit more panache than most. And while they're not the first Irish band to dabble in Eastern European fiddle tunes, they raise that foray to new heights as well.

I'd keep an eye on these lads if I was y'all.

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