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Forty plus ukulele players strum and sing along

Phoenixville ukulele event singing strumming
Robert Vince used to play the tuba but once he had kids it wasn’t practical to practice such a loud instrument after bedtime. Listening to the late Canadian musician and songwriter Stan Rogers sparked his interest in acoustic, folk style music. He took up the ukulele to make music he could share with his kids. Now he sometimes leads the Maine Line Ukulele group and his five year old has begun strumming on the ukulele. Suzanne Kane, a music therapist by trade, picked up the ukulele a couple years ago and began attending sessions to learn the instrument. Now she, too, leads the monthly sessions. She gravitates toward upbeat "high vibe, positive, good message" songs like Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and "I melt with you" by the Modern English. Both ukulele-ists each led a hand-picked set at the group's premier spring event at the Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville Pa on Sunday March 11th.  Watch ukulele playing and the stories of two who became group leaders here.

 


Things are looking up! Paint the Cresheim Bridge! Open Call for Artists

 

Cresheim railroad bridge mural arts philadelphia

Before a couple dozen community members at the newly renovated Lovett Library this past Monday evening, Cathy Harris of Philadelphia Mural Arts issues a call for artists to design a mural for the rusted abandoned railway trestle over Germantown Avenue below Cresheim Valley Drive. First envisioned fifteen years ago, the project is being relaunched now that the City of Philadelphia is acquiring the former Pennsylvania Railroad trestle from PECO. Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, a project partner, provided historical information on the structure and Mural Arts founder Jane Golden encouraged attendees to "spread the word" to artists to answer the "Call for Submissions." The Deadline for submissions is April 13, 2018. Your correspondent has posted a PDF of the "Cresheim Trail Mural Project Call for Submissions" here until it becomes available online from the collaborative which also includes the Trolley Car Diner, Friends of the Cresheim Trail (FoCT), Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Chestnut Hill Rotary, the Mount Airy Learning Tree and ChestnutHIllPa. The abandoned railroad is being converted to a trail linking Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill with Springfield Township. See reporter Sue Ann Rybak's coverage in the January 18, 2018 Chestnut Hill Local The mural’s completion is intended to coincide with the opening of the extension to the existing trail which begins at Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. In June the public is welcomed to vote "in several community locations" to choose a winner from among a handful of proposals narrowed down by Mural Arts. After the meeting, I approached Sam Hanna who had been intently taking notes during the presentations. As a business account manager for the Center for Employment Opportunities, Hanna planned to relay what he had learned to a client. While in prison for twenty years, that client began to do art. And after getting out last year at the time of the Monday evening meeting, was at a job he had just started. Things are looking up.

(In the photo left to right -standing:  Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, Jane Golden and Cathy Harris of Mural Arts Philadelphia, seated 2nd from left- Sam Hanna of CEO and Judy Weinstein of MALT)

Video of public meeting by  Mural Arts collaborative in call for artists to submit design for old rusty railroad bridge in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.


Impeach Trump Party draws candidates for Congress

Impeach trump party democrats midterm election
Your correspondent, a reliably strident protester of former candidate – now President Donald Trump, signed an online petition earlier this year calling for Trump's impeachment. This past week I received an email invitation from Tom Steyer at "Need to Impeach" inviting me to "and [sic] impeachment party", space permitting. The invite didn’t explain at all what would happen at the party but I sniffed free food. Sure, I would "stand with Tom" as other emails asked me to do. Steyer turns out to be a billionaire former hedge fund manager turned born-again environmental activist and Democratic Party candidate funder and fundraiser. I adhere to the credo that “behind every great fortune is a crime,” so it didn’t take long to find an academic critique of hedge funds that concludes they provide no social value and while they provide returns on investments no better than average they do make some managers extraordinarily wealthy. ​

https://www.alternet.org/economy/hedge-funds-serve-very-little-useful-purpose-except-make-few-people-very-rich

In a subsequent email we were instructed to arrive at the Liberty View Ballroom at the Independence Visitor Center in downtown Philadelphia with photo ID. We arrived. The other partygoers were mostly middle aged and white like us but much better dressed. We were ushered into a room with waiters walking about offering hors d'oeuvres and an open bar! I schmoozed and conducted some interviews

I engaged Paul Shrader, a tall man with an “impeach trump” t-shirt, the only one I spotted sporting political attire. He was an ATF-Explosives certified military man who felt it wasn’t appropriate to continue service in an administration where 130 people in leadership positions do not, according to him, have security clearances. Working with the enemy? he asked disbelievingly. That’s the number one thing you don’t do and that the administration has been doing.

I also interviewed Lindy Li and Rich Lazer, both young idealistic Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. The map was redrawn just today by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to correct court found Republican Party gerrymandering. Li, who came to the US from China when she was 5 years old, was propelled into politics when a shooter killed children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012. The date happened to coincide with her birthday and, in her words, damaged her “eternally.” She is vehement about diminishing the influence of the NRA in gun control matters and big oil on environment, climate change matters. Lazer had just resigned his position as labor liaison for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and opposes Trump‘s measures clamping down on sanctuary cities and calls for Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice in the FBI’s investigation of Russian state operatives’ interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. I also saw candidate Nina Ahmad who smartly drew attention to herself with a sign with her name on it.

Steyer eventually took a high seat at the front of the room alongside Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock who spoke about how her constituents were being damaged by both Trumps policies and his manner. Seated at her right was Baltimore psychologist John Gartner who has been making the case that Donald Trump suffers from deteriorating pre-dementia and malignant narcissistic personality disorder. He speculated Trump might find relief, vindication and perverse pleasure in starting a nuclear war.

Steyer followed with remarks abut the need to energize college students to participate in the midterm elections. When he couched the situation as one of "absolute" right versus wrong, your correspondent impolitely rose before the third and final question that had been chosen from ones earlier submitted by attendees, to question Steyer about his extraordinary wealth. Steyer promised to be transparent. Considering how unrevealing he was in the party invitation, that’s a good thing.

Watch Impeach Trump Party video interviews with people and candidates for Congress here.


Making sea biscuits (hardtack) in Alexandria, VA

Making hardtack in alexandria
​A couple blocks away from the Alexandria Virginia Archaeological Museum, sea biscuits were found at the site where a bakery stood in the early 1800s. Also known as hardtack, the biscuits were food for long distance travelers and sailors because flour mixed with water then baked dry could last without spoiling (for a long time) At the museum on New Year’s Eve day, archaeologist Hilary Huley, helped visitors like your correspondent mold and imprint our own sea biscuits to take home for baking (but not consuming) Watch video making hardtack in historical Old Town Alexandria Virginia


Jesus Sect Confronts Harry Potter Fans

Harry Potter witchcraft Jesus sin
Brandishing bold "Jesus or Hellfire" and "Abortion is Murder" signs, Pastor Aden and his small flock accosted passersby who were out to enjoy Friday evening festivities starting off Chestnut Hill's Harry Potter Festival (video here). Aden pointed to their "True Love Warns" sign and likened their in-your-face action to a parent stopping their kid from getting run over by a truck. "Every sinner is going to hell except they repent and Obey Jesus Christ... Witchcraft is sin, right next to drunkenness, drugs, homosexuality, adultery, rape, murder." He believes the fictional Harry Potter novels are a stepping stone like marijuana leading to crack. A young teenage preacher among them lashed out at the public, calling a woman dressed as a witch a "witch slut" and others "faggot". The group was soon enveloped by counterprotestors hoisting "Hate has no home here" signs and intermittently breaking into chant. A police line formed between the preachers, backed up against the corner bank, and people who spontaneously assumed the role of counterprotesters. A lively, largely confrontational dialog ensued. One woman shouted out at the hellfire preachers, "Get Out of My Neighborhood" before moving on. The wizardly merrymaking carried along the rest of Germantown Avenue, largely unaffected by the Pastor Aden "Jesus or Hellfire" event.
 
Hate no home counterprotest

Toss a Bean Bag for Racial Unity

Toss bean bag for racial harmony
Aron Goldschneider and his fine artist step-father designed a circular racial unity logo to counter the hateful and divisive rhetoric of the times. According to his website,  www.standforracialunity.com, racial harmony is a personal matter; he grew up on a block as a minority white kid and his wife is a Japanese national. Their daughter, Bronwyn (shown in lower photo panel above) and her friends Ameer Johnson and Claire Gunawan were out at the Mt Airy Village Fair on Sunday September 17 selling t-shirts and car magnets bearing the design. For a small donation fairgoers got 5 turns to toss a bean bag through the empty center of the logo mounted on a large board for the chance of winning a t-shirt or magnet. Proceeds benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center to support its legal fights for racial, economic and LGBTQ justice. The students have been successfully bringing their racial unity t-shirt campaign to their diverse Philadelphia high schools. Watch bean bag toss for racial harmony video and interview here


Wolfpig brand wearable art

WolfPig brand T-shirts and bandannas, the story

Video interview here

Wanna hear a cool story? a vendor at the Art for the Cash Poor fair in Northern Liberties asked me as I walked by. Sure! Two friends in a bar are talking about what kind of animals they would be were they to have animal form. One said a wolf because he's fierce; the other, a pig because he's big. Beer spilled on the bar counter and when they looked down at the suds they saw a wolf and a pig. "Wolfpig!" they exclaimed.

The brother of the guy who identifies as a wolf is an art teacher and he knew they wanted to go into some kind of business with the "WolfPig" theme. Along with another art teacher friend they settled on a t-shirt business because "wearable art" is an economical and effective way of making their art accessible to the public. At the fair they were selling exquisitely drawn t-shirts which they had made on a fine mesh screen using a process called discharge. The technique selectively removes the color from the black and grey t/shirts and bandannas they use. Themes draw on Aztec, Hindu and other mythologies and employ the wolf and pig motif, indicative of the yin and yang balance of nature and life. On some shirts the pig is more simply a commentary on the piggishness of the current administration.

inliquid.org/aftcp

"Based on the premise that everyone can be an art collector, AftCP is one of the longest running art festivals in the Kensington/Fishtown area. The best part: all works, by both emerging and established artists alike, are priced at $199 and under."

For more information see wolfpigbrand.com/


Celebrating the earth, Temple Ambler Earthfest

Temple Ambler Earthfest FEMA horseshoe crab

Clockwise from top left. Teens from Wordsworth Academy, a special needs school assist children in making recycled bottle planters. An activist with Sea Shepherd talks about the group's efforts to save endangered porpoises and whales.  From the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, a horseshoe crab. FEMA is ready to assist in disasters, this representative from the flood mitigation unit assures. Evergreen Lane farm sets up aquaponics systems. Photo on web here.


Mount Airy Village Fair draws crowds

The annual Mount Airy Village Fair centered around the Greene and Carpenter Street intersection in the Mount Airy section of Northwest Philadelphia featured a variety of vendors and organizations and exhibitors. It was full of  food, music, dance, crafts,  family and children's activities, contests, pets for adoption, farm animals (watch recorded Periscope broadcast here) and more on a sunny Sunday, September 11, 2016. Here are a couple of video interviews conducted by your Fair going correspondent.

Teaching Detroit Style Ballroom Dance

June and Audrey Donaldson learned Detroit Style ballroom dancing at a dance conference in Cleveland in 2010 where they were teaching Philly  bop.  June relates that the style  originated in a very large ballroom in Detroit called the Graystone. The dancers move smoothly and closely and incorporate the "step-in-1-2-3" of the cha-cha. The self-called "Bopologists" have been teaching Detroit style ballroom ever since and were dancing out on the street during the annual Mount Airy Village Fair in Philadelphia to promote their course through the Mount Airy Learning Tree. Watch video here.

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Silver Fork Club Ambassadors offer veggie skewer samples

Through the Silver Fork Club's online presence, eaters too busy to cook can browse the offerings of local chefs and have a home-cooked meal delivered to them or arrange for a pick-up. Young ambassadors at the Mount Airy Village affair offered free cooked veggie skewers to promote the service's imminent Philadelphia launch. Watch video here.


Picnic and paddle to stop the oil trains

Paddle to stop oil trains

Under the watchful eyes of a score of officers from the Philadelphia Police foot and marine patrols, the PA Fish and Game Commission and the US Coast Guard, serious but festive protesters stage a family picnic and paddle on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to mark the third anniversary of the Lac Megantic Ontario oil train derailment that killed 47 people. Coryn Wolk of the Clean Air Council points to data showing the outdated tank cars are subject to puncture even at the low speeds they move through Philadelphia, putting 700,000 residents in the potential blast/evacuation zone at risk. Clean energy groups participating in the action are urging people to contact their elected officials to stop such oil trains from passing through Philadelphia and shift toward of wind, geothermal and solar energy. Watch video here.