INTERNATIONAL Feed

Landscaper continues family tradition

Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Watch video and tour here


From Cuba to U.S in Operation "Pedro Pan"

While tying up bags of compost at the Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough, Raisa Williams, a retired dean at Haverford College, recounted how she was one of fourteen thousand Cuban children brought to the United States in 1960 as part of “Operation Pedro Pan.”  Although her mother had been a staunch supporter of the Cuban revolution, things began to change. Amid rumors that she might not be able to stay in school unless she complied with a government requirement to be sent somewhere summer- long to perform community service, Williams’ parents opted for the 14 year old Raisa and her 11 year old sister, to come to the States through the Peter Pan program of Catholic Charities in conjunction with the U. S. State Department. Once here, the girls would be able to apply for visas for their parents.

What she thought would be a couple months separated from her parents, stretched out to two years.  For a young girl, this was an adventure and she was relatively content at a camp in Florida where she studied English and other subjects. But when it became overcrowded, she was transferred to an orphanage in Pottsville, PA.  “The orphanage was – an orphanage.”

And Cuba? “I love the place. The people have suffered enough. It’s no fun to be in a dictatorship for the last 50 years. You can’t talk. You can’t say anything. But when I was there in 2011, people were beginning to be very vocal about things.”

“Lo que me estrano de Cuba es sol, la calidad de la persona, el modo que son simpatico…la musica….” She hopes to live there again one day.

Watch video here.


Antonelli Institute teachers and students got talent

Most students at the Antonelli Institute of Graphic Design and Photography in Erdenheim, Pa, just outside of Philadelphia, enroll coming out of high school. They must first study traditional film and wet process darkroom photography before moving on to digital work, says lead photography instructor Drew Simcox, shown above.

Students compete for awards by class and by subject category and their prints for the upcoming May competition are displayed across the tall walls of the well-lit atrium-lunchroom area. Simcox proudly shows off the work of Antonelli graduates like the cover photo by Evan Habeeb on a recent Sports Illustrated magazine as well as published books of instructors such as his own “Heber Valley Railroad” shot in Utah through a partnership with the Adobe Company and illustrator-cartoonist Christian Patchell’s “I put the Can in Cancer,” documenting his personal battle with the affliction.

Renowned photojournalist Colin Finlay has visited twice and has critiqued the work of Antonelli students who had returned from a photo shoot in Haiti in conjunction with the Pennsylvania non-profit, Poverty Resolutions.

Students are given a wide arrange of field assignments and can often be seen  practicing their art in nearby Chestnut Hill at the Morris Arboretum or on the main Germantown Avenue corridor.

 

Left: Antonelli student Jaime Perez was at the Morris Arboretum shooting a Kyudo archer in 2009. Right: Antonelli student Eric Moll shown here taking photographs at the 2013 Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival has a photo published in the 2014 Chestnut Hill Calendar.


How Lego conquered the toy industry brick by brick

Legos - it's about the brick

The Lego Company has been fantastically successful. In each of the last 5 years sales have risen 24% and profits, 40%. But it was not always so. For most of its 80-year existence, its reach did not extend so far beyond Billun, Denmark, where Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter unable to secure enough wood to build furniture during the 1930s depression, began experimenting building wooden toys.

The company under Christiansen’s progeny soared in the last couple decades but tie-in products to the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies nearly doomed the company in 2003; sales of those products crashed when the movie franchises hadn’t yet come out with new films.

This, according to Wharton Professor Dave Robertson and former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland's Institute for Management. Robertson, a Chestnut Hill resident, discussed his new book, “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry” at the William Jeannes Library in Lafayette Hill this past Thursday evening.

He began his slide talk by distributing baggies, each packed with the identical same six logo pieces, and instructed the audience to “Build a duck” and gave us only a minute or two. Participants then brought their “ducks” up to the front table. At the end of the talk, Robertson pointed to the wide variation of these Lego “ducks” as evidence that incredible creativity is possible even when severe constraints are imposed, a major thesis of his book.

He credits Lego Company’s resurgence to its imposition of key constraints: drastically reducing the number of parts (about 14000 different ones at peak) that had made the manufacturing process unwieldy, getting back to products that are more “Lego-y” and subjecting product proposals to the approval a committee of 3 seasoned Lego designers. And, ultimately, insisting that projected profitability be a constant constraint.

What Lego pioneered was not just a toy, Robertson maintains, but a system of play. And that system “is about the brick.”

Watch video here.


"Obama, don't deport my Mama"

Father threatened with deportation Untitled

The Mexican-American and Spanish speaking communities rallied in Norristown Monday evening for immigration reform. They demanded that Congress pass the immigration legislation that is now stalled and overshadowed by the Syrian crisis.  They also gathered signatures on a petition calling on the Norristown police  force not to assist in raids by federal immigration authorities. 

Amidst chants of "Si, se puede" ("Yes we can") speakers discussed how 400 local families have been torn apart by deportation. And parents, joined by their young children testified about how their arrests and the threat of deportation were causing their families severe emotional and economic stress. A Norristown public high school student described her constant fear that her parents might step out to the grocery store and she might never see them again were they to be arrested and deported.

Under the proposed “Dream Act,” undocumented youth who complete college or do two years of military service could earn their way to citizenship over the course of six years.

Calling for human rights and dignity for all, rally participants lit candles as dusk fell,  then circled and sang out loudly in Spanish and English, the civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome."


Combines yoga, hula hooping

hula catch

Vanessa Hazzard-Tillman teaches hula hooping in East Falls, entertains at parties and at the Public Eye: Artists Animals July 4th Vegan Potluck picnic in Harper’s Meadow in Chestnut Hill, she showed off some of her stuff.  A former clown and currently involved with the vibrant Philadelphia circus arts community, Hazzard-Tillman is also a massage therapist and yoga instructor.

She especially likes to combine yoga and hooping. While being distracted by her young son, Phoenix, she nevertheless managed to twirl a hoop smoothly around one rotating foot in the air while switching from one yoga pose lying on the ground on her side to an inverted pose.

Hooping is good for muscle toning, she explains while demonstrating some “off-body” exercises that can be easier than “on-body” exercises.

Hazzard-Tillman often studies online videos and is now training to do fire hooping.

The circus community likes to give back, she says, introducing one of her ambitions. In addition to being President of the United States and a rock star according to her online profile, she hopes to successfully audition with a troupe that instructs youngsters in circus arts in one of the refugee camps in northern Thailand. The two-month program in which the children learn juggling, clowning, poi spinning, silks and hooping culminates with the refugee children mounting their own performance.

Hazzard-Tillman makes her own hoops out of black polyethylene tubing, covers them fun tape like Batman or Hello Kitty themed patterns and also sells them online through Amazon and her own website nirvanalandessentials.com where she also sells jewelry, gemstones and African soap.

Her business card also lists her profession as “Reiki Master/Teacher.” Had my interview with her continued further, I definitely would have asked how she manages to juggle it all!

Watch video here.

See other photos here.

Bhutan refugees renew farming in Philly

Bhutanese women farmers in Philly

At the age of six, Bishnu Kamar (left) fled her native Bhutan where, she says, the government was trying to kill its own people. She lived the next twenty-two years in a bamboo house in a refugee camp in Nepal, to where many ethnic Nepalis fled, under harsh, cramped conditions. She and her companions, Dropada Kafley (middle) and Mon Maya Bastola (right), now live with their families in South Philadelphia. With the help of an American friend they started a community farm and now tend nearly 100 beds. In Nepal, they had farmed rice, corn and “all kinds of vegetables.”

On Thursdays the threesome takes the bus up to the Weavers Way Henry-Got-Crops Farm in Roxborough to better learn American farming techniques.

In addition to farming, Kamar takes care of her mother-in-law, works in a pre-school and, after an intensive 6-month study of English, also works as a Nepali language interpreter in a hospital. 

HOW IS IT GOING FOR YOU NOW IN SOUTH PHILADELPHIA?

“It’s awesome. Because we spend our life -is a very good way. We are good now. And I think my future can be good. I can try hard…”

Watch video here.


Lead keeper welcomes giraffes

Lead keeper welcomes giraffes

Two bull giraffes, 3-year-old Dhoruba and 10-month-old Jukuu, are making their official debut this Memorial Day weekend at the Elmwood Park Zoo, according to the Lansdale Reporter. They are on loan to the zoo through October.

According to lead keeper Stephanie Stadnik, the giraffes may represent a shift from the zoo’s tradition of exhibiting only animals native to North and South America. Giraffes, although not “super endangered” are very popular with zoo visitors in general, she says, and drawing them in gives Elmwood the opportunity to introduce visitors to overlooked native animals, some of whom can be found in our own back yards. Stadnik points out that through breeding in captivity, the black-footed ferret population has rebounded into the thousands from what was thought near extinction. Conservation efforts have similarly benefited eagles and alligators.Among our native species, wolves are some that Stadnik hopes visitors will take the time to appreciate and shed notions of the “big bad wolf.”

At the time of this interview in late April, construction of an enclosure was underway. Stairs and an elevated platform could be seen where the giraffes can be fed “browse”, small branches with tree leaves, as they would eat in their native African habitat.

From experience working with giraffes at the St. Louis Zoo yet reluctant to badmouth any animal, Stadnik relayed her impression that there is not so much going on in their heads. By contrast, with squirrel monkeys, she immediately senses the way things click with them. To round out her description, she did her giraffe “impersonation.”

On June 15th, the Zoo will host “KUWAKARIBISHA TWIGA”, a “Welcome Giraffes Beast of a Feast” fundraising event featuring R&B singer Barbara Mills. Attendees will get to feed the giraffes and feed on, uh, barbecue.

Watch video interview here.


Krishna Devotee engages Afghan immigrant

cu dwija

A passerby sat down and engaged in a long conversation with Dwija Mani, a Brahmacari monk of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who was camped with a display near the Chestnut Hill news stand. Mani is visiting Philadelphia for a couple weeks from the Rupanga Vedic College in Kansas City, Missouri.  He related that the passerby, with whom he conversed in Arabic, was from Afghanistan but now lived nearby and, after talking, expressed an interest in bringing his mother to the Hare Krishna Center on Allens Lane in Mount Airy. Mani was just a child during the eighties when scandals rocked the Krishna movement and believes the religious order has now matured. He says he intends to devote his life to his faith. And who could deny his easy smile and the happiness he professes? Watch video here.