Julia Alekseyeva emigrated to the United States from Russia when she was four years old. Her relationship with most members of her family was fraught. But her great-grandmother, Lola, reflected her own personality and they developed an especially close bond despite nearly 80 years difference in age. Lola, like many other Jews who had been marginalized and persecuted in the pre-Soviet era, had become a member of the Communist party. She later became secretary, devoted but exploited, to the NKVD, predecessor of the KGB. The years leading up to and through the war years were a time of struggle and deprivation. Lola's husband, sent off to fight, and many other family members fell victim to the Nazis. In "Soviet Daughter," a graphic biography, Alekseyeva recounts Lulu's sweeping 100 year story based on memoirs her great grandmother had secretly kept. Alekseyeva places "Interludes" between some chapters of the book which weave in her own personal history- growing up an immigrant, overcoming thyroid cancer (precipitated by Chernobyl radiation exposure) navigating her college years and discovering her sexual, Jewish and political identities. Near the end, lost in grief after the death of her beloved Lola, Alekseyeva receives a phone call. She has been accepted into the Comparative Literature Department at Harvard. Alekseyeva has also authored illustrated works on Rosa Luxembourg and Walter Benjamin. At "Book Paper Scissors! an artists' book fair at the Free Library on the Parkway, cosponsored by the Philadelphia Center for the Book, these were on display along with Soviet Daughter. Rounding out her display were Yuri Gagarin t-shirts and other t-shirts embellished with a pineapple and written across the pineapple Alekseyeva's DJ name - “Comrade Pineapple.” Watch here the author artist describe her graphic memoir about her one hundred year old Russian great-grandmother.
On a business trip 30 years ago to the west coast, Kim Neubauer's desire to go Israeli folk dancing prevailed over her wariness that it might be a meat market. Now with two grown children, she jokes how she approached her Israeli husband Avram of nearly 30 years now to dance and how, despite his stepping on her toes with his two left feet, she was drawn by the fun he was clearly having. Their fun continues at Israeli folk dancing at the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia. Watch video here.
Julia Weekes loves to sing with a musical instrument and to bash out non-ukulele sounding songs like hard core rock on the ukulele she got from a jazz bass player friend of a friend who was giving out ukuleles to all his loved ones. She immediately fell in love with the instrument, which felt, to her from the outset like she was playing a heart that had been plucked out from the chest. At a Bar Mitzvah luncheon, your correspondent imposed on her to sing some impromptu Radiohead and more as if she were playing along with her uke. Your correspondent would like to video her singing these songs with her uke. Watch video here.
Seventy six year old Mr. Bell, whose granddaughter is often at his home in Mount Airy, didn’t think his granddaughter would mind if he borrowed her cap with the big red letters shouting “LOVE” on his walk to the doctor’s office in Wyndmoor. He says he loves people, always wears a smile no matter what his problems and being from North Carolina, is “just like that.” Outfitted in full fatigues, Bell, now retired, cheerily related his long work history since serving in the army when he was eighteen as an automotive mechanic at a base near Frankfurt, Germany.
In October of 1999, Bill proposed to his now wife while sitting on a bench under their favorite tree at the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, a huge European beech on the upper slope. The tree was badly damaged about a year later and only the decaying snag remains. But the tree is surrounded by its offspring, a circle of tall, closely spaced trees which had taken root where the original beech's long, pendulous branches had touched the ground. On a recent fall day, the family, now consisting of a 7 and 9 year old were revisiting the special place.
October 26th through October 28th marked Harry Potter Weekend in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.
As part of the festivities 16 college quidditch teams competed in the 3rd Annual Philadelphia Brother Love Cup at Chestnut Hill College. In an initial match, it appeared that "The Hex" of the Ithaca Community team got trounced by "Those Guys" out of...where?
A young woman at one of the many tables on the college green sold muffins to support the Harry Potter Alliance, "an army of fans, activists, nerdfighters, teenagers, wizards and muggles dedicated to fighting for social justice with the greatest weapon we have-- love." The poster at her table bears a quote from J.K. Rowling's commencement address at Harvard University on June 5, 2008: "We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better." Watch video here.
Vinita Dora, a masters student in public health in Saint Louis and Karthik Gowrishankar who works in IT in Los Angeles were getting ready for their engagement party the next day at the Hill Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, Vinita’s home town. They met online, then met in person, fell in love, and “wanted to take it forward” says Karthik. They then introduced themselves to their prospective in-laws which involved Karthik’s parents travelling to the States from Chennai. The bride’s family is originally from Bombay. A grand wedding will follow next year in India. Watch video interview here.
Yertle's almost eight and a half. She's a green winged macaw. She's been with us since she's been 3 months old. And she is able to say, "I love you", "banana", "How are you?", "Take me out", "Help me!" WHAT DOES SHE UNDERSTAND? Everything. She does not like her harness. She puts up a fight to get in her harness but we have to because she'll fly away. So she fights until we get it on and then she's happy to come out. Right, Yertle? DOES SHE GET A CHANCE TO FLY EVER? Oh, she flies around the room in the house. She's pretty good at it. Normally most people keep the wings clipped. We let her fly in the room because it's good exercise for them. And she gives good kisses. C'mon, give me a kiss. WHERE IS SHE NATIVE TO? Florida. You can't bring birds in from Costa Rica or any other place anymore. SHE WAS BORN AND BRED IN FLORIDA? Yes, she came up as a kind of a blob to a bird store in New Jersey and when we saw her she was three months old. Her feet weren't strong enough to hold on to a perch yet so she slept laying down on the bottom of the cage. She was so cute sleeping on the bottom of the cage, that's why Sari (Sari's her real owner) fell in love with her. Say hello to the nice man. Yurtle: "Hello." Well that was a good start. She also says "Hi" And when the phone rings she says, "Hello! Hello!" In Mount Airy, Ruth Hoxsie with Yertle Ann Yentele, a green winged macaw, who earned the name "Yentele" because she'll repeat anything she hears. Watch video here.
Suzanne Poncen talks about how she met Dan Jessen, not pictured, on Match.com at a party in Germantown. Watch video here
Julia Staico of Chestnut Hill, a stylist at the Hair Cuttery in Flourtown, is in love. Watch video here.