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.
Gabriel Nathan has a 1963 "Love Bug" VW that screams "Drive Out Suicide" on its rear window. The car is the same model as "Herbie", the anthropomorphic Volkswagen Beetle emblazoned with a large encircled number 53 in the 1968 "Love Bug" film by Disney. Having lost an Aunt to suicide, been plagued by intermittent suicidality himself and having worked in a psychiatric facility, Nathan hopes to bring awareness to the issue with his Herbie. He is on the board of Prevent Suicide PA " and trains people in the community, "natural gatekeepers" he calls them, in the QPR ("Question, persuade, refer") method. This short training equips them to perceive when others may be in crisis and what to say and do. Nathan and his Love Bug are the subject of a short documentary film by Bud Clayman, "A Beautiful Tomorrow: Taking Suicide Awareness on the Road" and can be followed on Instagram at @lovebugtrumpshate
Frank Rapoport, an attorney, started SamsaraGear some time after his daughter Alex took her own life at 32. Alex had gone to the Himalayas during her college days, fell in love with it, and converted to Buddhism. According to Rapoport, these experiences were the brighness in her life of struggle with an eating disorder. Rapoport retraced her steps in Bhutan and discovered the colorful textiles handwoven from sheep and yak hair, a thousand year old tradition of the native people. So impressed were his friends with a vest he brought back from a trip to Bhutan, Rapoport decided to make a go of an import business of clothes and accessories as a tribute to his daughter. In Buddhism "samsara" is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Related: "End The Stigma is a community that provides education, resources, and discussion about mental health. Your story matters." #EndtheStigma "Leave kind words for someone who may need them" at the Starbucks in Flourtown
Your correspondent is helping out with "Witness for Prosecution," the Agatha Christie play at the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia running November 22nd through December 8th. He cornered a few actors who indulged him by delivering their favorite lines. The clip below features Jaime Roanne Schwartz as Greta, Mark Sherlock as Leonard Vole, John Pinto as Justice Wainwright, Tom Tansey as Sir Wilfred, Tom Libonate as Mr. Myers,and Leah O'Hara as Romaine.NOTE: CONTAINS POTENTIAL SPOILERS
WHAT ISSUES OR CANDIDATES MATTER TO YOU IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION?
(From left to right)
ARTHUR BORGERHOFF, 27, College Student, CHESTNUT HILL, PHILADELPHIA
One of the biggest things is healthcare. I probably have the most basic plan for healthcare and I was paying $79 four years ago and it literally jumped up in the middle of the Trump presidency to $348 for the most basic plan I continue to pay because I don’t want to have to worry about that. But now I have to worry about other things like bills... I’m not quite sure who I’m going to vote for yet but Bernie and Warren definitely seem like my - Warren not as much just because BUT YOU CAN'T VOTE FOR THEM IN NOVEMBER Oh in November! I’m thinking far, far ahead. THE MAYOR IS UP FOR RE-ELECTION... The mayor, oh...
BRIANNA GOW, 24, college student, NORRISTOWN, PA
Local government I don’t believe I’m knowledgeable enough to speak about what candidate I’m going to vote for so I’ll probably do some research before the election
Yeah that’s probably good. I was like, what election are you talking -yeah, it’s been on the mind the next one, the 2020 presidential one.
For this election I’m very interested in local issues for Philadelphia itself- education of our children in the Philadelphia area that to me is very important. AND WHAT CANDIDATES... I really couldn't tell you we are inundated with so many candidates I want to take time to sit down and review candidates that are available but you know I think we’ve been bombarded with so much political on the national scene sometimes we really get weary of political speeches and promises so sometimes it’s hard and even difficult to take even take time to do that so I’m hoping to take time sit down and read articles and see what the issues are in terms of the candidates WHAT RACES... City Council, I'm very interested in that. Those that pertain to our local area, those candidates but who the candidates are, I couldn't tell you. I'm ignorant on that.
Graziella Mann, West Oak Lane, 72, retired research technician
My focus is more on what’s going on nationally so I haven’t, honestly, been thinking about the local stuff that much. One of my neighbors is running for commissioner. And Iknow it’s not supposed to be along party lines. I know that he doesn’t have some of the beliefs that I do. He doesn’t belong to the same party that I do. So I’m a little reluctant to vote for him even though I know he’s a great guy.
Julie Nguyen, Homemaker, 46, Fort Washington PA
At the Philadelphia Folk Song Society's Fall Fling at the Green Lane Camp, Linda Catinella worked a shift operating the "taxi" (golf cart) shuttling participants to and from different workshops and events, and cheerily engaged fellow camper on her loops around the camp. Your correspondent attended the camp and in lieu of a direct interview with Catinella, captured her in action.
We received a voicemail on our landline from Pennsylvania State Representative for the 200th district Chris Rabb (pronounced like "dab") with an invitation to try out, this past Friday, Philadelphia’s new ES&S voting machines at the Wadsworth Branch Public Library. Your correspondent planned to first attend a yoga class at the nearby Lovett Branch Public Library, then head over to Wadsworth to get acquainted with the new machines which have been in the news. See Philadelphia's New Voting Machine Contract in Jeopoardy... Coincidentally, PhD renaissance man, yogi and fair election activist Josh Mittledorf was substitute teaching. After class, I asked Mitteldorf to explain his concerns about the new machines. He pointed out the ES&S company’s sordid history and claimed that the software it uses could possibly skew results; even election officials purchasing the machines do not have access to the software to verify its integrity because, in legal terms, the software is considered a trade secret.
I headed off to Wadsworth where a representative from the Philadelphia City Commissioners' office walked me through how to use the new machine and referred me to Rep Rabb for any additional questions. The voting process is initiated when a voter inserts a physical ballot into the machine. On a large display screen, the voter then touch taps the candidates they want and, when done, the printed ballot with the voter’s choices shows up behind a window panel for the the voter to approve before submitting their vote. Predictably, on the demonstration machine, your correspondent voted for Democrat Party candidate Nick Foles for President and Green Party Candidate Julius ("Dr. J" Erving) for U.S. Senate. Then it was time to buttonhole Rabb.
Interview with Rabb
BR (your correspondent, Brian Rudnick): Are these machines secure?
CR (his Pa State Rep Chris Rabb): No.
BR: How do we know the election is not being stolen?
CR: We don’t.
BR: We don’t? Well that’s not good.
CR: I agree. Just like any system, Any system is imperfect.
BR: Any system- even a paper ballot system…
CR: Well paper ballots can be stolen…
BR: Why don’t we have access to the software in the systems?
CR: I don’t know.
BR: You’re our representative, can you ask?
CR: The City Commissioners’ office is here so you can ask directly.
In a short time, aquatic biologists from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission netted hundreds of fish from the Wissahickon Creek just above the covered bridge - and then returned them to the water. Biologist Aaron Henning (center in photo) relayed that SRBC had won the contract to assess the health of the waterways in this region as part of a national study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The day before, Henning, his teammate Matt Shank and Michelle Peck from Region III IEPA were working down on the Schuylkill River in the less scenic refinery area. Electrofishing entails putting a weak electrical current in the water through a rod, which actually attracts the fish Henning says, to momentarily stun them. This gives the biologists enough time to identify them by species, take measurements and, for some of the larger specimens, take plugs of tissue to test for PCBs and other contaminants. Henning showed off two large, American eels, a species that lives in fresh water but migrates to spawn in the ocean. The squirming pair were eager for release. More photos here
Electro #Fishing the #Wissahickon #creek @SRBCnews @EPAregion3 @FOX29philly @TreeHouseWEC @ChestnutHillPA @PhillyH2O @phl17 @myphillypark @FOWissahickon @pafisherman #electricity story here: https://t.co/PPgNSTgUoL pic.twitter.com/vCjHIEoagS— brian rudnick (@buhrayin) August 29, 2019
Upper Bucks Chamber and Visitors Center Executive Director Danielle Bodnar treated your correspondent to a little tour of the Center's museum. A 1902 motorized buggy is one of the many treasures on display. The Chamber partners with The Quakertown Historical Society which provides historical artwork, memorabilia and binders of old newspaper clippings and photographs and more for the center museum. Bodnar says people like to come in and take a trip down memory lane by searching the archived Quakertown High School yearbooks for, say, pictures of their grandparents or to research some family genealogy. Outside the Center, she pointed out historic Liberty Hall across the way where the Liberty Bell was temporarily hidden on its way from Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War to keep it safe from the British. And Bodnar added that the Richard Moore house on Main Street will be honored this September 14th for keeping escaped slaves safe during civil war times. A historical marker will be placed at the building which served as an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Watch highlights of Quakertown visitor center tour here.
Your correspondent came across well-known deer advocate Bridget Irons sitting on a bench along Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon getting ready to take off on her constitutional. Irons has been fighting against the deer cull in the Wissahickon woods for many years now. She related that she had written to Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart back in April asking that the financial costs of the deer cull be disclosed. She was encouraged when she soon heard back from First Deputy Kellan White who was to look into the matter but now, four months later, she still hasn't heard back. (According to the Controller's Office on August 15, 2019, White was still gathering the information) Aside from the contentious issue of whether the damage to the forest caused by the deer browsing on the under-story vegetation justifies bringing in sharpshooters each winter, Irons believes that the public has a right to know how much money city government is spending on the deer cull program. Your correspondent suggested that she may be able to retain a sympathetic pro bono lawyer to help deliver the information the public likely has a right to know. For this photo, Irons obliged your correspondent by striking the signature arms-up-in-the-air pose of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. ADDENDUM: From the Chestnut Hill online edition of May 18, 2018, "After 20 years, once-controversial deer cull is now routine": " These yearly efforts usually cost the USDA and the Parks and Recreation about $40,000 a year, an increased rate since the program’s start in 1999, [Parks spokesperson Barry] Bessler said."
Renny Molenaar and Rocio Cabello, owners of the iMPeRFeCT Gallery in the Germantown section of Philadelphia were approached by Simone Spicer and Virginia Maksymowicz,two artists whose work was not accepted at this year’s Woodmere Museum’s annual juried art show. (Out of 638 submissions, Eileen Neff, Woodmere's juror this year, chose the work of ninety-four artists)Spicer and Maksymowicz had the idea to mount an exhibition of rejected works, fashioned after the famous “Salon Des Refusés” exhibit in Paris in 1862 of works rejected by the conservative French Academy of Fine Arts, some by now very notable artists of the time - Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro. iMPeRFeCT Gallery was game and just happened not to have a show scheduled for July. Unable to obtain the list of applicants to the Woodmere Annual, Cabello says the pair mounted an online campaign through Spicer's connections with the “Dumpster Divers” and other groups to find other artists whose submissions had been rejected by the Woodmere this year. Twenty five artists answered the call and your correspondent was able to briefly see the exhibit the Saturday afternoon it closed. In addition to the exhibit, the Gallery hosted a round table discussion at which artists, actors, writers and other creatives talked about the effect of rejection. Rejection of a career choice to be an artist begins with one's family, Molenaar lamented. "You want to be a what?" Cabello added that rejection is harder for younger artists because they take it personally, thinking they're not good enough. There are many reasons behind rejection, she elaborated. "There are space limitations, there are a theme to a show that maybe your art work didn't fit a certain theme or vision..." Your correspondent, impressed with both the works of art in the show and the dynamism of the gallery owners made his exit as Cabello began to prepare a vegetable salad for the gallery's traditional monthly"Last supper." Supporters cater a dinner on an exhibit's closing night as fundraiser or "rent party."