As your correspondent was taking a break from some landscaping work at the Weavers Way Farm located at W.B. Saul Agricultural high school, Gail Koskela, a large animal science teacher at the school,l asked if I wanted to see a newborn baby ewe that had seen first light just 10 minutes ago! This was the fifth lamb born this season and Koskela said they were looking for pie-themed names for the baby since the first two lambs were born on March 14th (3/14 as in 3.14, an approximation of the constant Pi) Accordingly those two were named "Pi" and "R squared." The next two lambs were christened she "Chocolate Mousse" and "Lemon Meringue." Koskela says she may have assisted the ewe sooner than she needed to but this first time mother had been pushing for a little while and Koskela didn’t want her to be become exhausted. So as the baby's legs and head began to emerge, she held on with a little tension so the mom could push it out completely. Very shortly after birth, the baby got up on its legs. The mother started licking her clean and the two were baa-baa-ing back-and-forth as seen in the video. The breed of sheep raised at the farm is selected for their confirmation and meat traits not for their wool which, in this breed, grows very slowly. Classes in the fall typically are in charge of breeding season and the spring classes learn about lambing hands-on. But because of the COVID-19 quarantine, only a few Saul students have been physically able to work with the animals. Koskela gave a little plug for the school's 24-7 "Ewe Tube" channel where everyone can follow the sheep in action, such as it is, in the spacious new blue barn. See newborn lamb and mom and video interview here.
Your correspondent accompanied his spouse for the Public Library Association Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, February 25-29, 2020 and had a blast. Here are some photos and videos captured from that time.
For two consecutive days, some attendees of the Public Library Association Annual Conference stood outside and nearby the convention center soliciting signatures on petitions in support of IMLS funding. According to one of the signature gatherers, the President has been trying to shut down the Institutes for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) for four years. IMLS is the major federal source of funding 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums according to everylibrary.org, a political action committee for libraries.
Our guide, Texas born, North Carolina raised Caitlin, belted out facts while walking backwards to groups of prospective students and their parents at the college she attended.
This prepared her well when she moved to Nashville with her partner recently to pursue a career in tourism. We heard her loud and clear as she informed and entertained us with fun facts aboard the tour bus which looped us around the city. After the tour, she obliged your correspondent for an interview touching on the serious flooding several years ago and current concern about the high level of the Cumberland River, the Woolworth's restaurant, site of sit-ins during the civil rights era and still open for business, her enthusiasm and hopes about Amazon's upcoming opening of its eastern U.S. headquarters in Nashville, line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon and paying to get insulted when served at Dick's Last Resort.
This is a collage of little videos from the Public Library Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, February 25 -29, 2020. In order they are
- the steps with PLA 2020 on the risers at the Music City Center (MCC)
-dressing up for the "Wonderosity" green screen at Demco's booth at the exhibit area, MCC
-Michelle Bloom singing along with her album "Big Backyard" in the exhibit area
-Changing color light entrance to the children's area at the Nashville Public Library (NPL)
-Petitioning the government to fund public libraries through the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) outside the MCC
-"String City" History of Country Music puppet show at the NPL
-Country band at the Ingram party at the NPL
-Salt Lake City librarians partying at the Ingram Party, NPL
-Country line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon along with Matt McAtee
-Time lapse view of street outside MCC
-Country singer in MCC lobby
-Revelers partying and pedaling on a Nashville Pedal Tavern
-Crossing music bar packed Broadway
-Music pouring out of Legends Bar on the corner of Broadway
On her album of children’s songs "Big Backyard" , Michelle Bloom motivates kids to go outside, explore to find bugs and such, and just to experience nature! She encourages families to visit the national parks - "It'a big back yard” she exclaims. Bloom was promoting her CD at the Public Library Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee and obliged your correspondent by singing along to some of her songs, producing a wonderful stereo effect.
Every day at 4:30 there's free line dance lessons at the Wild Horse Saloon on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Country line dancing continues for hours with a live performer. We were entertained by Matt McAtee, who says he always get asked to play his song, "I can't stand Tome Brady" and when he did, there didn't seem to be any Bostonians or Patriots football fans in the bar.
Librarians pass the time in a lobby at the Music City Conference Center in Nashville waiting for the doors to open to the ballroom to hear an interview with comedian -personality-commentator Samantha Bee at the close of the Public Library Association conference.The soundtrack is singer KC Johns and fellow musicians singing at the Legends Bar on Broadway.
Amanda Miles of South Philadelphia tightens screws on a bird box while Dave Stehman of Conshohocken cleans it out on a Friends of the Wissahickon work day at Andorra Meadow. The previous day a large volunteer crew worked on the bird boxes at Houston Meadow. FOW Field Assistant Varian Bosch who was overseeing the projects and simultaneously training new crew leaders says the boxes are occupied by bluebirds, sparrows, swallows and wrens. Each box is numbered so the birds frequenting the meadows can be tracked from season to season. Watch video of volunteers maintaining bird boxes in the Wissahickon meadows.
Historical interpreter Reba Carruth who led a group including your correspondent on the "Enslaved People of Mount Vernon Tour" says that before her time, the tour was called "Slave Life" and focused on Washington's use of slave labor. She explained that the current format makes a distinct change in terminology from "slaves" to "enslaved people" and not only focuses on Washington's dependence on them but how they were transformed when Washington breaks with tradition by bringing in skilled tradesmen from Europe and requiring them to train the enslaved people to practice these trades at the same high level as their own. Carruth gestured toward the wide swath of field sloping down from the mansion and gave a shout-out to George, a slave who had acquired the skills of a master landscaper to maintain the grounds.
Washington inherited slaves from his father when he was only eleven years. Washington's marriage to Martha Custis brought many more slaves to the Mount Vernon estate. But he had a fraught relationship with slavery and shortly before his death provided in his will that the 123 slaves he directly owned be freed.
As the Washington family intermarried with the Lees and Custises, families of standing both in England and the colonies, by the time of the civil war, many family members had become Confederates. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the slave cemetery down by the Potomac River had been destroyed and planted over. It was here that Carruth concluded the tour with a short service and wreath laying at a large stone memorial set amidst ongoing restoration of the cemetery. Some of us accepted her invitation to read aloud short biographies of some of the slaves known to have lived and died on the estate.
According to the official website, "Mount Vernon is owned and maintained in trust for the people of the United States by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization." According to Carruth, this group and others with very close associations to Mount Vernon have scrutinized and had to approve of the tour contents which now includes acknowledging that there were [sexual] liaisons between the gentry and the enslaved women, hitherto held hush. Watch video tour of George Washington's Mount Vernon and interview about the nature of the tour here.
Dancer and dance therapist Morgan Rakay defines dance movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement or integration of the mind, body and perhaps, spirit. In different contexts, it looks so different she says. When she works with children, her approach is very improvisational and she gets down on their level and responds to what's going on. She engages them in play and makes use of props, colors and music. She indulged your correspondent, a student in one of her adult dance classes through the Mount Airy Learning Tree in making a video. When I prompted her to show some movement, her inner therapist noticed that being put on the spot recalled her discomfort as a child when someone,knowing she took dance lessons, would say "Dance for us!" Watch dance teacher describer dance movement therapy and how she uses it with children.
At the Germantown Jewish Center, outside the "Little Shop" selling Judaica and gifts, Yona Diamond Dansky and Susan Weiss sat a table with their newly published picture books, inspired by their grandchildren.
While her daughter was going through treatment for cancer, illustrator Yona Dansky got the idea to write a children's book for her grandson, then 3 years old, who was affected by the household distress brought about by his Mom's serious illness. Dansky's daughter has recovered and Dansky, since retired, now tells the story of Mooshu the family beagle who was sad because he was getting less attention and had to speak up to be taken out for a walk. Finally, Mooshu cuddles in bed with her daughter, realizing it seems, that he has done nothing wrong and enters the "circle of compassion, comfort and closeness." Dansky hopes this picture book, "Mooshu Worries" will be helpful to families of young children dealing with a serious illness. Watch video interview of grandmother describing picture book about grandson and the family dog during her daughter's serious illness.
Susan Weiss' twin grandchildren have very messy hair and don't like it touched. With their grand-mom the girls like to bake challah, a Jewish bread characterized by large braids. So Weiss convinces them to let her make challahs on their heads. Becky's Braids, illustrated by Deborah Gross-Zuchman, tells the story. Watch video interview of grandmother's challah story about braiding granddaughter's messy hair.
Book artist Judith Robison held a "Marie Kondo” sale of books she has created at the December holiday "Book, Paper, Scissors" book arts fair at the Free Library of Philadelphia on the Parkway, co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Center for the Book. In keeping with the advice of the famous de-cluttering author Kondo, Robison was parting with excess copies of her books. A sign read “Marie Kondo sale everything is five dollars unless you think it is worth more in which case you can pay up to $10” The bargain basement pricing drew your correspondent and a friend over to her table and we were soon taken in by the artistry, cleverness and quirkiness of Robison's work. We each scooped up several, among them an exquisite foldout book, "The Cellist of Sarajevo." In the accompanying interview, Robison describes another, as she turns its pages. "This is one of my favorites -Book Marks, which is just a play on all the ways we make marks in the books. For example, when we are little children we write in books, scribble in books and get scolded for that. Then when we're in college we take notes in books. This is the history of marginalia (and goes way back) - writing commentaries in books. This is authored books, just taking a book and playing with it from the point of view of art. And finally, this is actually my father’s bird book. He checked off whenever he saw a bird, in the index, and that’s a photograph of him with his binoculars." Watch video interview of book artist here.
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