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.
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.
"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/
The Reverend Paul Adler, installed just last summer as rector at the Episcopal Church of Saint Alban in Roxborough, Philadelphia prays for people who come across him seated and collared in the nearby Starbucks coffee shop. An occasional customer is drawn to his table by the license plate size "FREE PRAYER" sign atop it. When he's not engaged in an impromptu prayer session, he will address email correspondence or work on sermons. A medical student seeks God's help with medical exams about to begin. A young woman who has a newborn child and also a very ill, hospitalized mother-in-law seeks prayer for her family. Adler believes that prayer is a way of spending time with God and spending time with God is worthwhile, even if prayer doesn't always work in the ways supplicants are expecting. Watch video here.
Students in an advanced American Sign Language (ASL) class offered by the Deaf-Hearing Communication Center based in Swarthmore, PA took turns acting out and signing the short and apparently humorous scenarios they chanced to pick out of a paper bag held by their teacher. Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Watch video here.
Langston Darby held an icepack to his jaw before his program on “Found Objects: Unleash the Voice of the Everyday through Performance“ at the Chestnut Hill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. But the icepack was to ease the pain of an earlier dentist appointment and not part of his program, one of many events in the Library’s One Book One -Philadelphia celebration. This year’s selection, The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline is about the relationship of an older woman, Vivian and a young woman, Molly. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who has lived in various foster homes and gotten into trouble. Molly is assigned community service to help Vivian sort through the many keepsakes Vivian has stored in her attic. These objects evoke memories of the older woman’s own traumatic childhood experiences after she was sent on an “orphan train” from New York City to the Midwest during the Great Depression subsequent to the death of her Irish immigrant parents and siblings in a tenement fire.
Darby led our small assemblage through improvisation centering on objects- like a certain knife from our own memories and then had us feel for and pick the thing out of a “magic bag”, instructing us to let the object choose us. A sparkly dark orange artificial pumpkin chose one of us, a large black plastic knight/horse from a chess set, another. A small book chose your correspondent. Recommended reading: The Orphan Train.
On Tuesday, May 21st, at the home of Mary Moorhouse and Angela Griffiths on the corner of Ardleigh and Meade Streets in Chestnut Hill, Nena Eskridge and Fairleigh Dickinson University students began shooting an independent feature length film called “Stray.”
“Stray is a dark psycho/thriller about a killer who decides to give up a life of crime to settle down in a small town to start a family. But first she has to find the right guy to help make it happen – whether he wants to or not.” This, according to the production’s Kickstarter fundraising page which shows 133 donors have already pledged $50,400 surpassing the $50,000 goal.
“Stray” features actress Michele Page (who played a punk girl in a bank “Miss Congeniality 2”) as the lead Jennifer Davis and also tv and screen actors Annie Corley and Aaron Lustig.
A flier left some weeks ago through your correspondent’s mail slot alerted us that filming would begin today and continue through June 10th. The crew will shoot scenes along Germantown Avenue, at the Mermaid Inn and one on June 6th at the back of 213 E Meade Street, Eskridge’s house (on the alley behind our house.) Everyone is welcome to “stop by and watch. Just remember everyone has to be quiet “
It appeared that Rabbi Yitzchok Gurevitz’s faith in the accuracy of the weather forecast was rewarded last evening. Skies cleared just before the public lighting of a large Hanukah menorah at 6:30 pm on a grassy area beside Chestnut Hill Plaza at the bottom Germantown Avenue above Cresheim Drive.
Twenty some people such as Norm and Leah Schwartz of Mount Airy who brought their granddaughter, braved the near freezing temperatures and driving winds which had blown out the afternoon’s rain and sleet, to celebrate the first night of Hanukah. As Gurevitz, leader of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Philadelphia, lit an oil wick candle, they sang prayers to mark the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the successful revolt of the Jews against the Syrian king Antiochus in 165 BCE in Judea and the rededication of the Temple that had been desecrated at his orders.
Hanukah is a special holiday, Gurevitz explained, because Jews are called upon to observe it not just in the home but outside with the community at large. (In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in the national Chabad movement practice of lighting menorahs in public places made controversial by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, when it allowed a public display in Fountain Square, Cincinnati)
Referring to the case, Gurevitz emphasized the menorah as a symbol of freedom for all people and interprets the freedom message at a personal level- “the freedom to be the best that we can be, the freedom to be the most we can be.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a celebrant placed a large boom box atop his car parked in the adjoining driveway and broadcast festive Chanukah music as those gathered huddled against the cold, schmoozed, and enjoyed latkes (traditional potato pancakes) with hot cider.
For the next week, one additional electric candle will be lit every day in reenactment of the Chanukah story that oil found in the reclaimed Temple, sufficient for only one day, miraculously lasted eight days. Electric current is coming courtesy of Yu Hsiang Garden restaurant next door.
Above: Olin and Shirley Gentry
Philadelphia Stories Presents: Local Literary Voices was one of three events hosted by Philadelphia Stories at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival on Sunday September 22, 2013. Philadelphia Stories is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a community of “writers, artists and readers” in the Delaware Valley through literary magazines, events such as the Book Festival readings and educational programs. At the Chestnut Hill fest, Philadelphia Stories local authors talked about and read from their works. Unfortunately your correspondent’s video phone battery died before the program finished and he failed to capture the beautiful funny reading by Hal Sirowitz and readings from the open mic portion of the program. So Sorry! See Bios of authors below
Daniel Torday, appearing at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival reads from his novel to be published by St Martin's Press in 2015. Forming part of the novel about the narrator's uncle , a Hungarian Jew who flew on bombing missions for the Royal Air Force during WW II is his recently published, award-winning novella, "The Sensualist." Watch video here.
Sabrina Vourvoulias, editor of 200 Years of Latino History in Philadelphia by the staff of Al Dia newspaper talks about the book. Watch video here.
These are the short bios of the presenting writers appearing on the Philadelphia Stories website. http://www.philadelphiastories.org/chestnut-hill-book-festival-workshops-kids-reading
Jo Quasney is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Of French Creole heritage, Quasney is a native of New Orleans who was living alone in her house in the eighth ward when the hurricane struck on August 29, 2005. Quasney bred birds and had no way of transporting or finding shelter for the birds when New Orleans residents were advised to evacuate so she stuck it out. Her neighborhood began to flood after she heard an explosion that she attributes to a Halliburton company oil barge breaking through a levee. (For a discussion on the cause of the breech, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ING_4727)
“Nayus, son of Hamuka. You wish me to talk into your box, yes? There’s a man in there. He captures the moment as though it was real for all the world to see. He comes to the festival to partake in such beautiful festivities. Look at the lovely, lovely lasses as they play their music. Nayus likes to do such… Nayus is actually from a place called Tamriel. Yes, for you see he was transported here. Oh yes, my name is Nayus, apologies yes. Nayus, son of Hamuka is my name. I am from a place called Tamriel. A lot of people don’t understand what Tamriel is. Maybe you have actually heard of Skyrim, yes? No, you have not heard of Skyrim? It is a place really popular among these people, they understand. Nayus, on his last trip, he encountered, how you say, the dragon priest, yes. And the battle raged on for hours on end. And finally, Nayus finally got the upper hand on the dragon priest and the dragon priest got weak and tired and ripped open a portal and sent Nayus through the portal and here is in this realm amongst all the lovely young women and lasses and lads. And now I am here but I really wish to return to my home even though, like I said, the lasses are truly beautiful. Yes, that is who- Nayus…” Nayus, son of Hamuka, of Tamriel of Skyrim, in the realm of the Japanese Sakura Festival, Fairmount Park Horticultural Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.