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Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (review)

Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (review)

For so many of us who lived through a large chunk of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a deep and convoluted mystery. As Winston Churchill put it, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

 

Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Rosemary Sullivan) is a fascinating and deeply-researched biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of murderous Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Sullivan’s multitude of interviews and scholarly research gives readers a rare look inside life in the Kremlin and the Soviet Union, as Stalin ruled with an iron hand. It is quite the tragic picture.

 

Stalin's DaughterAt times plodding, overloaded with minutia, and opinionated about Svetlana’s life choices, the book is still worth the effort. The reward is a new understanding of what it’s like to live through generations of repression, as nearly all Soviet citizens did. Sullivan also delivers a powerful psychological study of a woman who had to come to terms with the fact that the father she once idolized was really a mass murderer.

 

Sullivan’s book is a real gift for anyone who wants to unravel the great riddle of the Soviet life.

 

 

Writing about the Wrights (review)

Writing about the Wrights (review)

When two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough takes on the life of an historical figure, he transports readers into that figure’s world as if one is reading an excellent novel.

 

From “Truman” to “John Adams” to the “The Great Bridge,” McCullough’s breezy style is written so a Ph.D. academic or a lay person can equally appreciate it. This makes him a real treasure for anyone who wants to understand the people he features and the times in which they lived.

 

The Wright Brothers is another excellent read that fits right in with his particular genre. Taking us into the early 20th century as the world begins to see the possibility of human flight, McCullough reveals the brilliance and sheer determination Orville and Wilber Wright displayed, as they beat out more established scientists and engineers to create the first real mechanized airplane.

 

My only criticism is that this book comes and goes too quickly. He glosses over the brothers’ early childhood, so the book really starts as they begin the process of seeking answers to the solution of human flight. Because the time frame is so much shorter than the Truman and Adams biographies, the book left me wanting more.

 

Still, it’s a terrific read and a fascinating story of two humble but brilliant men who transformed humanity forever.

In Nixon’s own words (review)

In Nixon’s own words (review)

Between 2011 and 2014, dozens of tapes and thousands of pages of transcripts of direct recordings from former President Richard Nixon’s infamous White House taping system were at long last unsealed. The results make up much of the substance in this new book by investigative journalist Tim Weiner.

 

The book is a fast read and shows that whatever you thought of Richard Nixon as President, it’s much worse. Weiner does the work of a good historian and journalist by weaving in quotes from the transcripts and tapes into the larger historical narrative of the Vietnam and Watergate era; giving readers a true understanding of the disaster that unfolded in the White House, while Americans began to turn against the war.

 

All the characters that we’ve been hearing about for decades, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Rusk, Kissinger, Mitchell, come alive as Weiner sets the stage for each of the incriminating conversations that landed so many people in jail and led to the near decimation of our constitutional democracy.

 

At times the book reads like a tragic novel. Especially where we can easily visualize Nixon, alone and drunk, making decisions that led to the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Vietnam, Cambodia and Loas.

 

Watergate, explained in great detail here, was Nixon’s undoing. But his real legacy, as outlined in this excellent, if disturbing book, is the genocidal horror he unleashed in Southeast Asia. It’s a great book for understanding geopolitics in complicated times and the need for a level-headed leader.

Art in a different park (video 1:36)

Art in a different park (video 1:36)

This is the 7th year for InLight Richmond, 1708’s public exhibition of light-based art and performances. It takes place 11/21 in and around Monroe Park (including the Altria Theater and the churches on the block). One of the 20 artists  exhibiting is Anne Albagli, a VCU grad student in painting and printmaking, but she’s not painting for InLight. Watch the video to find out how she’s incorporating movement and video into her exhibit.

 

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Here’s a link to the video I did of the 2nd annual InLight.

Fun farewell

Fun farewell

After John Bryan retired as President of CultureWorks, they threw a party to celebrate his accomplishments. I had the fun of creating his video tribute (along with the music talents of Flashlight Tag). We pulled together art community leaders, sprinkled in a few cameos and added some in-jokes. The result is all fun!

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GWAR’s Dave Brockie & Dirtwoman (video 6:06)

GWAR’s Dave Brockie & Dirtwoman (video 6:06)

In 1991, videographer Dave Park & I decided to shoot a documentary on Richmond legend Dirtwoman. The project lost momentum (and a producer) until I recently found the original footage. The first thing we shot was Donnie Corker (Dirt’s real name) going to GWAR’s Slave Pit’s to be in their 5th movie, “It’s Sleazy.”

 

The band’s recently deceased vocalist Dave Brockie interacts with Donnie and directs the shoot. The scene takes place at Sleazy’s Crab House and Dirt’s character provides the seafood.

 

WARNING: This video is for mature (and twisted) viewers: wild language, outrageous situations & other potentially shocking stuff (it does feature GWAR and Dirtwoman, after all.)

 

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Steve Moore hangs with Dirtwoman

Steve Moore hangs with Dirtwoman

In 1991, videographer Dave Park & I decided to shoot a documentary on Richmond legend Dirtwoman. The project lost momentum (and a producer) until I recently found the original footage. One of the events we created was a 48th birthday party for Donnie, where numerous people and bands performed. Among these was friend and wacky comic Steve Moore. In honor of Steve’s recent passing here’s a look at their interaction that night.

 

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Make some noise!

Make some noise!

Most of you have probably heard about the ongoing zoning / legal battle involving The Camel and The City of Richmond. Basically, the current situation limits the times live music can be presented there.

 

City Council is due to vote on the issue Monday, 6/2. If you care about live music at the Camel (and other similar venues) consider attending the meeting and using your 3 minutes to tell the council why live music at the Camel is important.

 

If you can’t attend contact your council member.

A slimmer, trimmer SIFTER

A slimmer, trimmer SIFTER

SIFTER celebrated it’s first birthday last month and this week reveals a major re-work.

 

The emphasis is now on 3 major categories: Film, Theater And Music. These have proven to be the most popular (and the most fun). In case you hadn’t noticed, last month a star rating was added to Film & Theater reviews.

 

There is a 4th category: Etc, which will be for anything else that might tickle our fancies (including an archive of all the previous Food, Art & Style stories).

 

There will still be videos, though not as often. Surprisingly, most people polled would rather read an article that watch a less-than-two-minute video. That seems weird but it’s what we’ve been told.

 

We’ll still be on the lookout for cool events, places and people in ANY category, so feel free to Send an email with ur suggestions.

Stop at The Depot (video 1:40)

Stop at The Depot (video 1:40)

Before new ICA breaks ground, VCUarts has opened a new space just a block away. The Depot opened recently with work from the 2014 student exhibition (additional shows are at the Anderson Gallery). Ashley Kissler (Anderson Gallery Director) took me on a tour thru the newly restored building, which includes exhibition space, classrooms for Matt Woolman’s Creative Entrepreneurship Program,  a soundstage, editing facilities, a dance studio and a coffee shop (to come soon). You can see The Depot for yourself until 5/18 (M-F 10-5, S&S 12-5) or you can watch the video.

 

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He’s more than an AC guy (video 1:35)

He’s more than an AC guy (video 1:35)

Hugh Joyce is best known from his bow-tied mug on the side of the James River Air trucks (he’s the owner). Last year, he decided to open an art gallery in Ashland (aka The Center of the Universe), so we went for a video visit.

 

Gallery Website

 

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Markets “spring” to life

Markets “spring” to life

Birds chirping? Buds on trees? Daffodil soldiers battling their way upwards? Days getting longer?! Who cares about losing that hour when spring is on the horizon. Here in Richmond, on those first days the thermometer tops 55 degrees, it’s as if the prison locks have melted and everyone scatters toward the sun. Streets are littered with joggers and parks peppered with scantily clad sun soakers and sporty folks alike.

 

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And for me, not being the Ultimate Frisbee type, I hustle on over to the nearest farmers’ market. While our produce has not yet begun to reflect the changing seasons, it’s still a distinct pleasure to walk unencumbered by parkas, scarves, hats and mittens among the stands at the market – shaking off the cobwebs of winter and saying hello again to the bread, dairy, meat and honey vendors, the fish monger, the nice family selling their yarns and knitwear and saying hello to their livestock with a coo and a pat on the head – all with a hot cup of Alchemy coffee and an equally hot Mrs. Yoder’s donut ($2) in hand(s).

 

If you’re not so much a market goer, let me appeal to your weekend breakfast warrior side. Forgo the lines for your frittata, forgo the commitment to one menu, forgo four walls for that matter: take your partner, take your dog, take the whole family for that matter, and sample one, or all, of the food trucks at the South of the James Market. Sip your coffee and eat your breakfast in the park under the sun, and soak up some good people watching, too.

 

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This past Saturday (in addition to that cup of coffee and donut) I tried Jadean’s Smokin’ Six-O BBQ‘s bacon, egg and cheese hot breakfast sandwich, served on a soft, buttery homemade roll the size of a Telletubby’s head ($4). And if you’re the must-have-mimosa type (don’t worry, I totally get it), wander on over to the Grayhaven Winery‘s stall. There are always tastings. Win-win, my friend.

 

See you next weekend!

 

For a list of local markets, click here

 

 PHOTOS BY FREDERICK TURKO

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