(Photo by Valerie Hoke)
“I wonder how Technical.ly Philly’s going to cover this,” said Ignite Philly co-organizer Geoff DiMasi onstage during the second half of Thursday night’s Ignite Philly 17. “Are they going to say ‘swamp vag’?”
Yes, Geoff, yes we are.
But first things first.
Philadelphians eager to spend their St. Patrick’s Day hearing a collection of short talks on unpredictable topics once again flocked to Johnny Brenda’s on Thursday night for the sold out event.
The night began with the results of some survey questions that attendees were asked upon purchasing their tickets. Turns out the people of Ignite Philly 17 were mostly first-timers, mostly women, mostly between ages 30 to 39 and mostly in favor of former Mayor Nutter trying his luck on The Bachelor for his next gig.
We won’t hold our breath on that one, but for now, as usual, here are our awards for the evening’s best ideas, weirdest moments and strongest takeaways.
— Laura Oxenfeld (@LOxTalks) March 18, 2016
Yeah, so about that “swamp vag” thing. Savannah Carr once biked to Miami and lived to tell the tale at Ignite Philly. Her experience on the trip was quite different than her three male companions, because women deal with this little thing called a period. Despite Carr’s talk basically defining the phrase “you had to be there,” we’ll explain that “swamp vag” is the thing that happens when sweaty bike shorts meet everything that goes along with having your period. (Her final declaration that “periods are the worst” was met with raucous applause by that mostly female audience we mentioned before. Because oh, we know.)
Best Data Cheerleader
If there’s one thing an Ignite Philly crowd loves, it’s data, and Lauren Gilchrist gave the people what they wanted. Along with rally cries such as “Seize the data!” and “Count all of the things,” Gilchrist used facts and figures to explain and contextualize Philly’s job market within the city’s poverty and unemployment rates.
Best (and only) Green Attire
The content of Aaron Ogle’s talk was way more important than the shirt he was wearing, but we thought it was worth pointing out. As he spoke about upgrading the efficiency and effectivity of phila.gov, a torturously slow cursor tried to navigate website on the screens above him, demonstrating the site’s clear need for an upgrade. “All he wants to do is pay his water bill!” cried Ogle. An audience member then spoke (yelled?) for all of us: “Oh my god.”
If you’re bad at making and maintaining eye contact, just practice with your dog. That was Michael Platt’s advice as he spoke about how our brains work with oxytocin, the hormone heavily involved in social bonding, connecting with friends, maternal behaviors and orgasm, among other things. (Stuff that feels good, basically.)
Best SEPTA Diss
In a theatrical exchange that led to the explanation of The Franklin Challenge, David Thornburgh and Chris Satullo went through some of the ups and downs of Philadelphia as a city. A mention of Spruce Street Harbor Park? Big cheers. A mere image on the screen of a SEPTA token machine, however? More enthusiastic, voracious booing than Ignite Philly has (probably) ever heard.
Best Call to Action
Julia Huber, transplant coordinator at the Gift of Life Donor Program began by asking the crowd if they’d save a life if they could. Most said yes. So why, she wondered, do so many people decline to become an organ donor when given the chance? There are nearly 6,000 people in the Philadelphia region alone waiting for life-saving organs, she said, and not enough of them will get the treatment they need. (So, yeah. Maybe go sign up.)
Best Unplanned Throwback to a Previous Talk
Arielle Tannebaum brought the green to Ignite Philly 17, and not in the form of leprechauns or clovers. A vocal advocate for the green smoothie lifestyle, she’s convinced that properly nourishing oneself — body and soul — is the key to happiness. Plus, when she asked everyone in the crowd to turn to someone and smile, we couldn’t help but be reminded of Platt’s ode to oxytocin just two speakers before.
Most Subtle Humblebrag
Scholly cofounder Nick Pirollo muller over the implications of success and sacrifice, even making a careful note to reference Snapchat superstar DJ Khaled as a modern philosopher on the topics. But when he passively threw out the phrase, “When we were on Shark Tank…” without offering even the slightest explanation to any audience members unfamiliar with that particular story, we couldn’t help but laugh.
Best Visual Strategy
Throughout his talk about identity as a person of mixed race, Malcolm Burnley displayed photos of himself ranging from childhood to present day, mostly showing the evolution of his hairstyles over time. “People perceived me as a question mark,” he said, so hair was one of the ways he tried to figure out his identity. Today? “I still have bad hair days,” he admitted with a smile.
Best Philly Community History Lesson
Philadelphia Burlesque Festival co-producer Liberty Rose explained the transformation of Philadelphia from a city where burlesque performers rarely reached beyond their organized troupes to one with a real community where performers collaborate and create across any and all lines of loyalty.
Most Impressive Personal Quality
When Stephanie Ford discovered the freedom of a bike, she knew she had to share it. She founded Pedal Posse Divas Cycling Club, a biking community for women in Philly, and she has a special ability, too: she’s gotten more than 20 women to say yes to acquiring and riding a bike. She doesn’t know how she does it, but hey — the more the merrier.
Best Motivational Mantra
Kate Stoler spoke about her journey from homelessness to homeownership in Philadelphia over the course of four short years. Her advice to people pondering the idea of buying a house in Philly? “Just fuckin’ do it.” Then, she quickly followed up with an offer to anyone who had additional questions about the topic: “Just fuckin’ email me.”
Coolest Bike Name
Despite being the evening’s third speaker on the topic of women and bikes, Katie Monroe covered totally new territory. She facilitates Women Bike PHL, and is the proud owner of her grandmother’s bike named Helena. (She totally gave us permission to yell, “Hi, Helena!” if you see her riding through the city, by the way.)
Best (and Only) Rocky Reference
Because it wouldn’t be an Ignite Philly without one. Chris Grant of Polygon geeked out a bit over Dark Souls, the video game he said is “defined by its difficulties.” Or, more frankly: “It’s hard as shit.” Because of that, he said, part of the game is being OK with losing. Because after all, Rocky loses. And if he can, so can we.
Best Audience Involvement
Our very own Technical.ly Philly lead reporter Juliana Reyes spoke about dream d’oiseau, a personal project in which she writes poems about her dreams and turns them into short films with the help of a videographer friend Aidan Un. Her time onstage will be a part of her next video, so she offered the crowd a chance in the spotlight by enlisting them to provide some cheering (and booing) needed for the story. Stay tuned for the final product.
Best Shutdown of a Stigma
“I’m not damaged,” stated Kate Nyx. “I’m just sick.” Nyx, a musician and wrestling gear designer, opened up about her premature Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, hospitalization and experience with negative stigma against mental illness. She noted how important it is to acknowledge the nuances of mental illness and to reject the idea that being suicidal is the only time when someone needs help. Here’s hoping that we, collectively, get way better about this.
Biggest Wish List
Christopher Plant of Philly Game Changers wants a lot of things. He wants a system to connect and engage with Philadelphians. He wants to “live at the collision of art, culture and business.” He wants to be able to “pick up the phone and call anyone in Philly” who has something interesting to say. And he wants to know who else he should be talking to. Hit him up, y’all.
Best Rejection of a Cliche
A while back, Dave Kyu did an experiment where he did everything Facebook told him to do for an entire month. He added any friend, liked every page and attended every event that the website recommended. Sounds terrifying, right? As a result, he’s not a fan of the phrase “what a small world,” because as he learned through his month under Facebook rule, it’s really not. Philly’s big, he said, and the world is even bigger.