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Ignite Philly 16 winners: Pope talk, lame jokes, umbrellas

The dreary weather outside didn't match the energy at Ignite Philly 16, which covered everything from beer to bikes to setting up camp on Mars. Here are our awards for the evening's best moments.

Yuval Yarden at Ignite Philly 16. (Photo by Valerie Hoke)

Rain couldn’t stop fans of Ignite Philly from flocking to Johnny Brenda’s on Thursday night for the 16th iteration of Philly’s favorite lightning talk series.
The night featured bad Eagles jokes (bad as in lame, but also as in how bad the Eagles are), the presentation of a giant check to Ariell Johnson of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, a speaker from the last event, and the celebration of a birthday.
Ignite Philly 16 was also a night of a major first: Three speakers had to cancel, so with the resulting excess time, organizers opened up the mic to audience members to pitch a two-minute idea for a talk at next spring’s event. Four people took up the opportunity, and their proposed ideas ranged from healthy living tips to foot care for the homeless.
We’ll look forward to seeing if any of their talks make the cut next time, but for now, enjoy our rundown of the evening’s most memorable moments.

Lansie Sylvia and a voting sign featured in this month's election.

Lansie Sylvia and a voting sign featured in this month’s election. (Photo by Valerie Hoke)

Most Tweetable

“This is a picture of four boys pooping,” explained Yuval Yarden, in her talk about what she learned about community from growing up on a kibbutz (a “socialist farm town,” as she described it) in Israel.

Best Way to Spend Your Birthday

Lansie Sylvia of Next Stop: Democracy! was welcomed to stage after — and only after — a rousing rendition of the birthday song to celebrate her special day. Then, her impassioned account of the vibrant “VOTE HERE” signs seen around Philadelphia on Election Day succeeded in making anyone in the room who didn’t vote feel totally guilty about it.

Best Reminder That Laser Pointers Are Still a Thing

We don’t know what else to do other than give kudos to Steve Kleinedler, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, for actually using a laser pointer during his talk on the last 15 years worth of dictionary additions. (He probably deserves a best vocabulary award, too.)

Brewery ARS handed out samples of its beer to the crowd prior to their talk. Smart move.

Brewery ARS handed out samples of its beer to the crowd prior to their talk. Smart move. (Photo by Valerie Hoke)

Best Crowd Comments

After giving an overview of the Monument Lab’s call for public suggestions about how to best represent Philly via a monument, Haverford College librarian Laurie Allen asked everyone to ponder their own answer to the question in silence. What followed? Shouting, of course.

Crowd member 1: “Not Rocky!”
Crowd member 2: “But also, Rocky.”
Crowd member 3: “Apollo!”

Best Marketing Strategy

Brewery ARS cofounders Sean and Andy Arsenault detailed their understandably effective method of generating interest in their brand: Be redheaded twins, and do everything in exchange for beer.

Best Takedown of a Single Adjective

In his stunning defense of “performance art masqueraded as competitive sport,” Mike Quackenbush spoke of the hurt he feels when someone writes off the “risk, sacrifice, and art” of professional wrestling as “fake.” He left the crowd (and this reporter) in genuine disbelief that they’d spent their entire lives misunderstanding the spectacle of wrestling.

Mike Quackenbush urging that there's nothing "fake" about professional wrestling.

Mike Quackenbush urging that there’s nothing “fake” about professional wrestling. (Photo by Valerie Hoke)

Best Space Poetry

Yeah, we didn’t quite expect this to be a category either, but that’s the magic of Ignite Philly. Chad Ostrowski, clad in a T-shirt displaying the name of his talk, “Earth clouds are the best clouds,” gave us an oddly calming, poetic account of the extraterrestrial places our future children and grandchildren might one day call home.

Most Pope References

In addition to recalling the open streets of #PopeInPhilly 2015 with love, Nate Hommel’s case for streets as public spaces included crowd-favorite quotes met with many cheers such as “little kids doing kid parkour” and “you close ‘em down to cars and let people have fun.”

Best Nod to an Overlooked Problem

David Griffith, Director of Programs & Outreach at the LGBT Elder Initiative, reminded the crowd that cities need to be age-friendly, especially for those older LGBT adults who’ve faced longer lifetimes of discrimination and marginalization.

Most Unexpected Nostalgia

Although it’s likely that audience members fear trolley tracks while riding their bikes more than they actually ride trolleys, Philadelphia trolley connoisseur Mike Szilagyi managed to make a tipsy crowd audibly “Awwww” at the sight of a crushed, dilapidated trolley car abandoned in a junkyard. (FYI, the internet loves abandoned trolleys.)

Most Questionable Public Art Project

We were a little skeptical when Philip Green began his talk about the giant teepee he sets up around Philly, because, you know, cultural appropriation is a thing. Although we were glad to learn he addresses cultural appropriation on his website, we wish he’d dedicated a little more time to exploring his project’s relationship to the issue.

Best (Weirdest?) Visualization

When he wasn’t pondering the future of the internet and appropriately comparing 19th-century yellow journalism to today’s clickbait, Rob Epler suggested that our brains might literally melt if they were infused with the power currently held by the internet.

Best Quote That Says It All

Kiera Smalls, community manager with Philly’s Indego Bike Share, gave a recap of the program’s brightest highlights over its relatively short lifespan. Her explanation of why our city’s experience with Indego has been so unique thus far? “Because we’re Philly, duh.”

Companies: Ignite Philly

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