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.
“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.
"This is a picture of four boys pooping." @ignitephilly is a great place
— Ilyssa Kyu (@ilyssakyu) November 20, 2015
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.)
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.
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.”
— Open Streets PHL (@OpenStreetsPHL) November 20, 2015
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.
— Lansie (@FancyLansie) November 20, 2015
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.”