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Flying Machine Coffee reveals summer drink specials

It's going to be 80 degrees today - how crazy is that? Luckily, the good people of Champaign-Urbana are beginning to come out of their winter cocoons to experience the warm weather, and what goes better with that than a nice cold drink?

Probably nothing, honestly.

That's where Flying Machine Coffee comes in. Just this week, they've unleashed a monster menu of new, summer drinks, including coffee-soda, fresh lemonade and more.

For a month-by-month breakdown, check out what FMC had to say below:

Flying Machine Coffee summer menu:

Mikado - all summer

Our favorite summer drink, white peach tea, tart cherry juice, and lime.

Coffee soda - all summer

We make a syrup from our toddy concentrate and add some bubbles. It's really great with a wedge of lime;)

May - T.J. Palmer - cascara tea, pandan extract, lemon.

Little did I know 3 years ago when I named a drink after one of our wonderful regulars. That the drink would come to represent the impact this persons friendship has had on me, and the staff. Teej Is a warm, loving, intelligent, and passionate person. And the amount we have learned from them by just simply listening has been life changing. So the TJ Palmer very directly represents our friendship. If your familiar with the drink you'll know that every year it changes. That's because we have changed, and hopefully become better. As we challenge ourselves as people, we also challenge ourselves as baristas. So if we are doing this right, it's going to be tasty.

June - Fresh lemonade

We will be adding stuff to the lemonade weekly. Whatever is fresh at the farmers market that week, cherry, peach, hoops, blackberry, raspberry, you get the picture.

July - Chicha Morada - purple corn, citrus, pineapple, cinnamon, clove, sugar.

This is a traditional Peruvian drink that I only learned about last year. Even though it's older than our constitution. Oddly captivating, and really delicious, It's a deep purple color from the specific corn grown for it. An all around an interesting drink.

August - Cantaloupe & Rosewater

This is just crazy refreshing. If you like cantaloupe you should definitely try it.


C-U marched and rallied for science on Saturday

On Saturday, Champaign-Urbana joined the 600+ cities across the nation in the March for Science with their own march and rally. The local attendance number looks to be around 2200, according to estimates from the organizers, and included activists of all ages and backgrounds. Local youth in grades K-12 kicked off the march, which was a short walk around the block. Regardless of the length of the march, the rally was a great opportunity to hear from local scientific community members, and come together with others in our area who are concerned about the future of scientific research, the environment, and many other areas that could be threatened under the policies of the current administration. I'm not a scientist, I'm not knowledgeable about most aspects of science, but to me that makes their ability to fully participate in their fields that much more important, and that's why I showed up.

There are more photos and videos of the speakers on the CU March for Science Facebook group page. Those interested in continuing the conversation can show up at the Champaign Public Library this Saturday at 10:30 am. 


Ebertfest 2017: Photos from Day Five

We're wrapping up Ebertfest with another set of photos and words that exhibit what makes Ebertfest great. Scroll to the end of the article to read my full analysis of the festival. 

Here is some of the Virginia Theater crew. "At this point, we are slap-happyy" says Mitch Marlow, head of public relations and ticket sales. Getting about 6-7 hours of sleep a night during Eberfest, the crew is here at 7 a.m. and leaves about midnight every night. "This year has been my favorite" remarked Steve Bentz, theater director. "We had so much diversity. Both in film and in customer. It was really great" Bentz went on. 

Someone had placed a V.I.P. lanyard on Ebert's statue. 

The last movie of the festival was De-Lovely.

Irwin Winkler, director and producer of De-Lovely and his son accepted the golden thumb saying that "it is wonderful to be on stage with my son accepting this award."

After the movie the audience was encouraged to stick around and here a closing song which was quite moving: "everytime we say goodbye, I die a little inside."

This is Kevin Mcguire. He is the stage manager and has been around since Ebertfest started. "I remember when Ebert was in town and he came with Nate Kohn to the Virginia. They were sitting alone in the house [seats where you watch the films from] and Ebert said, 'this would be a great place for a film festival.'"

Nate Kohn, festival director, shows me his bag from 2002. "Every year our bags get bigger. This one is just right. I use it as a briefcase. I always carry my things in it."

One could consider Kohn's comment on the bags getting bigger as an analogy for the film festival continuing to grow. 

Backstage Chaz and Nate sit down to talk about their experience this year. Chaz remarked, "This has been the best year yet" and Kohn agreed. 

My personal analysis of Ebertfest. This was the first year that I really dove into Ebertfest. In years past I may have attended a few movies here and there but this year I tried to attend nearly all events involved with Ebertfest. There are some aspects of the festival that I really enjoyed and, like all things, there are some areas that I would like to see change or improve. 

What makes Ebertfest great is that we even have a festival. That alone is a feat in and of itself. And I am very thankful to even have something of this scale in our community. It brings people together, challenges us, and gives us something to do other than go out to eat or go grab a drink at a bar. I heard from numerous people that the line-up of movies was fantastic. People really enjoyed the eclectic collection of films being shown at the festival. I also really appreciated all of the local involvement that the festival facilitates from the t-shirts being printed at Wieskamp, to the local volunteers, to local photographers covering the event to local food trucks supplying the food. Those are all very positive aspects of Ebertfest. 

What I would like to see change at Ebertfest boils down to later show times on the weekdays, beers, more food, and involving the Art Theater.

-Show times. Although many festival workers were impressed by the diversity of the crowd I was less impressed. Most of the crowd appeared to be retirees. One reason that is so, is because younger people who work day jobs, could not make it out to the films during the day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I think that is a strong case for moving the films to the evening time. Plus, when I think of going to the movies, I think of evening time, with the bright lights and cool air of the night. It feels less romantic during the day time. 

-Beer. Wine. Spirits. Someday marijuana? Whatever your choice of relaxation tonic is, most people would really like to have a drink before, during or after a festival's main event. I understand there are liquor licenses and red tape but the Virginia has had a bar in the past, why not for Ebertfest too?

-Food. There are multiple food trucks here in town. Where were they for the festival? Were they not invited? Not interested? People love to eat. If you cook it, they will come. If you serve beer with it, they will be even happier. I would suggest renting out a piece of the parking lot at Busey and having food trucks park there for the afternoon and into the evening. 

-The Art Theater. It is such a natural relationship that isn't being groomed that I've got to think there is bad blood there. If there isn't, great, let's collaborate. People who love movies support the Art Theater. And people who come to Ebertfest, love movies. I would suggest having short films being shown at the art or maybe even host the panel discussions at the Art Theater while the films show at the Virginia. 


Ebertfest 2017: Photos from Day Four

Back with another day of photos and words for you to enjoy from Ebertfest 2017!

Every year Ebertfests hosts a sale for local artists. In particular, they invite young artists with disabilities to participate. This is Victoria. She and her parents have turned their garage into a studio for her to create art. She is holding up a sort of decorative placemat that can be used for eating on, dog dishes, plants etc. She and I talked about making art, selling art, and Ebertfest. We also talked about how she has autism and how it affects her art. 

What does a movie goer bring to Ebertfest? Elle Scholwin let me see exactly what she brought. Wallet, loose cash for snacks, Swedish Fish for snacks, lip balm, comb to combat the wind, and two sets of keys. Why two sets? She's here with her mother enjoying the movies. This is their year coming and they like to come to the Ebertfest because of the movie selection. 

Meet Katie Bruner. Grad student at U of I. She's meeting a friend here to watch one of the films. I asked her about why she bought a ticket versus a pass. "It's just that it's out of my price range to buy a pass. And I can't take days off of work to go see films during the day during the week." 

John Isberg is a local filmmaker. He works for Shatterglass studio and is shooting b-roll film. This is his third Ebertfest and he's had fun mainly because he's got to be apart of interviews of some film legends. 

Don walks over to the near the Busey parking lot, cups his hands around his mouth, and yells, "five minutes to doors! Five minutes to doors!" The people come out of the shadows, from the bars and restaurants, marked with purple and green lanyards around their necks. They flood into the theater and all is quiet again on the street. Don sits guard as the last night of Ebertfest begins. 

The last film of the night was Being There. A film about a man gets swept up into high society and politics. There was much laughter in the crowd. 


10 photos that make the Illinois Marathon great

I've heard from numerous runners that the Illinois Marathon is fun to run. Why? Many reasons. The land is flat, the trees are beautiful, the weather is mild and most importantly, the fans are out. One runner remarked that at other marathons, there are 1/10th the amount of people cheering them on compared to C-U. Here are some photos of what make us a great place to run (and watch others run). 


Ebertfest 2017: Photos from Day Three

Welcome back to my Ebertfest photo journal. Here are ten meaningful shots from yesterday's festival. 

I started my day off by stopping in Cafe Kopi for a sandwich. I asked them to just put it in a napkin so I could eat while I walked, but they did me one better, the put it in this paper bag. It was great! Eating the sandwich was easy while I walked and I could feel the warmth of the bread in my hands without getting my hands oily. 

After eating my sandwich I went and took a photo with the Ebert statue. I wish there was a standard hashtag that we all used to tag a photo with Ebert so that we could see all of the photos that people take with the statue. I'm looking at you Ebert Fest. coordinators!

Moviegoers stopped to read about some of Ebert's history here locally. Among the poster is Ebert's drivers license from when he was a young man. 

Wieskamp is providing the swag this year and the prices on point for these t-shirts. Only $10. Just think, you're buying a t-shirt at a local festival, made by a local business. Win, win, win. 

They're also offering tote bags, hats, books, and coffee mugs. 

Variete  was a silent film with a live score. Notice the orchestra playing down in the right hand corner.  

July and Half of August was a short film shot in a dive bar in Las Angelas.

They Call Us Monsters was a film about juvenile offenders in California who face life in prison. During the film, the kids get to take a class on screenwriting and you can see how well they are able to work through their feelings about their life through the artistic expression. 

The panel afterward was led by an reviewer who opened the panel by saying, "You can see how much engaging with art benefited these children. I can't help but think about how we have a president in office who does not value the arts." That statement only got a half-clap from the audience. 

Finally the night closed with Elle. An intense film about rape, sexuality, desire, family, suspense, and mystery. The film was introduced by the lead actress, Isabelle Huppert, who is an absolute powerhouse of an actor. 


Ebertfest 2017: Photos from Day Two

The day kicked off with a panel discussion at the Hyatt in Downtown Champaign. The topic was empathy and many of the panel members were young people in film and media. The central question seemed to be, "Are we getting less empathetic? And how does our media and how we consume it affect that level of empathy?"

The topic of Netflix came up. The audience seemed to be positioned in that Netflix and other online viewing mediums were degrading our empathy due to the isolation and binge watching of only particular genres versus going out into the world to interact with others while taking in a film that may not be exactly your style. In opposition, the panel argued that online watching allows users to access millions of titles and genres whereas in "real life"  one would have to wait until a film is released in your area to view it. 

Hendrick House is a student housing group on campus that supports the Ebertfest. Here is their Cuban sandwich that looks mouth watering. I talked with Sarah and Teresa (pictured below) who bought the sandwich. "Our brother was a cook at Hendrick house. We love their food" they explained. 

Teresa (left) and Sarah (right) have been coming since 2003. Teresa is a long time fan of Ebert saying that she used to read his column and has always loved his commentary. They both appreciate that the festival celebrates films that are often overlooked. 

Ebertfest gave out gold thumbs this year to those who have been coming to the festival for 15 years or more. 

The movie was delayed so Chaz brought some stage crew up to dance and the whole crowd joined in. 

Hysteria was a movie about the vibrator. The director introduced the movie saying, "it is supposed to be funny, so laugh!" Laugh many did. 

After the movie, panel members discussed the comedy built into the movie but also how the term hysteria, although delegitimized in the 1950's, is still often used to describe behavior today. 

The night drew near and the sun set beautifully in the west. This is a photo from an Urbana street. Surely one that Ebert had walked perhaps viewing a similar sunset during his years in Urbana. 

The night ended with The Handmaiden. I personally had seen the film late last year and enjoyed it for it's beautiful sets, plot twists, and ghoulish characters. Others however referred to it as, "pure porn" which Chaz addressed saying, "our film scholar says that this is not pornography. It is as beautiful as Michael Angelos David sculpture of a nude man."


Solon House tours offered on May 7th

I've driven by this house on the corner of State and Healey for years, never knowing exactly what it was all about. After seeing an event posting on Facebook, I looked up some info and found out a few things.

The house was originally built between 1865-1869, and was purchased by Francis Solon in 1907. The family maintained ownership into the 1980's. According to a News-Gazette article, once vacated it became a place where homeless residents took shelter, leading to a fire in the kitchen.

Now, it's owned by PACA- Preservation & Conservation Association of Champaign County, and they are opening it up to the public for tours on Saturday, May 7th from 11am-5pm. 

A fun tidbit: the PACA website has archived all of it's newsletters since 1981, which is where I found some of the history of the house. You can read more here.

Here's the poster for the event (found on the Champaign Urbana History Facebook page).