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Houlihan’s might have the most creative garnish in C-U

“Extreme garnishing” was a legitimate foodie trend in 2014. It sounds absurd, and frankly, when you’re ordering a drink you want the drink, not the gigantic PIZZABURGERWICH that is skewered with a harpoon made of Sour Punch Straws. That’s not to say, though, that sometimes a little bit of outside the box garnishing is a bad thing. Take, for instance, a bloody mary with a little bit of brisket and a little bit of pulled pork to go with the bacon on a skewer. That’s not the standard olives and celery and slice of bacon, but it’s not a gaudy hamburger either. It’s beautiful.

I guess what I’m saying is that when you’re doing an extreme garnish, don’t go TOO extreme. Otherwise it overshadows the drink itself.

Admittedly, I’m a little late to the party on this but Houlihan’s at the iHotel might have the most inventive and fun drink in Champaign-Urbana right now and some of that has to do with the garnish. Sure, this particular garnish probably is not edible, but that’s not totally the point of a garnish anyway right? The dudes on Chopped sometimes just add stuff to the plate that’s not meant to be eaten (and then Geoffrey Zakarian gives them the death stare). If it's inventive and fun enough, the garnish can be aesthetic.

The drink at Houlihan’s I'm talking about is called the Shady Sunrise and it’s a pretty typical tequila sunrise with a twist that sets it apart — of course, it's the garnish. It’s garnished with gigantic souvenir sunglasses to make your drink look like it has a pretty awesome face. Putting sunglasses on objects to make them look like people is awesome, and this is about as good as it gets.

The catch to this, is that you’ve got about four days until Houlihan’s switches their special drink up, so get there soon and get a great springtime drink with gigantic sunglasses.


New play by Mark Roberts getting an Alabama try-out

In tangential Champaign-Urbana Arts news:

After his successful runs as a TV writer and showrunner, local actor/comedian Mark Roberts has focused much of the last decade on the stage. His most recent play, New Country, will make its debut Wednesday, April 29th, at the University of Alabama—Huntsville. Both Roberts, who appears in the play, and director David Harwell have participated in past productions at the Station Theatre in Urbana.

Information about the show, provided in an email press release, is as follows:

The unfiltered comedy New Country will make its debut at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) before its official off-Broadway opening at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Wilson Theatre from Wednesday, April 29, to Saturday, May 2, and Wednesday, May 6, to Saturday, May 9.

Written by Mark Roberts, the creator of TV’s “Mike and Molly,” and directed by David Harwell, associate professor and director of UAH Theatre, New Country marks the first time a professional company of theater makers from New York will be developing new work on the UAH campus.

“This is a rare opportunity for UAH to host an amazing group of equity actors and managers producing this amazing new play bound for New York,” says Harwell. “It’s a dream come true for any theatre program to have access to cutting edge professional theatre on its own campus.”

Roberts, who visited the UAH campus last year to host an industry workshop, will also be part of the acting ensemble. A playwright, comedian, and actor, he has been seen on “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “The Practice,” among other prime time shows. He also served as the head writer and executive producer of “Two and a Half Men” for seven years and as the creator-showrunner of “Mike & Molly” for three seasons.

“We are truly fortunate to have this generous theatre artist on campus, in our classrooms and on our stage,” says Harwell, who also directed Roberts’ comedy Couples Counseling Killed Katie and Where the Great Ones Run at UAH. “Plus, we get to take the production to NYC and premiere off-Broadway with our students in tow. The experience for them is life changing.”

Tickets for New Country are available in advance by calling 256.824.6871. General admission tickets are $25, senior tickets are $12, and student tickets are free with Charger ID. For more information, visit newcountrytheplay.com.

Featuring from New York and Los Angeles: Malcolm Madera, Jared Culverhouse, Stephen Sheffer, David Lind, Mark Roberts, and Sarah Lemp.

You might recall that Couples Counseling Killed Katie and Where the Great Ones Run were also performed at the Station, the latter having its "unofficial" world premiere. Couples Counseling starred Mike Trippiedi and Lindsey Gates-Markel, and Great Ones featured Steve Keen, Gary Ambler, and Anne Shapland Kearns, among others.

Check out the video "trailer" for New Country below. And, hey, if you're going to be in Alabama this weekend....


Joshua George wins London Marathon in a photo finish

Joshua George, an Olympic Gold medalist who lives in Champaign-Urbana, is on a tear lately. After winning Chicago last year, today brings news that he has also won in London after a photo finish. It's the kind of dramatic finish that has you yelling at your computer while your neighbors look at you funny from across the street:

A few years back, he wrote a couple articles for us at Smile Politely examining the history of wheelchair athletics both here, and the world over. 

Basically, he is a boss, and we love him. 
In other news, local Tatyana McFadden also won the Women's division, but that is hardly news by now, as she is the best wheelchair racer worldwide, by far, no discussion, without question.
Needless to say, she's giving Jean Driscoll a run for her money. 
Amanda McGrory, another Olympic Gold medalist who calls C-U home, finished third. She also has a badass website. Check it out at the link above. 
Three cheers for our locals today! We're super proud. 

College for Kids at Parkland celebrates its 35th year

Depending on who you speak with, some will tell you that your college-aged years are the best of your life. The wealth of knowledge gained on a collegiate campus and the time spent there is outstanding for students and faculty alike.

Growing up in a household where one of my parents worked for a university, I thought college was the coolest thing in the world. I wanted to go to college from a young age because I saw older young people enjoying themselves and having the freedom to learn what they wanted and do what they wanted on their own time.

My experiences on a campus as a youngster were really cool. I got to see what it was like to have students heading to class and going to the dining halls and hanging out outside of class. I was in awe and wished I could have participated in those experiences right then and there. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a program for young people that I was able to be a part of.

Champaign has a program for kids like me at Parkland College. The College for Kids program is turning 35 years old this year and students in grades 3-8 are invited to participate. There’s two sessions taking place in June and July where students can explore a variety of subjects on a college campus. More details on the May registration can be found here.

It’s a great way for inquisitive young minds to stay sharp as they’re in the middle of their summer vacation. More than that, though, it gives young students to live life as a big shot on campus for a few days.


Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee launches new Pro Bono Pledge


The Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee has launched the Pro Bono Pledge to encourage and recognize lawyers providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Illinois.

“Our legal community has had a longstanding tradition of providing pro bono legal assistance, and for that we should be congratulated,” wrote Committee Chair, Mark C. Palmer of Evans, Froehlich, Beth & Chamley, in a letter to attorneys in the Sixth Circuit. “However, the number of unrepresented individuals and families has increased significantly, and more pro bono assistance is needed.”

The Pledge calls on law firms and corporate legal departments to:

  1. Encourage their attorneys and legal staff to provide pro bono legal services and in doing so, provide an environment which is hospitable to the rendition of such services;
  2. Designate a primary pro bono point of contact within the firm or corporate law department;
  3. Consider adopting a written pro bono policy; and
  4. Recognize attorneys and legal staff who participate in pro bono services, as appropriate.

The pledge was formally launched on March 30, 2015. Interested attorneys and law offices can sign the pledge at www.pili.org/6thcircuit

The Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee is a group of lawyers and judges working to enlist, educate and recognize attorneys dedicated to pro bono work in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. The ultimate goal is to expand the reach of legal aid to poor and underrepresented communities. It was launched on October 23, 2012 in partnership with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). Pro Bono Committees in Illinois’ Third, Fifth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Judicial Circuits have also launched similar Pro Bono Pledges. More information about the Pro Bono Pledge is available at: www.pili.org/pro-bono/pro-bono-pledge.

About PILI: PILI's mission is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families and communities in need. PILI envisions a legal community with a deeply rooted culture of service, where law students, lawyers and legal professionals at all stages of their careers engage in public interest law or pro bono work, and remain committed to addressing the unmet legal needs of the poor and underrepresented.

To learn more about PILI, visit our website at www.pili.org, or contact PILI Executive Director Michael Bergmann at mbergmann@pili.org or 312-832-5129.


iTV-3 announces expansion groundbreaking on May 8th in Urbana

Good news, Urbana. iTV-3 is breaking ground next week — so fiber is coming your way. Check out the full press release below:

Please make plans to join representatives from iTV-3, UC2B, the cities of Urbana & Champaign, and the University of Illinois for a groundbreaking event to celebrate the expansion of gigabit-to-the-home service in Urbana-Champaign. 

A full invitation and press release will follow soon. Please see event logistics below. 

Who: Calling all gigabit enthusiasts in Urbana and Champaign! This groundbreaking is open to the general public, local business, public officials, community anchor institutions, University representatives, and anyone interested in the expansion of the gigabit network throughout Champaign-Urbana. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this email!

When: 11a.m. on Friday, May 8th

Where: Home of Bruce Komadina & Jenny Putman, 402 W. Delaware, Urbana (Intersection of Carle and Delaware)

Why: We are celebrating the start of construction of iTV-3 gigabit fiber-to-the-home service into new neighborhoods!

iTV-3 and UC2B have been busy behind the scenes since announcing a private-public partnership last Spring. iTV-3 has upgraded the core of the network in a brand new datacenter and each one of the core routers can handle 16Tbps of traffic. This equates to downloading the entire Netflix catalog of content in less than 30 minutes.

iTV-3 is also installing new fiber to the premise equipment in Champaign and Urbana area to meet the future needs of the community.  This will enable iTV-3 to expand the network and provide Gigabit service to more than 250,000 homes including 45,000 households and businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Help us celebrate the first C-U neighborhood to reach a 50% commitment and encourage other neighborhoods to build demand. Visit www.ThePerfectUpgrade.comto view the current sign-up map and learn more. 


Town Hall on budget cut proposals

Rep. Carol Ammons, the Campus Faculty Association, and the Graduate Employees Organization are co-sponsoring a town hall with Ralph Martire, the Executive Director of the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability. 

Ralph Martire is Executive Director of the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability, an advocacy think tank that works across ideological lines to promote social and economic justice. In February 2011, he was appointed to serve on the U.S. Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission. He teaches graduate courses for the University of Illinois and Roosevelt University. He serves on the School Board of River Forest District 90 and is a regular columnist on education, fiscal and economic policy for the State Journal Register and Daily Herald.

WHEN: Monday, April 27 from 4 - 6 p.m.

WHERE: Champaign Public Library


Tonight on SP Radio: Urbana’s Market at the Square 2015

Urbana's Market at the Square is right around a week away (but hey, who's counting?). Join us tonight on SP Radio as we chat with Natalie Kenny-Marquez, Director of Market at the Square, about what this year's market will have to offer. 

Smile Politely Radio airs each Friday at 5:30 p.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM in Champaign and is available as a podcast the following week. You can find our past episodes here.


Lt. Governor Sanguinetti stopped by Barkstall Elementary

This afternoon Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti made a trip to Champaign to meet with Ms. Ellis’ social studies class at Barkstall Elementary. The students in the class wrote letters to her asking about her role in government and instead of writing a canned reply, the Lt. Governor decided to stop in and meet the students personally.

Personal politics aside, the Lt. Governor was warm and comfortable with the children as she talked about her life as a young person. She was born in Miami to very young parents and talked about how she loved music and writing and that’s how she became a lawyer. She described a few of her responsibilities as the Lt. Governor and then opened the floor for questions.

The elementary students asked some pretty heavy hitters like “What is your favorite sport?” (fast-paced walking) and “Do you have animals?” (she has three: Tweety the bird, Sweetie the Spaniel, and Taco the Calico cat). It was rather adorable watching her interact with youngsters and trying to leave political rhetoric aside, although she did mention that she was in the business of problem solving and kept telling the children that her job is to create jobs for them in the State of Illinois.

The class presented Sanguinetti with a few souvenirs and she took pictures with the students before heading out. All in all, a really cool experience for those involved and good on the Lt. Governor for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to the future of the United States.


Mayor Don Gerard gets the penultimate Democratic selfie

Don Gerard is doing a helluva victory lap this final month in office. One minute, he's presenting information on the big victory he helped out with to protect the Mahomet Aquifer, and now, he's taking selfies with ol' Amtrak Joe, our nation's Vice President. 

It's nice to see. 


Picture: provided