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Illini basketball preview: VCU

Illinois vs. VCU
2 p.m., in Miami, Fla.
TV: CBS Sports Network

With just five games left in the nonconference season, Illinois (5-3) has work left to do in order to stay within striking distance of an NCAA Tourney berth. Based on the way the Big Ten is looking, with Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin looking like top-tier teams and another five or six behind them looking dangerously talented, winning out these final five games would be an ideal situation for the Illini.

Winning out, naturally, is no easy task, and the most difficult opponent of the last five might be Saturday's, VCU (6-1). The Rams are a veteran team that plays stifling defense. They play aggressive, like West Virginia, but operate more of a half-court defense rather than full-court press. KenPom loves VCU, ranking them top 40 with the 28th adjusted defense, and they are rated highly in RPI as well, placing 33rd. JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox are studs for the Rams, racking up big usage and plus/minus numbers. 

The key for Illinois, as we saw against NC State, is minimizing unforced errors and turnovers, playing well in the post, and keeping active on defense. One thing to watch for, in particular, is how well John Groce sticks to a rotation. In the last game he seemed settled on playing Tracy Abrams, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Malcolm Hill, Leron Black, and Mike Thorne, with Te'Jon Lucas, Michael Finke, and Maverick Morgan the main options off the bench. These roles suited the team well, and while Aaron Jordan, DJ Williams and other guys might have something worthwhile to offer, sometimes it's best to just roll with what's working.

My prediction: Justin Tillman comes on strong for VCU, getting Leron Black into foul trouble and feasting on weaker defenders as the Rams win.


MLK Community Choir announces rehearsal dates

From the press release:

We would like to invite the community to participate in the local efforts that continue to build the bridges in our community. All Faiths are welcome to participate. 

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In that all rehearsals have been traditionally set from 2-4 pm on Saturdays, at the Historic Salem Baptist Church 500 East Park Street, Champaign, I am listing below the following dates for the Martin Luther King Community Choir Rehearsals:

  • Saturday, December 17, 2016 –2:00-4:00 PM
  • Saturday, December 31, 2016 –2:00-4:00 PM
  • Saturday, January 7, 2017–2:00-4:00 PM
  • Saturday, January 14, 2017 –2:00-4:00 PM

Sunday, January 15, 2017 —Tech Rehearsal, Lunch, Sound Check, and the Main Celebration in the Foellinger Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois, 61801

All Choir Personnel will be perform in standard concert Black attire.


This is how you put out a fire on an airplane

The good folks over at Champaign's Willard Airport have just unveiled their newest fire-fighting apparatus inside the Flightstar hangar, and it's pretty damn cool. If you've ever wondered how one would put out an airplane that's one fire, wonder no longer, because we now have video, and it's fascinating. 

Check out the video via iFlyCU's Twitter below: 


Common Ground hosting a pair of holiday events next week

Common Ground Food Co-op has announced a slew of holiday programs, kicking off next Sunday, December 11th, with a DIY Holiday Gifts + Co-op explorers event. The event will run from 1-4 pm, and tickets will be available at the door.

From the Facebook event: 

Making your own gifts is easy! Join us in the classroom on Sunday, December 11th from 1-4 pm.

We'll be combining our Co-op Explorers event for the month with an adult DIY workshop so that everyone can get in on the fun. Join us for our FREE kids activity, gingerbread mitten ornaments, and/or for $5 per adult participant, make a linen spray or roll-on scent from essential oils. We'll have free gift tags and ribbons, as well as recipes to create gift jars for making tandoori flavored popcorn, curry spiced mixed nuts, and more. We'll also be encouraging kids to cut paper snowflakes for our front windows.

Tickets available at the door.

Then, on Saturday December 17th, they'll also be hosting a wine tasting featuring more than 20 wines and three wine experts on-site. You can RSVP to the tasting here, where more information will be as it comes available.


Japan House hosting pop-up holiday bazaar next weekend

The University of Illinois' Japan House, located just south of Florida on Lincoln Avenue in Urbana, will be hosting their third annual holiday bazaar called "Mottainai" next weekend.

Japan House is seeking donations of household goods and clothes, and will also be accepting donations every weekday between now and next weekend from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information on the event, and how to get involved, RSVP here.

From the Facebook Event


December 10, 11 am to 4 pm
December 11, noon to 3 pm

We are holding our Third Annual Mottainai Bazaar on December 10 - 11, 2016. Mottainai is a Japanese phrase that is built from two words “mottai” and “nai.” The first word denotes “value” or “importance” and the second word signifies an “absence” or “lack” of something. When merged together, the phrase expresses a sense of remorse over being wasteful. Thus, we have embraced this concept and hope that what might no longer bring you joy or is necessary to keep, may be a new treasure for another person!

We ask that you forage through your closets, drawers, attics, basements, and garages for items that you may not longer need or want. Rather than throwing them out, please consider donating these items to Japan House in support of our Bazaar. We are primarily seeking Asian related items — but welcome general household items including: housewares, dishes, display items, frames, books, crafts, craft supplies, and so on and so forth. All of the proceeds of this Bazaar support our indispensable Internship program!

We will accept donations every weekday between 9 am and 4 pm and on Fridays from 9 am until noon. If you need us to come to you for a pick up in the vicinity of Champaign-Urbana, we would be happy to do so.

We deeply appreciate your support for the Japan House Internship program and our students! We thank you all for your kind consideration of and interest in our programming.


Illinois Public Media-produced documentary on barn history debuting tonight

If you've spent any time in Central Illinois at all ever, you've certainly noticed a barn - an integral part to any functioning farmland. Given mostly that these structures are a passing forgettable landmark to the average person, there really is much more to their design, practicality and identity than meets the eye.

Luckily, WILL will be debuting a new documentary tonight at 7 pm focusing on barns, some which are local, and agricultural life in Illinois through time. For more information, check out the press release below: 

Illinois Public Media to premiere a documentary on the history of barns in Illinois

Urbana, IL (November 30, 2016)--Illinois Public Media has produced Barns: An Illinois Story, a WILL-TV program of a slightly different sort. Part documentary and part regional storytelling, this film serves as an all-out love letter to the iconic structures that dot our state’s landscape. In fact, throughout the film, viewers will see and learn more about barns familiar to them, no matter where in Illinois they live.

During the making of the program, producer Oliver Peng traveled the length and breadth of Illinois to capture glorious images of various barns throughout many counties across our state. Interviews with barn owners and restorers are interspersed with breathtaking time-lapse videography, aerial footage, and mini camera shots to give you a new perspective on these familiar structures.

“I think all Illinoisans have an affection for barns – those sturdy, mostly older buildings that shape our landscape. They are part of what makes Illinois’ broad skies and flatlands beautiful. This program was our way of celebrating those buildings, and by extension, life in 21st century Illinois that’s still dominated by agriculture,” said Danda Beard, executive producer for the film.

Viewers might recognize UI Round Barns on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign County; Allerton Music Barn at the Allerton Park and Conference Center in Piatt County; Phelps Barn in Peoria County; Hammond Barn in McDonough County; and/or The Barn at Allen Acres in Whiteside County.

“I hope viewers love what they see. And I thank Larry Kanfer and Alaina Kanfer, who created the book Barns of Illinois, for inspiring our project,” Beard continued.

Barns are practical. They store equipment, keep animals safe, and speak quietly and eloquently of our agricultural past. And through restoration, maintenance, and repurposing, they will continue to have a future here in Illinois in farming and as museums, restaurants, and family gathering places.
“As a newcomer to central Illinois, the beauty of barns struck me right away. When I take my bike out for a long weekend ride, they are things I look forward to seeing – as landmarks on my route, or a new discovery on a county road I’ve not traveled. They are iconic in our landscape, beautiful, handcrafted structures – and certainly worth celebrating on public television in central Illinois,” said Moss Bresnahan, CEO and president of Illinois Public Media.

Illinois Public Media is pleased to share this “camera’s-eye” view of barns – structures most central Illinoisans know and love, even if they didn’t grow up in a small town.

Barns: An Illinois Story debuts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, on WILL-TV, and will be repeated at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 5.



You might not realize that you like harps

Three renowned harpists will be in town tomorrow and performing at the Upper Bout in downtownish Champaign. (The old JBJ Center, you know, the all-brick strip mall with an El Toro in it?) 

If you have never seen a performance of harpists, I encourage you to consider it. Aside from the way it's portrayed in popular culture, the harp is fairly amazing, does not have to be grandiose, and is always intriguing to watch. Hands maybe shouldn't move like that, but you can't look away. 

These particular harpists — Patrick Ball, Lisa Lynne, & Aryeh Frankfurter — all focus on the Celtic style, and mix their music with the storytelling tradition. This particular show — "A Winter's Gift" — includes "A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a chapter from The Wind in the Willows, and passages from Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats, and Thomas Hardy, and mingles them with beloved and original pieces of seasonal music. Audiences will hear three Celtic Harps, Swedish Nyckelharpa, Fiddle, Bandura, Bouzouki and more."

$20, 7 p.m., unique experience. I'd go but I'm working, tell me how it is. 


Innovation Celebration 2017 nomination deadline is December 9th

Innovation Celebration 2017 is taking place Friday, March 3rd of 2017, though there's still time to nominate someone for an INNCEL award. Check out all the information below, though the deadline is next Friday, December 9th, so you best get to it if you're interested.

Check out our recap of INNCEL 2016 here.

Know an entrepreneur/innovator in Champaign County who deserves to be recognized?

We are pleased to announce the 12th Annual Innovation Celebration in recognition of those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and provided leadership to ensure the continuing economic success of Champaign County, the ongoing success of the University's economic development mission, and the growth of entrepreneurial talent and energy in our community. 

Friday, March 3, 2017
5:30-8:30 pm

Parkland College - Student Union
2400 West Bradley Avenue 
Champaign, IL 61821

The awards have been established to recognize the various ways in which individuals and organizations have utilized innovation, creativity, and leadership for entrepreneurial endeavors and economic development in the community. Please nominate as many people/organizations as you would like. 
Nominations are open to the public and will be accepted through 4 pm on December 9, 2016.
Nominations will be viewed and judged in December 2016 by a panel of past winners, sponsors and community & university leaders. Finalists will be announced in early 2017. 

To learn more about the event, view past award winners, watch our videos, and RSVP, visit our event website

Awards & Descriptions

Innovation Transfer Award-University of Illinois 
Recognizes an individual or group from the University of Illinois whose research has resulted in either a discovery or a work with the potential for significant societal impact.

Alexis Wernsing Innovation Award-University of Illinois
Recognizes an individual or team from the University of Illinois that has channeled their experience living with a disability into positive change through the creation of new products, environments, or protocols that enhance quality of life. 

Innovation in Engagement Award-Parkland College 
Recognizes an individual or group at Parkland College who has shown support of the college's community engagement mission. 

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Social Venture Award
Serve as change agents by creating and implementing sustainable solutions to reshape society, benefit humanity, and address social concerns. 

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Student Startup Award
Formed by students in the last three years and demonstrates a commitment to continuing success through entrepreneurial talent, creativity and energy.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: New Venture Award
Formed in the last three years, and demonstrates a commitment to continuing success through entrepreneurial talent, creativity and energy.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Advocacy Award
Actively engage, encourage, coach and mentor entrepreneurs in the community, and provide extensive support to help them achieve success.

Innovation: Economic Development Impact Award
Has successfully commercialized innovations while demonstrating a commitment to positive, local, economic impact.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Management Award
Demonstrates expertise in assembling resources, creating an organization, and working to build and implement effective action plans.

Innovation: Longevity Award
Recognizes those enterprises whose sustained success is the direct result of continued innovation over many years.

Top photo by Sam Logan.


La Louve release live album, donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood

Back in early August, local punk outfit La Louve were getting ready to go on hiatus before their drummer left for Paris. As a last hurrah, they completely tore it up with a final show at Ghost Planet, where they ripped through every track off of their self-titled cassette released in June, plus a Sleater Kinney cover. That show was recorded, and has now been released for the public’s listening pleasure.

La Louve: Live At Ghost Planet is available on the group’s bandcamp page. You can stream it, but you can also name your own price and purchase it, which you really should do - not only because it’s great, but also because the women of La Louve are donating all proceeds from the release to Planned Parenthood.

From the group’s page:

The live album is pay what you can, but any and all proceeds will go directly to Planned Parenthood. In light of the recent election, it's vital that we continue to fight for the causes and institutions we believe in. Donating the proceeds of this album to Planned Parenthood is our own (albeit small) way of fighting for what we believe in. 

Listen to “Intro/Not For You” below, and purchase the entire album here.


Allerton Park announces holiday programs, including lighted wellness walk

If you haven't been to Allerton Park in the Winter time, I would highly recommend it, especially after the show has fallen.

Today, the park has announced a lighted wellness walk to accompany a slew of other Winter events, which are sure to get you in the holiday spirit, including the Monticello High School madrigal singers (of which I am an alumnus, fun fact) at a free kickoff event tomorrow night, as well as a Holiday Showcase on December 10th - 12th.

For more information on specifics, check out Allerton's press release below:


Allerton seasonal events expand to include lighted wellness walk

Monticello – In addition to Allerton’s annual holiday festivities, this year visitors will be able to experience the Park after dark during its All is Bright event, featuring the Kirby Winter Wellness Walk. All winter events will be held at the estate, 515 Old Timber Road, Monticello.

With the support of Kirby Medical Center, Allerton has illuminated a walk from the Mansion parking lot to the Visitor Center (approx. half-mile round-trip), which will be open after the Park typically closes, 5-8pm, every Tuesday-Saturday from December 1 until January 15. For the past two years, Allerton staff has concentrated on decorating the courtyard outside the Mansion, but knew eventually they’d like to expand the lighted area to highlight specific aspects of the Park’s unique gardens and sculptures.

“This year we’re focusing on showcasing Robert Allerton’s original designs and giving the visitor a different experience than they have during the day,” explained Allerton’s Associate Director Derek Peterson. “Kirby’s support really made it possible for us to get this idea off the ground.”

Kirby Medical Center was eager to be involved and help the community stay moving this winter, while highlighting a local attraction.

“Staying active is important year-around and can be especially hard in the winter time,” Kirby’s CEO Steve Tenhouse explained.  “We are proud to support the Wellness Walk at Allerton and hope people come out, get moving, and enjoy what Allerton has to offer!”

After visiting Longwood Gardens (Philadelphia, PA) and the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL), Peterson was further inspired to continue to grow the event in the future.

“With enough community support and attendance, we’re looking at adding more unique lighting displays, pairing the lights with music, and keeping it open for more of the winter season,” Peterson said.

The All is Bright Kick Off is December 1, and will feature live music from the Monticello High School Madrigals and the Angelus Bell Choir from Grace Methodist Church in Urbana. Artists from the Monticello Area Arts Council will lead a natural ornament-making workshop in the Mansion, and there will be complimentary snacks and warm drinks in the Visitor Center. (Pre-register online.) The Walk and Kick Off event are free, but donations are appreciated.

For those who prefer to see the Park in daylight, the Holiday Showcase will run December 10-12 from 10am-4pm each day. Tickets are on-sale for the Showcase, which features booths from local businesses and artists, tours of the decorated Mansion, reservations for a buffet lunch, and carriage rides. Limited tickets remain for Sweets with Santa on December 18, featuring a visit with Santa, a story with Mrs. Claus, crafts, and treats.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call 217-333-3287.