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An intro to Protagonist Pizza Productions

It’s time Champaign-Urbana. Time for another dose of pizza. Protagonist Pizza that is. Food puns aside, consider taking a break from the day to join us, Nic and Janjay, as we go through our plans for this coming year with Smile Politely. Our creative blueprint includes: interviews with local artists, behind the scenes of your favorite local entertainment, and original/encouraging content highlighting the best places, events, and food of C-U.

The goal of Protagonist Pizza is to keep things positive. Whether it is by trying to make audiences laugh or by illuminating points of view that may be hidden to most. We hope that you’ll join us this year as we create, laugh, and learn about the people that make  C-U a special place to be in. Stay tuned for future installments.

Check out the first installment of 2 Dude Reviews while you're at it.


Scotty’s Brewhouse has so many TVs you guys

Please be certain: this is not a qualifying statement — there is no judgment implied, merely statement of fact — but this is by far the highest number of televisions I have ever seen in one space. 

All of the sportsball is here. If you turn your head to the corner, you can sometimes see four, maybe five, layers of TVs. 

Also be advised, for those citizens keeping track, there are several photos on the wall of the Chief. In contrast, about every third dish name on the menu references Hoosiers (because the chain started in Indiana, but still). 

I'll leave the food qualification to my betters, but these things jumped out at me during my lunchtime spent there. 

Also, my waitress was not yet 21, but brought me my bill in the contraption pictured below. My dining companion resisted the urge to ask if she knew what it was. 


Innovation Celebration 2017 award finalists announced

From the press release:

2017 Innovation Celebration Finalists Announced

CHAMPAIGN, IL, January 17, 2017 – The Champaign County Economic Development Corporation is pleased to announce finalists for the 12thAnnual 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.

Innovation Celebration is not merely an award for accomplishment, but a benchmark of success for those outstanding individuals, organizations and corporations who are nominated and selected to receive this prestigious award. Additionally, Innovation Celebration serves as a tangible collaboration between the Champaign County EDC, University of Illinois, Parkland College, and the community.

The winner of each award category will be announced at Innovation Celebration 2017, held at Parkland College on Friday, March 3, 2017 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. To RSVP and learn more about the event, visit

Award Finalists

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Social Venture Award

Young Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) – Champaign Unit 4 Schools

The Art of Science – Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs) 

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Student Startup Award


Amber Agriculture


Entrepreneurial Excellence: New Venture Award

Reconstruct Inc.

Petronics (Sprite Robotics)

PhotoniCare, Inc.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Advocacy Award

BIGG Success

Coattails, LLC

Jed Taylor

Innovation: Economic Development Impact Award

II-VI EpiWorks


Flightstar Corporation

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Management Award

Sanjay Patel - Personify

Beth Ladd - Caterpillar Data Innovation Lab

Laura Bleill - & University of Illinois Research Park

Innovation: Longevity Award

APL Engineered Materials, Inc.

Litania Sports Group

Surface 51

2017 Innovation Transfer Award Recipient – University of Illinois

Dr. Frederic Kolb

2017 Alexis Wernsing Innovation Award Recipient – University of Illinois

Arielle Rausin

2017 Innovation in Engagement Award Recipient – Parkland College

Jenni Fridgen


The EDC is pleased to work with the following sponsors of Innovation Celebration 2017: the University of Illinois’ Technology Entrepreneur Center, Research Park, Office of Corporate Relations, and Office of Technology Management, along with Parkland College, Singleton Law Firm, Serra Ventures, City of Champaign, Village of Rantoul, Bridge – Champaign County’s Virtual Incubator, Martin Hood Friese & Associates, Fox Development Corporation, Ramshaw Real Estate, Illinois Small Business Development Center at Champaign County EDC, Hanson Financial, AARP, Surface 51, Guth & Associates, Pixo, Carle, IllinoisVENTURES, Huawei, II-VI EpiWorks, Adjacency, and Frasca International, Inc.


Illini basketball preview: Purdue

Illinois at #21 Purdue
6 pm
Big Ten Network

It's easy to hate Purdue in the abstract (regardless of what our publisher thinks), but it's really hard to hate this version of the Boilermakers' men's basketball team. As a team, there is a whole lot of talent on display and a whole lot that they just do right. Their scoring offense, 82.6 points/game, is 25th in the nation; their scoring margin, 16.3, is 13th. Bottom line: the Boilermakers get buckets.

Much of their success stems from big man Caleb Swanigan, who came back for his sophomore season and is making opponents pay. He's averaging a double-double, with 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, to which he's added 14 blocks, 49 assists, and 16 of 34 threes (a better percentage, 47%, than any Illini with more than 10 attempts). Supporting Swanigan are 7-footer Caleb Haas (13.3 pts/gm), Vincent Edwards (12 pts/gm, 3.6 assists/gm), and Dakota Mathias (4.1 assists/gm and 48% from three).

Purdue has shown cracks in conference play, evident in its 3-2 record. For Illinois to win, it should follow the blueprint of Purdue's loss to Minnesota. The Gophers won by balancing their scoring, but letting a star play above the rest, which is Malcolm Hill in this hypothetical. On defense, Illinois has to limit the damage the role players can do as much as possible, because stopping Swanigan and everyone around him is likely impossible. Given the dichotomous nature of the Illini, this seems possible -- but only if the good side of the Illini show up, and who knows if that will happen or if it will happen for 40 minutes even.

My prediction: Purdue wins going away, Swanigan with an easy double-double.


Krelboyne announces new album and label

Local emo/pop/punk act Krelboyne have announced the release of a new album. Called Ghost of an Empire, the EP will be co-released through two different labels: Error Records, (formerly based out of C-U,) and Sonic Dust Records, a new label constructed by Krelboyne’s own Tyler Day. The EP will also serve as the kick-off for Sonic Dust Records.

Ghost of an Empire drops on February 3rd. The band will celebrate its release on the same day with a show at Blips and Chitz, also featuring Euriah, Gigantic, and Earthholder. Krelboyne is also using this show as the first date of their approaching tour.

Get to know Krelboyne by streaming “Obfuscated,” off of Krelboyne/WLY, an album split with We Love You from last April. Preorder Ghost of an Empire on cassette, CD, or digitally.


New year, new music for Euriah’s Eric Stanley

Euriah fans rejoice: Eric Stanley, singer/songwriter and guitarist for local emo outfit Euriah, has set an ambitious new year’s resolution for himself: he aims to write, record, and put out two new solo songs every week this year. Stanley has been releasing the songs under the moniker TSPW, and he’s going strong thus far, with four tracks available on the TSPW bandcamp.

Stanley intends to make CDs for each month, which will be available on the site and at shows for $2 each. A package deal is also in consideration for the end of the year.

Stream the latest track from TSPW, “When You’re On My Street,” below, and follow Stanley’s yearlong progress here for fresh emo music on the regular.


This bowl of jam bong at Masijta Grill is next level

On a cold day like this one, I found myself craving a hot and spicy noodle soup. And as my wife was shooting on location at PIXO, I stopped into under-celebrated Masijta Grill on Race St.

My server recommended the jam bong to me, which translates to nothing really, according to him. But they define it as spicy seafood soup, and that is exactly what it is.

The rich, deeply red broth is colored and flavored with peppers and is the perfect backdrop for a host of different types of seafood, including mussels, scallops, squid, and shrimp. The noodles are not thick like udon and not thin like Ramen. It's almost like spaghetti, but, you know, not exactly. 

As it is a Korean joint, the meal comes with a host of fermented salads, kimchi, marinated bean sprouts, seaweed salad, and more. 

I would type more, but I'm seriously having a love affair with this bowl of soup right now. 

Stop in and get you a bowl. It's the sort of thing that helps keep you happy when you wake up to find that your subhuman State Rep in Congress is a Nickelback fan, and proud of it.