Audio / Link / Photo / Quote / Video / Word / Submit to the SPlog! +
Category: Link

Fira Boutique launches new website

The Gregory Place boutique, Fira, has recently launched their new website, where you can browse through their collection, order online, and more. 

Anna Ragle has a pretty great thing going on over there, so check it out, as well as our piece on the shop from last fall. 

They also work with our friends at Accuraty, who help host this very magazine!

Fira is located at 700 S. Gregory Street in Urbana.


Heinz buys Kraft, one of Champaign’s largest employers

One of Champaign's largest employers, Kraft Foods, has been bought out by another food giant — Heinz Co. The merger will create one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, and you can read all about it via Mashable below.

Though it's uncertain if anything will change drastically with the particular plant in Champaign, the article notes that Kraft's stock "jumped 26 percent" before the opening bell this morning.

From the Mashable article (via Associated Press):

H.J. Heinz Co. is buying Kraft Foods, creating one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world with annual revenue of about $28 billion.

The Kraft Heinz Co. will own Kraft, Heinz, Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida and other brands. Eight of those brands have annual sales of $1 billion or more and five others log sales between $500 million and $1 billon every year.

The deal to bring together the two companies, each more than a century old, was engineered by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital. The two will invest another $10 billion in the new company.

Kraft Heinz will maintain headquarters in Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based, and also in the Chicago area, where Kraft resides.

Shares of Kraft jumped 26 percent Wednesday before the opening bell.

Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the combined company and a special cash dividend of approximately $10 billion, or $16.50 per share. Each share of Kraft will be converted into one share of Kraft Heinz.

Current Heinz shareholders will own 51 percent of the combined company, with Kraft shareholders owning a 49 percent stake.

Annual cost savings estimated to be $1.5 billion are expected to be booked by the end of 2017.

Buffett and 3G Capital snapped up Heinz in a deal valued at $23.3 billion two years ago.

"This is my kind of transaction," said Buffett in a printed statement. "Uniting two world-class organizations and delivering shareholder value. I'm excited by the opportunities for what this new combined organization will achieve."

Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees will become CEO, Alex Behring, Heinz chairman and managing partner at 3G Capital, will be chairman. Kraft CEO and Chairman John Cahill will become vice chairman.

The deal still needs a nod from federal regulators as well as shareholders of Kraft Foods Group Inc., but the boards of both companies unanimously approved it. The planned closing is set for the second half of the year.

Kraft Heinz plans to keep Kraft's current dividend per share once the transaction closes. Kraft has no plans to change its dividend before the deal is complete.

And yes, that's the big noodle from outside of the Kraft plant in Champaign, above.

In addition, here's another interesting tid bit:

And some commentary from C-U's own Tom Bruno:


Ash Wednesday service at Centennial found to be “not permissible”

Last month, a teacher at Centennial High School posted to Facebook about an Ash Wednesday service that Fr. Joel Phelps was providing to students before leaving on a class field trip. 

Today, it was learned that after an internal investigation, Unit 4 has deemed that action as "not permissible" under Board Policy, the Equal Access Act, or the Establishment Clause. 

And while Unit 4 will not disclose whether or not those staff and faculty who participated will be punished or not, let me state for the record that I do not believe that such an act should warrant anything but a reminder on the reasons why such an action is impermissible. 

What the teacher and admin in question did was, in fact, noble. They were, in my estimation, honestly trying to assist students in their pursuit of something that was important to them. That's precisely what a teacher is supposed to do, and for that, they should be applauded. 

But if there are people reading this that somehow believe that Christian Privilege is not a very real and extremely devastating thing for this nation moving forward, let me please disabuse you of that notion. 

To wit:

Imagine, if you will, that there were a few Wiccan students, or even more dramatic, Satanist students, who were going on the choir field trip that morning. And there was a sacred, ritualistic Wiccan or Satanic practice that was to be performed that morning that required leadership to be present. 

Had those students come to their teacher and ask that the High Priestess or the Dark Overlord be invited to the school before the school choir trip, how do you think that request would have been met? 

Exactly. And don't play pretend. Just, please — don't. 

This is a true teaching moment for Unit 4, who, admittedly, has had more than a few of them over the past few years — more than they probably want. 

Between an important Ferguson related protest gone awry, to having to work with the most incompetent School Board that you could ever imagine, this incident is mild by comparison. 

But important nevertheless. 

Fortunately, there's a top level Superintendent at the helm, and a ton of amazing staff and faculty right down along the line. 

I think Unit 4 would be wise to make sure that no one is punished in any significant way, and that the teacher actually be commended for her thoughtfulness. It's a matter of a few simple corrections.

And that's the good news. 


From Stephanie Stuart, Unit 4 Director of Communications: 

Following the Ash Wednesday service at Centennial High School, Champaign Unit 4 School District Administration worked with a third party legal team to conduct an investigation of the situation.

We understand that in this case Unit 4 staff members intended to accommodate students. This investigation was not a reflection of those staff members’ dedication or commitment to our students and families. We are very proud of the work taking place and are fortunate to have the involved staff as part of our Unit 4 team.

The legal protections guaranteed by Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution benefit both those who are religious and those who are not. The Equal Access Act allows student-led groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes be able to meet at the high school as long as meetings take place outside of class time. Staff members are able to supervise these student-led activities but not participate.

The investigation of this incident concluded that the Equal Access Act does not apply to the Ash Wednesday service because the service was not conducted by a student group and involved a Unit 4 staff member receiving ashes. Accordingly, the Ash Wednesday service was not permissible under Board policy, the Equal Access Act, or the Establishment Clause.

In accordance with our District policy and out of respect for our staff members, the District will not comment on whether or not disciplinary action will be taken in this case.

Above all, the Ash Wednesday incident has presented an opportunity for the District to provide additional support and training to staff members regarding the laws governing religion in public schools. It is the intent of the District for all staff members to be aware of and act in accordance with Board Policy and other laws governing our District.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as it was important to take the time needed to thoroughly review all information.


Excellent Daily Illini editorial calls our pervasive racism on campus

The Daily Illini's Editorial Board hit a home run here with their recent editorial slamming racism on campus in light of the recent events at Oklahoma University. You can read the whole thing here.

You might recall from back in the fall when we posted about Delta Chi's paddle sprawled across their front lawn, which is one of the things mentioned in the DI's article. They address flying Confederate Flags (also took place at the same fraternity), Unofficial Chief regalia, and more.

Bold move, but these are important issues to discuss — even in 2015.


Edible Book Festival accepting entries

The 10th annual Edible Book Festival will take place Wednesday, April 1st at the University YMCA (1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign). Have a literary-inspired cake? Enter it here

Check out the schedule below. 

Schedule for the Edible Book Festival on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

8-10 a.m. - Participants drop off edible entries at the University YMCA 
10-11:30 a.m. - Judging and photography
11:30 a.m. - Public viewing begins
12:15 p.m. - Welcome and judges' commentary
12:45 p.m. - Eating of books!


Breakfast on the Farm dates and menus announced

Breakfast with baby goats is back! Prairie Fruits Farm has annouced the dates and menus for the Spring Open House series. The menus this spring are limited; check them out below. Breakfasts are from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays from March 21st through April 25th. 

March 21st
Egg, Spinach, and Chevre on a Toasted Bagel
Gingerbread Pancakes

March 28th
Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
*Vegetarian Option - Kale Gravy*
Multi-grain Pancakes with Maple Creme Fraiche & Candied Pecans
Goat's Milk Yogurt Parfait with House-made Granola

April 4th
Ham, Egg, Chevre, and Pumpkin Tomato Chutney on a Pekara Bun
Blueberry Pancakes

April 11th
Bacon, Egg, and Smoked Gouda on a Pekara Bun
Cornmeal Pancakes with Blackberry and Lemon

April 18th
Egg, Black Beans, Chorizo, Salsa, and Pickled Jalepenos on a Pekara Bun
Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Syrup

April 25th
Corned Beef and Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Egg
Malted Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Bananas

Sides available each week:
Kids Pancakes
Side of Breakfast Sausage
Extra Egg
Goat's Milk Hot Chocolate (pasteurized)
Columbia Street Coffee
Glass of Goat's Milks (pasteurized)


Undertow's Bob Andrews, other locals mentioned in Pitchfork's Damien Jurado feature

Just in case you missed the Damien Jurado performance at Exile on Main Street back in February — a show that was a part of his house show tour — you can read about it via Pitchfork's feature. Joel Oliphint spent some with with Jurado and "breaks down the emotional — an financial — rewards of this new generation of fireside concerts."

Undertow's Bob Andrews is featured in a significant way throughout the piece, here's a bit from the excerpt, though there is a ton here:

Toward the end of 2008, David Bazan—best known as the former frontman of Seattle indie rockers Pedro the Lion—learned that the release date for his first solo record, Curse Your Branches, was getting pushed back. That wouldn’t have been a huge deal, except that his label, Barsuk, didn’t want him to do a club tour until the record came out. “It was going to be about 11 months with no income,” Bazan says.

Aided by some beer, the singer and his manager, Bob Andrews of Undertow Music, started brainstorming in the basement of Andrews’ home in Champaign, Illinois. Andrews was in a tight spot, too. “At that point, [Bazan] was my primary source of income,” he says. “We were both like, ‘What do we do now?’”

Bazan told Andrews he was up for anything that involved playing his music for money—even house shows. Andrews was hesitant at first. He wondered if a house tour would look bad for an artist who was previously playing for hundreds of fans in rock clubs, but Bazan quickly sold him on the idea. Andrews first tried to tap into a network of people who host house shows regularly, but few were interested; they were more into rootsy, Americana songwriters. So Andrews and Bazan went directly to the fans.

“We put an email out to do 30 shows, and we had 300 offers back in two days,” Andrews says. “So we put those together, and they all sold out in two days. It was crazy.”

Even with the great response, there was some trepidation. Would the model work? Would it be awkward? Would a crazy fan kidnap Bazan? “For the first few shows, I was waiting for the phone call: ‘I’m in the basement, somebody send the cops,’” Andrews says. “But it worked out fine.” Bazan’s booking agent and former Pedro the Lion bandmate, Trey Many, suggested early on that Undertow brand the gigs “Living Room Shows” to communicate the difference between these low-key acoustic performances and a typical rock gig. “You don’t want people to think there’s a keg and you bring a cup,” Andrews says.

Bazan enjoyed the shows so much he became an ambassador for the concept, inspiring his friend Will Johnson of Centro-matic to try it. Undertow has since added more artists to its Living Room roster each year: CalifoneMirahLaura GibsonTim Kasher of CursiveS. CareyRichard Buckner, Alec Ounsworth ofClap Your Hands Say YeahJohn Vanderslice, and others. The list includes a lot of musicians who’ve been touring with indie-rock acts since the ‘90s, and these Living Room gigs allow them to age gracefully while getting a break from neverending bar shows; they’ve grown up, but they don’t want to stop—or, even worse, devolve. Their fans are often of the same generation. They rocked out to Clem Snide in bars back in the day, but now that they’re married with children, it’s more appealing and convenient to see that band’s frontman, Eef Barzelay, at 8 p.m. in someone’s house—possibly with their kids—before hitting the sack a couple of hours later (see also: Netflix vs. movie theaters).

Andrews has tweaked the process over the years, but he still runs the tours in much the same way as those first Bazan shows: Undertow and the band request hosts near certain cities, vet the hosts over email, and look at photos of the spaces. Once the tickets go on sale, only attendees receive the address of a house. All the other relevant info for hosts and guests is on Undertow’s website (e.g. “Put on some background music at moderate to low volume so people can meet each other and chat before the show”).

It’s a replicable model. Jurado, also an Undertow alum, put together his most recent house tour with his booking agent, Seth Fein, who credits Andrews and Bazan for blazing the trail. Jurado rarely tours with a full band, but even when touring solo, he says rock clubs make things more complicated and costly than they need to be. The sound and lighting crews, promoter, venue owner, door guy—they all take a cut. These days, even a percentage of the band’s merchandise often goes to the club.

In the Undertow system, PayPal gets 4%, the booking agent gets 10%, and Undertow gets 15%, meaning an artist goes home with about 70% of the ticket sales, plus merch money. At the very beginning, some fans objected to the ticket prices, which range from $15-$25. “People were like, ‘20 bucks? It’s a house show! It’s supposed to be $5!’” Andrews says. “But once we called them ‘Living Room Shows,’ nobody complained about the price.” Bazan says he recently increased ticket prices from $20 to $25 without any gripes from fans.

Still, just as Andrews was initially skeptical of house tours, others in the industry remain resistant. For one, Undertow bands are playing primarily to their core fan bases, while labels and managers want to see a band growing its base. Plus, there’s the stigma: Doing a tour of only houses can be seen as a fall from grace. “There seems to be this weird misconception that if you play a private house show you’re downgrading yourself,” Jurado says. “But what’s the upgrade? Playing a giant venue where they’re taking your money?”

Much of the appeal of these shows is, of course, the intimacy—for both the fans and the artist. “It’s a special experience to these people, but it’s also a special experience for me,” says singer/songwriter Zeitlyn. “It’s not scene-y at all. All the people gathered here tonight, they like listening to my music, and that’s the thing they have in common. It’s not because they’re the same age, or go to the same school, or have the same fashion sense or political ideas.”

The ticketed, fan-hosted model works best for artists who have a fan base large enough to support a tour but not so rabid that things could get weird. “If Sufjan Stevens or Justin Vernon did a tour, word might get out,” Fein says. “They might be too famous.” Lesser-known artists would likely have trouble using Undertow’s model, too. But that isn’t the only way to do living room shows. In the last several years, entrepreneurs have tried to capitalize on the trend by launching house-show companies, each with overlapping goals but different emphases.

Our Publisher Seth Fein is even in there a bit. Read the whole thing, it's totally worthwhile and interesting.

Photo by Michael Wilson.


Jarling’s Custard Cup seeking new ownership

It seems like the end of a summer-time era is over, as Doug and Christy Jarling are seeking new ownership of Champaign staple Jarling's Custard Cup. The legendary location on Kirby Ave. is not closing, and it appears that Doug and Christy will be behind operations when it opens March 20th and throughout its 32nd year in business.


Stories & Beer with Rich Smith, Hannah Gamble, more on Wednesday, March 18th

From the Facebook event:

at 6:00 p.m.

Stories & Beer presents Rich Smith & Hannah Rebecca Gamble, both of whom are coming through town on a super-rad reading tour. Come grab a beer us at The Pig on Walnut. It'll be fun.

Here is a really beautiful poem that Hannah wrote and published in Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine


and here is a really beautiful poem that Rich published over at Hobart:


Here is a really nice thing that Matthew Dickman has to say about Rich's book, All Talk: 

"Rich Smith’s All Talk is like listening to my own inner-life but hearing it articulated in a way that makes sense, it’s like figuring out something about the world and then knowing we might never really know what the world is. I read these poems and I feel an urgency, I feel better about things, I feel tongue-tied. Smith’s work makes me want to smoke cigarettes, order for the whole bar, fall in love, and die in some happy but messy way."


and here is a really nice thing that Tony Hoagland said about Hannah's book, your invitation to a modest breakfast:

“Like the favorite daughters of a Sufi master, these liberating poems of Hannah Gamble love contradiction and whirling, and intimacy–their seriousness is droll, their humor warm and dark, their fables of selfhood are teasing and honest in marvelous and uncommon ways. They are truly delightful and robustly original—a poetic joy.”