Smile Politely

PechaKucha Pygs out

The idea of a PechaKucha Night at Pygmalion Festival is so brilliant, I am frankly quite surprised we’ve never thought of it before. So it’s year 7 of PKCU, and year 12 of Pygmalion and we finally decided these two great tastes really should go together. PK Volume 22 will be held on Wednesday, September 21st at the Accord and feature two presenters from each of Pygmalion Fest’s five areas: Food, Tech, Made, Lit, and of course, Music. As a special bonus, DJ Mertz will be spinning at intermission, and Don Gerard – former mayor, noteworthy drummer, and perpetual local personality – will be the emcee for the evening.

As usual, the format will be 20 seconds of talking for each of 20 slides. Although generally PK presenters are allowed to talk about anything they want, these presenters were chosen specifically because their topics align with the local interests that Pygmalion exists to promote. As someone who has been to every Pygmalion Fest, however, I feel deeply tied to its roots as a music festival that exists to promote local bands and venues. For that reason, aside from the usual questions — what, why and how – I asked each presenter to pair their presentation with a song or band that inspires them. Check out their responses below. 

SP: What are you talking about?  

SP: Why present at this Pygmalion-themed PK?

SP: How would you like to affect the audience?

SP: Which band, song, or lyric really inspires you?



Warren Charter: Black Soldier Fly Sex within Organic Aquaponic Farming

(Editor’s note: Black Soldier Fly Sex is the name of my next album – rk)

What: By building an aquaponics system three years ago, the goal was to have a year-round source of fresh fish and produce; the farm now produces a variety of vegetables and houses 200 tilapia. The rapidly-producing black soldier fly is the ingredient that makes it all possible.

Why: The Food aspect of this PygFest PK was too hard to pass up. I tried to walk away, but ended up submitting my application in spite.

How: I hope the audience will laugh while they open up to other healthier food possibilities and ingredients. Mainly I hope they laugh, and laugh a lot.

Which music: All my inspiration comes from bands like Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown. 

Armando Sandoval: Rural & Urban Mexican food

Anyone who has been to Maize Mexican Grill knows that the place is balls-to-the-wall busy, so I perfectly understand why I didn’t hear back from Mr. Sandoval. He totally made up for it with the zucchini blossom tlacoyo they were serving up at PygFOODFest, too. So anyway, here’s his talk description stolen from the PK22 fb page:

As a child, Armando Sandoval of Maize Mexican Grill spent his years in two vastly different environments: Mexico City and a tiny farm in Guerrero, Mexico. Growing up surrounded by busy streets, taco stands and makeshift dinners compared to the cornfields of rural Guerrero created a fascinating view into two contrasting worlds in Mexico. In his Vol. 22 presentation, “Rural & Urban Mexican Food,” Armando will delve into his vision of food as a combination of rural and urban cuisine, and his ideas on how culture can be shared with every dish.

(Editor’s note: I considered putting in the theme song from “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” but can’t bring myself to do it. Instead I am imagining something completely unexpected, like Maiden Radio, or maybe Iron Maiden, as Sandoval’s inspiration. The world may never know. — rk )


Rebecah Pulsifer: Neuro Self-care

The first (and best) Rebec(x)a(x) of Smile Politely, Ms. Pulsifer is also a very busy lady, juggling grad school, a weekly SPodcast, editing the Culture section, and other professional demands on her time like corralling interns and attending symposiums. So we compromised: I stole her presentation description from the PK22 fb page and she sent me her music recommendation.

What: My talk is a chance for me to spell out my dissertation’s main ideas. I’m a graduate student in English writing a dissertation on the discursive history of intelligence in the twentieth century. Neuro “self-care” products can be contextualized as one phrase of a broader cultural fascination with the brain as a metaphor for identity and social worth in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Which music: Lake Street Drive


Niala Boodhoo: Is Anyone Listening Anymore? Conversation in the Age of Social Media

I should have guessed from the title of this presentation that I would be better heard by Ms. Boodhoo had I sent an individual email or tried to get hold of her by phone. Unfortunately, I sent a group e-mail and was unable to reach her, so here’s a description, aptly copied from facebook:

Our daily lives are flooded with communication via email, texts, tweets, posts, snaps, and more…but what are we actually saying? Are these “real” conversations? Explore these thoughts alongside the host of the public radio talkshow The 21st

(Editor’s note: I’m choosing a song for this one: “I Cannot Understand U aka Fingertips 15” …because TMBG began proto-tweeting via “Dial-a-song” and placing classified ads in the early 80s, which has morphed into various ingenious methods of social media marketing.)


Kelly Heironymous: art + airplanes

What: I will be presenting about my obsession/love for the fields in central Illinois and the process I use to create my work.

Why: I am a part of MadeFest, and I felt now was the perfect time to explain what I’m up to and promote the festival. 

How: I hope people are inspired to look at their world in a new way, notice the world around them that they didn’t notice before. 

Which music: Oh man, Runner of the woods – Thirsty Valley.  “Your heart slows down when your roots run deep.” I came home about 3 years ago, and I’m finding myself more content with CU than ever before.  Might have something to do with this pilot, but who knows.  

(photo by Jimena Oliver de la Cruz)


Emily Knox of Urbana MakerSpace: Making and Inclusion

I’m scoring a little low on response percentage this go-round, but it gets better the farther on we go. Here’s what I found on Ms. Knox: 

In 2010, the founders of Makerspace Urbana set out on a mission: to provide an open community lab where people of diverse backgrounds can learn, teach, tinker, collaborate, share, innovate, socialize, and create. Sounds simple enough…but it hasn’t always been easy. We’ll go on a journey through the continuing efforts to broaden and diversify the making community. 

(Editor’s note: people keep letting me choose. I’ll go with Red Baraat, because these guys know DIY and they know diverse.)


Sara Benson: Kick-Ass Librarians 

What: When most people have a mid-life crisis, they buy a sports car.  I went back to school and changed the direction of my career.  It has been life-changing—in a good way.  But, as I delved into this new career—one of librarianship—I strongly felt the need to challenge the stereotype of the meek, quiet librarian.  I found myself searching for new models of librarianship—specifically, Kick Ass Librarians.  And so, my PechaKucha talk was born. 

Why: I was never involved in the Pygmalion Festival before.  I think mainly because it was focused on music and I am not very musically inclined (although I do sing).  Now that the focus of the festival has broadened to include literature, I am much more interested in the festival and I’m taking part in the Human Book Project at KCPA as well on Thursday night. 

How: I hope folks will see librarians in a different light.  They will understand that librarians really can change the world!

Which music: Well, like I said earlier, I’m not very musically inclined, but I do think Ani DiFranco’s song “32 Flavors” comes to mind.  When folks think of librarians, they often picture an old woman shushing everyone.  I want to challenge that norm.  As Ani’s song says:  “I am 32 flavors and then some…”


Jim O’Brien: Lit at Pygmalion

What: I’m presenting the history of Pygmalion Lit and public readings in CU going back to Stories & Beer up through the current Reading Room series but mostly promoting this year’s great Lit lineup.

Why: I had the honor of reading in the 2014 Pygmalion Lit Crawl and helped a local press with the Book Fair last year so I jumped at the chance to promote the Lit Fest this year.

How: I hope they get inspired to come out to the Lit events and also learn where they can hear more public readings throughout the year.

Which music: I love the range of musicians that are featured each year. The artists who have played here in the past and are now national acts (or late night television house bands) is staggering. As far as the relationship to my topic, Lit, you would be hard pressed to find a writer or poet who can’t relate to both the lyrics and the rhythms of live music, so this is the place to be.

(Editor’s note: since he brings up both past performers and literature, I’m going to plug Lord Huron – She Lit A Fire. They’ve played at Pyg, this song was in a major movie based on a book, and it also launched their brilliant marketing campaign where they decided every song was based on a pulp novel written by an author they created. — rk)


Kyle Fleming: The Healing Power of Music 

What: Music is a powerful tool to help people overcome traumatic experiences in their past in order to ensure a more emotionally successful future. My talk is part educational lecture about trauma and the healing power of music, and part testimony of how music helped a former client work past severe trauma and anger issues in order to heal.

Why: My friend, Austin, spoke at PK21 at the Krannert Center, and it made me want to speak at one, too. The fact that PK22 is during Pygmalion is a happy coincidence. 

How: My main goal is advocacy for the field of Music Therapy, a career I’ve been passionate about since high school. I also hope that people will be inspired by the work I and my thousands of colleagues all over the world do every day, and I hope it makes them think about their relationship to music and how it helps them in their daily life. 

Which music: The song directly related to my PK topic is “2 Forms of Anger” by Brian Eno, an instrumental track with a lot of heavy drums and distorted guitar. It was the song that I played during my client’s “breakthrough” session, where he was able to confront his pent-up anger toward his family and finally move on from the pain he had been holding in for all those years. I wish I had time to play a small segment of it during my talk, but I encourage everyone to take a listen to it.

Skot Wiedmann: Make the future of musical expression

What: As an artist, engineer, and maker, I love to see when people experience the world in new ways. Technology offers us an open framework to imagine how a gesture can be linked to a sound. I am looking forward to a future where a growing movement of ambitious creative people make their own electronics and musical instruments which allow new forms of personal gestures to extend and amplify human expression.

Why: My work lies at the overlap between engineering and the arts, which is a space where I feel fully engaged in music, tech, and making simultaneously (sorry I couldn’t work in Lit and Food, although I am also an avid cook). I am also excited to share an opportunity for anyone to build their own Hyve Synth on Sept. 24 at an amazing collaborative workspace, Lost Arts, which was created by Charles Adler, one of the founders of Kickstarter.

How: I want to inspire people to create their own systems that personalize their relationship with technology and explore ways to find creative possibilities in the geekiest of places.

Which music: This week has ended on a melancholic note for me. The news of the passing of one of my heroes, musician, engineer, and futurist, Don Buchla, has left me only to contemplate the vastness of his contributions to music, art, and technology. I was fortunate to meet him and couldn’t thank him enough for his generous creativity and maverick spirit. His life’s work is both an inspiration for me and he continues to be a giant on whose shoulders I proudly stand.

Don’t worry, I promise I haven’t provided any “spoilers”, because every PKN is about the experience. Your Pygmalion wristband gets you in, or individual tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Join us for a Very Pygmalion PKN, Wednesday 9/21 at 20:20, naturally (that’s 8:20 p.m. to civilians). 

(Most images provided by the speakers. Others stolen mostly from other SP articles)

About rebecca knaur…

As the Arts Editor for Smile Politely, rk doesn’t always know when to shut up,  but in her mind, tries to make it entertaining. She’s receptive to feedback and will be happy to talk about if if you tweet @rknaur, email, or chat at Pygmalion. 

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