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Jon Niccum

Stories by Jon

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Net Worth: Literal videos find fresh way to lampoon MTV classics

They say your entertainment preferences are forever shaped by the decade in which you went to high school.

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Metal of honor: Cinematic success of ‘Anvil!’ frees veteran rock band from obscurity

Steve “Lips” Kudlow believes, “The way you really prove yourself in heavy metal is by staying around.”

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Noteworthy translation: Lawrence-based festival celebrates diversity of Spanish-language music

The phrase “Spanish art music” is not exactly the easiest concept to market in the Midwest.

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Tower of power: ‘Freedom Rings’ sculpture celebrates legacy of Wakarusa communities, Underground Railroad

Although many of the original Wakarusa River Valley communities are now permanently buried under Clinton Lake, they will soon benefit from a monument perched high in the sky.

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Net Worth: Networking zombies need dose of unconnected living

Last year I wrote about purging myself from the rash of social networking sites.

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Rate of exchange: Lawrence community shares arts and entertainment with German sister city

Carolyn Young was making the arduous drive back to Kansas from Colorado, and she was not happy about it.

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The ink crowd: Tattooists reveal their skills on traditional canvas at Ichiban art show

When Martin Del Camino isn’t busy tattooing ink on a paying customer, he’s usually painting.

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L.A. woman

Lawrence native Lisa Donnelly perfects her music ‘Thing’ in Hollywood

Having moved to the West Coast in 2002 as a 22-year-old aspiring singer, Donnelly is finally seeing the toils of her battle against the L.A. music machine paying off...

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Net Worth: You’re in control, thanks to film site that aids weak bladders

Temptation is the enemy of the serious film-goer.

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Left of center: Longtime LAC gallery director leaves to reconnect with life as an artist

French painter Edouard Manet once said, “Art is a circle. You’re either in or out.”

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Dragon Wagon: High schooler creates one monster of a vehicle

The Batmobile or Herbie the Love Bug could pull into the parking lot of Martin Nelick’s school, and it’s doubtful they would attract more attention than his own ride.

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Net Worth: Awkward Family Photos exposed

Net Worth

There are few more disliked social obligations than taking a family photo. For some reason, it brings out the worst in everyone: parents, kids, pets, the weather.

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Northern exposure: Alaskan actor spins tales that celebrate his cultural heritage in 'ReGenerations'

During the last few months, Alaska has come to signify far more than just being a big, cold state. For Allan Hayton, an Athabascan Indian raised in his indigenous Alaska, the state embodies an even deeper cultural identity.Hayton employs his skills as an actor, storyteller and playwright to spin tales that celebrate his heritage.

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Street scene: KU opens gallery in popular Crossroads District

Thousands of potential art patrons began flooding into the Crossroads District of Kansas City, Mo. And sculptor Matthew Weaver was primed for his debut at the area's First Fridays event. The Kansas University graduate student from St. George, Utah, had created a geometric piece consisting of wood, glass and wire. When the doors opened for the first time at the new Red Door Art Gallery in September, he recognized his work would likely enjoy its biggest audience yet.

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Street-fighting woman: Local boxing film battles its way into national spotlight

There's a maxim in Hollywood that states boxing is the sport that makes the easiest transition to the big screen. The Oscars have showered boxing films with honors over the years, with standouts such as "Rocky," "Raging Bull" and "Million Dollar Baby" finding equal success at the box office. But one rarely comes across a boxing picture made by locals in Kansas.

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Outside the law: KU alum filmmaker and Lawrence actor collaborate on 'Lakeview Terrace'

For the first time in the 11 years since he became an internationally renowned filmmaker, Neil LaBute is on the brink of an elusive, unlikely achievement. The Kansas University graduate has already solidified his reputation as a master of crafting controversial tales involving revenge, betrayal and cruelty. But nothing has quite prepared him for the expectations of how his latest project, "Lakeview Terrace," will be received.

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Homeland insecurity: Laurie Anderson takes uncompromising look at how America has changed

Laurie Anderson is a threat to national security. At least that's how the FBI viewed Anderson after encountering one of her inventions. Several years ago, the renowned experimental musician/artist created a device called a "talking stick" for an opera she was performing about "Moby Dick."

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An American in Prague

Koufax frontman takes inspiration from years straddling two continents

"Co Czech ti Muzikant." The phrase is a popular one in Prague, explains Robert Suchan. "The Czech music scene is not as hip as a city like Berlin. But they've always been a musical people. In fact, they have a saying, 'Co Czech ti Muzikant,' which means 'Every Czech a musician.'" That's good news for Suchan, the founder and lone constant member of indie-pop act Koufax.

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'Idol' follies: Lawrence singers test their voices at TV auditions

When David Cook won this year's "American Idol," much national attention was brought to his hometown: Kansas City. Consequently, the "Idol" juggernaut decided to select KC for the first time as one of its eight audition sites. Last Friday, thousands of wannabe stars filed into venerable Kemper Arena (not the new Sprint Center, since "Idol" is sponsored by AT&T) seeking their instant ticket to stardom.

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Down to earth: 'Earthwork' film production to chronicle remarkable experiences of Lawrence artist

John Hawkes has one of those faces you've seen before. It's a quirky-yet-distinguished face that carries a haunted weight to it. Television viewers know him as the Jewish shopkeeper on the Emmy-winning "Deadwood." Indie film fans remember him as the lead in the Cannes winner "Me and You and Everyone We Know" or as the doomed liquor store clerk in the crime scene that kicks off "From Dusk Til Dawn."

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Gaea retreat: Music, environmental awareness, spirituality collide in new festival

When Chris Yager decided to launch a music festival, he experienced a rude awakening. He proposed the idea to Earth Rising Inc., a group that owns Camp Gaea, a 168-acre spiritual retreat center 10 miles north of Tonganoxie. Yager hoped to stage his festival at the scenic, isolated sanctuary that once functioned as a church camp.

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Rockin' in the free world

Lawrence's Fourth of July establishes strong brotherhood within indie rock scene

In the shadow of Memorial Stadium sits a residence commonly referred to as the Bull House. This is because of a prominent bull statue that guards the entrance to the dwelling, the result of a former art student's senior project some dozen years ago. But it isn't art students who have recently taken over the place. Rather it is four of the five members of the self-described "most patriotic band in Lawrence."

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KU students to debut 'Off the Wall' comedy pilot

There's no shortage of comedic movies and TV shows aimed at the college crowd. But according to Scott Winer, only a handful are actually created by college students. Winer and a troupe primarily composed of Kansas University students have responded with the independent sketch comedy show "Mildly Off the Wall."

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Zappa resurrects father's eclectic music

Dweezil Zappa has been obliged to respond to two questions his whole life: 1. Yes, that's his real name. 2. Yes, his father, Frank Zappa, is sadly overlooked by today's generation of music fans. So the 38-year-old guitarist decided to do something about the latter one.

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Space Case: Wayne Coyne transports the Flaming Lips' extraterrestrial sounds back to Wakarusa

Few musicians in rock history know how to make an entrance like Wayne Coyne. The Flaming Lips frontman proved this at the 2006 Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival, where he arrived encased in a giant plastic bubble that descended from the scaffolding attached to a flying saucer.

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Escalating gasoline prices compel Wakarusa fans to embrace carpooling

To drive a 1977 Volkswagen Bus from Austin, Texas, to Lawrence costs roughly $130, given today's spirit-crushing gas prices. That's alarming news for the typical (or stereotypical) fan of this weekend's Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival.

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Bee prepared

Hip-hop legend Busy Bee brings wild style to town in honor of KU basketball star's graduation

Jayhawks basketball guard Russell Robinson is netting another honor this year to go along with his NCAA championship ring: He'll be graduating from Kansas University with a degree in communications.And communication is the key word when it comes to how Robinson will be celebrating the occasion.

Filmmakers forge distribution network

Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott came to this realization: "Nobody cares about your film more than you do."

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Blue skies

Talented and tumultuous Wilco headlines unusual downtown outdoor concert

Early in his professional career, bassist John Stirratt opened for The Replacements in Mobile, Ala. The headlining band had just released its 1987 masterwork, "Pleased to Meet Me," and was becoming a legendary force in alternative rock.

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Hail to the chiefs

The Presidents launch new campaign to make rock fun again

While the 1990s were politically synonymous with Bill Clinton, the decade's music scene was equally receptive to The Presidents of the United States of America.

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Spoon bender

Lawrence bassist adjusts to membership in one of indie rock's premier bands

Rob Pope is gearing up for a show in Atlanta during his latest tour stop. While being on the road is commonplace for the Lawrence musician, he realizes this particular day merits its own significance.

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Gray matters

Young fan born with brain tumor willed Jayhawks to 1988 NCAA title

The accomplishments of the 1988 Kansas University basketball team ensured names such as Danny Manning and Larry Brown were placed into the annals of Jayhawks lore. But another name became just as synonymous with that national championship team to the people of Lawrence.

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Field position

Former KU lineman joins Clooney's cinematic team in Hollywood

Keith Loneker is on TV right now punching the bejesus out of a hapless referee. His mug is on the homepage of, grimacing and readying for a showdown. As of today, he's also appearing in a couple thousand theaters around the country. The Lawrence resident is a cast member of the new film "Leatherheads."

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The Battle of Bunker Hill

Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott debuts provocative new drama

The town of Bunker Hill resides in Russell County in the central plains of Kansas. As of the 2000 census, the population numbered a modest 101 citizens. But Kansas filmgoers - and with a little luck, national audiences - may soon equate the name Bunker Hill with that of the movie that shares its title and setting.

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Hall pass

Kansas Music Hall of Fame inducts latest class

Bill Lee remembers the first time he ever saw live music played in Lawrence. During the mid-1960s, the freshman student at Kansas University stepped into a club and crossed paths with Ann Brewer and the Flames.

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Student affairs

KU sophomores populate edgy TV series

Sharon Liese was preparing to take an active part in one of the most turbulent and influential periods of her child's life: high school. So six years ago the single mom decided to pick up a camera on the eve of daughter Justine's freshman year at Blue Valley Northwest High School. "I knew she was going to launch on this new adventure, and I wanted to document what goes on in high school. But I quickly abandoned the idea of documenting her and instead decided to follow other girls through the high school she went to," Liese says.

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Top secrets

Frank Warren's personal art project has turned into worldwide phenomenon

Four years ago Frank Warren embarked on a modest artistic experiment. He began handing out 3,000 blank postcards to strangers in Washington, D.C. He requested they tell him a secret - one that had to be true and had never been shared with anyone else. Within a month he had received about 100 back.

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One in a million

Lawrence film critic goes for ultimate prize on quiz show

"Lotion." That was Eric Melin's answer to a question that has haunted him since appearing last summer on the VH1 program "The World Series of Pop Culture." The question: "In the famous scene from 'There's Something About Mary,' what does Cameron Diaz mistakenly think is hanging from Ben Stiller's ear?"

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Hopping mad

International hops shortage poses threat to local brewers

Joe Yoder takes great joy in bitterness. "Different people have different tastes when it comes to food or drink," says Yoder, a 10-year member of the Lawrence Brewers Guild. "I like beers that have a more pronounced bitterness. There are people who prefer a sweet taste, and they prefer the maltier beers like an Octoberfest or a bock. I enjoy making really hoppy beers." Unfortunately, that bitterness is starting to reflect the overall mood of micro/craft and home-brewers around the world.

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Masters of 'Suspension'

Lawrence filmmakers ready for premiere screening of special effects-laden feature

Lawrence natives Ethan Shaftel and Alec Joler first got the urge to collaborate on a film together while in eighth grade. Their rather unlikely subject was Armenia - the project intended to fulfill an assignment in their geography class. "We turned it into this 'epic,' with our attempt at massive battle scenes on the slopes of Azerbaijan," Shaftel recalls. "We called it 'Armenia: The Land, The People, The War.' That was just for school, but the relationship we had immediately turned into doing more work not related to school."

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Timber & timbre

Wood and sound collide within KU professor's artistic collaboration

As a sculptor specializing in wood, Matthew Burke is accustomed to the solitary aspects of creativity. But when crafting a new piece titled "A Walk Among Beasts," he formed an unexpected alliance in the university residency space where he set up shop. "When I was drilling the holes for 'Walk,' I was using a chisel," Burke recalls. "The maintenance man who was cleaning up comes in and says, 'Why don't you use a router?'

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The year's top 10

A look back at local A&E stories of 2007

Arts and entertainment signifies more than just a cable TV channel in Lawrence. It's the social lifeblood of the city, allowing artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers and "others" to flow from one project to another. Throughout the year the Journal-World covered many of the highs and lows that sprang from the vibrant A&E scene. Features staffers recently revisited these articles and voted on the top 10 A&E stories of 2007.

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Party central

Humor Web site ranks KU among top schools with the least 'class'

While pundits argue this week whether the Jayhawks football team deserves its national BCS ranking, there is another position attained by Kansas University that is equally debatable. According to, KU has squeaked into the top 50 of its "Power Rankings" list. The popular humor Web site devotes its studies to determining what school prospective students should choose if their desire for fun outweighs that of academic demand. KU placed at No. 49.

KU grad's documentary to air on Showtime

It's Showtime for K. Ryan Jones. The 2007 Kansas University grad has taken a documentary he made as a film school project and sold it to the Showtime network. Jones' "Fall From Grace" will air at 9 p.m. Dec. 4 on Sunflower Broadband Channel 421.

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Post position

Kansas guitarist Andy McKee plucked from obscurity by YouTube audience of millions

Last November, Andy McKee decided to post one of his songs on YouTube. The Topeka guitarist had recorded a live-in-the-studio take of his original "Drifting," so he tossed it onto the video-sharing Web site. McKee didn't have to wait long before that minor action became a career-changing event. "By December, YouTube featured it on the front page. Man, I couldn't believe it. A solo, instrumental, acoustic guitar tune - who would have thought?" says McKee, who was making a living teaching guitar lessons.

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Funny outfit

Second City brings improv comedy legacy to Lawrence

The phrase "improvisational sketch comedy" often proves confusing. So Tim Baltz has to explain to folks what he does onstage. "Sometimes people are like, 'Great. Let's hear your standup,'" Baltz says.

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Community costuming

Lawrence provides inspiration for dressing up on Halloween

Halloween isn't just about scaring folks. It's about reminding people that your creative vision and sheer cleverness trump theirs. No place is that easier to display than when donning the right Halloween costume. Sure, anybody can search the Internet for costume ideas involving the latest celebrity parody or social in-joke. But there's not a source out there that can pony up great advice for a Lawrence- based outfit ... until now.

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Morning glory

Jayhawk alumnus Mike Jerrick earns national spotlight as host of 'risky' new morning show

On the surface it fits the conventional setup of other syndicated morning shows. The distinguished male host. His younger blond cohost. The duo offers a bit of bickering and bantering between interviews with movie starlets, crime victims and libido experts. But to anybody who has watched a few minutes of "The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet," the contrasts begin piling up immediately.

LaBute set to deliver keynote

Neil LaBute spent years at Kansas University perfecting his skills as a playwright. Since that period he has become the most celebrated filmmaker to hail from the university, developing a controversial reputation for placing amoral individuals in schemes of revenge and betrayal.

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Building character

Hollywood veteran Kip Niven returns to KU stage for bombastic role in 'Translations'

Kip Niven and Murphy Hall have waged many battles together. In fact, the theatrical facility has proven a primary ally during his lifetime of acting. "I wouldn't want anybody to look at my transcript from KU, but I'd be happy to have people look at my resume. I worked in a gazillion shows while I was there," Niven says.