Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas”

10 Questions with Benjamin Farmer and Joni Alexander of Alchemy Coffee & Bake House

In this week's installment of 10 Questions, which turned out to be nine because this reporter evidently cannot count, Alchemy Coffee & Bake House co-owners Benjamin Farmer and Joni Alexander chat about their recent Best of Lawrence honor (first place in the competitive "best coffee shop" category), their "Portlandia"-style peers and the food world's next big trend.

Here's a condensed and edited version of our conversation with the pair, who are partners in business and in life. Really — they're engaged to be married this fall, capping off a big year of expansion for Alchemy, 1901 Massachusetts St., which now distributes its mega-popular cold brew to about 40 retailers in the Kansas City area. You can also catch Farmer and Alexander this month at KC's Chipotle Cultivate Festival.

Alchemy Coffee and Bake House owners Benjamin Farmer, right, and Joni Alexander pose at their shop, 1901 Massachusetts St., which was recently voted Best of Lawrence 2016.

Alchemy Coffee and Bake House owners Benjamin Farmer, right, and Joni Alexander pose at their shop, 1901 Massachusetts St., which was recently voted Best of Lawrence 2016. by Richard Gwin

Congrats on the Best of Lawrence win. How’s it feel?

Joni: We were both very surprised, but super grateful and thankful, really. I mean, it’s the customers and the community that are supporting us. We have a lot of people in here who tell us, “Congratulations on Best of Lawrence,” and we just spin it right back around and say, “Actually, thank you, because you’re supporting us, and this is our dream.” We’re really happy. Like, super happy, but feeling super humbled about it. We work really, really hard, so it’s nice to see the fruits of that labor.

Benjamin: It feels shocking to me because we’ve only been here three years, we’re off the beaten path and I kind of feel like the underdog in a lot of ways. Still, even now, it’s just like, “How did we … ?”

Your coffee-making process takes about four minutes, during which there’s a perfect window for a short conversation, which seems at odds with our culture’s fixation on consuming things as quickly as possible with as little human interaction as possible. Was that a mission of yours when you started Alchemy, to foster communication and community?

Benjamin: I feel like it’s become, especially in the last five years, almost cliché to say all that. At the same time, there’s a reason for that. But it was part of the motivation for me doing a coffee shop, to have a place for social interaction. We do provide something that I think there’s a shortage of. We’ve always maintained that, yeah, if you want conversation we’ll give it to you. If you want a quick cup of coffee and then get out of here, we’ll give you that as well.

I was interviewing Radiolab co-host Jab Abumrad a while back in advance of the Free State Festival, and he was talking about how the relationship between our desire for quick, cheap, satisfying content and the simultaneous rise of high-quality TV shows, which could also apply to the artisanal or “craft” movement in food and drink. Is this something you’re seeing in the dining world?

Benjamin: That’s something I see a lot of places. I don’t think that’s something we experience here a whole lot, though we do experience that at times, where people are like, “I want this really good pour-over and I want it now.” But really, overall, at least on the coffee shop side, that’s pretty rare. Generally, they understand — especially since they see us hustling, standing over there making the coffee — it’s pretty rare that somebody actually gets rude with us and says, “Where’s my coffee?”

Joni: I think the impatience comes from if they’re standing in line too long. If you’re already being helped, you’ll stand there for 10 minutes if you know somebody’s working on something for you. But it’s when you’re waiting in line and you’re not the one being helped and nobody’s acknowledging it that that’s when the frustration happens. But I think we do pretty good here. That’s what we tell all our employees — just acknowledge the person when they walk in the door … that way, they know you know they’re there. In general, across the board, in a huge community sort of way, people just want to be acknowledged.

Benjamin: In the coffee shop scene that we’re in — the style of, for lack of a better term, “Portlandia” — it can get lost and messed up. We train our employees how to handle situations with customers, so that way we’re not creating a potential situation where the customer’s getting ignored or standing there for 15 minutes not getting acknowledged.

Speaking of “Portlandia,” do you see anything in today’s coffee culture or the encompassing artisanal culture that you just can’t help rolling your eyes at? Have we gone too far in some ways?

Joni: When I hear people say, like, “We handpicked the wheat that was rolled in my grandpa’s backyard,” it’s just like, seriously? It’s over the top.

But there is great value in knowing where your products come from. It’s just such a catchphrase now. People are latched onto that, and they write about it, and then they become so focused on where they get their ingredients, maybe even more than the ingredients themselves — that’s where I get annoyed. They’re like, high-fiving themselves behind the counter, but it’s like, "What did you do?" You made a terrible cup of coffee or terrible piece of whatever.

Or when it’s so extravagantly expensive that people can’t afford it. We’ve got high-end, quality stuff, and we really put time and effort into it, but you have to do it at a price that’s affordable for everybody. That’s the point, you know? But I feel like the more artisan things become, the more out-of-reach they become for the rest of society. And we’re trying to not do that.

Benjamin: That’s what I struggled with initially. I was like, "Do I do $3.25? Do I do $3.50? $3.75?" Really, I need to be doing $3.75, but the average Lawrencian probably feels way more comfortable with $3.25.

Joni: We (think about) that all the time with food, too. It’s like, this biscuit sandwich could be $10 if we were downtown, but how often when we go out do I want to spend $10 on a breakfast sandwich? I don’t. I want to spend $6 to $8, and it better be amazing.

Where do you think the cutoff is between downtown and the sort of more residential, less swanky part of Massachusetts Street?

Benjamin: I don’t know. I think in most people’s minds, it’s somewhere between 11th and 12th (streets). I don’t think we’re necessarily getting hurt by being out here. I mean, yeah, we would probably see more passersby. It would be a different crowd, though. That’s why I tell people, I don’t ever want to leave this neighborhood. I love it. It’s good people and it’s more laid back, but we’ve still got high traffic.

Joni, you were a model before Alchemy, and I know Benjamin was a diesel mechanic, among other things, before getting into the coffee business. How do the skills from your old jobs apply here?

Joni: I traveled pretty constantly for years, modeling. The best thing I got out of that career was being around insanely different people of all different kinds of cultures. Plus all the castings — I’ve been on probably 5,000 castings or something insane like that. It takes a lot to surprise me or shock me, really, because I’ve seen the gamut of all kinds of stuff. And that’s great, though, when you’re dealing with people. I can talk to any person in any kind of situation. That’s why we have a big window into the bakery — people can come up and talk to me and I can make something particular for them. Some people have dietary issues, so I’ll ask them, “What works for you?” Next week, come back and I’ll have something for you.

Benjamin: I did about everything from retail to tree trimming to FedEx trucks to mechanic jobs to carpentry jobs to hardware stores. I mean, I’d worked in restaurants, but I didn’t have a whole lot of barista experience starting this, which sounds counterintuitive. What got me working for myself was tree trimming and doing concrete — doing my own contracting. That gave me enough of a business background.

You’ve got a pretty intricate setup here. How do you explain your process to skeptics or people who are mystified by it all?

Joni: We get those people pretty regularly, who are super uncomfortable and unfamiliar with our (operation), because we don’t have menus and we don’t have pricing on menus, which makes people uncomfortable because they’re used to that. Literally, if you just smile at somebody and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” then everything drops and they’re human, right there with you.

When the pour-over thing started here, nobody else was really doing it. And people were either really into it or really annoyed by it. It was polarizing. And now it’s just like old hat. People walk in and are like, “What beans do you have today?”

Do you have any predictions for the next big trends in the food or coffee world?

Joni: Everything’s a pendulum swing, right? So, it was like, mom and pop, then the '80s and '90s hit and everything went fast food and commercialized and computerized. And I feel like we’re at the height now of that swing back to community-based stuff, which is basically how I bake and how the coffee is, too. I love to do cupcakes and cookies and wedding cakes and pies and all these other things, but a simpler version. What I see happening on the food side of things, and I think it’s going to gain momentum, is that it’s going to keep that basic feel but it’s going to become about quality and not so much about the paragraph of what they did to it (the dish). So, it’s not going to be about 10 things in the sauce, but three things in the sauce, and that sauce is going to be really good.

You guys have two young kids at home. Have they gotten into coffee yet?

Joni: Oh, no. Not yet. They’re 5 and 6. They’re into the sweets, though.

Benjamin: They like to come around here and mess with the cups and fill up the bean jars occasionally, but we haven’t put them to work too much yet. A couple years, maybe.

In lieu of a 10th question, we're including a few of Farmer's and Alexander's favorite places to grab a bite around town. Cheers!

— Limestone Pizza, 814 Massachusetts St. — Yokohama Sushi Japanese Restaurant, 811 New Hampshire St. and 1730 W. 23rd St. — Wa Japanese Restaurant, 740 Massachusetts St. — India Palace, 129 E. 10th St.

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Seven Jayhawks hitting NBA free agency at perfect time

Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

There never has been a better time to be an NBA free agent.

The league’s salary cap is jumping approximately $24 million dollars this summer, meaning all 30 teams will have room to sign available players to what most expect to be eye-popping and/or head-scratching contracts.

The hysteria officially begins at midnight Thursday for the big names such as Kevin Durant and Al Horford, as well as the league’s role players.

Even though the seven former Kansas players available won’t garner maximum contracts, all of them figure to be on the verge of signing the most lucrative deals of their careers.

Here’s a look at what’s ahead for those Jayhawks — other than constantly listening to Drake and Future’s “Big Rings” while rapping along, “What a time to be alive.”

Cole Aldrich

Age: 27 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Clippers | Seasons played: Six | 2015-16 key stats: 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 59.6% FGs, 13.3 minutes

After playing fewer than 400 total minutes in each of his first four seasons, Cole Aldrich began to carve out a niche for himself as a serviceable backup big man during the past couple of years.

“It just takes an opportunity, and my opportunity took four or five years in,” Aldrich said a few weeks back, while visiting Lawrence. “You get the right opportunity, and for me it was just continue to do what I do, and that was find a way to get better.”

Aldrich played so well in a reserve role for the Los Angeles Clippers this past season, in fact, that he thinks he’s entering the prime of his career, setting up a rather easy decision to opt out of the second year of his contract.

“You kind of look at the situation, and I had to take some time, and you think about what it is,” Aldrich said of leaving $1.2 million on the table to become a free agent, adding he knew the Clippers might have some cap space available to set up a return to L.A.

He is right about that. The Clippers have a little wiggle room thanks to the salary cap jump. But they don’t have as much room to operate as most teams, because more than $63 million of the franchise’s money is tied up in its big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Should the Clippers keep all of their core in place and successfully bring in a role-playing free agent of note, they might have to part ways with the 6-foot-11 Aldrich if other teams are willing to reward him with a bigger contract. Aldrich played well enough in his one season with Los Angeles to prove he can rebound, defend the paint and finish, setting him up to fit in with any team in need of a second-unit center who eats up space.

L.A. even appears to have a safety net of sorts in place in case it can’t keep Aldrich, by drafting Maryland center Diamond Stone in the second round.

According to L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner the Clippers are interested in bringing Aldrich back, and Orlando and Phoenix have expressed interest, too.

None by Brad Turner

The way Aldrich talked, it sounded like he might prefer to stay with the Clippers. But the NBA is a business, so there is no guarantee it will play out in that fashion.

— PODCAST: Reborn Cole Aldrich leads NBA free agency push for 7 Jayhawks

Darrell Arthur

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, looks to pass the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic, of Bosnia, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, looks to pass the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic, of Bosnia, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Age: 28 | Position: Power forward and small forward | Most recent team: Denver | Seasons played: Seven | 2015-16 key stats: 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 45.2% FGs, 38.5% 3’s, 21.7 minutes

A steady veteran forward who does what coaches ask of him and has added some 3-point shooting to his repertoire, Darrell Arthur, like Aldrich, opted out of the second year of his deal.

Moving on from Denver could be a course of action for the 6-foot-9 forward, who has only played for Memphis and the Nuggets since leaving Kansas early as a national champion.

Denver has plenty of cap space to re-sign Arthur if it wants. But if Arthur desires an increased role and a change of scenery, he could leave behind a crowded Nuggets frontcourt that includes Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

Arthur’s reputation will keep him employed in the NBA. Where that happens is up to him. As reported earlier this week, Washington is interested in him as a backup to fellow former KU forward Markieff Morris.

Tarik Black

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black, left, blocks the shot of Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black, left, blocks the shot of Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Age: 24 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Lakers | Seasons played: Two | 2015-16 key stats: 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 54.8% FGs, 12.7 minutes

Tarik Black serves as a nice reminder to recent KU draft snubs Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Brannen Greene that entering the league as an undrafted free agent can work out in the long run.

The 6-foot-9 post player proved in two years ago in summer league Houston should keep him around. Even when the Rockets waived him during his rookie season in order to go after a veteran, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly claimed him and added Black to their inexperienced core.

However, the fact that L.A. only played Black 12.7 minutes a game during the 2015-16 season makes one wonder how interested the organization is in bringing him back. If the Lakers are married to the idea of keeping him around, they can match any other team’s offer, because Black is a restricted free agent (unlike the rest of the former KU players on this list).

The good news for Black is the Lakers have just two post players under contract for next year: Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. If the once dominant franchise whiffs in free agency on more established big men, re-signing a hard-working, familiar face might appeal. Conversely, should L.A. spend an absurd amount of money on more alluring names, the team might need to bring back Black on an affordable contract to complete the roster.

The real question is: Do other teams value Black as a potential big man?

Mario Chalmers

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) is helped from the court after injuring his right leg during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) is helped from the court after injuring his right leg during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Age: 30 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Memphis | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 10.3 points, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds, 41% FGs, 30.9% 3’s, 22.5 minutes

Had Mario Chalmers made it through his eighth NBA season unscathed, he would be the most attractive KU free agent this summer by far. And even while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, Chalmers could still draw the most interest.

Teams will want to take their time and have their medical staffs make sure vitality still exists in the 6-foot-2 veteran’s knee before OK-ing a deal for Chalmers, but the way he played in Memphis prior to the injury setback will keep him as an intriguing choice for organizations in need of a backup guard who can shoot and distribute.

In his 55 games for the Grizzlies, following a trade from Miami, Chalmers thrived as a sixth man coming off the bench to put up points. Throw in his defensive ability and championship experience while playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and you quickly realize how coveted Chalmers would be to a playoff team in search of backcourt assistance.

Chalmers recently said in an interview he is two weeks ahead of schedule with his knee rehab, and the hope is he would be back at 100 percent before the regular season begins.

Kirk Hinrich

Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (12) is helped up after taking a charge against the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 116-98.(AP Photo/John Amis)

Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (12) is helped up after taking a charge against the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 116-98.(AP Photo/John Amis)

Age: 35 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Atlanta | Seasons played: 13 | 2015-16 key stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 38% FGs, 38.7% 3’s, 13.7 minutes

As Hinrich began to find out early this past season with Chicago, there simply isn’t much demand for the veteran guard anymore, in terms of minutes. That notion later became reenforced for Hinrich upon arriving via trade in Atlanta.

The longtime Bull only appeared in 11 of a possible 26 games with the Hawks to close the regular season, averaging a paltry 0.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 6.9 minutes.

Those numbers make one wonder about Hinrich’s future in the league. But there will be roster spots to fill in the months ahead for a number of teams. Though 35 and nearly done as an on-court contributor, some organization might find value in having him around the locker room to guide young players and almost serve as a player/assistant coach.

Former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to love Hinrich in Chicago. Could they join up again in Minnesota, with Hinrich helping to bring along youngsters Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins?

Thomas Robinson

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The Magic won 139-105. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The Magic won 139-105. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Age: 25 | Position: Power forward | Most recent team: Brooklyn | Seasons played: Four | 2015-16 key stats: 4.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 44.7% FGs in 12.9 minutes

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson still hasn’t made his mark in the NBA. A star at KU, Robinson has turned into a nomad backup power forward. So far, the explosive, 6-foot-10 big has played for Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

In all likelihood, Robinson will add a sixth team to that list this summer, after opting out of his contract with the Nets. At 25, one would assume his best years in the league are still ahead of him. And Robinson does bring a valuable skill to the floor, to go with his athleticism and energy. The guy competes on the glass.

Robinson didn’t log enough minutes with Brooklyn to qualify as a league leader in such categories, but his defensive and offensive rebound percentages are up there with the best bigs on the planet. He grabbed 27.8% of available defensive boards this past season, which would have ranked him 10th in the NBA had he played more. Even better, Robinson secured 16.4% of possible offensive boards. Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter led the league in that category, at 16.7%.

It seems any team in need of a high-energy rebounder would have to consider Robinson.

Brandon Rush

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Age: 30 | Position: Shooting guard and small forward | Most recent team: Golden State | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 41.4% 3’s, 14.7 minutes

Back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, a championship ring and a role on the record-breaking 73-win Warriors. Life has been pretty good for Brandon Rush the past couple of years.

Now Rush’s contract is up, and the free agency hullabaloo in the days ahead could determine his place going forward with the defending Western Conference champs. Golden State values defensive versatility and Rush definitely gives the team that as a backup. But if the Warriors return all of their core perimeter players — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston and Harrison Barnes — would they really need Rush?

Rush proved this season, while starting 25 games, he can fill in and mesh well. In December, Rush averaged a season-high 20.3 minutes and put up 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists while knocking down 40.5% of his 3-point attempts.

By no means is he a game-changer, but he isn’t going to shoot your team in the foot, either. Whether it’s with the Warriors or another franchise, Rush figures to find a spot as a veteran role player.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com


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Free State Festival proves popular again; next year’s fest to focus on global-local connections

Anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people flocked to Lawrence’s Free State Festival events, according to estimates from festival organizers, putting this year’s numbers roughly in the same range as 2015 figures.

Still, it’s an imprecise tally, said festival director and ideas programming coordinator Sarah Bishop, who hopes to have more detailed analysis when results from this year’s survey (it’s distributed to festival attendees) become available later this summer.

The 2016 Free State Festival, which was held June 20 through June 25 in various venues across downtown Lawrence and the city’s Cultural Arts District, drew its biggest numbers at June 25’s free Public Enemy concert outside the Lawrence Arts Center. At final count, approximately 8,500 people attended the show, surpassing the crowd at last year’s free performance by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic by about 500.

Public Enemy's Flavor Flav points out to the crowd during a free concert Saturday evening, June 25, 2016, as part of the Free State Festival.

Public Enemy's Flavor Flav points out to the crowd during a free concert Saturday evening, June 25, 2016, as part of the Free State Festival. by John Young

“We were really excited to see so many people from out of town coming in for both Public Enemy and Kris Kristofferson,” Bishop said. “It really drew people from a wide swath surrounding the area.”

Fans traveled from as far away as Connecticut, Maryland and even Canada for the Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter’s June 22 concert, she noted. The sold-out concert filled Liberty Hall, where Kristofferson celebrated his 80th birthday the same night with a cake from downtown Lawrence’s Ladybird Diner.

Other festival highlights included June 24’s evening of free live music outside the Lawrence Arts Center (Bishop estimates an attendance of about 2,000) and Monday’s stand-up performance by “Lady Dynamite” star Maria Bamford, whose sold-out gig packed Liberty Hall.

Even free events, like the weeklong “The Art of Conversation” programming at the Watkins Museum of History, did surprisingly well, Bishop said. The talks aligned with this year’s festival theme of activism through art, each day dealing with contemporary topics such as gender and sexuality, health policy, race and law enforcement, and the politics of water.

“People were really engaged and enthusiastic,” Bishop said. “It was really nice to see residents connecting in that way and having great conversations about these important political, social and cultural issues.”

While the festival has focused on Kansas history and culture in the past, the 2017 and 2018 editions will ask “audiences to think about how the global and local connect,” as per a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for Arts to “take the festival to an international level,” Bishop said.

The 2017 festival, which will most likely fall amid June’s Final Friday, will tentatively have a Mexican emphasis, with issues like immigration — and the growing number of immigrants arriving in Kansas each year — being especially timely now, Bishop said.

“We’re thinking about the ways in which Lawrence connects with Mexico, the ways in which Mexican culture manifests here in Lawrence, Kansas, and the really interesting art that’s being (created) in Mexico,” she said. Bishop also plans to include more educational outreach programs in 2017, ideally working with students at Centro Hispano to produce bilingual films.

This year’s festival initially received $60,000 from the City of Lawrence, falling short of the $100,000 requested by festival organizers, but later picked up an additional $7,375 from the city’s transient guest tax (that’s the 6 percent tax charged on all overnight hotel stays in Lawrence) grant program.

Bishop hopes this year’s high attendance, particularly of those visiting from outside Lawrence, will help convince potential funders of the festival’s financial viability. Just as important: “putting Lawrence on the map as a creative hub,” she said.

Sally Zogry, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said she had yet to see any detailed information on the 2016 festival’s impact on downtown businesses, but that the event consistently “does wonderful things” for the local economy.

Folks often “rediscover” downtown Lawrence at the Free State Festival, she said.

“I would venture to guess people spent money downtown, whether it’s a bottle of water or an expensive meal or an outfit they’re buying for the event,” Zogry said. “It really does bring people down here who maybe don’t come downtown as often, if they’re living across town or in Eudora or Baldwin City or Topeka or even Kansas City.”

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Making a case for Joel Embiid as the NBA’s 2017 Rookie of the Year

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, center, poses for photos with prospective NBA draft picks Buddy Hield, left, Kris Dunn, right, Ben Simmons, third from left, and Brandon Ingram, second from right, before the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, center, poses for photos with prospective NBA draft picks Buddy Hield, left, Kris Dunn, right, Ben Simmons, third from left, and Brandon Ingram, second from right, before the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

No offense, Ben Simmons. Sorry, Brandon Ingram. Nothing personal, Buddy Hield. Don’t get upset, Kris Dunn.

With all due respect to those lottery picks and the other big names from the 2016 NBA Draft class, if you asked me right now who I would pick to win Rookie of the Year in 2017, I’d lean toward a former Kansas basketball player, instead.

No, not second-round pick Cheick Diallo. Neither Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. nor Brannen Greene.

None of those former KU players are a threat to secure that trophy, which typically ends up in the hands of players who turn out to be all-stars or superstars. But there is one Jayhawk set to make his NBA debut next season who could easily become a force in the league for years to come.

True, Joel Embiid has not played basketball in more than two years due to injuries. But the man possesses undeniable talent.

Now reportedly 7-foot-2, the center at times during his freshman season at Kansas showed off footwork and shooting touch akin to a young Hakeem Olajuwon. So far, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft has been a disappointment for Philadelphia, but it will take only one spectacular, injury-free rookie season for all to be forgiven.

None by Joel Embiid

Bearing in mind Embiid’s checkered injury history — low-lighted by back trauma that robbed him from finishing his one-and-done season at KU and a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot (which he later re-injured) keeping him sidelined since — obviously nothing about his future is guaranteed. However, the 22-year-old from Cameroon appears to be healthier now than he has been since he left Kansas.

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters Embiid, who will be held out of NBA Summer League games for precautionary reasons, has been cleared for five-on-five basketball.

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid shoots during warmups before his team plays the New York Knicks, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid shoots during warmups before his team plays the New York Knicks, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) by Yong Kim | The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Let us assume the seemingly never-ending rehab is over, all goes to plan, and Embiid plays, say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 regular-season games next season with Philadelphia. The big man, with his powerful finishing ability and shooting range, will be given the opportunity to put up big numbers for a rebuilding franchise coming off a woeful 10-72 season.

The Sixers have no established star or face of the franchise returning to feature offensively. That role is open to be filled. While the organization likely has to temper its expectations publicly regarding Embiid because of the uncertainty that accompanies his string of injuries, you get the sense the team’s decision-makers are as excited about the potential of their inexperienced center as they are 2016’s No. 1 overall pick, Simmons.

The upcoming rookie of the year race very well could come down to the Sixers’ duo of the future, Simmons and Embiid. According to Bovada, an online sportsbook, Simmons, a 6-foot-10 ball-handling forward out of LSU, is the early favorite with 13/4 odds. Embiid is listed seventh, at 14/1, behind New Orleans’ Hield (11/2), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Ingram (13/2), Minnesota’s Dunn (15/2), Denver’s Jamal Murray (12/1) and Chicago’s Denzel Valentine (12/1).

None by Keith Pompey

Simmons’ biggest asset at the next level might be his combination of passing ability and size. When he drives to create for teammates, the 19-year-old Australian will find a willing and able shooter and finisher in Embiid. As a matter of fact, the two even know each other a little bit. Now teammates in Philly, they once scrimmaged together as high schoolers in Florida, according to a story from The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.

"He has great footwork and can score inside," Simmons said of Embiid. "I know how to get the ball to bigger guys down low.”

Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and losses all are on the horizon for both Simmons and Embiid as featured first-year players on a bad team. But when you look at the history of NBA Rookies of the Year, winning the award basically comes down to individual scoring numbers, not wins and losses.

Here are the previous 10 winners:

  • 2015-16: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 18.3 points

  • 2014-15: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota, 16.9 points

  • 2013-14: Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia, 16.7 points

  • 2012-13: Damian Lillard, Portland, 19.0 points

  • 2011-12: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 18.5 points

  • 2010-11: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers, 22.5 points

  • 2009-10: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento, 20.1 points

  • 2008-09: Derrick Rose, Chicago, 16.8 points

  • 2007-08: Kevin Durant, Seattle, 20.3 points

  • 2006-07: Brandon Roy, Portland, 16.8 points

Philadelphia’s other recent lottery big men, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, have been the subject of trade rumors, so you can figure the 76ers won’t mind featuring a healthy Embiid ahead of those two, should they both remain with the team.

Plus, Embiid is taller, more athletic and more versatile on both ends of the floor than Okafor, who averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Philly while playing just 53 games this past season. It’s not too difficult to envision Embiid replicating or surpassing that production in his first season in the league, putting him firmly in the mix for the NBA’s rookie hardware.

Embiid wouldn’t be the first behind-schedule rookie to bring home the honor, either. Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, missed the following season with the L.A. Clippers due to a broken left knee cap, only to return to the court in striking fashion a year later.

Can Embiid do the same after spending even more time away from competition? Can he out-shine his thoroughly hyped teammate, Simmons? Heck, can he just play an NBA game?

We’ll know soon enough. Personally, I’d answer yes to all of the above.

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Taco Zone files plans to add outdoor seating

If you’re a fan of Taco Zone and eating al fresco, here’s a bit of news that might whet your appetite (get it?) for both.

Brad Shanks, co-owner of the popular downtown eatery at 13 E. Eighth St., has filed plans to install a railing “with a built-in shelf” for food and drinks around the storefront. The design, which is still being processed by the city's planning department, would increase dining space by six or seven seats, says Shanks.

“We just have a really small spot, so we thought this was a good way to add a few seats,” he says. “Our customers were asking for it, so we were finally like, 'Let’s get it done.’”

Taco Zone’s interior totals about 900 square feet, with about “half of that” dedicated to dining. And then there’s the added benefit of marketing that comes with outdoor seating — “I think people sitting outside with sunglasses, drinking margaritas and eating tacos, is better than having a sign,” Shanks says.

If all goes to plan, Taco Zone customers should be able to do just that by late July or early August, he says. In the meantime, here’s a link to the site plan, if you’re curious.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St. by Nick Gerik

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Examining Perry Ellis’ chances with the Dallas Mavericks

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets up for a shot over Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets up for a shot over Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

When the 2016 NBA Draft came and went without Kansas forward Perry Ellis getting selected in the two-round, 60-pick extravaganza, there was no need for the 6-foot-8 prospect to panic.

A rookie free agent, Ellis knew he would soon be weighing his options as his agent tracked down possible contract offers or opportunities to play in the NBA Summer League. Sure enough, Dallas added the Wichita native to its summer roster less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the draft.

A summer position, of course, doesn’t mean Ellis will play for the Mavericks during the 2016-17 season. It’s more like an internship. It’s simply a step in the right direction as the 22-year-old, who averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in his final season with KU, chases after his professional dream.

Ellis’ next few weeks playing for Dallas will determine what comes next, whether that turns out to be an invite to training camp, a guaranteed contract or playing professional basketball outside of the NBA.

So as we try and figure out, before the summer league even begins, just how likely Ellis is to stay with the Mavs and help out owner Mark Cuban and legendary forward Dirk Nowitzki, let us check out previous Dallas summer rosters to try and get a feel for how the organization utilizes those players following their July auditions.

Upon scouring the Mavericks’ teams from the previous five summer leagues, players in Ellis’ situation haven’t stuck around. The Dallas players who have turned offseason playing time in Las Vegas into actual regular-season minutes the following season have been draft picks or young guys in the earliest stages of their career who already had played for the Mavs.

Plus, the undrafted rookie free agents Dallas brought in between 2010 and 2015 (summer league was canceled in 2011 due to an anticipated lockout) never played a single minute for the organization during the ensuing season.

Mavericks Summer League players
who played for Dallas following season
Mavericks Summer League players
who had just gone undrafted
(or drafted in Round 2)
and didn't make the team
2010 - Rodrigue Beaubois, 2nd-year guard
- Dominique Jones, 1st-round pick, South Florida
- Ian Mahinmi, 3rd-year center
- Mouhammad Faye, Southern Methodist
- Jeremy Lin, Harvard
- Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's
- Moussa Seck, Senegal
- DeShawn Sims, Michigan
- Eric Tramiel, North Texas
2012 - Jae Crowder, 2nd-round pick, Marquette
- Bernard James, 2nd-round pick, Florida State
- Jared Cunningham, 1st-round pick, Oregon State
(played 8 games)
- Justin Dentmon, undrafted in 2009, Washington
(played in 2 games)
- Dominique Jones, 3rd-year guard
- Drew Gordon, New Mexico
- Tu Holloway, Xavier
- David Jelinek, Spain
- Keith Wright, Harvard
2013 - Jae Crowder, 2nd-year forward
- Bernard James, 2nd-year center
- Shane Larkin, 1st-round pick, Miami (FL)
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-round pick, Providence
- Alexandre Paranhos, Brazil
- Dewayne Dedmon, USC
- Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech
- D.J. Stephens, Memphis
- Christian Watford, Indiana
2014
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-year guard
(played 5 games)
- C.J. Fair, Syracuse
- Javon McCrea, Buffalo
- Yuki Togashi, Japan
- Axel Toupane, France
2015 - Justin Anderson, 1st-round pick, Virginia
- Dwight Powell, 2nd-year big man
- Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
- 2nd-round pick Satnam Singh, India

Using recent history as an indicator, it doesn’t appear Ellis has much of a shot at becoming a full fledged member of the Mavericks. However, each player’s situation is unique and Ellis has some factors working in his favor.

For one thing, Ellis is a consensus All-American. That doesn’t mean an NBA team will just hand him a contract. But, given his pedigree and talent, he should enter this trial with confidence. Ellis is more than capable of producing in summer league games and reminding Dallas that he is a different player than most undrafted free agents the team has tried out in the past.

Also, this year the Mavericks only made one draft pick, taking Purdue center A.J. Hammons 46th overall, in the second round. The organization could take a different approach to rookie summer players now, because it wasn’t able to utilize the draft as well this time around. If the Mavs were bringing in two or three draft picks, it would be inherently more difficult to be swayed by a young free agent. But with fewer roster spots slotted to go to draftees, you could see Dallas taking a longer look at Ellis and Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith, who is in the same boat.

Kansas Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis (34) gets to the bucket against Maryland forward Damonte Dodd (35) during the first half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis (34) gets to the bucket against Maryland forward Damonte Dodd (35) during the first half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

While Ellis spends the next several weeks putting in the work required to make an NBA roster, the Mavericks’ success in free agency could determine how likely they are to sign a rookie to an inexpensive deal. At this point, the only core players Dallas has under contract are Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Justin Anderson. That means Cuban has loads of room to spend, spend and spend some more in free agency. Every summer Dallas goes after the biggest names available, and if Cuban can land Hassan Whiteside and/or Mike Conley and he wants to bring back Dallas free agents Nowitzki (obviously) and Chandler Parsons, while also adding a few less expensive NBA veterans, there will only be so much money left under the cap to fill out the roster. The more the Mavs spend, the more attractive it becomes to sign a young bench player on a cheap contract.

On top of all that, Dallas isn’t the only NBA team that will be watching Ellis. Scouts, coaches and general managers from all 30 teams attend summer league games. If Ellis plays well and the Mavericks still don’t want to keep him around, another franchise can swoop in and sign him instead.

Case in point: the Mavericks summer squad in 2010 featured a little known guard out of Harvard named Jeremy Lin. Lin never played for Dallas. In fact, he only played 29 games for Golden State the following season. But the next year, Lin became a sensation in New York and has had no trouble finding work in the NBA since.

Ellis’ journey may begin with the Mavericks, but there’s no telling where it will go from here.

— PODCAST: What’s next for KU’s 2016 NBA Draft class?

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Valuable role player Darrell Arthur might be on move in free agency

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s not often that the name Darrell Arthur comes up in the buzz surrounding the NBA, but with the season over, the draft complete and free agency revving up at the end of the week, rumors regarding Arthur’s future began swirling Monday.

A few days after reports of the former Kansas forward opting out of the second year of his contract with Denver in order to hit the open market, word out of the nation’s capital is Washington could be a destination for the 6-foot-9 veteran who won a national championship with KU in 2008.

According to a report from CSNAtlantic.com, Arthur is on a “short list” of targets for the Wizards, when teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1.

Arthur averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.7 minutes a game — mostly as a reserve — this past season with the Nuggets, during his third year with the franchise. While his numbers don’t blow you away, Arthur is respected around the league for his work ethic and ability to defend pick-and-roll action as a 6-foot-9 frontcourt player.

What’s more, Arthur hit a career-high 38.5% of his 3-pointers during his seventh season in the league, making 45 shots from downtown, easily beating his previous season-best of 26 3-pointers.

Besides his valuable skills, which likely on their own merit could’ve earned him more than the $2.9 million he just left on the table for next season, the NBA salary cap is rising significantly this summer. Any player in his right mind would opt out of his contract now if he could, because pay raises will be readily available.

If Arthur were to reach a deal with the Wizards, he’d likely serve as a backup at power forward to another Jayhawk, Markieff Morris.

Plus, Washington would probably become a new favorite NBA team for Kansas fans, with four former KU players on the roster: Arthur, Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Drew Gooden.

Of course, it might not work out that way. Most teams looking for a backup power forward, likely would have interest in a 4 who can stretch the floor and move his feet well while defending — inside and out — in the half court.

Arthur’s name certainly won’t be the biggest one on the market this summer, but he is an important role player to watch amid the free agency frenzy.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com


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New Pelicans big man Cheick Diallo gets his first ‘last laugh’

Kansas Jayhawks forward Carlton Bragg Jr. smells an antiperspirant stick left in forward Cheick Diallo's locker as the two goof around while performing a mock commercial on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas Jayhawks forward Carlton Bragg Jr. smells an antiperspirant stick left in forward Cheick Diallo's locker as the two goof around while performing a mock commercial on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

When freshman big men Cheick Diallo or Carlton Bragg Jr. barely played in a particular game this past season, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self liked to say after such an outing the two forwards would get the “last laugh.” Self knew both Diallo and Bragg would one day become NBA players, maybe even have long careers, but had his reasons for not giving the youngsters minutes in particular situations.

Diallo beat Bragg to the first “last laugh” Thursday night, when 6-foot-9 post player from Kayes, Mali, was taken 33rd overall in the NBA Draft, and the New Orleans Pelicans landed his draft rights. After playing all of 202 minutes and making 33 of his 58 field-goal attempts in college basketball during a one-and-done stop at KU, Diallo was off to the NBA.

The night, of course, didn’t go exactly as planned for Diallo, whose stock slipped enough for him to fall into the early second round. But he had to experience immeasurable satisfaction in proving to himself and his detractors that he was good enough to cash in on his dreams — despite his struggles to get on the court at Kansas.

Still, we’re still probably a couple of years away from Diallo doubling over, full belly laugh style, when thinking about how little he played for the Jayhawks.

He obviously has a long way to go as a player before earning enough respect from his Pelicans coaches and teammates to crack the rotation and execute his defensive intensity/high-energy role.

In the meantime, his position with New Orleans will look similar to the one he took with Kansas, often just cheering wildly from the bench during the most important stretches of games.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) and the Jayhawk bench celebrate a bucket and a foul by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) and the Jayhawk bench celebrate a bucket and a foul by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In fact, don’t be surprised if Diallo plays even less during his rookie NBA season than he did as a KU freshman (7.5 minutes a game). Next year in particular, Diallo’s weaknesses will be magnified as he adjusts to a massive upward leap in level of competition. You saw how the 19-year-old struggled in the Big 12, and it will only look worse against veteran professional post players. The DNP-CD’s (did not play, coach’s decision) are coming for him as he eases his way into The Association.

The Pelicans knew Diallo would be a few years away from helping the team win games when they traded up to draft him. General manger Dell Demps said Thursday night they targeted the raw prospect anyway, and had him rated higher on their draft board than No. 33, leaving them surprised he even was available at that juncture.

“He’s a young player who is inexperienced,” Demps said. “There is going to be a growing curve. But one thing I can assure you is you’ll never see a lack of effort there. His motor is amazing.”

None by New Orleans Pelicans

It’s that same motor — or desire, or push, or however you want to label it — that should work in Diallo’s favor during the most difficult stage of his pro career, the beginning.

“I’m an energy guy,” Diallo said on draft night. “I box out, rebound the ball and protect the rim. That’s what I do. I just want to do everything to make my team look good. I just want to run the floor, block shots and get rebounds.”

He’ll mostly get his chances to do those things he does best during practices, at the NBA Summer League and in some D-League games next season.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets a hand up in front of a shot by Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets a hand up in front of a shot by Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Diallo clearly isn’t ready for the NBA yet. But he has the right attitude and thirst for basketball knowledge to get there. Though a second-round pick and a project, he doesn’t have the type of personality to take a half-hearted approach to anything.

As Diallo said before the draft about playing at the next level:

“It’s my dream. I’m trying to make this happen, so I don’t have a second option.”

In time, though, he might have a few laughs when thinking about how he used to play in garbage time at Allen Fieldhouse, with walk-ons Tyler Self and Evan Manning.

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Radiolab co-host Jad Abumrad on journalism, the fury of Terry Gross fans and what makes ‘messy’ stories worth telling

The creative process, according to "Radiolab" co-host Jad Abumrad, is marked with uncertainty. Whether that creative queasiness — “gut churn,” he calls it — helps or hinders the operation is the inquiry at the center of Abumrad’s multimedia presentation of the same name, coming to Lawrence this weekend as part of the Free State Festival.

“In many ways, the talk — my life, actually — has been in some sense a study of that phenomenon,” says Abumrad, chatting over the phone from New York City, the town where even the most celebrated public radio personalities can remain incognito. (More on that later.)

Here, in an edited and condensed version of his interview with the Journal-World, the onetime MacArthur Fellow ("Radiolab," which he co-hosts with Robert Krulwich from New York City’s WNYC studios, now reaches more than 500 public radio stations across the country) shares stories from his days as a cub reporter, the fury of Terry Gross fans and what makes the “messy” stories of life worth telling.

“Gut Churn” is slated for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.

Jad Abumrad

Jad Abumrad

You grew up in Nashville as the child of Lebanese immigrants, and you’ve talked in the past about how this created a sense of not fully belonging here in the U.S. or in Lebanon. How did that experience inform your work as a journalist?

It’s funny — when you are not quite American and not quite Lebanese, or whatever hyphenated identity you find yourself to be, you’re kind of not either. And so it felt important for me to be something that was a third thing and not either. Becoming a journalist was kind of like that thing for me. It was like, here’s this third thing I can be where I can actually ask questions about the first two things. And if I look at all the work I’ve done in my life, it’s actually not about science — I mean, people label the show in various ways that don’t feel right to me — but it’s actually about two different cultures, two different spirits, crashing into each other. I think anyone who is an immigrant feels that (way) — you’re somehow of a place that you’re not really of, and you’re in a place that you’re not really in, and so you are somehow the collision between these two cultures, and that’s the story I do every single day.

You actually got your start not in journalism but as a film composer. How did you learn the ropes?

I sort of stumbled into it. I went to school for creative writing and music, and I got out of school and was trying to do both. I got to this point where I realized that I don’t seem to be good at either of these things. And my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was like, “Well, you could do radio. It’s sort of the middle ground between the two things you’re doing.” So I got involved at a radio station. I got hooked very quickly. I got into it more for the craft, and I didn’t know the first thing about journalism.

I was volunteering at a radio station down the street from where I’m now sitting called WBAI. The first day I show up, the news director, who’s about to have a sex change — and I didn’t know (about it) — has just suddenly disappeared, and suddenly I’m there and there’s no one to teach me, and somebody just hands me a recorder. They’re like, “Go out and record this protest at City Hall.” So, I did this awful 12-minute piece of people rah-rah-ing about who the (expletive) knows what. But WBAI was so crazy at that moment that, literally, I walked in there and I was on the air not that day, maybe, but the next day. There was no barrier. I literally started figuring it out as I went. Basic stuff like, "How do I ask a question so that I get an answer I can use? And how do I create conversation between two different voices?"

It was very disorganized — I didn’t have anyone who was mentoring me in journalism. Honestly, I feel like I’ve only really been a good journalist in the last three or four years. I feel like, "OK, I can kind of deal with almost any scenario right now." I would’ve blown a lot of money but saved myself a lot of time had I gone to J School.

What’s happened within those three or four years, do you think, that’s taken you to the next level?

Maybe in 2011 or 2012, I kind of got fed up a little bit (with "Radiolab"). We were just doing this story where we’d talk to somebody who was really smart, and he or she would paint a picture of some imaginary thing and then we’d make it. And I just kind of felt like, “I’m sitting on my (expletive) in front of Pro Tools all day long, not actually having experiences.” The show works in a certain way, but it needs to be messier. It needs to be more engaged in the world. Like, I’m tired of these very clean, expansive studio conversations that lead you to that very predictable moment. As much as I love all that, I got tired of it.

I wanted to start looking into the messiness of human beings living in a messy world, while still focusing on the complexities of life, which is ultimately why I feel I have a job. That’s what I feel I’ve been put here to do. Long story short, we began to do stories that were maybe more about politics, more about cultures clashing, things that get lost in translation. That forced me into a situation where I almost felt like I had to start over. Doing a lot of science reporting puts you in a position of having to get really good at technical writing and you’ve got to figure out a way to explain things to people, but it can be a very limited journalistic space. When you’re dealing with people who are sometimes traumatized or sometimes yelling at you, there’s a different set of skills that are involved, and I learned all that stuff.

We just did a huge investigation into the global surrogacy market, and that’s a situation where every radioactive issue was there in one story, you know? Like, LGBT issues were there, race was there, cultural imperialism was there. And as a journalist, I have to wade through all that, and it’s demanded more of me. We’ve gone through enough of those hard stories where I feel like I’ve gotten my feet under me as a journalist. And I like that. Every story feels like it’s harder than I’m able to do right now, and yet, we do it, and I feel a little bit bigger at the end of it.

There’s been a crazy surge in podcasts over the last few years, thanks to shows like yours and “Serial,” to name one recent example. What does this say about the way we’re consuming media and stories now?

I don’t know. Here’s my sort of idealistic answer, which I’m not sure I buy, but I’ll just say it: We want everything at once, you know? And our tastes and our predilections exist as a series of paradoxes. Like, we want (stuff) that’s small and sugary and sound bitey and vapid. We want that. I want that. I want stuff that’s stupid, as much as I think I’m a smart person. But the more dumb stuff I want, the more stuff I want that’s challenging and long and rich and complicated. I feel like the shorter my attention span gets, the longer my attention span gets. And I see that in the world — everybody wants everything.

And so in some sense, the poles are pulling against each other. Stuff is getting stupider at the very moment it’s getting smarter, and in some way I can’t articulate to you right now, I feel like they’re related. The trends toward stupidity and toward brilliance seem to be related to me. I’ll work that out at some point and give you a better answer.

NPR has a very niche fandom. Any strange encounters with fans you’d like to share?

I saw somebody had a tattoo of my name on their shoulder, and I was like, “OK, that’s weird.” Kind of flattering but a little creepy, you know? And then I saw my name on a bathroom wall once. But that’s as strange as it gets.

I spend most of my life in this tiny room interacting with pretty much no one except my staff, so most of the time I have no idea what the outside world is doing or thinking about what we’re up to. I definitely don’t get on social media anymore, just because life’s too short — at least not for getting feedback — so I’m usually pretty oblivious. And also, people in New York just keep it so cool, you know? Even if they recognize you, they would never let you know.

As someone who listens to a lot of "Radiolab," it seems like each of those episodes must take a long time to produce. What’s that process like? And how much time does it take to produce an hour-long episode?

I would say maybe anywhere from six months to two years. Most of what we’re doing these days is actually on the podcast. It’s not one-hour shows anymore; it’s 40-minute pieces of one kind or another. And even those take us a year. But, you know, from the moment someone has the idea until the moment it hits the air, it doesn’t ever seem to happen faster than six months. And it’s not like six months of solid work. You’ve got the idea, you’re scheduling interviews, you’re doing second and third and fourth rounds of interviews, then you’re going through endless edits trying to get the story shape to work, and there’s a way in which that process never lasts anything shorter than six months. And you’re working on 20 of those at once. Maybe each of the producers has three or four they’re working on, and so we’re doing edits throughout the week on each of these different stories, and one of them will kind of go on the shelf on the while because maybe something fell through, but then maybe something will happen in the world and we’re like, “Oh, we should bring that piece back,” and we yank it off the shelf.

"Radiolab" has been on the air for about 15 years now. In that time, it’s been critically lauded for its experimental use of sound and music. But when it premiered, did you get that universal praise? Was there any sort of pushback from the old guard of radio?

Oh yeah, definitely pushback. When we debuted, it started out at 8 p.m. on the AM frequency here in New York, which for various technical reasons, nobody listens to (at that hour). Nobody. So I was in this kind of desert for a long time, which was, looking back on it, a good thing. I needed to be in that desert where I was ignored so I could learn a few things.

At our first home on FM, which is where the audience was, the program director put us at, I think, 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, for a week. He did this because Terry Gross was going on vacation. She takes a vacation once a year or whatever, and in that time, they just run re-runs. And so he’s thinking, “Rather than re-runs, we’ll just put this new show on.” So, they put us on, and people in Terry Town were pissed. They hated it. The listener services people send you these Excel spreadsheets of every single call that comes in, good or bad. And they sent us this Excel spreadsheet, and I naively thought, “Oh, we’re beautiful. People will think we’re beautiful.” And I remember opening this Excel spreadsheet up, and it was just pages and pages and pages of (criticism). Category 1 was like, “Where is Terry Gross? What have you done with Terry Gross?” And the other category was like, “Where is Terry Gross, and who the (expletive) are these guys?” In that, there were a lot of the criticisms that we still get, frankly, which are, “Quit editing 10,000 things together at once. Just tell the story. Why do you have to put all the sounds in?” That criticism was very, very loud at the beginning.

I think listening habits and styles have changed, and now I don’t think we sound that experimental anymore. I think there are a lot of people who are doing stuff probably taking it even farther than us. Like, "Love + Radio" — if you hear an average, run-of-the-mill episode of theirs, they’re doing (stuff) that is like, “Wow, you can do that? You’re allowed to do that?” I feel like we could be better, or more experimental.

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Stock watch: Finding the right NBA team for Perry Ellis

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

According to the experts, four-year Kansas standout Perry Ellis won’t hear his name called at the 2016 NBA Draft.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not buying it.

Ellis has spent most of the past couple of months proving his worth at workouts in front of coaches, executives and scouts, in NBA cities all over the country.

Now, Ellis isn’t unique in that sense. Plenty of college players and international prospects have done the same since the NBA Draft Combine in early May. But when it comes down to it, and some general manager and coach who want to keep their jobs are making a late second-round pick Thursday night, who do you think they would rather add to their stable of talent:

- Someone who is taller and/or maybe more athletic than Ellis but unproven?

- Or someone who scored 1,798 points at a major Division I program and will be a model pupil and citizen?

Not every team drafts players late in the second round with the intent of signing them and bringing them to training camp. But there are some organizations that need to fill out their roster via the draft or want effective players on cheap contracts. And I’d be willing to bet one such team will gladly add KU’s standout forward before the evening’s festivities conclude in Brooklyn.

Assuming none of the numerous teams which worked out Ellis during the past several weeks shocks everybody watching and selects him ahead of schedule, let’s assume he’ll be one of the final players drafted in 2016.

Here’s a look at the teams that own the final handful of spots:

  • No 55, Brooklyn

  • No. 56, Denver

  • No. 57, Memphis

  • No. 58, Boston

  • No. 59, Sacramento

  • No. 60, Utah

Odds are the names next to one or a few of those slots will change before the end of draft night. Front offices tend to play hot potato with second-round picks late in the process and some could even get moved more than once.

For sanity’s sake, let’s assume each of those teams holds on to its late pick and examine how Ellis would fit in on each roster.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets up for a dunk against Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets up for a dunk against Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

BROOKLYN, 55th pick — Boy, this squad needs all the help it can get. If the Nets can find someone better than Ellis at this spot, good for them. If not, they’d be crazy to pass on the 6-foot-8 forward, whose smooth jump shot at times went underutilized at KU.

The best players in Brooklyn uniforms are center Brook Lopez and power forward Thaddeus Young. Returning at small forward, the Nets have Bojan Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Even if Brooklyn is enamored with those four, they’ll need some frontcourt assistance off the bench. Ellis, depending on how his team wants to deploy him, could step in at power forward or small forward depending on matchups.

Playing for the Nets might not be as enjoyable in terms of wins and losses, but that actually could turn out to be the best spot for Ellis to play the most minutes and prove he belongs in the league.

DENVER, 56th pick — As mentioned in an examination of where Cheick Diallo could fit in at the next level, the Nuggets have a pretty loaded frontcourt for a struggling Western Conference team.

With Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler, a rookie forward (whether picked in the lottery or late in the second round) would have trouble cracking this rotation.

Then again, maybe former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur doesn’t return in free agency, and Ellis slides in as his replacement. You never know. But it seems Ellis’ role would be minimal next season if he did end up in the Mile-High City.

MEMPHIS, 57th pick — The Grizzlies are another team that probably doesn’t have much need for Ellis, with interior players Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Brandan Wright and JaMychal Green under contract, as well as veteran small forward Vince Carter.

But if Memphis likes Ellis and sees him as someone who could learn for a year, then become a replacement for one of the team’s aging forwards or someone who leaves next summer in free agency, the Kansas forward could work out longterm with the Grizzlies. It just seems unlikely he would play much next season in this scenario.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) bangs into Texas center Prince Ibeh as he heads to the bucket during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) bangs into Texas center Prince Ibeh as he heads to the bucket during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

BOSTON, 58th pick — The Celtics own eight picks entering draft day, and reportedly are in active discussions with a number of teams in search of executing a trade or two (or three or four or more).

So no one knows exactly how Boston’s roster will look by the time training camp opens in the fall.

However, the Celtics have seemed to prefer power forwards and centers capable of stretching the floor and giving the offense space to operate. So, in that sense, Ellis would be a justifiable option as a smaller 4 who comes in off the bench to exploit specific matchups, as guided by coach Brad Stevens.

SACRAMENTO, 59th pick — Unsuccessful and, really, dysfunctional as this team has been the past several seasons, the Kings actually have a lot of options at the forward spots, to play alongside their ultra-talented, mega-grumpy big man, DeMarcus Cousins.

Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli and Omi Casspi are under contract, and it appears Sacramento might be interested in playing big man Willie Cauley-Stein with Cousins, too.

Ultimately, Ellis (or fill in the name of any rookie here) would probably prefer to play elsewhere. But if he did end up in Sacramento, he’s too good of a person not to make the best of it and probably would play his way into the lineup one way or another.

UTAH, 60th pick — The Jazz are one of the more sound and complete teams not operating on the national radar. When it comes down to it, it’s just hard to make the playoffs out West.

As Utah has made significant strides the past couple of seasons, it has done so with solid players who — for whatever reason — get overlooked. Sounds a lot like Ellis entering the draft, doesn’t it?

From that perspective, Ellis would fit in perfectly in Salt Lake City. But is there a place for him in the rotation?

The Jazz have small forwards Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles and power forwards Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles coming back. Meanwhile, backup power forward Trevor Booker is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Should Utah fear losing Booker in July, Ellis could be a viable replacement, and a steal at the end of the 2016 draft.

WILD CARD, another team trades for a late pick and selects Ellis — This actually would have to be the best storyline for the 22-year-old forward.

Regardless of what franchise it turned out to be, you would think the coaches and decision-makers like him enough to make the move, and would have a plan to fit Ellis into their system.

— PODCAST: How many Jayhawks will be taken in the 2016 NBA Draft?

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Stock watch: Finding the right NBA team for Wayne Selden Jr.

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

When Wayne Selden Jr. first arrived at Kansas in 2013, some thought the Roxbury, Mass., native would play one season of college basketball and enter the NBA Draft for guaranteed money, just like his KU teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

Two years after Selden rightfully stayed in college and his two teammates were taken in the first three picks, the 6-foot-5 guard heads into his own draft night with far less certainty.

Selden won’t be a lottery pick or even a first-round pick, according to draft experts. As of Wednesday afternoon, DraftExpress.com slotted Selden as the 50th overall pick, going in the second round to Indiana.

The general consensus on the 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan is that he’ll be selected somewhere in that range — mid- to late-second round.

That might not seem like an ideal set of circumstances for a player who left school early, but teams seem interested in Selden. After averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds in his junior season with Kansas, during which he shot 46.9% from the floor and 38.3% on 3-pointers, Selden was invited to pre-draft workouts with Milwaukee, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York, New Orleans, Charlotte, the L.A. Clippers, Dallas, Boston, Oklahoma City and Brookly. (As you can see via the T-shirts Selden has collected during his tour, which are all posted on his Twitter feed.)

None by Wayne Selden Jr.

You can still be a commodity as a prospect, even if you’re not a lottery pick. Teams know what they’re getting with Selden, and while that might not be enough for one to use a first-round pick on him that doesn’t mean he’ll have an uphill battle to make a roster as a second-rounder.

Selden is explosive when healthy and his toughness and defensive ability have improved after three years of playing for Bill Self. Plus, his passing skills and floor vision often go unappreciated, and those will be useful tools for him at the next level as a backup guard trying to work his way into a secure role in some team’s rotation.

Also, in a bit of a twist, it could be possible for a second-round draft choice this season to have his agent negotiate a more lucrative deal than some first-rounders are locked into. That stems from the rising salary cap this summer and the way first-round contracts currently are structured, as reported by Dan Feidman at NBCSports.

Here’s a look at the teams which currently own second-round draft picks in the range projected for Selden. Keep in mind second-round picks get traded like crazy almost every draft night.

  • No. 45, Boston

  • No. 46, Dallas

  • No. 47, Orlando

  • No. 48, Chicago

  • No. 49, Detroit

  • No. 50, Indiana

  • No. 51, Boston

  • No. 52, Utah

  • No. 53, Denver

  • No. 54, Atlanta

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) comes in for a jam as Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright (24) watches during the first half, Friday, March 11, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) comes in for a jam as Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright (24) watches during the first half, Friday, March 11, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Assuming Selden goes somewhere in this vicinity of the second round, let’s take a look at how he might fit in with each organization.

BOSTON, 45th pick, 51st pick — If the Celtics don’t move out of this range via trade (they enter draft day with a whopping eight picks), Selden certainly wouldn’t mind playing for his hometown team.

However, Boston does have a bit of a crowded backcourt — at this stage of the offseason at least, though any number of moves could materialize in the days and months ahead. The Celtics return all-star Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, as well as 2015 first-round picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter. All five guards are under contract for multiple seasons.

None by Wayne Selden Jr.

If Boston takes Selden, he would only get significant minutes as a rookie if Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens aren’t sold on the longterm viability of Hunter, a 3-point specialist, or one or more of the team’s other returning guards end up getting traded.

Should the opportunity for playing time materialize with the Celtics, I think Selden would fit in nicely as a backup guard right off the bat.

DALLAS, 46th pick — With Wesley Matthews, one of the league’s better unheralded shooting guards, in the starting lineup, there probably won’t be a lot of minutes for a backup with the Mavericks.

Then again, that could be a perfect situation for Selden. Matthews would be an ideal tutor for the KU rookie and Selden could gradually attempt to turn into Matthews 2.0. They’re similarly built, and while Matthews is for sure a better 3-point shooter, one could see Selden getting better in that area.

ORLANDO, 47th pick — Already young and up-and-coming in the backcourt, the Magic might have too many players in that category to add another in Selden.

Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja all return for Orlando, which also has veteran C.J. Watson and seldom-used Shabazz Napier under contract.

Should the Magic draft Selden, it seems it would be for insurance purposes, in case one of the established players suffered an injury. In a best-case scenario for Selden in Orlando, he would prove athletic and versatile enough to be the No. 4 guard.

CHICAGO, 48th pick — The Bulls just traded homegrown former MVP Derrick Rose, so you’ve got to assume they’re riding with shooting guard Jimmy Butler as the new face of the franchise.

Again, this would be a case where Selden could learn from a great guard, assuming Chicago doesn’t blow the whole thing up and trade Butler, too.

Assuming the Bulls keep Butler and Selden absorbs all the NBA knowledge he can from the rising star, it could prove great for Selden’s longevity and effectiveness in the years ahead.

DETROIT, 49th pick — A 23-year-old shooting guard coming off his best season, the Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is solidified as the team’s starter.

But Detroit could use some bench help at the position, especially when you consider Jodie Meeks missed almost the entire 2014-15 season due to injury. Who knows how effective Meeks, a 3-point specialist, will be next year.

Selden could, in theory, be a more complete player than Meeks and thereby making up for what he lacks in professional experience. But if Meeks is at 100% and he produces from downtown, it would be hard for Selden to break into the rotation.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) drives against West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige (5) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) drives against West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige (5) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

INDIANA, 50th pick — The Pacers already have a pair of veteran shooting guards in Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey. And while both are more combo guard than true 2-guards, they combined to play more than 50 minutes a game last season.

Additionally, when Indiana traded Wednesday for Jeff Teague it made it a lot less likely for the team to be forced to use Ellis and Stuckey at point guard.

If Selden gets picked by the Pacers, he’d have a long way to go before becoming part of the rotation.

UTAH, 52nd pick — Shooting guard Alec Burks has only played in 58 games over the past two seasons, so the Jazz might at least think about adding an insurance policy at the 2-guard during some portion of the offseason.

But if Burks finally bounces back health-wise, there would be almost no playing time available for another player at that position, behind Rodney Hood, coming off a monster second season, and veteran Shelvin Mack playing both guard spots.

Personally, I think Utah would go another direction with this pick.

DENVER, 53rd pick — Will Barton and Gary Harris are more than capable shooting guards. The Nuggets’ versatile roster also features forwards who fill in in the backcourt: Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

This is another team that probably doesn’t need Selden, but sometimes organizations just take their highest-rated player available, regardless of what the rest of the roster looks like.

ATLANTA, 54th pick — The Hawks could lose high-energy wing Kent Bazemore in free agency this summer. If so, you could see Selden finding a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.

Shooter extraordinaire Kyle Korver might be on the back end of his career, but figures to be penciled in as the Hawks’ starting 2-guard. After that, defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha, who also plays small forward, and Tim Hardaway Jr., who only played 16.9 minutes last season, are the other options.

Selden already is physically stronger than Hardaway, which wouldn’t automatically mean he deserves equal or more consideration. Still, the KU rookie would seem to have a shot.

But if Bazemore comes back, Selden could spend a lot of time on the end of Atlanta’s bench.

— PODCAST: How many Jayhawks will be taken in the 2016 NBA Draft?

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LeBron James sings Jayhawks’ praises following Cavs’ victory parade in Cleveland

Thanks to a video recording from Twitter user @CJR16255, we now can all see just how Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James feels about Jayhawks.

Speaking to an estimated crowd of more than 1 million Cavs fans after Cleveland's parade on Wednesday, James shared with the crowd a message he received from former KU star Mario Chalmers, with whom he won two titles in Miami, that mentioned the Jayhawks.

Here's the Tweet and the video, which features James saying some pretty cool things about former KU center Sasha Kaun, who was a reserve with the Cavs this season and did not play in the Finals.

I remember when the Heat and Thunder played an exhibition game in Kansas City during the 2010-11 season, James' first season in Miami. I asked him after the game about Chalmers' pregame claim that it was Chalmers who would get the biggest ovation in KC and not King James.

James, who said Chalmers had been telling him that for weeks, didn't even blink at the question and made it very clear how much he (a) knew about and (b) respected Kansas basketball and the traditions that come with it.

Here was James' quote then....

“I understand how big Kansas basketball is, and, with Rio and Cole Aldrich, I know how huge they were in college, so I understand. The fans were great. It’s always fun coming into cities that don’t have an NBA team, and they get an opportunity to see us live. And to come out here and play as well as we did was great.”

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Fiesta to celebrate Mexican culture, food this weekend

In some ways, St. John’s Mexican Fiesta isn’t unlike La Yarda, says fiesta publicity chair and longtime St. John parishioner Jacinta Hoyt.

The community of Mexican railroad workers that sprang up 90 years ago in East Lawrence is long gone (the patch of small, brick homes was washed away in the flood of 1951), but its memory lives on through Hoyt, whose immigrant grandparents settled in La Yarda way back when, and the many Lawrencians who share her Mexican heritage.

“La Yarda was like one big family. These families would come together and have communal meals and do all sorts of things together.” At St. John, she says, “We’re still able to get together every summer and put on the fiesta.”

This summer’s fiesta, slated for 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, promises the same authentic Mexican food, live music, dancing and family fun that have been mainstays at the well-attended church fundraiser since its inception 36 years ago.

More than 200, Hoyt included, make up this year’s efforts, says fiesta chairman Frank Lemus. Many claim Mexican descent (St. John still has a large Hispanic congregation, Hoyt notes, with Spanish-speaking Mass being offered every Sunday) while many others do not. Some volunteers are not even parishioners at St. John but enjoy helping out anyway, Lemus says.

Proceeds from the event, which annually generates about $35,000, go toward St. John Catholic School’s Spanish language program, maintenance projects at the church and a scholarship program for local Mexican-American students.

From left, Judy Romero, Bertha Bermudez and Val Howland spread some rice out to cool to be used to make sopa in preparation for this weekend’s annual St. John’s Mexican Fiesta. The fiesta will be held from 6-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St.

From left, Judy Romero, Bertha Bermudez and Val Howland spread some rice out to cool to be used to make sopa in preparation for this weekend’s annual St. John’s Mexican Fiesta. The fiesta will be held from 6-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St. by Richard Gwin

Thousands — it’s hard to predict how many exactly, though some estimates in recent years have counted as many as 10,000 — are expected to attend this weekend’s fiesta, which this year is being promoted under the Free State Festival roster of events.

“For me, it’s seeing the people gather and have a good time,” Lemus says. “I always compare it to a big barbecue in our backyard at St. John.”

Among the attractions: carnival games and a bounce house for kids, the St. John’s Fiesta Dancers, and live music from Mariachi Girasol, Grupo Picante and more. And then there’s the food, with an estimated 800 tostadas, 2,000 tamales and 3,000 burritos being churned out in advance of the event by St. John volunteers.

Because of the labor involved, enchiladas will only be offered Saturday night, says Lemus, who advises folks to arrive earlier in the evening (food usually sells out by 10 p.m.) if they’re eyeing a specific dish.

Returning this year is the fiesta’s new-and-improved La Yarda display. Last year, shortly before the 2015 fiesta, the Douglas County Commission awarded St. John a $16,400 grant to refurbish the display, which includes photos and texts detailing the history of Mexican-American Lawrence families like Hoyt’s.

With any luck, her own children — they’re still very young — will lend a hand in future fiestas. For now, they’re just excited to revel in the fun of it, she says.

“It’s important for people, especially for me and my family and future generations, to just remember where they come from,” says Hoyt, who served as project manager on the La Yarda exhibit. “Lawrence is a very diverse place and this is just a piece of it. It’s important to recognize and remember it.”

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Stock watch: Finding the right NBA team for Cheick Diallo

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Just a couple days ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft no one is certain exactly where Kansas forward Cheick Diallo will be selected — other than somewhere in the second half of the first round.

That’s a desirable outlook for a prospect who averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes a game during his one-and-done run at KU.

As of Tuesday, DraftExpress.com predicts Diallo, a 6-foot-9 post player from Kayes, Mali, will go 18th overall, to Detroit.

However, as Bill Self told reporters last week, getting drafted by the right team can be more important to a player’s professional development than when he is selected.

Before we dive into how Diallo might fit in with those franchises, here’s an interesting take on him from an anonymous scout, courtesy of Seth Davis at CampusRush.com.

"My question is, does he know what he is? If he understands he can make millions of dollars being a rebounder and shot blocker, he'll be terrific. If he thinks he needs to be a scorer, he'll hurt himself because he has no offensive game. I hear he's going top 20. Only a fool would take him there. He's an undersized four who can't shoot, and our league is about shooting right now."

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) pulls down an offensive rebound during the first half on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) pulls down an offensive rebound during the first half on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Anyone who followed Diallo’s season with KU quickly recognizes the scout’s point on the big’s offensive limitations. And whichever team invests its pick in Diallo will do so because of his 7-foot-4.5 wingspan and what type of defensive player he might become in a few years.

So one key question in this Diallo debate will be: Which teams can afford to wait for him to develop?

Here’s a look at which teams own draft picks in the range projected for Diallo:

  • No. 17. Memphis

  • No. 18. Detroit

  • No. 19. Denver

  • No. 20. Indiana

  • No. 21. Atlanta

  • No. 22. Charlotte

  • No. 23. Boston

  • No. 24. Philadelphia

  • No. 25. L.A. Clippers

  • No. 26. Philadelphia

  • No. 27. Toronto

  • No. 28. Phoenix

  • No. 29. San Antonio

  • No. 30. Golden State

MEMPHIS, 17th pick — No one has projected Diallo would go this high since before he played college basketball (boy, are NBA coaches and general managers glad they don’t have to deal with picking players straight out of high school anymore). But No. 17 is just ahead of where DraftExpress thinks Diallo will be selected, so it’s a good place to start.

If there’s one thing the Grizzlies have, it’s big men. Center Marc Gasol is under contract through 2020, and the Grizz have at least one more year of the man who puts the power in power forward, Zach Randolph. Plus, Brandan Wright is a reliable veteran post man off the bench, and JaMychal Green had a surprisingly productive finish to his season.

So Memphis definitely doesn’t need Diallo right now. But if there aren’t any available perimeter players that intrigue the Grizzlies, you could see them snagging Diallo and bringing him along slowly in the next couple of years.

DETROIT, 18th pick — Unless the Pistons want to get Diallo in order to turn him into an undersized backup center to play behind starting pivot Andre Drummond, I don’t think Stan Van Gundy would be especially interested.

Van Gundy’s teams tend to revolve around a dominant big man, and it appears unlikely Diallo ever will become that on offense. What’s more, Van Gundy prefers power forwards who stretch the floor with their shooting ability (see: Marcus Morris). Diallo just might not fit the Pistons’ style — now or in the future.

DENVER, 19th pick — The Nuggets, though currently existing as a middling Western Conference also-ran, have plenty of big men in their front-court rotation. While none of them are exactly household names, they are respected interior players nonetheless.

None by Nuggets Report

You never know what kind of trades could shake up any given roster between now and the start of the 2016-17 season, but if nothing happens with Denver on that front, the Nuggets would have bigs Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic under contract for multiple seasons, as well as Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler (who mix their time as stretch-4’s, and on the perimeter).

I don’t think Denver would draft Diallo because of that depth, but if it did it would be a good place for the 19-year-old to learn about life in the NBA, as an observer for a couple of seasons.

INDIANA, 20th pick — Myles Turner and Lavoy Allen are the only traditional big men under contract for the Pacers entering next season, so adding Diallo as insurance and using him sparingly as a backup could be in play at No. 20.

None by Indiana Pacers

One would think given that need for post players — if Indiana doesn’t re-sign free agents Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi — the team would rather pick up a big man who can play and produce sooner. But if Larry Bird is confident he can bring back those two or add more big men via free agency, Diallo would be a great addition and they could teach him and mold him as they see fit before giving him meaningful playing time.

ATLANTA, 21st pick — This is the first case late in the first round where the team’s need may be too great for it to take a raw project such as Diallo.

There’s a very good chance the Hawks could lose Al Horford in free agency, and if that proves true it would leave them with just Paul Milsap and Tiago Splitter as veteran post players.

Atlanta needs someone who can help them immediately, and it is difficult to envision Diallo producing inside for an NBA team in the next 12 months. The Hawks, I’m guessing, would look elsewhere for a big man.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets up to reject a shot from TCU guard Chauncey Collins (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) and guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1).

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets up to reject a shot from TCU guard Chauncey Collins (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) and guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1). by Nick Krug

CHARLOTTE, 22nd pick — Unless the Hornets bring back free agents Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams, they’ll need some additions to their front-court rotation. You can’t just trot Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes out there and think everything will be all right in the post.

Odds are, either via trade or free agency, Charlotte will add some veteran help down low this summer. If that’s the case, it would make a lot of sense for the Hornets to select Diallo and let him grow as a player, under the tutelage of assistant coach Patrick Ewing.

The Hornets recently spent four seasons successfully developing big man Bismack Biyombo only to let him sign with Toronto as a free agent a year ago, just before a breakout campaign. After seeing first-hand how far Biyombo came, you could see why Charlotte would want to do the same with Diallo.

BOSTON, 23rd pick — The Celtics have eight draft picks this season, so if Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens like Diallo as a project for the future, they probably wouldn’t hesitate taking someone they know is a few seasons away from playing a key role. There are plenty of more chances for Boston to take players more ready to transition to The Association.

With interior players Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk under contract, and Boston actively pursuing big-named free agents and trade possibilities, Diallo wouldn’t be asked to become part of the rotation for at least a couple of seasons. The Celtics, under Stevens, have become strong defensively, and investing in Diallo for the franchise’s seemingly bright future shouldn’t surprise anyone.

PHILADELPHIA, 24th and 26th picks — If Diallo is still around at this point of the draft, you almost have to like his odds of joining Joel Embiid as a Kansas big man on the Sixers.

Philly, which will reportedly take Ben Simmons No. 1 overall, could have two chances to take Diallo. And, believe it or not, the downtrodden franchise might finally be in position to select a big man in the first round and not immediately insert him into the lineup.

It looks like Embiid might finally play next season, joining fellow lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor as options in the post (assuming neither of them gets traded), and yet another recent draft pick who has yet to suit up for the 76ers, Dario Saric, is likely to join the team next season, too.

None of this means the Sixers will suddenly be a playoff team, but it does mean the franchise could get away with taking a gamble on a big man with some upside for down the road.

L.A. CLIPPERS, 25th — Now that Chris Paul is 31 years old, the time for the Clippers to win is now, which means the last thing the team needs is a big man who can’t make L.A. better immediately.

It’s hard to come up with a reason for Doc Rivers adding someone who has little to no chance of contributing to a championship chase next season.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Toronto, 27th; San Antonio, 29th; or Golden State, 30th — While Diallo, as a competitor, surely would be disappointed if he didn’t get chosen until the final picks of the first round, waiting a little longer on draft night could set him up for a perfect start to his career.

The Raptors, one of the best teams in the East, and the Warriors and Spurs, two of the league’s model franchises, own three of the final four picks in Round 1 (Phoenix picks at No 28.)

If either Toronto, San Antonio or Golden State took Diallo, he could gradually come along as a player behind the scenes, working with some of the best staffs and rosters the NBA has to offer.

Odds are the high-energy forward will be valued enough by various teams to come off the board before this point. However, Diallo could easily turn into a force as a backup big man in a few seasons with the Raptors, Spurs or Warriors.

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Lawrence Libations: Rose lemonade at Aladdin Cafe

Lawrence Libations revisits an old summer standby this week, with a Middle Eastern twist on lemonade at Aladdin Cafe.

The addition of rose water — which itself has been marketed as a good-for-you “beauty drink” as of late in the Western world, apparently showing up in the aisles of upscale supermarkets and New York City juice bars, in addition to centuries of Middle Eastern culinary tradition — results in a very sweet, very odd flavor (in a good way) that’s difficult to describe. I guess “it tastes like rose petals” would be the appropriate answer.

Mixed with lemonade, it makes for an extremely invigorating (this stuff will wake you up if you're feeling sleepy) thirst-quencher. The Aladdin Café menu also promises saffron blossoms along with the rose water — we couldn’t find any blossoms in our drink, aside from a few flecks of the bright orange spice floating among the ice cubes. Still, pretty extravagant for a regular ol’ Monday afternoon in Lawrence.

Rose lemonade at Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St.

Rose lemonade at Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St. by Joanna Hlavacek

The hard stuff: no alcohol in this one

Where it’s served: Aladdin Café, 1021 Massachusetts St.

What it costs: $2.99

Other libations at this location: Notably, the Turkish coffee, if you’re looking to fully commit to the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean theme

— Drink up. Stay classy. Don’t forget to tip your bartender. And let us know if you want to suggest a libation for this feature — email jhlavacek@ljworld.com or Tweet her at Twitter.com/hlavacekjoanna. Cheers.

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Udoka Azubuike should be more impactful than recent KU freshman bigs

Blue Team center Udoka Azabuike  brings down a dunk on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Blue Team center Udoka Azabuike brings down a dunk on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center. by Nick Krug

When center Udoka Azubuike joined Kansas basketball’s 2016 recruiting class in January, it certainly didn’t come as much of a surprise. Coach Bill Self and his staff routinely land big men from the high school ranks who bring to campus loads of hype to go their size and wingspans.

However, at the time, Azubuike’s commitment to KU didn’t conjure up visions of the 7-footer becoming an instant dominant force in the paint during the 2016-17 season.

In the midst of Cheick Diallo’s mostly unspectacular one-and-done campaign with the Jayhawks, and a year removed from the failed Cliff Alexander experiment, it was easy to assume a third straight year of mundane production from a freshman KU post player. Remember, even Carlton Bragg Jr., who had more of an impact last season than Diallo, only averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.9 minutes a game.

Lumping Azubuike in with other recent freshman post players, though, was unfair to the young big from Nigeria, who played his high school basketball for Potter’s House Christian Academy, in Florida.

Although Azubuike’s highlight mixtapes from his prep days didn’t look too novel compared to those of Diallo and Alexander before him, one can’t truly appreciate how dissimilar he is from his predecessors until seeing the colossal 16-year-old in person.

Sure, it was just a glorified pickup game last week for Self’s annual basketball camp, but Azubuike truly did play like “a monster” in the paint, scoring 26 points on 13-for-15 shooting while using his bulk to create space and then his raw strength to power the ball through the rim.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to say Diallo and Alexander were easy to defend in the post when they played for Kansas, but they wouldn’t qualify as difficult to stop, either. Azubuike has nearly 4 inches on Alexander and is 3 inches taller than Diallo. Factor in Azubuike’s reported 7-foot-5 wingspan and you have a physical specimen that could just as easily go toe to toe with The Hound from “Game of Thrones” as man the pivot for Kansas.

It is Azubuike’s borderline otherworldly combination of size and athleticism that both sets him apart from his predecessors and makes him more likely to discover immediate on-court success. Massive as he is — KU lists him at 270 pounds — the incoming freshman doesn’t lumber up and down the floor uneasily. Azubuike possesses the dexterity to keep his mountainesque frame smoothly in motion. Then he maneuvers nimbly in the post upon gathering an entry pass. Next stop: power dunk.

None by Benton Smith

While every big man that comes through Self’s program doesn’t experience the same level of success, the coach’s love for utilizing the post isn’t lost on frontcourt prospects. The Kansas offense features post men when it is clicking, and that’s one major reason Azubuike chose KU.

“It’s just the style of play,” the promising center said. “I spoke to Coach Self several times, numerous times, and was watching them play. My style of play, my system of play, you can’t beat that. I just think KU was the best choice for me.”

In his first season of college basketball, it might be asking a bit much of Azubuike to replicate the freshman prosperity of Joel Embiid in 2013-14 — 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks 1.4 assists in 23.1 minutes. But the Jayhawks don’t necessarily need the youngster from Lagos, Nigeria, to produce at that clip, either. Kansas has Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg Jr. to lean upon inside.

Azubuike won’t have to start from Day 1. In fact, Self feasibly could bring the gigantic teenager off the bench all season and the newest KU center still could have a more influential first year than Embiid, who played for a young, inexperienced team. Azubuike enters a contrasting situation, in which be should become a force on a deeper, more versatile roster.

Self already has told his next freshman big he’s going to be one of the best interior players to suit up for Kansas during the coach’s 13 seasons in Lawrence.

That’s a mountain of praise, for sure. Even so, Azubuike’s abilities just might outweigh his expectations.

— PODCAST: KU Freshmen make early impact during summer scrimmages

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Svi Mykhailiuk channels Bill Self, talks up defense and team-first basketball

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) drives against Texas Tech guard Toddrick Gotcher (20) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) drives against Texas Tech guard Toddrick Gotcher (20) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Sure, Svi Mykhailiuk might be in Europe this summer, training with and playing for his native Ukraine’s Under 20 national team. But when the 19-year-old guard spoke earlier this week at the 2016 adidas Eurocamp, in Italy, it sounded like his Kansas coach, Bill Self, had just been in his ear.

DraftExpress.com caught up with the KU junior, who averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists at the Eurocamp, as he and his team prepared for the upcoming Under 20 European Championships, in Finland.

Asked how the stop in Italy went for Ukraine, ahed of the July 16-24 international competition in Helsinki, Mykhailiuk came back with a Self-esque response.

“I think we’ve got a good team, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, because on defense we’re not really great,” said the 6-foot-8 guard, who clearly has learned defense and toughness earn players minutes back in Lawrence. “… but we just need to get better on defense and just talk more and (get a feel for) each other more, because we’ve just been practicing for 10 days and you can’t do a lot of stuff in 10 days. You can’t learn all of this in 10 days, so we just need a lot of time.”

Considered a first-round NBA Draft prospect for 2017 at this juncture, Mykhailiuk’s improving defensive skills showed up overseas. In the highlights provided by DraftExpress, “Svi” can be seen trapping hard on the wing, and swiping the ball away for a steal, as well as exploding through a passing lane for another takeaway, then finishing over a chasing defender at the rim.

According to the report, at one point a larger opponent tried and failed to post up Mykhailiuk inside.

“For me, if you can’t play defense you can’t play basketball, so I’m just trying to play defense, and offense just comes naturally,” Mykhailiuk told DraftExpress. “If you can play good defense it gives you a fast break on offense, and it’s a basket. It just depends on how you’re playing defense.”

Ah, yes. Offense. That aspect of the game certainly still matters to the third-year guard, as well. So don’t worry about “Svi for three” turning into a passé phrase next season. Mykhailiuk, who scored a career-best 23 points in KU’s NCAA Tournament win over Austin Peay this past March, looked even more comfortable with the ball in his hands while wearing the yellow and blue of Ukraine.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10)	shoots in a 3-point basket in a first-round NCAA tournament game against the Austin Peay Governors Thursday, March 17, 2016 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in a 3-point basket in a first-round NCAA tournament game against the Austin Peay Governors Thursday, March 17, 2016 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA. by Mike Yoder

In the DraftExpress highlights, Mykhailiuk, who averaged 5.4 points in 12.8 minutes as a sophomore for the Jayhawks, looked more play-maker that spot-up shooter.

The 191-pound guard can be seen:

  • pulling up to nail a 3-pointer off an opening tip.

  • chasing down an offensive rebound and whipping a pass inside to set a teammate up for a dunk.

  • on a couple of occasions leading the break and dishing ahead for a Ukraine dunk in transition.

  • popping up to the top of the key and squaring up quickly to knock down a 3-pointer in rhythm.

  • utilizing a pick-and-roll to assist his teammate for a layup.

  • taking a handoff from a big man outside, then using the post player as a screener, giving him room to rise up for another successful shot from downtown.

  • surveying the floor well enough to rifle a look-away pass over his shoulder that hit a cutting teammate at the perfect time to convert a layup.

  • cutting hard backdoor for a basket in the paint.

  • making the best pass available in transition situations.

Still, Mykhailiuk didn’t come anywhere near painting himself as some kind of star during his interview. Again, the team-first concepts instilled by Self and other coaches he has played for through the years, such as Ukraine’s Maksym Mikelson, shone through in his words.

“My role is to help my team win. You know, do whatever it is to help,” said Mykhailiuk, who likely will continue to embrace that approach next season as a sixth man for Kansas. “If you need to take 20 shots, you take 20 shots. If you need to stay in the corner and (shoot) none and your team is playing good and they’re gonna win by doing that, it doesn’t matter for me what I’ve gotta do. I just want to see my team win.”

When he returns to KU and begins his third season in Self’s program, Mykhailiuk doesn’t anticipate a gift-wrapped expanded role or automatic increased playing time, either.

“It just depends on me,” he said. “If I’m gonna play good, I’m gonna play. And, you know, like Wayne Selden left, Brannen Greene left, so now I need to step up.”

That sounds like something “Svi” has heard before — probably from Self.

— Watch the entire DraftExpress video below:

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Lagerald Vick preparing for larger role

Kansas sophomore guard Lagerald Vick already feels like a more important player in the Jayhawks’ rotation, months ahead of the 2016-17 season.

“Looking back to where I came from and stuff,” Vick says, “I didn’t have a big name.”

Now the athletic guard from Memphis says he has molded himself into a better defender and continues to focus on improving his 3-point shooting this offseason by taking as many long-range jumpers as he can each night.

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Van Go to celebrate young artists, successful endowment campaign at Saturday’s What Floats Your Boat

Emily Laughlin was only 12 when she first learned of Van Go Inc., the social service agency that provides arts-based job training to at-risk teens and young adults in Douglas County. She wasn’t yet old enough to take part in the program, but Laughlin, now 19, remembers the “beautiful” bench Van Go apprentice artists created in memory of her late mother, who had recently died from breast cancer.

She’s not sure if the bench — it was adorned with a pink ribbon, the symbol for breast cancer awareness — remains at the cancer ward of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where it originally sat. Nearly a decade later, though, Laughlin is sure of herself and the career path she’s embarking on with the help of Van Go.

“I found that I really enjoy it and that I’m good at it,” the aspiring art therapist says of metalsmithing, one of the many previously untapped talents she’s discovered in her time at Van Go. “It’s also made me realize what I want to give to the world and the future.”

Laughlin is one of many young artists whose work will be auctioned at Saturday’s 13th annual What Floats Your Boat. Slated for 7 to 11 p.m. at Clinton Lake Marina, the event is Van Go’s biggest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds — the goal is $80,000 this time around — going toward job-training programs for youths as well as operational costs for “keeping the lights on, the doors open and the phones on,” says Van Go development director Eliza Nichols.

“It’s not the most glamorous thing to fundraise for, but somebody has to do it,” she says. “It’s fairly easy to find funders to pay for art supplies or food, but the building itself — we have to be creative in our approach to that.”

Maya Frazier, 15, of Lawrence, holds up a large patio umbrella as she shows it to the crowd gathered during Van Go's annual What Floats Your Boat fundraiser Saturday, June 20, 2015, at the Clinton Lake State Park marina.

Maya Frazier, 15, of Lawrence, holds up a large patio umbrella as she shows it to the crowd gathered during Van Go's annual What Floats Your Boat fundraiser Saturday, June 20, 2015, at the Clinton Lake State Park marina. by John Young

This year’s “approach” includes about a dozen pieces crafted by Van Go’s apprentice artists, who range in age from 14 to 24. As in previous iterations of the event, much of Saturday’s auction will be devoted to upcycled outdoor furniture painted in “retro” shades like turquoise, lime green and bright orange. Local artists Dave VanHee, Kristin Moreland and Stacey Lamb — along with Van Go apprentice artist Jordan Wittbrod are also pitching in with their colorful “art bikes,” another from years past.

The event — which will treat partygoers to dinner by Ingredient and McGonigle’s, live jazz by Blueprint and dancing under the stars with DJ Johnny Quest — will also celebrate the successful completion of Van Go’s two-year, $750,000 endowment campaign. The agency recently surpassed its goal with an extra $15,000 in tow.

“We’re really thrilled with the community support, and feel grateful and so humbled that the community supports Van Go,” Nichols says of the campaign. “It will allow us to be around for a long time.”

The money will go toward a safety net in case of emergency or sudden grant cuts, says Nichols, to ensure opportunities for young artists like Laughlin for years to come.

She’s shadowing an art therapy intern (it’s an internship within an internship, she jokes) at Van Go this summer, and will take her first steps toward an art therapy degree at Johnson County Community College in the fall.

“I didn’t believe I could,” she says of imagining an artistic career for herself back in high school. “They’ve boosted my confidence and made it seem possible for me to do that.”

Tickets for What Floats Your Boat range from $87.50 all the way up to $700, for a table of eight. They can be purchased at www.van-go.org or by calling 842-3797.

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Beyond Bamford: Free State Festival highlights

Monday brings the arrival of this year's Free State Festival and its fully stocked lineup of music, art, film and ideas. Among the many attractions: "Lady Dynamite" star Maria Bamford (you can read our interview with her here), Radiolab co-founder Jad Abumrad, film screenings galore and a solo acoustic show from Grammy winner (and birthday boy!) Kris Kristofferson.

We've rounded up a few of the many noteworthy Free State Fest happenings here, but you can always peruse the full schedule at www.freestatefestival.org.


Monday

“CLOUD”

"CLOUD"

"CLOUD"

This interactive sculpture, constructed from 6,000 incandescent light bulbs by Canadian artists and collaborators Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett, utilizes pull string switches and everyday domestic light bulbs, “re-imagining their potential to catalyze collaborative moments and create an enveloping, experimental environment.”

It’s interactive, too: Viewers work together as a collective to animate “lightning” on the surface of the sculpture in “impromptu collaborations,” turning the entire cloud on and off.

The artists will be on hand to discuss their work during a free INSIGHT Art Talk from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Lawrence Arts Center’s black box theater. The exhibition itself opens at the end of the talk and will remain at the Arts Center through June 25.


Tuesday

“Chi-Raq”

"Chi-Raq"

"Chi-Raq"

If you missed last year’s critically acclaimed musical satire about gun violence in Chicago, here’s your chance to see it on the big screen.

Directed by two-time Oscar nominee Spike Lee and co-written by Lawrence's own Kevin Willmott (the filmmaker is also an associate professor of film and media studies at Kansas University), “Chi-Raq” is a modern adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata,” in which the women of Greece hold a sex strike in the hopes of ending the Peloponnesian War.

Tuesday’s screening, slated for 8 to 10:30 p.m., will also include the short film “Juvenile Justice: The Road to Reform.” Tickets are $8.


Wednesday

An Evening with Kris Kristofferson

Singer Kris Kristofferson performs on stage during the 16th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert "A Song Is Born," on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul a. Hebert/Invision/AP)

Singer Kris Kristofferson performs on stage during the 16th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert "A Song Is Born," on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul a. Hebert/Invision/AP)

The Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter rings in his 80th birthday Wednesday from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. in a sold-out solo acoustic show at Liberty Hall.

Miss out on tickets? Catch “Uncle Howard,” Aaron Brookner’s tribute to his late uncle (director Howard Brookner’s body of work, buried for 30 years in the bunker belonging to Beat Generation icon and one-time Lawrencian William S. Burroughs, finally gets its due), at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Lawrence Arts Center main stage. Tickets are $8.


Thursday

A Journal-World-adjacent activity kicks off the docket Thursday: “Telling Stories that Matter: Journalism in the New Media World” from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. at the Cider Gallery.

Featuring Roy Wenzl of the Wichita Eagle, Jeremy Schwartz of the Austin American-Statesman, Kate Mather of the Los Angeles Times and the Journal-World’s own Karen Dillon, this panel “takes on hard questions to prophesy what investigate reporters and their readers have in store” in today’s (and tomorrow’s, perhaps) media landscape of “sound bites, social media and free online news sites with less-than-stellar reporting credentials.” Journal-World managing editor Chad Lawhorn moderates.

"Telling Stories that Matter: Journalism in the New Media World"

"Telling Stories that Matter: Journalism in the New Media World"

Next up: Patricia Lockwood, the poet who the New York Times Magazine once dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas,” gives her hometown a sneak peek of her new memoir, "Priestdaddy," from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Arts Center’s large gallery. The reading will be followed by an audience Q&A and book signing, with copies of Lockwood’s latest poetry collection being sold by the Raven Book Store.

Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood


Friday

Outdoor Music: The Americans and more!

The Americans

The Americans

LA-based rock-and-rollers The Americans (claims to fame include gigs on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and the first dance at Reese Witherspoon’s wedding) headline an evening of free live music from 5 to 11 p.m. outside the Lawrence Arts Center.

The group, whose sound boasts “deep roots in traditional American music,” take the stage at 9 p.m. following the 6 p.m. screening of “American Epic,” the new documentary executive-produced by T Bone Burnett, Jack White and Robert Redford.

Other acts include 40 Watt Dreams at 5 p.m., Little Soldier Singers at 6 p.m., Katy Guillen at 6:45 p.m., Arthur Dodge at 8 p.m. and Son Venezuela at 10:15 p.m.


Saturday

Saturday promises two festival headliners amid an already-packed schedule. First up (in an anachronistic sort of way) is Radiolab co-founder and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Jad Abumrad, presenting his multi-media talk, “Gut Churn” at Liberty Hall. Slated for 7 to 8:30 p.m., this “engaging” presentation delves into the anxieties of the creative process, and will be followed by a Q&A. Tickets cost $25.

Jad Abumrad

Jad Abumrad

Elsewhere in downtown Lawrence, hip-hop pioneers Public Enemy (featuring Chuck D and Flavor Flav) will perform a free concert on the Lawrence Arts Center’s outdoor stage from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and if last year’s free George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic concert is any indication, the crowd will be packed.

Chuck D, left, Flavor Flav, center, and Professor Griff, right, of Public Enemy perform during their induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Nokia Theatre on Thursday, April 18, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Chuck D, left, Flavor Flav, center, and Professor Griff, right, of Public Enemy perform during their induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Nokia Theatre on Thursday, April 18, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

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