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A true history of fake news: The many identities of Benjamin Franklin

Before the term “fake news” gained wide circulation during the 2016 presidential election season, deception had long been part of the U.S. media landscape. When Benjamin Franklin emerged as the publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he used it to plant ironic satires, partisan potshots and other false stories. […]

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Revisiting the Louds, America’s first reality TV family

Forty-five years ago — on Jan. 11, 1973 — the first reality series premiered on PBS, and television would never be the same. An American Family became an immediate pop culture sensation that was discussed by newspaper columnists, debated by television pundits and even taken seriously by respected scholars like Margaret Mead.
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Prairie Pop: Grey Area festival will suit local music fans, campers and circus freaks

Grey Area, a joint venture by Flat Black Studios and White Rabbit clothing store, is an unusual new festival taking place just outside of Iowa City on Aug. 18 and 19. Featuring live music and a diverse range of multimedia programming, it’s a celebration of our local musical community. The festival will span Friday afternoon to late Saturday night, and is set outdoors (on-site camping is encouraged; bring plenty of water, bug spray and other necessities, as well as blankets or chairs to sit on). […]

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UI professor went from small town Texas to building a musical chessboard, inventing the modern laser light show

“Lubbock or leave it,” the old saying goes, so Lowell Cross decided to leave the straight life behind for avant-garde adventures abroad. Born in 1938 and largely raised in that Texas town, this former University of Iowa music professor is a man of many unique firsts. Not only did he invent the modern laser light show (developed in part on the UI campus), but when Cross was a graduate student at the University of Toronto he collaborated with the paradigm-shifting composer and theorist John Cage. […]

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Prairie Pop: Former Angels of Light reminisce about the influence of their brother and son Hibiscus

Before George Harris III became Hibiscus and founded the genderfluid theater troupe the Cockettes, he put on shows with his family in Florida during the early 1960s. The oldest of six siblings — three girls and three boys, sort of an avant-garde Brady Bunch — George formed the El Dorado Players, named after the street they lived on in Clearwater, Florida.

“Hibiscus had real leadership qualities,” his youngest sister Mary Lou said. “He came out of the womb as the grand marshal. He was just like the leader of the parade — tons of ideas. ‘Let’s get it rolling. Let’s not even think!’” […]

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The Cool Kids bring their inventive approach to production to Flat Black

In 2008, the Cool Kids were “bringing ’88 back,” channeling a stripped-down eighties boom-bap rap aesthetic for a new generation. “When we started,” Sir Mike told me in advance of their appearance at this year’s Mission Creek Festival, “I was about seventeen and Chuck was twenty-two.” This led to a series of acclaimed singles and albums, a burst of activity that began with their debut “Black Mags” and abruptly ended after their 2011 LP, When Fish Ride Bicycles. […]

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Prairie Pop: Iowa City rockstars Younger bring new material to Mission Creek

For a band that was originally conceived as a goof, Younger has rapidly transformed into one of Iowa City’s best rock bands — exploding with energy, intricate arrangements, barbed lyrics and catchy hooks.

“We had talked about playing together for a long time,” drummer Sarah Mannix recalled. “I don’t think that we honestly believed it was going to be an actual band. I think we just got together more as a joke.” […]

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Prairie Pop: NPR’s Codrescu breaks down Dadaism’s ongoing influence

Andrei Codrescu: Documenting Dada/Disseminating Dada Shambaugh Auditorium — Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Dada was a volatile artistic, social and political movement that exploded in 1916 from the Zürich club Cabaret Voltaire, creating reverberations that can still be felt today. Its fuse was lit by refugees from World War One who decamped to Switzerland, […]

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Prairie Pop: Bibbe Hansen’s rebellious history and dynamic legacy

A single family’s artistic DNA can sometimes leave traces on the genetic makeup of the broader culture. Bibbe Hansen’s familial history, for example, also doubles as a survey of modern American bohemia and popular culture. It spans time and space, encompassing the 1950s Beatnik era and the present, New York and Los Angeles, Happenings and […]

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Prairie Pop: Sell your soul; you’ll feel better

Before Bart Simpson did it, though long after Faust, I sold my soul. This prank permanently cemented my status as a vaguely remembered factoid: “The guy who sold his soul on eBay.” I orchestrated the prank at the height of the late-1990s dot-com era, when eBay was the hot new auction website of the moment. […]

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Prairie Pop: Experimental rock pioneer Rhys Chatham gets Iowa City into the loop

Rhys Chatham Gabe’s — Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. Tickets available here Punk pioneers the Ramones stripped their music down to three chords, creating an austere wall of sound that brought rock and roll back to its basics. Composer Rhys Chatham, however, might be the only artist who was inspired to use more chords […]

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Prairie Pop: ‘King of Nasty’ John Waters returns to Iowa City for one-man roadshow

John Waters — “Filthier and Dirtier” The Englert Theatre — Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. Prepare yourself. Hide the children. John Waters — the Auteur of Ordure — is once again bringing his one-man roadshow to the Englert, on Oct. 1. “Filthier and Dirtier” is the latest iteration of his vaudevillian act, a freewheeling […]

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