May 5 2015 05:40 PM

CityBeat staff dishes out our favorite books, apps and cultural tidbits



For voracious readers: It's been a turbulent time in the journalism business. Newspapers closing, or slashing staff, has been the norm for the last decade or so. At the heart of the upheaval is the Internet. Ubiquitous, and for the most part free, online content has turned advertising models upside down. However, while folks have been quick to eulogize the newspaper and demonize web content as shallow, online journalism has been evolving. And the folks at The Atavist Magazine have helped to lead the way. A web-only publication, it features immersive storytelling complete with tons of gorgeous photography, videos, interactive links and audio versions of each story. The content is riveting. Featuring one narrative-nonfiction story every month, the magazine has gained prestige since kicking off in 2011. And the app, available for Android and Apple, offers an experience that's just about perfect. Print may be dying, but whatís taking its place is downright inspiring. 

—Joshua Emerson Smith


I love comic books, but in the late '90s I just had to give it up. It was just too expensive. So when I recently found myself wanting to catch up, I was pleased to learn that Marvel had an app called Marvel Unlimited that gives me access to almost the entire library. It's archived back to the '60s and goes all the way up to the present. Not only did I get to reread the entire Infinity Gauntlet saga (reportedly the basis for the next Avengers movie), but I also caught up on cool new titles like Jason Aaron's excellent run on Thor, the God of Thunder and the highly hilarious The Superior Foes of Spider-Man (it's actually about a group of reject villains with lame powers). Like the new Daredevil show on Netflix? Check out Frank Miller's brilliant five-issue Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Already seen Age of Ultron twice? Director Joss Whedon wrote 24 excellent issues of Astonishing X-Men from 2004 to 2007. It's $9.99 a month (or $99 for a year), but there's no limit to the amount you can read. Now, if only DC Comics would do the same. 

—Seth Combs


It's not always easy to explain the difference between death metal and black metal (or for that matter, doom metal or grindcore) to a non-metal head. It's easy to confuse the more organic, DIY history of the global death metal underground with the more sensational church-burnings-and-murders rap sheet of the early '90s Norwegian black-metal scene. Albert Mudrian's Choosing Death, a history of death metal from the mid-'80s to the present day, tells the story of how extreme metal grew from teenagers trading tapes and setting up shows in rec centers to becoming a global phenomenon. There are some hard lessons learned, some brief moments of triumph, and—now with added chapters in its latest edition—the slow and delayed payoff that bands like Carcass and At the Gates achieved via reunion tours and recordings. It's a story about young people creating a community, and the surprising innocence of those ideals. The hardcover book features amazing illustrations from artist Dan Seagrave, plus photos and handmade flyers. 

—Jeff Terich


The titular host of VH1's Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins, has moved his shtick to the Fusion Network for a news parody show called No, You Shut Up! Playing a sincere-yet-dim-witted, Ron Burgundy-esque host, Tompkins leads a panel discussion of timely news topics with guests like Jack Black, Tig Notaro, Patton Oswalt and a slew of other comedians. The regular panelists are (literally) puppets. Created by Henson Alternative (part of The Jim Henson Company), the puppet pontificators include: Republican screecher Red Crab; Libertarian hermit Bigfoot; flying squirrel/gay rights activist Barry; kangaroo rat/film critic Armond Mite; and a vapid actor/model/hot dog named Hot Dog, who also does a celebrity interview segment called "Frankly Speaking." At the end of each episode of NYSU, panelists call out a person in the public eye who they believe should "shut up!"

—Ron Donoho


Back in 2013, authors Gabe Durham and Ken Baumann had the so-brilliant-why-didn't-I-think-of-it idea to create a series of books about old-school video games, and Boss Fight Books was born. Much like the popular music-book series 33 1/3, authors of a Boss Fight title are given creative license to explore their title in ways that go beyond mere criticism and history. For example, the first book of the series, Baumann's Earthbound serves as a memoir for Baumann's past as a child actor, and he presents Earthbound as a thematic vehicle with which he used to reconnect with family members as his acting career was ending. Simply, it's as entertaining as it is profound. Now into its second "season,"Boss Fight recently released Durham's Bible Adventures, the game I'm sure every parent hated because it finally offered kids the righteous opportunity to justify their Nintendo playing. 

—Ryan Bradford


As a professional lady with her toes dipped into various career pools, I often have to make presentations, business cards, image-driven social media posts and all kinds of other bits of media. And, no big deal, but my stuff always looks rad! Like it was created by a design pro, or an intern at some über-hip, ambiguous firm with a name like JoySpace or ENGLOW. I'm not a designer. I use Microsoft Paint to crop photos. That's super lame. But with Canva, I can create image-based media that looks awesome. There are templates all set up for you so you can have the world's most hipster party invite, presentation, Facebook cover photo and much more. The interface is easy to use and you can customize all designs to your liking or build your own from scratch. It's seriously one of the best weapons in my professional arsenal. And it's free! I'm no designer but Canva helps me fake it in a believable way. 

—Alex Zaragoza