Nov. 19 2014 02:14 PM

Crush these chunks of culture into your cranium



Pass the Puck: A few weeks back, a certain candidate's partner complained on Twitter about CityBeat's "type of ‘journalism,'" because, back in July, we pasted the faces of politicians onto the bodies of Star Wars characters. But this form of satire is coded into the DNA of American journalism. Exhibit A: In 1888, a Puck illustrator drew the faces of the presidential field on the bodies of kittens. As America's first successful political cartoon zine (1877 to 1918), Puck documented the march of history through the cleverest way possible: full-color mockery of elected officials. Thousands of Puck lithographs are available online through the Library of Congress, but San Diego-based comics publisher IDW has decided to bring Puck back into print. In October, IDW released What Fools These Mortals Be!, a new coffeetable book featuring more than 300 gorgeous, full-page plates and an introduction by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.

—Dave Maass


Mixtape 2.0: For music nerds like me, one of the best gifts to receive is a mixtape. Not many people have the knack to select and sequence songs that just sound perfect together. The best ones also turn me on to bands or songs I didn't know existed. Reverberation Radio, a weekly podcast created by members of the Los Angeles band Allah-Las, delivers an eclectic, captivating set of tracks that spans decades, continents and genres—and sounds timeless. Each expertly curated, half-hour playlist unearths hidden gems by non-household names, as well as deep tracks by familiar artists. These are digital mixtapes with an analog heart, from the striking square artwork that accompanies each installment (its "cover") to the audible cracks and pops of the original vinyl. You can download or subscribe, but I prefer streaming directly from so I can refer to the individual track list and get an answer to "Who is this?"

—Claire Caraska 


A filtered feed: "Citizen journalist" is a term batted around a lot these days. Now that the Internet has blurred the lines between content producer and consumer, everyone with an iPhone can report on law-enforcement encounters, sporting events or natural disasters. Technology has put a video camera at the scene of nearly all major events. And now technology has organized that content so that you can see what everyone else is posting to social media on a single topic. A new app called Banjo combs sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to bring users a real-time feed of posts organized by time, location and content. When a 27-year-old woman recently stole a San Diego police car, Banjo users could follow, through the online posts of journalists, as well as citizen bystanders, the resulting high-speed chase. Users search for events, but the app also curates content based on a user's location and interests gleaned from their social-media accounts. It's breaking news for and by the people.

—Joshua Emerson Smith


Sonic love letter: Even if Foo Fighters aren't your preferred brand of boxed wine, so to speak, it's hard not to get into their HBO docu-series Foo Fighter Sonic Highways, especially if you're a mega-music-nerd. The band set off on a journey to write songs for their new album (also called Sonic Highways) in eight musically influential U.S. cities. On each stop, they explore the history of that city's music—as well as the recording studio they're working in—interview significant artists and then create a song inspired by those tales. In doing so, they lay out the cultural importance and musical heritage of America's most creative landscapes. It's super rad! So far, they've visited Chicago, D.C., Nashville, Austin and Los Angeles and interviewed pioneers like Ian MacKaye, Dolly Parton, Steve Albini, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy and others. Directed by frontman Dave Grohl, Foo Fighter Sonic Highways airs Fridays at 11 p.m. It's also available via streaming on HBO GO.

—Alex Zaragoza

Web series

A life in transition: Back in 2012, Tom Gabel, singer for anarcho-punk band Against Me!, came out as transgender and announced that she would move forward living as Laura Jane Grace. Earlier this year, Against Me! released Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It's not only their best album (and, by far, my favorite of 2014); it's also a savage and often-heartbreaking testament—the result of living half a life hiding who you really are. Now, Grace has her own AOL-produced web series, True Trans, which chronicles her history from childhood to transition. It also features footage of Against Me!'s recent tour (including a small segment filmed in San Diego), giving Grace the opportunity to interview other transgender men and women at various locations across the country. Considering the intimacy of each person's history, it's pretty powerful stuff, and as a result, Grace gives visibility and a voice for a community in dire need of both.

—Ryan Bradford


The new public radio: While public-radio stations across the nation continue to rest on their laurels by airing stagnant reruns of Car Talk, there's a growing number of indie podcasters producing some of the most captivating storytelling shows on the planet, many with little-to-no budget. Rather than wait for public-radio executives to take notice, the online public-media company PRX joined forces with Roman Mars, creator of the popular architecture-and-design podcast 99% Invisible, and recently launched Radiotopia. With financial backing from the Knight Foundation, plus support from a Kickstarter campaign that's nearing $600,000 (well above the $250,000 goal), the exciting new podcast network is already proving there's a passionate audience for these projects. Hop over to and introduce yourself to the podcasts that've joined the Radiotopia family so far. My favorites include Strangers by Lea Thau, former creative director of The Moth, and Criminal, a true-crime podcast.

—Kinsee Morlan


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