Best Crime Podcast 2020 | The Order of Death | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Josh Mattison has made himself a staple in the Denver podcasting scene with his audio magazine Low Orbit (formerly called Denver Orbit). In the fall, he and Shannon Geis dropped a podcast documentary series called The Order of Death, which investigates the murder of talk-radio host Alan Berg, who was gunned down in his driveway in 1984 by members of a white-supremacist group called the Order. The podcast explores the group's ideology, Berg's role in the talk-radio revolution of the early '80s, and how his killers' hateful ideas continue to influence today's white-supremacist movements.

Addiction is a beast. Lives are destroyed. People are forever changed. And sometimes...every now and then...recovery occurs. Colorado Public Radio journalist Vic Vela, an addict himself who spent years smoking crack and doing coke while serving in the press corps at the Statehouse, decided to chronicle people's stories of recovery on a serial podcast he's making with Colorado Public Radio called Back From Broken. The stories he tells, of musicians like songwriter and musician Anders Osborne and baseball player David Mellor, are often depressing — but ultimately hopeful. And whether you're dealing with an alcohol, drug or gambling addiction, PTSD or other mental health issues, these stories offer a rare sense that things can get better.

One of the biggest pandemic-driven stories coming out of the creative community is the plight of performing artists of every ilk who are out of work overnight after entire seasons came to a standstill in the name of social distancing. The Pandemic Collective, a nonprofit company that normally stages horror-inspired theater, has devised a stopgap to keep unemployed theater people busy, with modest remuneration for their trouble. Project Outbreak is seeking submissions of short audio and radio plays responding to themes of uncertainty; the project is recruiting actors and production crews interested in being part of the project as well. If you're none of the above, consider donating to Project Outbreak's GoFundMe page.

Brush up on your writing skills while you're sequestered: The social-distancing-correct Lighthouse Writers Workshop will move its spring events online in real time via the Zoom remote platform for at least a few weeks. Yes, you'll be at home in an easy chair and pajamas while experiencing a live lesson and discussion. Keep up with Lighthouse on social media and/or its website as the organization devises new ways to provide literary experiences online. Write on!

With a constant flow of stressful news coming from all sides, Denver poet Suzi Q. Smith has been there for us, providing art that comforts. From a Twitter feed that offers laughter and truth to an organized online poetry broadcast, Smith uses her platforms to be there for us virtually. The standout is "Poems for the End of the World," a poem-a-day service on her website. Make reading Smith's stark and searing writing a part of your daily routine, and break up the noise of news with some humanity.

Brandi Homan's novel in fragments, Burn Fortune, is proof that small presses are still putting out some of the best literature available in today's market. The piecemeal format isn't the only inventive move that Homan makes in this story of a sixteen-year-old girl trying to survive in the 1990s Midwest with a dysfunctional family, an abusive boyfriend and the cornfield world spinning around them all. The poetic voice, the first-person narrator, the vibrant world built in minimalist but thorough style — it all culminates in a focused and sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers breathless.

Like most cities, Denver has suffered from cutbacks in arts and culture writing. But a new generation of art critics is emerging and taking on the daunting task of launching publications and bringing a critical eye to the city's arts scene. Run by Genevieve Waller, DARIA, which stands for Denver Art Review Inquiry and Analysis, has recruited a diverse cast of emerging culture writers to pen smart criticism about Denver's gallery scene. Along with stalwarts like Mary Chandler, a longtime arts writer for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, this emerging pool of critics is filling a gap in the city's cultural coverage, regularly online and quarterly in print.

Jennifer Wortman's collection is a jubilant celebration of both language and love in all their forms. The thirteen stories that make up This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. are bites of nourishing literary foodstuff that both impress and satisfy; the prose is at once smooth and strong, luxurious and striking. The characters will draw you in, make you laugh, make you cringe and make you think. And you'll thank them for the journey they take you on as a reader — every surefooted or stumbling step.

When Deer Pile, the empty room above City, O' City that hosted everyone from crusty folksingers to Dave Chappelle, closed in 2018, organizers threw their energy into Birdy, the stylish literary magazine they'd launched back in 2014. Continuing the tradition of celebrating all manner of Denver culture, fiction and art (and occasionally work from far beyond), Birdy has become a staple of the scene. When you're lucky enough to find one out in public, it's free. And Birdy is not just a great read filled with gorgeous art; it's also collectible. Jonesing for past issues? Buy them online at the mag's website.

Normally, a Colorado-themed board game would fall under the categories of "tacky" and "touristy." But this year, while we're stuck inside dreaming of all the things vacationers dream of once they've come and gone from our great state, we finally understand the appeal of Colorado-Opoly. Visit Colorado Ski Country from the safety of our homes? Sure! Hoard green chili (spelled that way in the game) without going to the grocery store? You bet! Visit Rocky Mountain National Park in our pajamas? Absolutely! Order a copy and play with your friends, whether you're trapped in the same house or just a video chat away.

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