From the Stacks: February 17, 2006

By Staff and Utne.Com

<p>Utne <em>receives some 1,200 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, and zines. Add in hundreds of books, CDs, and DVDs, and it’s a flood of media that lines the walls of our library and piles high on our desks. All the ideas, people, and stories inspire lively daily chatter, but can’t all fit into our bimonthly magazine. So we’ve decided to share the gems here: Welcome to the fourth edition of “From the Stacks,” a new weekly feature on</em> Utne.com. <em>Check in every Friday for the freshest highlights of the independent and alternative media.</em>
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<p>The February 6 issue of <a href=”http://www.hcn.org/”>
<em>High Country News</em>
</a>, a nonprofit biweekly “for people who care about the West,” features a compelling cover story titled “The Killing Fields,” by hunter Hal Herring. This report on the slaughter of bison on the border of Yellowstone National Park illustrates many of the things wrong with the idea that humans should attempt to manage the population of other species. “The killing of the buffalo by hunters right now feels ugly,” Herring writes. “The ‘hunt’ feels controversial because the quarry as a whole is being treated with a combination of contempt, cruelty, and worst of all, indifference.” Also notable in this issue: An essay by Mary Zeiss Stange about living amidst a landscape of towns named after generals who enforced the federal government’s war policy against Native Americans. — <em>Chris Dodge</em>
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<p>A refreshing breeze just blew in from the Iowa prairie in the form of <a href=”http://www.ists.org/fishwrapV2N4.html”>
<em>Fishwrap</em>
</a>, a small quarterly published by the <a href=”http://www.ists.org/”>Institute for Small Town Studies</a>. Just like the vibrant small towns that dot the Iowa countryside, this unassuming journal is packed with diverse nuggets of wisdom. The newest issue (Fall 2005) touches on game theory, argues that small towns are good analogies for computer operating systems, and urges us to look to cities instead of nation-states for economic scale models. Also buried within the journal’s pages is a short meditation on what makes small towns survive rather than fail. Bucking the idea that small towns are going under because of external economic factors, Milan Wall argues that they are thriving because they refuse to let despair and decay set in. These small towns, Wall suggests, have only lost as much as they think they’ve lost. — <em>Nick Rose</em>
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<p>Anyone who’s tried to learn a language or assimilate to a foreign culture will relate to Alexandra Borisenko’s light-hearted guide to “Russian Movies as Cultural Signposts” in the latest issue of <a href=”http://www.russianlife.net/”>
<em>Russian Life</em>
</a> (Jan./Feb. 2006). She asks you to imagine being a newcomer in Russia, attempting to fit in. Everyone you meet seems to speak in code … but actually they’re quoting classic films! Borisenko provides the details on “Russia’s Seven Most Quotable Films” so you can get in the loop. Even if Russia isn’t on your itinerary, the piece will at least give you seven more movies to put on your rental list. — <em>Beth Petsan</em>
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<p>It’s easy, and quite fashionable among adults, to lament the sorry state of today’s couch-potato youth and their Gameboy ways. In <a href=”http://www.algonquin.com/catalog/?isbn=1565123913″>
<em>Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder</em>
</a>, Richard Louv takes the premise in a more thoughtful direction, detailing the many ways in which the lack of direct experience with nature is shortchanging kids. Catching frogs, building tree houses, and squishing mud between our toes isn’t just fun, he argues, but, in a way, necessary for our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. He lays out his thesis as methodically as a 10-year-old building a dam in the dirt, and despite occasionally overreaching — phrases like “the criminalization of natural play” and offhand comments about tattoos and piercings can be heavy-handed — he’s clearly got a point. <em>Last Child in the Woods</em> (Algonquin Books) started a necessary and overdue conversation when it came out last year, and now that it’s being released in paperback it will reach an even larger audience. The only reason not to read this book is because you’re too busy getting fresh air with some youngsters. — <em>Keith Goetzman</em>
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<p>A new installment of <a href=”http://thebeatwithin.org/news/”>
<em>The Beat Within</em>
</a> — a sporadic but welcome presence in the Utne library — surfaced this week. The weekly newsletter assembles an impressive 50-plus pages of writing and art by incarcerated youth in the Bay Area and beyond. It’s a valuable resource for the young people whose work fills its pages and anyone who wants to understand them. The latest issue to reach us (Vol. 10.47) features a handful of submissions on the prospect of military service. In a sentiment echoed by others, Young Loe writes: “How I see it, is I wouldn’t go fight a war for a country that don’t care about me. I would rather involve myself in these street and turf wars. Ya know?” — <em>Hannah Lobel</em>
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<p>The newest issue of <a href=”http://www.parabola.org/”>
<em>Parabola</em>
</a> contains some very old wisdom. Their theme for the spring edition is “Coming to Our Senses,” and it seems that this issue wants us to do just that. It skillfully weaves together disparate elements: poetry from A. R. Ammons and Rainer Maria Rilke pop up between pieces on “Scent as medium between heaven and earth” and “Freeing the gaze from ‘mere looking.'” Most piercing this time is the short piece on monk, hermit, theologian, poet, and artist Thomas Merton. Merton once claimed: “If I could not breathe Zen I would probably die of spiritual asphyxiation.” For Merton, writer Roger Lipsey suggests, breathing Zen was a way to clear an inner space for everyday life. Picking up <em>Parabola</em> — a 2005 spiritual coverage nominee for an <a href=”/pub/2005_132/promo/11837-1.html”>Utne Independent Press Award</a> — just might have the same effect. — <em>Nick Rose</em>
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<p>The February edition of <a href=”http://www.ciin.org/pages/05-news.html”>
<em>Our Toxic Times</em>
</a>, the monthly publication of the Chemical Injury Information Network, arrived this week. Among the usual bevy of articles on the often overlooked and dangerous chemicals infused in our lives is “Antidepressant Ads Misleading” — a rehash of a piece in the open-access journal <a href=”http://medicine.plosjournals.org/”>
<em>PLoS Medicine</em>
</a> that takes aim at the brain science touted by drug makers when hawking their wares. Other items of interest deal with jet fuel’s impact on a person’s sense of balance, building resiliency to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and dangerous toxins in post-Katrina New Orleans. — <em>Bennett Gordon</em>
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