April 14, 2006
Utne 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 they can't all fit into our bimonthly magazine. So we share the gems here in our weekly editions of 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the freshest highlights of the independent and alternative media.
The quarterly magazine of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters sports a new name with the Spring 2006 issue: Wisconsin People & Ideas. Editor Joan Fischer says the old title -- Wisconsin Academy Review -- was widely considered 'dry and daunting' and didn't accurately impart the accessible content. The magazine has been academicspeak-free in the five years I've seen it regularly, running articles of interest to general readers, even ones outside Wisconsin. The new issue features a ten-page article about Ho-Chunk photographer Tom Jones, with eleven of his photo portraits, four depicting his grandfather, Jim Funmaker Sr. It also includes an ongoing 'In My Words' section of reader-written pieces, this time focusing on childbirth. -- Chris Dodge
Bulb, a British magazine named one of the best new titles of 2005 by Utne, lives up to its label in the newly arrived ninth issue (April/May). Seventy percent of the articles were penned by writers who aren't old enough to rent a car from many companies, but when they do reach the standard 25-year mark, you won't see them tooling down Oxford Street in gas-guzzling Land Rovers, as illustrated in the article 'Oh, SUVs... How I Hate You.' Contributing to the green theme is an interview with Bjork, the amateur 'spokesperson for nature'/musician, who defends the 'velvety black silt mountains' and 'delicate crystal streams' of her native Iceland. Three percent of the country 'will have disappeared under water' with the completion of the Karajnukar project, which plans to build 'an enormous hydroelectric dam... to service the US owned Alcoa aluminum plant.' -- Kristen Mueller
One needn't be Jewish, or a student, to appreciate New Voices, a Jewish student magazine out of New York. Though it tackles big issues, it does so in an offbeat manner that provides refreshing perspectives on topics otherwise considered understood. The March/April issue reviews a book titled Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. As a way into the piece -- subtitled 'Why does good art happen to bad people?' -- the reviewer recounts his 'experiment' standing on a street corner, asking Jews their opinions on a painting he later explains was done by Hitler. 'They praised the sunniness of the piece, the happy mood, and the 'pretty colors.' I then showed them the byline: Adolf Hitler. Dispositions changed from pleasure to shock, horror, and embarrassment.' -- Nick Rose
The Poetry Project Newsletter is one of the many aspects of The Poetry Project. Based in New York City and founded in 1966, the organization is constantly holding readings and other events aimed at providing a space where poets and writers can commingle. The list of poets who have passed through its doors reads as a who's who of the literary world. The Newsletter itself provides much the same service, keeping readers up to date with what's going on in poetry circles around the nation while highlighting literary happenings in NYC proper. The April/May issue eulogizes Barbara Guest, a New York poet and critic who recently died. The piece concludes: 'The gracious and persevering maker has left us, but what she made will challenge and enlarge our world for a long time to come.' -- Nick Rose
One book couldn't possibly cover all of the roadside attractions in the Midwest, but Eric Dregni's Midwest Marvels comes pretty close. The book begins with Albert the Bull in Audubon, Iowa, a 30-foot-high 'monument to the beef industry' that claims to be the world's largest anatomically correct bull. Joining Albert are the world's largest six-pack, Earl Bunyan (the lesser known brother of lumberjack Paul Bunyan), and Minnesota's Spam Museum. Questions like 'Where the Hell is Wall Drug?' will be answered with the meticulously researched histories of these shrines of kitsch. The book is perfect for adventurous road-trippers or Americana devotees. Due out from the University of Minnesota Press next month. -- Bennett Gordon
A romantic nostalgia flows through the pages of the latest issue of Common Ground, an official publication of the National Park Service with the mission of 'Preserving Our Nation's Heritage.' The Spring issue delves into America's mining history in search of a 'Silver Lining in a Prospecting Past.' Joe Flanagan, the article's author, doesn't focus on the dark cloud of environmental destruction, but chooses to depict the beauty and grandeur still present in the old mining towns of Colorado. The issue also profiles a 200-year-old quarantine facility in Pennsylvania and a Maryland amusement park whose history encapsulates the 1950s. -- Bennett Gordon