From the Stacks: April 20, 2007

From the Stacks: April 20, 2007

| April 2007

Utne Reader's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week in 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the latest edition.

Fed up with the glut of 'eye-candy' cookbooks that call for pricey ingredients and high-end equipment, writer/illustrator Chris Onstad created The Achewood Cookbook: Recipes for a Lady or a Man. As Onstad explains in the foreword, 'These recipes are for real. They are not fancy, they are not visually appealing, and in many cases they are not even good. One of the recipes in this book is actually impossible.' The funny, bachelor-friendly recipes -- offered up by seven characters from his popular webcomic, Achewood -- range in complexity and appeal from 'Ruuude Chicken' to 'Perfect Hot Dogs Every Time' to, oddly, a very tasty-sounding 'Toasted Nut Orzo.' There are a few cocktail recipes as well, all provided by Ray, the webcomic's party-dude. 'It's like,' he wisely explains, 'we've pretty much discovered every kind of drink there can be, so now the new frontier is in garnishing.' Attempt his frozen marshmallow structure (for 'The Drink of Tomorrow') and salty onion-and-olive configuration ('to symbolize the mysteries of Space') at your own risk. -- Danielle Maestretti

A powerful combination of punk and politics has maintained Punk Planet through the years. The May/June issue marks thirteen years since the bimonthly magazine's debut. As coeditor, publisher, and art director Daniel Sinker notes in the intro, the magazine has evolved into a 'prettier' and 'more engaging' publication. But at their core, the Chicago-based 'Planeteers' remain steadfastly dedicated to an independent perspective on music, culture, and politics. The latest issue focuses on student activism, highlighting the resurgence of the radical Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In the article, writer Michael Carriere observes that punk serves as a 'cultural avenue' for today's young political activists much like beat poetry did for youth in the 1950s. -- Natalie Hudson

Environment injects thoughtful, well-constructed analysis into 'science and policy for sustainable development.' The magazine, published ten times a year by the nonprofit Heldref Publications, tackles international dilemmas from a range of critical perspectives. Water policy is the subject of the April issue, which includes a historical look at South Africa's impressive yet flawed National Water Act. The article dissects the significance of the legislation as a post-apartheid measure to 'accommodate environmental protection and socioeconomic development.' -- Natalie Hudson

Good art, funny stories, and sarcastic headlines make Humor Times a sidesplitting read. Each issue of the Sacramento-based satirical paper features cutting-edge jokes, fake news, and political cartoons from sources far and wide. The publication showcases a column by nationally known comedian Will Durst and includes an ongoing saga by cartoonist Ruben Bolling. Leafing through the pages, it's clear that everyone is fair game for some ribbing. The May issue pokes fun at Alberto Gonzalez, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Al Gore, among others. Next to the editor's note, which invites readers to celebrate the paper's 'Sweet 16th Anniversary,' a fake movie ad parodies the recent NASA love-triangle scandal that dominated the news cycle for a brief period in February. Its headline: 'Making a decision in diapers always turns out rash!' -- Mary O'Regan

Mslexia, a quarterly magazine for female scribes, focuses on all things writing, from stretching your imagination to getting published. The spring issue features an interview with poet Penelope Shuttle in which she discusses the emotional paralysis she felt after the death of her husband, poet Peter Redgrove. Elsewhere, the magazine's founder, Debbie Taylor, breaks down the success behind Marina Lewycka's novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian: 'It is very (very) funny.' Inspired readers can also flip to Jenny Newman's ongoing tutorial in novel writing, with the latest installment focusing on every author's nightmare: writer's block. -- Mary O'Regan

Beyond is an independent, nonprofit Canadian magazine that's ad-free, so the works of photographers and visual artists don't compete with pages of branded images. Nevertheless, what stood out for me in the latest issue were two artists' depictions of commodities. Elise Engler's tiny illustrations of everyday objects from her collection Everything That I Own (13,127 drawings of Engler's possessions) span two pages. The images look like cards from a complex game of Memory. I stared in awe at a two-page photograph by Chris Jordan of a vast sprawl of junked cell phones -- a different and disturbing take on the ubiquity of objects. According to Beyond's website, creating a magazine sans ads is in part about promoting simplicity, not as commodity but as human responsibility. -- Evelyn Hampton