From the Stacks: April 20, 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

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