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.
Inside the front cover of each issue of bimonthly World Watch magazine, published by the nonprofit WorldWatch Institute, a feature called 'Life-Cycle Studies' examines consumer products from manufacture to disposal. It's an excellent way to become more aware of the ramifications of material culture: where things come from, where they go, and how the environment is affected. Recent editions have looked at plywood, chopsticks, and batteries, while the new May/June issue, just received at Utne, covers aluminum cans (and shows a photo of a wild river in Iceland being dammed to generate hydropower to run an Alcoa smelter). Each issue of World Watch is also notable for a striking back-cover photo, this time of a truck in Somalia buried under a burden of corn. -- Chris Dodge
The California Coalition for Women Prisoners publishes The Fire Inside, a quarterly newsletter providing incarcerated women with a medium to express themselves while raising public awareness of the problems with America's justice system. Issue No. 32 (Winter/Spring 2006) includes a letter encouraging legislators to 'release low level non-violent offenders,' a move the Justice Policy Institute indicates 'would not increase public risk,' and would 'improve public safety' by redirecting taxpayers' dollars to community programs. Poems decrying 'life behind the barbed wire fence' and a chart listing the 60 percent to 351 percent markups prison vendors charge inmates for basic goods like batteries and deodorant add to the enlightening mix. -- Kristen Mueller
In SOMA's newly arrived 'Street Issue' (Vol. 20.3), writers hit the pavement to explore graffiti in the 'Brazilian megalopolis Sao Paulo,' flash mob pillow fights in San Francisco, and impromptu portraits pasted on buildings in 'the desolate urban spaces of the French capital.' The nimbly designed, fashion-savvy publication also holds plenty of photos to salivate over, including pics of the 'rock 'n' roll gypsy band' Vietnam modeling clothes by THECAST, and snapshots of hipsters on Tokyo's sidewalks. -- Kristen Mueller
The latest issue of The Walrus, winner of an Utne Independent Press Award for Best New Title in 2004, gives a rarely seen perspective on the immigration debate with a pictorial essay called 'My Final Destination.' The piece follows Kingsley, an immigrant from Cameroon, as he braves the beaten migratory trail from Africa to Europe. The photos by Olivier Jobard document the journey from Africa's overcrowded transportation systems to the precarious broken boat that Kingsley and his fellow migrants use to reach the shores of Spain. Elsewhere in the May issue, Daniel Sanger explores crime in Montreal and the 'characters who give the city character' after his local produce market is firebombed and suspicions fall on a rival grocer. -- Bennett Gordon
'Issue' publications can have a hard time connecting their own well-covered dot to other related dots. Not so, however, with the Spring issue of Shelterforce, which parses Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and how it relates to affordable housing and community building. The precise, meaty articles analyze their topics with an attention to detail that puts CSI to shame. Of special note is a piece by Catherine A. Smith, president of Community-Based Communications. Smith argues that Katrina actually galvanized the nation's housing advocacy groups, helping them to cut through the red tape that in less dire circumstances would slow a project's completion. A hope with which Katrina left us, says Bill Bynum, one of her sources, is for a 'more sophisticated network of nonprofits in this region.' -- Nick Rose
In the new issue of Tikkun (May/June), editor and rabbi Michael Lerner addresses all the attention the magazine and his book, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right, have garnered lately. In editorials for the Jewish bimonthly, Lerner writes about closing the 'spirituality gap' between Republicans and Democrats, advocating for the creation of a 'spiritual caucus' of the Democratic Party. The issue also contains an interview with historian Howard Zinn and an excerpt from activist Cindy Sheehan's upcoming book, Dear President Bush (City Lights). -- Bennett Gordon
In case you were wondering: Northern Canada is bubbling over with inquisitive, thoughtful writers. For evidence, look no further than the pages of this spring's HighGrader. The issue spotlights topics that are specific to its chilly corner of the Americas, such as retrospectives on mining and the fur trade, but it doesn't succumb to provincialism. This spunky gem from the Northland uses the personal and the local as a starting point to access more universal concerns. Case in point: The retrospective of Gordon Lightfoot's career paints a picture of a man rooted in his local life while singing to the world about larger concerns of race, wilderness, love lost, and ships forever sunk. -- Nick Rose