From the Stacks: April 21, 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.

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

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