From the Stacks: February 16, 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.

The editorial
meetings at In Character could very well consist of an
existential card game: Pick a virtue, any virtue. But thanks to
good writing and smart organization, their decision to center each
issue on a particular character trait has made for an in-depth,
thought-provoking magazine. In the two-and-a-half years since its
incarnation, issue themes have ranged from justice to purpose,
modesty to thrift. The winter issue tackles self-reliance with
quotes from great thinkers like Hillel and Dostoevsky and articles
on self-sufficiency, intuition, and independence. In
Character
was nominated for two
Utne Independent Press Awards this year:
best design and social/cultural coverage (no doubt, a virtuous
choice). — Mary O’Regan

‘Because life is longer than you think.’ The tagline doesn’t
exactly reveal much about the content inside
Useless, a large-format magazine packed
with artist interviews, shocking images, and themes like failure.
But at the same time, the motto makes sense; it urges readers to
take the time to read an interview with
Kinkaleri, an
Italian ‘performing commando’ that took pictures of people faking
their own deaths (issue #4, page 13). Or to spend five minutes
staring at a giant, two-page, black-and-white photo of a person
with disturbing clownish make-up and rotting teeth perched in front
of a Dior logo (issue #3, page 25). This is art at its most obscure
and self-deprecating, whittled down to magazine form. And there’s
plenty of time to enjoy it. — Mary O’Regan

Imagine this: A stranger thrusts a partially blank
journal into your hands and explains that you’re now part of an art
experiment. Would you be wary? Intrigued? Would you accept the
challenge, take the mysterious book, and promise to add to its
collection of thoughts? Perhaps the most difficult question: Would
you be able to part with your work and hand it off to another
stranger? That, in essence, is how the
1000 Journals
Project
works. One end product of the endeavor — a book titled
The 1000 Journals Project by ‘Someguy’ — offers a curious
compilation of extractions from some of the 1000 journals that were
sent around the world and made it back to the project’s creator.
The book offers little commentary, but the result is a vibrant
museum of consciousness and things private. Published by
Chronicle Books, The 1000 Journals
Project
is worth marveling at momentarily, or poring over
when it comes out in April. — Jenna Fisher

As Russia navigates
between the Scylla of Western capitalism and the Charybdis of
post-World War II disillusionment, independent voices are
struggling to be heard in the press. The January/February issue of
Russian
Life
contains a fascinating look at the state of Russia’s
independent media. In ‘Freedoms Found & Lost,’ writer Alex
Lupis tracks how the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin ‘has aggressively
expanded state control over the independent media.’ Since ascending
to power in 1999, Putin has reined in the leading national
television channels, so that most regional stations now focus on
safe, apolitical entertainment programming. The good news is that a
few independent national newspapers — and the internet — have
largely escaped restrictions so far. — Evelyn Hampton

Briarpatch‘s tagline asserts the mission
of ‘Fighting the War on Error.’ It’s a battle the magazine takes to
multiple fronts, from labor rights and gender issues to its newest
installment foretelling a scarcity of food and energy. The February
issue features ‘The Green Devolution’ by Richard Heinberg, who
exposes ‘peak oil’ as an observation rather than a theory and rips
apart the facade of industrial agriculture to expose its wasteful
underbelly. In ‘Who’s Cooking the Food System?’ contributor Nettie
Wiebe further explains the politics behind global food supply and
how hunger is manufactured. ‘[F]ood goes where the profit is,
rather than where the need is,’ she writes. Briarpatch is
an impassioned piece of Canadian craftsmanship that not only
promotes social justice and sustainability, but helps make it
happen by using a union shop printer, vegetable-based ink, recycled
paper, and a wind energy-powered web server. — Natalie
Hudson

Put aside your gripes about kids today.
Youth
Today
, a publication of the American Youth Work Center,
proves that many of today’s young people are productive members of
society. The issues often feature community programs created for or
by socially conscious youths and are full of news briefs, press
items, and research on subjects from school funding to curfews. In
the February issue contributor Mike Males explains the bigotry of
curfews. ‘Polls show adults drastically exaggerate violence by
youth and always think it’s escalating,’ he writes, contending that
his own research of curfew citations found that ’99 percent of the
youths arrested were just walking, playing basketball, talking to
friends.’ — Natalie Hudson

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.