From the Stacks: July 14, 2006

| July 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.

Jim Lowe's zine, Time is the Problem, seems to have been cobbled together by an introspective teenager. Handwritten using capital letters, its 32 photocopied pages look a little messy. But don't be fooled. This zine is the work of a mature mind. In three previous issues Lowe presented anecdotes about coincidence, posed deep questions, and examined paradox and meaning. In his new issue (#4) Lowe focuses on fan letters he's written in his life and surprising developments that ensued. A boyhood query to 'Information, Department of Justice' drew response from J. Edgar Hoover himself, but failed to dampen Lowe's inquisitive nature. A letter to Brazilian pianist Bernardo Segall opened a door to weekly music lessons. A note to English author Lucy Boston (whose autobiography is titled Perverse and Foolish) led to a 10-day visit with Boston and to multiple friendships. This zine should come labeled with the warning Lowe says is posted along his driveway (from a British traffic sign): 'Caution: Altered Priorities Ahead.' Box 152, Elizaville, NY 12523. -- Chris Dodge

Massage therapists use 'bony landmarks,' those 'bumps and nubbins and grooves in your skeleton that everything attaches to,' to locate and then relieve tension in aching muscles. Andrew Coltrin uses the term to title his zine. Bony Landmarks (#2) is a DIY collection of true adventure tales, comics, and cultural artifacts produced by Coltrin and his fellow members of the Look for Signage Art Collective, a group of creatives dedicated to obtaining answers by using the visual cues surrounding them. To learn more about the collective, or to order a $3 zine, e-mail -- Kristen Mueller

If I created the syllabus for a comprehensive historical literature course, World Literature Today, published bimonthly at the University of Oklahoma, would be required reading. Profiled in the July-August issue is famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who created the Silk Road Project, a nonprofit organization that 'promotes collaboration and a sense of community among institutions, artists, and audiences who share a fascination with the artistic imagination.' Yo-Yo Ma explains how narratives in literature and music act as passageways in the exploration of foreign ideas and cultures. Exiled Algerian writers Marie Virolle and Aïssa Khelladi also are interviewed about their literary magazine, Algérie Littérature/Action, created in Paris in response to the devastation in their war-torn country. That publication provides a forum where 'writers and artists…raise their voices in favor of a free and pluralistic Algeria.' -- Miriam Skurnick

'Cartoon Travelog.' Not two words you see together often, but that's how Mats!? (yes, his name includes punctuation) defines Asiaddict, his silly and functional write-up on Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It's actually as much a guide as a travelog -- beneath the bombardment of sensationalistic art and overabundant exclamation points, Mats!? gives sound advice about the attractions, transportation, and cultures in each country. He also weaves in the region's horrific history in highly readable form -- so readable, in fact, that one wonders if he isn't taking it too lightly. Perhaps intentionally, then, Asiaddict brings up timely questions about humor, drawing style, and even the definition of the comics/cartoon format. I'm not sure what Asiaddict is, but I do hope I see more things like it very soon. -- Rachel Jenkins

Iza Bourret recently divided her zine, Orange and Blue, into six smaller, focused zines. The Happy Loner is her 'perzine' (personal zine), a lovingly patched-together, scratched-out, photocopied artifact of a sometimes strange, always likeable individual. Bourret begins issue #1 by defining a happy loner -- 'a person who is content with doing things on their own' -- then takes us straight into her life in Quebec City. Bus maps and ferry schedules are the physical backdrop for endearing daily life stories -- a mouse on the bus, a new sweater from the thrift store, her friendship with the illiterate Marcel. The design is low-tech but eye-catching and clever. You'd never guess Bourret's first language is French; her writing is loose and conversational. The whole thing feels a lot like a letter from a friend. -- Rachel Jenkins

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