From the Stacks: July 6, 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.

There are many kooky distractions to be enjoyed in the third
issue of Bony Landmarks, a zine published by the Tucson
art collective
Look for Signage. One of them is an educational
comic that uses colorful characters such as Wally the Water
Droplet, Shawn (a cigar-smoking, tube-dress-wearing fellow), and
Potato Fez (a spud wearing, yes, a fez) to illustrate the
geographic basics of the Continental Divide. Other terrific comics
appear throughout, including a ‘random art project’ with panels
about rabbits and alcohol drawn by four illustrators and assembled
in random order. Also featured are short poems and ‘true stories of
nerdish adventure.’ Nerdish, indeed: Editor Andrew Coltrin
contributes a fun piece about Thomas Bird Mosher, a
turn-of-the-20th-century artisan bookmaker dubbed the ‘American
Book Pirate,’ that lists some enchanting terms of the trade:
‘three-quarters bound in leather; marbled boards and endpapers;
uncut pages; quarto, octavo, duodecimo.’ — Danielle
Maestretti

Never
has ‘fun time’ been so charged with such raw, terror-fueled rock
power. The Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book by Aye Jay
Morano, to be published in September by the Canadian
ECW Press,
doesn’t invite you to enjoy its m?lange of hard rock marginalia —
it dares you not to. The activity book opens with a thoughtful
foreword by Andrew W.K. but quickly gets to the playful
shenanigans. Readers can use the two crayons (black and red) taped
to the cover to color in drawings of Black Sabbath and Pantera;
connect the dots on guitarist Dimebag Darrell’s goatee; and fill
out a demonic Sudoku puzzle that’s conspicuously peppered with
sixes. Before you embark into this book of unadulterated hard rock
mayhem, you might want to ask yourself: How many words can you make
from the letters in White Zombie? — Chris Gehrke

The
Montreal-based literary magazine
Matrix tackles a different theme each
issue, and in the Summer offering the subject of science poetry
offers fertile ground for verse. Mari-Lou Rowley’s ‘CosmoSonnets’
and Christian Bok’s ‘Fractal Geometry’ prove that language and
science complement each other with natural ease. Also in the issue,
contributing editor Harley Smart brings together a varied
collection of visual art under the heading ‘Foreign Print &
Busy Chatter: A Collection of Artist’s Work,’ and for pop-culture
devotees, editor Taien Ng-Chan compiles a list of the ten best ‘Mad
Science Movies.’ — Eric Kelsey

Published
by the Great Books Foundation, the
Common Review offers an accessible look
into the world of education and literature. In the Summer issue,?
critic Michael B?rub? explains that for all the bile
that his high-minded colleagues have hurled at J.K. Rowling’s
Harry Potter series, they have missed one crucial point:
Potent narratives can cultivate young minds, even if they are
bereft of literary flourish. In defense of the Potter
books, B?rub? recounts how they shaped the intellectual ability of
his son, who has Down syndrome. Other notable articles include
Kevin Mattson’s reflective essay on how teaching history through
movies highlighted the profit motives driving the ‘post-modern
academy,’ and Firoozeh Papan-Matin’s critique of Azar Nafisi’s
widely-read memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran. — Eric
Kelsey

For its
fourth issue, the editors at the humor journal
Opium have decided that people need
another self-help guide, albeit a satirical one. Under the title
‘Live Well Now (No Matter What),’ the issue doles out laughing
pills from Jack Handey and Shellie Zacharia, among many others. In
Zacharia’s story, ‘Luckily, Lucy Sims Has No Stamps,’ a fictional
social studies teacher, fueled by a bottle of wine, channels her
many grievances into seven letters that will go unmailed: to her
ex-husband Bill, the parents of her students, Bed, Bath &
Beyond, and a few others who will never read about her gripes with
them. To keep the reader on the path to self-improvement, the
magazine prints an aphorism at the top of each even-numbered page
(‘#62: Self-virtualize into the beyond of your dreams’). Each piece
also comes with an average reading time, presumably to lampoon our
inability to leisurely enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. —
Eric Kelsey

Arabia
Felix
comes all the way from Yemen, providing a
closer look at culture in the Middle East. The photography in
the magazine stands out, especially in the Spring issue’s
cover story showcasing the stunning and unusual landscape of
the isolated Socotra, also known as ‘the Galapagos of the
Indian Ocean.’ The issue also features a profile on Naif
al-Mutawa, creator of
THE 99, a series of Islamic comics in
which each superhero embodies one of the 99 traits of Allah.
Al-Mutawa explains that he hopes to utilize the characters to
help generate global unity within Islamic ideals: ‘I want this
to be for everybody, not to be sectarian. I am in this for
what unites us, not what separates us.’ —Julie
Dolan

The
27-year-old Earth First! is ‘ancient’ in
comparison to most radical news outlets, notes one of its editors
in the current issue. Though it’s still surviving, financial
constraints have forced the bimonthly to change formats from
magazine to tabloid. The cover story for July/August, the final
issue in magazine form, tracks a number of activists protesting the
2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and its likely negative impacts on
the environment, Native peoples, and the urban poor. Elsewhere, a
writer named Dr. Hyena warns readers that activism can become
unsustainable when the idea of ‘the Movement’ becomes
all-consuming. — Natalie Hudson

Co-op America Quarterly is hard at
work on the tremendous task of turning America’s consumerist
tendencies into social and environmental sustainability. The Summer
issue’s guide to eight different fuel alternatives isn’t mired in
the distant future. Rather, the guide assesses the immediate
effectiveness of each alternative, from E85 Ethanol to hydrogen
fuel cells. Co-op America finds that ‘locally produced
B100’ biodiesel reduces emissions more than gas/electric hybrids,
yet posits that our best available options are still plug-in
hybrids, which are currently capable of reaching more than 100 mpg.
Natalie Hudson

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