From the Stacks: June 16, 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.

Don’t expect to find any Top 40 artists in Signal to Noise, ‘the journal of improvised and experimental music.’ Do expect to be dazzled by interviews with artists who push the boundaries between genres and throw the pop culture curve for loops. Take Table of Elements, the collection of musical visionaries who drew a notable crowd of critics and fans to a Texas church after midnight for a South by Southwest performance. Or Pleasurehorse, who rips apart songs before frantically reassembling them with a Powerbook, CD mixers, and the long-deceased eight-track player. Whether you like the resulting sounds or not, the raw talent that births them is reason enough to listen — and read. — Kristen Mueller

Battle-torn ghosts haunt the pages of Camerawork‘s Spring/Summer issue. Rendered as native faces superimposed on tree trunks, transparent figures in crumbling rooms, an anaglyph image of Billy the Kid, and a lone soldier standing amidst a graveyard that’s haphazardly scattered with crosses, the photos blur the tenuous boundary between life and death — calling our own mortality into question. — Kristen Mueller

It’s summer in the city and the streets are buzzing? with bees. The June/July issue of Briarpatch, Saskatchewan’s independent alternative news magazine, features the busy workers in their collaboration with city folks in ‘Adventures in Urban Beekeeping.’ Harvesting local honey relieves the need for imported sugar cane, which the World Wildlife Fund says ‘is responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop.’ Local food is a small step forward, but William E. Rees demands North Americans reevaluate their urban lifestyle to be more sustainable in ‘The Myth of the Livable City.’ Says Rees: ‘The ecosystems that support wealthy city-dwellers’ consumer lifestyles are often located in other countries half a world away.’ — Rachel Anderson

It’s hard not to be thrilled with the state of the world when you find a free bicycling magazine.? Momentum unfortunately is only free in major metro British Columbia, but it is available online and by subscription. The June/July issue is a treat for biker likers of all degrees. The feature story highlights two gals and their ‘fixies,’ which are bikes without a freewheel, meaning there is no coasting, nor need for brakes (though the bikes do have one hand brake). In ‘Bicycle Gang Basics,’ L.R. Abramson lays out how to reclaim the two-wheeled rebel-rousing of your youth, and ‘Tall Bike Tales’ features of a spread on Vancouver’s lumbering cyclists. — Rachel Anderson

Standing on the cover of the final print issue of Speakeasy, the publication of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and Utne Independent Press Award nominee in 2003, is a seemingly condemned man, blindfolded, with a cigarette in his mouth. But the issue remains upbeat, exploring the transformative power of poetry in Nicaragua. Freedom fighters in the country have carried poetry alongside rifles and other implements of war. In the words of the one of the founders of the Sandinista movement Tomas Borge, the revolution was ‘made with guitars and poems and with bullets.’ The issue also contains an interview with animal rights philosopher Peter Singer, and poetry by Eduardo Galeano. The magazine will return in online form in the fall with ‘a fresh and energetic new website,’ writes editor Bart Schneider. — Bennett Gordon

he word that comes to mind when looking at the 42nd issue of Giant Robot, a glossy devoted to Asian pop culture, is ‘plush.’ The issue profiles David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, who built a plush empire around the Uglydoll stuffed character. The two sit down with Giant Robot to talk about the maturation of the Uglydoll, the benefits of art school, and resisting the lure of selling out. Says Horavath: ‘It was tough turning [the big companies] down. It was like a test.’ The issue also profiles yaoi manga artist Kazuma Kodaka, and covers how to beat someone up with a cell phone. — Bennett Gordon

Planning a green vacation often proves difficult, even for those who live most conscientiously during the other 51 weeks of the year. Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime outlines some 80 ecologically, socially, and economically responsible trips around the world, from historic Route 66 to India’s Pench Tiger Reserve. The full-page photos are worth the $19.99 price tag, and the text complements them with useful, if scant, information about when and how to go to each site and why such a journey qualifies as responsible travel. Page-long guides like ‘Begging: To Give or Not to Give?’ and ‘How to Tell if your Holiday is Green or Just Greenwash’ round out the package.? Out from Lonely Planet since May. — Rachel Jenkins

Artella comes in a plastic bag, and opening it reveals why: Full envelopes and paper goods fall from the magazine’s pages. The envelopes contain, in issue #9, generous samples of Nepalese paper. Nearly every page has some image that’s made to be cut out or unstuck for reuse in artwork, and the publisher’s note begs, ‘Don?t let this Artella issue stay intact!’ The magazine itself holds poetry, prose, art, and profiles of contributors. The profusion of interactive, moveable parts almost obscures the content, proving that Artella is by and for excited collage and mixed-media artists who want to have fun. — Rachel Jenkins

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