From the Stacks: June 30, 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.

The new issue of Topic (#9) focuses interestingly on music
and its attractive design compelled me to read it word for word. In
its pages I learned about a deaf person’s music listening
experiences, a ‘model anthem’ combining the world’s national
anthems into one song, and the troubled life and career of Jimi
Hendrix’s younger brother Leon. I attempted to match eight pictured
teenagers with their favorite song, commiserated with a woman
pianist who quit classical music at 18 (after 14 years of playing),
and got inside the minds of Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy,
horror film music composer Joseph Loduca, and pop musician Sufjan
Stevens. Now in its fifth year of publication, Topic has
previously investigated such concepts as prison, food, fads,
family, and sin. — Chris Dodge

A hulking man with a cape and
striped knickers graces the cover of the latest issue of the
Saskatchewan-based BlackFlash. He’s Sweet Daddy Siki, a
flamboyant Stampede Wrestler from the 1960s, and he and the likes
of the Cuban Assassin and the Dynamite Kid are part of a
photographic feature on the world of wrestling. Through the
magazine’s dedication to presenting ‘photo-based, electronic, and
digital art production with an edge,’ the issue (#23.3) wanders
into other sporting nooks, including an artistic project that
sponsored an Irish football team and scrawled ART on players’
jerseys, as well as a Winnipeg art film on the demise of the town’s
heroes: Death by Popcorn: The Tragedy of the Winnipeg
Jets
. — Rachel Anderson

Lois Gibbs helped make the Love Canal, and consequently toxic
waste, a household name. Today she sits as executive director of
the Center for
Health, Environment, and Justice
, an organization dedicated to
creating safe and healthy communities. The group’s quarterly
newsletter, Everyone’s Backyard people know that the fight
for health is still on. The Summer issue celebrates the
Environmental Protection Agency notching up its standards for
cleaning up dioxin contamination in ‘Raising the Bar,’ and Mike
Schade explores biobased plastics in ‘Back to the Future.’ Perhaps
most inspiring is the ‘Action Line’ section, highlighting activist
efforts in 20 states and two continents. — Rachel
Anderson

Slither‘s fearless honesty makes the reader feel as if
its creator, Kelly Froh, is an old friend recounting, comic-strip
style, her everyday adventures. In the zine’s sixth issue we see
her through an awkward first date, the discovery made in a deep
Wisconsin Hobby Lobby that she does in fact look like her father,
and an unfortunate moment when she overhears her parents doing the
deed. Another highlight: Froh’s depiction of specialty pizzas and
the types who order each variety at the joint where she finds her
summer job. — Suzanne Lindgre

Hailing from the University
of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication,
Flux features a quirky and eclectic array
of pieces in its Spring issue. The cover story follows one man’s
efforts to reconnect his Grand Ronde tribe with tradition through
the creation of a longhouse. The traditional structures, Sena
Christian explains, are ‘spiritually blessed places where members
privately gather to participate in sacred ceremonies, dances, and
rites of passage.’ Not quite a centerfold, but close, is Adrienne
van der Valk’s feature ‘Back in Black,’ which explores the
resurfacing of burlesque as a pastime and profession residing in
the gray area between art and porn. Also within Flux‘s
pages: students investigate topics from environmentally correct
clothing to prison work programs, pit bull disposition makeovers,
and the endangered state of honey bees. — Suzanne
Lindgren

If large photos of lush
wilderness in nature magazines tend to inspire wanderlust, then the
latest issue of Audubon, the magazine of the
National Audubon
Society
, might just put you over the edge. The July/August
issue focuses on ‘Green Travel,’ chronicling Alex Shoumatoff’s
ecotour through the Peruvian Amazon. The area’s lack of
environmental protections threaten the wealth of howler monkeys,
macaws, and rare therapeutic flora found in the forest. Unless
greater protections are imposed, Shoumatoff says, ‘[I]f you want to
experience the Amazon, you’d better get there fast.’ — Bennett
Gordon

‘Read carefully,’ was the advice given to me by Utne
librarian Chris Dodge when I asked about
Chronicles, a magazine published by the
Rockford Institute. The latest issue’s cover
depicts a haloed white knight on a white horse exchanging steely
glances with a shadowy dragon. The headline: ’30 Years Fighting the
Culture War.’ The ‘Culture War’ topic elicits a fair share of
generalizations, among them: Joseph Sobran’s ‘Religion is at the
heart of every culture,’ and Thomas Fleming’s ‘Liberal to the core,
we [Americans] lack the most basic survival instincts.’ But there
are a few moments of relative clarity in the July issue, such as
James O. Tate’s essay lamenting the effect of technology on
communication. ‘Television seems to be an instrument of political
obfuscation,’ Tate writes, ‘a babysitting pacifier of
stay-at-homes.’ — Bennett Gordon

The Summer issue of the
Center for a New American Dream’s quarterly publication,
In Balance, boils down the citizen group’s
principles of social and environmental responsibility into a
15-page newsletter. Although school’s out for summer, the issue’s
cover story, ‘Helping Kids Breathe Easier,’ is a call to action for
implementing ‘green cleaners’ in buildings where children spend
their days. New York already has answered the plea. Beginning in
September, a ‘first-of-its-kind state mandate’ will require every
public school to use ‘Green Seal’ certified cleaning supplies. And
New Jersey isn’t far behind. Around 35 Garden State schools have
made the shift to toxin-free products in the past two years, and in
January, writer Andrew Korfhage reports, it became mandatory to use
alternative cleaners in all state offices. –Kristen
Mueller

Lilith is ‘independent, Jewish, and
frankly feminist.’ No, she’s not the latest pop culture it-girl.
Lilith is a 30-year-old nonprofit magazine. Inside the
Summer issue, contemplative essays explore controversial topics (a
lesbian couple’s modern Orthodox Jewish wedding) alongside the tale
of a New Yorker’s Lower East Side-search for a new zipper.
Lilith isn’t without a male voice. Clancy Sigal rounds out
the issue with an article titled ‘A Woman of Uncertain Character,
The Amorous and Radical Adventures of My Mother Jennie (Who Always
Wanted to Be a Respectable Jewish Mom) By Her Bastard Son.’
Kristen Mueller

The title of
Poetry’
s
Humor Issue, Peotry, sets the silly tone for the
pages inside. Lewd rhymes, from the romantic to the near
pornographic, dominate the July/August issue. Insulting diatribes
(like Dean Young’s ‘Sean Penn Anti-Ode’) and parodies of classics
(like ‘We Old Dudes’ by Joan Murray, patterned on Gwendolyn Brooks’
‘We Real Cool’) only dot the landscape. Poetry has
published the best poets for nearly a century and received a
bequest of more than $100 million in 2002.  Its temporary
alter ego Peotry lives up to the legacy; quality and
integrity persist throughout, and few magazines have so earned the
right to play. — Rachel Jenkins

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