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 March/April issue of DESIGNER/builder ('A journal of the human environment') features a clear-eyed essay by Kristin Palm who criticizes contemporary library buildings that apparently disregard books and readers. Titled 'Libraries Shrink from Their Once-Lofty Goals,' the piece focuses on new public library edifices in Seattle and San Francisco that she found dysfunctional. Regarding one of Palm's many 'confusing' and 'confounding' experiences at the public library in San Francisco, the library's publicist told her, 'Most likely it's a staffing issue.' In other words, the library is not only poorly designed but also understaffed. 'How does one function in a community without designated, well-articulated spaces for reflection, contemplation, education -- not universities or lecture halls, but spaces that are open to all?' Palm asks. And what good are 'libraries' typified by people 'staring, zombie-like, at computer screens'? Printed matter matters. 'In an age of hyperlinks, books give us an ever-encroached-upon space to wander freely, landing not where a web architect or the almighty Google has deemed we should, but where our own imagination and ingenuity lead us.' -- Chris Dodge
In the fervent, politicized rhetoric surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation of those on the ground often gets lost in the swirl of passions. The newest issue of Challenge, sent all the way from Tel Aviv, doesn't skirt the politics, but it approaches the debate with an eye toward how the conflict impacts those who live through it every day. The bimonthly's March/April issue spotlights Machsom Watch, an all-female volunteer group armed only with cameras and politicians' phone numbers. The self-proclaimed 'politically pluralistic' group maintains a small presence at nearly every machsom, or checkpoint, nearly every day, making sure any abuse that occurs is well-documented and well-reported. -- Nick Rose
The March issue of the Boston-based Whats Up magazine ('Bringing Arts & Awareness to the Streets') just arrived in our library packed with pieces on gender issues. Metrosexuals, gay prison inmates, transsexuals, and 'pro-feminist' men speak out, challenging the societal norms that force us to define ourselves as 'F' or 'M.' The stapled, newsprint publication also looks at One Family, an organization working to give homeless families a leg-up, and 10-minute plays, a byproduct of our 'attention-deficit-disordered world.' -- Kristen Mueller
The April/May issue of Bust will tie your fingers into knots, starting with a short profile on Syjuntan, a Swedish handicraft collective. These 'rock stars of handicraft' are more likely to be found attaching yarn graffiti to street corners than sipping tea in a knitting circle. For DIY-ers, there's also a pattern from Julie Jackson's soon-to-be released Subversive Cross Stitch: 33 Designs for Your Surly Side (Chronicle Books), which will have you embroidering 'Babies Suck' along with a tiny pacifier onto an 8-by-8-inch wall hanging (check out her website, too), and a plug for websites teaching newbies how to hand-spin yarn with cruelty-free fibers. -- Kristen Mueller
The April/May issue of Minnesota Law & Politics draws inspiration from Dostoyevsky, noting that a 'society can be judged by the way it treats its prisoners.' The sentiment introduces the section 'Letters from Prison' -- a collection of writings solicited from legal and political figures in the Twin Cities who have spent time behind bars, or are still there. Basim Sabri, a developer convicted of trying to bribe a city council member, writes from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, telling of his humorous ordeal trying to turn himself in: He couldn't find anyone who would take him. He also tells of how a Jew and a Muslim befriended him and helped him adjust. Roland 'Rollie' Amundson, a former judge convicted of fraud, gives a contemplative look at the experience saying, '[W]hen you're on your back, you are looking straight up, right?' -- Bennett Gordon
Chronogram, a free publication out of the Hudson Valley, seems to gather up all of upstate New York's square pegs and give them a home. The March issue alights upon the accidental producers of wood-slab furniture in the Catskills, a burgeoning Irish dance studio outside of Rhinebeck, and two hooch-producing friends who themselves lay off the sauce. Throw in a dash of art, a smidgen of politics, and maybe a corset or two, and you've got yourself a fine, offbeat read. The magazine, incidentally, is graced from time to time with visits from Sparrow, the extraordinary upstate poet and Utne favorite($$). -- Nick Rose
International Socialist Review devotes a large portion of its March/April issue to left-leaning South America. Noam Chomsky provides the centerpiece with an exploration of the 'many challenges bubbling up from Latin America for the Washington planners of grand strategy.' Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez has joined together with Cuban President Fidel Castro in defiance of the United States, and they're backed up by a chorus of voices from Argentina, Bolivia, and even Canada. Am?rico Tabata examines the long latent socialism in Venezuela that Ch?vez has tapped into, while Tom Lewis reports on Bolivian President Evo Morales's war on 'neoliberalism.' -- Bennett Gordon