From the Stacks: March 24, 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 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

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