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 can't all fit into our bimonthly magazine. So 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.
Provocative and thoughtful as usual, the new issue of LensWork (March/April 2006) reminds me why I read it, namely for the words as much as the photos. Quintessential this time is editor Brooks Jensen's annotated list stemming from a dinner conversation query: 'If you were going to demonstrate to a non-photographer the nature of fine art photography and why you are so passionate about it, which ten photographs would you show them?' Also engaging: Bill Jay's 'End Notes' in which he responds humorously to Vanessa Williams' artistic ambition to 'paint with all the colors of the wind.' That said, this issue also includes stunning photographs by Tamara Lischka www.tamaralischka.com of hands holding 'Important Things' -- fetuses, a portfolio from Bill Jay's new book, Men Like Me, and skyscrapers photographed by William W. Fuller, who lives in rural Arizona. -- Chris Dodge
The newest, and sadly next to last, print issue of Eureka Street -- a smart and pithy broadleaf magazine from that continent-qua-nation we call Australia -- arrived in our library this week with a smirk on its otherwise very serious face. (We recently learned that Eureka Street will be moving to online only publication after the May/June issue). On a regular basis the magazine tackles important issues (indigenous rights, slavery, humanitarian disaster in Pakistan) with penetrating insight and powerful photography. The voices in their columns, however, bounce around more than a bullet in an oil drum. Case in point: In the March/April issue, Brain Matthews concludes that, though we live in a 'vale of tears' -- as evidenced by telephone calls where 'Aunt [Tilly's] . . . rolling in it and childless' -- we yet can triumph over entropy by bringing our political 'bugbears' to 'absolute zero.' A call to action or a mockery of thought itself? You make the call. -- Nick Rose
Shots doesn't have to travel very far to get to our library: A black and white photo magazine out of Minneapolis, the current issue is beautifully rambunctious with its selections. Though the Spring 2006 call for submissions didn't include a theme, the photographs all tend toward the surreal. This issue spotlights Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin, who sums up both her own work and, it seems, the magazine's contents, when she says she looks to capture 'the twilight zone I see in the world between reality and fantasy.' Highly staged, though set in her subjects' native spaces, her work does just that. -- Nick Rose
Do you dream of becoming an outlaw biker? Steal Valium from epileptic dogs? Shave your toes? Don't worry -- you're not alone. The proof lies in PostSecret (Regan Books, 2005), Frank Warren's collection of confessions from ordinary people with extraordinary secrets. PostSecret began as a community art project/blog, asking people to anonymously submit postcards illustrating their deepest, darkest secrets. The submissions are graphically tantalizing looks into the human psyche. You'll laugh. You'll cry. And you'll learn you're not the only one that pees in the pool. -- Kristen Mueller
The US Senate's declaration of 2006 as the 'Year of Study Abroad' coincides with the 30th anniversary of Transitions Abroad, occasioning an interesting retrospective on international education by the bimonthly's founder Clay Hubbs. Statistics suggest that not much has changed in those three decades: While 79 percent of people in the US think it's important to study abroad, only 1 percent actually go out and do it. But what those numbers don't reveal, Hubbs points out, is the boom in students and non-students who are learning abroad outside the classic school structures. The March/April issue is, as usual, filled with wide-ranging narratives of people who took the leap abroad, including the magazine's 2005 narrative travel writing winner 'An Exorcism in Zambia.' -- Bennett Gordon
Knowing my affinity for Buenos Aires, a colleague directed me toward the new issue of Mental Floss for its '50-Cent Tour' of Argentina. The article details a few of the country's highlights, including the Argentine passion for good beef and the herbal drink Yerba Mate, and the legend of the Gaucho Cowboy, a figure of Argentine folklore. The March/April issue ranges beyond Argentina's borders as well, with, among other things, an amusing profile of Shel Silverstein and some revolting photos of parasites. -- Bennett Gordon
They've been around since the first humans slumbered in caves, but they weren't 'discovered' until 1930. Adolescent girls -- packs of inept, subordinate 'others' -- entranced Hollywood from 1930 to 1965, writes Ilana Nash in American Sweethearts: Teenage Girls in Twentieth-Century Popular Culture, released last month from Indiana University Press. By targeting past and present icons, from teen sleuth Nancy Drew and the wide-eyed 'girl midget' Gidget to reigning pop princess Britney Spears, Nash explores how 20th century American media (primarily controlled by adult males) has cast young women into a stringent mold that shapes today's culture. -- Kristen Mueller