From the Stacks: March 3, 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 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 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
— 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

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
, 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
, 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

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