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.
Civic pride can be a beautiful thing. Harry Wiland and Dale Bell's Edens Lost & Found: How Ordinary Citizens are Restoring Our Great American Cities (Chelsea Green Publishing, April 2006) focuses on Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Seattle, with stories and color photos showing that living in cities can be sane, joyful, and even wild and green. Pictures of Philadelphia murals first caught my eye (I spent two hot summers in the City of Brotherly Love decades ago), but then I was engaged by much more: community gardens, habitat restoration, Chicago Wilderness a coalition that publishes an excellent magazine, and profiles of tree planters, innovative teachers, and urban planners working to 'wean a city off its cars.' Finally, inclusion of a resource directory makes the book not just inspirational but useful. -- Chris Dodge
The fourth issue of Words and Pictures Magazine, a new quarterly 'devoted to written and visual expression,' features an arresting photo essay by John Oliver Hodges, a writer, photographer, and teacher living in Alaska. The undated black and white photographs would be compelling on their own, but the accompanying captions (ranging from short stories to explanations) lend a certain charm to the already striking images. Also in this issue is an article about scouring coral reefs for natural medicines, with writer Francesca Lyman addressing the debate surrounding bioprospecting -- called 'biopiracy' by some -- in underwater seascapes. While the fledgling magazine has some editing snafus, the content -- rich with culturally diverse topics and works of art -- more than compensates. -- Miriam Skurnick
Parenting can be the most rewarding, fulfilling, and meaningful activity an individual or couple can undertake. It can also make you want to claw your eyeballs out as you scream for the end to come. Most likely, though, parenting falls somewhere in between. Hausfrau, a punchy parenting zine out of Portland, Maine, seems to agree. The Spring 'Bad Muthah Issue' revels in the highs and lows of caring for those beautiful, angelic, sniveling little brats we call children. And it never loses sight of the irresistible fact that 'our voices are lost when we don't tell the stories that make up our days.' -- Nick Rose
Burnt Sugar/Cana Quemada, an anthology of contemporary Cuban poetry, cuts through the fog of political and economic isolation surrounding the country, delivering a moving collection of Cuban and Cuban-American poetic voices. Edited by novelist and translator Lori Marie Carlson and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos, the slim volume makes the poetry uniquely accessible. The book, due out in August from Simon & Schuster's Free Press, presents both the English translation and the Spanish-language original side-by-side. For those who don't speak Spanish but want to get closer to Cuba's poetry, the set-up is invaluable. Read the English for the meaning, and then read the Spanish (out loud if you don't feel too silly) for the sound. -- Nick Rose
Squeezed between ads for bike shops, parts, and races, issue 121 of Dirt Rag is studded with articles geared toward readers who find paradise when pedaling up dirt hills on two thick rubber wheels. 'Vegan Rob' is profiled as an 'ultra-endurance racer,' whose meat-free lifestyle fuels his body on and off the trails. 'If everyone was vegan,' he points out, 'we'd need one tenth the land for farming due to us eating lower on the food chain, leaving more woods for mountain biking!' Meanwhile, Steve Kohler tackles the treacherous Womble Trail in Arkansas' Ouachita Mountains -- and makes it out alive to recount the experience. The track is 'frequently no more than eight inches wide, with an alarming number of skids visible where previous riders have lost it,' he writes. As if that wasn't enough of a deterrent, a 'hell-born, steroid-soaked, skin-ripping' berry bush, known locally as 'greenbrier,' frequently creeps across the trail to bare its rhino-shaped horns. -- Kristen Mueller
In the latest issue of The Bear Deluxe Magazine, a publication 'exploring environmental issues through the creative arts,' Amy Roe has an explosive idea for Portland, Oregon's Forest Park: Burn it, to save it. The 5,400 acres of woodland are considered the largest forested city park in the United States, but landslides, invasive species, and overuse have plagued the area. Forest fires, Roe writes, are a natural and inevitable part of forest renewal, and many experts think the area needs a controlled burn to protect the forest and the residents. The FireFighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, who promote such controlled burns, also are profiled in the Spring/Summer issue. -- Bennett Gordon
New England is often associated with lush forests and pristine waterways, but the latest issue of New England Watershed Magazine is all about the road. Tim Brookes provides 19 insightful and funny reflections on commuting, lamenting the antisocial and unthinking society of commuters. 'An experience without experience,' Brookes equates highway traffic to a human sewage pipe that hurts the environment, kills innocent animals and humans, and distances people from the world around them. The issue also contains a New Englander's perspective on what the mainstream media ignores in Iran, and an addiction counselor's reflections on US oil dependence and other uniquely American addictions. -- Bennett Gordon