From the Stacks: May 12, 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.

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

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

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.