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.
Issue #27 of Stop Smiling pays tribute to that vast expanse of the United States often overlooked (or over-flown) by its coastal peer publications -- the Midwest. The magazine celebrates the 'Third Coast's' cultural contributions in interviews with Kurt Vonnegut, Garrison Keillor, Dave Eggers, and a range of other hip musicians, designers, and writers. Essays and reviews honor the region's cultural and historical institutions (Detroit's Grande Ballroom, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, and St. Paul's Saints, to name a few). Happily, this lovely ode to the Midwest moves beyond the prairie-born bigwigs one might expect: icons such as Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson are not forgotten here, but there is also plenty of space for lesser-knowns to roam. -- Danielle Maestretti
With the exception of the occasional anti-Harry Potter outburst, book banning has skulked around 21st century US bookshelves relatively quietly. Internationally, however, censorship of literature is still a hot topic. The September/October 'Censorship Issue' of World Literature Today travels the globe from Albania to Zimbabwe and back to the United States to find out how, why, and where politics, religion, and language spur the repression of freedom of expression. Excerpts from banned novels, articles on country-specific censorship issues, and banned-book reviews dovetail with fascinating tidbits like the '10 Most Censored Countries.' -- Elizabeth Oliver
Two masked superheroes grace the cover of the September/October issue of Political Affairs with slumped shoulders and downtrodden expressions. 'So what's your super-power?' one asks. 'Surviving on minimum wage,' the other replies. Tony Pecinovsky's feature, 'Working for Change,' sticks up for those underpaid superheroes and demands raising the stale federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, which, he points out, almost pays for life's necessities. The issue makes heroes of others fighting the bad guys too: those denouncing immigration reform, those standing up for affirmative action, and others stamping out homophobia. -- Rachel Anderson
In the September 8 issue of Commonweal, a biweekly run by lay Catholics, the editors blast the post-9/11 Bush administration, declaring that the United States 'still lacks the leadership it needs in a time of peril.' A few pages later, the spotlight is on popular Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, who is running as both a Democrat and an anti-abortion Catholic. Throughout the issue, Commonweal leaves the doors open to the evolution of beliefs, spiritual and political, while staying anchored in a central faith. -- Rachel Anderson
For September/October, the folks at Mental Floss have brought us their '5th annual 10 issue,' jam-packed with quirky facts and irreverent Top Tens. My favorite list is '10 Shocking Stories About America's First Ladies,' wherein Martha Washington ends her first marriage by shattering priceless glassware, Mary Todd Lincoln attempts to relieve herself of personal debt by selling official White House manure, and Calvin and Grace Coolidge engage in a hilarious exchange with a farmer comparing their less than thrilling sex life with the libidinous exploits of the man's rooster. Sports fans can enjoy '10 Gloriously Underhanded Sports Tactics,' which tells of a stealth mission to hide a corked bat and a coach who reportedly clogged the toilets of opposing teams as a pre-game psych-out. -- Miriam Skurnick
Life Learning is a forum for parents educating their kids outside the confines of school walls. In the September/October issue, contributions about parents' experiences with self-directed learning make up a good portion of the content. In 'Thanks for the Trust,' Carlo Ricci reflects on the success he encountered by giving his toddlers more control in matters like toilet training and conflict resolution. His thesis: Adults' incessant training and correcting frustrates youngsters, ultimately making difficult processes out of what would have come naturally. For instance, he noticed that by letting his daughters' fights run their course, the clashes became shorter and less frequent. Anecdotes such as this fill Life Learning with interesting tips for parents and home-teachers who want to optimize everyday learning. -- Suzanne Lindgren
Alternatives, a free quarterly distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest, is aimed at the multi-faceted citizen of the Earth who's striving for change. In the Fall issue, the tone of each article varies widely as contributors speak their minds -- some convey anger or hope, while others combine frustration with inspiration and optimism. Alternatives covers topics from the environment to spirit, politics to culture, often stopping to ponder the intersections of these diverse themes. Newsprint allows the editor to pack copious amounts of thoughtful text into a slim and overtly recyclable periodical. -- Suzanne Lindgren