From the Stacks: September 8, 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.

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

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