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New rags in the racks

A review of recent splashy debuts



Print media of the non-political sort provided jest and promise the past six weeks; here's a taste. What do ugly planet, Life and el Tunel have in common? They all showed up on the giveaway racks last month. True, you had to buy the Friday News & Observer to get the new Life, and it could not have been a thinner debut. But someone has to notice a new magazine that drops 12 million copies right out of the box. ugly planet is fantastic. Distributed as a freebie in the Triangle, planet costs a few bucks in other parts of the country. The latest issue was a fat 66 pages of "relevant music," eclectic interviews (Noam Chomsky, El Vez, Stephan Smith, Paris Turner) and great alt-clip-art graphics.

Published in New York, ugly planet has an ambitious mission: "We're a collective of artists, writers and other aspiring propagandists. Our quest is to promote the exchange of ideas and information. Dissent is the only way to keep balance and a constant flow of new ideas moving through our culture. Stay awake, don't fall asleep at the wheel."

Juan Carlos Erickson publishes el Tunel, a monthly bilingual magazine from Raleigh, and the first issue out is gratis. The publication includes glossy photos, stories and interviews in English and Spanish, some interesting columns including the medical column, "5 Questions" and "We Asked American Women About Latino Men." A curious collection of interviews, poems and culture reviews makes the reader look forward to future issues, while el Tunel decides where to go next month.

Coolest new feature in a local magazine? This month's Matter: Durham with Style included a page of Duke Professor Trading Cards with full color photos and real mini-bios to get to know your professors' drink of choice, special power or worst comment made in class. Sweet.

Most interesting idea for a new local magazine? Yowl is not about little puppy antic stories; editor E.V. Noechel says, "Reclaim your animal heritage. It's about the animal. Our animal nature. Poetry, short stories and artwork filled with musk, growls, and the occasional scratch behind the ears. We want to showcase exciting, edgy work." Issue number one is in layout and they're already eagerly taking submissions for number two.

Writer's Digest magazine made a local poet happy last month. Carol Wills got a phone call telling her that her poem, "Telling the Bees," won second place, $500 and a gift certificate in one of their annual contests. The poem will be published in the "Year's Best Writing" issue of the magazine. Carol's work has frequently appeared in the Independent's Front Porch.

Best online magazine? All my electoral votes go to Americana Magazine , on the air daily via audio stream from Denver. Program director Tim Brown says, "It's music rooted in American music and culture, with a little attitude, a combination of styles, including alternative country, progressive rock, folk, blues, bluegrass and gospel. Fun, loose, down home and real."

Check out tiny, but mighty, KCUV radio, 1510 AM, nestled in the Rockies broadcasting a killer lunch-time show (our time, 2:00 p.m.). The station features interviews with local and national touring artists, a pair of rare music segments, "Ray of the Day" (a Ray Charles cut) and a "Daily Dylan" (usually a sweet bootleg). And lots of great music and insider talk. You like Wilco, Steve Earle, Iris DeMent? Check out Colorado's Underground Voice and get a bumper sticker and T-shirt to celebrate their one-year anniversary! Nothing like hearing Jeff Tweedy or John Prine followed by a weather forecast predicting snow.

Want to have fun department: Go online to and vote in their reader's choice poll for the 2003 Utne Independent Press Awards. (Many of the magazines were mentioned in this column over the past year.)


  • (Yowl)




    Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at

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