zondag, februari 13, 2005

Utne independent press awards

I'm a bit late to the party, but the December issue of the Utne Reader, in which they list their nominees for their awards for the best of the independent press (mostly from N. America - typical), is still on the stands here, so I don't feel like such an idler.

In any case, a number of my favourite magazines have been nominated by this 'Readers' Digest of the left', which is the bomb-ass diggity as far as I'm concerned, and, obviously, an endorsement of my elevated taste.

The Believer, put out by the same twee folks who came up with McSweeney's and also presumably buy pirate costumes from Dave Eggers' pirate supplies store, has been nominated for 'Design' (which it really should win. The design is superb), 'Best Essays' and the top award, 'General Excellence'.

Bust, a feminist magazine that isn't boring, has been nominated for 'Design' and, bleggh, something called 'Personal Life Coverage', when it should have been nominated for 'Cultural/Social Coverage', in which it truly excels. In fact, it really should be nominated for 'Feminist Writing So Clever And Witty That Men Will Read It Willingly And Come Away From The Bathroom [well - where do you read your magazines?] Thoroughly Converted To Smashing The Patriarchy Without Even Knowing It', but there's no such category.

Punk Planet, the well-known punk bible, has been nominated for 'Cultural/Social Coverage', 'Political Coverage' (yes, actually, their political coverage is excellent, and a good deal better written than Zmag), and 'General Excellence' - which tells you how good this rag is. Even if you're not a punk fan, the magazine is worth picking up. The design is invariably good too.

This Mag, the Canadian left-of-centre pop-cult publication Naomi Klein edited before she went on to become the pin-up girl for the anti-capitalist set (Okay, so she is for me. Sadly, she is married. Damn that Avi Lewis and his former-Muchmusic-VJ wiles), has been nominated for 'Cultural/Social Coverage' and 'General Excellence'. Outside Canada, it's difficult to find, but you should be able to order it from your local mildewy anarchist bookstore.

No Depression, the tremendous Americana/Alt.Country music (Kathleen Edwards, Wilco, Josh Rouse, Neko Case, etc.) bi-monthly has been nominated for 'Arts Coverage'. You won't be able to find it anywhere. I can't.

The Walrus, which is, as far as I know, the first attempt to publish a Canadian magazine on the model of Harpers/The New Yorker that isn't wretchedly, masturbatorily inward-looking. It may be liberal, with a small 'L', but it's the best written thing in Canadian periodical publishing (which, admittedly, isn't saying much - and if you're Canadian, you KNOW I'm right when I say that). No. Really. It's quite not bad. It's been nominated for 'Best New Title', 'Cultural/Social Coverage'. Maisonneuve, out of Montreal, which attempts a similar sort of thing, but doesn't really succeed, I think, has also been nominated for 'Cultural/Social Coverage'. Do not sign up for Maisonneuve's daily 'MediaScout' e-mail digest of Canadian news and commentary. It is liberal and dreadful.

The Earth First! Journal has been nominated for 'Environmental Coverage' - and here, one supposes this is out of obligation. Certainly it can't be for its writing or analysis. I was an Earth Firster for a summer and a bit, after my first year of uni, but I never got to spike any trees because the 'comrades' thought I dressed 'too square' [their ignorance of adverbs, not mine] and thought I might be a narc. All because I took baths and found the sign in the bathroom of the East Vancouver house in which we met that said 'If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down,' to be fucking gross. Needless to say I flushed away my membership in that shallow, cop-infiltration-happy organisation with great vitesse. The EF Journal is a terrible publication, has a completely superfluous exclamation mark in its title, and stains your hands (although, now I've looked at the link, it seems they've discovered a colour other than green).

Counterpunch, the website and newsletter edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair that really, really, doesn't pull any punches in its coverage of the follies of US imperialism is, generally, better written than Zmag, and regularly goes where the latter is still too much in thrall to the essentially liberal NGO/anarcho-reformist crowd to go. Throughout last year, it unceasingly exposed the fatuity of supporting John Kerry for president when no other left publication outside the hard left would do so. It's been nominated for 'Online Political Coverage' and 'General Excellence'.

And, speaking of the hard left, Left Turn has been nominated for 'International Coverage' and 'General Excellence' - remarkable for a magazine that started out as the publication of the Left Turn group. Left Turn was originally a splinter of the International Socialist Organisation, which was once upon a time the American local of the International Socialist Tendency (led by the UK's SWP). The ISO had a bit of a contretemps with the SWP c.2000, resulting in a split. The rest of the IST cut its ties with the ISO like the good little cocker spaniel Trots they are in 2001. [If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I am largely sympathetic to the IST, despite the sarcasm, and was in fact a member for eleven years. I still don't honestly think there's a better group around anywhere, but I do feel the internal culture of democracy has long since been compromised] Left Turn initially remained within the fold but has since itself parted ways with the IST as well. I am not clear on the details of the latter split, but Left Turn's magazine has consistently been both exceptionally well-written and anti-sectarian, as well as being very, very nice to look at, something that the far left, given the gormless graphic design sensibility of most far left newspapers and magazines, has historically believed to be a petit bourgeois affectation. Left Turn has shown that one can, shock, horror, put out a publication that is both Marxist and well-designed. Not only that, but people will buy it and like it - as the Utne nomination shows.

There are a number of other magazines that have been nominated. Most of them are quite good. If you haven't heard of any of the above, I really do recommend them (apart from the soap-dodging EF Journal, obviously).


The winners are in the latest edition of the Utne Reader, which has yet to reach these shores, but I hear tell that the Walrus won Best New Title and The Believer won for Design. The rest of my faves were beaten by probably-quite-sound titles that I don't read.

In any case, get off this bloody internet and buy something to read that you can take in the bath.