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Notes From Underground Press

A.K Gupta May 25

Depending on who’s counting, there are hundreds or even thousands of “alternative” English-language periodicals. Many are dense academic journals that require an advanced degree just to unpack. But hundreds are popular or general interest publications worthy of a wide audience. This is the first installment of a new column highlighting some of the more intriguing offerings.

BITCHFEST

Self-tagged as “Feminist response to pop culture,” Bitch is always a fun read. A quarterly, its latest issue is devoted to masculinity, featuring articles on “Dude Tube,” a look at Spike TV, an amusing photo spread on the evolution of chest hair in pop-culture icons and an intelligent look at the “new assault on black male sexuality.” My favorite piece was an analysis of Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie. Ricocheting from the notion of male stupidity as “a new form of machismo” (George W.) and the men of Sideways as older versions of the hapless losers who have always populated teen comedies,” author Martha Rich argues that Spongebob presents “a softer, more absorbent masculinity.”

THE DOWNING STREET MEMO

Okay, The New York Review of Books hardly qualifies as underground, but it is one of my favorite publications and, sadly, unread by most radicals. It reprints in the June 9 issue the complete text of the “Secret Downing Street Memo” – the one that proves the Bush administration was hellbent on invading Iraq and was “fixing” the facts and intelligence around the policy. The memo is accompanied by a trenchant analysis by Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror, who argues convincingly that the failure of U.N. inspectors to find (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction allowed the White House to discredit the inspections process and push for war.

$PREAD OUTCALLS TO A NEWSSTAND NEAR YOU

The premiere issue of $pread, a quarterly devoted to “illuminating the sex industry” has just hit the newsstands. Most of the content is first person, and its editorial stance is clearly in favor of decriminalization.

$pread takes a largely upbeat view of the “industry,” with only a few articles touching on the ever-present dangers of violence, STDs and pimps. It also sidesteps the pressure placed on strippers to move into prostitution. Though $pread should be lauded for trying to put a human face on sex workers, and it does tackle the issue of trafficking, it’s bothersome, but not surprising, that many articles talk about the money to be made in the trade – it is a magazine about sex workers after all. While the first issue is rough, with numerous copy errors and blurry/dark photographs, $pread is worth keeping an eye on.