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Two magazines published right here in our backyard have very different visions and very different looks. Both share the drive to make a difference locally in the beats they cover. Maybe you haven't seen them yet: To date, their distribution has been limited. But keep your eyes open over the next five or six weeks.

Praxis launched their limited edition first issue with a series of blow-out rock 'n' roll parties in Raleigh. Covering "music, lifestyle, culture," Praxis reads like a cool, punky zine with we-don't-care-what-you-think articles. The writing style recalls those old Raleigh zines that used to rock Hillsborough Street, Blind Boy's Gazette and Straight (whose name, legend has it, was inspired by an old Jonathan Richman song). But it's all presented with a slicked-up, no-cut-and-paste-here look.

That's the plan. Publisher Dean Sauls, who also runs Praxis Studios, a full service creative imaging company (Web sites, photography, CD packaging, etc.) notes, "We want to provide a way for writers, artists, actors, and musicians to display their talents as well as display our own. Since we are a design company, we are all about looks. We didn't want to make something that looked like it came from our parent's basement."

Sauls and editor Sandra Skrzycki don't hold back in their first "Message From Us" editorial: "Who the hell wants to pick up a magazine and read a story or an interview that has been cushioned for your safety?" The magazine takes off from there, with first-person music rants and reviews, a great interview with Tift Merritt, and my favorite feature, "How To Get Kicked Out of Your Band," by John Custer. Custer's writing has that Nick Hornby edge, laughing and grimacing.

Over in Durham, Kevin Kresse is putting the finishing touches on his second issue, too. News From Below will double their print run next month and go national. It's still "seat-of-the-pants sweat equity" admits Kresse. What drives him is clear: "the belief that there needs to be a stronger literary and reflective component to progressive media without being high-brow or academic in style or focus--without being unreadable."

Kresse's ambitious NFB will feature pieces on a grassroots fair trade project with craftspeople in Ghana, the folk traditions of Eastern Europe, Germany's green culture, the global growth of wind power, and journal entries from two years of life in the Gaza Strip.

How's he going to tie all this together? Kresse simply replies, "The energy for News From Below comes from below, of course--from the heart as much as the mind."

Two other Durham magazines rolled out brilliant issues this month. You can't have missed all the post 9/11 attention directed at "Dissent From the Homeland," the bestselling special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, which features a brilliant and provocative collection of essays edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Frank Lentricchia.

And the latest Document, the newsletter of the Center for Documentary Studies, is beautiful. Designer Bonnie Campbell delivers text, art and photography that makes the reader want more. There are plenty of projects, interviews and exhibits to catch up on.

One more thing folks. This has got to be more than just a coincidence. It might be time to check out Raleigh's Barefoot Press ("Ecology, Quality, Skill and Service"), which printed Praxis, News From Below and Document.

Find them at: www.praxismagazine.net, www.newsfrombelow.com, South American Quarterly, Box 90676, Duke University, Durham, N.C. 27708-0676, www.cds.aas.duke .edu, and www.barefootpress.com.

More by John Valentine


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