Tree girl has spawned!

Young, PR-savvy idealists defend forests, Republicanism and dog food. Plus: Graphic sex writing is soooo 1995; Leonard Nimoy speaks Yiddish?

Published September 3, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

If you believe the aging folks at PBS and Time magazine, activism died out like the glowing embers of a joint some time around 1971. This, of course, is yet another fiction from the glossy pages and glowing screens of our respected news sources. For better and for worse, activism is not dead. Indeed, to hear the alternative press tell the story, it's simply gotten a makeover.

With the exception of certain screaming Mumia fools, political protesters today are better dressed, media savvy and wired to the gills, they say. Your local newspaper may have failed to note this, because it was too busy copying down quotes from the press release faxed from a tree-top in the virgin rainforests of Washington State. But true to its lefty origins, the alternative press keeps our minds refreshed with tales of lefty activism from Generations X and Y.

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Willammette Week, Sept. 1-7

"Out on a limb" By Patty Wentz

Julia "Butterfly" Hill, the woman who has spent the last year or so living in a tree, has spawned. Outside of Portland, an unkempt bunch of PR-savvy environmentalists -- with names like Kaylene and Clove -- are protesting by living in the trees they used to just hug. They eat stale bagels and read Thoreau. They have Web sites.

Reporter Patty Wentz uses their protest to pick up the story of the Pacific Northwest's environmental struggles where most of the mainstream press left off -- with exaggerated tales of screaming, dreadlocked ruffians and terrified spotted owls. She explores where the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan and other environmental legislation went wrong, and gives character and nuance to people usually dismissed as "environmental extremists."

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"The Politics of Puppy Chow" by Philip Dawdy

Woman has a problem: Animal-control services needs funding. Woman has solution: A dog and cat food tax. Rabid pet owners get a whiff of the proposed legislation and go ballistic. "Two bucks more for Meow Mix? Nevah!" Kitty and doggy tax? Euthanized. Rabid dogs are free to roam the streets and tear up little children. Frankly, if this little tax inspired such passion -- and precious few things inspire enough passion to make a difference -- politicians should find a way to tack it onto every single bill they don't like. The ultimate democracy killer. Congress could be tied up for months. This is better than impeachment!

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The Village Voice, Sept. 1-7

"Confronting the Pride Divide" by Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent reports from the annual Log Cabin Republicans convention, where a protest led by another gay organization turned bloody. After lingering a considerable time on the details of the brawl, she looks at the growing tensions within the gay community, where the anthem "We are family" may no longer apply. It's a fascinating story that promises to develop further as the 2000 elections near.

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Detroit Metro Times, Sept. 1-7

"Radical History Meets Hollywood" by Peter Werbe

Thanks to a mention by Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting," Howard Zinn's radical screed, "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present," saw a handsome increase in sales. A 20th-anniversary edition is slated to hit bookstores in November -- Incoming! Christmas gift basket for socialists! Package this with the coffee-table version of the "Communist Manifesto," some organic coffee and one of those wooden foot massagers. Activism in a box! ... Where was I? Oh, Zinn is also going to make a miniseries based on his book. In his interview with Zinn, Peter Werbe discusses all these projects and a couple other things, too.

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Seattle Weekly, Sept. 1-7

"The New Anarchists" by Geov Parrish

In Eugene, Ore., young anarchists (mostly teens) have been taking to the streets, destroying property and justifying their rebellion with political slogans they can't possibly comprehend. Reporter Geov Parrish seems fascinated by their youth, their dreadlocks, their 'zines, but rightly concerned about their destructive actions. He writes: "In an alienating society, what do we have to offer youth that's more constructive than breaking windows? Answers to that question aren't easy, but we had better learn to articulate them soon."

The Village Voice, Sept. 1-7

"Girls who squirt" by Tristan Taormino

I know that alot of people are doing the sex column thing these days. Apparently, it's a good way to attract readers. However, I'd like to sip my coffee without reading sentences like this: "Have you ever had your hand inside a girl, fucking her really well, and all of a sudden she soaked the bed?" No, I haven't. And may I add that this kind of in-your-face bluntness was only en vogue when it was shocking. I know. I contributed my share of nasty talk to the cultural void that is publishing. We've broken through an important barrier in frankness when it comes to doing it. I'm glad. Now, a little mystery please?

"Too 'Hot' for Harper's" by Cynthia Cotts

Meeeow! Hiss hiss.

"Sexgate North" by James Ridgeway

Monica and Bill in the same town? Meeeow! Hiss hiss.

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Tattoo Jew Issue 3

Superman is Jewish? Leonard Nimoy speaks Yiddish? I'm not actually sure if this site is funny. But I'm also about as Jewish as Hillary Clinton, so many jokes elude me. Edited by the poet Alan Kaufman and stacked with fancy contributors -- porn queen Annie Sprinkle, David Mamet and others -- it's certainly a zine worth watching.

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The Stranger, Sept. 2-8

"Everything but the Girl" by Rebecca Brown

In this smart but troubling essay, Rebecca Brown calls for greater acceptance of lesbian writing in the mainstream. Then she complains about lesbian writers who are rewarded only for the work they do that isn't specifically about lesbians, Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina," for instance. While her point that the mainstream is unable to accept tales by lesbians about lesbians is salient, she doesn't seem to realize that sexual-identity angst is fine fodder for college diarists, but rarely translates into great fiction.

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Philadelphia City Paper, Sept. 2-8

"Hit & Run Neighbor" by Howard Altman

"We all have times in our lives when it feels like weve been hit by a truck. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered what it feels like for real. And before I even landed on the ground, I knew it would make a good story," writes Howard Altman in the opening sentence of a story that is not only not good, it sucks so bad that it's mildly amusing.

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Nerve Mag

Nerve publishes portions of persecuted artist Spencer Tunick's Naked States tour. It's a lovely demonstration of how the Web can be used to display art, though it takes some time to load.

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One final note: I will be on vacation for the next two weeks. So if you want to know what's in the alternative press, you're going to have to slog through it by your lonesome. Best of luck! See you on Sept. 24.

By Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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