On Wildlife Art and the Nature of Beauty

Posted in Uncategorized on August 12, 2013 by frankbures

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From Thirty Two Magazine

In the southeast corner of Minnesota is a small farm where my wife’s family lives. It’s beautiful country, with rolling hills and deep valleys. Behind their house, a bluff rises straight up, and when I was younger I used to climb it and sit on a rock with my journal and write.

It’s embarrassing to think about now, but at the time I had notions of becoming a latter-day Thoreau, giving voice to the land. I loved nature and I loved writing, and it seemed like a perfectly good idea to combine the two.

Really, though, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know what it was I loved about nature, or even what exactly I meant by “nature.” Basically, what I now realize I meant was simply “being outside.” But back then it seemed like so much more, and I was sure that by writing about what went on in the woods, I could impart valuable lessons about life.

By and by, that period came to an end, helped along by some time spent in Africa where I saw that living close to nature actually meant chopping wood and hauling water, which (despite a passing interest in Zen) I wasn’t really up for. Nature, I came to see, didn’t much care whether we lived or died, and it was only our distance, our protection from it, that let it become something revered. If nature was beautiful and instructive, it was also heartless, terrifying, and cruel. It was so many things at once, and I came to feel that that’s where its true beauty lay.

Read the rest here.

The Cost of Fame: Is empathy a casualty of our self-centered age?

Posted in America, Art, Books, Clips, Science on June 7, 2013 by frankbures

Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_editedFrom The Rotarian:

Over the years, people have looked at the “vast wasteland” of television and seen the approaching end of western civilization. I try to take criticism of the medium with a grain of salt, but I recently came across some studies suggesting that it wasn’t only me who had changed.

Two researchers at the University of California, Yalda Uhls and Patricia Greenfield, devised a way to measure the values expressed in U.S. television shows. Their idea was not that TV is a corrupting influence or a source of moral instruction, but a mirror that reflects our society back to us.

Given how much the world has changed over the decades, you might not think that TV shows from the years 1967, 1977, 1987, and 1997 would have much in common. But they did. Taking the two most popular programs for tweens from each of those years, as well as from 2007, Uhls and Greenfield looked for 16 values demonstrated by the characters, such as benevolence, popularity, community feeling, financial success, tradition, and fame.

narcissism-epidemic-living-in-age-entitlement-jean-m-twenge-hardcover-cover-art-1For the first four decades, the shows were fairly consistent: Community feeling was the top value for all of them except 1987, when it ranked second. Benevolence and tradition were consistently at the top. Meanwhile, fame ranked 15th in 1967, 1987, and 1997. (In 1977, it was 13th.)

Achievement and financial success hovered around the bottom half of the list; they were never dominant forces in the characters’ lives.
By 2007, however, community feeling had dropped to the 11th spot. Benevolence had fallen to 12th, and tradition to 15th. Financial success had jumped from 12th to 5th since 1997, achievement to 2nd, and fame to 1st.

Read the rest here.

Thirty Two #4: Artists’ Spaces, Painted Birds, Soccer Hooligans and Free Music

Posted in Art, Clips, Thirty Two on June 5, 2013 by frankbures

SummerIt’s been nearly a year since the launch of Thirty Two Magazine, and the fourth issue is now out–the biggest yet by far.  Not only are there fantastic pieces on the Dark Cloud soccer fans, the sharing economy, fiction about life in Antarctica, and more. There’s also beautiful photo essay of  artists’ work spaces. For my part, I interviewed Andrew Lange of  the experimental record label Taiga, which puts out albums on limited-edition vinyl. I also wrote about wildlife art.

Better yet: Two free albums also come with this issue, called Two Seasons: Thirty Two & Friends, which features 19 songs by local bands (including the lovely “Clouds” by the late Zach Sobiech) and which you can download from the site, plus a CD sleeve to cut out from the magazine.

So please find it any of these shops, enjoy it, and if you like what we’re doing, subscribe here.  (Subscribers keep us alive!)

Skin in the Game: Feminine mystique or feminine mistake?

Posted in America, Clips on June 4, 2013 by frankbures

phpThumbFrom Minnesota Monthly:

Last fall at the Armatage Recreation Center, a crowd of hopeful young women gathered in response to an advertisement that called for the following: “Ages 18–35, Athletic, Sexy, Look Good in Bikini, and Love Basketball.” It was the inaugural tryout for a nascent team called the Minnesota Mist, which, for about as long as it takes to put on—or take off—a two-piece, was part of the Bikini Basketball League. The team’s promotional tagline: Prepare to Be Mistified.

Many were. After all, it’s hard to know what to make of the sudden boom in so-called fantasy sports. Not the leagues where guys pick a dream team of all-star players and pretend they’re Bud Grant. We’re talking about fantasy sports like the Minnesota Valkyrie, the state’s two-year-old franchise in the Lingerie Football League. And the recently formed Bikini Hockey League, of which there appears to be two, albeit with no Minnesota franchise—yet. And the Bikini Softball League, which may indeed arrive here (it was accepting team applications from hard-hitting hard-bodies at press time).

Read the rest here.

On Graduation, Folding Chairs, Life, etc.

Posted in Clips on May 14, 2013 by frankbures

From The Rotarian:

It’s possible that future anthropologists will look back on our civilization and conclude that all our wisdom was collected in our commencement speeches. Every year around this time, at podiums across America, people attempt to send our young adults off into the world with a bit of hard-won knowledge so they won’t have to win it themselves.

Presumably, that’s what happened at both of my graduations. I don’t recall. In high school, I’m pretty sure the speaker was a young woman who got good grades and who said something about achieving our dreams. My wife gave the commencement speech at her high school, but even she can’t remember a thing she said.

At my college graduation, the speaker may have been a semi-famous writer who had penned a book about faith and the prairie. I assume she gave some sort of meditation on flatness, but all I can remember is that her speech itself felt like driving across North Dakota.

Read the rest here.

On the Groad: More on Gravel Racing

Posted in America, Clips on April 17, 2013 by frankbures

"Gravel" plus "cycling" equals "gravel riding."From Outside:

Not far out of the gates of the “Central Iowa Rock Road Endurance Metric” (or CIRREM as it’s known in gravel circles), riders started going down on the dirt road in the middle of Iowa. A big guy on my left spilled hard and almost took me out. Another one up front went over and slammed his helmet into the ground. I slipped on the ice a few times, but managed to stay upright. In the lead pack, a rider broke away and the others started to chase him. Nearly all of them went over, too.

We were just a few miles into the late-February, 63.5-mile bike race that brings out the hardest of the hardcore groadies (gravel roadies). Gravel riding, or “gravel grinding” as it’s known, is a different sort of race than the ones that came before. These are epic rides on forgotten, unpaved roads covered in crushed rock. They’re more relaxed, more low-brow, and more hardcore than you average road crit.

Not only that, but they open up a vast new territory for cycling. At last count, there were 1.3 million miles of unpaved roads throughout the United States. Cyclists are just beginning to discover these as a new frontier where there are no rules, no governing bodies, and where you can just announce a race and people will show up to ride 60, 100, 200 miles or more.

Read the rest here.

On the Power of Money

Posted in Africa, Clips, Travel on April 12, 2013 by frankbures

From The Rotarian:

hiresfaksimile_5180572-1“America,” said the exercise in our grammar book, “is the (rich) country in the world.” It was a lesson about the superlative, and the answer was, of course, “richest.” I was teaching English in Tanzania, and it was strange to read such things about my home.

“You are a rich man,” one of my students was fond of telling me, exasperated because I wouldn’t give him the books, pens, pencils, and notebooks he asked for. “But you are a rich man. America is a rich country.” He seemed to take a certain relish in using the word as he rolled the r, drew out the i, and let the ch trail off. “Reech …”
Deutsch-Ostafrika, Aruscha, Boma
This bothered me. It felt like an accusation. It made me resent something that was larger than myself, something that I had nothing to do with – something that wasn’t my fault.

Why did I get so angry? I spent a lot of time agonizing over that question. It seemed to come from the guilt that many of us feel when we cross a border into a poorer country. After a lifetime of being average, we find ourselves bizarrely privileged. Suddenly 500rupienwe become one of the global elite.

This affects our relationships with the people we meet…

Read the rest here.

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