Festival Season: Upcoming Appearances

Posted in Culture, Events, Geography of Madness, Science, Travel on October 13, 2017 by frankbures

It’s festival season again, and over the next few weeks I’ll be speaking at two. First, on Sunday October 29th I’ll be talking about the power of belief at the Chicago Humanities Festival. The following weekend on Saturday, November 4, I’ll be in Madison for the Wisconsin Book Festival. If you’re near either one, please stop by! Details below:

CHF_Logo-No_Tagline_RedThe Geography of Madness
Sunday, October 29, 4 – 5 PM
Chicago Athletic Association, Stagg Court
12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Is there a connection between mental health, disease, and belief? In Geography of Madness, journalist Frank Bures offers a resounding yes. In tracking the delusion that one’s genitals can be stolen—a relatively common complaint in countries ranging from Nigeria to Singapore—Bures sought to uncover the roots of a whole range of “culture–bound syndromes,” and how people’s beliefs about their health shape their physical experiences of health. Join Bures for a conversation about penis theft, placebos, and the intersection of Western and Chinese medicine.

main_logoThe Geography of Madness
11/04/2017, 4:00pm
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, DeLuca Forum

The Geography of Madness is an investigation of “culture-bound” syndromes, which are far stranger than they sound. Why is it, for example, that some men believe, against all reason, that vandals stole their penises, even though they’re in good physical shape? In The Geography of Madness, acclaimed magazine writer Frank Bures travels around the world to trace culture-bound syndromes to their sources–and in the process, tells a remarkable story about the strange things all of us believe.

Presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Science Festival.

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Get Outdoors

Posted in America, Clips, Outdoors, Running on October 11, 2017 by frankbures

A new column at Minnesota Monthly, where we’ll be talking about trail running, ice climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, logrolling and more:

Hunt Jennings had been in town for three days researching Minnehaha Falls, checking the conditions, and monitoring the creek’s water level. On the morning that things looked right, Jennings quickly assembled a local safety crew and, before the park department could stop him, set his boat in the water just above the falls. Within seconds, he paddled over its 53-foot drop to make the first official descent of the cascade. Jennings, who lives in Tennessee but frequents a family cabin in the Boundary Waters, is a professional kayaker—he went to a special high school for kayaking—and knows how to do these things. 

Read the rest here.

How To Be Wise

Posted in America, Books, Clips, Culture, Science on September 3, 2017 by frankbures

Cutler2017007-2 copyMy latest column from The Rotarian:

Recently I was looking through some of my grandmother’s things and came across her tattered, softcover Bible. As I paged through it, a yellowed newspaper article fell out. It was from a 1966 edition of the Minneapolis Star, written by a certain Dr. Walter C. Alvarez. It was titled “You Can Grow Old Gracefully.”

Nowadays, that sentiment is not very widespread. Growing old has become something to be dreaded, feared, and, if possible, avoided. This is partly rooted in America’s youth-oriented culture, which differs from that of places like Japan or parts of Africa, where older people are seen as repositories of wisdom and authority.

Still, I liked the headline of Dr. Alvarez’s column, even if the useful advice in his article was limited to exhortations to read widely, be friendly, and try to cultivate an interesting persona in youth and middle age. If you become a good and interesting person when you’re young, he wrote, you will be a good and interesting person when you are old.

My grandmother did, in fact, age gracefully. She never become bitter or isolated or hopeless, even though her husband died – after falling off a ladder – just four years after she cut out that article. For as long as she could manage, she played bridge, went to water aerobics, and worked the crossword puzzle, and she always seemed able to see the humor in things. That she kept that article – in her Bible no less – meant that she must have had some faith that aging gracefully was something she could do.

Read the rest here.

Shooting A Year of Sunrises

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Outdoors, Video on August 20, 2017 by frankbures

Recent story from the Star Tribune:

DEFe-8sVYAAA0biLast fall I was staying in Red Wing when I got up early to go for a run on the iconic Barn Bluff towering over the river city. The hill wasn’t far from our hotel and seemed like a good place to watch the sun come up.

When I got to the top, the light was still dim, but I was surprised to find a woman there, silhouetted against the morning sky at the eastern overlook. She had a tripod and a camera pointed at the horizon.

Her name was Ellen Lentsch, a 44-year-old aspiring photographer, and it was her 274th consecutive sunrise on the bluff. She had 93 more before she would accomplish her goal: To photograph the sunrise from that same point every day for a year. Her idea was to put them together to be able to see the sun moving across the sky and back again. She also wanted to capture the moment in all its colors and moods and to cast a familiar sight in a new light.

“The world around us,” she says, “we take it for granted. But if we pause a moment and look around, there’s so much beauty right in our own backyard. I want people to see that. I want people to realize this is not an ugly world.”

Read the rest here.

The Kiwis’ Edge in America’s Cup: Drones

Posted in Clips, Outdoors, Science on July 1, 2017 by frankbures

From the New York Times:

Nick Bowers heard his phone ring at 5 one morning in September 2015. He struggled out of bed and answered. On the line was a boat maker from Holland with an urgent request: Could he be in Italy that night to shoot video of the A-Class World Catamaran Championships?

Bowers, who lived in Lake Geneva, Wis., where he ran a small video production company, packed his drones and hurried to the airport in Chicago.

Word of Bowers’s dramatic sailing footage had been spreading through the sailing world. It was gorgeous and mesmerizing.

Bailey White, president of the United States A-Class Sailing Association, who recruited Bowers for the race in Italy, remembers his first impression. “I had never seen anyone be able to shoot the angles he was shooting,” White said. “While the boat was up in the air foiling, he was getting so low flying this drone that he was actually below the boat, so you got a sense for exactly how the boat was performing and how the sailors were doing.”

Bowers, whose work would earn him a spot with one of the two teams currently racing in the finals of the 2017 America’s Cup, came on this style almost accidentally. At first, he started filming without a monitor because he couldn’t afford one. He learned to work by watching the drone instead of watching the video feed. But he quickly found this gave him both better control and better footage.

Read the rest here.

 

New Classes: Essays and Longform

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21, 2017 by frankbures

imagesOn August 5, I’ll be teaching two seminars at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. If you’re interested (and in town) you’re more than welcome:

Going the Distance: Writing Longform Nonfiction

Some years ago, pundits predicted the end of the attention span. Then a strange thing happened: Publishers noticed that longer stories got more readers and better traffic on their websites. People, it seemed, wanted longer, more immersive story. Thus “longform” was born. In this class we’ll look at what that is, how to write it and how to sell it. We’ll learn how you can go long in your essays, travel, features and profiles. We’ll hear from some well-known writers who do this work, and will look at some of the techniques used by top writers to make their longform stories more compelling. Finally we will look at the markets for publishing longform work.

From Here to There: The Art of The Essay

The essay is one of the most ubiquitous genres of writing in our world, and can be the most fun to write. In this class, we will look at the essay’s history, the art of writing them and what is wrong with many essays today (and how to make them right).  Essays have been around for a long time. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is usually credited with inventing the term and the genre, which derives it’s name from the French word, bae16essayer, or “to attempt.” The idea is that an essay tries to move toward an understanding of some questions or event or issue.  Today, they have become one of the more versatile, vibrant genres of writing out there, and we will look at essays running the gamut from the humble op-ed to the sprawling ambitious work of of the great writers of our day. We will finished the class by looking at where and how to published the kinds of essays you want to write.

 

Ill Winds: On Fan Death

Posted in Asia, Culture, Geography of Madness, Press, Science, Uncategorized on June 14, 2017 by frankbures

lead_960Had a nice interview with Katie Heaney for her story at The Atlantic:

Is My Electric Fan Going to Kill Me in My Sleep?

When I was a kid, someone told me that running a fan too close to my face was dangerous to my health, and I’ve kind of believed it ever since. For the 20-some years since, I’ve assumed that person was one of my parents, but when I mentioned this to them recently, neither had any idea what I was talking about. “That doesn’t sound like something I’d believe,” my dad said, and he’s right, it doesn’t. But I know someone in my home once told me to move my fan further away from my bed so I wouldn’t get sick overnight, and if it wasn’t my parents, then who was it? My best guess at this time is a paranoid babysitter. No matter that I never encountered any substantiating evidence; the idea of a fan’s concentrated breeze making me sick held enough intuitive sway in my childhood psyche that it stuck there. Even though I know now that it isn’t exactly true, I wonder if there’s something to the idea—it had to come from somewhere. Right?

In fact, many cultures across the globe have their own stories of wind-based illnesses, says Frank Bures, author of The Geography of Madness. In his book, Bures writes that some ancient Chinese medical texts warned readers of “wind insanity” and even “wind stupidity.” Variations on these beliefs persist today, too; in Italy, people wear scarves around their necks to protect against colpo d’aria (a hit of air), and in the Czech Republic, some people fear the wind from air conditioners and refrigerators, believing they cause rheumatism, among other health issues. Most (if not all) Americans have been told not to go outside with wet hair lest we “catch a chill”—a belief in a cause-and-effect model with little scientific backing. Perhaps the most extreme form of these supposed illnesses can be found in Korea, where they call it something else: fan death, or the belief that running a fan in an enclosed room will actually kill you.

Read the rest here.