The China Mystery Illness and the Power of Stories

4d9c7547g94283a8859d8&690From Undark Magazine: To Believe is to Feel: When a Mysterious Epidemic Isn’t So Mysterious

When U.S. diplomats in the Chinese city of Guangzhou recently started reporting strange, inexplicable symptoms of unknown origin — and which seemed to be spreading among State Department employees — I was reminded of a similar “mystery illness” that I spent some time researching a few hours south of Guangzhou, in a village called Fuhu.

One afternoon in May of 2004, a third-grade boy at a local school in Fuhu reported feeling that his genitals were shrinking. He panicked, ran home, and his parents fetched the local healer — an 80-year-old woman who had seen this sort of thing before: In 1963, she said, around the time of the Great Leap Forward, an “evil wind” had blown through the village and many people were struck by this illness known as “suo-yang.” She treated the boy by traditional means and he recovered quickly.

Two days later when the school principal learned of the incident, he gathered all 680 students in the school courtyard and, according to a report by Dr. Li Jie of the Guangzhou Psychiatric Hospital, “explained to the students in detail what had happened, and warned them to be cautious, and to take emergency measures if they experienced similar symptoms.”

Read the rest here.

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Class: Write Around the World

28238834_1615693778478879_9025094513664493815_oThis summer, I’ll be teaching a half-day class on travel writing at The Loft Literary Center: “Write Around the World: Your Journey from Travel Writing to Publication

When: Saturday, 8/4/18, 9:00 – 1:00 pm

Class Description: “Even in today’s connected world, travel writing remains an indispensable genre. In this class, we’ll look at exactly what travel writing is, where it’s published, the differences between narrative and service-oriented travel writing, and how to know which branch is for you. We’ll look at the craft side, and talk about the business end as well, including how to pitch your story to the right market.”

Instructor: “Frank Bures is the author of The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes. His work has been included in the Best American Travel Writing and selected as “Notable” for the Best American Sports Writing and Best American Essays.”

Hope you can join us!

 

FANS 24 Hour Ultra

ows_152724879512701Last weekend, I got to run the 6-hour race at the FANS 6/12/24 hour ultra. (Wasn’t quite ready for a full day.) It was a great event, with great people for a great cause. Here’s my story from the Star Tribune that ran before the race. Congrats to Sue Olsen for hitting her mark! (And the results are in.)

Early one day in the summer of 1995, Sue Olsen went down to the Lake Harriet and lined up with about 50 other runners for the “FANS 24-Hour Ultra Race.” At 8 a.m., they started going around the lake, which they would circle for an entire day. As an ultrarunner (and future holder of the U.S. 48-hour record), Olsen was not out of her element. Except that on this day, she was nine months pregnant.

“I sat out in the hot part of the day,” Olsen says now. “And I slept some in the night. Back then I would normally be running 130 miles, but I only ran 62 miles. So I was taking it easy.”

The next day, her son John Miles was born.

This year, at age 61, Olsen, of Burnsville, returns for her 28th race, having accumulated 2,914.5 miles (exact mileage matters) since her first FANS. She followed the event as the race moved to Lake Nokomis, then to Fort Snelling State Park, which is where she hopes to be the first runner to top 3,000 miles when the race begins June 2.

Read the rest here.

Minnesota’s Solar Boom

SolarNew from MinnPost:

Ben Butcher and his wife live on a small farm on the outskirts of Backus, Minnesota, where they raised their four kids. He used to work as an automotive mechanic, which is where he got his first experience working with direct current — the kind of electricity that comes out of solar panels. These days, Butcher works with a lot more of it — kilowatts, in fact — as a solar installer. Like a growing number of people in the state, he makes his living directly from the sun.

Butcher works as the construction manager for Real Solar, a subsidiary of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a nonprofit that focuses on getting solar to low-income households. The organization employs 14 people, including between four to six solar installers, depending on the season and demand. Their crew might take three days to put in a 15-kilowatt solar array, or just a day to put in a 2-3 kilowatt system. These days its services are in higher demand than in the past, as the solar industry booms across the state, including rural areas like the one around Backus.

“When I first started,” Butcher said, “we were on the road about 70 percent of the time. But last year, it reversed. The local market has really developed, so we were on the road only about 30 percent of the time. We’re actually looking for another electrician at the moment. But solar electricians are in very high demand right now.”

Read the rest here.

The Same River

SWMFrom Southwest Airlines Magazine: Uncharted Waters:

At 6 a.m., I was shin deep in the Mississippi River, strapping our bags into our canoe so they wouldn’t float away if we capsized. On shore, my wife, Bridgit, stood with our two girls, Libby and Josie, who were skipping rocks.

P1010993Once the last bag was secure, we climbed in and found, to our relief, that there were still several inches between the top of the canoe and the water. We pushed out into the river, and were off on our journey southward.

It was an adventure we had planned ever since we’d moved back to Minnesota nearly a decade ago. I’d grown up in a small Minnesota town called Winona, 120 miles downstream from where we lived now in Minneapolis. It felt important to connect the two places, to 20170627_153041know the river between them. We would row together, like the voyageurs. We would forget about the modern world and its troubles for five days and see our home in a new light. It was just a small piece of the river’s 2,350 miles, but it was a piece filled with meaning for me.

Read the rest here.

Adventure in Entomophagy

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.01.10 PMFrom the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine.

South of Minneapolis, not far from the banks of the Minnesota River, we’re standing at the frontier of food, on the fringe of fine dining. Actually, we’re standing in a field full of clover and goldenrod and thousands—or tens of thousands—of grasshoppers. The insects are what we seek.

With me is Kiah Brasch, one of Minnesota’s few entomophagists, or people who knowingly, enthusiastically, eat insects.

“We go back and forth on what to call the practice,” Brasch says. “If you call it entomophagy, it sounds clinical and unapproachable. If you say edible insects, it sounds like they’re barely edible. It doesn’t sound delicious. So I’ve ended up using insect cuisine.”

What, then, to call people like Brasch? Insect cuisine eaters? Bug biters? So entomophagists it is.

We’re on land owned by a friend of hers. We arrived here early, while the air was cool and the grasshoppers were slow. We started in a stand of tall grasses that was full of fat, Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.02.18 PMhuge differential grasshoppers, one of Minnesota’s largest grasshopper species. They sat still as we picked them up and put them in our net. Soon, though, the sun came up and they got faster. When we reached for them, they would jump away or drop into the grass below and disappear.

Read the rest here.

Under Purple Skies: Minneapolis Stories

Next year, Belt Publishing will be compiling an anthology of essays, stories, and poems about Minneapolis as part of its City Anthology Series.

Minneapolis and the surrounding area has emerged as one of the literary centers of the country, and this anthology will mark the advent of the post-Wobegon era. We are looking for stories, scenes and memories from the city that evoke the place in compelling ways. Submissions can be related to a specific place, event (personal or historical) or personage, and must take place in or around the city. St. Paul will also be considered, as will most suburbs.

The anthology will be edited by Frank Bures, author of The Geography of Madness, occasional instructor at the Loft Literary Center, and editor of the Lester Literary Update. An introduction will be written by Star Tribune “Books” editor Laurie Hertzel, author of News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist.

To submit an entry, please see more details here.

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