Archive for the Art Category

Burning Down the House: Somali malls, Chinese scrap, flammable art and more in Thirty Two #5:

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Culture on March 5, 2014 by frankbures

Issue_5After a long gestation, I’m happy to announce that Issue No. 5 of Thirty Two Magazine has finally come out. Regular readers will notice the design has changed, and is the cleanest yet for your clutter free reading. But the content hasn’t!  Here are a few of the pieces you’ll find inside:

1) A gorgeous photo essay by Priscilla Briggs on the the history and current state of the shopping mall, for which I wrote the text.

2) A fascinating interview with Bloomberg View China correspondent and author of Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter, in which he talks about the global recycling industry. He also calls out Apple Computers for their deceptive recycling campaign.

3) Jack El-Hai telling how he went from always thinking of the local angle to panning back and going bigger for his new book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist. Elsewhere three other writers, Nicole Helget, Deni Bechard and Jen Percy, talk about the places they wrote their books.

There are also essays by Andy Sturdevant, Josh Cook, and a piece by Forest Lewis about Chris Larson‘s Bauhaus inferno that was titled Celebration/Love/Loss. There are profiles, histories, poetry and fiction (the last by Maggie Ryan Sandford).  And of course the lovely photography of Louisa Podlich.

Pick it up at one of these stores here. Or order it online here. Better yet, subscribe 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!)

Does the Midwest Matter?

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Thirty Two on April 1, 2013 by frankbures

millcity_web-1From Thirty Two Magazine:

Driv­ing north from Des Moines not long ago, I veered off the free­way to a place I knew about but had never had any rea­son to visit. When I got there, I could see why: Mason City, Iowa was a mis­er­able look­ing town filled with func­tional com­mer­cial build­ings that left me with a vague feel­ing of despair as I passed them by.

Nonethe­less, I was there because the city had done some­thing his­toric, some­thing of such cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance that I had first seen men­tion of it on the BBC. It had saved and restored one of the most impor­tant build­ings in the world, the City National Bank and Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and first opened in 1910. Now it had been reborn as the His­toric Park Inn after a $20 mil­lion renovation.

It may be news to you that Mason City exists, let alone that it has such a build­ing. But it does, and the fact that this is not widely known seems to me like some kind of crime. Barely any­one is aware that one of the most archi­tec­turally sig­nif­i­cant hotels in the world could exist in an ordi­nary, down­trod­den Mid­west­ern town. It is this fact that I find both so inspir­ing and so disturbing.

Read the Rest here.

The Uses of Fiction: Why We Really Read

Posted in America, Art, Books, Clips, Science on March 5, 2013 by frankbures

COMC2For years, a giant paper brick sat on my shelf. Its spine read The Count of Monte Cristo. I avoided taking it down because I had other things to do. It clocked in at over a thousand pages of small print – almost half a million words. It hung like a millstone around the neck of my cultural conscience. It was one of the dreaded “classics” that I should have read long ago but never did.

This was easy to justify. After all, how could a nearly 200-year-old tale of intrigue set in revolutionary France relate to my world of computers and space tourism and YouTube cat videos? I had other books to read, about real things, like how to organize my time.

Then one day, for reasons I can’t recall, I took the book off the shelf, started reading, and got hooked. I read page after page. Hours flew by. I would set it down, and whenever I encountered some unpleasant task, I’d find myself reaching for it again. The world around me disappeared as the count and his elaborate web of plans came alive. Eventually, I would reemerge and fret over the time I’d wasted. I had deadlines to meet, like the one for this column. I had bills to pay and a business to run. What could a made-up story have to do with that?

Everything, according to cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley.

Read the rest here.



The Year in Words (or 2012 Recap)

Posted in Africa, America, Art, Arts in Africa, Books, Clips, Culture, Science, Travel on January 9, 2013 by frankbures

IMGP3346It can be hard, as a writer, to watch your stories slip into the past, particularly the ones you love because there is a piece of you in them. So if I  can steal a page from Teju Cole, in a vain attempt to rescue a few from the flow, here are the ones with the most sweat and blood on them, the ones I will miss most from last year:

1) The Crossing (Nowhere Magazine, Djibouti, 5,494 words)
This story is about a tiny, desolate county where humanity took its first steps out into the world, about my traveling to that place, about Bruce Chatwin, about restless genes and ultimately about what pushes us beyond the horizon.

2) The Reunion:  After teaching there nearly 15 years ago, a man learns new lessons about change. (Washington Post Magazine, Tanzania, 2,954 words)
A sort of bookend to a piece I did years ago called Test Day, about teaching English in Tanzania. For this story, I went back to Tanzania and caught up with my students to see where life had taken them. I was as surprised as anyone to find out.


3) Inner Space: Clearing Some Room for Inspiration (Poets & Writers Magazine, Portland/Cyberspace, 3,167 words)
This was a story about my own struggle to find a quiet place to let new thoughts be born, and about the nature of creativity.

4) Fall of the Creative Class (Thirty Two Magazine, Madison/Minneapolis, 3,743 Words)
This story caused the biggest waves of any story I’ve ever done, taking aim as it did at Richard Florida’s so-called Creative Class Theory. It even evoked a defensive response from Florida, which I addressed here and here.

5) Time Travel (The Rotarian, Kenya/Tanzania, 1,074 words)
An essay about something that has vexed me all my life: The feeling of time as it unfolds before us, and how the so-called “timescape” differs from place to place and affects us all.

6) A Very Particular Place: Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (The New Republic, Nigeria, 1,109 words)
A look at Noo Saro-Wiwa’s book about Nigeria, and about the aspirations of the diaspora.

images-17) Notes on the Affairs of Man (World Ark, Kenya, 1,282 words)
A short piece on my struggle to understand how to deal with the many things beyond our control.

On writing life, writing death, Paul Gruchow, and the power of stories we tell ourselves

Posted in Art, Clips, Culture, Science, Writing on December 30, 2012 by frankbures

janfeb_2013_coverThe Secret Lives of Stories: Rewriting Our Personal Narratives, from Poets & Writers

Around the time our daughter turned four, she started making what seemed like odd requests. “Tell me about the sad parts of your life,” she would say at the dinner table. Or, “Tell me about the scary parts of your life.”

This phase went on for a while. I played along, telling her about my appendectomy in Africa, the time I almost fell off a cliff, the time I got a fishhook through my finger. We talked about deaths in the family, and she would sit with her eyes wide, not saying a word, listening as if her life depended on it.

It wasn’t until I’d gone through a whole list of broken bones and broken hearts that I realized what she was really asking: How can I deal with sadness? What should happen when I’m afraid? She was looking for scenarios out of which to build her own. She was looking for directions about which way to turn when she reached those crossroads herself.

After thinking about this for some time, it occurred to me that I had done a similar thing. It was in college, when I discovered that I loved to write. I wondered if I could do it. I wondered, “How do you do it?”

Read the rest here.