January 2010 – Connection in an Isolating Age

 

Welcome to the January 2010 issue of Synchronized Chaos! Our editorial team hopes this magazine release date finds you warm and dry, or cool and happy, depending on wherever you live.

This month our contributors worked with different aspects of communication and connection despite the obstacles of our time – hence, the monthly theme, from the soundtrack to the musical RENT, where frustrated young artists express their hopes for bringing people together through their work and in their own lives.

In some ways, technology connects people much more effectively than ever before. One can call or email people one likely never would have met back in the days of small medieval village life. Yet, as communication becomes faster and faster, we can become so used to immediate updates on the news and on others’ lives that we neglect to invest time and attention in the people around us. William Brixton highlights this contrast in his two short pieces involving highly connected, yet highly confused and distracted, characters, “Text Message” and “The Two Week Solution.” Relationship building takes time and occurs in a context of mutual familiarity and trust, rather than the brevity and immediacy technology can facilitate. Small talk often goes beyond 140 Twitter characters and can run up one’s text-messaging bill – yet this prelude to a deeper connection builds the trust which eventually makes greater levels of intimacy possible.

Joseph Urso introduces a bit of postmodern philosophical fancy, reminiscent of Saint-Exupery, with a fly on the wall who becomes a prophet in order to awaken and distract humans from vain schemes to conquer the world. Here we look into what lengths people (or flies) will go to in order to communicate with each other, and what that connection might look like from another perspective.

Javier Clorio’s documentary Road to Nowhere allows Mexican immigrants working in the United States a chance to share their stories and directly address native-born Americans. Clorio crosses cultural barriers, and literally translates the narrative from Spanish to English, so people may have a chance to connect with each other. We are able to see the commonalities and connections among seemingly disparate people – Americans, and Mexicans, attempting to live the American Dream of material progress and success.

Returning poet Dee Allen bears witness to the fallout when inter-cultural communication breaks down. His contributions this month express his rage at the effects of generations of racism, and at feeling alienated from the Olympics and from mainstream culture in general. Yet, we also see his pride, and defiant assertion through writing that he will continue to exist in his own right and stand for what he believes.

Aerosol paint artist Max Ehrman asserts his vision through a medium which positions his artwork directly in people’s path: spraypaint on walls. Through legal graffiti outlets and eventually art galleries, he connects with others by placing outsized seahorses, palm trees, and other organically inspired images out for public discussion. In Ehrman’s vision, nature comes into the depths of the city, and bright color adorns plain brick and concrete.

Claudine Naganuma, and the rest of danceNaganuma and Peace about Life: Dancing With Parkinson’s cast, crew and ensemble also communicate through contrasts. They cast dancers of a mixture of ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities to metaphorically and literally express how to cope and keep one’s life beautiful even through age and disease.

Cynthia Lamanna’s son Elijah’s poem, recently rediscovered after his passing, also deals with loss and inevitable life change. In honor of a cousin who became like a little sister to him, the piece celebrates their relationship by describing how the sight of their special garden causes him to miss her. Her absence becomes all the more poignant, as he does not describe all that he has lost, but all the beauty which still surrounds him in the garden, but how even that cannot compensate.

Elijah Lamanna’s work illustrates our perennial need for connection and the beauty of communicating and building relationships with others, despite the very real challenges our busy lives and economic uncertainty throw our way. Through this issue, our contributors celebrate and honor this need, and we invite you to connect with the stories they share.

Happy New Year to all those who observe it this January!

Road to Nowhere: Gabriel Hernandez’ Journey. A Film by Javier Clorio

Road to Nowhere: Gabriel Hernandez’ Journey

Javier Clorio’s video documentary profiles undocumented Mexican immigrant Gabriel Hernandez’ unsuccessful attempt to make a better life for himself and his family in the United States.

Road to Nowhere poses a memorable question to its international audience: would you risk your life for the chance to earn ten to thirty times your current salary?

Many Mexican nationals considering legal or illegal migration north to the United States face that dilemma. Through profiling the Hernandez family and focusing in on the economic conditions where they live, filmmaker Javier Clorio presents immigration as more of a pragmatic than a cultural or societal issue. People, whether immigrants or native born Americans, tend to seek out the best available work to support themselves and their families.

For Gabriel Hernandez, that meant choosing the difficult life of a California day laborer rather than staying in Mexico and selling flowers to passersby. Told in his own words, with Clorio filming the family and their simple home, the story contains some surprising, powerful moments. How Hernandez appreciated the food, shelter, and educational opportunities he found while incarcerated in the USA for a crime he swears he did not commit. The fragile solace praying to occult icon Santa Muerte provides him, and the resigned desperation behind his requests. The tension prolonged separation causes for marriages and families when men travel north alone to work, which Clorio presents with compassion and sensitivity.

Clorio presents the desperation of Mexico City’s working classes with the sensibility of a citizen-journalist. Many scenes come across as if he simply walked through town carrying his camera, viewing the cityscape on any random day, stopping whenever he encountered police, street vendors, or any illustrative moment. And it is those panoramic shots of the metropolis which best drive home the points he expresses through statistics – the sense of just how many people live in Mexico, and what it means for high percentages of them to go without adequate education or employment.

Tighter, more attentive filmmaking would strengthen the piece, as sometimes the statistics seem off-center on the screen and at one point the camera shakes, making viewing difficult. Also, organizing the documentary around the emerging themes of faith, family, intercultural communication, and the American/human dream for a better life, with a nod at the middle and the end to what gets discussed at the beginning would make the piece more cohesive.

Road to Nowhere explores root causes for poverty in Mexico through interviews on the street: widespread illiteracy, an inadequate educational system, government corruption and inefficiency. Many impoverished adults never finished elementary school, dropping out to work and help support their families. And the focus on the Hernandez family brought together the personal and the sociological aspects of the piece, showing how statistics affect real people.

Javier Clorio’s documentary left me wondering how we could raise the standard of living for Mexico’s poorest residents, and pointed towards education as a large part of that answer. Clorio’s cityscape pulses with people, many carrying babies and small children. Perhaps if we can teach those children to read and write, and prepare them for the emerging job market, the Road to Nowhere might lead somewhere worthwhile, for immigrants and those who remain in Mexico.

YouTube hosts a trailer for Road to Nowherehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDeXX5deqLc

You may also order the film directly from Clorio by emailing him at j_clorio@hotmail.com

William Brixton’s short story Text Message

 

Text Message

 

I sat staring vacantly at May Yong as she spoke, while I sipped vodka and tried to appear interested. Across the table from me were my hosts at one of the largest law firms in New York. They had rolled out the red carpet for me this week. A town car picked me up, they catered food and liquor, and their conference table was large enough to land an airplane on. Four partners were spending their Friday night sitting in this office welcoming me to New York, and all I could do right now was stare vacantly at May Xu as she delivered her pitch.

 

My phone was on the table, directly between me and May. I had not checked my texts in a while. I wondered if Diana had texted me. I missed her when I traveled. Text messages were a proxy for “being there” for two people who were so busy that they desperately needed technical proxies. I wanted her to be here.

 

An art lawyer in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, William Brixton enjoys chatting, writing, and text messaging in his spare time. He may be reached through comments to this post.  

Continue reading

William Brixton’s Short Fiction: The Two Week Solution

The Two Week Solution

 

Her name was Diana, and I had not stopped thinking about her since the moment I saw her. I am not one to believe in love at first sight, or at all for that matter, and I cannot say what force gripped me those first few moments and refused to let go. I cannot say what attracted me or what held my interest. It was not her beauty since I had long ago steeled myself against such things. I cannot identify in any detail any one quality that held me prisoner. If I could, I would have isolated and exorcised the offending demon. Her attraction held its power in the fact that it was so indefinable.

 

I still remember the first time I saw her. She strode (not walked) into the conference room as if she owned it. We had a very serious discussion about … what, I do not recall and did not pay attention to in the first instance.  I was focused on the intensity of her gaze, the outline of her face, the fullness of her lips, and the thousands of thoughts she could convey without saying a word. I knew right then that I was looking at perfection and when I asked her at the first opportunity to lunch with me, I hoped like hell that she would say no. I knew then that one meeting would be too many, and a thousand would not be enough.

  Continue reading

Fly By Night – Medium-length fiction by Joseph Urso

 

      “A Prophet is not popular in the home town.  A Doctor does not heal family and friends.”

     Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Can’t quite place it though right?  Neither can I and I should, since I meditate on its meanings everyday.    I know this –  and take it from a creature of experience – this is a warning and don’t think it comes from The Creator.  Do you really think The Creator has time to issue warnings like some cosmic Mr. Chips?  No.  No of course not.  This warning  comes from a creature of experience too, one who’s bled, and there’s the problem.  Who wants to be told what to do, especially by someone who gets his ass kicked on the front line because you’re hiding in the rear.  Better to know, not to speak, and watch those who think they know get their asses kicked instead.  He should have stopped to think the bell isn’t  tolling for him.  It’s just a bell making noise. 

     Now if you’re really knowledgeable you probably have an inkling I haven’t a thought of my own, but who does.  Flies never worry about being knowledgeable or popular.  Like the rest of my kind, you might say I’m an observer of the human race.  I’m well qualified for the job since Flies have been buzzing around Earth much longer than you mere Humans.  Try not to be too mystified about my ability to communicate with other Life Forms.Don’t waste your time hiring Ph d’s to figure this out.  Besides isn’t it written all things are possible?

 

Joseph Urso has been writing for many years and lives with his wife in upstate New York. He may be reached via e-mail: ribera.14@hotmail.com

 

Read the rest of Joseph Urso’s Fly By Night (3400 words) here: http://community.livejournal.com/chaos_zine/7313.html

 

Peace About Life: Dancing With Parkinson’s – a production of DanceNaganuma

all photos are by Matt Haber
Peace About Life; Dancing with Parkinson’s
danceNAGANUMA
www.dancenaganuma.com

A few weeks ago I enjoyed the privilege of visiting San Francisco’s CounterPulse Theater for DanceNaganuma’s Peace About Life show. Performers of all ages, including very young children and older adults with Parkinson’s disease, moved about the stage. Sometimes soaring and gliding like ballerinas, and other times marching, brushing each other off, and conveying tension through more rigid postures, the dancers illustrated the different moods and aspects of the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease.

Anecdotes about life post-diagnosis served as a background for some of the dancing: one woman resolved to push her body as far as possible through exercise rather than resign herself to helplessness, another man made peace with the wavy lines in his paintings after losing some control of his hands. Yet, the presence of people of all ages, with and without the disease, and the reliance on universal themes of interdependence, family relations, coping with aging and life transitions, rather than on specific medical details, made this dance performance a piece on the stages of life, relevant for many people outside the Parkinson’s community.

Some medical research at the University of Colorado-Denver currently looks into possible health benefits for Parkinson’s patients who dance or engage in other forms of exercise. Dance may actually prove especially beneficial as it encourages practice in the accurate, mindful motions which the condition tends to make difficult.

 However, DanceNaganuma’s performance exists as much for the audience as for the cast and crew. This is not a physical therapy session, but a presentation of complex emotions and life’s confusion (in particular, a standout piece where dozens of young voices and bodies surround a few performers, all simultaneously chanting different ideas on what is most important in life.) This piece created the visceral effect in me which the choreographer hoped to convey: I had to restrain myself from jumping up and screaming for everyone to be quiet! In another scene, which earned my nods of recognition, many different people surrounded a single young healthy woman, attempting to pose her, make her smile, make her look presentable, and she fell out of line each time. Those with Parkinson’s themselves are not the only ones affected by the condition, or by aging in general – and I appreciated the attention paid to the effects on family and friends.

Not every piece seemed jerky and confused: some, especially the opening segment with dancers in flowing orange robes, reflected the grace and beauty still present within the participants’ movements. This gave dignity to all of the dancers – by allowing them to show off the best they could do in whatever condition life had brought them, rather than having them convey imposed ideas of ‘weakness’ or ‘age.’

Overall, Dance Naganuma’s Peace About Life: Dancing with Parkinson’s excels at living up to all the aspects of its name. The cast strikes a balance between illustrating life with a serious movement disorder and presenting their company’s skill at creating beautiful movements and stage pictures. Through conveying the disease’s effects through nontraditional methods (spoken word anecdotes, abstract renderings of emotion) and through the mix of ages and ethnicities present on stage, the company communicates a real sense of peace about life: that although one’s looks and ability to move will change with one’s age and health conditions, there is still a place where all people are welcome to come out and participate in public, where we do not have to camouflage or ignore reality to find and present the beauty of the human body, of movement and life in all its forms.

About Claudine Naganuma, the company’s founder:

Claudine Naganuma founded danceNAGANUMA in 2001. She has served as the Managing Director of Danspace since 2002 where she teaches modern dance, ballet and composition. Her company danceNAGANUMA is in residence at Danspace and has been producing work and performing in festival settings annually. She was selected as a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Hong Kong/San Francisco exchange artist in 1999. She also received a Jack Loftis and Vibeke Strand Honorary Fellowship while at the Djerassi Artist in Residence Program. Her costume designs merited an Alexander Gerbode Foundation Award as well as two Isadora Duncan nominations for costumes in 1995 and 1992. She received her M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from Mills College and her B.A. in English Literature from Dominican College. She studied Early Childhood Education at the Mills College Children’s School and continues to teach specialty classes at Aurora Elementary School and St. Paul’s Episcopal Schools in the East Bay. Claudine served as the Artistic Director of Asian American Dance Performances from 1992 to 2004 taking it into its 32nd anniversary.

A poem, from Cynthia Lamanna’s son, to his cousin

 

From Elijah Plummer:

In your childhood we played in the yard
“Paradise” was no further than the fence line
It was our canvas of joy upon which we painted
All the colors of loves imagination.Afterwards, years later, when that love
had learned the pain of distance, i
found my way back into that yard.

the “loquatz” tree was full as usual and
the “stone fire put” looked ever so lonely
nothin had changed except that YOU
were not there. And because of that
not the sunlight and fresh air, not the
singing birds nor garden scents
could remove the shadow from my heart;
i cried…

Paraphrased from Cynthia’s description of this piece:

Cynthia’s son Elijah wrote this for his cousin Bethany, who was like a little sister to him. He would go stay with the family nearly every weekend for several years before he passed away at age twenty-six.

Though he wrote many sad poems, he lived with passion and purpose. Psychology fascinated him, and he may have been somewhere on the autistic spectrum. He was a beautiful soul, and I am honored to share this piece of his with you.

Cynthia Lamanna may be reached at cynthialamanna@yahoo.com