Greetings, readers, and welcome to August 2014’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Even as we look to the future, we sometimes find that our pasts cast long shadows. This month, as in Salvador Dali’s famous painting with the melting clocks, we acknowledge the Persistence of Memory.
Our creative writing pieces reflect the influences of the past, cultural, historical or personal. Felino Soriano’s poetry draws inspiration from jazz music, with words scattered on the page in a style reminiscent of improvisation. Peter Jacob Streitz’ poetry mentions past revolutions and the ghosts of subtle, non-life-threatening miseries. Ed King’s narrator finds himself processing his recent breakup as he attempts to join Shanghai’s youth culture on his vacation. Darlene Campos’ piece evokes the comfort she experienced from her grandmother and the Native American reservation where her relatives lived. Carl Gridley’s elegant pieces mourn the death of people, relationships, books and the written word. And, as James Kowalczyk suggests in his story ‘Another Day, Another Victim,’ even demons with strange appetites have pasts they may wish to record in diaries.
Cristina Deptula’s poem ‘Spontaneous Grace’, an ode to kindness and happy circumstance, is a takeoff on Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac’s concept of Spontaneous Prose. Thomas Smith deals with his protagonists’ memory and grief in one of his short stories, “Jon and Beauty.” Tony Longshanks le Tigre, in his poem “Zen Master in the Cat’s Pajamas,” probes our traditional, cultural, nearly spiritual fascination with cats.
Michelle Bellon’s biotechnology suspense novel Rogue Alliance, reviewed this month by Fran Laniado, presents a romantic adventure between a traumatized, jaded Drug Enforcement Agency detective and a man who has escaped secret government genetic manipulation. Ally Nuttall’s young adult novel Spider Circus, reviewed by Sarah Melton, gives us a young teenage heroine who enters the supernatural adventure while processing rejection from peers and her parents’ divorce. While these works show characters who are both hampered and motivated by their personal pasts, James Nelson’s memoir The Trouble with Gumballs, reviewed by Susan Maciak, humorously details the author and his family’s attempts to succeed in a business representing a quaint slice of America’s supposed carefree past – the gumball machine.
Elizabeth Hughes, in her monthly Book Periscope review column, describes Lynn Snyder’s play collection Blackmail, whose contents, like the dramas of ancient days, deal with universal themes such as official corruption and tragic romance. Uniquely, though, the works are intended as much to be read in book form as to be performed. Oral performance would be more in keeping with the history of drama as an art form, but Snyder is innovating in order to make her work more accessible to more people, as live performances can be expensive. Her fresh satirical humor also makes her work unique.
Hughes also reviews Mary Mackey’s new poetry collection Travelers with No Ticket Home, which explores Mackey’s recent visits to Brazil in a dreamlike, hallucinatory manner. Mackey evokes the natural beauty of the area and the resilience of the favela town residents while acknowledging the real threats to the area from gang violence and the destruction of the rainforests. She honors Brazil’s past without romanticizing the nation.
This month’s nonfiction essays also hark back to days long ago. UC Berkeley’s Dr. Mark Goodwin, in a lecture reviewed by Cristina Deptula, outlines fossil finds within hills east of San Francisco. Ayokunle Adeleye invokes the Hippocratic Oath in a piece supporting a medical providers’ strike within Nigeria, and references the ancient divinity Janus in another essay further developing his critique of his country’s medical system. Ryan Hodge also looks back to life lessons we teach ourselves through old video games in his new column Play/Write.
Ayokunle Adeleye also encourages entrepreneurs to start early to develop a lifelong legacy by investing in land. Olga Mack and Yun Yun Huang’s infographic gives advice to business people through an illustration offering advice on how to negotiate. The concept of this work reflects old-style instructive maxims, such as Benjamin Franklin’s aphorisms and Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How To Win Friends and Influence People. Not through the infographic’s color or style, which is a modern and friendly shade of pink, but in terms of the upbeat advice given and the concept of being able to achieve success through one’s own efforts.
Neil Ellman’s poetic responses to modern art pieces stand out within this issue because of how they reflect the theme through contrast. We see what happens when objects and sensations exist on their own, examined in themselves without context. In a somewhat similar vein, Thomas Smith, in his short story “15 Minutes” explores how reality television and instant celebrity status conferred upon random people renders social interactions false by depriving them of their natural context. Within the culture of reality shows and competitions, people are encouraged to aspire to get suddenly ‘discovered’ rather than to build up a career and legacy gradually over time. Then, once discovered, as with Thomas Smith’s protagonist, they find themselves acting in a certain way because people want to see a certain type of character or plot twist rather than having the interaction arise naturally out of their relationships.
In his short piece “Zuckerface,” Peter Jacob Streitz offers further wry reflections on social media and pop culture. In another piece, “What’s So Funny,” he points out that death and suffering are specific, graphic realities, not just parts of jokes or stereotypes, and perhaps, in his words, ‘not all that funny after all.’
Llyn Clague’s new poetry collection, The I in India and Us, as reviewed by Christopher Bernard, illuminates both the ugly poverty and creative beauty of India, as Mary Mackey does for the parts of Brazil she has visited. Also, Clague suggests that not every idea or value we hold has to be completely personal and subjective. Maybe we can adopt some of the ethos of the older days, when, some people, even if they were wrong, were less afraid to have a mission, to decide to be something specific, to say and mean something.
This month’s issue and contributors attempt to become and say something, while reaching into their personal and our collective pasts for inspiration. We invite you to join them in reflecting on how who we were has made us into who we are.
Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory