Maeve by Moonlight: Short fiction by M.R.C. of Chaos Creations

 

The late afternoon sun was blasting searing heat off the endless sand around the jeep. Corporal Eamon Donough finally slammed the wrench down, sucked on his bloody knuckles one last time and looked around him in disgust.

He and the small unit of men he had been with had been attacked by aircraft earlier that morning. Two dead, one badly wounded, and himself with minor injuries. Their jeep labored as they struggled to make their way to a small oasis that was marked on the map they carried, it was supposed to be neutral territory and many of their troops were in the area.

 

Eamon walked around and glanced into the jeep and sighed. Sergeant Anderson, the only other survivor, had died. Eamon had known it was coming, the injuries were just too bad, but it was still a frightening reality that he was standing in the desert with a disabled jeep, three corpses and damn little else. He thought for a few moments, then began scavenging items from the jeep, setting them aside and building them into a pack. He then carefully arranged the three bodies to lie in state in the jeep and covered them with a tarp the best he could to keep off carrion birds.

 

Read the rest of the story here:

M.R.C. of Chaos Creations may be reached by commenting here or on the above website. She is a talented writer and photographer with a rich imagination that has carried her through challenges in life.

Missy Feigum’s Lil’ Abominations

 

 

I am a painter currently living and working in San Francisco, California. I have been painting since the age of 19 when I discovered that the skills I acquired in college art classes could be applied to the examination of my own psyche. Since then, I have used painting as a tool to help me better understand myself, creating honest, humorous, moody and expressive paintings.

 

Currently, I am compelled to explore freaks of nature, animals whose physiology verges from the normal. Though often considered horrific–especially when created with imperious intent by humankind- they can be endearing as well. When I stumble across their images, I find myself unable to pull my eyes away: pity and revulsion battle it out within me as I peer in fascination at their abnormalities. I know I am not alone in my fascination as images of these unique creatures abound in the media. On the Internet alone they are often the most emailed image of the day, some achieving a near celebrity status.

 

My latest work “Little Abominations” is a series of animal portraits rendered in a whimsical, brightly colored fashion, giving them a children’s-room feel. This initially distracts from their deformities. Once the ‘wrongness’ of the animals is spotted, the too-vivid colors and over-the top cutesiness seem cloying and twisted. My intent is to re-create for the viewer the juxtaposition between the allure and repulsion I feel for these oddities.

Missy Feigum’s work is on display at San Francisco’s Artist’s Exchange (16th St. near Valencia.) She may be contacted at catsbah@gmail.com or online at www.missyfeigum.com

 

 

In conversation with Bruno Ricci, up and coming South Bay guitarist

 

Up and coming musicians Bruno Ricci and Brian Fernandez – based out of Santa Clara County, acoustic guitar fusion music. Interview conducted at San Jose’s Nostra Pizza, home of the most delicious calzones and photography all over the walls with scenes from Italy and Argentina. You have a lot of influences…were they conscious or unconscious? Does a new musician set out to emulate or do a takeoff on someone else, or does it just happen?

 

 Our souls are like fingerprints. You recognize a fingerprint as a fingerprint, but each one is different from the others.  

My influences were initially conscious, then became unconscious. I started with all the music I liked, even though it wasn’t cool then. Ken Loggins…Culture Club, Boy George, Billy Idol.

There’s more value placed on originality today…you’ll get popular if you sound like yourself, have your own niche inspired by people you admire.


What distinguishes you from other musicians…what do you feel makes your sound unique?

Probably the way [my friend and bandmate] Brian Fernandez and I play off of each other. Brian is a supervising chemist and a UCLA grad….very smart and knows music theory too! We’re a real mix of educated and undereducated people.  Some know music theory, while some, such as myself, don’t.

Also passion, inspiration…I came up with Calibama spur of the moment during a performance…everyone was amazed and thought I’d spent more time on it, but it just came to me.

Review: Ina Wong’s Su-Ling’s Treasure

 

Mei and I stood transfixed on the deck with our eyes and mouths wide open as we saw the sun rise from behind the horizon, little by little, as if shy of the open sea and sky.  Then suddenly, it shot up into the heavens, high and majestic, golden and glowing, giving warmth and light to the world beneath.

Many authors convey mood and enhance setting and scene by incorporating sunrise and sunset descriptions into their novels. Ina Wong, creator of the young adult novel Su-Ling’s Treasure, handles the common literary device in a relatively original way, depicting two young Taiwanese immigrants watching from the bow of the ocean liner bringing them to 1960’s America. The title character, Su-Ling, an orphaned sixth grader adopted by an American couple, and her college-age cabinmate Mei bond through waking up early and searching the ship for the best vantage point, and continue a friendship after disembarking in the new country.

Religious faith plays a strong role in many characters’ lives, reflecting the outreach efforts of Chinese-American Christians to the recent immigrant population during this time period. Faith provides the core sense of identity and purpose which helps the newcomers survive and adapt to their new environment. The events on the ship, and the events surrounding Su-Ling’s beautiful necklace, which actually belongs to one of the orphanage’s teachers, show faith naturally integrated into the plot and the characters’ lives. Other segments of the book could be enhanced by more closely grounding each and every spiritual and philosophical thought in the physical reality of the characters’ lives, interspersing paragraphs of personal realization and growth with action and description.

Su-Ling’s Treasure offers a very human, interesting variety of characters within Su-Ling’s elementary school class, from the silly, annoying bully Big George to the popular, outgoing Jennifer to the creative, sensitive Miriam. At first glance the children may seem stereotypical, but the characterization works here as we see people through Su-Ling’s eyes, inspiring knowing recognition from many readers who remember their elementary school days. The action, thoughts, and physical descriptions balance well together to create compelling scenes, which keep people turning the page to see what our young heroine will encounter or decide next.

Along with the suspense and pacing, this book’s power comes from its lack of melodrama. Missing math homework, spelling bees, birthday parties, and other childhood events create a backdrop for the novel’s themes of repentance and forgiveness, intercultural tolerance, and loyalty among family and friends. Wong did not feel the need to ‘spice up’ the novel with more dramatic events, which keeps Su-Ling’s Treasure realistic and more easily relatable by exploring serious themes within the simple, ordinary setting. Also she demonstrates how much one can grow and learn through ordinary life, how even average events can spark transformation.

The book struck me as slightly unfinished at the end, although Su-Ling and Miriam reconcile at long last through admitting to each other that they have made similar mistakes in life. Su-Ling also finally makes her decision concerning her shiny necklace, the object and moral concern which serves as a unifying plot thread. Many issues get resolved and Su-Ling and Miriam certainly develop as characters, but I wondered what would happen once Su-Ling had to face school permanently without her best and only friend.

Overall, Su-Ling’s Treasure serves as a compelling story, not simply for immigrants, although one can certainly learn much about historical newcomers to America from this piece. I did think through my positions on bilingual and multicultural education while reading this novel, but this book is much more than an ‘issue’ or themed piece. Children and adults of all nationalities and life experiences can relate to and learn from the universal human themes of personal growth and change present within the pages.

Ina Wong seeks an agent or publisher for Su-Ling’s Treasure and can be reached at inawong@aol.com

Conversation with experimental independent band Corpus Callosum

 

Corpus Callosum is an independent group based out of Santa Clara, California. Known for transforming ordinary objects into musical instruments, their motto is “To Confuse and Terrify.” They explore bits of history and unusual facts and stories through their songs, and have been reviewed as ‘both behind and ahead of our time.’

Guide to bandmates by initials:

AB: Avery Burke (guitar, songwriter)
DT: Dax Tran-Caffee (accordion, glasses, songwriter)
QC: Qarly Canant (ukelele, glasses)
SH: Stevie Hryciw (keys, keys, keys)
AC: Andrea Craer (mandolin)
JS: Jason Samaha (percussion)

You have a lot of influences…were they conscious or unconscious? Does a new musician set out to emulate or do a takeoff on someone else, or does it just happen?

AB: I feel that artists (musicians or whoever else) should always remain as conscious of their influences as they possibly can. Especially when you first begin to generate a body of work. Ira Glass of the NPR show This American Life once said something to the effect that when he first started out in radio he had taste but no idea how to express himself; he had no voice and no clear artistic vision. Everybody starts out that way: you have taste but no voice. This is especially true for musicians, I think, and it manifests itself in the phenomena (well observed at open mics) that most new musicians just sound like their influences. Some musical outfits never graduate from this stage, and that suits them fine. But really good acts eventually find a unique voice – I would like to think that Corpus Callosum is slowly progressing toward this latter sage of artistic maturation. In my opinion keeping your artistic influences present in your mind while creating and performing makes the difference between referencing and imitation.

What distinguishes you from other musicians…what do you feel makes your sound unique?

DT: There is a significant compulsion in all of us in the band to make something unlike anything we have heard before, but this has always been tempered by a desire to craft quality songs and compositions with lasting taste.  Because most everyone in music is trying to do ‘something different,’ however, I think that it is actually the latter impulse that has separated us the most from our peers.

Where do you get your song ideas? Share more about your process in composing. Music or lyrics first?

QC: Avery and Dax are really the strong stead of inception for our songs. One of them will have an idea and it will be posed to the group. Sometimes they have an idea of an arrangement already, other times we work together to discover a sound that pairs well with the skeleton of the piece.

DT: Personally, I can’t help but write the lyrics first, like a poem, and then try to slap it over a silly vamp.  This produces horrible results, of course, which I present to the band and hope that they can help me sort it out.

Did/do you have a mentor with whom you worked to develop your music?

SH: For Corpus? Just each other. The songs are very collaborative, especially recently.

DT: I have painting mentors and performance mentors and puppet mentors, but I have never had a musical mentor.  I wonder if this is why music has been my most satisfying form of expression.
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Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You! Review of Ashlee Holland’s memoir of a life with hearing loss

 

Ashlee Holland’s Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You begins with a unique title which grasps readers’ attention while articulating the need for sensitivity to others’ forms of communication. Written with compassion and mindfulness of the variety of backgrounds readers may come from, the book describes and educates others about various aspects of the deaf/hard of hearing experience.

Holland includes readable scientific and technical information concerning technologies assisting the hard of hearing, causes of hearing loss, and medical procedures which can restore some hearing to deaf people. While incredibly informative and well-researched, the piece could be strengthened with a more visible sense of internal thematic organization, whether chronological or topic-based.

She presents and explains various points of view on controversies within the Deaf and the educational communities, such as whether to surgically provide children with cochlear implants and whether to focus on sign language or lip reading. Ashlee Holland herself has learned to speak, sign, and lip read, and by choosing a cochlear implant has participated in both the deaf and hearing worlds, so she can speak from personal experience on a range of these topics. Turn the Lights On is a gentle, dispassionate source of information and a personal story, not a polemic for one cause or another.

The piece includes enough personal anecdotes and memories to resist becoming a textbook or reference manual.  We read of Ashlee’s relationship with several dogs throughout her life in the chapter on how pet dogs can assist the deaf, and we learn about her close friendships – but exclusion from games such as Telephone – in the section on helping children with hearing loss succeed. Later on we read of her dating life, marriage and motherhood, complete with pictures of her family. Complete with a pinch of humor, the photos include “Speak No Evil, Hear no Evil, See no Evil,” a family portrait with her husband’s eye and baby’s mouth covered.

Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You provides a personal glimpse into a different set of life experiences in a friendly, engaging tone. Ashlee Holland has created a work informative for those who know a hard of hearing person and interesting and easy to read for just about everyone.

Ashlee Holland can be reached, and periodically posts updates, at the Turn the Lights Out, I Can’t Hear You Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47067223183&ref=ts

In conversation with Shanna Gilfix, acoustic soul singer

 Sunnyvale-based singer Shanna Gilfix, and her bandmate Richard Adoradio, posted on their Myspace page that ‘music is the remedy for the mundane.’ Working through, acknowledging and processing common emotions in fresh ways has become part of their style and purpose. They hope to create danceable, ‘listenable’ music so people will have fun – and also find strength through realizing they are not alone in whatever they might be going through at the moment. We at Synchronized Chaos discussed music and the creative process with Shanna recently and would like to share her thoughts.

Our words in bold:  
 
 

 

Describe some of your musical influences. Does a musician set out to emulate someone else, or does it just happen? 

I’ve listened to some musicians for so long that I can’t help but be influenced by them. When I start writing I never think, oh, it should sound like something or another.

I’ve taken all kinds of genres of today – Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, country, rock, beach music…gone all over the board, melded things together looking for listenability. Creating something that people will like and enjoy hearing, [which is more important to me than showing off technical ability or trying to sound ‘out there’ or experimental for the sake of it.]
What distinguishes you from other musicians…what do you feel makes your sound unique?
 
 

 Richard and I feed off of each other while we are playing and composing, and when we’re performing we want people to feel something. I need to be feeling it also so people in the audience can relax into a song, deal with the emotions and know that it’s okay to feel the way they do.Each song is a chance to acknowledge and release something you’ve been holding on to.

 “Questions Never Lie” is my favorite song to perform…it helped me through a time in my life when I wasn’t sure what I should do. The piece took over a year to write. Richard asked me to finish the piece, and for some reason I just couldn’t and it stayed unfinished for months. So he started writing something else and that naturally fed into the song. The lyrics reference a Zen center we visit … where they encourage you to just sit with yourself, take some time to figure things out. And it’s okay if that doesn’t happen for awhile.

 Each song explores a different type of emotion, or sometimes just helps people to feel good. We like to leave our listeners with smiles on their faces.

You make many of your hit pieces and new compositions available online. How do you believe the Internet has affected your music?

Well, I’ve actually Googled a lyric from one of our songs to see if anyone else had said it just that way before!

It’s seriously amazing to see the response to music we’ve posted online, I feel totally validated by the Internet. It’s possible for us to reach half a million people there, and to have fans in Cairo, Japan, and Colombia. If we go on a world tour there will be people who remember us from YouTube! And it’s great to see others helped by our music, people who go through bad breakups or other issues who know they are not alone in what they feel.

What advice would you have for an aspiring musician?

Play, go to open mics, surround yourself with incredible artists, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Keep trying new things, have fun. If it’s not fun anymore, it’s not worth it anymore.

Also you have to prove you can handle the business aspect, pull off shows where people come, build up your own fan base. My brother is a business consultant and has advised us along the way, and we get exposure through iTunes and house parties.

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So Long, Status Quo: Review of Susy Flory’s new historically inspired memoir

 

What sets major historical figures, such as Queen Elizabeth, Mother Theresa, Harriet Tubman, and others apart from the rest of the world? Circumstances, personality, the people around these leaders? Author and speaker Susy Flory grapples with these questions in her new nonfiction genre-crossing high concept memoir So Long, Status Quo: What I Learned from Women who Changed the World. Each chapter incorporates a short biography of one of Flory’s female role models, including specific, lesser-known facts and anecdotes which enable the author to find a personal connection.

The well-researched history could easily become the heart of this piece, as many educated readers find themselves learning much they did not know about the spotlighted women. However, Flory carries her identification one step further by taking one small step of action inspired by each memorable heroine. She fasts for a day to practice self-denial in the spirit of Mother Teresa, pawns some jewelry and gives the money to dig wells in Africa in honor of Harriet Tubman’s donating the jacket off her back to secure lodging for escaped slaves, and shares food and friendly conversation with neighborhood homeless people after reading of Elizabeth Fry’s outreach to women prisoners, many incarcerated for nonpayment of debts.

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Discussion with director Alex Cameron, on the upcoming independent film Michael’s Resignation

An interview/conversation between Synchronized Chaos Magazine and Alex Cameron, director of the upcoming British independent film Michael’s Resignation.

From the film’s website, to catch everyone up to speed with the project:

Michael’s Resignation” is just the first episode from a series of 7 modern-day film parables collectively titled “Multivalence” written by Alex Cameron in 2008 and set in the UK around the 21st century recession, or so-called “credit crunch”. We follow 6 central characters and their powerful and highly-dramatic life-changing experiences, with the last (7th) film connecting them all together into a “bigger picture”.

The series is designed as a unique platform for undiscovered young talent and features:

  • A script written collaboratively online by a group of young screenwriters;
  • Characters played by young unknown actors and actresses;
  • A bustling soundtrack composed of unsigned bands;
  • Investment drawn from opening up the movie financing to ordinary people;

(Our questions and thoughts are in bold, with Cameron’s responses in normal type.)  

I’m excited/intrigued by how you are using all unsigned bands, aspiring new screenwriters, etc. How did everyone find each other? Was everyone initially on the same page in terms of plot and style, etc?

I’m glad you like it! We’ve been amazed at how positive the response has been so far, as it seems like a lot of people have been waiting for a project to come along with that finally decided to go the way we have. Once Joby Stephens (Director) and I had finalised the story, I decided the first logical place to look would be Facebook because of the way it fosters groups of people with the same interests and has fairly strict privacy controls. Luckily the story was already written beforehand so the cat-herding was kept to a minimum. All the characters, storyline twists and final scenes were set out on PlotBot.com, so all that remained was to organise the writers. We set up high walls but let everyone go mad in the garden, so to speak, by allowing anyone to write any part they wanted to. Our theory was that natural selection would take care of the details as the script evolved and a meritocratic approach to editing brought us to the final version.

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Book Review: There Is No Secret Sauce – Adam Metz

I first encountered Adam Metz as a co-speaker at a San Francisco networking event empowering the unemployed to advertise and market their way into new positions. His workshop that day, “The Def Leppard Guide to Networking,” provided fun, pragmatic strategies for engaging people offline. People out of work became resourceful innovators pioneering new approaches to meet challenges, rather than victims or irrelevant dead weight. The new book There Is No Secret Sauce takes on the same task for online organizational social media, enlivening and equipping employees to spark their firms’ interest in joining the next space for conversation.  

                At seventy-five pages, perfect for busy workers’ train and bus reading, No Secret Sauce possesses high readability without sacrificing big-picture or specific information. A ‘Lemonade Stand’ plan for inexpensive, workable social media fits the style and needs of smaller organizations, while larger firms can find the detailed specifics they seek through Metz’ second set of options. The clever titles grab attention and the piece reads like a series of blog posts, informative while humorous and chatty.

Metz intersperses basic human values – honesty/transparency, professional courtesy, humility and helpfulness to others – amidst the technical information. Public relations crisis management involves pro-actively acknowledging a problem, taking responsibility, and keeping users updated on efforts to fix it. Social media (blogs, Twitter, online groups, etc.) should incorporate free useful content and one should not blast one’s own message all over other online networks without contributing to the community. These human values, and the plain-English accessibility of the software descriptions, make No Secret Sauce useful for those with varying familiarity levels with online networking tools.

                Metz works his acknowledgement that not everyone has experience with social media into this user guide, developing an action plan for selling one’s company on the idea of responsive Internet communication. Readers learn how to effectively persuade organizational leaders to experiment with new ventures through gently asking questions, suggesting how to meet identified needs, doing research and providing information, and incorporating everyone into the input and decision process. This method sounds good for introducing a wide variety of innovations, not just social media – and the emphasis and specifics on inspiring organizational creativity fill a real need as worldwide industry adapts to globalization and the changing economy.

                Adam Metz’ There Is No Secret Sauce approaches new technology with interest and optimism, encouraging firms and their ordinary employees to embrace not simply Internet communication, but a new model of transparency and dialogue based on human values. I would heartily recommend this piece and encourage him to produce a similar guidebook to interpersonal networking.

                Metz provides social media consulting and may be contacted here: http://adammetz.com/

Announcement: Marketing Workshops for Artists

Aimed at artists of color but open to all artists in Santa Clara County. All workshops free, from 1 to 4 pm at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose.

April 25, 2009: Creating a Marketing Plan for Success, led by Carlos Velazquez, marketing manager for Teatro Vision.

May 2, 2009: Maximizing Media Coverage of your Art, led by Michael Chihak of the San Francisco based SPIN project.

May 9, 2009: Producing a Successful Cultural Event, led by veteran producers Chris Esparza of Giant Creative Services and Tommy Aguilar of UnGrammar.

May 23, 2009: Planning your Art Career, led by Favianna Rodriguez, renowned artist, co-founder of East Side Arts Alliance and TUMIS design studio in Oakland.

For more info or to RSVP, contact Carlos Velazquez at 408-250-6965 or sbacw@hotmail.com

Ada Lovelace Day post – Sally Ride: Astronaut, Speaker, Publicist

In honor of the international Ada Lovelace Day celebration of women in science and technology fields, my blog today honors NASA astronaut Sally Ride. NASA’s website for Inspirational Women: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/people/bios/women/sr.html

I had the honor of meeting Sally Ride personally a few years back at a lecture I attended through the Chabot Space and Science Center. Warm and personable, Ride demonstrates how one can serve as a gifted communicator while bringing about progress in a highly technical field. To Ride, scientists can and should reach out to the general public to articulate their goals and to serve, educate, and inspire others.

Sally Ride served as Capsule Communicator for the second and third Space Shuttle flights and helped develop the Shuttle’s robotic arm. She flew in space twice aboard the Challenger, part of a crew which tested the use of the robotic arm to retrieve satellites, conducted pharmaceutical experiments, and demonstrated the potential for refueling satellites in space. Also she led investigation of the Challenger disaster to help improve astronaut safety.

Currently Sally Ride works to promote interest in science and space among young people and has written several space-related children’s books. In the lecture I attended, she encouraged highlighting the variety of careers and disciplines involving math and science knowledge. Science can be accessible for people of many different personality types – one does not have to be antisocial with crazy hair and no outside interests to make a contribution to a technical field. Researchers have lives too – families, friends, etc – and plenty of perfectly normal people (as well as plenty of unusual ones) pursue science-related careers.

I would also like to spotlight the Women Who Tech free teleconference http://www.womenwhotech.com/ on May 12th, which brings together women in information technology, social media, open source software, etc for networking and idea sharing. Panel discussions include Launching Your Own Start-Up, Social Media Return on Investment, and Tech Marketing in a Recession and Women and Open-Source Software. Signups open in April, join the mailing list from the Women who Tech website. I will attend as editor/Creative Facilitator of Synchronized Chaos Magazine (http://www.synchchaos.com) and would love to see everyone! I believe there are many opportunities available through technology and applying the entrepreneurial spirit shown through social media/open source/tech startups to create new business models for the new economy.

I celebrate all the men and women doing creative work in science and technical fields and encourage readers to follow their interests wherever they lead.