New Year poem from Joan Beebe


When I was a child, my parents would

Let me stay up until midnight

When the church bells around us would begin to chime

I was entranced by their sound that

Floated through the air on

those crisp winter nights.

It seemed that their canopy of sound

Was also bringing a reason to celebrate

with music, laughter, dancing because

We bring our hopes and dreams into the New

Year that  lies ahead.


Synchronized Chaos January 2016: Field of Vision

Welcome to a fresh year that hopefully brings a clean slate and invigorating creative possibilities to all of you in the reading audience. This month we take a cue from the dancers in Jess Curtis’ new show Gravity and examine what lies at the edges of our peripheral vision, and also what sits directly in front of us.

The dance show, performed at San Francisco’s Grand Theater, a space for conceptual and experimental art, drew upon audience reactions and interactions to shape the performance. Whether directly by invitation, or in ways the troupe revealed after certain segments, the performers relied upon viewer engagement and participation to determine the length and energy of their pieces. In one scene they intentionally sought to stay in viewers’ peripheral vision, raising questions about who we choose to see and how we decide to acknowledge their existence.

Returning poet Michael Robinson describes a love built on mutual understanding and kindness that begins with a first look, with his speaker and his partner meeting each other’s glance on a bus. Another returning poet, Kahlil Crawford, shows an artist disappearing out of people’s field of vision in a personally chosen, gentle exit. Christopher Bernard, recurrent writer and critic, reviews a new volume from writer Eunice Odio, a poet determined to assert her physical and intellectual existence, to stay right front and center in their line of sight.

Former teacher Caleb Cheung’s talk on new directions in modern American science education, given at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA and reviewed by Cristina Deptula, begins with an audience-participation experiment simple enough for a child to carry out but more complex than it looks. Full understanding of the physical setup, which still eludes professional scientists, involves mathematical modeling and integration of different fields of science.

Jewelry artist Sebastian Lokason describes the reasoning behind how he runs his online store, going in depth into the process of turning a hobby inspired by his faith into a means of earning a living. As with the science demonstration, much more thought and planning has gone into fashioning and marketing his finely crafted pieces honoring Thor, Loki and other deities than would be apparent at first glance.

Returning essayist Ayokunle Adeleye encourages readers in his home country of Nigeria to look beyond their pre-conceived ideas about what constitutes a distinguished career and consider the need for and the value of classroom teaching as an occupation.

Ryan Hodge, in his Play/Write column, also goes beyond preconceived ideas about the roles of women and gives examples of female characters in video games that are neither weak and without agency nor merely replicas of the male characters. It’s possible to conceive of roles that are complementary and unique for these fictional women that go beyond the helpless ‘princess in need of rescue’ but also don’t take stereotypical maleness as a default, don’t assume that a female has to be masculine in order to be strong.

Joan Beebe writes of a snowfall on America’s East Coast, surprising the neighborhood with its peace and beauty. She also describes the nostalgia and fun of a New Year’s Eve celebration, capturing life in front of our eyes with grace. Poet Sada Malumfashi brings us lush wordy mixes celebrating the richness of poetic creation, youthful crushes, and imagination.

Returning poet Tony Glamortramp LeTigre humanizes characters many of us criticize, misunderstand, ignore, or keep on the periphery of our vision in his piece about several offbeat homeless men sharing a short-lived temporary home. In another piece he illustrates the fleeting, but intense moment of watching a loud, noisy train pass.

And Elizabeth Hughes thanks all the authors and the literary community for sending books and making her regular Book Periscope column possible. 

We hope that January’s issue of Synchronized Chaos brings you the same thoughtful sensation of ecstasy as you savor these submissions.

Public domain image from Linnaea Mallette

Public domain image from Linnaea Mallette

Poetry from Michael Robinson


I light a candle in my heart for you in the evening of my life,
Remembering life that your eyes reflect,
I sit silently remembering your gentle words of kindness.

Your touch has awakened my spirit;
My soul glows,
Now the world makes sense.

Two Candles

Alone the light begins to dim, as my breath ceases
Sharing your breath with me, the light begin to rise and glow.

Sadness disappears into the shadows as life returns,
Your spirit burns within me,
Two glowing spirits of life in this one flame

Moments of Life

If this moment is true there are no lies.
Life becomes real, .
Love connects to lost souls.

Continue reading

Christopher Bernard reviews Eunice Odio’s poetry collection The Fire’s Journey: Volume 2

Eunice Odio
Eunice Odio

The Hidden Presence

The Fire’s Journey

Volume 2: The Creation of Myself

By Eunice Odio

Translated by Keith Ekiss with Sonia P. Ticas and Mauicio Espinoza

Tavern Books

66 pages


A review by Christopher Bernard

There is a compulsive uneasiness to being a poet in the contemporary world. He (or she) has little place in a society that only respects makers of goods or providers of services that can “turn a profit.”

But poetry has little place in a market economy; neither the work itself nor any way of presenting it can make enough money to provide a poet with even a modest living, let alone anything like a fortune for himself or his publisher. And, as we all know by now, if your creativity can’t leverage you, at the very least, a few million in investments, with a hundred mill in loans, for the transparency of a billion in mid-term prospect (a modest enough ambition in the world of globalized twenty-first century capitalism), what real value does it have?

Because to be a poet in the modern world means knowingly and deliberately to choose a life of almost indecent poverty, or at best a tight little corner in the dwindling middle class doing something that does not deprive the poet of the time, energy and emotional and intellectual freedom to make the poetry that gives his life meaning. Poets keep the wolf from the door by doing something—anything—else.

In even the recent past, the respectable poverty of the poet was mitigated by respect, even fame: the poet was the voice of his people, of their hopes, loves, defeats, victories, during the great period of nationalism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The poet wrote his people’s love songs, laments, elegies, odes, satires, lampoons, manifestoes, gibes. People loved and admired their poets; they quoted favorite poems to themselves for pleasure and consolation. They found in poems the words they could not find for themselves.

Continue reading

California educator Caleb Cheung discusses new United States science teaching methodologies at the Chabot Space and Science Center (Oakland, CA)

Caleb Cheung, Oakland Unified School District science manager and former middle school science teacher.

Caleb Cheung, Oakland Unified School District science manager and former middle school science teacher.











Two months ago, at an enrichment lecture for volunteers at Oakland, CA’s Chabot Space and Science Center, Caleb Cheung led our group of adults in what seemed to be an ordinary children’s science demonstration. We stuck lit candles in wax and placed them underneath inverted jars in bowls of water, then watched as the candles burned inside the jars and water rushed up from the bowl inside the jar.

We formed groups and took turns writing and speaking in front of the group about what had happened during our experiment. Through hastily drawn graphs, charts and diagrams, we showed off what we had seen to the assembled crowd. Depending on our group composition and professional backgrounds, we drew upon explanations from the chemistry of combustion or the mathematical relationships among temperature and pressure in fluid dynamics.

The easy explanation for what had happened was that the candle flames burned the oxygen from the air inside the jar, creating a vacuum which got promptly filled by water from the bowl. So, we followed up the experiment by using two and then three candles. Lighting multiple candles shortened the time that the candles burned before going out and caused the water to rush up in the jar more quickly. However, wouldn’t the water rise within the jar at a steady rate as the candles burned and the oxygen got consumed, rather than rushing into the jar as the air cooled? That was what we would expect if oxygen combustion were the main factor at play here, but clearly the relationship was more complicated.

Continue reading

Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye

Why Won’t They Fail?

Going through secondary school, I wanted to be a lot of things: an
engineer, a writer, maybe even a farmer. My best friend, Ifeanyi, just
wanted to be a farmer, he just wanted to feed the nation. Today, we
are both medical doctors because my father made the same argument as
her mother: being anything other than medical doctors was a waste of
our brains…

My mother is a teacher, and my father was a teacher, as was his mother
before him. Ifeanyi’s mother was a teacher too. Yet we had to be
doctors, we had little choice. And therein, in open secrecy, is why
our students fail, is why the standard of Nigerian education has since
fallen and yet does, is why our graduates are schooled but not
educated, or educated but not learned!

More and more of our children fail standardized examinations, even
while the textbooks continue to be better written, simpler written,
and written for the lazy, even dummies! “Mathematics Made Easy”,
“Statistics for Dummies”, “Key Points”, “Exam Focus”, and we continue
to encourage laziness and promote mediocrity while we close our eyes
to the root of the problem: the internal brain drain!

Continue reading

Cristina Deptula reviews Jess Curtis’ dance show Gravity

(all pictures by Robbie Sweeny)

When I think of modern dance, I think of something like ‘literary fiction’ in novels: material meant to instruct and comment on society more than to entertain. And Jess Curtis’ show Gravity, which I saw at San Francisco’s Gray Area Grand Theater on Sunday December 13th, definitely lived up to the first objective.

The show left me with thoughts on the nature of performance, human relationships and the theory of mind that became much more clear after I stayed for the talkback with the dancers and UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noe and when I later read more online about Dr. Noe’s theories. Yet, the evening also included fun, laughter, humor and mystery, which became apparent once I understood intellectually what the troupe hoped to accomplish.

During the first section of the show the audience sat on pillows on the floor of the small venue and the dancers pranced and gyrated through pathways around our seats. Scottish artist Claire Cunningham joined Curtis and another male dancer and moved with the aid of crutches. I watched this scene attempting to understand what point they were making: that Claire’s movements were just as lovely as the others? that she was out of place in, or equally a part of, a world made for able bodies?

Continue reading

Ryan Hodge’s Play/Write column: Female Characters


-Ryan J. Hodge

For someone who enjoys a great story, is there anything better than a narrative that engages you from the very start? Imagine a world so rich you can almost smell the scents in the air, a delivery so clever it forces you to think in a way you never thought you would. I’m Ryan J. Hodge, author, and I’d like to talk to you about…Video Games.

Yes, Video Games. Those series of ‘bloops’ and blinking lights that –at least a while ago- society had seemed to convince itself had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In this article series, I’m going to discuss how Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and even Candy Crush can change the way we tell stories forever.

What Videogames Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

It is tempting to say that games have made great strides in their portrayal of female characters since the early days of rescuing Pauline, Princess Peach, & Zelda but, in fairness, there has been a wide array of female (or female identifying) characters ranging outside the role of ‘damsel in distress’ since even the 8-Bit era. Some of the most readily identifiable of these include Samus Aran (Metroid), Carmen Sandiego (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?), Selan (Lufia II), Terra (Final Fantasy VI), and so on.

While inarguably outnumbered by male counterparts (particularly in playable roles), there is still much that games can teach us about writing for female characters.

It is no secret that part of the challenge in writing compelling female characters is to reconcile their character traits with the society in which they exist. There is a temptation to suggest that the best practice for writing a ‘good’ female character is to simply write her as one would a male character and merely replace the pronouns. However not only does this conflate the ‘male’ template as a sort of ‘default’ model, it can also be unnecessarily limiting the character’s scope. Yet, there is an understandable reluctance to dwell over-much on the fact that a character is, indeed, female when the story doesn’t call for it.

Continue reading

Essay from Tony Glamortramp LeTigre

The Two Day Wonder / Memories of Pirate Mike

by Tony Glamortramp LeTigre

I’ll never forget two thousand eleven,
The year i died and went to heaven!

—A rhyme i made in 2013, the year i briefly shared a squat with Pirate Mike

A few pages in honor of my friend, Michael Clift, whom i knew as Pirate Mike, who was reportedly hit by a car while cycling in Texas recently.

Although we were both involved with Occupy San Francisco, i don’t recall meeting Mike there, but rather at Noisebridge hackerspace in the Mission district. I was taking a nap there one evening on “the hacker stacker”—a DIY bunk bed that was an experiment in officially-sanctioned sleeping for that oft vagrant-plagued space—and overheard this guy i hadn’t met before talking with friends about a marathon bike trek he’d recently completed. Mike crisscrossed the country by bike many times, from what i understand. I felt a kinship with him in that some of the technogentsia loathed people like him and myself for dragging radical politics into their supposedly anarchist hackerspace.

I remember reading a logical analysis of the Marxist materialist dialectic in the Noisebridge library one afternoon, and Mike saw me reading it and said something like, “That’s going to be a head full, that’s a serious read.”1

At one point I decided to emulate Mike & make a cross-country trip, but I decided I would make my trip on foot, squatting and hobo-ing my way from coast to coast. I told this to him, and needless to say he approved. So far, I’ve only talked about it, though. He’s the one who did it—and then some.

One night i led Mike and a couple other Noisebridgers on a walk up into Liberty Hill, one of my favorite walks in the Mission barrio. It was around midnight so polite people were asleep, and i brought us to the yard of a building where i’d crashed and stashed myself a couple times. It offered star-spangled hilltop view of the storybook City with its many lights. We hung out, smoked and joked, then moved on. I showed them other mysteries i’d turned up in my wanderings: the house that always had lights on and was eternally under construction that never seemed to move forward; right next to it, my dream house, which i called The Gatsby House, because i read somewhere that was the style of architecture it was built in; I wasn’t sure how to describe it, except that it looked awesome, it never had any lights on and seemed not to be lived in—yet somehow i could never work up the courage to investigate that place. Not far away, i walked us by another oddity set back from the road, apparently built in the style of a renaissance castle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike was familiar with all these spots beforehand, since he was quite the explorer. I was a mere neophyte compared to him in some ways. Nonetheless, he seemed pleasantly surprised by some of it, and thanked me for the tour.2

Another night at Noisebridge, i remember Mike preparing to leave for the night with his bike: “All right, i’m going to head off to one of my sleeping spots now.” Someone had vandalized his bike earlier that day at the hackerspace. He had detractors and ugly moments, i’m told, but I never saw them.

I remember Mike doing a live remote Q&A at Noisebridge for the premier of a documentary on the issue of veteran homelessness. Not sure if it was “his,” or if he was just promoting it. It was connected to a live premiere of some prestige in L A.3 As i recall, he was holding it down so well, so eloquent and strong with his answers to the questions that were being asked, that as soon as it was over i went up and complimented him on doing such a good job. An instance of saying the right thing at the proper moment. It made his day a little brighter, i think, so i’m happy about that. It should show up well in my next interlife review with the angels of light.4 Continue reading

Poetry from Joan Beebe


A New Year is something most

People look forward to in anticipation.

The old year for many of us was filled with

Worry and perhaps health problems.

Fresh and new is the perception in our minds.

So a celebration of “on with the new” and “off with the old”

With parties, music, hats, dancing, streamers and watching

The huge and lighted ball, in New York City’s Times Square,

 slowly move down from

It’s height to the bottom which signals the New Year.

It is a happy celebration because we really have

No idea of what the New Year holds for us.

We all wish Peace and Health in the coming year.

Our hopes are held high for a world of safety,

Contentment and harmony between nations.

And our heads are held high as we move forward

Into the New Year.  We see a light into the future

And our dreams have a purpose to be fulfilled.

Poetry from Tony Glamortramp LeTigre

Chromatic Relativity

Red & yellow believe orange is a combination of the two of them
But what does orange believe?

Ghost train

On the tracks of an old railroad i sat
near the warehouse covered in tags
with the missing doorknob through which i spied
a kingdom of mischief i long to tap
(and I will… in good time)

The tracks were grown over—
long out of use, phantom rails
yet as I sat there in the morning sun
leafing through the halfbuilt cities
and frozen fossils of
my raindamaged, dogeared notebook,
I heard, or imagined, a train whistle;
sensed, rather than saw, the train rushing towards me
(In the timeless atemporality of the implicate order,
all timekeeping ceases, all moments
superimposed upon one another like infinite Photoshop layers;
deliquesced in this “forever soup,” we know
what Vonnegut meant about becoming “unstuck in time”)

Considered fleeing, but stayed put

(“TRAIIIIINNNNN!!!!!!!!” yells Gordy, the lagger, in Stand By Me,
the film which, more than any other,
captures the desolation of myself at age twelve),
braced myself for the oncoming
closed my eyes as the roar of train
and warning whistle waxed from stentorian to deafening,
thought “this could be it…”
gripped the rail with my hands…
one split second from impact…
the train crashes through me like a ghost;
I breathe hugely, & let go