Synchronized Chaos April 2016: Escape Artistry

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Tony LongShanks LeTigre a k a “GlamorTramp” here, guest writing this month’s editorial letter for the April 2016 issue of Synchronized Chaos! After a few years as a regular contributor, Cristina asked me to help out with editing duties this month and possibly ongoing. We have in mind a site makeover and enhanced graphics for the near future, as well, so stay tuned for the further evolution of this longrunning international literary webzine!

After mulling over this month’s theme, I sensed a lot of pain, longing for escape in various ways, yearning for the past and for people of the past (our former selves as well as others), the arrow of time that points forward and leaves us often looking mournfully backwards — all of this no doubt reflecting, or enhanced by, the seemingly endless strife that threatens to eclipse the better world we hope the human race can get to!

This month we have inquiries into the nature of poetry by one of the most acclaimed and dedicated American authors working today, Christopher Bernard, and of mathematics and its relation to philosophy by my humble self.

Michael Robinson graces us with three short poems that express yearning for his deceased mother, “dreams of peace without the sounds of gunfire or the cries of death,” and a sepulchral longing for death and escape. His lean lines bristle with dark emotion, inspired also by systemic racism as related to black folks in particular, drug addiction and related dolors of street life.

Nowadays it seems that humans are our own worst enemies much of the time, but an essay by Rui Carvalho covering Alejandro González Iñárritu The Revenant (2015), a film concerning “a frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820” who “fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team” (per IMDb), reminds us that there was a time when humans struggled with nature and its animals as much or more than with one another. The theme of The Revenant, as distilled by Carvalho, is that “Life is like a tree: although a branch might be lost, the important is to realize the tree remains strong as long as the trunk remains firm and supports all the other branches.” Carvalho illustrates his review with original artwork, as well.

While others cry into their pillows and long for yesterday, Kristen Caven keeps things lighthearted and upbeat with some retail therapy in “Take a Walk in My Scarpa.” Her ode to the material luxury of Italian leather also raises the interesting issue of language and the dissonance it can cause when a word doesn’t sound the way we think it should.

Joan Beebe, on the other hand, finds that the best things in life are free, like “The rising and setting of the sun,” as she titles her poem celebrating our celestial mother, the way the Sun nourishes us (and never more so than on the threshold of spring, which I for one am very much enjoying right now in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.A.!)

K. C. Fontaine confers upon us a melancholy painting in the form of a poem, “Slow Suicide,” about a Pakistani painter whose studio is “a shrine to her lost self,” which seems to express a desolate present moment colored by nostalgia and regret.

Finally, we have a prose poem from Bangalore by Aditya Shankar about travel and the mingled pleasure and loneliness of traveling, with reference to art work by painter  Abanindranath Tagore, which again expresses a desire for sanctuary, to be safely holed up in control of one’s creative endeavors, and the fine image of home as “a museum of achievement.”

Cristina asked me to choose an image to accompany this letter. I went to the website of the New York Public Library, which recently released 180,000 new digital images from their archive into the public domain, and searched the term “escape.” I went with a racially charged image, as you can see above. The harsh reminder of our not-so-distant past seems to me necessary in light of recent and ongoing events pertaining to systemic racism, police brutality and non-accountability.

Sorry to be so dark… I really believe we’re going to come through all this into a better world! Getting there is just going to be a challenge.

 

Poetry from Michael Robinson

Dreams beyond the Grave

Many dreams drift from cloud to cloud. Dreams of peace without the sounds of gunfire or the cries of death. I watch the moon as it sinks behind the horizon, and I wonder, when will my nightmares of living in the inner-city end? Watching the peacocks’ feathers blooming, I lie quietly in my grave — and peace has found me.

*     *     *

Black Boys II

Angry at life and angry at a system that keeps them incarcerated to a promise of a life without body piercings and tattoos; but hope is lost from a life spent avoiding the police. Mothers addicted to crack cocaine lie upon urine-strained mattresses. Some escape this life, and climb and climb and climb, and finally reach the safety of the mountains. And it is there that love flourishes; there that sanctuary is found. Beyond the stars that glow at night. A soul no longer thirsts for the safety of home: no longer in the heat of the streets.

*     *     *

Mother II

I want to send flowers to my mother, but she has passed away. I would like to visit her her grave and let her know that I have finally found the better side of life. There is a place on earth which reflects heaven. No longer do I cry into my pillow.

*     *     *

Essay from Rui Carvalho

Cinema Critique: The Revenant by Rui M. Carvalho (28 March 2016)

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Inspired by true events, The Revenant, a movie directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, is an example of a film whose trailer alone makes us feel it has a significant message to transmit. Visually, it might be considered almost a new genre of western, which we might call the “frozen western.”

The sentence “I’m not afraid to die any more, I done it already” surely creates on us a deep first impression, expressing the idea that there’s no turning back: only a landscape in front, and a shadow behind the speaker. This dramatic first impression is further emphasized by the contrast between ice — dominant, mostly blue and grey — and, sometimes, small dots of fire, mostly yellow and orange. A human tragedy plays out in the course of the movie, in which divers persons confront the meaning of their lives; this being especially obvious during one of the last scenes, in which the aggressor, played by Tom Hardy, speaks with the hero (or surviving victim, if you please), played by Leonardo Dicaprio, and confronts us all with deep questions: What is justice for? What types of justice are there and what are the ones we want? Should justice be a constructive process?

This type of reasoning is an example of what some cinematic theorists consider to be the psychological role of film: as a tool to give new significance to reality, to educate and influence the citizenry. The Guardian asserts that cinema can be valuable for children’s and young peoples’ learning and cultural experience (The Guardian, 28 March 2016). And this can be seen as a detail of a big process of civilization, which “is not linear and conscious” (Cultural Studies Now, 28 March 2016).

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Review from Tony Longshanks LeTigre

What is mathematics?
Review of The Mathematical Experience, by Philip J. Davis & Reuben Hersh (1981)

By Tony LongShanks LeTigre

 

Several years ago, during a period when my life had taken a strange turn & I began delving into physics books as an inquiry into the deepest ontological & philosophical questions, the question above began to interest me. One book I read was Murray Gell-Mann’s The Quark & the Jaguar, in the course of which he posed the question of whether mathematics was or was not a science in itself; if so, he states, it is “more fundamental than any other.” Gell-Mann deserves some credit for being open-minded enough to even pose the question, for some physicists—as well as logicians, & computer scientists, & engineers, & various others—hold a reductive or belittling view of math as merely a tool or language for other sciences. The more I read about physics, the more fascinated I became by the way that equations like those involved in Einstein’s theory of relativity could tell us things about the nature of the cosmos, could predict things & point to answers of mysteries that would otherwise lie far beyond our present grasp. I didn’t want to do mathematics—solving equations, measuring angles, formulating convergence proofs—but to read about the subject itself in a detached way; if math is the science of numerical abstraction, you could say that I had an abstract interest in an abstract science. I wanted to find a book that would explain the nature of mathematics & mathematical philosophy, if such a thing exists. It turns out it does—or did—& I found the perfect introduction in the form of The Mathematical Experience, by Philip J. Davis & Reuben Hersh, published in 1981.

Who knew the history of math could be so fascinating, so entertaining, even? Davis & Hersh trace that history from its beginnings with Thales (circa 600 BC), Pythagoras, Euclid, & Archimedes in the classical Greek era; into the relative darkness of the Middle Ages, followed by the enlightenment of the 1600s with Kepler, Galileo & Newton; & thence forward via Lagrange, Euler, Gauss, etc. to the modern era.

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Essay from Kristen Caven

Take A Walk in My Scarpa

When one travels to Italy, one luxuriates over leather goods, namely shoes. And anyone who knows me knows I’ve had a thing or two to say about footwear. Alexa took me to two markets and a shoe store to indulge my lust for shoes. She showed me how to look at labels to find the real leather, and to determine which were made here and which were made in China. At one market, we were greeted by a sea of seconds and last season treasures, with leather boots for only 10 Euro (About $15). Alas, they were only as large as a 37, and I start at a 38.

One can hardly afford NOT to buy them!

But we did find a few crazy stylish pairs that fit the parameters. There is no room in Alexa’s legendary shoe closet, but what’s a girl to do when one finds pointy gold leather booties wrapped with little belt things for only seven Euro?

The thing is, I couldn’t get my head around the Italian word for shoes: Scarpa.

I mean, in the country that is known for buttery soft, elegant footwear that fits so comfortably style can be a part of every step, the country that is literally shaped like footwear, and where the most musical of all Romance languages is spoken, why wouldn’t there be a more mellifluous word for shoe? SKARpa. Scar. (ew.) puh. (ugh.) The word has sharp edges and a spitting quality, calling to mind how painful shoes can be. What were Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes with the right-angle turn and the embedded razor blades, if not scarpa?

I needed some help to understand the magic of this word, and asked Davide (Dáh-vee-day), the Vesuvian Cowboy, to illustrate. Sure enough, when a dashing Italian man says this word, one wants to slip one’s stockinged foot into whatever he happens to be holding in his hand at the moment….

My trophies: a pair of soft grey wedgie boots; some sleek leather Beatle booties; a pair of whimsical felt t-straps with a crocheted flower on the toe, dangerous six-inch heels and red soles (Alexa found a matching pair of pumps in her size… we really need to do an act, right?); and the perfect pair of first pumps for my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. (The girl is smart. She knew just what to ask for as a souvenir.)

And now for some shoe porn. 
The high holy grail of Cinderella shoes appeared in a window in Venice.
(I may have to rewrite my novel around them.)

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Poetry from Joan Beebe

The Rising and Setting of the Sun

 

   A new day dawns and there is an eerie silence around us.

We wonder as we look at the darkened sky

And we perceive a tiny sliver of gold appearing.

With a shimmering afterglow that gives one a feeling of

Being in another time and place.

Now the rays of the sun shine bright upon the earth

Our senses awake more intensely

We are one with the panorama before us:

There is a freshening of life upon the earth.

Slowly but steadily we watch the morning sun appear.

It has beauty as shades of pink

 begin to stretch out across the sky.

  In the quiet of this new day,

 we reflect on the gifts of this sun

Our spirits are lifted and we are happy

We are thankful for the warmth and nourishment it provides.

As the day ends, we watch the slow setting of the sun.

The sky becomes a canvas of red, pinks and gold with

Streaks of light clouds blending in so beautifully that

It becomes a palette of colors across the sky.

It is now the quiet time of the night and we rest.

Poetry by Aditya Shankar

Measuring Achievements

I count calories before and after workout,
collate data in charts and turn my home into
a museum of achievement, unsure about the
measure for the world to know, the desire of
fallen leaves to fly into houses, the loneliness
of colors for Abanindranath to call his peace,
The Peace Cottage*. I am used to the way we
climb mountains to celebrate temples on the
pinnacle of certain, and worship longing on
the rest. Slight tremors on countryside rail
tracks that reach us before the train mark
the achievement of arrivals and departures.
When eyes bury in themselves, a complicated
dial that resembles the engine room, I record
the waterfalls of blood in my body, the arrival
of death like the hiss of an alligator rising from
its depths. The devices make me a prophet
of transparent lies that dissolve like ice cubes
into my divination. When I leave, I am a cargo
train that passes through all stations and no
passenger knows where I am heading.

Note: * – A work by world renowned painter, Abanindranath Tagore.

Bio: Aditya Shankar is an Indian English poet living in Bangalore. His work has been published or is forthcoming in the Hour After Happy Hour Review, CC&D, ‘Purrfect’ Poetry, Beakful, Shot Glass Journal, Earthborne, Terracotta Typewriter, and Eastern Voices anthology, among others. He is author of a poetry chapbook, After Seeing, (2006) and a poetry collection Party Poopers (2014).