March Synchronized Chaos: Rediscovering the Familiar

 

March’s issue of Synchronized Chaos invites reflection and a new sense of awareness of the potential of ‘ordinary’ objects and experiences.

Upcoming author Marty Castleberg journeys through faraway South American capitals, back streets and the rainforest…only to find himself constantly pursued by and reminded of the same issues which plagued his life back home as a Wisconsin farm boy turned corporate organizational consultant. The memoir shares how he learns to accept and make the most of his unique personality, learning style, skills, and challenges, as personified by his ever-present friend and sparring partner, Dave. The extraordinary brings Marty back to the ordinary, back to puzzling through his regular life.

In the same way, Lauren Groff’s short story collection Delicate Edible Birds probes the basic themes of family and love through her unusual characters (Olympic swimmers, writers enduring amnesia, ornithologists) and eclectic settings (a barn in wartime London, small-town upstate New York, a French cruise liner.) Ordinary people and relationships are just as fragile and precious as the exotic specimens in her tales and require as much dedication as the swimming, writing, and baton twirling in which her characters engage.

Sharon Woodward Jacobson also presents themes of love, faith, and family – in a piece which incorporates, but refuses to become defined by, her cerebral palsy. As the cartoon at the end of her prose and poetry points out, Jacobson is fundamentally a mother and human being with thoughts and desires not too different from others. The rhythm of her words and her manner of speaking highlights the determination which enabled her to succeed and intentionally refocuses readers on very basic ideas concerning what is important in life.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, photographer and painter Sean O’Cairde has added an Irish lighthouse to his assortment of California scenic vistas. He documents the journey he takes with his brother to visit each place, and we learn not just the textbook history of the monuments, but the local color and culture through clever, sometimes humorous vignettes from O’Cairde’s journeys. His ordinary life becomes part of the artwork which makes his lighthouse photography unique.

Giorgio Borroni takes the comic books he enjoyed as a boy, as well as his own imaginings concerning futuristic technology, and develops them into original mixed media pieces exploring our fascination with and fear of what we can create. His work showcases and reinterprets a sensibility which we have become familiar over the years through the artistic media of video games, sci fi books and movies, etc to look into (among other themes) how we can simultaneously love and lament our increasingly technological world. That aspect of Borroni’s work reminds me of the professor Phaedrus’ work to reconcile the romantic and engineering-minded scientific ways of thought in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (one of my longtime personal favorite books.)

Finally, Kelsi Dick’s painted quill pen art takes an object which used to be quite familiar in homes and offices just a few hundred years ago and re-interprets it as a chance to create something unique and beautiful. She explains in our interview that she prefers to work with supposedly ordinary objects in a craft sense rather than create abstract art specifically to help weaken the distinction between the practical and the artistic. Simply because something must be useful does not preclude a creator from making it lovely or interesting through thoughtful craftspersonship.

This latest issue takes us far away and then brings us back home. Replants us on solid ground and refocuses us on fundamentally important issues. We invite you to make the journey with our contributors, to read and re-examine what matters in one’s own life.

Thank you very much for granting us the time and space to share our thoughts and passions with you, and we hope to inspire a renewed creative focus.

Wherever one goes, one brings oneselves: Marty Castleberg’s memoir Daveland

 

When reading some memoirs, one is tempted to call out, “Periscope Up, Mirror Down!” In other words, to admonish the author to break out of describing his or her personal struggles long enough to effectively convey a sense of the setting and time period. Marty Castleberg’s Daveland avoids this pitfall by pulling off an effective balance between relating the author’s journey of internal self-discovery and his physical journey through the Midwest farm country, high-level academia, off-the-tourist track South American destinations, the rainforest, and his current home in inner-city San Francisco.  

Born to a poor Wisconsin farm family in a neighborhood where his father compares shotgun shells with teachers at his school during pheasant season, Marty discovers music only to injure his hand at work on the oil field. Through a series of events, he eventually marries, earns a Ph.D., lands a position consulting for Harley-Davidson…only to find himself stalked by an unwelcome, but all too familiar stranger. His assortment of neurological and learning differences, whom he personifies as Dave, the loudmouthed pot-smoking, trashtalking bully who will no longer allow Marty to hide him away beneath a veneer of success.

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Sean O’Cairde’s Lighthouses of California: visual travelogue project

 

Traveler and photographer Sean O’Cairde creates a unique work-in-progress through his travelogue as he visits many of California’s historical lighthouses (and one with a rich past located in Ireland.) Plenty of people are inspired by lighthouses as an artistic subject, visually and metaphorically – everyone from American master landscape painters to modern Irish folk singers. But O’Cairde goes a step beyond creating photographs and artistic representations of the places he visits with his brother – he details his experience journeying to each locale, who he meets, what he observes, any little vignettes which occur along the way. So the process of selecting subjects and taking photographs becomes artwork in itself, as much as the finished products.

We read funny anecdotes concerning asking for directions and finding one’s way through the Irish countryside, descriptions of local people and families, the history, look, and feel of each place in a way that interests both history buffs and average travelers. The spectacular photography available on the website encourages people to purchase O’Cairde’s work and to go beyond ‘fingertip travel’ on one’s computer and visit the lighthouses in person.

You may read about his journey and find more information on the artwork here:

http://lighthousesofcalifornia.blogspot.com/

What matters most: mixed-genre collection, From the Heart, by Sharon Woodward Jacobson

Emerging author Sharon Woodward Jacobson’s From the Heart: Prose and Poetry reaches its best when she turns out unusual twists of phrase or reveals unique or complex aspects of her story. The book combines poetry, prose, and a cartoon, and reveals a thoughtful soul who, together with her close and supportive family, faces questions with no easy answers.

Her “Tribute to Grandfather” describes her memory of the man who raised her: ‘Into the past my mind wanders/like rolling waves dancing through thunder.’ The mixed metaphor conveys a sense of strength which is powerful, frightening, yet at once fluid and adaptable. In prose we learn of a grandfather who constantly taunted Sharon, born with cerebral palsy and to a mother who died of a heart attack during labor, that she would never amount to anything and who made her run up a hill near their country home while he followed in his Ford.
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Giorgio Borroni: Mixed Media, Imagination, Technology, and Thought

My name is Giorgio Borroni,31, and a mixed media artist. I draw using traditional pencil and ink, then I colour everything using Photoshop and add some digital effects. Many of my techniques I have conceived by myself. My art is a mix of dark, science fiction and melancholical mood with some ingredients belonging to comics, my favourite reading since I was 8.

I would like to show my stuff around, since creating could be fun or relaxing or tormenting or simply a waste of time but what I am looking for is feedback, people telling me ‘you suck’ or ‘you are good’ or ‘find another hobby.’ That’s what I am looking for.

You can see my complete gallery here http://gorgeousgiorgio.deviantart.com/gallery/

and my myspace is: www.myspace.com/bladejob

I usually don’t take commission, but if someone is interested in publishing or using my stuff as a CD cover or art book they can get in touch with me here: gb1977[at]gmail.com

 

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Love, family, and ornithological beauty: review of Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds

 

“…Paris in the dark seemed covered by a dusky skin, almost as though it were living. The arches in the facades were the curve of a throat, the street corners elbows, and in the silence Bern could almost hear the warm thumpings of some heart deep beneath the residue of civilizations.”

                So begins the title story of Lauren Groff’s new collection, Delicate Edible Birds, with this female war correspondent’s evocation of occupied France. As with Bern’s view of wartime Paris, the stories in this collection reveal their inmost ‘hearts’ and layers of meaning through a variety of interlocking subplots and themes. Indirect references to conversation and action, the use of childhood and memories, the casual passage of large, undefined amounts of time between moments of dramatic tension, and eccentric motifs (stuffed exotic birds, divers) all give the pieces a dreamlike, poetic feel. However, the plots all contain enough suspense – actually heightened by the understatement – to keep one reading.

                Motherhood presents itself in various ways throughout Delicate Edible Birds. In the first story, Lucky Chow Fun, the main character, a bright teenage girl who loves literature and swimming, reflects upon fairy tales. “What most of the stories have in common is both a very good, absent mother and an evil, present one. [They] are not like real life in all its beautiful ambiguity. There are no semigood semiabsent mothers. Or, for that matter, semipresent very good ones.”

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Interview with quillpen artist Kelsi Dick of the Brilliant Quill

 

Quillpens normally conjure up associations with scholars in monasteries and old white-wigged gentlemen scratching out the Declaration of Independence. However, they were once, and can still be, both practical materials for ordinary writers and objects of craftspersonship and style. Kelsi Dick, artist with The Brilliant Quill (www.thebrilliantquill.com) discusses her work as a modern-day quill pen designer: the making of the pens, what got her interested, the potential art of ordinary objects, the business aspect of marketing a craft.

1. Why/how did you choose feathered pens as your artistic media? I read that you’re more of a crafts person than a fine arts person…any insight into that?
I saw one of those cheap, mass-produced ostrich feather “quills” online and thought, I can do better than that!  I’m always looking for crafty gift ideas, and nice writing utensils are a pretty safe bet for a large range of people.  So I adopted it into my repertoire of gifts to make, and once I’d made a few, I enjoyed it so much I just kept going.

I think I am more of a crafts person because I am so in love with art that is functional.  I can appreciate paintings on the wall, but I don’t want to make that kind of art myself.  I love to see people use what I make.  It’s a shame that often, just because something is useful, people think there’s no point in making it beautiful.  The “crafts” seem to embrace this idea more than the “arts.”

2. What was the first pen you designed like? Do you feel your style has changed over the years?
Well, it was hand-dyed, which I have learned not to do these days.  The professional dyers get much nicer results.  It was very simple, just a silver vine pattern on lavender.  I’ve learned a lot about construction and technique since then, but I still sometimes return to simple vine patterns.  I’m not sure my style has changed, but the way I work definitely has.

The artful design of career counseling: Review of Susan Maciak’s Job Shopping

 

Susan Maciak’s Job Shopping: Don’t Settle for a Job that Sucks exemplifies creating literary lemonade out of the sour economy. She brings cleverness, snappy language and design sense to the employment guidebook market, incorporating advice on how to identify and market one’s skills into a gentle beige and light blue, dark green and purple color scheme. Graphics and the multicolored text and layout of each page draw readers in and focus their attention on the information presented, while the content is detailed enough to provide real information but short enough to avoid wordiness.

                Maciak’s upbeat tone empowers while sharing straightforward truth. Those working through her career program take practical action every step of the way, listing skills, developing written goals, evaluating and choosing options. The curriculum engages participants, keeping them involved while helping them put the concepts to memory.

                Job Shopping includes information useful for all ages, and goes beyond the traditional skills checklist/resume and interview pointers to offer information on how to work a room and talk with a variety of people, how and where to find job leads, and how to market oneself as a product, with a concise pitch describing skills and career interests. The comprehensive nature of this resource will come in handy in the modern economy, where one must increasingly promote oneself: simply filling out applications and sending resumes and being willing to work will not go far enough.

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February: The Heroic Journey

 

Welcome to the February issue of Synchronized Chaos! Happy Chinese New Year/Martin Luther King Day/Valentine’s Day/Black History Month!

This month we’re exploring various aspects of the primal and modern heroic journey. What would a hero, or heroine’s adventure look like in modern society? Do we still have frontiers, wide open spaces, places to challenge and find oneself in the wilderness? What does it mean to be a hero in these changing, uncertain economic times, when many people find themselves less capable of risk-taking or altruism than they expected?

We received a good number of submissions this month, some from previously published authors who wish to continue as part of the Synchronized Chaos family, which we strongly encourage, and others from talented newcomers.

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Faracy Grouse: Childhood Vignettes

 

“Tang” 

Whenever I’m sad, bored or just at a loss for funny thoughts to make others smile with a mixture of disbelief and morbid curiosity, I comb through my thick, matted, flea infested creature of a past.
On a recent shopping trip to the European Mega-store Carrefour “the French Wal-mart for those of you who might need a little pick-me-up by way of shaming me for my lack of morality,” I spotted a familiar orange and green logo while searching for a suitably exciting weekend beverage. Four block letters, spelling one unmistakable word. TANG! In fact, it was an economy pack of pre-made “juice” boxes of TANG.

My gut reaction was to fill my cart with as many crates of it as I could find. It seems that the longer I live the glamourous life of an expat, the more comforting and thrilling little reminders of my childhood in the urban American Midwest become. Then I remembered why I remembered TANG, and the lust died out.

Read more of “Tang” and her other stories, “Dance as Revenge,” and “Mosquito Ranch” here: http://ladycatherina.livejournal.com/334914.html

Faracy’s biography and artist statement:

Faracy Grouse is an American writer originally from Minneapolis. She just moved to Britain after four years in Seville, Spain as the resident foreigner in a neighborhood where a man being seen hanging out laundry could cause a building wide sensation.

 

 As a child she was slow to read and write, unable to do either until the age of eight. Instead she would make up the rest of the story or draw pictures to remind herself what she was supposed to have written if asked to read aloud. Dyslexic and excruciatingly shy, she was not able to take refuge in books the way that many quiet children do. Where she excelled was in drawing and creating worlds in her mind.

 

 However, by the age of 11 she was a voracious reader, particularly of non-fiction books about foreign cultures. She knew from a very early age that she wanted to see the world.

 

 She first discovered a love for poetry at the age of 13 through an article on Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in an issue of National Geographic.

 

With the encouragement of a few creative English teachers, she began to write prose and poetry as a teenager.

 

 After studying voice, she went on to complete a degree in Anthropology and European History, marrying a man she met in Spain and having a child in the process.

 

During the breakdown of this marriage, she took up writing once again. This time it was to survive. She felt that she could write her way out of a terrible situation, and in the end she did.

 

 She has written a full-length screenplay, numerous short stories and put together several collections of poetry. She is currently working on a memoir.

 

Faracy would very much appreciate hearing your input about her work, and would be more than happy to discuss publication with any who may be interested.

You may contact Faracy at alumine3@gmail.com

 

David Mitchell’s short story “Untitled”

 

“Untitled” by David Mitchell

For Synchronized Chaos, posted here to get around WordPress’ post size limits.

Joe had argued, insisted that the color scheme for the bathroom be muted whites my argument was that no matter what the color, mildew would make it a nice, even shade of green. He’d seen some brilliant use of eggshell white in a do-it-yourself book, or maybe on TV, I don’t know. We compromised: he got to do the bathroom in whatever way he wanted, and I didn’t have to lift a hammer during the whole project. When he was finished every surface was a different shade of white; antique white for the tub and toilet, cream white for the counter tops and sink, and eggshell white for the tile floor and walls. White as a color scheme is tranquil, but hard to keep clean. Something else we would argue about, and make up for afterwards.

Please read more here:

http://ladycatherina.livejournal.com/334810.html

David Mitchell says: As with all good writing, there is a bit of truth to the lie. As for writers I enjoy, it’s complicated. I read a lot of genre stuff like The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, The Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin, that man can write characters so real and sympathetic it makes me cry! Other writers: Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Michael Chabon, Neil Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, H.P. Lovecraft, you get the picture I think.

You may reach him at dbmitchell@gmail.com and he occasionally visits the Crosstown Coffeehouse in Alameda, California. Open mic events there (music and spoken word) every Thursday at seven. I also occasionally attend these and would love to see more of the Synchronized Chaos family!

Family and tradition…Fran Laniado’s Memory Jug

 

                                            The Memory Jug

 

My mother died in her sleep last week. She was 78 years old. My brother and sister came for the funeral, and to get her things in order. My brother came from Washington D.C., my sister from Los Angeles, and I from New York City. My brother handled the legal stuff, my sister dealt with the friends and mourners that my mother left behind, and I made a memory jug.  It was something our family had done for loved ones for years. Our ancestors acquired the tradition from the slaves they once owned, who had brought it from Africa. It would carry all the pieces of her life. I used a vase I’d made for her when I was in my high school art class. It sat in the foyer, in the place of honor, where you could see it right when you walked in the front door. My mother saved everything I ever made. Each crayon drawing and lump of clay. My siblings and I were her greatest source of pride. I covered it in red clay, and while it was still soft and malleable I pressed objects into the clay. I pressed the objects that made up my mother into the clay. I pressed my mother into the clay.

This is what I put in my mother’s memory jug:

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