Travel Writing: Chiang Mai, Thailand

[Article by Robbie Fraser]

It’s not easy to interview a city, but I’ve done my best. Two months ago I touched down in Thailand and soon made my way up north to Chiang Mai. This wasn’t my first trip to the country. I’ve been through the insanity that is Bangkok, a city that is home to over well over ten million. I’ve been to the breathtaking beaches and scattered tourist traps that make up Phuket, and even to a few small towns along the way. But Chiang Mai is something entirely unique. It’s that uniqueness that has the city on the verge of becoming a UNESCO creative city. The possibility of such a title is something the community here takes great pride in, a fact visible on the hundreds of roadside signs promoting the potential honor. If Chiang Mai is successful in its attempt to become an internationally recognized city of craft and folk art, it will join only four other cities in the world.

The primary factor in Chiang Mai’s ability to rise above the dozens of other cities vying for similar recognition is the fact that it sits at a cultural crossroad. If you spend enough time in the city, you will undoubtedly come across a few children in the intricate dress of the Lanna tribe. The Lanna are traditionally a hill people that were an independent nation until a few hundred years ago. Today, they have melded with mainstream society in many ways, but in many ways they remain proudly independent, careful to retain an art-focused culture that has persisted for centuries. They are most visible at the city’s night markets. Some are selling art, always handmade, and almost always incredible in its quality. Others are making art, performing it. Children dance while the smooth sound of drums and a bamboo flute drifts through hundreds of individual stands.

Robbie Fraser is an associate editor for Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Fraser may be reached at robbiedfraser@gmail.com.

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An essay on “Gravitational Art” by Erik White

Gravitational Art is God’s not Pollock’s

It is true that I use Jackson Pollock’s painting technique to create Gravitational Art.  The mechanization of the body creating fractal patterns on the canvas mimics forms found in nature, and looks much like looking up at the sky through tree branches.  His process is truly inspiring, but Jackson Pollock and I paint very different paintings.  Jackson Pollock talked about using the mechanization of the body to create forms that are found in nature, but his paintings are a mirror to the nature of the human body’s movement, as much as they are reflections of the natural world.  Using sweeping arm movements, as he threw paint at the canvas and dripped thin lines over each other, there always remained a trace of himself as the creator.  His lines remain distinctly his own, and the movement of his body is evident in each line.  He let each layer dry, and built up a montage of splatters and lines to mimic the forms found in nature.  He never fully relinquished his control over the final outcome of the painting.  This is the leap that Gravitational Art makes.  I use Pollock’s technique to create fractal patterns, mimicking the forms found in nature, and then I paint until the paint is so thick it starts to move to the middle, and fall over the edges.  I paint until there is no trace left of the lines I have made—until the lines are no longer my own, but God’s.

To contact Erik White directly, send an email to erik@erikwhite.com.

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Poetry by Bruce Roberts

Tiny Bubbles/Tiny Tears

The text message arrived
As we watched the tiny dancers,
Half-pints who hula,
Sparkling cuteness
Swaying hipless-
And sometimes in harmony-
To scratchy music
Onstage surrounded
By parents proud and corn dogs delectable,
Baby ducks and bunnies and the mechanical bull just next door.

“Old acquaintance, high school years, Facebook friendly, arrested: wife strangled!”

And abruptly
The music darkens,
Discordant rhythms
Assault swaying serenity
As I strain
To see a future
For these giggling, awkward menihunis–
Happy ever after
As the storybooks vow?
Or stretched early on a slab,
Victim of life’s pitfalls,
And love gone bad?

Was the wife once herself
A tiny dancer,
Braving the stage
Hair pinned up,
Rouge and lipstick,
Trembling at the crowd,
But happy to hula
As a step toward life-
Stretching out bright before her?

Who knows
What little minds think,
Staring out at families
With smiles, cameras, applause?

Can any of them fathom
That Prince Charming —
Of whom they already dream-
Might one day encircle their neck
With his loving hands,
Squeezing and squeezing and squeezing
Until dreams,
Whether mundane or glorious,
Depart?

Aloha!

Bruce Roberts is a poet and ongoing contributor to Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Roberts may be reached by at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

Poetry by Dave Douglas

Nothing to Write

I see starving towns and big money
I see blood and false-testimony …
And if Paul Simon was President
In a world when no one repents
To a god they say does not exist
On the forgotten list
He may have nothing to write

In moments when I can only scream
For a dieing child, attached she seems
In the village called the earth
Her flesh is traded without worth
While my eyes remain chained to the flat panel
Another channel
And nothing to write

And through the iron spyglass
Shared with a view exceedingly fast
I saw an image, but in reverse
Dictating my pending verse
On a page blank and crumpled and torn
Forlorn
With a pen and nothing to write

Yet, a faultless messenger
Humbled himself before anger
And revealed a vision from the past
One which was meant to last
But he was met with fight and flight
When he had nothing left to write

And I hear of wars and rumors of more
I hear of battle lines drawn at the front door …
But if Paul Simon is President
As if he is the one sent
And if, he indeed, repairs ev’ry shattered heart and broken window
With a peace below
He will whisper, “I have nothing new to write”

Dave Douglas may be reached at carpevelo@gmail.com.

Poetry by Tatjana Debeljacki (Croatian and English Translation)

NEŠTO MOJE

Reci mi kako sačuvati čistim ovo što imamo,
jer znaš, zaboravih ti reći,
ja uništim zaista sve što dotaknem,

a moram ti reći,
volim kada me gledaš onako krijući,
misleći da ne vidim,
volim kada pričaš,
čak i nekom drugome,
onako preglasno, da te mogu čuti i kada nisam u blizini,
i odem, verovatno nepotrebno, bezbroj puta popraviti šminku,
jer znam da ćeš me ispratiti pogledom,
a moram ti reći,
kolena ne slušaju kada si u blizini,
i zaista se bojim da ne uprljam nešto ovako čisto i nevino,
jer znaš, moram ti reći,
ja uništim sve što dotaknem,
zato te molim,
reci mi kako da nas sačuvam,
i kako da savladam želju da ti kažem,
dok me gledaš i dok mi pričaš,
“zagrli me i poljubi me”
od straha da ne uništim sve.

[English Translation]

Something mine

Tell me how to keep what we have pure
Because, you know, I forgot to tell you,
I destroy whatever I touch,

And I have to tell you,
I like the way you look at me secretly
Thinking that I don’t see it
I love to hear you talking
Even to somebody else,
Too loud so that I can hear you even if I’m not around
And when I have gone, probably without any need, to fix my make-up
for a hundredth time,
Because I know your eyes will follow me,
And I have to tell you,
My knees won’t listen to me when you’re near me,
And I’m really afraid of spoiling this so pure and innocent,
Because you know, I have to tell you,
I destroy whatever I touch,
And that is why I’m begging you,
Tell me how to save us
And how to prevent myself from telling you,
While you’re looking at and talking to me,
“Hold me and kiss me”
Fearing that I will ruin everything.

Tatjana Debeljacki is from Uzice, Serbia. Debeljacki has published 4 collections of poetry. Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/debeljacki Blog: http://debeljacki.mojblog.rs/

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Whose Brain Is It? [Sept 2011 – Leena Prasad]

Whose Brain Is It?
by Leena Prasad

She turns on the CD player in her car and “When I’m 64” streams out over the speakers. Mona starts to cry. She is on Highway 280, driving down to Palo Alto to see her brother Michael. She’s flooded by memories of her childhood with Michael. She can hear his voice and visualize him singing the song when he was 9 or 10 years old. Michael has been in a car accident and has been in a coma for several weeks. It all seems hard to believe. He’s only 24. How can this be happening?

Mel is walking around in the grocery store. He sees a ripe yellow mango with red spots on the top. He picks it up and sniffs it. “Singaporean,” he can hear his ex-girlfriend’s voice say. He can visualize her eating the mango, the juices running down her mouth as she bites into the skin. He wonders what she is doing now. Perhaps she is eating one of these; he thinks and puts it in his grocery cart.

Mina passes by Dosa on Valencia Street. She remembers the time she went in there with her aunt, who was visiting from India. She remembers that day and how much fun it was to have dosa in her own neighborhood with her favorite aunt from India.

It’s not difficult to guess that the music, the scent, the visual cues produce emotional reactions in the brain of these people. But, what exactly happens in the brain when we store and retrieve a memory?

Leena Prasad has a journalism degree from Stanford University. Her writing portfolio is available at www.FishRidingABike.com and she can be reached at leena@fishridingabike.com.

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Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents Ophelia: A Musical

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

Hamlet’s Ophelia, a New Tale

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia is a tragic figure. Spurned by Hamlet in his feigned madness over the death of his father, she goes genuinely mad after Hamlet mistakenly kills her own father. Grief-stricken, heart-broken, possibly pregnant, she falls in a stream and drowns, whether by suicide or accident has been the subject of Ph.D. dissertations ever since.

Now San Francisco playwright Darren Venn has rewritten her story in a new musical comedy/tragedy titled—what else? —Ophelia. I was fortunate enough to see a “Concert Reading” of this new musical last week at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and watched a very enjoyable show with lots of potential.

Though grounded in Shakespeare’s Ophelia, Venn’s imagination nonetheless leaves Shakespeare behind with invention after invention that extend and amplify Hamlet’s sometime girlfriend into the main character of this new tale. Played and sung powerfully by Melissa O’Keefe, Ophelia elaborates her Elizabethan original into a symbol of abused women throughout history.

Bruce Roberts is a poet and ongoing contributor to Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Roberts may be reached by at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

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