The SETI Institute: A nonprofit organization in Mountain View, CA

[Article by Michael Widman]

Seeking Intelligence

What is intelligence? Can it be found in space or fabricated on earth? Who should we ask? On Tuesday June 24, 1997, yours truly was questioning his own mental quality, beset by remorse having cast aside job security bringing wife and kids to the United States from Sweden for the sake of embarking a start-up venture. How smart was that? While I pondered the wisdom in pursuing a path with such uncertain prospects, weak from weeks of worries, I explored the premises around my new employer’s office at Landings Drive in Mountain View, California. That’s when I stumbled upon the entrance to the SETI Institute. I recalled possibly from the pages of a book, Contact, that SETI stands for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, and I had landed near its quarters. My spirit rose because here were clearly people who had climbed really far out on a limb.

Unbeknownst to me, half a dozen scientists were pondering a much bigger question: Was the signal they were watching with keen eyes on their computer screens behind that door at that very moment of extraterrestrial origin? I had no idea ET might be checking in behind that door. Not yet.

SETI Senior Astronomer, Doctor in astrophysics Seth Shostak, was there to watch the suspect signal. Much later he opens his book, Confessions of an Alien Hunter, by telling that he thought that day “might be the most important day in the history of Homo Sapiens.” All this excitement passed me by because I did not knock the door. It would have been fun. Talk about a road not taken.

Now I intended to repair that oversight.

And so, when fourteen years later an opportunity emerges to visit the SETI Institute and interview Seth Shostak for Synchronized Chaos Magazine, I decide to take a few days break from sitting home alone in my and my wife’s Santa Clara apartment writing a novel about ghosts and instead research the current search for extraterrestrial intelligence popping my head out the door as a seal that pops its head out of the polar ice to breathe.

Michael Widman may be reached at

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Book Review: The Right To Be Lazy, by Paul Lafargue

[Reviewed by Martin Rushmere]

The weakness of Marxism and ultra socialists is that they confuse “work”, “toil” and “labor”. Most of the human race wants to work, partly to stimulate mental activity but above all to acquire dignity, a term that Marxist literature makes great play with.

Sure, the Marxists drone on about the lack of dignity because of exploitation of labor, but are loath to acknowledge that the individual aspires to a life of fair pay for a fair day’s work.

Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, committed the same error. Hindsight of 120 years allows us to take a smug and condescending attitude to his theories. But that is to miss the point of this semi-satire based on the premise that the honest working man should cease toiling for the uncaring, cruel masters, not by strikes but taking more leisure and forming communal activities.

His crusade was in the white heat of anger at the end of the 19th Century about the inhuman conditions in the factories that seemed destined to be eternal. And he had every right to be angry, as industrial societies in France and England treated the workers abominably. That point he and his father-in-law hammered home ceaselessly and effectively.

Marxist theories were an ideal spark for the workers became — Lafargue was publicly airing a horror that was admitted privately in the drawing rooms of society hostesses. In reality, Marxists became agitators for social reform, allied with a whole host of social activists who were not interested in national politics.

You can contact the reviewer, Martin Rushmere, at

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Book Review: Ivan and Misha, by Michael Alyenikov

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

Michael Alyenikov’s Ivan and Misha is a beautiful book of short stories,  seven all told, if the prologue and epilogue are counted, that are loosely centered around the title characters. What really ties them together though are the variety of passionate, intense characters, and the author’s amazing descriptive writing.

Ivan and Misha are two Russian fraternal twins who emigrate to America with lots of emotional baggage. Their beautiful mother died when they were very young, and neither they nor their father—a doctor of amazing charm and personality, and a penchant for big stories, and dreams he never pursues—have got over her. She reappears over and over through the stories, the stuff of dreams and sad memories.

As intensely as they remember their mother, so do Ivan and Misha love–in a very conflicted way—their father. He brought them to America for a better life, and he too appears and reappears. He is the charming big talker of their childhood, he is the old man deteriorating before their eyes, he is the vessel of ashes that they and his best friends reverently scatter from the Staten Island Ferry.

Both gay, early on in the AIDS epidemic, Ivan and Misha maintain the same conflicted yet loving intensity with their romantic partners. Misha, the more stable of the two, seems to have longer relationships, with only two partners mentioned. Ivan, more mercurial, bounces from partner to partner, aching with love for one only to have him slip away and go home without a word. All the relationships though seem transitory: Even Smith, Misha’s current partner, anguishes over staying or going, loving or not loving. He even tries a one-time stand, but halfway through realizes he loves Misha, dresses, and leaves.

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

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Book Review: Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, by Jeremy Cowan

[Reviewed by Dave Douglas]

There is plenty of shmaltz in Jeremy Cohen’s book, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah. Enough so for everyone who is anyone (or not), to go a’round of beer, from the front cover (charge), to the back. The atmosphere in his shtick is fluid throughout. From his seedling of an idea, to hopping from one coast to another, and brewing his dream so we can taste what Cowen delivers as a picture of the bitterness of business to the Jewbelation of success, all with an ongoing buzz of humor.

Not only is his book entertaining, but as Cowen labeled it himself, “… who doesn’t love the story of a small business, a sole proprietor trying to make it happen? And free booze!” And this book is no side-show to be tossed aside or re-gifted to the other end of the bar. There are bold, real-life, hard-to-swallow business lessons which grant his book the entrance into any university library. One big ingredient of his formula is, “… until you’re already a success, nobody else is going to make you a success.” It is that type of shtick which enables Cowen to pour out his transparency about his personal life as well – the part which provides a view into the passion for his beer which comes to a head on the printed page.

As Cowen states, “Remember the three pillars of shmaltz … quality, commitment, shtick.” And, he has them all in this well-balanced, full-flavored read, which will prompt you to ask for a second-coming! Shmaltz Brewing Company is “THE CHOSEN BEER”, and Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is THE CHOSEN BOOK!

You can contact the reviewer, Dave Douglas, at

East Africa Famine Relief

Synchronized Chaos Magazine is encouraging you to do what you can to contribute toward East Africa famine relief efforts. East Africa is experiencing the worst drought in over 50 years and right now, there are millions of people living in fear of starvation and in immediate need of food and water.

Here are several ways to donate directly:

Art and music events in Canada:

Synchronized Chaos Magazine – Aug 2011: Building Bridges

This month’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine, Building Bridges, expresses transition, movement, and connectivity.

Lex Munson and Michelle Tholen connect their own lives with the natural world. Munson’s rustic artwork is unique in that it is often created from memory. Tholen’s landscape paintings are luminous and subtly mysterious.

Erik White’s paintings are intricate and alive. Each piece seems as though it is in a state of transition.

Andrea Allen links identity, consumption, and nature in interesting ways. Her work contains lines that intertwine into balanced and colorful designs.

This issue also features spirited mural work by Johanna Poethig. You’ll have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what the artist is currently working on in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, California.

We have several poems to offer you this month, including those from new Synchronized Chaos contributors Cesar Love and Don P. Musey. Also featured are Sam Burks and J’Rie B. Elliott.

Be sure to read Michaela Elias’ interesting interview with artist and publisher Rama Tiwari. Tiwari is the owner of Pilgrims Book House.

Whose Brain Is It? Presented as a mystery with fictional characters and some clues before the answer is provided, this is a monthly column with a journalist’s (Leena Prasad’s) perspective, on the neuroscience of the brain.

We appreciate you reading this diverse and exciting issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine! If you would like to contribute to the magazine, we are always accepting new submissions. For more information, please click on the “Submission Guidelines” tab on the top of this page.

Art by Andrea Allen

About the artist:

Andrea Allen doesn’t believe in wastefulness. Allen often uses secondhand objects or seemingly disposable objects and places them into new context in her artwork. “Does our progress come from new ideas or recycled ideas in a new context?”

“Color, line, form, and texture are prominent design elements in my sculptures. My abstract artwork incorporates found objects, rope, resin, paint and metal.”

– Andrea Allen