Welcome to November’s issue: Choosing to Create amidst Challenges.

Hello, and welcome to the November issue of Synchronized Chaos! Thanks for the feedback on the webzine’s content and how we can best benefit authors and artists, and please continue the discussion.

This month saw a small variety of highly individual submissions, each somehow presenting the theme of creation. Fletcher Goldin’s flash fiction piece’s speaker builds a highly detailed house of sand out of his memory or imagination, fully aware the waves will eventually wash it away, yet still building for reasons he leaves unstated. Sodalis’ piece deals with creating an identity and developing friendships of one’s own choosing, not simply taking on expected roles or preferences because of one’s race or ethnicity. Alisha Fisher’s photography combines nature, spirituality, and a sense of humor in an unique way. She takes everyday ponds, leaves, and natural materials others step on or overlook and turns them and her own body into artwork. In the same way, the characters in Tosca Lee’s Havah create beauty while making their way in a strange new land by working with the natural objects around them, developing objects at once lovely and pragmatic: shapely smooth clay pottery, intricate designs woven into useful winter blankets, harmonic chants to assist women in labor.

Life – past and present, from prehistoric times to the experience of a modern San Franciscan writer – continually provides a series of challenges to our physical and social development. These works illustrate ways of working with challenges…choosing to create and enjoying the product for a short time even though it is impermanent, valuing the process of creation as much as the outcome, turning one’s creative energies inward to focus on developing one’s own sense of self when one lacks physical raw material or other people who understand and are on the same page, using whatever materials one has available, finding ways to honor memories while discovering and appreciating the positives of one’s current situation.

We at Synchronized Chaos thank November’s contributors and join in honoring and celebrating the creative impulse in all its forms and in a variety of circumstances.

We also invite people to check out the Benefit Auction/Sale portion of the site to help out members of our community and fellow artists who’ve come upon difficult emergency situations. Please pass on the link to anyone you think might donate (art or cash 😉

Thank you all for all of your support! Happy Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve/Dia de los Muertos for those celebrating 😉

Press release from NASA’s Mercury flyby/photographic exploration: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/oct/HQ_08-275_Messenger_Mercury.html

Apparently the planet is old, has been bombarded evenly with electrical charge and meteorites. Many new images of a much larger surface area than before seen.

November’s book review! Tosca Lee’s Havah: A Poetic, Prehistoric Immigrant Narrative

“I do not tell him that I wait for the birdsong to seem somehow more heavenly and ethereal at once, as though from a throat which never devoured something so base as a worm. For the air to smell of apricot and peach, for the sound of a river fed by the waters of the abyss. I start at the stir of every breeze, at the whisper of the stunted grass on the plain.”

As she nears the site of the former Garden of Eden, in one last attempt to re-enter her old home, Tosca Lee’s main character Havah (Eve) finds herself filled with poetic nostalgia. This evocative, lush novelization of the story of Adam, Eve, and their children traces the first couple’s passionate marriage from their awakening in the garden through their exile, their work to survive in an often harsh new world, and the several generations of their family.

The characterization of Havah reminded me of Ashima in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake – after immigrating to the United States to accompany her husband, who has landed a Boston professorship, she exhibits quiet strength and slowly adjusts to their new home while never losing sight of her memories of eastern India. Havah is also a kind of early immigrant, forced to continually travel south with her growing family in search of water, food, and fertile soil. She is also left at home while Adam embarks upon dangerous explorations, defending their caves and reed brick houses against lions and wolves.

One of the first scenes in the movie version of the Namesake shows a loving, determined, but bewildered Ashima shaking red curry powder into her bland oatmeal before washing her husband’s shirts. In a similar way, Havah retains an emotional and spiritual connection to life in the garden valley of Eden to an even greater extent than her husband, who lived there with her before the birth of their children.

Busy with building their first permanent home south of Eden, Adam comes home exhausted one night and asks Eve whether their new lives are truly so bad compared to what they have left. He and most of the children rush to make their ways in the new world and scarcely mention the past, while Havah holds on in her mind to the beauty, the innocence, and the easy communion with nature and her husband she enjoyed in the old days. Through this characterization of the couple, and through the children with whom they eventually develop closer affinities (Havah with the sensitive, complex, burdened, protective and wild Kayin/Cain and Adam with the easygoing, social, fun-loving Hevel/Abel), Tosca Lee illustrates different approaches to resolving the dilemma faced by many immigrants: how to successfully adapt without losing one’s sense of oneself.

There are dangers in both remembering and forgetting: Havah effectively places a huge burden on Kayin to rescue his family by restoring a past he’s never seen, contributing to family tensions which end in murder, and Adam becomes detached, rootless, gone most of the time, emotionally disconnected from his wife and his own identity. Near the end, the couple talks during their final journey back to Eden, and the elderly Adam admits he’s always admired his wife’s poetic descriptions of the past and her focus on ideas beyond their everyday life. She in turn embraces Adam and reassures him that despite the new life’s imperfections they have both done their best to build a life and create a family in the new world. At last they grow into becoming the way they have always described each other: two bodies joined as one, one flesh, making peace with the past and present.

Tosca Lee resists the temptation to romanticize or melodramatize prehistoric life throughout her book. Food rots in Havah, animals eat one another and leave carcasses in the fields, and children must be toilet-trained so they will use the sanitary midden hole rather than the back of the family home. Adam, Havah, and the children, and eventually the children’s spouses and grandchildren, must all labor daily at weaving, farming, sheep-herding, sewing, etc to ensure the family’s survival. The descriptions of everyday work and everyday efforts to manage life in the new settlements ground the book firmly in reality as well as illustrating the dignity, strength, and equality of these men and women.

Lee found much of her inspiration for this novel through exploring older Hebrew writings on the creation story, and has explained how modern readers lose much of the lyricism, humor, poetry, and layers of meaning in the texts when we only access them in translation. And this novel certainly fleshes out and humanizes each of the major characters as a result of her research and imagination, while sprinkling the minor ones with distinctive traits to individualize them (Sufa’s flirtatiousness, Renana’s birthsongs, Lahat’s sewer engineering and early pottery accident.)

Eve is somewhat of an athletic tomboy, taking off to run across the fields and reveling in her outdoor adventures, and has a dry, earthy sense of humor, teasing her husband and children at opportune moments. The non-transliterated Hebrew names for the characters cause readers to take a step back from the usual associations one would bring to a story about someone named Cain or Eve, and to view them with fresh eyes. The natural setting is also described in extensive detail, using original language and varied sentence structure to bring a subtle poetic sensibility to even the most mundane events.

The author is personally Christian, yet this is not formula “Christian Fiction” and avoids providing easy, spiritual answers to the inevitable questions the characters face. We never know, for example, why Hevel’s sacrificial lamb catches fire almost immediately on the altar and Kayin’s (more humane!) vegetables simply smolder, humiliating him before the entire family. The event simply happens with no explanation, and the characters then respond as they choose. This reflects much of the human experience – we only understand so much, and then must go on to live as best as we can.

As a journalism student, our curriculum includes descriptions of early models of communication and persuasion. One of the most prominent early ideas was the ‘looking-glass self,’ the concept of learning about oneself and developing a self-concept from watching others and eventually the mass media. The novel provides an interesting exploration of how self-development might occur in the absence of a metaphorical ‘looking-glass’ – where the first family learns about life from observing the natural world around them. Adam and Havah peer into ponds and lakes and feel their own features for glimpses of themselves, yet most of their learning comes from everyday reality. They conceptualize and prepare for old age by watching aging animals, and create a moral code based on their own experiences and past feelings of betrayal, and from what they observe is necessary for survival. Life is difficult and they must eat, so everyone must work hard. Everyone’s cooperation is necessary – so one must be trustworthy and loyal. The world is dangerous – so having the courage to protect the settlement is a worthy ideal. There are many mysteries in everyday life – so cultivating an attitude of wonder and reverence is crucial.

A few times I became confused with the large assortment of Adam and Havah’s descendants and it was difficult to keep all of the names straight. Also, Havah’s character change from being a lovely pacifist horrified at the mere thought of wearing fur to a scrappy hardworking survivalist proud of her hunter son seemed a bit abrupt, occurring  between two sections of the novel.

Overall, though, I would definitely recommend Havah to anyone who enjoys family sagas, immigrant narratives, survival stories, cultural anthropology – or simply a powerful, thought-provoking read. This is Tosca Lee’s second novel, and available online in paperback from its website: http://www.havahstoryofeve.com/

Alisha Fisher: Nature-Inspired Shamanistic Fashion and Photography

Alisha Naomi Fisher’s artist statement:
I combine costume with jewelry, body-painting, hair design and background art in my work. I also take pictures.
I make myself and my models blend in with their surroundings whether I am doing scenes in nature or in the city.
I have studied Fine Arts in College and at university, Textile Arts and Painting. I also minored in college and University in Women’s studies. I have attended crafts workshops over the years.
For the past couple of years I have been working with plants. I am fascinated with the different textures and colors in the plant kingdom.
I love nature so much that one day I exclaimed “Why not dress people up in nature!” I first began my plant costumes in August 1999 on a trip to the Madeleine islands of the Quebec Maritimes , Canada . I am fascinated by the fact that many of my costumes look like fabric. In fact I have always been interested in fashion. All the materials I work with are free!
My work can go in many directions; fashion, performance art, photo art, movies, theaters can interpret any theme and transform it into an experience.
You are free to interpret my work as you wish but for me I feel that my work represents this: We are part of nature. When we die we will go back to the earth just like the plants. All that will remain is our bones like stones. Our blood contains chlorophyll and so do plants! Minerals in the earth we possess as well. By killing the earth we are thus killing ourselves. When we stop our busy lives by taking a slow walk in the forest and listen and touch then we are closer to god.
For me when I dress up in the plant clothes I become closer to the goddess/ god presence. The scratching of the branches against my skin wakes me up, brings me closer to god. I become the Shawomin; transforming myself into the nature spirit/nymph.
I believe that a fairy world exists in each species of plants, trees, and flowers.
My work can also be interpreted as ritual. A sacred act, performance.
I was born and raised in Montreal , Quebec to an artistic family. My father would give me fabrics and old hats as a child I would dress up in them. He was a photographer and would take pictures of me.
My work is owned by a number of celebrities and private collectors. I have appeared on TV in Canada and the United States. I have also had articles written about me. I have had solo shows and have been a performance artist in a couple of festivals.
I am available to hold/give workshops here and in other states or countries.

A Post-Racial Manifesto by Sodalis


A Post-Racial Manifesto
by Sodalis
This body is considered ‘black’ by this society, but it does not mean much to me as a person. It only means something to me insofar as other people define it for me. The colour of my skin is not a sufficient criterion for me to adhere to a certain behaviour pattern or subculture. It is not an impetus for me to buy rap and rhythm-and-blues albums, use stereotypically black slang, idolize Africa, or wear clothing that black people are stereotypically ‘supposed’ to wear. To me, it is a superficial physical property, and not something that defines my very being. I find that racial pigeonholing, particularly within my ‘assigned’ race, causes me to feel even less akin to those who are supposed to be akin to me. I diverge from most of the well-known black stereotypes, and to be forced into a cultural milieu that is alien to me intellectually and philosophically is quite offensive. I would rather be treated as a human being with the freedom to choose my own acquaintances, friends and sparring-partners, as opposed to being a Black Person who must do Black Things because My Skin Is Dark and My Ancestors Happened to Come from the Same Continent Three Hundred Years Ago.
Honestly, would blond people band together simply because they are blond, or blue-eyed people band together because they are blue-eyed?
There have been such movements in the past, or movements that wanted to embrace those who exhibited those phenotypic traits. Today, mainstream population rightly regards them as preposterous, and I believe that ‘race’, at least as a phenotypically-based construct, should be treated similarly.
I am post-racial. That is, as an individual, I do not view myself as belonging to a particular ‘race’; rather, I see myself as a human being, and nothing more. I am capable of viewing myself, and other human beings, outside a ‘racial’ framework, and become frustrated when others try to force me into such a framework, or when others try to force themselves into ‘racial’ stereotypes — as opposed to pursuing their own interests — in order to make themselves credible to their phenotypic compatriots.
I do not view phenotypes as a rallying point; rather, I see individual inclinations and proclivities as uniting points. I would much rather bond with someone over a mutual appreciation of the book Sophie’s World, or Imogen Heap’s music than someone’s being dark-skinned and of African descent. A black person who immerses himself in (in my opinion, largely pathological) ‘gangsta’ culture has less in common than the white person who shares my interests in historical linguistics and evolutionary psychology. The black person in question may share my phenotype, but he may not share my interests, ambitions or values, or any defining factors that would elicit my interest. The white person would have more in common with me intellectually, and I would be far more inclined to feel solidarity towards her than my black example. Certain activists would believe that because of immutable phenotypic traits that I would have more in common with the black person, and that I should join his ranks as a Person Of Colour™. Never mind that the hip-hop devotee might have had an entirely different upbringing and cultural heritage from me, even though our distant ancestry might be similar. Because he is black, he is my compatriot, and my white intellectual counterpart is not. Again, would this make any sense if one replaced ‘black’ and ‘white’ with ‘blonde’ and ‘brunette’?
I also believe that people can have their own cultural heritages independent from their ancestral cultural heritage. For example, my individual cultural heritage is very much Western European, as opposed to African-American or simply African. My ideas are influenced by Western thinkers and Western history. I was born in a Western country and have lived in two other Western countries. I speak a Western language and participate in a Western culture. I have never been to Africa, and do not feel particularly connected to it. For all its faults, Western civilization and culture are the ones that speak the loudest to me. I do not see that connection as a function of ‘internalized racism’: I appreciate many aspects of African cultures, and certain aspects of African-American cultures, but I do not identify with them in the visceral way that I am expected to, and do not care to have it shoved down my throat as the definitive way to see myself.
My people are my intellectual ancestors and peers, not simply people with the same colour as me. Perhaps you may think the same.

Sodalis is a San Francisco-based autistic transgender male blogger sharing his experiences here: http://anotherautismblog.blogspot.com/ He’s also working on a science fiction novel tracing the lives of a diverse group of gifted schoolchildren, set far into the future in an age of intergalactic travel, several sentient species, and genetic enhancement.

Flash fiction – “Sand” by Fletcher Goldin




                                                  —Fletcher Goldin



Fine and white, it tingles under your feet, between your toes.  But under your nails it grates.  Green fills the sea, foam tinges its waves; salt fills your nose.

          The bright sandcastle is new and smooth, the stooped man old and cracked.  The castle must be young, built so near the rising tide.  The lapping water drains a sliver of sand with each gentle, relentless caress.  Each wave reaches higher than the last.  But it’s not a castle, it’s a house. 

A simple, single-story house.  The roof is lightly pitched.  The sand is just wet enough to retain the finely etched features—the outline of the front door, the sills below the windows, their panes.  The veined, mottled hands tremble on their way to the chimney.  One holds an X-Acto knife, the other a child’s plastic shovel—small, yellow, flat.  The shaking hands near the frail sand, and are suddenly steel-steady.  The knife-edge scores a laser-straight line across the chimney’s side; the grains fall into the shovel’s plate, a finger’s width above the shingles carved into the roof.  A small step higher, and the blade scribes again.  A quiet but distinct splash—a wave-tip crests the slight dune in front of the house.  Waves at sea grumble, signal the tide’s rise.  The large nose, the watery pale eyes, the crevassed face remain fixed on the work:  the knife’s point begins at a horizontal groove and creeps down.  It stops at the next groove, the yellow shovel again catches the sandy waste.  The knife hand above and shovel hand below move to the right in unison, and a second short vertical scribe completes the tiny sand-brick.  The next wave plants its leading bubbles of foam at the doorstep. The knife, the shovel, the focused eyes continue.  Brick, brick, brick.  The chimney is finished, the house complete.  A crack as the back straightens, another as the legs slowly fight gravity one more time and bring the old man to a stand.

The man turns and walks away.  The next wave seeps into the foundation and steals enough sand for the house’s front to cleave and crash.  The man does not look back.

— Short piece by Fletcher Goldin, electro-optics engineer working on nuclear technology, docent at the Chabot Space and Science Center, and aspiring novelist with a satirical tale of dark office politics. I enjoy what I’ve read of his novel so far – gently funny, dry style. Would encourage interested publishers and agents to look into it.

Freelance Writing Gigs site – November’s issue coming very soon!

November’s issue is on its way – the theme will be Choosing to Create Amidst Challenges. Includes a novel review, photography, essays, and flash fiction. Also – encouraging everyone to check out another good opportunity for publication, the Freelance Writing Gigs site at http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com This site attempts to collect freelance writing jobs (onetime things, major book projects, and many jobs in between) into a one stop site updated daily or every few days. Real people search out and blog about the opportunities – it is not a search engine and everything is described and commented on in detail. They aim to showcase legitimate, paid opportunities and provide a place where an aspiring or established freelance writer can go to find work.

We’d like to hear from you (contributors and readers) about what you’d like to see in and from Synchronized Chaos.


This webzine was conceived as a collaborative effort by and for artists and writers, to build community and help meet needs that we have as we develop our crafts and move forward in creativity. So I’d love to take a moment to hear from all or any of you, from our contributors and readers and anyone involved with Synchronized Chaos.

Please feel free to leave comments here about anything to do with this webzine. What directions would you like to see the magazine take in the future? How can Synchronized Chaos best assist you with your artistic and/or professional development, with networking, with getting published, with meeting whatever goals you have set for yourself? What interests you, and what would you most like to read or see here? What would be the most informative, or interesting, or worthwhile for you to see and read? What features might we add, or whom should we contact for an interview? And how might you see yourself helping to contribute to Synchronized Chaos, or getting involved to improve the magazine?

Several people have mentioned that they would like to learn more about publishers or other paying markets for their work, and here is one I came across in another writing community:

http://www.sottovocemagazine.com/index.htm – A new and upcoming webzine with a lovely floral background focusing on well-crafted short pieces (poetry, prose, and nonfiction) of any style and topic. Does pay upon publication, not an awful lot but it would put some extra cash in your pocket.

Also I ran into someone last week who’d volunteered at the SF Writers’ Conference and obtained free admission in exchange for helping with timekeeping, recording lectures, etc. The conference features several well-known writers and workshops on improving craft and networking opportunities and volunteers are able to participate in at least half the event. They’re online at http://www.sfwriters.org and I’ve already emailed them offering my services and mentioning that I could potentially bring some friends and colleagues along also 🙂