Synchronized Chaos March 2009: 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:

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

and my myspace is:

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]


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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 ( 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.