June’s Synchronized Chaos: Foreground and Background


Happy Father’s Day, Graduation Day, Bastille Day, first day of summer – whatever you celebrate this June! And welcome to our latest issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine.

June’s theme is Foreground and Background – with a set of works which explore how individual lives fit into larger ethnic, political, historical, and cultural contexts. Somewhat reminiscent of a large landscape painting or one of those 3-D puzzles from a decade ago, the protagonists and/or creators of each of this month’s works stand in relief against their cultures and societies, encouraging people to look deeper at what and who helps to make us who we are.

Elina Hirvonen’s debut novel When I Forgot, reviewed in this issue, presents characters who look to literature to help them communicate nearly unspeakable personal struggles with violence, mental illness, and the aftermath of war. By stepping back and seeing their traumas in light of the larger human history surrounding them, they are able to distance themselves enough, ironically, to remember those who need their attention.

Laila Lalami’s novel Secret Son also grapples with individuals seeking out places to belong within their larger cultures. In a sobering contrast to the tender hope of Hirvonen’s piece, Lalami shows how people can get lost amidst undercurrents of family, cultural, and religious politics originating long before their birth. When I Forgot’s characters discover a background for their own lives which empowers them by giving them words and a framework for what they have experienced, while Secret Son’s people are hunted out and manipulated by their pasts and by the cultural divides and tensions within Morocco and within expatriate life.

Reclaiming and discovering one’s personal heritage by choice can be an empowering and fascinating experience, as Mary Jane Daugherty-Srubar finds in her memoir Ozark Princess. While she enjoys her own life, its simple country pleasures and calm, decent people, she seeks out information on her Irish clan, linking herself to a broader past out of curiosity. Her memoir shares anecdotes from her childhood, her marriage, her family, her spiritual journey – and celebrates family and belonging to a certain place through starting with a chapter on her family before her birth.

Azerbajani scholar and magazine co-editor Narmin Ka tries an academic tack to explore these themes – as opposed to a particular person or place, she probes how one can define the concept of creativity. What does it mean, in a philosophical or organizational context, to come up with new ideas, and how can we facilitate creativity? She begins with an anecdote about a gentleman on a train endlessly re-reading the same newspaper articles, and progresses to tie in creativity to a history of philosophical and cybernetic thought, to put the concept in its philosophical context.

The band Aryawn, seeking to provide cultural critique through experimental acoustics, lists classical composers among their leading inspirations. Classical works are still used within popular culture to set tones and moods for other pieces, and honored for the structure and psychological impact and sensitivity of their motifs and organization. Uniquely, Aryawn seeks out lesser-known composers, out of a mutual curiosity as to why and how certain music was rejected from production or why its creators were rejected from the canon of celebrated composers. Also, the band hopes to provide cultural analysis and social commentary through its sounds and unusual titles, such as “Sensationalism is the Opiate of the Asses.”

Finally, a contributor who left his/her piece in Synchronized Chaos’ online LiveJournal community (chaos_zine) is published and recognized here. This contributor presented a short existential piece encouraging us not to give up the quest to find and define meaning in our own lives, to ask the questions which matter and not settle for easy answers.

Thanks to all of the contributors for such a diverse, intellectual group of submissions this month! We welcome readers and encourage everyone to think through and enjoy the works.

Also, this website is intended as a resource for writers, artists, musicians, etc. We try to post submission and publication and gig opportunities, if you would like please comment anytime and let us know who you are, what kind of work you do, and what kind of opportunity you are looking for. Also, if you are with a gallery or concert venue or literary agency or publisher and need artists meeting certain specifications, then please let us know and we would be honored to provide some recommendations.

Prologue from Ozark Princess, memoir by Mary Jane Daugherty-Srubar

Mary Jane Daugherty-Srubar reflects on her life as a part-Irish American country girl making her home in the southeastern Ozark Mountains. This piece is a collection of anecdotes from her childhood and early life, including her farm days, schooling, and marriage.

You may learn more at her website and contact her here: http://ozarkprincess.com/Home_Page.html

Have you ever seen an ice cream cone that held two dips side by side? When I was a little girl there was a drug store and a grocery store in our town that sold ice cream. The price was a nickel a cone but the grocery store had the double dip cone, so that is where I bought my ice cream. One chocolate and one strawberry. A poor princess has to be thrifty.

Why did I think I was a princess? I didn’t then, that idea came in later years. I grew up in a low income family. We never went hungry mostly because of the hard work of my mom, her garden, and the chickens she raised, and, most of all, the wonderful fresh fish out of the Spring River. My mom and grandmother Susanna were very accomplished seamstresses so I always had beautiful clothes, many of them made from old dresses.

On my father’s side of the family, I was the youngest cousin, and with my blond curly hair and green eyes, I was certainly the princess of the Daugherty clan. From first grade through fifth grade, I was queen of my class every year but one. That year, my friend, Eva Jo Long, was elected.

My cousin, Roberta, sent me a beautiful maroon colored Schwinn bicycle for my 10th birthday. No one in our town had a bike like this one. The other bikes were big, clumsy with thick tires. My bike had small, thin sporty tires and brakes attached to the curved chrome handlebars. I had never seen a bike like this.

My dad’s friends were always good to me and were always giving me a nickel for soda or ice cream. I was an only child, and maybe I was slightly spoiled. I hate that word and had rather not admit this could be the case.

As I was growing up, not much was mentioned about our ancestors being Irish on my father’s side. A few years ago I came in contact with a second cousin, Fred Daugherty, who has been researching our clan for a long time and he gave me the information he uncovered. I was especially amazed by one fact: our clan leader was the last chieftain in Ireland before the English took over. He was killed He was killed in 1607 in County Donegal; his head was removed and mounted on a pike in front of Dublin Castle. I was amazed at these facts and the more I read, the more interested I became in our history and especially the Irish clan.

As I studied this information, it occurred to me that if our clan leader had not been killed and had been declared King of Ireland, today I could be a princess, a little far fetched, I must admit, but it confirmed my feeling of being an Ozark Princess.

Existential ramblings…Enki4343, found in our LiveJournal community chaos_zine

This short piece, by an up and coming writer who posted in our Synchronized Chaos LiveJournal community, can also be found here, where you may leave comments and correspond with the author: http://community.livejournal.com/chaos_zine/2550.html

It’s all fiction. Reality a myth. We are all hypnotized. We think we think. We believe we know. We wish and we have faith. Only faith. Without dreams we sleep. Sleep without rest. Haunted by nightmares. Consumed by the mundane. Frightened by death. Terrified of living. Morbid ideals of ascension. We exist as though we have purpose. Aimlessly pursuing a means to an end. To what end. Existential meandering. Presupposing a begining. Begining of the end? Who has the answers. What are the questions. As if it matters. Truth is meaningless. We know without understanding. We have faith. We hope and pray for a savior. As if we are worth saving. Still we hope. We have faith in lunatics and heretics. We worship death. Yet we long for immortality. We long for the promised land. Faithful empty promise. The writing is on the wall. the signs are everywhere. If only we could read. WHAT? Our eyes are blind. Our ears are deaf. Our minds comatose. Too bad we are not mute. Inane rhetoric. We choke on propaganda. But we have faith. Seduced by impetuous imps. Abandoned in vitro. It’s all for naught. Irrelevant reverence. Misguided chaotic order. We stumble on stable ground. We stand firm with no legs to stand on. Just remember, god hates you, just not as much as me…

Answers are irrelevant. Only questions matter.

On Creativity: A Philosophical and Structural Context by Narmin Ka, co-founder of Azerbajan’s Alatoran Magazine


Narmin Kamal is a Ph.D. from Azerbajan and co-founder and vice editor of Alatoran Magazine.

She is one of the founders of the Alatoran movement, the Foundation of Independent Writers, in contemporary Azerbaijani literature.

She translated academic texts and important works into Azeri, including works by Jacques Derrida, Michele Foucault and Umberto Eco. These were the first translations of these authors into Azerbaijani. Her work may be found here:  www.alatoran.org

We have made every effort to render her work accessible and natural-sounding in English, and request forgiveness for any lack of clarity.

Essay on Creativity
(Based on different Sufi and Zen philosophies)
Narmin Kamal

It was 12 hours that I had been riding in the compartment of a train and observing my fellow-passenger. He was doing one and the same thing again and anew. There was a newspaper in the compartment. He was repeatedly reading the same news and putting the newspaper aside, then picking it up again to read as if there were nothing more to do. This person, destined to sit in a compartment for a definite period of time, couldn’t find any other possibilities of activity and that was why he was reading the newspaper again and again.

He cannot stop doing something, because he is an active person and cannot remain free of activity for too long, but he is not involved in generating ideas and is not being truly creative.

When he got tired of reading, he opened his bag, changed the places of items in the bag a little, closed his bag and sat down. After a little while he opened his bag again, looked through his stuff, then closed his bag again. Then reached out his hand for the newspaper. What is he doing? Why does he do that? What state of consciousness is this?

Some people feel alive through engaging in lively activity, but non-creative activities, even active ones, are truly as interesting as a game of chess where one’s pieces lie in a fatal, doomed, losing location. Chess allows freedom within an area consisting of 64 checked-squares on the check-board. So, there are many possible moves, but they must all conform to restrictions. 

Creativity is an uprising. It means tasting something new, refusing the conditions placed on the pre-made moves. Creativity is best defined as making something that hasn’t been made before.

You may continue reading here:


Interview with the up and coming experimental band Aryawn


Aryawn is:

Ken- Keys & Flutes
Francois- Guitar, Accordion, Violin, Samples, & Vox
Dave- Vox, Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Samples, & Art
Willie- Poetry & Jaw Harps
Amelia- Merch & Spiritual Guidance
Stiobhard- Reagan’s Ghost
‘Bastian- GW Bush

Free music downloads and info about the band can be obtained at the following link:http://aryawn-musique.blogspot.com/   What distinguishes you from other musicians? What do you feel makes your sound unique?

K: Our music doesn’t really fit into any popular genre so we had to come up with something to call it when people ask. It’s “Not So Punk.” We juxtapose elements from various genres that don’t necessarily mesh together; the sound is strange and not quite sane. Some of the vocals are reminiscent of punk rock but it’s rhythmically different. It’s more drawn out and foreboding. We strive to make a sound that is at once both euphonious and cacophonous. There is a lot of contrast between songs– between dark and bright.

D: My musical prowess is far from stellar, which is probably why I gravitated to hardcore and punk in my youth during the ‘80s. The alto and bass clarinet bits that I play are simply there to provide an atypical texture to what most people think of when considering modern-day music. Our instrumental make up is quite different from what most people expect of live bands. We have no rhythm section, whatsoever! The rhythm in a typical Aryawn song will come from looped samples that Francois or myself have created, the low-end of Ken’s keyboards, or from the bass clarinet. I suppose this would make our music less palatable in the ears of the common music-listener.


   You have a lot of influences; were they conscious or unconscious?
D: Both. I find that I discover unconscious influences while we’re rehearsing. A phrase or word sung with a certain inflection brings up a well of vocal memories. However, when I recognize that this musical utterance has an identifiable source, I usually force myself to change the vocal pattern a bit. The intentional change in what initially felt like a natural vocal migration is my attempt to continue to speak with my own voice rather than mimicking that of another. Of course, there’s no way to completely remove the element of musical influence from one’s style of playing; this influence will speak itself whether you try to hide it or not. I’d have to say that the conscious influences are more of an afterthought. I was approached after a gig by someone who said we sounded like Can. After my initial “what the fuck?” response, I sought out more music by Can in an attempt to discern where this perception came from. The False Prophets are another band that comes to mind. I’d only ever heard two songs by them when I was in high school. Twenty years later, I was amazed to discover there was another front man who sported a Hitler moustache and a dress. Their musical rambling from the stereotypical ‘80s hardcore sound spurred my curiosity to learn more about this band who I only had cursory knowledge of. I’m more influenced by the spirit or aesthetic of a band than I am by their musical style so this doesn’t play much of a role in the composition of songs.K: My main influences are my band mates. I don’t have the level of musical/cultural lore that Dave or Francois have so they’ve introduced me to some new sounds. A lot of my prior experience was with classical music or show tunes; Aryawn forced me to try something different. I didn’t have anyone to emulate. It just had to come naturally.

F: I would say that I’m influenced by a myriad of sounds. My way of playing music could be described as instinctive or reactive. Whatever happens directly in one moment is transformed a few minutes later into something else. However, mood is also very important. And as life is very diverse, so, too, is our sound.

   Does a new musician set out to emulate or do a takeoff on someone else or does it just happen?

D: We have scant musical emulations but they are intentional references. These are performed not only to solidify an aesthetic about Aryawn’s sound but to complement song lyrics. The Wagnerian bits at the beginning and end of “The Ghosts Of Christians Passed,” for example, play on the whole Hitler satire that ties the band persona together as well as subtly comparing American politics to what has transpired previously.

   Where do you get your song ideas? Share more about your process in composing. Music or lyrics or concept first? (As a writer, I tend to start with a concept first.)

Continue reading

Playing a part to survive: Laila Lalami’s Secret Son


Laila Lalami’s debut novel Secret Son is at once foreign and mysterious and also full of themes and motifs which resonate with contemporary Western, as well as Moroccan culture. Lalami keeps her novel grounded in specific times and places, incorporating the nation’s language, climate, and history into a piece about individual people who seek to find work, friendship, family, and a place to belong.

Several characters careen or meander between two worlds. Main character Youssef, brought up in the slums, discovers his long-lost father is not only alive, but a wealthy, powerful businessman. His step-sister, studying abroad in the United States, is pressured by her family to leave her American boyfriend and return home to her country and culture upon graduation. Youssef’s father attempts to balance the populist and democratic tendencies of his youth with his desire to protect his family, culture, and business.

The characters’ journeys through various strata and subgroups of Moroccan native and expatriate society reflect larger cultural divides within the country itself: between powerful business magnates and slum dwellers, between Islamic fundamentalists and French-influenced secularists, between a variety of ethnic groups, among Moroccans abroad who disagree with their own government’s actions yet resent the racism and insinuations of Western superiority they experience. Through one fractured family’s efforts to reconnect, readers experience a tour of the nation’s diversity and cultures.

Lalami writes with an eye for telling detail and a heart for narrative. We learn of Youssef and Rachida’s poverty, and the cultural and religious undercurrents within their neighborhood, through an introductory scene where the small family moves their belongings inside before a flood. An Islamic fundamentalist organization is the first, and the most capable, group on hand to help residents recover, quickly winning their trust and loyalty for later political and economic campaigns. This ground-level perspective goes beyond the political and body-count headlines in Western media, and helps explain the appeal of certain groups to local populations. One person’s terrorist is another’s rescue worker, developer, or community organizer.

Lalami develops the characters, including those who eventually become violent militants, as individuals who drink mint tea, play soccer, take final exams and watch television. Each person is humanized, and allowed to speak for him or herself and explain the reasoning behind their actions.  Lalami’s rendering of characters who, despite their flaws, constantly work to protect and create better lives for themselves and their families draws readers in and prevents this story from becoming a documentary or polemic.

Many characters take on different roles in public, acting for inclusion, success, or simply survival. These strategic concealments, when self-chosen, can protect individuals in the short-term, saving Rachida and Youssef from public disgrace for an affair twenty years in the past and providing him with the comfort of an imagined, loving father. However, harm comes to characters when they are forced to play unwitting parts in political and familial dramas beyond their control. Youssef’s stepsister Amal and her boyfriend Fernando’s loving relationship ends because of cultural divides and expectations, and Youssef is himself forced to choose between his father and mother’s world, and to live knowing that the simple mention of his existence will bring trauma to his stepfamily.

In the end, Youssef discovers how he has been set up to take the fall for the murder of journalist Benaboud, whose writing offended the local Islamic religious leaders. Caught between a corrupt secular national government and an angry religious society whose pride and sense of persecution has led to violence, Youssef hears the Commissaire refer to him with the last name of El-Mekki, the false name his mother gave him upon birth. Lalami here illustrates the tragedy of how, even with his hard work and best efforts, he could not rise above the role set out for him by culture and circumstances.

In the spirit of Hosseini’s Kite Runner, Lalami’s novel gently encourages and links together personal and political virtue: honesty, forgiveness, familial love and respect, tolerance, political and press freedom, through the action and the characters’ lives. Little slips into honest self-analysis, such as Youssef’s father’s admission that ‘yes, things would be different if my daughter were a boy’ and Youssef’s questioning what he would do if he were in Benaboud’s place and whether the man were truly out to insult the country and the faith, provide hope that the characters are thinking and capable of eventually creating a more just society, even if that process will take longer than one man’s life.

Laila Lalami’s Secret Son is available online at www.lailalalami.com and through many bookstores…the author was born and raised in Morocco and has also written opinion pieces in favor of local efforts at economic and community development, press freedom, and building secular democracy in Morocco.

Storytelling through the dark night: Elina Hirvonen’s When I Forgot


Elina Hirvonen’s first novel, When I Forgot, is meant to be read with a glass of deep burgundy merlot in hand and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings playing in the background. With a slow, thoughtful European sensibility, the piece presents characters who contemplate their place within their families and the universe while nursing novels and cups of coffee.

History and contemporary politics serve as backdrops throughout the novel, with war and social discontent presented as constant external forces separating people from one another. The September 11th attacks hasten the heroine Anna’s brother’s mental breakdown, while introducing fear and unease into the general population. Subsequent peace marches and the progressive movement lack the ability to change individual lives and families for the better, even while working for peace on an international level.

Ian, Anna’s English professor boyfriend, reflects upon his alienation from two generations of global activism. Remembering feeling alone as a small child during the Vietnam War while his mother marched with assorted hippies and his father came back traumatized from fighting, he is then stigmatized as an American at a Finnish anti-Iraq war protest after Anna leaves to protect her seriously ill brother. Anna also struggles to find her way as an individual in the chaos of a family shaken by her brother Joona’s teenage rebellion and mental illness. Putting her family aside, she focuses on her work as a journalist and her relationship with Ian. However, neither character can truly shut out and forget the external influences upon their lives: Ian is tormented by guilt over not rescuing his father from the veterans’ hospital or at least visiting him before his death, and Anna repeatedly enters into relationships where she dates and cares for struggling men, in lieu of coming to see her older brother.

Ian views his work as a literature professor as a means to remember: cultural history, values, ideas, our sense of who we are found through the collective wisdom of others’ stories. However, can one remember the past well enough to honor and learn from it without becoming trapped in painful memories? Does one have to forget to heal and forgive? In a sense, each main character ‘forgets’ something or someone of importance throughout the novel: Anna neglects to visit Joona, her father ignores how his own bad temper and his violence born of fear aggravated Joona’s condition, Ian forgets to come see his father once he realizes the man will never recover from post-traumatic stress, Ian’s mother and stepfather wait two weeks to let him know of his father’s death, and Ian’s students ‘forget’ he is simply one individual lost in challenging times and attack him as a representative of the American government’s policies.

However, Hirvonen suggests that through the power of language, through articulating and mutually sharing one’s painful memories in a safe environment, one can ‘remember’ in a safe way by finding words to share one’s experiences. Anna and Ian discover a special bond where they are able to speak of their pasts, where they realize they are not the only people affected by violence, war, or mental illness. Through their mutual confessions and through the novel Mrs. Dalloway, a story of how a British woman finds the strength to deal with reality, the characters link and incorporate their personal stories into the broader narrative of human experience, enabling them to step back from their pain enough to heal, forgive, and take action.

A story told in sparse language and delicate sentence fragments, set amid the snow-spattered cafes and apartments of Helsinki, When I Forgot shares its philosophical commentary while never neglecting its individual characters or its unique setting. Some of the events near the end, when both characters confront their pasts, seemed a little out of place and silly: Ian’s public belching, for one. However, the majority of the novel relates the characters’ pain, growth, and self-discovery in a natural, honest way, encouraging compassion and awareness of others around oneself.

Elina Hirvonen’s When I Forgot is available on Amazon.com and at a variety of bookstores, including Pleasanton’s Towne Center Books. Discussion questions and a reading guide are available here, from Tin House Publishers: http://www.tinhouse.com/books/catalog_wif_qs.htm