Synchronized Chaos Magazine – Oct 2011: Art Solace

Art Solace is about establishing a home for oneself by way of creating art and literature. It’s about having artistic freedom regardless of any would-be barriers.

The act of painting and drawing is a welcomed refuge for Artist Bobby West who has spent decades in federal prison. His cultural, abstract work gives us an intimate look at his struggles and loneliness.

Jamie D. Meissner, who is currently incarcerated, can also relate to finding passion in painting. Her work is reflective and emotionally-driven.

In the poem, Tears On Her Guitar, Jaylan Salah expresses finding solace in music…an attempt to drown out depression and distractions.

Additional poetry contributions are from Corey Mesler, Joseph V. Milford, Lucinda Troth, Linda Sheppard, and Sam Burks. In these poems, there are some thematic commonalities regarding distractions, bodily sensations, and isolation.

We have several book and performance reviews along with a few special articles to share with you this month:

Book reviews:

  • Laura O’Brien on Sugar Zone, by Mary Mackey
  • Christopher Bernard on Visions & Affiliations, A California Literary Time Line: Poets & Poetry 1940-2005, by Jack Foley
  • Sarah Melton on Fire Monks, by Colleen Morton Busch
  • Nicole Arocho on The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman
  • David A. L. Brown on Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, by Alia Malek

Performance reviews:

  • Bart S. Alvara on Opera San Jose’s production of Idomeneo
  • Suzanne Birrell on The Encyclopedia Show, which was recently held at the Famous Four Colors Gallery in Oakland, California. The reviewer was so inspired by the show that she completed the review in verse.


  • Michaela Elias’ interview with Dulcimer Players Patricia Delich and Wayne Jiang
  • Tapati McDaniels’ conversation with Sarah Katherine Lewis about her self-published book, My Boring-Ass Rehab Diary
  • Christine Aratas unique article on the challenges and rewards of caregiving

Also included is a heartfelt short story by Megan Guernsey entitled, “Harry and the Potting Soil.”

As always, be sure to read Leena Prasad‘s monthly Synchronized Chaos column: Whose Brain Is It? Presented as a mystery with fictional characters and clues, this is a monthly column with a journalist’s perspective on brain research.

Please do also check out the artwork from Fabio Sassi. Sassi’s use of interesting patterns and shapes creates an industrial vibe for the viewer.

We hope you enjoy reading this month’s issue! If you haven’t already done so, check out the Synchronized Chaos Magazine Fan Page on Facebook! “Like” us and you’ll be able to stay in tune with the magazine, use it as an event and gallery resource, and network with like-minded individuals.

Compassionate Caregivers: Experienced Voices Heard

[Article by Christine Arata]

Compassionate Caregivers: Experienced Voices Heard

“There is time for work. And there is time for love. That leaves no other time.” Coco Chanel

When I was 5 years old, my mom went to work and I became a latch key kid. I remember lying on my mother’s bed as she went through her closet to find clothes for her day. I also remember times waking up and she would be gone, to work. Little did I know later in life she would need me and I would get that time with her back. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006. I was working full-time. I was also living with her at the time. Her needs gradually increased and I decided it best to quit my job in 2007 to work part-time. It is now 2011 and I have worked on and off as my mother has progressed in the disease. Aside from her need to work in my early years, my mom has always been a great support to me. I could always count on her. In her weakness, we became even closer. I am thankful for these years I am spending with her and I am happy I can keep her home with me. She earned her home and garden. Luckily, my brother and sister agreed. It’s not all easy; I don’t want to make a fable out of caregiving. It does take its toll, but it’s the reason you do it that can carry you through it. Instead of statistics to explain the issue, I have compiled stories from a few caregivers in the San Francisco Bay Area and one from Arizona.

Ashlee found herself caring for her grandmother while raising her daughter of only a few months. Her grandmother enjoyed having the young companionship that often brought smiles. She too found it was quality time with her grandmother and that she learned valuable lessons from her. Her family was close and her grandmother had done a lot for them all, and despite having a difficult life, she remained positive and was a strong woman. Ashlee added, “We felt our time taking care of her was in return for the wonderful things she had done for all of us, we had a family support system. This led me to my strength and patience.” Ashlee admits she gave up some freedom and a normal social life being a live-in caregiver. She found this challenging at first, but found her balance over time. She states, “We need a support system, when we receive it helps our positivity.” “…People forget to give back to their community and lend a hand. Caregivers are making a difference and leading to a rewarding life by learning something valuable from our patients.”

Christine Arata may be reached at

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Performance Review: Opera San Jose’s Production of Idomeneo

[Reviewed by Bart S. Alvara]

I was unfortunate to have seen Idomeneo at the Opera San Jose, only because I now have a love of this art that will probably have me buying season tickets, and I’m in college, money is not my thing.

Walking in off of a street filled with car horns and cell phones ringing, the Opera House instantly transported me into 18th century France. Opera San Jose may not be the largest one, yet that only adds to its elegance and charm. With the richly decorated vaulted ceilings, Greco-Roman columns along the walls and a live pianist playing chamber music, the mood lifts you out of the modern world. That immersion into the past gave the show I was a going to see a sense of authenticity that no amount of downloaded music and iPads could deliver, so I knew I had to give the Opera my full attention.

There is something so visceral about the live performance that it almost overwhelms the senses. For the modern audience, we are too used to hearing our music on speakers, and forget that real song and music is made with instruments and voices. I say this because if a thundering drum was hit, you can feel the percussion resonate through the air. When an Opera singer hits a high note, the sound waves carry through the air to you. That connection to the music is something that television and movie screens cannot equal.

The plot comes from Mozart by way of Ancient Greece; a love story between a star cross Prince and Princess, and a father and King torn between sacrificing his city or his son. It builds from the tale of the Trojan Princess torn between her grief over the fall of Troy and her new love for the Greek Prince, into a powerful tale of being at the mercy of Fate. Filled with vengeful Gods, scheming lovers, and cruel destinies, the plot excels at creating tension and awe until its powerful climax.

You can contact the reviewer, Bart S. Alvara, at

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Art by Bobby West


Artist Bobby West’s coffee-colored hands gently revisit and redefine African culture through his passionate renditions. Bobby has been locked behind concrete walls for the past twenty-three years transforming canvas into some of the most brilliant, original, African-American, reflections composted today. Bobby’s inspiration comes from a lonely, desperate childhood.

In 1981, he was sentenced to forty-five years in federal prison for bank robbery.

While traveling throughout institutions, he polished his skills and perfected every art form that was permitted there. He paints with acrylics, oils, and watercolors, and draws with pencils, ink, pens, and chalk.

Presently, Bobby’s reverent mood and themes of Biblical serenity move the artist to pour his affections across fabric, selflessly giving an intimate view of his private world of pain, remorse, life, healing, and forgiveness. The cold concrete holds his feet and steel bunk cradles his aging body. As with so many others, artwork is the liberation of Bobby West.

The works of Bobby West are currently on display at the Community Arts Program, 1009 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. Call (415) 553-4525 x304 for more info.

To contact the artist directly, email

Paintings by Jamie D. Meissner


Jamie D. Meissner is from Sparks, Nevada. Her inspiration comes from close family ties, especially her 7-year-old daughter Kenedy. She is also an accomplished singer and pianist.

Contact info:
Ms, Jamie D.Meissner #45401-048
5675 8th Street Camp Parks
Satellite Prison Camp
Dublin,California 94568-3106

Short Story by Megan Guernsey

Harry and the Potting Soil

In the year 2004, Harry lost his job with the orchestra, in which he played the violin for 15 years, and he moved next door to his elderly mother. At times, he felt his mother was doing quite well, and he would play his violin, all alone, until late at night, in the top story of his three-bedroom home. His house was stately, brick, and quite ornamental; his yard was quite plain, just a front sidewalk and some scraggly grass. Although Harry’s yard was nothing to complain about, it was nothing to praise either, and Harry decided that he would put some of his free time into making the yard more presentable.

When spring rolled around, Harry borrowed a pitchfork and a shovel from his Mother’s garage and just started digging. As he dug, he found treasures from the past that made him wonder about the families that had live in the house before him. One day he found a fork, once an old coin, and one day he even found the eye of a doll. He kept them all in a special box in his bedroom. Souvenirs from gardening, he thought. Treasures that others had cherished.

Before he’d begin digging in the yard each morning, he’d go next door to his mother’s for breakfast, just to check on her. He’d eat his eggs and toast with an extra eye on his mom’s right knee, maybe shakier today than yesterday. But usually everything was okay, and he’d go back out to the yard, start digging again, repeatedly noting the progress he was making.

Megan Guernsey is a writer, poet, and lawyer from Missouri, California. She may be reached at

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