Synchronized Chaos April 2015: Creative Tension

Happy April and Happy Easter to those who celebrate. This month’s contributors create a sense of suspense, an uneasy creative tension throughout the issue.

Leonard Traumel’s lecture at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, reviewed here by Cristina Deptula, shows how leading physicists and cosmologists say that much of our universe is composed of ‘dark’ matter and energy, about which we know next to nothing. Poet Kira Burton urges us to embrace dissonance and confusion, while Neil Ellman’s poetry comments on paintings whose protagonists are perched between love and disaster, beauty and death.

San Francisco’s Fashion Tech Week reflected the influence of high technology, startup culture and environmental concerns on San Francisco’s emerging fashion aesthetic. Returning poet Tony Longshanks LeTigre describes social contradictions within the same city, where during the same week he can visit a renowned botanical conservatory for free and be harassed for napping briefly in a public park.

Sonny Zwierkowski’s poetry presents images that carry hints of unreality and disconnection: empty foreclosed homes, people who have trouble speaking to each other, a backyard view reflected in a pool of water. Joshua Dunlap’s poetry and prose vignettes tell stories with themes that have resonated with people throughout human history: striving for accomplishment versus living in the moment, fighting with others to prove oneself, contemplating mortality in the midst of vibrant life.

Russell Sivey presents a relationship where there is simultaneously passionate love and intense conflict.

Joan Beebe’s gentle, thoughtful pieces convey the earth’s natural renewal in spring and the rhythms of her childhood working on a family farm. Yi Wu’s poetry presents spring as fragile, almost tipsy and clumsy in how it clears away frost. Patrick Ward also contributes a pleasant piece about growing beans in his garden, and in later pieces encourages acceptance and respect for those who are somehow outside the mainstream, even those who seem scary at first glance. Ward also points to the existence of cruelty and evil in one of his pieces. Again, the complexity of life involves both good and bad, compassion and malice.

Ann Tinkham’s travel essay, like Patrick Ward’s work, comments on the lives of those who are different. She portrays a moment of tension in a family whose baby has Down’s syndrome and wonders if we can broaden our concept of ‘having it all’ to encompass ‘welcoming all.’ Shawn Nacona Stroud’s poetry conveys themes of family and loyalty, showing the beauty of building a history with loved ones. His final piece describes a near death experience, reminding us that we are all vulnerable. Laurie Byro’s work embraces all, love, memory, travel, grief, separation, culture, the foreign, prayers, through lush imagery.

Elizabeth Hughes reviews titles in her Book Periscope column where protagonists must make choices that determine their character and destiny. In K.C. Simos’ Ambrosia Chronicles, the characters within the adventure trilogy slowly grow into themselves, discovering their supernatural powers. In pastor Stephen White’s self help guide Saving Dr. Jekyll, Destroying Mr. Hyde, the author gives advice on how to live a moral life and overcome one’s addictions and bad habits. Characters and readers must choose to show courage and do the right thing even when faced with constant danger and pressure to give in to temptation.

Ryan Hodge, in his monthly Play/Write column, discusses how the most interesting video games encourage characters to solve problems in more creative ways than simply shooting as many enemies as possible. As one game demonstrates, sometimes peace can be even more complex and interesting to maintain than war.

In his lengthy poem about the provenance of a clock, Christopher Bernard reminds us that most of us are inextricably connected to others. Nigerian political columnist Ayokunle Adeleye urges his fellow citizens to turn away from selfishness in the social and political spheres. Laura Kaminski and David Subacchi advocate for tolerance and nonviolence in the wake of killings of civilians within Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram. Warwick Newnham presents the moral chaos still present in post-colonial Myanmar/Burma through a vignette about drunken sailors, lovers and fireworks.

There’s plenty of chaos in this issue, but also plenty of love and understanding and creativity. These pieces point to a way forward where we embrace complexity while acknowledging our pasts and accepting and honoring our connections with others.


Announcement from our partner Rui Carvalho, who has worked with poet Janine Canan and other writers here: 

Now you can publish your e-book for Windows or Windows Phone, with your poetry, tales or novel, for only a donation of the following amounts:
a) annual donation 10 USD (maintenance);
b) price per page 1 USD;
c) authorize the inclusion of automatic ads in 10 % of the pages (at least and only if you aren’t happy with this).

For more information please contact Rui M. Publishing at:

Best regards.

High tension power lines from George Hodan,

High tension power lines from George Hodan,

Play/Write from Ryan Hodge


-Ryan J. Hodge

For someone who enjoys a great story, is there anything better than a narrative that engages you from the very start? Imagine a world so rich you can almost smell the scents in the air, a delivery so clever it forces you to think in a way you never thought you would. I’m Ryan J. Hodge, author, and I’d like to talk to you about…Video Games.

Yes, Video Games. Those series of ‘bloops’ and blinking lights that –at least a while ago- society had seemed to convince itself had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In this article series, I’m going to discuss how Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and even Candy Crush can change the way we tell stories forever.

How Unconventional Problem Solving Makes Stories More Exciting

There’s a certain habit one can get into while writing as well as playing video games; the habit of resolving problems in the most straight forward, obvious way possible. Be it with firearms or sharpened sticks, it is easy to think of conflict as an uncomplicated affair of each party dueling the other until one falls over. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bit of creative stagnation and, worse, make combat in a story outright boring.

Take Ultraviolet (2006, film) for example. In this movie, Milla Jovovich’s character, Violet, lays waste to the enemy forces with such brutal efficiency that nothing the villains send against her can really be considered a threat. Though the number of enemies is scaled up with every encounter, because Violet’s default problem solving mode is pure attack we, the audience, need not even ask ourselves How’s she going to get out of this one?


Shoot some guys? Shoot some guys.

Such modus operandi is more than applicable to a lot of modern video games. The worst offenders, in fact, are some of the most popular on the market; including Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. Despite their financial successes, however, there tends to be little about these titles that players find memorable. However, the moments they do find memorable tend to have little to do with endlessly felling waves of enemies.

Continue reading

Poetry from Tony Longshanks LeTigre

Yobo Poems

by Tony Longshanks LeTigre
yobo (noun): young hobo


I take a nap in George Sterling Park

broad daylight, early afternoon

I’m tired, between appointments

sleep for an hour or less

do not litter, in fact pick up

a bottle left by someone else

pee on the concrete

don’t drink or smoke (though I might)

as I wake up, guy confronts me

“are you camping out here?”

tells me to leave & not come back

calls me “buddy”

I say, “don’t call me buddy”

does this guy know

what it’s like to be crazy tired

and have nowhere to sleep?

I leave, for my own reasons

but may be back again

to this park named after a bohemian roustabout poet

who would totally take a nap in a park

Continue reading

Poetry from Kira Burton

Embrace Dissonance
Simplicity in chaos

The disorientation of unreality


Of your own insignificance

Finding that time

Is the most valuable commodity

The clock ticks

As you read this

Is it worth it?

The most beautiful moments

Are tragedies

Because they end

We are always waiting

For something to begin

Lingering has consequence

We say forever

Like it actually exists

Optimistic in our hubris

Embrace the discord

Because change is perpetual

And without its ongoing tilt

We would wither

We would wilt

Let whimsy rule the day

Let nonsense out to play

And place logic in a box

Only to be used when requisite

If possible avoid it

Logic lies

Logic justifies

There is honesty in discord

That is not easily ignored

Because it makes up our very existence

And it is exquisite in its persistence

It is the majesty of juxtaposition

Peace within dissonance


Cristina Deptula on Leonard Traumel’s talk on dark matter and dark energy at Oakland’s Chabot Space and Science Center

Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA. Image from

Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA. Image from

Many of the world’s leading cosmologists suspect that most of the universe consists of matter and energy about which we know next to nothing. One of our own Chabot Space and Science Center volunteers, Leonard Traumel, outlined how and why scientists posit the existence of as-yet undetectable ‘dark’ matter and energy.
Traumel began his talk by pointing out how we can’t always rely on our intuition or even our empirical observation to understand the universe. Evolution prepared us to find food and avoid capture on the savannas of Africa, and so our brains developed the ability to grasp and predict the functioning of matter within the space and time scales where we lived. There’s no guarantee that our gray matter will automatically process how things work at a level very far removed from human experience.
So, scientists use tools such as mathematical modeling and the scientific method to conceptualize and iteratively refine our understanding of the world. One of the major forces we’ve been able to model is gravity, where the attractive force between two objects can be expressed as a constant multiplied by the product of their masses and divided by the square of the distance between them. We can estimate, then, how much gravitational force the visible matter we see around us in the universe would experience and how much that would tie the universe together.

Continue reading

Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye

Me AND Now

Few years ago I conducted a study wherein I asked my FB friends to
translate a simple sentence starting with “You and I” into as many
languages as they are able to. (Not) Surprisingly, while non-African
languages typically place “You” before “I”, African languages
typically place the Speaker, “I”, before the Other, “You”! Where is
our chivalry? You and I are a selfish lot!

Sometime last year, I “boarded” a bike only to realise, some two to
three hundred metres to the agreed destination that the road would be
bad further on, having rained heavily the previous night. So I took it
upon myself to alight prematurely and save the bike man avoidable
trouble: slips, falls, and mud. But when I paid him what was
commensurate with my new stop, he refused flatly and said I had to pay
him for the whole journey, a journey I will now complete on foot out
of consideration for the ingrate! I and you are a selfish lot!

Just last month, I was regaled with tales of how Buhari formed the WAI
Brigade during his (in)famous reign of terror, of how a few civilian
youths would patrol the streets and hand over defaulters to the
soldiers for (inhuman) discipline, of how they were themselves terror
in the community, respected, nay, feared! And the kicker was that the
narrator was routing for General so he could dust his uniform of
thirty years and resume his delusions of authority, summarily! That
was his reason for singing Buhari to the polls; even after I told him
we are in saner times!


Continue reading

Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye

Of Artists and Scientists

Medicine is both a science and an art: the study of Medicine starts
predominantly as science, the Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and
Biochemistry; continues as a blend of science and art, the Anatomy,
Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology; and ends predominantly in art,
Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Surgery.

In the one you are expected to think outside the box, imagine, and
explore; in the other, well, just cram and pass, do it as it has been
done for centuries: stand on the right side of the patient, say it
thus and thus, no need to reinvent anything. In the one you have to be
smart and genius; in the other, just be alert and attentive, and tune
your antennas to synch.

And as it turns out, Medicine asks for scientists, admits more
scientists than artists, and turns us all into artists by virtue of
the training; yet, Medicine makes it (extremely) difficult for the
scientist to survive! Much like Nigeria: Nigeria votes you in as a
Democrat, but expects you to be a Dictator; wants you to swear to
protect and uphold the Constitution, yet would rather you threw
everyone in jail, even without lawful convictions; wants you to build
lasting structures, but would rather you did so overnight.

Continue reading