Synchronized Chaos July 2015: Back to the Drawing Board

The phrase ‘back to the drawing board’ came into popular usage in 1941 with a Peter Arno cartoon in the New Yorker showing engineers walking away from a plane crash as the passengers and crew exited by parachute. The concept reflects optimism, choosing to rethink plans rather than give up in the face of a setback.

This month’s contributors return to the drawing board in a variety of ways. Brothers Burt and Dick Rutan, pioneers in experimental aviation, literally went back to the schematics many times while designing and constructing the plane for the Voyager Aircraft initiative, which eventually circled the globe without refueling. As technology industry veteran W. David Schwaderer outlined in his May talk to volunteers at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA, reviewed by Cristina Deptula, the Rutan brothers ended up having to rework not only the Voyager’s physical design but also the project’s funding sources, time frame, and itinerary. The entire initiative always seemed to be in a constant state of flux, repair and adaptation until its final landing at the Edwards Air Force Base.

Poetry from Tony Longshanks LeTigre echoes the spirit of the Rutan brothers, as his speaker continues down a path after a marked dead end and then sets up an authentic life within a makeshift home. Shelby Stephenson reviews poet Lester Graves Lennon’s new book My Father was a Poet, inspired by Lennon’s discovery of his late father’s writing. Mr. Lennon’s father was also a man of perseverance, as he worked hard on his family’s farm in the rural American South, helped raise many children and ultimately lost his eyesight, yet found the time to create insightful words. Shelby Stephenson also reviews North Carolina Poet Laureate Ronald H. Bayes’ new collection Earthen Musicillustrating how Bayes celebrates the sound and beauty of the English language.

Joan Beebe reviews two novels from Larry Higdon, The Storms of Deliverance and The School from Hell, both with a theme of rebuilding. We see an addicted man put his life together while dealing with alcohol-induced amnesia, and a discouraged young schoolteacher in a poor country area find hope through getting to know a fourth grade student. Beebe also contributes original poetry, shining a light on German-Americans suffering the stigma of being wrongly associated with Hitler’s regime, celebrating the United States on its July 4th Independence Day, and evoking the wanderlust conveyed by the sight and sound of a train.

Ryan Hodge, in his monthly Play/Write column exploring the intersection of literature, life and video games, points out how several old-fashioned video games and science fiction and fantasy novels reveal that the dystopian governments may not be as powerful as they seem. The authorities invest in making examples of isolated rebels to show that they are in control when in fact they are vulnerable to overthrow by a large enough group of people. In order to win these games, and perhaps to make changes to real-life systems of power, we rebels need to evaluate the situation and rethink our approaches to the conflict.

In her monthly Book Periscope column, Elizabeth Hughes reviews Adam Sachs’ novel Three Yards and a Plate of Mullet, about a young boy so fascinated with sports that he turned his interest into a career as a reporter covering local high school football games in his Florida hometown. Three Yards is a novel of suspense and nostalgic glory, both for big game schools and the shared excitement of cheering for the home team and for old-fashioned journalism, in the 1980s still conducted inside newsrooms and published on stacks of inky newsprint, where even a new cub reporter could make a difference by investigating and uncovering a scandal. As the news industry struggles to adapt to new economic and technological realities, these paeans to days gone by will hopefully inspire a return to the newsroom’s drawing board rather than a surrender of the ideals of reportage.

Kahlil Crawford interviews Leland Ware, founder of the 48Blocks blog, which discusses new trends in skateboarding and hip hop music. Ware urges his readers to remember that skateboarding is an art, and to stay original and authentic with whatever art forms they pursue. To him, much mainstream hip hop lacks creativity and should be invigorated with fresh voices.

Finally, Christopher Bernard gives us a poetic dialogue between the human soul and brain as the two meet in an independent artsy coffeeshop, discussing the relative merits of technical inventions, logic and material progress over idealized thought, meaning, human connection and intuition. In this piece, inspired by Pope Francis’ recent comments on climate change and the environment, Bernard invites us to reconsider and embrace aspects of life and our psyches he feels have been neglected.

FYI we are hosting a reception Tuesday July 14th, 6-8 pm at Oakland’s Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster Street near Lake Merritt. Lewis Mark Grimes, artist who creates unique ‘feather rishi’ Egyptian inspired patterns from peafowl feathers printed on silk scarves, will come up from Southern California for this event to show off his work. All others are invited to read, bring books to sell and share, or just enjoy food and drinks and conversation.

Here’s the Facebook event page: RSVP appreciated but not required.

Also, our colleague in Portugal, poet and software developer Rui Carvalho, hosts a poetry contest on his blog and invites all writers to participate. Our magazine staff will provide editorial expertise to judge this competition and provide free writing coaching to the runners-up.

International Literary Contest: Poems and Tales for Nature 2015

Competition Adjudicator: Rui M. Carvalho

Prize-giving will be by the end of October 2015 using the web and the website where the results will be displayed.

For further details, rules & entry form visit


Peter Arno cartoon from the New Yorker, May 1, 1941.

Peter Arno cartoon from the New Yorker, May 1, 1941.

Kahlil Crawford interviews founder Leland Ware

One of my early literary/skating influences was founder Leland Ware. Leland was a bit more cosmopolitan than most of us; and you’d be hard-pressed to come across him doing anything unrelated to writing/skating in some way, shape or form. I reached out to him recently to see what’s up..

KC: Sup man, it’s been a minute – too long to fully catch up, but what’s been up in a nutshell?

LW: Wow, a lot of things have happened. Highlights include starting my blog in 2006 and having that get recognized in skating and then starting to work full-time in the industry in 2008. I had a contract with Interscope Records in 2008 and was working as the Editor-In-Chief for this site called that they pulled the plug on after a year. Then in 2011 I left San Francisco and moved to LA to work as a staff writer at the Berrics and in 2012 I moved down to San Diego to work as the Content Manager at The Kayo Corp. Kayo makes DGK skateboards, Expedition Skateboards, Organika Skateboards, and Gold Wheels. I run the website, online store, do all of the marketing writing, and help come up with ideas to creatively market our products. We also do a quarterly magazine and I do most of the writing and editing for that. It’s been 3 1/2 years and things are going well. It’s cool cause DGK is really big in skateboarding, but also really connected with Hip Hop as well – so my job works with two cultures that I’ve always been really passionate about; which is definitely a blessing.

KC: Riteon, Bro. You have been on the scene for quite a long time. What keeps you motivated?

LW: I’m really inspired by art, music, photography, and film – so I guess my biggest motivation is being around creative people that are doing cool projects in those realms. I’ve gotten to meet quite a few of my heroes through being involved in skateboarding and the culture that surrounds it – people like Spike Jonze, Sean Cliver, Marc McKee, Tobin Yelland, Ed Templeton, and many more were all people that I looked up to growing up; so getting the opportunity to meet and talk to them over the years has been inspirational. Outside of that, just getting the opportunity to contribute creatively to various projects and work with things that I’m passionate about gets me hyped to get out of bed in the morning.

KC: Word. You put me on to mad flavor back in the day. Who/what would you say are your primary influences?

LW: Man, so many people and things have been influential to me. Definitely Larry Clark and Harmony Korine and the movieKIDS – that was such a raw and honest portrayal of the scene back in the mid-90’s. Everything Spike Jonze has ever done has been amazing. The brand Supreme and pretty much everything that they’ve done over the years, they’re the perfect marriage of street culture and high fashion and have managed to remain on the forefront of those cultures for over twenty years. Early World Industries stuff – the artwork of Sean Cliver and Marc Mckee, and Steve Rocco’s “us against the world” aesthetic, along with Big Brother magazine were highly influential to me growing up. Girl and Chocolate skateboards – the artwork of Andy Jenkins, Evan Hecox, and The Art Dump. San Francisco, LA, and New York and all of the cool stuff that comes out of those cities. Mark Gonzales as a skater, artist, and creator. Chris Pastras and Jason Lee and early Stereo Skateboards stuff – that got me into jazz music and the Blue Note design aesthetic. Basquiat, Warhol, Ricky Powell… I could go on for days, there’s really too many things to mention; but my influences are all over the place.

KC: Speaking of KIDS & Basquiat, hip-hop culture’s morphed quite a bit in the last 20. What’s your take?

LW: I have a love / hate relationship with hip hop. I don’t like most of the new stuff that’s on the radio – it’s super dumbed down and pretty mindless. When people started just repeating themselves and not really rhyming, I kind of got over it – but then there’s newer stuff like Earl Sweatshirt and Run The Jewels that’s amazing. I guess my take is that hip hop became mainstream and like most mainstream things it got watered down for the masses. I still listen to all of the old 90’s stuff and I try to seek out new stuff that’s good. I like early Kid Cudi and Wale when they were both just mixtape artists. Odd Future is dope. I listen to all different types of music though, especially now that I’m older – I spent so much of my life only listening to hip hop that I had to branch out and peep other genres. I really like Santigold, TV On The Radio, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and stuff like that as well.

KC: I hear you. Any advice to the new breed writers/riders?

LW: I would just say pay attention to everything, because you never know where or what you’re going to draw influence from. I would also say surround yourself with positive and creative people, because the wrong energy can really bring you down. I would also say, don’t force things – just let if flow. Like if you’re in the zone to write, then write; but if you’re in the zone to shoot photos, then do that, and if you do art or music then make time for that too – that way you never really get burned out and one thing usually influences the other. As far as skating, you just have to skate all the time if that’s what you want to do – but remember that skating is also an art, so look at older stuff like Mark Gonzales and Jason Lee in Video Days and how they approach tricks. Also, whether it’s skating, writing, photos, art, etc – style is everything, it’s not what you do; but the way that you do it that counts.


Essay from Christopher Bernard

A Little Talk Between Brain and Soul (Laudato Si’, Pope Francis)

By Christopher Bernard

White hands reaching out to touch each other against a black background

The Brain and the Soul are meeting at Philz. The Brain is dressed in computer geek togs: leopard-style TV glasses, a shaved head, a tee-shirt reading Code Earth, leatherette flip-flops, and ragged but expensive-looking jeans. He has an iPad in one hand loaded with a document he is making sure Soul doesn’t see, and the latest iPhone in the other, which he consults every so often to fact check. The Soul is dressed simply in a white shift and sandals, and wears a warm smile. The only possession she brings with her is a ring on her left hand. She is near-sighted and occasionally squints.

We find them already in mid-conversation. The Brain is doing what he does best: talking nonstop.

The Brain:
(Thinking: Got to speak in antiquated tropes,
pre-memes and metalanguages
and undeconstructed syntagms,
but that’s the only
parole and langue coding that
my ol’ prefrontal-cortex-challenged friend Soul

“And” “I” “bring” “good” “news.”
(“Does” “that” “ring” “a” “bell”?)
“Guess” “what”?

(Soul smiles even more broadly.)

“You” “don’t” “have” “to” “be”
“a” “scaredy” “cat” “anymore”:
“There” “is” (!)

(Soul grins happily.)

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Shelby Stephenson reviews Lester Graves Lennon’s book My Father was a Poet


Translating his father’s Braille, Lester Graves Lennon’s My Father Was a Poet (CW Books, Cincinnati, Ohio) questions who we are as human beings who want to make a difference in a world permanent with bliss and pain. Lennon’s gutsy poems turn family history and color-line into words natural as wind and sun, rain and earth around his father’s grave in Whiteville, North Carolina.

My Father’s Father’s Children

My father’s father, Mack, a rough shrewd son

of freed field slaves, owned a tobacco farm,

thirty years after slavery in Whiteville,

North Carolina. His wife, Aradella,

worked home and soil, gave birth to thirteen children:

D’Ossey, the first born who died at Shaw;

Ben, Quentin, Roscoe – the three who stayed and farmed;

Eva, the youngest all called Tiny Bee;

Bessie, Naomi, Minnie, Lillian,

the four whose high cheek bones and red brown skin

best showed their mother’s mother’s Cherokee

birth; Acy, at four hundred pounds the largest

and closest to my father; Shady Macon,

the youngest boy haunted by crying spells;

Early the first through college; and my father.

Nine shared their field hand grit to earn degrees.

Seven had striking blue-rimmed eyes, the seven

who lost their sight. My father lost his last.

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Poetry from Joan Beebe


On this special day of celebration

We raise our flag in freedom once more

And watch parades with banners flying.

Old soldiers are there too and some are crying.

But we go on with thankful praise,

Because we know the sacrifices made

Some will sing our anthem of old

Then thank our God as the day unfolds.

We love our country so as we look at the stars

On the red, white and blue

And say once again how lucky we are.

To live in this country so beautiful and fair

And we end our day with a special prayer.

We stand as a people diverse in many ways,

But we stand united together under our flag.

Because America embraces all who made

This country so grand and what it is today.

So may America, the land of the free and the brave

Be a symbol of peace to all people of the world

And our flag will stand proudly as the years unfold.


Cristina Deptula reviews David Schwaderer’s Oakland, CA talk on innovation and aviation pioneers Burt and Dick Rutan

Photo of the speaker

Dr. W. David Schwaderer

Last month’s Chabot enrichment speaker was W. David Schwaderer, a 30-year computer industry veteran who regularly lectures in Silicon Valley on the subject of innovation. He took volunteers and their guests through the Voyager Aircraft initiative, where a plane designed by inventors Burt and Dick Rutan circled the world without refueling, from the initial concept development on a restaurant napkin to the weather-beaten fuselage’s final resting place in the Smithsonian. This talk introduced the ideas in Schwaderer’s upcoming book on idea development,Innovation Survival – Concept, Courage, Chance and Change, and gave Chabot’s docents a better idea of the complicated process behind the discovery of many of the scientific concepts we showcase.
Schwaderer started his talk with a reminder to us to think outside the box and not get limited by stereotypical concepts. For example, there’s no reason why a hairdryer couldn’t have been invented and marketed as a mirror defogger. And, he pointed out the different and sometimes complementary personalities of brothers Dick and Burt Rutan, one an Air Force pilot who enjoys daring acrobatics and the other an engineer and tinkerer who loves to build new and different types of crafts. It  can take a wide variety of personalities and skills to execute a large project, as he further illustrated through the cliche that for every new plane with a pilot and copilot aboard, there are another hundred people on the ground who were also vital to the flight.

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Shelby Stephenson reviews Ronald H. Bayes’ Earthen Music collection

Ronald H. Bayes’s Earthen Music
The Collected Poems, Ronald H. Bayes, Selected and Edited by Joseph Bathanti and Ted Wojtasik

(St. Andrews University Press: 2015, 685 pages), with Introduction by Joseph Bathanti;

Poet Ronald H. Bayes

Poet Ronald H. Bayes

For almost five decades Ronald H. Bayes has wowed the world with poetry and with love of the arts and compassion for helping others get into print, founding St. Andrews University Press, Laurinburg, North Carolina, and becoming and holding the atmosphere for dozens and dozens of writers to read once a week at the St. Andrews Forum which he also founded: the roll call of writers is endless:

James Laughlin, Robert Bly, Betty Adcock, Julie Suk, Stephen Smith, Joseph Bathanti, Tom Wolfe, Mary De Rachewiltz, Agnes McDonald, Shirley Moody, Margaret Baddour, Ann Deagon, Jonathan Williams, Jeffery Beam, Guy Owen, Paul Jones, Tom Hawkins, Anna Wooten, Marty Silverthorne, Fred Chappell, Terry Smith, Joel Oppenheimer, Robert Creeley, Lenard Moore, Glenna Luschei, Jaki Shelton Green, Tom Patterson and on and on, all the time writing poems right out of the air of the world – like conversations of rapscallions looking for a grange-meeting.

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