Synchronized Chaos July 2018: Ways of Being Human

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Welcome to July’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. This month’s theme is Ways of Being Human. We’re exploring different ideas of how to be a person in our world.

First, there’s the basic question of why many of us choose to stick around and try to make the most of this life.

Inspiration and motivation

Where do we find our inspiration, and what can that motivate us to accomplish? Different contributors point to different personal and global sources of inspiration.

Christopher Bernard exults in spring, dancing along with Schumann in an exuberant symphony of nature’s regrowth.

Mahbub pays tribute to his poetry’s various ‘muses’: nature, romantic love, artwork, and his own thoughts and ideas. Bursts of rainfall, paintings, and lost or idealized love can all come through and blossom into poems.

Joan Beebe writes of love and nurturing, from metaphorical beams of light illuminating the world and from the hardworking hands of a caring mother figure.

Even J.J. Campbell, our regular poet of angst, emptiness and alienation, allows glimpses of hope and beauty to penetrate his pieces this month, through rays of sunlight and stained glass.

Once we get motivated, we can move forward in life in various ways.

Chimezie Ihekuna’s play The Success Story presents a college student who leaves his promising engineering career to follow his true passion and become an author.

Elizabeth Hughes, in her monthly Book Periscope column, reviews titles about protagonists who take great personal risks to resist injustice. Arthur Cantrell’s The Flight of the Valkyrie concerns black operations and military intelligence efforts against the Nazis, and Frederick Malphurs’ A Day in the Life of Dr. Fox presents a Mexican surgeon and his twin brother and their fight for justice against drug lords who killed their sister.

Margi Garcia’s poetry shares her journey out of a violent relationship and her efforts to rebuild her life, as she finds comfort in family and friends, especially her children, for whom she desires to build a better life.

Small individuals, big world – or vice versa? 

How do we relate to the world around us, to a universe that’s not at human scale? How can we, how have we, made sense of where we fit in a world that’s both much larger and much smaller than ourselves?

Gary Glauber portrays very human characters: guardian angels who love earthly pleasures such as Jeopardy, people who lose love out of foolish pride, old friends who enjoy reconnecting, exuberant vacationers. He contrasts the warmth of a personal conversation in a coffeeshop with the loss of privacy and feeling of being trapped and stared at that he feels when people he knows get approached or propositioned by strangers in the vast confusing world of the Internet.

My review of San Francisco State University’s annual Personalized Medicine conference presents a more optimistic view of computer technology. Ironically, impersonal processing of patients’ medical data and analysis of lab results through artificial intelligence allows us the processing power to understand health on a more individual basis and identify patterns on a deep enough level to provide personalized care based on a person’s genetics.

Doug Hawley writes of a hypothetical future terrorist attack in a story that starts out sounding so over the top that it could be humorous, then turns dark as the attack gets carried out and vast numbers of people die. His piece shows at once the vulnerability of the powerful, the ubiquity of nameless evil, the difficulty of fighting an enemy we can’t even identify, and what happens when large segments of the world are left feeling powerless.

In a more humorous vein, Jeff Bagato gives us a character who’s quite large. His body, his belongings, his self-concept – everything about him is defiantly big. This serves as a commentary on some cultures’ relentless drive to expand and grow, on the idea that ‘bigger is better.’

Storytelling and light humor

We explain our world to each other, and to ourselves, through stories. We also use storytelling to entertain ourselves and to appreciate and remember the world around us. Several pieces here illustrate how this narration is a vital part of the human experience.

Norman Olson gives us a travel essay with observations and detailed running commentary on his recent trip to the Netherlands.

J.D. DeHart sends us a fresh set of words and thoughts. Several pieces probe the creative and writing process itself, drawing upon the human imagination and finding amusement in the written word.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan contributes poetry somewhat reminiscent of DeHart’s, although with an even stronger narrative component. His work incorporates vignettes that find humor through the unexpected, the strange, and the slightly grotesque: drunk neighbors who talk of caterpillars, heartbroken friends not even ready to let houseplants into their lives, people who approach pro basketball in a cultish way.

The unusual, and the awkward, is a part of our human experience, though – just as much as the beautiful, the delightful, and the inspirational. We hope that as you read this issue, you enjoy these commentaries on our human existence.

 

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Poetry from Jeff Bagato

 

my hand is big (supersized me)

 

my hand is big

my foot is big

my leg is big

my waist is big

my shoe is big

my pants are big

my shirt is 6XL

my DVD is big

my hamburger is big

my fries are big

my cereal box is big

my bowl is big

my plate is big

my fork is big

my table is big

my car is big

my lawn is big

my satellite dish is big

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Poetry from Gary Glauber

Vacation Adventure

 

Show us the wild kingdom

& let this paid king’s ransom

hold us captive one more day.

 

Let us be owls flying at night,

shouting judgments & formulae,

random truths of sorry subsistence.

 

This is the noise trees make

when no one is there to listen:

curt crunch & crackle

 

of solid dead fall, amazeballs

with a four-star review on

our favorite travel site.

 

Stone fireplace in drafty mansion

stirs the wind of ancestral doom;

we go for a stroll near sunset.

 

Hear our important footfall,

the approach of muffled outrage

through discarded thickets,

 

branches & limbs who lost

when gravity came a’callin’.

Now we all pine for fancy crafts

 

lost to time & tradition,

artisan carpenters of legend

who once whittled soft existence

into heirloom lives worth living.

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Short story from Doug Hawley

ATTACK

(Or Don’t Have A COW, Man)

 

Just to be safe, one of the Secret Service men brought the letter to the President, even though he was certain there was nothing to it.

 

The letter had been checked for fingerprints and any identifying characteristics.  Nothing could be determined from the letter except that it had been sent from Brooklyn.  The text:

 

“President of the Evil Empire:

 

Within a week of receiving this letter, begin to remove all troops from overseas.  You must repatriate at least 10% of those troops each year until all are gone from the long suffering world and are where they belong.

 

We will be watching you.  If you do not comply, you will suffer very serious consequences.

 

Conscience Of The World”

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Article on San Francisco State’s Personalized Medicine Conference

“In nature, nothing is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways and they’re still beautiful.”

  • Alice Walker

On a genetic level, we humans often more resemble trees twisted in individual, complex ways than the neat diagrams presented in anatomy texts.

This makes it a whole lot more complicated to figure out how to keep people healthy and prevent, diagnose and treat disease.

Artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning techniques have the potential to help researchers and medical professionals with this, though, as many research leaders discussed during San Francisco State University Department of Biology’s annual Personalized Medicine Conference. Held at the South San Francisco Conference Center May 31st, 2018, this gathering touched on the promises – and the complications – of data-driven medicine, individualized for particular groups of people, and ultimately, particular people.

Computers’ ability to store and analyze large sets of data can allow researchers to determine which patients are more or less likely to develop a disease or respond to a certain treatment. As keynote speaker Dr. Manuel Rivas, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Data Science at Stanford University pointed out, most individual human genes have only a weak link to a person’s health. Computerized examination of large data sets taken from many patients’ genomes might give us a better idea of which combinations of genes, acting together, would lead to greater or lesser risks of developing a condition, as his work pointed to with Type 2 diabetes.

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Poetry from Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Faye Wray and a Washerwoman Named Argento

 

What is more likely: Faye Wray falls in love with her giant hairy captor

at altitude or that Ponzi schemers show remorse and trickle down

economics becomes more than a urine puck aperitif?

 

And lumbering from the icebox to the mailbox this morning,

I thought about how many stunt men had died

during the moon landing.  Why humans abducted sour

milk carton children and aliens abduct everyone else.

Soon there would be no one left but the aliens

and parking enforcement.

 

And a washerwoman named Argento

or Felicity or after some little known element

from the periodic table.  With buck teeth that make

her smile look like a front door.  Solid oak if you

were knocking.

 

Ulysses needed a travel agent and Alexander

should have never gone to India.  Elephants should

live far away like postcards.  And I could tell them both this,

but they would call me a shut-in and they wouldn’t

be wrong.

 

The closer anyone gets, the farther away

you travel from yourself.

 

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Poetry from Joan Beebe

 

LIGHTING UP THE WORLD
THE INFUSION OF LIGHT BEAMS
CAN BE FOUND ALL OVER THE WORLD.
THESE BEAMS CARRY WITH THEM
 THE SEEDS OF KINDNESS,  TOLERANCE
AND LOVE.
THEY LIGHT UP A CONFUSED AND
DARKENED WORLD.
WHEN THOSE BEAMS OF LIGHT CAUSE
OUR PLANET TO BECOME THAT SHINING STAR
IN OUR UNIVERSE,
THERE WILL BE PEACE, LOVE AND JOY AMONG
ALL PEOPLE.

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