Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Happy Ending

I’ve come to a realization. There is a massive group of people living in the United States who believe not only in an afterlife but in one that mimics culminations or resolutions of plots they have learned by watching television. This is noteworthy. There are people in American workplaces who seem to be regular and normal but in fact are completely insane.

Let’s pretend you get hit by a garbage truck later on today, and your body ends up smeared all over the cement of your alley. You’re dead. You won’t feel any shame. Yes, it’s embarrassing, perhaps, to end up inside a garbage truck’s container—you’d have to conclude, were you in that predicament, that you’re garbage. But death is not embarrassing, not to the dead. The dead do not write confessions of shame in fucking McCall’s.

The dead, if there is an afterlife, end up someplace where we cannot find them. That place is identical to the place they were before they were born. If it exists the same way snot or shit exists, we’ll never get to it unless we die and find ourselves in heaven’s sewage system. Think about this: you have more access to shit and snot than you do to the afterlife. That is not an insane point of view. If you believe in shit but not in the afterlife, you can be sure you are quite sane. Reverse it, believe in the afterlife but not in shit and send yourself straight to the nearest bin.

Let’s pretend, just for the sake of philosophical engagement, that the afterlife is euphoric. It’s a constant rush of dopamine, a never-ending orgasm, an absinthe enema, a joint of Super Lemon Haze, and a massage from good Miss Mary, topless, all rolled into one. Fair enough. That’s an amazing thing to long for. However, that’s not what happens at the end of an episode of Friends. The ending of your average episode of CSI is substantially less interesting than a massage from good Miss Mary.

So please, believe in your euphoric bliss if you want. Be insane. It’s your right, after all. But please do not confuse euphoria with the resolution of an average episode of Three’s Company. Just because Jack Tripper and Larry meet hot chicks does not mean that the afterlife exists; even if it did, that afterlife probably would be very different from Jack Tripper’s orgasm.

You should note, however, and do this the next time you take a crap, that Jack Tripper is a fictitious character. Your crap is not, even if it starts talking to you and telling you: “You owe Gint Aras $624.”


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Writing advice from a terrified man

You should write the thing you would really like to be reading.

You can’t claim you don’t know what that is. That’s like saying you don’t know what you want to order from the menu. Of course you know. If you were by yourself, you’d order it.

Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what to order when you’re by yourself. It’s because you’re playing the bullshit game, believing there’s something better than what you want. There simply isn’t. There is nothing better than what you want. You think, I want to order the best meal. I want to know that, when my food comes, I’m eating the best thing. Who’s going to judge what’s in your mouth? Don’t play games with yourself. No one can taste your food for you. And if you’re tasting something other than what you’re eating, you’re having a delusion, and you’re alone in it.

You’ll say that writing isn’t food. I should be writing for the audience. Which one? You’ll know people who claim to be experimental, sublime, vulgar, minimalist, maximalist, postmodern, classical, formalist, post-punk, marxist, nihilist, spiritual, bleeding and cauterized. Good. Know them. They will never taste the food in your mouth, and they will never know what you would like to be reading unless you show them.

When they read and say you’re not postmodern enough, the experience teaches you little about yourself. Instead, you learn this critic believes he’s really postmodern. He’s a tyrant wishing the world to be different from itself, but he is a walking paradox and has not learned what generates the world in the first place. He looks at mailboxes and fire hydrants and condoms and thinks, “These things are not postmodern enough. I’m not interested in them.” Fool! You want a postmodern condom?  Look at a rubber and say, “Now there’s a Postmodern Condom.” There’s a Marxist Maibox. There’s a Bleeding Hydrant.

You are the hydrant. It’s you. It is also the reader, just as you are the reader. When someone reads this sentence: “The fire hydrant is bleeding,” the hydrant bleeds both because an author has written and a reader has read. If the reader is pissed about a bleeding hydrant, it is because s/he has failed to imagine the hydrant bleeding in a satisfactory way. Writing about a Marxist Mailbox will not solve anyone’s problem. It simply contributes a distraction from the first, and now we have two identical problems instead of one.

Yes, it’s frightening to admit what you would like to be reading, then to show it to someone. It is identical to seeing that pretty girl, the one with the ribbon on her back and the French braid, and walking up to say, “I love you.” Chances are she does not love you. You know this. You knew it the first time you saw her. But there are two reasons to tell her the truth. One is to be done with it. The other is to see what happens.

What is the worst outcome? She’ll murder you in disgust. But death is absolutely certain. Better to be killed for expressing love than to wait for death in a fortress. Better to write the sentence you would like to be reading than to write the one you hope everyone loves. You cannot tell love what it wants to hear; that is a fraudulent start, the relationship headed for doom. Instead, when you write, you want someone to say, “I thought I was the only one who saw bleeding hydrants.”

Of course you’re not. Hydrant blood puts out fires.

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Photo by Darin Barry.


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Light powered by blood

I’m obviously several years late to this amazing item, but I’ll claim to have finally found it. Here’s Mike Thompson’s little big invention, a lamp that glows when you add your own blood to it. Even if we never use it, and most of us won’t ever even see one, it asks us to think about how wasteful we are with energy, how entitled we feel to it.

I find the lamp brilliant not simply because it’s a light source employing a curious form of chemistry. I love how Thompson has political art meet commerce meet craft meet interaction. The bottle needs to be broken, and the shards serve as the tools to draw one’s blood.

Imagine if you had to give blood each time you wanted to drive your SUV down the street to pick up a pack of smokes. Each time you turned on the air conditioner. Would you turn it on to cool you place by only a few degrees? I have neighbors who turn their AC on as soon as the farenheit hits more than 75. One of the arguments my wife and I get into constantly has to do with the winter thermostat, and we fall along stereotypical gender lines. The argument would change if we needed to make an immediate sacrifice to adjust our heat.

Here I am, typing this blog entry on a computer, using a small HD television to view my own work, a small heater under my chair in this, the basement of my home.

Let’s remain mindful.

 

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Photo by Mike Thompson.


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Drooling mad, drooling wild

I think what you meant when you came into my office to tell me that you didn’t understand that one thing I said yesterday in class was that you have been hallucinating for the past 24 hours. This must be true. Yesterday, I did not teach a class in which you are registered, and I have not seen you for at least two weeks, perhaps more.

Perhaps you’re not hallucinating at all. Perhaps you have just gone mad. That’s fine. Embrace it. Madness is all around us, in the goverment and corporate culture, as we are hell-bent on our own self-destruction.

Just yesterday I saw a Facebook update from a perfectly well-educated person complaining that she is being asked to educate her children about unnecessary things. What an error we make when we begin to believe in our own necessity. We’re mad, I tell you, mad. The air before our eyes grows hair and all we can do is laugh.

It’s funny, of course. There is only one difference between air and hair: a single h. There seems to be no relationship between the two just as there seems to be no relationship between the banana and the nana who cares for our children in our absence and eats all of our bananas. They are the same. Just as our absence is identical to the abscess currently dripping puss someplace far from were we are currently present. But it hurts. God damn, does it hurt. Spray some shit on it.

Anyway, whatever I said yesterday, be it that one thing or those five things, was meaningless. You can’t expect me to remember so long ago. Lo song goa. Go nols oga. Rearrange this shit any way you wish. It all means the same thing. Nothing.

me in office


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Global slavery statistics

I was moved and provoked by this article by Max Fisher that includes a map of global slavery. According to the graphic, there are 30 million slaves, 60,000 of them in the United States. The article makes clear that this is not a “softened” definiton of slavery. From the piece:

These 30 million people are living as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages and, in all ways that matter, as pieces of property, chattel in the servitude of absolute ownership.

I was immediately reminded of George Orwell’s assessment of the underclasses in his book Down and Out in Paris and London (which I teach in a remedial English class here at the college). The reason this form of blatant, forced labor and horrifying child sex and war slavery exists is because of a larger point of view that enslaves us all in the “softened” way Max Fisher is worried about. Here’s Orwell, writing in 1933:

I think one should start by saying that a plongeur is one of the slaves of the modern world. Not that there is any need to whine over him, for he is better off than many manual workers, but still, he is no freer than if he were bought and sold. His work is servile and without art; he is paid just enough to keep him alive; his only holiday is the sack. He is cut off from marriage, or, if he marries, his wife must work too. Except by a lucky chance, he has no escape from this life, save into prison. At this moment there are men with university degrees scrubbing dishes in Paris for ten for fifteen hours a day. One cannot say it is mere idleness on their part, for an idle man cannot be a plongeur; they have simply been trapped by a routine which makes thought impossible.

A routine that makes thought impossible. Or a routine that makes thought less desirable than the alternative, which is to tune out and believe that slavery is a thing of the past. The individual has choice and determines his own fate.

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