Liquid Ink

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


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If you’re so clever, why aren’t you happy?

In this week’s True Community (published this past Wednesday), I comment on America’s profit-at-all-costs mentality and how it affects young men who decide to pursue higher education. Personally, I often feel guilty that I’m unable to earn more money or provide more for my wife and family. I know that sort of guilt is learned, and it both informs and shapes the points of view of men seeking employment. The effects are negative, often to the point of damning the guys to failure before they even start learning anything.

Hope you’ll check it out. And please do share.

(Chicagoans will know the photo is of The Billy Goat tavern. It’s one of my favorite places to write in the evenings.)

 

Billy-Goat

 

Photo by vxla.


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I saw Godzilla

I went to the cinema for the first time since my daughter was born in 2009. I usually can’t justify it, not with writing deadlines and grading due and children to care for. But yesterday I was met with some writers block, and I chose to go see a film.

What intrigued me about Godzilla was essentially one scene in a 30 second trailer; it shows Godzilla screaming down into the camera while juxtaposed to Chinese lanterns. The scream and dark mise-en-scene really affecting my feelings, and I felt the film might actually be frightening. I think monster movies, while accessing our deepest fears, are usually really stupid, but I also think their stupidity is important. There’s only so much you can do with the plot of a monster movie. Then again, there’s only so much we can do with our monsters.

I did not expect a film full of candy for cinephiles. It includes off-hand references to Kurasawa and Kubrick (Gareth Edwards, the director, uses Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna, one of my favorite compositions, in a masterful sequence depicting paratroopers jumping from a plane and falling through a gray and orange sky). It’s also full of delightfully ironic and blithe meta-film, screens depicting newscasts of monsters tearing up Vegas while clueless gamblers focus on slot machines. The film takes itself just seriously enough to offer important commentary on our human arrogance before nature and our belief that technology—specifically military technology—can solve all our problems. But it retains the whimsy necessary to make a monster movie. In the end, its entire premise—I won’t get into it, because it’s part of the delight, but the film deals with nuclear technology and uses the history of nuclear testing and atomic warfare as part of its plot—is absurd. To pretend it isn’t would be folly.

I also did not expect the film to present a Zen argument. This is still a Hollywood film, a remake of a Japanese monster movie. The Zen lesson amounts to pop-Zen, perhaps a good step above the kind available in Tron Legacy, but it’s still rooted in lessons that are sincere and wise. Essentially the lesson is that our self-inflation is the problem, larger than the monster we perceive, a creature that is actually benevolent. I felt the lesson provided a refreshing counterpoint to the usual themes of Biblical apocalypse and redemption at the heart of most monster or disaster narratives that come out of Hollywood. It was also fun to be part of a community for whom this film was clearly meant.

In short, I really recommend it. There’s a lot more to it than what monster movies usually bring, and it includes some really poetic cinematography.


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Rare footage of LSD test (video)

If you’ve taken LSD before, you’ll know what this woman is trying and failing to explain. I have recently been thinking about some of the more transcendental psychedelic experiences I had during my college years and comparing what they revealed to what Zen meditation reveals. The overlap between insights offered from psychedelic experience and Zen practice, especially when rooted in mindfulness training, aren’t merely uncanny. They are essentially directing attention to the same thing, this “it” that the woman keeps trying to explain. While she’s hung up on the “prisms” and “colors”, it’s only because the “wholeness” of her experience is beyond what language can handle. It’s true for anyone, not just the tripping: our experience is greater than what language can handle, greater than what we can be aware of consciously…and I’m about to babble.

I’m so happy this interview is available.


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Americans fear creativity

I was taken by the story of Paris Gray, a high school student in Georgia disciplined for bombing her yearbook quote. She cleverly used chemical symbols from the periodic table to code the title of a hip-hop song by Juvenile. The song is vile and disgusting, but I think that’s beside the point. This girl beat the censors with a code that obviously embarrassed the school. I comment on it in this week’s True Community.

Check it out. And please do share.

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Photo by TAMUC


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An observation of vulgarity

Did you ever notice how the person blasting his music on the phone while riding the subway is never blasting Bach? Here’s a list of musicians and composers whose music never accompanies the act of either blasting music on the subway or vibrating the entire neighborhood with your automobile’s bass howitzer:

Mozart

John Coltrane

Julie Andrews

Sarah McLachlan

Tiny Tim

Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

Laurie Anderson

The Carpenters

Barry Manilow

Stravinsky

Harry Connick Jr.

Bill Clinton

Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report

Lawrence Welk

Elvis Costello

Wesley Willis

Phish

Warpaint

Bill motherfuckin Clinton

Tom Waits

Them

The Mothers of Invention

gg allin

Screamin Jay Hawkins

David Allan Coe

The Residents

Janis Joplin

John Cage

Sun Ra

Michael Bolton

Perhaps you get the point?

I therefore have a proposition to all those interested in blasting music on their phone whist engaged in some form of urban ambulation. Stop the cliche! You want to annoy your neighborhood? Fuck yeah! Bust out some Lawrence Welk. Crank up Tiny Tim’s Tip Toe Through the Tulips (with him). Get the neighborhood thinking you’re truly deranged by firing up some Tiger Lillies. Then we’ll know you mean business. Otherwise it’s just getting old, dude. It’s just the same old vulgarity.

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For the record: I did once hear someone successfully annonying an entire train with a crackling recording of “Take Me Home, Mountain Road” (or whatever that shit is) by John Denver.

 


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Alone at graduation

This week’s True Community, my weekly column about men and higher education, is about the students with whom I identify most strongly: they come to graduation alone, and they make it through college with barely any support from an elder.

Graduation is usually pitched as a family celebration. For some, it’s a celebration of nerve and resolve, but still an experience of isolation.

I hope you’ll check it out. And do share.

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Photo by John Walker.


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Faculty appreciation day

Dear Esteemed Faculty Member:

Today is faculty appreciation day. Here you go:

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Photo by Joe Foodie