Liquid Ink

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

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Youth scholarship available for prose workshop

Registration for my prose writing workshop ends early April 7th at 2:00 PM. A generous donor has made a scholarship available for the first young writer, aged 16-20, to claim it. It’s for half tuition, or $210.

To claim this scholarship, be the first person to register for the prose workshop by emailing me here. I’ll send you my PayPal info.

Prose Writing Workshop, with Gint Aras

Friday nights, 6:30-8:30, from April 7-May 26

Upstairs Apartment and Lounge, Buzz Cafe

905 S. Lombard, Oak Park, IL

Open to writers of any level, aged 16 or older

Registration ends after 8 students have registered, or at 2:00 on April 7.

Cost: $420

Hope to see you!

Photo by Bennorth Photography

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Come with me to Berlin!

This May and June I’ll be leading a trip to Berlin, a city I know well and love dearly. This is an opportunity for anyone in America to escape for a few weeks and engage a cultural tour while spending time in one place which we will get to know intimately.

When I planned the trip, some people criticized it as offering “too little”. What those people had in mind was the typical two week trip that tours multiple cities and whisks people from one end of Italy to the next. Honestly, I feel those kinds of trips offer “too little”. You hardly get to know a place, and before you’ve gathered your bearings you’re in some other town you’ll only recognize from photos.

I’ve always preferred travel to tourism. The difference between these concepts? Travel allows you to immerse yourself in an alternative point of view, to see yourself as others see you, and to shift from just visiting a place to feeling like you’re a part of it, even if that part is foreign or strange. It’s surprising how little it takes us, actually, to shift from feeling foreign to sensing the intimacy of a city, and few cities are as welcoming as Berlin.

This trip was originally tailored as a college class, and the website still features from of that language. I’ve decided to extend it to the general population for a variety of reasons. Participants will get to go to Berlin with a writer, a speaker of German and a person who knows European art, literature and culture intimately. It’s a great way to spend two weeks in May and June.

Check out the details here. The vendor is Walking Tree Travel. The price includes airfare, accommodations, daily breakfast, a transit pass, a museum pass, several tours, a concert and an unforgettable experience. Come with a friend.


Take a class with me in Berlin

I’ve always wanted to teach a community college class abroad. This spring, I’ll finally get to do it!

From May 28-June 11, I’ll be teaching a Humanties 150 (Survey of the Arts) course in Berlin, Germany. The good people at Walking Tree Travel helped me set up this itinerary , and you should agree it’s a kicker. We’ll have access to the Bauhaus archives, the KW Institute, the National Galleries and much more. To add context to this trip, we’ll read Dan Vyleta’s Pavel and I and watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

If you’re a Chicago-area college student who needs an elective or a Humanities requirement, you’re free to sign up for this class. You’ll gain credit for a course and have an experience that should stay with you for the rest of your life. If you’re already planning on a European backpacking trip, knock out a college credit in the meantime, and participate in a class that’s sure to provoke thought.

Note: the college is also offering a non-credit section of the class for adults (18+) who simply want to tag along for the ride and take advantage of the benefits: a Berlin transit pass good for 2 weeks, central accommodations with daily breakfast, several tours of Berlin neighborhoods, access to museums, and also a play and concert.

Want more info? E-mail me.


Last week in American discourse (1)

Here are some points I’ve either read or heard made over the course of the past days by my fellow citizens. These have been edited for clarity, respectability and brevity.

In Social Media

1.) Facebook in no way influenced the election because you’re a liberal and you don’t understand how algorithms work.

2.) Sure, Donald settled for $25 million, but Hillary killed people prepared to testify about Benghazi.

3.) Democrats don’t even know how to count because Donald Trump went back on his promises.

4.) You really do need to show more tolerance towards people who want Jews and Homosexuals gassed. Those people believe they are the descendants of the sun.

5.) If Hillary Clinton were as strong as Vladimir Putin, she would have kept all the Crimeans out, which is the only reason Putin went in.

6.) Donald Trump can’t win. Even if he changes his positions, still the liberals don’t like him.

7.) The only reason I voted for Trump is because he’s against the H-1B visa. I got laid off because of that, and I’m an accountant.

8.) Not everybody thinks its Nazi to support white people. And just because you salute with your right hand doesn’t mean you buy into everything that’s Nazi.

9.)  Obama gave Ellen DeGeneres a civilian award even though she never fought on a battlefield or took a wound. So now it’s just a lesbian award? I’m going to pretend I’m a lesbian so that I could get one.

10.) I know people from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who understand their jobs aren’t coming back. So they voted their conscience.

In Overheard Conversation

1.) No, I’m really really really not a racist. I just think it’s time for white people to have another chance.

2.) It’s actually wrong to vote unless they put somebody in office.

3.) Illinois went blue mostly because nobody voted.

4.) You know those protesters got paid off because most of them went to Starbucks or Whole Foods right afterwards, and there’s no way any of them have jobs.

5.) I was there waiting in traffic for those protesters to get out and I could tell you it was way more annoying than watching the Cubs win the World Series.

6.) Now the millennials are going to learn what it means to have to look for a job just like regular people.

7.) If you supported immigrants, you would really want them to go back to their home countries where they would be safe.

8.) Can somebody explain to me why Michael Jordan deserves to get a Medal of Freedom? What did he do to deserve it?

9.) It shouldn’t be wrong for the president to own hotels. If you think about it, it saves  money on business trips.

10.) The only way you’re going to get more people out to vote is if you give them a good reason to do it.


Photo of Lollipop from Wikipedia




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We probably don’t know what we’re talking about

Yesterday I was reading the newspaper while waiting for my daughter to get out of ballet class. To my right were two women engaged in a typical conversation between parents whose only true connection is that they feel the same activity—in this case ballet—benefits their kids.

One woman was from England, the other Mongolia: they said as much to each other. I couldn’t tell a thing about their social class, except that they paid for a lot of activities. Their cliched conversation—unaware of its bragging and ironies—meandered typically. The kids liked ballet but not gymnastics, karate but not horseback riding, skating but not soccer—or maybe it was soccer but not skating, maybe diamond cutting but not glass blowing.

Whatever. There just wasn’t enough time in the day anymore for all these activities! And school! The homework! Argh!

It was excessive. Truly excessive. Several hours each day. How could their daughters, seven year old girls, get transported from their ninja training to their preparation for the Bolshoi when they also had several hours of daily reading and math?

Soon enough, the women came to the magical discussion: Common Core. All of this was the fault of Common Core. The math was too difficult and the reading too excessive and the numbers funny and the words arbitrary. To quote: “This Common Core is asking them to find the cumulative. Why do they need a word like cumulative?” Then she bragged: “I didn’t even learn that in college.”

I tried to ignore the conversation, as my blood was already boiling just from reading the news. But they kept at it with their Common Core and the meddling and the funny numbers and strange bubbles and the several hours and frustration about why learning couldn’t be fun. (As opposed, I guess, to cumulative.)

I finally interrupted them. “Excuse me,” I said as politely as I could. “I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but your conversation leaves me curious. What actually is the Common Core?”

Shishwish wang dabble and frockfrack too complicated. Frigmack moof mackle and ploopluck weird methods. Agwack mick mickle. Zeepopeepopuck. No, impossible, shippity pippity, Because parents can’t do the math.

The women spoke their shishwish wang dabble with conviction and passion. They were so certain of their frigmack moof mackle that their eyes opened wide as entrances to mansions. By the time they got to zeepopeepopuck, they had already built an eight wonder of the world, and there it stood before me in the shape of a Pippity.

The point of this post is not to defend the Common Core. America has long ago burned all of its books and sold off the ash as truth. At attempt to unify what all American kids should know at the end of each grade is bound to present problems, but that’s a discussion for another day.

My point is that these women were guilty of the very thing education should be built to fix. They had no idea what they were talking about but pretended they did. Their evidence was that their daughters’ math homework was unfamiliar, more difficult than they could bear. They did not ask the questions any educated person should know to ask: If as a professional adult I can’t figure out a 2nd grader’s math homework, is it because the problem’s too difficult or my skill level too low? If I don’t know what the Common Core is, how do I know it has something to do with these math problems I don’t like? 

Maybe the reason we can’t figure out our kids’ math homework—um…2nd grade arithmetic—is because we never learned any math at all, just a method to get to an answer within the context of a particular kind of exam. We remove that method and context and find ourselves lost; the cumulative effect of our “education” leaves us spewing nonsense in public, blaming something we don’t understand, have not even bothered to read about, and yet we speak confidently, presenting our ignorance as a paradigm, all while our daughters plié before a polished mirror. Maybe the point of this education reform was to keep future generations from turning into us.

With less than 48 hours left before our polling places open, we can rest assured. The reason we find ourselves in the mess we face is not because of something outside us. We’ll be in this mess so long as we believe that spewing ignorance with confidence is everyone’s right. Because we’re all entitled to our opinions, all our opinions are correct.


Photo from Wikipedia

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Artists you should know: KaMa Duo in Chicago

Admit it. You’ve never heard the music of the KaMa duo. However, all of this can change for those readers interested in visiting the Fine Arts Building in Chicago on November 18th. If you have the pleasure of listening to these ladies play, you’ll be so deeply moved and provoked by their mastery to be left with an impression for the rest of your life. Hearing their music is like standing under the volume of the Niagara Falls, if sunlight and an angel’s embrace replaced chilling water.

More information is available at this Facebook event page. You will not want to miss this.