Liquid Ink

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


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Dariya Marchenko: Art from Ammunition

Here’s the brilliant Dariya Marchenko making a humanitarian statement on the continued atrocities perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. This Reuters report should leave you provoked and moved. Daria assembles a portrait of Putin from bullet cartridges collected from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, and the art is being presented in conjunction with a novel (which I’d very much like to read).

Please share this report.

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Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters


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Cecil has me thinking…

I can think of few moments I have observed on Facebook that compare to the response I’ve seen from people regarding the killing of Cecil, the lion. The uproar in my timeline is pretty dramatic, and rightfully so. While I have posted nothing on the matter myself, I’ve been following the story. I’m among those who find it hard to get into the head of someone who’d not only take interest in killing a lion but would also be willing to pay a good chunk of money to have the opportunity set up.

I have to admit, however, that the response had me thinking. Why isn’t the uproar greater over the killing of our fellow citizens by police?

Cecil deserved to live, as does any creature. But Cecil was killed, not by a security force charged with protection, but by a wealthy hunter gone to a foreign country with the intention of killing an animal. Many of the people upset about Cecil’s death eat meat, and their demand results in the deaths of more creatures than a lion. The faceless and nameless pigs and cows and chickens usually live lives in conditions much worse than Cecil’s.

Most of us have killed an animal directly, if even just by swatting flies or mosquitoes, or spraying a spider with Raid. This summer, I killed an entire colony of ants. Yes, Cecil is a rare animal, more regal, far more intelligent than common ants, and he was not harming anyone; killing an animal in order to eat or defend your home from damage is completely different from killing to feel an ego rush. Even so, his killing should leave us wondering why we value certain creatures more than others, and if we’re so upset about his death, could we perhaps think about how our desires and actions impact all life?

We should also be asking another set of questions. Are we more upset, moved to greater emotions, by the killing of a lion than we are by the killing of our citizens? (It’s not August, but police have killed 605 people in America this year.) Someone will say, “These people getting killed by cops are less-than-noble.” Who deserves to die, for what reason, and who gets to decide? Perhaps we truly are more upset by the killing of our fellow citizens as compared to a lion, but we feel more comfortable expressing our outrage over the death of an animal, outrage pointed at a wealthy, privileged man who’s killing for sport. If that’s true, what do we actually fear? That someone might get annoyed with our outrage over the deaths of our fellow citizens?

I don’t know if social media outrage is an indicator of actual outrage, or a measuring stick of any value. My timeline is only an indicator of whom I choose to follow. I just found it rather striking that my timeline endeared itself so easily to a lion most had hitherto never heard of, while the posts and comments regarding police killings were, at least by comparison, a trickle. I guess I’ve written this post to see if I’m the only one who observed this.

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Photo from Wikipedia.


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How to survive an active shooter (the patriotic version)

I’m shocked by this Washington Post bit, in which Michael Maasdam, a former Navy SEAL, and currently the chief executive of Move2Safety, instructs us gentle lambs how to survive an active shooter running throughout our American workplace or school. It’s worth investigating , but I’ll summarize it for my busy audience. Here are the steps we should take when the shooter inevitably arrives in our school or place of employment:

1.) Move to safety

2.) Look for an exit

3.) Take cover, stay low

4.) Stay sharp

If you’re like me, you probably want a definition of “sharp”.  Here’s Maasdam’s definition: A sharp person [Realizes] the possibility that [s/he] can be shot and [thinks] through how [s/he] will react to the situation.

Now, although I’ve been threatened by armed thugs, I’ve never been shot. Still, there are several reactions I can imagine. One is that I will die, perhaps instantly. The other is that I’ll be wounded, go into shock, beg for my life, and, if I am spared, hope I can communicate with someone in some way before I die. I will think of my children and wife. Perhaps there are experts out there who’ve been shot many times and could share what other sharp realizations we should have at the moment we’re faced with our death.

Of course, I’m left furious by these suggestions. Quite frankly, they offend my identity as an American. I would like, therefore, to present the patriotic version of how to survive a shooting.

In the event that you are faced with an active shooter in your place of employment or study, you should do the following:

1.) Pull your concealed firearm out of the front of your pants. If concealed firearms are forbidden in your area, please remove your shotgun from your shoulder.

2.) Listen for the sound of the shooting

3.) Head in the direction of the shooting, weapon ready (be sure your safety is not on—this is a good time to check!)

4.) Wait for the shooter to become visible

5.) Yell, “Yippee-kaye, motherfucker!”

6.) Aim

7.) Fire

8.) Sing, preferably in a baritone voice, Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.  Etc.

It’s absurd that a Navy SEAL, a man skilled in the use of firearms, does not tell us to go shooting when someone else is shooting. What the hell else are our guns for? We should all be fighting tyranny every day, and there’s only one way to be sure we’re anti-tyrants. Guns are simply sitting around when there’s no one around to shoot. That’s why Jesus has blessed us with shooters, people! Like, duh. We’re supposed to shoot them.

I’m sure there are plenty of pussies out there freaking out over my suggestions. Some of you might point out that there’s no practical way for all of us to be armed, to carry our guns on our shoulders or in our pants. My suggestion to you? I actually don’t talk to pussies.

If you think you’re safer in a place like Canada or Sweden where there’s nothing between you and the tyrants, (except, like, fucking laws and shit), you should move there. Why aren’t you? That’s right…because there are NO FUCKING JOBS there. It’s not that Canada and Sweden have fewer shooters and, generally speaking, far less paranoid societies. It’s that they don’t have any fucking jobs. If you want shooters to come to your job—hello!—you need a job first. Without any job to shoot up, the shooters just walk around the countryside with their guns. Don’t give me this shit that there are plenty of schools for them to shoot in Canada and Sweden. More than America? Most Canadians live five feet from the American border where they can totally see Russia, since it’s real close. And in Sweden the taxes are basically, like, high…way higher than Chicago. Also, in Spain, the upenploimin rate is around 106 percentage.

So, you think ur smart. Well, you ain’t. Ur a pussy.

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift M-16

His truth is marching on

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What’s a natural thought?

I read an article the other day that asks if the suicidal are selfish. It got me thinking and tweeting, and I found myself remembering moments from my childhood.

I was in grammar school the first time I wondered if the world would be a better place without me. I remember the moment, the thought fresh as frigid winter air, frightening as the face of a demon. I was in church, sitting alone and waiting to confess sins for the first time in my life, horrified about how to tell the priest that I am a little pervert—this would put me in my first communion class. It means I was eight years old.

The memory is gray and cracked, like a black and white photo that survived a war. I can still depend on it, and there are layers that I know to be true. I knew with certainty that the world would, indeed, be better off without me. I was not merely a sinner, but most of the time I provided nothing of use to anyone. If I was useful, it was to make satisfactory public displays, to recite things before groups, to demonstrate my memorization skills (which, in childhood, were phenomenal, far better than what I can memorize today), things that made various adults in school and home glow with pride. Beyond this, I was constantly in need.

I needed food, and I had a gluttonous appetite. I needed clothing. I needed friendship, even if I often preferred to be left alone. I was mostly a burden, and without Jesus I would have been doomed to a horrible eternity of fire, a furnace my imagination raised easily: the space in the heart of a campfire larger than Chicago, deeper than a fallout shelter. If I died without confessing my sins, I’d burn forever. As I burned, trees would grow without me. Stores would still work. Busses would keep lumbering around the neighborhood like drunks.

I didn’t imagine suicide, not really, although I did imagine dying. What would it be like? Would I really be forgiven for everything before I died? I realize now that I had never believed confession led to forgiveness—it was just a temporary post, a kind of way-station where my secrets were examined and evaluated by an elder, but in reality the sins were always there, shoved into a pillowcase I carried on my shoulder like a runaway. Even if I dumped the case, the next perverted thought was looming, coming even as I counted how many I had harbored up to that point. There was no escape, neither in death nor in life. I had nowhere to go except into my own perversions.

My opinion of myself has changed only slightly. Since childhood, I’ve been influenced by Camus, Beckett, Dostoevsky, Pink Floyd and The Cure. I look at myself as a massive consumer of resources, a burden to the system, a mouth in need of energy. I need lights and heat. I need transport. My impact on the world is mostly to its detriment. The universe is better off without me. If I disappear, the sun will burn on one side of the earth as the moon glows milk-white on the other.

Is this an idiot’s thought? If it is, it proves, again, that the the world has little use for yet another idiot.

How are ideas like this—including the concern about whether or not I am useful—born? Is this my natural state, or did I learn to believe this?

And is it really unselfish to wonder if you’re necessary. What if it’s actually the height of megalomania? If I believe I am worthless, isn’t it because I assume I should be worthwhile? And if I I think I should have some value, isn’t that the mark of a self-inflated twit? A twit assumes value is measured in absolutes. He remains blind to the obvious reality: there is no measure of anything that is not contrived.

I attended a Zen lecture yesterday that reminded me how desperately we all cling to delusions of security when there can be no security in an impermanent universe. I was reminded that we are not separate from what we perceive. So, quite obviously, if we feel we provide nothing “of use” to anyone, it’s because the universe provides nothing “of use” to itself. Worrying about your value is like worrying about the value of sunlight. And worrying about death is like worrying about giving the flowers enough water. The thoughts are equally contrived.

At times like these, I like to go to sources of unfathomable beauty. The Brahms Horn Trio. Things like this have no meaning beside themselves. They are, in that way, like petals fallen from obliterated peach blossoms, perfect metaphors for reality.