Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Turning the Page

In about a week I'll be leaving the old behind me and starting a new life in a new city with new friends and new adventures awaiting. I've had some good times these past three years but it's time for a fresh start in a different part of this massive country. Cheers for the future.

I've enjoyed blogging about tattoos and ladies and random weirdness these several months, but I'm think it's time to wrap up this blog. There will be plenty of more tattoos and hopefully more ladies in the future but I've found that writing on this blog saps my creative energies which are already a bit diminished being here in China and I find it more fulfilling to channel creativity into more tangible efforts. I used to do a substantial amount of poetry and short stories back in the day and I would like to pick that up again and this blog has been a convenient siphon that I must close.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to those who didn't, you didn't miss much :-).

Peace out chili dogs. TIC for better or worse.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Train Talk

During the 3-day Dragon Boat Festival, I meandered down to sunny Xiamen. I got sunburned, I got tattooed, I had beer spilled on me on the train, and I partied with football-crazed Swedes. Everything necessary for a great holiday weekend. I'll be moving to Xiamen permanently in a few weeks to begin teaching at a university there. 'Twill be sweet.

Call me crazy, but I prefer seats to beds on train trips. The beds are boring if you're traveling alone and even though the seats are less comfortable, it at least lets you watch people. Of course the seating cars are more messy and more noisy but I can sleep anywhere anytime, so even if I'm not tired, I just doze off for half an hour at a time.

However, the most annoying aspect of the seating cars are the migrant workers who spot the foreigner and their eyes light up like a kid's on Christmas. Here's some entertainment to relieve the monotony of Chinese train travel.

No disrespect, but the migrant workers are usually from the countryside and their public manners can be a bit lacking. When they see you, they will loudly point out that you're a foreigner (happens virtually everywhere in China) but they will continue talking about you, wondering where you're from, what you're doing in China, etc. The other passengers around them will join in the gawking and speculation, which can sometimes be quite comical. This weekend a group of men surrounding me were debating if I'm from Xinjiang or Russia (Xingjiang? For real?).

Now when this town hall meeting is going on, they will constantly be looking up at you. Unless you want to get tossed to the lions, do not make eye contact with them while they are talking about you. If you do, their faces will light up and one will call out excitedly, “听懂吗?“ You now have two choices: you can say yes and be subjected to an intense grilling with all of the questions that foreigners are exhausted with answering- "Where are you from?" "Do you like Chinese food?" "How long are you in China?" If your Chinese is good, the conversation will snowball and you will get bombarded by eager passengers who want to marvel at the speaking foreigner with increasingly complex and often personal questions- "How would you compare China and *your country*?" "How much money do you make?" "How many Chinese girls have you slept with?" If your Chinese is not too good, you will feel like you're taking a Chinese exam and the pressure to answer their questions can become aggravating.

Or you can lie and say that you don't understand and proceed to flip through songs on your MP3 player, and they will quickly lose interest. Of course, you lose an opportunity to make yourself and foreigners in general look good, but for me, it's usually not worth it. I enjoy speaking Chinese to people on the train who want to have a genuine conversation, and they are usually families and students. But if it's amusement they're looking for, I'm happy to be disappointing entertainment.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lose a Lover, Gain a Language

It's been about three months since my girlfriend and I broke up, and I must say that my Chinese language ability has grown more in these three months than in the entire previous year. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest reason was that her English was so damn good, we hardly spoke Chinese to each other, except to be cute. She also accompanied me everywhere and usually did the translation for me. In short, I became language-lazy. I was still making progress on my own time, but not as much as my single friends.

Now that I'm flying solo, I've really had to step up my skillz. I learned the Chinese necessities pretty quickly after I came to China and even when I was with my girlfriend, I was always making steady, albeit slow, progress. But language is more than just communication, it's also conversation. In the time since the break-up, I've gone out with a few girls, just to keep my game sharp ;-). Some of them speak little or no English, and of course we can't eat dinner or walk around the park in silence, so these situations have forced me to dig into my vocabulary and assimilate new words that I pick up. And with any exercise, it becomes easier with frequency. The girl that I'm currently rolling with doesn't speak any English but somehow we manage to have really enjoyable conversations together. Of course she teaches me new words and I return the favor but it's more satisfying to speak in Chinese, both for her and for me. Chinese people don't expect foreigners to learn Chinese well and it surprises and flatters them when a foreigner takes the effort to learn Chinese. Especially for the girls, because conversation is such an important part of a girl's life, and she will feel relaxed and excited if she can communicate with a foreigner in her native tongue. As Sinosplice John says, "Learn Chinese." Everything's sexier in another language ;-).

Speaking of sexy, my tattoo shop, which is primarily a make-up salon, had a body-painting show today. I'm sorry, I didn't bring my camera, but let me just say that slim, graceful Chinese girls with pictures on their bodies, painted or tattooed, are beyond hot.

Monday, May 26, 2008

We're Worried That If You Teach Here, The Students Will Want To Look Like You

I recently received an email from the school where I was planning to work next school year. After checking out some of my photos online, they told me that my tattoos would be a problem (not the ones on my back, just on my right forearm), since the school has a mandate that teachers can't have exposed tattoos.

Education has consistently been a conservative discipline, especially so in China. Teachers are admonished to have a presentable appearance, since they are role models for the students and should not exhibit any adverse characteristics that the students might want to emulate (e.g., tattoos, funky hair, etc.). However, changing aesthetic attitudes, especially in the West, means that many foreigners coming to China will have an "alternative appearance" that undoubtedly will raise many eyebrows.

China places extreme importance on appearance. The way you look is generally an accurate representation of your job, personality, and social status (in China, you often can judge a book by its cover) and having tattoos is not acceptable for teachers, which have been traditionally associated with criminals and bad boys/girls. Yet China must also realize that in the West, while appearance sometimes can indicate a person's character, "alternative appearances" are becoming more and more mainstream and benign. I have gotten my tattoos simply for aesthetic purposes (and the surprising fact that Chinese girls love them), not in any attempt to be rebellious or draw attention to myself (I'm a foreigner in China- how can I get stared at any more than I do already?). And I am the kind of person that most schools are looking for- young, energetic, and experienced. Yet this school is letting a relatively small issue overshadow my positive aspects.

I'm not mad or offended or even surprised. I knew that when I got my ink, especially on my forearm, that it might rub some people the wrong way, and I have sometimes been initially perceived as a bad boy. But I am always glad when people tell me later that they are surprised that I'm really a nice and gentle guy, and that is what I would like to proliferate in China- that one's appearance is not necessarily who they are. I gave up long ago trying to get people to think of me as a tough guy- I still get called "cute" no matter how much ink I get :-). And to this school's credit, they did agree that I could teach there but they sounded a bit reluctant and honestly, I don't want to be in an unsure environment and more importantly, I don't want to cause offense or hurt the school's reputation. For me, tattoos are not a big deal, but that's because of my exposure to them. For others, they are still an obstacle and it will take a while before they're accepted. Same story with the miniskirt, and now everything's golden :-).

The good news is that I found another school in the same area and all things considered, it seems to be a better deal. My advice to anyone looking to work in China is check with your employer if you have any visible piercings, tattoos, weird hair, forehead implants, etc., especially if you're working for a school (my new school knows I have tattoos and they're cool with it). I've met teachers with full sleeves, pierced tongues, waist-length dreds, but more often than not, foreign teachers are pretty normal-looking and this is what schools expect. If you're inclined to the rock n' roll end of the fashion spectrum, it doesn't hurt to give them the heads up.

Anyone had any problems caused by their appearance in China?

The arm in question. Good thing I decided against the impaled skull design.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I'm Excited About the Olympics Too! Did You Notice the Beijing Tattoo on My Face?

He doesn't seem too happy though. Maybe he just realized what he did.

Meet T-Bag, Your New 外语老师

Prison Break is the most popular American television program in China. In addition to depicting the glamorous American prison system, it has also increased China's awareness of the proliferation of tattoos in the West.

A heavily-tattooed foreigner is very rare in China, and a heavily-tattooed foreign teacher is rarer still. And because nearly every student in China has seen Prison Break, I constantly hear murmurs of "Scofield!" as I walk past. I hear this almost as much as the ubiquitous “老外!“

But there is another nickname that been bestowed upon me, also thanks to Prison Break. And it has nothing to do with my tattoos.

Bummer, huh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Dating a Small-City Chinese Girl

*Note: generally not applicable to large urban areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, etc.

For the last three years, I've lived in two small-sized cities in China (avg. pop. 1 million) and I've met quite a variety of girls. They all have their differences but they all share similarities, some of which make them ideal partners and some that can drive men away, especially foreigners who are expecting a Western-style relationship. Now we all know that Chinese girls are gorgeous and affectionate and nearly every foreign dude that comes to China eventually picks one up (or several). Here is some advice and suggestions for anyone wondering what to expect from a foreign guy/Chinese girl relationship. Of course individual results may vary, and I hope I do not offend or condescend in any way. I'm just giving my honest opinions from experience and observations.

The Pros:

-Affection: Chinese girls are very emotional, and while this can also be a con, they will devote themselves heart and soul to their man if they feel that he really loves them, or at least reciprocates their affection.
-Eagerness: Chinese girls are waiting to be swept off their feet, and since they are used to being treated merely as sexual objects by most men, it doesn't take much to make their eyes sparkle. If a man shows genuine interest in them as a person and not just as a midnight snack, she will have no hesitation giving herself to him, body and soul. A misconception among foreigners is that Chinese girls are easy to get into bed, but I think it's more of an eagerness to find her man that makes a girl jump into bed with him so that she can keep him interested, but more importantly because she is happy that he loves her.
-Sex: Chinese girls have firm, tight bodies, are very flexible, and are up for anything. She might be shy and coy in public but when the lights go out, there are no limits. Sometimes they might need a little persuasion but it's all just a game and actually makes them more tantalizing. They are also very expressive, if ya know what I mean ;-).
-Excitement: a boyfriend makes a Chinese girl feel complete and validated, and a foreign boyfriend brings the possibility of new worlds and ideas being opened to her. Every girl (and boy) dreams of far-away places and exotic locales, and a foreign boyfriend can make this a reality for her. Of course a girl will not choose a foreigner over a Chinese man simply because he can take her to new countries, but this is simply icing on the cake.
-Family: this is a pro and a con. Initially, it may be difficult for the girl's family to accept the foreign boyfriend (because we know all foreign guys are playboys and heartbreakers who just want sex) but after they realize that he is making their daughter truly happy, and that he loves to drink beer, the family will warm up to him and invite him to their home often. The girl's family is usually from the countryside or suburbs where old-fashioned ideas of chastity and gentility are still rooted, so don't expect the girl to admit to her family that she is living with her boyfriend or for the man to be able to hold her hand in front of her family.

The Cons:
-Attachment: for a Chinese girl, her boyfriend is her support, her anchor, her big brother. An old saying in China goes: "A girl is the bird, and a man is the tree in which the bird finds safety." The girl is expecting the man to take care of her, not looking for a soulmate. A break-up is very difficult for a Chinese girl, because it means she is adrift in the big, wide, unpredictable world. She may not have the job or social skills to be successful, and though she might be able to make a living and be independent, she would much rather have a man to guide and support her. Now I'm not saying that Chinese girls are lazy shopaholics who don't want to work (though I'm met many of these too), but for a Chinese girl, being alone is the worst feeling in the world and she will cling to the relationship with all her might, even if it's time to let it go.
-Lack of hobbies: in general, Chinese people have developed few unique hobbies because of such extreme emphasis on work and study, and most girls have the same interests: shopping, fashion, QQ, singing, calligraphy, reading, maybe an instrument. You're going to have a hard time finding a girl who writes avant-garde poetry or makes mosaics out of coffee mug fragments. Most of them have no interest in philosophical or historical discussions, and they usually like dramas and romantic comedies. In my own experience and most of my friends' as well, the girls we are with become predictable and eventually boring. In a Chinese girl, you're probably not going to find a vivacious and fiery personality. I'm not saying she'll be dull- far from it. Chinese girls are full of energy and pep, but it's not directed towards unconventional pursuits.
-Safety: historically, Chinese are not risk-takers (hence a very stable country with a huge population). Chinese children are coddled by their parents are steered away from any danger no matter how slight, and they are not encouraged to engage in dangerous/adventurous activities (compare the number of Chinese children wearing arm and leg casts to those in Western countries). In China, risk is unnecessary; safety means stability and ensured survival. Thus it's difficult to get Chinese girls to try anything that might even have the illusion of risk, like a roller coaster or zipline. Of course, the non-adventurous blandess has already been pried loose by her willingness to date a foreigner so she'll probably try it with enough prodding, and she might love it or not. But in my own life, I've found a little risk and adventure becomes contagious and I've done some wild things to get that natural high and it's usually no different for Chinese girls.

Bottom line: Chinese girls are sweet, loyal, sexy, feminine, helpful, and above all, loving. They love to have fun, try new things, and are happy just to spend time with their man. I had a girlfriend for two years (and a couple short "flings"), yet the most gratifying aspects of the relationships were physical. I truly did love my girlfriend, but not as deeply as I could have if her personality and spirit captivated me as much as her heart and beauty. She loved me because I provided her with what she wanted and needed, and I loved her back because of this, but this isn't the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.

All things considered, you probably won't find your soulmate/love-of-your-life in a small Chinese city. The bigger cities have more varieties of girls, and there are many reasons for this, but the fact is that smaller-city girls are more serious about marriage and taking care of their families, so they're not thinking as much about hobbies, entrepreneurial ideas, etc. And like I've said, there are always exceptions, and everyone has different tastes and needs. I've met guys that are perfectly content to have the arm-candy/bedroom-entertainment girlfriend who lets them drink with their pals till the wee hours of the morning with little or no complaints. In my observations, I've noticed that more often than not, the foreign guy gets a girlfriend because it's easy, she's hot, and it's better than being alone. It's hard for the male ego to resist a sweet, adoring girl who loves to be with you and help you. The "just because" girlfriend is easy to find and just as easily replaceable. But the girl that truly connects with your soul- that's going to take some searching, and that's the way it is in any country.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fresh Ink and a Photo Op

I satisfied my monthly tattoo fix today (the dreaded inside upper arm- I've got both right and left upper arms inked now and lived to tell about it, but damn if today wasn't 5 hours of the most righteous pain ever). It was at a typical Chinese tattoo parlor- meaning a make-up salon.

The obvious benefits are having a cute tattoo artist (the student of the afore-mentioned matriarch- pretty and petite but slow as hell: BZZZZ, wipe, BZZZZ, wipe. geez girl I'm not made of glass- grind it in there for a few moments, I can take it), as well as other workers and customers indulging their curiosity to see the infamous laowai inked up like a prison convict. Anyway, after the pain and subsequent rejoicing (pictures forthcoming), I went to the counter to make payment and was enthusiastically directed to the Red Cross donations box for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. I yanked out my wallet, extracted some money, and proceeded to drop it in the box, when one of the girls told me to wait. One of her friends promptly yanked out a camera and the other girl cracked a beaming smile behind me as my hand held the money halfway in the donations box, a deer-in-the-headlights grin animating my face. A few photos were snapped, and I left the salon amidst a profusion of “谢谢's," which were probably more for the substantial sum I dropped on my new ink, rather than my well-documented donation to the Red Cross.

I headed down the narrow alley, feeling every bit the foreign bitch that I was.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chinese historical epics? Yawn. Korean monster epics? Hell yes!

I usually like dark, brooding, thought-provoking films. But sometimes you need some fluffy whipped cream to counter a steady diet of vitamins and minerals. My inner 12-year-old found just what he was looking for with last year's Korean smash-fest Dragon Wars

I won't lie- on all serious merits, this film sucks. The acting is abominable, the dialogue is kooky, and the plot is as thin as a shadow. But the dragons...oh the dragons, the fire, the destruction... I haven't had this much fun since... well it was a lot of fun :-).

I'm not usually a fan of Korean cinema- predictable plots, cliched characters, super-sappy and emotional. Pretty much like Chinese cinema. But whereas China continually cranks out visually-impressive bloated historical battle epics with all the soul and passion of a cement block, director Hyung-rae Shim puts these massive-scale tendencies to good use by having dragons obliterate downtown LA. The dragons are the only reason to watch this film, but it's a great reason. The effects are spectacular. Michael Bay must have blown his load when he saw this. And I'm sure he did, since he's a 12-year-old disguised as a Tinseltown bigshot :-).

D-War- loud, stupid, but I dare you not to crack an impish smile watching 50-story monsters destroy everything in sight. Hollywood has Godzilla, Independence Day, King Kong, Transformers, and tons of other city-squashing delights, but I have never seen anything like this.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

An EXTREME Cheese Snack for Your EXTREME Hunger!

So you've got a few tattoos and piercings, huh? Go base-jumping on weekends? Seen Slayer 15 times in concert? And you think that makes you extreme? Think again. Sucka, you haven't even tasted extreme until you've had Doritos Brand ROCK TACO Nacho Cheese Snacks!

If you like weak-ass teeny-bopper pop snacks, then go home and cry to Mama. But if you've got a heavy metal hunger that only the most extreme cheese snack can satisfy, then look no further. Cowboy up and get in the pit with Doritos Brand ROCK TACO Cheese Snacks! It will kick your ass and rock your face! Available only in China.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hot Weather, Hot Springs, and a Hot Girl at 明月山

During the lamentably shortened May Holiday, I trekked over to the neighboring city of Yi Chun to check out the Bright Moon Mountain and adjacent hot spring with my friend Mary. She already has a boyfriend and even if she was available, I don't think she would be right for me, but she's probably the coolest Chinese girl I know and I can hang out and talk about anything with her, which is definitely a rarity in this country. The day was a blast and scratched my nature itch (though "nature" by and large in China means a carefully manicured mountain overrun by tourists). Check out the photogs:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stop Callin' Me!

I'm a nice guy. For real. I try to make everyone smile wherever I go and be compassionate and mindful of others' feelings. And as you can see from the post below, I'm aware of the delicacy with which a girl's heart should be handled. However, as I also noted below, Chinese girls (and often girls in general) can latch on too tightly to someone and it takes a bit of gentle prying to loosen their grip. (Quick word to the wise: not letting go of someone when the relationship is ending or there is no relationship at all will not make that person want you more; in fact you will achieve the opposite of the desired result). Yet sometimes even the most tactful emotional diplomacy fails.

Where to turn for inspiration in turbulent times? Why, to Atlanta's towering lighthouse of reason and wit, Dem Franchise Boyz, of course! Below is one of their hit songs that essentially sums up the smack you occasionally have to lay down (with utmost tenderness and understanding, of course). Although my situation doesn't exactly parallel the song's content (specifically the baby mama angle), I think this gets the point across.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Chinese Girl's Heart: Tread Softly

Of course this title is misleading. There are tons of Chinese girls that are as much players as the guys and break hearts without a second thought. However, at least in my experience, most Chinese girls are very affectionate and are eager, sometimes too eager, to give their love to any man that is sweet and kind to them, especially when they are young.

For the majority of Chinese girls, there is no such thing as a casual relationship. A Chinese girl usually interprets any intimate behavior, such as gifts, romantic messages, sex, etc., as indications of long-term relationship potential, and the fact of the matter is that most Chinese girls are looking for a man to take care of them and they are quick to latch on to such possibilities. I don't mean this in a condescending or diminutive way; I'm just stating my observations after years of field research :-). Chinese girls are extremely affectionate and usually very loyal, because their man is providing them with stability and security. In return she gives her affection, her body, and her fidelity. Whether this is "love" is another discussion, but it is this "emotional transaction" that leads to so many broken hearts among Chinese girls.

Everyone has fanciful illusions of fairy tale love stories but of course reality is a harsh teacher. A man can throw out words and money and attention willy-nilly but a girl's affection is her precious possession, and when it is tossed aside after being used up, it can be devastating. Chinese girls are very naive about love and romance, in spite of it being largely absent from Chinese culture. Yet a heart is a heart, and love is an incredible treasure, and when it is placed in the hands of someone who recognizes just how special it is, that heart will sing. But the sad truth is, far too many hearts grow cold and dim as the beautiful dream withers and dies, leaving a life that is biologically satisfied but lacking any real purpose.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Your tattoo will be ready in a minute, dearie

Here's a picture of my current ink artist. In the West, the typical tattooist is a burly dude (or dudette) and is usually covered in tattoos themselves. Here in China, nearly all my ink has been done by matronly middle-aged women that look like they would be friends with my mother. And they usually have little to no ink themselves, but they get the job done. Honestly now, I feel more comfortable going under the needle with one of these ladies than a younger guy or girl.

The Matriarch

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

O'Reilly: The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

AP- Famed comedian Bill O'Reilly of the satirical news channel FOX News stunned his legions of loyal viewers by commending Chinese mobs on their vehement protests of France and the French enterprises such as Carrefour that have invaded their country. O'Reilly has long been a vocal opponent of China's Communist party and government strategies but today O'Reilly revealed that he is willing to bury the hatemongering hatchet in pursuit of a common enemy: France.

O'Reilly has been rabidly anti-French for most of the 21st century. He became particularly incensed when the French opposed America's mission to liberate Iraq from Hussein's tyrannical regime and promptly called for a "boycott of France." O'Reilly encouraged his viewers to abstain from anything French or French-related to express contempt for what he felt was a country of lazy, ineffectual pseudo-intellectuals who would rather analyze a situation ad nauseum than actually get off their asses and do something about it. Now China and O'Reilly have joined forces, and though the truce between the two powerhouses may be tenuous, representatives for both sides expressed confidence that together, they can grind the French scourge into the dust of history.

As of press time, there was no word yet as to whether O'Reilly would be traveling to China to hoist his own protest sign among the masses assembled outside Chinese Carrefour supermarkets, though he did encourage all Americans to boycott their own local Carrefour markets, which may actually be displaying signs reading "Wal-Mart" in an attempt to escape protests.

-The Associated Prezz

Saturday, April 19, 2008

She's Got Le-egs!

ZZ Top? Anyone? Ok anyway, let's hear it for summertime in China. Most Chinese girls are attractive, a large number are pretty, and a decent amount are beautiful, and they all know it and ain't afraid to show it. So when the temp goes up, so do the hemlines, and us dudes are happy campers.

Today I went with a girl to get a tattoo for her (that I designed :-) and she was wearing a white fluttery smock/dress, gleaming white heels, and the most neon pink hose I've ever seen. But thanks to Chinese genes, she has uber-lovely legs so it's all good. I'm amazed at what Chinese girls can wear and still look incredible. When was the last time you saw a frumpy girl on the street in China? Exactly.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Guns good for China?

This week we were doing mock press conferences in English class, where students would be assigned controversial industries to defend and would have to be spokespeople for that industry while their classmates, the "reporters," would merciless grill them on this or that detrimental element of their industry. The classes are a riot to see students get fired up about issues they've never considered before and it's fun to watch the spokespeople squirm and manufacture the craziest answers to uncomfortable questions.

Since the details of a press conference weren't too clear to most of them, I volunteered myself to be an example of a spokesperson and I would take questions from the "reporters." I assumed the role as a gun lobbyist in China to persuade the government to allow the unrestricted manufacture and distribution of guns in China. At first the students were all over me- "Won't the crime rate increase?" "What about children who find their parent's gun and accidentally shoot their playmate?" "Won't China become more dangerous?"

Now having lived in America most of my life, the gun issue is nothing new and I know all the pre-packaged soundbites- "We encourage our customers to keep their guns unloaded and in a safe place in the house." "If the children are old enough to know how to use a gun, they are old enough to learn that they aren't toys." "If only criminals have guns, then yes, China will become more dangerous. But we plan to make our guns available to everyone. If the thief knows that someone in the house may have a gun, he will hesitate to rob that house. If everyone has a gun, everyone can protect themselves, so the criminals will think twice before attacking someone." The old J. Caesar approach- if you want peace, prepare for war.

And you know what? I inadvertently persuaded many of them. By the end of our press conference, they were nodding in agreement as I countered their classmates' arguments. I'm not anti-gun but my family doesn't own guns and I would rather nobody have guns than everybody have guns. I just never knew how convincing these canned answers can really be.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

You won't be seeing these guys on tour with S.H.E.

Never thought I'd see these words used together: Chinese black doom metal. I know China is hiding plenty of heavy metal bands in underground clubs but I haven't been able to hear what they sound like, since I don't live in Beijing and this seems to be where most Chinese metal is. But thanks to our precariously unblocked YouTube, we can enjoy the furious sounds of an unharmonious society. Check it out:

Disaster Falchion- plodding doom metal with blackened vocals. Nothing spectacular, just nice to see this genre being explored.

Maul Heavily- imagine a Chinese version of KoRn, though a bit more aggressive, and throw in some traditional flutes. Well done if you ask me.

Evil Thorn- the Chinese Dimmu Borgir. They're rocking the corpse paint and spike armbands. Raw black metal usually sucks and this is no exception, but just seeing this in China makes me chuckle.

YouTube has a bunch of other Chinese metal videos- check 'em out if you're interested. If anyone has any recommendations on good Chinese metal bands and where they're hiding, let me know.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Chinese Anonymous

I was walking with a student a couple years ago, and as usually happens to foreigners in China, especially in schools, students were constantly blurting out "Hello!" "Oh so cool!" "What's your name?"

Of course these words are thrown out just to impress their peers that they're brave enough to talk at (not to) the foreigner, but the student said something interesting. Now she was a very pretty girl but not beautiful enough to stand out among the crowd. She said with a small smile, "Everybody notices you when you go out."

I shrugged and agreed. "That's the way it is for foreigners in China."

The girl sighed and gazed into the distance. "I wish people would notice me...," she said quietly.

I never forgot those words. It's tough to stand out in the world's largest population and most homogenous society.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Where's the beef? And mutton?

I live in a city in a fairly rural province and I've seen plenty of farms (which sadly lack the quaint charm of Western countrysides. It's funny: in America the cities are pits but the farms are lovely, and in China the farms are full of rubbish and most cities sparkle, at least at a quick glance). Anyway, I love beef dishes and I'm especially fond of the Muslim mutton barbecue, but I have never seen a beef or dairy cow, or a sheep, in a Chinese farm. I've seen plenty of pigs and chickens and oxen for pulling the plows, and I've seen sheep in local zoos, but never on a farm. Where does all the beef and mutton meat come from?

One more thing: has anyone had real homogenized, pasteurized, vitamin D milk in China?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Anti-CNN.com fever sparks copycats

AP- In the wake of recent news reports by Western media outlets covering the Tibetan riots and subsequent Chinese military crackdown, many Chinese citizens are expressing outrage over what they feel is "Western media bias" against China. Many citizens with online access, or "netizens," have started online petitions and even created websites aimed at exposing errors or manipulations in Western news reports.

One such site that gained quick notoriety is anti-CNN.com. On this site, Chinese netizens can vent frustration on forums, but can also give their own perspective on the turmoil in Tibet and offer evidence to counter Western news reports, complete with unaltered photographs and first-hand accounts.

One historical element of Chinese culture is the immediate and wanton duplication of a successful formula. Following the hype and popularity of anti-CNN.com, Chinese netizens have created dozens of other sites targeting specific Western media outlets, even going so far as to condemn satirical news programs, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Late Edition, and FOX News. Subsequent to the airing of an offensive but entirely light-hearted segment about the Chinese crackdown on the riots, anti-thedailyshowwithjonstewart.com received 40,00 angry posts in two hours and more than 2,000 photos were posted online to counter Jon Stewart's assertion that the Chinese military were suspected of disguising themselves as marijuana-smoking European backpackers so that they could blend in more easily with the rioters.

Most Chinese netizens fail to realize that the anti-Chinese rhetoric of commentators such as Stephen Colbert and Bill O'Reilly is entirely farcical and should never be taken at face value. However, this simple fact has escaped even many Western netizens, with an anti-thecolbertreport.com petition receiving 25,000 signatures from angry conservative housewives complaining that a respected anchor like Stephen Colbert should not use offensive language when reporting on the news.

Among the numerous anchors attacked by China's online community, only Jon Stewart was available for comment: "They get Comedy Central in China?"

-The Associated Prezz

A frail blossom among the ashes

Well I noticed Blogspot is unblocked again, so I figured I'd jump back on the bronco and ride it until it bucks me off again (holy homoerotic innuendo Batman!).

It's been an interesting winter for everyone. I suppose the biggest post-snowstorm news is that Megan and I are no longer together. Our relationship lasted for almost two years, and we are still friends, but we both realized that things weren't the same with us and it would be better to go apart than to try and make it work. There wasn't any big fight, no anger or bitterness; just a realization that things had run its course. I suppose I initiated it- honestly, I wasn't feeling satisfied with our relationship. The physical and spiritual elements were satisfying but I felt something was missing. I realized that it was a cultural difference in the way we both perceived a healthy relationship.

For Chinese girls, especially those from rural areas or small cities, the ideal mate is a strong, competent, well-respected man that can take care of her and provide her with a stable future. In return, she gives him her body, her affection, and her loyalty, and this is their definition of true love. Of course it's easy for a man, especially a prosperous foreigner, to take advantage of girls in this way but that's beside the point. As far as these things went, this is what I was for Megan and she was completely happy with us. I, on the other hand, was becoming tired of a relationship where I was more of a father figure than a partner. I didn't want to care for somebody as much as I wanted to share life with somebody. When I expressed this to her, it really shook her belief in our love, and even though I wanted to still give us a try, I was just wanting to spare her feeling since I knew it would end sooner or later. Fortunately, she took the initiative and suggested that we break, and even though it hurt both of us, we knew this was best.

Of course, with endings come beginnings, and the future is wide open for both of us. It can be a bit jarring to be suddenly adrift after being tethered to someone for two years, but it's freeing and exciting in a way. I can go wherever I want, do whatever I want, and have only myself to look out for. This was a big reason why I came to China in the first place and now I'm more free to explore the possibilities. That's not to say I'm not still saddened sometimes. I got some ink on my upper right forearm to memorialize our relationship. I had always told Megan that if we ever got married, I would inscribe her Chinese name in that place on my arm, but now that that's not going to happen, I decided to cover it so that no girl could ever have that spot. I got a tribal scorpion inside of a sun, since my zodiac sign is Scorpio and I like what the scorpion represents in various cultures. Of course there's some room on my lower arm but that place will always belong to Megan. I'll put up some pictures once it heals (how metaphorical).

I'm looking to change locations for next school year. I had originally planned to teach around the Shanghai area to be close to Megan since that was where she was working, but this had not been my ideal preference. I had always loved Fujian province so now I'm pursuing my Chinese-life-long dream of living by the ocean. Any homies from Zhangzhou? It's looking pretty promising. Holla if you hear me.

So onward and upward to new things. It's kinda nice being single again, and I'm sure I'll find someone that captures my heart again. This is China, after all :-). I find Chinese girls more physically attractive than Western girls, and hot bodies and cute faces are a dime a dozen here, but the trick is finding someone whose personality and spirit captivates me as much as her figure does. One good thing about being near the ocean is you get a pretty good look at captivating figures :-P. Till then, I'm just doin' my thing, rockin' the block, making people smile. Tomorrow the sun will rise...who knows what the tide will bring?