Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Romantic Tattoo Date

Last week I went to get some new ink.  It's hard to make an official tally since my entire right arm is pretty much covered but by my estimation, this is my 20th distinct tattoo.  It's the word "fear" in prickly, unfriendly characters.  I chose this word for a number of reasons: Proverbs 1:7 reads "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  That's the good fear.  The bad fear is the fear that paralyzes the world every day, especially China.  Chinese society is mortified by the fear of death, of sickness, of poverty, of loneliness, in a way that starves passion, joy, and creativity and has left an entire population largely soulless and vacant.  Now I'm not saying that Western society is any better but I do believe that China's fear is beyond natural preservation instinct and is a serious infection that leaves most people weakened and aimless.  I also chose the word fear because I have fears as well, and just as this tattoo is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life, so will my fears, and I'm just going to have to make peace and live with them.  I am somewhat cautious but I can also be reckless as well, and sometimes this is to compensate for my tendency to over-examine every possible outcome of a situation.  I went skydiving once while I was in college, and since then I've realized that sometimes you just gotta jump, just roll with it, and usually whatever worries us is not as bad as we think it will be, and can actually be fun sometimes.  The slogan "No Fear" is bull crap; the reality is "Recognize and Overpower Your Fear."  This tattoo will remind me to do that.

Tina came to the tattoo shop to cheer me on, and she brought our new chihuahua Morty.  She had been thinking about getting another tattoo for a while (she has a copy of the scorpion on my arm on her ass just below her bikini line but it's so small, it hardly counts as a tattoo) and after I was done, she announced that she wanted to gets hers done that day too.  I was a bit surprised but after confirming that this was really what she wanted, I supported her and helped her choose a design.

We had been talking about a phoenix for her shoulder for a while now.  She has a small scar on her shoulder bone that she's been wanting to cover up, and we decided on a colorful yet simply flash that would hide the scar and drape gracefully down over her shoulder blade.

The stencil was applied, and it was go time.  Her first tattoo experience had not been pleasant, and this was a decent-sized endeavor, and she definitely let everyone in the shop know how uncomfortable she felt.  There were a few tears involved, but I'm proud of her for sticking it out and getting it done in one sitting.  I've been tattooed everywhere on my torso except my chest and ribs, and I'll say that the shoulder bone is the most painful place so far, so she deserves some props.  And as you can see, the results are great.

She was mad hot before but this takes sexy to a whole new level :-).  She's totally in love with it too, and today she was talking about some flowers she'd like to add to it :-P.  I tell ya man, it gets under your skin.  Sometimes I regret having so much ink scattered all over me like a shotgun blast, especially when I see the prevalence of tattooed thugs on music videos and films, but I've made my choice and I'm gonna represent for the good guys.  Even though it was a painful day for both of us, it was a memory that we will have no trouble recollecting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Heavy Metal on Chinese TV

I was channel surfing today when I came across a Chinese music station.  I live in Xiamen so we don't have the plethora of programming that Shanghai or Guangzhou enjoys, and this station was not a local broadcast, but it's content was surprising nonetheless.  I almost choked on my beer as I watched a music video by Swedish heavy metal heavyweights Soilwork.  And immediately following was a video from Leave's Eyes, another currently hot European metal export.  Western music videos are by no means uncommon on Chinese TV but watching back to back videos from bands that fall into "melodic death metal" and "gothic metal" categories, as opposed to Backstreets Boys or Michael Jackson, was quite a treat. 

It got me wistfully wishing for a surging interest in Western heavy metal bands, which would make yours truly quite the happy camper.  My personal tastes lean more towards the death metal/hardcore/scorched earth styles of metal and I know that China is too upbeat for those styles to take root, but bands like Soilwork and Leave's Eyes, while maintaining respectable levels of brutality, are more melodic and uplifting in their sound and message so as not to alienate mainstream audiences.  After all, Japan is metal-crazy, though their particular flavors lack the venom and hatred that characterizes most Western metal acts, and I find this preferable actually.  Japan's intense social pressures makes heavy metal the perfect antidote to go ape-nuts and release the pressure of the daily grind, which is much healthier than snarling about disemboweling clergy members and other such topical gems you find in Western heavy metal albums.  China lacks the disenfranchised youth of the West and while social pressures are certainly substantial, I feel that China's entertainment constitution is too weak (i.e., meek) to stomach thundering riffs and wild-haired metal war gods bellowing anthems of the apocalypse.

Yet there is still hope.  The youth are becoming more exposed to greater varieties of Western music and the same prejudices about metal that exist in the West are absent here in China.  I remember seeing one Chinese program about Chinese pop music that featured intro graphics accompanied by a Rammstein ditty.  And there is also a growing fascination with the "bad boy" image and mystique while is brazen exemplified in heavy metal music.

I'm not expecting China to embrace heavy metal as the West has- in fact, I would be even more pleased if Chinese metal acts gained at least some airplay and popularity.  I know that most large cities in China are host to an abundance of local metal acts (of which I have never had the chance to's been more than four years since my last metal concert...*sniff*) but these bands are severely underground.  I know that S.H.E. and Elva won't get knocked off the top of the charts any time soon but a mouthful of metal helps to offset the continuous taste of bubble gum pop we're all forced in ingest here.

One interesting note: with the recent trend in tongue-in-cheek gothic/punk fashion sweeping the stores comes a tidal wave of heavy metal T-shirts.  At my university, I often see Sepultura, Iron Maiden, Slipknot and others proudly brandished, though the wearer has no idea who his attire represents.  And curiously is the proliferation of the Affliction logo.  Affliction is an old school death metal band with a far smaller following than the other bands I just mentioned but for some reason, I see their name almost daily, on T-shirts, bags, even halter tops.  Go figure.