Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Hi everyone - just popped back in to let you know that I've written a novel. It's a Gothic supernatural action/thriller and it's published by Trestle Press. You can pick it up at Amazon.com and BN.com. Don't forget to check out the official website.

"In a grim world where Lucifer rules the nations, two estranged brothers - a disillusioned, hedonistic Satanist, and a ruthless Christian assassin - find their paths converge as the forces of Heaven and Hell battle for the future of humanity."

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Blog Home

I have moved this blog to here. I've just gotten tired of hoping that China would unblock Blogspot, and with my current proxy, I can't upload pictures or anything, so I just decided to relocate. Auf Wiedersehn Blogspot.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

China and Death

This Monday is 清明节, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, where Chinese people pay respects to their deceased relatives. It's a somber festival, and devoid of the hoopla and atmosphere that Halloween enjoys. And it's this very different take on a similar theme that points out a key divergence in Eastern/Western thinking.

Death is not fun in China. Death is not cool, death is not entertaining, death is not a sweet release from a wearisome life. Death is the ultimate mortal terror and is in no way preferable or desirable. Chinese accept death as a natural part of life but death is not romanticized or personified by easily-marketable ghoulish cartoon characters.

The West, on the other hand, has long had a morbid fascination with death, and many psychologists would no doubt argue that this is a coping mechanism; i.e., make friends with the object of your terror to convince yourself that it's less terrible. We have the Grim Reaper, a tall thin gentleman dressed in a black suit and top hat, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas , the Final Destination films, and countless other tangible incarnations of death.

Yet in daily life, Westerners are often far removed from actual contact with death, whereas in China, and most developing countries, death rubs shoulders every day with the people on the street. Now I'm not talking about homicides or anything (this isn't Somalia, after all), but even a stroll through a Chinese open market is a somber reminder that for life to sustain, another life must be snuffed. And I believe that it is because of these continual reminders that Chinese have a very realistic and instinctive aversion to death, whereas Westerners have romanticized death to the point that it's a badge of honor to openly defy death, even to the point of recklessness.

Now I confess that I subscribe to the Western perspective on death, and while I'm not a daredevil, I've had several experiences pursuing the adrenalin rush that had me looking death in the eye, though usually just for a moment. After nearly five years of living in China, I still believe that Chinese people are too safe and their fear of death and injury paralyzes rather than liberates them, but this is just cultural and personal perspectives. The bottom line is that death mortifies all, and anyone who seeks a brush with death for a thrill is a fool, but that doesn't mean we should stay as far away from the edge as possible. But death is not the dread behemoth that has most people cowering in fear of it, and since this weekend is Easter, I think it's an appropriate time to give props to the One who defeated death on its home turf. I can honestly say that because of this truth, I do not fear death. I do not want to die, but the idea of death does not paralyze me, because I know it's not the end. Life wants to remain, and for most people, this life is all they have. But if you believe that there is something beyond this life, then death is just a door to something better. It might be painful, but we've all got to go through sometime, and like most things in life, it's never as terrible as we imagine. I'm actually pretty curious about it :-P.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Springtiiiime for Hitlerrrr and Germannyyyyy!...Actually just springtime for Xiamen

The proxy server I usually use to access the sites that are apparently subversive to China's national integrity, such as Facebook and Blooger, has been blocked and I just recently found another that opens these sites, albeit in limited capacity, so it's been awhile since my last post. So here's the dilly:

Tina's about 4 months preggers and she's got a bit of a belly going on. She's over the first trimester sick/weak/want-to-die hump, though she still tires easily and is sore pretty much all the time. I've got fingers of steel now from all the massages I give her :-P. So far everything's normal and it looks like the baby will be born just before next semester starts, so hopefully I'll have a little time to be at home with her and the new bundle of joy before I have to return to work. Tina's mother will also be around so that helps greatly.

Other than that, nothing new. I've taken up a new hobby painting harlequin masks in various styles and patterns, and that helps release my creative energy since tattoos will be off the menu for awhile. We've gotten pretty good at saving our money, but we still go out and have fun every once in a while too.

It's a scary thought bringing a child into a world like this. Tina and I were trying to think of anything in the world that is getting better, and we couldn't do it. I guess we just have to have faith that everything happens in its own time, and in the end, everything will work out for the best. So in the meantime, I'll just smell the tea leaves, enjoy the sunshine, and try to think of good baby names.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being a Manly Man in China

Getting your hands dirty tinkering under the hood? Highly unlikely. Getting buck wild at a rowdy rock concert? Virtually nonexistent. Watching the big game while wolfing down nachos and beer with your pals? Fuggedaboudit. Getting banged up and bruised playing contact sports or taming the rugged outdoors? Negative. Losing your temper while attempting home repairs/renovations? Sorry Charlie.

Most of the things we equate with manliness in America are largely absent from the Middle Kingdom. In China, if something breaks, call a repairman or buy a new one, because services are speedy and cheap, and most things are replaceable anyway. If you're lucky enough to have a car, it's usually a late model European brand, and those don't break anyway. Abusing your body in the name of sport or athletic challenge is a waste of time and health, and scars are meant to be hidden, not bragged about.

In China, flexing one's manly muscles usually boils down to three things: money, women, and social status. Of course these are essential manliness indicators in every country and culture but here in China, these are usually your best options.

Money: the more you got, the more man you are. If you own a wedding portrait studio, you are perceived as being more manly than someone who repairs cars for a living, because you are the boss, and boss=manly. And of course, with money comes the next two items on the list, so money is the crown of manliness.

Women: like money, the more you got, the more man you are. It is virtually unthinkable for a man of high status and wealth to have only one woman in his life. If you are a manly man, you've got enough dough to spread around on mistresses, KTV girls, and hookers. That's not to say that all Chinese guys indulge these appetites, but it really is an integral part of the culture and most men jump right in if they have the means. Of course, the women are usually not cool with it, but they often tolerate it because their philandering man is their lifeline. As women become more economically independent, this trend will hopefully decline.

Social status: this is where the rubber meets the road. How your friends perceive you is the barometer of your life, so it is essential that they regard you in high esteem. Smoking and excessive drinking are staples of manly behavior, and treating your friends and colleagues to expensive dinners and excursions are necessary to gain their favor.

I don't consider myself to be a real macho guy, but I enjoyed getting down and dirty back in the States. I enjoyed weekend sports games with the guys, camping, hiking, getting my mosh on at local music venues, coaxing every bit of life and power out of my 1982 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, doing odd jobs around the house, etc. When I came to China, my manly outlets seemed rather limited. Like most foreigners fresh off the boat, I got caught up in the whirlwind of clubbing and chasing girls. After a few years though, the novelty of that wore off, and I turned to more "serious" manly pursuits, like getting married, buying an apartment, and more recently trying to establish myself in a career in teaching.

To be honest, my fascination with tattoos has also been an outlet of testosterone, getting an adrenaline rush from the "delicious pain." All things considered, though, I miss the chest-thumping King-Kong moments that makes a man really feel like a man. But I guess in the end, a true man is someone who cares for his family and takes responsibility for himself and his actions. Anything beyond that is just showing off.

Bruce Lee- now there's a guy who was a manly man, no matter what culture you're from.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our First Wedding Anniversary and First Ultrasound

This is the first sneak-peek at the little anklebiter on the way. This is at almost 3 months, so it's too early to tell if it's a boy or a girl. Either one is fine with me, though if it's a girl I'd probably get high blood pressure because we all know how crazy people are for mixed-blood beauties in China :-/. Actually Chinese people are crazy for any babies, especially those who aren't Chinese, so I'll have to brush up on my kung fu defensive tactics to keep away the vultures.

Tina and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on February 12th at Gu Lang Yu Island, which is a quaint historic island a few minutes off the coast of Xiamen island (about a seven minute ferry ride). It was fun taking a one-night vacation and still be able to see our building from across the bay :-). Our New Year's celebration was pretty low-key because Xiamen bans fireworks so the whole town basically becomes a ghost town for the weekend (instead of a war zone, which is the usual transformation most cities undergo during Spring Festival). We also lost precious hours of our life watching the Spring Festival broadcast on CCTV1, which everyone in China agrees was ultra-lame. I don't expect much but at least in the past the shows have been a bit of a spectacle, but this year's production was straight out of local variety show television. It was an epic fail.

I haven't gotten any new tattoo work done in over six months, and I think I'm gonna hang up the needle for awhile, probably until after the baby is born. Between mortgage, American debt (>:-/) and impending baby, I won't have too much spare cash to inject under my skin. But this isn't the end of the tattoo saga my friends, oh no...

I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. Change is good, sometimes fun, never boring, and should be embraced.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chinese Tattoos in the NBA - The Good, The Bad, and The Whack

Since I broke the news about Yao Ming's rock n' roll tattoo a few months back, I've been paying more attention to NBA players' tattoos. Of course it doesn't take too much effort to spot them, since several players feature more ink than a member of the Japanese yakuza. And since the NBA is all about trends, dozens of players feature Chinese character tattoos. And as we shall see, some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain whack.

Allen Iverson - 76ers

Small, reasonably well-done tattoo meaning "loyalty." Nothing special, a very common tattoo in the West.

Jeff McInnis - Bobcats

Two tattoos- right arm is the Chinese translation for "Jeff" and the left arm means "a state of bliss." Bland calligraphy, but otherwise correct.

Marcus Camby - Nuggets

A very large and well-written Chinese phrase meaning "strive for the clan." However, according to Hanzismatter, Camby's "clan" is not real. I think "family" would have been a better choice of words.

Chris Andersen - Hornets

The "Birdman" is famous for his impressive array of tattoos, considering he looks like a stockbroker trying to recapture his punk-rock youth. Buried in the tattoo mess are two Chinese characters on his arms- left arm reads "Good" and right arm says "Bad." However, Andersen's choice for "bad" also means "nausea". I think a simple 好/不好 interplay would have been more appropriate, but maybe not the kind of "bad" Andersen was looking for. Although "nausea" is apparently what he gives many sportswriters who take issue with his abundant ink.

Marquis Daniels - Pacers

Chalk this up to "WTF?" He says it's his initials in Chinese characters, but the more clued-in among us know that there's no such thing as a Chinese alphabet. As far as I can tell, his characters are 康, which means "health," 文 or 女, meaning "knowledge" or "woman," respectively, and the last character isn't even real. It's the cap found on characters such as 宝 or 安, but by itself, it means nothing. Fail.

Shawn Marion - Mavericks

Shawn "The Matrix" Marion thought it would be cool to get his nickname in Chinese on his leg. What he got instead means "Demon Bird Mothballs." *cue spittake*

So what did we learn today kids? When in doubt, ask Yao Ming.