THE AGE OF APOLLYON is available now from Trestle Press! Grab your copy at Amazon.com or BN.com. You can also check out the official website. And don't forget to "Like" it on Facebook!
This isn't really goodbye; I've just been channeling my semantic energy into a book I've been working on for the past few months. I've written a couple of full-length manuscripts, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of poems in my life, but this time, I'm really concentrating my efforts on making something that others will like as well. I plan to release the novel as an e-book in June. Here is the e-cover, and you can find a synopsis and other info here and on the book's Facebook page.
By the way, the family's doing great, spring is finally here, and work is work but still a pretty good gig. Cheers!
It's been a while, so just a quick update:
-Nolan's walking all over the place and babbling like a monkey in his own language
-we sold the children's playplace
-Tina's begun teaching dance classes at a local music school
-classes at the university are over and I'm in a 6 week holiday now
Hope the new year finds everyone happy, healthy, and relaxed!
Photo courtesy of MSNBC
I've never had a reason to seriously regret getting tattooed. On the bus the other day, I heard a kid ask his dad if I was a killer, but these small incidents make me feel self-conscious rather than ashamed, and generally my ink receives positive reactions (when I walk through the crowd at my university, I hear a chorus of "Wahh...so cool!" in my wake). I never wear T-shirts to class, but other than this, I don't go out of my way to either hide or flaunt my tattoos.
Bryon Widner has a different story. Once a prominent skinhead, now a husband and father seeking a life of normalcy, he realized that his abundant and hateful racist tattoos were a barrier to his future. You can read an amazing article about his transformation here.
Just reinforces the cardinal rule: THINK BEFORE YOU INK.
During the National Day holiday, Tina, Nolan, and I headed to the American embassy in Guangzhou to register my son as an American citizen and apply for his passport. I had heard many stories about document confusion, delays, mistrust, etc., but I wasn't going to worry until I knew exactly what was what.
I referred to the Guangzhou Embassy website for information on what documents were necessary. According to the site, they needed my passport, my wife's Chinese ID, our marriage certificate, Nolan's original birth certificate with an English translation, two passport photos, and a couple of forms printed from the website affirming that I had lived in the US for more than 5 years, and that I was Nolan's father. We also brought our wedding photos, family photos, and Nolan's hospital records.
Despite what people had told Tina, these documents were all that were necessary. Everything that the website said was true, and the whole process took about an hour. The consular official was very polite, and she interviewed Tina and me separately for a few minutes, just to verify that we were indeed a family. I had to pay about 1,400 RMB, and that was that. It was a big relief to get this important step finished, and like most things in life, it wasn't as difficult as people said it would be. I will have to go back to pick up the passport once it's ready, but it's nice to know that my son is now a full-fledged American :-)
Anyone who has tattoos knows that when you get inked, something changes inside. You feel infused with some sort of tough, badass-ish, you-talkin'-to-ME? kinda attitude. As for me personally, I don't cut an imposing figure, but since I am heavily tattooed, I do feel a bit tougher than I probably actually am. Perhaps it's all of the Hollywood imagery we are exposed to featuring macho gangstas all tatted up, and we look at them and say "Yeah, I'm as tough as that guy." Which is of course not the case, and neither is it for the guy on the screen, since he's a posh actor with tattoos drawn on. Yet the mystique prevails.
Of course, some let it go to their head, like the guy in the picture (courtesy of this very informative blog). In my opinion, tattoos do not make the douche but they certainly don't help their case either. I feel that a douche is gonna be a douche no matter what, and the fact that he has tattoos may embolden him to take off his shirt even more, but that's about it. Yet it is statistically proven that the occurrence of tattoos bears a direct correlation to the likelihood of douchebaggery.
Even in China, this fact holds true. It is quite rare to see someone fully tattooed up in China, but if a douchebag-inclined dude has a tattoo, you can be sure that he will show it at any opportunity. This means wearing tank tops in cold weather, bearing one's torso with one's buddies while consuming barbeque and beer, and hanging out with skanky-looking girls so everyone knows that he's not a goody-two-shoes. Of course, more often than not, their badge of machismo will be a bland tribal design on their shoulder or a generic dragon on the pectoral muscles. And while I've got to give props to my comrades in ink, I can't deny the major douchebag vibe I get when I walk past these guys. They usually stop talking and gawk when I walk past, but I don't acknowledge them. I am proud to say that no matter what I look like, I am most certainly not a douchebag.
I am constantly on the prowl for new and exciting music, primarily of the heavy metal persuasion. Metal is my favorite genre, but alas, it has worn out its welcome and it's rare to hear something genuinely fresh these days. There are plenty of awesome bands out there that rock and thrash till the cows come home, but eventually, it all starts to blend together, and many attempts to create new sounds/genres fade quickly or fail outright.
However, there are bright spots on the increasingly bleak metal horizon, and I'd like to share some of my recent discoveries with you. As an aside, I don't endorse any particular band's message or beliefs; I'm just commenting on their style and sound.
Powerwolf - Blood of the Saints
I would describe this as epic Catholic mass metal. Yep, you read that right. Very tight, energetic heavy/power metal, not too pretentious or virtuosic, and absolutely dripping with choirs, organs, operatic vocals, and medieval liturgical atmosphere. If there ever was a band that would qualify to rock the Gothic off the Notre-Dame Cathedral, this is that band.
Blood Stain Child - Epsilon
Melodic death/trance metal from futuristic Japanese cyborgs! Seriously, if you want to mosh, shake your booty, swing your hair like a maniac, or slither and gyrate like a KTV temptress, this is your drug. Super-synthesized and effects-heavy female vocals, alongside death growls, soaring solos, blazing double bass, and enough rock and roll coolness to make a schoolgirl squeal with delight.
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony
Mozart Metal. This is the definitive orchestral death metal album. This isn't death metal with symphonic/orchestral bits sprinkled here and there for atmosphere; no, my friend, the orchestra never stops. It's part of the band, and every song is epic beyond belief. Regular death metal will seem flimsy and decaffeinated after your ears are ravaged by this masterpiece.
Skindred - Union Black
Skindred was one of the last bands I saw in concert before I left the USA and came to China. I'd been a fan since their debut and their reggae/dancehall/funk/punk/nu metal atomic bomb decimated the crowd. Their latest offering is even more chock full of bounce, swagger, riddims, riffs, and mayhem. You'll think it's 2004 all over again as you find your dreads swinging and your voice roaring in a Jamaican accent.
Today is the 6th anniversary of the day I first set foot in China. Those six years have been a lifetime for me.
Here is the tattoo I got done a couple of weeks ago. It's kind of maze-like but if you look closely, you'll see in the middle of the design, there is a snake winding itself around my arm. And if you look even more closely, you'll see that the snake's head is broken. This comes from a passage in Genesis where God tells Eve that her seed with crush the serpent's head (meaning Jesus will conquer Satan). The design encircles my left elbow. The tattoo quality isn't the greatest, and I'll have to get it touched up sometime, but I like the pattern, and I think it fits well with the tribal/circles-and-triangles theme of my left arm.
Tina also got her third tattoo on the same day. It's a little "Z" on her ankle in honor of our little Z. I personally think ankle tattoos are very sexy and I applaud Tina's bravery for choosing to go under the needle for a third time (she really really dislikes the pain of tattoos).
I don't really have the small town blues- it just sounded cool for the post title. Actually what I wanted to talk about are the frequency of tattoos in my new area of residence. When I lived inside Xiamen city limits, I spotted tattoos every once in a while but not too often. However, now that I live outside the city in a smaller, commercial/industrial suburb, I'm surprised how often I see tattoos.
There is a large population of youngsters in their late-teens/early-20s who work in the local factories/warehouses/supermarkets/clothes shops/etc. For reasons that I don't completely understand, I see them sporting tattoos in great numbers. For the guys, if you see a group walking around in sleeveless shirts/no shirts, at least one of them will be inked. For the girls, colorful ankle and shoulder tattoos are also common. There is a large number of hookers and massage girls in our area, and more often than not, it's girls heading to work in the early evening all heavily made-up that are tattooed. I imagine that people might suspect the same thing of my wife if they didn't see her pushing a baby stroller or walking around with me.
I'm not looking down my nose at my neighbors- if anything some might look down on me, since I'm inked up like a prison convict. I just wonder where the inspiration to get tattooed comes from out here, where the Western influence is less prevalent than in the city. Chinese traditional thinking regarding tattoos parallels the Japanese attitude: that tattoos are primarily the domain of social unsavories, like crooks and hookers. You'll find a more open mind in China's cosmopolitan areas, but this isn't once of them. Yet I can't help but draw comparison to the American inner city and country regions, where you'll find lots of tattoos at the liquor store and local Wal-Mart, and not so many in wealthy suburbs and business districts.
Again, I don't want to sound judgmental, and it would be very hypocritical if I was, but perhaps there is a correlation between the desire to get tattooed and being a member society's lower classes. Since people seek to distinguish themselves by any means necessary, and since people in lower classes have less means to do so, tattoos are a convenient and available way to show one's "distinctiveness." I say that sarcastically of course since the prevalence of tattoos has essentially watered down its effectiveness as a badge of individuality. I've stated in other posts that the reasons Chinese people often tattooed usually differs from those in the West, but the fact remains: businesspeople, bankers, educators, lawyers, and other people whose identities are largely tied to their white-collar careers rarely get tattooed, regardless of country. Those with less people to impress and less face to lose are more likely to get inked. Whatever the reasons are, I'm glad they're becoming more common with everyday folk, since the social stigma is about twenty years past its expiration date.
LLC's administrator Crystal asked me to write a guest post for her blog about Chinese women and tattoos. You can read the post here.
Here are some photos from my mother's visit. Yeah, yeah, I know she's a hot mom, everyone keeps reminding me. Sheesh.