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I love action movies, and Tina and I are huge Stallone fans (Judge Dredd is one of my top five favorite films of all time).  His style is usually more grim with more swagger and attitude than the other 80's action movie heroes.  He's not wisecracking after every kill shot and he has that snarl that is downright terrifying.  So when The Expendables hit theaters this month, I was more jumpy than a kid around Christmastime.

As it has been billed, this is one of the greatest ensemble action movies ever made.  It's a celebration of everything macho: guns, motorcycles, clever put-downs and comebacks, and tattoos.  Speaking of which, Stallone just became the coolest actor in Hollywood in my book as he showed off his exceptional quarter-sleeves.  I really like Stallone's directing style, though I would have to say that 2008's John Rambo was much more graphic and gritty than The Expendables.  Stallone's new film feelsa bit too polished and clean, the lighting is too professional, and it feels a bit stagey at times.  The grit and grime of John Rambo combined with the flair, wit, and gleefully-excessive action sequences would have been the perfect movie.  As it stands, The Expendables still kicks major ass and it is a heavy metal action bonanza that anyone with a pulse would enjoy.

However, I did have a couple issues with the film, one of which is not the film's fault.  Since China doesn't have a movie ratings system, all movies are general admittance, which means that every film released in Chinese cinemas have to trim any objectionable material, no matter what the target audience is.  That means that the Chinese version of The Expendables was somewhat neutered.  Several kill shots were going to be super cool and then...cut to the body falling to the ground.  Most of the violence was left intact, but there were just a few moments of fist-clenching frustration.

The other issue I have is with Jet Li.  If you look at the movie poster to the left, you will see Jet Li standing eye to eye with his fellow stars.  If the poster photo had been shot with everyone together, Li wouldn't be visible- he would be obscured by Stallone's mammoth shoulder.  Li's unimposing stature was brought up several times in the film to the point of being uncomfortable.  His character even had the gall to demand more money because he's smaller, and the bullet holes are subsequently bigger and the distances longer.  Now as an American, it's no big deal, but I felt that it might be a bit awkward for Chinese audiences to see one of their homegrown heroes mocked for a stereotypical Asian characteristic, even if it's true in Li's case.  Make no mistake, though, Li gets buck wild on many a bad guy's ass and his kung fu magic takes backstage to his bullet ballet skills.

In this movie age of impressive but hollow special effects blowouts and bumbling nerds finding themselves becoming the hero of the day, The Expendables is a refreshing blast of napalm to remind people that the big boys have and always will rule action empire.  You could literally feel the testosterone and HGH crackling in the often-talked-about scene with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis.  This film rocks, and I am definitely going to get my pirated copy of the real DVD the day it comes out.

 
 
This week I got a tattoo of Nolan's English and Chinese names (for free :-).  For his English name, I designed an anagram, which is a word that can still be read upside-down.  It was pretty simple, since Nolan's name is almost symmetrical (the only difference being the "o" and "a" which were easy to convert).  The tattoo completely encircles my left forearm and on the back below my elbow is his Chinese name is swoopy Chinese script.

It was nice to sit in the tattoo chair again after a nearly year-long break, though I'm sure this will be my last for a while.  I got the tattoo for free because I interviewed the tattoo artist for an English-language Xiamen magazine and he offered to give me the tattoo free of charge, which I feebly protested but eventually gave in :-).  Seriously, this dude is excellent, and I've been tattooed by more than a dozen artists in China and the States.  If you're ever in Xiamen and looking to get inked, go to his website for more info.
 
 
It's been almost a year since my last tattoo, though I've got a new design for my son's name that I'll be getting in a few weeks.  But I've noticed a change in my attitude about life since getting married and becoming a father, and it's hard to say whether it's good or bad.  I've found that I don't get excited about the less practical things in life like I used to, such as art, tattoos, etc.  I still enjoy a few hobbies, such as collecting heavy metal music, dabbling in sculpture and drawing, yoga, and working on a couple of writing projects, but the passion that I felt for art, home decoration, and tattoos has faded.  Of course it can be hard to find the right "crowd" to stimulate one's inspiration, but for me, it's more than just running low on inspirational fuel.

I've always been an aesthetically- and dramatically- minded person, and art, music, and movies were my life a few years prior.  Now I find that the energy, excitement, and effort that I directed towards these self-focused enjoyments have now been placed on my new family.  I still enjoy my old pursuits, but I can't justify spending as much money, time, and energy on these things like I used to.  And the things is, I don't really mind.  I'm not cynical and judging all impractical things like art as narcissistic and self-promoting but I now feel outside the scene that I was so immersed in before.

Now this sounds like a classic case of cool-dude-gets-a-family-and-becomes-boring syndrome, and perhaps it is to some degree, but I believe that as long as one finds enjoyment in one's life, the source of that enjoyment is irrelevant (unless of course it involves something perverse or illegal).  Seeing my family sleeping safe and warm brings me great happiness that otherwise would have been spent on myself.  People look at me and often assume I'm a hedonistic party animal, and I enjoy telling them about my simple, normal, domestic life.  The course of the river has changed, but the water remains the same.  And I think in a few years, I'll be able to appreciate the less practical things a bit more as well.