The Yakuza Go to Costco

I wrote an essay for my world civilization class about the art of Chinese calligraphy, dating back thousands of years, and how characters can be traced through time and are still recognizable as their original pictographs. The instructor requires that we “learn something” about the subject we write on every week and gives us complete autonomy. All we have to do is send 300-500 words each week that has “something” to do with the chapter assigned. The one requirement is that we have a section, however big or small a part of the essay, titled “Why This Matters” and outline what's important about the subject. Mine ended up being on Western body modification and how we bastardize the Chinese language with flash art taken off walls of tattoo parlors. The Chinese don't get tattoos, other than some punk twenty-somethings lately. Originally, a wen shen was a tattoo given (usually on the face) to a criminal so that he could be easily identified and exiled or ostracized by the rest of the community. To the moderate Chinese person, tattoos are not a form of artistic self-expression, but a scarlet letter. And while there are some younger people getting them, most of them are part of the gangs, Triad or Tong. Even their tattoos aren't as visible as, say, the Japanese yakuza, and they certainly aren't the characters for “love” and “strength.” They're usually dragons or other symbols.

So I was concerned. While I learned a lot and even became somewhat self-conscious of my own Chinese tattoos (despite the fact that I know without a doubt what mine say), I wondered if I'd strayed too far from the original subject matter. However, I just received my grade and “lecture” (the instructor emails you his thoughts on what you wrote in lieu of sitting in a class and hearing about since it's an online course) and he seemed really pleased. I got a “100” on the essay; my highest grade yet. Perhaps I'd entertained him a bit more than usual.

So I didn't actually go to Target today, but we did have coffee, found out Mitch Daniels came in to the shop this morning, dropped off all my crap at Goodwill (sorry clothes-traders – none of it would've fit you anyway), and made a trip to Costco. I saw a couple of Chinese families and was secretly glad it was chilly enough to wear a sweatshirt. Many of the Web sites I came across in my research on the essay were dedicated to awful tattoos and what they really say. Entertaining, yes, but one blogger wrote “If any of these people actually lived within a mile of a Chinese-speaking person, they might think twice about getting them done. Or they'd have someone to ask what they say.”
I was very entertained by Hanzi Smatter's Web site, but you have to scroll through a lot of pages to get through the monthly archives.

I also managed to fall off the couch yesterday. During one of the many football games Charlie and Cavan watched I must have dozed off. Next thing I know I slid right off and landed on my back. Really hard. Today I did my best to mop the entire house (there are no carpets other than a few area rugs so I have hardwood floor cleaner) and managed to make my back even worse. So I took four Ibuprofen and stopped. I didn't even vacuum.


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