serious issues and silly gadgets

slow weekend, so only a tiny handful of links:

the good ones: a question of copyrighting, prospects for bioengineered body modification (?) and a weird piece of news from Sweden where ‘women [were] banned from night club for distasteful tattoos.’

Accessories: ‘Ed Hardy motorcycle helmets’ and ‘dorm décor’ including tattoo art decals.

Finally, tattoo artists and their free time activities in ‘Off the needle’ exhibit in FL.

dress code, TV shows and human wonders

Interesting news regarding dress code: ‘tattoo raises constitutional issue’ (more).

Two quite different points of view in American ‘self-expression goes extreme’ and in a German article claiming that tattoos are pretty much ‘out’ now.

Tattoos leaving their mark on reality TV’ discusses Ink-TV shows and gives us a glimpse into what’s going on behind the stage.

An interesting addition to my ‘anthropological’ section: ‘mother’s milk inks indelible mark’ from India about an interesting local tattoo tradition!

Indirectly related and showing how amazing human body is: ‘body art: masterpieces by a CT scan.’

Tattoos and entertainment: ‘stars compete for tattoo award’ and ‘game preview: Tattoo Mania.’

book review: The Missing Ink. A Tattoo Shop Mystery

missing ink coverTattoo parlors don’t appear often in novels and even if they do, it’s usually on a casual note and to introduce sinister characters, so I was kind of looking forward to reading ‘The Missing Ink,’ proudly announced as ‘tattoo shop mystery.’

The main character of the novel, Brett Kavanaugh, is a female tattoo artist and owner of a high-end tattoo parlor called ‘Painted Lady.’ Along with her crew which consists of an overweight Joel, a pixielike Bitsy and a narcissistic Ace she prefers a challenge of a costume piece from doing flash only and feels proud of adhering to all state regulations in Nevada. The plot of the story revolves around a rich girl who wanted a ‘devotion tat’ but never came for her appointment. Brett and her crew get involved in the whole mystery even though they seem to be driven more by their noisiness than by a real concern about the missing girl.

The whole story isn’t badly written and makes for maybe not very demanding but still quite pleasant and entertaining a read. However, if the author’s ambition was to write a short novel about tattoo artists and their world, she really could have done more research.

The world of modern body modification is way more complex and richer than just tattoos and obsolete body piercings. The only modifications that are described and mentioned in this book are tattoos (and some of the stories behind tattoos were taken straight from ‘Miami Ink’ and “L.A.Ink” as it seems!) and kind of traditional by now multiple ear piercings (only Brett’s piercings were mentioned here and she’s a ‘proud’ owner of ‘hoops running the length of her earlobes’ which are pretty unoriginal these days!) If the story takes place in Las Vegas, one of the busiest and liveliest places not only in the US but also in the world, we should be presented with more outrageous and daring mods. There’s nothing about ear stretching here, nothing about such ear piercings as industrial, tragus or conch, nothing about scarification, implants or tongue splits, so chances are that if the real customers came into the ‘Painted Lady’ only to see the artists not wearing original work themselves, they would quickly change their minds about getting modified at this shop.

There’s a sort of fakiness and unneeded pathos here whenever Olson tries to get more profound about the tattoos and people who get them. ‘Many people who came into the shop had a story, a deeply personal story’ is definitely a true statement but it lacks subtlety and ever since Ami James proclaimed how his customers become a legend of his shop, somehow the meanings behind people’s tattoos ballooned to pathetic proportions and, when used by TV to get better stats and more money, lost on their real value.

Olson stated in the interviews that she tried to write against the stereotypes about tattoos and she managed to avoid the old negative stereotypes about tattooed people. Unfortunately, however, she doesn’t know much about the world of tattoos and other forms of body modification and her only resources here seem to be such TV shows as Miami Ink where everything is very polished and neat to please the wide audience out there. She acknowledged the book ‘Bodies of Subversion’ but when she refers to it in the novel she again does it in too pathetic a tone.

There are numerous repetitions in the novel (Brett’s phone always ‘blasts Springsteen’ and she tends to use the ‘go figure’ phrase way too often to name just two of them) and Olson pretty much all the time refers to tattoos as ‘tats’ or ‘ink’ – obviously she doesn’t know that a vast majority of people involved in the tattoo culture finds it slightly offensive and prefers the simple and correct word ‘tattoo’ instead!

Like I’ve already said, the book makes for a quick and entertaining read but it also shows that the author’s research was not perfect. Ink-TV and occasional glimpses of tattoos in the magazines don’t give a detailed picture of this subculture and more efforts should be put in to capture what it’s all about. Hopefully the next Tattoo Shop Mystery, scheduled to be published in April 2010, will show the world of tattoos and body modifications in general from a more detailed angle and the characters we already know will convince us that they really care about their own and other’s tattoos, not ‘tats’!

Karen E. Olson, The Missing Ink. A Tattoo Shop Mystery, Signet 2009;

extremes and tips

A few pretty cool articles in German today; let’s start with these filled with amazement at people’s ideas ones: ‘extreme body cult’ and another one on the subject describe such *in*famous modified people as the Lizardman, the Stalking Cat and the so-called Zombie Boy (although I prefer ‘the skull boy’ monicker). Interestingly enough, whenever German journalists come to describe extreme body modifications, they always seem to use Shannon Larratt’s eyeball tattooing video.

Tattoos may be too extreme for work, too: ‘Dallas police employees will have to cover tattoos’ and ‘naked skin at the office’ about what’s proper and what’s not in the hot weather.

A handful of tips: ‘getting tattooed: tips for a great experience,’ ‘5 tips for finding the right tattoo artist’ (obviously, it’s better to avoid a toothbrush tattoo artist!) and ‘dangerous myths about body piercing care.’

more hooks and disregard for aging

The idea of suspension again in a picture from a tattoo convention and a German article ‘skin on hooks.’

Nazi tattoos in German court.

A new TV series ‘Marked’ is going to be about ‘tattoos and modern-day ‘tribes.’

Two new examples that it’s never too late to get tattooed: tat chat from OH and ‘mid-life crisis down in ink’ from Australia.

My body belongs to me’ is from Switzerland; kind of shame that only teenagers were interviewed for this one as this way it’s so easy to play the ‘future regrets’ card.

Not a fan of bacon myself but obviously for some ppl it means a lot: one bacon tattoo with a background story and some more of ‘bodacious bacon body art.’

Finally, a nice example of how the ‘outcasts’ can set a good example and help those in need: ‘teddy bear tat to help victims.’

hooks, pirates and sparkles

Subject of body suspension hit the online media again in a short comment on a picture of a tattoo artist named Jorge Castro and a longer article ‘learning to fly: hook suspension.’

Two more articles reporting that body modification industry is still booming despite economic decline everywhere else: the USA, the Netherlands.

Pirate theme in ‘Rollo Banks: tattoo artist or pirate?’ and ‘Pirate Bay tattoos saved by logo change.’

Rankings: ’America’s most talented tattoo artists’ and ’20 best hip hop and rapper tattoos of all time.’

Interesting: ‘Ink and stay’ offer at one of LA hotels, ‘smallest tattoo of a painting by Wingnut’ and ‘lucky’ tattooed fish in China.

Almost forgot about this one but since it’s kind or related to body and they way it may change, then why not? ‘Is it hip to be round?’ – potbellies as a last fashion rend?

To end on a soemwhat satirical note: ‘screwed, booed and tattooed: the sparkly deline of tattoo art’ and ‘blanking out all celeb tattoos.’

book review: Tattoo Machine


No matter how tired of and disgusted with growing popularity (and shallowness) of tattoo culture we may get, there’s at least one positive side effect of it – more books on the subject published.

Since I’m always curious of what is going on behind the scene of any sort and whenever I’m at any tattoo shop I wonder what it really is like, what customers come and go, what people want to have tattooed on them and what the reality of tattooing looks like, I knew I’d read ‘Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories and My Life in Ink’ with at least some interest.

The book isn’t big, barely 249 pages, but it’s packed up with interesting stories, anecdotes, memories and pieces of advice from someone who’s spent most of his life at more than just one tattoo shop and obviously has a lot to tell about it.

Since I’m a sucker for history and people behind the (not only tattoo) scene I definitely liked that the author, Jeff Johnson, managed to smuggle in a few allusions to the history of tattooing in the US, briefly describing not only evolution the modern tattooing underwent in the 20th century but also mentioning people that made a huge impact on the industry (Bert Grimm being one of them). It never feels like fake names dropping and shows the author’s deep interest in the past.

Nowadays it seems like you must have a big ego and no sensitivity to become successful, so it’s a nice change to read that tattoo artists are more than just fake wannabe TV stars who claim to be awesome artists and party animals all in one. Johnson makes it clear that to be successful in this field one must work hard, spend countless hours on polishing their drawing skills and that there’s always someone else that’s better than you. Being humble and industrious is not a shame, so big thanks for this sound attitude!

The title of the book suggests it’s tales and stories only and that’s the case most of the time. Johnson recounts interesting events from his professional (and sometimes private) past with humor and passion of a real storyteller and he admits that he ‘likes stories. He likes telling them and he likes hearing them.’ Page by page he describes co-workers he came across during his career, customers that sometimes are creepy and sometimes tragic and sheds a really bright light on the life of his shop the way you won’t get to see on ink reality TV.

Johnson’s work, however, is not only about stories and tales and sometimes he throws in a piece of advice for customers, so if you’re interested in what tattoo artists find important on customer’s side and how not to embarrass yourself during a sitting, you can find useful tips here, too. There are also some of his reflections on the current state of the industry which only adds to the contents.

The only thing I didn’t like much about this book is uneven writing. It seems as if Jonhson couldn’t decide whether he wanted to write his book in an everyday language, juicy, live and teeming with slang expressions, or to go for a sophisticated style verging on being pathetic (‘warm, pink arc of living canvas’? ‘plates of unnamed silver washed in and out of the surge’?). He’s a real, down-to-earth guy with lost of experiences under his belt, though, so most of the time he is sharing his stories in a rough, everyday language of men who must act tough to keep things and people under control.

A small warning to those who expect that books about tattoos must be colorful and packed up with images – not the case this time. The book’s layout is very simple and black-and-white only. The main focus here is on the stories taking place at tattoo shops and, for some reason, the author and the publishers didn’t find it good to add any images. I didn’t mind it although now and then even I caught myself at wishing to see a picture of Johnson’s first tattoo or a back piece he was just describing. Contents are good enough, though, to feed your imagination, so the book is enjoyable to read the way it is.

Jeff Johnson, Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories and My Life in Ink, Spiegel&Grau 2009;

one thing, different background

A few pieces of advice in ‘how to care for a new tattoo’ and ‘curing infected body piercings’ and some reassurance in an article informing that ‘FDA [is going to] probe tattoo inks.’

A German article about body modification not only mentions quite reputable a shop Visavajara but also discusses a few quite interesting and on the verge of extreme body modifications and does that with quite interesting and amusing sense of wonder.

Another German one discusses ‘regular’ and ‘bio-tattoos’ and possible legal consequences if ‘bio-tattoos’ won’t disappear in their due time.

One of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes and their facial tattooing tradition in an article about Seediq people.

A bunch of interesting ones featuring some cool people: ‘tattoo artist helping cancer patients feel positive,’ ‘tattooist and graffiti writer from NY’ and ‘it’s never too late to get inked’ (amen to this one?).

Geeks and tattoos go well together and here’s some proofs: ‘slightly disturbing music tattoo’ and ‘iPhone’s Tattoo Mania.’

This very neat picture, apparently used in a political campaign, I just got from the guy who’s a trusty and loyal contributor to my little blog; as always, big thanks!

political campaign

tan and pray

With a recent wave of anti-tanning in Europe and Australia here we can read about an alleged new trend in the US: “sun[-made] tattoos.” As usually, it’s the German sites that inform us about a risky behavior. Others take it lighter, though, and even sell bikini that can give you a ‘tan tattoo.’ For a good measure, here’s an ad-like article about tattoo protection in summer.

In NV ‘state is looking into procedures of dermal anchors.’

An article featuring a tattoo artist Alan Padilla drew my attention not only because it’s about tattoos but also his hobby.

Much has been already said (and even more will be, I guess) about women tattoo artists’ position in the industry; here’s another one in this vein: ‘tattoos: a boys’ club?’ which doesn’t add anything new to the subject but nicely gives some hope for the future.

Jazz and tattoos don’t seem to be closely related and yet it’s possible: ‘amazing jazz tattoos.’

Sth light: “Seattle’s top five barista tattoos,’ ice cream tattoo in ‘what flavor is your tattoo?’  and “St. Theresa the Tatted” if you’d like to pray for some mod money or better healing of a new piercing.

events, itches and fake moustaches

A few events for starters: ‘multicultural celebration’ event in Australia, ‘triathlon of awesome’ in OH and launching a special edition of phone with stuff by Mister Cartoon.

Body piercing-related stuff strikes yet again in ‘corset piercing’, ‘body piercing itch’ (aftercare tips’ and something I named ‘body piercing from a scary medical perspective.’

Tattoos: Green Day and their tattooed past, ‘tattooed librarians‘ and an interesting guy from India who wants to set a world record with flag tattoos.

And tattoos again in a slightly different light: ‘book of Isaiah refers to tattoo’ (it’s cool, really!) and a reader’s opinion in ‘Don’t judge people on if they have a tattoo or.’

Speaking of judging, ‘tattooed gangster forced to look like tom Selleck’ (here with pictures) to make a better impression in court! Maybe he should use Kat Von D’s tattoo concealer instead, though, as her promo stuff looks pretty convincing!