Press your spaceface close to mine

No, I Will Not Surrender My Nerd Membership Badge

Posted by Sunday on Oct 13, 2008 at 1:18 pm

I keep my dislike of Stephen Hawking under wraps, most of the time, much like an otherwise kind mother keeps her dislike of Jews a secret¹.

Years ago while reading A Brief History of Time, I grew to dislike Hawking.  I didn’t like his pedantic style, his use of absolutes.   While the media gushed about how he made science accessible, I grumbled; it wasn’t accessible.  It was muddled and often contradictory.  These were subjects I already knew about, already understood, and after reading Hawking’s description of them I often emerged doubting my own understanding.  Had he really just sucked knowledge out of my head?

It was years later that I read about his being a bit of a twat in his private life as well.  He divorced the mother of his three children and wife of many years (publicly siting the pressures of fame and his illness as a reason) and promptly married his nurse, much to the then-estrangement of his three children.

On the occasion that I first groused about Hawking to Leesa – I believe I said, “He’s an ass” – she gasped and looked around and hissed, “He’s disabled!”  to which I said, “So?”  And I stand by my position.   Like many geniuses I applaud his luck at having so many brain folds while I still openly acknowledge that geniuses are often jerks.

Regardless, an article in The Telegraph had me laughing.  Young man gets tattoo of Stephen Hawking, and to top it off, “didn’t undestand a word” of A Brief History of Time.  AND got the Monty Python quote “He’s not the messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.” written beneath.  It’s like a joke crafted just for me!

Science fan has Stephen Hawking tattooed on leg, from The Telegraph.  Via Neatorama.

¹This is a long-running joke for me: for years my sister and I slowly convinced my mother that she was a bigot by taking  her truly innocent statements and telling her that she was being bigoted.  For example, she might say, “Let’s not eat Thai today, it gives me heartburn,” and we’d say, “Jesus, mom!  Keep it down!  I can’t believe how racist you are!”  And then she’s tisk and say, “Stop it!” and then look worried for a while.  While she’s a smart woman, she’s also very sweet which universally trumps the smartness.

Zombie Boy, We Understand You

Posted by Sunday on Jul 8, 2008 at 8:02 pm

99% of the time I refrain from participating in argumentative blog commentary (when I’m not on this here soapbox, I mean) – something about a long string of nasty commenters just shuts my brain off. Lotsa folks, as I am sure you’ve noticed, get quite fired up over the whole thing. I appreciate and respect the medium, if we dare call it that, and simply don’t involve myself. And it is not that I find it abhorrent or anything, but rather that I get so easily roped into these things that I eventually exclude all other forms of creativity. The most recent reminder of this was the Great Boing Boing Shitstorm of ’08 (as mentioned here, by me): 1000+ on-topic comments that ramped from funny to ignorant to cruel and back again — hundreds of times over — actually gave me insomnia (true!). I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Mostly, I find I no longer have the skin for the cruelty. It’s in large part the reason we started this website. With daily meanness contests over at the Gawker megalith, it was high time we created out own kiddie pool.

This brings me to commentary surrounding the internet fame of this gentleman:


© Neville Elder for Bizarre Magazine

First off, I read about him over on Neatorama (who seem like very nice kids), and within the first five comments is :

“ew, why would anyone want to look like that?”


“What an ugly idiot!”

It devolves from there.

I immediately had to stop reading. For predictable reasons I feel defensive about anyone calling a tattooed or similarly modified person “ugly” or “stupid”.

There’s a pretty straight-forward psychology that can be unwound here, one where people are startled by something unusual and instead of stopping with “Blech, that’s not for me,” they progress to verbally abusing the person. Of course, the critical ingredient here is that we’re on the INTERNET and lord if there ever were a place to say whatever the hell you felt like saying, then its right here.  Well, not right here right here.  You know what I mean.

Its often remarked on that if people weren’t in a car they wouldn’t behave as they do while driving – that a person cutting another person off on foot is quite likely to turn around and mumble an apology, whereas a driver who cuts you off is just as likely to give you the bird as you are them. In cars we are all steel gladiators capable of running 100 mph. – on the internet we are all invincible.

Rick (aka Zombie Boy) seems like a nice enough guy.  In part of the Bizarre interview he talks about how he’s become a much happier, nicer person since he started getting his tattoos and,

“You’ve got to respect that everyone’s different and has to do what they’ve got to do. I can’t tell you what to do, you can’t tell me what to do – but we can still get along just great. “

I was once interviewed for a friend’s documentary on breast augmentation (she was looking for opinions, not examples), to which I responded something along the lines of, “Whatever you’ve got to do to feel happy in your own body, you should do it.  I would be hypocritical to say otherwise,” and then gestured at my tattoos.  She kindly interjected a question something along the lines of “But what is ‘happy’?  Don’t you think women who get breast implants are just trying to fit into some kind of ‘happiness’ enforced on them by society?”

The short answer is: no.

Humans are social creatures and visual creatures; it would be ignorant to say that the two aren’t linked.  The fitter among us are often considered more attractive.  But the brain is a fussy, weird, unpredictable thing and sometimes merely ensuring that we seem fit and attractive is low on the priority ladder.  I am often asked if I regret being as tattooed as I am (usually by people who want tattoos and are stuck at the “what if I regret it?” stage) and I have so far honestly answered “Nope.”  I try and explain to them that just as their mental image of themselves is probably close to their actual image, so is mine.  I no more see myself as tattooless than I do armless or noseless.  If I woke up tomorrow and didn’t have them, I’d freak out – for a lot of reasons – but one of them would be that in small way I’d not be Sunday anymore.  My identity is not my tattoos, but part of my identity is my physical self, and part of my physical self is how I look.  It reminds me of how often I’ve heard someone overweight remark how they see themselves in a photo or mirror and think, “Who is that fat person?”

This makes me feel that I understand how Rick feels, even if I don’t exactly agree with his execution: we are, in our minds, usually not who we are on the outside.  If you could change that, make them match, wouldn’t you?

Original Neatorama post.

Bizarre Magazine article about Zombie Boy. 

Answer for why that woman in pinching Zombie Boy’s nipple: unavailable. 

3 Posted in Gross Morphology

Just As We Suspected

Posted by Sunday on Jun 7, 2008 at 4:08 pm

According to My Heritage, I am Japanese.


Find out what race you apparently are at My Heritage’s extremely accurate celebrity face recognition page.

Special thanks to Flickr user lalalaa Dolce Vita for pointing out this thrilling technology.

Freedom-2™, Electric Tattoogaloo

Posted by Sunday on Mar 5, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Being modest is a hobby of mine, the kind I’m reasonably good at but infrequently interested in – other similar hobbies include learning Klingon, sewing, and quoting from Aliens as my only source of verbal communication.

That being said, I hope that I don’t sound immodest when I say that I know pretty much all there is to know about tattoos. For years I apprenticed as a tattoo artist before I realized that I hated people nearly as much as I hated drawing on command. However, I really liked the people I worked for and the industry was such second nature to me that I remained on staff doing anything but actual tattooing.

The tattoo and body modification industry is a very strange one, far beyond the aspect of the “alternative” culture still erroneously associated with it. Rather, the strangness is borne largely from it’s fractured competitiveness. Standardization is rare, in everything from ink to needles to aftercare (especially aftercare). There are die-hard users of tried-and-tested products never meant for use with tattoos (such as A+D diaper rash ointment), as are there devotees of the entirely questionable industry specific products (such as Tattoo Goo). There are as many “right” ways of doing things as there are things to do – and somehow twice as many “wrong” ways. One aspect has remained the same for many years, however, and that is that tattoos are forever.

Sort of.

Some years ago the technology emerged for laser tattoo removal. It’s not a particularly interesting story, but the evolution of the tattoo had suddenly changed; if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone semi-jokingly claim they could just “get it lasered off” if they didn’t like it, well, I’d be able to buy myself a filling for one of my cavities. The fact of the matter is, you can’t “just” get it lasered off any more than you can “just” grow your leg back together after it’s broken. It is prohibitively expensive, painful, and in most cases, not thorough. A stain or shadow of the tattoo left behind is a good removal. A bad removal is a merely blurred and faded one.

For many years at the tattoo shop it was common to be asked, “Do you guys have that disappearing ink?” We had a lot of mean answers, of course, because being mean is how we dealt with having deep charred pits of hopelessness in our hearts. The professional answer was “There is no such thing,” an answer that was often met with a disbelieving stare and a customer who left to consult another shop. There were products that claimed to fade or disappear, but without any wide-spread testing or long-term aging, no respectable shop would use it. (There is also a sort of urban legend about “glow-in-the-dark” ink, though no such product safely exists on the market – there is however a UV reactive ink that as near as I can tell is safe, though still visible by normal light spectrums.)

And then came the terrorist-fighting Freedom-2™.

The short version of the story is that a team of medical researchers wanted to make a tattoo ink that broke down easily in the body. Makes sense, considering that radiation treatment and some mastectomies require positioning tattoos, which results in a different kind of regretful reminder than that drunken Jagermeister tattoo does. The technology is not altogether complicated: a ink that is more easily absorbed by the body is suspended inside microscopic capsules, which in turn are easily broken apart by a tattoo-removing laser. The company claims that a tattoo with their inks will fully reabsorb after just one pass with a laser, but I can’t find any information on how long that takes, nor can I find any independent testing to confirm it.

Additionally, because the technology is new, there is no information on how long the capsules would last if not exposed to a laser. As you may know, the sun’s UV rays work almost exactly like a laser, but in smaller doses. Exposure to sunlight is literally just like having your tattoo removed, but on a fractional scale. I have a vague memory of reading about this ink last year and there being a 10 year limit on the capsules, but I might be making that up.

Whatever the case, there are some major issues. The first is that inevitably, people will want to be charged less for non-permanent ink. No tattoo artist will do this, and if anything I can guarantee you that they will charge more. I know I would.

The second major issue is that of the natural breakdown of the ink. What will it look like? Will it happen suddenly, over the course of a few weeks, or over months? Will it fade evenly, or in patches? Will a person really be comfortable this mangled half-tattoo? What if, after 10 years, they want to keep the tattoo? Will going over the same area with permanent ink, or even more Freedom-2™ (or whatever version upgrade they’ve progressed to) have a negative effect on the absorbtion process of the degrading ink?

Lastly, what will it psychologically mean to people if they believe their tattoo is impermanent? I am not sure how I feel about this last part. I must admit that I am deeply intrigued at the idea that a body modification as powerful as a tattoo can be erased at will. Tattoo purists and those determined to hold onto their “alternative” identities by tooth and by nail are undoubtedly threatened by this – how hardcore is a facial tattoo if every bimbo can get one without consequence? On the other hand, I can’t deny the futuristic appeal of altering one’s self drastically at a whim – indeed, if there were ink that disappeared in a year, I’d get myself straight in line for a portrait of Patrick Stewart on my ass. Halcyon would break up with me, but we could get back together after the tattoo was reabsorbed into my body.

None of this explains why Freedom-2™ couldn’t get some models with real tattoos for their website. Also, I’m not real pleased with a bevy of outright lies on their website, for example, the following:

“Today’s inks have known toxic and carcinogenic properties (…)”

Uh, no. Or possibly on a technicality; Splenda has known toxic and carcinogenic properties, too. So does hair dye. Last time I checked there weren’t any tattoo cancer victims. Horror stories abound of allergic reactions to tattoo ink, and inevitably these are either due to incompetence or acts of a vengeful and bacteria-loving god. Neither of these problems will be solved with a new brand of ink.

Freedom-2™ also throws out this little bon mot:

“People with professional tattoos are 9 times more likely to contract Hepatitis C.”

Oh-ho-ho, really? Really? How about we explain the rationale behind this dinner party factoid: people with tattoos are, yes, more likely to participate in risky behaviors, including sexual and drug behaviors. In other words: people with professional tattoos get Hepatitis C more often, but not because of their tattoos. And that, folks, is science.

So, what about you? What tattoo would you get if it’d disappear with the single pass of a laser?

0 Posted in Gross Morphology