Lizardman Q & A
The soul, which to a reptile had been changed,
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
And after him the other speaking sputters.
- Dante's Inferno, Canto XXV
People seemed to enjoy the first Q & A — or at the very least they were inspired to come up with questions of their own. I got more than five times as many questions when I asked for submissions this time around. I went through and answered every one of them and then selected the ones I liked best at the moment — that moment being sometime late Sunday night wanting to finish up and watch Adult Swim on Cartoon Network (Aqua Teen Hunger Force!). If you asked a question and it isn’t here, don’t fear. I have it, and my response, saved for future use.
Let the games begin!
wldfire_1: What future modifications other than finishing the tattooing do you have planned in your transformation?
Finishing the tattooing is currently my main priority and other than that, some additional stretching of my piercings is the only definite plan left to be completed at this point. That said, I have a number of things under consideration and being researched, and I am always looking for future possibilities as they become available.
glider: When you sent me this email over four years ago (on the 11th of March, 1998), did you have any idea of the sheer immensity of what you’d help start?
Subject: another tongue
Don't know if you knew but there will be another split tongue very soon. I will be taking Essie (of r.a.b.) in to Dr. Busino to have her tongue split on Friday morning. The ball keeps rolling and gathering momentum...
I didn’t have clue it would go as far as it has gone and continues to go. I was still very much joking about armies of forked tongued people then while happily getting to show others a way towards enacting their desires.
Clearly you are a role model for children, being bright and articulate, as well as unique, engaging, and funny to them. Children tend to want to emulate their idols; having pursued a university education yourself, is this something you would recommend? Has being “the academic freak” been helpful?
The last thing I want to be is anyone’s idol. Influence is acceptable but idol is too much. Being ‘the academic freak’ has had some advantages. Primarily it provides me with a ‘degree’ (pun intended) of credibility in the eyes of many people who might otherwise simply dismiss me as a nut, loser, or whatever. It also makes for a nice media hook.
My own feelings towards academia or more specifically the educational system in the US are fairly mixed. I think it suffers from a lot of fundamental problems and that in many cases people are better off getting away from it as much as possible. I come from a family of educators and while I respect their efforts they often seem like Sisyphus.
If someone were to ask me if they should go to college or beyond I would have to say that it depends very heavily on what they really want to do and how much of a burden it will be — student loans should not be taken lightly. On the other hand, if you get a free ride (I got a full academic scholarship for my BA; my decision to take loans for graduate school was a mistake), take it and enjoy the experience.
Why haven’t you worked more aggressively to complete the tattooing on your face? I think if it was me, I’d have completed my face before anything else since that’s what the public sees.
Oddly enough it’s the “being seen” aspect that has slowed it down at times. Knowing that I would be in public would often tend to motivate me to not work on my face so as not to be putting a healing tattoo on display and be unshaven due to the healing process. I have tried to have the work done in a pattern in public areas in order to be a bit less piecemeal in appearance. Also, for awhile I was thinking of not tattooing my scalp and going with dyed hair but ultimately I did and that created a whole new area that needed to be done.
What made you decide on the bluish green, versus a bright yellow-green like the background of your IAM page?
Thanks to my tattooing I have become acutely aware of color perception variances and the impact of lighting — especially in photography. I chose a darker green because I liked the shade. It often appears a bit bluish in photos. One of the more common comments I get when people see me in person is that I am greener than they expected.
nootrope: Don’t you wish you were a blue lizard, man?
Cork: Do you ever hope to authenticate your appearance by going into further details with the scales, making them more realistic, and less of just a simple representation?
Potentially, but I will be happy to get just the basic two tone coverage completed and then work from there.
juniper: What types of foods spark nostalgia for you? Songs? Images? Smells?
I am not a particularly nostalgic person but I know that part of my fondness for soft pretzels comes from pleasant childhood associations — the same for gummi bears and James Bond movies.
Chan: Which modification has been your favorite/most successful, aesthetically and spiritually?
Spiritually? Someone didn’t read my last column. As for the rest? Tongue splitting.
ServMe: Is there a certain lizard characteristic that you have decided not to pursue due to the danger involved, or because you wouldn’t like the outcome? In other words, will you try to reflect a lizard as much as possible, or only use those parts that are of interest to you?
I am only dealing with what interests me. It is a reptilian motif but obviously stylized a great deal.
Mars: Having walked around with you in London, it appears to me that people seem more accepting and less fearful of you than some one with maybe only 25% tattoo coverage and a few facial piercings. Why do you think that is?
It’s all in the presentation. Today it is a bit easier to attribute it to things like recognition but things today aren’t much different than before I became the media whore I am now. I have always said that the key is how you present yourself. Nine times out of ten when people treat you like a jerk it is not because you have modifications, it is because you are acting like jerk — walking around with some chip on your shoulder and not giving them the chance to be decent to you.
Another theory I have is that it is easier for people to look at my project as just that — a project. It has an obvious theme and that reflects a certain amount of consideration. Even though this is the case for many other people, it is not as obvious to the casual observer and so instead of thinking ‘creative person with an overall goal’ they think ‘punk’ or ‘thug’ who doesn’t give a damn.
Goblin: Say you’re given the opportunity to be a guest speaker at an elementary school. Can you sum up what your presentation would cover?
I should probably mention that my Mom is an elementary school teacher and I have friends with kids in this age group, so it isn’t horribly uncommon for me to visit an elementary school. To answer your question, there are lots of subjects I could address, but given free range to choose for myself I would very likely do something along the lines of appreciating differences. I used to teach swimming for three year olds and up, and kid’s classes at my old dojo. I really enjoy working with kids under the right circumstances and have received a good deal of praise for my work.
shawn.spc: I really enjoyed you on X-files. So, here’s my question &mdas; Next time you come to Philly, I want you to get naked and run through Chinatown on a rampage, Godzilla style. Will you do it?
This is why I love Shawn — he’s a bastard (I wasn’t on the X-files).
I’ll do it if you run in front of me naked screaming ‘here lizard’ like that Taco Bell dog. Oh yeah, you pay the legal costs too.
saram: What words of advice would you have for someone interested in attempting a full-body transformation through body modification?
Get the rest of your life together first because the transformation will consume you otherwise. Plan, consider, revise, repeat. Find support before you begin. Think twice. Have a life besides the transformation project, in as much as it can take over your life at times the project itself is not a life or a solution.
jasonthe29th: How do you think you would feel mentally if you did not have the modifications you have today and how would your everyday life be different.
I think I would be able to find other ways to channel my ideas and drives since my modifications are not compulsive behaviors themselves but rather expressions of myself… Much like a painter who could no longer paint might turn to sculpting or composing. It is one thing to deny a particular method and another to deny the motivation. Probably the most significant change for me in daily life would be the lack of head turning, staring, and so on. Then again, I might get that anyway for doing something else that was bizarre!
Athena: What is the biggest way your philosophical background affects your outlook on life, both as a modified man and as “just Erik”?
I take philosophy very literally — love of wisdom. Wisdom for me is the practical interpretation and application of knowledge and experience. The experience of life, while an end in and of itself to me, can be further enhanced through the practice of philosophy.
volatile: When will you be done? How will you know?
I don’t know when, but when I am, I will know. I suspect it will be much like knowing when to walk away from a painting or a drawing.
Sparkle And Fade: What did you dress up as for Halloween as a child?
Something different every year. The one that stands out in my memory right now is Q-bert (with a big homemade paper-mache head).
Vanilla: If you weren’t “The Lizardman” what do you believe you would be doing right now (employment and career wise)?
I would probably still be trying to make it as an artist or performer of some sort even without the transformation. If that wasn’t making it, I would likely have gone back to night shifts at a warehouse — that gave me time and resources to do whatever I wanted.
bullgod2481: If you could, would you take anything back/change anything/done anything different?
wave: Read any good books lately? What’s on your want-to-read list?
I’m much less of a bookworm than I used to be — much of what I read now is reference or of a much shorter form (magazine articles, online essays, and so on). The books on my ‘to get to’ list are mainly instructional. The last thing I read (re-read actually) for pure pleasure was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.
lacerazor: What’s your middle name?
quinnnchick: Will the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in our lifetime?
I wouldn’t mind seeing baseball abolished, thus negating this question. I don’t like the game.
anokfreak: What are your feelings towards, or opinions about people with very little modifications? For example the average person on the street with an eyebrow, or navel?
I wrote a whole column about them last month. You can’t really judge someone by the amount or type of modification they choose — develop hunches maybe, at best. It takes far more information and interaction for me to hold any real convictions or opinions about them.
Goat: If you were a rich man, would you biddy biddy biddy biddy biddy biddy biddy bum?
Probably not — but then again, maybe once just to see.
RenoSucks: This has nothing to do with the green, the tongue, or anything else really. I’d just like to know if you’re content with your life…maybe even happy?
I’d say I’m happy. And, quite frankly, that is what matters.
Meghan: When did you stop wearing underwear on a regular basis?
Between 1992 and 1993.
Nullius: Have you read the part in Dante’s Inferno (Canto XXV) where people are turned into reptiles and vice versa? When I read it I thought of you.
I’ve read it but more or less forgotten about that part. Just goes to show how classic I am. Heh.
Tammy: How do you feel when you see yourself on television? Do you even bother to watch the shows when they come on?
I generally watch to see how the finished product came out — you really can’t tell at all during the filming. I am hypercritical of myself in such situations and often more pre-occupied with how ‘useful’ I think the piece was than thinking about being on TV as something cool. Any nitwit can get on TV (most do — just watch your local news, RealTV, whatever) but to have it actually mean something in terms of being entertaining or informative is a challenge.
glider (again… heh): Along those lines, how do you feel being presented alongside furries? And how do furries respond to you?
I have no problem being presented alongside them. I just don’t want myself or them misrepresented for our respective ideas and beliefs. Most furries I have met have been very enthusiastic about my work and incredibly nice.
moof: Do you still want to finish your PhD at some point?
Not really. I don’t need or particularly desire someone else to ‘certify’ my work in that way. I’d take an honorary degree (I’ll take pretty much anything free) or I’d at least seriously consider finishing if they waived the costs.
Flat Stanley: Why is your girlfriend so damn cute?
‘Cause I know how to pick’em!
Char the magicalest gnome: Why is my cat looking at me like I’m food?
You are food.
Fidget: At what age do you think it’s appropriate to let kids start major body modifications; the ones that are not easily reversible like standard lobe piercings?
The real answer is that it varies from individual to individual. The socially practical answer is to set an arbitrary age which will be good enough for most. In order to avoid unnecessary hassles, I suggest people wait till at least eighteen but I have met a lot of people who weren’t close to ready in my opinion at thirty and some that were ahead of the game at fourteen.
Anomis: How do you feel about binary gender identification? Do you feel people can be both, none or a third gender?
To me gender is simply a matter of classification for convenience based on genetic make up — XX verus XY (versus XYY, etc). Anything beyond that is relative BS (that’s bullshit, not Bachelor of Science). The identification you are describing, I think, is not identifying with gender but with ascribed gender roles and possibly genital structure. To that I say — act as you want and change around your genitals as much as you like, and science will allow for. People can be whatever they want since it’s people that make up these things in the first place. To indelicately rip off Zen Buddism,
Q: Who makes the grass green?
A: You do.
robert: What inspired you to become what you are today?
Everything I have experienced up to this point. Seriously, I think looking for causation and singular causation in particular is very often a fruitless and often harmful process.
sheduma: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood that woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. I love that rhyme.
Also, how can I get my puppy to stop farting at night?
Butt plug? Or maybe a change in diet.
Pabloferreira: So far I’ve only heard about full body transformations similar to yours in the US. I know that there are some individuals who do take their body modifications pretty far in other regions but so far nothing like you or the Enigma. Do you know if there are similar individuals outside North America?
There are people outside of North America doing extreme modifications and extensive transformations. I think the main reason you may not being seeing them is that the US is pretty much the media spotlight of the world. We, collectively, send out our stories all over the world but intake very few others and even then we re-package them as our own. It is just far easier to get high level (world wide) coverage in the States.
eliz: What are your favorite season, favorite food, favorite TV show, favorite movie, and favorite book?
Depends on geography but most places it will be fall, pizza, The Simpsons, it varies with mood, and The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
rwwarren_01: Who is your favorite musician, band, or musical group?
It’s dependent on mood, but I can almost always listen to anything by Rob Zombie, Tori Amos, Depeche Mode, Ministry, or Bach — and The Overture of 1812.
because the world NEEDS freaks…
Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?
Copyright © 2003 BMEzine.com LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published August 26th, 2003 by BMEzine.com LLC in Tweed, Ontario, Canada.