I’m going to start this week’s news with a story that I’m sure you’ve all heard of by now. The reason I know most of you have read it? I received more e-mails about this story than any other one to date. Heck even Rachel e-mailed me about it. Then I got an even larger number of e-mails when it was revealed that the entire story was faked.
A video of a woman having her 152 Facebook friends tattooed on her arm has been unmasked as a hoax after it became a viral hit around the world. A woman in the Netherlands claimed to have created a permanent reminder of all her Facebook friends and posted a video YouTube that got over 1.5 million views. But the bizarre stunt was revealed to be a fake after the supposed tattoo artist admitted it was just a temporary tattoo.
Lots of news this week, including a couple of follow-ups to previous stories, and the return of the celebrity news (well, maybe just one or two stories).
As I mentioned, today has a number of follow-up stories, and this first one is pretty big. Over the past year I’ve linked to articles discussing Ariana Iocono. If you recall, Ariana was the student in North Carolina who was suspended for refusing to remove a small stud from her nose on the grounds that she’s a member of the Church of Body Modification. This week the school board finally backed off Ariana and allowed her to return to school, piercing and all. The Washington Post summed up the full series of events, and even talked to one IAM: TrickyDick, about the church and Ariana.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Iacono and her mother in the case, said the settlement was a vindication of the family’s right to determine its own religious practice. “We’ve believed from the beginning that the Constitution protects a parent’s right to direct his or her child’s religious upbringing,” said ACLU Legal Director Katy Parker. “We’re very happy with the settlement.”
Under the terms of the resolution, Iacono can wear the nose stud as long as she remains a member of the Church of Body Modification, a little-known religious group that claims about 3,500 adherents nationwide and considers practices like tattooing and body piercing to be elements of spiritual practice.
The Iaconos and their Raleigh-based minister, Richard Ivey, said part of the problem last fall was that school officials dismissed the Church of Body Modification faith as not a real religion. “Obviously we’d like them to apologize, but we’ve been tied up in court with this for months now, so quite honestly, we’ll take what we can get,” Ivey said. “This was always about Ariana’s right to go to school and practice her religion, and she’s got both those things now.”
I think it’s great that the ACLU not only got on board with this, but they were able to get a resolution. Although I’m still puzzled as to how a nostril stud somehow makes it impossible for all the students to learn something.
Last week I linked to a story from Thailand about the government’s plan to ban tourists from getting religious symbols tattooed. This week a group of tattoo artists went before the cultural ministry and pleaded their case.
The meeting came after Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat said he would seek to ban Thai tattoo artists from using images sacred to Buddhism or any other religion in their patterns. The tattoo artists at the meeting said they understood the problem, but urged the government to use persuasion rather than new laws to tackle the problem. They pointed out that it is not only in Thailand that people can get tattoos featuring religious symbols, so bringing in a law in Thailand to ban such tattoos would not solve the problem of people being offended at seeing the face of the Buddha or Ghanesh tattooed on someone’s body. They advocated cooperation between tattoo artists and the government as preferable to the imposition of controls.
The assembled tattoo artists agreed to make no religious tattoos lower than the recipient’s waist, and to make sure the customer understands the image’s significance before starting work. Ministry man Mr Somchai agreed that legislation might not be the answer – though he did not rule it out – but said that the ministry felt it had to discuss the matter with the tattoo artists so that everyone was on the same page. “A law might be ineffective in stopping this practice, but the artists must be ethical. They must educate their customers and not [tattoo religious images on] improper areas [of the body],” he said. The tattoo artists also asked that the government provide them with some sort of professional licence to distinguish them from the amateurs. Mr Somchai said, “I accept your proposal and I will discuss it with the relevant authorities in the Ministry of Commerce, Public Health and Culture.”
While these artists are looking to get licensed, artists in Toronto are possibly facing the possibility of being licensed as well. Normally I only link to one article, but because I know some of the people involved I’ve got a couple of different links for you to check out. The first link is from the CBC, discussing the potential legislation.
Toronto Health wants to license the city’s spas and tattoo parlours. Health Canada provides what’s called infection control guidelines and cities have to inspect all spas and tattoo parlours once a year. But outside of these annual inspections, it’s a self-regulating industry and Toronto Public Health has decided that’s not good enough.
Under the proposed licensing rule, studios and parlours would have to be registered before they can open. Owners would also be required to post the results of their inspections inside the store, as restaurants have to do now. Proposed licensing rules are welcome news to Ian Nicolae, owner of Black Line studio, a tattoo parlour on King Street West. “We’ve seen a lot of fly-by-night shops that open up for the busy season such as the summertime,” he told CBC News. “There should be some sort of regulation to filtrate the bad shops from the good.”
Greg Taylor of Lucky 13 tattoos and piercings on Bloor Street said he’s hopeful the new rules are not simply intended to fill the city’s coffers. “Are they doing it for a money grab? I hope not,” said Greg Taylor. “I hope they care that they want to do this because I think most reputable shops want to do it.”
Now the way the city handles tattoo studios presently is that they’re mandated by Health Canada to meet certain health and safety guidelines. Each studio that is registered with Health Canada is supposed to receive an annual inspection. What the proposed legislation does is require studios to pay an annual licensing fee. That’s it. Licensed studios won’t receive any further inspections beyond the Health Canada inspections. Jesse Kline at the National Post summed up a lot of the concerns in this commentary.
Indeed, licensing schemes usually produce negative health and safety outcomes. This is because licensing standards are often arbitrary and give people a false sense of security. They also make it more costly for people to enter the industry legitimately, something we should be trying to make easier while recovering from a recession. The result is that more people end up performing services on the black market to avoid the licensing fees.
Because tattooing equipment can be obtained fairly easily and with relatively little cost, many tattoo artists already perform their craft in basements and garages. But there is a real risk of transmitting infectious diseases if tattooing is performed with unsterilized equipment. It is, therefore, far better to have them done in reputable facilities, rather than driving the industry underground by imposing new fees and standards.
In fact, the only groups that generally benefit from professional licensing are the industries that are being licensed and the governments that are collecting the revenues. Most new licensing programs grandfather existing practitioners and serve to prevent new entrants from competing against them. It is also a nice way to get around the city’s inability to levy taxes on goods and services. “Why, it’s not a tax. It’s a license. And we’re doing it for you.”
Finally an artist I know well, George Brown from Seven Crowns Tattoo, went on CBC radio to discuss the legislation, where he talks about the incident that may have led to this sudden push for licensing, the impact it will have on clean established shots, whether this is just a cash grab by the city, and how this won’t prevent people who are already dodging inspections from being caught. Personally I agree completely with George in his belief that this may just be a cash grab for the city. While licensing sounds good on paper, when it comes to implementing it, what will be the conditions to receive a license? Will artists have to provide portfolios of the quality of their work, or do they simply need to show up and state “I’m a tattoo artist”? Will the new law increase the number of inspections (something most studios have no problem with), or will it simply be a piece of paper stating they agree to have the already mandated health inspection take place? The thing to take from this is that reputable studios are all for making things safer, they just don’t like the idea of having to pay money when there is no benefit given.
Moving on, a new Guinness record was possibly set earlier in the week. The record Staysha Randall was aiming to break was the most number of piercings done in one sitting. With Bill Robinson and SwingShift SideShow’s Jenn O. Cide performing the piercings, they were aiming for 3600 needles, but stopped at 3200 when Staysha finally tapped out.
For this was not the finishing touches of a tattoo for Las Vegas performer Staysha Randall but a bid to break the record for the most body piercings in a single sitting. Staysha, 22, who performs in shows across the strip, was attempting to have 3 600 piercings in her back, arms and legs but decided enough was enough after 3 200 had been put in at Inktoxicated Tattoos in the Nevada city. Helping in her bid was body piercer Bill “Danger” Robinson and his piercing assistant “Jenn O Cide”. The record attempt is still awaiting confirmation by the Guinness Book of Records before it becomes official.
Coincidentally (well probably not) this week was also the annual APP convention. I’m sure the stories of debauchery are already making the rounds, as are photos of the convention making their way to the BME Galleries, but for today we look at things through the lens of the mainstream with this article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But for many of the exhibitors at the annual Association of Professional Piercers conference at Bally’s, terms such as “upscale,” “mainstream” and even “organic” punctuated the sales pitches more often than “extreme.” The conference, with about 900 attendees, focuses many of its seminars on health issues, but also covers business issues. The market for body jewelry has now matured to the point where vendors find a significant demand for $150 hand-carved wooden gauges — large discs used to stretch holes in the ear lobes — instead of just plain metal rings that go for $30. Other types of body jewelry have followed the trend.
Although the show focused on body piercings rather than tattoos, the two are almost synonymous to many consumers, an exhibitor said. The sector has also started to follow the classic path of pushing up a product’s price by added aesthetics instead of just remaining plain and functional, said Sim. Further, some of the people who started decorating themselves when they were young are now sprouting gray hair. “The whole business has changed in the last 10 years,” said Scott Collins, who started Body Gems in Feasterville, Penn., in 1994 and has turned the business over to son, Josh.
While Vegas was a party city this week, over in the UK things were definitely not in a celebratory mood for Mike Prentice, owner of Andy Jay Tattoo Studio in Rochester. Understandably so, as an online rumor is threatening his entire business.
A tattooist fears his business could be ruined by a smear campaign wrongly accusing his studio of infecting more than 100 people with HIV. Worried customers of Rochester’s Andy Jay Tattoo Studios have been rushing for emergency tests at Medway Maritime Hospital as malicious rumours spread like wildfire across the Towns. Owner Mike Prentice said trade has already begun to suffer, with people boycotting his High Street business all week.
It is not clear who started the rumours, but they appear to have begun on social networking site Facebook with claims someone working at the studio had been jailed for 10 years for infecting 102 people with HIV. Frantic customers have prompted environmental health officers at Medway Council to issue a reassurance the rumours are false.
A Medway Council spokesman refused to comment to the Messenger, but customer service staff were freely issuing the denial to customers. One told a Messenger reporter posing as a customer: “The rumours are competely untrue. “We are investigating how they started, but it is safe to go to this tattooist.”
In tech news, a recent invention could change the way people see tongue studs permanently.
Researchers have tested a tongue piercing that’ll allow paralyzed people to steer their wheelchairs in any direction. All they have to do is move their tongue a specific direction and the wheelchair will follow. The tongue piercing initiative is being run by the Northwestern University School of Medicine and they pierced the tongue of Martin Mireles, a former church youth leader who got shot in the neck. He was able to navigate his wheelchair through an obstacle course with his mouth closed (and his tongue waggling around, of course).
Basically Mireles was pierced with a magnetic stud through his tongue. In order to make the wheelchair move, he had to wear a headset with sensors that could pick up the magnetic waves from the tongue ring. To go forward, he would move his tongue to the upper left corner of his mouth. Easy enough. Why a tongue ring? Because researcher says the tongue doesn’t tire easily and is usually not affected by a spinal cord injury because its connected to the brain through the cranial nerve. And the tongue ring is more effective than when they glued a magnet to a test subject’s tongue (which would eventually fall off). In the future, they imagine this technology could be implemented to differentiate each task by touch of a tooth. One tooth could mean opening a door, other could mean flipping on the TV.
It makes one wonder what other body modifications could be adapted in a similar manner. Now raise your hand if you instantly thought of something genital related.
Over in China, suspensions are making headlines after an artist named Nutter held an outdoor suspension and published a video online.
A controversial body-modification process that appeared in Chengdu’s Sansheng Xiang on 14 May shocked onlookers, who described it as ‘offensive’, ‘disgusting’, ‘sick’ and ‘perverted’. The process, called “body-piercing suspension,” involves suspending participants in mid-air with metal hooks pierced through their skin. Chengdu Economic Daily got up close with the operator and participants to find out more about their personal lives and inner thoughts.
He had been invited to Chongqing and Chengdu by local tattoo parlors which arranged the event and the venues. Then he posted the call for participants and onlookers online. Those who are willing to be hanged do not have to fork out a single cent for the service. But audience members paid RMB40 each. He said there were about 50 people watching in both cities respectively. However, the piercer does not see body suspension as a commercial venture, because he did not make any monetary gain after deducting expenses for medical equipment, travel and other costs. Nutter did not inform any media although they always manage to track him online. In response to comments that the activity is ‘sick’ and ‘perverted’, Nutter feels that body modification and body suspension are not meant for everybody. However, he asserts that participants are willing and have thought through their decisions and are exercising their rights over their own bodies.
The article does spend a lot of time focusing on the families of Nutter and the girls who suspended, but they do get bonus points for actually doing research on suspension.org.
In wedding news, Elaine Davidson, whom many know simply as the world’s most pierced woman (I’m guessing they don’t count Staysha’s play piercings) got married this week in Scotland.
Deemed as the “world’s most pierced woman,” Elaine Davidson married Douglas Watson, a conservatively-dressed, piercing-free civil servant, at a low-key wedding ceremony in Scotland, the Telegraph is reporting. The Brazilian-born Davidson, 46, opted for a flowing white dress and floral tiara, but offset the traditional look by painting her face — already studded with 192 piercings — green, blue and yellow. At a recent count, Davidson, who lives and works in Edinburgh, had 6,925 piercings, included 1,500 that are “internal,” according to the Daily Mail. Despite his bride’s unconventional look and lifestyle, Watson, 60, couldn’t help but gush after the 35-minute ceremony. “Elaine looked astonishing,” he said. “People see the piercings, but I see the amazing personality underneath. We have known each other for a long time.” Davidson was reportedly first certified as a Guinness World Record holder in 2000, when she had only 462 piercings. According to her website, Davidson never removes the rings and studs, which she estimates weigh a total of three kilos, and insists she is able to sleep soundly with all of her piercings in place as there is no pain involved.
Now that The Hangover: Part 2 has been in theatres for a while, the lawsuit against the studio is moving forward. Warner Brothers, the studio behind the film, may be in the process of conceding the case by digitally altering Ed Helms’ tattoo for the dvd release.
Warner Bros. has told a Missouri judge that if it can’t resolve the ongoing legal fracas over the tattoo on display in the mega-grossing comedy by the time it comes out on home video, the studio will digitally alter the controversial mark on Helms’ face. As you’ll recall, Warners was sued by a Missouri tattoo artist who claims he owns a copyright on the unique tattoo worn by former boxer Mike Tyson and Helms in Hangover II. The tattoo’s owner, S. Victor Whitmill, attempted to stop the film’s release but was denied a preliminary injunction. Hangover II has since grossed $350 million worldwide and counting.
The ongoing debate regarding this story is a combination of who owns the rights to the tattoo, and whether the use of the tattoo in the film constitutes “fair use” as it is a parody. With a February court date, it may still be a while before we finally get an answer. Unless of course the studio settles out of court.
Finally, as you may recall a few months back I mentioned that actress Rooney Mara, in preparation for her role in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, got several piercings, including her nipples. With this week’s release of the international movie poster, it turns out that the story was true.
Good for her. She could have taken the easy route and just used make-up and fake piercings, but for her to go and actually get pierced means she’s taking the project very seriously, which is never a bad thing.
Now if you were looking for more celebrity news, well, that’s it. Ok, so maybe Bieber got his ears pierced and Chris Brown got a smiley face tattoo, but I couldn’t even stomach clicking the links, let alone reading them, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.