New Rule: Firefighters Can Look However the Hell They Want

While I think it’s silly for most employers to take a hard and fast oppositional approach to modified employees, I’m on record as saying that it’s their choice and that, in arenas such as the military where decorum and obedience are of the utmost importance, even arbitrary enforcement of anti-modification rules seems in line with their power structures. (Even if tattoos and tattoo culture seem indelibly linked to many branches of the military, but alas.)

With all that said, leave the damn firefighters alone. In June, L.A. Times columnist Sandy Banks wrote about the Los Angeles Fire Department’s new policy that firefighters must not have any visible tattoos, either while on call or while in the firehouse:

It’s a “grooming issue,” said Capt. Armando Hogan, spokesman for Chief Douglas Barry. “We need to make sure we’re professional-looking. We’ve got an image to uphold.”


This is a department that recently cost the city $16 million in payoffs to firefighters who’ve been insulted, harassed and discriminated against on the job. [Ed. Note: Emphasis mine.] And they’re worried that people will think they’re unprofessional because a guy has his kids’ names inked on his arm or flames crawling up his neck?

You know what? If you’re working in a customer service job, fine — a grooming standard should absolutely be adhered to. But firefighters? If you’re coming into contact with a firefighter, it’s probably because they’re saving your life, saving your house, or saving someone you know or love. If the barista’s forehead tattoo is a turn-off, understandable, but is anyone seriously going to file a complaint that the guy showing up at 4 a.m. to put out a fire had some visible kanji?

Well, it seems like things are getting worse in L.A. Dan Stark, a heavily tattooed eight-year veteran of the department, has been the butt of some idiotic harassment as of late. Banks gives an update:

The day the policy took effect in April, he said someone left a copy of the edict on his station’s kitchen table, next to a photo of a group of shrouded Muslim women, labeled with the names of five firefighters — including him — who are heavily tattooed.

Then he found his station locker covered with copies of the policy, he said. That meant someone had broken into it, or used the spare key kept in the captain’s dorm. Later that day, he said, someone drew a picture of a mummy and captioned it “Stark’s new uniform.”

When he complained about the ribbing, one captain told him to quit griping and be a team player, he said. Another suggested he get some tattoos removed, as a sort of goodwill gesture. Another official said he risked ruining his career if he kept complaining. None apparently forwarded his complaints up the chain of command.

So … that’s pretty great. To recap: Fire department is exposed for abuse, hazing, etc., and revamps its policies to ensure proper treatment of its firefighters. Another new policy is put into place to prohibit visible tattoos on firefighters in the same department. Tattooed firefighters start getting shit from non-tattooed ones. Nobody does anything.

As Banks points out, the real issue here isn’t tattoos, though that serves as a microcosm of the glaring hypocrisy of an organization that has apparently done nothing to combat its internal problems. But again, of all professions, as far as interaction with the public goes, firefighters rank pretty high on the virtuousness list. The ways in which corruption can manifest out are few, and they’re pretty much just there to save our asses and occasionally pose shirtless for hunky calendars. If any profession deserves to be cut some slack on this front, it’s probably them.

Los Angeles Fire Department tattoo coverup muddles real mission, Discomfort over L.A. Fire Department’s tattoo policy is more than skin deep [Los Angeles Times]
Firefighter Tattoos [Strike The Box]

ModBlog News of the Week: June 10th, 2011

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

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.

And that’s it for this week’s news.  Keep on sending me those links, either by clicking here, or sending me an e-mail.  Have a great weekend everyone.

ModBlog News of the Week: June 3rd, 2011

Apologies for the late news post today.  I’m currently in northern Ontario on an island looking out over a beautiful lake, and as you can imagine, the internet is a little sketchy.  But even that won’t stop me from getting this week’s news to you.

Today’s first story is pretty old, but I don’t remember reporting on it, and given the recent attention to the woman giving her child botox, this seemed pretty relevant.

A Teenage girl who dreams of a show business career has undergone radical beauty treatment and had make-up tattooed on her face.

Sophie Watson has followed in the footsteps of popstar and model idols such as Jordan by having semi-permanent make-up applied.

The 14-year-old’s tattooed eyeliner, eyebrows, lip liner and fake beauty spot will last for up to five years.

I’m just wondering who convinced the mother that a tattoo would disappear in 5 years.  I know cosmetic inks are slightly different than traditional tattoo inks, but the last time I checked they still were permanent.

Still more news to come, so keep on reading.

With The Hangover Part 2 in theatres right now, a lot of people are thinking about taking a vacation in Thailand.  Of course with a lot of people going, there is bound to be a couple of people who want to get some kind of tattoo.  Well, the government is considering a law that will limit the options of tattoos that tourists can get.

Thailand has ordered a crackdown on foreign tourists having religious images tattooed on their bodies while visiting the kingdom.  Tattoos with images such as of the Buddha may offend Thai people, Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat was quoted as telling reporters.  He said his ministry had asked regional governors, particularly in tourist hotspots, to inspect tattoo studios and ask them not to use religious patterns, according to the state-run National News Bureau.  It said he would push for a law banning people from etching sacred images onto their skin.

However, these laws would only apply to tourists, as Yantra tattooing will still be practiced.  If you’re not familiar with this form of sacred tattooing, Pattaya Daily News has a great article on the history and meanings behind this style of tattoos.

Yantra Tattooing or also known as Sak Yant is a form of sacred tattooing commonly practised in Thailand. The tattoos are associated with animist beliefs which were popular in Thailand before the arrival of Buddhism. Sak Yant dates back to Angkor times and the art is greatly influenced by Khmer culture. In fact the blessings are written in a Khmer script called Khom. Sak Yant designs are normally tattooed by Maw Pii or spiritual doctors and Buddhist monks.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, tattoos are steadily increasing in popularity and are becoming more acceptable by the mainstream.

More people in South Korea these days are not ashamed to show a little skin – and ink.  The country now has its own annual tattoo convention, which attracts artists from neighboring Japan and the United States.   But anyone using needles to penetrate the skin is supposed to be a licensed medical doctor – credentials in short supply at this event and in the thousands of tattoo parlors across the country.

One of the organizers of Ink Bomb 2011, who goes by the professional name of Sun Rat, acknowledges body artists here maintain a low profile to avoid possible fines of up to $10,000.   “Massage and tattoo parlors are illegal here, but our goal is to have the tattoo industry become something that is viewed a part of legitimate culture,” he said.

Moving on, we have a couple of stories out of Europe this week, including one that will potentially affect thousands of people.  First, a local councilman in Austria may be facing jail time based on a tattoo that someone glimpsed at a meeting.

The tattoo reads “Blut und Ehre” — translated into English as “Blood and Honor, the slogan and motto of the Hitler Youth — and is inked on Leitmann’s upper arm.   Local Ebenthal politicians first saw the tattoo at a council meeting last week when Leitmann wore a short-sleeved shirt, the Austrian Independent newspaper reported.  Even if he removes it, Leitmann could still face jail time or fines under Austria’s federal anti-Nazi mind-set law, regarded as one of the strictest in the world.

He’s now in a situation where he needs to convince people that he didn’t know the meaning of the tattoo.  I’m not sure of Austria’s stance on the swastika, which we all know was perverted into a Nazi symbol, but it appears that they are extremely strict on any other potential reference.

Over in Sweden, the rules for potential blood donors have changed, and with the new stricter rules, a large number of people may not be eligible to give blood.  (The following quote was translated via Google, so don’t blame me if there are any words wrong).

The rules for blood donors has been strengthened. Since last Wednesday, the blood donors, including not having sex with someone who pierced or tattooed themselves over the last year, reports the SVT’s Report.  It is an adaptation to EU rules on donations and regulations is to protect patients in need of blood, primarily from jaundice.  Blood centers fear that the new rules will lead to fewer blood donors and make it more difficult to recruit young people

The basic rule is that if you have had sex with someone who has been tattooed or pierced in the past 365, you become ineligible to donate blood.  While this does go along the lines with other EU countries, if you recall, Australia changed their rules in the past year to make it easier for tattooed individuals to donate.

Heading back stateside, survivors of the Joplin tornado have been having difficulties getting the remains of their loved ones released from authorities.  This week policies have been relaxed to allow for identification by tattoos and piercings, which will hopefully allow families to move forward.

A Newton County, Missouri, official said authorities would begin streamlining the process of identifying bodies Saturday in Joplin in the aftermath of a killer tornado.  “The decision was made that if a person can make a positive ID, let’s say for instance … piercings or tattoos,” said Mark Bridges of the Newton County, Missouri, coroner’s office, ”[Saturday] we’re gonna start the process of allowing those people to view the bodies of the loved ones.”

“We’re going to go ahead and start releasing those bodies,” he said.  Already frayed nerves reached a boiling point Friday in Joplin, Missouri, as families trying to retrieve their dead loved ones were stalled by cautious medical examiners meticulously trying to sort remains.

In more positive news, new metal detectors are starting to be installed in hospitals to reduce the number of MRI related injuries.

“If you have any jewelry or any piercings or anything on your body, that’s what they want you to take off,” said patient Gabriel Diaz who was having an MRI on his head.  If something metal were left on a person, “there’s a lot of tugging that would occur,” explained University Hospital’s director of radiology Rick Pena. “And it actually could come loose and becomes a projectile much like a bullet.”  University is the first hospital in Texas to install sophisticated new detectors with lights and sounds to indicate when a patient or staff member or visitor is approaching a restricted area with anything metal.

I personally haven’t had the pleasure of getting MRI’d with metal in my body, but I’m sure there are some readers out there with stories to share.

The Ohio State football team is currently under investigation regarding allegations of bribery and using team memorabilia to pay for tattoos.

A woman said on Monday that that she saw several Ohio State football players at a Columbus tattoo parlor at the center of an NCAA investigation that led to the resignation of coach Jim Tressel.

She claimed that she saw quarterback Terrelle Pryor and others getting their tattoos.  The woman took pictures, including a picture of an autographed football that she said somebody close to the tattoo shop told her that players had just traded for body art.  “They had (the autographed football) given to him (and) said they had given it to him earlier in the day,” the woman said.  “They got the football for tattoos.  I wish I had a football to give them.”  The deal allegedly came long after Tressel knew of the problem.  Columbus attorney and former Ohio State player Chris Cicero e-mailed Tressel about similar problems in April 2010.

he woman claimed that he told her the shop had even received tickets to Ohio State’s January Sugar Bowl game against Arkansas.  “I asked them, ‘Where did you guys get the tickets?  How did you get the tickets?’ she said.  “And he said, ‘It’s the family members of the players felt they couldn’t win the game and some of the family members couldn’t afford to travel there and stay there and so some of family had given the tickets to the people at the tattoo shop.’”

Note to self:  When engaging in activities that could potentially cost me my position on a football team, make sure that you don’t tell a stranger about it and allow them to take pictures.

Finally we’re going to end this week with an announcement that all those crazy kids in Vegas for APP should pay attention to.  SwingShift SideShow, CoRE, and cEvin Key will be performing June 8th at The House of Blues!  Even if you’re not in town, try to get yourself to Vegas as this is one show you won’t want to miss out on.  Having had the chance to meet the SwingShift gang at SusCon, and seeing them perform, I can tell you that if you ever get a chance to see them, do it!

On top of that, CoRE is celebrating their 10 year anniversary in the only way they know how, by hanging people from hooks!  Plus, they’ve got Hilary from Operafication performing with them, which means you’re in for a real treat.

You can check out the rest of the details on the event’s facebook page.

And with that, we’re done for the week.  Now if you’ll excuse me, the lake is calling me.

ModBlog News of the Week: April 15th, 2011

Welcome back to another edition of the weekly news report.  This week is happily another celebrity free week.  I’m worried that if it keeps up like this then one week all the stories will be celebrity related and that just saddens me.

Moving on, this week’s first story is about a school teacher in Sweden.  It seems that even though he’s been teaching there for 8 years, and is loved by everyone, a politician saw him one day and decided that something needed to be done to get the teacher away from the kids.

The problems started when pensioner and local politician Sture Grönwall, 70, visited the school and spied Aalto’s tattoos, piercings and spiky hair across the school canteen. “Can a teacher really look like that,” a startled Grönwall asked, according to the Aftonbladet daily. After speaking to one of the headmasters and not getting the response he was after, Grönwall decided to write to the local school board (Skolnämnden). In his letter he questioned the example a teacher like Aalto would set for students as well as the values of the school letting someone like Aalto teach there. The school board however did not share Grönwall’s view, coming out in defence of Aalto and Vasaskolan. “To let our students solely see adults with no tattoos or piercings and wearing suits would not show them an accurate view of today’s society,” they wrote in their response to Grönwall’s complaint.

Sam Aalto meanwhile expressed surprise at Grönwall’s reaction as well as the ‘media circus’ cropping up around him. “I have been working here since 2003 and the subject has never been brought up before – no one has ever reacted. I never knew that Grönwall had complained before I found out about the whole thing through the local press,” he said.

It’s great to see not only the school backing him up, but also the school board, the students, and the parents of the children.  It must be tough for that politician to realize that the world changed and he didn’t get the memo.

More news to come, so keep on reading.

While we’re still on the subject of schools, the New Plymouth Girls High School in New Zealand is also moving ahead with the times.

Facial piercings have been approved as part of school uniform at a major New Plymouth high school.  New Plymouth Girls High has abandoned an old policy allowing students one stud earring in each ear – a rule still imposed by at least four other Taranaki secondary schools, the Taranaki Daily News reported.

School board chairman Darren Muggeridge said students would now be allowed one lip and one nose piercing.  He described the new rule as a compromise in a hard-to-police area.  “It’s sort of meeting the students, not necessarily halfway but a little bit of the way for them to still wear a piercing but still sit within some rules and there are still rules around what is worn and where they’re worn.”  Mr Muggeridge said the school had tried to be very strict around uniforms, but it took a lot of time and effort to manage piercings.

Acting Principal of New Plymouth Girls High Stella Bond told the Taranaki Daily News the new policy had been decided after lengthy debate.  She acknowledged it may not satisfy all parents, but said policing facial piercings was no longer worth the time and effort the school had put into it.  “If we’re spending too much time on something, we need to decide if it’s worth it. We think there’s much more significant things to be dealing with.

I love how some parents are upset about the ruling.  As if not punishing students with piercings would somehow force their own children to get pierced as well.  It’s not like the school is setting up a studio in gym class.  On the plus side, it seems that all it takes for students to get the rules changed is to wait until the administration gets tired of enforcing the rules.

In another part of New Zealand a piercing studio is being investigated after a number of people reported infections shortly after getting pierced.

Complications from ear piercings at a Napier store has led to seven people being tested for hepatitis.  Seven people — most of them teenage girls — developed serious ear infections with abscesses needing to be cut open and drained, after being pierced at Trendez in February, Hawke’s Bay Today reported today.  Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and Napier City Council investigated after the series of infections came to light.  “There were deficiencies in the operator’s sterile procedures that could cause the transfer of skin infection from one client to another,” medical officer of health Dr Nicholas Jones said.

Obviously if you’ve had anything done recently at that studio you should probably go and get yourself tested as well.

We’ve all heard stories about how laser tattoo removal is often more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place.  Well some companies are trying to put forward new ways of removing tattoos.  Unfortunately it seems like using a skin cream to remove a tattoo may actually cause damage to your skin.  Shocking  I know.

Tattoo removal creams bought over the internet can result in scarring, ugly marks and in some cases can be totally ineffective, doctors warn.  People looking for cheaper ways to remove tattoos than laser therapy or surgical removal are driving sales of the creams, which cost between $80 for a small tube and $300 for a year’s supply.  But experts warn that the creams, some of which contain the bleaching chemical hydroquinone or the skin-peeling trichloroacetic acid, may not meet Australian standards for health and beauty products and can end up costing much more than professional removal.

Pramod Parmar, a laser specialist from the Manly Cosmetic and Laser Clinic, said bleaching creams could make tattoos look worse.  ”The ink has basically gone inside and penetrated the dermal layer, and a cream cannot go deep enough to release the pigment from there,” he said.  Dr Parmar said creams or other removal methods, including the injection of other chemicals to break down the tattoo, could cause the ink to smudge instead of removing it.

The website for one tattoo removal cream, Wrecking Balm, claims to use a ”chemical serum” to activate the removal process but the manufacturer did not respond to requests from The Sun-Herald for a full list of ingredients.

I can’t even imagine the sales pitch for something like this.  “Try this new cream that will use acid to burn away your flesh with the small chance of it removing a tattoo.  More often than not you’ll end up with a nasty chemical burn that smeared the pigment, but hey, it’s only a little bit cheaper than laser removal”.

In another “stupid idea” story, a Chinese man has been arrested after tattooing his wife’s face because he thought she may be cheating on him.

On the morning of March 30, the couple — who have two children — had a particularly bitter row, after which Wei “decided to disfigure Xiaowei. One, is to release his anger, second to make her make her ugly so she will no longer be loved by other men, as to prevent her from having affairs,” the site reads.  After tying his wife up and cutting characters into her face, Wei rubbed ashes into the injury, tattooing her. The horrific scars are also said to read “cheap” or “lowly,” depending on the translation.

Still, Wei has argued that Xiaowei “chose” to be disfigured:

The police in charge of this case told the reporter, those so-called “choices” were: 1. Xiaowei gets a vasectomy and stays home to take care of the children instead of going out for work; 2. Xiaowei’s lover gives 1 million RMB to Wei Shengxiong; 3. Xiaowei, her lover and Wei Shengxiong goes to court to solve this problem; 4. Wei Shengxiong is to disfigure Xiaowei and break her leg. Wei Shengxiong kept emphasizing to the police that Xiaowei chose to be disfigured.

I’m curious as to how her getting a vasectomy (I’m guessing he meant having her tubes tied) would prevent her from cheating on him.  Also given those options, I’m a little surprised she went with #4, seeing as how #3 would have been her best option.  Oh wait, you mean she didn’t actually have those choices?  That makes more sense.

Moving on, has a small article that bring up the question of copyright when it comes to tattoos.

My question is this, if a tattoo artist creates a unique design for a client, then this is tattooed on to the aforementioned client, does the tattoo artist still own any intellectual property rights (namely copyright) over this piece of art? If the tattooed subject were to go on to a profession (I can only think of modelling at this precise moment) where the tattoo was constantly broadcast to the general public, and the designer viewed this to be derogatory to their work, would they be able to litigate!”

If the tattooed subject wishes to have the tattoo amended or removed, [does] the tattoo artist [have] any ground upon which to object?

Good stuff for a law school exam, I would think. Of course, plenty of tattoo artwork is actually covered by copyright — which quite frequently goes ignored. But if we’re talking about a unique piece of artwork, and no clear assignment of the copyright is made, there could very well be an issue.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that this is not entirely a theoretical issue. Six years ago, we wrote about a tattoo artist suing the NBA, because a professional basketball player he had tattooed, Rasheed Wallace, had shown off the tattoo in a TV commercial, and the artist claimed it was a violation of his copyright. That lawsuit settled out of court, however, so we don’t have a legal ruling as specific (that I’m aware of… but if there are other such cases, I’d love to know about them!).

So what do you guys think?  Who owns the rights to the artwork?  The artist who designed it, or the person wearing it?

Another interesting article comes from Malaysia.  In it the reporter sits down with an older Saban woman, and talks about her ritual tattoos, and how hers was the last generation to use them.

Johan’s ever smiling face made her look much younger than her age. At times when she adjusted the sleeves of her long-sleeved blouse, tattoos were visible on her arms.  “Nice tattoos,” I ventured while taking my place on the bench where the couple were seated on Monday.  “Oh! these have been around for a long time, since I was very little. There are more on my legs,” she said.  Curious to know more, I asked how they came to be.  “From my granny. She is a Saban, a sub-ethnic group of the Orang Ulu of Sarawak. It is a tradition that has been handed down over the generations. Besides tattoos, Saban women also have very long ears,” interjected a nice-looking girl sitting with them.

Tracellia Nawi Unja, 20, was at the jetty to bid goodbye to the elderly couple who are her grandparents.  “But you don’t seem to have any, and your ears are not long either,” I shot back.  “It has been some time that we have done away away with these traditions. We have changed with the times, more so with the younger generation migrating to urban areas,” said Tracellia, a university student in Kuching who was well-versed in English. Not wanting to be taken in by the exceptional beauty of Saban girls, I changed the topic and resumed my conversation with her grandmother.  “Mak cik (auntie), what motifs are usully used in Sabans’ tattoos? Why only mak cik has tattoos but pak cik (uncle) doesn’t?  “The motifs are of plants and nature,” answered Johan.  “No, men also have. But for the Sabans, only men who succeeded in headhunting get tattoos, always drawn on the thighs,” chipped in Kassim.

Johan then said it was a tradition of the Saban for girls to be tattooed and that in the old days, it was compulsory for the eldest girl to undergo full body tattooing.  “The tattooing is done after she gets married and is a month pregnant with her first child,” she said, adding that it had nothing to do with religious beliefs, only to differentiate the Sabans from other tribes.  Johan said her generation was the last to have tattoos and that their offsprings were no longer willing to have their bodies pierced, and in fact, all her three daughters had rejected the practice.

All over the world many rituals like this have been gone for centuries, but to be able to talk with someone who experienced these traditions, as well as see them disappear is a remarkable experience.

We’re just about done with the news for the week, but there are a couple of press releases that caught my eye this week.

First is that Nintendo is releasing a tattoo design game for the DS.

The first title is Art of Ink by Sabarasa. This is a tattoo parlor simulator where players use the stylus and Nintendo DS touch screen in order to draw onto a person, all while making sure they are pleased.

You know you want a copy of this one.

And in the final announcement/story, next week marks the first International Tattoo Convention in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Who knew that Nepal would be the preferred destination for tattoo enthusiasts from across the globe? The first International Tattoo Convention will be from 22 to 24 April 2011 at the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu and over fifty well known artists from the international tattoo community will participate.

The first of its kind, the convention will include competitions, presentations, and training workshops and will also showcase different tattoo art forms and cultural events. Mohan’s Tattoo Inn, the organizer of this event, has been at the forefront of nurturing the nascent tattoo culture here by creating an excellent platform for amateur as well as professional tattoo artists to come together to promote the art of tattooing and foster Nepal as a tattoo destination.

Art, just like knowledge, grows by sharing. You cannot expect the tattooing culture to grow and thrive if you want to be the only ones doing it. When a lot of people are encouraged to look at this form, which has long been considered immoral by overlooking our indigenous culture, in a new light, this could only help the industry as a whole to flourish.

I suppose if you happen to be in Nepal in the next week, it’d certainly be worth checking out.  The article itself also has several interviews with some of the artists who will be appearing at the convention.

So that’s it for this week ModBlog readers.  Have yourselves a great weekend, and as always, if you find a story in the news that you think should be included in the weekly news post, just send me the link.

ModBlog News of the Week: January 28th, 2010

Another week has come and gone, which means it’s time to check in with the rest of the world to see what their take on modified culture has been like.

To kick things off, we’ve got a story out of Broward County Florida.  Like many other police units, the higher-ups have made a ruling that bans officers from having visible tattoos.  Now their focus is mostly on officers with sleeves, but they’re also cracking down on officers with gold teeth.  The tooth thing is probably an easy fix, although never having my grill done in gold I can’t say for certain, but the the officers with sleeves?  Well, they’re facing a slight problem.  You can see the problem in the photo below that shows off the standard Brower County uniform.

Gold or platinum veneers for decorative reasons are strictly not allowed under the new rules, but officers who can prove they have caps or fillings for dental purposes will be permitted to keep them.   Deputies with large tattoos on their arms will struggle to keep them hidden since the standard issue uniform involves a short sleeve shirt.  Small tattoos on the forearm, however, have been given the OK.

I guess those tattoo armor sleeves will be a big seller for some of the officers.

There’s lots more news to come today, including a celebrity tattoo story you might just “LIKE”.

A tattoo artist in British Columbia has gotten fed up with the lack of regulations on the industry by the province and is making a plea for stricter controls and more education before someone gets sick or injured.

Elwood Reid is calling for tighter regulation of his profession, saying lax regulations and inexperienced health inspectors are a potentially deadly combination.  ”We’re in a situation where anyone and their dog can get into this industry and have no formal training doing it,” said Reid, who specializes in body modification in Maple Ridge.  That’s a catch-all term that includes tattoos, piercings, implanted head spikes, branding and scarification, the latter of which involves cutting skin to produce a pattern or image.  The call comes just as the provincial government launches a review of its 16-year-old guidelines for Personal Services Establishments (PSE), which govern everything from piercing to manicures and mud baths.  ”My fear is that the industry will get to the point of doing more and more extreme things until someone gets hurt or killed,” Reid added. “If the government is forced to step in and respond by outlawing it, it’s going to go underground.”  Reid is hoping he can help legitimize an industry that relies on apprenticeships instead of formal training, and is regulated solely by health inspectors unfamiliar with the safety requirements of a modern piercing and tattoo shop.

It seems this type of story is popping up more often in the news, which is good for a few reasons.  It first lets the public know that there are artists out there who do care about their client’s safety, and it also calls attention to the lack of regulations which is key for getting the public behind a push for tighter controls.

Of course, not every artist speaking with the news is as educated about their craft as Elwood is, which can result in stories like the following interview with an artist from New Zealand.

It is Torture Tuesdays at Gizmos in Nelson, and the store’s retail assistant is trying to make a point – it doesn’t hurt a bit, but he’s not as chipper as 10 minutes earlier.  ”I’m really nervous right now,” he admits, as Mr Dalrymple explains that any facial piercing on the right is a sign that a person is gay.  ”That’s the word on the street.”

The most popular body piercing was lip piercing, Mr Kelly says. The most unusual, and not something Mr Dalrymple does, is penis piercings.  ”Some guys when they’re older become impotent and apparently this helps.”

It’s one thing for a journalist to make claims like these without knowing anything about the industry or culture, but it’s an entirely different thing when an artist is telling their clients not to get something done because it will make them appear “gay” (which in and of itself is offensive as it implies that being gay is somehow a bad thing).

When it comes to health concerns, there sadly are stories of practitioners unintentionally causing problems.  Recently in Switzerland a cosmetic tattoo artist was found to be the source of a bacterial infection that had affected a number of women.

When the physicians looked for what connected the women, they discovered that they had gotten their tattoos in different studios, but all from the same artist, who freelanced around the area. When they tracked her down, they found that she was following all the correct infection-prevention procedures, though she no longer had the equipment she had used when the women’s infections developed. When they tested her inks, though, they found DNA from M. haemophilum in some of them. Because that bacterium tends to live in water, they hypothesized she had diluted her inks with tap water that was locally contaminated.

Only a few women so far have been diagnosed with the bacterial infection, although the woman claims there may be several hundred people walking around with the potential for an infection.

On to some much lighter news, a German man recently won himself a Mini Cooper.  Given that this is being reposted on ModBlog, you can probably guess how he won the car.

A German man won a brand new $32,000 Mini Cooper by having the word “MINI” tattooed on his penis during a broadcast.  Organizers said Andreas Muller, 39, of Saxony-Anhalt, won the radio station contest by coming up with the wildest Mini-related stunt to earn the vehicle, The Austrian Times reported Wednesday.

Finally, a tattoo studio in Richmond, VA is giving away “free” tattoos for a donation to Richmond’s cultural community.  The tattoo design is one found on the mummified remains of an ancient human, known to have the oldest tattoo in recorded history.

The tattoo design, three vertical lines each about an inch long, is copied from the earliest known tattoos ON EARTH (don’t worry the design is totally in the public domain).

Now, I don’t know about you, but a tattoo of three black bars seems awfully familiar.  I wonder if they know they’re giving out a tattoo symbol that in today’s world is symbolic of the Church of Body Modification?

Of course, the week wouldn’t be complete without the celebrity news round-up, and thankfully the celebrities haven’t disappointed us this week, and there are a few stories to share.

Starting with UK celebrities, Cheryl Cole was spotted showing off her new tattoo that supposedly was done in one marathon 11 hour session.

Of course, taking a look at the photo they supplied I don’t think we’re seeing the entire design.  Unless of course that faded and blown out butterfly is the new tattoo.

Also in the UK, Port Vale footballer Sean Rigg is using his spare time to pursue a profession for when his football career is over.  Unlike other players, he’s not looking to get into broadcasting or coaching, Sean instead is working on a tattoo apprenticeship.  I honestly can’t find anything to make fun of about this story, so let’s move on.

For those of you who remember Brandy (the singer, not the liquor), it turns out she wasn’t too pleased with her Ganesh tattoo.  You can see in the photo below why she wisely got it touched up.

Oh the hidden penis trick.  You have to admit that pulling off that stunt on someone who at one point in time was sort of famous is pretty ballsy.

Speaking of balls, pro ball player DeShawn Stevenson recently added an addition to his throat tattoo, a small sparkly microdermal.  Of course the press thinks he jabbed something right through his throat, but who are we to tell them differently.

In an effort to continue the myth that all she is good for is looking at her, Megan Fox did a photoshoot with Armani that shows off some of her tattoo collection.

The tattoo on her shoulder blade reads, “We will all laugh at gilded butterflies” – an approximation of a Shakespeare quote.

Megan got the wordy Nietzsche quote inked down her side in honor of Mickey Rourke, her costar in ‘Passion Play.’ It says, “Those who danced were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

And finally in today’s last story, T-Pain has found a way to get a tattoo artist to autotune a facebook tattoo on to him.

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen.  Unequivocal evidence that facebook needs a “DISLIKE” button.

So that’s the news for this week.  Next Friday I’ll be in Philly for the Philly Convention so I’ll be writing up the news a bit earlier in the week, although it’ll still be published Friday.  That means I’m going to need a bit of help getting enough stories for the news, so if you come across anything, just submit the link to it right here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tattoo Hollywood, Day Three: The Search For Curly’s Gold

And here we are, folks—photos from the the third and final day of Tattoo Hollywood. Forthcoming will be our final thoughts on the event and interviews, but until then, enjoy the pictures (and my charming pithy commentary, of course). Buy the ticket, take the ride—after the jump.

This is so realistic, it just told me it just got out of a serious relationship and isn’t ready to date anyone yet.

This is Gene from Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, New York. He came to the convention with Martin, currently guesting at the shop by way of Austria. When we found out there was going to be a Bar Mitzvah happening on Saturday night in the hotel, your editor suggested bringing over Martin to offer to tattoo their son (“Vas is his birthday? Ve vill tattoo ze number on his arm”), but this was roundly rejected on account of being offensive on every possible level. Then we realized it was actually a Bat Mitzvah, not a Bar Mitzvah. All in all, a good showing for your editor. We should not be allowed out in public.

“Do I look like a man who’s got time to just sit around and get one tattoo at a time? Come on. Gimme the deuce.”

One of our award winners!

New rule: Tattoos inspired by The Warriors get featured on ModBlog, no matter what. Hopefully, all future entries will be as ridiculously good as this one.

More tattooers should wear smocks/aprons, we think. That, combined, with the lighting, makes this seem like it was done in a 1950s machine shop. We like that.

Homina homina.

Photos by Phil Barbosa, Thaddeus Brown and Jen Savage.

We’re Out For Blood

New Rule: I do not like Motley Crue. I do not think I have ever intentionally listened to one of their songs all the way through. I would like to see Tommy Lee slathered with delicious chestnut honey and chained to a tree in Death-Bear National Park. With that said? The Dirt is one of the most entertaining musical memoirs ever written, and if you commit to an entire goddamn (and surprisingly well-done) backpiece dedicated to these train-wrecks, well, you get featured on ModBlog, friend.

(Tattoo by Tania Sinnaeve at Body Design in Belgium.)

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

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This Week in BME

New rule: When you get an A Christmas Story tattoo, slightly re-imagined as an old-school piece (with a flash-y banner, at least), you get to be on ModBlog. Doesn’t matter what season it is, not even a little. And if you disagree? Take it up with Ralphie there, who has been instructed to fire at will.

(Tattoo by Jason Gone, who’s on the road and currently in Cincinnati, Ohio.)

And that, my lovely friends, is how this week ends. How did we spend our time together?

I’ll have whatever she’s having.

Hey, a pretty pierced corset done up as formal-wear! Good stuff.

We made fun of a stupid fake trend.

All cephalopods, all the time, forever, amen.

Surprise! It’s not a dick.

And here is a corset that would probably be frowned on as formal-wear.

High-fives all around.

As per usual, we’ll be around here and there over the weekend, but Monday morning is when we really gas up the jet and get this thing going again. Until then, have fun out there, stay safe and, of course, thank you for your continued support of BME.

Ride the Spiral to the End

New rule: When you get tattoos of five circles on your back, the radius of each corresponding to the first five terms in the Fibonacci sequence, and you then place a corresponding number of pomegranate seeds inside each circle, you get to be on ModBlog. (Also, I think Rachel‘s position is distorting the circles a bit, because those suckers are indeed quite straight. Err, round. You know what I mean.)

(Tattoos by Dave at Eye of the Lotus in Edmonton, Alberta.)

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