ModBlog News of the Week: March 6, 2015

Here is your news roundup for March 6, 2015:

* Microchips for office workers
* Edmonton’s culinary creatives go big with food tattoos
* Soccer star says new tattoos aim to raise famine awareness
* Meet the last tattooed women of Burma
* Mapping 61 Ancient Tattoos on a 5300-Year-Old Mummy

And in the world of the rich and famous:

* Lourdes Leon shows off new septum piercing
* Shia LaBeouf sports new rat tail, eyebrow piercing
* Kanye West Got Roman Numeral Tattoos for North & His Mom

Submit news stories.

ModBlog News of the Week: February 27th, 2015

Body modification in the news…
* Parents Get Tattoo Of Daughter’s Birthmark So She Won’t Feel Different
* Alec Falkenham, Dalhousie student, develops tattoo removal cream
* Tattoo whisperer helps cancer survivors
* Dad preserves young son’s drawings by making them into tattoos

and, of course, celebrity news…

* Benji Madden inks ‘Cameron’ tattoo across his chest for new wife
* Brantley Gilbert Gets Double-Pistol Back Tattoo

Feel free to submit news stories and I will try to make this a weekly feature again.

Strangely, I don’t hear Lady Gaga calling

As you may have already seen, as it’s become viral news on Reddit (which is how I was tipped off) and elsewhere, a guy with a mountain of skull-related tattoos (and even a little Zombie Rick-aesthetic) and an eyeball tattoo just got himself in trouble for, among other things, serial burglary and shooting a cop in Anchorage, Alaska. Not to joke about cop killers (tonight we get even), I have to admit that it is at least mildly amusing to me seeing eyeball tattoos being “endorsed” by criminals — I mean, I don’t think you could possibly come up with a better FUCK THE WORLD and NO FUTURE tattoo than a fully black eye. And as far as I’m concerned, anything at this point that stops the gentrification of tattooing the better. Scare away the yuppies that think body modification is a fashion choice. It’s not. It’s a lifestyle. Duh, it lasts for your whole life — fashion is transient, and when people get that confused, hello tattoo removal and coverups. Of course I generalize, but you know what I mean. Anyway, for my dead homies, on to the tattooed cop killer.

Best booking photo ever.


These pictures below are snagged from the Anchorage Daily News. Click to zoom in. If you’d like to learn more about this case, maybe lose what little hope you had left for humanity, you can follow this link to the story on ADN.


PS. For any dummy that wants to complain, no of course I am not endorsing this guy, and no I don’t think he or his actions are “cool” in any way. So don’t waste your fingers typing a complaint. Also he only grazed the cop, and didn’t kill him like he wanted to, so I don’t feel too bad speaking lightly of the event.

A Good Deed Never Goes Unpunished

Tam Mayer (of Bells Ink Tattooing & Body Piercing in Victoria, Australia) has managed to get herself in some hot water, all because she tried to do the right thing. As a part of a fundraiser for a local boy — in which they raised $3,000 to help him (the whole event raised $15,000) — she tattooed her friend Luke Coleman with this image of Buddha. At first everyone was happy, and thought they’d done something really special, and I’m sure they were even happier when some of the big tattoo rebloggers picked it up, featuring it because it’s unusual to see a tattoo like this on the sole of a foot (and I have to admit I have some doubts about how it will heal). Anyway, the problems began when Thai Buddhists saw the tattoo and took offense at the tattoo’s location — that someone was walking on the face of Buddha, which they thought was deeply disrespectful. Immediately the comments changed from congratulating Tam for a unique tattoo and more importantly, raising $3,000 for a child in need, to threatening to murder her if she ever showed her face in Thailand. Comment after comment insulted and berated her. Did Tam make a tactless mistake? Perhaps, by some interpretations of Buddhism. But by other interpretations of Buddhism, she did something wonderful. To my way of looking at it, this is just another example of extremist interpretation of religion poisoning everything. As far as I’m concerned, Tam’s got nothing to apologize for. If Buddha and Jesus existed, I’m sure they’d give her a high five for helping others, and then punch the religious radicals in the nuts for spreading hatred in their name.


Edit: I wanted to add one other thing — as soon as Tam found out that what she’d done was potentially offensive, she apologized profusely to anyone she might have offended (as did Luke), and said they wished they’d known in advance so they could have avoided the situation. It was very clear that they’d acted only with the best of intentions — and I want to be clear that the above comments are mine, not hers.

Changing industry ethics?

When you first look at these tattoos, maybe the first thing you say to yourself is, “wow, I didn’t know tattoos could shift that much with age!”


But then you realize that the chestpiece is on well known tattoo artist Toni Moore (of Broad Street Studio in Bath) by Tim Kern, and the neck piece is a knock off by Marcel Daatz at Extremetattoo in Munich. I know, not a line-for-line copy, but close enough that if you didn’t look at the pieces side-by-side you could easily assume they’re the same tattoo.s I often have more permissive feelings about copying than many of my friends in the industry, because it’s my opinion that tattooing has always been an artform that is built on appropriation, but this example of tattoo plaigiarism really upset me.

The reason this piece upset me so much is that Marcel Daatz appears to be a talented and capable tattoo artist. There is no need or excuse for him to be knocking off his peers’ work and claiming it as his own. It makes me very sad, and it’s an unfortunate comment on how many of the traditional tattoo culture ethics have been lost as this industry ages. I’m used to crap artists aping the pros. But for talented artists to rip each other off? To have so little respect for each other, for themselves, for the industry? It’s really heartbreaking.

What do you think? Where is the line? Is this an example of a professional backstabbing a peer? Or am I overreacting, and it’s been changed enough, and is instead an example of someone simply drawing inspiration from a well-known tattoo and getting “their own version”?

The Tattooed Face of the Future Czech President?

I have been watching with great interest the presidential campaign of Vladimír Franz, a Czech artist and composer who is taking advantage of the fact that he’s completely tattooed to attract a great deal of media and populist youth attention — first to his inky face, but once he has their attention, to his political message as well. Vladimir holds a law degree, but after graduating chose to ignore that field and focus on the arts, while supporting himself in a variety of blue-collar jobs. These days he is a teacher in the theatre department of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and also lectures in the film department. When asked about his tattoos in an interview he said (and I do my best to translate it here — the original in Czech is on his website),

Tattoo Art has accompanied mankind since time immemorial. In addition to the its original magic and ritual, it serves an aesthetic purpose. Of course it’s true that from an aesthetic point of view, this is a decision to be made by each free individual. Tattoos are an expression of free will. The tattoos are a permanent and unchangeable expression of my decision to stand up for the graces of freedom, for better or worse. I know that people have many questions about my tattoos, and that these questions will certainly continue, but I want to add that my tattoos are the result of a long-term sophisticated concept, not a sudden whim.

I can definitely appreciate those comments, and have always agreed that body modification and personal freedoms and civil rights are inexorably linked. If these thoughts are indicative of the rest of his politics (which I admit are not easy for me to really translate), then I’d be happy to see him succeed. That said, no one should ever make the mistake of assuming that someone is defined by their tattoos.

To be realistic, Vladimir Franz is about as long-shot as you can get, and I suspect his goal is more to inject a worthwhile independent voice into the dialogue and to inspire others to do the same — and I’m happy to see that his tattoos are being leveraged to achieve that — rather than the serious campaign for the Czech presidency he purports to be running. He is not the member of any political party, nor of any behind-the-scenes interest group, nor has he profited from overpriced government contracts. He sees himself as a man sensitive to injustice, with a sense of humor and an inner relationship to nature, able to listen to others, and with a never-ending passion to learn and expand himself. These are all wonderful, but the sad reality is that they go a long way to disqualifying an individual from the corrupt, beholden, and rotten-to-the-core political process.

Visit for more information.




PS. I’m in no way saying that anyone should vote for a politician just because they have a tattooed face. But for me, when I see someone that looks like this, I know that we at least have some shared background and life experience, and that it’s worth taking the time to hear what they have to say. In addition, for better or worse, a tattooed face means there’s a very good chance the individual is not beholden to big business, because by and large a tattooed face is a great way — at least for now — of having those doors slammed in your face. The irony of my comment is that by supporting such politicians for that reason, we help eliminate the validity of that reason!!!

Tattooed really is the new black

And by that I mean that “Black Like Me” has become “Tattooed Like Me”. In 1961 journalist John Howard Griffin — a white man — published the book “Black Like Me” detailing a six-week journey through segregated America while convincingly disguised as a black man. Now in 2012, journalist Brad Casey — a plainskin — has written an essay for Vice magazine detailing his five day experience in today’s America while convincingly disguised as a man with a facial tattoo. He describes the constant, never-ending and very annoying staring (and breaks down the types of stares), often drunken comments and insults, terrified babies, apparent prejudicial treatment at a job interview, and women undressing him with their eyes hoping that the tattoos signify him being a sex freak for them to have a one-night-adventure with.

So what does Brad, who jokes that his untattooed condition is due to his fear of becoming addicted if he were to get a taste of the modified lifestyle think of the whole adventure? That “having a face tattoo was fun most of the time and taking it off made me feel, in the days following, like something was missing” and that “the most difficult part of having a face tattoo is spending your day explaining your shitty life decision to every single person you meet.” It’s really just a fluff piece, but a fun read nonetheless. Check it out at


Self-Harm as Performance Boosting Aid?

There’s a fascinating article up right now by Matt McGrath, a science reporter for the BBC — Paralympic athletes who harm themselves to perform better — which discusses the effects of injury and pain on sports performance. Apparently this is especially relevant to paralympic athletes because some of the normal feedback systems that their body would have to increase blood pressure and heart rate while competing could be damaged. The practice of self-harm in sports even has a name, “boosting”, and it’s actually banned by by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) — and has been since 1994, the year BME was founded. It is believed that perhaps a third of all para-athletes have self-harmed to boost performance.

“There have been times where I would specifically give my leg or my toe a couple of really good electric shocks” says Brad Zdanivsky, a 36-year-old Canadian quadriplegic climber who has experimented with boosting in the gym.

“That would make my blood pressure jump up and I could do more weights and cycle harder — it is effective.”

Other athletes overfill their bladder, sometimes by will, or by clamping off their catheter if they wear one. Others sit on a tack, or tightly strap their legs, or twist their scrotum or otherwise do the sort of things that would get you a free membership and jerk-off-fans in BME/HARD. Still others go as far as taking out a hammer and shattering their toe. This interesting because even though they may not be able to feel the broken toe consciously due to being paraplegic, their body still responds to the injury in ways that cause a performance increase — they are inducing what’s medically called “autonomic dysreflexia and can be quite dangerous.

“I took it a notch further by using an electrical stimulus on my leg, my toe and even my testicles.”

But boosting comes at a price.

“You are getting a blood pressure spike that could quite easily blow a vessel behind your eye or cause a stroke in your brain,” says Zdanivsky.

“It can actually stop your heart. It’s very unpleasant, but the results are hard to deny. The saying is that winners always want the ball, so it doesn’t matter if it’s unpleasant, it gets results.”

In addition to causing an increase in athletic performance, according to spinal injury researcher Dr. Andrei Krassioukov at UBC, the increase in blood pressure can also have a mood effect. He puts it simply, pointing out that people “feel better with their blood pressure higher”. I’m sure that this — in addition to the endorphin high — relates to the people who cut themselves ritually or therapeutically as featured in BME’s self-harm galleries and stories (whether you think this is illness or valid is a secondary issue — right now I’m only talking about the underlying medical mechanics). Unlike blood doping or steroids, it is virtually impossible to test for “boosting”, and just because it’s banned doesn’t mean it can be stopped.

Well, I know this was a little removed from body modification proper, but I hope that it still gives some interesting insights into overlapping issues.


By the way, the background photo above that I’ve used to illustrate this entry is from an earlier ModBlog entry by Rob that’s a very fascinating story — apparently this client came in wanting to get a voluntary scarification that had the appearance of self-harm to avoid military service! Here’s the entry: Self Preservation or Self Harm? Another very interesting tale.

Mycobacterium chelonae infections in tattoos

After reports of long-term rashes from tattoos, a CDC investigation showed it to be Mycobacterium chelonae, a hardy and fast-growing bacteria that can be found in tap water. It can lead not just to rashes (technically this is a “granulomatous inflammation”), but cellulitis, difficult-to-treat infections, and abscesses are possible as well. It is especially dangerous for immunosuppressed people, for example those with HIV/AIDS. In addition, and this must be noted in the age of eye tattoos, ocular keratitis and related conditions can occur, as the eye has specific weaknesses in regards to this bacteria. The rash-type infections are quite common in tattoos, and can come and go in some people as they flare up in certain conditions with itchiness, sometimes painful, and small raised bumps, often with redness, although this may not always be visible in the case of a solid tattoo, especially blackwork. It typically starts two to three weeks after the tattoo is done, but can also take longer. Assorted studies by health departments, the CDC, the FDA, and scientists and medical researchers internationally seem to show that tattoo contamination from this bacterium is happening on a regular basis all over the world.

As I said, all it takes for a tattoo to become infected with Mycobacterium chelonae (and I suspect there are many other microbes I could say this of as well) is for the tattoo ink or components of the tattoo equipment to come into contact with tap water — this could happen when cleaning the equipment or when diluting the inks. More disturbingly, it may be completely unavoidable by the artist because a number of the infections have been traced back to the manufacturer, who used tap water at some point in their manufacturing process. There’s no way — other than infected clients after it’s already too late — for the tattoo artist to know whether their ink is contaminated, short of using sealed sterile ink. It’s only recently that tattoo ink companies have started offering single-use sterile packages of ink, and only a fraction of artists use these products at present. In addition, a study by the European Journal of Dermatology analyzed about sixty bottles of tattoo ink from different manufacturers, and found that 10% of them were microbially contaminated by a variety of bacterium (and they weren’t even checking for Mycobacterium chelonae — no definitive study has been done to date on what percentage of tattoo ink is contaminated at the manufacturer level).

Treatment of this bacteria is difficult because it is extremely hardy. At a minimum, local wound care for the lesions is required. In some cases antibiotics can help kill the bacteria — and we’re potentially talking about four to six months of treatment that can have serious side effects, although it’s often faster — and in other cases surgical removal (think of skin removal scarification — excising the affected tissue). If the infection is in an eye, surgical debridement is always required — in my opinion, any ink dilution for eye tattoos (and all tattoos) must be with sterile water, and the ink itself should ideally come from single-use sterile packages. It should also be noted that ophthalmic corticosteroids which are sometimes prescribed to deal with the healing of eye tattoos and to deal with the increased intraoccular pressure can cause this type of infection to get worse. All things considered, M. chelonae may turn out to be the largest risk in eye tattooing. Surgical excision of all the affected tissue is usually curative because the bacterium does not seem to spread significantly (which is why you may even notice flare-ups among only certain colours). Multiple surgeries can be required and will almost certainly result in significant scarring (and not the good kind).

The CDC for once gives some advice on the subject of body modification that I agree with, saying that ink manufacturers need to be held to higher product safety standards including production of sterile inks. They recommend that tattoo artists:

  1. avoid using products not intended for use in tattooing
  2. avoid ink dilution before tattooing, and if dilution is needed, use only sterile water
  3. avoid use of nonsterile water to rinse equipment (e.g., needles) during tattoo placement
  4. follow aseptic techniques during tattooing (e.g., hand hygiene and use of disposable gloves).

I would add that I’d like to see tattoo artists using sterile ink whenever possible, seeing as many of these infections traced back to reputable ink manufacturers, and there would not have been anything the tattoo artist could have done to mitigate the problem. They also recommend that customers do the following to reduce their risk of infection:

  1. use tattoo parlors registered by local jurisdictions
  2. request inks that are manufactured specifically for tattoos
  3. ensure that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic practices
  4. be aware of the potential for infection following tattooing, and seek medical advice if persistent skin problems occur
  5. notify the tattoo artist and FDA’s MedWatch program (or other appropriate national program in your country) if they experience an adverse event.

I would also add to this that it might be worth printing out this blog post to share with your artist since they may not have the time to keep up with medical news, and being better informed is the most important first step in being safe. Finally, here is a collection of photos of what such an infection can look like. Click the picture to zoom in.


For more information, there is a good technical introduction with scientific paper references in the CDC’s frighteningly named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here: In addition, because of the volume of cases that are being seen now (this is being characterized by health officials as “not common, but not rare either”), you may see it in the news as well. Here are a few links to get you started, and Googling for “mycobacterium chelonae tattoo” will of course find many more: Study: Tattoo infections traced to tainted ink, Mycobacterial Infections: The Link to Ink, Tattoo ink causes health scare, and Tainted Tattoo Ink Led to Skin Infection Outbreak.

ModBlog News of the Week: February 24th, 2012

Another week has come and gone.  The weekend is just about here, but before it can start there’s just one more piece of business left to take care of… the news of the week.  After last week’s lengthy catch-up post, this week is is a little light on stories, but it does have some interesting ones.

First up is a story that could be considered a follow-up.  I recall a story last year about some scientists who were developing a way for people with spinal cord injuries to move around, using only a tongue stud.  Well since then they’ve created a number of test models, and they’re being used in trials right now.

The Tongue Drive System is getting less conspicuous and more capable. Tongue Drive is a wireless device that enables people with high-level spinal cord injuries to operate a computer and maneuver an electrically powered wheelchair simply by moving their tongues.  The newest prototype of the system allows users to wear an inconspicuous dental retainer embedded with sensors to control the system. The sensors track the location of a tiny magnet attached to the tongues of users. In earlier versions of the Tongue Drive System, the sensors that track the movement of the magnet on the tongue were mounted on a headset worn by the user.  “By moving the sensors inside the mouth, we have created a Tongue Drive System with increased mechanical stability and comfort that is nearly unnoticeable,” said Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

In recent months, Ghovanloo and his team have recruited 11 individuals with high-level spinal cord injuries to test the headset version of the system at the Atlanta-based Shepherd Center and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Trial participants received a clinical tongue piercing and tongue stud that contained a tiny magnet embedded in the upper ball. They repeated two test sessions per week during a six-week period that assessed their ability to use the Tongue Drive System to operate a computer and navigate an electric wheelchair through an obstacle course.  “During the trials, users have been able to learn to use the system, move the computer cursor quicker and with more accuracy, and maneuver through the obstacle course faster and with fewer collisions,” said Ghovanloo. “We expect even better results in the future when trial participants begin to use the intraoral Tongue Drive System on a daily basis.”

How different is a clinical tongue piercing from a normal tongue piercing?  Also, it should be noted that Anatometal is contributing to this endeavor, which means that when they do go into production, the jewelry used for the stud will undoubtedly be high quality.

Now a weekly news roundup wouldn’t be complete without some criminal activity, and this week we’ve hit a new low.

Police said a man traded tattoos, piercings and marijuana with at least five teenage girls in exchange for nude photos.  The father of two of the girls said his daughters met Ford through a mutual friend. He told Channel 11′s Timyka Artist that Ford would leave cash under a rock for the girls after they sent him the photos. Other times he would pierce and tattoo them.  The girls’ father, who did not want to be identified, said his daughters are now being tested because he suspects that Ford reused needles.   “It was never in a professional place, always some seedy situation,” he said.

Allegheny County police said the five teenage victims are from Brentwood Middle School between the ages of 12 and 14 years old.

12-14.  Something tells me that if this guy is found guilty, he’ll have a lot of friends in prison.

Moving on, 3News from New Zealand has a story about Dr. Reverend who uses a pretty unique medium for his art..  his own blood.

Five years ago the Sydney tattooist, Dr Reverend, was getting regular blood tests because of liver problems when the inspiration to paint with blood struck him for the first time.  “The down side was I got such a kick out of it I did another one and thought ‘I wonder if I can run it through an airbrush’,” he says.  “I  could get my blood to run one of these like paint and after that there was no turning back”.

And so at the Melbourne tattoo convention the doctor took things to their logical extreme and connected an IV line and painted straight from his body.

Here’s a link to the video of the interview, which includes footage of him painting directly from his vein.

While we’re on the subject of blood, The Vancouver Sun has done an extensive feature of scarification, including a video of a scarification in progress.

Women have long gone under the knife for the sake of beauty. A growing trend in body modification, however, is now seeing them do so in the name of art.  Unlike tattoos, which use needles to create a permanent design, scarification involves carving patterns into the flesh with a scalpel. And to hear it from industry insiders, an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of those being cut aren’t countercultural thrill-seekers but rather professional women, ages 25 to 50, desiring something more understated than traditional ink.  “It can produce the same type of image as a tattoo but it’s a lot more subtle and less aggressive,” says Keith Kennedy, a Calgary scarification artist for the past eight years.

Few scarification artists advertise their services out of fear this “grey area” of body modification will be made illegal in Canada. A handful, however, are working directly with medical and health officials – Calgary’s Kennedy included – to demonstrate that, when done correctly, this unique art form is legitimate and safe.  Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko, past president of the Canadian Society for Dermatologic Surgery, is among the doctors who’ve observed scarification firsthand.  “Based on the medical school training that I received, we viewed scarification as a form of self-mutilation rather then body art,” says Sapijaszko, who practices in Edmonton. “(But) I found the scarification artists to be extremely skilled in design, planning and execution of the scarification process. They were meticulous in their technique and obviously had tremendous experience.”

The doctor’s foremost caution is that nobody undertake the process lightly, noting the potential for infection, uneven scarring, keloids (rubbery lesions often accompanied by pain or itchiness) and social embarrassment.  “It’s critical that the artist is an expert,” says Sapijaszko. “The results, bad or good, are permanent.”

An in today’s final story, a study by dermatologists at Northwestern University has resulted in 9 steps to prepare your body for a piercing.

To stay safe, the paper describes these points to consider before getting your body pierced.

1. Know your infection risk: If you currently have an infection or an open wound, it’s a good idea to put off the piercing until you are healthy. Risk of infection is higher — especially if the piercer is poorly trained and working in an unsterile environment or using unclean equipment — or if the wound doesn’t heal properly.

2. Be aware of medical issues: If you have health problems, such as poorly controlled diabetes or other conditions that weaken your immune system, your chances of infection are higher and piercing is riskier.

3. Factor in lifestyle. A nose ring when you’re 20 may look cool, but it may not be so hip or accepted at 30 in some workplaces. If you’re planning to remove piercings frequently to conceal them at work or from your family, this may increase your chances of infection. It may also lengthen healing time of newly pierced skin. If you play a contact sport and your piercings are in an area where they might rip or the jewelry can snag on clothing, this may injure the skin.

It goes on, but you get the idea.  For most of us, it’s general knowledge (with the exception of the “coolness” factor), however for a lot of people these tips could end up being very helpful.  Ideally it’ll encourage people to stop going to mall kiosks to have their lobes pierced with a gun.

Well, that’s it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and remember to e-mail me those news stories you come across.