Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the tatted celeb effect

Sooo...after a week of emitting positive energies into the universe and hoping with all my might that I would be able to get my second egg tattoo before the holidays, I got a call from Transcend on Sunday night! Lou had a cancellation for Monday and I was more than happy to take the appointment, and thus am now the bearer of two gorrrgeous inked Ukrainian Easter eggs! I can't wait 'till they're healed so I can finally show my Mom, who, I've decided, is going to love them (fingers crossed!). I know her reaction to my plans to get the tats wasn't so supportive, but once she sees the final product I don't think she'll be able to resist falling in love with them.
In other news, Brad Pitt was on an episode of Oprah recently, and in response to a question from a fan about the significance of his many tattoos, became reallllly awkward and, arguably, kinda irritated. He completely evaded the fan's original question despite being encouraged by both his recent co-star, Cate Blanchett, and Oprah herself to spill about his mods. Unfortunately for his devoted (read: obsessive) fan of 17 years, Pitt remained unwavering in his decision to not speak about (and certainly to not reveal) his mods. Luckily for curious viewers the fan had a thorough knowledge of his ink work, and pressed Pitt to speak about one tattoo in particular: an Ice Man. Pitt still refused, making for quite an uncomfortable situation considering he gave no explanation whatsoever for the apparent sensitivity of the subject. At that point Oprah finally changed topics but, phew, what a tense few minutes. I couldn't believe how secretive Pitt was being about his tats, and wondered what was going on in his head to make him clam up like that. I have to admit I was disappointed in him at first, assuming that he was embarrassed to have tats at all, not wanting to be associated with what some of Oprah's viewers might see as a barbaric or juvenile practice. But thinking back, his emotional reaction probably had less to do with being ashamed of his tats and more to do with being frustrated that he truly can't retain any aspects of his life as private property. I mean, it's also possible that he's no longer happy with the tats, and wants to pretend they're not even there. But I'd bet that the real issue was that the stories behind his tats reveal a lot about him - the real him, not the him that goes on Oprah to promote his movies - and he wanted to keep that part of his life to himself. Poor guy doesn't really get much privacy I guess, so it's no surprise that he would want to maintain his body as the last frontier not poked 'n prodded by the ravenous media. Thoughts?
Although Pitt may not have been concealing his ink specifically to maintain some sort of image in the eyes of his fans, I think that revealing them probably would have helped boost the perception of tats in general by some skeptical Oprah viewers. I show off my tats to customers at work all the time, and although most people who actually talk to me about them are pro-tat, others apparently can't help asking me why I would "do something like that to myself," with more than a hint of disdain in their tone. In the West, negative reactions to modified bodies seem to be relatively rare, and will often manifest in the form of a post-encounter conversation -"Did you see that girl's chest? It was completely tattooed! How unfeminine..." - rather than outright criticism. However in Japan, having visible tattoos can get you kicked out of a hot spring, public bath, or water park, get your gym membership revoked, get you fired from your job, or cause fellow train passengers to refrain from sitting near you or even looking at you. For those of my readers unfamiliar with the origins of tattooing in Japan, public sanctions against displaying tats and disdain for tats in general are not without reason. The Japanese aren't simply behind the times or too straightlaced to be accepting of tattoos, but rather have come to associate tattooing with Yakuza, or the Japanese mafia. The cutthroat criminals have been known to acquire elaborate tattooed bodysuits to pay homage to their clan, whereas the typical Japanese citizen sports pristine, unadorned skin. Thus, the sight of a tattoo in Japan, whether on a gaijin or a native, instinctually evokes fear and contempt. So, whereas tats are incorrectly associated with violence and delinquincy by some older or more sheltered Westnerners, such associations actually still hold true in Japan. Of course, there are tatted convicts in the West as well as harmless tatted housewives in Japan, but the majority groups are flip-flopped.
I've been researching the verity of negative reactions to tattoos on an awesome forum called Gaijin Pot, where us gaijin (Japanese outsiders) can go to ask questions about Japanese culture that are then answered by Japanese natives or foreigners currently living in the land of the rising sun. Searching the term "tattoo" on Gaijin Pot yields thread after thread of conversations about the reception of tattoed gaijin in Japan, from questions of where to find a tat-friendly gym to whether to reveal one's tats to one's host family before being invited to an onsen (hot spring) for the first time. From what I can gather, having visible tats in large cities like Tokyo typically isn't an issue considering the wide variety of nationalities and cultural quirks found there, but things are quite different in a small town. People can be extemely rude to the tatted, leaving some inked foreigners dumbfounded and offended at their seemingly unfounded ill treatment.
Since tattoos are so much more likely to be negatively received in Japan than the States, their appearance in pop culture is far more valuable. The J-pop singer, Namie Amuro, is one of the most prominent tatted celebs in Japan, and some have speculated that her tattiliciousness has contributed to a recent boom in tattooing amongst J-girls in particular (despite her official website featuring airbrushed and tat-free photos of her...). Not wanting to risk compromising their futures, some girls have opted for temporary tattoos to satisfy their urge to mod, but I would assume that the effect on Japanese society remains the same, faux or not. Simply seeing tattoos on giggling schoolgirls and trendy gonguros, as well as a harmless pop singer, can only help improve the perception of tats by the Japanese public. The same effect is achieved in the States when tatted celebs openly flaunt their ink, as one NY Times article recognized this past September. Sometimes all that is necessary for stereotypes to be broken down is more evidence to the contrary of popular assumptions than in support of them. So, please Mr. Pitt, tell us more about your mysterious Ice Man. Show us that your tats were acquired for reasons relevant to your life experiences, and that you're proud to have them. Maybe hit up some onsen while you're at it. People already love you, so rather than your tats changing people's perception of you, maybe they'll change people's perception of tats themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the internet <3's modding

So, I'm a chronic time-waster. If I'm working a double I'll come home for the 2-3 hour break and probbbably spend the majority of it in front of a computer. Actually, that's exactly what I'm doing right now :o) In addition to blogging I love finding new tunes to check out, perusing eBay, and, of course, spending a good chunk of time seeing what friends have been up to through Facebook. But I think out of all my time spent on the internet the majority goes to reading blogs. Of course I read Modblog (which, by the way, after having gotten shitty post-Shannon has finally started to shape up again), but I also love techy blogs like BoingBoing and Wired. Both boast brilliant posts that never fail to turn me onto the most intriguing stories, photos, places, gadgets etc. etc. EVER. I could probably spend an entire day reading their archives, and in doing so totally accumulate enough conversation starters to last a year.
Considering that these blogs cover all things awesome, it's no surprise that both feature mod-related stories from time to time. The most recent one I encountered is a photo gallery of tattoos related to bicycling that I found on Wired. Just goes to show that for every hobby, occupation, or special interest there are people who feel the need to literally embody their passion. Even people who love chairs!! Wired has also featured galleries of geek and comic tattoos in the past, always with accompanying explanations of the tattoo's significance for the wearer. They may not always showcase the most intricate or well-crafted tats, but the message comes through: tattoos are a unique way of celebrating what you value in life.
So, I've been watching a lot of Japanorama recently, which means you'll be getting a whole slew of blogs coming up that are about Japan in some capacity. For now, just a little thought. Japanese youngsters often belong to different Zoku, or clans. How one dresses depends on the clan with which one associates - or rather, one associates with the clan one wants to dress like! Some dress up like anime characters, others don a fake-baked, bleach blonde California girl/guy look (the Ganguro/Ganguras). Anything goes in the realm of Japanese fashion, that is, except the mixing of styles - you stick with your chosen style and quintessentially exemplify that style in every outfit. A lolita would not rock a facial piercing. On the other hand, for most Westerners mods need not dictate or accord with the rest of one's look. Nose studs and tattoos can be found on girls who only wear luxury duds. College professors have gauged earlobes. Macho dudes rock nipple rings. Mods blend seamlessly into almost any pre-existing Western style. What changes, for us, is the type of mod. Our individuality is expressed through our choice of what kind of mod to acquire, not what clothing style to adhere to. Seen this way mods are much different for Westerners than for the Japanese. Mods are, in our case, an individualistic statement of one's unique personality vs., for members of a particular Zoku, one ingredient of a cookie-cutter style. Not to mention that very few Japanese retain their mods into adulthood...but that's for the next post. Thanks for tuning in, folks. Keep in touch, eh?

Monday, November 03, 2008

rock your vote

Tune in to any news media source today and odds are you'll be bombarded with info related to tomorrow's Presidential election. Everyone's talking politics lately, even people you wouldn't peg as registered voters. So, to reward citizens for actually giving a fuck this election, a number of businesses are offering a variety of free products and services tomorrow for anyone who can prove they voted. Starbucks is in on it, giving away a free tall (small, for you anti-establishment types) coffee to voters, as is Krispy Kreme, where you can get a free star-shaped, patriotically decorated doughnut for having voted. Voters in NY, LA, and Seattle can even get a free sex toy at Babeland porn shops! What a country...
What I found particularly interesting (i.e. mod-related) about this freebie trend is that even mod-trepreneurs are giving what they can to help increase voter turnout. One Kirksville, MO tattoo artist named Flash is offering $5 body piercings to the voterific modders amongst us as "incentive to get out there and vote." Damn, wish I lived in Missouri. Um, wait a second...scratch that. But hey for those of you stuck there anyways it's an awesome deal so definitely take advantage.
Oddly enough, the only other mod-related giveaway associated with the elections is an offer not to get adorned but to remove an unwanted mod. Yup, New Looks Tattoo Removal of Dallas, TX is offering one free laser tattoo removal treatment (max size 4" x 4") tomorrow for anyone with proof or "your word" that you voted. Pretty effing cool concept - "Cast your ballot, cast off your bad tattoo" says their website's advertisement of the offer. "This election is about change. We'll be getting a new President and you will be getting a new look." But just like when Obama wins the election, the fight doesn't end there. You'll have to pay for the rest of your treatments of which there could potentially be up to 9 @ about $500 per session depending on where you go. Change doesn't come easy, but it's up to us to set the wheels in motion. I hope that tomorrow those of my readers who are registered to vote get out and do so. Even if you can't get a free piercing out of it you will get to rock an "I Voted" sticker, both of which serve as evidence of our freedom to express ourselves. And who knows, maybe a congressional candidate from your home state is a supporter of allowing mods in the workplace and your vote helps propel some new bills into the hands of the mighty! You'll never know if you don't get informed. But you have, like, 28 hours, so definitely get on that...