Issue number 37 August 16, 2001
Quorum of One is intended for adult readers
Special Tattoo Issue
In this issue, QOO investigates the hows, whys, whens, wheres, wherefores, whozis, whodunits, whodathunkits and whatthefucks of . . . tattooing!
First, a look back at:
In ancient times there were no tattoos. Then one day, some guy said, "Hey! I think I'll invent tattoos." And he did.
Editor: Ahhh, David? Been doing lots of research here, have we?
Me: Yeah, I know it's not very informative but I need to finish this thing fast so I can take off on vacation.
Editor: Well, at least try to flesh it out a little, huh?
Me: OK, here goes . . .
First, a look back at:
In ancient times there were no tattoos. When people wanted to mark their bodies for reasons of vanity, to betoken membership in a group or to fulfill the symbolism of some forgotten ritual, they had to rely on primitive, painful, crude, barbaric techniques that we find unspeakably repugnant today. Like intentionally cutting open the skin and then filling the wound with some kind of color-bearing substance. If you can believe that. Eiuw. Luckily for us, mankind has made a great deal of progress since then.
Of course, the ultra-modern, sophisticated, cutting-edge technology that we now have for puncturing holes in the dermis and filling them with ink was not invented overnight. In fact, it was gradually developed over thousands of years of research, scholarly reflection, experimentation, and trial and error. But mostly trial and error. Come to that, mostly error. But hey.
No one knows exactly when, where or how the art of tattooing as we know it today was originated, but most of the respected scholars who have seriously studied the issue . . .
No, wait . . .
No one knows exactly when, where or how the art of tattooing as we know it today was originated, but most of the scholars who have looked at the issue . . .
That's not really right either . . .
. . . most of the people who have thought about it . . .
Well, actually . . .
. . . some of the guys down at Earl's think that maybe the story might have gone something like this:
One day long ago, in ancient Egypt, or possibly Greece, if not Rome, Babylon, Mesopotamia, China, India, the Yucatan Peninsula, Micronesia or somewhere else entirely, a man whose name is lost to history but whose middle name was Carl was standing near a blazing fire holding a pot of indelible ink and a small but very sharp stick. Suddenly, a tornado blew in, a tidal wave hit, a hurricane struck, a volcano erupted and a violent earthquake shook the ground. Sunspots flared, a total eclipse blacked out the sun and the Aurora Borealis lit up the sky. An alien spaceship landed and Bigfoot emerged from the forest. Somewhere, a dog barked. In the ensuing chaos the small, sharp stick somehow got heated in the fire, dipped in the ink, punched into the man's upper arm, then reheated in the fire, redipped in the ink and repunched into his upper arm, etc., over and over about 3,000 times, ultimately forming a tight, uniform pattern that spelled out "Winona Forever". When his wife saw this she flew into a jealous rage because Winona happened to be the guy's ex-girlfriend's name. So she murdered the poor schmuck and was sent to prison, where she and her cellmate invented tattooing.
Centuries passed. For a long time tattoos were considered to be a low, debasing, disgusting form of self-mutilation fit only for prisoners, carnies, bikers and people too out of it to realize that they don't belong to and shouldn't emulate any of those groups, which meant about 0.0004% of the population. Well, things have come a long way since then. Today, we are happy to report, tattooing has made much progress, has entered the mainstream and is now recognized for what it really is: a low, debasing, disgusting form of self-mutilation fit only for prisoners, carnies, bikers and people too out of it to realize that they don't belong to and shouldn't emulate any of those groups, which means about 60% of the population.
And now for frequently asked questions about tattoos:
Q: I'm thinking about getting a tattoo but I'm afraid it will hurt. People say it hurts. Does it hurt? Much? How much? No, really -- I need to know.
A: There is no reason to hesitate about getting a tattoo just because of a minimal amount of fleeting discomfort. Think of it this way:
Imagine a tiny pinprick. Just a minuscule, barely perceptible pinprick on the very surface of your skin. Now imagine a series of pinpricks like that in rapid succession, lasting no longer than a few seconds. Now imagine the tattoo artist telling you a joke to put you at ease. Now imagine how cool and sexy you're going to look with your new tattoo. After the bleeding stops and the swelling goes down. And before the colors fade and before stress, aging and weight fluctuations stretch the image out of shape till it's unrecognizable. Now imagine that this process actually lasts longer than a few seconds. Now imagine that it hurts like a bastard and goes on for the better part of an hour. Which seems like five. You see? Nothing to worry about.
Q: Thanks for reassuring me. Will my medical insurance cover the cost?
A: Also, the joke that the tattoo artist tells you is really crass and stupid, plus you've heard it a thousand times already. The "Would I?!" joke, maybe. Or maybe the one about "Your medical insurance will cover this."
Q: Is it true that Bill Clinton has a tattoo of Monica Lewinsky with her mouth open on his left testicle?
A: Of course not. I can't believe that someone would actually ask this question. This is the type of idiotic rumor that gives tasteless corporeal disfigurement a bad name. You should be ashamed for even having thought of such a thing. As a body art expert I can assure you beyond any shadow of doubt that former president Clinton has no such tattoo, never did and never will. This kind of ludicrous calumny always crops up in the aftermath of any scandal and I can guarantee you that it has absolutely no basis whatsoever in fact. I entreat you to forget all about this, forget that you ever heard this rumor, forget that you ever asked this question, forget that you ever wondered about anything at all, forget that you know anything about anything, forget that you were ever born and deny that your parents ever met. Sheesh.
Q: Is it true that Bill Clinton has a tattoo of Monica Lewinsky with her mouth open on his right testicle?
Q: Is it true that the Pope has a tattoo of a crouching bear on his left buttock?
A: No. The Pope has seven tattoos, but none depict animals. And those that do aren't crouching. And those that are aren't bears. And those that are aren't on his left buttock. So there.
Q: What about other forms of body art, like henna, piercing, implants, scarification, stretching, branding and cultivating fungus infections in decorative patterns?
A: The Pope has some of those too. These alternative forms of body art, especially piercing, have become very popular in recent years, gaining ground right along with tattooing. Pierced earlobes have been common for decades, of course, but in the past 15 years we've been seeing more and more pierced tongues, eyebrows, cheeks, noses, lips, uvulas, corneas, frontal lobes, kidneys, fingernails, hair, etc. Piercing is considered to be a little more "extreme" than tattooing and is not necessarily recommended for everyone. For example, if you are Dizzy Gillespie it is not recommended that you get a cheek stud. You are also dead, by the way. On the other hand, if you are not a trumpet player you can get as many cheek studs and lip rings as you want. Just remember this simple rule: Keep them in to eat soup, take them out for water fights.
Implants are small, or sometimes not so small, aseptisized 3D forms, usually made of nylon, that are inserted under the skin in a kind of para-surgical procedure that you don't want to think about too much. Popular implants include a cross under the back of the hand, pointy lumps on either side of the forehead like vestigial "devil horns" and a stegosaurus-style ridge of fins along the forearm. Implants are considered to be even more drastic than piercing, and indeed this is a type of body art that makes a bold, powerful statement. Specifically, the bold, powerful statement that it makes is: "I do not have, or apparently want, a job."
Branding, as the name implies, is burning the skin in such a way that it scars over in an allegedly attractive pattern. Modern-day branding is done with fine, ultra-precision laser tools rather than the rough-hewn red-hot irons usually associated with the term. You might be surprised to learn that this form of body art is totally painless, easily reversible and always in exquisite taste. You might also be surprised to learn that you too can earn big $$$$ -- up to $5,000 a week extra income in tax-free CASH -- working in your spare time from your own home with no training or special skills required and 100% entirely legal!!!
So when it comes to body art, it all depends on what you want. Think of the future: Do you want to go through life looking like a dull, uninteresting, conformist drone or do you want to go through life looking like a dull, uninteresting, conformist drone who didn't exercise a whole lot of judgment when you were in your early twenties?
Q: I'm in my early
twenties. Also a metal band. As you know, having a tattoo is virtually a
requirement for someone with my job description, along the same lines as having
long, flowing hair and an aggressive rabid snarl pasted across my face at all
times, even when sleeping or talking to my grandmother.
My question is: I've been thinking of getting a "jigsaw puzzle" motif tattoo covering my entire face, neck and chest, but I'm worried that if the band doesn't make it I'll never be able to go back to school and finish my MBA. On the other hand, Jeff (he's the bassist) just met this guy last week who knows somebody who works for Warner Records, so it looks like we're going straight to the top forever. Or maybe it was Island. Or Tower. But anyway, what do you think about the tattoo?
A: My advice is: go for it. At best, you'll earn enough money with the band to retire when you're 25. At worst, you'll always be able to fall back on a job as a telephone solicitor. Come to think of it, my other advice is: wear earplugs.
Q: I'm a devout Catholic woman, and in emulation of our Holy Father I'm thinking of getting a tattoo of a cute little winking bear on my right buttock. My problem is this: I'm afraid that the weight of the ink in the tattoo will make my butt look big. How much does the average tattoo add to one's body weight?
A: This is another example of pointless worrying over the alleged side effects of tattooing. A tattoo will only add a minor, miniscule, insignificant, unnoticeable, irrelevant, inconsequential, negligible gram or two to your body weight. The weight of the ink in an average tattoo is estimated to represent 0.0004% of the average person's weight. No matter what your morphotype, muscle mass or fat ratio, and no matter what activities you may or may not pursue now or in the future, a tattoo can have no impact in any way on anything having to do with your figure, looks or physical capacities. For proof, just look at the people who rely most on their bodies: there is hardly a single actor, fashion model or sports figure today who doesn't have at least one tattoo.
The European-American Taskforce for Working Out Ridiculously Meticulous Statistics has been compiling a vast database of sports information for the past 100 years. Following the results of the recent IAAF World Championships in Athletics held in Edmonton, Alberta, the Taskforce has released conclusive findings that indicate that overall athletic performance in a great many of the world's major sports has declined by exactly 0.0004% since 1991. According to the report, every single sport in which lesser body weight is a positive factor, including high jumping, long jumping, pole vaulting, any running or walking race, as well as soccer, basketball, baseball and even horse and Formula 1 racing, has shown an astonishingly uniform reduction of precisely 0.0004% in overall performance. By remarkable coincidence, other sports in which a higher body weight seems to be a plus, like sumo wrestling, rugby, hammer throwing, shot putting, etc., have without exception shown an improvement in overall performance of the exact same proportion: 0.0004%. The researchers agreed that this phenomenon was highly unusual, to say the least, but were unable to offer any explanation.
¨©2001 by David Jaggard