Tattoos of Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood above.
On Friday, I wrote about one of the most popular tattoo images on those who serve and have served in the military: the Fallen Soldier / Battlefield Cross tattoo, a tribute to those lost to war. In fact, most of my friends in the military have some form of memorial tattoo -- some citing their tattoos as personally cathartic or a way to share stories about those honored in their artwork. Considering the ancient practice of marking warriors with tattoos, it is hard to break that act of expression.
On April 30th, the newest revision to the US Army's regulation on grooming and appearance standards, AR 670-1, took effect, and it has provisions that are causing some controversy -- and even prompted a law suit. As noted in Army Times, the rules ban tattoos below the knee or elbow, although soldiers who already have such tattoos are "grandfathered" in. A big issue, however, is that the new regulations bar any soldier with tattoos from seeking a promotion to warrant officer or commissioning as an officer.
One guardsman who served 10 years on active duty, Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood, has filed a $100 million lawsuit in response to the ban, which has stopped him from "fulfilling a dream of joining 'The Nightstalkers,' the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky."
According to this Army Times article:
The lawsuit acknowledges that troops have an abridged right to free speech, but only insofar as it hinders their mission, discipline morale or loyalty. The lawsuit argues in effect that the ban itself is hindering the Army's mission, since it is preventing the most qualified candidates from applying to become officers or warrant officers because they have certain tattoos.The lawsuit has gotten a lot of media attention, and it should be interesting to see how this plays out in federal court.
Also, at issue with the new revisions to AR 670-1 is whether the new grooming standards discriminate against African-American women serving in the Army, as regards to a section called "female twists and dreadlocks," which bans "any unkempt or matted braids or cornrows."
While the military has a long-standing tradition of conservative appearance regulations, many argue that they must be brought up to today's norms of appearance and reflect the diversity of its soldiers. Thorogood's lawsuit should have an impact on this debate.
Beyond the rules and regs, today is a day to reflect on those who have given their lives in service and to honor them in our own ways.
Photos by Uriel Sinai.
Yesterday's The New York Times featured the article "Proudly Bearing Elders' Scars, Their Skin Says 'Never Forget'", which talks about Holocaust survivor families getting tattoos of the numbers etched into the chests and forearms of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who were prisoners at the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps. The families do so as a way to honor their elders and also to remind others of the atrocities. This method of doing so has caused some of controversy.
The Times article is inspired by the documentary "Numbered," directed by photojournalist Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron (a doctor and daughter of a survivor) who interviewed 50 tattooed survivors. These survivors discuss their horrific experiences and what they carry with them, beyond the numbers in their skin. Their descendants who seek to keep their stories alive through their memorial tattoos face strong reactions, particularly by those who feel that wearing a "scar" or a mark that dehumanized people should not be a form of Holocaust remembrance.
The article describes the experience of 21-year-old Eli Sagir who got her grandfather's number on her forearm:
Ms. Sagir, a cashier at a minimarket in the heart of touristy Jerusalem, said she is asked about the number 10 times a day. There was one man who called her "pathetic," saying of her grandfather, "You're trying to be him and take his suffering." And there was a police officer who said, "God creates the forgetfulness so we can forget," Ms. Sagir recalled. "I told her, 'Because of people like you who want to forget this, we will have it again.'"Another reaction is the misconception that one cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if tattooed. [Read Craig Dershowitz's post on tattoos and Judaism here.] Then there are those who just find it "tacky," as I read in comments on the article.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section to this post on our Needles & Sins Syndicate group page.
"Numbered" premiers in the US at the Chicago International Film Festival next month. Here's a clip below.
I couldn't let the day pass without a 9-11 memorial post. To view how some New Yorkers chose to commemorate lost loved ones on that day, see the Indelible Memories Project by Vinnie Amesse, which includes the photo above. In 2003, over a 100 of Amesse's photos were shown at the Historic Museum at Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island, NYC.
Since 2005 (from my Needled.com days), I have posted on 9-11 memorial tattoos and not all responses to these posts have been positive. I have been accused of ignoring the deaths of those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of blind flag-waving patriotism. I still do not know how a day of remembrance negates other tragedies. I'm a New Yorker who lost neighbors and family friends on that day and these posts are a tribute to their memory, not a political statement. If anything, it's a reminder to be grateful for spending time with loved ones who are with me now,
We've had our BBQs and enjoyed the sunshine of this weekend, but it wouldn't be Memorial Day in the US without giving pause to think on those who have lost their lives in serving our country.
Memorial and patriotic artwork is often tattooed to ensure that the fallen are remembered every day -- work like this chestpiece by Timothy Hoyer of NY Adorned, and the neck rocker below by Jerrett of Monarch Tattoo in Washington.
For more military & memorial tattoos check the Shock.Military.com galleries and MilitaryTattoos.us.
Yes, yes I know. It's been a while since I've done a review, but really I've been shielding your eyes from the ugliness of the tattoo headlines, a veritable ten-car pileup.
Rubberneckers may slow down for wrecks like reality show juice-heads bawling over tattoo pain, clown-face criminals, tributes to OD'd celebs (ala Corey and DJ AM) alongside tributes to booze, and of course, the incessant coverage of "Nazi tattoo models." Ok, the Tina Fey bit on Michelle McGee was really funny.
But not all news items have necessitated air bags. Here are my less painful picks:
First up, Dallas Observer photographers, Patrick Michels and Kevin Todora, offer an extensive slideshow of photos (like the one above) from the MusInk Festival this past weekend. It's a sweet mix of rockstars, Miss Tattoo contestants, and views from the convention floor.
The Down East Tattoo Show in Maine, a smaller convention this past weekend, had an interesting twist on its tattoo competition: the judges were art scholars from the University of Maine (and not one had a tattoo). Organizers of the show say that the professors are unbiased and decide strictly on the art (and not if their buddy tattooed it), but they also are aware of good technique like strong line work and smooth shading. As one judge said, "A well-designed but badly executed tattoo just doesn't cut it." [Also check the video interview of one collector from the show.]
On the tattoo law front (my fave!):
South Carolina, the last US state that required parental permission to get tattooed for those under 21 years of age, has now lowered the age requirement to 18. Considering you don't need parental consent to go to war at 18, this seems more logical.
And while the military has certain tattoo prohibitions itself, the number of heavily tattooed soldiers continues to grow.
Connecticut marshals fought a ban on visible tattoos and won. The tattoo policy said that "visible tattoos could pose a threat to safety and security" of the marshals. Huh? Happy that the Connecticut judiciary had the same reaction and nixed it.
And Canadian tattooists with poor spelling can relax now: a small claims court in Nova Scotia ruled that a woman who sued a studio for a misspelled tattoo was the "author of her own misfortune" as she had a chance to view the stencil before it was tattooed on her. She also didn't give the artist time to correct the work before suing. The misspelled word? "Beautiful" in the phrase "You're so beautiful." I know, it's a toughie.
Even dumber: Chicago law makers spending time and money crafting a ban on eyeball tattooing. I'll say this again: just because a couple of inmates and bod mod artists do it, does not mean tattooing your eyeball has become a trend. *primal scream*
Quick & Dirty Links:
Tattoos on beautiful Olympic bodies were the biggest buzz this past week. The hottest one: USA speed skater J.R. Selski's chest piece (above) -- screen-capped around the world -- revealed as he took his shirt off after being disqualified in the men's 1000-meter short track speed skating on Sunday (he won the Bronze in the men's 1500-meter last week). Speculation over the meaning of the tattoo sped over Olympic blogs. Celski is of Filipino and Polish heritage and so talk of the tattoo being a blend of those countries' flags seems to hit the mark. [Thanks to Regin Schwaen for the link!]
Then there is Britain's ice dancing minx, Sinead Kerr, whose
The mini-Olympic rings tattoo on hockey player Julie Chu's foot stars in this NBC video -- a sweet story on how her whole family got matching tattoos in honor of her making the Olympic team. More on that tattoo here.
Chu's not the only tattooed hockey player on the US team. The identical Lamoureux sisters sport a family crest -- inked at their kitchen table by a local tattooer -- but on different body parts, which helps tell them apart.
And Bronze-medal winning snowboarder Scotty Lago shows off his tattoos (including faded lip work) and talks about more to come in this video.
Whether kitchen scratched, tramp-stamped or lip inked, the tattoos still mark bodies of those who can kick my butt as I type this sitting on my own big Greek one, so respect.
Ok, let's hit headlines in my own ring: the tattoo law links...
There's more news on South Carolina lowering the tattoo age requirement from 21 to 18 years of age. As I noted in a previous news review, much of the push to change the law comes from the inequity of allowing 18-year-olds to go to war but prohibiting them from marking their experience on skin when they return. That and of course money leaving the state as those under 21 go to Georgia or North Carolina to get tattooed. The Governor will decide whether the new bill changing tattoo requirements will be put into law. Keep in mind that the art was completely banned in the state until 2004, but it wasn't until March 2006 when regulations were in force for legal tattooing. [Oklahoma was the last state to lift their tattoo ban in May 2006.]
New York City's tattoo ban was lifted in 1997. Of course, many -- myself included -- were getting work pre-legalization, but once the signs were allowed to flash "Tattoo" neon in shop windows, the amount of tattooed bodies in the city made it like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, a garden of epidermal delights. Also delighting in the tattoo tidal wave has been law enforcement, melding old school skin art with technology to identify suspects -- as this popular NY Times article pointed out last week. We've talked about databases of criminal tattoos before but the article shows just how detailed -- and some argue invasive -- the Real Time Crime Center can be.
As this Orlando Sentinel article points out, the popularity of tattoos dilutes criminal tattoo identification because so many are getting inked with designs that once solely marked gang members.
And simply, so many are getting tattooed with flash designs. Will everyone with "Mom" on their bicep be a suspect because one idiot with that tattoo committed a crime? I'll be keeping a watch on the legality of these tattoo databases and whether they begin to truly impinge on civil liberties.
In pop culture and on its fringes, here are the tattoo headlines ...
Now there is someone in this world with an Ashton Kutcher tattoo. [right]
No.1 tattoo rule: Spell Check.
Nicole Richie regrets her dumbass tattoos.
With Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland release next month, we'll be seeing more of these Lewis Carroll tattoo stories.
Still diggin USA Today's Tattoo Tuesday blog but wish they'd credit all the tattooists whose work is featured.
Executive Chef of Sysco Food Services, Randy King, says Uncover those tattoos to restaurant workers.
And ending on a tear-jerking story...
Tattoo tributes to Renee Benson, a 29-year-old Orange County native who died of several forms of cancer, marked over 50 of her friends and family last week during a fundraiser at HB Tattoo in her honor. [More than $2,500 was raised for Benson's family to help cover medical costs.] Warning: the photos will hit you.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. My body might die, but my skin never rusts.
In this story from the BBC -- which rides an Edgar Allen Poe, serrated edge of a border between morbid obsession and touching, honorable worship -- a tattoo studio owner who lost his son to a rare genetic disease is about to receive a tattoo using a portion of his cremated child's ashes in the ink. Of course, the tattoo will be a portrait of the youth.
Apparently, the science is right and the ashes will have no negative, physical considerations for Mark Richmond. The emotional, spiritual and sociological concerns, however, are not as easily dismissed.
The ceremony of death and memorial has never as artistically rendered as in the tattoo and graffiti communities. Both take great pains to remember the deceased in literal, life-like relief. Whether spray-painted across a handball court in Brooklyn or permanently engraved into flesh in Greater Hampshire, the names, faces and defining characteristics of the departed are shown time and again.
For two communities that, oftentimes, live dangerous lifestyles, it is remarkable the amount of appreciation we share for mortality. The more conservative groups who may not approve of our subcultures are so concerned with the appropriate ways to live life, they often fail in how to live death.
Bobby Bonafides Fisher is touched by this man's tribute and, in general, by the tattoo communities respect for their fallen.
More links on the topic:
Hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Mine was memorable as it involved my dad and a freak landscaping accident -- one almost as bad as The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. But my father's feet have all their toes once again, and I can get back to what really matters in life ...
... Jermain Dupri's latest tattoo. The rapper/producer just got this twist on the "Holy Mother" black and grey portrait tattoo (shown above) by Jun Cha. And who plays the blessed virgin? Well, naturally, Janet. Miss Jackson if ya
I know. I'm bloggin while bitchy. Please forgive. Reading too many of these you-kids-get-off-my-lawn anti-ink rants.
But thankfully, a thoughtful article emerged from the mass of eewww-the-Denver-Nuggets-have-too-many-tattoos stories. Check Benjamin Hochman's piece for the AP on the Birdman's tattooist, John Slaughter of Denver's Tribe Tattoo. Slaughter offers this quote on the team's tattoos, among other
"Tattoos, for thousands of years, have been associated with tribes of people. And throughout the NBA, we are the most-tattooed team. It says that they're pretty self-expressive. It's almost like every single tattoo is a stage or a level in life that you've accomplished or gotten through-and where you're headed next."
In more from the grumpy old man front, Jonathan Zimmerman of the NY Daily News whines about his daughter wanting to get a tattoo; yet, even though he finds them "revolting," he can't come up with a good reason not to get one. In the end, the best advice for revolt
You don't need Barbie to tell you tattoos are mainstream. The freakin NY Times bleeds out a monthly tattoo story on a scheduled cycle. This week it reviews "Skin & Bones: Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor" -- check our April post on it -- and offers some interesting info behind the exhibit, like this:
"In the late 18th century, the show points out, tattoos would have served as a way of identifying bodies in cases of drowning; they were marks of association and identity that could not be eradicated by pirates, shipwrecks or enemy capture. [...] Each had a 'Sailor Protection Certificate' that was carried as a form of identification that detailed the tattoos on its bearer's body; these descriptions often remain the sole remnants of individuality in these once-anonymous figures."
The Times also posts a slide show of some of the exhibits including this archival photo from 1899 of a sailor getting tattooed aboard the U.S.S. Olympia.
To reclaim tattoo cool, we thankfully have German thrash metal veterans. Blabbermouth says that Drummer Jurgen "Ventor" Reil of Kreator has opened a tattoo shop in Essen, Germany called Carnap Ink Corporation, and true to their roots, they're doing tattoos you would find on metal heads in the early eighties. Take that as you wish.
The always cool Mark Mahoney of Shamrock Social Club is featured in a sweet and extensive profile in Lowrider Arte. What does he think about the Tattoo Barbie effect?
"There are two things that blow my mind: the fact that you can now remove them or that people can use cream to make the tattoo process painless. I remember how it used to be a scary thing to get a tattoo and how it hurt and that it couldn't be removed, but now you can avoid all that and some of that punch is watered down a bit since you have a way out. In a way that makes me sad, however I do realize that it's good for the business in the long run. I guess I just kind of miss the old days when you had to be an outlaw, or you had to be a real brave soul to get a tattoo."
Bringing it full circle, Mahoney's also tattooed Jermain Dupri, but not with any biblical nip slips.
Quick and Dirty Link Time: