random dumbness

Punching Down

As times change society changes with it. As standards evolve we as a group must learn to evolve with it. But society has a memory. We, as a people, have a collective standard still preserved in our minds, and while we can change with the changes, there still lingers the ghost of our old ways. And these ghosts are powerfully hard to exorcise. When they do finally let go it is slowly, almost resentfully, and even so these traces seem to leave traces themselves. It takes a long time to become truly free of old ways of thinking and behaving in a culture.

Recently the social media world has been in a tizzy because a plus sized model was signed to a major modeling contract. She was not the first “plus sized” model to do so, but she might be the biggest physically in current memory. “News” like this normally slides onto and off my notice instantly, it makes no difference to me who or what is a model, but the responses to this did catch my attention because it illustrated something ive been thinking about for some time.

Some folks were naturally jubilant that this person was being accorded the respect that other, slimmer, models enjoy. These people saw this as a milestone in ending our societies undeniable fear and/or loathing of overweight people. It was a sign, they said, that being proud of yourself is a right regardless of where you fall in the body size scale that fashion institutions attempt to impose on us. Others, predictably enough were not happy, lets call them the “antis” for short, and it was these folks and their response that I found particularly telling.

The Antis didnt post things as blatant as, “shes so gross” or ” that is disgusting”. Instead there was a surprising amount of “concern”. The posts against this model usually looked something like “Good for her, but Im afraid of what message this obese person being a model sends to kids” or “is this the type of health image we should be rewarding?” More versions of the same thing popped up, with the gist being, “im not judging, but wont rewarding this person with visibility teach people that being obese is a good thing?” Now, of course, if you have lived in the western world for any length of time it is patently obvious that these arguments are bullshit. For one thing we live in a culture that punishes the overweight at every turn, so there is no way that one single model signing a contract will suddenly make millions of girls go on a cheese fry binge. Second, this model is one person not a trend, to have so strong a reaction to one single exception to the “norm” while the health of hundreds of clearly undernourished models is unspoken belies the idea that this issue was of concern for the health of this (or any) model.

The truth is, as far as I can tell, is that lots of people read a sensational news story about a plus size woman and really, really wanted to point and yell “ewwwwwwww she’s sooooo FAT!” Its the same instinct that makes the “mainstream” voice concern over how my tattoos will look when im 60, or the same urge that makes “normal” people worry where vegetarians will “get your protein from!?” Disturbingly, It is also the same reason that “urban” has become a cover word for black person.

Did these people suddenly become nutritionists? Sociologists? anthropologists? Sadly, not. They are racists, bigots, and whatever you call people who hate tattoos (squares?) and they have been denied their ability to voice their true opinions. What is frustrating for them is that the denial came not from a government edict, it came from the same society they live in! These days we live in a world where it is no longer socially acceptible to gawk at or make fun of fat people, where being anti-tattoo marks you as “uncool”, where using racial slurs to routinely refer to black people marks you as an ignorant racist instead of a middle-of-the-road American. But, and this is important to remember , these are relatively recent changes! Less than 50 years ago things like Freakshows, blackface, and anti miscegenation statutes (laws forbidding black/white dating and marriage) existed, even less than 10 years ago gays were routinely portrayed in all media as silly perverts. The wave of sentiment against judging and calling out “minorities” for special abuse is still new and is only slowly becoming the norm.

Until this new morality has thoroughly soaked into the social conscience, the ghost of a time when fat people were “funny” and a fair target for public condemnation will linger. Those who still want to feel superior have had to find sneakier ways to mock and compare themselves to those who were formerly a fair target. Some of these folks rail against “political correctness” even when all they are really looking for is a way to avoid changing with the rest of a society that is growing up around them. For others the new way of mocking fat people is this bullshit concern for the plus sized models health. These folks don’t care about the health of this person, they simply want to point out that they themselves are not as fat! That they are somehow morally superior to someone they still characterize as lazy, gluttonous, and stupid regardless of the real facts about their chosen targets character.

As long as someone feels so compelled to elevate themselves by shitting on another, especially shitting on another who belongs to an already denigrated group I have to wonder how small this “anti” feels inside! Heaping blame and/or abuse on someone considered to be ’lesser than’ (whether socially or economically) has come to be known as “punching down”. It is result of someone so insecure that the only group/person they feel comfortable trying to belittle is a victim they perceive as being unable to “hit back” (due to their inferior position in society). As our culture grows and matures, this kind of thing becomes frowned upon and the only way these insecure cowards can punch downward is with false concern and pity.

So the next time you detect that whiff of faux concern or the not-so-well camouflaged code word for a minority, might I suggest that instead of trying to argue against the “antis” specious “points” that you instead just point out the underlying real reason for all this sudden “concern”. If there’s one thing the insecure abuser hates its for their real motives to be revealed as the sad ghost of a shittier time that they miss so much! When these folks racism/bias/bullshit is clearly (but compassionately) revealed we can all help to exorcise those rotten old ghosts a little quicker.

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Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What not to say to a pregnant lady.

Having a baby is a lesson. It is a lesson in patience and humility, it is a lesson in generosity and respect for the power of a womans body. Unfortunately it is also a lesson in the power of careless words and speaking before you think. Now that our amazing baby is almost six months old I can reflect on Caras pregnancy with joy and wonder, and also a little cringing at some of the dumb shit people would say to us about the pregnancy.  People often say hurtful or just plain stupid things out of ignorance or pure thoughtlessness, when you are saying these things to a person who is not only scared about all the many many unknowns of childbirth but also riding the waves of hormonal wackiness I believe a little more consideration might be in order. So think of the following blog as helping you to avoid accidentally saying some of the things that made me want to knock people’s teeth out when they thoughtlessly (though innocently) said one of those things one should never say to a pregnant couple.

1) The only thing to say about a pregnant woman’s body is “You look beautiful!”.

Lets face it, we live in a culture where women’s bodies are constantly and bizarrely open to public comment. The covers of countless shitty gossip rags are full of articles about how this or that person is “too” fat or “too” skinny complete with blown up photos of a cellulite thigh. Many women in our society were expressly told by their parents, friends, or boyfriends that their bodies were somehow imperfect, even the most independent and self actualized woman often harbors a fear of public comment about their bodies. So when some well-meaning person says “My god you look HUGE!” it doesn’t matter that said buffoon wa talking about her belly full of baby and may even mean it as a compliment, after 20+ years of being terrified of being called fat in public this comment carries a lot of psychic harm.

Consider that you are speaking to person whose body has radically transformed in months, not years, into something unrecognizable. A pregnant woman’s body looks different, feels different, occupies otherwise familiar spaces differently, also these bodies are producing tons of hormones that the mother is not used to, these may make the pregnant woman feel nervous, angry, protective, or depressed and the last thing they need is to deal with the fallout in their minds of a society that values woman primarily by their appearance at a time when that appearance is going crazy.

In short, if you must comment then keep the comment positive and accentuate the good aspects of the pregnancy on her body. Trust me on this, no matter how funny you think you are or how much “she must realize how big she is” you are going to get a pregnant lady karate chop to the throat if you go there.

2) We have already heard it.

What do I mean by “it”? I mean all of it. Any of it, and I guarantee that you are not going to be telling us something we fucking don’t already know about pregnancy.  She shouldn’t eat sushi while pregnant? we fucking already heard that shit 400 times. Oh my life is about to change? Thanks for assuming im such a fucking idiot that I don’t realize that creating a new life that i will be responsible for clothing, feeding, loving, education, and protecting  for 18 years might cause my life to change a little bit. Oh you read this great book? Thanks Bookie McReviewer, good thing you read my mind and realized I wanted to have yet more shit to read than the 5000 books every pregnant couple gets “gifted”. We heard what Dr So-and-so said, we heard about cloth diapers vs. disposable, we heard about what too much caffeine can do, we heard about playing music for the fetus, we read all about the hospital/midwife center/witch doctor that is a magical wizard when it comes to zooming babies out of the vajayjay and into a bassinet. Guess what, If we don’t Ask then keep your fucking nugget of wisdom to yourself.

Pregnant couples are already drowning is a sea of information, we obsessively read, watch, listen to any and all things relating to pregnancy. It’s like we dropped into a 9 month intensive college course where the final exam involves my wife pushing a live human out of her body, you don’t think were gonna do a little research on that shit!? So when you come up with this really important thing you saw on Ellen or on (that fucking) A Baby Story it is almost 100% of the time just adding another tiny little brick of stress to our lives.

oh and if the tidbits you wish to share with us is a fucking horror story about your or someone you knows shitty birth experience then. . . .

3) Keep your shitty birth experience story to your goddamn self.

You are not helping. You’re not. Telling my wife about your 500 hours of bloody fucking screaming labor, or how your poor baby had to have an extra toe removed from its precious goddamn skull or how the nurse laughed at you when you screamed for morphine and how you needed 52 stitches is not helping. It might help you to justify your pain and to process your traumatic experience, but you need to do that shit with someone who is NOT about to give birth in a few weeks or months. We already live in a culture which treats birth like a disease and there are actual television series (like that shit sucking A Baby Story) whose entire premise is “look how fucked up this birth thing is yo!” Our Doctors have already spelled out exactly how crazy and heavy this is going to be, we don’t need someone telling us about the horror story their cousins birth was.

Think of it this way, if your best friend was about to go on a plane and was terrified of flying, would you a) tell them it will be fine or b) describe about how your neighbors brother died in a fiery crash? Look, your experience is valid, and if you overcame some serious shit then you are a fucking hero (really) and I have nothing but respect for you, but can we talk about it after my wife has her own experience? Because scaring the shit out of us really is not a help at all, not even a little bit.

4) Don’t predict our doom.

Telling me that I have no idea about how shitty my life will be with a baby, sucks. Telling my wife that her body will be destroyed by birth or that she wont be able to handle the sort of birth she wants really sucks. Telling us that fraising kids is really hard and that maybe we wont enjoy our lives anymore (because they don’t enjoy theirs since kids came into it) sucks and is kind of sad. A surprising number of people seemed to take perverse delight in letting us know how naive we were and about how we would never sleep, have fun, travel, eat at restaurants, or “hang out” ever again. It turns out that they were all wrong, at least about our lives, maybe their lives suck that bad. I certainly hope not, but that’s what they seemed to be going through and confidently predicted we would too.

Maybe these people (and its usually guys) don’t like having kids, it certainly sounds that way. They have every right to feel what they feel but its a sad and desperate sort of attempt to project the fact that having kids is not their bag onto us before we’ve had a chance to try it for ourselves.  Perhaps I could have hated it too, maybe I could have regretted my “loss” of “freedom”, but it was our experience to have and the smarmy predictions of how miserable we would be just added more worry to our minds when it wasn’t really necessary.

Even worse was when we told people that we were going to have the baby at a midwife center with no drugs, oh the looks of “yea right, good luck with that, hippy” followed almost every time with “Yea you say that now, wait til you’re in labor!” Well my wife did wait til she was in labor, and then the proceeded to have a baby while standing up feeling and every second of it. Guess what? she tells me she would do it again in a heartbeat. She is a bad ass, but lots of folks who consider us their friends predicted that she would crumble like a cookie and it sometimes caused us to doubt ourselves when we should have been pumped up by those we love instead of torn down with bummer predictions.

Even if you are right, and even if your dire predictions are going to come true, why on earth would you want to put that onto us before we go into one of the biggest moments of our lives? Are these the kind of people who tell their buddies right before marriage, “well, no more having fun for you!”? Think about it, are you that unhappy that you need to project that misery onto other people before they have their own turn at this thing called “being a parent”?

So basically the gist of this article is to say that for Cara and I (and, I’m guessing, lots of pregnant couples) there was a surprising amount of thoughtless or outright ignorant comments and while many were well-intentioned, the final result was to cause stress at a point when more stress was acutely painful. Pregnant ladies are sensitive, their babies daddies are protective, and at a time when the world seems chaotic and unpredictable a few kind words will (and did) do wonders for our mental state. So, what should one say to a pregnant couple? Unless specifically asked, I would keep my stories and medical opinions to myself, I would tell any expecting couple that they will do great, that their experience will be awesome, that mom looks beautiful and that I’m sure they will have a great birth! Even if you are wrong, who wants to be the one who predicted a tragedy in a friend or loved ones life. Keep it positive or keep it to yourself.

Categories: fatherhood, random dumbness | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

tragedy

What do you say about the mass murder of a bunch of grade school kids, their teachers, and the devastation that is left on a day like today? There is nothing but outrage and sadness and I, like most people, have my own favorite people who I want to blame for this horrible event. There seems to be no justice or righteousness in this world, there can be nothing to justify such an act nor can any of our petty political views touch the enormous sadness and futility of such an event. I am a Buddhist and I meditate and yet all I want to do is yell and scream in the faces of those who I blame for enabling a damaged fucking asshole to murder 20 children. I want to punch every person blabbing about the second amendment in their mouth til they are spitting teeth and shove their heads into the piles of gore left over in a Connecticut school and say “see, motherfucker!?”

But the fact is that I know that’s not the problem, lots of people have guns and don’t murder random strangers and children. A maniac with nothing more exotic than a pick up truck could kill just as many folks by running them over. The tool that murder was committed with is an inanimate object, it has no power to act without the person behind it deciding. I personally don’t like guns or people owning guns, but I’m also not so naive that I think that if this psychotic person didn’t have a gun that he wouldn’t have found some other way to murder innocent people. He would have killed someone, several someones, one way or another, the firearms just made it easier.

In the coming days we will hear blame being laid all about, on the mental health system (or lack of it) in our country, on warning signs which were  ignored, blame will be placed on pro and anti gun positions, on schools for not being fortified bunkers and on police for not being psychic. There will be investigation after investigation, the shooters life will be examined under a microscope and at the end of it 27 people will still be dead, and no amount of blame or understanding motivation or political solution will change the fact that one psycho can, for a limited time, run amok and forever destroy the lives of families and the community he or she chooses to terrorize.

Frankly i don’t give a fuck why this person shot those kids. Why wont help me erase the image of their school being evacuated or the mental picture of an adult aiming a weapon at a 10-year-old. Knowing why will only reinforce the idea that “that guy” was the only one capable of doing this horrible thing and reinforcing the lie that none of us could ever, ever do something so evil. The plain fact is that all of us could be that killer, it would only require a traumatic brain injury, a string of bad luck, some bad drugs, a disconnect in the electro-chemical pathways in our brains and any of us could be that person, in military fatigues, shooting at children on a cold December morning. The great danger lies in us not recognizing that potentiality, I’m sure no one thought they could be the one to help round-up victims for the holocaust but in the end it took hundreds of thousands of otherwise innocent German citizens to make the tragedy happen and I bet each and every one of them never dreamed they could be a part of it. We let our government invade Iraq, jail asinine levels of our own citizens, and let our fellow citizens die of easily treatable illness because any time we talk about the shared burden we all have as a society some fucking moron screams “socialism!” I look at the Connecticut school shooter and wonder “how the fuck did they let this happen!?” and yet I am pretty sure that our children will look back on the way we live and treat each other in 2012 and say “how the fuck did they let that happen!?”

In a way we are all part of this asshole murdering those kids today. Not literally, of course, but we partake in a society that agrees to ignore the mentally ill, that chooses to look the other way when one of us is really hurting and clearly in need of some kind of intervention. If the shooter today was my neighbor I wouldn’t know his name the way i don’t know any of my current neighbors names. I wouldn’t know if he threatened to shoot up a grade school before he did it, and I wouldn’t think it was any of my business if he wanted to buy 14 guns. I (we) live in a world now where our outrage at an event can be soothed by writing an angry post on Facebook, where “tackling the problem” means hitting the “like” button on some witty political post. I look at my new baby daughter sleeping and wonder if I can ever send her off to school in a world where someone like this guy can go so far down the fucking rabbit hole that killing children seems like the only thing he can do and never have it recognized by anybody!?

We need to wake up. We, and im including myself in this, need to really take a look at our world,( the real one not the fucking fantasy that television and the internet sells us) and realize that we can not do this alone. Any of it. We can’t live this close to each other, we can’t depend on each other so much and still pretend that we are all fucking individual cowboys who don’t owe anyone else a fucking thing but that we ourselves are owed everything. A society that looks out for all of its citizens gets the warning signs when one of us goes kookoo and starts planning to shoot a school up! If we stopped looking at everyone else as competition and realized how much we need each other just to keep this crazy civilization functioning then maybe we could see when one of us is becoming unbalanced and say “hey, maybe we should talk to that guy” instead of blaming the “authorities” for not doing our jobs for us!

I don’t know. there is no easy solution, I know. But I have to believe that if we, as a country, a culture, and a society decide to start taking responsibility for each other then maybe we could be spared a few days like today. Obviously what we are doing now isn’t good enough to keep 20 little kids alive.

Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness | 2 Comments

Neither here nor there

Tattooing is great for debates! Do you call your self a tattooer, a tattooist, or a tattoo artist? Do tattoos look better done simply and graphically or painterly and realistically? Rotary or coil machine? Is thick ink better than thin? There is no aspect of the tattooing world which is not ripe for opinion and argument, especially since tattooing is a term which covers a huge variety of things that almost everyone involved is knowledgeable and passionate about. Perhaps one of the most contentious debate is the one about whether tattooing is an art or a craft.

Those who claim it is an art point out that tattooing generally requires some artistic skill, is a creative activity, and can often (though not always) express some visual indication of the abstracts of the human condition. A tattoo can, like a painting, poem, or sculpture, give physical form to an emotion, a state of mind, or an aspiration and in this it is clearly in the camp of things generally accepted as “art”. On the other hand, those who feel that tattooing is a craft believe that the tattooer is generally following another persons directive, design, and ideas about what the tattoo is, they also prefer to connect tattooing to its long history of blue-collar/ military foundations and not what they say  is the more selfish “arty farty” aspect of the tattooer using another person as a “canvas”. Tattooing is a service, they point out, like being a house painter or a mechanic, it requires the skills of s crafts person as opposed to the more (in the traditional view) free form self-expression of the artist.

The fact that this debate has been around for years and is so dependent on what each person deems “real” tattooing should tell us that there can be no “right answer”. However unlike the choice of inks or machines I do not believe that this question is simply a matter of opinion. I do think that there is a “real” answer and I do think that the secret to a resolution doesn’t lie in one side presenting more evidence than the other or in one persons chosen side being older, more popular, or more passionate than the other side. I believe that the real answer to the question of whether tattooing is a craft or an art is not found in the answer at all, it is in the question. More specifically I believe that the question “is tattooing art or craft?” is actually wrong even in the asking!

I believe that tattooing is outside of the question, and that it cannot be definitively landed in either category because tattooing is, by its very nature,  beyond either a craft OR an art. There has never been anything like tattooing. And despite the fact that tattoos are very much like an art or a craft Tattooing is none the less outside of those concepts altogether. Tattooing  hearkens back to an older time when there was a slew of activities which spanned the line between a “pure” art and the craftsman’s domain. When buildings were built to be both functional places of life or commerce AND were bedecked with ornament and were supposed to uplift the viewer even if they had no business inside the building itself. There was a time when a fork, or a flintlock pistol, or a suit of armor was crafted to be as functional, and as efficient as possible and yet was still built to be a delight to look upon as well. The deadly efficiency of the samurai’s sword was melded with exquisite laquerwork scabbards and elaborately carved tsuba, and even the humble kitchen chair was turned on a lathe and carved with scroll-work and clawfeet for no other reason than every crafts-person was also an artist and every artist worked with their hands , art was craft and vice versa. As the world becomes more and more obsessed with pure functionality the gulf between something built for function and something built for beauty widens. Louis the 14th would have found a house designed by Frank lloyd Wright to be a boring and soulless thing!

An old zen teacher once described comparison as “the lowest form of thought”, and yet we live in an age of comparison now, where everything must be named, compartmentalized, analyzed, and described in its opposition to anything else. A shovel is only a shovel because it is not a rake, and a lawyer is a lawyer because he or she is not a doctor. We like thick black lines drawn around everything in our world so that we can more easily measure it against everything else. It comforts us in our unsure minds to think that we have the name of everything and thus control it the way ancient sorcerers supposedly controlled demons by knowing their “true name”. Many of us who tattoo for a living feel like we have to put tattooing in one of those boxes as well, we must call it new-school or traditional, bold or soft, art or craft and we believe that by putting the conceptual wall around it that we are somehow “defending” tattooing.

But real life has no thick black lines around it, the divisions between this and that, tall or short are revealed, in the end, to be the product of our minds, our notoriously unreliable, un stable, unobjective minds. Tattooing, it seems, is beyond our naming and our concepts. It is an art AND a craft and it is neither. It exists as its own thing and it doesn’t care what camp we prefer it in. It is a well-known contradiction in science that light can be observed to act as both a particle AND a wave which, according to everything we know about physics, should be impossible! The light doesn’t care that its impossible, and just goes right on being both and neither simultaneously!

In my mind there are not two camps, but three! Art, craft, and tattooing! When someone asks how a tattoo feels we often ay its a bit like a cut, or a scrape, or that its hot or that it stings sort of like a bee but not exactly when in the end it is really like none of those things, in the end a tattoo feels like a tattoo, and thats it! The answer is the experience itself!

So our feeble words can describe only things that is not like, but  our language can’t capture the subtle million ways that tattooing exists in our world and trying to cram it into a box (even a box as wide and unspecific as “art” or “craft”) is like trying to describe the taste of an orange to someone who has never had one.

Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Things I think I think, unpopular edition

1. lets talk about aliens. More specifically lets talk about all the “science” networks non-stop marathon of shows about UFOs and ancient aliens. Put aside, for a second, the ridiculousness of putting these programs on a “science” channel and lets just look at some basic facts.

a) the nearest star to us is Proxima Centauri, which so far has shown no signs of planets orbiting it, but lets just be generous and say that an advanced alien civilization lives in orbit around Proxima. This planet would be 4.2 light years away from us (about 93 Million miles!) Since we know, thanks to Albert Einstein, that you cannot travel as fast (or even nearly as fast) as light , lets give a hypothetical alien craft the speed of the Voyager probe (38,200 miles per hour!) and if they left tomorrow how long would it take them to reach the Earth?

2434 years. two thousand and thirty four years!

Even if we double their speed to 76,400 miles per hour (in deference to their hypothetical advanced technology)  it would still take an alien craft traveling from the very nearest star to earth over one thousand years to reach us. Do we really believe that an alien race would expend the manpower (not to mention the generations of astronauts) to come to our little dinky planet? Really, a THOUSAND years to look at our monkey faces?

b) If they decided to help the Egyptians build the pyramids (more on this later) then they would have had to have left Proxima when the Egyptian empire consisted of some few primitive traveling tribes. Which leads to some questions, like why the fuck would they bother coming here? How did they know our planet existed since they would have had to find it without radio waves which we have only been emitting for 100 or so years? We can barely identify gaseous giant planets which are millions of times the size of our Earth (and only in the last couple years) so our planet would be almost impossible to find visually.

c) Before we talk about the “ancient aliens” let me ask you this, who built the Coliseum ? the Romans, right? who built the Parthenon? the Greeks right?So, who built the pyramids? Aliens? Why is that? Why?  Because we live in a culture that is so suffused with racism that we sometimes don’t even realize how racist we are! We have no problem believing that “white” races built all sorts of amazing things like castles, cathedrals, and discovered electricity but apparently all the “brown” races required alien assistance to do the same thing!

The Mayans? Brown people who needed alien help. The Egyptians? Brown people who needed alien help. The Macedonians? white folks who could scale mountains with fucking elephants unaided by aliens. No one thinks Ben Franklin had alien help, but lots of otherwise smart people believe that ancient people of color couldn’t invent anything without outside help.

d)The fact is that ancient alien belief is racist and based on nothing more than our inability to imagine that anyone who came before us had the brainpower to invent and innovate. The fucked up thing is that we know how all these ancient people built their great works using manpower, math, and planning, its all there in the archeological record, no aliens required. It is also the rather egocentric belief that we are so fascinating that an alien race would sacrifice the tremendous amounts of resources to come to Earth. I do believe that in a universe as vast as ours that there are other planets with life and some with life as advanced or more than us, I just can’t see any evidence or logic for how or why they would come here.

e) Why do I care? Because one of the most destructive things is delusion, in this case the delusion robs certain people of their true history and accomplishments, it reinforces the self-centered idea that we are the most important thing in the universe, and it distracts otherwise great minds with looking for a fiction when they could be curing cancer or looking for real phenomena that could help the very real and present problems we are actually dealing with on this tiny planet. Sorry, true believers, I don’t accept that it’s just a harmless diversion.

2. The instagram app has shown me once again that the world of tattooing is more amazing than ever! Time and again a name I have never heard of is putting out work so amazing and so beautiful and every time I open the app my mind is blown. There are many things that I and others would prefer were different about the world of tattooing these days, but if the main measure is the overall quality of work then I would have to declare right now the glory days of tattooing without question.

3. Do you know what this is?

That is an ultrasound picture of Cara and my little baby at about 18 weeks! You can’t tell much by an ultrasound of the personality or actual appearance, but you can know, with startling clarity, that there is a wee human inside my wife’s body and that 50% of the little boogers genes are from me! He or she (we don’t know and wont find out til he/she is born) was going bananas inside there, kung fu kicks, spinning, back-flips and its teeny tiny heart banging away like a demon. This baby looks like its going to be cah-ray-zee active!

Cara and I also took a couples prenatal yoga class, this was my first yoga class of any sort and it definitely reminded me of zazen in some ways, the further we get into this pregnancy the more grateful I am for the stability and sanity that Zazen has brought into, I can’t imagine being ready to be a dad without having my own shit at least a little bit together. I can’t pretend to know that I’m “ready’ to be a parent but i can say without hesitation that I’m at my very best mentally and spiritually these days and that’s got to help at least a little I hope!

Categories: Buddhism and life, fatherhood, random dumbness, Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yet more random shit

1) One of the first questions we get asked when people find out that Cara is pregnant is “are you going to find out the sex?” and for awhile we figured that we would. It would let us settle on a name, start picking out clothes and such and at this point we are hungry for any information and who or what this tiny creature is. But the more we thought about it and talked to folks like my mom who had 6 (!) kids and never felt the need to know the gender before they were born we realized what a cool surprise it would be to meet this little person on his or her own terns when they were born. Besides, neither of us is real fond of the “boys wear blue girls wear pink” thing and this way well meaning folks wont feel the need to color coordinate anything they buy for the baby.

2) I was given a shaving brush and cake of shaving soap a couple years ago by a friend as a birthday gift. I have always been interested in this old fashioned way of doing things and have used it since then. I have come to appreciate how very economical and ecological this is since I have the same brush as 3 years ago and have bought a new cake of soap one time for about $6. Sure you can get all kooky and buy $200 dollar badger hair brushes and shit like that but its completely unnecessary. It takes me about 30 seconds extra to shave this way and I get to feel like im in an old cowboy movie doing it.

3) Cara and I are getting ready for the Baltimore tattoo convention and a funny thing is happening. I have been getting calls and emails about doing appointments at the convention, which is weird because I usually just roll in there and tattoo whoever comes to the booth, but this year I am getting booked up ahead of time. This is good news and so far the tattoos people have been asking about all sound pretty damn fun to do, but i cant help wonder why now of all times since we have been working this convention for 5 or so years! This might be the only convention we do this year (since the Pittsburgh convention is right around Caras due date we might not make it this year heh heh) so Im really glad its in a city where we have so many friends. If you are attending and would like a tattoo from Cara or I you might want to set it up soon as it looks like we might actually be full up by the time it rolls around, call the shop at 412-621-1679 if you want to set something up for the convention.

4)Speaking of traveling to the convention, we will be stopping in Mechanicsburg for a couple days before to hang out with the awesome folks of Black Thorn gallery (with whom we will be sharing a big booth at the Baltimore con.) So if you are in the Harrisburg/Mechanicsburgh area and would like me to tattoo/bore you to death with long stories then call those fine folks and set it up! They are all the kind of quality people and top notch talents that make me want to open a super shop with 15 of my good friends who are that rare combination of awesome tattooers AND kind intelligent humans.

5) Politics. ugh, my head already hurts thinking about it. Like almost anything that people use to keep from having to think deeply about reality it ends up only in divisiveness and conflict. The sort of problems we argue about in this country sound like the silliest form of luxury problems we could be wasting our energy on. When half the world doesn’t have clean water it seems like a grievously missed opportunity to argue about whether we should let ridiculously rich people get richer or a tiny bit less rich. Really? This is the junk we fill our lives angrily with when real (solvable!) problems lie undealt with? Our kinds wont look back and say “our side won in 2012!” they will look back and say “our parents could have fed the world if they weren’t so busy acting like spoiled children.”

6) Ive been really hitting the ol’ cushion on the regular lately and it is amazing how much more smoothly life goes when i meditate daily. I don’t know (or care) about the whys, in fact not sweating the things that are unanswerable is one of the main reasons things go so smoothly! It feels like when your house is totally clean and organized (not that mine has ever been that way) and if you have to get up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water you can walk through each room totally confident that you wont stub your toe on a basket of clothes or a chair that was left in the wrong place. You just know that your shit is arranged and so when life does throw a curve ball your way you are able to meet the changes with a flexible mind not distracted by all the other stuff we normally spend our lives stressing about.

Categories: Buddhism and life, fatherhood, random dumbness | 1 Comment

Im Baaaaaack!

One often takes things that are used every day in an everyday way for granted. Their very useful normality in our lives renders them almost invisible to the waking mind. When you turn on your cellphone you expect to see the time and whether you have any texts messages, when you pour your orange juice in the morning you expect it to be orange and not blue and to taste like an orange and not a . . er. . blue. Simple, reliable, standard, all words we use to describe the things that we seldom take the time to name at all anyway.

However, Life would appear to be a bit of cruel jokester, it seems to really get a kick out of periodically reminding you of these things by making them not work for you, often when you need them, usually the most. Take for example, my back. I like my back, it does an excellent job of staying behind me, of keeping me upright when I wish to be, and of supporting the admittedly extra bit of front I keep filled with tacos and ice-cream. I have been blessed with a very sturdy back for lo these 41 years and it has seldom, if ever, given me any cause to notice it for more than a few hours and usually then only after I had done something stupid and abusive to it first.

Well now its fucked.

I am sincerely hoping that it’s not going to remain in said state of fuckedness forever, but it has certainly showed me that it plans to at least remain near fucked or at least in the fucked neighborhood for a while.

I have known quite a number of people with back problems in my time, my ex-wife had sciatic pain so bad that she was bedridden for a full month, in pain, on her stomach. It was horrifying to watch and now it seems like its my turn to take a bite of the ol’ shit sandwich known as “a strained back”.

As of now i have only had to shorten a couple of tattoo sessions and reschedule a handful, I am being extremely careful not to push it and yet when im in this unhealthy state all i can think of is how I want to exercise to “make it better”. Yesterday (valentines day) I took my lovely wife to Phipps Conservatory (actually she took me since she was driving, but I told her where to go and how she was doing it all wrong so technically i can claim at least partial “taking” credit) and the few hours we walked through the amazing gardens was inspiring and romantic as our first date (which was at Phipps). It was so inspiring that it inspired my newly assholish back to spasm all day today and make me want to stab myself in the eyes.

One of the most painful parts of any injury is the barrage of information and the sort of ‘stern talking to’ voice that people tell you. Oh, I should take it easy for a while? you don’t fucking say!? I should stretch!? well, golly gee i never thought about that! A heating pad!? well hall-ay-lujah I never thought of that!!!! Just once I want some motherfucker to say “you know if you mix toothpaste and diet Pepsi and rub it on your back it will be cured instantly” and have that shit work! If you don’t have some voodoo  magic like that in the old pile of advice then guess what? Your “advice” sound more like telling a particularly stupid child not to put their burned hand back on the stove.

Sorry, I get a bit “testy” when I’m not feeling well, I also tend to blow off meditation and since this is like day 6 of not meditating I’m pretty much a huge cry baby prick to everyone. Surprise world, the old Jason showed up and he still sucks. I’ll hit the Zafu tomorrow, I promise!

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2011 end.

12 months used to seem like a long time to me, like a road that you can’t see the end of over the curve of the planet. Hell you can form a human being (albeit a very rudimentary one) in 9 months, and by the time a year goes by you may hate those you once loved, you may have lost one or many you cared for, you may forget millions of thoughts and memories. A year seems like a long time. Or, it used to anyway. There’s a funny thing that happens as we get older, time (like Einstein told us when weren’t listening) stretches and contracts like elastic goo and the months, the years begin to come fast and somehow for all their speed with less urgency.

2011 has seemed to fly by for me even faster than last year, even more so when I realize just how many amazing people I have become close to this year alone. I worked conventions with Cara in 5 cities this year alone (and most of those in the first three months of the year!) I celebrated my one year anniversary and mourned the one year since our great friend Erica passed away. I have watched nieces and nephews grow up and begin to form the seeds of personalities. That mysterious process where one brother becomes a tiny gentleman and the other a tiny terrible viking, when a babies incoherent goo’s and bababa’s suddenly, almost imperceptibly begin to mean something.

I’ve wasted huge swaths of my year brainless and out of touch with reality, it’s a curse I often find myself battling. I slowly fade out and disengage from the world, sometimes for days, sometimes for months til one day some spark in my head flickers and I realize I have been sleepwalking and that its time to open up my eyes and really live! Maybe this is what depression looks like since I’ve started meditating, instead of curling in a ball and giving up I just robot my way through life til the gloom lifts? I don’t know, but the sure symptom is an overwhelming urge to play video-games for 6 hours at a time! (it might just be time to blow up my x box and computer)

I’ve felt the tiny step forward with my tattooing, I’m really sensitive to it these days. I’m hyper-aware of each miniscule bit of data and i jealously file it away in my brain knowing that eventually that they will pile up just enough for me to go up one small level closer to how I want my tattoos to look. I’m beginning to be patient with the process, beginning to see every line, every shading as practice. Drilling the new lessons into my muscles til they respond automatically and execute an idea that I could only imagine weeks or years before.

Cara and I have also begun to try to have a bay of our own in the past few weeks. She is awash in books and new information about things like basal temperatures and cervix positioning, its like she is studying for a graduate degree and having babies I feel sort of  lazy and stereotypical as I sit back and just wait for her to tell me when its the optimal time to give it a go. “Durr, jus’ tell me whar yew want this sperm, ma’am.” We have also had some interesting conversations about our relative readiness to have children, we may be fooling ourselves, but we both feel like any children we may have now will turn out a lot better than if we would have had them when we were younger, dumber, and far more self-centered. It’s a curious fact that its only after ones “optimum” child-bearing  years that we get our shit together enough to be the sort of parents any child of ours would deserve. Fuck, 25-year-old me couldn’t be trusted with raising a cat let alone something as complicated as a human!

So 2012 may be the big one for us, we are certainly hoping so, if we wait much longer my kids may have grampa-dad syndrome where I yell at my own kids to get the hell off my lawn!

Most of all right now i feel an enormous sense of gratitude. I am incredibly lucky to have been born into this life, to be surrounded by such loving and patient people, to be given a chance to make a living while at the same time always being challenged by that livelihood. I am truly lucky to want so little and to be given so much, so are all of you, I hope that in 2012 all of us can realize what a gift this life is.

Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness, Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

More Weird random things I think about (and new tattoo pictures)

1. If you were to walk into a room full of people meditating it would appear a very serene place, you would hear almost nothing and that is a strange thing for us to hear in a room full of people these days. Every time I do,  I am struck by the fact of how peaceful it all feels, it’s a pleasant moment to bask in all that gentle contemplation. If only it were true! The fact is that most (perhaps all) of those quiet mediators are awash in ideas, thoughts, bits of a half-remembered Pink Floyd songs, vague musings on the perfect shape of the neighbors spouses’ rear end, the bubbling resentment of last weeks argument, and very often, the pricking thought about how one shouldn’t be thinking the things that one is thinking while meditating. Certainly it all calms down, gets somewhat quiet in there with time, but I have never yet gotten up and left the zendo when a friend doesn’t look and me shaking his head and say “man, my brain was all over the place today!” With practice we learn to let these brain burps go by unmolested for the most part but the mind never really ceases sending random bits of thought up the pipe.

2. Tracing paper. It can make or break a tattoo drawing experience. I’m not kidding either, when you use as much of the stuff as tattooers do you get very picky about what you use. For me its Canson or nothing, and nothing else has the smooth, durable texture, clarity and erasibility of this stuff. No one, and I mean NO ONE else makes tracing paper like this, its like some kind of top secret formula. When I have to use that mashed potato looking, shredding, shit-paper from strathmore I always feel like someone took away my steak dinner and replaced it with a steaming turd (and keep in mind that Strathmore is my second favorite. . . ) I’m so serious that I order boxes of the Canson stuff when there is an art supply store selling the other brand right across the street from the shop.

3. I am the worlds biggest poopbutt when it comes to putting up a Christmas tree and lights and all that. The practical part of my mind just goes “why!? it’s a lot of energy for no reason!” Then Cara puts everything up, turns the lights on and I’m all “OOOHHH PRETTY!!!” And I remember why I’m not in charge of the world, it’s because I am a wet-blanket.

4. I heard a radio story about the new TinTin movie and remember fondly reading the comics. It seems like one cannot talk about Tintin without having to explain away or apologize for the fact that the stories Herge’ created in the 1930’s and 40’s contain what look to us as racist stereotypes and xenophobic mores. Which is all true but that is looking at the world through 2011 eyes and we forget that Herge’ had only his immediate experience of the world around him long before the internet and our more enlightened sensibilities. Into his 80’s he explained that had he known the world the way he did no in those days that he, of course, wouldn’t have written them that way. Before we turn too hard of a focus on the shameful attitudes of the past we should pause a minute to consider what future generations will say about us! This is, after all, the generation in which half the folks in this land don’t believe that homosexuals should be given equal rights and where we imprison and execute more people than any other nation, where we refuse to control exploitative and polluting corporations and deny the basic necessities of a society like health care and clean water to its poorest inhabitants. I’m not so sure that in 100 years people wont be looking back on US as the deplorable ones who “should have known better.”

5. If you can’t get into the spirit of the holidays listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio then you need a soul transplant. the guy was a musical genius and had a killer mustache to boot. The guy died at 47 and I really miss what I’m sure would have been another 40+ years of awesome, evocative jazz. No one else seems to be able to capture that 10% sad/90% joyous sound at the same time the way he did.

Now for the pictures!

First up is a piece I have been working on for some time. The customer is an avid carp fisherman and had an old panther he wanted covered. He also has arms the size of tree trunks so we had quite a few sessions into these bad boys. As we went along i found out that his wife loves those little green poison arrow frogs and he wanted to get one in there for her, I was thrilled to get the lil squeaker in there with this big ol kois. In this first picture we had finished the lower arm and drew on the much larger cover-up koi with sharpies. For me the trick isn’t to try to place a pile of black over the cover-up, instead I’m trying to camouflage the old work while still preserving as much of the open skin as possible, ideally when its done you can’t tell there is a coverup at all. In my book the only thing that is worse than a bad tattoo is a cover-up of a bad tattoo that looks like a coverup.

So in this next picture is the final piece with only a bit on the triceps and top of the shoulder still healing. This tattoo took about 18 hours to finish. The client is a great guy and like many of these long session pieces we became friends and I learned a lot about his life and he learned to nod patiently as I went on and on like a babbling idiot 🙂

This next guy is known in Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu mythology as a Garuda. A sort of half man/half bird who is a protector and steed to the deities. The rainbow one represents the highest order (most protective) of them, i based the body and several illustrations of Garuda but the head I looked at some of the amazing and dramatic carvings from Bali, Indonesia, and the Tibet/Nepal area. this is part of a larger Buddhist themed sleeve that should be done in 2012.

Lastly I did this Indian maiden on a regular customer and aficionado of traditional tattoos. In this business you get to come across all sorts of interesting stories and this customer has a twin sister. I have tattooed them both extensively (and differently but every so often one of them will get a tattoo and within a few weeks the other will want the same subject matter. The trick is to do them differently enough so that it doesn’t look like I got lazy and used the same stencil twice! They both sit great and are wearing some of the best traditional type work I have been lucky enough to get to do.

That is it for now, I have some really cool pieces in the works and I cant wait to show them here soon. I really feel like I’m stepping up another level in my work! At this point i can almost feel when the ten thousand tiny little individual baby steps forward I have made are ready to coalesce into something visible to the casual viewer, I feel like I have been pushing really hard to keep progressing and hopefully it will be evident in my work.

Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness, Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dr.Quack says. . .

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