Monthly Archives: March 2012

Another anomalous image… Joho not Tattooine!

It was already a strange day because a few hours earlier on a stopover in — if memory serves — London Heathrow, I bumped into Lucas Zpira who was on his way back to France, but when we finally landed in Johannesburg, South Africa just as the sun was setting, I looked at the beautiful clouds on the horizon and saw that it was not one sun setting, but two. It seemed very clear to me that we had landed on Tattooine, not in Africa. You can click that picture to see the original unaltered image if you want. (Edit/Note: Just to be clear, this is from a few years ago… I’m not in Africa right now!)

I’m sure there is some fascinating yet thoroughly unromantic optical explanation.

When watching the predictable finale of Ink Master I have to be honest that in some ways I was more impressed by the customers (the “canvas” as they put it on the show)… it’s hard enough sitting for six hours, but to sit for twelve hours of tattooing spread over two days, where on the second day you’re getting the same areas that were lined the day before filled is hellish. It’s an incredible amount of abuse and pain for the average person to go through, let alone some experienced tattooed pain pig. But then it was pointed out to me that they were using spray lidocaine.

I’m getting tattooed again next Wednesday (and I’m sorry I haven’t yet posted pictures of my most recent session, but I will wait until after the next one I think), so out of curiosity I ordered a few different kinds of topical spray/wipe tattoo anesthetics. They contain a mix of benzocaine, lidocaine, and tetracaine, and seem to work by penetrating through the tattoo punctures — so in theory the tattooing hurts at first, and then quickly numbs. Like I said, I got a few different different products, so I will try them each and post my review and feelings about them. They were quite inexpensive, so if they work, it seems reasonable. Friends that I’ve mentioned it to have almost all said something like, “I don’t think I need that, I can take the pain,” but that’s not what it’s about. I mean, 95% of the people reading this blog I’m sure have long-since proven that they can “take the pain”… But is that really why you’re still getting tattooed? Maybe taking the pain was important the first few times, but at this point I don’t think I have anything to prove and to be honest, I have too much pain in my life already. And for people who have to take a day off work to get tattooed, I know that a product like this has the potential to reduce the physiological stress/shock of the tattoo process and greatly reduce the recovery process. Anyway, I will report back on this next week.

While searching for those products (and there are a zillion websites selling them), I also saw so many places selling surface bars and other items that used to be hard to get. It’s amazing how commonplace the formerly atypical has become. I suspect there is a good chance that history will forget my name when it comes to anything but BME, but I’m equally proud of my main two body modification “inventions” — surface bars (coming up with and fine tuning the design along with Tom Brazda, and then through common sense and trial and error coming up with major improvements like the flat bar) and injection-method eyeball tattooing (which was of course perfected by Howie/LunaCobra). My selfish ego hopes for credit, but so many of these procedures have had their inventor’s forgotten — Hell, I’ll bet that a huge number of people don’t even realize the incredibly long list of things Steve Haworth is responsible, starting but not ending with 3D art implants and electrocautery branding. Still, probably for the best that none of us ever considered patents! It’s probably better to be forgotten than to be remembered poorly.

Other than that, I just finished reading 528 pages — 11 issues — of the amazing Dutch (Belgian perhaps?) comic The Song of the Vampires (real title: “Zang van de vampiers“… I’m sorry, but as a German speaker, Dutch always sounds to me like German spoken in a silly voice) and am going nuts because the final issue has not yet been released (or maybe has just been released very recently since it’s showing in stock on some online shops) or translated. I am becoming a big fan of European graphic novels, especially French sci-fi (I think I’ve mentioned Leo’s Aldebaran series, which I’ve bought in English hardcopy after reading an equally unauthorized “scanlation”). To the best of my knowledge it has not yet been released in English, so there’s just the pirate version I just linked to. If it comes out in English I will gladly purchase it.

UFO? Flying starfish?

I noticed something unusual in this photo from BMEfest Mexico.

Click for original unedited photo. If no one fesses up to throwing it or accuses a thrower, I’m going to have to assume that we caught an aquatic alien’s ship in the background of this photo.

The Recent Weekend’s Good, Bad, and Ugly

Just kidding, it’s all beautiful. But the good and the bad… which should I start with? I think I will get the bad out of the way first and finish up with the good. Never nice to end on a sour note I figure.

My doctor’s appointment yesterday morning was especially draining because it started with a physical examination — a suite of neurological and muscle assessments. Nothing too unexpected other than the fact that I have a lot of left/right asymmetry which I was not aware of, but I hate being reminded of it all. It wasn’t all bad I suppose — with the exception of the muscles in my upper legs, the most affected ones, they’re all able to fire properly and while they are weaker than they should be, they are at least “following instructions”.

In some ways I’m having more trouble dealing with the prosopagnosia (which auto-correct amusingly wanted to make “preeclampsia” which might be even more medically worrying in my case) — a disruption in my ability to recognize faces that might be better described by some other “delusional misidentification syndrome” (but I want to be real clear that neither I nor any doctors believe that I show any signs of dementia or anything in that realm — I am as sane and grounded as I could be given my circumstances) because it’s not so much that I can’t recognize people, it’s that the recognition circuit is completely tucked and I recognize everyone. There are no strangers. But the people I recognize could be people I know, people I know but from different time periods, people I dreamed about, myself, myself from different time periods, or even fictional characters. It makes me hate going out, trying to figure out who people are. Every time I recognize someone and I can’t figure out who they are by secondary characteristics (only faces are affected), I’m filled with a real sense of panic. Even when it’s something I know makes no logical sense — for example, if I notice that I am sitting across from myself — I can’t shake it. I look at individual features, and can tell myself that they aren’t right, that it can’t possibly be who I think it is, but as soon as I look at the whole face, it definitely, definitely is. Even if I know it’s not.

I know that maybe that sounds quirky or fascinating character trait but I assure you it’s nightmarish. Every single time I experience recognizing someone, correctly or incorrectly, it’s accompanied by a jolt of terror.

Let me pause with an appropriately psychedelic animation I saw on Colossal, a great art blog. It’s a promo for an online used bookstore that apparently donates all of its profits to Oxfam. The animation though really makes me want to get back to work doing some myself. I plugged my tablet back in recently for the purposes of drawing, so everything is ready to go.

I have other neurological symptoms that I don’t feel like talking about right now but they also link with the same regions of the brain. I don’t want to hope that I’m having a nervous breakdown, but I really, really hope that I am. I would much rather that this be a treatable psychiatric symptom due to stress or pain beating on me, than have it be the other options. Option two is that it’s related to my central apnea. I am told that people with regular oxygen deprivation can hover on or straddle the line between asleep and awake. As I have already written here, I have been feeling more and more like my dream world and my waking world are intersecting, so maybe that’s true — I am slipping into a dream state in my waking life. The third option is the least pleasant. My doctor tells me that the embryonic tissue that forms muscle is the same tissue that forms brain matter, so when someone has a genetic problem with one, it’s not unusual for it to cross over. Since I have a known genetic abnormality causing my muscles to be replaced with calcium grids, I could have a similar progressive brain damage. I hope that’s a long shot, but just like it took hold in my thighs and spread from there in the muscle, it may be taking hold in the temporal lobe and spreading from there in the brain. Hopefully I’m just stressed out though.

We (my doctor, really) have been fighting for follow-up with experts and additional tests since December and it’s extremely frustrating feeling like I’ve been blacklisted. I know my doctor is as frustrated as I am, and I’ve overheard him calling the labs and specialists begging for appropriate follow-up to no avail. I get that specialists can take time to see you, but a callback isn’t asking too much I think… And how long should I have to wait to be given a date for EEG, ECG, and CT (with contrast and angio may complicate it, but still…)? In the past it’s never been more than a few days.

That’s enough of that.

But now the good stuff!

I feel like I’m in a funny place, because as much as I’d have no real complaints if I died in my sleep, and as there hasn’t been a day in the last year where if you asked me at day’s end if I want to do that again the answer wouldn’t be “no”, I still almost always look forward to tomorrow. I have so much I want to do and see and I am so excited about the future, both for my own life and the greater path of humanity. It’s a funny albeit worrying paradox to have so much passion for life while also preferring to be dead! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, right?

Anyway, I had a wonderful visit from my daughter, beginning rather late on Thursday night due to an extremely delayed flight. I was extremely happy to show her that Jeff Lemire, the artist and writer behind the brilliant comic “Sweet Tooth” that we both enjoy had sent us a gift of an original drawing of the main characters of his comic (which I again must highly recommend). First thing on Friday we took it to be framed, and then visited the doctor to deal with a lagging “hundred day cough” that she’s stuck with. After that we stopped by her old school to say hello to all her friends and teacher, and were thrilled to discover that it was the pre-March Break “Game Day” and she was invited to spend the rest of the day there — I don’t know if she was more excited or her classmates were, but they were all on cloud nine. Then at the end of the day we took the subway downtown, picked up some Cotton Candy Pink Manic Panic hair dye, had sushi for supper, and went to see the live show “Potted Potter“. She was shrieking with laughter for the entire show and even got called up on stage to be one of the seekers in a game of Quiddich!

The stuffed-with-activities weekend continued on Saturday when we met up with an old friend of hers (probably one of her oldest friends that we still know) and her father and big brother. All of us (Caitlin too) headed down to the SkyDome for “Spring Fling” (still running if you need something to do with kids). They’ve set up a carnival with rides and games and other activities inside the dome, so they had lots of fun going on various rides, and we even saw a magic show and both of them were separately called up on stage. After that we went to Licks to have burgers and milkshakes for lunch and I made the mistake of eating my very thick vanilla shake with a plastic spoon. At first I thought there was somehow ketchup on my spoon when I noticed the red mixing into the icecream, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the sharp edge on the spoon had made a dozen paper-cuts in my lip and my mouth was hemorrhaging blood. Yummy nonetheless. We finished up by seeing “The Lorax” movie, which I thought was absolutely horrible but the kids seemed to enjoy at least. After this long day we went home, had spaghetti and meatballs, and then read for a while before bed.

(Thanks Hamish for the pictures)

On Sunday we had a bit more time in the morning and then all went downtown again on the subway to the new opera house to see the “Sleeping Beauty” ballet. To be honest, I think I enjoyed it the most, with Nefarious being rather bored by the end of it (she much preferred “The Attacker”) and Caitlin re-affirming that she’s no fan of ballet (whereas she loves traditional opera, and worked in opera for years). Then we went out for sushi again for supper, and when we got home we did what Nefarious has been asking for a year to do, which is to dye her hair pink. She wanted to do much more, but we started with just a streak. After applying it, I wrapped it up in foil and she decided to keep it on over night.

Monday morning we unpacked her hair and rinsed the dye. Even though we didn’t bleach her hair and Cotton Candy Pink is quite pale as colors go, it took well and looks really nice, so I hope she’s happy with it and it gets the reaction she’s hoping for at school. After that we grabbed the framed print, since it was going to be heading back to Virginia with her, and it looked amazing properly matted and behind glass. However, in the end it was a bit too bulky for her to carry and I’m going to find another way to get it to her. Then we packed, and since it timed nicely and was on the way to the airport, went to see a second movie, “John Carter” this time. I definitely enjoyed it a great deal more, even though it’s a very “PG” adaptation of the story, and Nefarious thought it was super as well. Then off to the airport where we were glad to see that the plane was on time and schedules were met.

(Zoom in for a better look)

I think it was one of the best planned and fullest weekend visits we’ve ever done! I had an amazing time and so did everyone else. If I’d been struck by lightning on the way home Monday night I would have died happy and content… As expected, no lightning and I woke up Tuesday miserably sore (and continue to be), but it was and is worth every ache.

Edit/Update: Since writing this, this afternoon I downloaded and watched the first episode of the TV show “Awake”. For those that don’t know it, it’s about a guy that’s in a car accident with his wife and son. One of them is killed. Problem is, he doesn’t know which, because he’s caught in a state where when he’s awake, his wife is alive, and when he’s asleep, he has a perpetual and self-consistent dream world in which his son is alive. Problem is, he has no idea which is the waking state and which is the dream state. I don’t think that I mix up when I’m awake and when I’m asleep any more than everyone does, but I do have a persistent and self-consistent dream world which I think is unusual, and I feel like I have a lot of “leakage” between the two… so I’m interested in seeing where this show goes because I like the premise. With some time to wait before “Breaking Bad” starts up again, and “The Walking Dead”‘s season wrapping up this weekend (damn short seasons!), I could use a new show to enjoy.

Reapplying as Mayor of Crazytown

Before I got into my run for mayor, wow am I ever looking forward to a great weekend. I found out earlier in the week that my daughter Nefarious was able to able to come visit this weekend, so I spent the next couple days rushing to put together a great weekend. We’re beginning it on Friday by going to visit all her old friends at her old school, and then going to see the live comedy stage show Potted Potter that evening. Then on Saturday we’re hooking up with one of her oldest friends and going to the Spring Fling at the Skydome (I hate using the new corporate name) — they’re building a carnival inside it for March Break — and then going to see The Lorax in the afternoon. Then on Sunday, since we had such a good time at The Nutcracker, we’re going to see The National Ballet’s presentation of Sleeping Beauty, and then I imagine going out for a nice supper. Not sure what we’ll do Monday before she catches her flight back, but I have a few good ideas.

So… as you can imagine, I will probably not be answering my phone very much this weekend and will be very busy! I don’t even want to think about how dead I will be on Tuesday, but it will be more than worth the pain, I’m sure.

And now…

For the past few weeks I have been nurturing a new body modification that I have kept under wraps because I had no idea how it was going to turn out or if it would even work, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself prematurely by doing something silly and ill-advised. Well, it may still be that, but three weeks in I have no undue redness or heat, no discharge, no other signs of infection, and to my genuine surprise and amusement and relief, not a single sign of problems. So I feel a little more comfortable publicly admitting what I’m doing.

It’s pretty common for body modification to be about healing on a psychiatric level. We see it on the various tattoo reality show as we listen to one client after another drone on about their profound yet repetitive touching story that motivated them to get tattooed. There are hundreds if not thousands of experiences on BME about people reclaiming their bodies with piercings and scars and so on. And in this case, I fall into that category.

A few years ago I had an orange-sized bone tumor taken out of my leg, and in the process, a lot of nerve damage was done. As a result, I have, in addition to the chronic pain from my genetic myopathy that’s calcifying my muscles, a great deal of pain in the right leg from the knee down, with the worst of it being on the inside of the calf centred about three inches above the ankle, which has become a strange dead zone for me that is paradoxically both devoid of sensation and overflowing with hypersensitivity and pain. For some reason this nerve damage has also affected circulation (area is at times extremely cold or extremely hot in comparison to the other leg and even surrounding tissue), skin condition (the skin is thicker, drier, and prone to scarring), and scarring. Over time I have grown to hate it, it’s a nexus and focal point for everything that has gone wrong with my body. At times I would pick at it absentmindedly until it was bloody and wrecked, subconsciously but in vain trying to tear it off my body. This behavior was doing me no good. So I set out to reclaim it, to make it mine again.

About fifteen years ago I was sitting with Jon Cobb (this was in Philly when we were housemates) talking about what would in time become microdermals, although he called it pocketing when he first came up with the concept. The idea was how to to trick the body into creating a permanent “socket” that would be able to hold jewelry. So that’s what I thought might work here, something very true to his original concept of single-point pocketing. I made an incision right in the centre of the worst of the affected part of the leg, straight in using a #11 scalpel followed by a sharp spatula of my own creation. For jewelry I used a silicone rod with a flattened bulb at the end, somewhat analogous to a labret stud. I made these myself in increasing sizes quickly increasing it to about a 2ga (1/4″ diameter). I used different plastics as I experimented but right now I’m settling on a high grade silicone which is very soft and flexible but quite strong. But I am still experimenting so I may swing back into harder jewelry. Oh, and the jewelry is cast, not carved, so it’s very smooth.

I’m gonna say these are not for the squeamish.

EDIT/UPDATE: I don’t really like those pictures so I quickly cleaned off my leg and took a couple more at higher resolution to show how healthy it is. Still surprised that I’m willing to post what is to me the ugliest part of my body, with the exception of what both my daughter and Caitlin assure me is extremely disturbing but I absolutely love!

The wetness in the jewelry-out picture [first set] is because I’d just flushed it out with sterile saline, which has been the majority of the aftercare. And the indent line is from my sock. I want to point out that almost all of the redness and dryness of the surrounding skin is completely unrelated to the pocketing. I actually really hate looking at it, it’s so disgusting to me… were it not for being thrilled about this project I’d never be willing to show my leg in public let alone look at it with my own eyes. But all that hideousness is due to the complications from my tumor removal surgery. So please try and ignore my skin quality.

I want to repeat that there have been no complications whatsoever. There’s a little lymph discharge, which you can see in the picture as the yellowish right around the hole, but that’s to be expected. I actually somewhat suspect that part of the reason it’s healed so well is due to some of the unique characteristics of my genetics and the tissue’s behavior from the neuropathic damage. Assuming it continues to be trouble free, and I start seeing signs of permanent healing, I’ll keep it and update in a month or so I figure.

I’m happy to say have gone from despising that part of my body to really babying it and taking care of it obsessively, trying to get that messed up skin to get healthy. I think that means it’s been successful on more than one level? Healing not just the modification?

* * *

Anyway… shortly I am headed to the airport and I can’t wait!

Finally, I have to be responsible and put up a disclaimer that I don’t recommend this body modification for anyone else, and want to be clear that while I have not had any problems over the first three weeks, it’s also far from healed and piercings this deep and this large should be experimented with by only those with extensive experience with atypical body modification.

PS. The comic in the background of the picture is Terry Moore‘s “Rachel Rising” (the amazing new issue came out yesterday), which I can’t recommend highly enough. You can get them in your local comic book store, or buy them online in digital form here. Or pirate it, but trust me, this is an independent creator-owned comic and more than worth paying for to ensure it continues. Far too many of the best series die young.

Damn, watch out Japan!

I got around to upgrading our Internet today, which if I’m taking my over-usage charges into account may well actually reduce our monthly bill, and wow, Rogers really does deliver the speed they promise with their so-called “Ultimate” package. I’m getting pretty much 75 Mb/s downstream and 2 Mb/s upstream on the button, which is where they cap it, making me wonder the theoretical maximum. I’m sure they could easily deliver much higher upstream but they’ve probably capped it to keep P2P speeds in check, and to keep people from running servers out of their homes. I’m sure this is the fastest home connection I’ve ever had. It’s amazing when you compare it to ten years ago, or even two years ago.