Link O' The Day

Remember the Hawaiian Tattoo in Brooklyn (read post here)?

Here's a related article about Hawaiian arm tattoos.
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Atom Strange

On the way to work Thursday morning, I was passing through the Manhattan Mall from the subway whe I spotted a guy reading a paper at one of the tables on the bottom floor. This was peeking out from the bottom of his right sleeve of his t-shirt:

I walked up (after dodging a few commuters passing through the mall) and asked him if I could talk to him about his tattoo. He gestured to the empty chair opposite him and started chatting.
His name is Alex.

At this point, I had only really seen the bottom of what was a half-sleeve. The stars and black lightning blots were compelling enough to get me to stop. Then he pulled his sleeve up to his shoulder to reveal the whole of the piece:

The majority of the piece was done by Scott, who used to work at Dare Devil Tattoo on Ludlow Street. The bolts were inked in later at Venus Modern Body Arts on East 4th.

When I asked Alex what inspired this work, he said that he is a big science fiction fan, from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to more modern "hard" sci fi which has a deeper connection to hard scientific fact. I discussed my own appreciation of Philip K. Dick and talked about how, if you read too much of his work, you start to feel the author's reknowned paranoia, and it begins to affect the way one thinks. Here's a closer look at the piece:

I asked him about any other tattoos. He briefly flashed one on his upper left shoulder that he got when he was younger. He indicated that he was thinking of having it removed/covering it up and incorporating it into a themed piece spanning his back and connecting to the other sleeve.

He did have this tattoo on his inner forearm:

I assumed it to fit in with the sci fi theme, but he also indicated it referred to his band. Oh? What band?

He is in a band called Atom Strange.

He's the guy on the far left. I later learned he was the guitarist.

"What kinds of music do you like?" Alex asked.

I told him I liked pretty much everything that I used to say I liked everything but country, but then I discovered Lucinda Williams. He nodded in agreement. "Lucinda Williams is great," he added.

He reached into a bag and handed me Atom Strange's CD. The theme matched his tattoo. You can order the CD here. I''ll be reviewing it in the near future over on BillyBlog.

Here's a shot, not taken by me, in which you can see Alex and his tattoos in action:

I have listened to the CD once through and I like it, but will give it some more attention before writing about it in detail. Alex said that some people compare them to early Stone Temple Pilots. I certainly see (and hear) why.

Anyway, thanks much to Alex for letting me interrupt his breakfast and paper on Thursday morning.

You can hear samples and see the band profile on their MySpace page.

I reviewed the CD over on BillyBlog here.
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The Phoenix and the Bulldog

Autumn has come to New York City, making the mission of Tattoosday slightly more difficult. Cold weather sends tattoos scurrying under longer sleeves and lengthening hem lines.

However, this week gave us a slight reprieve, and yesterday I spotted this nice piece in the plaza in front of the Borders at Madison Square Garden:

Actually, I only spotted the tail feathers of the phoenix dropping below the short-sleeved left arm of a New Yorker named Dave Sperandeo.

Dave said that the phoenix, which is a more common tattoo subject, represents his starting over after a divorce. This nice piece was inked by Peter at Peter & Cubo's Tattoing & Body Piercing in Ozone Park, Queens.

Dave offered up a second piece, on his left leg:

As you may have guessed by the bulldog with the fire hose, Dave is a New York City fireman. He had this inked five years ago when he graduated from the academy and became a member of the FDNY. I especially like the nice touch of the three blue water droplets at the end of the hose. This one was tattooed by Cubo at the same shop in Ozone Park mentioned above.

Thanks again to Dave for offering up his ink and keeping Summer alive for Tattoosday for a little bit longer!
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Buddhist Regret: A Follow-Up

This is a follow-up to this post regarding Vicki's tattoo:

Vicki was under the impression that this meant "the Path to Enlightenment". She also told me that the tattoo meant nothing to her and that she was considering having it removed.

If she reads this post, her feelings may become even stronger.

I hesitated before posting this, but because she was so down on this piece, I figured, if anything, I'd be doing her a favor.

This Chinese characters do not reflect what she understands the tattoo to mean. From the top down, the first element is the triad of dashes on the upper right. These three strokes represent the number three. The large character at the top of the tattoo caused some consternation among my co-workers who are fluent in Chinese that I showed this to. One couldn't identify it at all and the other said that it most closely resembles the kanji meaning "look" or "see".

The bottom character was easily identified by those I showed the picture to.

The character on the right in the illustration above matches the bottom character in the tattoo. It is the character for "cow". I am now theorizing that the top character is a distortion of the word "year" and that Vicki's tattoo represents the astrological year of the cow, or the ox, denoting people born in 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925, 1913, or 1901. Although she mentioned she was 27, which would have put her birthday in 1980. Hmmm.

The alternative, that it is just gibberish, "three look cow," is also a possibility. She did say that she found the kanji in a cartoon in a philosophy textbook.

Regardless, it certainly makes the tattoo more interesting. Vicki, if you wish me to remove this post, please e-mail me. I did not create this follow-up mean-spiritedly, but merely as a further exploration of your tattoo.

There's a whole site called Hanzi Smatter that analyzes "the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture." They display some tattoo examples that illustrate that bad ink happens quite often, especially when tattooing using foreign words and characters.

My advice, when getting a tattoo of this nature, would be to go to at least two, if not three, opinions from independent, unrelated authorities of the language, before permanently inking a non-English piece. Hell, some people have a hard time with English! Check out this story from earlier this year in Chicago. Or this story from 6 years ago.
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