The Works


I’ve gotten to the point with one hour documentary shows on the topic of tattoos where I know what to expect. The quick history lesson, a few profiles of tattoo artists or tattooed people, the taboo of tattooing in Japan and maybe something on laser tattoo removal. The Works, airing on The History Channel, went so far beyond those expectations that I have to say I’m extremely impressed and would rank this as the best overall tattoo documentary produced for television that I’ve ever seen.

The Works, hosted by Daniel H. Wilson, isn’t a documentary special, but instead a regular show which just happened to have an episode on tattoos. The most interesting thing is that this show’s format allowed for some things in this documentary that we never see from the host/narrator of tattoo documentaries: Wilson’s interest in learning about the topic turned into hands-on demonstrations and the quest to get his first tattoo (which was basically the outline for the entire show).

Wilson takes us through a very scientific look at how tattoos work and a much more extensive history of the origins and development of tattoos. Throughout the show he revisits the science of tattooing, explaining at exactly what depth in the skin ink must be injected. Rather than stopping there as most shows would, he explains in detail why and what exactly happens if the ink is set too deep or shallow. He also explains the body chemistry that holds the ink in place. Wilson takes it one step further by sitting down and tattooing a halved grapefruit to demonstrate.

In addition to the science of the skin, Wilson takes us through a look at the exact structure of a tattoo machine, how it works and the varying needles that are used. A separate history of the machine is also given, explaining its invention and evolution.

Wilson continues this thoroughness with a nice walkthrough of a tattoo studio, discussing the flash on the walls, stencils for tattoos, getting a consultation and the sterilization process. He begins to plan his first tattoo, which he eventually gets by show's end, a custom piece using the artwork from the cover of his first book How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion.

We also get a more complete and scientific look at the laser tattoo removal process. Wilson describes how the laser breaks down the ink and what the body does with it in just as much detail as his explanation of the application of a tattoo.

We’re also given a brief glimpse at the future of tattoos as barcodes or even functional display readouts on the back of someone’s hand. Rather than just pure speculation, Wilson gives us information as to current similar uses on livestock in the form of invisible barcodes.

In the course of the show, Wilson speaks to well-known tattoo artists including Lyle Tuttle and Crazy Eddie. He also presents an interesting “Fact or Myth” segment that provides a bit of trivia that most tattoo documentaries never supply.

This show, from start to finish, gives those interested in tattoos a real look at everything surrounding the art form. The only disappointment I can note is that with all of thoroughness in presenting tattoos and the science involved, they didn’t follow the healing and care for the new tattoo Wilson had done. Recommended aftercare would have been a nice touch to an otherwise great show. That complaint, however, is a small one and doesn’t hold this show back. While other documentaries might do a good job profiling a tattoo artist, convention or tattooed individual, this show did an excellent job of profiling the tattoo itself.


Hooked: Tattoos Head to Toe


MSNBC has given us tattoo and body modification documentaries in the past, but none have seemed to seek out shock and attempt to convey disapproval in the way that Hooked: Tattoos Head to Toe does. Of course, from the title we know that this show is going to look at heavily tattooed individuals – this ends up consisting of a retired teacher, a heart surgeon, a Hasidic Jewish woman and the people at a tattoo convention. The show’s female narrator, who we never actually see, uses a tone throughout the documentary that clearly resonates disapproval and an attitude of “look how shocking this is, who would do this to their body?!?”

Her tone is backed up by the inclusion of Armando Favazza, psychiatrist and author of Bodies Under Siege: Self-mutilation in Culture and Psychiatry. In addition to the fact that he often comes off as a close-minded fool who is just desperate to find a negative reason behind people's bodyart, MSNBC continually introduces Favazza throughout the special as if it is the first time he’s appeared during the show.

The opening segment profiling retired teacher Bruce Potts illustrates the need for the minds behind this show to try to create shock. Potts walks into a restaurant and the narrator seems to be squirming in her seat with excitement as she waits for people to stare and freak out at Potts’ full head of tattoos. When nobody does, she seems frustrated and disappointed.

The heart surgeon profile features Paul Booth as the surgeon’s tattoo artist and does have some nice footage of Booth’s Last Rites studio. The show seems to imply that heart surgeons aren’t the typical tattoo fan just because Paul Booth doesn’t have any other clients from that profession. This implication plays up the dated stereotypes of who gets tattoos, but the documentary contradicts its own stereotyping through all of the individual profiles presented here covering “normal” educated people.

Throughout, this show does its best to disapprove and show heavy tattooing as a negative thing, but despite the show’s best efforts, the people profiled come through in a positive light to anybody willing to look beyond what the narrator and Armando Favazza try to say. Favazza seems to be reaching for reasons that aren’t on display in the profiles, claiming the teacher is seeking attention, the surgeon is fulfilling his narcissism/god complex, the Jewish woman is acting out her anger and the people at the tattoo expo feel a sense of inferiority and have low self-esteem. None of this is apparent and in many cases the opposite seems true. But arguing with Favazza is pointless since, if confronted, he claims it’s all in the subconscious and that he is right because he is the expert.

I have often commended shows and documentary specials on many networks, including MSNBC, but this show is a huge step backward. When all else fails, the narrator even briefly mentions suspensions, pulls and implants involving those profiled as an additional means to create shock. The only purposes of this show are its attempt to shock and disapprove of those that are different. Luckily, MSNBC made a bad choice by picking people who display how far body modification has come rather than how shocking and awful it is. The only people deserving of disapproval here are Armando Favazza, the narrator and the editors who chose to go this route with what could have been an interesting and inspiring documentary. It is a shame that the interesting people profiled here will be overshadowed to some degree by MSNBC’s negativity.


Modify


Modify, a 2005 documentary directed by Jason Gary and Greg Jacobson now available on DVD, might have been one of the best body modification documentaries I’ve ever seen just for the ability to gather many of the biggest names of the body modification community together for one film. The film had its good points and a few bad, but overall I would definitely recommend this film to any body modification enthusiast.

Throughout the course of the 85 minute documentary, viewers are introduced to Steve Haworth, The Lizardman, Bear, Stalking Cat, Fakir Musafar, Allen Falkner, Masuimi Max, Jesse Jarrell, Jim Ward and some other recognizable faces in the body modification community. However, this film takes a couple of steps outside of the realm of the piercing and tattoo oriented body modification and delves into drag queens, gender reassignment and bodybuilding.

The film begins with a look at what defines body modification, where we’re introduced to the tattoo, piercing and extreme mod aspects as well as the drag queens, transgender and bodybuilding realms. During this early portion of the film, we’re bombarded with graphic footage of plastic surgery procedures that are definitely not for the squeamish.

The film moves on to cover suspensions, featuring CoRE, and bodybuilding followed by a discussion of modification versus mutilation. We also learn about some procedures via Steve Haworth, receive history lessons on Gauntlet and Fakir Musafar, and view more graphic footage, this time detailing gender reassignment surgery.

The creators of this documentary didn’t try to shock viewers through body modifications associated with the piercing and tattoo community, but instead they went for shock via plastic surgery. The footage early in the film covering various forms of plastic surgery and the footage later on covering gender reassignment were extremely graphic and detailed and I have to commend the film on this footage. The gender reassignment footage was accompanied by a surgeon’s narration of what happens during both the m2f and f2m procedures, which was quite interesting. The other plastic surgery footage was just thrown at us during a general commentary on plastic surgery.

As the discussion developed throughout the film, I sensed that we were going to see a lot more than piercings, tattoos, suspensions and split tongues. However, I was disappointed that despite the mentioning of both castration and amputation the film decided not to explore these forms of modification. The film could have been more of a complete spectrum of conservative to extreme, but the minds behind the project seemed to stop short.

The other disappointment I had with this film surrounded the quality of their footage. While the plastic surgery footage was overwhelming, the body modification footage was rather meager. While there was some footage, such as a tongue splitting, suspensions and a self-done bead implant procedure, it was not enough and not as detailed or graphic as the footage supplied for the plastic surgery segments of the documentary.

The interviews with the numerous “body modification celebrities” more than compensated for the lack of graphic footage. While many documentaries have gathered a couple of these well known faces, I cannot think of another film that has put together such an extensive list of big names from the body modification community. Only a handful of people who I thought should have been included were absent, but with those that were present I could not complain.

Again, I can only say that this film was a thumbs-up for its impartial look at people who modify their bodies. While body modification footage outside of the plastic surgery field was lacking and a few of the more extreme forms of body modification were only brief touched upon, this film as a whole is definitely a positive for body modification as the subject of a documentary.


Taboo: Initiation Rituals


National Geographic Channel kicked off a new season of their Taboo series with Taboo: Initiation Rituals. This episode looked at different forms of initiation rituals used to gain acceptance into a tribe or a certain group within a society. One of the segments dealt with the act of suspensions, which for the purposes of this website’s subject matter will be the only portion of the show reviewed here.

Taboo traveled to Melbourne, Australia to visit with members of The Hanged Man Suspension Team. Some background was provided and members and practitioners within the group were interviewed. Throughout the segment some small attempts at “shock” narration were thrown in, but for the most part the show decided to avoid the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! approach to covering this subject matter. Instead, the topic was covered with mostly an open-minded approach.

A history of suspensions in tribal cultures was briefly reviewed. Reasons for suspending were given, both through the interviews with members of The Hanged Man and from a sociologist who was also interviewed. The fears of those being suspended for the first time were discussed.

The segment contained some extremely nice footage of suspensions and the insertion and removal of the hooks used. One of the best clips clearly showed the holes left behind by the thick hooks and then the squeezing of the air out of the open wounds.

This segment was an overall thumbs-up, as National Geographic Channel continues to provide some of the better open-minded coverage of body modification.


Tattoo Wars


This TLC show aired recently, featuring a couple of episodes, and has since apparently disappeared. This show’s premise was to pit two tattoo artists of varying styles in a competition where they designed and tattooed the same basic image using their different styles. This episode faced Mark Rubendall off against Pascal “Bugs” Jarrion.

The show makes itself out to be a competition between the two artists, but the majority of the 60 minute episode is spent on biographies of the two artists and footage of them working on multiple clients. The backgrounds can be interesting, but the show’s “war” is not enough of the focal point here.

There is some in-depth discussion of the artists’ styles and methods, as well as a look at their design work for the Tattoo War. However, this is cut way too short in favor of talking about Bugs’ car obsession and Rubendall’s hazing when he started tattooing. The actual “war” only consumes the last 10 minutes of the episode.

Goofy graphics that would be acceptable by themselves become even more ridiculous when combined with “green screen” interviews where the interview subject is in front of storm clouds with a grainy film effect. Overall, this gives the show a very low budget look that it could have done without. The combination of the graphic slip-ups and a show that doesn’t really focus on its title topic drops this show to only being an average – not a thumbs down, but not a thumbs up either.


Taboo: Body Cutters


If National Geographic Channel's Taboo: Body Cutters is the norm for how body modification is presented in a mainstream television documentary, I need to start watching more television. The depth of each segment and portrayal of the people involved is more than I have come to expect from a one hour documentary, especially one trying to cover numerous topics and interview so many people. With most shows, segments turn into a jumbled rush of snipped comments and shock moments. National Geographic manages to avoid taking this show down that path, instead giving us a nice -- and at times emotional -- look at body modification.

The show concentrated on several different areas of body modification, beginning with suspension. While they called this ritual a body modification several times, they also acknowledged it as a ritual. A brief look at Native American suspension rituals and brief interview clips with Fakir Musafar -- who was quoted throughout the entire show -- highlighted this quick lesson into the background and history of suspensions. Also included was a nice collection of footage and interviews from a suspension convention featuring Allen Falkner. The footage showed a more accepting approach to suspension compared to previous shows, which have portrayed the ritual with shock and sometimes disgust. Through the story of a first-timer who was nervous about the entire ritual -- from the piercings to the suspension itself -- this show illustrated a kind and caring set of professionals who make the process of undergoing one's first suspension an enjoyable one. This segment would make someone considering undergoing the ritual who has hesitations about how approachable a suspension group would be lose their hesitations.

Lukas Zpira's amazing scarification work was featured in the next segment. While many shows would probably opt to portray Zpira's shop in France in a more negative light, National Geographic showed the surrounding city as a quaint French town that is home to a unique studio -- one featuring both art and body modification. The segment detailed Zpira's travels, the process of scarification and the intense pain involved in the procedure. The segment also included examples of before and after photos from Zpira's clients, showing the success of the final product. The segment was one of the few well-produced civilized world body modification segments not focusing on the United States. This segment was followed by another which shows in a positive light that body modification outside of tribal civilizations is a worldwide occurrence.

That next segment featured transdermals done in South America on a young lady who had decided to use her body as an art canvas. While this segment did seem like it was the most hurried of the show, it still presented a nice look at the procedure itself as well as motivations for body modification. While this usually would have struck me as a very nice body modification feature, its placement in a show featuring three very strong segments might have taken some of the shine off of this piece. It is still great, just overshadowed. The footage of the transdermal procedure might be some of the most graphic seen on a mainstream television documentary.

Tongue splitting might have brought out the more mainstream tendencies of a television show such as this. The one ugly aspect of such a well-executed show was the use of interviews on the streets of America featuring people calling body modifications stupid, unattractive and disgusting. National Geographic should be ashamed of itself for throwing this unneeded footage into an otherwise accepting look at the world of body modification. The footage seemed most heavily used during the tongue splitting segment, which aside from this footage was a nice look at the procedure, healing and even the screening process. John Durante was the featured artist in this segment and was a perfect representative for extreme body modification artists. He illustrated the responsibility these artists have, explaining how he makes sure a client really wants the body modification rather than irresponsibly jumping in and doing whatever is asked of him. The footage of the procedure, as with that of the transdermals, was more graphic than usual of a mainstream documentary. Healing was also detailed, with mention of possible separate control of both sides of the split and possible follow-up procedures due to the split healing itself closed.

The suspension and tongue splitting segments of this documentary could help take away any hesitations somebody has about approaching an artist or suspension group. It also gives a face to the body modification world in general that is more responsible, approachable and intelligent. If only more mainstream media would take such an open-minded approach to this subject. While there was the one black mark -- footage of people mentioning their disgust, etc. -- this show was an overall thumbs-up and a step in the right direction for mainstream media coverage of the body modification community.


MTV's Social History of the Tattoo


What would you expect from a MTV special on the tattoo? My answer: not much. So when this show started by saying tattoos started with some of the modern day rock bands, I wasn't surprised...a bit upset, but not surprised. However, I was surprised when they rewound things and actually looked at the modern day development of tattoos before the rock trend.

While this look back was not deep and detailed, it was a good crash course for the average MTV viewer. The sad part is that this crash course is really about all this show offers that is of any redeeming value.

Once the history lesson is over, this brief -- only 30 minutes counting commercial breaks -- show goes on to look at some people who have gotten tattoos. There are some good moments throughout these segments, but too many of them go on to do nothing but hammer in stereotypes. MTV chose very brief clips of those being interviewed, which didn't seem to fully represent the subjects' ideas. While the average MTV viewer might get a tattoo because of its trendiness, some of the people interviewed seemed to have a lot more meaning behind their reasons, yet MTV snipped their segments so short that the deeper meaning has only been hinted at.

It was a surprise to see this show only get half an hour...a one hour show would have given much more time for a better in-depth look at the world of the tattoo. This show was part of a series, which features at least one more body modification related episode, but with the current format there isn't enough content to cover a topic as deep as tattooing or piercing.


ModCon: The Secret World of Extreme Body Modification


One word: Amazing. That could be the end of the review, but I'll continue . . .

Shannon Larratt, creator of Body Modification E-zine (BME) and the man who makes ModCon possible, has published a ModCon book previous to this venture. The review of that book can be found on this site, and while that book was also very nice (featuring a Video CD even), this book takes all that was good from the first effort and adds so much more. Before going into detail, I do want to get the one bad thing out of the way: editing. The edition being reviewed here is a first printing, and is still somewhat in need of editing . . . there are several typos and a left out word. The good news is that none of this takes away from the book, and hopefully in future printings this won't even be an issue at all.

Where to start? The presentation of this book is very nice -- paperback cover, some color pages, and many wonderful high resolution images. Most of the images are captioned, with either the names of those pictured or explanations of the mods. A very professional look to the book overall.

With this book being distributed to bookstores, the material covered will definitely bring a reaction from the general public. The pictures are in-your-face with extensive looks at extreme genital mods from subincision all the way to nullification and urethral reroutes. This is not a piercing and tattooing book, but for those into extreme mods.

While many who might see this book in a store might be frightened, those who have interest in the subject matter will find this to be one of the best books ever published on hard modification. Shannon Larratt includes his narration throughout the book, but also has added interviews. These interviews are a great read, discussions with amputees, eunuchs and more. While the first ModCon book was a nice pictorial look at extreme modification, this book brings so much more to the table. Read about how a eunuch or amputee got interested in these modifications, rather than just seeing their mods.

The main question surrounding this book has already been touched on to a small degree here . . . with a much larger mainstream exposure for this book, how will its contents be accepted by the public? Presentation of material does make a difference in how well something is received, and in the case of this book the approach is one that gets straight down to business. The pictures are graphic, the longest interview contains some S&M descriptions that could scare/shock, and the discussion of these mods is direct and to the point. Much of the text, however, brings to light the emotions behind the modifications. The look at one's motives helps point out that the people shown in this book are intelligent, and have a valid purpose behind their decisions. This second ModCon book represents the modified community more clearly, pointing out that it is not a teen fad but extends to all ages, and presents all the modifications in a mature professional matter. So the answer to the question? The book will push away those who only look and do not read, but for those open-minded enough to read, the emotion and inspiration of these modified people will come through loud and clear.

Shannon Larratt has done a fine job in bringing together a book unlike any this reviewer has seen. While Modern Primitives covered a fair amount of modification, this book has given much more detail to the extremes of the modification world. One word: Amazing.


Xtreme Body Mod


Want a tattoo magazine? There are plenty out there. Want something that covers piercing, branding, and other mods not heavily covered by tattoo mags? Here's an option: a glorified tattoo magazine. That's not necessarily a completely bad thing, but in this case Xtreme Body Mod magazine has missed the target they seemed to be shooting for.

As already mentioned, tattoo work is covered by a decent sized group of publications, and this magazine is supposed to go beyond that. They don't do it by much, as the "Pro-files" cover -- almost exclusively -- tattoo artists, with the exception of piercer/branding artist Nathan Bauer. While there is a nice section on Pat Fish, as well as several other talented tattoo artists, why not devote this space to artists who perform the more "extreme" mods the magazine says it targets? A section on CM Hurt, Blair, Keith Alexander, etc would be much more appropriate than sticking with tattoo artists. While some nice art is showcased through these sections, it is material that should be left to magazines who have already established themselves in this category.

A further look shows a total of seventeen pages devoted to the "Skin Tight" section. This section is meant for convention and show coverage. More tattoo magazine ground covered? Mostly, yes. There are a few snips regarding implants, and a small side article on ModCon in this section, but the ModCon article appears to be information gathered from the ModCon webpage and the interesting mods mentioned in the main section are not discussed enough. Beyond this, there are the standard Q&A and Letter to the Editor sections, which are rather bare-bone, as to be expected from the premier issue of any magazine.

Then there are sections discussing celebrities and their mods. This is a whole new area of criticism for this magazine. They claim to not know what tattoos Tommy Lee has on his chest, but they show a set of pictures displaying Lee's chest (he only has "Mayhem" across his stomach in the photo) and his tribal backpiece. How can a magazine show pictures of an individual's artwork and claim they don't know what that person has? In other interesting newsbits, the magazine claims Christina Aguilera and Brittany Spears have pierced nipples...can we get this confirmed?

Moving on to the little bit of actual "extreme" stuff covered...suspension and play piercing and do-it-yourself tattoos. The tattoo article is something that belongs in a tattoo mag. It discusses prison tattoos and homemade tattoo equipment, but doesn't go into detail, unfortunately. The interview questions mainly deal with design ideas, and the man interviewed said he deals with the pain by getting "plenty drunk". The play piercing and suspension articles both make more of a mainstream shock spectacle of the rituals, rather than really discussing anything of much interest. The suspension article too often uses the metaphor of being "hooked like a slab of meat" rather than explaining the experience for what it is.

It is very nice to see an attempt at a magazine focusing on the more extreme side of modification, but that is all it is: an attempt. The tattoo coverage should be left behind, with a larger focus on extreme mods. This magazine could turn into something good if it takes the right direction. Right now though, it is a magazine that only seems to seek attention and shock value. The use of shock metaphors and the use of the term mutilation on a few occasions give this magazine a feel of being written by someone on the outside looking in, rather than someone with a real love for the modified body -- someone who wants to show the rest of the world the beauty of modification rather than try to shock the mainstream.


TLC's World's Weirdest Performers


TLC/Discovery and MSNBC have probably been the two sources of positive exposure for body modification in recent television past. While shows like 20/20 Downtown bring a bad angle to their look at the modified life, these other networks have brought a very respectful angle to their approach. That was, until now.

Humor is a wonderful thing, and there's always a place for it in body modification, but with TLC's World's Weirdest Performers that humor has been taken to an extreme that could be considered rather distasteful. The show had several features that were not heavily mod-related, but could fit easily into the Jim Rose Circus fans' tastes. These segements had their high and low points, but first a look at the structure of the show as a whole...

The show was narrated by someone with no apparent interest in modification, often commenting on the pain involved and how crazy the people involved were for doing such things to their body. The show also featured comedy songs leading into each segment, this bit of humor was often cheesy and at times rude, but was not too bad in itself. However, combined with the narration it drew away from any serious look at some of the more recognizable names in the modified community.

Segments included the Torture King, Enigma and Katzen, and Lifto. A very promising lineup, and while the segment on Lifto was interesting -- discussing his background and how he started -- and the Torture King was presented with similar style, the problem with the show as far as segments go lies in the look at Enigma and Katzen. They were presented in a rather silly style, and appeared to be more "freak" than a member of the modified community. Katzen's claims regarding her being the first full body concept female and Enigma the first non-animal full body concept male struck as being rather odd...wouldn't full body maori be a concept just as non-animal as a puzzle? As many have said before, don't claim to be first...someone has always done it before you.

No offense is meant by this, but the presentation of the couple of Katzen and Enigma came off as far too self-boasting and "freakish". TLC had been on a good streak regarding mod-related features, but this show definitely ends that streak.


MSNBC Investigates Tattooed Women


MSNBC, and their show (MSNBC Investigates) in particular, have been on a body art binge of late. The network reran its "Tattoos: Skin Deep" show multiple times recently, and now have added a new investigation into tattooed women. The network seemed to take a mostly impartial, but still slightly non-accepting stance to the entire lifestyle. They are showing that acceptance is growing of late in mainstream media coverage.

This new feature is a definite step in the right direction. The only noticeable foul is the handling of the topic of tattoo removal. They had a young lady who was having a memorial tattoo removed, but rather than blaming bad artistry they present the lady as rather stupid and repulsed at her previous decision. The presentation of the situation made the memorialized person seem trivial, as if she shouldn't be honored in this way. The lady's feelings on the topic do show that one should think much more deeply about what they are getting into, as she claims to hate all the attention she has received for her tattoo.

The rest of the show takes a much more interesting and positive approach to presenting the tattooed lifestyle as an acceptable one. Where many a body art show on mainstream television features primarily young adults and teenagers with mods, this show concentrated heavily on older women. The image of beauty portrayed through the use of tattoo work to cope with the loss of breasts from breast cancer shows the emotion that can come with decorating one's body. The full suit on a business woman points out that tattoos are not a low class lifestyle, but can be found on a professional as well. The use of interviews with mature, well-off individuals who have tattoos and stretched lobes gives a new perspective to the mainstream presentation of body art.

If such shows as this one continue to be presented, maybe body art will be looked at by the mainstream as it should be: a thing of beauty. MSNBC seems to have learned the proper approach to showing the world a glimpse into the modified life.


TLC's Weird World: Strange Medicine


This show must have been put together by someone with a very short attention span. The show lasts one hour, and covers many topics...good, right?

Wrong. Nothing is covered as heavily and detailed as any viewer would have liked. One second Shannon Larratt is being interviewed about selling amputated body parts and a few minutes later the topic is trepanation and a few minutes later accupuncture. Don't stop to cover a topic, keep moving, afterall TLC must have a lot of spare clips to throw in here. Shannon's appearance did provide for some nice small pieces of footage, interview and otherwise, but before you could tell someone in another room that he was on, they were off to another topic.

The best segment had to be that on trepanation, showing clips from Amanda Feilding's "Heartbeat and the Brain" 1970 trepanation. The clips and the interview of Feilding turned out to be the most interesting segment of the show.

The show's narrator remained unaccepting towards body mods such as amputation, classifying it as mental problems. Accupuncture and spirtual healing were covered in decent segments, but nothing extremely interesting was mentioned. Scams were also covered towards the end, but seemed to just be outtakes from complete shows on the topic. This was not one of TLC's best shows involving body art and modification. It wasn't even a very good show for covering anything in particular.


TLC's Body Piercing


This has to be the best body modification show TLC has done so far. Whereas most shows on the topic show random images and do not seem to keep an attention span, this show narrows its focus and gives us a great look at a few different people involved in different journeys through the world of body modification.

The first of these that we are introduced to is New York piercer John Bachman, who is undertaking a trip to Ethiopia to visit the tribes which inspired his body modification. It's a very interesting journey, as one of his stops in Ethiopia shows a disappointing shock display by the natives. Modern culture is shown as having changed the ways, even upon John's main stop, where one tribe member is opposed to the tradition of lip discs. On John's journey, we do get to see a lip disc initial piercing, which seems to be scalpelled rather than pierced. More detail and narration could have been used, but this segment still came out nicely.

The second introduction is to Dinah Barton, who seems to get the smallest amount of attention for her spiritual journey, which will end in a kavadi ritual. Although there is some good footage of her visit to Sri Lanka, nothing very memorable came out of this segment.

The third introduction was to Allen Falkner, although it eventually is developed to include TSD, primarily Ron Garza and Essie (who was also featured in the terrible 20/20 Downtown segment). There is some great suspension footage, but once again a bit more explanation into the specific suspensions would have been nice. The real grabber of the show however is Allen's failed attempt at an O-Kee-Pa suspension. The emotion displayed in the footage is as high as that shown by Essie in the 20/20 segment. Essie herself once again manages to further describe the emotions of suspending. Definitely the best segment of this show.

There are some random clips thrown in for description and introduction, but they do not become a blur of random thoughts as they have in other body modification programming. Hopefully TLC will keep this attitude and style in their future body mod ventures.


TLC's Tattoo! Beauty, Art and Pain


TLC aired back to back body modification documentaries, with this one leading off. Although the mention of a Taz tattoo caused a thought of "This is gooing to be a show with people picking Flash art for tattoos..." it turned out to not meet these expectations.

For those who saw the MSNBC body modification show, this might be of much interest. While MSNBC touched on historical information surrounding tattoos, this show hits it head on. The development of tattoo guns is discussed, as well as the social development of the tattoo itself. Homemade prison tattoo guns are even looked at. Even tattooed mummies are discussed! All of this is great background material for any tattoo enthusiast.

Of course, there is more to this show than history. The normal tattoo documentary subjects are all touched upon: newcomers to the tattoo world, a visit to a convention, prison tattoos, sideshows and tattoo removal. There is also a short segment on full body suits.

TLC has been doing some great body modification shows lately, and this one stays right at the level they have set, but doesn't further raise the bar. This is because of one very promising subject featured at the start of the program, but left only partially discussed by the end of the show: motives and inspiration behind tattoos. Totem, religion and other reasons are discussed, but not in the detail they need to really make them an interesting subject (which they are). Hopefully, TLC will recognize this one small oversight and focus a bit more on it in future specials.


MSNBC Investigates Tattoos: Skin Deep

This episode of MSNBC Investigates originally aired in August of 2000. While concentrating on tattoos, there was also a small glimpses of other forms of body modification throughout this show.

While having a few small overlookings, this had to be one of the best mainstream body modification shows yet. The show actually took a thorough look at tattoos, rather than just giving quick shots of different pieces.

Among these more detailed views of the industry, there was a segment covering Paul Booth, a segment on the New York City Tattoo Convention, as well as segments on more extreme modifications and tattoo removal.

The Paul Booth segment gave the viewer a nice look at his work, and also pointed out just how popular he has become. The fact that he has a two year waiting list was mentioned numerous times. Once this segment was over, the show seemed to tag along with Booth as their guide through the next segment.

This next segment covered the New York City Tattoo Convention, in much detail. The history of tattoos in New York City was completely covered, citing the Hepatitis scares and the lift of the ban among other things. The tattoo contests were covered, but unlike other shows that focus on showing footage of people walking on stage, but not giving a good view of their work, this show covered the contests very nicely.

Throughout these segments, sterilization was mentioned briefly. A history of the tattoo gun was also given. Then the implant segment arrived. While starting off good, even showing the marking up at the beginning of an implant procedure, the show took its one bad turn here. While they stressed precautions for tattoos, such as keeping an eye out proper cross-contamination avoidance, they only warn against implants at all costs, citing the lack of experienced medical professionals being present. While precautions should be taken, they might have been better off to point out the proper artists to contact regarding implants.

MSNBC also took a brief look at Erik Sprague and the Jim Rose Circus, and then at tattoo removal options. Neither of these segments were extremely detailed, but are still a good watch for those hungry for television that covers body modification. Overall, this ranks as a very good body modification program, and shows signs of the news media opening their minds slightly to the topic.


ModCon Book

Image Courtesy of BME

Starting off with what can probably be considered one of the most inspiring quotes for the body modification community, the ModCon book only continues to get better as the pages turn.

Though there are few words in this book, the pictures say it all. First, a large group of portraits of the attendees, all in black and white, making for a very beautiful look at a very inspiring collection of heavily modified individuals.

After a statement from Shannon Larratt, the pictures continue. Some posed photos and some procedurals round out the second half of this great book, but does not completely conclude the experience.

Mounted on the back cover is a Video CD that by itself is a very nice look at the procedural side of the convention. The procedures included range from scarification to implants to genital modifications, as well as footage of Erik Sprague's suspension. The only improvements that could have been made would be narration on the procedures and slightly better views on a few of the procedures. Overall though, the video footage is spectacular and is well worth the price on its own.

This is the best look at body modification in print, and definitely worth any body modification enthusiast's attention.


BME Shop

BME previously had a small online store with plenty of available goodies, but the revamped BME Shop makes ordering easier and still maintains a good selection of all the goodies everyone could want.

Among the improvements, the automated shopping cart is probably the biggest. It offers a selection of different payment types and allows you to purchase multiple items at once, compared to the one at a time ordering of the old store. The credit card payment now goes through PayPal as well.

Another improvement comes in the selection, with more shirts available than in the past. Plenty of supplies are also available, including a increased selection of anesthetics and piercing supplies. The beading kit is also still available.

More merchandise is added to the store from time to time, with upcoming items including action figures and custom plugs. A good supply stop, and also a place to get some cool clothing to go along with your mod addictions. Visit BME Shop


BMERadio

Body Modification Ezine recently began recording interviews for audio-streaming broadcast over the web. Shortly after, the interviews also began to be uploaded for download in both Real media format and MP3 format. The questions are being asked by BME's head Shannon Larratt, and so far have been directed at such names as Erik Sprague and Keith Alexander among others. Future interviews are scheduled with Jon Cobb and Steve Haworth.

While this section of BME is very recent, it has already bloomed into quite an interesting area to visit. Each interview is accompanied with a page containing a short explanation of the subject and some pictures, most of which are of top BME quality. The interview is presented for download in a number of varieties, from streaming audio for 28.8 modems and 56k modems, download for both of these options as well, and a single MP3 download. The downloads are rather large for a slow connection, but worth the effort to download.

For this review, I chose to listen to Sprague's entire interview and a portion of both the Paul Booth and Keith Alexander interviews. The listen caused a decision to download the full interviews for personal listening later. The interviews feature discussion on various topics, with Larratt leading the conversation more than just firing away questions. The topics ranged from social aspects, to modifications themselves, to family issues and so on. Music accompanied the interview as a way to break from the discussion, and although some of the music was not to this reviewer's liking, it did offer an overall good variety for any listener.

This area of BME has been yet another great addition to one of the sites that leads the way in interesting and educating information concerning body modification. Visit BMEradio


TLC Body Art

This one hour program aired recently on The Learning Channel. TLC's websites and all other available resources revealed little information on just what the exact topic of this show would be. Most of TLC's recent body art shows have concentrated on the realm of tattoo art.

Though there was a segment on tattooes, this show took a rather different look at body art, covering a wider array of topics. They even stretched beyond permanent modifications to the simple and more common forms of body art, such as tribal face painting and western culture's use of make-up.

Although face painting forms took up a good portion of this show, piercing and tattooes were covered in small detail, and scarification was touched upon as well. There was nice footage of Thailand's religious festival and of tribal scarification and tooth filing. Also shown were donated human skins . . .of full body tattoo work.

Of TLC's body art programs, this is probably one of the better all around ones, covering more than the usual for TLC.


Ripley's Belive It Or Not (TNT): The Erik Sprague Segment

This short segment about Sprague aired Wednesday January 19, 2000...the photography was wonderful, and for one of the few times, so was the entire segment. Rather than going the route of 20/20 Downtown, Ripley's decided to stick to a non-biased look at body art of various types...focusing on Sprague's split tongue and his tattoo work. No negative comments were presented, but instead a report on the love for body art by a man greatly devoted to it was aired.


BME Video Store

Although I have yet to purchase or view any videos from this store, I have looked through the selection and found it worthy of review. Everything from tongue splitting and subincision, to play piercing and cbt, and saline injections, castration and amputation are covered. This is not a store for the piercing enthusiast, but rather someone interested in more extreme forms of modification. The store now has a way to order online, making it more convenient for shopping. Just click on the Video link off of BME for access to this section.


Strangeland

Although this isn't a documentary of any sort, it does deserve review as a mainstream motion picture dealing with "insanity" surrounding body modification. The main character of the movie is heavily tattooed and pierced, and uses mods including lip sewing and genital piercing as forms of torture before killing his victims. As a movie, this is a great storyline. As a look at mods, the normal psycho-insane stereotype is brought out too much, but going beyond that, this movie can appeal to the mod crowd. Accuracy is maintained as Capt. Howdy (Dee Snider) explains the origins of the ampallang...and a look at the modified body of the character leads to admiration of what piercings and tats are shown off. Very good film, despite some stereotyping.


Ultimate Body Experience: Suspensions

Very interesting and in detail look at suspensions...only problem was the variety. The only suspensions shown were a few of the hooks in the upper back type, one energy pull, and one lifting of objects. The good shots and camera angles made for a nice look at the suspensions. The explanation was not as in detail as could have been, but overall this is a nice look at suspensions, especially for someone who has not had much exposure to them.


Pierced & Painted Vol. 1 & 2

well, I did a good review in the site review section, so I guess I'll make up for it here. These are the worst piercing/tattoo movies I have seen so far. The first scenes in Vol.1 feature nipple piercing with no gloves in what appears to be a fairly non-sterile enviroment...great example to set for someone who grabs this off the shelf then decides to do their own piercings. The narrator seems like more of a pervert in certain parts of this movie rather than someone who wants to make a legit chronicle of piercings and tats. Another annoying detail involved the random shots from the Inkslinger's Ball. Too much of it looked very "home video" style, with no professional camera angles or anything. I could go out on the street with a video camera and make a film of tats on people, what is needed here is a closer look at the artists doing their work. Rent this if you're very bored and have seen all the other body mod films on the market.



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