Monthly Archives: February 2003

You guys ROCK

Finally we got the contributor shirts in from the printer. I'm sure some of you must have been wondering what was up with them. Anyway, they look amazing — the wait was totally worth it. For those that don't know what this is about, the top contributors of 2002 got these as “thank you prizes” for their help in making BME possible. The current leaderboards for 2003 are here.

Anyway, here's some photos of what they look like. The front (that says “TEAM BME 2002″ in these ones) is different depending on what list the person was at the top of. We've still got to sort them, but they'll probably go out on Monday I'm guessing.

The front patch (different depending on the category). The pirate logo. Yes, it GLOWS IN THE DARK! A closeup of the pirate logo. The ASCII logo. It also glows in the dark of course. A closeup of the ASCII logo.

You've got to have a sense of humor

Here's another recent interview I did… As usual, my comments are are in “normal”, and the interviewer is in blue. Hope I did OK, it was just a quicky… Now off to test the image update robots (they're complete, sans debug/test of course).

1. How have you become part of the body modification scene?

That's sort of like asking, “how did you become a part of the gay scene”. The answer is similar — I was born that way, and, for whatever reason, I chose to actually express the way I felt. I understand that expressing the way you feel is frowned upon in most cultures.

It's just who I am. I put up a web site about it, and as it turns out, I'm happy to say that it's also who a lot of other people are. Remember, BME doesn't just stand for “Body Modification Ezine”, it also stands for “Be ME”.

2. What modifications are the most talked about on your bme site?

Just going by the numbers, as far as the BME site is concerned, body piercing is by far the most popular, followed by tattoos. Going only by submissions numbers, male genital piercing is by far the most popular by a 2:1 margin. The next most popular is ear piercing (of course), followed by nipple piercing.

(Yes, I realize you probably wanted me to tell you amputation or something like that, but the fact is those modifications are still incredibly rare, no matter how much media attention they get).

3. Do you think extreme modifications such as voluntary amputation should become acceptable?

If you're asking me whether I think people should accept other people's personal decisions about their bodies, then I'll loudly yell YES!

4. Do you think body modification is becoming more mainstream and would you prefer it to remain underground?

Clearly body modification in general enjoys a far greater media presence than it did twenty years ago, and people who choose to modify themselves face far less discrimination now than they did twenty years ago.

While I can make no claim to have played a role in the creation of body modification, I do believe I've played an important role in bringing heavy modifications and play out of the underground and into the mainstream. So clearly I'm not motivated to keep things underground.

However, I do have several serious concerns about the popularisation of heavy mods and ritual:

A. That impressionable individuals jump into things a little too fast, and listen more to excitement rather than their natural and healthy desires. When things were still underground, people had minimal external influences, meaning that their decisions were entirely personally motivated. Clearly that is no longer the case.

B. It attracts undue attention to us from a hostile mainstream. This has happened, and the end result has been the arrest and prosecution of a number of artists who would otherwise have flown under the radar.

5. Finally, what modifications have you endured and is there anything you would like to have?

Your choice of the word “endured” makes me a little uncomfortable. To go back to the sexuality analogy, it would be like asking, “how many times have you endured gay sex?” — there's nothing to endure — I like it!

I've chosen to modify my body in the way it asks me to, and I intend to continue to enjoy doing so.

Fabulary Sexth

Seeing as yesterday's robot update went so well, I'm going to hack out the framework for the same functions but under an image update (a slightly more complex process, although not dramatically). Then I'll draft the IAM contingency manual, and I can travel knowing that no matter what, things here should keep ticking.

So given that there's been another little wave of freakout about it over on livejournal, full of the usual misquoted emails, strangely rewritten history (people who were TOS'd stating they were TOS'd for something else in a weird straw man argument*), and misleading statements like doubling IAM's cost, and so on, I thought I'd explain briefly how the TOS process works. First, the TOS is up for public viewing and I don't browse for violations — they are all user-reported. When I get a TOS complaint, I then verify that the complaint is valid.

If the issue is extreme, the account is removed then, but that's relatively rare. It typically only happens in cases where people have made the decision that they don't want to be on the site any more and have a “freakout” to get kicked off.

In most cases the account or a part of the account (ie. access to the forum system, etc.) is locked, and a note stating why is placed in the (private) TOS log. Then when the user accesses IAM, they are given a note telling them that their account (or part of it) is suspended and that they should contact the TOS panel for more information.

When they make that contact, they're then told why their account was suspended depending on what happened are either simply told what they need to do to keep it in good standing (usually something like “please remove that background image, you don't have legal rights to it” or “you can't use your IAM page just as a portal to another site; you'll have to decide if you want to actually use IAM or not”).

So most people who get blocked are back on the site in a couple of days. That is, if you get that message, it does not mean you're getting deleted, it just means something happened that needs attention. Anyway, hope that clarifies things a little. (And yes, moving this over to a panel is still on the to-do list, it's just not at the top of that list right now as the BME automation functions have to carry more weight).

It's weird… Crazy North Korea** has again threatened the US with a nuclear first strike. It says that it asserts the right to pre-emptive first strike as US forces build up in the area. Ri Pyong-gap has said, “the US says that after Iraq we are next, but we have our own countermeasures — pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US.”

North Korea claims that they are firing up their reactor for electricity — it's a cold winter (colder than here in Tweed in fact!), and since the US cut off its oil supply, it has to generate power somehow to keep its people from dying. However, the side effect of that reactor being fired up again is lots of weapons grade fuel. So watch out Los Angeles.

North Korea has nuclear capable missiles — remember, a little while back our good buddies in Pakistan, our allies in the “war on terror”, traded their nuclear research for a bunch of North Korea's missiles. So now both nations have the capability to destroy cities a significant distance away — North Korea claims that they have missiles trained on and able to “incinerate” cities like Anchorage, Los Angeles, and much of the west coast of America and Canada.

Not that any of that matters… Bush et al are far more concerned about the highly questionable war on Iraq, which will have only one certain end result: more terror attacks on US civilians… How many people have to die before people clue in that the US government does not work for the US people? It works almost exclusively for the large corporations, with the oil and defence sectors leading the pack.

Closer to home, InTheseTimes is running a story on the US's secret “defensive” bioweapons program, and Canada (well, the NDP anyway) is sending a team of “weapons inspectors” to the US to determine if they have weapons of mass destruction (well duh!) and to make the point that the US poses more of a threat to global security than Iraq.

* Do follow that straw man link — you'll see it used constantly by current politicians. It's one of their favorite games, and when a situation is complex and most people watching don't have time to do the underlying research, it's very easy and very effective.
** If you'd like to see more of the anti-US posters from North Korea, click here, traitor.

Working day

Didn't get too much sleep last night; we're having a massive wind storm here right now. It's not so much that it was loud, it was that the constantly changing air pressure was giving me a pretty bad headache. My “BME command module” tool is coming along well. It can currently do all of the following (and I've tested all of this):

  • update main index file
  • re-upload latest cover files
  • upload latest newsfeed
  • add item to newsfeed
  • edit newsfeed
  • make a new front-page poll
  • edit image galleries (move/del pix)
  • add member to creation queue
  • scan for problematic submissions
  • process pending memberships
  • upload anonymous email data file
  • build search engine data and u/l
  • add new cover files

Later today I'm going to do an experience update; I hope to do the entire update using the command tool (which means that from this point onward, that task won't need my involvement). It also serves as an operation manual, as on every step it both explains what it does as well as explaining how to perform the task manually.

Three quick news links (nothing much in the BME newsfeed, but thank you to the two people who have helped out so far — it's definitely appreciated):

  • Pentagon adviser: France 'no longer ally' – The quotes from Perle are pretty kooky. The United states “must develop a strategy to contain [France]” and that France's attitude about Iraq is “dangerous”. “Iraq is going to be liberated, by the United States and whoever wants to join us, whether we get the approbation of the U.N. or any other institution.” — So basically, America will declare war on whoever it wants to, and if France wants to object to that war, it's going to be next? WTF?
  • Bush promises $6.4 billion for nuclear weapons development – Because weapons of mass destruction are the tools of evil, America has decided it had better have as many as possible, and that its evil has the be the best evil money can buy.
  • Picasso Under Wraps, UN Under the Thumb – A reproduction of Picasso's 'Guernica', one of the most well known anti-war paintings, hangs outside the UN Security Council. Like Ashcroft covered the statues of Justice for being obscene, Guernica has now been covered up as well — after all, anti-war politics are “offensive” to warmongering murderers, and they are now who rule this world.

Oh, and if you have a buddy who's on TOS suspension for making numerous homophobic comments including saying that anyone who “goes gay” deserves to be killed, posting a “free speech” rant isn't going to convince anyone. Again, no one's stopping you from saying it — we're just saying you can't say that in “our home”.

…And attaching it to a “corporate sellout” statement is just ludicrous. Since when has “the voice of the free” been the voice of bigotry? If anything, it's the other way around. Really, is it that hard just to be a decent person to the folks around you?

Ten questions

I just did the following interview for some magazine article. A few of their questions made me a little nervous as to what they're seeking to use if for politically, but I hope my answers are such that they can't be too easily twisted out of shape. The questions are in blue, my answers are in “normal”.

1. I know that each person seeks body modification procedures for their own unique reasons. But have you noticed any thread that ties most of these people together? Any common personality traits that MOST if not all of these individuals seem to have?

Years ago I'd have told you that the common thread was a sense of individualism, creativity, and personal courage. While I would still give that answer for the less “mainstream” procedures as a general truth, for piercings and tattoos I think they've become so commonplace that they cover absolutely every conceivable demographic group. The only common trait is being human.

And I don't say that as a bad thing — I think it's wonderful that humans are getting in touch with themselves.

2. Roughly how many people between the ages of 15 and 25 visit your website, are active members?

There's no way for me to confirm anyone's age, so it's hard to give an accurate answer. My informal polling suggests to me that the vast majority fall into the fifteen to twenty-five age range, although there are many, many members who well past sixty. We have a couple younger members as well, I think the youngest being twelve — although it's important to note that both his parents also have accounts, and they use the site with him to make sure that he doesn't come in contact with anything that they feel is “too adult” for him.

I tried to join, but my daughter says pierced ears and respect for kids like her doesn't qualify me as a potential member.

It's true. IAM is a closed community; sort of like a “private club” for people into body modification. BME (the main site) is open to both active enthusiasts and admirers.

3. What inspired you to start the website? And did you have any idea it would be as popular and successful as it has become? Any clue?

The web site initially was an extension and expression of my personal interests. At the time, like most other body modification enthusiasts, I felt relatively alone and isolated. I had no idea there were this many people also seriously interested in the subject. So, no, when I first started it I had no idea it would take off like it did.

4. Can you tell me about the weekend events you host, like the one featured on TLC? How often do you gather?

They're just BBQs; social gatherings. They're not really “mine” or anything like that — lots of people on the site host them in their own areas. Mine just get a little more attention because they tend to be larger and more extravagant. Personally I host about six a year I think, but there are probably hundreds of them held around the world. The site includes tools to help people organize and find events in their area. I feel it's important that this community recognize that it exists “in real life” as well as just on the Internet.

Is there a fee?

Because they're just social gatherings, it's rare for any fee to be involved since there's rarely much of a cost to the host. If there are costs involved, hosts usually make that back either by making t-shirts for the event and selling them, or simply by asking everyone to chip in a little. They're definitely not commercial functions in any way.

Do people come once or frequently? I'd just like your thoughts on what they are and who benefits from them.

I think most people go to more than one — after all, it's fun to visit your friends! That's the real core of it as far as “who benefits”. It's just nice to see your friends, especially the ones you don't get to see often (not including on the Internet).

5. How do you feel about irresponsible body modification shops and the risks they take? And how common are these hack shops in the body modification world?

Clearly they're acting unethically, and I don't think very highly of them. Thankfully they are not the norm, and on the whole they are quite easy to identify. The bigger problem is that they tend to prey on the young, since they are often the only studios willing to overlook age requirements.

6. What is the best way for people to recognize and avoid these types?

The data is out there for clients to educate themselves on the issues and risks involved — I even have a section called BME/Risks which is dedicated exclusively to this subject. By being well informed, it's not hard to identify quality artists. In addition, the experiences on BME allow people to network with other enthusiasts and in effect read “reviews” of their various options.

7. Why do you think some individuals actively choose to do their procedures on their own, in spite of the risk of infection? Is it just part of their personal ritual? Drive?

Under normal circumstances most infection risks are post-procedure. As far as contamination during the procedure, in a self-done environment, the person has complete control over the issues involved. Assuming they understand what the risks are and behave responsibly, one could make the argument that their infection risk is actually lower if doing the procedure themselves. I don't think the infection factor is a major player, again, assuming the person acts responsibly.

As far as why someone would choose to do it themselves, there are a lot of reasons. Some people misguidedly choose it because it's less expensive (cost should never be a factor in my opinion). Others choose it because they don't have access to a qualified practitioner (not everyone lives in a major urban metropolis, and others live in an area where they don't have legal access, often due to age), and still others choose it because they are shy (especially in the case of genital work). Some people might pick it, as you said, because they want to integrate it into a personal ritual that doesn't “fit” into a studio environment (couples piercing each other in a sexual context for example).

I'd say that going to a qualified practitioner is usually the best decision. However, these are personal acts, and I certainly support others' rights to perform them in the way they feel will be best for them.

8. Some people believe body modification is an almost evolutionary call — a primal connection between mankind past and mankind present. Do you believe it's something fundimental that calls you to this art form?

I think the desire to self-decorate and manipulate one's form, as well as the drive to go through sensual events and rites of passage is an inherent universal human drive. We all express these drives on some level; in “our” case we choose to make permanent pseudo-surgical changes to the body, and to utilize the body directly in our rituals. Other people might “play it safe” by instead expressing themselves through fashion, makeup, and hairstyle, and through more common (and typically more self-destructive) “coming-of-age” rituals such as drunk driving and unprotected sex.

Personally I prefer the route we have chosen because I believe it is the most revelatory; that is, the most knowledge about the self, as well as our relationship with the larger whole, is gained.

9. Why do you think so many people over 35 are frightened by this form of self expression? And how can that fear be answered and addressed?

As I said, BME has tons of readers over thirty-five. I don't think it has anything to do with age. I think it's simply fear of the unfamiliar… To oversimplify, it's the same as being afraid of a person of another race before you've had the chance to get to know them and realize that under their skin they're the same kind of human as you are.

Body modification is a personal act. In general it only directly affects the individual that's doing it. As such, it's nothing to be afraid of. Even if it's not for you, it's important to realize that it can be a positive influence on someone's life, and we should respect their right to indulge in it.

10. What's your personal history with piercing and body modifications? What pulled you into the fold?

One day I realized that I was a human being, not a robot. I was probably about twelve at the time, and it's one of the most important revelations I've ever had. Now I do what I can to help other people do the same, in their own ways.