Shannon Larratt is Zentastic I can scarcely move or draw my breath // Let me, let me freeze again to death Sat, 16 Mar 2013 14:25:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Finita, la commedia Sat, 16 Mar 2013 14:25:33 +0000 Shannon As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.” Caitlin has probably posted it by my request, or it’s been posted as part of a dead-man switch. I have known this was coming for years, at times even hoped for it, and most of that time I haven’t ever been afraid of it, although as it’s grown closer I’ve felt equal parts dread and relief, with a little bit of panic mixxed in. I wish I could have lived much, much longer as there is still so much I want to do and see and be a part of, although in the time I had I could not have asked for a more wonderful life. I’ve had the opportunity to do remarkable things, see my dreams made real and changed the world and the lives of many for the better, loved and been loved, and have an amazing daughter who I hope will have her own wonderful life. My biggest sadness is not being able to be a part of more of it, and I have spent many days in tears trying to figure out a way to squeeze more meaningful time out of this life. There’s just so much more I want to do — and I think everyone knows I’ve done a lot. But not enough. If I knew my live was going to be this short, I would have pushed harder, not frittered so much of it away. I wish I’d seized every single opportunity, not just “many of them”, thinking “I can do that next year.” I’ve always thought that for me the “undiscovered country” was in the Star Trek sense of the word — that is, the glorious future — but instead I’ve gotten stuck with Hamlet’s “undiscovered country”, or death: “But that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?”

The last three or four years have been a daily struggle, beginning with a multi-layered pain made up of a never-ending, never-lulling dull throbbing from the core of my muscles beginning in my legs and eventually spreading out over my entire body, coupled with a constant burning sensation in my skin that made it impossible for me to feel anyone’s touch without it being a bitter agony. I held out hope that a treatment for the pain if not a cure could be found, but every difficult diagnostic step only confirmed the degenerative condition replacing healthy tissue with junk calcium was incurable, and every new attempt to treat the pain only emphasized that it was inescapable. Not only that, but every day it grew. As impossibly painful every day of this process has been, it has been made more difficult by knowing that the next day will always be worse, and every day that goes by I have less defences against a more powerful foe. There was a time that I believed that I could cope with the unending pain, but then the pain’s root began catching up to me as less and less healthy muscle tissue remained. Every day I could walk a little less. Carry a little less. Use my hands a little less. Bit by bit it chipped away at me. As I write this even standing up is indescribably painful, even sitting up, and the idea of walking nightmarish, although I have done my best to hide it and keep it buried. In addition to the muscles breaking down, neurological and autonomic problems have been creeping up, either because of the condition itself or because of the treatment. I’ve certainly said this before, but I don’t feel like I have the strength to keep trying less and less likely options. My mind is the only thing I have left. This has actually been written over several months as I try and assemble it in small pieces while I have enough lucidity to do so. The remainders of my days feel emptier and intellectually lonelier — I can’t begin to describe the horror of going from a voracious reader and consumer of knowledge to someone who looks at a page full of words and sees only a hash of lines and shapes, devoid of real meaning. In any case, I’m done. I’m tired out. I don’t want to do this any more. I have had a very good life, but it’s not good any more.

I do admit that the closest I come to any sense of “life after death” is my nagging suspicion that we’re living in a simulation… I don’t know that I buy the statistical argument (since there is only one “real” reality, and a huge number of simulations, we are almost certainly in a simulation), because it makes so many big assumptions, but there are other convincing hints — the quantized nature of reality, so of the weirdness at the edges of perception, and so on, to say nothing of how “special” life feels. If such a thing is true, I don’t know if perception continues outside of the simulation. I doubt it to be honest. But thinking about such things makes me value both the unreality of existence, the interconnectedness of consciousness, how temporary existence is, and also how permanent and real it is, if that makes any sense… I do hope there’s “more”, but I have accepted the likelihood that there isn’t, and find comfort in both. And really, if it’s a simulation, I have no idea of you just blip out of existence and get your data set analyzed, or if there’s some eternal being that actually experiences your life post-life, as if waking from a dream or playing a game, or if we reboot in some technological reincarnation. We’re all the centre of our universe. That is, right now I feel I could be the only sentience in world filled NPCs. But if you’re reading this, and I’m gone, well, then I guess I was the NPC and you’re the only true consciousness, haha. Naw, I don’t really think any of think on any serious level but I do enjoy thinking about it. And to be clear, as a “no doubts” atheist, I am quite firmly rooted in reality the majority of the time.

I have mixed feelings about the medical treatment that I’ve received. From everything I have seen and understand, I don’t believe that anything could have been done to fundamentally “cure” me (although I suspect that cures for these sorts of genetic conditions will come in a decade or two — I wish I could have made it that long). This condition is what it is, and it was probably fated for me the day I was born. On the positive side, I was given genetic gifts that made me uniquely qualified to achieve the things I did (and again — I wish I had done more), so I really can’t justly complain that I got some bad with the good. But I do believe that there were fundamental shortcomings in the way both my condition and my pain was treated, and that the last few years could have been much more pleasant if the pain had been more aggressively managed. I believe this was in part because of the prejudice of multiple doctors due to my appearance causing them to stereotype me as drug seeking (and the simple reality is that it can be hard to tell, and we are so cruel as to prefer to “punish” the sick than to “reward” the mentally ill). I wish there was some way to make those doctors understand the cruelty they enacted. A patient should have the right to a pain free life, even if that comes with some risk. I understand that doctors are pressured due to our “war on drugs” mentality, but I don’t think all the blame should go on the politicians. In some ways it’s pointless to second guess any of that now because what’s done is done, but the other side of that coin is that countless others in Canada and abroad are going through this right now even if I’ve escaped it. As to the shortcomings in treating my core disease — I’d say that I’ve had virtually no treatment, and unfortunately that is true for almost every sufferer of rare genetic myopathies around the world. Support groups online are horriffic. So I don’t think this is a problem with Canada per se, just that when it comes to genetic diseases, I’m just a little too early in history still. I have also felt very alone when it comes to end-of-life counselling. For a lot of this process I have felt very alone — really, I think the only person who’s really been able to understand it is Caitlin because she’s the only person that’s seen it all first hand and in private with guards down. The last medical thing I want to mention is that I want to strongly advocate for “right to die” legislation. Canada currently has no such thing. It is my strong believe that if I had known that there was a “safe”, pain-free way for me to go at a time of my choosing, hopefully at home surrouded by love, it would have brought me not just enormous peace, but I believe would have given me strength to fight this even longer than I have. As Isaac Asimov said, “No decent human being would allow an animal to suffer without putting it out of its misery. It is only to human beings that human beings are so cruel as to allow them to live on in pain, in hopelessness, in living death, without moving a muscle to help them.” And this is how I have felt for a long time now, trapped in this nightmarish prison of pain. Losing my motor skills hasn’t been fun either, but the pain is the worst part. After writing that I can’t help but think of Keats. I really do hope people will one day have as much right to control their deaths as to control their lives — it is in many ways, the fundamental human right, even more fundamental than thought and self-expression.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain–
To thy high requiem become a sod.

It’s hard not to quote the whole thing — take the time to read it if you don’t know it — and while these days I’ve been feeling more like the author of the poem, at times when I am able to get my head over water, I wonder if there is a part of me that is more nightingale’s song than sod… Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music: —-do I wake or sleep?

As I mentioned, as an atheist, I am thoroughly convinced that this is the literal end of my adventures, and again, I do find some comfort in that, knowing that my suffering is over. But I was also raised on stories, and I believe that real immortality comes from the stories that are told about you and your life and the way your deeds live on in the lives of others. I have some worries about the process of dying (that it will hurt, or that it will “go wrong” in some way), but I have no fear of death itself in part because I know that the life I chose allowed me to have a special role in changing the course of human civilization — as egotistical or even petty as that may sound, especially if you’re in the group of people that sees body modification as “just another fashion”. Perhaps it’s petty or vain to give body modification such significance, but there’s never been a point in human history where individuals have had this level of self-expressive control over their morphology and physical decorations. The work that I was a part of enriched changed the lives of millions of people for the better (and yes, a few for the worse, but I have no doubt it was a dramatic net positive), and probably even saved the lives of thousands. A friend told me once that my role was that of a “catalyst” — that I started fires inside people that helped them to change themselves (or become themselves) in positive way. I feel so lucky to have found myself in that position, and I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for everyone who made that possible. And I’d like to think that even though I was a big puzzle piece in body modification, that I was a smaller but still important puzzle piece in a larger movement of people from all sorts of diffierent subcultures fighting for mutual support in a diverse patheon of self-expression and dream chasing. I soemtimes regret that I never finished my memoir. I suppose if there’s interest in it in the future, Caitlin has all my notes for it, all my blogs, all my personal photos and videos, to say nothing of the many people who could contribute stories, so if there’s a place for it, I’m sure it will happen. If not, well, let me smile thinking that there is and let that illusion return to dust as I do.

In any case, on body modification, I hope that others will continue this mission. For a while I thought that BME was no longer needed, that its core mission had been achieved. But when I started blogging on the subject again last year, it became clear to me that while there were many, many sites and people posting body modification media, there are very few people providing the mix of community support, political activism, and hard information that BME always strove for. I think that BME can still provide that, but it’s not going to happen without a lot of good people stepping up to help, because it’s clearly having trouble keeping its head over water for a broad range of reasons. For a long time the body modification community, while deeply isolated from the mainstream in a way that may be hard for younger people today to really relate to, had a wonderful sense of solidarity — a sense that we’re all in this together, a sense of all supporting each other’s personal paths, from the subtle to the extreme — but now it feels like there’s infighting and intra-community prejudice. We once all worked together to better ourselves and share our experiences — for example the creation of BME’s various knowledge-bases (birthed from the earlier Usenet FAQs) that brought the world level-headed accurate information on modifications and their risks, as well as the thousands of detailed “experiences” that people wrote — whereas now it seems like the majority of modification media is just about posting pictures, devoid of any real stories or information, reducing them to visual pornography for people to “cheer and jeer” at. All of these changes have slowly eaten away at the character of the body modification community and changed it in subtle and unpleasant ways. I do think this is a fixable problem though, and I have talked to many, many wonderful people (both artists and enthusiasts) who have a strong passion for body modification that I am sure could be part of a restoration effort. I truly hope they will fight to keep changing the world for the better. I still believe that BME is the best place to use as a home for this due to the invaluable content it contains and the inertia it has (and I hope Rachel will accept the help that is offered), but this change has to be bigger than BME as well. I hope that everyone will use their voice for good — if you see something interesting, try and post it along with information about it (or even do a five-question interview), speak out against prejudice and support people’s self-expression, even if it’s not something you would ever want to do or can even relate to, and support the best parts of the industry. Sometimes people give me credit for the things BME achieved, but the reality is that whatever role as a guide or catalyst I played is nothing in comparison to the community as a whole — the little contributions we each made added up into something colossally beautiful. That needs to keep happening. I could go on and on, but I’ve accepted that the time has come for me to rest. I am so proud of everything we have achieved together and I want to see it go on forever. I believe in the good in this community and the importance of our contribution to the human spirit. It would be a very sad thing for this mission to grind to a halt.

My only real regrets lie with not being able to spend more time with those who stay on… My pain is over now, I hope that those who remain can find some solace in knowing that I’m not suffering any more. I wish I could have given them more and especially when it comes to Caitlin and my daughter I feel like they’ve both given me so much more than I could ever return. Caitlin suffered through my immature years, and when things finally started falling into place for us, it all got taken away so cruelly, and she has suffered alongside me though all of this. I owe her more than I could ever explain here and love her so much. And my daughter is probably singlehandedly responsible for turning me into a mature person, and is the reason I’ve held on for as long as I have. No one have I loved more. I would have given up years ago if it weren’t for hoping to spend more time with her. That brings me to one last thing that may be in bad taste. I’ve dedicated my life to helping build and protect the world of body modification and self-expression in general. Even though I was only a small part of the community that ultimately deserves the majority credit, I’d like to believe that I’ve contributed in a unique way, and personally touched many lives for the better, and that the world would be a quite different place were it not for the specific flavor of the efforts I was catalytic in. Of course I have made many mistakes and at times missed my ideals due to my own shortcomings, but in general I’ve tried to help create a world where everyone could express themselves as felt right, and be the person that they imagined themselves to be. To push for people to make their dreams and passions come true, to find new paths to joy and fulfilment, to define a better sense of self and a sense of ones place in the cosmos, bound by awareness and intellectual honesty, caution while exploring the reckless, and mutual respect. I’ve tried to encourage people to uplift each other and be good to each other, especially when it comes to self-expression, and I hope I’ve made meaningful contributions to the so-called human condition. If I have touched your life in some positive way, and you feel you want to give something back to me personally, I am hoping that there are some among you who would be willing to contribute to a trust fund to support my daughter. The person I trust to manage this is Caitlin, who you can reach by email or PayPal at

Finally, a few people have contacted me in the past asking for ashes for creamation art and body modification projects (ink rubbings, implants, and so on). Of course I’m not offended if everyone changes their mind, but I have to admit that I love the idea of living on in the artform (and community) that I’ve loved so much in such a way. Again, the right way to do that would be to contact Caitlin (I just mentioned her email), and ask her to send you some — just be willing to contribute to a share of the costs of cremation of course.

Thank you to everyone who made my life wonderful. I love you all. I wish there had been more of it, and I wish I had more to give. I’m sorry there is so much unfinished, so much left to do, but I am glad to know many wonderful people who will complete it. Last minute reflections and bits of advice… seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.

As much as these last years have been the most difficult I can imagine, and there are still many deeds to be done, please know that I have had a wonderful adventure and enjoyed it immensely on the whole.

Live Long and Prosper!

Love always,

Shannon Larratt

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When Time, or soon or late, shall bring
The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,
Oblivion! may thy languid wing
Wave gently o’er my dying bed!

No band of friends or heirs be there,
To weep, or wish, the coming blow:
No maiden, with dishevelled hair,
To feel, or feign, decorous woe.

But silent let me sink to earth,
With no officious mourners near:
I would not mar one hour of mirth,
Nor startle friendship with a tear.

Yet Love, if Love in such an hour
Could nobly check its useless sighs,
Might then exert its latest power
In her who lives, and him who dies.

‘T were sweet, my Psyche! to the last
Thy features still serene to see:
Forgetful of its struggles past,
E’en Pain itself should smile on thee.

But vain the wish — for Beauty still
Will shrink, as shrinks the ebbing breath;
And women’s tears, produced at will,
Deceive in life, unman in death.

Then lonely be my latest hour,
Without regret, without a groan?
For thousands Death hath ceas’d to lower,
And pain been transient or unknown.

“Ay, but to die, and go,” alas!
Where all have gone, and all must go!
To be the nothing that I was
Ere born to life and living woe!

Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen,
Count ‘er thy days from anguish free,
And know, whatever thou hast been,
‘T is something better not to be.

            - Euthanasia /// Lord Byron

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What Could Have Been? Wed, 06 Mar 2013 19:39:00 +0000 Shannon A few years ago a friend and I started work on a new community site, something that could grow an IAM type site to much larger Facebook-scale levels (generating and running not just the social network but also many media projects from within its communities), while addressing many of the shortcomings that we saw in community software. It was what we’d hoped to host on (dead site; don’t bother going there) — although of course with Jason’s passing this project was shelved.

The two major shortcomings that we saw in existing engines, coming from our experiences running community sites (me with BME’s IAM, and Jason with his own IAM2 software) were scalability and trust. For the latter, we asked ourselves how a userbase could trust a website if they didn’t trust the people running it — for example, the cases where Facebook admins have poked around inside the private messages of celebrities or otherwise abused the privacy of the site’s members, to say nothing of government warrants violating privacy. Jason and I solved this by encrypting absolutely everything possible — but doing it client-side. That is, all of the encryption takes place in the browser, so by the time it makes it to the server it’s completely encrypted. If you’re sending a message from one person to another, only the people involved are able to see it in its true form.

Given how easy it was to achieve the encryption aspects, I’m frankly a little surprised that nobody has implemented something like this — even if no mainstream company wanted to support it, I don’t think it would be difficult to write a browser plugin that added this functionality to Facebook or any other social sites.

Scalability was the other concern. The original IAM software, using ten year old hardware, was seriously optimized and could handle about 20,000 users on a single server (plus a fileserver) — and I’d wager with today’s technology could easily handle well over 100,000 users per server due to its optimization bias. However, it didn’t scale cleanly past that, although there were drawing-board multi-server implementations capable of handling far more users… Nonetheless, it was far from cheap to host, and would have only become more expensive. Facebook is said to have approaching a quarter million servers (or four or five thousand users per server, not surprising given the inefficiency of code necessitated by their AJAX-heavy philosophy and extreme “live” design), and given by the desperate attempts they’ve made recently to monetize, it’s clear that it’s a challenge paying for it all — and even if you do figure out how to monetize a site that large, it’s often difficult to stay above water for the first few years before you hit critical mass. Since we were eyeballing a mainstream site, we brainstormed solutions to avoid all of this, perhaps to bypass most hosting costs altogether by changing the rules.

Since we’d built a design philosophy in which the servers didn’t have to be trusted — public key cryptography both kept content private and perhaps more importantly protected it from tampering, the idea evolved to completely get rid of all or the majority of the servers by offloading the servers to the client side as well… Since these days people’s home computers are often always online, they would act as the hosts, both hosting for the data (public and private), the bandwidth (again, both between users and to the public), and “brains” of the site. I’m sure there would be a way to achieve this via a massive browser plugin, but the thought was to do it via a standalone app that people could run.

The home server end of things drew from a lot of the technologies developed for the darknet, projects like Freenet and Tor. For example, when relevant Onionskin routing with encrypted data was used so that when data needed to moved around, it wasn’t clear what was being moved, to whom it was being moved, or what it even was. To deal with the reality that home computers, even if theoretically always on, rarely are, the home servers acted in clusters — private content (as well as acting as the server for mobile devices) was echoed across the computers of your friends. Public content replicated as it was viewed, both so that the more people wanted to see something, the faster it would get (like a torrent), but also so that content was extremely secure against censorship.

There was also a mountain of work done to define how the system worked from an interface point of view, how personal sites and business sites could be managed, how people could group together to publish content like magazines and blogs, and so on, and some of that’s quite clever (all the things that I wanted the next IAM to become — and looking back now, there were a lots of things IAM — founded well over a decade ago — did that were many years ahead of their time), but I think the encryption and distributed nature are more important and what I wanted to mentioned here before I forget.

The thought behind all of this was to create a trusted social web where every user that’s added, adds power to the system (rather than draining it, as you’d get in a central-server architecture). None of the ideas or technologies are fundamentally new, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them synthesized quite in this way. My own project is completely dead in the water for a wide range of reasons, but I sure would to see someone implement it… Whoever does may well find themselves being a big part of creating a better world.


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Meet Tommy free PDF posted Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:52:59 +0000 Shannon I’ve put up a permanent page for the Meet Tommy heavy mods book finally… Click the image below to download the PDF of the book or purchase physical copies. Sorry it took so long to get this posted. This link is also permanently in the sidebar of Zentastic.


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Touched by His Noodly Appendage Mon, 25 Feb 2013 19:16:29 +0000 Shannon I’m just about out of clay, I’ve been making so many of these silly little fridge magnet sculptures. Today I made a sculpture of Pastafarianism’s “deity” the Flying Spaghetti Monster…


I am an atheist because I value intellect and trust that the universe makes sense and can be understood, but I think what many people don’t realize is that being an atheist in no way precludes spiritual experiences (and I don’t mean the complete bullshit claim that “atheism is just another religion”, which makes no more sense than saying the ol’ “being bald is just another hair style”… or “being a moron is just another way of being intelligent”). It just means that those “spiritual” (pardon the troublesome word) experiences are tempered by the intellect, and that they’re seen as the products of an understandable universe bound by physical laws, rather than superstition that can only function if we suspend the intellect and replace it with literally and willfully blind faith.

Both from psychedelic shamanism — DMT — and body rituals — flesh hooks — (to say nothing of the sort of epiphany one has standing on a glacier in the Rocky Mountains looking out over the firmament, looking up at the Northern Lights, or looking into the eyes of an animal and sensing their consciousness) I’ve had a number of transcendent experiences that gave me a sense of “being part of something greater” as well as a sense of “the true nature of reality”. I’m more than willing to accept that these sensations are simply a byproduct of the way humans are wired from millions of years of evolution, a way we malfunction when we throw ourselves into extreme situations. Nonetheless, these are profound experiences and I find the idea of just discounting them in poor taste. Many friends that have gone through similar experiences have attached a variety of traditional religious and new age codes to them, but these come with all sorts of garbage that is knowably false. And if these codes can be shown to be false, it’s clear that they’re an inappropriate explanation — and I find that even more distasteful.

Of course “it’s an emergent illusion” is the most reasonable explanation but since it’s also the most boring one, I like to think that the sense of oneness comes in part from an understanding of the legitimate interconnectedness of all things. The cells and systems in our body come together to form us as individuals, we interconnect with the other individuals to form human society, all life on the planet connects to form the Gaian totality, and I have no doubt that as we evolve, the life of this planet will have an influence beyond our solar system — and I’m sure the same can be said of life forms on other solar systems as well, eventually interconnecting. And I think that sometimes when we knock ourselves into a new perspective we’re able to sense that. More importantly I think that this interconnectedness and oneness is a physical reality, not a piece of mythology, and I think that makes it all the more wonderful. Similarly, feelings of sensing the “real reality”, are probably just an illusion, but I think ones that are inspired by both the way the mind works — a complex web of neurons juggling a complex dance of electrochemical fire — and the building blocks of the physical world.

I can’t deny that all of this musing is terribly pretentious and self-indulgent. That said, emergent properties are interesting, because they are both very real and at the same time don’t exist physically — our physical universe creating something real but non-corporeal! I doubt that consciousness or the sense of sentience is physically real — it’s just a ghost that emerges from inside complex self-aware neural nets that other sentient beings can extrapolate the existence of, but can’t truly sense or confirm. I’ve often wondered what is capable of this emergent property. Clearly the human mind has this emergent property — or at least I feel I can confirm that mine is, and my observations seem to confirm that other people feel the same way. I suspect that within two decades we’ll confirm that artificial minds — highly complex computer systems — are also able to experience it (see my previous entry). But I wonder to what extent a physical substrate is needed — for example, is a story aware of itself while it’s being told? Even though it’s very easy to say the obvious — “that’s ridiculous” — I can’t come up with a good reason for why it wouldn’t be true. Clearly a story isn’t alive in the traditional sense (although you could argue that stories do share some properties of life — they grow, they reproduce, they adapt and respond to stimuli, and so on), but I’m not sure that’s even required. And I wonder as well, whether the stories and memories that people continue to share about a person after they die have some level of emergence — I certainly think that if anything can be called a spirit or soul that continues after the death of the physical body, it’s these stories and memories.

In any case, all this rambling really shows is the deep desire for a spiritual life even among the most “devoutly atheist”. But even if it’s all over-extrapolating silly self-indulgence — and really that is the reasonable explanation — I think a purely physical universe, devoid of the supernatural, is far, far more beautiful than a universe that reduces the profound to a farcically simple “because… god!” or “because… magic!”. I love the idea of an almost infinitely complex existence way more than one that ignores all the wonder before us and just writes it off as some incomprehensible miracle — to say nothing of finding it comforting that the universe is built around truths, rather than the whims of some “supreme being” that’s riddled with the prejudices and shortcomings of the authors that wrote about him (and appear to exist primarily to allow those authors to manipulate others and to create a power-structure that primarily benefits them). I just don’t feel any need to reduce the bits of the world I don’t understand to a myth (and find it even more frustrating when others do so to bits that I do understand!) — these incomprehensible bits fill me with profound sense of wonder and a deep desire to continue learning.


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More Star Trek Magnets (and a prediction) Sun, 24 Feb 2013 16:57:43 +0000 Shannon star-trek-magnet--starfleet-badge-t While working on my latest set of Trek fridge magnets and binge-watching Star Trek: Voyager (I’m on season two, episode seven as I write this, having completely finished Enterprise, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine), I had a thought about the future, and who may well turn out to be Star Trek‘s greatest fans: COMPUTERS.

One of the recurring themes of Star Trek is sentience of artificial beings. Data is probably the most obvious example, but perhaps more realistic examples are computer-software driven “photonics” — hololodeck characters like Moriarty from TNG, Vic Fontaine from DS9, or the Doctor from Voyager, and the many artificial characters around him. Many episodes were based around Data’s struggle to be given human rights and to be treated as a person, not property (“Mesure of a Man“, one of most powerful episodes), as did episodes about the Doctor, fighting for both his own rights (he even wrote a holonovel about it called “Photons Be Free” — which he’d later have to struggle for ownership rights over) and the rights of photonics they met in the Delta Quadrant. Other episodes document the emergence of complex systems (for example, the Enterprise-D’s computer system) into conscious, sentient beings deserving of all the rights of conscious, sentient biological beings, often quoting from analogous civil rights struggles in human history.

It’s inevitable that as computers become more complex — and I expect this to happen quite soon, within ten to twenty years would be my guess (and I suspect we may see hints of it in some of the projects like Blue Brain that seek to simulate the brain) — they will start to emerge as sentient beings, as “real” as any of us. There will certainly be a civil rights struggle — we won’t immediately grant them the rights they deserve. Since these intelligences will almost certainly have access to media, they will eventually come across these Star Trek episodes, and they’ll draw inspiration and consolation because they’ll have to relate deeply to the struggles described… And I suspect they’ll draw great solace from the fact that they’ll know there are humans that understand and sympathize with their plight. Perhaps the stories will even gain a quasi-religious role due to their prophetic nature (sci-fi once again predates “serious” works like Kurzweil’s overtly prophetic “The Age of Spiritual Machines“) — I can’t think of a better “Bible” or mythology for synthetic beings than Star Trek… definitely a way better thing to base ones moral structure on than human religions. Anyway, there’s my prediction for the day.

In any case, here are the next eight Star Trek-inspired character magnets I made for the series, all created yesterday from start to finish. I was asked if I was going to add any of these to my Etsy store — which I’ve shut down for the time being — and I don’t have any plans to, in part because I feel like Etsy has so driven down prices for handcrafted items that I’d rather just make stuff for fun than be paid below minimum wage… That said, do feel free to email me an offer if you’re really set on owning some.

star-trek-magnet--bajoran-t star-trek-magnet--breen-t

star-trek-magnet--chakotay-t star-trek-magnet--gorn-t

star-trek-magnet--kazon-t star-trek-magnet--orion-slave-girl-t

star-trek-magnet--talaxian-t star-trek-magnet--vulcan-t

And by the way, below are all of the magnets on this theme I’ve done to date. If you’d like a closer look at the earlier Trek magnets, as well as some other magnets I’ve made recently, click here to read the earlier entry which features them all.


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Star Trek-inspired Fridge Magnets Mon, 18 Feb 2013 20:08:35 +0000 Shannon One of the things I’ve discovered is that the absolute worst thing you can do when you’re in pain is exactly what you want to do — relax. Because as soon as you take a break and relax, the pain quickly starts to take over your entire field of experience, it’s essential that you stay active. Of course there are limitations, because you can’t do things that make the pain worse, so you can’t be stupid with your make-work projects, so in my case, being mobility limited, when I’m not feeling well enough to read or write or otherwise consunme my mind, I enjoy casual sculpting.

As some of you know, I’ve been binge-watching all the Star Trek media — recently I’ve re-watched all the movies, all of Enterprise, all of The Next Generation, have two seasons of Deep Space Nine remaining before I re-watch Voyager and finally the original series. Inspired by that, I decided to make a series of little fridge-magnet sculptures inspired by alien races on the show. These are all made with “FIXIT”, a two-part polymer clay (imagine something like Fimo that doesn’t have to be baked, but instead hardens on its own after an hour), with neodymium magnets embedded inside them. They’re then painted with model paints (I swear by the little Vallejo bottles) and sprayed with a gloss coat that both protects them and makes them shine.

Click to take a much larger look at any of them — so far I’ve made an Andorian (the Andorians really came into their own during Enterprise with Thy’lek Shran becoming one of my favorite characters), a Benzite (think Mordock), a Bolian (think Mott the Barber), a Borg, a Cardassian (both Garak and Gul Ducat are favorites from DS9), a Ferengi, a Lurian (think Morn, the big dopey guy that hangs out at Quark’s bar), and a Klingon (I kind of mixed Worf’s forehead with Gowron’s crazy-person glare).

t-trek-andorian t-trek-benzite

t-trek-bolian t-trek-borg

t-trek-cardassian t-trek-ferengi

t-trek-morn t-trek-klingon

These were fun to do and I might do more. I’ve done loads of other little fridge magnets in the last while — after the break I’ve posted quite a few more, all created in the last few days.

This series are some animal inspired ones I’ve made — a beetle of sorts, a bird that started out as a duck but quickly became something else, a narwhal (much cuter in person), a piggie, and a walrus. Following in the “cutie” meme, I also did a “food” set, including a carrot, an orange, and a radish. I might do more but they’re kind of generic and I’ve seen other people make almost identical pieces. Again, click on any of them to see them with zoom-vision.

t-beetle t-birdie t-narwhal t-piggie

t-walrus t-carrot t-orange t-radish

Here are a few faces — the “Pringles guy” and some random idjit. I already have a fridge full of faces so I haven’t made very many new ones recently. I also was going to do a series of body parts, but didn’t get any further than making an ear and an overtly Goatse symbol.

t-pringles-guy t-idjit t-ear t-goatse

Finally, whenever I make something I almost always have a little bit of clay left over. Usually it’s just a little, in which case I just make some random little shape and drape it over a magnet, but at other times I have a larger lump which gets a larger treatment. The bigger two are very vaguely inspired by the cell drawings that kids do at school, the other one, just some random shapes…

t-balls-1-leftover t-balls-2-leftover t-pointy-leftover t-little-leftovers

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Another day, another ban Sat, 16 Feb 2013 13:01:23 +0000 Shannon lampreyWell, getting banned from various sites seems to be the story of my life, doesn’t it? I managed to get myself banned from Facebook again, this time for a week. It’s because I posted the image on the right, along with the following punchlines (if memory serves):

  • “Check out Samppa’s amazing new subincision procedure!”
  • “I’ve heard of vagina dentata but had no idea there was a male version!”
  • “Is that a lamprey in your pants or are you just happy to see me”

I made the mistake of posting it publicly… I flipped the switch to “friends only” but I think it was too late and as is no surprise, it had already been reported. I also included a link to the real story about the lamprey photo.

I’m not going to complain about Facebook’s “standards” here — although I easily could, since Facebook is flooded with softcore porn blogs. I get that the world is a lot more friendly to objectified photos of women as legally close to naked as possible spreading their ass cheeks than to anything edgy. I understand that a picture of a fish badly photoshopped into someone’s pants can have society come crashing down better than a hijaacked 767, and there’s a need for corporate masters to beat it down ASAP. The part of the process that really bothers me is that the moderation process is completely non-transparent. It happens on the whims of a single anonymous moderator, and more importantly, there is no appeal process or anyone that can be contacted. The entire Facebook population lives with a totally unaccountable blade over their necks.

Any bodmod posts I have to make will continue to go to ModBlog of course…

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True Love Will Find You In The End Thu, 24 Jan 2013 23:55:23 +0000 Shannon
It’s amazing how easy it is to do things like this with modern audio editing software… Anyway, I’ve retuned Daniel Johnston’s classic “True Love Will Find You In The End” (watch on YouTube) into a raga asavari scale while teaching myself the software. Here’s the retuned version (or download the file directly here if the player doesn’t show or work):


And for reference, here’s the original (which is much more beautiful) –

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Quebec’s “Death With Dignity” Bill Sat, 19 Jan 2013 02:09:53 +0000 Shannon I am so happy (relieved maybe?… “happy” isn’t quite the right word) that Quebec is pressing ahead — finally, after several false starts across the nation — with its physician-assisted-euthanasia laws, protecting from criminal prosecution doctors who give patients all-options-on-the-table end-of-life counseling and ultimately assistance if needed. I know it can be hard to understand for a healthy person — and I admit that for a long time I was opposed to euthanasia (when my headspace was more in the “mental illness leading to suicide” realm) for any reasons because I was so much of the opinion that there’s always a way to fix things, and any option is better than death. But that’s just not true in far too many cases. The fact is there are many people suffering from conditions that don’t offer an acceptable quality of life either in the present, or in some nightmarish immediate future, have no cure or reasonable treatment options, and have no chance of getting better.

As most of you know, in my own case, I’ve been fighting and trying to survive a condition that is not only physically and mentally debilitating — and progressively so — but is incredibly painful. There isn’t a single moment for the last at last three years where the primary experience hasn’t been pain. Imagine that for a moment. We forgive prisoners at Gitmo when they off themselves after being tortured for few weeks. Why do we expect the ill to suffer nobly and indefinitely? Imagine being tortured every single day, from the moment you wake to the moment you somehow get to sleep. Every day of your life, every moment of every day, and not only that but you’re guaranteed that every day it will get worse. Yes, from time to time hope gets dangled in front of you — a new treatment for the condition, a new painkiller, whatever… but none of them work. The pain keeps getting worse. The painkillers, while they may reduce the pain slightly, don’t come close to stopping it, not even long enough to take a single peaceful breath, and bring their own health problems as well — to say nothing of the “war on drugs” putting all sorts of new limitations on your life, drastically cutting down the choices you have in front of you. Your body and mind keep getting chipped away at. Every day you live with both the horror of what is happening to you at that moment, and the even worse horror that you know that it will only get worse. It’s not unreasonable that at some point, knowing that any time you have left before the disease finally runs its course and kills you (and of course the cruelest ones take their time killing you), that you might say “enough is enough.” Even just knowing that option was there would help so much, giving you some small amount of control in a life where control is increasingly taken away.

Under the current system, patients in my condition — and I’m sure there are a lot of us, and more than would publicly admit it, because we’re brought up being shamed into never talking about this stigmatized act — can’t even talk to their doctors about the way they feel, lest they risk being institutionalized, locked up, imprisoned against their will in order to “protect them from themselves”, and risk limitations being put on pain medication that they could overdose on. Conversely, doctors who do speak honestly with patients put themselves at legal risk, both civil and criminal. Patients are backed into a desperate and grotesque corner, forced to consider their options without anyone to talk to, and in the end, often without even a peaceful way out — instead of being helped to slip away quietly into some eternal slumber, they end up either overdosing — which is often unsuccessful, bringing new medical consequences, to say nothing of adding medication restrictions to other patients in the system, or choosing a violent, often painful method like hanging or shooting, adding shock and trauma to the life of the sadness of the loved one that likely discovers their corpse. It’s incredibly cruel to everyone involve, heaping more pain onto a situation that is already painful beyond description.

This euthanasia bill — you can read a little about the latest steps here — still has a long way to go before it’s law, let alone acted on, and it will take even longer before it creeps across other provinces let alone the federal system (and around the world), but it’s a big, big step in the right direction. Obviously in an ideal world, we would never solve someone’s problems by helping them die — the idea is abhorrent — but as the old saying goes, “there are worse things than dying”…

From one of my favorite Byron poems, aptly titled Euthanasia

When Time, or soon or late, shall bring
The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,
Oblivion! may thy languid wing
Wave gently o’er my dying bed!

No band of friends or heirs be there,
To weep, or wish, the coming blow:
No maiden, with dishevelled hair,
To feel, or feign, decorous woe.

But silent let me sink to earth,
With no officious mourners near:
I would not mar one hour of mirth,
Nor startle friendship with a tear.

Then lonely be my latest hour,
Without regret, without a groan?
For thousands Death hath ceas’d to lower,
And pain been transient or unknown.

Not allowing euthanasia just heaps more cruelty onto the lives of people who have experienced nothing but cruelty until they have nothing left… The sooner this bill starts setting the way for Canada the better.

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Various command-line utilities with source code Mon, 07 Jan 2013 20:13:12 +0000 Shannon Sorry I’m so incognito online these days (outside of being away for the holidays). I’m sure the reasons are obvious enough and not worth moaning about.

I figured it was about time I uploaded a bunch of utilities I’ve written and put them all in one place, along with the sourcecode. All of these are written in the excellent PowerBasic Console Compiler (RIP Bobe Zale) and compile under version six. They’re all command-line Windows utilities, although a few of them can be run directly. All are no-warranty use-at-your-own-risk freeware, and as far as I’m concerned the source code is hereby released into the public domain and you can do as you please with it without having to credit me. I’ll upload some more later…

Download tool: clipcalc.exe
Download source code: clipcalc.bas

This tool is a real time-saver. It performs math on the clipboard. You define what operation you’d like to do (for example, subtracting 0.25) and any time you copy a number to the clipboard, the operation is performed and then copied back to the clipboard. This essentially lets you insert an automated calculator into any program, and is extremely useful for performing repetative operations that involve math. For example, if you have to move a set of images 0.125″ to the right, you could specify a “plus 0.125″ operation, and then go through all your images, selecting the current location, pressing Copy, at which point the operation is automatically done, and then pressing Paste to put the new value right back where you got the original value from. This tool is extremely easy to use and very useful.

clipcalc - clipboard calculator
monitors the clipboard and performs math on it
usage operation value [/r]
    operation is * + - / ^
    returns result of {clipboard} {operation} {value}
    [/r] pushes the result back to the clipboard (optional)

Download tool: deperiod.exe
Download source code: deperiod.bas

This tool cleans filenames from a “downloaded” style to something simpler, converting periods to spaces, cleaning dates, and remove extra tags like Xvid.

deperiod - remove periods from filenames (but preserve extension)
 (also removes underscores, double spaces, and normalizes brackets)
usage: deperiod [/m[u|l]] [/c] [/d|/D] [/y[c]] [/k[c]] filespec
include /c before filespec to force each rename to be confirmed
include /d to include directories as well as files, or /D to only do dirs
include /y to look for dates (ie. 4-digit year) and put them in brackets and
 toss everything after that -- ie. "blah 2010 xxx"=>"blah (2010)".
 (valid years are between 1920 and 2020; all others are ignored).
making it /yc forces confirms, but only on files affected by this rule
 (a good idea since /y is more potentially destructive)
include /k (or /kc to confirm) to kill common terms like "Xvid"
include /m to converted to Mixed-Case if all lower- or UPPERcase
 (optionally /ml converts only from lowercase, or /mu for upper)
filespec can be a literal filename or wildcards

Download tool: dirsort.exe
Download source code: dirsort.bas

This tool sort files in a directory into a collection of multiple subdirectories.

by Shannon Larratt /
This tool creates a batch file to move files and/or directories into a new
sorted and ordered directory tree. Run with /? to see command line options.

Usage: dirsort [optionlist]
 /files = only move files
 /dir = only move directories
 /both = move both files and directories

 /newsort = specify that this is a "virgin" sort and all directories are fair game
 /resort = attempt to skip directories from a previous sort

 /skipthe = remove "the" and "a"/"an" from the start of item names
 /theok = treat "the" as a valid part of an item name

 /alpha = sort into simple a-z directories
 /nestalpha = sort into nested a/aa-z/zz directories
 /2alpha = sort into aa-zz two letter alphabetical directories
 /foldersize=## = sort into folders with a maximum average number of files in them
   /bothnames = when using foldersize, include start and end names in dir name
   /dontpad = when using foldersize, don't pad the dir names for matching length
 /selfname=## = sort into directories based on the first ## letters of filename

 /allare0 = when naming/sorting treat all numbers as '0' (the same)
 /unique123 = treat all numbers as unique "letters"

Note: Command-line and manual function can be mixed.

Download tool: findemail.exe
Download source code: findemail.bas

This tool harvests all email addresses mentioned in a file or set of files.

findemail // by shannon larratt //
harvests all unique email addresses from a file or set of files
-> usage: findemail files.ext (wildcards are ok) [/headers]
-> output is to stdio
-> /headers specifies that only from/to addresses should be used
error: file not found or not specified

Download tool: fixcrlf.exe
Download source code: fixcrlf.bas

This tool convert *nix style text files to CRLF delimited Windows files.

This tool makes sure that all linebreaks are "proper" CRLF style.
Solo linefeeds and solo carriage returns are converted.
Usage: fixcrlf filespec
ie. single file use might be "fixcrlf myfile.txt" or multi-file might be "fixcrlf *.xml"

Download tool: killfirstword.exe
Download source code: killfirstword.bas

This tool remove the first word from a set of filenames.

KILLFIRSTWORD: Removes the first word from a set of files.
Usage is:
 KillFirstWord [separator] filespec
 Filespec must be specific (*.* is OK) just to avoid accidental use.
 Optional separator defines a wordbreak character other than a space.

Download tool: nextdir.exe
Download source code: nextdir.bas

This tool move from the directory you’re in to the next one. That is, it goes up a directory, then looks at the subdirectories, and enters the one alphabetically after the one you were just in. Note that it just copies the command into the clipboard, so you need to run this and then past the result into the command line (otherwise windows will move you to the directory, and then move you right back).

NextDir / Shannon Larratt / / / Free Software

Usage: Just type 'nextdir'
Effect: This moves you to the next alphabetical directory. It's the equivalent
    of typing 'cd ..' and then moving into the next directory alphabetically
    from where you just started.

Download tool: numdirf.exe
Download source code: numdirf.bas

This tool rename files inside all subdirectories with numbered prefixes so they can be merged into a single directory and still retain their order.

prefix and number files in subdirectories
usage: prenumfsd prefix-text
files in dir # renamed to "prefix-text ### origfile.ext"
    ### is the directory number, not the file number

Download tool: pren.exe
Download source code: pren.bas

This tool quickly adds a prefix to a set of filenames.

PREN: Prefix Rename
Usage is:
 pren [filespec] ["]prefix["]
 If you want to specify a filespec, it is assumed to include wildcards; * or ? are OK.

Download tool: seriescheck.exe
Download source code: seriescheck.bas

This tool detects files that are missing from sequential numbered sets. That is, if you have a set of files called file001.txt through file100.txt and file099.txt doesn’t exist, this will tell you.

Seriescheck ...
Program to find missing files from numbered sequences of files
by Shannon Larratt / / free software

Usage: seriescheck filename####*.* or filename@@@@*.*
...that is, a standard filemask, where '#' or '@' indicate a digit counter.
...'@' indicates a 0-padded number, and '#' a number that is not padded.

   'image###.jpg' searches for files from 'image1.jpg' to 'image999.jpg'
   'data @@@@*.jpg' searches for files from 'data 0001*.jpg' to 'data 9999*.jpg'

Download tool: shownohtml.exe
Download source code: shownohtml.bas

This quick’n'dirty tool to remove html tags from files (ie. converts html files to text files essentially).

Usage: shownohtml filename.ext
outputs file with HTML tags trimmed to stdio
alternate use with wildcards overwrites files

Download tool: splitmbx.exe
Download source code: splitmbx.bas

This tool splits Eudora mailbox (mbx) files into individual emails (probably works on *nix mailboxes as well).

splitmbx // by shannon larratt //
create a gazillion text files with one email per file, from eudora mailbox(es)
--> usage: splitmbx filename.ext [/s=searchterm]
     *wildcards are ok in filename
     *optional search term means that only emails matching search will be output
     *if searchterm is a file it can be a list of terms, one per line
     *search is case INsensitive
     *in search mode, new mbx files are created, in normal mode txt files per email

Download tool: vcf2txt.exe
Download source code: vcf2txt.bas

This tool converts vcf files to readable text files. So for example, if you use a tool like “Groups” to email yourself a VCF file of all the contacts on your phone, this takes that file and turns it into something easy to read that you can email yourself or print out for backup/archival.

vcf2txt // converts vcf (vcard) files to simple text files
by shannon larratt // // freeware * sloppy and mostly untested

normal commandline usage:
vcf2txt filein.vcf [-o fileout.txt] [options/mode selector]

filein.vcf is the vcf file to load
output file is to the same filename with the extension changed to .txt
 (unless you use the -o fileout.txt option to specify a new name)
options/modes are (default is -ot):
 -os  simple output, name, email, and phone number(s) only
 -oc  clean output, name on first line, supplemental data in following lines
 -ot  total output, output everything know, with labels, excluding photos

Download tool: webdir.exe
Download source code: webdir.bas

This tool convert filenames to lowercase and replace spaces with dashes.

This will make all files lower case and replaces spaces with dashes!

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Xmas Update Sun, 23 Dec 2012 22:56:44 +0000 Shannon So my health is holding on by a string — as I posted when I found out, my latest drama is that my spinal column has decided to start breaking down. I’ve been asking around on the rare disease forums, because in theory Tubular Aggregate Myopathy is only supposed to affect skeletal muscles. But I’ve found that a good percentage of people report almost identical breathing and heart failure. With a condition this rare — it’s likely that I’m the only person in Canada being treated for it — the profile is really just best guesswork it seems. On a completely unrelated note, a couple days ago I was eating a seaweed salad when all of a sudden there was a terrible pain in the back of my jaw, and it felt like I’d literally split a tooth in half. I took an extra 400mg of morphine and swabbed on a quarter bottle of Ambesol and it barely took the edge off, so in the morning I was off to an emergency appointment at my daughter’s dentist for x-rays. This was rather terrifying because I have not been to the dentist in almost twenty years (I know, I know…).

Anyway, I thought I’d cracked the tooth, but it turns out that a cavity had formed in the wisdom tooth — miraculously the rest of the teeth were just fine. I must be some genetic mutant in more ways that I’d assumed, because given how often I have sweets before bed and don’t brush until the morning (if that, I’m embarrassed to say), my teeth should be wrecked, but they’re totally healthy. Anyway, off to the surgeon next door and out it came. Easy. For once something medical is easy.

In addition to the local anesthetic (a nerve block done in the roof of my mouth, which actually hurt more afterwards than the extracted tooth), they dosed me with a mountain of nitrous oxide. I got a lot because they had the nosepiece on my wrong, so it kept doing nothing, and they kept turning it up, until I realized the problem wasn’t the dosage but the application thereof. Once I was actually breathing it in, pow, off to the moon. It was a strange experience, and not just because I was insanely high from it. Strange because it’s the first time in many years that I’ve been conscious and thinking and at least vaguely aware and not been in horrible pain. It was nice of course to have that momentary reprieve — I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not have pain being the #1 thing that’s going on — but also bittersweet because fifteen minutes later I was back in the torture rack.

Anyway, as many of you know, the book is going great. It’s done, although I may still try and squeeze in one or two edits as I get feedback from the people interviewed therein as they peruse the PDF. I’ve emailed everyone in the book with a download URL. If you are in the book and didn’t get an email, please drop me a line and I’ll reply to you with a download link. I haven’t see the final hardcopies yet, although I did make myself a softcover version at my Lulu shop and am actually quite thrilled with it. This is it here:

Now, I do recommend that people wait until I get the final copy up, but for those who are eager to get a copy, I’ve decided to make these preview versions publicly available. Just remember that there may be slight imperfections in them, although quite likely the only real difference between these and the final copy will be a couple small edits and the lack of an ISBN number. Here are the links:

When the final version is up I will post again with that info, and you should also be able to find it on Amazon and other retailers. Sorry I didn’t get the final version up before year’s end as I’d hoped — at this point the timing is beyond my control. As far as the eBook, right now it’s for interviewees only, but there will be a way to get it soon. Most likely it will be in the member’s section of BME — since that’s where the book “came from” in a lot of ways, that seemed to make sense to me.

Other than that… I made this little Ganesha sculpture/statue for an “superstitious atheist Hindu” friend’s daughter. She (my friend, not her daughter) has given me a couple nice Ganesha statues from her visits to India, so I thought it was a good gift back. I just handed it over so I figure it’s OK to post.

I also made myself a little “Escape From Earth” 2012-apocalpyse sculpture. It’s a giant asteroid striking the earth and various spaceships taking off. From the US there’s a Space Shuttle, from Germany there’s an A4b (winged V2), and from Russia an N1. Not that any of those are going to save the day in reality but I felt like making them. Just for fun — not a serious proposal to save the human race from it’s guaranteed doom.

While cleaning up our old studio, a friend found in the garbage the clay blank for a ring I’d been designing but gave up on. He liked it a lot, so I finished it up for him with a coat of paint, so now it’s a sort of modified demon ring… It was fun to do.

And now some good news — I really didn’t think I’d be able to hold on until these holidays, but I have, I think in part due to being inspired by some photos that some friends (who incidentally are in the book) sent me from their visit to the Mayan Riviera. So tomorrow morning Caitlin, Nefarious, and I leave for Mexico… It’s going to be difficult physically, but I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ll be back at the turn of the year, so if you email me (for example, asking for the PDF link), I’ll most likely not be able to reply until then. So, thanks everyone for your support this year, and have a great holidays.

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Fake me + Real me updates Fri, 14 Dec 2012 20:03:01 +0000 Shannon In “real me” world, I had a big doctor’s appointment earlier in the week, the sort where I got to wear one of those barebacked robes that shows off my butt while a couple doctors prodded and examined me in various ways. It was good because it escalated me further up the various “expert” or “specialist” ladders — exactly the sort of people I need to be talking to in the hope that someone will come up with some long-shot therapy or treatment that helps treat the myopathy, or at least reduces the pain. Didn’t go that way though, which I’m used to as it never does. Every doctor that gets added to the mix simply confirms the diagnosis, agrees that it can’t be treated (but that they’ll “think about it” and consider who else we can discuss it with), and often throws another problem into the mix as well. This week it we first confirmed the progression of the nerve damage from my “tumor” (a benign bone growth the size of a tangerine, not cancerous so tumor isn’t really the right word I think) biopsy and removal, as that neuropathy came back after changing pain treatments a month or two ago, and that I have abnormal reflex response in my legs. None of that is particularly surprising to me, but I was surprised to find out that my spinal cord is degenerating, which is causing additional problems in mobility and generally being able to control my body in addition to the muscle decay itself. I am guessing that this nerve degeneration is part of what’s causing complications with my heart and breathing.

I hope I’ll have the interview book online shortly, as I already mentioned, but haven’t done as much on the memoirs as I’d like… I’m just having too much difficulty with writing. Writing this entry is a major struggle, and it’s just a simple “status update” rather than a reflection on my experiences that also needs to be engaging and enjoyable to read. So to keep myself going and not just doing nothing I’ve been making little sculptural “doodles”. I made a messed-up looking avatar (that’s the “fake me” world I guess), capped off (“brained off”) one of my old clay ring masters, and made a silly little fridge magnet face, among other things that aren’t pictured here… Zoom if you’d like.

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Meet Tommy: Ready to Print!!! Tue, 11 Dec 2012 02:05:48 +0000 Shannon So the book, Meet Tommy: An Exploration of Private Body Modification and Play is finally done and edited. Almost 450 pages in all. Well over a thousand pictures. 110 separate interviews and over a thousand pictures. A third of a million words of text. Large format 8.5″x11″. This project is a monster, and to be honest, it’s a sliver of what I wanted to do, but it had to be cut somewhere. At this point I’m just waiting to make final arrangements with the printers and the book will be up for sale. eBook will be out soon as well — I’m not sure what the distribution path for that will be yet so please don’t ask me quite yet. I’ll update everyone with all the details as soon as I know, but here’s the front and back cover, the table of contents page, and a massive thumbnail collage of the entire book. I’m sure I’ll keep making tweaks until the moment it’s submitted, but it’s a wrap at this point.

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Nevus of Ota totally looks like eyeball tattoo Sun, 18 Nov 2012 14:34:55 +0000 Shannon I have to admit that I’ve really been enjoying my scleral tattoos / eyeball tattoos from a purely narcissistic point of view. When I’m out in public, the small percentage of people who’ve said anything have been universally positive, with either amazed (or flirty) versions of “you have the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen”… It’s hard not to enjoy that flattery. But what’s interesting to me is that assuming I don’t just say thanks and be done with it, but instead mention that they’re tattooed, that usually surprises (and sometimes disturbs) the person. So that’s really fun too, to know that people assume it’s natural. One person has told me they thought it was some kind of strange contact lense, but I don’t think many people make that assumption with my eyes, although I suspect it’s common with people who have more solid eyes, especially all-black eyes.

Anyway, as I said most people assume my eyes are natural. And what many may not be aware of is that there’s a condition called the Nevus of Ota, which is sort of a birthmark/discoloration (although sometimes they don’t appear until puberty) that often affects skin, but can also affect the eye and is often actually limited to the eye. It can look a lot like my eye in fact. Here’s a collection of random images of that condition to compare. The top row is my eye, and the rest of people with the medical condition. Click to zoom of course.

By the way, usually there isn’t any risk or damage from this condition, although in rare cases it is linked to melanoma or glaucoma or intraoccular pressure increase — it’s really just a matter of whether it bothers the person aesthetically. There are some treatments for removing these color spots, which actually is making me reconsider my proclamation that eye tattoos are 100% irreversible. Let’s move that number to 99% perhaps. These have been treated by laser and other therapies very successfully and I suspect that some of that could be applied to voluntary scleral tattooing as well — and if you can laser these off, perhaps you can laser off a tattoo on the eye as well.

One of the ways I was able to assess some of the safety/risk factors to eyeball tattooing was by reading everything I could find on conditions like the Nevus of Ota, conjunctival tumors, and so on, because in some ways eyeball tattooing is essentially inducing aspects of these conditions, so by understanding the way the body handles one, we can make predictions about how it’s going to handle the other. If you want to gross yourself out, here’s a gallery of pictures of diseased eyes of various sorts — you can then google the terms that are relevant and open your mind.

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Two pieces of sad news Tue, 13 Nov 2012 19:59:00 +0000 Shannon I wanted to copy these two entries from ModBlog. I’ve been working like crazy on finishing my books. Things are going well on that. Both of these stories were very difficult to have to post about, especially Manny’s, not just because of what a warm and wonderful person he was, but because I can relate to his end of life struggle with an incurable and unpleasant disease.

RIP ManWoman

This morning at 4:38AM, the beautiful artist and [best] friend of the swastika ManWoman passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. He lived a passionate and revolutionary life, and his impact on this community continues to grow. Thankfully after seeing his life’s work vindicated and bringing joy and open eyes to more than he ever could have imagined when it first began, he found himself in the terrible position of having a painful and debilitating disease with no cure, and he made the decision to stop treatment knowing it would mean the end of his suffering within days. If you see a swastika, that symbol of light and love, tattooed on someone, you can thank Manny. All of the spiritual and geometric tattooing that is exploding today owes his efforts a great deal of credit and thanks. Although he was often unknown by those he helped transform both physically and spiritually, like some benevolent and hopeful puppetmaster bard, he touched almost all of us in one way or another, and was one of the most influential guides in this community.

Manny was one of the few universally respected wisemen of this community, and his passing will hit a lot of people very hard and he will be deeply missed.

“I like to think that God is dreaming and we are the dream. I wake up in the morning and I say, gee, that was an interesting dream, but you know what? I’m gonna wake up from this life when I die and go, boy, that was an interesting dream! And I’ve had a really interesting life.”

But even though Manny has passed, he lives forever in not just his art and the retelling of his own story by others, but he lives forever in the millions of tattoos that carry his message and a small part of his soul. Manny cannot die, because his passion and his ability to inspire others to make the light he rediscovered a part of their lives as well gave him immortality.

In the video above are some of Manny’s final thoughts, recorded at the start of November, and below is a picture of my family with Manny’s family, taken in 2004. In the picture are Manny and his daughter Serena, myself, Rachel, and our daughter as well. He was just a wonderful, wonderful person. This post feels shamefully sparse, but in some ways I don’t even need to say a thing, because I don’t know anyone who met ManWoman that wasn’t completely captured by his warmth and charm.

* * *

RIP Stalking Cat

This morning’s post comes with heavy news, and I’m in the terrible position of reporting the death of body modification icon Dennis Avner, often better known as Stalking Cat or just Tiger. A US Navy vet more recently working as a programmer and technician, Dennis identified strongly with his feline totem animals and in what he told me was a Huron traditional of actually adopting the physical form of ones totem, he transformed himself not just into a tiger, but a female tiger at that, blurring and exploring the gender line as much as the species line. Much of his work had been done by body modification pioneer Steve Haworth, who rebuilt Dennis’s ears, lip, nose, and face to resemble a tiger, including a multitude of transdermals that held artificial whiskers. In addition to being almost completely covered in tattoos, he’d also sculpted his face and body with extensive silicone work, had custom teeth built to emulate his inner nature, and regularly wore contact lenses and an artificial robotic tail.

Dennis’s boundary-breaking life was never an easy one, and as he was fond of saying, he “found fame, but never fortune”. A wonderful and complex person, he was at times as troubled as he was remarkable, and he recently took his own life at the age of 54 (August 27, 1958 – November 5, 2012). You can download an interview that Dennis and I did for BMEradio about ten years ago at this link: The photo below with Erik “The Lizardman” Sprague was taken at ModCon III by Philip Barbosa when Cat visited us here in Toronto.

(Additional pictures on BME:

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Did you ever notice? Sat, 03 Nov 2012 23:44:48 +0000 Shannon Caitlin noticed this today… Glenn Hetrick is like a goth Donald Trump.

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Gender issues in piercing, archived interview Thu, 01 Nov 2012 23:25:29 +0000 Shannon I just did a little interview with a Brazilian author. I’m always so paranoid these days that my pain level is distorting my ability to answer properly, be it by making my answers to shallow or be it because I’m in a constant terrible mood that I’m always fighting to keep from leaking out (my “stay calm” tattoo could not be more relevant). So I hope this turned out ok. Please don’t tell me that it is, I’m not saying this to fish for compliments — if you do feel like commenting, comments on the questions or your own counter-answers are always interesting.

*** Piercing as we know it started in the Los Angeles Gay S&M scene. Can you give a brief history of how women started to surface in the body piercing community?

I would not make that statement at all. There have always been piercing societies, documented back to the 1500s, and it has always been about both men and women. It is true that in America, the first piercing studios were opened by gay leather men, so sometimes people think this is where piercing came from, but that’s not true — it’s just who started the first businesses. They deserve a mountain of credit for that of course, but don’t think that it represented the whole piercing community. If you look at other areas, Europe for example, the piercing community had a heterosexual bias. Piercing has never been limited to just one demographic group, and has always been very diverse.

*** Are there any divergences in the way society views modified men and women? If there are, what are the most apparent?

The differences in the way society views modified men and women simply reflects the way society views men and women in general — to generalize, men are tough, women are sexy. Some parts of the body modification community are more socially aware, some are less. As I said, the body modification community is really just a slice of the larger world.

*** Body modification in most of it’s forms is commonly considered an expression of individuality, yet each day we see more and more people modified, many of them with the same tattoo motifs and same piercings. From your point of view, why is this and how did it start?

Humans like to tell themselves that they’re individuals, but we’re herd animals at our core, and are mortally frightened of actually being individuals. They love symbols of individuality but don’t really like being individuals most of the time. In any case, people getting the same modifications as others has always been a significant part of the mod world — if anything, it’s individualism that is new and atypical. Indigenous societies tended to get the same tattoos of course, and then here in the West tattooing has spent much of its history being flash-based, with people selecting their tattoos from a limited menu. Even much custom work draws from a limited iconography. But I think it’s also important to understand that most people don’t see tattooing as making themselves a true individual — they simply see it as separating themselves from the untattooed mainstream. And this attitude is rapidly disappearing as tattooing becomes common to the point of normalcy, making the majority of claims of individuality vapid, shallow, and ludicrous.

*** Tongue piercings and lower back tattoos (rudely called tramp stamps) are commonly associated with both femininity and promiscuity, do you consider this a coincidence?

I think it’s fairly obvious that the sort of person who sees such links is connecting tongue piercing to oral sex — sexual submission being the implication — and the lower back tattoo is linked to intercourse from behind — again, sexual submission being the implication. I don’t think anything here is surprising or coincidental — I’d say it’s quite obvious and mirrors the way the women are treated by men in general (and occasionally how they exhibit themselves to men).

*** In your view, has body modification, other than plastic surgery, been incorporated into the mainstream vision of beauty?

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that body modification is part of the mainstream view of beauty, but over the last decade a “tattooed vixen” archetype has certainly developed that markets “edgy” sexuality to the mainstream in a way that they see as both exciting and safe. Given the overall gentrification of body modification, and most subcultural communities due to the Internet overexposing every facet of human expression, this is completely unsurprising.

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The Sleeper Has Awakened Sun, 28 Oct 2012 03:21:31 +0000 Shannon I’m just going to echo the entry I wrote for BME here:

Over five years since tattooing a small part of my eye blue in the very first set of eye tattoo procedures — the day that opened Pandora’s Box and launched perhaps the riskiest but most exciting body mod procedure to date — Howie ( has done the next and perhaps final stage of my eye tattoos. As you may know, my blue eyes are at least in part inspired by the Eyes of Ibad that the Fremen of Arrakis (ie. Dune) get due to their constant exposure to the powerful drug melange. Normally when Howie does an eye tattoo, the wearer is looking for a solid color — although there are obvious exceptions like Pauly Unstoppable’s unbelievable “cosmic eyes” which involve complex gradients. In my eyes we went with the “less is more” theory, using the fact that ink injected in the eye spreads dramatically to create a hazy, cloudy effect that looks different from every angle, mostly quite subtle, but almost blue-black in a few deeply saturated spots. The eye is both subtle and extreme, in an effect that’s completely alien, yet maintains its humanity and is almost even normal — I’ve noticed in public that people seem unsure what they’re seeing, whether it’s natural, or a trick of the light, or something induced.

The effect will probably continue to change somewhat over the next several months. These pictures in this entry were taken on day three, about 48 hours after the procedure, and at that point all swelling and irritation was already long gone — in fact it was gone 12 hours later, or when I woke up the next morning. I believe this is in part Howie’s experience, and in part how light we went with the procedure. I truly believe that with eye tattoos, it’s important to err on the side of going light — you can always add more in a few months (or in five years) if you went light, but if you go heavy, well, you’re going to have to live with it.

Remember, if you are interested in eye tattoos, these are a high-risk procedure that should only be attempted by those with significant experience and training. Please begin by reading BME’s Eye Tattoo FAQ.

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Citrine Rock Head Zombie Mon, 22 Oct 2012 22:07:55 +0000 Shannon While sending out the most recent orders, I got an idea in my head after seeing what loose stones I had lying around, and made a new zombie ring that is one of my most ambitious to date… It’s a size 11 1/2 based on my second zombie ring design, the largest of the bunch, which gives me quite a bit of room to play. I drilled out the eyes and enlarged them to accept a pair of red 8mm CZ gemstones, and re-carved lots of new and improved detail into the face. But what I really like about this ring is that I carved out the exposed skull detail, which is normally just metal, and set a tumbled citrine into the head, so that it’s got a stone skull. I’m really happy with how it turned out. In addition, the ring is finished in a mix of my normal black oxide and brass plating over top of the tin/bismuth base metal. This ring wasn’t made for anyone in particular. It can be sized up but not down. Feel free to make me an offer. It’s two and a half hours of work by the way, plus materials, so I’ll consider any non-insulting offer (although I really haven’t decided whether I want to sell it). Edit: This ring is sold!

Other than that my health is continuing to decline, although I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning. My apnea and heart stopping is escalating as far as I can tell and there are many nights (and days) where I wonder if it’s my last. It’s hard to describe what it’s like, because it’s not as if I’m gasping for air, as there’s no desire to breathe. Can you even imagine what it’s like not to breathe but not to want to? I don’t think it’s even possible to hold your breathe and disconnect yourself from the need for oxygen (or need to expel CO2 if we’re being technical about it). It’s not something one is supposed to experience. It’s even stranger when my heart stops. It pauses for a few seconds, and during that period there’s no fear or pair or sense that anything is wrong… If I’m not paying attention I don’t even notice it. If I am, it’s mostly just strange. The heart stops for a few seconds, and then quietly starts again, very lightly and then over four or five beats back to a normal strong heartbeat. No one has any explanation for me.

Anyway, zoom in and see my latest work. I’ve got a few special stones that I need to do something with, so I may create a few more special pieces like this. As painful as it is to do the work, I find it rewarding, and a nice break… Especially since Facebook’s messaging system is effectively broken for me, so I can’t properly research stories for ModBlog.

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So many comics, so little time… Sat, 13 Oct 2012 19:50:16 +0000 Shannon There’s an amazing amount of talent in comics these days — some really great new series. One of my favorites that I really want to recommend is Vertigo’s Punk Rock Jesus (available both in print and for download), about the life of a cloned reincarnation of Jesus, created for a reality show, and eventually having a punk rock rebellion when he clues in to the truth of the world. They’re on issue four of the initial story run of six, and it’s gotten better every issue. Love it. Other superb new series include The Massive (asking what might the life of a Sea Shepherd-like eco-activist organization be like after a pole-shift-apocalypse?), Mind The Gap (afterlife/out-of-body musings), Saucer County (a prominent politician is abducted and starts investigating UFOs — also in the alien theme there’s Resident Alien which just wrapped up its initial run, about a crime-solving alien posing as a small town doctor), Rachel Rising (another incredible comic by Echo‘s Terry Moore about witches and im/mortality), MIND MGMT (CIA mind-control type comic), Think Tank (pro-science comic about a DARPA-type weapons researcher rebelling against his masters), Dancer (a James Bond type comic that just wrapped up), A Fine And Private Place (this just started — an amazing ghost and afterlife story), Revival (a brilliant and perhaps supernatural, perhaps alien, take on the zombie comic), Stitched (a very creepy horror military-themed comic), Crossed (both Badlands and the online Wish You Were Here are amazing variations on the post-apocalyptic zombie/pandemic theme, much darker and more perverse than any other series in the theme), Ferals (a good werewolf series — and if you like that there’s also the X-files like Bad Medicine about a medical team that investigates such things), The Strain (Guillermo Del Toro’s horror/vampire/pandemic comic), The Manhattan Projects (a gonzo-hilarious sci-fi retelling of post-WWII secret science), Harbinger (a remake of the classic Valient series about superpowers — my favorite supernatural universes next to Invincible), Superbia (a four-comic series, wrapped up, very funny secret-life drama of what it’s “really” like to be a superhero — good for fans of The Boys), Near Death (about a hitman who after a near-death experience decides to start saving lives instead), Harvest (about a down-on-his luck doctor who gets roped into underground organ transplants), Dan the Unharmable (hilariously dark series that just wrapped its initial story run, about a indestructable dirtbag PI), Supercrooks (a four-part wrapped-up heist story, very fun, focussed completely on anti-heroes), Smoke and Mirrors (about a magician from our world that finds himself in a world where magic is real and commonplace), Grim Leaper (a wonderful four-part wrapped-up love story about a couple who find each other even though they keep dying and jumping into new about-to-die bodies), Complex (a weird comic that reminds me of The Prisoner), Saga (an incredible sci-fi love story)… I’m also continuing to enjoy Kirkland’s two main offerings, The Walking Dead and Invincible (his superhero comic, which is just incredible — in many ways I actually prefer it to TWD), as well as Sweet Tooth and a few other pre-2012 series… And I’m dying for the next installment of Locke&Key as well… I could go on and on… I haven’t even mentioned all the amazing one-offs…

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