Thursday, August 25, 2005

All About Adult ADD . . .

No, this isn't going to be a case study (although one could easily make a case study of me). The title's just a disclaimer: I have no subject, just an overactive cranium channel-surfing over many topics. You've been warned.

Now, then . . . OK, tattoos. I just saw a mailman walk by, a younger guy, arms covered with dark tattoos. Neither dense enough nor continuous enough to be called "sleeves", but close. He was the sort of lithe, well-muscled youth who can pull off sleeves attractively (note: large arms and tiny waist are a must for full sleeves, because they tend to make the arms look smaller and the torso larger by comparison; hence, only skinny-but-buff guys can really afford the effect). The young buck in question was too far away for me to identify any particulars with regards to his body art, but the lines were nice: Waves and curls, an illusion of motion, flow like water currents or the billowing of clouds.

I've encountered a number of people who dislike tattoos for purely aesthetic reasons, and have no argument to offer them other than the sheer force of my preference. Some are so vehement--or just plain snotty--in their dislike that I avoid the topic altogether. More interesting to me are those who actually see tattoos as signs of a moral failing. I remember, when we first moved to Seattle, a girl we knew had just pierced her nipple. She had a liaison with a man who claimed certain spiritual beliefs (I won't go into what, except to say that it was apparently some variation on rastafarianism; but being ignorant, largely, regarding the rastafarian tradition, I'd hate to assert anything that portrays the belief system inaccurately) shortly thereafter; and the man insisted she remove it. Apparently practitioners of this man's "system" take the whole "body-as-temple" thing very seriously, oppose body-piercings and tattoos on the grounds that, as our friend put it, "You wouldn't walk into a church and start painting on the walls, would you?"

Well, first of all, maybe the world would be a better place--and religion a more positive force therein--if we did get to paint or draw on the walls of our churches. Second, I tend to view the body less as a temple than as a something of a mobile home, a property that, for the time being anyway, you own; but that, like a house, will belong to forces outside the realm of your control when you die. And modifying your house . . . well, I'd say that's your perogative, n'est-ce pas? Indeed, isn't being able to furnish, paint, remodel and restructure your house kind of the point of owning property? I can also take the Franciscan view of the body--that attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, for those not in the Catholic-or-ex-Catholic know--which posits that the body is best referred to as "brother ass", a useful, obstinate donkey which carries on our burden of existence. And God knows I'm all for decorating my ass.

And just as you can learn much about a person by looking at what she hangs on her walls, plays on her stereo or watches on her DVD player, I think that the best tattoos, if they're wisely chosen, offer certain insights into a person's essential character. The mandala on my wife's foot or the mantra in the small of my back are useful examples: Pieces of text or spiritual symbols pretty much come right out and advertise the POV of the tattooed. But even the guy with, say, the Lorax ("I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!") scrawled on his shoulder is saying something about what he seeks in or from the world around him.

Tattoos also make for a great special effect during sex, the ultimate permanent toy. The artwork both separates you from and more fully integrates you with your partner. Separates because the art itself gives off a whiff of fantasy, the exotic; integrates because, if the tattoo really reflects something psychic or spiritual about its wearer, that aspect, otherwise locked in the abstract, is then represented by a concrete symbol in the midst of the act. You no longer make love just to a body, or even merely express relation with an idividual: You engage in communion with the ideas that person has chosen to represent.

I've often been fascinated by the tribal histories of tattooing. Even removed from its context in primitive cultures, Western tattoos have largely been a function of ethnic, class or tribal identification. Until fairly recently, the tattoo was largely a function of blue collar and/or military solidarity: Soldiers in units would get matching tattoos, sailors would get tattoos that varied according to the purpose of their seafaring (whaling, naval, merchant marine). Mechanics have always been a standard bearer of the tattoo. The association with both working-class and tribal concerns inevitably allowed the tattoo to become a prevalent symbol in rock, and the gradual democratization of rock, in turn, made tattooing acceptable to the middle-class.

But the tribal aspect of tattoos persists: The Yakuza, the popular name for the Japanese organized crime syndicate, uses tattooing as a sort of branding, an assertion of neo-feudal tribal identity (the hierarchies of the Yakuza aren't unlike those of classic Japanese feudalism, where mob leadership essentially takes the place of the Shogun).

This makes me think of movies (because all things in this world make me think of movies). Takeshi Kitano--known, when he acts, as "Beat" Takeshi--has directed some beautiful and meditative Yakuza films (if a meditative tone poem about mobsters sounds like a contradiction, rent Sonatine immediately). In many of them, tattoos are featured prominently as part of the visual design, and emphasizes the patently Asian character of his cinema. Even his non-Yakuza themed films use tattoos in ways central to the visual design. His campy, instant-classic samurai film The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi features card dealers with ornate designs on shoulder, arm and neck. Even Kikujiro, a small but lovely film that basically resets the hackneyed thug-with-a-heart-of-gold-finds-redemption-on-road-trip-with-lonely-child plot in modern Tokyo (and brilliantly making use of Kitano's patented, existentially resigned blank slate of an anti-hero, evolved directly from Alain Delon's frigid hitman in Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai), spends at least a few minutes showing long, still shots of a rising sun on Kitano's back, as if his very tribal criminality is also, paradoxically, the source of both his redemption and the child's.

Speaking of Japanese cinema, Purplestine and I saw Kiki's Delivery Service last night. What a lovely little piece that is. Not as rich as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, but with the same thoughtful approach to fantasy. Interesting how, even when aiming for children, Miyazaki's animated fables are still more thematically potent and intellectually rich than most of the animated fare our own studios try to sell us.

Top 5 animated movies ever, according to thelyamhound:

1) The Triplets of Belleville
2) The Incredibles
3) Spirited Away
4) Kiki's Delivery Service
5) A Bug's Life

That's how I feel about it today. There's a French film called Fantastic Planet . . . or maybe Strange Planet (much abuse of the short term memory since we saw it) which deserves honorarable mention and might have made the list on another day. I'm also very fond of both Toy Story films; and while I thought that, for its year, Finding Nemo fell short of the majestic heights reached by The Triplets of Belleville, it's still a fine and worthy piece of animated cinema.

Anyway, Kiki's Delivery Service featured some nice, deadpan vocal work by Phil Hartman, and some sweet work by Kirsten Dunst as the eponymous heroine. It's message of personal empowerment and self-esteem was simple and very directly stated; but it managed to convey said message with a winking sense of humor that never became overly smug, a sweetness that was never saccharine and, being a Miyazaki film, a sustained sense of wonder at beauty both natural and man made (the waving grass that opens the movie and the lumbering dirigible that close it are among some of the best pieces of eye-candy in the canon on animated film).

The night before last, we watched Layer Cake, a British crime thriller with Daniel Craig, whom I'm growing to like quite a bit, and Michael Gambon, whom I've adored for some time (if local video stores or libraries have the British TV series The Singing Detective--not to be confused with the recent, condensed, Americanized cinematic remake with Robert Downey Jr.--pick it up immediately, and prepare to see Michael Gambon in probably the finest television ever produced). Anyway, the producers of Layer Cake are apparently the same cats responsible for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which I loved, and Snatch, in which I loved Brad Pitt--with his tattoos (hello, full-circle) and incomprehensible "piker" accent-- and Jason Statham, but which I merely liked as a film. Matthew Vaughn--producer of the two aforementioned pieces (both directed by Guy Ritchie)--takes the director's reigns here. His style, while still possessing a certain "music video" flash a la Ritchie, has a more deliberate and, dare I say, adult feel to it, inspired (one imagines) by the weightier crime dramas of Mike Hodges (Get Carter, Croupier, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead). Craig is a great presence, Gambon is funny and menacing, the pace is nearly perfect. An erotically charged sex scene is cut short quite cleverly and abruptly; but sadly, it has the (perhaps unintended) effect of making the woman (Sienna Miller) seem like a prop. Still, while it's no classic, Layer Cake is a solidly entertaining piece of genre cinema.

So I'd have to say my ramble has run its course. Sorry you're not getting my best writing today; but what I'm lacking in lucidity, I'm making up for in the raw exposure of my thought process (or at least that's what I'll keep telling myself). So have a lovely afternoon, folks, until the 'hound bays again.


Blogger the beige one said...

Completely unrelated, but I think you'd appreciate the article. We can discuss further later, especially Freddy Got Fingered.

2:54 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Quite a list. I agree with their essential assessment of "Freddy Got Fingered", based on what I didn't pass out for. It confirms that I need to see "Heaven's Gate" (which I've always been curious about) and "Pinnochio" (which struck me as a potentially interesting diversion--weird, critically panned fantasies sometimes serve up interesting surrealism for us freaks).

3:09 PM  
Blogger Missuz J said...

I had planned on getting a tattoo on my 30th--but it didn't pan out. I've chosen a sort of stylized lioness--she'll reside on my right shoulder when I find someone I trust enough to put her there.

10:32 AM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Are there any tattoo shops in Cedar these days, or is that something for which you have to go to Vegas?

Throw a rock on Capitol Hill in Seattle and you'll hit either a tattoo shop or a coffeehouse.

10:58 AM  
Blogger amandak said...

We tried to get Becca tattooed in Flagstaff, but to no avail. Apparently, there is a shop in Cedar, and a couple in St. George, but I think she should come to Albuquerque to do it, don't you? ;) I wish I had the balls to get one. Something big and colorful and pretty. Alas, no balls.

Glad you enjoyed Kiki.

LOVING your blog, btw. Stream of consciousness a la lyamhound. Does it get better than that?

11:26 AM  
Blogger A Man without a Band said...

My own random, unrelated thoughts:

First off, do you get email notification when you get a comment? Otherwise, since I rarely get the opportunity to look at these, I feel compelled to comment on anything I've read on the most recent post.

My brother told me upon getting my first tattoo and being nervous to tell my parents, "Just tell them your body is a temple and you choose to paint the walls." I look forward to having the money to get more work done.

ass mints. brilliant.

I, too, believe that often the legalization cause is defeated by those whom are its biggest proponents... or at least its most vocal. Does law enforcement in the bigger cities even care, anymore? I've pretty much given up on the fact that we'll see it in our lifetime. I guess the only reason I would really care anymore would be for the ability to return a bag if you felt like you paid too much for the quality you received.

As a young boy, I always liked "Heavy Metal." It was the first, well... sex, drugs and rock and roll (and blood) I'd seen animated.

glad you put out a picture. I was just saying the other day that I wish you would since I hadn't seen you in years.

I'm thinking about posting a non-traditional Paul-pic here soon which a photog friend of mine took.

anyway, hungry and must leave work. have a good weekend.

12:49 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

I don't get emails when I get a comment. Is there a way to make that happen?

I'm glad to hear from you. Your travel post was lovely.

Do you have any published horror writing to look at? I'm something of a horror junkie myself.

I think the association of horror with New England is a function of entrenched families with old-world ties, the notion of ancient, aristocratic bloodlines turning degenerate in rural enclaves and/or old-world, pre-Christian religions finding footing in isolated communities.

Seattle actually passed an ititiative making marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement issue. I think someone told me the other day that there have been 2 possession busts in the last 2 years. I wonder what kind of stupid shit those users were doing to get busted? Still, if they can bust dealers, we still come up empty-handed. I care about legalization because it takes days, sometimes, to get a bag when I'm looking for one. I'd just love to be able to report slack-ass dealers to the Better Business Bureau.

Along the ass mints line . . . I remember you posing a question in one of your posts: Loud farts, or malodorous? I'd pick loud, because you can keep the comic effect without having to apologize for the smell or endure lectures from vegans/atkins people/nutritionists/busybodies about your diet.

Yeah, you should post a picture. Mine's a little scary; but then, I do scary a lot onstage, and onstage is where most pictures of me get taken.

Wouldn't it be funny if they had tattoo financing plans ("Three more payments and I OWN this thing!")?

1:13 PM  
Blogger Missuz J said...

On the 7 things--just share your lists

7 things you want to do before you die
7 things you can do
7 things you can't do
7 things that attract you to the opposite sex
7 celebrity crushes
7 people you want to "tag" to also complete the lists

1:42 PM  
Blogger Missuz J said...

Oh I forgot.

7 things you say most often

1:54 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Thanks, Missuz. My seven lists are now on my blog, for your eyes.

2:53 PM  

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