Cupertino Ink


I’m a man who drinks lustily from the heady draught of adventure. So obviously, I’ve bookmarked ModBlog. This is a nearly-daily dose of photos of stories about people’s tattoos. And piercings. And brandings. And…well, apparently there’s this new thing where you actually have a design cut into your skin, and then the artwork turns into a raised scar.

I could continue, but there’s an orange DPW sign posted in the road just past the scar art and it reads “ENTERING ANDY IHNATKO’S PERSONAL CREEP-OUT ZONE” and I don’t really hazard to proceed any further. Up until this point, I am full of respect and admiration for some fantastic artwork and for the sort of person with such a firm handle on their personal identity that they can upgrade their personal hardware with complete confidence and with stunning effects. No need to screw that up.

(All I’m saying is that when THE MODBLOG decides that a photo is so “out there” that it needs to be concealed behind a link or a blurred thumbnail…well, that really has to influence your decision whether to click through or not.)

I was interested by this little collection of Spider-Man tattoos that they posted this week. Each of the tats are very well-executed and tastefully-chosen. But isn’t it amazing how quickly I blipped past the “this isn’t a rub-on; this is a permanent part of the landscaping” bit and immediately dropped into Comic Book Geek mode?

“Frenz, McLeod knockoff, original art based on stock Romita pose, classic Romita…oh, they took the Mike Zeck Spidey figure from the cover of ‘Handbook To The Marvel Universe’ and replaced the black costume with his red-and-blues, very nice work, there…”

There are plenty of sites devoted to mocking awful tattoos (and I wouldn’t be surprised if I discovered the blog through one of those “Oh, get a load of THIS guy!” links from Fark or somewhere). But man alive, ModBlog has really done a fab job of promoting tattooing as an artform. Every now and then they post a shot of a piece that’s truly stunning…in which the design, the execution, the placement, and the personality of the owner are in perfect harmony with one another.

No, a tattoo isn’t in my future. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out completely. But I’m not the sort of person who’d ever get a purely decorative tattoo and I’ve never had a single image that had such totemistic power for me that I’d want to wear it for life.

Which is too bad, because I had an awesome idea for a nerdy Mac tattoo a few years ago.

Happy Mac.jpg A Happy Mac. “Wow, Andy…yeah, that’s utterly original. You’d totally be the only one who’s ever gotten that image tattooed!” Crankiness is a bad color on you, sir or Madam. Stick with me: you get this icon tattooed somewhere high up on an arm or a leg. Your hip or your shoulder, say. Or you get it in a spot where there’s plenty of real estate.

Your goal in life, from birth to death, is to continue to expand your capabilities as you go. Right? Okay: so you celebrate this with an ever-expanding sequence of startup icons, mimicking the classic Mac OS’s startup screen in which every time a new driver was successfully loaded, it’d draw a representative icon next to the previously-drawn icon, filling the screen with a long line (or even a full mosaic) of little pictures.

Next to the Happy Mac, you design an icon representing your first breath. Then the ability to process food. First steps. First words, Learning to read. Entering school. First real friend. First kiss. First real job. You learned to play guitar. You wrote your first novel. Lost your virginity. Hopefully nearby to that, an icon representing the first time you made love properly.

On and on. Over the years, more and more icons appear. True, you’ll be busy for the first few months as you fill in all of the individual icons representing the first couple of decades of your life. But after that, it becomes a far more leisurely pace. You only add an icon when it becomes compellingly and irrefutably clear to you that you’ve experienced something that’s made you a bigger and better individual.

The tricky part — and here’s where you’ll need to choose the executor of your estate properly — is that you won’t be able to go into the shop and have the Death tattoo put on:


So you’ll have to have the artwork printed up and inserted into your will. Ideally, accompanied by a link to a Python script you’ve uploaded to your website that can convert a date and time of death into hexadecimal, so that the artist can ink it into the proper spot under the icon.

It isn’t the most brilliant idea for a tattoo ever. That honor goes to the convict on “Prison Break” who had the blueprints and technical data for the prison inked all over his body before he was incarerated, concealed as geometric designs. But give me credit: this idea is definitely up there.

7 thoughts on “Cupertino Ink

  1. Karen Anderson

    Tattoos have reached that tipping point where they have gone from being socially quantitative (has a tattoo / doesn’t have a tattoo) to qualitative (dumb-ass tattoo / really stunning tattoo). I went to an arts fundraising event last weekend that had theater makeup artists “decorating” donors. I got decorated with a hibiscus floral design that twined around my neck and descended into my decolletage. In the darkness and quasi-inebriated confusion, a fellow I was dancing with mistook the painting for a very elaborate tat and began gushing about how gorgeous it was. For a brief moment, a tattoo sudden seemed within the realm of possibility!

  2. Neil-UK

    Clearly, visiting ModBlog is detrimental to mental stability; that or visiting Alcatraz.

    Imagine, instead of ink tattoos, use encapsulated nanowire insertions that illuminate via the bodies electricity like the glow of a CRT monitor in a darkened room. Then, as the life force leaves the body, so too do the ‘tattoos’ disappear like the dot on the Twilight Zone disappears from the screen. If the Death tattoo used a form of e-ink, the changing state of the bodies electricity could be used to switch the tattoo ‘on’ by a flip-flop death switch; so as the life ‘tattoos’ fade away the Death ‘tattoo’ appears.

    Yes, I did visit ModBlog. Thanks for the warnings.

  3. Moeskido

    I remember first seeing scarification depicted in a film shown during a college anthropology class. The ritual was that of decorating a young African woman as part of her entrance into adult society. The method used was a series of small pin-punctures on the skin, arrayed in patterns. It didn’t look pleasant to undergo, but the results were not unattractive once the work had healed.

    I have yet to take the step to add illustration to myself, but it won’t likely be of something as ephemeral as a bootup icon.

    And some of those folks on modblog are damned interesting.

  4. Ihnatko Post author

    @Moeskido – But that’s what makes tattoo so interesting, isn’t it? A tattoo doesn’t have to make sense to the observer, just to the owner.

    I could get an Apple logo tattoo. Apple computers have been a central fixture in my life since I was 10 or 12. I learned to be a writer on an Apple II and I learned to be a programmer on an Apple II; so many of the defining experience of my childhood are connected to that thing. Somebody seeing it on my leg might think I was just a mindless Apple fanboy but they’d miss the true significance.

  5. luciano

    I have a lightwave – – logo tattoo on my back, and even now, years after I stopped using it daily i don’t have any regrets for doing a logo; also have a “101010” on the back of my right hand (every geek loves that one)

    my girlfriend has 7 tattoos, and a huge scarification (cutting scar) on her back; here’s the clip of her doing it:

    she’s really brave ;)

    nice blog; subscribed !

  6. Moeskido

    @Andy: Point taken about what constitutes “ephemeral.” I only go back as far as 1990 with computers that mattered to me.

    But I have a hard time picturing anything less historical than a Green Man or printer’s mark going on my skin.

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