January 8, 2010

Scholars and their scholarly tattoos.

They've got their minds educated and their hearts set on proving education isn't all it's cracked up to be.

One woman explains:
The tattoo is of a Paranthropus boisei specimen, KNM-ER 406. Paranthropus boisei is an early hominin that lived in Eastern Africa about 2.6 - 1.4 MA. I find the derived craniofacial morphology of the species to be very striking and beautiful.

I've gotten some interesting reactions to the tattoo. One person said it was "uhm ... very occupational." Another told me it was "aggressive." Most people are able to recognize it as some type of primate cranium, although I once had someone confuse the cranium with a Koopa Troopa from Mario, the video game!
Then there's the woman who wrote a dissertation titled "'Blood at the Root': Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus" — and wanted some image representing that permanently inked on her body. She writes:
Initially, I wanted to tattoo myself to represent some kind of closure to this research but, by the end of the process, I realized there is no closing, no seam between my intellectual and personal life or between my mind and body. The tattoo concretes intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments.
Initially, I read that as an expression of the desire to wield the needle herself — perhaps to heighten the experience of pain and really understand something about lynching. Then, I realized "tattoo myself" just meant get a tattoo. And "concret[ing] intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments"? Well, isn't that what everyone who gets a tattoo is thinking, more or less?

And one woman got her calves tattooed with the giant letters "READ" (left calf) and "BOOKS" (right calf), which I think stands (literally!) as a warning not to read books (if this is what it leads to).

54 comments:

rhhardin said...

Lautreamont

To scrape together my sentences I needs must employ the natural method, regressing to the savages so they may give me lessons. Simple and majestic gentlemen, their gracious mouths ennoble all that flows from their tattooed lips.

Pogo said...

Lydia the Tattooed Lady

Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia
Lydia, the queen of tattoo
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo
Beside it the Wreck of the Hesperus, too
And proudly above waves the red, white and blue
You can learn a lot from Lydia

Hoosier Daddy said...

The tattoo concretes intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments.

Seriously, WTF does this mean?

I got my tattoos because I think they're cool.

Pogo said...

When 'I got my tattoos because I think they're cool' is placed in a Random Intellectual Foucauldian Phrase Generator, it comes out that way.

Paco Wové said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Scholarly tattoo has the same ring as athletic scholarship: the quintessential oxymoron.

Ann said...

And one woman got her calves tattooed with the giant letters "READ" (left calf) and "BOOKS" (right calf), which I think stands (literally!) as a warning not to read books (if this is what it leads to).

Very droll, mum.

Lynne said...

When I was much younger I briefly considered getting a small rosebud tattoo on my posterior. Then I realized: kid, one day you'll be 70 and that rosebud will look like a raisin.

If I ever really want to draw pictures on my body I guess I'll just grab a felt tip and start connecting the sun freckles.

This Is the Drawing of the Aged Aquarius, Aged Aquarius.....

Pogo said...

LOL, Lynne.

The only tattoo I'll get is at 65:

DNR/DNI
or I will come back
to haunt you.


My kids think I'm joking.

Moose said...

So what do the people who study coprolites get tattoed on their bodies? And where?

peter hoh said...

Who spells "um" with an "h" in the middle?

Pogo said...

Only if you're duhmb.

peter hoh said...

Attached you'll find two pictures of my forearm, which I had tattooed with Kara Walker's Cut after I defended my dissertation, "Blood at the Root": Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus through the Department of English at the University of Rochester in July 2009.

Is there a missing punctuation mark, or has the Department of English at the University of Rochester been involved with lynching?

Hoosier Daddy said...

My point Pogo is that my tats don't have any deep spiritual, intellectual or ethical message behind them. I think they look cool and that's about the extent of it.

Pogo said...

I know; truth is, the scholars do it for exactly the same reason as you do, but want to give it an intellectual sheen, hence their meaningless verbiage.

That is, they're speaking the universal language of bullshit.

prairie wind said...

Bullshit. That's the tattoo for people who study coprolites.

traditionalguy said...

I am imagining the day when there will be a trendy new look called "No Tattoos Anywhere"that will amazing the Gawker crowd to the point of having orgasams on the spot when they see natural unmarred human beauty again. The old thrill they derived from tattooing themselves all over will be replaced by loving people. As the world turns.

howzerdo said...

I don't "get" tattoos, but Jason Collins' explanation is the most compelling. However, he doesn't have the tatoo yet. Maybe if I saw a picture of it, I would feel differently.

MadisonMan said...

La-da-da, La-da-da

She can give you a view
of the world in Tattoo
If you step up and tell her where
For a dime you can see
Kankakee or Par-ee
Or Washington Crossing the Delaware

La-da-da, La-da-da

Curse you Pogo for this earworm today.

traditionalguy said...

The scholars getting their field of studies tatooed upon themselves is double funny. The BIG problem with both scholarly theory and with tatoos is the same one: in twenty or less years they are both reminders of a past that will never return. The scholarly field will have been replaced with another theory and the Tatoos on a person will have become sad reminders of a foolish youth.

EDH said...

That "Read Books" on the calves in that horrible font is just atrocious and beyond pretentious.

My tattoo reads "logos kai eros" ("reason and desire") in Ancient Greek. The first time I came across these words was reading Plato, and they stand for me as the two driving forces in philosophy (my field).

—Stacey Goguen, Boston U.


And a constant reminder of the "reason" why you're unemployed and "desire" a job offer.

kcom said...

No matter how nice any individual tattoo appears to be superficially, at base all tattoos are ugly. No tattoo is nicer than the canvas it's despoiling.

Especially ridiculous are ones like the Read Books tattoo.

To put it in Althouse terms, tattoos are the equivalent of men wearing shorts.

I have spoken. ;)

MadisonMan said...

By the way, Danny Gokey recently got a tattoo acknowledging? honoring? mentioning? his dead wife.

I continue to think that the person who figures out how to cheaply safely and easily remove tattoos will be richer than Croesus. Which brings us back to Lydia.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I continue to think that the person who figures out how to cheaply safely and easily remove tattoos will be richer than Croesus.

I always believed that regret is a waste of time.

Hoosier Daddy said...

To put it in Althouse terms, tattoos are the equivalent of men wearing shorts.

In that case I'll have to go get another one ;-)

prairie wind said...

acknowledging? honoring? mentioning?

Honoring. Always honoring. When your tattoo honors, all attempts to poke fun must fall silent.

Jason's explanation of what his discovery of learning meant to him was touching. Why he wants to memorialize it with a tattoo is beyond me. After all that education, a tattoo is the best he can come up with?

Get a tattoo because it looks cool and because you'll have a sense of humor about it in 30 years.

Pogo said...

I often regret regretting, then I regret that, then smoke comes out of my ears, and I sing Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do over and over in a slowing monotone.

MadisonMan said...

I thought it interesting that most of the tattoos in that article were on women. Do men not get scholarly tattoos?

The Gold Digger said...

I was out of the US for two years, from 1993 to 1995. When I returned, cigars and tattoos had become fashionable. Cigars were no longer nasty. Tattoos were no longer a sign you had done time in prison. What happened?

knox said...

I think stands (literally!) as a warning not to read books (if this is what it leads to)

indeed.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I wanted "BORN TO RAISE OBJECTIONS TO COASE'S ZERO TRANSACTION COST ASSUMPTION" on my left bicep but the tattoo guy said it wouldn't fit unless I worked out a lot more.

Paul Zrimsek said...

On the other hand, Phil Jones of the East Anglia CRU didn't have any trouble getting "BORN TO LOSE DATA" to fit on his arm.

Pogo said...

I have several flesh-colored tattoos; pictures of a unicorn, a devil, and an anchor.

I think.
Hard to tell.

Paddy O. said...

Reminds me a little of the sort of 'grounding' tactics that Walker Percy writes about in Lost in the Cosmos. People whose job or craft or art or whatever propel them into flights of fancy tend to have a hard time coming back down and easily communing in regular life. So, there are ways the psyche pushes for a return, which are different for different people. Religion, sex, drugs, whatever. Just something to help rebuild a bond, sometimes even involving degrading the self or self-destruction. Not necessarily a good thing, but a strong human tendency for people involved in fields not really connecting with regular human life.

c3 said...

As my kids would say,
"You just don't understand!"

Kids these days

Graham Powell said...

I always kinda wanted to get "ASDF" tattooed across the knuckles of my left hand, and "JKL;" across the knuckles of my right.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Cigars were no longer nasty. Tattoos were no longer a sign you had done time in prison. What happened?

Well you used to have to be a natural born American to be President too ;-)

/ducks

Nichevo said...

How were accounts solicited for this piece? I take it no Jews were approached. Do Muslims tattoo?

TW: jundi. Apparently, someonne or something an Iraqi policeman will sodomize (with the aid of lip balm as lubricant!) as per a recent piece I read.

bagoh20 said...

When it comes right down to it, the base reason people are getting tattoos is because everyone else is. Then they think about what it will be. This is also the reason I have not gotten one.

I'm a conformist by nature, but trying to be a nonconformist by conforming is just going to far.

From Inwood said...

Nichevo

Sorry, but C4 handles matters Jewish on this Blog.

vbspurs said...

I detest tattoos, and am not too fond of people who sport them (including some sea-faring uncles of mine), but I have to say, I have always wanted an Edward Gorey tattoo. If only they had sound, I would do the whole PBS "Mystery!" soundtrack too.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I detest tattoos, and am not too fond of people who sport them

Well shit. There goes my backup plan if Mrs. Hoosier kicks me out.

From Inwood said...

Apropos of scholars & experts & what Pogo correctly defines here as BS, I think I’ll change my nom de blogue to “Former Physics Student” (what? I took HS Physics) or “Former Psychology Student” (hey, I took that college philosophical psychology course) so that I can quote from, say, Richard Feynman’s iconic lecture (see today’s WSJ) to prove my science creds on AGW, OOPS, Climate Change, or make some seemingly authoritative quote from Freud on the subject of this tattoo thread, or for that matter, repeat one of Nostradamus’ words of wisdom which supposedly predicted that the invention of steroids would lead to increased BB HRs. You know, try to be an intellectual impostor re science.

A friend of ours once sent us, among many others, a chain e-mail about a guy who’d bought an expensive box of cigars, listed them under his fire insurance as a possession, & then successfully collected on that policy after he smoked them, because, ya see, the policy insured….

I told her that that was an urban legend, probably arising out of a Law or Insurance Prof’s using the Socratic method on his/her pupils or even a lawyer’s joke. She e-mailed back in high dudgeon that # 1 son had sent it to her & reminded me that he was, indeed, a law student, so there. I suggested that she send it to her insurance agent. She was not amused.

During some period of the “Bush Regime” she kept sending slapdash alleged legal analyses using the purposely vague language of some basic document like the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, The UN founding documents, or some statement from Locke, or, the formalities of the Nuremburg trials about, say, how we’re all innocent ‘til proven guilty. To support her pre-determined position that Bush/Chaney/Rumsfeld were (or “was”, since they’re all one brain) “War Criminals”, she generally applied dictionary definitions where the language of these basic documents is general & uncertain in its application to a number of particular specific real-life situations. I suspect that her “stuff” (I hesitate to dignify it) was probably prepared by her son, the law student, from the rantings of the usual suspects. (Funny # 1 son missed FDR Sec Of War’s “gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail” (attributed).) My wife prevented my pointing out that it was a good thing that her son was not trying this to get some of her benighted relatives out of “The System” in NYC before the perp, er, alleged perp was sent to Rikers.

She later sent us another chain letter from a “criminal law expert” (# 1 son?) about some guy jumping out of a van by “Forest Park” with an ether-filled cloth, which he then applied to the face of some poor female jogger, whom he then subjected to, well, you can guess. I replied that if she believed that, she probably believed in the Ether Bunny.

We stopped getting her chain e-mails.

But maybe that’s because # 1 son has actually become a lawyer rather than a student.

On the other hand, some of these tattooed subjects are credentialed. Maybe # 1 son has a tattoo reading “#1 lawyer” or some other bumper-sticker phrase.

traditionalguy said...

I used to see tattoos as a sign of being under the power of something that marked you as its property, and therefore opposed the very idea. Then a Coptic from Cairo showed me that all young Coptic men, who live among a sea of moslem SOBs trying to intimidate them all the time, would get a coptic cross about an inch long tattooed on the back of their right hand between the thumb and index finger. He explained that the very permancy of a tattoo let the Moslem assholes know that intimidating them would not work. So I see a value in a tatoo's permanency so long as the "Owner" of the tatooed person is not an evil thing. It's a free world.

Smilin' Jack said...

What pisses me off is when I see beautiful women with tattoos. How can they think that they've improved on God's finest handiwork by desecrating it with some schlocky cartoon? (I'm actually an atheist, but you know what I mean.) And the tattoo "artist" responsible should have his hands cut off.

Lynne said...

"I have always wanted an Edward Gorey tattoo. If only they had sound, I would do the whole PBS "Mystery!" soundtrack too."

Well, maybe you could get one of those little chips they put in greeting cards implanted under your skin. The Gorey character could point to it with a thought bubble that says: Press here.

"What pisses me off is when I see beautiful women with tattoos. How can they think that they've improved on God's finest handiwork by desecrating it with some schlocky cartoon?"

My sweetheart says the same thing about makeup. He claims he never saw a beautiful woman improved by it.

Youngblood said...

Jennie Lightweis-Goff (from the article):

"Attached you'll find two pictures of my forearm, which I had tattooed with Kara Walker's Cut..."

The problem is that her tattoo is clearly not on her forearm. I know that she's an English professor and not an anatomy professor, but you don't have to be a friggin' doctor to know which part of your arm is the forearm.

"For years, I had planned to inscribe myself with some avatar of the process, though the subject made for a difficult choice."

This piss poor and pretentious writing came from an English professor.

"I, like many who have theorized American lynching practices, have ethical questions about reproducing images of that violence..."

Whereas those of us who have not "theorized American lynching practices" simply have no idea that getting a tattoo of a hanging black man would be in really poor taste.

"Initially, I wanted to tattoo myself to represent some kind of closure to this research but, by the end of the process, I realized there is no closing, no seam between my intellectual and personal life or between my mind and body."

You'd think that somebody who studied English would know what catharsis looks like, and that catharsis is probably the most satisfying type of closure possible.

"The tattoo concretes intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments."

Althouse got it right here. Every tattoo "concretes intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments." That's what tattoos do by their very nature, even (or perhaps especially) the tattoos that people get primarily for acceptance.

Youngblood said...

Smith's Erasmus Darwin bookplate tattoo is absolutely fantastic, it's such a wonderful design and the tattoo artist did great work with it.

On the other hand, Akins' "Read Books" tattoo is absolutely atrocious on so many levels. The font, the inappropriate boldness, the placement, and most of all the unimaginatively literal message.

If you're going to turn your calves into a signboard, at least make the message more interesting than the punchline from an episode of Reading Rainbow.

Palladian said...

Wow! Kara Walker, one of the art world's biggest one trick ponies, has found a potentially lucrative new career in tattoo design.

The only people who should get tattoos are Marines. Cause they're hawt.

H said...

Henry Rollins said:
Most people don't like tattoos. They say stupid things like 'Won't you regret that in 20 years?' I'd regret a wife and kids more. Tattoos are permanent.

When you get to your last decade you'll regret the dumb decisions you made that left lasting scars on you and other people on the inside, where you can't see them. But my hokey, faded and wrinkly tattoos are a reminder of the good times. They are what I chose, not what the world handed to me.

You kids that don't get it: get off of my lawn!

p.t. fogger said...

Oh Dear. That English grad. Parodies herself, she does. One more example of why most English departments should be disbanded, or preserved only to teach and maintain reading and writing skills.

Why isn't she pursuing her project, which is probably just an elaborately contrived just-so story, in the History department, or American Studies or some such bogus "studies" department designed for the intellectually feeble, but pretentiously progressive?

There can't be a academic field rendered more absurd, obscene, irrelevant and worthless than English.

vbspurs said...

He claims he never saw a beautiful woman improved by it.

Famous women, some naturally beautiful, with and without makeup.

Of course, that doesn't mean your friend would find them ugly without makeup. Beauty's in the eye of the beholder and all that. But man, some of these unmakeuped women are HIDEOUS.

jc said...

Three tatoos I've got, and you can't see them unless I take my shirt off, which as an old fashioned SOB I do in the privacy of my own home. Left bicep has the great-state-of-Texas-God's-own-country (to be pronounced as one word), the others are also Texas relatedand on the (ahem) torso. I get a new one every two years iff (stet, means "if and only if") I have so wonderful a vision it must go on. I allow myself a window of opportunity of one week before and after my birthday. I initiated this policy when I turned forty. Informed concent, and all that.

jc said...

O
h, and BTW, the greatest tat tune is this one:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdkuHgSzNhg by Rory Gallagher, the guitar God.

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