Monday, April 27, 2015


   Where are we going as humanity? People are driven to find and create technology, expand their potentials, and improve healthcare. Is there a point when this goes to far? Should we create devices that break the barrier of limits that are faced by the human's natural body? Trans-humanists would argue that yes we should. According to magazines, the next generation is already expected to live 120 years old. That is a long time, longer than this oldest person lived.
   There are prosthetic devices that work better than the body's natural body. Is that a nice advantage or circumstance? I think that while it's incredible technology has come so far, we are taking it a little too far. Going too far can make people believe that we have the ability to be perfect physically and do anything, which may be more of a possibility than ever before. However, it is strange for health advancements to make a person better than they were before they got hurt in my opinion.

   Technological advancements in prosthesis used to be in order to make it function like a normal person's leg. Why should we go beyond that just because we can? I think increasing people's capacities fundamentally could create a prbem much like that in science fiction movies.

   If a lot of people have superhuman abilities (running faster, climbing better, etc) it will make it had for normal humans to be accepted. There may become a bigger problem for those people who don't want to become trans-human or even remain disabled. The situation would remind me of one in a recent movie, Divergent. This whole process just seems a bit absurd and extreme to me. Although, I will not refute that it is an interesting subject.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Body Art in the Media

Portrayal of body modifications seems to vary from one medium to another.  Some media seems to be more receptive to ideas, while other media takes a more varied approach.  For instance, the internet largely celebrates the idea of body modifications, while television and film seem to present them differently based on the program.
In terms of the internet, there seems to be limited discourse about body modification in and of itself.  While there are absolutely message boards and articles that host heated debates about the topics, that does not seem to be the primary focus on the internet.  More so, the internet is used as a means of exploration, ideas, and support.
There are a number of websites, particularly for tattoos, that act as photographic blogs.  In this medium, artists have the opportunity to share their portfolio and establish a presence within the industry.  Other internet users look at the photo blogs for inspiration for their next piece.  Other websites seem to foster a body art and modification community.  When website deems itself the church of body art and modification.  It goes into the history of different body modifications, has forum communities where people can discuss and collaborate on modifications, and acts as a hub for information pertaining to where the industry is going.
Film and television seem to take a slightly different approach.  While there are documentaries on body art and modifications, these are definitely not mainstream films.  Instead, the majority of what is consumed is made by major movie studios.  There are very few films in existence that focus primarily on body art or modifications.  Actors and actresses who have tattoos often have them covered throughout the film.  When they are featured primarily, it is usually shown as a sign of being an outcast or a rebel, giving them a negative connotation.  However, when it is a primary character, tattoos seem to often have a pivotal purpose or representation for the character.  The tattoo or modification will react in certain scenes, as a sign of power or revelation.  They can also be used as a tool to show that the character has gone through a lot of tough times in their lives.  These devices seem to play into the classic stereotypes of tattoos and other modifications; that tattoos always have to be a symbol of importance to the person, or they represent a rough and tumble life.
Television is deep in a reality and docu-series phase.  There are a barrage of shows documenting body art and modification.  LA Ink and Miami Ink show the inner-workings of different tattoo shops throughout the country, playing on the art and the dynamic of the work-place.  Just as with any reality show, the drama is hyped up, which ends up giving negative perceptions of tattoo artists.  There are also a number of plastic surgery programs, most recently “Botched.”  This show chronicles two Beverly Hills doctors performing surgeries for both mild cases and big plastic surgery characters.  For the more mild cases, viewers are supposed to empathize, while the show is set up for gawking at the more eccentric procedures.

Overall, there is no general pattern for representation of body art and modifications in the media.  The online world acts more as a place for community building and ideas.  Movies largely ignore body art, or use it for some form of symbolism or storytelling.  Television, on the other hand, documents body art, and is carefully produced and edited for the viewer to leave with a certain perception.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

We, the Transhumans

Transhumanism is a topic that I wish we could have covered more thoroughly.

This modification entails using modern technology to further develop the human condition. I would argue, however, that this is already in effect and so we are already transhuman. Consider: one of the goals of transhumanism is to increase human longevity. But we've already accomplished this! The life expectancy of humans have increased enormously in the past century:

As can be seen by this plot, the average life expectancy in developed nations were around 1850s were around 40 years old. In the past century, the life expectancy has shot up to nearly double this. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists the U.S.'s life expectancy at 77.8 for men and 82.2 for women. These higher life expectancies are attributed to better public health, like improved medical treatments for previously terminal diseases. So basically, improvements to technology have allowed humans to double their life expectancy in just one hundred years. Doesn't this sound like transhumanism ideas already?

Another reason I hoped to talk about transhumanism is to hear the arguments against it. Coming from a technological perspective, I have yet to find any logical criticisms. The two arguments I've seen are that transhumanism a) unnatural and b) wrong for trying to play God. As an agnostic (leaning towards atheism), the latter argument holds little wait for me and I cannot rebut simply because I'm not sure how to argue against religion. The former argument, however, is trivial. Society lives already with 'unnatural' things apart of daily life: cell phones, cars, electricity, nylon, radiation therapy and antibiotics, glasses and laser eye surgery, global positioning systems and their associated satellites, blood transfusions, computers, etc, not to mention numerous scientific achievements not seen in daily life, like invisible lasers powerful enough to char a chicken in seconds or to shoot down aircraft and particle accelerators able to speed particles to almost the speed of light and smash them together. If we are to equate "unnatural" to "bad", then I suppose we should also eliminate all these things form our lives as well.

I was surprised to find that the "founder of transhumanism" is Julian Huxley, a mid-1900s biologist. He coined the term in article in which he describes humanity's ability to "transcend itself." This particularly interested me since his younger brother, Aldous Huxley, is the well-known author of Brave New World. In this novel, the main character lives in a utopian society (or dystopian, depending on your perspective) in which humans are genetically engineered down to very particular details, like whether or not you enjoy nature or flowers. I wonder if Aldous' book aimed to criticize his brother's ideas (although I don't think it was, since Julian Huxley described transhumanism a quarter century after Brave New World was initially published).

Through all of my reading, transhumanism seems an interesting route to the future. While not all aspects of it appeal to me (like cryogenics), the whole process of these advancements inspire numerous possibilities for the future.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ed Hardy's Reputations

Ed Hardy became a known figure around the world during the past years, but many people seem to question his popularity after entering the capital commerce. Ed Hardy first earned his high reputation as one of the best tattoo artists after learning from Sailor Jerry himself and drawing his designs on customers from all around the globe. However, after his name became recognized world-wide, he decided to take advantage of his popularity and express his designs through other sources other than tattoos. Hardy took a swift of direction from tattooing and decided to look at fashion to elaborate his designs. He created his own brand known as ED Hardy, in which he create designs for clothing, shoes, wine glasses glasses, and many more including diaper bags and toilet seats. This shift of commerce was not very well accepted by many of his fans that were inspired by his work and classified him as a sell-out. His brand became quite known and popular, but as his products and sells grew, so did his reputation as a sell-out. It probably wasn’t an easy for him to switch from his practice of been a tattoo artists to focusing on commerce and fashion. It seemed like the right direction to take in order to increase popularity and revenue, and although it did work, it sort of backfired as he saw anger, annoyance, and hate directed towards him by his disapproving fans and those did not like his new methods of making money at all. It did not take long for people to create websites and blogs expressing how they felt about Ed Hardy, which was not very positive, and stating why they think he made the wrong choice. As we saw his reputation as a sell-out rise, we also saw his reputation as a tattoo artists fall. Often when people hear the name Ed Hardy, some think that he is a legendary tattoo artists and other might simply recognize his name by brand in the fashion  world. Those who really know his work might asks themselves, did Ed Hardy ruin his reputation as a tattoo artists by entering the commerce and fashion industry? The answer is in the hands of each individual, some might agree that he made the wrong choice while others might agree that he is one of the best tattoo artist and there is nothing wrong creating his famous designs on clothing and make some money from it. However, in his book, he did mention that he regrets making the decision of entering the commerce world, or as many describe it, selling-out. Did Ed Hardy write his book in order to justify his action and perhaps try to fix the high reputation he once had? Those are some of the questions that pop in my head whenever we are discussing his name in class. It is hard to tell whether he really regrets his decisions, considering all the money generated from his new industry. Maybe he really feels no regret and wrote the book to attempt to convince his disapproving fans that they should not look at him as a sell-out, or maybe he really is sorry and would give all the money he made to gain his famous and respectable reputation back. Regardless of what anyone thinks, Ed Hardy made enormous contributions to the tattooing industry, and like professor Peace said in class, the tattoo world wouldn’t be the same without Ed Hardy and it would probably be a decade behind from where it is now if it weren’t for him.

Ed Hardy, Reason's Unknown

Ed Hardy’s book Wear Your Dreams might have been published in attempt to get the public interested in his work again, but ultimately, what I enjoyed the most was the stories we got of Sailor Jerry. The stories really came through as a way to show the audience who Sailor Jerry was and how Ed Hardy learned from him.
The chapter dedicated to Sailor Jerry gave the readers a glimpse of who Sailor Jerry was and the importance of his existence in Ed Hardy’s work. Sailor Jerry is truly remarkable. I especially like the line “He figured out how to do theses things like a jigsaw puzzle.” It’s like he was born to tattoo and innovate the field. His humor is astonishing, “Jerry kept a pet chimpanzee named Romeo in the shop. He ingeniously tattooed AL on one side of the chimp’s ass and HA on the other cheek. He taught him to bend over and look through his legs, rewarding the viewer with ALOHA.” I would never have thought to do something like that but Sailor Jerry did, showing his comicality and out of the box thinking. He really played around with the art to create his own set of design and trademarks. To find out that he never went past fifth grade in school was surprising because he would keep correspondent with people all over the world, as the author puts it, “trading information, sharing designs, acting as a conduit of information between a loose network of tattooers from around the world.” Not many people have the will power to do all those things, but his passion for tattoo really pushed him through.

Wear Your Dreams obviously wasn’t just about Sailor Jerry and his work in the tattoo world, the book written about Ed Hardy also showcase the tattooing side of Ed Hardy that not many people are aware of, because for one, he is mostly known by his clothing and fragrances line, and second, tattooers don’t really like him because they believe he is a sell-out. In his earlier years, he was really set on the path of tattoo. The book notes that at one point in time he could do fifteen tattoos, or even more, in a four-hour night shift. It was evident back then that he had skills, especially when he dared to be inventive and used the purple dye that Sailor Jerry had provided.

People have suggested that this book was written to help elevate once again Ed Hardy’s popularity because in recent years, it has plummeted. Others believe that it was his way of saying to the world “I’m not a sell out.” Reasons are still unknown. It can only be speculated and if anyone were to ask me, I will say, “I don’t know.” Only Ed Hardy knows the true reason behind his decision of having someone write about his life and publish it. I truly want to believe that he did it so that people can learn more about the major contributor to the tattoo world, Sailor Jerry. His work and dedication deserves to be recognize and applauded.

Ed Hardy Selling Out

Last week I posted an opinion piece about how I don't think that what Ed Hardy did is necessarily  a bad thing. He went into business and he made money. I compared him to other musicians and artists who also happened to get famous and make a lot of money, but didn't seem to lose their credibility. I asked why people should be faulted for trying to make money. I also claimed it was human nature to fault others for doing better than us. But I realize now that I missed a whole other aspect to his commodification. It was only after discussing this issue in class that I realized the aspect of art for art's sake and I have changed my tune.
I claimed before that people criticized Ed Hardy for getting rich and famous because they were jealous and it was human nature. But now I realize I was partially wrong. At least some people would have criticized him for commodifying his art form because he no longer created art for art's sake. He decided at some point that if he was going to continue in this business, he wanted to make a lot of money from it. But I think there is a nobility involved in doing something just because you enjoy it, and there is a dishonor associated with doing something for the money. The sellouts aren't everyone who makes money, they are the people who create art BECAUSE they can make money. I think that was a distinction I failed to make last week. Does Ed Hardy really love wine glasses or is he just stamping his work on there to sell money? I find it hard to believe Ed Hardy had a passion for custom glassware. (They aren't even really custom. Just a regular wine glass with one of his flash designs stamped onto the side.)
I think people disliking Ed Hardy because he lost the nobility of making art for art's sake is most plausible because it happens in other fields as well. People mentioned in class how there is something more honorable about being a Physicist in academia than working for some big corporation that would make you rich. I find that mentality is the same in medicine. Admissions committees try analyze you to make sure you don't want to be a doctor just to be rich. Even once in medicine, you can usually tell who was in this field to make money because they tend to congregate in certain specialties, like plastic surgery or anesthesiology. Those fields are subsequently less honorable. For example if you tell someone you're an anesthesiologist, the first thought is that they went into that specialty to make a lot of money. That's the same connotation given to Ed Hardy now.

Side note:
There is a book called Stuff White People Like. One of the entries is "Hating People Who Wear Ed Hardy." It's satire so it's filled with funny blurbs. My mom actually got this book as a gift once. Here are parts of the entry I thought were hilarious and so true:

To put this in proper perspective, Ed Hardy is so hated by white people that it cannot be worn ironically.

For example, if you take the reasonable but not compelling story: “I got cut off in traffic this morning and when I honked the guy gave me the finger,” and replace it with: “I got cut off in traffic this morning by this guy in an Ed Hardy shirt.  I honked and then he gave me the finger!”  The story will become sixty percent more interesting to white people because it allows them to make a witty response like: “I guess that douche bag had to get to a UFC party or a nightclub event he was promoting.”

Ed Hardy's Career

The career path of Ed Hardy is highly contested, as there seems to be a deep schism between his supporters and his detractors.  Interestingly enough, Ed Hardy does not even seem to know where he stands regarding the choices he has made in his career.  By blurring the lines of art and business, he has effectively built an empire for himself, which has not exactly gone over well for him.  However, there are a number of factors that play into his reputation.

According to his biography, Ed Hardy seems to regret “selling out.”  He feels that he cheapened his personal brand.  Interestingly, the way he refers to his work as a “brand” makes it sound more business-like.  This can be construed as him not even looking at his work as strictly art anymore.  He may have been thinking art in his head, but his phrasing seems to indicate that his work has transitioned to more of a business.  These kind of statements have given ammunition to his detractors to call out how he has lost respect for the art form in favor of making money.

His detractors are passionate.  There are a number of websites that are devoted strictly to calling out Ed Hardy as a sell-out.  In particular, they call out a number of his different products, including wine glasses, car accessory kits, diaper bags, onesies, and shower curtains.  To many different tattoo artists, this cheapened the practice of tattooing.  The fact that Ed Hardy has drawn a large degree of inspiration from renowned artist Sailor Jerry and uses that stylization in different forms makes the actions more egregious.

Another aspect of his new designs that makes him problematic is who wears them.  His clothing line, in particular, is closely associated with “douche bags.”  Upper-middle class people with the Jersey Shore style were the major consumers of his clothing line.  However, the upper-middle class is not typically the most heavily tattooed.  That’s where tattoos are generally considered taboo.  The acceptance of tattoo designs in this community gave further evidence of commodification.

Even with all of these aspects of Hardy’s life and career being cause for disdain amongst the tattoo community, Hardy has still done a substantial amount for the industry, and his proven his love for the art.  There are countless stories in the book that prove his passion for the craft.  He had his own tattoo stand as a kid when other kids were selling lemonade.  He went around to different tattoo parlors and worked his way through the ranks to become seriously skilled at his craft.  Additionally, he brought the idea of Japanese style to the west.  We would be a decade behind acceptance of tattoos and a decade behind high quality art had he not been in the industry.

While the grievances are definitely understandable, I think it is important to realize that these types of commodification come with the territory of major success in any field.  While it may not be ideal to the integrity of the art, I don’t think it is entirely fair to call all of Ed Hardy’s work into question because of it.