Tag Archives: BME

Forty One

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 “Memory is what we are. Your very soul and your very reason to be alive are tied up in memory.”- Nick Cave

In the nearly 20 years that I knew Shannon Larratt we found ourselves in plenty of situations that became fodder for epic stories; drunken nights doing vinegar shots and stumbling to Pizza Pizza to sober us up, planning out the marketing on ModCock sex toys and even arguing the ethics of starting an event for cannibalism fetishists that was something straight out of Gaiman’s the Doll’s House storyline….

Very few of my best memories of him have anything to do with what brought us together in the first place; as our friendship went on we talked less and less about body modification and more about the dorky pursuits and hobbies that occupied our time.

When this photo was taken in early 1998 in Detroit Michigan- and apologies for using the original 1998 72dpi scan- we were eating candy, planning the first ModCon and arguing whether mutual masturbation before a hockey game was necessary for a win. When my copy of the second Modcon book arrived in the mail the inscription read “Shawn- my next book is about hockey- on so many levels.” I’m still not sure what he meant by that, but I’m sure we would have won the game.

Today would have been Shannon’s 41st birthday; he’s very dearly missed.

 

I need this like I need a hole in the head….

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An anonymous tumblr follower suggested that I start adding all of the ‘one shot’ updates- the single photos with no articles to go with them- to the Sacreddebris.com site proper instead of just dropping them on tumblr. It makes sense considering that anything I post here also ends up there, and who knows… it may even make it look like I update this site more often than I do.

I’ve been pretty open about the future of this blog; I can’t say it’s going to make it past 1st January 2015. But until I pull the plug  I might as well try to keep it updated.

This photo is an early digital camera shot (thus the quality) from approximately 1996-7 that was submitted to the SPCOnline site by BME Editor Shannon Larratt. I’ve written about this before- the infamous ‘fork handle dermal elevator’ procedure (which you can check out here– but for those too busy to click the link…

Shannon had a set of implants in his forehead done by a traveling practitioner and he felt they were crooked. Since the artist had moved on he had to have his roommate ‘fix’ the placement, but without proper tools they resorted to using the flat end of a fork’s handle in place of a dermal elevator. There’s a lot of talk recently about irresponsibility with documenting certain procedures, but when Shannon submitted these to SPC we didn’t even consider the possible negative consequences of publishing graphic, ill advised procedural photos.

Remembering Josh Burdette

This article originally ran on BME’s MODBLOG on 09/02/2013.
It has been edited slightly. I still miss Josh.

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“i had a dream a while back. in it, i met myself. the me that i met greeted the dream me in a way that i often greet people, with hands raised together as if in prayer, a sign of coming in peace. in this dream, the other me had scars shaped like arrows on the heels of his hands. one pointing up, one pointing down. i woke from the dream with this image burned into my mind. over time, the symbolism became clear to me…
….as above, so below. the sacred and the profane. heaven and earth. good and evil. black and white. brain and body. what goes up, must come down. there are a million examples and ways to describe the idea, but it all comes back to balance. none of these things would exist without the other. they may occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, but they are inextricably linked to each other. my goal is to maintain that balance in my life. to have one foot in each world. these scars will remind me of that.” – Josh Burdette, Scarwars.net

The first thing most people thought when they met Josh Burdette was usually “that’s one big mother fucker.” OBMF. That’s how I first got to known Josh, back in the glory days of the late 1990s Body Modification scene of rec. arts.bodyart and the IAM.BME community site. Josh was a larger than life presence all around- a fixture in the D.C. Music scene as the Manager and head of security of the 9:30 Club since 1997, he stood as the WALL OF BEARD at countless shows. An imposing figure, Josh could have relied on his size to intimidate people, instead, in 2006 he had this to say about ‘bouncing’ to the Washington Post:

“A bouncer is looking to bounce people. It’s a reactive way of doing things. We’re the face of the club, and we have to do our best to be as friendly, polite and accessible as we can. Some of us look big and scary, but we’re just people, too. We’re just working our jobs.”
I saw him, not too long ago, at the Stay Calm memorial we held here in Philadelphia for Shannon Larratt; we hugged like we always do, gave some colorful commentary on the state of the world and the Body Modification community, and finally getting to the point of why we had all come together that day as a community- remembering our friend- he laughingly told me that we were going to have a moratorium on any of our friends dying till at least 2015, to spread the word to the people we love that they’re to stick around for a while.

I wish Josh would have been able to keep up the pact.

Josh Burdette passed away in Washington DC on Sunday September 1st. He was 36 years old. I’ll miss running into him backstage at LUCERO shows, chatting about our lives instead of watching the opening acts. I’ll miss bitching about ‘these kids today’ with him, reading his latest ‘Wall of Beard’ comic strip adventure and getting one of his epic bear hugs. I’ll miss Josh.

 

Subincision Fun

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One of the fun things about updating the SD site (or our tumblr) is the chain effect; one photo leading me to think about something else and seeing where that takes me. The header photo for the ‘ModCocks‘ article, for example, featured plaster molds of my friend J’s subincision progress, which led me to see if I could find the first VHS tape he sent me somewhere between 1996-1998.

J and I met through the UNIQUE club and began corresponding through letters and eventually video tape exchanges. He was charming; a true Gent and adventurer who was in the process of subincising himself; and thankfully he was documenting his progress with photographs, video tapes and plaster molds.

I introduced him to Shannon Larratt, who featured him several times on BME 1 2 who invited him with my recommendation to speak at the inaugural ModCon event in 1999. (his speech was on tens units as pain management during genital modification. He infamously referred to penises as ‘doodlehangers’ to avoid offending our female guests)

I believe this tape was at one time available for purchase on the old BME/Video site. I look forward to seeing if my copy is salvageable.

From his BME Interview:

J: I’d say that just because some people who cut themselves are seriously emotionally disturbed does not mean that everyone who appreciates the artistry or eroticism of genital mods is crazy. Our society is heavily oriented towards machines, and machines work great when they deal with a uniform, predictable product, including us . . . to quote a bright young Harvard graduate (whom I shall identify in just a moment),

" . . . our society tends to regard as a 'sickness' any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn't fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a 'cure' for a 'sickness' and therefore as good."

In a world that seems bent on packing us all into conformist crypts because a nonconformist is a thorn in the side of educators, consumerist capitalism, and the not-really-two-party political system, a strong natural drive for individuality must find an outlet or risk madness. I believe body art provides one such outlet. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great American philosopher born nearly 200 years ago, said, “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” Too much of a good thing. Body art is nonconformist and it gives people a relatively safe way of acting out. The Harvard grad, by the way, was Ted Kaczynski.

ModCocks

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This post originally ran as a diary entry on my personal blog on 03.28.2013 and has been slightly edited for content.

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This is a true story. I haven’t thought about it in years, but a conversation earlier with my friend Christy brought it back, and I figured since I’m still in a ‘those were the days!’ kind of mood I’d get this one down for posterity even though it’s a quickie.

For me, Body Modification has always had a root in sexuality. I don’t really talk about sexuality that much here on SD, which is odd given how important it is to my life. I think that there’s still that feeling that I have to limit or censure what I say here because it’s so ‘public’ but for today we’ll just pretend that we’re all adults and that a dirty anecdote is perfectly acceptable.

It was either at ModCon2 or ModCon3 in Toronto Ontario (which would have been 2000 or 2002) when Shannon an I first started joking about the idea of ModCocks. The plan was to get a handful of DIY penis molding kits, send them out to our practitioner friends and have them send the molds back for us to go into production on dildos based on our penises. Subincised dildos, dildos with implants- very niche items for the modification community.

In the middle of trying to orchestrate a full scale underground surgical modification event, we found ourselves laughing hysterically on the phone to friends who couldn’t make it up for the convention, asking if they’d consent to being turned into a sex object. You’d be surprised at how many people readily agreed to do it; then again, probably not.

Like a lot of our hairbrained schemes, we had a full marketing plan laid out- which included sending a few samples to more active contributors of BME/HARD for field testing and documentation- but sadly it never went anywhere.

Remembering Keith Alexander

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As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.

Eight 1 years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.

When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.

When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
Continue reading

Notes:

  1. July 11th 2014 marks nine years since Keith’s passing.

Evolution of a subculture: CURED Tour/Uvatiarru

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In 2003, a small crew sponsored by BMEZine founder Shannon Larratt started a North American tour to film Body Modification enthusiasts/practices for what promised to be a very unique documentary.

Shannon sent out DVC cameras to people not on the tour’s path who he felt could contribute something unique, equipped Jon Cobb with a camera for a tour of South East Asia and even managed to make a website and trailer for the film- Uvatiarru– that ultimately never got produced.

This image is from the first stop of the US Tour on 04 May 2003. While the tour allowed for the crew to go to the homes/studios of the people they were filming, some folks stepped it up and hosted parties and events when the tour came through their town.

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IAM.BME community members Lauren and Sam organized a suspension event in NYC for the first stop of the tour, which found CURED member (and ModCon/SCARwars photographer) Philip Barbosa suspending with an assist from ROP’s Emrys Yetz. A Cured crew member- Johnny- films in the background.

I’ve been told that these tapes still exist; they’re just waiting to be put together and celebrate a time/place that was very influential in the development of the Body Modification community worldwide.

Still Staying Calm

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As I get older- 40 this year- mortality is becoming much more of a real thing for me. I sometimes reference Indiana Jones IV when talking about getting older and seeing the people I love leaving me: “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away” and it’s true. I look at the people in our community who have moved on to whatever comes next- Jack Yount, Keith Alexander, Shannon Larratt, Josh Burdette and countless other amazing personalities I’ve been lucky to have known over the years and I try my best to be thankful for the time I was given with them instead of dwelling on the sadness of losing them. The nights where we’d stay up till five am just bullshitting about everything and nothing, all for the satisfaction of seeing how far we could take it- whatever it was. Body Modification, movies, art, some joke that as the years have passed I can’t even remember but the memory of telling it on Shannon’s couch on Bathurst street, drunk out of our minds doing shots of aged vinegar and being total goobers. Even the bad times still bring a smile to my face.

I’m  sad that Shannon will be remembered ‘just’ because of Body Modification; he was so much more than that. An artist. A father. A husband. A writer. Someone who’s contributions to social networking will go largely unmentioned in an age of Tom Anderson and Mark Zuckerberg, but Shannon’s contributions to the field- not just the ability to communicate with people all over the world, but to really connect with them- has made an incredible mark in the lives of those of us who were part of the BME community of sites. It wasn’t just a place to share what you had for dinner or funny pictures of your cat; we communicated, man. We talked. When we were having a bad time- the whole community had our back.

A year ago today… It was rough. It’s still rough from time to time, but… the photo above? Those people, people I met through Shannon and his work with BME? We still have each other’s backs.  A month after Shannon passed away we got together and instead of mourning- we celebrated. People came from all over. We played in the park. Told stories. Met children that were born as a result of their parents meeting on BME and falling in love. Jewelry companies and modification artists donated products and services that we raffled off during a bacchanal at the bar my family owns, raising $3600 for Shannon and Rachel’s daughter Ari. In the year that’s followed I’m more connected with my ‘BME friends’ than I had been in years.

I would rather have a world with Shannon Larratt in it- even when we were spatting- than one without. But I’m glad to have had him in my life for as long as I did.

For the post I wrote when Shannon passed- and the eulogy I delivered at the 2013 APP Conference:
Discarded Reliquaries/Stay Calm. 

For photos from the Stay Calm Philadelphia Event: Stay Calm Philadelphia

 

Farewell, Samy.

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In 2009 I shared a short clip with BME/News of an interview between Sailor Sid Diller and Tattoo Samy with the promise to eventually get the whole video digitized for archival. This blurb ran along with the video:

“Samy appeared in P.F.I.Q. #18 (1983) and #19 as the magazine’s first documented tongue piercing. This clip has audio and video glitches (that Roo was kind enough to clean up to the best of his ability) present in the original VHS; that’s why these are so important to share. Once the original masters degrade – this stuff could be lost forever. I hope you guys are enjoying these glimpses into our not so distant past!”

Tonight’s Sacred Debris “video Tuesday” was going to be the full video with a higher resolution capture.
It turns out that the 2009 post was all too prophetic- the cassette had degraded since the last time it was played to the point where the tape had snapped. All hope isn’t lost, as I’m going to be on the lookout for anyone with experience in splicing VHS tapes (which is probably a skill-set who’s days are limited) so we can permanently archive this footage; until then swing over to BME/News for the original clip:

http://news.bme.com/2009/04/02/sammy-sid/

If any of you techie folks can manage to extract that video file from the page, please get in touch. I’d like to make sure to have that copy on my backup drive just to be safe.

Nostalgia and Inspiration

earhand01Directly or indirectly, I’m not sure the Sacred Debris project would have happened without these two gentlemen. Last year was a rough one, losing Shannon Larratt and Josh Burdette within a few months of each other. The memorial that we put together in Philadelphia for Shannon brought out lots of old friends; some of us are getting to the age where nostalgia is starting to take a more important role in our lives, and sitting back with Josh Burdette, telling stories about the old days and how soon enough our exploits back in the ‘middle school’ of body modification would likely be forgotten or never known.

Several months later I’d get the call that Josh had exited the world on his own terms.

His passing took a lot out of me and I booked myself a bus ticket to Toronto, heading up to the Toronto International Film Festival to see a movie about my favorite director- who Shannon and I once contacted about shooting a ModCon documentary- and before I knew it I found myself standing in front of Shannon’s old house. The one he lived in when I first met him. The one that hosted the original BME/BBQs that drew friends from all over the world who often got together in the freezing cold of winter or blistering heat of summer to have fun, do modification work and just relax being surrounded by people who understood.

2000jbleftSaying goodbye to Shannon and Josh- being comforted by nostalgia and fearful that our memories- and the memories of the generation(s) that came before us- was a big motivator in starting this blog. That just gives us all another reason to thank these two really amazing souls.

Shannon Larratt in Detroit 1998: The first time I met him in person, the girl I was traveling with wanted to put her hands through his lobes. We did this in a Detroit hotel- a few hours later we had created what would become the MODCON events.

Josh Burdette in Philadelphia 1999: Erik ‘the Lizardman’ Sprague invited us to see him perform- as AMAGO- with the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow at the Electric Factory. Afterwards, Josh and I, along with a few friends, decided to keep the fun going at the South Street Diner where we played the always popular “what can fit in my lobes” game to the delight/horror of the rest of the restaurant.

I’ve been lucky in my life to have spent time with some truly inspiring friends.