Workin’ on it

November 8, 2009

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New Books & Refs Pages

I’ve been working on rearranging my Books & Refs page.  First, to highlight the best piercing reference, The Piercing Bible, by giving it the place it deserves–the top spot!  And also to nest the pages so they are organized better.  (It took me a looong time to figure that one out–thanks WordPress.)

I’ll be adding books & refs as I go along, but each page is now at least started.  Click on the Books & Refs page at the top, or use the right-hand side bar to get there.

Let me know how you like the new set up.

Pic from austinevan’s photostream at Flickr.


The Piercing Bible

April 19, 2009

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Just Get It!

Let me introduce you to the best reference a pierced consumer could have: The Piercing Bible, a book by Elayne Angel.

There’s nothing else like it out there, and no one but Angel could have written this book.  I know she has worked very hard on it, and I am bursting with pride for her.  It’s a fantastic book for everyone interested in body piercing, and I do urge everyone to pick up a copy.

In the interest of disclosure, I had a small part in the conceptualization of the project.  I knew we needed a book like this, and I’m so excited to finally have it. I’m not going to do a “review,” because I can’t be unbiased, although I plan at least one more  blog post on the book, more content-related.  For right now, allow me to introduce Ms. Elayne Angel, piercer, author, a pivotal figure in modern body piercing, and not the least to me, my friend.

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Cloud: As a bibliophile, I loved your blog post about greeting your book for the first time:

I opened the box and lifted the book–hefted it really, to feel its pleasant and considerable weight. Smiling, I took a look at the front and back covers, then thumbed through the whole thing and heard the sound of the paper, then took a big whiff  of the fresh paper and ink.  I did everything but lick the thing.  I wanted (needed, even) to experience my book with every possible sense I have.  What a delight!

Cloud: Let me ask you:  Are you sure you didn’t lick it?  Just a little when no one was looking, hmm?

Angel: In all honesty, I was tempted, but I did not lick it.  At the time, I was in New Orleans, staying with friends–so I didn’t have a lot of private time with my new book.  I will admit that I took more than just a whiff, though.  I suppose it would be accurate to say that I briefly huffed the book.

Cloud: I know exactly how hard it was to find a publisher and I know how hard you  worked on this.  Are there any thoughts about the process you’d like to share?

Angel: I’m glad I never set out to make writing my “day job,” that’s for sure!  People keep asking me what I’m going to write next (as if it is a foregone conclusion I’ll write another book).  I can’t even think about that right now!  Completing this book (while meeting the harsh deadlines my publisher demanded) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tackled in my entire life.  When I talk about “blood, sweat, and tears” being involved, I’m not speaking metaphorically.

One of the greatest challenges was dealing with the  illustrations. The artist is a wonderful woman named Jennifer Klepacki, and we’ve become fast friends through the process.  But she was in Connecticut, and I was in Mexico, so creating the drawings over that distance was pretty crazy!

Because the book’s budget limited the number of illustrations I was able to include, quite a few piercings had to be drawn on one view of anatomy–for example male genitalia with 10 different pieces of jewelry in it.  I’d send her perhaps 7 or 8 different photos of piercings that needed to be incorporated into one drawing, along with written instructions on relative jewelry sizes, piercing placements, and so on.  She’d draw up a draft, scan it, and email it to me.

Quite quickly I realized that no matter how much detail I put into writing about the way an illustration should look, words alone would not suffice.  So I started to print the drafts, and draw on them myself, and then scan them and email them back.  I am artistic in a variety of ways, but drawing has never been one of my best skills, so this really caused me to stretch my capabilities.

Sometimes we’d go back and forth dozens of times until I was satisfied.  Jennifer was fantastic about doing whatever it took to get to that point.  What a trooper! Also, as soon as we began the project, the publisher cut four weeks off of the deadline, and they wanted all 23 illustrations done in a month!  That was one of the more difficult (but ultimately rewarding) parts of the process.

Cloud: I can’t draw worth a damn, either.  We can create pictures with words, but artists are visually oriented.  These are technical drawings, which need precision, but they are quite wonderfully done.

Angel: Here’s another story: My editor Lisa and I bounced different versions of the manuscript back and forth many, many times. I can’t even count how many edits it went through.  It honestly seemed like the book would never be done.  So after months of passing it between us, I ecstatically sent Lisa the final version (on deadline).  I wrote her a thank-you note, and flew out the following day to see my family in California.  I’d gotten up at 4:00 in the morning to make my early flight, and spent a long day traveling.  I had a nice dinner with my folks and was exhausted and ready for bed.

I decided to check my email for just a moment before turning in. And there it was: my manuscript, along with a note from my editor asking me to spot-check the cross-references.  Because the material is so interrelated, there are about 143 locations where the reader is sent elsewhere in the book for more information on a subject:  “See page 47 for details.”  This is one of the last things in the process, because every edit causes page numbers to change.  But I’d already checked this once or twice, and given my corrections; I couldn’t believe I had to deal with it yet again, and while I was bleary-eyed from travel.

So, I randomly checked a cross reference and it gave the WRONG page number.  There I was, in the middle of the night, rechecking every single cross-referenced in the book.  I’m glad I did; three of them were wrong! Of course, then I started to wonder what else was still wrong.  It could drive a person crazy!  Apparently it is common that changes are made after the first print run, and errors can get corrected at that time.

Being a perfectionist is great characteristic for a piercer, but in a writer . . .

Cloud: Was there any part of the book you had to fight to include, or that gave you particular trouble?

Angel: The publisher and I wrestled over the cover quite a bit.  At one point I was so distraught, I regretted having signed the contract.  Ultimately we settled on the current cover, and I’m pretty happy with it, except that the color isn’t nearly as purple as I would have liked.

I don’t want to give a negative impression of my publisher.  Ten Speed Press is fantastic, and I feel that the whole team there worked really hard to make The Piercing Bible as good as it could possibly be, and I’m very appreciative of  everyone’s efforts.

The end-notes were a bitch or organize, because the publisher’s program doesn’t work with the formatting for automatic endnotes in the Microsoft Word program that I used.  I had to manually put in special codes for their placement.  Then, edits caused things to get swapped around and I’d hve to re-do them.  I wriestled with those damned end notes for what seemed like a lifetime!

Cloud: What do you have planned for the official debut?

Angel: The official debut is coming up at the annual conference for the Association of Professional Piercers in Las Vegas the first week in May.  We’re having it at the Tropicana this year (a change from our many years at the Riviera).  I’ll have  booth and will sell and sign books and I’ll be selling my poster there, too (pictured here).   The publisher is making some postcards for the book, and I’ll have those also.

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Cloud: I hope it goes smashingly for you.  I had hoped to attend the conference this year, and perhaps volunteer, but as you know, conference can be exhausting even without being post-op!  The Tropicana better treat you guys right–it’ll be great to be down at that end of the Strip. Are you planning any other appearances at conventions or events to publicize the book?

Angel: While I’m at the APP Conference, I will discuss book signing/guest piercing opportunities with my colleagues from around the country.  So, those plans have yet to be made, but I’ll be happy to keep you and your readers posted.Following the Conference (on May 16 at 6 pm) I’ll be having a book signing in Los Angeles at an alternative gallery:  Antebellum Gallery.  http://www.rickcastro.com/antebellum/antebellum2.html .

Cloud: Please do keep me informed about appearances.  Every little bit helps, right? You’re probably watching the Amazon.com reviews pretty closely, and so far they’re great, but have you received feedback yet from other piercers?

Angel: No, the book just started shipping a matter of days ago, so I figure it will take a little more time–there are over 300 pages after all!  I’m kind of surprised that anyone had time to actually read the whole thing and post a review already.

Cloud: That’s exactly what I’m doing, and what Noah [Babcock of Evolution in ABQ] told me–you have to set aside time to read and study it because it’s so dense with information!  And yet it’s very readable at the same time.

Angel: I’m looking forward to hearing whatever feedback people have.  So far, it has all been good, but I’m sure piercers are apt to be my harshest critics (of the content, anyway).  The book IS on the conservative side, but if it wasn’t, then the non-piercing communities (like healthcare professionals, educators, legislators, etc.) wouldn’t take it seriously.  A very important goal of mine is for The Piercing Bible to be accessible and acceptable to these other types of people.  There isn’t a single other resource that has the potential to encompass and educate such diverse audiences.

Cloud: Oh, I entirely agree.  Just waiting until the nurses and health care inspectors get hold of it–they should be falling on it like mana from heaven!  When the APP does outreach to these professionals, it seems like they’re so hungry for good information.

Angel: Even though I clarify that the content is largely based on my own opinions in the book’s disclaimer, “Substantive research studies, statistical analyses, and other definitive resource materials related to modern piercing are in short supply; therefore, the information, practices, and procedures described in this book are largely based on my own extensive, clinical experience.  I’ve integrated industry standards where they exist, but there is still preciousl little that is truly standard, so my opinions are a primary component of many chapters.”  I won’t be suprised to hear from piercers who disagree with some of my perspectives.

Cloud: Me neither.  How many piercers does it take to change a light bulb?  None; the light bulb never gets changed because they can’t agree on the proper procedure!   Although piercing procedures don’t have quite the same history and mystique that tattoo procedures do, do you anticipate anyone saying you are giving away “secrets” or something?

Angel: I doubt it.  I don’t think piercing has suffered from that same affliction that has impacted tattooing.  Jim Ward always shared his information (and created a magazine to help: PFIQ), and I’ve always shared whatever information I’ve had.  Since we were part of the foundation of the industry, I think that helped to set a precedent for a more open sharing among piercers.

Cloud: There seems to be a great deal of interest in and thirst for knowledge about piercing by people in Mexico and Latin Amerca–any plans to translate the book into Spanish?

Angel: I certainly hope so! That’s part of the deal with the publisher, so hopefully the book will sell well enough in the US that they’ll decide to proceed with versions in several different languages.  Everyone can help:  buy a copy if you don’t have one already!

Cloud: I’ve bought a couple extra copies for gifts!  As I’m sure you know, my area of the border and many areas of Mexico have experienced increased amounts of horrific violence related to drug wars–have you seen any signs of unrest in your area?

Angel: No–the Yucatan is almost like another country.  We aren’t anywhere near a border, and our areas is not at all affected.  Actually, the Yucatecos don’t consider themselves “Mexicans” at all.  It is very different here.  They have their own culture, customs, cuisine, and so on–all quite different from the rest of Mexico.  in fact, people always tease us when we travel to the US:  “So, what do you want to eat?  Mexican food?  And they’ve always surprised and think we’re joking when we responde, “Yes! Please!”  We don’t get Mexican food here of the type we’re accustomed to from living in California, and we miss it!

Cloud: I’d send you some green chiles if I could.  Are you missing doing piercings?

Angel: I must be, I keep dreaming about doing piercings. In fact just last night I had a dream I was guest piercing in a studio in the UK.  My client wanted a genital piercing, but we were all together (two tattoo artists and me) in one big room.  So I was trying to position the table so my client could have as much privacy as possible given that we were in plain view of everybody.  Hmmm.

I have done some piercings when I travel, and now that the book is done, I’d like to do more.  I’m probably going to be dong some guest piercing/book signing engagements in the US and maybe elswehere.  I’ll keep in touch and let you know my plans as they develop.

Cloud: So, now that the this project is done, I’m sure you heaved a big sigh of relief.  What’s next?

Angel: Now that The Piercing Bible is available, the next phase is publicity, marketing, and promotion. I want to let everyone know about the book so that anyone who needs the information gets to read a copy.  I could spend all day, everyday, on the internet working on that!  I also help my husband with his business.  Somehow, I stay busy ALL the time, even though I don’t have what you’d call a “real job” at the moment.  I’m enjoying life very much, and I plan to keep on doing that!

While I have “the floor” so to speak, I wanted to let everyone who reads your blog know that you were totally instrumental in getting this book to happen, and that I truly appreciated all the time and effort that you put into it.  You do deserve a lot of credit and I hope you know that I freely give it to you.  Thanks, Cloud, for getting theat whole ball rolling.  Your contributions are part of what helped to make The Piercing Bible what it finally became.

Cloud: It was my pleasure to contribute in a small way. I’m not surprised at the dream, either–your empathy and sensitivity to a piercee’s needs are among the qualities that make you a great piercer, so this must be your equivalent to “naked classroom” dreams.

Thanks, Elayne, for talking to me about the book, and I wish you fantastic success with it.  Now you can literally say you “wrote the book” on body piercing!

***

So, there you have it–my attempt at journalistic greatness by interviewing the much greater Elayne Angel!  Go, pick up a copy of The Piercing Bible at Amazon, or ask you bookstore to carry it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Note: As I’m writing this, there’s a knock on my frontdoor.  The mailman, with a surprise delivery.  What is this?  The return address was from no one I knew, but the size and shape reminded me suspiciously of . . . The Piercing Bible!  With a special message from Angel.  Completely aside from the utility, uniqueness, and detailed content about piercing, this will always be a special book for me.  I’ll keep my other copy for reference and for mark up, but my autographed copy goes into the category of life treasures.

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Do you mark up your books?

April 16, 2009

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Or, as one writer puts it, are  you a Preservationist or a Footprint Leaver?

Steve Leveen, in his article, Writing in Books (found at Levenger of all places) says few questions polarize serious readers as this one.  Some people generously and freely mark, underline, highlight, comment, and generally use their books like they’ve been ridden  hard and put away wet.  Others treat books as sacred items, forbearing to sully their pristine pages.

“For Preservationists, writing books is akin to running fingernails down a chalkboard.  For Fingerprint Leavers, books are like food to be heartily enjoyed.”

Me, I’m a bit of both, but I tend toward the Footprint Leaver.  I’ve been thinking about this issue a little bit, as I review and study books on body art, and also take photos from them.  Photos from books which are marked up are less than aesthetically pleasing.  And I love books qua books, too, and appreciate their heft, design, and crisp pages.  So, some books I leave alone.

But I USE my books–I consult them, and do tend to highlight, mark, and comment.  How can you study and learn if you can’t highlight, underline, and jot down your impressions? Knowledge is yours to keep forever, but books are mere possessions.

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I’m probably going to hell.

The intriguing photo at top left is from janetmck’s Photostream; and the diligent student pic is from rocknroll guitar’s Photostream.

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Today’s the day!

April 1, 2009

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The Piercing Bible, by Elayne Angel, is now available for shipping at Amazon!  Here is the link:

The Piercing Bible on Amazon.com (pic above is copied from there.)

This book will be the single greatest resource for piercees and piercers that I know of.  Angel is one of the foremost professional piercers in the world, and her knowledge and expertise shine through all of the detailed information contained in the book.

I’m proud to say I had a hand in creating the concept for this book, and I know all of you will get a lot out of it.  I’ll do a review when I receive it, but it won’t be unbiased.  I cannot tell you how excited I am!  Just buy it!


Guide to Getting it On

February 10, 2009

419pos80h8l_sl160_aa115_The Guide to Getting it On:  For Adults of All Ages

By: Paul Joannides, Psy.D.

If you’re looking for a good sex manual, this is it.  This hefty tome (992 pages!) really does cover “everything you ever wanted to know about sex.”  And some you didn’t.

It’s now in the 6th edition, and just keeps getting bigger.  Written in a wry, smart, and appealing style, with line drawings throughout, it covers a wide range of sexual activities and related topics, such as birth control, circumcision, explaining sex to kids, men’s underwear, and sexual health in general.  It’s got some really great chapters, and information, and some really strange ones; e.g., Barbie the Icon. It’s basically a compilation of every fact (or theory) about sex out there from a variety of sources (without attributing the sources), and the author is not shy about expressing his own opinion.  Therein lies both the book’s strength and weaknesses.  It baldly states that “vanilla is the Guide’s favorite flavor,” so although very comprehensive, useful, and interesting to read, it has to be said that the content on piercings,  bondage, kink, et al. is rather weak.  Plus, the book uses the pseudo-word, “vajayjay” which I loathe!

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Among the tidbits for Pierced Consumers:

In a section addressing painful intercourse, it says: “One of the top experts on vulvar pain recommends using fresh olive oil for lube.  Almond oil and grape seed oil are also on some physician’s lists.”  So, you can use up that leftover oil for piercing aftercare.

There’s a whole section on soap for feminine hygiene, something that concerns many piercees, in the chapter about “Vulva Care–Keeping Your Kitty Happy.”  It’s a dilemma:  You want to be clean, but you don’t want to use a lot of perfumy soaps that could mess up the balance down there.  The need to keep piercings clean, both during the healing stage, and during the life of the piercing, leaves some girls scratching their heads over what soap to use and how to clean their piercings.  Here’s what the Guide states:

Do not overclean the puss.  It only needs soap once a day at the most.  . . .

Do not use liquid body gels or cheap washes because it’s “‘basically like douching with those chemicals.” . . .

Let’s say your kitty is a persnickity little puss who doesn’t like soap every day.  Unless your gynecologist says something to the contrary, you should still clean her with water.  Part of the reason for her not doing well with soap might be the kind you are using.  Consider trying a high-quality, low-pH soap like SebaMed between your legs.  Your vulva and vagina are a bit acidic, with a pH of around 5.2.  However, most bar soaps are alkaline, with a pH of 10 or higher.  Some women who have struggled with vaginal infections swear by the lower-pH soaps. . . .

Avoid Run-Off from Above:  Shampoos tend to be h arsh and perfumy.  Make sure the shampoo and conditioner don’t stream between your legs and through the lips of your vulva when you are rinsing them from your hair.

It goes on to say not to use powders, lotions, or feminine hygiene sprays. I agree that piercees should look for a product that works well for them, and it’s worth looking at the pH level.   Male piercees don’t seem to have the problems with soap that females do, so there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding washing section.  Read my post on aftercare and soap here.

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And the chapter on piercings:

Nestled between “Rape and Abuse” and “Threesomes” is “On Needles and Pins:  Piercings, Tattoos, & Sex,” the chapter on piercings and tattoos.  In keeping with current trends, this chapter is greatly expanded in this edition.  Most of the info in the chapter is pretty good, but as an experienced piercee, I do have some serious issues with it.  The author, Paul Joannides, is a nice guy with whom I’ve interacted a little bit on another forum where I recommended his book.  Fine.  However, the author obviously is not pierced himself, and it’s very apparent that all the information comes from third party sources.  That’s okay–no one could possibly expect one person to have first-hand knowledge of ALL the sex stuff in the book.   What I don’t like however, is the negative and somewhat uninformed attitude of the Guide.  For instance, the book implies that only students get pierced and emphasizes the risks.  There are risks associated with piercing, of course, and it is responsible to address them.  However, I would have anticipated that a writer about sex, no matter how vanilla, would be more open minded than to say:  “if nature wanted you to have extra holes through your nipples or between your legs, she would have put them there. ”

The second jarring note is the vocabulary and sloppy editing.  Several of the terms used took me aback.  Now, piercing terminology is tricky, but the book uses the term, “AP” for an apadravya which I haven’t come across in common usage, and also refers to a “magic cross,” a term for a penis pierced with both an apadravya and an ampallang.  Haven’t heard of that one, either, but it’s in the BME Encyclopedia, so what the hell.  “Ring tossing” — apparently a term for dislodging a diaphragm with a piercing during intercourse–isn’t, though.   One section quotes an experience on BME and appears to confuse which piercing it refers to.  Further, there are aggravating misspellings, the most serious of which is “naval” for “navel” throughout that section!  (And we hate that, don’t we?)

It really tries, I think, but there’s such a mix of good and bad (or maybe, less-than-good) information, so I’m left wanting.   It’s a pretty thorough treatment, but with some glaring omissions. There’s no mention of the problems people have with partners if one person is into piercing and the isn’t, for example, and there’s no sympathy for or understanding of the allure of sexual piercings.    It’s nice to have a published treatment of sex and piercings, since they are often (but not always!) connected, but I can’t say The Guide to Getting it On “gets it,” at least on this topic.  I’m  holding out for The Piercing Bible, coming to your bookstore soon!

Despite its shortcomings when it comes to treating piercings, I still highly recommend this book.  I guarantee you will have a good time reading it, and an even better time trying some of the tips out.  You can buy it here on Amazon:  Guide to Getting It On.


Cloud’s Books

December 25, 2008

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Mummers and Meta

Here’s a twofer for Christmas.  Archetypes must have been on my mind this holiday season.  I went a little crazy in Barnes and Noble right before Christmas, and this gift kit caught my eye: The Green Man Oracle and Card Set. (Link to Barnes and Noble). It came with this little Green Man plaque,  cards for divination, and a small book by John Matthews and Will Worthington.

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This post is dedicated to Phalaeo, who is interested in becoming a Philadelphia mummer, because the book says that among the many variations and interpretations on the nature deity/Green Man theme around the world and across the ages, from a simple tree figure to Peter Pan, there’s a Green Man figure in mumming.  According to Matthews and Worthington, central to the disguised figures who danced and capered in the middle ages was a “figure clad head to foot in leaves” who “brought with it a challenge and a blessing.”  The challenge is to learn and accept the power of nature and to worth with it.

Unlike a dryad of classical mythology, the Green Man is a male deity, which sometimes takes part in spring rites of sacrifice, like many other male deities around the world. So, as we round the corner of the year and head into spring, it seems appropriate to contemplate the spirit hidden in the trees, and elsewhere. The book said that in most of the churches and cathedrals in Europe, electric light has illuminated a host of Green Men hiding high in the dark rafters and corners, looking down upon the congregations.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia page has a listing for “bloodsucker head” as a type of green man, where vegetation comes out of every orifice.  I can’t really find an image for you though.

Probably just as well.  (Here’s a link to Google images of green men.) I love Google images!

It’s a nice little kit. As far as the divination goes, I believe that most such cards can be an aid to intuition.  As an intuitive person, they are great for me.  I asked the Green Man a question today using the deck and got an extremely succinct and direct answer.   I’m not sure if I would actually want to meet a Green Man in the forest–they’re pretty scary!  I think of the power of the ancient growing things.  I think of Ursula Le Guin’s “The Word for World is Forest,” (link to Librarything) and Tolkien’s spider-infested Mirkwood, as well as his green men, the Ents.

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Look! a new “page” for books!

I’m constantly buying, reading, arranging, and shopping for books.  So I decided to add a page (found in the tabs above) for my books and references. What? No Librarything?

I’ll add books that have useful information about body piercing, and will also talk about other books that interest me as I come across ’em.

Like this one.

Thank you to OddSock’s photostream at Flickr.

. . .