Personal – Badgers, Bender & Ink

A few weeks back a close friend of mine was shocked to discover I have multiple tattoos. In her defense she’s didn’t get to see Cosmic Nomad when I was touring it last year, so she’s never had to witness my awful pasty ginger ass from a performance stage like the rest of my fee-paying audiences in 2016 did. But I also realised many who haven’t seen that show are probably unaware of them too, and since they say a lot about how I see myself I thought I’d share what a space industry colleague described as “childish” and my mother describes as “looking like a criminal”.

Left Shoulder

This is actually two tattoos spaced 4 months apart, with the largest amount of work being a single epic 10 hour session done in early 2016 – the day before I flew out of Melbourne to start the global Cosmic Nomad tour. On the right there’s Carl Sagan with a lightsaber riding a velocirapter:

Now don’t get me wrong – this is an utterly ludicrous thing to have permanently scraped into the back of your left arm. But in many ways it also symbolises my past. The velocirapter is representative of my nature with the military: ruthless, vicious, and bordering on predatory. Always trying to be smarter, faster and more vicious than those around me to “protect” myself from them. At the same time Carl Sagan is there because I looked to science as a way of making sense of the world and loved the sense of awe that it brought… but I was still very scared of the world and armed Carl with a red lightsaber.

On the far more positive side however, there’s Rick Sanchez riding a honey badger:

Like Carl Sagan and the velocirapter, this is an entirely ridiculous thing to have covering half your upper arm… but this is definitely where I’m at these days. If you’re unfamiliar with Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty”, then you should watch this:

If you are familiar with Rick Sanchez and didn’t watch the video above because you don’t like Ricky and Morty, then we really can’t be friends anymore. Rick Sanchez is Carl Sagan, except he’s now quit trying to explain the universe to people and now just does the things that need to be done. If you look hard enough he’s ultimately always acting in the highest and best interests of the universe, but he doesn’t even pretend to care if you can keep up or if your personal moral compass agrees.

Now I’m not as jaded as Rick, but I’ve definitely stopped accommodating other people’s opinions the way I used to. These days I’m always honest with people, I know I’m good at doing things that are helping make the world a better place, and I’m always getting better at doing those things… so I really don’t give a shit if you agree with what I’m doing with my life, I’m doing it anyway.

Now you might naturally assume that Rick is riding a honey badger for exactly the same reason, and that I’ve probably watched “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” by Randall way too many times… and you’d be partly correct on both counts. Honey badgers are generally pretty badass, but for me the honey badger is really about punching well above your weight, being able to take an absolute battering while keeping a stupid grin on your face, and being able to work things out so you can create absolute chaos.

Case in point: Stoffel the Honey Badger

I’d like to point out that the video above starts with the narrator saying “After Stoffel’s severe mauling by the lions…” because Stoffel decided to start a fight with a bunch of lions and survived. Once he recovered he started causing problems and was locked up… so he figured out how to escape and cause chaos. When he was locked up somewhere more secure, he figured out how to escape and then caused chaos. When he got mauled by lions, he recovered and then went back for more. When everyone was convinced he couldn’t possibly escape his enclosure, he did.

You might stop a honey badger… but not for long, and they’re going to be pissed when they get moving again.

Together Carl Sagan on a velocirapter and Rick Sanchez on a honey badger form a kind of Coat-Of-Arms, all centered around my very first tattoo: a seven-leaf clover framed by a laurel wreath.

There’s a surprising number of layers and quite a story to getting my first tattoo at all. For a few months in 2006 I was reading Sam De Brito’s blog “All Men Are Liars” fairly regularly, and while my interest in his blog was only minimal and I never actually read his book, the title “No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty” always resonated with me. Tattoos were incredibly commonplace among the Royal Marines, and one of my 101 Things To Do Before You Die entries was to get a tattoo… but even at 24 I knew it wouldn’t happen before I was 30. I had in my head that if I were going to get something done, it needed to be something that meant a lot to me, and it would have been planned a long way ahead.

I also wasn’t sure I’d ever make it to 30 – without going into detail, after everything that has happened through the years I’m well aware of how lucky I am to still be here. I’m also well aware that the closest calls I’ve ever had and the hardest I’ve ever been pushed was always with the Royal Marines, and I still very much believe in their ethos: Courage, Determination, Unselfishness, and Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. The RM brought out both the best and the worst in me, but above all it taught me the military isn’t where I was supposed to be. I dropped out of training having learnt that I’m supposed to help people and make them laugh, and a few months later after a lot of soul-searching and an ample dose of Futurama I figured out I’m supposed to help our species become a dual planet one.

I’d known for years what I would get done if I made it to 30, so it was easy when I walked into a tattoo parlour in Carlton a few days after my birthday. To recognise what I’ve done and what I know I’m capable of, I had a laurel wreath done in the same place on my left arm that a Royal Marine might wear the Kings Badge. But to also recognise both how lucky I’ve been & how I’ve moved on from the military, instead of the RM’s “GR” in the middle of that wreath I replaced it the 7-leaf clover from Futurama’s “Luck of the Fryrish” episode.

If you haven’t seen the episode (or even if you have) I highly recommend looking it up, but the short story is *spoilers* Fry’s nephew ends up with the lucky 7-leaf clover and becomes the first man on Mars. *end spoilers*

Right Ass Cheek

And because I’m a ridiculous human being, at the same time I was getting my first tattoo with the wreath & clover, I also decided to get Bender smoking a cigar on my right ass cheek too

If you’re not a fan of Futurama, then just like Rick and Morty we pretty much can’t be friends anymore. It’s far and away my most ridiculous tattoo (which is saying a lot), but in many ways this one is the most important. I knew at the time I needed to do it, but wasn’t really sure why it was so important and laughed that it was simply because it was a ridiculous thing to do and because I have a lot in common with Fry…

I had no idea how things would turn out, how important this tattoo would become, or how it would make so much more sense nearly a year after it was done. But in one of those startling twists of fate, in a single beautiful moment I realised I’m not Fry.

I’m Lars – Fry’s shaven headed, bearded, and ultimately doomed clone from an alternate timeline. Fry doesn’t have the tattoo of Bender on his ass – Lars does. If you’ve seen it, you don’t need me to explain the rest. If you haven’t then I won’t ruin it by explaining – either way, you should go and watch it. And when you get back we’ll listen to 30 Century Man together, laugh and smile with tears in our eyes.

It’s funny how so much your perspective on everything can change, but I’m glad that I have these emotional turning points physically on me. I’ve been told that tattoos are addictive and I can certainly see why, so I’m glad I’ve carefully chosen things that carry enormous meaning for me & my relationship to them evolves as times goes on… even if they might seem ridiculous to others at first glance.

I suspect I’ll be making a final visit to Killer Bees Tattoos in Melbourne, chatting to the incredible Dan Danckert – who’s done all of these tattoos and I who can’t recommend highly enough – about one last thing. But rather than tell you all what I’m thinking, I’ll save the surprise for when it’s done. *maniacal ginger unicorn laugh*