Revenge of the Gearhead

Last week on Ink Master we saw the return of St. Marq, one of the most dynamic and innovative artists to ever make his way onto this competition. It was also very close to his last appearance of the season, as it turned out. This week’s Flash Challenge was designed to test contrast, and the artists had to exercise their imaginations to the fullest as they were going to use garbage and a 100kw light to do some shadowplay.

Flash Challenge

Divided into teams by Megan Jean Morris, winner of last week’s Tattoo of the Day we found the typical personality conflicts emerging as strong artists tried to dominate their partners. Ms. Morris made sure to assign her pairings in a way that wouldn’t put her at a disadvantage, nor would it immediately set anyone against her. It worked out well for some better than for others.

Ashley Velasquez found herself paired up with Alex Rockoff  and she quickly recognized that with her Fine Arts background she had a slight advantage over him creatively. Meanwhile Megan Jean Morris found herself working for (notice I didn’t say “with”) St. Marq as they developed a pretty sweet graveyard scene.

Christian Buckingham was paired up with Anthony Michaels who also opted for a horror-show theme. Which left the two weakest artists on the same team, Picasso Dular and Cris Gherman.

Possibly due to a language barrier, possibly due to psychological issues, we found the team of Dular and Gherman on the bottom in this challenge. It does’t bode well for either of them because, while their portfolios show they are very skilled, an Ink Master needs to be able to work under pressure while demonstrating extreme versatility. And these men are not doing that.

Easy Rider by Picasso Dular

Picasso Dular DOES have talent, you cannot deny that.

The Twist

Last season perennial whiner and all-around ass-hat Jason Clay Dunn won the title of Ink Master when he turned in a Nu-Skool Japanese backpiece that, in all honesty, was pretty fucking amazing. His victory, however, came because his competitor Cleen Rock One had a brainfart and didn’t do his tattoo in the assigned style. Tonight, Cleen Rock returned with a major chip on his shoulder. Entering the Loft like a man returning from a stretch in jail, he made it clear that he wanted the title and didn’t care who he had to mow down to get it.

Playing to his strengths he assigned the challenge as Neo-Traditional with the subject matter of motorcycles and muscle cars. A self-professed gearhead these are things close to his heart, and he took every opportunity to try and rattle his competition.

As the winners of the Flash Challenge the canvas assignments were left to Ashley and Alex who, logically, tried to eliminate both of the returning vets by assigning them the most challenging tattoos. Unfortunately, their plan failed miserably since both canvasses were fans of their respective artists.

That's on her BICEP, not her forearm.

That’s on her TRICEP, not her forearm.


Tattoo of the Day

Proving he has the skills to pay the bills, Cleen Rock One delivered a solid tattoo that the judges agreed was the best. Bonus points for residents of Puerto Rico as well.

Cleen Rock One knows how to do Neo-Traditional, no doubt.

Cleen Rock One knows how to do Neo-Traditional, no doubt.

Exit Tattoo

Since he arrived Cris Gherman has made it clear that, having grown up under Communist rule in Transylvania, he has no interest in following rules. It’s a great attitude to live by, if you can make it work for you, but a horrible one for a game show like Ink Master. And it was this refusal to abide by the rules that ultimately sent Cris home today. Contrast was the order of the day, and his black and gray tattoo showed none of that.

In defense of Cris Gherman, the canvas didn't understand the challenge either.

In defense of Cris Gherman, the canvas didn’t understand the challenge either.

I don’t see much of a future for Picasso or Alex either, to be honest. Alex is one of the most brittle and volatile artists we’ve yet seen compete, and Picasso is not familiar enough with his tools to go the distance. Both of them have tremendous skill, but this is not their home studio and neither is truly comfortable in the Loft. Let’s see who drops next.

Tattoos like this don't get you to the Top 3.

Tattoos like this don’t get you to the Top 3.


Ink Master: Bloodsport!

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of tattoos in general, and Spike TVs Ink Master is my favorite reality show. Artists tend to be flaky people, and tattoo artists tend to exemplify that. Considering the history of the art form it isn’t really that surprising, but I expect that will be changing in the next decade since it is becoming more common to have ink, than to be a blank canvas.


I only see 2 contenders.

I only see 2 contenders.


Flash Challenge

This season we have eight new artists, and eight returning artists. When the show began we were only introduced to the new contestants, however. And their first challenge was a three part exercise.

First they were tasked with sketching a nude model. This seems straight forward since 90% of all tattoos begin as sketches. The ability to translate what you see before you onto paper should be a fundamental aspect of the discipline. Yet, for some reason, most of these artists seemed dumbfounded by the sight of a nude woman posing for them.


Damnit, i wish I could draw.

As soon as they felt comfortable with their sketches, they moved on to stage 2 of the Flash Challenge:  assembling their tattoo machines. As we’ve seen before, this is a pet peeve of Peck and Nunez. If an artist cannot assemble their own tattoo machine, then their Master has failed them. A true craftsman should have an intimate familiarity with their tools, and those who do not rarely display the same level of skill as those who do.

Once the machines have been completed, it’s time to move on to the final stage:  translating their sketch to canvas. And rather than force a human to wear some shitty tattoo done by an artist who couldn’t complete their machine properly, the judges once again had the artists use a pig carcass.

Christian Buckingham pig tattoo

This little piggie got inked up.

It quickly became apparent that there were only going to be two artists of the eight who were going to be around very long.

ink_master_bios_011316_CHRISTIAN BUCKINGHAM

Behold greatness


Queen of the Needle









Megan Jean Morris set herself apart from the pack when they were dealing with the nude model. While everyone else was being ultra polite with the naked lady she was very much in control, unafraid to give direction so she could get the sketch she wanted.

Likewise, Christian Buckingham made himself known by being the first to assemble his tattoo machine, something he claims to have extensive experience with.

The Twist:

Now that the artists have entered the loft and see their new studio they learn that they will be joined by other artists as well. Each week a previous Ink Master contestant will return. And they will have the power to dictate the standards for the Elimination Tattoo. First up, self-professed “Tattoo God” Saint Marq, master of black-and-gray no outline tattooing.


It’s hard to be humble when you’re this awesome.

Last season Saint Marq was eliminated far too early due to a particularly strategic play by his former apprentice turned Super Mario impersonator Chris Blinston. Looking to set the pace for the new season Saint Marq set the challenge that the elimination tattoo would be done in Black and Gray with no liner, only a shader. This should have been a slam-dunk for him, and yet, this is what he turns in.

Saint Marq Ep 1

I have to agree with Ashley Velasquez, it really does look like he (she?) is wearing an umbrella.

The Human Canvas Jury decided this was the worst of the day, but I would not agree with that decision. Definitely bad, but not the absolute worst. It was a close call for him, but fortunately he was edged out by this disaster.

Worst of the Day Ep 1

The only saving grace this tattoo has is that it’s on the skull, so the lady just has to let her hair grow out to hide it.

Tattoo of the Day:

Lust by Megan Jean Morris

Lust by Megan Jean Morris

This is why I expect she is going to go further than anyone except Christian. It was a unanimous decision by the judges as well, so she is definitely going for that $100K paycheck.

Christian is making it clear that for him, this is not personal, it is all about the title. Eventually he is going to go after everyone in the Loft, and that is the only attitude that is going to win. Playing nice and giving people softballs is only cutting your own throat, as every competitor should know by now. Don’t let other people rattle you, it will only cause you to deliver bad tattoos (which is a punishment for your canvas) and will ultimately cost you, at the least, $100,000.

It’s too soon to tell how they will do against the other returning vets, but they will definitely outlast the other newcomers.


As some of you may know, I’ve written some short stories here and there and I’ve found that some of my characters really appeal to me. When I wrote “Threats” for Duster’s Blog I didn’t realize those characters would reappear in “What the Sniper Saw.” Giselle Duluth, the shotgun-toting face-punching counter-intelligence expert, soon became one of my favorite characters from those stories. When I first imagined her, I thought she looked like Amy Madigan in the 80s classic “Streets of Fire.”

McCoy was her name in case you forgot.

‘Recently though, Duluth wanted me to tell a new story, one less rooted in the violence and intrigue that usually marks the Eve Online/Dust514 universe. It took me a while to finally get the story written, but she wouldn’t leave me alone until I did and I’m mostly pleased with how it turned out. A couple of my friends are reading it now so it should be ready for publication in another month I’d say. The reason I bring it up is that, while I was learning more about Giselle she started to remind me of another blonde woman from the 1980s one that I barely got to know because her career started not long after I was born, and ended just as I was getting into my teens. I’m referring, of course, to the amazingly talented Wendy O. Williams.

I was fourteen when she appeared on The joan Rivers Show and I was so amazed. This lady was so outrageous that I pretty much fell in love instantly. Which was really unfortunate because Authority wouldn’t let her work and the Plasmatics broke up not long after that appearance.

If you’ve never heard of Wendy, or the Plasmatics, you’re missing out. She was a true Feminist Icon and she deserves to be remembered. Chainsawing guitars, sledgehammering TVs, blowing up cars ON STAGE…that is fucking PUNK, my friend. And she did Metal like nobody’s business.

I fucking loved that song and video when I first saw it back in the 80s and I still love it now. People like her are a rare breed and her suicide was a fucking tragedy. She played Cherry Hill, NJ when I was 10…right in my fucking backyard but come on, I was 10. Even if I knew she or the Plasmatics existed, there is no fucking way I would have been allowed to attend one of her shows.

Look at that smile. How could you not fall in love with her?

I’m not saying that Duluth is a fictional version of Wendy, I never got to know her so I wouldn’t presume to do that. It’s just this is how I see Duluth now. Well, without the mohawk.

So, more like this. Except without the ponytail.

RIP, Wendy. You are missed.


The (Almost) Lucky 13

Since I’ve relocated to Alameda, CA I’ve been busy trying to keep a roof over my head, not an easy feat here in the Bay Area. The rent is so out of control one guy is actually renting a tent in his yard for $900 a month. This Saturday I found myself at loose ends and decided to go out for a beer and some people watching.

The question, however, was where did I want to go?  There are three bars about a mile from my place, and I’ve visited two of them so far. My experiences were less than stellar, and I didn’t think they would be much better with the third. So, it being the 21st Century I decided to consult with Yelp and see what was out there.

My choices came down to a Tiki bar and a place called the Lucky 13. I’d never been to a Tiki bar before so I was interested in checking it out, but I had already been to the 13 twice before and I kinda liked the place. The first time I stopped by was for lunch, the second time I popped in on a Friday night. I decided to go for the Trifecta, leaving the Tiki bar for next week.

It’s a kitschy little dive whose walls are adorned with movie posters and handbills for punk bands. A monument to the best of the late ’70s-early ’80s counter-culture, the 13 is my kind of dive.

The place was packed when I walked in which was fine, I wanted to do some people watching. They don’t have any porter on tap (par for the course here in California) but they did have a nice Rasputin stout. I got one of those and wandered off towards the pool table that sits next to a motorcycle that sits on a bricked-over fireplace.

There were some young people playing Skeet-ball next to the Demolition Man pinball machine. They looked like students from the local community college, but they might have been interns with one of the tech companies. They didn’t look very interesting so I didn’t pay them much mind.

As I arrived a game was ending and the winners were leaving, giving control of the table to a guy called Jeff. While Jeff and I are talking, another guy shows up and says he will play if there are no other challengers. Then he disappears and Jeff and I decide that we will play since no one else seems fully interested in the idea of a game.

I get quarters, rack the table, and just as Jeff is about to break, here come the other two people who were going to play. With them is a cute little Filipina who looked kind of like Rosie Perez. It’s quickly decided that the easiest thing to do will be for use to play teams, with Jeff and I being on one side.

Jeff dominates the game and we quickly win the first game, and the rematch. Our opponents leave the bar, but strangely Rosi Perez is still hanging out. I thought she was with one of the other guys, but apparently that was not the case.

Time passes and Jeff, now thoroughly drunk, has decided it’s time to go home. He then asks Rosie Perez if she wants to go with him. A shocking, development, I know because he is probably the second guy tonight who asked her to leave with him. Rosie demurrs, opting instead to stay and shoot pool. Jeff, however, happens to have a billiards table at home!

As I’m watching this tableau i find myself wondering:  what should I do?  I don’t know either of these people, so should I step to the lady’s defence and tell Jeff to fuck off?  Or should I just wait for her to ask for my assistance?  After watching him whisper uncomfortably into her ear for a minute I decide to step in, asking if she wants a drink. She says yes, and I walk over to the ATM to get more money because the 13 is a cash-only bar.

While I’m negotiating with the machine I find myself wrestling with my conscience. Did I do enough to rescue this damsel in distress?  Was I under any obligation at all to rescue her?  And how far was I prepared to take this?  How much drama was I prepared to go through for a stranger?

My sense of adventure joined the conversation and sided with my Conscience, so I returned to the pair.

“Hey Rosie,” I smiled at her, ignoring Jeff completely. “I don’t remember what kind of beer you wanted, so if you want it you’re going to have to come with me.”

This, I think, is the best way to handle it. Now she knows that I am here to protect her, but she is going to have to make some effort. Not much, just a little, and I’ll take it from there. After a brief hesitation she nods and stands to join me. We don’t move three feet and suddenly she’s jumping up on my back.

This has NEVER happened to me before. EVER.

I figure this is her way of telling Jeff, without having to say so, “I’m good. You can go now.” so I don’t worry about it. After helping her get settled in place I carry her over to the speedwell. At this point the bar tender is giving me an odd look, so i have to put Rosie down. We order our drinks and start chatting, and this is where shit starts getting weird.

As we’re chatting she is suddenly brushing her hand lightly up my inner thigh. I immediately check the Bling to see if she’s wearing a wedding ring. She has rings on every finger of her left hand, but nothing that looks like it signals commitment of any kind. This, I think, is encouraging so I don’t try and stop her.

She doesn’t talk much which is setting off alarms for me. Even if she was lying that would have shown there was actual intent behind her touching me. In this case, however, I was guessing she was just testing to see if I was another creep.

As we return to the pool area, who should I spot lurking in the same spot like a pathetic gimp?  Yeah, fucking Jeff is still waiting for her even after seeing her jump up on me and allow herself to be carried through the bar. Still he waits for her, because that is what chicks dig, in his mind.

Jeff immediately tries to persuade her to come home to check out his billiards set and she departs for the ladies room. At this point I’ve had enough and, looking Jeff directly in the eye I tell him “Dude, this is starting to get creepy.”

“Huh?”  he blinks at me. “What do you mean?”

“She’s not into you, Jeff. She doesn’t want to go with you.”

Now he looks surprised, actually stunned by my words. I am not making this up, he looks like I just told him she was a man.

“That’s not what she just told me.” he squawked indignantly because he apparently ddin’t see her get carried throgh the bar on my back.

Rosie returns and suddenly remembers she has laundry in the dryer or something and dashes out the front door of the bar. Jeff follows hot on her heels. So, being the man that I am, I rack the table and sip my water.

You might be wondering why I elected to stay behind, and that is a fair question. In the first I’m not stupid enough to get caught up in ridiculous drama. I do comedy, romance, and action but drama is something i like to avoid. And I’m well aware of the Shit Test and I am not going to fall for one ever again.

By rescuing her from Jeff I was doing my Civic Duty, nothing more. She was the one who initiated physical contact and began flirting. If she wanted to follow through, I was game, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way for it. She was pretty and had a very tight body, but she didn’t really excite me enough for me to jump through hoops.

It takes a while but Rosie does come back and we finally start the game. She apologizes for the scene but tells me she wanted to be there for him, whatever that means.

“Yeah, it was just funny watching him go out of his way trying to fuck you.” I laughed and took my shot, not realizing how my words might have sounded to her ears.

“Well, to be fair,” she said. “Don’t all the boys want to? How are you different?” Then, suddenly she gets this mischievous look in her eyes and says “I know you’ve measured it. How big is it?’

“It’s a mouthful.” I assured her. By the way, that is my standard reply to that question. I don’t give a fuck who’s asking, or why. She seemed to enjoy the answer, but it didn’t fully satisfy her curiosity. So she starts brushing her hands, feather-light, over my groin.

“Oh wow.” she breahted. “Okay, that’s nice.”

Now at this point I’m 95% sure she actually wants to go somewhere else and get horizontal. This is an idea I can completely endorse, by the way, so I ask her “How are you getting home tonight?”

And suddenly some other guy is there, and they know each other. She gives him the Autie-Hug, you know the one; hips are three feet apart, but she’s still hugging you?  Yeah, one of thsoe.

So, clearly this sint’ her boyfriend, but she doesn’t introduce us, so now I know this isn’t going anywhere.

The rest of the night plays out as you’d expect with her flirting heavily without any actual intent to do anything, and me just flirting back because fuck it, I’ve got nothing else to do. After Last Call I left her to talk with her friend and made my way back to my ride, satisfied with the night’s adventure.

Women are a mystery to me, always have been. They have to be treated as individuals, but courtship rituals are a strange guessing game where the wrong move can cost you everything. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be with Rosie, or maybe I should have been more aggressive, more physical. In today’s society, however, I am leery of taking that option with a stranger, especially in a strange environment. I think I’d do better becoming a regular there first, that way I have character witnesses should anything come up.


Zack Snyder vs the DC Universe

If you know anything about Zack Snyder’s body of work, you are probably quite familiar with the term “schlock.” So when it was announced that he was going to bring Alan Moore’s classic “Watchmen” to the big screen there was certainly a mixed reaction.

Initially I was hopeful about the project and, after seeing costume photos, thought it was going to be excellent. Then the reviews started coming in and my hopes sank. I watched it so I could judge it for myself, and I was largely left flat. It looked like the comic, no doubt there, but the movie itself was missing something.

The executives at Warner, however, decided that Snyder should be in charge of their Superman reboot, Man of Steel. And we got a grim, humorless superman who wrecks half a city battling another Kryptonian. Audiences were outraged by this devastation and the death of General Zod at Superman’s hands. But Snyder was then placed in charge of the long-anticipated team-up movie Batman vs Superman. And Snyder was also going to be given creative control over the entire DC Universe.

Personally I learn more towards Marvel than DC, both in terms of the comics and the films. The idea that Snyder would be given total control over the DC Cinematic Universe struck me as a rather bad idea given the reaction he was getting for previous work. Well, it’s that time of year again and Comic-Con has once again taken over San Diego. And, as has become custom, it was in Hall H that we first got to see the new, extended trailer for Batman vs Superman.

In spite of myself, I was impressed. It looked like he really had a goal when he made Man of Steel, and this movie is his explanation for those of us who didn’t get it. Zack Snyder has claimed that he wanted people to see the gritty consequences of a superhero fight, even those who don’t have superpowers, which is why Watchmen was so brutal. This is something that David Wong has harped on continuously, and yet, when Snyder delivers a movie where superhero fights have consequences, people are upset. So, to silence his critics he gives us a second act where Bruce Wayne watches two gods destroying a city, stands helplessly as these titans kill thousands.

While most people would be too awestruck to react, Bruce Wayne makes plans to take this threat down.

Here’s the story that I saw unfold in that 3 minute trailer:  Bruce Wayne watches helplessly as two godlike figures battle it out in a city and kill thousands of his employees. Wayne rushes headlong into the maelstrom to save his people.

Cradling a crying child he feels so small and pathetic and helpless. And he feels compelled to put on the suit again, a costume he abandoned some time ago. The reason why is in the form of a smaller costume, Robin, his sidekick. It’s been defaced, likely by the Joker. The implication is clear:  the joker murdered Robin and Batman hung it up. Shit was just too difficult after that.

Meanwhile Superman is being worshipped as a god by some, treated as a threat by others. People plan to use him, one way or another, to further their own agenda. Who will he trust?

And finally we see them face each other down, man to god.

It is logical and visually impressive. Yes, the Jessie Eisenberg version of Lex Luthor sounds dumb as shit, but I am interested in seeing where Zack Snyder is going to take this. Already, though, I think having Wonder Woman in the movie (as well as any other heroes except as part of a stinger) is a huge mistake, but only time reveals.