13 hour clock

Literary Tattoos: The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain my doom smiles at me George Orwell Charles Bukowski 1984

This belongs to Anthony Tracy.

1984 is one of my favorite novels. The opening line is incredibly significant for me. It was the inspiration for my recent tattoo, a timepiece with the hands striking 13.

I chose the clock because it is the most recognizable symbol from the book and of its theme; that truth is subjective and a product of power. I don’t find the 12 hour day to be a particularly significant expression of power, but for me it is an adequate example of the theme. I understand that I could have gone with a 24 hour analog (which some people say is actually what is happening in the novel) but I opted for the 13 hour for its simplicity and its capacity for emphasizing the idea I wanted to express.

I wanted to express the concept of Newspeak, the thirteen hour clock would be category C vocabulary, or scientific and technical language (per the categories administered by the Ministry of Truth). This category is less significant for meeting the ideological needs of the party but is nonetheless an expression of the ability of the party to determine truth. My opinion of most things accepted to be truth is that it is more a constructed product of tradition and reiteration than it is of an objective, pre-existing truth. I know this isn’t the case for every thing taken to be true; I am not so naïve to believe that gravity is a social construct, my view on this obviously has its nuances. However, I find myself agreing with the idea in almost all of my studies; from international relations to religious studies. I think Nietzsche said it best:

“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

Following that statement, I think it’s fair to say that we have 12 hour clocks for the same reason we use the imperial measurement system instead of metric, the same reason we have the Christian Gregorian Calendar instead of the Mayan, or the same reason that I attended Catholic church growing up; because of tradition and because the people embracing that tradition prevailed over other people embracing alternative interpretations, not because it is the naturally true or correct way. A day can be divided up any way you like, but for historically significant reasons we have settled on this particular interpretation. Aside from the Orwell reference, I would be perfectly fine with just this as my justification.

Basically, this is one of my favorite concepts. It summarizes my personal philosophy on everything from politics to religion. Plus, Katie Kroeck of Nectar Tattoo in Excelsior did a brilliant job. I gave her a concept and she turned it into a beautiful piece of art.

The poem underneath is from “my doom smiles at me” by Charles Bukowski.

run with the hunted

This is Ed Casey‘s Bukowski tattoo:

I’ve been a Bukowski fan ever since my pop got me started on his writing (at what was probably too early an age for such booze filled tales of debauchery). I used to have this poem printed out and stuck to my fridge to remind me that, all things considered, things are pretty ok. I thought and thought and thought about getting my first (and so far only) tattoo for years and when the time came there was really only one option.

Literary Tattoos: The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain my doom smiles at me Charles Bukowski

there’s no other way:
8 or ten poems a
in the sink
behind me are dishes
that haven’t been
washed in 2
the sheets need
and the bed is
half the lights are
burned-out here.
it gets darker
and darker
(I have replacement
bulbs but can’t get them
out of their cardboard
wrapper.) Despite my
dirty shorts in the
and the rest of my dirty
laundry on the
bedroom floor,
they haven’t
come for me yet
with their badges and their rules and their
numb ears. oh, them
and their caprice!
like the fox
I run with the hunted and
if I’m not the happiest
man on earth I’m surely the
luckiest man

- “my doom smiles at meby Charles Bukowski, from the book The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain.