Stiftgedicht: Gentlemen, Start Your Screaming


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Laser Tattoo Removal

laser tattoo dingesIn this column I would like to address the issue of tattoo removal. I will use as little stomach-upsetting language as possible, in case you’re squeamish about pain.

The possibilities there are to get rid of an unwanted tattoo are sanding off your skin (yes, this is an option), surgical removal, using liquid nitrogen to freeze and burn off the tattoo, and laser tattoo removal, a better option to get rid of an image already painfully placed on whatever patch of skin you wanted it on.

But what actually happens when a tattoo gets lasered off?

Laser tattoo removal uses pulses of light at a very high concentration to break up the pigment of the tattoo, after which the body’s scavenger cells remove the pigment residues. Black pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, and so it is the easiest to remove. Other colours selectively absorb laser light and can only be treated by selected lasers. Depending on how small or large the tattoo is, the number of treatments may increase or decrease (but stays within a range of 2-12 visits) and as you have to wait about a month between treatments, it could take up to a whole year to attempt to fully remove a tattoo. Quite the commitment—I can’t even commit to something as simple as going to the gym. In this video, you can see a tattoo removal testimony by Mark Wahlberg, who had between 33-34 treatments.

At the beginning of the procedure, the patient is required to wear protective eye-shields. The doctor will use a small hand piece, place it against the surface of the inked skin and it will shoot beams of laser light. Most patients compare the feeling of these beam shots to the splatter of hot grease, or the snapping of a rubber band against the skin. Smaller tattoos require fewer of these shots, while larger ones require more. After each treatment, the tattoo should become lighter and lighter depending on size, age and skin colour of the patient and the type of tattoo.

After the treatment, the area should be kept clean and an ointment should be applied periodically. Showers and baths are fine, but the area should not be scrubbed. Also, as the lasered patch is most likely to feel like a very bad sunburn, it’s probably nicer if you shower in water that is not too hot—I can remember from some summers that it can be quite painful to take a hot shower when your skin is a little tender.

Possible side effects of a laser treatment may be hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, where the treated area increases or decreases in normal skin colour, meaning the colour of the skin becomes darker or lighter than it originally was. Other results may be infection, scarring, incomplete removal and a hole in your wallet the size of a mammoth.

The best way to know what happens during a tattoo removal session on a dermatological level, is to first take a look at this video. Here, the permanence of a tattoo is explained through a wittily drawn and narrated animation, and hopefully by learning how it is permanent, you will also be able to deduce how to reverse that state. As I see it, tattoos are permanent because even though the scavenger cells of your body attempt to break down the invading pigment, the cells remain in that place and so the pigment does not leave. With having beams of laser light breaking up the pigment, the scavenger cells are more capable of “digesting” the fragmented pigment.

All I can conclude now is that after knowing the pain of getting a tattoo, I sure as heck do not want to go through something that hurts even more. So please—pleaaase—think long and hard before you get that infinity sign, because unless you want to go through what some people describe as hell, that tattoo will indeed be there for infinity.

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Less Is More

fireflyWe have all felt the initial pang of sadness when we discover one of our favorite shows’ lifespan is shortened to less seasons than you might have liked to watch. I had such an experience with the two shows Freaks and Geeks and Firefly. Each of these was only given one season—and for both of them that feels far too short.

Freaks and Geeks is a show that centers on teenage protagonist Lindsay Weir and her little brother Sam, who go to the same high school. The setting takes place in a small town in Michigan in the school year 1980–1981. Her friends are notoriously called “freaks” and feature, among others, a young James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Her little brother’s friends are called the “geeks” and both groups experience hilarious and heartstring-pulling situations. As neither Lindsay nor Sam truly fit into these groups (nor any other groups, for that matter), it is easy and a lot of fun to invest into and identify with their characters.

Firefly takes quite a different angle. This show features a crew of misfits and do-gooders alike, working, smuggling and struggling through the vast endlessness of space inside of a Firefly-class spacecraft called “Serenity”. Set up as a Western in outer space, Firefly revolves around the following nine individuals: Mal (the captain, kind of a Han Solo-like character), Zoe (the second in command), Wash (the goofy pilot, married to Zoe), Kaylee (the cute mechanic), Jayne (the nitwit muscle), River (wanted by the government), Simon (a doctor, River’s brother), Book (a shepherd with a dark past), and Inara (a “companion”). The way in which these different characters with their different gimmicks and traits work together, clash with each other and beautifully form a family, makes this one of the most captivating shows I have watched. Luckily, Joss Whedon (the creator) made an additional movie called Serenity.

Having watched and re-watched all the episodes of both these shows more than twice I continue to wonder what it would be like if their plugs hadn’t been pulled. On the one hand, having the pleasure of watching more, and enjoying more of it seems very appealing. Especially because there are so many sides of these one-season long shows that could have been explored to a far greater degree. On the other hand, the compactness and tragedy of their duration does immortalize their awesomeness. As it is now, the shows will not be spoiled with filler episodes, unnecessary plot twists, or general dragging of plot—like it is done with so many other shows, for obvious financial reasons (read: Lost, or How I Met Your Mother, or Two and a Half Men, etc.). No, now I can bittersweetly say that I am happy these shows were this short, because there is no way I will ever forget them.



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It’s The Hard Knock Life

The biggest obstacle for me in my hopefully-soon-to-be-finished BA trajectory has been the course “Wetenschapsfilosofie”. Twice. After having done two of its exams in the first exam week, I am once again feeling the anticipating fear and despair in my gut of having to wait for the results and getting to know whether or not I will have to delay graduation for another year. Now I’m not exactly a straight-A-student to begin with, but this is just one of those courses that is aimed at making you fail.
There are several reasons why I feel that the course is set-up in an illogical manner, and is meant to give you a hard time, rather than actually allowing you to learn what it teaches. I would firstly like to explain the structure of the course for those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking it: Philosophy of Science is divided into two parts: a general part and a part that is specific to your actual course, like English in my case. The general part is taught in Dutch (more on this will follow) and the English part is sub-divided into two modules: Linguistics and Literature. The general part lasts 16 weeks and the Linguistics and Literature modules each last 8 weeks and they follow each other up respectively. Like so:


It seems to be constructed in a fair way, but in practice this structure simply does not work very well. Both the general part and the English part (in specific the Linguistics module for me) require a great deal of hard work, attention and effort in order to keep up with the material and getting good grades. If you’re someone like me, who has to also take an elective, work at a part-time job, have personal projects and a half-assed social life as a result, you will find that Wetenschapsfilosofie is too much in too little time. For the general part, you’re force-fed an average of 30 pages per week on complex topics in an academic language that you’re not used to (Dutch), while simultaneously having to put at least as much effort in the English part, for which you must have a 5,5 for each module – no compensation allowed. Luckily, the general Dutch part can be compensated by the English one, but for a non-straight-A-student, this is Mission: Impossible, meaning that it all works out in the end, but you have to work your butt off astronomically.
As I mentioned before, I take issue with the general part of this course being taught in Dutch. It does not make sense in any way to have a course that is taught to all studies in the Humanities department in a non-international language. Yes, part of my reasoning is because I want to be taught in English, a language I’m used to, but I have heard from more than one international student that it is very difficult to follow this course in a language that they don’t know very well (gee whiz, why would that be?). I find it odd that such an essential part of a course, content-wise and audience-wise, is not taught in a language that is understandable for everyone. Because not only does this affect the grades of international students badly, but those of others as well – there are more studies that are predominantly taught in academic English and not in academic Dutch. I just hope for future Wetenschapsfilosofie students that someone somewhere who is in charge of changing this course will make some effort into improving this issue. Mostly because it is so easy to improve: change the Dutch material into an English equivalent. I’m sure there are plenty of study books that are just as good, if not better than the Leezenberg & de Vries book.

I would only like to conclude that I genuinely enjoy the material taught in Wetenschapsfilosofie – yes, even the linguistics module, terrible though I am at it -, but the course is made in such a way that unfortunately I’m not really allowed to savor the knowledge I’m ramming down my brainpan at lightning speed with the delicacy of a raging rhinoceros.



On Authors In Focus 1

“Authors in Focus 1” is a six-credit course on Oscar Wilde’s novel, plays, short stories, and mostly his mysterious personal life. Last week, the main reading was a selection of Wilde’s short stories. In class, whilst we were fervently discussing and analyzing the reasoning behind the choices made in the stories and how these choices may have been a reflection of Oscar Wilde’s personal life, I felt how the classmate sitting next to me grew more and more frustrated. At a certain point–I believe it was when The Selfish Giant was dubbed a pedophile and this was connected to the possible homoerotic encounters Wilde had with young men–my classmate held up his hand and asked something along the lines of “What if we’re reading too much into it?”

I’ve asked myself this question many times. As most of us English students (or any students of literature) have experienced, it happens on occasion that we will have to analyze or deconstruct a work that is close to us. A piece of writing that we feel ought to be taken for what it is, because it meant something to us at a specific time in our lives. Or maybe because we enjoy it so fully that taking apart and observing the reasons behind the enjoyment seems unnatural. I am surely not the only one who has refrained herself from picking her favorite Victorian novel for that final paper, just because I didn’t want to stop loving it.

This is not to suggest that analyzing narratives is a bad thing–otherwise I wouldn’t have studied English. No, to me, taking stories apart and uncovering as many elements as you can is definitely one of the most enjoyable activities of the Engelse Taal & Cultuur studies. In fact, there are many books that I have reread in which I read more, understand more and appreciate more. If it weren’t for Rudolph Glitz’s first few classes of the course then called “Literature in Theory”, I would probably have given my copy of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw away after writing my very first essay on it. Now, it’s proudly standing amongst Stranger in a Strange Land, Waiting for Godot, and a whole bunch of bandes dessinées that helped me shape myself to become who I am today.

However, the point raised by my classmate in my Oscar Wilde class (which is a fun and intriguing course, I recommend it to any English student) could not get out of my head for a few hours after class. How is it exactly that analysis counters enjoyment? What is it that triggers in us the feeling to protect certain works from being taken apart–when taking them apart could potentially enlighten us more? My answer for now is that books and stories are so strongly connected to memories that when we take them apart, we might forget the feeling we had a long time ago. Maybe someone ought to write an essay on this. Or maybe someone already has.



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