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Five Conversation Starters: Jesse James and Tattoos

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When we found out that Jesse James had cheated on American sweetheart Sandra Bullock, we all called him a sleaze. But he didn't truly eclipse our favorite philandering golf star in scumbaggery until we heard about his mistress's tattoos. Michelle "Bombshell" McGee reportedly has a swastika tattoo on her -- ahem -- nether region, and "WP" for "White Power" (or perhaps something else) on the backs of her legs. Her ink took James's affair from odious to offensive.

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Add in the critical lovefest for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Interview Magazine's racy pics of Jersey Shore guido Pauly D, and it's clear: body art had a big week in celebrity-dom. This weekend at the bar, why not break out some quirky facts about tattoos to impress that pretty girl with the butterfly tramp-stamp? Just make sure she doesn't have any other tats that could get you in trouble later...

1. Anything can be tattooed.
Every inch of Lucky Diamond Rich's body is covered with tattoos -- his gums, his eyelids, between his toes and inside his ears. The New Zealand-born street performer is the world's most tattooed person, according the folks at Guiness. Since getting his first tattoo (a small juggling club on his hip), Rich has spent more than 1,000 hours being repeatedly pricked by hundreds of different tattoo artists.

2. Moms don't like them - even on Barbie.
In May, Mattell released Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie, who comes with 40 tattoo stickers for Barbie, and temporary tattoos for little girls whose moms didn't read the box carefully before bringing it home. "What's next? Drug Addict Barbie? Alcoholic Barbie?" asked an outraged parent in the U.K's Daily Mail. If only...

3. They've been used as punishment, as secret messages and as signatures.
Tattoos can be about more than decoration, rebellion or drunken bad decisions. Any ancient Indian priest caught breaking his vow of celibacy had a vagina tattooed to his forehead as punishment. And historian say that the ancient Greeks wanting to send a private message would shave the head of a slave, tattoo a message on his scalp and wait for the hair to grow back -- then they'd send to slave on over to the recipient. Finally, in the first years of contact with Europeans, Māori chiefs would draw their moko (facial tattoo) on documents in place of a signature.

4. They're an alternative to the comb-over.
A company called Headstyl offers a painful-sounding solution to balding: "Artistic Hair Simulation" basically means tattooing hair follicles on bald areas "to give a natural and subtle appearance of hair even extremely close up." Hmmm, is someone finally giving Ron Popeil a run for his money?

5. Fruit can be bad-ass, too.
The little stickers on fruit may not be long for this world. Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service and the University of Florida are testing ways to tattoo labels on grapefruits; using a carbon dioxide laser beam, they etch information on the outer layer of the peel. The researchers hope one day to prevent grocery catastrophes from paper labels that fall off or stick to each other in storage. So far the tattoos have been restricted to identification information, but surely stars, dolphins and Chinese characters aren't far behind.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Contact Frances at francesmcinnis@gmail.com or www.francesmcinnis.com