There are moments in the evolution of all forms of art when the rulebook gets shredded. At such times, style and subtlety get subsumed in the rush to conform. Taking part is all that counts.
Something similar is happening just now to tattoos: far from being the preserve of veteran seamen, yakuza bosses and an assortment of insecure amateurs (why else would Samantha Cameron have a dolphin on her ankle?), colourful body art is suddenly afflicted with that terrible curse, ubiquity.
At the weekend Peaches Geldof, rock offspring and magazine editor, was photographed on the beach showing off an array of "inks" across her young body. An emerald daisy chain climbs from above her left knee to just below her left breast. The words "Ex Valentine" adorn her left shoulder; four lines from Nick Cave's song Into My Arms dress the lower ridge of her back; a peace dove dives into her lower stomach; and the name of her magazine, Disappear Here, is etched into her arm.
Some might say her tattoos have all the aesthetic sophistication of doodles in the margin of a schoolgirl's exercise book, but Peaches doesn't care. She describes them as "my new addiction", and has something close to 20 designs.
Other celebrities are also suffering from the same compulsion. The men tend to use them to compensate for receding musculature. The basketball player Dennis Rodman is painted with stars, crosses, horse heads and much else; Sylvester Stallone's right biceps and shoulder are adorned with a female face in all the colours of the rainbow.
Most troubling is the tendency to use skin as a blank page for literary quotations or the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue. The sex symbol and occasional actress Megan Fox has engraved across the back of her right shoulder, "We will all laugh at gilded butterflies", which sounds like a pre-pubescent Coleridge on his first hit of opium (in fact it's King Lear). Mike Tyson's face advertises a Maori warrior symbol. Angelina Jolie has the latitude and longitude of her children's births on her left arm. One wonders what will happen when she has more children than skin cells – an impending reality. Amy Winehouse, meanwhile, has pictures of naked ladies, and her soon-to-be ex husband's name.
According to the experts, it's not so much the design you choose but where on your body it's placed that really counts. By drawing all over her stomach and legs, Peaches is trying to prove she's fully committed to the rebellious spirit of a rock offspring.
But Tiffany Goodman, of the tattoo parlour Evil From the Needle in Camden, north London (where Simon Pegg has been inked), says that most clients are satisfied with a more diminutive design. "Cheryl Cole's got a tribal tattoo on the side of her hand, and we're getting requests for that. It's annoying because that's a bad place to get tattooed, and the design comes off and looks awful."
Goodman reports that Arabic is the foreign script du jour and that girls currently want clusters of stars, which are "very Posh Spice and Jordan". Other popular requests include "names of boyfriends or girlfriends on the inside of the wrist".
Is the only choice between soppy slogans and scratchy-looking flowers? We've helpfully airbrushed out Peaches' tattoos in one picture so you can sketch in your own ideas. Let your imagination run wild! Amol Rajan
How to warm up for Wintour
Wanted: two assistants to attend to an editor's every whim. Must be smart, well educated, and willing to withstand, in fact enjoy, rhinoceros-strength abuse every minute of the day. GSOH not necessary, but they must be thin and gorgeous.
This isn't the official job description for the role of flunkey to the American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, who is on the hunt for not one but two new assistants, but, if we are to believe the bestselling book and film The Devil Wears Prada, penned by a former Wintour PA, these qualities are not far from the truth.
In 2005 I worked at American Vogue for several months and I'd like to offer prospective applicants some tips.
Heels On the Vogue floor, it's a felony to wear a heel of less than four inches and the ability to sprint around the office (and indeed Manhattan, even in a minus-11 blizzard) while wearing said shoes should be one of your core skills.
Outfit Be prepared to be eyeballed at every turn by absolutely everybody. Even the mailman. Be ready to recite the names of each and every designer that you're wearing. If it's vintage, make sure you know which year.
Working hours More elastic than a Herve Leger bandage dress. Be prepared to get a call at any time of the day or night, and if you are summoned to office or private residence make sure you apply the outfit rules as above.
Company cars An ability to leave your conscience at the door helps when you're asked to arrange for a limousine to drive turkey sausages from one end of the city to the other.
Discretion Never reveal all in a blockbuster roman à clef.
And finally... Interns are routinely warned not to make eye contact with Ms Wintour, which seems like the weirdest thing ever. But then you meet her and (whisper it), she's not really scary at all. Amy Oliver
Is the new Oscars trailer meant to be funny? We assume not, since the Academy tried funny last year, when it hired Daily Show maestro Jon Stewart as host, and then watched viewing figures plummet. This year, it's advertising with a straight face, and Boyz N' the Hood director John Singleton has produced a 30-second spot of such jokeless gravitas that it's hard not to laugh anyway.
"When anything is possible," booms the voiceover (oh, how we rue the passing of Don LaFontaine, gravel-larynxed king of the trailer voiceover, last September), "we can all dare to dream. From country to country, cast to coast, in an event so big you can even see it from space: celebrate the movies that celebrate the times. The Oscars!" Tim Walker
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