Did Obama Just Screw Weed Legalization by Supporting It?
The Obama administration’s relative silence on the issue of marijuana legalization has been good for the cause. But in a recent New Yorker article the president’s stated position on the topic evolved. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” he said, adding, “It’s important for [state-level legalization] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.” He tempered this support by gingerly detracting from legalization advocacy, saying that those who claim marijuana to be a panacea are “overstating the case.” He also referred to “some difficult line-drawing issues” between weed and other illicit drugs, paying homage to the classic, perhaps arcane argument often wielded by conservatives. As cautious as he was in stating it, Obama’s support for legalization, and more strongly decriminalization, may actually be more damaging to the effort than his silence. If we’ve learned one thing from the past six years of Obama, it’s that conservatives find it easiest to irrationally rally against him on social issues like this one.
Until now, the state-level legislative efforts to legalize weed have not included retroactively reducing the sentences of those currently imprisoned on marijuana-related charges, as pointed out by a recent LA Times piece: “It’s far easier to sell voters on the financial benefits of creating a lucrative new marijuana industry than it is to persuade them to open up the prison gates and set convicts free,” writes Matthew Fleischer.
If You Think You Can Survive on ‘Junk Food and Cigarettes’ You’re an Idiot
The Daily Mail has been trailing a new book this week by “leading science writer” Tony Edwards. Titled The Good News About Booze, which sounds like an off-license run by a Jehovah’s Witness, it tackles three of the middle class’s greatest obsessions: dying of cancer, mediocre sex, and drinks that middle-class people like. The first extract from the book, published last week, gave the paper a valuable opportunity to address the important question of whether red wine causes or cures cancer.
The book (or at least the extracts—the email I sent requesting a review copy remains unanswered) is exactly what you’d expect. Edwards claims to have conducted an “in-depth study of around half-a-million scientific papers about alcohol”, which is basically impossible unless he has an army of minions in his basement. In the best traditions of Malcolm Gladwell, he takes a banal and well-known truth—that drinking a moderate amount of red wine is healthy—and pretends it’s some kind of shocking revelation that some indefinable cabal of wine-hoarding misers don’t want you to know about. Throw in a few silly exaggerations for added measure, like “red wine may well be one of the most effective ‘medications’ in history” or “I’m just an averagely intelligent science journalist,” and you have a perfect piece of click-bait for the lazy editor to shove in the paper.
How to Survive Thanksgiving
Immediately after the big Thanksgiving meal, the scene in my parents’ house usually plays out something like this: I’ve got indigestion, everybody hates the Cowboys, and a baby or animal has thrown up in my brother’s lap. Thanksgiving is more agreeable with the aid of a cocktail.
For most people, the liquor cabinet at one’s parents’ house hasn’t been updated since the DeLorean was considered cool. But if you’re lucky, there’s a good chance that a bottle of America’s oldest spirit, applejack, lurks behind those unopened bottles of cream sherry and Midori. My prayers are with you if you’ve resorted to the family Midori.
Applejack is distilled from hard cider, and has been getting Americans sauced since the 1600s. Boozehound George Washington produced the hooch at Mt. Vernon, Abe Lincoln poured it by the glass inside his Springfield, Illinois, tavern, and that freegan-looking vagabond, John Chapman
, was the spirit’s unofficial spokesman in his lifetime, instructing farmers on how to freeze-distill—a process known as “jacking”—their own cider while he roamed about the countryside, spreading his seeds. Literally.
Soju Is Responsible for the South Koreans Passed Out In the Streets
Soju doesn’t waste time. It cuts straight to the point and gets you drunk very quickly. This is something I’ve known since I was 16, when I was an underage drinking Korean-American teen growing up in Queens. But this concept didn’t fully register
until I moved to Seoul for a short stint three years ago. It was my first night in South Korea’s capital city. I tagged along with my cousin and his crew of hard drinking buddies to hit the crowded streets that surround Kang-Nam Station. One of Seoul’s most frequented subway stops, the area was packed with bars filled with endless herds of partygoers who assemble there to partake in one of Korea’s national pastimes—getting sauced.
It was a sober hour in the early evening when our group hatched a plan for the drunken night ahead of us. Shortly before 7 PM, the sun was still out and the streets were teeming with thirsty imbibers, the cramped packs of competition in our race to grab a table at the closest bar. I took a moment to soak up my environment. For the first time, I was living in my parents’ homeland, where everyone looked like me and I was naturally supposed to blend in. This was the place where I was supposed to feel as one with my fellow Koreans, who I could connect with if we all sang Arirang
, in a made-for-TV moment in my imagination. But the reality was a lot of drunk-ass people roaming the streets.
Scotland Loves Buckfast, the UK’s Version of Four Loko
At about 3 AM on a deserted suburban street in central Scotland, the guy in front of me chugs a bottle of Buckfast in one, then spews it back up into a sticky red puddle between his legs. “That’s fuck all, bullshit, just a wee bit of puke,” he mutters, looking disappointed at wasting the last of his beverage. In case you were wondering, why yes, Buckfast has become a symbol of the country’s rampant alcohol abuse problems. How did you guess?
Unless you’re from some quite specific parts of the UK or Ireland, you may not be familiar with Buckfast. The simplest way to describe it to Americans would be to call it the British version of Four Loko—it’s a fortified tonic wine, that, while not crazy strong at 15 percent, has more caffeine by volume than Red Bull and is loaded with tons of sugar and other tasty chemicals. Interestingly, it’s also made by a community of Benedictine monks living in Devon, England, which doesn’t seem very Christian or whatever but it does make the abbey some pretty big money.
Buckfast is syrup-thick, tastes like a palatable mixture of berry flavored cola and cough medicine, and gets you pretty uniquely trashed. (Full disclosure: I actually like it.) It’s wildly popular with certain of my countrymen—usually, the ones the rest of the country doesn’t want much to do with because they spend most of their time hanging around on street corners getting into fights and breaking things. “Neds,” they’re called in the local vernacular (some say it stands for “non-educated delinquents,” if you were curious). Accordingly, it has earned Buckfast nicknames like “wreck the hoose juice” as well as the catchy unofficial slogan, “Buckfast: gets you fucked fast.”
Korean Poo Wine
"Ttongsul" is a Korean rice wine mixed with the fermented turd of a human child. It has an alcoholic content of around 9 percent. Little is known about the origins of what is surely one of the world’s most bizarre and gag-inducing medicines. A quick "Ttongsul" Google search will provide you with little more than internet-land hearsay and a flimsy Wikipedia page.
Intrigued, we set out to discover if the rumors were true and to our astonishment found a traditional Korean medicine doctor who claims to be one of the last people who knows how to make “feces wine.” Dr. Lee Chang Soo’s face was tinged with sadness when he told us of his regret that feces is no longer widely utilized in Eastern medicine. The use of human and animal feces for medicinal purposes can be traced back centuries in Korea. Ancient Korean medicine books claim that it heals bad bruising, cuts, broken bones, and is even an effective remedy for epilepsy.
It’s worth pointing out that the average person in modern-day South Korea would have have no clue what Ttongsul is. The drink is believed to have pretty much disappeared by the 1960s as South Korea began its long journey towards First World modernity and Western medicines became more popular.
Even so, old habits die hard and it’s rumored that a small number of Koreans still swear by the pungent booze. VICE Japan correspondent Yuka Uchida travelled from Tokyo to Seoul in order to sample some vintage feces wine for herself. As far as we know, this is the first time that the making of Ttongsul has ever been documented on film.
Watch the video
NEVER PARTY WITH THE BRICK SQUAD…
OR YOU MIGHT END UP DRINKING AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF HENNESSY AND ALMOST DYING
Illustration by Meaghan Garvey
As the host of Noisey Raps, the new hip-hop show on VICE’s music site, I’ve been spending a ton of time with famous rappers who like to get loco and do things poor degenerates only dream of. Getting fucked up is a time-honored tradition for musicians of all genres, but rappers, as with everything else they do, take inebriation to absurd new levels. They even invent weird new drugs and give them cute nicknames like “hokey-pokey” and “pterodactyl.” You might think, I love the hokey-pokey. This must be harmless. Then, the next thing you know, you’re being arrested for wiggling your genitals at an old lady, while the famous rapper you just made “friends” with is riding away in his Maybach, sandwiched between two gorgeous models, laughing his ass off. The thing to remember is that these guys are professionals at getting wasted. They rage day in and day out, one dust-laced blunt after another, and then they get paid exorbitant sums of cash to write songs about it. Trying to keep up with them is stupid and dangerous. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way from members of the 1017 Brick Squad.
It was a chilly night in October, and I had been invited to shoot Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane backstage at their show at New York’s Irving Plaza. Unless you’re a geriatric or in jail, you should know that Waka and Gucci are two Atlanta MCs who make unrepentant Southern gangster rap known as trap music.
When we arrived, it looked like your typical rapper green-room scene. There were a whole lot of dudes, because—despite all their lyrics about sexual conquests—rappers love sausage fests. As per usual, a thick cloud of smoke was hovering in the air, and all you could hear was the clash of liquor bottles and the chatter of country drawls.
I’m usually disappointed when I meet rappers in person because they’re often short, meek versions of what you see in their videos. Waka and Gucci, however, look like a couple of linebackers. Their presence is super-imposing, and this was only the second on-camera work I’d done in my life. In hindsight, I should’ve taken some more time thinking about my appearance before the interview: I was wearing pop-bottle glasses and a Cosby-like Pendleton sweater. They immediately started clowning me.
The instructions my producer Andy Capper gave me were to “hang out and get some natural footage.” But Waka and Gucci took one look at me, and it became awkwardly obvious that they weren’t trying to hang with me at all. After a pretty terse greeting that resulted in Waka practically breaking my hand when he shook it, the rappers formed a smokers’ huddle on the other side of the room that I couldn’t breach. Precious time was being wasted. I had to do something quick to get in good with these guys or else I wouldn’t be asked to host anything ever again.
Like everyone backstage, Waka, Gucci, and a couple of their lackeys were passing fat blunts back and forth to one another. To break the ice, I thought it’d be a good idea to ask them what kind of weed they were burning. Gucci just looked down at me like I was a narc, handed over the blunt, and said, “You tell me.”
Now, I’ve been smoking blunts since I was 11 years old. And I grew up in the suburbs, so I’m no stranger to bongs, bowls, and weird white-people shit like vaporizers. But nothing prepared me for how high I was about to become after hitting Gucci’s burner. The closest thing I can compare it to is being pushed headfirst down a K-hole. The second after the smoke left my lungs, I couldn’t even form a complete sentence. Andy was whispering in my ear, trying to tell me what questions to ask because I was just standing there like a zombie with the microphone limp in my hand. And then everything just went black.
THE HISTORY OF THE BEST BAR IN LONDON, WHICH WE HAPPEN TO OWN
You might not be aware that VICE UK has its own bar. It’s called The Old Blue Last and it used to be a brothel before we acquired it. Still, it was a bar for 300 years before that, and even Shakespeare used to hang out there. It stands imperiously on the corner of Great Eastern Street and Curtain Road in London, dominating Shoreditch like a gigantic ancient rock that sells beer. To celebrate their magazine’s tenth anniversary, our English counterparts hired an incredibly famous historian who wished to remain nameless to find out all about it.
East London has been horrible and messy for a very long time. The Floralia, the ancient Roman festival of flowers, celebrated Flora, a hooker who’d been turned into a goddess. When the week-long festival came to London, scores of half-naked prostitutes gathered outside the city walls, in what is now Shoreditch, to exchange milk, honey, and invent all the STDs we have to worry about these days.
In the 16th century, everyone got into theater, which might sound wimpy but it was actually a lot more boozy and fighty back then. Plays were banned in London, but because Shoreditch remained conveniently just outside the city limits, in 1576 a venture capitalist named James Burbage built a venue called The Theatre where The Old Blue Last currently stands.
This illicit, out-of-town theater turned Shoreditch back into the godless pleasure garden it had been in Roman times. It was a place for gentlemen to bathe, play lawn bowls (which might sound wimpy but it was actually a lot more boozy and fighty back then), and fitfully rub their genitals against the wenches and rent boys who populated the area. Oh, and Bill Shakespeare hung out there all the time too, kicking back with John Webster and losing his shit to whatever the Elizabethan version of “She Bangs the Drums” was.
Eventually Burbage pulled down The Theatre and moved it south of the river, where it became The Globe. Shoreditch, meanwhile, remained an iniquitous pit of bowls and sex, and in 1700 a bar was built on the site of the old theater. It was called The Last, which, remarkably boringly, refers to a wooden block that a shoemaker uses to mold a shoe. The Last was owned by a brewer named Ralph Harwood, who went on to achieve a small level of fame when he was pronounced bankrupt one day by Gentleman’s Magazine. In these early years, men carrying powderpuffs used to frequent the pub. Anyone familiar with the coded body language of this era will know that “man with powderpuff = man who wants to fuck other men.”
THE OLD BLUE LAST
In 1876, Truman’s brewery took over the pub. They pulled The Last down and rebuilt it as The Old Blue Last, which means “the old blue wooden pattern that is used to mold the shoe.” Gents came to dine here, ladies took their tea here, everyone wore flat caps, well-made shoes, and called each other “squire” in a way that wasn’t irritating because Guy Ritchie and Pete Doherty hadn’t been born yet. There’s still a massive mirror hanging in the main bar that dates back to this time and has somehow managed to never get smashed. Eventually Truman’s went down the toilet and Grand Metropolitan Hotels took over the OBL (which, let’s face it, proves that they were never really that grand at all).
Throughout the 1970s and into the 90s, Shoreditch was still full of strip joints and violent gay bars (Freddie Mercury is said to have landed his helicopter on top of the building that is now The London Apprentice, formerly the 333). At that point, The Old Blue Last was a rough place full of rougher men and people who were afraid of being beaten up by them. It housed an illegal strip club and brothel, which was on the second floor. The room was divided into cubicles, with no walls, made up of single beds. Next to each bed was a small table, and that was pretty much it.
Weirdly, on every bedside table there was a bowl of peanuts. I guess East End gangsters were into throwing nuts at prostitutes? Apparently, once some pissed-off tough guys turned up to settle a score with a bouncer, put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Lord knows how, but somehow he lived (if anyone can be described as “alive” when half their head is missing).
Originally, Deer Tick’s John McCauley and I had planned for this interview to take place in the form of a drinking game, but after we shotgunned our first beers we both threw up.