Meet the Two Geniuses Who Lived on Cheese Puffs and Licorize for a Week
I first met Rajiv a few years ago when I interviewed him about his band, Oh No Forest Fires (RIP). Besides having a beard that would make lesser men envious, he was also born and raised in Newfoundland, which means he’s capable of drinking most other human beings under the table. Since I’m also from the East Coast and we share several mutual friends, we got along pretty well and stayed in touch after he moved to St. John’s to study medicine. Recently, I was perusing the ol’ Facebook and saw that he was engaged in an “experiment” where he could only eat Hawkins Cheezies (the Canadian equivalent to Cheetos) for 127 hours straight (or one business week), with just water and one vitamin pill per day to keep from dying. To make this challenge even more interesting, his friend Ian also participated, eating only Hershey’s Nibs. This all sounded incredibly stupid to me so I checked in with them a few days after they finished to make sure they were still alive, and find out why exactly they put themselves through such an ordeal.
VICE: Are you an idiot? Ian: No, we were just at a party and Rajiv was eating some Cheezies and said, matter-of-factly, “You know, I could probably eat only Hawkins Cheezies for the rest of my life.” I instantly said, “Really? How long do you think you could actually live on only Cheezies?” On some level I might have just grown tired of hyperbolic statements that are thrown around so casually, but that’s probably not what actually went through my head. We went back and forth deciding how long he could realistically go and came up with 127 hours, with the justification that if a guy could live trapped under a rock for that long, it should be easy enough to just eat a delicious snack for the same amount of time. And, I think to really push him to find out, I said I’d eat something else exclusively for the same amount of time. He came up with Nibs, a candy that isn’t really one of my favorites but one that I do like, and for some reason, I agreed.
Rajiv: I think the more important values—if we can call them that—at play here were things like raw stubbornness, curiosity, and a sense of one-upmanship. In a lot of ways, it’s the same reason I drank a pint of my best friend’s urine or ate a raw hot dog out of a puddle on George Street.
You didn’t just eat them as is. What are some of the methods you used to prepare your food? I saw the Vine of the Cheezies smoothie… Rajiv: Yeah. I mean, let’s face it, they taste best raw, room temp. We tried boiling them, straining it, and eating a pasta-esque dish. It ended up just being like warm, mushy, processed cheesy corn meal… and to be honest, it wasn’t all that bad. The Cheezie smoothie was much worse. I tried to get it down quickly, gagged, and brought the whole thing back up.
Ian: I tried a few different techniques to keep my meals interesting, but neither of them made my food taste any less like Nibs. 1) Frozen: just made them really hard and cold. 2) Fried: tasted a bit worse than regular Nibs—almost like burnt hair, maybe—but at least it was a slightly different taste. 3) Boiled: they just melted and became slimy and hard to eat. 4) Smoothied: flavored water, nothing special.
Should We Panic About the Deadly Strain of Meningitis Hitting the Gay Community?
Last December, my friend Michael stopped me before we left his apartment in Paris. He was moving back to Brooklyn the following week and had received an urgent message from his friend who lived there: some gay men had died from a new strain of meningitis, a nasty bug that invades your brain and spinal cord and causes headaches, neck stiffness, bouts of vomiting, and, occasionally, death. In San Francisco, the government waswarning gay men to get vaccinated if they planned to travel to New York City, especially Brooklyn.
We weren’t too worried—this wasn’t the 80s, when the authorities turned a blind eye to the AIDS epidemic and dismissed it as a “gay disease.” If the New York City Department of Health knew there was a potentially deadly plague sweeping the city, they’d surely shoot the bugger in the butt before it grew into a gay-killing monster.
Months later, the monster is still alive. Four more men have fallen ill in New York City, bringing the number of infections to 22 and death toll to seven since 2010, and similar cases have appeared in West Hollywood, California. Just last Saturday, Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old lawyer, died of meningitis after slipping into a coma—he’s one of 13 men in LA who’ve been killed by the disease in the past 15 months. (It’s unknown how many of these men were gay.)
Fucking Hysterical: A Timeline of Vintage Vibrators
Not far from San Francisco’s favorite trans bar in the heart of the historically gay-friendly Polk district you’ll find the Antique Vibrator Museum, a vivid exhibit of vibrators dating from the early 20th century through the 1970s.
The museum opened last year inside a sex-toy store called Good Vibrations, where therapist and educator Joani Blank had been displaying a few old vibrators since she opened the shop in 1977. Gradually, customers started to donate their own, then eBay came along, and 36 years later, her small collection has evolved into the Antique Vibrator Museum—home to more than 120 vintage vibrators, along with packaging materials, manuals, print ads, and other vibrator-related ephemera. It’s the biggest collection of orgasm-inspiring devices open to the public today.
“It’s one thing to know about vibrators as sex toys, and quite another to see how many types there were throughout the century,” she says. “It’s also a great example of design and industrial changes in one particular household implement.”
The vibrator itself has a long and storied history rooted in female hysteria, a so-called physical illness that disappeared from medical textbooks in 1952. For centuries, though, hysteria was a legitimate and common diagnosis for women who just needed to get laid, or, at the very least, treat themselves to a few mind-blowing orgasms. But since most women in the old-timey days didn’t even know they could have orgasms, they needed someone—or something—to help. Thanks in part to the Antique Vibrator Museum, here’s a timeline chronicling the evolution of vibrators in history.
200 AD: The Genital Massage
Physician and philosopher Galen of Pergamon prescribed “genital massage” to treat hysteria, which comes from the Latin for “womb.” He wrote that the disorder, as it was known then, was caused by a wandering womb or something. “It certainly was thought of as primarily a women’s disease,” says Dr. Queen. “Some commentators talked about it in nearly sexual terms — it affected virgins and widows more than married women, for instance.”
1650-1660: Coming Along
By 1653, Petrus Forestus started fingering his patients with essential oils so they could achieve a “paroxysm,” which British surgeon Nathaniel Highmore soon figured out was really just a fancy word for orgasm. To treat symptoms of hysteria, doctors would massage the vulva and clitoris until the woman had a “hysterical paroxysm of relief.” But according to Dr. Queen, “Very few doctors said in so many words that they were instigating orgasms through these treatments.”
Sticking to his campaign promise, French President François Hollande and the French state will now pay for 100 percent (!) of the cost of abortions. Not only that, teenage girls between the ages of 15-18 will have the option for free and anonymous birth control.
Prior to April 1st, French women over 18 could receive only 80% of the cost of an abortion covered, an operation that can cost up to 450 euros. This medical change is part of the 2013 social security budget, and France also hopes to increase the sharing of free contraceptives in an effort to cut down the total number of abortions in general — as there were close to 12,000 abortions performed in France last year.
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about three years ago. After an extended stay at the hospital and stints in two different rest homes, my mom brought him home to care for him herself. She did this despite warnings that it would be too much for her to handle—even with regular assistance—because the conditions in the homes were too depressing to bear. There is an unseen routine in the lives of most home caregivers that makes Michael Haneke’s Amour look like Sesame Street. I wanted to find out what the day-to-day life of someone tasked with keeping another adult alive is like, so I talked to my mom about it.
VICE: How does your average day begin? BB: Usually I wake up before LD and get dressed, and I try to get the coffee made and the cereal stuff out. But if he wakes up first, I just get him cleaned and dressed and then do the other stuff.
What time does he get up? He’s gotten so he goes to bed between 8 and 9 PM and sometimes sleeps until noon. One day I was so tired and exhausted that I didn’t hear him and he got up and went into the den at seven in the morning. He ended up somehow falling, and I found him on the floor tangled up in the chair. But usually I wake up before him and get dressed real quick, because if I don’t he watches me do every single thing, and it drives me crazy.
Why does he watch you? Because he doesn’t have anything else to do. He just stares. And he wants to see what food I’m making.
I know he usually wets the bed at night, even through the disposable underwear. Do you change the sheets after you wake him up? I take the sheets and the pajamas and the shirt and socks and just wrap them up in that plastic liner that keeps the mattress pad dry. Sometimes if he wakes up before I do he’ll have already taken his underpants off. I get him to the bathroom and have him sit on the toilet so I can get his wet clothes off and wipe him off with Handi Wipes.
You know what’s a complete waste of time, money, and effort? Eating. I mean, wouldn’t you rather just ingest a tasteless form of sustenance for the rest of your life and never have to go through that tedious rigmarole of opening and eating a premade sandwich or feasting on a pile of fried delicacies ever again? Rob Rhinehart—a 24-year-old software engineer from Atlanta and, presumably, an impossibly busy man—thinks so.
Rob found himself resenting the inordinate amount time it takes to fry an egg in the morning and decided something had to be done. Simplifying food as “nutrients required by the body to function” (which sounds totally bulimic, I know, but I promise it’s not), Rob has come up with an odorless beige cocktail that he’s named Soylent.
I wasn’t sure if he was trolling at first because that’s the name of a wafer made out of human flesh and fed to the masses in the seminal 1973 sci-fi film Soylent Green, but then I read the extensive post on Rob’s blog about how he came to make the stuff, and I started to believe he was serious. Soylent contains all the nutritive components of a balanced diet but just a third of the calories and none of the toxins or cancer-causing stuff you’d usually find in your lunch of processed foods. Despite the fact that it looks a bit like vomit, Soylent supposedly has the potential to change the entire world’s relationship with food, so I spoke to Rob to find out how.
VICE: Hi, Rob. Why did you decide to boycott eating? Rob Rhinehart: It was a combination of things. I was home for Christmas and saw an elderly family friend get admitted to the hospital after losing an unhealthy amount of weight. He was losing strength in one of his arms and found it very difficult to cook. I started wondering why something as simple and important as food was still so inefficient, given how streamlined and optimized other modern things are. I also had an incentive to live as cheaply as possible, and I yearned for the productivity benefit of being healthy. I’d been reading a lot of books on biology, and I started to think that it’s probably all the same to our cells whether it gets nutrients from a powder or a carrot.
What was the next step? Hacking the body is high risk, high reward. I read a textbook on physiological chemistry and took to the internet to see if I could find every known essential nutrient. My kitchen soon looked like a chemistry lab, and I had every unknown substance in a glass in front of me. I was a little worried it was going to kill me, but decided it was for science and quickly downed the whole thing. To my surprise, it was quite tasty, and I felt very energetic. For 30 days, I avoided food entirely, and I monitored the contents of my blood and my physical performance. Mental performance is harder to quantify, but I feel much sharper.
So what’s in Soylent, exactly? Everything the body needs—that we know of, anyway—vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like essential amino acids, carbohydrates, and fat. For the fat, I just use olive oil and add fish oil. The carbs are an oligosaccharide, which is like sugar, but the molecules are longer, meaning it takes longer to metabolize and gives you a steady flow of energy for a longer period of time rather than a sugar rush from something like fructose or table sugar. I also add some nonessentials like antioxidants and probiotics and lately have been experimenting with nootropics.
America’s First Hippie: Living, Learning, and Going Long with Gypsy Boots
Photos courtesy of Kees Van Voorthuizen
My mother hated hippies. She also wasn’t keen on meeting strangers, long-haired or otherwise. And her mood was especially dark that day in 1970 when the two of us were vacationing at the Hilton in Beverly Hills. She’d been waging a long battle with my father, her ex-husband, over me, their seven-year-old, and worried that she’d either lose custody or I’d “turn hippie” thanks to California’s corrupting influence. So when a hyperactive senior citizen with shoulder-length silver hair, a scraggly beard, and love beads around his neck approached us in the hotel lobby while banging a tambourine, shaking maracas, dancing a Russian cossack jig, and chanting, “I’m-a the Gypsy Boots, I live on nuts and fruits,” I wasn’t surprised when my mother yelled at him to get lost. I wanted him to scram, too. Ordinary hippies—the ones I saw on TV or hitchhiking through our New Jersey suburb—they intrigued me, but this one seemed crazy. Scary crazy. Why was this man who looked older than my grandparents behaving like a kindergarten escapee?
“Make him leave, Ma,” I whispered.
She certainly tried to. But Gypsy Boots was a man on a mission, which was to cheer up the sad-sack divorcee and kid he’d just come across. And, being irresistible, he succeeded. Within minutes, Gypsy had my mother and me smiling at him, then laughing with him, applauding his antics, trying out his musical instruments, and humming along to his inane ditties. Boots wasn’t drunk or on drugs, as I had heard other hippies were. Like the female protagonist of the film Harold And Maude, this guy was just chronically jubilant, the archetypal holy fool. After he was gone, leaving me with a free autographed copy of his self-published memoir, Bare Feet and Good Things to Eat, my mother admitted that she hadn’t felt this happy since before my father left her. It amazed me to hear her say that. And it amazed me to realize I felt the same way.
What I didn’t know then, and wouldn’t know for a long time, was that Gypsy Boots was important, nationally important, an odd figure who had changed the course of American culture. He wasn’t just an old hippie, he was the ur hippie. His journey started in the late 1930s, when Boots, nearing 20, left the working world, grew his hair and beard long, and went “back to nature.” This was way beyond Thoreau at Walden Pond: For years at a time, Boots would sleep in California forests, bathe in mountain streams, feed himself by foraging for nuts and fruits and vegetables, practice yoga, and wear practically nothing in the way of clothing. A dozen other Nature Boys, as they were called, kept him company (including eden ahbez, who wrote “Nature Boy,” the hit song for Nat King Cole, supposedly about Boots), but Gypsy was the most visible of the gang, the one who would eventually become a star.
Long before the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, “Hollywood’s ageless athlete,” as Boots was known, created a counterculture for them to inhabit. He did this by performing fitness demonstrations on network television and in movies, opening one of America’s first health-food restaurants, racing around LA in his crazily painted van with organic treats for a network of customers—all to spread his message, which was deadly serious in spite of his constant clowning: “Why cling to sickly, fretful, conformist ways when you can be your healthiest, happiest, most authentic self?”
Gypsy died in 2004, just short of his 90th birthday. With his centennial coming up next year, I’ve been thinking a lot about him—what he meant to history and what he meant to me.
Two and a half decades after our encounter in Beverly Hills, Gypsy reappeared in my life. By this time, my mother was long gone—she’d died of breast cancer at 49—and I was living in New York City, volunteering as a cook at a soup kitchen for the homeless. I didn’t think much about Boots; he was a luminous childhood memory, nothing more. Then, while browsing my shelves, I came across the memoir he’d given me, and I decided to bring it to the soup kitchen. Maybe we could use some of the vegetarian recipes he’d included in his book. As I consulted Bare Feet and Good Things to Eat while cooking, a middle-aged woman I worked with noticed the book and grinned and said, “Wow, Gypsy Boots! When I was a flower child in Hollywood in the 60s, Gypsy was such an inspiration. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s still going—I just ran into him last year!”
“Wait,” I said, “he’s still alive?”
“Sure, and he hasn’t changed one bit since the old days. He came roaring into this ashram I was at, shouting, ‘Don’t panic, go organic,’ and making everybody crack up.”
Until then, I’d never met anyone who’d known of Gypsy. So, he was still around, inhabiting the present as well as the past! That night, I called 411 in Los Angeles County and requested a listing for Gypsy Boots. I was doing this out of curiosity, but also as a sort of tribute to my late mother.
Watch the new documentary Alone in the Zone, produced by VICE Japan for their YouTube channel
Interview and photos by Ivan Kovac and Jeffrey Jousan Article translated from the Japanese by Luke Baker
Today marks the second anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Japan and caused one of the most serious nuclear disasters in world history, when the Fukushima Daiichi power plant started leaking radiation. The surrounding towns were evacuated in a rush, leaving empty homes, silent streets, and uncared-for animals. In the small town of Tomioka, however, less than six miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, one man refused to leave: Naoto Matsumura, a 53-year-old fifth-generation rice farmer who is surely the most stubborn man in Japan, if not the world.
“I was born and raised in this town,” he told us. “When I die, it’s going to be in Tomioka.” Naoto’s face is browned by the sun and wrinkled from smiling; his dark eyes peer out from under heavy lids—it’s not the face of someone you’d expect to defy the government by living in an area other people aren’t even allowed to visit, but Naoto wears his iconoclasm lightly.
Because he is being bombarded with as much as 17 times the amount of radiation a normal person is, and because for a while he was eating meat, vegetables, and fish that were contaminated by radiation, as well, some researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency wanted to run some tests on him. “When I went down and let them look me over, they told me I was the ‘champion,’” he said, meaning he had the highest level of radiation exposure in Japan. “But they also told me that I wouldn’t get sick for 30 or 40 years. I’ll most likely be dead by then anyway, so I couldn’t care less.”
A few months ago someone asked me how porn chicks avoid getting pregnant. I rolled my eyes and thought,Duh, the same ways all chicks avoid getting pregnant. My sarcastic response wasn’t worth the energy it would have taken to type into Twitter and send. A week or so later someone asked the same question at a Q&A panel during an adult convention called Exxxotica. Over the next couple of months, more people asked the same thing via Twitter and Tumblr. One of my co-workers, Kayden Kross, brought up the fact that she’d been receiving questions about birth control as well. Neither of us remembered pregnancy on porn sets being a subject of public curiosity in previous years. Maybe all the public discussion of Measure B (the condoms-in-porn law) sparked the interest. So, without the sarcasm, let’s talk about birth control.
I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t get pregnant if you’re completely abstinent. There’s that whole Virgin Mary thing, but if I start factoring in acts of God, the topic gets too wacky to wrap my head around. I’m also pretty sure you can’t get pregnant if you stick to masturbation, are a woman who only has sex with women, or have sex in ways that completely avoid any vaginal contact with semen. However, if you are engaging in penis-in-vagina penetrative sex or moving hands back and forth between penises and vaginas, pregnancy is a risk that needs to be managed. This handy chart provided by the US Government can fill you in on the various types of available birth control.