Dogs Love Eating Human Faces
"Post-Mortem Decapitation by Domestic Dogs," a 2011 research paper written by a team of Germans, is pretty fucking heavy reading. At one point, it recounts what happened when the cops showed up at a Berlin apartment after the neighbors complained about a barking dog and the stench of rotting meat:
“A 54-year-old man was found dead in his apartment. The body was decapitated and putreﬁed… Also, the man’s well-fed four-year-old German Shepherd dog was present at the death scene, and the entire apartment was soiled by animal feces and urine… dog food was readily accessible… the evidence included typical dog bite marks with decapitation and complete loss of the skull base… Toxicological analysis revealed the cause of death to be fatal intoxication from combined methadone and cocaine.”
That’s not an unusual passage, either.
Hyenas in Ethiopia Will Eat Out of Your Mouth
For much of my life, despite hours of Animal Planet, my primary conception of hyenas came from The Lion King. Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed made hyenas out to be creepy, but ultimately gawky, weak, and comedic characters (it’s hard to be frightened by villains voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin) who occasionally burst out in choreographed song. But now, as I try to keep still, kneeling on the ground while a full-grown spotted hyena locks eyes with me and paces back and forth, its teeth about a foot away from my face, I begin to think Disney has lied to me yet again.
Hyenas, contrary to popular belief, are active hunters rather than scavengers. They’re quite muscular as well, with the bulk of their mass loaded into their shoulders and stocky necks, giving the impression that they’re always a second away from lunging, latching, and effortlessly ripping away whatever flesh is in front of them. A small part of me is afraid that this creature, emboldened by its cackling brothers and sisters pacing around the brush behind us, might be less interested in the half-rotted slab of meat suspended from a stick between my teeth, and more interested in my face. But I push that thought to the back of my mind, because feeding hyenas mouth-to-mouth is just what one does when one comes to Harar, Ethiopia.
There’s No God in Antarctica
All photos by Jo Stewart
Lots of folks fantasize about “getting away from it all,” but few actually put their money where their mouths are. Backpacking in Europe or Southeast Asia or fucking off to some tropical island for some guidebook-approved relaxation might be a nice change of pace, but the bottom line is you’re still surrounded by people and all the problems that come with them. If you curse society long enough, however, the universe will provide you with an escape route, should you want to take it—or at least it did in my case, when I was offered the opportunity to work on a yacht that was filming a documentary in Antarctica.
I immediately said yes, of course, imagining the majestic sweeps of ice and rock and sea, the killer whales swimming freely, the penguins frolicking in landscapes so picturesque they could be accompanied by Morgan Freeman’s narration. But the reality of living on the massive, isolated seventh continent is very different from the glacial fantasy. Yes, there’s otherworldly beauty but there’s also the odd, the cruel, and the outright terrifying things that would never be found in any travel brochure. Some days, the soundtrack to Antarctica is Sigur Rós, on others, it’s a wounded seal barking on a frigid rocky outcrop. Here are some details of my trip that won’t make it into any nature films.
For many, the trek to Antarctica involves sailing from the southern tip of South America and crossing the Drake Passage, a.k.a., “the Drake,” which is known for whipping up some of the roughest seas on the planet. Just for the record: I hate the Drake. Most travellers get to experience the passage from a comfy cruise ship with an icebreaker hull (still not exactly a picnic), but if you’re in a smaller working yacht, as I was, it’s a whole different kettle of krill. In storms, these yachts lurch, roll, and shake so violently that eating is futile given the inevitable seasickness, sleep is nearly impossible, and a simple task like dressing yourself is pure slapstick. Being surrounded by a churning, featureless gray-black monster that has no regard for your life is a sobering experience for a land dweller.
Alessandra Sanguinetti was born in New York and lives in the Bay Area now, but she spent her childhood and the first part of her working life in Argentina. Growing up, she spent her holidays in the Pampas—the sprawling grassland plains that cover a vast chunk of Argentina—where she started work on her first photographic project, On the Sixth Day,a documentation of farming life and the way people interact with the animals they rear for slaughter.
Halfway through that project, she started to photograph two cousins who lived nearby named Guille and Belinda. That series became her best known work, The Adventures of Guille and Belinda, and has continued to expand as the girls have grown older, got married, and started having babies. I spoke with Alessandra about the cousins, the passage of time, and how taking photos adds a sense of order and permanence to our transient lives.
VICE: How did moving to America a decade ago affect your work?
Alessandra Sanguinetti: I lived in Argentina until I was 30, and that’s where I shot On the Sixth Day and The Adventures of Guille and Belinda. I was halfway through working on Guille and Belinda when I moved here and the first chapter of the work was done, so it affected me in a practical sense—I wasn’t there for Belinda’s wedding.
But it affected me more in an intangible way. I had underestimated how connected I was to Argentina, how much of what I was passionate about lay there. And I underestimated how circumstance and the passage of time changes you. I left with several ideas, leads I was excited to begin, and I just assumed I’d take up where I left off in the future. But it doesn’t work that way. When I returned, those little sparks were gone and I didn’t see things the same way. There’s a moment for everything, and then the moment is gone and you have to move on.
Do you feel like with the work you’re now doing in San Francisco you’ve come to terms with America and you’re happy there? Or do you think it’s a very different type of work?
I’ve worked on various projects since then, which—among others—include Palestine and, just recently, a short book on family life here in San Francisco called Sorry, Welcome. It’s published by TBW books and it’s coming out very soon.
In Guille and Belinda, there’s a the theme of family and growing up running through it. I read that you got into photography after the realization that your friends and family members will all one day die, so you started trying to maintain a record of everyone.
We all, at some point, realize that everything is transitory. And when I was a kid, taking photos was my way to make life a little more permanent. Taking pictures was my way of corroborating and synchronizing what I saw with what I felt and of connecting the dots, of finding links between arbitrary events or a pattern within the chaos. Eventually, if you pay attention, you begin building stories and making some sense of things. And after finding a pattern we can recognize, it makes it easier to get through the day.
Itty-Bitty Kitty, Giant Spirit – Lil Bub Gets Her Soul Examined by a Powerful Pet Psychic, with Photos by Terry Richardson
If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you probably already know all about Lil Bub. The tiny, adorable cat—who is a “perma-kitten” thanks to several genetic abnormalities—has captured the hearts of millions through her photos and videos, which have spread across the web like a communicable disease of cuteness. She’s (yes, Bub is a little lady) also made appearances on TV shows like Good Morning America and The View and held meet and greets all over the country with her fans.
VICE has been following this superlatively cute cat around for some time, and we’re gearing up to release Lil Bub & Friendz, a feature-length documentary that records the travels and trials of Bub and her loyal owner, Mike Bridavsky, who has cared for her through her many health problems. (Mike donates much of the money he makes from her fame to animal-rescue charities.)
Lil Bub & Friendz won this year’s Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film Award and will premiere to the world at large later this summer. To prepare for the next stage of Bub’s celebrity catdom, Mike contacted Christine Agro, pet psychic to the stars, to peer inside Bub’s celestial being via Skype and give the pair some advice.
Christine Agro: Could you say your full name three times please?
Mike Bridavsky: Michael Gregory Bridavsky, Michael Gregory Bridavsky, Michael Gregory Bridavsky.
And what would you like to receive from this reading?
Whatever there is to be received; if there’s anything I need to know about Bub or the adventure we’re on.