If you break life down into a series of activities, objectively, a lot of them don’t make sense. Like diving into a vat of raw sewage. Why would someone do that? To find out, we’re asking people doing weird things why, to get an insight into their world.
This is Brendan Walsh’s world. He runs a Melbourne company called East West Dive and Salvage, which basically involves diving in all sorts of no-air environments. One such environment includes sewage, so I caught up with Brendan to find out what necessitates this foul job, and why he does it.
VICE: Hi Brendan, why are you doing that? Brendan Walsh: I’m doing it because in Australia, we don’t process our sewerage with chemicals. We get bacteria to break down the solids by aerating it with big stirring machines, twenty-four hours a day. It’s a very aggressive environment and moving parts constantly break.
So what’s broken here? One of the motors. The motors are all in the ponds and there’s no other way to access them without getting in. And it’s completely black down there, so we have to do everything by feel. Sewage farms take thousands of photos of their site, before they fill up the ponds, so we look carefully at the photos before we get in. The diver then makes the repairs in the dark by talking to the guys above the surface. The dive suits are all connected via radio so we can provide directions in real time.
That all sounds like a design flaw. Shouldn’t there be an easier way? Ah, you’d think so, but then it gives me a job. Got to earn the ex-wife money somehow.
So what is it like when you’re down there? It’s completely black and you have to more walk than swim. There’s no smell though. All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out.
Do you ever get claustrophobic? No, I wouldn’t do it if I did. You need two years of training to become a diver and that weeds out anyone with claustrophobia. Also we can pipe music through the suits radio system. We’ll play the guys whatever they want to hear. It keeps them happy.
To get your university art project featured on TIME,the Huffington Post, the Independent, the Mirror, the Telegraph and Die Welt in the same week isn’t an easy feat. It takes talent, dedication, good connections and, occasionally, boiling and eating a chunk of your own body.
That’s the path taken by 25-year-old Norwegian Alexander Selvik Wengshoel. Wengshoel was born with a deformed hip and has spent most of his life in pain, enduring years in a wheelchair, hours of morphine treatment, and countless surgeries. Four years ago he was offered a metal hip replacement, which he accepted on the grounds that his doctors let him film the operation and keep the old hip. When he got home he cooked the flesh and ate it with some potato gratin and a glass of wine, all in the name of art.
I met up with him to find out why.
VICE: Your piece The Body Project has garnered a lot of media attention. When did you decide to turn your body into art? Alexander Wengshoel: Back in 2010, I was studying animation. My tutor showed me the bloody art of Hermann Nitsch, and I was truly mesmerized and very inspired. Plus, I find blood fascinating. Then suddenly I got word that my final hip operation was going to take place—the surgery promised to make my life pain-free and liveable. My tutor said that the story was too strong not to be documented and used. So I got the idea of filming it and taking the replaced hipbone home with me.
Alexander’s new metal hip.
How did you convince the hospital to let you film the surgery and take the hip home? I called the hospital and they immediately said no to filming. I kept on calling though, several times a day, until they put me through to my main surgeon. He also turned me down at first, but after I told him my nightmare story and presented my project he said, “Hell yes.” Luckily he is very interested in art and loved the idea.
Then there was the question of the hipbone. Usually they crush it to powder and use it for medical moulding materials. Keeping my hip was also totally out of the question. But I gave them an ultimatum: Either I keep it, or I go to another hospital. We argued until the surgeon finally was sick of the bitching nurses and let me have it my way.
We’ve all got our issues with the term “foodies.” In many cities, it’s hard to turn a corner without accidentally stumbling into a charcuterie workshop or getting lectured on growing heirloom herbs. But sustainable foods and farm-to-table highbrow trends aren’t the only wave of the future, and as they say, “a rising tide lifts all turds.” Alongside the fancier culinary explorations we might associate with the foodie stereotype, there is also a darker underbelly of food enthusiasm gaining momentum: I’ll just simply call them “outrageous foods.” Eaters and restaurants following this trend are pushing the boundaries of supposedly outrageous ingredients that can be smashed together, stuffed with bacon, and fried. In the process, they are redefining the art of crappy food and the image of the foodie in popular culture.
When I was 19, I had a crusty boyfriend who spontaneously decided that for health reasons, he was going to eat half a dozen or so raw garlic cloves every day. Which actually sounded kind of okay, at first; garlic is delicious and antiviral and antifungal and anti-everything-bad, and I’m generally unfazed by garlic breath if it’s emitting from someone I love. It seemed like a welcomed addition to his diet that otherwise consisted exclusively of spaghetti with hot sauce and tofu dogs. But after a week or two, he was a changed man. An insidious scent wafted not only out of his mouth, but also out of his armpits, feet, neck, and hairline. I have a distinct memory of kissing his cheek and tasting an industrial-strength aroma analogous to the bottom layer of a mid-summer New York City dumpster. He was emitting a pungent garlicky venom, 24 hours a day, seemingly from every pore (and orifice) on his body. The garlic ritual had to go; it was me or the garlic.
And so it did, eventually, but my memory of this phase, in addition to some other choice experiences, has since instilled me with a trust in the belief that “you are what you eat”—in other words, whatever you put in your mouth is going to make its way into every weird perspiration, fluid, and mucous that lives in or comes out of you. And as it turns out, we’re not imagining it.
Long story short: We need to find viable, palatable, nutritious alternatives to traditional meat.
With that in mind I decided to replace one meal per day for seven days with sources of protein that can be purchased alive from a pet store.
At this point I should note that I’m not some granola here to chew your ear off about how fucked up factory farming is. In fact, I eat a lot of meat myself. I’m from northern Michigan, where there’s only one day in the Christian calendar year when most folks will intentionally choose fish, and I’m the type of heathen who doesn’t even abstain on that day. So this little experiment was done for my own sake, to know what sort of animal-based dishes I can look forward to when hamburgers are enjoyed exclusively by the one percent.
Before beginning the diet, I consulted my doctor to make sure I wasn’t about to spark someContagion-type situation. As I told him about my plan he put his chin in his hand and nodded politely, but seemed pretty unconcerned.
“Isn’t there anything I should be worried about?” I asked.
He shook his head with an offhand warning against eating mice intestines. “Make sure to take those out.”
“Sure,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to eat their poop.”
After a pause, and without irony, he told me where in town I could find the best price on regionally raised beef tenderloin.
And so, with my doctor’s blessing, I drove to the pet store to buy some groceries.
Day 1: Crickets Pancakes
Nutritional Facts: 1 serving equals 100g of crickets. Each serving contains 121 calories, 12.9g protein, 5.5g of fat
4 cups of flour 1 cup of roasted crickets
Place your crickets in the freezer for 1-2 hours, then boil briskly for 1-2 minutes. Strain and cool. Place clean and cool crickets on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Remove antennae and legs gently; they fall off easily. Crush collected crickets using a rolling pin or mortar and pestle until they are ground into small brown specks. Insufficient grinding will result in their small faces peering out at you from the batter L. Use flour in pancakes.
Crickets smell fishy—an aroma no doubt exacerbated by their placement in my local pet shop in thick plastic bins against a backdrop of blue fish tanks. In an effort to outwit my better instincts I told myself that the shrimp-like aroma wafting from my hotcakes was actually almonds.
Crickets taste like almonds, if you think of almonds, and shrimp if you think of anything other than almonds. This flavor is subtle, but when you place it in a pancake drenched in syrup, it becomes amplified. I recommend incorporating the cricket flour into a savory pastry, instead. Like nuts, they add a satisfying crunch.
We Got 20 Strangers Who Aren’t Models to Kiss Each Other
Earlier this week, an “arty” black and white video in which polite Americans kiss each other on the mouth made the internet squeal with excitement. The twist was, you see, that these people were all strangers, so this was footage of ten first kisses—gross saliva sounds fully audible over the sort of song that a depressed person might put on during sex.
It was really awkward and sweet, and so far it’s had over 47 million YouTube views. Many bloggers called it “beautiful,” but it was mostly beautiful because all the people that director Tatia Pilieva cast were models, actors, and musicians—that is, professional performers. Oh, and also it was a commercial for clothes, because everything that goes viral on the internet is a lie or an ad.
So our London colleagues went out into the street and found 20 strangers who aren’t models of any description to stick their stiff British upper lips together for £20 (about $33) a pop. This is how strangers really kiss.
These things get so big that some of them can’t walk. Watch as they explain that making these gigantic beasts is a hobby with a lot of luck involved. Almost every moment of this video is worth screen-grabbing, but the shots of the boar with green mulch all over its nose and the beauty pageant winner posing behind him are incredible.
Any time food gets too big to eat, it becomes entertaining. One curiosity for me is looking at abnormally large fruits, vegetables, or animals. When you start to explore this universe, you’ll find that it’s a place filled with record-breaking pizzas, lasagnas, burgers, and other foods that would taste better if they were proportionally sized to your mouth. The process of making and growing these overweight items is a waste of time, a waste of food, and a waste of everything but your attention. But there’s an endless supply of videos on this theme, and this small selection is an attempt at singling out the pointlessness of it all. Enjoy.
Picking the World’s Largest Watermelon
It’s been almost three years since I found this video, and it’s still one of my absolute favorites on YouTube. It’s the kind of thing I look for all the time and almost never find. If you really want to be transported to a hot summer day in Hope, Arkansas, you should watch this at home, on the big screen, with the volume turned all the way up. The best moment comes when they drop the first watermelon they try to pick and it cracks wide open—without hesitation, everyone in the picking party begins feasting on the wreckage. Stay tuned until the end, when they drive the watermelon to some nondescript loading dock and the entire town arrives to weigh the beast.
World’s Largest Fried Egg!
I don’t think that I have to convince anyone that this video is disgusting. Before watching this, I didn’t think that you were supposed to fry an ostrich egg, but as soon as she actually started frying it, I knew for a fucking fact that you’re not supposed to. Even though I am fighting the urge to throw up, I appreciate the effort behind someone thinking, Oh, that’s something you can do, and just doing it.