Introducing the Holding Court Issue, October 2013
Get a subscription already!
Sometimes our friends will ask us why they should subscribe to the magazine—pretty much everything that appears in print also appears online, they say, and print is a dying medium anyway. Then they ask to borrow our car, because our friends are fucking assholes.
If you want to know why the physical copy of the magazine is worth it, locate a copy of this month’s Holding Court issue (a map of selected distribution points can be found here) and take a look at the cover by Marcel Dzama, which you can check out above in its ones-and-zeros version. Online it looks pretty good, but in real life the halo around the dude-with-a-baby-for-a-head’s head/baby shimmers in the light and you can make out the subtle muddy bloodstains on the arrow-filled body hanging from the ceiling. It’s the kind of strange painting you’d want to cut out and put on your wall, only you can’t if you’re just looking at it on your computer like a putz.
Other stuff that’s worth seeing in print:
The pictures of Irving Zisman, a.k.a. Johnny Knoxville, as the horny septuagenarian parties with some young lasses 50 years his junior.
War correspondent Robert King’s photo essay on Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, which is home to 120,000 displaced Syrians.
Kevin Site’s travelogue of Afghanistan as the US military finally prepares to leave for good (spoiler: the country ain’t doing so well).
These never-before-seen photos from Nirvana’s 1989 European tour.
VICE editor Wilbert L. Cooper’s examination of the thriving culture of scrap metal thieves in Cleveland.
If all that stuff doesn’t convince you that a paper version of the magazine is worth getting, look out for our iPad edition which is chock full of amazing extras including exclusive videos and pictures…
Buy Illegal! Magazine So Its Vendors Can Buy More Drugs
Michael Lodberg Olsen is the bearded, benevolent guardian angel to Copenhagen’s drug addicts. A couple of years ago, the Dane started driving a van around his home cityoffering heroin users a safe, sterile environment in which they could inject under the supervision of volunteers and trained nurses, rather than behind some trash cans in the park or in a shitty hostel. Olsen’s scheme was initially met with a fair amount of local opposition, but in the end he managed to win many of his detractors over.
Michael’s latest project, which he launched a couple of weeks ago, is Illegal!—a magazine that hard drug users can buy for $1.80 and sell to the public for around $5.00. At first glance it seems similar to the Big Issue, until you get to the mission statement. While the Big Issue was set up to feed homeless people and get them off the streets, Illegal!'s explicit aim is to help drug addicts—many of whom are homeless—raise money to buy more drugs.
Again, the scheme has attracted criticism—after all, much of the cash handed over will be going straight into the pockets of heroin dealers—but Michael has presented a case that’s hard to argue with. Surely it’s better that Copenhagen’s drug addicts are earning their money selling magazines, than if they are—for example—robbing people, shoplifting, or selling their bodies for sex?
Michael (left) and his colleague Thomas Paalsson
Are We There Yet?
Are We There Yet? is a feature in which I break down the current issue of Endtime Magazine, the bimonthly print publication of Endtime Ministries. As you might have guessed, Endtime’s purpose is to advance the notion that the end of the world is nigh and that current news events were prophesized in the Bible’s more apocalyptic passages. The magazine has been published for 22 years without ever questioning whether the end times are actually upon us, which is impressive in a way. I’ll be writing this column every other month or so until the sounding of the first trumpet, or until I get bored with it, whichever comes first.
You’d think it would be pretty fun to write for a magazine where you constantly get to talk about the end of the world—the gigantic battle between good and evil, the seven seals, the Antichrist announcing himself, all that cool stuff. It’d be especially thrilling for you every time a new pope gets announced because, obviously, you get to ask, IS THIS POPE THE FINAL, EVIL POPE WHO WILL USHER IN THE AGE OF THE ANTICHRIST? Plus you get to run a cover of that new pope surrounded by flames and resembling a villain from one of the Star Wars prequels.
(The secret to making the Catholic church look evil is that any old man in fancy robes like that looks evil. And that collection of cardinals behind the pope on Endtime’s cover provide another ominous-looking visual. If the church wants to improve its image, maybe it should stop dressing its leaders in blood-red robes and having them assemble in high-ceilinged places full of ancient, grotesque statues? Gatherings like this look fucking terrifying. But I digress.)
This woman thinks Anne Frank’s diary is pornographic. Is she the cry-baby on the week?
An Interview with Harmony Korine
In 1998, shortly after his feature-length directorial debut, Gummo, Harmony Korine published a novel called A Crackup at the Race Riots. The book is built from an insane collage of images and thoughts, including lists of ideas for movies, titles for novels, suicide notes, joke routines, celebrity rumors, and strange short scenes and dialogues involving rapists, amputees, dogs, vaudeville performers, and manic-depressives. Like all of Korine’s work, it is a rare collision of fun, fucked, funny, sad, and bizarre—the kind of thing you pick up every so often just to buzz your brain. For years the book has been out of print, fetching prices upward of $300 used online, until recently when it was repackaged and rereleased by Drag City. Harmony was kind enough to get on the phone with me and talk about the making of the book.
VICE: The first thing the reader sees when they open A Crackup at the Race Riots is a picture of MC Hammer at age 11. Why did you decide to start the book that way?
Harmony Korine: At the time I was doing a lot of narcotics. I remember basically the process was that I would hear things, or I would see things… I would hear somebody walking down the street, and maybe they’d say something interesting, and I’d put it on a piece of paper. Or I would see a pair of socks hanging from a telephone pole with a Star of David on the ankle, and I would just write that. Or whatever… I’d see someone juggling some toilet paper, and I would describe that. And then I would see a picture of MC Hammer at age 11, and I would just think maybe it all kind of came from his imagination.
The book is a thought in MC Hammer’s mind?
Well, it could be. Like most things in life, it could be. [laughs]
So, if I’m understanding you correctly, you basically started acquiring bits and pieces and then just let them fall as they may on the paper, in the order you found them?
Not exactly. What happened was I would just write everything down. I’d write things in crayon or on the side of the wall in my apartment, or on a typewriter or whatever. You would just see things, you know… cut them out of books. I might hear something really crazy that somebody said on a city bus, like somebody might be spewing some kind of crazy racial rant, and then I’d go back home and write that down, and then I would just look at it for a while, and I would imagine, like, What if it wasn’t that guy on the bus? What if Harrison Ford said that? What if I was actually riding a horse or something, and Harrison Ford was riding a horse, and we were riding somewhere, we could even be racing, and what if he just turned to me, and he said that same exact thing that I just heard? And I was like, Whoa! The context completely changed the humor. That’s basically what the book is. I started thinking about it like that, and there started to be these thematic connections in that way, and after I had amassed all of these fragments, these tripped-out, micro narco blurts, I went back and recontextualized them into something that was closer to a novel, or closer to a novel idea.
43 Is What a Skate Magazine Should Look Like
As skateboarding has grown in popularity and seeped into the lives of an ever-increasing number of households, the industry—and I’m painting with a broad stroke here—has morphed into a more family-friendly, watered-down version of what it once was, like MTV or domesticated animals. Which is why 43, a New York-based magazine that debuted last year from photographer Allen Ying, is a much-needed breath of clogged city air. A large-format quarterly that’s heavy on excellent photography and light on ads, 43 combines stories of late-night New York City skate missions with photos that wouldn’t be out of place on gallery walls anywhere in the city. Which is fitting, because on Tuesday night, in celebration of its third issue, 43 hosted a photo show at Temp Gallery in Tribeca.
While its previous issues have drawn praise within the skateboarding world, it’s probably safe to assume that this issue has received the most attention of any 43 so far, thanks to one of its photos body-jarring the internet a couple of weeks ago. The image above, of a gentleman by the name of Koki, ollie-ing a subway platform was spread far and wide not only on skate sites, but regular-people blogs like NYMag's and Gothamist, among others.
I caught up with Allen to talk about his new issue and the pretty things inside of it.
VICE: Let’s cut right to it. Who is Koki, the guy sailing over the 143 Street subway gap, and what is wrong with him?
Allen Ying: Koki is an MIA local, and he’s a beast! I only got to meet him that night. It was all pretty surreal, but he’s rad. Koki was the only one in our crew who thought he could do it.
I’ve heard some whispers around the ole water cooler that Gonz ollied that gap, or one like it, way back when. What do you know about that?
I heard that rumor recently too, but I haven’t heard someone definitively say, “Oh, he def did that.” It was just someone saying they heard he might have done it. I’d love to hear about it if he did; that’d be amazing.
I Went to the Playboy Mansion (and It Was Kinda Depressing)
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the Playboy mansion for a screening of that new Jennifer Lopez/Jason Statham movie, Parker. I don’t usually go to press screenings because it’s much easier to download the movie and watch it at home and not have to talk to other people, but I’d literally wanted to visit the Playboy mansion ever since I’d found out it was an option for me several seconds earlier. So I HAD to go.
Before the screening there was a reception featuring drinks and “photo opportunities” with some Playboy Playmates™® in the mansion’s main entry hall.
Hugh was supposed to be in attendance too, but he was sick. So we had to make do with this thing.
The screening was held in the drawing room. Here’s an exclusive sneak preview of it. This is from a scene where (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Jason Statham hits someone with something.
Right after I took this picture, I whispered something to the girl sitting next to me and a guy wearing a suit with Converse shoes came over and told me off for being too loud. A suit with Converses is my least favorite look ever. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to be yelled at by someone wearing an outfit that was last acceptable on Tom Green at the 2003 Nickleodeon Kid’s Choice Awards? Horrifying.
I needed to get out of there, so I decided to “get lost” while trying to find the bathroom, and see how long I could wander around the mansion before someone made me go back to the movie.
The first thing I did was go find a bathroom to poop in. I didn’t even need to, really. But how often do you get a chance to poop in the Playboy mansion? This is what you get to see while you’re pooping there, if you were wondering.
After pooping, I started to notice how crappy everything was. Am I an idiot for thinking the mansion would be nice? I figured it would at least be a little bit fancy. That was the main reason I’d wanted to visit—I’m gay, btw. Wait, are straight people even into the women in Playboy anymore? Or did that stop in the 90s? Wait, how does Playboy still exist now that the internet exists? Who on Earth is buying the magazine? The kind of person who wears a suit with Converses, probably.
Anyway, this is less nice than my bathroom at home. I keep my air freshener in a cupboard and everything.
Anne Carson vs. George Saunders
The first quarter of 2013 sees new works by two of the most highly regarded North American authors. George Saunders’s Tenth of December, a collection of stories published over the last five years, and Anne Carson’s forthcoming Red Doc>, a conceptual sequel to perhaps her most popular work, Autobiography of Red.
It has been seven years since Saunders’s previous collection, In Persuasion Nation. While that book enjoyed a relatively positive reception, it was still a far cry from the reaction to his second book, Pastoralia, which for the most part established Saunders as the kind of guy who is regularly referred to as things like “one of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation.”
And for good reason. The stories in his first two books were funny and surprising both in voice and image. You never knew what would happen next, and no matter what did, the way the story was told carried you through. Great humor and light could be found in stories that might take place in a strip club or an insanely premised theme-park and still meet the criteria of “feeling human.”
I think most people’s first reaction upon hearing that Anne Carson, who identifies as a poet, had decided to write a sequel to a novel in verse about a quasi-mythical coming-of-age erotic meta-epic was somewhere amidst surprise, excitement, slight confusion, and expectation: a good mixture of whys.
But I couldn’t curb my curiosity toward seeing what Saunders had done now. Like many of my generation, Saunders was exciting to me early on, and I’d already seen no less than three people call this book, released on the 8th day of the year, “The Best Book of The Year For Sure.” That immediate and fawning praise might have had something to do with the sudden foreboding sense of unreasonable dread the idea of actually reading the book, putting a face to what it is, elicited in me.
And yet I went in ready for the world. I always want things that have an expectation of greatness to actually be colossal, particularly in the hands of those I’ve loved before. I never give up expecting another burst like the ones I felt as a young reader finding work that changed the way I thought.
I read the first story in Tenth of December waiting for that punch. It clearly had all the mechanisms of Saunders’s best abilities: amazing timing; surprising tic-like outbursts; post-corporate entities pressed upon the human to what end; light jabs of funny sexuality; a melding of charming observation and personal slang eliciting a quick familiarity with the narrator; a sense of contemporary-condition understanding faced with moral gray area allowing vague emotional pull without forcing the issue, and so on.
When I finished the story I was left with the sense that we could go anywhere from here. It felt like an opening pending on the worlds I’d been through in his work before in a way that almost seemed ready to go past them, to build off of what had been long ago begun.
The book, for me, never transcended that beginning. It worked the territory that it knew, if always in the grand style to be expected of George Saunders, but only as far as before, and in less robust versions of what it modeled. It felt to me in the same terrain and manner of his previous ideas, working the same strings in a new way after a few relatively failed attempts in previous books at shaking a new leg. That opening story’s title, “Victory Lap,” suddenly seemed a bit too telling.
Since Saunders’s first book, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in 1996, his style has become in many ways a high-water model for a certain kind of story, one where the narrative provides a frame for the voice to propel itself toward an understanding. One finishes a Saunders story with the feeling of having been through something with someone, tasted their mind, and experienced a catalyst of change that many narrative writers would call essential.
Saunders is often able to do this without the active elements seeming as directed as others working in such form. He charms you into his world, incorporates you alongside the vision. He makes you laugh and sounds like George Saunders. It weighs more than a pound. The temporary feeling is kind of nice, if only in the way we knew it would be.
I want more.
Esquire’s Interview with Megan Fox Is the Worst Thing Ever Written
The cover story of this month’s Esquire is an interview with Megan Fox by Stephen Marche. And though I haven’t read every single thing that has ever been written, I can say, with confidence, that it is the worst thing that anybody has ever written. Ever.
It’s fucking LONG, and I know you’re busy, so here are the worst things about it.
THE WAY THE WRITER DESCRIBES HOW ATTRACTIVE MEGAN FOX IS
Megan Fox is good looking. There are various photos of her throughout the article that back this up. But just in case it’s not clear, the author breaks down her beauty in a number of riiiiiiiidiculous ways. Including:
"[Her skin is] the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters."
"Megan Fox is a bombshell. To be a bombshell in 2013 is to be an antiquity, an old-world relic, like movie palaces or fountain pens or the muscle cars of the 1970s or the pinball machines in the basement. Bombshells once used to roam the cultural landscape like buffalo, and like buffalo they were edging toward extinction."
"The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.”
The symmetry of her face is “genuinely shocking”? I’m imagining the author arriving for the interview, seeing her face for the first time and leaping back, letting out an audible gasp, “God, Megan, I am SO sorry! It’s just your face… It’s so…”
"Symmetrical?" Megan will have asked, forlorn, "I get that a lot… *sigh*.”
THE WEIRD AZTEC METAPHOR THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE
"Deep in her house, Megan Fox and I are discussing human sacrifice. I tell her about an Aztec ritual practiced five hundred years ago in ancient Mexico during the feast of Toxcatl, when the Aztecs picked a perfect youth to live among them as a god. He was a paragon, beautiful and fit and healthy, with ideal proportions…
"The sacrifice’s year was filled with constant delight, I tell her. He danced through the streets adorned in luxurious clothes given to him by the master, decked in flowers and incense, playing magical flutes that brought prosperity to the whole world. He had eight servants and four virgins to attend to his every need and could wander wherever he pleased. But at the end of the year, when the feast of Toxcatl came around again, the perfect youth had to smash his flutes and climb the stairs of the great temple, where the priests would cut out his heart and offer it, still beating, to the sun.
"Megan Fox is not an ancient Aztec. She’s a screen saver on a teenage boy’s laptop, a middle-aged lawyer’s shower fantasy, a sexual prop used to sell movies and jeans.
'It's so similar. It totally is,' she says quietly.
At the end of the year, the beautiful youth had to go up by himself. He had to go up willingly. That was part of the deal.
Now she is shaking her head. “Not everyone understands that that’s the deal,” she says.
Megan Fox will not go willingly to have her heart cut out.”
I understand that what occured the day of the interview probably wasn’t all that interesting. I’d imagine he sat opposite her while she talked about whatever movie she was contractually obliged to talk about. And then he had to find a way of making that seem interesting for five whole pages. But SURELY, any rational person, upon typing the sentence “Megan Fox is not an ancient Aztec” would think ‘Wait, maybe this is a bit much? Perhaps I should take a break and have another try at this in the morning.’
And let’s just forget, for a second, that what he wrote doesn’t actually make any sense at all, and concentrate instead on Megan’s reaction to it. She fucking AGREED with him! Horrifying.
MEGAN FOX BELIEVES THAT BEING FAMOUS IS WORSE THAN BEING BULLIED
“‘I don’t think people understand,” she says. ‘They all think we should shut the fuck up and stop complaining because you live in a big house or you drive a Bentley. So your life must be so great. What people don’t realize is that fame, whatever your worst experience in high school, when you were being bullied by those ten kids in high school, fame is that, but on a global scale, where you’re being bullied by millions of people constantly.’”
When I was at school, there was a kid who everyone picked on because they thought he was gay. One day, a bunch of older kids dragged him into the PE showers and forcibly inserted a broom handle into his ass. Pretty sure he’d trade lives with you, Meg.