A New Episode of VICE on HBO Premieres Tonight at 11! Preview
Tom Bianchi Photographed His Gay Paradise Before It Disappeared Forever
Close your eyes for a second and imagine you are at the party of your dreams. Everyone you love and are infatuated with is around you, the music you loved in your teens is playing, and bad trips are not a concept. You dance and you love and you spin and you love some more, and then all of your friends die.
I know it’s harsh, but it’s also sort of what happened to Tom Bianchi in the early 1980s, with the onset of AIDS. It’s also the subject of his latest book, Fire Island Pines - Polaroids 1975-1983—a selection of photos taken in a small part of Long Island called the Pines, that functioned as a kind of IRL utopia for a large community of incredibly beautiful and charismatic gay men in the 1970s.
Tom’s name, by the way, is one of those you should know, because he’s been integral in making the world you live in a nicer place than how you found it. You see Bianchi—who, in the early 70s, also worked as a lawyer in New York and Washington, DC—has spent most of his life fighting AIDS and weird heterosexual attitudes toward gay culture. He is the co-founder of a biotech company researching AIDS medication and, if he feels like it, he can also boast a long catalogue of incredibly affectionate photography, poetry, and video work.
With the release of his new book as an excuse, I called Tom up to talk desire and grow up a little.
VICE: Hi Tom, how are you today?
Tom Bianchi: I’m very good, I just had a lovely breakfast out by the swimming pool. I’m ready to go today.
OK, let’s do it. Shall we start by telling the story of how this book came to be?
Growing up and coming out in Middle America, you had to imagine a world very different to the one you were living in. The world we were living in disregarded us and called us perverts. So the brilliance of Fire Island was that it was built by those people who imagined a different world and set out to create it. We carved out the tiniest little place just for ourselves, where we could be safe and laugh and play with one another on the beach, and not have any negative judgement surrounding us. What that did was attract the best and the brightest gays from all over America—particularly because of its proximity to New York, which was the centre of so much culture, fashion, style, and even film. It was a very glamorous time.
Was the creation of this neighborhood planned or circumstantial?
The island is a 36 mile-long barrier a few miles off the Long Island coast, separated into small communities by extended open sand dunes. The Pines, which is one of these little villages, is a mile-long grid of boardwalks connecting about 600 houses built on telephone pole stilts sunk into the sand. Back then, some real-estate guys got to building on this virgin terrace, and it just so happened that the place began to attract bohemian New Yorkers; writers and artists would come out and live in little shacks. It wasn’t intended for the gay community, but it made sense when it formed to be a home for it.
And you happened to be there with a fancy, new Polaroid camera, too.
I was a lawyer at Columbia Pictures at the time. At an executive conference in Miami, we were given an SX-70 Polaroid camera. It was this little plastic thing, which I took to Fire Island a little while later and started taking pictures of my friends. At the time, a lot of people were still in the closet so, as you can understand, they were extremely wary of having their picture taken. So, the important thing about this camera was that it allowed me to take the picture and a few minutes later put it out on the table for people to take a look. It made everyone immediately more comfortable and I very quickly formed the intention to show the world what a cool, amazing place the capital of Queerdom was. Or the provincial part of it [laughs].
What Does Terrorism Mean in 2013? An Interview with Glenn Greenwald
VICE: What do you think about the media reaction to the Woolwich murder?
Glen Greenwald: Media outlets reacted pretty uniformly to the attack. They reacted the way that media outlets typically do to these kinds of incidents, which is by simply stating that it was a terrorist attack and channeling outrage about the unprecedented, barbaric act that everyone saw take place.
Do you think it was a “terrorist” attack?
What the word terrorism typically means in reality, functionally, when it’s most commonly used by our media, is that the perpetrators are Muslim, and that they are driven by either religious or political motivations. I think that when it became clear that the perpetrators were Muslim (they said “Allah Akbar” during the attack), then media outlets instantly said that this was an act of terror, and politicians sort of did at the same time. The premise here is that if the violence is perpetrated by Muslims against the West, for a political cause, then by definition it’s terrorism, but not the other way around. It’s very typical to call this a terrorist attack without including all sorts of acts of violence that the US and UK has routinely engaged in over the last decade.
Watch This Is What Winning Looks Like, our new documentary about chaos, corruption, sexual abuse, and the war in Afghanistan.
Then head to Reddit and ask Ben Anderson, the filmmaker behind the doc, a question.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
Horrible People Are Exploiting Cambodia’s Orphanages
Once upon a time, long before Angelina Jolie got a mastectomy, she adopted a Cambodian child. As a result, privileged Westerners of all nationalities flocked to the country’s orphanages in the hope of simultaneously nurturing a child and their own sense of self-worth.
In 2012 alone, Cambodia was visited by 3.5 million tourists, so I guess someone was eventually bound to put two and two together and realize that the hundreds of orphanages throughout the country could be exploited into becoming a tourist attraction for the rising amount of foreign visitors.
The country’s orphanage boom all began in the early 70s, when Pol Pot marauded around the country, intentionally splitting up villages, slaughtering families and imprisoning the educated populace in an attempt to win the civil war. The tactic worked for Pol and his Khmer Rouge regime, but left thousands of children displaced, so NGOs came flooding in to salvage the situation by building orphanages all over the country.
Thirty years later, Cambodia now boasts more than 500 orphanages—a figure that has doubled in the last decade, presumably because the large donations they receive are a much easier way to make money than actually working. Sadly, that nifty little ruse seems to have become public knowledge, and the exploitation of Cambodia’s orphans has turned into a booming, multi-million dollar industry.
This Is What Winning Looks Like
This Week in Racism
Happy Confederate Memorial Day to you and yours! Yes, this is a real holiday in several southern states and the above gentleman is South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, a dedicated Civil War reenactor and total douchebag. If you’ve ever pined for the good ol’ days of manners, gentlemanly behavior, long sips of lemonade on the porch during a hot day, and ungodly human bondage, then this is the holiday for you. Giving gifts is encouraged. Your slave will most appreciate a day outside the “hot box.”
As always, with the assistance of my friends at the @YesYoureRacist Twitter account, I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “racist” being the most racist.
- The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank dedicated to developing all the world’s dumbest ideas, released a study that claimed that immigration reform will cost the United States at least $6.3 trillion. That may or may not be true. I ain’t no mathematician. What I do know is true is that it recently came out that a co-author of the study, Jason Richwine, wrote his doctoral thesis at Harvard about the relative intelligences of the races. “The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations,” Richwine claimed in his thesis, which was written in 2009, not 1959. Richwine argued that immigration should be selective based on IQ because “no one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” If we’re going to keep dumb Mexican people out of our country, then can we also deport all the dumb white people? Can we give Rush Limbaugh his own island?
- A poster in France calling for demonstrations against gay rights stirred up plenty of controversy this week for portraying Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a raging giant gorilla with cornrows and glowing eyes. The Taubira-gorilla is depicted as being swarmed by a crowd of homophobic protesters, who just so happen to be entirely white. The designer of the image deleted the post and apologized for the racist imagery, but only after it went viral. Funny how racism and homophobia tend to go hand in hand… 8
- The state of Michigan recently passed Public Act 436, which gives borderline dictatorial authority to an emergency manager to “supersede local ordinances, sell city assets, and break union contracts” in areas of the state that are economically impoverished, according to the Atlantic. These emergency managers currently function in six cities in Michigan, including Detroit. Around half of the black people in Michigan live in these six cities, which means that they all basically live without basic democratic rights. RACIST
Kangaroo Scrotums Are the New Victims of Global Warming
Climate change is a huge concern for many, many reasons: the ice caps are melting, droughts are sweeping the world, and mega-hurricanes are striking cities that have never before had to weather such storms. But it’s only recently that climate change has threatened Australia’s hilarious but substantial kangaroo nutsack trade. The hopping marsupials’ scrotums, which are crafted into souvenir bottle-openers and key rings, have made manufacturer John Kreuger, hereby known (by me) as the King of Ballsacks, hundreds of thousands of dollars. These days, however, John’s trade is suffering due to a series of floods in Queensland—which some meteorologists believe to have been caused by climate change. The flooding has purportedly pushed kangaroos inland and away from the areas where they’re normally killed for their testicles. John told me how it feels to have his balls literally on the line.
VICE: How have the floods affected the scrote business?
John Kreuger: The older animals tend to sense weather patterns. They know it’s going to rain. They then head to the desert country away from cull areas, especially the big guys. Consequently, I’ve found it harder and harder to get people to supply me with the bigger scrotums I need.
Scientists are blaming the floods on climate change and saying that this has caused kangaroos to flee to habitats that would normally be of no interest to them. Do you believe global warming is the cause of the Great Kangaroo-Scrotum Shortage?
You’d have to be pretty dumb to not notice the signs. I’m 72, and if you talk to the older people, they say, “Oh, everything is changing, we weren’t getting these cyclones as regular as we are now.” A cyclone might have hit the coast once every seven years, but now it’s once every few. So many things are pointing to a change—scientists have been saying this for years.
Where are all the kangaroos heading now?
They head inland away from the lower-lying areas. By instinct or whatever, I don’t know, they know they can get trapped in the lowlands. The ones left behind are the younger, which are not so smart, and of course their scrotums are not big enough for what I need.
What will you do if they don’t come back?
I am stockpiling a lot of scrotums; I’ve probably got about 50,000 in storage. We process about 1,000 a week, so we have a 12-month supply there. And we’re buying them as soon as they become available. The basis of my successful business is having all products. If I haven’t got them, I’m out of business.
So you’re prepared for an environmental scrotum crisis of immense proportions?
I’m well aware of climate change. I think we create heat and it’s affecting the world. I plan ahead, but I take things one day at a time. I can afford to at my age.
Read more from our The World Hates You Issue:
Meet Sohel Rana, the Most Hated Man in Bangladesh
Mayday in Bangladesh: “The serenity of Jurain graveyard seems more than other days on Wednesday as 32 workers whose bodies remained unclaimed made their final journey,” is how the local Daily Star described it.
And now begins the sideshow. It’s much more engaging than the main event, it must be said. Yesterday, theNew York Times’ Jim Yardley, who has been excellent on the subject of labor abuses in Bangladesh, delivered a short and amazing profile of Sohel Rana, the 35-year-old owner of Rana Plaza, the massive factory outside Dhaka which collapsed last week, killing at least 400 workers.
Rana appears to be typical of a certain type of Bangladeshi garment magnate: crass, vulgar, nouveau-riche, and involved in equal measure in organized crime and high politics. He rode with his entourage on motorcycles, he’s accused of dealing in guns and drugs, he seized the land where he and his father built Rana Plaza from small landowners by force and through illegal paperwork, and he was protected by corrupt officials.
He was involved in the youth league of the governing Awami League. Which, to put it mildly, is not quite the same thing as being involved in the Young Republicans. The youth wings of the national parties in Bangladesh often function as nothing more than massive gangs: the two main parties are crony organizations at the top and depend in large part on intimidation and politics-at-the-end-of-a-brickbat at the bottom. Every few months or so they call “general strikes” to protest this or that policy or as a pure show of force—the country largely shuts down and any unlucky auto-rickshaw driver caught violating the strike risks a beating or murder.