Here’s my take on Vice‘s 311-page “best of” edition, covering all 72 issues from 2003 to 2008. If this is their best of the best, I wanted to see how good it really was.
I’ll be covering the first 100 pages, which contain three sections: ‘Vice Guides,’ sex, and lastly, drugs. Each Vice article will have a short review along with a link to the original article (hyperlinks in the titles) so you can check it out for yourself and form your own opinion on whether it’s good or not.
The Vice Guides
THE VICE GUIDE TO SHIT – Five excruciatingly long pages on human feces. Vice has a thing for A-Z lists and poop, so I wasn’t surprised to find this as the first article in their best of issue.
THE VICE GUIDE TO PARTYING – The writer, referring to himself as a “party commando,” provides a play-by-play for a raunchy party that never happened and sadly never will. It involves transsexual strippers, random perverts from Craigslist, a lot of cocaine, a “drunk slut” on magic mushrooms, guests hot knifing opium in the kitchen, and a drunk guy wearing a raw chicken for undies. I’ve heard Vice parties were pretty wild, and stranger things have happened…
THE VICE GUIDE TO CANADA – As far as Canada bashing goes, this was pretty funny, especially considering Vice originated in Canada. Reading it sorta made me want to go to Montreal.
STALKING FOR BEGINNERS – Here the author, who goes by the alias ‘Mary Secret Mystery Pants,’ finds a guy at a bar and stalks the shit out of him, even going so far as to call up the poor dude’s mum and threaten her. It’s over the top and reaches a point of non-believability. I can’t imagine a writer being so desperate that they’d go to such lengths to produce an article for Vice, but then again, these are desperate times in the state of journalism.
THE VICE GUIDE TO BRITISH CUSINE – I honestly don’t even know what this is doing in any magazine, let alone a ‘best of’ issue of a popular one. It’s just some dork droning on for a whole page of precious paper about how in Glasgow they call meatballs ‘fags’ and pudding ‘spotted dick’. Guess what, no one gives a shit.
VICE’S ‘DO’S AND DONT’S’ OF PHOTOGRAPHY – Vice also have a thing for ‘do’s and don’t’ articles and have expertly managed to combine this fixation with their love of A-Z guides. The result is an A-Z ‘do’s and don’ts’ guide about photography, written by a stereotypical-polaroid-taking-hipster-photographer. #nofilter #hashtag
THE VICE GUIDE TO BEING A WHORE – This A-Z guide, written by a whore about whoring, is a lot more interesting than ‘the guide to shit’ before it. Topics covered include gang bangs, coke, phone sex, orgasms, and incest. It’s nice to know Vice employs professionals to write articles for them every now and then.
THE VICE GUIDE TO REHAB – An A-Z to rehab by a junkie who probably wrote the article in a rehab. From adolescent programs to zits, and all the withdrawal symptoms and rehab politics in between, this guide has you covered for your next visit.
THE VICE GUIDE TO CUTE – The problem with this A-Z article is there are 26 letters in the alphabet and therefore 25 too many letters covered here. One thing I got out of reading this is that all articles written by girls so far have the same writing style: short sentences, use of the word ‘fuck’ a lot (for edginess or something), a lot of words in capital letters, and really long anecdotes that are probably made up. I get the impression that Vice only has one female writer and either has split personality or doesn’t mind writing half their articles and giving writing credit to made up aliases.
THE VICE GUIDE TO FRIENDSHIP – This was written by the same girl who did the rehab guide, so my theory is starting to seem a little less crazy. The ‘guide to friendship’ was so boring I had to stop reading and take a nap, even though it’s only two pages long. The guide, if you can call it that, also appears to have a secret agenda of letting the reader know how many friends the author has. It’s name drop paradise here: Cindy, Derrick, Ben, Hanna, Emily, Jennifer, Ally Sklover, Bob, Christi Bradnox, Amy, Kevin, Judi. Notice how she subtly transitioned to first and last name drops. Does she want us to look them up on Facebook or something? We get it, you have friends. One thing that really bugs me about this writer is how she thinks drugs are the coolest thing ever. She must think that randomly inserting how she ‘used to intern at Vice and do bumps of heroin in the bathroom every 15 minutes’ makes her a super bad ass. Oh look at me, I work for Vice, snort heroin and say ‘fuck’ a lot.
THE VICE GUIDE TO GIRLS – This article has Lesley Arfin (Guide to Rehab, Guide to Friendship) and Amy Kellner (Guide to Cute) team up to make an A-Z guide on the things they love and hate about being girls. As a male reader the result is alienating to say the least. Even though this article claims it has two authors, I’m still convinced they’re the same person.
PICKPOCKET POINTERS – To prove that I’m not a sexist jerk who can’t stand women’s writing (because I’m starting to feel like I am), this article was written by a dude and I didn’t like it either. This two-page article on pickpockets, complete with a pickpocket dictionary in the middle of the first page so you can decipher the author’s overuse of pickpocket slang, did nothing to help me avoid getting my shit stolen on public transport.
THE VICE GUIDE TO GORE – This article (I think Vice uses the term ‘guide’ too loosely) features pathologist Howard C. Adelman discussing the realism of various Hollywood horror deaths. I learnt a few things about the human body that I wish I could unlearn, but hey, at least I learnt something.
THE VICE GUIDE TO IRAQ – The ‘Guide to Iraq’ was the most interesting and educating of the bunch so far, by a long shot. It’s an A-Z, like most of the others, but uses the Arabic alphabet instead of our own. Cool, huh? The guide paints a humanistic portrait of Iraq that is a far-cry from the terrorist infested one the media has constructed, and I think that’s great, cos how many people are vacationing to Iraq these days to see it for themselves? Not me. But if I ever do, I’ll be sure to invite myself inside someone’s Khandaq for a cup of shay.
GAYS OR GIRLS? – This article attempts to answer the age-old zen question of who sucks better dick; women or gay men? For the experiment, one gay and one straight guy take turns with their penises inside a glory hole, while either a woman or gay man give their best blow job on the other side. I’ll save you the blue balls: Women won. Yay!
FUCK FOOD – This short one pager goes through a grocery list of vegetables that are good for masturbating your vagina with from best to worst. Having spent my youth stacking shelves in a fruit and veg store, I’ll admit I did wonder whether some girls liked to partake in a bit of vegetable play, especially those massive ‘Lebanese’ cucumbers. Now I know for sure.
Next up were a string of sex related interviews. First, a bunch of girls were asked on the street how they got men to like them. Pretty lame and not nearly as insightful as it could have been. Then another heap of girls were asked if they ever caught their parents having sex; one of them fessed up that her parents would often be doing it in the living room when she got home from school. “I’ve seen [my Dad’s] dick a million times. They’re from Finland and they don’t care at all.” Ok, that’s not weird at all. Vice then interviewed three couples right after they finished having sex. For the most part these post-sex interviews were pretty interesting, especially considering one of the guys was interviewed twice with different girls, and not ashamed at all of being a filthy whore.
A 74 YEAR OLD JAPANESE PORN STAR – This sounds like it would make for an interesting interview, but once again Vice let us down. The guy is old as shit and just wants to act in movies, clearly not caring which ones (he mostly plays side roles in pornos and rarely does any real porn). Let down.
MY BABYSITTER WAS A GAY PORN STAR – Here the author, for the sake of producing content for Vice, rents two gay pornos that her ex babysitter starred in, watches them, and then describes in explicit detail the plot and man sex involved in each. I wouldn’t call this essential reading.
ONE RAPE, PLEASE (TO GO) – The tagline to this article is ‘I paid a male whore to rape me because I wanted to’ and pretty much sums the whole thing up. Nothing more needs to be said than that.
FUCK THE POLICE – Author has sex with three cops and rates the experience out of ten with each of them. One was old and had a thing for young girls (which it’s implied she is) and also had a small dick and came in two seconds: 4/10, second cop got an 8/10 for being attractive, but got one point taken off for taking too long to initiate the sex, and another point taken off for ‘fucking like a wimp’. Seems like looks go a long way with this girl. Third cop was a woman, and she rocked the writer’s world, earning herself a solid 10/10. If I had to rate this article I don’t think I’d be so generous.
CUT THE SHIT – This article attempts to put to rest the myth that all drugs are cut with lots of impurities. Vice bought some coke, crack, heroin, weed and ecstasy and had them tested by a chemist. The results were laughably unrealistic and in no way representative of the actual purity of street grade drugs. Their cocaine came up 98% pure, heroin 60%, crack 95%, ecstasy 100%, and weed 100% (no shit, who the fuck cuts weed?) Do yourself a favour and assume that your drugs have been stepped on at least once.
ACID VS SHROOMS – One subject was dosed with acid while the other was dosed with shrooms, and then they were both let loose in a park and followed around by a Vice crew who documented the whole trip. There’s no winner of course, because everyone wins on psychedelics, and because acid and shrooms are extremely different drugs, being very dependant on the mental state of the person taking them, but the guy on acid seemed more jittery and fragile than the guy on shrooms, who was more friendly and warm. As far as toilet reading goes this was pretty good.
HAMSTER PARTY THROWDOWN – Two guys are taken to a hotel room in NY and made to compete with each other on who can drink the most and rail the most coke in a single night. Vice lined the floor with ripped up yellow pages, filled the bathtub with bottles of beer and wild turkey, put some live parakeets on the railing and then left the guys to their own devices. At the end of the night each guy had drunk at least 25 beers, almost a full bottle of wild turkey, and a lot of cocaine. It was a tie. A bit disappointing since I was rooting for them to kill each other.
IN THE BLOOD – Vice’s editor-in-chief, Jesse Pearson, who has since started his own magazine called Apology, has a short phone interview with his estranged heroin addicted father. This one was really good. Here’s an excerpt:
Vice: Hi, it’s your son. Listen, I was wondering, who do you love more – me or heroin?
Dad: Well, I’ve got to be honest with you. A lot of the times the drugs took precedence. Let’s just say that at times I loved the drugs more.
MY COKE DEALER – An interview between a Vice writer and his coke dealer. Apparently he wanted to be an astronaut but somehow got into dealing drugs instead. I’m sure we can all somehow relate.
A COKE DEALER IN MEXICO, WHO IS WAY BADDER THAN THE ONE IN NEW YORK WHO YOU JUST READ ABOUT – This article gets the longest title so far award. While the dealer interviewed may be badder than the one previously interviewed, he’s a lot less interesting and doesn’t have the humanistic element of the small time drug dealer. Yawn.
THE (EX) BIGGEST HEROIN DEALER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD – Suleyman Ergun was responsible for supplying Europe with heroin for five years when he was 21 years old. He went from being a multimillionaire heroin trafficker who had never touched the stuff, to a small time dealer in prison where he served ten years while smacked out of his brain, to a crack cocaine addict and finally to a broke 39-year-old living with his parents. Crack will do that to you.
HEROIN’S HOMETOWN – A Vice reporter covers the heroin and opium situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s effort to stop police from stealing land from poor farmers. Compared to the other articles featured, this article is the most journalistic.
A GIANT CHINESE FINGER TRAP MADE OF RAINBOWS TRIED TO SUCK ME INTO THE SKY – The title is a dead giveaway; this is obviously an article about psychedelics. It is. Some guy tries an assortment of research psychedelic compounds, such as DPT, 2C-T-21, 4-ACO-DMT, DOC, 5-MEO-DMT, 2C-T-7, AMT, 2C-E and DIPT, to name all of them. For each compound he writes a short trip report and then suggests a street name for each, because no one is going to remember their actual names. Here’s an excerpt: “The first time I snorted DPT it terrified me so much I felt like I had just railed a line of haunted houses. Eyeballs were peeing out of everything around me and when I looked up I saw a giant Chinese finger trap made of rainbows try to suck me into the sky. Also, snorting it was so painful it made me cry. I would rather snort a handful of sand.”
THE MAGIC JEWS – Here a Jewish reporter covers the psychedelic exploits of a crew of Hasidic Jews on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Through the ingestion of LSD and 2C-E, they have rediscovered their spirituality and now regularly hold psychedelic parties. One of the Hasids spoke out about the psychedelic experience and how it personally affected him: “I grew up in Hasid, but I didn’t know God at all. Then I was an atheist, and then psychedelics came to me and I understood. Psychedelics allowed me to rediscover God. Before LSD, I hated God.”
SPIKIN’ – A short humour piece on how cocaine addiction is romanticised in movies while heroin addicts “always end up unwittingly killing a friend or having a gangrenous limb hacked off or being raped in prison while simultaneously jonesing or dying or becoming shitty poets.” When you compare movies like Blow or Scarface to Basketball Diaries and Trainspotting, it’s easy to see that his assessment is accurate: “Cocaine usually leads to jail, but it leads to ‘cool’ jail. The journey to cocaine incarceration involves trim, tense torsos, car chases, wild sex, and then an attractive, brooding stance of regret as you look back on it all and smile ruefully… But heroin is dimly lit hotel rooms, haggard girlfriends, and an atonal soundtrack.” The writer then goes on to say that he’d only do heroin if it was depicted in a lighthearted comedy like Sideways, before writing a short synopsis for said film if it ever existed. Good stuff.
PLEASE SNORT ME – This article is about a cocaine bar in Brooklyn called Kokies. It was shutdown in 2001, so don’t put visiting it on your ‘to do list’. I wouldn’t put reading this article on that list either.
So there you have it, my guide to Vice magazine during their peak writing period. In total I rated 14 out of the 35 articles covered as being good reads. If you want to abuse either me or Vice, please do so in the comments section below!