A Visit to Moscow’s Brain Institute, Where Stalin’s Brain Is Kept in a Jar
On April 14, 1930, the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide in his Moscow apartment. His closest friends, including the writer Yuri Olesha, rushed to the flat when they heard the terrible news.
As they sat in silence in the living room, a cracking sound suddenly emitted from the bedroom where Mayakovsky’s body lay.
“Only wood, it seemed, could be chopped like that,” Olesha later wrote. Someone was cutting through the wall with an axe. Moments later, a doctor in a white lab coat ran by carrying a washbasin.
Inside it was the poet’s brain.
The doctor told Mayakovsky’s friends that the brain was unusually large—more than 3.75 pounds—before loading it into a car and driving away.
Mayakovsky’s brain was taken to a brick building called the Brain Institute, which was founded by the Bolsheviks in 1928 as part of the effort to canonize Lenin. Lenin’s brain joined those of other proclaimed geniuses in a “Pantheon of Brains,” which displayed the Soviet Union’s finest minds in glass cases. The institute went on to dissect the brains of dozens of famous Soviets, including those of Sergei Eisenstein, Maxim Gorky, and Joseph Stalin. The brain-cataloging continued all the way until 1989, when the fall of the USSR put an end to this peculiar experiment.
Since then, the Institute remains open, but few reporters, Russian or foreign, have been allowed to visit. In recent years, the Institute has been trying to distance itself from the past and adopt a new reputation for modern neurological research—and catching a glimpse of Lenin’s brain in pieces might make its newfound credibility a hard sell. To my delight, however, as part of their effort to show the world how legitimate they’ve become, the Institute let me inside.
Continue

A Visit to Moscow’s Brain Institute, Where Stalin’s Brain Is Kept in a Jar

On April 14, 1930, the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide in his Moscow apartment. His closest friends, including the writer Yuri Olesha, rushed to the flat when they heard the terrible news.

As they sat in silence in the living room, a cracking sound suddenly emitted from the bedroom where Mayakovsky’s body lay.

“Only wood, it seemed, could be chopped like that,” Olesha later wrote. Someone was cutting through the wall with an axe. Moments later, a doctor in a white lab coat ran by carrying a washbasin.

Inside it was the poet’s brain.

The doctor told Mayakovsky’s friends that the brain was unusually large—more than 3.75 pounds—before loading it into a car and driving away.

Mayakovsky’s brain was taken to a brick building called the Brain Institute, which was founded by the Bolsheviks in 1928 as part of the effort to canonize Lenin. Lenin’s brain joined those of other proclaimed geniuses in a “Pantheon of Brains,” which displayed the Soviet Union’s finest minds in glass cases. The institute went on to dissect the brains of dozens of famous Soviets, including those of Sergei Eisenstein, Maxim Gorky, and Joseph Stalin. The brain-cataloging continued all the way until 1989, when the fall of the USSR put an end to this peculiar experiment.

Since then, the Institute remains open, but few reporters, Russian or foreign, have been allowed to visit. In recent years, the Institute has been trying to distance itself from the past and adopt a new reputation for modern neurological research—and catching a glimpse of Lenin’s brain in pieces might make its newfound credibility a hard sellTo my delight, however, as part of their effort to show the world how legitimate they’ve become, the Institute let me inside.

Continue

Getting High on HIV Medication

In 1998, the antiretroviral drug efavirenz was approved for treatment of HIV infection. Though the drug was highly effective, patients soon began to report bizarre dreams, hallucinations, and feelings of unreality. When South African tabloids started to run stories of efavirenz-motivated rapes and robberies, scientists began to seriously study how efavirenz might produce these unexpected hallucinogenic effects. 

Hamilton Morris travels to South Africa to interview efavirenz users and dealers and study how the life-saving medicine became part of a dangerous cocktail called “nyaope.”

Pablo Escobar’s Old Estate Is Now a Weird, Jurassic Park-Themed Zoo

When Colombian National Police finally put a bullet through Pablo Escobar’s head in December 1993, he was running what was probably the most successful cocaine cartel of all time, worth some $25 billion. You can do pretty much anything you want with that kind of money, and Escobar did, building houses for the poor, getting himself elected to Colombia’s Congress, and running much of the northeastern city of Medellín as his own personal fiefdom.

In 1978 he bought up a vast tract of land outside the city and started building Hacienda Nápoles, the sort of sprawling complex that you’d expect the world’s richest drug dealer to inhabit, complete with its own array of wild animals. When he died, the land was ignored for a decade and fell into disrepair. The house was looted by locals who were convinced he’d stashed money or drugs in the walls, and the hippos turned feral.

Eventually, some bright spark hit upon the idea of reopening the estate as an adventure park. They kept the name, gave it a Jurassic Park-style makeover and reopened it to the public, creating the ultimate family-friendly tourist destination: a still pretty run-down complex with some dinosaur figurines, some hippos, and the enduring, unavoidable legacy of a man whose cartel were responsible for anywhere between 3,000 to 60,000 deaths.

Continue

“It was like a David Lynch movie through the prism of Satan’s asshole. The anti-Galápagos. Darwin in reverse.” 
Watch Snake Island, Part Two

“It was like a David Lynch movie through the prism of Satan’s asshole. The anti-Galápagos. Darwin in reverse.” 

Watch Snake Island, Part Two

"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."
We went to Snake Island

"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."

We went to Snake Island

"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go." 
We went to Snake Island, which is exactly what it sounds like: An island off the coast of Brazil that’s full of deadly snakes who can “liquefy your insides” with one bite. 
Watch Snake Island, Part 1

"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go." 

We went to Snake Island, which is exactly what it sounds like: An island off the coast of Brazil that’s full of deadly snakes who can “liquefy your insides” with one bite. 

Watch Snake Island, Part 1

In a land far, far away, love flourishes in a kingdom quite unlike any other. In mushroom-shaped homes and old dormitories, a community of dwarfs—all less than 51 inches tall—can be found singing, dancing, and performing on a daily basis for visiting tourists.

In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, we send VICE magazine’s creative director, Annette Lamothe-Ramos, to visit the controversial theme park, Kingdom of the Little People.
Watch Kingdom of the Little People 
 

In a land far, far away, love flourishes in a kingdom quite unlike any other. In mushroom-shaped homes and old dormitories, a community of dwarfs—all less than 51 inches tall—can be found singing, dancing, and performing on a daily basis for visiting tourists.

In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, we send VICE magazine’s creative director, Annette Lamothe-Ramos, to visit the controversial theme park, Kingdom of the Little People.

Watch Kingdom of the Little People

 


While the super-car or the SUV has replaced the camel as the most popular means of transportation in the modern Emirates, the animal retains an important place in the nation’s heart. “Beautiful camel” may strike you as something of an oxymoron. But many a bedouin or sheikh will think nothing of dropping up to $3 million dollars on a so-called prized beauty, in the hope that she’ll bring home the coveted Bayraq—the fairest camel in the land. In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, Charlet finds herself the only woman in the desert, looking for the elusive beauty in the beast.

While the super-car or the SUV has replaced the camel as the most popular means of transportation in the modern Emirates, the animal retains an important place in the nation’s heart. “Beautiful camel” may strike you as something of an oxymoron. But many a bedouin or sheikh will think nothing of dropping up to $3 million dollars on a so-called prized beauty, in the hope that she’ll bring home the coveted Bayraq—the fairest camel in the land. In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, Charlet finds herself the only woman in the desert, looking for the elusive beauty in the beast.

Kingdom of the Little People (Trailer)
In a land far, far away, love flourishes in a kingdom quite unlike any other. In mushroom-shaped homes and old dormitories, a community of dwarfs—all less than 51 inches tall—can be found singing, dancing, and performing on a daily basis for visiting tourists.

In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, we send our creative director, Annette Lamothe-Ramos, to visit the controversial theme park Kingdom of the Little People.

Kingdom of the Little People (Trailer)

In a land far, far away, love flourishes in a kingdom quite unlike any other. In mushroom-shaped homes and old dormitories, a community of dwarfs—all less than 51 inches tall—can be found singing, dancing, and performing on a daily basis for visiting tourists.

In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, we send our creative director, Annette Lamothe-Ramos, to visit the controversial theme park Kingdom of the Little People.

I Ate Dinner at Pyongyang’s Cambodian Outpost 
Monivong Boulevard is a bustling thoroughfare in the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. So it’d be easy to wander by the low-profile restaurant that, at first glance, resembles any other Khmer food joint—if it weren’t for the billboard revealing that this restaurant has ties to the most repressive regime in the world. Welcome to “Pyongyang,” a little piece of North Korea in Cambodia.
It’s actually one of a dozen or more Pyongyang restaurants located all over Southeast Asia, all of which are owned and operated by the North Korean regime. Bona fide North Koreans staff the restaurants, which are widely believed to be laundering money and ferrying intelligence back to Kim Jong-un. TripAdvisor gives the one in Phnom Penh 3.5 stars.
I make a reservation for 7 PM and am sure to arrive on time —I imagine tardiness is frowned upon by totalitarians. Either despite or because of the fact that the restaurant is run by a dictatorship, the place is punishingly well-lit thanks to a ceiling covered in compact fluorescent bulbs. Maybe this is to help ensure no sneaky Westerners violate the ban on snapping photos.
Continue

I Ate Dinner at Pyongyang’s Cambodian Outpost 

Monivong Boulevard is a bustling thoroughfare in the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. So it’d be easy to wander by the low-profile restaurant that, at first glance, resembles any other Khmer food joint—if it weren’t for the billboard revealing that this restaurant has ties to the most repressive regime in the world. Welcome to “Pyongyang,” a little piece of North Korea in Cambodia.

It’s actually one of a dozen or more Pyongyang restaurants located all over Southeast Asia, all of which are owned and operated by the North Korean regime. Bona fide North Koreans staff the restaurants, which are widely believed to be laundering money and ferrying intelligence back to Kim Jong-un. TripAdvisor gives the one in Phnom Penh 3.5 stars.

I make a reservation for 7 PM and am sure to arrive on time —I imagine tardiness is frowned upon by totalitarians. Either despite or because of the fact that the restaurant is run by a dictatorship, the place is punishingly well-lit thanks to a ceiling covered in compact fluorescent bulbs. Maybe this is to help ensure no sneaky Westerners violate the ban on snapping photos.

Continue

← Older
Page 1 of 8