Drunken Glory: Former Addicts in Minneapolis Are Getting Wasted on the Glory of God
God is descending on Minneapolis in the form of invisible spliffs and imaginary lines of coke. The Drunken Glory movement—spawned by events like the Florida Outpouring and Toronto Blessing in the 90s, at which people appeared to be inebriated and high purely off the power of God—is on the rise, as godly YouTube channels find innovative ways of reaching their younger audience.
One of those channels, Red Letter Ministries, is run by former meth addict Brandon Barthrop. We went to Brandon’s hometown of Minneapolis, which boasts the largest concentration of drug addicts and churches in America, to try to get high on the glory of God.
Brandon and his posse of waifs, strays, and former addicts spend their days sniffing “diamond oil” and tripping out to the sound of Brandon’s YouTube preaching. Christian EDM DJs down the road are going to raves and attempting to “heal” clubbers high on drugs, and mega-churches run by rehab charities like Teen Challenge are preaching the drunken glory to thousands.
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but there are still use cases that are very controversial, like medical marijuana for children. Some claim it’s a wonder drug for epilepsy, severe autism, and even to quell the harsh side effects of chemotherapy, while others decry pumping marijuana into still-growing bodies. We went to the small town of Pendleton, Oregon, where medical marijuana is legal, to visit Mykayla Comstock, an eight-year-old leukemia patient who takes massive amounts of weed to treat her illness. Her family, and many people we met along the way, believe not only in the palliative aspects of the drug, but also in marijuana’s curative effect—that pot can literally shrink tumors.
North Korean Motorcycle Diaries
For the past decade, New Zealanders Joanne and Gareth Morgan have been living the semiretired lifestyle of their dreams, traveling around the world on motorcycles alongside a few of their closest friends. They’ve traversed all seven continents on their bikes, with routes as varied as Venice to Beijing, Florida to northern Alaska, and South Africa to London, just to name a few. Gareth funds his own trips, many of which he uses to pursue philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the social-investment space. He is able to do so with money he’s made as an economist and investment manager—one who has earned the reputation for criticizing unethical practices in New Zealand’s financial-services industry.
In late August, the Morgans embarked on their most ambitious journey yet, at least physically. The real journey began years ago, when they decided they wanted to ride the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that stretches the length of North and South Korea’s shared peninsula. After countless hours of negotiation and coordination with both governments, they were granted permission. It was, the Morgans believe, the first time anyone’s ever traveled through both countries like that since the partitioning of Korea in 1945. By making the trip they hoped to demonstrate how Koreans can come together over what they have in common. To symbolize this, the Morgans took some stones from Paektu, a holy mountain in the North, and brought them to Hallasan, a similarly sacred peak in the South.
Joanne and Gareth shot the entirety of their trip, the footage from which they have graciously allowed us to cut into a short film, which will air Tuesday, December 3 on VICE.com.
Motherboard’s Brian Merchant spent a month living on nothing but Soylent, the futuristic meal-replacement drink. Watch the documentary
Will PBS Deliver the Death Blow to the NFL?
The NFL is the most powerful and popular sports league in the country. At this point, it might be the most dominant institution in America, period. In its 93 years it’s grown to become both an altar of mainstream manhood and a multibillion dollar industry that puts on the most highly rated programs on TV. The NFL is so big that fantasy football, a game for grown men where you watch players compile numbers in another game, generates a billion dollars a year by itself. By now you’re likely familiar with the widely-accepted truth that all that tackling involved in the sport damages players’ brains, often horrifically—Alan Schwarz‘s New York Times reporting on that subject started way back in 2007. But if you watch the sport, you probably don’t care enough to stop watching.
PBS Frontline is going to try to make you care more.
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, a documentary airing tonight based on a book that was released today, is the most direct assault on the league to date. The film not only reviews the by-now-at-least-faintly-familiar evidence that football collisions are very bad for you, it exposes the NFL’s attempts to cover up the damage the sport does to young men’s brains. The league’s executives and doctors come off as myopic and foolish at best, and scheming and evil at worst—in story after story, League shows NFL players dying after losing their minds due to what most independent doctors agree is football-induced brain damage, then the NFL is shown repeatedly denying the connectionbetween football and the broken families it has left behind.
VICE Podcast: The Time Philadelphia Bombed Itself
The VICE Podcast is a weekly discussion which delves inside the minds of some of the most interesting, creative, and bizarre people within the VICE universe. This week, Reihan Salam speaks with Jason Osder, the director and producer of Let the Fire Burn, a documentary that takes aim at the 1985 standoff between the Philadelphia Police and MOVE, a black radical anarcho-primitivist organization. The confrontation precipitated the firing of more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition and the unprecedented decision by the police to drop a bomb onto an American city, which resulted in the deaths of 11 MOVE members and the destruction of more than 60 homes.
The American Filmmaker Who Became a Freedom Fighter in Libya
Matthew VanDyke has had an interesting few years. In 2008, the Baltimore-born filmmaker set off on a three-year motorcycle expedition around North Africa and the Middle East, pretending to be either Afghani or Icelandic to avoid hassle from jihadists or anyone else in the region who isn’t particularly keen on Americans. During that time, he popped into bin Laden’s old home, went to cockfights in Iraq, visited mausoleums in Afghanistan and generally had a pretty nice time from the sounds of it.
In February of 2011, as he was finishing up his trip, Matthew was contacted by friends in Libya who explained the burgeoning social strife in the country, telling him that their family members were being arrested, injured or disappearing completely. In a bid to help, VanDyke flew out and became a freedom fighter against Gaddafi’s forces. Until March 13, when he was hit in the head during combat and woke up in a prison in Sirte, before being transferred to two separate Tripoli prisons, where he spent a total of six months in solitary confinement.
After he disappeared, Matthew was described in the media as a freelance journalist, and various NGOs—including the Committee to Protect Journalists—lobbied Gaddafi’s government to release him. After he was eventually broken out of his cell by other prisoners, VanDyke returned to the battlefield, which pissed off a number of journalists, who accused him of choosing to be a “journalist” only when it suited him—i.e., when he wanted to go back to freedom fighting.
Those journalists obviously didn’t quite understand the full details of his case—specifically that he’d never told anyone he was a journalist—but he remains a controversial figure in certain circles (circles that presumably don’t have any access to the internet) nonetheless. Matthew’s latest documentary, Not Anymore: A Story About Revolution, focuses on the human impact of the Syrian revolution. I gave him a call to talk about his new film, his time in prison and the distinctions between being a journalist and a documentary maker.
Matthew on his motorbike in Afghanistan.
VICE: Hi, Matthew. What has your time in the Middle East taught you about humanity?
Matthew VanDyke: I’ve basically seen the full range of humanity, from the coolest to the worst. During my years in the region, there were times that I had problems and people helped me, showing me very generous hospitality. Some of the friends I made, especially in Libya, were higher quality friends than the ones I have in America, really. But, of course, I’ve also seen some of the worst things in Libya and Syria that I’ve ever seen. It’s the full range of human experience.
What was the worst experience you had during your time there?
The worst, I guess, was when I was in prison in Libya, hearing men being violently interrogated or tortured through the walls. I’ve seen people whose feet had been beaten, I’ve seen people Gaddafi had executed – dead bodies put in graves, unmarked except for just a concrete block. On my first day in Syria, I saw a baby without a head brought into the hospital. That they would even bring the infant to the hospital had a whole other level of horror to it. They were still under shock from what had happened, I guess, so they wrapped the child in a blanket and brought it there, just hoping that something could be done.
Ghost Rapes of Bolivia