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The acid-inspired interactive art of 1960s psychedelic collective ‘The Company of Us’
11.26.2014
06:34 am

Topics:
Art
Drugs

Tags:
LSD
art


Artist Richard Aldcroft, in his “Infinity Projector,” featured on a 1966 cover of LIFE. The goggles prevented binocular vision and showed kaleidoscopic images.
 
“The Company of Us,” or USCO, was an ambitious, groundbreaking collective of artists and engineers heavily associated with LSD, although they formed in 1962, a few years prior to the explosion in public awareness of the drug. They counted among their ranks now notable artists like Gerd Stern, Stan VanDerBeek and Jud Yalkut, but at the time their ethos was rooted in collaboration and anonymity, so they only took credit for their productions as a group. Ironically, their work was actually helped by their druggy reputation, as they were featured in a 1966 LIFE magazine cover story—LIFE had published an editorial against the prohibition of LSD six months prior to USCO’s article.

The photos you see here are from their 1966 show at New York’s Riverside Museum which featured USCO’s psychedelic work in six enormous, completely tripped-out rooms. The collective created surreal environments—like “light gardens” and painted shelters—complete with electronic sounds, projections, flashing and pulsating lights, even an area with sensory goggles that blocked out any external vision. Everything moved and nothing was silent. The work was half druggy multi-media show, half interactive architecture, and it was quite the endeavor for a small bunch of outsider artists.

Stern says of the labor involved:

Part of the real problem that we had at USCO was that everything we did was very heavy. We would travel with a Volkswagen bus and trailers and thousands of pounds of equipment. Schlepping. In fact, I once wrote a piece for one of the art magazines called “The Artist as Schlepper.”

As I’m sure you would guess from an art show comprised of psychedelic rooms, many viewers of USCO’s “Down By the Riverside” exhibit were probably chemically altered, transforming the experience into a sort of amusement park of the senses where you could sit and fiddle with AV equipment or just lay there and watch the walls move. Of course, lingering and prolonged “observation” was encouraged—the show was actually where the term “be-in” was coined.
 

Painting of Hindu deity, which was flashed with color lights.
 

Artists Rudi Stern and Jackie Cassen work on an abstract slide show
 

Plastic eye illuminated with shifting light
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘How To Blow Your Mind And Have A Freak Out Party’: The stupidest record of the 1960s?
11.25.2014
12:01 pm

Topics:
Drugs
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
psychsploitation

kjtggytft
 
I have been avidly buying records since I was eight. By that age, I had a pretty full grasp of rock and roll and its furthest reaches (the second record I ever bought was Mothermania by The Mothers of Invention). I “got” what oddball records were and looked for them specifically. The Audio Fidelity label was for the most part the home of sound effects records, newfangled stereo experiment records with bongos going back & forth from speaker to speaker, calliope music, Nazi marching orchestras and all other kinds of similar cheapo ephemera. It was a budget label like the ones pre-VU Lou Reed worked for, but it rarely delved into rock and roll. There was a three-volume set called Jet Set Discotheque with a few truly remarkable garage tunes from god knows where and a little later, this psychedelic abomination, How to Blow Your Mind and Have a Freakout Party.
 
ddyjyvk
 
Had this come out on the ESP Disk label (and it certainly could have) it would have found fans who “dug” the Fugs and other off-kilter freaks, but because it was on this un-hip “bow-tie-daddy” label it aroused suspicion and was relegated to stay where these records were placed anyway, even when they were brand new—in the 99 cent cut-out bin.

Don’t get me wrong, this is most definitely an exploitation record (or a “psychsploitation record” as they are known in deep record collector lingo). Most exploitation records are recorded by older hack musicians with no clue of the subject matter (which is what gives them their charm, especially when they’re trying to be psychedelic). This record was most definitely recorded by young people. On acid. It’s crude, young, and innocently dumb, which is what saves it from being just another boring psych record. The art also resembles a kids school book drawing version of the great Cal Schenkel art on the Mothers of Invention LP covers.

I found this in a used record store in 1972 and knew immediately from the cover that I would love it. And I was right. The record is experimental beyond its time, has incredibly bizarre effects I’ve never heard on any other record from this time period, plus catchy songs (at least on side one). Around the same time I bought a Grateful Dead record and expected it to sound just like this due to their extreme hype, not the boring country record I wound up being disappointed with.
 
yktbdvj
 
The band credited is called The Unfolding. There is one name I recognize, David Dalton. There is a David Dalton won the Columbia School of Journalism Award for his Rolling Stone interview with Charles Manson, wrote bios on Andy Warhol, Sid Vicious, The Stones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc., and he co-wrote Marianne Faithfull’s autobiography. I have no idea if this is the same person but it very well may be as this was a New York label and Mr. Dalton was a New Yorker (the CD reissue liner notes are no help in this department).

This record was most certainly made for a kid like me. It comes with hysterical instructions on “how to freak out,” plus an insert where you can send for psychedelic “stuff” for your very own freakout party! The TV trick is my favorite and the first thing I ran to try, messing up my parents TV in the process!
 
fgkfgutdr
 

You can really turn your guests on with a mind-blowing light show with two things you probably have in your house right now: a TV set and a see-through kaleidoscope (not the kind with colored glass in the bottom). First put a rock and roll record on the phonograph. Turn on your TV and make the image jump in time to the music by turning the vertical knob all the way to the left or right. Now point the kaleidoscope at the TV screen. This is a guaranteed TRIP. Now play the same record at another speed. YOU ARE NOW FREAKING OUT. Enjoy it.

 
dvhgdvghkd
 

To set the scene for the party, spray pop bottles or an old chair with DAY-GLOW PAINT in bright colors, then light the whole room with DAY-GLOW light (you can buy these in any hardware or art-supply stores). This will make everything glow with weird luminous psychedelic colors. Guaranteed to blow their minds right away.

There’s even instructions on how to dress:

Wear bright really out-of-sight combinations, things that look strange together. GIRLS! This is a chance to wear something exotic and fantastic that you wouldn’t get a chance to put on. Perhaps spray an old pair of shoes with DAY-GLOW and wear DAY-GLOW tights to match. Bright oranges and greens, goofy jewelry, peacock feathers as earrings and a super mini-skirt.  GUYS! The idea is to look cool and mysterious, so wear moccasins, prayer beads, or Indian bells, psychedelic buttons, and groovy mod clothes. If you really want to blow your guests’ minds, paint your face in wild colors. It’s a chance to use some way-out make-up effects. Paint flowers on your arms and wear a mystical PSYCHEDISK on your forehead. Hypnotize your friends with its hallucinating effect.

In case you don’t have it memorized, they clue you into the (hysterical) “Psychedelic Top Ten”!
 
gkkfdlh
 
A few more instructions with a green and purple gleam in their winking third eye and we’re on our way:

Invite your grooviest friends, people who really swing, and enjoy exploring new and exciting experiences. BLOW YOUR MIND, FREAK OUT, etc. on pieces of colored paper, then glue them on to a piece of tinfoil and fold. This will let them know what kind of scene it’s going to be. Ask everyone to bring things they really dig: records, candy, people, flowers, books on flying saucers, kooky things. Tell them it’s a costume party and to come in their most out-of-sight clothes. Tell them it’s going to be a happening; they’ll get the message.

 
dfjdvf
 

By now your guests should be really grooving with your head. Get everyone involved in way-out conversations. Read your horoscopes. Compare the personalities of people born under different signs.

Oddly they leave almost nothing to your imagination, truly the antithesis of a psychedelic experience, but they must have known the plastic people they were aiming this at.
 
yfjcyjt
 
The record is broken into two parts in more than just the physical sense. The great side A (Acid Rock)  is the where all the actual songs are: “I’ve Got a Zebra—She Can Fly,” “Play Your Game,” “Girl from Nowhere,” “Flora’s Holiday” and “Love Supreme Deal.” Then the heavy comedown of the slow moving side B: “(Meditations) featuring Prama,” “Electric Buddha,” “Hare Krishna” and “Parable.” It is is a heady mix of weirdness, chanting and sound effects (from the Audio-Fidelity library no doubt) and is meant for the coming down period (of course the record is only 35 minutes long so good luck. Good luck on even turning a record over while tripping your ass off… how did we DO that? Haha and truly, good luck on even listening to side two with its babbling nonsense surrounded by slide whistles, bells, and backwards thingamajigs). You can hear the whole record in this YouTube clip Listen Seriously Dudes!
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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Eyes on drugs
11.25.2014
09:17 am

Topics:
Drugs

Tags:
pupils


 
VICE visited a nightclub in Berlin and photographed close-up images of people’s eyeballs while they were under certain er, illegal (and some legal) substances to see it you can tell what drug they’re on by the size of their pupils.

Opiates tend to constrict your pupils while the likes of cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines—“speedier” drugs—will dilate your pupils.

Apparently German police use a device that’s called a “pupillograph” (kinda like a pair of glasses) that can determine if someone’s on a drug by the size of their pupils before the blood test results even come back. From what I’ve read online about the “pupillograph,” the device doesn’t actually work too well with determining drug use. It works great for determining glaucoma, though!

I don’t know. These all seem kinda bogus if you ask me. It really depends on what lights are on around them and the flash on the camera. I’m not saying they aren’t on drugs, but I take this with a grain of salt.

Anyway, I guess it’s sorta interesting to look at.


 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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1948 NYC pot bust caught on film. Arrestee has a mean case of the giggles
11.25.2014
07:39 am

Topics:
Drugs
History

Tags:
marijuana
New York City
pot


 
As public support for the decriminalization of marijuana grows, states are loosening restrictions left and right and the US is making its slooooooow crawl towards sane drug policies. Yes, we still have a long way to go before we’re able to proudly and patriotically blow bong rips in a cop’s face, but I believe it’s healthy to acknowledge our progress and reflect on the enormous precedent of drug panics we’re gradually counteracting—so let’s check out some vintage newsreel from a drug bust in 1948!

In this dramatic Telenews short, five men and one woman are arrested for their stash of 60 “reefers” (joints) and $2,000 worth of bulk weed! That’s $2,000 in 1948, and the weed was probably terrible back then! This was before mandatory sentencing guidelines for pot, meaning these folks had no idea what kind of jail time or fines they might receive, and yet, they don’t seem particularly worried! One dude in particular can’t stop laughing; what a curiously inexhaustible humor he has!

Despite what was then the prevailing public perception of pot as a volatile gateway to psychosis and/or heroin addiction, our jovial drug dealers’ neighbors appear unruffled by the bust, and like true New Yorkers, they immediately start discussing the newly vacant apartment.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘The Complete Zap Comix’ box set is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever


 
Over the Halloween weekend I was visiting my family in Wheeling, WV (it was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary) and I needed to buy a cheap one-hitter to help get me through it. There’s only one place to buy that sort of thing in my hometown and this would be Wheeling’s sole smut emporium, the very downmarket Market Street News.

Thirty-five years ago, in better economic times for that town, Market Street News was still a dirty book store, but back then it also sold bongs, rolling papers, fake drugs like “Lettuce Opium” or “Coke Snuff,” British rock mags, National Lampoon, biker rags like Easy Rider and Iron Horse, High Times and a small handful of underground comics. A bead curtain separated the front of the shop from the over 21 area and the place smelled heavily of incense, cigarettes and Pine-Sol. It was here, age 11, where I bought my first issue of High Times, the October 1977 issue with Johnny Rotten on the cover and the now infamous “Ted Nugent shits his pants to get out of the draft” interview. What kind of degenerate sold a little kid High Times?

Let me assure you that I was not an innocent child. By that age, I’d already read Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!, I owned a copy of Naked Lunch and had already tried getting high (unsuccessfully) by eating fresh ground nutmeg and morning glory seeds, something I’d read about in that book’s infamous index section. I wanted to do drugs, I just didn’t know where to get ‘em (aside from “Lettuce Opium,” which yes, I admit that I tried.“Coke Snuff,” too!)

I couldn’t “score” real drugs, but at the age of 11, in a low level smut shop in a podunk West Virginia town, I was able to get my mitts on something equally mind-expanding (and only slightly less illicit): Zap Comix. Lewd, crude, incendiary, mind-blowing in the extreme and incredibly smart, I embraced Zap Comix wholeheartedly, even if I, a sixth grader, was considerably younger than the audience of “adult intellectuals” it was ostensibly intended for.
 

 
Although Zap founder Robert Crumb himself was already a very well-known and widely respected artist and counterculture hero by the time I discovered Zap in 1977, I can’t image that it was too much earlier than 1973 or ‘74 that something like Zap Comix would have had the kind of distribution that would have allowed it filter down to small town America. The first (#0) issue of Zap came out in 1968. Not every small town had a head shop at that time, of course, and even when they did, carrying Zap Comix—which presented some completely insane stuff, images WAY more perverse than anything that was being cooked up in Denmark or Sweden at the time—was probably not worth the heat it would bring, especially in that line of work. If they can bust you for selling bongs, why carry filthy and obscene comic books to further tempt fate?

Most people probably found out about Zap generally around the same time I did, no matter what age they were. Unless you were living in a big city or in a college town, it would have been highly unlikely to have encountered it otherwise. This is why I associate Zap with the punk era. At least that’s when a copy first made it into my young hands.

Crumb did the first two issues on his own before ultimately assembling a “Magnificent Seven” of the best underground artists around—San Francisco poster artists Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso, Marxist biker cartoonist Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton (the creator of “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”), painter Robert Williams, the demented S. Clay Wilson and later, after Griffin’s death, Paul Mavrides, known for his Church of the Subgenius graphics. The Zapatistas were a sort of “supergroup”—the dharma warriors of comics. Inkslingers. Revolutionaries. The best of the best. Their only yardsticks for comparison were each other and that sort of fraternal competition raised the bar and kept their art constantly evolving and their social satire razor sharp.
 

 
Like punk (and Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Firesign Theatre and John Waters) Zap Comix kind of helped to deprogram me at a young age during my rustbelt Christian upbringing. My deeply religious parents never looked twice at my “funnie books” but if they had they’d have been utterly appalled, finding between the covers of Zap Comix characters like S. Clay Wilson’s gay pirate “Captain Pissgums” who liked to have his crew of perverts, um, piss in his mouth or the “Checkered Demon,” a randy devil cheerfully doing the most obscene things that I’d ever seen depicted on the printed page. It was shocking then and it’s equally shocking today.

Take a look at this short piece from S. Clay Wilson titled “Head First”—IF YOU DARE.

See what I mean? Remind yourself that this strip is now nearly half a century old. The reason I linked to it is because embedding it would probably have made our advertisers very nervous about what kind of people we are! Crumb’s Zap contributions were never as out and out repulsive as Wilson’s, yet he was still utterly fearless in portraying his own infantile sexual fantasies and neuroses (and finding willing groupies to help him act them out along the way. Which he then wrote about in subsequent issues of Zap. Heavy meta…).

The goalposts have moved quite a bit over the decades as “obscenity” has been redefined by culture, AND YET that vile, hilariously fucked up strip has lost virtually none of its power to offend. This is only one of the reasons to love S. Clay Wilson—whose work ultimately sets the tone of Zap because his is the wildest, most feral and least compromising—his willingness to basically puke on his reader’s sensibilities, no matter how “far out” they think they are. The sole purpose is to be brutally offensive, no more no less. You can look for something deeper, go ahead, but I’m not sure you’re going to find it in a piece like “Come Fix” (click for pdf) in which a lesbian biker chick injects semen intravenously with an interesting result.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #14 by S. Clay Wilson
 
In the context of the late 1960s that was something both sickening and ENLIGHTENING. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with flower power or hippie. Zap Comix was cynical and dark, twisted and perverted, full of “gags, jokes, kozmic trooths.” Zap wasn’t interested in persuading you of anything, it wanted to beat its epiphanies into you.

This is another reason I see Zap Comix as being aligned with punk, because philosophically-speaking it was. Indeed in its crudeness, lewdness and desire to shake its readers out of their complacency, Zap anticipates punk (and a lot of other things!) and surely would have influenced many of punk’s prime movers who undoubtedly were exposed to it.

Anyway, when I bought my one-hitter, I got into a conversation with the guy behind the counter and I mentioned that I used to buy Zap Comix there when I was a kid. Then the very next morning in the hotel I read an article in the New York Times about how Fantagraphics were publishing the complete run of Zap, along with a sixteenth and final issue, in a deluxe slipcase box set weighing over 20 lbs, complete with sixteen high quality giclée prints of each Zap Comix cover.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #13 by Victor Moscoso
 
I immediately wrote to Fantagraphics fab director of publicity Jacq Cohen and requested a review copy of The Complete Zap Comix. It was sent Fedex two-day shipping, which seemed to me to be the longest two days of my entire fucking life. An eternity. In fact, it ended up being a day late, and by that time, I was truly salivating over the prospect of its arrival. I was not disappointed. I’m a man with a lot of toys and The Complete Zap Comix went immediately into my “prized possessions” category. If you’re reading this thinking “Yep, I need that” trust me, you do need it. However, as far as pricey Christmas presents to yourself go, you might not want to wait for Santa to lay this one under your tree because it’s probably going to sell out. Only 2500 have been printed and from what I can tell anecdotally from how many friends of mine are buying it, it won’t last long.

The irony of turning something that was once sold in dirty bookstores into a $500 collectible is delicious, but I can’t think of a more deserving title than Zap. The production quality of The Complete Zap Comix is first rate and the pages are clearer than they’ve ever been, blown up to 9.75” x 13.25” and painstakingly cleaned up digitally. Everything comes in a sturdy, gold-embossed slipcase and there’s a separate book dedicated to “The Zap Story,” an oral history/scrapbook that also reprints some Zap rarities and “jams” where each of the artists would complete a frame or two—upping the ante in the process—and then pass it on to the next guy.

In the title here, I declare that The Complete Zap Comix box set “is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever” and I’m only semi-exaggerating. Seeing the whole of the Zap run laid out like this, it seems obvious—so very, very obvious—what a profound and truly American cultural treasure this is. This is great art of historical and cultural importance that changed people, blew their minds and inspired them. I know that it changed ME. Zap Comix deserves to be reappraised and valued for what it’s truly worth and Fantagraphics has done an amazing job with this stunning box set.

Now the Smithsonian Institute needs to step up to the plate while the remaining Zap artists are still alive and kicking against the pricks and give them their due. It could happen. It should happen. Let’s hope it does happen.

Below, one of the greatest—and most eerily prophetic—comics EVER by Gilbert Shelton, “Wonder Wart-Hog’s Believe It or LEAVE It!”...Um… he could be talking about TODAY’s America, here, couldn’t he???
 

 
More classics from Zap Comix after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Freeze, you dirty dopers’: The ‘Heroin Haikus’ of William Wantling
11.19.2014
12:46 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Drugs

Tags:
poetry
heroin
William Wantling


 
If the American poet William Wantling (1933-1974) had not existed, it would have been up to Charles Bukowski  to invent him—in fact, the two men did know each other. Wantling spent most of his life in Illinois but served in Korea and also did time in San Quentin for unspecified crimes, although it may have been forging prescriptions, which would make him the original drugstore cowboy. (His inmate number in the California Dept. of Corrections system was A45522.)

After prison, Wantling studied and eventually taught at Illinois State University. Samuel Zaffiri said of Wantling that his post-prison life was “a constant search for things which would get him drunk or high.” Zaffiri also wrote of Wantling, “He was a manipulator and all with whom he came in contact, whether best friend or casual acquaintance, were game for his wiles. He wheedled, begged, lied.” According to Kevin E. Jones, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the poet, “Wantling lied, cheated, ripped off his friends, shat in their bathtubs.” Sounds like quite a guy.

And, as it happens, exactly the guy to think up the idea of writing haikus about the heroin life. Spero was a literary magazine published in Flint, Michigan, in 1965 and 1966. The first issue featured William Burroughs and LeRoi Jones; the second issue had a tiny little booklet tucked into a tiny little pocket—the booklet was Wantling’s Heroin Haikus.
 

William Wantling
 
It should be noted that Wantling’s understanding of the haiku form was looser than yours or mine, most likely. Wantling ignores the line lengths and focuses on the syllable count, the poem has to have 17 syllables. I guess that’s why, in a beautiful bit of purposeful modesty, they’re called “some seventeen-syllable comments.”

Here are three of them:
 

THE FIX

Give me the moment
that will join me to myself
in a mad embrace

LOS ANGELES—2

I bring a can of weed.
Grady brings pills and peyote.
Party time!

THE BUST

A knock, the door
flumps down.
Shotguns, the heat screams—
Freeze, you dirty dopers!

 
At the Division Leap bookstore and gallery in Portland, Oregon, you can buy a copy of Spero #1 and #2—complete with Heroin Haikus tucked in a little pocket—for just $350.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
More heroin haikus after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Short animation describes what drug addiction is like
11.19.2014
10:57 am

Topics:
Drugs

Tags:
Addiction


 
Without giving too much away, here’s a short animation by Andreas Hykade that shows in a very simplistic way what drug addiction is sorta like.

The more the bird-like creature chases the high, the less he’s able to fly and the fall to earth gets bumpier each time. I’m not certain what the creature’s drug of choice is—it’s represented by a golden nugget—but I think it’s safe to say you can fill in the blank with anything addictive, even caffeine, gambling or an addiction to making money.

 
via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Pop art made from hundreds of discarded cigarette packages
11.18.2014
08:37 am

Topics:
Art
Drugs

Tags:
cigarettes
pop art


Silver Camels, 2013
Discarded Camel cigarette packages on linen

 
Probably the strangest thing about the artist Robert Larson is that none of the writeups of his work that I’ve seen bother to say whether he smokes or not. Not knowing anything else about it, I’d surmise that he does, but so much emphasis is placed on the role of “scavenging” in his work that I have to assume he does not smoke. Which is a little weird! So Larson spends hours and hours walking around his hometown of Santa Cruz, California, where he collects discarded cigarette packs and other ephemera in order to create his striking geometrical collages. It seems an intriguing variant of pop art in which the actual mass-produced product is incorporated in the art. After all, Andy Warhol didn’t use actual Brillo boxes, he made them. Larson’s cut out the middle man here.

Larson’s work is interesting because it’s almost too aesthetic and/or beautiful to land any particular point about the dangers of lung cancer, if such is even his aim. And to be honest, that’s the right approach because the links between smoking and disease are, after all, very well known. But to take such depressing subject matter and turn them into a pleasing piece of art, that’s more impressive.
 

Red Flower with Gold, 2010
Discarded cigarette packages, encaustic on linen

 

Unchained, 2013
Discarded Marlboro cigarette packages on paper

 

Green Triangles, 2012
Discarded Newport cigarette packages, encaustic on linen

 

Gold Flower with Red, 2010
Discarded cigarette packages, encaustic on linen
 

Red Honey, 2008
Discarded Marlboro cigarette packages, encaustic on linen

 

Bloom, 2012-2013
Discarded cigarette packaging on canvas

 

Meditations On Top, 1997-2007
Discarded Top rolling paper packaging on linen

 

Passage, 2011
Discarded white-generic matchbooks on linen

 

Blue Honey, 2010
Discarded Marlboro packaging on linen

 

Slow Burn, 2007
Discarded Zig Zag rolling papers on linen

 
More pretty cigaratte artworks after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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93-year-old great grandmother smoking weed for the first time
11.17.2014
12:24 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Drugs

Tags:
Marijuana


 
93-year-old “Silver Princess” and her son “Open Sky”—these are their code names, btw—record themselves smoking the good shit for the very first time. Since they both live in the state of Washington where weed is legal, grandma and her son are willing to try it at least once. Why not, right? Hilarity ensues as they videotape themselves toking up. Pure comedy.

I’m not entirely convinced this is grandma’s first time. She immediately knew the word for a spliff was a “joint” while her son struggled to find the appropriate word for it.

The whole thing is really amusing to watch and incredibly adorable, too.

 
Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Andre the Giant, boozer of mythic proportions


 
As You Wish, Cary Elwes’ new book about the making of The Princess Bride, came out on October 14—two weeks ago it made the #3 slot on the New York Times Bestseller List for Hardcover Nonfiction (it’s since slipped to #11). Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Patton and Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl were the only books keeping it from the top slot; by comparison, Elwes’ memoir was a far more surprising success. It turns out that people sure do love The Princess Bride. A lot.


The hand of Andre the Giant, cradling a regular-sized can of beer
 
And where The Princess Bride is being discussed, tales of Andre the Giant cannot be far behind. Elwes relates some incredible stories about the wrestler’s mind-boggling capacity for alcohol:
 

André was due to have an operation after he wrapped the movie. But until then the only medication he could take to deal with the pain was alcohol. Now, if you think André could eat, you should have seen him drink. It was legendary. Word had it that even before he developed the injury he could drink a hundred beers in one sitting. According to some estimates his average daily consumption of alcohol was a case of beer, three bottles of wine, and a couple of bottles of brandy. But what I witnessed was something quite different. At meal times, besides the incredible amount of food he ate, I noticed that rather than using a regular glass, André drank from a beer pitcher, which looked a lot like a regular glass in his hands anyway. In reality it was forty ounces of alcohol, which he nicknamed “The American”—usually some combination of hard and soft liquor and whatever else he felt like mixing it with that day. I should point out that not once did I notice any sign of the alcohol affecting him, which made sense given his size. …

It turns out that same night after the read-through André decided he would sample some of the finest vintage aperitifs and liqueurs from the cellars of the prestigious hotel and ended up closing the bar. When it came to last call he got up to leave but never made it to the front door, instead passing out cold in the lobby. The night porter was called, who in turn summoned security, who in turn rang engineering. Manpower was apparently needed. Yet, despite their valiant efforts, there was simply no waking or even slightly budging what could only be described as an unconscious 500-pound Gulliver spread out on their very ornate carpet. A meeting was held and the wise decision was made to leave him there. … For safety purposes, both to protect him and any passersby, they decided to place a small velvet rope barrier around André, who was by now snoring loudly enough to shake the lobby walls.

 
Elwes quotes Buttercup herself, Robin Wright, on the subject: “He was a bottomless pit. I think he went through a case of wine, and he wasn’t even tipsy.” 
 

 
As Richard English wrote in the pages of Modern Drunkard, “No other wrestler ever matched his exploits as a drunkard. In fact, no other human has ever matched Andre as a drinker. He is the zenith. He is the Mount Everest of inebriation. … Consider the number 7,000. It’s an important number, and a rather scary one considering its context, which is this—it has been estimated that Andre the Giant drank 7,000 calories worth of booze every day. The figure doesn’t include food. Just booze.”

English claims that Andre the Giant holds the record for beers consumed in a single sitting, at 119, a feat that took him (only) six hours—meaning that he drank a beer every three minutes on average. According to English, Andre’s bar tab for a month’s stay at the Hyatt in London while filming The Princess Bride came to just over $40,000.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Existential odd couple: Samuel Beckett and André the Giant had a posse

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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