Playing Golf on LSD With Hunter S. Thompson: Esquire Editor Remembers the Oddest Game of Golf

At 3:33 one morning in February 2005, Hunter S. Thompson rang up Bill Murray. "I've invented a new sport," declared the writer to the actor. "It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing." How do you play it? Why, you "shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant 'green' and making a 'hole in one.'"

Murray, a known night owl and avid golfer in touch with his own Thompsonian side at least since portraying him in 1980's Where the Buffalo Roam, seemed pleased enough with the idea. Alas, Shotgun Golf never had the chance to become America's new national pastime; Thompson's explanation of it came in the very last column he wrote before his death at the age of 67. Given the, shall we say, colorful life he lived and the drug-and-drink regimen that fueled it to the end, making it to late middle age counts as one of his accomplishments in itself.

We'll never know what exact cocktail of substances inspired Thompson to come up with Shotgun Golf in the first place, but it came at the end of a long personal history of mixing drugs and clubs. Esquire recently ran an excerpt from The Accidental Life, its former editor Terry McDonell's new memoir, about a session of "acid golf" with George Plimpton and the man who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. No sooner did they arrive at the Aspen Golf Club (and goose sanctuary) than Thompson brought out the essential pre-game supplement: "'Here,' Hunter said, holding out three white tabs of blotter paper with an unfamiliar red symbol on them. 'Eat these.'"

Before long, McDonnell feels himself "peacefully soaring." Then the session, which also involves a fair bit of drinking, comes down to a high-stakes putt: "We were all in for $1,000, Hunter said." Thompson, despite painstaking minutes spent lining it up, "missed the putt by about a foot and, charging after it, let out a howl as he winged his putter into the pond. The geese started honking and Hunter ran back to the cart, pulled the 12-gauge from his golf bag and fired over the geese, and they lifted off the pond like a sparkling cloud of gray and white feathers."

"It occurred to me as I watched the glitter blend into the fading sky,' writes McDonnell, "that having a story to tell about acid golf with Hunter and George was probably good for my career." You can watch a video on that story at the top of the post. And what, finally, have we learned from it? In the company of Hunter S. Thompson, even plain old acid golf called for a shotgun.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

“Muhammad Ali, This Is Your Life!”: Celebrate Ali’s Life & Times with This Touching 1978 TV Tribute

Tonight, we pass along the sad news that Muhammad Ali, one of the great athletes and personalities of our time, has passed away at the age of 74. Having battled Parkinson's Disease for decades, his passing doesn't come as a complete surprise. But, for anyone who remembers Ali in his prime, this news will certainly come as a blow. There is perhaps not a better way to remember Ali's life and times than to watch the 1978 episode of This Is Your Life, the long-running TV show that followed this format:

Each week, an unsuspecting celebrity would be lured by some ruse to a location near the studio. The celebrity would then be surprised with the news that they are to be the featured guest. Next, the celebrity was escorted into the studio, and one by one, people who were significant in the guest's life would be brought out to offer anecdotes. At the end of the show, family members and friends would surround the guest, who would then be presented with gifts.

This show (recorded in England in this case) is an endearing tribute to the champ, all the more moving to watch now because Ali is gone. The highlight comes around the 38 minute mark, when Smokin Joe Frazier, Ali's great rival, pays a surprising visit.

Muhammad you will be missed.

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Bruce Lee’s Only Surviving TV Interview, 1971: Lost and Now Found

Bruce Lee's TV acting career began in 1966, when he landed a part in The Green Hornet. (Watch his thrilling audition here). But it took another five years before he gave his first--and, it turns out, only television interview in English. For 25 minutes in December 1971, the martial arts star sat down with Pierre Berton, a Canadian journalist, in Hong Kong. And their conversation covered a fair amount of ground – Lee's success starring in Mandarin films .... despite only speaking Cantonese; his difficulty developing a career in a country still hostile toward China; and his work training other Hollywood stars in the martial arts.

Taped in 1971, the interview aired only once, then went missing, and wasn't found until 1994, when it finally aired again as a TV special called ''Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview'.' First featured on Open Culture in 2011, the recording is now considered his only surviving on-camera interview and/or his only meaningful interview conducted in English. A somewhat restored version can be viewed on Vimeo here.

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The Great White Way is littered with flops.

Critic Frank Rich eviscerated a 1988 musical based on Stephen King’s Carrie, lamenting that a potential camp masterpiece wound up as “a typical musical-theater botch.”

Producer David Merrick pulled the plug on a 1966 musical adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring Mary Tyler Moore long before its official opening night, thus sparing the drama critics and the public “an excruciatingly boring evening.”

And then there is 1970’s Big Time Buck White, activist Oscar Brown, Jr.’s adaptation of Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s play. It featured Muhammad Ali---temporarily benched from boxing for draft evasion---in the titular role of a militant lecturer, delivering a Black Power message to a character named Whitey.

The primarily white Broadway-going audience that embraced the countercultural “Tribal Love-Rock Musical” Hair two years earlier withheld its love. In a colorblind world, we might be able to chalk that up to the champ’s sub-par singing chops or some clunky lyrics, but it would be a mistake to turn a blind eye to the political climate.

(Eight years later, Ain’t Misbehavin’, a tribute to Fats Waller and the Harlem Renaissance was a bonafide hit.)

Big Time Buck White ran for just seven performances, posting its closing notice well in advance of its January 18th appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, above.

These days, the producers would probably scramble to find a replacement, but Sullivan, a staunch supporter of Civil Rights, honored the booking, commanding his studio audience to give the costumed players “a fine reception.”

Afterward, the champ thanked Sullivan for inviting him and “the group” so that viewers who didn’t get a chance to could see "what type of play i was participating in.”

A bit of trivia. Playbill credits actor Donald Sutherland, in the role of Black Man. He may be a movie star, but he’s something of a Broadway flop himself, his only other credit that of Humbert Humbert in 1980’s Lolita, People Magazine’s Bomb of the Year.

Above is another scene from the musical, shared by Ali’s admirer, Mike Tyson.

via Messy N Chic

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- Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

NASCAR Meets the Paranormal in Terry Gilliam’s Short Film, The Legend of Hallowdega

I think we here at Open Culture can freely own up to a deficiency in our content: despite its outsized presence in American culture, we've really neglected to post much about NASCAR. Luckily, film director, animator, and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam has given us reason to change our ways by shooting a short film at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway, one of the best-known venues for NASCAR races. But The Legend of Hallowdega, made to promote something called AMP Energy Juice, tells not a straight (or rather, constantly left-turning) story about racing, but adds another layer of intrigue: the paranormal.

That might sound like a random conceptual mashup, but a little bit of research reveals Talladega as a regular Overlook Hotel, what with its history of mysterious compulsions, freak injuries and deaths, and unexplained acts of sabotage. (Some even chalk all this up to a curse placed on the Talladega's valley by its original Native American inhabitants, driven out for their collaboration with Andrew Jackson.) Enter tattooed, Fu-Manchu'd, bead-festooned ghost hunter Kiyash Monsef, here to answer the question, "What is the truth? And what is truer that the truth?" — the words of the khaki-wrapped host of World of the Unexplained, the fictitious, highly sensationalistic, and not especially competent television show that frames The Legend of Hallowdega's story.

Nothing in the first few minutes of the film gives it away as a Terry Gilliam project, but as soon as it enters Monsef's elaborate yet makeshift, thoroughly analog lair — located underneath Talladega itself — the famously imaginative director starts making his touch apparent. We could easily dismiss David Arquette's performance as Monsef as over-the-top, but to many of us, he surely comes off as no more unfamiliar than some of the locals providing their own testimony about the curse in the interview segments. Where has the oft-lamented "old, weird America" gone? In (the American-born but British-naturalized and thus sufficiently distanced) Terry Gilliam's eyes, it lives on, especially in places like Talladega.

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Colin Marshall writes elsewhere on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinemaand the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Read Online Haruki Murakami’s New Essay on How a Baseball Game Launched His Writing Career

wind pinball

For years, it was hard to come across Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, Haruki Murakami’s first and second novels, unless one wanted to pony up something between $250 and $400 at Amazon for their Kodansha English editions. The author has long dismissed them as juvenilia, though he was far from a juvenile at that time, and was actually managing a jazz bar on the outskirts of Tokyo with his wife and writing his first works at their kitchen table. He was searching for a style as a novelist, and it was once he wrote A Wild Sheep Chase that Murakami became the writer he envisioned.

On August 4, Knopf will publish both novels in a single volume with new translations by Ted Goossen, so readers can make up their own minds on whether Murakami is being too hard on himself. A lot of the familiar Murakami elements and themes are there: a nameless narrator who likes his beer and smokes, cats, music, literature, spaghetti, mysterious appearances and disappearances, loneliness, and his poetic observations of nature.

Now that Murakami has relented on the book’s publication, he has penned an introduction that explores the beginning of his writing career, chance decisions, his sometimes blind search for a style, and the baseball game that changed his life:

I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.

I can still recall the exact sensation. It felt as if something had come fluttering down from the sky, and I had caught it cleanly in my hands. I had no idea why it had chanced to fall into my grasp. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. Whatever the reason, it had taken place. It was like a revelation. Or maybe epiphany is the closest word. All I can say is that my life was drastically and permanently altered in that instant—when Dave Hilton belted that beautiful, ringing double at Jingu Stadium.

After the game (Yakult won as I recall), I took the train to Shinjuku and bought a sheaf of writing paper and a fountain pen. Word processors and computers weren’t around back then, which meant we had to write everything by hand, one character at a time. The sensation of writing felt very fresh. I remember how thrilled I was. It had been such a long time since I had put fountain pen to paper.

Each night after that, when I got home late from work, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote. Those few hours before dawn were practically the only time I had free. Over the six or so months that followed I wrote Hear the Wind Sing. I wrapped up the first draft right around the time the baseball season ended. Incidentally, that year the Yakult Swallows bucked the odds and almost everyone’s predictions to win the Central League pennant, then went on to defeat the Pacific League champions, the pitching-rich Hankyu Braves in the Japan Series. It was truly a miraculous season that sent the hearts of all Yakult fans soaring.

You can read the rest of Murakami's introduction over at Lithub. And pre-order the new translation of Wind/Pinball here.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

The Mysterious Physics Behind How Bikes Ride by Themselves

So simple and yet so complex. The bicycle remains the world’s most popular form of transportation, found in households worldwide, in countries rich and poor. And yet the bike remains something of a mystery to us. How the bike can ride almost on its own is something physicists still ponder and write academic papers about. It's also the subject of this new episode from the popular YouTube series Minute Physics. The video explains in a few succinct minutes what we know and still don't know about this fixture in our everyday lives. All stuff to think about on your next ride....

via NPR

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