Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and history is somewhat of a mix of the two, depending on who is telling it.
When it comes to cannabis history, authors B.S. Wedeman (pseudonym) and Ted Tronnes have combined truth with fiction and added a healthy dose of humor to create Highly Inventive, a lighthearted journey through a “highbrow history of man’s quest for weed.”
I recently received for review a copy of Highly Inventive, a book that I feel makes a unique and engaging addition to a cannabis consumer’s bookshelf or coffee table.
Over the course of 86 vignette-style stories, the authors take the reader on a THC-laced trip through time where not everything is as it seems, and not everything is as it was.
Some of it was invented by the authors.
Highly Inventive is satire, though it may be tough to tell at times as the authors knit the truth together with embellishment so tightly that you will likely need to flip to the back of the book repeatedly to separate fact from fiction.
The book feels much like a compilation of Mr. Peabody & Sherman adventures, but everyone is high or trying to get high in each story.
To help readers keep the facts straight, the authors have included the full text of each story in the appendix and underlined which parts are true.
While the majority of the book’s tales are a mixture of truth and fiction, readers will find that some of them are entirely true.
Readers who would like to further research the tales in Highly Inventive can use the URL printed below each story in the appendix as a starting point.
From tales of treating King Tut’s hemorrhoids with cannabis to the origins of 4:20 and pot brownies, Highly Inventive runs the gambit of engaging historical topics and their real links to the world of cannabis.
The book also touches on the cannabis-consuming crowd’s MacGyver-like tendencies with a nod to not-so-great stoner inventions in the “Dog Sack” story.
The Marx Bros. fan in me appreciated the story from Groucho about vegetable-munching pests and a curious-looking plant in the comedy actor’s WWII “victory garden.”
For the marijuana Mouseketeers and Disney die-hards, Highly Inventive also includes a story involving Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Walt Disney, and a joint.
Each story in the book is accompanied by a humorous illustration on the opposite page, drawn by either Ted Tronnes or David Vasquez.
Accomplished author, history lover, and self-professed knowledge nerd B.S. Wedeman says that the inspiration for Highly Inventive came while she was rolling a joint and listening to a podcast about Benjamin Franklin.
Wedeman felt that thanks were in order for Mr. Franklin for having invented the bifocals that helped her see the joint she was rolling.
“Then—as my mind often goes off on flights of fancy—I looked into my marijuana basket and wondered who else I should thank,” says Wedeman “The inventor of the Mason jar where my pot is kept? The inventor of the bobby pin, the world’s simplest clip? I mused that they probably created their inventions for me and other pot smokers. The idea of the book was hatched!”
Wedeman says that she had written approximately 63 vignettes when she realized that she might need some assistance with the book.
Wedeman sent the vignettes to co-author and illustrator Ted Tronnes, who happily joined the Highly Inventive party.
In the words of Wedeman, “Somehow two intellectually-curious buddies beget a history book about pot.”
Tronnes, who majored in Political Science and took eight years of Latin between high school and college, is an admirer of the writings of the framers of the Constitution, “for the linguistic concision and etymology aspects, as it was spoken 300 years ago.”
Tronnes says that he has always been an “art person,” having turned the field into a professional career in his adult life.
Before connecting with him on Highly Inventive, Tronnes says that Wedeman ran an online contest to find an illustrator, gathering submissions from the United States and other countries.
“The Mason jar story was one of the first she developed, so contestants were asked to draw an American man from the 1800s holding a glass jar half full of dirt,” says Tronnes. “When I became involved, I agreed with Wedeman on the best style from the 10-20 entries that had come in. In fact, the Mason jar drawing in the book is the original contest entry by the “winning” artist, David Vasquez, of Veracruz, Mexico.”
David illustrated around 60 of the vignettes and Ted did the rest, with all of the artwork done entirely on computers.
What makes a person laugh is an indicator of one’s personality, how they think, and how they see the world around them.
Highly Inventive is filled with humor, so I wanted to find out which cannabis-themed comedies the authors enjoy when they aren’t writing funny cannabis history books.
Wedeman professed Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Pineapple Express to be her two favorites, which makes complete sense as the movies, like Highly Inventive, are comedies about history and cannabis.
While he is a longtime fan of comedy albums from Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor, Tronnes says that he finds most “stoner movies” to be too much of a caricature to be interesting.
Tronnes says that he was too young to be smoking when Cheech & Chong’s “Up in Smoke” movie came out, but fell in love with the stoner duo’s “Sleeping Beauty” album during his teens.
“The SB album jacket itself was shaped like a red pill/capsule when opened up,” says Tronnes. “Secobarbital actually—a.k.a. Reds, a barbituate widely abused in the 60s and 70s, I later learned. Anyway, the jacket design was pure genius to me. Smaller bits on the album were reefer-related songs and sketches as you would imagine, but the longest sketch (15 minutes or so) was a modern adaptation of the classic Grimm brothers tale, except the beauty here was the hot “Princess Squash” who liked to go clubbing (in medieval times, mind you).”
But while Cheech and Chong’s influence has left a lasting cannabis leaf-shaped impression on the world, Wedeman and Tronnes did not include stories involving the famous stoner duo in Highly Inventive.
“You may be wondering why Cheech and Chong didn’t make the book,” says Tronnes. “I suppose they were too obvious, but arguably they played an enormous role in characterizing the toker lifestyle for Americans for generations. This book wasn’t so much an effort to bury that, but rather to provide “alternative facts” about marijuana’s abiding role for re-consideration in a Post-Chong era.”
Because we live in the digital age, multiple format options are available for Highly Inventive, depending on the reader’s preference.
If you like to read your books on an electronic device, you can pick up a copy of the book for Kindle for $4.99.
If you are the type of person who enjoys having an actual book in your hands rather than reading a story on a screen, Highly Inventive is available on Amazon in softcover for $9.99.
Regarding politics, Wedeman believes in a 3-party system: party in the morning, party in the afternoon, party in the evening.