Bloodletters and Bad Actors Mefi's Own Max Sparber looks at the early days of Omaha theater, back when it was a frontier town, its amusements were questionable, and vice was rampant, with occasional forays into more recent performing arts misbehavior. [via mefi projects]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
During the Golden Age of Hollywood and until 1967, mainstream movie studios were banned by the Production Code from depicting taboo topics like drug addiction, explicit murder and venereal disease, or even showing explicit nudity. But in the 1930's and 1940's, films marketed as "educational" could and did fly under the radar, and three of the best known 'educational' propaganda exploitation films are: Sex Madness (1935), Reefer Madness (1936) and The Cocaine Fiends (1938). [more inside]
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
"I would point out to you that medical explanations are modern. That Americans today want medical explanations for things that in the 19th century would have been explained by hysteria, and in the 18th century would have been explained by religious conversion experiences in the context of the Great Awakening, when people were having these types of fits, and in the 17th century by witchcraft."
Recreate a part of history in High Tea, a game where you trade Indian opium in China to supply tea to England. Part of the High Society exhibit at Wellcome Collection. [more inside]
High Society Mini-site to accompany an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection on the history and culture of mind-altering drugs. Includes image galleries, essays and a quiz.
Thirty-six years after the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended that "simple possession" of pot be decriminalised, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), to remove federal criminal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams (about three-and-a-half ounces) of marijuana and the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce (28.3 grams). Drug reform advocates
lit up hailed the legislation as "an important step toward bringing federal law into line with scientific fact, practical reality and public opinion." Is America, at long last, having a collective moment of sanity?
America's forgotten war. Are we winning?
Silphium was the wonder plant of the ancient world. Originally identified by Greek colonists in North Africa, the plant - a species of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - grew only in a dimunitive area near the coast and could not be cultivated. Silphium was popular as a spice for cooking, but its notoriety stems from its alleged medicinal qualities, particularly its use as an herbal contraceptive (the "I love you" heart symbol may have originated from the shape of silphium's seed pods and its use in sex). So valuable was Silphium that it became an important component of the ancient world's economy and appears on coins. It's also among the first species recorded (by Pliny the Elder) as going extinct, probably by grazing sheep or uncontrolled harvesting. Or is it?
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy - read the transcripts of hearings held on the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, or the text of court decisions regarding drug policy, or the well-researched Consumer Unions report on licit and illicit drugs, or the differences between beer and drugs, according to Anheuser-Busch. A huge archive of materials, admittedly compiled from a pro-reform perspective.
Happy Birthday Morphine!
As of tomorrow, Morphine celebrates 200 years of mellow. [via medgadget.com]
As of tomorrow, Morphine celebrates 200 years of mellow. [via medgadget.com]
Therapy, pharmacy, and commerce in early-modern Europe Drug Trade is an exhibition of 16C-18C drug jars at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. "Marrysh mallowe, soden in wyne or mede, or brused and laid on by it selfe, is good for woundes, for hard kynelles, swellynges, and wennes, for the burnyng and swelling behynd the eares ... & it will ease the payne of ye tethe."
Tired? Need a boost? Everything you ever wanted to know about one of America's favourite energy boosters. This website contains 25 pages covering the history, uses (both legitimate and illegitimate), and biological characteristics of cocaine and the coca plant. An interesting read for those with time to kill (like me). Possibly NSFW.
"Hemp for Victory!" A USDA educational film from 1942 extolling the patriotic virtues of growing the crop that, a half-century later, over 600,000 people would be arrested for possessing. (Gotta love the official "Producer of Marihuana" license.) How times have changed.
Nineteenth-century drug paraphernalia has been found by archaeologists working at Ottawa's LeBreton Flats.
Nineteenth-century drug paraphernalia has been found by archaeologists working at Ottawa's LeBreton Flats. The LeBreton Flats was a working-class neighbourhood just west of the Parliament Buildings. The find is from the notorious Occidental Hotel, and predates the 1900 fire that burned the neighbourhood to the ground. It was rebuilt, and carried on until the National Capital Commission tore it all down in 1962. It's been an empty field ever since, as proposals to make use of this prime space have come and gone. (Maps and images.) This year they finally began decontaminating the soil -- the new Canadian War Museum is planned for part of the site (campaign) -- whereupon this discovery was made.
Can the current prohibition really be blamed on one guy? First he tells Congress that "marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind" and then World War 2 comes and farmers are encouraged to grow it. After the War, he turns around and tells Congress that it could be used by the Russians to make our men lazy and pacifistic. If he had kept his original argument, our men would be insane killers against the Russian army. What would the country be like if there never was a HARRY J. ANSLINGER ?
You're either on the bus, or off the bus. And some people never leave it. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters marked the beginning of the psychodelic sixties, LSD, the Greatful Dead, San Francisco as the center of the hippie universe, and 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'. Forty years have passed - here's the legendary bus, 'Further', and here are the hippies who never left the age of Aquarius.
Was Shakespeare a doper? It doesn't matter. But it's in the news because it's not often you can dig up (literally) some juicy celebrity gossip involving mood-altering substances.
So Nixon supposedly took drugs and beat his wife? If that's true, he was really going for the trifecta with the whole Watergate thing.