Points (n.) 1. marks of punctuation. 2. something that has position but not extension, as the intersection of two lines. 3. salient features of a story, epigram, joke, etc.: he hit the high points. 4. (slang; U.S.) needles for intravenous drug use.
Last January, we brought you a post from Camille Higham, a patent attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. She discussed “The Strange and Complicated History of Patenting the E-Cigarette,” and argued that “the increased popularity [of e-cigarettes] has prompted ample innovation. And as the industry becomes more competitive, the patent applications will continue to narrow, and the companies who prepared for this vaping revolution early on will have a big advantage over pop-ups seeking to capitalize on the opportunity.”
Ten months after this post was published, we received a note from reader James Dunworth, who clued us into an interview he had conducted with Herbert Gilbert, inventor of the e-cigarette. Dunworth generously allowed us to republish his interview here. Many thanks to James Dunworth, and we hope you enjoy it.
Every semester the UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program offers an undergraduate internship for those interested in learning oral history theory and practice, archive management, and so on. SPOHP maintains several ongoing projects but also welcomes the development of new collections and, with the help of some enthusiastic interns, during my tenure as an internship coordinator in spring 2015 I inaugurated a new collection centered on addiction. The Addiction Oral History Project features some life histories of self-professed addicts in recovery, treatment providers, drug court personnel, and addiction researchers (from the humanities and sciences).
I wrote about my experience putting together the thematic internship, titled “Addiction in American Life,” in a post last summer. This time around, I’m excited to announce that the interviews and transcripts are now available online! Curious readers should first peruse the podcasts created in spring 2015. (Many, though not all, were created from the relevant interviews.) You can then search for particularly interesting narratives on the Addiction Oral History Project’s web page.
I hope this modest but growing collection can be of use to researchers and of interest to everyone else. For now, the stories mostly involve the onset and maintenance of addiction, law enforcement protocols, changing drug use patterns, and life in Florida cities like Gainesville and Jacksonville since the 1960s. Forthcoming additions will include active user experiences and views on evolving drug scenes, as well as insider perspectives on the policymaking process, among others. I will update Points readers about significant new interviews as they are transcribed and uploaded. In the meantime, like any good oral historian should, I only ask that you talk about it.
This winter I have the pleasure of teaching an upper-level history seminar on “Drugs and Trade in American History.” Working with fourteen undergraduates, I am using the opportunity to apply some principles of learner-centered teaching. In doing so, I hope to take a popular buzzword in teaching philosophies and faculty meetings from the realm of jargon and put it into actual practice. I believe the process of completing an original research project – the course’s primary objective – will prompt students to follow their own path into this history and engage with the themes and topics about which they are most passionate, encouraging the kind of deep learning not always possible in classes driven by content alone. I am also convinced a focus on the history of psychoactive substances – from heroin and cocaine to tobacco and alcohol – can be used to highlight general trends in U.S. history, helping students contextualize information and construct broader frameworks for understanding.
While elements of my course may be unfamiliar, the obstacles it faces should not be surprising. First and foremost, if we expect students to succeed with an original research project, they need the proper instruction and sufficient time to complete the task. Students also need a starting point for their own explorations. We cannot forgo content completely, as it is needed to spark interests, provide context, and form research questions. (Not to mention, we are still in the business of communicating important information about the past.) Attempting to give both objectives sufficient in-class attention, however, can require some tricky balancing acts – a problem compounded by the particulars of my university’s ten-week quarter system.
It’s no secret that Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s most wanted drug cartel kingpin, was recently recaptured and imprisoned in Mexico. After all, between his two previous high profile prison escapes and a recently published interview with Sean Penn in Rolling Stone magazine, El Chapo has frequently been front and center in the national media of late. As so often is the case when it comes to news coverage on the war on drugs in the United States, there’s been a deep sense of presentism in framing the nature of El Chapo’s rise to power and infamy. This is especially true when discussing his penchant for using tunnels – to smuggle drugs, evade capture, and of course, escape from prison. Indeed, Penn’s Rolling Stone piece went so far as to claim: “In 1989, El Chapo dug the first subterranean passage beneath the border from Tijuana to San Diego, and pioneered the use of tunnels to transport his products and to evade capture.” Yet, while there’s no denying El Chapo’s tunnels are widespread, impressive and effective, to suggest he was the first drug smuggler to use such methods ignores the history of more than a century of drug smuggling on the U.S.-Mexico Border.
It’s been quite the year here at Points. We published 93 posts from 27 contributors, including two roundtables on Mad Men and Howard Becker’s canonical book Becoming a Marihuana User. We ran three tributes to scholars we’ve lost over the past twelve months (Joseph Gusfield, Ernie Kurtz and Madelon Powers), and featured seven interviews with Fiction Points, with eight more coming from scholars who’ve written nonfiction works on drug and alcohol history.
In 2015 we covered topics as disparate as alcohol in communist Yugoslavia, the “big tent” of addiction scholarship, and a review of “Spirited Republic,” an exhibit on America’s relationship with alcohol currently on view at the National Archives. We explored the role of toxicology reports in the deaths of those killed in police actions, and explored, with Joseph Spillane, the history of “The Forgotten Drug War.” Contributing editors Michael Durfee revealed the continued importance of the Crack Era, while Bob Beach took a deep dive into Harry J. Anslinger’s Gore File and found amazing things there. We’ve welcomed over a dozen guest bloggers, and heard from scholars who have been with Points from the beginning. We’ve grown, evolved and transformed, and we couldn’t have done it without you, our readers.
This is a season of renewal and reflection, and a time of gratitude and thanksgiving. Fortunately, it’s also a time of rest and peace. With that, we’re announcing that Points will be on hiatus until January 22nd so that we can rest and recuperate, in order to get ready for even more unique and insightful material for the next year. We hope that you enjoy your break and that your holiday season is filled with health and happiness, and Points looks forward to joining you again in January.
Thanks for supporting Points in 2015. We wish you happy holidays and a very happy New Year. We’ll see you in 2016!
Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by guest contributor Michael Brownrigg, a history Ph.D. student at Northwestern University focusing on American foreign relations. He is particularly interested in drug policy and the influence of US political culture on the nation’s efforts to regulate the global drug trade. Michael received a BA from the University of Iowa and an MA from Villanova University. Enjoy!
While on a recent trip to Washington D.C. to do research for my dissertation on the emotional aesthetics of drug addiction in the early twentieth century, I decided to take a quick detour in an effort to escape the archives for a while. My desire for a little diversion took me to, of all places, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s museum. Given my methodological focus on broken American individuals and families who had experienced the trauma of addiction and publicly disclosed their stories of suffering in various cultural forums, I was immediately struck by an emotional appeal to everyday citizens from the head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, that opened the exhibit. “I need your help,” he pleaded when explaining the immense scope of the drug problem in America, “We have an epidemic in this country and you can help ensure that your family and friends make their own good decisions.” Although Rosenberg assures visitors that the agency is marshaling all possible resources to stem the rising tide of addiction, he admits that “we cannot do this alone. We need you to be a leader in your schools and in your community. Get the word out . . . Help us reduce the desire that fuels these criminal gangs.”
Editor’s Note: We’ve featured guest posts and interviews with the cannabis historian Chris Bennett several times before on Points, and today we’re thrilled to present a selection of his newest documentaries. Chris has been making videos for years and his work is thoughtful and wide-ranging, and his videos are entertaining, enlightening and beautiful to look at. Thanks for sharing your work with us, Chris!
Cannabis Historian Dr. Mike Aldrich
Chris Bennett talks to Dr. Mike Aldrich, who has been studying the history of Cannabis and Folklore for close to 50 years. Like a whimsical wizard of weedlore, Aldrich takes us on a fascinating and entertaining tour of cannabis culture and history in India, the Mid East, ancient Greece, Africa, China, ancient Scythia and more.
Michael Horowitz, Cannabis History Mid 19th-Mid 20th Century
Noted drug historian Michael Horowitz discusses Paris’ mid 19th century Hashish Club, Aleister Crowley on hashish and meditation, Timothy Leary’s 5th circuit and marijuana, Cannabis medicine with William O’Shaughnessy and for impotency with Dr. Frederick Hollick, as well as the marijuana fuelled jazz of Mezz Mezzrow.
Kaneh Bosm: The Hidden History of Marijuana in the Old Testament
Chris Bennett takes a look at the fascinating references to cannabis, under the Hebrew name ‘kaneh bosm’ (spelling – qoph nun he’ – bet shim mem) in the Old Testament text that have been suggested by anthropologist Sula Benet and other researchers, with interviews from Prof Carl Ruck, Dr. Ethan Russo, David Hillman PhD., as well as drug historians and authors Chris Conrad, Michael Horowitz, Martin Lee, and Michael Aldrich. Included is a discussion of the linguistics behind the theory as well as a look at the references in context of the Biblical story line and the use of cannabis by the surrounding cultures who influenced the Jewish cosmology, such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Canaanites and Scythian.
Mithra, Marijuana and the Myths of the Messiah
Cannabis Historian Chris Bennett takes a look at the potential references to cannabis use among the ancient worshipers of the Persian God Mithra, who became popular in ancient Rome and throughout a large portion of ancient Europe. Mithra was involved with the Haoma cult of ancient Persia, and as Dr.Michael Aldrich discusses, recent archeological evidence this ancient world sacrament was a beverage made from cannabis and ephedra. Prof Carl Ruck and Dr. David Hillman suggest by the time the God reached Rome, cannabis was being used as a entheogenic incense to fumigate the cave like temples in which the worship of Mithra took place. Mithra worship is believed to have deeply influenced emerging Christianity in a variety of ways, particularly in regards to the adoption of the God’s birthday December 25th in the 4th century by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Hashish Explorer: Laurence Cherniak
Laurence Cherniak is interviewed by Chris Bennett, about his over 50 years of cannabis activism, opening the world’s first ‘head shop’ in 1965, and the a dventures he had in distant lands chronicling the world’s Hashish culture in his photo filled volumes known as The Great Books of Hashish.
Cannabis in Ancient Greece: Smoke of the Oracles?
POT TV – Host and cannabis historian Chris Bennett talks to Professor of Classics at Boston University, Carl Ruck, along with Dr. David Hillman, who holds the combined degrees of a Ph.D. in Classics and a M.S. in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied the medicine and pharmacology of antiquity, as well as other scholars, about the role of Cannabis in the ancient Greece.
Topics discussed include the influence on Greek ritual practices from the Scythian and Thracian shaman, known as ‘Kapnobatai’, meaning ‘smoke-walkers’, who were known to fumigate themselves with cannabis smoke to achieve ‘ecstasy’. The potential role of cannabis in the cults of Aphrodite, Orpheus, Apollo, Hera, Dionysus and other ancient Greek deities, along with the potential ritual use of cannabis at the Oracle of Delphi and other sites. The alleged archeological find of ancient hashish at the Nekyomanteion (a place for consulting the dead) on the River Acheron (one of the most famous entrances to the netherworld) as discussed in the book ‘Mysteries of the Oracles’ . The use of cannabis infused incenses and wines in ancient Greece, with a discussion on Homer’s ‘nepenthe’, as well as a look at lotions and ointments that were applied vaginally. The various names cannabis may have been known by during the classic period, and much, much more.
Martin Lee on Cannabis and Creativity in Literature, Song and Culture
Lee discusses the role of cannabis in creativity and the herb’s influence in literature, music, and culture, as well as its history in the United States.
Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by Annette R. Smith, and is taken from her 2007 book The Social World of Alcoholics Anonymous: How It Works. Smith received her masters in social work from the University of California, Berkeley in 1961, and her Ph.D. from UC San Diego in 1991. She worked for several years as a psychiatric social worker at Napa State Hospital in California, where she helped develop an innovative co-educational unit for treating alcoholics, who had long been merely warehoused in those giant institutions. As one of the key elements in this new approach, she worked with the local A.A. Hospital and Institutions Committee in bringing A.A. to the inpatients in that program. This experience began her lifetime association with the fellowship. The Social World of Alcoholics Anonymous asserts the value of viewing AA as a social world, and argues that the success of AA is dependent on integration into the social world. Enjoy!
After several years working as a clinical social worker and program manager in the alcoholism treatment field, and being involved as an associate of Alcoholics Anonymous, I returned to school to obtain a doctorate in sociology. As I became more aware of sociological constructs, it became clear to me that although there was considerable literature on the history and philosophy of AA, its value as treatment, its bases of affiliation and the experiences of its members, AA as a social organization and the impact of that organization upon recovery, had not been widely examined.
Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by Ferdinand Nyberg, who published his last article, on the drug culture surrounding Berlin’s Görlitzer Bahnhof, last month. Enjoy!
In his essay ‘The Dehumanization of Art’ (and elsewhere), José Ortega y Gasset opines that it is to the domains of art and science that one should turn if one wishes to decipher the direction of change in a society. Artists’ methods and practices, in this reading, presage that which will (or at least what might) happen in wider society. The many objections to which this avant-gardist view of culture might be subjected do not interest me here. Instead, I should like to colligate this notion with the idea that an artwork’s ‘identity’ can be found in its minor details, as put forth by art critic Giovanni Morelli. An artist’s style, claims Morelli, and – if you will – an artwork’s ‘truth,’ isn’t found in the ‘big picture’; rather, it is located in its subsidiary features. If an artwork depicts a human, focus not on the body as a whole but on the hands, ears, or other body parts. (Many historians will be familiar with Morelli via Carlo Ginzburg’s essay ‘Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes.’) What happens when we juxtapose these two ideas? I claim that reading art might indeed provide indicators of social change but that these often lie not in the ‘broad strokes’ or deliberate techniques of the artists (or here, auteurs) – instead, changes are best found in their apparently incidental gestures. Below, I identify one such gesture (or gesticulation).
Artificial acting techniques abound, of course. Some of these are immanently tied to generic requirements or traditions. Thus the exaggerated facial expressions, overdone makeup, and high-decibel speaking of a theatre actor is totally acceptable and left unquestioned by viewers. It’s simply how theatre is done; and if actors were to stray from this tradition, the back audience would likely demand a refund. Other artifices, however, aren’t meant to be noticed – these proliferate in film.
In the Crack Era, hyperbolic news segments like 48 Hours on Crack Street ruled the scene. Few dissenting voices were able to marshal necessary counternarratives in the face of panic and political opportunism. One unexpected, but historically rooted set of voices smashed through the hushed tones of fear and alarm: the voice of politically conscious rap. Namely, Public Enemy, the self-dubbed “prophets of rage.” PE’s 1988 offering, Night of the Living Baseheads is both a critique of the crack trade, and media coverage of crack’s ascendance. In short, Night of the Living Baseheads is a clear counternarrative to histrionic anti-crack news specials like 48 Hours on Crack Street which blitzed nightly news throughout 1986 and 1988—both conveniently during election cycles.
The track begins with a grainy recording of Malcolm X: “Have you forgotten that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our name, robbed of our language. We lost our religion, our culture, our god… and many of us, by the way we act, we even lost our minds.” At first glance, this might be PE joining the chorus line of African American voices comparing the scourge of crack to the crushing, systematic exploitation of bondage. However, a closer look at their accompanying music video makes it more clear who exactly lost their minds in the Crack Era, television news.
Welcome to PETV, the “Black CNN” according to Chuck D. Less a politician, Chuck D was by his own admission a “dispatcher of information.” In the words of scholar Tricia Rose, Public Enemy’s work “keeps poor folks alert” from being misled or placated by “media stories and official ‘truths.’” At a broader level rap music by the late 1980s had become “Black American TV,” a public and highly accessible place where black meanings and perspectives could be shared by people with lived experience rather than fetishized by commentators on nightly news. If rap had truly become “Black American TV,” Public Enemy positioned itself as its most incendiary channel.
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