Editor’s Note: Okay, it wasn’t really the front page, but Points Managing Editor Joe Spillane was featured in the Gainesville Sun yesterday (17 October), talking with staff writer Nathan Crabbe about his career as a drug historian and an innovative class he is teaching this term on Illicit Enterprise. We re-post the story here to give readers a glimpse of one of the powers behind the Points, as it were. Not included here are the reader comments on the article, but given the political tenor of Florida right now, you can probably imagine what they are like.
1) What lessons can be learned from studying the history of illicit enterprise?
The first thing my students learn is that studying the history of illicit enterprise is really the study of licit enterprise as well, since we learn how and where the boundaries get set between what are considered acceptable and unacceptable forms of behavior. We also learn that there are no “easy” lessons from history. Read More »
Ten years after the September 11th attacks, conspiracy theorists on the right and left remain hard at work trying to dig out the real story of what happened that day. Points readers may be pleased or dismayed to know that as of yet, no one has tried to explain the attacks through the prism of alcohol or drugs. And on this day of total media saturation, your managing editors will avoid the temptation as well. For those readers who simply must have their 9/11 commemorations served up with a side of intoxicants, however, we recommend anecdotal reports of increased incidents of drug and alcohol abuse among first responders in the years immediately after the 9/11 attacks; a government white paper denying that drug trafficking has been an important source of revenue for Al Qaeda (p. 22); and a compelling narrative linking the decision to go to war in the wake of the attacks to Donald Rumsfeld’s son’s relapse into drug addiction. You may now return to surfing the web in search of more satisfying material on 9/11. As you do so, bear in mind the wise words of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, from his poem “The Digital Revolution”:
A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!
Inside Higher Ed yesterday carried a follow-up to the man-bites-dog story of Stephen Kinzey, a Cal State San Bernadino Professor of Kinesiology, who, in his spare time, led a motorcycle gang called the Devil’s Diciples [sic] and is wanted in connection with a methamphetamine ring that they operate in Southern California. (The LA Timesbroke the story last week.)
To address the mind-boggling question of how a tenured faculty member could have the time to head up a major criminal organization given the burdens of teaching, research, and service, Inside Higher Ed consulted Professor Tom Barker of Eastern Kentucky State University, an expert on motorcycle gang culture. The gist of Barker’s comments: basically, it wouldn’t be too hard.
One item of interest to Points readers, however, deserves further comment. Barker noted that he knew of two other members of the professoriate who were also members of “outlaw motorcycle gangs,” but refused to divulge their identity. For the record, folks, Points co-managing editors Joe Spillane and Trysh Travis may enjoy the occasional charity rally, but they are not now, nor have they ever been members of a biker gang.
We’ve been noting for a while now the upcoming conference, Pub, Street and Medicine Cabinet, otherwise known as the 6th International Conference on the History of Alcohol and Drugs. It begins one week from today (the evening of Thursday, June 23) at the University of Buffalo (SUNY). If you’re within easy range of Buffalo, you might consider attending the meeting–with roughly forty panels spread out over several days, you’ll be hearing some of the best in historical work on drugs and alcohol. If you’re not within easy range of Buffalo, then stay tuned to the Points blog. You’ll get a glimpse of the newest work in the field from our crack (no pun intended) team of bloggers posting reports from various meeting panels, representing a fair cross-section of the conference activity. So join us in Buffalo, or follow along at home!
6th Annual International Conference on the History of Alcohol and Drugs is now available. Hosted by SUNY Buffalo under the able stewardship of David Herzberg, the conference runs from 24-26 June and features a keynote address by Points co-managing editor Joe Spillane, “Our Own Fantastic Lodge: Drugs and Alcohol History Inside and Out.”
Drugs and alcohol on every continent except Antarctica will scrutinized in sessions on topics ranging from the contemporary drug war to historical attempts at alcohol control to pop culture representations of consumption and addiction. Of special interest is a screening of the 2008 documentary The Narcotic Farm, which chronicles the forty-year history of the U.S. Federal Narcotic Farm in Lexington, Kentucky (1935- 1975). Michael Bozarth and Nancy Campbell will lead discussion after the screening of this unique, central, and most bizarre institution in U.S. drug treatment and policy history.
Complete logistical information, including links to the conference hotel and the various sponsoring organizations, is available along with the program at the conference website. Points readers interested in blogging from the conference (live or otherwise) should contact Trysh Travis.
One hot morning last May, the El Paso Times brought news that many of us had been dreading—a student from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) had been murdered in the drug-trade violence that has disrupted our neighbor city, Ciudad Juárez, for three years. Like many UTEP students, Alejandro Ruiz, 18 years old, lived a binational life. A dual citizen, he lived mostly in Juárez, but commuted to UTEP. On that day last May he and a friend were traveling from a boy scout meeting when their vehicle was riddled with machine gun fire. His murder, like almost all the killings (more than 3,000 in 2010 alone) remains unsolved and unexplained. Although Mexican political leaders have tried to dismiss the dead as criminals and effectively erase their existence, one thing seems certain, Alejandro himself had no direct involvement in the drugs trade. We are left only to speculate. Read More »
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.
The “point” of an academic group blog has been the subject of a fair amount of discussion, and my colleague and co-Managing Editor Trysh Travis has already had her say about that here.
But what is it about the history of alcohol and drugs that seems worthy of the time and attention that we’re devoting to this particular academic blog? There’s more to the answer than could fit in a single post, but why not start by considering the “points” featured in the header of the blog? The image shows a beautifully detailed nineteenth-century syringe case, with marvelous decorative details. How many doors are opened up when we follow the history of the syringe? Here are a couple:Read More »
What is the point of an academic group blog, my co-managing editor Joe Spillane wants to know? It’s a necessary and pleasurable adjunct to an academic print culture that, while maybe not quite dead, can hardly be termed in the pink of health. The book I published last year on addiction and recovery appeared in a respectable hardcover edition, with copies priced “low” at $35 each. As I write, it’s hovering just above the 1-millionth most popular mark on amazon.com.
When the book was done, like a good academic I took some material that didn’t make the final cut and re-purposed it into an article. After four months on the editor’s desk at a peer-reviewed journal that shall remain nameless, I got a revise-and-resubmit request. I made the requested changes and returned the piece; after another four months, it was rejected by a different round of editors whose complaints were completely different from those of the first readers. That was my writing year.
Sure, the book got me tenure, but you don’t have to be Peggy Lee to wonder, “is that all there is to a circus?” Read More »