Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm not an addict it's cool

Just finished the Devil's Picnic. I didn't get the reference, but the title refers to a saying along the lines of "A open mind is the devil's picnic." It's travel lit with a message, which you can choose to ignore if you like. Taras Grescoe traveled the world looking to try banned substances like absinthe, Norwegian moonshine and Cuban cigars. Because his larger point is that these things are not banned for what they are, but for larger social or political reasons he also looks at silly bans like poppy seed crusted crackers in Singapore and past discrimination against caffeine. He also looks at the trouble people have smoking in the US. In a chapter on bull's testicles, he mentions the disgusting Sardinian maggot cheese and rotten shark delight of Iceland. I would have liked to hear a bit more about these.

The book is wittily written and I enjoyed most of the chapters of the book. At the very end he makes a case for legalization without commercialization of banned substances, like heroin, which he does not cover in the book. It is a logical conclusion to his argument, but I didn't totally buy it. He doesn't want people to profit from addictive substances, but as he noted with Norwegian booze, the government will become addicted to the revenue and will keep people addicted to keep getting the money. At the very least any government body set up to provide drug services will do its best to stay in existence. Anyway, you don't have to agree with his thesis to enjoy his development of it.

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