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text 2015-01-29 19:48
Reading in Progress: The World of Caffeine by Weinberg and Bealer - Coffee Snark!
The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug - Bennett Alan Weinberg,Bonnie K. Bealer

I am always on the lookout for historic snark. Mainly because every now and then someone will write something passionate online, full of despair over people who aren't being polite and how this is ruining our society - something like that. After all, society has survived snark in the past, and the squabbling and the drama. It makes me smile when people think there was a golden era of politeness, when people weren't...well, people. So I enjoy reading about the snark of ages past and wondering how people find this so easy to forget.


For instance! In the 1700s in London they didn't have blogs, but there was the same desire to write about someone or something that was annoying. What did the literate folk do? They wrote snarky broadsides or pamphlets - which could contain essays, poems, tavern songs,etc. (Also see street literature.) These were printed out and distributed. Not for money - this was not about profit (gentlemen don't dirty their hands with that) - only to get it and the (hopefully) witty writing talked about. The subject of your annoyance could get in a huff and write a response and then distribute broadsides of his own. You could go after anyone in writing - but of course, there was always the possibility you'd get called out for a duel or even jail if you were spouting anything hinting treason. But a lot of the snark was of a personal, gossipy nature for the usual human reasons.


Sometimes a snark war would break out in a newspaper's/periodical's letters section. With one person starting it, then the target defending himself (or a good friend stepping in as author) in a response letter, and so on. Afterwards, if the topic was really juicy or you just didn't want anyone to forget the subject of the snark or perhaps how great you were in your snarky writing, you could print up the whole series of letters as a book - which again, you'd not sell, but hand around to friends. Who might eventually see to it that the subject of the snark would get a copy too. Thus perhaps re-starting the snark war. (Randomly I have no idea if snark war is a real phrase I've previously read or not.)


This snark writing was usually done by someone with money, because otherwise you'd want to sell your writing. Lots of class issues in there of course, with the assumption that selling your work meant you weren't a worthy author or scholar. (Again, the whole "gentleman and truly educated people don't work" thing.) If you couldn't write in a witty manner? You could have a friend write for you - and sometimes they'd go ahead and do this without asking you. Surprise! Everyone's talking about you because I just wrote an amusing defense for something you'd not heard you'd been snarked over!


Now I'm not saying all this is particularly good - I am saying this is pretty much what goes on here and there online now. Not a vast amount has changed this way - except perhaps the extremes. (Though remember, duels. Death threats and writing were always there - go read up on Mark Twain's newspaper editing days.) Even if the writing didn't use your name there were loads of clues in the text so that everyone knew who the author was snarking on. (It helped that this mostly went on in a fairly small group of aristocrats and politicians, and their friends.)


So with that in mind - I'm actually bringing the topic around to this book! So when the coffeehouse became wildly popular in the UK of the late 1660s and 1700s, not everyone was a fan. Men gathered in coffeehouses for hours, reading newspapers and discussing politics, literature, etc. Tavern keepers didn't like the competition and those in power didn't like the idea of people criticizing politics.

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text 2015-01-28 02:21
Reading in Progress: The World of Caffeine by Weinberg and Bealer
The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug - Bennett Alan Weinberg,Bonnie K. Bealer

It is 77 degrees in this second floor room, and earlier it hit 80 - partly because the heat rises upstairs and partly because it's freakishly warm here (Texas) today. However I am now drinking hot chocolate. I was going to blame this on all the snow photos and videos I've been watching - but the other reason is that reading this book has me constantly thinking about drinking coffee, tea and chocolate.


You know how there are always people who are VERY emphatic about certain foods which, as they see it, are either completely harmful to your health or the greatest thing since instant hot chocolate? (Er, bias warning there.) Throughout history, in multiple counties, there were people who were this way about coffee/tea/chocolate - and went to great extremes about the evil/good of the beverages. Which of course makes for fun history.


p 86, Frederick the Great was particularly down on coffee:

"...He accepted the verdict of German physicians that coffee was bad for the health, especially the medical warnings that coffee caused effeminacy in men and sterility in women."

Frederick had been brought up on "beer soup" and felt everyone else should also be drinking beer.


p 101, from the1659 translation of Leonhard Rauwolf's The Nature of the Drink Kauhi, of Coffee, and the Berry of which It Is Made, Described by an Arabian Physician:

"...Some drink it with milk, but it is an error, and such as may bring in danger of leprosy."

p 101, from the translation of Dr. Simon Pauli's work, A Treatise on Tobacco, Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate:

"Hence we may reasonably infer, that as Chocolate agrees with Coffee and Tea, ...so all these three exactly agree with each other, in producing Effeminacy and Impotence... I hope to see People of all Ranks and Conditions have as great an Aversion to them as the Mahometans and Turks, or rather their Emperors have to Tobacco, the Lovers of which as well as those who are idle, prodigal, barren, impotent, or effeminate, they will not suffer to live within their Territories."

LOTS of worry that about the effeminate side effect.


p 101, also from Pauli, this specifically about tea:

"It hastens the death of those who drink it, especially if they have passed the age of forty years."

Meanwhile other doctors and authors claimed drinking tea would actually cause you to live longer.


p 102, about Dr. Cornelius Buntekuh or Cornelius Decker (1648-85; he's not in wikipedia!):

"...In a book published in 1679, Buntekuh advised drinking a minimum of ten cups of tea daily, and recommended building up to fifty, one hundred, or two hundred cups, amounts he frequently consumed himself. Based on a record that the company paid him a handsome honorarium in gratitude for the boost his advocacy gave to tea sales, it is said that Buntekuh may have initially been hired by the Dutch East India Company to write in praise and defense of tea."

I had to quote this bit about his name:

"...Because his father was an innkeeper under the sign of the "Bunte Kuh" or the "brindled cow," his neighbors dubbed him with the cognomen he later signed to his scientific monographs."

p 103:

"...Buntekuh's death at thirty-eight did not add credibility to his treatise Traktat van het Excellentie Cruyt Thee (1679), on the extension of human life by the use of tea, coffee, and chocolate, for he certainly was a man who took his own medicine. However, we must add for completeness' sake that he died not of ill health but by accident, falling down a darkened staircase while carrying books... A doubt remains however, if the chronic use of toxic doses of caffeine might not have created tremors, excitement, or even delirium that caused him to lose his footing. At the very least, we might assume he was critically sleep deprived at the time of his fall."

p 105, French doctors were very anti-coffee, feeling it was a dangerous drug.

"...Lurid stories about coffee poisoning abounded. When Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-83), financier and statesman, died, it was whispered that his stomach had been corroded by coffee. According to another letter...an autopsy reveled that the princess of Hanau-Birkenfeld had hundreds of stomach ulcers, each filled with coffee grounds, and it was concluded that she died of coffee drinking."

None of that has kept me from wanting a nice cup of something hot!

Still looking for good hot cocoa quotes though.

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