December 25, 2017

Why I'm reading the Wikipedia article, "History of poison."

1. Here's the article. Excerpt: "Grooves for storing or holding poisons such as tubocurarine have been plainly found in [ancient] hunting weapons and tools.... Once the use and danger of poison was realized, it became apparent that something had to be done. Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (an ancient Hellenistic state of northern Anatolia), from around 114–63 BC, ... was paranoid to the point that he administered daily amounts of poisons in an attempt to make himself immune to as many poisons as he could.... Pliny the Elder describes over 7000 different poisons. One he describes as 'The blood of a duck found in a certain district of Pontus, which was supposed to live on poisonous food, and the blood of this duck was afterwards used in the preparation of the Mithridatum, because it fed on poisonous plants and suffered no harm.'"

2. What made me look up the history of poison was a passage in "The Tricky Art of Co-Existing: How to Behave Decently No Matter What Life Throws Your Way" by Sandi Toksvig:
3. That quote about tasting food for poison just happened to come up on the same page as the phrase I was googling, "the size of a baby's head," which I remember being much more common years ago. Whatever happened to that comic trope? I was thinking about it because I read the phrase used to describe an apple fritter eaten by Bill Clinton in 1994, in the 1994 NYT piece, "Did Clinton Slip on Astroturf?"

4. That piece about Bill Clinton was dredged up looking for this: "Ever since he spoke last week of his fond recollections of his El Camino pickup, his audience at a Louisiana truck plant and those who watched his comments replayed on television have been left in titillated confusion. Mr. Clinton confided that he had lined the truck bed with Astroturf, adding with a sly grin, 'You don't want to know why, but I did.' On a New York talk radio program this morning, Mr. Clinton jokingly tried to put the speculation to rest. 'It wasn't for what everybody thought it was for when I made the comment, I'll tell you that,' he protested. 'I'm guilty of a lot of things, but I didn't ever do that.'"

5. I was interested in Bill Clinton's El Camino with astroturf because somebody I know on Facebook said that if he had $40,000 to spend on a bed it would be a $500 mattress in the back of a new Chevy pickup truck.

6. The subject of a $40,000 mattress came up because I'd written (on Facebook): "How much would you pay for a new mattress? I found what I wanted, but there was no price tag attached. I was saying things like 'I could see paying $4,000, but not 10,000.' Later, deeply into the explanation of horsetail hair and hand-crafting, I kept a straight face at the number $40,000 and proceeded to compare buying a bed to buying a car. $40,000 is what I paid for my Audi TT 12 years ago. But I wasn't even joking about a bed as expensive as the most expensive car I ever bought. I was seriously thinking about the argument that going for high quality in a bed makes more sense than paying extra for a more comfortable, beautiful car."

53 comments:

chickelit said...

The words "poison" and "potion" are cognate. There probably was a "love poison number nine."

Dave Begley said...

How can one judge the quality of a mattress before purchase? Price is just a signal of quality. And how much is too much for many nights of comfortable sleep.

Mr. Market sets the price. If it is too high out at the mall, then the maker of the product fails. We now have Caspar; funded by private equity. Mail order matress with a 30 day free trial. Not $40k.

And will the Clintons EVER leave us?

Dave Begley said...

The most popular Caspar mattress is $950. Buy it through the Althouse Amazon portal. As an Amazon Prime customer enjoy free delivery on December 27.

Expexting a full report from Meade on this new purchase.

mockturtle said...

Meade, are you paying attention?

Ann Althouse said...

We did not buy the $40,000 mattress. I'm just saying that I coolly stood for the salesperson's discussion of the item and that I understand the price and why someone (not just anyone) might buy it.

Think of how much people are willing to pay for cars... or for a house. If you think about the time spent in bed (and the effect of that time on your out of bed wellbeing) it makes a lot of sense.

Annie C said...

A very Althousian labyrinth of thought.

madAsHell said...

The history of poison? In German, gift means poison. How did that happen?

EDH said...

Wow, a look at the grand hamster wheel inside Althouse's head!

At least three concepts, and I don't know where to begin to comment.

Humperdink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

On the credenza, in the empty room, no ptyx.

Mallarme

rhhardin said...

I'm on the $200 mattress bought from J.C.Penny in 1975, just adding various toppers as it wears or is eaten by successive Doberman puppies.

Michael K said...

My current car, a Honda Pilot, I bought used because I did not like the changes in the car after 2014. I bought one with the older appearance. My previous car was a Toyota Highlander, which I liked a lot but it was high mileage and Toyota had also changed that car in ways I didn't like.

tcrosse said...

The Pellet with the Poison's in the Vessel with the Pestle
The Chalice from the Palace has the brew which is true

Tim at large said...

The thing is that you can make a mattress that is as good a mattress as a $40K car is a car for a lot less than $40K. But if it weren’t true, I guess a mattress would be worth that much money. You spend a third of your life on it, unless you are Trump, then it’s more like a sixth of your life. It’s like the economics example of a glass of water. In a major city in the West, it’s not worth very much at all, but in the desert, if you don’t have any, it’s worth whatever you can pay for it.

tcrosse said...

How much for one of those mattresses you can carry around everywhere ?

iowan2 said...

We spent $6000 for a sleepnumber. I have never second guessed the $ spent. Also driving a $40,000 Siera. again, no regrets. Money for quality, not quantity. Also just gifted a $90 throw blanket to my DIL, We gave her a quality one about 3 years ago, and she mentioned in passing they all fought over it.
The bed, has all the bells and whistles, I will not ever go back to a bed that doest have the adjustable head and knees.

chickelit said...

madAsHell said...The history of poison? In German, gift means poison. How did that happen?

Gift ⇦ geben ⇦ dose ⇦ donare

According to my "Duden (Band 7)," the use of the word "Gift" was euphemistic for "dose."

Tim at large said...

Marxist never die of thirst in the desert because they know that the scarcity of water there is only an illusion imposed by Capitalism so they have all that they can drink!

tcrosse said...

Marxist never starve in the desert because of all the sand which is there.

Will Cate said...

For the love of Pete, one need not even pay $4,000. We just got a king-sized, 12-inch thick memory foam mattress for around $450. And it's fantastic. Had to get a solid base for it, but that wasn't a huge expense.

CStanley said...

And horsetail hair? We slept on horsehair mattresses as kids (which I presume were inexpensive because my folks were not at all wealthy.) I'm convinced that the nightly exposure contributed to my severe allergy to horses.

Ann Althouse said...

"The thing is that you can make a mattress that is as good a mattress as a $40K car is a car for a lot less than $40K."

Right. So the $40,000 is more like a $200,000 car. It's the most expensive mattress, the one that's made for the royal family in Sweden. The equivalent car is not a $40,000 car.I have spent $40,000 on a car, so I know what it's like to spend that much money on a type of thing that I can get a much less expensive one of. My $40,000 is really worth it. It's beautiful to look at, feels and handles great, and I am still using it 13 years after buying it and I have no desire to replace it. I could have spent $25,000 over and over again on lesser cars, so it really was worth it.

If I knew the all-natural $40,000 would give me certain physical benefits that I would hope for, I would spend the money in an instant.

Ann Althouse said...

"And horsetail hair? We slept on horsehair mattresses as kids (which I presume were inexpensive because my folks were not at all wealthy.)"

Horsehair... but was it horsetail hair?

"[T]he special horsehair that fills each and every mattress has been groomed and bred for use by Hästens since Pehr Adolf Jansen received his Royal Certificate from the King Of Sweden, declaring him a Master Saddlemaker. Saddlemakers, as it turns out, were the only people who were certified to build mattresses, as horsetail hair was integral to the construction of the pads that protected royal bottoms in their royal carriages, and when you think about it, mattresses are really just kind of overgrown cushions for your whole body.”

Yancey Ward said...

Mithridates VI, King of Pontus was the third Dread Pirate Roberts?

William said...

A Freudian might make much of the fact that your thoughts turn to poison just as you're about to prepare the Christmas feast. I'd recommend mushroom stuffing as the preferrred delivery system.

tcrosse said...

@Althouse, did anyone ever put a pea under your mattress ?

Darrell said...

$200 is about the right price for a mattress. Beautyrest, with its independent coil system, is the way to go--my current one from the 1990s shows absolutely no signs of deterioration.

Bad Lieutenant said...

When you have said "retards" you have said all that need be said about a $40k mattress.

rhhardin said...
I'm on the $200 mattress bought from J.C.Penny in 1975, just adding various toppers as it wears or is eaten by successive Doberman puppies.

12/25/17, 9:53 AM


RH, if you wouldn't eat their food, maybe they wouldn't be hungry enough to eat the toppers, even if the bed does smell like you.

MrCharlie2 said...

Hopefully that $40K bed will last for several decades and how could it be a money pit (projecting my experience a 10+ year old Audi.)

rhhardin said...

Socrates took writing as poison. It takes away the voice and personal presence. You only appear to be present. You can't assist your argument.

But writing is also a drug that preserves the voice.

FullMoon said...

Later, deeply into the explanation of horsetail hair and hand-crafting..

In the nineties(?) I did a small job for a guy who made bows for violins and other stringed instruments. He said a particular breed of Russian horse provided the best hair.From the tail. Was having a problem getting it for some reason related to politics at the time.

rhhardin said...

Socrates on comment sections would be ambivalent explicitly.

He'd close his pretty quickly.

southcentralpa said...

Aaaand she sticks the landing, but the judges are deducting points for not working in the (unlinkable) OED.

Merry Christmas, Professor ...

walter said...

1975?
Holy dust mite hotel..

madAsHell said...

According to my "Duden (Band 7)," the use of the word "Gift" was euphemistic for "dose."

Vielen dank!! Eine andere Ressource!

Sean Gleeson said...

I’m not exactly buying the just-so story about credenza originating as the table where food was tasted to be sure it was not poison. Not saying it can’t be true, but I would need to see some proof from source documents, not just a claim in a book.

FIDO said...

Hmm. This free ranging post by Ms. Althouse pretty much verifies that the eggnog this Yuletide season has some additives of their own, which, while strictly poison, are very common in use.

buwaya said...

My wife spends on bedding.
Me, give me a wooden floor, as long as I've got somewhere to put my head.

Sydney said...

The internet. It truly is the bicycle of the mind.

mockturtle said...

My wife spends on bedding.
Me, give me a wooden floor, as long as I've got somewhere to put my head.


I'm with you, buwaya. For two years I slept in a sleeping bag in my small RV. Best sleep I ever had.

Tim at large said...

Ii wonder if that mattress for the Swedish royal family is made so that even they can’t feel a pea underneath it?

John said...

Ikea has a very nice mattress for about $200 in queen

Wr have one in a spare bedroom and it is very comfy

No box springs it just sits on a series of slats

John Henry

Marc Puckett said...

Merry Christmas, a little late in the day. Today's also the feast of St Anastasia, who's never much celebrated (it being, after all, Christmas)-- in the East, she is (so I've just read) Φαρμακολυτρία, 'deliverer from poisons', more or less.

tcrosse said...

Today's also the feast of St Anastasia, who's never much celebrated (it being, after all, Christmas

Orthodox Christmas is on or about January 7, so St Anastasia gets a break.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Air beds like the $99 Aerobed now sold at Costco can be remarkably effective.

John Smith Smith said...

Today I wondered for the first time if Agatha Christie would have been a different writer if she were not named after one of the martyred saints mentioned at every Mass in the Roman Canon (Perpetua, Felicity, Agatha, Lucia, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia).

Deep waters indeed.
One of my regrets in life is not having lots of kids so I could have given them lots of cool names.

(I don't know a lot about Agatha Christie - well, an ex-girlfriend had read all the Poirot mysteries before she was my girlfriend, and I have read a few of her novels - but I do know she was a fan of what is not called the "traditional Latin Rite". )

Ray said...

I Claudius has a wonderful scene where Livia is going brunch with a poisoner comparing techniques.

I could not find a video clip.

And now poison has progressed to strange radioactive delivered by an umbrella, or via a drink.

And the word has expanded to include unhealthy foods.

John Smith Smith said...

short addenda - (a) No, I would never be married to a woman who would agree with me that we should name our daughter Perpetua (the other names are fine for a baby girl in today's America) and (b) Agatha Christie was a fan of what is now called the "traditional Latin Rite", in fact there was, for a while, something called the "Agatha Christie indult", where the liturgy in Latin - as most recently approved by Pope John in the 1950s - was publicly celebrated (in the days when there was repression of that liturgy almost everywhere where Roman Catholics lived).
Why is any of this relevant? Agatha Christie was an expert in poisons before she was a writer of mystery stories and novels.

John Smith Smith said...

Ray - are you referencing the old (30 years ago) umbrella murder on a London bridge carried out by the Soviet-controlled Bulgarian version of the KGB, or is there a newer umbrella radiation poisoning event?

Yancey Ward said...

Poison always reminds me of Socrates last words: "I drank what?????"

stlcdr said...

Kevin Bacon would be proud.

Breezy said...

$75,000.00 gown, $40,000.00 mattress. It’s what you spend when you have so much you don’t need to make any trade offs. But, it is great for those enterprising manufacturers that understand that psyche.

Charlie said...

If I were Meade I wouldn't be buying any green bananas,