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Paul Nathan Q&A.

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Hello again Paul,

 

Thanks for offering to do a Q&A here on the forums so that everyone (including you) can clarify their thoughts and opinions.

 

For now, I'd just like to ask you one question. It's one that I asked you on Tuesday, and which Phoenix and Brian have reiterated on Wednesday and Thursday, so I think it's fair to say that it's important to several people here.

 

If, as you have claimed here on the forums repeatedly, you do not consider yourself an expert, why does your website say you are?

 

The front page of your website has a subhead states very clearly at the top: "The art and science of absinthe", and below it the very first paragraph reads:

 

The web's best source for information about absinthe created by and for absinthe professionals. Here you will find everything you need to know about absinthe in the world today.

 

Those statements very clearly posit you as an expert on absinthe to anyone who visits that site, and imbues the information there with a sense of authority. This impression is at the heart of several other more specific issues that people here at WS have with the information you are disseminating, such as the often erroneous names and dates you ascribe to things, so if you could explain yourself with regard to this issue, several of us would very much appreciate it. Thank you.

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Building on Jay's post above, please don't play a semantics game--the sentence on your site makes a very strong implication of expertise even though it does not use that particular word. As examples, please see the use of "best source," "professionals," and "everything you need to know."

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I hate to get so rude so early in this thread, but I can't hold it in. The answers you gave to my questions show that you are not at all serious about absinthe, and all you care about is getting your face/name noticed at the expense of absinthe. You're foray into absinthe is an abomination of ethical dissemination of inforomation.

 

I have no doubt you take none of your time here seriously.

 

I'm done responding to anything you say.

 

The correct response is:

Thank you for your time Mr. Nathan. I understand you are busy and appreciate you taking the trouble to answer my questions. Unfortunately you and I are so far at odds with our goals, desires, world views, and opinions about absinthe that I am afraid we will never reconcile them. I hold you no personal ill will but I am afraid that it is best if I bow out of this conversation.

 

Paul, please don't assume that any more cordiality was warranted than what was actually given to you. Perhaps that was the absolute best that PT could muster. Take it as it is, or leave it. Don't be so arrogant as to rephrase people's thoughts to your liking. You may view the world through a different shade of color than others, but I think PT's comment was overt and unambiguous, and should be taken as such.

 

And while we're telling each other how to act, consider that some folks don't want to email you in private, but would rather all of this be discussed in the open for the world to see.

 

Cheers.

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Paul:

 

Who are the absinthe professionals and what are their qualifications?

 

As you point out, absinthe is a small world. It's pretty hard to be authoritative in this field and not have the rest of us know who you are.

 

I don't mean to be rude and I'm not questioning his mixology skills, but the man you identified as one of the world's top "absinthe mixologists" didn't know how to pronounce Peychaud.

 

I believe that lighting absinthe is an important part of the culture. I believe that it is what caught the eye and the interest of the British writer who is responsible for bringing it out of Prague and into western culture.

Paul, I believe you may be looking at the world through marketing-tinted glasses. Just because something exists, doesn't mean it should be promoted and perpetuated. By George's own account, this "style" of absinthe and the preparation is a marketing fabrication. I applaud his effort to set the record straight.

 

Now, once we get to the bottom of how Hill's got started in the first place, we'll have the complete story. The fact is, it's not absinthe. It's schnapps labeled as absinth(e).

 

Check out this episode of Three Sheets for a look at how Czechs feel about absinthe. (starts at 3:00)

 

I guess I would turn that question around. If I went to a lecture on contemporary absinthe service and the speaker did not mention fire rituals I would want to know why. I would want to know why someone who purports to be an expert would not talk about one of the few things that everyone associates with absinthe. Even if it is to dispel the myths and misconceptions.

For the same reason a serious beer expert wouldn't bother talking about the supposedly traditional lime in Mexican beer, which started as a marketing gimmick to remove the canned taste from Tecate when it was first put into cans... unless Mexican mass-market beer was the topic of the lecture.

 

There's a big difference between presenting educational material:

 

"This is how it was done in 1890. There is also a modern practice, which began in the late 1990s."

And selling a practice to bartenders:

 

"Hey, here's another neat thing you can do. Absinthe snobs frown on it, but it sells drinks and will add to your bad-boy image."

The latter is the image I get from your presentation. This is in line with your professional modus: growing sales and selling people on an idea.

 

This isn't always easy when the experts don't speak the language, or are not comfortable on camera, or would prefer to let someone else speak. One thing to note about experts, they often are very shy and would rather not be on camera (probably for fear of being raked over the coals on sites like this one).

 

I can relate to camera shy. That's one of the reasons WS hasn't done videos yet. It's a shame you didn't just come to us and offer your services when you saw the need.

 

Could you cite some examples of these non-English-speaking absinthe experts? Three will do.

 

Our goal is to have descriptions of everything that is for sale in the US so that the people who sell absinthe have a place to go to get that information in a way that is useful to them.

But how useful is it to them when you refuse to distinguish between an authentic product, and a faux product that was created specifically to put a product on the market in this category, but which lacks any relation to absinthe entirely?

 

A case in point:

 

A man came up and asked me why I didn't care for this brand. I told him that it was too bitter for me. I bought him a glass to try it for himself. He said he loved it. He said he liked the complexity, all the layers of flavor. I will be honest, I could not get past the overpowering bitterness.

 

I learned a lesson that day. A lessen that I knew but took much closer to heart after that encounter. We are all different. We have different tastes. It is not my place to tell anyone else what is good or bad (flavor wise)...

 

There is no amount of money that could get me sell that product, even though I know it is well made, traditional, and that some people like it.

 

The message here is that if there's a market for it, sell it. What makes you think this stuff is absinthe? It's not.

 

This is one of the areas that often gets confused around here. Although we obviously want to encourage and support the production and appreciation of quality products, we're not against bad absinthe; we're against mislabeling of products that are not absinthe.

 

Your position through all of this has been that if a product is labeled as absinthe, it's absinthe.

 

Obviously thujone is a big question for everyone when they first come to know absinthe.

It wouldn't be if it hadn't been for ten years of false marketing.

 

We did decide early on that the absintheology should be a portal for people who sold absinthe. To that end we wanted to post the answers to questions that bartenders and liquor sellers get. We felt that Thujone was an issue that would come up and tried to give the best explanation of what it is and how it relates to absinthe while keeping the answer simple, understandable, memorable, and repeatable (that is to say an answer they could understand, remember, and pass on to their customers).

 

Great.

Can I quote this or is it someone else's writing? I can't cut and paste off of someone else's site wihtout thier permission.

 

You have my permission. It's from the Absinthe Marteau website; I wrote it. You can have one of your writers paraphrase it and not bother with credit.

 

Which recent studies?

These studies, and others you can find at thujone.info.

What GS/MS analysis?

The ones written about in those studies, particularly "Behaviour of thujone during distillation."

What is GS/MS analysis? It sounds very technical and very impressive but what is it?

GC/MS is gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, "a method that combines the features of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample. Applications of GC-MS include drug detection, fire investigation, environmental analysis, explosives investigation, and identification of unknown samples. GC/MS can also be used in airport security to detect substances in luggage or on human beings. Additionally, it can identify trace elements in materials that were previously thought to have disintegrated beyond identification." (wikipedia)

 

The short story is that by analysing most available samples of pre-ban absinthe, as well as modern absinthes made strictly according to pre-ban protocols, we know that pre-ban absinthe contained only trace amounts of thujone, and in some cases, none detectable. In all cases far below the NOE (No Observable Effects) level.

 

Shortly after the first study was published, it was questioned whether thujone might have degraded over time (in spite of the modern absinthes having similar levels).

 

A more recent study demonstrated that thujone is incredibly stable over time except when exposed to extreme temperature and light conditions. Given that some of these pre-ban samples were so well-preserved that they were still green after 95 years, the analysis is pretty conclusive.

 

Now here is the question that I have to ask myself. What is the truth? Who is right? Do I listen to the guy who teaches doctors at UC Berkley or do I blindly quote something that I read on the internet.

Depends on the credentials. Anyone can lecture at a university. Who's the guy? Baggot?

 

In fact, the only reason the thujone thing got picked up by the marketers in the first place is because of a 1998 article written by Strang, Arnold and Peters, referencing one of Arnold's earlier (1988) conjectures on the amount of thujone in absinthe.

 

Without analysis of any kind, Arnold—a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology —hypothesisized the amount of thujone in absinthe to be ~260mg/l. This was based on the amount of thujone thought to be contained in the average amount of wormwood used in a batch (around 25kg per 100 liters).

 

Arnold didn't take into account that the thujone molecule appears to bond more with the water and not so much with ethanol and consequently doesn't distill over as easily as the rest of the flavorful aromatics in wormwood.

 

He also didn't know that thujone levels vary from plant to plant. Although the same species, there are different "chemotypes". The only thing that distinguishes them is their respective chemical makeup. Some chemotypes are higher in some compounds than others. Thus, there is no way to predict how much thujone will be in a given harvest. This isn't really relevant though, because as pointed out above, the thujone isn't going anywhere anyway.

 

I also spent considerable time in Prague, as well as Karlovy Vary and other area of the region and the only part of the 'culture' it was in was marketing; I asked a women at one of the absinth stores some questions about origin, culture and why people drink it- her reply was that she doesn't know why anyone drinks it, only that tourists stroll in thinking they're buying something illicit.

 

I like many other people have a theory:

 

With the Velvet Revolution and the advent of capitalism in the eastern bloc countries, the touristy push of absinthe—a drink not native to, or ever very popular in the area—may be seen as the "re-branding" of Prague as a new Amsterdam. In other words, the artificial creation of legal drug tourism.

 

If I really wanted to push the publicity on this than I would have links on absintheology to my professional website:

http://www.firemagic.com

And links from there to my absinthe websites:

http://www.absintheology.com

and

http://wwww.absintheparty.com

http://www.louchesf.com

From my professional page.

Always thinking about the SEO, huh? Even here.

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By George's own account, this "style" of absinthe and the preparation is a marketing fabrication. I applaud his effort to set the record straight.

I was impressed by George's account too. I found it doing a Google search. But I can't find it when I am on the site: there don't seem to be any links to the page. It seems it may not be for public viewing at this stage.

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I hate to get so rude so early in this thread, but I can't hold it in. The answers you gave to my questions show that you are not at all serious about absinthe, and all you care about is getting your face/name noticed at the expense of absinthe. You're foray into absinthe is an abomination of ethical dissemination of inforomation.

 

I have no doubt you take none of your time here seriously.

 

I'm done responding to anything you say.

 

The correct response is:

Thank you for your time Mr. Nathan. I understand you are busy and appreciate you taking the trouble to answer my questions. Unfortunately you and I are so far at odds with our goals, desires, world views, and opinions about absinthe that I am afraid we will never reconcile them. I hold you no personal ill will but I am afraid that it is best if I bow out of this conversation.

 

Paul, please don't assume that any more cordiality was warranted than what was actually given to you. Perhaps that was the absolute best that PT could muster. Take it as it is, or leave it. Don't be so arrogant as to rephrase people's thoughts to your liking. You may view the world through a different shade of color than others, but I think PT's comment was overt and unambiguous, and should be taken as such.

 

And while we're telling each other how to act, consider that some folks don't want to email you in private, but would rather all of this be discussed in the open for the world to see.

 

Cheers.

 

Ron,

 

Since you want this public than here it is. Adults are having a conversation. If you want to be childish then go to your room and have your tantrum there. Do not snipe at me (or anyone else) here. Do not be rude here. And don't defend the rudeness of others.

You're foray into absinthe is an abomination

There are other threads for that. I started the Why I hate Paul Nathan thread for that very reason. Go there and vent your vitriol. Perhaps I'll read that thread some time when I am filled with a particular sense of self loathing.

 

I expect cordiality here just as I am giving cordiality here. I have been polite even in the face of some pretty rude comments. Several of them yours:

Jesus.

And what's with the black emo nail polish?

Sparkle.

Not very nice.

Yep. It's a well known fact that soda water will exponentially increase the likeability of any cocktail, not the ingredients.

Soda water is an ingredient you silly.

 

I will say it again. You don't agree with me fine. Go talk about me behind my back.

I feel bad for all the bad things I wished would have happened to him during that recording though.

But to say that the time I spent, the ideas that I hold, the things I enjoy, are an abomination is not acceptable on any level in any forum in which I wish to participate. It is that exact sort of thing that I object to. You don't like burning sugar. I don't like people insulting other people's beliefs, mine or anyone else's. Argue the ideas if you have the mental accuity but don't insult me or the other people on this thread.

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But to say that the time I spent, the ideas that I hold, the things I enjoy, are an abomination is not acceptable on any level in any forum in which I wish to participate.

 

Unacceptable to you, perhaps, Mr. Nathan, but not to absinthe lovers everywhere, who ab(w)hor(e) the kind of P.T. Barnum showmanship you seem to find so appealing when it comes to furthering your own agenda. And yes, I'm most certainly referring to the absinth(e) drenching, flaming ritual. Methinks someone rented that Cocktail DVD once too often, and that kind of bartender circus sideshow might be fine when it involves other liquors that have had continuous public exposure throughout the decades following prohibition, but to predicate the absinthe revival based on such antics is detrimental to the survival of the image of our beloved liquor, and anyone who promotes such antics should not expect to be taken seriously by the drink's most ardent supporters.

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name='GStone' date='May 28 2009, 11:39 AM' post='174948'

Wow G. What happened to keeping it brief?

 

Brian is not going to be happy.

 

 

Always thinking about the SEO, huh? Even here.

That was a joke. I tried to make it as obvious as possible. I hope it was taken as one.

 

I really don't have any of those links on my various pages (not like I should - I mean they may be scattered here or there but the pages are really not optimized like that and I don't think i want them to be - So it should be obvious that I am not playing that game here).

 

If I cared about SOE than they would have been set up like that long ago. I probably should optimize them but I will be busy for the next couple of days just doing the research to properly answer all your questions here.

 

P

 

PS. It's 12:30 here so I am going to bed. The above was the only thing I could answer off the top of my head. I am going to respond to, what I think, is the only other outstanding question now.

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Hello again Paul,

 

Thanks for offering to do a Q&A here on the forums so that everyone (including you) can clarify their thoughts and opinions.

 

For now, I'd just like to ask you one question. It's one that I asked you on Tuesday, and which Phoenix and Brian have reiterated on Wednesday and Thursday, so I think it's fair to say that it's important to several people here.

 

If, as you have claimed here on the forums repeatedly, you do not consider yourself an expert, why does your website say you are?

 

The front page of your website has a subhead states very clearly at the top: "The art and science of absinthe", and below it the very first paragraph reads:

 

The web's best source for information about absinthe created by and for absinthe professionals. Here you will find everything you need to know about absinthe in the world today.

 

Those statements very clearly posit you as an expert on absinthe to anyone who visits that site, and imbues the information there with a sense of authority. This impression is at the heart of several other more specific issues that people here at WS have with the information you are disseminating, such as the often erroneous names and dates you ascribe to things, so if you could explain yourself with regard to this issue, several of us would very much appreciate it. Thank you.

 

That is a very good question Jay. I will respond to you privately with an answer.

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Maybe it's cuz I'm drunk but I'm going to uncharacteristically suggest everyone mellow out.

 

Man, I hate when someone tells me to mellow out.

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That is a very good question Jay. I will respond to you privately with an answer.

 

Never mind Jay. I have decided to answer you publicly on this. It will take me a few hours to compose my thoughts on this. I will try to get it back to you before I go to sleep tonight.

 

It may not be until tomorrow.

 

P

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Maybe it's cuz I'm drunk but I'm going to uncharacteristically suggest everyone mellow out.

 

Man, I hate when someone tells me to mellow out.

 

Dude, mellow out :twitchsmile:

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Thanks, Paul. I realize you have quite a few other chainsaws you're juggling at the moment, so tomorrow or later in the weekend would be fine.

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Actually, you know what, Paul? If you'll have it, I'd like to offer you an olive branch. I may have prejudged you without basis, and I haven't given you any other recourse except to be on the defensive. Moving forward, and in the spirit and purpose of this thread, I would be willing to only ask relevant questions. And taking a page from Jay, Peridot and some of the others, I will do so cordially. Is that fair?

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We'll settle for mellow.

 

I'm going to point out that Paul has been far more polite here than our membership, which is unacceptable. He's fucked if he does and screwed if he doesn't.

 

As far as I can tell, I completely disagree with Paul on the topic of absinthe identity and similar issues, and I don't have a lot of hope that will ever change, but I'm going to insist that the personal attacks stop.

 

Keep it academic, stick with the facts, and leave your opinions on Paul's character and motives out of it.

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I'm going to point out that Paul has been far more polite here than our membership, which is unacceptable. leave your opinions on Paul's character and motives out of it.

Agreed on all counts.

 

I am somewhat surprised however that Paul hasn't responded to Gwydion's information about thujone.

 

FYI to all, Dr. Arnold, the source of so much of our problems, and the fountainhead for so many Czechsinthes who want to claim only high thujone absinthes are authentic, has repeatedly rejected and/or ignored my offers to have a conversation about his studies and how they differ from analysis of actual absinthe. He's also rejected my offer of submitting several pre-ban samples to him for analysis. He's also so far ignored my request for a podcast interview as well.

 

We must keep in mind that he has plenty of reason to not admit his analyses were wrong or flawed because so much of his work that made him famous revolves around those studies.

 

Paul, that's the guy who has planted so much information into the minds of the academics you're talking about. He's got one heck of a conflict of interest going on.

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I really don't like people like Dr. Arnold. They give ammunition to those who argue against the value of scientific research. Instead of being seen as violating the spirit of scientific research with their actions and words they are viewed as an example of how "everyone has an agenda" and "science isn't reliable."

 

We've had people here argue that Dr. Arnold's conclusions were more valid than actual testing of preban samples and of modern absinthes distilled by preban methods. All because of a view of "truth" being nebulous and subjective. And because of a very unscientific "I think my source is more reliable and knowledgeable than yours" attitude. Personas don't matter. When it comes to finding the objective truth of something scientific like thujone content, the only thing that matters is the results of research, and whether or not the methods used are valid.

 

Paul, I haven't watched any of your videos or looked at your website. I know very little about you so If I talk to you in this thread it will only be in response to what's said in this thread or on this website.

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He's also so far ignored my request for a podcast interview as well.

 

We must keep in mind that he has plenty of reason to not admit his analyses were wrong or flawed

 

Interesting. Would he necessarily have to admit to being wrong for an interview? Have you made it clear to him that you only want his thoughts or a little background info on his study (directly from the horses mouth)? You could send him the questions in advance, so he has ample time to prepare and won't feel like he's going to be waterboarded.

 

Shame. His interview would be a great addition to an overall piece on the science and methods involved in the thujone issue.

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Arnold's research was shoddy and overdependent on assumption to begin with. It has been absolutely negated by more recent and vastly more comprehensive studies. There's almost no way for him to talk about it without that being clear. The alternative to admitting he was wrong would be worse than doing so.

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I know I'm going to piss off some seniors here, but look...

 

The guy's already admitted that he is up for showing every corner of the absinthe world. Alright. He knows that anyone besides the bullshit tourists that actually take the time to realize what he's doing is bullshit will walk away.

 

So what's the problem? Allow me to venture into commentary from Paul's perspective...

 

This guy (respectfully) has a career. Good on him. Especially now, in this day and age. I've been laid off in the last year and I can attest to you...it's not good.

 

This guy has found a brilliant tourist attraction in countries abroad and in the US that can fuel his form of entertainment. Good on 'im.

 

The whole gothic thing plays right into this guy's field of vision as far as his act goes. I'm in no position to tell a man how to work his act.

 

Now...some insignificant organization called The Wormwood Society comes to this guy's attention. Ah, well...who gives a shit. People have seen Johnny Depp light this shit on fire in movies -- after putting an eyedropper full 'o opium in it! Bonus!

 

A bunch of uppity douche-nozzles think they're doing the world a favor by putting out facts about this silly little drink that's been demonized for years on the wrong premise.

 

Ah, well, fuck 'em...

 

 

 

 

Paul, I get what you're doing. It sells...right? It's OK. If it works, fine. But what you have to understand is that there are those of us who take this thing seriously. Do you understand that? No confrontation at this point...

 

...but here there is.

 

From what you've explained throughout your posts is that, despite the fact you might be a performer, you've been working exactly against what every devoted WS member has been fighting for long before the drink was legitimized here again.

 

You, sir, are a performer. I can't take that away from you. But -- you, sir are a whore...at least in terms of absinthe. What you're doing sells tickets. What you're doing is a spectacle. What you've doing is making money.

 

I can't speak for the Society at large, or anyone beyond myself for that matter. But I can extend the firmest of middle fingers to you if you think you're somehow helping the spread knowledge of absinthe favorably.

 

[dietary recommendation removed by admin]

Edited by GStone

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Peridot, have you ever seen Carl Sagan's tv series Cosmos?

 

In episode 4, "Heaven and Hell," Sagan talks about the incorrect scientific theories of Immanuel Velikovsky. He pokes particular fun at some of Velikovsky's theories, for instance Venus was a comet and had been ejected from inside Jupiter. Velikovsky theorized that gravitational influence from the close contact with the comet Venus actually caused Earth to stand still (as mentioned in the Bible) and that consecutive close calls eventually caused Venus to fall into it's current planetary rotation around the sun.

 

Dr. Sagan, during the episode and also outside in the scientific community, really ribbed Velikovsky for his borderline asinine theories. But here's where he made a very grave observation. Sagan said that the real problem was not that Velikovsky was wrong, but that his ideas were so unpopular that the rest of the scientific community tried to suppress them.

 

Never is the path to truth paved with the suppression of uncomfortable (or blatantly incorrect) ideas. In fact, the way to truth is to either prove or disprove the theory with other hard scientific proof.

 

So, we should apply that logic to Dr. Arnold's research studies. Let's educate using the proven science, rather than trying to exclude Dr. Arnold from the table.

 

IMHO.

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Nobody's suppressing his ideas. I mean, how many times on this board alone have we gone through his work? It's been picked apart countless times. And that's how science works. Your research has to hold up to analysis.

 

I'm not even remotely suggesting suppressing his ideas or refusing to allow him to have his say. I'm fiercely criticizing his refusal to even look at any research that contradicts his. That is a far cry from what you're talking about.

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Oh, I don't think we're trying to exclude the good Dr. Arnold from the table. He has made his reputation, not on absinthe or thujone or the like, but rather on trying to explain the medical relationship between van Gogh's art and his mental status as described in letters to his brother Theo. There is quite a conntage industry in trying to diagnose van Gogh's illness, and Dr. Arnold puts it all onto absinthism and the resultant craving for terpenes, being caused ultimately by some other long named medical condition I can't recall and didn't really understand to be honest. But that's the deal with him, that's all.

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Ahh, I thought you were arguing against his being interviewed, thereby excluding him from the table. No harm no foul. His refusal to accept the proof that his theory was wrong is definitely a douchey move. Agreed.

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Yeah, it's not that he should be excluded from any dialogue. It's that he's excluded himself and refused repeated efforts to include him.

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Ha. How long has it been since he's made contact with anyone? Has anyone stopped by his place to see if there's a terrible odor?

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