Dining in The Dark by Bryan Miller (Book Review)

“Dining in the Dark: A Famed
Restaurant Critic’s Struggle with and Triumph Over Depression”By Bryan Miller
Skyhorse, September 2021, 9781510760394, Hardcover, 216 pages, $22.99 USD, $32.00 CAD, Biography & Autobiography/Personal Memoirs
Amazon || Bookshop || Barnes&Noble


How can one graduate from Columbia, have a good start as a journalist at the Journal Inquirer, get hired as a restaurant critic by the New York Times, have a lovely french sweetheart as his bride, and then lose it all?

Bryan Miller was hit by depression. “The black bear,” as he chose to name it, emptied his bank account, ruined his career—as one of the most celebrated restaurant critics of his generation—and took his home from him, “a seven-bedroom farmhouse on five lush acres,” as well as “a good number of friends.”

Bryan Miller reviewed restaurants for more than a decade at the astonishing frequency of “five to six nights a week in the company of one or two couples,” appearing on TV almost every week, while writing magazine features and giving speeches for culinary events. He dined out more than 5100 times during his career.

By his own admission, he had “what was widely considered the best job in food journalism,” a position most people would only dream about; tasting food and giving their opinions on fancy NYC restaurants for a living.

Although Miller admits that his depression had begun in 1982, the first sign he’d felt was one morning in November 1983, when he woke up to work on some reviews, but all he really wanted is go back to bed and continue sleeping (he’d mistaken it for fatigue back then, a common assumption among unaware depressives).

For a young Miller, with goals and career ambitions, taking the first step to counter-attack his depression was to simply admit the malady—something he equated with acknowledging that he’d joined the ranks of the defeated— and visit a doctor. He took some time, but he did it in the end. The doctor first prescribed him Nardil—a Monoamine Oxidose Inhibitor (MAO)—a classic old staple for treating depression that gave Miller “the most relief,” but made him depressed “at certain levels.”

Miller was prescribed 90mg of Nardil, a drug that he described as a “real party pooper,” due to its effect—at such high dosages—on one’s libido, sex life, and overall energy levels.

Nevertheless, Bryan and his first wife Anne were on a roll during the early 1980s—fully aware back then, that they were living their best years—and still, they sensed that “big things were on the horizon,” and as a result, their early marriage years were so sweet and adventurous—with countless visits to the best restaurants New York, Morocco, and Europe had to offer—from Marrakesh to Salamanca.

But his affairs were as unpredictable as his life outcomes, and his depression soon worsened, affecting his life—at home and at work—making him go on a path that ultimately left him jobless, penniless, and alone. Even his writing, which could had been a form of escapism, turned into a dreadful task he avoided when he wasn’t in the mood.

When depressed, Miller took up to two days to write a review. But when he felt health and motivated, it took him 1/12th of that (four hours) to get the job done; He wrote up to 4000 words when he wasn’t “suicidally ill.”

He called what one experiences during his/her childhood as “indelible tattoos,” events that shape our attitude towards the world and how we act in the world “at no matter what age.” His father died when Bryan was three at the age of twenty five.

At one point, amidst his collapsing career and health, he discovered he’d got a tumor and had to get rid of it, a process that eventually made one of his ears “decorative,” and deaf.

Everything kept falling apart. His mother married again, a cardiologist named Lucian, “the iron man for his robust health and imperturbable nature,” who helped him “medically and otherwise, on many occasions.” Then, his mother got dementia which broke his heart as he watched her deteriorating condition.

But he tried! He tried teaching writing at the Culinary Institute of America, and after just two lecture, the dean told him that he should “improve his meager pedagogical skills at another institution.”
Then, he tried freelance book editing and was fired by clients. He hit a point when his net worth was $16.10. He “laughed, and taped,” the bank statement to the wall.

At the end of the book, Bryan declares: “I am reacquainted with life.”


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Marijuana Hater’s Guide to Making a Billion Dollars from Hemp by Matthew Harmon (Book Review)

Marijuana Hater’s Guide to Making a Billion Dollars from Hemp: The Next Disruptive Industry
By Matthew Harmon
Farmbridge California, 181pp, Paperback, $19.99, April 20th 2021, 978-1735674704

Amazon || Bookshop || Kobo


In Cryptocurrencies, those who had gotten in early, took huge risks in an unknown medium of exchange and with zero guarantees of returns, have been reaping most of the profits since bitcoin has become the new cool thing. Cannabis is not different. At the time of writing this article, China is on the top of the Leaders Board of the global Industrial Hemp market—the world’s largest producer and exporter “producing over half of the world’s supply,”1—which isn’t a strange thing at all considering that the world’s first paper was produced in China (circa 150 BC) using hemp. The origins of cannabis though are still unknown, and are the subject of an ongoing debate (while the general consensus assigns the plant’s historical roots to Asia).

As the world prepares for a Cannabis revolution, few know the difference between Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana.
Cannabis is the plant. Hemp and Marijuana are both produced from the Cannabis plant—although their cultivation, setup, and processing are different. The plant is said to be dioecious: it is either a male plant or a female plant. We know that there are three species of Cannabis: Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis indica.

Indica hast the highest amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol: one out of the 113 total cannabinoids found in the plant; it is a psychoactive agent that “affects brain function and causes alterations in perception, mood, and cognition,” making us feel ‘high‘).

SativaL., which was discovered by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnarus in 1753, is usually the perfect species for producing Hemp. And ruderalis is characterized by its high CBD concentration; CBD: Cannabidiol, another one of the 113 Cannabinoids found in the plant, believed to be the one that “gives the plant its medicinal properties.”

While industrial hemp can grow in as little as 100 days, it usually takes 4 to 6 months from seed to harvest. A typical hemp field is highly dense with near-unlimited scalability—one acre of a hemp field have hundreds of thousands of plants—and reaching up to 16 feet high.

“You can’t get high on industrial hemp, even if you were able to ingest an entire field of the stuff,” because it contains a negligible amount of THC and a significant amount of CBD. Policy makers set a limit on how much THC industrial hemp can legally have: no more than 0.3% “on a draw weight basis.”

Marijuana crop takes anywhere between 60 and 90 days to grow within indoor environment, and demands a humid atmosphere “for proper development,” whereas grown outdoor, the plant requires even more care and attention to details. The farmer must prevent the male plants from cross-pollinating its female counterparts “because pollination inhibits a female plant from producing high concentrations of THC. And, of course, it’s the THC that makes a good crop for recreational use.”

Often, at about the sixth week of growth, the farmer checks the gender of the plant, and depending on his goals—industrial hemp, marijuana, or high CBD crop for the pharmaceutical industry—he/she may choose to keep a uni-sex Cannabis field.

When we talk about a hemp industrial revolution, we are talking about the possible number of products, tools, resources, and technologies that we can derive from the Cannabis plant—a number limited only by our entrepreneurial imaginations and governmental hurdles.

Speaking about governments and hurdles, the campaign against Cannabis isn’t new, dating back to the last decade of the 19th century. Led by the Progressive Movement who were great fans of prohibition, the campaign succeeded in pushing forward and enacting four Acts in the span of 9 years: the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), the Poison Act (1907), the Trowns-Boylan Act (1914), and the Harrison Narcotics Act (1914), leading to the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in 1930.

Harry J. Aslinger ran a campaign, starting in the 1930s, creating a confusion among people around the effects of the plant on mental and physical health. This confusion was made even worse by some farmers who used the word ‘hemp’ as a camouflage to “avoid the stigma of what they were really growing.”

By 1931, Marijuana was outlawed by 29 US states. While Aslinger enjoyed a long career as the Commissioner of the FBN, lasting 32 years in office, and working during the terms of five US presidents: Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act came to require “every person who sold any Hemp, Cannabis, or Marijuana products to register with the IRS and pay a special occupational tax, as well as requiring written transfer forms.”

Then came WWII, and the US government started a campaign to promote the production of hemp. War Hemp Industries (WHI) was launched, along with private partners. WHI—along with USDA—encouraged farmers to grow hemp as part of the Hemp for Victory Program (they’d even released a movie: Hemp for Victory [1942]).

As soon as WWII had elapsed, Harry Aslinger started lobbying worldwide against Cannabis, resulting in the 1961 UN’s adoption of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, “a treaty that prohibited the production and trade of specific drugs including Cannabis.”

Article.28, Section.2 of the Convention mentions that it “shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) or horticultural purposes.”

In 1965, Activist and Clinical psychologist Timothy Leary was arrested (in Texas) possessing Marijuana. Dr. Leary figured that the Marihuana Tax Act—the ground for arresting him—was unconstitutional to begin with and had gone to challenge it in the Supreme Court. He argued that the Marihuana Tax Act “required self-incrimination, which violated the Fifth Amendment.”
Leary was right. He won the case prompting the establishment to replace the old with the new (a new Act): the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which went into effect in 1971.

Marijuana was one of these drugs that had been so demonized in my mind that I couldn’t understand why so many people were trying to legalize it.

In 1972, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (also known as the Shafer Commission) produced a report concluding that not even a “single human fatality in the US proven to have solely resulted from the use of Marijuana.” President Nixon rejected the report even though he was the one who had carefully selected the members of the Shafer Commission. The War on Drugs continued.

Just like there were people like Aslinger who lobbied to kill the hemp industry, there were others who were pushing back against their interests and agendas. In 1989, a group of entrepreneurs founded the Business Alliance of Commerce in Hemp. Two years later, the Hemp Council was created to started organizing rallies and events that promoted Hemp products

By 1996, over 300 companies in the US were manufacturing a wide range of hemp products—everything from luggage and soap to paper and toys to seed grain and surfboards.

The potential commercial products that can be made out of the Cannabis plant are near-unlimited; from face wash, shampoo, and soap to a nontoxic hemp bio-plastic biodegradable within six months.

The author, Matthew Harmon, has been researching Cannabis for more than a decade. Born into a religious family and growing up within a conservative 1980s political atmosphere, he used to believe that marijuana is as dangerous as Cocaine and Alcohol.
Nowadays, Harmon is betting that it “will be legal,” with no ambiguity between the state and federal level, “in the next seven years.”

The book reads like an extensive course on the history of the plant, its commercial and medicinal potential, and its future. It is an invaluable resource for every entrepreneur that has ever thought of stepping into the hemp industry. Those who know nothing about Cannabis, and those who’ve been investing in it for years will both enjoy this book.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you can support my work by buying me a book (one time donation) or by becoming a patron.

 
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