As noted in an earlier post
, traditional art supplies often have odd histories. Today, I'd like to talk about -- stay right where you are, Mina: I see you sneaking toward the exit door
To be specific, let us discuss the profound political implications of this review
of Utrecht brand pure gum turpentine:
In the past you could find this in any hardware store but thanks to the Government you now have to pay more for it at art outlets but Utrecht has the best quality and quantity for the money I've found.
Let's zero in on those emphasized words: "Thanks to the government."
So far as I know, no government regulation prohibits hardware stores from selling turpentine of the best quality. The good stuff may even be available at a hardware store near you. (Though not near me, apparently.)
These nice people in Georgia
offer what some connoisseurs consider the world's best turps, made the old-fashioned way. The makers sell it openly. It's not a black market product. If you want to acquire some, you don't have to travel to a sketchy part of town at midnight and be buzzed into a seedy back room where the turp bottles are stacked next to the heroin and C4.
Southerners know good turps the way Italians know good olive oil. Even though turp containers carry a "harmful or fatal if swallowed" label, some people even take the stuff internally as a medicine. I'm not kidding: You really ought to see this guy
slurp it up. He's definitely a trip, especially when he describes the use of turpentine baths to cure erectile dysfunction. Wood giveth turps and turps giveth wood.
Of course, he's talking about real
turpentine, not crap turpentine.
turpentine smells like a Christmas tree with licorice ornaments. Crap
turpentine smells like the Grim Reaper's halitosis.
Real turpentine comes from a resin harvested from living pine trees (much as you might tap a maple tree to get real maple syrup, another product rarely encountered nowadays). I have theorized that the custom of bringing conifers indoors during the winter owes much to the mildly intoxicating
"perfume" associated with pine resin.
Real turpentine is even said to intensify the high one gets from cannabis. If that
proves to be true, then those nice folks in Georgia may have a whole new market open up for them.
Crap turpentine doesn't come from living trees. Crap turpentine is an industrial byproduct produced when trees are ground up into paper products.
So why does your local hardware store -- and most art stores -- stock only crap turpentine?
It's cheaper to produce.
Plain and simple. The Mean Ol' Gummint isn't the bad guy in this situation.
(Well, arguably the Mean Ol' Gummint did
play a role, when it won the civil war and freed the slaves. The turpentine farms of the antebellum south relied on slave labor. The work was miserable
-- even worse than picking cotton.)
Even the pricey turps sold in art supply stores tends to be crap turpentine, "rectified" and refined to subdue the stench-o-death. Some piney perfume may be added. The stuff is usable, but it's not the same as the magical elixer which the Old Masters slathered on their panels to achieve that ineffable glow-from-within.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because these words have haunted me all day:
"Thanks to the government."
Behold the triumph of libertarian brainwashing: Our citizenry has been trained to blame everything bad on the Mean Ol' Gummint, even when the culprit is actually a megacorporation. This is the way we think -- the way we've been taught
Not just about turpentine. About everything
Ideology is the strongest intoxicant, infinitely stronger than pine resin. This dangerous intoxicant induces hallucinations which can cause us to lose sight of reality.
use of gummint regulation might help us navigate the byways of Turpworld. The phrase "pure gum turpentine" is supposed to designate the real McCoy, but in my experience, even some hardware store cans which bear that label may neverthless smell pretty damned death-y when you open 'em up. I'd like to see labelling which clearly informs the turp-buying public as to whether a product has been derived from living trees via traditional methods. I believe that an educated consumer will choose to buy a substance which does not stink of decaying rodent cadavers.
On the other hand...
The world of folk remedies is not
an area into which the Mean Ol' Gummint should intrude, even when those remedies seem really wacky and kind of dangerous. I will never take turpentine internally, and I would never advise anyone else to do so. But what you do with your body is own damned business.