Briefings: Pop Tops, Opium, Groucho Marx Writes a Letter, British Champagne and Scab Refs

It’s only midweek, and already we’re feeling blue. Why? We love wine, and it appears Al Gore’s nightmare is looming over our favorite form of intoxication (that’s a lie; they’re all our favorite). Worse still, NFL scab refs are ruining our Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays. Luckily, we only sulk lightly; we’ve got the surprisingly recent history of can tabs, archival antics from our favorite bespectacled cigar smoker and even a touch of opium to lighten the mood.

It’s a big and complicated world. We’re at tips [at] if you think there’s something we should know about.

1. What NOT to Repeat | A Paraphernalia Collector Turns Addict

Thankfully, the practice of smoking opium has gone to the history books — almost. A fervent collector of opium antiques, Steven Martin (not the SNL, banjo Steve Martin), reveals the riveting story of his spiral into addiction to a drug that is nearly extinct. How he escaped a similar fate, and more.

2. What to Stockpile for | British Champagne?

If the recent travels of our very own Eric Yang have taught us anything (besides a paralyzing fear of abandonment), it’s that French wines are more than vessels of pretention: they’re damn delectable. So much more the problem when our warming world (sorry, audience-members-in-denial) threatens to move grape-growing climes northward. That’s right. Out of France, into the land of the pint and rare roast beef.

3. What to Giggle About | Groucho Marx is, Unsurprisingly, Funny

Sure, Karl Marx was a funny guy (I was a history major, trust me on this), but he can’t hold a candle to the other half of the Marx Brothers duo. What’s that, you say? I can’t hear you through this fake mustache and cigar smoke.

4. What to Drink to | A History of Can Tabs

When you’re a youngster like myself, a lot of things that make you pause and say “wow!” will make a lot of other people (read: geriatrics) shake an angry, sun-spotted, reminiscing fist. Whether you were around for it or not, though, a look at what came before the modern can tab reminds you of the little, taken-for-granted tech we’ve got today. Old fogies, feel free to spin yarns about your youth til your hearts’ content.

5. What to Sigh About | Replacement Refs Ruining the Only Thing You Really Love

Big news gets old fast, especially when it’s actively taking part in the slow disintegration of what was once your soul. Even after this weekend’s Benny-Hill-Theme-Song-like performance by scab refs in the NFL, the labor dispute and its consequences are still enigmatic anathema. Grantland fills you in on the issue: the black, the white, the between-the stripes.