Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

How I got so cosmic (or not)

This being the inaugural post on my blog – yesterday’s placeholder does not count – I suppose I should formally introduce myself. Right up front I will state that I am really not all that cosmic (does it show?). I adopted the name “Cosmic Connie” in 1995, when I was preparing to publish my parody of the new age/self-help/motivational subcultures. Cosmic Connie just seemed to be a logical name, inasmuch as the book was called Cosmic Relief: Honoring and Celebrating The Global Paradigm Shaft. Also, like many of us, I am a sucker for alliteration.

That’s the short answer about how I got to be Cosmic Connie. If you want longer answers, and have quite a bit of time to waste, check out the Cosmic Relief web site, if you haven't already. (Follow the “Confessions” link on the home page.)

Despite the fact that my moniker was more self-parody than anything, I got called on it a few years back by another person who went by the name Cosmic Connie. She was a fortune teller who, presumably, was a little more on the “cosmic” side than I. She wrote me an email with the subject line, “I am the REAL Cosmic Connie.” Actually she wasn’t all that indignant; she just wanted to let me know of her existence. I told her there was room enough in the vast cosmos for us to co-exist peacefully. At the time, in fact, there were numerous other references to “Cosmic Connie” on the Web as well. It’s just one of those obvious names, like “Fast Eddie” or “Dr. Bob” (I have known several Fast Eddies and Dr. Bobs, and I bet you have too).

Cosmic Relief was, as I mentioned above, a parody of the new age and self-help cultures, with a few jabs at corporate America thrown in for good measure. It was partly the result of my disillusionment with these subcultures, and partly the product of my longstanding need to satirize everything around me. I actually started writing satires when I was in second or third grade. (I started writing books years before that – before I could even write – but that’s another story altogether.***)

Cosmic Relief was not a book, per se; it was more like a magazine parody, a spoof of those freebie new-age/healthy-lifestyle publications that are available in most areas of the US. There were plenty of spoof articles and ad parodies – the latter being rather primitive, since all I had at the time was vector clip art – but it was the thought that counted. My reasoning was that if a publisher chose to pick up this project, they could re-create the ads and use photographs. (On the other hand, most of the publications I was satirizing were of such poor production quality anyway that the point seemed unimportant.)

For quite some time before I chose to self-publish, I did try to get a real honest-to-goodness trade publisher to pick up
Cosmic Relief. I sent preliminary editions – you couldn’t exactly call them manuscripts – to numerous publishers and agents. In return I got a lot of positive remarks about how funny the material was, but again and again, I learned that “it just does not suit our needs at this time.” Anyone heard that one before? At one point I even sent the material to one of my favorite humorists, Dave Barry, and he graciously offered to send it to his agent. In short order I got a polite letter back from the agent, who said he was not taking on any new clients at the time. Well, that was a new one for me. (He did, however, add that in any case, he was not the right agent for this material, so at least I was still on familiar ground.)

I will not pretend I wasn’t disappointed by the numerous rejections, but I was not all that surprised. I knew I had created a work that was hard to place. It wasn’t a parody of a specific publication, and many of the jokes may have been a bit obscure at the time. In any case I was certainly not bitter about it. At that time, I happened to be learning more and more about self-publishing. So that’s what I ultimately did, with the help of my business partner – and the love of my life – Ron Kaye.

The book was a critical success (in that I successfully bribed a few respectable folks to publicly say something nice about it****), but not a commercial one. I imagine it would have done far better if I had done more to distribute it, and, especially, to promote it, including and especially developing my “Cosmic Connie” persona. But there were real books to write, and real clients, and real life. My main satisfaction was seeing the book in print. I also loved getting emails and letters and phone calls from people who enjoyed the book. One phone call that especially delighted me was from the silly sage Swami Beyondananda, whom I greatly admire because, even though he may actually be enlightened, he is also an inveterate punster like me. He is also, I might add, cosmic. He said he was pleased and impressed to see someone committing the same type of humor as he, without stealing any of his jokes. High praise, indeed.

Cosmic Relief had been out a couple of years, with lackluster sales, I decided to create my Cosmic Relief web site. That was actually my first attempt at doing a web site, and I did it in, of all things, Microsoft Word 97. It was kind of a hodgepodge effort, but I have left it up there all these years because I hate throwing anything away.

And now…and now…I have this blog, another place for me to hold forth on the silliness of pop culture. I will not promise to stick strictly to the new age, or to self-help and motivation, or to the absurdity of the business world – but that doesn’t really matter. After all, as many of the new-age folks like to say, everything is interrelated. I just want to have a good time here. And I hope you do too.

Addendum: Beyond the silliness, Cosmic Relief had a marginally serious message, reflected in an essay I published at the back of the book, A Few Words From The Wet Blanket At The Mystics' Orgy. I can't imagine being a wet blanket at anyone's orgy these days, but I had a stronger sense of purpose back then. :-)

*** Come to think of it, I believe my longstanding love of writing satire has helped me in my “day job” of ghostwriting. They both involve imitation, taking on the voice of another; the difference, I suppose, is in the intent.
**** I am of course only joking about bribing people to say nice things about Cosmic Relief. After all, I am not a large publisher, or Amazon.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Cosmic Connie

"My main satisfaction was seeing the book in print."

Brilliant Cosmic Connie. You shipped (as Seth Rogen calls it) ! Many talk a big talk but few get it into the world or down on paper! Well done.

"with the help of my business partner – and the love of my life – Ron Kaye."

Ah I get the ganging up and the alliance factor now.

But, this blog did not touch upon how "self help" became interesting as a topic to criticize for you and what initially attracted you to criticizing and satirizing others publicly and what has held you here this long?

I am probably asking about something that goes back into your teens or 20's or earlier, like when did you first start talking about other people?

I will now reread the blog to see if I missed something.

Monday, March 15, 2010 8:50:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

The fact that Ron and I agree with each other about many points doesn't constitute "ganging up." We are a couple, though, as well as business partners -- an alliance in more ways than one -- and I've never pretended otherwise.

If this blog doesn't explain my background well enough, follow some of the other links in the post, particularly the "Confessions" link. Though superficial and written humorously, it might give you more insight into how I developed my attitudes about self-help/New-Wage etc. I used to really be into a lot of the stuff I now satirize or criticize.

You might also read the "Wet Blanket at the Mystics' Orgy" essay, also linked to in that post.

"...when did you first start talking about other people?"

Sounds like an LGAT-type question if I've ever heard one. :-) Look, Anon, if you think my blog is mere gossip ("talking about other people"), and you don't like gossip, why are you still here? Don't get me wrong; I'm glad you are here (and hey, I finally got a comment to this old post), but I'm just not going to engage in mind-game exchanges.

"What has held you here this long?"

I began my blog in July of 2006 for my own amusement, not particularly caring if anyone else read it (and not really expecting that they would). I figured I'd keep at it for as long as it continued to amuse me. If I amused a few others in the process, all the better.

I still write it because I still find it amusing to do so. In the more than three and a half years that Whirled Musings has been up, it has kind of taken on a life of its own, although of course "no one" reads it, according to one of those people I have "talked about."

If you're legitimately curious about my thinking patterns (such as they are), I apologize if I sound curt. But unless and until I decide to write a real book about why I think the way I do (which, I fear, would be way too boring for anyone), you're going to have to settle for the bits and pieces here.

Monday, March 15, 2010 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, I just read one of your subsequent comments (to my most recent post, "Nanny state" etc.), and see that you did indeed follow the "Confessions" link. So hopefully you understand a little bit better where I'm coming from, as they used to say in the '60s. Or maybe it was the '70s.

I don't regret my ventures into the territories I now snark about; unlike many, I wasn't permanently harmed or traumatized, and I did get some benefits (besides getting years' worth of snark chum :-)). Even now I still claim as friends people who are more or less into some of the things I write about. They are fully aware of my blog and have told me they think it provides a good balance to a lot of the other stuff that's out there.

Anyway, I'm sorry for jumping the gun a bit in my previous comment.

PS ~ Although it may not seem so, I am still always evaluating my own beliefs (or lack thereof). If you have a bunch more time to waste, here's a post that's sort of about that. There are links to other blog posts where I mull upon these matters more deeply (or at least as deeply as I am capable of mulling).


Monday, March 15, 2010 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Cosmic Connie

For what it is worth or not worth, and as "teenager" as it sounds, I do like you Cosmic Connie, you seem honest and charismatic....

"Look, Anon, if you think my blog is mere gossip ("talking about other people")...,"

.....yes, I do view a considerable amount of what you post to be seriously harmful and unacceptable baseless gossip and not to be the valuable "critical thinking" it is packaged and sold as.

"and you don't like gossip, why are you still here?"

Elvis has left he building.

*a cosmic high five*,


Monday, March 15, 2010 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I've never claimed to be the epitome of critical thinking, and have never actually "packaged" my blog as a critical-thinking blog.

In fact, some skeptics have noted that my blog is not a critical-thinking blog.

It's by and large an opinion blog, and I almost always link not only to "critical" sources but also to the actual web sites of the people and things I criticize, so readers can follow them and see the material in its original context.

If Elvis hadn't left the building I would ask, "How do you define 'seriously harmful' and 'unacceptable baseless gossip'"? Can you prove that harm was done by my snarking? How can you prove it? Where is the proof, Elvis?"

But since Elvis has left, I will not ask those questions.

Monday, March 15, 2010 1:35:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

On the planet where I live, "baseless" implies a lack of supporting evidence, rather than a lack of evidence supporting only a desired viewpoint. As such, your determination is both dishonest and disingenuous, and ultimately lacks validity.

"Elvis has left he building."

Repeatedly, and with great fanfare... only to return for yet another melodramatic exit. I'll believe it when I (don't) see it.

Monday, March 15, 2010 1:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Cosmic Connie

Elvis is in the doorway about to cross the threshhold but with one foot in and one foot out he could be heard to say:

""How do you define 'seriously harmful' and 'unacceptable baseless gossip'"?

I am challenged by that question. I am not sure. When I read stuff in blogs or catch a few minutes of TMZ or some other show I love to hate, I ask myself, how would I feel if what these people were saying was about me or my parents, how would I feel about it? And I always cringe at the thought and no that the world would never look at me the same again. Woody Allen now makes his films in London England. I imagine why. The media has permnantly harmed his reputation in the US. The media may argue he did it to himself. That is not my point of view. Would you like your life and concerns to be the subject of on-line "snarkers" who don't really know you from Adam? It sickens and scares the hell out of me personally.

"Can you prove that harm was done by my snarking?"

"No I cannot."

"How can you prove it?"

I cannot.

"Where is the proof, Elvis?"

I have no proof. How about a deep friend peanut butter and banana sandwich instead?

Thank-you. Thank you veree much!

Monday, March 15, 2010 1:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

meant: "deep fried peanut butter and banana"

Monday, March 15, 2010 2:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, I knew what you meant about the sandwich. But hold the banana and the bread on mine. I just like peanut butter straight up (and probably eat way too much of it).

Funny you should mention TMZ. A (spiritually-oriented) guy named Gregory who used to comment on my blog occasionally finally gave up in exasperation. He said he thought I was capable of so much more than what I am doing here, and asked me if I aspired to be nothing more than the TMZ of the New-Wage world.

I really do see your point about one's life being the subject of online snarkers. In the case of actors and other entertainers, however, even though they are in the public arena I personally tend to cut them a little more slack than I do self-help gurus, because they make their fortune by entertaining us, not by telling us how to live our lives. (True, many actors and musicians get behind "causes" and get sort of preachy, but they're using their fame as a platform for causes they presumably believe in. Telling us how to live our lives is not their primary occupation.)

I even give politicians a bit more slack in the personal/private life issues, *unless* they're moralistic types who try to dictate and legislate behavior, and yet end up getting caught with their own pants down in one way or another. (An example of the latter would be right-wing Christian politicos who advocate Christian family values, or who rail against homosexuality and work hard to pass anti-gay legislation...and then get caught having an affair with an intern (of the same or opposite sex.))

I have this idea in my head -- and it may be silly -- that people who do make their fortune telling us how we should live our lives should be held to a higher standard. That's why there are other categories of folks in the public eye to whom I am not so willing to cut slack. These are the people who make their livings either advising or telling us how we should live our lives. Self-help gurus fall into this category, as do preachers and other religious leaders, although for the most part I don't "do" traditional religion on this blog.

Here's another (fairly recent) blog post of mine explaining why I might differentiate between, say, Woody Allen, and James Ray (even though I don't condone Allen's taking up with his stepdaughter):

Of course I realize that my own distinctions are to an extent arbitrary and that I am rationalizing. I guess that's one of the limitations of this and most personal blogs. It's certainly an indication that Whirled Musings is not a "critical thinking" blog per se, although I think that in its own way it aids in the critical thinking process. And by this I don't mean that everyone who reads my words is going to apply critical thinking skills to come to an agreement with my point of view. In many cases the opposite may occur.

And I'm fine with that.

No if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sneak a spoonful of peanut butter.

Monday, March 15, 2010 3:34:00 PM  

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