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.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quack watch?*

Sensitivity warning: This post contains some rough language. It also mentions a--holes (but then again, so do many of my posts).


If you can't quite afford a custom Rolex at this point in your life, why not try a Teslar watch? It's the perfect accessory to go with your Q-Link jewelry, which I blogged about over a year ago. Besides, Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale has a Teslar watch, which he says is his very favorite, so you know it has to be something special.

I Googled Teslar watches (which were named after Nikola Tesla, pictured here) and I came up with some interesting information on a 2003 post, with links to yet more interesting information. Granted, the blogger sometimes has devil horns and is, by his own admission, a Stupid Evil Bastard. But even stupid evil bastards occasionally have something of value to say. (Besides, I'm a bitch in a blog hut, so I can't be too judgmental.) Anyway, here is the link.

The SEB blogger and I do apparently have something in common, besides the obvious fact that we are both working for the Dark Side. We are both weary of making our way through life without the benefit of a profitable scam. Says the SEB:
That’s it. I’m tired of being the only one who’s not making tons of money off of peoples’ stupidity and gullibility. I’m going to develop my own highly over-priced craptastic product with dubious medical claims that you don’t really need and start selling it to clueless idiots so I can be rich too. Perhaps it’s time I follow through on developing a patented Anti-Alien Anal Probe Ass Shield for people suffering from occasional alien anal probe syndrome. There certainly seems be enough of those people around judging from all the news items I read about it.
I GOTTA find me a scam...

* With apologies to Dr. Stephen Barrett (who is a real doctor)

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Putting out fires


Mr. Fire apparently "cleaned" on his controversial blog posts about the San Diego fires. Formerly there were over 50 comments about his initial post (Oct. 26), and nearly 25 on his subsequent post (Oct. 27). many of them very critical of him. As of now, there are...um...zero comments. Perhaps it is merely a "glitch" in WordPress.


Or perhaps not.

Of course, it is his blog and he has the right to do anything he wants with it. And it may very well be that the comments will return after Joe has a chance to review them in more detail and answer them. (He was out of town this past week and, although he was answering some of the comments, he may not have been able to devote the attention to his blog that he normally does.)

But I thought there were some pretty good conversations going. Ron and I even joined in. And we were actually being pretty nice to Joe. Ron even called for people to stop what seemed like gratuitous attacks against Joe.

Oh, well, y'all can share your thoughts here if you wish, or on Steve Salerno's SHAMblog. We moderate our respective blogs too, but we're not afraid to publish remarks that are critical of us.

PS added on Tuesday, October 30 ~ Mystery solved: Joe explained that he deleted the blog posts because there were many "personal attacks, insults, wild claims, and dark negativity." He admitted there were some valid points too, but nevertheless he made the decision to "un-attract" all the posts and "clean this place up."

As I noted above, that's his right as a blogger. But I wonder what he considered to be "wild claims" – surely not those claims that his doctorates are phony? In any case, he still has not apologized for the seeming insensitivity of his remarks about the San Diego fires (links to those blog posts are above), and at this point, I don't think any apology is forthcoming. It will, in short, be business as usual.

Which, come to think of it, some of us other bloggers find very...well...attractive.

PS ~ The always delightful Lana Walker-Helmuth is hosting a lively discussion on these matters right now on her blog. Go see.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ode to me

I admit it: I'm a sucker for bad poetry, particularly intentionally bad poetry.* Such a fan am I of that lowly art form that I even devoted an entire page to it on my (poorly designed, badly-in-need-of-updating) Cosmic Relief web site. Originally this page appeared as an entry in my BLP (book-like-product), Cosmic Relief. That Bad Poetry page, as well as the web page, was inspired by the (unintentionally) awful offerings typically seen in New-Age/New-Wage free publications:

What's a true Community publication without the creative outpourings of local poets? Metaphysical and wholistic-type freebie rags are famous for their willingness to open their pages to those in the local subculture who have been touched, slapped or sucker-punched by the muse...

The web page is an expansion of the printed version, with a call for contributions from other awful poets. And indeed I have received a few contributions, and will publish them as soon as I get around to updating my CR web site. But yesterday I received this gem that I just had to publish here as well. Why? It should be obvious: it's about ME. How could I not share it with you, Dear Ones?

Enjoy.

And if you would like to share some bad poetry of your own, even if it's not about me, please do not hesitate to send your contribution to me at cosmic.connie@juno.com (subject line: Utterly Appalling Poetry).

Cosmic Connie

by A. Poet

Constant as the
Northern Star
I delight in your
Whirled
Twirled
Musings
From afar
With
Ya
Knobbly knees
Ya
Give me a
Seizure
As I
CELEBRATE
The
Now-ness
of
How Things
Are

A. Poet is a pseudonym for His Ascended Galactic Radiance, 9th level Lord of the Photon Belt, Leader of the Council of the Wise Lamas, Bringer of Justice, Bearer of the Sacred Flame of Sirius and the Sacred Sceptre of Arcturus, Emissary of Healing Light , Sustainer of All that is Just and Good, Emanator of the Golden Harmonic Vibration of Zuzz.

* And then there are the unintentionally bad poets, whom I have also found quite inspiring.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

All fired up, continued

News flash to all of y'all who were offended or angered or in any way put off by Mr. Fire's comments on the San Diego fires: Turns out that you guys are the ones with the problem, okay? You're reading things into Mr. Fire's words that weren't even there. It's kind of like those Rorschach ink blot tests; when you make comments about Mr. Fire you are revealing the unconscious workings of your mind.


After all, as Mr. Fire writes:
I made no direct comments about my fellow Secret co-stars and why they escaped the San Diego fires; I also made no direct comments about those who were harmed by the fires.
But Rev Ron wasn't satisfied with Joe's explanation. In a comment to that post he wrote:

Joe - Your implication was very clear - that those who followed the LOA escaped tragedy, while others didn’t. I wouldn’t expect you to admit to the obvious exploitation in the post, but I am encouraged that many others - far more than contributed comments - saw it.

The negative reactions you got weren’t the result of people not “getting it,” but rather were statements of compassion for those who suffered compounded by the stern rejection of those who would exploit that suffering to promote their own business interests.

You’re an adept marketer, and I can understand how tempting it must be to apply that talent to feed the public’s intense desire for answers to spiritual questions. But when the quest for wealth and acclaim supersede the devotion to clarity and truth, it is inevitable that your efforts will be questioned, even quite harshly.

Amen, Rev.

But that wasn't the end of the story by a long shot. There has been quite a backlash against Mr. Fire on his own blog, not only for his seemingly insensitive remarks about the San Diego fires and the workings of the Law Of Attraction, but also for an unrelated matter: his doctoral degrees from two unaccredited schools. Some of the remarks seemed to be from folks who had once been followers or admirers of Mr. Fire and were blindsided by the latest revelations. They were apparently suffering the pangs of disillusionment and, as sometimes happens in these cases, some lashed out in anger with personal attacks. I realize that it's well-nigh impossible not to get personal when dealing in the area of personal growth, but some of the remarks seemed a bit gratuitous, even to Miss Snarky here.

I have found this s--t storm, and particularly some of the more personal remarks, to be both illuminating and disturbing. To begin with, these exchanges illuminate the process of disillusionment, a process with which I think we can all empathize to a degree. It happens all the time in many areas of life, and the New-Wage movement is certainly no exception. But, in all fairness, I think there are many cases in which those who are disillusioned should take some responsibility for their disillusionment. This is not to excuse the questionable words and actions of the "fallen" hero or heroine, but people who resist the lure of New-Wage magical thinking or selfish-help platitudes in the first place generally are not faced with such profound disappointment when a guru commits some patently outrageous action or utterance.

I find some of the backlash against Mr. Fire disturbing for several reasons, and not just for the reason you might think (i.e., the possibility that it chalks up martyr points for Joe and the other heroes of the mystic bourgeoisie, as author and blogger Chris Locke would call them). I also find it disturbing because at some point it seemed to morph from criticism into a feeding frenzy. The Rev, of all people, chimed in once again on Joe's blog to try to bring some balance:

Folks -
It’s one thing to call somebody on something you disagree with, and I’m the first to admit that I take exception to the post about the fires, and some of the other assertions Joe has made. However, this blog is starting to sound like a pack of dogs on the scent of a wounded animal, and nobody deserves that. Even if you feel that you’ve been deceived, the logical thing to do would be to move on to find your truth, not hang around and beat the guy to death..

If you’re here because you’re looking for some kind of spiritual guidance, you might want to ask yourselves if your actions on this discussion are consistent with any kind of spiritual path, or whether you’ve got some other anger that you’re spewing at Joe. If you take issue with something, fine. But if you’re just here to vent at someone, please take a breath or two first. I won’t tell you to “clean” on it, because that’s not part of my personal belief system. And if you’re angry because it looks like someone who had all the answers for you doesn’t, well, face it… NOBODY has all the answers.

I’ve got my own beef with some of the stuff I’ve seen in the LOA, but I have no desire to see anyone tarred & feathered. If you *do,* you might want to ask yourselves why.

Since the Rev is clearly not a "Joe-bot," I'm thinking his words might carry a bit more weight with some of the disillusioned folks than the arguments of the defense team.

In any case, the story isn't over yet. It remains to be seen if Joe will at least admit that he can see how his words might have been misconstrued, and perhaps even acknowledge that he could have chosen them more carefully. While he is correct in his assertion that our perception of events is always colored by our own "stuff," and that our reaction to the present controversy is, in a sense, a Rorschach test, I say it works both ways. In his words and actions, Joe is revealing things about himself all the time that he may not be completely aware of. And not everyone who criticizes his words is coming from a place of negativity, jealousy, envy, resentment, victimization, lack of understanding, etc. Maybe Joe should come out of Ho'opononono "cleaning" mode for a while and say "I'm sorry" to some real people – such as readers of his blog – not just to The Divine.

PS - In case you haven't read it already, here's a link to a July blog post in which I attempted to take a more "fair and balanced" look at Mr. Fire.

PPS - And on the other side of the "fair and balanced" coin... I received an email from a friend of mine who is finding it a little hard to feel sympathy for Mr. Fire, despite the current "feeding frenzy" I mentioned in this post. My friend gave me permission to share this brief bit from the email:
If we’re just talking about this one “fire” post, that’s one thing. But I think people are acting out of a deep sense of betrayal that – in some cases – has been brewing for years...
...Still, I have no doubt that Joe will come through this smelling like a rose and with his pockets filled with cash. So despite whatever trouble he has to deal with in the short term, it is hard for me to feel sorry for him, especially since he has never apologized for [things he has done in the past that might have led to people's sense of betrayal]. On the contrary, he continues to do them...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

All fired up

I’m serving up snippets again today, Dear Ones. As I noted on previous posts, I do have some "real" posts on the back burner (so to speak). But since I don’t have the time right now to devote to these stories, here are a few more bits and pieces.

How to avoid getting your house burned down
There has been an incredible amount of pain, suffering, and loss of life and property on the Left Coast this past week or so, what with
those pesky wildfires. But much of this could possibly have been avoided if only all of the residents had been Law Of Attraction hustledorks. How do I know? I know because it’s all there in black and white on the blog of Mr. Fire himself. Apparently if you have a fire in your soul and are focused on that, your house won’t burn down. To me this sort of contradicts the "like attracts like" idea so popular with LOA-ers, but then again, it does fit in nicely with that whole concept of "fighting fire with fire." Or even with "like cures like," which is the basis of the well-respected science of homeopathy.

Mr. Fire tells us that while 45 homes burned near the home of Secret star John Asshat Assaraf, John’s home is safe! And so are the home and office of another Secret star, James Earl Ray…oops, I mean James ARTHUR Ray. (James EARL Ray is deceased, and so, because of him, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sorry; I keep getting my James Rays mixed up.) Furthermore, the manager of yet another Secret star, Lisa "Hairdo" Nichols, also escaped the fires unscathed.*

"Instead of wondering why they attracted a fire," writes Mr. Fire, "it might be wiser to wonder how they didn’t attract a fire." Mr. Fire says he has spent the last day or so with Lisa and John, who, he says, "are not focused on fires. They are focused on the fire in their soul." What sets them apart from others, apparently, is that they "spend their time working, making a difference, writing, speaking, and changing lives." Same goes with Dr. John Demartini, yet another Secret star and a friend of Joe’s for more than 20 years. Like the others, Dr. Demartini lives a life of passion and purpose.

"Fires," says Mr. Fire, "don’t stop people like this."

One of Mr. Fire's fans responded:
Yes, it is absolutely amazing that their homes were not touched by the fires. But even if they had been, I know it would have been also good as they would have responded with fire in their hearts and used it as fuel to push us all further along our path.

Still, I sigh a sigh of relief to know that John’s house as well as the other people’s houses stayed intact. Thank you for the news!
Naturally, the Rev has an opinion or two about this matter, one of which he expressed publicly on Mr. Fire’s blog, and one of which he expressed in a private email exchange (he has given me permission to share this). "At the very least," Ron wrote in his private missive, "I would think that the profoundly evolved souls who managed to spare themselves from the ravages of the fire would be mightily pissed at those unwashed masses whose negative energy screwed up the view from their hallowed decks and hot tubs. Of course, they would only acknowledge such anger amongst themselves… No sense letting the ‘little’ folk know how much power they apparently have!"

Sorry, Rev, their secret is out.

Amazon, Shamazon redux
In addition to having the ravages of nature under their control, the hustledorks and their minions apparently have some power over Amazon reviews, too. Not that this is news, but, speaking of Mr. Fire, the issue has popped up yet again. Amazingly enough, all of the negative reviews about Mr. Fire’s latest book,
The Key, have disappeared. Yesterday the book had a "three-star" average; as of right now it’s four and a half stars. As a friend of mine put it, "Now if only they can get rid of that pesky three-star review, he’ll have a perfect score."

The Key, according to the promotional material, tells you once and for all how to REALLY make The Secret and the Law Of Attraction work in your life – but some malcontents have groused that the book is a bunch of recycled material and advertisements for Mr. Fire’s other products and those of his friends. Those people’s comments were there yesterday, and are gone today. I’m sure there is a perfectly legitimate reason for their disappearance, e.g., they were "voted off the island," so to speak, by defenders of the faith. And at least the discussion forum begun by some of these naysayers is still up there. For now, anyway.

However, at least one of the five-star reviews of The Key is nearly as damning as the worst of the one-star reviews. I have thoughtfully included an excerpt below. You'll have to ignore the dangling modifier at the beginning – although, on second thought, if you believe in the Blessed Trinity, it's sort of appropriate for the man whom Ho’oponopono expert Ihaleakala Hew Len called "The Jesus of Business" (if you follow the "Jesus" link, scroll down to "Joe Almighty").

Divided into three parts, Vitale begins by explaining how to recognize limiting thoughts and emotions. He offers examples of how he and others have come to recognize self doubt and eliminated the individual sabotage they were administering. Exercises are provided for becoming familiar with personal desires and the various ways those desires are being internally quelled. Addressing critics, Vitale explains the value of aspiring to material ownership as a way of self actualization.

Part two contains ten methods for clearing the mind of negative thoughts and emotions. Almost every method is developed with an article from a coach who works with that particular approach…

The final section contains a question and answer excerpt from one of Vitale's seminars, a transcript excerpt from another, and Peter Michel's** suggestions for "Emotional Freedom 101." The question and answer excerpt is most helpful in that participants were allowed to ask Vitale questions regarding his philosophy and how best to enact it in their own lives.

Vitale's writing style is relaxed and conversational. Entries penned by other contributors--and there are quite a few--are clearly defined so the reader does not confuse Vitale's words with his guests' words. The Key is very similar to The Secret in that it is comprised of the suggestions of many experts rather than focusing on an individual. It comes close to a compilation of essays. The marketing strategy is brilliant, as each person gets exposure for their particular product or service in exchange for contributing to Vitale's book, and while the reader is aware of the obvious solicitation, each person appears to be offering a valuable tool.

While the writer of the above review may have thought she was taking a proactive approach to expected criticism, she ends up reinforcing some of the very points some of the critics have complained about. And I can’t help wondering how many people bought The Key, expecting it to be full of never-before revealed "secrets" from Joe himself, only to be disappointed to find a collection of promotional "fillers," recycled material, and stuff written by Joe’s friends.

As some of my email pen pals have pointed out before, though, the "blame" in this situation doesn't lie solely with the author and his minions. That old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," really seems to apply here.

In any case I think the real "key," if you will, to the book's appeal is revealed by the reviewer's" last sentence:

Between the inspirational quotes and Vitale's unyielding enthusiasm, The Key leaves the reader with a sense of invincibility [that] extends far beyond the pages.

And as soon as that sense of invincibility begins to fade, there will, no doubt, be another earth-shattering, ground-breaking book to take the place of The Key – a book that will really, REALLY tell you, once and for all, how to put the Law Of Attraction, or some other ancient wisdom, to work in your life.

It’s really all about feeling good, as is the case with most New-Wage stuff. As SHAMblog’s Steve Salerno put it the other day, regarding another New-Wage guru, Marianne Williamson:

…in a way, the utter imbecility of a message like Williamson's was its great genius in a culture that prefers the simple, uplifting lie to the complex, prosaic truth. The success of Marianne Williamson (then) and [creator of The Secret] Rhonda Byrne (now) shows us that many Americans would rather hope than think; they'd rather "live" an imaginary life of conjured superlatives than get the most out of their actual life of everyday ups and downs.

If you follow the "Amazon, Shamazon" link, you'll see that Steve Salerno has been on Amazon's case for a very long time, regarding funny business with reader reviews.

In the interests of full disclosure, I hasten to add that I have not yet read The Key so, of course, this is not a direct comment on the merits of the book, only on its marketing. As a matter of fact, I was somewhat disappointed not to have heard from a book publicist, offering to send me a copy of The Key to write about on my blog – as was the case with Joe's previous book, Zero Limits. Then again, it looks as if maybe the publisher is not using that same publicist to help promote The Key. At least, The Key is not yet listed on the publicist’s web site. Maybe there’s a story there too.

Waxing profound
Okay, enough of that. Let’s talk about your health...although, come to think of it, this, too, has something to do with fire. I received this exciting email – actually, I’ve received several copies of it over the past week or so – from my favorite New-Wage spam service. The subject line reads: "Ear Coning-featured on TVC, & Barbara Walters for relieving many ailments."

It is an ad from one Val Kirkgaard, who says she is an honorary Ph.D., which could very well mean that she has one of those faux-degrees I blogged about the other day. Never mind, though; Val wants to clean your ears, and you don’t need a degree to do that. I can testify to this, because I don’t have any degrees whatsoever, and I am quite proficient at cleaning dog and cat ears. Val, however, is interested in cleaning human ears, and she sells the products to do that.

Ear coning, also known as ear candling, is an ancient healing art which involves setting the patient's ear wax on fire, or something like that. Dr. Val (who is not pictured above) takes it seriously, as evidenced in her mission statement:

I’m Val Kirkgaard, Ph.D. (hon) and I committed in 1992 to make the finest and highest quality cone I could produce. When I accepted my place in this 5000 year old tradition, I was delighted to contribute quality, love and community education on this ancient subject. It is with great gratitude, I offer you Laughing Dragon cones, my contribution to this wonderful legacy… We offer classes on the first Sunday of the month. If you are not local, I recommend the starter pack (the best deal by far) or the professional kit.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a little video to watch.

As usual, those stuffy skeptics are trying to rain on the parades of our New-Wage healers, who are, after all, only trying to make an honest living.

I’m just waiting for an email from someone who combines candling with the New-Wage obsession with colon health. Just think of it – colon candling: a great new way to process your inner "stuff!"

How not to write a book proposal
I don’t often bring my "
day job" into this Whirled, and, naturally, neither the Rev nor I publicly share confidential inquiries from prospective clients. But I received an email the other day, not at my "day job" address but at my Cosmic Connie address. And judging from the mail headers, this message was apparently mass-mailed out to anyone even marginally involved with book publishing.

It began:

Greetings Publisher,
I'm a preacher reaching out to angels and find the cost of publishing not attainable. So in an effort to do so I writing you, only if you are an angel (even fallen, as humans amongst us) and can publish this book on angels for yourself and even profit, as long as it is published and available to the angel and especially fallen angel populace.

The writer conveniently provided links to the material, which is a book about angels. He also provided a brief synopsis of the book, and some information about himself:

[Name]. a licensed minister and founder of a worldwide ministry with several certifications, has spent several years and study in the paranormal and has written extensive literature on the subject of angels, with several first hand accounts. Nonetheless, the anointing received is the deciding factor of the truth on this subject, which is unparallel in content as being current, biblical and to the point. Why are you angels here, where are you coming from and do you give a "damn" where you are going!? This book intend to bring a resolution to these questions and if eternal damnation is obvious, redemption is also plausible; as one extremity has a equal opposite, except in the case of God. The tenets also brought forward is capsule in much teaching on the dealings of angels, which I perceive not all angels grasp the full extent thereof and so, as said, they too, being excellent in knowledge and wisdom far beyond humanity will learn what was not told them. As such, the true author is God and not the human pen, hence not only divine, but the clear fact that not the human blogger but God saying, "Angels, Let's Talk!" Such a time has come for dialogue, such a time has come to repent, such a time has come to look to God, such a time has come to receive what you have been waiting for and such a time has come to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12).

If any of you publishers out there are interested in this material – and I’m sure you’ll be lining up! – email me privately and I’ll send you the links. Then again, if you’re a publisher, or even remotely involved in publishing, you have probably already received this information. I expect a bidding war to break out any day now.

That’s it for now, Dear Ones. There’s ever so much more, but the day is almost gone and there is much to do. I hope y’all have a great weekend. And if you want to actually do something to help those who are suffering as a result of the San Diego wildfires, here's a link.

* I don’t normally rag on people’s appearance if it’s something they have no control over. But let me go out on a limb and say that I have long felt that Lisa Nichols should attract a new hairdo.
** That's Peter Michel of "iCAP Release Meter" fame, not Peter Michel the sculptor.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faux-degree plans on hold?


I am in despair, Dear Ones. I was all set to go full speed ahead with my plans to obtain a few faux doctoral degrees, as I’ve discussed here previously. After reviewing numerous institutions of higher earning…I mean, learning, I had pretty much narrowed my search down to a couple of prestigious universities: Belford University and The University of Metaphysics. I was quite excited about these schools, as I noted in a recent blog post (second item). And I was saving up my hard-earned money to buy some impressive degrees.

But then – wouldn’t you know it! – some of our local CBS (Channel 11, KHOU) news guys went and rained on my parade. Those journalists! They’re always ruining things for the rest of us. The story that caught my eye last night on Channel 11 was one of those exposé-type pieces about phony degrees, reported by a young muckraker named Mark Greenblatt. It seems that some of our city and state officials in Texas, as well as a university professor or two, have been lured by the siren song of bought credentials, and some folks are pretty unhappy about it. Here's the online version of the story.

I learned from this story that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) maintains a list entitled, Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas. With my heart in my mouth – well, actually, it was still in my chest, but it was beating more rapidly than usual – I jumped onto the THECB page and, much to my dismay, saw several familiar names on this list.

For example, there’s Belford University, which has "locations" in Houston as well as in Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Here’s the scoop on Belford, according to the THECB: "No degree-granting authority from the CB & no accreditation from a CB [Coordinating Board] recognized accreditor. Under investigation by the AG [Attorney General] for operating from a mail forwarding service in Houston. Diplomas mailed from the UAE. Previously had a presence in NV or AZ."

Well, that still left The University of Metaphysics, I thought, hoping against hope. But my hopes were dashed when I saw that it, too, was on the THECB "illegal" list: "No accreditation from a CB recognized accreditor. AKA University of Sedona." [GOOD NEWS! See update at the end of this post. ~CC]***

Gosh darn it.

But really, what’s the big fat hairy deal, as Garfield the Cat might have said? So what if a phony degree is "illegal?" It’s not like rape or murder or robbery or fraud.

Well, okay, so maybe it is fraud, of a sort. And in the state of Texas, depending upon how one attempts to use that phony degree, it is a punishable offense:

The Texas Penal Code (Section 32.52) prohibits the use of fraudulent or substandard degrees "in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or with the intent to: obtain employment; obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain a promotion, a compensation or other benefit, or an increase in compensation or other benefit, in employment or in the practice of a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain admission to an educational program in this state; or gain a position in government with authority over another person, regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position." Violation of this law is a Class B misdemeanor.

According to the Texas penal code (§ 12.22), a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by "(1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement."

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are many money-making ops in jail – and especially after jail, particularly if you’re Paris Hilton (if you follow that link, scroll down to the third item). And heck, a $2,000.00 fine is nothing compared to the infinite amount of ready cash in the Universe.

Nevertheless I think I’ll pass.

I’m sure some of you are still saying, "Oh, Cosmic Connie, so what? Give it a rest already! This is much ado about nothing. After all, accreditation is an arbitrary tool of the establishment, and it’s no reflection on real merit."

Hmmm.

You know what? Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t be so squeamish. After all, I’m not planning on running for public office, where every detail of one’s past, present and future is scrutinized. I’m shooting for the non-thinking public, people who are so gullible and worshipful that they never bother to question credentials. If a phony doctorate can work so well for so many New-Wage gurus, why can’t it work for an intrepid blogger?

Plus, as I’ve noted before, why earn your degree the hard way, if you can buy it the easy way?

Thank you for letting me get this off my chest, Dear Ones. I feel better already. And as an added bonus, I’ve just discovered another really good university which seems legit, because they have stringent admissions standards. I’m hoping they have a good doctoral program.

PS - Phony degrees are not just a Texas thing, of course, and not just a US phenomenon. Take a look at the articles and links on the Diploma Mill News blog.
(My recently expressed idea about getting a doctorate for Rex The Farting Dog was not that far-fetched; here's a link to an article about a kitty cat who got an MBA.)

And here's another interesting and informative site about the law (state, US, and international) and phony degrees.

PPS - Type "phony degrees" into Google and you get some very interesting "sponsored-link" results. This is the one case in which those scam schools who sell these phony degrees are actually being honest about their phoniness, but they're not going to pass up a selling op. Is this the ultimate in cynicism, or just great marketing – or both?

*** UPDATE added on 8 May, 2009: A commenter going by the moniker I.A.T.H. pointed out to me that the University of Metaphysics/University of Sedona are no longer on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) "Illegal" list. According to this person, the institutions were mistakenly placed there and have since been removed (you can read this person's full comment by clicking here). I have sent an email to the THECB web site asking for more details. My guess is that since U of Metaphysics/Sedona go to some pains to define themselves as "non-secular," they are outside the jurisdiction of the THECB. In any case, I wanted to be fair and inform you, as my commenter suggested I do, that these institutions are no longer on the Texas s--t list.

Do you realize what this means, Dear Ones? Not only does it mean that a certain person I've snarked about here has only one fraudulent doctorate (legally speaking) instead of two, but it also means that maybe I really can realize my dream of getting a flaky degree without running afoul of the law. Who said the Universe wasn't on my side?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A few Sunday snippets

Dear Ones, I have not forgotten you. And I certainly didn’t mean to leave you hanging in regard to that intriguing story about the old nekkid hippie in the hot tub. I promise to get back to that stunning piece of investigative journalism as soon as I have time to get on the horn with my informants. But this past week has been… well… trying, with a cluster-f--- of work and family issues that have taken up most of my time and energy. I did, however, want to take a brief break to share some snippets.

"Have scientists been wrong? For 400 years?"
That’s what the tri-fold brochure that came in the mail the other day said. At first I thought it was just another piece of crap from
Scientology – we’ve been getting a lot of their junk in the mail lately – but then I realized this pamphlet wasn’t as slick and expensive as a typical piece of Scientology propaganda. And I was right. This brochure, which offered a free book that, according to the brochure, could possibly turn my world around, was from the Geocentric Bible Foundation in Kansas. The tag line on the order-form portion of the brochure read, "Yes, I want to keep an open mind about my world and my place in it."

Geocentricity is pretty much what it sounds like: the notion that the Earth is at the hub of Universe. It’s all based on Holy Scripture, of course, and the reason the issue matters so much is that, as one R.G. Elmendorf wrote, "The philosophical consequences of the geocentric/heliocentric controversy are plain enough that if the earth is not fixed on center stage of the universe, then life on earth and man himself are essentially meaningless."

Geocentricists’ big gripe is that scientists – or "heliocentric scientists," as some geocents call them – claim that the Sun rather than the Earth is at the center of the Universe. And this is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Why? Because the Bible says it’s wrong, darn it. "The Holy Bible is a GEOCENTRIC Bible because it states that God created the stationary world on the 1st day and it was not until the 4th day that the sun and moon were created," says one particularly passionate geocentricist on a site called Cabotia.com.

Now, my understanding is that science merely claims that the Sun is the center of our Solar System, not of the entire Universe. But never mind that. Many geocents believe that the Universe is much, much smaller than scientists have been telling us. The real issue seems to be that geocents challenge the Copernican theory of heavenly motions. Copernicus is, in the view of some, even more evil than Darwin. Bottom line: The Sun revolves around the Earth, not vice-versa. Notwithstanding those hiccups we call earthquakes, volcanoes, etc., the Earth itself is motionless.

In the July-August 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, there’s an essay by Robert Scheaffer that seems to have been inspired by the same brochure I received in the mail. In this essay (you can view an excerpt here), Scheaffer writes about the geocentric Tychonian Society, whose beliefs can be summed up thus:

We believe that the creation was completed in six twenty-four hour days and that the world is not older than about six thousand years. We maintain that the Bible teaches us of an earth that neither rotates daily nor revolves yearly about the sun; that it is at rest with respect to the throne of him who called it into existence; and that hence it is absolutely at rest in the universe.

But they’re all full of you-know-what – the geocentricists, the heliocentricists, the Copernicans and the Cabotians. The truth, of course, is that the Universe revolves around me. But if you insist on entertaining other theories, here’s a page that provides more links to geocentric lunacy.

The Sha of "I ran (or at least I walked a lot faster)"
He’s not just a Master, he’s not just a Doctor – he’s a Master Doctor! Or a Doctor Master! He’s
Dr. Zhi Gang Sha, who may be China’s greatest gift to the West since lead-infused toys and fatally contaminated pet food. And Master Doctor Sha has a mighty mission:

My total mission is to transform the consciousness of humanity and souls in the universe to create a peaceful and harmonized world and universe. My mission includes three empowerments.

My first empowerment is to offer universal service to empower people to be unconditional universal servants…

My second empowerment is to teach healing to empower people to heal themselves and others…

My third empowerment is to teach soul wisdom to empower people to transform their lives and enlighten their souls, minds and bodies…

And on and on and on.

Since Doctor Master’s Mission Statement is, like most Mission Statements (particularly New-Wage ones), virtually meaningless, it’s a good thing you have Cosmic Connie to ’splain things for you, isn’t it? What you really need to know is that Master-Doc Sha specializes in "soul operations" and "soul transplants," as well as divine soul downloads, divine soul massages, and other soul-related services. Some of his work is based on an ancient Chinese secret called Xiu Lian (which, incidentally, is also embraced by the Chinese religious movement Falun Gong).

A few days ago I got an email from my favorite New-Wage spam service about an upcoming retreat in San Francisco (November 4-10, 2007), conducted by Doctor Master Sha and "his spiritual father Master Guo." This retreat will help you "attain soul enlightenment in this lifetime." If you register before October 27, it will only cost you $1,350.00; after that date the price goes up to $1,500.00.

According to a previous promo that the spam service sent me, Doc-Mast Sha is "a direct lineage holder of secret 5,000-year-old Buddhist and Taoist wisdom." Since 2003, he has also been "a divine servant, vehicle and channel." He has also penned a few books, including Power Healing: Four Keys To Energizing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit. One five-star reviewer named Donna wrote:

This book is amazing! I wish I had it years ago. If I can master the techniques of the four keys, I hope to help other people with pain and healing. It will take alot of hard work. DR. Sha tells us in the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs and wants to stay in good health and pain free!
Donna doesn't say whether she actually was able to energize or heal herself, only that the book is amazing. But don't just take an average person's word for it. Master Doctor Sha has, according to his promo material, been endorsed by folks such as John Gray of Mars-and-Venus fame, and Masaru Emoto, who discovered that water has feelings. (Naturally, I've written about both on this blog: "Dr." Gray is the third item on this post from December, and Dr. Emoto is mentioned here and here (among other places).

Though the video clips on Master Doctor Sha’s home page would seem to suggest that he specializes mainly in healing mobility challenges in large middle-aged women, the implication is that his techniques work on any and everyone. Well, actually, they’re not his techniques, according to him. It’s just the Divine at work, you see. (Of course, your credit card will be charged to Doctor Master Sha, but I’m sure he’ll give the Divine Its cut, especially since the two of them are on a first-name basis with each other.)

You owe it to yourself to watch at least some of those video clips currently on Master Doctor Sha’s home page. In one clip, a woman’s arm is miraculously healed. In the second, a woman gets her left knee healed at a Unity Church in Honolulu, and at the same time, Doc-Master Sha also heals the left knee of everyone in the audience!

The really terrific news is that you too can learn to do healing the way Doctor Master Sha does. Before you know it, you’ll be making precision slices through thin air and yelling, "SO-OUL Trans-PLANT! Stuh-ART!"

Take THAT, you tappers out there.

Time is running out…
How would you like a chance to have a private meeting with "four of the sharpest minds ever gathered in one place?"

"Well, gee, Cosmic Connie, that sounds pretty exciting!" you might be saying. "But how do I know they’re really four of the sharpest minds?"

You know it because Mr. Fire said so on his blog. And these four ultra-sharp minds, who, naturally, include Mr. Fire himself, are a select group of geniuses who like to get together to smoke expensive Cuban cigars and come up with brilliant ideas for making millions and millions of dollars for themselves. And now you, too, have a chance to sit in on one of these exciting sessions and have these guys listen to you and blow smoke at you. But you must act now; there are only two slots left for the next private session, scheduled for November 17. It will only set you back $25,000.00 US.

Alternatively, my exclusive circle of email pen pals and I can blow smoke up your arse for free. It’s your choice!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Help! There's an old nekkid hippie in my hot tub!"

Forget Bigfoot; this is much more frightening. A Mt. Shasta, California couple discovered this strange creature soaking in their hot tub. I am currently researching the incident and will have more soon. So stay tuned to this blog. And whatever you do, if you live in a beautiful wooded area – and especially if you have an outdoor hot tub – make sure your property is secure!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Law Of Attraction inaction

Some of my online pals and I were having an email discussion the other day, and my friend Tony was giving me some facetious advice about how I needed to put the Law Of Attraction to work in my life.

"Hey, Mister, don't tell ME about the Law Of Attraction," I replied. "I, sir, am the Law Of Attraction in action. And I have pictorial proof."

Which, indeed, I do. This past Sunday our dear friends Bill and Kathleen, in an effort to get us out of the house and cheer us up after a very bad week, took Ron and me on an outing. We went to Houston’s wonderful Museum of Natural Science, which includes the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a three-story glass tower with a rainforest stocked with hundreds of live butterflies.

I wore a bright orange sun dress with a butterfly pattern, and I'd only been at the butterfly center a few minutes when I attracted a stowaway who didn't want to leave. Even when a small child crouched down and tried to touch the butterfly (which I didn’t allow), my new friend wouldn’t budge. Ron and I finally had to shake it off (the butterfly, not the kid), fearing that perhaps the insect might be scoping out an egg-laying site. "Sorry, pal, we're not zoned for butterfly reproduction," I said. "Don’t let the phony butterflies fool ya."

But I was secretly pleased with my ability to attract my visitor. It's all in knowing how to dress, apparently. Or not dress, if I’m to believe the Rev. "Maybe if I wear a sun dress with dollar signs all over it I'll attract wealth beyond belief!" I wrote to my email pen-pal group, which includes Ron. To which Ron, ever the wag, replied, "And if you wear nothing at all, you will attract nothingness – the one true Source of the stillness that is the essence of enlightenment." Knowing Ron's digital camera is never far from his side, I elected to ignore the suggestion.

Amazingly enough, the LOA just kept working as the week wore on, and I didn't have to take any further action. Who says you have to "take action" to make things happen? With that single butterfly experience I attracted (or did I manifest?) a CSI New York episode that incorporated butterflies and a butterfly center! Furthermore, "butterflies" was the answer to the CSI:Q multiple-choice contest that week. And I could have won that contest! Except I didn’t enter because I am the last person on the planet who doesn’t know how to text! Still, I was pretty proud of myself for attracting (or manifesting) that episode on CSI New York .

* * * * *

Speaking of my friend Tony, he also alerted me to a cute comic about LOA and The Secret, which someone copied and pasted into a discussion forum. The discussion that follows the cartoon is also pretty interesting. (The comic, by the way, is based in part upon Michael Shermer's article in the June 2007 Skeptic, "The (Other) Secret: The inverse square law trumps the law of attraction.")

And then my pal Rob at Lesmania sent me this link, which is obviously targeted to the Scientist Bobs and others who have so passionately embraced quantum physics.

Finally, my friend Chris at Mystic Bourgeoisie sent me a funny review appearing on the Amazon page for an apparently out-of-print book called Ask and You Shall Receive: The Promise Has Become Real! by Mary Anne Thomas. ("Availability: Currently unavailable.") The apparently facetious reviewer wrote:

Those of us who are spiritual people know that it is a spiritual thing to receive. A lot of spiritual self-help literature seems to focus on finding peace or your place in the world, but getting things is sometimes under-represented. Apparently receiving is simply a matter of having the "courage" and "insight" to realise that desire for things is God-given. This is gratifying for spiritual people like myself, who already know what a wonderful thing it is to receive, or be given, things. All you need is to want them, and then ask for them. This proactive stance gives us more power over our own lives by catering to our desires, and spirituality is the winner! There are not many pages in this book, though, so I don't feel as if I've received as much as I might have. This book therefore receives 3 stars from me.

It's amazing, isn't it, how I attracted all of those emails within a few days?

And that’s it for now as I slowly get back up to speed, snark-wise. More soon.

PS ~ Here's what that unimpeachable source of misinformation, Uncyclopedia, has to say about The Secret.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

"All the dog she needs to be"

In their dying as much as in their living, pets can enrich our lives and teach us much about our own nature. The succession of pets in a pet owner’s life seems tragic, but it need not be…the repetition of birth, life and death in our pets during our lives can help us to understand better the constancy of our existence, the constancy of the cycles of life. Just as the seasons change and a spring will never be the same, there will always be another [pet]. So it is with life. We can learn and accept the constancy of nature through the succession of animals. They can also give us a symbolic image of natural perfection…
~ Bruce Fogle, "Bereavement," from Pets And Their People (out-of-print, but still available)

The Dachshund's affectionate
He wants to wed with you:
Lie down to sleep,
And he's in bed with you.
Sit in a chair,
He's there.
Depart,
You break his heart.

~ E.B. White

Warning: If you’re no fan of sappy dog stories (especially sappy dog stories that, like the average dachshund, are a little too loooong) – or if you don’t like it when I veer a bit off-topic on this blog – skip this post, and please accept my apologies. I’ll be back to snarky in no time…just not today. And if you are visiting this blog for the first time, please note that this post is not representative of my regular subject matter. I just don't want you to to be disappointed if you come back expecting a dog blog and step instead into a snark mine.
~CC

The routine is nearly always the same. When supper is finished we pile into the living room, Ron and I and our passel of dogs, joining the cats in "their" part of the house to watch TV and be cat furniture. "Be nice to my cats!" Ron always warns – to no avail – as the dogs stampede into the room, shoving their noses up as many cat butts as they can get away with before being corralled by Ron or slapped by an indignant feline.

The one dog to whom Ron rarely had to issue his warning was our miniature dachshund Noelle, who was far less interested in cat harassment than in jumping up and settling into her spot on Ron’s recliner. "Make a hole, Noelle!" Ron would always say when he found her taking up a little too much real estate on his chair, as was her habit. Sometimes he would get to the chair before she did, and, of course, he would always "make a hole" for her – except for those times when she had taken a quick detour for a snack from the cats’ litter boxes. Ron refuses to share his intimate chair space with coprophagiacs; man of refinement that he is, there is something about cat-poo breath that he finds off-putting. I confess I was always more indulgent, scooping Noelle up to hang with me on the couch after her rejection by her dad. But I was obviously second choice.

For although Noelle was originally "my" dog, by virtue of being the offspring of the dogs I’d brought to our household, it was apparent that she was Daddy’s girl. And she much preferred snuggling up with Ron on his chair, snoozing through countless movies and episodes of CSI or Cold Case or Boston Legal, to lying next to me. Ron was clearly the alpha dog, and her protector.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, if you had suggested to me that I would be so completely in love with dachshunds, I would have laughed in your face. A wiener-dog lover? Not I, a woman who ran with the wolves – literally, and years before that book came out. Having shared my home at various times with German Shepherds, a full-blooded timber wolf, and a couple of different wolf hybrids, I was a big fan of big dogs; little dogs, in my mind, were barely worthy of the title of "dog."

And dachshunds? Ridiculous dogs, really: fashioned in their present form by Teutonic breeders in a bygone century, their mission being to create a master race of fierce little hounds foolhardy enough to go after badgers and other ground-dwelling creatures. Teckels, as the Germans sometimes call them, were made-to-order for burrowing into tight spaces but, as is nearly always the case when humans tinker with the genetic material of other species, there was little regard for the well-being of the product of all that careful breeding. As a result of their ludicrously long backs and squatty little legs, the average dachshund is a spinal disaster waiting to happen. Given their length, I’ve always thought they would have fared so much better with an extra pair of legs in the middle. So much for German engineering.

It was my ex-husband Roger, a wonderful guy with whom I’m still friends, who got me into dachshundry. He’d had them years before and insisted they were delightful dogs. At that time we had two cats and a Husky-wolf hybrid named Xen, but there was room in our household and our lives for another animal or two. Roger finally sold me on wiener dogs, and our first one, a lovely long-haired chocolate-and-tan female named Natasha, was soon joined by a short-haired red male we called Nicholas. Needless to say, I was infatuated from the beginning, and when Nicky and Tasha decided it was time to start a family, or nature decided it for them, Roger and I didn’t stand in their way. I realize it may have been irresponsible to let them breed, and in light of the pet overpopulation problem, "backyard breeding" is generally not recommended. But then again, if Tasha and Nicky hadn't bred, there would have been no Noelle. Over the next few years our little couple produced four litters (curiously enough, every one of the pups was short-haired and mostly red-headed like their dad). Roger and I kept Cody, a boy from their first litter, and the rest went to other good homes.

Noelle was the last of the line, her name inspired by the fact that she was born one week before Christmas 1993. The birth took place at around ten o’clock at night in an animal emergency clinic, as Tasha was having difficulties in labor. The first pup out the chute was a little boy; Noelle was next, but took her time coming out. Puppies come gift-wrapped in individual birth sacs, and it was Noelle’s sac that came out first, considerably before she made her appearance. All we saw at first was a bubble, which rapidly grew almost alarmingly large – but no puppy. We were beginning to wonder if a pup was even there. The vet, Roger, and I were all hovering closely over Tasha, and when it became clear that the bubble was going to burst, the vet and I got out of the way. Roger didn’t, and he soon got splattered. This messy prologue was immediately followed by the emergence of the tiniest girl pup I’d ever seen, and one of the sweetest Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.

At this point we thought Tasha’s work was done – she always had very small litters – but then the vet said one more was coming. Another little girl slipped into the world soon after, but she was finished before she’d even begun: motionless, and unresponsive to the vet’s earnest efforts to revive her. So Noelle really was Tasha’s last-born – a mere mite of a dog. (Somewhere in my archives is a Polaroid of her and her brother taken at the age of one day or so, the two of them nestled together in Roger’s hand.)

At the time of Noelle’s birth, Roger and I were completing the process of splitting up. It was an amicable split, with no custody battles over the animals. The Husky-wolf mix Xen had died a couple of years previously, and I got custody of Nicky, Tasha, and their new brood, leaving Roger with Nicky and Tasha's adult son Cody, as well as one of the cats (we had three by then), and the promise of the new male pup when he came of age. When the puppies were old enough for new homes I found that I couldn’t bear to part with Noelle, though we already had a house full with Nicholas and Natasha, my two cats Bruce and Sabrina, and Ron’s two dogs Siva and Snapper. But Ron was kind enough to let me keep Noelle; what was one more tiny dog, after all? As promised, her brother went to Roger, who named him Ziggy and gave him a very happy life. In the years to follow, two more cats joined our household.

As she grew up it was apparent that Noelle, though "ours," was, in her mind, Ron’s. He called her his "little bit of dog." "Not much dog at all!" I’d sometimes say of her, and he would reply, "But she’s all the dog she needs to be."

And she was. There’s no doubt she capitalized on her cuteness and small size, exploiting our natural desire to baby her. She was good at getting her own way, and not terribly responsive to commands. Ron often teased her about not being the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but she was by no means dumb. That she didn’t take to "training" was a combination of my own negligence in that area and the natural stubbornness and "selective hearing" for which dachshunds are quite well known. But Noelle was an expert in doing what she needed to survive. Besides the cuteness-exploitation angle, she had the fundamentals down pat. She knew, as most little dogs do, how to stay out of the way of the big dogs, except when the hormonal fires of estrus had burned away her normal caution, compelling her to flirt shamelessly with our big dog Rex, who outweighed her by more than 120 pounds. She would sometimes position herself underneath him, eagerly "flagging" him with her tail, and he, neutered but no stranger to sex, would oblige her with a manly display of "air-humping."

She did recognize certain commands. For example, she knew and obeyed "Get out of the kitchen." It was the concept of "Stay out of the kitchen" that she had so much trouble with.

Like most spoiled dogs she was a consummate beggar, and I am sorry to say I didn’t exactly discourage this. I eat lots of yogurt, and in the last couple of years it became my habit to offer Noelle the carton when I was finished. (I know, I know; dogs aren’t supposed to have dairy products or sugar. But I always rationalized that the amount of both was negligible; by the time I was done there was never more than a dachshund-sized lick’s-worth of yogurt, if that much.) Noelle would grab the carton in her mouth, trot over to her little dog bed under Ron’s credenza in the front office, and settle in with her treasure. Later one of the other dogs would snatch it, lick out the last remaining yogurt molecules, chew on the carton a bit, and then take it outside to position it carefully in the back yard, as if styling an ad for Yoplait. (And a fine ad it might have made, especially with all of those tooth marks: "Yoplait. It is so good, it's you’ll even want to eat the carton good!") It got to the point where I would no sooner get a carton of yogurt out of the refrigerator than Noelle would be dancing around my feet, whimpering for her yogurt fix. "Wait your turn, Noelle," I’d always say, and she would, but not quietly.

Noelle was more fortunate than many dachshunds, as she wasn’t plagued with the back problems for which the breed is notorious. Her own father, Nicholas, had very bad back problems, particularly in his later years. And her brothers Cody and Ziggy, Roger told us, had numerous problems, some of which required expensive surgery. Not so Noelle. Even as she grew older, morphing from a solid red hound into a white-and-red one, she still got around very well. We did try to control her jumping up and down off of furniture, because that’s very bad for doxie backs, but she often did it before we could stop her.

She also never got grossly obese, the way so many dachshunds do, some of them looking like overstuffed sausage casings. In fact for the last six months or so of her life she was a bit underweight. In retrospect, that might have been a sign of something amiss, but I didn’t snap to it. She seemed in pretty good health overall, still whimpering for yogurt every day, and dancing and singing for her supper every night – up until her last night on earth.

And even on that final night (which at the time I had no clue would be her last one), she ate her supper as usual. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. After supper, however, she didn’t join us in the living room for our nightly session of TV watching and cat-bonding. Neither Ron nor I thought much about it, because from time to time one or the other of the dogs wouldn’t go in with the rest of us. Later, upon realizing that he or she was…horrors…alone in the front office while the rest of the pack was in the other room, the prodigal canine would bark insistently to be let in. "When Noelle hollers, I’ll let her in," Ron said.

But not a peep came out of her, so we figured she was just snoozing and didn’t want to be disturbed. When we came out of the living room to let the dogs outside once more before bedtime, however, I saw that she was lying on her bed with half of her body hanging off, as if she were too weak to make it all the way onto the bed. Alarmed, I picked her up, but even though she seemed a little weak she was otherwise normally responsive. Ron said, "She’s been a bit out of sorts today." Ah, yes. It was just one of those "spells." So I concentrated hard on trying not to worry, though we decided that if she wasn’t better by the next day we’d take her to the vet.

In retrospect I see that Ron was trying to shield me from the reality of what was happening, but it really wasn’t necessary. I knew. I’d seen the death of pets before, was all too familiar with the process. In May 1999, we’d had to have Siva, Ron's dingo-Blue Heeler mix, put to rest because of advanced inoperable cancer. Snapper, our diabetic whippet, had passed on his own two days before Christmas 2000. More recently, I had cradled four of "my" pets – the ones I’d originally brought to our household – through their final hours: Tasha in November of 2003, Nicky in January 2004, my long-haired tuxedo cat Bruce in January 2005, and Sabrina, my short-haired blue cat, a little over a month later.

Noelle actually seemed to be a little better the next morning, but we still made a vet appointment. As the day wore on, though, she weakened, refusing food and water. It became increasingly apparent that spending hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars on critical care would only buy her a short amount of time with us – and at what cost to her? She didn’t seem to be in pain, didn’t seem to be suffering at all, really. I wrapped her in an old green towel and held her on my lap, sitting on the floor in the front office, surrounded by the other dogs. At about 2:20 PM she struggled to her feet and, with one last gasp, threw up a little on me, getting me back, I suppose, for dodging that bubble on the night she was born. She lay back down, sighed deeply, and was gone.

I cleaned her and myself up, wrapped her back up in the green towel that had been her second skin for the last hours of her life, and then held her a while longer. We picked a spot in the back yard not too far from Noelle’s parents and Ron’s old dogs, Siva and Snapper. Ron borrowed a shovel from a neighbor, but the ground was too hard for digging, so he ran water on the space for a while, and said he’d let the ground soften overnight. Noelle would be sleeping in our house one more night. Removing her faded red collar, we carefully wrapped our girl in an impenetrable layer of plastic, a buffer against the time when death would begin making its presence known in more assertive ways. And then there was nothing to do but place the bundle on her little bed underneath Ron’s credenza, and await the morning.

A little later that night, when it was time to pile into the living room to watch TV, our two remaining girl dogs ran over to Noelle’s bed, as they normally do, to nudge her into following them. I had to guide them away and herd them into the other room. When Ron finally settled into his chair, he automatically made a space for Noelle. And the next day, a couple of hours after we had buried her, I finished up a carton of yogurt and caught myself looking around to see why Noelle wasn’t at my feet begging for a lick.

It will be a while before those habits fade away.

And so I find myself living, for the first time in nearly twenty years, in a home without a wiener dog. It doesn’t seem right somehow. Still, our house is far from bereft of canine companionship. We have wild-child Kali, a Blue Heeler/border collie mix who was literally captured as a feral pup, and has been, in many ways, as destructive as the deity after whom she was named. We have our smart and pretty hound-terrier mix Layla, both a lady and a bitch in every sense of the word. And of course, there is Rex The Farting Dog, our 135-pound Rottweiler-Doberman-Black Lab mix. All three are rescue dogs. So there is no dearth of wagging tails and wet noses and barking and whining in this household (although in the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that most of the whining has always come from me).

And then there are the three cats: Coca and Grace, who have been with us ten years, and Sabu, who came to us as a homeless kitten and adopted us a couple of years ago. Being exclusively indoor cats, they are obliged to interact with us at great length on a daily basis and are always affectionate, but they have been particularly sweet for the past couple of days, as if they sense we are grieving. Call us anthropomorphic, but that’s how it seems to us.

As a bonus, we also have a frequent delightful visitor: our "grand-dog" Haley, a pretty, smart, and well-trained Jack Russell terrier who belongs to Ron's daughter Sharon. Haley is keeping us company today, in fact.

So it might be said that we still have a full house. But it is obvious that someone is missing from our circle. It’s remarkable, really, how much empty space one little bit of wiener dog can leave behind.

..............................

Addendum (Sunday, October 7)
It occurred to me that there were some points I wanted to make with this post, beyond the obvious one that I miss the heck out of Noelle, that she is absolutely irreplaceable (as is every dog, cat, ferret, parrot, pig, horse, donkey, iguana, etc.), and that no matter how many animals share your home, it sucks to lose any one of them. But here are some other points.

1. I wouldn't trade my dachshund-infused years for anything, and at some time in the future I may yet welcome another wiener dog or two into my life (and/or perhaps some other "long little doggie" with stubby legs, like a Corgi). I have become somewhat obsessed with that odd configuration; more than that, I have definitely gotten over my big-dog fixation and have learned to appreciate portable pooches. But, depending upon the breed, purebred dogs very often do have more inherent health challenges than mutts. So if you're considering getting a dachshund or any other purebred dog, take that into consideration. Do your research. Here's a good beginning. And certainly research your breed, and know what sort of questions to ask the breeder. Which brings me to point number 2...
2. In the United States, millions of inmates are languishing on Death Row, most of them for nothing more than the "crime" of being born unwanted, or deemed somehow unworthy to share someone's home. I think you know which prisoners I'm talking about. When shopping for a four-legged companion, why not consider springing one or two innocents from the Big House? The life (or lives) you save will enrich your own immeasurably. You might also consider contacting one of the growing number of "no-kill" shelters, or a foster-pet organization such as Houston's Homeless Pet Placement League (HPPL). By the way, as I noted above, all of the dogs now living with Ron and me were rescues of some sort (as were the cats, for that matter). Rex The Farting Dog came to us via HPPL and our wonderful next-door neighbor, who has worked with that organization for many years. Rex has been an utter joy, despite the farting.
Even if you have your heart set on a purebred of some type, you may very well find one at your local shelter. There are also hundreds of specific breed-rescue groups. Google could be your best friend in helping you find your best friend.
And even if you're not in the market for a new friend, consider supporting an animal rescue organization such as the aforementioned HPPL or one of the orgs in your own town, or Kinky Friedman's favorite cause, Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. I'm a huge fan of The Kinkster (yeah, I voted for him for gov of Texas), and here's one big reason I like him so much.
3. No matter how cute they look when they're begging, avoid feeding dogs and cats "people food" as much as possible. I have to take some responsibility for the fact that Noelle didn't live as long as she might have (smaller dogs can live to be twenty or even older, and Noelle was a couple of months shy of her fourteenth birthday). I can't say for sure, but I honestly think that if I had been more scrupulous about not "supplementing" her diet she might have been around a few years longer. Anyway, here's a good list of things not to feed your dog, and most of them apply to cats as well.
4. Bruce Fogle, whom I quoted above, had some good points regarding the succession of animals in one's life. But beyond the lessons and metaphors is the point that if you love animals, you should always have them in your life in any way you can manage. Two (or more) are almost always better than one, both for each other and for you. It really is a good idea to "stagger" them, though. I acquired several puppies and kittens at roughly the same time, which is why, years later, I had to say so many sad goodbyes in such a relatively short time. They all lived good long lives, but the cumulative loss has been very difficult to deal with.
By the way, here's one of the better pet loss support sites, in my opinion. Created by the prolific Moira Allen (who also has tons of great advice for writers), this site wasn't at the top of the Google search, but it offers compassionate advice and some links to other resources, without going to ridiculous extremes. Pet bereavement was once a taboo subject, and that wasn't healthy, but now, as with nearly everything else, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and it has become an entire industry. Moreover, some of the web sites and online communities I've seen seem to encourage obsession with the loss, and that can't be healthy either. Still, the loss of a pet is nothing trivial. If you're having trouble dealing with it, help is available.
5. And the most important point of all: Love them unconditionally while they're with you, and let them know you love them every day. I guess it goes without saying that the same thing applies to the people in your life, too.

Okay, I think that's it for the "lessons." Again, I apologize for getting off-course here. I'll be back to being snarky in no time.