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.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Something to sip on while you're waiting for a real post from me

Just a couple of random thoughts for a hot afternoon...


Don't drink the Kool-Aid...or the lemonade
In another apparent case of the "monkey see, monkey do" syndrome, embattled Aussie
Secret star David Schirmer (who recently discovered FaceBook as a marketing tool), is now singing the praises of mastermind groups.

Thousands of folks are into mastermind groups – everyone from New-Wage hustledorks to garden-variety success geeks to people who just want to get together with like-minded folks in order to effect some improvement in their lives, or an illusion thereof. Supposedly the idea originally came from Napoleon Hill, author of the 1937 classic Think and Grow Rich. Hill, who apparently was inspired by the example of Andrew Carnegie, defined the mastermind as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”


Having never participated in a mastermind group myself, I have no opinion of them one way or the other. I have, however, served on committees, and even though it might be argued that they could qualify as mastermind groups under Hill's definition, I tend to agree more with my own dear Rev Ron's take on the true nature of your typical committee: "A bunch of monkeys trying to f--k a football."

And I have to admit that on occasion, the boasting of some folks regarding their own mastermind activities reminds me of that scene in the 1997 film Titanic where Kate Winslet's character Rose is talking to Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack at the fancy dinner on the ship. As Rose's snooty rich fiancé Cal and his friends excuse themselves from dinner, Rose leans over and whispers to Jack, "Now they retreat into a cloud of smoke and congratulate each other on being masters of the universe." Indeed, t
here does seem to be a bit of self-congratulatory activity in certain hustledork circles.

This doesn't mean mastermind groups have no value, of course. I'm just saying...

According to an article on "The Feel-Good Girl" Stephanie Brail's blog:
There are two basic types of mastermind groups: One which is focused on the success and vision of one individual, and one that is focused on helping everyone in the group.
Somehow I have the feeling that the mastermind group that David Schirmer is trying to get together will be an example of the former. After going on for a while about what a mastermind group is and how inspiring such a group can be, Schirmer's email offers a few tips on how to form one of your own. Included is this bit of wisdom:

Note: The people in your mastermind group may or may not even know they are part of it. They may or may not stand to get something out of it. As long as they are being treated fairly and with repect [sic] and you are bringing something of value to the table then it should be a win win for all involved.

Uh-huh.

Soon we get to the meat of the matter (or should it be the meet of the matter): an invitation for recipients of the email to join the exclusive new mastermind group that David Schirmer is now forming. And here it seems that once again Schirmer, or the minion who wrote the email, has drawn inspiration from your own Cosmic Connie. When talking about "the three types of business owners," Schirmer or the minion writes of type 3, which he defines as:

Type 3: Those who have learned exactly what works and can make a profit in their business regardless of economic circumstances.

These people have spent many thousands*** on their education and that has paid off big-time with the skills of being able to turn a lemon of a business into lemonade.

David Schirmer is one such businessman. Over the years he has learned how to turn any lemon into a lemonade manufacturing multinational.
Hmmm...that seems to be a poor choice of metaphors, considering that David wasn't so successful when he was literally involved in manufacturing...oh, but I digress. Someone at the Schirmer offices must have been inspired by my "lemonade stand" post from last December. But I wonder if they'll use the graphic I created for that post, the way they used the one from my "Fantasyland" post. Currently that pic graces Schirmer's promo page for his "My Abundant Life" seminar. I have to tell you, Dear Ones, that it thrills me to be such a source of inspiration.

Schirmer's exclusive invite continues with this:
If your business could do with a shot in the arm, then you must investigate this once in a lifetime opportunity to sit in a highly exclusive inner circle "roundtable" with David Schirmer and 17 other participants.

Yes you heard right there are just 18 places for this closed circle mastermind where you and the other participants will be afforded the opportunity to create ideas for your own businesses and perhaps create other business ideas and opportunity (sic) that could make you millions.

If you are ready in yourself to enter into the exclusive world of this powerful Mastermind Partnership for the express purpose of making millions of dollars fast make contact with The David Schirmer Group of Companies A.S.A.P. to reserve your limited place...
I'm sure that folks from all over Australia and the U.S. will be lining up to join! Step right this way, folks, for some of that famous Schirmer Kool-Aid...er...lemonade.

Shame on the Moon
I don't normally dabble in politics on this blog, but as the next US presidential election heats up, the blogosphere is inevitably heating up too (well, more than usual), and I'm kinda feeling the vibes here on my Whirled. On some blogs, political matters and New-Wage topics intersect, as is the case with a certain enraged blogger of my acquaintance who never misses a chance to tie Hillary or Obama or any other Democrat (or liberal, or feminist) to some nefarious New-Wage cult or conspiracy.

In all fairness, of course, there are other bloggers and pundits who don't hesitate to tie all Republicans and conservatives to some nefarious religious-right cult or conspiracy.

Well, along comes a former president to confuse the issue... sort of. This probably isn't news to some of y'all, but I thought it noteworthy anyway. Seems Dubya's daddy has a long-time association with everyone's favorite megalomaniacal theocrat from Korea, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. While nominally "Christian," Moon's Unification Church is something that probably would have given Jesus H. Christ the willies. It's more New-Wagey than it is fundie religious right for sure.

Rick Casey, one of my favorite columnists at the Houston Chronicle, had a piece the other day about the Bush-Moon connection. Casey writes:

In recent years the fabulously wealthy Moon has not been playing up his Unification Church with its mass weddings as he did in earlier years, or his role as the Messiah.

Lately he's been presenting himself as a world peacemaker, staging conferences and "summits" around the globe under the auspices of a group called Universal Peace Federation.

The group held a "summit" in Washington April 28 to May 2, featuring a number of former high government officials from Latin America and Spain, as well as a representative from the U.S. State Department.

The event also included a "field trip" in which conference participants loaded onto a chartered jumbo jet for a session at the Bush Library featuring both Bush and Moon.

Although a few blogs picked up the story, no newspaper or television station this side of Paraguay did.

And fortunately, Rick Casey is on the story now too. He continues:

This isn't the first time Bush has appeared with Moon. He gave a series of speeches in Japan in 1995 at Moon's behest and appeared with him in 1996 in Argentina and later in Paraguay. Last year he spoke at a Moon event in Washington.

And as reported here two years ago, the Washington Times Foundation (Moon is founder and owner of the Times) covertly donated at least $1 million to the Bush Library.

According to Bush spokesman James McGrath, "the draw" for Bush to join Moon was both the former Latin American leaders who would be in attendance and the support by the Washington Times Foundation of the library.

"The Times has been doing the Lord's work for the last 25 years offering a counterbalance to the liberal Washington Post," said McGrath.

But John Gorenfeld, author of the recent book about the reverend, Bad Moon Rising, sees an unsavory if unintended side to Bush's association with Moon.

"I think it's just the money," Gorenfeld said regarding Bush's motivation.

But he said Moon and his vast organization use Bush in Asia and Latin America to lend credibility to their activities.

That's not a happy thought, but at least it seems the ex-president hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid.

It appears, however, that he has drunk the Holy Wine. But that rather comical story must wait for another day.

Why wait for another day? Here's a YouTube video to watch now.

Now go pour yourself a cold drink, and I'll see you next time.

*** In this case, many thousands of other people's dollars.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On a would-be marriage, and a horse's ACCESS

Just a couple of updates before I return to my "day job"...


"What did the president know, and when did he know it?"
Boy, do I have egg on my face. I've been writing about what I perceived as the alliance between Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale and David "Succeed Magazine" Schirmer. Well, it turns out that, according to Joe, there is no such alliance after all. On Joe's blog today I saw this comment, sent in response to Joe's post about making the cover of Succeed:
  1. Joe Kersey says

    Congratulations, Joe! I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more out of your collaboration with David Schirmer. It’s obvious from his blog that he’s excited about it. The two of you should make a really powerful team!

    May 21st, 2008 | #

  2. Joe Vitale says

    Hi Joe. I don’t know David and am not collaborating on anything with him, so not sure what you know that I don’t. Succeed magazine simply did a feature on me, which I’m grateful for. I didn’t even know he was associated with the magazine till after it was all said and done. Anyway, I apprecaite [sic] your words of congratulations. Succeed is a great and inspiring magazine. Richard Branson was on the last cover, so my being on the next one is beyond flattering. Now I want to receive as much wealth as Branson - or more.
    Blessings,
    joe :)

Oh, dear. So I guess there never really was a marriage in the first place. And I guess we are also to assume that Joe didn't know David Schirmer himself was listening in on the conversation when the editor of Succeed Magazine did the interview. Schirmer recently wrote on his own blog:

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Opps!! [sic] I'd better write another blog.

Time flies so fast when you're having fun! I can hardly believe it is so long since I wrote my last blog. A friend on msn suggested today that I should post again ... so here I am.

There is much too much to write about to bring you up to date, so I'll share with you just a little of my day today.

At 7:30am the editor of our Succeed Magazine phoned Texas, USA. It was a special call to an amazing man, friend and co-presenter on The Secret, Dr Joe Vitale. I enjoyed immensely sitting in and listening to Joe's story.
Shame on Schirmer for eavesdropping without informing Joe he was doing so. And shame on him for claiming that Joe is a friend of his when Joe says he doesn't even know David.

I guess we can also assume that someone besides David Schirmer contacted Joe about being in/on Succeed Magazine in the first place – and being in/on it not once, but twice (an article of Joe's also appeared in the April-May issue). So maybe Succeed was being a little less than honest for not disclosing to Joe that David Schirmer was the publisher. But heck, it's "a great and inspiring magazine," according to Joe, so I guess a little duplicity is okay.

If we are to take Joe literally, Succeed merely featured him and that was that; no further affiliation. I imagine this means that if you click on the specific "Mr. Fire" link to subscribe to Succeed – the link that Joe helpfully published on his blog – Mr. Fire will not receive a percentage or anything like that.

So now you know. Just thought I'd pass the information along, in the interests of being fair and balanced here.

By the way, Succeed magazine also recently featured a profile of David Schirmer's ex joint-venture partner, noted quantum physics expert and "Law Of Attraction guru" Bob Proctor. So even though he can't market Proctor's stuff any more, by court order, Schirmer apparently can still exploit Proctor's name to sell his magazine.

Warning: ACCESSories on the loose
As if Australia didn't have enough on its mind, what with David Schirmer still running around loose, there is also this creepy cultish thing called ACCESS Energy Transformation, which seems more determined than ever to dig its claws in Down Under. I wrote about ACCESS here last year, and then did a follow-up post a few days later.

ACCESS, according to a tale that seems to be strangely absent from the current official ACCESS sites (but can be found here and here), was founded in the early 1990s. It all started when a "being of light" (or, alternatively, "beings of light") called Novian used the late Russian faux-monk/Whirled-class charlatan Grigori Rasputin to channel an "energy transformation technique" to a Santa Barbara, California realtor named Gary Douglas. Gary decided to call the technique ACCESS, and it now has followers all over the world. But he seems to be concentrating on the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
And what's really scary, in my view, is that Gary and gang want to ACCESSorize the younger generation with their ACCESS kids' camps.

Yesterday I heard from an anonymous commenter responding to my second ACCESS blog post. This person was concerned about the fact that Gary and the ACCESS teachings seem to encourage their followers to have sex with anyone they want to, even if they're married. That's not the first time I've heard this, and if it is true, it doesn't seem that ACCESS would be the best organization to be running a kids' camp. I'm just saying...

My correspondent also provided a link to an ABC MediaWatch page detailing a segment last year on Australia's Channel 7, featuring Gary Douglas himself. "Dr." Douglas appeared on a segment of Channel 7's The Morning Show as a "behavioural expert" sharing his views about kids with autism and ADD. The folks on the program later ended up apologizing (or apologising, for you Aussies and Brits) on the air for featuring this loony-tunes "doctor." Here's the link.

As the Media Watch writer noted, "Dr." Douglas doesn't restrict his "energy transformation" techniques to humans; he also works with horses. He even put together a TV pilot, Conscious Horse, Conscious Rider, about his remarkable equine communication skills.
Conscious Horse Conscious Rider is a remarkable TV Pilot, starring horse medium Gary Douglas, and created at the request of horses everywhere.
So not only is Gary Douglas a doctor who's an expert on kids with autism and ADD; he's also a horse's... a horse whisperer. And the horses themselves requested that he make his TV show. Take that, all you neigh-sayers!

It's a mad, mad Whirled, and I'd love to stay and chat, Dear Ones... but I gotta get back to work for a while. And then I think I'm going to go out and talk to the horses. I'll let you know what they have to say.

PS ~ It's not that I think there is no validity to "horse whispering." I do. People such as Monty Roberts and Pat and Linda Parelli have achieved remarkable results with horses, and I am endlessly fascinated with their work. But they utilize knowledge about equine behavior and body language, not telepathy or the voices in their heads or whatever it is that Gary Douglas claims to use.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday, snarky Sunday

The new issue of Succeed Magazine, a glossy publication for fans of The Secret and the Law Of Attraction, has just been released, and Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale is the subject of this issue's cover story. In his blog post announcing the new issue, Joe writes:

The story was the most revealing one ever written on me. The interview felt like therapy, as I talked about my childhood, my past struggles, and my turnaround to success — much of it never shared ever before in public.

I thought Mr. Fire had pretty much shared everything about his past by now, but I guess the Succeed interview inspired him to invent some new stuff share previously unshared secrets about himself. Well, I'm sure that's good for the sale of a few issues, unless the publisher of Succeed, embattled Aussie Secret star David Schirmer, decides to provide a free link to the piece the way he did for his previous Joe Vitale article.

Anyway, I think one good interview deserves another. I am thinking that Mr. Fire should turn the tables and interview David Schirmer! Since Joe deals in miracles and magic, it's possible that Schirmer might be miraculously moved to reveal some things he's never shared ever before in public about himself (but that numerous others have attempted to).

Perhaps Mr. Fire, being an expert in hypnotic marketing and writing and so forth, could hypnotize Schirmer into telling us who really invented that hay baling machine that Schirmer and his brother Ian claimed was their brainchild. The Schirmer brothers' business ultimately failed, and if I am reading David Schirmer's account correctly, as he told it for Keith Leon's new book, the failure was supposedly due to greed, presumably other people's. Maybe Mr. Fire could get Schirmer to spill the beans on another possible reason that the business went belly-up.

Then maybe he could ask Schirmer if he ever paid back all that money he allegedly owes his investors, and that he promised on TV to pay back by Christmas of 2007. As a bonus question, perhaps he could ask him why noted quantum physics expert Bob Proctor, who also happens to be a friend of Joe's, decided he didn't want anything to do with Schirmer any more.

I am sure there are many more questions that a lot of folks, at least in Australia, would like to see truthfully answered by Schirmer. But my guess is that Mr. Fire wouldn't ask those questions of Schirmer, because, well, why focus on the negative? There's no money in that. Besides, the past is past! We all make mistakes! And even if that bad stuff is true, it all happened in Australia, which isn't anywhere near America, where the big money is. Best thing to do is just gloss over it and head on to the next big joint venture.

Anyway, I'm at the point where I think it might take more than hypnosis to make Schirmer come clean. And I think that more than a few Aussies would agree with me.

Of course, David Schirmer isn't the only one involved in The Secret franchise who has a shaky relationship with the truth. Other "stars" of that DVD have been known to be less than forthcoming about certain aspects of their own lives. And Secret creator and producer Rhonda Byrne herself seems to have had a bit of trouble getting her story straight about the origins and creation of the world's most successful New-Wage infomercial. Here's the current version of the "official" story of the birth of The Secret (from the official web site):
Towards the end of 2004, and following a string of traumatic events in her personal and professional life, Rhonda Byrne discovered a great secret - the secret laws and principles of the universe. Rhonda's daughter had given her a copy of The Science of Getting Rich, a book written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles. Of that moment, Rhonda says, "Something inside of me had me turn the pages one by one, and I can still remember my tears hitting the pages as I was reading it. It gave me a glimpse of The Secret and it was like a flame inside of my heart."

What followed was a two-month odyssey of research and investigation as Rhonda traced The Secret back through thousands of years, incorporating almost every religion and field of human endeavour throughout history.

Almost immediately her life was transformed, as she began to put into practice all she had learned. And in that moment her greatest wish, and new life mission, was to share this knowledge with the world.

With a successful background in international television production, Rhonda was perfectly placed to make that dream come true. She vowed to make a movie, to carry joy to every corner of the Earth, to share this knowledge with billions. And so the great journey that was The Secret began.

From the outset, conventional filmmaking procedures involving endless meetings, tight schedules, strict budgets, deadlines and revisions were dispensed with in favour of powerful Secret processes such as intention, visualization, appreciation, gratitude and faith. Or more simply, the team would Ask, Believe, and Receive.

As a result, right when the company was ready to begin production, as if by magic, the perfect people began to appear to help make The Secret. Suddenly the office was filled with brilliant, creative and talented people, all working to complete the most ambitious project any of them had ever worked on. Without exception, every single person was taught The Secret, and together they collaborated in total harmony working towards the goal of joy to billions.


According to a write-up in the Sydney Morning Herald, the original producer of the DVD, Drew Heriot (who has recently filed a lawsuit against Rhonda and company), has a slightly different take on the birth of The Secret:

In his lawsuit, Mr Heriot says he began working in 2000 with Ms Byrne's company, Prime Time, as an editor for the candid camera-style TV show, Australia Behaving Badly.

He said Ms Byrne told him and one of her producers, Paul Harrington, in January 2005 about an idea she had for a new television series based on several "self-help" and "success" books and audio CDs she had enjoyed while on holidays.

One of the CDs was by well-known inspirational speaker Esther Hicks and two of the books were The Science Of Getting Rich by Wallace D.Wattles, and The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel.*

Ms Byrne wanted to make a documentary-style series with various self-help teachers. Mr Heriot said the three of them decided that the series should be called The Secret, which would ultimately focus on one self-help principle known as the "law of attraction".

One can't help but notice a few differences between Drew's scenario and the one told on The Secret web site.

I'm sure more interesting stories will emerge, and more secrets will be revealed, in the weeks to come.

Well, that's it. Sunday's almost over (and it's long over in other parts of the world), and I think I got the snark out of my system for a while. So...G'night, Dear Ones!

* I haven't read The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel, but a couple of people whom I really like and respect are Haanel fans. And as it happens, my friend Tony Michalski (who in my opinion has one of the more balanced views of the self-help industry), has repackaged and published Haanel's works in a couple of convenient formats. If you're interested in Haanel, check out what Kallisti Publishing has to offer. (And no, I'm not getting paid, either directly or indirectly, for this plug. )

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another li'l ol' snippet day...

Just a few little snippets today, Dear Ones. I'm dealing with work deadlines (and it's a good thing, as Martha would say).

New-Wage guilt redux

An alert reader sent me an email:
Have you seen this thread on Steve Pavlina's forums?

[Here my reader quotes from the person initiating the thread. ~CC]

But now she's back in the hospital again, and this time they're saying they don't expect her to walk back out. Anywhere from three days to three weeks, they're saying. And I am tormented with guilt and doubt. What did I do wrong? Why didn't it work, when I truly believed that it would?

[End quote...and the reader continues with the comment. ~CC]

The opening post makes me so sad, and then some of the replies make me angry as hell. ("it was her time, etc.")


Ah the frustration at the whole thing....
Indeed. I share my reader's frustration and anger, and this is the very type of thread that, at the very least, makes me wonder if perhaps the above-linked site's tag line, "Personal development for smart people" needs to be seriously reconsidered.

I've sort of touched on New-Wage guilt (and other sorts of spiritually inspired guilt) before, but maybe it's time to revisit the topic.

In my view, one of the most futile, absurd, and heartbreaking of human endeavors is the attempt to second-guess God/Goddess or the universe or fate or whatever you want to call he/she/it. I think it's safe to say that diseases and other medical conditions (for example) have causes, even if our understanding of those causes is incomplete. Most accidents or natural disasters have causes too. In our eternal (and sometimes infernal) search for meaning, however, we often attempt to dig for a deeper "why" behind it all. This is only natural, and, of course, it isn't something that began with New-Wage guiltmongers or Law Of Attraction Nazis. But the latter have definitely put a new spin on the whole thing, with their gross misuse of the concepts of "attraction," "100% responsibility," and the like.

The big "Why?" could just as easily be answered with another question, "Why not?" As flippant and even callous as that may sound, it's a much kinder, and ultimately more realistic, response than one often gets from the Secretrons and LOA-noids.

Curtis-y call
I'm on the email list for news and updates from John Curtis, the guy who's crusading against fraudulent self-help (though as I've noted before, some would say that "fraudulent self-help" is a redundancy).

Couple of days ago I received this email from him:
Since many have asked... here is an opinion about the latest of what The Secret is attracting.

Now you know!
I applaud John Curtis and the work he is doing, but couldn't help raising an eyebrow (well, both eyebrows, to be precise) at the source and subject of the "opinion" – one Nina Amir, of Pure Spirit Creations. Here's what it says on her bio page on the Pure Spirit Creations web site:
Recently Nina Amir has started calling herself a Kabbalistic Conscious Creation Coach. While she is not trained as a life coach per se, her certification as a rebirther, her work as a Voice Dialogue facilitator, her training as a Tarot reader, her many years spent taking and teaching human potential-related classes, her study of spirituality, metaphysics, meditation and mysticism, her minor in psychology, her participation in an ongoing women’s spiritual support group for the past 13 years, her leadership of two other spiritual support groups, and her focus on writing books and articles that help others live their lives fully have all given Nina a unique ability to help others achieve goals in many areas of their lives.
Nina Amir is also the author of a booklet entitled, Abracadabra: The Kabbalah of Conscious Creation, 10 Mystical Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams and Desires:

If you've seen or read The Secret and would like to put the concepts of Creative Thought and the Law of Attraction through a Jewish mystical lens, you must read this booklet! If you like The Secret but want to see how these principles can be applied in a more spiritual manner, Abracadabra! will tell you how.

M'kay.

It's possible that John Curtis merely wished to demonstrate that even some folks in the pop-spirituality community (arguably The Secret's largest fan base) are bothered by the disconnect between Secret producer Rhonda Byrne's glowing babble of an abundant universe and the apparent greed that she and her bidness partner Bob Rainone are displaying. If such a demonstration wasn't John's intent, though, one would think that maybe he could have found an opinion source more in sync with what his site and work are all about... a source such as, oh, I don't know...*

Don't get me wrong. Although Kabbalah has in recent years been gobbled up by the conspicuously enlightened and the insufferably evolved set (particularly the Hollyweirds), I gotta tell ya I have nothing against Nina Amir or Kabbalah or Jewish mystical lenses. But hey, John! What am I? Chopped liver?

A degree of confusion
I'm a little confused about an anonymous comment I received today in response to an older post in which I took a potshot at phony or questionable doctorate degrees (scroll down to the second item, "Doctoring up your credibility"). My correspondent wrote:
The article is about the "phony" degrees that are "so easy" to obtain. Okay... I am willing to buy into that from the "authority" who wrote the article. The only trouble is that these "phony" degrees will get you knocked out of any Pell Grant if you apply for one that will get you into a tech school. They may not be "accredited" but they are certainly recognized. Furthermore, these degrees are theological, not academic, and clearly state they are. You cannot give a school an accreditation if it's based on Theology. Dr. Billy Graham, who is one of the most praised "doctors" in the world of religion, has only an earned Bachelors degree in anthropology from Wheaton College. George W. Bush has a Doctorate from Yale.. but he never earned it.. it's honorary... so which is more of a "doctor"? Lastly, I would like to say if these "phoney" doctorates are so damned easy to obtain, why is it that NOT ONE of those who criticize them has ever earned one? Perhaps because they are so "worthless"? Yeah, I thought so.
I won't address the whole comment because I'm still trying to figure it out (I'm a bit slow on the uptake today, I guess). But I will address the last part of the comment. Though I acknowledge I may have been completely misinterpreting that point, it appears that the writer is asking why critics such as yours truly who slam those easy-to-obtain degrees have never "earned" one ourselves. Well, I can't speak for all of the critics, but I haven't bothered to "earn" one of the phony degrees because there are things I'd rather spend my money on, such as trips to Costco. Also, when you lie about your education, it catches up to you sooner or later.

As for people who hold "honorary" degrees from accredited schools, it is the choice of those schools' faculty and/or alumni to bestow these honors. So if Yale wanted to kiss up to Dubya (as they had done a few years earlier with his daddy) and give him an honorary doctorate despite his lackluster academic performance when he was a student there, and despite the fact that for many years he played down his Ivy-League roots so people would think he was a good-ol'-boy Texan – well, so be it. However, it must be said that the recipients of honorary Ph.D.'s do not generally exploit their degrees the way the New-Wage hustledorks do. (F'rinstance, when is the last time you heard someone call Dubya or his daddy "Dr. Bush?")

My post that I linked to above wasn't the first time I'd taken a shot on this blog at the phony-degree phenomenon. But it's not the degrees in and of themselves that bug me the most, although I would imagine they are kind of an insult to people who spend years of time and tons of money in pursuit of real degrees. What really bugs me the most, as I've said elsewhere on this blog and on others (such as Steve Salerno's SHAMblog), is that the phony-degree holders seem to want to have it both ways.

I've acknowledged that the whole accreditation / credential system is kind of arbitrary. Furthermore, having a bunch of letters after your name, real or otherwise, doesn't guarantee that you are smart, and it especially doesn't guarantee that you are wise. Conversely, not having those credentials doesn't mean that you're dumb or that you have nothing to say worth listening to. (I only have a high school education, and if I do say so myself, once in a while I have something to say that makes sense.) New-Wagers who are called on their own questionable degrees, or their followers who feel compelled to defend them, have been known to argue these very points.

Which, of course, just raises the question: "If the accreditation system and credentials are arbitrary and are insignificant in the larger scheme of things, then why go to the trouble to get yourself a phony doctorate in the first place?"

Yeah, I thought so. That siren song of instant "credibility" calls.
Well, for those of you who, despite all my snarking, still can't resist the lure, I found another source for an instant education. Of course they're not doing anything illegal; the onus is on the buyer to be "truthful":

By ordering via this service, you are making a legal declaration that you have sufficient previous Work Experience for the degree you wish to be awarded. This unique system is an excellent opportunity.

Convert what you already know into a legally issued college degree.

Everything is perfectly legal, providing you are truthful when you order.

Here are some testimonials from some happy "students":
Even though my business does not require a college education, I have noticed a sharp increase in clients seeking my services. I have also noticed they haggle less as to my fees and estimates.
--Mariah Benton, MBA

The first job I applied for after getting my instant degree resulted in being called to an interview. I was able to demonstrate my IT skills and was offered the job. My boss is extremely happy that he hired me and I am inline for promotion. If it wasn't for your service I would still be in the reject pile.
--Geoff D, BSc
Okey-dokey, it's back to work I go. Have a great weekend, y'all. And remember, if you truly want to better yourself, don't forget to study! Or at least have a valid credit card!

* Re the seeming inconsistency between John Curtis' mission/point of view, and the fact that he chose a mystical-spiritual writer to back his p.o.v.: I acknowledge that I too have recently been called on a similar inconsistency, by virtue of publishing comments from, and applauding the wit of, a person who makes at least part of his living in a New-Wagey kinda way. Inconsistency duly noted, though it should also be noted that I have invited this person to answer the "charges" leveled against him on this blog and others.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Lusty coaches & Christian retreats: it's a mad, mad Whirled

I'm afraid this is going to be another one of those drive-by blog posts. I have tons of real work to do, but I did want to point you in the direction of a couple Whirled-class items.


An alert reader sent me a link to a story that Steve Salerno also wrote about on SHAMblog, regarding a "prosperity guru" who has been charged with sexual assault. Bijan Anjomi, 64, has been charged with three counts of sexual assault after two alleged incidents in Toronto, Canada hotel rooms. According to Toronto police, the two women, ages 27 and 37, believed they were attending personal coaching sessions when the incidents allegedly took place. They called police once they snapped to what was really happening.

And so another hero of the conspicuously enlightened bites the dust. And my, what a shame, since Anjomi had apparently amassed quite an enthusiastic following. Here's just one bubbly write-up from a June 2007 blog post:
Bijan Anjomi is a man who intimately knows miracles. Moment by moment Bijan expects miracles, lives them and expresses into the world from the mist of them. And ... he creates a space in which others effortlessly begin experiencing their own miracles. Communing with Bijan is nothing less than a step into a shimmering blue healing pool of miracles. You are instantly healed and your consciousness is elevated. Miracles happen!
Hmmm... maybe we'd better make that a "shimmering pool of misdirected lust." And perhaps "intimately knows miracles" and "expresses into the world" is code for what was really going on.

On one of Bijan's web sites, The Perfect You, we learn that "his award-winning physique, sculpted and symmetrical, is a metaphor for his philosophy of life: 'Everything in balance and proportion, nothing to extreme.'" Bijan's main site is EffortlessProsperity.com.

According to the Canwest News Service story I linked to above, Bijan's defense attorney, Stephen Bernstein, said that the charges against his client will be "vigorously defended." Interesting choice of words, Counselor! Good to know that we can look forward to yet more "vigorous" activity in regard to Bijan.

On his SHAMblog post, Steve Salerno cited the excellent chapter about life coaches in his book, SHAM: How The Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. In that chapter he wrote about, as he puts it, " a subset of life coaches known as 'relationship coaches' or 'intimacy experts' who offer a more personalized kind of training that may ultimately become, in effect, a form of prostitution. " Seems like our guy Bijan is another shining example of this phenomenon. Oops, make that "is allegedly another shining example of this phenomenon."

Last year I too was inspired to take a stab at the life-coaching epidemic. At that time I was receiving a ton of spam emails from New-Wage entrepreneurs who were surfing the Secret wave and claiming to be Law Of Attraction coaches. Thinking about the life-coach problem put me in mind of an experience I'd had with a "coach"; an essay about that experience appears on my old Cosmic Relief web site. Let me hasten to add that there was no illicit sex, or any sex, involved in that incident; it was merely an intensely annoying experience.

But I've been around New-Wage culture long enough to know that the "hands-where-they-don't-belong" gurus and "therapists" and such aren't all that uncommon. I almost had an encounter with one years ago, but fortunately got "creepy" vibes after one phone conversation with him and I never followed up. (I honestly don't think I could have been manipulated into any sort of intimate encounter with this joker, but I'm still glad I listened to my instincts.) Later this person was immortalized as a sexual predator in a book by a bestselling New-Wage author.

Before I leave you and go back to work, Dear Ones, let me point you to a most excellent article that one of my favorite regulars, HHH, showed me. I've often thought that few selfish-help experiences could be worse than one of those intensive New-Wage retreats where you get in touch with your raw primitive emotions and engage in group vomiting and so forth. But I was wrong. There is something worse: an intensive evangelical Christian retreat
where you get in touch with your raw primitive emotions and engage in group vomiting and so forth – AND learn to speak in tongues.

Have at it... and have a terrific weekend. And thank you again, HHH, for the link.

PS ~ I neglected to mention above that Jody Radzik at Guruphiliac was also on the Bijan story; he's the one who really keeps on top of which gurus are on top of their followers. Here's the link to his post on the "prosperity guru."

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Go, Charlie!

Last night on ABC Nightline, there was a story about a court battle between the two leading lights in the satellite TV industry. NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch, owner of DirecTV, and EchoStar Corporation's Charlie Ergen, owner of Dish Network, have been going at each other for years, but now it's really getting good. The current flap concerns Charlie's accusation that Rupie (or one of his subsidiary companies) hired hackers to steal code from EchoStar. Speculation is that neither side in this battle is going to come out smelling like a rose.


Charlie's an interesting guy whose amazing success story is pretty well known in business circles. The page I link to above summarizes the shaky beginnings of his empire:
In 1980 Ergen and Jim DeFranco, a gambling buddy, tried their luck at the blackjack and poker tables in Las Vegas, Nevada—they were both considered professional gamblers at the time. Both men were ejected from the town after being accused of counting cards at blackjack; while looking for something else to do, they saw a truck carrying a huge satellite-television dish. Like shrewd card players attracted to games of risk, they impulsively decided to jump into the new business of satellite television.

The new business took. The gamble paid off big. And now Charlie Ergen is one of the richest men in America.

He's been feuding with media mogul Rupert Murdoch for over ten years.
I've been following these matters with interest and have been rooting for Charlie, because long ago and far away, I used to work for him. (You knew I would find a way to make this about me, didn't you?)

To be more specific, I began working for Charlie Ergen when he bought out the company I was with, Houston Tracker Systems (HTS). HTS was a manufacturer of home satellite equipment back in the big-dish days, and I worked in their propaganda department...er...advertising and marketing department. I was a copywriter, newsletter editor, corporate communications specialist...you name it, if it needed to get written, I wrote it.

I got tons of great experience there and had the privilege of working with the head of the ad department, an amazingly talented and creative guy named Arnold Gonzalez, who now has his own ad agency. To Arnold goes much of the credit (or blame, as the case may be) for my getting into graphic design.

Within about a year of Charlie's purchase of the company, we – the company and much of the work force – up and moved from Houston to Colorado. That was just fine with me, because I'd lived in Colorado as a child and it felt like I was going back home.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really "at home" in the corporate environment, which, of course, was as much a reflection on me as it was on that particular environment. In the end, as much as I hated to say goodbye to Arnold (we've recently reconnected, though), I tendered my resignation.

But I did not go quietly. I felt duty-bound to tell Charlie and company exactly what I thought about the way they were running the show. Ultimately my nine-page resignation letter (complete with sub-heads and footnotes) grew to nineteen pages, including addenda and attachments and exhibits. It was a pre-Dilbert-days treatise on corporate politics and hypocrisy, with a splash of humor and even a couple of puns thrown in. (I just pulled it out the other day and looked at it, and y'know, it isn't half bad.)

In retrospect I realize that this was a very geeky and unprofessional thing for me to do, but it did provide a jump-start for a new phase in my career. It certainly provided more than a hint of my qualifications to write books. Somehow, the resignation letter accidentally got leaked – goodness knows how that could have happened – and numerous copies were made and distributed to the legions of discontented "downstairs" workers (I was one of the "upstairs" workers). Soon it was all over the place. I was kind of a hero.

My immediate supervisors and the president of the company talked to me about my letter and my decision to resign, and then Charlie called me into his office to discuss the matter. The gist of all of those conversations seemed to be to address the concerns I had expressed in my lengthy missive, and to ask me to reconsider my decision. Further, Charlie and the company president both insisted that to their knowledge, most of my observations in my letter were inaccurate. "If we really were the kind of company you portrayed," I was told, "we really would have a problem. But we're not that kind of company." They were very calm and rational about it, and seemingly not at all ruffled. Charlie even told me, "Dissent is healthy, and we welcome it around here!"

I guess I was a little disappointed.

Regarding their assessment of the company, not to mention Charlie's endorsement of dissent, I wasn't at all convinced, any more than I was convinced that they truly wanted me to stay on. Roger, my fiancé at the time, was one of their most valuable engineers; he was doing a lot of hardware and software for their newest product lines. Since he was very supportive of me, and had his own gripes about the company, I sensed that they were more afraid of losing him than they were of losing me. I figured they thought that if they could keep me on, despite the fact that I had proven to be a royal p.i.t.a., then maybe they'd be more likely to retain their genius engineer. That was my reasoning, anyway.

In any case the point was moot, because my decision was firm. I tied up loose ends, prepared my office for my successor(s), whoever they might be, and sailed off into the wild blue freedom of free-lancery. Roger stayed on with the company a few months longer.

Shortly after I left there was a company picnic, and since Roger was still an employee, we went. The people who had been my friends and allies at the company immediately came up and talked to me and said they were glad to see me, and they seemed to mean it.

Charlie's minions, on the other hand, stayed far away, barely acknowledging my presence. That is, they stayed away until the Big Man himself came striding up to me as if I were a long-lost friend. He clapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hiya, Connie, how ya' doin'? Good to see you here!"... just as if nothing had ever been amiss.

Immediately following his jovial welcome, the brown-nosed army that had previously shunned me made their way one by one over to my table and said their requisite hellos. They still seemed a little uncomfortable about the whole thing, though. Or maybe I was just projecting.

Not long after that, Roger quit the company, and towards the end of the year he got a job offer in Houston from the young entrepreneur who had sold HTS to Charlie. So we packed up and went back down south, leaving Colorado during one of the most gloriously bloody sunsets I'd seen in a while. I could barely see it through the tears. Leaving Colorado hurts, I've learned.
Link
But I love Texas too, and eventually I settled back into the land of no real seasons. Years went by. I got divorced but remained friends with Roger. I met Ron. We got into the book writing business. I got into blogging. And so on.

And here I am today, following the latest installment in the ongoing saga of Wicked Rupie versus Scrappy Charlie. So I say... go get 'em, Charlie. And by the way, Charlie, if you're reading this, Ron and I would very much like to help you write your autobiography. We're right here.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Saint David The Martyr holds forth...and some convoluted TV history

Well, if everything went as scheduled, it was Spruiker v. Spruiker in the Australian Federal Court today. As I noted in my post the other day ("Nothing SUCCEEDS like success"), David Schirmer, Aussie star of The Secret, was taken to court on an intellectual properties matter by another Aussie spruiker, John Fitzgerald. The case was scheduled for today (or yesterday, if you're in that upside-down part of the world). I'll let you know what comes of the case as soon as I find out.


Meanwhile, the martyrdom that began last year continues, and Saint David has stepped it up a notch with some old-fashioned Bible-thumpin'. Now he seems to be comparing himself to Saint Stephen. In his April 29 blog post, Australia's newest saint writes:
The story of Stephen in the Bible in Acts 6:8 to Acts 7:60 is a [sic] illustration of what negative thought creates. Stephen by all accounts was a pretty good bloke (full of grace and power, worked great miracles among the people it says). A couple of people got jealous of his following so "they secretly instigated and instructed people to say, We have heard this man speak, using slanderous and abusive and blasphemous language against Moses and God." In other words they lied to their friends, got their friends to lie to others, even creating false witnesses against Stephen.

That happened 2000 years ago, but nobody would do that today would they?!?!? Surely we have learned something in 2000 years.

What Stephen said and did and the praises he received from those he helped must have really rubbed these couple of people up the wrong way ... my guess is that they were probably a couple of old friends who wanted the same recognition as Stephen received but never did anything to achieve it!! They were actually from Stephen's old church, so they would have known him pretty well - maybe some even worked with him before he became famous.

Well, the story goes on to tell us Stephen (the guy who was creating all the miracles and liked be [sic] many) was arrested and put to trial - all because of the anger and jealously of a couple of people who never helped anyone but sought to pull successful people like Stephen down. He was arrested by those he was trying to help, who were stirred up by the lying, deceitful, jealous friends from his old church!

Eventually the hatred grew so great against Stephen these people bit him and stoned him to death...

...We don't have record of what happened to those who instigated the evil hatred and anger to begin with nor of those who stoned Stephen to death because of the lies and deception create by those filled with jealousy. History rarely records these people ... they are quickly forgotten as they suffer their own disease, depression, failure, despair and often pitiful death; never remembered for the people they tried to bring down....

...You may think this is just a story that is 2000 years old ... the truth is that this same story is happening today. There are people like those jealous angry few that lie and deceive because they are too lazy to become better themselves, they see other people's successes and fame and seek to knock them down, even destroy them so they themselves don't look so bad. Too often it is created by someone who you know, even someone you thought was a friend. They don't do the stoning, they just create the negative stories, the slander, the lies, and incite anger toward you for striving to be the best you can be....

...To you who stand tall and bold, who focus only on giving your best, seeking only to lift up those around you, speaking word of truth and encouragement, loving even those who hate you and seek to destroy you - your rewards are health, happiness, prosperity, peace, fulfilment, love ... and life ... far over and above all that you dare ask or think, infinitely beyond your highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams (Eph 3:20) because this is also universal law ... God's law.
Uh-huh.

Meanwhile, your very own Cosmic Connie got taken to task once again, this time by an anonymous scholar of broadcast history who wrote, in response to the "SUCCEED" post:
Connies [sic] posts never seem to include the fact that "A Current Affair" used to be in the United States, but they were kicked out of Hollywood because they destroyed too many lives and too many families by fabricating stories and creating false reports. Then ACA moved to Australia and picked up where they left off in Hollywood. It seems as though this rag mag has people who will believe them without checking out the facts. Of course you'll never read this information in a Whirled Musings article because it's the truth. Perhaps Connie would fit right in at "A Current Affair."
I thanked Anon for the history lesson, politely pointing out that the information was, alas, incorrect. The American "A Current Affair" and the Aussie "A Current Affair" are two completely different shows, with different broadcast histories.

"Besides," I added, "since when did anyone get 'kicked out of Hollywood' for 'fabricating stories and creating false reports'?" Heck fire, that's what Hollywood is all about, isn't it?

Another commenter chimed in:
the aca "historian" sounds like the wackadoo crackpot who was vandalizing any wikipedia mention of aca about a year ago--right around the time the first aca exposé on schirmer took place. hmmmm, i'm sure that's just a coincidence. other people took the vandalism down when there were no citations to back it up, but you can still see the insane screechings in the page histories if people are remotely interested. not too many are, except for the entertainment value.

i find it funny that schirmer supporters will occasionally show up on sites that allow both sides to talk about it, but on schirmer's own blog--which is moderated--dead silence.

c'mon, schirmer! if you're gonna invest your valuable, valuable time writing all the sock puppets--like your seriously lame attempt to sock-puppet on youtube a few months ago--why on earth can't you sock-puppet a few positive comments on your own blog? it just looks sad with you all ignored like that, especially since you keep talking about your many, many thousands of fans and supporters!
And the Whirled wags on...

PS ~ By the way, the David Schirmer link I provided in the first paragraph is a link to a page on one of his own web sites. Here's one of the things it says about him:

One more thing you will learn about David is his 'down-to-earth' no-nonsense honest farmer approach. He still trades his own money and unlike many educators and authors ... still makes consistent profits. He also insists that all seminars, workshops and home learning systems have a full money back guarantee, that insists full refund of any monies paid if the participant isn't totally convinced that the information will dramatically improve their investing or trading returns.

His clients have averaged just on 30% per annum over the past 8 years investing in blue chips stocks. The Professional Traders he has taught have returned up to 50% a month consistently. This makes him one of the greatest stock and commodity teachers of our time.

He now drives the car of his dream, the latest BMW M5, owns real estate, has numerous businesses and this year will make a personal income from trading and business in excess of $1.5 million.

Just a reminder, for those of you who might be interested!

PPS (added on Saturday, 3 May): Several people have suggested to me that perhaps the "anonymous broadcast scholar" I mentioned above – the one who wrote the comment suggesting that I write lies on this blog – is none other than Keith Leon, who allegedly has been known to write similar remarks about A Current Affair to others. Not so long ago, Keith was such an enthusiastic supporter of David Schirmer that he presented Schirmer's amazing success story in his new book, Who Do You Think You Are? My personal opinion is that Keith himself is probably too busy
putting out PR fires promoting his book to bother with this li'l ol' blog, but perhaps it was one of Keith's supporters who took the time to try to enlighten me about the history of ACA.
OMT: I've never said or implied or believed that tabloid TV is a source of the unvarnished truth. Far from it. I even felt a little sympathy for Schirmer last year when he was "ambushed" by ACA, and said as much on my blog. Yet he was the one who originally approached ACA to give him a forum for promoting The Secret and his own work. And while I don't necessarily endorse some of the tactics utilized by ACA and similar media outlets, my opinion is that they are performing a public service in this case.

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