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.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Apologies, updates, and the 2010 Scammy Winners

First, the obligatory apologies and updates...
My apologies, Dear Ones, for being away from here for such an extended period of time. I've been tending to work and family issues and have had precious few moments to tend to my hobby blog, or even to participate very much in others' blogs. I deeply appreciate the continuing support from all of you, however.

Things have been pretty busy around The Ranch at the Edge of Nowhere and surrounding areas. There have been adventures aplenty. Or at least they seem like adventures to people such as Yours Truly who are easily amused. F'rinstance, it's kidding season at our friends' organic goat dairy up the road, and we recently got to watch an actual goat actually being born. I was thrilled. I love watching things being born (told you I was easily amused). I even like to watch YouTube videos of foaling and calving and kidding and whelping and such. But there's nothing like being right there in the barn when a brand spanking new critter makes its debut, and the whole place is filled with the sweet and heady aroma of birth, not to mention the scuffling drama of chickens and barn dogs jostling for a taste of the afterbirth... Okay, T.M.I. (But I have a really good goat afterbirth pic if you want to see it.)

Our friends separate the new goats from their mamas almost immediately after they're born, though the kids are carefully bottle-fed and otherwise lovingly attended. They're usually sold at a very young age. Their fate depends upon their gender; sadly, most of the little boys (bucklings) end up as cabrito, whereas most of the doelings eventually become milkers. A few of both genders simply become pets, but our friends are very choosy about the people to whom they sell goats as pets. They are extremely responsible farmers and stewards.

Ron took a few pics at the place. Here, for example, is a bucket full of brand-new future cabrito.
Here are a couple of slightly older kids bellying up to the milk bar.
And here's me, or part of me, trying to feed one of the new kids on the block, and in case you were wondering, that's colostrum ("first milk") in the bottle, not a brew. The newbies have to get their fill of colostrum in the first days of life in order to get their little immune systems off on the right track.
To the right of the picture is the little fellow's mother, making sure I'm doing it correctly. Actually I kind of suck at feeding new goats (I know: the kids are the ones that are supposed to be doing the sucking); my friends said you just have to get the hang of it. This one was fighting the bottle.

Goat feeding glitches notwithstanding, I sometimes wonder if I was born to be a farmer. I've seriously considered it. Maybe it's in my blood. Both of my parents grew up on farms, after all, as did their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before them. I come from a long line of farmers, y'all. On second thought, maybe I'll just continue to hang with my farmer friends and experience the joys of farming vicariously (while buying as much of their delightful fresh feta, chevre, and cajeta as I possibly can). Yeah, that sounds a lot smarter, not to mention cheaper. Besides, farmers are on call 24/7. I don't think I could keep up with that pace.

There's a dangerous side to farm and ranch life too, as Ron and I were reminded a few weeks ago when one of our favorite horses pulled a knife on Ron. We were strolling around The Ranch late one afternoon when we ran into a lady who was riding the horse she boards out here, a handsome chestnut Thoroughbred gelding named Gyro. We stopped to chat, and as we were shooting the breeze, Gyro suddenly reached down and smartly plucked Ron's razor-sharp Swedish military knife out of the sheath attached to his belt. Ron always carries a serious knife with him when we're walking around The Ranch, just in case we run into any copperhead snakes, carnivorous plants, or other dangerous life forms. (Actually, I'm just kidding about the carnivorous plants, but not about the snakes.)

Gyro, who apparently couldn't decide whether the knife was a food item or a toy, began bobbing his head vigorously, waving his new-found prize around, and he almost got Ron with it. Fortunately Ron has excellent reflexes and was able to grab the weapon with no one being hurt. Gryo's "mom" was alarmed and very apologetic, but Ron said, "Hey, no big deal."

Just another day in The Country... But we are keeping our eyes open for any signs of equine gang activity.

Occasionally Ron and I still venture into The City – Houston, that is. On a recent Friday evening we attended a big book launch for a client and dear friend, held at a major New-Thought church in Houston. It was a beautiful event with professional musical entertainment and numerous speakers, including some local celebs. Our client sold quite a few books; one person bought 25 copies.

Despite my being at odds with the New-Wage/New-Thought world in so many ways, I am quick to acknowledge that there are some truly lovely people in this church – people who aren't so humorlessly hung up on their "issues," and so devoted to New-Wage gurus, that they are offended by snarks and critics. Ron and I ran into a few folks we hadn't seen in years, who seemed genuinely glad to see us. One in particular, J, has taught one of the church's most popular classes for nearly twenty years. Ron and I had done editorial consulting and layout/design for a couple of his books years ago. J never fails to make me smile and is still the delightful person I remember. He said he was very pleased to see that Ron and I are still doing the book thing.

As we were talking, he asked me what else I was doing these days besides the book biz. I told him about our moving out to The Edge of Nowhere, and, oh, yeah... I mentioned that I have a little hobby blog... "kind of like Cosmic Relief [my old book, with which J is familiar], but slightly meaner, and using real names," I said. He grinned and said, "Good for you!" I told him I am kind of the anti-Christ among some fans of Law of Attraction and The Secret. He said, "Hey, don't call yourself the anti-Christ. Call yourself the Auntie Christ. Auntie Christ and Uncle Buddha!" he said, looking at Ron and grinning again.

Good people everywhere, even at Ground Zero of New-Wage Land.

The announcement you've been waiting for (or not)
But I realize, Dear Ones, that goat birthing, knife-wielding horses, and big book launches are pretty flimsy excuses for my neglecting to announce the winners of the
2010 Scammy Awards. (Yes, I know that transition sucked, worse than I suck at feeding new goats; I could have done a segue involving the New-Thought church, but I'm in somewhat of a hurry.) I wrote about the Scammy Awards briefly in one of my previous posts, and I hope you voted. Anyway, Dr. John Curtis of Americans Against Self-Help Fraud announced the winners during National Guru-Free Week, as promised, but I was otherwise occupied and didn't jump on it. Better two and a half weeks late than never, though.

If you don't know the results already, it might come as somewhat of a surprise to you that this year's runaway winner was not the man who runs those killer seminars and retreats, James Arthur Ray. Oh, he was a runner-up in several categories, and in some cases it was a tie, but he was not the hands-down winner. That honor belongs to one Vianna Stibal, founder of something called Theta Healing, which purports to offer healing for diseases of all kinds.

Here's the complete list of winners of the 2010 Scammys:

  • DUMB SPEAK AWARD - given for the most unintelligent thing uttered by a Self-Help Guru!
    Winner: Vianna Stibal, founder of ThetaHealing who claims to have a cure for cancer
    Runner-up: James Arthur Ray, who needs no introduction, just read the arrest records
  • HYPOCRITE AWARD - given to the Self-Help guru with the biggest gap between their professed values and how they actually behave!
    Winner: Vianna Stibal
    Runner-up: James Arthur Ray
  • DADDY BIG BUCKS AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru whose lifestyle shows that they are only in it for the money!
    Winner: Vianna Stibal
    Runner-up: Joe Vitale
  • HOODWINKED AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru who did the best job of tricking a celebrity into being their sponsor!
    Winner: Vianna Stibal
    Runner-up: James Arthur Ray
  • BI-POLAR AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru whose promises got the opposite results!
    Winner: James Arthur Ray
  • BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MIS-LEADING ROLE AWARD - given to the Self Help Guru who did the best job of deceiving the public!
    Winner: James Arthur Ray
    Runner-up: Vianna Stibal
  • BERNIE MADOFF LIFETIME MIS-ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - given to the best, all around Self-Help Guru who did the most to diminish the human race!
    Winners: James Arthur Ray & Vianna Stibal share this year's award

I'm thinking that either not many people voted in this year's Scammys, or Theta Healing – and its founder, Vianna Stibal – have many more detractors than even I had realized. I'm not surprised that James Ray did so well in this year's competition, though Joe's performance was a little disappointing, I must say.

So just who is this Vianna Stibal, anyway? Well, she's a mother, grandmother, and now a New-Wage entrepreneur who claims to have spontaneously healed herself of cancer. She says that what she does is teachable (for a price, of course). She claims that she just hooks up with the Creator of All That Is, and somehow gets the ill or injured person's theta brain waves going, hence the name of the healing method. Some proponents of Theta Healing claim it can be taught in fifteen minutes or less. Here's a link to more information and opinions...

Famed magician and skeptic James Randi offered a few strong opinions about Theta Healing on this video, and mentioned a Utah FOX-TV affiliate station that ran a completely uncritical segment about it.

Theta Healing is not to be confused with Immunics.org, which also claims to have found cures for every disease known to humankind, and then some. (Mr. Fire himself appears to have endorsed Immunics.)

So there you have it: the 2010 Scammy winners. Congratulations to all of you...well, all three of you: Vianna Stibal, James Arthur Ray, and Joe Vitale.

PS ~ In case you're interested, here were Cosmic Connie's pics for the 2010 Scammys (some are repeats of my 2009 choices). In most cases I also 'splained my reasons...

  • DUMB SPEAK AWARD - given for the most unintelligent thing uttered by a Self-Help Guru!
    James Arthur Ray (for his many insensitive & nonsensical post-jail Tweets)
  • HYPOCRITE AWARD - given to the Self-Help guru with the biggest gap between their professed values and how they actually behave!
    Joe Vitale -- for too many reasons to mention here
  • DADDY BIG BUCKS AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru whose lifestyle shows that they are only in it for the money!
    Joe Vitale
    -- for obvious reasons
  • HOODWINKED AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru who did the best job of tricking a celebrity into being their sponsor!
    Church of Scientology [okay, that's not a guru but it's a definite force in the New-Wage world]
  • BI-POLAR AWARD - given to the Self-Help Guru whose promises got the opposite results!
    James Arthur Ray (for promising that all participants in his 2009 Spiritual Warrior retreat would become "new people." (Becoming a corpse does not count.))
  • BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MIS-LEADING ROLE AWARD - given to the Self Help Guru who did the best job of deceiving the public!
    Kevin Trudeau
    (sorry, PRW)
  • BERNIE MADOFF LIFETIME MIS-ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - given to the best, all around Self-Help Guru who did the most to diminish the human race!
    Werner Erhard, for starting it all
There was also a bonus question at the end of the survey, and I answered it.
  • What other comments or questions do you have about the 2010 Scammy Awards?
    For future Scammys, there should be a new category: The James Arthur Ray Unintended Consequences Award

So those were my choices. Regarding the bonus question, though, I am thinking that there ought to be an entire new awards program dedicated to James Ray. Call it the James Arthur Ray Sociopathy With a Smile Awards. There are plenty of contenders for that in the New-Wage world, I'd say, although they don't always smile; some throw tantrums on occasion.

'Kay, that's it for now. I'm outta here, but I'll be back in the next day or so with the first of the long-awaited Wink Posts. And this time I really mean it.

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Anonymous Rational Thinking said...

Completely beside the point of your post, but I am intrigued to know why the kids are separated from their mothers at birth and then bottle fed colostrum, rather than imbibing directly from teat? It seems like making a lot of extra work.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:50:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, good question, RT, and it's not beside the point, since I brought it up, after all. :-)

It is a lot of extra work, but apparently has many advantages that more than make up for the extra work. Seems that it's a common practice with herd managers. Separating them from their moms at birth greatly decreases the risk of some nasty viral diseases that can easily be passed from doe to kid.

Also, since this is a working goat dairy the owners have to get as much product from all of the goats as possible. Sending the new kids to the milk bar asap frees up more teat milk for commercial use. The owners do make it a point to get all of the colostrum they can from each doe and then they store it for use on the newbies.

Another reason for separating the kids is that it's easier to monitor the feed intake and health of each individual kid. Plus, it gets the kiddos used to human interaction, which is important.

I guess it's all part of Blue Heron's motto, "Spoiled goats, fresh cheese." (And no, I'm not being paid to promote them, but I do love their cheese.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be (too) contrary, but the same is done with the cow milk industry. Separating mother & offspring is done solely for profit, the other given reasons being bogus. I don't know about goats, but I have heard from dairy folks that the calves' mothers cry for days after they are separated. It seems very unkind to me, to put it mildly. I see nothing better for an infant than to be with its mother, and the same is true for the mother who carried the offspring for however many months. I so dislike this aspect of the milk business.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 3:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, you make good points, but my goat farmer friends are honest about their motives. They want their business to be profitable and they do everything they can to ensure that it is, but they actually look out for the well-being of the animals in their care as well. They do seem to really care about the goats' feelings as well as their physical health. I guess that sometimes in that business you have to make tough choices.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrrghhh! I came back here looking for some sort of critical insight. Unfortunately I got fed up reading about other bloggers and serial commentators I couldn't give a rats arse about. Seeya, bookmark deleted!

Friday, May 07, 2010 1:12:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Just curious, Anon -- why did you bookmark Whirled Musings in the first place? There are over 350 posts on this blog, and this particular post to which you commented is hardly representative. That said, "critical insight" is in the eye of the beholder, and you may very well be the type who would read every word of every post here and still not find the type of "critical insight" you were searching for. To each her own.

If you are indeed serious about searching for critical insight, let me direct you to Steve Salerno's blog. Or Skeptico's blog. Or Orac's "Respectful Insolence" blog. Or perhaps Salty Droid, who is both insightful and very critical (in the criticism sense of the word).

Happy reading!

Friday, May 07, 2010 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger Vera Keil said...

"I guess sometimes you have to make tough choices."

Connie, I like your blog, but, honestly, your reply to Anonymous's goat questions was classic for our times:

Yeah, tough choices have to be made, but how come when it is a question of income, the choice is always in favor of income, not ethics or integrity? The thing that makes a choice tough is that the right action probably involves loss. Loss of humanity or loss of profit. Get it? The same sort of thing you are mad at the gurus about, isn't it?

BTW, You didn't answer Anon's point about the crying mother goats. Why not?

Saturday, August 28, 2010 2:46:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

To begin with, Vera, Anon made a point about crying mother cows, not mother goats. It may seem like a quibble and probably is, but I wanted to get the facts straight. Goats, cows, horses... yes, I am more than aware that all are sentient beings with strong maternal instincts, but what do you want me to say? Do you want me to say my friends are heartless because they separate kids from the moms at birth? I feel bad for the kids and mamas and you know what? So do my friends.

You're welcome to judge them all you want, but I'm not going to do it, and the least of these reasons is that they're not scamming people the way the New-Wage gurus are.

It seems you're trying to nail me for being a hypocrite, or at the very least for being inconsistent, because I'm not condemning my friends. I thought I was being honest, though. I don't know much about farming but I do know that to be successful in the business you do have to make tough choices -- or at least they're tough to people such as my friends who have big hearts. These are choices that sometimes might be distasteful to those of us who watch from the sidelines but don't have to get our hands dirty. I ask you to remember that my friends are trying to make a living with their goats, not operate a petting zoo.

However, if you have some suggestions about how they can keep the babies with the mamas and still remain profitable -- or how they can stop being profitable and still keep their operation going -- I will gladly pass those suggestions along. (A petting zoo is not an option for them at this point.)

OMT: You have probably heard this argument before but you might also consider that if you eat meat, wear leather shoes or carry a leather bag, take any sort of pharmaceutical, use cosmetics with ingredients that have been tested on animals (and most do contain these ingredients, even if a particular branded product claims "no testing on animals"), you are part of a huge process that tortures other sentient species for profit and human convenience.

Saturday, August 28, 2010 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous vera said...

I appreciate your thoughtful answer to my comment.

Although I'm a recent vegetarian and can't afford leather goods, I do know that I'm part of the general chain of unethical corporate products and unethical consumption.

I guess my point is that all of us tend to excuse what we are closest to, and that is a trend I question--because it has societal effects that range from disturbing (the goats, for instance) to deeply deplorable (waterboarding, for instance) My generalization about making profitable choices includes myself.

New age gurus (I call them SOTI, Sellers of the Invisible)are a particularly bad lot. They prey on all the misery and lostness of human beings for their own profit, then kick their followers to the curb by saying, "you didn't get the message" or "you're too negative." Shameless.

I hope you keep up the good work of nailing them in a witty and comprehensive way, Connie.

Saturday, August 28, 2010 6:52:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Vera. And I like "SOTI." It's a very apt description.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm still trying to work out the moral quandary resulting from the fact that I occasionally shop at Wal-mart.

Saturday, August 28, 2010 8:37:00 PM  

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