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.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Just a snippet or two for now

Oh, dear. It seems I've been neglecting my Whirled again. I only blogged once in August and here we are, well into September. It's been a busy-in-a-good-way late summer, a relief after an early summer marked by crisis situations such as tending to a grievously injured friend (who is doing much better now) and a dog we thought was on her last legs, literally (she too has greatly improved). I am actually working on a couple of real blog posts as time permits, and by "working on" I mean that I'm trying to consolidate tons of information into marginally readable posts. Meanwhile, a few snippets just to help break in the new month (well, it's new for me, anyway)...

JAR: WTF?
Although it's actually September 9 as I'm publishing this post, I began it on September 8 (hence the date stamp). We're now less than a month away from the one-year anniversary of the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge tragedy at Sedona, which broke on October 8, 2009. Tempus fugit. There's still no word on exactly when James will have his day in court; his manslaughter trial was originally supposed to begin on August 31 of this year but, as you probably know, was postponed till some time in 2011. Last I heard, his legal team was still trying to get a change of venue too.

Meanwhile, James – or, more likely, one of his few remaining minions – continues to Tweet inanely and, some would say, insensitively, writing about topics such as owning up to one's own shadow and purging oneself of one's past. These thoughts are interspersed with quotations from the Buddha and other spiritual greats, along with the occasional report about James' day-to-day activities. An example of the latter is this gem on September 5:
Just got back from the store... Getting geared up for one of the very rare occassions [sic] when I try my hand at the grill. Look out Labor Day :)
I haven't been following his detractors' responses to his tweets lately, but with that one James Arthur definitely left himself open to some acerbic remarks about his cooking skills. Even as I write this I am reminded once again that he may very well have backed himself into one of those damned-if-he-does and damned-if-he-doesn't corners that I've mentioned here on occasion. No doubt he has long since reached the point where anything he does or doesn't do, or writes or doesn't write, will earn jeers from someone. But I really think he would do better to err on the side of silence, especially with those tweets.

No such luck, though. He is apparently still trying to eke out a living by making lame videos at his home, conducting teleseminars, and joint-venturing with the few people who are still willing to partner with him. But at least he isn't holding those pricey LGAT events any more. Speaking of which, someone sent me links many months ago to one of James Ray's online photo albums that featured shots from some of those events.

I found many of the pictures more than a little appalling, especially those in which it appears that James used his demonic coercive-persuasion skills to make people do some very odd things on stage. I saw one middle-aged woman grabbing her breasts for Goddess-knows-what reason, another lady doing a chicken walk across the stage, an elderly gentleman who was apparently crab-walking, and a middle-aged guy who was either break-dancing or attempting to dodge something that someone was throwing at him. Judging from the scribbles on the flip-chart page in the pics, these strange actions had something to do with "getting it" as opposed to "not getting it."
There was, however, no explanation on the site about what was going on – nothing more than a series of random shots that appeared to depict people making buffoons of themselves while James grinned demonically in the background.

Were these folks having some sort of great breakthrough, or were they just being silly? Either way, wasn't it just a little bit vulgar of the James Ray team to photograph these profound, or profoundly silly, moments and slap them up on the Web for all the world to see? That's not much better than posting pictures on Facebook of your friends passed out drunk with their heads hanging over the toilet.*

To me these pics are a reminder that anyone who attends an LGAT event these days pretty much has to sign away his or her rights to privacy (and dignity) of any kind. Here's one example of the waiver and publicity release that James Ray's attendees had to sign. Unfortunately, some attendees ended up losing much more than their privacy.

In related news, my copy of a new book, Tragedy in Sedona: My Life in James Arthur Ray's Inner Circle by Connie Joy, just arrived today. Some defenders of James and the self-help industry will no doubt say this work is yet another attempt to exploit the tragedy and indict the entire self-help industry, and they might dismiss it for that reason. That would be a mistake, for the author is not one of those snarky bloggers and armchair critics that the defenders so love to hate; rather, she is someone who was once a devoted follower of Ray. Ms. Joy and her husband attended no less than 27 James Ray events over a period of three years. In a note at the beginning, publisher Ginny Weissman says that she only considered the manuscript after the author assured her it would not be a muckraking work "written to frighten the reader about the spiritual self-help movement." Indeed, it seems clear that this book is not a hatchet job or a damnation of the self-help industry. I'm anxious to read it, and, of course, I'll let you know what I think when I'm done. At the very least, maybe the book will provide me with some insights about those disturbing chicken-walking and boob-grabbing pics.


IM hustledorkery fails another person
As reported late last month by attorney Mike Young, who specializes in Internet marketing, a fledgling IM'er and big Law of Attraction proponent named Ellery Bennett was recently charged with murdering his wife.

Ellery, who either quit a lucrative position as a pharmaceutical sales rep or had it quit him, had built quite a Web presence for himself, including the expected blogs, Twitter account, Facebook page, and so forth. On his
Twitter account, which apparently hasn't been updated since February, his user name is "Golfin," and his bio reads: "Fired My Boss to Coach, Personal Development, Internet Entrepreneur, Law Of Attraction. Play Golf. Social Media. Flourish and Prosper." The bio also includes a web site link, but it redirects to an international credit card payment page for Lord knows what.

Blogger Mike Young wrote:

Like others in Internet marketing, Ellery Bennett made the major mistake of believing he could fake it until he made it. As the hole got deeper, he had to choose whether to keep digging or stop.

There is more to life than online business success. As you look at Ellery Bennett’s videos and websites, you get a picture of someone who wanted nothing more than the freedom to stay at home and spend time with his wife and daughter. But in chasing the dream, it cost him everything.

In his PS he added:
If the Internet gurus who sold Ellery Bennett on how to get rich online had an ounce of decency, they’d take the money he invested in their flopportunities and give the money to Bennett’s 10-year-old daughter. She’s going to need alot of psychological and financial support in the coming years.
This is a sad story, and it seems clear that Mr. Bennett had serious problems not related to IM hustledork circle-jerkery. But that whole IM/LOA spiel apparently didn't make his life any better, and arguably may have made it much worse. I'm glad Mike Young posted the story, and glad that he inspired others to share their own tales of IM myth versus reality. Here's that link again.

By the way, in one of his comments on the discussion following his blog post, Mike noted, "Currently, there are no less than 4 convicted felons working online as gurus." One reader responded that it was a shame that Mike couldn't name those people, and Mike replied:
The convicted felons are a matter of public record. You can easily identify them because they brag about their pasts, usually as being misunderstood victims of the government...
Offhand, though, I can't think of anyone who fits that description. Oh, wait. I can.

Middle-aged fangirlies: the more things change...
I'll wind this up on a lighter note, and one that is not closely related to the normal subject matter of this blog. It is, however, marginally related to my "day job," as a few years ago Ron and I were involved in a dubious book project
about former American Idol contender Clay Aiken. (I mentioned it briefly on this August 2008 post; scroll down to, "And Melissa Etheridge isn't either!") Let me just say that in the course of helping our client with this book, Ron and I learned more about Clay Aiken fan culture than we ever, ever wanted to know. Poor Clay; all he ever really wanted to do was sing his heart out, but in so doing he attracted an almost rabid following of fans, the vast majority of whom seemed to be "women of a certain age." They called themselves Claymates, a term that was apparently coined by fans but which Clay's lawyers later tried to trademark (along with several other fan-originated neologisms. Clay had him some nasty legal people.) I don't think the attorneys ever succeeded in the trademarking, but they definitely made their presence known during and after the creation of that book I mentioned.

In any event, Claymates are sooo 2003-2006. Nowadays the Glamberts have taken center stage in the world of wacky fandom. Glamberts are mostly middle-aged women who have gone bat sh-t crazy over Adam Lambert, yet another American Idol contender who, like Clay, almost won but didn't, much to the profound heartbreak of his ardent supporters. To tell the truth, I barely know who Adam Lambert is (I keep getting him mixed up with the guy in Twilight), but this feature in the Houston Chronicle the other day clarified things for me. As I read the story I had an icky feeling of deja vu.

Glamberts don't care a whit that their idol is gay; he makes them feel hot and sexy, and inspires many to dress as if they are, glitter and all. They fall asleep and awaken to his music, many make pilgrimages to as many of his concerts as they can manage, and, according to the author of the Chron piece: "They champion his causes, spout off biographical information, and rush to defend his honor." At Glambert meet-ups they "squawk over each other and share stories. ('We played Adam scrabble one night!')." These are, it must be remembered, women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.

You might think this is kind of pathetic, and maybe it is, but at least these ladies enjoy one clear advantage over their Claymate predecessors: they've known from the outset that the object of their idolatry is a practitioner of what was once referred to as the love that dare not speak its name. The Claymates, on the other hand, were in deep denial for years, reinforced by Clay's own public proclamations that no, he was NOT gay.** (Talk about the love that dare not speak its name...) Claymates argued passionately, and often indignantly, in favor of their hero's heterosexuality. ("How could he be gay? He's a born-again Christian!" "His momma would snatch him bald-headed if he wuz a 'mo!" "He's definitely straight, and I'll prove it to the world when I marry him (or when my daughter, granddaughter, or great-granddaughter marries him)." "Anyone with such horrible taste in sweaters couldn't be gay!" And so on.) Then the infamous People magazine article came out, shattering the dream-world of more than one horny grandma.

At least the Glamberts aren't setting themselves up for disappointment on the sexual-orientation front. Still there is something a little bit disturbing to me about the prospect of women who are drawn to seek, as the Chron author puts it, "suburban salvation in the form of a slickly produced pop star."

***

Well, that's it for now, Dear Ones. I will be back very soon with a real post.

* Yeah, I know what you're going to say. I posted the JAR participant pics too. But at least I disguised the faces.
** After this post first published, a reader who is a Clay Aiken fan pointed out to me that back in the day before he came out, Clay only publicly denied his orientation once, and for the most part evaded the question and said he would rather focus on his music. See the comments section for more.

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26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog but as a fan of Clay Aiken I have to correct this statement you made.

"Clay's own public proclamations that no, he was NOT gay."

Clay only said once that he was neither gay nor a womanizer and admits that it was a mistake to say that, the rest of the time in hundreds and hundreds of interviews he said that it was none of our business whether he was or not but that his music should be the subject of interviews not his sexuality.

Friday, September 10, 2010 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

You are right, Anon, and I'll make that small correction in my post. (If I remember correctly it was the Rolling Stone interview where he came out and said he wasn't gay, and I imagine that this was only because the interviewer kept hammering at him.) I always felt kind of sorry for Clay for having to deal with that question because indeed, it wasn't anyone's business. Unfortunately there were large factions of Claymates who tried to make it their business.

I am also aware that despite the seamier (and sillier) aspects of the fan culture there were many fans who didn't care about the sex bit and preferred to focus on his music, but there were too many others who tried to make it a big deal. I guess Clay was just overwhelmed by the whole thing and chose to evade the issue, which unfortunately just made it a bigger deal for fans and detractors alike. (Another one of those damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't situations, perhaps.)

For my part, during the course of the project I was involved in, I learned to appreciate Clay's talent both as a singer and a comedian (I always felt that his comedic talents and gift for humorous self-deprecation were under-appreciated), but truly, I never could understand the sex appeal.

Friday, September 10, 2010 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Yakaru said...

Ray has some really weird pics up on flickr. I'm surprised he never took them down. The "sex money God" one is quintessential Ray.

There used to be a whole lot from earlier spiritual warrior groups, showing people happily getting their head shaved. No post-sweat lodge pics, though for some reason. The trial will include some though, taken by horrified on-lookers, of the near catastrophes of earlier years.

And Ray's lawyers are of course trying to prevent any mention of other disasters, including Colleen Conaway's death. I think there will be a decision soon about the admissability of such evidence, but I might have read the documents wrong.

Thanks for tip about the book I've ordered it. Do you know anything more about the author?

Sunday, September 12, 2010 6:27:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Yakaru, I have seen those Spiritual Warrior head-shaving pics too. Truly shudder-worthy.

I'm sure James Ray's lawyers are doing everything they can to squelch any pictures or information about his behavior up to and during the Sedona incident. They probably are not going to be happy about Connie Joy's book.

Regarding the author, I don't really know any more than what I am learning by reading her book. She considers herself a lifelong learner/seeker; though she was raised a strict Catholic she got away from that as a young adult. While she has a background in computer science and medical laboratory technology, she and her husband are now real estate brokers in San Diego. The two attended a James Ray seminar in 2007 and over the next three years became part of his inner circle as they participated in or volunteered for 27 Ray events.

I'm finding the book quite interesting, though I keep wanting to pop back in time so I could get in the author's face and say, "Can't you see what a mercenary, sociopathic, egocentric S.O.B. this guy is?!?" But maybe she wouldn't have listened to a snarky blogger back in those days... Even so, it seems that red flags were popping up for her almost from the beginning, but apparently she was getting enough out of her experiences that she wanted to continue.

The author is pretty much into the metaphysical and the esoteric, as will be apparent from the opening pages. Accordingly, as I noted in my post, this book is not an indictment of the whole self-help/spirituality industry, so don't expect critical social commentary a la Barbara Ehrenreich or Steve Salerno. And some readers might be put off by some of the author's esoteric theorizing about matters such as the karmic implications of Ray's actions. Looking beyond that, though, the book does seem to provide an insider's perspective of James Ray's behavior and apparent mindset and that of his followers, which is why it will be of interest to anyone who has been following the stories of the tragedies in Sedona and the one in San Diego (which Ms. Joy also writes about). She also offers some suggestions about how similar tragedies can perhaps be avoided in the future.

After I've finished reading Tragedy in Sedona, I will blog about it and put a review on Amazon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010 10:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you choose to continue to focus on the stories related to the James Ray incident? That is one man and on occurance? What keeps you personally LOCKED into it? The promotion of one story might indicate that the self-help industry is in pretty amazing shape and without new incidents to point to, that there is only one single story about one single man that needs to be be presented over such a long period of time, while the world is flooded with new events every single day.

Might you be caught in the part of the policeman "Javert" seeing your own personal Jean Valjean in James Ray? Seems to be so.

Monday, September 13, 2010 7:36:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Oh yeah, you nailed it, Anon. I'm just afraid to face my own inner killer and scam artist. And this must also be the case with all of the other critical bloggers who continue to focus on the James Ray story.

(That was sarcasm, by the way.)

Anyone who even scans this blog superficially can easily see that it is about much more than that "on occurance[sic]"; to name but one example, the tale of the Internet Marketing/LOA believer who murdered his wife is a much newer story. I also wrote about that on this post.

You might want to look into why you seem to remain personally LOCKED into deflecting negative attention from James Ray.

Monday, September 13, 2010 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie

I can't lump you in with "all of the other critical bloggers" You are much cuter then the rest.

I have no interest in protecting or deflecting anything away from James Ray. I only know of him what I have read on your blog and the 5 minutes of sound bites I was exposed to on CNN. Does my commentary that you are belabouring this one story have to automatically mean that I want to deflect away from it? I don't find the suggestion that you are locked onto one point to be that far fetched or unreasonable.

If anything I am locked onto nipping at your heels you about the same old thing. That I could not deny with a straight face :-)

It occurs to me like whatever the James Ray WAS (and what IT was we will never really know because we were not there) was the flashiest and only "gotcha" you have found in recent years and your are caught in a trap milking it for eternity.

Cosmic Connie? Any relation to Sisyphus?

Monday, September 13, 2010 1:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correction-word story was missing:

"..It occurs to me like whatever the James Ray story WAS (and what IT was we will never really know because..."

Monday, September 13, 2010 4:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the policeman "Javert" shoe is not comfortable for you, how about the outraged "Felicia Alden" character in The "Witches of Eastwick" who cannot bare to let the "Daryl Van Horne" character exist amoung them as she percieves that and is geatly offended that he is "evil" and getting away with under every one's noses? Better?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 7:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Bryan Neuman said...

Hi Connie, thank you so much for your continued coverage of JR, my family and the rest of the victims definitely appreciate it. I look forward to your review of Connie Joy's book, as I'm not ready to read it myself. Here's a recent interview with her regarding her book:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnuWNufFc0w

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 8:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thank you, Bryan. I wish I could do more.

I can surely understand why you would not be ready to read Connie Joy's book yet. But I appreciate the link to her interview.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Anonymous, you said "If anything I am locked onto nipping at your heels."

Perhaps the most honest - and telling - thing you've said.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 4:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Yakaru said...

There's also an interview with Ms Joy here:
http://www.eup.mikes-pc.net/index.php?id=92

She seems to be good at pointing out the hard sell tactics he was using, and hopefully her book will go into details about his running of JRI, rather than eso-babble.

I suspect the woman is actually dumb as s**t because after spending most of the interview discussing how to tell a good teacher from a bad one, she says that it was not luck or common sense that saved her from the sweat lodge; rather it was God Himself.

So, I just canceled my order of her book from amazon, and look forward to the review here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 4:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

@Anonymous Troll - Obsessed much?

Connie,

Looking forward to your review of the book. I hope you find time to read it soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Yakaru, thanks for the additional link. I do not agree that the author is dumb. She is just very much on a new-agey spiritual path that informs her outlook about pretty much everything. Those who are not into new-age spirituality may have trouble getting past that barrier; it was a challenge for me even though I once embraced some of those beliefs myself. But if you can get past the new-age stuff the story is, I think, worth reading. To me it actually paints a pretty damning portrait of JAR. True, it is infinitely more subtle than, say, Salty Droid's work, but it is damning nonetheless simply for having come from someone who was an insider for a while and who still believes in some of the general stuff JAR taught.

That's my impression so far, anyway, and I'm about halfway through.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Dave, I agree with you about my favorite Anonymous commenter. It must be my blue skin that attracts her. :-)

I am sneaking time to read Connie Joy's book in between doing all my other stuff. And I'm taking notes along the way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous HhH said...

Wow, Connie, I don't know if I can bother with all this stuff anymore when we have the Superbad Grand Daddy of all hokey stalking our shores for the next few days.
I can hardly get my head round the fawning and salivating going on. Politicians drooling over the voters like priests drooling over choir boys, the Queen swapping valuable artifacts with the Pope (to be kept locked away from the poor masses for sure - god forbid that the poor should get their hands on the church's goodies), and a tidal wave of insane and tortured blather from any man in a frock who doesn't hang out in specialist clubs.

Please please please let the UK be an athiest republic. Please god? Are you listening?
Please let a lorry full of condoms veer out of control and crush the Popemobile.
Please Jesus, you know this isn't what you wanted.

Who will hear my prayer?

Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Yakaru said...

It wasn't all the new age babble that bothered me so much, just the way she attributed her "survival" to God. I can understand it (kind of) when a lone, traumatised survivor of a horrific air crash says "God protected" me. I can understand why, in their traumatised and shocked state, they just feel gratitude, rather than reflecting on why God didn't protect the victims.

She has no excuse at all for not wondering why "God" saved her, but didn't save the others. It's the most shallow form of narcissism, and it's exactly the kind of thinking that Ray was banking on people having.

Anyway, I would read her book for the details, but I just couldn't stomach giving her €16 of my hard earned cash.

Anyway, sorry for raving on, Connie. Thanks for reading the book!

Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave said...

"@Anonymous Troll - Obsessed much?"

Isn't "obsession" and belaboring old stories and musing about the past one of the hallmarks of this Whirled Musings? I thought I was in with the crowd.

And yes, the alluring blue skin is the star attraction for this Anon, you got it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 4:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous, Why does it bother you so much for someone to try and get people to think before they screw their lives up? Do you complain about traffic lights for slowing traffic and just not care about the people who get killed because they aren't warned about hazards?

A lot of people must appreciate learning more about these self help teachers than the teachers want them to see, or they wouldn't keep coming back here. You seem really scared to have anybody listen to anything besides the supposed teachers side. Must either be brainwashed by them or one of them who doesn't want your income to get smaller.

Friday, September 17, 2010 7:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A lot of people must appreciate learning more about these self help teachers than the teachers want them to see, "

Anonymous 7:09

How exactly do you know what others "want" or "don't want others to see"? What special psychic abilities do you possess that I don't?

I see no problem with "warning" people about actual hazards and rely on such warnings myself every single day ....but a few internet critics like Connie and Steve Salerno appear to be railing against their own concocted stories, musings, imaginings, fears and in a few cases outright lies in order to promote themselves as writers and voices on line.

As to why my perception of them doing that (and it is only my perception, I am not saying they are doing anything in fact) that that bothers me, is a weakness and neurosis or my own. My yapping about this is a total waste of mine and everyone's time and is of use to know one. Somebody slap me!

Friday, September 17, 2010 5:28:00 PM  
Anonymous peter tatchell said...

Just to add to the surreal tone, six people disguised as roadsweepers seem to have heard your prayer, Mr H.H.H. Unfortunately, the plods were on the job for a change.
A musical interlude:

http://vimeo.com/11338327

Saturday, September 18, 2010 6:58:00 PM  
Anonymous hhh said...

Now, now, don't blame ME for that, I think permanent confinement to the Popemobile would suffice.
Or maybe a year spent changing nappies of those Catholic kids, sacred little sperms every one of them, who live on the rubbish dump in Manilla as shown in your recent documentary Mr Tatch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010 11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous hhh said...

OK so I read up on the deadly plot... some guys in a street sweeper depot overheard grumbling about the pope. Chance for plod to look useful, it will turn out to be a waste of money.

From The Guardian.

"Police also interviewed mentally unstable people who they feared could pose a threat to the pope."

"mentally unstable"... like hearing voices from god, imagining you are his representative on Earth, etc etc...?

Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, HhH, I love your prayer!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous hhh said...

Saints and psychopaths for anyone interested

http://www.scribd.com/Saints-and-Psychopaths/d/19649507

Thursday, September 23, 2010 9:15:00 AM  

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