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)...
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:
In his PS he added:
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.
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."
* 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.