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, July 25, 2011

July 25: a day for remembrance

Today, July 25, was supposed to be beginning of the sentencing hearing for James Arthur "Death" Ray, who was convicted June 22 on three counts of negligent homicide for the fake-sweat-lodge deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman in October 2009. However, due to numerous stall tactics from the defense, hearings won't resume until August 16. The defense has been clamoring for a new trial, hysterically claiming egregious misconduct by the prosecution. However, the State says there is no merit to these claims.

July 25 would have been a fitting day to see Death Ray back in court, because it was exactly two years ago on this date that yet another of his victims, Colleen Conaway, lost her life during a Ray event in San Diego. Supposedly Colleen leaped to her death from a third-story balcony in a San Diego mall. When Ray found out about it, he and his minions apparently took great pains to cover it up, and the event, as well as the post-event parties, went on as usual. While the legal system has yet to demand or deliver justice for Colleen, there are many who will not let her name be forgotten. Salty Droid in particular has done a fine job documenting Colleen's story and trying to fill in the pieces of a puzzle that may never be completely solved.

July 25 is a sad day for another reason too: It was the day in 2005 that Houstonian Michael Scinto's father and sister found him dead, "rotting in his apartment from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head," according to an October 2007 article in the Houston Press. Michael was apparently another New-Wage/LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) victim, having been bullied, harassed, and just generally traumatized at a New Warrior Training Adventure event sponsored by the ManKind Project, aka MKP. Though MKP isn't as big or rich an operation as some in the New-Wage/McSpirituality industry, it is arguably one of those most responsible for the aggressive appropriation of Native American rituals by privileged white folks. MKP was holding wilderness weekends featuring phony sweat lodges, talking sticks, and other Indian-inspired stuff back in the mid-1980s, when Death Ray was still a two-bit telemarketer.

Michael Scinto's family filed suit against MKP and settled out of court in 2008. Apparently his death -- or rather, the hell his family raised -- did prompt MKP to change some of their practices, and they've also devoted a lot of space on their Web site to neutralizing the horrible publicity.
Here, in case you haven't read it yet, is a link to my very long blog post about MKP.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if there will be justice for James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman. I guess we'll just have to wait until August to find out.

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Anonymous Martypants said...

you're truly waiting to see justice done?
c'mon Connie...you might as well hope for Jesus while you're at it. He has dreamy hair, too...probably smells like gum and worn leather.

I'll remember this as another day that shitbag was walking free, while others were dead, thanks.
Not fair, not ever.

Ray needs to burn - fuck that guy.

Monday, July 25, 2011 5:59:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Oh, Marty, stop mincing words. Tell me how you REALLY feel about Ray.

There's a lot that's not fair about all of this, and nothing will bring back the people who are gone, but I am still holding out some hope for a small measure of justice. It could be that my brain is addled from the Texas summer heat, though.

Monday, July 25, 2011 6:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Note to everyone: When I express the opinion that I want to see justice in the James Ray case, that doesn't mean that I think vigilante justice is the answer. I don't wish James Ray to come to any kind of violent end at the hands of some random gunman, as one commenter whose remark I declined today suggested; I just don't want him to be allowed to take advantage of people anymore.

If that means a few years in prison, and severe restrictions on Ray's choice of livelihood once he gets out (if such a thing is legally possible), so be it.

I'm writing this because the comment I declined today made me a little uncomfortable, but it also made me uncomfortable to decline it. In the end, I opted for the discomfort of what some might perceive as censorship over the other discomfort. While I sympathize with the commenter's disdain for Ray, I can't go so far as to say I would celebrate if someone took justice into their own hands and eliminated him entirely.

Maybe I'm just being overly cautious here, but in some cases it may be better to err on the side of caution.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Candycoop said...


In the article in the paper you posted a link to, they mentioned Iron John as a poetic book about men, and how to get your manhood back. I was a counselor for awhile, and read Iron John, if you haven't, don't waste your time. Read the first chapter or two and then throw the book away. It's crap. But it's what I thought of when I started reading the article before they mentioned it. Iron John was the beginning of this type of movement. Taking men out into the wilderness, sitting around a campfire drumming, naked, and crawling around on all fours. Some of the counselors even had the men sniff each others butts like dogs. I believe it was 60 minutes that exposed that little juicy tidbit. It's a scandal, but unless they're breaking laws in the state they're working in, usually TX, there's not allot the law can do about it.

Just my two cents.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 7:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Candy. I agree that the mythopoetic men's movement really began with a few poets and psychologists who wrote influential books about the anguish of being male in a modern world. One such book was Robert Bly's Iron John. It was indeed works such as this that inspired the first men's wilderness retreats. And as I understand it, ManKind Project was one of the first orgs to hold these retreats, back in 1985 or so.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 8:42:00 PM  
Anonymous HhH said...

I see Roky Erikson is from Austin too. (continuing where I left off).


I like a bit of that, me.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 8:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I have always been fond of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Martypants said...

OMG - Thanks for the Roky stuff...I have a new disc I got a couple years ago, and now have a good thing to send you. Not everyone can understand the jug...And HhH, yay.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

While the majority of Roky's work was done post-Elevators (in between institutionalizations and other events of a deeply troubled life), I retain a fondness not only for the classic garage-band/psychedelia stuff but also for the sweetness of "Splash1 (Now I'm Home)"

Here's the version I prefer:

The Clique did an arguably more radio-friendly cover:

But I'll take the Elevators any day.

And as for Roky's post-Elevators work, it's hard to beat "I Walked With A Zombie" for astonishing lyrical complexity. (Okay, that was sarcasm, but I love the song anyway. Lyrics aren't everything.)


Roky, we love ya!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

BTW, HHH, "Reverberation" has always been one of my faves too. If only the sound were better quality...sigh... but I suppose that is part of the charm.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 1:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Hhh said...

I only knew it from the Jesus and Mary Chain cover till now. Erikson's original is pretty evocative of ...certain...things.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 3:05:00 PM  
Anonymous hhh said...

Thanks Martypants

Thursday, August 11, 2011 3:18:00 PM  
Anonymous hhH said...

And there was a ZZTop cover of reverberation on the same album, which I remember as pretty bangin', but I can't find it online, for free anyway.


Thursday, August 11, 2011 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, HHH. Also, am I the only person here who remembers that ZZTop did a song called "Salt Lick?" Or was I dreaming that? HHH, you would get along just fine in Texas.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 4:02:00 PM  
Anonymous hhH said...

Dunno. Tad did a song called salt lick - dunno about zztop.

Friday, August 12, 2011 7:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Hhh said...

And why would I want to go to texas when I have entertainment like this in my own town?


Friday, August 12, 2011 7:46:00 PM  

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