Monday, February 28, 2011

Talkin' 'bout my (re)generation

It's hard to believe that it has been three whole years since Ron and I made the Big Move from city life to country life -- from Houston to The Edge of Nowhere, Texas. (You can read about the transition, if you care to do so, here and here and here.) There are only a few things I really miss about the big city, most notably, the proximity of diverse restaurants, particularly Asian, and real supermarkets. But all of that stuff is still within fairly easy driving distance. And fortunately we don't suffer from the absence of our Houston friends, because they love coming out to see us at The Ranch.

Still, country life isn't perfect. One of the things sorely lacking out here is the selection of wackadoodle freebie New-Wage rags that, in larger urban areas, can be found in the free-publication bins at cafes, bookstores, and a number of other retail outlets.* This lack is actually a little surprising, since there are New-Wage healers and centers even way out here in the boonies.

Dorothea Cangelosi, formerly of the Yellow Brick Road Healing and Learning Center in Houston, is one such New-Wager whose presence out here I recently discovered. Years ago, Ron and I wrote a brief piece about her and her center for a now-defunct online city guide. Back then she was in Houston's trendy Inner-Loop area, but the Yellow Brick Road apparently led her to The Land of Oz Wellness Ranch in our rural neighborhood, where Dorothea offers everything from crystal bowl meditations to various sorts of healing to labyrinth walks to firewalks to...yikes...sweat lodge ceremonies. There's even an Angel Landing Strip, but I guess you have to have reached a certain state of initiation or enlightenment in order to read the information about it; all I know is that it looks like a blank page to me. I'll give Dorothea a pass, though, because she is also apparently a rescuer of unwanted animals, a cause dear to my heart.

Despite the proximity of The Land of Oz Wellness Ranch, our local newsstands here in the sticks don't reflect any sort of New-Wage influence. We have plenty of free publications, of course, but there's nary a metaphysical magazine or newspaper to be found. So when Ron and I traveled into Houston recently and had lunch with our friend Michael at one of our fave Inner-Loop restaurants, I eagerly grabbed a couple of New-Wage periodicals on the way out, hoping to see what was new in the Bayou City's conspicuously enlightened community.

Not much was new, as it turned out. The mags were the same monochromatic creations I remembered from way back when (one was printed in teal, the other in dark blue), produced as they have been for many years on cheap paper and cluttered, as they have also been for many years, with prosaic, sometimes amateurish ads for intuitive healers, life coaches, psychics and psychic fairs, spiritual "counselors," angel therapists, clairvoyants, animal communicators, Reiki practitioners, Goddess gatherings, massage therapists, naturopathic docs... well, you get the drift. They have actually changed very little from the publications that inspired my BLP (book-like product), Cosmic Relief, more than fifteen years ago. Oh, there were a few new modalities** added to the mix, including something called Nu-Reiki, but if I hadn't seen the dates on the publications I would have feared I had been zapped back to 1991.

I was almost disappointed to discover that H-Town's metaphysical mags hadn't progressed to the point where they were slick four-color publications such as Austin All Natural, which, though oozing with the same types of offerings from New-Wage dilettantes, at least is gorgeous to look at.
Nevertheless something did catch my eye as I was thumbing through one of the Houston publications. It was a half-page ad whose headline read:
In the center of the ad was a barely readable 2002 graphic titled "USA National Patient Waiting List Statistics," which depicted a sort of Visible Man figure showing various bodily organs and the number of desperately ill Americans waiting for transplants. In the year 2000, according to the graphic, 5,794 people died because they did not receive transplants in time. (More current US stats can be found here.)

But now comes some astonishing news: Those desperately ill patients no longer have to wait for medical science to save them. They can simply grow their own new organs as needed. And if this means what I think it means, amputees will no longer be obliged to struggle with expensive and clumsy prosthetics. Now they can take matters into their own hands, and if they don't have hands, well, by golly, they can simply grow them. Indeed, it seems anything is possible, and the even more astonishing news is that those possibilities are not just limited to bodily parts.

"What would you like to change?" asked the ad copy for the Organ Regeneration Workshop, and followed with a bulleted list of choices:
  • hair
  • teeth
  • height
  • skin pigment
  • organs
  • better home
  • better car
  • better relationships
  • happier family
  • eyes
  • weight
  • bones
  • strength
  • systems
  • cells
  • more $$$
The copy continued:
As Ann Graydon indicated, "I don't know if my artificial eye will transform into a seeing eye but so far my eye and the muscles around it are shifting and moving in ways never before and both eyes are equally located in the center of the sockets and at the same depth, which has not been the case before we arrived at the workshop. I am happy with what has transpired so far and am fine even if nothing else happens and yet I am open for more to transform."
The ad did not reveal who Ann Graydon is, but the implication seemed to be that she had her artificial-eye breakthrough as a result of soaking up the wisdom of the person who will be delivering the Organ Regeneration Workshop: one "Dr. Vetter," whose first name was not mentioned in the ad. But there was a web site link, which I followed, after which I did some additional Googling, and it wasn't difficult to find out more about Ann Graydon and, more importantly, Dr. Vetter.

One of the first things I discovered was that the quotation in Vetter's ad was from an account Ann Graydon had shared during an organ re-growth seminar held in Thailand last year. I think this is the seminar in question, and if so, it's an ongoing monthly affair in which participants are taught not only Organ Regeneration but many other amazing skills as well, e.g., "Changing of Events, Changing of the Past," "Norming of health and control of events with Geometric Shapes," "the energetic cleansing of rooms," and much, much more.

My information search also led me to Wendy Down, whom I mentioned in passing in my previous post. Wendy is very busy not only with her "Youthening" schemes but also with Organ Regrowth and Regeneration, all of which you can read more about on this post and on the rest of her blog. Anyway, it seems Wendy had attended the Thailand seminar Vetter mentioned, and she's the one who spoke to Ann about her eye miracle. "Dr. Vetter," aka "Houston Vetter," aka "Doc Houston," was apparently just trying to grab a little of that glass-eye glory to promote his own upcoming workshop.

Doc Houston also calls himself "Doc Results" and has a web site around the latter handle. As is the case with Wendy Down, his Organ Regeneration shtick is derived, at least in part, from something called "Russian New Knowledge" or "New Knowledge for the New Age."

The fact that it is Russian should come as no surprise to those of you who have been on my Whirled for a while; as I've noted before, those Russians are always up to something cutting-edge. And it seems there's a venerable history, as well as a wealth of scientifical and McSpiritual research, behind organ regrowth and regeneration. As Doc Houston/Results 'splains on one of his blog posts about his upcoming workshop:
Since the 1980s there has [sic] been many mentions of organ regeneration in the channeling of such entities as Kryon, Ramtha, Abraham, Saint Germain and others, as something to be expected. In the early 1990’s some Russian “spiritual-scientists” began work on regenerating or replacing organs and teeth. Initially with electronic devices then, more lately through changes in consciousness with proven results. This workshop combines and builds upon the techniques made available to provide flexible “tools” for the healer to use and to teach to others.
Wow... Ramtha! Abraham! If some of the leading lights in the Imaginary Friends industry say Organ Regeneration is legit, can there be any doubt? (I wonder if the famous dead Russian Rasputin whispered anything about Organ Regeneration to Access founder Gary Douglas back when the two of them were tight.)

The DocResults web site features several stirring videos about the regeneration of organs, mostly centered around the work of Russian "scientist" Arcady Petrov, who has been at the forefront of research about these matters. Doc Houston may very well be in on the ground floor with the Petrov craze, at least in the English-speaking world; currently it appears that most of the online info about Petrov is in Russian or German. But here's a small snippet of information about Petrov and fellow researcher Igor Arepjev; scroll down to "Russians can regenerate organs and teeth -- The eternal fountain of youth" etc. And on yet another site, this one sponsored by a woman who claims to be "a neurologist, homeopath, and clairvoyant," we're told that the Russian healers "are known for their effective, practical methods of clairvoyance and healing, including regeneration of whole organs, such as gallbladder, uterus, fingers and even teeth." All righty, then!

The idea of using top-seekrit methods to regenerate organs and cure diseases is not confined to Russian quacks, of course. To name just one other example among thousands, Michael Beckwith famously claimed in The Secret, "I've seen kidneys regenerated. I've seen cancer dissolved. I've seen eye sight improve and come back." The clear implication there is that people who regenerate kidneys, dissolve cancer, and improve their eyesight are practicing the Law of Attraction, as taught in The Secret.

As it happens, regeneration does occur in nature, even among beings that presumably have never watched The Secret and have never attended a Doc Houston Organ Regeneration workshop. Planaria (flatworms, so beloved by the late Dutch graphic artist MC Escher) can be sliced in two and will regenerate into two separate individuals, which is nice to know, although I am not so sure I would want to hang around people who make it a habit to go around slicing up flatworms. Some species of fish can regenerate injured hearts, and starfish can regrow lost limbs. Salamanders can regrow limbs as well, and many lizards regrow missing tails.

Moving a little higher up on the evolutionary scale, mammals, particularly adult mammals, generally don't fare so well in the regeneration game -- maybe they just have a negative attitude -- although a strain of mouse known as Murphy Roths Large, or MRL, was discovered some years back to have remarkable tissue regeneration abilities. The MRL mouse is now being studied, as are other species that exhibit regeneration, to see if the processes can be duplicated in humans.

Humans do have limited regenerative capacities; the human heart, liver, and kidney have been known to regenerate, (the liver seems to have the most remarkable regenerative abilities). Brain tissue can be regenerated too. Research about these processes is ongoing and shows some promise for future applications, though I imagine it's a tricky area; when you're tinkering with cell growth (or re-growth), there can be unintended consequences. After all, what is cancer but growth gone awry? But...and I know this will come as a shock, Dear would appear that the most promising work with organ regeneration, including stem cell research, is being conducted by real scientists and practitioners of science-based medicine rather than Secret-style magickal thinkers. I know; I didn't want to believe it either. But please don't shoot the messenger. I just felt that you deserved to know the truth.
Anyway, judging from the information on his web site, Doc Vetter will be focusing on the "research" from Russia. He shares more about his Organ Regeneration Workshop here and here

What the good doc does when he's not regenerating organs
In true New-Wage dilettante fashion, Doc Vetter dabbles in numerous other enterprises besides teaching Organ Regeneration, including a proprietary gimmick called
Matrix Energetics, which is actually the brain(less)child of a chiropractor named Richard Bartlett, who, among other amazing achievements, once had his picture snapped with Rhonda Byrne. So you know he's the real deal. But that's probably worthy of its own blog post; suffice it to say for now that Doc Vetter apparently leads a weekly "Matrix Energetics Study Group" at CenterPoint Mind, Body, Spirit Center in Houston. It seems there are quite a few folks involved in Matrix Energetics who, like Vetter, are also into Organ Regeneration. (Here's yet another one.)

In January of this year Doc Vetter delivered a "Healing and Transformation Demonstration" at CenterPoint. It was advertised as free, though "love offerings" were accepted, of course. On the listing for the event, which appears on his Achieve Your Potential site, Vetter presented an inventory of recent successes, presumably his:
Transformations in August...
Two people recovered their hearing
Two people had high levels of pain one was eliminated the other greatly reduced
One person lost weight
One person's financial issues disappeared

Transformations in September...
Stomach problem resolved
Relationship issue resolved
Hip pain eliminated
Financial Blessings given and received

Transformations in December...
Headaches removed
Back pain gone
Cancer removed
Money worries removed
In case you are wondering about that "Doctor" title, no, Doc Vetter is not a medical doctor, despite that cancer removal and those pain resolution cases. Nor, apparently, is he a financial adviser, despite his apparent knack for helping people get rid of their money worries, or at least their money. His credentials are spelled out in detail on his "I Love Me" page on the Achieve Your Potential site. And here's what it says on the Amazon page for his book, Train Your Thinking (more on that below):
Houston is the Managing Director of FBI-Feel Better Institute doing one on one coaching and counseling for personal, professional and private issues. He is a Business Intuitive and he is the main speaker and presenter for Accelerated Success Strategies, Inc. [aka ASS? ~ CLS] a seminar and Workshop Company working with small to large businesses internationally. Houston has PhD's in Comparative Religions, Psychology, Sports and Energy Psychology.
He shares more information about his background on his ThisOneSecret site (and I'll have more on that below as well):
As a modeler of excellence I've gone so far as to spend money to learn and test everything possible to find what works. I even spent the time, energy, effort and money to earn three, count 'em, three Piled Higher and Deepers (PhDs), and in addition, to that I've studied and received certificates and Master level proficiency in over 33 different change, healing and transformation modalities. I was even a pastor of a 5000 member non-denomination church for about 8 years, back when 5000 members was a lot of members.
This modeler of excellence and master of more than 33 modalities teaches people how to train their thinking to realize success, and he has a web site devoted to same, as well as a book, which I mentioned above. The price of the print book is $31.00 and the Kindle version is $29.00. That must be some super-valuable knowledge, considering that the Kindle versions of mainstream bestsellers are going for an average of $9.99, while you can get new print releases of same for $15.00 or less. Doc Vetter also expounds on the train-your-brain motif on various online article sites.

I found this enlightening piece, "Is [sic] Critical Thinking and Moral Values A Bunch of Crap?" on the site, under the "Religion and Faith Articles" category. More recently he published "The Real Secret The Movie The Secret Didn't Tell You" on the site. Glancing at another Houston Vetter site, Secret Success, I noticed that he has written several other books on achieving success using little-known methods. You can download three of 'em for only $49.00. 

As also noted above, Doc Vetter delivers one-one-one coaching by phone and in person. "One phone call with Houston changed my personality," said Eric L. of Osaka, Japan, according to the testimonials column on the Secret Success site. How much will this personality-changing, paradigm-shattering coaching set you back? Well, that depends. If you're really interested you can set up a free 15-minute consultation with the Doc, as noted on the Contact The Doc page on his Achieve Your Potential site. Yes, that's right: Doc Houston will take time out from his busy schedule as a Personal Performance Coach who helps people achieve their potential right now, in order to consult with little ol' you. The purpose of the freeee 15-minute evaluation is for him to determine if you have enough money to make you worth his while... I mean, to figure out whether or not he can fit you into his very busy schedule, and also to determine how much to charge you.
As any professional in any field, he can not assess your investment, cost or charge until after he has diagnosed you and the problem. Just as an athletic coach must see you perform before giving you a spot on the team, or a mechanic or any health professional must diagnose the problem before quoting the repair cost, so must Dr. Vetter. The difference is you don’t have to pay a $90-$125 first Doctors office visit fee; you get to talk directly with the Doc for FREE.

So you want a range? Some sort of idea… OK! If Dr. Vetter does decide to work with you personally and privately one-on-one it could be as little as $250-$300 and it goes up from there… If you prefer to do it on your own, if you do not need the private personal one-on-one attention of a highly respected internationally known Personal Performance Coach and Spiritual Transformationalist that is ok you can still take advantage of his Self-Help Package of Tools known as The Forgotten Fundamentals of A Successful Life for a lower monetary investment to achieve your potential.
The link in that last graph leads to the Secret Success site, mentioned above. Presumably your "lower monetary investment" is a mere forty-nine bucks.
But the really, really exciting news is that Doc Vetter has discovered a secret: the aforementioned This One Secret, and it is a secret that will change your life forever. It, too, is only $49.00. (Didn't he get the memo from the IM Syndicate that frauduct prices are supposed to end in the number 7?) Writes The Doc:
Because of "This One Secret"...
  • I'm getting to my idea [sic] weight without trying, and you can too...
  • I'm getting richer (more money) without even trying, and you can too...
  • I'm getting healthier and fitter without me trying, and you can too...
  • Relationships are getting better without me trying, and they will for you too...
  • Everything is more harmonious without me trying, and you can feel it too...
  • Life is working with ease and flow
  • And so much more...
Well, so much for the recent spate of New-Wage-guru disclaimers that, contrary to what The Secret implied, success really requires action and hard work. That doesn't seem to be the p.o.v. of Doc Vetter, who reveals:
I'm telling you this is so amazing and so very, very simple.
  • It requires no physical action
  • It requires no action plan
  • It requires no help from anyone
  • You can do it all by yourself
  • Takes very little time
  • Can be applied in seconds
This is the fundamental operation, the ultimate answer, the hidden knowledge, the simplest secret, the Skelton Key, that unlocks the core of all power and it is yours and I'll show you how to use it.
The Skelton Key? Could this be an arcane reference to the the famous late comedian Red Skelton? Could This One Secret be the key to opening up your clown chakra? Ah, the mystery deepens.

Whatever it is, it must be working. Doc Vetter has gathered a few highly credible video testimonials for This One Secret, which you can watch if you visit the site. Here's what some folks are saying about the miracle that is This One Secret:
"This One Secret" is the bottom line for everything. ~M.C. H., Houston TX
If you want to be a better person, "This One Secret" will make it happen. ~Jerry H., Houston TX
"This One Secret" will let Conservatives, Liberals, Democrats and Republicans get what they want without being mad at the other. ~Bill K., The Woodlands TX
"This One Secret" makes me a better spouse, parent, employee, and Christian. ~Marina G., Cypress TX
"This One Secret" was even more valuable than my diploma from Treadway University. ~ Dr. Clem Kadiddlehopper ***
As if all of the above weren't enough, Vetter has also been involved in the MLM company Eniva, which offers "life-enhancing opportunities and products to the global community" (notice that the flopportunities get top billing). On the "Nutritional Health" page on his Achieve Your Potential site he writes that everything from Alzheimer's to bird flu to cancer to menstrual cramps to stress can be traced back to the lack of cellular nutritional health. Fortunately he sells just the potion to take care of all of these problems, VIBE juice, which is described in detail here.

But it appears to me that in order to purchase a bottle of VIBE you have to buy into the MLM, which will set you back $99.90 US. For that you get one-count-em-one 32-ounce bottle, 10 promotional fliers, and 20 one-ounce samples so you can recruit more suckers into the scheme. Hey, anything to bring the money in. But maybe it doesn't bring so much money in for Doc Houston; I found this undated piece on the WorldWideScam web site, which mentions both Vetter and his Feel Better Institute.

Nearly three years ago the Houston Press' Craig Malisow blogged about Houston Vetter, whose first name, Malisow noted, is actually Gerhard. Malisow was puzzled about a talk that Vetter was scheduled to deliver at CenterPoint titled, "Bust Loose From Poverty." The cost was $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Malisow asked Vetter why he was charging people to bust loose from poverty, and Vetter's first response was, "You're thinking...from the concept that money's real and that money's limited."
Spoken like a true New-Wage guru wannabe!

Money may not be real, but these days Vetter is charging more of it, at least for his Organ Regeneration Workshop, which takes place March 19-20, 2011 in Houston in something called a Scalar Wave Chamber at a "holistic treatment" venue called The Enhancement Institute, and which will set you back at least $250.00 Or, as the ad mentioned above puts it, "Normal Appreciation is $395, but through March 4, appreciation is only $250. "Appreciation" is Doc Vetter's spiritually-correct word for "fee" or "cost," the rationale being that money, though not real, is a method to express appreciation for the value delivered by New-Wage crackpots. As Vetter said on one of his web sites:
There is a lot of information for you on our different websites. Some of it is free, and some of it asks you to appreciate with money.
And the more money you give him, the more Doc Vetter will appreciate it.

But seriously now...
It appears to me that Doc Vetter
-- like virtually all of the folks who advertise in the hundreds of regional metaphysical rags across the US -- is a little tadpole in a very large, very crowded, and frankly brackish pond, scrabbling to make a living by trying out one shtick after another in hopes that eventually something will turn him into a frog, so he can catapult himself right out of that congested pond and onto the banks of The New-Wage Big Time, where the Princess of Fortune will kiss him and transform him into a prince, so he can finally take his place at the banquet table with those who have hit The New-Wage Really Big Time. Jeez, I thought that metaphor, and that sentence, would never end. Sorry about that.

Doc Vetter continues to promote his numerous products and workshops, while attempting to engage marginal Big-Timers such as Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, on whose blog he recently posted a comment that suggested he possesses a greater depth of understanding than Joe does. Despite Doc Vetter's attempt at spiritual oneupmanship, Joe expressed appreciation for the comment, which, I suppose, is understandable in light of the contributions of a critical participant named Robert T and another named Linda, both of whom were cutting Joe no slack. (Here is Linda's response to the Vetter-Vitale exchange.) Matter of fact, Doc Vetter has been fairly active recently on Joe's blog, posting praise for Joe's wisdom while slyly promoting himself, as in this comment where he plugged "his" organ regeneration techniques.

Actually Doc Vetter and Joe go way back in the blogosphere. A little over four years ago, when Joe was apparently just beginning to be aware that some folks had issues with The Secret, he wrote a post on his old blog, Beyond Marketing, that pretty much set the tone for Law of Attraction apologists for an extended interval until the furious backpedaling began. Joe started the post by noting that critics had come "flying out of their dark hiding places," though he apparently did not realize or at least was not acknowledging that some of us had been hiding in plain sight from the beginning. Joe groused that critics of The Secret and the Law of Attraction were taking it all out of context by using dismal examples such as the poor people in Africa, or children dying of diseases, to prove that The Secret was a lie. Wrote Joe:
My own take is that The Secret will work for anyone who will apply it.

What about the people in Africa?

Well, do you think they know The Secret?


What about children dying?

Well, do you think they know The Secret?


And what if someone who knew The Secret ended up in Africa or with a disease?

Obviously (as the movie points out), they could change themselves and their situation.

That's the whole point of knowing The Secret.

Rather than condemning the movie by citing examples where people don't even know the principle let alone practice it, I think a wiser stance is to find how The Secret works, demonstrate it in your own life, and let your life be a model for others to be inspired by.

I think that's what the teachers in the movie, including myself, are trying to do.

Ah, yes, what inspiring models some of those teachers have turned out to be. Do follow that link, and be sure to read all of the comments that cite James Ray -- whose manslaughter trial officially starts tomorrow in Camp Verde, Arizona -- as a shining example of The Secret's effectiveness. Especially noteworthy is this comment from someone named Vicki Kunkel, who describes herself as "a nationally recognized expert in mass appeal," although the Blogger profile to which she links reveals that she has had a grand total of four or five views of her profile. Seriously, you have to read that comment. I'll wait.

As for the other inconsistencies, leaps of logic, or deliberate obfuscation in the aforementioned Mr. Fire blog post (and you'll see several more examples if you read the entire post), those have been discussed endlessly over the past few years. But I don't want to digress too much. The point is that our good Doc Vetter piped in with a comment that was the perfect mix of New-Wage wisdom and condescension towards the critics:

I so enjoy allowing others not to allow. I find it interesting that most criticism comes from people who only take a surface look at something that has much more depth.

If someone has a problem with LOA I'd be fascinated to see what they have to say about the Law/Art of Allowing.

In keeping with the best practices followed by those who engage in "the magic circle jerk of mutual self-admiration," as my friend Chris Locke once put it, Joe wrote an endorsement that appears on Doc Vetter's Secret Success web site. I'm guessing this provided a momentary thrill and perhaps a small and brief surge in sales (at least if it was accompanied by one of Joe's emails to his list), but that it wasn't sufficient to get Doc Vetter out of the crowded pond, to say nothing of get him to the banquet table. Oh, good Goddess, it appears that I am being pursued by a really bad metaphor. Someone please help me.

I would surmise that the odds of making the Big Time, much less the Really Big Time, are against Doc Vetter, no matter how many Secret stars he kisses up to or how many throwaway endorsements he can get from them. In that respect Vetter is no different from the great majority of the dabblers who peddle their wares and services on the pages of New-Wage rags, and try to earn points, or at least attention, by playing the sycophant to the industry's rock stars.

I suppose I should have a little more compassion for the lot of them than I seem to be displaying here. After all, most are just trying to make a living without doing any real work, and isn't that what most of us are trying to do too? Seriously, that's my highest goal these days. Furthermore the overwhelming majority of New-Wage wannabes will never come close to achieving the lofty heights of success, fame, and power that allow a James Ray to be an agent of death; or a Kevin True-dough to be a multimillionaire serial scammer; or an obnoxious LGAT like Landmark Forum to worm its way into every corner of modern life; or a destructive cult like Scientology to be able to afford to run slickly produced ads on prime-time TV every night. Most of the wannabes, probably, are just harmless cranks.

And maybe I'm completely wrong about Doc Vetter; perhaps he doesn't care about fame and fortune at all and is driven by a genuine desire to help people. (Okay, that was a little over-the-top. Stop snickering.) Maybe he is just peddling the New-Wage stuff as a hobby or because he's bored. Or perhaps he's secretly every bit as snarky and cynical as I am but is merely engaged, for his own amusement, in testing the limits of what people are willing to believe (and what they are willing to pay). I keep thinking I should do that too, and even wrote some song lyrics to that effect (still waiting on the music, though).

At any rate, it's time for me to get back to my Real Work for a while. I'll be back here soon, and meanwhile, do feel free to appreciate my Whirled all you want; there's a handy button on the upper left-hand side that will make it easy and effortless to do just that. It's almost like...magic. And I am willing to bet that you'll find it to be much easier than re-growing teeth, fingers, or gallbladders.

PS ~ I know I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating: the trial of James Arthur "Death" Ray begins tomorrow, March 1, 2010, in Camp Verde, Arizona. It will be televised live on the cable/satellite channel In Session (formerly known as CourtTV).

* Houston (the city), as you may know, has long been a hotbed of metaphysical activity; this piece is from my old Cosmic Relief site (scroll down to "Why we love our hometown... Eat your heart out, Berkeley, Houston is Spaced City").
** In case you haven't figured this out by context, "modalities" is a popular euphemism for New-Wage gimmicks, most of which are ancient beliefs and superstitious rituals dressed up in modern scientifical garb, often presented by dilettantes with made-up credentials.
*** I might have made that last one up. Not only am I being pursued by a really bad metaphor, but I have also been possessed by a fake-testimonial-writing demon.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Give us your gold, and never grow old!"

Novelist, science writer, poet and children's book author Judith Viorst has humorously chronicled the aging process for several decades (It's Hard To Be Hip Over Thirty; How Did I Get To Be Forty; Forever Fifty; Suddenly Sixty; I'm Too Young To Be Seventy; and Unexpectedly Eighty, all of which you can find if you follow the link in her name). Recently she wrote a review of a new book by Susan Jacoby, Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age. At the outset of her review Viorst provocatively sums up the problems Jacoby's book examines:
Forget about those dreams of dropping dead on the tennis court, or in a lover's arms, at age 95. Such happy endings could happen to us, but the odds are great that they won't, in spite of how frisky we currently feel and in spite of our dedication to a vegetable-eating, non-smoking, moderate-drinking, daily-exercising life style.
Instead, if we live long enough to join the ranks of what are called the "old old"- the late 80s and the 90s and beyond - we are likely to become (choose several of the following) socially useless, financially strapped, physically disabled, mentally impaired, desperately lonely and demeaningly dependent. But even if we have already previewed the miseries lying ahead by having seen our parents' sorry decline, we might be tempted to tell ourselves that their fate need not be ours, tempted to believe that by the time we reach their age, 90 will be "the new fifty."
Despite the great advances in science in the past couple of decades, ninety is certainly not "the new fifty" now and it may never be, and for most people it's probably stretching things quite a bit to say that fifty is "the new thirty." In some respects we've made progress in our attitudes towards aging and the aged, but things are only marginally better overall, especially for the oldest, sickest, and poorest among us. Viorst continues:
...Jacoby grants that, in the past, older women and men were the victims of negative stereotypes and too readily devalued and dismissed. But she sees the reversal in attitude over the last 40 years as a misleading and damaging correction, with the "hucksters of longevity" purveying the untruth that no one need fear growing old anymore because science - any day now - is going to fix whatever it is that ails us.

Not so, says Jacoby, supporting her arguments eloquently and persuasively with historical, sociological, scientific and economic research. For, contrary to all the media hype, age is not just a number. Almost half of Americans living past age 85 will suffer from Alzheimer's. Fifty percent will wind up in a nursing home. And only 25 percent of Americans living past age 65 have annual incomes of over $33,667. Furthermore, by the year 2030 some 70 million Americans will be older than 65, making up 20 percent of the population, compared with 13 percent today. And among that 70 million will be 8.5 million people over age 85, the over-85ers being the fastest growing part of our population.
Jeez, that sounds pretty grim. Indeed, as Viorst explains:.
Jacoby is well aware that some - many, I suspect - will object to her grim view and will question why she so passionately insists on debunking the myth of a healthier, happier, vastly improved "new old age." In response, she cites the late, great gerontologist Robert Butler, first director of the Institute on Aging, who cautioned, "I'd love nothing more than to wake up one morning and read a newspaper article announcing a cure for Alzheimer's. But we have to plan for aging as it is - not as it might be if a magic potion appears. . . ." Jacoby adds, "Only when we abandon the fantasy of beating old age . . . will we be able to develop more humane ways of caring" for the oldest members of our society.
A couple of readers on Amazon concur that Jacoby's book is overly pessimistic and downright depressing, and at least one has opined that even though he agrees with her assessment of the problems, he thinks her proposed solutions rely too heavily on an already grievously over-strained government (a government that, I might add, is growing increasingly hostile to social programs of any type). 

Others still prefer to take the view that things really are getting better. After all, the thinking goes, baby boomers have always been agents of change, and they're continuing to be so now that the first boomers are hitting the age of 65, as this NPR piece attempts to illustrate.

Even so, folks in their sixties are still generally considered to be the "young old." What about the "old old" -- those eighty and over? Things get kind of dicey then, and some people are coming up with creative, if dubious, solutions. For example, for those who are currently dealing with aging loved ones, or who are rapidly becoming an aging loved one themselves, there are "Granny pods." These are freestanding, less-than-300-square-foot storage sheds for old folks -- high-tech, medically equipped, even vaguely homelike, yes, but storage sheds nonetheless. But the good news is that you can plunk 'em down right in your back yard... that is, if you have a back yard, and provided your NIMBY neighbors and your city's zoning committee don't nix the idea. The plan is to offer the pods for lease for about $2,000 a month, which, though considerably less than most nursing homes or various assisted-living facilities, is still not cheap. But the inventor hopes that insurance will cover the cost. If you can't afford insurance and don't have 2k a month to spare, though, you're probably SOL.

Right about now you might be asking, "Cosmic Connie, are you trying to insert a new wrinkle into your Whirled? Or are you just trying to confuse us? Just what does all of the above have to do with the normal (or at least as 'normal' as it gets around here) subject matter of this blog?"

Do you really have to ask?

Given the real possibility of a future where an enormous percentage of the population will be too old and frail and, most importantly, too freaking poor to purchase frauducts or attend workshops and conferences, there is no shortage of hustledorks and con artists who see the need to mine the bucks while the mining is still reasonably good. There are, after all, quite a few baby boomers, Gen Jones-ers, and even some of the older Gen-X'ers who still possess the magical combination of discretionary income and a growing horror of the future -- making them ripe not only for the folks Salty Droid writes about (e.g., the Internet Marketing Syndicate, the Utah boiler-room scammers, and their allies, such as Utah's attorney general Mark Shurtleff), but also for the "hucksters of longevity" whom Susan Jacoby decries.

Deepak Chopra, for instance, sniffed an op nearly a generation ago and was on it like Jason Biggs on a warm apple pie. Chopra came out with Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old in the early 1990s. Since then he has created numerous other anti-aging books, audio/video products, and supplements, and has long been a presence in the longevity community

Then there's Dr. Mehmet Oz... need I say more? He's EVERYWHERE these days.

Even some of the New-Wage gurus who don't necessarily make a living doling out health advice are voracious "health" consumers. James "Death" Ray, to name but one example, has been a big longevity nut for years, as evidenced by the suitcase full of supplements that investigators found in his room after the Sedona tragedy. He apparently viewed this extravagant consumption as taking "personal responsibility" for his own health, as implied in this piece for Huffington Post, written nearly a month after Colleen Conaway died at his San Diego event, and six weeks before Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman died in his Sedona sweat lodge. (The rich irony of his using the HuffPost piece as a pulpit to chastise the rest of us to take personal responsibility still resonates. Too bad comments are closed for that post...)

In the New-Wage minor leagues we have people such as Wendy Down. Wendy is teaching something called "Youthening," which, of course, is the opposite of Aging. Among other things she has created some download audios that "are short and mostly silent," except for some gentle music to let you know the recording is "on." (Which is kind of reminiscent of Jo Dunning's "silent" CD, except Wendy's stuff at least has music.) In any case the silence is deceptive, Wendy implies, for she is actually applying the "technology of emotion" to the listener's state of youthfulness. "On the Recordings, I hold various states feelings (states of emotion) in which experiencing yourself as youthful is 'already done,'" she explains. If you follow the "Youthening" link at the beginning of this paragraph, be sure you watch the video clip of New-Wage huckster Gregg Braden, who claims that the "technology of emotion" is capable of curing cancer.

But back to anti-aging. Actually, the conspicuously enlightened know that the concept of anti-aging is pretty negative, and negative thinking only makes you sick and old. That's why the good people at The Satori Method, a "Mind Body Spirit Transformation Academy" (motto: "Big Awakening, Big Energy, Big Life!") have come up with the concept of "Pro-Youthing." And they're putting on a whole big three-day gullibalooza summit around it in Austin, beginning on April Fools Day. Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale will be among those speaking.

The headline in the full-page ad I saw in Austin All Natural Magazine (page 5) addresses the aging doomsayers' concerns head-on.
"Just Because You Age, Doesn't Mean
You Have To Get Old Or Go Broke!"

The copy for this ad has "Joe Vitale" written all over it. Or at least it has "someone who attended the Joe Vitale school of copywriting" all over it.
Directly under the headline, we are promised that the upcoming Pro-Youthing Summit will enable us to "Learn Surprisingly Simple, Shockingly Powerful, And Amazingly Easy Techniques to Reclaim Your Youthfulness and Live a Big Life!"

This is followed by a checklist of some of those amazingly easy and shockingly powerful things we'll learn:
  • Discover the formula for quickly losing pounds while increasing muscle mass and your metabolism! NOTE: Most weight loss techniques backfire; this is the best way to keep the fat off AND look great!
  • How living and thinking "as if" is essential to filling your life with everything you want! We'll show you how to easily and effectively create vibrant health, abundant wealth & beautiful relationships. [So much for all that "hard work and "inspired action" the gurus have been touting in rebuttal to those who accuse them of promoting magical thinking and sitting on your butt. ~CLS]
  • How we stumbled onto a highly "magnetic energy source" that builds massive amounts of life force in your body -- and how you can easily tap into this healing energy and feel it flowing in your hands!
  • Our surprising "behind the curtain" secrets to super-human strength and vitality. (WARNING: These are the techniques doctors don't want you to know...because you'll actually get better!) [Shades of Kevin True-dough... or his buddy Leonard Coldwell (a not-medical-doc who claims to have discovered the cure for cancer). Those darned doctors again... always out for themselves. ~CLS]
  • Why it's 100% true that you can reverse your age. Once you get this you can request every cell of your body to regenerate and recharge your life, from the inside out!
  • The simple, step-by-step process to assure you direct the power of the Law of Attraction to build your prosperity. It's simple, and fast -- you can do it in as little as 5 minutes a session.
[Fake scarcity alert] If you act now, you can get into this Summit for only $297, which is three hundred whole American dollars off the reg'lar price. But you must act quickly, because only 100 people will get to take advantage of this "Early Bird Special." So save your seat NOW, if not sooner, because this event will sell out!

And you, Dear Ones, will have to shell out, one way or another, if you want to fight old age and the Grim Reaper. You can do it, at least until your money runs out, with modern Western medicine, which fosters dependency on a bewildering host of medical specialists, an array of horrendously expensive and side-effect-inducing Rx meds, and even more horrendously expensive hospitalizations at the slightest hint of a sniffle or a urinary-tract infection. I am certainly not trying to vilify Western medicine, but in recent years I have seen what passes for elder care in our society up close and personal, have witnessed the sad ruins of The Greatest Generation wasting away in the halls of nursing homes and hospitals and extended-care facilities...and it isn't pleasant. 

Alternatively, so to speak, you can dodge the Reaper -- again, at least till your money runs out -- with the help of various "alt-med" modalities and the inevitable anti-aging, pro-youthing infomercial hustledorks and online scammers, with their endless offerings of "breakthrough" books and expensive supplements and proprietary programs and workshops.
Isn't it great to have choices?*

Meanwhile, Mother Nature continues on her merry way, with little apparent regard for the aging and the infirm. As Garrison Keillor wrote in a piece a few years back, "Nature is about continuation of the species -- in other words, children. Nature does not care about the emotional well-being of older people." Nor, he might have added, does nature give a hoot for their physical well-being.

So in the end, it really is up to us to do what we can to make our lives better, at all stages of life, and not piss Mother off too much, lest she throw us off the boat, or shake us off like a dog shakes off a bad set of fleas (as the late George Carlin would have said). And it is up to us as well to take care of the most helpless members of society: the very young and the very old. I'm not real happy with some of what traditional medicine has to offer, but, in case it isn't obvious, I don't think the LOA h-dorks with their frauducts and flopportunities, their promises of "magnetic energy sources," and their advice to "request every cell of your body to regenerate and recharge your life," are the way to go either. 

Is there a happy medium somewhere? Maybe so, and perhaps Judith Viorst touches on it as she summarizes Susan Jacoby's advice for the "old old" (and those who soon will be). After offering a few practical suggestions to stay as useful and active as possible for as long as possible, Viorst, paraphrasing Jacoby, adds:
Don't feel that aging successfully requires you to be a serene, above-it-all, smiley-faced optimist. If what you really are is a "discontented work in progress," go for it. And, if you can do so, find some pleasure in the world as it actually is, without counting on the imminent triumphs of science to allow you to be skydiving in your 90s.
Yeah, what she said. And for good measure, here's a common-sense blog post about healthy aging from an M.D.

No matter how old or how young you are, there's nothing wrong with trying to hold on tight to your dream, as the old ELO song advised, but you'd better hold on tight to your wallet as well. And if the phone rings and it's Utah calling, don't answer.

* Note: I realize that there is a great deal of ongoing legitimate anti-aging/longevity research, and that there are actual M.D.s who practice "anti-aging medicine" (including hormone replacement therapies of various types), which would seem to present another happy medium between the rather depressing "traditional" medical model I described above and New-Wage infomercial/boiler room hucksterism. (And M.D.s such as Dr. Oz seem to be exploiting the best of both worlds, drawing equally from medicine-based anti-aging protocols and more woo-ish material.) Even so, to take advantage of the latest in longevity research still requires one to spend money, and sometimes a lot of money, especially since many of the protocols aren't covered by insurance.

* * * * *
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Monday, February 14, 2011

I Heart Access!

Happy Valentine's Day, Dear Ones. I can't believe this month is already halfway gone. It has been a busy few weeks. While some of my fellow critical bloggers are frying the really big fish such as Utah's corrupt Attorney General and boiler-room buddy, Mark Shurtleff, I'm still slumming around the New-Wage outposts taking potshots at some of the little fish. One of those little fishies is Access Consciousness, the (con) artists formerly known as Access Energy Transformation. Access is probably a far too easy target, but one I find irresistible, so I've blogged about them many times. They make my blogging job nearly effortless. And so, since I've been too distracted with Real Work again to do any Real Writing here at the moment, I thought I'd take a few moments to catch you up on some Access activities.

To begin with, it seems that Access has been creating quite a stir of late in my former and perhaps future home state of Colorado. A completely non-critical article about a dog-and-pony show put on by Access's ambassador of music and cleavage, Rikka Zimmerman, was published a couple of months ago in the Colorado State University Collegian.
Ten-year-old Kira Cookson bites her tongue, her will focused on the fork clutched between her tiny hands. Slowly, the metal twists to match her contorted face and Kira lets out a triumphant yelp, thrusting her fists into their [sic] air.

As the crowd turns to look, their grins grow to match her own, their eyes locked on the pair of forks –– bent like noodles –– she’s raised to the sky. The room erupts with cheers and applause.
Soon, the only person in the room with a wider smile than Kira is facilitator Rikka Zimmerman, and Zimmerman’s smile hasn’t faded a bit all night.

Kira isn’t the first of the group to bend a fork, but she’s far from last, so Zimmerman prods the crowd a little more. Let go of your judgments and limitations, she tells them. Be aware of the fork’s energy and bend it like Kira did...
Indeed, Access seems to be focusing a lot lately on sucking in the easily impressed by using cheap parlor tricks. If the cleavage or the magical eyelids don't get 'em, the cheap tricks will do it every time. Actually, fork-bending and wine transformation seem to be the only two tricks Accessories know, but they're getting as much mileage out of these as they can. They could also possibly be infringing on the Harry Potter® copyright but hey, I'm not an intellectual-property attorney. In any case, "Wizard's Parties" are the happening thing in Colorado right now.
Unofficial outposts of Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts have been springing up all over the state of Colorado, thanks to “Wizards’ Parties” created by Access Facilitator, Rikka Zimmerman.
Participants at the Colorado wizards’ parties actually leave saying, “Holy sh*t! That Harry Potter stuff is really possible!”
Cynthia Torp, who hosted a wizards’ party for 50 people in Ft. Collins, CO, found that the friends she invited called her the next day and said, “Oh my gosh, everything’s different in my life today!”
Memo to my friends Duff McDuffee, Steven Sashen, and Chris Locke: I know y'all are in Boulder, but could one or more of you go slap some sense into Fort Collins?

Accessories are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to exploitation of current themes. The media have been making a big fuss about Ronald Reagan in the wake of his 100th birthday and his son's new book. Not to be outdone, Access has come forth with the implication that their famous "Bars" trick can prevent Alzheimer's and, possibly, incontinence.
Nothing is as vital to the enjoyment of your later years and your quality of life than [sic] the three pounds of gray matter between your ears. Yes, your brain.
This was dramatically illustrated by the state of Ronald Reagan, once considered one of the most powerful men in the world, who was reduced to lying in bed wearing diapers before his death from Alzheimer’s disease, the disease that perhaps best demonstrates how essential the brain is to quality of life...
And it goes on about how the Bars can save your brain. I'm just waiting for Access to take credit for that whole Egyptian Revolution thing.
Finally, just in time for Valentines Day, we have some truly garbled thoughts on relationships and the law of attraction, presented by...well, I'm not sure who authored this first example. The title of the blog post is "Excerpts from the Divorceless Relationship A Book By Gary M. Douglas and Dr. Dain Heer." But the URL indicates that the book was written by someone named Jan Silk: And even though Jan Silk is not mentioned in the body of the blog post, "Jan Silk" is one of the tags at the end.

Well, who the heck is Jan silk? She's an Access facilitator in Kiwi Land, apparently. But I can't find an actual listing for a book called The Divorceless Relationship by either Gary Douglas and Dain Heer or Jan Silk.
Anyhow, according to this article, the Law of Attraction is actually the Law of Contraction, because when you use it to attract something that you want to do, be, or have, you're actually thinking of yourself as not presently doing, being, or having what you're trying to attract, which only keeps you stuck in your limited little life. At least I think that is what the writer(s) is/are trying to say:
...So when you have the point of view you that you have to attract something to you so you can be it or have it, you always have to make sure that you are not what you are trying to attract.
This is the chink in the armor of the law of attraction. What you will do is you will attract to you those things that create a smaller life, rather than a larger life, even when you believe you are trying to attract a larger life. This is why the law of attraction, instead of creating expansion, creates a contraction.

Isn’t it amazing how brilliant we are at creating the most convoluted methods to control and diminish our lives? This is one of the ways you make sure you never get to be more than 10% of you.
There's more cutting-edge information to digest: Apparently the people we are usually attracted to diminish us.
Have you ever noticed that you are attracted to people that are usually less than you? Why is it that somebody who is less than you is attractive to you but somebody who is more than you is not attractive?
It goes on...
When you take on fixed points of view about relationship, the real difficulty is that you don’t function from choice anymore. You try to put relationship into the box of what it’s supposed to be rather than asking what do I really want to choose for me?

If you did relationship from the question of “Will this give me more of the joy and value of me?” that alone would change your life. Whether its [sic] copulation or relationship or both, if you were to look for it to create the joy and the value of you; how different would that be from what you have been looking for so far?
And then, a little later...
What if you could move beyond where anybody else was capable of living? Would that be of interest to you? Would that be more fun than what you are currently doing? Would that be more fun than anybody else is having? You would never know what was going to come next, which means you would never be bored again.
Would that be exciting? Or have you bought the lie that that it would be fearful for you to not know what the next moment brings? What about the joy of living? What is more fun? Having sex with the same person over and over again in the same way, or trying new ways and new people?
Of course Access, with its strong belief in sexual experimentation with as many people as possible, is truly a strong foundation for great relationships. Just ask someone such as "Stephen," whose story I told here a couple of years ago.

I should note that Accessories seem to have a with the very idea of relationships. Or with "relationship" as they call it, following the New-Wage-therapist convention that implies "relationship" is a defined state of being, kind of like coma or torpor. A few years ago Access' founder Gary Douglas and his sidekick Dain Heer published a "book" whose title sums up the Access philosophy on relationships: Sex Is Not a Four-Letter Word but Relationship Often Times Is. I've mentioned it here before. To date the work has eight reader reviews on Amazon; all but one are five-star raves. The other person, who gave it a mere two stars, said she had bought the book as a result of reading the raves, but that it was poorly written and pretty expensive for only being 65 pages long.

A California Access facilitator and psychologist named Dr. Kacie Crisp has her own Access-tainted ideas about relationship, which in this blog post she seems to be implying is a bad thing.
Did you know that relationship by definition is the distance between two objects, like the distance between the earth and the moon? If you’re in a relationship with another person, you have to continually create and maintain that distance! Is that what you’re really looking for?

There is an alternative: one word for it is communion. Communion is not the little white cookie they give you in church. Well, it can be that but it’s also much more than that. It’s a being oneness with everyone and everything, where there is no need to make boundaries or separations of any kind.

When you walk in the woods or on the beach, you know how expanded you feel? Like there’s more space between your molecules? And you don’t have to keep score about how much oxygen the trees give you or how much CO2 they take from you? And there’s no judgment of the leaves being wrong or the wrong color or anything else?

What if you could have that feeling in relationship with everything, not just when you walk in the woods? THAT is my target in facilitating people about relationships–to invite people to that place.
While in that post Dr. Crisp seems to be suggesting that "healthy relationship" is an oxymoron, in her very next blog post she appears to contradict herself.
“He feels he has to have a girlfriend or he’s not all right as a person,” was my son’s reply. How many people much older than my son or his friend have that point of view? How much freedom does that allow you? Hanging around with people who have that point of view can easily invite yourself into a stalker situation if you do cut your ties with the person. That can be a chilling thought…..

Even if it doesn’t go into stalker-dom, how can a healthy relationship ever develop from this point of view? Can anyone come from anything but a sense of desperation if they feel they HAVE to have a partner to be complete?
Whew. I just can't keep up with the whirling thoughts on that blog. In any event it seems that with Access, relationship is almost never about the other person. Instead it's all about me, me, me. (You would think that as an insufferable narcissist I would find this appealing; I don't know what's wrong with me.) 

But enough about that already. There's more great news on the sex and romance front: sex can be as meaningless as a game of Frisbee!
What if sex didn’t mean anything?
How could the subject that sets people a twittering and guffawing faster than any other not mean anything?
It all depends on what you mean by meaning, according to Gary Douglas, best selling author and founder of Access Consciousness.
Gary Douglas, by the way, is a noted expert on word meanings. Or perhaps he is not; I suppose it all depends upon what you mean by "is." Here's more:
What would sex look like if it had no meaning? For one thing, there would be no relationship expectations attached to it. Having sex could be as casual and non-entangling as a casual game of Frisbee-and with no greater expectations of a phone call in the morning....Sex without significance would be sex without caring if you played Frisbee with that particular person or group ever again. Don’t you have full confidence that you could always find somebody to play Frisbee with if that’s what you really most desired to do at any given time? And if the people you played Frisbee with yesterday play with someone else today, is that a problem for you?
Um... it might be a problem if you could get STDs from Frisbees, or if playing Frisbee had sex's potential to affect your mind, body, and emotions. Oops, there I go, thinking like a human again, as opposed to a humanoid.
I know I've given you a lot to think about, Dear Ones, perhaps too much. So let me leave you with some very bad music inspired by Access and their Ocean 300 project. Here's the link:

Give it a listen, and then go out Frisbee with your Valentine. Even if you do feel that he or she is less than you, or is not truly giving you the joy and value of you.

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