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.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pardon the Schadenfruede; it comes with the territory

Dear Ones, I must apologize for being away from my Whirled for so long. Not only have I been inundated with work (which is always a good thing), but my head was momentarily turned by Facebook: yes, I finally succumbed to pressure last month and got myself a cage in Zuckerberg's Zoo. Like many people I have mixed feelings about Facebook, for it is many things and not all of them are good. For those wishing to promote their businesses it is without a doubt a leveler of the playing field, providing another way for companies both small and large to connect with their customers. But it also provides yet another means for hustledorks and serial scammers to expand their own platforms. And while Facebook is perhaps most famously a way for friends and family to "keep in touch," this is not always a good thing. It also offers yet another way for people who supposedly love each other to air their dirty laundry, work out their festering issues, and hurt each other in a very public manner. Being witness to several examples of the latter was one factor that made me hesitant to join Facebook at all.

But in the end, Facebook won.

Though I strongly suspect that Facebook has become part of the New World Marketing Order and is little more than an elaborate ploy to gather all of our mineworthy data into one convenient package (and we are WILLINGLY providing the exploiters with this information, no matter how carefully we've tweaked our "privacy" settings), my addiction to nattering on about myself often trumps caution and common sense. Accordingly I have been dutifully updating my status and participating in discussions that interest me, though I utterly refuse to play those silly Facebook games, and I rarely participate in surveys. Besides being even more time-wasting than blogging or tweeting or holding forth with freely chosen Facebook friends, the FB games are all little more than data-mining traps, and I think you know that I'm not just being paranoid about this.

At any rate, the net result of all of this Facebooking and such is that I have neglected my Whirled for far too long. So far this year, April has indeed been the "cruelest month" for the two or three of you who may have been eagerly awaiting a new blog post. Well, I just can't let this entire calendar month go by in silence (though I realize that for my friends In Other Parts of the World, it is already May and has been for several hours, so double apologies for failing y'all).

Although I have more than a dozen scintillating blog posts in the hopper, I honestly haven't had the brains to finish them. For the time being, you will have to settle for a no-brainer update on some of the "stars" of the planet's most popular New-Wage moviemercial: The Secret.

As most of you are more than aware, since the release of The Secret, these luminaries have been making a lot of noise about the Law of Attraction and how they have used it to create the life of their dreams. And each one, in his or her own way, has blazed a whole new career path by crowing about how you too can learn to use LOA to create the life of your dreams, if only you will pour your heart, your soul, and the contents of your bank account into the hustledork in question's particular brand. It's all about paying full on... I mean, playing full on. No, I was right the first time.

Although the critical backlash to The Secret has been going on for several years now (and some of us, as I feel compelled to keep repeating, were critics from the very beginning), the franchise still has legions of fans, as do many of the talking heads who starred in it. For every snarky or critical blogger, there are probably dozens if not hundreds of starry-eyed pro-Secret LOA believer-bloggers who are still desperately trying to earn money, or just favorable attention, by kissing up to the Secret stars.

It took the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge deaths and ensuing arrest and trial to awaken more people to the fact that all that glitters is not gold in Secretville. But many people apparently haven't gotten the memo yet, looking upon the Ray case as a horrid aberration, and seemingly being taken aback when something negative comes out about yet another Secret hero. I was reminded of this again when I participated in a discussion this past week on Facebook. At one point in the discussion, I mentioned the Bob Proctor/Jack Canfield/Michael Beckwith $2,000 Science of Getting Rich (SGR) briefcase scam from a few years ago. Connie Joy, the host of the discussion, used to be a James Ray follower but has since seen the man for what he is, and she is certainly no starry-eyed type. However, she was unfamiliar with the briefcase deal and asked me to 'splain it, so I did.*

Apparently she had also been unaware of Aussie Secret star David Schirmer's troubles (see below). And evidently some of her other Facebook friends were either similarly unaware of these matters or wanted to believe they were irrelevant. While Ms. Joy herself has been nothing but gracious to me, one participant responded with what has become par for the course in counter-criticism, e.g., we critics are just trying to further our "agenda"; we're trying to sabotage people who are going for their dreams; we're not moving things forward by focusing on negative stuff, and so forth.

I have no doubt that negative information is just going to keep on coming out about the Secret teachers as time goes by, so Secret fans might as well get used to it. They can rag on the critics all they want, they can second-guess our agendas, they can call us haters -- but that's not going to restore the shine to their tarnished heroes.

For now, here's a summary of some of the more notable accomplishments from those modern-day masters of the art of living who starred in The Secret.

The Death Ray saga continues
James Arthur Ray's criminal trial on three counts of manslaughter is still going on in Yavapai County, Arizona, and is expected to last through June. The defense has tried every trick in the book, including vain requests for a mistrial. When the spirit moves it, CNN/InSession has streaming video of the trial, and several intrepid bloggers and tweeters are on the case, providing updates for the rest of us. I can't keep up with the trial in real time because I don't have cable or satellite TV, and my satellite Internet provider imposes such severe usage caps that I can't watch a lot of video. But I have been availing myself of these rich sources of information and often amusing commentary:

• Salty Droid. His original James Ray trial page, http://saltydroid.info/james-arthur-ray-trial-updates/, is pretty long and cumbersome by now, mainly because there are more than 900 comments on it to date. So Salty has been producing smaller update posts, with the most recent one as of today being here: http://saltydroid.info/james-ray-trial-trials-april-28th/

Other Salty Droid trial update links are currrently in the "Focusing" box on the upper right-hand side of his blog.

Some of the short posts might not make sense to you if you haven't been following the story fairly closely, but I suspect they are serving as trial notes for the time being, and that Salty will flesh them out later. In any case, the comments following his posts are always interesting. This one on the April 28 trial post, from Jean D (29 April 2011 at 2:18 pm), summed up the heart of the case against Ray:

No matter what the defense tries to distract with, this trial is about one thing: What would a reasonable person have done, once he became aware that people were having difficulties during an activity he not only created and promoted,but was directing,and in which he was participating just feet away from the people in distress?

Why did Ray choose not to stop the activity? It had no rules for duration,therefore, it could be ended at any time. But what did Ray do? He chose to keep going.

The structure was not traveling at a high rate of speed. Nor was it flying at a high altitude. It did not require an emergency stop or landing. But what did Ray do? He chose to keep going.

It was not a building in which people were trapped by walls and doors. It would have been very easy to have told participants to lift up the sides and get out, and to remove the tarps so light and oxygen would fill the space, allowing access to the ones in danger. But is that what Ray did? No. He chose to keep going.

James Arthur Ray was a mean,spiteful bully kid who grew up to be a mean, spiteful bully professional con artist. Sociopaths are incapable of resisting their urge to control and hurt others. They lack the moral fiber to put the brakes on their behavior. We can only hope the outcome of the trial will successfully stop this subspecies of human and hold him accountable for ending the lives* of Kirby Brown,James Shore and Liz Neuman.

*remember Colleen Conaway

LaVaughn's Celestial Reflections blog (http://celestial-reflections.blogspot.com/search/label/Sweat%20Lodge%20Trial): Putting aside the fact that LaVaughn is a self-described "psychic intuitive," I've found her blog posts about the trial to be full of good reporting and excellent insights.

• Connie Joy's Tragedy in Sedona Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/TragedyInSedona): You probably have to be a Facebook member and friend to see this page, but if you're on Facebook and you're interested in this case, it's worth your time to make the connection. Ms. Joy wrote a book, Tragedy in Sedona, about her experiences with James Ray.

Tom McFeeley's blog (http://tommcfeeley.com/tag/james-arthur-ray): Tom is a cousin of Kirby Brown, one of the three people who died as a result of participating in James Ray's 2009 sweat lodge. Read his blog for insight and observations from someone who really has a personal stake in this matter.

On Friday, several tweeters and bloggers who have been following the Ray trial expressed frustration that the one media source that had been providing live trial coverage, CNN, was apparently far more interested in the royal wedding than in the goings-on at the trial. But I suspect the bloggers weren't too surprised. All across the media landscape, even the most serious journalists could scarcely pull themselves away from gushing, cooing, ahhing, ooohing, and nearly wetting themselves over Kate's dress or the special wedding cake or that "true life fairy tale" long enough to even report on the horrendous fatal tornadoes in the South -- to say nothing of devoting precious air time to a mundane criminal trial.

Thank goodness that the bloggers, as usual, were on the job, because the mainstream journos failed us once again.

Meanwhile, back in Oz...
David Schirmer, the "car park" and "cheques in the mail" guy in The Secret, is more well-known on this blog for being the Mini-Madoff of Melbourne.
I have been writing about him for four years now. As of today, Schirmer is still banned for life from working in the financial trade in Australia, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing with his selfish-help shtick, using both his Secret stardom and Bible-thumping Christianity to build his tainted brand. The comments on Salty Droid's blog about Schirmer's recent activities are particularly interesting (here's a sample: http://saltydroid.info/shuttering-david-schirmer/#comment-59992).

But you just can't keep a good schemer down, and right now Schirmer is seeking an editor for the hustledork magazine he is trying to revive. (I blogged about this rag three years ago in a post that contains one of my fave Photoshopping efforts.) A friend alerted me to a job posting that The David Schirmer Group of Companies recently placed on Linkedin:

Job Description
We are seeking a full time editor for an international publication.

The magazine started in January 2007 and is focused on providing the latest breakthroughs and stories from The Secret Teachers, quantum physics, spiritual understanding and the personal development industry. The first issue set sales records in news stands for being the highest selling new publication.

The Editor must be a personal development advocate and want to go on a amazing journey of personal growth with some of the most incredible minds of the 21st centery [sic]. The magazine has already featured The Secret Teachers Joe Vitale, Marci Shimoff, Bob Proctor, John De Martini and John Assaraf, personal development greats such as Tony Robbins and Depak [sic] Chopra, and buiness [sic] leaders such as Richard Branson.

Company Description
The company is run by two entreprentuers [sic] and highly sucessful [sic] business people with experience in finance, education and multiple business operations. A considerable sum of funds has already been invested by the business owners plus the company now has large investor backing and will re-launch the magazine locally then shortly afterward internationally.

Personal Qualities

A senior editor, to be successful, needs: an excellent grasp of writing and editing;
the ability to handle multiple tasks and projects simultaneously; the ability to work with colleagues, advertisers and readers diplomatically; an understanding of the publishing process; the ability to meet deadlines; the flexibility to find quick solutions to problems; and an awareness of trends.

The right person will be someone with strong Christian ethics and values who is passionate about personal growth and helping others to grow. If your motto is "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" then you are the person we want. Thumbsuckers need not apply! This position will change your life in every area ... spiritually, mentally, physically, financially and relationships.

Uh-huh. Go to work for Schirmer, and your life may very well be changed. But it's very probable that you won't like the changes. At all.

It will be interesting to see how (or if) Schirmer manages to pull this new project off, especially since all of his companies are being struck off by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), as one commenter on Salty Droid's blog reminded us recently. That commenter wrote, "If Schirmer is claiming it is a successful international company then he's back to his usual bulls--t conartist lifestyle again." On the other hand, another commenter points out that anyone can purchase articles online, throw them together, and call it a "magazine." It's all about the marketing, which in Schirmer's case will include an ability to cover up his past misdeeds to any eager and desperate writers who may be jockeying for the new position.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I will not be applying for the editorial job.

Scientist Bob is on the job!
I've blogged about Bob Proctor numerous times, focusing on his work and his more inane public utterances, and there are so many of the latter to choose from. There are other matters, too, that I haven't covered in depth, or at all. For example, there have been rumors that the Proctor empire is crumbling, and there is also some private smarmy stuff that I'm (still) not at liberty to blog about. But even if the smarmy stuff never comes to light, we'll always have the SGR Briefcase Scam, and the
Boner Repositioning System.

Since the Death Lodge story broke, Scientist Bob has also gained attention for having been a mentor to James Ray. A recent article from the Arizona Republic noted:

Bob Proctor, a personal-development teacher who has been a mentor and friend to Ray, says it's standard practice in the business to cobble together teachings from all over. "If it works, try it," he said. While Ray drew on disciplines from physics to psychology to mold together his own approach, Proctor said that the bulk of Ray's teachings focus on "understanding how your mind functions, on how to improve your quality of life - pretty basic stuff."

As for Ray, "he's a good guy, and he's helped lots of people," he said...

...Whatever the cause of [the sweat lodge participants'] death, Proctor, Ray's mentor, cites the Law of Attraction. "He has attracted this; why I don't know. There's a great lesson in it for him, whether he learns it or not," Proctor said. "Since the trial started, I've talked with him by text message, and he's asking himself some very serious questions."

Well, golly, Death Ray is asking himself some serious questions! This changes everything. I take back every negative word I've ever written about him.** At any rate, whatever happens in the months to come, we can count on Scientist Bob Proctor to say something fairly stupid about it.

Moral bankruptcy isn't the only problem...
John Asshat Assaraf, the Secret star whom some folks used to confuse with James Ray until the latter started killing people, currently calls himself
The Spiritual Entrepreneur. He's all about the abundance, don't you know, and he's most famous in Secretville for having moved into the big mansion that he'd pasted on his vision board several years earlier.

But it seems that his famous OneCoach flopportunity, which was supposed to help scads of other folks get as rich and happy as he is, is...well...bankrupt. Look at some of the comments on this blog post: http://www.johnassaraf.com/my-life/check-out-the-onecoach-blog/

Update, 9 May 2011: Oops. That link above? It's a big 404 now. Somebody wiped it away. I have a feeling we haven't seen the end of it, though.)

If the rumors of bankruptcy are true, perhaps the problem is that Assaraf became so focused on that big mansion that he neglected other aspects of his business. And maybe he also got a bit hooked on the accolades from giddy wannabes. If you follow the link in the first sentence of this paragraph you'll see a YouTube video by an awestruck admirer, whose unseen female companion just couldn't stop giggling in the presence of such greatness as Assaraf took the two of them on a tour of his opulent digs.

An aerial shot of the famous house can be seen on this blog post: http://saltydroid.info/just-like-my-party/

I think it is also worth a reminder here that Assaraf partners with Utah boiler room Prosper Inc. http://www.prospercorp.com/partners/john-assaraf.php
Here’s the blurb from Assaraf’s Prosper page, obviously written in better days:

His newest business venture and passion is OneCoach, a company dedicated to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses so they can live extraordinary lives
Prosper, no doubt taking its copy straight from Assaraf’s own promo material, also describes Assaraf as having a "unique passion for brain research and quantum physics" – overlooking the fact that these two descriptors are anything but unique among New-Wage hustledorks. They’re ALL into (cherry-picked) brain research and (fake) quantum physics. Yawn.

As you may know, Prosper is one of numerous boiler-room businesses that happen to be clustered in the business-friendly state of Utah, and apparently have a cozy relationship with Utah’s dodgy Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff. (Once again, Salty Droid was on this one: http://saltydroid.info/mark-shurtleff-attorney-general-of-mlm)

"It Byrnes! It Byrnes us!"
Secret creator Rhonda Byrne is still in hiding for the most part, as she more or less has been since the backlash against The Secret began a few years ago. The
various Secret-related lawsuits may have been a factor in her publicity shyness as well.

As many of you may know, Rhonda's law firm was the same one chosen by James Ray for the Death Lodge defense. Rhonda even thanked the firm at the beginning of The Power. Salty did a nice little photocomp about it: http://saltydroid.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/James-Ray-Rhonda-Byrne-Munger-Tolles.jpg

Rhonda apparently did not go on tour for her new book, The Power, but that did not stop it from ranking high on Amazon, even today, more than six months after its release. Sometimes Amazon rankings are...well...rank. Here are recent figures for The Power:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #357 in Books

It was on Amazon's review/discussion pages for The Power that I first "met" my new friend Kathryn Price (who recently has been giving Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale a run for his money on his blog). The discussion resulting from Kathryn's September 2010 one-star review of The Power has generated nearly 600 responses so far.

The Power currently enjoys a four-and-a-half-star average rating, which means that by far the majority are glowing five-star reviews. She may be in hiding, but Rhonda still has a lot of fans and die-hard LOA believers.

But here's a link to the one-star reviews.

Miscellaneous other players...
This isn't new news, but it's for the benefit of those who are unaware of some of the other Secret star shenanigans.

Bill Harris, inventor of the pricey Holosync frauduct and ex-bidness partner of James Ray, threatened to sue a critical blogger, Duff McDuffee. http://saltydroid.info/silencing-of-the-lambs/

Marie Diamond, feng shui expert extraordinaire, was involved in a lawsuit a while back: http://www.amazon.com/Against-Vyncke-Diamond-Happiness-Productions/dp/1442172509

As I said on the aforementioned Facebook discussion, I could go on and on with examples of bad behavior from players in The Secret. To me it seemed obvious from the beginning that The Secret was just a big money grab that glorified greed, materialism, and over-sized egos. But many people still don't want to see it that way. In the end, it seems that rather than hear unpleasant truths about tornadoes and trials, they would rather just embrace the fairy tale.

* The discussion in question is on Connie Joy's Tragedy in Sedona Facebook page, although you will probably not be able to see it if you are not on FB and a "friend" of Tragedy in Sedona. For the benefit of those who don't know about the SGR $2,000 briefcase scheme, my explanation is at April 26 at 4:58pm. Or, since I have blogged about this several times, just Google "SGR briefcase Whirled Musings." (Blogger's search results suck on these older templates, so Google is a better bet.)
** Yes, that was sarcasm.

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