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SWIFT March 28, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

 Char Charred, A Good Move, The Other Way Around, Censorship in India, I Didn't Know That, Correction, That "Assignment," Wisdom From Sylvia - Book Review, The Dreaded Randi Doll, and In Closing..

Char

Reader and frequent correspondent Dr. Jan Willem Nienhuys reports that I just appeared on Dutch TV – on one of the public, not the commercial, stations – in a program named “Zembla.” This program staff visited the JREF recently to video a session in which I disassembled a Char Margolis performance of the same old "cold reading" process on her highly-popular TV program in Holland. Writes Dr. Nienhuys:

[Your input] was combined with comments by a professor of psychology, Prof. Dr. J.A.P.J. Janssen, who is in Cultural and Religious Psychology at the University of Nijmegen. He said all the kinds of things that skeptics say. He was invited to have a reading done – on camera – at the house of Robbert van den Broeke, another Dutch “psychic.” [See several references on SWIFT] He wasn’t impressed.

This program Zembla did go to great lengths to expose Char, traveling all the way to interview you. They also did some research and located a few disgruntled people who were not so positive about their readings. One of them, Marian van den Hul, had a reading that was broadcast on the Char show. Marian's husband had died and she was left with two young children. Marian was not convinced that Char contacted her dead husband:

Table of Contents
  1. Char Charred

  2. A Good Move

  3. The Other Way Around

  4. Censorship in India

  5. I Didn’t Know That

  6. Correction

  7. That “Assignment”

  8. Wisdom From Sylvia – Book Review

  9. The Dreaded Randi Doll

  10. In Closing…



CHAR CHARRED

Char

Reader and frequent correspondent Dr. Jan Willem Nienhuys reports that I just appeared on Dutch TV – on one of the public, not the commercial, stations – in a program named “Zembla.” This program staff visited the JREF recently to video a session in which I disassembled a Char Margolis performance of the same old "cold reading" process on her highly-popular TV program in Holland. Writes Dr. Nienhuys:

[Your input] was combined with comments by a professor of psychology, Prof. Dr. J.A.P.J. Janssen, who is in Cultural and Religious Psychology at the University of Nijmegen. He said all the kinds of things that skeptics say. He was invited to have a reading done – on camera – at the house of Robbert van den Broeke, another Dutch “psychic.” [See several references on SWIFT] He wasn’t impressed.

This program Zembla did go to great lengths to expose Char, traveling all the way to interview you. They also did some research and located a few disgruntled people who were not so positive about their readings. One of them, Marian van den Hul, had a reading that was broadcast on the Char show. Marian's husband had died and she was left with two young children. Marian was not convinced that Char contacted her dead husband:

I thought she was very weak, she didn't say anything concrete.

Marian says that the actual reading lasted three quarters of an hour, though in the Char broadcast it lasted only seven minutes. According to Marian, the segments where Char failed with her questions were edited out.

Another victim said he was a bit skeptical, he got more and more visibly bored, and his reading wasn’t broadcast at all — Yoeri van der Sman is sorry that he took part in the Char show. He wanted to know why his father, who committed suicide, didn't say goodbye. He wrote a letter to Char and was invited by the editors for screening. In Zembla he said:

During that advance interview, I was asked all kinds of questions.

Because of this advance conference he became suspicious, a fact which was clearly visible during the camera session:

Char said things about my father that weren't correct at all. I became more and more peeved and didn't look too friendly anymore.

That was reason for the program to delete him altogether from the broadcast.

Professor Janssen opined that with the decrease of church-going in the Netherlands, all kinds of people are now starting to get into the religion business. The TV team interviewed a sanitation worker (i.e. garbage man) who in his spare time is converting his garage into a place where one can have either a Reiki treatment or a conversation with the dead.

Randi comments: So, in effect, the man is still in the garbage business, except that he now delivers rather than collects it…? Dr. Nienhuys continues:

I don’t quite believe what the professor says about religion, because this psychic business is doing very well in the USA – even better than in the Netherlands – and one can’t really say that the influence of the churches is waning there, compared to Holland. The medium business in the Netherlands is partly fueled by the TV people themselves, who try to earn a quick buck by providing yet another form of no-brain emotional stuff.

Maybe the professor is a bit right: whether the churches are fading away, or can’t provide emotionally satisfying answers to personal questions of the common people, those people will shop anywhere. That was already true in the heyday of 19th century spiritualism, when any hopes of churches falling into dereliction were still pipe dreams...

A lot was explained about Char's claim that she helped solve a police case about someone who had crashed with his plane. Also, more generally, it was emphatically stated by a police expert that no clairvoyant was ever of any help in criminal cases or cases of missing persons. And Professor Janssen stated:

It doesn't matter how often you prove that it’s fraud, the people will believe it anyway; science should study the deepest desires on which this belief is based.

I don't agree. True, people don't like to give up any belief, once acquired. Giving a failed hypotheses the boot is a habit that doesn't come naturally, and it requires some kind of detachment. But what one can do is try to prevent people getting addicted to this rubbish.

Amen, brother. I mean, right on! And that’s what we try to do, every day, here at the JREF...

My astute readers will now see that Char is doing more than “cold” reading to impress her Dutch viewers! Since she has her lackeys ask questions – that is, “interview” the victim who’s about to be “read” – she’s using “hot reading” techniques, where she reveals to the victim details that have already been provided, as well as pumping him/her for additional material. Any “reader,” given the opportunity, will of course choose this method. Char Margolis is so admired by her audience, because she’s using standard – and advanced – methods of misdirection and trickery

No surprise there, at all. But her followers in the Netherlands will continue to support her, and her producers and agents will continue to lie and swindle…




A GOOD MOVE

As if it just occurred to Canadian officials that there might be some quackery being offered to their citizens via the Internet, Ottawa has cracked down on dozens of Canadian-based scams promising cancer cures or treatments that do nothing for the naïve other than separating them from their money and potentially harming their health by luring them away from legitimate medical care. Of course, this seeming lethargy applies to the USA and every other country on Earth, as well…

Canada says it has forced 92 per cent of the dubious websites to either modify or remove their unproven claims, and they’re still working on getting the remainder to comply. So far it’s only been warning the scam artists; no penalties are involved, neither fines nor criminal charges. After all, we wouldn’t want to offend the crooks, would we?

The Canadian government has also launched “Project False Hope,” in an attempt to teach people how to avoid online scams, websites advertising medicines, herbal remedies, other supplements and treatment regimes of questionable value. It’s said that health information is the third-most-searched topic online, and an estimated 8.7 million Canadians have – very unwisely – turned to the Internet for medical advice. Last fall, Canadian investigators swept the Internet for what looked like cancer cons and detected nearly 100 suspicious websites. They sent letters to operators of those sites asking them to provide evidence of scientific testing to prove their claims. In response, either the claims were removed from those websites or the websites disappeared entirely, but no clinical studies were submitted to support the claims. But why were these operators allowed to practice their scam for so long without providing evidence? Among many others, the JREF has been advertising this sort of racket every week, and naming names; are the Canadians trying to emulate US federal and state inertia?

At www.competitionbureau.gc.ca is posted the anatomy of a typical health scam and tips about how to avoid it. It’s run by the Canadian “Competition Bureau,” an independent law enforcement agency that rides herd on the Bad Guys out there – which makes me wonder if the USA has an equivalent unit… In any case, we’re told that similar Internet sweeps of fraudulent health claims are now also being conducted in the USA and Mexico as part of a continent-wide initiative to root out scams. Agencies in each country also target misleading medical advertising in all forms, and the penalties can be substantial.

We’ll see…




THE OTHER WAY AROUND

Reader Bruce McElhinney writes:

An article in the Chronicle-Herald newspaper in Halifax claims that a dinosaur that looks like the Loch Ness Monster has been discovered in Alberta. Isn’t that like saying that James Randi looks like Santa Claus? See www.thechronicleherald.ca/Canada/1044856.html.




CENSORSHIP IN INDIA

Reader Amit Kumar, editor of the Punjabi Magazine “Vigiyan Jot,” brings this to our attention.

mitter In Indian states in India where the Bhartiya Janta Party – backed by Right-wing Hindu fundamentalist organizations or their allies – are in power, it has been a common practice to attempt to silence voices of dissent and rational thought, to ban literature and documentary films, and to silence the writers and journalists through state political machinery. Punjab, a northern Indian state, is the most recent example of this undemocratic act. Megh Raj Mitter, founder of the Tarksheel (Rationalist) Society and a prominent Punjabi writer honored with the Punjab state’s highest award for writers, is the latest to bear the brunt.

pm Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, imposed an “immediate ban” on four books, including Sri Lankan Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor’s renowned “God, Demons and Spirits,” translated into Punjabi by Megh Raj Mitter and his associates in 1985. The Punjab Government is said to be gearing up to take legal courses of action like arresting the authors, confiscating copies of the books and banning the publication, as well.

Unfortunately, the Punjab government has forgotten the vital role these books have played in the development of rational temperament among the masses of Punjab. Ironically, about two decades back, via a written letter the state government had recommended these books for the libraries of government-run schools for the scientific knowledge they imparted. Also, when Mitter was awarded the coveted Shiromani Lekhak Award by the Language Department of the Punjab government in 2001, the citation of the award ceremony prominently hailed these very books!

Today, fundamentalist forces, patronized the by the government, are threatening to attack Mitter and other rationalist activists. Appeal to all the humanist, democratic, rationalist and secular people to come forward to defend the right of freedom of speech and expression.

It is not just a question of a few individuals or organizations, but also a matter of protecting the shrinking democratic space in India.

Rationalist Megh Raj Mitter appeals to us to condemn this heinous act at every possible level. For any inquiries you can contact the Rationalist web site: www.tarksheel.com, or click on the following link for news about the ban on books: news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1300279.




I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

Reader Rob Lucke gives us information on a widely-accepted but very wrong notion about our sensory system:

As always, I settled down on Friday to read your latest version of SWIFT. I decided to follow the link given in “COMMENDABLE!” [see tinyurl.com/2xfs4u] to the article about Ridel glassware. Of course the whole thing is remarkably similar to the audio cable fiasco (an Italian word, referring to another piece of glassware, but I digress). Nestled in the article is this paragraph:

Before we take a sip, she instructs us to study the diagram in the center of our tasting mats. It’s labeled “Taste Zones of the Tongue.” This “tongue map,” as she calls it, depicts the tongue as a kind of triangle that’s divided into striped or dotted zones, like survey plots. There’s the pointy tip, where the map says you taste sweet; the long, narrow sides, where you taste salt; the wider inner strips, where you taste acid; and, finally, the broad band along the back, where you taste bitter.

tongue

I refer you to the part describing the “tongue taste maps” related to taste. Any time this “fact” comes up in an article, my skeptic sense starts prickling, er, I mean my brain recognizes another potential phony at work – where there’s some bunk, there might be more. A brief quote from Scientific American should serve my purpose, here:

One of the most dubious “facts” about taste – and one that is commonly reproduced in textbooks – is the oft-cited but misleading “tongue map” showing large regional differences in sensitivity across the human tongue. These maps indicate that sweetness is detected by taste buds on the tip of the tongue, sourness on the sides, bitterness at the back and saltiness along the edges.

Taste researchers have known for many years that these tongue maps are wrong. The maps arose early in the 20th century as a result of a misinterpretation of research reported in the late 1800s, and they have been almost impossible to purge from the literature. Another, more detailed analysis is this one actually citing scientific literature on the subject. Note also that the author, Richard Gawel, is talking about tasting wine:

As the majority of the compounds resulting in the basic tastes in wines are found in concentrations well above threshold, the practical worth of knowing variation in detection thresholds is questionable. Secondly, we can only apply the taste map if we can effectively localize tastes on the tongue. But can we do this? If you take a cotton wool bud and soak it with a strong salt solution and run it from the tip of your tongue, where receptors are plentiful, to the middle where they are very scarce, you will notice that the taste intensity does not diminish as you might expect. As this simple illustration of a common taste illusion is analogous to wine moving across the tongue whilst tasting, it is unlikely that we as humans can easily localize tastes in realistic tasting situations

My conclusion about the “tongue taste map”? Just another example of how easy it is to establish a totally incorrect factoid in literature, and how charlatans and the lazy will seize as evidence anything that apparently supports their efforts. In this case, “It helps me sell expensive glassware, so it must be correct.” One has to wonder what the rest of “science” behind the design of the wondrous glassware is, given the misunderstanding of the taste aspects. Mr. Gawel again:

Lastly and more fundamentally, our perception of a complex product such as wine is determined by the interaction of tastes, aromas and tactile sensations produced by the various wine components. Knowledge of the nature of these interactions is where I believe the real focus of wine tasting education should lie.

Now, which of the articles is trying to sell something and which is actually interested in teaching? I think the answer is fairly obvious upon critical analysis.

Don’t get me wrong about all of this, I quite like wine. I have never, however, been able to taste the marvelously described rainbow of flavors offered by those I will call the “golden tongues.” I cannot perceive the “finish” that is commonly referred to, either. This is not because I am somehow taste-bud challenged, I can often dissect a food recipe’s spices with just a taste. In the first case, the spices are actually there, in the second I strongly suspect that the wine industry makes judicious use of the three major “bilities” – susceptibility, suggestibility, and gullibility – in their sales efforts. By the way, I think that finding a good-tasting and inexpensive wine is a fun challenge – anyone can drop a lot of money for a glowingly described, overpriced vintage.

I had a philosophy professor in college whose favorite question was, “How do you know that?” In one lesson series, “What is Truth?” he described the requirements for knowing that something is true: 1) it must really be true, and 2) we must discover that it is true. Believing something to be true, without inquiry into its actual truth, short-circuits the requirements and leads to veracity issues. That (admittedly simplistic) approach has stuck with me to this day, bad tastes in my mouth from pseudo-science notwithstanding.

tps

Thank you, Rob! I’d seen that tongue-map several times before, and as you can see from the illustrations, it’s been copied and re-copied – and published! – without anyone checking up on it. I myself had never suspected that it might be a farce. After all, the fingers have been rather thoroughly mapped for variations in touch perception… You can do an interesting experiment on this matter. Tape two toothpicks to a pencil, as shown in this illustration. Blindfold your subject and experiment by pressing down with both points on various parts of the hand and forearm, asking each time how many points were felt. I think you’ll be quite surprised to find out that very definite areas of the skin will register only one point, rather than two. In fact, it’s very interesting to mark the areas of the skin where only one point was registered, using a felt tip pen.

You’ll find out, through simple experimentation, some very interesting data about various areas of the body. On the back, for example, the two points can be widely separated and still register as only one. Grab the toothpicks and the tape, get a pencil, and go to work!

Note: though the illustration shows green toothpicks being used, blue and black are equally effective. Just kidding….




CORRECTION

Richard Wiseman caught an error from last week, at randi.org/joom/swift/swift-march-21-2008.html#i6. There, I cited the work of Dr. Michael Persinger on the strange effect of strong electromagnetic fields on the encephalon, so well described by Dr. Susan Blackmore. Richard wrote:

I am sure loads of people will email you, but in case they don’t, the research is probably that conducted by the late Vic Tandy at Coventry University. It wasn’t electromagnetic stuff, but rather low frequency infrasound. I followed up his infra sound stuff at: www.spacedog.biz/infrasonicexperiment.html.

Yes, I was referring to the EM material, not the infra-sound experiments. I thank Richard for spotting this – but though he notified me immediately about this error, and I acknowledged it promptly, I decided to leave it in place just to see how many other readers might pick up on it. Result: zero. I’m disappointed…




THAT “ASSIGNMENT”

In contrast to the foregoing, the response to the SWIFT item entitled “An Assignment” – see http://www.randi.org/joom/swift/swift-march-14-2008.html#i6 – was quite gratifying. Our readers proved themselves very capable at spotting errors in the conclusions arrived at by the chap who wrote me asking, “Please, Mr. Randi, how did she do it?” Here’s a discussion of the errors, assembled from those reader responses:

First: We are all rather familiar with the technique of “cold reading.” It’s the process of throwing out guesses, words, names of persons or cities, ideas, initials, and/or numbers, and encouraging Nick – the victim – to try to relate to them. These items are either offered as questions – “Why am I saying Harry?” – or as statements – “I’m seeing an old automobile.” The account of this session sounds as if it fits exactly into this category.

Second: One’s memory of what was said – particularly a recollection from 35 years previously! – can be garbled, hyperbolized, or altered to fit a preferred or imagined situation. Nick said that the medium asked the question, “Does the name ‘Dearlove’ mean anything to you?” Since this wasn’t written down, it might equally well have been, “Does ‘dear love’ mean anything to you?” This would cover the name Dearlove – which several readers pointed out was a rather common name of that era and area – or a possible salutation beginning a letter, or a simple address of affection. Also, the word “anything” can cover a lot of possibilities: the name of a product, lawyer, friend, relative, neighbor, business proprietor, debtor or creditor, insurance agent, newspaper reporter – in short, just that: anything.

One reader offered this little story that illustrates just how poorly we can sometimes recall an event:

There used to be a quaint little teahouse in my hometown, where my friends and I would go every so often, and there was a resident fortune-teller. There was one particular thing she said that amused me. She told me that I worked in “education or health care.” Wow, I thought afterwards, what a great guess to make when doing a reading for a young woman – name two vaguely-defined, female-dominated fields. I gave her credit for the hit, however, because I was training as a speech-language pathologist, a profession with close ties to both health care and education.

That was how I remembered it, anyway. So you can imagine my surprise when, a mere year and a half later, I was flipping through some old scrapbooks and came across the card the fortune teller had made notes on during the reading. It turned out that she had not made the unimpressive-but-accurate guess of “education or health care” but, in fact, had listed four things: administration, organization, teaching, and medicine. Not only was she more vague than I remembered, but she was less accurate. I am not a teacher, and I am not a doctor.

Even not believing one bit in her psychic powers, I still gave her credit for a much more accurate and direct “hit” than she had actually gotten. And if she hadn’t been scrawling notes on a card through the session, and if I hadn’t stuffed the card into my scrapbook instead of throwing it away, I would have spent the rest of my life with this incorrect memory.

This was after only a year and a half. Who knows how much more the story might have shifted in my memory after 35 years?

Third: As several readers noted, the victim did all the work, as the “cold reader” expected him to do; he cudgeled his brain to discover any and all possible connections or similarities between the medium’s guesses and reality. Remember that phrase: “…but more came to light with research.” So, it was Nick who had the “hit,” not the psychic.

Fourth: We are not told how many hits and how many misses there were in this guessing game, over all the sessions that Nick attended. That’s essential, if a proper assessment is to be made. The victim always tends to ignore and then to forget the out-and-out-misses, but remembers and cherishes the apparent hits. It’s a selective procedure that works to the advantage of the scam-artist.

Fifth: As one reader so well expressed it:

Perhaps the “psychic” was expecting a reply in the form of, “Yes, my grandmother called me that [dear love],” or something similar, giving her an opening to work her cold reading? When the reply was a simple “Yes,” she anticipated a skeptic who knew not to feed her information, so she cut the conversation short with “He’s watching over you.” She thought she was getting herself out of a fix, and didn’t even realize that her “dear love” remark had proved a hit...

I’d say that this was a major fumble by the medium, who could have totally ensnared Nick, had she perceived the possible eventual impact of her guess…

Sixth: Nick – the victim – says that he attended at least one prior event, perhaps several. The medium, seeing his interest, might have inquired about him and thus obtained some information about him. Since the person named Dearlove had also dated Nick’s mother and later ran a local pub, that name could have been well-known to the medium.

Seventh: As a reader pointed out:

The guy appears to have read far more into the meaning than was there, and to have done it from a very “egocentric” [narcissistic] perspective – clearly reading into a remark amounting to next-to-nothing just what he wanted and/or needed relative to depressive feelings about certain recent personal events at the time. Of course the medium wouldn’t respond – why bother? And more factual detail may not have been available.

Another reader wrote:

I’m a 52-year-old Londoner and I’ve heard of “Dearlove, the East End insurance agent” even though I’m from the South end of town. The pseudium [Randi: I love this invented and ever-so-clever word!] may have picked up a London inflection.

Other readers suggested that the domestic might have tipped off the psychic, since there can be a lot of money in that racket, and a “finder’s fee” could be forthcoming. Also, she seemed a bit overeager to get the two young men to the “reading.” Another reader suggested that since the gentleman in question believes in thought transference rather than in the simple coincidence of people in the same circumstances and with the same information coming to similar conclusions contemporaneously – it’s fair to say that he may not be quite as critically minded as he thinks he is.

All in all, the clues that were present in the victim’s description were perceived by readers, and this assignment was well accomplished. Next week’s assignment: come up with a word that describes an invented word like “pseudium,” even if you have to invent one…




WISDOM FROM SYLVIA – BOOK REVIEW

We recently received yet another Sylvia Browne item at the JREF Library. This one is “Topic 3, Tools for Protection” – by which Sylvia means, of course, protection from those dreadful psychic emanations and vibrations – from the 16-book series “Journey of the Soul.” It’s a spiral-bound 112-page book, one that I strongly suspect was actually written by Browne herself, since the spelling, grammar, and content are so vapid and juvenile. I turned at random to three spots in the document, and on page 33 – punctuation, spelling, and grammar exactly as in the original – I got:

Moon Cycles

[The West is very very slow in accepting this.] Any surgeon in the U.S. that is smart, clever, intuitive, knowledgeable – Sylvia knows many that would agree and stand up behind her – will not operate on a full moon because of the bleeding. And if any of you women notice if your period happens to hit the time of the full moon, you know what I am saying to you is the truth. [Magnetites in blood cells are what Doctors call platelets, but did not know what to call them.]

Q - Does electromagnetic energy aid healing?

It is no different than radio-waves that are put into the body. It is very effective.

Q - Are massage machines good?

I would much rather that you used your own hands because then you will know. A machine does not have the feeling of how deep the kneading should go, how sore it could be. The sorer it is, the more you should knead. A machine has no knowledge of that. You do though ...

Q - Should I have someone else do the massage?

It is strange. If you use your own hand to knead your foot, you are not going to get the same pain-level as if someone else does it. It is due to another electrical vibration going in, that makes it even better. If you do your own, that is great. You can knead your foot, but then put your foot over to someone else and right away, I promise you, you are going to be saying “OW!”

Q - Can magnets aid in healing?

Oh forget it. You are yourself a magnetic field. It is another gimmick. Now, we are off of crystals and we are into magnets. What I am talking about is your own magnetic field.

Q - Is “color therapy” useful?

Color has always been a healing factor. Certain colors vibrate differently ... We know that by what a person wears and the color they wear and how good they look in it. Another person can wear the color and they look horrible and their vibration changes immediately. One of the hardest colors that people find wearing is purple. Not because they are not spiritual enough, it is just that it vibrates so strangely and high.

Now, it’s obvious that no one who invests in such a book – or who writes it! – has any notion of what magnetite, electromagnetic energy, magnetic fields, or vibrations, are. These are buzz-words used to attract the naïve and ignorant. Magnetite, for example, is a magnetic iron ore – FeFe2O4 – that has nothing to do with blood, nor with platelets.

Next, on page 61, I was treated to another fuzzy set of instructions, this time with a few words from “Francine,” one of the “higher” spirits with whom Sylvia regularly chats, she says. Again, no changes; this is what she wrote:

I want to explain to you how you can make in your homes what they call, a “Crucelle.” A crucelle was a word that was adopted by Catholicism. Unfortunately, it did not come from that. It came from what is known as a “Triangular Point of Healing.”

If you begin to feel bad, first of all, you cannot sleep. I want you to make sure that you begin to sleep with your head pointed North, because you are going to find that you become in direct polarity of the way the “Cosmic Forces” flow and you will also be in synch with the tides. If you say that your room is situated at such a point that you cannot because you will block a door, I think you would be better to block a door for awhile or turn around on the other side of the bed, rather than have sleepless nights and nightmares. It is funny how people will constantly say, “I slept better at one place, and I do not sleep so well at another,” because you are not facing North! Maybe you are not even aware of it [where North is]. If not, borrow a compass.

If you find that you cannot sleep well, you ought to turn your bed to a different wall. Preferably, sleep is best, and this has been around a long time, by pointing your head North. That is always the best sleep. Preferably toward the magnetic North which can deviate about 500 miles either way. This has been known to the Ancients for years. You might say, “I cannot because there is a window or a door there,” then try to point your head Northeast. That is also for a very very strong, restful sleep. People will say things like, “I never slept well in this one place, but when I moved to the new house I slept better,” because the bed is positioned differently [Francine -1/12/19/89 - p. 1].

To make a Crucelle, you should have one green candle, one white candle, one purple candle, one gold candle .... The one green candle goes at your feet, the one white candle goes to your right, the purple candle goes to your left, and the yellow or gold candle goes to your back. You sit in a position in a chair or on the floor, cross-legged in this triangular form of candles. When you are seated in this position with palms upward, ask that St. Michael, the Archangel, attend you in healing. With your palms upward on your thighs sitting in this position in which you form this triangular Crucelle, you will then ask for all the positive Archangels, Archetypes, St. Michael to walk across this barrier. Anything that is negative stays on the outside and is dissolved by the flames of these fires burning on these candles; any negative force, any attack, any Dark Entity [stays on the outside].

Then, on page 104 under “TOOLS FOR PROTECTION” – again, with punctuation, spelling, and grammar exactly as in the original – we read this hilarious bit:

Novena For Assistance From Mother Azna:

“I Am God. I Am Part Of God. I Am God. All Things Are Possible Because I Am God!” (Say at 9 am and 9 pm Daily) (Repeat three times for three sets: First for self; Second for others; Third set for Gnostic Movement of Truth!)

Call On Azna:

Azna Is Our Queen, The Giver Of Life, The Great Interceptor, The Miracle Worker, The Fighter Of Darkness, The Curer Of All Illness. Visualize that SHE stands in front of you with HER beautiful GOLDEN SWORD and takes the brundt [sic] of this negative energy. Say, “I want this now, AZNA. Please tend to me. Help me NOW!”

No further comment needed…




THE DREADED RANDI DOLL

rd

I heard that a young lady, the sister of our media manager (Bianca Montalvo) working in an office here in Fort Lauderdale – a modern, 21st-century office – had discovered that her employers were disturbed by the fact that a Randi Doll was present among them. I asked her for details:

I’m told that you wanted some details on what people at my office are doing, because after almost a year of having your doll in my office they decided to notice it.

The story goes that while I was out on vacation last week, my two bosses came into my office and saw your Randi doll sitting on my file holder tray right next to my ipod. I’ve been told that as soon as they saw it – supposedly for the first time – they went crazy, they took pictures of it and sent those pictures to Colombia to some person so that they could find out what type of “voodoo” doll it is and what type of “bad magic” it does. Aside from all that, they asked everyone in the office if they knew anything about the doll and why I had it, also they asked certain people they know to light candles for them, just in case it was something bad. They even “argued” for a little while because they couldn’t decide who or which of my bosses is the “victim.”

Not to mention that they actually wrote me several instant messages asking me about the whole thing, messages to which I still have not replied, although I was thinking about doing so by sending them a link to your website.

Check your calendars, folks. Yes, it’s really 2008, we have flowing water and air conditioners, and very few people are still being burnt at the stake for heresy or witchcraft. However, I see that the JREF missed a commercial opportunity to sell anti-hex candles locally…




IN CLOSING…

I’ve had many requests for details about my forthcoming visit to the UK in April. Sorry, I can’t give you details just yet, but all will be revealed as soon as final plans are made…

I’m at the MIT Media Lab – a wondrous place! – on April 1st (that figures) and next week I’m at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado. Try to get around to meeting me, if you can. I’m always happy to meet SWIFT readers…!

Here’s a hilarious video in which P. Z. Meyers and Richard Dawkins discuss their attempt to attend a screening of Ben Stein’s latest foray into creationism, a movie titled, “Expelled.” It’s 9 minutes of discussion on a fiasco that will have you roaring… Go to:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hEIeitxhLA


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