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Woo on the Wing PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

skymall1I fly often, and unlike so-called yogic flyers, I prefer to use commercial aircraft. Ok, I don't really prefer it but it seems to be the only option available. During that uncomfortable time when I'm forcibly separated from my electronics, I take a look in the SkyMall magazine, and have a few chuckles.

SkyMall has a literally captive audience. In the bygone days of phones in the seats of aircraft, they offered a discount if you ordered while in the air. I suspect this was to prevent you from having time to actually think about what you were purchasing. Bashing SkyMall is a popular Internet pastime, and now it's my turn. Here's a sampling from the November issue as found on Delta Airlines:

moletechA "Featured" item, the Moletech Fuel Saver promises to "Increase miles per gallon, increase horsepower, install quickly, reduce harmful pollutants (no mention of the non-harmful ones), reduce greenhouse gases, and it will last for 10 years." It is a "Patented 'Carbon Friendly' Solution," whatever that means. There are different versions for motorcycles and diesel engines as well, with prices from $129.99 to $389.99. So far so good, but there's something missing.. any description at all of what it is or how it works. It does say that it "incorporates 'Molecule Reaction Technology,'" which must be a good thing. There is a very tiny picture of something that looks like a stainless-steel kiwi fruit. I wonder if this plane is using them?

x5The guy in front of me could use this. It's the X5 Hair Laser. I guess we missed out on models A through W, 1 to 4. It says "The X5 generates 15 distinct points of coherent laser light." Points are by definitions distinct, and laser light is always coherent, but words are nice. "The cool laser light makes direct contact with your scalp, and conforms to its shape for ideal treatment." Translation: the light shines on your on your head. "Shine" is the term we use when light makes direct contact, and as we know, light always conforms to the shape it shines on. As for the efficacy of lasers for hair growth, maybe that's why Dr. Evil wanted sharks with laser beams on their heads. Seems like he's not quite done with the "as little as two months" period of time in which this device is claimed to work.

toppikIronically, just below that ad, and from the same company, is Toppik, which makes "thin hair look thick and natural in 30 seconds." The irony is.. this one actually looks like it would work! It consists of "keratin protein fibers," which is another way of saying ground-up hair. That's right, just sprinkle some hair on your hair and it will look thick and natural. It comes in 8 colors, at $21.99 a piece. I think the guy in front of me is too far gone though, unless he applied spray adhesive first.

clefduvinThey serve wine on the plane, but it's a recent vintage. I cannot bear to allow such a young fermentation to taint my discriminating palate. SkyMall to the rescue with Clef Du Vin! That's fancy french for "wine key." It has been "tested over 10 years by scientists and sommeliers," although the results are not shared with us. At $99.95 this little chunk of metal might help oxidize the wine, but waiting about 5 minutes after pouring could do the same thing. Or, it may do nothing at all, but boy, won't you be tempted to find the wine better tasting after enhancing it with $100.

motionsicknessThis plane ride has been a bit bumpy, and motion sickness looms as the words on the screen jump around. (The guy in front just put his seat back, so I'm typing extra hard.)  I wish I had this Motion Sickness Relief Band. At $139.95, it claims to zap the median nerve in the wrist with electronic pulses, which "harmlessly interferes with the nerve stimulation between the brain and the stomach that causes nausea." It also claims to be "similar to acupuncture, without the needles." Perhaps they mean it's mostly placebo, and as long as I don't realize that, it will work! Ooops, damn. Glad there's an airsickness bag in the seat pocket.

aculifeIf I took better care of myself, I might not have this motion sickness problem.  Why don't I "Help strengthen (my) health with the latest ancient technology"? Read that again. I'll quote them for you: "It might sound bizarre." Well, yes it does. Apparently, a "5000 year old mummy" was found with tattoos that resembled the meridian maps that acupuncturists use. Did they fail to notice that despite the tattoos, the mummy was dead? It's a little unclear what the $199.95 Aculife Therapist Deluxe actually includes. Apparently there's a map, and a small electrode that you use to "stimulate qi pathways." Which, conveniently, are all found on the left hand. Oh, and don't expect immediate results. It takes at least 60 days. I don't think I'm willing to wait 60 days if something's bothering me.

credomundiAirplane food may cost $10 now, but the Thai chicken salad with peanut M&Ms are pretty good. This is an awfully big bag of candy, though. I should work out a bit when we land.  But what to wear? Why not a Credo Mundi hoody? After all, they're covered with "200 positive words in 15 different languages." $79 seems like a lot of a hoody... what are the words for? Well, it says "Fact: Research shows that written words on containers of water can influence the water's structure for better or worse depending on the nature or INTENT of the word." Bolding theirs. And they continue "Fact: The human body is over 70% water. What if positive words were printed on the inside of your clothing?" Well, what if I bought a $1.99 marker and wrote them on a $5 t-shirt myself? I have a feeling the results would be the same, and according to their "research," they should be. Of course, this refers to Dr. Emoto's "research" as featured in the movie What the BLEEP Do We Know? My in flight movie was Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is much more scientifically accurate than Emoto's film.

hairmaxWhat's on the next page... Ahh. For $495, I can have "Real Hope for Hair Regrowth." The HairMax LaserComb. And look, we have a cited study! I quote "The HairMax LaserComb is indicated to promote hair growth in males with androgenic alopecia who have Norwood Hamiton Classification of IIa to V and Fitzpatrick Skin Types I to IV."  Alas, my name is not Fitzpatrck, so I fear I have the wrong skin type. This study was conducted by.. umm.. surely I'm missing it.. hmm, no. They do not say who did the study, but I have no doubt it was someone clinical.

bicoxOn this plane, I'm being bombarded by all sorts of radiation from CD players, Gameboys, and noise-cancelling headsets. Perhaps I should try to protect my health from the "harmful waves emitted by all electronic products." The BiCox "is a systematic health oriented bracelet composed of a bio-ceramic chip made of 20 different oxidation minerals that maximize the protection from harmful electromagnetic waves." Oh no! I'm using a computer to type this right now. And I don't have any pottery covered with rust anywhere nearby! It has "medical" magnets as well, which are suppose to "improve blood circulation and relieve body tension." Don't magnets produce electromagnetic waves? At any rate, they're probably handy for hanging it up on the refrigerator when you get home. And what's this? "Far Infrared Ray. Improves metabolism and vital energy." It's a ray gun too? Cool. I think. I'm not sure what that means. Ahh, and here's what I've been needing: "Negative Ions. Improves immunity and concentration." I could use some immunity to deal with that speeding ticket in New York, which was significantly more than the $89.95 this piece of costume jewelry cost. I get my choice of black, brown, white, or red. Since those are all colors of light in the electromagnetic spectrum, I wonder why there'd be a choice at all.

babyquasarHey, this infrared ray stuff is cool. What else can we do with it? Well, the Baby Quasar Photo Rejuvenation Light Therapy Device will show me. If I hold this $449.00 flashlight up to my face, I can reverse the signs of aging by "reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores..." Oh, and thank goodness.. "Clinically proven research has shown that red and infrared pulsating light can be effective (in hiding the signs of aging.)" Again, I have to wonder why the sun's blasting of infrared light doesn't do the same thing, but hey, this was studied in a clinic somewhere so it must be real.

emwaveI could really use a bathroom visit, but the two people between me and the aisle are sleeping. I'm feeling a bit stressed. Maybe the emWave Personal Stress Reliever is in order. It can "Revitalize (my) emotions, mind, spirit, and body." Sounds great! How does it work? Well, this silver box the size of a business card case does.. well, they don't actually say. It looks like it has a button and some lights. It was developed from the "Institute of HeartMath's 17 years of innovative research on the relationship between the heart, stress, and emotions." Heart math? Sounds stressful. Maybe I should just politely wake these people up.

detoxWalking back from the bathroom and the pretty blue water, I wonder how many toxins my body has accumulated with all this flying. Maybe these "Detox Foot Patches" will help me "collect toxins from reflexology points." It seems there are herbs in there! So.. wait, it's a mesh bag filled with herbs... I've seen that before... oh yeah, it's a tea bag! It says that the statements contained in this ad have not been evaluated by the FDA, so I guess I won't find out. I prefer coffee anyway. Toxins be damned, I like the pick-me-up.

But you know, I'm feeling a pinch in my wallet from buying all these things. As I have a trip planned to Vegas in July, I wonder if I could win some money at the slots? The Science of Winning At Slots is just what I need! yetiAt $39.95, it says it's the only published slots system supported by real evidence, which in this case, is IRS tax returns. I wonder why they need the $39.98? Anyway, it says it will show me how to tell if a machine is ready to pay. I hope the casinos don't read this. Imagine what would happen if people started winning! Umm, yeah, I can't imagine it either.

Just an aside here.. the bigfoot lawn ornament, oh, I'm sorry "Garden Yeti" is a steal at just $98.95. Have to get one of those, as it's "hand painted for startling realism." At 28" high, how big could the feet be?

painwandOh hey, Brookstone has a Pain Relief Wand that uses infrared emitting LEDs. Er, that's "infrared emitting light emitting diodes." And it's only $249.95! We got ripped off on the anti-acne one. But this one is for joint pain, and it has a quote and a picture from a real doctor! Oh wait, it's Dr. Louis Trifos, D.C. That would be "Doctor of Chiropractic."

pureionThe air on this plane is stuffy, and I'm sure it's filled with mold spores, pollen, and bacteria. I think I need this $249.95 "Pure-Ion Advanced Ionic Cleaner." It removes these things, you see. Hmm, no mention of what else it does.. which is to fill the air with 03. That's ozone, which is great in the upper atmosphere, but is poisonous at ground level. The small print says it's not a medical device, but it doesn't say that on the anti-snoring pillow on the next page. I guess that means the pillow is a medical device?

fengshuiThe plane lands soon, and I'm thinking of home. You know, I wonder if I should rearrange my furniture. Maybe this "Electronic Feng Shui Compass" can help me "align my physical surroundings to match my intentions." I put the couch in front of the TV, because my "intention" is to lay there while I watch Mythbusters. I don't think I need a device to help with that. Oh, it works with electronmagnetic energy! Guess I can't use it with the BiCox bracelet. It claims to be "Operating with the same technology used in aerospace guidance systems..." Isn't that just detecting magnetic north? I think I have a compass that came in a Cracker Jack Box that does that. Oh no, that was Slim Pickens. Nevermind.

wineacceleratorHmm, some more wine would be nice to relax with. Oh, what's this? A Wine and Liquor Accelerator! And only $39.95! Damn, the wine key was a rip off. The accelerator uses a "triangular-shaped magnetic field" and in just 10 seconds, you'll have aged the wine just like "years of traditional aging." It keeps "working" as long as you keep the wine there. Hmm, let's say 10 seconds equals 10 years. A minute would be 60 years. An hour, 3600 years. What does 3600 year old wine taste like? I'm not sure I want to know. It's guaranteed to work for 100 years. I wonder what happens after that. Oh, it also says "It sounds impossible, but it's true." They're not allowed to lie, are they? Oh wait, they're referring to this specific sentence: "Experience a premium drink in seconds." I guess that's how long it takes to open that 1996 Dom Perignon you've been saving... no triangle of plastic needed.

On second thought, I don't think I'm going to buy any of this stuff. I think I'll stick with the animated Elvis Bust, the Mickey Mouse shaped USB stick, and the red cylindrical fire starters that come in a wooden box labeled "DYNAMITE." Something tells me those things might actually perform as advertised.

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written by AndyD, November 26, 2008
Read what the Western Australian Department of Consumer and Employment Protection had to say about Moletech Fuel Saver in October this year.
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Useles toys for grownups
written by Willy K, November 26, 2008
When I was a kid reading comic books back in the late 1950's and 1960's I always wanted to get some of those cool gadgets listed on the back page. Does anybody remember some of those things? Like the X-Ray glasses that would let you see through girls dresses? And the "Sea Monkeys" that would magically come to life when put in a glass of water?

Maybe the folks who sold those useless gadgets had kids who are carrying on the tradition of selling useless stuff. Only now they charge a lot more! smilies/wink.gif

Willy K
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written by tctheunbeliever, November 26, 2008
Now wait a minute--in regard to Sea Monkeys, they did actually "come to life". Of course brine shrimp don't quite look like the funny little people in the ad, but at least they were organic and pesticide-free, and easy to flush after a week or so.
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written by Bruno, November 26, 2008
I see I'm not the only one picking through the sky mall catalogue for that intoxicating mix of laughs and groans. Too bad discussing the "sharper image" and "hammacher-schlemmer" sections of the catalogue is off topic... First time I leafed through this on my way to the US I found myself whimpering "let me go home, I don't wanna go there."

@Willy K, I remember those. My brother got the sea monkeys and a classmate got the X-ray glasses. The former is a kind of hybernating krill and is still being sold (http://www.sea-monkey.com/) the latter relied on an optical effect to make an upheld hand look skeletal.
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Not "device"
written by osmosis, November 26, 2008
Dude, LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.
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Fuel saving devices
written by Marcus, November 26, 2008
The success of "fuel saving" devices is just one more sign of the severe lack of critical thought given by many people to their purchases. Since fuel efficiency is a big selling point for many types of automobile, it stands to reason that any device which actually worked to reduce fuel consumption would be fitted as standard to many production cars in short order. In fact, there are a number of improvements in engine design and fuel management that have been made over the years which have done just that. It stands to reason, then, that the only fuel saver you should be retrofitting to your car is one that comes as standard in this year's model.
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written by JeffWagg, November 27, 2008
@osmosis: Thanks, fixed that.
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written by Radwaste, November 27, 2008
Just a reminder: Ask The Pilot, a series by Patrick Smith, is a well-written description of what is going on around you while you ponder the contents of SkyMall.
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Not just the U.S.
written by SheldonHelms, November 27, 2008
Bruno,
I don't know why you'd infer that the U.S. has cornered the market on woo-woo. Every country in the world has its share, and most are far wose about falling for it than we are. Why do you think Randi has collected so many Frequent Flyer Miles? The man travels far and wide to challenge people in just about every tiny, cesspool on the planet to prove their claims...yet, in true America-bashing style, your first response is to go back where you came from? Not sure where that might be, but I bet we could write a nice little blog entry about the bull$#!+ superstitions and nonscientific beliefs found there.
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Embarrassed Delta pilot
written by W0X0F, November 27, 2008
As a pilot for Delta, I am extremely embarrassed by this garbage in SkyMall. Although I fly the planes, I've never really looked at the on board magazines.

I've posted the link to this piece on the Delta pilots' web forum and I'm going to find the email of someone high up at this company who I can send this to.

All for now...leaving for Nice.
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Ozone air purifier is actually safe in the right quantity
written by ishaisagi, November 27, 2008
There are standards for Ozone and how much is safe to use as air (or rather, scent) purifier. There is nothing wrong with the product you are mentioning, except being overly expensive, and probably marketed with too many buzz words.
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written by cwniles, November 27, 2008
ishaisagi, I suggest you check out the link that Jeff included in the article regarding Ozone air purifiers.

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html

The EPA's conclusions do not match yours. As a matter of fact, they contradict them.
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written by Bruno, November 27, 2008
@SheldonHelms, you REALLY need to read through the skymall catalogue to believe it. It's not just the woo-woo. Actually I think that's the least offensive bit. It's the remainder of the catalogue containing products that don't pander to supernatural beliefs but to transcendentally bad taste. The impression this gives unsuspecting travelers of American culture is way beyond the merely slanderous. It's the suburbian vision of Las Vegas, if you get me. The woo-woo (of which Jeff highlights the best) is just a natural extension.
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Wish I could buy stock in SkyMall
written by hopfen, November 28, 2008
It's not a public company, but my guess is that it's quite lucrative.
Their website says the catalog is seen by 88% of all domestic air passengers.

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written by Skeptic, November 28, 2008
The best product by far here is the Yeti garden gnome. It's the only honest product in the batch: it *IS* actually a Yeti garden gnome. It doesn't promise to make your wine taste better, or make you live longer, or is claimed to be made from bits of real Yetis, or that it will attract Yetis to your garden after a two-month waiting period.

It's a piece of junk, naturally, but at least it is what is says. Quite an achievement for a product advertised on skymall.
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written by Skeptic, November 28, 2008
"Ebarrased Delta Pilot"'s reply is the reason JREF exists. It's here to expose embarrasing woo-woo stuff not for our self-satisfaction of knowing better, but in order to change things if possible.

Alas, experience shows it is hard to change these sort of things -- losing those advertisers would cost Delta and SkyMall money, and that is by far the most important concern the companies have.

Nevertheless, it's worth a try: it's no use sitting on one's hand saying, cynically, "oh, they won't do anything, they just care about the money". Companies are made of people, and people are sometimes concerned *do* have ethics and other concerns -- or, at least, they want the company to look good publically. We might be pleasantly surprised with the response to "Embarrased Delta Pilot"'s complaint.
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written by GeekGoddess, December 01, 2008
I send you a teaser from an article I'm writing, and you do this??

WTF?

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wrinkle visibility
written by Trish, December 02, 2008
It's always been my experience that wrinkles are less visible when they are in the path of *less* light.
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Do it with a bicycle
written by Die Anyway, December 05, 2008
re: "Oh hey, Brookstone has a Pain Relief Wand that uses infrared emitting LEDs."

I saw an ad on TV for a similar device and told my wife we could get the same effect (ie nothing), a lot more cheaply, by going to the garage, turning on the flashing safety lights on our bicycles and standing in front of them.
A while back I bought a handful of spares at the local flea market for about $2 apiece. Maybe if I glue some sort of handle to them and make up a convincing ad I can tap into the woo-woo market. I could use the bucks.
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