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LONGTIME READERS WILL RECALL…
May 23rd, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

…the only prior time I’ve mentioned Paris Hilton. It was a brief aside, pondering whether Hilton would have grown up to be a classier person if Elizabeth Taylor had remained part of the family.

Now, it turns out, Hilton and I have read the same book! (Or at least we’ve both been seen in public with the same book.)

In a papparazi shot earlier this week, a pre-jail Hilton was photographed carrying (1) a Bible and (2) the self-help tome The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Tolle, 59, was born in Germany under the name Ulrich Tolle, and now lives in Vancouver. He apparently changed his first name in honor of 13th-century German mystic Johannes “Meister” Echkhart.

Tolle has written four books and released dozens of audio books and lectures, all of which are narrated in a very calming, softly accented voice. He borrows ideas from a lot of Eastern and Western sources, but his central thesis is a simple one.

Many modern humans, Tolle asserts, are crippled by their own “mental noise,” or obsessive-compulsive thoughts. Regrets about the past, worries about the future, self-condemnations about one’s physical appearance or social status–they’re all symptoms of the mental noise. The noise, in turn, is tied into the “pain body,” a mental state in which all someone can feel is pain (physical, mental, emotional), and all someone wants to do is to spread that pain to others.

Tolle’s prescription: Become aware of the true self behind the false identity of your thinking mind. Become more acutely aware of your body and of the world surrounding you. Accept the present moment. Learn to live in the stillness. Develop an awareness that goes beyond the “egoic mind.”

Some of you are already scoffing that you never perceived Paris Hilton as much of a left-brain thinker.

But a mental-noise victim doesn’t have to be a tech nerd, a video-game geek, or even a language nut such as myself.

Let’s armchair-analyze our poor little rich girl here.

If she’s like some ultra-fashion-conscious women, she’d be prone to constant fretting about every minute aspect of the way she looks.

If she’s like some professional “celebrities,” she’d be constantly calculating how best to keep her name and image in the public eye, even if it’s in the form of a self-deprecating “dumb blonde” role on a staged reality show.

And if she’s like some Hollywood types, she’d search for an apparently simple short cut to spiritual growth, preferably one that didn’t expect her to renounce her material wealth.

But Tolle’s path isn’t as easy as he initially makes it out to be. It requires one to give up things more valuable to a celebrity than money. It requires one to give up one’s ego, one’s fully-constructed but false sense of self.

It’s giving up everything that makes someone a professional “celebrity.” And if Hilton’s ready to do that, more power to her.

STRANGE WORLD DEPT.
Mar 2nd, 2006 by Clark Humphrey

David Lynch is now evangelizing for Transcendental Meditation.

CURRENTLY WATCHING…
Jan 31st, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

…John Bradshaw on the Family on the Wisdom channel. Bradshaw’s lecture series, originally made for PBS in 1985, discusses family dysfunction as a pivot point for just about everything that goes wrong with individuals and societies: “Any time you’re not your true self, you can be taken.”

Among his points: If you know how people from non-nurturing families come to think, you can manipulate them very brutally. He cited a couple of authors, including Alice Miller, who’d seen the horrors of Hitlerism in ol’ Adolf’s own ultra-authoritarian childhood family, and in the more general hierarchical, patriarchal, and anti-freedom nature of typical German family structures.

Now I finally know why the most anti-life, anti-freedom, anti-environmental, anti-equality, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-children, anti-sex, and pro-violence forces in the US use “The Family” as their ideological excuse and stick the name “Family” in the names of their propaganda groups.

DELTON MURPHY IMPLORES US…
Oct 29th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…to settle ourselves, find our strength, and stay positive:

“We are part of a huge movement right now and that in and of itself is quite incredible. Breathe… Relax… Feel the energy in the air because there really is a feeling of unity floating around.”

YA GOTTA HAVE FAITH
Oct 19th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Jeff Sharlet interprets Bush’s religion not as orthodox Evangelicism, but more like one of those PoMo spiritual melanges, made up of a little Jesus and a little New Age magic. Sharlet particularly notes the extent to which Bush and his team are absolutely certain they can achieve anything they want just by believing hard enough that it can and should be done:

“Bush believers long for absolutes, but they don’t care about empirical definitions. They’re not literalists, in the sense that they don’t cling to language. In fact, they don’t trust language, which is why they read clunky, soulless translations of scripture, when they read it at all. The Community Bible Study approach to biblical education through which Bush found his faith is not based on intense reading, but on personal meditations built around a sentence or two. Bush himself doesn’t study the Bible; he samples phrases and invokes them like spells….When he speaks of ‘wonderworking power’ (a reference to the gospel standard “Power in the Blood”), as he did in his now infamous ‘mission accomplished’ speech, he is drawing that power into being, to make his desires into reality. Politics, strategy, books, the Bible — everything falls away in the realm of magical realism.”

Suddenly, a lot of aspects of these past four years begin to make sense.

For I’ve been studying New Age thought factions on an amateur, part-time basis for the past almost-year. I’ve listened to, read, and in a couple of cases interviewed people who promote versions of the positive-thinking mantra. Some versions are more spiritual than others. Some versions are more individualistic and materialistic than others.

The British seminar leader and hypnotherapist Paul McKenna, loves to rhetorically ask his audiences, “What would you do if you absolutely KNEW you couldn’t fail?” Meanwhile, local ex-ad copywriter Rebecca Fine promotes “The Science of Getting Rich,” a “Certain Way” towards personal wealth, based on the teachings of 1900s pamphleteer Wallace Wattles. (To Fine, “certain” means both specificity and doubtlessness.) Follow the program, Fine says, and the dough will flow your way.

There are a few catches in Wattles’s plan. He didn’t like charity, antitrust actions, or organized labor; instead of forming schemes to redistribute wealth, he wrote that concerned citizens should help the poor learn to generate their own wealth. And you have to really believe you’re channelling the flow of material energy your way. As Fine writes: “Wattles says that instead of questioning how these principles work, you’ll need simply to accept them and begin to practice them.”

This ties in well with Bush’s famous refusals to admit ever having made a mistake. Christianity is big on self-doubt and self-denial; “not my will but thine be done.” But in the positive-thinking realm, doubting yourself’s about the worst sin you can make.

So: Bush isn’t really a Bible thumper; though he’ll gladly seek Bible-thumpers’ votes. He’s really one of the globalization-era spiritual fusionists. He’s part of the target market for Wayne Dyer pledge-drive books and Successories motivational posters. He could be a leader of “no money down” seminars. The Force is with him (albeit, in my opinion, it’s the Dark Side).

I imagine some voters have interpreted this insistant attitude, which scoffers such as myself have derided as “hubris,” as just the sort of can-do mindset they want in a leader. Top-heavy tax cuts WILL stimulate the economy! Iraq and Afghanistan WILL become stable democracies! Abstinance-only education WILL eliminate unwanted pregnancies! Privatization WILL make Social Security more solvent! Why? Because WE SAY SO, that’s why!

But I, for one, still belong to the skeptics (or, as a Bush aide quoted in the NY Times derided us, “the reality-based community”). I believe an acid-tripper, no matter how devoutly he believes he can fly, should be led away from the temptation of an open fifth-floor window. I believe the most assertive, positive-thinking management wasn’t enough to keep certain dot-com ventures alive.

And I believe corporate cronyism is neither good for government nor for business.

I believe no one country should, or even can, unilaterally impose military conquest and shock-therapy economics across the globe.

I believe marriage is not profaned but enhanced by being expanded to more possibilities.

I believe one-sided “news” coverage is not “fair and balanced.”

I believe freedom is not slavery. I believe war is not peace. I believe ignorance is not strength.

And I firmly, positively, believe we can do better.

YR. OB'D'N'T WEB-SCRIBE…
Aug 4th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…has been felled the past 24 hours or so by a brief but nasty stomach bug. You don’t want to hear any more details; trust me. But I will say I tried to heal myself this afternoon by listening to an audio book by Vancouver new-age guru Eckhart Tolle about overcoming “the Pain-Body.” It didn’t work.

WHAT ALSO DIDN’T WORK: The traditional “bounce” in the opinion polls for a Presidential candidate after his nominating convention. Some polls showed little increase in John Kerry’s standing; others even showed him dropping a bit against Bush.

Why? For one thing, the convention’s TV coverage was divvied up into three dosages. The un-spun, uninterrupted coverage on PBS and C-SPAN was probably viewed mainly by political wonks such as myself. More apathetic viewers might have stuck with the measly three hours on the traditional Big Three networks, which contained only the big-name speeches and a lot of pundit-blather. In between these extremes, the three main cable “news” channels gave all-day coverage to their own (mostly Republican-leaning) commentators bashing what the Democrats were saying, with only brief cutaways to what the Democrats actually had said.

I must admit, though, that the Dems’ convention was a tuff thing to slog through in undiluted form. It was produced by a producer of TV awards shows, and felt just as long, dull, and self-serving as some of those shows are.

And, in keeping with a topic I’ve been researching of late, it relentlessly expressed a “positive” attitude. Very little speech-time was spent dissing what I believe is the worst US President since Harding; a sniveling suckup to looters and polluters who’s made this country less free and the world less safe. Instead, speaker after speaker (including, in short spots well out of prime time, our own Gov. Gary Locke and Rep. Adam Smith) recited the DNC-approved buzzwords about hope, help, strength, and respect. The effort throughout was to plug John Kerry as someone to vote for; not simply, as The Daily Show said in a fake campaign commercial, “Not George W. Bush.”

The problem with this strategy is it fits right in with the Bushies’ strategy—to make Kerry’s unproven qualities, not Bush’s proven failings, the chief topic of the proverbial horse race.

But there’s another front in this particular battle. The “527s,” independent progressive groups funded by the likes of George Soros and various Hollywood/Silicon Valley moguls, have gone where the timid Dem leadership won’t. Because these groups officially don’t work for any campaign, they can raise all the money they can to spread their messages. And because they’re not controlled by party bosses, they can tell the harsh truths in their ads. The big 527s (named for the tax-code line that defines them) include the famous Move On, Americans Coming Together, Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, and even Punk Voter.

Besides these fairly well-funded efforts, there are more thoroughly grassroots anti-Bush outfits as well, such as Seattle’s own “No Vote Left Behind.”

Then there’s the semi-satirical F___ the Vote, which asks “sexy liberals,” especially in the undecided “swinger states” (including Washington), to seduce and convert conservatives. Its home page claims, “Everyone knows liberals are hotter than conservatives—we look hotter, we dress hotter, our ideas are hotter, and we are infinitely hotter in the sack. We must use our sexual appeal to our advantage, as one more weapon in our already diverse arsenal.”

At last—a campaign tactic I can fully support. Sign me up today. I’ll show any Bellevue divorcee or Wenatchee church matron the road to a better tomorrow, metaphorically paved with multiple orgasms.

IN OTHER COMING-TOGETHER NEWS, a Seattle judge has ruled in favor of same-sex marriages. The case immediately goes to the State Supreme Court; there’ll be no official gay/lesbian nuptials ’til that court decides.

AND BY THE WAY, I’m feeling much better now. Sitting down to write always helps my energy level. So did the Hi-NRG music mix I’ve got on my iTunes right now—Serge Gainsbourg, game-show themes, Nina Simone, Petula Clark, Blondie, and more. I’m a word guy, but sometimes music can do much more for me than words.

THE DANGERS OF POSITIVE THINKING
Jun 21st, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

An NY Times Sunday-magazine piece claims “the happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments.”

BRIT ECONOMIST RICHARD LAYARD…
May 3rd, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…suggests that, just maybe, wealth and happiness don’t necessarily mesh together.

KANADIAN KOOLNESS KORNER
Apr 21st, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Amazing who you’ll find hangin’ out on Granville Street in Vancouver these days. Like Goldie Hawn and the Dalai Lama.

MISS CLEO EXPOSED
Jan 3rd, 2002 by Clark Humphrey

THIS ARTICLE claims to have the sad but not unexpected truth about the psychic hotlines shilled by the mysterious TV ads of Miss Cleo. It doesn’t mention that several acquaintances of mine claim to have known Youree Harris (Cleo’s apparent real name) as an itinerant budding actress who spent a couple years in Seattle learning her schtick.

9/11 PART 26
Sep 12th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

BILL CAUGHEY WRITES with some suggestions for the media, and for the rest of us:

“1. No speculation, the pundits and so-called experts need to be quiet. ‘Just the facts…’

NO ONE SHOULD REPORT OR PUBLISH TV RATINGS FOR THIS PERIOD. That should stop future excesses by the networks!

Stop the replays of the crashes; one viewing of the planes hitting the buildings is enough!

Stop the journalistic posturing, the investigations will tell us ‘how could this have happened.’

Go back to commercials; we need to return to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

Quit looking for the ‘scoop;’ journalists are already getting in the way of investigators.

Remember that children watch TV too; enough of the hysteria and talk about war.

Stop showing the celebrations in in the mideast; no need to fan the flames, we know some people hate America.

2. FIND THE HEROES; we are not a nation of victims!

3. Respect for everyone; no scapegoats. Let the investigations run their course.

4. MORE prayers and blessings for those who suffer.

5. No mercy for the criminals and those who helped them in any way.

6. No politics; we rally behind the president and follow his lead.

7. God bless America and those who stand with us.”

9/11 PART 25
Sep 12th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

MIKKEL URUP WRITES FROM DENMARK:

“It’s difficult to grasp the concept the amount of hatred and the brutal Nazi -like efficiency this one was carried out with.

The terrorist action in New York possibly killed 10,000 people but has depressed and scared a nation, even the world. I think the second accomplishment was their primary intent.

One feel depressed as one can do nothing; there is not even, as of now, a known target for retaliation.

But one can stop the terrorists in succeeding in their prime intent by flourishing and prospering, regardless of the onslaught!

By the way, I think it’s so much against our basic nature to destroy each other, that living with having done this at some level is a brutal punishment. I know it eventually will eat them up from the inside.

Take care everybody and: Flourish and prosper!”

WHEN A HEALER DIES
Jun 18th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

The following is the “long version” of one of the short items to run in the Stranger obit column later this week:

Rev. Fred Beaver Chief Jameson, 46, was a member of the Lummi Nation, a spiritual leader, musician, and social activist, who worked among Seattle’s Native American community and also in the local art and music scenes.

He lectured across North America and Europe; he’d married a Swiss woman and was planning to move to Zurich. He was the Seattle School District’s Native American liaison in the ’70s. He led drum circles and made recordings of Northwest Coast Salish music, including the 1999 CD Red Cedar Medicine Circle Songs.

One of Jameson’s friends in the music community, Sky Cries Mary founder Roderick Romero, said he was “the most significant native of this area that I’ve encountered. His whole purpose was to bridge the indigenous culture and that of what he called ‘the settlers,’ and try to heal the pain. His dream was to have a children’s center where children could learn more about the indigenous people of this area…. He had a massive impact on Seattle, not just because he was a native but because he stepped out side of those boundaries.”

“He was open to every religion,” Romero added. “He didn’t alienate anyone; he was always open to what anyone had to say or was feelng. He married Anisa and I. He blessed our houses. When Anisa was going through cancer, he was there for her. He was one of the most significant people in my life.

“He was planning on moving to Switzerland with the woman from Zurich he’d married. He was so accepted into any culture, I thought he’d be such a great person to speak for the States. He always had something positive to say.”

In the local neo-pagan publication Widdershins, writer Amanda Silvers called Beaver Chief “a wise man, teacher, healer, singer, storyteller and all-around funny guy who is very serious about spirit.”

Jameson also wrote the book A Handbook For Human Beings, in which he said about himself: “I am a bridge. A bridge to help you understand our culture and combine it with your own… NOT to replace it, but to combine it.”

Jameson died of a sudden aneurysm on June 8 at the Queen Anne post office. Services were held last Wednesday at the Bonney Watson funeral home on Broadway, followed by a ritual burning of his belongings at the Swinomish Medicine House near La Conner.

SOUND CHOICES
Apr 26th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

Welcome back to Misc., the column that just can’t get into that latest filmed-in-Seattle TV show, Under One Roof. If the James Earl Jones character’s supposed to be a veteran Seattle cop, howcum he never mentions whether or not he ever worked with Frasier’s dad?

GODDESS AND MAMMON DEPT.: You may already know how self-help, “new age” counseling and personal therapy have become big business. They’re so big now, the conglomerates are circling to take it over from the entrepreneurs that started it. The publishing conglomerates have muscled in on the new-age book scene, sometimes buying up titles originally issued by independent publishers. NBC’s got a (surprisingly good) new-age talk show, The Other Side. The major record labels are purportedly looking to start imprints for meditation tapes and light-instrumental CDs. And, according to the Wall St. Journal, none other than the Walt Disney Co. is getting into the seminar/ retreat game. The Disney Institute will open next year on a previously-undeveloped part of Disney World’s 50 or so square miles. It’ll offer speakers, artists-in-residence, cooking schools, sports and recreation programs, all for $700 for a three-day stay. I dunno if they’ll have any Wiccans showing up to promote alternatives to the stereotypes of witches in cartoon features, or if they’ll ever bring in the author of The Peter Pan Syndrome.

BB CUES: Last week I mourned the demise of the Western Coffee Shop. This week I’ve happier news: The Cave Man Kitchen barbecue stand, the single greatest thing about Kent, now has a somewhat more convenient branch in an ex-Taco Bell on Lake City Way.

LIVE AIR: One of this column’s running themes over the years has been the general suckiness of modern radio broadcasting (including much “public” radio) and various attempts to overcome it (activist groups like CURSE and the zine Radio Resistors Bulletin, pirate stations, micro-power stations, the cassette-trading underground). Now I’m happy to report a potential answer to crummy radio (at least at home or work) at last: Real-time Internet audio. The package of software programs to make this possible, called RealAudio, is now in beta testing by Progressive Networks, a Pioneer Square-based startup company started by Microsoft escapee Rob Glaser. The software to record RealAudio files will cost about $100; the playback software will be free. To record or receive RealAudio you’ve gotta have a computer powerful enough to run the software; but such machines can cost less than $1200 new and much less used. (The Western Washington U. station KUGS is already live on the Net, using a software system called CU-See Me that requires a more powerful workstation and a direct Internet hookup (instead of a modem and a phone line) to receive properly.)

Initial press reports tout the RealAudio technology as a way for established broadcasters, record companies, and the like to disseminate their works or promotional materials. The company’s website includes NPR and ABC Radio newscasts, O.J. updates, and some oldtime radio comedy segments. Company PR touts out-of-town sportscasts, music promotion and on-demand traffic reports as possible future applications.

But the company’s name is indicative of the revolutionary opportunities of this invention. It can essentially turn any Internet connection into a virtual radio station, allowing AM-quality reception of radio-refused music and information from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. The firm’s core staff includes Maria Cantwell, one of the Demo Congresspeople defeated in last November’s talk-radio sleaze assault. In addition, the company’s biggest single financial patron is Mitch Kapor, the ex-Lotus Software mogul who started the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the loudest public voices for cyberspace freedom and against government eavesdropping on and censorship of computer communication.

Appropriately, the company’s World Wide Web site (http://www.realaudio.com) will soon include a page called “What’s New in Activism Online,” billed in company PR as an information and volunteer-opportunities exchange “aimed at bringing the power of the Web and the Internet to bear on social and political issues.”

KIRK KERKORIAN WANTS TO BUY CHRYSLER: If the notorious Las Vegas financier does for the automaker what he did for Western Airlines and MGM, expect the Big Three to become the Big Two by the end of the decade.

VIACOMMIES
Feb 14th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

Here at Misc. we’re anxiously counting down the days (25 on the day this ish comes out) until KSTW starts running CBS shows. Since That Trial will probably still be going on, the big network switch means starting March 13 you won’t see Young & Restless on channel 11 instead of not seeing it on channel 7.

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE WEEK: Seattle Volunteer is a handy four-page newsletter run by Andrew Stewart and Laurie Roth, alerting readers to some of the myriad ways they can invest time-n’-sweat to build a better community. It offers free 50-word notices every other month for arts, AIDS, environment, health, education, and political groups that could use your help. The third issue should be out for free next week at some of the same places this paper’s at; or you can subscribe by sending a donation ($25 or more preferred) to P.O. Box 70402, Seattle 98107.

WHICH AD D’YA READ?: Molson Ice beer ad, 1995: “Don’t worry. Your tongue won’t stick.” Rainier Ice ad, 1994: “Warning: Keep tongue off billboard.”

NORTH OF THE BORDER: The fanning out of Hollywood bigshots across the western states continues. I’m told the most recently “discovered” homesite for frequent-flier showbiz commuters is the outer exurbs of Boise. As you’ve seen from the Little Hollywoods in New Mexico, Montana, Colorado and the San Juans, when the L.A. types show up three things tend to happen: 1) real estate prices soar so locals can’t afford to live there anymore; 2) these millionaires who proudly live half a gas tank from the closest supermarket and 100 gallons of jet fuel from their jobs start preaching to the locals about eco-consciousness; and 3) they bring in their favorite L.A. chefs to invent a “traditional regional cuisine” for the area. It’ll be fun to find out what the “traditional regional cuisine” becomes for a state whose very license plates promote “Famous Potatoes,” whose only movie-based association with dining came from Steve Martin’s cameo in The Muppet Movie, as a waiter offering “Sparkling Muscatel by Fine Wines of Idaho.”

NOT IN THE CARDS: Our Pike St. pals at Edge of the Circle Books submitted an ad to KNDD that began as follows: “Magick, Witchcraft, Paganism; words once whispered are now spoken boldly. Though they cut down the sacred groves, burned our religious texts, and tortured and killed people beyond counting for the `crime’ of witchcraft, our numbers have grown so large that they cannot stop us.” The ad that ran for one day before the station banned it after receiving 25 complaining phone calls. The Viacom-owned station (which had run other ads from the store for three years) first asked the store to submit a “less offensive” spot, then agreed to refund its money.

BEAMING: Viacom boss Sumner Redstone has spoken of one of his new acquisitions, Star Trek, as a “global branded identity.” Several analysts over the years have seen the United Federation of Planets as a metaphor for an cold-war-era American self-image, an image of the benevolent colonist bringing order and commerce while allowing at least on-paper autonomy to its “partners.” A case could now be made for the Federation reflecting Hollywood’s self image of a culture empire enveloping the universe, either smothering local arts and customs or using them to its ends. Redstone wants to have everybody on at least this planet viewing, reading and listening to the same things. This is the polar opposite of what many of the acts now on KNDD believe or originally believed.

As further example, note the Week in Rock segment on MTV (another Viacom property) about indie labels–it gave most of its camera time to those “indies” that have alliances with or are part of the Big Six record giants; it talked about the likes of Sub Pop not as patrons of marginal voices but as generators of future major-label stars; and it was peppered with ex-indie singers who unanimously assured viewers that an act could get screwed by an indie just like by a major.

Mind you, there’s plenty that Big Entertainment has given us (I’ve been heard to compare modern American politics to the ST episode with the Evil Kirk vs. the Ineffectual Kirk). But it’s time to put a new concept to work. Instead of global identities, we need to promote and empower the whole motley world at home and abroad. Make it so.

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