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Wednesday
Mar112009

A Guide to Grabbing Cash while Impoverishing Science

After flipping through a magazine to pass the time, I noticed an article on the worldwide phenomenon of "self-healing" - "The Power of Now", the name of a self help book authored by "spiritualist" Eckhart Tolle. While I have no claim to refute or confirm his methods validity or usefulness since I have no basis for a scientific, rational study, I do however take offense to his writings as since they are almost direct reproductions of Gestalt Therapy, a method of psychotherapy and individuation formulated by Dr. Fritz Perls in the early 1970s.

After some even very preliminary readings, it seems that Mr. Tolle has merely taken most of the Dr. Perls' Gestalt therapeutic teachings, cloaking them in Christian mysticism so as to appeal to a new "spiritualist" market.

For example, an extract from Mr. Tolle's book reads:

In your everyday life, you can practise [this exercise] by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention. For example, every time you walk up anti, down the stairs in your house or place of work; pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. The moment you realise you are not present, you are present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap. Or when you get into the car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath.

Similarities can easily be found with Dr. Perls' work, bolded sections that correspond to Mr. Tolle's writings:
(1) Maintain the sense of actuality—the sense that your awareness exists now and here. (2) Try to realize that you are living the experience; acting it, observing it, suffering it, resisting it. (3 ) Attend to and follow up all experiences, the "internal" as well as the "external," the abstract as well as the concrete, those that tend toward the past as well as those that tend toward the future, those that you "wish," those that you "ought," those that simply "are," those that you deliberately produce and those that seem to occur spontaneously. (4) With regard to every experience without exception, verbalize: "Now I am aware that ..."

...walk, talk, or sit down; be aware of the proprioceptive details without in any way interfering with them.

Also, the resemblance becomes starkly apparent in the following tracts:

Tolle:

If you keep your attention in the body as much as possible, you will stay in the Now. [...] When you are unoccupied for a few minutes and especially last thing at night and first thing in the morning, "flood" your body with consciousness. Lie flat on your back. Close your eyes. Choose different parts of your body to focus your attention on briefly at first: hands, feet, arms, legs, abdomen, chest, head ... Feel the life energy inside those parts as intensely as you can. Stay with each part for about 15 seconds. Then let your attention run through the body like a wave a few times, from feet to head and back again.

Perls:
As you sit or lie comfortably, aware of different body-sensations and motions (breathing, clutching, contracting the stomach, etc.), see if you can notice any combinations or structures—things that seem to go together and form a pattern-among the various tensions, aches, and sensations. Notice that frequently you stop breathing and hold your breath. Do any tensions in the arms or fingers or contractions of the stomach and genitals seem to go with this? Or is there a relationship between holding your breath and straining your ears? Or between holding your breath and certain skin sensations? What combinations can you discover?

While Dr. Perls uses the language of science and Mr. Tolle uses non-sensical abstracts such as "life energy", it seems that "The Power of Now" is a religious rehash of field tested, empirical science.

Mr. Tolle even ransacks one of the many psychotheraputic techniques from Dr. Albert Ellis, father of Cognitive Behavior Therapy to comprise one of his many "life-lessons." While Mr. Tolle can refute the claims and brush them off as coincidence (although I doubt that he could do so successfully) its disheartening that so many people would flock towards his spiritualist re-interpretation of already established therapies grounded in science - and let Mr. Tolle get away with it.

Saturday
Mar072009

A Future of News

If you're an obsessive consumer of news and how its reported, the earth tremor that shook most of residential Melbourne and surrounds last night almost undoubtedly proved the growing irrelevancy of the printed media. Within 10 minutes of it occurring, 12 of my friends on my Facebook had reported it in their status. (Some with accompanying "It's the end of the world" comment, which had me lamenting that Carl Sagan might actually be right and that these people never paid attention during their Geography classes) With a turnaround of 12 hours as opposed to a propagation speed of minutes or even seconds, major events reporting will soon be the domain of internet-enabled citizens with newspapers taking a more supporting role such as analysis or criticism of the event rather than direct reporting. A compiler of citizen-originated event reporting could even be achieved using some sort of rudimentary tagging system. Even then its hard to figure that anyone will bother to read that, either.

Friday
Mar062009

So it goes.

I can't (read: won't) say much about it, but my new job "cleaning the internet" (not content, just dodgy domains) had an unassailable lead for best job ever...until they blocked the good parts. I do love the mandatory eating of breakfast as the first order of business though.

Uni's back; and so it would seem, my wit.

Shai and Crushtor have a smoko

Me: You see that chick over there? With the beret?
Shai: Which one?
Me: The one that looks like she's an extra in a Godard movie.
Shai: Yeah.
Me: Arts student?
Shai: Absolutely.
Me: Let's test it out. Just casually name drop a critical theorist and see if she looks over at us.
Shai: Lacan.
Me: Foucault.
Shai: Did she look?
Me: She totally glanced up! Let's try it again!

----

Soup and such

Nermal: I can't believe you downloaded 200GB worth of TV shows, Damith.
Damith: Why not, if the Uni doesn't block it, I'll download it.
Me: Why bother Damith, all American TV shows fall into one of two categories: Shows about Lawyers or Doctors doing ordinary stuff; or, shows about ordinary people with some kind of hidden talent, superpower or one of them being placed in an extreme situation.
Shai: My god, you're right.
Me: Think about it. Law and Order, Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal. Shows about professionals that are just doing their jobs. Reaper, Chuck and Breaking Bad? Shows about guys on minimum wage with special powers and/or put in weird situations.
Damith: What about House?
Me: Well, House is just shit.

I really should write up my Cannibal Corpse interview.

Sunday
Feb222009

Intrigue and Incense

When a party is in opposition, especially one that believes in its divinely ordained right to rule our nation by virtue of their mere existence, high profile players usually snipe at one another via the media when it becomes evident their policies won't wedge the government of the day - case and point of John Hewson telling Peter Costello to resign. That's all fine and dandy, but the fact that he attacks the man personally on his achievements baffles me to say the least. Not really out of character for the usual Tory ad hominem smear politics. (Remember! They made Latho cry! Actually fucking cry!)
Sure, he was never made leader of the parliamentary Liberal party, but he did deliver a GST and win a whole bunch of elections; something Hewson never achieved despite his ambitious aspirations, even suffering a defeat, losing the "unloseable" Fightback! campaign of 1993. (And he was in Opposition! He not only didn't win, he actually lost. Cue the sad trombone.)

On second thoughts, the squabble could be reduced to an Onion-esque headline: "Old loser tells hurt loser to quit."

Thursday
Feb192009

S*candal

I have been informed by sources who wish to remain nameless that our beloved television staple - nay - icon of the mid-90s, A*Mazing, was not a wholly Australian unique concept. It is in fact a synthesis of two American shows, namely Nick Arcade and Legends of the Hidden Temple.

I implore the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to rectify this situation by immediately deporting James Sherry post-haste. That is all. Stephen Smith! I THROW DOWN THE GAUNTLET TO YOU!

(But I will watch their completely hilarious It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. One of my Top 3 for sure.)