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PreviousNextUpdates made to The Millenium Project in December 2010
Part 1

December 4, 2010

Chiropractors are unhappy. How sad is that? (4/12/2010)
The November edition of Australasian Science magazine contained an article by me titled "Who has the backbone to stop this?" The Chiropractors Association of Australia was not happy and made a formal complaint to the magazine. As the magazine doesn't have a Letters to the Editor column, the CAA were advised to make any comments via the magazine's web page, but a check of the article there indicates that they weren't motivated to do that. Perhaps they felt that a letter that would not be published, and therefore not attract attention to their claims, would be sufficient. I have decided to respond, as some of the statements made in the letter do not correspond to my version of reality, although I am prepared to admit that in this postmodernist, relativistic world it is possible that chiropractors have a different form of reality. To avoid any possible accusation of misquotation on my part, you can read the original letter, including the CAA logo, here.

Chiropractors Have Their Own Backbone*

(* A response to an article by Peter Bowditch in the November 2010 issue of Australasian Science)

Chiropractors welcome critical observation when it is intelligent and well-informed but dislike re-cycled ignorant cynicism and bias.

I like to think that I write original ignorant cynicism and bias, rather than recycled. I will address the ignorance and cynicism below, but I have to admit to bias against unscientific and dangerous practices pretending to be medicine.

Scepticism is healthy and the readers of this quality magazine have every right to expect The Naked Sceptic to reflect the magazine's mission to publish world-class science. Unfortunately Peter Bowditch's article "Who Has the Backbone to Stop This" in your November 2010 issue is so overloaded with factual error that it falls well short of being world-class.

I hope that some facts are coming to correct my errors.

On the other hand it is interesting to note Bowditch state that chiropractic sits between complementary medicine and what he mistakenly calls "real, scientifically-based medicine." In my role as Chair of a Human Research Ethics Committee within a multi-campus, Government-funded health network in Melbourne I regularly lead the review of applications designed to advance our collective understanding of medicine and its practices. My many medical colleagues, as decent, caring and hard-working practitioners frequently point out that which medicine does not know, in the scientific sense.

There is much that medicine doesn't know. That is the nature of science, so to say that there are things "which medicine does not know, in the scientific sense" is meaningless.

As a chiropractor I have high regard and respect for my medical colleagues and a deep understanding of the work they do. It is particularly interesting to note that medicine in general does not hold itself out to be "real and scientifically-based" in everything it does.

I would be interested to know what part of medicine doctors do not think is real, and also which parts of medicine are not based on science. If you are referring to that old canard beloved by quacks of all persuasions that X% of medicine has not been proved effective in randomised, double-blinded clinical trials then I suggest you offer yourself to be a member of the placebo group in studies into anaesthesia for abdominal surgery, suturing for knife wounds, splinting for broken femurs, morphine for reducing the pain of third-degree burns, charcoal lavage for the treatment of poisoning and other "untested" procedures.

The same can be said of chiropractic, and this is where Bowditch makes his fundamental errors and demonstrates both his ignorance and bias. I admit I have only been a chiropractic educator since my graduation as a chiropractor some 20 years ago, but I must say we do not teach that "all dis-ease is the result of pressure on nerves."

From the CAA web site:

Chiropractic is based upon the understanding that good health depends, in part, upon a normally functioning nervous system.

Chiropractic works by helping to restore your own inborn ability to be healthy. When under the proper control of your nervous system, all the cells, tissue, and organs of your body are designed to function well and resist disease and ill health. The chiropractic approach to better health is to locate and help reduce interferences to your natural state of being healthy.

A common interference to the nervous system is the twenty four moving bones of the spinal column. A loss of normal motion or position of these bones can irritate or impair the function of the nervous system. This can disrupt the transmission of controlling nerve impulses.

Chiropractors aim to improve nervous system function primarily through chiropractic adjustments (with particular attention to the spine, skull and pelvis), to help remove any interference that may be impairing normal health

Palmer may have thought like that in the late 19th Century, at a time when medicine was either heroic or homeopathic, X-ray was a new discovery, and it would still be some 30 years before Flemming discovered the first usable antibiotic. We also teach the value of evidence-based chiropractic practice, an approach supported by the Chiropractic Board of Australia which requires chiropractors to offer evidence to support any claims of clinical outcomes. Contemporary chiropractors understand disease and illness is actually multi-modal and this principle underpins the chiropractic curriculum in Australian universities.

Chiropractors claim to treat asthma, autism and ADHD, and now seem to be moving into dentistry. Please enumerate the "modes" of these conditions with special emphasis on those amenable to chiropractic adjustment.


From the CAA's Continuing Professional Development
program for 2010

As noted in the opening sentence above, scepticism is healthy. A recurring theme in my writing is my questioning of the claims chiropractors make and how it is that we know what it is that we say we know. Chiropractors do know that the X-ray does not show subluxation.

Then one must ask why chiropractors take X-rays of the spine. If subluxations can't be detected, surely this practice exposes patients to increased risk from radiation (and increased expense, of course).

The point missed by Bowditch is that what chiropractors call subluxation for the lack of a better term is actually a functional lesion of the spine, and not one that is structural. Static plain film radiographs are quite poor at showing functional lesions, if they do at all.

So, effectively, subluxations are subjective. Or, put another way, imaginary.

His suggestion chiropractors reject the germ theory of disease is quite incorrect. Chiropractors are well trained in microbiology at university level and understand bacterial infection and viral diseases. But while respecting their role in disease we hold neither the germ nor the virus as the reason for our existence.

This is obvious. They are not even the reason for the existence of real doctors, let alone ones who think that diseases can be related to undetectable "functional lesions" in the spine.

Bowditch will be unable to explain why one person in a household falls victim to a germ or virus to which all other members of that household have been equally exposed.

Perhaps I could try. Let's see:

Indeed, this is one of the mysteries of public health, and in their attempt to understand it chiropractors have taken a view that there may be variable degrees of resistance in individual bodies that allow some to succumb while others remain healthy.

Which is what I said. This is not news to real doctors and is the subject of continued research.

With respect to neurological connections, your sceptic really shows his nakedness when he twice tries to denigrate a view of chiropractors by resorting to the supposed anatomical fact that there is no nerve connecting this with that.

I was quite specific. I said that there are no nerves passing through the spine that connect the brain to the ear. Please do not say that I said things that I didn't say. If I am wrong in this specific instance, please tell me the name of the nerve which passes through the spine and causes otitis media when its function is impaired by subluxation.

An hour or two of learning about convergence within the central nervous system and the interplay between its autonomic and cranial nerves and their processing of, and in return management of, the peripheral nervous system may help him better understand the way the human body functions.

I can learn it in an hour? Does that make me very smart or chiropractors very dumb? Actually, an hour seems like a long time, because I learnt kinesiology in about five minutes but according to the CAA's schedule of professional development courses for the next few months chiropractors need several days of training.

And we haven't yet touched on the homeostatic balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. All neurologists, including those chiropractors who have made it their specialty through considerable additional study, admit to living in the shadow of what remains largely unknown.

As I said above, real doctors admit that they don't know everything. That is how science works and why research is done.

Surely this magnificent part of human existence deserves more than to suffer severely limited comment based on 19th Century anatomical knowledge?

Human anatomy was quite well understood in the 19th century. What major discoveries have been made since then that implicate the spine in the range of conditions that chiropractors claim to be able to treat?

The suggestion that "attempts to reform the profession and place it on a scientific basis have been strongly resisted" is scurrilous. There are five or six funded Chairs of Chiropractic Research in Canadian Universities, none of which deliver a first-professional program in chiropractic and are thus "scientifically" independent of the profession.

So you support the continued growth and success of the US-based National Association for Chiropractic Medicine, a group based on the idea that chiropractic can be moved to a position where it can be firmly based on science. Oh, that's right, you can't, because it folded in 2009. The people who set it up finally got sick of the insults and the resistance to science in the chiropractic profession. All they were asking was that chiropractors only perform treatments and procedures for which there was good scientific evidence, but apparently that would have placed too much restriction on practitioners. It is much better to spend money researching better ways to increase the growth of the client base and how to retain patients once they are acquired than it is to try to find evidence of the elusive subluxation.

Two of the three chiropractic programs in Australia's universities are led by chiropractors with a doctorate; the third leader has relevant additional qualifications in a specialty area of practice. The Australian Spinal Research Foundation is the largest chiropractic body in the world to fund chiropractic research, and the Palmer Research Institute in Iowa is richly funded by grants from the US Federal Government.

Where are the results of this research published? I know that grants from the US National Council for Complementary Medicine require publication of even negative results (one reason that they can't give away all the budget) so there must be something somewhere. I would also like to see evidence that the findings of chiropractic research have been adopted outside the profession by specialists such as sports medicine doctors, physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons.

This is a commendable record of scientific performance in the absence of research dollars from the highly profitable drug companies who, in Australia, generate their income largely from public money.

Why is it admirable for chiropractic research to receive government funding but wrong for pharmaceutical companies to receive government money through sales to the PBS?

And then we come to the hoary chestnut of opposition to vaccination. One of the things this writer celebrates about his profession is the breadth of freedom of thought exhibited by its practitioners. Yes, there are chiropractors who have successfully raised their own families without vaccination and there are chiropractors, myself included, where certain vaccinations are accepted.

In the current vaccination schedule recommended by the federal Department of Health, which vaccines do you think are essential and which should not be there?

And of course, there are many in the middle. But as responsible players in Australia's public health arena we do get nervous when we see a vaccine manufacturer allegedly fail to adequately test their product on children and also allegedly fail to adequately control the quality of production.

A lot of "allegedly" there. Are you generally opposed to swine flu vaccination or just concerned, as was everyone else, about the minor problem which arose in Western Australia?

Every parent in Australia is concerned to note a nine times greater incidence of negative reaction in infants recently vaccinated with a certain "seasonal" vaccine. Again, one bought at great expense by public money and then poorly utilised to the extent there has been a gross waste of public resources.

I'm afraid that quoting from the anti-vaccination liar hymn book doesn't inspire confidence that you really don't oppose vaccination.

Do you have a comment about the fact that the CAA, the organisation you represent, were handing out anti-vaccination literature developed by US-based chiropractor Tedd Koren at a recent trade show targeting parents of young children? There is nothing ambiguous about Koren's material. It is packed with lies and is deliberately designed to discourage vaccination. It is also specifically marketed in bulk packs to chiropractors.


A poster and information pack from Tedd Koren. Note the lies
in the first two lines of the ingredient list.


Detail from a Tedd Koren brochure, containing lies that the author (and the
chiropractors he sells the brochures in bulk to) assume are uncheckable by parents.

Do you also have a comment about the award of "Hero of Chiropractic" made in 2000 by the Pediatric Council of the International Chiropractor's Association? It was made to a man who was in prison for murdering a ten-week old baby and was granted on the basis that the child had died from a vaccine reaction, not a savage beating by a vicious thug.

The use of derogatory language is also unhelpful. To infer it is a misconception to see "chiropractors ... (as) ... some sort of back pain specialist(s)" is mischievous, as any cursory review to compare the chiropractic curriculum against the medical curriculum will attest.

Why are back pain specialists treating autism, ADHD, colic and ear infections?

Bowditch may be surprised to note that it is not only the breadth of content but its depth that ensures chiropractors are the experts in non-invasive spinal care.

I met someone recently who is an expert in UFOs. His knowledge of flying saucers was both wide and deep.

He is welcome to visit my University's anatomy lab and pathology museum by arrangement; he may be surprised at the superb quality of the material that underpins the learning undertaken by registered student chiropractors. And yes, student chiropractors are registered under the new National Scheme.

BruceAnd in coming back to the observation that chiropractic now sits between complementary and Western medicine

This dichotomy always amuses me. As Claire said to Elwood in The Blues Brothers: "We got both kinds here, complementary AND Western". What could be more Western than something invented in the USA? Bruce Springsteen sang a song about it.

it must be stated that the National Health Professions Regulation Act ranks chiropractic alongside medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, psychology and a number of other disciplines and applies the same rigid principles of registration. Further, the profession-specific Boards are also charged with the accreditation of educational programs and the public can take heart from the fact that Government is indeed keeping a close eye on the major health disciplines in Australia, of which chiropractic is one. The outcome of this will be a strengthening of what Bowditch recognises as "an excellent health system."

My view is that registration does nothing except allow practitioners of fringe "complementary" modes of "medicine" to assume a cloak of respectability. It is made even worse when education and registration standards are set by the very people who need to be controlled. That something like chiropractic, which contradicts almost all that is known in medicine, can be accepted as a medical profession is not just a tragedy, it is a disgrace.

Perhaps it is time for The Naked Sceptic to move on to a topic about which he actually has contemporary and factual information, instead of filling a few column inches with an old agenda revealing misinformation, ignorance and prejudice.

Yours sincerely,
Associate Professor Phillip Ebrall
Spokesperson, Chiropractors' Association of Australia

Phillip Ebrall is Associate Professor of Chiropractic Education at RMIT University Melbourne, and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the International Medical University in Kuala Lumpur.


Speaking of things I write ... (4/12/2010)
Australasian ScienceMy latest Naked Skeptic column in Australasian Science is now on the newsstands, surrounded by many pages of fine scientific writing by people who aren't recycling their ignorant, cynical bias. Well, that's what I like to think anyway. It is the best popular science magazine in Australia (and I don't just say that because my words appear there) and a subscription is money well spent. My article is about reclaiming the word "skeptic" from the deniers, and you can read it here.


Ham
This doesn't need any comment, does it?


TAM Australia (4/12/2010)
A full report of the proceedings of The Amaz!ng Meeting will appear shortly on the web site and in the magazine of Australian Skeptics, so I won't try to do it here. What I will say is that it was an excellent conference and anybody who didn't have a good time is too hard to please. My friend Geoff Cowan took about 3,500 photographs over the weekend, so I have no doubt that the story when it is told will be as comprehensive as anyone could want.

Randi and me
Not that I am a star-struck fan or anything.

Bonnie
And if you don't understand my name tag it will take too long to explain.

Three awards were announced at the event:

  1. SAVNSkeptic of the Year went to the Facebook group Stop the Australian Vaccination Network. The name of the group sort of says it all, and Cody The Religion Hating Dog and I are very proud to be members. The very existence of the group causes pain to members and supporters of the AVN, but a day spent annoying these disgusting people is never a wasted day. You might ask what purpose a dog serves in the group, but Cody was the very first SAVN member banned from the AVN's Facebook page, and all he did was inform Ms Dorey of the AVN that being microchipped hadn't hurt him and to ask her that although he had an excuse for being barking mad, what was hers? All the members of the group are to be congratulated, but special mention must go to Daniel Raffaele who started everything going.
  2. The Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason was jointly awarded to my friends Ken McLeod and Wendy Wilkinson, who extended the work of SAVN by doing the paperwork and legwork that resulted in actions against the AVN by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission and the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing. Complaining and organising are just part of the process, and Ken and Wendy filled in the gaps and did the work that the rest of us couldn't do.
  3. The Bent Spoon award went to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority for a draft proposal for a national curriculum for high school science across Australia. (The states have their own curricula and this can cause confusion when results are compared across states.) The complaint was that the proposed curriculum virtually ignored evolution and did not include Darwin in the discussion of significant figures in science, both of which give the appearance of either influence by creationists, appeasement of these clowns or simply fear of being controversial. Added to this was the postmodernist, relativist suggestion that aboriginal myths and folklore should be given serious consideration as science.

    A small controversy has erupted in blogworld over this award, most of it driven by teachers who feel aggrieved that their opinions were not sought, have some animosity towards Australian Skeptics, believe that only trained teachers are qualified to comment on teaching matters or all of the above. I am particularly unimpressed by the claim that non-teachers should not be commenting because the matter is outside their expertise as it sounds very much like the whines I get from homeopaths who say that I can't talk about it because I am not trained in it.

    I have no intention of getting involved in the argument (I voted for the award), but I will say that a national teaching curriculum should set the minimum standard, and the minimum for biology has to include explicit inclusion of evolution and exclusion of creationism, any course studying historical figures in science must include Darwin, and superstitions and myths can be dealt with in anthropology and sociology but must be kept a long way from physics, chemistry and biology.

Like all good conferences, the social aspect was very important, and I got to meet many of the people who regularly visit this site. Some of them had very nice things to say about me, but as I am rather modest all I could do was ask them to repeat the praise louder and more often. Joking aside, if I didn't think that people liked what I did I wouldn't bother doing it, but raw visitor statistics are no substitute for meeting the real, live people and putting faces to names. I hope to meet more of you at future events.

For a three-day conference it was remarkable to have about nine social events. I only managed to make it to seven of them. There was the SAVN lunch, where a large number of people were able to put faces to Facebook names, the Oort Cloud of TAM, where people orbiting the event at a distance zoomed in towards the middle, Skeptics in the Pub (of course), Jason Brown's Skepticator Open Mic Night (where I managed to escape from the stage without too many bottles being thrown at me), the harbour cruise dinner (well, it was in Sydney), the obligatory trip to Chinatown (did I mention we were in Sydney?), and a mysterious, impromptu event after the harbour cruise where an infestation of karaoke broke out. As I hate karaoke with a passion, rumours that I sang with George Hrab and rickrolled Sydney by singing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" at the instigation of my daughter are exceedingly scurrilous and will be emphatically denied. Any photographic evidence will obviously have been forged.


See - that can't be me because he's wearing a Power Balance bracelet.


Winning is the way to go (4/12/2010)
Another anti-vaccination lying web site has its feet cut out from under it. My next Australasian Science column (which will appear here in January after the magazine comes out) deals with the way that quacks and pseudoscientists like to be associated with good things in the hope that the goodness rubs off. I have made it a policy to report any quack or anti-vaccination site I see showing the Health on the Net HONCode logo. Sometimes it can take some time for the HONCode people to take action (they have real jobs, just like the rest of us), but it is gratifying when emails like this come in.

Dear Sir,

We would like to thank you for contacting the Health On the Net Foundation (HON) regarding the site : http://www.wisvic.org

as the result of your complaint the site http://www.wisvic.org is not anymore an HONcode certitifed website.

Best regards,

The HONcode team.


Festive season comimg
See more Tree Lobsters here

December 11, 2010

AVN and the truth. Total strangers. (11/12/2010)
I haven't mentioned the Australian Vaccination Network recently, so I thought I would do a quick check to see if by some strange disruption to the fabric of the universe there might be some truth coming out of the organisation. The following message appeared on the AVN's Facebook page on December 4:

ACNEM

You will note the quite clear implication that the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine has a list of doctors who will not vaccinate children. Acting on the reasonable assumption that statements made by the AVN's media spokesperson often require independent verification, a friend of mine wrote to ACNEM to ask for confirmation. The reply included the words:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. As you can probably imagine, we are aware of the issues surrounding the AVN. However, we were not aware of the recent mention of ACNEM you found on the AVN blog.

The blog comment is inaccurate, in that appearing on the ACNEM 'find a practitioner' listing does not imply a particular view on vaccination. For a practitioner to appear on our listing, them must, 1) be a full or associate member of the College, and 2) have attended the Primary Course. As you are probably aware, the Primary Course addresses nutritional and environmental biochemistry relating to many common conditions, not vaccination. Unfortunately, to suggest that a proportion of ACNEM members might stand aside from the GPII immunisation program implies that this may relate to the teaching or policies of the College which is obviously not the case.

ACNEM does not currently have a College position on vaccination, other than to encourage people to discuss the issues with their doctor with a view to arriving at an informed decision, primarily because the issues are multiple, complex and prone to misunderstanding. However, the Board remains abreast of the subject and is investigating whether such a position statement is practicable.

Regarding the comment on AVN's blog, I will advise the Board, and thank you once again for bring it to our attention.

Imagine that. The AVN were claiming support from someone who didn't really agree with them. I wonder how many other organisations have been unwittingly connected to the AVN's perverse agenda to harm children.

A few years ago there was a suggestion by the Australian federal government that everyone be issued with a smart card containing Medicare cardsome details of their medical history. For various reasons, some related to privacy, some to technology and some to paranoia, the idea never went ahead and the system was retained where we can optionally carry a card that can only be used by certain medical practitioners and then only for the purpose of participation in the national subsidised medical care system. It is not a legal form of identification and cannot be requested by anybody outside the system. Australians have accepted this and nobody seems too frightened by it.

I mentioned paranoia about the proposed smart card, and Meryl Dorey from the AVN wasted no time in rushing to the barricades. In a missive predictably titled "Australia's Big Brother Card" she said, inter alia:

Big BrotherTo me, the scariest thing about the health smart card, is that it is only the beginning. The next and most logical step is the use of microchips which will contain all of the same information contained on smart cards but which will be injected into us and read and updated from a distance.

Now, before you start to think that this would never happen and that it's all a bit too much like science fiction, be aware that as of January 1999, the NSW State Government has mandated that all domestic animals be injected with a microchip which would identify them. Pet owners don't have a choice - they must do this by law or face fines.

And how are these chips being put into the family dog or cat? Why, through their vaccines, of course. These microscopic chips are nothing more than contactless health smart cards.

How long will it be before you or your child receive this "gift" from the government? They will sell it to us as a gift too. You will no longer have to worry about robbery because nobody will be carrying cash - this chip will contain your bank details so you can pass your hand over a reader and have the amount of your purchase automatically deducted from your account. Your child will never have to worry about getting lost because they will have an indelible identification mark which would have been inserted at birth. It's all so exciting, don't you think?

Animal microchips are inserted with vaccines? No, they are not. Yes, the microchips are injected, because that is the safest way to get them into the dog, but they are not in vaccines and never have been. In any case, as Cody The Religion Hating Dog pointed out to Ms Dorey just before he was banned from the AVN Facebook page, microchipping of animals doesn't seem to have caused any harm. And as for the prediction that children will be microchipped at birth, well, I did mention paranoia, didn't I? And on the subject of Ms Dorey claiming support from people who have never heard of her, she cites Australian privacy expert Dr Roger Clarke (although she misspells his name). I know Roger Clarke and I have no reason to believe that he has ever supported the aims of the AVN or agreed with the bizarre idea that a health smart card was the top of a slippery slope to a microchipped population. (He was opposed to the health card, but for much more prosaic reasons.)

I wonder when we can expect any truth in any statement from the Australian Vaccination Network.

The AVN has told the truth???


Someone likes my name (11/12/2010)
In 2002 a man named Graham Cooper threatened to put poison in food in supermarkets because Australian Skeptics refused to give him the $100,000 on offer for demonstration of paranormal powers. Unfortunately, Mr Cooper failed to understand that to win the money you have to actually say what you can do and then do it. It is not good enough to simply say that you have performed some unspecified magic trick. As I was the person who told Mr Cooper about the Australian Skeptics challenge, he seems to have now decided, some years Ratsaklater, that it is all my fault that he didn't get the money. (He had already tried to claim the $1,000,000 on offer from James Randi, and Randi had told him to go away and grow up.) He also claims that he was imprisoned for saying "Get back to me in a day or two" in an email but ignores the fact that the next few words were something like "or I will put Ratsak in Dick Smith foods".

Over the last few weeks, Mr Cooper (who calls himself "|-|ercules" and claims that he is the actual Adam from Genesis and is also living a real-life version of The Truman Show, where he is the person whose life is on continuous display) has been posting much nonsense about me to various Usenet newsgroups, most of which have no interest in either him or me, but I just had to laugh at the entry he made in the Urban Dictionary about me. His entry is Number 2, "To graciously invite, then only to dupe. Renege", The stuff about the iPhone has nothing to do with me but is a reflection of Mr Cooper's inability to separate various parts of reality from each other. (He apparently exceeded the allowances on his mobile phone plan and got a much larger bill than he was expecting. Somehow, this is now linked in what passes for his mind with me promising him $100,000 which he didn't get.)

I like definition 1, "The best last name in the world" (and no, I didn't write that), but my wife had to be sedated because of the giggling fit she had when she read the bit about "prodigious libido". I am worried about the blue pus under the eyelids, but not too much.

Urban Dictionary


Time to update the training (11/12/2010)
I
Reiki
See more Close to Home here
once did a three-day course to become a Reiki master, but I haven't been practising lately so my skills probably need a refresher course. I received the following invitation this week:

Reiki Classes in Chicago

We will be presenting Traditional Usui Reiki classes in Chicago on January 8 in the west suburbs. Directions will be sent with registration confirmation.

The classes are all inclusive. At the end of the class you will leave with your certificate. The fees include handout, attunement, and certificate. The level 1 class ($75) will be from 10am-3pm and the level 2 class ($85) will be from 3pm-6pm.

A Reiki Master (level 3) class will be held on Sunday, January 9 at the same location. The classes will be taught by Richard C. Fiallo, Reiki Master. Richard has been teaching and sharing Reiki with others since 1999 and has personally attuned over 1000 different students. The classes are always fun, informing and include lots of hands-on experience

Unfortunately, Chicago in January is not really doable for me, although the price is certainly reasonable. (I assume the Reiki Master class on the Sunday costs the same as the two half-day courses combined.) The only thing that worries me is the "hands-on experience". Surely with Reiki this should be "hands-off experience".

But seriously folks, the next time you see someone advertising that they are a Reiki Master and can treat what ails you, remember that the training takes two days and costs about $300. To become a real doctor takes several years at university and costs as much as a house.



See more Red Meat here


Let's unwrite some music (11/12/2010)
I don't officially declare it the Christmas season until I have heard two songs on the radio. They are "Happy Christmas (War is over)" by John Lennon and "12 Days of Chaos" by Frank Kelly. Once I have heard both I can move on to the real matter of Christmas music, which is to try to find the worst rendition of a classic Christmas carol. I should point out that I make a distinction between Christmas carols and Christmas songs. The former are mostly excellent examples of music written by people who know what they are doing. The latter are generally rubbish. Think "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" versus "Jingle Bells". Part of this distinction arises from the fact that I used to work in a supermarket during the holidays when I was at high school and a couple of weeks of exposure to banal songs about snow and crackling fires can create a life-long aversion. Where I live it is summer (it is 21ºC today, and I live in the cool Blue Mountains where it is often 10 degrees cooler than down on the plains of Sydney) and the only white flakes coming from the sky on Christmas Day are ashes from bushfires. The best use for a red-nosed reindeer is barbequed venison.

What has complicated things lately is the ascendance of Christian pop rock, surely the most mindless drivel to assault our ears since the depths of disco (at least you can dance to hip-hop). There is now a fashion for people who have no creative ability of their own to appropriate the works of others, and there is a formula. Here are the steps to take a Christmas carol and turn it into Christian pop rock.

  1. Pick a beautiful song written by a competent composer.
  2. Replace all ties and slurs with single notes
  3. Remove all modifications to notes - articulation, accidentals, ornaments, ...
  4. Replace all notes with crotchets
  5. Replace all increases in pitch with semitone rises
  6. Replace all decreases in pitch with semitone drops
  7. Remove all key indications - key will be determined by the first note sung, whatever it is
  8. Remove all breath marks and insert some more between the syllables of words (breaths should never be taken in rests)
  9. Orchestrate for guitar using no more than three chords (chords need not be related to notes sung in whatever melody is left)
  10. Add drums. There must be drums.

To find this rubbish I have been subjecting myself to Christian radio stations, and I have come up with three very strong contenders for worst carol rendition of the year. (I must note that I exclude all perversions of "Silent Night", as destroying this lovely piece of music was a tradition long before Christian pop rock oozed out of some megachurch somewhere.) Unfortunately the fashion these days is not to back-announce every song played so I have been trying to find the singers using playlists published on radio station web sites, but often there will be the same song by different people and I have had to guess.

Indisputably in first place at the moment is a performance of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (Words: Charles Wesley, Music: Felix Mendelssohn) performed by someone named Rebecca St James. It has almost all of the points mentioned above and surely must make Jesus cry every time it is performed. Residents of Berlin-Kreuzberg are made aware of every performance by the disturbance in the cemetery when Mendelssohn spins in his grave.

There are two contenders for second place, and both of them have modified the process above by removing part of the song that was too hard to sing and replacing it with "music" written to the formula. The first of these is "Joy To The World" (Words: Isaac Watts, Music: George Handel, arranged by Lowell Watson). Here is the music:

Joy To The World

The section which in the first verse goes "Let every heart prepare him room" to the end of the verse was simply left out and replaced with some meaningless nonsense. I think the "singer" was named Bebo Norman, but I'm not sure I really want to know.

The second is the traditional French carol "Angels We Have Heard On High"

Angels We Have Heard On High

See the chorus "Gloria in excelsis deo"? Gone completely. The part of the song that everyone remembers and which makes it special. Gone. Removed. Ignored. I suppose there were just too many notes there and too long between breaths. And you have to sing it twice. I suspect that this travesty was performed by a group named Relient K, but I'm too shell-shocked to investigate further. They might have a complete album of this stuff.

I suppose things could be worse, though. If any rappers are making Christmas albums I don't want to know about it.



See more Jesus and Mo here




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