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Sydney MindBodySpirit Festival, November 1999

For a change of routine, the staff at the RatbagsDotCom Empire did some field research at the Sydney MindBodySpirit Festival. We had thought of having a stand selling Butt Candles, just because we liked the idea of having live demonstrations of their use. Much more spectacular than ear candles.

Belinda (now 11) and I survived this expedition into the wilds of woowoodom. There seemed to be a lot fewer quack healers than last time, but maybe I was just becoming inured to the stuff. There were certainly more psychics and fortune-tellers.

As usual, I awarded the Scammy Awards to those who I thought deserve them:

Best Thing At The Show: Musician Tim Wheater, who does really great chanting, flute and didgeredoo stuff. A bit newage, but less cynically commercial than the better-known Tony O'Connor. I bought a CD which will lower my blood pressure.

Worst Sight At The Show: I was going to say a book by Principal Research Scientist (retired) Dr Viera Scheibner PhD, but that would just be showing my prejudices. The worst sight was definitely a lady of ample proportions (let's be honest, she was whale-like) who was being given Ancient Hawaiian Bodywork with essential oils. People may comment on my shape, but I wasn't the one appearing almost naked and being greased and pummelled in a way that frightened the children.

Most Egregious Case Of Opportunism: The vacuum cleaner people whose only connection with the theme of the show was that their machines could catch dust and so prevent asthma. (Don't they know you prevent asthma by avoiding vaccination and then using homeopathic Ventolin?)

Best Sidestep Of The Day: Me, avoiding the issue when the man on the Nexus Magazine stand asked me to explain what "Quintessence of the Loon" meant on my t-shirt. I bought three random back issues of the magazine and all contained mentions of people who have featured in Quintessence.

Gadget Of The Show: I still like the Orgasmatron head scratcher, but that won last time, so this time the award goes to an automatic shiatsu massager. This is an electric device which attaches to a chair back and massages the lower back of anyone sitting in the chair. It cannot be adequately described in polite company, and quite possibly could not be demonstrated on TV even after midnight. All I will say is that you should imagine a large pair of sheepskin-covered lips chewing something tasty.

Note: people keep writing to me asking where they can get an Orgasmatron. Try here.

Best Food: The hippie lady with the excellent caramels wasn't there this time, so it had to go to the birdseed mix on wholegrain bread, which didn't taste all that bad (but I only had a small serving). Runner up was the stand with the Mexican chilli dips, but that was actually orthodox food. They were also runners up in the Egregious Opportunism section. (I bought a bottle of fiery sauce.)

Most Misunderstood Object: The single bong among lots of artefacts from the mystic east. I don't think it was meant to be there, but the close presence of my attentive offspring made it hard to explain its use to the stall holder.

Stand Having The Most Fun: Legal High Herbs, who had a large range of natural, herbal mind-altering substances. The did not, however, seem to have any natural, herbal "herb". Perhaps that is now a conventional medicine and not allowed at the show. This stand was in the running for Most Disgraceful Exhibit as well, but it is hard to be harsh on a bunch of brain-damaged hippies, especially when one of them was wearing a wonderful multi-hued mad hatter's hat.

Most Disgraceful Exhibit: Belinda thought she saw someone who could cure diabetes, but when we went back they were only claiming to cure ADHD with extract of clover. (This annoyed her enough, because every 5th grader knows you just control it with Ritalin until kids grow out of it.) There were no really outrageous stands this time, so I gave the award to some colloidal metal spruikers because they mentioned diabetes on a sign (but not in their literature).

Most Deceptive Practice: Jointly awarded to all the pyramid scheme marketers who were there pretending that their products were what they really wanted to sell.

Procedure I Least Wanted To Know More About: The Ayurvedic Tongue Cleanse.

Greatest Disappointment: I missed seeing Suzi Quatro.

All in all, it was a great show and a lot more fun than watching the teams of expensive lawyers and accountants competing in the dragon boat races outside in Cockle Bay. The venue is a bit crowded and some of the exhibitors I spoke to were annoyed at the small spaces allocated for their stands, but not much can be done about that. The show is a victim of its success, but the way the Darling Harbour exhibition centre is laid out means that the incremental cost of taking more space could kill the whole festival.


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