A long time ago, I wrote about the Oklahoma Capitol Ten Commandments monument. Yeah, the one carved by people who couldn’t spell and the subject of an ACLU lawsuit.

Since then, a number of groups, including Satanists, Hindus, Animal Rights Activists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, have contacted the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission about putting up monuments of their own. This left the Oklahoma legislators shitting a brick, and hilarity ensued in the local media.

Now, there is a new development. Yesterday, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission unanimously voted to impose a moratorium on any new monuments being built on the capitol grounds.

This is banana crazypants for two reasons.

First, it means that the people in charge at the Oklahoma State Capitol know they are in deep trouble legally. They simply cannot come up with a legal criteria for denying Satanists et al (and if a little birdy I know is correct, possibly atheists soon) a monument that will pass muster with the courts.

Second, it is going to make the ACLU lawsuit even more of a slam dunk than it is already. I can’t wait to see the Hindus and Satanists fill friend of the court briefs claiming they are currently being denied the opportunity to place a monument while the Ten Commandments are prominently on display, and now with correct spelling.

Right now, the Satanists have an IndieGoGo page up to take donations for their proposed monument. No word yet on what will happen now that it looks like it won’t be happening.

For more details on this story, and frequent updates, keep track of Hehmant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog.

To celebrate the return of my laptop from the doctor, I decided to make a Saturday trip to the Oklahoma State Fair in search of blog fodder.

Between wine, beer, and going to Disney on Ice with my wife and daughter, I was able to make a run through of the Cox Pavilion in search of health scams. They weren’t very hard to find.

The first thing I ran across was a chiropractor diagnosing people using a bogus device called the MyoVision Static Graphic. Basically, his assistant would place these two things on each side of your vertebrae and click them. After moving up and down your back, a printout would display the misalignment of your back.

This is a total scam, for a number of reasons. First, chiropractic itself is a scam. It is to America what homeopathy is to Europe. The entire theoretical concept behind chiropractic is that subluxations of one’s spine accounts for a whole variety of ailments, and that by cracking the back into place a chiropractor can solve these ailments. The inventor of chiropractic claimed to have cured blindness in his first patient just with spine manipulation.

Chiropractic is nothing more than very invasive, and potentially life-threatening, placebo. In my opinion, it shouldn’t even be legal. At best, it is no more therapeutic than a strong massage. At worst, it can cause strokes.This product the chiropractor was using also can’t do what its manufacturers claim. If you look on the Myvision website, you’ll find plenty of pretty pictures and testimonials. What you won’t find is clinical research. The reason is that, clinical research has shown that Myovision isn’t effective. Since it can’t meet the criteria for being a useful medical device, it is aiming its product at people who aren’t real medical professionals…namely chiropractors. The fact that these people were using Myovision to diagnose potential patients and get them to come in to their clinic, shows that they aren’t trustworthy or they’re incompetent.

The second health scam booth I visited was hawking Foot Relief Insoles. Insoles are fine and all. Dr. Scholes never hurt anybody, but these guys were making health claims that were bonkers. They had this chart…

chart

Here is a link to a less blurry version of a similar chart that conveys the same idea in more detail.foot-reflexology-chart1

This is a very common chart in the reflexology world. Reflexology is basically the chiropractic of foot massage, with a little acupuncture theory thrown in for good measure. Just as chiropractors claim that back manipulation can cure a variety of ailments, Reflexologists claim that massaging specific places on the feet can help things like kidney function and thyroid problems. This is complete hogwash. Don’t buy your insoles from people claiming they can help your kidneys work better. Their claims are full of piss.

The next booth on the list was selling Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulations (TENS).

Blurry scam is blurry

Blurry scam is blurry

This is a very fancy way of saying things that electrocute you through your skin. The idea is that by electrocuting yourself, you can relieve pain. While this on its face isn’t completely ludicrous, we do have electroshock therapy for brain disorders after all, they “HOW DOES IT WORK?” section on their website gives away just how bs this product really is.According to the website, TENS makes use of qi and ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ as the theoretical explanation for how it relieves pain.

Word of advice, if a website selling a medical device has a testimonials tab, a ‘how it works’ section that mentions Chinese medicine, and includes vague references to studies or ‘research shows’ without ever actually citing a paper in a reputable medical journal, you’ve got a health scam on your hands. Run away.

Our next product is the Euro Body Shaper.

body shakebody shake2

Yes, it does what it looks like. It is a weight loss machine that claims to exercise you by shaking the weight off. That anyone would actually fall for this makes me die a little on the inside. The only possible response to this silliness is…
fat belt

It was a scam then and it is a scam now.

Finally, for nostalgia sake, I include the handwriting analysis machine. This machine is great because it isn’t even pretending to be real. It has this massive bank of what is supposed to be old-timey computers, and if you give them money they’ll effectively give you the equivalent of a fortune cookie slip.

Love it.

Love it.

The reason this is so great is because it puts all of the other scams that are trying to pretend to be real in context. It is like placing a Cleveland Grandma Fortune Teller Machine in a room full of would-be psychics.

Technical issues.

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

My laptop is on its way back to the manufacturer for repairs. In the mean time, barring something I just can’t let get by, I won’t be writing any posts for the next two weeks.

I recently attended a gnostic mass at Sekhet Bast Ra, the Oklahoma chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis, an occult organization that practices sex magick.

You can seem my full story on it here.

Azathoth

[Photo credit: KFOR]

According to KFOR, last week someone installed a concrete monument on the lawn in front of the Paseo Grill with the inscription “In the year of our lord 2012 Creer Pipi claimed this land for Azathoth.”

Fans of H. P. Lovecraft will recognize the name Azathoth from his various works, including The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kaddath, The Dreams in the Witch House, and The Haunter of the Dark, among others. In Lovecraft’s writings, Azathoth is a god of chaos that lives at the center of the cosmos. You don’t want to meet him.

It seems clear from the inscription and appearance of the monument, that it is not brand new. Apparently, someone uprooted it from another location and dumped it on the front lawn. Then again, I like to think that it fell out of a hole in the universe and is the belated herald of the nightmare that is to come.

The owners of the Paseo Grill were told by the police that they are responsible for removing the heavy monument themselves. They are giving it a week for someone to contact them and claim the thing before they have it removed. For all of our sakes, I implore them not to disturb the pillar. One does not want to draw the attention of Azathoth.

I’ll continue to cover this story as it unfolds.

Checking in…

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

It may look like I’ve fallen off the map, but I’ve actually still been writing. Not having the pressure to put up a piece every weekday has actually given me the energy to put do a little field trip and put together a long-form piece about it. That has now gone off to the editor at OKC.net, and I’ll put up a post about it here as soon as it is published.

There have been a number of stories over the last week that I would normally have written about, and I’ll be getting to a few of them soon. Look for a post or two a week for the near future.

First tattoo

Posted: August 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Editor’s Note: Back in July, my friend Dana got a tattoo. She’d railed against tattoos for years, so I asked her to write up a story on why she changed her mind. Here is that story.

Tiger_tattoo

Sunday I got my first tattoo. This may not seem like such a big deal, but anyone who knows me will be shocked and confused at worst and amazed and confused at best. The thing is, I used to be a pretty avid tattoo hater. Okay, hater may be a bit strong, but I definitely had strong negative opinions about them and the people who had them.

As is so often the case, our first encounter or experience with something can significantly influence our entire world view regarding that thing. In my case my first experience with a tattooed individual was a guy named Mike when I was an impressionable and opinionated 17-year-old. His entire body was a solid tattoo of a dragon. I hated it. I thought it was ugly. He boasted that it took him seven years to complete and cost as much as a small house. He was also a drunk, a crack head and an abusive boyfriend to my sister. I hated his tattooed guts to my very core. Is it really any wonder that the culture and the man became one in my head?

Right, wrong or otherwise, there you have it. I decided that tattooed people had to be losers, lower class citizens who could never amount to much. After all, didn’t society in general dislike people with tattoos? But I had this tiny little problem.

Several of my dearest friends in the world sported tattoos. I didn’t find those tattoos repulsive. How could I? My best friends had them and they weren’t lower class citizens. How did I get around this disconnect? I ignored it most of the time and when I couldn’t, they became the exception that proved the rule.

Then about two months ago I went to England with my husband, daughter and 18-year-old brother-in-law, who has a rather crude tattoo on his wrist. I can’t remember what started the conversation, but it amounted to a thirty minute back and forth between the two of us, him demanding I defend my dislike and me ultimately unable to. With increasing frustration and growing irritation, I finally ended it by saying, I know it makes no sense and isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now give it up. We have to go catch a cab.

Now I had a real problem. The conversation kept playing in my head. Over and over again I would hear myself say ridiculous, biased things and picture my friends in my mind and the amount of discord was astonishing. I could no longer ignore the fact that what I thought and felt about tattoos and the people who had them was not only wrong but ugly and unwarranted. I didn’t like the person I was while saying those things. But how do you go about dropping 20 odd years of bias and discrimination?

Well, I started by looking at tattoos and the people who had them. I mean really looking at them. I tried to identify what it was about the tattoo I did or didn’t like and what that made me think about the person who had it. And what I discovered, much to my astonishment, was this really wonderful world of art I had so far ignored. Holy cow. Tattoo artists are just that. Artists. And the people who have tattoos are simply art fiends who love art so much they want to take it with them every where they go. Not only that, most tattoos have significance to the wearer, which makes the art they wear extremely personal.

It was like someone had taken a pair of glasses from my eyes and suddenly there was this rich, beautiful world out there full of people who are not only not losers with no self-respect but quite the opposite. It takes a great deal of self-respect to wear a tattoo. What a liberating realization. Now I could look at my friends and love them AND their tattoos without feeling conflicted and confused.

But it didn’t end there. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of getting a tattoo of my own grew on me. I had always loved this one tattoo my sister had of a cat face. It was small, at the nape of her neck and consisted of the eyes, nose and whiskers of her cat.

Remember, I made exceptions when I couldn’t account for my attitude. Add to the fact I am a cat lover to the bone and it isn’t hard to see why I liked this tattoo.

When I gave my husband the gift of a tattoo for his birthday, something he has wanted to do for a long time and never did because he knew how I felt about them, I decided I wanted to go with him and get one of my own. I told him what I wanted to do but he said a tiger would be more my style. I liked the idea and began to look around for tiger tattoos. In the process of looking at tattoo artists work, I ran across some very real-looking tigers and I was intrigued. As the idea grew and the image in my head of an ethereal kind of tiger face coalesced in my mind, I got excited about getting a tattoo.

I didn’t tell anyone else I was going to get one. Partly because I wanted to experience the shock factor (who wouldn’t, right?) and partly because I honestly had no idea how they would react. This was, of course, a complete reversal of my earlier stance. Wouldn’t getting one make me the biggest hypocrite?

What I didn’t expect was how I would feel when I walked through the door of 15th Street Tattoo in Edmond. I didn’t expect the sudden sense of discomfort, the overwhelming need to run away as fast as I could, the knowledge, the bone deep certainty that I did not belong here. What was I thinking? Wouldn’t I become one of those people? The very person I had looked down on for most of my life? It certainly wasn’t the shop. The people in it were friendly, it was very clean and tasteful, beautiful art hung on the walls. What I was feeling was full on bias confrontation. I had stepped into the heart of the world I had for so long disliked and my unconscious and conscious biases were surfacing with a vengeance. It was overwhelming and discouraging. I wanted to give up on the whole idea and slink away with my tail between my legs, pretend I had never been there.

There was just one small problem. My husband had no such inclination. He rolled right up to the counter and told the girl there he wanted to talk to someone about getting a tattoo. I had to stay. I had to face the bias. I had to listen to the artist, Matt, talk to him and them watch as he sketched out an idea. I checked my calendar to make sure the consultation appointment they set up would work with our schedule.

Then almost without realizing it, I was asking to talk to Grapes, the artist that had attracted my attention with the realistic looking tigers and the next thing I know, I am talking to the guy who wanted to draw his masterpiece on my back. The discomfort eased a little, I felt less uncomfortable, but still felt out-of-place and disjointed.

I told Grapes what I wanted and he said if I wanted something real looking, it was going to have to be bigger. Gulp. I wanted something small. Enough to say I had one but not too presumptuous. Nothing big or gaudy. He traced out how big he wanted to make it. It wasn’t too bad, but still three times the size I wanted. But I gulped down my anxiety about it and asked when he could make the appointment.

I did not expect it when he said he could do it right then. Until he found out I hadn’t eaten, that is. So we scheduled it for noon the next day. I spent the next 19 hours worrying that I had made the wrong choice. I wanted to back out, give it up as a fool’s errand. But I had no way to contact Grapes so at noon the next day, I was standing at 15th Street tattoo once more, only this time I was fully prepared to tell him, thanks, but no thanks. I had changed my mind.

That is, until I saw the design. It was gorgeous. It was alive. It was perfect. I wanted it on my back and just like that, the bias was gone. I let him put it on my back and when I came back two days later with my husband for his consult with Matt, I felt at ease. People were coming over to me and admiring the tattoo. My tattoo. Just like that, I became a member of the club. I get it now. I find myself talking to total strangers about first my tattoo and then theirs. We share stories, I get glimpses into total strangers personal space. I feel a little more connected to the human race and I find it a really amazing place to be. I suffered through the pain of the actual inking process and came out the other side a better person.

I wish I could share the sense of total liberation I feel at overcoming this bias. What a wonderful world we would live in if we could all get into an argument with an 18-year-old and come out the other side a better human being. Here’s to you, Andrew.