Rhonda Byrne’s Dirty Little Secret

The Other Secret

The full story of how Rhonda Byrne turned a positive thinking realization into “the greatest success story in the annals of viral marketing”-–to quote The American Spectator-–is only now emerging in court papers filed in the US and Australia, and from interviews with the participants. To Byrne, it’s the story of a small group of people bringing “joy to the world”; to some of those involved it’s a story of hypocrisy and ruthless double-dealing.

Like many of her public utterances, the message that Australia’s platinum-haired self-help guru Rhonda Byrne sent out last November to her millions of followers was a rhapsodic outpouring of goodwill. Thanksgiving Day was approaching in the United States, where Byrne now lives in a Californian celebrity enclave just up the road from Oprah Winfrey’s 17-hectare, neo-Georgian estate, and the creator of the New-Age blockbuster The Secret wanted to remind the world about the crucial importance of gratitude.

“Remember,” Byrne wrote, “if you are criticising, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”

Those are worthy sentiments, but it was an odd time for Byrne to be expressing them because her lawyers had just sued two of the very people who were instrumental in launching her book and film The Secret to phenomenal success. Continue reading Rhonda Byrne’s Dirty Little Secret

The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

What is Zen?

Zen Buddhism is a way and a view of life which does not belong to any of the formal categories of modern Western thought. It is not a religion or a philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as a “way of liberation,” and is similar in this respect to Taoism, Vedanta, and Yoga. A way of liberation can have no positive definition. It has to be suggested by saying what it is not, somewhat as a sculptor reveals an image by the act of removing pieces of stone from a block.
– Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

If Zen has no positive definition, then everything is Zen. And if everything is Zen, then naturally every blog is Zen too. Right?

Actually, this argument is a perfect illustration of New Age rhetorical misdirection. While one can say that everything is Zen in its transcendent sense, such a statement cannot serve as the premise for an immanent logical conclusion. In other words: Zen proves nothing, by definition.

Applying transcendent or non-dual definitions to conventional worldly contexts is a popular tactic amongst false gurus. Continue reading The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

James Randi’s Million Dollar Hustle

In medical science, one must pay attention not to plausible theorizing, but to experience and reason together.
— Hippocrates

The James Randi Educational Foundation has not validated any extraordinary human ability; ergo, none is likely to exist.
— Anonymous crank

Are psi and other forms of mental kung fu real? Some research suggests that they are, but to properly evaluate the data, you need a solid background in experimental design, statistical probability, and the subject itself. Science is hard.

Supposition and common-sense appeals are easy, and unlike research data, they always support the desired outcome. A suitable bit of folk wisdom can be found to justify any emotional investment.

For example, if you want to master a difficult new skill, you’ll remember that practice makes perfect; later, if you become frustrated and finally give up, it is only because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is all ex post facto rationalization—not reason, and certainly not science.

So belief and disbelief are not two poles on the spectrum of opinion, or two sides of the same coin. They are both on the same side of the coin. There is nothing inherently rational about a default to skepticism, it’s just another bias.

Maybe we can do better than that. Continue reading James Randi’s Million Dollar Hustle

Is This The End of Mixed Martial Arts?

In the past few years, mixed martial arts has enjoyed remarkable commercial success. Some fans imagine that its popularity is a result of its vast technical superiority over traditional martial arts styles. But neither MMA techniques nor training methods are particularly innovative; much of what you see in the competition ring was pioneered decades or even centuries ago.

The recent success of the MMA product is best explained with a sociological model, not a technical one; and this model predicts an inevitable fall from grace. MMA will decay, like every style before it, into a traditional martial art. Continue reading Is This The End of Mixed Martial Arts?

Reduce Karmic Debts up to 60% with Karma Consolidation

Stop Paying For A Past Life!


Photo Credit: Arnþór Snær

By consolidating your bad karma you can reduce your karmic debt up to 60%. This means by paying off your bad karma in one or two short misadventures you can avoid paying for a bad mistake for the rest of your life little by little. By getting what you deserve all at once it is possible to show the universe you are aware you are a bad person, and we can help by convincing the universe to go easy on you. Even if you haven’t learned your lesson we can trick the powers that be into thinking you have. Continue reading Reduce Karmic Debts up to 60% with Karma Consolidation

The Legend of Bagua Chang

Separating martial fact from fiction is a perilous task.  If you are too credulous, you may be tricked into joining a fraudulent kung fu cult.  On the other hand, if you are too skeptical, you will cut yourself off from real high-level skills.  “Common sense” is an unreliable guide, because it is grounded in your own limited experience, and odds are you’ve never met a legitimate master.

For this and other reasons, I do not use my website to mock other martial arts and artists.  Sometimes, though, I hear a story so fantastical that I just cannot resist the urge to share it.  Continue reading The Legend of Bagua Chang

The Story of a Martial Arts Blog

This is a continuation of Give Thanks to Your Blogging Inspirations.

Until recently, I had no interest in marketing.  Like so many other scientists and engineers, I considered marketing a necessary evil, unworthy of my own efforts. 

Continue reading The Story of a Martial Arts Blog

Defining the Internal Martial Arts

The classification of Chinese martial arts into two families—internal and external—is generally accepted without question. Despite its popularity, the precise definition and significance of these families is not universally agreed upon.

What is the origin of the internal/external categorization? And what should it mean to you as a martial artist? Continue reading Defining the Internal Martial Arts

Kung Fu Version 2.0

Version History

Kung Fu version 1.0 was released at the dawn of human history, and it was truly a killer app.  Though it contained only two basic features—kill people and kill animals—it was useful in solving the problems of the prehistoric age. 

Kung Fu 1.0 provided end-users with critical advantages in the constant struggle for food, and an opportunity to reproduce.  By leveraging bleeding-edge innovations in Rock and Stick technology, early adopters were able to live to the ripe old age of 30 years, and perhaps even become grandparents. Continue reading Kung Fu Version 2.0