WooWoo


A few days ago Violet Towne and I were down on the south coast of Victoria on a short break. On a day too rainy and bleak to be at the seaside we dropped into an antique and junk place for a rummage, as we like to do, and I was delighted to discover, in one of the more secluded nooks of the building, a framed print of one of the Giovanni Bragolin ‘Crying Boys’.

I was surprised to find that VT did not know the story of the ‘curse’ associated with the Crying Boy, and I thought I might take this opportunity to recap it here for others of you who may not have encountered this quirky piece of urban legend.

Giovanni Bragolin – known also as Bruno Amadio – was a trained classical painter and probably painted the original Crying Boy portraits – all variations on a similar theme – sometime in the early 1950s. It is likely that they were created specifically to sell to tourists as a money-making venture. Whatever the case, at some point Bragolin was evidently fortunate enough to secure a deal to have the paintings copied and printed and made widely available in English department stores in the late 1950s. There were probably many thousands made.1

For reasons that escape me personally, the Crying Boys were monumentally popular and ended up in households all over Britain (and elsewhere in lesser numbers). And there they hung for decades, doing nothing more confronting than offending the sensibilities of those with good taste. Until…

On the 4th of September 1985, Britain’s popular tabloid, the Sun, ran a story about a fire that destroyed the home of Ron and May Hall, a working class couple from the town of Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The couple put the blame for the blaze on the ‘unlucky’ portrait of the Crying Boy which hung in their living room, which – according to the report – escaped the fire completely unscathed. Not only that, said the Sun, but it was common knowledge among firemen that there had been numerous other instances of this same scenario unfolding in blazes across England: homes devastated by fire, watched over by the completely untouched portrait of a Crying Boy. The picture, the firemen said, was cursed.2

The next day the Sun ran a followup story claiming that their offices had been flooded with calls from readers with pictures of the Crying Boy on their walls, all fearing that they might become victims of the jinxed painting. And so the legend of the Curse of the Crying Boy was born.

Some stories are just made to gather momentum, and this was one. Everyone had a ‘friend of a friend’ who had been affected in some way by the image. Rumours grew that not only did the painting survive house fires, but it could not be burned even if you tried. People who attempted to get rid of the picture fell afoul of bad luck, and some even reported seeing it move on the wall all by itself.

To add kerosene to the flames, it turned out that there were numerous incarnations of the Crying Boy theme painted by other artists – it was a veritable plague of Crying Boys. As I mentioned earlier, they were – puzzlingly – exceptionally popular, and the conjecture must be that in the 70s and 80s in England, if there was a house fire anywhere there was a fair to middling chance that the tenants were in possession of a Crying Boy. This possibly goes at least a little way towards providing some basis for the idea of the curse, but in all probability it can mostly be put down to a case of overactive imaginations and rumour run riot.3

The Sun (perhaps in a moment of conscience, but probably more because they knew how to ride a story to death) did a shout out to readers who were afraid that the picture might bring them ill luck. Send them to us, they said, and we’ll dispose of them for you! The offices of the paper had soon accumulated a staggering 2,500 copies of the Crying Boy, which demonstrates two things clearly, I think: just how popular the damn thing was, and also how frighteningly superstitious the readers of the Sun were.

In an act that just smacks of the British tabloid mindset of the 1980s, on Halloween 1985, Sun employees stacked the prints into a huge pile and they were set ablaze by a popular Page 3 girl. It could only have been more perfect if she’d been topless.

An urban legend isn’t quelled quite so neatly, though, and the Curse of the Crying Boy didn’t simply go up in smoke with the bonfire. Over the next decade it neatly transmogrified from fleeting newspaper titillation into full-blown myth, and lives on today, with many new riffs on the original story. Hang a Crying Boy next to a Crying Girl (yes, they exist too), it is said, and the bad luck will be thwarted. Hang ten copies of the Crying Boy together and the bad vibes are similarly dissipated (you’ll need some good luck finding ten copies these days, though). Whole narratives have arisen around the artist who painted the original picture and the supposed identity of the Boy himself, all with little or no basis in fact. Stories of disasters involving the Boy now come from countries all across the world and he is so embedded in popular culture that he even sports a Facebook page, of sorts.4

But I can sense the question on your minds, Faithful Cowpokes: did I buy the copy I saw? Sadly, I didn’t. I probably should have, but the truth is that I wasn’t totally familiar with the version hanging in the antique shop, and didn’t know if it was ‘the real deal’ as it were. That’s why I snapped the pic of it that you saw above – I wanted to check its provenence (there was no mobile reception, otherwise I’d have done it on the spot).

Oh, and anyway, as if I’d hang it in my house. Are you crazy?

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UPDATE: The Crying Boy spotted on eBay in Israel. Printed on a magnet! (WARNING: May cause your fridge to burst into flames)

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UPDATE #2: VT bought me one for a present! It now hangs in my office.

  1. Actual statistics are hard to come by, with various reports citing quantities from 50,000 to a quarter of a million, but given the widespread popularity of the prints, and the fact that they still turn up in junk shops on the other side of the planet, we can be fairly sure that a large number of them were made. []
  2. No fireman actually said this, as it turns out, but the Sun was very happy to let the implication stick. []
  3. There are many ‘supernatural’ explanations, of course, but they are banal and tedious and probably without any foundation in fact. You can, if you are so inclined, chase them up via the excellent Fortean Times redux of the Crying Boy Curse. []
  4. It’s a bit of a pathetic effort, really, and could be HUGELY more entertaining in my opinion. []

The last year has veritably flown by, Faithful Acowlytes, and we find ourselves once more at the beginning of our favourite festival: World Homeopathy Awareness Week. At this time we remind ourselves that it is our responsibility – nay, our duty – to make sure the world is aware of homeopathy, and today on TCA I will be doing my bit, because I believe everyone should be aware of homeopathy. Specifically, I think everyone should be very aware of what a total crock of shit it is.

Over at World Homeopathy Org we learn that this year is a very special year in which we are focussing on homeopathy for trauma and disasters.

Via a series of rotating banner images, World Homeopathy Org is giving us some idea of just how awesome and amazing homeopathy truly is with its many and varied uses. The image above, for example, tells us that homeopathy is surely your first stop after being struck by lightning – something of which I was unaware, but there you go.

Homeopathy is a sure-fire prophylactic for bad weather in general as we see in our next slide.

Yes, the debilitating effects of stormy seas can be addressed by homeopathy – remember, we don’t mean merely seasickness here, because this is Trauma and Disaster Week. No, my friends, we’re surely talking about the medical aftermath brought on by massive storms and tsunamis. Homeopathy is a veritable life preserver for such events…

As it is in the case of cyclones and tornadoes…

I know it’s the first thing I’d think of after my house was ripped to smithereens by a 400 mile per hour wind.

“Goodness, that was terrifying. Better take some homeopathy to help with this severed artery.”

Homeopathy also comes into play in the tragic circumstances of awful graphic design.

In this case, we see a graphic designer almost at the point of suicide after depicting himself quite badly as being almost at the point of suicide. He really needs homeopathy.

Homeopathy is also what you should turn to in the traumatic event that you discover you have freckles and have been processed with a crummy Photoshop filter.

Well, it can’t hurt, right?

But seriously folks, back to the war zones.

If you should find yourself being on the wrong end of a policeman’s truncheon whilst simply attempting to carry out your job as war correspondent, why not pop some Arnica 30c? It’s also good if you get tear-gassed. Fumbling around to find the bottle will surely take your mind off the excruciating acidic blinding sensations for, oh, a nanosecond or two. And if you’re really bolshie, maybe you can smear a little Natrum Phosphoricum ointment on that thug attacking you – he really looks like he needs some calming down.

But the next slide is getting down to the nitty gritty.

Here we see a young girl who has plainly lost everything she has, and is in the depths of despair. If there is something she really needs here, it’s homeopathy. Am I right?

And should the disasters get even more terrifying – we’re talking about world scale cataclysms brought on by wayward asteroids – homeopathy will really come to the fore.

When I look at the above image, I am seriously hoping that the people in those houses have dosed themselves up sufficiently on Calcarea Carbonica and Arsenicum. It’s surely the only way they’re going to survive ten million tons of water crushing them into a soggy bloody pulp.

The last slide in our presentation gives us an overview of the incredible range and depth of possibilities that might be addressed with homeopathic insight:

My goodness! Terrorism, droughts, volcanoes, landslides, nuclear radiation, bombings, blizzards, avalanches and locusts! Is there nothing that can’t be made better with homeopathy? That’s a rhetorical question, because no, there isn’t.

Homeopathy! The cure that’s so effective that nearly two centuries from its inception no-one can provide a single incontrovertible example of it actually working.

Let’s close with our favourite video of homeopathy’s most persuasive spokeswoman because, well, because I know you want it. Happy World Homeopathy Awareness Week, y’all!

Say what you will about the various social media, there is one thing at which they really excel: providing a brand new platform for the endless circulation of the kind of inane and poorly informed pop ‘wisdom’ that we love so much here on TCA. Just recently, for example, I’ve been sent the same exhortation about five times to sign an Avaaz petition against Bayer for being responsible (via their manufacture and marketing of insecticides called neonicotinoids) for bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Now, while I don’t particularly hold with the use of Bayer’s products, and don’t even particularly like Bayer as a company, this irks and frustrates me. What Avaaz is doing here is piggybacking an agenda on top of an emotionally-charged issue to give the impression that CCD is being caused by one simple mechanism, and that Bayer should be held responsible. As I’ve written before, it is far from being quite that simple.1 Unfortunately, very few people who get the link to the Avaaz petition will know much, if anything, about bee Colony Collapse Disorder, and not bother to take the trouble to research the Avaaz claims. And so the ‘OMG! The Bees Are Dying Sign the Petition’ suggestion will no doubt circulate for another few weeks, etching into people’s minds the notion that Evil Bayer is Killing Bees (supplanting the previously-etched notion in most of those same people’s minds that the culprit was mobile phones).23

Anyhoo, that’s all really just a way of introducing the real subject of today’s post, which is another wonderful social media ‘advice’ epidemic which also concerns honey. Honey and cinnamon, in fact. It’s very lengthy, so I’m not copying it here, but you should really go have a look at it so you can witness the true scale of its stupidity (you can find it linked just about everywhere across the net, so ubiquitous has it become).

Synopsizing, it begins with a warning that ‘Drug companies won’t like this one getting around!’ and goes on to list ways in which the combination of honey and cinnamon will cure EVERYTHING. Well, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

Here are just some of the troubles that you will no longer have if you imbibe and/or smear yourself liberally with honey and cinnamon:

•Heart Disease
•Arthritic pain
•Bladder infections
•Colds
•Weight gain
•Stomach ailments
•Gas
•Cancer (oh yes)
•Pimples
•Aging (!)
•Hearing loss.

I’m totally sure the drug companies would be mightily pissed off if there was even a grain of truth in any of it, but there ain’t so they happily continue with their business of converting their piles of cash into cocaine and snorting it off stripper’s tits.4

The long list of cures ends with the folksy signoff: ‘Remember when we were kids? We had toast with real butter and cinnamon sprinkled on it! Re-post!’

Because, you know, we never had any of those problems when we were kids, right? Except for the poor tykes with cancer who obviously didn’t eat their cinnamon toast.

The thing that really ticks me off is the completely undiscriminating way in which this stupid piece of internet diarrhoea is pooped all across the various social media platforms even by those who should know a LOT better. This is the internet, people. It should be the work of moments to find out the bona fides of this gob of banal hogwash.

And moments it takes. Less than thirty seconds of Searching™ turns up the original source of the Cinnamon and Honey gumpf:

That’s right, Space Cadets. The provenance of this piece of 21st Century wisdom is an article published in 1995 by that veritable shining bastion of scientific respectability, The Weekly World News. It’s travelled down almost two decades unscathed. What’s that you say? What other scientific discoveries has WWN delivered up? I’m so glad you asked.

I mean, for fuck’s sake. Who’s going to believe Dick Cheney is a robot? We all know perfectly well that he’s really a lizard!5

  1. As we have seen time and time again here on TCA, human beings just lurve to fall for the most simplistic solutions to complex problems. Our brains shy away from complexity. We are not made to cope with it, and we deal with it badly. []
  2. What’s actually killing bees, my friends, is that voracious, deadly scourge of the planet Earth – human beings. Our demand for cheap honey (and for cheap fruit and flowers and grains and all the plants that the bees rely on to make that honey) is creating a population pressure on the bees that is just not something that they cope with well. We’ve made bees into something they are not, for our own purposes, and while that works to an extent, it is truly not surprising that it is not a sustainable prospect. []
  3. One friend commented to me that surely the fact that Bayer was not necessarily responsible for CCD is irrelevant if they’re doing something environmentally irresponsible – an ‘end-justifies-the-means’ argument, if you will. That’s all well & good – maybe the petition will get one environmentally undesirable substance out of the way BUT the bees will still be dying. It deflects the view of the public away from addressing the actual problems, and so is, in my opinion, doing more harm than good. []
  4. This is a colourful metaphor, intended to provide humour. It is not meant to imply that drug companies make huge swodges of profit at the expense of our health. Because we know that they are all doing it for the love of humankind. []
  5. This QED really is SOOOO much better than I could ever have hoped for. I wish all rubbish of this kind was so easily slapped down. []

I have often said, Faithful Acowlytes, in my many long rants, that if someone provided evidence of some daft contentious claim or other I would, like any good scientest and skeptic, be completely prepared change my mind.

It appears that today is that day.

You may remember my post Hunting Unicorns, in which I talked about my personal path to my current rationalist and skeptical view of the world, and in which I stated that if one wanted to prove the existence of unicorns, then all one need do, is provide the unicorn.

Time Magazine reports that North Korea has finally done so.

Yes, North Korea, a bastion of logical discourse in a world beset by superstition and irrationality, tells us that they have not only confirmed the location of the burial site of the unicorn ridden by King Dongmyeong, the founding father of the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, but that they have reconfirmed it!

The proof is unassailable: the unicorn grave site is indicated by a rock carved with the words ‘Unicorn Lair’. I mean, how much more does anyone want?

Also, Tetherd Cow researchers have uncovered a picture of North Korea’s current Glorious Leader riding a descendant of King Dongmyeong’s wondrous mystical steed:

Let’s see the skeptics refute that, right?

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Thanks Atlas!

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Faithful Acowlytes! Have you put on a few pounds over the winter?1 Has your flat stomach been Autocorrected into a flab stomach? Would you like your former Olive Oyl profile back once more? Well then friends, let me tell you all about the miraculous LifeChange Diet, featuring amazing ‘bioresonance’ drops! Yes, these wondrous drops in conjunction with ‘a strict low calorie/low GI diet’ just about guarantee that you’ll shed those unwanted kilos in no time.

But first, before we get too excited, we might examine the above magazine clipping (thoughtfully sent in by Cissy Strutt) with the TCA Bullshit Magnifier™ to see what it throws up.

First of all, you might be forgiven for thinking that popstar-cum-clotheshorse Carmen Electra has anything at all to do with the LifeChange Diet. She doesn’t. Well, not the LifeChange Diet being promoted in the text by Sydney naturopath Danielle Berends, anyway. But maybe that’s my mistake. The credit does say Carmel Electra, so perhaps it’s Carmen’s lesser known twin sister doing the promoting. You might also be forgiven for thinking that the drops Carmel is talking about have anything to do with the drops that Danielle is hawking. They don’t. At least, if they are the same product, they don’t make a big thing of it on the LifeChange Diet website, and probably for good reason: HCG Platinum Drops are not in the good books of the US Food & Drug Administration, who have found the drops to be in violation of numerous FDA standards and that ‘…there is no evidence that they are generally recognized as safe and effective for their intended uses.’

But hey, it’s not hard to accidentally put the wrong photo and caption on your text, right? Maybe these ones were meant to go on the story ‘Bogus Weight Loss Drugs promoted by Idiot Celebrity’ and there was a bit of a mixup. It’s easy to see how that could happen.

So, what then does the LifeChange Diet website have to say about these awesome homeopathic drops. Let’s look at the Bioresonance page (because we just know that’s gonna be good):

The LifeChange Diet combines an easy to follow structured diet program with bioresonance technology, in the form of specially formulated bioresonance drops.

But what is bioresonance technology? That’s a very common question.

Bioresonance technology was introduced by German scientists in the 1970’s. Its foundation is based around the body’s energy system.

In bioresonance therapy, the transmission and receipt of electromagnetic frequencies is used to identify and support your energetic status.

All the cells in your body emit and communicate via electromagnetic frequencies. In a healthy body, this communication is free and the body functions as it was designed to do.

Well, I agree that ‘What is bioresonance technology?’ is probably a common question from those hearing of this scheme. Indeed, I asked it myself, although it was more along the lines of ‘Jesus H Christ, what the fuck is bioresonance technology?’ But, the internets being right at our fingertips & all, it’s only a moment’s work to fire up our favourite Search™ engine and plug in ‘bioresonance’ and ‘German scientists’. The very first result we get is this Wikipedia2 article on ‘bioresonance therapy‘ which begins with the explanation that ‘Bioresonance therapy is a pseudo-scientific medical concept…’ I guess that wasn’t much of a surprise. Bioresonance was ‘discovered’ in 1977 by Franz Morell who, after seeing a Scientology E-Meter, created his own version of it, along with a whole heap of baloney to explain its supposed working mechanism. Needless to say this centers principally around the vagueness of concepts like ‘electromagnetic frequencies’ and ‘energy flow’ so beloved of woo peddlars across the globe, a club of whom we must consider LifeChange a card-carrying member.

Simply put, the wondrous drops that the LifeChange Diet promotes as part of its weight-loss scheme are nothing more than magic water. Yet again.

I guess you all saw it, right, at the beginning of this post? The diet promoted by this racket – ‘a strict low calorie/low GI’ food intake – by itself will guarantee that you lose weight. The magic drops are total bullshit, and I say these people know it.

  1. Antipodean seasons are in effect here on TCA. []
  2. Support Wikipedia! Donate! []

What do you get, Faithful Acowlytes, if you take one big frakking Pile of Stupid, and then multiply it by another big frakking Pile of Stupid? Give up? You get this article (kindly pointed out to me by dinahmow) called ‘Trituration Proving of the Light of Saturn’ on a website named Interhomeopathy. Or, to speak technically for a moment, you get a Great Mountain of Steaming Horseshit. What we’re talking here Cowpokes, is astrology meets homeopathy.

I know you just can’t wait.

In brief, the ‘Trituration Proving of the Light of Saturn’, provides a detailed account of a group of people chopping up lactose powder that has been exposed, via a telescope, to the light of Saturn, and then attempting to discover the ‘homeopathic effects’ of the substance so prepared.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The method employed to gather this data involves the process of homeopathic ‘proving’. In case you don’t know what that is (and why would you, really?), it involves a bunch of volunteers dosing up on the material in question and then writing down any and all kinds of shit that occurs to them. By processes unfathomable, that shit is then distilled into less shit, and whatever that shit is, the homeopathic remedy is the opposite of it. Got that? No? Well, I can’t say as I blame you, but there it is.

What we have here, in essence, is an outpouring of inebriated hogwash so profound as to make the documentation of Special One Drop Liquid look like Einstein’s ruminations on the Photoelectric Effect. Only I fear that unlike the SODL proprietor, the people behind TPLS could not be technically labelled clinically insane. Frighteningly enough.

To give you a flavour, from the convenor’s notes:

The trituration process began with lots of giggling and silliness; and throughout there was talk of getting high, stories about getting high. Senses were distorted.1 One prover kept seeing smoke rise from the milk sugar as she ground and scraped.

And to think some people say there’s no science in homeopathy!

The conversation kept circling back to pizza: “Any food in the universe can be better with cheese… One prover demonstrated a seductive way of eating a sandwich.”

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.

The timekeeper had tremendous difficulty keeping track of the time for the grinding and scraping of the remedy throughout the entire process.

Yeah, I can see how this would be challenging. I’m experiencing something of a time-dilation effect just trying to follow it all.

Head pain over eyes. Sharp pain right temple. Pressive pain right temple.
Head ache over left eye.

I’m with you, provers! I’m getting a head pain just reading about it. That shit sure is powerful.

The female provers especially experienced a great deal of itchiness: Head, nose, eyes itchy. Head itchy. Back itchy, breasts itchy, thighs. Waves of itchiness in various parts of body, especially head.

YES! YES! I too have an itchy head. Right inside my head, where my brain is, specifically the part of the brain that tries to understand how a group of evolved hominids can be so mind-numbingly daft. It’s so itchy I want to stick a knitting needle through my eye cavity in an effort to scratch it.

And on, and on, and on it goes, in an elliptic waffle of hippie noodling that just makes me sad that these people were snorting the fumes of lactose rather than inhaling the spores of some kind of exotic fungus. From all this, it is concluded, somehow, that the Saturn-exposed milk sugar…

…might be effective for accident-related trauma, bone and nerve damage.

Yes, that’s right. Not that it might cure itching, or inhibit cheese cravings, or headaches or giggling, but that it might be effective for accident-related trauma. How they reached that conclusion, I have no fucking idea. It’s simply boggling that anybody can think there’s actual medical value in this whole process.

I know you’ll be right there with me, loyal Cowmrades, when we tune in next week for the next instalment of this astonishing adventure: Beneficial Effects of the Light from Uranus on Unicorn Rainbow Powder.

Please, someone wake me up.

  1. This is probably the most accurate assessment in the whole debacle. []

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