The Power of Positive Skepticism: A Reply to Deepak Chopra

Dr. Michael Shermer’s response to Deepak Chopra’s attack on skepticism is so great, so powerful, and so civil considering the outlandish topics to be addressed. I wanted to give this response special notice for those not hip to the current writings of Dr. Michael Shermer, and to those that have not had the opportunity to see well written response to Chopra’s careless abuse of science and incorporation of pseudo-science.

READ Shermer’s Response to Deepak Chopra

Currently I only have two references in my blog-roll referrals – Dr. Shermer and James Randi. It is because these two people continue to amaze and inspire me with their focus to the facts, and their determined stamina to continually take on pseudo-science in a style that is well written and well documented.

That Chopra and Shermer would go head to head on the Huffington Post website is impressive to me. I would have thought that Chopra would shy away from this encounter, perhaps he wasn’t ready for what he would get in return.

In my previous attacks on the current state of affairs of the New Thought movement, which in my experience have become irreversibly infested with New Age quackery, I had not addressed Chopra. Deepak Chopra was someone I used to read and try to follow. The latest work of his I read was just about a year ago – a close friend gave me his entire set of tapes on body types, etc. In going through his series it was one of the first times it donned on me, “this seems kind of made-up”. As I looked online I found countless professors and professionals who were bold enough to speak up on how much of the work was made up words, phrases and things that “sounded like they might be science.”

Chopra is above my head to address, but Michael Shermer makes fair game of the material. You can easily Google more rebuttals, but they tend to be VERY dry from academic sources. They have to be to adequately address the material.

Read for yourself, make your own decisions.

Cal Tech Lecture Series SOLD OUT!

I am so happy for Dr. Michael Shermer and the Skeptics Society, but sad for myself. I had flown down from Seattle and went to attend the Feb. 26th lecture at Baxter Lecture Hall on the Cal Tech campus in Pasadena today and arrived just at the lecture start time of 2pm. IT WAS SOLD OUT! So I crept around back to stand in the top exit corridor, and it was full of people! They were happy to stand for the two hour lecture in sweltering heat. BUMMER!

But Michael Shermer is so VERY cool, he just e-mailed me to say he would provide me with a DVD of the lecture. YOU ROCK DR. SHERMER!

You can read Dr. Shermer’s articles in Scientific American. His latest focus, as it seems to me, is to address the awe and mystery that is plainly available from the sciences. My not so humble opinion is that Dr. Shermer is almost single handedly promoting such public interest in REAL scientific study and academia, that we will someday see a “tipping point” where it is IN STYLE to be educated and studied in the FACTS that current scientific research has to offer. And yes, there is indeed a great deal of awe and mystery to be uncovered.
Here is the info on the lecture from the Skeptics Society:

Breaking The Spell
Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

Sunday, February 26th, 2006, 2:00 pm

Dr. Daniel Dennett

One of the greatest thinkers of our age tackles one of the most important questions of our time: why people believe in God and how religion shapes our lives and our future. In this lecture, based on his new book of the same title, Dr. Dennett shows that for the vast majority of people there is nothing more important than religion. It is an integral part of their marriage, child rearing, and community. Dennett takes a hard look at this phenomenon and asks: Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In a spirited investigation that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the “belief in belief� has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need.

Dr. Dennett is a professor and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and the author of the highly acclaimed Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained, and Freedom Evolves.

First Forums to Come Back Online

These will be the first forums to come back online, probably the week of March 8th.

What’s Goin On…..

I’ve been getting a lot of emails wondering where I disappeared to and why the networks are down, etc. – So here’s a little update:

I’ve been in Mount Vernon, WA since mid-January rehearsing for Elton John’s AIDA which runs March 24th to April 8th. The producers, crew and cast have been great to work with so far and I’ve really enjoyed my time up here. Many of the members have been nice enough to introduce me to little underground music spots up here, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

While being in Mount Vernon I’ve found a church that has a need for a music director and I’ve agreed to take that position. I’ll be starting in mid-March. So to facilitate that I’m flying down to California, putting stuff in storage and shipping up what I need so I can still do my audio production work. It’s not fancy, but people have put up a place where I can work, and I look forward to writing more music to be performed in church. In my typical prima donna fashion I have already told the church they need a new piano…..I think my exact words were “If Zeus were still alive and hurling thunderbolts this piano would be a cinderblock”. I’ve been very spoiled in my life when it comes to having fine instruments to perform on (and hope to continue in that fashion!).

I consider that work at this church a time to serve. Some have voiced their disappointment at me taking such a low position, but I’m willing to take a chance that this is where I should be, and that I can do a lot of good here.

Am I moving to Mount Vernon, Washington? I don’t know. I’m going to work here and live here for a bit since I see work that needs to be done. I don’t know if that work will be for a couple months or twenty years. I’m walking on faith. In the meantime, my belongings will be in California so if Disney finally hires me I’ll be ready.

INTERNET NETWORKS: Our public forum network was compromised in early January and it’s still not up yet. Several tech blunders, and new people that were supposed to do the job didn’t. I had to put this on the back burner. Most regular members understand that the network is run by my own money, and run on my own time – Right now I don’t have alot of either. ON THE UPSWING – I do have a new server in place, it’s actually been in place for a couple weeks. I just haven’t had the time to get each community back up and running. But it’s there, waiting. The last six months of 2005 I learned a LOT about code which will be very helpful in the future. But now I think I need to learn linux server maintenance, security and get better with mysql to do the things I need to do.

A very big thank you to my friends in California that are still standing with me through all this, and thank you to my new friends in Washington that are setting me up. Somehow I always manage to find people that will clear a path so I can do my work. And I am very ready to get back to work.

Is it true that we own nothing, that it is only given to us as caretakers for a time? That’s my latest pondering……


Forum Network Crash January 2006

I’m constantly amazed at the conspiracy theories that abound about my forum network, especially since our early January 2006 crash. Most people have been very supportive and understanding. There’s a small pocket of people that have been absolutely toxic about the situation, each one seeming to have their own special conspiracy spin on everything.

I refuse to constantly explain and defend the network across other people’s forums. Several people have acted as spokesman and have been no help at all, in fact they seem to encourage flaming. If you have a question you can e-mail me. When I do explain in part, those that are mean-spirited have a tendency to twist my words and/or fill in with conspiracy details that don’t exist. If you want info on blackouts, then come here to I’m happy to provide info here. Some people said they have contacted me via regular mail and/or phone – my mailing address has changed as well as my phone numbers since I’ve relocated up to Washington.
So for those that are interested, here’s all the details of what happened. There’s been a couple of people I have detailed everything to, and as I tell them I notice their eyes start to glaze over. It’s not highly interesting, and I admire anyone who has the fortitude to read all the details here. But here it is:

First of all, to answer a few questions that come up ALL the time:

When my company was very prosperous, I set up the forum network as a tithe back to the community at large. It was our goodwill donation. When my company scaled back I have tried to keep the forum network going because I have seen so many lives positively impacted by it. It’s fun and I’ve made a lot of good friends through this network. When my company scaled back I started incorporating some ads to offset the costs of running it. Running a couple boards doesn’t cost much, but I’m running about 100 – so yes, there’s some cost and time involved in running it.

No, I have never made a profit off it. Making a profit was never the point. Many people have pointed to a grand master plan – but there never was one. It just is what it is. I try not to badger people about donations, etc. – but that option is available for those that feel like donating from time to time.

For those that run a couple forums and compare it to what I’m runnning, I’m sorry but there’s no comparison. Because my network at it’s conception was tied in to my other networks, there are many processes that run across multiple servers and call information from non-local databases. A couple people have offered to temporarily host certain forums, but to do that I have open IP access to our other networks to pull in data, and they would be privy to all the backend info that accesses our other servers – I’m not comfortable with that, in addition I have to deal with members of other communities wondering why THEIR forum isn’t coming up. At the time the network was created I had a full time staff of techs that would oversee it and make repairs as needed. In January 2005 my servers were completely compromised due to shoddy security work by my former techs. I got things back and running, and in mid-2005 had some new techs work primarily on disengaging our forum network from my other networks. In the last half of 2005 I started to learn how to do upgrades, etc. on our forum software and how to navigate our custom server and database setups. What I am working on now is simplifying our forums and splitting them across multiple servers so we never have a full blackout on all forums.

Our server was compromised. The software we run, phpbb, has a long-standing problem of security exploits which are uncovered over time by hackers. That is why they release a new version about every two months – primarily for security reasons. Our server was compromised in early January and the hosting company shut down the server. It is normal for hosting companies to monitor servers and typically will shut down a server if it’s compromised to keep the rest of their networks safe. Were our sites specifically targeted? Probably not. Hackers that exploit the security vulnerabilities of phpbb typically have software that is automated to search out sites runnning phpbb. Why do they hack? Usually to use the server for sending spam. The hosting company says our server was being used to send spam. PHPBB released their version 2.19 on December 31, and I had all forums updated the next day on New Years Day. So I’m assuming the hack was from a previous version release, or maybe an exploit of a pre-2.19 – So the next question would be, why don’t I switch all forums to different software? To be clear, most all forum software has occasional security problems, just that phpbb historically has had more. Because we’re running 100 forums, it would be cost-prohibitive to switch all forums over. I did buy a different software format in December 2005 and was experimenting with that as a text for future conversions – so in time we may switch. Having 100 phpbb forums makes us a prime target for vulnerability crawls.
This is one comment I have seen a lot, and befuddles me a bit. Our server was compromised and terminated by the host, there was no warning. Some people seem to think our server was shut down over a money issue, and that I had warning. If it had been a money issue, then yes I would have had warning – but I’m more resourceful than that and would have found a way around it. But, that wasn’t the case, the server was compromised and shut down by the host.

Yes, I did. Originally the host gave me two options – 1) Have their techs reformat the drive and reinstall from my former hard drive. But I would have to send them a list of each file to be copied over, anything not on the list would be omitted and there was not guarantee of functionality of their work. This server, needing to pull in info from other servers, etc. I thought was far too complicated for house staff, and tech support was very negative about what the outcome would be. 2) Option two was for them to Fedex the drive to my server admin who could reinstall info remotely. I chose this option and thought it was a good opportunity to review security on the server and give the tech a chance for suggestions on streamlining the server. This tech works on several of my other servers and had done a good job up to this point. The PLAN was that the server would be with the tech in two days, within two days after that we would have all sites back up. This is where everything fell apart.

First mistake, I had the hard drive sent to my tech on the East Coast, which is where I send all my payments. Turns out that’s just the head company, he lives on the West Coast and hadn’t told me until the server was enroute. We had the server rerouted – but by this time it took a week for the server to reach the tech on the West Coast. By this time he was in Florida working on a major install job. He told me no problem, he would have one of his employees mount the hard drive and he would work on it remotely from Floriday. He had a four hour block at a certain time, which was now a week after the crash. I called to verify he was ready to work, then had the server company re-open the ports to the server. The had reinstalled a fresh version of the operating system and were waiting for me to tell them to open the ports. So at this point, I’m thinking everything is cool and the tech said we’d be up within a couple days, maybe even the same night.

Three days later we’re still not up (Now 10 days after the crash). I contact the tech who says it will all be finished the following day. The following day he calls me to say he can’t get on the server. Turns out he never started working on the server four days before, he thought he would work on it later. What the tech didn’t understand is that when this particular host opens up a server – they open it up with absolutely no firewalls or security measures. They leave it wide open – so of course within this four days the server was hacked again. I called the hosting company to tell them to reformat the hard drive a second time and to wait for my call to open it up – the hosting company tech support said my account was under review because they think I’m a spammer. I had to wait three days for them to say they reviewed my account and would keep me as a customer. Meanwhile I relieved my tech of duties and had him send me the hard drive – I didn’t want him messing up again. In retrospect, this was a mistake of mine – Maybe I should have given him a second chance, but I had lost trust in him after he misled me.

At this point I’m leaving out of state for a three month job. The job is time consuming so I can’t devote lots of time to getting the forum server back. I spend another 10 days out of state trying to find a tech to assist me, had one setup and he kept flaking. Went online and found a good tech in Sweden, we finally arrange a time where we can chat online while he works on the server – it’s now the end of January – I call the hosting company to open the ports and they inform me my account has been closed and that I’m a spammer. In mid-January I told them to do a third fresh reinstall and to close all ports – that I would call when I was ready to open. Turns out they did a fresh reinstall and left it wide open again! Unbelievable. I called tech support to inform them of their blunder, and was told they wouldn’t talk to me because I was a spammer. I called customer support and was told the same thing. I think I threw the phone across the room and broke it on a wall. I was really steamed. So, there’s the first month of what happened.

I still cannot get around how a hosting company could open a server wide open with absolutely no security, and without notifying the owner that the server was open. An impossible scenario.
I’m getting kind of bored of detailing all this, pretty dry stuff. Add to this trying to get my server hard drive mounted so I can use it remotely, interviewing for other jobs in my new area, not having my computer gear with me (it was all back in California), and needless to say everything was very time consuming to deal with.

I spent about a week looking at new hosts and now have a server setup with a new company. I’m going to go to California and ship up all my computer gear. It will be a little slow getting the first forums up. I have to clean things up a lot and disengage our dependency across different servers. I’m also going to split the network up into subgroups.

And last but not least, some people seem really steamed I didn’t return their emails. I received over a THOUSAND emails on my AOL account in mid-January, most regarding the forums. I just couldn’t respond to them and it clogged my account so I had to delete them. My company emails don’t have a limit like AOL does, but I didn’t have access to them because all my passwords were back in California. Many of the processes I need to use are IP restricted, and being out of state on a rotating IP I didn’t have quick access.

Check back, I’ll post news as forums become active again.

Askland to Conduct AIDA

Conrad Askland will be conducting AIDA at McIntyre Hall March 24 – April 8, 2006, Mount Vernon, WA.

Aida 2AIDA is the adaptation of Verdi’s original 1871 opera by Sir Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice. Conrad will be in production with the crew starting mid-January 2006. Rumor has it he will also be performing keyboard parts along with the show.

Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is a contemporary musical take on the grand classic tale of the love between a soldier and an enslaved princess – a love that condemns them to death, but ultimately transcends the vast cultural differences between the two warring nations, heralding an unprecedented time of peace and prosperity.

AidaWith a pop-rock score that features stirring ballads and rousing choral numbers, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is a modern crowd pleaser that embraces multi-cultural casting and exuberant dancing, staging and singing.

Song Info – The Lord’s Prayer

My version of The Lord’s Prayer was originally written for Cathryn Howard and Carol Dinise for their second CD release. They are a Catholic music team and published by World Library Publications, a Catholic publishing company.

On the Dinise/Howard CD the whole song is performed first with solo female voice, then run again with full orchestration and choir. The version you hear on this page is a different mix of just the second half.

The Lord’s Prayer MP3 File

My first consideration for this piece was of course Albert Hay Malotte’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, the most famous version that most people associate with these lyrics. It was foremost in my mind not to copy any of the lines in Malotte’s, or to have any lines that could even remotely be considered “borrowed” or plagarism.

With the lyric content and the artists I was writing for, I knew it have to be reverent, but not too stiff. I intentionally kept the entire lead melody within the range of a 9th so it would be easy for other vocalists to sing down the road.

One of the elements in this piece I like best is where the choir repeats the lead melody in a sort of canon behind the lead vocal. This was a little tricky for me in some parts, kind of like a small primer for writing Bach inventions (I wouldn’t be so pompous as to say it approaches the complexity of a fugue). My favorite little moments in the piece is when the choir is echoing the lead vocal, but against different underlying chords.

This piece was composed in a traditional format – with pencil and paper at the piano. This was not a piece I could “cover up” weak writing style with production elements, nor did I want to.

Once the writing was finished, I started doing a MIDI rough draft with orchestrations. At the time I didn’t have ProTools yet, so all the tracking and arrangements were done on an 8-track 1/2 inch reel-to-reel with MIDI sync code. I had a lot of wires running to midi gear! This seems impossible to me know, but back when this was recorded I was using such a simple time code, that I could not sync up in the middle of a song. I actually had to rewind back to the beginning. I guess the good training in this is that I learned to have the parts worked out in my head before I started laying tracks.

The arrangement was laid down, a local choir was kind enough to volunteer to record the echo parts, and an opera singer I was working with at the time laid down some of the high descants you hear ala the “Star Trek” theme.

I had wanted to re-record this piece with a pop vocalist, just to see what the contrast would be with the traditional melody lines and classical style orchestration. Incidentally, my pattern for the orchestration was styled after Yanni at the Acropolis.

All the parts were laid down, but I hadn’t found my final vocalist yet. None of the studio vocalists at the time had quite the right feel for it. I just so happened I was playing with Freddy Fender in Vegas for a week at the Gold Coast casino, and had brought my recording gear with me to work during the week. I wanted these parts done right away so I went to the karaoke bar and heard an incredible vocalist doing Aaron Neville material, but this vocalist had a little more power than Neville.

I hired him to do the vocal part, which turned out to be a real fight. This version of the Lord’s Prayer had been written for a female vocal range, not male. And everything was laid down analog, I couldn’t just push a button in ProTools and transpose everything. The vocalist took the whole song UP AN OCTAVE to perform it, and I worked him very hard to get those high notes. There’s a high C at the end.

So that’s my one regret, I should have used a female vocalist on it. I would love to hear this recorded again with a real orchestra and a male/female vocalist with everything in a proper key for all. The song is in 6/8, which partly keeps it relegated to concert hall repertoire. I can’t hear it as a pop remake, etc. – and a country song it’s not. So 6/8 it stays.

I have received mixed reviews on this piece. Several people have told me directly and in no uncertain terms that they simply don’t it. Of course, I’ve also had many people say it has really moved them and they love it.

My version of the Lord’s Prayer was included on the Dinise/Howard CD, and this particular mix was included on New Faces Volume Three, a Road Records compilation CD. It was also performed at the 2004 High Desert Interfaith service with the Interfaith choir and myself at the piano. Karen Etheridge has also performed it several times, including Christmas 2004 at the Hi Desert Church of Religious Science.

Listen for yourself and let me know what you think. I believe that if it was re-recorded with a real orchestra and strong singers in a new key, it would be very well received and might even have a shot at becoming part of the regular repertoire for church’s. Of course, I’m a little biased. 🙂

I think I wrote this around 1999.

Music heads might appreciate this: In the Kurzweil PX1000 there’s that incredibly spooky patch called “Doppler Choir”. It’s one of the real standout patches of this unit. But where can you use it? It’s so bizarre. In the final few bars of this piece you’ll hear a little Doppler Choir run right before the final cadences.

The Lord’s Prayer MP3

Song Info – Honey Will You Love Me

Here’s a song I wrote that includes Freddy Fender playing on the guitar solo. Honey Will You Love Me (When There’s No Money in the Bank) is one of the few songs up to that time where I also sang the lead vocal, and one of the only tracks I don’t play on. I usually prefer to use studio vocalists as it’s always fun to see what different life they breathe into a song.

Honey Will You Love Me – MP3 File

There are some great players on this track. At the time I wrote this song I was playing with Freddy Fender of the Texas Tornados so I was lucky enough to have many of the Tornados players on this track.

The inspiration for this song was my personal life at the time as well as Auge Meyers. Augie also played with Freddy Fender when I did so I was able to hang with him a lot. He is the true voice of Texas music and using “spanglish” on songs. He is the writer of Hey Baby Que Paso, Guacamole and dozens of other hits. I like the driving 8th note rhythm of “Who Were You Thinking Of” by the Texas Tornados, so I used that vibe for this song. Also incorporated a little “spanglish” and kept the content ideas very simple. It was fun to rhyme “millionaire” with “ran out of beer”, etc. Part of the colloquial charm of a piece like this.

This particular piece has gotten pretty good universal feedback from people. Much of my work is in such specific genres that only people in those genres appreciate it, but this piece seems to have a crossover appeal.

The instrumental tracks were recorded in Las Vegas, NV at the Gold Coast hotel and casino while we were playing there for a week engagement with Freddy. I think drum tracks had already been laid down previously. I lived in Victorville at the time which is just about 3 hours from Vegas, so I actually took a whole truckload of my gear and set it up in the hotel room so I could work during the week. Hotel security got called at one point because of the volume, so we hauled everything down to our dressing room down by the swimming pool and I finished tracking there. Freddy was very nice to play a short solo section on the track.

During that week I got an amazing amount of tracking done. There was a pretty busy karaoke bar at the casino, and I would hire vocalists from there to lay down tracks. The vocalist for my rendition of the Lord’s Prayer was also found there – at a Las Vegas karaoke bar!

This is one song I always hoped a headline artist would pick up.


Honey will you love me when there’s no money in the bank?
Digame baby, c’mon what do you think?
Now I aint much at being elegant
So I’m just askin’ you right up front
Honey will you love me when there’s no money in the bank?

Now the chica before you, she didn’t treat me so well
Said she loved me, but she meant just for a spell
She looked at me just like a millionaire
But that all stopped when I ran out of beer
So will you say “te llamo” when there’s no money in the bank?

Inst Solos (Accordion and Guitar)

Agnus Dei – Classical Duet by Askland

The Agnus Dei uses the latin text from the Catholic Mass. This duet was written for Karen Etheridge and Carlotta Diggs, both from the Southern California High Desert. I wanted to write a very traditional classic-style duet that was graceful and feminine. My visual for this piece was the scene in the Shawshank Redemption where all the prisoners stop their activities to listen to the classical music played over the prison loudspeakers. That was my favorite scene in the movie, and I wanted to compose a piece that would have fit into that scene equally well.

Here is the MP3 file of the song:
Agnus Dei by Askland MP3
Here is the original latin text and it’s following english translation:

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

miserere nobis.
have mercy on us.

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

dona nobis pacem.
grant us peace.

Being raised Lutheran and having performed many masses by classical greats including Schubert and Mozart – the words to me are particularly powerful. If you don’t have a background listening to masses, I imagine it may not have the same effect. The different movements of the Mass contain the core theology of the Catholic and Protestant churches going back deep into the history of Western culture. And to a devout Catholic these words could not run any deeper.

To me personally the words of the Agnus Dei are triumphant. It is the proclamation and announcement of the sacrifice that broke mankind’s bondage to sin. There is also the “have mercy on us” line which could be taken as a somber plea or joyful request that is known to already be fulfilled. To round this out, I have a middle bridge section in minor that features a short solo by each vocalist which ends in a minor chord false ending on the words “dona nobis pacem” or “grant us peace”. At that point the music modulates to a new major key to reinstate the major theme, or in my mind it “morphs” from the minor to the new major key.

Just a key change? Not to me. The statement is made by each individual vocalist that the lamb of God has come to take away the sins of the world, then together in a minor key they ask “Grant us peace”. At that point when the music builds to the final theme statement, that IS the peace being granted. Of course, if you’re not hip to what the Latin text is saying, this moment would be lost on the listener. I think I acheived this effect well, you can judge for yourself by listening.

I had always planned on completing the full mass, with this being just one of the short movements in it. I did start working on the rest of the mass movements in early 2005, but a very strong change in my personal views led me to resign from the church I was working at.

To me the Mass movements only work well to a classical audience that is well versed in the meaning and history of the music and text of the mass, or to a Catholic who would naturally be acquainted with the movements and their meanings.

The three of us – Karen Etheridge, Carlotta Diggs and myself have performed this piece live around three times if my memory is correct. The piece works very well with solo piano and voices. I would define this as a “period piece”, intended to appear from a different period in history. I would place the rough stylistic date of this piece to be around 1790-1820. I think I wrote this in 2001, can’t quite remember.

So until I work at a church again that will permit a performance of the mass, or until I am commissioned to finish it, my full mass remains unfinished.

Etheridge and Askland Perform VVC MLK Tribute

Karen EthereidgeKaren Etheridge and Conrad Askland will be performing at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center, Victorville, CA on Monday, January 16th 2006. They will be performing “Stand Up For Love”, the new release by Beyonce and Destiny’s Child. This song was the anthem for the 2005 World Children’s Day.

This is the fourth year in a row that Karen and Conrad have performed at the VVC MLK tribute. This year they are joined by a rhythm section and Karen’s son will make his singing debut on harmony parts.

Karen and Conrad will also be performing for the local chapter NAACP on Saturday, January 14th 2006.

Rap Dogs Compilation Project Deadline January 10 2006

The deadline for audio submissions on the Rap Dogs compilation project is January 10th. So far I’ve received enough submissions for the project. I’ll be mixing this on Wednesday so any audio files received after early Wednesday morning won’t make it on the project.

Rap Dogs is our free hip hop online battle community.

Final mix will be posted here on the MP3 download page.

Howard Stern Show Audio Demo – Sirius Satellite Radio

I submitted an application to work for the new Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio. The job opening said they wanted someone who could make “a fart sound like a symphony”. Ironically, I had just finished producing my dog and fart Christmas CD’s so felt I might be a good match for the job.

The demo was specifically created for the show and I had an open space of about 8 hours total to work on it. The hardest part for me was trying to guess what they were looking for because the job opening description was very short and general. I tried to put myself in the screeners chair and imagine what they would want to hear. My best guess was to make my demo sound like it was already part of Howard’s show. Because of time constraints, I didn’t have the luxury of creating lots of new music from scratch. So somehow I had to incorporate my existing audio library into this demo. Fortunately I had backed up most of my audio archives the month before so I had everything in one location to pull from.

To make the demo feel like it was actually part of Howard’s show, I found audio samples of the show online and incorporated them into the demo. As I went along, the audio samples were inserted with sometimes opposing music to give a totally different connotation to what the radio sample was expressing. Some of these I think turned out to be pretty humorous, others, well….I tried.

Note: Audio samples from the Howard Stern show used in this tutorial fall under the Fair Use copyright act.

I created a ProTools file and imported all the different audio samples from my own library that I thought might work with the demo. I laid them all out in a single track and did a quick run through to edit down the parts I thought most appropriate. Then I imported all of Howard’s audio samples into another single track side-by-side, and started listening through to parts I thought I could use for the demo. I didn’t have a lot to work with from Howard’s show, just snippets from different bits.

Overall I thought the approach seemed effective, and I really liked the interaction of Howard actually being on my demo. I FedEx’d everything to New York and had the package submitted within about 5 days of the job opening, but I never heard anything back. I can only take guesses as to why I didn’t get it and will probably never know exactly why.

Some feedback I got from friends: One said there were places it didn’t rock enough, one said it was too music orientated and should have focused more on spoken word effects and radio style promos, another said the demo was too long.

All the music clips on the demo are my own songs or projects from my studio, but I don’t think that is realized well on this demo. I tried to show diversity, and instead showed a mish-mash.

I agree with those three assessments. Maybe the demo wasn’t good enough, I’m not sure. You decide.

FAIR WARNNG: This was an audio producer demo for the Howard Stern Show. Mr. Stern is an infamous “shock jock” so there is some profanity on this demo.

Howard Stern Demo by Conrad Askland MP3

Song – Let’s Get the Party Started

Let’s Get the Party Started – MP3

“Let’s Get the Party Started” was originally written for a CD release of sports dance music. It features several studio vocalists from Road Records including Fred Reliford and Daphne. Ironically, when production started on this piece the song by Pink of the same name hadn’t been released yet. So it’s often confused with the Let’s Get the Party Started that Pink released.

Similiarly, we had a song release of “You’re the Best Lie” for recording artist Gailyn Addis several years ago – which coincided with “My Favorite Mistake” release by Sheryl Crow. With the amount of music I work on this is bound to happen. But it always gets me to thinking, what IF I was the one with a powerful label behind me and I was the one to get the push on an artist I produced. Then it would be my material that others were chasing. Well, that’s how it seems in producer dream world anyway.

Let’s Get the Party Started was the opening song for the Road Records release New Faces Volume Four produced by Conrad Askland.

How To Do a Dance Remix

How do you do a dance remix? You’ve got these way cool ideas in your head but how do you get those ideas down within the constraints of pre-recorded material? Here’s how I approached a dance remix in a tight time crunch. I can’t say it’s the “right” way to do it, but might find some helpful info for those wanting to do a dance remix of their own.

I got a call to do a remix of Chicago performed by Frank Sinatra for the 2005 Toyota National Convention in Chicago. This was to be their big opener for the convention and would be edited into video footage showcasing their new car models.

Note: This is an educational tutorial and falls under the Fair Use copyright act for using samples in an educational setting.

I agreed to do the project and sat down to execute it with these constraints:

1) I had 24 hours to deliver a finished product.
2) Only direction given was for it to be a high energy dance remix with a little bit of a rock feel.
3) Final must be around 3:30
First thing I always do on any project is make absolutely sure I know what’s in the clients head. It’s MY job to figure this out, not the client’s. Fortunately, when I went to get the original Sinatra audio for Chicago I spotted that there were two similiar songs with references to Chicago. There’s “Chicago” (Chicago, Chicago that toddlin’ town….) and there’s also “My Kind of Town” (Now this could only happen to a guy like me….). I assumed it was “Chicago” I was supposed to remix but I called the producer to double check. In fact what I was supposed to remix was “My Kind of Town” which he referred to as “Chicago”, but was not. Now if I had remixed the wrong song it wouldn’t have mattered for me to come back and say “but you said CHICAGO” – bottom line is I would have messed up the job and ruined a new solid business relationship. Honestly, I think this is the main reason I have a high success rate with my work, is really checking the details and finding out what’s really in the client’s head. This is always my first step in any project.

Now armed with correct info I locate the original big band arrangement of “My Kind of Town” and listen to it several times. Problem is that the Sinatra song is only about two and a half minutes and the producer wants THREE and a half minutes. So I know right away I need to insert at least a minute of extra stuff that fits the song, has a rock feel and maintains the high energy needed for the presentation.

I know I’m going to be working with samples, need to insert high energy elements into the mix and need a final mastered version. I am very comfortable laying down MIDI tracks in ProTools and have a pretty good MIDI setup. I felt that the MIDI tracks were essential to the mix so I could lay down dedicated bass and surrounding instrument tracks to help support any direction I wanted to go that might fight the original track a bit. General idea was to build the session in protools around the original track, edit to be 3:30, fly that template into a program like ACID to quickly insert beat elements, then fly the ACID tracks back into ProTools to add dedicated MIDI instrumental parts to fill out the final production.

I always go very slow when I first start a project, thinking of all the elements and how best to proceed. If it’s a project I’ve done before then I’m right on it, but if it’s something a little new I think it through. It’s not uncommon to see me sit in a chair for quite a while on a project. This is the most helpful thing you can do for your productions and saves you SO MUCH time once you get into it. Usually freaks clients out a bit if they’re in the same room while I start. But they “get it” as the farther we get into production the faster I go. Towards the end I am absolutely blazing fast. Think of it as a sculpture – at the beginning it’s just a big block of rock. As you get farther into it, there’s more of a direction and momentum.
I uploaded the Sinatra song into Pro Tools. I have the TDM version of ProTools and it’s quite a bit more hairy to build a template than in a program like ACID where you just drag and drop. The original Sinatra audio is too slow. I altered the tempo of the source material up to around 170 (this is where it “felt” good to me, though obviously not a good dance tempo, I felt it would be best at this tempo to maintain the energy, and technically no one was going to actually dance to this anyway, it’s a presentation for car dealers). Jumping the tempo up that high ended up being a good decision. I took an educated guess that the client saying “dance remix” didn’t really mean dance remix, it meant “make it really cool so all the car dealers get pumped up at the opening of our convention”.

When I changed the tempo on the audio file, I did it to the whole complete sample. Then I could start on edits from there. If you’ve ever edited a template that’s created by ear to the audio, then changed tempos, you know how time consuming it is to revert back. Actually, for me I just start over with a new template. Why is it important the audio be to a template that locks to measures and beats? I’m going to be doing lots of MIDI tracks, and I’d like them to lock to the track. Because I’m on such a tight time restraint (24 hrs), I need to be able to move very fast in final production.

I spent probably 30 minutes listening to the audio at a wide range of tempos before I decided on the final. My benchmark for the “correct” tempo was simply what “felt good” to me. Around 150 just felt too slow, and up around 180 the song to me just fell apart, wasn’t cool anymore.

With my audio track at the tempo I like, I started to line up the audio the my MIDI grids. The opening of this particular piece is like a ballad and very loose in the timing. So my beginning of the grid I used the first bars where the drums and horns enter to establish the groove. Then I would listen through with a click for where the audio was drifting from the MIDI bars in my template. When I noticed a drift I would make a slice edit and nudge the audio to correct the timing. When lining up audio samples in ProTools, I always listen at half speed and also zoom in progressively until I am at the sample level. Use ears and use eyes to line it up. Then listen again at regular speed to see if it “feels” right. I’ve used the Beat Detective plugin on ProTools before but never really got it to work properly. I guess I’m missing the boat on how it works. Lining this all up by ear was maybe not the best approach. I had a time crunch deadline and had to work fast, so that’s how I did this project. If I have a week on the project I probably would have fully investigated the beat detective options.

After getting the main body of the song lined up in the template, I went back to the loose intro and lined it up, which required considerably more edits. In fact, it wasn’t really “lined up” because it’s ad libbed with a loose timing, I just tightened it up a bit.

Looking at the final template, the song is now only about 2:15 because of the increased tempo! I need over another minute to the song. And the intro is too long and slow. I don’t think the producer will dig a long intro like that. But it NEEDS an intro, it sets up the whole vibe of the song, the whole REASON for the song. I decided to cut the intro in half, and used the lyrics that I thought best set the song up.

Now the songs even shorter, I need another 90 seconds of music and have no idea what to do. I listen through the song in my template, and where it musically makes sense to go into a new music section, I make large edits of 8 or 16 bars to leave open space for additional music. Right now I don’t know what’s going to go there, but SOMETHING has to.

Some of the best “magical” moments in audio production happen when I leave wide open blank spaces to fill up later. When the spaces are open like that, I’m more creative to use snippets, samples and musical detours for that space – because I’m not locked into anything. As it turns out, I ended up doing a whole section around samples of Frank Sinatra to create a jazz horn section breakdown, rock guitar solos and different elements using samples of the horn section.

I mixed down the audio from my ProTools template – in the mix was also a metronome click to make sure the integrity of the tempo was maintained through the silent sections. I wasn’t using a sync track so a reference was essential.

The audio templated I uploaded into Sony’s ACID program, which I have unconveniently on a seperate computer. This was easy to line up within ACID. First thing is to build the drum track – don’t recall which libraries I used, just what sounded good to me. I built a pretty beefy rhythm section using multiple layers of drum samples that would build on the different sections, and break down where it felt right.

Once rhythm was in place I added in some horn lines and some light music samples that fit well. Most of my music overdubs and cymbal crashes I’m saving for the MIDI overdubs in ProTools where I have more control and can work faster. Once the parts are in place to create the shell of the whole arrangement, I mute the original Sinatra audio and create a .wav file of the Acid overdubs and fly this back into ProTools.

Hey, now it’s starting to sound like something!

Now I can work at blazing speed. Being a keyboardist, I’m VERY fast at MIDI overdubs. I forgot to mention also, I have a pretty good ear so I’m also able to hear all the chords in my head and know what will fit where without a chart. This is a nice advantage where my early piano lessons and bar gigs come in handy. For those that aren’t players, this will slow you down a bit as you’ll have to just put in parts that seem to fit without knowing the underlying theory. If you can get some theory under your belt and develop your ear training, it will be your strongest asset when working with musical tracks.

Now I’ve got everything in place and do final edits to take out or add a measure here and there. I take some of Sinatra’s vocals and use them as filler samples, add in some delay effects, etc.

I do some obvious moves to the original track – I EQ out the bottom low end to get rid of the bass so I can use my own kicks and my own MIDI bassline. Usually a hard shelf rolloff below 80hz and another gradual rolloff in the 250-300hz area. Use your ears, depends on the source material and what you want to do with overdubs. EQ the sample track to bring out Frank’s vocals a bit, which is usually in the ballpark of 5khz. I like a lot of the original elements in Sinatra’s track so I bring up the high end about 1.5db around 12hz to taste.

The final mix is emailed to the video editor in New York. Meanwhile my mother is in the hospital in critical care and I have to leave town right away. The video editor emails me that he wants rock guitars in the mix. Totally nutty guitars all over the place to hype it up. ARGHH! Oh, and he needs it within TWO HOURS.
Because I have templates created it’s actually not to big of a deal. I fly my new edited template back into ACID, insert a cacophany of obnoxious guitar tracks. I’m guessing since the editor is younger and from New York City, he probably wants something totally crazy. I was right. He absolutely loved it and the head producer loved it. Now to my ears the guitars I inserted are really loose and a bit out of place, but when I saw the final video it all made sense and fit perfectly with the footage they were working with. Incidentally I never got to see the footage before I worked on this project.

The video editor did some edits to my music to make it fit the video, and did some edits to the video to make everything work. I got to see the finished product and it was really amazing. I’m not posting the video because I don’t know if I have permission to. Too bad, the audio itself is a little interesting, but seeing the finished product was very, very cool.

So that’s how I did it. If you have tips and tricks of your own please feel free to leave notes.

Toyota Sinatra Remix MP3 File

Forum Network Down for Server Work

Our forum network has been down for a few days and will be back up and running early next week. We were doing pretty good with updates but missed one, and with the size of our network we’re an easy target for security holes in the PHPBB system.

We already have transferred a test forum over to an Invision software platform, which has a better history of security.

When the network comes back up many of you will also notice that we have new features installed for members. We will continue to stay committed to providing our free discussion network as a public service. We feel strongly that when people discuss openly; good things happen.

Forum Network – Sample Websites

CybermonstersThese are some sample websites from my forum network. If you visit them you’ll notice some are very busy with several thousand members, and some are sleepy little havens for occasional posts. The communities are very fun to interact with, and I’ve learned a lot from our very diverse communities.

Member support for forums is at
Scroll down for more info and background on my forums.
We Have Lupus

Snowboard Forum

Skate Bulletin Board

Christian Prayers

Bible Discussion

Ultimate Talent

Religious Science

Rap Dogs

Punk Talk

Pro Life Talk

Pro Choice Talk

Christian Guitar Forum

Drum Dogs

Darwin Talk

Creation Talk

Blues Talk


Bach Talk

The first forum in my network was a guitar player forum started in 2000. Shortly thereafter a friend was bragging to me how much money she was making charging for online prayer services. That really made my stomach turn. So the next day I opened my own prayer support website – committed to always keeping it FREE. Several months later we started opening up more music related forums; then branched out into religion, politics, science and niche discussion group forums.

Many members within one site grouping are also members on related boards. For instance many guitar players belong to multiple communities of ours that are guitar related, many Christian members belong to our Christian orientated sites, etc.

There was never really a master plan for these communities. I just thought it seemed like fun. When I opened the network I was doing very well with internet sales so it seemed like a fair way to give back to the online community.

All of our forums are free to join and have limited advertising, no popups and no spam. Thanks to volunteer moderators and admins I’m able to keep the network going with a minimum of financial and time investment.

I’ve learned a LOT from our community members. Many members are experts and professionials in their related fields and are very generous in supplying information to help others. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many of our members in person which is always fun.

In general our communities run very smooth. Community members are active in policing their “home turf” and that really helps to keep things stable. Although I would love to take personal credit for developing these communities, it is absolutely the members and moderators that create the vibe and feel of each forum. They are the ones that have dictated over time what they think is appropriate, and what is not. This is why our network is so varied. Some forums are run are by youth and they absolutely will not stand for censorship and prefer an “anything goes” community, while we also have more “mature” discussion groups that prefer to keep everything in line so they can focus on discussion.

I have a handful of the forums I personally post on – but on most forums I keep it to a minimum. It’s very easy for me to get swept up into individual board controversies and the next thing I know hours have gone by as I get lost in “forum world”. There was a point a couple years ago where I had trouble sleeping because of being privy to all the different controversies going on. So if I keep my activity to a minimum, and the community leaders alert me to problems while they manage things unfettered, I am able to blissfully just try to make sure I have money to cover all the overhead!

One thing I always find amusing is the different conspiracy theories I hear about some of the websites or pockets of the network. For instance there are many sites proclaiming that our abortion debate website at Pro Choice Talk is part of some grand plan of control. It’s just a site, and we also run it’s counter-partner at Pro Life Talk. We also run Creation Talk and it’s counter-partner at Darwin Talk. The idea was just to give two spaces for opposing communities to develop and see what happened.

Another website post I saw a couple years ago said that I had a genius master plan for all of our forums that was yet to be unveiled. There was a very long thread with people guessing at what I was “really” doing. And you know what, some of the ideas were pretty good! I was impressed that people thought I was that smart and forward thinking. Admittedly, I do have a lot of good ideas. But I think that’s because I have a LOT of ideas. I fall on my face all the time, doesn’t bother me. On the particular thread where they thought I was a Bill Gates in the making, I quietly left the forum while remembering the phrase: “Better to be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Yes, it’s really that simple. I just wanted to see what would happen. The content of our individual forums does not necessarily reflect my personal views, and I like that. It promotes diversity and lets life breathe a little.

Originally I had IT techs setting up all the forums and scripts. Over time I’ve learned how to do it myself with managing databases, php, mysql and all that fun stuff. In a geeky way it’s been very fun to learn. All those big words don’t scare me anymore.

CybermonstersI go by “Cybermonsters” on the forums, or CM. My alter-ego is a squid (technically a Calimari, but squid is more fun), more properly General Ackbar of Mon Calimari from Star Wars who utters the famous line: It’s a trap! Info on General Ackbar

Why? my friend might ask……It’s just fun, and makes doing admin functions a little more lighthearted. Who’s going to get mad at a squid? 🙂

I feel that the boards’ varied discussion topics and the friendships I have made with people in those communities have made my life richer, and I’d dare say a little smarter too (or maybe better to say my knowledge is more rounded now). So that’s what I get out of it, and hopefully a little of what other people get out of it too.

Many of the friends I have made from this network hold entirely different views that myself. I think that makes life very rich.

Macromedia Flash

I have a love-hate relationship with Macromedia Flash. It looks so cool on websites, but so easy to be a big headache for a number of reasons.

Back in 2001 Flash was pretty cutting edge and promised to be the next big thing on the internet, so I actually hired a dedicated flash specialist to created dedicated flash websites for our network. We advertised flash website design services and I kept feeding this guy money while waiting for orders to come in. In three months we didn’t get a single order and I canned the whole project.

In the meantime I wanted to use all the flash work he had created for our own sites. Lots of problems. Our search engine ranking plummeted because all of our SEO work was down the tubes when we switched to flash. Back then most people were still on dial-up as well so load time was very slow. Customers had to wait for load times and were frustrated, meanwhile back at empire headquarters we were all huddled around the computer screens going “Wow, isn’t that cool”.

I think it’s pretty well documented now how a total flash site can ruin a websites search engine rankings. In fact right now I have one competitor in a small niche market who switched to flash, and their site went off the Google map within a couple weeks. I wonder if they even realize the cause. Looking deeper at their code I don’t think they are real business saavy, just kind of lucked out. And I wonder if they are at the office looking at the screen going “Wow, isn’t this cool” while at the same time wondering why their sales have grinded to a halt.

BUT, because I’m in a lot of audio niches I’ve always loved the idea of having really cool flash intros. I got all hyped up on Flash again after visiting the new site for Aftermath Entertainment. I got the chance to do some pre-production work for one of their newest artists and was visiting the site to get a feel for Dr. Dre’s vibe.

What seems to work well is using flash headers in certain parts of a website, but keep the rest of the layout html or xhtml so you still have good info for search engine crawls. One example of this is at the website for McIntyre Hall Performing Arts Center – (which I’ll be performing at soon!) – They have a nice flash intro, and when you enter the main site they have a little flash header running. I think it’s very effective because it actually shows footage of their shows. (Currently showing a clip of Papageno from Mozart’s Magic Flute opera which I got to see at McIntyre Hall last year – GREAT performance). At the same time, you can easily navigate the site to quickly get the info you need. This kind of approach has slowly evolved over the last few years and for good reason. Give up a little of the coolness factor for functionality.

When I’m shopping or trying to retrieve info on the internet, it’s VERY frustrating to sit through flash presentations. When I’m shopping, I just want to find the info quickly. I don’t really care how “cool” your site is. I just want easy to find product descriptions, secure shopping and an indication that what you are selling is what I think I’m buying.

So here I have my own personal website and many people know I run a pretty large internet network. They expect something super cool – after all – I’m “Cybermonsters” and have done all this music stuff. I should be the guy. Ironically, I have never really worked on my personal site. Never thought it was important.

Armed with my new fervor to make my site the coolest composer site on the web I went searching for Flash programmers to create something cool for me. But I don’t want to wait, I want it now. I’ve got a few days before I go out of town and just want it to be finished. That’s when I started looking for flash templates I could customize.

Have you looked on the web for flash templates? I spent literally 6 hours scouring every site I could find, and with few exceptions they are all selling the same templates! In fact, one of my competitors redid their site in flash, and I see the template for sale for around sixty dollars! What a bunch of cheezeballs.

I’m guessing this mega network will get canned at one point by google, how can you have hundreds of sites selling the exact same templates? Event the same searching options. It looks more sinister than affiliate programs to me, looks like a gigantic network is sliding under the Google radar.

Finally biting the bullet after three days of finding the perfect template, finding a better one, finding a better one, etc ad nauseum – I finally decided to go with a very simple flash intro template to use for this site. It had really cool music, was simple so I thought I could edit it easily.

I buy the template for a whopping $34 and start to edit it. What a nightmare. What looked so simple was now bogged down in cheezy interfaces, and I was very lost with the editing. Not at all simple like had been insinuated on their website.

As I’m editing I realize how cheezy it is to use someone else’s music ON A COMPOSER WEBSITE! Would have been unforgiveable and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. So I inserted my own audio in the Flash template. The template would not accept MP3 files, only .wav – And when I imported the audio as a .wav file something happened where it was so compressed it lost all it’s bandwidth. It sounded horrible! My beautiful orchestral piece that’s crystal clear as an MP3 file was now a hidous piece of garbage. And now the animation didn’t fit the audio. I played with the audio but it didn’t quite look right with my own track. How am I going to sell film scoring and composer services when I can’t even get my audio to match a stupid flash animation?

Well, my audio was never written for the flash animation, it was an orchestral piece I recorded several years ago. And the flash was never written for my audio. So to make this work I would need to compose a new piece for the flash animation, which seems like a total waste of time since I don’t have the expertise yet to do quality flash editing.

Dear Flash, I hate you and I love you. I’m dropping it for now. If I want flash for my site I’m going to send a dedicated audio file to a professional Flash animator, and have them animate the flash presentation to my audio. It will just be a little intro or a website header, keep the rest html based code.

Of course, by the time I get around to it everything will have changed again. So, when do they finish this internet thingy anyway? 🙂

Barks and Farts for Christmas

A Dog's ChristmasA couple family members weren’t very pleased and a friend really thought I had finally lost it. But my two Christmas CD’s ended up being very strong sellers for the holiday season. I’m hoping someone will promote them heavier next year or pick them up for wider distribution.

Dogs Christmas – We Wish You a Merry Christmas MP3 Sample

Farting Christmas – Jingle Bells MP3 Sample

Use the dog and fart Christmas songs on your page -Â Select a song at
Yes, it’s The Farting Christmas and A Dog’s Christmas cd collection. Go ahead and laugh, it kept my refrigerator full through Christmas. Ironically these projects were much more difficult to produce than I thought they would be. The tracks were easy enough, just the right blend of tradition and schmaltz without going over the top. But to keep the fart and dog sounds funny and entertaining was pretty time consuming.

A Farting ChristmasI have a rep for being pretty picky about details and this project was no exception. The trick was to keep the sounds from being to repetitive and to give it a feel like dogs really ARE barking right along, or farting right along, with the songs. I felt I had to play them live and a little loose to make it realistic, and obviously without quantization.

The end result was I actually built a complete sample library just for the dogs with various velocity strenghts so I could control the variations, and also two random banks to use for longer notes. I kept listening to it and thought it was finished, then would start from scratch on the sample bank again. It ended up taking about 20 hours to complete the sample libraries so I could execute them live in a way I thought retained the comedy of the whole venture. If it’s not funny, why bother?

As you could probably predict, the Dog’s Christmas CD is the one women like because it’s cute and cuddly. But the guys like the Farting Christmas CD. I’ve had several guys tell me how gross the fart Christmas CD idea is while their wives are around, then when the wives leave they come up and ask me for a copy. 🙂
And for the people that can find absolutely nothing funny about dogs or farts on Christmas songs….well…..sorry dude. I’ll save you time – here the link for Pat Robertson.
Fair warning, if you do happen to purchase a Dog’s Christmas CD – your dogs are going to go absolutely nuts the first few minutes….or hours.

Full CD’s available at Music of Christmas or wholesale at Askland Music Wholesale.

Joel Osteen – Christian Minister or New Thought Activist?

Joel OsteenJoel Osteen fascinates me for many reasons. I’d say I’ve seen about 15 of his televised sermons. When I first saw him I was compelled to sit down and watch his entire sermon. What really struck me is how everything was very easy to digest. I didn’t hear the condemnation or seperatist type statements that seem to be typical of TV evangelists. He didn’t seem “fake”, he seemed very real and present.

But what I also noticed by the fifth sermon or so was a real avoidance of all the hot topics. Basically an avoidance of all the topics that would be an indication of how he approached interpretation of scripture. Are Paul’s letters to the Church in Corinth to be followed, just used as guidelines or written off as cultural comments of the time that have no bearing on today. (Interpretation of Corinthians is my personal benchmark to know how people are approaching interpretation).

At the time I was involved in a “New Thought” church and I heard several people very excited that “new thought is finally being accepted by the Christians”. This was a little red flag to me, because every Christian fundamentalist friend of mine is very opposed to new thought ideas. What a genius man this Osteen is, to be embraced by Christian AND New Thought congregations simultaneously.

History shows me this cannot continue. At one point Joel Osteen will need to make a stand on the beefier issues, and that will create firm dividing lines as to who accepts or does not accept him. These are just my personal opinions, and I could very well be wrong. Just the way I see it.

In a 60 Minutes interview they asked him to make a comment on some of the heavier issues, including sexuality. His answer was to give that Sunny Jim southern smile and say something to the effect of: “Oh no, I don’t want to go there. I want to keep things positive.” Good or bad to do this? The jury is still out I think.

Here’s an interesting blog article on Joel Osteen from the Wesleyian Blog.

And my whole point of this article: It’s very easy in any theology to make everything work when you keep it light and superficial. But when you dig in deep is when people are going to show their real colors and where they stand. For me, I’d rather dig in deep first and see where everything is leading and then get to the superficial “feel good” stuff later. I’d like to know I’m not wasting my time barking up the wrong tree.

If Joel Osteen can keep his ministry going and never make a stand on those very sensitive divisive issues, then my hat’s off to him. He has succeeded in the tight rope act of the century.

Report on the Perversion of Science to Support Mysticism

Report on the Perversion of Science to Support Mysticism – PDF Download

For more info on debuking pseudoscience please visit the James Randi website and also the Skeptic Society with Michael Shermer that hosts regular educational seminars at CalTech Pasedena (Mr. Shermer is a regular contributing writer to Scientific American magazine)

. This is a report I put together in April 2005 detailing a small iceberg’s tip of misinformation and New Age pseudoscience that has crept into the New Thought movement. At the time of the report I had thought I was doing a great service to New Thought and specifically the Church of Religious Science by looking into these subjects more carefully.

I was astonished at the time to find virtually no support whatsoever for what I was doing. In time I came to realize that I myself was the outsider for bringing up these subjects, and that path led to discovering a multitude of twisted ideologies and theologies coming to light.

The powers that be are well aware of this work, which I think is actually a very small beginning and really not even a “report”, more of a compilation of the obvious.

I had contacted James Randi of the James Randi Institute about some of these issues and he quoted me on his site. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, co-producer of Cosmos and of the movie Contact. She encouraged me to keep the path, and that in time my voice would be heard.

Then e-mails from all over started trickling in, people thanking me for speaking out. Most of them had a funny feeling that something wasn’t quite right about what they were hearing in Religious Science churches, or in New Thought groups where discussions were suddenly turning a little too New Age. These people looked for more info online and found my report.

Here’s the catch: YOU WILL NEVER FIND OUT THIS INFORMATION IF YOU DON’T THINK TO LOOK! Sound too obvious? It wasn’t for me – I watched my whole life fall apart, not knowing why anything wasn’t working – and never ONCE did it occur to me I was on the wrong path. The tools I was using were similiar to sweeping dirt under a rug – I was working on changing my outlook, my vision, on co-creating with spirit on and on…..but nothing was changing.

Well that’s enough on that for now. If things aren’t working, consider at looking to your belief systems.

Oh, another good friend I’ve made after the report release was Michael Shermer, head of the Skeptics Society. I have attended several of the lectures he sponsors down at Cal Tech in Pasadena. These lectures have been worth their weight in gold. Getting the REAL low-down on science research from world renowned scientists at a very reputable college.

All the e-mails I get, only a very few can I post. People are scared. They are scared of making waves, of being confronted within their church, for whatever reason. I do respect that so I don’t repost them. But it’s too bad, because there are a lot of rich stories in those emails and you can feel their pain at realizing they have been deceived.

It’s nice to be able to look back a bit and see that my own personal pain was for a greater good, and that my voice is being heard more and more. Actually, it’s not my voice, it’s the voice of the academic community that has done so much research in these areas. Unfortunately, the general public is not educated strongly enough in these areas to know what information is correct. We rely on our sources for this info.

My discovery is that what the established body of scientific research says in these areas, and what New Thought ministers SAY that the scientific community says, are often two entirely different and opposing viewpoints.

I choose to stand with the science community, as Religious Science has apparently and inescapably veered off into the dangerous realm of the New Age and by all indications I have seen; have no intention of correcting that course.

Why is it important? When people base their life off bad information, they make bad decisions. It very much has dire affects on individual lives and no, I do not think I am taking these areas too seriously. To me, the implications of doing otherwise are sinister, suppressive and devious.