A time to be angry

I want you to watch something.

I don’t expect you to get through the whole thing but I want you to at least watch the first half.

Access Ministries is a religious organisation that wants Chaplains in schools.

Let me be clear I’m not anti-religion. I don’t want to snuff out religion but I also don’t want it snuck into schools under the guise of counseling. Which as I said in my last post the chaplaincy program is taking the place of especially for the poorest schools. At it’s heart this really isn’t a religious matter. This is about a poorly trained although undoubtedly motivated workforce heading into schools with no school experience. This means that they are unprepared. The don’t have the qualifications necessary nor the training to fully prepare them to be counseling students on matters of homosexuality, abuse or even just the average teenage angst. And yes in those cases I am worried that the answer instead of saying “I think you need to speak to a qualified professional” or “It’s ok to be Gay and thousands of children have gone through this before you” it will be “You need to get right with God”.

But my prime concern is that this is a half measure. Schools have been crying out for the last ten years to anyone who will listen that they need proper professional, trained and experienced people in the schools to deal with problems that teachers can’t, people with proper psychological qualifications. All this does is give a religious mandate to make money to providers who will now churn out under-qualified and eager people, it puts religion in schools where the focus should be just getting the kid through the teenage years alive and it ignores the fact that only 5% yes that’s right 5% of people actually want it.

If you want your child to get a religious education then either send them to the appropriate religious school or send them to Sunday school.

I saw what a good Chaplin did at my ex-partners school, she was dedicated, hard working, very liberal and no-one including me thought that her heart was in the wrong place, but she was also ill equipped to deal with issues that she didn’t’ feel comfortable with and was only around 3 days a week because that’s all the school could afford. Well unfortunately emergencies don’t happen  when the government thinks they should and this was a real problem for the school. Not all of them are good. Not all of them will be Anglican and not all of them will be liberal.

This is a half-step, a band aid and a very bad one at that, for a very real issue.

 

 

 

 

Can the last person to leave please turn off the enlightenment?

There are so many things wrong with the Abbot Government it’s difficult to know where to begin.

There are two things that I find just as worrying as the punitive budget. Which will do nothing but hurt the young.

The first is the school Chaplaincy Program, initially started by the Labour government as a support system for schools that could not afford appropriate support staff such as councillors. Initially you could get a Chaplin if you were one of 2,700 identified schools and the cost of the Chapin who was supposed to be fully trained as a councillor as well and the cost would be subsidised by the government. Many people whilst recognising the need for these support staff questioned why the money that this would cost wasn’t being directed towards getting professional secular staff for schools that would perform the same function without having an unnecessary religious bent.

Although always the wrong religion....

Although always the wrong religion….

A national public consultation process was undertaken in 2010-11 to consider the future of the National School Chaplaincy Program, the precursor to the current National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.

Acknowledging that the “people of faith only” idea wasn’t popular in 2011 the Labour government changed the rules to allow secular youth support workers into schools allocated the budget for the chaplaincy program and suddenly you had a choice. You could go the secular option should you wish. It wasn’t the world’s best compromise but it was a compromise.

It should be noted that the support staff are really only half measures anyway, they are only employed for usually a maximum three days a week in a school.

Much like the Job Network centre nonsense that goes on all the time, this money that is being funnelled has pushed religious organisations to create centres where they push out school chaplains and then they go into schools. Such as the “Scripture Union Australia”

Mandatory image

Mandatory image

Training institutions like this one have sprung up:

http://www.chaplaincyaustralia.com/pages/training

The National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program was first subject to a High Court challenge in 2011.

On 20 June 2012 the High Court handed down its decision finding that the Funding Agreement, under which the Commonwealth provided funding to Scripture Union Queensland for the programme, was invalid as it was beyond the Executive Power of the Commonwealth under section 61 of the Constitution to enter into such an agreement. The High Court further held that subject to certain exceptions, legislative authority beyond that provided by the relevant Appropriation Act was required for the Commonwealth to expend funds.

To address the High Court’s determination, the Financial Management and Accountability Act and Financial Management and Accountability Regulations were amended to provide the necessary legislative authority for the programme.

So basically the High Court said no and the government just changed the rules to allow it.

On 8 August 2013, a further challenge to the constitutional validity of the programme was filed in the High Court.

This claim seeks declarations from the High Court that the amended Financial Management and Accountability Act and Financial Management and Accountability Regulations are either invalid, or alternatively fail to confer validity on the funding agreement between the Commonwealth and Scripture Union Queensland for the Commonwealth to expend funds for the programme. The claim also seeks a declaration that the funding agreement is void and payments made in accordance with it were beyond the Executive Power of the Commonwealth, under the Constitution.

The Commonwealth is defending this action, which is expected to be heard by the High Court in the first half of 2014.

Sadly this has been deferred again.

The program has come under fire for being weirdly inconsistent, for instance it asks that the chaplains put aside their own faith to do the job, however if that’s what you want…why have a Chaplin in the first place? Also organisations like the Scripture union state that their aim is:

. to make God’s Good News known to children, young people and families.
. to encourage people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer.
so that they may come to personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, grow in Christian maturity and become both committed church members and servants of a world in need. (Scripture Union Australia web site)

So how on earth would it be possible for them to put aside their faith when that does directly against the tenants of their organisation?

Another very fair complaint was that initially the Chaplin’s required no formal qualifications all that was required was that the prospective candidate be:

“person who is recognised:
• by the local school community including the principal, parent body and/or school’s
governing body, as an appropriate appointee and as having the skills and experience to
deliver school chaplaincy services to school communities; and
• through formal ordainment, commissioning, recognised qualifications or endorsement by a
recognised religious institution.”

Um…….fuck that.

 

Abbots Celebratory cake.

Abbots Celebratory cake.

 

The rules have now been changed because that was clearly insane. They must have a minimum Certificate IV in Youth Work or Pastoral Care or equivalent. They must sign a code of conduct and pass working with children and police checks.

This is still not good enough as they will be often fulfilling the role of a councillor for which much higher mandatory qualifications are required in schools, usually a councillor needs to have an education degree, years of school and teaching experience, some kind of counselling qualification and an undertaking for a certain number of hours of Personal development that is relevant to counselling a year. And even then that is seen in the wider psychological community as laughable.

It is very hard to become a child psychologist the careers guide states:

People who study degrees in Child Psychology will normally encounter lots of different opportunities to work with children in other types of jobs, before they ever encounter an opportunity to work as a Child Psychologist.

There is no easy or obvious road to becoming a child psychologist.

High level university qualifications are essential; but qualifications alone will never make you into a good child psychologist.  It is important to develop broad life skills and experience at the same time as studying; even if that means your studies take many more years to complete. The studies without experience will greatly limit your opportunities, and the experience without studies can similarly limit your opportunities.

The main problem being of course that becoming a councillor is laughably easy as it’s not a protected term in Australia. Anyone can become a councillor.

So what has changed with the Abbot government? Well not surprisingly Abbot LOVES the school chaplaincy program and in an austerity budget it wasn’t cut….nope it was boosted and changed.

All schools will be invited to apply for 2900 chaplain places. Schools with higher disadvantage will be given priority. Schools will receive $20,000 a year to hire a chaplain.  Schools in remote areas will receive an extra  $4000 a year. This will cost you and I $245.3 million over five years.

Chaplains can be from a range of faiths but they can no longer be secular youth workers.

Yep. He’s removed the secular part of the scheme.

Australian Council of State School Organisations president Peter Garrigan said: “The chaplaincy program in its entirety should have been scrapped and the money given to provide … services like psychologists, speech pathologists or dentists. But if the program has to operate there should be a non-religious option.” *Source: The Age*

 

________________________Related but not on the same topic_________________________

Some people might know that there is a Royal Commission into Child Sexual abuse going on.

To me a Royal commission is a useless thing, a toothless beast; it talks to a lot of people, wastes a lot of money and time and then generates a report and a list of recommendations that the Government can just ignore. It’s the thing you do when you really don’t want to do anything. To me the thing to do is to get prosecuting, get arresting, find the people who have perpetrated the abuse and put them on trial. Because that’s what you do when people have done the wrong thing and it should not matter at all that these people did so within the confines of a church or that the church somehow gets to go “Oh…don’t worry about that, we’ll take care of that”.

However there is one going on and I suppose those if you’re going to do it you might as well do it properly. So it’s somewhat disheartening that millions of dollars that was provided for the inquiry into sexual abuse has now been re-directed to another inquiry about the insulation scheme and the deaths that resulted from it.

Aliens!!!

Aliens! Sure aliens might be a thing. But boy does it seem unlikely that there were Ancient Aliens.

 

Although the History Channel seems convinced

Although the History Channel seems convinced.

 

Aliens did not come to earth and go “….so…got any construction projects that you guys need help with?, cause we can totally move giant blocks, that’s kind of our thing”

“What? You go from planet to planet and move giant blocks?”

“Yep, We are very into that. We love to carve stone, stack stone and move stone in ways that will seem very mysterious for centuries”

“Well…..we do have these giant morsleums that we are thinking about building, you know for our god/king….look…seeing as you guys are aliens I was wondering if I could ask you a question….”

“Shoot”

“Well…are any of the beliefs that we hold dear actually based on anything?”

“You mean, like the whole are their many gods and is your pharaoh a god on earth?”

“Yeah?”

“And if you mummify someone will they be able to return to life after you’ve put their organs inconveniently outside their body?”

“That’s not what’s its for but…yeah..sure why not”

“I’m sorry it’s our strict policy not to interfere with emerging civilisations. OK! So let’s go build you come Pyramids!”

“I didn’t say anything about Pyramids”

“Sure you did! I love a good Pyramid, Pyramids will make you feel better”

 

With a small modification we can get this thing up in no time.

With a small modification we can get this thing up in no time.

 

The thing that I find most dubious about all this is the idea that humans can’t work things out for themselves. Let’s take cement.

Portland Cement is one of the most common building materials known today. And was invented in the 1800’s But over a 1000 years before the Romans had a cement that they used to create everything from buildings to roads to aqueducts which was sadly superior to the cement that we have today.

We know this because many cement buildings that we have crumbled to dust yet Roman structures are still standing. It is thought that the durability of Roman cement used in construction of places like the coliseum was better because of additives to the mix which help the concrete expand and contract without cracking and breaking down.

So how could it be that we with all the advancements that we have made can’t replicate Roman concrete? Aliens.

 

Well you knew he was going to turn up sooner or later right?

Well you knew he was going to turn up sooner or later right?

Totally aliens.

So how did we lose the recipe for cement? Same way we lost so many things from that period like the secret for clockwork or Nepenthe. These were either secrets or so well know that there was no need to write what it was down. Then after the chaos of the fall of the Roman empire and the burning of the library at Alexandria the knowledge simply died out.

With the recent media attention to the idea that the Egyptians moved large blocks by spraying water in front of them and gliding them on the sand I thought it might be time to look at my favourite theory about the moving of blocks. This is not specific to Egypt but to Stonehenge which faces similar problems for historians and similar guys with massive hair going “I’m not saying it’s aliens…but….”

This guy is Wally Wallington apart from being the proud owner of one of the best names ever he’s also a guy who can move large and heavy objects with very little effort simply using leverage and a little intelligence.

 

 

I think his demonstration is very compelling. I am of course not sure of the exact methods that were employed by the builders of Stonehenge but I would be surprised if they weren’t quite similar to the methods being employed here.

I confess that the impetus to write all this was a misunderstanding.

A few days ago NASA published a paper on stone glyphs that were more than 10000 years old. The paper said:

 

There's no reason why plumbing can't be ornate as well right?

There’s no reason why plumbing can’t be ornate as well right?

 

“We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns [above] signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them. For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by aliens.”

Now…lets note something. The paper ISN:T saying that the author or anyone at Nasa thinks that the carvings were made by aliens. It just thinks that we know so little about them we could use these as practice for when we do communicate with aliens because we are starting with a baseline of communication that has no relevance to humans today.

 

"So when you develop interstellar travel, just follow the instrucitons on this one rock I'm going to leave here in this forest" This is the equivalent of giving out your wrong number at a bar.

“So when you develop interstellar travel, just follow the instrucitons on this one rock I’m going to leave here in this forest” This is the equivalent of giving out your wrong number at a bar.

 

NOT ALIENS.

Yet the paper has been removed from the NASA website because of the backlash. And because article after article has said “NASA declares rocks carved by Aliens”.  GAH!!!

How the hell are we going to communicate with aliens if we can’t even communicate with each other?

 

Symbolism Vrs Reality

I get accused of being a glutton for punishment a lot.

This is mostly because I debate creationists.

“Why? Why would you do that??!” People cry.

Well for a few reasons.

For one it’s a cheap form of entertainment. It’s fun.

And for two it keeps me sharp, it’s more interesting than a Sudoku and I believe that having the conversation is valuable, both sides learn even if it’s indirect learning. Like “oh that Atheist isn’t evil….”

One of the arguments that I have recently been having with my creationist friends is the idea that society is being execrably drawn to being secular and humanist because of artistic symbolism.

This leads to all sorts of arguments but one of the most infuriating ones that get propagated by creationists involve the sinister motivations behind art.

Art it seems isn’t what you thought it was, it’s a symbolic representation directly and purposefully designed by the artist to push relativism. The artistic movement Dada for instance wasn’t really a reaction against both Russian constructivism and Bauhaus but rather a concerted effort by the artists to propagate nonsense and to subvert the kind of art we should all be looking at. Monet’s impressionistic efforts weren’t the looking at nature through a different lens attempting to distil the effects of light without the solidity of objects getting in the way but someone just thumbing their nose at the Dutch masters.

EVIL!!! EEEEEEVVVVIIIILLLL!!!

EVIL!!! EEEEEEVVVVIIIILLLL!!!

So instead of Renne Magreet’s “The Son of Man” being, humorous, a comment on businessmen and the human need to engage with faces as well as obfuscation. It is “nonsense” that’s purpose is to remove you further from God.

Well that's silly....why would an apple be there like that?

Well that’s silly….why would an apple be there like that?

The point of Cubism was not as we might have previously believed to try to express all dimensions of an object on a two dimensional canvas but to drive people away from classicalism and therefore away from the art which is most pleasing to god. It might have been easier for artists to go on painting fruit in a realistic style for millennia and that’s what they should have done. Who were they to push boundaries? Who did they think they were? Artists?

But....people don't look like that!?!!

But….people don’t look like that!?!!

The stated purpose of the art or the forces that have shaped the art matters not, this kind of work is the bastard son of the renaissance and communism. Which could be seen in some cases to be true! But we ignore all other factors to get there. Russian revolution? Na…that can’t have affected art. The rise of Nazism in Germany? Nope. Why would artists deal with that? They are too busy trying to bring down God.

Kurt Cobain wrote lyrics not as accompaniment to his songs, but to propagate nillism and to subvert society. Everything he wrote and sang, he meant. He NEVER sang anything he didn’t 100% literally mean.

Based on a true story!

Based on a true story!

And this is the major issue I have with this idea.

Parts of this idea may well be true, Kurt was a troubled young man and some of his lyrics might well be considered nihilistic, but in the creationist world there are no winks, there is no such thing as irony, there is no interpretation other than what they have, artists don’t have a sense of humour artists churn out poe faced art in an effort to destroy god. And the symbolism is literal symbolism. “Here is my surface reading of his symbolism and there cannot be any deeper meaning , context or any other interpretation other than the one that I have ascribed to it…which just happens to agree with my argument”. Indeed it’s almost like a form of objectivism. Ayn Rand would be proud.

Ok...so she was right about one thing....

Ok…so she was right about one thing….

And then we get to brass tacks some of the people I’ve spoken to whisper low and say “It’s a humanist conspiracy to change the minds of the young people through art”’. And of course by not believing in the conspiracy and allowing art to be relativistic instead of objective I am taking part in the conspiracy. I am a conspirator.

On one hand I am somewhat pleased to know that should I desire I could ring up the current curator of the Louvre (I just happen to know that the current curator of modern art is Elisabeth Foucart-Walter) I could say to her “Hey, lizzie I’ve been having a bit of a think and I’ve realised that all those nice paintings that you have that depict things in an unrealistic style are bringing about the end of civilisation, so they have to go post haste. Oh and I don’t think it’s enough to just get them off the floor, you’ll have to burn them” and she’d go “Oh…no problem, seems a shame but we’ll do that right away”. And then she’d put the phone down and all I’d hear would be paintings stacked and the sound of petrol being poured.

Wait...your saying I shouldn't have made that call.....?

Wait…your saying I shouldn’t have made that call…..?

Conspiracies are seductive. They really are. The idea that you know something that other people don’t and that special knowledge is confined to a small group of people (whom you happen to be a member) makes you feel great! And the fact that facts and themes and threads can be stitched together to form coherent threads says a lot about the human desire for narrative.

The problem with conspiracies is that they often ignore the push and pull forces on a particular event and concentrate on what someone might have done or said or ordered to put an even into action.

Let’s take the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory. One of my personal favourites as it has a lot going for it (It explains Mull of Kintire for a start). The conspiracy theory basically states that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by the winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest.

Humm...maybe they have a point...

Humm…maybe they have a point…

Then the Beatles not content with letting sleeping Pauls lay put lots of clues about Paul being dead into both their music and on their album covers. This includes John saying “I buried Paul” at the end of Strawberry fields Forever and Abbey Road album cover as symbolising a funeral procession, where Lennon, dressed in white, symbolises the clergyman or heavenly figure. Ringo Starr, dressed in black, symbolises the undertaker or mourner. George Harrison, in denim jeans and shirt, symbolises the gravedigger and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with other members of the band, symbolises the corpse. The Volkswagen in the background has the number plate “28iF” which means Paul would have been 28…if he were still alive. On the cover of Sgt Peppers Paul is the only one facing backwards and his black arm band has “DOA” for “Dead on Arrival” written on it. For conspiracy aficionados all these clues add up to one dead Paul.

All these facts sounds great and convincing on paper and they are basically stacking evidence upon evidence which individually sounds weak but together ads up to being convincing. (I’ve really only scratched the surface with the paragraph above). However there are several things wrong with it.

There was a car crash but in 1967, Paul survived (he didn’t even go to hospital). There is some speculation that it was actually a hoax that Brain Epstein being worried about the musical direction that the Beatles were taking made the rumour up and whispered it into a few choice ears to keep the Beatles train rolling. However it started by 1967 the Beatles were aware of it and started playing on it. Deliberately leaving clues on their albums. It was a joke. They thought it was funny. In a Glass Onion John even sings “And here’s another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul” prompting people to go back to the song I am the Walrus to comb for clues.

Not the first or last time John would be confused about just who was the Walrus.

Not the first or last time John would be confused about just who was the Walrus.

But conspiracy theory much like creationism does not leave any room for humor despite the fact that the Beatles demonstrated time and time again that they were four young funny guys. NO! Don’t be silly, it can’t have all been a joke because it means something to me. Saying it’s a joke devalues me because it takes away my special knowledge.

The Piracy Conundrum

I’m over 13 and under 40 so I nearly everyone I know pirates content from the internet.

Some don’t want to but feel that they have a right too because corporations that seem to want our money seem strangely reluctant to take it just because we live on a giant island…or something frankly I’m not clear about it but I’m sure it has to do with corporations and territory agreements and the price of a dollar and some nonsense that really has no relevance now that we are talking about a product that has no production cost for the physical media attached to it and no shipping cost either. Seriously are they doing an Australian version of Game of thrones? NO? THEN LET ME FREAKING BUY IT!!! People of a suspicious nature might think that perhaps we in Australia who traditionally get gouged for content (because we live far away) are being blocked because there is no legitimate reason to gouge us anymore. Not that this stops ITunes or Amazon…..*mumble, mumble*so until one can be found to inflate the prices so insanely that we might as well just pirate we are being denied content….. This turns us into a nation of pirates. (Speaking of which you really must download Black Sails, it’s really good and ironic).

These people are defiantly against piracy.

These people are defiantly against piracy.

Perhaps it is just that they are not completely across new media but it seems unlikely at this point I believe that the market here is just too small to be of concern and the odd email to Tony Abbot to stop piracy is about all they can be bothered with. It would take little to solve the issue on their end but does that absolve us from blame? No.

The terribly sad thing is that I think 90% of people want purchase things legally. I have ONE friend who once said on social media that he would never pay for music again. People beat him with sticks.

We WANT to do the right thing. But at the same time if there is the free option there and it’s so easy to obtain abstaining is hard. Especially when companies seem to behave in a weird and contrary way.

Shut Up and TAKE MY MONEY! PIKA!

Shut Up and TAKE MY MONEY! PIKA!

If piracy really was such a drain on providers as they claimed wouldn’t the solution be to just set up a website where I can download the content for a small fee? Thereby stemming piracy AND making money?

Netflix proves that there is money to be made from streaming content they have 35% penetration in the American market. Even it’s VERY poor cousin in Australia Quickflix has a 2% share and it’s frankly an awful service. And guess what? I’m one of them! I pay $19 a month to them and I don’t even use the service. I just signed up one day in the hope it would get good. I still live in that hope. Which is why I keep my subscription but in the 11 months that I’ve had the service I’ve used it twice. THAT’s how desperate I am to pay for content. (Edit: I just changed my plan to streaming only and so it’s only going to be $9 a month also I’m registering my Viera TV so I may actually use it at some point)

I love music, I especially love music that is high quality so basically as soon as it arrived I subscribed to an American service called HD tracks. And I spent money.

Then I got geoblocked. Because they hadn’t anticipated that people from other countries would want to give them money to get 24/86 bit and higher music they hadn’t set up any kind of protection for that and never even mentioned on their website that it wasn’t appropriate for people from other countries to sign up. Apparently that assumption was wrong. People from all over the world wanted to pay for something that was reasonably priced that they could in theory get for free.

Although strangely no-one downloaded my Prog-metal album.

Although strangely no-one downloaded my Prog-metal album.

(Edit: It would seem that in the 6 months that I have been away, HDtracks has updated some of their content for sale in Australia)

So instead of giving up and pirating the material I pretended to be from Albuquerque figuring that I could always use the Bugs Bunny line if they asked. I also figured that yes I was violating their terms and conditions but I was doing it in order to PAY FOR MUSIC. Where do you stand morally on that?

This worked for a while and then they cottoned on so I am back to not being able to buy the music I want at the quality I demand.

So where does that leave me, abstaining? Because there is no guarantee that I will ever be able to purchases this music in Australia legally.

And of course now Brandis minister for variable morality wants to crack down on downloading.

It was always coming, if there’s a business interest that Abbot hasn’t pandered too it’s just because he hasn’t met it yet.

The trouble is that either side of the issue are rabid when they put their case forward.

What we look like to them.

What we look like to them.

Companies and anti-piracy campaigners will never acknowledge that it’s frustrating and stupid that Australians have spent years being done over by companies that had had a monopoly on content and now that we finally have an end in sight via the internet and the means of paying a fair price for what we want we are being denied it for reasons that are completely mystifying, they continually inflate the figures that piracy costs companies, deny that anyone that pirates ever use piracy as a method to “try before you buy” deny that pirates ever also buy media or would like to if given the chance and frankly act like every download of Game of Thrones is the invasion of Poland.

 

What they look like to us.

What they look like to us.

But there is no doubt that in most respects the companies that are being railed against are actually in the right. There is no moral imperative for them to provide us with content. And just because we can’t have it do we have the right to steal it?

Um….no…?

And yet the pro-piracy lobby seem to be putting forward the case that, this is exactly what should happen. I can’t have what I want, so I’m going to steal it till you come to your senses.

Frankly both sides seem out of their minds.

One is defending the indefensible the other literally refusing money for something that they WANT you to buy.

 

William J Bailey: The man who believed in Radiation.

There is a good case to be made that Radiophobia or Fear of ionizing radiation is a totally rational and even a beneficial fear.  After all if the last 60 years have taught us one thing it’s that a mushroom cloud represents death arriving on swift wings. Films and books such as “On the Beach” or “When the Wind Blows” portray particularly frightening scenarios where Ionizing radiation is about to extinguish all life on earth. Perhaps the most frightening thing about radiation as a killer is it’s silence, it leaves us with little or no indication that it’s actually doing it’s deathly work, you can be irradiated beyond the reach of modern medicine without even knowing that it has happened.

Strange then to think that there was a time when people happily imbibed drinks that competed with each other in a race to see who could pack the most radiation into a bottle that other people then not only bought but drank and cheerfully recommended it to their friends.

Al Jolson of “The Jazz singer” (The very first talkie) fame endorsed Radio X Neck Pads radioactive pads that were designed to improve the voice “I have used Radio X Pads for my throat and they work, I’m singing better than ever!”

AL JOLSON & MAE CLARK

The Jazz Singer: An inspirational story about a man who’s parents wouldn’t support him, all he wanted was to be terribly racist and they didn’t realise how valuable that was till the last few minutes of the movie. 

Testimonials like this are quite cringe inducing to our ears now but back then radiation was seen as a wonder drug, a miraculous invisible substance that could cure cancer……yep.

And of course it was inevitable that radiation was linked to the holy grail of hokum. The aphrodisiac*.

There were radioactive suppositories that supposedly gave your libido and erectile abilities a boost. (Coated in coco butter no less) and it’s possible that unlike many aphrodisiacs they  worked to an extent.

Radioactive condoms (that disappointingly didn’t glow in the dark but supposedly did make the blood run to your glans)

My grandmother told stories of going to the shoe store and seeing the bones in her feet in real time with an x-ray scanner it was considered a treat (the first and last time that a shoe store was entertaining).

Then there were radioactive water jugs or radium embedded in concrete called an emenator. The idea being that the emenator irradiated the water overnight and you drank it in the morning for that fresh “just from the apocalypse” feeling. To prevent scams, the AMA established guidelines (in effect from 1916 to 1929) that emanators seeking AMA approval had to generate more than 2 µCi of radon per litre of water in a 24-hour period. So if you had one you could be safe in the knowledge that it did what it said on the box. It was regulated!

2235210390103691965S425x425Q85

Those water cooler moments just aren’t the same since Larry developed super powers. 

Enter William J A Bailey, a canny business man and Harvard drop out who never the less was more than happy to tack an M.D. on the end of his name if it would help sell something that he had laced with radiation. William had been born in Boston Massachusetts and had an easy going yet authoritative manner about him, anything he said was a proclamation, he was a born salesman which would have been fine if he had been selling ties or encyclopaedias door to door but Bailey had a bent for ionizing radiation. And he had strong opinions on Radium. Radium he claimed could cure what ails ya.

radithor-1-1

Believe the hype

Radithor (radium and thorium in distilled water)Baily’s key product was very, very radioactive.  It was guaranteed to contain at least1 microcurie each of Ra-226 and Ra-228. As the manufacturer of the product, Bailey offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove the product contained less than the stated amount. No one ever did.

Baily also ran spa’s and build radioactive machines for the treatment of the ill and believed that if you focused alpha radium rays on the endocrine glands of mentally ill patients it would cure them and make them sane again. It didn’t. But they were easier to find in the dark. (sorry)

On Wikipedia Radithor is listed under the heading of “Radioactive Snakeoil” the best name for a band I’ve heard all week. It is perhaps a little unfair though because the claimed side-effects of drinking Radithor were real, and more in line with its actual tagline “Perpetual  Sunshine” as your body’s natural defence mechanism to being dosed with radiation is to over-produce red blood cells a reaction which produces a short lived but real feeling of euphoria and well-being. This might be a good time to put something in about post hoc ergo propter hoc. That feeling of well-being your experience from whatever treatment you enjoy, may not be because it’s doing you good.

More than that doctors that prescribed Radithor got a 17% kick back right into their pocket. So the incentive to prescribe it is obvious.

The early 1900’s was a time of ignorance and innocence when it came to radiation and what it could do, to scientists it was a new fascinating field of study, and to science fiction writers it was fodder for their stories and hope for a future of unlimited cheap energy to the public it was nothing short of magic.  Badly misunderstood magic. This wasn’t malicious on the part of the creators of the products we are detailing here, it was simply jumping the gun and serves as a good lesson in prudence for anyone who wants to jump on the bandwagon of unproven or untested treatments.

One of the reasons that these products were so accepted was that they weren’t drugs. The public  was keenly aware of the controversy cocaine and heroin had recently been exposed to.  Drugs that had been touted as miracle cures for everything from tooth ache to psychiatric problems but were eventually banned by the American Medical Association because they were too potent and too addictive. Husbands and wife’s remembered coming home to their loved ones who were unable to talk or walk straight because they had taken some toothache drops. So these “cures” were seen as amazing because they weren’t a drug, they did not affect your mind but really did make you feel better. In the short term.

Yes everything was going swimmingly for William Bailey, till a Mr Eben Byers came along and ruined it all. Byers was a colourful character, a semi-professional golfer, a millionaire industrialist, a ladies man and a guy who just couldn’t get enough Radithor.

In 1927 on his way home from a football match Byers suffered a small injury, an injury that he went to a doctor for, the doctor prescribed Radithor. Eben wondered where this miracle had been all his life and decided that if one bottle made him feel better….many, many, many bottles would make him feel a WHOLE lot better. Three bottles a day better. Radium after digestion lives in your bone marrow bombarding the bone marrow and surrounding tissues with alpha particle radiation for the rest of its life. All 1,601 years of it. You won’t be around that long, in fact considerably less long now you’ve ingested radium. Poor Eben began feeling the effects after a year of ingesting Radithor. He began to feel pain in his jaw, his teeth fell out eventually a specialist diagnosed him with radiation poisoning  by this time his bone structure was dissolving and he had to have his jaw removed. He died in 1932.

This was the end of Radithor seeing the way the wind was blowing Bailey shut the company down overnight outpacing the “cease and desist” order that the FTC issued years later. No-one was ever charged with Byars death and Bailey never faced so much as a hearing. As such Bailey never lost his passion for radioactive products and it seems that consumers didn’t either. Bailey moved to New York and started “The Radium institute” and successfully marketed several radioactive products. Seemingly Teflon and unstoppable. What eventually stopped him was the war, in 1939 he being a successful business man he was co-opted to run the war time division of IBM no-doubt wondering if and what he could irradiate whilst he was there, but then towards the close of the war something happened that changed everyone’s opinion of radiation. It had been a long time coming; there had been lots of warning signs, Byers, the fate of the Curries, Undark and the Radium girls. It was actually none of these things that made radiation dangerous in the public conciseness.

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What changed it was the Hulk

In 1945 the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and everyone’s opinion of radiation was forever changed. What was once considered a healing force was now irrevocably associated with death.

Baily died of bladder cancer on May 17, 1949 at what was probably not an unreasonable age for someone who had spent most of their lives around radiation. 64 years old.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of all this is that there are still people who believe in Radium. Radon spa’s still exist. And are still frequented. “Health Mines” in both America and Europe continue to pop up bolstered by studies such as this. Which seem to suggest that radiation can have a long term effect on rheumatoid arthritis. People still line up to sit in caves with a high radon count so that they can receive the therapeutic benefits. My grandmother wouldn’t let me sleep next to a clock with an illuminated dial. I guess now we are so far away from actually seeing radiations effects it’s time for it to make a comeback as a treatment.

 

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Yes, seriously a picture of people voluntarily being irradiated. 

 

*A small note on aphrodisiacs: What is the point of an aphrodisiac? REALLY? Has there ever been a need to get humans to procreate? Seriously? When have we not? I’ve never, EVER been about to bed someone that I really like and thought “Humm….this isn’t going to work, what I really need is a radioactive condom”