left biblioblography: I Came, I Saw, I Coulda Stayed Home

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Came, I Saw, I Coulda Stayed Home

So it was depressing as hell.

I got 1 Gold and 1 Silver (in Tai Chi Internal Other and TC Other weapon). I could have sworn I did a way better job than the guy who captured 3rd place in Men’s Advanced Yang.

Oh, but I got a Gold! Big deal. I was the only person in the category. I could have phoned it in: “Hi, yeah, this is Douglas, 1st I do Wu Chi, then I do Grasp Sparrow’s tail, yadda yadda yadda, put the medal in the post please.” But the head judge asked me what style it was, and 3 of the judges came up & shook my hand (something I’ve never seen in a tournament before).

I got a silver in Internal other, competing against a fellow student (hey! I gave him a ride! I shoulda tossed him outta the car halfway there!). For the last 2 months I’ve been bugging my sifu, “Who’s competing, who’ll be there?” He never knew. Then I run into this high-level guy, he claims he’s just the photographer, I turn around, he’s lost the street clothes and is wearing full silks. Kept telling me he was the photographer, up until he got a gold medal. Had I known he’d be there, I’d have trained harder.

On a more skeptical note: Pharyngula had this post the other day, and I ran into one of these guys! No, it wasn’t a bible thumper. It was this Asian con man selling this nonsense:

So I watched him for a bit. He would pull someone over. Tell them to stand in this position, feet together, hands at the side palms up fingers pointing inwards. Then he’d pull downwards to the left, and over they’d topple. Then put amulet in hand/pocket, do again, look! You didn’t topple!

I walked by, and he pulled the barker routine. I said, “I don’t know, I’m skeptical.” He insisted he was a skeptic too (another of their rapport tricks), and he ran his banter on me (it didn’t help that he smelled like he hadn’t wiped his ass proper, I might add). First time, he knocked me over. The second time, I had to put the amulet in my badge (no pockets). He knocked me over. He sputtered, “Well, if you’re going to act like that.” I had to go anyways, as I had events to attend, but I said something in parting about how that was garbage. He tried to explain how I should believe it, since I did Wushu, but his smell was too much, and I had to go.

It’s easy to spot the obvious swindle implicit: of course he’ll knock you over the first time not the second, because now you’re ready for it. The second part of his patter was the knock-over-point. You did the first part, then he sets it up (if you have a friend or kid, I watched this), the friend/kid knocks you over on the second time, first iteration, but then the con man with the amulet points at you, voila! You don’t fall over anymore! Is that magic? Hell no. You’re unconsciously following a script, because he’s established a subconscious rapport, and you’re friends with the guy now, so you follow along.

Sadly, the martial arts abounds with this sort of nonsense. The guy who breaks a wire tied to his chest? He treated the wire to a dab of acid. The guy who tears a phone book in half? He folded the phone books pages in half, to facilitate the tear. The guy who slaps huge bricks, they break? That’s possible, but you can treat bricks so they’re more fragile. Those clowns who seem to be able to knock down/out people from a distance? Hey, you need to be a student AND a believer (though it probably helps to be the former: that way, the instructor’s made some easy money).

Yeah, so it’s not just religion. People look for woo under the surface anywhere, and they want to hear that they’re special, or if they’re not, that they will be special some day soon, for the low low price of 19.95, plus we’ll throw in a set of Ginsu knives along with your inflated sense of worth!

It is to plotz, sometimes, I tell ya.

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