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Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 0 comments

“I See Dead People” — My Review of ‘Psychic’ Sylvia Browne’s Flim-Flam Act

 

Sylvia Browne Fraud

 

INTRODUCTION

Someone should have warned me about Sylvia Browne’s utterly shameless and abominable one-woman stage act.

I suspected it would be mind-bogglingly awful.

What I couldn’t possibly have predicted was — her show would actually be worse than I expected.

Where to begin?

Sit down.  Get comfortable.  Grab a drink.  Hell, get a bottle.  This review is going to be one for the ages.

 

BEFORE THE SHOW

Click here to read Part 1:    WHO WOULD PAY MONEY TO SEE THIS QUACK?

Browne’s show was scheduled to begin at 8 pm on a Saturday night inside a busy casino showroom.  Tickets were priced at $42 a pop, plus tax (I got in for free — story to come later).

Prior to her performance, Browne’s devotees are lined up outside the main entrance.  By the time I arrive, a few hundred people are streaming into the arena.  There’s a single ticket-taker, who must have been in his 70s.  I must admit, this senior took his job very seriously.  The way he meticulously checked every ticket (one surely has to be on the lookout for counterfeit Sylvia Browne tickets), the way he tore each in half, and then placed them carefully inside the box — made me think he he missed his life’s calling running the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl.  Of course, this process slows down the line considerably, making the wait an unnecessary 15-20 minutes.

Fortunately, there’s something to keep those who are waiting occupied.  Sylvia Browne has several books and jewelry items conveniently positioned right next to the line to tempt us.  How nice of Mrs. Browne to think so much of her followers and their discomfort from having to stand in a long line to (coincidentally?) position her four tables right along the queue.  I’m not a psychic, but I suspect Mrs. Browne picked up a few extra sales that way.

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Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Who Would Pay Money to See This Quack?

 

Fraud Sylvia Browne

 

On the list of the world’s most hideous people, this piece of shit is very near the top.

Her name is Sylvia Browne, and for those of you fortunate enough to have never heard of her, she’s a self-described “spiritual teacher and psychic.”

And in a related news story — I’m the Pope.

This charlatan might have some mild entertainment value if some people didn’t take her so seriously.  In a sort of Andy Kaufman sort of way, she could be a knee-slapping riot.  If she was performing on The Gong Show, her charade would be so fucking bad, it actually might be pretty good.

Trouble is — she’s not amusing people.  To the contrary, she’s hurting people.  Lots of people.  She’s been touring the country during the last few months, shaking down her hopeless audience members (and dare I say “fans”) who have absolutely no clue they’re little more than the latest generation of frightened townsfolk getting pitched with the snake-oil.

It’s really hard to believe we’re living in the 21st Century here — that people believe the same bullshit that’s been shoveled since the days of Pythia, the very first Sylvia Browne incarnate who did her very own Three-Card Monte act way back in ancient Greece.  At least poor Pytha had the decency to commit suicide at the age of 30 — thus sparing the world’s most advanced society at the time more of her delusions.  Browne couldn’t do us that favor.  She’s still conning people to this day, and going strong well into her 70s.

No doubt, Browne is very good at what she does.  He’s a real pro.  Indeed, most con-artists are good at what they do.  She’s flim-flammed her devotees — typically made up of older, poorly-educated women grappling with depression.  Browne has even managed to convince some of these people that she possesses supernatural powers.  And so, she does what any heartless self-promoting opportunist would do.  She bilks her followers out of a few bucks.  Make that 47 bucks a pop, which is the standard ticket prize for her show.

Browne spends much of her time flying around the country masquerading as some kind of 100,00-watt antenna to the grave.  Her act pretty much consists of duping people who are so emotionally vulnerable and so utterly desperate for answers, that they’ll often drive hundreds of miles to witness her onstage “readings.”  Many come with hopes they’ll get lucky enough to be chosen amongst hundreds with similar problems sitting in what amounts to a clusterfuck of basketcases.  Most seek answers to questions which simply cannot be answered.  They beg for solace.  They long for inner peace.  And the grand dame of duplicity, Sylvia Browne is right there on center stage to deliver on cue what they’re so desperate to hear — even if it means abandoning all sense of human decency.

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 3 comments

B-52s and Banana Cream Pie — My Visit to Bossier City

 

 

Writer’s Note:  The World Series of Poker Circuit is currently taking place at Horseshoe Bossier City.  So, I’m staying in Shreveport, Louisiana during the next two weeks.  Today, I’ll share with you two things that have impressed me most so far about my visit.

 

It sounded like a screech.  A deafening, high-pitched screech.  Almost like the scream in a horror movie.

I looked up into the sky.  There it was.

A giant B-52 bomber.

If you’ve never seen the breathtaking sight of a B-52 in flight, I must say — even from the ground — the visual is awe-inspiring.  Conjoined with its high-pitched eardrum-shattering 120 decibels, the image of the B-52 plowing overhead with it’s beastly eight engines barreling out thick black smoke is a momentous assault on the senses.

Barksdale Air Force Base is located on Bossier City’s east side.  Years ago, I remember well the sight and sound of B-52s regularly hoovering over the Louisiana Downs Racetrack off in the distance, which I frequently visited.  It’s been a long, long time since I saw this aircraft up close.  I had forgotten how intimidating the sight is.  Earlier today looking up into the sky, I rekindled that double-edged love affair with darker forces and was once again reminded of mankind’s inherent aptitude for creating marvels of self-destruction.

It was horribly beautiful.

The B-52 is an astonishing image of national power.  The fleet carries payloads of nuclear weapons.  These are B-52s on high alert — always ready to strike.  Prepared for its target like wolves catching the scent of a bunny, B-52s are always swilring around up in the air somewhere, defending the nation.  This is intentionally so, as a sort of Orwellian flip-flop of logic manifested by explaining the madness as a “deterrent.”

Never mind that their constant presence was one of the things which triggered an arms race and ignited the fuse for a lot of bad guys in the world who came to accelerate their own ambitions for nuclear weapons.  Even with the Cold War long over, B-52 missions continue around the clock, every day and night of the year.  I had just witnessed the conclusion of one of these missions, landing at Barksdale AFB.

But what’s really most impressive about the B-52 is longevity.  This year marks the aircraft’s 60-year anniversary.  That’s right.  America’s nuclear arsenal is hauled around in a fleet of planes that were designed when Eisenhower was President and most the country was tuned into “I Love Lucy.”  I’m not sure if that’s more astonishing, or horrifying.

That’s how incredible these planes are.  That they have stood the test of time for six long decades and remain just as frighteningly effective as the day they first rolled off the Boeing assembly line as the most powerful fighting machine perhaps that’s ever been designed.  Think of all the advances in technology and changes in aircraft design since that time.  And yet, the most destructive instruments in the history of mankind are hauled around in the equivalent of a 1952 Chevy.

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Posted by on Aug 5, 2012 in Blog, Personal, Travel | 0 comments

Trip Report — The Final Chapter (Part 5)

 

Note:  This is the fifth and final installment of a trip report I wrote (unpublished) from February and March of 2012.

 

XV:  MONDAY: FINAL DAY OF WSOP CIRCUIT AT CAESARS ATLANTIC CITY

I rarely discuss working at the World Series of Poker in any public forum, other than comments related to my official role.  I do not believe it is appropriate for me to comment here or anywhere on what goes on behind the scenes nor infuse my personal biases into what I do.  So, those of you looking for that in this blog — you will be disappointed.  I consider it a great honor to work for the WSOP as long as I have and I simply do not betray confidences entrusted in me.

But I’ll break protocol somewhat in this report, with some activities that take place on the thirteenth and final day of the WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City.  Today will be a brutal workload, with THREE final tables to cover, which means three full written reports, the most important of which is the Main Event Championship.

I must admit some of these reports are like industrial writing.  It’s like grinding out a new chapter in a giant tech manual each day.  Occasionally, there’s a good story here and there.  But how in the fuck do you make a 22-year-old college dropout winning $26,183 compelling reading?

There’s also data entry for all results to do, which is what I’ve been reduced to at age 50.  A fucking data entry clerk.  That’s what I am.  Only, instead of typing in social security numbers and addresses, it’s poker players and chip counts.  Now, I know why insurance salesmen are the heaviest drinkers.  Monotonous mind-numbing repetition must be doused with some extinguishing excitation.

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Posted by on Aug 4, 2012 in Blog, Personal, Travel | 0 comments

Trip Report — Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City (Part 4)

XII:  SATURDAY EVENING:  AT-LARGE BANQUET

Speaking to any audience in the poker community is a challenge.  Think about it.  Most poker groups are full of novice recreational players — unsophisticated star-struck newcomers who pretty much salt lick any speaker’s ass and chomp any poker tidbit like its a carrot dangling in front of a mule.  But this group I’m with tonight has a considerably higher threshold of expectation, which is precisely why some of our past BARGE speakers were misfires (including yours truly).  Bottom Line:  It’s not easy to entertain as well as inform a group with some of the brightest and most experienced minds in the game.

In short — it’s hard to hit a triple crown with any speaker at a poker gathering, which in my view consists of:  1. A speaker who “gets us,” 2: A speaker who is informative, and 3. A speaker who is entertaining.  If we hit on two of those cylinders, that’s a double.  Three is a home run.

I was pleased when I initially heard that John Pappas would be this year’s speaker.  For those who do not know him, John serves as the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA).  It’s an organization to which I give a mixed grade, which would probably be a “C” mixed with an “I” for INCOMPLETE.  But I certainly respect the fine work John has done and I am eager to hear his latest from the political front.

I thought John hit a solid single on at the banquet with his speech.  There was nothing earth-shattering nor newsworthy about it.  But, he essentially covered all the bases with the latest with what’s happening in poker at the moment, especially with regards to online poker legalization.  I do think John could have been a little more revealing about the work he does, and would very much have liked to hear some behind-the-scene stories about what he’s seen an experienced.  I can only imagine the roadblocks of ignorance he’s up against with the clueless whores we elect as lawmakers.  Some candid revelations about what happens in the trenches of lobbying could have been entertaining.  But, you can’t fetch the winning hand from the muck and so this too shall pass.

Now, let’s move on to what you are waiting for — the ballbusting.

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