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Dec 04 2013

I have no desire at all to visit Sedona, Arizona

But I think a movie about it could be interesting. If you’ve never heard of it, Sedona is kind of the epicenter of a whole webwork of New Age nuttiness — it’s what you get when liberals go full-on faith-head.

sedona

Carrie Poppy, Brian Thompson, and Adam Isaak are running a kickstarter to make an expose of the whole silly mess. If you’re feeling nice, it’s an opportunity to help them get a nice camera and some travel expenses; if you’re one of those mean skeptics, look at it as donating to send them off to get a colonic irrigation on camera. Win-win!

50 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    “Sedona, Arizona” at least it rhymes…

  2. 2
    edithkeeler

    Apart from the woo Sedona is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever been – you should totally go.

    (ok the UFO Museum was fun too)

  3. 3
    Ryan Jean

    I went to Sedona for my 1st Anniversary (to make up for not getting a honeymoon). It’s beautiful there, mostly nestled in a canyon with lots of gorgeous rock formations, white-water rafting in the river and some wonderful hiking. The place has a strong allure.

    That said, wow, the woo is definitely strong there. For the most part if you avoid the various kitsch shops you’ll be fine, but there are a good number of kooks.

  4. 4
    No One

    My Swedish ex was visited the crystal palace in Sedona. There was a psychic with a table there peddling his woo. He asked her (based on her accent) where she was from. “You don’t know? Some psychic!”.

  5. 5
    ekwhite

    I used to visit Sedona quite a bit back in the late ’90s when my nephew lived there. The place is stunningly beautiful.

    Some of the people there, however, are absolute frauds. Like the man my nephew was dating at the time who would go down to Phoenix, buy cheap knick-knacks at Wal-Mart or one of the local outdoor swap meets, take them back to his shop in Sedona, mark them up 20x, and tell the tourists they came from his native village in Thailand. Or the Italian guy from New Jersey who pretended to be a Native American tribal leader while giving a fraudulent spiel on ‘Native American Spirituality at the local IMAX theater.

    It was also full of cultists like the Osho people or the group that gathered on top of Bell Rock in December 1999 to await the end of the world and the coming of the mothership.

    I will definitely donate to the kickstarter campaign.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    When visiting a friend temporarily resident in Sedona, I met her friend who had a “colonic irrigation” setup arranged so that the output passed through transparent plastic tubing in the irrigatee’s line of sight.

    I was firmly ordered to get all of the “my whole life passed before my eyes” schtick out of my system before that encounter. Even more frustrating, we didn’t get to see the famous McCain family compound.

    Gotta say, the landscape out there amazes.

  7. 7
    sawells

    Passed through Sedona a couple of times when we were living in AZ. On the main drag through the town there is, no joke, a sign for a “metaphysical superstore”. There just aren’t enough facepalms.

    The geology there is beyond stunning – amazing weathered red sandstones – but it’s thickly crusted with new-agers doing crystal meditation and ersatz sweat lodges.

  8. 8
    David Wilford

    It’s very scenic around Sedona, and there are some great art galleries there too, but the prices – yow. Go visit the old copper mining town of Jerome instead on the other side of the Verde River valley.

  9. 9
    peterhuestis

    Sedona is so irritating, you can’t even walk three paces without getting entangled in a “dream catcher.”

  10. 10
    Randomfactor

    Besides, it’s in ARIZONA.

  11. 11
    ekwhite

    David Wilford @8

    I love Jerome. The drive up there is fantastic. I also love Crown King, but you practically need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get there. It is definitely a white knuckle drive.

  12. 12
    Sastra

    I’d love to visit Sedona for the scenery but yes, the metaphysical nonsense is likely to grate on me even worse than the constant Jay-zus nonsense which permeates the Deep South. After all, my personal atheist journey involved evolving OUT of this sort of High Spirituality and thus it all still seems like 1.) a live option and 2.) deeply, seriously muddled, dangerous, insulting, immoral, deceptive and WRONG.

    Since the whole point of becoming Spiritually Enlightened is to obtain a smug, self-righteous sense of Peace, Tranquility, and Acceptance of even the lowly materialistic unenlightened, however, I’m sure I’d be tolerated as long as I don’t try to ARGUE with anyone (the definition of which includes any expression of skepticism which isn’t immediately followed by comforting reassurances that you’re super duper fine if THEY believe because it’s not right for you but okay for them.) The world, you see, became a much, much worse place when the concept of rational debate replaced the idea that we learn by opening the heart to Love.

  13. 13
    Moggie

    “Crystal vortex” sounds dangerously abrasive.
    Also, totally a prog-rock band name.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    As I walked out in the streets of Sedona,
    As I walked out in Sedona one day,
    I saw there a white man in beaded, fringed leather,
    His hair full of feathers, his pipe made of clay.

    “I see by your aura that you need a shaman.”
    These words he did say as I slowly walked by.
    “If you pay me some money, I’ll ad-just your chakras,
    Your qi is unbalanced, and your Feng has gone Shui.”

    “‘Twas once down in Phoenix I used to be working,
    ‘Twas once down in Phoenix that I used to stay.
    Commute to the office, and back to the suburbs,
    Took a class last weekend, I’m a shaman today.”

    “I beat the drum lowly and set the price highly,
    I make up the chanting as I go along;
    Drive up from the valley, and lay down your plastic,
    For enough of your money, I’ll fix what’s gone wrong.”

    “Those six jolly tourists they paid me for drumming,
    Those six rich old women they paid for my spells.
    I put bunches of crystals all over my window,
    Crystals to reflect the lies that I tell.”

    ===========

  16. 16
    Bicarbonate is back

    Tsu-tsu @15

    Is that poem to be sung to the tune of something?????

  17. 17
    David Wilford

    It’s to the tune of Streets of Laredo:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streets_of_Laredo_%28song%29

  18. 18
    Trebuchet

    @15:

    I see by your outfit that you are a shaman,
    I see by your outfit that you are one too,
    We see by our outfits that we are both shamans,
    If you had an outfit you could be a shaman too!

    (H/T the Smothers Brothers)

  19. 19
    Michael

    I’ve enjoyed going to Sedona since we first stumbled on it coming back from the Grand Canyon. It’s easier to avoid the woo, compared to timeshare presentations. It also adds some amusing childhood memories, as Robert Shields, the surviving member of Shields and Yarnell, has an art studio there.

    http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KIo.DAYJ9SXU8AfQD7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTB2Mm9jNG1iBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVjE0OQRncG9zAzE-?p=shields+and+yarnell&vid=f31c886b93f43a5df7ea1c47114685b7&l=2%3A40&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DV.4508952398139285%26pid%3D15.1&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dkm1QRnzIKpI&tit=Shields+%26amp%3B+yarnell+breakfast+show&c=0&sigr=11aesvqt5&sigt=1141q3odj&pstcat=arts+culture+and+entertainment&age=0&fr=yfp-t-900&tt=b

  20. 20
    Bicarbonate is back

    I like the Bad Girl version better:

    Nina

    Feist

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    If you’re feeling nice, it’s an opportunity to help them get a nice camera and some travel expenses; if you’re one of those mean skeptics, look at it as donating to send them off to get a colonic irrigation on camera. Win-win!

    PZ, you are evil in the best possible way. Can I be your Mini-me?

  23. 23
    Rey Fox

    It could be one of the best extended Daily Show segments ever, but alas I have no money to spare.

  24. 24
    Brent Rasmussen

    Sedona is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the planet. We go up for the jeep trails. Stay in a cheap motel, or camp, and hit all the trails over a couple of days. There are a lot of woo shops, but just as many non-woo, typical touristy-type shops as well. Fun in small doses, like any touristy town. The restaurants are decent due to the sheer amount of cash flowing into that place, and the scenery – like I said – just can’t be beat.

    To deprive yourself of a wonderful experience because of the stereotypical new-age woo-woo silliness that also goes on there is kind of puzzling to me. I mean, The catholic Church basically owns Rome, but I’d still love to visit there one day.

    Ah, well. :)

  25. 25
    cartomancer

    It sounds like a crass, oversized version of my native Glastonbury in the UK – a medium-sized town of 9000 people that has not one but two magic wand shops to its name. Over half the retail outlets in the town sell crystals or African carvings or magic candles or dreamcatchers or books of spells. And Glastonbury has been cashing in on new-age tourism since the twelfth century, when the monks of its abbey conveniently “discovered” the tombs of King Arthur and Guinevere in the abbey grounds!

    The interesting thing about growing up there, though, is that everyone knew the new-age nonsense was just kitschy tourist tat. There were a few people who believed in it floating around, but by far the majority of Glastonbury’s residents were no more prone to this stuff than anyone else in the UK. Less prone, very possibly, given that we saw it primarily as the tacky, touristy stuff that brought weirdoes in from out of town.

    I wonder if the majority of Sedona’s residents are of a similar outlook? It would be interesting to find out.

  26. 26
    truthspeaker

    edithkeeler

    4 December 2013 at 7:20 am (UTC -6) Link to this comment

    Apart from the woo Sedona is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever been – you should totally go.

    Seconded. Skip the town and check out the wilderness outside the town. In April, if you can swing it.

  27. 27
    thecalmone

    @25 Cartomancer – not to mention that Glastonbury and the surrounding Somerset Levels are also very beautiful.

  28. 28
    jakc

    Even country and western singers know that there is no Sedona.

  29. 29
    joel

    Hey! Excellent, amazing rock climbing near Sedona. I, myself, have climbed The Mace, which I would put among the top 10 multipitch trad routes in the entire US.

    And I actually enjoy laughing at all the woo in Sedona. The local culture is a rich source of amusement for me, though YMMV.

  30. 30
    Rich Woods

    @Cartomancer #25:

    There were a few people who believed in it floating around, but by far the majority of Glastonbury’s residents were no more prone to this stuff than anyone else in the UK.

    Possibly because the more prone soon emigrated to Totnes…

  31. 31
    pailott

    Actually geologically it is absolutely beautiful. I recommend going (near Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon),

    just remember to bring hiking boots, New Age blinders and/or blood pressure medicine. Blatant fraud can be very annoying !!

  32. 32
    robro

    We’ve got plenty of rock gazers around San Francisco, of course. On the street where I’m sitting right now there are any number of shops selling rocks for healing and spiritual purposes. And this is an affluent neighborhood full of young techies.

    Of course, humans have long worshipped rocks, vesting them with magic powers. The Cybele was nothing but an unsculpted black meteoric stone, perhaps similar to the one in the Kaaba. The Romans dragged it from Phrygia to Rome because a consultation of the Sibylline Oracles told them it would lead to the defeat of Hannibal…and the oracle was correct! Hannibal was defeated soon after its arrival it Ostia, and at the hands of the Roman who officially received it, ending Punic War II. So see…Om…

  33. 33
    Aaron Ginn

    Sedona is visually stunning and is an outdoor paradise, but the crowds and the prices there are outrageous. I actually get a big kick out of all the new-age nonsense, but I do get in quite a bit of trouble when I’m there because I have a hard time suppressing the snark. :)

  34. 34
    numerobis

    I wonder if the majority of Sedona’s residents are of a similar outlook? It would be interesting to find out.

    Certainly on the jeep tour I went on, the jeep driver started with the woo, but stopped when he noticed we weren’t buying it (we being a bunch of computer scientists); he switched to saying “they say X” and giving us the background to understand the mad ramblings of others. When we all got together for a break, the group leader gave us a spiel about african mayans and the dalai lama having a psychic connection with somebody and warning about the nazis and the such. Back in the jeeps, our driver was one with the wahoo of driving a jeep on rough terrain, and the beauty of the landscape — and complaining about the group leader being a true believer.

  35. 35
    Grue Convention

    I live in Arizona. The woo factory in Sedona is actually quite refreshing from the general wingnuttery around here. I find it rather fun. I’ll take pseudo-liberal pseudoscience over fascist religious archconservatism any day. I mean pseudo-liberal– the people in Sedona are out to fleece you, so I wouldn’t call them liberal.

    And yeah, it’s beautiful.

  36. 36
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    PZ says:

    But I think a movie about it could be interesting. If you’ve never heard of it, Sedona is kind of the epicenter of a whole webwork of New Age nuttiness

    Does anyone know why that’s the case? What makes Sedona appeal to New Agers?

  37. 37
    feralboy12

    But I think a movie about it could be interesting. If you’ve never heard of it, Sedona is kind of the epicenter of a whole webwork of New Age nuttiness

    More so than Eugene, Oregon? Has my adopted hometown really fallen from the top spot? It’s because of the football team, isn’t it?
    Well, dammit, this is disappointing. I wonder if they still sell Guru Chews in the food co-ops…

  38. 38
    tacitus

    Add my voice to those who say it would be a shame to miss out of one of the most beautiful parts of Arizona for the sake of the presence of a bit of woo. Even in Sedona itself, it’s really no worse than the usual kitschy nonsense peddled in other tourist traps. The good thing is, as others have pointed out, there is an abundance of trails, creeks, and swimming holes to explore, so you can be getting on with communing with nature while the gullible attempt to commune with spirits of their ancestors, or something.

    Outside of ignoring crystal healing and palm reading store fronts while walking about town, the only encounter with the woo was my sister chatting to someone who told her that she avoided the local vortexes because they gave her a headache.

  39. 39
    thebookofdave

    @ekwhite #11

    I love Jerome. The drive up there is fantastic.

    If you find the drive memorable, you should try it by cycle. Jerome was my only opportunity to try out first gear on my recumbent.

  40. 40
    Tethys

    Brian Dunning has an article explaining the appeal of Sedona to the new-age woosters.

    Skeptoid- the Sedona Energy Vortices

  41. 41
    ChasCPeterson

    What makes Sedona appeal to New Agers?

    Like Mt. Shasta, its California equivalent, it is a Power Spot.
    whatever that means. A harmonic convergence of ley lines or some shit.

  42. 42
    madscientist

    I’m glad I’m old enough to have enjoyed Sedona in an era when it wasn’t such an attraction to kooks. It was an absolutely gorgeous place to visit and walk around – once upon a time.

  43. 43
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Tethys, Chas:
    Thank you both!

  44. 44
    alwayscurious

    It probably wouldn’t do much good to make a debunking movie. The Oregon Vortex proudly displays a newspaper article up showing an high school physics class “investigating” the place. The class conclusion: optical illusion. The vortex’s conclusion: magnetic/gravitational distortion field. Naturally the distortion shortens your ruler as well as the participant so measuring devices are no good. The diehards would rather believe in geomagnetic/gravitational distortion fields or ley lines or ???. It’s an entertaining, well-built illusion with guides who do a great job with suggestion.

    http://www.o4sr.org/investigations/oregon_vortex.html

  45. 45
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I have to add my approval of the physical beauty of Sedona. I went there around 11 years ago as part of an Earth Science Symposium (THANK YOU McGraw-Hill!) and spent 5 days reviewing textbooks, bu also going on some jeep tours of the area. Magnificently gorgeous, with red sandstone box canyons (and it snowed the day we arrived, giving brilliant highlights), pine trees growing out of rock, mountains all around, and a very large sinkhole.

    We never went into town, but we passed through on the way to the jeep tour, and I started laughing when I saw the sign for the psychic general store.

  46. 46
    allencdexter

    you’re missing something if you never visit the Sedona area, including the whole Verde Valley and Jerome. We live about 15 miles away in Cottonwood. It’s cheaper here and I’d get sick of all the red rocks if I lived there. Also, most things are built on slopes and are split level which doesn’t agree with our advanced ages.

    We have an up and coming secular humanist free thinker group going here with around one hundred members over the last two years, so not everybody is hung up on wooo. When Richard Dawkins, accompanied by Sean Faircloth, visited Sedona and our group for the first time in his life, he joked that if he were god, he’d want to live in Sedona. We average a couple visits each month and just ignore all the nonsense.

  47. 47
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    All this talk about the beauty of Sedona…I need to Google some images.

    brb…

    Wow. Ok. You folks are right. I’m sure the images I saw don’t do the area proper justice, but damn, those were some gorgeous pics!

  48. 48
    allencdexter

    Just another point about another comment. McCain doesn’t have a place in Sedona itself. Their extra home is in Cornville, a little burg northeast of Cottonwood. I’ve never seen it but know the way there. It’s in the Sedona area, but Sedona sounds more prestigious than Cornville, so that’s where they lead people to believe their extra home is. I used to live about a mile away from their home in Phoenix.

  49. 49
    Skeptimus Prime

    I used to live in Phoenix. I knew several fans of New Age stuff who loved Sedona.

    One of them was ironically a die hard Republican too, so not all new agers are liberal. Of course most are, which was, I think, one of the reasons this guy was such an asshole, he walked around with a chip on his shoulder all the time because people who found out he was a new agers always assumed he was liberal or if they found out he was Republican first, they assumed he was a fundy Christian.

  50. 50
    greg hilliard

    PZ

    Next time you head out this way, budget a little extra time to see Sedona. It’s spectacular. I’ve been there a number of times (the heavy woo factor if find more entertaining — read laughable — than exasperating). One of our favorite jaunts is up Schnebly Hill Road for a great vista. Signs warn that it’s for jeeps only because of the rough terrain, but I have made that trip close to 10 times in a Toyota Camry and a Toyota Sienna (and once in a rented SUV when my cousin came here from Italy). The funniest trip was when we drove past a jeep that had gotten stuck on the side of the road while we sauntered by in our minivan.
    Jerome, too, is a wonderful place. The wife and I took the kids there one Super Bowl Sunday because it had snow. We had the run of the place.

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