Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bragging Rights

I picked up the book because of the large red letters proclaiming “THE SHOCKING TRUTH” on a watery blue background. I then noticed the authors; one of them was the famous Paul C. Bragg, a fitness guru who died in 1976. The book was not new, but it was not 36 years old. What “SHOCKING TRUTH” did the long dead author have to reveal?

The used book price tag read $0.75. Now I own it.

I wanted to know how long Paul had been dead when he wrote the book, but the book was strangely devoid of dates. It also lacked any mention of the fact that Paul was dead.

The book insinuated that Paul was alive by referring to his activities in the present tense: “Paul C. Bragg and Patricia Lift Weights 3 Times Weekly”.

I searched the IBSN number to find when the book was published. It looks like the book was first published in 1998, and then an updated version was published in 2008. I apparently have the updated version so Paul was only 32 years dead when it came out.

It is not SHOCKING that Paul’s death is clouded in mystery as his birth also is.

The third chapter of the book is entitled “Bragg Speaks About His Childhood” or “Paul C. Bragg’s Childhood” depending on whether you get the chapter’s title from the table of contents or the beginning of the chapter. In it, as one might expect, Paul’s childhood is described. His birth and growing up on a Virginia farm situated on the bank of the Potomac river is described. His grandfather was “a loving Christian family man, an expert horseman and a hard working farmer”. The book continues Paul’s description of his early childhood by describing his treatment for TB at the age of 16 in one of Auguste Rollier’s Swiss sanatoriums.

Rollier was a true-believing disciple of Niels Ryberg Finsen, Finsen won the Nobel prize in 1903 for his work treating Lupus with UV radiation. Rollier expanded Finsen’s ideas into a branch of medicine called heliotherapy. High in the Aigle district of the Swiss Alps Rollier would lay out his nearly naked TB patients for therapeutic sunbaths. Ludicrous as it sounds the therapy did have a measurable therapeutic effect. The advent of much more effective, and less damaging, antibiotic therapies would see most centers for heliotherapy close.

Just to the west of Rollier’s Leysin sanitariums one can take a cable car from the picturesque town of Mürren (1,650 meters) to the 2,970 meter-high summit of the Schilthorn. Perched on that summit is a rotating restaurant called the Piz Gloria. The Piz Gloria got its name from the James bond Movie (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) filmed there. In the Movie the evil Dr. Blofeld (Telly Savalas) ran a sanatorium for women as a cover for his nefarious plans for world domination. Luckily George Lazenby (in his one-and-only appearance as agent 007) was able to infiltrate Savalas’s bevy of libidinous beauties in order to save civilization. In the movie there was also lots of skiing and Diana Rigg.

Interestingly the plotline of the Bond movie is about as close to the truth as is the story of Paul’s childhood. A convincing search of public records reveals that Paul was born in Indiana in 1895, not Virginia in 1881. There is no record of him ever getting TB or being whisked off to Switzerland as a teenager to be treated.

Paul’s story in this book leaves out some important items. A People Magazine article from August 11th 1975 adds this bit:
“Bragg opened a health food store in New York City, the first in the U.S. By then, he had acquired a Ph.D. in science and a doctorate in nutrition, and had wrestled for the U.S. in the 1908 and 1912 Olympics.”

This is impressive. I cannot verify the Ph.D’s of either Paul or his daughter as they do not get very specific about where or what the Ph.Ds are from. However, it is fairly clear that Bragg did not wrestle in the Olympics (any of them, let alone two) or open the first health food store in New York.

It is also interesting to note that Patricia is apparently not really Paul’s daughter. She is his Daughter-in-Law, having married into the Bragg name through Paul’s Son Robert. This distinction is never made clear in the book, or on the website.

Unfortunately there are no SHOCKING zombie truths laid out in the book. I did not read it in great detail. There is at least one picture of a brain though.

The book lays out many “facts” that are supposed to validate the authors' shifting claims. There are way too many facts to check out. I did check out a couple.

On page 8 the idea that water flushes toxins out of the body is proposed. This sounds nice, but there is no proposed mechanism. Instead the authors point out that Japanese eat lots of salt and that: “This heavy salt intake hastens premature death”. This is interesting information because most data-based measures of life expectancy at birth show that Japan’s (82.73 years) is the highest in the world (USA is 77.97).

I also found this drawing. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be a hospital from the 1300’s or an alpine sanatorium, but the looming cloud with the words “BLACK DEATH” caught my attention.

I suppose you could get plague from water; especially if the water had fleas that had just gorged themselves on a rat infected with Yersinia pestis drowning in it

The Bragg’s link their material to Christianity. Patricia calls her book tours and speaking engagements “Crusades”. Paul was apparently a loud and public bible-thumper while he lived. On the back cover of this book is the tiny Christian fish insignia with “3 John 2” written in it.

3 John 2 is a strange bible reference. It points to the greeting part of a letter from Paul the Presbytr to a man named Gaius. The passage is almost devoid of contextual worth or theological meaning.

Is there some sort of intended irony in its selection?

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