In my continuing bazillion-part series on our journeys through the 2009 Whole Life [and wallet] Expo last November in Toronto, I’ll be reviewing a particularly over-priced piece of equipment called “Kangen Water”
Like this vinyl standee, you might be asking yourself, “What can Kangen Water DO FOR ME?” But if you’re a little like me, you might ask yourself, “What-the-crazy is Kangen Water?”, followed closely by “…and do I really want to know?”
Well, if you listen to the salesman, the brochure, and the website, you might think that Kangen Water is a cross between a grade 8 litmus test, a bottle of Dasani filled with liquidized Law of Attraction, and smiling dolphins. Please, try to stay with me on this one….it gets really bizarre.
What is Kangen Water?
This was a bit of a difficult thing of a difficult thing for me to pin down, but as near as I can figure out, the makers of Kangen Water claim that their device works by ionizing normal tap-water, which then changes its pH to a more alkaline level, which apparently makes it easier for the body to absorb. It also likes it when you smile at it (no, I’m not kidding…but stay with me).
If you watch one of their videos (which looks like it was shot by pointing a camcorder at a television), it makes all manner of crazy claims, such as claiming that water molecules tend to collect in clusters (they don’t), and that the ionizing process makes the water more “oxygen-rich” by removing one hydrogen atom from the water molecules (which makes it no longer water, but hydroxide, which can not exist by itself, but only in a solution). Both processes apparently make it easier for the cells of the body to absorb water molecules (I wasn’t aware that our cells were particularly poor at it…I’d have thought that evolution would have pushed us into being able to absorb water as much as is necessary, but then again, I don’t have a fancy device to sell, OR a white lab-coat)
What else is Kangen Water?
In a word: Magic. We were told that ‘positive energy’ affects the crystalline structure of water, and changes it to another, more natural shape. This kind of magical thinking is packed with a lot of nonsense, so I have to take a moment to undo some of that damage:
1) Water, in a liquid state, does not have a crystalline structure. In fact, that’s what is part of the definition of a liquid: it has no crystalline structure.
2) The positive energy he was referring to was thinking and expressing positive emotions. Sounds like The Law of Attraction to me, but more on that later.
3) Even if liquid water had a crystalline structure, the “more natural” shape is an appeal to nature (and a false one at that), and even if there was an ideal shape, why does a person need an expensive piece of electronic equipment to get the “natural” shape?
Kangen Water likes you!
The finger you see in the photo above belonged to the salesman, (who I will, for no reason, refer to as Peter Venkman) and he had all the slick slime of a snake-oil salesman: it’s one thing thing to be enthusiastic about your product, but it’s quite another to offer you sly winks and nods as though he’s sharing a special knowledge just for you. I also couldn’t help but notice that more than half of the time he was talking to us, he kept rubbing his hands together. Try doing it right now: rub your hands together as you say the words, “I’d like to tell you about this special offer”. Come back when you no longer feel like a sleazebag. I’ll wait.
Peter Venkman seemed to be playing on the built-in culture of narcissism of the expo-goers (which hung in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife). In one of the more bizarre scenes we saw that day, he invited Scott to try a cup of Kangen Water. This is the sequence of events:
1) Peter Venkman asked Scott what his name was. He then wrote “Scott” on the cup, and drew a little heart around it.
2) Peter Venkman placed his both of his hands on Scott’s shoulders, lowered his own head and, in hushed tones, proceeded to enthusiastically exclaim how wonderful a person Scott was (like we needed a reminder!).
3) Peter Venkman poured the glass of water, which he told us had a pH balance of 9.0 (which should have lightly burned Scott’s mouth).
4) Scott drank the water, and said that he did not taste any difference, despite Peter Venkman’s insistent questioning “are you sure?”
Now look: I’ve played enough Dungeons and Dragons in my day to know a spell-casting when I see it: Peter Venkman said a prayer-like incantation, and wrote Scott’s name on the cup as though it were a form of voodoo. This is naked magic and ritualization of modern technology, but without all the bells-and-whistles of some ancient culture or tradition that usually gets tacked onto these kinds of magical devices. After poking around the Kangen website, I couldn’t find anything that had to do with the dolphins, or of positive thinking, and I wonder now if Peter Venkman was doing a little Expo-Improv. If so, he certainly knew the market he was pandering to. Maybe market is the wrong word. Perhaps “Base”* might work better.
Kangen Water has won things! And Buzz-words!
This diploma-looking thing says,
This is to Certify that Enagic co., ltd
has been awarded with Environmental Grand Prize
for the Outstanding Achievement
in the Environmental Sciences
and for “FOUR STEPS TO ABSOLUTE PEACE” Project [sic]
It was apparently awarded by the “International Earth Environment University (IEEU) and International EarthRoundtable (IEER) Environment “. I spent about an hour looking online for this “university” and came up with a lot of dead-ends. I have no reason to doubt that such an organization exists, but it certainly speaks to their bona fides if Google can’t be sure who they are. If someone else has better luck than I did, please leave a note and let me know in the comments.
And it can be mine for….?
Enjoy your glass of happy, crystallized, absurdly-high alkaline water that smiles when you think about it. Or think about what else you could spend four thousand dollars on (but try not to think about the people who have already spent the money on one of these devices, rather than use the money in a way that actually contributes to the economy more than just evaporating into nothingness).
*see what I did there?