Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Woo-woo news updates

There has been quite a flurry of activity of late here at Worldwide Wacko Watch.

First, we have a report from Hong Kong about a growing market for haunted apartments.

Apparently, there is a widespread superstition (certainly not limited to China) about living in places where violence has occurred.  In China, buildings like this are called hongza (from the Cantonese hong, meaning "calamity," and za, meaning "residence").  The housing market in Hong Kong has cooled significantly in the last few years, leaving investors looking for any way they can to make money.  So, the idea is to purchase hongza property at a discount (up to 20% in some cases) and then rent the apartments at full price to people who don't share the superstitions -- often foreigners.

This has led to advertisements such as the following:
For sale: Yuen Long apartment building.  36-year-old female secondary school teacher faced a marriage crisis, jumped off the building after sending a text message to her husband.  Call for price range.
Apparently, the belief is that hongza only lasts so long; the bad vibes eventually wear off.  So presumably, you could buy at a discount, rent it for a while to unsuspecting foreigners who don't mind being tormented by ghosts of falling secondary school teachers, and then sell the building once the hongza has gone away.

You have to wonder how long it takes.  Five years?  Ten?  Twenty?  Do the ghosts eventually get tired and move on to greener pastures?

If so, that's more than you can say for the Irish fairies, who apparently have a shelf life of over 4,000 years.

Just ask Sean Quinn.  Quinn, a businessman who was once Ireland's wealthiest citizen (with a net worth of eight billion dollars) is down to $15,000 in his bank account.  Most folks think that Quinn's downfall was due to speculation in doomed Anglo-Irish Bank shares, but Quinn's neighbor, pub owner Toirbhealach Lyons, begs to differ.

Quinn's problems, Lyons says, began when he was expanding a quarry owned by Quinn Concrete, and applied for (and got) permission to move a Megalithic monument called the Aughrim Wedge Tomb.  The tomb was moved, stone by stone, to Quinn's Slieve Russell Hotel.  That action, Lyons said, seriously pissed off the fairies, who responded by destroying Quinn's empire.

“I’m a big supporter of Sean Quinn because of what he has done for this area but that tomb should never have been moved,” Lyons, the owner of Molly Maguire’s Pub in Ballyconnell, told the Irish Independent.

One has to wonder if Quinn agrees, or if he agrees with his more prosaic neighbor, butcher Gerard Crowe, who told the Independent that Lyons' beliefs were "a load of auld rubbish."  And it also makes me wonder if Crowe should be a little more careful about labeling himself a non-believer, given what happened to Quinn.

On the topic of labeling, we will conclude today with Georgia factory worker Billy E. Hyatt, who was fired from the Pliant Corporation plant near Dalton for refusing to wear the Mark of the Beast on his shirt.

At least, that's his side of it.  The company has a long-standing tradition of having its workers each day wear stickers proclaiming how long it's been since the factory has had a lost-time accident.  As the number of days since the last accident got into the 600s, Hyatt began to worry.

When Hyatt approached a manager, telling him he wouldn't wear a sticker saying "666" because it would mean he would go to hell, the manager said that of course he wouldn't have to.  But when the day of the Festival of Satanic Worship and Workplace Safety arrived, company officials changed their minds -- and Hyatt was given a three-day suspension.  When Hyatt objected (loudly), he was fired.

Hyatt sued, claiming his religious beliefs were not being respected.

Okay, on the one hand, I can say: it was a sticker.  What was the big deal about letting the guy not have to wear the sticker for one day?  It seems to fall clearly into the "choose your battles" department.  On the other hand, to what extent are business owners required to "respect" the wacky beliefs of their employees?  If I told my principal that I belonged to the Church of the Sacred Chicken, and every Thursday was required by my religion to walk around with a live rooster on my head, would he be violating my rights by telling me I couldn't?  We have the (true) case of the Pastafarian in Austria who petitioned for years to have his drivers' license photo taken with a spaghetti strainer on his head -- and finally won.

All of which is well and good, and I know that the Pastafarians are a parody group (devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), and he was just trying to make a point.  But really -- at what point does common sense and rationality prevail?

Evidently never.  Pliant Corporation is now in a legal battle, with a lawsuit pending that asks for damages and back pay for Hyatt, who was faced with a decision to "comply or abandon his religious beliefs."  I strongly suspect Hyatt will win.

Which leaves me with one final thought: what sort of rooster should I wear on my head?  I'm thinking Buff Orpington.  They're kind of stylish, and the tan color match my skin tone and hair color, don't you think?

1 comment:

  1. Love you Gordon we all have our own ways of reinterpreting crazies in the universe!!