Xmas should be more commercial — Some Perspective from the Founder of the Ayn Rand Institute

There is little that I can add to the “War on Christmas” debate other than to say that I place myself among the segment of the population that (aptly put by “Ross” from Andrewsullivan.com) “thought we were past all that Christianity stuff.” Wasn’t the whole idea behind changing “Merry Xmas” to “Happy Holidays” to make it the first step in the eventual phasing out of the holiday altogether?

Anyway, I am just posting to wish you all a very merry Ayn Rand Christmas:

“It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.”


Lady Goes Crazy on Trading Spouses

Awesome! DARK SIDED!!!

Reminds me of when I went to Baptist services with my friends when I was a kid.

As shocked as I am to see such a misguided and hateful person, I have to admit that it’s a dream of mine to one day appear on television shrieking so violently that I need subtitles to be understood.

Taken from AndrewSullivan.com.

After some thought, I have decided that you can keep reading this blog even if you don’t believe in Jesus.

My new life in Japan

Conversation I had with MF a few weeks ago while we were taking a look at Japanese satellite TV operator SkyPerfecTV’s channel offerings:

MF: you should just quit your job and fly to japan next week
MF: screw the apartment
Adamu: dont tempt me
MF: you can get a job at nova
Adamu: haha
MF: and then go home to your sweet, sweet tv
Adamu: ok now that IS sad
MF: and a big can of kirin
MF: or asahi dry
Adamu: asahi
Adamu: id have to have a good tv
Adamu: maybe i could get those tv goggles
Continue reading My new life in Japan

Ghosts in Burma

At precisely 6:37 a.m. last Sunday, according to one account – with a shout of “Let’s go!” – a convoy of trucks began a huge, expensive and baffling transfer of the government of Myanmar from the capital to a secret mountain compound 200 miles to the north.

Diplomats and foreign analysts were left groping a week later for an explanation of the unannounced move. In a country as secretive and eccentric as Myanmar, it is a full-time job to try to tease the truth from the swirl of rumors and guesswork, relying on few facts and many theories. (NYT)

Over 1200 years ago, the Japanese Emperor moved his capital from the unfinished Nagaoka-kyo to the site of present day Kyoto to escape from the vengeful ghost of a falsely accused prince. It would seem that Burma’s military government has just done the same thing.

While many experts consider this move to be a strategic relocation to a seat of government from which they can more easily suppress peasant rebellions, the bizarre secrecy and inexplicable suddenness of the move have given rise to two competing theories about the reasons behind the move.

First, like Japan’s Kanmu Emperor, to secure a location more suitable to the channeling of the beneficient energies derived from Chinese geomantic superstitions known as fung-shui.

“Myanmar leaders might have sought astrologers’ advice and believe the move can improve Myanmar’s feng shui [the Chinese belief in energy flows depending on wind and water] of Myanmar” U King said.

“Myanmar leaders are strong believers in feng shui. When Ne Win ruled Myanmar [from the 1960s to the 1980s], he considered relocating the capital for the sake of feng shui,” U King said. (Taipei Times)

Second, to fortify themselves against an imagined attack by the Americans.

Seen from their perspective, the notion of an American invasion might not seem far-fetched. They are a ruling clique of soldiers whose background is jungle warfare and who know little of the outside world.
In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice included Myanmar in a list of “outposts of tyranny,” along with North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and Belarus.
“The joke going around is, ‘After diamonds, gold,’ ” he said. In the Burmese language, “sein” – as in Saddam Hussein – means diamonds. “Shwe” – as in Gen. Than Shwe, the leader of the military junta – means gold. (NYT)

Burma’s rulers seem to be spooked by things that go bump in the night, but exactly which ghosts are they so scared of?

The latest from Pat Robertson

The school board in Dover, Pennsylvania decided to adopt intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Earlier this week, all eight of its members were voted out of office. Pat Robertson responded that God might not save them from disaster as a result. Draw your own conclusion.

Fun fact: Robertson has a law degree from Yale. More fun fact, courtesy of rotten.com:

In a March 1986 speech to Yale University Law School, Robertson admitted one possible reason why he failed the New York Bar Exam (and thus, never practiced law): “When I was at law school, I studied constitutional law for a whole year. I read a thick book of cases on constitutional law. I did all kinds of research. But I confess to you, I never read the Constitution. I graduated without anybody asking me about that.”

Again, draw your own conclusion. I’d say this goes further to support the notion that the American religious right is powered by evangelicals, but thought through by Catholics.

Separating shrine and state: why you shouldn’t expect a court to stop the Yasukuni visits

Article 20 of the Constitution of Japan says that “freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority… The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.” Article 89 further states that “no public money or other property shall be expended or appropriated for the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution or association, or for any charitable, educational or benevolent enterprises not under the control of public authority.”

Like the First Amendment in the United States, these rules are just full of fun! If you think about it, they could make the Emperor illegal. (I don’t actually agree with this notion; it’s just one interpretation that could be drawn.) But they won’t make the Emperor illegal, nor will they make Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine illegal… and even if the visits could be considered illegal, the courts aren’t going to stop them! More detailed explanation after the jump.
Continue reading Separating shrine and state: why you shouldn’t expect a court to stop the Yasukuni visits

Taipei rescued from demons

Railway uses `feng shui’

The main entrance of Taipei Railway Station has been redesigned for better feng shui following a string of derailments and train delays, a railway official said over the weekend. Taiwan Railway Administration director Hsu Ta-wen (徐達文) said the administration had added a glass hallway to the station’s main entrance to ward off evil spirits.

The renovation was made at the suggestion of Master Hun Yuan (混元禪師), a well-known Buddhist master, Hsu said. The railway administration consulted Hun Yuan after several derailments, train delays and suicides on the tracks. Hun Yuan said the incidents had occurred because the station’s main entrance faces a “white tiger demon.” To avoid the demon, the main door had to be moved back 6m. The administration installed a glass hallway behind the main door, so that passengers now arriving at the station must enter two doors. Several lawmakers on Friday blasted the administration for squandering money on “superstition.”

All I have to say to those doubtful politicians is, wait until the demons start wreaking havoc in your home, then see how you feel about calling in the exorcists. Just look at this AP story from Cambodia.

HNOM PENH, Cambodia – Black magic may have driven a Cambodian couple to bite off their daughter’s thumb nails and suck her blood, officials said Sunday.

Chheng Chhorn, 46, and Srun Yoeung, 37, attacked their 12-year-old child before dawn on Thursday while she was still asleep, biting off her thumb nails and a small part of her nose to drink her blood, said Keo Norea Phy, a police official in Kampong Cham province where the incident occurred.

Neighbors rushed to the couple’s house and rescued the girl after hearing her screams, he said.

After treatment at a hospital in Kampong Cham, about 50 miles east of Phom Penh, the girl was placed in the custody of other villagers. Relatives had taken her parents to a black magic healer to chase away the evil spirit that was believed to have possessed them, the police official said.

“We, the police, just have no idea what offense to charge them with,” Keo Norea Phy said.

Preap Nhim, a local official, said the couple sold noodles in their village and had never before acted in a strange manner. He said they may have been driven by the spirit guarding the altar they kept inside their house.

Cambodia is a Buddhist country, but many people in the countryside are deeply superstitious. Some claim the ability to communicate with the dead and cure the sick by exorcising evil spirits from their bodies.

I think the truth is clear. Obviously there is a pro-demon faction in the Taipei Municipal government, trying to sabotage the geomantic wards that are the only thing keeping their dark masters at bay. Luckily, they’ve been thwarted, and Taipei is once again safe from the bloodthirsty tiger demon…for now.

Before the Zaibatsu

Time Asia has a great article on Osaka’s Kongo Gumi (金剛組) construction firm, which they describe as the world’s oldest family firm, but I suspect may actually be the world’s oldest continuously operated business of any kind. Sure, if you go back that far it’s probably the case that all businesses are family firms, but since today one term is a subset of the other, the latter is a bit more impressive to the ear.

Built to last

Of the 202 Buddhist sanctuaries in Osaka’s Tennoji neighborhood, there is one that stands out: Shitennoji, the first Japanese temple commissioned by a royal and one of the oldest Buddhist complexes in Japan. Construction began in A.D. 593, just decades after the religion reached the country’s shores. One of the carpenters for Shitennoji, Shigemitsu Kongo, traveled to Japan from the Korean kingdom of Paekche for the project. Over a millennium-and-a-half, Shitennoji has been toppled by typhoons and burned to the ground by lightning and civil war—and Shigemitsu’s descendants have supervised its seven reconstructions. Today, working out of offices that overlook the temple, Kongo Gumi Co. is run by 54-year-old president Masakazu Kongo, the 40th Kongo to lead the company in Japan. His business, started more than 1,410 years ago, is believed to be the oldest family-run enterprise in the world.

Kongo Gumi’s official corporate website is located here (in Japanese of course)

If you look at their ‘corporate summary’ page, you’ll see that their date of founding is listed as Asuka period, 6th year of the reign of the Bidatsu emperor, 30th emperor of Japan. To put that in perspective a little, this would be about the time that the Arthurian legends are generally believed to have been set, so for a more familiar equivalent, think about what it would be like if the construction company that had built Camelot were still in business-AND they’d kept up the maintenance on Camelot the whole time, so you could pay your five bucks admission to walk past the velvet rope in front of the Round Table, and get your photo taken in front of The Stone.

And yes, although now officially organized as a modern corporation, the CEO is still a Mr. Masakazu Kongo.

創業 飛鳥時代第30代敏達天皇6年(西暦578年)
社名 株式会社 金 剛 組
代表取締役 金 剛 正 和